One Cyclist’s Season: Goal Setting and Balance
I have had VERY little structure in my training the last couple of seasons. After upgrading to a Cat 2 in Cyclocross and then getting my head kicked in trying to race Elites, I may have lost some steam at a sub-conscious level. Heck, it may have been at a conscious level. Never underestimate your minds ability to protect you, or to at least try.
I think that a departure from structure was my minds way of making it ok to . . . uh, let’s just say underperform. I think that’s the politically correct way to phrase it. I did a lot of long rides, and was generally in decent shape, but my racing form was never quite there. That was never more evident than during the entire 2012 road season. Add to that the fact that Mrs. Skinny and I were trying to sell our house and then move, and it was pretty much a recipe for disaster.
Late in the summer while trail running I vividly remember telling my training partner and friend (Pointway Performance coach Tim O’Shea) that my ‘cross season would be fine. Despite the fact that I’d be moving the first couple of weeks of racing season, I’d get it dialed in and wouldn’t skip a beat. Tim promptly told me I was nuts in only the way Tim can cut to the chase. Fast forward to the first race of the season, and I was a mess. Not only was I co-promoting the event, but I was moving the next week and was arguably in the worst shape I’d been in since 2007.
At that point I very seriously contemplated bailing on the whole season. I love CX, but not when I’m gasping for air and way off the back. CX will always involve suffering, but much like “naked,” there’s good suffering and bad suffering. While riding with Tim we discussed two options. Option A was to just let it go. Give up a season and live to fight another year. Option B was to admit that it was less than ideal, but to dial in the specificity with a laser focus and work on some late season success. With a new “fixer upper” of a house and 92 acres of land to contend with, this needed to be a group decision and at the end of the day Mrs. Skinny suggested that I go with Option B. With that said, I seriously considered Option A.
Despite having endorsed and promoted Pointway Performance, I had not been a client. I’d seen my teammates and buddies get faster, but much like a drunk knows they should quit drinking but doesn’t, I simply hadn’t been ready to “get right.”
My first few workouts were terrible. There’s an art to suffering through a workout. There’s also an art to not blowing up after 7 minutes of a 20 minute interval. My next bunch of races were terrible as well. The only thing I had going for me was faith in a plan. Suffering while
training and getting your @$$ kicked in races isn’t really suffering when it’s a means to an end. The end in this case was CX Nationals.
Fast forward, and the structure was starting to take hold. Was it perfect? No. Were there distractions and setbacks. Yes. Was I at 100% of my potential? Not a chance, but we knew that going in. During the late season local races, the form started coming together along with a decent result or two. After that it was off to New Belgium, aka New England, aka the Motherland of CX in the US, to fill in the gap before Nats. After getting my head kicked in a few more times, it was time to train through the New Year and head to Nats. As an aside, training through the holidays is a great way to limit the damages typically inflicted by . . . well, the holidays.
Long story longer, when I got to Nats my starting position was in the second to last row. The USAC race predictor had me pegged for 61st place out of 68 racers. Only 60 people started, so I had a leg up on 61st from the get go. The course conditions were rough. Think mud and near freezing temperatures. When it was over, I was in 37th place. Far from being a Masters National Champion, but I was very happy with the result.
What’s the point of this blog? I have no idea. If I had to have a point, I guess it would be this:
1. Don’t be afraid of structure. It’s really the only way to race well.
2. If you need structure, get a hold of Tim at Pointway Performance. Having been on the receiving end of his coaching, I have a much greater appreciation for how he can help you to maximize your potential (even when life limits your potential . . . or especially when life limits your potential!)
3. Goals are good and go hand in hand with structure. When you’re experiencing the pain of structured workouts, or getting dropped in races, or saying no to another adult beverage or slice of pie during the holidays, GOAL’s are what draw the invisible line that keep you on track.
3b. Don’t get complacent. Goal’s should get you out of your comfort zone. Your sub-conscious may try to protect you, but it may be slowing you down.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading!