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Bike Racing is just like tackling life

I started racing because I wanted a challenge. I thought I could take my endurance rides to the field and compete. I was humbled faster than I thought I could race. The longer I race my bike, the more I realize how it transfers to Life.

1. If you give up, someone else wins.

As soon as you back off, your competition will blow past you. There have been numerous occasions where I was neck-and-neck with another athlete, only to give in to the painful burning in my legs. As soon as I sought relief, two wheels spun by. And my legs would still hurt as they disappeared in the distance. Most races this past season, I listened to my legs instead of my heart. Or hell, maybe it was the fact that my heart wasn’t in it.

More than once, I lined up at the start, already given up, as I looked at my competition. Unceasing self-doubt plagued my thoughts before the whistle blew.

Outside of cycling, I’ve given up on projects and people alike, convincing myself it wasn’t going to work, only to be proven wrong by someone else.

2. There will always be someone better than you.

No matter how much you train or study, someone will outdo you. And that’s okay. You don’t grow if you’re not challenged. Knowing this doesn’t mean you stop trying because one day you will beat that person.

Then you will find someone better than you again. And again.

I remember passing cyclists during organized rides before I started racing. I thought I was super fast. Surely, I could race with the speed I was going I thought. Then I started racing and more often than not, someone was always passing me. I train plenty and there will always be a faster woman than me.

3. It’s okay to ask for help.

When I was younger, I thought it showed a sign of weakness if I asked for help, so I never did. I learned a lot alone, but it was probably more efficient to ask someone who knew what they were doing.

When I started racing, again, I was figuring it all out alone. I couldn’t find resources nor did I know what to even research. Racing was entirely new to me. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I created my own training plan my first year and luckily, it was enough to beat my competition. My first season as a Cat 3 was tough. I knew it would be. I thought I could replicate my training from the season prior, but it was a mistake. Undertrained and frustrated, I only landed on the podium twice out of the whole season.

I finally asked a friend to look over my plan. I knew if I didn’t change something, I’d get the same results. He ripped my plan to shreds, but that’s what I paid him for. I don’t have enough money for a coach, but I could pay for a consultation.

As amateur as I felt asking for help, I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought, and it was worth getting a different pair of eyes on it.

I’ve asked for help in other areas of my life as well. I’ve asked for career advice, life advice, and love advice. Most people are grateful to be asked and will typically help if they can.

4. We all pretend to have it figured out.

When I line up for a race, I try to look like I know what I’m doing. I joke around out of anxiety. Truth be told, I have no plan. I assume the rest of the women do, especially if there are team members. I joke more.

I remember Guanella Pass Hill Climb. A sizable group shot off from the front. I assumed they’d be racing like that the whole time up the mountain and there was no way I could keep up. I pulled off from the group. Once at the top, at a measly 7th or so place, one of my competitors told me her team’s plan: “we wanted to hold a high pace for the first five minutes to drop as many women as we could. We didn’t know if it’d work or not.”

It worked.

Other times, I’ll chat with winners and they’ll admit they weren’t expecting a win.

We like to look like we know what we’re doing. Social media is the worst (or best?) for this: people post their best sides; their “I-know-what-I’m-doing” pose. Rare is it to see vulnerable posts that reveal how lost we all are. We don’t want people to know that we’re 30 years old and haven’t a clue where to go. Oh, is that just me?

I think we fear being vulnerable because of all the stereotypes that come with that title. Vulnerable in society means weak, easily manipulated, less-than. No one wants to be perceived as that. We want to feel like we belong. And that means pretending we know what we’re doing.

5. Pain is temporary.

Whether it be physical or mental, pain isn’t forever. I know there have been numerous occasions where my legs and lungs were burning. I assumed it’d go on like this the whole race, longer than the race, so I gave up. I pulled back for relief. I couldn’t hack it.

I forgot that the pain was temporary. It wasn’t going to last forever. It’d eventually subside. When I get tattoos, I breathe through it. That sharp mini stab against my skin. I remember to relax my body and remind myself it’s temporary. I forget the pain at my next tattoo session.

When I had my first serious break-up, I didn’t think life could get much worse. I cried and swore off men at the ripe age of 16. I remember the sting in my chest whenever I had to drive by his parents’ house, flipping the bird as I zoomed past. I never thought I’d love again.

I loved and broke again and again and again. Each time growing harder, swearing off dating, convincing myself I only needed me; that I’d never break my own heart. Then another beard would walk into my life and the process began again.

When I lost a job because of the owner’s pride, I thought that was the end of my career. I fully believed that status was everything. If I didn’t have a job, I was nothing. After a few sorrowful days, I felt light. I was no longer burdened by a manager’s ego who crushed my will to live. I was no longer in an emotionally abusive and toxic environment. When I thought I couldn’t survive, I flourished. The pain eventually subsided.

When we’re in a moment (or several) of pain, we tell ourselves we’re not going to get through it. We forget all the times we told ourselves that and survived.

6. Attitude & perseverance is everything.

Bad attitudes give bad results. If you believe you’ll fail, you will. If you think a situation will suck, it will. If you tell yourself that so-and-so isn’t a good person, they’ll prove you right because that’s what you’ll look for.

Throughout the race season, I have to remind myself to have fun. I tend to take it too seriously (okay, I take most things too seriously). When I take racing too seriously, I place too much of my self-worth on results. When I tie my self-worth to mid-pack finishes, I get depressed and start thinking less of myself. I don’t want to race at that point and then I start questioning why I race. It’s a shitty spiral.

In the same vein, perseverance will get you to the end. If you cannot persevere, you won’t go far in racing or in life. You need to be able to handle all the bullshit that’s thrown your way. You have to be able to handle it again and again and again. Like Hugh Glass in the Revenant. He kept getting his ass handed to him, and yet, he continued. After getting mauled by a bear, left for dead, shot at, starved, and falling off cliffs, Hugh persevered.

Unless I am physically unable to finish a race, I will always cross the finish line. Death before DNF.

7. Suffering is all part of the game.

You need to learn to suffer because suffering is a part of life. When you can accept that, it’s easier to endure.

You will learn to endure mental anguish and physical pain throughout your life. Whether that is losing a job, losing a loved one, suffering a bodily injury, or racing your bike. Hell, it will even be those tiny, nagging pains – the ones you wake up with in the morning, sore shoulders from hunching over your computer, or low back pain from holding up your gut.

You suffer insanely on the bike. You can’t have a weak mind if you want to race. Your mind will want to give up before your legs if it isn’t trained. Too many times I wanted to give up before the finish line.

