I'll try to make this about cycling, but it's mostly about golf.
I played golf at Pebble Beach today. I didn't have my A-game with me (which I blame indirectly on Michigan weather which prevented me from preparing fully), but I did OK.
Playing Pebble is the golfer's equivalent to taking your bike to France to ride up l'Alpe d'Huez. You don't go there trying to match Marco Pantani's time; you go there to just do it. Believe me, the course record is safe in both instances.
It's one of those things in life that you see on TV enough times to think you have a good sense of what it would be like to actually be there, and then you go there and find that it's much grander than you ever imagined, and you instantly feel a little stupid for actually believing what you saw on TV.
Maybe the true theme of this post is this: TV is fake.
The real way to live life is to get in a plane/train/automobile and go do the things that you've only watched on TV. Surfing is a good example that pops into mind. You can watch it on TV and think you understand it, but you have to actually paddle out into a wave of saltwater that's looming 10' over your head and feel the immense power as it hurdles you toward the shore in what you hope is a controlled flowing trip.
If you watch the TV coverage of this year's U.S.Open at Pebble Beach, they'll show you snippets of what's happening, tidbits of the history, and glimpses of the course, but what you'll miss is all the nuance and color that is found around every corner. From the pressure of the first tee to the abrupt weather changes on #7 to the long march up the 18th fairway, that course was a feast.
As I said earlier, my game wasn't on fire. I made it back to the Clubhouse. (That's the phrase that my father said every time he'd come home from his Thursday night golf league and we'd ask him, "How'd you do?". Bike racers can relate to this sentiment, right? Sometimes getting back to the car in one piece is all you can ask for. But we always knew that he had done better than that. Or maybe we just hoped he had.)
The coolest thing about the experience was being there and doing it. Not watching someone else do it. Not watching it on TV. Not listening to someone else tell the story about how they walked up the 17th fairway looking at a birdy putt on a green that the commentators say is difficult to hit.
But actually living it and doing it.
And missing the putt and settling for par.