It's been two weeks since my last race and it's still another until my next so I've had a lot of time to reflect on where my riding is going and what I want to be doing with the rest of the year. Keeping yourself motivated can be pretty tough as an amateur when you're not racing every week in summer and it has to come second to your working life. I don't get paid to race and definitely don't expect I ever will in all honesty. So over the last couple of weeks I've been focusing on training for the races I want to do as well as doing something different to make sure I don't lose motivation. The biggest killer of motivation is definitely a DNF or "losing your legs" in a race and can leave you pondering for ages about what went wrong. The obvious response from most people is to see it as demotivating and then train even harder to make up for whatever excuse they told themselves made them off the pace that day. I chose to take a different approach for once and simply accepted I wasn't having a great day against a truly superb field. In doing so I didn't feel demotivated and quickly got back into the rhythm of training as normal.
I find training alone pretty demotivating too as you pick your way through the mountain of numbers trying to hit sweet-spot or hold threshold for so many minutes. That's why I train with about ten other guys that I've known and raced with for the last three years. We don't go out number bashing (unless our name is Jamie) but instead go out to make training fun and a little bit different. On a Tuesday night we'll head out after work and do a race simulation on some quiet roads where almost anything goes. These are great ways to keep the excitement levels up as if you're feeling great you can just solo off the front and attack hard but then when you're feeling rough you can cling onto the back and still get a good session. Obviously an attack off the front and sprint for victory are all anyone realistically wants. We still do a traditional Thursday Chaingang too but again, the last few miles are every man for himself which is great fun.
So having nailed the training I had a look at what else I can do to ensure I don't get bored on the bike. This is where for me the social riding gives a very welcome break from training and breaks the week up even further. On a Wednesday there is a post-work social with coffee followed by a tempo ride on the flat lands so we can soak up the sunshine and moan about being stuck inside all day. These are great because you get to catch up with people you wouldn't necessarily ride with in a race focused scene. Equally, on a weekend some of the racing guys can be convinced to ride socially too as long as we make it as hilly as possible and the coffee is of international standards. The other great thing is that because I'm not racing full time I can sneak in a few more cake stops so have a handy list of good cafes to choose from on these rides.
That's a lot of riding that I do during the week already around racing, training and socialising. In the past this has caused me to lose my motivation through riding too much. That's why I've added in a lot more rest days this year. I'll try at least once, if not twice a week to not bother with the bike and catch the train to work or work from home eating all of the snacks in the pantry. Just a day off the bike without a thought about it can be a great escape and means when you next sit in the saddle your legs and head probably feel pretty good so you end up riding better than you anticipated and feel happier anyway.
We all have little slips in motivation every so often but it's how we tackle these, if we want to, that makes the difference between a good season and a bad one. Thankfully with a little help from my friends I've been able to make the right changes so that I don't get so bored of the "eat, sleep, train, repeat" mentality but instead realise that there are so many more aspects to cycling that can get lost amongst the wannabe pros.
So after my two week break, a lot of cake and plenty of training I'm heading into this week ready for my next race and not worrying about the numbers or outcome. What will be will be and as long as I enjoy the ride it doesn't really matter what the numbers are on the night.
I wouldn't mind a second win though...