Hello and welcome to No One Line. This weekend, I raced a hybrid road-race-meets-alleycat, going up 9W, the iconic proximal-to-New-York-City straight-shot roadie training ride, finishing in 9 miles of mad traffic navigations in Manhattan. I had a teammate, a plan for the race, and an eagerness rooted in my desire to get some more experience comparable to road racing under my belt. I didn't plan on the weather being wretched, on being soaked and shivering at the starting line, on having to wear Diva Glasses to keep grit out of my eyes. I didn't plan on descending that fast in the rain, didn't expect to drop one or two people who did get dropped; I didn't expect to stick with my teammate, a stronger climber, up some of the steep sections or expect my final place to rely on the resultsof a sprint between my teammate and I.
There is no one line that separates plan and accident (thanks, Cat and Girl, for providing the quip that inspired this blog's title); I planned to race and see how my new bike performs, to have fun and test the waters, suck wheel, go fast. I didn't plan to finish highly, and one of the biggest lessons in amateur bike racing is that victory and failure can both be very much accidental. You make your plans - you pick your line and you hold it until you have to correct it. I don't think I've ever made plans without including "Reassess your plans" in the plan. I upgraded to Cat 4 on the track, expecting to continue my improvement, and somehow turned myself into pack fodder, struggling to hold wheels, unable to hold a lead in a final sprint. I went to a fancier velodrome for a race day, expecting to just ride fast, be a bit of fodder in a big pack, and have fun on some steeper banking. I found myself placing in the omnium and taking 3rd place in the feature race thanks to a 3-lap flier during an snowball.
When he muses about handlebar positioning and the differences between pro and amateur racers, Aki of Sprinter Della Casa points out that pros just put their heads down and hammer at the 12 tooth cog for long periods of time, whereas amateurs launch wayward attacks, get stymied, and try something new. My life on a bicycle has taught me two united and contradictory things - the surprising ability of my body to ride fast and far, for me to use my bike for transportation to friends, family, and other loved ones; and on the flip side, despite increases in speed and fitness, the enormous gap between an amateur who rides every day and keeps getting fitter, and the ridiculous levels of fitness of world class riders. My limitlessness; my limits. Those pros can pick a line and stick with it, but we down here at the enthusiast level are still going to be changing course with wanton disregard for original intentions.
After all, life is what happens when you're making other plans - the race happens when you alter your line. Hold your line. Never plan without anticipating changing your plans.
Welcome to No One Line.