It’s Not You, It’s Me

As I write this, it’s a dark, cold, icy Saturday morning in mid-Michigan, and I can’t make up my mind if I want to go for a photo walk in the icy woods, go to the gym to lumber nowhere fast on the Dreadmill or go back to the Bed of Torment for a second sleep; the world is my mother friggin’ oyster as they say.

Somewhere between morning bowel discharges, too much coffee, and my 3 egg white omelet with veggie sausages, I was made aware via a variety of Instagram posts that today is the Barry-Roubaix gravel race near Grand Rapids.

Me at the Barry in 2011. Getting huskier but pre-The Fattening II (The Wrath of Kahn)

The B-R is a super cool race I’ve done a few times, and I was lucky enough to have done most of them before it really blew up into the 4,000 racer mega-event that it is today. But I’m not going to lie to you; I can’t think of a place I would rather be less than riding my bike in the cold with 3,999 strangers.

You’re giving me the “it’s not you, it’s me” routine? I invented “it’s not you, it’s me.” Nobody tells me it’s them, not me. If it’s anybody, it’s me.

All right, George, it’s you.

You’re damn right it’s me!

Seinfeld – The Lip Reader

As you may have figured out via the quote from the show Seinfeld, above it’s not the Barry-Roubaix; it’s me.

I  couldn’t be happier that the event that I started covering with XXC Magazine way back in 2009 and enjoyed participating in a few times myself has grown into one of the largest bike races in the world, and I wish the event and its organizers nothing but the best for many years to come. However, I also can’t imagine ever doing it again.

Beyond my current comical state of physical fitness, my core group of local riding friends has blown apart due to marriages, injuries, moves, increased business and career responsibilities, and even death. The very mention of the race takes my mind back to past B-R’s and hanging out with my local-yokals before and after the race, usually huddled together amongst the well-organized after-party.

I miss the camaraderie we had from riding 62 miles of Michigan gravel in the freezing cold, but my introverted, extrovert self can do without 3,999 strangers and a cold as tits March morning.  

Given what I write here and how I act in front of close friends and family, it’s pretty hard to imagine the word introvert associated with me, but if you watched the video above, that pretty much sums up my brain. Plus, add in some lifelong battles with depression and self-loathing! Perhaps I’m just an introverted, introvert?

In my early racing days, I would often drive to a race, camp out, do the race, and drive home without speaking to anyone, even racers I would talk to or work with online. I was too embarrassed of myself and had a raging case of imposter syndrome; I wasn’t one of the fast guys, I wasn’t one of the folks draining the complimentary post-race kegs during the pre-race meal, and I often had none of my close friends at the race. I was a competent racer who managed to blow up at some point during every single race and limp across the finish line with a pained smile on my face and Hammer Gel puke on my top tube.

Racing for me was more a personal challenge; it wasn’t about winning or partying after. It was about proving to myself that the fat teenager who was given daily abuse by classmates and family alike could ride his bike for 24 hours or ride 100 miles in one go. My own little “fuck you,” to life’s bullying pricks, if you will. Although be it a “fuck you” that cost me thousands of dollars in entry fees, bike parts, and travel expenses. I win! I guess.

Of course, that’s not to say I wouldn’t happily drive home from the race at speed listening to Motörhead at outrageous volumes content with my 80th place finish, anxious to crack a few beers, eat some pizza, and write a shit blog post from the comfort of my home.

Most of that changed once I moved to Michigan and became friends with a few local riders and their significant others. We shared rides to races, sat together at post-race parties, and hung out every Thursday night for years. We got together for holiday parties and birthdays, lent a helping hand when needed, and would ride together from time to time when everyone’s fitness managed to match up like a cheer team’s menstrual cycles. 

But, now, instead of making a 5 AM drive to Hastings, Michigan, to ride my bike in the ice and mud, I am drinking coffee and trying not to cry about departed friends and long-lost fitness. I’m glad I have the memories of past Barry-Roubaix races, but I’m also happy not to put my introverted, extrovert self through the mental meat grinder again of riding my bike with thousands of others. 

From the images I’m seeing on IG, todays’ race conditions looked wet, muddy, sloppy, and cold— a perfect Barry-Roubaix! I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable race and after-party.

Time for a walk alone in the woods or alone with a bunch of sweaty gym rats while ensconced the private world between my earphones. Then home to get “crazy” with my extroverted self while drinking beer and watching uninteresting International footy this afternoon.


Note: This isn’t just about an event like the B-R, for the record. I did Iceman once. ONCE. That was enough for my brain.

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