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Should I quit racing?

Old 03-06-19, 02:17 PM
  #1  
aaronmcd
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Should I quit racing?

Hi guys, long time no talk (much).

Should I quit racing? Maybe take a year? I already paid team, kit, helmet, and USAC, but I haven't been riding. CTL is likely at 20ish.

I burned out pretty hard 2 years ago, and even worse last year. Just got tired of getting slower every year and spending like 90 weekend days on a single pursuit and not improving. In October, I crashed and hit my face, broke my orbit in 2 places and got a concussion. I got lucky that (1) I still have a working brain, (2) I still have vision in both eyes, (3) my face isn't deformed but for a 2" scar over my eyebrow, and (4) Kaiser picked up the $50k bill. No, I'm not afraid to ride now. The crash was just me being an idiot on wet roads in the fog.

The next 3 months I had to protect my face like my vision depended on it, so I took the opportunity to hit the gym. One of my theories is that I had my best power numbers my first year racing because I was coming off a few years of strength focus. 99.9% of all bike efforts I've done in the past several years, my muscles get tired first. My lungs usually have a crapton left in the tank, unless it's an all out, very well rested, 1 to 3 minute effort. My theory is that slogging uphill doing threshold intervals were not sufficient to retain, much less improve, muscular strength. In addition, to prevent burnout, I decided to skip road races this year (my favorite) and stick to crits. More strength focus, less penalty for being muscular, fewer 8-16 hour weekends on the bike/racing. More well rounded physique, more time to hang out with humans, more time to hike and enjoy nature instead of speeding and suffering through it.

Well, it has now been 5 months and the gym is addicting.

1) It doesn't take much getting ready - 30 minutes out of bed I am in the warm, comfortable gym, warming up deadlift. With cycling, 30 minutes out of bed I'm trying to put on 39 items of clothing, pump up tires, cuss at my derailleur, and psyche myself up to freeze my balls off in the pitch black rain.

2) I get to put on muscle.

3) I get to hang out with my wife at the gym. She won't ride.

4) My wife gets fit.

5) I can spend my weekends with people I know, like my wife and friends. Seeing a familiar face at a race while redlining and trying to make the split doesn't count.

6) Time leftover for other stuff, like drumming, hiking, and even riding for fun.

7) Last but not least, GAINZ. 5 months in and I'm stronger than I've ever been. Deadlifted 405 lbs 5 days ago, squatted 275 lbs yesterday, and benched 245 lbs today. That's more impressive than "I've been racing my bike for 5 years and still have a hard time breaking 300 watts FTP".

The downside: forum.bodybuilding.com is a joke compared to this place. Who gave those messed up little teenage twerps a computer? And don't even get me started about the misc. But I've never ventured to trollheim, so I could be wrong.

Anyway, I realize I gotta get to training on the bike now or miss the year. I could be race ready in 2 or 3 months. That's the reason I started going to the gym. I really believe it will improve my power numbers. But... I'm loving pushing big (for most people) weights, and thinking getting into powerlifting could be fun. I could train hard and still go to the gym 2 or 3 times a week, but that seems like half-assing both. It might be a cool experiment though. Torn. What should I do? I've already got a Red Kite Omnium 2/3 kit, and won a 2/3 race in '17. So maybe that's as good as it gets.
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Old 03-06-19, 02:23 PM
  #2  
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fwiw, reasons #3-6 are why I don't race to begin with. If you enjoy it, do it. If it's work, find something else (looks like you did).
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Old 03-06-19, 02:33 PM
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Take a year off. It's ok. Maybe you'll miss it then come back. Maybe you won't. If the racing isn't making you happy, don't do it.

Or, try something else, like cross, track, mountain or gravel. You might find you like those other things more. Or maybe the competitive side of those things suits you better.

I was pretty much ready to give up racing, then I took up track. I'm having fun again. I spend a lot of time in the gym. My on-bike training is usually on my trainer or the stretch of road in front of my house. Some people would find that miserable. I don't.
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Old 03-06-19, 02:42 PM
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I say definitely take a year.
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Old 03-06-19, 02:51 PM
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+1 to all that's been said. Maybe dip your toes into a different discipline after that if you want to come back
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Old 03-06-19, 03:03 PM
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You sound too happy and well adjusted for this sport. Take time off and start up again if/when existential dread returns.
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Old 03-06-19, 03:10 PM
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I came back from a bunch of serious crashes. Surgeries.

