Community vs Competition, Round 2

If you know exactly what motivates you most days, scroll to the bottom of this article to cast your vote. If you would like to be included in the raffle for Michael Morrison’s original art work, be sure to include your name & email in the comments. If you require more thoughtful reflection, see below.

The battle of two great motivators continues below. In this corner, is our need to be a part of a larger community, supporting and being supported by a group of people who share our love for any particular sport / activity. In the other corner is our primal need to pit our abilities against a group of competitors. Both motivators can alter your daily behavior, change your habits and create a lifelong love of being active. But for you – the Athletic Aging population – which is the primary motivator? Are you more likely to get out of bed on a cold and dreary morning because you are committed to your community? Or because you are committed to an event on the calendar and you had better show up prepared.

Round 2 considers if it might be possible for both to co-exist.

Can you combine both Community & Competition in the same group?

Definitely, says the Head Domestique of Webb Bridge Cycling in north metro Atlanta

Webb Bride Cycling was originally founded by racers and that heritage will be maintained.  Every Saturday morning, through all four seasons, Webb Bridge remains a home for those who pin on their race numbers each season, but also for cyclists of varying ages and various levels of fitness who are ready, willing, and able to start improving their cycling skills.

The rides rotate through three main routes, each route a minimum of 60 miles, and varying elevation gain.  Everyone knows what to expect each week.  On average, you can expect at least 100 cyclists, broken out into three main groups:

Group 1 –  These are the racers, a fast group with strong personalities and community is not the priority.  There is always a strong sense of competition – every man and woman for themselves.   This is a drop ride.  They do not stop for mechanicals.  If you cannot keep up, you will be picked up in a few minutes by Group 2.

Group 2 –   Not a true race group, but they will still push a hard pace.   This group is more community oriented and will usually wait if part of the group gets stuck at a red light, and will also provide reasonable support for mechanicals.

Group 3 – Community is a major focus of Group 3.  Still a fast ride, but they try to conduct a true group ride and keep everyone together.  Group 3 is the safety net if you are dropped by either of the first two groups.   Mechanicals are enthusiastically supported.

Open invitation:  If you find yourself in north metro Atlanta on any given weekend, do yourself a favor and join these amazing cyclists for an early Saturday morning ride.  You will be welcomed, and if you desire – you will be challenged.

Introducing Tim “Bo” Reese of Webb Bridge Cycling

Tim Reese is a an I.T. executive with a large, global systems integration firm who is thrillingly married to his high school sweetheart and lives on a small farm just north of metro Atlanta.   Weekdays, Tim provides a calming voice in the chaotic world of large global IT projects.   On weekends, Tim Reese lends that soothing leadership quality to his alter-ego, “Bo” Reese – chief domestique of Webb Bridge Cycling in Alpharetta, GA.

Tim Reese is a mentor to people in the professional area.   Bo Reese is a mentor to 100+ spandex clad cyclist every Saturday morning.   Before relocating to Colorado, I was one of those mentorees.  Bo and Van Purser (a beloved co-founder of Webb Bridge Cycling who lost his battle with ALS in 2019) were extremely patient and never tired of answering my unending questions about cycling and how to ride in a group setting. 

My Q&A with Bo Reese

From the hyper competitive racers of group 1 to the community minded group 3, you have an incredible mix of personalities and expectations.   Does each group represent its own community?     -There is one overall Webb Bridge Community, and no matter which group you ride with, we engage in fellowship.  The difference is what each group needs or expects from that week’s ride.

Each week, you get a front row seat to a large group of cyclists seeking community and another group seeking competition.  How would you describe the primary differences in those personalities?    –The prominent trait of Group 1 is single mindedness.   They are the tip of the Webb Bridge spear.  Mentally, they are different animals.  Around 80% of Group 1 are active racers – Cat 4 up to Cat 2, and for many of them, the Group 1 ride works as a developmental team:  they show up for race fitness and learning race tactics. 

