Jens- all focus, all the time.

Guest Article: Focus

Guest Article: Focus

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@scaler911 likes beer and pizza, as we all do. I bet Jensie does too. He races more, we drink more, he has to finish each stage at the Tour, us, not so much. There must be a balance to all our cycling lives. Since we don’t have to earn a living racing we can relax a bit but this word “relax” maybe where the trouble lies.

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

“For him who has no concentration, there is no tranquility”- Bhagavad Gita c. BC 400.

If you ask people close to me about my ability on the bike, you’ll probably hear different versions of the same story, “Scaler is a genetically talented cyclist, but it’s too bad he lacks focus.” I’m the first to admit it. If I put any energy into developing a solid training plan, laid off the IPAs, and (my VMH‘s fine/ healthy cooking aside) stopped having pizza and Monster energy drinks for staples at work, I might be able to be consistent in my beloved craft. Instead, I have a few flashes of decency, but I’m mostly just pack fodder and excuses these days.

I’m consistently amazed at people that have this ability to focus. It’s akin to a superpower I think, like flying or laser beams shooting out of your eyeballs.

It really breaks down to a few different types of focus, with the endgame being the same. Focus from a global perspective: setting and achieving season-long goals, from winning the TdF, to being the first up the big climb at your local Tuesday night club ride; abiding the hard days of winter Rule #9 training; not having that 5th slice of combo pizza that you wash down with your 4th (or 8th) beer. Focus in the short term- be it tapering before a Grand Tour, or spending time in the shop making sure your rig is cleaned and tuned to perfection before your group ride. Focus in the moment- being right near the front before the big climb, finding just the right gear, the right stroke, position, rhythm. This is the one place I can find that focus. All the joys and troubles of day to day living melt away. All that’s left is the deep, singular objective of the task at hand. Pushing a little harder to bridge to that wheel 50m ahead of you; not making eye contact with them as you stay in focus, or my favorite-smiling and saying “Hi” just before grabbing the shovel to make the Pain Cave a little deeper.

I firmly believe that this, along with choosing the right parents and a bit of luck is what separates us mortals from the pros.

There are many hours and kilometers where we suffer alone. Velominati strive to Look Fantastic, and we make sure our machines glisten and are properly silent. We study our heros as well as the douchebags. This all requires some form of focus, and I hope that I get as good at it as others here already are.

VLVV!
-scaler911

// Guest Article

  1. @scaler911 Great article! puts me in mind of an old joke.

    Old Bull and his son strolling over the top of a grassy hill and as they gaze down they see a field full of heaffers.  Dad…let’s run down there and fuck a few of those heaffers the young bullock says.

    No son, let walk down there and fuck the lot!

    That’s focus!

  2. I’ve coached or help coach dozens of young riders over the past 8 years. Many were supremely talented, a few have even gone on to greater things in the sport. The difference, and nowadays it’s the easiest thing to spot? Focus. I think that even that is genetic.

  3. I decided give up alcohol for lent.

    On the first day I modified that decision to giving up beer for lent and drank a nice McLaren Vale shiraz.

    The next day I switched to giving up bad beer for lent and drank Leffe red followed by shiraz.

    Not everyone has focus so sharp…

  4. good one @scaler911. Being able to remain focused on cycling/training/racing while working, breeding and blimping and all of the other day-to-day obstacles; these are the things I strive to stay on top of while staying focused on the bike stuff….without much luck!

  5. I really like the part where you indicate different time scales. Anyone who has ever juggled priorities (that is, everybody) has had to deal, consciously or otherwise, with the need to move in and out of different time scales. This can be a real trap because it’s always the case that some time scales are friendlier than others.

    There’s an old Zen saying (“Zen” meaning “meditation,” meaning the disciplined daily practice of something difficult and sometimes tedious as fuck):

    Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.

