It is a warm, sunny day and you feel a nice breeze flow through your hair. People are gathered around, cheering, conversing, holding signs, and drinking beer around various tents and hasty lawn chair set-ups. There is music playing in the background. Everyone has a smile on their face. Are we at a concert or festival? No, we are at any local running, cycling, or triathlon race. Sweaty, panting from your last sprint, and possibly covered in mud or dirt, you cross that line with a story of what happened in the preceding miles that has made an impact on your life. Immediately, you look for your comrades from the course to discuss what happened during the race. You and your group of friends crack open a bottle of Gatorade and/or a brewski and let the conversation flow.
This is what I like to call the “post-race vibe.” Suffering is a mandate in endurance sports, and suffering through a race is a bond that unites people. You may have a rival that bests you on the course, but you immediately become friends and enthusiastically talk about the race once it is over. That bond is something that is hard to break, as very few understand what it is like. Many friendships are forged and memories are made in this post-race state of delight. After our last mountain bike race, my buddy Dan and I were watching some of the Cat 1 race when he tells me, “Dude, this is what I love. I love hanging out after the race and being around the atmosphere with everyone.” I didn’t realize it until he said it, but this is what I also love. I look forward to the races and pushing myself. But I increasingly look forward to spending time with the friends I have made out on the course. We are all competitive and want to win, but it does not matter who did. Once the line is crossed, we aren’t competing against each other anymore and we all embrace the camaraderie of hard efforts and the discipline it took to get to that point. We plan group rides, talk bikes, cheer on the other racers, laugh, cut up, and talk about life in general. These post-race vibes are what make all the money and time spent on your passion worth every dollar and every second.
Finishing any race is an accomplishment to be proud of, especially when you have worked so hard to get to the finish line. Once you cross it, as my friend Robin remarks, “You are a better person because of it.” Even if you finish dead last in a race, even if you know you could have done better, even if you failed to execute your plan, you should be happy with yourself for putting in work, being disciplined, and putting yourself out there to face the possibility of failure. That is something anyone should be proud of! Enjoying this accomplishment with good friends that have just done the same thing makes it even more rewarding.
I encourage everyone to race so you can feel overcome with satisfaction and revel in the friendships forged by leaving it all out on the course. Don’t think you have to get to a certain point in your fitness to experience what I have described. Just pick a race, show up, give it everything you have, and let the good times roll. I promise that you will not regret the memories and the friends you made in the process.
Until next time…
Endure the Grind!