Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What makes me tick - Volume 3 - Athletics (Part A)

The next post in my series of shit-that-gives-me-massive-amounts-of-anxiety is athletics. It really doesn’t make sense. Then again, nothing I’ve written about my sources of anxiety make much sense (to me at least).

This isn’t going to be easy to explain, try to bear with me. I’m splitting the post up because I lose myself trying to read these essays, I'm sure  you have better focusing skills than me but just so I don't lose you...

Athletics are a huge part of my life and that’s why this is a major one on my list. 

When I was a runner I never really improved. Sure I ran a marathon and a dozen halfs but they certainly weren’t breaking any records or putting me near the top. In fact, I consistently came in the bottom third if not bottom quarter of every event I did. I trained a lot for those races. I just wanted to have a decent result that I could actually feel good about but I never got it. That was my own issues though because no matter how slow you are, you can always enter a race without embarrassment.

I quit running to focus everything on cycling and also because of an irritating and degrading osteoarthritis diagnosis in my clavicle. From what, we still don't know. Possibly an injury or years of rock climbing. I was bound and determined to race bikes though. It had become my new passion. 

This is an explanation of the realistic differences between a running race and a bike race according to ME. These are my opinions and experiences only so you might not agree. That's you're problem. This isn't your blog.

Anybody can run. The entrants into a running race are in the thousands! There might be hundreds of competitors in the same age category. This means that 99% of people running a race are NOT striving for the podium. Running races are more for personal achievement and personal records than they are about winning. There's no ability to draft or utilize other runners (unless you are an elite).

Bike racing is evil and degrading. In my category there could be as few as 3-5 ladies. That’s why they bunch 3-4 categories together in one field and we still often only make up 20 riders. The more riders the better because there's more opportunity to spread out the work load. If/when the field splits, you'd have a better chance of finding people to work with. The categories are different to boot. There is an age category but there's also a category based on experience that one can work their way up into. The nature of cycling is to conserve as much energy as possibly by way of drafting behind other riders which can gain you up to a 30% reduction in effort. That is, if you can keep up with even that. Basically, once you get spit out the back aka: the dreaded, “DROP”, your race is pretty much over. At that point there isn’t a chance in fucking hell you are going to catch the group and stay with them. It happens - yes -  but rarely. The group does not wait for you to catch up. The group does not even take notice of your divorce in fact that’s what they want. Weed out the weak ones.

This one race I did in Tennessee they packed up the start/finish line before I even got a chance to finish. I’m not even shitting you. This is fairly common practice. You don’t get a T-shirt and a goodie bag. You don’t get water, bananas, medals or even a cheer. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place are all that matters. PERIOD. It’s like paying to suffer and endure the embarrassment of everybody watching and knowing how bad you (me) suck. Should you choose to remove yourself? You have to announce to the commissaries. AND THE RULES... holy shit the rules.

with the field.

A different race but.. not with the field.

Never have I ever wanted to disappear so bad before than while racing my bike after I get dropped. A dropped rider is like an orphaned red-headed child. Nobody wants to look at them in the eyes directly. I have freckles and auburn hair, that puts me at risk :P. Some spectators will still clap but it’s more of a slow clap. Without saying anything everybody knows the truth. What’s worse is that everybody knows who I am. I can’t hide the recognizable kit and bike. At least with a running race everybody is pretty unrecognizable. I just want to slip into the shadows. Please don’t look at me, it only furthers my shite performance.

That being said… bike racing is NOT for the faint at heart. It requires immense amounts of training and suffering (compared to running IMHO) and still, you need to be as good as the rest of the riders. You can’t just be “mostly good”. I have learned that maybe bike racing does not suit my personality and issues with anxiety. It's not like I can't see this. I’ve been trying to get on top of the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it. Whenever I ran a race I never freaked out. Sure there were some race nerves but that’s just the atmosphere of lining up with thousands of people. I think it’s more the excitement than anything else. 

I don’t sleep the night before a bike race from pure anxiety and nerves. I ruin it for myself before it even starts. I spend days beforehand wanting to quit and right up until that air horn goes off I am contemplating a suicide mission. Nobody would notice if I just deek off at this corner will they?

I am not very good. I’ve been training pretty hard for a few years now and I still get dropped in every race. I see the tiniest bits of improvement but have yet to finish a race WITH the field. I probably get singled out by stink eye. Riders recognize me immediately as NOT A THREAT. There’s that Novofit chick, we don’t need to worry about her, she won’t be with us long. These thoughts don’t help me at all, I know.

So why do this?

To be continued…


  1. So why do this? Because it's better to suck at doing something than to succeed at not doing it. I fall into the latter category. You know how they say that, with certain things, once you learn it you never forget... "like riding a bike"? Bull. The last few times I got on a bike, I felt very unsteady - as if I hadn't done it for years (probably because I hadn't). On a downhill ride on Mount Haleakala in Hawaii ten years ago, I got summoned off the road and into the van. DOWNHILL! (Granted, if I missed a steep turn I'd tumble down the cliff to my death, so I was being careful. I was also on my honeymoon and life seemed perfect).

    I also played ice hockey for about six years... badly. In six years, I scored one goal and was probably responsible for the other team scoring one goal (or two) per game. But I enjoyed it; I loved the sport and the exercise. Though I would've loved to play well, it wasn't in me, or in the team, to do it, so we just played to play. Once you can accept the "not giving a shit" part of the outcome, the stress of the activity becomes a lot less.

    So do it because you enjoy it. Screw the race and ride on your own if you prefer... don't worry about the competitiveness of it.

  2. I agree completely with Scott. Riding bikes is awesome, regardless of whether you're racing... much less being on the podium. Of course it would be wonderful to be at the front at the end, but that's hard, yo.

    (BTW, this is why I like triathlon. It's more like running: You get to work as hard as you can, and you're mostly being competitive with yourself.)

    Racing is all hard work, and I know you work hard. Keep at it, and you'll get faster. It won't be any easier, but you'll be faster. :-)

    Oh, and I love the pictures of you. The solo picture is badass. It looks like you're racing in Europe. Just tell people that you're off the front.


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