Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hate it or Love it

"Nothing great can be achieved without Enthusiasm"

It's been a very very very long year on and off the bike. And it's understandable, almost expected that right now, I hate my bike. I knew this fact long before writing this blog. But I've been trying to avoid this truth, so I can stay focused for track natz next week. Honestly, what's the point of hanging on to some fitness, if I don't like the bike? What do you do?

If you don't like your bike now, do what most cyclist would do - get a new one! I did and it's a sleek carbon Planet X speed machine. They gave me a nice sponsorship deal and I'm ready to love my bike again. Will take some pictures and will post shortly! It's amazing what a new toy can do to your state of my mind.

But what's really helping me get over the burnout factor is simply riding around Golden Gate park trails with my 4 year old son, Payton.

3 weeks ago, I took off the training wheels and pushed him off and just like that he was riding his bike. And the fear of the unknown/crashing, turned into a smile for the ages. It was ear to ear and pure joy. And as I watched him gleefully spin round and round (you should see his leg speed), I was reminded why I love this sport so much. In the end we love our bikes simply b/c it is so much fun. It's not about the wins as much as each pedal stroke brings a smile to your face. It's sometimes easy to forget this with a razor like focus on peak performance. But when I'm riding around with Payton, I'm reminded that it's all about play and fun, even when my heart rate is thumping at 190bpms.
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Monday, September 8, 2008

Changing gears - thinking differently

"When the little guy doesn't know he's the little guy, he can do great things."

I was riding up Mt. Tam yesterday, when another cyclist blew past me. I shifted up some gears, accelerated up to his rear wheel and kept pace with him for the next 10 minutes. Then, it started to hurt. When I looked down at my HR monitor and powermeter, the numbers were NOT good 175+ bpm/380+ watts. Then I started thinking, I can't hold this pace for the next 20+ minutes uphill. But right before I was about to pop, I remembered what my Belarusian coach, Vlad, said to me in his heavily accented voice, "Steve, you think all WRONG, what happened?" You say you can NOT when you must say I can."

He's right, something happened to me after getting my ass kicked in during the world cups. I began focusing on my limitations, rather than my strengths. It's like I put on bright neon lights on these limitations and it flashed in the forefront of my mind. And when the racing/riding got hard, I've been backing off b/c I was too aware of my limitations and honestly, I was afraid.

During my first world cup at Sydney, I recall meeting up with all the big guns and was so excited for the first race. I couldn't wait to announce my arrival at this top level. I had no history, no past to base this high expectations. I only had my imagination, and I guess I was a bit creative. When the racing actually started, I didn't perform as well as I imagined I would. The point is that, after I was brought back down to reality, I seemed to dwell on it too much. As Osho said "We die to the past everyday. But it's the past, let it be." Beat it and bounce, right. But somehow, the past sticks to me longer, and as said above, I hold on to it closely.

So, back to the ride up Tam. Right when i was about to pop, I shifted up some gears, accelerated and rode in front, and picked up the pace. I was dying but I wanted to see if the other rider will blowup first. When I looked back, he was way behind me. He blew up. I looked at my HR - 185bpm/400watts. Technically, I should have blown up too, but this time I refused to have the performances of the past dictate how I'm going to perform at the moment and going forward. I rode up Tam with a new pb time - 3 mins. faster than I have ever done.

So much of training is physically focused. But, the body can handle just about anything, it's the mind that really needs the training. As athletes we just need to be more conscious of how we register the memories of successes, failures, and challenges. Specifically, the successes need to burn brighter than all. These memories makes us better, and no doubt, much happier.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

4th of July Weekend Hi's and Low's

Let's start with the Low's:
It's a Porta Potty Nightmare. I took a piss in the porta potty and washed my hands using the foot pump to dispense the water. To my horror, the water that came out of the dispenser, was NOT water. It was the piss and shit water from the packed high porta potty. I freakin screamed like I got shot. A cop comes over and checks on me and I just unloaded on him. Smell this? And I lifted my hands up to him and he just about threw up. Then he rushed me to the ferry restroom, where I washed my hands under scalding hot water for an hour, and it was not enough. When I told Jenna, she screamed "Aaaahhhhh, and jumped out of her seat. The same way you all did when you saw the movie, The Crying Game. Nasty!

I also crashed at Davis on the 4th, banged up my knee, but finished the race.

