Taking the long view

As a naturally impatient and thick-headed character, It's taken me about 30 years to realize that cycling is a fickle friend.  If you're not careful, it can quickly cloud your perspective, and demotivate you into burying your bike in your backyard... or putting it on ebay.   That is, unless you do what's counter-intuitive to most intelligent people, that is just shrug, ignore it, and take the long view.

Take my weekend.  Saturday I show up at the Sterling Road Race.  48 miles of age 45+ racing.   Training since my peloton finish last Sunday?   A whopping total of two and a half hours.  One interval session, and a short recovery ride.  Other than that, a work week filled with a two-day out-of-town conference, a big evening client shin-dig, and lotsa work.   A little too much pasta, and a few drinks.  Weight?  Boom!  From 165 to 172.   Bad omen.

The race went hard from the gun and lap one was up to 35 mph lined out in the hardest rainstorm I've ever seen in a race.  It poured like Armageddon.   I could barely see the rider whose wheel I was on... I was almost blind.  It rained so hard it hurt my face.  I loved that part, it was a war.

But what I didn't love was getting shelled out on a false flat after the climb again.   I started losing contact, and  there was nothing I could do to stay on.   This time, I knew it was now or never, and I wasn't coming off damn it... so I sprinted absolutely 100% to stay on, and still, I just couldn't make it.   Bad legs.  A recurring muscular power-endurance problem.  Years since I had to ride 25 mph up a hill in the big ring I guess.   I blew.

On the ride home, I was down for the rest of the day.  Asking all the questions again.   But funny thing was, today I got up, and went for my typical morning 30 minute run to change it up a bit.   Not killing myself and staying mostly aerobic, I did my 2.5 mile run about a minute faster than my best ever time... and 7 minutes faster than what was my norm last year.   Hmmm...

Then tonight, after mothers day with the family I snuck out for a 2-hour evening ride with two testing climbs.   Despite a super hard wind, the whole ride was big ring motoring, mostly staying aerobic, my fastest loop ever yet, about 20mph ave., way bigger gears up the hills than I can ever remember using.  Whoa...I couldn't have done that just a few weeks ago.

So here's my long view perspective/rationalization 24 hours later.   I've been out of racing 20+ years.  Since last fall, I've lost 30 pounds and am fitter than I've been in decades.  I just wailed up a 10% wall in the big ring, and I feel like I could go out and do it again.  I'm progressing.  So screw yesterday, I'm a racing cyclist.  Even LeMond got dropped sometimes.  I'm taking the long view.

The reason cycling makes it hard to take the long view is the humiliation of getting dropped plays with your mind, and deadens your motivation more than say it does with say cross country skiers or triathletes.   You get dropped from the bunch and are alone.  Off the back.  Not even close.  The weak one that couldn't stay with the herd.  What's wrong with that guy?   He's not good enough to keep up with everyone else.  You're segregated from the pack spatially and visually branded a loser, and you feel like a loser.  It's a lousy, humiliating social experience.   You question yourself, and if you're not careful, quite easily believe you're not good enough, or tough enough to race bikes.  

Well, sometimes you need to take the long view and keep any single speed bump in perspective, no matter how humiliating it may feel at the time.


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