Being Selfish Is My Weakness And My Strength - Rebecca Richardson
“I want a National title”
There. I have said it. Do you know how hard it is to say it, let alone think it? Even letting the words form in my mind makes me feel like an imposter. Me? I am not a winner.
Arthur says “Mum, what do you love better, spending time with me or going to a bike race, because, sometimes you choose to go for a bike ride when you could be spending time with me.” It is a balmy summer evening and we have had a picnic dinner in the garden. I have arrived home post-racing the RTTC National Road Bike Circuit Championships on June 6th and becoming the women's champion for this inaugural event. “That is not the question,” I say. The question is “why do I choose to go to a bike race when I could spend the day with you?” because of course I love Arthur, and going to a bike race does not reflect a lack of love for him.
I feel a twinge of guilt, and quickly assess in my mind the justifications I have come up with. In my training I choose to only train in his school hours on the weekdays so that mornings and evenings are for him; and, now on my alternate weekends with him, I choose turbo at 6 am to ensure the whole day(s) to spend with Arthur. But, there are many times that I have gone racing when I could have spent the day with him.
I tell Arthur that going to a bike race means sometimes sacrificing time with him. Reaching my goals requires some professionality in approach and my mindset around training is that it is my “job”. I talk to Arthur about a short period of time in our lives that will be like this and the nature of change. He then cries, he doesn’t like the idea of me stopping racing. 7yr olds get tired and emotional at bedtime, just like adults. “Let’s go to sleep”. We read some chapters of Enid Blytons, Famous Five, and cosy up to sleep. I fall asleep with the intent to keep up this discussion with him.
I know I am selfish and a bit egotistical. I fluctuate between humility and confidence. I go from feeling the imposter to feeling that I could be a bloody amazing athlete given the full “professionals” lifestyle. Then I retract and feel grateful that I can even ride and race my bike at all. This selfishness sometimes overrides the choice between time with Arthur and time racing. So, each year I pear down the intensity of the racing, to focus on goals and more training time, and more time at home.
This year I trained and almost haven’t observed or noticed the training. It has become so habitual. I have focused on much more linear patterns of thought. For example, I tackled the Road Records Association Brecon Beacons Circuit Attempt in April and accomplished a new British Record for the 104.5mile circuit. I then had some rest and looked to my next goal, the RTTC National Road Bike Circuit Championships. My energies seem more directed this year. Each goal stands like a beacon on the horizon and everything else happening towards it is periphery, including training, nutrition and sleep. It has become an autopilot. I don’t worry about the results of a race or other competitors, my focus is to enjoy the journey and make sure I balance training and home life.
I try to drive and stay the night before at the location of a race which is my 'A' goal. Liam sets specific sessions for every day of the year and this includes the “opener”, the day before a race. Not surprisingly this “opener” varies depending on the next day's race, although it is always ~1.5hrs long. I am also relaxed about things like the taper week now. It used to be a worry, would my legs cease up. Nowadays I know exactly what I need to do to get my legs fresh and ready.
I relax now to far more time off the bike. The transition period after the main goal can seem a drag. After accomplishing the National champs road bike time trial my mind and body wants to do more, jump on the bike and ride with fury everywhere. Instead, Liam sets me an easy recovery week. I know now though that I must adhere to this because the following set of training will be hard. He also emphasises how long the racing period is, especially for a rider competing in the hill climb season.
Planting out strawberries with Arthur, catching frogs and making science experiments is the perfect antidote to the previous days highly charged competitive mindset at the RTTC National Champs. I receive a few messages “hope you celebrate being a champ etc..” Yes, I am. The perfect celebration is to come home to little Arthur and play in the garden, we water the veg together and draw pictures to send to my poorly Grandad (his Great Graddy).
Liam and I now look ahead to the rest of 2021 and map out the remaining goals. I have set aside holiday time with Arthur and try and only race on the alternate weekends with his Dad, but it doesn’t always work out perfectly. Life isn’t perfect or fair. But, I feel very satisfied with becoming an RTTC National Champion because there is a nice finality about it. No matter what happens with my cycling career now, I can always say I held that title.