Secret Society of Elite Racers
By Amy Cutler
A life of sacrifice and compromise
So you’re an elite racer. Chances are you race like it’s your job alongside those who do race as a full-time job; however other than prize winnings you’re not exactly getting paid to do this. While cycling is your passion, a budding yet potentially somewhat less fulfilling career is your bread and butter. Kudos on your passion and drive but shhh… we better keep this a secret around the office. Speaking too freely about your cycling commitment may develop the perception that you are not as focused on the job. In a work environment like my own, allowing such a perception to manifest (regardless of validity) could add my name to the next quarterly layoff list. Best not reveal anything that could be perceived as a weakness.
Personal relationships are not the only sacrifice. Stunted professional growth is also a likely outcome. While your colleagues merrily burn away the midnight office oil, you may be slinking out the back door cycling into the sunset in hopes of catching a few minutes daylight on your two hour weekday training rides.
…toiling during the day and riding around roads illuminated by headlamp at night…
I just so happen to work in the Financial Services Industry, a fiercely competitive environment where long hours are the expected norm as oppose to a unique differentiator. For my colleagues, working is their sport.
So it was really no surprise when my proposed 2014 race schedule, including tours with the US National Team in Belgium and Rás na mBan in Ireland was turned down by management. Some employers may be more receptive than others, yet it is always good to have an upfront conversation with management prior to the season. This is your opportunity to disclose upcoming race commitments for review.
In my case, there was a compromise that involved pruning international races. While management still objected to the trimmed schedule, doubtful that I could manage flying 57,000 km around the continent, attending 76 races while upholding work responsibilities. I however took the advice of a wise HR rep, reminding me that management does not get to say what we do in our free time (within reason). So I followed the plan, maximizing every allotted personal hour available to race. Often times, working remotely whenever possible before and/or after races.
57,000 km is the same as flying Los Angeles to New York 14 times!
Finally, there is the sacrifice of rest and recovery, or the lack thereof. You are toiling during the day and riding around roads illuminated by headlamp at night, this probably means there is little sleep to be had. Racing to/from the cubical in addition to racing on course leaves you longing for some much needed recovery. However the schedule of a full-time racer and career woman/man is relentless, and so that longing will simply go unaddressed. Sorry, but we have got to keep moving. As a result, performance on course is compromised by the inability to recover or train as effectively as competitors that race for a living or simply have more cycling conducive arrangements.
Life as an elite racer is one of compromise in many respects. When it comes to end of year performance reviews, the guy or gal who worked all night is likely in better standing for promotion. However, after performing the dollar per hour math around all those extra hours I am still satisfied with the decision to pursue my passion. Enjoying both the quality of life and unique experiences that decision has offered. The end goal is to race professionally but until that opportunity presents its self, elite cyclists will continue to hustle.
Amy Cutler is an elite cyclist and full-time career woman in the Financial Services Industry. She manages a daunting >75 event race schedule, while juggling a demanding career as an IT Project Manager.