Wow, I got back in from my ride this afternoon feeling great, but every now and then you need a reality check. No matter how much energy and time and money and heart you put into racing bikes it is, after all, just racing bikes.
I got back this afternoon to an email from a friend saying a mutual friend's son had been involved in a car accident last night around 2 AM and was currently in the hospital with hope slim. He was loosing blood faster than they could put it in, had two broken femurs, a broken back, massive internal injuries and couldn't breath on his own. Within a few hours he had sent another saying that he had passed away shortly after 3 this afternoon.
It's not that I knew him that well... I haven't seen or talked to him or his family for several years now. But I share a bond with them that those who don't can't fully appreciate. When something like this happens, it makes you ask yourself why you're doing what you're doing with your life and if it's the right thing. This last month has been all about two things: work and riding. I enjoy my work and like to think that even only if in an abstract way it does make a difference. More importantly, it funds the riding.
So why do I ride? It's hard to put into words without sounding cliche. There's something about knowing that you've taken your body to within inches of its limits, and then pushed a little bit more. There's something in the reaction people give you when you tell them that you race your bike distances that are further than most of them drive in a week or for lengths of time that they can't imagine doing the same thing for, much less something as physically demanding as riding a bike while not realizing that it's not the physical that's the hard part. It's for that split second as you feel your wheels leave the ground as you catch air. The new found energy you get when someone comes into view in front of you and you realize you can catch them. In essense, it's about being alive, and having every fiber in your body realize it.
I wear a Road Id when I'm riding. On the back of it is a quote I had them put on it: "Ride for those who can't". It was a tribute to a friend and fellow cyclist who at the time had just finished undergoing chemo. His body basically being destroyed to save itself, he went through a long period that he couldn't ride. When you get a reality check like this one today, that saying means that much more... both in it's obvious meaning and it's allegorical.