The Group 2 and Group 3 cyclists are also extremely fit, and while the competition streak remains, they tend to be more community focused.  Less “me”, and more “we”. 

What does a more community focused ride look like?   –More instruction and more encouragement.  No matter the speed, we roll together, we climb together, we descend together.  For each member of the group, it’s much safer when we all roll as one cohesive unit.   And except for Group 1, the groups will ideally wait for anyone with a mechanical issue or for anyone caught at a redlight.

So, no matter who shows up, they know what to expect out of each group ride.  You are managing the expectations of each group.     -Yes.  In that way, the Webb Bridge rides are like a McDonalds’ burger – you’re going to get that same product each week.  I was taught long ago that you never invite your most treasured guest for an Italian dinner, and then serve sushi.   Each of our groups will ride according to what is advertised. 

Can you elaborate how the Group 1 ride helps racers to develop?   – We will have high school and college athletes who want to join the Group 1 ride right away.  They have the power, but not necessarily great handling skills in a group setting.   We encourage those Group 1 hopefuls to be on-boarded in Group 3, to learn the dynamics and rules of riding in a group before joining the Group 1 rides. Those skills are needed at every level, but the higher the speed of the group, the higher the risks for you and for the group if you are not familiar with ascending, descending together, and rotating through a paceline.

Other than speed – it seems the biggest difference between those who show up primarily for Competition versus those who ride for Community, is the mindset?    -Yes.  Each group is getting what they need from the ride, so mental health may not be that different between the groups.  Physically, the racers tend to be younger and leaner, but overall health is obvious across all groups.  

On the ‘community to competition’ spectrum – which group has more attrition?    -All three groups have a consistent core that show up each week.  Group 1’s attendance is only influenced by key race events taking place on a Saturday, which might wipe out 80% of the group.  Otherwise, they’re a very hardy group.  Group 3 is the welcome mat for Webb Bridge, so out-of-town visitors as well as riders aspiring to the ranks of Webb Bridge, can significantly affect attendance in any given week.  So, it is considered most transient.

After years of cycling / racing, what are your personal goals for these rides?     -I still use my power meter and my HR strap, still tracking my rides and performance trends, but I’m not seeking to compare myself to others – just watching my own health and performance.  I am much more rewarded by the sense of fellowship.   At Webb Bridge, we try to create and nurture an “all for 1 mentality”.   This is my sense of fulfillment.

“If I had to choose for me, it’s community.  I’ve met so many great friends through cycling.  But I like being friends with fast cyclists which means I have to train competitively enough to be in that community”.

Aaron Cargas of Longmont Velo Cycling

What would your coach say?

Introducing Jim Hallberg of D3 Multisport Coaching

Jim is a young and spritely 45-year-old multisport coach.  Not old enough to be the subject of an AgeIsNoBarrier interview, but he does coach several athletes in their 50’s and 60’s, including Mark Kohl who is featured in this article.  

Over 25 years of competing and coaching, Jim has built an impressive resume:
USA Cycling level II 
USA Triathlon level II
5x USAT AG  National Champion

I wanted to get a coach’s perspective on the physical and mental value of competition for the Athletically Aging demographic.   Jim coaches several master athletes in their 50’s and 60’s who continue to pin on a race number, and are now faster than their previous selves. 

My Q&A with Jim Hallberg:

Jim, you work specifically with a group of athletes who thrive on competition and dream of podium finishes.  In your experience, what is the value of pinning on a race number and comparing your fitness and skills to hundreds of other athletes?     -Physically, there’s a value of performing high intensity efforts that have been shown to provide that extra level of strength and fitness that is very beneficial as you age.  But so much of competition is mental.  It’s often the thrill and excitement of the chase.  The rush of adrenaline of being pushed to your limits by your fellow competitors.  Even that feeling of post-race exhaustion can be a high.

Do most of your athletes have a similar personality or x factor that drives them to compete?    –Most of my clients are type A, high performing individuals.  Many high performers in business tend to be high performers in their sport, testing themselves against others is just their natural bent. 

