OPINION COLUMNS

The best weekends of my life; Random thoughts on collegiate bike racing

By David Talley | Published Saturday, June 14, 2014

{{platinum}}}It’s 2:30 a.m. and I’m standing in the shower.

I’m standing in the shower because the shower is the only place standing still for 30 minutes at a time isn’t suspicious, and I’ve been sitting in a Honda Civic for 12 of the last 13 hours.

I shave my legs and go to bed at 3:10 a.m. My alarm goes off at 7 a.m. and I actually consider going to class for a moment.

I wake up at 1 p.m., for real this time. We shared our worst relationship stories for the last four hours of the drive back to Lubbock last night.

Jake’s girlfriend of two years broke up with him via Skype while he was studying abroad in Australia. I think about that. My story is sad too – a breakup at senior prom – but I run his experience through my head over and over again.

The Texas Tech Cycling Team has been around since the 70s. Our closest bike race this semester was 290 miles away. That means Red Raiders have been racking up miles for 40 years. We’re all pretty committed.

Sometimes I hate racing bikes.

I read this book, Jarhead, about a Marine in the First Gulf War. He used this term, “the suck” to describe being in situations with undesirable conditions. I’m not saying competitive cycling is anything near what Corporal Swofford experienced, but I like the term.

There’s a mental state of ultimate exhaustion on the bike where all you can do is look at the wheel of the person riding in front of you and try to keep it in your line of sight as you fight to hold their pace. As the black edges creep toward the center of your vision and your thoughts become more simplistic, it’s easier to pick one thing to focus on. This is my version of the suck.

Sometimes I love racing bikes.

The feeling of accomplishment after surviving the suck is euphoric. This is living. You push your limits and that’s living.

The day after, I go to class and examine my fellow students. What did they do this weekend? They don’t know what living is. They’ve never pushed their limits. I take the elevator to my floor because I’ve earned it. They have to go to horror movies to get their adrenaline rush.

An ex girlfriend has become obsessed with fitness. She posts incessantly on Facebook about training for a charity 5K. That’s cute. I don’t run, but over the summer I decided to run a 5K no more than 30 minutes before the event started.

I borrowed a pair of shorts and running shoes from one of my triathlete friends, shed my shirt, and just ran. There are advantages to being in shape all the time.

Cycling fills some sort of weird little mental gap that I didn’t know I had before I started doing it. It does more than just let me feel superior. It’s a culture. I watch professional cyclists climb mountains on TV. I know the sting in their lungs and the soreness in their legs. We’re all in this together.

When I joined the team, I didn’t know how it would change me. I tried to balance other aspects of my life with cycling at first. It was ineffective. Weekends and afternoons filled up. Midday naps sound a lot better when you call them recovery. Dinner dates became a salad and a protein shake by myself before bed. Texts went unanswered. If you weren’t on the group ride, we probably don’t talk.

As bike racers go, I’m not a good one. When I’m in the suck, the wheel I’m focusing all of my mental capacity on is planning how to dispatch of me. More often than not, they’re successful.

Every other time I’ve been bad at something, I’ve quit. My teammates are both my friends and my heroes. Quitting would let them down. When I fall off the back of the group, they expend their energy to pull me back.

The Cycling Team is my social life. These weekends are my first dates, keg parties, and best friend’s weddings all rolled into one.

I wouldn’t trade the worst of them for the best of any of those.

David Talley is a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and a summer news intern for the Wise County Messenger.

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