Tuesday, June 21, 2011


It happens every year.

I love riding fast. I love feeling strong. Crushing a 30- or 40-miler is just pure joy. So, when I get on a bike alone, I find it very hard not to push. And when I push, I get stronger. (So far, so good.) And when I get stronger, I set racing-type goals. (Uh-huh…) Then I push more. (Uh, wait…) Somewhere around there, a major stressor (or two, or three) pops up in my life. Still I push. (Yes, I do include recovery weeks.) Slowly, subtly, I start losing sleep. Start feeling dead in the legs. Start not wanting to ride, and feeling cranky all the time.

Still I push – because I set a goal, and reaching goals is noble, right? It makes us feel good, right? Onward!

But is that really why I push so hard? No.

I push because I hate myself. Or some part of me does.

The part of me that wants to prove that bully from summer camp wrong by ripping the legs off of his stand-in on the latest group ride – but at the same time, agrees with him that I’m a worthless lump. It’s shame, pure and simple.

It’s sometimes said (a little simplistically) that strong competitors either love to win or hate to lose. I’d have to put myself in the second category. If I can ride faster than someone, I often feel an unhealthy high, which comes more from relief than joy. “Phew!! I'm okay. I beat someone, so I must be okay!” How far is that from the pure joy of crushing a solo 40-miler? It’s measurable only in light-years.

This stuff feeds off shame like a cancer. After decades of working on myself, I like to think there isn’t any self-hatred left; then I start to feel strong on the bike, and Voila! Mr. Kill-or-be-Worthless comes crashing through the locked door to the basement of my psyche, and starts setting off M-80s and stink bombs.

I’ve basically never known the bright joy of healthy competition. I have friends who compete that way; the rush, the effort, the jostling for position… it’s all goodness to them. If they win, great! If not, oh, well – they have a killer story. I would really like to know what that feels like.

Until that day, I may have to steer clear of most competition -- or find a way to sneak up on it and take it by surprise. All suggesions are welcome.


Herringbone said...

So nice to hear your voice! I felt like I'd found a kindred then lost it. Paranoia will destroya....

I'd like to comment. No real suggestion. All champions are eccentric. Have some sort of eccentic trait. It's a gift. It seperates.Modern civilization accepts only certain strains of competition. So you must manage your gift. Keep it in shape. Healthy. Razor sharp. Be chill when you need to be. When the right situation arise. take no prisoners. Scott

Herringbone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Velosopher said...

Eccentricity is a beautiful thing, something all my friends and close people sport. I believe we're supposed to become more and more who we really are. Guess this post is one more step in the process.

I suppose if I were fast, I would never be asking these questions. I'd be a mid-packer, offering a thoughtful hand up to the 49% behind me, and graciously accepting defeat at the hands of the other 49%.

Suitcase of Courage said...

This post hits a little close to home. Kindred spirits, as per usual. Like you, I wish racing was more about the euphoria of competition rather than the flaggelation of self-loathing. Fortunately, the balance has been tipping lately toward the former. But the other still persists.

Velosopher said...

SoC, you've said this before in comments, and I always find it surprising. I guess we all work to cover up our dark places, huh? You do a good job, but I don't know if that's a good thing... ;-) I just figured I'd come out and say it, see if it did any good!

Human Wrecking Ball said...

Well said Bro. My internal voice is Mrs. Bates, so I get it. I have said many times, that I ride faster in races out of fear. For me, winning (I have only won one race) or placing brought no joy at all and that made me angry.
I am glad someone finally said how I feel about this stuff.

Velosopher said...

WB, I really appreciate your words. Baring this stuff isn't easy, so hearing that there are others out there feeling just the same way is really supportive.