The Quitter

The truth is that I’d been thinking about quitting for the best part of forty-five minutes. Round and round I went on that track, every lap hurting a little bit more than the previous; every lap taking a little bit longer to complete, every lap that voice inside my head getting a little bit louder.

It might have been adrenaline or it might have been enthusiasm, but it was probably overconfidence in the belief that I could go full gas for an hour that had me tapping out a beautiful, seductive rhythm during those first few minutes of my effort at The Hour for Festum Prophetae. As those first laps ticked away, my focus was complete; I saw only the black line with the Sprinter’s lane and the Côte d’Azure framing my field of vision. The perpendicular lines where the slabs of concrete make up the track passed under me like ballasts on a train track. The effect was all-consuming as I felt my legs spinning smoothly and powerfully while my lungs processed litre upon litre of air.

It was just before turn three on an anonymous but early lap that the feeling swept over me. It was that unmistakable feeling when the shadow of fatigue sweeps by like a bird swooping overhead. I wasn’t tired yet, but the momentum had undeniably shifted; something intangible had changed that signalled the suffering that was about to come.

Over the next few laps my focus shifted from the ballasts to unconvincingly convincing myself that I was mistaken in sensing that harbinger of Fatigue Doom. Yet now I noticed the headwind, and I noticed how it seemed to slow me down much more than the tailwind sped me up. The fixed gear was a liability at this point; my muscles were weakening and there was no option to downshift for the headwind and upshift for the tailwind. It was all a cruel game against momentum. A game I sensed I was starting to lose.

It always seemed we would be gambling with the weather; rain had been forecast but the skies were beautiful and clear when I awoke. As I warmed up, the clouds were slowly creeping in. Just before I set off on the effort officially, @Owen announced that the rain was predicted to arrive 50 minutes into the effort. Rain on a velodrome is a dangerous thing; it reduces friction and causes a bicycle to slip from the banking, which will come as a surprise first to the rider and then to the audience.

I have a voice in my head that questions me. Incessantly. Like an annoyed parent, I have tried “grounding” this voice and taking away its iPad, but the little fucker is monumentally insubordinate, not to mention devious; just when I think I’ve got him locked up securely in the basement, it picks the lock and escapes again.

So there I was, for three-quarters of an hour with an escaped convict, my Questions Voice. When the rain started to fall, it started chatting about this being the perfect excuse to stop riding early. Still I kept on. I had put in something like 50 minutes already and I wanted to see The Hour out, irrespective of the suffering and the overwhelming desire to stop. Then both wheels slipped off the banking; first the back, then the front came down to join the party. Thankfully I was low on the track near the black line and it wasn’t a long enough trip to cause me to crash; but on the next time through the start/finish, my coach @Haldy yelled, “If you’re slipping, pull out.”

That was all I needed to hear. I wanted desperately to stop already, and I’d been thinking up a good excuse for ages. Having someone tell you to stop because it would be dangerous – irresponsible even – to continue is the perfect reason to give in.

So I stopped.

Before the bike had even come to a stop, I regretted it. Fifty minutes and change of comprehensive suffering, and all of it for nothing. Sixty minutes is the mark for The Hour, nothing less and nothing more. It is both its cruelty and its beauty.

I suffered, but I didn’t earn the satisfaction of knowing I suffered to complete a goal. I was already behind my goal pace, and quitting makes it easy to tell myself I could have made it anyway, that I would rally in the last 10 minutes to make it up. But I didn’t, and I wasn’t going to. I quit.

I will go back to the track in a few weeks’ time and do The Hour again. This time, with good weather. This time, I will finish what I started, however much I suffer again and however far behind my pace I am. Rule V.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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76 Replies to “The Quitter”

  1. @frank

    This is my favorite kind of internet advice. “I haven’t actually done this, but here’s how you should have done this.”

