Riding provides me with a rich conversation with myself. Sub-freezing morning commutes provide a heightened sense of introspection and contemplation. Thus, my commute this morning was a meditation on the philosophy of self inflicted pain in bike racing.
Now before you go thinking that I am a masochist or that this is about suffering, stop. I'm talking about the pain of effort, the pain of driving yourself to the limit of your capability and then going a little beyond. The quest for "a little bit faster" is never ending in bike racing.
I had some wonderfully insightful thoughts on this idea while I was bundled up and riding to work in the 18 degree morning, watching a beautiful sunrise sky of peach and fuchsia. To me, the purest moments of my life, the things that make me feel quintessentially alive with the animalness of being are the flow state moments that come on the bike. That moment when you are pure effort, when vision narrows to a tunnel and your self talk is coldly clinical in its analysis of the moment. That strung together series of moments when nothing in the world matters but what you are doing right then, is the essence of bike racing.
This season of 'cross has been my brink season, my hover season. I hover just inside or just outside the top ten. I ride in a no man's land of solo effort; passing some, being passed by others. This past weekend in Statesville, I had a large group chasing me the whole race. 45 minutes of being pursued. Somebody would pass me and I would pass them back and never see them again. This went on for 4 laps. After I get past the start of the race (where I use positive visualization to see myself riding through everyone to get a good start, finding the holes in the chaos), after I burn through the smoke and mirrors (let's face it, my only training right now is commuting, so I gotta rely on muscle memory and fakery as much as possible), I settle down to the hard task of digging deep and pushing every ounce of effort out of myself. I have to admit - I love every moment of it.