Saturday, September 11, 2010

Race to Discover

One of the nice things about writing a blog is that one can write whatever they want about anything they want. The thread of this blog to date has concerned itself with my bicycle racing and the journey to the World Championship in Anadia, Portugal, to be held the last week of October, 2010. Todays installment is a digression and deals with a question I have asked myself many times over the years. The question is why do I do what I do?

Until my knees went bad about 5 years ago, I ran (slowly) marathons and climbed a few big mountains. People would ask, "Why do you do this?" My standard answer was "I don't know." The truth of the matter was that I never seriously asked myself the question; it seemed too much work to try and figure out the answer.

In April of 2008 I rode in the Sea Otter Classic road race, a highly competitive 43 mile race through the hills surrounding the Laguna Seca Raceway. This course had lots of climbing with nearly 5,000 feet of vertical gain. I am not a good climber given a suboptimal power to weight ratio (power too low/weight too high). Ascending the final 2.6 mile climb out of Barloy Canyon I was in 7th place and very nearly spent. Pushing upwards I passed 2 riders putting me into 4th place. The first three riders were about 30 seconds ahead and out of sight as the course is circuitous. About 500 meters from the top and the end of the race I saw the shadow of a following rider on my wheel. Though I thought I was at my limit I was able to apply a bit more pressure to the pedals and he quickly dropped back. He "cracked" in cycling parlance. I took 4th in the race and was thrilled.

That night was a sleepless one for me though I was beyond tired. The vision of the chasing rider's shadow falling back reran through my mind like a broken record. Why was I so excited by this? The question haunted me throughout the night. Then, an AhHa moment. An epipheny. The thrill of what had happened had nothing at all to do with the other rider. It had to do only with me. While I thought I was at my limit, there was, in fact, more gas left in the tank. The question of why I compete was answered for me that night. It has nothing to do with bling or accolades from others. It is about discovering what is left in the tank and trying to extract every last bit of whatever. Like the practice of medicine or learning the Talmud, the process of self-discovery is unending and is a reward in itself.

Thanks for reading.

Larry Wolff

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