This time last year, I wasn’t stoked on racing. As a newly minted Cat 3, I was coming in mid-pack and feeling demoralized. When you go from podium’ing every race to unremarkable finishes, fragile egos shatter. I didn’t blame anyone but myself for my poor performance. What was I doing wrong?
One of my teammates convinced me to try PHP. It’s this unofficial ride that sees, on average, 40 racers at 6:00 AM. The first time I showed up I thought I had the wrong meeting spot because no one was there. And at precisely 6:00 AM, the group appeared and we took off.
I went to this hammerfest weekly. Sure, I was dropped faster than you could say, “wait for me!” but I kept going. I’d hang on a little bit longer and a little bit longer. Next thing I knew, I won the State Championship Road Race.
Angela, my personal guru, brought up last year: how I was second-guessing myself and I put in a ton of work and now I’m reaping the benefit.
Perspective is everything.
When we’re in the thick of it, not seeing the forest through the trees, our perspective is drastically different. It’s hard, if not damn near impossible, to see the growth we’re experiencing as it’s happening. Just like we didn’t really notice ourselves getting taller, buying bigger shoes — just one day, we were a big kid. Then we were an adult. How did I grow from a three year old to who I am right now?
We train our asses off morning, noon, and night. We watch what we eat. We get a good night’s rest. We treat our bodies like a well-oiled machine in hopes it’ll perform the way we want it to.
Looking back at this time last year, I realize that we need to have shitty experiences. We need to get our asses handed to us like like a drippy waffle plate. We need to fail. We need to second-guess ourselves. We need to dare greatly and come up short again and again and again. Shoutout to Teddy.
I quote Roosevelt probably too much but it stands true:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I lined up with the Cat 1’s and 2’s at the Modern Market Crit. This season’s goal is to Cat up to a 2, but as a 3, I already race at a Cat 2 level since we’re always grouped with them. Staying with the Cat 1’s and 2’s is another story because they are strong as hell.
During this race, I was able to stick with them. I know I have my training and Adam Zimmerman to thank for getting me to the point where I don’t automatically fall off the pack.
I also even tried surging off the front just to see what would happen because like my friend, Anna, has said to me: race to fail. It didn’t stick and hey, whatever.
It came down to a sprint finish, my weakness. I lost to Cassidy by a tire length.
How to shift your perspective so you don’t have a shitty attitude as I did:
Ask yourself, “Does this thought help or hinder me?”
I’m guilty of ruminating on thoughts that hurt me more than help. It’s a constant battle in my brain to let go of negative, unhelpful thoughts and replace them with constructive thoughts. Instead of thinking, “I suck. I lost by a tire length. I’m clearly not cut out for racing. I’ll never win a race because I’m terrible at sprint finishes,” I try to reframe it:
“Okay, I came in 2nd place and lost by a tire length. My legs were tired from the previous effort during the race. What can I do to improve my sprint finishes? What can I do in the next race to increase my chances of winning?”
Remember: What you think about, you bring about.
It’s likely I had meager results last year because I didn’t think I could do any better. Once I had a string of lackluster results, I assumed that I’d continue to disappoint myself. Rolling up to the start line and thinking to yourself, “Well, I’ll probably come in the middle of the pack again” doesn’t set you up for success.
It takes just as much energy to think about something more positive as it does to think something negative. I’m not some positive-loving, law-of-attraction guru (ask anyone who knows me), but it feels better focusing on the possibilities than the problems. I could have had an exceptional race season last year if I focused on the possibilities of racing than the problems I was facing.
Memento Mori — Remember you are going to die.
A little morbid, sure, but it’s true. One day you will cease to exist. When we contemplate our death and life, the trivial, the banal, and the vanity of humanity doesn’t seem as important. When I’m lying on my deathbed, I’m not going to care about the races I came in 9th. I’m not going to care that I had extra fat on my legs which made it harder to push myself up Hill Climbs. In the grand scheme of Life, most of our worries are trite. They don’t really matter. I watched “The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man,” after a colleague of mine recommended it. There was a part in it with Bill yelling, “It just doesn’t matter!” over and over again.
It hit me: a lot of the stupid shit I brood over just doesn’t matter. I put myself through misery when I’ll likely forget about it one year from now. When I realize I’m doing that, sitting there, playing tennis with crippling thoughts, I stop myself and say (sometimes out loud): it just doesn’t matter.
Give it a try the next time you’re fixating on something. Does this thing really matter?
I use the 5-minute journal app to practice gratitude. Like Cinderella sang, “you don’t know what you got, ’til it’s gone.” As mad as I got at my body last year for not performing to the unrealistic expectation I set for it, I know I’d sure as hell be depressed if I lost it. If I lost any part of it, I’d be devastated. Remembering that I am grateful for the body I have and how it responds to what I make it do day in and day out, resets my expectations of it.
If you don’t want to use an app, just start making a list of three things you’re grateful for every day. Don’t use the same ones over and over again. It forces you to really dive deep and practice gratitude.
We will always have challenges in life. If you’re not experiencing defeat personally or professionally, then you’re not “daring greatly.” If you’re not failing, you’re not learning. Using the power of your perspective will help you through the tough times, the challenging times, and the best times.