Athlete Journal: Wait for Something to Happen

I know a handful of people who have chosen the entrepreneurial lifestyle is their career choice. I have the utmost respect for this brave decision. This involves a lot of hard work and hours of dedication. This can be overwhelming for most people, which would explain why this way of life is not suited for everyone (the same as an athletic lifestyle is for the general population.) I find myself getting caught up in a work ethic similar to this one. One that rewards idle behavior with guilt. These are the type of people who see staying at home for most of the day as a bad thing (especially at this age.) There seems to be a lack of balance as a result. Without over analyzing the situation, the point I am trying to make is that some people have their own way of getting by, and others may choose another path.

For example I am coming to terms with the path of an athlete. I tell most friends who don’t ride that cycling is more than just going fast for as long as possible. It’s more of a wait for something to happen (or not happen) approach. Yes there may be some down time in between training and racing. Time spent that doesn’t involve goals you set (and others may be confused by since you’re not dedicating every waking hour of every day to do the things you want to do.) For example, everyone that knows me knows how important cycling is to me. Those close to me know that work comes with opportunities for more free time than most gigs. Which results in people asking me why I tend to “take days off” and go without riding. Believe me, if I spent as much time on the bike as others do pursuing their dreams, I would make very few gains after a certain point. Part of the success of an athlete is balancing time on and off your craft. I find it counterproductive to take the work as much as possible approach to an athletic lifestyle that sees rest as important as time spent training.

When the time comes to put all of that hard work to use (race day) you bet the athlete will but every ounce of effort to do the best job possible in order to achieve success and greatness. In the mean time, a balance must be kept to maintain and progress with gains. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t bothered when I surround myself with those types of people that don’t understand (or attempt to understand) the athletic lifestyle. Not all methods are universal to achieve success.

The reason cycling has been on my mind more is due to a few reasons:

  1. Racing season is starting back up in the next few months
  2. I am mentally and physically prepared more than ever before
  3. I want to be great
  4. Work is becoming a bother

While the first three are exciting and feel great, the last reason seems to be on my mind the most since I deal with this on a more frequent basis.

To avoid the long and boring conversations of work talk, I’ll summarize by saying recent changes in work policies have thrown a curve ball at my current routine both inside and outside of work. I seem to be making more frequent mistakes and have not been riding as much as I’d like to. Part of me feels like I am mentally checking out and that a change is overdue. Another part of me is questioning what triggered this in the first place. I know I got a little more bitter after our most recent meeting, and I can sense that I am grumpier when it comes to work tasks in the late hours. This in combination with the isolation from upper management results in my imagination (and paranoia) making themselves more present in my day-to-day thoughts. I know more mistakes are coming up and I haven’t received any type of evaluation or counseling from my employer showing concerns for my well being. It’s as though someone has taken the hand of support from our (work and I’s) relationship and is letting the ship sink. This used to never get under my skin, but now that things have changed and my life outside of work has changed too, I’m becoming more imbalanced as a whole.

What seems to be getting to me the most is a lack of communication. I still don’t see myself pulling my hair out if I were to lose this gig. In all honesty I would feel more liberated than disappointed. When I used to work at a grocery store I would say that my current gig is the unpleasant foundation and that any other gig will be better than what I’m currently doing. A sort of variation of, “things can’t get much worse than they already are.”

Perhaps my mind seems to be paying more attention to the three above mentioned priorities that seem to be progressing in my life. Back at the grocery store I became more concerned with the EMT gig and I had been told that I’ve hit a plateau at work. There seems to be a familiar feeling of plateauing where I currently work. Things seem to be going well with the cycling. If I have to change job fields and take a turn in a different direction to further pursue a future in cycling, I am willing to take that step.

I tend to get bothered by work related issues I cannot comprehend. This leads to anger and apathy. The apathetic stage is approaching and although I’m a little nervous at what’s to come (mainly because I don’t have a backup plan at the moment) I know I can hustle when the time is right. Aha!

