Special Blog Post by ALP Athlete Andrea Buttine
Last Sunday I raced the Superior Morgul Road Race for the fourth time in my cycling career. It was cold. The sun was obscured by a thick layer of clouds. I hadn’t brought the right clothing for the race (Accuweather.com should reconsider its name). While the weather was a downer, the truly bone-chilling, nerve-wracking element of the race was knowing I would have to ascend “The Wall” five times. The Wall is a mile-long hill that reaches 18% at its steepest point and is one of my least favorite stretches of pavement in Colorado.
In the past, I have repeatedly gotten dropped on the steepest part of The Wall and then had to time trial (sometimes for a mile or more) back onto whichever group I was with. I would burn a match trying to get up the damn hill, only to have to burn another to get back to the group, all the while praying nobody decided to attack once I finally slipped back into the draft. I might have done this a few times throughout the race. That’s a lot of matches.
At the start of Sunday’s race, I decided I did not want to be in the chasing position at any point during the race. I wanted to be in control of my efforts as much as possible; there would be no time trialing behind the group, only time trialing in front of it. When I started to get dropped on the steep part of The Wall on lap 3, I reminded myself of my deal with myself, HHTFUd (hastily hardened), and joined the breakaway ahead of me. When the climber girls began to distance me in the same spot on lap 4, I reiterated no time trialing! in my head and made contact relatively quickly. I did spend some time time trialing later in the race, but it was off the front of the breakaway. I came as close to winning as I ever have and despite finishing off the podium, I honored my goal and felt good about my race.
I remember reading somewhere that the Danes are some of the happiest people on earth, and that is because they set their expectations low. When your expectations are low, you are pleasantly surprised by positive outcomes. I do not necessarily set my expectations low when it comes to racing, but recently I have tried to choose specific expectations for each race. (I suppose Alison Powers has been trying to get me to do this for a couple years now, but catching on later is better than never, right?) In some of my other races this season, my specific goals have included: to move to the front of the pack when I wanted to, to keep my average watts at FTP for most of the TT, etc. In one race I set the expectation that I would keep on charging after giving a lead-out in the final sprint. I did not live up to this goal and found myself feeling pretty depressed after the race.
The takeaway: when you set an explicit expectation for your race and work hard to make good on it, you feel successful at the end of your race and you likely see your name higher up on the results list. Winning is neat and I like to win (who doesn’t?). I will keep setting specific expectations for myself and hopefully be pleasantly surprised a few more times this season.