Those of you who are followers won’t be surprised by this next statement: I spend a lot of time thinking about cyclocross, bike racing in general and my place in the Universal scheme.
There, I’ve said it! I am, in so many respects, a nerd. But a nerd with a passion for cyclocross racing. Which means that I can take almost any thought, reconfigure it, twist it a bit, so it comes out relating to ’cross, somehow.
Today I read a piece about adversity—specifically how we can learn from it. Naturally, I started thinking about the ’cross season that just finished for me with Nationals (more about that in a minute). For me, and I’m sure for some of you, it’s been a season of ups and downs. I’ve run head-on into that brick wall of adversity more times than I can count.
The season started out well, with decent placings at Jingle Cross. I came home from those three days completely pumped. Convinced that I would take those results and ride them to a respectable, if not impressive season.
What I didn’t do, was take care of myself the way that I should have in the days following. I didn’t rest, didn’t eat well, didn’t hydrate well and less than three weeks after Iowa, I landed in the hospital, a victim of a nasty flare-up of Crohn’s Disease. The lesson I learned is obvious. I’m not superhuman and I need to take better care of myself! How many of you are guilty of making similar mistakes?
The most difficult step in change is always the first one. In this instance, it’s simply recognizing what we’ve done to bring on that adversity. I’ve had to learn to look carefully at myself, to resist the tendency to blame something or someone else.
No one forced me, when I got back from Iowa, to forego my rest days. It wasn’t anyone but me who shoved those trigger foods down. I certainly could have made sure that I always had a water bottle with me to ensure adequate rehydration. But I didn’t.
Owning those actions was the first step towards learning to do it differently the next time, and be assured that there will always be a next time. (Is there a 12-step program for people like me?)
So, why am I writing this now, with less than two weeks before Nationals? It’s simple. I’m not going to retire from racing in the foreseeable future, and I’d like to continue to collect results that I can be proud of. I’ve always prided myself in learning from my experiences.
Sometimes I wish I were better at taking others’ advice before, not after I’ve dug myself a hole. And there was plenty of advice available. It’s everywhere. My wife regularly reminds me of what I should do. There are articles galore, many of which I’ve read, that detail what to do, when and how. My own body gave me advanced warning. I simply didn’t listen.
Well, I may be stubborn, but not stupid. I will learn from this and next season, I won’t make the same mistakes. That doesn’t mean I won’t make any. But they’ll probably be different ones. Will you learn from yours?
Ready for Nationals
I’ve been writing this column over the course of a few weeks. Today is my race at Nationals, and I’d be lying if I said that I’m not nervous, that I’m completely confident and that I’m not sitting here fighting back nerves. On the other hand, if I wasn’t nervous, then there’s really no reason to be here. I try to look at nerves as an adrenaline rush.
What should I be listening to now? How do I deal with this self-imposed adversity? I’ve heard from people who know me. They say I’m “ready,” whatever that means. But there’s that nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me that everyone else is fitter, faster, and simply better than I am. It’s a continual battle for me, one that I’ve had for my entire life as an athlete.
So, this becomes a listening challenge. The rational side of me knows that I’m as prepared as I can be. The emotional side of me is and always will lack self-confidence. Stay tuned for the result.
And, I can honestly say that I could not have gone any harder than I did. The men who beat me were simply stronger than I was. I’ve written previously, that my goal in any race is to cross the line—first, with a smile on my face, second, with all my body parts intact, and third, knowing that I raced and didn’t phone it in. Yesterday I met all my goals.
I started writing this piece before Thanksgiving and I’d be remiss if I didn’t close this way. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to write for this magazine since 2009. I hope to continue.
I rarely go to a race, whether in Colorado or out of state without at least one person coming up to me and telling me how much they appreciate my ramblings. And for that, I’m truly thankful. Thank you for your support, for your kind words, for simply reading what I write. I hope it helps you put this bizarre sport that we’re all addicted to in context. Most of all I hope it reminds you of the joy you feel every time you throw your leg over the top tube and push off for another ride.
Now, go ride your bike.