I’m trying to turn the thing I love into a job. Think about that for a second. Nothing is better than doing the thing you love, but the negative connotation of a job seems out of place doesn’t it? I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard, “Do it now, while you’re young.” Sitting here, at this moment, in a slightly run down house surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of bikes, about to move for the fourth time in 6 months, I couldn’t agree more. However, there are certainly times when the ethereal qualities are nowhere to be found and you’re left cursing that love.
#Livingthedream seems to be trending more and more these days. Twitter is the perfect outlet for all those times chasing your dream turns out to be not so glamorous. I LOVE RACING MY BIKE. I don’t necessarily love working 8 hours, scrambling to get in my time on the bike and then going to bed, day after day after day. I don’t want to be caught bitching, I went over all that in my last essay, but now that I’m settling in at my first full-time job, I’ve been more cognizant than ever of how hard elite cyclists ride the fine line between business and pleasure.
For pros there is no disconnect: It’s their job to be fast, period. I more or less live in this mode, and everything I do is in search of more speed. I spend a lot of time looking at my power meter, as I’m sure many of you do. Instead of enjoying the scenery I’m obsessed with a number on a small screen that costs way too much. When on the topic of training smart, it’s a necessary tool, and if you’re doing intervals it’s a godsend. It gives you a goal to shoot for and concentrating on that number is a welcome distraction from the pain. It also keeps you from the nightmare of second guessing if you’re going too hard or too easy. However, you may remember that in my previous columns I have spoken about the beauty of racing and how, for me, it comes from the abstract, not the numbers. So putting it all together, the thing I love about bike racing doesn’t involve a power meter in the least, but I hate riding without it because I want to be the absolute best cyclist possible. So there is definitely a direct tradeoff between business and pleasure.
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. Knowing that you’re faster than you’ve ever been before is a marvelous feeling. However, when you’re going through a rough patch and the numbers aren’t where they once were, it only serves to darken the skies and take the wind out of your sails. You’re getting caught up in the minutia aren’t you? I do, all the damn time. To be successful at this level you have to. You have to always be thinking about training, racing, recovery, stretching, your diet, your equipment, results, it goes on and on. You’re trying to do the thing you love for a living but it seems more and more like a job. The stress, the hours, the annoying coworkers, it’s all there.
Having a full-time job makes it even harder for sure, but there are some pluses to remember before you start complaining too much. For one thing you get a barrier between work and bikes. When you’re at work you’re not focused on all of the minutia of racing, and when you’re on the bike you can really zone in. When you’re on the bike you’re focused on that, and when you’re at work you’re focused on that. It breaks the two parts of your life up and keeps you mentally fresh for each endeavor. It also puts things into perspective and makes you realize how nice it is to be pounding around on the two-wheeler.
Having said that, I don’t think I’ll be the guy racing at this level and working a full-time job in my mid to late 30’s. At this point I can’t fathom giving it up, but I believe the time to hang up the cleats will come before then. Never say never, but the life of an elite cyclist is not an easy one and keeping up this blistering pace of work, training and racing is hard to imagine for that long. So there will undoubtedly come a time when the business socks get put in the drawer and riding for the simple pleasure of riding will take over.
Hopefully you are now thinking of how you derive the most pleasure from cycling. Whether it’s tooling along looking at the flowers in the park, riding down to the bar, or traveling to the Alps to push yourself on the storied climbs of the tour, be aware and exploit it. Think about the line between business and pleasure, but don’t do it at a ‘cross race because the two are so interconnected that you’ll end up dirty, confused and slightly drunk.