“Hadley has been asking about death a lot lately. Asking who is going to die first and if she’ll die.”

“Yeah. So, what do you say?”

“I tell her we’re born into chaos, spend our childhood wanting things we can’t have and dreaming about things that’ll never happen, and that aging is a gradual process of settling for a progressively more average version of yourself while your body slowly falls apart and you spend most of the best days of your life shilling for people that don’t care about you all to pay for people that you’ll barely see after 18 and that in all likelihood you’ll die alone in a nursing home watching talking heads on CNN or Fox.”

“What did you really say?”

“That you’ll probably die first.”

“Fair.”

“But it made me think how fast it all goes.”

That kept me up all night. In the morning, I was sure of one thing - I'm going to murder 2023.

I’ve had a good run in cycling for a no-talent cheese gurgler who grew up between deer hunting stands in nowhere Wisconsin. But you know what? I want more.

Because it all goes fast, and I probably don’t have the time I think I have to become the person I’d like to be.

Here's my challenge: Whatever you want out of racing bikes in 2023, want more.

For example, if you showed me your 2023 race goals and it said “Finish ____” take out another piece of paper and write down the same event, but add in a result goal that scares you. For example, instead of “Finish Unbound 200,” write “Finish top 100 in Unbound 200.”

“…but that’s not realistic with my age, talent, and time.”

Shut up. You know you don’t have that much time, right? 

A few days ago, I was listening to a podcast with Scott Galloway. I have no idea who he is – it doesn’t matter. What caught my attention was his advice to young people “Stay fit. Someday you’ll be old and look back at how you were when you were 25 or 35 and marvel at how physically strong you were, at the energy you had. Yeah, old people have money, but most of them would trade that in a heartbeat to have that sheer physicality again.”

Sure, compared to your normie peers, I’m sure you’re a mutant. I bet at your high school reunion, you’re easily the fittest in your class.

But that doesn’t mean time isn’t working on you, slowly grinding you down, your stroke volume and hormones gently nose-diving into farce. Ready to hear something unpleasant? The 45-year-old you won’t have the fitness potential of the 35-year-old you. Your 55-year-old you won’t have the fitness potential of the 45-year-old you. Your window to truly chase the heights of your potential is small and cruel.

So given that, why the fugg do I see goal sheets that look like this?

WTF is with the complacency of your ambition? Do you think next year it’ll be easier to be better?

Set aside aging and time. Another point I’ll throw in: many of you assume that the conditions you enjoy now are the conditions you’ll enjoy in the future. It’s a forgivable assumption, but it’s dead wrong – I witnessed it this year.

Have a look at this athlete’s PMC. Check out those gnarly dead spots in their training. You wouldn’t be wrong to infer that they’re probably a lazy, unfocused, middling athlete.

 

WRONG!

This athlete is a wonder of discipline and time management that picked up giardia from a cattle shit-soaked water bottle, has a son with special needs that required him to drop everything in an instant and fly across the country to facilitate several times this year, picked up COVID amid a migraine-inducing job change, and ended the year with a face that rivaled the Michelin man after a routine dental cleaning went off the rails.

He’s been a phenomenal, consistent athlete for over 25 years, and this year, by far, is the most inconsistent and out of shape he’s ever been.

Life happened to him, and it can happen to you. But sure, go ahead and keep assuming nothing will ever happen to you, and you’ll always be able to control life on your terms.

Another thing – did you know athletes are competitive? The people you’re competing against probably didn’t end up at the start line on accident. They had to train and invest their time and money just like you, and no one who puts so much into something doesn’t want to do well, even if they pretend they don’t care.

Competitors are competitive with themselves and others, and they’re no dummies. They know a new season is coming, and you bet your ass their dream isn’t to do less well than last year – they want to improve!

If your goals are passive, how do you think it will go when you line up against them in 2023?

Here’s the thing – athletes rarely stay on the same level. They usually go forward or backward. What everyone forgets about going backward is that when you go backward in a year, your goal for the next year becomes regaining the level you had before you went backward.

Man, that’s time-consuming. If your fitness each year goes forward, backward, and forward again, you’ve spent three years only to end up at the same place.

Take those same years and go forward, forward, and forward with your fitness, and you’d be two levels ahead of yourself across the same time span. Two-levels is an entirely different racer.

What am I advocating for?

Choose your goals with ambition, rage, earnestness, and an aversion to irony. That’s the only response to the logic of limited time, aging, shit happening, and the competitive landscape.

Otherwise, you end up standing on the sidelines of a race or noticing an expanding waistline, mumbling “Shoulda, woulda, coulda” to yourself, but you know that version of you you never dared to chase is out of reach now.

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