    That’s a fair shot.  Apologies for not quoting my earlier post that mentioned I have done a couple hours for PR on the bike, which is apparently 10 minutes more than you.  Have done hundreds of segments and loops enough times with different prep and pacing strategies to know what I’m talking about.  I’m sure you’ve done that also.  I don’t think Merckx meant “Start as fast as you can, and end as fast as you can. As for the middle, go as fast as you can.” to be taken literally.  During the hour attempt you learned first hand the error of that pacing tactic.

  2. @Dave

    @frank

    This is my favorite kind of internet advice. “I haven’t actually done this, but here’s how you should have done this.”

    . I don’t think Merckx meant “Start as fast as you can, and end as fast as you can. As for the middle, go as fast as you can.” to be taken literally.

    Of course he did! You should always be going as fast as you can. Rule #10.

  3. @Haldy

    @Owen

    I think I was merely the bearer of bad news on that one. Sorry.

    Point of order, it’s not quitting if your coach pulls you. Would you rather be off the bike with broken collarbone? You didn’t just slip a couple of times.

    Another point of order, it’s hard to not see the black line when @Haldy screams it every lap.

    HE may have seen it..but he sure did wander from it! ;-) Hence the constant..forceful..reminders

    I’m sure the cursing helped too. Sometimes he needs a little prodding.

  4. @Owen

    @Haldy

    @Owen

    I think I was merely the bearer of bad news on that one. Sorry.

    Point of order, it’s not quitting if your coach pulls you. Would you rather be off the bike with broken collarbone? You didn’t just slip a couple of times.

    Another point of order, it’s hard to not see the black line when @Haldy screams it every lap.

    HE may have seen it..but he sure did wander from it! ;-) Hence the constant..forceful..reminders

    I’m sure the cursing helped too. Sometimes he needs a little prodding.

    Indeed!

     

  5. @Owen

    @Haldy

    @Owen

    I think I was merely the bearer of bad news on that one. Sorry.

    Point of order, it’s not quitting if your coach pulls you. Would you rather be off the bike with broken collarbone? You didn’t just slip a couple of times.

    Another point of order, it’s hard to not see the black line when @Haldy screams it every lap.

    HE may have seen it..but he sure did wander from it! ;-) Hence the constant..forceful..reminders

    I’m sure the cursing helped too. Sometimes he needs a little prodding.

    @frank should sit and watch Moser’s hour….he stays GLUED to the black line for virtually all of his ride. Moser’s background as a Pursuiter clearly is in evidence in his hour ride.

     

  6. Good on ya for giving it a go and stopping when you did. If you were a kid without a job, a spouse, a house, and responsibles…I’d have said, see Rule V. As you aren’t in that position and broken bones would be a major pisser for weeks on end, you did the right thing. I’ve only had a child for 8 weeks and I’ve already caught myself saying, “You can’t be doing that shite any longer!” (I know you don’t have a kid, I’m just saying you aren’t 18 and free of responsibilities.

    Also, what pedals did you use?

  7. @Haldy

    @Owen

    @Haldy

    @Owen

    I think I was merely the bearer of bad news on that one. Sorry.

    Point of order, it’s not quitting if your coach pulls you. Would you rather be off the bike with broken collarbone? You didn’t just slip a couple of times.

    Another point of order, it’s hard to not see the black line when @Haldy screams it every lap.

    HE may have seen it..but he sure did wander from it! ;-) Hence the constant..forceful..reminders

    I’m sure the cursing helped too. Sometimes he needs a little prodding.

    @frank should sit and watch Moser’s hour….he stays GLUED to the black line for virtually all of his ride. Moser’s background as a Pursuiter clearly is in evidence in his hour ride.

    Look how much wind he had! Holy smokes!

  8. @Ron

    Good on ya for giving it a go and stopping when you did. If you were a kid without a job, a spouse, a house, and responsibles…I’d have said, see Rule V. As you aren’t in that position and broken bones would be a major pisser for weeks on end, you did the right thing. I’ve only had a child for 8 weeks and I’ve already caught myself saying, “You can’t be doing that shite any longer!” (I know you don’t have a kid, I’m just saying you aren’t 18 and free of responsibilities.