One landed me in the ICU with head trauma.

Last April I broke my hand in a post race crash on the way back to the parking lot. I needed surgery, but all in all it was the most minor of any of my crashes. But it was the end of line for me. Why? Other than my family was a bit tired of me getting hurt, it's hard to say.

'Should I quit' is a tough question to ask others. Because only the individual can decide risk vs reward. People do all sorts of things others presume to be dumb or dangerous, yet it's where they find meaning in life. Until they don't. Then they find it hard to motivate/justify doing it. If you have something you enjoy doing do it. None of this stuff matters much beyond that anyway.

For me I took up less crashy disciplines. They also play to my secret desire to have an eating disorder.
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Old 03-06-19, 03:16 PM
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Damn @aaronmcd I'd miss it if you left, but you honestly feel burnt out on the sport and there really isn't a point. Even for the ones that love it, bike racing (specifically the training) turns into a second job and its just hard to keep at it for years on end.
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Old 03-06-19, 03:34 PM
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Winning a 2/3 race in NorCal is pretty awesome. If you quit, you're leaving with a lot more than most ever achieve.

And taking a year off racing is no big deal, especially if you keep riding sometimes. If you decide to come back, in the meanwhile you'll have gotten a lot stronger in a lot of ways and maybe along the way rediscovered what's fun about being on a bike.
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Old 03-06-19, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by TheKillerPenguin View Post
You sound too happy and well adjusted for this sport. Take time off and start up again if/when existential dread returns.
it's the recurring head injuries.

but really, Aaron, you've been lifting 5 months and are 90% to 1000lbs club. Maybe track racing!
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Old 03-06-19, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
7) Last but not least, GAINZ. 5 months in and I'm stronger than I've ever been. Deadlifted 405 lbs 5 days ago, squatted 275 lbs yesterday, and benched 245 lbs today. That's more impressive than "I've been racing my bike for 5 years and still have a hard time breaking 300 watts FTP".
I'd also like to add that this is short sighted, both in regards to your lack of improvement on the bike, and the newbie gains that you're seeing at the gym. Eventually you will plateau. Then what? Move on to the next hobby?
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Old 03-06-19, 05:33 PM
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You know you don't need our approval but I understand it might be nice to hear racers say, "hey you're not going to miss anything".

So...

Hey you're not going to miss anything.

If you still want to be a part of what's going on some of the time then just start working on the promotion end of this. Possibly officiate. Then when you get frustrated with that then try racing again.

Honestly right now I am seriously jealous of those that have weekends where they sit around and jobs that pay them. Just thinking of going to work, going to the gym, and then hanging out with real people outside of bike racing on the weekends really is appealing. Thanks for that dose of reality for me.
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Old 03-06-19, 07:14 PM
  #13  
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Have a kid and get him/her to race - live through their experiences. It is a lot more enjoyable and I think actually good for them. They take crashes better too.

It is very easy to get into things done a lot, and later wonder why you were so into them. I tend to think, like so many USAC racers - if you quit after a year or so, you won't be back. That is more a comment on stat, not you, not an opinion, just most don't come back. As you found there are other things.
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Old 03-06-19, 07:26 PM
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I see the appeal of hanging it up, hitting the gym, not having to be out every weekend morning, not driving to races, etc. I've been tempted to call it quits a few times. Personally, I'm not quite ready yet, and what holds me back is the thought that I'm probably not going to reach this level again if I stop.

My tentative plan is to finish this season as well as I can. Hopefully we will have a kid on the way soon, upon whose arrival I'm prepared to take a step back from competing. I think I'll focus more on the gym while still going on casual rides at least once a week. Maybe commuting if it makes sense. Then assuming we settle into a good routine within a few years, I can think about coming back, possibly focusing on crits and track.

If we don't have offspring then I think I'll take a year off to do big fun rides, hit some dirt and gravel, hit the gym, run, but not focus on training per se. I'm with you on your analysis of muscular losses. I've managed to get fitter but I do think putting on some additional muscle would help.

Anyway, not really advice, just wanted to share that you're not alone with these sorts of thoughts. It's a hard sport, sometimes a break is good.
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Old 03-06-19, 08:46 PM
  #15  
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I quit. Walked away cold turkey. I remember my last race at Downer's Grove in IL and then the 8 hour drive home when I realized I was done with bike racing like it was yesterday. Really heart-breaking at that time, really silly now. But 7 years later I came back. I was going to quit again at the end of last season but after five months off I realized I still enjoyed the idea of racing fast so I'm back to the grindstone (albeit at a fraction of time compared to the past). But I'll probably quit again in a couple of years. Or maybe not.

