The night before I do any new athletic thing, I can’t sleep. When I lived in Big Bear, I’d go snowboarding before work. But before I went snowboarding I’d be up all night. Part of it was the the sheer excitement, but there was always this little voice that said, “You are such a fraud. You don’t know how to do this thing. Your body won’t let you. You’re a poseur. A Larry. You’re going to get mocked off the mountain.” And then I’d finally fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion, only to get up at the crack of early and go slipping and sliding down the hill like it was nothing.

The same thing happened the night before Wildflower. “You’re kidding yourself,” said that voice. “You’re going to get spanked out there and look like a complete idiot. What’s someone like you doing running around in hot pants?” Again, up all night, though it was also raining like hell, so I had a valid excuse. I went out and did that race, despite injury and goo gut.

The voice never came back. Not ever during Ironman, not during a single trip to the snow, not during our scuba jaunt to Key Largo. My body and brain have formed an alliance, one that puts that voice in its tiny, tiny place.

But it’s back tonight.

My new bike, my still-unnamed mount, she’s ready. Nate fit me on Monday night, and it’s sitting by the door, ready to jump off the starting block and down the street.

And I am afraid of being called out.

I’ve earned a new bike. I’ve put in the time in the gym, on the road, done as much as I can with my old ride. This is an equipment upgrade that I will use for fun and for performance and for all the right reasons. This is not a Larry bike. This is not a poseur move.

And yet, I’m terrified that some roadie will zip past me on San Vicente and mutter, “Tri-geek loser. You’ll never place. You’ll barely hang with the peloton. You don’t deserve that bike.”

We all have that voice. I’ve never known if it’s some race memory from a time when standing apart meant getting cast out of the cave, or if it’s some weird response to advertising, or what. I know that it pisses me of that this stupid, petty voice is keeping me up at night and making me ashamed for the things I love. I love the feeling of carving a perfect S in the snow. I love the feeling of opening up the throttle down San Vicente. I love knowing that I have a heart that pumps pure joy just because it can.

So, listen up, you unwanted passenger. The only voice in my head I need to listen to is my muse, and he doesn’t sound like you. You’re not welcome here, not ever again. In six hours, I’m going to throw my leg over the top tube, and I’m gone.

And you’ll never catch up.

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