Yale - Lux et Velocitas Weekend, Collegiate Men's A - Peter Chiu - 4-13-09
I was going to write a race report, but I learned a few things this weekend that go beyond the bounds of a race report. I’m sure I’ll be able to write a normal race report after the next collegiate weekend (4/25-26: Xpot 3D by MIT), but I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood.
Firstly, asthma is serious. I thought my asthma was reasonably well controlled, but I found out the hard way that I was very very wrong. Please, if anybody else out there is suffering from asthma (including exercise induced asthma), make sure you’re staying on top of it.
The second point I want to bring up is about reflexes. Practicing bumping in a controlled setting allows the brain to decrease the degree of Supplementary Motor Area (the area used in planning movements) activation during the movement. That means you think less and act faster. When a Pitt rider, who maybe shouldn’t have been racing Men’s A due to a Categorization problem, took out an Army rider and hit the deck himself in the second to last corner, I slammed on the brakes and shifted my weight and the bike as my rear wheel started skidding out from under me. I didn’t learn how to do this until I hit the deck a few times, but you don’t have to pick up beauty marks, aka scars, like me if you just practice crossing wheels and bumping on grass. However, the mere storing of these skillz in your repertoire doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use them. Anticipating an occurrence acts to prime these reflex circuits, so reading the race and seeing things before they happen means that you’ll be able to get yourself ready to avoid carnage. Context can inform anticipation. The brain can calculate a number of potential outcomes and paths based on the context of a situation in order to achieve a goal. In other words, if you spill your coffee on yourself you may drop your cup… unless it’s your girlfriend’s favorite mug. Then you just grunt and die a little inside as you put it down gently. The miracles of the body never cease to amaze me. That such a powerful reflex such as the withdrawal reflex can be blunted by context is a truly amazing feat of the human organism. I kept it upright in the final few hundred meters and rolled in with the back of the pack.
The final thing I want to address is the love of this sport. With 7 weekends of racing in the legs, I’m a little tired. Chasing 20 year old college kids who have nothing better to do than train and try (sometimes successfully) to turn pro is exhausting. It’s a complete and utter waste of time, but it’s how I like to waste my time. I’ve already mentioned that the examples of neural science, anatomy, and physiology instill within me a sense of amazement and curiosity, and they continue to do so. Beyond that, though, riders will dig deep for a teammate not because he’s paid to do it but because he wants to do it. These cyclists turn on the hurt every weekend and form these meaningful bonds in an activity as simple as pushing pedals around with 50 other guys (or gals!) for absolutely no gain. What a beautiful sport.