Another adventure with the skidoo, ATV and finally, the sweet smooth ride of the SUV to the airport brought me out of my winter wonderland to the chaos of LAX. Yes, it was a shock to the system to arrive at the bustling airport after the two hour flight to the south west of Salt Lake City. I felt like Dorothy and I definitely was not in Kansas anymore. Sitting on the bench outside of the Delta baggage area, I sat and watched the people, the vehicles; the absolute chaos combined with smog in its purest form that threatened to envelope my very being. I had a moment of thought that felt more like panic ‘I don’t think I can do this bike racing thing if it means being in THIS!!’
Just what ‘this’ was is the polar opposite of the life I like to live. ‘This’ being airports, cities, hotels and no peace of mind, body or spirit. The more I sat there and soaked it all in, I tried to calm my senses and turn this panic into rational thought. The more I listened and watched, the better I felt. Better? Yes, better. Better because I knew my existence had nothing to do with that reality. I kept thinking ‘is this what the world has come to’ and ‘how can people live like this!’, only to realize, the choices I’ve made in my life, though often inconvenient in their own way, have nothing to do with the grime and noise and aggression I felt sitting at the airport watching the world as most people know it fly by.
And then, finally, someone from the team was there to pick me up and shuttle me to the hotel in San Dimas. Two hours of stop and go LA freeway travel solidified my thought that the world is out of control. Lining these freeways were signs for botox, tummy-tucks, praise-the-lord messages shouting out at the passers-by that the answers were there at the end of a 1-800 number. Yes, I thought, if this was my existence, I would perhaps think about dialing in.
Finally, at approximately 5pm, I rolled out of the hotel parking lot on my bike. The legs felt anything but fluid but oh did it feel good to ride. Out to the uphill prologue course and up the climb I went, forcing myself to do some efforts to try to open the system for today’s race. I never did feel good up the climb and did one of my worst ever descents with the team car following me. I kept thinking ‘don’t crash in front of Ronny (our director)’ mixed with ‘Ronny must be wondering why people say I can descend!’ It was one of those rides where I felt like I was on someone else’s bike; in someone else’s body.
Oh, what a difference a day can make. Overnight, I seemed to adapt to the noise of the city, the traffic, the density of the population. It didn’t phase me to go out and see sky the same color as the concrete, and more grey of buildings between. I made my way to the prologue and the legs began to turn in beautiful circles that seemed impossible the day before.
Arriving at the start, being with the team, ‘on’ the team, gave me confidence and a sense of security I neglected to consider because it has been so long that I’ve been in this situation as a bike racer. It felt good to be a part of something and see my teammates warming up as I did. Yes, this is a small race for us, a sort of training for bigger things to come, but the impact on me of being a part of something like this gave me strength and desire to show that I deserved my place in this whole thing. Yes, I was on the same beautiful Specialized bikes as last season, but no longer on my own.
It started a few weeks ago in Merced, California, at my first races of the year and now is clear. This feeling of being exactly where I want to be, riding my bike, floating on the pedals. It ended today with one of the best climbs I’ve done. That this is just the beginning makes it all the more exciting. The legs are just starting to turn and I can’t wait to see the level they are able to output in the coming months.
Yes, it’s just bike racing, but it can be a pretty special thing. Even after all these years, it can still be a special thing.
And, of course, it’s a reminder to sometimes let go how you felt the day before when pedaling squares wondering how the heck the race is going to go. A reminder to just let your legs do what they’re trained to do: in the past, to skate in circles, and now, to pedal in circles.
After the shock of re-integration into civilization from the back-country, I think I can handle the city thing for at least another season. I realize that all I need to know is that home is there, waiting for me, and I can carry the peace of mind and spirit it provides in my memory bank. I’ll certainly be withdrawing from this ‘Bank of Back Country Zen’ throughout the summer!