Tag Archives: suffer

The Life of An Amateur Racer

Train, get ready, get nervous, pack, sleep….

Awake, get excited, get nervous, drive…

Warm up, get excited, get nervous, race…

Suffer, sprint, feel good, feel proud…

Pack up, drive, feel proud, dissect performance, critque…

Feel like you could have done more, feel bad, feel tired, sleep…

Awake, check results, check for pictures…

Repeat ad infinitum.

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Goals, Part II

In Goals, Part I, I illustrated the metamorphosis from couch-junky into aspiring racer and how that memory plays a part in my Goals process for each successive season.

What I was really trying to get across was that was: if there ever comes a time when I a.) Don’t have an uncontrollable fire eating a hole through my belly and/or b.) Don’t care whether I become unfit enough that I get dropped, I wont bother making Goals and will leave the sport.

Racing takes up an incomprehensible part of one’s life; you have to be motivated, focused, and, frankly, selfish. For the time being, I accept and relish that. Perhaps there will come a day when a job, baby, normal life, whoknowswhat changes my priorities, but that time is not now. There are many Goals that I still want to accomplish.

Much of those Goals revolve around the Tour of the Gila. Last year was my first attempt at the stage race and it was an eye-opening experience. The shear spectacle of the suffering is amazing: precarious descents, big miles, hellish winds, and long climbs. In short, it’s everything that racing should be.

Getting on the podium in this race (in any category) says something far greater about you than a podium finish at your local crit. It shows your peers that you trained through the winter months while they were stuffing turkey down their throats; you can ride a TT in hurricane-force winds and not crap your pants; it shows that you are willing to sacrifice part of your season for the chance to race well at Gila; perhaps most importantly, it shows that you are a smart racer who can suffer better than anyone else—day after day, when it matters most.

So, specifically…what are my Goals?

  •  Win Tour of the Gila – I came in 24th last year not knowing what I was getting myself into. I now know; I will now do Work.
  •  Top Ten in The Cascade Classic – I am focusing on stage races this year. With a win at Gila, a recovery period, and another build phase, I feel that I can do well at Cascade. I respect the fact that I do not know the course, though.
  • Upgrade to Cat 3 – This is not as easy as it sounds. Racing Gila and Cascade largely puts my hometown races in the ‘practice’ category. In addition, I now know that putting in a massive peak for Gila corresponds to a sizable valley when I return. Upgrading to a 3 will have to be through my efforts at Gila and Cascade; if I don’t do well in both races, I risk not making the upgrade as well.

In addition to goals, there are three bullet points I will keep with me throughout the year:

  • Off the Front – If it is a training race, I will make sure that I fully layer on the suffering. To win a major stage race I know I must train to suffer more than anyone. Putting in massive efforts in training races will help me to suffer better and, hopefully, put a few wins in my bag of confidence.
  • Grow Bigger Balls – In the Gila TT I chickened out of the aerobars more times than I can remember and the results were plain to see. More practice time in the aerobars along the Front Range in early season is essential to doing well in that TT.
  • No Excuses – I missed a lot of breaks in a lot of races this year; the vast majority were entirely my fault. Stay in the top 10-15 positions. Using spurts of power wisely to stay in the desired third of the peloton negates the potential to get caught behind crashes or anchors.
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Goals, Part I

This is a tough sport. You can fester in the 4s for a long time if you are a.) Not genetically freakish and, b.) Not approaching things the right way. Goals are imperative; it’s where everything else starts.

The fact that they are both indispensable and motivating does not make Goals any easier to put down on paper, though. In fact, while I generally have an idea of what I want to accomplish next year, I have been putting off this blog post for as long as could. Once Goals are on paper, there is something concrete, but once they’re on that new fangled wurled wy web you’re going to have to answer to a lot of people about it.

My process of developing Goals is probably grander than it needs to be, but it’s worked so far so I will share it. I begin by looking back at my cycling “career” as a whole. Seeing where I started from to where  I am now allows my brain to smooth over some of the nit-picky, near-term criticisms and disappointments…

Not a Stud

I started riding three years ago, fresh off the couch, after basically not doing anything athletic for years. I bought an oldish Trek and went to work logging long hours and heavy base miles. I never had an inkling that I would ever race, much less have Goals related to it. Gradually though, something changed in my head and I felt the overwhelming need to race a crit; it was as if I was drowning and the only thing that could save me was pounding at the pedals in a group of podium hungry dudes. 

Race I did… kindof. Fall Fling, second weekend, last day. It was your typical business park crit, though the course was wide open and the wind was howling. No experience, no real talent, no real skills—what to do? Go to the front, of course, and drag the pack for a half lap through a headwind. Oh, yea, and then proceed through the pack and off the back. You can make that kind of play if you’re a genetic freak; I am not.

I swapped pulls with a big, overweight dude until we got lapped. It was as painful and pain came (or so I thought so at the time).

I went home that day dejected and all around ok with being a cyclist and not a bike racer (I wouldn’t call myself that for a long time, actually), but… within days that feeling began to fester and grow and eat at me. Given that it was the end of the season, though that feeling would have to burn all winter long. While I do not live in Illinois anymore, I often dream about returning and winning Fall Fling, but is it a Goal? No.

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Reference Points

Some things just come naturally to some people. Whether it’s a trade, a talent, or a sport—they just do what needs to be done, enjoy the ride, and get on with life. While I am certainly not a psychiatrist, it’s not unrealistic to believe that there is a connection between the pursuit of something and a reference point in someone’s past.

Stud

For me it was watching Eddy Merckx win the stage (and yellow jersey) at Luchon in the 1972 Tour de France. That was stage eight; he would keep the yellow jersey all the way to Paris, win the Sprinter’s competition, and finish second in the KoM competition. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Wait…that’s not how it started at all. In fact, I have never seen that video, (keen readers will note I wasn’t even born) nor do I have any meaningful or lengthy love, memories, or motivation from cycling’s past—professional or personal. Simply… I don’t have a reference point.

The only three memories I have of anything bike related from childhood are: 1.) First time without training wheels riding through an alley (not sure if I fell or not); 2.) Cruising down the sidewalk listening to country music on my radio-equipped Huffy chowing on an ice cream treat (a.) I was a tubby kid and (b.) it was the clown face with the gumball nose; and 3.) Getting said bike thrown in the back of my father’s truck (rightfully so) after I missed curfew by an hour.

None of those have anything to do with racing. I don’t have fond memories or seeing Schwinn Paramounts screaming down the streets, nor do I dream about Il Pirata’s double Grand Tour year (1998, if you’re wondering) and what it meant for Italy. I didn’t know who Chris Boardman was until last year; I still do not entirely and truly understand the significance of the De Rosa brand. I don’t have a cracked and pitted picture of me as a seven year old in a 7-Eleven Jersey, though I sure as hell wish I did.

Be grateful if you do… for it is your lighthouse on a foggy day. Whether you realize it or not, it guides you through the rough patches of racing and fosters adrenaline when you need it most. Lucky are you to have cycling running through your veins. Lucky are you that you have been called upon to suffer in the noblest way.

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