I remember my first 40K Time Trial Race. It sucked. As I took off from the starting line I watched the woman in front of me disappear. It was clear I wasn’t gaining on her, which meant my time was slower than hers. I was a solid five miles in before anyone passed me, but when they did, boy was I passed. Mentally, I was over it. I already convinced myself that I came in last. At that point, I just wanted to finish.

My body was wiped too.

My legs felt like they were filled with lead. No matter how hard I pushed on the pedals, nothing came out. It felt like I was maxing out my FTP, but really, I was pushing out half those watts. I crossed the finish line, totally defeated. When I saw my first last place, I cried.

I sulked the whole way back home. Then I became determined to never finish last place again. And when I did finish last another time, I didn’t cry, I didn’t sulk. I’m learning to suffer and accept results as they come.

An Open Letter to the People Who Want Me Dead

I recently read Phil Gaimon’s post about his near-death experience with a car. It reminded me of a post I wrote a few years ago when I rode the Red Rocks Challenge.

———

Dear Deadbeat,

At the Red Rocks Gran Fondo last Saturday, I realized what’s on the inside of you will come out, eventually. Whether that be sadness, happiness, anger, or fear, we all have things in our lives that inevitably makes us who we are.

Some people have poison within them. Let’s be honest, we probably all have a little. This is a term I learned from Don Miguel Ruiz in “The Four Agreements.” It’s that negativity, hatred, and unhealthy thoughts that cloud your mind. The problem with this poison is that people don’t want it inside them and they think the only way to rid themselves of the poison is to pass it on to others.

The poison that came out of you last Saturday was hatred and it was spray-painted throughout our route.

cars

There are a lot of problems with this message, most notably the misspelling of “you.” That actually bothers me more than the message itself. If you seriously took the time to go to Michaels, to pick your favorite color out of the hundred of spray paint colors (and theirs must be blue), to drive out to this isolated road, in the middle of the night (because cowards don’t do these things in public – for fear of getting caught), hunt down the positive messages the volunteers already spray painted, to have your buddies hold the flashlight over your head so you could see the road as you spray painted, as you laughed and thought you were just the cleverest son of bitch this world has yet to know, and to go find the next positive message to do it all over again – surely, if you spent all this time and your parents’ money to spread your poison, you’d spell “you” right?

Maybe it’s one of those words for you: “Is it u-before-o or o-before-u?” It’s three letters. If you could go out of your way to spread your poison, commit to proper spelling. This isn’t a text message, you’re not restricted to a 140-character limit. You had the entire road and you chose to spray paint, “u.” By this measure, cars should kill “u.” The letter “u” didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just hangs out between “t” and “v.” They’re a happy group of characters. You, you’re not happy.

If I can look past “u” and see the message, you, the degenerate, was conveying, then it is clear that you want cyclists to die, specifically by cars.

If you did your research then you would see a study published by NHTSA that in 2014 726 bicyclists did die and 50,000 bicyclists were injured. If you did the math, which I’m also questioning your math skills, that’s roughly two cyclists that get killed and 142 that are injured every day.

I want you to imagine 144 people in a row and I know it’s probably hard for you to count that high, let alone envision 144 people who have a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, a kid or two, a home, a job, some friends; probably dreams and goals for their future. Do you have that in your thick skull? Do you see them smiling? Do they look happy? What are they wearing? Are they saying anything?

Now I want you to take a truck. Imagine the color, my guess is you’d choose blue. Is it diesel? Does it have a hemi? Does it have 4 tires? 6? What song is playing over the stereo? Imagine it all.

Got all that?

Visualize the 144 people alongside the road and take your blue truck with the music playing in the background and hit every. single. one. of. them. One by one, with your mirror, the front bumper, maybe run over a leg or two. I’m sure you pictured them on their bikes, so make sure you envision destroying their bikes as well. 142 people survived. Blood’s running down their knees, out their noses; squished raspberries clotting around their knees.

2 never stood back up. 2 bodies lay on the pavement motionless while the other 142 people groan and cry. 2 human beings that are no longer considered people, but a ‘body.’ They’ve lost their identity and their life. That’s what you want.

That’s what your misspelled message represents.

You are a sad person. Let go of the poison within you. The human beings, myself included, that rode our bikes on Saturday did nothing to you. I’ve never wished harm upon you or your family. I’ve never tried to hurt you or your family. The only thing I’ve ever done to someone on my bike is inconvenience them because they were forced to slowly and safely pass me on the road. I’m guilty of that.

I’m guilty of riding my bike on the shared roads that my tax dollars also go towards. I’m guilty of flipping off cars that pass me too closely or shout mean things to me as they drive by. But that’s it. I never wished harm upon another person. Even as a driver, I’ve never wished harm upon a cyclist.

And unfortunately for you, dear tagger, not all cyclists are as forgivable. The cyclists may ride out in drones now because you want them off the road.

I hope that your misspelled message isn’t responded to with more violence. Violence begets violence.

My hope is that us cyclists take the higher road, that we keep the rubber side down, and our chins up. You will not deter us.

Real Body Image Talk

Hi. My name is Jessica and I have a problem.

I cannot look at my body without having some sort of criticism. Today, I found some broken blood vessel on my face. It looks like a freckle but up close, it isn’t. I stretched the skin around, inspected it as if I was a scientist, reviewing cells under a microscope. I found the vein. I leaned away from the mirror to see if it was noticeable as it was up close. All I could imagine were varicose veins plaguing my face, like some kind of connect-the-moles game. I started to relive fifth grade again. When the kids made fun of the moles on my face: “Moley! Moley! Moley!” mimicking Austin Powers.

I used to think I had strong, muscular legs. That was until I had a body fat analysis scan that revealed most of my fat is in my legs. Oh, and arms. Now all I see are sausage legs in my cycling kit. I don’t look fast. I look fat. I look like when you stuff a giant pillow into a tiny pillow case – seams and material stretching, pushing maximum density, as it curves into itself.

I am more self-conscious now in shorts knowing full well that there’s more fat than muscles. And I rub the sides of my thighs a lot as if I could rub away cellulite like you do with scuff marks on the floor. Once I scuffed the floor from my bike tires. I tried all different kinds of solutions believing one of them would finally wash away the black rubber streaked across the laminate wood flooring. Finally, I took a butter knife and etched away at the black.

I can’t etch away cellulite.

