As I sat in front of my computer at 9:40 pm on Monday night trying to find a balance between returning business emails and phone calls and writing to my kids who are either in camp somewhere in the U.S.A. or in Spain or just working in Montreal or Kelowna for the summer, I was reflecting on the hard group ride I skipped that night with the UBAC group in Bromont and the extra glass of red I shouldn’t have had. I wished I would have had the opportunity to ride my bike on Monday.  But deep inside, I know it doesn’t matter much that I missed my workout as I know that my CTS coach Jason will work with me to keep me on track and that Monday was only another challenging day life throws at time crunched cyclists like me.

You see, like so many other men my age, I am consistently juggling priorities and juggling priorities means adjusting to change and challenges on a daily basis or many times daily. If your priorities are family, friends, work and cycling (in no particular order) then you have 4 X 3 X 2 X 1 = 24 possible combinations of priorities on a daily basis. Imagine on a weekly or monthly basis (yearly calculations by Maths Ph. D.s only). It is hard to fit it all in.

Personally, I rely on the compartmentalization theory to keep everything on an even keel. What is the compartmentalization theory? The same as the Titanic theory. Some people thought the Titanic wasn’t supposed to sink thanks to the sixteen water tight compartments in its hull. Doors between the bulkheads could be dropped to prevent flooding from spreading across all sixteen compartments in the hull. The ship was designed to take on water in three of the compartments and still sail on and stay afloat. The ship sank because water got into all of its compartments. The same can happen to you.

The best way for time crunched athletes to cope with the challenges and various priorities of life is to compartmentalize them. It is when you allow the water (issues/challenges) to leak into the other compartments of your ship that you drown. In other words, you can be at work or at home or on your bike but you can’t be on your bike at home doing business and expect to have a good time.

So if this is right, then how do you ensure that the pressures and time demands of my training don’t leak into the family, friend or work compartments? Delegate. Personally, I delegate the planning of my training plan and the evaluation of my progress to someone qualified. I delegate it all to my CTS coach Jason Tullous and to the rest of his colleagues at CTS. I have a limited amount of time available in the “cycling compartment” and I want to make sure that every hour is planned and designed to maximize my fitness. Furthermore, I want my cycling compartment to allow me to live the cycling experience at its fullest as it keeps me physically fit and it creates an “issues tight compartment” in which I don’t have to deal with anything but my own cycling performance, personal fitness goals and enjoyement of the camaraderie between fellow riders.

I have read somewhere that this is how “cycling team” is defined: “A cycling team is a group of cyclists who join a team or are acquired and train together to compete in bicycle races whether recreational or professional – and the supporting personnel. Cycling teams are most important in road bicycle racing, which is a team sport, but collaboration between team members is also important in track cycling and cyclo-cross.”

There you go, this pretty much defines what a pro racing team is. And by the way, that is also how I define the CTS community. I have underlined the five main aspects of the cycling team: ”train, compete (recreational or professional), support personnel and team sport”. All of these apply to the CTS community. I will bet you that CTS founder CC is reading this now and saying: “How come I didn’t think of that?” Well Chris, you have. Maybe not in these terms but this is a direct result of what you have put together. What I mean by this is that through my affiliation with CTS I have access to coaching, training (at home and at camps across the U.S.), competing (such as Tour of California or El Tour of Tucson etc), full support at any of the camps or complete athlete services when at home and the team aspect by the relationships I have built with fellow CTS members when attending training camps.

So once you have created the cycling compartment how do you ensure you don’t lose it? You might have heard that it is easier to stay motivated and endure the pain and boredom of training if you have a goal. CTS is a pretty big proponent of “goal setting”. So it is no surprise that over the years my CTS coaches have encouraged me to set yearly goals. The 2006 goal was to ride 105 km from my house in town to my house in the country. I trained the whole summer for it and did it in September.

In 2007, my CTS coach at the time (Tim Rucker) had me set a more challenging goal. I decided that the 2007 goal would be to attend and survive my first CTS camp. When I showed up at my first CTS camp in Asheville, N.C. in the fall I didn`t know what to expect. One thing I sure didn`t expect was how much impact this camp (and all the other CTS camps I have attended since) would have on my personal life and how much bigger the “cycling compartment” would become.

Like most CTS camps, the fall of 2007 climbing camp in Asheville started out with the “opening dinner” where everyone meet and introduce themselves to the group. Everyone got there on time except Rick, an American who lives in Poland. Rick is a business writer, a Grateful Dead fan, a committed liberal and a pretty accomplished athlete who can speak as fast as he climbs. Rick and I have stayed in touch since.  Rick and I recently had lunch in Montreal. At lunch Rick promised to call me and organize a ride the next time he visited his dad in Vermont. I am still waiting for the call. Rick????

Out of about ten bike camps I attended over the years I have developed dozens of strong relationships – friendships sometimes – with fellow CTS members, no matter where they live.  I guess a lot of it has to do with the fact that cycling camps offer a unique opportunity to share the passion of the sport with like minded people who all live the same daily challenges back home. We get our four, five or six days once or twice a year to immerse ourselves into the cycling experience. We get the unique opportunity to ride all day long, push ourselves to our limits (and hopefully beyond), attack each other on the climbs, talk about how the day went over a glass of wine and then do it all over again the next day.

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But what struck me the most at this first camp was the camaraderie between the riders. Cycling is a team sport after all. Not only is cycling a team sport but cyclists from different teams need to look after each other in order for everyone to ride safely. Cyclists also need each other to win. Just watch one of the long flat Tour de France stages and look for the break, a bunch of riders who will pull ahead of the peloton and will need to work together – no matter what team there are in – in order to stay ahead. If they are successful in staying ahead of the pack they will fight each other in the last few kilometres (or meters) in order to win the stage. Cool concept: work together for five hours and fight each other for a few minutes.

What is the life of a pro cyclist like? Train on your own with a coach, take part in training camps with the rest of the team – with team staff and riders of different nationalities – and then compete. Through the CTS community I belong to a virtual pro cycling team – with my racing being a combination of charity rides and real races. Over the years I have developed great relationships with many fellow CTS athletes and CTS camps alumni – not to mention CTS coaches and staff. Some people I stay in touch with only through Facebook while others I see periodically and speak to on the phone. And with everything else in life some of these relationships can have a profound impact.

As the cycling compartment took on an increasingly important place in my life I felt the other compartments in my life becoming more and more “water tight”. And then in November 2009 I attended a training camp in Tucson, Arizona. At that camp,  a 14 mile climb up Mount Lemmon set in motion events that would forever change the way I deal with adversity and the many challenges that life throws at me every day.

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