AJ won the Elite District Criterium Championships in style. He pinned his head to the stem and rode solo away from the stacked breakaway. It's the biggest prize for our team and the sickest win of the year. It was a brutal race, 100+ starters and only 20+ of us finished. It was a mental suffer fest with the challenging course and the scorching heat. I had a lot of converations with myself in order to keep digging myself out the pain. In the end, my mind won over my body this time. It was a personal success.

And the swelling on my knee stopped thanks to resting a 6pack of ice cold Amstel Light on the bruise. And chugging the 6 pack, killed the pain.

It was a great weekend all in all. And hopefully, I'll get my leg speed back soon.
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

American Velodrome Challenge - Keirin Finals Video

Don't you just love surprises? Making the finals and placing 3rd was a big surprise - an enjoyable one at that. I think I may do more of this Keirin stuff.

My Other Church - Hellyer

I go to my church St. James on Sunday's. But not often enough as I should. I enjoy going to church for many reasons. First, it's the peace and comfort that I get from sitting at Church and listening to the sermon. Then, it's the community of like minded spiritual people. And connecting with them during coffee hour. And also the free childcare service is a nice touch. We drop off our kids and get a chance to be alone, relax and reflect on many things.

Hellyer is similar in many ways. First of, I don't go as frequently as I'd like to. It's just a long drive from SF especially if there is no one to share the ride down in the carpool lane. But when I do get to the track, I'm usually glad I did. I get to hang with my peeps, chill between each hard effort, and find that pain zone during the ride. Every church has a preacher and at Hellyer, it has to be Ruggy. There's no one better than Ruggy at giving advise. It's the way he does it and the way he delivers it. It's a standup comedy act and lecture all packed into one. I enjoy listening to Ruggy for many reasons....he's usually right, and his one liners crack me up "Spin to win....Fly like an eagle...Bet that gear is talking back to you now." And there's always a proud story bout his wonder kid, Daniel "Dholla." Interestingly, everyone at the track, for the most part, are all glad to help each other out. It's a great community, where riders compete and connect altogether. It's unlike any other bike event. It's a great feeling going to the track, and that's why I consider it my other Church. But, it still is a house of pain, full of moments that test my resolve. This is great b/c I think racing is really a mental exercise to have steady command of my thoughts. Sometimes I win and sometimes I just hang in. But most of the time, I have a blast. We should all be so lucky to have a track community like Hellyer. AMEN!

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Beers and Dim Sum and Willpower

While walking home from preschool, Payton asked if we could stop to get some dim sum. Reluctantly, I said no. He says "how come?" I say "cause daddy needs to slim down and get back in shape again." I thought of just stopping and picking up a few orders of shrimp dumpling, pork shu mai, sesame balls, steamed bbq. pork bun. (just writing this entry makes me hungry). But I realize that if I did buy it for Payton then it would be hard to pass it up. Actually, I know I wouldn't be able to say no. So it's best to avoid it altogether.

According to a NY times article, "the brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others." In other words, I shouldn't use up my limited will power by resisting food and drink temptations like dim sum, and Belgian ales while I get my self back into shape. Because, right now, I need all my will power just to get up at 6AM to ride some intervals in the cold foggy San Francisco morning. But, the nice thing is that when my wife, (not me), brings home a bag of Trade Joes chocolate covered pretzels, I just don't fight the urge anymore. I simply devour the whole bag knowing that tom. I at least will have the willpower to get up early and ride again.

This article brings up an interesting point on the impact of a stressful day at work and how it sometimes can lead to our inability to suffer altogether. This neurological reasoning, explains why good coaches make sure that you are mentally fresh before a key competition because you will need the willpower to suffer. A year ago I was asking Larry Nolan what he recommends as a good tapering schedule. He responded in terms of asking about my mental state. After reading this article, his response makes absolute sense.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

SF Entrepreneur Challenge

The SF Entrepreneur Challenge is a contests in another aspect of my life that I want to win. Getting voted to the finals will be my success metric. In order to win, I will need your support by voting me into the finals where I will get to present my business to the SF entrepreneur community and a great panel of judges who might be able to open some new opportunities.

Checkout my profile and help vote for me - http://community.sfentrepreneur.com/member/steve_pelaez

Thank you for your help!

Friday, April 25, 2008

April - Hi*Baller of the Month (Headwind Award)

In 2007, both my son, Payton and I raced Burlingame. He did the kids ride, came in last, but in style. He took his jolly time and soaked up all the cheers on the straightaway to the finishline. The photo above is from the Ryan's Ride Ad for 2008. It was a surprise to see his photo with the caption about the ice cream. It's actually appropriate. No kid enjoyed his ice cream more than Payton that day. He's a true Hi*Baller.

