First, I'd like to direct everyone to Terry's brilliant post. Not brilliant because he takes the piss out of Kyle, who as Terry says just happens to hang the dirty laundry of his mind out for all to see and thus makes an effective foil for the point, but brilliant in his take on coaching. My coaching experience absolutely aligns with Terry's - the most important race is the one in your head, against your own limits and fears. One of my friends who made the '04 Olympic team had only one talent in sailing - arriving at the finish line first. There are certain people who just know that they've done what it takes to prepare and that they WILL win, and they wind up doing it a high percentage of the time.
There are also those who try to cheat or play cheesy (especially easy to do in sailing, which is fundamentally self-policed). These people have a tendency to be that way in the rest of life. It's rare that you meet someone who's a slimebag on the water but a good guy on land. There's a fundamental selfishness and doubt within these people, and I'd guess that they are motivated far more by the trappings of winning and being perceived as a winner than they are for the intrinsic high that comes from having achieved something special. I guess you could relate it to the doping issues in pro sports and cycling in particular, but I won't. There's too much "everybody's doing it" around the doping things, where I think the people to whom I'm referring are such effective self deluders that they'd be sticking needles in their arms even if they weren't racing, just to be the fastest commuter on the trail. Maybe that's a scoop your magazine should follow, Jim. Doping on the bike path.
A friend and I had a conversation the other day about people who would like to win versus people who want to win. The people who would like to win, in our context, are those who would be happy if a win came their way, but either don't realize or won't commit to what it takes to reliably produce that outcome. The people who want to win are those who make their preparations with the goal of producing the highest possible outcome for themselves. Clearly our little cycling world has lots of both, and probably plenty of hybrids. I certainly don't go out and push myself in training in order to be mediocre, but on the other hand I know that there are those who generally work harder to produce a favorable outcome for themselves than I do. Whether it's because they want it more than I do or because they have the opportunity or another of a thousand different things, they are willing and able to do more to shift the table in their favor. But lately I've noticed that I'm more willing to admit to myself how much I do want to win, and those thoughts have removed a buffer layer with which I used to operate. Last year, we had a great team set up through the spring, and I was in great shape physically. The difference between my winning and losing was within the margin of self belief. It's tough that I got a flat at Poolesville last year because that was the race for which I was able to strip all the bullshit and buffers away and say "I've focused on this race, I've prepared for this race as well as anyone I know, and I want no other outcome but to win." That's a lot to hang on yourself. Come up short and the mirror isn't going to be as great a place for a while. The confluence of that event, plus coming back from major injury, plus the rapidly growing truth that I'm not getting any younger, plus having finished a challenging project at work and gained a bit of breathing room to focus on training and resting more effectively, have me now in a spot where I'm faced with the choice of admitting that I want to win and preparing for that outcome without reservation and shouldering all of the risk that comes with that admission, or wussing out and becoming someone who'd like to win but realistically never will.
All of this made an email exchange I had yesterday surprisingly gratifying. A friend/team mate (not the one with whom I'd had the above conversation) and I were discussing upcoming riding plans and I told him that I was pretty whipped from the trip to the Barn and a couple of very focused days of training afterward, and he made an offhand statement that made it obvious that he'd noticed a change in my preparedness, and it knocked me back a little. One of the toughest guys I've ever met is telling me, completely out of the blue, that I look like I'm ready to win. The safety's off. I've been doing the work. I want to win. Game on, bitches.