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Rockwall Criterium Weekend 2012

April 16, 2012

There are two main ways that I judge my cycling: power data and results.  On one hand, it is incredibly satisfying to reach new levels of fitness and break personal records of average power over certain time intervals.  But as many have said, “You are only as good as your last race.” Results matter too.

Saturday’s race was a very windy four corner crit course around a business park.  I was a bit nervous because I don’t race with the guys from Dallas very often.  I didn’t know what to expect. As the race started, I kept up front, trying to find a draft as much as possible. Different teams were adamant on keeping the field in the gutter, but I was motivated to stick in with my wife and parents cheering me on.  About halfway through, I found myself in a small breakaway attempt with riders much better at this sort of thing than me.  Feeling good I took strong pulls, until I started to understand what a mistake this was.  My breakaways companions sensed my weakness and quickly dropped me.  I was left in no man’s land, struggling to find strength to hold on. As the peloton came past me in the crosswind, I tried to get on the back, but could not get up to speed quite fast enough, and before I could say “goodbye” I was dropped. I haven’t been dropped in a while, and I really hate the stares of spectators as you pedal 30 seconds off the back.  The officials said I could finish the race, so I hopped back in with the main group a lap down and finished the race in 26th place.  2nd to last.

I grew up playing tennis under the close tutelage of my father.  Tennis taught me a lot of great life lessons, but ultimately I felt that I lacked the skill to really be really great.  I walked away from many matches feeling that if only the game was more a test of willpower than skill, I would blow any opponent off the court.  (It is no surprise to me that I ultimately found a calling in cycling.)  After hard losses, my dad would console me by saying, “In the end, it doesn’t matter who won or lost, but whether you had fun.”  In my infinite teenage wisdom, I would sarcastically reply, “Oh Yeah, then why do we keep SCORE?”  My father was trying to help me to see the overlying theme that sport is meant to entertain us, to help us grow and be happy, while I was only seeing results.

In this race, I did have fun. I was working hard, tried to get in the break, and over cooked it a little too much.  Everyone gets dropped now and then, and I still finished the race and got some good riding in. As long as I had fun, that’s all…… NO DANG IT!!!! I WANT TO WIN!! Really, I was frustrated with my lack of results and as much as I tried to rationalize what benefit I got from the race, I still wanted a top result. I talked with Coach Wenger.  “It’s good that you learned something today Ken, but ultimately you need a result. Tomorrow, get a top 10. You can do that.”  Through the night, I internalized this advice  demand mandate, and determined that no matter how hard, how much it hurt, I would succeed.

Author leaning hard into a turn, photo by RockwallCyclingPhotos

Sunday was a harder race. With no wind, the breaks came continuously for the first 50 minutes, as fresh legs attacked off the front one or two at a time.  Bigger teams would send one person at a time up the road. I tried to follow some early moves, but noticed how tired I was getting. There were people that were just plain fitter than me, and I could not match them attack for attack.

I had to make a choice about how I would play this race.  Ultimately I decided I would race for the top 10, so if a move of 3-4 went, I would not chase. I sat about halfway back and hurt my legs.  When I thought I was at my limit, I would go 5 more seconds, then the pace would lighten and I would grin.  I was not on my best form, but mentally I was rock-solid.  I would not quit. With 3 laps to go and 3 off the front, I moved back up near the front and fought hard to keep position. Going into the last turn, I took the turn wrong, losing position, but sprinted with everything and took 4th in the sprint for 7th overall.  The result was much better than yesterday, thanks to smarter racing tactics and mental determination.  Really though, I’m more proud I was able to turn a terrible result into something positive. It was hard for me to overcome the thoughts of how much I suck at cycling so that I could step back from the situation and reason out why I got dropped and what I was going to do differently.  Of course, the coaching by Dave helped immensely.
Because of all this, I was able to come away with enough cash to cover entry fees.  I think that my dad and I were both right: it’s important to have fun, because if it ever becomes just about the results, you’re sure to burn out.  But good results rock.  They are important.   For now, I’ll throw my $60 winnings around like I’m a superstar as I get excited about the next race.
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2012 9:15 pm

    Way to go! I totally understand you I know it is not all about results but no matter how you rationalize you still want to win!

    • April 18, 2012 3:53 pm

      Such is life in competitive sports. But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  2. April 17, 2012 9:58 pm

    Great race report. As tough physically as cycling is, it is even more so a mental challenge. Keep up the great racing and writing!

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