That was the main point of this entire post. While most of us have to hustle on a more frequent and consistent basis, I require more planning and precise timing when it’s time to hustle. I wouldn’t win a race if I exhausted myself right from the beginning. Good timing and perception are involved when it comes to making gains.

Maybe that’s why I have a hard time transitioning from one job to the next. Maybe that’s why it’s hard for me to break my routines. Maybe I’m just waiting for something to happen so I can react to it. Yeah. I can go with that. Makes me feel better inside.

-dfj

Greatness on Two Wheels

I have felt the urge to write about new and positive things going on in my life. Now, that moment has come and gone like a train with an unforgiving conductor. I was going to mention how the story of striving to become great that, “Whiplash” tells has triggered some feelings in me to one day become great on the bike. I wanted to give a more detailed report on how my race went yesterday (10th out of 49 and on zero hours of sleep) but the growing feeling of becoming jaded and less positive has shown its face and entered my stream of consciousness.

To make a long story short, recent changes at work have altered my normal late-night routine into something a lot more challenging on a mental and emotional level. I used to have neutral feelings when it came to my job duties. I show up at a later hour, end up finishing my work early the next morning, try and get a few winks of sleep, then go about my day after work. Now I barely have the time and energy to get back on the bike. Perhaps this is what’s stirring up all these jaded emotions. I’ve got yoga right now, and that has been beneficial in many ways (I get to hang around very attractive and esteemed men and women and I get to become stronger and flexible without gaining much mass.)

My eating habits have changed in that I eat less now. Sleep comes and goes. I can sleep on cue as it stands. By the time I feel balanced and ready to pursuit my day, I am behind schedule. Leave it to a job that isolates and ends up being me just passing the time (watching movies about life in prison ironically) and waiting for the sun to come up (or the phone to ring. Whichever comes first.) Sometimes I long for a regular scheduled job. In thinking about such a change, I am drifting further from the thought of the medical field being a desirable career.

The truth is I found a way to turn my current job into a physically low demanding office job that allowed me to sleep when the opportunity came up. Now that things are changing, I am finding the adaption process more than I may be willing to bare in the future. As it stands now, there isn’t a job or set of skills I would be able to fall back on if things took a turn for the worst. I am reminded of the Social Distortion song that says, “I had no training, no experience to think of.” This is a big factor in what keeps me coming back to work. Not only is my experience and training level limited, but my career goals are as hazy as LA fog.

A combination of unknown career goals with a job that isolates you from the general public, and a strong introversion leads to inevitable lonliness that comes and goals in large doses, but does not go away. Going back to the above mentioned song, one of the finals lines before the final chorus could never be spoken in a mundane but genuine way. The line that goes, “Thinkin’ bout’ what you’re doing now, and when you’re coming back” never fails to get me choked up inside. The character in which I am referring to is a transparent being that comes and goes in my life that I just cant seem to shake. The painful realization that comes with considering that things may never work out really puts my self esteem and motivation at an all time low. There are very few things that I care about, and even less come to mind once the lonliness has set in this deep. I find an ongoing struggle between feeling uncomfortable in groups, and being completely isolated from the tangible world.

So I’m currently not enjoying my job as much as I used to. Loneliness is setting in, and my plan to get out of this slum is in a stage of infancy with a weak desire to grow. There aren’t many things working out for me in the long haul of things. Not much except the cycling opportunities. A chance to see the world and live a life I might one day enjoy. A life of being great. My current situation leaves me to a very intimate relationship with my bike and all things involving two wheels. It is something I still wish to pursuit. I know this because I am sitting at home in the middle of the afternoon crying about a life that isn’t suited for my needs. Time spent off the bike in a normal routine leads to a sad state of mind. A sad state of mind and an ugly and depressed way of life that inevitably follows.

