“When you come to a fork in the road… Take it”

Now what?

I cranked up my training this year, made it through ToAD and the Windy 500, and then… nothing.

I have another Century to ride tomorrow, will probably do it on my track bike for fun, but I have no desire to finish out the WORS series or even do my first CX race.  The funny thing is, I don’t care.  And, I don’t care that I don’t care.   4,000 miles of riding/training and I’m ready to just ride my bike because I enjoy it.  What a revelation.

I think it really sank in on the 4th day of the Windy 500, our 4th day in a row of 120+ miles.  Thanks to my friend Mark calling me out, I finally realized that was still training.  This is a ride that I dreamed up, specifically to get out and ride for fun with friends, and after 3 days I was still dropping people.  Friends.  Who were just riding for the sake of riding.  Although they weren’t saying it out loud, I know they were thinking: “…what a dick!“.  Of course, I was oblivious to the whole thing – too concerned about the next Strava KOM, or how many more miles we could go without a rest stop.

It seems that September is always the time of year that I get tired of “training”.  Maybe it’s because I’m not training toward anything, I’m training away from stuff.  My biggest goal of 2012 was to be a “super-domestique” at ToAD.  Mission accomplished.  I moved up to singlespeed Comp at WORS, but I was so focused on ToAD that all I want to do this year is ride road bikes.  At first I was bummed, but then I realized… who cares?  Bikes are bikes.  Riding is riding.

In years past, I don’t think I ever “got it”.  I don’t think I ever made the connection.  There’s riding and there’s training, and you CAN have it both ways.  As I mentioned to another friend of mine, I was a late bloomer.  I’ve always ridden bikes, but I was never competitive until a couple of years ago.  So maybe I don’t have that history of being fast or racing to fall back on, I’m still building my resume.  Maybe that’s why I feel like I can’t let off the gas sometimes.  And maybe that’s why some people might think “…what a dick!”.

All I can say is: I’m sorry.  I get it now.  I get the “Crappy Bike Ride” and I get how Ronsta can crush it at WORS and then go out and do social rides in Waukesha with the same level of enjoyment.  I get how Russell can race track and commute to work on a 3 speed with a giant basket on the front and not see the difference.

I’m not the fastest guy out there, but I try really hard.  Maybe it’s time to be the slowest guy out there for a change.

I can crush you, but I won’t… yet.

I was born a loser – small, weak, not into sports… in fact I was the last kid on the block to learn to ride a bike.  My parents moved us to a different state when I was 7 and then divorced when I was 10.  Since I didn’t play sports and was relatively shy, moving to new towns didn’t do much to boost my self-confidence.

I tried to be competitive, even raced BMX when I was 10 and 11.  I won a few trophies when the class was so small that everyone got one, or the time I had to beat a 10-year-old girl to get into the main moto.  I just never knew how to win; I never had the drive to be better.  Don’t get me wrong, I WANTED to be better.  I idolized my little brother who was consumed with the desire to win.  He lettered in 3 sports in high school – was all-conference on offense and defense in football and was romanced by 2 universities to play football.  But I didn’t feel that same drive, I was OK with just participating and then making up excuses for why I wasn’t the best.  I blamed everything and everyone and when things got too tough, I quit.

As a 20-year-old, I raced a few mountain bike races.  It was a relatively new sport [people were wearing acid-washed jeans and Billy Ocean had one of the top-selling records (yes I said records)].  My goal in these races was to “not finish last”.  That meant that my goal was second to last, a goal I always managed to hit.  That’s like setting a goal of breathing at least once every hour.  I had fun, but my “…bike was never good enough…” for me to do better or this reason or that reason.

I carried that same attitude into every aspect of my adult life.  It was OK for people to walk all over me and it was OK if I wasn’t the best, as long as I tried (a little).  But at some point, that changed.  I started to find focus – in my work, in my life and in things that I enjoyed doing.  I found a competitive drive deep inside me that brought out a will to win.

