So while shifting gears somewhere along Route 122A in Grafton the other day I began thinking about how I might stack up as a competitive cyclist. I suppose the only real way to find out is by racing, something my current schedule doesn't allow for. Plus, I'd need to get a racing license, attach aerobars to my bike, hire an entourage with matching hot pink uniforms, shave my legs, act like an asshole and go through a bunch of other beurocratic bullshit, and really, who wants to deal with all that? Not me, so better off just contemplating it all anyway.
As I understand it, cyclers, as Rich likes to call them, define themselves by categories, 1 through 5, with Cat 1 being just south of professional and Cat 5 including just about everyone else who's displayed enough skill on the bike that they've finally been allowed to remove their training wheels. And unless you've paid the annual USAC fee to earn yourself such a label, forget about it, you're just a recreational cyclist in the eyes of anyone who gives half a shit. Despite your epic 6-hour training rides averaging 25 mph, you can try and convince anyone you want that you're the greatest thing on two wheels, but unless you've got a $6,000 Cervelo, flashy spandex and a fake European accent you aren't getting on the same starting line as Lance Armstrong unless you've got a couple thousand bucks to fly over to France and are an expert at dodging drug tests and jumping through beurocractic hoola-hoops. Fuck that.
Within running's hierarchy it's a bit different; it's all black and white, no labeling necessary. You're defined by your numbers and since prehistoric times the numbers haven't lied. As John L. Parker wrote in Once A Runner, "Lots of people can't take that kind of pressure; the ego withers in the face of evidence." My 4:09 mile PR is just as legit on BU's banked indoor track as it is on a flat dirt oval in Kenya, with the only difference being that if I ran that time in Nairobi I'd have about a dozen teenage Africans who broke 4:05 in the same race laughing their asses off at me. And if I want to know how I stack up against some of the word's best marathoners I can take the easy 40-minute drive to Hopkinton on a Monday morning in April and within 2-1/2 hours know down to the exact minute and second just how badly I got my ass kicked.
Running's that simple, not to mention relatively inexpensive, and aside from the pure joy the sport brings me that's what I like most about it.
Quote of the day:
The longer I ran the more I felt energy was there. The harder I trained the more joy I experienced.
- Gerry Lindgren