Some time to think during recent 100-miler and 100km races
Why am I doing this?
I am sure most bike racers have asked themselves that question during a race at least once. Any road, mountain, or cyclo-cross racers would agree that there are just those days where you feel like pulling over and stopping. Days when the suffering greatly outweighs the good sensations and you seriously question why on earth you choose, and pay, to feel like this.
Because it's what I do. Talk about a poor answer, but I think there's some truth to it.
I'm not writing about this for any particular reason or due to any spectacularly poor race I have had recently, I have just been thinking about it in general. Maybe I had a little extra time to think about it at the Leadville 100 where I invested a lot to make the lead group only to take a wrong turn and waste 20 minutes off course? After that, the pace went down in our group so much that I lost focus and forgot we were racing. Once the pace quickened again, I couldn't get my head or body back in to the race. I had plenty of time to ponder the various levels of suffering I was experiencing while on a 60-mile dirt road time trial.
Why am I doing this? Just think of how good you will feel at the finish line once it's done, I'd tell myself. It does feel good, but good enough to justify all that pain? Is it the reward looking back over the next few months? Is it the beer that evening?
The next weekend, I had some more time to mull it over at the Mt. Ogden 100k. That race is extremely hard and covers some real mountain bike terrain, lot's of rough singletrack and some awesome trails. The course is a blast but it includes an exposed and hot two-hour climb in the middle of the race. There was some wildfire smoke around which just added to the heat. I started the climb with Jason Sager and we joked about how nice it would be to pop a pill and lose consciousness until the top, then wake up for the downhill. We just knew it was going to be a pain filled climb.
Why are we doing this? For the $1,000 first place check? To rip that downhill for the second time today?
Because it's what we do. I think that really does sum it up for me. I don't know another way, it's just how I am wired. I started racing mountain bikes when I was 15 and by 20 needed a break. I took four years off from racing, with extended periods with no pedaling. But something was missing. I made the decision to get back on the bike and did the Brian Head Epic 100 with my friend Tim in the summer of 2004. We suffered but it was oddly fulfilling, and I haven't looked back since. It's just what I do. For now at least...
Thanks for reading.
- Alex Grant
Alex Grant, 31, is one of America's top endurance mountain bike racers. Sponsored by Cannondale Factory Racing in 2012, Grant juggles racing as a pro with managing an outdoor gear consignment business called Gear Rush, which he co-owns with fellow Utah cyclist and racer Bart Gillepsie. This season, look out for Grant on the podiums at major endurance and stage races. For variety, you may also see him on on the start line of some super Ds, cross countries and short tracks. In 2011, Grant finished third at the Leadville 100 and eighth at the US cross country national championships while also logging top 10s at the super D and marathon nationals. He finished fifth in the Downieville Classic All Mountain Overall and seventh at La Ruta de los Conquistadores. For the third year in a row, he won the Park City Point 2 Point. In 2010, Grant made headlines with his second place finish at La Ruta de los Conquistadores, the Breck Epic and the Trans-Sylvania Epic. When not on his mountain bike, Grant enjoys backcountry skiing, snowboarding and hiking. Grant is from Richmond, Vermont, and he presently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Follow his 2012 season in this blog on Cyclingnews.
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