Wednesday, September 19

See, The Things About Endurance Mountain Bike Races Is...

I'm a bit of an obsessive personality. Well, maybe that's not entirely true. I'm obsessive when it comes to my recreational pursuits. That part is true. Is it part of my personality or some other component of my physiology? That is the real question.

Some of you may be scratching your heads after reading that paragraph. Please continue scratching if it feels nice. Please DO NOT continue scratching until you draw blood even if you're really confused.

See, there's something wonky with my wiring. My lovely wife (with a special-ed background) and I speculate that I may have some sensory integration issues. I'm what some call a "sensory seeker." I crave sensory and proprioceptive input. Proprio-whut? STOP! Stop scratching before you hit grey matter!

Proprioception is really one of our senses. So the sum total should be at least six making that M. Night Shamalamadingdong movie awkwardly named because it wasn't about proprioception at all!

Mosby's Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary defines proprioception as: the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement. Truth be told, after a bit more reading I think what is truly going on is that I have wonky exteroception. Without getting into too much depth, what that means is that I am sensitive to temperature, pressure, texture, movement, the passage of time, and also the traditional five senses. "Why" is a question I have no tangible answer for.

I was a breach baby. Some speculate traumatic births can cause neurological disorders. Of course there are so many toxic materials flowing through our environment today I could just be the product of packaging.

I said all that to say this: (above an beyond what would be considered normal) I crave constant movement and sensory input, including changes in temperature, pressure, gravity, direction and the like. A long mountain bike race gives me such a sustained barrage of stimuli that for a day or so afterward I can feel pretty darn good. And then, when the stimulus wears off I crash hard, going back to seeking that stimulus with a vengeance. (When I was much younger I would spend day after day hiking for hours on end, maintaining my "high" for long periods of time. I did this subconsciously, with no understanding of what compelled me to seek those experiences. I was never one to go into the woods and just sit and enjoy the peace and quiet. I had to always be on the move.)

To explain my new found love of endurance mountain bike racing as such seems somewhat antiseptic. Since I've understood the source of my quirky behaviors in life it's always troubled me: is it my personality, or my unthinking wiring causing this or that behavior? Thoughts are thoughts, but reactions and behaviors can be unconnected to conscious thought.

What got me thinking along these lines was reading A Year of Living...humm...Dangerous? and Fat Cyclist's blogs this morning and the accounts of their respective recent mountain bike races. Of course I compare them to mine, dream of being able to do more rides, crave those experiences for my own, but then I couldn't help but see the Duality of my cycling obsession.

Internally, and in my private journal, I talk about Dualities a lot. My reality is that I am often two beings at once within the same physical space. The best example, and easiest to explain, is that I both hate being around people and crave human contact AT THE SAME TIME. And it's has nothing to do with the individual people around me. It's not that I don't like the people I'm around. It could be that I am enjoying a great dialogue with someone but also feeling terribly uncomfortable being in their presence. So there is this odd social component to my wonkedness.

I enjoy being a self-reliant solo adventurer. I enjoy solitude because it simplifies my existence. I don't have to wrestle with my Duality demon. I can just...be. But when I'm out alone enjoying myself I'm typically fantasizing about bringing those that are close to me back to share the experiences at a later date. I want both realities, and often at the same time.

It's horribly frustrating to say the least.

Of course, being the person I am, I do try to find the silver lining in every situation. I'm neither an optimist or a pessimist, but a dogged realist. Life is hard, but there are so many good things to experience along the way; why not enjoy them?

These obsessive compulsions have drawn me to an incredibly rewarding activity. While reading Fatty's Draper Fall Classic accountand then Dangerous guy's Race the Wind accountI couldn't help but think: these are races—races mind you—in which you can ride along with someone and get to know them. That's just incredible. I experienced that myself at both Leadville and during the Alpine Odyssey. I never experienced that when I ran cross country or in running other 5ks since then. It's possible, just not as likely as during a long bike race. Endurance mountain bike races are social, and yet personal. That suits me.

I think that's why I'm trying to hold onto this my inaugural mountain bike racing season by doing the Cougar Slayer. It's my best last chance for awhile to punish my body in an enjoyable way. It's been an enjoyable summer to boot.

I used to be an obsessive rock climber. For a long while it filled this same niche for me. But climbing never quite provided the right kind of stimulation. There was a lot of (for me) uncomfortable down time. I hate belaying. I hate waiting while others climb. I need to be on the move all the time to satisfy my oddly wired body and brain.

And let's not even think about the fact that I spend most days in sedentary hell occupying a cubicle. By the end of many days my nervous system is buzzing in anticipation of being freed from confinement. I'm serious, it's a physical feeling, like my nerves are electrified.

So I apologize if this post got you down. That wasn't really my intention. I was brainstorming after reading those two blogs and it all just sprung fully formed from my head. I really didn't intend to fling such a heavy read at you in the middle of the week. I typically save those for Friday or Saturday nights to totally ruin your weekend. I'm home today, feeling drained and brain-tired. It sort of all clicked when Mandy said: Your weekend is finally catching up with you. 

I desperately want to go back to bed and sleep for a few hours.

I desperately want to go out and ride my bike for a few hours.

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