Failure. Racing is practicing the art of failure. Deciding to race is actively placing your fragile ego in an environment surrounded by goliaths with foam-padded bats who have every intention to maul your sense of self-worth. Failure is the process through which you supersede your frustrations and allow yourself the opportunity to gestate.
Gestation is a wrenching process through which you lift the lens of disappointment to ultimately reveal the real discourse of your actions. I’ve only once ever objectively won a bike race. It was in a sprint against a close friend of mine and to this day I still disbelieve the achievement. A tempered sense of failure never sees an achievement as anything but a blend of effort with a dash of luck.
Instead, failure rides in my jersey pocket. Failure turns every distinguishing achievement a distinct shade of blue. It colors my everything while on the bike and reminds me that success isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Failure is a hearty friend that stands with me shoulder to shoulder while I reflect on the reality born from my anticipations and the inward folding of my frustrations. It’s with me as I watch an outcome wriggles out of the ashes.
It’s with this gross little worm that I nurture my understanding of how I performed: How exactly I was able to transmute all my exercises of control and effort into a physical standing, a number, positioning in the peloton, where I blew up, bonked, mistimed an effort. Most importantly it’s with me as I review the difference between my anticipations and their eventualities. Failure is defeat but it doesn’t turn its back on you. Failure shares what did and did not stack up. Failure breeds gestation.
I’ve never been satisfied with myself as a racer. There’s always someone stronger, who climbs faster, who pushes longer and harder, complains less, hurts more and above all wants to win more than you can imagine. I think this rings true with anyone who will pet the inner beast of competition. It bites to draw blood.
Moreover, I doubt I’ll ever be satisfied with my outcomes as a racer because the bar is mobile. Failure doesn’t want you to win because resounding success is the very carrot that feeds motivation. If you wave it just close enough in front of your nose, it pushes you to work harder, more efficiently. It pushes you to fail closer to your idea of success. It makes you reflect on your failure and determine how to bridge that gap between where you are and will be.
Failure is choosing to succeed, by acknowledging you’re imperfect. It’s a time to reflect and think about how you can ride harder, faster or at least shape your expectations to more readily remind yourself what it’s all for: Developing yourself and having a damn good time all the while.