Taking My Own Advice

It’s time I started paying attention to my own advice… remembering that it’s okay to not feel 100% confident and together.

The other day at cyclocross practice we worked on some new skills. Skills that tested everyone physically and mentally. The level of confidence that I saw coming through these women as we practiced was something else.

The looks on their faces when they rode tricky corners, sandy descents, and floated through the sand – it was motivating and inspiring.

At the end of the session, I said something similar to:

Remember everyone feels freaked out and afraid. When you see people looking calm and collected – they weren’t always like this. That descent or crazy mud used to rattle them – it still might – they’re just not showing it.

I am human. You are human. We get scared, nervous, stressed, bothered, and worried. Don’t ever forget that this happens to everyone.

My advice to myself is this:

Relax and have fun racing. A couple of weeks ago you wrote that you were just happy to be racing again. So be happy. Don’t get caught up in “where you think you should be” or “what you believe others think about your racing”. It’s bike racing. Your result doesn’t change who you are as a person. Have fun and race your bike. 

If you see me at a race – feel free to remind me of this. Don’t be shy about it. I need to get better at listening to my own advice and I could use some extra help.

Breaking Through

This past weekend was the kick-off to the Eastern Ontario Cyclo-Cross Series. This series is where I discovered cyclo-cross, way back in 1994. I was racing on Specialized Rockhopper with running shoes and toe clips. I think there were about 20 people in the race (in total) and three of us were women.

It’s amazing how things have changed with our local series. Now we have over 300 people registered and last Sunday we had 58 women racing. This is simply amazing. It’s a true testament to the organizers who have stayed true to the roots of the series. It’s also a huge indicator of how important it is to have a local affordable racing series that appeals to everyone.

Last Sunday was my fourth race of the 2017 season. It was also a very special one. It was my break-through race. The result itself is not outstanding. But the ride was a good one.

The morning of the race, the pre-ride, the start, the flat tire and wheel change, and then getting back into the race – it all went really well. I feel like all the lessons I’ve absorbed over so many years of racing finally clicked.

I was nervous but calm. I was excited but not stressed. I learned more about areas to improve on. I felt my confidence increase during the race.

One new thing for me on Sunday was riding with a group. So often I’ve raced cyclo-cross alone – people in front and people behind but no one super close to resemble a group. This group riding accentuated some of my areas of weakness.

This is exactly what I want. There is always room to improve: physically, technically, and mentally. After so many years racing, training, and riding, it’s a relief to know that I still have more room to improve.

Yes, a break-through. I know it’s early days but I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m proud of my 2017 cyclo-cross season. Never would I have imagined I could be riding like this again.

It’s a special feeling to be confident.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t single out a couple of very important people who have got me here: Marc who has always encouraged me and been there to pick me up when I let the stress get the better of me and Steve Weller my long-time coach who has the extra hard job of coaching someone with complicated health problems. Thank you. 

Good To Be Back

The weekend in Rochester, NY was a good one. The racing was good. Some high moments and some low moments – but this is what happens over the duration of a weekend of racing.

Saturday was a good day on the race course. I briefly held onto a podium spot but slipped back into fourth. Some fatigue-induced errors in the last lap solidified this finish position. I was happy with how I rode and felt like I really did leave it out there.

Sunday I was stressed to the max. This was not good. I raced tight and lacked the pop I had on Saturday. I don’t even know how I finished and I don’t need to know. I put myself in a bad spot and then had to claw my way out of it. I pushed hard and even laid down some of my fastest lap times of the weekend, but when the front of the race is gone – it’s gone.

I’m glad this happened. I needed this to happen. Anxiety is a real thing for me. Learning to manage it is a daily effort. Throw a cyclocross race or two into the mix and well the anxiety level gets a bit out of control. And this is exactly what happened last weekend in Rochester.

The anxiety started gathering steam on Saturday afternoon and by Sunday morning it was a freight train out of control. I knew it was happening and really couldn’t get it to stop. On the start line I wanted to vomit. Yes, it was bad.

I need to break this and stop it now. Anxiety is not fun. Race anxiety when I’m trying to have fun and race my bike is not fun. I’ve raced in the “not fun” mode in the past and I don’t want to do it again.

Yes, I’m back racing. It’s great to be back. But I have to remember that I’m not chasing UCI points or lining up at the biggest races on the ‘cross calendar. I’m not even on the comeback path. Nope, I’m back racing for fun.

Yes, I train hard and I’m serious about my training. But you know how this is. This approach builds confidence and frankly makes it easier to achieve racing goals. And that’s all these are – race goals. They are not indicators of how I am as a person or a bike racer or an athlete – these goals are just goals and nothing more.

Lining up, racing hard, having some hard battles on the course, making small improvements during the race, and standing around talking about the race for at least 90 minutes afterwards is what it’s all about.

The real goal is in remembering this. I do this for fun. Not to make myself so nervous and wound up that I want to vomit. Done that, bought the t-shirt, and I know how it turns out.

So thanks Rochester. You were good to me. You were tough on me. Just what I needed.

Really the best parts of the weekend all came down to people. Seeing Marc race. Talking about the race course with our friends. Catching up with old cyclocross friends who we haven’t seen in a really long time. Watching the elite races and cheering on the racers. All of it was pretty darn special.

Yes, it’s good to be back.

