I swore to myself this summer that I wouldn’t get dragged back into bike racing. It’s excruciatingly difficult, and an even bigger time hog than blogging. But that’s no reason to stop. I think I had just done it well enough to satisfy my irrational competitive urges and it was time to turn my full attention back to work.
Then around the middle of July I was riding my bike down to the Cape, which is about 95 miles from my house. It usually takes me about 4.5 hours. On this day, I had a strong tailwind and beat my previous best time by almost 30 minutes. With the endorphins flying around my head like mosquitoes at a cookout, I started thinking about my favorite race, the Green Mountain Stage Race, which is held on Labor Day weekend in the mountains of Vermont.
Like an alcoholic stopping into the bar for “just one drink”, I’ve found myself face down in a lactic haze of tracking intervals, watts, heartbeats, kilojoules, and time ridden. I can tell I’m getting into race shape because riding a bike is just about all I can do. A 4 hour hard ride with 6000 feet of climbing? Sure. Climbing out of the car and up the stairs to my front door? I don’t think so. I need to rest and catch my breath in the middle. It’s a very specific strength one develops while training to race a bike, to the exclusion of almost all other normal activities.
I’m not sure what it is about all the pain and suffering, the sweat, snot and bloodshed involved, that keeps me coming back. I often say that if our government put the detainees at Guantanamo through the kind of torture that my friends and I subject ourselves to willingly, Amnesty International would be all over them with valid charges of human rights abuse.
I have met some of my favorite people in the world through this sport, so there’s that.
I’ve fallen off the wagon completely. Hopelessly. I swear I’ll stop after Labor Day and get back to the serious work of working seriously. Just one more race. Really.
Dale, you freak! I've never raced but you may be the one who inspires me. Just got back from a trip up to Maine with my son. Didn't get much riding in but a couple low intensity jaunts. I drove up Cadillac Mt. in Acadaia a few times and thought damn I am coming back on my bike to do that. Actually, hoping to ride the adventure Cycling Atlantic Route from bar Harbor ME. to MD in October. Not a race, a different kind of cycling.
Also drove up Mt. Washington yesterday, shame they don't let bikes up there. As I drove through the White Mountains I thought of you and the March of Death you mentioned. Maybe after I lose 40 lbs and build my legs into Christmas hams I'll ride with you.
GO GO Go man. You aint got no time for blogging when you're training.
dfAugust 8, 2007
Dale I always think to myself, "Someday, you won't be able to do this any longer." So enjoy it while you can I say! Nice shaving man.
Dale StephanosAugust 8, 2007
Harry, if I were going to suggest racing or riding just because you love it, I'd go with the latter. I was really burned out by the end of last season and it took months of just having fun on the bike before I felt the urge for heavy breathing again.
By the way, the do allow bikes on Mt Washington. In fact, the race up the auto road is this weekend. I've done it for the past 8 years, but I didn't get in this yerar because it sold out in 20 minutes! Just to brag for a second, I won my age group last year.
David, that "Someday you won't be able to do this any longer" really hit me about 5 years ago in my late thirties. Since then I've been on a tear to use the toys while they still work.
Gillette Mach III. Good stuff.
Tim O'BrienAugust 8, 2007
I read your article and got lost at the part, "...tracking intervals, watts, heartbeats, kilojoules..."
I know what caused you to burst from your studio and do that inspired ride. Drawger works wonders!
So, good luck in your training, my heart goes out to your wife as you prepare for this race. We will all cheer you on Dale.
I know this kind of obsession. I tend to involve myself with challenges and my running is a replacement for boxing and both have given me a healthy focus away from the art. I can't be Brad or James Jean, but I can be Tim O'B and run the marathon. That has to count for something ;)
Again, best of luck and ditto on the nice shave.
Nancy StahlAugust 9, 2007
Go for it..!
How did you take that photo, Dale? Was there a loud crash moments later?
Bob StaakeAugust 9, 2007
Family of four, only one working, son away at private university, paying family's medical/dental, quarterly tax estimates, monthly SEP contributions, incidental hookers. Okay, I JUST figured out why I'm ball-and-chained to the drawing board and am lucky to get in a leisurely 5 mile bike ride in every other day. Besides that, one of the reasons I went into illustration is because it has a leg -shaving optional policy. Keep pushin' dat pedal to da metal, Dale!
Dale StephanosAugust 9, 2007
I'd explain why bike racers shave their legs, but it's more fun to just take the ribbing I get for it.
Tim, as a fellow gadget fiend you'd like cycling alot. Absolutey everything involved is a toy of one kind or another. They all constitute the tiny brushstrokes that complete the larger picture.
Nancy, no crash. That time. I've done stupider things believe it or not.
Bob, just cut back on one of your hooker days and you'll be right there with me. Hell, just one of those high priced call girl sessions you're well known for would pay for a high end carbon fiber race bike. (Kidding folks)