I’m not normally into these types of things, but 2019 is going to be a big year. From a new gig, a wedding, and some changes in how cycling affects my day-to-day, I think it’s really important to know what you want out of something before you take it on.
For years, I’d look at my season goals almost purely in volume. Rack up miles, rack up elevation, rack up races and, occasionally, pick up a few decent results. I always needed more, and as Wes has pointed out to me plenty time, things like Strava always seem to stress more as the be-all, end-all; every challenge is about more miles, more climbing. It’s hard to put out a challenge to athletes to just go have fun, I get that, but we can certainly be over-loaded with the need for more until we reach the point of too much.
A recent article about Tom Dumoulin really hit the nail on the head for me. With a lot of work and new things going on off the bike (babe, job, another job, wedding plans, and cleaning the house, plus Manfred) I started to get more and more controlling and demanding about my time on the bike. I was anxiety pushed onto two wheels; a stressful day at work and I was pissed if my ride didn’t go as planned, or if Sean showed up for pre-NR two minutes late (Sean is always going to show up late), or if Sara said I was going too fast on our Friday Date Night Ride. It got worse and worse that by Cherry-Roubaix, I wasn’t motivated to race; by Labor Day, cycling was just a measure of time, distance, elevation, average heart rate and calories burned. There wasn’t a single thing fun about it.
These resolutions, then, are not about quantity, but about quality. This is a year I’d like to dedicate to finding a better balance between being a relatively (amateurishly) fast cyclist and being a better friend, and better partner, and a better advocate for our cycling community.
Ride Less. Seriously. For the past two years, I’ve ridden nearly 14,000 miles each season. That’s roughly 15 hours a week, much of it made possible by waking up at 4 am to work 5:30-3, busting out and doing 1, 2, or 3 hours whether I feel like it or not. By October of this year, cycling had lost any enjoyment for me. I skipped a ton of races I normally love doing, including Clarabella GROAD and Lowell 50, because the thought of racing made me physically nauseous. I flatted out of Peak2Peak, and only the day before Iceman did I find any excitement in what might be my last time racing from Kalkaska to Traverse City.
It was just too much. I hit November completely fried, and after spending the previous three months riding with the refrain of “I just need to get through this race, then I’ll back off” but never actually changing anything, I could barely even look at my bike, even as I hauled it out of the garage or swung a leg over the trainer and fired up Zwift.
This year, my mileage goal is going to be 10,000; that’s plenty of riding, and I can think of a dozen riders who can put in half of that and still be some of the fastest guys and gals in the state. I really think that will reduce that gnawing obligation I have seemed to have to do more, always more, rather than just do what I feel like, or simply what I need to.
Quality Counts. Growing up, we’d do a lot of our ‘training’ behind the State Hospital, with our dad on his Mongoose Rockadile and both Wes and I shredding on our Mongoose Stormers. We would go over, do a few laps, and come home. I’ll always remember by dad saying how you can be damn tired in forty-five minutes back there, and he’s right; I don’t need to do 3-4 hour rides 2-3 days a week to get in shape. While he’s known to have plenty of big-mileage days, Jeff Owens is fast because he can make himself do Wayne Loops for 75 minutes, not ride low tempo for 75 miles. That’s a factor that’s totally changed how I’m training now; as I mentioned in a recent BEE article, training with some structure (and plenty of my trademark ‘junk miles’) has increased my fitness way beyond where I was at for Iceman, and I’m going it in 4 or 5 hours less per week. This year, I’m going to make sure I retain some of that structure to get the most out of the time I do spend on the bike, while allowing for plenty of rides to just go pedals and look for barns or weird-looking trees.
Ride More Unmarked. We have some absolutely ridiculous trails here in Traverse City, and I’ve only scratched the surface of what is out there. Like a lot of riders, I have ‘my’ network of trails that I’m comfortably with, and most of those are within the 25km and Vasa Singletrack; anything far from those two trails, and I’m lost within minutes. This year, I’m going to bug guys like Tim Pulliam, Tom White, and the rest of our trail experts to show me more of the stuff by Muncie Lakes, Sand Lakes, and even out near Kalkaska so that I can start to loop more and more of those sections together. One of the aspects of cycling I do still get fired up about is the sense of adventure, and getting out in the woods for a few hours is the best way to make that happen, sort of like head out on the road with $20 and no plans for the day; you can do whatever you want, you just have to be able to pedal that long.
Help Someone Win Something. If you ride with me or race with me, you know I have never really cared about results. My dad first noticed how often I get fourth; I hate waiting around for podiums, especially if there’s a long drive after. When I do get out to race this year, I want to do more to help my 3T Q+M teammates win some cool races, and if we aren’t at the same events, kolo t.c. has a squad of great human beings that are plenty fast. Dan Ellis should be top ten at Traverse City Trail Festival; Andy Weir could totally win Racing for Home. I’ve earned a lot of experience from racing 15-20 times a year for a while now, and helping others get results is a lot more enjoyable right now than going into a race feeling any sort of pressure to succeed. There are races and rides that, if I don’t get on the podium or if I don’t pull for 75 miles out of 80, people ask me what’s wrong. I’m tired! Maybe helping others more will help me ignore that expectation and just have fun in the bunch again.
Send It. Coaching the Norte team was a huge help this past fall; without that, I don’t know if I would have even showed up to a single fall race. While I was obsessed with getting going and racking up miles, they were just as happy stopping and jawing about which descent to ride behind the Commons, what singletrack to ride, and how long we’d go before they got to to have a snack. You give Kyan, Will, Drew, any of those kids a bike an 8’x8’ box to ride in, they’d still find a way to make it fun, and still find a way to say ‘send it’ fifteen times per minute.
Ride For a Cause. Pulliam finally talked me into the Less Cancer Ride last June, and I can honestly say it was one of the best cycling experiences of my life. It was a huge adventure, but an adventure with the best-stocked food stops and best cooking you’ve ever seen. Our group put in nearly 300 miles in two days riding from Flint to Traverse City, with a stop to camp halfway. The rhythm of those long rides, the sites and sounds, the extra preparation, and the great company really made it two of my all-time favorite rides. I will admit there were dozens of cookies, too; every rest stop, we dove elbow-deep into cookies, salads, crackers, nuts, fruit, just about everything you could ever want after a hard ride.
We also raised a few thousand dollars for LessCancer.org, and meeting Bill and his team has led to a whole new awareness to their mission and just how important cancer prevention is. I’ll be back at this ride unless something crazy happens, and we’re going to do a similar event with Norte in July, too.
What are your 2019 goals? What do you want out of cycling, and what can you give back to the sport in this new year? Whatever it is, I hope you make it happen, and if kolo t.c. can help, you just let us know…we’ll make Wes do it.