And Then Every Race Is A Win

Why do you race your bike?

Sometimes (okay, usually) I race for results, whether team or personal. It’s easy to get caught up in the placing on the results sheet. Did I win? Podium? Beat that one chick? Was everybody, like, totally impressed? Did I get beaten by that person who I cannot believe was faster, WTF, OMG? Should I hide in the team trailer?

The problem with this approach is that you can win one day and come in 48th the next. It could be a crash, a mechanical, poor preparation, crap luck, or just that your legs forgot to show up. I raced the San Dimas Stage Race a few weeks back and had a disappointing time trial, a strong road race, and a crash that broke my bike and ended my chances in the crit at one lap to go, despite feeling great and being in the right position to launch a sprint. I walked away from three days of hard work with this:

2015 San Dimas Cash Money

But the rewards went beyond a 5th place medal and $27 (and thank god, because that barely covered our tab for Burger Sunday). I got to race my bike. I spent time with friends and had personal victories throughout (did not explode on the QOM laps, learned to be patient in the road race, held good position in the field). While each day’s result felt make-or-break, these accomplishments ultimately last longer in my mind.

I think that is the only way to race your bike and stay sane, healthy, and happy. As good as it feels when things go well at the finish, results are so fleeting. Bike racing doesn’t pay well or make you famous, either, so you better have some deeper reason for chasing this dream.

As my coach put it, “In racing you are never going to come out ahead; there is just way too much you have to give up to ride well. It is crazy how much love goes into the sport from the riders. You don’t get rich, you don’t buy a house on your earnings. You are doing it because something inside says Race My Bike. But you are all in; that is the only way one can do it.” Such excellent wisdom. I don’t race because I love the podium, I race for the experience, the suffering, the tiny victories and moments of growth. Those exist whether I win or lose.

Yesterday’s TT didn’t go as well as hoped, but despite my initial disappointment, that doesn’t mean the day was a loss. Big Bear is a beautiful place to visit and ride a bike. I saw friends, rode hard, and learned more about the art of time trialing. And even if I’d won, there is another stage waiting today that will have a new victor and a new lanterne rouge anyway. To only get on my bike for a placing is to ignore the beauty of everything that happens along the way. I will never win all of the races, but that doesn’t mean each race can’t be an experience to be savored.

There is never truly a destination in cycling, so the only approach seems to be to enjoy the journey.

2015 Peppers Recovery Ride

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Tucson –> San Dimas –> Redlands

2015 Courteney Drives the Civic

On the drive from Tucson to San Dimas, Courteney realized what I meant when I said the Civic was basic.

2015 Zanna on the TT Course

Suzanna flew into California to join us in racing San Dimas. We had a lovely evening spin previewing the San Dimas TT course, which would have been my favorite ever if it didn’t go uphill for 4.25 miles.

2015 Courteney Turns 24

Courteney struggled with the idea of turning 24 last month or, as she put it, getting old. Dude, I have shirts older than that.

2015 Pepper Pillow Fight

This is what really happens when girls go wild.

2015 Peppers Recovery Ride

The three of us had quite a bit of fun at San Dimas. From the racing to the adventures at our Airbnb house, the laughs never stopped. Okay, so there wasn’t actually much laughing during the racing. Maybe just some barfing and a few tears. I also stole a bottle from the feed zone because I was desperate.

2015 A Tree Grows in San Dimas

After one of the stages, I bonked so hard that I hugged a house plant, cried, and accidentally insulted our roommate. That kicked off a spree of tree-hugging.

2015 Post San Dimas Stage 3

I was cranky after crashing out of the crit at one lap to go, so Courteney cheered me up with a spin on the TT bike. The girl really knows how to live it up! Apparently this is what old people do for fun.

2015 Sweet Pig

This pig. Holy shitballs.

2015 Redlands Rest Day

Courteney was served up on a platter for my rest day entertainment. Then I roadtripped to Super Target with Zanna and two boxes of hair dye later, I accidentally have black hair.

2015 Greatest Pet Ever...And Pig

We spend a large part of each day taking photos of the pig. Even when the pig has gas, she is adorable. Same with Courteney.

2015 Easter Bucket

I couldn’t be home for Easter so my wonderful parents mailed Easter to me.

2015 Egg Hunt

Our host family set up an Easter egg hunt for their daughters and the three of us. I found 11 eggs, a lemon, and an old tennis ball.

2015 Easter Baskets 2

We also got Easter baskets! It’s hard to be away from home for a holiday, but our hosts made us feel like part of their family and it ended up being a very enjoyable day. I also won $14 on my scratch-off lottery tickets. That’s more than I won in my last race.

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Happier than a pig in Redlands.

Our host family in Redlands has a pig. A tiny, five-week-old pink pig. Her cuteness is almost too much to bear at times. She waddles around, wags her tail, grunts a lot, and always wants to climb into your lap and fall asleep. She drives us all to distraction: nobody rode bikes yesterday. I tried to do corework but ended up holding the pig for 90 minutes instead. If photographing the pig was a sport, I’d be an Olympian by now.

But then Courteney put her in my room this morning and stepped out for a moment, and the pig pooped aggressively under the bed. It was messy and disastrous and required a good bit of clean up. The pig wasn’t looking so clean herself and badly needed a rinse to be restored to her glowing pink self. Somehow I found myself holding the tiny pig in the kitchen sink trying to rinse her butt and tail while she screamed. SCREAMED. I did not think such a large noise could come from such a small animal.

Now the pig is hiding in her blanket (pig in a blanket…pig in a blanket!..pig puns never get old) and even though she exploded poop everywhere and shrieked at me, I miss her.

