While flipping through YouTube videos I ran across Specialized’s “Motivation for Ironman” video. It’s a 3 minute video interviewing people who will be competing in an upcoming Ironman, and discussing what they get out of it. It consists of both professional and amateur athletes.

I don’t have any interest in triathlons, but I absolutely love racing my bike in crits, and to a lesser extent road races. This got me thinking about what I get out of racing. Personally I love the cycle of training and racing, the thrill of racing (especially crits), and the mental aspect.

For me there’s an interesting cycle of training and racing. I train because I race. If there were no more races I almost certainly would quit training within a few months at most. But in addition, after a race I’m always left with things that I see I need to improve on. I really enjoy going on and working on those areas, knowing that in a couple weeks there will (hopefully) be tangible improvements. I love the idea of eliminating “weak spots” in what my body can do. I also love pushing myself towards “perfection,” even though such a thing is impossible. I find motivation to do things like core work and gym work because I know that it makes me a better physical human being. I like that I have control over my body and can mold it how I like.

The thrill of racing is something that most anyone who has raced has discovered. I mentioned that I find road racing a little less exciting that criteriums. The reason for this is that in a road race you have time to think about the suffering. There’s a mental game going on, which basically involves convincing yourself that you shouldn’t give up. In a criterium everything is happening so fast that there’s no time to have those long drawn-out personal battles. Instead those battles occur with everyone else. Crits also have a battle against yourself, but it’s about being in sync with your bike and with those around you. Since you get to repeat the course many times you get to slowly hone your technique. Sometimes people online will ask how to improve their cornering. I feel that the best way is to do crits! Not only do you get to practice your cornering, but you get to do the same corners over and over! Not to mention that the feeling you get from taking a corner at high speed with dozens of other racers around you, then powering through out of the saddle up the next hill is unmatched. I’ve never found anything that makes me feel as much like a superhero as crits do.

Finally, I love that racing is a thinking man’s (and woman’s) sport. As racers love to say, it’s not always the strongest person who wins, and in fact it’s generally not. There’s so much thought that is required to be a good, or even just above average racer. Training effectively requires massive thought. Riding your bike with good form requires massive thought. Understanding tactics and strategies requires massive thought. All of these things require huge investments of your “thinking time.” I think this is why triathlons and time trials don’t much interest me. Once the race begins, it should be the strongest person who wins. Obviously a terribly strong but terribly dumb person could easily lose. But the intellect and mental investment needed to understand those sports is significantly less (in my understanding, feel free to correct me in the comments if I am wrong).

And that is why I ride.