Why we race: a manifesto
This is one of my ♥ favorite essays
We can’t choose when to win, but we can choose when to quit.
Racing is a metaphor. Bicycles are a metaphor. Losing is a metaphor. Quitting is for fucking quitters.
Pros DNF all the time. They live to fight another day. Pros are samurai. They escape defeat by riding into the sunset just before the closing credits.
We’re not samurai. We’re the sad sack villagers who have to fight off bandits with sharpened sticks. If we fled this village, where would we go? When the credits roll, we’ll still be in the village.
“It never gets easier, you just go faster.”
If you’re good at life, it will only get harder. Forever.
We used to work at factories, on farms, in kitchens or abbattoirs or machine shops or forests or on ships. We used to make the world with our bodies. We used to live where we worked. Doing just one thing every day was hard. That one thing broke our bones and bent our backs and destroyed our nerves and sagged our tits.
Who touches life with their body any more? All this * waves hands vaguely * ... is it worthless if we don’t see it through a glowing rectangle?
If it’s not on Strava did it really happen?
Do you feel the rain or do you just get wet?
“people have become wooly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride.”
Our humble bodies, too fat, too weak, too tired, too allergic, are nonetheless capable of wonders. These bodies. The ones we spend our lives in. If they can walk, they can race. They might lose that race but that ain’t no excuse.
“No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the sofa.”
On the sofa, donuts are kryptonite. On the bike, donuts are spinach.
We should’ve started racing a decade ago, two decades ago. The best time to plant a tree is three decades ago. The second best time is now.
All this will pass. There will be a day when we stop training to go faster, and start training to stop going slower.
Because we’re not laying down fast twitch fiber any more.
Because every year our VO2Max slips a little more.
Because every second we lose a little more bone mass.
Because our heart rate creeps ever downward and our recovery creeps ever upward.
Because someday we won’t be able to race at all.
We’ll end our days tired drooling, bent with fatigue and worry, fragile frames supported by children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews. We’ll squint at a crit or Cross race through cataracts, the racers a hopeless blur: all their suffering, all their sweat, all their blood. This body, hard or soft, will be a cage, a traitor, an untrustworthy travelling companion. It will no longer be capable of wonders. And we’ll remember what that was like. We’ll miss the steel and sweat and mud and blood. It will be better to miss it than to never have experienced it.
It’s fun because it’s hard.