Bike racing is my passion, so in honor of Speedweek, today's post will be about stuttering and the bike.
There has always been a bike in my life. When I was young, I jumped curbs on a bmx bike. In high school, I explored the woods on a mountain bike. In college, I found road racing.
At the top levels, bike racing is a hard sport. It makes no allowance for weaknesses. To be anything more than pack fill, you need to put in 15-25 hours per week of saddle time (depending on the time of year). Simply put, if you are not prepared, you can't play. Success is hard to come by, and failure awaits at every turn. High speed crashes are common, and lycra doesn't provide much protection. Why do I do this?
I love it. I wouldn't put myself through seven hour rides in the rain in January if bike racing didn't have a piece of my heart. I wouldn't pass on pizza, beer, and ice cream for eleven months of the year if I didn't dream of crossing the finish line solo with my arms raised above my head. That said, there is a secondary reason for my dedication to the sport: bike racing is the great equalizer.
At a bike race, it doesn't matter that I stutter. At the start line, I'm not worried that someone is going to make fun of me or that I'll miss out on an opportunity because someone thinks I'm "not right in the head." During a race, I can let my legs do the talking (even if they don't always have much to say). The best part? The benefits of bike racing don't end when I cross the finish line.
The bike disposes of bad stuttering energy. I leave for a training ride with the weight of stuttering on my shoulders. Somewhere along the way, that weight turns into fuel, and when I get home that fuel is spent. The memories of rude comments have lost their sting. The tension in my facial muscles has drained away. I feel physically tired, but my mind is quiet, and I am at peace.
If you happen to be in Athens this Saturday, look for me at the start (and hopefully the finish) of the Twilight Pro race. There will be a lot of things going through my mind, but stuttering will not be one of them.