Bear column: Do it for the joy
In this valley it’s best not to brag about your accomplishments to too many people. No matter how great you think you are at something, someone in close proximity to you is far greater.
Maybe you think you wrote a good article for the Post Independent, but that guy you spoke with at the wedding reception last summer just had his 14th book published.
And maybe you think you are (or were) a pretty fast runner, cyclist, or swimmer, but the guy sitting next to you in the office just completed another Ironman triathlon last year in Italy.
So you’re not going to hear me brag about anything. Most days I’m just happy to play the game.
When I was young I was a competitive athlete, but I was never the best athlete on my team, or even in my neighborhood.
I was the best mile runner on the Greeley West high school track team during my sophomore year. But my friend and teammate switched to the mile run and won the state championship our senior year. Robert Radnoti went on to compete for one of the top distance running teams in the nation at Colorado University, and later became the head track and field and cross country coach at Pepperdine University.
When I was 14, I was one of the better players in our neighborhood pickup basketball games. But this 9-year-old kid showed up who was so quick he was unguardable, and he made every shot from any distance. Tad Boyle went on to lead Greeley Central to the state championship, play four years at Kansas, and is now the head basketball coach at Colorado University.
If close proximity to greatness were a thing, I’d be the king of it.
These days I’m just happy to get on my road bike and ride the Crystal River bike trail, the Rio Grande bike trail, or loop around Missouri Heights.
That’s right, I’m one of those spandex-clad, garish-colored road bike guys you see on the Rio Grande trail.
I’m not one of those road bikers, though. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re the guys on the expensive Orbeas and Cervelos who think they’re Lance Armstrong (and maybe they are). They fly past you without announcing, ride two abreast on busy mountain roads, and generally act like the rules don’t apply to them.
I once wrote a piece for the Aspen Times that asked why some road bikers don’t say “on your left” before passing. I was told in the comments section that I was just jealous because they were “stronger riders.” So that’s the answer, I guess. The rules of common decency cease to exist when someone is convinced they’re better than you.
I have no ego at all about my riding ability, but I’m ambivalent about the recent popularity of e-bikes. They’ve made it possible for virtually anyone to ride farther and faster than I can, which messes with my sense of fairness.
I have to work really hard to average 20 mph on my rides, but now Joe and Jan Tourist, whose bikes rarely see the light of day back home, can ride from Aspen to the Maroon Bells in 45 minutes and barely break a sweat.
It’s all good, though. It doesn’t really matter if you’re great at something, if you find yourself in close proximity to great people, or if you simply enjoy participating for the fun of it.
The most important thing is staying in the game. Life isn’t all about competition. It’s about doing the best you can for as long as you can.
When I was a kid the three activities I loved the most were running, playing basketball and riding my bike. Competition stole my joy of running and basketball away. I eventually quit both sports. I’ve avoided entering competitions on my bike because I want the pure joy to remain.
Whatever it is you do, do it purely for the joy it brings you, and you’ll do it forever.
Jeff Bear is a reporter and copy editor for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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