Notes from the Gruppetto
Taking a close look at what holds you back and what keeps you going
Why race, really?
Ijust finished Phil Gaimon’s latest book, Draftanimals: Living the pro cycling dream( once in awhile ). Gaimon rose from collegiate amateur to U.S. domestic pro to Worldtour racer for Garmin-sharp. The book chronicles his first year with Garmin, his relegation to a domestic team, and his return to Garmin, which lasted only a year. From the outside, it seemed Gaimon had it all – riding for a top international squad, competing at the highest level of the sport and being paid to ride his bike. Yet he became depressed, disillusioned and frustrated with racing his bike for a living. When Garmin declined to renew his contract, he gave up racing for other pursuits.
As Gaimon learned, it takes mental motivation and commitment to race. Even as amateurs, we spend many hours training and eschew social and family time, all for the privilege of riding in a circle with a bunch of other shaven-legged people. Before races, we face stress. During, we face pressure and must take risks to win or compete. After, we question our performance. Could we have gone deeper? Should we have attacked? Did we play it too safe? And why in God’s name are we doing this, when we could be on a nice group ride with a coffee stop?
I have come to see that my performance in races has been governed by too much of a conservative mindset. In a few years, I’ve gone from being a rider who could barely finish races to one who can contend. During that time, I’ve realized, I wasn’t believing in my ability to go for it and win. The result was a lack of aggression and risk taking, and consequently subpar results, especially in the 2017 season.
Because I’ll be in the Worldtour next season – OK, that’s not accurate, although I have been upgraded to Ontario’s second tier of masters racing – and because I love the process of improving at racing, I have engaged Ted Huang, a performance coach, to help me overcome my mental blocks. After going to the Olympics for windsurfing, Huang has worked with Canadian Olympians and helps athletes with handling distractions, anxiety and motivation.
While we’ve just begun working together, he has already challenged me to think about what drives me to compete and what holds me back. What exactly am I after? What will I define as success (not just results)? How do I measure my performance on its own and how do I compare it with others? These questions have already got me thinking about my motivations. Huang tells me we’ll be incorporating breathing and almost meditation into the work we do. He likens it to building a house that will be able to withstand the storms that a season of racing brings.
You don’t need to hire Ted Huang to pursue a little introspection. If you race, however, maybe it’s worth taking the time this off-season to ask yourself why you do it. What drives you? What will success be? In cycling, the wins are few and far between and the season is long. I hope with this process that I’ll get more insight into how I can achieve my goals in the years ahead. Oh, and raise my arms at the finish line.
Now, I need to go meditate on my post-race celebration.
“He likens it to building a house that will be able to withstand the storms a season of racing brings.”