Gloucester!

We’re heading out on Friday for the drive down to Gloucester, Mass. I’m really looking forward to this weekend of racing. It has been three years since I’ve raced at Gloucester – and back then I raced in the women’s 3/4 category. I remember watching the elite women race and wishing I could race with them – and now I am!

Gloucester is one of those race venues and weekends that really just encapsulates what cyclocross is about: top-notch venue, good crowds, lots and lots of racers, even more fans – there is a real sense of community and coming together at Gloucester. It is hard to explain but it really does capture all the really good aspects of our sport.

Not only is it fun to race at Gloucester but it is also fun to watch and cheer on the others racing. This weekend I’ll be cheering on Marc in the Masters race then getting sorted for my race. After that I’ll be able to watch the elite guys hit the course and I’ll be cheering super loudly for Conor and Evan as they duke it out. And if Ted King is racing – you can be sure I’ll be cheering for him!

This is our fourth weekend of travel in a row. For a bike racer or a cyclocross racer this really isn’t that big of a deal – but it I do have to say the travel is getting a bit tiresome. Soon enough I’ll be in Belgium where the longest drive I’ll have to do is 2 or maybe 3 hours – much friendlier than the eight hours on Friday and eight hours on Sunday.

Luckily this weekend we’re staying with friends – this takes a lot of the travel issues out of the picture. We’re super lucky to have friends who like bikes just as much as we do and are willing to let us invade their home for the weekend.

Alright, with this, I’m going to sign off and get some sleep. I’ve got some writing work to do in the morning, a ride to get in and then we’re piling into our van (we swapped cars with our neighbour) and hitting the open road. See you in Gloucester – I’ll be the one in purple!

All In

Well, it has happened. The inevitable desire and cravings are back in full force. The thing is that last winter and this past spring/early summer I wasn’t convinced that I really missed it. Sure I like competition and pushing myself but maybe my racing days truly were done? Maybe it was time to slow down a bit?

Good grief – I couldn’t have been further off the mark. Now after five races, I’m hooked again. I didn’t realize how much I missed and needed to race. Training and riding bikes is fun. But racing is what it’s all about.

That anxiety that comes a few days before when I’m thinking about the course and playing it through in my brain. The day before when I’m packing my bag and getting my race clothes ready. Day of when I get out for the pre-ride and scope out the bumps and grooves that are going to challenge and push me for 40 minutes. The one hour before the race when I’m on the trainer listening to some music and getting myself primed and ready to go. The 10 minutes before I’m called to the line when the nervous chatter starts and the dry mouth sets in with full force. Finally on the line, wishing the darn whistle would just go so I could get moving and racing. Then the race happens and it all happens: success, misses, triumphs, blood, sweat and elation. All in the span of 40 minutes or so. The post race feelings are always a mix of happiness, relief, misgivings, and joyfulness.

I guess back when I wasn’t able to race, it was easiest to convince myself that racing really wasn’t such a “big deal”. But now that I’m back in and part of the game again – I’ve recognized that it really is something special. I love it all. The racing. The travel. The hanging out with friends. Cheering on my training pals. Experiencing your triumphs and stories. All of it is part of the package. Really really happy to be doing it again.

(Here is a link to an article about focus – I found it useful – you might as well.)

Like a Kid?

Yesterday was just a great day to be a cyclist in Ottawa. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was shining, there was a bit of wind and most importantly – no rain. I seized the day and the weather for another easy ride. The plan was a 45 minute ride… This plan didn’t hold together all that well – I ended up riding for 90 minutes or so. But it was an excellent 90 minutes.

I set out with a loose plan – essentially ride on as many bicycle paths and patches of grass as possible – all in my Ottawa suburb. So this is what I did. I explored a new bicycle path, followed a worn trail in the grass, zipped along busier bicycle paths, hit up some trails by the 416. Really just like a kid who takes off for a “bike ride” I simply followed my eyes, ears and heart. If the right turn looked more interesting, I went right. Big puddle on the left, okay ride right through as fast as I could. I’m pretty darn sure I was smiling the entire time – this is based on all the smiles I received from those I saw out enjoying the fresh fall air.

So you can easily understand how this 45 minutes turned into 90… Can’t blame me really. Great ride. Good sensations in my legs and body. I didn’t push the pace, rather I rode so I could get a feel for my legs. All in all, a most excellent ride.

I closed off the day with a photo shoot with Marc L. Many thanks to Marc for coming out to snap literally hundreds of photos of me rolling along on my trusty Stevens Carbon Team DA and wearing my long-sleeve skinsuit (thanks Champion Systems Canada). The photos are for my rider cards. Yes, I’m finally getting rider cards! Pretty stoked about this. Rider cards are sought after at all the races in Europe – people collect them just like hockey cards here. For the past three years, I’ve had to say “Sorry, I don’t have rider cards”. But not this year! Thanks Marc for the photos and for the work behind-the-scenes with the lay-out. Definitely appreciated.

