By Sam Kreig
As the CX season unfolds I realize how short the CX season really is. Months of hard work and it is almost time to start thinking about racing on the road again. With only 4 weeks left in my cyclocross season I must remind myself to race every moment of every race before the season ends. It is so easy to back down… damn every race I want to quit at some point. I always think of what I heard Kent Bostick said to my friend John Hart… "little buddy..Your pain is not special." I live by these words during the hardest part of the race. Sometimes as I am gasping for air or my legs hurt so bad I want to cut them off… I just remember that “my pain is not special.” As I spit on my top tube unable to see straight…. I remind myself again… “your pain is not special.”
I hurt… damn do I hurt. Every day I train… I hurt. This past year at master’s nationals I was standing on the curb yelling at my wife with 1k to go in her time trial. She was 3 seconds back on my time sheet. I noticed she was crying when she rode by…these were not tears of sadness… dude these were tears of insane pain… pain I don’t know if I have ever felt. I go hard… damn sometimes I go so hard I can’t feel my hands or feet…but have I ever gone so hard I cried! Never…not yet.. And I guess that is why she as a stars and stripes jersey and I don’t……….. So this year that is my new goal… To race so hard that I either pass out or cry..
Pain and failure is 99% of this sport. So why every time I am suffering do I feel pain and usually fail? You would think I could ignore the pain and grab success by the nads….. It is at the moment when it hurts the MOST….I start to think “my pain is special”…. But I know it isn’t.. We all feel it… we all want to quit. Every minute of every interval I think about it for at least a few seconds… It is like beating you head against a concrete wall. Each time you slam your forehead into the wall it hurts and the wall doesn’t move. The funny thing is I have been repeating this for 6 years now. So the truth is…it is not a failure. I didn’t LOOSE.. I raced my brains out and went as hard as I could.. the guy in front of me is just stronger…should I just quit and not chase him? No way…. The struggle is what I love the most. I think to love this sport, and survive racing you have to enjoy getting beat down as much as you enjoy giving the beat down. I just want to be out there suffering… it always feels so much better when I am making others suffer…but I learn more and grow more from being on the receiving end of a good beating. Motivation comes from failure for me.
I think about the NIKE commercial….my better is better than your better…. If you haven’t seen it go to youtube… and check it out. But really… is my BETTER …better than your BETTER…. Damn if that was the case I would win a ton of races. I don’t win very often so I think there are a ton of guys out there whose BETTER is BETTER than my better. So if Kent is correct that my pain isn’t special… and others are better… why do I race? 99% of the time I know I can’t win. There are always several riders who are a bit stronger. In some cases a TON stronger. So why do I spend thousands of dollars racing and 100’s of hour suffering each year? That's a really good question. I think there are a ton of answers. I have my identity so wrapped around cycling what would I do if I stopped? I would probably have a terrible drug problem or gamble my life savings away. So suffering for hours on end might just be a bargin .
So we now have an idea of the consequences if I stop suffering and quit riding. The new question becomes: how can I suffer in bliss? This is a trick I am getting better at each year. I love to watch Chris Horner suffer… the guy is always smiling… Try it… for me it works…. For the first time I have started to invite the pain in… I don’t run form it like I used to… I don’t start to question why I hurt or think “I must be having a bad day.” What I have learned is when you go HARD… it hurts. It always will. I always here riders talking about “bad legs” most of the time it makes me chuckle. Bad legs usually just mean the race was hard. If you ride with power I want you to try to ride around 600 watts for 40-45 seconds… that is the start of a cross race. DO it every day… If you ever have a day where that feels easy and your legs don’t burn…Go buy some lottery tickets.
If you are in shape…and have trained a decent amount… and your legs hurt and burn…it is a pretty good sign you are going hard…not that you have bad legs, but that you have fit enough legs to suffer. Somewhere along the way on the delusion train we have decided that going hard should feel good. That is crazy talk. The only time racing and training feels good…is when you are not going hard enough to make any gains or to win.
If you feel good = You are not going very hard (at least not hard enough to get benefits from training or to be successful in a race)
If you feel bad = you are probably pegged and on the rivet
-this is actually a good thing
Bad legs = peoples in your race are Better than your better
Good legs = you need to upgrade
99.9% of the time I think the above is correct. We all have bad days every once in a while. But if ½ of your races are bad… then you are not being realistic. Your training either doesn’t match your goals…. Or your goals don’t match your pedigree.
Now that we have solved a pretty serious math problem lets get back to the fact that most of us are not very good. What do I mean? Most of us suck. Yes we suck. Hard to stomach but the sooner we all figure it out the more credit we can give to the riders who don’t…….. Now this isn’t very nice, but what I mean is that the guy who beat me last weekend sucks a little less than I suck. The guy who finished behind me isn’t Better than my Better. Every week the goal is to suck a bit less and try to bring the best effort I can manage to the race. Each week I have new excuses as to why I am going to suck. I try to hide them under the bed in a shoe box, but I always let a few slip. Usually I talk about how hard I trained or didn’t train. That is my favorite. But the bottom line is when we walk up to the starting line we are very vulnerable. It is how you learn to deal with the insecurity of sucking that makes you a great warrior. Dude…. win or lose if you bring a great fight you should be able to pat yourself on the back and be amped about how you raced. Most of the time we just beat ourselves to a pulp during the race and then continue to do so for the following week. The key is to ask yourself several times during the race “can I go harder?” If the answer is yes… then get on the gas. If the answer is “no” then stay the course. So next time your are out racing at Defcon 4..try to smile… you should be amped that you are killing it. If you are crying then you know you are pegged. Pegged is pegged. The guy in 10th is just as pegged as the guy who won. Neither effort has more value. Like Kent said “your pain isn’t special.” So don’t run from it… invite it in…and next time you are racing and the race is finished.. I challenge you to race one more lap… why not… it is what we do and who we are. Cross season will be over in a blink of an eye. Enjoy every painful minute of each lap…. Soon there will be no more laps to ride and no more cross races till next year. You will spend the next 9 months getting ready to do it again.