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Sherpa23(22 posts)

Jun 12, 2002 10:22 AM
Interesting discussions below about burnout, confidence, arrogance etc. My issue or question is, you have never felt self doubt? Obviously you are an accomplished athlete and could probably hand 99% of the people on this board there butts, but haven't you had yours handed to you before? Obviously you have, so how did you rationalize this? I've known a few athletes who had tons of talent and believed they could not be beaten. You know the type: Jet pilot confidence and talent to burn. However, when they advanced to the level that they started getting beat regularly they collapsed mentally and were never heard from again.

My mental makeup is this: I can be as fast as I want to be. If I commit myself 100%, the sky is the limit. However, I have other commitments in life so I understand the wins are going to come sparsely. I just love cycling and competition so that is why I race and ride and try to win a few. I convince myself that I am armorplated for a race, but I understand my limitations in the big picture as a working family man.

So what's your mental makeup?

Just curious.
re: Sherpa23Sherpa23
Jun 13, 2002 7:27 AM
Allervite, yes, I have had my butt kicked plenty of times. TONS of times. In fact, I went 3 straight months in 1997 (new upgrade to 2) without finishing in the pack. There are plenty of times where racing sucks and I suppose that it could be hard mentally. The thing is, I knew that it could never continue. You know it can't. At some point, you will get better. At some point, you will turn the tables. At some point, you will have days where you are unbeatable. For me, cycling has a simple formula work in= ability out. Put in tons of work and you will get tons better. It takes time to progress to that level physically but it definitely happens.
I think that anyone who puts in the hours can reach pro-level fitness but the putting in the hours part is the limiting factor. Sometimes its the body that can't cope, sometimes it's external factors like family,work, etc. But if you can put in the mileage, and do all the work, you will get good enough. Whether or not you become a pro depends on winning and the ability to win is independent of fitness level. It takes something different, IMO. Having said that, professional cyclists are just people who have trained a ton and who have an extraordinary ability to win.
Anyways, I would say that the big progression for me mentally came in 2 stages. The first stage was after racing in Europe for a big chunk of the season. I went over by myself and ended up putting in two appearances for 2 pro teams, one of which does the TdF every season. My whole perspective changed. What I thought was hard before is no longer hard and what I thought was impossible is now routine. I really learned that we don't know what our limits are because we can always extend them. That changed a lot for me. The second part is that I used to be really tense for races. Sure, I would psyche myself up get "armorplated", as you say, but after a somewhat disappointing ride at the World Championships last year, I kind of let go of that. I was really disappointed with what happened and I had the whole winter to reflect on things. I kept on training but I realized that there was very real possibility that I might not be able win when it counts. When I showed up for racing this year, my whole mindset changed. First of all, to give you a background without going into too much detail, I had to win my first races this year from the getgo for qualifying purposes or that would be the end of my career. I was looking at having to stop racing full time at the end of this season if things did not go well. Instead of telling myself that I had to win and that I would make myself win, I showed up to have fun and enjoy the racing, knowing that I am good cyclist and whatever happens in the race, I am good enough to respond and I will naturally put myself in the situation to win. And guess what? I won my first two races of the year against some damn good European racers. I would have won the third as well but I crashed hard and suffered a major injury that the doctors thought would be the end of my cycling career. Well one doctor ignored the others, put me back together, and needless to say, it's not going to be the end of anything and 6-9 months from now, I will be back to 100%. So this has been a bit long and a little more autobiographical than I would like but I guess that my mental makeup is pretty much something like: It's not a big deal, I did the work so whatever happens I can handle it. I hope this helps
So who are you and what team do you ride w/ ? nm853
Jun 13, 2002 7:41 AM
Jun 13, 2002 8:34 AM
Well Sherpa, since Allervite is picking your brain, can I ask you a few questions as well? I am very interested in the progression of training from amateur to pro. As in, how many miles and time did you spend training per week as a cat 4, and how many do spend now? And how did this progress over the years? I am assuming you have to gradually ramp up the volume and intensity over time so you don't kill yourself.

Also, how did you decide to "take the plunge" and quit your day job to start riding your bike all the time? And what level does this have to happen at to remain competitive?
Very motivating postmtber
Jun 13, 2002 10:11 AM
You have a great attitude. I am interested in hearing the answer to RMRs question and, if I may, would like to throw in one more question for you:
How many years have you been racing and are you, in general (I realize we all experience temporary setbacks, like your injury) are you still improving?
Thanks and good luck healing up!
It's amazing isn't it. . .allervite
Jun 13, 2002 9:29 PM
When we try with all our might to win, often we don't. Then something dramatic happens. Maybe we just say to hell with it, or we decide to work for another team mate or whatever. We finally exhale that giant breath of pressure that we have held for years, shake off the pre-race jitters and we win. Why? I think it is because for the first time we no longer focus on the end of the race but the now of the race. We mark when we should, we attack because it feels right, we spin like a well worn Chris King hub. We are not thinking about winning, we are winning. I am not sure that this is a lesson you can teach someone else. I think maybe you have to experience it for yourself.

