Monday, January 21, 2013

What's in a Name

Warning: This post is incredibly long and potentially boring. Please proceed with caution! You may not want to read before operating heavy machinery or driving. It may be best to read when suffering from insomnia. 

So if you read one of my previous posts/rant about training gear, you know that I got a new bike, and let me tell you it was well worth it! I am the type of guy who has buyers remorse over groceries, but with this bike, there were and are no regrets. In fact, I have never had buyers remorse over any of my bikes. Maybe because I know I did my research, maybe because I know I will put it to very good use, or maybe because I just love bikes, but I knew it was the right and best choice.
This will be my sixth racing bike to date and evolutionarily, it is by far the best. I have to admit though that I am one of “those triathletes” who has to name his bikes. Jokes aside (like “I rode [insert typical name like Jessica or Tony] all day long”) naming my bike has a deeper meaning for me. Similar to how parents name their kids to carry on a tradition (such as family names), honor a person (Jefferson, Robert, Caesar, Jesus) or to represent an idea or emotion (think Hope, Desire, Deloris etc.), my choice of bike names is highly symbolic.

Like all triathletes or at least most of us who do not have trust funds or hit the lottery, my first bike was a bike that I bought off craigslist in 2006 when I was training for my first triathlon with Team In Training. It was a 2001 Jamis Ventura, 100% steel (their last steel model), cherry apple red, Shimano 105 components, SPD pedals and a pair clip on of carbon alloy aerobars.  Although it was far inferior to almost every bike on the road, I felt like Mark Allen when I saddled up.  Being my first bike and the fact that it was rather old and slightly rusty, I named him Priam after the old king on Troy (I told you I was a classics nerd). Priam carried me through many miles and through all 56 miles of my first race without a single mishap. After I completed that first race I was hooked on triathlon so wanted to upgrade to a real tri bike.   As a high school graduation gift my parents scraped together a couple pennies and bought me an Orbea off eBay. I am not sure the exact model or year because the online seller did not provide it, but I do remember that it was one fast machine. Although it never quite fit right nor shifted properly, this bike made me feel like a real triathlete. With my TT bars, and the cut out on the seat post, there was no stopping me. I still kept Priam but it never got the attention it once did. Since I felt like the my new bike had “killed” Priam (NB to prevent the barrage of emails from Classicist and nerd out there: Achilles did not kill Priam but his son did), I named my new bike Achilles. This name also provided me with mental motivation. Like the great hero himself, I had to realize that no matter how good I got, everyone has a weakness. Moreover, I should always keep my ego and anger in check. While training and racing I would look down at the name Achilles written on a piece of tape that I had put on the handle bars and remember to keep things under control. When I had to put triathlons on the back burner I sold Achilles to another person on Craigslist. It broke my heart to do it, but I had to move on. However, I immediately started saving up for my next bike.

I watched the bicycling industry carefully but no bikes caught my eye. Then one day in my junior year, I saw her online: the Felt AR4. It was one of the first aero road bikes on the market and I loved it. From the Green accents on the 100% carbon fiber frame to the slick Ultegra components everything screamed fast to me.  I immediately called up the “local” bike store in Nashville and bought it. Oh the miles I put on that bike both on the road and on the trainer. I rode that bike almost everyday even if it was just around campus before bed. Whenever I finished a ride, I would immediately clean it and oil the chain. It was not a true TT bike but I still felt like a pro. For me this was bike marked a “rebirth” in my training and racing career as well as a change in my mental attitude towards life in general. I wanted to get back into triathlons but not for the same reasons that I started. Now that my weight was stable, my depression in remission, and my anorexic habits finally coming to a close, my training focus was on improving myself. I saw my journey before me even though I did not (and still don’t) know the way entirely. I therefore named the bike “Lotus” the symbol of rebirth and rejuvenation in western Buddhist culture.

When I moved to New Haven to do my psychology internship at Yale, I started to consider getting a tri bike. My new coach there recommended a great shop that I decided to pop into one Saturday just to “poke around.” Little did I know that I would walk out with another bike, a Felt B16. This bike was almost a mere twin of Lotus, but a TT bike. Same color scheme, components, and style. I loved both bikes equally and it was always a struggle on which bike to ride. I felt like a parent torn at which child was my favorite—and like a parent, I did not have an answer. I liked both equally. I was not sure what to name my new bike but during a training ride, it came to me: Karma. Karma symbolized my general life philosophy and especially about my training.
The general principle of Karma is that what ever you do as an impact on what you will do next. In the traditional sense, what you do in this life will determine your next life. By naming my bike Karma though I am taking the more western psychological approach. Everything that you do has an influence on your next action and thought. For example, if we nurture positive thoughts and attitudes, then you are more likely to have a positive outlook in the future. This principle also applies to training: if we put in junk miles we will get junk result, but if we put in quality training we will get quality results. Karma also carries undertones of cyclicality (pun in tended considering it’s a bicycle). Everything comes full circle. Your pedals rotate in a cycle and so does life and training. Everything is constantly changing and shifting (like your on your bike). The world breaks down then rebuilds itself like our muscles do.
Similar to how each of my previous bikes marked a new chapter in my life, my new bike marks my next step in my “journey.” It is incredibly corny to say but triathlon is no longer a hobby for me but a lifestyle. It influences every other part of my life from my occupation and hopefully pro athlete in a few years, nutrition, social life, my psychological mindset, and my physiology. When I got my new bike, I therefore decided almost instantly on “Dharma” (and no, not after the TV show character). In the traditional, Buddhist sense, Dharma carries with it the ideas of life style and laws that we live by. I live by a “triathlon code of living.”

So I have gone on too long right now so if you made it through the whole post, you have some extreme mental endurance! Whether you name your bike or not, love it like a child and every time “you ride her/him” hard, think about where it has taken you and where it will lead you next on this life journey, but that’s just my two watts.  

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