At one point, I got away from cycling and worked at a health club for a couple of years.  My high school graduation weight of 148 eventually went to 205 as I found something tangible and rewarding in working out.  I eventually returned to riding, and my weight settled in at 180, but I was a different person.  I put together a mountain bike that was too small from spare, used and borrowed parts, and I started riding like I never had before.  I felt an inner drive every time I clipped in to go harder.  I found a serious job that would support my family and I became very good at it.  I started a company and grew it into a successful business.  But over time I had stopped riding again.  I had lost that harmony that I was just starting to tap into in my 20’s.  So, on a beautiful fall day 5 years ago, I dusted off my old mountain bike and took a ride.  I was rusty and slow, but I felt the passion come through stronger than ever.  From that point forward, I made time for myself every day and I let that inner drive fuel me instead of defeating me.  3 years ago, I signed up for a few WORS races.  I didn’t do very well, but each time I raced I learned and I worked on getting better.  I had no excuses, and that felt great.  I owned the losses 100% and that felt even better.

Fast forward to today – I love to toe the line at races.  My heart is beating like a lawnmower and I can’t sit still until the race gets underway.  I am racing to win and I’m disappointed if I don’t.  I expect to win now, yet I’ve never stepped onto the top step of any podium.  I have a lot of 2nd and 3rd place medals, which now represent “1st & 2nd loser” to me.  I still wrestle with the demons of mediocrity though, like Gaylord Focker with his wall of 8th place trophies.  I still want that recognition of a job done “well-enough”, but I know I won’t stop until I step on top of the podium.  I might be 80 when I do it, but I know deep down inside that it’s mine for the taking now.


Schlitz Park ToAD Criterium pre-ride report:

So today begins the Tour of America’s Dairyland with a Pros-only race in Shorewood.

Mere mortals like me will be working, picking up kids or mowing the lawn while some of the WORLD’S best and brightest professional cyclists scream around the streets of Milwaukee at warp speed.  I plan to do a few races (Masters 3/4), but I am way more comfortable on the WORS courses with fat tires and no derailleurs.

Having said that, should I get the chance to do Tuesday’s Schlitz Park Criterium I wanted to at least ride the course a few times to get a feel for it.

So, this morning I met some friends and did 17 relatively easy laps of the course.  It’s definitely a steep climb, I would imagine that if any breakaways go, they will happen halfway up 2nd street (at Vine).  The hill flattens as it crosses an intersection, then resumes at a much less steep pace for another block.  The 125-pounders will be able to accelerate like everyone else is going backwards at that point.  Probably a sweet spot to watch the action too.

Don’t get me wrong, going up that hill for 50 minutes will suck (in fact – going up once will suck), but now that I’ve ridden  the course I am more concerned about the left-hand turn coming down the other side.  It’s a pretty steep decline that cranks through an intersection with older pavement and 2 manhole covers that just happen to be in the middle of the perfect line.  I would anticipate riders over-cranking that turn or getting squeezed and ending up on the sidewalk – hopefully all in one piece.  I blasted down it a few times trying to find a smooth line and was surprised one time by a car that almost rolled the stop sign.  Thank God for Dura-Ace brakes and rims cleaned with Simple Green or I would have been a Toyota Camry hood ornament.

Either way – spectator or racer – I plan to at least make an appearance on Tuesday.  Good luck to all the racers, and to anyone else near Milwaukee on that day – come out and see some World Class action!

Jeff Littmann Memorial Ride – this Sunday

From: Doug Wambach @ Chiropractic Partners Cycling

“I can’t explain the sadness I feel for what has taken place in the last week.  I have gotten to know Jeff quite well this year and feel that I’m a better person for that.  Obviously this hits all of us hard as he was a very popular person with reason.  For me it was the long doc rides just chatting with him and 1 particular ride this year when I flatted near his shop, he fixed up the tire in seconds and told me to get out and ride, he refused to take my money.  For this reason it would be fitting that we do what any of us would want the other to do in this scenerio, ride our bikes.  Being together will also help in our pain.  I know many of us go to church on Sunday mornings, but lets make our peace this week out on the pavement, something Jeff would highly approve.  Let’s get together this Sunday at Attitudes in Pewaukee, leaving 9 AM,  and ride to Dousman (the same route he would on Sat mornings).  This summer Jeff routinely turned off on Waterville and headed back to the shop to open.  The route will be about 35 miles.   Lets ride in silence for the first 2 miles and pray for safe riding and for Kelly, Mike, Ashley and family.

Please join and spread the word to other riders/teams.”

Attitude Sports – Pewaukee: