I have not always been obsessed with mountain biking.
Once, in fact, I was an ordinary guy, with a variety of interests. Sure, I loved biking, but I wasn’t in love with it.
The problem was, though, all of my friends had pretty much already caught the bug. They had started buying the lightest cross-country bikes they could afford, and were racing on Tuesday nights. They were training. They were watching their weight. They were selecting rides based on what kind of workout they’d get: the more climbing, the better.
Naturally, every group ride became a race. And naturally, as the newest — and sole remaining recreational — rider in the group, I always came in dead last.
Usually by several minutes.
For a while, this didn’t matter at all to me. Well, actually, I should point out that previous sentence is a total lie. Every ride, as I rode up to the designated “regroup” spot and saw everybody watching me, I’d be embarrassed. Not embarrassed enough to do anything about it, but embarrassed.
Then, one day, at the top of Frank, Dug and I had an exchange.
“So,” said Dug, as I churned up to the top of the climb in my granny gear, “Did you have a flat on the way up, or what?”
This was perfectly normal trash talk, but I was in a foul, embarrassed mood. “Shut up, Dug,” I said. “Why don’t you start always riding with guys who are three levels faster than you and see where you sort to in the pack.”
“You shut up,” said Dug. “I already do that every Tuesday night.”
“And does the winner ask you whether you flatted out during the race?” I asked, probably more petulantly than I intended.
“Whatever,” concluded Dug, and he rode away.
Having written it down, I can see that this is a pretty silly conversation. But it stuck in my craw. And no, I don’t know what a “craw” is, which makes having a conversation stuck there even worse.
Turning this talk over and over in my mind over the next few days, I reached a conclusion: the only way to definitively win this argument was to become the fastest rider in the group.
So I started training. I bought a light cross country racing hardtail. I started doing the Tuesday night races. Before long, I started placing well. I dropped 25 pounds. I started seeking out long, difficult climbs. I would experiment to see how much pain I could live with before I blew up, then learned how to stay right at that threshold.
It took about three years, but I got to the point where I could outride even the fastest of my friends.
At least on the climbs, anyway. I’m still the one they wait for at the bottom of the descents.
The Part of the Story I Never Tell Anyone
During the three years I was focusing on becoming a fast climber and racer, my friends were exploring other biking interests, as well. So, about the time I got to where I could keep up with them, they were discovering full-suspension.
And they were losing interest in racing.
The practical upshot of this was that right about the time I became fast, my friends lost all interest in being fast. They were all about downhill and doing cool moves.
Neither of which — of course — I am any good at.
Today’s weight: 167.4