We put on a mountain bike and cyclocross race this past weekend at a park that used to be a golf course here in town. The experience was the usual mix of mind-numbing details and last-minute hand wringing over whether or not everything had been taken care of and if anyone was going to show up. It's always worth it, though, and in the end it was a fun couple of days with a great group of people.
Saturday afternoon I was out setting up the course with Andrew Parker, who owns Halcyon Bike shop. We were co-promoting the race with Andrew, so as we were driving stakes and rolling tape to mark the course, we talked about all of the things associated with the race. But it's a long process, and after a while we ran out of race-specific topics and just started to talk about bikes in general and racing in particular. Andrew and I raced on the old Nashville Cyclist team together back in the day, and we talked a lot about our experiences and all of the people that came and went from that team.
Andrew has a lot of natural talent on the bike and when he was racing it was pretty obvious to anyone who was paying any attention that he could be a very good bike racer if he wanted to. He stopped racing when he took on all the work associated with opening a shop and running it by himself. I assumed that he had just lost interest in it, but when I asked him about it out in the field, he said the exact opposite. He said he still has dreams about racing his bike on a weekly basis. He has other interests now and big time constraints that don't allow the massive time commitment necessary to race on the road, but he still loves bike racing and promotes races to stay involved in the scene.
The next day-race day-was a total blur, as it usually is. Race days are always full and take a while to process. As I was leaving the venue after the race and rolling through the whole weekend's events in my head, the conversation with Andrew stuck out. I've had similar conversations with other people over the years about bike racing, and I'm pretty amazed by it. It's a hard sport-it takes a lot of work and sacrifice to be even half-decent, and then the racing itself can be grueling, to say the least. You'd think that when people stop, they'd be relieved. No more early mornings/late nights, missing fun stuff and time with family and friends, ridiculous amounts of time in the car. No more long nights after races, being too tired to sleep, knowing that it's back to work the next day. But that doesn't seem to be the case. People really miss it.
I always think about a quote from Chris Horner, one of the best bike American bike racers ever. He was talking about attacking in the crucial moments in races. He said, "You gotta want to go. It's in the blood." I think he meant that people are either aggressive bike racers or they're not, but I think it's true in general as well. Something about racing a bike, or running trails, or triathlon, or surfing-whatever your sport is-gets inside you. In your blood. Once it's there, it's near impossible to get it out.
That's definitely true for me. I've been riding and racing for a while now, and there have been many times when I've felt like I wanted to find another hobby that doesn't require as much time-or one that doesn't require as much ridiculous clothing and leg-shaving. But I always come back to it, because at this point, it's just part of who I am. It's in my blood. And I'm grateful.
If you're reading this, chances are it's in your blood, too. If so, there are probably times when it seems like a curse. Too much work or too much sacrifice(or too much lycra). I'd encourage you to see it as a blessing-there are people that go their whole lives without caring as much about anything as you do your chosen sport. You're one of the lucky ones.
We'll see you out at the races.