Remember when you were a kid, and every achievement was full of win? You could spin out on your big wheel. You could do a skid-stop on your 10-speed. Maybe you jumped your skateboard off the curb – and didn’t fall after the 8th time. When you succeeded, it was awesome. When you didn’t you tried again. They weren’t massive achievements, and yet at the same time, they were. It’s all about perspective.
As you grow up, your world broadens (at least, one would hope). You learn more, and you start viewing yourself not through the lense of your own accomplishments, but through the accomplishments of others. If you write a poem, you compare it to other poems you’ve read. If you run a race, you think about all those who can outrun you. It’s natural. It keeps you grounded. But at the same time it diminishes your relative performance, and you can go from being ground to being buried.
For a time, I felt this way. I was riding on average almost double the distance that I was riding last year. A 40 mile ride was enjoyable, whereas last year a 20 mile ride was torture. But I wasn’t completing centuries yet. I wasn’t rolling at a 20 mph average. And no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t hold with da big boys, especially when the temps were above 95. It just didn’t make sense. How could I be doing so much better than when I started, but feel like I’m doing so much worse? It’s because when I started, I didn’t understand just how far I had to go (both literally and figuratively). Once I learned to recognize the gap between myself and others, it was all I could see.
And it sucked.
So, one day it dawned on me that it was time to go back to being a newb. Forget the statistics, the averages, the distances, the totals. Forget the techniques and the rhythms and the gear. Forget the wider world. Go back to the simple pleasures, and remember how to take joy from those. How it feels to fly down a hill. How a nice, smooth turn with a lean to it gives you that racing sensation. The joy and pain of summiting a big hill, muscles and lungs screaming while you grin and grimace, almost equal parts of triumph and travesty.
I went back to basics and somehow, for the first time, I felt like a pro.