The Tides of Perspective

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This evening while walking home from a Vinyasa yoga class, I flashed back to a few months ago when I could barely walk 500 meters. I thought about how much had changed in just four months – how much stronger and fitter I’d become.

And then I thought back to a year ago, just a few days after the opening weekend of the 2017 – 2018 cyclocross season. We had been in Rochester, N.Y. for the weekend where I had placed fourth on day one (with a call-up of 21 out of 22 riders) and the next day placed mid-pack due to some tight and anxious riding. All in all, a successful comeback weekend after the 2016 – 2017 season when I was recovering from surgery.

I remembered how stressed I had been leading into that first 2017 race weekend. A bundle of anxiety, hope, and fear. I managed to work myself up into my traditional pre-race ball of stress, but got through it with real hope for the rest of the season. I chased this weekend with a good race in Rigaud, PQ and some very good races in the local Ottawa series. I had high hopes of getting close to or on the podium at cyclocross nationals and then racing well in Mol, Belgium.

Well, these last two didn’t happen. I wasn’t technically prepared for the course in Sherbrooke, PQ and my body slowly but surely fought back with a hard and painful reminder that even without a colon, ulcerative colitis would aways be with me.

But the past is the past.  So why write about this now? Well, I think it’s the perfect time to write and think about perspective since I just finished racing in the opening weekend of the 2018 – 2019 cyclocross season in Rochester, N.Y. This past weekend there were over 40 women racing in the 1/2/3/4/5 category  – this is awesome.

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The run-up from the river. Thank goodness for sturdy course tape.

Thanks to my decent season last year, I had a second row call-up on both Saturday and Sunday. However, I knew going in that the virtues of this second row call-up would be very short lived.

Sure, it’s been four months since my recent surgery – but it takes a long time to rebuild and heal. This second go-round has been much harder. My body is pushing back hard and is not giving my any breaks. It seems like I take two steps back for every one step forward.

All this to say, I did not have any high hopes for the 2018 Rochester cyclocross race weekend. On Saturday I was last. On Sunday I was second last. I didn’t have any mechanicals, crashes, or other incidents on course that I can point to that contributed to these results.

I’m simply not where I was last year, two years ago, or even three years ago.

Is this hard to take? Heck yes, it’s really hard to take. The negative pre-race talk from fellow racers and the brutal heckling on the stairs (one guy told me to go faster next lap), doesn’t help but whatever, people sometimes aren’t their best selves on race day.

It’s hard to race at the very back of the race. It’s hard on the ego. It’s hard because I know what I was capable of. It’s hard because I don’t know if  I’ll ever get back to where I was. It’s hard because I just don’t know what my body can do anymore.

But, through it all, I’m so happy I raced. When I crossed that finish line on Saturday I was crying. I was crying tears of relief, joy, and success. I did it. I raced – I didn’t think I’d ever race again. And I did it.

On Sunday, I wasn’t convinced I could line up again on the second row and have a repeat of Saturday. But Marc reminded me that Sunday could be my last race of the season and that I needed to remember how emotional I was on Saturday after racing.

So, I did it again. I lined up on Sunday and I raced. I had a strategy this time. Go as hard as I could on the open power sections and ride the technical sections calmly and in control. I focused on looking forward, clean barriers, using the entire width of the course, and on keeping constant pedal pressure. So this is what I did. I stayed positive the entire race and was very happy to not be lapped by the race leader.

I did what I could with what I had on the weekend. This is all any of us can do on any day of the week when faced with whatever challenge we have in front of us. To quote a smart person I know, “All you can do is all you can do”.

Believe me, I really wish I didn’t have so many lessons in perspective and making the best of my situation. But I do. So it’s up to me to take these doses of perspective and use them to my advantage.

One day in the future I’ll look back on the September 8/9 weekend of 2018 and realize how far I’ve come.

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I think this was just before entering the wooded technical section. 

A huge thanks to Josée, Marc, Steve, Ian, Matt, Todd, and everyone else who cheered me on. It’s amazing what a lift it is to hear your name being called when out on course doing the racing thing. A big thanks to Josée for the photos and for handing me my bottle on Saturday when I managed to mangle my bottle cage on a wooden stake. 

It was a great weekend. Catching-up with long-time cyclocross friends, being outside all day, cheering on the other racers, and most importantly seeing friends have great successes on their bikes on race day. A big shout-out to Marc for his third place on Sunday and to Steve for his double second places.