Here’s a starter for ten. I’m just throwing some shapes because I can and I have the freedom to do so. So bear with me...
Faith x Hope + Glory = Result
I don’t like the word “Glory”. For me it conjures up negative connotations such as Expectation and Ego. Hence,
Faith x Hope + Expectation + Ego = Result
I wonder (if there’s any validation in the above) if we could apply this simple equation to anything? But this is a cycling blog and so for one final time let’s concentrate on racing.
I’ve said before I race in hope and not expectation as I believe expectation takes away from the result and Ego impedes the outcome.
Faith x Hope = Result - Expectation - Ego
I don’t have time for Ego; I prefer negative Ego (i.e. Humility). But that’s me going off an a tangent…again.
Back to the equation. If Ego is zero.
Faith x Hope = Result - Expectation
I must confess last season in the CTT Scottish 25 mile championship I expected the wunderkind John Archibald to race. I was quite excited at the prospect at racing the best short distance time triallist in the country and wanted to see if I could win, close the gap or get a faster time. I believed any of those options if not all three were achievable and I hoped at least one of them to come true.
But none of them did and that for me took away something from the outcome.
The same happened later in the summer after successfully defending the Wheelers Classified 10 mile TT. I had the expectation that I would go sub 20 as I was getting into optimal form for the National 50 mile TT where I had a very beady eye on my hero, Graeme Obree’s 25 year record and this was the focus of my entire season.
On the Drumoak course where I had the course record (20:04) I was a minute slower on my predicted time and 50 watts off my best optimal power. Ok I wasn’t aware that the squares I’d been pedalling prior to the race was because I was fighting off a virus that I’d caught off one my friends I’d been mountain biking with two weeks prior. Luckily for me I wasn’t seriously hospitalised with it! Thankfully, she made a full recovery. Phew! Friends and health are much more important than racing bikes.
At the SC National 25 mile TT championship I didn’t have any expectations and the results were astonishing and on par with Mark McGhee’s photographs (above). Yes, I came 2nd to the wunderkind (but remember I race for performances not position) but not only did I witness a historic performance from John who obliterated Obree’s Scottish record, I too smashed my own Vets record by over a minute. It was a memorable day and one of the few occasions I genuinely felt pleased with my efforts.
So without expectation we can now simplify the equation…
Faith x Hope = Result
Remove all manner of Expectation and Ego and focus on Faith and Hope.
In 2016 I read multi Scottish and British TT champion Chris Smart’s interview with Ed Hood at Veloveritas on the 19” club. Chris’s response was slightly tetchy. I had no idea why, he was only a few seconds away. I had come second in that race to Chris only 8 seconds off his championship winning time (John was 7th) and on that Dundee course, even though it’s not particularly fast I didn’t see why I couldn’t knock at least 44 seconds off my own PB. After a further three attempts at Ethiebeaton (having the pleasure of meeting and racing against Mark Stewart in one of the meets) I made it into the 19” club as only the 10th person in Scottish history. Chris and John followed quickly within the next 10 days. Scottish time trialling was in rude form!
On the day my main rival Chris wrote himself brilliantly into history once again posting 19:50 at Eglington I did too by smashing the 100 mile Scottish record on the A90.
How did I do it? At a high level it was very straight forward. I failed to see why I couldn’t do it and had high hopes I would. I didn’t overthink it, I just did it. I also got a huge wave of negative expectation on the morning prior to the race to the point where for a split second I was mentally destroyed by silly superstition. I picked myself up and reminded myself that I never quit. Period. I turned the negative Expectation into positive energy. And with that it became the easiest race of my brief career. At the Strathcarthro turn with 90 miles in the legs with no food, knowing I had the record in sight, I had a mouthful of water, cranked it to well over 300 watts and hammered it home.
I try and coach this simple philosophy into my clients which is why I’m no longer coaching individuals and only mentoring. It’s because most of them have expectations and I can’t manage them because I can’t control the outcome. I’m a human being with many faults of his own not a wizard. What will be will be and there are no guarantees I tell them. It’s not an easy sell and I find people with expectations are never happy and often disappointed.
