It’s been a good winter. A long winter. Long days without the sun, cold early mornings hurting myself before many folks roll out of bed, and a early bedtime. Since October that’s been my regimen – 4 or 5 days out of the week. Our little baby Amelia has injected a bit of a much-need schedule into my life and it’s honestly been great. I only have 45 minutes or so each morning, but it’s my time and it wakes me, clears my head. I am fulfilled…and my time is filled. Might as well make the best of it.
And while 45 minutes isn’t my ideal – far too short! That’s what I’ve got and I have come to realize that it’s the small steps, consistently done do the trick just fine. So I build and build – keep building is what a good friend told me years ago.
But then it comes times to put what I’ve built – my fitness – to the test. The running season started in earnest last weekend – and I smashed my 5K personal record (PR) by almost a full minute. Something must be going right.
But maybe only with my fitness. My biggest problem is fear. Lots of nerves usually. Like the kind of nerves and fear that make my heart race and the adrenaline going until it sours in my legs. And the funny thing is – it doesn’t happen to me for running races – only for cycling. It’s a little like young love – and I’ve definitely sold my competitive soul to cycling. I eat it, I sleep it.
A couple of weeks ago I rode up to Salem, IN (~60 miles) and felt real good. Good – at least I’ve got a little fitness. Last weekend I did a ride with my TwinSpires.com team guys and felt fantastic, whereas this time last year I was hanging on for dear life. I was flying up some seriously steep grades and feeling great, and my teammates were right there with me. Finally – I’m near their level! And today, today was the first road race of the new year here in the Ohio Valley – the Long Run Park Circuit race.
Last year (see reports here and here) I got my ass handed to me in almost all of the Category 4/5 mixed races I entered (I’m a lesser Cat-5). I had the FEAR and I had it bad. Nerves would knock me out of most races. I was determined to not be that guy again… and I wasn’t. Whereas early in the week I was having my typically-vivid-daymares about the race, this morning I got up at my 6AM. I am calm. I am eating my oatmeal. I am tending to the baby. I drink my coffee and get to the race, an hour early. I get warm and keep warm. I lined up and the whistle blows. The clicking of pedals to shoes and we take a left to the downhill. I fight for position and in one move I am near the front. I move to the front of the pack of 50. On the short climb I am still there. On the way down, I stay on the wheel of the 4 or 5 guys at the very head of the race.
This is it. I have done it. I am capable of this.
I stick on the wheels of a couple of guys at the front of the race for a lap and a half. I am overjoyed. But I am also running at my redline. I can’t contain this pace and I am doing too much work. I blow up. I hit my threshold. I dial it back at just the wrong time and I get “shelled” out of the lead group of 15-20. But y’know, my goal has been reached. I have proved that my hard work is work-ing. I have shed that fear.
I group up with a handful of guys and we finish the race together. It was a good race, and I am proud of what I’ve done.
I was confident the whole day, and best of all – without fear. It was a good day.
Update: I placed 19th out of 44! Ecstatic!! I know I can do better – I blew up because I was trying hard to chase a lead group. Shoulda just looked in my rearview and hung with the peloton… anyway, as Bobke says – “That’s bike racin’ for ya”