But no matter who you are, speed makes legends.
Every time I race, I will race so fiercely my legs cry, and when I can’t do that anymore, that’s when I will know it’s time for myself to shut up and leave.
There is this moment…
My first year of racing was an absolute blast. I have yet to have as much fun as I did that first year. For some reason, there is this monkey on my back and whenever I race my back and my neck lock up and my heart rate blasts through the roof. It never happens any other time. I can ride for hours and hours on any group ride and still have something left to give to the sprint at the end of the ride. But for some reason, come race day, I freeze.
I had a couple of bad crashes at the end of that first year. Maybe that’s it. Who knows? But it’s extremely frustrating.
Anyway, the highlight of that first collegiate season was the SEC championships in Brevard, North Carolina. My bike was in the shop for 10 days leading up to the weekend due to a broken shifter sustained from a nasty crash. So, I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into the race except make it over the mountain and have a great time doing it. And let me tell you, it was the best road race I have ever been a part of. There was one nasty climb and then the course wound down the mountain and crept along the French Broad River before circling back around to the climb. And surprisingly enough, the road race and the criterium the next day was the best I raced all year. (Might have even won the crit had it not been for a flat tire with a 5 laps to go.)
I learned a lesson that weekend.
After my race, I was watching the category A guys compete for the criterium championship and it was blazing fast. There was a pretty steep hill in the middle of the course and at the end of an hour of going up it every few minutes, I’m sure there was some serious hurt going on. A few laps into the race, it was clear who the favorites were going to be. Before long about seven or eight guys pulled away from the rest of the field and showed no signs of slowing down. With each lap, the time gap only got bigger. UGA had one rider in the break. Parker. He was stupid strong that day. Maybe because he’s a little bit crazy, but maybe that’s what it takes to be stupid good. Those eight guys ended up lapping the field. And Parker was one of them.
Every time Parker came flying by, the rest of the team and I were standing there yelling at him to keep going. I asked him about the race after the fact and he said he wanted to quit several times but then he heard us yelling and he decided he wasn’t done just yet.
You see, there is this moment in every training ride and every race where you can either fall off the pace into obscurity or put your head down and grit your teeth and keep fighting. And most of the time, it’s a decision to simply keep fighting or not.
When it hurts the most, what are you going to decide?
I often hear someone say ‘I’m not a real runner.’ We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I’ve never met a fake runner.
It’s easy for the triathlete to get in the mindset of training by ourselves since the races we do are primarily long, individual hauls from the start to the finish. But the cyclist in me says riding a whole bunch of miles alone can make training boring, discouraging, and all around awful. Sure, it’s hard to ride with people on days where intervals are the workout, but what about recovery days, or days where the goal is to just rack up as many miles as possible?
I have found several key advantages to going on group rides.
1. Bike Handling - If you want to get better at controlling your bike, ride in a group. You have to hold your line. You have to move in and out of people.You’re going to bump handlebars. And unfortunately, you’re going to have to scoot around a wreck a time or two.
2. Preparation for Race Day - Don’t expect to do well in a road race or a criterium if you haven’t been a regular attender of a local group ride. I have learned the hard way. There is a certain “stop-and-go” feeling that happens during a race which can cause your heart rate to skyrocket and send you to the red really fast. The only way to avoid it is get used to the pace in a local group ride. More than likely, you can find a group ride just as fast, if not faster, than your actual race. (As it is with all competitors, a group ride can turn into a hammer fest at the first big climb so know what you’re getting yourself into before you go.)
3. Building Community - If you ride with people, you meet people. If you ride by yourself, you’re going to begin to think you’re the only endurance athlete in a bagillion mile radius of where you are. Go ride with a new group of people and get in on the cycling community in your city. If there seems to be a lack of one, go to the local shop and start a group ride!
For a beginning cyclist or triathlete*, joining a local group ride can be a quite intimidating experience. However, if you’re at all serious about getting in shape or even racing, you will not be able to do it by yourself. The first bad day you have, you’re going to want to quit. But, joining a group and getting a few phone numbers builds community and accountability. Also, most shops have multiple rides a week to attract everyone from the beginner to the “all county pro” and some rides even have different groups of varying skills that roll out at different times.
