March 7, 2011

Beating the square peg.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”


This weekend was the last race in my first part of racing to 2011. This year I am taking a slightly different approach, attempting to build some “pop” into my riding and trying to excel in shorter races as well as mountain biking. It’s not been easy and I am more mentally exhausted than I believe I have ever been. I have done a few years of amazing economy based training for the long races and got fairly good (on a world class scale) of going relatively fast for an very long period of time.

Right now, I am beating that square peg I built into the round hole of “100-accelerations-in-the-first-30-minutes” that is mountain bike racing and Xterra racing. During the Grape Escape this weekend, we must have rounded a thousand vineyard poles in 3 days, each one requiring a hard brake, control through the sandy corner and if, like me, you are hanging on the coat tails of the pro back at the back, a vicious acceleration out of said corner. Not quite Ironman racing. I would hang as long as I could and get blown out the back eventually, having to switch back to riding at my limit for the remaining 2/3rds of the race on my own.

I am sitting here shattered wondering when my peg will become perfectly round.

It’s showing signs but there is a season or two to go, by estimation. It’s tough on the mind, on the body and on the spirit, I tell you. What a part of the journey this is turning out to be!

I have managed to round (partially) out a few pegs in the last while, however, which I have to keep reminding myself of:

1. My race day nutrition is incredible. Having moved to racing on Rehidrat this year, I have negated the use of gels and bars in all races and my body is far more consistent in races. The tell tale exhaust fumes (read: bloating and farting) have disappeared during the run sections of my races and I am able to race better, all day.

2. I have now had the opportunity to re-inflate my mountain bike tires and deal with sealant like a pro after the first day of Grape Escape where I stopped no less than 7 times after being part of the group that rode through a blanket of thorns about 10km into the race. Some people even veered off course to visit bike shops midway through the stage. I didn’t panic once, which was great.

3. I used to be so aware of my lack of ability to accelerate that I would start the mountain bike races slowly on purpose because I was scared to pop so badly that I wouldn’t finish the day. I can now hang for quite a bit of time and then hang tough to the finish, a skill I did not have a year ago.

But there is much skill to be worked on when it comes to technical riding, simply, I suck. This autumn, I will be taking on a “personal trainer” of technical riding to help improve this. It’s costing me so much energy and stress during races that it’s a problem worth throwing some money at. Soon, hopefully, I too will be flowing on technical, rough, rocky single track like the guys who left me for dead in the tracks this weekend.

This all takes time, effort and re-shaping something as ingrained as a slow, diesel engine has been a radical experience. I had totally forgotten what it felt like when I was building the diesel engine and my compassion for Ironman newbies has just increased, again. Beating the square peg takes time, takes sacrifice and takes more mental ability than it does physical effort, in my opinion.


By no means am I insinuating that it gets any easier once you are at the front of the race, but really, being at the front of the race, the incentive is there to be at the front, where the action is going on, for the prestige, the win, the chance to lift your hands and say hellyeah I am the greatest today. But by no means is there any less effort once at the front. The motivation changes, but the effort?

So if you feel you are beating square pegs lately, take note of the improvements you have made. Not only in the way I am writing about here, but potentially about improvements to your eating habits, your sleeping patterns, your friendships, relationships and bad habits you are trying to curb in your life. Perhaps your peg’s are a little rounder than you imagine already.

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