Training vs. talent?

“you are training for cx already?!”

burnedoutLets start with this image. Last cyclocross season I got to race the World Cup in Zolder, Belgium.

I was gassed. Throttled. Worthless. I had been riding so poorly and I was exhausted and barely holding on to what mediocre fitness I had left. The day before the world cup, I felt great out on the course for the riders practice. Had that snap in my legs and was excited to start the next day. The morning of; was a different matter entirely.

Evidenced by my tired exhale, vacant gaze and bloodshot eyes.

Today was one of those rides. I was crying trying to finish up the last interval. Literally.

Jeremy and Brian.I met some pals for coffee to see them off to the Cascade Creampuff 100 this morning. Matt Hall and John Dorfer + a rad crew are heading down to Oakridge to get destroyed on some vtt trails. Daveeeed + Sacha White and Scott from Vanilla were heading out on a ride from the same coffee shop and I was happy to tag along for the start of their ride. The cyclocross is in full effect. We are building and fitting cyclocross bicycles like crazy. The weather was holding steady, it looked like the sun may actually come out. The summer is in full effect with the bike shop and studio. Rolling. Hard.

I’ve been throttled the last couple months. While everyone else is racing and hanging out and enjoying the summer and time with friends: my mornings are packed with solo training rides, my days with work and my nights with more work.

sal at workA few seasons back, after a particularly worthless cyclocross season, I asked my coach at the time: “is it all worth it? all the training and training and riding and effort. All the sacrifices I make… it does not seem like it is translating into progression: I’m still finishing in the same position I have been for the last couple years.”

Yet, I’ve stuck to the plan. For month after month after month the last four years I’ve been dedicated to cyclocross. No track racing, no mountain bike racing. Hardly any racing at all. Till the fall.

Instead of racing, I train. And it is structured. And I ride by myself. A lot.

IShannon's socks.‘m conscious I write this stuff out and it comes across on paper like I’m boasting about the hours and hours I train. When I talk about 20+ hour weeks, I think I am writing to express something that someone else can relate to. My PRO pals will scoff: “we all have to ride a lot. stop tre boo hoo ing.” My intimate circle of pals don’t care about putting in as much training (they are far too smart to put this much energy into the bicycle) on the bike on top of a real job and real life. It is just not worth it to most. “If you are not a PRO, why train like a PRO?” I’ve got plenty of pals that I know are putting in big miles, sure. But no one is as focused on the fall. Roadies are not doing so much base-building this time of year. And, the local PROs that will be ripping my legs off all cx season long don’t seem to need structured 5 hour rides all summer long. They can get up off the couch, spin around the block once a week and still ride away from me in a cx race.

usgp final, riding tired.So, I train alone.

Because I’m convinced I can progress. Is that the secret trap of cycling? You can always get better, get fitter right? I don’t have the raw talent that the PRO riders have. So I have to compensate by training smart. And training a lot.

And it seems like it is working. The ride today was hard work. On paper I’m riding better than I ever, ever have. Maybe it has taken a few seasons of structure to get my body to adapt and step it up.

Now I’ve got a couple months to put the rest of the pieces together and start winning some races.

And then the sacrifices will feel like they are worth it.


12 comments for “Training vs. talent?”

  1. cool office!

    Posted by AW | July 12, 2009, 5:37 am
  2. I feel your pain. I’m a teacher and contrary to popular perceptions I don’t have oodles of time to training during the teaching year. It is 60hr/week job, until mid June. So my base miles start then. And I ride alone a lot too. And get my ass kicked at training races by my roadie palls, who will never see me in good form in December. Just curious, but when do you begin your build phase?

    Posted by EricG | July 12, 2009, 11:42 am
  3. Yes it is worth it.

    Posted by Jason | July 12, 2009, 5:29 pm
  4. Dude, racing is the best training. You’re not getting any better results in your cross racing, because you’re only giving yourself race intensity for 2-3months a year, while race season is on.

    You should expand your horizons, race some road & mtb stuff so that your body can adjust and get used to the high intensity that comes from racing. It’s absolutely impossible to re-create that kind of stuff training on your own for 4-5hrs/day.

    I would even go so far as to suggest you’re overtraining yourself, burning out, and losing key motivators from within.

    Relax, remember that really, you’re riding to have fun. Keep that in the forefront, and I bet you’ll see improvements happen.


    Posted by robb | July 13, 2009, 7:29 am
  5. Since I was planning on being fast in December and racing through January the last few years I’d start later in the summer. July ish. Take a month off after cx in February then tag a long with the road guys for some early season long miles. I’d race some vtt and road all spring long to stay fresh and motivated.

    This year I took a summer break back in May/June and have been building up since then. Hence the last couple months of specificity. A little earlier than years past as this season starts off big!

    Starcrossed-Rad Racing GP-CX Vegas-USGP 1+2

    Got to be faster earlier this year!

    Posted by Molly | July 13, 2009, 8:54 am
  6. Thanks!

    I fired my coach, your check is in the mail!

    Posted by Molly | July 13, 2009, 8:55 am
  7. oh man. tru dat! so alone…so all alone. Sahara like. I’ve been training solo for so long, I start acting all homeless and sh*t. talking to my self, mumbling, humming ABBA tunes. It’s bad. real bad…and no one want’s to do the dumb ass structured rides i gots to do anyway though. It’s no fun riding w/me.

    Posted by crankles | July 13, 2009, 10:29 am
  8. This City Biker sez: Keep at it. You have talent and strength and obviously you know what to do with both. (I only wish my time and finances allowed me to “train” like this.) Go for it!

    ..::putting the pom-poms down now::..

    Posted by beth h | July 14, 2009, 7:20 am
  9. Life is a test. As a working man racer, you only partially get graded on your final score in the race. Character gets scored higher than bike race result (because we’re not testing VO2 max here) and if you managed, at great effort, to wring more out of your talent at DFL than the guy who glided to a win but never really worked that hard for it, then you win the G.C. even though the other guy took the podium on the day. As a guy-with-a-job-who-happens-to-race, if You manage to integrate work and family and friends with your training and racing, then you take the points competition too. That’s how I view it. Your mileage may vary.

    Posted by Jim | July 16, 2009, 10:23 am
  10. “The secret trap of cycling.” I think you drilled it with that phrase.

    Posted by Skip | July 17, 2009, 6:19 pm
  11. [...] just read “Talent vs. Training” by Molly Cameron. I can relate. Why train so hard? I don’t know…. I like a challenge. I want to find my [...]

    Posted by Why Train? - RickySilk | July 20, 2009, 5:48 am

    as a fellow worker/student/guy who wants to be as fast on a bike as possible i empathize. the reality is not lack of training or talent or tenacity, but focus. being really good at something means doing whatever it takes for YOU to be as good as YOU need to be. keep experimenting, keep riding, but until someone hands you a paycheck, keep having fun…or give up everything else to try and become a pro and probably have no fun at all. i’m guessing you’re pretty “PRO” at whatever it is you do for a living.

    ride on.

    Posted by anonymous | July 21, 2009, 3:27 pm

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