I Understand Everything So Much Better Now That I’m Exhausted, Way Behind My Projected Splits, and In Terrible Pain

10.10.2018 | 8:39 am

I put my entire summer into training for this endurance race. I hired a coach and followed her plan. I came out and got comfortable with the course, several times.

I researched equipment and practiced with it until I was confident in my choices. I did the same with food, getting comfortable with what I’d eat during which parts of the race, and how often.

I planned out every mile; I wrote down and memorized my course of action for every contingency.

I visualized myself crossing the finish line. Oh, more than anything else, I visualized myself crossing that finish line.

And then, about forty miles into this event, I more or less jettisoned all of that nonsense I concocted before the race, because now this race is now.

Oh, I was such a fool up until this race got hard. If only I had been as wise then as I am now — specifically, now that I’m exhausted, trailing my projected split times, cramping, and generally demoralized.

I see everything so much more clearly now.

OK, if I’m going to be completely honest, I actually started having race-moment epiphanies right from the starting line. Sure, I had been told to not go hot off the starting line, but dammit I felt great. “Why shouldn’t I allow the possibility of having an exceptional day to play out?” I asked myself. “Maybe this is the day I completely shatter all expectations. Maybe today is the day I discover that I can fly forever.”

It was also during this race that I discovered that I am stronger than everyone around me, and that if my group is going to have a fast day it’s up to me to set the pace. Which meant pulling for about an hour and a half. These guys were lucky to have me, and it was a disgusting show of poor sportsmanship when they surged ahead and dropped me when I pulled around to let them take over for a bit.

Oh, there’s that stupid “Eat” chime on my GPS I arrogantly set to go off every thirty minutes. That thing is so annoying. I know when I’m hungry and when I’m not, and right now I am not. In fact, the very idea of food is utterly repellent to me right now, and has been for about two hours. My stomach feels terrible and I hate the very idea of GU right now; it completely makes me gag. I don’t know how I managed to choke it down every half hour during long training rides the whole summer.

All of that, though, is just a bunch of little examples. They’re almost beside the point.

The thing I’ve actually truly learned about myself during this race is that racing is not what I love doing. I love endurance riding, not endurance racing. When you’re out riding for hours on end, you’re self-supported, going at your own pace, with people instead of against them, enjoying the beauty of the ride and the perfection of being alone with your bike.

Endurance racing is just a vain mockery of everything that’s pure and perfect about endurance cycling.

And then there’s my crew. My family, my friends. They’ve traveled a great distance and used their precious vacation days to come see me…and I’m hardly even seeing them at all today. I’m into the aid station, grabbing something, barking instructions at these wonderful people like I’m some kind of angry ingrate, and then I leave them.

That’s messed up.

They came to see me, I should be with them.

I don’t know what I’m even doing out here. This isn’t proving anything to anyone, I’m not having fun, it isn’t the kind of riding I love to do, and I’m not with the people I love. I’m ending this race as soon as I get to the next aid station.

I understand everything so much more clearly now.