My biggest win came when I thought I had blown the race and was chasing down the leaders, but I was the leader.
re: don't....Iseemo
Jun 13, 2002 2:11 PM
drive the guy off the board, please (and this is not directed at the original poster). He's wanted to be anonymous, so let's keep it that way and have respect for the guys privacy. Thank gosh he doesn't share minute details of his accomplishments as some do here, 'cause I don't want to hear about them. However, he does give sound advice and good perspective, which I'd like to continue to read about.
Jun 13, 2002 3:09 PM
saw this same thing happen years ago when George Mount used to frequent the Compuserve cycling forum. Wonderful mentor, great writer and a fabulous guy who gave me some of the best advice for racing I've ever heard. He (like many very serious bike racers) had pretty strong views on some stuff and a kind of salty delivery, but he mostly chose to remain anonymous except to some forum habitues he had an e-mail relationship with. He was "outed" a couple of times when someone flamed and/or incited him to the point of rebellion. He eventually got tired of the flames and pestering and moved on.
some answersSherpa23
Jun 13, 2002 3:44 PM
Asolutely right. It's not important who I am, my team, or any of what I have done. A few people here know but they are respectful enough not to post it. Besides, Iseemo is right, why would you want to hear it? It' boring. I am more than happy to post some advice: if it were not for my injury and being bedridden for 3 weeks, I would never have found this board and I really like hearing the persepectives of the new racers. That is so cool. I will give you guys advice anytime. As far as the questions, I started riding a bike and racing in 1996 while I was in college. I did not come from any endurance sport background. I went from Cat.5 to 3 in 5 weeks so I will treat that whole season as a cat.4 season, although I did get to 2 by the end of the Summer. I think that I rode about 350 miles a week on average but I did a lot of 100 mile rides - like one every week or so. I did not have too much structure, though and I know that I had a bunch of 500+ mile weeks throughout the Summer. In 1997, I got my butt handed to me from March until July and then things got better. I think the mileage that year stayed about the same but my body was handling things better. Since then, mileage went up steadily until 2000, when I finished grad school and decided to race full time. I think that I got about 20,000 miles then and a little less in 2001. Now my body does okay with the mileage. The big thing that I gained in that time were certain skills that I worked on at the expense of fitness and results. To be a winner at a high level, you need to have a complete package. Even fitness can only take you so far. So I spent a a couple of minths here and there ignoring results and using the races to develop certain skills. That really did a lot for me physically. As far as being professional, without getting too much into it, I didn't want to a pro, I wanted to go to the Olympics. I only had one opportunity in my life to try it and it was not going to wait. My parents helped at first with some money and then I got enough results and sponsorship that I could support myself. Before I knew it, I was racing as a pro. Technically, I am no longer on a registered trade team pro with the UCI because my cuurent team gives us the money instead of the UCI but since I do a lot of racing for my national team, and we have good team, I think there is some provision in there that I am still professional with the UCI. It's not an easy step financially but if I wanted to do this, I only had one shot. As a MTBer I think that things are a little better because you can race as a pro independently. If you have the right backers, you could be awesome and don't need to deal with a team. I hope this helps.
Oops, forgot oneSherpa23
Jun 13, 2002 4:11 PM
I forgot to answer mtber's question. I am most definitely still improving. In fact, I have seen my biggest jumps, physically, in the last year and even though I am only at about 50% in terms of my recovery right now, there are signs that I am going to come back at a higher level than before. Of course, when I start racing one month from now I will know for sure how things are looking but I am not going to be 100% before December and I have a pretty good feeling that I might win some races this Summer.
Jun 13, 2002 5:28 PM
I got an email from someone and I just wanted to clarify. I am not a mountain biker and have no ambitions to become one. I mixed who was asking the questions and I was directing the "turning pro" question to mtber because I think that he said he just turned pro and of course, I incorrectly thought that he asked that question.
thanks for sharingTravis
Jun 13, 2002 7:58 PM
I hope you can find time to contribute to the board once you are back to riding 500+ miles a week and racing. I rarely post since virtually every question someone asks I would also like to know the answer to, and I don't have much to add since I am still new to racing. I think we can all learn for people like you, LFR, Shirt (and BLOG, who has a great attitude and keeps me and probably a lot of others motivated without even knowing it). Best of luck on your comeback. You original post to LFR was a great motivator and gave me an idea of the kind intensity and metal toughness you need to try and reach your potential, whether as a Cat 5 or a pro.
Jun 14, 2002 7:54 AM
Good to hear that you are still improving. Good luck on making a srong comeback.
Sorry about asking...853
Jun 14, 2002 12:08 PM
Just curious, after I posted that I realized that it realy doesn't matter - just reaching that level is an awesome accomplishment. And am very interested in learning a lot from your post. Even though it looks like you have way more talent than most of us humans -from Cat5 to the 3's in 5 weeks - that is so awesome.
I have a close friend that races in the 3's and told me that the only diffrence from 5's to 3's is the distance & experince(which requires a bit more endurance). That the speeds are very similar just alot smother. I like to hear that cause that gives the rest of us in the 5's encouragement.
My experience with the catsbrider
Jun 14, 2002 1:42 PM
In the Seattle area, the speeds aren't necessarily all that different, but WHEN they happen and for how long, is WAY different. Sprints are faster in the upper cats. Climbs are generally faster, and the attacks harder. Higher speeds are maintained way longer.
Thank You! (nm)RockyMountainRacer
Jun 17, 2002 8:08 AM
who else here is any goodishmael
Jun 15, 2002 9:56 AM
Please speak up, my bicycling world has been short and small and I ride kind of blindly because of it. I race sometimes but find they are often too far away, too short or too expensive to bother with and all the crashes scare me. Also I cant do a crit for my life and perform better on really long and hilly courses(which are rare). I've always felt that to race fast you have to train fast, is this true? Are you motivation to ride hard when youre not in a race? How much rest do you need?
and is crosstraining worth it? what do you do? nmishmael
Jun 15, 2002 10:07 AM
I suppose I'll biteweiwentg
Jun 16, 2002 6:05 PM
because no one else has.
I came to cycling from running. the initial adjustment was awkward. during the first 4 months of my very short cycling 'career', I trained as a triathlete - I ran, swam (this done about as well as fish walk, but I tried), and mainly cycled with the local club (which is not very triathlete, but what did I know). my cycling fitness improved considerably. of course, now I cycle exclusively, and both my fitness and skills have improved considerably. cross training is worth it, but if cycling is your primary sport, cycling should be your primary exercise. personally, I think that cross training is more worth it for more advanced athletes - just an opinion. I am thinking that beginning athletes don't yet have the aerobic base necessary to sustain the higher volume.
I can't tell you how much rest you need, because I don't know your fitness level. I did distance running before coming to cycling. I had got to the point where I was training 4-5 days a week. now that I'm cycling, I usually train 5 days a week. I need 2 days of complete rest a week, and I've been doing endurance sports for almost 3 years. depending on your physical development and potential, you may need more or less - I am only one datapoint.
you will need to do at least some fast rides in training in order to achieve your full potential in a race. your body needs to get used to working hard. you do need to build an aerobic base with long, slow distance rides, but you will also need to crank the speed up as the season approaches.
I am motivated to ride hard in a non-race situation when I'm in a group of faster riders. yes, it's hard, but you have to keep the image up. :)
and you don't have to race if you don't want to - don't feel left out if it's not your thing. not everyone in the local club races. if you do race, don't pigeonhole yourself. I'm pretty good at crits, but I had no idea until I actually placed in one. I'd always thought I was a skinny climber. if you are to do well in crits, you will need to train for speed, lactate threshold, jumps out of corners, cornering, and all that. on the other hand, if you've tried lots of crits and simply aren't drawn to them, then don't do them. I'm sorry you can't find enough climbing races - this is also a problem in Michigan.
with all that said and done, I think LFR can answer this better than I can. nonetheless, I hope that was of some help to you.
Training and crosstrainingSherpa23
Jun 18, 2002 7:48 AM
I have been out of town for several days so I missed these questions. It's different for everyone. I train hard. I usually look forward to racing because it will be a little easier than training. That's not the same for everyone, though. As far as motivation goes, I am motivated but I never do as well in training as in racing and I have numerous lab printouts to confirm it. As far as crosstraining, I don't do anything during the season. Frm December to January I will do some weights and such. some running, but not much.
re: Sherpa23kaiser
Jun 18, 2002 1:48 PM
My introduction to bike racing was interesting. I was lucky enough to ride with a racing club for almost a year before I tried my first race, and I had gotten lots of great advice. The best advice was: expect to get dropped (initially).

