Friday, July 23, 2010

The long road to reality

While most of us will never race our bikes for a living or for international fame and fortune, I think most of us have some little spark in our heads that we can always be better. We're one weekly training session away from destroying the field at the next race, we're a few watts shy of watching everyone crack on the local training rides, we're just a pound or two heavy to mop up on the hills. It's thoughts like this that drive many of us racers to pound ourselves into mush just about every time we clip in. On one hand, these thoughts are our motivators and enablers to keep us on the bike and working towards our goals, but looking the other way, how much does this idea of making ourselves stronger and faster drive a wedge between us and reality.

I've struggled more this year with this diametrically opposed set of circumstances than in the past. I think with my little taste of a successful race season last year and an early season win, it fueled me onward like an addict looking for the next fix. Then reality came crashing in and I felt flat on my face. My training spiraled downward to where I was riding, but not training, I DNF'd, I fatigued, and I realized that the reality is I need to find a better balance. I had to really step back and take a long view of how everything was evolving around me and see if I was anywhere near the track I needed to be on. The quick answer at first glance was that I was nowhere near where I planned to be. Looking a little deeper, I tried to figure out where I got off track and why was I still heading in what felt like the wrong direction.

As I touched on earlier, a taste of success can be a dangerous thing. Over the winter, I was determined to come out of the gates hard and was putting in the training to go with it. After bagging the first race of the season it just stoked the fire that much more. I tried to dig in harder only to realize that as more outdoor riding weather approached, so did a lack of focus in my training. I just wanted to go out and ride my bike. Sure I was putting in hard efforts, but I wasn't smart about it. I was just burning myself into the ground every chance I got. Slowly, but surely, other things started to creep in. The duties that were mostly shirked over the winter started becoming more important items on my list of items to complete. Our young family had increased by one since the end of last race season which demanded more of my time. Everything was slowly piling on and while I was making a valiant effort to keep everything lifted, I didn't see that I was sinking further into the ground below me with the weight I was carrying.

My training, racing, and general attitude have been yo-yoing back and forth the past few months. It's left me feeling flat over all aspects of my life and has been reflected in both my mental and physical wellness. I was motivated by my friend George while on vacation in California where he took me on a little ride to get my butt back in gear and start training more once we returned. I carried that motivation into the rest of June and was just starting to feel good about my form again when my body decided it was time to revolt. I caught a cough/cold that has lasted on and off for 2+ weeks and has sapped my energy. My list of projects to start or complete finally began overwhelming me as well. This combined grind was dragging me down. Toss in that my original racing focus for the year was to move up in class to compete in the experts in mountain bikes and it all came to a head.

I'm slowly coming to the reality that is where I should be setting my sites. Looking at the things I need to accomplish versus want to accomplish, I have to draw a line and shift my focus. I've been indulging myself to the point of sickness with my wants list while paying minimal attention to the needs. For the time being, I've scaled back my bike plans to focus on a single race for the rest of the season as a true goal. The 24 Hours of 7 Oaks is my focus and once its done in early September, I'm going to make a big shift into attacking the needs list. I've always had a bad habit of leaving projects unfinished and the majority of my time is going into these projects. I'm hopeful that over the winter I can make a big dent in this list. I'm hoping that once I strike a better balance I'll slowly be able to take away the stress of having so much imbalance between my wants and needs. Wish me luck.

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