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Simon Martin at the Alpine Training Center. Wow. That s a guy who s  going for it.
Simon Martin at the Alpine Training Center. Wow. That s a guy who s going for it.

Early in the racing season — April, say? — someone always surprises their cycling acquaintances by showing up at a race or training ride and, out of nowhere, totally crushing the field.

“Whoa,” people say, “Joe is really going for it this year.”

My husband saw this repeatedly over 10 years of road racing — someone who was average the year before comes out strong suddenly in the spring. After training all winter, that guy is ready to win races, move up, go for it.

At some point over the winter, going-for-it guy made a decision to ride on snowy days when everyone else was cowering inside, sipping lattes and snarfing down muffins. It also might mean that he decided to let his work suffer a little, not eat breakfast with his kids twice a week, or quit another sport to make time for cycling.

If you’ve sacrificed a little to go for it, you keep going all season. For friends and fellow racers, there’s a consequence: introspection.

Seeing someone go for it makes you ask yourself: Should you go for it, too, and try to break through to the next level? Are you happy where you are? And why are you out there doing this — and this applies to any sport — in the first place?

Since I’m kind of going for it with climbing right now (even though I still suck), I’ve noticed that my individual decision is having an unforeseen effect on my friendships.

I go weeks, months, without talking to people I used to climb with on a regular basis; friends I hiked and skied and rode bikes with have sadly fallen by the wayside (I miss you guys! Sorry I’m an asshole!). And I’ve grown closer — and more competitive, in some cases — with the people I climb with the most. We motivate each other. In a good way.

I think.

Is that true? Is this all within the natural play of group dynamics when you or someone in your peer group decides to go for it?

I consulted Connie Sciolino, who runs Boulder’s Alpine Training Center, because if you’re going to the ATC, you’re going for it. I did a workout there when I wrote a story about it last year, and I spent the workout telling myself to hold back so I wouldn’t be wrecked for a week (I was still wrecked for two days).

If you really want to go for it — and acquire superhuman strength, near-indestructibility — the ATC is probably your best bet.

So Connie sees a lot of motivated people, and she sees the effect they have on the group: “Sometimes good, sometimes not so good.”

“Say someone comes in to train, and while they may be in good shape or strong, they just can’t keep up with young, fast, go-for-it dudes,” Connie said. “This can be devastating to some. It makes you stop and think about why you are working so hard, or why you are even there. Motivation and goals are questioned. It can spiral down fast.”

The flip side, though, is that when someone’s going for it at the ATC, everyone else wants to jump on that energy bandwagon, she said.

“Because they can feed off that energy and kinda get carried along or help push each other,” Connie said. “One of the reasons it’s so hard to train alone is because energy goes out but nothing comes back.”

Though I’m still concerned about those wayward friends (and I’m still an asshole), Connie’s energy bandwagon is good news.

We agree: Psych is contagious. I was starting to wonder if I was being irritating, dragging some of my friends along on my ride. But it turns out they’re psyched, too. In fact, I think a few of them are really going for it this year…