The Hi*Ballers for the Month of April are Shawn Hatfield and Jenny Oh. Shawn got a PR on his 200m tt (11.75 sec.). I think the coolest part about his PR was that he actually really enjoyed it. I know cuz I shared some beers with him that night and he said he wasn't thinking about tom. or a future goal. What mattered was that on this particular day, he hit his PR. He was living in the moment, a rare and special feeling. That's a great attitude. Jenny wins the women's award b/c she's a bad ass. She's always at the races and working towards finding improvements measured against her own standards rather than who she beats to the line. Ballers for sure! As part of the award I will be giving them each a $50 gift certificate, a cool Baller shirt, and a case of Hi*Ball energy drink.

Btw, instead of making the award a weekly contest, I think it's best to have a Hi*Baller of the Month. Who'll it be for May - I'm voting for Elliot Logan.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I was in a sales interview the other day and the VP of Sales asked me what is one of my weakness. This is one of those unnerving questions cause no one usually likes to talk about one's weakness. But I've learned that awareness of your shortcomings is definitely what helps you grow. My answer was simple. I think my weakness is that I want to Win everything I put my mind into - seriously.

Why is this a negative, right? In sales, it sometimes leads to win loss situations where the deal is no longer proftiable. In real estate, you end up paying too much for a property. Like today, Jenna and I were shopping for another investment property in SF. I was pretty luke warm on a property that my wife really likes. Then when I went back to see the property the 2nd time around, I saw all the potential that Jenna saw in the property. When this happened, a trip wire went off in my head, and I made up my mind that I wanted to Win this house. In SF, buying a house is cut throat competition and you have to overbid significantly to win a deal. When I overheard one other couple saying that they really like the house, I got all fired up. It just added fuel to my desire to win the house. I thought of telling them, "Sorry, you're going to lose, and I'm winning this house, whatever the price." Obviously, it's not advisable to invest this way. You need to find your walk away position. Otherwise, you'll lose your shirt.

In cycling this Winning attitude can easily become a negative for a number of reasons. First of, it's impossible to win all the races. In fact winning is a very difficult thing in cycling and wins are usually distributed to a select few. Moreover, I think there are times to burn the matches and when not to. I only have a limited number of bullets and when I use one up for a training race, then that's a wasted bullet. I did this before the LA world cup and dug a little too much at an early bird crit, where I tried to close a 30 sec. gap to a strong break of 8. I almost caught the break, but I dug myself a hole and was flat in LA. Finally, winning as an absolute thing like who crossed the line first, is the wrong way to look at bike racing. I've learned that it will leave you feeling empty and demoralized since as discussed above, the winning moments are few and far between. Better than absolute is to define your win. I was talking to Roman about this. As a pro for Healthnet, he defines his win in terms of how well he is progressing towards being a great team domestique and personally, if he's continuing to improve as viewed objectively by his coach and training data. How you define your wins can help you enjoy racing better.

This reframing and redefinition of what it means to win is a lesson I have to continually remind myself when I get on a bike. Believe me, everytime I get on a track bike I want to kick everyone's butt - right Warren? My chilled out demeanor belies an internal rage. I hate losing even if it's a training race and I'm grossly out of shape. I don't care about the excuses. So it's especially hard for me. But then, I'm reminded of my friend, Craig's story. Craig finished the Wildflower triathalon long course close to the bottom of his age group. On paper, he was 2+ hours down on the guy who crossed the line first. But to his friends and family, who knew that 5 months before Wildflower, he had undergone chemotherapy and radiation to batttle an aggresive lymphoma cancer, Craig was the Winner. But, if you only measure winning in absolute terms, then the guy who crossed the line first, won. However, if you defined winning as living and courage against the face of death, then my buddy Craig is a Winner.

In terms of the Headwind Award, look for each riders' silent evidence - the non obvious, the next time you want to observe a winner. Everyone has a story and I encourage you find it and share it to the track community.
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Friday, April 18, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Actually, the Hellyer track IS a country for Old Men =). I think we have more successful masters racing compared to any other category. But that's not my point in talking about No Country For Old Men, a movie by the Coen Brothers based on the book by Cormac McCarthy.

