Citizen Racer: A profile | AspenTimes.com

Citizen Racer: A profile

Roger Marolt

There is a draw to compete that lures us long after we are still competitive, or perhaps before we ever were. This is the impetus for recreational sport. You see evidence of it on golf courses, tennis courts and green fields everywhere. We closely follow the big events and play them out again in our spare time.I like bicycling. I know the evening racer.The local Wednesday evening races have become critical to him. It’s a chance to see how he stacks up against the competition. In the game of life he’s constantly reminded of those who are ahead of him, because he thinks it matters, although he would never admit it. She got a bigger raise. He lives in a nicer neighborhood. He never loses sight of them, yet he never closes the gap. Just holding his place wears him down.But, for an hour, in a real race, he gets to focus on those who are behind him. The few out in front he can ignore because, although he’d never admit it, this doesn’t really matter.He races with a good group, all full of encouragement. They’re the ones who convinced him to “come on out” two summers ago. He’d been out riding, blowing off a little steam built up during the day. They caught up, told him they’d been trying to catch him for two miles. One came right out and said that he was fast, and wouldn’t he like some sociable competition?Now they’re all friends. They need on another. Together they form the critical mass that makes their activity vital and important.In truth, the same few truly talented riders vie for the win every week. No one else is close, but neither the leaders nor the followers will ever point out this obvious state of affairs. If only the three who had a chance to win showed up, there would be no event, no accomplishment in riding fast.The pack needs leaders. Together they say, “We are the bicycle racers.” Individually they say, “Those guys don’t beat me by that much … really.”There is another reason to make the races important, too. The races give meaning to training. And, training is really what it’s about.Training is where the after-work rider always excels. There’s no pressure. There’s no clock. There’s only wind in the face, the sensation of speed. “If only I can ride like this next Wednesday, surely nobody can beat me!”Training is overcoming inertia. He is in control of his life while training. That’s reason enough to get away on a regular basis from the daily drains on time over which he has no control.The day of the race, there are no surprises. The recreational racer beats those he is supposed to beat and loses to the talented few. What’s left to shoot for is a personal best time.A “personal best” is a triumph over time, the time it takes to cover a familiar course, the time that is eroding life. Beating last year’s time allows The Racer to believe that winning is possible. He can’t be getting older if he is getting faster, can he? Getting stronger, smarter, and more attractive are familiar to the young. A taste of these things later in life is intoxicating.A serious recreational racer takes inspiration from heroes. If Lance can beat cancer, how much easier it must be to overcome something as benign as time.The race is over. The Racer finishes 23rd. It’s two places better than last week! Triumphantly, The Finisher heads out for a margarita and some Mexican food with a few of the others afterward. Around a table they discuss every last detail of the race, until they make something of it.Our friend has accomplished everything that’s possible this evening. Yet, walking home in the dark, he suspects that this may be nothing. Impossible! … Simply impossible.His head hits the pillow and The Racer relishes the familiar and invited ache of the effort that has been put in. His pulse settles quickly into the 50-beat per minute rate that he considers normal, and exceptional. He nods off peacefully, and dreams of next week’s event.He believes he is still competitive, and that’s enough. Roger Marolt rides his bike to work almost everyday… and times himself on every other. Bring him up to speed at roger@maroltllp.com