But quitting and trying new things can be pretty cool. In my 7 years of not riding I got fat(tish), traveled to 45 or so countries, did martial arts, ran and raced for 2 years (and got way skinny), went back to school, and did a lot of other things I didn't ever consider when focusing so much on riding. It was really great.

And when I came back my perspective on racing changed quite a bit for the positive.
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Old 03-06-19, 09:02 PM
  #16  
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I really like this whole thread. Here we have a bunch of athletes that have dedicated untold hours to their sport saying it's okay to step back. Thank you for being so unlike other people I meet that get so obsessive with their one thing they define their life by it.

I've stepped away from sports before and it can be hard. Like really hard. I remember the day I decided I wasnt going to play club soccer anymore. I was 15 or so and emotionally wrecked. We define ourselves on these things we put our time into. Our whole community; our band of brothers (and sisters) come from these hobbies. Cycling is by far my number 1 social outlet. It's how I make friends and meet new people. I've gone through lows in the off season because I wont see my friends for a long time.

I guess the point I'm making is that the competition doesn't have to be the main point. For every cat 1/2/3 there are probably a hundred guys and gals who just get together to ride and see their friends. If competition isnt motivating you anymore, why put yourself through something you dont enjoy? Personally I've come to enjoy our Tuesday night hammer fest more than racing to some extent. I get to see my buds and ride hard. If I dont stay in shape, i wont be able to hang with my bros and have a good time.This is a hobby, have fun with it.
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Old 03-06-19, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Ygduf View Post
it's the recurring head injuries.

but really, Aaron, you've been lifting 5 months and are 90% to 1000lbs club. Maybe track racing!
Yeah, I didn't really like track. Gave it a full year. But OTOH, it was a full year of racing Wednesday night, while training Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. So it was low priority and maybe (probably) that's why I didn't get to cat 2 on track. I know I say I can't sprint, but who knows. Maybe I'm biologically a sprinter that just never liked sprinting and never practiced it. That was kinda the goal/experiment with the gym/crit focus thing. See if I can sprint. Cat 2 may not be the best place to finally learn to sprint though lol.

Originally Posted by furiousferret View Post
Damn @aaronmcd I'd miss it if you left, but you honestly feel burnt out on the sport and there really isn't a point. Even for the ones that love it, bike racing (specifically the training) turns into a second job and its just hard to keep at it for years on end.
I do absolutely love racing. But your right about burning out on the second job. I guess that's why I'm so torn.

Originally Posted by TMonk View Post
I'd also like to add that this is short sighted, both in regards to your lack of improvement on the bike, and the newbie gains that you're seeing at the gym. Eventually you will plateau. Then what? Move on to the next hobby?
Maybe! I feel like I get newbie gains quickly so it might benefit me to switch hobbies each year and be a jack of all hobbies. 5 months... that's about where I hit most of my peak power numbers. I think 5' power peaked after a year or two. Weights are much easier to program carefully and more measurable and predictable. I can predict what I'll lift within 2% vs when I'd go out for intervals and try and be within 10%. Who knows we'll see. Or not, depending on what I do...

Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
You know you don't need our approval but I understand it might be nice to hear racers say, "hey you're not going to miss anything".

So...

Hey you're not going to miss anything.

If you still want to be a part of what's going on some of the time then just start working on the promotion end of this. Possibly officiate. Then when you get frustrated with that then try racing again.

Honestly right now I am seriously jealous of those that have weekends where they sit around and jobs that pay them. Just thinking of going to work, going to the gym, and then hanging out with real people outside of bike racing on the weekends really is appealing. Thanks for that dose of reality for me.
Oh I'll miss racing. I know it. I already miss it, watching Youtube videos and reading race reports. Promoting races sounds fun. Promoting anything. I've often thought promoting parties/events would be fun. It's not my style, that kind of stuff does not come natural to me. I'd be terrible at it. Singular focus type stuff is what I'm best at. Oh well.

Originally Posted by Doge View Post
Have a kid and get him/her to race - live through their experiences. It is a lot more enjoyable and I think actually good for them. They take crashes better too.

