Training in February looks like this...
By pure coincidence it is almost two years exactly since I uttered these wise words to my Granddaughter Sophie. At that time she was frustrated by a series of falls on her first day on cross country skis. When she commented that it was hard my parental instinct was to say that it wasn’t but that would have been a lie. Instead, in a rare show of wisdom I agreed and then had a moment of brilliance.
“Yes this is hard…………. All the cool things are hard! And you’re doing a really good job at this hard thing!” She later told my daughter that skiing was her favorite part of the trip and that she was good at it.
I do believe that self-esteem comes from completing hard things. I’m no longer in search of self-esteem but I do find that many of my favorite things are hard.
Competitive cycling is hard. The training is hard; the racing is hard, just finding the time to ride can be hard. To be strong in the glorious days of summer you have to ride in the miserable dark days of winter. Inevitably the odds catch up to you and sooner or later you crash. You get cold, you get wet. You get sick, you have self-doubt. You get beat. Your equipment wears out and breaks. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror as a middle aged man in a skin tight lycra idiot suit and comprehend, now and then, the true extent of your folly.
Yet somewhere in your head you somehow know that there is an eventual payoff. You find nobility, perhaps even a form of sanctity in the suffering. You come to respect those who “get it” and willingly pay the price. You fee`l a kinship with those who are fast and find an even stronger bond with those who pay their dues without regard to the dividends of their suffering. Contrary to your wisdom and insight you begin to place a value on the suffering itself.
This convoluted tapestry of emotions and logic must be maintained at a safe distance from your rational mind. When you encounter a like-minded individual or group you bond almost with a sense of relief. The validation allows you a measure of comfort in your skin. Misery loves company.
None of us is as dumb as all of us...
It is within this world where our feelings contradict wisdom that the geniuses at Rapha find the opportunity to exploit our insecurity. It isn’t that we need their clothing to go fast or far or that spending money reassures us. It is that they have communicated to us that they understand the inexplicable position of our thoughts where we respect and even enjoy the suffering of cycling.
Their clothing is exceptional but it is the mystique of the band on your arm that says, “I get it. Do you?” As if to prove that every rule has exceptions there are more than a few posers and buffoons that can be seen brandishing the arm band. Typically these pretenders are easily spotted and just as easily dismissed.
In framing our training as a battle against the elements Rapha has succeeded in getting us to classify their clothing as equipment, perhaps even armor to shield us from the weather.
It used to disappoint me that when I rode in team kit that other riders in team kit would wave at me but when I wore non-team kit they would not wave back. I sensed that they assumed they were better than me. Perhaps, and maybe I am being generous here, they valued the kinship of finding fellowship with other racers who, “get it.” In reality you can generally discern the serious riders from the casual weekenders.
Sadly in our smugness we dismiss those whom we consciously or unconsciously deem to be somehow inferior to us but they are still fighting their own battles. I remember watching high school cross country races and seeing the occasional obese runner in last place and realizing it is harder (emotionally) to finish in last place than it is to win. I admired the courage they showed then and now.
We all have hard things to do and I hope I am able to help those around me in their battles and I appreciate the help I get with mine.