2015 Best Pig Ever

I don’t know who is happier here; the pig or Courteney.

2015 Coffee and Bacon

Coffee and bacon for breakfast.

2015 Shy Pig

The pig is shy.

2015 Snuggling Pig

The pig is willing to snuggle whatever part of your body you make available.

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All Good Things Must Come To An End

I’m sitting outside for one last sunset in Tucson before leaving for California tomorrow. From one perspective, this trip has been one long series of goodbyes: I said goodbye to home, goodbye to each new place I discovered along the drive across the country, goodbye to Andrew and many of my teammates at the end of camp, and now I am saying goodbye to Tucson.

This place has become home. It’s missing a few critical things – Andrew, my parents, the pets – but something about it has stolen my heart in a way that will never be undone. When I am alone on the side of Mt. Lemmon looking at the vastness of the hills and the desert while the wind blows, I feel the happiest and most alive. It’s not the coffee shops or the great tortillas or the other cyclists; it’s just the desert and the mountains and the way the sky is bigger here than anywhere else. I don’t feel ready to say goodbye.

But with each goodbye has come a new adventure that erases the sorrow of the previous farewell. That’s not to say I’ve forgotten the things left behind; I can hardly look at other dogs because the ache for my own furballs is so acute. I miss the kind lady I met in Canyon, TX and the friend I stayed with in Albuquerque, NM. But if behind me is a trail of wonderful things, then I have to believe that what lies ahead holds the potential to be equally awesome.

So onward. Courteney and I are driving to San Dimas, CA to race this weekend and will stay on to race Redlands after that. Other teammates will fly in to join us and then we will continue our travels together around the country. We’ll race, eat everything everywhere, laugh until I’m glad my chamois is absorbent, and then do it all over again.

But that is tomorrow. For now I have this sunset, this final evening, this glass of wine, and the sweet sorrow of this goodbye. This place has been wonderful.

2015 Le Buzz Group

One final coffee shop ride to Le Buzz.

2015 Courteney's Rebuttal

Courteney thinks she is being clever by texting us a photo of her middle finger. Meanwhile, I’m sitting two feet away.

2015 Safety First

When you can’t be bothered to take anything off on the drive home from a ride.

2015 Courteney at Sunset

So meta.

2015 The Kiwi Breakafst

Every morning, Courteney makes this brown slop for breakfast. It looks like an “after” picture, except that I tried it and now I’m addicted. She made a beautiful bowl of my very own one day and has subsequently made me breakfast every day since.

2015 Recovery Time

This is what happens when the ride is done. We can never get enough chamois time.

2015 Court and the Cat

Courteney was very nervous about this black cat, so I made her go stand next to it. She kept talking about how it was eating “biscuits”, which apparently is New Zealand for cat food.

2015 Peppers Night Out

2015 Tucson Tattoo

I got another tattoo. The artist looked a lot like my father, except with a lot of tattoos and some big gold earrings. I started up some small talk by asking, “How long have you been doing this?” Without missing a beat or even looking up from my arm, he gruffly replied, “A couple of weeks.” The real answer was 1984.

2015 Afternoon in AZ

Another perfect afternoon in Tucson. Courteney kept heaving heavy sighs and moaning “I’M BORED.” This is because she is a teenager. I can’t get enough of having nothing to do. This is because I am old.

2015 Tucson BFFs

Tucson.

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This is how life looks right now

Once upon a time, life in Arizona was so lovely and entertaining that I couldn’t find the motivation to write a proper post. So here are a lot of photos instead:

2015 Peppers in the Desert

The Peppers rock. (Ha. HA. Get it?)

2015 Lindsay Bayer Riding

COME AT ME, BRO

2015 Camp Steele

Our host here in Tucson shares a last name with Andrew and because I am simple, this is thrilling.

2015 Chipmunk Terrorist

Nothing is more terrifying then a chipmunk darting across the bike path when you’re on the aero bars. They’re everywhere out here and holy crap, they have huge balls.

2015 TT Practice

Learning to ride my TT bike one anxious grimace at a time. Then I finished 3rd in the Tucson Bicycle Classic TT and now I’m all WATCH ME ROCK THIS, I’M GONNA WIN THE OLYMPICS.

2015 TT to Stella

We don’t mess around with getting to the coffee shop.

2015 I want to be a firetruck

Julie told us, “When I was 8, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Courteney replied, “When I was 8, I wanted to be a firetruck.”

2015 Pepper Palace Team

That one time we were serious.

2015 Courteney in the Car

Courteney was anxious about the ride to the TT. Or maybe it was my driving.

2015 TBC Stage 3

The lovely scenery of stage 3 of the Tucson Bicycle Classic.

2015 Peppers at TBC

I love these people.

2015 Post Race Stella

Post-race coffee at Stella Java with Jules and Courteney’s right hand.

2015 Mt Lemmon

Returning to the beauty of Mt. Lemmon for a recovery spin. Yes, I now climb on my easy days because TUCSON.

2015 CLowe and Special Sauce

I hit a rabbit on my ride the other day and was incredibly sad. When Courteney came home, I blurted out the horrible tale. She tried to make me feel better by telling a story of her own: “One time, I hit a duck. And she had all of her babies behind her. So I hit them too.”

Nothing with Lindsay Bayer and Julie Kuliecza

We’re launching a podcast. Here’s our cover art. Get excited.

2015 Tucson at Dusk

Another sunset in Tucson. Julie loves the sunsets too, so much so that I looked out the window last evening to see her standing on my car taking pictures.

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