When I first read the book, I'll be honest, I wasn't really a fan of it. There were unresolved conflicts, jumps in points of view, irregular punctuations. In short, it didn't make a lot sense to me. 6 months later, after reading books on risk, randomness, chaos theory (nonlinear), I finally understand what Cormac was saying in his book. The book is brilliantly original because it is written to reflects the unstructured randomness of life. Sh*t happens, and sometimes there's no rhyme or reason for it. It's hard for many of us to comprehend this since we're rational thinkers. We need an explanation even if there isn't one.

In cycling, when things don't go our way in a race, we second guess a lot of things we did to try to make sense of what happened. What went wrong in our training, what did we drink/eat, or not etc? We want a reason for the cause -a narrative fallacy. But life is not that simple or always controllable for that matter . Things happen and you just have to say brush it off. Beat it and bounce! Seriously, there's no sense second guessing yourself .
There's a lot of unstructured randomness in life and cycling, too.

I had a great conversation with Roman during our drive down to the track on Wednesday night. I brought up the idea of randomness and nonlinear progression to him. He's a really smart dude. And I have a lot of respect for what he's achieved, on and off the bike. He got his law degree from Hastings while he was racing as a pro for the top domestic cycling team, Healthnet. He was telling me a story about how he placed in the top 10 at the Sea Otter Road Race while riding for a small DIII pro team McGuire. At the time, Sea Otter was an NRC race and attracted a lot of the best pros. His ride was a break through result and caught the attention of some bigger pro teams. He re-calls thinking how he was flying. But then the following week at a much easier race with less competition, he got dropped at the Wente Road Race. He didn't even finish the race and drove home, bewildered. WTF? It didn't make sense why he had such a bad performance a week after a break through result. But then the following week, with no expectation at all, he won a difficult stage race back east.

When things don't go your way, just remember that progress is nonlinear. There's a lot of chaos and randomness that we can't account for or make sense of. But regardless, keep trying and it all works out in the end. Good luck racing this weekend!

Monday, April 14, 2008

HiBaller of the Week - April 7-14

Please submit your vote on the comments section and give your reason (if you want)! Anyone who is not a Cat 1 or District/National Champ is eligible for the award.

The weekly award is a 4 pack of HiBall + something else. Weekly votes count towards the overall prize of:

$250 cash minimum
$500 worth of HiBall products

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Mind of a Tiger - Great interview

When you hear him talk you can understand why he's the best. There's something in the way he thinks that sets him apart. I can't wait to watch the Masters and Paris Rubaix this Sunday. It's the best Sunday in sports!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Headwind Award presented by Hi*Ball

I read once that you should never dream like a bank manager, who assesses your worth based only on your REALIZED potential. The greater part of all of us is our UNREALIZED potential. Therefore, this award is for the male and female Hellyer Trackies who are trying to make the leap and breakthrough the winner's podium, but haven't yet done so. I personally want to encourage these riders to persist as they strive to achieve their goals. As I've finally realized, progress is nonlinear. A lot of times it seems there is nothing but a headwind, but keep trying, and never give up. Inevitably, you'll catch your tailwind. In the meantime, have a Hi*Ball-- it's good energy (way better than red bull).

Overall Prize:
  1. Cash award (minimum of $250 - max - tbd)
  2. Headwind Winner Jersey
  3. Cases of Hi*Ball Energy Drink ($500 value, enough drinks for a kick a@@ party)
  4. Schwag - Tires, Shirts, Caps, etc.
How it works:
There will be 1 Male and 1 Female winner for the season long contest. The season will run from April to August. The winners will be voted in by your Hellyer peers on a weekly basis. The overall winner will be the top male and female trackise who receive the most votes over the entire season. But, the weekly winners will be rewarded with a nice cold Hi*Ball 4 pack + other goodies.

This award is only for those who have not YET made the leap. Cat 1's, district, or national champions are NOT eligible. Let's give others a chance to win.

I hope everyone from Hellyer participates in this contest. I'll setup a weekly voting link on my blog every Thursday morning. Post your votes in the comments section by Sunday before the next weekly series race. I will keep track of all votes and will announce the weekly winners every Monday night on my blog and the Hellyer/NCVA google groups.

