11 August 2010

:road race report: patterson pass:.

Helen Keller wrote, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." 

Granted, comparing the relatively minor trials we experience as cyclists, to the courageous life of Keller may seem blasphemous. However, I do believe that the sentiment behind her quote motivates many of us cyclists. Our weekend rides or races become more than a workout, more than a social outing--these rides become moments for us to grow internally. By subjecting ourselves to these painful experiences, and by crossing the finishing line, we give ourselves an opportunity to become mentally stronger, and grow the faith we have in ourselves.

It was during my second climb up Patterson Pass that I had this aha moment. Only two miles from the finish line, turning around and quitting would have been easy. I dropped off the pack at the beginning of the race, and completed the first lap alone. I wondered why bother finishing, if I was to sit in the wind by myself for another lap. I've never felt wind like that. If you weren't careful, the shear winds could easily knock you over. Going up and over Patterson Pass, the wind was head-on. It is a 20% grade, for about a quarter of a mile. The few miles ahead of that are gentle grade with an equally bad head wind. The second climb is not so steep, however the hot sun was fully present.

As I began the second lap, I thought about the DNF {did not finish} on my race record. I had one DNF this year, from a broken chain {the chain was lost, irreparable} and it kills me every time I see it. I hate not finishing things, but Patterson Pass was just hurting so badly. Riding by myself is so lonely. At least when I'm mountain biking the thrill of obstacles keep the mind distracted. On an open stretch of road, loneliness and boredom creeps in. It is most threatening on a climb. When the mind gets bored, self-doubt can sneak in and cause the racer to just stop. That is one of my greatest fears--that I will have to just stop to rest, because I'm too mentally weak to carry on. I know that the physical strength is there, but often times our minds trick us and destroy our self-faith.

Into this second lap I decided to focus all of my energy into positive thinking. "I am going to finish this race." That is what I said to myself over and over again as I climbed up the pass. As I went through the final lap on the barren stretches of road, the horses gathered near the fence-lines. {This next bit will sound rather cheesy, and I apologize in advance, bear with me}. I thought of those great animals galloping across vast spaces--not fearing the emptiness of the landscape. I only wanted to finish my race strong, and positive. That's how I want to race. I may not be a winner, but I'm very happy to be amongst the finishers.