Christopher Schwenker April 9, 2022
Bike races rarely ever go as I had hoped. The honest truth comes out in the fleeting moments that follow the frantic dash for the line. Whether it be a hormone-fueled rush of emotion or lack of oxygen to my brain, the sincere thoughts swirl as my breathing pattern normalizes.
I must confess. It is only on rare occasions that my post-race pondering provides the opportunity for complete contentment. My mind often replays the events and highlights when a wrong decision, inability to act, or insufficient ability resulted in less than the desired outcome. Yes, I have feelings of regret.
Not intense feelings of remorse, but they are there. In relative actuality, my bike racing results are not significant enough to cause more than temporary disappointment, even to me. Imagine they were, but not life or death, and not even close. However, let’s take a few liberties for this philosophical thought experiment.
Contemplate someone reaching the end of a long and fulfilling life journey. There are things they regret or wish they had done differently during their life. In her 2012 book, “The Top Five Regrets of Dying,” Australian author and palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware didn’t have bike racing in mind when she shared her experience.
I asked elite eracer and frequent contributor to The ZOM, Jacqueline Godbe, MD Ph.D., for a wheel to help bridge the spiritual gap. Together we answer the question from a bike racing perspective and loosely draw a hypothetical comparison. Much like a bike race, there is no time to change the “what ifs” when you have crossed the finish line.
It isn’t easy, and it takes bravery to be the most authentic version of yourself continually. First, one must identify what that means. Then commit to the lifestyle changes that will make you happier even if they are contrary to what others have in mind. Ultimately, you are the only one to who you must answer.
Jacqueline Godbe has been defining herself as an athlete for years and has recently transitioned from professional triathlete to elite esports competitor. During that time, Jacqueline has played many roles.
Jacquie has arrived at the point in her career where she is confident in herself and the way she chooses to race. Jacqueline has the attitude you need when describing her rationale for racing true. “Oh well, you win some and you, lose some,” declares Jacqueline, “I can’t say I didn’t try.”
It is healthier to focus on the result of the time you have spent hard at work than the belief that you wasted it elsewhere. The all-nighters spent studying in college are a regrettable misuse of your youth. However, without would have adversely affected your future success.
Finding the proper balance in the workplace and outside of it involves creating boundaries. Have a plan for changing your “all work and no play” lifestyle and commit.
No place is this more true than in the sport of bike racing. If an athlete minimizes their effort without being tempted by every attack, the chance of success is excellent.
It requires discipline and commitment, according to Jacqueline when she reveals, “Yep, I have been burned by racers who are smarter about managing their power and staying out of the front all the time.”
Never apologize for your feelings. Sincere feelings are the product of raw emotion and subconscious responses. If you are true to yourself and sensitive in expressing them, an introspective individual has nothing to fault.
According to Jacqueline, being sensitive to her fellow competitors is the essence of sportsmanship. “It’s all about absolutely necessary,” to Jacquie, “while I want to enjoy my successes, I NEVER want to do it at the expense of my competitors, friends, or teammates.”
Reactions differ from feelings, and the distinction is essential because it involves making a choice. Jacqueline has chosen virtual cycling as she describes, “It is so important to me that it is worth carefully thinking about what I say before I say it.”
The virtual cycling community, and women’s esports, in particular, are at a precarious growth point. “I don’t regret or begrudge that filter,” assures Jacquie, “it’s necessary to support the community I love.”
When I was a child, we had a saying in our house equivalent to “if it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen.” My parents attended every one of my sporting events because, to them, if they weren’t there to witness my victories, they were as hollow to me as if they hadn’t occurred. I agreed then, and I do now.
“Virtual cycling is a great way to involve my parents in my athletic career,” notes Jacqueline when pointing out the challenge of watching her compete in triathlons. “Now I can share my events, and they watch on their big screen and get excited for me like they did when I was a little girl.”
Happiness isn’t a destination. It is a mind frame and a mental state of being. One that completes you by adding meaning to your life.
Winning a bike race brings me joy, but it is temporary, one of the many finish lines I will cross. The journey is the hard work, dedication, planning, and motivation that I apply to my training. That is what makes me truly happy—setting a goal to be my best and striving to achieve it.
“I do this because it makes me happy,” agrees Jacquie, “and when it stops making me happy or fulfilled, I will stop. Right now, it is cool!”
Bike races come and go, and if you regret or disappoint yourself in one another will come along. When your breathing recovers and the brain fog clears, you reassess your goals and work toward improving your weaknesses. There is time.
We only get one life. To prevent falling victim to the existential issues that threaten our mortal happiness requires profound lifestyle shifts to solve. As if on your bike, train to live a life that will protect you from regrets.
When we are young, time and opportunities seem endless. We must move into the possibilities of life with self-awareness. It’s never too late to make a positive change on the bike and off. It’s never too late to care, connect, and be true to yourself despite your age. There is still time.
Christopher Schwenker April 9, 2022
Christopher is a contributor to Colorado Avid Cyclist, as well as the publisher of thezommunique.com, and DIRT Virtual Cycling Group on Zwift.
For more great articles exploring the cerebral side of cycling, check out the Coaching page of The ZOM!
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