This past weekend was the Verona Triterium Sprint Triathlon
Triterium is the second of the Wisconsin Tri Series races (Lake Mills being the first), and it was another successful weekend of triathlon racing for me and the rest of Madison multisport.
I recently finished reading Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg's latest book, The Passion Paradox, and have found myself reflecting on it quite a bit. In their guide to going all in, finding success, and discovering the benefits of an unbalanced life, Magness and Stulberg make a compelling case that the most memorable, interesting and otherwise worth-while things in life happen in a state of unbalance.
It is definitely worth a read if you haven't yet. It got the wheels in my head turning again about my relationship with fitness, racing, my work, my family, and all the other things important to me in my life. Magness argues people who leave their mark in this world do so by committing themselves entirely to their passions-- across areas like writing, philanthropy, and even sport. In short, their greatness is profoundly unbalanced.
But what does that mean for the rest of us? Those who don't set out for greatness, or to change the world, but just want to be the best versions of ourselves? Those of us who struggle to balance the demands of our work, our family, our health, and --yes-- our hobbies? Those of us who nibble at the edges of a bigger commitment to something and flirt with the idea of "going all in" on a big goal?
Passion burns like a fire, it turns out. In the right time and in the right place, our hobbies and our goals burn bright and can make us feel alive. Passion can be self-actualizing and our passions come to light up who we are. But left unchecked, passion burns out, and in time, our passions can burn us out. The key, Magness and Stulberg argue, is creating a safe environment for ourselves to pursue our interests and try new things within safe and familiar frameworks.
The challenge is to find the space to fuel our hobbies and interests, but without losing sight or perspective of the cost to the rest of our lives. So how do I weigh the big dreams and stretch goals with their costs?
I'm sure as sh*t not about to quit my job, live out of a van, and train full time (as my wife reminds me any time I float the idea-- and I do so almost always in jest). So I have tried to optimize within the constraints of my life, my work obligations, and my obligations at home, how can I get the most out of my performance and to be as competitive as possible, all-the-while not losing sight of the fun.
Which brings me to something new
At the beginning of the year, I told my coach Steve Brandes that I wanted to try something a little different for the year (I'm sure that he gets tired of my constant, new ideas, and sometimes just wishes I would follow the plan).
When I started racing triathlons in 2015, it was as a way to stay healthy and as a new challenge for me after injuries, fatigue, and boredom pushed me away from running. Triathlon represented new things (swimming, biking), and a chance to be competitive across three different disciplines.
But this year, 2019, is my 5th year in the sport. I'm no longer "new" to it, and while I continue to improve, the gains on race day have come more deliberately and with less frequency. So I worked with Steve to create a space to try something completely new to me: I decided in 2019 that I was going to get into bike racing.
So rather than do a typical build into the season, we decided to "race" our way into fitness by focusing on something totally different on the bike. We laid out a plan that did two things: 1) gave me a chance to dip my toes in the water of a new interest-- racing bikes; 2) gave me a different focus and stimulus for improving beyond the same types of things I had been doing the previous season.
The much-anticipated, Cat 5 Debut
In April, I raced the Rough Road 100k gravel road race in Illinois. It was unlike anything I had ever done before and was super challenging. I had a blast, won a belt buckle for averaging over 20mph in a 100k gravel race (epic event, highly recommend), and built some solid fitness-- both physical and mental.
As an added bonus, I am already thinking about gravel races (Land Run?, Almanzo?!, Barry Roubaix ?!?, Dirty Kanza?!?!) for next spring.
Then in May, I made my Cat 5 road racing debut. Triathlon and bike racing are very different. In triathlon, you are supposed to ride steady. In bike racing, you basically do the exact opposite. You go extremely hard, then extremely easy, hard, easy (and repeat for the duration of the race). It's a lot of fun and very different from anything I had done before.
In La Crosse, I took 6th in an uphill time trial on a Friday and on that Sunday learned the hard way that attacking off-the-front in a criterium is a better idea in your head than in practice. Later in May, I rounded off the month with a midpack finish in a 4-5 road race in Palmyra.
These were new experiences for me-- true pack riding, bumping shoulders in a crit, tactical racing-- but it was great physical and mental training stimulus that brought me into the season fresh and in really good bike shape. All of which leads me to an interesting result in my training and build: even though I have had my best-ever bike split at Lake Mills and first ever AG win at Triterium, I have only ridden my TT bike three times this year.
The first time? A quick spin to make sure that my brakes weren't rubbing and the mech was in working order before Lake Mills
The second and third? During Lake Mills and Tritium themselves. And I'm fine with that.
Keep the rubber side down
I love to ride my bike and I get out as much as I can. I try to get out regularly on the roads with group rides to keep my pack skills up, but given a choice, I will always pick my gravel bike on the military ridge trail and gravel back roads over just about any other type of riding.
And you know what? I'm having a blast doing it, racing triathlon as well as ever with my new approach to bike training, and I have cultivated a new passion for riding and racing as a result.
Next up for me, the Pardeeville and Door County Sprint triathlons in July. So until next time, as they say in bike racing, keep the rubber side down and have fun!