Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Back on the Horse

I raced a bike on Saturday.  It went fine.

This is the first time that I'd exerted myself like this all year.  I did manage to run a 5k a few weeks prior, but as it works out those events are about half as long as a cross race.  Cross is just this rotten hour of brutality when it's a typical hot and dusty mid-September.  I recall thinking, mid-race, that not only is this not fun, but good luck convincing anyone that this sport is something worth doing when it's like this.

White Park is hard.  As the laps wear on, you're just heaving yourself up that hill, hoping that circumstances converge to prevent you from having to ride it too many more times.  Another year I would have raced singlespeed, but not this one.  No miles, no legs, just some artifacts of fitness from a spring training regimen.  I opted for my geared bike instead.

This race was really just a way to prove to myself that mentally, I could still race.  That I could get around the course without some resident fear of crashing and hitting my head.  Which I don't have; I know that.  My brain is smart enough to know that what happened in May was just a fluke, whatever in hell the root cause of it was.  

I don't race with complete reckless abandon, but then, I haven't done that since 2008, when I started hitting my head.  My 52/61 finish at White Park was a performance absolutely in line with what I've been doing all along since that time.  Despite a year in which I've been about half as active as I usually am.

I guess it's on me to figure out if this is something I still want to be doing.  I love racing.  I love the dynamics of it, the drama of it.  Yes, that happens at back of the pack, just like it does at the front.  It happens all over the field.  That's why Star Cup was born actually.  In a normal year that would be taking off, but of course.

But the aspects of racing I do not like, I remembered quickly as we get into the final minutes of the race.  The overt seriousness of something that makes no sense.  The lack of courtesy in the waning moments, long after things have been settled.  Chopping turns, not calling out as you approach to lap someone.  Just this totally unnecessary bullshit that has no place in amateur sport.

That's all this is.  Nothing is at stake if you're off the podium.  Nothing.  There is no reason to cut me off or nearly take me out as you're lapping me with one minute to go en route to your 10th place finish in the 3/4 combined field.  The guy who did this yelled to me THIS IS RACING.  To which I replied THIS IS PARTICIPATION.  Get your shit straight man.

Where then I regret not having the balls to just race SSCX.  I'm not saying that mentality of misplaced purpose doesn't exist in that discipline, but I am.  Or certainly not as much.  Undeniably they're on two different planes of existence.

My time on the Bianchi is finished I think, it's very hooked up, but it's not as good a fit as my G&T.  So I'm considering just ripping all the gear-making stuff off the G&T and running an old XTR rear derailleur as a sacrilegious tensioner, and just walking away from the other fields for a while.

I rolled up to watch the start of the White Park SSCX field on Saturday, right after my race.  I sort of looked at that group in awe, especially as they clawed their way up that hill.  Total studs, women and men alike, to have the guts to line up and put themselves through that.  As someone who has carried the singlespeed flag for a long time, having started racing cross that way eight years ago, having raced SSCX at White Park in that very same field before, I felt like I was looking through a window into a party I should have been at.  I should have just gone for it.

The important thing I guess is that I tried to race again, after a long time of not knowing whether or not I would even do it anymore.  Despite the total mess it can become, cross seems like something I still can and want to do.  The road stuff, I just don't see it.  Smacking my head on pavement again seems like the most unappealing thing in the universe.  Stay tuned, everything changes.