One last word:
This Award is for every person who keeps spinning his or her wheels against a headwind but is still dreaming of one day making the leap-- no matter what level. Winning is not simply about who crosses the finish line first. The victory line can be anything and for this award, it's for those who persist.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Regular Guy and Nonlinear Progress

I'm just a regular guy. A regular highly competitive emotionally driven guy. And as I'm writing this blog, I am finally realizing that our extraordinary dreams progress nonlinearly (meaning the road to the top is not a straight line.) This is a big challenge for us regular guys. Do you have the mental stamina to make it through nonlinearities (ups and downs)? How do you stay focused and committed to the impossible goals? Most people give up before the rewards. But why?

We struggle with nonlinearities because our brains prefer to think in linear terms. For instance, if you train everyday, then you expect to get faster in proportion to the number of hours you put in. "But reality rarely gives us the privilege of positive progression." Often we train very hard for weeks, months, and years and may only see incremental improvement, if any. But then if you are not disheartened and continue to persist, suddenly you'll reach that tipping point, your payday. Malcolm Gladwell's ketchup bottle story simply summarizes the fundamental nonlinearity of everyday life: We tap the bottom end of a ketchup bottle, and nothing happens, we tap and tap..."None will come and then the lot'll." Just like in life, you try, and try, and try some more, and nothing happens. But if you don't become demoralized, and truly persist, then maybe you might be lucky enough to cash in!

But most people can't see it through the end (what ever the end maybe). I think the way our minds are wired makes a big difference. Some can handle nonlinearities better than others. There is a neural and success correlation.

A little more dope please? When failure presents itself we get less doped. I mean our dopamine system drops if our expectations are not met. Our pleasure brain system is somewhat like the stock market. It monitors how we do relative to the expectations. If we don't meet 'market' expectation then our brain produces less of the pleasure neurotransmitters and you end up feeling down. And it's even worse when you succeed early then the expectations become larger - (phenom challenge). The paradox of success is that it takes more and more success to fuel the brain and the inverse is true, failure is exacerbated. "Our minds are like inmates, captive to our biology, unless we manage a cunning escape."

I know of a friend who accomplished a lot in cycling in such a short period. She started racing after doing the Aids Ride and quickly got hooked. She upgraded to a Cat2 in less than 2 yrs. And for a while it seemed that success was linear. Then she got an expensive coach, made the commitment to train harder and longer, and made the necessary financial and personal sacrifices with the belief that if she puts in the work then she would be rewarded with a proportionate amount of results. Unfortunately, success maybe more opaque than we think it is. We know what we put in: hard work with our eyes firmly focused on our powermeters. But what comes out is not always clearly evident sensational success. After 2 years of spinning her wheels, frustrated, and demoralized, she quit racing altogether. It's a shame because I think she could have eventually achieved her goal. But like many of us, who've tasted defeat once too often, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay on course.

According to researchers who study hedonic happiness. "Making $1M one year, but nothing in the preceding nine, does not bring the same pleasures as having the total evenly distributed over the same period, that is, $100,000 every year for ten years in a row. The same applies to the inverse order - making a bundle the first year, then nothing for the remaining period. Somehow, your pleasure systems will be saturated rather quickly, and it will not carry forward the hedonic balance like a sum on a tax return. As a matter of fact, your happiness depends more on the number of instances of positive feelings than on their intensity when they hit. "

In other words, you need small wins consistently. But how do you achieve this when the path to the extraordinary is nonlinear? What do you suggest? I've thought about this a lot and read a lot on neuroscience ,psychology, and philosophy.

"When the little guy doesn't know he's the little guy, he can do great things." Unfortunately, the brain is not fooled too easily. Nonetheless, I believe that a regular guy can achieve great things if he can have the right mental model to deal with nonlinearities. I'm in the process of writing a book and I want to hear your stories of nonlinear progression and how you dealt with the ups and downs as you continue to chase your dreams. Email me at stevepelaez@gmail.com THANKS!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Maybe this is the END?"

That's what Mark, my mechanic friend, said to me immediately after I finished the scratch race in Denmark, where I suffered just to finish with a fever. Mark had me cracking up with this comment. And I needed it. It's a play on a previous quote, "Everything works out in the end. If it doesn't, you're just not at the end yet."

I asked Mark, "Why can't I just catch a break?" He said, "Maybe just being here is your break." He's right on both accounts. This is the end of my professional cyclist lifestyle, and this entire experience has been a break from reality. I've been living in a dream.

