Road to NowHere...True or False?


This could have me committed...

Two days ago I participated in the Australian Road Race Championships. I will struggle here to go even close to explain the experience but I can share just a few of the random, abstracted thoughts and strange ideas which ran through my mind while the heat rose and race unfolded.

Before though I can't say enough about guys like Travis & Cameron Meyer. I don't know them and have never meet them personally but have now enjoyed being involved in an event that this young guys dominated. They are not the only guys but the obvious ones to mention.

It is amazing to consider the futures they have ahead of them it made me reflect on the journey which I have enjoyed. It hit home that at this stage I am old. Well older anyway, but to consider when I was 20 years old I joined the Oarsome Foursome and never thought I would experience all I have. So when I see these guys and the others who are also mentioned with them as the young talent coming through I have a great sense of anticipation as an interested onlooker to see the amazing things they can and will all produce in their sport. It's a very cool experience to feel like things are not only cyclic but in dream like way they are magical how youth, enthusiasm and freedom creates and enables outstanding performances. People are in awe and yet these guys are doing what you do when your 20 and having a go and chasing the dream.

On Sunday I must admit I was buzzing after the race. Moments before though and just after crossing the finish I was almost laughing at the absurd nature of what we had all put ourselves through. Weird as I had suffered greatly with three laps to go when I was unhitched from the chase group and then the bunch which had been serious reduced in size. On the 10th lap I had a bit of a go with two others, including Joel Pearson and we surged away from the bunch just before the descent. Initially as we completed a lap together and felt pretty good. As we came back into town with 5 laps to go the chase group had come across to us and I managed to stay with them just as we went back up the climb. I say just as it took a fair effort not to loss touch and get back on. At this point I didn't realise how much but the lap before with the heat had really taken a toll. That was Novice Error # 2 ... I had a crack but wasn't prepared for how to stay with the group. The first Novice Error was not knowing how to save energy during the early laps. As a bigger rider I was conscious of the climb and staying near the front. That wasn't an issue but a few occasions when I found myself back in the bunch I wasted energy surging up to the the front a few times. It should not be a problem longer term but my conditioning probably can't stand up to the subtle changes in speed still. Add the heat to this and even though we did a great job with fluid and fuel I think I was still cramping with 4 laps to go.

Personally I was trashed in the end and certainly have heaps to learn about bike race tactics. Who am I kidding I have heaps to learn about pretty much all things bike racing. The positive was that at least I was able to mix it with the guys and be part of the race. It was like nothing I have experienced before in one sense. The pure intensity was not an issue but the intensity over time was amazing when added to the weather conditions. At one stage around lap 10, I had 40min of 175 average heart rate and in that I had 12min of 187 which is pretty well max for about 420w. From an effort stand point I noticed I was not trying to push so much as it being a reaction to heat, duration and accumulation. This was about the point I thought this is interesting see how long I can keep this up. The final outcome indicates not long. As I said the chase group came and I was part of it for a lap then I struggled up the hill with them. Then the bunch came past as we went over the top and I was swept along with them until we hit the climb again. Ahhh that climb...before I go it to that I must say I was pretty much just taking up space in the chase group and once back in the bunch I thought right I will recover and do all I can to stay with them, but alas it was not that easy. As I saw them disappear up the hill I thought heck this is really testing me.

The climb which I am aware is probably a hill to many of the top guys was to prove a real mental hurdle. It was amazing for the first 6 laps or more I felt great going up it and I suspect this was due in part to the subdued pace. Still I was feeling pretty good about the hill until the last 4 laps. And with each time I found myself finding it was never ending. It was my Road to Nowhere. It provided a reality check about how good some of the guys are. Sure I could make some excuses maybe about body size, but that would be bullshit. A couple of guys like Will Clark who seem big on the bike also seemed to get up there very well. So no excuses about size I just need to become better conditioned for these type of events.

The climb had the last section with it's slight rise in gradient which was tough, but the crowed made it. The amount of people up there supporting the riders was fantastic. Even after loosing contact I found it a strange place with the contrast of challenge and support making it the best part.

To consider my brief history as a cyclist I was happy I guess with being in the race. Disappointed though that I could hold onto the bunch when they came through. The excitement I felt at the prospect of doing more races, of the learning the comes with more opportunities, of the conditioning that will enable greater and more sustained output, and the challenge of seeing what an older athlete might be able to do from another sport is something I experienced not long after the finish. It is somethings I have been experiencing for a few months now. Actually as I sat on the bonnet of the car as much as my body was screaming I spoke with excitement with my wife, friends, Jono, his parents, Raoul and Jess.

We laughed lots too, as I think they sensed I was like a big puppy. Huge paws, clumsy movements, awkward stance and playfulness at having found some new play mates. A playfulness at having found a new backyard. Even if I was on my own for the final three laps it was the fact that I had jumped, bounced and tumbled along the road that day and made it to the end that I enjoyed. Truly I was and am like a dog with a new bone.

As an older athlete I am young at heart and obviously have much growing to do with regards to this new sport. The various elements involved in performing are many. Just the sheer numbers of riders on the road at times is overwhelming. Add to this speed, tactics, fatigue, duration and environmental challenges and you can see why it is so appealing not only to those riding, watching but also those coming to it from other sports.

Mentioning the Road to NowHere?? I do this as the strange feeling of the race going round this loop. Time and time again seemed never ending. All that effort and energy to end in the same place we started. Strange really and yet the excitement builds with each lap. The break away question of will they or won't they is pondered by all. The question of when will the teams, in particular those with guys keen to win, take the bull by the horns and charge down the track? When, waiting, when, waiting, when? This surprised I guess as I was under the impression that the big guns would never let them stay away.

