My friend said those words to me yesterday and at first they seemed a compliment. Who doesn't want to be thought of as the type of man to hurl himself into the fray with a passionate fervor, disregarding danger? Upon further reflection one realizes that this is no compliment, but rather a somewhat scathing comment about what could be considered a personality flaw. A tragic flaw that has had lasting deleterious effects on personal, professional and play life. After a while those effects add up to a cost that can be felt. One that weighs. Maybe that's what they mean by maturity.....
Three 8 mile laps through the woods, 1.5 hours as fast as you dare on a marked course full of roots, tight trees, off camber up and downhills, and small jumps. The 4th round of the VCHSS season at Spring Grove, VA, has just begun, and the suicide pilots are wailing their way through the woods. I am fifth off the start as we tear around the grass track section of the course, before the tighter stuff, soon losing sight of Pete Jenkins and Jason Miller, my thorns in the side for 2017. That leaves me to battle with the rest of the mid-packers. These cut and thrust skirmishes tend to slow down both riders, while those with clear trail ahead clear off. Tight woods make passing difficult, but at the end of the first lap I've worked my way up to 3rd. I know without a doubt who the first and second place riders are, somewhere out there, mocking my efforts.
A bobble on the 2nd lap sees me stall the bike, but not crash. In the few seconds it takes to re-start, 4th place comes screaming by. Now the red mist rises. Up to this moment, it's been hold back, avoid mistakes and crashes. Fuck it, there is no way I'm about to be robbed of at least the final step on that podium. It's why you race, otherwise stay home and go play-riding. Head down, chase on, after #26p like a heat seeking missile. Twenty minutes of hard pursuit at the end of the second lap and finally he's caught. But as always the pass is another issue entirely.
This is when it happens. The tiny mental shift that will soon make all the difference. Normally I would get as aggressive as necessary, find a way by and tear off after Pete and Jason in a vain attempt to make up time. I think about it for a moment. Hide nor hair of the leaders has been seen by me since the start. The chances are very good that their lead is insurmountable no matter what I do. A risky pass now, at the beginning of the third lap means I might have to fend 26p off for another 8 miles while getting no closer to first and second. A painstaking decision is made to follow him, look for mistakes and capitalize on them, knowing, painfully, that this all but assures the best I can do is 3rd.
Four miles into the final lap, an opening appears as we make a quick burst across a field, heading for more single track. It's a left turn into the woods, I'm on the outside, my front wheel just past his at the turn in point. Going to have to lean on him pretty hard to get this done, without taking either of us out. I don't let up. He does.
Finishing out the last lap and the race in third place, I wonder about new tricks and old dogs. I wonder if some Kamikazes live to die another day.....
|Alone. Dodging trees and the temptation of old habits....|