There are exceptions, thankfully. A couple of year’s ago I coached a brilliant young man who listened and carried out everything we discussed. It was challenging for a number of reasons. One - he was a teenager. Two - he is bright sausage but needed to apply himself academically in order to get to University (having not done as well as expected the previous year). Three - all he wanted to do was ride and race his bike. Four - he is a very talented bike racer with huge potential. His parents asked me to prioritise his studies whilst acknowledging his love of the bike and racing. I devised a cunning plan. But first I had to get him to buy into my philosophy, starting with removing all weight of expectation. I had complete and utter faith in him and we hoped for the best results. The season had barely started and he had already gained his Cat 2 license which meant he could buckle down with his studies and spend the summer terrorising fellow racers which is exactly what he did as he had nothing to lose. He simply applied the formula in its simplest form. No expectations. And he delivered results an all fronts!
But there’s more to it than that. As already mentioned Expectations can be negative. For example someone said to me in 2016 that I was too old to post a 19” for 10 miles in Scotland and that you can’t be fast over all distances.
Let’s go back to the equation and refine it by re-introducing Expectation albeit in a negative sense…
Faith x Hope - Expectation = Result
Faith x Hope = Result + Expectation
And so when folk try to put “negative” expectations into my head it only makes the outcome sweeter or mathematically more accurately, greater. Add a bit of Humility and you can increase the outcome further.
But it’s not just detractors who put negative expectations into my head I deliberately from time to time I do that myself. At the start of last season I asked myself was it possible to do a massive endurance race and expect to perform the next day? The devil on my shoulder said no.
We’ll see, said the angel on the other shoulder.
So the day before the season’s Scottish National TT opener - Tour of the Meldons, I decided to do a 200km off road “gravel race” the day before. 9 hours of non-stop pedalling. I was told I was utterly mad and no way would I be able to perform and live up to being one of the pre-race favourites.
I would never find out as I punctured after 5 minutes, but the data from the race indicated that I was onto something very encouraging. In fact it verified a study that Finnish company Omegawave had carried out on my HR data after one of my Strathpuffer 24 hour races - they basically said I was an uber-fit aerobically gifted individual who had an incredible capacity to recover very quickly. I didn’t believe them initially, but over time I wondered…what if they were right?
That was the first race in what would eventually become my final season. I didn’t realise it would be the Tour of the Trossachs where I would eventually find my Holy Grail, be genuinely satisfied and prove once and for all that performance means more to me than position. I finished 7th in that race. I believed that despite having done the Tour de Ben Nevis MTB race the previous day (8 hours in the saddle), I was more than capable of performing and despite a dead arm that nearly rendered me useless in the middle of the night and dealing with the mental fatigue of a long season with many miles and too many nights in the van, I told myself one last hurrah and then I’m done for the season.
And even though it was written that I was having a bad day, it was quite the contrary. I was having a blinder. As Strava shows, I was not even having a shocker either. I was damn quick and often the fastest on key climbs and sections. In fact when I finished the race, I’d warmed up and felt I could go round again! I was a bit baffled with the general feedback and so I’ve just got round to analysing the Trossachs data and as the stats show I was in optimal 50 and 100 miles TT form. Just a shame that those particular National races where I was defending champion got postponed three times and eventually cancelled!
And on that note I am completely satisfied with what I’ve achieved. I’m pleased to say I’ve scratched the surface and that’s all I really wanted - to prove I had the potential that I never got the chance with football or Meteorology. At the third time of trying something I believed I was capable and hoped I could deliver, I finally realised that potential.
Happy to say - I’m done. Over and out. No peaking, no troughing, no plateauing, no impediments (out of my control) that plagued every single race in 2017 and made time trialling feel as variable and frustrating as road racing.
Not so much as quitting when you’re ahead as I’m still on the ascendency, but more like going out on a high. Peace, karma, happiness - all thanks to the simple joy of riding a bike for fun.
P.S :: This is the last post. Thank you for reading and your support over the years. As always there are (often silent) hecklers and tut-tutters who sit in the background or hide behind their computers, phones, Kindles and tablets and contribute nothing positive - this post is dedicated to you.