Editor's Off Season Blog


If I had a penny for every time I was asked “when are you going to stop?” I would be a rich woman!   So it seems appropriate to reflect on motivation, as we all face another wet, cold weekend of off season training and there is still over two months until my first serious race.


Jan Birkmyre leads the field at the World Masters Track Champs in 2012


Why do we weekend warriors put ourselves through hell in the name of cycling, whilst also working away at the day job to pay the bills?  In truth, it is not a question that benefits from too much reflection, because it completely defies logic.


Cycling is, for me, apparently just a hobby, defined as “an activity that is regularly undertaken for pleasure, typically during one's leisure time”.  Certainly no real money crosses my palm.  Even when I win, I will not get anywhere near to covering expenses and typically winnings go straight to my husband and coach, who then spends it on Starbucks for both of us!


So what do I do to keep motivated?  If I am struggling to get on the bike on a cold, wet day I sometimes treat myself by pulling on my best race shoes – Lake CX 401’s – which gives me an instant lift.  They feel fantastic, with the perfect fit that you only get from custom moulding and an incredibly stiff sole that transfers every little bit of power straight to the pedals.  The feeling can be quite intoxicating, so I deliberately do not wear them every day.


Sometimes I wear one of the jerseys that I have won.  I have been on a mission to give these away and my nephews and friends’ children love them, but I keep back a couple of the really special ones for myself.  One of my National Champs or World Masters jerseys will do the trick, even if it is covered by a winter jacket, I still know I am wearing it and I always try to ride like I deserve it.


Longer term, setting the right goals is of course a huge part of the process.  My goals have always been specific and they are committed to paper at the beginning of each new season.  These goals are a mix of races that I want to win and times that I want to achieve.  Even at 46, I am still getting faster in the pursuit and I have just lost my World Masters record over 200m to an American riding at altitude.  Reducing my pursuit time some more and retaking the 200m record are big goals for 2013, and neither will be easy, but I think it is possible.  I think that motivation will be harder to find when I realise that I have peaked and my times do not improve year on year, however small the margin.


Finally, for 2013, I have the added boost of riding for a new team.  This year I will be wearing black and high vis yellow, the colours of Champion Systems / Maxgear / Base, a team with a real track racing pedigree and I am really hoping to have some team mates to ride with at some of the bigger events.   There is no missing me in the new kit and that, on top of the cheeky win of the National Scratch race, will make me even more of a marked rider – frustrating?  Yes, but I know it is also a compliment of sorts.


For me, more powerful than anything, is having the support and unstinting belief in my abilities that I get from my husband.  I don’t suppose I am alone in having moments when, during the dark, cold months of winter, I wonder why I am putting myself though the pain of training – with the body seeming to protest more each year and the mind playing tricks on me, taunting me with doubts and offering the simple solution of quitting now, while I am (relatively speaking) on top.  But David really believes I have at least one more season racing at an elite national level in me and he puts so much time and energy into getting the technical bits right, that sometimes even I believe him!


Jan sets new World Masters Record over 200m in 2011


Of course, I have been lucky enough to win a few races, so once the season starts, the voices in my head will hopefully be quietened and I can enjoy the rush of racing and sometimes the ultimate thrill of winning.  We also get to catch up with cycling friends and enjoy the company of everyone who makes up the strange, but wonderful, community that is track racing for us.


So roll on Spring; the warmer weather and the first race of the season, which weather permitting, will be the Bordeaux-Paris meeting at the Reading velodrome – a curious mix of scratch and Derny paced racing that will be my first moment of truth for 2013!



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