Plan to improve patience

A couple months ago, my friend Jen lent me a book called “The new toughness training for sport.”  Mental training is a relatively new concept to me and the reading has provided a large amount of insights and a couple major revelations.  I subsequently got jelly on it from a sandwich and had to buy her a new copy, but it’s just given me more time with the book.

The first step in the book’s process is to evaluate yourself on a variety of mental aspects with respect to your sport.  One of the things I consistently have an issue with is being patient; I hate sitting in and, before this year, was consistently the first person to be jumping to an attacker’s wheel.  This meant that, despite my gains in strength and endurance, I was tiring my self out well in advance of the finish.  This year, I made sure to do more active thinking during races about what moves to follow and which ones to let go.

In order to improve patience, the book recommends that you write out a full page on each aspect you find to be a weakness in your game (I found five).  Since it will be difficult to implement five plans in a month with finals, nationals and starting a job, I figured I would start with one now and integrate the others (moodiness, emotional flexibility, acting skill and relaxation).

The plan:

Over the next month, I am to become a more patient person.  This will require a large amount of focus and positive reinforcement.  There are many times when I come to a situation and get frustrated with how slowly something is moving.  This applies frequently to racing when there is a lack of action.  When I come to one of those situations, I will take these steps:

  1. Stop, take 5 deep breaths
  2. Think about something that I am grateful for
  3. Remind myself that some things cannot go any faster and even if they can, sometimes I will be unable to affect their rate.
  4. Reflect and see if there is something productive I could be doing in the mean time

When there is no situtation at hand that is making me impatient, I will begin to visualize past race situations that I have been involved in and those that I hope to see in the future.  I am a frequent early race attacker and consistently waste energy bridging to moves that end up coming back anyway.  However, I have only seen early race breaks work twice and I have only gotten a good result from a breakaway once.  That breakaway was not until the last five minutes of the race.  So, I will begin to create situations in my mind where people are attacking and I either don’t follow or allow someone else to cover the gap.

The sands of time

It seems like the thing that people hate most in life these days is waiting.  Traffic and slow internet are probably the two things that make people’s blood boil the most since they are perceived as wasting time that could be spent doing more enjoyable things.  My favorite post from Cycling in the South Bay is about roasting your own coffee beans and this quote hit me pretty hard:

Our lives are filled with time-saving devices, but have you ever considered what it is we’re saving the time for? For most of us, it’s not to put the finishing touches on our Nobel-prize winning chemistry experiment, it’s not to rebuild the burned-off faces of Syrian children war victims, and it’s not to feed and clothe the homeless on Skid Row. Rather, it’s saving time to do absolutely nothing worthwhile, which would include Facegag, football, everything on TV and anything at the movie theater.

At the recommendation of my coach, I have been reading “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson while I’m waiting for my knee to heal this month.  Being patient with this injury has not been easy with the weather progressively moving towards “riding weather.”  Through this reading, I have come to better understand why patience is a virtue: time is on your side if you know how to use it.  This can be difficult to understand at first, but it makes so much sense once you get it.

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Success isn’t one gigantic, greek god-esque thing done once; It’s a small thing done everyday over a large period of time.   Exercising every day keeps you healthy in the long run just like writing every week makes you a better writer.  You only see the huge result at the end of years of dedication to doing the small things done well.  Marginal gains have become a thing because that little bit faster you’re able to race or train makes you a little faster overall and it keeps building.

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Time can also work against you if you let it, like I did.  By not working to relax my muscles after working out, they became incredibly tight over time.  As a result, the quad gradually pulled on my patella and caused patellar tendonitis.  This past month, I have worked to gradually improve my gluteus strength so that the rest of my legs are not compensating for their lack of strength.  Once again, doing the small things over time have come into play in completing this action.

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When I started racing, I looked up at the Category 3 racers as way above the plane where I existed.  After a lot of riding and hard work, I have come to achieve that level of competitiveness.  Now, as a Category 3, I look up at Category 1s and Pros with the same eyes.  The difference between 5 and 3 is much smaller than that between 3 and 1.  However, by doing the small things well and having a bit of patience, I know that I will make it there someday.

Spokes out.

