Saturday, September 13, 2014

Thirty-six Cups of Coffee

Bike racing is a good thing to cherish, just like slow-roasting with a good cup of coffee in the morning.  The warm silence and calm focus that serves as a welcoming contrast to the challenge which lies ahead.  Both stimulating in their own complementary way, coffee and bike racing. 

But I doesn't have to be coffee, it can be tea!  And it doesn't have to be bike racing either, it can be something else that prompts a bit of ambition and purpose and fun and good health.  But I'll stick to what I know and share a snapshot of the last seven months of slow-roast mornings and start lines. 

Thirty-six elite start lines, to be precise, from March 1st to September 6th, 2014.  A somewhat modest itinerary by some standards, but always remarkable to roll back the film strip from the last snowy ride at home in March, which didn't feel all that long ago, all the way through sunny season kickoff in Texas, to the hype of the US Cup in California, to the samba at Continental Championships in Brazil, to seven-days of Pennsylvania rocks at TSE, to seven days of British Columbia singletrack at BCBR, to a muddy east-coast National Champs and World Cup campaign, to a start-studded conclusion at the World Championships in Norway...

The hype about the season arrives early, in the form of news headlines and fresh bike parts.  In the midst of winter, these are like reviving, aromatic wafts of fresh roasted coffee beans, sometimes motivating enough to prompt a session on the indoor trainer!

...With visions of the "big time" playing in the mind...

And the days of training and respite in between, well-spent with friends or completely alone, no race numbers in sight, simply enjoying good company and the back yard...

Or the constant dance of continuing to succeed at a "real job", a life completely separate from cycling, yet paradoxically interwoven, working at home or on the road, appreciating how technology has dissolved the walls of the office and allows me to pursue a relatively seamless and balanced approach to "life's work"... 

When I'm back home the bikes are always still hanging on their hooks, and I look out the window, sipping my cup of coffee and wonder about how rainy or how hot it's going to be for the day's training ride, and I appreciate the stability in my life, like strong bike hooks, nice equipment, a good coffee maker...a lifestyle that I value and that I've worked very hard to earn, and which allows me to look forward to a sense of such personal fulfillment.  

Yet the irony is that the closer I feel to that "realm of fulfillment" in my cycling career, the more I realize the need for a divergence in the approach which has brought me here in the first place.  That is, the "have-it-both-ways" approach of a maintaining a conventional professional career alongside and an elite-level athletic career.  Those cups of coffee don't just keep me energized, they keep me thinking.  These days I always think about the concept of the asymptote...continually advancing along a line of achievement towards a "realm of fulfillment", and the effort required to advance along that curve...if it's worth the exponentially increased effort, given everything else...and the time left to realize that advancement at all...and that in the end, it is only a "realm" that is sought, in all its indefinite fuzziness.  

So the buzz settles in and I stop thinking too much about these things and realize the trail will always be there anyway, which is what really matters.  

And I'll keep looking forward to riding spandex-clad with number strapped to my bar and see if I can find out a few more things about that "realm of fulfillment"...

Photo Credit: Kevin McRee

Photo Credit: Mark Thome

Photo Credit: Joonas Vinari
Photo Credit: Dave McElwaine

Photo Credit: Joonas Vinari
Photo Credit: TSE
In the meantime, it's been a refreshing, stimulating season.  Enough coffee to have me addicted to its chemical contents and the experiences it contributes to.    


  1. So proud of you, Spencer! I love following your journey and especially reading these reflections. The way you are going full-tilt after your passion gives others around you permission to do the same, and I think that's what we need.

  2. It's great to hear about an elite cyclist that juggles work and cycling. I'm certainly not an elite cyclist but love to race, and sometimes working 40+ hours a week on top of grad school makes it seem impossible! Thanks for the boost of energy! I think I'll have a cup of coffee now!