Head Games

All athletes are familiar with the head games that happen in sport. This game can take many forms: competitors talking trash, being intimidated by the “look” or “swagger” of an opponent, and your own personal self-doubt. Well, for the first time in a long time, I fell victim to the head game.

It happened last night at the Bill Patterson Memorial Criterium race. This race is held annually to honor Bill Patterson, a former Ottawa sportscaster who was very supportive of athletes of all stripes. The race was held at the same venue we race at every other week – only difference being the course is a bit longer with a chicane, climb and downhill corner. Due to the chicane before the hill and the fast downhill corner – this is a challenging race course.

Needless to say, I was nervous. I wasn’t sure about the speed of the downhill corner – I’ve seen the guys race this course, and frankly they really push it on this corner coming very very close to the curb… But with encouragement from Marc, Glen and Hans, I agreed to race. All three essentially said the same thing “What have you got to loose? If you feel poorly – pull the plug. But at least start. You’ve got nothing to prove.” Very fair points.

So I lined up. But I wasn’t into it. I really felt like I was racing waiting to get dropped or to gap myself. This lead to not very smart crit riding on my part. I always needed to be a couple “rows” further up in the group but wasn’t willing to find the holes and waves to move up. This put me in a bad spot going into the chicane, this poor positioning caused me to loose some spots on the hill and then I would panic a bit and end up braking on the descent into the corner. All culminating in gapping myself coming out of the corner and doing the long chase to catch back on – only to repeat again next lap. I have to say massive thanks to Doug and a couple of other unknown guys for the pushes from behind – never have I been so happy to feel a hand on my butt! In the end, I did pull the plug.

It took about three minutes. And I felt it. The remorse of dropping out of a race. Of knowing that I don’t fully commit myself and admitting that I could have ridden smarter. Sigh. So what can I take from this? First off – I don’t want to experience these feelings again. Quitting doesn’t sit well with me. The other lesson: trust myself and believe in my skill, fitness and desire. Don’t get sucked into the head game.

Upside was I did get to watch the race and catch up with a bunch of folks I don’t normally see. Congrats to the Ride with Rendall team for sweeping the podium! Nice ride guys – impressive team work.

Some of you may know that Marc crashed last night. He crashed on the downhill corner. Too much speed. Thanks very much for your emails and calls today. Marc is doing okay. He has a slight separation in his shoulder and a lot of road rash. The one thing I learned from his crash? Wear a helmet!! If you have any doubts about helmets – let me know and I’ll send you a photo of Marc’s helmet. I’m a firm believer that helmet is the only reason we’re not sitting in a hospital right now. Many thanks to Ross for his diligent care last night – much appreciated. Thanks to Steve (Fearless Leader) for giving Marc’s bike the once-over. (Yes, the bike is fine – some ripped bar tape and a couple of dings on the brake lever.)

So there you have it, the many lessons learned from a local race on a Tuesday night.

Local racing action this weekend at the annual Preston St. criterium. Check out Bike Race Ottawa for the race details.