Motivation

Saying Goodbye To A Helmet

broken lazer helium bike helmetPost crash, one of the hardest things for me is saying goodbye to a helmet.  You see, for me, throwing away an old helmet is like saying goodbye to an old friend.  It sounds strange, but there’s something intensely personal about a helmet, almost moreso than any other piece of kit.  Sure, someone will point out your bibs are more personal, and they may well be from a physical standpoint.  But from a mental standpoint, I think the helmet is your closest confidant.

Think about it: it protects your most valuable asset (your brain) and it has an inherently intimate contact with your body in the process of doing that job.  Nothing in cycling is worse than the feel of a poorly fitting helmet, which can dig into your head, pinch your skin, chafe or flop around.  Finding the perfect fit, the perfect colour, the perfect shape are a time consuming process that leads many to purchase several of the same helmet to ensure a steady supply of them.

But spending a little time with your helmet can change it from a piece of kit to a trusted friend.

The helmet is an ever alert sentry, waiting for an opportunity to defend it’s owner.  Throughout its life, it sits upon your head, a silent sentinel constantly guarding your skull from harm.  It may shrug off tree branches, bees and other hazards.  It dutifully holds your glasses on those long climbs when you flip them and stick the earpieces in the vents.  It even helpfully funnels air onto your head to help keep you cool in the searing heat.  And throughout its life, it becomes more than a piece of kit.  It almost becomes a friend.

So what happens when that helmet gives up it’s life to save yours?

Upon returning home from the hospital and examining my old friend, it became immediately clear that she was dead.  Crushed on the right temple, with broken supporting ribs and plenty of road rash, she had done her job of shielding my skull from the pavement.  Upon the dawning of that revelation, a wave of sadness washed over me as I contemplated having to say goodbye to my old friend.

We’d been through so much together.  A couple of different jobs, tens of thousands of miles of training rides, two different team kits and dozens of friends come and gone.  She silently witnessed centuries, hill climbs, white knuckle descents, mountain bike rides, charity rides and probably a half a dozen different bikes underneath her owner.  She was the consummate teammate, racing with me in no less than 100% of the races I entered.  She’s seen sprints, narrowly avoided crashes, been with me on the podium and in the pack.

She’s been my most trusted confidant, my biggest constant…but now, it’s time to say goodbye.  She gave her life to protect mine, a last noble sacrifice and last act of devotion.  There will be another to replace her, and the cycle will begin anew.  I’ll form a new relationship with a new helmet that will stand tall, willing to give her life to protect mine once more.  And the cycle will continue to repeat as long as I’m willing to assume the risk of riding.  At least I’ll have a trusted confidant with me at all times…

 

See ya old girl.  Thanks for everything.  You were with me for everything in the past couple seasons, witnessed it all, but ultimately did the job you were chosen for, and I thank you a million times over.

Without you I may not have been able to ride again, let alone write your eulogy.

Thank you…

By |April 23rd, 2015|crash, Motivation, narrative|0 Comments

The “Do’s and Don’ts” of Embrocation

The ritual: embrocatingEmbrocation.

em·bro·ca·tion
ˌembrəˈkāSH(ə)n/
noun
  1. a liquid used for rubbing on the body to relieve pain from sprains and strains.

Embro. Leg Lube.  Belgian knee warmers.  Whatever you call it, it’s something that has fascinated cyclists for decades.  It is an essential part of cyclocross, but has become an accepted and even necessary part of fall, winter and early spring road cycling.  It’s something that many people speak of in hushed tones, in reverence and wonderment.  It’s akin to leg shaving in terms of the depth of puzzling looks received by those new to the sport (and indeed, those outside the sport.)  It’s a skin protector.  It’s a leg “polish.”  It’s a warming agent.  It’s as close to the very essence of cycling as one can get without chattering over the bergs of Belgium on a steel Bianchi.  But why is that so?

If you’re new to embro, you may rightly be wondering what the fuss is all about.  “It must be easy to just rub it in and ride off into the sunset, right?”  Sure, your legs will shine like gleaming beacons of power and destruction, and they will tingle with the a warmth indicative of the spring classics.  But beware, for circumstances can go horribly awry and end with an eye opening, possibly life changing (and certainly nether-region demolishing) experience.

As with all things in life, there’s a right and a wrong way to undertake any task.  And the correct method of embrocating bliss is to speak of “The Ritual” which should accompany each embrocating experience you undertake.

First, you’ll probably need some embro.  I’m personally a huge fan of Mad Alchemy Gentleman’s Blend for cool days, and Mad Alchemy Warm Weather for warmer days (the warm weather variety has no heat to it at all, just some delightful spearmint oil to wake up the legs, facilitate a solid pre-ride massage and protect your skin from sun, dirt, etc.)

Now that you have your embro, you need to apply it.  But before you do read more after the jump.  To help you out on the path to righteous embrocating, I’m going to go through some of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of embrocating, along with the ramifications of each.

By |April 2nd, 2015|Embrocation, humor, Motivation|0 Comments

Things I Learned From Jens Voigt

Jens Voigt in NJA few days ago, I had the privilege of attending a meet and greet with Jens Voigt at a local NJ bike shop.  The big, charismatic german, veteran of almost two decades in the peloton, did a Q&A with fans, signed autographs and posed for photos with anyone who asked.  During the night, he imparted his wisdom gained from the trials and tribulations of racing in Europe, including a few nuggets that I believe are important to share with all of my readers.

