Cycle U News

Dean’s Letter: Catching the Big One


It’s an achievement we all dream of. Maybe your goal is winning the race. Getting your dream job. Acing that exam. Or, of course, catching a record breaking fish. Whatever your “Big One” is, we all have one, and more often than not they seem to get away. What we often forget is there are ways to win without catching the “Big One”.

When I was introduced to ocean fishing ten years ago, I assumed it would be easier than racing. I didn’t need to train full time like I did as a professional cyclist, or maintain the same fitness level. I had a vision in my mind that looking for fish in open water and enjoying my catch with friends afterwards would be much simpler. I was very wrong.

Although fishing may not require the peak fitness that cycling does, it demands other kinds of luck you don’t need to succeed in the cycling circuit. In a race, you can control almost everything except the behavior of your opponents. You will have spent weeks training up to the event, preparing your gear and planning your strategy. It’s a simple equation: the more you put in, the more you get out.

Fishing is harder because for the most part you are not in control. Even if you prepare for the day as best you can, you will be unsuccessful most of the time due to the hundreds of other variables which go into a successful catch. Can you find the fish? Are the fish biting? Do you have the right bait? Is the sea rough? Is it the right season? Is my line tangled? Did that shark just eat my dinner?

Although there are many more things that can go wrong than cycling, fishing provides you with more opportunities to win. When the fish are biting there are many chances to hook a prize. In a race there is only one first place.

Often, I am asked how I did after a race or a fishing trip. My friends want to know if I won first place or caught the Big One (and brought it home for dinner). Most of the time the answer is no, I missed the big catch or a spot on the podium. But does that mean I didn’t win?

My answer is no. Even if I don’t get the “Big One” every time I fish or race, I always have something to show for my efforts. Whenever I ride, I improve my fitness level. Whenever I go fishing, I come home with a smile.

I define winning in cycling as this:  Did I do my best?  Did I push my body to the limit to see what I could do?  Did I recruit all of my emotional energy to get the best performance I could?  If I answer yes to those questions then that race is a win, even if I didn’t place. Of the roughly 400 races or events I have done since I retired from professional level racing, almost all of them are wins by that definition.

My definition of a win fishing is similar to cycling: Did I actively hunt fish to the best of my ability? Did I enjoy being in nature, on the water with friends? With this as my criteria for winning  I can safely say that every day fishing has been a win for me. Of course, if you counted actually catching a fish as a requirement for “winning” my success rate would be drastically lower.

Too often we forget that we can have a win day without catching the “Big One”. Even if I don’t win the race or catch a big fish, I feel successful for having pushed myself to the limits of what my body (or my rod and reel) can handle. Next time you face a difficult task, think about winning as pushing yourself further than you thought you could go before. By taking small wins, you will be better motivated to push yourself through the pain of a race or stay out on the water longer.

If you see a Facebook post from me with a fish, know I am extremely happy because I have done something much harder than racing a bike.  Cycling and endurance sports are much more of a sure thing than fishing for me. Even if I don’t place, I always get a thrill riding a bike (which sure helps me feel better after getting skunked on my last fishing trip).

C U on the road (or the boat!)

Craig Undem

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