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Cycling and Why I Choose Not to Race.

May 2014
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One of the kids who works at the bike shop and who is working on his pro card invited me to compete in a local mountain bike race a couple of weeks ago that was to be held at my favorite single-track. I can pretty much fly on it, especially through the climbs. He asked my time on an average circuit and said that I’d have a good shot at the podium based on that time. He added that I probably wouldn’t win but second or third was definitely possible. His dad races with him and we’re in the same age group so he pays attention to the winning times.

I passed.

I am an okay road cyclist, some say pretty good, and if I gave it some serious effort I could probably race my road bike and win too…

Here’s the problem: I love cycling, a lot more than beating people. I like to be fit and I like to eat and I love it that, just last Friday, my wife and I were cruising down the road and she announced a car back and with two turns of the crank I was ahead of her, single file. When the car passed, I fell back side by side and she said how cool she thought it was that I could accelerate like that and make it look so easy.  That’s a big enough cheering section for me.

The old me, the young me, would have to take that racing. The old me would have to seek the adulation, the cheers due those on the podium. To win!  Now here’s my past pattern with competition:  I’ve been pretty good at a lot of the sports I’ve tried but unless I can win I will eventually lose interest and have to move on to something else.  With a wife, two small kids, two businesses and all of the other normal responsibilities an adult has, I can’t dedicate enough time to catching up to the racers at the local club ride let alone beat them.  In addition, having started to train for a half-ironman in the past, if the training becomes too much like work and wrecks the fun (it was actually the training for the half-marathon that did me in on that), I’ll get bored.

The person I am today simply loves to ride bikes.  Solo, with my wife or other friends, it’s all good.  If you’ve ever seen Miguel Cabrera on the field, the man is the best hitter in all of baseball but he doesn’t have that intense scowl that many other great players have. He is the best…and he looks like a kid in a candy store with a hundred-dollar bill in his pocket on the field. Hi-fiving kids, laughing and chatting it up with other players on the field. The fact that he’s that good and still manages to love the game that much is a miracle.

That’s how I feel on my bike – and I don’t have to win to feel that good.  I’ve played baseball, basketball, tried football (too small) and hockey when I was a kid and golf when I was older.  I competed in all of them and unless I (we) won, my performance was I was very hard on myself about it – especially if I made a mistake.

Folks, I won’t risk that with cycling. I won’t risk not feeling like a kid in a candy store every time, every single time, I ratchet my shoe straps down (well, except cold rides, they suck till the second or third mile but I’m smiling at the end). The new me is all about the joy of riding a bike.  The new me is happy with the small cheering section I have: My wife and my kids, because they let me know on a regular basis that I’m a “shiny, awesome unicorn who shoots rainbows out his butt”, my cycling buddies and my blog friends.

I don’t need to be the fastest 40-50 year-old on a bike to be happy. I just need the bike (and the shoes, and the helmet, the socks, the shorts and jerseys… Oh that could go on for a bit).

The point is my friends, be happy first. Compete second.  The only people who remember the name of the person who won last week’s local race are those dedicated to racing anyway.  Be the kid in a candy store with a hundred bucks to blow on bubble gum and candy… Because dusting off the trophies when you’re old and gray won’t fill the void left by “I wish I would have had more fun”.

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22 Comments

  1. Great

    As A.A. Milne wrote

    “But now I am Six,
    I’m as clever as clever,
    So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”

    Still trying for that at Sixty Six!!

    • bgddyjim says:

      Let me know what you come up with, I’ll start working on 43 but I’ve gotta work quick… In fact, maybe I’ll skip the rest of 43 and start early on 44…

  2. tischcaylor says:

    Great attitude. What’s cool is that you can push yourself as hard as you do purely in the name of fun. Saving money on entry fees also means you can pour more back into your gear.

