As competitive cyclists and coaches, we love numbers and data! Oh yea baby, give me some numbers and gadgets to collect numbers that give us more numbers that we can calculate and put into graphs and make data, and share data and re-test and gather those numbers and put them into new graphs and manipulate those graphs, and on and on it goes. Basically its bike porn or better yet, science porn. Pages and pages full of numbers and data. If we were machines and not human beings, this data would prove INVALUABLE because we would gather the data, enter the training to improve the numbers inside the data, and output World Champions in drouths on a conveyor belt. Scientists will tell you data is all that really matters when it comes to performance. Well, thats not entirely true, they do look at you with this twisted gleam in their eye, like they do truly understand that there is “a little bit” of a mental and emotional component to racing, all the while you know they really believe any great athlete should be able to “suck it up” and completely detach from their mind and emotions while racing and training. Sports psychologists will fight them til the cows come home on this topic, although BOTH will argue with measurable data from their said fields, AND, both will generally tell you that in order to be a great athlete and make it to the top, you have to have the almighty TALENT, or it just ain’t gonna happen for you. They will even have the audacity to say that fact is proven in science and we can access this proof of information.
Well, what I say and I know from personal experience, is you can’t measure heart, grit or determination. Passion is not a math equation. It can’t be measured. You know when someone’s got it and you can tell when they don’t.
When I was first identified by the U.S. National team in 2001, they did a series of tests on me at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. I was subjected to poking and prodding, watt bikes, early morning blood analysis and for 2 straight days I was tested in the lab and on the open roads. The conclusion, “She has marginal ability at best.” “She is a bit old.” and my personal favorite, “Its certainly not too bad, but its not too promising either.”
Post 2012 Olympic Games, I get told ALL the time by people, “Oh you have such immense talent, that’s why you were able to do XYZ and so on and so forth.” Oh really? I do? Please do indulge me with the proof of that.
My Mom says I am a “scrapper.” Always have been. Give me something to fight, like some stupid numbers that they try to count as the sum of my total worth, and I will show you an Olympic medal. Never underestimate that deep intrinsic power inside of you that tells you, YOU CAN. If we don’t listen to that heart, that passion, that drive, that lives deep inside, we will never know our potential. Never. According to my data, my 3 minute POTENTIAL average power is just shy of 100 watts less than what I have actually PRODUCED at my peak. Take that science!
If I had taken that Olympic Training Center data to heart, I shudder to think about what I would have missed. Since that frustrating week at the OTC, there have been several opportunities, and I mean SEVERAL for me to get tested again. I turn those down every time. Don’t need the headache or disappointment. “Thanks so much”, I say, “I appreciate that you are hoping to find a genetic freak who will blow the doors of your little laboratory and who you can brag about, but your not gonna find it here. I have “marginal talent at best.” And then I chuckle.
As competitors, we often get so entangled in the web of science and numbers and comparing ourselves to other’s numbers, that we lose the fact that NONE of it will matter on race day if we can’t produce a passionate performance. It takes something very special to go out on that day, that one day you have prepared for your entire life and lay it down, and that something special wont be found on a graph or on a chart, but it will come from deep within, a place where you have spent time honing and believing and dreaming of. You can’t dream properly in a spreadsheet.
Quantifiable data can be valuable, but only as you use it for its purpose; as a tool. If you were to create a graph in your mind, you best leave room for a “mystery” page at the end because that’s a list of all the things science can not measure. Your heart. Your passion. Your spirit. Your joy. Your fire. Your dedication. Your drive. Your unwavering belief. And as L. Fleshman, a professional runner says, “There is immeasurable power in the unmeasurable.”
Go out there and live your dream. Make it happen, and don’t give any energy to the people who say “you can’t” because they don’t know what you are capable of. Only you know. Don’t be held back by numbers or science. You can prove them all wrong. I think this is where I should remind you, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Visit Dotsie and learn about her coaching techniques and methodology at www.empowercoachingsystems.com.
Photo by John Segesta