  6. well written scaler.

    was having a chat with one of our colleagues about the neuter that cat 3 (which is my hopeful, hopeful goal mind you) is- the physiologically gifted children of well selected parents essentially “start” up here (you reading this scaler?) with hopes and good n bad days. Those that are blessed as such decide- whether to do the work to take them over that threshold into elite status, or battle it out in the trenches. The reward for fairly hard work as a 3, getting the results and earning the upgrade, is to battle it out with the other physiologically gifted super athletes- which is as awesome as it is hard.

    the less gifted will grind and grind with varying intensity, slowly advancing from beginner to the 4s. rapidly advancing through the 4s is ill advised for this less select group- once you get booted to the 3s, you will then be in the world of the amazing physiology described above. stay a 4 too long and be a sandbagger- there is no being “patron” of the 4s (the rabble publicly,viciously  and unceremoniously throw you under the forced upgrade bus).

    personally, I’m biding my time and trying to decide whether when the time comes, should I be face up, face down, or on my side when said bus is running me over…

  7. Focus is such an allusive intangible. Some training and race days I have focus. Other days ‘I having a very nice time.’ You never know which it is going to be.

  8. Well said.  In a couple of sadistically challenging races this year I came to the realization that cycling focus is very similar to the meditation that we practice at my Taekwondo dojang.  Go to that calm place and the effort just seems to flow out of you. I still feel the burn and the pain in my legs, but not in my brain if that makes any sense.  That’s the mental payoff that keeps me going back to the pain cave again and again!  Good job!

  9. @Deakus Careful, a bullock in some places is castrated.  ;-)

  10. Nice work, Scaler! I chalk up my sucking to a myriad of reasons, but most really lead back to focus (or lack thereof).   Thanks for the inspiration, forced me to dig a little deeper as I was imploding while doing a video from The Sufferfest.

  11. Niiiiice article dude. I’m perfect, so I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say you “lack focus”, but I can empathise.

  12. I wish I could focus on more than one or two things at a time. Trying to juggle 4 at the moment is a daunting task. At least I am getting more time on the bike this year, even if it is a MTB.

  13. @scaler911

    Nice article. I’m trying to make the change this year by taking my training seriously, putting in the hard miles over the winter and the dull hours in the garage on the turbo. #1 sits next to me while I’m churning away in a sweaty mess to remind me of why I’m doing this. So that I can a) look fantastic and b) pull the legs off people I couldn’t keep up with last year.

    @gaswepass

    Its a bit like that this side of the pond, except our lowest level is 4th Cat. 3rd is a relatively easy jump, I’m halfway there from a 5th place last weekend and another reasonable race should get me the upgrade. I’ve still got 3 weeks of training camps to come so that should lay the foundations of success for my target for the season – my 2nd Cat licence. This is where the selection is made for those who will go on to greater things, as you often get lumped in with the big boys in mixed Elite/1st/2nd Cat races – prisoners will not be taken. I know that realistically my chance of going further is vanishingly low as I don’t have the time to step y training up another level and at 36 I’m already getting too old for this shit. But a year ago I was a fat downhiller, and now I’m faster, leaner and keener so this is the best time to try it.

    Focus is getting me there. My sights might be on 2nd Cat and not P-R or the Tour, but a little realism doesn’t hurt.

    And as a wise man once said – better to be a racer for a moment in time than a spectator all your life.

  14. @James

    @Deakus Careful, a bullock in some places is castrated. ;-)

    Aha there we go again my lack of knowledge of all things cow…or bull….or bullock reltated has let me down.  So what is the correct name for a young bull…answers on a postcard to Frank please!

  15. “We study our heros as well as the douchebags…”

    This. 

    Especially apt with the photo of Captain Bogus.

  16. This is a well, written, and very timely article. For us in central Nebraska it’s that time when we’re about to be saved by the changing weather from our slowly expanding beer guts, and the nearly suicidal boredom that the last few months on the indoor trainer have caused. Or, it should be anyway, until Mother Nature dumped 10 inches of snow on us this week.

    I tend to obsess about my weight this time of year, but until I can get outside and ride on a consistent basis, it’s tough to focus on not having said 8th beer.

  17. @Fausto

    @scaler911

    Nice article. I’m trying to make the change this year by taking my training seriously, putting in the hard miles over the winter and the dull hours in the garage on the turbo. #1 sits next to me while I’m churning away in a sweaty mess to remind me of why I’m doing this. So that I can a) look fantastic and b) pull the legs off people I couldn’t keep up with last year.

