2020 has been a rough year, there is no way around it. For most people, it has been a year of loss; people have lost lives, jobs, and loved ones. While I am fortunate enough not to have had anything this serious taken from me, I too have experienced loss, in the form of a race season cut short. Although I’m very disappointed to have missed all of the exciting opportunities this year had to offer, I am not self-centered enough to ignore that there are much more serious issues at hand than a handful of forgotten bicycle races. Still, it was an absolute bummer of a year. It wasn’t all bad, though; in the midst of a global pandemic and an ocean of self-pity, I rediscovered why I spend my free time punishing myself for hours on end to see marginal gains in fitness, why I wake up early every morning to get in a ride before work, why I race bikes.
For most of the year, I’ve restricted myself to riding with only a small handful of friends that consists of a couple coworkers, my roommate, and a couple teammates. Most of my rides have been lonely affairs, but on the ocasional ride with others, the company has been unmatched. (Shoutout to teammates Colin, Blake, and John, and coworkers/friends Hunter and Alec for keeping me sane.)
I have been spending my time since March training for our eventual return to racing, riding hard towards the light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel. Curiously, the harder I rode, the farther away that light seemed to be. A couple months ago, I was more fit than I have ever been, but racing seemed even more distant than it did back in March, when the pandemic initially shut everything down. Training had become a chore for which I seemed to receive no reward. More recently, I became tired, burnt out, and uninterested in the very thing that for so long has captured my imagination: riding and racing bikes. This was a new feeling, and I was unsure how to proceed.
I remained in this state for a few weeks, and with no racing on the horizon, there was no catalyst to prompt a return to regular training. Interestingly enough, all it took was a single bike ride to return me to a motivated, happy mindset. It was a Sunday, and I didn’t plan on riding. This was unusual, as Sundays are usually my day set aside to do longer rides, and aside from this particular day, I can’t remember the last time I skipped my Sunday ride. I was at Colin’s house with our quaranteam when my friend Sam (one of Colin’s roommates) rolled out his electric commuter bike and told me to take it for a spin. I threw a leg over it and cruised around the neighborhood, and while doing so, a revolutionary thought crossed my mind: this was fun.
Most of my riding is done with so much purpose, so much focus on improvement, that I forgot why I ride bikes in the first place. I don’t ride bikes to be good, I ride bikes because I enjoy riding bikes. How good I am at riding bikes, then, is a byproduct of how much I enjoy riding bikes and how competitive I am. It made me think about being a successful guitarist. I’ve always thought that it would be really cool to be a great guitar player but there is a problem with this: I do not enjoy playing the guitar. If I started practicing, it wouldn’t be because I enjoyed playing the guitar, it would be because I wanted to be good at it. Maybe I’d be a rockstar after ten years, but I’d be a rockstar who hated himself.
It was this realization that confirmed that I’m right where I need to be. I’m riding (and training) again, and waiting patiently for racing to start. And I’m enjoying it. I’m taking the parts of bikes that make me smile and I’m chasing them, instead of desperately trying to be in peak shape when we finally get out of this tunnel. There will be time for that later. For now, I’m riding bikes, I’m enjoying them, and I’m smiling for all that I’m worth.