20 October 2008

Redefining The Word "Sucked", And Life Lessons

OK, so I'm going to say this then I am going to drop it like it's hot...
My performance at the Cross My Heart And Hope To Die Willoughby Cyclocross Spectacular S-U-C-K-E-D, SUCKED! There it is said, and done. OK, fine, I'll explain more deeply. As in, "I wasn't even going to post that I did the race, I was just going to try to pretend it never happened" bad. As in, "I was originally going to wear my Spin Bike Shop jersey and now I'm glad I didn't. Had I they likely would have been so mad that I wore the jersey and sucked so badly that they wouldn't allow me in the shop ever again" bad. As in, "the juniors group collectively kicked my ass" bad. As in, "a DNF for the thirty minute race, yeah thirty minutes, and I still sucked" bad. It was especially awful since I felt like I was doing well in the before race practicing. Mind you, I was not actually racing in the before race practice so of course it felt good. To add insult to injury, or maybe injury to insult, I wound up in an asthma attack. I sucked about four puffs off of my inhaler and I still couldn't pull out of it. Overall the race was a huge disappointment, or was it?

OK, so that out of the way I spent a good deal of time wanting to just freaking unleash on someone. You see, one of the intricacies of Don is this; I am extremely hard on myself a good majority of the time. My buddy Morgan has actually called me out on countess occasions as to just how self-deprecating, nay, self-loathing I am (I'm not sure but you might have picked that up in the first paragraph). I have come to the conclusion in recent years that he is, in fact, correct. The other side of the coin in this situation is that there are other things I hate; I hate being in the spotlight, I hate failure, and I hate starting something that doesn't get finished. With all of these things said, and with the realization of a DNF on the race I have sat and run through it (over, and over, and over, and over...) all day yesterday and all day today and have some to some realizations and conclusions that I want to share.

First, and in my mind maybe most importantly, is that I actually signed up for, and started the race. I DID punk out and drop the race, but I actually started it, and did so frightened out of my mind that I would punk out but did so anyway. Why do I think this is important? It helps my ego to think... OK, so I was kidding there. I think it's important because "old Don" just would not have done it. "Old Don" would have just thrown in the towel and said something like, "You know, there's so many other guys doing the race, I don't even stand a chance. I mean, why bother if I'm not going to place?" This time around I set what was, in my mind, a realistic goal. I said that my goal for the race would be to finish. Now, while that didn't happen, and BELIEVE me when I say the anger welling up in me was fairly intense, I did go through with it. That in itself was very different from my norm. Alright, enough of the "gooey psych wanna be" crap. I know my feelings and such, and don't think I need to elaborate further.

Second, getting away from the emotional, I had some serious mechanical issues. Mainly, the mechanics of my racing SUCKED! On this I could probably write a book, but I'll concentrate on a few of the obvious things. I started at the back, about four feet off the last guys back wheel, my shifting was sloppy as hell, my dismount/remount sucked, and lastly for now (maybe most importantly) I didn't pace myself. I felt like I needed to catch the guy in front of me, did I mention that I started WAY too far behind to begin with? I tried to kill it up the hill, rather than just making it up the hill which cause me to slip repeatedly running up the hill, OH! and the c class was only going half way up. I slipped on a few dismounts (didn't fall, but needed to catch my balance to run), caught my chamois on the seat two or three times on my remount, and bashed the jewels on one of the remounts. To say it was horribly sloppy would make it look like I did a great job.

Lastly, and this conclusion was actually something that echoed in my mind for a good portion of the day yesterday. Thom, over at Spin, made a great point. It was something to the effect of, you'll never ride as hard by yourself, or with friends, as you will in a race. When I thought about it he had a good point. I've never HAD to pace myself. I've never worried about shifting, climbing, racing. I've never done it, it was foreign to me. He also pointed out that I did start the race and, while he couldn't possibly know it, that was a big step in me gaining some self confidence. It was something I said I would do and followed through on regardless of the consequences. For me that was very uncomfortable, but much needed.

So, I guess the bottom line is this: for as much as I was disappointed in myself, for as much as I wanted to just die after the DNF, it wasn't a total loss. I actually came a long way yesterday. A long way from my old self, and now I know what's up. I need to work on my training. I need to work on my health. Finally, I need to keep up my self-confidence.

To all of the people, you know who you are, who either pushed me to do the race, or pissed me off as a motivational tool to do the race, thank you! It wound up being a learning experience for me. Painful for the ego, but positive to the soul no doubt.

Tomorrow, I promise to be more upbeat. I'll have pictures from the race, and I'll have results when they are available.


Groover said...

I'm glad you turned it around at the end of your post and got the plusses right. You gained experience, therefore: Mission accomplished.

From experience: Self-doubt will be the last guy you are going to drop. He will always be right on your heels ... :-)

Bluenoser said...

I'm glad you started the race phun. You know I watched Al at the provincials (who was provincial champ a couple of times) park it after the first lap giving his head a shake and saying just don't have the legs for that today, and then going about his business with a smile.

I've parked it a time or two and have sat up more than enough times on hard training rides and I don't feel I sucked at any of those times just that it wasn't there that day.

At least you entered and that was a whole lot more than anyone standing there did.


Ray Huang said...

Think of the things that you could do better and then dont think about it anymore. I am almost as self critical as you are,but I try and use what went wrong as a positive or more like a motivator as you have discovered.

Enter another one!!

Judi said...

I think everyone has the potential to make an ass out of themselves for the 1st time racing. Shit. I know I did. I was DFL in my 1st tri. When I got back, the only people left were the race director and my Mom. All the bikes were gone out of transition, except mine.

You did what some will never have the courage to do - you entered a race, and you gave it your best.

I hope you do feel positive about what has come from this. What Groover said, about experience. You shouldn't be so down on yourself Phun. You have come a long way.

If you really want to cx race, you need to find a practice to join up with and just do it. Or sit on the sidelines and ring a cowbell.

sprider said...

You can't win if you don't play, and once you start playing you realize it's not all about winning. Congrats on going for it, you've got nowhere to go but up. (OBTY, I was 14th out of 15 in my age group in my first cross race yesterday, and all the juniors beat me!)

Cycling Phun said...

Groover: Yeah, I was a bit melodramatic in the beginning. I am hard on myself, it's just part of me. I also like to think I am good at finding life's little lessons in things. I hoped people would see beyond my initial negativity to what I feel I've learned.

Bluenoser: I'm glad I started. I still wish the outcome was better, but next time. I'll be anxiously awaiting to hear about your cross series from today's post.

Ray: Exactly man! I also think the next time I do it, I need to have funding for a new toy (read: cross bike, I'm going to wind up divorced yet...) The MTB was like lifting lead. By the way, loved the new Dieringer!

Judi: I feel wicked positive about the lesson. It was a great experience overall, and I WILL be back. Maybe next year... (you get used to that saying in Cleveland.)

Sprider: I can't possibly do worse, right? I have to improve from here, and couldn't agree with you more about what you said. For me I know it's not about winning (yet?). Right now it's about what I need to do to get better. Then, we'll see.