Talking to my coach last night, he asked me about the dynamic of collegiate running, which got me thinking about what I’ve been doing differently in my transition to cycling that maybe I didn’t do when I was in college. Or what I could be doing better today, that I was much better with in college. So I decided I”ll do a few installments about some differences between the two sports. This could be completely useless advice, as every single person has a different experience, but if one person takes it and benefits from my mistakes, then I’ll call it a victory.
While the two are extremely different sports, they do have some major similarities. The first being, you wake up, and the top thing on your mind is- today’s workout. Well, maybe it’s actually coffee, but the looming workout is always in the back of your mind.
In college I would typically wake up, go to class, eat lunch, coffee party if it was a workout day, head to practice, stretch, eat dinner, school work, hang out, then go to sleep. Obviously there were “extra curricular” activities here not being listed, but typically my days were pretty similar. If there was one thing we did in college, it was live the lifestyle of an athlete who wanted to be better. We were 100% focused on our individual and team goals. Sure we did dumb college stuff, but typically as athletes we wanted to be the best we could be. This drive we developed as a group, has carried into the lives of my closest friends. Whether they are still pursuing athletic accomplishments, or working hard in their professional careers.
In college, I was a 5’2 freshman, coming into a division 2 program that had major success in the past. I was the slowest recruit, with PR’s equivalent to what my coaches’ daughter Neely would run at her peak in high school. Assuming he didn’t bring me in to be Neely’s training partner, he said I would be a good fit for the program. So for the first summer in my life, I ran…And I rannnn, I ran so far away, And I…..excuse me…I ran all of the workouts, and came into camp with a point to prove. I hammered every single day. I hammered workouts. Long runs. Runs. Anything I could do to catch the attention of my coach Spence (A 1992 Olympic marathoner). I remember one of the first workouts I did at team camp, I practically held my breath every time I ran by Spence so he knew how little I was working. (In reality, I was working) Thankfully, I made varsity that year, and grew about 7 inches. We weren’t the best, but we wanted to be, and we worked for it. Eventually by the end of our run, we finished 1st in the conference and 7th in the nation, 4 years later.
But that hammering, and insatiable desire to prove some sort of point, every single day; is actually what I believe to be my biggest fault. Mentally I raced my workouts, and I wasn’t fully recovering. I always wanted to feel like I could run with the top guys. And I hated if my paces were just a tad bit slower. It hurt my pride, and I felt like I was better than that. I wasn’t able to separate myself, and look at the big picture. Fortunately, I made it through most of my collegiate career injury free. I never had nagging injuries that would stunt my training for a week or two, nope, when I got injured, they were season enders. Stress fracture in my right femur sophomore year, low iron junior year, and sciatic nerve/hip flexor strain my graduate year. Regardless, the reason I got to these points, was because of my inability to remove myself from the competition.
Removing yourself from the competition is something that, thankfully, I HAVE been able to do with cycling so far. Mostly because I ride alone. Other than rides with my buddy Pete, I pretty much do all of my workouts alone. I do look at at the media and see the rides my teammates or competitors do, but I stay confident with the work that I am doing; because at the end of the day, that’s really all I can control. Sure, I do some big group rides from time to time, and sure; I absolutely get carried away and start the gamesmanship. 100% there is a time in a place for that, just not every single to every other day. This has allowed me to be mentally sharp, and my competitive drive is always there because I’m not using it up on group workouts the week prior.
So heading into this season as a first year pro, I’m going to be placed back into a familiar environment. And hopefully, I’ve matured enough as an athlete to listen to my coach and recover/not get caught up in gamesmanship every day. I’m sure we will do some hammering at team camp, but I won’t be holding my breath every time my director drives by.