I would be lying if I said bike racing wasn’t difficult. Much like the starving student taking eighteen units on top of balancing an underpaid, full-time job and a somewhat normal social life, or the entrepreneur who spending well over twelve hours building the foundation for the next big craze that might alter the way in which we live our lives, the life of an athlete requires equal parts time and effort. Success can be measured in many different ways. Some feel that if you’re not wanting to pull your hair out in stress in your twenties then you’re doing it wrong (keep me away from these folks.) While others would argue that if there is no physical or mental pain and suffering to break your down only to rebuild yourself back up again, no trueachievements can be obtained. While I biasly side with the latter of the two, I recognize that we as a society are contributing relative amounts of energy into bettering ourselves and those around us in pursuit to a higher standard of success.
This is becoming more and more clear in my world of cycling. I have now experienced a criterium and a road race in my now more familiar category. Provided the road race was one of the most difficult in the beginning of the season, I humbly accept that I once again need to be broken down only to be rebuilt to a higher, (lighter, faster, stronger) standard. After I was shelled out the back of yesterday’s race, I got a bit excited about whats to become of me once I keep up throwing myself in with the faster groups. Much like wrestling in high school, after you compete with those who are clearly better than you for long enough, you for one:
- Learn how to take a beating
- Eventually gain the chops to defend and establish yourself as a worthy peer
We all have heard of success stories of those gifted souls who move through the ranks in a short amount of time. As romantic an idea this may seem, the likelihood of this outcome is unrealistic to expect (unless you have the genes to back it up.) Last year there was a part of me that became frustrated that progress was not tangible and I seemed to have hit a plateau I did not know how to escape. I believed I was that person capable of moving through the ranks in one swift movement. As age has made a bigger presence in my life, I have reached a calmer state of mind and am willing to take the time to settle in and become more developed as a whole. I have yet to find a specialty in which I am best suited for in the world of cycling. This means that I get to try my hand with the climbers and sprinters respectfully. I like to think that I can compete on both fronts without feeling completely handicapped due to whatever type of body composition I may have at any given point in time (which currently is slightly overweight and lacking in power.)
Now I get to spend the most amount of time competing with others by participating in both fields of expertise. Crit pace and road race pace are two completely different animals. Both have surges in the pace but favor one body type over another. I like to compare this experience to being put through a gauntlet. In wrestling, you knew you were going to be pushed mentally and physically to a point that was beyond your comfort zone. Your body and mind would plead for mercy in order to sustain a homeostatic balance. You knew you were going to become very emotional at one point in time. Much like what I imagine life in the military is like, you would also develop a healthy sense of fear from not knowing what would come next. Yes, we all expected this on a daily basis. As traumatic as this may seem, the most important part I want to emphasize is that we all accepted this.
Yes this is going to suck. Yes we are going to be in a lot of pain. Yes we may not be able to live up to a certain standard and thereby be punished for it on top of our overwhelming training. Yes this would alter our character for the rest of our lives. And yes, we will continue to put ourselves in this situation in hopes to achieve greatness. This was my attitude in the past, and is rekindling itself in the present.
Settling into this new category has it’s benefits. While I’m not in a hurry to move on through, I know this is a phase and the time to move on will come eventually. As of right now, I am here for the ride.