What happens when one takes a step back from racing and training?

By Brian Ecker:

Over each of the past several years, in addition to participating in a lot of USCF bike races, I have selected some key events to really focus and dedicate my training to.  Several years ago this brought me back to back solo division victories at the Bellingham Traverse and then a solo victory in Mountains to Sound race as well.  The past two years I stepped away from the multisport arena a bit and honed in on the ultra-endurance end of the bike racing spectrum.  This included Race Across Oregon in 2008 and then the Furnace Creek 508 in 2009. In each of these events the training and preparation are just about all consuming. As many have heard me mention before, the training piece is only the half of it and the other half is all of the logistical planning.  I am a firm believer that I NEVER want to lose or fail in a race because I didn’t plan well enough.

After an epic battle in the winds of the 2009 Furnace Creek race I found myself really in need of a break.  Not just a few days, weeks, or months off but really a break from the demands of racing and dedicated training. More or less I had been racing and training hard, every year, for the past 8-9 years.  Just prior to that, I had taken a 4-5 year break. It was a break from which I made the transition from elite amateur level bicycle racer of 7+ years to someone that does it as more of a hobby. Still dedicated and focused but now with the reality that it is just always going to be about fun and a lot less obsession with trying to get to the “next” level. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a whole lot of obsessing in each and every goal and event I set my sights upon however the subtle difference is that the end goal has become the event itself. It is no longer a focus on what next step the event itself is getting me ready for. Yes, I still jump in with both feet each and every time otherwise it really wouldn’t be any fun would it!

So, the question I pose is: What happens when there is no longer a race to focus on?  For me and my life this summer that is the case. This summer find myself jumping in with both feet however I am now focused on some key things that time didn’t allow for when I was racing.  This summer I have 4 major events planned: the annual summer family bike trip, off road touring a portion of the Great Divide route, running the Wonderland Trail and circumnavigating Lummi Island in a surf ski.

Just a few weeks ago we finished an epic 250 mile family journey along the Oregon Coast.  For those that love riding and have never toured I would highly recommend it.  For those that think starting or having a family prevents such things I would just encourage you to start with small trips and build from there.  Anything is possible and quite frankly the past two summers touring with the entire family is by far the best vacations we have ever had.  Yes, it’s a lot of work and yes it is totally worth it!

Ecker and The Wreckers go on tour

Backroads of the Oregon coastal range

Next week I fly to Calgary to ride from Banff, AB to Grant, MT along the continental divide.  From Grant I am going to ride west and meet the family in McCall, ID.  All in all it will be 7-8 days of riding and 1100 miles.  The vast majority will be traveling off road through spectacular scenery.  You can follow the trip (starts on 7/30) via my SPOT (GPS tracking) page: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0GRcYXPfqd3Zxo3G7l9hn5y9WdLSHRFM8

While I haven’t decided 100% on whether or not I will enter the race in June 2011 this trip can be considered a recon mission for the Tour Divide race. Honestly, I think I would rather tour the Divide route than race it but, as many others conclude, getting enough time off of work to ride the entire trail at touring pace is really probably not realistic.

Look for my ride report here upon my return!

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