Friday, April 8, 2016

On Throwing in the Towel

I've been mulling over the motivations behind quitting a lot lately.

Take the Tour De Husker race a few weeks back. I was in the first chase group that was attempting to bridge up to the five money spots represented by the breakaway. Then I got dropped, and was absorbed a few miles later by the next chase group. We had about 20 miles to go, and apart from personal pride or general racing experience, there was nothing else to race for. I was more inclined to sit-in and save my legs for the following day's race. With about five miles to go, a teammate was showing signs of fatigue, leaving me wondering what to do if he should get dropped. Should I save my legs and ride it in with my teammate, or pursue the race for the experience? I tried to protect him from surges, but he was ultimately popped off the back when the leader of our group guttered us on the yellow line during a long stretch of nasty crosswinds. My hand was forced. I chose to race.

The second time I was questioning my resolve pertained to the weekly installment on this blog. I wrote about dissolving our pact and letting go of this commitment on last Friday's April Fools post. I meant it, too, at least in principle. Time is short these days. Going forward, this blog will be the first thing to get dropped when I'm pressed for time. Sorry folks, but that's the way it's got to be.  I'm not conflicted by this decision.

The third case of questioning my motivation came during a scheduled FTP test last weekend. To begin, it was a horrible day for an FTP test. Granted, most cyclists would say that any day involving an FTP test is a horrible day. But that day was particularly awful due to 40mph winds. Testing in such conditions is challenging, if not impossible, to get accurate results. Some would say to not try at all. Still, I was determined to stick with the plan. Anyway, half way into the 20 minute test, I glanced at my Garmin Edge 510 to check on my progress. To my dismay, the device was showing zero watts. I pressed on while toggling through the screens with the hope that the UI would somehow wake up from some stale state and show the watts again. Nope. The problem was in the powertap wheel. It was at this point that I had to decide to quit, or to continue on for the duration, knowing that the test results were bogus. I chose to throw in the towel. I have mixed feelings about this.

Of the three cases above, quitting the FTP test is the one I'm not sure I handled correctly. From a pure fitness point of view, there's probably no harm in skipping that test. Ten minutes is not going to make or break anyone's fitness. But in doing so -- by actively choosing to abort a difficult challenge in progress -- how does that affect one's mental fortitude? That's where I'm conflicted.

These thoughts have been bouncing around my skull lately. After the Tour De Husker, I asked my teammate Jordan Ross what he'd do if he were in my shoes: out of the money spots, racing the next day, and a teammate struggling to hang on. Jordan agreed that I made the correct decision to continue to race when my teammate was dropped. But then he also offered a stern word of caution about the dangers of quitting a race in progress. Very much Yoda-like, he said that once you start down that path, quitting becomes easier each time you do so.

As an aside, if Jordan had said, "...once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny..." then I would have known that he had copped that line from Yoda, and I would have written him and his advice off as fraudulent.

But I digress. Jordan was correct. Quitting a race is unwise as long as you're physically capable of completing it.

Okay fine. The timing of this evolving Yoda/Jordan/BCM Pep talk is good, as this weekend I'm joining the green and grey of Harvest Racing at one of the toughest venues around: The Twin Bing Classic. With lots of rolling hills, preposterously strong winds, and a formidable two-step hilltop finish, this race a toughie. On top of all that, this year's edition has an extra twist in that it is going to be held as a Gran Fondo format, which technically isn't a road race at all (but we're going to race it like it is one). In short, it's going to be hard on the body, and even harder on the soul. Thankfully, I've spent the past few weeks preparing for what's to come.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday

1 comment:

  1. Pain is temporary, quitting last forever.