>2010 has been an interesting year for my life both on the bicycle and off. I tend not too have too many regrets about the past but sometimes its important to think about the“Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda.” The beginning of the season brought me the understanding how even at the amateur level, a team can help you gain confidence, self-respect, and vigilance. But, sometimes those team expectations are filled with broken promises which then lead to frivolous training and racing. It is my belief, endurance sports at the competitive level continue to motivate individuals for a variety of reasons, but the motivation to succeed needs to come from within first. In order for success of an athlete or team one must plan with meticulous detail to reach these goals. Unfortunately, I felt trapped on a team where ideals, people, and goals were passed around on high spin in a washing machine of narcissism. Sure, the majority of amateur teams out there play more of a social role in the lives of the riders than a competitive role where results are expected and almost required, but ironically enough those teams seem to work better together because one is not selfish, or consumed with upgrade points, prize money, or monetary fame. I have been trying to find the right amount of balance for myself on a team since I started racing almost three seasons ago. I have remained restless by jumping ship and moving from team to team when things didn’t go my way or I felt alienated. Maybe I’m learning these traits from pro cyclists? It seems when a pro cyclist is not getting paid enough, feeling under-appreciated, or not meshing well with other riders they look to start fresh the next year with the hopes of having a cohesive racing career. Yes, there is a major difference in the reasons behind team changes of amateurs and professionals but what remains the same is that we all want to feel welcome, acknowledged, and respected.

This weekend I’ll be racing in good old Central Park at the Mengoni Grand Prix . I’m elated to say it will be a category Pro 1/2 only race. This is great news considering the majority of races run are Pro 1/2/3. The dynamic of a Pro 1/2 will change team tactics, harden race pace, and will give opportunities for category 2 sprinters a chance to step up to the plate. I tend to favor myself in a break away rather than a sprint but I’ll remain aggressive near the front so if a opportunity arrises I’ll make myself known. Consequently, this will be my last race on my team for the season. I’ve decided I’m going to race unattached after this race and start looking for a new team. I’m not going to rush into a decision but make a better calculated decision on who to race with so that my relationship with the team is not short-lived.

This year I have come to various conclusions about training. For a competitive cyclist, the bulk of training is done when the sun is not out (winter), temperatures are below freezing (winter), or stuck indoors feeling like naked a rat on a wheel sucking in dry air all the while sweating puddles of sweat onto the floor. I never quite comprehended the importance of winter training. After my first two seasons I would start a small running and swimming regime which would keep my aerobic levels at a mediocre state. Once the nice weather hits, a rider must succumb to less intense riding, more resting, and a getting oneself ready for traveling and racing on the weekends. Next season will bring new challenges both positive and negative but with the hopes of a new found training program, strong team cohesion, and with a motivation to race, the possibilities are limitless. I have also learned this season, when you are not feeling well on a ride or simply feeling sluggish around the house, its better to rest and recover rather than pushing ones self mentally and psychically. On days when I felt tired I rested rather than rode. On days when I was overwhelmed with outside forces, family, and relationships, I took a nap and when for a short easy relaxing ride. Sometimes simply spinning the legs gave my body and mind a joyous feeling of recovery. Overall I learned how to rest my body more than push past those limits. As the saying goes, “There is a time and place for everything”. There is also a time to train and a time to relax. Making the distinction and knowing when to rest and when to recover can determine the outcome of a successful season or a tragic one.

This year I have also found the love of my life (Maija) and made three best friends (Maija, Frito, and Cooper) I have a lot of experience being around dogs. After walking dogs through college, and then helping clients dogs with behavior problems I thought I knew a lot about dogs behavior. Frito and Cooper have taught me new tricks. They have taught me about unconditional love and the pure joy between human and canine. With Frito and Cooper I have gained a new sense of self-therapy. Whenever I feel uneasy, stressed, or just simply out of it, my dogs facial expression and energy changed like a mood ring. A dog can sense your positive and negative energy the same way a professional poker player knows what hand you are holding. You try so hard to hide it from them but it’s inevitable; They already know. Over the years I have made many friends both human and canine. I used to walk/take care of this one golden retriever named Holly. When we first met she was less than one year old, had bundles of energy and was 100% untrained. Over the year I took care of her I worked hard to become her pack leader and for her to respect my commands. It was quite apparent I had a better connection with Holly than her owners did even through I only saw Holly 3-5 days a week for a half hour at a time. Dogs forget things sure, but they definitely do not forget strong positive energy. Cooper and frito have taught me how to figure out problems by simply talking to them. While Cooper and Frito will never talk back to me, I rely on them to be my therapy mirror. Whenever I am with them and I have something on my mind I try and talk it out to myself. Sometimes I speak these words to myself in front of them in my head, “Should I do this, or should I do that?” It gives me a chance to work things out for myself without any outside verbal feedback. A dog (or two) are great companions for anyone and I will never go without having dogs in my life for as long as I live.

Lastly I have also learned what a pleasure it is to train with Maija. Having her there on many cold, rainy, and mild days when I would have been alone helped my training considerably. It showed how to ride within myself and how to ride hard while having her sit in behind me. Riding behind someone for a majority of a training ride is not the most exciting endeavor. But Maija would do this for me because she knew it would help my training and make me stronger. As a result it also made her a stronger cyclist. I would find myself pleasurably distracted as I glanced behind me several times to make sure she was still on my wheel. My experience riding with her has helped me to understand the gravity of having a training partner. So often we find ourselves training with someone either below or above our level. While we all know having someone with similar abilities is always best, having no one at all is even worse.

Overall this season has taught me how important the mental aspect of training can be and how ones energy (either human or canine) can change your outlook on the day, month, and year. I have a new found respect for myself and my life because of these experiences and the future looks bright with promise of having a balanced life.