Failure is uncomfortable and unwanted but it comes across our lives in often unexpected ways.
Learning how to deal with it and, most importantly, learn from it, is an invaluable ability.
Colby tells the stories of a few of his biggest failures and the lessons he learned from each.
Welcome to the Cycling and Alignment podcast, an examination of cycling as a practice and dialogue about the integration of sport and the right relationship to your life.
Colby Pearce 00:30
Hi there, boys and girls, men and women, seekers of information, knowledge, and understanding, over-standing, inner-standing, you have returned for another episode of Cycling and Alignment, and for that, please allow me to express my gratitude. It’s a snowy day here, in Boulder, uncharacteristically snowy for how late in the Spring it is, but that’s Colorado these days. I’m on the rollers, just to get leg movement, this is the poor man sauna, got some wool socks on, no fan, and a pretty thick wool long sleeve base layer going. I’m going to build up a sweat, and then jump in a cold shower before I head to the office, because that is how Colby do.
There’s Really No Such Thing As Failure, Just Making Progress
Colby Pearce 01:24
Today’s podcast is about some of my greatest failures in cycling. The reason I thought this was important is I think it’s really easy for people to get caught up in the context, and social media mirror of how perfect everything is and how nice they look and how everything’s going so well in their lives, and not bagging on anybody who has a great life, not trying to throw shade on someone who’s successful or doing well, I have lots of success in my life. I just think that when we constantly see mirrors of that, or when it’s that social media is a hall of mirrors, and most of the reflections are only people showing us how amazing things are. Sometimes that can be a little inflated, not accurate. Not a good way for some individuals to see how their own struggles are reflected in others. What I’m saying is there’s medicine and seeing other people’s failures, and maybe failures isn’t even the right word. It’s more the journey, the lesson. I mean, I would almost like to reframe the entire discussion and say, there’s really no such thing as a failure, there’s just you making progress going forward. If you live in a universe where you think you’re not going to not get what you want, or not win races, or not have injuries, not have days we’re training just doesn’t happen because life gets in the way, or you get hailed on, or your derailleur gets sheared off by your spokes, or double flat have to Uber home. If you think those days aren’t going to happen to you, I think that’s a child’s mentality. I think that’s not being realistic about the way the world works, and I’m really not trying to prognosticate doom when I say this, but the storm is coming, there’s always a storm. So, part of our objective as a human has to be prepared for storms, to be ready for challenge. Like is filled with challenge, even in our 2021 universe of 71.5-degree air-conditioned automobiles, and all the comforts we have, all our organic supplements, and perfectly crafted meals. All these comforts that we love and cherish isn’t the right word but hold dear to our hearts. It’s just it’s a way for people to say, Nerf gun their world. And, again, I’m not here to tell anyone you’re doing it wrong it’s not about making everything in your world pointy. We don’t have to walk through our own house and step on glass to be a worthy human, and I’m definitely not arguing for David Goggins mentality towards things. I think that guy in his message probably does more harm than good, unfortunately.
There Is Balance to All Things
Colby Pearce 01:24
But I do think that there’s balance on all things, or there ought to be, that’s the proper way to live. When we Nerf gun our world, when we teddy bear our world too much, then we run the risk of, not of really suffering, and being heavily challenged by life when we do get obstacles on our path. On the converse, if we’re always only taking ice cold showers, and every time we get on the bike we smash ourselves, and every time we go to eat food we’re trying to cut less calories and be leaner, you know, holy worship of the grail of the watts per kilo, or whatever your paradigm is that’s extreme and trying to be tough gal, or tough guy. You’re falling out of balance, and what is the single most essential truth to any biological organism? What do all organisms seek inherently? Balance. What does nature seek? Balance. Now on a small scale, you might see imbalance, you see a forest fire and you’re wondering how that’s balanced, because there’s so much destruction, but when you zoom out and look through the macro lens of distance, and time, becomes clear that that forest fire serves a greater mechanism, a greater cycle of natural destruction and regeneration. So, there’s balance in that as well.
Colby Pearce 06:26
Anyway, I’m gonna share with you some of my biggest challenges and screw ups in sport cycling today. My hope is that you see, first of all, that I am not some cocky dude with a bunch of know it all in my head. If anything, I’ve been humbled so many times in this sport, I should know enough by now to shut my mouth and listen when someone who’s far better educated or smarter than I speaks, and also to respect the fact that while yes, I’ve won a lot of bike races, I’ve done some really amazing things on a bike, literally, my entire cycling career is nothing compared to the true giants and greats of the sport. So, it’s just a perfect representation of how all my time and working hard effort in the sport, gets me to simultaneously place of recognition and achievement and at the same time, really nothing. I won’t say nothing, that’s not the right word, but anyway, without going down a giant philosophical rabbit hole, my entire head and life is in a giant philosophical rabbit hole. I’ll just stop talking now and let you enjoy the rest of the talking, and hopefully, I’ve got some flow going, being behind the mic is not always easy. Having cohesive thoughts come out of my mouth, translating the obtuse concepts that go through my brain into something that’s usable for you, that’s a craft, I’m still learning. So, just because I can pedal a bike pretty well doesn’t mean that I can talk worth a crap. We’re all on our path. Thanks for listening, I hope you get something good out of this podcast. As always, please send your comments to the forum, that’s the Fast Talk Labs forum. If you go there and log in, you’ll find a page specifically for this episode, you can post questions there, and remember, the reason we’re asking you to do that so that it benefits not just you the individual. If you ask a question and 10 other people read it, or 50 other people will read it, or 10,000, not quite to 10,000 yet but we’re getting there, then I can benefit more people with less work, and not have to repeat myself so often. That is the end goal to help as many people as possible. One last housekeeping note, I found an office in Boulder and I moved in, and I’m now taking appointments. It’s on North Broadway, near Lucky’s market if you’re local. It’s not quite done yet, it’s gonna be a few weeks before everything is all completely finished, all the eyes are crossed, but it’s a really amazing space, I’m super grateful to have found it, tons of natural light, which was my number one deal breaker on the old office space. I’m also going to be sharing the space with Don Powel from Panache Cyclewear, who is a longtime friend of mine, pretty excited about that in the dialogue. The scheduling tool on my website is open in case you were waiting to book an appointment, and I’ll put up some photos on the site and maybe like a virtual tour or whatever, so people can get a feel for it, when things are more in order. No point in doing photographs until it’s a little more done. Onward, enjoy hearing about how I crashed and burned in sport cycling in many ways.
