Loose gravel covered the washboard filled road. Unchecked sunshine baked the surface. A small placard on the side of the road read “1 mile to KOM” The grade steepened. My heart weakened.
Why do we train?
What are we training for?
A big race? An important race? A PR, podium, or victory?
All of the above?
Maybe. But training is more specific than that. We might tell others that we “are training for the Crusher” or that we “are getting ready for the Point 2 Point.” It’s not a lie. But it’s not true either. We aren’t getting ready for an event. Instead, we are getting ready for one, maybe two, moments that will occur during that event. It’s our reaction to those moments that set apart personal greatness from mediocrity.
Pain coursed through my legs. I wilted in the heat. The road curled above steeply. “3 more switchbacks. 3 more. 3.” But they were the steepest of the entire climb. My tire skidded beneath me in the loose dirt and gravel. My chain creaked. A grimace stretched across my dirty face. A chance at a PR dissipated in the oven-baked heat.
Every race—100 miles, or 10—opens a small window, an opportunity to suffer more, ride faster, climb the standings. Too often the opportunity is gone before we knew it was there. But it’s those windows that motivate our training. They are why we ride hill repeats and 20-minute time-trials. We skip dessert, use the foam roller, soak in icy rivers, and duck out of work early so we can get an extra hour of riding for a chance to grab, and hold, that wheel that we’ve never been able to grab and hold before. And when that wheel appears, the legs don’t lie.
The Col d’ Crush was far behind. But I could still feel it in my legs. Ahead was just one more climb. The Final Mile. People cheered. The finishing banner crept closer. And closer. And then… my 4th Crusher in the Tushars was over. Someone whisked my bike away and helped me find a chair. A cold chocolate milk was shoved into my face. The swirling world slowed into focus.
The numbers on the clock were not disappointing, but they were not what I had been looking for either. I missed my window 15 miles earlier. I shunned the pain. I shirked when the time for the deepest suffering arrived. The wheels I needed to stick to rode away unchallenged. And that is disappointing. Not the time on the clock. Not the placement in my group. But that I hid from the pain. I let fear slow me down. I lost time on the Col d’ Crush. Lost time to my previous self and to my competitors. I refused the hurt and blackness. The window opened. The legs revealed the truth. And then the window closed.
I had imagined riding the Col d’ Crush for weeks. Planned my ascent. Had visions of not just holding wheels, but being the wheel others struggled to hold. Those visions vanished in the heat and reality of 2,300 vertical in 5.2 miles.
I am left motivated for the coming gauntlet–4 events in 8 weeks. I am excited to race again. I will make adjustments and learn from my mistakes. I will be ready to crush all over again. Legs don’t lie.
The 2014 Crusher in the Tushar is history. The 2015 edition is only a year away. Start training now.