Finding The Sweet Spot

Two weeks ago, Tête de la Course Cycling athlete Heidi Franz scored her first professional victory which just so happened to be in a UCI 2.2 stage race. She crossed the line first in stage two of The Tour of the Gila. WHICH. WAS. HUGE. But this post from Heidi isn’t about that. No, this post is about her journey, now in its second year, as a professional cyclist. It’s about finding balance, specifically life balance. It’s about understanding the big picture and how all of the little things in the chaotic life of a professional athlete fit into that.

It’s about finding the “sweet spot”.

Enjoy:

 

When I first decided to give pro cycling a go and see where it took me, I mentally prepared myself for a four year trial period. I crawled my way through four years of high school and survived four years of college. I got this, right? I sure as hell didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, but I anticipated and accepted the learning curve and process of maturity that might run its course over that time period. I definitely knew that the first year was going to be awkward. My living situation would spread me between three different home bases. I would constantly be here, there, out, and back again, juggling work at the bike shop, commutes to my boyfriend’s house, home at my grandparents’, and a tiny bit of time for friends. Racing would take me to New Mexico, North Carolina, Belgium, London, Ardeche, Sittard, and back to a little farm town in Washington. Like a first year at college, I never felt settled but I stuck to what I knew I could survive on, bending enough to adapt but not completely break. It was more than just awkward, but I did it. I finished my first season as a pro cyclist with no broken bones (!) and I still loved riding my bike. I cherished the friendships and connections I’d made with my teammates, was excited by what I had learned, surprised by where I’d landed, and knew there was more to come.

 

“With maturity comes the ability to distinguish subtlety. This is the sweet spot for individuals, relationships, and ambition.” -M. Twight, Refuge

 

As I write this, I’m taking off for the Amgen Tour of California-Empowered with Sram. Just a week ago, I came home from the UCI 2.2 Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico, where I claimed my first ever professional and UCI victory on stage two. Though I had done more racing by this point last year, I’m in an astronomically different place both mentally and physically. But, I’m not here to report on how much my power numbers have improved or how I started training “for real now” and ride 35 hours every week. I don’t, because that doesn’t work for me. I don’t want to burn myself faster than I can build. That might work for some people, but the more I mature into this sport, the more I care about fostering my long-term plan. I just need to hold steady. I’ve seen the biggest gains come from not the heightened intensities or frequency of workouts, but from giving respect to the small but important details in my life that make me feel like a whole person again – the things that enable me to consistently show up and give an all-out, complete effort for my team. For me, that’s reaching “the sweet spot”: having confidence in the process and strengthened ambition to stay the course. It comes from the even richer, fulfilling friendships with my teammates this season despite everything we’ve been through. It’s having one home to come back to on the quaint island I grew up on, with all my books, artwork on the walls, and my own bed. It comes from the newfound eagerness in carrying my camera around again, and the giddiness I get seeing the freshly developed film. I can travel all over the world and race roads both new and familiar, testing my limits but with more confidence and fewer cracks in my foundation.

 

I will be the first to say that I don’t have all my shit together, but now it’s in organized piles. I still fall short and dig myself into holes of fatigue every once in a while, or struggle to find motivation when it gets dark and rainy. The team’s inexplicable loss of Kelly Catlin in March took every bit of emotional strength that we could muster to work through, both on our own and together. We are still working through it. In a sport where nothing is ever the same year after year, I’ll be on some sort of constant learning curve. The process will bend and change over time and that’s the beauty of it. Sometimes I’ll find that sweet spot, win or not, and some days I might find myself far from it. But right now I’m staying the course and it’s a good place to be.  – Heidi

 

Behind the scenes from New Mexico through a disposable camera:

photos by Heidi Franz

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.