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 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”.