Story: 2000 National Time Trial Championships
Colby Pearce 10:19
I thought it would be appropriate for me to share some of my failures, especially given the recent, well recent to me criticism that I’m a know-it-all. Let’s just show how little I know, by these mistakes or how I’ve had my own Pro slash Humble Pie at times.
Benefitting From the Medicine of Failure
Colby Pearce 10:37
I think this is really important to put these things out there in the universe one, it’s medicine for me to be honest, when I talk about how I screwed up, or how I got my ass kicked, I feel like talking about that in public I think it’s a healthy thing to do, it shows you that I’m human, just in case you didn’t know. Also, everyone benefits from healing work, meaning if I share my struggles with you, that helps you feel better perhaps, when you can identify with the struggles I’ve had and say, “oh, I went through that, or I went through something similar,” or, “oh, I see what you mean.” This person isn’t just someone who won a bunch of races, and then got paid to ride his bike, and now has a podcast and a successful business. I mean, all those things are true, but what we don’t see or tend to talk about in our society is all the lumps we get along the way, the broken bones, and the horrible disasters or bike races. That’s why I want to share these stories, so that you might benefit from this medicine, and also, it helps me to be honest, it’s not only about helping you, I’m helping myself, this whole project is helping myself, as well as you, the end goal is to help the audience for the record, but I get ancillary benefit. So, I’m going to talk, tell some stories, and this won’t be too long, but I’ve got three massive career failures that I want to discuss. This is not to say that I’ve only had failures in my career, there are lots of other times in my life where I’ve really screwed up or just gotten walloped. But here are some of the three biggest moments, just to frame this, I started racing in 1988, as a junior, turned senior in 1991, this was before U23 existence, so you just got thrown right in with the pros, which is one good reason I got my ass solidly kicked for about three or four years to win a bike race or even make the break. That was just stubbornness and determination, above anything else that kept me going through all that, and some other circumstances that allowed me to do that, I was in a position where I didn’t have to pay rent. So that means that afforded me the opportunity to go pursue my passion and dream.
Being too Invested in the Results of a Race
Colby Pearce 12:57
I’ll go roughly chronological here. In the year 2000, I had a rough Spring, I didn’t quite have great form, I had a pair of shoes that were about two years old that were just beyond smoked, and for a bunch of reasons I won’t bore you with I was resistant to changing those shoes, and I finally got some new shoes and about, if I remember correctly, it was about February. And this is one of my warning signs that talked about in the previous podcasts that I’ve done about how sensitive you are to equipment, and if you make a tiny change, if it disrupts everything, well, I was exactly that rider in those days. I just had so much riding and so little other things that one change to my cleats or my equipment, would throw things into a big challenging time. And that’s exactly what happened, I switched cleats, and man I was a train wreck for about two months, I just had no form, and I was fiddling with my position and trying to get things right, and mostly getting things wrong and I just had no power, just couldn’t seem to go worth a crap, and then that was compounded with a mild knee injury that returned, and was like kind of kind of in that gray zone of like it’s sort of hurts, it sort of doesn’t, it sort of hurts, it sort of doesn’t, for a while. And the end result of all that was I just had pretty much no results the entire Spring, and I felt a lot of pressure at that point in my career, to continue to progress as we all do, when we’re elite athletes, we want to always be better. And I had that perspective, and that was weighing on me, and I finally started to have a glimmer of form sometime in the, if I recall correctly was the end of May, and then I went to the US National Time Trial championships, which were somewhere in the Southeast, I think like Tennessee or West Virginia, I don’t remember, somewhere in East Coast, New England Southeast area. So I don’t recall where they were, I just remember being in a hotel, and the course being pretty flat, and I got there a couple days before, and I pre-rode it, and I just went into a mode of thinking that was not healthy was not constructive. And I decided that this was my chance, and that if everything went absolutely perfect, I could win the race. I had this glimmer of form like I’d maybe made the break in a race the week before or something I mean, I really did not have great, great energy moving into this into this whole Spring. When I got to that race, things had the glimmer that I was going to turn that around, and I had so the error in judgment that I made, the problem I had is it became too invested in my result, and I’m sure we’ve all been subject to this mentality before. But the line of thought I had was pretty simple, It was very easy to see in retrospect, how it was going to be self-defeating. But I decided that if everything went absolutely perfect, and I went as hard as I’ve ever gone in my entire life, I could win the race by three seconds. That was based on I don’t know, the decision that the course suited me, and that I knew my competition, and I knew how good I was relative to them. It was all these little calculations that don’t mean anything, they’re just projections, they’re just bullshit and distractions, but at the time, I was heavily invested in these distractions. So, I went and re-rode the course, and I kind of came to this erroneous realization. And when I did that, I then began this process of mental rumination, where I was too fixated on the race, I was too fixated on optimization of performance, and I spent the next probably eight hours in my hotel room like hand cleaning every link of my chain and disassembling my derailleur police to take out every iota of not perfect grease. Just trying to look for that last little 10th of a percent that might get me this race, and really what it came down to was, a mentality of desperation.
