22 December 2008

Why I do this..

At the end of each season, I inevitably get some downtime. As I mentioned in my last post, its a time where I get to feel human again. I get to wake up and not ache, and each day I feel more rested and get hungry to ride and race again. Its been almost a week since I threw a leg over a bike, and I'm getting close to that point where I need to suit up. I've been getting a run or two in, and yeah its a little workout, but thats not why I ride and race.

I started riding as a little kid to get away. It was a simple escape out my back door to some place I didn't know and a world to discover. I had some things as a kid that I wanted to hide from, and being on a bike was the one place that I found some reprieve. Growing up I had few really close friends, lots of acquaintances, but only a few that really understood or knew me. On a bike I could let my imagination go free and not have any concerns. I would imagine that I was riding my bike through forests in Europe, chasing the last rays of sun as the day came to a close. It was always hard to come home, I just wanted to live on my bike.

I played most of the popular sports, I enjoyed them for a while, I even became pretty good at them, but they disappeared when the fun did. Cycling was always somewhere in the back of my head, sometimes just barely visible, but I still felt it. At college, I became buried in books and homework, a girlfriend that was about as supportive as a spaghetti bridge. I gained weight, ok, almost a person in weight, and felt awful. I was just a fat dude. As my girlfriend moved across the hall, don't ask, I got my mountain bike out again, and started to ride more. Instantly, I started feeling better both in my head and body. I finally felt alive again. I started to ride more and more like I used to. I decided to apply for a delivery spot at JJ's to deliver food on my bike. I got a spot, and started working around 15 hours a week. I figured that 15 hours a week on my bike would be fun, but I had no idea what it would do to me. The first week or two sprinting around town on a converted single speed, made me work, and would just wear me out, but I kept feeling better.

I kept at it, and picked up more hours, longer shifts, and rode harder. I sprinted so hard to make a light, to make that gap between cars, I made myself hurt. I had always looked to the bike for a safe haven, but now I was making myself hurt because it made me feel something other than the crap I was going through. I was in a bad place in my head, and the pain that a steep climb on a windy day gave me, was excruciatingly beautiful.

The more I rode, the more focused I was on being healthy, and I changed my diet almost entirely; almost overnight. I literally threw out some perfectly good food, so that I wouldn't eat it. The weight started coming off slowly, and I worked with a dietitian friend of mine, and she kept me losing weight and feeling better.

Cycling soon started to take a front-seat in all aspects of my life. I was leaner, healthier, even loved life a little. I had some things that embittered me, and placed a huge shadow over everything, but I could get out from underneath that shadow on the bike.

The training of riding 30+ hours a week was incredible, I would kill to have that much time available now. I started to morph into a really capable cyclist; I was super-fit going into college, so it wasn't that unreasonable. I was doing long 4 hour rides instead of studying, working instead of going to class, and generally getting into shape. The first race I did was something a little out of the ordinary for a still heavy dude. My brother had talked me into doing a 12 hour mtb race near our hometown. We did it solo, and really did ok for our first ever race. For me, I caught a bug that hasn't left me since.

I had always used cycling as the outlet for all of my anger, frustration, sadness, and just pure stress, but this was something entirely different. The competition made me more focused, and it was addictive to toe the line and let loose on the trail. I started to race more, and more, started working at my home shop, and soon cycling took over completely.

My family really didn't know what to think of it all, but they have come around. My Mom has been learning more about 'cross, and has come to see me race a bunch this season. My Dad has even made it to a couple races. I'm in a happier place than I've been in a very long time, and its all because of two wheels. I still get out on the bike to ease some struggles in my mind and to obtain that clarity, and Mary knows when I need to get away.

So, thats a long story, well long, but its why I put in hours on the bike. Its why I pay someone to let me race my bike, its why I would go without heat so I could buy tires or the entry fees for the next race. Some people take up cycling just for fitness; I took up cycling again to save my life. So, thanks to everyone that has helped me, and continues to support both the addiction and the cure.

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