Let me preface this blog post by saying that racing bikes has been very good to me and I have no regrets about dedicating 38 years of my life to doing it. Cycling of all kinds will always be a passion of mine and the memories of the many races I have done over years will stick with me forever. I would also like to say that if racing bikes makes you feel content and happy in life, then the words I’m about to write may not make much sense to you; however, please don’t think this means I don’t respect your decision to continue racing. Believe me, I completely do understand how cycling can take on so much importance in life.
From the brief paragraph written above, I’m sure the sense of where I am going with this post is clear and evident, but I still would like to explain to all my racing friends how my decision to step away from racing bikes was reached and that is the main reason I am writing this post. It seems to me that giving a proper response for all to read is the best way to announce my departure from racing. I’d rather be upfront about why I left cycling rather than to leave people wondering, or having untrue rumors spread.
First, let me say that my health is completely fine and I feel better physically now than I ever have. My exit from racing bikes is not like it was at the beginning of 2015 when I announced my retirement from cycling because of having an extremely painful lumbar back disc herniation. By doing yoga, I completely cleared-up that back issue. My continued daily practice of doing yoga also helped heal a second back issue I suffered this past winter after falling hard to the ground on a training run when I unknowingly ran over a section of snow-covered glare ice. Again, there are no health issues like this keeping me from competing now. As a matter of fact, on the morning of the last race I did, Whirlybird, I remember thinking to myself how my body felt amazingly good as I was getting ready for the race. This time my decision to leave the racing scene is a completely unforced and self-made mental decision to quit.
The decision I made about racing came to me while I was competing in the Whirlybird cyclocross race. I had an eye-opening and existential experience during that race about the meaning of life and how much of life’s energy I have put into cycling over the years. I’m not certain what brought on these thoughts, but I do know that these thoughts totally took away the super-competitive drive and focus I typically have during a race.
The start of the Whirlybird race was not a good one for me and I soon found myself riding about 20 riders behind the leaders. Over the course of the first lap and a half, I moved my way through the mass of riders positioned in front me and eventually placed myself into a position where I was close enough to do a super-hard effort to bridge the gap up to the six or seven leaders of the race who had moved about 5-10 seconds in front of me. But, for some reason, I had no urge to make such a painful effort. Instead, I was completely content just riding along with Kevin Justice and watching the race for the lead develop from behind. During the remaining laps of the race, I had many thoughts go through my head about racing in general, why I did it, and what it all meant in the whole scheme of life. What I didn’t think about doing during the race was trying to go faster, or winning, which is something I have never experienced before while racing.
By the end of the race, my mind was convinced that racing was a completely egocentric activity and that it served no meaning in life other than to make me feel stronger, faster and better than others. The more I thought about it, racing and trying to win races is nothing more than self-promotion and embellishment of the ego. I’m not sure why this vision was not clear to me in the past, but it all feels very selfish to me now. I was fairly certain as I crossed the finishing line that I had just finished my last bike race. Of course, I pondered these thoughts extensively on my 4+ hour drive home, but came to the same conclusion.
In the past, winning used to have meaning and purpose to me. Over the past couple of years, however, winning has had less and less meaning and it has now finally reached a point where I find no importance in it at all. I’m certain that my move into trying to be more consciously aware of who I really am as a person is part of this decision. I initially started to do yoga for the physical reason of rehabilitating and healing my back, but it eventually took on a more spiritual meaning to me, which then led me to doing regular meditation. I have no doubt that the peace I now feel and my overall feeling of being content and happy with life is due to practicing regular yoga and meditation. In addition, at the beginning of August, I made another big move of switching to a purely Vegan diet. I think making this change has also helped bring me more into focus with the essence of my true spiritual self and has played a role in making this decision.
My level of stoke about racing this season was super-high before the season started and was even higher after I won my first cross race of the season at Granogue, so I must admit that I do find how quickly and suddenly this decision to stop racing was made as being strange. All I can say is that this decision feels right and it feels good. Again, please don’t think I’m passing judgment on the choice anybody makes in regards to racing bikes. I am in no position to judge you or the activity of racing in general. I’m made this decision because it feels right for me. I want to live a sustainable and completely fulfilling life. Cycling, at least the competitive side of it, just does not fit into this new picture I have of life.
I wish you all peace, happiness, and the best of wishes for whatever life brings your way.
Happy Trails - Gerry