Adventure is out there

I’m not really sure what tone I want to use in this post. Yesterday, I read an article in the Guardian by someone who is incredibly cool because they were riding their bike before it was a thing. Now he laments that cycling has been taken over by type A personalities who are too focused on the numbers and not on the experience or exploration.

The thing that I resent most about a lot of articles these days is that they assume the black and white in things. I love being a focused athlete: doing group rides and intervals, seeing improvement and competing. There are not many things that I enjoy more than going out, racing, pushing myself and leaving everything on the road. But one of those not many things are the long days out on the bike exploring the road with friends.

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Good friends = good humor (not the ice cream)

One of the things that he states is that the aspirations of the sport have changed from “get lost, to enjoy and to explore” to “do stages of the Tour, watch races, spend more money, own the best stuff, be the quickest.”  In my opinion, that’s bullshit.  You know why? Aspirations are are defined by the person. People have aspirations.  One of my aspirations is to win a national championship one day. Another is to visit all of the United States National Parks.

I probably have a different definition of “adventure” but that shouldn’t really matter if I love what I’m doing.  I would consider the rides I did on the Blue Ridge Parkway “adventures” just because I was able to do huge rides in a new place.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be lost and, in fact, it’s good that people have different ones.  Otherwise, there would be too many people trying to adventure in the same places (for people who consider the mall to be an adventure).

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Adventuring ‘n stuff

My definition of adventure isn’t necessarily going to a new place and getting lost. This article has actually triggered my thinking about what to do with my last winter break next January.  It’ll be based on my own version of adventure.  I’ll probably go somewhere I haven’t experienced much of before, ride like crazy and take in as much as the location has to offer.  And it will be an awesome time.

The London cycling scene is a complete unknown to me but it seems like the author is in with the wrong crowd.  He talks about unsmiling lycra-clad groups who are focused on overtaking riders and talking about the fastest equipment.  If you want to be with people who discuss experiences instead of gear, they’re out there.  Just like your next adventure.

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Trust me, it’s out there

Spokes out.

At least it’s raining outside

That’s what I told myself as I lay in bed this morning, sick as a dog with two screwed-up knees.  “At least,” I thought, “I’m not missing any prime riding weather.”  Then, as I started writing this post, the sun came out, the clouds cleared away and it turned into a beautiful Maryland afternoon.  Go figure.

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“Goddess of the jungle, you are a whore” – Sterling Archer

When it comes to cycling, I’m not what many people would call “patient.”  I hate sitting in and waiting for things to happen and I hate waiting for gaps to open in a pack.  I also hate waiting for my food when I’m hungry but that’s just a human thing.  All of these things came into play over this past weekend.

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Ordinarily, I wouldn’t travel to a race when I’m supposed to be sidelined by injury (check out last week’s post here) but with the conference meeting and pending road schedule for 2017, I knew I needed to go. The road race was definitely off the table considering what 65 miles and 7300 feet of climbing would do to my knee.  However, the Team Time Trial would represent a good chance to leverage points over any absent teams and the crit was only 60 minutes.  What could possibly go wrong?

The most painful thing about watching cycling is that you’re frequently so close to the action that you think you can reach out and affect the race.  I looked on as my race split from the climbs and crosswinds and my teammates Ana and Eric fell back from the front group, wishing that my knee would magically heal so I could jump in.  But that’s not how the human body works, you need to be patient.

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So patient, in fact, that you do the Team Time Trial just two hours later.  At the start of the weekend, UMD was in 5th in the D1 Nationals Omnium with the 4 teams around us (WVU, App State, NC State and VCU) all in spitting distance.  From my understanding of the rules, getting 3rd would guarantee us 4 entries in the road race and 2 in the crit, which would be a huge boost.  With only one of those teams (WVU) able to field a TTT squad, participating was important in order to prevent point losses.  I got on the trainer not really planning to race since we had three able bodies (including a B rider) to do at least finish and take points.  But, when they came in with low spirits from the road race, I knew it would help to hop in.