Everything seems to be right when I’m out on the road. No dealing with the stagnant, ritualistic lifestyle of my parents. Not worrying about a job that changes every week and will see little to no big changes in the long term. Not even lonliness creeps into my mind (even when I’m riding solo.) All of these fleeting feelings along with my recent result I got from yesterday’s race are pointing to the idea I wanted to mention before I got down in the dumps (looks like things made their way towards a full circle conclusion.) I have decided that I want to be great as a cyclist. I know in my mind that I have what it takes to do so. A lot of ideas make sense to me when it comes to the learning curve of bike racing. I have struggled with a confidence issue when it comes to competitive racing in the past years. This has inhibited the way I race for a long time. With my home, social, and work life turning into something I want to avoid dwelling on make riding bikes the obvious and organic solution (in that there is a future in riding bikes.)

I might send a few emails out to look for another gig I can balance with cycling. I will continue to train to the best of my abilities and keep striving for greatness on two wheels. Until next time.

-dfj

Balance

If taking yoga has taught me anything (other than I need to stretch my hips and strengthen my shoulders) it’s to seek balance through mindfulness (and breathing.) There are times where we’ll be in a difficult pose and we are encouraged to deal with it in hopes to improve ourselves through listening on the inside rather than ignoring what our bodies are telling us. I thought cycling prepared me for living and dealing with the pains that come across from riding. Yoga takes that to another level.

People have asked how I’ve been doing lately. There is some hesitation when I respond. Usually an, “I’m alright,” or an “I’m doing well” comes out. The truth is I’m not so convinced that things are going the way I describe to others. In an attempt to regain once lost balance through yoga I am discovering more imbalances that are going on in my life. Things like education, employment, and social interactions are parts of my life that require some attention.

I’ve convinced myself that I am in a good place in my life as far as the above mentioned topics go, that being said I am finding it increasingly difficult to justify those same arguments I have been telling myself all this time. There is still an emptiness that is becoming more and more unavoidable when talking about educational/ career goals. Perhaps it is because I am finding the health field less of a desirable job to strive for. My heart has never been in a particular job title. After having taken some time outside of the school setting, I am questioning my decisions more and more. This along with work cracking down on my usual overnight light-sleep routine, I have innately drifted away from a complacency at this same job. The private sector can be an unforgiving and emotionally damaging setting. I’ve never had figuratively thick skin when it comes to criticisms and concerns, and new policies have stirred up some apathy within. I might sacrifice my current wage and free time for another gig that could bring more balance in my life. The same goes for the school setting.

As much as I enjoy learning about the way the body works and most things related to science, I cannot seem to decide on a career path that sweeps me off my feet. All it took was one rejection letter from the only nursing program I applied to to make me reconsider my career choice entirely. This along with my delay to go back to school is a red flag to seek further balance in another direction. I can remember a time where I wanted to pursuit a career in the arts. Whether it be graphic design or music related. Now when I see others doing that same job I at once point was convinced I was good at (but at the same time didn’t see a realistic future in) I wonder why I threw that away. The good news is I have discovered a knack for listening and sharing my thoughts on topics that interest me through writing. Some people share their perspectives on things through music, film, acting, painting, and others (myself included) find it most satisfying through writing. I’ve mentioned before that I am in no rush to make a six-figure salary, (if I did, I would have become an accountant.) If I had to summarize what I’m doing with my life at the moment, it would be to find balance both physical and mental.

While trying to get back into the swing of things, I am coming across a lot of troubled areas. Areas like motivation to shift back into a spontaneous and impulsive attitude that had many benefits and opened up a lot of opportunities for me. Like my job habits, I have grown complacent in my routine and (here’s the scariest part) see myself turning into my father. A ritualistic cog in a soul-sucking machine that leads to an accelerated decline in health, and mental flexibility. This is one of the most terrifying thoughts I can think of. Turning into a goddam sheep, doing the same things over and over, and convincing myself that the life I’m living is a good one when I know deep down inside I’m becoming a more narrow human being. Never wanting to travel outside of the comfort bubble. This is a strong urge to fight. Once a stream of success arises, I (and my family) tend to hit the brakes on progress and settle for this temporary happiness that we cannot see past. It’s an ugly habit that I wish was easier to kick. I’ve turned down relationships that have appeared too radical for my once versatile life.