    Also, what pedals did you use?

    Obviously those two thoughts belong in the same post. You’re the best, man.

    Time iClic.

  9. @frank

    @Haldy

    @Owen

    @Haldy

    @Owen

    I think I was merely the bearer of bad news on that one. Sorry.

    Point of order, it’s not quitting if your coach pulls you. Would you rather be off the bike with broken collarbone? You didn’t just slip a couple of times.

    Another point of order, it’s hard to not see the black line when @Haldy screams it every lap.

    HE may have seen it..but he sure did wander from it! ;-) Hence the constant..forceful..reminders

    I’m sure the cursing helped too. Sometimes he needs a little prodding.

    @frank should sit and watch Moser’s hour….he stays GLUED to the black line for virtually all of his ride. Moser’s background as a Pursuiter clearly is in evidence in his hour ride.

    Look how much wind he had! Holy smokes!

    What isn’t visible is the shed load of his own blood that was re-injected prior to his attempt by the good Dr Ferrari.

  10. I can’t believe I didn’t upload these into the album when I published this; I don’t need to tell you what part of the ride these came from.

  11. @Frank

    [1] It’s not quitting when your coach pulls you.  Part of their job is to make the objective decisions that you don’t have the emotional distance to make while you’re in the middle of competition.

    [2] You’re likely to be beating yourself up about it.  Don’t.  Or at least try not to.  It takes balls of steel just to attempt something like this as an amateur, particularly announcing it in the worldwide public space of the internet.  You’ll be back

    @Chrissyone

    Thanks for the photos!

  12. @frank

    @Ron

    Good on ya for giving it a go and stopping when you did. If you were a kid without a job, a spouse, a house, and responsibles…I’d have said, see Rule V. As you aren’t in that position and broken bones would be a major pisser for weeks on end, you did the right thing. I’ve only had a child for 8 weeks and I’ve already caught myself saying, “You can’t be doing that shite any longer!” (I know you don’t have a kid, I’m just saying you aren’t 18 and free of responsibilities.

    Also, what pedals did you use?

    Obviously those two thoughts belong in the same post. You’re the best, man.

    Time iClic.

    Frank – you’ve likely picked up on my inability to think of just one thing at a time. Ain’t no quiet mind, quiet soul living in my body.

    And, I should have said, you do have a stable of dogs to care for. That ain’t no joke. We have two dogs, two cats, and a field mouse (the cats found it and we saved it). I firmly believe having all these living things to care for has made baby care a lot easier. My friends without any pets HATED life for around 2 years after they had their first child. We suffered for about a month and now we’re doing well.

    Having one dog with a limp, one with a rash, one who eats various grasses in the yard, one who wants to sleep next to you in the bed, under the covers…not analogous to caring for a human, but surely prepares you to be fucked with at odd hours of the night, learn to function on little sleep, and still love something even though it fucks up your sleep/day all the damn time.

  13. @frank

    @ChrissyOne

    How many riders can say they did the Hour in 50 minutes? I think you’re looking at this all wrong. I bet you could even do it in less if you really put your mind to it.

    You win the internet today.

    It’s the microwave hour.  You get results even faster.

  14. @imakecircles

    You put in 50 good minutes of effort that your focus could be on learning from, before the conditions made it unsafe to continue. Perhaps you will start a touch slower the next time and be able to prolong the period before the fatigue sets in, then crush it in the finale as it does!

    Perfectly put; as they put it in the Military: an Operations Order never survives first contact with the enemy.

    Learn from this, you will now know that even a slight breeze will feel like a hurricane come lap 30+, your gearing which felt awesome until lap 20 will needed to be changed, the super low-low bar position might be impeding on your diaphragm just a hair more than you want after lap 30…..

    The paint on the velodrome is there for a reason; there is also a very good reason that velodromes do not allow racing in the rain.

     

    Good luck

     

  15. OOOPS.. hit send too soon.

    Anyway, I couldn’t miss watching Frank’s heartbreaking failure at the velodrome, and it was great to see some folks again.

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