    @gaswepass

    Its a bit like that this side of the pond, except our lowest level is 4th Cat. 3rd is a relatively easy jump, I’m halfway there from a 5th place last weekend and another reasonable race should get me the upgrade. I’ve still got 3 weeks of training camps to come so that should lay the foundations of success for my target for the season – my 2nd Cat licence. This is where the selection is made for those who will go on to greater things, as you often get lumped in with the big boys in mixed Elite/1st/2nd Cat races – prisoners will not be taken. I know that realistically my chance of going further is vanishingly low as I don’t have the time to step y training up another level and at 36 I’m already getting too old for this shit. But a year ago I was a fat downhiller, and now I’m faster, leaner and keener so this is the best time to try it.

    Focus is getting me there. My sights might be on 2nd Cat and not P-R or the Tour, but a little realism doesn’t hurt.

    And as a wise man once said – better to be a racer for a moment in time than a spectator all your life.

    Nicely put. Good for you for having that hunger and fire in the belly. A local coach told me to beware the rapid upgrade. There is a lot of ego and pride going into the decision to upgrade prior to being forced to, but perhaps not best for ones racing career. Unless you’re “one of those” that is a natural and already wins at almost everything, it is beneficial to be able to spend some time attempting to be “the patron” of the races at your level. The goal being not just having the strength to bury everyone else, but to see, experience and hopefully determine the selections being made on the fly. Once you upgrade youre back to climbing to survive in your new group.

    The point, however, is not racing specifically for results. The point is to enjoy it and be engaged maximally -and certainly getting that taste adds longevity to training in that garage, pain cave, etc

  18. @Deakus

    @James

    @Deakus Careful, a bullock in some places is castrated. ;-)

    Aha there we go again my lack of knowledge of all things cow…or bull….or bullock reltated has let me down. So what is the correct name for a young bull…answers on a postcard to Frank please!

    That would be, young bull, I thank you! A bullock is a castrated male as is steer, a heifer is a young female (i.e. cow). So therefore the bull would be looking to “do” the heifers.

  19. nice work scaler

    Being that my grandfather was a moonshiner, and drank his wealth into oblivion and ended up starving to death from Alzheimers, as a boy, it painted an ugly picture and i have never really drank, as i have been fearful of the ‘indwelling spirit’. 

    Your point is well taken, as a culture, we lack focus in general, but hey, as cyclists, we are above par my friend.  In our clinic, with people supposedly sick, we have to tell them turn off the iPhone, iPad and please…distract yourself long enough to tell us what is going on…your sick..right? 

    Focus as you mention, is a lost art and skillset and it reminds us well to think in years…as i have this year actually laid a base for once, and it feels great.  Keep up the good work

  20. Souleur – a friend is an ENT doctor & she has told me that more than once she has needed to ask someone sitting on the examining table to remove their cell phone earpiece so she could look in there. Yikes.

    Nice work, scaler! I’ve always been able to focus on athletic pursuits. My problem is sitting still for long periods and trying to get work done, which my current pursuits require. I could ride all day long, but sitting in a chair for six hours is hard damn work for me. Oh well, I’ll continue to try and repurpose my athletic focus to my career work focus.

    I actually enjoy just riding to ride these days, as I’m officially retired from overly competitive sports. Racing can be fun, but I get nerves in preparation, lining up, etc. and that sometimes destroys the joy I take in riding a bicycle.

  21. @all Thanks for the kudos. I went and watched the local season opener TT  here (prompting the photo on the Rules page). ITT was always an event that I enjoyed, yet haven’t participated in since coming back to the sport. Seeing @gaswepass and others out there has lit the fire under my ass once again and has me setting goals (for the first time in years).

    That and I’d better be able to finish me and McSqueaks Super Cogal this summer. With style.

  22. @scaler911

    “With style” includes anything up to “not dying in a ditch on a forest service road”, correct?

  23. @mcsqueak

    @scaler911

    “With style” includes anything up to “not dying in a ditch on a forest service road”, correct?

