OB·JEC·TIVE / PLAN / MO·TI·VA·TION

 

OB·JEC·TIVE: / noun / a thing aimed at or sought; a goal

PLAN: / noun / a diagram or list of steps with details of timing and resources, used to achieve an objective to do something

MO·TI·VA·TION: / noun / the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way – the general desire or willingness of someone to do something

Determine an objective. Make a plan to achieve the objective. Stay motivated so that you can stick to the plan in order to achieve the objective.

Seems pretty simple.

It isn’t.

It particularly isn’t when there is a global pandemic that brings just about everything to a grinding halt. Objectives, plans, especially those that revolve around sport – out the window replaced by uncertainty. What now? And, what if sport is your profession?

Heidi Franz is a professional cyclist racing for Rally. I have been working with Heidi for the past four years and have seen her progress from a category 3 local racer into a professional who can be relied upon by her team to show up prepared and do whatever is asked of her.

Heidi is more than an athlete that I work with. She is a member of my chosen family. She motivates me not only to be the best coach that I can be but also to be the best person that I can be.

Heidi scored her first UCI victory last year and was motivated to keep that momentum going into 2020. We discussed her goals for the year and collectively with her team director came up with a plan for the season. She was going to have her first crack at the Spring Classics and I can say that we were both pretty psyched about that. Then COVID hit. And with it came a lot of uncertainty.

Now what?

I asked Heidi to address this. She sent me the following from Europe where she was racing, months later than originally planned and under new parameters – but racing, and doing a hell of a job at it.

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Making a plan – something that sounds so simple, and then came the year 2020. “Is there a plan for ____? When are we doing ___? Will there be a plan for ___ after ___?” In this sport, the plans are non-stop and we’re always finding ourselves clinging to, asking for, and depending on them. We need a plan for everything- travel, training, packing, transfers, meals, recovery, and racing . . . it goes on. For some it gives peace of mind, knowing that things are under control. For others, a plan must be in their hands to operate. The last seven months have been a grueling lesson in how to cope with the loss of control over what happens in our lives and develop a finer sense for the things that we can control, or perhaps more importantly, let go. They could be big things that needed to be unearthed, or small things that make larger ripples down the road. In a lot of ways, the year has been a mandatory workshop in how to make some fucking lemonade with the dried up, cracked lemon seed in our hands. Or I don’t know, maybe try making some limeade for a change. 

I’m pretty laid-back when it comes to the routines and habits in my life. I don’t operate on a strict schedule based on the time-of-day. I don’t wake up, eat meals, or go out to ride at the same time every day. I do drink two cups of coffee before my day starts, forget to charge my electronics, and stay up too late watching baking shows. I know that Joe is shaking his head right now, but he understands that I like – I need – spontaneity, exploring, and letting the wind take me somewhere. I don’t need to see the whole path, to know that there is one I’m following, but I do need to enjoy the journey and occasionally venture off along the way. I like plans for the peace of mind they give me and the ability to mentally prepare, so when there is one, I stick to it. But even for me, someone who can adapt and go with the flow 99% of the time, I struggled with the wrench of uncertainty that COVID threw into our lives. 

I was in Belgium at the end of February. I had just raced my first spring classic, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and I’d had a rough day. I was not myself out there and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I couldn’t focus forward and I felt scared, not confident, and pessimistic. At the time, Strade Bianche was still going ahead, and while it was something our team had been looking forward to, there was a cloud of anxiety hanging over us as we cautiously traveled to Italy. For the 72 hours we were there, the race went from maybe cancelled to proceeding as planned – three different times. I couldn’t stand it. All I wanted was a decision to be made so we could make a quick exit plan and get moving. Instead we had to wait, try not to look at Twitter, and hope that someone would take responsibility. I had a boiling mixture of guilt for not wanting to do my job, anxiety for the lack of plans, and disappointment in myself for wanting to give up – especially on a race like Strade. Every twist and turn in the road leading up to it made me hope that things would cancel, and I could go home. Two whirlwind days later, I did. When I returned, I kept a low profile, spending most of the time trying not to “think” my way into having COVID-like symptoms. I rode around Kitsap with Joe and our small crew so I didn’t shut down completely, but in my head I felt like there was no point. I didn’t see any purpose in riding my bike to prepare for something that most likely would not happen. Then came the flurry of lockdowns and cancellations.  

