Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getting it together

Originally last weekend was supposed to be a catch-up of sorts. Catch up on housework. Catch up on emails. Catch up on blogs. Catch up on my own writing. Catch up on revising the year’s goals (yet again).

Somehow, however, all that catch-up went out the window. I DID manage to pare down the email inbox and get a lot of responses in. I was also able to meet with my friend and cycling coach Tim to discuss what the rest of the year might look like. It was *so* helpful. He said “so, Sarah. What ARE your goals for the rest of the year?”

Lately I’ve been avoiding that question. After my first few races a lot of confusion ensued. Racing is stressful. Difficult. Challenging. It also has a way of either making you feel like you’re on top of the world or like complete crap. How badly did I want to do this?

In complete honesty – racing bikes is harder than any triathlon I’ve ever done. Well, sort of. It is important to remember that triathlons – especially the longer ones – have definitely had their moments. If I go to the memory bank and look in the dark corner underneath all of the other, happier, prettier moments, I can start to remember some of the not-so-happy times. Ones where I felt like quitting. Where my body just couldn’t go. When I had tears coming down my face because of cramping. When five more miles of running seemed like a near-impossible feat and it was all I could do just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Yeah, it’s been pretty tough at times.

But with bike racing, there’s something else that can hurt besides the body that never seemed to phase me in triathlon. It’s called my ego.

(My race report from my first crit is still in editing phases. I’m working on not just unleashing the first draft of race reports onto my readers but rather, revising and making each one more of a writing project.)

Part of the reason I did not finish was not due to my screaming quad pain or my heart rate blowing up beyond my wildest dreams, but because my ego got the better of me. It’s completely embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. More on that in the race report.

Bike racing has made me push and suffer harder than I ever did in triathlon (at least on the bike, anyway). It’s made me pick up the (very fast) pace before I was ready to. It’s made me dig, dig, DIG down HARD and ignore the pain and pure shock my muscles felt and instead try to find a little more to give.

Yet, the road races were kind of fun. Fun in that “wow this is SO hard but maybe if I just work a little harder and train a little better and seriously work on selling my bike and buying a better one and if I just commit a little more and focus a little better…maybe I will get better” sort of way.

With the crit, however, it was all just hard. My body hurt and my ego was bruised. It wasn’t really that fun. In fact, after the race, I was downright miserable. And then the “Uncle Rico Effect” began to set in.

Remember Uncle Rico from “Napoleon Dynamite?”

Ahhh, visions of past grandeur. Or should we say, delusions of past grandeur?

As the going gets tough, my mind begins to wander this path over the last four years. “You know…I was pretty good. For training at the level I was training (in other words, working full-time and putting in 12-15 hrs/week), I was pretty strong and competitive. I took THIRD OVERALL AT THE UKIAH TRI (reality check: uh, small local race, hello!)! Damn straight! I came close to a sub 5 half-ironman. HELL YEAH!”

This kind of thinking makes me laugh at myself. Somehow my mind begins to delude itself into thinking that I did it all effortlessly and in fact, I was pretty competitive and maybe, in fact, I should just go back to tri because I’m better at it. Yeah. Oh and that even though I’m kind of sucking at bike racing, you people should all know what an amazing triathlete I was, and that, you know, if I actually decide to really train for bike racing I will be amazing at that, too.


WTF? Go away, Uncle Rico Effect!

Let’s get it straight. Triathlon helped me to see that:

I am a good athlete (especially when I train well).
That I can complete goals.
That I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to.
That no matter how much I run, I will never enjoy it the way I do swimming and cycling.
That I am not as Type A as I thought I was.

…and a few other things. But those are some of the big take-away things. What I’ve realized is that I need to be more confident in myself and my abilities and in the end, nobody gives a damn how ‘good’ you really are unless you’re going pro or whatnot.

What matters the most is that you’re having fun and you enjoy the challenge you’ve set out for yourself. I chose to race bikes this year because I wanted a NEW challenge for myself. Something different. Something centered around what I love most.

Now, just because I’ve realized this is quite possibly the hardest athletic endeavor I’ve ever undertaken, I want to backpedal? No. Not an option.

