Inspiration can be found anywhere. This weekend it was discovered at the CycloPark in Gravesend, as we watched a group of men and women (including one of our best friends, Gem) invest all their emotional and physical energy into racing around a track.
From dragging your turbo to the car each week to waiting on the start line managing your shivers and butterflies, I wondered why they did it. After spending an hour at the races, the question was answered.
Gem began unpacking her bag in the car park and set up the turbo. She'd done this before. There was a natural, not having to think, way about her warm up routine. It was all considered, organised and quite a spectacle to watch. No questions or decisions had to be made. You begin on auto pilot and don't stop until the start line calls. No distractions apart from your thoughts. Thoughts that Gem soon silenced as she put her headphones on.
As Kati and I sat down with our third caffeine drink of the morning, we noticed two riders warming up on their rollers near the window. With complete effortlessness, they hopped on their bike and balanced with enviable ease. As one of them headed off, they gave each other a mini fist pump. A small act which gave a huge insight into the camaraderie that racing provides.
Having a purpose gives you focus. A focused mind is often the most forgiving. Constant check-points of a Saturday race, gives everyday leading up to it a clear reason. It's not just another groundhog day, it's an additional 24 hours worth of preparation that is often thought out with the military precision cyclists are known for.
Anyone who rides wants to feel like they are improving. I asked Kati over breakfast how she got stronger and she said 'Ride hard with strong riders'. I was kind of hoping she'd give me an easier option than that. If you're racing each week, pushing yourself harder than any usual ride would allow, you give yourself ease of mind that you are becoming stronger. That's contentment. An inner acceptance that whether you're racing hard or on a rest day, you're doing the right thing.
5. Life Skillz
Some of most rewarding gifts given to us by the sport, are the emotional life skills it forces you to learn. During the race, Gem's Di2 broke which resulted in her having to finish after 10 minutes. Dealing with moments you can't control and having the emotional ability to let go, builds your self belief that you can handle things. The disappointment will alway be there but, similar to physical fitness, the ability to recover is where true stars are born.
Looking at these five insights, you quickly realise that they are not only the driving forces behind why people race, but why we ride in general. Whether it be the adrenaline, the want to be better or the desire to have a purpose, these emotional drugs are addictive and soon become our 'norm'. It's normal for me to wake up at 0600 to fit in a morning ride at Regents Park. Just like it's now normal for Gem to wake up on a Saturday and race. Like caffeine addiction, everyone's preferences differ but we'll all be back for our hit tomorrow.