Back at the pit, I fumbled through my procrastination routine of nibbling on a nearly-frozen vegetarian burrito, washing it down with a mini Snickers Bar, switching my lights, adjusting my layers, fiddling with my shock, checking my tires, and staring hatefully at the half moon. A chill crept in as Beat made coffee, and we joked about heating up the interior of the car and drinking our coffee inside. Then it became less of a joke. And before I even fully acknowledged the decision, I was slumped in the passenger seat with an empty titanium cup in one hand and my helmet in the other. "Just fifteen minutes," I mumbled. "Maybe I'll feel better after a little nap."
A lead blanket of drowsiness settled over my aching joints, and I accepted it with the shifty guilt of a child nibbling the edges of a forbidden cookie. In a single-day race, sleep isn't justified, or even needed. Sleep was indulgence, simple and plain, and yet I couldn't remember ever feeling such divine relief. Sleep swept me away from the ink-colored sky, the creepy canyons, the jeep road climb that somehow grew progressively longer with every lap, the flickering lights, and the slabs. Oh the hateful slabs. Benevolent sleep took all of my icy abhorrence, my aches, my feelings of inadequacy, and flushed them into a beautiful void. I was out cold.
|Liehann, Beat, and I display our cutthroat competitiveness at the race start. Photo by Trang Pham|
|Photo by Trang Pham|
This sense of control also applies to suffering, I believe. I seek out physically grueling challenges not because I have a psychological misfire that leads me to believe I actually enjoy suffering, but because by confronting suffering, I teach myself how to control it. I derive a lot of pleasure from rejecting physical discomfort and mastering my emotions amid hard struggles. And once I push over that seemingly impossible wall, there's real joy in the realization that I've freed myself from my own suffering, and I could probably just keep going, as long as I want to keep going.
|Photo by Trang Pham|
|Photo by Dave Nice|
Still, any day that includes nearly 170 miles of mountain biking, and homemade banana bread, and a nap, can hardly be regarded as bad day. In fact, it was a great day. I'm not sure I love mountain bike racing, but I am a hopeless junkie for a long ride with friends.