I saw a lot of guys get dropped in their first races, and then talk about how they "came in last" or close to it....and then they'd quit the sport because they didn't think they displayed any talent. I saw this with great regularity when I was a junior. I even saw one kid whose dad wouldn't speak to him after his first race (the very hilly, 75 mile, Acton RR in Ca), because he was dropped and later dropped out. He (and his dad) were used to him being picked first in kickball, and he'd always played baseball and football well, but those sports tended to reward those with natural ability very early on.

Bike racing rarely rewards those with "natural ability" until after they've done the required groundwork and attained the requiste conditioning levels.

Bike racing is a hard enough sport that it takes the type of person who doesn't need constant wins (or placings) in order to be satisfied. I can't even recall how many times I'VE come in "last place", because if I'm not in money-contention for the sprint, I sit-up and coast in (for safety reasons)...But I'm always satisfied that I rode an entire race, at a blazing pace, and was in the company of such a large group of ultra-fiit people. Just BEINg a bike racer makes me feel like I've accomplished things a helluva lot of those football jocks would never even attempt because it is so difficult.
KaiserI Love Shimano
Jun 20, 2002 1:13 AM
Your post was very motivating. I did my first race just last Sunday, and I was dropped big time. Excluding almost half the field that abandoned the race, I came in almost dead last. I know that more ttraining is needed before I can beat them, but I know that if I put in the work, I will succeed. Thanks!