By Kevin Kolodziejski
I channel surf about as often as I change the batteries in the remote, but that’s what I did one night when my eyes were too fatigued to keep reading. I came across an MMA fighter in the midst of explaining what he feels he absolutely needs to do in order to get his mind right for the 25 minutes of anything goes in the octagon. Take a long-distance run in the middle of the day with a plastic sweat suit on.
His training camp sits on the outskirts of a desert. And that’s where he runs.
He admitted the practice is less than intelligent, more than dangerous, and that he loves it. Except when he doesn’t. That he has a love/hate relationship (the fighter’s exact words, by the way) with his heat-stroke-be-damned runs. That, in fact, he has that same relationship with many elements of the MMA lifestyle he passionately pursues.
Story beginning to sound familiar yet?
While you ponder that question, let me tell you about a cyclist who would answer in the affirmative. His name is Brad Ober and I raced against him and his very formidable team for many years. Except for the one time I didn’t.
Never Out Sprinting Mr. Arrogant, So . . .
That occurred in the last kilometer of a circuit race where both of us had powered a breakaway from just about lap one pulling along four other riders who, unlike Ober and I, didn’t have great team support in the peloton. With a few laps to go, though, a rider with a helluva sprint — and a helluva arrogant temperament — got pulled up to us by a teammate who immediately blew up from the effort. Now if Mr. Arrogant had caught us on his own, I would’ve been willing to roll the die in the finale even though I’m never seeing a snake eye — and probably not a two, three, or four for that matter — by doing so. The only way I out sprint Mr. Arrogant is if the final 200 meters of a hilly and lengthy road race on a hot and humid day is pitched at a 16-percent.
But Ober had an outside chance. I had always admired his aggressive riding style and willingness to sacrifice for teammates — and he was definitely ripping it up that day, to such a degree that I asked him to notch back the pace a few times. So I nodded as I passed him at the 1km-to-go sign and hoped he’d interpret the nod correctly. He did and rode my wheel in my attempt to catch the others off guard.
The move didn’t pan out. Mr. Arrogant won by at least a bike length, but Ober still thanked me for the assistance afterward.
By the season’s end, I was barely ahead of Ober for the last medal awarded to the best all-around rider in PA that season. He was as hard-core as I was, so I was more than surprised when he was a no-show for the final race. I was concerned. I feared he had suffered some sort of personal mishap, maybe even gone down in a bike crash, and asked one of his teammates to give me the lowdown. He did — after giving me something else first.
A Smile More Mischievous Than a Cheshire Cat’s
For years his buddies had busted Ober’s chops, I then learned, about his love/hate relationship (the teammate’s exact words, by the way) with cycling, and that he was now deeply mired in the second stage. The disclosure was close to incomprehensible. Though I didn’t know him that well, I had always felt we were twins sons from different mothers, yet I had never come anywhere close to pulling the plug early on a racing season. Or stopped riding. Eliminate my hospital stays to fix two fractured femurs, and I’ve only been off the bike for more than two days in any single week of the year twice in the last 30.
But on the way home from the race, I assessed the situation honestly and understood something important enough to become today’s title and use again here.
It’s Good to Hate Cycling Sometimes
And that there were times that I, like Ober, did so. When a ride in the cold chilled me so that my fingers and toes didn’t bend but burned, for instance. When I got that stinging ache deep in my legs from a hard effort — about five efforts and 40 miles before I’m supposed to. Or when —especially when — my race results were so subpar I felt like a total fraud.
To this day and at my age — where not a week goes by when my junk mail doesn’t include a mailer from a retirement community, a hearing aid company, or the AARP — I can still feel the same way. So here’s a second question for you to ponder: Is it sad to say that a disappointing ride can make an old man like a dad who knows the family dog has to be put down the next day?
I don’t think so.
In fact, I hope you can honestly say you sometimes hate cycling, too.
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.