Mentality of Desperation
Colby Pearce 17:04
When you ruminate on something like that, and when you’re intensely over focused, it raises cortisol levels, it tortures your hormones, it doesn’t allow you to get deep sleep, I was too focused, I was too aroused, for the, we’ll say 36 hours before the race. I’m just kind of making up the timeline here, because this was a long time ago, man, I’m old, and I don’t remember all the exact details, and also the way human memories work is they sort of reconstruct things based on key points that you have in your head as bullet points. Memories aren’t really historically accurate for the most part. So, for about 36 hours, I just ground the axe in my head, I was like how am I going to win? How am I going to perform this? How am I going to hold my head in a better position? How am I going to safety pin the skin suit a little tighter? It was like optimizing all these super dorky things, instead of just resting, and letting it be. For the record, in the final few days before a national championship race, or your peak race, whatever that is, World, States, Nationals, that’s a time to practice as much release as possible and focus on rest and rejuvenation so that you can maximize your performance during the race. There’s my lesson, but I didn’t learn that lesson.
Breathing Is Everything
Colby Pearce 18:17
This is where I learned that lesson I’ll say, by the time I started the race, I was fried. My adrenals were fried, my cortisol probably been sky high for three days straight, and I was just a mess. I started that race and in the first kilometer, It felt like I’d already been riding hard for five hours. My RPE was through the roof, and I went like an absolute bag of rocks during that race, I was terrible. I don’t remember what place I got, probably 48th or something. I mean, I was atrociously bad, and cross the line after the race and couldn’t really believe it, I knew what had happened, but it was like “wow, I sucked at this race.” And it was just such a powerful potent lesson for me, because I literally thought myself into a bad race performance. I over focused and the hamster wheels were going so hard in my head, that I just went nuclear on my own body, disrupted my own nervous system regulation of all the normal processes was way out of balance, and the result was a terrible performance. Now that lesson was a powerful opportunity for me to learn, and I learned a ton from that. Moving forward into the Olympic journey, I used those lessons to help me relax. When I felt myself getting tight, I learned intuitively without instruction, without coaching, I learned intuitively to focus on breath and gentle stretching to calm my body, and if you struggle with this type of anxiety around your races, I’ll tell you right now, the key is breath. Breath is everything, breath is the window from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system, either way, can go either way, it’s a window, you can walk through either direction, you can up regulate sympathetic, or you can up regulate parasympathetic, you can spin up either one.
Colby Pearce 20:14
There’s my dog wanting to come in, so hang on a sec, because apparently, it’s a dog emergency or otherwise known as a dog-urgency. Okay, the escorting blind dog project through the house, done. So, this was a powerful lesson for me, and it really emphasize the point that I needed to turn inward and have some ability to regulate my own reaction and response to a situation. Anxiety has been called obsession with the future, and that’s exactly what it was for me in this case, I was obsessed with the race results in advance, and that torched my ability to have normal rhythm, to have I’ll say, regulation of my own systems. So, breath is the window that we can use, and if you’re not in touch with your breath, if you don’t have the ability to regulate breath, or use breath in some form, I’m not saying you have to be some pranayama master, but it is a really basic and essential tool to help to regulate your own response to a situation. Make no mistake about it, you can use breath to calm yourself down. If you’re not doing this, you’re missing something. I’m talking to a couple of my athletes in particular here, if you are not working with breath, you are failing to overturn a really basic stone in your yard of tools to mix analogies. Okay, that’s number one, 2000 National Time Trial championships.
Story: 2008 World Track Championships in Manchester
Colby Pearce 22:14
The second is, this is more of just a crazy story to illustrate how weird things can go sometimes. I’m gonna emphasize the adjective crazy here, because when I tell you, you’ll see what I mean. This is also an opportunity for me to learn weird nuances about my own body, and maybe you have some of these experiences also. But in 2008, I was traveling to the World Track Championships in Manchester, and of course, this is the Olympic year for Beijing. So, Worlds were in, I think May if I remember right, and the Olympics were probably in August. This was the last big opportunity for me to prove myself worthy of being on the team, and I did not make the 2008 Olympic team in spite of qualifying both spots for the Points Race and the Madison. See three biggest failures, number three for the explanation on that. But right now, for number two, I was at Worlds, and I traveled there with my wife, we got there quite early, we arrived in Manchester, and little that I know I was in for about 48 hours of some of the biggest adventures of my life to that point.
Colby Pearce 23:33
So we land at the airport, and for context I was traveling with, I don’t know three or four Trico Cases, which are the big hard two cases, because I had two bikes, road bike, track bike, probably had a spare track bike, probably had, you know, multiple race wheels, etc., so ton of luggage. And my wife was there too, and we had decided to rent an apartment, just a few kilometers away from the Velodrome, and stay not with the National team. We had so much luggage that we had to hire a car for us, a taxi to get to the hotel, and also hire a second van to follow us. So, we rented our car, and then we’re working on getting the van and we pulled the rental car up to the curb at the airport, and we’re loading the stuff into the van and the policeman officer comes and tells us we have to move our car out of the parking area, or the loading area. So, my wife says, “okay, I’ll take it and I’ll just do a lap around the parking structure, and come back and meet you here, and then we’ll trade.” Because I was loading the stuff in the van, and we’ll trade places and then we’ll drive to the hotel. Fair enough, well, my poor wife had, you know, we’re all jet lagged and tired. She gets in the car starts driving, she’s never driven in a country with left-hand situation going on, and before she knows it, she finds herself on the highway by accident. Just got on the wrong on ramp, and you know how airports are, it’s like they’re all piled spaghetti noodles with little ramps and stuff. She’s freaking out, because she also didn’t have her glasses on, she had them in her bag, which was in the backseat. She didn’t put them on because she wasn’t thinking she was going to be driving on the highway, so she couldn’t read the signs, my wife is like pretty much really visually challenged, we’ll say without her glasses. With her glasses, not a big deal without her glasses, she’s stressing out, because she’s in a foreign country going down the highway towards some unknown destination, and can’t really see, so she calls me she’s really panicked. So, we managed to deflate that situation pretty well, I got her on the phone with a with a guy who’s driving the other truck, and he kind of talked her through it said look, “you’re okay, you’re on the highway, just stay in this lane and get off on this exit and wait there for us.” So, we managed to, to talk her way off of that cliff, fortunately, and nothing happened, she wasn’t in an accident or anything. We catch up to her, get to the hotel, unload the stuff.
Training On an Empty Stomach, Along With Dehydration From Traveling
Colby Pearce 25:57
Okay. Then I look at the time and I realize I’ve got just enough time to get to the track and get a short workout in while our track session is still there, you have designated training times per country based on the UCI at these events, so that everybody doesn’t have training on the track at the same time and you don’t end up with 100 athletes trying to do laps at one shot. So, I don’t remember what our time was, but I’m like, “Alright, let’s go there.” She says, “Oh, don’t you want to eat?” I’m like, “No, I’m fine. I’m really not hungry,” and I hadn’t eaten much on the plane. So, opportunity to do you know, a semi fasted ride, whatever. So, we go to the track, I’m packing my bike, I build it, I ride for a little while get the legs loose, everything’s good. Okay, good. Then it’s time to get something to eat, I’m quite hungry, so we decided to go downtown and go to one of my favorite cafes, and we’re on our way, and I’m like, “Man, I’m really freaking hungry. I just need a snack.” What do we have? We had a bag of cashews. So, take a couple of handfuls of cashews.
Colby Pearce 27:05
Now this is where things get interesting, I think it was the combination of probably being quite dehydrated from flying and then riding. In addition to the fact that was probably really low blood sugar, and a bit bunkie on the verge of some sort of blood sugar issue, and then I added cashews, which probably had a fair amount of salt and quite a bit of they’re mostly fat. So now my bloodstream is flooded with lipids, and this did not go well. So, we parked the car, I get out, and the rest I don’t have great memory of, but my wife says that I was walking on the sidewalk and I started to kind of almost look like I was tracking something. She describes it as me watching imaginary crows fly by, I was just looking up at the sky kind of spacey, and she kind of figured out something was wrong, and she was like, “Honey, are you okay?” And I started to pass out. So, she sees me falling grabs my arm, and I kind of rotate and twist and smack my head on a brick window sill, pretty hard, hit the ground, now I start to have a seizure. So, it’s probably the perfect shit-storm of low blood sugar, too many lipids, dehydration, probably too much salt, and then a head impact. I’ve never had a seizure in my life till this point, but I’m on the ground seizing full on. And people come in, they’re talking to her and she’s like, “what do I do?” Someone calls an ambulance, and they’re telling her just let him seize let him seize. So, she’s got my head in her lap, so I’m not hitting my head on the ground, and then I stopped breathing. I got my own tongue in the back of my own throat. This is a true story. She points this out to the observers, one of whom I think was a, I don’t know, registered nurse or paramedic or something like that, he says, “just let him do his thing, let him do his thing.” And she’s like, “actually, you’re wrong, he’s going to die, I can see he’s turning purple and blue. I need to save my husband’s life.” So, she jams her fingers inside of my jaw forces me to open my jaw, sticks her finger into the back of my throat and pulls my own tongue out of my mouth, or out of my throat so that I can breathe out of my airway. I start to breathe again, and the guy’s telling her the whole time don’t do that, “he’s gonna bite your finger off. No, no, no, no, no, no.” And she’s like, well, he’s gonna die, so it’s either his life or my finger. Fortunately, I did not bite her finger off. So, then I’m conscious and then ambulance comes, and we’re on our way to the hospital. I wake up in the ambulance, I’m conscious and I’m looking around, but I can’t speak yet. The guy asked me where I am, and I’m kind of looking at him like, “huh, yeah.” As though I was talking, but I don’t think my mouth was working yet, and I don’t have a memory of this part either. And then we had this really touching moment, the guy asked me if I knew who my wife was, I looked at her, and I reached out with my index finger and touched her on the end of the nose. Which is something I’ve never done before, it’s not like a thing that we do normally, but that’s what I did at that moment. So that gave them some indication that I had an idea of where I was and who she was, but I still wasn’t talking. I acquired consciousness sometime later in the hospital when they were stitching my head up. So, I hit the ground, hard, had a concussion, had a seizure, and this is about 10 days before World Points Race Championships in the Olympic year.
