Occasionally, I see a picture in a newspaper or magazine showing someone who has just run a 10K, climbed a mountain or completed a charity ride on behalf of someone who was physically incapable of participating in the event.
You know what I’m talkin’ about. The guy who writes a kid’s name on his T-shirt because he’s running “for” little Jimmy, who has AIDS, Ebola virus, cancer, dandruff, halitosis and the heebie jeebies. Little Jimmy bravely removes his oxygen mask at the finish line so the crowd can see him glowing with pride and gratitude. Tears flow down the cheeks of bystanders who are moved by the touching gesture between a poor, suffering soul and his generous and caring benefactor.
I have often wondered how I might perform such an act to help my fellow man; to achieve the satisfaction of knowing I did something for someone less fortunate who couldn’t do it for himself. Up to now, the realization of my noble goal has always been hindered by the terrifying specter of self-sacrifice and discomfort for the benefit of others.
Run a 10K for little Jimmy? Screw that. Ten kilometers is a long way to run. Jimmy looks like a fairly smart kid; he’d probably see through the whole charade anyway. It’s not like I’d fool him into thinking he suddenly rose from his wheelchair and ran like Forrest Gump as the leg braces crumbled and the parts flew away in the wind.
But I have found my calling at last, and I am prepared to take a solemn vow before you today. The loyal readers of Bicycles and Icicles shall serve as witnesses to my testimony.
Several people I know will pedal into the wilderness this weekend to throw themselves against the steel-toed, bull-dyke boot of Mother Nature in the Susitna 100. After weeks or months of hard training, they will submit to the deprivations and hardships of wilderness racing in Alaska in February. This kind of suffering should not go unsupported.
Therefore, I vow to build a roaring blaze in the fireplace for those who cannot. I promise to sip glasses of imported wine on behalf of those sucking gulps of water from their Camelbaks. I will savor a meal of hot, juicy beef because I know that my friends will be forced to gulp Gu, munch Clifbars and gnaw jerky. I will sleep under warm blankets for those who are instead crawling into bivy sacks or going without sleep throughout the night.
I might even do it again a week later when the real sickos start the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a race that makes the Susitna 100 look like a run to the convenience store for a six-pack. I'm not sure I can drink that much wine, though. Those people (especially Adam) may be beyond the help of even someone as selfless as me.
No, no, no. Don’t try to talk me out of this. I will not be dissuaded. I refuse let my friends down.
That’s just the kind of guy I am.
There is no need to thank me. Just know, fellow cyclists, that as you grind away the miles listening to the howl of wolves and the crunch of snow (or splash of slush) beneath your tires, my fire is crackling. A fresh pour of wine is softly tumbling into my glass.
Or maybe I'm snoring, because I don't plan to stay up too late.
Whatever. Just remember that I’m doing this for you.
It’s all for you.