A few months ago, I read a 2017 article in The Atlantic, about a man who wanted to test a very interesting theory: Can deliberate practice of a skill, or a set of skills, allow an average human to achieve a high enough level of expertise that is usually reserved for those at the top of their field, those considered most talented? Dan, the man, was his own test subject, and the field he chose was golf. He quit his job, and spent all his new-found time and saved money on coaches and practice, with the objective of playing at the pro level. You should read the article for yourself, but he did not get there. This story was interesting for so many reasons, but mostly, it got me thinking: Am I essentially doing the same type of thing, but on smaller scale? And this is not the first time I’m doing it. Why am I doing it?
I am currently referring to my goal of completing the Leadville 100 MTB on a singlespeed mountain bike. As the name applies, this a 100 (+ 4) mile mountain bike race that takes place in Leadville, Colorado every August. A singlespeed bike, also as the name implies, has one gear, so you can’t shift to gain mechanical advantage based on the terrain you are riding.
Unlike Dan, the golfer in the article, I am not quitting my job. I also plan on staying married through all of this, so that’s at least one relationship I have to maintain. Unlike Dan, my end goal is not quite as lofty. Completion of this race on my singlespeed will be one of the hardest things I will do physically, but it will not upend the cycling world. This will not earn me anything more than bragging rights to the five people in my inner circle that might care, and it certainly won’t earn me any sort of pro-level recognition or sponsorships. Finally, unlike Dan, I actually love riding bikes, and I’m coming from a lot more experience on the bike and with that specific race, than he had with golf before he started his journey. I have completed Leadville twice on my geared bike, and have already attempted it on the singlespeed once last year. I doubted I would finish then for many different reasons, and I was right. I tried it anyway because it was the quickest way to compile a list of mistakes and shortcomings to improve upon for my real attempt: I was under-trained, under-recovered, I wasn’t fast enough, or strong enough. This is quite obvious, and I’ll elaborate on that in another post, but seeing these issues apply in real time was invaluable.
Like Dan, I am throwing everything else I have into this. I hired a coach who laid out a training plan and will help navigate me through it. Lee and I burned a bunch of money on a new bike build that promises to be faster than my old one. I am trying to eat better to optimize my training. And when I am not working, I am training, recovering from training, doing errands, or resetting all my clothes and equipment for the next day’s work and training. As a result, I have become a lot more busy, and a lot less interesting. My social life is sparse and sporadic, and unfortunately, unless you have a bicycle and live with me, or are a bicycle, I probably won’t be able to hang out much. And I have only been at this for one month. My motivation, born from general life stagnation and curiosity alike, is not too dissimilar from Dan’s either. More on that later. Like Dan’s experiment, anything can happen, life circumstance or race circumstance that can quash the whole thing, so the best I can hope for in all of this is that I continue to give it my all, learn something, and then get curious about something else. This is, why, like Dan, I am choosing to document this extremely unoriginal experience. I hope to reflect more on how I got to where I am today, and share my progress, even when it’s in retrograde. If you choose to follow along, I appreciate it and any input you may have. In the mean time, read this article: