Bicycle races and bodily fluids reveal the truth
Phlegm, spit, and nasal discharge drained from my nose and mouth giving my face the look of a glazed doughnut.
The searing pain in my buttocks was only slightly numbed by my oxygen depletion. I hurt like a Democrat at a gun show and for the privilege of profound agony, I paid $12.
A time trial is a bicycle race where participants compete against the clock. This appeals to me because there is the possibility that the clock, unlike human competitors, will break and stop.
Racers set out at 30-second intervals speeding down a prescribed course. Depending on your ability, it is not unusual to ride the entire course with out passing or getting passed by another rider – unless, of course, you’re traveling at my pace. Then, racers, molten lava and glaciers overtake you.
That is not to say I don’t take it seriously. The effort I extend causes me to occasionally leave a lung on the road and for my legs to feel as if flesh-eating weasels have gnawed them.
Supposedly, many life-lessons are learned from competitive athletics. Part of me feels that sports are simply a vehicle of gratification for the genetically gifted. But I will admit, after more than 40 years of competing, I have walked away with a few life gems.
Such as: in life – and in races – agony is not commensurate with pleasure and performance.
Before every time trial, I pre-ride the course, timing myself and taking notice of all the hills, turns and places where I might pull over to vomit.
The last outing was a five-and-a-half mile uphill. Though I’ve ridden the course hundreds of times, I decided to ride and time myself a couple of hours before I set out in earnest. It was mid-day, the path was filled with bikers, runners, families on inline skates and church groups walking four abreast.
There was no reason to hurry. I only wanted to check things out without wasting energy.
I picked my way around the slower riders at a gentle pace. After calling out to the human roadblocks, I’d slow down, pass and smile. My relaxed amble allowed me to chat with some and give a wide berth to the unsteady ones.
I joked with some guy pulling a trailer containing two screaming children and riding with a wife with a sour expression. He asked where the nearest bar was. I saw several marmots, pikas and one guy trying to hide behind a bush to pee.
When I finished, I glanced at my clock to learn that the ride took me about 22 minutes with an average speed of 15 miles per hour. The trip was pain-free and relaxing and I had no doubt I’d do it faster when the time came to push myself.
It used to be when I raced, I’d want to beat some of the fast guys. As I got older, my goal was to beat most of the fast women. It wasn’t long before I hoped to finish before my friends’ children.
And now, I aspire to finish before all competitors born between the Korean War and World War II. To reach that lofty goal during the time-trial, I’d have to push myself to great lengths.
Despite being passed by two riders and some guy using a walker during the first mile, I felt I was having a good race. Prior planning allowed me to meter out every ounce of available energy judiciously.
Several times, I moaned in pain as my legs cried out for mercy and a thigh transplant. When I saw the finish line, I sprinted like a man possessed. I finished to a rousing round of indifference and coasted to a stop. I looked at my clock – it read a little over 19 minutes with an average speed of a measly 17 miles an hour. For all my effort and pain I had gained only two miles an hour.
As I squeegeed the bodily fluids off my face, the lesson sank in. The difference of a ride where I had time to enjoy myself and smell the flowers, and one which wracked me with pain was only 2 mph -a little more than 10 percent.
To me, it didn’t seem that the suffering was worth the added speed. Certainly, this lesson is applicable to all of us when we drive our cars, endangering our lives and others’ to arrive a few minutes earlier. But the moral goes much deeper.
How often in life, if we allowed ourselves to enjoy the journey rather than killing ourselves to get ahead, would the difference be as negligible? I wonder how many times have I obsessed and worried over a few minutes, a few dollars while missing the joyful dance taking place all around me.
This column is not an indictment of racing, competition or even the aging process of an ex-jock. I can live with the realities that the years produce, and I’ll continue to enjoy casual competition.
Rather it is a reminder to all who care to listen to slow down and enjoy the ride. You might not win the contest but you’ll finish with less snot on your face S
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America” can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA radio, and read in several mountain publications. He lives in Breckenridge.
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