I’ve been mulling over a few things that I’ve read in the past couple of months, and I’d like to share them now. This will essentially be three different short posts that are vaguely related, but I thought I’d put them all out at once.
“The feeling wasn’t always shiny and happy – sometimes it was dark and obsessive, and sometimes it was like the quiet, abiding love you see in old married couples.” – Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code
I saved this quote back in November, when I was writing about my theory of “Talent divided by Forks Given equals Happiness”. I covered the Talent and the Forks, but I never quite got to the happiness. I’m not really sure how much there is to say beyond the quote above. The Happiness in my equation is the first part of the quote, the shiny, new happiness that comes with beginners luck or exceeding your own expectations without really trying that hard. It’s the easy happiness that’s sometimes easy to be jealous of when you’ve given too many forks.
I’ve realized that there’s also a different kind of happiness that comes from giving the forks year after year until it’s just part of you, and don’t know what you’d be without it. And your realize that all of the forks you gave do pay off, because you’re better than you were ten years ago, and even one year ago, and you do things now that you never imagined you could. For the last couple of years, I’ve really been trying consciously be more proud of how far I’ve come in cycling and the success that I have had, regardless of how it stacks up to more “talented” people.
It’s not always easy, because part of being in a competitive sport is wanting to observe the best people so that you understand what “good” actually is. I guess the key is to be able to ask, “What can I do to be more like them?” without letting it turn into, “Oh god, I’ll never be like them, so I might as well give up.”
“Grit is that mix of passion, perseverance, and self-discipline that keeps us moving forward in spite of obstacles. It's not flashy, and that's precisely the point. In a world in which we're frequently distracted by sparkly displays of skill, grit makes the difference in the long run.” – Daniel Coyle, The Little Book of Talent
After reading The Talent Code in November, I decided to read the follow-up, “The Little Book of Talent”. It was full of great tips for skill development that I was eager to implement. However, the one on cultivating grit really made me think. It suggested taking the Grit Survey, located here, and the questions it held surprised me.
Although my years of persistence in cycling would indicate that I do possess some amount of grit, I also know that I sometimes absolutely suck at not giving up in the face of obstacles (see basically the whole last month). The thing that really surprised me was how many of the questions on the survey had to do with changing interests and goals. While not a lot of people can say that they have competed in mountain biking in some shape or form for twelve summers in a row, I have definitely bounced around with the type of event and goals that have interested me.
I actually realized the other day that I needed to update the bio on this blog, as my cat situation had changed, then realized that my current phase as an amateur bike racer had changed, as well. The rocks of Rothrock are less of a concern for me these days, although I don’t know if I ever actually befriended them. Now the ones that concern my most are the ones on Wildcat and Old Laurel, and my greatest desire is to smoothly fly over them without really seeing them. I’m not sure if my changing interests in regard to the many sub-disciplines of cycling means I have less grit, but I think it has made me “happier”, because part of my progress has been narrowing the focus of where both my enjoyment and proficiency lies.
Stop Saying “______ is dead.”
Finally, when I read the post above a few weeks ago, it really tied all of this together. I actually don’t know if I’ve ever said that any cycling discipline is dead, despite having lost interest in many. Maybe I already got the point of the article, which was that just because something was no longer my thing, that didn’t mean that it suddenly sucked for everyone else. I think I have said that peak cyclocross has passed, because I read and believed an article last year that said that, but it’s definitely not dead. It’s funny, because I can actually look back and remember “peak ____” for many of disciplines in which I’ve dabbled. They’re all still alive and have reach their appropriate equilibrium.
I think that road, XC, and downhill mountain bike racing all had their heydays prior to the purchase of my first bike. XC will always be there, because for many parts of the country, it’s the only mountain bike racing that exists, and it’s certainly the easiest in which to start. Downhill seems to be regaining popularity due to Redbull TV, but participation will always be limited to those who have regular access to lift-assisted bike parks.
I remember peak 24-hour race and peak stage race in the earlier days of my mountain biking career, but of which plenty of people still do, but being such large investments of time, money, and training, the limited number of regular participants couldn’t sustain the large number events of those types that popped up for a couple of years.
Peak fat bike was a fun time a couple of years ago, but the sport had the unfortunate luck of reaching the top of its popularity during a particularly warm winter. Specialized may have pulled the Hellga from it’s line, but fat biking will continue to be a staple in places where people can count on consistent, groomed snow. For me, it’s still a great way to ride very slowly with bar mitts when it’s especially cold out.
Peak gravel is interesting, because although the American Ultracross Series actually died a couple of years ago, the fact that Dirty Kanza just implemented a lottery system this year means that the number of people wanting to race gravel is still growing. Perhaps “ultracross” wasn’t the best branding, and most of the races of the series still exist. They are still filled by regionally competitors who just aren’t into it enough to travel all over the country for a series title, and at 50-70 miles, they are a great gateway for people wanting to work their way up to bigger challenges like Dirty Kanza.
Now I find myself riding the wave to peak enduro. When will it happen? Will I stick around when it stops being cool? I have no idea, but don’t worry, I’ll never try to tell anyone it’s dead.