HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all! I hope you rang 2012 in with whoever makes you the happiest. Being a brand new year, this is the time that hopes and dreams and goals seem the most possible. But why? Why now?
I think it’s because the New Year represents new beginnings. A new calendar. A fresh start. Goals seem more possible because, for some reason, the start of January brings a new sense of determination and belief in oneself. People swear that THIS time they will stick to their diet of eating healthier, stop smoking, or actually use their gym membership for more than two weeks.
But a 2007 study by Richard Wisemen from the University of Bristol showed that 78% of New Year resolution-setters fail. For whatever reason, people just give up on their goals! So I want to make a few suggestions to give you a higher chance to succeed. Apparently, men achieve their goals more often if they break them down into something measurable (“losing one pound per week”, instead of “losing weight”). And women tend to be more successful when they make themselves accountable – by making their goals public, and getting support from friends. During my undergraduate degree I learned that making or breaking a habit requires doing (or not doing) something 21 times. After that, a new behavior has been formed. So… keep at whatever you’ve set your mind to for at least 21 times – 21 days without smoking, 21 visits to the gym, 21 paychecks putting money aside for saving, etc. After 21 times, it gets quite a bit easier, so aim for 21 – that’s not so bad!
This is also the time of year when people wish the best on others. I’ve received many well-wishes for the New Year, for which I am much appreciative. I’ve also received a few well-wishes for the London 2012 Olympics, so I must clear the air. I was severely misquoted in Maclean’s magazine, saying that I had announced my goal of going to London, when my goal had been, simply (although not simple), to race at some point this season for Canada on a bike! My goal was to learn yet another sport – one in which the technique is a complete shift from anything I’ve ever done before – and compete for Canada in my 3rd national sport!
People have a lot of faith in me, my abilities and my work ethic to train for something I set my sights on. I appreciate every bit of support that I’ve received! But a lot goes on behind the scenes that is out of my control (no matter how much training I do or how much I learn and improve). Track cyclists have been competing for the past year and a half to earn enough Olympic points to qualify for the Games. So while getting enough points may not even have been possible, seeing how many qualifying points I COULD get, regardless of any qualifying possibility, was still a big fun challenge for me. London wasn’t my goal. Competing for Canada was! However, with my injury and recovery my training really only began at the start of November, when the team was leaving for the first World Cup race of the year. The only two events that I would be able to do at this point in my learning curve would be the team sprint (with one other teammate) and the 500m time trial sprint. The other races involve a lot of strategy and other people on the track at the same time. Seeing as I’ve never done any group riding (not even on the road), and I haven’t been cycling long enough to develop strategies, the other races are not in the cards for me at this point. But I had been super psyched for those other 2 events that focused on sprinting not strategy.
However, decision-making takes on a whole different process when it’s an Olympic season, especially when, unlike bobsleigh, there are only 4 World Cup races per season: November, December, January, and February, with World Championships this year in April. I was hoping to race in January and February, but was extremely disappointed to discover that regardless of any improvements I was making, my name would not be submitted to race in either of those races.
Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that not everyone sees competing or challenges in the same way that I do. The girl with whom I would have done the team sprint decided that she wanted to focus on her individual events to qualify for the Games, saying that she hadn’t been training for the team sprint, and that she wished I had started 6 months sooner. That left the 500m time trial. The coaching staff decided they wouldn’t submit my name for that event because it’s not an Olympic event this year. To me, that doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t change the fact that I could represent Canada in a race but as one coach put it, “At this point in time, our focus is on the Olympic preparation of our medal targeted athletes.”
I got another message from a coach saying, “I wish the timing was better as you have what it takes, just time is not with us for London.” But here’s the part that bothers me: What happened to the simple honour of wearing the maple leaf and representing Canada in ANY race, whether it be a World Cup race or the Olympics. I bet the guys playing for the World Junior Hockey Championships are still honoured to wear the Canadian hockey jersey, even though it’s not the Olympic Games! The Olympics may be their goal for some day, but it doesn’t take the luster off of the honour of representing their country now!
My disappointment caused me to stop training for a couple of weeks in mid-December, while I tried to figure out what the point was. I’d never trained just for the sake of training, with no immediate goal in mind. I’m a short-term goal person, and had always enjoyed seeing improvement from one race to the next. And I felt deflated from other people’s lack of optimism.
But it didn’t take long for me to shake it off. Besides, I had started cycling with the sole intention to keep up my training and fitness while my ankle was still injured. And I realized that the challenge of improving was motivation enough. I would be able to see my results and work to improve on those – to see how good I can get. I don’t need an official race to validate my progress. And I don’t want to give up on my goal. Maybe someday I will still be able to put on the Canadian cycling jersey to represent Canada in my 3rd national sport. Maybe I’ll be lucky – “when preparation meets opportunity”. So for now I will prepare. I will prepare for when the coaching staff decides to give me the opportunity. I may not be going to these Olympics, but I can still train like I am!
So… I wish you the best for 2012. I wish you laughter that makes your cheeks hurt. I wish you joy that you feel in the core of your being. And I wish you endless moments that the happiest memories are made of. Don’t give up on your goals. You are worth it! Embrace them and the challenges that come along with them. Remember 21 days. And remember to feel the honour of representing yourself!