Thursday, January 19, 2012


Cycling is so hard, the suffering is so intense, that it’s absolutely cleansing. The pain is so deep and strong that a curtain descends over your brain... Once, someone asked me what pleasure I took in riding for so long. ’Pleasure?’ I said. ’I don’t understand the question.’ I didn’t do it for pleasure, I did it for pain."
-Lance Armstrong

Sometimes I find myself looking forward to a day when I ride simply because I want to, not because I need to.  If there is an external barometer of my happiness, in some ways it could be described as inversely related to my athletic ambition.  I suspect that I am not alone in this, although it has taken me years to recognize it.  To the driven, maximizing one's achievements is equal parts moral compulsion and snipe hunt: who would settle for less?  But how can we reach our potential in every worthy pursuit?  Decisions are thrust upon us, and at times, I question certain of my choices.

Anesthesia through limitless exertion appears preferable to any other kind: it honors our gifts more truly.  Yet anesthesia by its lights offers mere superficial succor, sequestering symptoms and side effects -- it does not curb the malady.  Equally, the relief it offers is fleeting, and as we acclimate, we demand more, ultimately ensuring that we fall short in our grasp for stable orbit. 

We must always interrogate our reasons.  Past choices are made, but future ones are not faits accomplis.  Sometimes the familiar path of least resistance is a mere Mobius strip, bringing us glimpses of our destination, but presenting no true means of bridging the gap.  It is incumbent upon us to find the way by constant assessment, even if honest reflection risks fatal damage to long-treasured premises.


  1. DT, I think I comprehend your musings. It's notable that you look forward to the day that you want to ride (instead of needing to ride). The day that I ride simply because I need to is the day that I stop riding. I quit running at 19 because it became something I needed (or had to) do instead of something I wanted to do. For me, it was a good decision. I came back to running a few years later when I "wanted" to, only to fall in love with the marathon distance. FWIW, I hope you end up wanting to ride this Sunday with me in G-ville. --Kgo

    1. I often wonder myself what it would feel like to not need to do this. I know that I also want to do this; yet it can be hard to tell the difference between wants and needs. I have a compelling need to feel a sense of purpose and clarity, and doing this strangely fulfills that need. I wake up each day knowing it has a specific purpose. And when I race, unlike with career or academic accomplishments that can be highly subjective and easily faked by lots of people, I know I always get what I deserve in a race. Races don't always go the way I planned them, but this sport gives me a sense of peace and clarity because I know that whatever happened, I didn't fake it. I own every second of every race I've done.

      Doing Ironmans is a wonderfully transparent pursuit - whether you're a first timer just trying to make the cut-off or Craig Alexander, the one thing that brings us all together is that, no matter how we go about it, none of us can fake it.