    I believe it is a reference to any fires lit under his ass not to be ones celebrating membership in the blue flame club. and not making the list in the riding ugly post, altho that would in effect be pro… what were we talking about?

  24. I’m also curious to see how my focus changes over time. I hope/think cycling will always be a part of my life, but we’ll see how things change as career/family, etc. come into play.

    The one thing I know is that so long as I pull on Lycra, Lampre Man will always serve as proper motivation to never let things go completely off the rails…

  25. Submitted for your approval after inspiration struck me during intervals on the trainer this evening.

    Our father which art in Belgium, 
    Eddy be thy name. 
    thy pave come
    thy V be done
    on road as it is on trainers. 
    Give us this day, our daily V
    and forgive us our sandbagging,
    as we forgive those that half wheel against us.
    And lead us not into the Anti-V,
    but deliver us from sucking.
    For thine is the maillot jaune,
    the green, and the dotted.
    Forever and ever.
    A-Merckx.

  26. @lordmoos3

    Nice effort, but Eddy’s Prayer is already written…

    Our Father who art in Belgium
    Eddy be thy name
    thy cobbles come, thy hands are numb
    from pavé
    as it isn’t heaven

    Give us this day our daily V (five),
    and forgive us our Rule violations,
    as we drop those who attack against us,
    lead us not off our line
    but deliver us from COTHO

    For thine is the big ring,
    and the power, and the glory,
    for Eddy and ever.

    A-Merckx.

  27. Apologies, I had missed it whilst perusing.

    I was pretty close though :) I must have absorbed some wisdom over time.

  28. @lordmoos3

    Damn close! Divine wisdom there indeed…

  29. @brett

    @lordmoos3

    Nice effort, but Eddy’s Prayer is already written…

    Our Father who art in Belgium
    Eddy be thy name
    thy cobbles come, thy hands are numb
    from pavé
    as it isn’t heaven

    Give us this day our daily V (five),
    and forgive us our Rule violations,
    as we drop those who attack against us,
    lead us not off our line
    but deliver us from COTHO

    For thine is the big ring,
    and the power, and the glory,
    for Eddy and ever.

    A-Merckx.

    We should strike COTHO from there. He doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in any prayer, especially not ours.

  30. @frank If you’re going to drop any reference to corrosive individuals or organisations (we desperately need deleverance from fat pat and Heiny but that has no poetry and they are even less deserving of any mention) you could use “but deliver us from the Arenberg” as it’s fairly dark and foreboding place but “but deliver us from Hem” might be better as it’s fucking awful bit of road.

    Alternatively you could go for the P word or “tritards”

  31. @frank

    Well, as COTHO replaces ‘evil’ in the original prayer, it seemed appropriate… but open to suggestions.

    @Chris

    Hem is pretty fucking evil…

  32. @brett

    @frank

    Well, as COTHO replaces ‘evil’ in the original prayer, it seemed appropriate… but open to suggestions.

    @Chris

    Hem is pretty fucking evil…

    Fucking Hem! What a soulless piece of crap to end a beautiful experience.

  33. @brett

    @frank

    Well, as COTHO replaces ‘evil’ in the original prayer, it seemed appropriate… but open to suggestions.

    @Chris

    Hem is pretty fucking evil…

    Has your anger for COTHO blinded you so, my child?

    You’re looking for a word to replace “evil”? There is no greater evil to the Velominatus than the Anti-V.

    Eddy’s Prayer

    Our Father who art in Belgium
    Eddy be thy name
    thy cobbles come, thy hands are numb
    from pavé
    as it isn’t heaven

    Give us this day our daily V (five),
    and forgive us our Rule violations,
    as we drop those who attack against us,
    lead us not off our line
    but deliver us from the Anti-V

    For thine is the big ring,
    and the power, and the glory,
    for Eddy and ever.

    A-Merckx.

    COTHO is less than insignificant to La Vie Velominatus, thank Merckx. He deserves to be contemplated only in the way a turd is contemplated once trod upon.

