Saturday, November 6, 2010

Trying to do too much...

Building bike is what I do and for the most part , it's really all I have time to do. I get to ride a bit , I also have Saturdays to do laundry and the weekly shopping but it is a solid five-day a week grind just trying to keep the work rolling, even if the list isn't all that long. Stuff just takes more time than one suspects , even if there's many years of experience in the books. It's all about expectations of oneself , usually a bit higher than reasonable.
This brings me to current times and what I'm hooked into every fall/winter....cycolcross. Ever since the late '70's Iv'e been a big fan of the sport and watched it grow dramatically here in northern California. About 1998 I got the idea to try racing myself when I got involved in sponsoring a local team. At first, my racing was just me, no team affiliation and no expectations other than to have some fun and make a few people laugh. I'm not a talented rider by any stretch and my years of dabbling in other forms of bicycle racing have resulted in a big two wins in 20 years. In 2004 I, and my helper Simon Vickers formed a cyclocross team around my bikes and things changed in a big way. I was present at races every weekend and I wore the same kit as the real racers, although my racing was still pretty much a joke-trying not to be last in the 45-A masters division.
After an injury kept me out of most of the 2007 season, I decided correctly that I never belonged in an A division race and demoted myself to the 45 + B catagory in 2008. This is when things got weird.....I started getting on the podium. About 2/3 of the way through the season I did something I haden't done in 20 years-I won a race. This made me the leader of a series and I nearly won the whole four-race Peak Season series but for a bad cold during the last race. This success was probably the worst thing that could have happened to me.....I started getting a little serious about racing.
In 2009 I trained like a madman and went into the season expecting to start where I left well and always being a threat for the podium , even if it was usually the lowest step. I was plagued by back problems and wound up just like I had started in 1998, giving a few folks laughs and finding myself behind most of the field every weekend. I decided to get physical therapy for my back, not so much for racing ( Although I can't lie that it wasn't a major factor in getting my reluctant ass to the doctor..) but for being able to get through a day of welding at the shop. My racing was making me a cripple.
After about five weeks of P.T. and doing core exercises it was time to go north to Oregon for the last big races of the season, the USGP in Portland and the nationals in Bend. Although my back was getting better , my racing was not and I had no expectations of any kind of results. I was going north to support the team and work in the pits. I was only racing because back in October I had paid the entry.
In Portland I had a pretty bad race on Saturday, crashing about 4-5 times and finishing pretty far back. Sunday I had 'good legs' as they say and was really surprising myself until with a lap and a half to go , the thick Portland mud destroyed my rear derailleur. I raced both days but had no real idea of how I would go at the nationals.
The next week I went to the nationals course and rode many practice laps in the frozen conditions , surveying every inch of the course. I didn't think I would have a good race but I at least wanted to have a safe one. When the day came for my heat , it was a clear sky but 13 degrees and very icy. I'm not used to the ice but I guess a lot of other folks didn't get the practice like me and were falling down all around me. I managed to get through the whole thing with only one really bad fall on my hip and a few stumbles. I finished without getting lapped by the winner, well beyond my expectations. I even had a race long battle with another builder, a much better racer than me, just not on that day. This was yet another thing that probably wasn't at it's root good for me.
Here it is, 2010 and I'm back racing again. After last year's back trouble, I have been doing 35 minutes of core work each morning. I'm more co-ordinated and I'm having a much less painful work day. I don't groan when I'm getting out of bed and I can actually bend down and pick up the morning paper for the first time in years without wincing in pain. There is a down side, though.....I'm racing better than ever and I won another race. The problem with this is that I could start believing that I have talent.......I cannot begin to do this as I have seen it in other folks and it is a sad sight. I may wear the same kit as the folks on the team and I do wear it with pride but I know full and well that I'm a bike builder, not an elite athlete . I do know some builders that have a legacy of great racing....Steve Garro, Scott Nicol, Rick Hunter......these guys were exceptional on a bike. Much as I love to ride and when I race, I definitely try my hardest , I know that there's a difference between me and the guys that win.
Racing is a test and not only is one's ability on trial , but one's sincerity as well. Someone who makes a sincere effort at preparation and on race day leaves it all on the course can be rewarded with a podium or even a win. Pretenders are lucky sometimes , but the cream always rises to the top. Builders can call themselves 'Master builders' but it is the folks that ride the bikes that make the ultimate assessment of one's ability to construct a truly fine machine. The saying of the team this year is " Don't start believing "........I feel it is when we start expecting too much or believing in our own legend we are heading for a bad fall. I may have had some good races this year and I might have a few more left in me but I'm not going to start believing..............


  1. Don't start believing.

    Yes, I'm singing it to myself.

  2. Competition can be addictive, especially when podium finishes are a distinct possibility.

    And like recreational drugs or gambling, once you're addicted, less than satisfactory results leave you jonesing for another chance at victory. Sometimes this can spiral out of control.

    There's nothing wrong with competing as long as you can keep your abilities in perspective and not beat yourself up when you don't finish on the top step. And remember what I said about advertising in this economy?-well, when you toe the line at races, no matter how well you ride, it lends credibility to your product because it shows you have passion for the sport that provides you with your livelihood. You can't put a dollar amount on that, but you can be sure a lot of potential customers are watching. Richard Sachs is a good example of this.