No, not the upcoming presidential election (that one’s easy!). I refer, of course, to my decision whether to race next season. I first started having thoughts about taking a break from racing early this past season, and there were times during the season that I was sure I was done (e.g., right after my disastrous Missouri State Time Trial). But I deliberately held off on saying anything because I wanted to make sure my decision was well-considered, and if the decision was to stop I wanted to make sure I would be comfortable with that decision. Well, I made my decision some time ago, and I’ve become comfortable with it. Obviously, I have decided my days as a racer are over.
Racing has served me well. It has been tremendous fun, and I’ve met a whole lot of very cool people by doing it. As someone who for 45 years never considered himself an athlete, racing gave me a measure of confidence and self-esteem that I had never before experienced. And then there’s the gear! Racing gave me an excuse to load up on all sorts of cool gear – carbon frames, aero wheels, white shoes, saddles, and stems, GPS computers. Racing also gave me a reason to train hard and whip myself into the best shape I’ve ever been in. Most guys my age are already well into decline mode, and it’s been a real source of pride to walk into my doctor’s office and watch the puzzled nurses repeat their measurements after reading a pulse of 52 bpm and blood pressure of 98/64.
Of course, this all comes at a cost, which for me is the time required to train. For the past several years while I’ve been racing, I’ve been disciplined and serious about my training. I have a modicum of talent, but it is not nearly enough to make me competetive unless I work and train hard. Lately, even that doesn’t seem to be enough, but it’s hard to say whether that’s because I’m losing interest or that I’m losing interest because of that. Regardless, I’ve had to give up some other interests because of the time required to train, and now I want to get back to those other interests. I tried to do both this past season, but that just didn’t work out. The slight reduction in my training was enough to severely reduce my competitiveness in the few races that I did do. Now, I admit – I like winning. But I don’t have to win to enjoy racing. What I do need is to feel competitive and that I have the ability to make a move when I see an opportunity. I never felt that this year, I was always just hanging on. To me, that’s not racing – that’s just pretending. Better to acknowledge my distractions rather than fight them.
I would be terribly remiss if I failed to let everyone who supported and encouraged me know how much I appreciate them. First and foremost, I have to thank Mike Weiss. Mike is one of the few people on the racing scene who always has a positive attitude, even when surrounded by cynics, and he more than anyone encouraged me when I doubted myself and helped me believe I could actually succeed as a bike racer. I also had the friendship and encouragement of many teammates, and while they are too many to name individually, one that I do need to single out is Jose. Acerbic to some, fiercely competitive to others, there wasn’t anything that Jose wouldn’t do to help me train and achieve my goals. When I was training for l’Etape du Tour, Jose joined me on four consecutive weekends for brutal, hilly, +100-mile training rides with no motivation other than to provide companionship while he whipped himself into shape. To the rest of you that I didn’t name individually, please know that I have appreciated your friendship, your companionship on training rides, and every other way you’ve contributed to my growth as a racer. I hope that your regard for me is even half that which I hold for all of you. Lastly, but certainly anything but least, my family and my wife Lynne have been so unbelievably accomodating of my racing lifestyle – I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been to enjoy nothing but their support and encouragement while I’ve gone off and indulged my mid-life cravings.
Let me emphasize that this is only a retirement from racing – not from cycling. I am still a hardcore cyclist and will continue to ride much more than the typical recreational cyclist. I originally began cycling to lose weight and get into shape, and maintaining health and a high level of fitness will continue to be a primary goal. I’ve been commuting to work on my bike for two months now – averaging four days per week, 15 miles each way, plus a long ride on the weekends. I’m not quite as fast as I used to be, but yesterday I tackled Ossenfort, Bouquet, Six Flags-Allenton, and Woods. I don’t plan on letting myself go to the point that I can’t at least keep up with you younguns! So don’t hesitate to give me a shout, say what’s up, and challenge me to a Sunday legbreaker.