• Bloomer Park, Rochester Hills, MI

  • Racing the Provincial's Crit 2014

  • Forest City Velodrome - London, ON

  • Larkenville Challenge, Buffalo, NY

  • Winning the Sprint at the ForestCity Velodrome

  • Track Nationals 2014: Keirin

  • Track Nationals 2014: Points Race

  • OCUP #1: Feb 2015

When I started with racing a few years ago (three?), I had no idea where it would lead. I was informed by a friend prior to getting into racing that it takes three years to build the fitness to be able to race. To me, the whole idea of blowing $50 (or more) and not being able to at least finish with the pack, seemed like a complete waste. My first year at it (2011) I was blow away by how "easy" it was to stay with pack. This year, my second year of doing the Ontario Cycling Association circuit, I hoped to take racing to the next level and see the podium. While that never happened, I learned something about racing and myself. I learned about the mental aspects of racing and the necessity for mental toughness.

Once the body is sufficiently trained, whether one makes it first to the finish line has more to do with the mind not only believe it is possible, but willing itself to keep going even when the body is in such pain that it wants to shutdown. Tactics play a part as well, but that only plays the part of getting properly positioned for the last 500m in a road race or the last 1-2 laps on the track. It is ones ability to go all out after hours of intense riding on the road, or enduring the endless attacks/accelerations (the jam) on the track or a crit, that determines the winner.

The Forest City Velodrome is built in an old hockey arena. Affixed to the wall of the mens change room from the times gone by words in this photo:


Losers quit when they are tired!
Winners quit when they have won!

This emphasizes all I have learned this season from Ed Veal and Real Deal Elite team. I can recall one Wednesday night training ride in particular. It was the end of June and we were training for the up and coming Provincials Road race. The course had a "nasty" hill in it. Most of the Real Deal elite team was out that evening. We did laps on course simulating the pace of the race on the hill. For the first lap or two, I had a hard time keeping up. For the remaining laps, I decided to grab a wheel and not give up. I wanted to be at the top with the pack....and I did it. On one lap, I actually ended up near the front and managed to grab a wheel as the pace of the leaders picked up. I saw one of the other guys attack from the back, jumped on his wheel, and I let him tow me to the finish line - and then I managed to sprint passed him for the win.  So, not only did I managed to hang with the elites on the climb, I managed to win a sprint against one of them (although, he should have never allowed me to be towed to the line). The discussions after the training session were ones dealing with giving up. A few times I could have keep up to finish a sprint, but gave up before the line to have someone else pass me. It turns out to be a common probably amoungs racers. It truely is a mental game.

The same thing happened on the track this weekend. I rode as a wildcard for the first three days of the six day race. I did fairly well stealing a few points of some of the racers. Thursday night, I was confront with hard effort - or actually what turned out to be an effort that drained the last bit of my will power. It was my last race of the night. The race was the last man standing. It is a race where everyone starts from a standing start, and goes as hard as you can to prevent from being passed by a rider from behind - because you are passed, you are eliminated. A few minutes invested into the race, only another rider and myself were left on the track to battle it out in what was basically an individual pursuit. Personally, I hate this race because normally I'm one of the first riders out, so never get a chance to practice going balls out for 10-15 mins. In case, we were fairly evenly matched. It came down to a battle of who was going to give up first. Unfortunately, it ended up being me. As I got slower and slower, the win and want to win seemed to drain away. The race lasted some 10 mins before I was caught and eliminated. There were lots of things I could have done to prevent it, but I did not do them. The mind overruled the body - not like I can't last for 22mins in a TT on the road. In this case, I got tired, gave up, and lost. Furthermore, the next night, I could not get the will power to do anything back. My drive was gone, and as a result, I got dropped in a 30 lap scratch race with the B racers. I know from experience, I can put a rabbit out of a hat when I'm tired, but I just didn't have any mental energy lead to win myself to keep going. I gave up. I quit. Racing is all mental. No matter how strong the body is, if the mind is not there to back it up, it's not going to work.

I like to watch movies. I love the film the American Flyers, because embodies the necessary mental energy required to win in racing. The film is about two brothers set to compete in the Hell of the West road race. About 35 mins in to the film one of the lead characters introduces another to a video of the race. In the video, he shows him a clip from the lead up the finish. From the clip, this line sticks with me:

"Did you see that?" ... "Right there."...<the video is now paused> "You see that. The race is over. I quit." ... the video shows him falling behind the leader.

The next part of the video shows the podium presentation. The lead character goes on to say:

"This is what it looks like to win.". The leader is on the podium...."and this is what it sound like" - as he cranks up the volume of the crowd cheering.

That gets me every time and I ask myself, how can I possibly give up? Quit? Not find a way? How many times have you heard that from yourself or others at a race how hard it is? How many excuses can you think of for not finishing better? Race too sketchy, bad position, it hurts too much, bla, bla, bla. At the end of the race, it is the guy that was about to suffer the most that wins.

This is something that hit home yet again over the last few days that I spend racing the track. I lost some races I should have won because I gave up.


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