When I walk, I can feel my inner thighs rubbing together. I know it isn’t muscle because of how much it jiggles. It’s soft and flimsy like silly putty. Only I can’t mold my thighs like a stone statue. And my thighs smash into each other when I sit – doubling in size. I try not to look down when I’m sitting because I know I’ll see a single thigh. One giant, jiggly, fatty thigh.

And I eat another piece of chocolate.

My shirts lay against my stomach just right where I can see the little bump that no matter the number of crunches, planks, or skipped meals, it stays there. I constantly tug at my shirt to hide it, pulling material loose. Using two hands sometimes to stretch the material if it hugs my belly too tight.

I’ll dig my thumbs into my hips trying to find the bone. Then pinching the excess that peeks over my jeans. If no one’s around, I’ll lift my shirt high enough and stare and scrutinize my midsection. Twisting and turning to view every possible angle in a desperate search to find the most flattering. Tightening my stomach, pushing it out, and sucking it in to find the right amount of contraction it’ll take to make it look flat. But it never gets as flat as I want it to. I look down and see that fucking bump every day.

And my gaze travels up. Up to my back where skin folds along my bra strap. Months and months of back strengthening exercises and there’s still back fat leering. Months of attempting to cut portions, match my carb-to-protein ratio, and staring longingly at cookies. Sometimes, I’ll reach behind with a false sense of optimism believing that I’ll be unable to pinch anything.

I call my breasts “orangutan boobs” and now you’re picturing it. A sign of getting older and the effects of gravity. I joke their small size keeps me aero on the bike. Always self-deprecating. Never self-appreciating. I also joke about my “bingo flab,” also known as triceps.

Again with the months of Tricep exercises believing that one day I’ll defy gravity and there won’t be loose skin hanging below my arms. That when I do the first place stance my arms will look strong and mighty, not droopy.

And while I complain about all the physical limitations and imperfections of my body, I never apologize for taking up space. Rarely do I complain to the general public about the size of my thighs or the numerous moles on my face. And when I get really fucking down about my body, I remind myself that at least I have a working one. It takes a single accident to lose it all. With all the activities I do, my flabby stomach drops when I consider what it’d be like to no longer ride my bike, hike, run, stretch, walk, and take care of myself. At that moment my eyes look at the blue sky instead.

Race Anecdotes: WMBAcos Purple Pursuit

“I’m not gonna win, but I may as well try,” I thought to myself after reading Good Guy Tubeless’ contest for a free entry into the Women’s Mountain Biking Association of Colorado Springs. “I never win contests” I said out loud as I tagged my teammate, Stacey, in the comments.

WTf-specific

While the “free entry” posted across my Facebook feed initially piqued my interest, what actually pulled me more into the post was the fact that this was for a women’s mountain bike race. The Purple Pursuit reminded me a lot of the Beti Bike Bash held earlier in the year, but on a smaller scale and located in the springs.

I love seeing events pop-up for the non-male cycling community, especially because there’s a need and a want. Every race I’ve attended (with the exception of female-specific races) it’s a total sausage fest. And while I have always been more of a “tom-boy” and typically have more male friends than WTf (women/trans/femme) friends, I want to see more WTf-friendly races, events, and gatherings. The WTf community needs to know there is space for them and races like The Purple Pursuit start that dialogue in the racing scene.

Paired with companies like Good Guy Tubeless who become allies in this quest for getting more people, especially WTf racing bikes, the community continues to grow.

I wasn’t planning on signing up

Let me preface this by telling you I primarily race road. Before The Purple Pursuit, I tried two mountain bike races. I’m definitely a beginner mountain bike racer. To be perfectly honest, I doubt I would have signed up to race The Purple Pursuit. And that’s important to know if we want to get more women racing their bikes.

Why wouldn’t I have signed up for this great, women-specific mountain bike race? One that offered food, prizes, a solid course, and generous support?

I didn’t want to pay to suck and/or lose. I didn’t know anyone else from my team racing. It was a far drive to the Springs from our house. I didn’t have time to preview the course. And I was burnt out from all my prior racing over the season. Mountain biking takes a completely different set of skills from road, plenty of which I am still completely clueless. I assumed I’d be the less-skilled beginner and it intimidated me.

With a free entry, all those worries fell to the wayside. Saving $45 on an entry justified the 55-mile drive and early wake up, and winning was no longer as important as the experience. Granted, I still wanted to win.

When Hannah of Good Guy Tubeless congratulated me on my win through Facebook messenger, I was shocked. Like I said, I never win anything. She asked for a photo and I had to dig deep to find a good mountain biking picture of me. I found one from my first mountain bike race that was also a free entry for me. It was gifted from my teammate Teena, who unfortunately, crashed in another race and couldn’t compete in Battle of the Bear. She offered it to me for free (saving me $70). Then I was given a “friends and family” discount code to Estes Epic that it felt like I was almost getting paid to race.

See a theme yet?

Lower the cost and barriers to entry for women and they’ll show up. Provide a fun atmosphere and unyielding support and they’ll show up. I guarantee you that I will race more mountain next season because of my experiences this year. I’m going from a “roadie for life” to “I’m a cyclist who races road, mountain, and I dabble in cross.”

The course

Since I signed up for the Beginner category, we had a 6-mile out and back, while the Intermediate and Advanced women had a 13-mile loop.

We started in a dirt parking lot near the stadium. There was a small hill I used to warm-up. The lively announcer caught Chris give me a kiss as were staged under the blow-up banner before the start.

My plan was to jet off at the beginning to get enough distance from the group so I could go slower downhill as I’m still getting used to that. The course was perfect for a beginner race. Nothing technical and no hike-a-bikes. There were tree roots to climb over, sandy sections, and calm downhills. I felt confident and I was hauling. Anytime I looked behind me there wasn’t a rider in sight.

As I passed volunteers, I’d hear “pedal!” and their cowbells. At one point, I found myself at 4.5 miles thinking, “when will I be turning back?” I finally ran into a woman who asked, “are you racing?” “Yeah, I’m a beginner.” Shocked, she told me, “you’re on the wrong course. This is the Intermediate course. You have to go back.” So I did. I went to the previous aid station and the guy didn’t know where I had to go so he told me to go back another aid station. So I did. That man didn’t know either. So I continued to backtrack, hearing my number over the walkies, feeling quite foolish.

I finally returned to the aid station where I was supposed to take a hard right (instead, I went straight). When I showed up, there were new flags and ribbon indicating where we had to go. Unfortunately, they weren’t there when I originally passed. The volunteers smiled and apologized for mistaking me for an intermediate racer and pointing me in the wrong direction.

