Sometimes I can be really wordy. Sometimes I can rattle on about almost any old thing - especially if I've had one or two pints. But it's only 1pm this Tuesday afternoon. Too early for beer, too late for more coffee. So chances are I won't rattle on too much but there is a glow about me this day that I'd like to share with the world. I guess that's what blogs are for after all. When you've got something you'd like your friends and folks in your life to hear. So let me bend your ear for a minute and share a quick story of overcoming and yes, it has a happy ending.
It starts with a guy who wants so bad to be something he's not. That alone set's up the main character for a downfall because you as the audience know, going against the grain of life is never fruitful. So this guy happens to be not much more than a kid knocking heavily on the door to 40. He's never been the best athlete (tho he surrounds himself with those who are) and he's always been a bit vulnerable to the opinions of others, most likely putting too much weight in their opinions, putting them ahead of himself even when he's done what he knows to have been the right thing to do. A bad combination for our guy.
When you want to be a competitive cyclist but you really are not, you look to minimizing whatever weight you can, in the wheels, the frame, and whatever junk you have in your head. A weight was carelessly dropped in this guy's lap last year before a cycling event he thought would help define him, at a time when he was desperately searching for definition and running from condescending, judgmental opinions. The event was the 2008 Shenandoah Mountain 100 and the weight proved devastating to his "race". He pulled the weight through 100 miles of mental hell and then some. He wanted to quit but from friends along the way he found the strength to keep going. So he did.
In every cloud there can be found a bit of silver so he chose to write about that. He made it through, learned a lot about careless friends, lies and opinions of others - maybe today he's a bit wiser for it but for sure he's a hell of a lot stronger. Wisdom is born of experience. Strength from hardship. He let it all sink in and amalgamate. Sorry, getting a bit wordy.
The knocking on that door is louder but as J. Renard wrote, "It is not how old you are but how you are old". A year later we catch up to the guy in a similar spot at the same event. But now we see a different side of this guy. He brought with him last year's lesson, brought the memory of support and a bit of silver so this time when faced with unfortunately similar dissidence, baiting and juvenile insensitivity (which suspiciously reared from the same heads) he could smile. So he did.
Some say it was the homework done on the course since last year and the long hours of training deposits in the Bank of Pain or maybe even the long talks about the zen of suffering with the worlds greatest cycling legends while driving for hours on top of hours behind the current legends of the sport. Others might point to the karma of saving a kitten a week before the race. Only he knows where it came from but it could only be shown in a smile. So he did.
Standing on the start line he took stock of who he was, where he had been and what lay in front of him and his bike. There was no weight binding his shoulders or clogging his lungs and truth be told he was already there. The finish was a mere formality because this past Sunday at 6:30am his goal was already achieved.
The race rolled out and he stayed with those who he knew would be his fuel. He stayed the course of a plan most brilliant and he became what he never was - more than a competitive cyclist shattering his most optimistic finishing time - more than an individual ready to stand alone by his actions and efforts letting the smile speak for himself - he became happy within himself and it showed in every revolution of the wheels under him - he could pedal with risorial muscles, so he did.
A last minute decision to bring the camera proved fortuitous. This race was one to remember. On the way to Linn trail, early in the day stories about Dogfish Head beers were traded - some riders had clear motivation in front of them all day. Notice the red bottle cap.
White Dynamite chugs towards the toughest climb of the day
Aid 2, Conte's man of bling, J-WA
"24 Solo" wiseguy Jon Posner with J-WA
It had been a year since our guy had ripped up a downhill with his BC Stage Race doppleganger Poz so the two unleashed a display of two-wheeled artistry in motion on an off-camber canvas that stretched over the ragged edge of control for 15 minutes. Nothing will ever come close to that painting. Adrenaline coursed when in years past lactic acid prevailed so on the two went towards Mountain House and the base of another hard climb.
Braley's was another downhill for the books but it's tough to take photos when your knuckles are wound around the bars and pale white. Just imagine a green-blur with a winding spaghetti line of singletrack dropping off the face of the world.
Not far past the Conte's stop at Checkpoint 4 at Braley's was a train hammering steadily along led by Cannondale faceman Roberts Moore. As any good story needs a few moments of doubt, there were a few twitches of muscle cramps on the long miles towards checkpoint 5.
through the pain and dust
SM100 legends Thomas Jenkins
Friends would appear in front, then behind - quite the roll reversal.
Words, spoken or written carry the weight of the world. Last year they crushed me and this year they lifted me to more than I ever was or have been. I have been inspired by those who were there for me last year and all days since. Friends new and old launched me from one mountain to the next until alone I stopped riding a bicycle and just flew.
For now I can only say thank you for reading and hope I get the chance to tell you more about this past Sunday with a pint or two in front of us. I have a nifty new pint glass I can use and be ready for a colorful story not from the same guy you once knew. And yes, it has a happy ending.
JB at 8:51:00
JB, Poz, JB
For more photos, check the Gripped Racing blog and as always, thanks for reading!