 

Two bike nerds off the leash

 

I started planning to fill my extra time with positive changes. I moved back to Seattle to be with my partner, Wade, my family, and near the community in the city. With the move, I had some fun projects and art to focus on, plus the distraction of consolidating two bike nerds’ worth of bike parts. (Eight months later and we still don’t have it done.) Luckily, the bikes were hung on the wall first. I’d stopped hearing about travel plans, sponsor events, and race calendars from the team, and I had an empty three month page to fill. Rather than serving as race machines, the bikes suddenly became my all-purpose vehicles. Joe and I settled on an off-season-ish approach, so I was off the leash so to speak when it came to training. The direction “ride how you feel” was almost a daily theme. Sometimes I felt like riding at 7PM to the empty beach park and back. Some days I wanted to ride as hard as I could for four hours. Some days, I coordinated “ride-bys” with Emily or Margaux around Mercer Island to stop for snack breaks on opposite sides of the road. Each time we did, we experienced a “disproportionate joy,” as Emily had called it, seeing friends face-to-face from afar. In my solo expeditions, I re-discovered roads in Seattle that I hadn’t seen since my time collegiate racing at Seattle U, blazing around the city with my friends, using the bike as a tool for exploration and mobilizer for relationships. Even doing some of the WSBA Zwift races felt like I was back at Seward Park, “seeing” everyone and reconnecting over a night of racing, and “meeting” new people. Even at a time when we couldn’t be physically close to one another, I felt reconnected. My friendships were richer, more honest, and more fulfilling, because we had the time to invest in them. The same went for my relationship to my bike. 

 

A little “family time”

 

The lifestyle that pro bike racing requires and my transient presence at home has not allowed me to invest the time and energy into those relationships, whether it’s my closest friends or those connections to the larger community, in a meaningful way. As pros, we often get so caught up in the plans, the routine, the structure and tunnel vision of a racing bubble that we compartmentalize everything that’s happening outside of it. We’ll just deal with those things in the off-season or when we get home, because training and racing takes priority over everything- that’s the way it is. I’m not someone who falls into that very much, but when you’re around that mentality all the time, it’s easy to pick it up. Perhaps that’s why I lost sight of what I was doing, back in February. I know I’m not the only one who had resulting “pandemic-sized” lifestyle conversations from that realization. Riding for the sake of enjoyment and connecting with people helped me process that “why” as I rode, and I started feeling motivated again. Not because of any hopes of racing again this year or achieving a goal. Seeing how people used their time, their health, and their positions of influence to do better for other people made me want to do and be better too. To get creative with fundraisers and ways to bring awareness to movements or organizations that need long-term support, like The Major Taylor Project, Black Lives Matter, COVID Relief funds. That made me want to get out and ride. Pedaling around the Puget Sound with my friends to fundraise and bring awareness to Major Taylor was the absolute least I could do, and I knew it couldn’t just be a one-off. Now that I’m racing again, I am trying to figure out what that continued support looks like. 

 

As individuals on a racing team, we work hard all year to be our best to support each other, on the road, in training, wherever we are. In the race, we take each and every variable given to us on the day, use our skills collectively, and piece together a puzzle. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. When it works out, it’s easy to be fulfilled and find purpose in what you’re doing. When it doesn’t work, it’s impossibly hard if you’ve lost sight of that purpose. When I started racing, I wasn’t looking for success, a lean body, numbers to stare at, or Strava QOMs. I enjoyed riding my bike through the world at a speed that allowed me to notice and appreciate what was passing by. The speed on the ground is something that resonates with my pace of thought and observation. Racing for me grew into a creative expression, a unique collaboration between colleagues and teammates, and a constant adventure. It took seven months and a world of chaos for me to remember that, but I know that at the very least I can enjoy the ride – with or without a plan. 

Enjoying the ride

 

Post-script: On October 18 I woke up early to watch what was going on at The Ronde van Vlaanderen being held six months later than originally scheduled. And what did I see? – Heidi in a group of seven with the words “Tête de la course” underneath – the head of the race.

Fuck yeah!

She spent 100km at the front of the race, and not just any race but The Tour of Fucking Flanders!

This is the message she sent me shortly after the race:

“Well damn. That was epic. No. Scratch that. That was a fucking dream come true kind of day”

Enjoy the ride. Because you never know – those lemons might just make some excellent lemonade.

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