My 2 brains, the emotional and the rational, offer two different perspectives on the whole experience. Emotionally, it's sad and frustrating that it's all over and I didn't achieve my goal, however improbable. I desperately want another shot at goal. But, my rational mind can create a positive spin and see the silver lining.
I'm proud to have represented the the 87 million Filipinos against the best in the world. I was racing against the best professionals who are younger and faster than me and have been training full time and competing at the world class level for many years. My expectations were obviously unrealistic.
Actually, my coach Vlad keeps reminding me that I did great for a first timer and it's not possible to make the leap to the podium in the first year (unless you're a phenom like Phinney - a proof of genetics). So I asked him why the heck he didn't tell me this in the beginning. He just smiled back. BTW, my coach is an Olympic gold medalist and world champion and it took him 10 years of focused, relentless training to succeed at the World Cup level.

I guess it didn't matter what the odds were. I was still going to try. Logically, I knew I had no shot in hell. But emotionally, I wanted to stomp the competition and make it to Beijing. This delusion may have been partly due to watching Rocky I & II, one too many times. Anyhow, I know I'm just wired differently. I'm highly competitve and a dreamer. And so being a long shot are good odds. But the epistemic truth is that progress takes time. Progress is nonlinear. But my emotional brain wanted to believe in the improbable and linear causality. I.E that if I put in all this hard work and sacrifice, then I would be rewarded with an Olympic spot. In fact, getting to the Olympics is even more complicated that I had ever imagined. There are all these rules that limit the number of participants. Only the top 8 in the pts. race can go since the UCI gives priority to riders from the Top 8 Madison teams. It's a ridiculous, unfair system. It's not like the Jamaican bob sled days when every country could just go to the Olympics. It's now such a commercialized event that the entries are limited. I don't think there is an ASIAN country going for the pts. race - unbelievable.

My friend Robin told me that, "Life is lived forward and understood backwards." That's been the case with this entire experience. I was so caught up with the intensity and focus of the training, travel, and racing of the World Cup events that I may not have enjoyed the moments as they actually happened. But retrospectively, as I recall them, I have nothing but fun memories of the cool places I've raced and the great people I've met. And most of all, I'm proud that I was able to make a difference in the lives of impoverished children in the Philippines by raising money for the PCFA charity. If you haven't yet done so, please consider donating to: www.firstgiving.com/2008olympics . Thank you for reading and your support! You've made this a truly meaningful experience.

Friday, February 15, 2008

World Cup Denmark Point Race - DNS

I did not start the points race today because I am sick as a dog. I think I probably caught the virus before the flight since my daughter was sick. And despite popping airborne pills like candy, my body finally gave in. I am filled with all these mixed emotions - sadness, anger, dissapointment, frustration. It is very difficult to remain positive, but I'm trying to be optimistic and hope that miraculously I will be better for tomorrow's scratch race.

"Everything works out in the end, if it doesn't, then you're just not at the end yet."
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Giving Credit

The other day my little boy, Payton got a stool, lifted the toilet seat, and on his own, peed standing up for the first-time. Afterwards he said, "Daddy, you're the one who showed me how to pee standing up. Thanks." I'm glad I can be the one to teach him this. Anyhow, my point is that Payton has always been good at giving credit. So I thought I'd do the same.

I want to give credit to my Russian coaches, Dmitri and Vlad, for helping me tremendously during these past few months. Of note, Vlad is an Olympic Gold medalist and World Champion cyclist. They've kicked my lazy ass into shape. They've motorpaced me even in the freezing cold. They prescribe lung searing workouts. They help me stay focused and positive. And they make me laugh. Like when I thought I was overtraining, he told me to check my pulse rate while lying in bed when I first wake up in the morning. Then standup and then check my pulse rate again. If the diffrence is greater than 20 then I'm overtrained. And he warns me in his strongest Russian accent, "You must not have sex before standing up. Steve, I serious now. Young man like you feel very strong in the morning and like having sex. OK! I serious."

Another time, I hurt my back and could barely get on the bike. And my coach showed up with a Russian ointment and asked me, "Are you man or are you woman? If you man, you can take this ointment, if you woman, you cannot." Of course, I told them, "I man." 10 minutes later after rubbing in the ointment, my back started to feel like it was on fire. A minute more, my back felt like someone was pouring hot tar. Soon enough, I screamed, "I woman, I woman." My coaches started frantically yelling at each other in Russian. One ran to the car while the other searched for something in his desk. Soon they found what they were looking for, canola oil. It diffused the chemical explosion in my back. They told me that even though my back looked like a 3rd degree burn, it's really not. It's just blood rushing to the skin. Funny stuff like that keeps the training entertaining. But it is also back breaking work. It has to be since I'm competing against the best in the world while playing catchup with my fitness and experience. It's like cramming overnight for the boards.

