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Saturday, April 5, 2014

An entire post dedicated to Michael Schumacher.

It's interesting... for as long as I can remember I've never been one to subscribe to hero worship.  Growing up as a child I didn't really have a favorite sports player, musician, artist, actor/actress...  I never really identified with the concept of having an idol that I would aspire to emulate.  Sure I recognized the exceptional talent that many of these hero characters had, and realized what separated them from their competition. However it never resonated with me at a core level, and never really influenced how I went about my day.

Then a few months ago there was a freak accident that occurred to seven time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher.  While out skiing with his family, he was involved in what would be considered a relatively insignificant fall where he hit his head (while wearing a helmet).  The fall resulted in some serious brain hematomas that forced doctors to put him into a medically induced coma.

As more information trickled out, it became clear that the impact of this injury was far more than what was initially thought. Time went by and the threat of Michael Schumacher being stuck in an unconscious vegetative state for the rest of his life became a real possibility.

The news hit me strangely, I felt as if it had impacted me close to home, like a close relative falling ill. Then it occurred to me.  Michael Schumacher was my childhood hero. Most of my friends today would attest to me being relatively unemotional. I tend to chug along at the same consistent nonchalant level for most of my day to day.  Yet here I was feeling genuinely down in the dumps because someone whom I'd never met, thousands of miles away was going to lose their life as they knew it.  As per always.. it spurred some reflection.

This blog is 95% cycling related material, largely because my life is very intertwined with cycling. I work in the industry I love and my free time is spent doing the work I love. However, I didn't get into cycling because I wanted to ride bicycles.  I got into it because I liked Formula 1.

When I was 11 years old. I was a die hard Formula1 fan. I would get up at ungodly hours in the morning to catch the start of the various grand prix' all over the world. I was mentally invested in the technical aspect of the various cars and full of wide eyed amazement at the feats some of these four wheeled machines could do.  0-60 in less than two seconds, top speeds of 330km/h more that 3.5gs in the corners... Of course, piloting these incredible machines  are the equally impressive drivers who are required to be exceptionally fit and disciplined in order to handle the 3.5g's  their bodies are subject to.

As with any young boy, I had an active imagination. I would dream of driving an F1 car or even a go kart for that matter.  Of course as with any young boy, I had neither.  Enter the bike.

A mountain bike has almost the same thing as an F1 car. It has brakes, a 'transmission',  adjustable suspension,  adjustable tire pressures... At least in my imagination it resembled an F1 car.  I would spent countless hours during the long careless summers that elementary school provided, racing around the neighborhoods and local parks, pretending I was racing in some world grand prix showdown. I made up courses, some wide and  fast like the old German grand prix circuit, or tight and technical like Monaco GP. It was always me versus Michael Schumacher and then the rest of the field. If I  'beat' Schumacher in my entirely fictional, arbitrary, imaginary race, then it was a fantastic race. I would adjust suspension, brakes, tire pressures and even practice lines on my bike in an effort to get faster at the 'qualifying' sessions, which were indeed timed 'accurately'  with the help of a sweet Timex Indiglo wrist watch I received from my parents after my grade 5 graduation.  Schumacher was always the benchmark to beat, I was always the underdog. Even in my imagination, I couldn't be faster than Schumacher. I didn't realize at the time, but it was because he commanded so much respect from me.

There are enough resources out there to read up about his work ethic, his sometimes ruthless desire to win at all costs, and about how he and his family live a private, happy and modest life in an industry that lends itself to rampant infidelity and basking in the limelight.  He was a one of a kind driver,  and eventually the best the sport had ever seen. This resonated with an impressionable young Aaron, who in retrospect, idolized everything about what made him the winningest driver of all time.

Of course after riding my shitty Huffy mountain bike under the guise of an F1 car for countless hours, eventually I would come to appreciate cycling for  itself. As I got older, I would shift my mental energy from participating in imaginary Grand Prix's  to things like being cool at school, members of the opposite sex and my new budding interest, mountain bike racing.

I have to thank  Michael Schumacher for getting me into cycling and eventually racing.  I seriously doubt I would have gotten into cycling if it weren't for him and my 11 year old imagination. I rode my bike because it was my Formula1 car. Not because I liked riding my bike. It's only now that I realize how profound an effect such a relatively small detail had on the outcome of my life so far. Cycling itself had a snowball effect in that it made me conscious of my health, it taught me about goal setting and then eventually achieving those goals.

Come on Schumi, pull through for 27 year old Aaron who is still the underdog.


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