Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hills of the West Coast Idolization or Inspiration?

Miles: 55 Climbing: 2756’ Route: Tibbets—Issaquah-Hobart—216th—Witte—Lake Sawyer—Moneysmith—148th—168th—SE Wax—196th—Cedar Grove—Issaquah-Hobart—Tibbets (XXX Root Beer Drive-in with Reg and Carl to check out the 55-57 Chevy car show) Participants: 7 Attrition Rate: 0 Cima Coppi: 1st (tie) Dan F and me 3rd Kirk N

We had a fantastic ride with a great group today, but it was a little sad to see that the sun was noticeably lower in the sky at our 8am start than it was a month ago. Hey, at least the sun was out!

When I work with athletes as a cycling coach, I try and put myself into their shoes and think and feel like they do. Some of these people are natural athletes, while others come by gains much harder. A big part of coaching is helping people become motivated and inspired. I say “helping,” because you can’t talk somebody into being super-psyched to do the hard work it takes to improve. Each person has to find their own inspiration and motivation, and a good coach will help them find it.

Looking for inspiration from athletes that play professional sports has never been my thing. How would I relate? I’ve been a pretty decent athlete all my life, but I knew very early on in my high school sports career that I was never going to be able to hit a 98mph fastball. And forget about that “change-up” moving all over the place at 80mph! For sure, I also knew I would never dunk a basketball two handed behind my head, but I did at least approach talent of some sort with competitive amateur golf. Well, I could try and convince myself that I was closer to being talented, but the difference between a good amateur two handicapper and a PGA Tour player is like the difference between a local Cat 3 Crit winner and Lance Armstrong.

So where does one look for inspiration? Of course I find certain sports stories very inspirational, but it’s not usually the type of inspiration I can translate for my purposes. We can look to elite professional athletes for motivation, but most fans seem to idolize athlete celebrities rather than find inspiration from them. It does appear to be a pretty glamorous lifestyle, but I’m not sure how that can inspire amateur athletes who will always be amateurs. While we didn’t have any sports celebrities on today’s ride, I did find some inspiration.

All summer I’ve struggled to find a competitive drive to motivate me when the going gets tough on the HOWC. I have not had the impetus to do what it takes to ride really hard. I’m not sure what lit the fire today, but I had a bit of something that enabled me to ignore the burning in my legs a few times when I put the pedal to the metal. I was pleased that on the usual Moneysmith “free for all” I was the only one able to go with Dan F and Igor G, two strong riders. On the final hard climb of the day, the one that matters the most (at least for me), at the top it was just Dan and me. I’ll take some inspiration from Dan when he said at the end of the climb, “Tom, you’re climbing well today.” Better yet, he told me that he was at 95% of his MHR on the final section, a clear indicator that he wasn’t sandbagging me! Hopefully I can draw upon this the next time I face a “go or no go” decision on a HOWC climb. Perhaps I’ll try to use Dan’s much appreciated compliment as a mantra in such occasions. Hey, whatever it takes to help one forget about that pain firing up in the legs, right?

Dan is a HOWC regular that I rode up many climbs with last year who has been leaving me in another zip code this summer. Not feeling “unfit” this year, perhaps I need to look elsewhere for the explanation? In any case, riding up Tiger Mountain with Reg N at a pretty strong pace earlier in the ride had to have been in the back of my mind. Reg was solid as a rock today, and as usual when he is on the ride, I heard several quiet inquiries as to how old Reg is. Some people are lucky to look younger than their chronological age, but to me it’s super impressive that Reg doesn’t ride his chronological age. He doesn’t look it either. Reg is a “local hero” of mine, and I hope that I can continue to take inspiration from what he accomplishes on the bike. For his latest achievement, take a look at this:

With 1943 miles and 88,000’ of climbing over 18 straight riding days, many at high altitudes, the Ridge of the Rockies has got to be one of the toughest tests around. Yeah, the guys on TV are racing in their “tours,” but they get rest days!

It’s fitting that this is the weekend that the Vuelta gets underway (the final Grand Tour of the year), and perhaps I’ll watch a stage or two. While I certainly can understand and appreciate just how hard these guys ride and how incredibly fast they climb, I doubt I’ll find any inspiration or motivation from watching these riders. After all, how many of us can relate to people who can ride tempo pace up a sustained 12% grade climb?

I encourage the cyclists I coach to be inspired by a “local hero” of theirs rather than some cyclist playboy on TV. I might suggest something like picking out a friend who is a stronger rider than themselves, someone that the rider would like to drop. Become motivated, and then inspired by how this rider accomplishes the things he does on a bike. What is it that they have done to become as good as they are? Learn from them, set a goal of becoming stronger than they are, and then make it happen.

Reg N is kicking ass while riding at an age I will keep confidential, but believe it when I say that he leaves many younger riders shaking their heads at his fitness and skill. Reg is no superhuman, but combine some good genetics with a healthy lifestyle and some very smart training on the bike, and you get someone who is defying the clock.

I prefer my inspirational moments in the flesh and blood, and today all of us got a large dose of it from Reg N.

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