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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