I remembered this was the first time this race was ever put on so I couldn’t expect everything to go off without any hitch. I also realized that I was gifted an entry, for which I was grateful. I told myself as I flew down a steep double-track that this was all for fun.

Racing doesn’t need to only be focused on winning. I thought about the skills I was teaching myself as I navigated downhill through sandy tracks that pulled my front tire back and forth. It reminded me of cross practice in a sandpit. I looked around the forest and again, I was completely alone. I knew I was no longer in first, but at that point, I didn’t care.

The Awards

Inevitably, I came in third receiving a large rock with a purple plaque and a bike chain glued across as an award. It was original which I absolutely loved. They had decorated with purple balloons instead of a car or trash bins in the background.

My favorite part was the DFL AKA “The Perseverance Award” given to the racer who came in last place. Rarely is anyone stoked to come in last. For me, it’s nearly humiliating and demotivates me. But at The Purple Pursuit, it was celebrated. It was awesome seeing the women’s smiles as their names were called; the crowd cheering even louder.

That’s a way to get women to return to a race. Celebrate everyone.

The Schwag & Prizes

Not only did I receive my rock award, but I also got a glass and coozy simply for signing up. I always wonder how these mountain bike races make money with all the free goods they give away with registration.

As we waited for awards, there was a raffle as well. Spirits were high between the free booze and burgers, brauts, and veggie burgers. Again, believing I never win prizes, my name was called. I won! I chose a hat and gave it to Chris as a prize of his own for persevering through the day. I knew he was ready to go home.

This race became more about supporting organizations like the Women’s Mountain Biking Association of Colorado Springs and new racers. It was about challenging myself and learning new skills. It was about thanking companies like Good Guy Tubeless for gifting new racers like me an entry into a race they probably wouldn’t have done. And if I didn’t race, I would have missed out on meeting two pedal RACING teammates who I hadn’t met before who are total badasses.

Race Anecdotes: Mt. Evans Hill Climb

The person who wins the race won because they were able to suffer the longest.

I suck at suffering.

It’s probably why I haven’t stepped on the top podium this season so far. Sure, I can handle racing, being uncomfortable, the pain, and aches, but I know when I’m really suffering, I ease off just enough to where I can stand it.

Racing 26 miles up a 14’er was no different.

The 3’s were grouped with the P-1-2’s (because that’s women’s bike racing) and I knew from the get-go the pace was going to hurt. I found myself in the front of the group, setting the pace, as it were. No one wanted to get out front. I figured at my pace, I could do this ride all day long, but I also knew that this pace wouldn’t last long and I was riding myself out for no reason.

I dropped the pace slow enough so that an antsy racer could take the lead. And then I was barely hanging on. There were surges after surges and every time I was able to spring back, my Suffer Meter raised a notch. We lost a few women and I didn’t dare look behind me. I didn’t want to see my future.

Finally, a Cat 2 surged with enough gusto that I lost the group. I tried to throw my weight on to the pedals. I tried pulling up, using any sort of hamstring strength there was, and the group was trailing away.

I thought I could keep them in sight with my current output but the distance slowly grew. And with seven miles, I could no longer see the group and I was completely alone.

Enter Mental Toughness.

You can’t solely rely on physical strength to carry you through the finish line, let alone catch you back up to the group. You need the mental stamina. And it’s even harder to train sometimes than hitting certain watts.

What did I do to earn third place?

I gave myself small goals.

When I was completely alone in the forest I focused on making it to the next mile. Thinking about having to Time Trial another 19 miles alone sounded awful. When I thought about it like that, my legs wanted to give up, and my brain was like, “nuh uh, girl.” I didn’t want to do it. At one point I considered quitting, taking the ol’ DNF. But my penny-pinching ass refused to pay $90 to quit 1/3 of the way through a race. So I continued on.

I focused on mile markers or made them as I went. “Get to the end of the road.” “Push it until you’ve made it 1 mile.” “To that tree.” “Get to that switchback.” I did it over and over again until I made it to the top.

I counted my pedal strokes.

When I couldn’t focus on the next mile marker, I counted to 3 by pedal strokes. 1…2…3…1…2…3 as I pushed down on the pedal. I’d match my breath with the pedal revolutions.

And when that didn’t work…

I sang songs to myself.

Any song I could think of I’d sing in my head. A lot of them were Sia songs, oddly enough. “I’m still breathing. I’m alliiiiiiiiiiiiive.” You get the point. Whatever popped into my head, I sung.

I stayed positive.

This was probably the hardest for me because I have an easy time tearing myself down, which we all do. We’re our biggest critics afterall. When I saw the rest of the women leave me in the dust, the negative thoughts started pouring in. I didn’t think I was good enough to be racing with these women. I know I called myself a poseur more than once. And for what? Because of a single race.

I realized in the grand scheme of things, this race won’t matter. The results won’t matter. What I’ll remember is the hard work I was putting into pedaling. The feeling of accomplishment. And the stories that’d last longer than the beer we were awarded.

I kept telling myself to keep trying hard. I wasn’t going to get stronger if I gave up. “You can do this.” Over and over.

And when I got to the top, I saw all my friends. We shared our stories of pain and fun. Took some photos and rode down the mountain. As I flew back down the mountain, I reflected on the spots where I was done, cooked, and wanted to give up. Flying by those spots, I already forgot what the pain felt like.

When I reached Idaho Springs, I surprisingly ended up in third. The entire time suffering up that 14’er, was for a step on the podium. The thoughts, “I’m not a climber,” quickly silenced as my team clapped for me.

——-

What are ways you motivate yourself when you want to give up?

Race Anecdotes: Sunshine Hill Climb

9 miles. 6 miles on paved road. 3 on dirt. 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

I continually try to to convince myself that I’m a hill climber. Sure, I do them. I sickly enjoy the burn in my quads and hammies when I’ve been turning the pedals for miles on end, unable to see the top of the hill, wishing for it to level off, sweat dripping from my nose, my chin, my hair.

But riding hills and racing hills are two very different animals. During a ride, if you’re fatigued, you lay off the watts and cadence to catch your breath and simmer the fire stoking in your legs and lungs. In a race, the moment you pull back is the perfect time for another rider to attack.

I race my bike because it gives me a sense of control. I control the outcome of my race. I send the signals to my body to back off or push harder. It has always felt the opposite when it comes to my life: events out of my control influencing the direction of my life.

