It's centered on fear. Fear of finishing last in a pelaton. Or in the pool. Or on the track and trail. It stems from being dropped on numerous rides with the San Fernando Valley Bicycle Club early in my cycling career, or my past inability to keep up in swim workouts. And an athletic inferiority complex in general that is best represented by my irrational love for underdogs like Rudy Ruettiger. Fearing that I'm the slowest or the worst fuels my competitive fire, as much as when people tell me I can't or won't be able to do something. Anything.
This fear is manifesting itself in a pretty obsessive competitive streak lately. My training partners and friends, Ann, Richard and Mike, have encountered that side of my personality recently. Richard and Mike were playfully teasing me about notching up the intensity a bit too high during our weekly Griffith Park brick sessions on Wednesday nights. I can't help it though, especially when a few of us cyclists tackle Mount Hollywood en route to Griffith Park and occasionally treat it like we're racing for the polka-dot climbing "king of the hill" jersey at Le Tour de France.
OK, maybe that's just me that feels that way. Maybe I'm the only one who hears British Tour de France TV commentator Phil Liggett in my head -- announcing my progress and stumbles to the world in real-time. And that's part of my problem.
It happened again today, where what felt like an unusually large pelaton ratcheted up the intensity almost as soon as we turned out of the LA Zoo parking lot. I was prepared for an easy spin and run considering our recent race weekend at Wildflower. Nobody else in the group received that memo, apparently. We took off fast, and hard. I was almost dropped at first until I warmed up properly.
That got my attention. And drew my ire. Then, what was supposed to be a jaunt turned into a near-sprint, starting at around Forest Lawn Drive before heading right up a long hill en route to Mt. Hollywood.
Phil Liggett took over. He called the action in my head with every pedal stroke.
"Ryan seems to be struggling today, his weary legs almost begging for mercy after a grueling Wildflower stage on Sunday. He's towards the back of the pack at the moment, or is he calculating his big surge? It's hard to tell if our man on the Colnago is wearing the look of a confident, intense competitor or someone who's at the end of his line before the real racing begins. What's Ryan made of today? We will all soon know.
"Oh look at that! Ryan is making his move now, passing to the outside left of a small group of riders who seem to be slowing down. He's picking up steam! But can he catch the man up front, the blue-jersey, Trek wearing monster who is trying to lose the entire pack up the mountain? Can Ryan pick it up to slay Goliath? Or is David simply out of rocks?
"It appears we'll have our answer shortly. Ryan is making his move! He's separating from the pack and is solely focused on tracking down the Trek. Now Ryan is riding Trek's wheel, forcing the leader to pick up the pace. The man up front is becoming uncomfortable. I think Ryan's got him! Yes, the Trek rider is now standing and pedaling up the hill. Laboring! Panting! Cold and merciless, Ryan passes. Seated. A point has been made. 'This is MY hill.' This will indeed be Ryan's day! From worst to first, for one moment, Ryan is king of this hill. A huge victory for Team Colnago."
Yep, that's how my brain works. Even if it's 5:30 on a Wednesday evening on a seemingly routine ride. I know I'm a little crazy. I know.
I hate losing. I hate being dropped. I hate being perceived as too slow. Not good enough. Not fast enough.
Nothing ever comes easy for me, so I never take a workout for granted. Maybe that's a secret to success: Treat each workout like it must be your best. Because somewhere out there, someone is training harder. Getting better. Becoming faster.
What are you doing?
203 days and counting.