Worst World Championship Performances
Colby Pearce 30:45
About a day later, we’re headed back to the hospital, take care of some billing stuff, and some guys sideswiped me in a roundabout, and we get in a car accident. I mean, the shit storm just didn’t end during these three days. In spite of all that, and in spite of me sleeping about 14 hours a day for the next four days, and starting to feel some legs coming back, I did a couple efforts and training and was like, I took it really easy for about three days. Then it was like the legs we’re coming around, okay, and then there’s glimmer of hope, like the whole time I’m going man, I’m, this is not good, I’m probably going to get my ass handed to me in this points race. Two days before the race, I did some efforts and was like, “okay, they’re there, I feel somewhat normal, RPE feels normal, I can actually push. I think I’m okay.” My heart rate was somewhat normal, things bounce back. Well, race day comes, and we get going and I kind of float I’m a little cautious at first, and then I do one effort. I don’t remember if I followed a breakaway, or if I sprinted for points or something, and felt fine during that effort, and then afterwards was like I just never recovered. I was completely pinned for the rest of the race, just falling wheels and hanging on for grim death. I barely managed to finish the race it was one of my worst World Championship performances for sure. In I think eight years of racing worlds, I had really two races, I thought were well executed without some sort of major hang up, but anyway, that’s how it goes. It was just my path to be, you have to surrender and recognize that we have very little control over how these things go, see my podcast on orbits for further explanation.
You Can’t Control the Outcome of a Race
Colby Pearce 32:26
So that was failure number two, and it wasn’t so much a failure in the sense that I did something wrong, per se, I mean, I made some choices that led to those circumstances, of course, by me not eating on the plane or choosing not to eat before training, or not having my shit together, calorically wise, and then also in terms of calories, I’ll say and then also choosing, making a bad choice as far as eating cashews, and flooding my bloodstream of lipids, all that led to those incidents. But man, no one could have predicted that course of events. I mean, it was just a disaster. So that World was really low energy for me, and I remember the staff at USCC just being pretty crushed and disappointed that I was there doing that and had that terrible performance. There was a lot a lot of yuckiness to going on there. Water. So, in any case, that was failure number two, and I bring that one up, just to illustrate that sometimes you just get your ass kicked, man, I mean, sometimes the storm comes in, and you just get it from all sides, and what else can you do besides weather, the storm? This is life, you know, this is why I don’t think it makes sense to live in a world where your internal house temperature is 71.5- degrees at all times, because the ass kicking will come. The more durable and robust you are as a human, and I’m not talking about being a strong-bikers or here, I’m talking about being a strong person at your core, the better off you will be to handle that storm. The storm is coming, and you know, a useful exercise to kind of consider where you are on the spectrum might be to sit down and reflect on your own life and ask yourself, what is the worst day I’ve had in my life to this point? What is the best day I’ve had in my entire life to this point? If I had to answer that right now, the Manchester concussion day would be up there. I mean I almost died, legitimately almost died, the doctor confirmed to my wife that had she not cleared my airway, I probably would have asphyxiated to death. So that that’s up there, but probably the death of my mom would be the number one worst day of my life. That happened when I was eight years old. So, what I’m getting at is, when we examine our own worst-case scenarios, how did we handle them? How robust are we? And then the part that some people won’t really like at all is consider your future. We like to bumble along thinking that things are just going to be happy and chill, and we can go about our day looking for our dopamine hit through our coffee or our bike ride or whatever, or a shopping addiction, and we can just float and not have to deal with the problems. You know, yeah, yucky credit card bills, yucky taxes, yucky, you know, COVID stuff, whatever, are the things we kind of shoved to the side and don’t want to deal with, but the reality is, there are bigger storms coming for most of us. I really am not trying to pretend doom, or prognosticate evil on anyone, I’m not trying to cast a spell, or suggest that your life is going to be nothing but challenge. But I think there’s a fine line between preparedness and realism, and anxiety and hiding in a cave.
Colby Pearce 35:55
So, when we practice life with attentiveness, when we are present to the realities of human existence, we understand that hardship tends to come, and we’re prepared for that. That’s one of the basic objectives of life. And this is why I say sport is training for life, because if you think you have hardship when you’re going up a climb for 20 minutes, and that’s the hardest thing in your life, then I really hope that I’m wrong when I say this. Well, actually, I’ll retract that statement, I’ll just say, hardship is coming, and everyone gets their lesson. How prepared are you for that? It’s just a question. I’m not, I’m not here to tell you you’re doing anything wrong, It’s just a question.
