Ride casual. I preach these words. Embrace your casual side while cycling. Go fast? Whatevs. I’d rather ride with friends and carry on a conversation. Laugh and enjoy the moment. Watch the scenery flow by. Catch the movement and grace of a deer hopping into the trees. Challenge each other on a hill but then smile and joke about it at the top. Regroup and tell a couple stories about the last ride. No true competition other than maybe who has the best sock game going on.
Except…deep deep down I am competitive. I keep my competitiveness buried. I don’t want to accept it. I don’t like the way being competitive makes me feel. I’d rather stop and help other riders than “race” another rider. Sit on my wheel…I’ll pull you. You need a tube? CO2? Careful this corner is dangerous. Do you have enough to eat and drink?
I channel my competitive feelings inward. I challenge myself. I compete with myself. I win most of the time nowadays. I feel I’ve become fairly strong mentally on a bike. I know how to ride through cramps and pain. I’ve crashed and got back up. I lose occasionally. I’ve chosen poorly with hydration and heat twice and both times fell only to get back up via the ER and fluids. I know better but when I’m competing with myself…I want to win. Every time. I’m okay with this. I’m not competing with others. If I win…no one else loses. If I lose…no one else knows…it’s channeled inwardly.
Except…ONCE a year…I allow just a little bit of that competitiveness to show its face publicly. Once a year I accept my hypocrisy and show it publicly. Once a year I participate in a Gravel relay race. A team of four. 24 Hours of Cumming put on by Steve Cannon. Hosted by the Cumming Tap in Cumming, Iowa. Each leg of the relay is 60’ish miles of hard packed gravel over miles and mile of rolling hills. I charge the hills a little bit harder and take the corners a little bit sharper. I’ll catch a wheel a little bit longer and take a pull a little bit smarter. The beauty of the race is I get to compete against other riders without really feeling like I’m competing. I simply give everything I’ve got for 60 miles. A 60 mile ITT. I ride the first leg every year. There is no “winner” as I come across the Finish Line. I don’t wish bad luck for any other rider because I know I have a team of three other riders backing me up. My job is simply to give all I can give and put my team mates in the best position possible to win. Sixty miles. Four water bottles. Six GU packets. Roll strong. Spin the cranks. Blow yourself up and finish your ITT on fumes.
The rest of the day? Chill. Sit around and have a few beers with your fellow riders. High five your team. Support everyone. Cheer for everyone. Hugs all around. Food truck cuisine. Laugh about your lows and be humble about your highs.
Once a year though I do want to win. I want the team to win. I want to stand there next to my team mates with a trophy in one hand and a box of Zebra Cakes in the other. I don’t want anyone else to lose…but my team has taken home the 1st Place trophy two years in a row and I plan on doing it again.
I’ll make this promise though. If we don’t win…I’ll still give hugs and high fives. I’ll still smile and laugh and tell stories. I might even…no. Never mind. Buy your own damn Zebra Cakes….these are mine.
Good luck everyone at 24 Hours of Cumming!