It’s time to stop being a baby and suck it up and throw the ego out the window. Triathlon came somewhat easily to me and now I’m faced with doing something I know nothing about and it’s time to put on the big girl pants and just get out there and race. Again and again. With experience comes knowledge and also more know-how when it comes to surging and digging REALLY deep!

So, that’s that. I’m getting it together. The race schedule is just about set. I’ll post soon – a mix of crits and road races for the rest of the year. Instead of running back to triathlon and being comfortable, I’m going to stick with the challenge and go for it.


Kelly said...

ive listened to so many people go on about how awesome bike racing is and ive just constantly wanted to point out ITS HARD! of course, you're having a hard time. it's TOTALLY different and theres no where to hide. Triathlon is hard, but you still run your race. if you want to go slower, go slower. cycling is hard, but you cant just go at your own pace because you have to stay in it. its incredibly difficult and i hated it (but thats another story), but if you enjoy it and its hard then its worth making measureable goals and training and working towards them. cycling (unlike triathlon) forces you to admit sometimes that youre nto the best one out, hello, those people are CRAZY FAST..but it can still be a good experience

Maggs said...

Hey, you're alive in blogland!

I keep saying I'm gonna spend a year doing bike racing. But that won't happen for a while. Next year I am racing the crits though.

Sarah said...

word. I couldn't have said it better (or shorter - I was searching for a way to say all of that more concisely but we know I'm not good at being brief).

Sarah said...

I know Maggs, I've been MIA!! But I'm making a promise to myself to write at least 20 min every day.

You should totally race. You'd be amazing at it.

Soda said...

I am totally there with ya yet I am still hanging on to triathlon a bit more for this year before I completely switch over. I agree it is a total ego shaker.

rocketpants said...

Ahhh the ego bruise...can be the hardest to get over at times. You have to find the joy in the racing and then it won't matter as much if you get dropped or hang with the group. You know how much I LOVE riding the velodrome but the truth of the matter is that i plain suck at it compared to other racers out in bottom 1/4 of the field. I find the love in it with the incremental improvements, even if it is just a: I hung with that guy for half a lap longer then I normally do.

Maybe give crits one more try and if it's really not your thing, keep your schedule to just bike races. You still sound like you are having a blast!

PunkRockRunner said...

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah...Do you mean to tell us that you didn't win or place in the very first road race and that the Crit is hard?

I'm lucky to be able to ride with some very good cyclist (cat 2 & 3) and even they struggle with the crit after competing in them for years. The crit is very demanding on both a physical and mental level and few even try the damn things.

As an athlete you put your ego out there with your body EVERY TIME. No exceptions, it's part of the deal. Do you think I was "happy" with a 14-minute T1 at Oceanside? Do you think my ego was cool with the 6:40 finish? Nope! But I do know that I'll do everything possible to break 6-hours at Vineman and, if I do, my Ego will remind me that YOU came close to a sub 5-hour Vineman (he-he) and I have to train harder.

YOU ARE AN AMAZING ATHLETE and YOU WILL SUCCEED. It may not be to the level that you want TODAY but you will get there and I suspect that if/when you put together a plan that you'll get there sooner than later.

To get to the level of fitness that you have with all your commitments is nothing short of spectacular! And, you're worried about your *ego* - PALEESE :-)

This post actually reminds me of how much of an inspiration you've been to me and that you too are *gasp* human. I think I will print it, bring it with me to Death Ride, and re-read it (with my ego) when I totally bonk at mile 100.


Shan said...

This is a really wonderful post Sarah. It's so easy to give up when the going gets tough, but I know that your commitment to bike racing, hard work, and GREAT attitude will bring you FAR!!! I love your honesty - ya gotta take the good with the bad - that's an AUTHENTIC life! And your ability to do this is very inspirational - yeah!!!!

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow! :-D

Kathleen @ ForgingAhead said...

Inspiring me every time you write...missed ya girl.

Rainmaker said...

Every time you write about these 'bike races' you speak of, you make me want to more and more do one - just to try one out. I completely agree with your analysis of the differences in bewteen triathlon (going long, but by yourself) and what I assume a crit would be like (just hold on for dear life). I think in some ways you could probably combine those two enjoyable sports if only they had amateur level draft-legal triathlon - where the basic point is to hold on for dear life.

Anyway...good to see ya postin.