Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Calling the Everyday Heroes

Sometimes it seems like the whole country has become addicted to extremes.

When I sit at my computer and surf the biking blogs, I get overwhelmed with messages of titanic effort, suffering, redemption, epicness.

Hundreds of miles of mountain biking in 36 hours! Raising thousands of dollars for an unimpeachable cause by exercising myself into the ground! Jumping off cliffs and flying! Drinking enough caffeine to power a small town for a week!

Bigger! Faster! Sronger! Richer! Go! GO! GO-O-O!!

Okay, America. Put your feet on the floor, relax, and take a dee-e-p breath. Hold it...........

Okay; let it out.

*   *   *

I still get suckered by the extreme side of my most beloved sport. I get lured by the esacpades of guys even older than my 47 years who pack survivalist essentials into a bike-frame bag every weekend and fly off to ride three days into the middle of the arctic tundra, without sleep, surviving on nothing but hand-ground artisan coffee and scavenged berries. I read about dudes who put in hundreds of austere  miles toward their race-readiness, perfectly kitted and floating effortlessly past the 150-mile-mark.

And then I seriously feel I am missing out, or there is something flat-out wrong with me. Am I weak? Is my manhood in question here? Should I go see my doctor?

Where there is room for someone who just loves to ride a bike? Sometimes hard and fast, sometimes slow and pleasurably?  Stopping to take a few pictures (heresy!), chatting with a local. Where are the folks who feel good if they get 20 miles in?

Where are the people who aren't looking to completely redefine themselves every time they swing their leg over a saddle?

We are outliers. Persona non grata.

When I first started riding again a few years ago, I took myself way too seriously, and aimed at becoming one of the Extremers. Over time, my body gave me a serires of very clear messages that this was not my fate.

Without a doubt, I am sad I can't ride hundreds of miles at a stretch -- it sounds like a blast. But I am learning, (very) slowly, to enjoy what I can do. And I am learning that there are everyday heroes right here in the anonymous middle of the continuum: people who get up before the sun on Saturdays  so they can ride over both the hills they were contemplating the night before, and then go back and clean the house, shop for the food, play with the kids, and basically do a good life, contentedly below the radar.

If you're out there, send me a message in a bike bottle. Or better yet, start a blog. We need to remind each other that we're the 99% of the gene pool.


Human Wrecking Ball said...

Well this was a timely post. I too am known for "over doin it" but alas my body has had enough. Every year it seems like a life threatening heath issue pops up and I am faced with being eternally angry or enjoying the view. I can't say I have conquered the beast, but I am still out there riding(really slow) and for now that is the best I can do.
I have private desperate moments, while looking at last years race results, or watching my friends and son ride away from me, but I will still ride as much as I can. I have no choice, because I love it so.
So Velo, if you would, count me as one of your own.

Juancho said...

I WANT TO BE THE BEST...mediocre rider I can be, but I want to tell magnificent lies about all of it, and sometimes a little bit of truth.

Velosopher said...

Okay, you guys are the best. By needing to be heard, you're answering my need to hear. And btw, the reason I read both your blogs regularly is that you really are the kind of everyday heroes I seek -- you can't do it for the glory anymore, but you're too wise (or passionate) to give it up altogether. So you grit it out through the gray area of middle-aged, declining-body frustrations and find a way to suck more juice out of the lemon. "Okay, Mr. Time, you took away my speed, my endurance, my strength? That's okay, I'm still here."

That, to me, is a real role model. So yes, HWB, you are very much one of my own. And btw, you write like a demon. And Juancho, I can't speak to your level of riding, but I know for sure you're meeting your goal of subtly telling the truth by weaving a masterful web of magnificent lies.

Keep it up, guys.

Velosopher said...

And btw, guys -- a *very* long overdue addition of both your sites to my blogroll. Apologies for the delay!

Juancho said...

We're still here Time so suck it!

(and my level of riding is...enough to get the job done.)

Suitcase of Courage said...

Loved this post - seems we're all thinking about this a lot lately. And posts like this continue to inspire those nice, moderate tempo, coffee rides...

Velosopher said...

You just can't beat 'em. My guiding principle this season has been, "Fitness Follows Fun." Hence, the purchase of the Vaya -- and a lot more fitness than last year at this time. :-)