While visiting my family for Christmas, I discovered just how closely my sister followed my progress in the Transcontinental Race this summer. She watched my dot move across the map of Europe more closely than anyone else, despite it being my third time in the race and her not normally being particularly interested in sports (except when her husband is racing motorbikes around a track and she’s hoping that nothing bad happens to him). Like most people, she and her family find it hard to comprehend how it’s possible to cycle such a distance in such a short time, so it’s nice to show them what’s possible by stepping out of my comfort zone occasionally.
In contrast, I had a glimpse of how much hard work, stamina, and dedication it takes for her and her husband to raise their two children, my 13-year-old niece and 9-year-old nephew. They do that 52 weeks per year instead of the two weeks that it takes me to race across Europe. I decided that they warrant a lot more respect for doing that quite ordinary task than I deserve for my extraordinary cycling efforts. I know which one I would find easier!
This realization reminded me of a blog post by VecchioJo on road.cc about the overuse of the word “epic” and how many people try to present their feats of sporting endurance as involving unimaginable hardships. In fact, we put ourselves through this completely voluntarily whereas there are so many people in the world who have to endure far worse, for far longer, and have no option to simply stop and go back to an easy life. Those are the people who deserve serious respect and admiration, but they don’t have the time or means to post stories about it on the internet.
Doing a mammoth ride such as the Transcontinental Race is certainly an achievement that is worth being proud of, and is a great escape from a mundane lifestyle. However, treating it as much more than that and not recognizing the people who are dealing with far more serious and important challenges and problems (such as bringing up children or fleeing from a dangerous or desolate country) would be a grave mistake. My Christmas thoughts are therefore focused on recognizing and being deeply impressed by those people.
The people who know me best (my wife and my colleagues at the bike shop) have the best perspective on what I do. They realize that I simply enjoy being on my bike and pedaling for many hours per day and going through different environments and cultures, and that doing so in a competitive atmosphere increases the feeling of excitement and achievement. There isn’t much more to it than that.
For an amusing and ironic look at what hardships need to be endured for a ride to be called “epic” then watch this GCN video: