I started 2019 with some big plans with regards to my training and racing calendar. With Mountain Bike Nationals coming to Winter Park, my home away from home, I looked forward to training hard and giving it my best shot. I was coming into the year with pretty good fitness, and had a specific training and racing schedule that would have me peaking at the right time. All of that kind of fell apart in February when I injured my Achilles tendon. It started as just a small twinge that I convinced myself I would be able to train through.
Of course, I was wrong and the next thing I knew, I had a hard time walking for a couple of weeks and then was completely off the bike for more than two months. I would say that getting old sucks, but I don’t really feel that way. In fact, I am pretty comfortable with my age (turning 50 this year). However, there is no denying that with age comes slower healing – and yes, that part of aging does indeed suck. Anyway, once I could get back on the bike at all, I had another month or so of nothing more than soft-pedaling. And by that time, my fitness was terrible and there was no way I was going to be able to get into race shape in time.
So I decided to go the complete opposite direction and spent the rest of the year feeling no pressure at all to train. I still rode a couple of times a week and punished myself on the occasional group ride because, well, riding a bike is awesome – but overall I actually rather appreciated the feeling of having no pressure to get out and train. I found myself coming up with reasons to not ride on any given day, rather than working to fit in a training ride. And when I did ride, the pace and effort were relatively tame. This is not to say that my much-more-fit friends took it easy on me – of course they did not (what are friends for, after all?) – but it certainly bothered me less when I got dropped because my expectations of myself had changed. I got more work done and, most importantly, I focused my energy on where it needed to be in the first place – spending time with my family, including my stepson who graduated from high school in May and left for a gap year with the Rotary Club in Argentina in September. Looking back on the year, I have absolutely no regrets for the imposed change of riding plans for the year and in fact, rather enjoyed the shift of focus. No pressure, just riding for enjoyment and when I wanted to. If I didn’t have anything else going on and I wanted to ride, I would ride. And now, I am refreshed and looking forward to more of an “on” year in 2020.
So looking ahead, what does 2020 hold in store? Playing a significant role in the details will be whether or not my body holds out. I have also made the conscious decision to not sacrifice as much as I have in the past. This in no way means that I will not look forward to frequent visits to the pain cave, it only means that I am not going to stress about it if, in the course of enjoying the rest of my life, a day or even a week goes by and I am unable to keep up with a strict training schedule. I plan to do whatever I can to enjoy all facets of my life. To be certain, riding a bike is one of the things that I find most enjoyable, and it will absolutely be a large part of things. However, I also hope to travel more with my family and take part in other activities that do not revolve around riding a bike. Since I turn 50 this year, I am looking forward to aging up in race divisions. Perhaps that will open up more opportunity for better results, but I doubt it. I know how many super-fast old guys there are out there in this great state of ours. And if my increased balance in life keeps me from being among them – does it really matter? The lifelong competitor in me says yes – absolutely – but the old(er) man in me says maybe not so much. I suppose at heart I am just as competitive as I’ve ever been, but those tendencies have shifted from measuring myself against others to measuring myself against myself. And shouldn’t that be what it is all about anyway? Having fun and getting the most of ourselves?
Trent Newcomer is a veterinarian and the franchise owner of Velofix Colorado, a mobile bike shop operation that serves the Front Range, from Fort Collins to the entire Denver metro area. Book a bike service appointment and have them roll up to your home or business at velofix.com.