I've been thinking a lot in the recent months about dreams, goals, and plans; the differences between these, and the best recipe for success.
It is no secret that I am incredibly driven in many areas of life, and especially where racing is concerned. My tendency is always to push harder, faster, longer, and race more, more, more. I have a lot of dreams that excite, inspire, and challenge me. But in order to effectively chase my dreams, I need achievable, measurable goals that will be my checkpoints along the way. In order to reach goals, to get me closer to dreams, I need plans. That part doesn't sound very sexy, but planning is necessary to achieve success. I have learned the hard way that just flinging myself willy-nilly in the general direction of my dreams is not very effective. Now, having more experience, I try to ask myself two questions when making choices: 1. Is this sustainable? As in, does this choice promote my sustaining a healthy body, a healthy lifestyle, and a healthy environment in which to live? Is this something I can continue for a long time, or is it going to crush me? and 2. Is this going to make me a stronger person, and a stronger athlete? Hmm. This will require a little more effort. So in come the plans.
This year, I will be racing less. But I will also be racing better: with more focus, more clarity, more detailed and disciplined preparation, more mindfulness. I am sure that I am setting myself up for success in this way: not only in results, but in resiliency and consistency throughout the season. In a very atypical fashion, I am also planning time, in June, to actually NOT race. Instead I will use this time to prepare for racing dreams and goals that are a little farther off, but will take more effort, experience, and knowledge than I have needed in racing so far.
Here are a few factors in my choices about my racing schedule and plans for this year. Maybe they'll be helpful for others to consider, maybe not. Everyone is different. But I feel good about it and I'm excited for the season to begin.
1) My recent shoulder surgery and focus on recovery is a huge factor. I expect to be well-recovered and racing strong when the season begins; however I think a less intense travel schedule will be prudent for this year. I had plans to travel abroad for a race this spring, but instead of pushing that ahead I will sit on it for one more year. I want to make sure my shoulder is strong and that my racing supports the gain of strength, not breaks it down. It takes a full year to become 100% after a major injury or surgery such as a shoulder repair. I would be an idiot to just say "oh I'm totally fine, I'm going to plow ahead as usual" and not take the healing process into consideration. I want to do this for a long time, not be out injured every other week. Patience is a virtue (that I suck at, but am getting better).
2) I have realized that the reason that I race bikes isn't just for "pure fun," it's for the challenge that makes me a better person, and for the skills I learn through racing that are applicable in the rest of my life. If I don't take those skills and go out into the world and live them, and share them, it's all wasted and my racing just becomes a frivolous pursuit of fun. There's nothing wrong with that for some people, but for me it would not be acting with integrity to my purpose and my core values. Continuing to race with more quality and focus, but with less quantity, gives me the opportunity to put some energy into taking action with the "other" parts. I am super excited for my opportunities in this area in 2014.
3) I have learned, from my own experience and from Coach AP beating it into me; that in order to race strong, I need to train strong and also REST. If I am going nonstop all of the time, and always racing, it is hard to get a good solid training block in. It's more like scrambling to play catch-up after each race instead of continuing to build. If I never recover fully, my hard training is less effective. In order to race stronger, I need to plan smarter for recovery between races.
3) In racing endurance, you dig yourself a slow, deep hole with all the effort put out over a long period of time. That hole takes longer to dig back out of than if you were doing a short XC or gravity race- which are super intense and you dig your hole more quickly, but it also takes less time to dig out. When I was a road racer focused on criterium events, I felt like I was going to die immediately during and after the hour long effort, but I was back at it quickly, often racing again the next day, weekend after weekend. 20-25 races in a season was not uncommon for me.
In switching over to mountain bike racing and now to a focus in endurance events, it has taken me awhile to learn that if I want to be successful in mountain bike racing, especially endurance, that I can't plan like a crit racer anymore. I need to cut back, focus on solid training and recovery, and go for QUALITY over quantity in my racing.
Plus, overextending yourself and getting mono is no fun. That's how I started my 2013 season. It's as if my body was warning me. I'm finally ready to listen. ;)
So here it is. Still subject to revision, but for the most part it's solid. Hope to see some of you out there on the course with me!
2014 Racing Schedule
4/24-28: Whiskey Off-Road 50 mile, Prescott AZ
5/17-18: Firebird 40 mile, Eagle CO
5/26: Gunnison Growler 64 mile, Gunnison CO
No racing planned... will spend time doing course recon for an exciting future endeavor :)
7/4: Firecracker 50, Breckenridge CO
7/12: Breck 100, Breckenridge CO
8/10-16: Breck Epic 6 day stage race, Breckenridge CO
8/29-31: Grand Junction Off-Road 40, Grand Junction CO (?) OR…
9/6-7: Vapor Trail 125, Salida CO (?)