In myth, the hero must always cross several thresholds before he can move on to bigger and better things. These thresholds are usually guarded by obstacles, creatures, dilemmas, etc. Only in conquering the guardians and crossing the thresholds can he go from “called” to “chosen”.
OK. What am I talking about you ask?
Well, just like in the classic Hero’s Journey a bike racer must also cross thresholds in order to improve. It’s a difficult thing to do, with faster racers, longer courses, jobs and other real life responsibilities, and the ever tempting allure of fried foods acting as guardians, it is a wonder that any racer improves and gets faster.
Allright enough analogy. Let’s just get right to it. How do you get faster? Training? Nutrition? Quitting your job and living on the bike? All of the above? I remember the first time I could feel myself improving. It was in 2002. One day I just found myself riding with guys that all year had been beating me by 5, 10 15 minutes. Just like that it seemed, I was faster. Now of course it didn’t happen “just like that”, I had put in a lot of good effort to improve. As a side note, I can no longer ride with those guys. They have gone far beyond where I am now….which I guess is one of the reasons I am writing about this today.
Since then I have had 1 awful season of burnout (2003) and then 2 seasons of good fun, pretty competitive riding. I have also shifted my focus from XC racing to ultra-endurance racing. A good move for me I think. I love the long stuff, and I always have been better at distance, than at speed. So, how does one cross the threshold in distance racing? How do you go from “enduring” the event to “racing” the event? I think one of the most suprprising things for me as I began doing ultra-endurance events was how fast the race winners rode. Guys like Chucky Gibson, Nat Ross, Todd Tanner and others would just scream down the course. Meanwhile I am a couple hours behind taking it easy, because “hey this is a long race, don’t want to bonk…”
This year is almost over. I have 1 race left, the 24 Hours of Moab. Then it is back to the trainer, the weight room, long nights and cold days. Same things as every winter. And like every winter I am determined that “this off-season, and next year wil be different”. Well, that is the ultimate secret I guess. How can I make sure that they are different? That I ride into next year already in shape and ready to go, rather than spending the spring and half the summer getting there. So to you, experienced fasties, I ask you to become my wise and helpful guides, to lead me out of the belly of the beast, pass the thresholds guardians, and ultimatley to the meeting of the goddess…or at least a meeting with a few podium finishes…
I don’t expect you to divulge your top secret information, although I won’t discourage you from doing so 😀 But let me know if you ever found yourself at a spot in your racing where it was either continue on as you have been, or turn everything up a notch and improve. What did you do? Did you burn out (last time I tried to turn it up, I burned it out), did you change major aspects of training and nutrition? Hire a coach? Or did you just watch American Flyers on the trainer to improve? Impart your wisdom so that I too, may take part in the ultimate boon.