On Wednesday I asserted that I would write on both Thursday and Friday. I had very specific topics in mind for those days. Here are the things I planned to talk about:
- Thursday: A fun new contest. I expected more participation in this one than in any contest I have done to this point. Not so much because the prize was great (although the prize was in fact pretty great) but because I was pretty sure that the idea of this contest would catch everyone’s imagination. However, the contest required the participation of a certain outside party, whose partner did not give permission to go ahead with this contest. I am being vague about what the contest is, who the certain outside party is and why permission from a partner would need to be granted, because I hope that at some point in the future this contest will still happen, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Anyway, that’s why I didn’t write yesterday. Sorry.
- Friday (Today): Today, I was going to write about my plan for riding in the Lotoja event, and about how it would be an interesting experience to go do a ride where I seriously had no finishing time goals or completion ambitions whatsoever. That is, I didn’t care how long it took to do the ride, or whether I even completed the ride; I was simply going for the sake of a roadtrip and a long ride with friends.
Then, Wednesday afternoon, I crunched some numbers and made a decision, which means that today’s topic changed, too.
Why Do I Race?
Until Wednesday, I had never considered the "why" in "Why Do I Race?" It didn’t seem a question worth exploring. The thing is, though, take a fast guy who races (Kenny) and a slow guy who races (me). Kenny’s reasons for racing are bound to be different than my reasons for racing, right? And my reasons for racing, while compelling for me, must not be very compelling to someone who chooses to not race at all.
So the question is: why do I race? What benefits do I get? In order of importance:
- To spend time with friends: preparing for, talking about, and doing the race. Yeah, believe it or not, the road trip aspect of a race is my favorite thing about racing. I like the trip there, the trip back, and hanging out. This is perhaps one of the main reasons I look forward to the Leadville 100 each year: it’s a big trip where I get to hang out with my friends for four days. And because I’ve been doing this race for so long, I’ve made a lot of friends associated with that race, and make more every year. For me, going to Leadville is like going to Cheers.
- To test myself. At some point in every race I’ve ever done, there comes a point where I am in pain. In short races, that pain is mostly in the legs and lungs, and is pretty intense. In long races, the pain can be everywhere and anywhere — including and especially in my head — and may even migrate around a bit. I like this pain, because I am pretty good at living with it, which to me feels like I’m pretty good at beating it. Even while I’m suffering, I get an enormous amount of satisfaction thinking, "This hurts, but it’s not stopping me."
- To have an adventure / to have a story to tell. While I expect that most people have at least an aspect of the first two items I listed as motivation for racing, this one may be a little less common. The thing is, though, even as I ride, I’m usually composing pieces of the story in my head. I’m usually writing the conclusion to the story in my head, too. That conclusion changes several times during the race.
- To win! No, just kidding. I know I’m not going to win.
So, there you have them: the benefits of racing, as I see them. Now let’s look at the flip side of this coin.
The Costs of Racing
If racing were nothing but upside, I’d be entering every race in the world, right? But there are a couple of things that keep me from doing that, once again in order of importance to me:
- Time. Time away from the family and time off work (especially when you’re fairly new in a job and haven’t yet accumulated a lot of vacation time) are the biggest gating factors for a race (or for any event)
- Money. Entry fees, gas money (or plane money), food, hotels: By the time I add it all up, most big races cost me between $500 and $1000, depending on how long I have to be gone, and how far I have to travel.
Return on Investment
So, when you think about it, for any given race, the benefits I’m going to gain have got to outweigh the costs: I’ve got to get good value for my time and money.
And so I’m not going to Lotoja. Here’s why:
- Costs were high. I would be away from my family for three full days to do a 12-hour race that is in actuality not a race at all. I would be spending upwards of $500 in hotel, gas, and food (I am ignoring the entry fee; that’s a sunk cost, spent before I had done a cost/benefit analysis).
- Benefits were low. The "test myself" aspect was never really a component of this ride; I already know I can do this kind of distance and difficulty, and wasn’t shooting for a fast time. The "spend time with friends" part was the main driver for me going on this trip, and it turns out that instead of a member of a road trip with the guys, I’d be an awkward third wheel (or, technically, a fifth wheel) on a romantic second honeymoon / double date (which just happens to have a big ride stuck in the middle). No thanks.
So, instead of Lotoja, tomorrow I’m going on an epic mountain bike ride with Kenny and Brad. I’ll be spending time with friends, definitely testing myself (Kenny and Brad are each roughly four times as strong as I am), and should have a great story to tell this Monday. Meanwhile, I’m earning massive brownie points with the wife by being gone only six hours instead of three days, and saving around $500, to boot.
Hey, run the numbers yourself; I think you’ll see the math checks out.