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Exploration By Bike

High Bridge NJ Tunnel[dc]A[/dc]s I mentioned a while back (in Bike Therapy,) in the past two and a half years my life has transitioned from the quiet contemplation of the Hudson Valley to the hustle and bustle of New Jersey.  Along with the change of location came a change in scenery; familiar roads were gone, trusted bike shops were distant, and new relationships had to be formed.  While there's trepidation in the unknown, there was also a distinct thrill of discovering new places, new clubs, new roads and new people.  But why does it take a new place to get us in to mood to explore?

Perhaps more importantly, what lessons have been learned through this period of forced transition and how can we apply them without having to relocate 200 miles away?

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Being A Better Bike Racer? Or when is racing actually racing? (Podcast #24)

Jumping off the start lineSit back for a moment and ask yourself the following question: “When is racing actually racing?”  Sure, it's a bit of a strange question, but really take a moment to think about it.  Is racing all about winning?  Is it about sitting in the pack until the last 150 meters before contesting a sprint?  Is it about patrolling the front of the peloton and covering moves, making breaks and closing down gaps before taking a flyer with a lap to go?  Is it about having the confidence in your fitness and race reading skills to take a pull or two and recover in time to make a winning move?  Or, on the other hand, is racing about hard work and riding cleanly (not chopping others in corners, for example) while putting up the best results possible?  Is racing about getting out there and getting your team's colors seen, even if you don't win?

Got your answer?  Good.

Keep that answer in your head as you listen to today's podcast where I discuss the concept of racing solely to win, racing to get your team colors out there, and what's inherently wrong with racing (in the beginner categories) these days.  I'll cover the concept of racing just to win (and what is and isn't wrong with that), the idea that each race is a new experience in tactics and skills, the concept of the “I'll let someone else do the work” mentality and why you should just stay home if you're willing to race for second place.  Finally, I'll touch on ways to make you a better bike racer: why you SHOULD take risks and try different things, especially at the beginner levels of the sport.  You have to spend some time becoming a better bike racer somewhere, and this is the place to try them.

Racing is different things to different people, so keeping that in mind, when is racing actually racing?  And when is racing NOT racing? (Spoiler: I think people are not racing when the sole focus becomes winning, as opposed to everything else that a race encompasses: tactical sense, risk and of course, failure.)

“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” ~ Wilma Rudolph

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me or post on the Tailwind Coaching Facebook page.  Don't forget to rate the Tailwind Coaching Podcast on iTunes!

Post Race Perception

U23 men's crit sprint[dc]T[/dc]here's an uncomparably special feeling that accompanies racing.  The thrill of the pack, the ticking sounds of other racers rowing through gears, the hum and woosh of carbon tubular wheels cutting through the air and the heart thumping tunnel vision of the hard last push to the line gives way to the inevitable post race decompressing.  In those first few moments after the bike is thrown across the line, lunging for those last millimeters that could mean the difference between victory and defeat, we finally allow our senses to take in just how much searing, burning pain we have in our bodies.  We experience the aching strain of trying to suck every last molecule of oxygen into our carbon dioxide riddled lungs.  We feel the buildup of lactic acid tickling raw nerve endings in our legs.  Maybe we even have to shake off the adrenaline fueled jitters that accompany the frenetic dash to the podium.

[pullquote]We finally allow our senses to take in just how much searing, burning pain we have in our bodies.[/pullquote]Even as we warm down, letting the stress of our effort melt away as we spin our legs aimlessly, we begin to take notice of the distinct feelings that only can accompany a good, hard race.  It's an almost indescribable, sweet sensation of "job done, now it's time to let it all hang out."  As time wears on, we rack our bike and unpin our number so that our racing strip is ready to be laundered and hung for the next round of combat.  Through all of it, we feel those telltale signs of a hard race: the tightness in our back muscles, the achy stiffness in the glutes, and the utterly spent feeling in our quads.  How I love the feeling of legs quivering while standing in the shower, warm soapy water cleansing and washing away victory or defeat (hopefully victory more often than not).  That feeling of stiffness, soreness and completely spent muscles is something to revel in, not shy away from.

It proves we've worked our hardest, no matter what the result.  It should be a reminder, akin to a battle scar, of what we have or haven't achieved.  But regardless of the outcome we achieved, it proves we've left it all on the road.  There's nothing quite as hard or impossibly special as racing, and our legs never let us forget that.

Avoiding the Fred Situation: Does The Jersey You Wear Matter?

As many of my post ideas begin, I was recently clicking around an online cycling forum and stumbled across a discussion that struck me as interesting.  A simple question of “will I get made fun of for wearing a pro jersey on my ride” sparked a huge debate about the legitimacy of purchasing and wearing pro team gear.  There's a lot of worry about becoming a cycling fred, showing up with gear that your legs can't back up, apparently…

Of course, there were as many opinions as there were posters, ranging from “whatever makes you happy” to “some deity will kill kittens if you wear that Sky jersey on a ride.”  With such a wide range of opinions, it's not easy to sort it all out, but I'll do my best for you.

Click through after the jump to figure out how to avoid becoming “that guy.”

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