I have become addicted to racing. I am on the waiting list for an upcoming marathon. When I run with Megan, we chat and the minutes and miles fly by and I am amazed at my accomplishment. But alone, I agonize over every minute... it is sheer torture. Why is it so much harder than the spinning class that burns 100 more calories per hour?
Briz and I woke up early Saturday morning to torture ourselves together. Since I had not attended a spinning class in over 4 months, I knew I was in for a rough morning. Endurance Day! Ugh. The hardest class they offer.
The spinning room blasts eardrum popping music and is dark, with two enormous screens in front. Sometimes we bike in some scenic place, but usually we are in a biking race like the Tour de France. Today we were racing in Italy. I matched my cadence to the rider in yellow, I examined his shoulder set, the bend of his back, and his grip and I match them. I lean when we turn, I imagine that the overhead fans are the mountain air swooshing past me as I ride my amazing ride. We have turned up the tension on our bikes so our legs burn, but still, I must match my racer's cadence. It is hard going up this mountain and keeping my form. To my right, a group of fans starts yipping and hollering and twirling their shirts as I pass. They don't know me, I am probably not even from their country, but they scream me on. One fellow gets right next to me and jogs next to me for a second and yells, "Go, Go, Go!" I forget the burn, forget the ache in my wrists and I respond. I feel that grin spread over my face, the one I can wear in the dark when I know that I am unstoppable, that even though I am exhausted the other bikes will eat my dust. I grimly pedal onward full of power, pushed by crowd of well wishers.
Suddenly, my heart catches. I see life, my life, how very easily I am influenced by others. I wonder for a moment how much I would like my spin class if the fans on the screen yelled, "Crappy form! Give it up. You are the worst rider in this whole race! Stop hunching your shoulders, your stomach muscles are not holding your back!" In the midst of doing something very hard, there is no doubt that my cadence would slow, my energy would ebb and I would think... "You're right. I am doing it all wrong. I really am the worst."
My vision changes. I see my daughters, my friends, my husband. They are not biking, they are running the race of life. They each have spots that are hard to race, form that is imperfect, and a spot where their strength weakens. Where am I? What am I doing? Am I at the sidelines screaming, "You can do it! Go, Go, Go!" Do I give them a second wind, power, hope? Or am I criticizing their form, their weakness in the mountain pass, or their place in the race?
The rock song switches, the fans hum, I drink. On the screens, the winner recieves a trophy and gets a kiss on each cheek from two girls in skimpy clothing. I've got it! A tear trickles down my cheek. I wipe it away. Briz probably doesn't notice. It looks like sweat. A coach! My role for others, is to be an inspiring coach, shouting encouragement from the sidelines as they run their own race. My criticisms will not help their form or their race. How clear it is in this dark sweaty room.
We take advantage of a day of sunshine and ride our bikes by the river. The trail beckons and we go on and on. We stop and refresh our feet in the ice cold water. Finally we turn homeward. The wind rises, blowing so hard I barely stay seated. Little Mother's front tire is flat. She rides as far as she can, then pushes the bike on. Sunshine is on her plasma bike. She has kept up with us the whole way by pushing with her feet. I cannot ride so slow, so I circle back and forth. I ride ahead, and rest on a bench. Little Mother trudges by. I wait and wait. The wind whips my hair and knocks over my bike. Where is my Sunshine? Down the path, I see a small forlorn figure standing next to a bike, pulling it along with small sobs. My mind shoots to my bike race in Italy. I bike back to find my brave trooper. "You are amazing! We are almost there! I am right here with you!" Without another word or whimper, Sunshine sat down on her bike and vroom, vroom, sped off down the trail till she reached the car. Can others become addicted to racing too?