So along with loving cycling, I love the band Modest Mouse. So in celebration of them putting out a new song (their first in years), I thought I would take a quote from their newest amazingness, and kind of roll with it.
Pack up again, and to the next place
Where we made the same mistakes
Put it up, and then chop it down
But this one’s done so where to now?
This speaks to the feeling of futility that fills me at the end of every race. I work hard training, alter my diet, read up on tips to better how I ride, and then game day arrives. For 40 minutes I give it my all, and as I stand at the finish catching my breath, the feeling of elation and adrenaline drops into a bit of despair. “I could have ridden stronger, I should have pushed more, I missed another chance to be better” runs through my head as I walk to the car to don layers as the cold air begins to spread a chill through my body. As my core temp drops, so do my spirits. “Next time,” I tell myself, “next time.” But when will that time arrive? Will there ever be a race where I ride in a way that fills me with a lasting sense of accomplishment? Or will I always be looking for the next race, the next chance to prove myself? As I grow in this sport, will I reach a level where I can be content in my performance?
I have been trying recently to focus inward, more on my personal performance rather than the race itself. Not how many laps I made, but how I maneuvered around a tough obstacle, applauding myself when I (rarely) remount cleanly. It is starting to work, bit by bit. It has helped to receive the encouragement I have gotten from fellow racers. My last race of the season was by far the hardest, with a good portion of it needing technical MTB style skills, paired with loose sandy terrain that attempted to pull me over at numerous turns. I was definitely left in the dust by the other racers, But I walked away from that ride with at least a small sense of satisfaction. I had ridden hard, my lungs were burning, I still had the little voice saying I could have ridden harder, but I had pushed myself in a way I hadn’t before. On my 3rd lap, the announcer for the series Elisa, called me out as I rode through the start/finish area, commenting on how much they had watched my skills improve throughout the series. With her words ringing in my ears, I pushed through and pedaled as hard as my legs could up the loose gravel incline. I knew I was in last place (although by default had already won the race), but I still rode as if someone was on my wheel. I began to shed myself of my “same mistakes” and finished the race with pride that I had ridden every lap with (moderate) skill and that maybe, just maybe, I did ride as hard as I could, that maybe I was learning to give it my all, even when my all isn’t required. And the biggest victory that day was the one I fought against myself for 40 minutes on the course.
I love to race, no matter where I end up in the standings. I am daily trying to stop making the same cycling mistakes, to grow with each race, with each new attempt to be a little better. Whether it is dismounts, cadence, shifting, or just general technique, I am making a conscious effort to learn while moving forward. Which has brought me to the thought, “Are we ever really moving forward if we are just making the same mistakes in a new place?” My two cents for this snow filled Monday. (Oh, and check out the new Modest Mouse song, Lampshades on Fire. It is definitely going to be a part of my training playlist.)