I think that one of the themes that comes through loud, clear and often in the various Growing Bolder stories is the concept of never giving up. Here is my take on the subject:
NEVER GIVE UP
An incident that recently took place at the end of our club ride drove home to me the meaning of the adage, “Never Give Up.” I’m as competitive as one can be, but even someone as hardcore as I can sometimes forget. Let me start however with a story from two years ago.
The 2007 USCF Florida state road race cycling championships for my age group had a start time of 3:00 PM on a very humid day with temperatures in the high 90s and no wind. Apparently not thinking very clearly, I drove to the race venue with only one bottle of water assuming that there would be water available at the race site. The race site was on a country road in the midst of a horse farm. Much to my dismay, all of the water supplied by the race organizer was gone, and there was no place to get any.
As I warmed up, I rationed my remaining water. As a result, by the time I got to the starting line, my heart rate was an elevated 137 (my resting pulse is 42), and I had very little water left. I knew that I was in for a long, painful day.
Our group was scheduled to ride with the masters women 40+ age group, and very quickly a 4 person breakaway formed with two of the women, me and my main competitor. I came into the race at a very fit, 5’ 11”, 149 pounds with very little body fat. My main competitor was a wisp of a guy who weighed under 130 and kept attacking me on every hill. I was out of water, felt dehydrated, and at the end of the first lap, I had no idea how I would be able to last for another four. Spectators later informed me that I looked terrible.
Negative thoughts clouded my brain which was quite occupied creating stress for the lack of water and hence, my increasing state of dehydration. I was sure that I would not be able to win the race. It never occurred to me that my competition might be feeling worse. The four of us stayed together swapping pulls and about half way through the last lap, I was wondering if I could make it to the end without getting dropped. I had all but conceded the state championship. You would have to know me to understand how totally out of character that is for me.
Suddenly, both one of the women and my competitor threw up, one very quickly followed by the other. With only four (4) miles left to the finish, I seized the opportunity, tore off the front, and won the race by a large margin! My fellow competitor later admitted to me that each time he would attack me on the hills, he was punishing himself more than he was me. As an aside, the conditions that day were so brutal that, at the end of the race, I needed an IV. I could not urinate for about 24 hours, and the next morning, I was still 5 pounds lighter than I was the morning of the race. Of course there are two lessons to be learned – hydrate adequately, and never give up!
As I mentioned earlier, my reason for writing this is an experience I had on our local club ride. It was a great demonstration of the “Never Give Up” adage. Our club rides are divided into various groups defined by the speeds that one must be able to sustain. There are a couple of very slow groups and there are 18-, 20-, 22-, 24- and 26-mph groups. I rode with the latter which often has sustained, non-sprint speeds of 32-33 mph.
At the time of the ride, I was in a peaking process in preparation for our state time trial championships, and I was coming into form very nicely. My plan was to do a lot of the work on the ride. I did numerous pulls, and with two miles to go and feeling very strong, I went off the front in an attempt to hold off the peloton to the end of the final sprint zone. I was holding about 28 mph, and in a couple of minutes I was joined by a group of three riders who had bridged up to me. I swapped pulls with one of them, and one of the group finally fell off the back.
We had about another ¾ of a mile to go to the end of the final sprint zone. As an aside, at the age of 69 I was the oldest rider in the group by probably 15 years. I had done more than my share of the work during the ride, and I was on the wheel of a bicycle racer in his early 20s. Suddenly a guy went flying by us. I commented to the chap pulling, “where did he come from – I guess he is going to win the sprint.” His reply was, “let’s not give up – we can catch him.”
Although it seemed impossible based on the speed differential and the energy that we had expended, off we went with me sucking his wheel. I thought that I had nothing left but suddenly with the excitement of the chase, I felt newly energized and said to the guy whose wheel I was following, “I’ll lead you out and you can contest the sprint.” I went to the front and closed on the guy who had passed us. He suddenly sat up, and I rode the other guy who I was going lead out off my wheel, and won the sprint by a wide margin!
Never give up! I thought I had an empty tank, and it was not. If you are not hurting, you probably are not racing hard enough. Assume that your competitors are experiencing at least much pain as you, but I think a better strategy is to assume they are experiencing more! Don’t assume that you have nothing left even if you feel that to be the case. Never, ever give up! I can assure you that if you are racing against me, I won’t!
© Sandy Scott, June 2009