Being a part of the Little 500 has been the most rewarding experience of my college career. The feeling every rider gets on race day is simply indescribable. Looking into the outrageous sea of colors that fill up Bill Armstrong stadium and hearing all the crazy fans cheering and screaming for their favorite team is an image a rider never forgets. As with anything important and worth doing in life, the Little 500 riders have sacrificed more than most people know to give Indiana University the World’s Greatest College Weekend.
First, I would like to start with the common misconception that most riders begin training second semester or a few months before the race begins. When people ask me if I started training again in the month of January I chuckle because they have no idea that I haven’t stopped training since my sophomore year (which was only three short years ago). For riders, cycling does not stop when the race does. Cycling is a year round commitment that becomes a lifestyle. For most of us, weekdays involve team rides up and down 446 or through the rolling hills of Bloomington with miles of scenic views of cornfields. Our weekends start at 9 am, sometimes earlier, to get our long rides in before the wind really picks up, or so we can at least enjoy some relaxation during our Saturday afternoons. I don’t remember what it feels like to sleep in and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have spent many nights doing loads of laundry, watching movies, and passing out before the clock strikes midnight while most of my friends are frolicking to Kilroy’s. I’m sure I am not the only rider who has sacrificed nights out with friends and bar crawling up Kirkwood. The lifestyle of a rider sometimes makes us feel like we are not a typical college student because, honestly, we are anything but typical. That’s what makes our sacrifices worth it.
On top of glorious team rides, track practice is a must for rookies and a smart idea for vets! Track practice is a timely commitment where riders spend up to 2 hours and 15 mins out on the cinders, Monday thru Friday, in rain, snow, and wind. Lap sets, exchange work, and pack riding are all essential when it comes to race day, so riders spend hours perfecting these skills and techniques. Not only are we sacrificing our time, but our bodies as well. Crashes, scraps, and cinders in open wounds are all a unique part of riding. If one tire merely brushes another or there is a slight tap of the brake, a pack of thirty people can go tumbling down. Trust me it happens. That usually ends with a night of brushing out cuts with a metal brush to clear out all the cinders.
Many people have been complaining about bad weather lately and everyone can’t wait for spring and sunshine. I think I can say, with confidence, that nobody wants nicer weather than riders! Spending hours everyday at the track in bad weather or blustering winds is not what most of us would call a great time. Also, crummy weather can bring out my two least favorite things: rollers and trainers. I love nothing more then attacking the outdoor roads and embracing a great day of riding on the pavement, so when bad weather forces me to ride inside I make sure to have an entertaining movie on hand.
All of these things are sacrifices. Sacrifices that we love making. I sacrifice my time and my body everyday because I love the Little 500. I love the cinders in my shoes, Saturday’s spent at the track, group rides on a Sunday morning, and ultimately the pride I have on race day. I may have sacrificed a few nights on the Sports dance floor and a Harry Bear here and there, but it is all worth it. I am in the best shape of my life, I have a team I can call my family, and I participated in the World’s Greatest College Weekend. I can say I did something extraordinary during my college career that has changed my life in more positive ways then I thought possible. I get on my train and make sacrifices because the Little 500 has made me a better person. To our supporters and fans, you give us the thrill and motivation to bring out our best for those 100 or 200 laps. Fellow riders, I tip my hat to you. In the end, we make all these sacrifices for one EPIC day: THE Little 500.