There was a talisman left on my desk at work while I was helping a customer. Its turquoise, the color of the Southwest, with a cutout relief of the god – demon – spirit, whatever you want to call him.
There is no symbolic meaning to it being left on my desk. At least that’s what I tell myself. The person who left it there just decided to put it there after it lost its original home in the warehouse. I look at it and laugh. I’m in New Mexico, at least in the sense that memory allows to go to a time and place other than the physical space we are currently filling. All the shit Proust wrote about.
When it’s time to leave work the two inch medallion is sitting in the same spot where my co-worker set it. I’m racing tonight and my legs haven’t been good since the spring, so I consider putting this thing, with the Kokopelli on it in my jersey pocket. I didn’t have good luck in New Mexico. I didn’t have bad luck either, but something changed in me there. Rather I was forced to confront something there that I still struggle with and have probably always struggled with but was unable to understand the way I do now. Still I imagine putting it there and racing well, like I was at the beginning of the season. When I felt I was actually changing who I was by racing the way I wanted to live. But after a moment’s consideration I decided against it and left it sitting on my desk.
My legs feel dead despite the full day off, which was followed by an easy commute. They’ve been feeling that way more often than not lately. At the start of the season it was ice baths, recovery showers and thirty minutes a day on the foam roller. All the little things that leave you feeling fresh for the next day. At this point in the season that time was using to recover is now used for writing and the various other projects, real or imagined, that fill my time off the bike.
The race is one of my favorite, but one I avoided this year because “it didn’t fit the training”, but since ditching the computer I haven’t worried about such things. I”m not a professional and to skip a race, let alone one that I love is a bit silly. That was error in judgement, but one willing obliged. The short looping course is one that, if it doesn’t suit me, is one that always have a lot of fun on. Its where I first encountered my fear of descending in a pack, but it is also the place where I first won a sprint for a prime. I feel a long way from those legs.
The race was what it was when you have bad legs. At the start I felt bad. After a lap I felt a little better, like I could attack better. Before the race my teammate Joe said he was feeling good, like he could take a prime good. I thought that as the bell rang for the first prime lap. The first hill off the dam gave me a chance to move up. I wanted to go sooner, but I waited and moved up a couple more spots.
On the back side of the bell’s doppler effect I moved up a couple more spaces and cut across the gutter on the first turn. The time was coming.
I shifted up one gear and cut to the right at the first bend by the playground. It is common to see a rider look back when they drop the hammer. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to give myself a reason to back off. I try to keep rocking the bars in time with my pedal stroke, all while pulling back on the pedals. Just like a real, meaning Pro, attack. Just like an older rider taught me last year. I quickly pass those at front. I know I’m clear because I can’t hear anything behind me. I try to carry my speed through the hair pin. I never take the front on the descent, which is part of my problem. I’m where I need to be, not where I think I should be. The difference is huge.
The previous Saturday I lined up for crit. I thought I was feeling good, or that I had at least lied to myself enough to trick myself into feeling good, but like I said, I’ve had bad legs lately. Before that race, the co-worker who left the kokopelli talisman on my desk sent me a desk telling me to “kill it.” Earlier in the week we’d talked about getting shit out while racing. I’ve got a lot of shit I need to get out.
Racing can be a cathartic release of all the shit you have bottled up. The writer William Faulkner said “ An Artist is driven by demons”, the same could be said of the riders who have made a habit of winning. You can tell they’ve got something that needs to be expressed, but its just outside their grasp of the intersection between emotion and words. Some have to bury themselves to get it out. But it can’t be forced.
Thinking tonight I’m going to dump all that shit is a sure fire way to ensure that you get your ass handed to you. The effort need for catharsis, or to keep the demons at bay needs to be released without planning it. You have to push all the shit to the back of your mind in order to get it all out on the road. You have to give yourself to the process, just like creating art. At least that’s how I see it. Given how little I know about doing either pursuit well.
Two guys I don’t know have come with me, but we’ve left everyone else behind. I put another acceleration in, pedaling through the first bends of the descent, which is something I never do, but should.
The two riders come around me in the last bend before the dam. I stand up and get on their wheel.
Joe nods as he passes me, which I take as a “good” job. I yell “Go Joe!” trying to compel him into the counter move with my words, but he’s already got that covered. I try to recover as I watch the counter move, and then the peloton go up the road. I’m off the back again, just like I have been in nearly every race I’ve done since the end of May. I ride the next six laps alone, thinking about that stupid medallion with some god I don’t believe in on it.
I’m the same person I was back when I first encountered that icon.
The person who left that talisman on my desk doesn’t know about my encounter with this icon, or how another conversation about this icon lead me face a part of myself I didn’t know existed at the time. That was another time that feels like a lifetime ago. Still the me of then is connected to the me of now in ways that make me uncomfortable. I want so desperately to believe that I am and can be a different person. But it’s difficult to keep the faith when the past is just an innocent gesture away.