Now that the self loathing is out of the way, the unmistakably rewarding feeling that comes from sharing a part of yourself immediately follows. This has been festering up for some time, and since I don’t get out much, I have found it challenging to decompress and unwind my thoughts and future plans. Whether or not anybody reads this, I already find a sense of comfort in self-expression as I wrap things up.

Work might be a real pain for the next few weeks. School might be challenging and discouraging since I’ll be starting from the beginning in a different career path. Yoga is going to continue to hurt, and I will still be one of the only people sweating in the class, but when all is said and done, a balance is what is achieved.

-dfj

 

Athlete Diaries

It has been a long time since I last shared my thoughts through written word. There have been a few short stories worth sharing that lack the effort of commitment via the internet. Alas, I have found a potential subject matter that is worthy of the attention of the general population as well as myself included.

In recent weeks/ months I have tried to create a balance between the life of an athlete and that of a normal human being. Most efforts have been feeble; others have been a great start in a new direction. Part of me is hesitant t o write about every time I go out (which  the introvert in me would have no problem and would see this as a normal thing) and I have prohibited logging every social outing.

A most recent example that has sparked this recent impulse to share a new side of myself came from a volunteering event I participated in earlier this week.

One of the beloved radio station I love to listen to (and what sparked the idea for my first tattoo) hosted their Autumn membership drive. Having had my money in other places, I had offered to volunteer my time to show my appreciation for an awesome service to say the least. If not to support one of my favorite radio stations, my reasoning for going would be to hopefully meet someone in the process. Long story short, I had no luck with that volunteering experience. What ended up happening afterwards was a party invitation to celebrate the hard work to those who have contributed to KCRW.

This was the opportunity I was looking for. A chance to meet someone in a setting off the bike. I made my way to the event by way of commuting to mama’s house to babysit her children for a little bit (by which I set a PR from North Hollywood to Santa Monica (in under a hour)) then proceed to attempt to act approachable and outgoing. I met someone, we got to know each other (as you can tell I’m not trying to get my hopes up too high) and hopefully I will hear back from her in future days.

One thing I could not help but notice (aside from our differences (smoking, dancing, etc….)) was how this social event effected my routine of riding bikes and training for big events. This is what sparked my recent interest in my most recent topic of discussion.

Just like the problems of an introvert (big crowds, going out on multiple nights, and physical touching of acquaintances) I have discovered similar issues involving athletes. I would be lying if I said that I did not have a collection of thoughts that relate to that of an athlete of any sport. It brings me sincere pleasure to share the life of an athlete as told through a young introvert.

My approach to this new topic seems to be similar to that of my reasons for volunteering earlier this week. To both find out about those around me who are going through the same issues, and to find out a little more about myself in the process.

that’s it for now. Until next time….

-dfj

Three Feet and Four Years Later

Yesterday there was a big announcement at the new Serious Cycling location in Northridge in regards to the upcoming Three Feet for Safety Act (CVC 21760.) The news is that the law will be coming into effect on September sixteenth of this month. This law will be put in effect in hopes to reduce the number of bicycle vs. vehicle collisions that happen all too often here in Los Angeles.

At yesterday’s press conference, there were city district members, AAA, sheriffs, and the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition to help bring perspective and the functional purpose of the new soon-to-be law. Having gone to said conference to not only represent the team in hopes of getting some air time and a possible modeling gig from my appearance but to also check out our new shop location that is a fifteen minute ride when traveling at a post-inebriated state. All jokes aside, there were a few things mentioned that I took into account and seemed to have a slight concern towards.

