Working Overtime: Tour of California
Words by Addie Levinsky | Photos by Jeremy Dunn
It’s been just about three years, exactly. The memories of the exceptionally long, grueling days are forever burned in my memory (and arguably, my legs...still). Seven days is seven days. It’s one week, in the grand scheme. But my, oh my - how one week of working overtime can change you for a lifetime.
In 2014 I set out with six other Rapha Ambassadors, including former professional’s Meredith Miller and Julie Krasniak to ride the entire Amgen Tour of California route - in reverse. The stats on paper were hard enough to comprehend (700 miles, 7 days, ~57000 feet of climbing), especially for my lowly legs. I had left Santa Cruz the previous Thanksgiving stuffed in a pint-sized Mercedes E190 from 1987 to move back to Denver. While I had accumulated quite an impressive number of road miles that year, few of them were on a bike towards the end. I broke my shoulder in October, and it was a slow grind to get my body used to endurance and long climbs (two things I was going to get very familiar, if not comfortable doing, in the coming months).
Yes, the routes were equally beautiful as they were painful. Yes, our mental and physical limits were tested beyond what we thought was possible. But, that’s all behind us -- we’ve all gone on to get lost on bikes all day, we’ve all drilled ourselves into the ground at one time or another (probably not to this extent, consecutively, but still).
But the mere metric of riding 46 hours in 7 days still stands out -- I have never done anything, not even worked a job, for more than 40 hours in one week. And this is why, three years later, I’m reflecting on what this single week did to change my life on and off the bike. Three things for three years (maybe I will learn something new every year, all thanks to those seven special days on the Golden Coast).
Even if you’re actively doing something, circles turning circles turning circles turning circles can become mundane. Your mind wanders, you start to squirm on your saddle (realizing there’s really nowhere to move), and the most regrettable - watching the miles tick by. Add in six other riders, and you’re surely to find yourself hitting your limits when someone needs to stop to pee, or when snack breaks take too long. I’ll be the first to admit I was relatively high strung, always wanting to move on with efficiency and speed...
Today, I am happy to stop and wait on a group ride. If I get a flat, I quietly fix it. When I talk to my mother on the phone, I let her shower me with (seemingly worthless) questions. If an issue arises at work, it’s not a big deal.
I just imagine suffering on the bike, and I realize everything is temporal. You just have to be patient.
Perhaps I’m not the best advocate of moderation -- but the Tour of California taught me a different kind of moderation. While riding 46 hours in a week is an amazing feat, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. If you work over 40 hours a week at your day job, props for having a strong work ethic, but it’s important to understand what else may be compromised when you’re doing something excessively.
I have a history with overtraining, obsession, etc. When I returned from the ToC, I started training for an ultramarathon (after getting hit by a car, but that’s a different story). No, running an ultra is not moderate. But admitting it was time to hang up the bike and focus on other endeavors was my kind of moderation, at the time.
Today, I try to do it all, within reason -- I practice balance to the best of my ability. Because while I wouldn’t trade those 46 hours weaving through some of the most breathtaking roads and demanding climbs, I also love to finish a ride, do yoga, spend time with my friends and family, and live sustainably. As much as we all want to ride our bikes all day, every day, it becomes more of a sacrifice than an accomplishment. Leave time for the things and the people you also love.
It’s never easy to acknowledge your own accomplishments, especially on the bike. There is always someone faster and stronger (but remember, you’re always going to be stronger and faster than someone too!). However, cycling gives many of us a special sense of accomplishment that cannot be discounted. Completing the Tour of California was that achievement for me. As mentioned, I was hit by a car just five days after returning from the ToC.
While I was eager to get back on the bike (see? It took me awhile to learn that moderation piece), I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I was having coffee with my dad, and he asked me, point-blank “if you quit cycling today, would you feel accomplished?” I paused, and before I had a chance to answer he started shooting off all of my feats on the bike over the last 5+ years.
I don’t think I ever gave him a straight answer, but at the time, the answer was no. I went on to race bikes at an elite level, and try to secure a pro license. This all came to a close just a couple of weeks ago.
When I decided to hang up the race wheels, I thought back to that conversation and what I had completed the week prior - “would I be satisfied?” The answer is yes.
I’m in a very different place with cycling than I was three years ago, but I say without a shadow of a doubt, I would do a proverbial Tour of California again. Because we can all use a little push to work overtime every now and again.