The Top Of My Lungs

This summer marks my twentieth year competing as an amateur endurance athlete. Wait on that for a moment... Twenty years. The year I entered my first race was 1994 and I was a novice mountain bike racer competing in the beginner-ist of beginner categories at the Highland Forest XC Mountain Bike Race in Tully, NY. The course was five miles. I remember that because the "Sport" category did two laps and the "Expert" category did an inconceivable (to me) three laps. THREE! I sweated it out in the mud and the steam, sucking wind and praying to make it through in one piece; black flies biting and that day's lunch churning in my untrained stomach. I rolled across the line in second-to-last place, just ahead of the guy who broke his rear derailleur and rode the balance of the course in one gear. My friends laughed at the effort; I even admitted to them that I too thought it was pretty weak debut to the sport. I talked for days about all the things I was going to do differently the following year to prepare again. They all dismissed it as a phase.

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