March 1, 2009
by Dan Harm
Today I was asked a question: “what was the one big moment in cycling that motivated you to take it to the next level?” For a few moments I sat in silence. My mind reeled backwards through the five years I have been racing bikes. Various emotions and visceral moments trudged their way to the front of my brain where I could look at them with mixed feelings of excitement, satisfaction, and ultimately, confusion.
Bike racing is such an integral part of my life, I just can’t narrow it down to one moment. Though it may sound odd, I see bike racing almost as a relationship. A relationship full of hardships, trying moments, doubt, and broken expectations. And, like any long-lasting relationship, there is a tremendous amount of commitment and dedication I have towards racing that allows me to work through the hardships, helps me make compromises in order to “save” the relationship.
My life mentality is simple: that which takes the most effort is the most rewarding. Effort usually consists of commitment and hard work. This mentality holds true for every aspect of life. When I was in school, homework never bothered me. It boggled my mind when my peers would complain about essays and tests. My reply to their complaints was, “You do realize you are in school?” It seemed obvious to me that if I were to enroll in a University then I would have homework; so, why complain about the obvious?
This dedicated mentality holds true for my other passions in my life as well: my artwork, my music, my lovers, friends and family. The more effort I put into a relationship with a drawing or a lover, then the more rewarding the outcome will be. Then, if I keep on putting effort into these relationships over a long period of time, I will learn so much more about myself and the person or object or sport I am involved with.
I know I am going on a bit of a tangent here, but there is a point, and it is this: there was never a big moment in racing that brought me to the next level. What has kept me racing was my willingness to dedicate myself to racing even during times when it seemed absolutely pointless.
You see, I have another life theory: one must dedicate themselves the most when everything seems hopeless. Every relationship would fail if it were not for dedication, because, as I mentioned early, every relationship will have struggles, and dedication to the relationship will sometimes be the only glue holding everything together.
For many years I struggled with being an unorthodox bike racer. I was not gifted with the narrow and intense focus necessary to be a life-career professional racer. Every since I was a kid I have always been distracted by others facets of life I find interesting. Art, music, traveling, adventure, and a little bit of chaos has always captivated me, and trying to enjoy all this while being a pro racer is not possible. I found this out the hard way this past summer. I was trying to juggle many life passions and I was dropping all the balls everywhere. At the Tour of Utah, one of the USAs most challenging professional stage races, I gave up. The months of traveling on the road, the years of having to go to bed at 10pm every night while my friends were partying, the years of training for hours and hours in frigid temperatures all caught up to me as I raced in 100 degree heat at 8,000 feet elevation with the fastest riders in the world. I cracked hard.
But, instead of quitting racing all together, I found a compromise. I realized that I needed to re-evaluate WHY I race. The only answer I could come up with was typical: I love racing. I just love racing my bike. And, even if I don’t have the personality to be a career pro racer, I can still race my bike because I love the sport, the adrenaline, the healthy lifestyle and the people involved within its community.
Once I realized all this I actually began to excel for the end of my race season. In a matter of months I went from “breaking up” with bike racing to “convincing” my bike that it should get “back together with me.” Three months after I broke up with my bike at the Tour of Utah we took a trip together down to L.A. We went down to L.A. to compete at the Elite Velodrome National Championships. All the fastest guys in the USA would be there. My bike was a bit nervous about my fitness. Everyone there was second guessing me and my commitment.
I did not want to let myself down. I did not want to give up on the five amazing years I had racing my bike. After all, bike racing has taken me all over the world, it has given me my amazing job as a coach, it has given me a healthy body, and it has taught me so many life lessons. With this in mind I raced my heart out and took 2nd place at National Champions.
So, to conclude, when I look back and remember all the experiences racing a bike, it is not the happy moments of winning and traveling that has kept me going. Rather, the tumultuous moments–the moments where I wanted to give up and quit it all, the moments where I wanted to walk away and never look back–these are the moments that motivate me and make me appreciate so much more that I am still on my bike racing stronger than ever. Racing is my life long love.