ONE more LAP Cyclocross






Old post... but still a good read. Get ready for CX season... it is here.







ONE MORE LAP… (written in the middle of cyclocross season)

As the CX season unfolds I realize how quickly the cyclocross season comes and goes. Months of hard work and it is almost time to start thinking about racing on the road bike again. With only 4 weeks left in my cyclocross season I must remind myself to race every moment of every race before the season ends. It is so easy to back down… damn every race I want to quit at some point. I always think of what I heard Kent Bostick said to my friend John Hart… "Little buddy...Your pain is not special." I live by these words during the hardest part of the race. Sometimes as I am gasping for air & my legs hurt so bad I want to cut them off… I just remember that “my pain is not special.” As I spit on my top tube unable to see straight…. I remind myself again… “Your pain is not special”I hurt… damn do I hurt. Every day I train… I hurt.
This past year at masters nationals I was standing on the curb yelling at my wife with 1k to go in her time trial. She was 3 seconds back on my time sheet. I noticed she was crying when she rode by…these were not tears of sadness… dude these were tears of insane pain… pain I don’t know if I have ever felt. I go hard… damn sometimes I go so hard I can’t feel my hands or feet…but have I ever gone so hard I cried! Never…not yet… And I guess that is why she as a stars and stripes jersey and I don’t……….. So this year that is my new goal… To race so hard that I either pass out or cry… Pain and failure is 99% of this sport. So why every time I am suffering do I feel pain and usually fail? You would think I could ignore the pain and grab success by the nads….. It is at the moment when it hurts the MOST….I start to think “my pain is special”…. But I know it isn’t.. We all feel it… we all want to quit. Every minute of every interval I think about it for at least a few seconds… It is like beating your head against a concrete wall. Each time you slam your forehead into the wall it hurts, but the wall doesn’t move. The crazy thing is………. I have been repeating this process for 6 years now. So this must not be failure. I didn’t LOSE... I raced my brains out and went as hard as I could... each year I get faster…..the guy in front of me must be stronger … so should I just quit and not chase him? No way!!! There will always be someone faster… The struggle is what I love the most. I think to love any sport, and especially to survive racing you have to enjoy getting (beat down) as much as you enjoy “giving the beat down.” I just want to be out there suffering… it always feels so much better when I am making others suffer…but I learn more and grow more from being on the receiving end of a good ass beating. Motivation comes from failure for me. I think about the NIKE commercial….
”my better is better than your better”
…. If you haven’t seen it go to YouTube… and check it out. But really… is my BETTER …better than your BETTER…. Damn if that was 100% true I would win a ton of races. I don’t win very often so I think there must be some guys out there whose BETTER is BETTER than my better. So if Kent Bostick is correct that my pain isn’t special… and others are better… why do I bother to suffer and race? 99% of the time I know I can’t win. There are always several riders who are a bit stronger. In some cases a TON stronger. So why do I spend thousands of dollars racing and 100’s of hours suffering each year? That's a great question. With probably 100 different answers. I have my identity so wrapped around cycling what would I do if I stopped? I would probably have a terrible drug problem or gamble my life savings away. So suffering for hours on end might just be a bargain. So now that we have an idea of the consequences if I stop suffering daily and quit riding. The new question becomes: how can I suffer in some sort of bliss? This is a trick I am getting better at each year. I love to watch Chris Horner suffer… the guy is always smiling… Try it… for me it works…. For the first time I have started to invite the pain in… I don’t run from it like I used to… I don’t start to question why I hurt or think “I must be having a bad day.” What I have learned is when you go HARD… it hurts. It always will. I always hear riders talking about “bad legs” most of the time it makes me chuckle. Bad legs usually just mean the race was hard. If you ride with a powermeter I want you to try to ride around 600 watts for 40-45 seconds… that is the start of a cross race. DO it every day… If you ever have a day where that feels easy and your legs don’t burn…Go buy some lottery tickets. So when it hurts…. IT IS HARD!If you are in shape…and have trained a decent amount… and your legs hurt and burn…it is a pretty good sign you are going hard…not that you have bad legs, but that you have fit enough legs to suffer. Somewhere along the way we have come out with the idea that going hard…..should feel good. That is crazy talk.
If you feel good = You are not going very hard (at least not hard enough to get benefits from training or to be successful in a race)If you feel bad = you are probably pegged and on the rivet-this is actually a good thingBad legs = people in your race are “Better than your better”Good legs = you need to upgrade99.9% of the time I think the above is correct. We all have bad days every once in a while. But if ½ of your races are bad… then you are not being realistic. Your training either doesn’t match your goals…. Or your goals don’t match your pedigree.Now that we have solved a pretty serious math problem let’s get back to the fact that most of us are not very good. What do I mean? Most of us suck. Yes we suck. Hard to stomach but the sooner we all figure it out the more credit we can give to the riders who don’t suck…….. Now this isn’t very nice, but what I mean is that the guy who beat me last weekend sucks a little less than I suck. The guy who finished behind me isn’t better than my Better. Every week the goal is to suck a bit less and try to bring the best effort I can manage to the race. Each week I have new excuses as to why I am going to suck. I try to hide them under the bed in a shoe box, but I always let a few slip. Usually I talk about how hard I trained or didn’t train. That is my favorite. But the bottom line is when we walk up to the starting line we are very vulnerable. It is how you learn to deal with the insecurity of sucking that makes you a great warrior.
Dude…. win or lose if you bring a great fight you should be able to pat yourself on the back and be amped about how you raced. Most of the time we just beat ourselves into a pulp during the race, and then continue to do so for the following week. The key is to ask yourself several times during the race “can I go harder?” If the answer is yes… then get on the gas. If the answer is “no” then stay the course. So next time you are out racing at Defcon 1...try to smile… you should be amped that you are killing it. If you are crying then you know you are pegged. Pegged is pegged. The guy in 10th is just as pegged as the guy who won. Neither effort has more value. Like Kent said “your pain isn’t special.” So don’t run from it… invite it in…and next time you are racing and the race is finished... I challenge you to race one more lap… why not… it is what we do and who we are. Cross season will be over in a blink of an eye. Enjoy every painful minute of each lap…. Soon there will be no more laps to ride and no more cross races till next year. My guess is that all of us will spend the next 9 months getting ready to do it all over again!

3 comments:

Robert said...

I started racing cross last year and did 15 races, came in 20th in the state. You just freakin nailed it; why I race cross. Why I race road now to race cross. Why I spend money to race cross. Why I search the net to get tips to get better racing cross. Why cross has enveloped me as my primary hobby. Perfect article. I'll be smiling this weekend when I am dying to catch that guy ahead of me. His better will not be better than my better!!!

Dirk said...

Very Eloquent. Very inspirational. Not sure I'll be able to outwardly smile as my lungs are trying to claw their way from my chest but inwardly I'll be grinning from ear to ear.

Kristin Apotsos said...

I read this at the start of the 2012 cross season and am back reading it again before the 2013 season. Great article.