Story: Not Making the 2008 Olympic Team
Colby Pearce 36:48
That’s number two, number three, will be the 2008 Olympic team. I put this on my list of biggest failures, actually not because I think it was one of my biggest failures, but I think it’s a story that’s worth telling, and I also think that it’s definitely up there. And again, to re-frame this context, these are some of my biggest failures in the sport of cycling, I’ve got some really big ones outside of the sport of cycling to, all humans do. But the cycling ones for some people, when you’re more famous than I am when you’re Tyler Hamilton, your biggest failures are public knowledge, and then you get judged for those failures for the rest of your life, or Tommy D. Pick your doper, and we know all their little dirty secrets, they happen to be public domain, the skeletons in their closets. Not all mine are, but here, I’m sharing some of them with you now so that we can see what’s up. So, third, failure would be not making the 2008 Olympic team. To paint the picture on this in 2004, I went to Athens and I placed 12th in the Points Race, and that was an absolutely amazing experience, and I was so blessed to be there, I was so blessed to be able to actualize that dream and go forth and experience all those things. That said, to frame this, this failure to make the 2008 team, I’ll begin with a background. I worked for USA cycling from 2005 through 2006, for about a year and a half, which is a common half-life for people who have been pro bike racers, they can usually be employed by someone else for about a year-and-a-half before they get fired or quit. I went to work for USA as the track endurance coach for both the men’s and women’s programs, and that was a great learning experience and also a failure in some ways, but at the end of it, Pat McDonough and I agreed that I should return to racing, and that’s what happened. So, I went on to go be a coach, and well, that started the coach the start. That was the start of my coaching career, I’ll say but then I went to return to athletics, and that was just where my journey was at that point. So, then I said about making a mission to go back to the Olympics in Beijing, and as I said earlier, I qualified at this start position for the Points Race, and I was the common denominator in the teams that made all the points for the Madison. Now funny thing about the Olympics, and a lot of people don’t know this, but you don’t actually qualify your start spot outright in the Olympic Games, what you do is you qualify through the World Cup points system or through the UCI ranking system, because you get points at World Cups, World Championships, and Continental Championships or Pan Am Games for the previous year or two years depending on when how they were like this, how the selection procedures are written for that Olympic cycle. But you accumulate points as a start position for your country, then it is up to the NGB, or national governing body of that country to decide who gets to race that start position. So, in a country like Australia, you might have such depth to your track program that you have riders winning World Cups, and garnering start positions for the country of Australia, but then the country chooses someone else to represent them at the Olympic Games. A good example of that is in Athens, Stuart O’Grady won the Madison with Graham Brown, and I don’t think Stewie raced a single World Cup, there were other Australian athletes racing that World Cup, and in that system, they’ve got enough depth to where they can do that. That’s not the way it works in the US, generally speaking, we don’t have the depth of the track racing program that they do in terms of our athlete talent pool, and yeah, before we get going down a discussion of how many athletes we have in the US, and why we have a bigger population, and how we should have much greater depth to that, you can have an endless discussion about why our national team doesn’t have a program that develops as much depth and also track, there’s no track culture here, compared to Australia, it goes on and on.
Winning Races and Not Getting Named to the U.S. Olympic Team
Colby Pearce 41:07
Anyway, I’m rambling, but we don’t have that depth. So, what that means is you can qualify a start spot for the US, and then not get named to the team, and that’s exactly what happened to me. There’s this whole process with a committee, and they decide who gets to go based on all these parameters, it’s, you know, your previous race, performance, race history, and your trajectory, and how many medals you’ve won, and this and that. And the weird irony to this whole program is that when I worked at USA cycling, Pat, and I worked together to help write the qualification procedures for the 2008 Olympic team, me of course, not thinking I was going to be in the running for the 08′ team then, I was just writing procedures. The weird thing about these procedures without going super into details, that part of them came down to a qualification time trial, yes, even for mass start races for Madison in points race, it came down to a TT, which was a time trial developed by the British program actually, as a 3k flying TT, where you had to be under a certain time for the first 500 meters, and then a total time for the entire 3k. The logic here was that it roughly simulated someone breaking away from the peloton, they haven’t had to have enough 500 meters speed to establish or break the elastic establishing gap, and then they had to have the speed to back it up. So, you know, for someone who’s a sprint athlete, they could go in and torch that flying 500 time, no problem, it was fast, but it wasn’t lightning at all. But then they had to keep going for another two-and-a-half K, and keep the gap going by themselves in the wind. So, most sprint athletes found they couldn’t really pass that test, and most, you know, steady state riders with a good aerobic base found they didn’t have enough speed to do the 500 at the beginning. Now this test was widely criticized, and there are some athletes who claimed it was a downhill time trial, and favored certain types of riders, which, you know, since it’s a flying effort, in case you don’t know, on the track, you start at the rail and you do use the downhill the rail to get speed going for that first flying 500, but it’s still about 35 seconds of effort at full-tilt, blah, blah, 30 seconds of effort, at a really, really fast speed, I’m quite certain I could throw a huge pile of road racers on that track and have them try that they would be nowhere close for the Olympic standard. So anyway, this was the Olympic trials, for mass start races. It was a flying 3k time trial, with a really fast flying first 500 meters. And you were only invited to the trials if you were on the national team, so that meant it was four riders, myself, Bobby Lee, Mike Friedman, and Brad Huff. We all went did these time trials, and in the context of the total points scoring system, and who had qualified the spots, I thought my position was relatively secure, and there were three spots up for grabs. Well, there were two really, one for the points race and two for the Madison, but the points race rider also was required to do the Madison. This is per IOC requirements limiting the total number of athletes that go to the Olympic Games, it’s quite complicated, nuanced because Olympic qualification procedures are crazy complicated.
