cycling seems to have an oddly existential bent, one minute you're ripping through a corner bumping shoulders with a bloke. the next he's telling you about his child, his dog and his memories of his 5th birthday party. And you only met him that morning. It's odd, cycling at once gives meaning to the mundane, it gives so many people a rasion d'etre and it allows us to talk and think about things we never normally would. I remember one line of The Rider which summed it up
" I take my gear out of my car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of of their lives shocks me. "
It's funny how a bike ride can bring out conversations what hours on a psych's couch couldn't, just this week i've talked to older guys about how they wish they had spent their twenties riding bikes, volunteering and travelling instead of running to stand still on the career treadmill. A guy i'd never met before told me he regretted his first marriage, but not his first child. I've talked with grown men about body image insecurity, about the depression that comes when you're injured, about the sense of utter desolation when you don't finish a race.
I learned about a friend's parents divorce on a ride, and a friend's divorce. I These long winter miles let you ride with people you don't normally ride with and enjoy conversations you wouldn't normally enjoy. The combination of mild oxygen debt, an infathomable amount of time that needs to be filled and the knowledge that you will only fill that time with the people you're with gives rise to these fantastic, profound and existential conversations and thoughts.
Bike racing brings out the best in people as well, there have been times this ear when i've laughed so hard I've had to stop riding. I nearly got shelled out the back of the Wednesday worlds when someone termed one of the guys who never takes a pull "the limpet" and i can't count the amount of races I've been too busy throwing jelly beans at people to be anywhere near the front. I've found out about children to come and proposed marriages, heck i even once proposed a proposal to the proto proposer . We seem to talk about food a lot as well.
Maybe the reason that we talk about these things is that we don't want to think about other things going on in our heads. 6 hour rides on your own can be a pretty dark place, last year i wasn't exactly in the best of places mentally having been cut loose by my team, lost a lot of the domestic situation i had become dependent on and i didn't know what i was doing or why. I used to hate 6 hour rides, they were when i used to think over all these things and let them get ahead of me. Even last week, i was out riding, on my own 50km from anywhere when the fact that my grandmother had died a few months ago hit me like a ten ton truck. I had to pull over, sit on a rock and get over it before i could keep riding. I think it's healthy to have these moments, we're supposed to think, we need time on our own to work out our issues.
Bike riding is an inherently introspective sport, we are each responsible for our own motivation, our own ability to suffer and our own results. It's a team game but individuals win and individuals win because of their ability to push themselves, in racing and training (albeit helped by a hefty does of genes). If i believed for one second anyoen could try harder than me i'd give up. Whenever i am hurting in a race, be it from the speed, my bloodsugar or an injury i just tell myself that everyone is human and they cant suffer any more than me. It might or might not be true, but i choose to believe it. More than any team sport or even other endurance sport I know cycling is a thinking man's game. both tactically and emotionally one must be fully balanced and make smart decisions to win a bike race, that's why i love it.
Since i got back from vietnam i've been sleeping in a hypoxic tent, it seems to send me low every night (despite research suggesting hypoxia leads to hyperglycaemia), i don't know if it's the altitude or the lows but i can't seem to get out of my own way on the bike. I'm taking an HC kicking on some 3rd category rides. That and the golf ball sized bump on my achillies are not contributing positively to the "sensations" currently. At times like this, out training on your own you're constantly pursued by doubts which nag at you. Worries about performance, about condition, about control and about injury all mount up riding on your own, especially when it's slow and painful. Luckily i've implemented my tripartite solution: plenty of Bird rock coffee time, a liberal dose of aero doping ( i might do some more tt stage races this year, so i'm deploying my lo pro rig) and a healthy serving of auditory stimulation on the long rides courtesy of my "disco classics" mix and the old favourite of bored base milers everywhere the "How stuff works" podcast. So i might be creeping but at least there is a spring in my step.
cake doping: not yet banned