  3. fastk9dad says:

    I completely get where you are coming from. I used to golf – a lot – and had fun doing it with my uncle, grandpa and step-dad. People told me I was pretty good and had an awesome swing. Then I started competing. It was no longer fun, I was practicing every day and getting more frustrated at myself when I’d make a mistake and lose strokes to others. It became work and was no longer fun. I should of walked away from competing but I didn’t want to be a quitter. Instead after that last season I walked away from golf – in ’88 – and haven’t played since other than maybe swinging the clubs a few times at a driving range. Now, years later, I’m considering playing again. Not with any type of regular frequency but just to revisit an old friend and hopefully have fun again.

    I’ve never even considered road racing, I’m no where close to being fast enough and I enjoy my hobby and don’t want to make the same mistakes as with golf. But, call me crazy, I’ve thought of trying a CX race. It just looks like so much fun and I wouldn’t care if I came in dead last. Plus from what I’ve seen most races have a “run what you’ve brung” attitude and you see people racing on non CX bikes just for the fun and experience of it.

    • bgddyjim says:

      LOL! I forgot about golf! I never bothered trying to compete in golf – I knew I wasn’t good enough, just barely scratch. I stopped golfing after Alzheimer’s took my dad’s ability to play… We used to play 18 every Friday afternoon and once he started aiming (with his driver) at me, we had to hang it up. I went out one more time after that and it just tore me up.

      I think you’ve got the ticket there with the CX racing. If you can race just for the fun of it, it’s all good. Enjoy it!

  4. sueslaght says:

    Great attitude. It’s all about fun for me and keeping fit.

  5. asher says:

    Wise words, here. It’s so easy to get sucked into the tide of competition. I made a similar decision with equestrian sports when I was in high school – the junior divisions were so cut – throat, and I was so hard on myself, that I forgot for a while that the whole point was being around horses and that sense of flight when you’re riding.

    In this country especially, where we’re so into the idea of competition, it takes courage and faith and self – knowledge to know you’re good at something and choose not to compete (at least not officially – unofficial racing seems to be universal! :D). You’ve got those traits down cold, I think.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Thank you, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have anything “down cold”. It’s a work in progress. I’m much more at peace with that.

  6. Sandra says:

    Best freaking post. Ever. More on that later on my blog. But thanks for the reminder. I needed that after this past weekend. Badly.

  7. elisariva says:

    So well said!! If I had a hundred bucks in a candy store my butt wouldn’t be able to get on the bike! Thank you for sharing your love of the sport 😉

  8. elisariva says:

    Reblogged this on elisariva and commented:
    I know I have not written in a while! It is only because I am very busy training. I promise to have a post up within the week. In the mean time I want to share the post my friend Jim at Fit Recovery wrote today. I race running races and triathlons because I love – and I mean LOVE – the training. The race goals keep me honest to my training plan. I also am a very average age grouper – winning isn’t my goal. (Finishing in the top 50% is awesome for me!) Jim is a talented cyclist who could podium in cycling races. But he choses not to race. He loves the sport and wants to ENJOY the process. Here is his view, in his own words. Please take a few minutes to read, he is inspiring on and off the bike.

  9. Mark says:

    I completely agree with the pursuit of happiness first. While I respect competitors for their amazing drive to accomplish a goal of standing on a podium, I also respect individuals who pushes their limits to obtain better health and fun with friends. The latter is what I do, and I love every minute of it :-D.

    Another great writing from you, Jim!

  10. Mark says:

    I like your thought process here. If racing runs the risk of taking the fun out of it, then do go there. While I love competition, it was always fun and I refused to take it too seriously or let it ruin biking for me. I initially got interested in racing because I like to ride really hard and it was an excuse to do so more often. Now that I’m (mostly) not competing any more, I still ride the same and enjoy it just as much. I do have a neurotic tendency towards chasing any riders that are ahead of me though… I’m not sure what to do about that.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I envy you man. To be able to enjoy the competition is something special. Winning becomes too consuming for me. Thanks for adding to the post and discussion.

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