Thursday, April 03, 2008

Going Back To My Roots

I am sick as a dog this week, its raining and my bike is going to get re-built real soon. So I thought I would share a story. Story time kids.

The year was 2002 and the month was June. I had just moved to Columbia and I remember coming home from work, not having anything to do. Sure I would go to the gym sometimes but that wasn’t any fun. I needed some stress relief now that I was a “professional” in the real world.

This is when I started taking my Schwinn out to Harbison State Forest in Columbia. I had a heavy rigid bike with flat pedals sans cages, no helmet, gears and rode in cotton with no water. Hell, I didn’t even know how to change a flat. However, somehow, I still fell in love.

One day my trusty steed stopped shifting altogether and all my mechanical prowess (which stops just short of using a screwdriver) couldn’t bring her back. I left her outside my apartment door knowing someone would steal it. It was stolen the night I left it out. I just hoped whoever stole it was as frustrated as I was with the shifting.

That same year my father gave me my first true mountain bike and I fell in love with the sport. Eventually I even learned how to change a flat tire and started putting a brain bucket on my head.

A year or so later I met a group of like minded folks one day while out on the trails and the next thing I knew I had friends to ride with. A lot of these guys and gals would talk about racing. I was never going to race though I told myself. Too much dedication without proper balance forces the love out of things. I had learned that at an early age.

The only reason I rode a mountain bike was for the endorphin filled downhills. Who likes that silly climbing business anyway? That is for sissies who want to look like Tom Cruise I thought. Real men went down. Where is the ski lift?

However, as I gained fitness and learned of a local Race that happened to be coming up I decided I would race. After much pondering, I thought I would bypass the beginner class and suit up with the sport riders. At this point in my riding, I was riding a Gary Fisher Sugar 292 and that fully suspended bike made me feel like I could fly.

To this day, I can still remember standing at the start line, not knowing anyone around me just wondering what was going to happen. I remember one person in particular saying “Well this is a pretty good turn out, looks like we will find out who is the fastest sport rider in Columbia.”

“Go!” and we were off. I am not sure what got in my head but I guess I figured I could slow everyone down if I got the hole shot. So I pinned it out of the gate down a rock road, right turn onto another gravel road and a quick right into the single track. I was in the lead!! Holy crap I thought how in the hell did this happen? After a few minutes I realized that this was like any other riding I had done. You just mash the pedals and hope nobody comes up from behind. I did it for two laps that totaled something like 15 miles. I never saw a soul in that race and finished numero uno about a minute ahead of second place. This mountain bike racing is easy cheese I thought. Never again have I ever even seen the podium at a race. There wasn’t a podium at this race either so even at the one race that I won I got gypped.

This race was a series at Harbison called The Race to the River put on by the local shops in the area. I can’t even begin to explain how this race and the 24 hours of Southern Lights changed my life. It made me realize that I have the potential to fail at so much more in my life than just life itself. (sorry for those of you who are not in the know and would not get this joke, just “ha ha” a little anyway)

This is why I am looking forward to this year’s Race to the River on April 12th. Kristin and I have to be in Columbia anyway so why not race? This year I will be doing the exact opposite from that year so long ago. I will be entering the expert class with one gear and no suspension and I will have the full expectation of coming in last. I have found over the years that this is the best way to get the most bang for your buck. I might put on a big tall gear so I can sprint and talk smack to the riders for the first mile or so but then I will settle into my own slow pace and just relish in the fact that I am back in the roots.

If you are able to ride, be happy.



Robert said...

cheers mate, a quiet inspiration to us all. I got caught up in racing two seasons ago, burnt out, had the dierenger made, and now i just love to ride. any result or "fast for a northerner" comment is simply a result of that...days in the woods with like minded folks. One of these days i'll get to enjoy a day in the woods with you instead of against you.

cornfed said...

There is something eerily gratifying about coming round full circle.

I touched on it last year when I rode my Surly on trails I'd ridden as a kid on a 50lbs Sears FreeSpirit BMX bike.

Go for the hole shot.