To race, or not to race: That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…

Or, put another way, whether ‘tis better for your butt to suffer the pains and agonies of a bike saddle that so outrageously isn’t your BFF that it creates actual wounds, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, leg aches and charley horses from your hamstrings down to your toes, and by opposing—or quitting—end them?

This may all be the Fit Chick’s fault. Or possibly mine—I’ll get there. She wrote a really nice blog post called Balancing Act on her Bicycling Magazine blog. It may be relevant that it took me three weeks to work far enough down in my email to read the email that led me to her post (which then inspired my post about the taste of happiness).

At any rate, I read it—about how she has lots of dust bunnies and a cruddy-looking kitchen but that’s okay because she and her husband prioritize riding higher than cleaning (and they have a cleaning service come in twice a month)—along with all the thoughtful comments. Then I came back to it the other day with a different perspective.

If the problem is deciding how to spend your time, I'm wrestling with it but from about 180 degrees away from her allocation approach: Do I quit training before even getting started in racing because I don't have the time to do what it takes to be competitive?

I'm a 47-year-old mother of teenage daughters; I work full-time; I chair or serve on several volunteer boards/committees that are important to me (including our local Bike to Work Week effort which peaks in May--and there's no taper involved in THAT effort....); I'm married to the love of my life and he trains heavily for racing (at a much higher level than I'll ever hit); Sweetie’s two kids are with us on odd-numbered weekends and he has to work Saturdays. These all represent time commitments and constraints.

I started training over the winter thinking I'd like to ride at a higher level and see what I could do in a race. My starting point was as a regular year-round commuter who does longer weekend rides of 30-40 miles with no trouble. I’ve stretched to the occasional longer ride of 60-90 on some of the region’s many outstanding bike rides like Tour des Lacs and Eight Lakes Leg Aches. Note—these are not timed and slowing down does not represent failure.

Since last October I've been putting in 8-10 hours most weeks getting in endurance miles, doing intervals with a power meter, being pretty systematic thanks to my racing sweetie, and getting stronger—but apparently not strong enough.

After a punishing 3-1/2 hour ride last Sunday checking out a race course that I'm clearly not ready for, I'm questioning all the use of that time that could have been spent hanging out with my teenagers (who will leave home all too soon) or just having a few minutes of down time between work, meetings, cooking dinner, and trying to spend a minute or two with my sweetheart. I gave up a yoga practice I was committed to in order to make bike time. (And the cat hair coating our crimson sofa could probably take on Fit Chick’s dog-hair dust bunnies in a fair fight.)

So now—shall I rather bear those ills I have than fly to others that I know not of?

Do I reclaim that time and get my life back to a different kind of balance?

Step up the training to try to be competitive, although I don't need racing to have a complete and satisfying life?

Keep up the training at the level I can make time for, race, and accept that it's going to hurt like hell sometimes and I'll probably finish last every time?

No matter what, I get a new bike saddle. My bike saddle—aye, there’s the rub.

I was so tired coming home from that ride that I fell asleep in the car. And by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd.

Not that I want to die, mind you—this Hamlet thing can be carried only so far. But there definitely are a thousand natural shocks along 54 miles of chip-seal county road. My flesh was heir to every last one of them after that ride.
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What to do, what to do…. The native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought.

BUT.... today I went for a ride closer to 60 miles with the good folk of the Baddlands Cycling Club. I had a different saddle (courtesy of my sweetie and North Division Bike Shop where he works, I'm trying out a couple). The course wasn't so damn hilly. I managed a faster overall pace, albeit with a few stops when the group regrouped to let slower riders (AKA moi) catch up.

It wasn't so bad, and the pale cast of thought got sunnier. I'm signed up for a race, and hoping for a better outcome than that of good ol' Hamlet.

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for sharing -- the ups and downs; considerations, aggravations, resolve, angst, disappointments, and beginning again -- all could be an allegory from the world of biking for what I go through in my brain tackling mental illness day by day. Glad you're signed up for another race!


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