Before I continue I would like to preface that I in no way think that this new law is a bad idea. If there is one thing to take home from this, its another law meant to encourage safety between two human beings on the roads. There are very few justifiable arguments one can make involving a counter-argument to this topic. As a good friend of mine once told me,

“There is no substitute for safety.”

That being said, the term that was used the most during this announcement was the word, “educate.” The district officials, sheriffs, and everyone else who wasn’t a spectator wants to use this law to educate the people about safety measures that can be taken between a cyclist and a motorist. If you think back to a few years ago when Antonio Villaraigosa  was the mayor and the original “Give me 3″ campaign began  in 2010.

Let that sink in for a bit. There has been ( I can only imagine) a significant amount of funds put towards raising awareness and (dare I use the term) education for the past four years. Why are we still in the education phase of a law that has been brought to the attention of others for the length of a high school education? With the increasing popularity of alternatives to conventional vehicular transportation, it is hard for me to believe that someone could be so ill informed on an issue that is right in our own county for such an extended amount of time.

The law drives this slap on the wrist further home when mentioning the punishments for violating said law. The fine for passing a cyclist within 3 feet at an unsafe speed is 25$ and over $200 if they are hit (free if you hit and run.) While I agree with the sheriff who mentions that it is obvious when a car is passing a cyclist within three feet, the cynic made itself very well known yesterday morning.

I’m n business major, but from the job experience I have had and through talking with friends who own their own businesses, I can conclude that successful companies would like to take the most efficient amount of time possible (short and sweet) to educate the workers they hope to achieve success through and go straight to enforcing said policies once all is understood. I realize that this may be more difficult to do for citizens in an entire county but four years is more than enough time to change a behavior pattern. Look at the process to obtain a drivers license. We skim through a very short book for no more than a week, take a few tests, pay money, and we are trusted to remain educated on the rules of the road for the rest of the time we plan to drive. If I am held responsible to follow a set of vehicular rules in a short time frame such as this, I would expect four years to learn an additional law is more than enough time to go straight to the enforcing process.

As romantic of a gesture this may seem, it is only dressing a more complex and much larger issue. Most cyclist are aware of the elephant in the room when discussing this topic (the topic of the hit and run driver.) A much more serious and preventable issue that should be addressed by city officials.

The main point I would like to make is that while this new law is a cute gesture to get more people on bikes and on the roads, a big part of me knows that this is legislative lip service. People are going to get passed by cars. Sometimes, given the circumstances, cars are going to get closer than they’re supposed to. It comes with the territory of occupying the road. Cars get closer to other cars on a more frequent basis. Cycling on public roads isn’t for everyone. It takes a strong will and a lot of courage to do what most of us do, some on a daily basis. Thanks for making the cyclist’s perspective more aware to the public, but there are bigger fish to fry if you (the powers that be) want to make the masses feel safe in an infrastructure that is built for the two ton metal box that is a car.

-dfj

Still a Sore Loser

Leave it to the one thing you are able to say you leave to bring out the childhood habits you’re not proud of.

There aren’t many things I get upset about to the point that I show anger. I could get fired from my job tomorrow and not so much as to raise my voice. On the other hand, when it comes to some nothing-up-for-grabs practice race I immediately felt like rage quitting after my first loss. I know this is a shallow excuse to get so upset. The reason I know this is because I’ve had to deal with this all my life.

I grew up competitive as a child. None of it was induced by either parent. All of it was brought on in my head. Nobody motivating me to be the best at whatever I was doing but myself. I rage quit a lot. Never did things fester up to temper tantrums. Just a series of emotions in sequential order that I can recite from memory:

  • Backing off/ losing focus
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Regret
  • Sadness

Some time after the sadness phase I tend to screw my head back on straight and try to come to terms with myself. This takes the longest amount of time.

Cycling in some strange way has taught me to keep this qualities under control. I guess I haven’t been as competitive as I am capable of (in fear of responding this way.) Now the all-too-familiar feeling returns. Like the former junkie who gets their fix after umpteen years of being clean and sober. A feeling that no matter how pleasurable, an inevitable cloud of guilt follows.