Identify your group. Join the ride. Roll out!
*If you’re a triathlete rocking a brand new carbon fiber Time Trial bike, make sure you can control that thing before you join a group ride. The frame geometry for a TT bike is different then the standard road bike and leads to faster straight lines but a disaster for controlling in a group. And NEVER ride in your drops unless you’re on the front leading a single file pace line in a hurt fest.
One of my goals this year was to figure out the whole ‘eat right’ part of endurance training. I have read a lot of books and tried a lot of different things in my attempt to get it right. And I can honestly say, I’m getting there. I’m on track to be at my goal weight by September and I can see and feel the affects of eating and training right.
I had a breakthrough recently though that put a new perspective on this whole eating right thing. I was reading an article in a running magazine about how to get started eating right. One of the things they mentioned is write down everything you eat (I have done this myself and it is very beneficial). Keep a food diary so you can go back and look at your day, what you ate, and what you can change for tomorrow. In the article they had this elaborate spread sheet as an example which was a little too much for my taste, but one of the columns was labeled “why?”
So, you wrote down what you ate, the calories, the time and then why you ate it.
Why what? I’m hungry. That’s why.
But then it dawned on me, every time I go to the pantry I ask myself what I want to eat. And honestly, what I want and what I need are terribly at odds with each other. Because I want cookies and potato chips, but that’s not what I need.
But what if we started asking why instead of what? Why am I eating this? Is it going to help or harm me? Will it get me to the top of the podium or leave me practicing the reverse break away? Is this food I’m putting in my body going to deliver me to my goal?
You see, asking why is a vision question. Asking what is a now question.
So, here’s what I’ve been practicing when it’s time to eat. I line up my meal with my end goal and ask myself, “will this help me get there?”
Are you thinking big picture when you eat and asking why, or just eating because it’s what you want?
We train with vision, why not eat with vision too?
Good news folks. The spring time change gives us more hours of precious sunshine! More light means more miles means more smiles!
The Importance of Goals.
Setting a goal is on of the key facets to training and racing. So many people say they want to get in shape or run this race or do that charity ride, but I know if I don’t actually sign up for the event I’ll be 100 percent more like to just sit on the couch. And eat cake. Which is the opposite of getting and shape and training.
Setting a quality goal can help by…
- Narrowing the Focus - So many people just get on their bike and start riding and riding. Or they take off running and have no idea where there going or the reason for it. Setting a goal helps narrow the focus. It helps me train more race specific. If my goal race is a sprint tri then training at distance might not suit me very well. Sure, maybe I’ll have a good aerobic base but I won’t have the speed or power. However, hitting the track and doing speed work will dramatically increase my speed for the 5k. Why run 20 miles when my race only calls for 3? One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was during the race season, very rarely do you train beyond the distance your race calls for. Are you training race specific or just going and going?
- Defining the Journey - Setting a good goal should require you to determine the path you’re going to take to get there. I like to think of it as setting up landmark events along the way to my ultimate goal. My dream is to race at the Ironman distance in the fall of 2012. So, I have determined the path to get me there. I ran a half marathon last fall. I’ll compete in an olympic distance tri this spring, a half ironman in the fall, a marathon in the spring of 2012 and, hopefully, race at the ironman distance in the fall of 2012. Setting up these landmark events will show me how I need to improve and will help me gradually increase the training load required to race at this distance. Have you determined the path to help you reach the end goal?
- Giving Room to Celebrate - If I don’t have a goal defined for each race, I usually leave feeling disappointed. Anyone who has raced before knows this feeling. It’s the feeling inside of you where you think you could have gone faster or tried harder. And in triathlon, it’s easy to walk away upset if you don’t set PR’s on all three disciplines. However, if my goal is to set a PR for the run distance of my race, I’ll work toward the goal, and when it happens, I walk away celebrating despite the fact my average speed on the bike may have been slower. To be honest, my goal for my half ironman this fall is to simply finish. If I do that, I’ll walk away happy. The truth is, celebrating along the way makes the journey a lot more fun and can give you a much needed mental boost. Are you celebrating?
I would encourage you to not just set a goal, but set one which seems out of reach at your current physical capacity. Not only will this require you to work harder, but it will show you you are capable of doing more than you might have thought you could!