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The answer is very carefully with a monumental amount of thought and consideration.
It is 4:00 AM Sunday morning and I am supposed to race in 6 hours. Not just any race but the season kick off to my favorite race series in Winter Park, CO. A series that I usually win and have not missed in about 5 years.
Today’s race is just the hill climb but it is a kick-butt climb and lung busting if you want to do really well.
It is the first of six races and after the race, all the racers, their family, their friends and any other enthusiast that happens to be hanging out at the ski area today will be watching the awards ceremony and crazy raffles that happen.
The end of the race is what every one anxiously awaits. It is just plain fun. Prizes thrown into the audience, sponsor names yelled out over the intercom, and the anticipation of your raffle number, sweaty in your fingers, possibly called out every few minutes.
Oh! And sometime you had two or three friends that wanted to head home early. You’re holding their numbers, along with your own. The crowd goes wild if you head up to the awards area to claim your second or possibly third raffle prize. They give you teasing and laughs in the most hysterical ways. You would think you just won first place after sand-bagging your 100th race. Who could even remember they raced at this point.
Just good old fashion clean fun. Not a single person walks away unhappy. Winner of the raffle or race? Doesn’t matter. Every single person has a good time. Everyone laughs a belly full this day.
This is why the Winter Park races are growing like crazy. This is why I have never missed a race in Winter Park. This is why, here at 4:00 AM this morning, only 6 hours to my start time, I am sitting here trying to ignore the fact that I have spent the last 10 days recovering from bronchitis and the early stages of pneumonia.
My promise to my pulmonary doctor on Monday fading away. The promise that I would only race if I were no longer coughing. That promise that I made to myself that I would act as my own coach and make the right decision. The decision to look at the big picture of the season and protect my lungs ( I have asthma). The “big picture”. That’s what I drill into my athletes. “Do not let the big picture out of your site”.
How hard is it to coach yourself? I believe it is almost impossible when your racing is on the line. When the going gets tough and your program is detoured, when you do not feel like a bike racer because you haven’t raced in several weeks. You feel like you have let people down. You haven’t had your “fix”.
Sure it’s easy to make the right decisions when everything is going well. But, right now, for me, everything is not going so well, so many thoughts are going through my head.
Thoughts like, maybe I could just race at about 70-80 %, or maybe I will get to the start line and my lungs will feel good and I won’t cough too much at the end of the race. I know, I will go really slowly and my placing will not really matter to me. This way I will at least be a part of the event.
What would I tell my athletes that have worked so hard towards the up-coming major races? I would tell them that the risk is too high. You can put yourself into a hole so deep that you will sacrifice your future events. Racing can be a gamble.
As the clock ticks away, I have to look at this gamble. I have to be my own coach. Make the right choice, as a coach, a professional, and most importantly, at this moment, a bike racer.
My stomach is nervous and my heart tells me to go race and deal with the consequences later.
Somewhere deep down I find the courage to decide to do what I would advise my athletes to do. I push my selfishness somewhere onto that back burner. I make that right choice. The choice that will undoubtedly be for the good of the whole season.
I do not race today.
Thanks for reading and remember, the passion of cycling is not always an easy road to follow.
Michelle Grainger Athletic Excellence