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Bucknell & Lehigh Addendum

Date: 2005-03-26
By: jkopena

I wanted to say a little bit more about the weekend.

  • I've mentioned to a couple guys that my life is basically a mini-diaspora right now. It's happened before, when Lou, Mike, Rob, and a lot of people in my labs graduated a few years ago. Now, it's people more closely in my age group graduating or finally getting real jobs in other parts of the world. A ridiculous amount of my friends have either left the area recently or are going soon.
  • Friday night I was out at a bar all night at yet another going-away party. By the time the Bucknell race rolled around on Saturday, I'd only had 3 hours sleep coming off a red-eye plane ride the previous night, hadn't really eaten dinner the night before, and my throat was all torn up from the smoke and yelling over the music all night. The race sucked. Sitting on the trainer hadn't warmed me up, my legs felt dead, my throat hurt, and halfway in I felt like my head was going to explode and I was ready to vomit. To top it all off, there were a slew of narrow corners, which I can do pretty well but only when I'm on the ball mentally, and that's one thing I wasn't that morning.
  • Halfway in I'd started drifting back and couple hundred feet of rapidly growing gap had opened between the lead group and I. At that point I was really starting to think of just sitting up and cruising it out, or bagging it altogether. I felt horrible, it wasn't a big race, nobody expects me to do well in crits anyway, and on and on.
  • Coming through the one corner about then, I saw Chris and Steve on the side. It hit me right then that they'd probably kill to be in the B lead group, and I should get my ass back up there. Then I really remembered my first year, in D watching the upper class races, and realized that me two, three, four years ago would have killed to be there. Ditching would have been a huge slap in my own face.
  • Faced with that, I didn't have a choice. I burned a lot of energy, jammed it up the shallow back side, tacked back on, ran the corners smooth the rest of the race, and hung in there. The two points it garnered me I give to Steve and Chris, for being there.
  • There's really two things I'm trying to get across. The first is don't ever discount the power of team. Every now and then someone asks me how cycling can be a team sport. I talk about draft and tactics, but that's not it at all. It's really about the confidence of having Erik by my side when the pace picks up, or the utter joy two hours into a cold, long race when Justin, Ondik, and Place all show up at the feed zone to cheer a little and make sure I've got enough water. Anybody who thinks any sport could be about anything but team wasn't there on the side of the road with me, crying on the Iceman's shoulder because I won my first race but had woken up just the night before to my girlfriend crying and talking about moving out after two years in the apartment and four together. It's all about team.
  • But it's also just about you. I like riding my bike because of the sun and the way the wind blows through my helmet. But, I love racing because it says things about me. It says I'm tough. It says I don't give up. It says I am not who I was a year ago or the year before, and I'm better now. I think we all know that on this team we don't care where you place or how many points you get. We care that you have fun and that you do better, all the time. That's really what racing's all about, I think. A stick by which to measure yourself, and not just by some simple metric of heartrate or miles per hour.
  • I dig having Mike around because he shows that so clearly---he's changed himself so much and come so far in ways long removed from cycling. It's so satisfying watching Justin: he never seems to do anything but he's always coming up stronger and better, in large part, I'm convinced, from simple will. I love having Brian and Chris on the team because they both want so badly to improve and upgrade.
  • So, that's how I wound up in a litte humdrum race in the middle of nowhere, finishing nothing special, nothing bad in fourteenth place. Because it's the best I could give. To the team. To myself.
  • Five weeks left guys. Rock it like there's no tomorrow.
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