Motivation is a fickle mistress these days, as I’m sure you can relate. I’ve realized when there is even a spark of it, you cup it in both hands, give it some oxygen, and nurse it into a raging fire, lest it die and your attention pivots towards Netflix and the beer fridge.
Lately I’ve found myself relying on three flames of motivation: Adventure rides, the socoKOMcup, and DIYgravel rides.
Motivation flame #1: Adventure rides
Adventure rides are simple. I’ve found myself pouring over Google Earth and Strava to find connections and routes I’ve never done before — something beyond my ordinary routes. Sometimes just a promise of a secret connection or a new road, even if it’s far away, is all you need to get out the door.
Two weeks ago I did a gravel ride connecting an entire mountain range above Napa Valley. There are a few signs stating something to the tune of, “You’re on private property, so stay on the trail.” Just the right amount of risqué!
I packed my frame bag with extra provisions and got the biggest bottles I could find and set off. I didn’t see another rider or a paved road for hours. The vistas provided the perfect snack stop and the trails were pure flow.
I make sure to never push the speed too hard when adventuring solo during this current climate, but there was one moment recently… When I came upon and dismounted, I became acutely aware of a fat, three-foot-long rattlesnake camouflaged in the gravel right where I would have ripped through had the gate been open. That raised the heart rate a bit! Add that to the list of things to look out for now that days are warmer.
Motivation flame #2: The socoKOMcup
This happened organically, without even a group text. Missing the competition and lacking a reason to do real intervals, it seems some training buddies and I have all taken to trying to one-up each other on our local Sonoma County Strava KOMs. The players are: Myself, Sam Bassetti (KHS Elevate), Tyler Williams (Legion LA) and Luke Lamperti (our local junior wunderkind), and anyone else who wants to play.
It’s narrowed into a focus on the 3- to 7-minute hills. This is a realm where we all have a chance: Any longer and my natural climber’s body gains an advantage, any shorter or flatter and Tyler or Sam’s power is out of reach for me. But the short hill arena, where weight and power are important in equal measures, has naturally leveled the playing field. And we all want Luke to be taken down because who can deal with the ego slap of getting junior’d!? The kid is just too damn good, and this old vet has gotta put him in his place.
It has devolved into us sometimes stashing bottles and seatbags at the bottom of the climb and even waiting for a tailwind day. There still has yet to be a text about it, just positivity online when one of us does take a crown. This has provided us all a reason to get the much needed intensity for when racing does turn back on someday.
Even if a KOM is out of reach in your community, I challenge you to try and best your friends or your own PR, to create your own competition. You might find that the draw of Netflix and beer is weakened by a forecast of favorable conditions on your targeted segment.
Motivation flame #3: DIYgravel
The latest spark of motivation came from Ted King and his DIYgravel initiative. I’ll admit at first I was skeptical, and had no interest in going out and doing a solo quest of 138 miles and 12,000ft of vert just because I was missing the infinitely more fun communal event. To me these events aren’t just the course, but the camaraderie, direct competition, and festival surrounding them.
May 3rd, the initial BWR date, came and went and I saw a ton of people who did accept the challenge. I was caught off guard by the FOMO I felt. Thus, on Monday, May 4th, I went and did my own BWR. The same distance and vert, a predominantly road ride with some dirt sections thrown in, just like it’s namesake. Of course it will never compare to the real thing, but I arrived home full of a sense of satisfaction, achievement, and the runner’s high that only the toughest challenges can provide.
For now, I’m hesitant to do a solo 200-mile Dirty Kanza. It sounds horrible. But I’m sure plenty of people will rise to the challenge, and knowing me, I’ll probably end up doing it the day after.
I hope you are able to find motivation from the smallest of sparks these days. Now… I’m off to take on a hill sprint. The wind is coming from the west, perfect for a #socoKOMcup.
Groad Trip is a regular column by former WorldTour racer turned pro gravelleur, Pete Stetina.