Monday, September 5, 2011

Can I be honest?

I have had trouble with keeping my glass half full. This goes back as long as I can remember. My life has been one where, ever since I was a young child, I have lived in fear of the ground disappearing beneath my feet.

I have done everything I can to surmount this difficulty. Years of therapy, medications, lifestyle changes (both negative and positive) and embarking on long journeys of self-discovery.

Eventually I had to just change the way I lived my life completely. I said good-bye to the dissipation, the long nights and the rampant negativity in the music business. Yes, I still play music, but I have no longer any desire to go on the road, or to spend my life complaining about the way the business has changed or spend it killing myself slowly with drugs and alcohol, as so many others have and still do.

So I chose to remove myself from that life. I have done a one-eighty. I no longer live in the city. I live in the fresh air up on a country hill in the middle of nowhere.

I no longer eat poorly, sleep poorly, drink heavily, expose myself to smoking and drugs as I once did.

I have made health and fitness a primary goal in my life and arranged it accordingly. The fact that the music business has imploded has sort of made it academic that I need to go in a new direction anyway.

To that end (and obviously) I have been focused on the racing season each year. This one has been interesting in both positive and negative ways though. Honestly, I felt like I was coming into a peak in form going in to GMSR this year but I was wrong. The same god-damnable recurring nightmare that has been stage racing for me in 2011 has returned with a vengeance.

In examining the data from the one and only road stage that I completed (I went home after stage two) I realized that, even though I felt like I was doing efforts that were far-and-away record level, they were nothing of the sort. Certainly my heart rate was far too high. It was literally pinned at near max for the five minutes leading up to me getting dropped on a hill where I should not have, so something was wrong. I don't know what it was. Dehydration? Who knows. My weight was normal and I was drinking plenty.

I don't want to examine it any more. I realize that it is stupid to invest so much of my personal sense of worth into bike racing (especially when I have been placing myself in far tougher competition in the open masters than I would in the cat 3s) when it's "just a hobby".

But, as much as it might be just a hobby, I am used to doing things well.

No, that's not it. I am used to being the "best" at what I do. I did it in trombone playing. It took many many years to get there (and I realize the same would happen in bike racing although I cannot set my sights as high since I started as an older man and didn't bring much in the way of physical gifts.)

I was not gifted in music either. I sucked for a while at first but just kept killing myself until I perceived that I had surpassed all of the levels that I thought were significant. Perhaps it is unreasonable to have the same lofty desires in racing, but maybe I cannot change that part of my psyche.

Ever since mom abandoned us, and Dad became an angry, reclusive alcoholic, I have been taught that the only way to survive in this world is to take care of everything yourself. Hence, I have never felt like I could count on anyone (or any situation) to really be there forever, or when I truly needed it. After a long string of those whom I care for most disappearing out of my life it only served to reinforce this belief. It is still strong and I do battle with it to this day.

Where am I going with this?

It's not a cry for help. I am not asking to be "fixed". Far more than that, what I desire most of all is simply that all of the foundation of complex emotions that make up this be respected and allowed to exist as they are. Yeah, it's not pretty. Yeah, it's not necessarily looking at the bright side. Frankly, I am turned off by the namby-pamby positivism that is pervasive today. It's not a deep positivisim but just a series of "negative avoidance" situations where whenever someone might be unhappy about a situation, those feelings lead to isolation and being shunned by friends and/or electronic society.

In Beethoven's time, the entire palette of emotion was fair play for expression.

So, yeah, I'll be ok. I'll take care of myself (I am the only one who ever has, in the long term).

It will take time. But at the moment, it's not all right. It's not at all ok.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

It's been a while

It's been quite a while since I last updated this thing. 

It's been quite a while since I have wanted to. 

It's been quite a while since I have had much of anything to report (other than the usual bottom-of-the-standings reports) 

Nevertheless I have been racing a lot. Almost all of them in the 35+ or 40+. Certainly I had some nice successes early on in the season, but, as was expected, the more experienced racers have gotten their season form and now I am up against some tougher odds. That's not really what this is about though. If all that mattered to me was placing and winning races in the here and now, then the logical step would be to quit racing immediately. However, personal goals are important, especially when confronted with a situation where you are competing against people with 20 years of experience. It's not reasonable to expect that one can go from a 25 MPH time trial to a 27MPH time trial over the same course in one big jump. The only way to do it (sans doping or some other method of cheating) would be in steps. Perhaps those steps may not show up clearly on the results page, but if you track your progress over the long term (and especially look at personal milestones of power and such) then it does certainly show up. With that being said, I have made a few positive steps in the past several months of racing.

- I have achieved a sub-hour 40k (actually a sub-hour 40.4k) time trial. I have also done a 40k in one hour flat under pretty lousy conditions. 

- I have confronted the demons that have been tormenting me in criteriums. Prior to the Chris Thater, my previous two experiences in crits were 1. a horrible crash and 2. pulled/DNF. Hence I was uneasy about Thater, but I did it anyway. I tailgunned two hard races (35+ and the 2/3) and finished both. No crashes, no getting pulled, no getting lapped. Baby steps. I will establish some level of confidence with this and eventually work my way up to being a "player" in this discipline. 

- I have had a few power records of late. Most of them came on hills, but some came on flat sections. I am starting to feel much more comfortable with the 5 w/kg "Area" that most of the climbs in the masters require, although I'm still not quite ready to do it for threshold-length intervals. Close though. I did it for 12 minutes. 20 minutes is just 8 more. 

- I am starting to get that feeling of "these guys may be strong/fast/whatever, but they are just men. they are not superhuman and maybe, just maybe, I do belong here with them" 

- I have made some pretty nice discoveries about body position, pedal stroke economy and ways to minimize the use of energy and still go fast. 

Now as I sit here on the beautiful veranda of our lodging at Green Mountain in the morning, awaiting the second stage of the race, I realize that, yes, I will get there. It's no longer a question of if, but simply of when. And I will not stop until I get there.