I downed the last sip of my espresso, threw on my shoes, and opened the basement door. It was 6:14 am, and if I was lucky, I could get in my lift before my daughter woke up.

As I turned the doorknob, I heard a sound from the second floor, the tell-tale sign of my daughter opening her door and releasing the commercial-grade roar of her white noise machine. My heart dropped through the floor.

I was too late.

Sixteen hours of uninterrupted child care yawned before me, and I missed my workout, the only solace against the long hours of fulfilling every capricious whim of my small children.

I heard the small sounds of tiny feet on the carpet, a sure sign that I hadn’t heard the white-noise in error – she was up. A head appeared around the railing with snarled hair, which looked like two bales of hay had gotten in a fight and settled on a draw.

My wife is gone for precisely two nights and three days.

I know. I’ve had quite a run. My wife has never been away from both children for more than 24 hours since our second child was born two years ago.

"You can't free up your wife to go drown in margaritas and watch the Bachelor at least once over the past two years?"

I know this might surprise many of you, but I'm not perfect. We'll call this a start.

Anyway, I know you don’t care about the minutiae of my family’s parenting dynamics and came here for an insight on cycling, so here it is:

As soon as my daughter woke up, my training window for the day was over. It’s not my daughter’s fault. It’s mine – I didn’t get up at 5 am. 

That's on me.

I’ve never had this issue before. The person who made that possible is two hours away eating bacon, hopefully sipping a Bloody Mary with her friend laughing about absolutely screwed I am today.

The greater point is that behind every competitive cyclist is a support network of loved ones, friends, jobs, and resources that allow you to train and race. That isn’t your right, but a privilege.

"I am NOT privileged!"

Every Cyclist

Junior Athlete

  • Parents pay for everything
  • Community supports racing dreams
  • Receives free coaching
  • Gets free gear
  • Gets rides everywhere, chips in $5 for gas money

College Athlete

  • Parents pay for everything.
  • Supposed to be doing more studying than training/racing
  • Can’t get job because ‘too exhausted from studying.”
  • Literally the most selfish time of life

20-Something

  • “Shit job” they have enables them to race at all, overlooks them taking weeks off at a time to wear tight clothes and race in circles.
  • Drags significant other to boring races every weekend
  • Can never be there for friends because ‘training’
  • Can’t even walk the dog they rescued because ‘too tired.”

Parent/Master

  • Partner constantly accommodates their training schedule
  • Blows thousands of discretional household income to buy 5 watts
  • Never attends children’s games/activities
  • Talks about bikes at family dinner

The privilege to train and race is most apparent when I don’t have it, like today. Like many athletes, training is so ingrained in my day to day that its absence feels essential, like a meal or a good night’s sleep, except outside my narrow world-view, it’s not.

I’m tempted to throw my children in front of the TV and sneak down for a quick lift or a quick Zwift spin. Still, as soon as I head toward the basement door, a haymaker from my conscience reminds me that my children won’t be little forever, that what they need the most is attention. Instead of framing this day as a loss, it’s an opportunity not just to realize how lucky I am that I can train but to be a present father.

I know that the last line was gross – I hope I didn’t make you nauseous- but don’t let that obscure a truth – you get to choose how you perceive a moment. Even if that moment doesn’t serve cycling directly, there’s an opportunity there dying for you to stop obsessing about cycling so you can grow.

Here’s another thing that’s true and hard to accept – when I do have the opportunity to train and race, I’m often ungrateful. And…so are you.

"But, But, But"

Don’t pretend you’re not – when you open up TrainingPeaks and see your workout for the day, is your first thought to fall to your knees and thank the Maker for the opportunity to hurt yourself?

Nope. Your first thought when seeing your intervals for the day is, “Are you f***ing serious?”

When you’re grinding on the trainer in mid-January or caught in a rainstorm without a jacket with one interval to go, is your go-to attitude gratitude?

During a five hour ride, when you cross the three-hour mark, does your heart leap at the fact that right now your life demands nothing else from you but to continue pedaling, or, if you’re honest, does the prospect of another 2 hours grinding through barely-tolerable spring weather make you want to stop?

It's worth considering that your time as a cyclist is a privilege, and when you have it many times, you don't want it.

No.

What I’m saying is that feeling you get when you’re out training and racing, and it sucks, is EXACTLY what fulfillment feels like. Anything worth having blows sometimes. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be worth it because it was too easy. We only value what we overcome that’s difficult, and not by other people’s standards, only our own.

This is not limited to cycling. I’ve changed my son’s diaper four times today – do you think I enjoyed it? Do you know what else I’m going to want? Being an important part of someone else’s life for approximately ten years until he hates me.

I worry about my athletes, teammates, and friends pursuing cycling or any competitive athletic pursuit and letting their expectations harden into entitlement and resentment to the detriment of their relationship, job, or life.

Thank the people that support your dreams.

I take that back – don’t just thank the people that support you, support the people that support you. Words are just words. Elevate your gratitude into action.

If you want to turbo-charge the effect, do this without asking.

It might come as a shock, but the people in your life have dreams as well. They want to get out of the house. They want you to take over a chore for an afternoon so they can do something they want. They don’t exist just to facilitate you.

Do your part to end the cult of taking, taking, taking. The real ballers in this life, those we remember and value, give. They do it regularly, specifically, and without asking.

I hear that white noise again – nap time is over. I pull out art supplies, nuke some oatmeal, sweep the floor for the fourth time today, and a million little things that have nothing and everything to do with getting faster on a bike.

Feels good, man.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on print