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The Grind: 2020 Gravel Resolutions

The balance VeloNews and I hope to achieve this year.

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It’s corny and cliché, making New Year’s Resolutions. Yet there is still something worthwhile about putting your goals out there, whether that’s putting a race on the calendar or simply committing to a regular ride with your friends. For 2020, VeloNews and I are aiming for balance on gravel.

Great. What the heck does that mean?

At events, VeloNews will be bringing you stories from the front and the back of the pack. And some from the middle, too.

For nearly 50 years, VeloNews has covered pro bike racing, focusing on the winners and the near-winners. And we will absolutely continue to do that. Yet the biggest appeal of gravel racing is the participation. It’s a ground-up, grassroots, come-as-you-are sport.

Yes, it’s cool that a handful of pros are dipping their toes into gravel if not going whole hog and making a dedicated career out of it. But the sport’s driver is you and me – normal folks who enjoy getting out there and pushing each other.

So look forward to more stories on the ground at American gravel events, as we explore the gear and the people and the communities that feed off each other.

Personally, I’m seeking to balance racing with just having fun and being present for my family. How do you do that? In a couple decades of amateur road racing, I’ve found it’s a slippery slope. The more you train, the better you do. The better you do, the more you want to train… and soon your spouse resents you and your dumb habit.

So I put the question to my friend Julie Emmerman, a clinical sports psychologist who has worked for years with pro cyclists and other athletes, and has raced at high level herself for 20 years.

“We all have limits. Even when we are younger we have limits such as time, physical ability, financial means, access, et cetera,” she said. “Age, health, work, family responsibilities are more obvious or observable limits as we age. The fun, in part, is seeing how well you can do at any given time with the known limitations or those that pop up unexpectedly in the course of a year. As a competitor, it is important to find fun in taking on that challenge in and of itself, and see it as part of the bigger challenge of the race.”

Lindsay Goldman is someone who seems to have nailed that balance. She is a pro racer, a USA Cycling employee, a mother, and a wife. She is also aiming to win Dirty Kanza this year. So I asked her for her secrets.

“I balance family, work, and training and racing through a carefully calibrated combination of continual fatigue, childcare support, excessive reliance on the trainer, a willingness to multitask at all times (including on the trainer), relentless anxiety, a closely managed to-do list, a prescription for antidepressants, and the ability to type something like 60 words a minute,” she told me.

“Kidding aside (although that list is mostly reality), finding the right balance between all three is a perpetual challenge — I’m never getting everything right and often it feels like I’m coming up short in one way or another. But I keep trying because I want to find a way to have it all.”

“I check the boxes on training rides and compromise on things like foam rolling or stretching, I skip sleep to fit in more time for work because I love my job, and I carve out uninterrupted time for my family around important rituals like daycare pickup, dancing to Taylor Swift songs, and bedtime,” she said. “It’s not a perfect system and I’m usually tired and stressed, but it’s the only way I’ve found to have most of everything that matters most to me in life.”

Hmm. So maybe my version of balance isn’t that different than other people’s.

Julie’s advice was to recognize the conflicting priorities and feelings, and stay open to the adventure.

“I still love racing, even though I recognize my physical capacities are declining,” she said. “So I pick and choose where I apply myself. And I derive joy from the training that helps me get there as best as I can. It is all about adapting and doing the best you can giving the mitigating circumstances. And let the chips fall where they may.”

Indeed. See you at the races.

Follow Ben Delaney on Strava.