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CW: A bike-racing heart doctor’s top-12 ‘likes’ about cycling

As the year ends, the temptation builds to a crescendo.

I don’t break the rule often, but I just can’t help myself tonight.

A top-12 list?

I know that succumbing to temptation implies weakness. Top-anything lists are surely not very literary, intellectual or hard-edged.

But reflecting on cycling in the midst of winter when one is fighting a pesky cold virus might be uplifting. And to uplift is good. I also wonder how my list compares to yours?

Before proceeding with my list of likes, let’s give full disclosure: Bicycling magazine recently tweeted 101 things they liked about cycling. Yes, I clicked the link. Some were good, others goofy. I had planned to highlight my favorites from their 101, figuring that 101 likes should cover most of mine. This was not the case. Many of my faves did not make their list.

So here goes: The Mandrola 12:

  1. Getting hugs from son and wife after a race–theirs or mine. The hugs feel equally good. These squeezes alone are worth pinning the number.
  2. Getting clipped in immediately at the start of a cross race. You might not think the first 2o-seconds of a 60-minute race matter, but they do.
  3. The heart-thumping moments after the official says “the start is any time in the next 30 seconds.” In these fleeting moments, extreme mental focus becomes palpable–at least it does in my chest.
  4. The teamwork sensations that come from ‘pitting’ for friends or family during a cyclocross race. (For the non-initiated, pitting means furiously cleaning the mud off a bike each lap of a cross race and having it ready for your mate by the next time he (or she) passes by the pits.) Think giving feels better than receiving. And physics: a clean bike goes faster than one encased in mud.
  5. The uncommon day when body, bike and trail feel as one. Your bike feels as if it’s glued to the trail. It makes me think, “thanks cerebellum.”
  6. Coming to an unexpected log crossing, drop-off or other career-as-I-know-it-now-ending obstacle, and thinking, ‘uh-oh,’ but at the same time relenting to brain-stem influences and going for it–and then making it. And the icing: turning around and seeing your buds walking it.
  7. After calling, organizing and leading a group ride, having someone say, “thanks for the ride.” Honestly, nice words always feel good. So does having a huge group ride together.
  8. Being a competitive cyclist (and endurance-athlete) helps me relate to patients with the same affliction. I can say to these special patients: “I get it.” And they know that I do.
  9. Feeling the Newtonian forces generated when 1000+ watts are placed on the pedals of a carbon-fibre bike in the seconds after a high-speed corner. (Think whoosh.) Double these sensations when they happen in the heat of a race.
  10. Suffering so badly in a cross-wind that you resort to talking to yourself, “ten more pedal strokes.” Only to realize that suffering this much resulted in making the ‘selection.’ Ah…Smartly-applied hard work does indeed payoff. (Note, I am leaving out the negative here: getting in this select group frequently leads to even more pain. But like other (pleasurable) pains, such is easily forgotten.)
  11. Bouncing in the door and answering the “how was the ride” inquiry with, “my legs were amazing today; I could do anything I wanted.” Of course, one wishes for these same feelings after a race–a much rarer phenomenon indeed.
  12. That cycling provides me so much to be grateful for. Things like great friends, membership in a great community and of course, that my family and I remain healthy enough to ride.

Here’s hoping that next year brings more of the same. For you and me.

If you promise not to say, I will share another of my secret wishes…may next year bring more watts.


P.S. Here is Bicycling Magazine’s 101.

2 replies on “CW: A bike-racing heart doctor’s top-12 ‘likes’ about cycling”

I would add an unlucky 13th.

13. Sharing your passion for CX with your child and seeing her get the same enjoyment, excitement, fright, and exhilaration as you do. It makes for a very special bond.

Hard to believe the Tues/Thur 5:30 ride wasn’t at least 9a….

Oh well better luck in’12 for all!!!

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