There are seasons for everything in life. When I was a little kid growing up in the Northeast it was fall and winter that were the focal points of the year... actual seasons. This was because the fall was cool and always signaled the coming of winter, the season I loved because snowboarding was everything to me in my adolescents. Seasons came and went and as I grew older they moved away from the literal and more into the metaphorical. For instance, now I'm in the season of fatherhood which has a lifelong duration once started, but there are so many check points along the way that it doesn't seem arduous, at least not to me.
My current season in the literal sense is spring, which is about to slip into summer. My personal and metaphorical season though is gradually shifting from the desire to train on the bike to compete to training on the bike to be fit for the next epic adventure. I've always been a person who practices what they preach and leads by example. If I'm not willing to experience what it's like to push myself how can I expect my athletes to do so.
When the 2016/17 Pro CX calendar ended and I returned home I immediately set to work planning the next 4mo of training/racing with the biggest item on my calendar the 2017 Pisgah Stage Race. This alone was a major undertaking, as I'd never done anything like it before making prepping for it actually easier. Why you ask? Breaking down an events demands on the body then preparing the body for the various stresses allowed me to have an objective perspective on myself as well as the clients I had in the event. This took a lot off the stress plate and really allowed for a "training camp" atmosphere the whole week in Brevard, NC. Since then I've been trying to do nothing more than get back to that feeling.
The following week a handful of clients and I went out to the Bootlegger 100 and again it was just an amazing day in the saddle! The 100mi out of 107mi of road was some of the most challenging and beautiful gravel I've ever gotten the privilege to ride. It was right in my backyard (metaphorically...it's actually a 5hr drive west of me) and will surely be an annual event.
This led to the 2017 Cohutta 100 in TN the last weekend of April. I was recovered from the monster weekend prior, and ready to go. Until chaos hit. The night before the race the director sent an email that basically said the course was getting cut down and changed due to some permitting issues (their fault or land mgmt is up for debate). The options where stay in the "100" (now an ~80) or get moved to the Big Frog 65. I was at a crossroads and wasn't prepared mentally for this. I was ready physically for the 100mi of mostly gravel roads of which I could retrace in my head. I wasn't ready mentally for the change in plan, which essentially rendered this as a "just ride hard and finish race" rather than an "aim for a PR" race. I started and dropped out after the opeining ~22mi of singletrack.
This is the question at hand. Why was I okay with PSR and Bootlegger being unknown territory, and my head fell of when last minute plans adjusted a course I knew really well. I have meditated on this for a couple weeks before writing this blog entry because I honestly didn't know the answer until now. The reason I found was this...I hadn't enjoyed the process the week leading up to the event. I loathed my tuneup workout on Wednesday, went through the motions on my warmup, and didn't want to get out of bed the morning of to make the hour drive from my host house to the start line. I was in the Cohutta 100 for pure time not for fun. When the finishing time was by default altered and thus rendered useless as a measure against prior 100milers I had no reason to ride, or atleast not the "#cohutta80". I had kicked fun to the curb and replaced it with the goal of a robotic effort with no soul in it.
We all started riding bikes for pure unfiltered fun. At the root of every adventure is this element of fun and sometimes in the pursuit of something it can get lost. Everyone has a different definition. As a coach I would have told my then self, " control what you can and strive in the face of adversity with what you can't" in essence, " suck it up buttercup.
As a coach and athlete I've always found the most fun in training and knowing that whatever is thrown at me I will survive at the very least. I am a survivor and don't give up. Contrary to that belief and life long practice I did at Cohutta. I did because I wasn't their for the right reasons. I wasn't there to have fun I was there to be able to say I went sub 8hrs and get some kudos. My heart wasn't in that though because I hadn't enjoyed the process of getting there, by the final week I loathed some days of training and just wanted to have a "no Garmin no Rules" week. The flip side is the director had essentially handed that to me indirectly by making it a "new" event and thus a new metric. I should have turned my mindset from disgruntled whinny athlete who despises last minute itinerary changes, to fun loving adventurer that goes with the flow.
Looking back on the day it was ridiculous to pull out of the race. Perfect weather and amazing singletrack should've been the focal point. No matter what season you are in always make sure to have fun in the pursuit, and if you aren't having fun then take a hard look at your intent. I tell all my athletes to "enjoy the process" because we all are out there for the simple fact that riding on two wheels in the sunshine is one of the purest forms of freedom we ever experience. Sometimes you need to follow your own advice.