"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


A Hump Day retrospective on the eve of 500 posts

I started this blog over two years ago shortly after I finally became a bike racer.

I wasn't sure what I would produce or focus on, but looking back, that first post pretty much set the tone for what has followed since. "Bicycling, poetry, and other bullshit." Those first free form verses came on a Sunday night following the week in which I joined my bike racing team. The previous Monday I completed my application at the meeting, then had my first sprint practice on Tuesday, did my first time trial on Thursday, and my first team ride on Saturday.

Earlier that Sunday, I'd ridden out to a team social in Oak Park, then riding back with two seasoned messengers, Andrew Nordyke and Adam Clarke, through the Austin neighborhood after dark. We kept off both the headlights and the brakes - Augusta was banging that night. I had never ridden with such focus. It was an awakening the likes of which I'd experienced the first time I commuted to work or rode 50 miles by myself. I felt so connected with the bigger picture I was literally bursting when I got home to write it down.

My first race was also a seminal point in my life, and so I wrote my first race report as culmination of a journey. And I haven't ever really lost that perspective. Each race is a learning opportunity, another notch in the table, always a positive experience, no matter how much of an emotional wreck I may seem immediately after.

I have grown as a writer far more than I could've hoped for ever in my life, let alone a mere two years. It shows that whoever you are, whatever talent you have, if you are completely honest about what you write, regardless of the consequences (often in the comments), the end product will always be positive and high quality.

My chops as a poet have come exceptionally far; I will be so bold to say. The worst kind of poetry is self-serving, pretentious drivel, meant to overwhelm with haughtiness and an overwrought sense of self-importance, which masks the lack of real insight, and tells rather that shows. I’ve learned to paint with words, to communicate my experiences by painting pictures inside your head. And I’ve never been above utilizing a little humor.

At first it was completely free form, lacking even verse.

I began to experiment with metaphors to stay away from telling you what I was thinking, and instead show how I was feeling. This was written three days after Peter Ombregt died racing in Matteson.

I found that I wrote best when I didn’t think – think about how my words would be read, how I’d be perceived. That comes later. It’s best to just get it all down there, throwing paint against canvas, strumming open strings at full volume, and then sort, rework, or discard after.

This produced some wild results, at first.

Yet it led to some personal breakthroughs for me: learning how to write a Shakespearean sonnet, and successfully experimenting with new rhyming schemes after some inspiration from Dylan Thomas, such as these pieces, "Untitled" (within a larger post), "And So I Go" and "An Ode to Ride..."

This effort eventually led to “From Martyr to Gladiator,” of which I am very proud. As I began writing, I wove the rhymes and pentameter out of nothing, and just let it take its own shape. This work addresses my lack of competitiveness – in both my professional and personal lives, and especially bike racing. The martyr fears conflict, specifically risking failure. He fears not failure itself, but failing after trying. So rather than risking the disappointment of failing after trying, the martyr simply gives himself to death without effort, hoping for pity.

He receives none; nobody respects the easy way out. The crowd has no chance to cheer for him; the easy way out has no chance of success.

They heap praise on the gladiator instead. The gladiator tries no matter what the risks. He cannot succeed without first trying. So he welcomes failure and death because while winning is the goal, self-respect is what ultimately counts.

The poem definitely affected me positively. After writing it in April, it became my mantra, and I finally began to have real success on the bike in May and June.

Finally, the bullshit comes and goes on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s loaded, other times empty. I love to make you think, to help you learn and laugh, and always to piss you off, or just give you some insight into what has made me who I am.

Tomorrow will be my 500th post. How fitting it will be a Thursday Hate.

Could it be any other way?

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