Thursday, January 18, 2007
It is inevitable that the "why" question would pop up. It doesn't get asked as much as you would think. It seems that the people who know me have reached a deep level of understanding my core psyche or they have tired of my verbose responses to the simplest of questions. Now with my foray into bigger and stupider things I feel the need to explore the question for my own sake.
When allotting untold financial resources and robbing myself of precious personal time with my wife and daughter, there should be an obligation to justify the sacrifice. So, like the foreign policy spin doctors, I am going to go back and look for the events and decisions that have brought me here.
When I was growing up I was compelled to be different. My brother was artistic so I wanted to be athletic, when the weather was bad I wanted to be outside and when good sense said to turn back I was drawn to the allure of what might be around the next turn in the road. I was intrigued with foreign terrain beyond my block, then beyond my neighborhood and then into the undeveloped lands at the fringe of suburbia. I would make mini campfires in band-aid tins, eat Beanie-Weenies out of the can and spend a whole afternoon building a lean-to knowing that tomorrow I would do it all over again.
My relationship with bikes did not start off good. I had a poor success record with things like wheelies, bunny hops and most of all jumps. In an attempt to avoid further trips to the emergency room my parents bought me a Nishiki touring bike with foam grips, skinny tires and a total weight to insure that I would never be airborne again. I would never realize my dream of having a chromed out Hutch BMX bike or doing one-handed tabletop jumps, but I quickly discovered how gears and big wheels could take me places beyond the familiar. I was so excited about that bike that I broke it in with a ten mile ride in heavy rain before school. I was chastised by Mrs. McInerney for arriving at school wet and covered and road grime. It only cemented my belief that this was the perfect way to distance myself from others both literally and figuratively. Don't get me wrong, I like people but self-discovery for me has always been a solo activity.
Looking back, I am astonished at what I did with that tank of a bike. Without water bottles, spare tubes, pump, helmet, sunglasses or suitable riding attire I was taking the back roads through the farmland on 40-50 mile excursions. I did not know enough about what could go wrong. My ignorance made it possible.
I am not going to recount my entire cycling history because I don't think the rest of it matters. When it comes to the question of why I want to do a 2500 mile long mountain bike race, the answer is contained within the phenomenology of those childhood adventures. There is a magic feeling that transcends the mundane routine of life. We all get addicted to that feeling and we all find different ways to get it.
My twelve year old self is my hero. Fearless adventurer with an ability to ignore the intellect and enjoy the moment for what it was. 25 years later I am still trying to accomplish what came natural to me then.