I love mountain biking. I hate road biking. I live in Durango, CO which hosts a popular road bike race each May called the “Iron Horse”, named after the famous narrow gauge railroad that travels up our mountain valley to the north. The race is a half-century from Durango to the old quaint mining town of Silverton, straight up and over 2 mountain passes that clear 10,000 feet each. 3 years ago when my brother proposed we do this race I was uninterested. He kept pressing, I finally relented, and the training began.
As I started training, my disgust for road biking only intensified. It was monotonous, cold, and frustratingly boring. Road biking is still all of those things, but one learned skill has made it bearable. Snot Rockets.
I grew up working at construction sites with my dad, a plumbing contractor. I saw laborers shoot snot rockets all the time, but the skill eluded me. Every time I tried to “shoot” one I did it half-assed and ended up with a long string of goo hanging from one nostril, watery eyes, and eventually a hand or shirt full of sticky, germ-laden snot. Then one day, while road biking, it finally clicked.
I had allergies, my nose was congested, and I was sucking wind. I was forced to give the snot rocket another chance to save me. I calculated my head and neck angle, pressed my right nostril, took a deep breath, fully committed, and blew a perfect snot missile into the grass right of the bike lane. It was liberating. I could breath. I crushed the remaining climb.
I’m better shooting from the left nostril than the right, but I just raced in my third straight Iron Horse and thanks to the snot rocket I had a personal best time, beating the train by 15 minutes. Got me wondering. What other non-essential life skills might be holding me, or you, or us back from being our best?
Also, I’ve honed this weapon, so if you see me out road biking make sure to announce before you pass…