But that’s kind of bullshit.

Just like we can choose to push harder or ease off in a race, we can choose what happens in our lives. So many of us blame the world, the economy, friends, family, “god,” for the good and bad, but in reality, it’s only us.

This is what I think about when I’m racing. It’s what I thought about during the Sunshine Hill Climb. Otherwise, I’m counting my pedal strokes. I’m trying to control my breathing. I’m feeling the drop of sweat slide down my forehead, over the tip of my nose, and settle in the dip above my lip. Or it slides into the corner of my eye; the uncomfortable burn that no amount of blinking rids you of the irritation. And of course, during a race, I have a difficult time moving my giant “Terminator” sunglasses to rub my eye, so I blink and blink and my eyes tear up, and then there’s only a slight burn.

The seven of us lined up where the official pointed. I joked, as I always do before a race, for Cassidy to pull us up the hill. As soon as the official blew the whistle, Cassidy took off. I told myself I’d try to keep up with her as long as I could.

I don’t like being uncomfortable.

I stayed on Cassidy’s wheel for about a half mile before my legs started screaming, “no.” Laura was right behind me and when I dropped off, Laura followed Cassidy. I tried keeping Laura insight while also staying ahead of Andie.

As Laura disappeared from sight, Andie was gaining on me.

You should know how the story goes by now: I let my self-defeating thoughts have the best of me. I called myself a loser because I couldn’t keep up with the stronger 3’s. We hit the dirt and they were gone. With every switchback, my confidence shrunk.

“How do they do it?” I thought. Surely, I wasn’t the only one in pain, losing the breakaway.

It’s times like these where you need to stay positive, to break down the race into manageable pieces, to actually trust your training, and most of all, have fucking fun.

I usually forget the most important aspect which is to have fun. If you’re not having fun, why are you doing the thing you’re doing? Life can be taken away from you at any moment so why spend it doing shit you don’t want to do?

So I smiled and cheered on Darrell as I finished the last 1K up the hill. Anna was there to cheer me on at the finish line. I saw my teammates and we shared our racing stories. We descended together and parted ways at the bottom.

It was when I pulled up to Chris waiting for me at the bottom of the hill, lounging under a tree, that I understood why I do this: because I love the challenge. I love knowing I control the outcome. I love the friends I’ve made through racing. I love how much stronger I’ve become because of it. And mostly, I have someone always cheering me on when I can’t muster the stoke myself.

PHP: voluntarily kicking your own ass before the sun comes up

For at least the past year, I was consistently told, demanded, and jokingly harangued to join the pedal RACING men on this unofficial-yet-has-an-official-name ride Tuesday and Friday mornings near Cherry Creek State Park. And for eleven months, I found excuses to avoid it: “Gotta work,” “maybe next time,” and my favorite: “one of these days, I’ll join you.”

I knew it was a sausage fest and the thought of hammering out the watts elbow-to-elbow with testosterone-pumping broski bros didn’t turn me on like it did my male counterparts.

I didn’t see the benefit of waking up at the asscrack of dawn, trying to find the elusive meeting spot, only to potentially make a fool out of myself or crash or hell, maybe both.

Then one of my female pedal RACING teammates swallowed her pride and dropped all apprehension and joined the dudes. After seeing her activity glittered with kudos and Strava bling, I had immediate FOMO. Kinda what social media does to us, right?

All the encouragement and positive comments convinced me that, sure, I can at least give it a try once to see what it’s all about. Not to mention the fact that this season as a Cat 3 has been exceptionally soul-crushing and challenging watching my competitors leave me in the dust as I suck [wind].

From all the mediocre finishes, I was desperately seeking another type of training that’d increase my speed, skills, and maybe confidence. The pedal RACING guys had been telling me the past year how PHP would make me faster and it wasn’t until I saw my female pedal teammate speak highly of this impervious ride-but-actually-it’s-a-race-for-us-newbies that I realized, “shit, if I try to ride [operative word being “try”] this with faster people, maybe I’ll get faster.” Sure, we all have to figure these things out on our own.

So I hardened the fuck up (Rule #5) and on May 22nd, I joined my first PHP ride. The meet-up was on the bridge at Cherry Creek and Holly. I didn’t see a single person when I drove past looking for a parking spot. Am I in the right spot? I frantically thought.

I parked alongside the road and scanned passing cyclists for any hint of a gathering. I applied my chamois cream, buckled my helmet, slid on my shades, and started my Garmin as I attempted to look like I knew what I was doing and where I was going.

I slowly rolled up to the bridge five minutes ‘til and there were two dudes hanging out. Seriously, five minutes before and no one is here? I’m totally at the wrong spot. I finally mustered up the courage to ask one of the guys if this was the meeting spot for PHP. He smiled, “yep.”

And like clockwork, 60 (that’s a rough estimate) cyclists appeared out of nowhere. Just in time to Hammer. I found my teammates who were both shocked and excited to see me finally own up to my word. Then the game plan was laid out for me: “this is just the warm-up before we get to the park.” “Watch out for the potholes. It’s the worst right here.” “You’ll get dropped up the first hill. It happens to everyone. Just wait at the top for the group to come back.” “Oh, the ‘S’ turn. You want to be toward the front because it’s like an accordion. If you’re on the back at the ‘S’ turn, you’ll get dropped. That’s what happened to me.”

Loads of tips were offered as I tried keeping pace during their “warm-up.” Of course I wouldn’t keep up at the first hill. It was race-pace for me. I could only speak a few words before another giant breath.

“The fuck did I get myself into,” I thought, as we made our way down Colorado Blvd.

We rolled into a parking lot just outside of Cherry Creek State Park to reconvene. I was told sometimes they broke into A and B groups. This time they didn’t. A couple of other teammates showed up and we started rolling out as a giant peloton-ish group.

As soon as wheels touched the perimeter of Cherry Creek, it was full gas. I picked a Jersey in front of me and held on. Luckily, drafting kept me on the pace line.

The group rides the Cherry Creek Time Trial course, which I’m quite familiar with, so I knew where the hills were and sections of the road to avoid. As the first Hill was coming up, I kicked it down a gear (high cadence, lower power) and tried to keep up with the quickening pace.

Men flew by me on my left, they flew by on my right, and the rest of us left on the hill, pushed and pulled on our pedals, trying in vain, to reach the top of the hill before the peloton was completely gone. Our heavy and rapid breathing became a choir of novices and determination.

I was dropped.

