No Excuses and No Regrets
For some, elite amateur cycling is the last stop on the journey to the pro ranks. For others, it’s the end of the line. As I sat in a Starbucks in Altoona, Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago, exhausted and frustrated, I couldn’t get that fact out of my head.
The past month has been rough. I came off a decent ride at the Killington Stage Race (other than the time trial) hoping to continue the upward swing of form. Little did I know, my legs had other plans. Tired legs were accompanied by my return to training with power, which only served to further my frustrations. Nothing can crush your soul more than seeing unusually low power numbers. My initial reaction was, “Ok, time for a little rest.” Boom, done. Then I tried to get back into the swing of training and still no power. That’s when I started to panic. You begin asking yourself a thousand questions and second guessing all of your decisions. “Is it because of my allergies and the fact that I haven’t been sleeping well? Was it moving to the new house or the stress of changing jobs and standing up for 40 hours last week?” I wasn’t searching for excuses to tell all my friends and teammates; I’m responsible for showing up to races fit and ready to go. I simply needed to find the cause of the problem so I could fix it. The fact that the Air Force Classic was fast approaching further fueled my impatience to source the problem. I had been looking forward to Air Force (two NRC criteriums in the Washington D.C. area) and was hoping to prove my worth to the team with some sort of result. Besides Air Force, the Elite National Championships and the Tour de Toona, a four-day NRC stage race, were right around the corner. This was when I had planned on ripping it, not pulling the plug on workouts that I couldn’t finish. The timing of my drop in form could not have been worse.
I fought the urge to take a mid-season break. The little voice inside my head was telling me to rest but it was silenced by my desire for results. So I kept plugging away. Races came and went and there were ups and downs. Air Force did not go well but my 33rd on the second day gave me hope that things were starting to turn around. Then there was Nationals, where I finally felt a little better. I was able to do my job for the team and honestly rode better than expected. I was able to follow attacks at the end of both races and it felt good to be back mixing it up. The team’s efforts did not go unrewarded, and Max Korus was able to put the hammer down in the road race and take home the stars and stripes. It’s still a bit surreal. There are so many great cyclists that have never won a national title but Max was able to do so after only racing bikes for two years. He’s a big talent for the future and if you haven’t read my interview with him here on Embrocation be sure to check it out. Then came the crashes at Exeter and tired legs at the Coatesville Classic. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve spent over 60 hours driving and done seven races, all of which culminated in my first ride in a broom wagon on the second day at the Tour de Toona.
My legs were like cement. Spinning around the parking lot was taxing and all I could think about on the start line was going to sleep. In the first few miles I asked someone if my tire was going flat and prayed for the answer to be yes. Instead it was a definitive no. “Shit, it’s worse than I thought.” When we hit the first climb it felt like I was wearing a baby carrier with Chris Farley in it, game over. I couldn’t even get in the pain cave, I was in a van down by the river. I was so exhausted I actually fell asleep in the broom wagon.
Throughout this entire period, one thing has dominated my thoughts. It’s simply the fact that I don’t want to have any regrets about my cycling career. When I walk away from racing at this level, I want to be able to say I did everything possible to make it as a bike racer. When I graduated from college and made the decision to focus on racing, I thought about how long I would do it. I couldn’t come up with a specific timetable and say, “Ok, if I don’t make it in X number of years I’ll give up the ghost.” I said I’ll do it till I can walk away with no regrets having given it everything I had and been the best bike racer possible. Well I’m sure as sh!% not there yet!
As I begin my long overdue mid-season break, I find myself assessing the past couple weeks but looking more to the future. What do I need to do to be the best bike racer possible? What do I need to be doing so I can look back with no excuses and no regrets?