Colby Pearce 44:23
And ultimately, their goal is to limit the total number of athletes that go to the games, you can’t have one person for the Points Race, and two more for the Madison, and another six for team pursuit, because there are like 10,000 athletes that live in the village already, and they add a sport every quadrennial cycle. I believe the sport that’s being added for Tokyo for men is skateboarding, I don’t know if it’s for men and women, but the Olympics is an ongoing growing thing, and then it becomes logistically and financially, It’s already barely feasible for a country to host the Olympics anyway, it’s nuts. Then you go there, and there’s a fucking McDonald’s in the cafeteria. Sorry for the F bomb, but the Olympics has been butchered into this commercial enterprise, it’s just insane, and it’s really sad. I experienced that in 2004, when I was there, I can only imagine what it’s like now. Hopefully, it will be a beautiful experience that retains the authentic athleticism and spirit of what it means to be an Olympian and win a gold medal, in the future. I’m not really optimistic about that, though, there’s just too much money to be made off of it.
Colby Pearce 45:31
So all that aside, went to the World Cup Season, there were four World Cups, went to the first World Cup had a disastrous World Cup, this goes into some of my biggest failures. I’ve been racing World Cups for nine years at that point, well, not including my national team coaching time, so we’ll say eight years. And I had never failed to make a final and I failed to make the finals at Sydney, and at the Beijing World Cup. This was a disaster for me and a huge ego check. I mean, didn’t even make the final for the points race in both those World Cups, this was a giant, colossal fuckup, and that was a brutal failure for me brutal. And it really forced me to look at myself in my core and stare myself in the eyes, and after you quit the sport, and then come back, and then you are taking a spot on the national team, for having previously been the coach for that team, that was a massive, massive ego check for me, I had to really take a step back. So that was hard, and it forced me to grow and become bigger and better and dig into my own core and really look at myself as an athlete and also have a reality check that I needed.
Colby Pearce 46:52
Fast forward to the trials. Well, fast forward to the next few World Cups and things get better, I get fifth and one of the best points races I’ve ever raced, got a little screwed by some teamwork that wasn’t called out by the officials. Technically, there’s a non- collusion rule, but that didn’t matter, and in reality, that’s a really hard rule to reinforce. Then I got second with Bobby Lee in the Copenhagen Madison, and that sealed our spot for the Olympics in the Madison. And then we fast forward to the trials, and I got last out of the four guys, if I remember correctly in the trials, yeah, I did. It was only Bobby pretty much kicked our asses, and then Brad, Mike and I were all within a second and a half, If I remember right? We did the time trial twice over two consecutive days, and the results were more or less the same. But I was last, but just by a little bit. And in the end, but by far have anyone there I had the most World Cup medals, the most international competition experience, I had a Pan Am Championship under my belt, I had Pan Am games medals, blah, blah, blah, the most number of national titles, and they didn’t choose me. Based on that competitive history, I probably could have taken it to CAS, or the Court for Arbitration of Sport, and challenged the decision, but that is so not my personality. That’s so I’m going to stab you in the face after we get divorced, I can’t tell you how strongly I disagree with that, like, okay, maybe you got maybe favoritism was at play in this decision. There’s a coaching committee that decides who actually goes they look at all the results, they have a debate, they go back and forth, and they decided that Mike Friedman should go in the place that I arguably should have gotten, and man, Mike’s my friend, I’m not going to frickin sue the USCC over that and put his entire Olympic journey into doubt. What does that do to his preparation? Now he has to sit there and wait for this decision of this court, CAS decision to decide whether he’s going, like he worked hard he deserves to go also.
Process of Making the Olympic Team
Colby Pearce 49:06
So, lawsuit is not in my blood. It’s just not a thing. I’m gonna just say it point blank, I think litigious culture has infiltrated our society, particularly Western culture, and it is inexcusable. It’s an excuse for people to not take adult responsibility for their shit, for their bad decisions. I don’t care how big of a financial hole you’re backed into you don’t sue someone else to try to get out of your own financial problems like anyway. People do what they think is right. Everyone makes the best decision they think at that time. They feel they have no other choice, and I’m here to tell you there is always a choice. No matter how backed into a corner you feel, no matter how much you think the world is against you, It’s not. Just get your head out of your ass. Anyway, so the screwed-up thing is when I wrote or helped write the Olympic qualification procedures and having done it at USA cycling, I wrote them, I didn’t write them per se, Pat and I were writing them together and agreeing on them and having ongoing discussions, and then they have to be approved by a committee. It’s not like we just made this shit up. And there’s precedent for this stuff to be clear, like, there and there are certain parameters the IOC makes you have certain aspects of qualification that make it in theory fair for anyone, there has to be a pathway for any cyclists to eventually make it to the Olympic Games, in theory, if it’s written correctly, and that comes down to litigiousness. They can’t just you can’t just say, you are named to the national team because of a subjective coach’s decision, and then from that national team, you get the A team, the B team, the long team, and the short team, and then the Olympic person, you have to have a pathway for qualification so that any person can show up to a camp and has multiple opportunities to make the national team. That’s the idea of it. And that makes sense to a degree, but when it comes down to the business end of making the Olympic team, and the coaches have been working with the team athletes for a long time, all too often they know who’s going to make the team in advance, and they make that recommendation to the committee, but the coach doesn’t make the decision. The national team coach doesn’t make the call, they’re too invested, they have multiple conflicts of interest. So there’s a committee formed, and the committee is people that have former racing experience at a certain level, usually Olympians, and they’ve now retired and they have no vested interest, and they don’t coach any of the athletes, so there’s no conflict of interest, and they debate this and they decide who gets the call, that’s the end process. So, this is how it went, and I didn’t get the call, and that’s okay. In the end, Bobby Lee made the team based on the fact that he won the trials, and the procedures were written such that he was selected automatically for the points race. And this is something McDonough and I had words about later, because when I wrote the procedures or was helping to write the procedures, I said, if you’re going to use a flying 3k time trial, nobody cares about this stuff, it’s a million years ago, and I recognize that, but I feel like I have to clean the record.
