G’day mates, it has been a busy past few months traversing continents, road bike miles, MTB miles, moments of joy also episodes of intense anger and disappointment. Such is life on the road as an athlete. You take the highs with the lows.
In April I lined up for my first ever race in the Middle East- The Tour of Azerbaijan. Being here felt like a real adventure and honour. This was a culture/ society so far removed from the lifestyle I have become accustomed to in the prosperous West. The race traversed probably the most extreme elements I have ever experienced on a road bike. When the cross winds on stage 1 reached over 70km/h, I was unable to complete the tour. This wreaked havoc on my motivation and belief in myself as an athlete, coupled with a month long period without my road bike which had gone missing on the flight to and from there, a turnaround in motivation in self-efficacy seemed like a monumental task. Having raced for 15years and having had my ass kicked in races more often than not, the desire to continue to race sometimes runs on a razor thin wire.
I returned to Michigan and due to my training bike still in transit, I embarked on some long training of the off road variety. I even had the oppurtunity to line up at a round of the Michigan MTB race series. To return to racing on the dirt at a level I am competitive and on a course I enjoyed, I found competition and riding to be fun and helped re-ignite the spark in my belly I need to do my job properly. Probably the biggest impact however was having my amazing girlfriend at the races, her smile and encouragement each lap and a furious desire to impress her leads to an extra burner in the legs and heart. Subsequently, I did well, got some podiums and had fun on the bike again in Michigan.
My next oppurtunity to prove my worth and ability as a road racer came later in June at the Tour de Korea, one of the hardest, longest UCI races in Asia. Many thought and had even told me I was unlikely to finish this race. After crashing hard on day 1 of the 8 day tour, I began to let their doubts infect my own assessment of my ability. However, sometimes doubt, put downs and insults can become the greatest motivators. I struggled and struggled battered, bruised, injured and ill for 8 days and 1400km at over 40km/h and made it to the finish of the Tour de Korea. I did not enjoy the race, I was on struggle street every day, again I finished dead last. But many did not even make the time cut, so my own personal battle became to complete this race. I did it. I suffered and suffered, thinking at the finish, it will feel amazing. However, as with most races I think crossing the finish line is somewhat of an anti climax. We expect to be a changed person as a result of completing something challenging and difficult. But as I have come to realise over 15 years of racing, it is the same person that crosses the finish line that lines up on the start line regardless of finishing position. There is no large package of happiness and accomplishment waiting for us at the finish line, we often get so caught up in expecting and anticipating this we lose sight of where we are and what we are doing. I often like to use the experiences of cycle racing as a metaphor for the vagaries of life. This one, has become most poignant to me. The pain, the suffering and the endurance required is often also the joy, the lesson and the happiness. We rarely feel the happiness in the moments of turmoil, but they emerge sometimes years in the aftermath as we recall the stories like ‘when i was suffering like a dog, hanging off the bike of this professional race in Korea trying to hang onto the time cut limit’. I am, in retrospect grateful I had the opportunity to be there and have the seeds of growth planted in the garden of pain.
Back to Michigan and the beautiful summertime (and face of my love) is always a happy moment. The place I live here, after a long tough winter has transformed into a magical paradise by the lake. Riding and training here is enjoyable as I continue to discover the thousands of roads that lead through the countryside, up and down the hills and around the lakes. Riding here is a real treasure and makes me smile every morning I roll out the door for another 5 hours of pedal pushing. The year and the racing season is now in full swing, having just returned from 10days racing in Canada and since travelled South to the Rocky mountains in Utah to prepare for the next races. The love for pushing pedals remains!
Cheers, Hooroo, Till next time,