 

And So It Begins

I’m sitting here eating 90% dark chocolate and trying to stay calm. My heart is beating a little bit faster than it should. My brain is going slightly crazy. And frankly, I’m feeling a little bit freaked out.

This can only mean one thing – I’m racing my cyclocross bike this weekend.

We’re off to Rochester, NY to kick off the cyclocross season.

I was calm. And now I’m not.

Not sure why I’m nervous and acting a bit crazy. I suppose it’s because I really care about how I do.

Of course, I’m telling myself things like “all you can do is all you do”, “just leave it all out there”, “focus on the performance not the results”, and “racing is the fun part”.

But really… do these pep talks really work? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.

All I know is that I should never have checked the ranking system on crossresults.com. I checked this so I could see when I’d be called up. Well, now I know – I’ll be called up second last. Second last.

Geez. This is stressful. I was less stressed when I was called up first (way back when). But second last. Now I feel like I have to prove something to myself (and that damned database).

I know it will be okay. My fitness is much higher than it was last year. My technical skills are probably the best they’ve ever been. I’ll just go out there and give it a go.

This is the fun time after all. Breathe in. Breathe out. Eat some more dark chocolate.

New Beginnings

The new year is just around the corner. Yes, I’ve checked the calendar – January is kind of a long way off. I’m talking about September. I don’t know about you but for me, September signals the start of a new year.

I suppose it’s all the years of school and university that have imprinted September as the time to be ready for a fresh start and new beginnings. All summer I’d be busy doing summer stuff (riding bikes, working, and reading books) then it would be time for the school year. What would it be like? Would this be the year that I’d finally be part of the in crowd? Would this be the year I’d figure it all out and lose the feelings of dread that came with starting a new school year? Would I finally get it and be cool?

Yeah, September has got a lot of emotion tied up in it. I suppose if your high school years were filled with cool kid parties and less time in the library, then high school was a fun time for you…

But I digress, so all this to say – it’s finally here – the start of a new year. I’m never one to wish time away or to speed up the clock, but I’m happy September is right around the corner. It seems like the chances for a true fresh start could actually happen.

This past year has been challenging to say the least. But, thankfully these challenges were not deal-breakers and we all managed to come out whole.

And now, we’re here. The sun is shining. I’m going to ride my ‘cross bike in the woods. Marc is out riding with his pals. Calvin is sitting on the kitchen table catching some sun. Yeah, life is pretty good. Perfect time for fresh beginnings and a new start.

Instead of the school year and a stomach of dread – I’ve got a stomach packed with unicorns and rainbows. The possibilities feel endless and the adventure really has just started.

 

Happy Stomaversary

Wow, one year ago today, I had my colon removed. Can you believe it’s been a year? I can’t.

Before my ileostomy surgery, I really had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know what life would be like with Reset (my stoma). I didn’t know how life would change (or wouldn’t change).

This surgery saved my life. Having an ileostomy and pouch, has given me my life back. In 2009 if you’d suggested I should have surgery and live with having a pouch on the front of my body that collects the undigested food that travels through my small intestines – I would have refused this as a possibility.

It’s amazing though what perspective can do. I spent so many years being very ill (you likely didn’t know how ill I was) and trying to force myself into regular daily life. This meant I was often very tired and in pain – but I kept on doing everything I loved doing. Until I couldn’t.

The last couple years before having this surgery were very hard. Hard for me. Hard for Marc. Daily life was cloaked in uncertainty – would today be a good day or a bad day?

The surgery I had on August 8, 2016 changed all this. Generally, every day is a good day. Thank you Reset. Thank to you to my amazing surgeon. I have my life back.

This is not a cure. I’m still dealing with an ulcerative colitis flare. I still have my rectum and part of my colon – this will likely be removed sometime in early 2018. Until then, though, I do have days of intense pain and not nice things happening. Such is life. I’ve been through worse. Ulcerative colitis will always be part of my life, whether it’s with this flare or with the new joint pain that has appeared.

Regardless, I wouldn’t change what happened on August 8, 2016 for anything. This past year has been one that I couldn’t have imagined. I feel like I’ve been cramming in multiple years of life into this past year.

I’ve never felt better. I can’t wait to experience whatever is around the corner. Happy Stomaversary!

Yesterday, August 7, was our 13th wedding anniversary. I’m so fortunate to have Marc in my life. This guy is my rock. The past year has been challenging with my surgery, a car accident, Marc’s concussion, a sick cat (twice), and a few other stressors – but through it all we knew that we have one another for support, love, and happiness. Happy anniversary Marc.

New Job

Some news: I’m starting a new job. Okay, well it’s not really a new job – it’s actually taking my freelance work and making it my primary job. Today I gave my notice at the technical writing position I’ve been at for the past five years.

I’m super excited. I feel like a huge weight of stress has been lifted from my shoulders.

I’ll be working from home. Doing more of what I’m currently doing – lots of creative and challenging writing.

I’m excited. I’m nervous. But best of all, I feel like I’ve come up for a breathe of fresh air. I didn’t realize how much of my day-to-day was spent rushing from one thing to the next. I learned the hard way that I can’t do it all (as much as I would like to).

Instead, I’m focussing on the things that truly give me satisfaction. It’s amazing how quickly the work/life balance can get distorted. For me, I had to get in it very deep to recognize that I was on a bad path of unmanageable stress.

So, yeah – new job. Cool. Very thankful.