The peloton was nearly at the bottom of the hill by the time I recovered. My buddy, Zuzana, and I, collected ourselves, and followed the group down the road.

We watched the giant mob grow smaller and smaller and just like that, it was like the group of 50 men were never there.

Too proud to not do the full route, I zoomed around the lollipop loop with a couple of other stragglers. We formed a small group of three as we pedaled up the second Hill (which, on later rides, I would eventually be dropped) desperately seeking the peloton.

We didn’t even know what direction they went, so we guessed. We didn’t know which road to take to get back to our cars either. As we biked back to the entrance of Cherry Creek, we saw several dropped riders, like discarded litter on the side of the road. One man was headed back to the elusive meeting spot where he was also parked, so we jumped on his wheel.

The meeting spot was as bare after the ride as it was before.

As soon as I was back to my car and uploaded my ride to Strava, the kudos, the bling, and the comments poured in. I PR’d segments on the route I didn’t even realize.

I saw the others with whom I started the ride and kudo’d them. It was like I had been initiated into a secret society that anyone who follows them on Strava knows about. My own friends asked what PHP was and I had to tell them I had no idea what it stood for, but… then I’d detail the crazy ride I experienced.

I’ve since started commuting to PHP with a few men from my team. It’s about ten miles from the Littleton meeting spot to the PHP meeting spot. The guys told me it’s also a warm-up to PHP, but by the time we get to the bridge, I’m drenched in sweat, I’ve QOM’d segments, and my glasses are foggy from my warm face. Then PHP commences. I follow that with a ride on Cherry Creek path to work. I end up clocking in about 54 miles by the end of the day.

I’ve only seen a few other women ride at PHP, notably two Cat 2 women from Palmares who seem to be regulars. I could see why this would intimidate anyone who just started racing: you’ve 60 amateur cyclists trying to be like the pros, riding on public roads, 99% are dudes, testosterone is raging, and you’re privy to crashes.

One time I joined a B group actually formed. Some people think the B group is slower, but I work harder in this group because I actually get a turn to pull. It was both a good and bad experience. It was good because it was bad. It taught me how to handle myself and my bike around people who didn’t.

The men didn’t understand how a paceline worked and once they came to the front, they’d take off. The group would break up, there were no longer two lines, and we had to reel them back in. Halfway through the the route, I was sick of no one calling them out and I was concerned for my safety. I finally asked this one older dude, dressed in his green PHP kit (to prove his seriousness and dedication to an elusive bro’s club), if he was part of the paceline because he kept shooting off the front.

He growled back at me, “I’ve been doing this for ten years. Don’t tell me what to do!” Now, 18-year-old Jessica would have opened a bottle of verbal whoopass. 29-year-old Jessica swallowed her pride and bit her tongue hard enough to draw blood. Instead, I told him, “calm down, it’s just a ride.” Another teammate of mine tried to settle him down as well as a Palmares racer rode next to me and very loudly said, “For what it’s worth, you’re fucking right and he’s wrong.”

I tried to not let the dickhead ruin the rest of the ride. But it also made me realize it’s guys like that who turn women off from joining PHP. To men, it seems like it’s all about comparing not just dick sizes, but bikes. I know women can be combative, catty, and of course, competitive. But for a woman to join PHP, it’s much more than riding with the bros. We want to get faster. Stronger. We want to learn skills. And there aren’t many opportunities for a woman to do that in a big group setting. When there are women’s workshops, we’re lucky to hit double digits.

I think the fear is what I worry about each time I go to PHP: being the only one who can’t keep up. Getting in a crash. Not having anyone I know there.

Luckily, I have teammates who care about my wellbeing and are great examples of how to treat others in the peloton. They hold their line, they call their pass, they tell me where I need to go.

Each time I’ve joined PHP, I’ve been able to stay with the group longer, which says something about where my fitness is going. My good cyclist friend, Anna, tells me all the time to ride with guys because it’ll make me faster. And I think I found the guys who will do just that.

Race Anecdotes: Guanella Pass Hill Climb

The last time I rode Guanella Pass I did it “for fun” and not at race pace. I let myself take breaks. I took my time. I enjoyed the scenery.

And it was three years ago.

Mistakenly, I thought riding Squaw Pass last weekend would prepare me enough for the 10-12% grades and the guns a’blazin’ race that is the Guanella Hill Climb.

I used to pride myself in my Hill-climbing abilities based off of the numerous organized rides I’ve completed like The Double Triple Bypass, The Copper Triangle, and Ride the Rockies. I love to climb. I love challenging rides. I thought that because I rode these rides without quitting and the fact that I seemed to pass quite a large number of people that I was relatively skilled in Hill climbing.

But until you ride these routes during a race with people at or above your ability, you’ve no idea how strong you actually are.

You don’t get participation awards in races. Nor should you.

I falsely assumed I was a strong Hill climber because of my riding history. And that’s the problem: my history. This past season I have done very little climbing. Little compared to how much training I need to do in order to compete at a Cat 3 level.

Desperate to find the answer as to why I performed so mediocre in the Guanella Pass Hill Climb, I searched through podcasts. Of course, VeloNews had an episode about Race Tactics and Training. I downloaded the episode in hopes of a training revelation that I’d soon realize after listening.

“What would these experts instill upon my second-year-racer mind?” I wondered.

Train for your races.

If you want to race up mountains, that’s where you focus your training. You can’t just throw in a couple of mountain passes and call it good, which is what I did.

If you want to perfect your sprint, practice your sprint.

If you want to be able to hold watts for a specific amount of time, then practice that.

It’s so obvious we forget to do the simplest thing. If you want to get better at something, you need to consistently practice it. Duh right?

My problem and realization is that this is my second year of actual racing. Truth be told, I have no idea my strengths or interests. Okay, that’s a lie. I know I have endurance. I can ride all day long, but at a slower speed. This isn’t helpful for racing. Therein lies the problem: find out your strengths and weaknesses within racing so you can train appropriately. Also, figure out what you actually like to race. Hate climbing? Don’t sign up for a hill climb. Hate solo efforts? Don’t sign up for a time trial. Don’t like going around the same 1-mile course for an hour? You probably won’t enjoy crits.

Like I said, I like climbing. It feels like a bigger accomplishment when I’m overlooking mountain ranges as opposed to taking 90 degree turns at full speed.

