Sunday, December 14, 2014

What's On the Bathroom Mirror

Mid December.  In most parts of the country, cyclists are thinking about their next trainer session, spin class, or perhaps getting their fat bikes or cyclocross rigs out in the mud and snow.

In Arizona, it's time to go racing!  The 12 and 24 hour events are in full swing, and the MBAA series is ready to kickoff. Wrapped around all that you have registrations and lotteries opening for Leadville, The Whiskey and the rest of the Epic Rides events, Gravel Grinders a plenty, and a pile of unofficial official events like SingleSpeed Arizona.  Plus.... Iceman registration is right around the corner! This is a super-motivating time to be a mountain biker in the desert. 

Unless you're me, and you're feeling a little sluggish and dreaming of warm fires and snow covered landscapes of the Midwest, Northeast, and the Rocky Mountains. 

So it's time to look back and look ahead least I sit and drinks pints of Guinness and eat shepherds pie until I'm over the weight limit for the carbon bits on the bikes.

Looking back, this was a pretty ambitious year. I crossed from setting goals like "finish" to goals that had times in them. At the start of the year, these were the results i targeted:

McDowell 40 -- 3:30
Whiskey 50 -- 4:30
Leadville -- 10:00 (though you're always going for 9)
BarnBurner -- 8:30
Iceman -- 2:00

In the middle of the year, also added the Tahoe trail, and I wanted to go 4:30 for the 100K. 

I came into my race season lighter, stronger, and on a faster bike than last year...and yet...I made exactly ZERO of my goals. I came close at BarnBurner, and with the time bonus because of the ambulance delay, I did come in faster than 830.

3 races had weather issues (Whiskey, Barn Burner, and Iceman), 1 had a clothing and tire issues (Tahoe) and I was just an idiot in Leadville not prepping my bike properly and not eating during the first 1/2 of the race. 

Though the results not where I wanted them, looking back, I learned a little something about myself that I had come to doubt over the years.  I am tougher than I give myself credit for.
    • At the McDowell 40 I broke 2 ribs 7 miles from the end.  I could have bailed out about 4 miles from the end, but kept it together, even after I crashed for a second time on the same side.  3:48, 18 minutes off my goal
    • The Whiskey was some seriously nasty weather.  60mph+ wind, huge amounts of snow, rain...but I held it together, made sure I got numbers instead of DNF, 5:51.  
    • Tahoe Trail, I had 2 flats.  Still managed to beat the cut off.  Also wore some really bad socks.  They almost made me DNF.  Socks are important
    • Leadville is Leadville.  I came in faster than last year, nowhere near my goal, but still under 12.  I'll take the buckle.
    • Barn Burner I actually made my goal...and survived a downpour, thunder, and lightning that sent a lot of riders looking for their cars.
    • Then there was Iceman.  I wanted 2:00.  Settled for Sub-3.  

Worse than the results were the lack of motivation that started creeping in mid-way through Tahoe, Leadville, Barnburner, and Iceman.  In all of those races I hit a point where I was wondering what the heck I was doing out there in the crap weather, hundreds or thousands of miles from the family...I was never going to be on a podium...I had done all of these races previously...what the heck was I doing?  Playing at 10,000' is for professional dirtbags, people with huge sums of money....or me?  Is it for me? Am I a total poser?  I found myself at pivotal points during these events doubting why I was riding them at all.  Wanting to be home flipping pancakes or driving kids to swimming...or even possibly riding with them.  But there I was, on a racecourse, with a number strapped to the handlebars and many miles to go before the finish.  

This was a serious problem. 

Winning has never bee the motivation.  In my life I have one exactly 1 sports related "podium". That was senior year of high school at a tennis tournament.  Won the 3rd doubles flight at a little team tournament in northern MI. Even if I was motivated by winning, the reality is I won't be on a podium for several years. My path in life has been different than anyone who considers themselves truly competetive.  Maybe if I keep at it, and keep getting stronger there may be some podiums once I'm 55+. Ok, given the number of 55+ that beat me, it's probably more like 60+. 

Losing motivation in the middle of a race is a bad. I don't want this happening next year. The more I read, the more I realize this is an issue for many of my fellow MAMILs. I believe it's the next part of the test.  Need to keep it up. Keep it going. There are personal achievements out there, and there is no reason not to keep pursuing and achieving them. I may not stand on a podium at a bike race for 15 years, but if I keep moving, keep pushing, stay motivated -- it is possible. Life is a not a sprint, so time to keep at it.

Another pretty interesting and exciting thing happened this year.  I'm starting to have the virtual team come together in a very exciting way. A least one friend here in AZ is committed getting to Leadville in 2015.  I kind of pulled him along this year with advice, encouragement, a few spare parts, a little advice...and I think I have him hooked.   Another friend in Michigan is locking in 2016 for Leadville (he says 2017, but we'll get him there before then), there's my Iceman gang (both the long tenured and the new) that are starting to expand riding beyond northern Michigan.  I am pretty convinced I'll have one of them on the corner of 6th and Harrison one day.  Then there's all the folks at the local shops and clubs that make up my personal extended Leadville family.  I'll draw my inspiration from these folks, and return (hopefully) a little to them. These people provide challenges, and show me that there are many big challenges that can be overcome. Mental toughness and emotional strength matter a lot in endurance events.  Paraphrasing Rebecca Rusch, training gets you the first 4 hours of any event.  The rest is mental.   

Time to recommit. Time to commit to myself, to my family, to my friends.  They are all behind me and I am behind them.  What am I committing to?  Here we go:

McDowell 40ish -- 3:15
McDowell Relay Race -- have a blast.  go fast
Whiskey Off Road --  4:30
Lutsen 99er -- 6:30 (if it happens)
Leadville -- 9:00 (there, I said it)
Barn Burner -- 8:00
Iceman -- 2:00

That's another big year.  I have a plan for fitness, for eating, for sleeping, for life.  I'm a happier person when I'm training hard, and this will be a massively transitional year for me personally, so I'll be training hard.  I'll also need to remind myself what it means to turn myself inside out.  As in, really work to the point of failure...and maybe even fall over doing it.  Last time I did that was 10th grade.  Let's see if I can get it back.

Maybe I'll even learn to do group rides!

What's on my bathroom mirror?  Same thing as last year:

Bathroom Mirror


  1. I tell myself all the time when I'm in a race - I am only racing against ONE person here. ME.

    I want to be better than I have been before.

    That's not always measured in time, by the way, that is also often a test of my ability to pull out intestinal fortitude and grind out miles that hurt - to let my brain be stronger than my legs. To say, 'SHUT UP LEGS' and mean it.

    Bernard Hinault said often that as long as he breathed, he attacked.

    To me, cycling is more about the mental games I have to play with myself than the physical pain that may come with a hard climb or long sprint out of the saddle.

  2. I hit publish too soon. :-)

    To me, cycling is more about the mental games I have to play with myself than the physical pain that may come with a hard climb or long sprint out of the saddle.

    The victories I get are about me being able to push my body harder than I have last time I ran a specific route or race. It's about being able to know that my brain is stronger than my stupid legs, and no matter how hard I push myself, I probably won't die along the way.

  3. So Hans...what's on your bathroom mirror?

    (by the way, I've noticed that a lot of fast MAMILs are IT professionals...there's hope!)