If you know someone who is currently dealing with emotions like this, the best advice I can give is to give that person space. Much like a person suffering from a seizure, no matter how much you want to help that person, a bystander the best thing for the both of you is to keep your distance and let things pass. The last thing we (the sore loser) wants to do is to talk things out. We are in a dark place and need to dig ourselves out of it with no exceptions. No significant other can damped the self loathing until that person is ready. Unless there is an obvious sign (like the person starting the “I want to talk about it” conversation) please keep your distance.

I have learned (just recently) that like all pains, they must be embraced in a mindful way in order for them to pass when the time is right. There is a large part of me that sees the negativities that come with strong attachments and sees the most logical response is to not get that attached in the first place. That being said, the little part that is left still wishes to take that chance. Defeat is harder to deal with when the person does not have the mental or physical tools to be their best. For me, the track racing learning curve is kicking my butt. I can’t seem to find the same level of comfort as I do on the road bike. I’ll try and tinker with a few things to try and get that same feel.

-dfj

Life Off the Bike

Life off the bike can be a lonely one. I find myself battling with the ups and downs that come with the pleasures of cycling. Everything is unicorns and rainbows once the wheels start turning. When the time comes to return the steed to the stable (that is to say that bikes belong indoors) what follows can be a more difficult road than climbing hills in the heat at nauseating speeds.

I finished reading Tyler Hamilton’s book, “The Secret Race” which tells the story of the early 200’s Tour de Frances when Lance was making his comeback after being diagnosed with cancer. While this is subject is the highlight of the book, I found subtle aspects of Tyler’s life that felt much like my own.

One of the most inspiring details mentioned is Tyler describing the thoughts and feelings that come with hitting “the wall.” Dealing with (not blocking out) the pains that come from the buildup of Hydrogen atoms and the mind convincing the body to back off. While I do not care for his writing style in this book, these particular passages had me up late a few nights from the excitement and thoughts of me in his shoes.

An event that hit closest to home was once Tyler came back to his hometown from Europe. He had gotten an impressive fourth place in that year’s TDF and was greeted the way I imagine soldiers are greeting when returning from war. There were parades, posters, newspaper articles and a ceremony awarding him an honorary key to the city. While Tyler got a royal welcoming the heavy-hitting material was his perspective on the entire event. He wasn’t happy, he felt ashamed, lonely and embarrassed. I took a break from reading at this point to reflect on what I had read.

Every cyclist wishes for the fame and glory that comes from competing with professional athletes (I’m guilty as charged.) For those of us that have yet to experience such success, we can only imagine how we will take the news. Will we relish and celebrate with bliss? Or will the celebrating be less rewarding than we imagine? Being a glass half empty personality, I imagine myself dealing with the later option. Which is why Tyler’s response struck me on an all-to-familiar chord. He does mention dealing with depression in between the bike racing, new relationships, and the hide-and-seek game that is the cyclist vs. race officials. I am refraining from self diagnosing myself with any form of mental imbalance such as depression for reasons that are destined for another day. That being said I can relate with the peaks (and very sudden falls) that come with succeeding in a goal. Which brings me back to my main point of dealing with this emotional wave on a daily basis.

I have hobbies that occupy my time when I’m off the bike. I still dabble with the guitar, I read books, I write when I’m feeling up for it. These all seem like healthy alternatives to a physical lifestyle, but I still can’t seem to shake this void. Today I sarcastically mentioned to my friend that cycling is a highly addictive gateway drug that causes you to lose all your other priorities in life. Oh how right I was on so many deeper levels.

Like the junkie looking for their next fix, so does the cyclist look for their next ride. Loneliness can set in between rides and can get the best of us (I’d write my name at the top of this list) but can be dealt with. As challenging as things may seem, its the happy moments that help us (myself) through the lonelier times. Thought I would write about it in hopes of a little clarity.

-dfj