I had one professor as an undergrad who was particularly quotable – “Think of the time, money, and effort you’ve invested in that brain of yours, Katie – protect the investment,” was what he told my graduate student mentor about wearing a helmet while she rode her bike to the lab. The Dr. Shock quote I’ve been thinking about lately though, is “Different stuff is different.” In context, it has a lot more to do with the energy needs of thermophilic bacteria than bike racing, but it’s working for me in bike racing too.
Last Thursday I rolled off from the rail with nine other ladies for a 30 lap points race. Among them: my new teammate, and a bunch of other people who have dropped me like a brick countless times before. It was a different day, but we were riding our bikes in casual circles 6 laps in (different stuff is occasionally the same). I was bored, which almost certainly meant that the spectators were bored – time to attack! No, this is not a story about good tactical bike racing, going out with a plan and executing it to achieve a goal. It was time to attack, four laps to go until the first points sprint, a distance from which I used to regularly try sprinting, because nobody else was. Number of times this move got me in the top 4 during my first season of track racing: 0. Nevertheless, it was a different day, a different race, a different team – I made my way between two of my competitors, got out of the saddle, and gave it a few hard pedal strokes before launching myself out of turn 4. I looked back too soon, and it looked like I was going to get caught after just 10 or 20 meters. I put my head down and kept going. Even if I got caught, I’d rather be going fast. I waited, and looked up again – I had a gap, but it was still small enough for them to close it before the bell. Head back down. The next time I looked back, Melissa was on the front making it look easy, and I had almost half a lap.
Yep – different stuff is different. It’s a different season, and I’m stronger and gutsier than ever. I’m on a different team, and I have a teammate in the field most weeks at the track. It was a different race, and for whatever reasons, the field didn’t manage to swallow me back up before the first five points were awarded. I just won my first points sprint! The moral of this story, which is not about good bike racing, is about different bike racing. Different stuff is different – try something new (or even something old, under new circumstances) and see what happens. Stop thinking the names of the people you know are coming for you, and about all the times they’ve caught you before. Ignore them. Count on different stuff being different.