What happens when you open up a can of worms instead of whoop ass? You make important discoveries and make improvements for the better, that’s what. Rachel bares all about missing goals and the power of support systems.
If you’re a competitive cyclist or athlete, you might fall in the Type A, over-achiever, perfectionist category. I’d like to think I’m a bit more balanced than that, and perhaps after this past weekend, I can get back that perspective.
Here’s the background:
- Been training since November with the Gila in mind at minimum 12 hours per week and at most 22, with many of those hours accumulating on back-to-back 4 hour rides and several 3-5 day blocks of training.
- Have given up running, hiking, climbing, social life (somewhat) to make a concerted effort to see what I could actually do if I solely focused on the bike.
- Invested money into a coach and plan.
- Focused intently on my diet before, during, and after bike rides and any spare time is spent preparing food to fuel my workouts.
- Actually put cash towards regular massage in an attempt to avoid injury and aid in recovery. I’m getting older and can feel that recovery isn’t as easy as it used to be.
With all of the above plus some, the metamorphosis is noticeable. I’m stronger, faster, and smarter than years past. And even posted some good results early in the season, including my first P1/2 podium finishes in Frostbite TT, Haystack TT and TTT, and at Wheels of Thunder criterium. But this year, I’ve also struggled with looking at my own gains instead of focusing on the gains of others. I’m competitive–always have been–but not against myself. That’s why I didn’t care much for triathlon (that and swimming). I couldn’t necessarily stare my opponents in the face. And dammit if Strava didn’t suck me in and contribute to the proclivity to competition.
Fast forward to the State TT on Saturday. Knowing that I wasn’t going to podium with the likes of Olympians, National Champions, and Pan American games medalists starting behind me, the pressure was at least a bit more manageable. Warmed up with my teammate Ingrid, did my usual peeing routine, and lined up prepared to suffer for an hour. Fully expecting to get passed, just a little sooner than it happened, I crossed the line thinking I had done my best but missing my goal of breaking an hour by nearly 1 minute. That’s the second time this year I failed a significant goal (with not making the time cut to the Gila being the other). To make matters worse, my times were nowhere near the top 3. Not even close, even if I doped.
Instead of reflecting (sulking) on the race, I had to present the awards per my ACA board position for the next few hours. That actually was an awesome experience seeing the joy of other riders and allowed me to focus on anything but myself at that moment. But on my drive home, the pity party began. How could it be that I’ve trained my ass off and continue to fail as the season progressed? How could I do everything right and still miss my goal by a landslide? If I lack the ability to make myself suffer for an hour on the flats, how will I ever become a better road racer and hill climber?
I couldn’t shake those feelings from the day prior the next morning. I was supposed to do the Guanella Pass Hill Climb and help a teammate Janet, who was participating in her last race in Colorado before moving to Virginia. I didn’t want to do it after the State TT. I’m no climber, and after the day before, I felt like I couldn’t even TT anymore. My only saving grace was that they weren’t going to combine the categories so I felt a little less shameful for bailing. But while I was waiting for Megan who carpooled with me, I heard the worst-they combined the categories and had I done it, I could have helped Janet.
I cannot begin to describe how hard it was to NOT race this race. I showed up with the worst of intentions by not mentally being tough enough to do it after my performance at yesterday’s race. I assure you, getting dropped (which would have been eminent) feels a hell of a lot better than how I felt at that moment. Suck it up and HTFU is what the normal Rachel would have done. Teamwork, toughness, and selflessness are values that I hold very high on my list and for the team. I don’t like letting myself down, but can live with it. But letting someone else down is something that I cannot and will not tolerate.
And then hearing that my two very selfless teammates woke up at the crack of dawn to chalk up the roads for us and then cheer for us suffering up the climbs made me nearly burst into tears. What the Amanda’s did to support was the exact team dynamic we’ve worked so hard to achieve since this team’s inception. I want to be the Amandas. What awesome teammates, and I had to go and be a terrible one.
Per our usual email updates to the team, I wrote pretty much the paragraphs above to our team listserv. Not sure why, but maybe I was hoping to further punish myself, hoping for criticism or hoping for someone to rub my nose in my weakness. And then the exact opposite happened. My teammates started pouring in the responses to me. They didn’t trickle in; emails/texts/phone calls came in droves offering support, alcohol-therapy, reassurance, appreciation, and motivation. I haven’t cried in years, but I did that day. Their support today and every past race has meant the world to me. Every Naked/TriBella woman is an inspiring ambassador not only for this team, but for women’s cycling.
- Be a good ambassador and help mentor new women to the sport any chance I get.
- Enjoy an activity other than cycling one day per week (ok, mountain biking can count there) starting with getting lost in the woods and climbing mountains.
- Ride my bike for the pure enjoyment of it and if I don’t feel like riding, simply don’t.
- Stop comparing myself to others. I’m genetically NOT a freak in any way except that I can pick my nose with my tongue. Ingrid shared a great article with me comparing training to popcorn. “Not every athlete starts with the same number of kernels, and more heat—tempting as it is to apply–isn’t always better. At a certain point, we’re going to burn those kernels. And it’s hard to rescue burnt corn.”