BE CURIOUS. This is a very personal post that's been years in the making. It's been made possible by some great folks who you'll meet as we go along. I've been extremely lucky to share parts of my journey with them. It's especially dedicated to the memory of Kevin Van Dyke, who recently died of complications of ALS.
Winter is a struggling time of year for me - at least when I'm trying hard. Coach Kellie Moylan is starting to build my season and as with most growth processes, it's not always smooth. Some days I feel like I knocked it out of the park. Some days I'm struggling. And some days I honestly want to quit partway through a tough interval
session. Last week I was pounding through a tough session and I was mentally planning how to justify bailing out early. And then - I didn't. Why not? The thought that entered my head and WOULD NOT LEAVE: "Be curious".
How does "be curious" relate to training or ultracycling? Let's connect some dots.
First - one of the grittiest ultracyclists I know is Joan Deitchman. One of the rare times I've seen her down was at the 2009 Race Across Oregon. She ultimately DNF'd - this may be the ONLY race she's ever DNF'd, actually -and she was hating life. Her back was very aggravated. The only thing I could tell her was to keep going to the next time station - to be SURE that she knew what she wanted to do. She did that. And then she quit. And she never regretted her decision, because she'd done everything and exhausted all possibilities, and she KNEW that she was not able to finish. She put in a lot of hard, gritty, probably painful work to get to that point, but she was SURE. The more I've gotten to know Joan, the more that I realize that her drive to know is fundamental - to her cycling, but also to her character.
Second - for me, the defining moment of RAAM 2021 was spent sitting on the pavement in the vicinity of Monument Creek, UT. It was during the awful, middle-of-the night hours. We were behind time, and getting further behind while Michael Davies-Hughes sat there, trying to muster up the guts to quit RAAM. He was dehydrated and mentally and physically exhausted from 3 days of riding in temperatures well over 100F. We needed him to ride at night to make up time and take advantage of somewhat cooler temperatures. He'd reached a breaking point, laid the bike on the pavement and just...sat there. "I don't know if I can do it", he said. "I just...don't...know". In a flash, a dot connected for me. "Well, Michael - some folks quit because they don't know. Maybe they don't WANT to know. If you go on, you might give it everything and still not be good enough. But you would KNOW. So that's the thing - do you really, really want to know? Because if you want to know, you need to ride, and you need to do that now...."This was a risky move - I did not know Michael nearly well enough to be certain how he would respond. In the moment, he was a little sulky - like a kid who's been told that I've already kissed your skinned knee, twice. But he got on the bike. And although he spent the first bit of pedaling time re-focusing his strategy on how to get me to let him quit in Cortez, somewhere along the way he actually started riding well - and the rest is history.
Third - once upon a time, a really smart dude once told me that what's kept me from finishing RAAM has been that I can't have Sandy Earl as my crew chief. Kevin Van Dyke meant that both ways. He meant it first as a compliment: I'm a really good crew chief. I get into people's heads and hearts and figure out how to guide them to the finish line. But also second - that I have to get out of my own way and let crews take over. I've taken both pieces of advice to heart since he offered it in 2017. I upped my crew game by finding the best people and equipping them with useful tools to help them understand and provide what I need. And I hired a coach - for the first time in 20+ years of ultracycling, I just let go and trusted someone else to plan my training. It's been, well, revolutionary.
But on lonely winter training rides, I'm still my own crew chief. And I'm trying to bail out on a tough interval. Because...I...don't...know...if...I...can...finish...it. And light bulbs start flashing: Don't *I* want to know? If I quit, I won't fail, exactly, but I won't succeed - and I won't KNOW what I can do. More importantly, Kellie won't know,
either, and she needs that to keep my training on track. So - I decided to find out. The words that I used to guide myself back into a right way of thinking were, "BE CURIOUS". So add that to my catch phrases for 2022-2023.
As a matter of fact, "BE CURIOUS" is going on my refrigerator. That's one way to make something real - a convo that I had more than once with Jacquie Schlitter. Putting a big goal in your face, right at eye level, somewhere where you'll have to deal with it every single day at least once, is visualization on steriods. There are no guarantees in ultracycling - I know that as well as anyone - but the one outcome that I DO Have control of is knowing. Knowing that I trained and prepared as well as I could. Knowing that I have a capable crew and that I've given them tools to succeed. Knowing that I have done everything I can do, as well I can do it.