From a performers stand point that was a disappointing surprise. I get the Garmin team not doing any work, but I think the whole bunch was waiting for something, someone to make an announcement. So the Road to Nowhere is one in the same as NOW HERE. What's most important always is the current situation. Performances have never ceased to amaze when athlete take the initiative.

No Where is better than HERE, Here. No where else would I prefer to be. No where would I want for more but HERE. Now, listen up for we are often all waiting, not all to be fair but often most wait. Waiting for some time in the future to make a stand. Waiting to stand out or up is a waste. A waste of opportunity. Most sporting events involve going, No Where really. So this is true and being ok with the cocoon like experience and the pressure bubble that comes with it is critical. The same is true for the importance of NOW HERE. Waiting, speculating and living in the past can simply mean we waste our opportunities. I did say that this might be random, abstract and strange. So here's the twist...

Going No Where physically is not the same as the enormous and vast experience one can take during any moment while racing around a track, a circuit, a pool, a court, course and stadium. More so I sense during events like the road race on Sunday when the physical, mental and emotional test is often so extreme. It asks so much of us, and we ask much of ourselves by going in it. Road to No Where can also be false as I felt like I had been to a place while there at Bunninyong. A surreal place where I played within the zone between an exhaustive melt down and the feeling of fluidity, of freedom. This place is some where, and I have been there before. The optimal time and space experience is when we trip between these zones.

In cycling I have yet to master the balancing act, but have certainly experiences a full range of the continuum. Well maybe not the full range but . The top guys are obviously close and have a feel for it. In the sport of rowing I know it well and had it to the point of feeling like I was puppet and puppeteer at the same time. As for weather the NOW HERE aspect can be false I would say yes, but reluctantly I express this. In the road race many riders did what was best for them at the start. The NOW HERE and what's most important unfolded with risk and conservation being adhered too. The thing that often happens under stress, pressure, fatigue, confusion, mixed agendas and ego' is that clarity is often lost. So all though the initial unfolding was probably spot on the lack of action during the race played out as a bias towards those who took the early risk.

This may or may not make any sense and as I said I thought I would struggle to explain the experience. I guess the cryptic nature of how I have expressed it does nothing to help, but that is just my point. It doesn't matter experience or youth. True ability or fleeting opportunity. We all have times when things seem so clear and straight forward and others when it is less so.

Back in 1996 I recall Mike McKay having the words 'BE BRAVE, NOW, ME'. I need to double check but I am sure it was a quote about Mikes need to have clarity during the storm of competition. It was a quote in part from Sergie Bubka about; If not know when, If not me who? The other was from Brave Heart the movie where Mike felt he could draw inspiration.
Why I mention this is because a clear plan is critical, symbol's or reminders essential and courage required to produce amazing, awe inspiring and magical results play a part and combined with great a athlete spirit and you have success. To those performing, it can often feel strange at how easy it can unfold. To those around them and watching it can confuse, distort and separate them. Having been on the other side I found the fringe to be a tough place, a strain, and something that makes me appreciate the times when it flows.

Why I mention this is because a clear plan is critical, symbol's or reminders essential and courage required to produce amazing, awe inspiring and magical results play a part and combined with great a athlete spirit and you have success. To those performing, it can often feel strange at how easy it can unfold. To those around them and watching it can confuse, distort and separate them. Having been on the other side I found the fringe to be a tough place, a strain, and something that makes me appreciate the times when it flows.

For now I have completed my first Australian Time Trial and Road Race. The experience has been more than I could have hoped for. Plenty of learning for the future and yet I don't want to wait as I feel ready to continue to step up and challenge.

From the point of view of where to next I would love to say I know, but I have no idea. I have taken I bit and tasted this cycling thing and certainly want to pursue further. The level at which I can get to or be at is like pinning the tail on a donkey. I am blind folded and possible going to miss the mark or just the same I may hit it.

Between seeing the guys and girls of cycling Australia over the last week I am inspired. If nothing else I feel privileged to to part of it and be able to play in the game. Here's to the Road to 'nowhere' for what ever it means, true or false it's an unreal thing.

Comments

Frank said…
Congratulations on a great effort! I have been following your blog and I was interested to see how a genetically gifted hardworking athlete that has reached the pinnacle in one sport tries another. Your efforts in the last year have been nothing short of amazing. As you may already know that experienced is not something achieved quickly. You cannot expect a gifted cyclist switch to rowing for one year and achieve what you have achieved.

Your road to no where is one step forward to some where. Which ever road you take whether it be cycling or rowing it is another added experience that will make you stronger. I have no doubt that another year in the sport will make you stronger both mentally and physically. You will learn more about the nuances of cycling as you do in rowing which will make you a more formidable force.
Lats said…
Congrats Drew
Keep learning, and keep looking forward.

The Austrian Architect Hundertwasser quoted "It's not where you go that matters it's how you get there"

It's these journeys that allow you moments “when things seem so clear and straight forward and others when it is less so."

There will be many more on your journey where ever it takes you.
Jason said…
Awesome blog, Have been following your blog since the day i was climbing tawonga gap wondering who the massive Malvern Star guy i was riding next to was. I think it's awesome you're giving these hilly tough races a real crack even if they may not be as suited to you as the Time Trial. Keep up the good work.
Shaun said…
There were absolutely heaps of fantastic riders who failed to complete the race on Sunday. Most of them being talented cyclists since a young age. I've never known anybody to start cycling in their thirties and display the talent and ability you do. I watched you race on Sunday and I was the guy who gave you a soft pat on the back after you crossed the finish line (nearly bringing down the policeman on his motorbike in the process). You're an inspiration, Drew. I hope I get the chance to watch you race again in the future.

Shaun Terry
Al said…
Where's Drew and what have you done with him?

You look like you need a good meal!

Seriously Drewy, well done.

Awesome work, and at the start of your cycling career...

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