Created in 2006, a satirical lifestyle cycling blog aimed to promote Ohio Valley Cycling, Trail Advocacy and Junior Development written by Joe Bellante, a racer for BioWheels in Cincinnati and freelance writer who's work has appeared in Velonews, XXC and Cyclocross Magazines. Thanks for reading.
reminded me of an Outside
Magazine article about Free Diving, “Open Your Mouth and You’re Dead.”On the cusp of death via drowning, free
divers report a soft transition from swimming into an almost blissful dreamlike
state (see inset).I’m not going to
romanticize death and it would be preposterous to think one could drift off
into dreamland while riding a bicycle and stay upright, but with my heart rate
pegged at 184bpm the third time up the Cliff Road climb in the OSRS Race #3 at Harrison's Tomb in Cleves, OH I didn’t feel panic but
instead a letting go of sorts.Someone
at the front surged and I sunk through and below the surface of the peloton.
months ago, while on vacation in St. Maarten, the diving instructor at the reef
pulled me aside and said, “You look like a good swimmer, confident and
comfortable with the snorkel and fins.”
I nodded. “If you want to see
some of the better reef,” she added, “go to the other side of the peninsula and
swim through the chop about 75 meters to where the buoys start the curve.” She pointed.
“Just stay to the right of the buoys to avoid the red stinger coral.” I hesitated at first. Stinger coral? My wife and I walked the dirt path and stood
on the rocky beach as the waved thunderously crashed on the shallow reef. Ka-whoosh!
It was intimidating as hell. She
wasn’t going. I stood there for 10
minutes wondering where the stinger coral exactly was. This is how tourists drown.
the climb with riders cresting the top, I got this, I thought. I’ve been dropped before. I’ve been dropped and clawed my way back to
the surface before. You gather your
wits, tell yourself the group will let up, take a drink, hit a GU, put your
head down and drive it smooth and steady until you make contact with the main
group or a few others in a row boat. You
think of getting dropped as a violent abrupt end, but it’s really not. It’s sort of like drowning. The lights sort of dim in your mind with lack
of oxygen and you never feel the water rush in.
Seeing the riders flood around me at the last little punch the third time
up the climb, I was at ease. I wasn’t
calm comes with knowing that you’re giving it your all. Isn’t that what death is sort of like
anyway? As I look back, like we all do
on races, and look for some blame, I realize I did do everything I could have
to save myself. I’ve done long and hilly
training rides with the fastest guys in town.
I ate a good breakfast. I arrived
with fresh legs. I was eating and
drinking. I never hit the wind and always
had a wheel. Judging from the size of
the group cresting the climb in front of me, I wasn’t the first to let go. At least a third of the original peloton was
already below me. I simply wasn’t strong
enough to keep treading water and that’s okay with me. I gave it my all as a 44 year old Cat 3 in
his first 1/2/3 road race. Like my decision
on the beach in St. Maarten, I didn’t waste my opportunity.
I was in
tropical paradise, a good swimmer, incredibly fit from racing the Cyclocross
Masters World Championships, with good gear and the one and only chance I may
every have in my life to see the coral reef in St. Maarten. My thoughts turned positive to “No
Opportunity Wasted,” the mantra of Phil
Keoghan of the Amazing Race, his ride across America, the book and resulting
NOW website. I kicked off my shoes,
geared up and waded in. With waves
crashing over head, I went under. I held
my breath and ducked my snorkel underwater and swam through a 4 foot gap
between some red coral. I surfaced, blew
out my snorkel, ducked under the choppy 3-4 foot waves and kept swimming along the right of the buoys and out to an
incredible little reef. It was nearly
Me At Masters Worlds CX Jan 2012
You see, I
didn’t enter this hilly 1/2/3 race to do well.
I did it because I had the chance, an opportunity to better myself, to
test myself. I didn’t enter it
blindly. Like in St. Maarten, I
considered my abilities and the risk. My
first 1/2/3 road race as a 44 year old Cat 3 rider, what am I stupid? But, it’s that sort of thinking that holds
people back. Why pass up an opportunity to
do well in a Cat 3 race for a chance only to hang in a 1/2/3 race? For me, every cyclocross season I struggle staying
in contact with the Cat 1 level masters aged racers. Every year I feel like I’m just a pinch too
slow. So this year, I’m making a
concerted effort to put on my big boy pants and ride with the fastest guys in
town in hopes of being on par in the fall. I didn’t want to waste the
opportunity to learn that I can average 23.5 mph in a 1/2/3 road race and the guys who finished with what was left of "the pack" averaged 24 even. It was worth the risk. Getting dropped is nothing but riding alone. It sure the hell isn’t drowning.