Rolling With The Punches

Posted: Apr 17, 2002

Normally I write articles with racing advice. This article is different because of something that happened to me last weekend. At the beginning of the season I had decided that there were a few select races I would like to target. One of the races was a short weekend stage race held April 13-14 in Seaford, DE. On Friday night I had begun my ritual of getting all my equipment in order. Bags were packed and everything was ready to go for an early 6AM wake- up call. I went to bed excited about my first serious competition. Around 1AM, I awoke with a terrible pain in my lower right stomach. It felt like somebody punched me. At first I thought I had just slept funny and pulled a muscle. I tried to get back to sleep but the pain became worse and worse. By 2AM I was doubled over and I started thinking it might be my appendix. I called my father and asked for a ride to the Emergency Room. After waiting for three hours to be admitted (typical NYC Emergency Waiting Room time) I finally was examined by a doctor. After some general poking around I was told that it was not my appendix and blood tests were needed to find out if it was something else. It was now 8AM and there is no chance of racing today. By 11AM the tests were back. The terrible pain had since subsided and the tests revealed nothing. The doctor said he thought it was a gas pocket or perhaps a twisted intestine. I was told to go home, get some rest and drink lots of liquids. While the pain was severe and going to a NYC Emergency Room is not the most pleasant thing, do you know what I was most worried about? My race. Not my immediate well-being but a silly bike race. That`s a bike racer`s mentality. While driving to the hospital I played out different scenarios. Suppose it is my appendix and I need surgery? How much time off the bike will I miss? How will this affect my season? I bet we have all thought the same things when we are sick or injured. There is a reason we think this way. We are hard workers. We are serious about what we do. We are disciplined. We put in hours and hours of training, week after week, month after month to show small gains of fitness. The thought of losing the fitness we have worked so hard to gain drives us crazy. In some cases, it can even cause depression. What I have learned over the years is to roll with the punches. The same discipline we apply to our training must also be applied to our mental approach to racing. While lying in the hospital bed for three hours waiting for my blood test results I started to think about upcoming races. I started to think about all the cool races from now to September. I started thinking about a stage race at the end of August I wanted to do well in. The end of August. Over four months away. Even if I needed surgery, for sure I would be fine by August. The `this is going to screw up everything` thoughts disappeared and were replaced instead with `So what, it`s only one race. There are some great races in the months to come`. Look at the pro racer Andrei Tchmil. It`s his final season of racing and his plan was to retire after the `Classics`. Unfortunately, he crashed in a preparation race and his injury kept him from racing the Classics. Did he retire? No way. Like a typical cyclist, he looked at the race calendar and decided to focus on another race, in this case the World Championships in October. The great thing about bike racing is that there`s always another race. So next time you are sick or injured just change your focus. Look at the schedule and just pick another race you would like to do well in. Being sick or injured is not the end of the world, it`s just another punch you have to roll with.