Saturday, 31 December 2011

Ecstasy in agony: a cyclist's motivation.

We can dream.

You've reached the point of no return. Your lungs are burning, your vision is clouded and your legs could seize at any moment. But you can't stop now, you've already invested too much. You're already committed. You've played your hand.
"Why am I doing this to myself?" The thought scatters across your brain. You pull yourself together and curse yourself for the weakness - you can't afford to think like that. It's all or bust on the hillside and you are a gladiator; wide-eyed, proud and breathless.
Yet the question persists, "why?" The word flitters before you again, as it will countless times before the race is over.

This is the internal dialogue of racing cyclists the world over. Somewhere deep inside of yourself you know why, but you could never articulate it to another person, be they a racer or just a civilian.This dialogue is what unites us, even as we struggle against one another on the road. It is the bond that ties us and it is the same across nations, languages and ability levels. Pain is universal.
Perhaps we do this because we feel it gives us some higher purpose, a focus which to build our lives around, a goal that exists motivated entirely by ourselves, outside of the office or exam hall. Smoke and mirrors. There is no higher purpose, what could it possibly be? A training ride begins and ends at home, where is the higher calling in that? But there is beauty in futility, ecstasy can be found in agony.
Maybe we want to imitate our heroes; the weekend's race is our Paris-Roubaix, the start our Grand Départ, our families and friend our tifosi. Emulation our raison d'être. Though we may not reach such dizzy heights as the Merckxs or Armstrongs of the world, but we feel similar pain and sacrifice ourselves upon the same altar.
Perhaps it's quite simply the endorphins, but whatever the true, intangible reason might be, we do it because we have to. Once we begin asking ourselves why, it's clear that we don't know how not to.