The following is a piece that I wrote last year for Cyclocross Magazine. I was in the midst of finishing my final year of University and, quite frankly, had very little time to do the whole bike racing thing in any way that resembled full-time. While I have begun to focus more on cyclocross this season, much the same still rings true: obsessing over cycling can lead to benefits, but it can also lead to a detrimental and fragile mental state. Go ahead, be tough on yourself right after the race, but then move on and get on with the rest of life, training, and racing. Enjoy!
Over this summer I spent plenty of time watching bike races. One in particular is stuck in my mind. I have no idea who won the stage, the general classification, or even what race it was, but something Tim Johnson said on the commentary stuck in my head. Tim was explaining how when a cyclist gets a wife, a family, a full-time job, or some other life commitment they often get faster.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t completely buy it. Last year I moved out to Boston for the cyclocross seasons, tried to live the cyclist life-style, and made significant improvements on my form. For me, this was cause enough to conclude that the more I make cycling the priority in my life, the better I am at it.
I have no doubt that the quantity of training I did in Boston, the things I learned from living with a seasoned pro like Adam Myerson, and the experience I gained from racing this big events have been invaluable to my cycling ability now. But I was missing something. I trained, I napped, I ate, and that was about it.
Cycling had become mentally enveloping. There was hardly a moment of the day that where I wasn’t stressing about how much I was walking, what I was eating, or the 28 minutes short my previous days workout had been. As much as I tried to think about non-cycling things, my life had become ‘bike’ and I figured that that was the only way to get fast.
For that reason, it was shocking when I raced Canadian Nationals this past weekend and was riding a level I had never been at before. How did I, a full-time student, a married man, a sales-rep for Verge Sport, and the editor for our school paper, manage to pilot my Trek Boone to third at the national championships and second at a UCI race? I have no idea. It is a question that has been baffling my mind ever since.
What did I do differently? Physically, almost nothing. If anything, I trained less, missed more days, and had a less consistent schedule. Mentally, however, almost everything changed. It was not as if I was trying to stress less about cycling, but was forced to because of the general businesses of my day to day life. Strangely enough, I started to enjoy training and racing more. Intervals became something I didn’t dread all day, but just something I did; a mental release from the real - not bike related - stresses of life.
Racing followed suit. I still wanted to win, wanted to be fast, but when I rolled by Revolution wheels and Clement’s up to the line, I knew it wasn’t going to be the end of the world if I had an off-day. It’s funny that it took some of my best races to realize this, but every minute of every day shouldn’t be all about the bike. This probably isn’t a secret to most of you. I’m sure it’s something that the average nine to five cyclist has realized for year, but for me, it was a revelation.
Don’t get me wrong, I had put in the time. Still spent hours training. Still push as hard as I could on my Crank Brothers every interval. But once I got home, cycling moved from the forefront of my mind to the back burner.
I still daydream about bikes. Spend copious amounts of time training, thinking, researching, and speculating about bikes, but they aren’t my whole life. Cycling is something that needs to be fun. Turns out hinging my personal identity on cycling ruins the fun and that taking a step back, and first enjoying riding a bike is how to get faster on that bike.