It's been fun. And I wouldn't have made it this far without their help. Thank you Dmitri and Vlad.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Peak Experience

"Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?"

The best moment that I will always remember from this past weekend was the tremendous amount of support and well wishes I received from friends, hellyerites, and the Filipino community. It reaffirms why I enjoy track - it's a close community. The race announcer called out my name 3x before the race because of the loud cheers from the peanut gallery. He even wondered outloud why I got the loudest cheers. He should have known that it was Steve Pelaez Day.

I really had a good feeling at the start of the race. Because the previous day, the announcer asked me to listen to their copy of the Philippine national anthem to make sure it sounded ok. They only play the national anthem if you win, so I figured that he might know something I didn't. It turns out he didn't. Steve Pelaez day ended a bit prematurely after a flurry of attacks.

I tried my best but I couldn't go any faster. I felt like my heart was going to explode, and my legs felt like lead. My coach says I didn't race smartly since I was the one closing gaps and attacking. What was I thinking? The problem is it's hard to think when everything is happening so fast. Should I go with that move, swing up now, close that gap, go faster, etc? It's called race smarts, which to me is nothing more than pattern recognition.

A race has a rhythm and those with experience can often see how the race will unfold. Since racing at this level is still new to me, I thought I'd just follow a favorite. I chose to stick to Jerome Neuville of France, '06 World Champ. He was clearly a favorite to advance to the finals in my heat. The problem with this tactic was that he could attack multiple times and keep going. Meanwhile, after a few attacks, I faded.

Know thy self is one of the most important principles in life. A Japanese proverb says that the mirror is the most important possession since it helps you see yourself. Shakespeare says, "To thy own self be true." In cycling, it's just as important to know your strengths and weaknesses. Race your strength(s). I should have known better. But it's easy to forget the basics. After the race, I was talking to cycling coach legend EddieB about training/racing. He said that cycling is pretty simple. We just make it more complicated when we are unsure of things. I agree. And right now getting to the finals is a complicated affair. I'm running out of time. There's only one more race left - Denmark. Will it all finally come together there?

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

UCI World Cup LA - Ready or not?

All systems are checked and clear for takeoff. We'll let's hope I fly on the bike this time around. It's been a month since my last competition in Thailand so we'll have to see. But, I've trained very hard, and kept clear of viruses, so far. This is a victory in and of itself, when you have preschooler kids.

So am I ready? This was the question Jenna asked me the other day. I thought about it and said, "Well, a lot of riders have been competiting at 6 day races in Canada, Germany, etc. But me, I've been training on my rollers in the attic. Yeah, I think I'm ready." We cracked up at the absurdity of the situation.

It's been cold and rainy in SF for the past few weeks, so I've had to train indoors in my attic, where there's the only TV in the house. There were days when I just couldn't motivate myself to ride for 3+ hrs. on the rollers. It really sucked. Everything goes numb, especially, well you know where if you ride. But my awesome super cool wife would not let me slack off. She would say, "You can always take the bus downtown." Implying I can always get a job instead. Considering this alternative, I quickly kitted up and hightailed up the stairs to the attic and looked forward to some hard roller training sessions. Like anything else in life, it's how you perceive things that matters. Nothing is what it is except what you think it to be.

And honestly, after a while I enjoyed the solitary workouts in the attic. I had to do a lot of speed endurance work (at 95% of max heartrate) and it was difficult to get going for the first few reps. When my HR is at 180 bpm, I feel like I'm dying with a sock in my mouth. That's when I would hear these voices in my head, that are in dolby surround sound quality yelling, "Stop, you're f@+** killing me, STOP now."

Sometimes, I can't help but think what a sick sport cycling is. We suffer a lot so that we can suffer even more. Interestingly though, after a while the pain becomes enjoyable. But only if there is purpose in the suffering. And it's the imagination of this purpose that helps me push through the pain. When everything hurts and I feel like I can't do it, I close my eyes and imagine sharing my Olympic dreams with my family, friends, and the charity I'm supporting with this quest. The clarity of this imagination helps me break through. I realize it's a very long shot, but imagination has no limits. In my mind there are endless possibilities. I've done the hard work and I believe I'm ready. Now, we'll see how it goes in LA.

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