  34. Like “Ah hell, I just stepped in some Armstrong. That’ll take forever to get out of my cleats.”?

  35. @scaler911

    You know I have to agree with you 100% focus is something I see glimses of and can sustain for periods of time only to have it vanish before my eyes due to injuries, change of commitments or worse of all self sabbotage. I was a talented junior who had Robbie McEwans first coach. He was a former pro himself and desparately tried to lure me back to cycling when I gave it away at 17. This was due to a range of factors which in turn lead to a loss of focus. Once again back at it I find focus hard to get when I do I am deadly and motivated. But when its waning I’m nothing more than a shaddow of what I was or could have been. The point to what I am saying is if I could transecend the moments that kill my focus what is possible to achieve could be limitless even now on 37 years of age.

  36. Funny timing with this article, I’ve felt quite drifty bike wise since the TDU/Adelaide Cogal without having much to train for & have felt like I didn’t do much riding. I had a look at strava yesterday & I’d still racked up something like 700 odd km’s during Feb but have still felt like I wasn’t riding enough whereas that sort of a month early in the build up (say Sept or Oct last year) would have been huge…all a matter of what you’re judging it against.

    When you’ve done nearly 700km’s in a week late in January, doing the same in a month doesn’t feel like much but with a bub coming in May I’m well aware it could be the most I do in a while!

  37. @gaswepass

    Nicely put. Good for you for having that hunger and fire in the belly. A local coach told me to beware the rapid upgrade. There is a lot of ego and pride going into the decision to upgrade prior to being forced to, but perhaps not best for ones racing career. Unless you’re “one of those” that is a natural and already wins at almost everything, it is beneficial to be able to spend some time attempting to be “the patron” of the races at your level. The goal being not just having the strength to bury everyone else, but to see, experience and hopefully determine the selections being made on the fly. Once you upgrade youre back to climbing to survive in your new group.

    The point, however, is not racing specifically for results. The point is to enjoy it and be engaged maximally -and certainly getting that taste adds longevity to training in that garage, pain cave, etc

    Well the focus is still there dura off to the crits again this morning, lots of work on the rivet whilst trying to ride smarter, not harder. Didn’t get swamped out of the penultimate corner this time, but did get jumped by a pair into the last turn. Couldn’t quite get them on the sprint, but good enough for 3rd and my Cat 3 licence. And a V-podium is never a bad thing.

  38. @Fausto

    nice work! hoping to create some energy tomorrow on a small circuit race. Congrats.

  39. @gaswepass

    I even got a mention in the write up:

    The evens race saw [Fausto – name changed to protect the guilty] do most of the work throughout the race and he was rewarded with a third place on the line.

    A small amount of V was channeled in the making of this result.

  40. @Fausto

    congrats! I got Vth. How ironic. Woulda preferred 1st, but got swept by 4 dudes by a bike length at the finish – I did one fucken high quality lead out without blowing up( or winning…).

  41. @gaswepass

    @Fausto

    congrats! I got Vth. How ironic. Woulda preferred 1st, but got swept by 4 dudes by a bike length at the finish – I did one fucken high quality lead out without blowing up( or winning…).

    Good work! Its frustrating to have that happen though. I’ve got some sprint workouts booked in on the turbo to try and avoid a repeat. My sprint used to be my only strength, it’s looking like my main weakness now. More work required.

  42. @PeakInTwoYears

    I really like the part where you indicate different time scales. Anyone who has ever juggled priorities (that is, everybody) has had to deal, consciously or otherwise, with the need to move in and out of different time scales. This can be a real trap because it’s always the case that some time scales are friendlier than others.

    There’s an old Zen saying (“Zen” meaning “meditation,” meaning the disciplined daily practice of something difficult and sometimes tedious as fuck):

    Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.

    Very fucking cool.

    I have a question for the elders and the inrelligencia, but it courts some controversy.

    Let us suppose, I am on the path, but currently breaking Rule #74, I mean I have a friend who has a Garmin 800. On Strava, you can set custom heart rate zones. Can anybody help me with information, on how to set them?

    It’s just an aside to my bike riding, while I am doing it I would like to improve and see my improvements. Also my work place has an unhealthy…  competitive aspect, which I would like to be top dog of the YJA’s. I promise I think about the path, almost enough to be a Rule #43 at work.

  43. Intellingencia, damit.

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