My cycling season is back into full swing since late January with simple base mileage and spin drills to awaken the legs back into endurance form. The workouts are easy this time of year but the motivation is not. Coming off one of the longest training seasons I have ever done for cyclocross, five months of intensity, bouts with colds and bronchitis, and the chilly weather, have made getting back into the mental game a lazy effort. That is not to say that I have been lazy with the workouts as I’ve been mightily swinging kettle bells and doing full body workouts very consistently. I’ve gained about five pounds of muscle I haven’t had before and am making core strength gains that are absolutely necessary for the races I’m targeting this season. I am fully dedicated to completing 6 of the 7 American Ultra CX Championship series. The Ultra CX race format was introduced to me last year by a dirtbag friend from the Robots Powered by Love squad when he invited me to join him to race the Southern Cross in Georgia. I was immediately hooked. I signed up for Iron Cross later in 2012 and despite how excrutiatingly painful that course was – I knew that I found a new goal to conquer this race series. These new race formats are ironically not different from what the original European stage races would have consisted of over 50 years ago in terms of the dirt roads that are covered, but the twist of throwing in cyclocross tactics of run-ups and barriers in the most challenging places testing your strength and endurance at every second of the course. I targeted 2013 since late last year by focusing on the strength building – and here I am suffering through endless planks and pull-ups preparing myself for what I’m reading as just the beginning of difficult as both Southern Cross and Iron Cross are not the hardest of the series.

Endurance racing is a great love of mine. I’ve managed to search for a perfection in riding in every long race that I perform in. By perfection, I mean a bliss and elation to have not just survived the event but be consumed by it so that I am not the trails’ adversary but it’s ally. Last year, at Southern Cross, I walked on several sections to get over climbs that took too much out of my legs to conquer pedaling, 30% pitches that demoralized most everyone on the course at the end of a 45 minute climb. This year, I walked a total of 20 yards and that was it – I perfected my tactic, I did not fight the course, I became it’s ally and was prepared to meet it with earnest, even in spite of having only 12 total hours of endurance mileage in the legs. I look for perfection in the riding but in the overall experience of being a cyclist. I was ecstatic when I moved into my new home and it had what every dirtbag dreams of – a separate room that could be hosed down and have a deep sink for washing mud off parts and clothing, and fast access to a shower room in the same room. I have recently perfected my exits and entrances from this room without so much as trailing a singular particle of dirt into the main house as I so have often done much to the chagrin of my wife. I save much more time as a result of keeping all my training and racing gear well organized in cubbies and spaces to be prepared for either scenario with little notice. It has become a perfected routine now – a part of my life.

I traveled down back to Southern Cross this past February with the same friend who introduced the spectacle last year. I had the course memorized and the challenge well calculated in my head. I had the extra motivation provided by a new bicycle, which will be reviewed soon here. The race was surprisingly tougher than last year, as we were met with stronger winds, cooler air, and a slight extra distance added where it didn’t benefit from our wasted legs. I finished strongly and with at least 24 spots higher than last year’s count – a good omen for the upcoming feats.

What was a fond memory of Dahlonega, Georgia was not so much as the race itself. It was the unexpected viewing of a documentary of a sushi chef named Jiro. My friend is an avid foodie who admired the film and spoke highly of it – we had an evening to kill prior to race start, so we watched it. I was thoroughly impressed with the film in spite of having fallen asleep the final few minutes due to travel exhaustion, but wrapped up the viewing the next evening. Jiro, a Japanese treasure of a chef, had been profiled for his sushi perfection. A highly rated chef in a restaurant that would not give the impression of it’s exclusivity from unknown eyes. The documentary touched on a principle that transcends the outcome of sliced fish on a miniature bed of rice. It is the pursuit of perfection as a daily practice in all that one does to continually improve regardless of the static routines involved – each routine can be further perfected to impact the outcome, thus, improving it. This notion is highly reflective of the cultural ideals of an Eastern Civilization long known for routines that are meticulous as they are artistic. There was value out of this film that was beyond the sushi proclamation of the greatest dish ever served, it was the reminder that in every routine, there can be improvement to affect the outcome.

That is what bicycle racing is about. An outcome that is reflected in all the routines that supported it well before the event. Every moment involved before the big day is indeed the addition of all things we did prior in preparation for the race. It’s been said in a variety of ways, and scores of coaching analogies exist to tout the same. Sometimes it’s just not as motivational to watch another cycling movie to remind us of the incredible amount of dedication that is required to achieve a perfect outcome. There is still of lot luck involved with racing that no amount of preparation can help with – but your sense of well being is definitely a lot calmer if you know you have done the best with all of your preparations. If ever there was advice that I feel is most often overlooked, is that all the little things do matter. Creating better ways of preparing yourself for a training ride doesn’t need to be fastidious, but it can be made better to remove any hindrance of doing it. Having your race gear ready to go at a moment’s notice can be the difference from a stressful evening to a relaxing one, especially when you need it most prior to the race. Cleaning your drivetrain often and having it performance ready always is a detail that you learn to appreciate after losing hours of frustration and sleep before important training targets or the race itself. These are all perfected through routines that you can dedicate yourself to, and ultimately helping perfect your overall outcome.

I won’t profess that every iota of process that is detailed in the documentary is what I would want to achieve – but I will admit that the routines that I’ve laid down so far definitely contribute to my calm demeanor and approach to life. My family appreciates it, my friends take note, and in the end – I’m still perfecting my races each and every single time I toe the line. I will hit a perfect race, and when I do, I know its because I continually strived for it.

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