Getting through the fear of missing out.
Words and photo by Greg May.
For some reason I decided to run a 50-mile off-road ultra. I’m not certain why. At the time of registering it seemed like a good idea, something to pass the time between the end of the summer and the start of the cyclocross season. I assumed that latent cycling fitness from the Tour Divide would carry me through, I mostly just went out and enjoyed running down trails fast. You know, like a kid, no focus – just reward.
Suffice to say, things did not go well. Fitness was there; it’s hard not to be aerobically fit after riding 4,400km down the spine of the USA, unless of course you just went to eat Twinkies. What was missing were the skills and the ability to absorb the physical punishment that 14 hours running mountain trails will do to you.
So now I’ve a situation. I’ve paid for other races, which I’m going to do because I bloody well paid for them, yet these races give no space – no time – for training as a ’cross rider should. That should have started way back in May, not now in the dregs of summer.
Very few of us, dear readers, are full-time cyclocross athletes. Those of you who are, I both commend and lament – you have chosen a hard path, but one full of perverse pleasure. For the rest of us, it’s time to face up to the simple fact that we cannot do all that we want to do, and something has to give. Be this another sporting activity, time with our family and friends, or – ideally – our job. Imagine how much more we could train and race if we didn’t have to work.
What I have is a case of the late 30-something’s Fear of Missing Out – let’s call it FOMO for short. I work, I play, I family – the last may not be a verb. I divide my time between the three, but thankfully not always in the same ratio month to month.
When I work, I do so to facilitate the other two. FOMO does not exist in this space for me. I have a job purely to allow me to play around on bike or foot, to help raise my family, not for the sake of working.
When I play, I play with focus, knowing what I want to do and historically often destroying my work or family commitments at any time. Here I suffer from FOMO, watching others race harder and further. That’s where I want to put myself. It’s always been the way.
When I family, I family above all else. I stop training, I spend time with the others in my life and I do little else. For me, the FOMO on this aspect of life has grown ever stronger year by year – I can well understand how friends with children suffer from FOMO more than anyone else.
How does one balance the life we want to live due to FOMO, with the life we are forced to live by external and internal factors? Cycling is always going to have the new, the shiny, the exciting – constantly waving its wares in our faces and promising it’ll be less disappointing than the last time. Hint, it probably won’t.
It’s the basic game of needs and wants. You may want to have the lifestyle, the events, the razor-sharp tan lines. But do you need them where you are in your life? Be realistic with yourself – are you just doing it because you have a FOMO on the next big thing/wheelsize/tub thread, or are you doing it because from the deepest pit of your heart you need to do it?
There is no easy answer. For me, I know I suffer from FOMO. It’s tied into a big dose of my habitual need to visit new places. The difference is I know how to control it, to budget it out and release it in small doses. It’s why you won’t see me on a ’cross course this year. It’s too late to start, so I have no fear of missing out on the racing. I’m going to enjoy drinking beer on the sidelines and helping in the pits.