I realized that in my blog post on Monday, I neglected to tell you about Marc’s weekend racing. Well, it was a weekend of ups and downs. Saturday was a challenging day thanks to an early race collision that resulted in a bent derailleur hangar and this was followed with a flat… But through it all, Marc dug deep and kept on going – I was very inspired by his doggedness. Sunday was a much better day for Marc – he rode very strong and even a late race crash didn’t set him back. It was great to watch him race, cheer him on and then hear all about the races afterwards. Another excellent weekend at the cyclo-cross races.

Today I’m taking it easy. No riding for me. Truth be told, I’m tired. Plus my quads are a bit tight – must have been the running last night. I just got home from my second iron infusion. Crossing my fingers that these iron infusions help. Have to say that the staff at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital have been amazing – super friendly, super patient and just top-notch professionals. So today is all about rest. Maybe a bit of light yoga to stretch out my muscles but other than that, I predict the couch will be my training partner this afternoon!

But before my afternoon nap, I have to take off to do a few errands. Off to The Cyclery to pick up some supplies for next week’s trip to Aigle and Plzen for the season-opening World Cups. Then a break at Sbucks to catch-up with the KingsBridge head honcho.

(P.S. I’ve registered for the Brockville race. Looks like I’m racing the early race. So to all the little kids out there – be gentle when you pass me! Seriously, looking forward to racing at home and to soaking up the supportive vibes of the Ottawa Bicycle Club Cyclo-Cross Series. This is where it all started for me.)

(P.P.S don’t forget to pick up the latest issue of Canadian Cycling Magazine – I’ve got two articles in the issue. One about carbohydrates and training/racing and the other is about cyclo-cross training/skills. A couple of good reads if I do say so myself!)

(P.P.P.S make sure to pick issue 10 of Cyclocross Magazine… There is an article in this issue about mental training/coaching. I was interviewed for this article and I think it reads really well and includes some very useful information.)

30 Minutes

I was given a gift today. A sweet gift of 30 minutes. 30 whole minutes of riding. You have no idea how much I’ve been looking forward to this 30 minutes. I was trying to figure out how to stretch this 30 minutes to 3 hours, but common sense prevailed… Lets just say this was a pretty darn fine 30 minutes.

What did I do for 30 minutes of riding? I noodled. I played. I smiled. I soaked up the crisp fall air. I let the sun shine down on my face. I worked on my cycling tan. I pedaled amongst the orange leaves and a little bit of mud. I simply enjoyed the ride for what it was.

A reminder that I am here. That I am on the right path. That this really is short-term pain for long-term gain. Would I have rather been racing this past weekend in Gloucester, Mass.? Darn right. But honestly, it is not fun racing the way I feel right now. It is hard on the head, soul, and body. So I became a superfan for the weekend with thoughts of today’s 30 minutes keeping me stoked for cyclo-cross season.

The weekend of racing in Gloucester was top-notch. Deep and talented fields continued to line-up on the hour each day, making for two fast and exciting days of racing. In my opinion the highlights of the weekend include: the Masters 35+ 1/2/3 race – these guys are fast, the women’s elite race had lots of drama and excitement – Wendy Simms coming from the back row and how about Sally Annis?, watching first year U23 Evan McNeely eat up the elite men’s field on Saturday. On Sunday it was nice to see Karl rebound from a challenging day on Saturday – he showed that patience really does pay off.

Away from the race course, the weekend was made even better thanks to our super hosts: Mike and Cathy. These guys let us crash at their place, eat their food, play with their kittens, and generally just relax. Thanks Mike and Cathy – hopefully we can do the same for you one day (hint, hint – Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour???).

I have to say thank-you to all of you who stopped to talk. Pretty much everyone had the same question: how are you doing? You have no idea how awesome it was to hear this question. I really do appreciate it. And to answer your question: well, I’m doing okay. My 30 minutes of two-wheeled fun have done wonders for my spirits. I’ve got another iron infusion scheduled this week. I’m looking forward to the World Cups in Aigle and Plzen. I’m only looking ahead and as far as I’m concerned, the new season starts this week. What happened, happened. I’m just relieved to know that I’m on finally on the path to wellness.

Amazing what 30 minutes can do for the soul.

New England Worlds – Kinda Sorta

I had really been looking forward to racing at “New England Worlds” aka “Gloucester” all season. But sadly it is not to be. Those tests I had done earlier in the week revealed some additional health issues that I need to sort out in order to be healthy. I’ve learned that I’m really just getting by thanks to my fitness and cycling-determination…. Once again a testament to how living a healthy and active lifestyle can keep you out of the hospital and living a full life. Problem is, that as a result of the ulcerative colitis flare, I’ve developed a pretty severe bout of anemia coupled with a too low hemoglobin/red blood cell count. This explains a lot. In a strange way it is a relief. This news explains why each race this year has been a struggle.