My knee felt weird but never painful during the 18 minute effort and we ended up tying for last with Navy anyway.  So much for taking points over WVU.  We got out of there like Cinderella as midnight approaches and went to prepare for the conference meeting, where issues of incredible importance to collegiate cycling are discussed.  I got two things out of that meeting:

  1.  Somehow, UMD now has the second largest number of racers on its license.  Go us.
  2. The date for next year’s Route One Rampage will be April 1, 2017 (can you say Route 495 Rampage?).  Let’s just say we’re gonna have fun next April fool’s day.

The universe then attempted to stop me from doing anything on Sunday (probably a good idea) by putting a half-inch of snow on the ground overnight.  Nice try, universe!  After getting our bikes covered in road spray (bucarke, as I’ve heard it called), we arrived at the beautiful CalFrac facility in Smithfield, PA.  I had told myself that I wouldn’t race but the two packs of chocolate donuts for breakfast from the Super-8 in Morgantown were telling me otherwise.  I felt fine warming up on the trainer and lined up to start.  The circuit has one of its two corners at the base of a short power climb so there are plenty of accelerations and gaps.

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At 30 minutes, I started feeling some odd pulls in my knees and dropped off the group to roll around and finish 22nd.  I only realized afterwards (Tuesday) that it was a horrible idea because it started hurting to walk that day.  With all the time freed up from not training, I started following a vlog this week that’s done by a South African amateur rider in California.  As he discussed the topic of racing while unhealthy (applies to sickness or injury in my opinion), he dropped this piece of wisdom: “never once have I regretted not racing.”

So, I really want to race this weekend at Navy since the courses suit me and it was one of my best weekends last year.  But, inevitably I’ll make myself more sick and more injured.  So, here’s hoping I’ll have the legs to compete in the 79 mile road race at Appalachian State next weekend and that my body will cough up all the West Virginia in its lungs.

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Morgantown irl

Spokes out.

The second best time is right now

This post comes at a time that is incredibly important to every athlete’s continual success: directly after being diagnosed with an injury.  On the Wednesday during my spring break, I did my longest ride since December, 120 miles from Burnsville, NC to Boone and back along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It was a beautiful, soul-searching adventure as I died a slow death in the last 5 miles and I wouldn’t undo it for the world.  However, the next day, I woke up to some pain on the inside of my left knee.  I didn’t know at the time that this was the result of built-up soreness and tension not just from the previous day but from every ride leading up to it.

There is a Chinese proverb which states that “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is right now.”  This applies to everything that a person can potentially take on and complete in their life.  You will always wish that you started to complete something earlier (like that coding assignment I’m putting off right now).  Two years ago, I began building a cycling team that is slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with.  It will take more time to grow but it’s pretty clear to me that the momentum has already been established.

When someone asks an online forum how they should train, there is the common refrain of “ride lots” and while this is important, it’s not the only thing that goes into becoming a powerful and healthy rider.  When you ride, your body works very hard developing certain muscles: your quads, hamstrings and to some degree your calves.  However, a couple important muscle groups that are not developed are your core, upper body stabilizers and the gluteus.

The gluteus muscles are very important because if they are not strong enough, your body compensates for their weakness with other muscle groups like the quads.  That is how you can end up like me, where the quads are so tight that they pull on the knee cap and hence the patellar tendon, causing patellar tendonitis.

Today (yesterday at time of publishing), I had my first session of physical therapy in which my therapist demonstrated to me how weak my gluteus and core are.  In addition, because of the tightness in my quads, my flexibility in several axes was limited, causing further problems.  While going through the assessment, I realized how many of the motions mimicked strength exercises given to me by my coach, Menachem Brodie.  In the weeks leading up to our home race, those sort of went by the wayside and were completed once or twice a week, which was not enough to compensate for all the strength I gained in my quads and hamstrings.

So, here I am, wishing that I had planted my tree of building gluteus strength a couple months ago as opposed to being way behind now.  However, as the proverb says “the second best time is now.”  So, I am going to get off my computer in order to plant my metaphorical tree by doing my strength exercises, foam rolling and stretching.  Hopefully this post will serve as a reminder that there is so much more to cycling than just “ride lots.”  The human body is a complex, resilient machine that will take you very far if you treat is right but it will bite you if you don’t treat it properly.

Spokes out.