Thursday, January 12, 2012
So You're Saying There's a Chance
--Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei's Bicycles
I was about to start writing a bit when I discovered that Red Kite Prayer had pre-cogged my thoughts.
The truth about riding is that it never gets easier, the sacks never get sacked up on their own, and you can just as easily lose a pair of swinging ones as gain them. There are no permanent positions of badassery, unless you're Merckxx or Copi. (Note well, Lance Armstrong). Today's badass can easily become tomorrow's goat, pussy, has-been, tragedy, and so forth.
There's a fragility to awesomeness that isn't symmetrical; sucking isn't a fragile position. It's the position almost everyone is in. The position in which we are born, and the position we are in for most of our lives. We are certainly in the position of sucking when we die. Only a handful are in the position of awesomeness, and only for a moment, then.
Look at Cancellara, a rider who has dominated single-day races and time trials for the past half-decade. This year he somehow become a has-been, despite finishing on the podium in the Spring classics and placing second in the TT at worlds. His performances at Roubaix, Flanders, and San Remo were among the most ridiculous displays of cycling power I've ever seen. And yet his year was a failure.
I believe Cancellara's situation--the fragility of his dominance--has something to do with me and maybe you, if you've been racing for a while and you're not as motivated as you once were. I've never been dominant on a bike, but I have managed to keep progressing. That upward progress motivated me. I felt I could keep getting better. Cancellara could certainly find motivation in his own god-like abilities; I wonder what motivates him now?
For me, I lost motivation when I started thinking about the futility of my genes and my age. At some point this past year, I decided I might get 1% better or maybe even 3% better, if the stars aligned themselves, but I would never get 10% better. Unfortunately, I need to get 10% better if I'm going to win at this level.
So I'm seemingly faced with a choice: keep fighting a losing battle or give up.
There is always, I'm hoping, the possibility that I was wrong to limit myself. That maybe I can improve that 10%. Maybe I just need to train smarter, time my moves better, stay devoted to this craft. And I can do it without being a bigger asshole or becoming a doper, or of losing sense of what's truly important in life (e.g., beer).
It's the one-in-a-million chance that exists but is unlikely:
Funnily enough, just the possibility of this (and I think my odds are a little better than one in a million) is enough to sustain me.
It's not only something I hold to motivate me to train; it's also something I think of about humanity. I hope that Steven Pinker is right: humanity is growing less violent, more peaceful, and that we can be optimistic for the future.
We can hope that in devoting ourselves to something, even if it is only riding a bike, that we somehow embody the notion of progress