True story: I once tried to kill myself. I didn’t fail because someone found me with a bottle of pills in my stomach, or because I didn’t bleed out fast enough. No, it failed because I changed my mind.
That night I left the house as my girlfriend at the time went out to go dancing and her kids headed out for a sleep over. I left that night feeling like I had let them down… again. One more slight added to the multitudes of things I’d done wrong with my life. One more time that I let down the people I’d come to love. After over a year of practice I was failing to take care of the children I’d put into my charge.
In my backpack that night were a pair of rock climbing shoes, a bag filled with chalk, a jacket and finally a headlamp. The plan that November night was to solo a route I was capable of climbing without a rope during the light of day, now I was going to climb it with only the small orb of light from the head lamp, upon reaching the top I would “slip” on the descent, hopefully busting my head on the small ledge at the bottom.
Things didn’t happen that way.
That night took place was almost three years ago. In that time the relationship ended, and I don’t see those boys as much as I’d like. I still feel like I’m letting them down, but the weight isn’t as heavy. Still the darkness that brought that night on still comes back, but maybe the reason I ended up on a bike again is because, for me at least, its a much better way of keeping the demons at bay.
One day on a particularly brutal training ride it occurred to me why, this chosen discipline was so much better than suicide. Taking my own life would allow me one chance to hurt myself, whereas doing this I have the potential to hurt myself everyday. Multiple times during a single ride if I needed it. And maybe that’s why I ended up on a bike again.
That’s been my mind set for the last week.
Two nights ago I was laying in bed, my mind still running hot after a night of good racing, a different thought came to me. I went deep (but not deep enough) twice scored points on the hot lap, and managed to hang on enough to score points at the final.
From the begining I was told “sit near the front”. Save for a few moments over the course this I’ve never followed that advice. Truth is I just didn’t believe that I belonged there. The race was different from there. From my spot, five to six wheels back I could see and cover moves as they happened in front of me as well as be in a position to cover those sneaky moves from the back.
The pace was different too. In the back the group surges and slows, what’s called yo-yoing. In a practical sense this means that the physical cost of sitting nearing the back is higher than being at the front. From this vantage point I felt ready for anything.
On the hot lap (a lap worth points) every part of me was screaming to jump, and go with everything I had. I held back waiting for either the right time, or the right move whatever came first. In the fourth turn my chance came.
A rider I hadn’t seen before jumps in corner four. At first I watch him go down the road, waiting for the team of juniors, and their senior minders to cover the move. They don’t, and I sense my chance to get a head start on the faster juniors.
I leap out of the group, hands in the drops rocking the bike back and forth underneath my body, trying to stay as low as possible, like whenever I see my much faster friend Cliff in a break. After the initial jump I get back in the saddle, staying low, pouring my life into the pedals.
My saddle cuts into area between my genitals and my ass.It burns and the tip of my penis is numb. My quads start to burn. I want to slow down — I’m starting to loose faith. My body is starting to protest. My mind follows with a quick “Fuck you go harder. Get that fucking wheel BITCH!” That’s enough.
I don’t want to over shoot him so I shift down and start to coast. When I get on his wheel I take a couple a quick breaths and take a quick look over my shoulder. One rider has come with us and now we’re three strong, if everyone is willing to work. The first guy is wearing a blue and white kit, he’s tall and riding a cross bike, which is a common site in this cross crazy town. The second guy is one of the four I saw during my warm up from a team named Soraz.
Once I’ve caught my breath I tell Mr. Crossbike to pull through. As easy as it would be for me to sit in and let him do all the work I know that my only chance of coming across that line with points is to take a turn myself.
“I don’t want these points…. You guys want ’em?” He asks.
“I could use the points” Soraz. tells us.
I say nothing, content to just take over the front. Points are accumulated toward a monthly total with gift certificates to local shop sponsor. When I pull through I tell Soraz that he can take the first place points. I don’t need them right now. We’ve completely shelled Mr. Cross bike and now its just the two of us.
Near the line I start my recovery and let a gap open up. I look back to check the progress of the peloton. All I see is a lone junior, Grant, charging hard. “Where the fuck did he come from?” Is all I can think. Just before the line he passes me like I’m standing still and manages to nip Soraz at the line. I pick up three points and wait for the group to reabsorb me.
On the last lap Mr. Cross Bike jumps in the same spot, only this time more people are on to him and I let someone else pull me through the gap. Most of the group manages to come with us and soon I’m fifth wheel again. I shout up the line of riders for the Mr. Cross Bike to pull through. He tries, but every one sits up behind him unwilling to do the work.
I take charge and fly by them, taking a smaller group with me. I look down at my computer, check my time at the front and try to pull through. I’m allowed off the front, but not back into the group. We round the last bend and I’m blasted by the headwind.
I’m on the nose of the saddle. It hurts again. I’m hungry and tired and still I fight with everything I have. I still can’t find a wheel, but I’m passing people, making up the spots I lost in the last corner. Then I realize that my hands are still on the hoods and not in the drops where they should be. I drop my hands down, get lower, pass two more people and push my bike out as I cross the line.
Seventh, best I’ve done in a long time. Best I’ve done on a Tuesday night ever.
What occurred to me after that race was that in those moments. The ones where I’m bridging to a break, charging to the line, telling my body to work harder for what my mind – no what my life needs are my best moments. There I’m not plagued by the self doubt, I’m not a bad partner, or son. I’m me at my most beautiful. Maybe that’s why I’m back on a bike.