Preparing For It

I just took a very deep breath. This is after I looked at the calendar… Wow, hard to believe that cyclo-cross season really is so very close. Soon enough I’ll be in our trusty Matrix loaded up with Stevens cyclo-cross bikes making the drive down to Pennsylvania for the first race of the season.

What a difference a year makes. This time last year I was sick but I wouldn’t admit it. I tried to get through work-outs and to put in extra time in the woods working on skills. But it seemed with each pedal stroke I was putting myself in a deep hole. Unfortunately it took the first few races with sub-par performances and riding gasping for air that I realized something really was wrong. To be blunt – last season was not fun. But the one thing it did give me was perspective and awareness.

I have a real appreciation for my body and how I need to listen to it. This summer was a real example of this – when I wasn’t able to start formal training until July 1. Yes, July 1! I tried to train earlier but I just couldn’t do it. Now I sit here very thankful that I had the season I did last year – or I very likely wouldn’t have listened to my body, Marc and coach Steve who told me I needed to take a break and get healthy again.

And now today? Today I feel awesome! I’ve had some really top-notch months of training. I’m more focused and driven than I’ve ever been. I’m seeing numbers I haven’t seen before. I feel good. Now I know that numbers on a power meter and training are not the same as racing – but at this time – I’ll take these as indicators of how I’m feeling.

I’ll tell you this – I’m damn nervous. And a touch scared. What if I can’t race like I have before? What if my SRM is miscalibrated and the numbers I’m seeing aren’t real? What if I start racing again and I get sick? What if…? But I suppose it is these questions that get me out there on the start line – I need answers. I need to know. Deep down I know the truth – I’m good. I feel good. But sometimes you just really don’t know until the gun goes off and you hear the bell for the final lap.

All I and you can do is prepare the best we can. Do the work. Have fun. Listen to your body. Line up with an ache to do better than last time. After all, this is why we race isn’t it?

Racing in New York

Sunday morning came way too fast and way too early. We elected to stay in Trexlertown on Saturday night and drive to Kirkland, New York on Sunday morning. This meant a 3.5 hour drive in the dreary rain. But it was worth it to have a relaxing night on Saturday and a good sleep. (I got my television fix as well – we don’t have television here so it is a treat to watch movies and the Food Network in hotels…. For the record I got sucked into a movie called Couples Retreat…. Sigh.) Okay, back to the cyclo-cross racing action.

Well, as you most likely know, I had a very bad day on Saturday. I went into the race over-confident and when things didn’t play out as I had “planned” I completely shut down physically and mentally. Some terrible thoughts floated through my brain during that 40 minute ride. Not good. But this race is in the past. I needed it – big wake up call – I can’t assume that just because I raced well last year that things will come more easily this year. No, I still need that killer instinct and that “chip on my shoulder” when I go out to race.

So Sunday… Well it was better than Saturday. Still not “the ride” I was looking for but better. I’ve written a race report where you can read about my second place finish….

Got to experience my first mechanical in a long time… Got to get in some extra running training… Got to ride on slipper mud… Learned that my technical climbing skills are better…. Learned that I need to take more risks in the corners…. Learned that I can race on 18 psi…. Learned that I am strong and fit…. Learned that I need to be more aggressive… Discovered that I forget to shift during the start sprint… Discovered that I have some pretty darn good skills…. Emphasized how much I love racing my cyclo-cross bike… Emphasized how much I like being at the front and hate being at the back…. Emphasized how important it is to not let the head get in the way…..

So all in all, for me it was a good day on the bike. I’m still not 100 per cent happy with how I rode. I was on the brakes too much in the corners, I was too tense in the mud, and I should have opened it up more in the power sections. But this is what these early season races are for – to shake out the cobwebs and see where things sit.

Marc had a rough day on Sunday. His cold/flu really caught up with him on Sunday and he ended up dropping out. This is not something that Marc does, but his body really just shut down on him. Between the churning stomach and the relentless coughing, racing his ‘cross bike was not the best thing.

On the way home we decided to take a detour to the Carousel Mall in Syracuse, New York. Well this confirmed how much we both dislike malls…. Made it home at about 8:00 and I’m slowly getting the house put together. Time to get out for a recovery ride before the rain comes again (if you can believe the Ottawa weather people…).

Up next are the Catamount races this weekend. Really looking forward to these races and leaving it all on the course. If you’re around Chelsea tomorrow night, I’m holding a cyclo-cross practice session at 6:30 p.m. – drop me an email to find out more.

Many many thanks for the positive comments and emails about the mess on Saturday. I really do appreciate it. It means a lot to have your support.

Slaying the Dragon

(I just deleted my post – and I’m starting again. Attempts to be positive will now occur….)

First off, today was a bad day on the bike for me. I didn’t ride like I can. I didn’t ride like I have in the past. Nope, I simply under-performed. I had a decent start and then things went south from there. I wasn’t aggressive, I backed off when I should have pushed forward, and then I went backwards. My crazy brain kicked in and I simply shut down. Yes, it was ugly. It was embarrassing.

But it is over. The first cyclo-cross race of the season is over and in the books. Good. Now I can move ahead and look forward to bigger and better things. Better rides. Better races. Races and rides like I know I can put together. Today was a tough day and perhaps the longest 40 minutes of my life. But maybe just maybe this is what I needed.

A literal kick in the head. I remember a few years ago when I was competing in taekwon-do, I was having a pretty good string of results – basically winning all the time. And then I lost. I lost in the first round – didn’t even make it to the finals. My taekwon-do instructor said “you have to lose to appreciate the wins”. This rings true for today.

Tomorrow I’m racing in Kirkland, NY and I vow that it will be better. It will be different – it will not be like today at Nittany Lions in Trexlertown, PA. I owe this to myself and most importantly to Marc. I let him down today. He has sacrificed so much to allow me to focus on my training and racing – and today was not the best way of showing how much I appreciate this sacrifice. Also, I’ve let you down. I’ve let my sponsors down. So tomorrow will be better. I really have no choice.

So there you have it. Not the blog entry I had intended on writing today. But it is what it is.

I’ll close off this post with some excellent racing news: Marc was 6th today! Awesome. He had a great ride – particularly since he has been quite sick all week. I was so excited to see him racing and riding so well. Also congrats to Mo Bruno-Roy for her solid ride today – 2nd place is pretty darn fine for a training race! Thanks to Matt Roy for pitting for me. Also huge thanks to Matt and Mo for the positive and kind words after today’s race. Huge shout out Rob Watt for his win today – just great to read his race report about his successful day.