Dirty Words: The Longest Minute

By Sal Ruibal

I don't race much anymore, but when I do, I always hate the last minute before the start.

When I was a known name (as a journalist, never as a racer), I'd get a honorary call up with the real contenders, who would look at me and my bike and think to themselves, "Jeez, at least I won't finish last in this one."

No matter how many times I peed before the race, I always felt the need to whiz in that last minute. My bladder was more scared than my brain. And I would start thinking, "Should I start fast or lay off the speed until the last part of the race?"

In the ticking of those last 60 seconds, I would somehow find a stray thought that was telling me, "This is your day. This is the one you're going to win. You can do it! You are a winner!

That was a dumb thing to think because, unless the race was a 12- or 24-hour event, 99 percent of the pack would zoom away from me in the nano-second after the starter's gun was shot. I hated the countdown, the crowd and my lungs anticipating a big hurt about to overtake my body second by second.

It is hard to comprehend how your brain and body can have a great debate in the last ten seconds before the gun.The brain is screaming "Go for it, you idiot! That's why you're here. You spent $100 on a crappy motel room and $50 on your entry fee. Don't weasel out!"

The brain can be fooled, but your body knows better. It knows that you really didn't train as hard as you told your buddies. It knows that you went to McDonald's for lunch three times this week.
ou look around and see that everyone else has a better bike, the right kind of tires and energy drink. Did you leave your gloves in the truck? No, here they are on my hands.

Your enthusiasm begin to wane. You really don't want to do this. Maybe you can fake a mechanical or a flat and just disappear. Oh shit!

"Three! Two! One!"


"What we're starting? Can't clip in, can't clip in! Oh my God, get it together man, they're all getting away from you. Go! Go! Go!"

Your lungs are now seared and crispy in just the first 100 yards. But then something miraculous happens. Something about yourself that you forgot in all of the insanity: You are one of only three Masters 55+ category males in this race. You're guaranteed a spot on the podium!

[If you're an average reader, it took you about one minute to read this blog. You're a winner, too.]