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Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it"

I'm allowed one reflective post per month.

In month and a bit, I turn 25. I generally tend to be very nostalgic around hallmark birthdays. My 21st birthday was the last one, when I realized I could legally do anything, anywhere in the world. 25 is a bit different. It marks the point where I am closer to 30 years than I am to 20 years. Kinda weird to think about. Especially when your dearest friends are suddenly getting married and considering kids, the topic of purchasing houses seems to come up much more frequently and university parties suddenly seem rowdy and reckless.

I'm sure as hell not in that mind set.

But it gets you thinking...

Now that I've had some time to settle down and reflect upon the last 12 months or so, I realize why I underachieved towards the end of the season. It seems that my lack of ambition with racing and training seemed to be indirectly stemming from bigger problems.

For the past two years out of University, I really didn't have any direction. I did not have aspirations to do grad studies. I didn't have an idea as to what sort of job I wanted... I didn't have the means to get out of debt... I didn't have the resources to travel for a year like I've always wanted.

So I figured the best thing to do was to do the same thing I always do... ride my bike, train and get fast. Realistically from the get go, I knew I would never be challenging Absalon for the UCI World Champs. My goals were to be an O-Cup overall contender.

So I trained. I invested more time than ever, more money than ever into the sport I loved. If you look at the first part of the season it was good. I improved, I hit personal bests in all regards.

However at the half way point something happened. The passion died. While initially I blamed it on over training, powertap data revealed I wasn't really doing more volume than before. Also, I was improving, so there was no reason for me to get discouraged.

I traced it down to a point in the summer where I realized that the race season would end, and I would suddenly be in the exact same place I was the autumn before, and the autumn before that. Hip deep in debt, in a stagnant job and debating whether my meager paycheque would go towards food, or a new drivetrain to replace my worn one. I began to wonder if cycling was a distraction from other problems.

It was this small epiphany that created a 'sub conscious paradigm shift' (if you will) that influenced how seriously I took my training and cycling. It suddenly seemed all futile. If I had the best season of my life and found myself top 5 in Ontario.... I would still be broke and postponing other elements of my life. Of course, at the time I didn't realize it. I kept on with my half assed training and racing full steam ahead until I reached the tipping point.


Had my first year in elite been when I was 19 or 20 years of age it could have been alot different. University provides a comfort blanket that allows you to focus solely on your personal interests. You know what you're doing for the next few years so you don't have to think too hard about it. It was far easier to have a clear focussed mind. At least thats what it was for me.

This was more or less my University life:

Sept-October: UCup race season
October to January: Drinking season/exams
February: Georgia for training and to shed the beer weight
March: Drinking season with interspersed training./ some school
April-Aug: Race season
Sept: repeat.

Not bad when you look back at it.

So I finished the season running on the fumes of the training mentality that had been indoctrinated into my mind for the past 4-5 seasons. Unlike the University seasons though, there was no comfortable landing pad ( another year of university) to recover on.

My mind was now fully off of cycling. The tipping point occurred. I had to figure out what the heck I was gonna do with myself the next year. Another year of scraping by just to chase Ontario's fastest was not worth it to me.

It's funny, even up until December, I was convinced that It was just too much volume, or over training that killed it for me. It's only now, that I realize what it was.

As you know, I now have a decent job. The stresses of loan/bill payments are no more, I eat well and at the end of the day I come home from work feeling like I actually did some thinking. (You dont realize how much you miss mental productivity until you are deprived of it)

The best thing yet, is that I have this renewed sense of passion to train. It requires an immense amount of willpower to hop on the trainer now than it did last year at this time, yet I have been extremely disciplined and have been more consistent than last year.

Lastly, for the first time in my post graduate life, I feel as if I have much more control over my 'destination' than ever before.

In January, I doubted my ability to race Pro-Elite this season. I was sure with time constraints and the lack of desire I wouldnt be able to hold my own.

I can now fully say that I am up to task and think this could be a very productive season.


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