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GOALS: Part 3 - Achievement

Over the past few weeks I have put up a couple posts in regards to GOALS and some tips on how best to set yourself up to attain them. Today I am going to briefly touch on my actual experience with the most recent challenge I set for myself. This challenge started last summer when after almost 6 years or riding a bike I finally made the time to get into bike racing. Prior to that my goals were firmly aligned with becoming the best triathlete with the skill set and genetics I was given. My pre-disposition for endurance sports not exactly being world class meant that my improvement as a triathelte was primarily driven by brute force and hard work. I was singularly focused over a span of multiple years on improving. Simply improving myself day in and day out and letting that dictate my results. It took me from being a back of the packer to a race winner at regional levels, a course record holder, and truly competitive in world class fields. I was never going to be challenging for the win at Ironman Hawaii (Kona), but with a good day top 10's at other venues were realistic....and for me that was big success.

Looking back I think I probably had a top 5 Ironman finish in me at somewhere other than Kona, but I made the decision based on life circumstances (family, job, sanity) to change my focus and simply ride my bike. A LOT! It was a great choice that not only made my feel rejuvenated for competition but started to make sense in terms of finding an outlet that I would be able to more easily incorporate into my lifestyle. Lifestyle including being a new husband, a house owner, a CPA and a Coach. When you have multiple hats to wear being able to segregate and appropriate the proper time and attention is paramount. They all bleed into each other and if one is badly out of balance there is just no way that they all don't suffer. Just ask my wife.

With that backstory lets jump back into what you came here for, cycling talk. As mentioned above when I decided to give bike racing a shot I dove in head first. Racing the Green Mountain Stage Race last year (2016) was probably the best catalyst possible as it not only went well for me, but it fully immersed me into bike racing for four straight days. Culminating in what many consider to be one of the best Crit courses around; the Burlington Crit. Winning that race overall as a Cat 5 in the 4/5 race meant that I now had three road races and a TT to my name as far as USA Cycling was considered. That allowed for a off-season upgrade to Cat 4 based on performance.

Next step: After GMSR 2016 I got married and went on an amazing honeymoon in Hawaii and left the bike in the garage for over 2 weeks. The longest time I had been separated from it since I started riding in the summer of 2009. Thankfully for me, Cyclocross season was in full swing when I returned and having never partaken in that I jumped in head first and raced every weekend. It was an absolute blast and frankly a perfect segway from all the long training rides I had done in the triathlon world. CX was about absolutely hammering for 45-60 minutes and only thinking about the next turn, the next hurdle or the next obstacle. Exactly the kind of thing you want if you are trying to step away from the rigid structure of road riding. It was at this point that I was 100% committed to racing my bike and thus I stopped running and swimming cold turkey. In fact as of Aug 1st I had about 12 miles of running to my name for 2017 and ZERO yards of swimming. Like I said, when you're all in, YOU'RE ALL IN! There is no other way to get what you want unless you are willing to make the sacrifices.

This is a good time to give a brief list of the things I did to put me in a place to go from a Cat 5 to a Cat 1 in less than 12 months.

1. Absolute commitment to the overall goal. This meaning that every component is worthwhile because it its one piece of the puzzle that is required.

2. Focused training on limiters. As I am a predisposed aerobic athlete by nature and having almost 6 full years of triathlon specific training I lacked much of the ALL OUT speed needed in bike racing. You know, the 30 seconds to 5 minutes of FU power that is required to break away or simply keep up with the top riders. Thus, I did a hell of a lot of intervals on ZWIFT last winter. My trajectory was mapped out and I stuck to it. Honestly, it took about 5-6 full months before my training numbers began to shift UPWARDS on a day in and day out basis. The take away here is that improvement does not come overnight. It's a long and hard process and only those willing to stick it out will reap the full rewards.

3. Assimilate with people who know more and are faster than you. In cycling as in life there is always someone better, faster, stronger and smarter than you. So don't fool yourself into thinking you know it all. Make connections and use them. Ask questions, get invited on whatever it takes to make yourself better. That type of willingness and openness will allow you to improve the quickest and quite frankly give you the best experience. 

4. RACE A LOT. All types of races against all types of people. The beauty of cycling versus say long distance running or triathlon is that its something you can do A LOT. You can theoretically race once mid week and twice on the weekend and not completely fall apart on that Sunday race. If your training plan is set up correctly you can build into big racing blocks. This is critical for those racers who want to upgrade in categories (quickly). You need to be putting yourself out there every week and learning. Learning how to race, how to win, how to be a part of a peleton, how to be a much learning goes on in these races at all levels. Don't think you are above it. I personally knew I had fully converted to cycling when as a CAT 4 I drove 1.5 hours each way in the pouring rain down to Ninigrit, RI to race a 30 minute Crit Race against like 5 other guys. Yes, there were only 5 guys....but that was enough to qualify for some points in my upgrade to a 3. So, I just sucked it up road solo in the rain and won the damn race. Then drove the 1.5 hours back home. Totally necessary? Probably not, but I was willing to just put the head down and do it because it was a step in the right direction.

5. POSITIVITY. There may be some people your own journey that tell you such and such can't be done. Or "no one ever does that", "not that way"...yada yada. Its inherent in people's nature to be self protective and when you are starting to encroach on their turf they put of defense to knock you down or make you skeptical of what you are trying to do. Have none of that! Believe in yourself and stick to your guns....because the bottom line is that if at the root of it you don't believe...then frankly you've already lost. So surround yourself with people who want to help, who create a good vibe to be around. That is the atmosphere you want to be encircled by. That's the one that foster performance and breakthroughs. 

Playing off the final point as I wrap this post up, I want to make a point to tell you all that there comes a time when you have to sit back and relish in what you've accomplished. This post is titled "Achievement" because there will come a time when you've accomplished your Goals. Whether it be the end all be all Goal, or the smaller ones along the way. In both cases when you've accomplished them, CELEBRATE THEM. That's what you worked so damn hard for. Too many times us average Joe, weekend warrior types sell ourselves short. We accomplish something great and when someone says "good work" we immediately snap back...."Yeah, but I could have done better", or "but I am still not as fast as (insert fast person here)"...You could go on and on with different sayings. The bottom line is to enjoy the victories. Those times when you accomplish something you've been working towards should be a moments of gratification. You don't have to publicly broadcast it to the world (I frankly don't want you to) but if someone says great job. Take that compliment and say "Thanks, yeah it feels freaking great. I really wanted it and I got it. Boo yah!" Then go home and get to work on achieving the next one. Because as we all know in this world of social media, by the next day it's like it never happened.

-Matt Curbeau, TCF Director of Ops

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