Reframe Winners and Losers, Into Winners and Learners
Colby Pearce 52:20
So this is me, this is my own medicine right here, so thank you for listening. When I wrote it, it was the rider who won the 3k time trial at trials, made the long team, meaning they may or may not be selected for the final team. There was no automatic end for winning a 3k time trial, that is some bullshit right there. I’ll just be direct, like that should not have been approved, because doing a 3k flying time trial is way, way too far removed from the actual performance of doing something like a 40-kilometer Points Race with 12 sprints. Those are two different universes. So, we could use the 3k time trial as an indicator or a potential pathway for an athlete to get to the long team, but man, no way should that have been an AQ situation. I’m gonna say it again, medicine bullshit right there. So, I just have to clear the air on that. There’s probably two people listening to my podcast that will even identify with or know what the hell I’m talking about at this point. So again, I appreciate your listening, it look, the end result for those of you who don’t care about all these details is that sometimes the universe conspires to kick your ass, and that’s part of what makes you a strong human. It’s part of what weathers you, and ideally it doesn’t jade you, it doesn’t, look just because I went forth and tried to make my second Olympic team and didn’t do it doesn’t mean I have to be some jaded a-hole who hates the sport and walks away from it, you know, people who make those choices, I think they’re really selling themselves short. This is a growth opportunity. I mean, Paul talks about how we need to reframe winners and losers, into winners and learners. And he’s right, like as hippie dippie as that might sound, or maybe new age self-help, like he’s absolutely right. When you lose a race, when you lose an Olympic spot, you learn a lot it. It strengthens you, it fortifies you, It builds your armor, it calluses you, and that’s okay, that’s a healthy way to walk through the world, as long as you don’t become embittered, as long as you don’t become envious, look, you know, like the old saying goes, they’re two wolves having a battle inside your head at all times. One wolf is love, acceptance, abundance, growth, connection, purpose, evolution. One wolf is grace, peace, wisdom over standing compassion. The other wolf is envy, jealousy, hatred, loathing, jadedness, anger, disgust. The other wolf is harboring ongoing sensations and feelings of negativity. So, the grandson asks the chief, “which wolf will win this battle that’s happening inside your head?” And the chief simply responds, “It’s simple. Whichever one you feed.” Which wolf Will you feed? Will you grow from your errors, your mistakes, your ass kickings, your storms that you have to endure? Or will you retreat into your cave, and call the world a bitter place and throw a tantrum because you didn’t get what you wanted, and act like a six-year-old boy or girl? Parting questions.
Insights From Failures, and Learning Lessons
Colby Pearce 56:00
Okay, I’m done talking now. I’ll just say that I sincerely hope that you gained something from my insights, and from hearing me talk about my own failures and my own lessons. It’s medicine for me to get this stuff out into the world. Do you have comments or questions? Please go to the Fast Talk Labs forum, and spill forth your verbiage. Let me know what you think of what I had to say today, and if you really want this podcast to continue, I’ve gotten some good feedback for sure on future episodes. But now’s the time for you to speak up, because as things are shifting, and the energy’s changing at Fast Talk Labs, the intent is changing. This will put more work on my plate to keep this thing going, I’m gonna have to hire an editor, I have to hire some people to help me get it published and do all the internet wizardry stuff that I don’t know anything about, and I’m fine doing that. This is important to me, and it is part of my process to get these things out of my head. But I need to know that this is important to you, so if it is, please help me out. Leave some comments on the forum, or this is the only time I’ve ever asked anyone to do this but leave some reviews on whatever. Tell me honestly what you think. Put it out there so other people know, and I’m not doing this because I want the pod to get more recognition and more shares or whatever, like, that’s not my end goal. It will help other people find it, and if you think this is a valuable lesson, then please take that onus on yourself not onus, take that responsibility, and leave a review so that other people can find it. If you think it’ll benefit other people, this is how you can pay me back is to spread the word so that other people find it. Go leave a review. Thanks, everyone. I have a ton of gratitude for this process, and I really appreciate your input. Be well, ride fast, and drink water.
Colby Pearce 58:16
Public service announcement, listen up Space Monkeys, we’re gonna make a slight change to the method of operations, and how you give me feedback or post questions on my episodes, and there’s reason for this. The reason is, the purpose of this entire project is for me to get my mind movies, my internal dialogue out into the universe and make it external, and thus for me to teach you and for me to learn more. The best way to do that is for us to make all questions happen an in a public format, so that multiple people can benefit from the answers. In the past, I’ve asked you to send me an email, but we’re going to change the gears on that. What I’d like you to do is post your questions or episode feedback in the Fast Talk Labs forum. Fear not, there are parts of the forum that you have to pay for, but every podcast episode that I produce gets its own page in the form. So go to the Fast Talk Labs forum, you have to make an account, and then you can post your question there. Make sure and @Colby me in the podcast forum, that’s an @ with a Colby afterwards, that makes sure that I know you posted the question, and I will respond, and then everyone can check it out. I really appreciate your feedback on the episodes. I really appreciate your input on future episode ideas. This tells me that my audience is engaged and cares about what I’m doing. So, head to the Fast Talk Labs forum and post questions there, and everyone can benefit from our discussion. Thank you for listening. Much gratitude.