Today I had one of those training sessions on the ‘cross bike that I crave. Everything just really came together. I was focused on the drills and everything just came together so well.

I rolled over to my neighbourhood park with a bunch of flags and a plan. This park has a steep and kind of wide hill in it. Perfect for setting up flags and working on turning under pressure and with speed. So I set up four flags across the face of the hill. Idea being was to force me to get used to turning with speed. This drill also forced me to focus on looking ahead, pedaling through the corners and completing my turns. If I didn’t continue to turn the wheel, I would not be set up correctly for the next flag.

Last year I had tried to do this same drill with Marc and I really struggled. I was sloppy, slow and all over the brakes. But I told myself today would be different. It is a new year and I’m a new rider.

I stayed in a positive head space. If I made a mistake and overshot a flag or forgot to pedal through the turn, I simply reminded myself of what I had to do and focused on it the next time through. I’ve got to say it is amazing what positive self-talk can do.

I had a blast. I started out conservatively to gain confidence and learn the skills. Then as things got easier, I made the drill more challenging. More speed. Less brake. No brake. Tighter turns. Harder gears. Etc. All in all I’m pretty darn happy with how it went.

The next phase of the session used the same flag set up but this time I was climbing the hill. I have struggled in the past with steep climbs, off-camber climbs, and climbs that involve turning. So this was a perfect drill for me. I was forced to really use my body to get the bike through the corners and I really had to become comfortable with my bike. It worked. I steadily got better at moving my bike through the tight uphill turns – focusing on forward momentum and using my entire body to move the bike along. I concentrated on keeping the feet turning over in the really steep and challenging turns. In the past, I let myself stall out on steep climbs and I’d simply stop pedaling. Not today.

So it was a good time on the ‘cross bike. I learned some new skills. Honed some other skills. Was able to put together lessons from the past. What really impressed me was that there were times when my pedals were digging into the side of the hill or the speed was a bit crazy – I just kept on going. In the past I would have been flustered with myself.

I left my little neighbourhood park feeling really satisfied and empowered. A great session on the bike.

The only sad thing about this ride today was the park itself. It was pretty much empty. There was one dad there with two little guys – playing catch in the ball diamond. Another dad came with a little guy and they kicked around a soccer ball. That’s it. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the suburbs and the park was pretty much empty! I like to think it was because people were out “playing” in the other parks in the area…

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is ego. Ego in sports. Ego in athletes. Not sure why I’ve got this on my brain lately. But it is there. Some parts of me like to believe that an athlete who wants to be her/his best, does not have room for ego in the emotional tickle trunk. But then I think of the 100 meter track and field sprinters and cyclists like Mark Cavendish. When these athletes are out working, they are all ego and bravado. And it works – they are winners – particularly Cavendish. On the other hand there are the quiet, understated athletes who simply toe the line, ride hard, get an excellent result and then go home to get up and do it again the next day. There is no tough talk, chest thumping, etc. Athletes who come to mind are Michael Barry, Svein Tuft, Gina Grain, and Catharine Pendrel. These cyclists do their jobs quietly – getting amazing results but without the “in-your-face” behaviour. So I’m trying to figure out what works? What is the best way to manage ego? Do you need to have some ego to succeed as an elite athlete? Is ego completely individual to the person? I guess part of what I’m grappling with is the difference/similarities between ego and confidence. I need to believe in myself. I need to be confident in my skills and fitness. But how to do this without letting ego take over? What are the boundaries between ego and confidence?

(Yes, your thoughts on this are much appreciated.)

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