It is very easy to get into things done a lot, and later wonder why you were so into them. I tend to think, like so many USAC racers - if you quit after a year or so, you won't be back. That is more a comment on stat, not you, not an opinion, just most don't come back. As you found there are other things.
Hahahahahahaha!
Probably not having kids.
It's been several years for me, but still. Maybe I won't be back. There's so much more out there, or so I hear!

-------------------------------------------
So many guys telling me to step back, surprising. Honestly I wasnít looking for someone to tell me that, I just really honestly donít know what I want. Perhaps I want to talk it out. Problem is, if I donít choose, my choice is made automatically. And when I realize that, I realize I WILL choose one way or the other. Iím often pretty good about being in control, but sometimes I just want things to be decided for me.

Many of you are suggesting maybe a different discipline. Iím pretty sure thatís not what Iím after. I raced track for a year, and I wasnít really cut out for competing in the evenings, and wasnít really that into it. No, if I stick with racing (or come back) it will be road. I do love racing (when I feel somewhat fit compared to the pack). But the work and losing all the time was getting to me.

@gsteinb it isnít the crashing that makes me reconsider (oddly), just the crash brought on a few months off and time to re-evaluate some stuff (with no answers of course).



On one hand, I feel like I NEED to pull back just to escape the black hole of a singular focus forever. But on the other hand, bike racing was supposed to be My One Thing. I graduated Stanford, was too old for gymnastics, tried some endurance stuff and cycling hooked me. The perfect time to figure out my perfect competitive outlet. I put more into cycling that anything else in my life, including grad school. I just didnít think that it could go on and on forever and that might not be all I want to do forever. Also, bike racing IS fun. It CAN be rewarding. There's always that inkling... maybe THIS year, this new approach will work.


Thanks for all the replies guys, and for seemingly not thinking I'm totally bonkers for considering quitting (while you go to the other thread and complain about everyone quitting, lol).
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Old 03-07-19, 05:11 AM
  #18  
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to start, i agree with everyone who says that it's perfectly healthy to take a step back and if you're not enjoying it, you probably should. bike racing is too much work if you're not having fun. that being said, have you considered changing your perspective on racing? the past few years i've transitioned from being super neurotic about training and having a very rigid mindset with regards to racing to drastically reducing my training hours and really just doing it for fun. i got shelled on sunday and in the past I would have been really upset by it whereas now it's just kind of like...whatever, was a fun day out pushing myself. I recognize that plenty of the people i'm racing with have lives that allow them to ride and train much more than me (half of my instagram feed is currently in spain) and that's fine...it's just a hobby. my priority is school/career stuff, but bike racing is a fun way to stay fit and have fun with my friends. you can get plenty fit for crits on 6-8 hours a week and it's a nice distraction from the stress in my real life. maybe this isn't applicable to you, but it's a shift that I've made recently and it's really made me enjoy bike racing more and have a healthier relationship with it.
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Old 03-07-19, 07:25 AM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
7) That's more impressive than "I've been racing my bike for 5 years and still have a hard time breaking 300 watts FTP".

I've already got a Red Kite Omnium 2/3 kit, and won a 2/3 race in '17. So maybe that's as good as it gets.
#7 seems at odds with winning 2/3 races. Maybe you're stronger than you think.

You seem to be pretty talented at it. I think you have a good head to be able to step back and analyze what makes you happy about the bike. I wouldn't abandon the bike entirely due to feeling off about super organized racing. There's all sorts of other challenges and fun to be had.

Outside of track racing, don't fall into the gym trap of thinking it can supplant the traditional exercises. If you want proof of it, check out the crossfit fraud girl who claimed to have tried to do 50 IM's in 50 days. Got caught drafting cars and ending up with rhabo because she thought her minimal specific prep was fine given her gym background. There's probably 50 pages of fun over on Slowtwitch about that trainwreck.

TT, hill climb, whatever......give me a gym rat that does 6 hours a week in the gym and 1 hour on the bike versus a cyclist who does 6 hours a week on the bike and 1 hour in the gym..............maybe except the track sprints.....latter will win out.

