I have been a cyclist for nearly two decades of my life. Not until I moved to Colorado did I begin to have real ambitions (delusions?) regarding my life’s work (career?) in this world. I suppose as we age many of us re-prioritize particular desires and goals in our life and that may be part of the reason for the seemingly sudden ambitiousness welling up from within, but I think I have sourced it back to something more simple: competition. When I moved here, I entered a different world than the southeastern one I had been inhabiting. I became friends with a different sort of crowd, one that wasn’t obliged to mince words and one that called it how it was. Not through words, but through actions such as making me look like a 5 year old on a push bike when we’re out riding. I must admit this was scary at first, but over time I began to really appreciate this type of truth-telling even though I myself still have a hard time doing it. It was causing a long-buried sense of competition to sprout like a brown watermelon seed in my stomach that I accidentally swallowed. Scary and exciting.
People usually move to Colorado for a reason, I have found, and that reason is to screw off as much as possible. It’s only right since God made it with so many big ups and downs, snow and sun, and a disproportionately high number of microbreweries:
Going up and coming back down is fun as all hell. My point being that folks around here including all my friends have a sense of purpose and really work hard at playing. Some even become professional players. In this land of overachievers, whenever you’re out on your ski-blades, rollerblades or ripstick you are faced with the humbling aspect that multiple people are out there making you look bad at it. This is not necessarily a bad thing because it can be just as inspiring as it is humbling. The old saying “If you can do it, then I can buy the stuff to make it look like I do it better” really comes into play. Basically, there is a better version of yourself everywhere you look causing you to constantly be reminded of your own potential. This is a good thing. So it is with this in mind, that my own sense of competition and, inherently, ambition began to blossom in a relatively short time of living here. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was apparently making the unconscious decision that being a professional cyclist was a completely valid career ambition, and there were plenty of people to compete with to measure my progress up the career ladder. I also apparently didn’t tell anyone because, you know, it wasn’t a conscious decision and more importantly-what if I couldn’t make it? Of course doubt crept in, I’m too old, I’m not genetically gifted, but the swelling feelings of competition, career ambition and undiscovered athletic potential easily quashed the doubt. So it began. Once I worked up the skill and endurance to totally waste other Cat. 6 pathletes on my way to the bus, it became clear that the glorious lifestyle and ass-kicking abilities of the standard professional cyclist weren’t too far away. I mean, pros live here, so why can’t I be a pro, also? Plus, it was getting harder for my cycling friends to easily out-ride me which obviously meant the long hours of intense training were working. With age comes awareness I guess, and I am now fully aware of this hidden career path I’d chosen. So now, a couple years down the road and several seasons of non-competitive, recreational training later, I’m still in the trenches mixing it up with the other Cat. 6ers and having a great time at it. I’ve had to make some sacrifices like not seeing my wife for extended periods of time on the weekends when I’m out on long training rides, but I don’t yet have any regrets about making the decision to go pro. Each year as spring rolls around, I eagerly get on my commuter bicycle after work thinking that this could be my breakout year. That if I change my riding routine, tweak my during-the-ride food intake, and time my peaks and rests better, I may just take the sponsorship offer resulting from the races I would have won if I entered them. On the flip side, though, I think of all the fun I could be having riding my bike without the pressures of being better than that one guy on the trail or the group ride, of making sure my wife doesn’t go pro before I do, of putting fear into the heart of the Wildenbeast with my cycling abilities, and on and on. Right now I’m of the mindset that if I am not pro in the next 10 years or so then I probably will settle down with the family and enjoy the mellower side of life, but until then don’t even try to race me because it’s still preseason and this year isn’t going as well as I had planned and I am on a recovery ride. But next time I will take you.