I’m always trying my hardest to go in the opposite direction of whatever other guys are talking or writing about. Those things always seem to include: drinking coffee, twittering about getting drug-tested, how hard the race was, eating the best Mexican, sushi or exotic food, drinking the dankest beer, or the most amazing 10,000-year-old ancient bottle of wine from the deepest darkest cobweb-filled dungeon a trillon miles below the earth from a place no man has ever gone before. Those are all common things you hear in the twitterverse and webosphere.
Now since I’m on a tangent of sorts … If I have to tell another person on a plane that I race bikes for a living then have them turn around and ask me what my “day job “ is, to which they reply, “OHH, like Lance Armstrong!?” I’m gonna start telling people I’m a horse whisperer or something else absurd for my own sanity.
Let me bring it back to Jelly Belly camp a couple weeks ago. This year’s camp was quite a bit different than previous years, in a good way. In the past, camp was loaded with lots of riding and media stuff all jammed into a week with a couple of indoor go-karting trips and some paintball games thrown in. This year, Danny (our director) invested in entertainment that will really translate into results on the bike. It was fun and more focused on team-building than getting 30 semi-automatic paintballs into my chest from having snuck around a corner at the wrong moment.
Our first day was dedicated to our awesome sponsors teaching us all the best points of their products. This included fitting our new Focus ‘Izalco’ bikes, learning how to use our new Compex muscle stimulator, and of course how we can get tons of energy and endurance from Jelly Belly Sport Beans!
The next day we had our photo shoot with Embry Rucker and his awesome crew. I also did a mountain bike photo shoot with Embry for Jelly Belly, so look for me shreddin’ up the pages of mountain bike magazines this summer!
Alright, if you’re a regular here at VeloNews, then you know I’m into music. One guy I followed and respected in the industry was DJ AM (RIP). One of the biggest things he harped on was the idea of less ego. That was something that came naturally this year at Jelly Belly camp. It was down to earth and cool to be part of. We had such a good time as a group and really got on well.
One of the team-building exercises that you may have read about was a Navy SEAL training session in Coronado, California. You might be thinking, “isn’t that dangerous right before the start of the season?” Yeah! Actually it was. I can guarantee none of us will forget that horrible morning Danny created for us although the memories are blurred because we were shivering 99 percent of the time we spent with the SEALS.
Let me try to give you a written reenactment: 9:30AM, light rain, and soaking wet from having ran into the Pacific Ocean with alllllllll of your clothing on. Then imagine laying in the wet sand with your gluteus maximus in your teammate’s crotch, your chest to another teammate’s back, arms locked just trying to stay warm. That alone imeans you’ve taken being a team player to another level.
I definitely didn’t love running into the Pacific Ocean at 9 am in February, but I’ll tell you one of the things this wacky experience helped me realize: At one point, a couple of us were holding water bottles out in front of us over a period of time which seemed like forever. It was probably only 10 minutes but between the tight muscles from shivering and the 50 push-ups we had already done it was torture. I was just hoping that Huff, Friedman or Kiel dropped their bottles before my arms locked and I couldn’t go another second.I was actually prayin’ one of them would. I looked over at Mike and he looked fatigued and I thought to myself, “Yes! He’s going down!!”
We’re all stubborn cyclists with reputations to uphold and I knew I wouldn’t drop mine until someone else dropped theirs. That made me realize if you set the bar high, don’t give up, and set a good example your teammates will follow suit. It didn’t have to be ONE guy, everyone was leading by example. If any of those guys had dropped their bottles, I would have dropped mine with a sigh of relief.
Now put that into a race scenario: You’re halfway through your race, the pace is finally getting hard and everyone is suffering. It’s hot or cold, it’s just miserable, you’d do anything to stop. Then your teammate calls it a day and drops out, it’s easier for you in your own mind to justify doing the same. It’s easier to say, “ohhh Joe didn’t finish either.”
We’ve all done that. It happens, BUT think about if no one drops out. Well, the race was miserable but the end result felt so good. You finished and possibly won or placed and you didn’t get the negativity associated with a DNF.
So yea, I’ve got a little nagging pain here thanks to the SEALS and I was sore for a week after our “team building” but, I have to say it was worth it. Afterwards we all raised our hands and said we’d do it again if asked to.
To finish off our team-building exercises we all met up and discussed our frigid Pacific Ocean experiences with our team psychologist Dr. Jason Galea. We made a list of what’s going to happen at races during certain situations that typically arise and also some general ideas of how to perform as a “more cohesive unit” and employ some of the key things we learned throughout the week.
I hope you enjoyed reading and that you’re all out ripping up the roads. Be safe and have fun!
Jeremy Powers is a pro road racer with the Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda team. He races cyclocross for the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team, you can follow more of his adventures at JPows.com or you can follow his every move at twitter.com/jeremypowers