Some strong riders these days don't even bother with USAC racing. They instead do Haute or "challenge fondos" or "open" events instead. So, perhaps, explore some less official challenges for the bike. Gravel grinders. Kanza. Haute. GFNS.
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Old 03-07-19, 08:44 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by mike868y View Post
to start, i agree with everyone who says that it's perfectly healthy to take a step back and if you're not enjoying it, you probably should. bike racing is too much work if you're not having fun. that being said, have you considered changing your perspective on racing? the past few years i've transitioned from being super neurotic about training and having a very rigid mindset with regards to racing to drastically reducing my training hours and really just doing it for fun. i got shelled on sunday and in the past I would have been really upset by it whereas now it's just kind of like...whatever, was a fun day out pushing myself. I recognize that plenty of the people i'm racing with have lives that allow them to ride and train much more than me (half of my instagram feed is currently in spain) and that's fine...it's just a hobby. my priority is school/career stuff, but bike racing is a fun way to stay fit and have fun with my friends. you can get plenty fit for crits on 6-8 hours a week and it's a nice distraction from the stress in my real life. maybe this isn't applicable to you, but it's a shift that I've made recently and it's really made me enjoy bike racing more and have a healthier relationship with it.

@Aaron

i wasn’t suggesting that you feel the desire to quit due to crashing, but that we all have our own reasons when that mindstate arises. It was a crash that brought it on for me, though paradoxically not because I’m afraid but because I’m not afraid. I knew that I’d be right back in the scrum getting shoved around by guys with 50-75 pounds on me, and bad **** would indeed happen again. I'm just not smart enough to avoid it.

Last edited by gsteinb; 03-07-19 at 10:15 AM.
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Old 03-07-19, 11:41 AM
  #21  
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I'm entering my third season and not feeling particularly motivated even though my fitness is at a peak now (300 ftp). I've accomplished just about everything I have wanted to (I'm not terribly ambitious). I worry about injuries/crashes, which makes me avoid certain races. I have relatively young kids that to some degree I've been neglecting (skipping soccer games and the like). I'm thinking about cutting back, not putting pressure on myself, when I race do so for fun and support teammates and not worry about much else.
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Old 03-07-19, 11:42 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Take a year off. It's ok. Maybe you'll miss it then come back. Maybe you won't. If the racing isn't making you happy, don't do it.

Or, try something else, like cross, track, mountain or gravel. You might find you like those other things more. Or maybe the competitive side of those things suits you better.

I was pretty much ready to give up racing, then I took up track. I'm having fun again. I spend a lot of time in the gym. My on-bike training is usually on my trainer or the stretch of road in front of my house. Some people would find that miserable. I don't.
I was going to write something but your assessment is very similar to mine. I will do a road ITT or HC if it suits my fancy. I will do timed or team events at the track. I love the structured workouts in Carson at the indoor track. I like to go to the gym and build a balanced physique. I train on the road on the same routes and at the San Diego Velodrome.

What I do not want to give up is the intensity. For masters and probably elite riders, IMHO and experience, intensity is key to all things good concerning exercise. Without a racing goal or being in good enough shape to workout with the gang at Carson, gym work is not enough...anymore. The gym is very good, I mean really very good. but slamming sprints with a peer at Carson at the top of our game or riding team events as fast as possible is just amazing.
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Old 03-07-19, 11:53 AM
  #23  
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@aaronmcd do what you gotta do.

@33, damn this place is depressing lately! Am I the only one who still likes bike racing??

The 33: where racers go to **** on road racing, talk about quitting, and talk about zwift "racing".
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Old 03-07-19, 12:55 PM
  #24  
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Spend a year mountain biking (if you're in to that). I enjoy it tremendously and its a good way to keep a base going while off the road. Will also play nicely with your inclination toward resistance training and whole-body power.
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Old 03-07-19, 02:06 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by mattm View Post
@aaronmcd do what you gotta do.

@33, damn this place is depressing lately! Am I the only one who still likes bike racing??

The 33: where racers go to **** on road racing, talk about quitting, and talk about zwift "racing".
So long as I'm terrible at this sport (and there's no getting around that) I'll still be in it. My massive inferiority complex keeps me around. As much as I want to win, I really just want to be relevant. Lining up I go under the assumption everyone out there thinks I'm a loser pos, or even worse they don't know I exist.

If I ever become successful at this sport (at a standard much lower than the 33's; there are some highly successful racers here) my biggest fear is I'll quit. That's kind of been my m.o. for my whole life. Try really hard at something, succeed, move on.

I also feel like for the 5 years I've been at it there are legitimate reasons I haven't done well (some may call them excuses) and haven't had a season where everything went perfect. Its sadly not going to be this season, hopefully next year and if I'm still a 4 at my peak form and fitness, that may be my swan song.
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