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Providence KMC Cyclo-cross Festival Report

“Do I have what it takes?”


Ever wondered that about something or other in life?

After a rocky start to the season, I’ve been asking myself that about racing. The learning curve to turning my passion into a career has admittedly thrown me for a loop. Ok let’s be honest, who knew there was a learning curve to eating cake? But that old saying “wanting to have your cake and eat it too” is always said with a hint of disapproval. Perhaps through these subtle tones, society has primed us to function better in an environment of lack than in plenty, or perhaps it’s just human nature to doubt whether we deserve to succeed and deserve to be happy. Here I am, at a most fortunate place in my life, wanting desperately to know if I can make it, something I thought I’d already answered for myself cominig up through the ranks with a full time job.

I’ve had to slow down and to be a bit introspective, and along the way I’ve gotten into reading, something that is always vastly more useful than I like to give it credit for. It just so happens that someone has written a pretty good piece precisely about “having what it takes.”

The will to suffer and endure not only separates average athletes from elite ones, but it separates talented elite athletes from their peers as well.

Turns out, viewing the year as a piece of cake, even if only subconsciously, was wildly off the mark. The answer to “Do I have what it takes?” is something sobering to the effect of, “How willing am I to suffer?”

Jesse offered the following perspective:

Taking time off of work and focusing extra hard doesn’t automatically make you faster. You still have to race with angst and fire. You have to break it down and simplify back to just attacking the course, fighting out of every corner and being aggressive. Bike racing is fun, it is not complicated, but it is not easy either.

Having a satisfying year is not so much about the opportunities but rather the effort put into it. In the words of a good teaching friend of mine, “if you want to have self esteem, you’ve got to do something in order to earn it.” Being willing to suffer is not just being able to suffer passively, but it’s being able to push yourself hard enough to create the suffering that you then must endure. It takes something special, that X factor, just to be able to punish yourself to that point.

One of the first things that attracted me to ‘cross was being mercilessly humiliated by it! I was in exceptional marathon shape, jumped into a ‘cross race, and promptly got dropped 400 meters in. In the 3/4 race. Now THAT is a sport, I thought, something that could so instantly and categorically crush any delusions of fitness and grandeur.

Throughout my first years competing, the angst and fire that fueled me was the “proving I can do it” and the “against the odds” sort. Those causes were like rocket fuel that blasted me forward, but now that I’ve earned my front row start, gotten the routines dialed in, have the good fortune to have an amazing team to support and take care of me, I feel like I’m floating in space with my fuel capsule detached and plummeting back to earth. The old X factor is gone: the odds are no longer against me with a diffi