1,500 miles away though, my good friend and teamate, Rider 3, is two hours into many hours of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. I was supposed to be on the start line with him, but I gave up my spot after I sold our house a few months ago. Between work, family and building a new house, there was too much going on.
I don't feel guilty about backing out. Really. It was the right decision for me. But this morning, thinking about Rider 3 cranking up yet another 45 minute climb at 11,000 feet above sea level, I'm feeling impressed and proud of him.
If you were to take a critical look at Rider 3's strengths and weaknesses as a rider and pick out the best event for him to structure his life around, it would look like the polar opposite of Leadville. But that's Rider 3--always picking the most audacious goal.
As a reader of a cycling blog you might have had the experience of training for an event that scares the hell out of you. Or maybe you haven't.
What most people don't realize is how hard the preparation is. And not just the physical part. It's the compromise that's so difficult, at least for me. It's hard for professional riders, trust me about this. But's it's an order of magnitude harder when you're an amateur rider, especially one with a big job and a family.
Two weeks ago I met Rider 3 for a mountain bike ride. It was perfect for me. We rode hard for three hours and I was looking forward to a cup of coffee. A good meal. A nap. Playing baseball with my daughter. A perfect summer day. And I dutifully took care of all of these things. Rider 3 though, rode for an additional three hours.
I haven't asked him about this, but my very well educated guess is that in the middle of 20 hour training weeks (on top of 50 hour work weeks), Rider 3 experienced more than a little doubt about whether he had made the right choice. Whether a freaking mountain bike race was worth it.
My experience anyway is that when you're getting ready for an event like Leadville, many days are close to impossible. You get frustrated that you're not taking care of other parts of your life. You don't want to be on the bike for four hours. Yet another set of hill repeats sound almost as much fun as coming down with ebola.
Every now and then though, great compromise yields great results. And I'm not talking about the numbers on the clock that Rider 3 will see when he crosses the finish line. He did the training, absorbed the compromises, is fitter than I've ever seen him. But the real result--at least my guess about what the real result is anyway--is that he'll have learned something new about himself in the process.
And this is something he owns now. It belongs to him.
So, congratulations Rider 3. Here's to a great race.