The race started fast like all the other Cat 3 races have this season. I clipped in just fine which is always my biggest fear during races. As soon as the whistle blew, I was pumping out 300-something watts, which I knew I couldn’t hold for an hour. I hung on for maybe 300 meters and couldn’t hold on. That’s the hardest part mentally for me: knowing I don’t have the strength to keep up with the group for longer than 300 meters. That as hard as I pushed, my screaming legs were louder than my will to push.

And then it was a time trial the rest of the race. 10 solo miles climbing up hill with 10-12% grades, headwind the whole time.. I’m starting to sound like my grandmother. Not that she ever raced a bike but I do remember hearing stories of walking to school uphill both ways, carrying a hot potato to keep warm.

The self-defeating thoughts that poison your mind during an effort like this are never ones you’d say to a friend, let alone, repeat out loud. So why do we do it to ourselves?

Truth be told, I’ve been attempting, in vain, to kick the negative thoughts out and replace with more positive words. Any time the thought, “I’m not strong enough” crept into my mind I tried reminding myself that strength takes time.

When I thought how much my legs hurt I switched to counting pedal strokes.

I constantly tried changing my thoughts during the rides. What we think, we become. Right?

I was mentally and physically exhausted by the end of the ride. My time was so mediocre, the announcer didn’t bother saying my name as I crossed the finish line alone.

As I caught my breath and attempted to stay upright, I realized my training during the off-season focused more on endurance. Rarely was I climbing mountains December through March, mainly because they were covered in snow.

What you train will become stronger. Whatever it is that you want to excel at, you must consistently train.

Race Anecdotes: Superior Morgul Time Trial

Grey clouds stretched across the sky as sweat poured down my face. I wished for dry weather. My interval timer lit up green, signifying a 60-second break before my next effort. Then a couple of drops fell on to the screen.

Please don’t rain. Please don’t rain. Please don’t rain. Droplets multiplied with each interval. Halfway through my warm-up, I could no longer decipher between sweat and rain.

I peered across the parking lot full of stationary cyclists. Heads bobbing and faces glistening from sweat and drizzle. Everyone staring at the ground unless a familiar face approached their little five-foot training zone.

I always want to look tough, for whatever egotistical reason. I guess it’s one of those beliefs that if I look the part, maybe I’ll act it. I have this fear of people thinking I’m weak so I assume if I act like I’m not gonna take anyone’s shit, no one will mess with me. I learned that back when I was in elementary school and was constantly ridiculed about the moles on my face. I taught myself that if I confronted the bullies first, they usually backed down. Then I became hard and people left me alone.

I rolled up to the start line, regretting not dressing warmer. They counted down: 5…look at all the fucking rain.

4…god, I hope my legs are ready.

3…just catch the women in front of you.

2…I don’t want to come in last.

1…fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck

Go.

Water attacked my face and my legs were already burning before I reached the woman in front of me.

I always wonder if I’m the only one whose legs burn prematurely, who wants to give up five minutes into the race, who hopes for a mechanical so I can blame something else other than my inabilities.

I pushed each pedal until I caught up with her. Water splashed in my face. I broke my aero position to wipe my glasses. The rain smeared away leaving foggy mildew behind. My breaths were no longer smooth. They were quick, short, like I had no air.

Losing my vision is my biggest fear.

This ride tested my mental fortitude of racing and not seeing in front of me. I imagined hitting a pothole, sending it over my handlebars, and breaking my neck. Every time I couldn’t see through my sunglasses, I thought I’d crash.

Between not wanting to come in last and not becoming a paraplegic, I was a ball of anxiety. Slowing way down at turns out of fear of slipping out and crashing, allowed the woman who started after me to catch up. I heard her shift gears, saw her out of the corner of my eye, and I knew I wasn’t doing as well as I’d hoped. We raced alongside each other up the hill, dodging piles of hail, puddles of rain.

“Don’t let her get ahead of you,” I thought. I’d gone too far to let her pass me at the end. I saw the orange cones ahead. I picked up my pace as she slowly drifted behind. I pedaled faster. I heard Stephen from inside the RV shout “go Jessica!” And I crossed the line.

The lady pulled over to tell me she didn’t realize it was the finish line. I’m not sure how you miss it, but that’s neither here nor there. I thanked her for inspiring me to work harder because I was mentally checking out before she caught up to me. “You pushed me harder at the end because I didn’t want you to pass me, so thanks for that.”

While I missed third place by 11 seconds, I learned that you can let fear control you or you can control fear. I realize too often I let fear imprison me. I slow down out of fear. I ease off wheels out of fear. I can’t clip in at the start of the race out of fear.

But fear is a choice. And every time we face fears, there’s one less thing that controls us.

,

Race Anecdotes: Separating the Women from the Weak

The Koppenberg is one of the Colorado Spring Classics you love to hate. If you race cross or are just damn good on dirt, this race is for you. The course description claims two miles of the 5.5 mile circuit is dirt but it felt like eternity racing over washboard-esque roads, dodging potholes, and slipping through sand. Dirt is not my forte. Frankly, up until the Oz Road Race last year, I did everything in my power to avoid any and all dirt.

I realized that avoiding things that scared me was a waste of time and energy. I also didn’t want to let fear control me. You don’t grow stronger by avoiding the things you fear. I certainly wasn’t going to become a stronger racer by dodging any race with dirt. I knew I wasn’t going to make Top 3 in this race and it tormented me. I have this awful habit of believing that if I’m not first, I’m last. I’m great at not giving myself credit for well, anything. Perfectionism is a silent spirit killer.

The other women lined up next to me, our elbows damn near touching. I was left without room to even lift my leg to clip in. I let the pressure get to me. I couldn’t clip in. I was bumped from behind and the women sprinted away. So not the Cat 4/5 Race I was used to from last year. Doubts flooded my mind before we even got to the dirt 1/4 mile away.

I tried to let go of the fear wrapping around me as I bounced and slid along the gravel road. “Try to hang on” I whispered to myself. “Stay relaxed” I said. All these stupidly positive, yet realistic things I’d say to a teammate who was in the hurt locker.

I lost the main group. I fell behind with other women who were hurting as much as me. I ended up in 11th. I won’t even repeat the shitty things I told myself. Chris already ripped up my “victim” card. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I forced myself to learn from this perceived failure.

1. Train hard if you want to race hard

I decided that I’m not training hard enough to compete on this Cat 3 level. I knew this season was going to be harder, but until you’re in the trenches (almost literally at the Koppenberg), you’ve no clue what the race will be like.

I thought my training was solid. I had a practiced a few intervals. I tested my FTP. I was strength training. I thought it was enough. It wasn’t. It isn’t.

