I'm sitting on a launch pad, strapped to a rocket, about to blast-off through the stratosphere. I shall leave planet Earth behind and travel to a beautiful yet untamed land, one filled with dangerous creatures and countless hazards. My body shall be exposed to forces I'm not sure it can withstand, and a light shall cast on my soul, illuminating my deepest fears and (hopefully) my greatest strengths.
I'm scared. I've been battling this gnawing feeling: I'm not good enough. Other guys are better. They're older and wiser, stronger and bolder, younger and more reckless, hungrier, crazier -- and me? I'm just a faker! I'm just a guy! A normal guy in cyclists (tight tight) clothing. I feel like I walked onto the wrong movie set: "Wait -- I thought I was here for the cheesy romantic comedy...where's Seth Rogan? And who are all these super heroes dressed in spandex? Dammit, I'm calling my agent...." My competitors are all ironclad beasts of the bike, born to do nothing but; what if they discover my true identity?
Then I breathe. And tell myself to calm down. This isn't the first time I've felt like this -- and it won't be the last. It happens every time I'm exposed to the next layer of competition. Sam, you know what to do. The answer is simple: fake it 'til you make it. Put on your bold face -- the one that, even though you're terrified and KNOW you can't climb that hill fast enough or take that corner hot enough, still knows how to pretend like you can do those things. When the hill gets near, what do the real racers do? The ones who aren't faking it? Well, they move towards the front and jockey for position. They look after their teammates and ride next to them. So that's what I'll do -- even though I'm only pretending. And when the climb starts? They give it hell, and then settle into a rhythm. I can do that too, I guess. And when they start to get dropped? They dig deep, and grit their teeth, and fight like hell, and sprint over the crest, and tuck down the descent, and get in a group, and ultimately claw their way back on -- which, coincidentally, is a lot easier to do if you started the climb in good position alongside your teammates. So you see, pretending to climb a hill fast is pretty much the same thing as climbing a hill fast; the only difference is inside your heart. Fake it 'til you make it...'til you don't need to fake it any more. All I need is one shimmer of my ability to reveal itself in this race, and I know the tide of my self-consciousness will recede, leaving behind what has always been there: confidence. I am a good bike rider. I have worked hard for this. I deserve to be here.
But can can we get this race started, please?
I went to Applebees yesterday. Not because I was hungry, but because I was bored and Logan was going, and I needed something to occupy my thoughts. We sat down, and ordered water. I got a half-salad (pear Gorgonzola), nothing more, and so did Logan (chicken Caesar). When was the last time two 20 something dudes walked into Applebees and bought, collectively, a single salad?
Oh these nerves.
By this afternoon, it'll be just another bike race (albeit a big one).
But until then, oh god, these nerves.
Oh look...it's time to get on the bus, and drive to the race start.
"Ignition in 3....2....."