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The Canada Games Game

Four years ago during the 2013 edition of Bikes on Broadway in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, I finished the 8.3 km time trial faster than anyone on team Manitoba.  I was 14.

This three stage race in May was a selection race for Manitoba’s Canada Games Team. A number of racers on Team Manitoba were trying out to make the five person male and female teams. You had to be a category 2 level racer in order to qualify for selection, and I was in category three. This meant that I couldn’t qualify. It came as a surprise to everyone, including myself, that I managed such a quick time. If I remember correctly, it put me within the top five of the cat 2 race, ahead of the other Manitoban racers trying out.

Frustratingly, despite my performance in the time trial, I was not allowed to try out for Games. According to my coach, I was too young. He was absolutely right, but ignorant little Oli didn’t think so at the time. According to my logic, I was clearly fast enough, so I should be permitted to qualify. I thought that I should be given the opportunity to prove myself with the other candidates in the following two stages. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to, so I swore that I wouldn’t miss another opportunity to do Games in my future.

Fast forward four years, and Games is in my hometown in a couple of months. I haven’t trained since the first week of March, and I haven’t even raced since July.  Despite these facts, I, along with several other Manitoban riders, am an automatic to race for Manitoba, on account of the level at which I would usually race. I’ve got a lot going through my head as the Games approach.

Throughout each day I spend at least a total of two hours weighing it out. Should I do Games? Do I want to? Would it be fair? Can I do it? And my answer to each of these questions changes minute to minute, second to second.

I’ve medalled at the lowest level of Games during the Manitoba Power Smart Summer Games many years ago. I also medalled at the Western Canada Summer Games in 2015. I’ve wanted to medal at Canada Games ever since that fateful day at Bikes on Broadway four years ago. With my current capabilities, the reality now is that I wouldn’t be racing for a personal medal. I would be making an effort to help a Manitoban secure one for himself. That’s all fine and dandy, I’d love to help a friend, it’s simply a different approach to a race, and I wonder how fit I could be in order to provide proper assistance.

Funnily enough, my podiums at both Westerns and Manitoba games were for MTB races.

Funnily enough, my podiums at both Westerns and Manitoba games were for MTB races.

 If I were to keep my spot, how would I get fit enough? I don’t want to train alone, and I’m in no position to race to fitness right now. Work could also hinder my training ability.  Would it be worth the $800 price tag for Games clothing, plus airfare, if I suck and can’t even finish the race?

Going to a race and having my ass handed to me is something I can usually handle, if I know I did my best. That being said, I’m worried that people will beat me, people who I’ve beaten many times before, all the while knowing that I can be and have been better than them. Although, just getting to race would be accomplishing a long time goal of mine. I’d also get to be with friends and family, and could potentially have a lot of fun. There could be no pressure on me to perform, which would make it really fun. I’m all about finding fun on my bike again.

I also continue to question whether or not it would be fair for me to go. I know that I’ve worked towards this for years. I’ve wanted it for ages and I’ve put in the work. But would it be fair to take away the opportunity of a younger athlete who has been racing and training all season? Just because I have a spot, doesn’t mean I have to claim it. Morally, I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I don’t want any special treatment because of the shit I’m dealing with. As hard as it is to swallow, I have to admit the possibility that a younger Team Manitoba Athlete may be better suited in terms of fitness to race in my place. I don’t want to take an opportunity away from a more deserving, younger rider. It’s hard enough to simply admit that there might be a more deserving, younger rider.

As fit as they may be, the question of whether my knowledge and experience trumps their fitness also looms over me. I believe that I have a capacity as a team leader, and can provide solid, positive atmosphere and encouragement for my team. My knowledge of racing compared to the younger riders could also be more valuable in terms of carrying out team tactics.

I have no way of predicting how I will respond to not going, if that’s what I choose. Will I regret it? I worry that I’ll see the younger Manitoban racing in my place because I didn’t want to take away their opportunity, only to realize that I could have done more than them, and in turn took away an opportunity of my own. I don’t want to feel left out. I don’t want to continue throwing away opportunities. Either way I go, there is a long list of cons. I have no idea what effect my decision will have on my mental health, and which would be worse. I’ve planned to be in Manitoba during Games anyways. Sitting on the sidelines could be pretty damaging.

I need to make a decision soon. Whatever decision I make will have an effect on several people. I have no way of knowing what will be the best for me. I know exactly what my fourteen year old self would be telling me to do right now, but he would understand my current position even less than I do.