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.

4 comments:

WarrenG said...

Steve,
You didn't win the races, but you did win. And with that come valuable prizes that make you better.

There are more goals, and there are more wins to come. See you out there.

PROMANgirl said...

Steve, it was a pleasure and an honor to 'reprezent' the Philippines National Team aka Team Phil in Copenhagen. You are very courageous in your choices. I thank your family for allowing and encouraging you to pursue a dream.

Tailwinds to you!

Julie Granshaw said...

It's not the end Steve, it's just the beginning. You're doing phenomenal things that most of us only dream about accomplishing. Like most successful athletes, it takes more than one season to become a superstar. Keep your chin up and hang in there guy. We're rooting for you back on the homeland.
Take care,
Julie & Tim (aka the biscuits)

Velokiwi said...

Steve,

I can remember when you were a newby on the team I started. It was ten years ago and you were a category 3. I could tell then you had the fire within and look at you now... winning national championships and doing races I only could have dreamed of doing. I love saying Steve used to be a Kiwi, as were several Bay Area riders of note. My buddy Todd and I started that team just so guys, and gals could get there start on a team that would show them how to ride the right way and respect the sport and the people who compete in it. You exemplify that and for that I am proud to say you were a Kiwi!