Sunday, February 3, 2013

Risk vs. Reward

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how fear is imaginary. It’s a concept conceived in our heads. Let’s expand on that this week.

One of my favorite quotes is “Be wise enough not to be reckless but brave enough to take great risks.”* This has become a quasi-motto for me and can be applied in so many different ways to so many different situations. Sometimes the risk vs. recklessness line is more of a gray area and other times the line is as sharp as a razor’s edge. It is perfect for cycling.

How many times have you been in a race in a do or die- hopefully not literally, obviously- situation? Maybe it’s something like having to either commit to going solo out of a break or getting gobbled up by the group and fighting in a field sprint. That’s more of a gray area than railing a technical descent in the sleet. That would fall into the razor’s edge category- it could pay off but it could result in you paying a lot of medical bills.

Unlike fear, danger and injury are very real and often serious things. The consequences can be high when mistakes are made- like railing on decent in bad conditions. This, however, needs to be weighted against the spoils of victory and decisions should be made accordingly. Choices made in a local race versus those made at the world championships are different. Taking more risks at a world championship is absolutely warranted- a world title is on the line! But at a local race? Mmm, not so much. Sorry, it’s just not going to happen, the stakes aren’t high enough.**
Here’s a sweet graph illustrating the risk vs. reward relationship***

That being said, the sweet spot, so to say, is typically along that razor’s edge. It’s a fine line between recklessness and bravery and in order to succeed you need to push that line, test that limit. Use the lower key races on your calendar to experiment with things- how fast can you corner? How long is your sprint? How long can you ride in the break and can you go solo? These are all things you can work on where the risk to failure ratio is relatively low. Move from being a sissy to being a martyr or idiot depending on the risk you take. It’s most common for people to move from being a martyr to the winner’s spot on the podium. Don’t be a sandbagger, they don’t win and develop poor reputations amongst the peloton.

*This quote was posted anonymously as a secret to the PostSectret blog.
** No, I don’t spend time in Vegas, nor do I gamble in the traditional sense.
*** The colors on this chart are specifically picked to go with each category. Can you guess why they were selected?