I’m realizing every time I think my workout is too hard and dial it back, I know there’s a woman training harder who I’ll race against later. Every time I skip a workout, there’s a woman extending hers. I’ll race against her as well.

Training is an adaptive process. Continually pushing your body teaches it to adapt to the new stressors placed upon it. So, if you want to change your body, you need to stress it to a new level so it adapts. If you don’t consistently stress it, your body won’t become stronger. Naturally, it also needs rest, but that’s another entry.

During training is where you teach your body to adapt to new stressors. Training your body under the same conditions of a race prepares it to perform under the same stressors when it comes to performing. If I only kept my power output at say, 100 watts, my body wouldn’t know how to perform at 540 watts (what I put out on the 17% grade).

If you want to perform at the highest level possible, you have to create that environment during your training.

2. Eat for performance

I’m a snacker. I love snacks. Snacks can be great, but some of the snacks I’ve been eating lately haven’t been the best (shoutout to Goldfish!) for my performance. What you put in to your body will reflect on the outside. It’s obvious when you look at someone who has a lot of extra fat on their bodies. No judging. That’s just the way it is. If you eat too much, it will become fat. Other health and performance problems are exacerbated when the food you choose is processed crap.

I know by treating my body like a garbage disposal it will perform like the one in our sink. Food’s clogging it up. It doesn’t have enough power to cut through it all and perform to its potential. We’re probably going to have to replace it soon. Unlike garbage disposals, I can’t replace my body. This is the only one I have. I have written about what sugar and processed food does to your body. You can read more here.

If you treat your body like a trashcan, it’s going to perform like one.

3. Learn to suffer

I buckle when it gets too hard. I ease off. It’s the truth. I don’t like to be in pain as much as my tattoos would lead you to believe that I love it. Tattoos are a different kind of pain though. The physical exertion in a race affects your entire body whereas a tattoo is concentrated in one spot. They are both mentally fatiguing though.

Again, learning to suffer comes through training. You have to teach yourself to push on even though you want to stop or back off. I know when my mind tells my legs to ease up is when I need to force them to carry on. Our minds, our thoughts, are strong as hell. Your brain has the power to convince you of anything. If you believe you’re weak, your brain sends that to your body and it reacts appropriately. The same is true when you think you’re strong. Your body will believe it. Just like when you learn anything, it takes practice. It takes review. It takes repetition. You can’t line up in the race and decide right then and there that you can suffer.

It’s an art.

Learn to suffer. I recommend two books if you’re a reader like myself: 1. The Brave Athlete. 2. Thinking Body, Dancing Mind. These two books are helping me learn to suffer in a healthy way and how to be a successful athlete.

4. Work on weaknesses

When you race you learn your weaknesses. As much as I’d prefer others not to know my weaknesses and use them against me, I know these weaknesses aren’t specific to me. A lot of people are working through the same weaknesses: racing on dirt, sprint finishes, climbing, and cornering.

I’m human. I’m not perfect (as much as I dislike thinking this). There are things (okay, a lot of things) I need to work on to improve my performance.

Because of this race, I now know what I need to improve. If I competed in the race and threw in the towel there, I wouldn’t grow. I won’t become stronger by giving up. Instead, I’m focusing my efforts now on sprinting during my training. I know I need to practice putting out high watts on dirt. And I need to get comfortable taking corners full speed.

By working on your known weaknesses you’ll become that much stronger and perform better in your next race.

5. Be gentle yet stern

I’m mostly just as asshole to myself. I apologized to my family for coming out to the race and see me finish 11th. I felt guilty for taking up their time to not land on the podium.

I called myself a “failure,” “weak,” and a “poseur.” What do you think that’s doing to my psyche? Talking down to ourselves like that affects our bodies. If I keep telling myself those shitty things, I’m going to continually perform that way too.

I know I would never speak to a teammate like that. And if someone else came up to as soon as I crossed the finish line to tell me, “Jessica, you’re weak.” I’d tell them to go fuck themselves. So why do I talk to myself like that? As the saying goes, “we’re our biggest critics.” Instead, we should be our biggest fans.

Be stern though. Don’t baby yourself either. Pat yourself on the back but also look at what you could have done better. There will never be a time where you go, “There is nothing I could have done better.” Ever. And if you say that to yourself, you’re in denial. No, that’s not just a river in Egypt.

Give yourself credit for having the guts to go out there in the first place. You’re doing far better than the people on their couches watching Real Housewives of whatever.

6. Get rid of excuses

When I found out who won, the excuses started flying as fast as Kristin Armstrong. “She’s half my age.” “They probably have a Coach.” “They didn’t have to deal with a dying cat last night.” “They have more time to train.” Truly, these were thoughts. And they are all bullshit.

Have you heard the line, “Excuses are like assholes. Everyone has one and they all stink.”? I first heard that in high school. I laughed because visualizing that is gross, but it set in and I’ve been using that line ever since.

I found out that the second place winner doesn’t have a coach, she uses Zwift. I also have Zwift. No excuse to not perform better.

No one has more time in a day than anyone else. We all have 24 hours in a day. What makes the biggest difference is how you use the hours. If I dedicated all my free time to training, I’d probably be stronger, but I don’t.

The honest to bob truth is that I’m just not as strong as the women who won. Boom. My ego shudders to write that.

7. Each setback is a lesson

Knowledge is power.

Applying knowledge is a whole other story.

What separates the women from the weak is having enough self-awareness to realize your short-comings and then doing something about it. You can totally learn your weaknesses and do absolutely nothing about it. I know plenty of people who know they have to work on something specific, something they know will help them in the long run, but they don’t do it. They’re comfortable where they’re at. Those people never amount to anything great.

Adversely, the people who see a setback as a failure and give up are never going to amount to anything either. Failures and setbacks are lessons. It’s data. Information you can use to improve. If you did everything perfect from the get-go, you’d learn nothing. Failure always comes before success. And if you want to succeed faster, fail often.

Don’t be afraid to fail. The most successful people failed often. Do you think Kristin Armstrong showed up at the Olympics one day and won all her golds? Hell no. Or Peter Sagan? Hell, that guy gives zero fucks. He was kicked out of the Tour de France and then went on to win the Paris-Roubiax. Every single person who is now considered a pro or a success has failed. We’re no different from professionals in the land of failure. They just failed and learned faster.

As I lined up amongst the other racers I told myself to “fake it.” “Don’t let them see you sweat” and by bob, I was sweating. My legs burned. My lungs were on fire. And we pressed on.