Monday, July 14, 2014

The Last Age Category

"I used to be a bike racer."
--Tim Brown

What happens after you stop racing bikes?

For some this question is almost metaphysical.  Like, what happens after death, dude?

How do you start a Monday without feeling as if you've been dragged along pavement for a dozen or so yards?  What is it like to start the workweek without bandages?  Without worrying about bleeding through your khakis during the Monday weekly kickoff meeting, in which everyone else shows pictures of their grandkids?

What if you don't have those moments between keystrokes--those moment when your heart races and you start sweating just remembering the pedal strike, the ambulance coming for some poor soul who now is a used-to-be bike racer?

What if you don't demand anything from your body other than to move things at walking speed?

What if every person you see you don't categorize as climber, rouleur, all-rounder, or, uninteresting--and that's almost everyone?

What if you think of beets just as nasty tasting vegetables?

What if you no longer have teammates?  What if the world is just people not trying to go as fast as humanly powered possible?

What if you didn't care that Vittoria Super Evo paired with latex tubes have been shown in exhaustive rolling tests to offer the least rolling resistance of all tires?  What if that was less important than whether the grass was edged along your sidewalk?

What if you no longer were an ageist, automatically placing everyone you meet in age-graded categories?  Juniors.  U23s.  What if old people just became old people rather than age groupers.  You'd meet people and you wouldn't think Masters 60+.

What if aero stops being a universal variable, always relevant, always important, always on your mind, as applicable to the shape of an eggplant, a coffee mug, just as much as your precious Air Attack?  What if you can no longer hear the words "wind tunnel" across a crowded room?

What if, when passing mountains in a car or plane, you don't wish you were on your bike and climbing those ridges, those ones right...there...?


What if the first hour of a flat stage of the Tour no longer riveted you to your seat?

What if you forgot for even a moment that a well-lubed drive train can save between 8 and 15 Watts (assuming 250w constant output)?

What if there is no bike racing after death?

And, back to where we started, what does happen after death?  Is hell just a place for dopers and those who find aero road helmets aesthetically pleasing?  And what is heaven when you've raced a bike your whole life?

My heaven is a place where everyone races till they puke, but no one gets hurt.  It's a place of infinite suffering, which, now that I think of it, sounds a lot like hell for most people.

Maybe this means I'm damned, warped.  When I read Milton and Lucifer I find myself nodding:  "Better to race in hell / than rule in heaven."

Maybe I'm damned.  That's OK.  I hope what I hope.  I dream what I dream.

Heaven, I think, is just the last age category.