How am I feeling? Well, in a way, relieved – now we know what is going on. But in another way, I’m damn mad. I’m downright angry. Why does happen to me? Why do those people who eat poorly, don’t exercise and quite frankly treat their bodies like garbage disposals, manage to avoid the problems I’m having? Some days I feel like pulling up to the nearest golden arches and hunkering down to a Big Mac, large fries, and chocolate shake. But I don’t. And I won’t. Because that is not the attitude that got me here.

Got me here to this place where I’m surrounded by super friends and sponsors. Friends who cheer for me no matter how I’m riding. Friends who encourage me every step of the way. Friends who when I’ve cracked, have been quick to send emails and post comments reminding me to keep chasing the dream. Friends who know what it is like. Sponsors who were there in the beginning when I was transitioning into elite racing. Sponsors who believed in me to provide me with bikes, clothing, food, shoes, helmets, travel and living support. Sponsors who know that I’ve got lots of great races left in me. (Do yourself a favor and check out my sponsors – some top-notch products and people. Overwhelmed would be the appropriate word.)

I’ve had a few pity parties for myself this season. Wondering what is going on. Why can’t I ride like I did last year? I even asked myself if I still wanted it? And the answer: Yes I want it. Yes, I will be racing at the World Champs in St. Wendel, Germany. Yes, I know I can compete with the best. Yes, I know I’m stronger and smarter than this time last year. Yes. Yes. Yes.

So this weekend there will be no racing for me. I’ll be cheering on my favorite guy. Doing whatever he needs to ensure he has two excellent races. Gloucester is a special place for us. This is the first race we traveled to outside of Canada. This is the first time I stood in the pits. This is the first time I saw the elite women whiz by and wished I could be like them. Gloucester is the first time I stood on the podium. Gloucester is where we were bitten by the ‘cross bug. Can’t hardly wait to get there. If you see me in the pits or roaming around, stop me and say “hello”. Looking forward to a great weekend of racing, cheering, friends, and hanging out.

Roller Coaster

I feel like I’m in the middle of roller coaster season rather than cyclo-cross season. Roller coaster basically sums up how things have been going so far. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time and clicking over to read my race reports, you can most likely understand why. But just like any respectable roller coaster, my cyclo-cross season is having some solid moments of ups with its downs.

Seems though that these ups are happening when I’m not racing. The ups are happening when I’m cheering on Marc, watching my friends race hard and succeed, and when I’m helping people learn new cyclo-cross skills. Such was the scene this evening. Tonight I helped out the OBC and held a session for a small group of kids/teenagers. In total we had five kids/teenagers all with a range of racing and cyclo-cross experience. A good little bunch of kiddos eager to learn and definitely willing to attempt to rip my legs off. Thanks to Marc and Conor for demonstrating skills and for providing their expert opinions, we had a really good session. Things were kept pretty basic with the focus being on the “dismount – mount” sequence. By the end of the 90 minutes all of these young racers were getting off and on their bikes very smoothly. We played some follow the leader at the end and I was impressed with the creativity the kiddos demonstrated with the route! All in all, a great night of helping out the future of the sport and seeing people thrive. Definitely an up on this roller coaster.

Training wise, well really I haven’t been able to do anything this week. Monday was consumed with preparing for the endoscopy and colonoscopy and then Tuesday was quite literally swallowed and sucked up with these two procedures. My 11 a.m. appointment ended up being at 2:30 – so I was at the hospital from 10 until 4:30… Not like I had the energy or desire to get on a bike when I got home. The only thing I really wanted to do was eat! I hadn’t eaten any solid food since Sunday night and really jello and popsicles don’t count as food…. I took it easy today as well – my body basically had no food left in it so I really just needed to rest and eat. The eating part I don’t mind, but resting is hard. Good news is that we’ve already got some results back. So tomorrow I’m back to the hospital for some additional procedures that will hopefully make a difference. By next week we’ll know even more and keeping my fingers crossed we find out what to do to put this ulcerative colitis to rest (at least until Feb. 1…). So another up on the roller coaster.

Of course the biggest up on the roller coaster is yet to come… It is of course: Gloucester! There is no place quite like Gloucester. Great race course. Solid fans. Excellent organization. Beautiful location. Just a great spot for some cyclo-cross racing. My focus is on having this weekend be full of ups as well. Positive mindset – anything can happen and in my visions, only good things are going to happen. Looking forward to racing, hanging out with our super hosts Mike and Cathy, cheering on Marc, Steve, Conor, Karl, Evan and the rest of the Ottawa crew who is making the drive down, hopefully catching up with Erik B., and just generally enjoying be out on my bicycle.

As the new favorite shirt says:
Do What You Like. Like What You Do.