Sometimes the best thoughts come to you in the middle of the night. Have you ever poured over a problem only to have the solution come to you while lying in bed like a bolt of lightning to the brain? I have and I’ve been known to get up and act on that thought, whether it’s to fix a problem around the house or go down to the basement and start working on a bike. Solutions come when the mind is free to roam, not bogged down with the day-to-day clutter of schedules and responsibilities.
Therefore, when I find time to really reflect on a past season or more importantly an upcoming one, I tend to lose myself in thought during my dark commutes on Minnesota’s wintery roads. Pedaling through the brisk, cool, murky morning is when I feel I can let my mind wander. It’s on those roads where I set goals for the year, and where I dream of winning big races. It’s on those roads, in the dark, where I feel like I can achieve whatever I set my sights on.
An email from an old friend recently contained the phrase, “stay hungry” and it resonated with me. I’ll admit it gets hard to keep the fire lit year after year. I find that I need to spend some time roaming around that fire, figuring out ways to keep it stoked. Changing the training regime is a trick I employ often as it not only keeps the body guessing, but keeps the mind sharp as well.
This year I’m stepping into a much different mode of preparation for the coming season. I’ve followed suit with my teammate Gerry Pflug and converted my commuting 'cross bike to a singlespeed in an effort to build power and keep my riding fresh. I’ve also changed my routes to work a bit, bringing in new climbs, as well as new descents. And, the Mukluk…well you all know about the Mukluk. This monster truck of bikes has brought an element to my training that contains adventure, discovery, and pure joy. Let me tell you, eight hours of winter trail exploration in the northern woods of Minnesota sure beats eight hours of 'cross bike riding on windy, icy roads. These changes in training help to keep the passion alive. At times these changes are hard to implement, much like getting up in the middle of the night to throw another log on the coals isn’t what you want to do...but pays off in the end.
Like training, racing can get stale. Spinning through the dark I spend time dreaming about the races I’ve done as well as the ones I hope to do. Long ago I made a promise to myself that I would always look to the future when it came to racing. I would keep my eye to the horizon for the next challenge. I think I’ve done that, and in many cases I’ve surprised myself while learning something along the way. To stop growing is to become stagnant and when it comes to doing what you love, I say looking to the horizon is an important thing to do.
Now, some races are just too difficult to say goodbye to, so I keep coming back, but others have a way of letting me go. It’s almost as if they communicate with me and encourage me to go find something bigger. Or maybe something that even frightens me a bit.
I believe that pushing outside my comfort zone brings me good things. I’ve been able to ride for Salsa and blessed to share my path with others. This year I’ve spent time looking forward to races that I know will be difficult, one of which will push me to my limits to be sure. This race has given me that nervous feeling every time I think about it, the same feeling I had when I first started dreaming about the TransIowa.
Put a plan together for yourself. Let your mind wander, and if you can, do it from the saddle of your bike. Don’t be afraid to scare yourself a little. And, remember the best thoughts come when you’re roaming around in the dark. Plan for 2012 to be your best year on a bike yet. It’s all out there, now go get it!