The need to excel in a sport can be a little intrinsic, a bit ego driven, and if we don’t have anyone to push ourselves against, it can be less rewarding for all of this hard work.  I would say that none of my athletes are really egotistical, but they are very motivated.

At any age, overtraining is a risk.  More so with this age group?     -Definitely.  Some athletes can live in that space too often and too long.  Risking injury, hitting plateau’s, experiencing physical and psychological burnout.

Why do they have to ride that hard all of the time?     -If they’re riding at high intensity too frequently, they are probably not working with a coach.  A good coach knows their athletes cannot train at race pace all the time and will factor in different levels of intensity.  If they’re uncoached, athletes will often burn every match for the instant gratification of feeling that rush just for this day, this event.

Your athletes are training for individual glory.  Does community play a role?    -Not on race day.  And maybe not on days when my athletes are following a specific plan.  But the training dynamic of a competitive group who pushes each other appropriately cannot be overvalued.

Biggest coaching difference between the 40-yr-old and the 60-year-old athlete? -Mindset.  Usually, the 60-year-old just knows themselves better.   That wisdom could be just from having more experience, knowing how many matches they have to burn.    And 60-year-olds are typically better about following my programs exactly as written.

Does age soften the desire to be competitive?    -Not at all.  Once you have that competitive mindset,  you almost always have that drive.   Most of my athletes did not compete professionally, so today, they are having a blast and loving the adrenaline.  This is not their job, this is their outlet.  Competitive, but fun.   They won’t continue training this hard if it’s not enjoyable.

As a racer who coaches racers, could you or your athletes just enjoy a sight-seeing multi-day cycling tour, maybe through California wine country?     -Sure, I could enjoy those tours…as long as I get to the campground first”.

For anyone who rides primarily for community and fitness – give me a sales pitch for moving beyond a social ride.  Convince me to sign up for an event.     -If you’re cycling regularly, you may feel you are as fit as you want to be, and that’s fine.   But if you want to know just how capable you are, how fit you can be – pick a race, sign up, and properly prepare for that event.  Race training can make you more efficient, stronger and faster.  It will reward you with the rush of adrenaline and the amazing feeling of being fast under your own power.  And there is nothing better than a race to see your progress for all of this hard work.   

And if you are already in your 50’s, 60’s – race training will certainly help your body get stronger and more capable for your 70’s and beyond.   If undecided, the next time you join a group ride, maybe just once a week – ride with the next group up.  Experience the dopamine.  See how it feels.  And if you need a coach…

Competitiveness is natural.  It can be healthy, and it’s encouraged.  What you don’t want to see in any group is envy.  Envy is a very undesirable trait.  If any individual is trying to pull you down or trying to elevate themselves, this can create dangerous dynamics in a group”.

Tim “Bo” Reese of Webb Bridge Cycling

Time to vote!

If you have read this far, then you have compared two viewpoints in support of Community and two viewpoints in support of Competition. I have my own thoughts and opinions about the balance of these two great motivators, but I am more interested in hearing from you.  Later, after we have compiled the votes, I will share more of what I have learned through these conversations.   What I do know:  sports are participatory, and this article is about sports, so your participation is required.  Or at least requested.  What do you think?  What moves the needle for you personally?  What is more likely to get you outside and consistently active?  

I have included a simple poll below and only giving you three options. If you would like to offer a more nuanced explanation or additional comments, please include those comments below, in the comment section for this post. And be sure to leave your name for the Michael Morrison NT raffle. I would love to hear from you and will include a compilation of those comments next week.

In the chance we get to ride together in the future, be sure to let me know up front – are we riding socially….or is this a race?  

Thank you for voting!

To ensure you are included in the Michael Morris raffle, make sure to leave your name in the comment section below!

“I love riding bikes with people who love riding bikes, whether it’s a group ride or a race.  For me, the two are not mutually exclusive”.
But…I do ride to race”!

Chad Elmendorf of Longmont Velo Cycling

4 thoughts on “Community vs Competition, Round 2

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