January 4, 2005 – The shoe is on the other foot now, at least for the time being. Day by day gaining an appreciation for the world outside mine that goes about its daily existence with a different view from the cheap seat. Yes, the life of an elite athlete is glamorous with the traveling and flexible schedules. Race season taking me places in my journey of my mind, my soul and my world. But bring on the off season and that world of glamour is replaced by a reality that many don’t see. Glamour being replaced with a mad scramble to pay the bills and put the foundation into next years plans.
This off season saw me sitting at home wondering what wonders awaited. Trying to figure out how to make a buck to make ends meet and to push the dream a little further. But ask and you shall receive and suddenly word was out and I found myself in another man’s shoes..full schedule, speeding around to get things done and fit everything in.
I was the working man. Putting in hardwood floors and generally convincing all that I knew the difference between a chop saw and a .well.a saw. Fearing everyday that I would accidentally pair the word saw with the word chop and go home eight fingers none the wiser. Silent fear everyday.Fear of failure, fear of not knowing if I could do it but now, a few jobs later I type with 10 and smile because I have seen what’s possible. Strange satisfaction looking down at a hard would floor that I helped put in. I stood looking at the finished floor with an overwhelming feeling of pride. Taking it in and admiring what I had done while thinking what it was before. My accomplishment was right there for all to see and I stood silently hoping the floor would never become dirty. When people ask me how it felt to win a title I can now answer thanks to a hard wood floor and seeing the impossible become the possible. The tangible for all to see a jersey, a floor making me smile even if no one is to see. My world is no different from that of a craftsman’s where beauty can be found in the road to accomplishment.
Opportunities bring insights that open the horizons and flow down the mountain like a river of awareness. I find my self in the role of a race organizer simply because I am in the right place at the right time. My need for speed and push towards personal stardom needed a venue so suddenly I am the RWR race organizer dreaming up courses and stages and subjecting others to my creation. My Frankenstein, my Mona Lisa..each stage waiting to hear the feed back like an artist unsure of their work. Gaining an appreciation for all the workers and organizers that made my world possible. No races, no Glen’s world in the manner it stands today so I give a silent thanks to those who made it possible.
For all the organizers that challenged me and brought out my best and my worst I now say thanks. In your footsteps I trudge forward and present stages from my mind for all to ride and all to race. I cursed at you, hated you at moments and at times I thought you were mad but afterwards I left grateful and smiling. The crowning glory was when I rode my own course and somewhere between the word go and the checkered flag I was redlined, red faced and cursing the race organizer for bring out the best in me one painful pedal stoke at a time. Cursing and damning until I broke out laughing with the revelation that I was now cursing myself. A strange circle was now complete so I looked over and wondered if the other racers were cursing me as they rode. HA-HA, welcome to my mind! Walking the steps of another, I now realize why race officials and organizers sit outside in miserable weather when I see the faces and I hear the silent curses. My creation, my vision validated with every smile of satisfaction I see when the very same people finish and thank me.
The life of an elite athlete is tough. Perhaps the hardest job in the world depending on the way you look at it. There are pressures to perform, pressures and expectations stacked upon your shoulders and gaining weight with every well wisher and helper. Chasing seconds in a world where poor results or poor choices are magnified beyond the normal laws of failure. But it is also a dream life, a world of fantasy and the greatest job in the world that one should treat wisely because it can be fleeting. There are a lot of crazy things going on in sport right now both good and bad. From the sidelines people condemn or condone without looking at the real picture or by choosing what they want to see. “He is my hero so he couldn’t do that.” “He is a bum because he did that.” What a crazy world we live in when we start judging people by their results not by their character. Never taking time to consider the pressures they face in the microscope we call sport. Is Lance Armstrong a hero because he won six tours? Is he a greater man because he beats and breaks competitors or because he has raised over 25 million dollars for cancer research? Some where along the way we started judging people by the race wins and making them heroes for the wrong reasons. Weekend warrior or elite racer; We all make choices to be, to do and to race the level we want. Most are choices the others don’t understand. One shoe doesn’t fit all so don’t pretend to wear it. Perhaps we should start asking ourselves a simple question before we judge a situation. Are they someone who I would want as my friend? Good people make bad choices and bad people make good decisions sometimes. but a friend means more than a bike race and will be there long after mistakes or triumphs. In the grand scheme of things, a bike race doesn’t really matter that much.
Traveling around the world has afforded me the luxury of seeing how good we have it. Each trip to the heartland of foreign countries has given me perspectives on the lives we live. It centers my thoughts and reminds me that we have a gift and we are truly fortunate. Seeing people in poverty and poor living conditions managing to smile while their world according to our standards is far from great makes one think. Perhaps they have stumbled onto the key of happiness when the modern world traded it for a supposed better lock. The door held open by focusing on what they have instead of what they have not. Smiling, laughing.sometimes the shoe fits so well.
Racing in these countries brings racing back to the roots and back to the simple joys of racing a bike. Trying to go as fast as you can up some strange mountain on poor roads simply fueled by the support and cheers of the unfortunate , and the impoverished standing on the side of the road smiling and cheering me on. Kids and adults who will never be able to afford my bike taking the time to support me and open their homes instead of complaining and pointing out how they are inconvenienced by the rolling circus and road closures. The athletes flashing by in a bright swatch of colour painting smiles on the faces of the unfortunate in a trade for perspective and a glimpse on the happy life.
10 fingers, 10 toes. There is more to smile about in the world