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.

Cyclo-Cross Tips and Tricks

I held another cyclo-cross practice session last night for a good group of people. The idea for the session was really to get the basics down well. To build confidence with dismounts, mounts and turning – the components that I see as the basics of cyclo-cross.

We warmed up nice and easy with some turning drills, practicing sliding around on our seats to see how this affects the turning ratio and comfort level. It is amazing to see how far people will push their limits when surrounded by others doing the same! Next up was tripoding. I find tripoding is a useful skill particularly in downhill cornering and cornering in loose terrain such as sand. Tripoding can give you that extra feeling of “security” you need to stay off the brakes and let the bike roll.

After this warm-up we switched gears to focus on dismounts and mounts. We took these super slow and easy. Breaking these techniques down to the basics and literally starting off at a walking pace. I find this is the easiest way to learn new skills and to break “bad habits”. Going fast is great – but often speed and learning don’t always mix. One rider had a great break-through last night and became comfortable with the “coast” and moving her hand from her handlebars to her toptube. Awesome!

Finally after all this we broke out the barrier and started to speed things up. We played around with the approach to the barrier with pretty much everyone finding a different spot where they’re comfortable at getting off their bike. In my opinion, the dismount distance is completely individual – it really depends on your foot speed and agility. Same goes for the remount – don’t get caught up in getting back on the bike right away or within two steps – just do what feels right. What is most important is to get off the bike quickly and smoothly, to float over the barrier and to get on the bike without wasting energy.

The last component of our session was to set up the grid and practice a little circuit that involved attacking the barrier and then working on some high speed turns. This gave everyone an opportunity to practice the turning skills we warmed-up with and to do things with a bit more speed.

All in all, it was an excellent night of training. I really enjoy seeing people learn a new skill – particularly the big grin that breaks out when they realize that they’ve “done it”.

As for me? Well, today was supposed to be about motorpacing… But I’m wiped out today with an ear ache, sore throat and a nasty ulcerative colitis attack. (Admittedly I probably brought this all on myself by getting stressed out and putting too much on my plate. Some things never change I suppose.) So today is a recovery day. About to get layered up in my leg warmers, thermal vest and long-fingered gloves for a skills session myself. On the agenda for me: cornering speed and fluid dismounts/remounts. And yes, I’ll be starting off slowly and not going too hard – it is about recovery and learning today.

Just a reminder that this year you must pre-register for the Ottawa Bicycle Club cyclo-cross series. There are two registration dates:
– tonight from 3 – 6 p.m at The Cyclery
– Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m at The Cyclery

Additionally you can register online through the Ontario Cycling Association website. You cannot register on site – you must be pre-registered to race….

To see the Ottawa cyclo-cross race schedule and full registration requirements, visit