Never forget where you came from:

It bears saying, that even the best of the best are humble in their beginnings.  Jens spent more than half his life racing bikes, but he always fondly recalls where he came from.  He explained how he tried track and field, and was ok at athletics, but not one of the best.  He said that he had been annoyed that he couldn’t “do any better” (so much so that he joking described a rude gesture to his track and field coach….)  He continued to explain to us that when the local cycling team came to town, he was allured by the offer of a free bike.  The rest is, as you all know, history.

Coincidentally, he always remembers where he came from.  His first bike was a Diamond.  That company was purchased by Trek after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  And he even bought a couple of them for his own boys.

So take a page from Jens and remember where you came from.

Never forget who you are and who helped you get there:

When a question was asked about who was one of the most important parts of his racing career, he described the relationship he has with his wife.  He described that his career would not have been possible without her devotion and steadfastedness: raising their six children while he was off racing, standing by him throughout all the crashes, the contract negotiations, and the talk of retirement, he painted a picture of the woman behind the man.

Jens made it abundantly clear that everything he accomplished was not only his doing, but those around him.  He plainly stated that he would never have been the force that he is if not for those people he surrounded himself with.  And his message was clear: surround yourself with people who are like minded, who believe in you and will support you through and through.  And when you succeed, don’t forget to thank them for helping you on your way.

From thanking his sponsors by becoming a brand ambassador to graciously allowing Juan Manuel Garate a win in the 2006 Giro d’Italia after not contributing a single pedal stroke to the breakaway’s progress, Jens has been putting this to practice for years.  And what he said next is why he is so readily able to remember all those that helped him.

Believe in yourself unconditionally:

photo (2)Jens pointed out that you have to believe in yourself.  You have to believe in yourself without hesitation or fail, you have to dream big and you have to go out there and “get what you want”.  He recounted his horrific crash in the 2010 Tour de France on the descent of the Col due Petit-Saint-Bernard in which he fractured his cheek and sustained a concussion.  He regaled us with details like German TV announcers predicting he had a 50/50 chance to survive the night.  And then he went on to explain how he was determined to return to racing, as strong as he was before.

And he did return to racing, crashing again in the 2010 Tour, but he maintained his belief in himself. To quote Jens that massive crash and chase back to the peloton on an ill fitting Mavic service bike: “I’ve had better days than this.  But I’m still alive.  It’s better than last year, you see?  Last year, I was at this time in the race, I was in hospital already.   And this time I’m still on my bike.  Didn’t crash on my head, didn’t crash on my face, so things could be worse.”

So be like Jens: believe in yourself and dream big.  Even if you fail a couple times, if you are able to get up and try again, you’re doing all right.

There are no shortcuts:

Considering that in this day in age everyone is looking for a quick buck, a shortcut towards greater fitness or a way to cut the corners to get something done faster, it was said that there are absolutely no shortcuts to your destination.  If you want to be one of the best, you have to put in the time to get there.

With a touch of sadness in his voice, Jens recounted the final years of his racing career.  He conjured up an image of a body that was less willing to suffer, a mind that was less willing to force the body to suffer and a longing to lead a less nomadic life, spending more time with his wife and children.

He also said there was no such thing as a shortcut when it came to coffee.  And we all know that Jens loves his coffee.

 

Thank you Jens, for providing a little look into your life and your career.  You’ve been an inspiration to many of us through the years, and we look forward to seeing you in a car, guiding the next generation of superstars to countless victories.

 

 

By |February 15th, 2015|local bike shop, Motivation, narrative, pro cycling|0 Comments

Strava: Fitness Wonder or Wrecker – Podcast #48

Strava Cycling AppThere’s no question that social media has infiltrated every facet of our lifestyle.  From the best cycling hashtags on Instagram to the ubiquitous “butt shot” of the local Sunday group ride that is posted on Facebook, we have an insatiable need to connect with others on social networking.  Cycling is no different, as evidenced by the rise of Strava, the largest cycling social media sharing site out there today.  But Strava is far more than people just sharing their rides and their achievements online: it has become the driving force behind many people’s cycling experiences.  Offering almost monthly challenges and goals (often revolving around excessive mileage or vertical gain) and offering virtual rewards in the form of “badges”, Strava has become the impetus for people to train.

How has that success and impetus impacted us as a cycling culture?  How has it changed the way we train? And of course, the ultimate question remains: have those changes been for the better or worse?  That’s what I’ll explore on this edition of the Tailwind Coaching Podcast, including topics such as:

By |December 8th, 2014|Coaching, Motivation, podcast, Training|0 Comments

Setting Tempo

Dirt road riding, lambertville NJFrom the latin “tempus” meaning time, tempo has come to represent a large number of definitions across different parts of life.  Typically read on a page of music notes, determining how fast or slow a piece should be played, it takes on new meaning when applied to cycling.  We’ve all heard the ubiquitous phrase of “setting the tempo”, usually at the front of a peloton (note that said phrase is often augmented by specific adjectives denoting suffering, like “infernal” or “blistering”.  And more often than not, someone of the Jens or Fabian stature is the said disher out of epic pain, simply adding to the mystique of the setting of that tempo.  But I digress…)  We’ve come to realize pace, speed and tempo are almost interchangeably linked, much like the internal tempos we become acutely aware of the deeper we delve into the cave of pain, either of our own volition or that of those sitting in front of us.

Getting back to tempus, we could articulate many different bodily machinations as fitting it’s definition.  The pounding of our heart as we grind our way up our favorite climb is a perfect example of the rhythmic undertones of tempus.  Our breathing falls into this category too, as inexorable as the march of the second hand on your wrist watch.  But in cycling, as in the face of a clock, we think of tempo as the metronomic revolutions of our legs upon the pedals, incessantly ticking away a beat to accompany the rhythm section playing throughout our bodies.

By |September 25th, 2014|Motivation, narrative|0 Comments