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.)

Catamount Weekend Verge New England Series

I’m a bit late in writing about the second day of racing at the Verge New England Series in Williston, Vermont – but as the saying goes “better late than never”.

We closed off Saturday with a good and somewhat entertaining supper with the Ottawa young guns of cyclocross and my parents. It was a great way to chill out and relax after a long day at the races. And before we knew it, Sunday had arrived and it was time to load up the super Sequoia (thanks Ken) and make our way back out to the race course.

Marc was up first at 11:30 so we got there early so he could get in some warm-up laps and have time to relax before racing. This works well for me because it gives me a chance to pre-ride without the frenzy of the elite warm-up and I can also ride with the elite Masters men during their warm-up and see their lines. Marc had an awesome race and finished 5th! Super proud of him – he was so happy afterwards – very nice to see.

I raced at 2:00 so there was lots of time to relax and get ready. Last minute thoughts about tire selection and pressure and before I knew it I was off to the call-up. I’ve got my warm-up nailed now so this makes the day so much easier – I know what time I want to get on the trainer, what I’m going to do and it seems to be working out fairly well. I’ve written a race report for the second day of racing here.

But for those of you who want to know the details on this very webpage, here you go:
– terrible start – missed my pedal and floundered
– got busy passing and chasing
– duked it out with two other riders for a while
– attacked at the uphill barriers and kept the momentum going
– finished in 11th

Positives from this race:
– my technical skills are coming along
– I took a lot of risks with speed in the corners
– I did a good job of gearing
– found places to recover
– paid attention to the others in my group and noticed where I would be able to take control
– drilled myself really deep

Lessons to take from this race:
– need to get my start sorted out – messing up these starts is causing me to miss out on crucial selections and causing me to waste energy
– continue to take risks on descents, corners, and technical sections
– always sprint out of everything – no matter how tired you “think” you are, you can stand and sprint

Overall sensations:
– my form is coming along
– my confidence is returning
– I felt like a bike racer again

Yes, so a good day and weekend of racing. I won’t lie – I’m disappointed to have missed out on getting a top 10 on both days. But this will come. If I look back to a year ago, this weekend was night and day.

Apart from the racing it was so great to connect with lots of our good cyclocross friends, to hear words of encouragement from so many people and to hang out with cool folks out having fun on bikes. I have to say that seeing Marc smile and hear him be so super positive about my races makes me feel like a winner (yes, cheesy but it’s true).

I’ve still got a long way to go to get where I want. I have to remind myself that I’ve only been training for a couple of months so I will continue to get stronger. The key now is learning how to use this strength correctly…

My dad took a bunch of photos of both myself and Marc this weekend. Here are a couple of photos from the first day of racing:

(Poor barrier remounting technique caught on digital media…)

Nittany Lions Cyclo-Cross Day 2

Sunday morning came fast and furious after a night of bike cleaning, cyclo-cross kit washing and attempts at rehydration. I guess it was much hotter than we realized on Saturday – I had a wicked headache after the Saturday race that continued well into the evening…

Saturday night ended up being very chilled out – more salads and fruit from Wegman’s and some tasty pasta made at home. There was a Chopped marathon on so I kind of become glued to this for longer than is healthy…

Anyway, on to Sunday. We were up and out of the hotel in good time with lots of time to do some recon laps of Sunday’s race course. There were some small changes but nothing that was really a game-changer. Still very muddy with the big difference being that the mud run came right after the start and the course essentially ran in the opposite direction. Lots of time to relax before the race and I even had time to read a bit and momentarily lose a shoe… Marc was up first and I didn’t get to see any of his race since I raced next but he had another good day (although an early incident has left him with a black and blue finger).

I’ve written a race report over on the Race Reports page but in the event you don’t want to click over, here are the Coles Notes:
– lethargic start and first half lap
– got my head in the game and passed a whole lot of people to move up into 8th
– made a series of small mistakes that cost me time/space/distance and energy
– lost four spots
– fought back and finished in 10th
– my turning was much better with cleaner lines that allowed me to pedal and accelerate
– energy management (for the most part) was better – I used both chainrings this time and was aware of my cadence
– I was able to recover at times on the course
– running was not the best
– I should have changed my bike – Marc said I was likely putting out 60% power due to the mud in my cassette…
– I need to beat the mental hurdles I insert during the race – ignoring my breathing, ignoring the lap card that tells me I have to race for five laps, ignoring the feeling of having my shoes nearly sucked off

All in all, a good day on the bike.

Apart from the racing, the best thing about these weekends and the entire cyclo-cross season is connecting with our racing friends. It is amazing the bonds that are forged out there on the cyclo-cross course and over the season when we’re all slogging through mud, snow, ice and giving it our all. It was great to see so many friendly faces and to hear the cheers for “Go Canada” “Come on Ottawa” – this really is super.

After a pretty quick exit from the race course we were on the road by 4ish for the drive home. Thanks to some Starbucks coffee, a can of Mountain Dew and some filling eats at Cracker Barrel we made it home in decent time. We were welcomed by a very happy fat grey cat (Murphy our 17 year old kitten!) and I had a great package to open from Lolë. Can’t beat a package of new clothes after a weekend of racing – I tried on all of my clothes and I’m pretty excited to show off this fine line of Canadian clothing at the races and out and about – thanks Lolë for the support.

As for today? Well a recovery ride and some hot power yoga are on deck – for some reason my ribs and chest feel like they’ve gone ten rounds in the Taekwon-do ring – guess the running, the slogging and powering through the mud have woken up some under-used muscles!

Thanks for the words of support, the speedy vibes and the cheering – it really does make a difference! (Huge thanks to Marc – couldn’t do this without him!)

New Kit!!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook have likely already seen this, but if you don’t follow me on these social media channels (addictions) then have I got a good photo for you.

On Thursday the friendly FedEx man arrived with a cardboard box. And in this box was my brand new cyclo-cross kit for the 2011-2012 season. Boy oh boy does it look hot! The purple is awesome (my favourite colour). I’m super stoked with the clothing. This year I ordered a super duper warm winter jacket – this is the ultimate jacket. It is neoprene with fleece inside – yes, I think it will keep me darn toasty for the season.

Before I post a picture of the new skin suit, I need to send out a big thank-you to Sean at Champion Systems Canada for the amazing support and patience. I also need to send a big shout out to Allison for the great design – if you’re looking for a designer – she is the one you need.

Alright here is a picture of the new short sleeve skin suit (yes I need to post the back of the skin suit as well as show you a picture of the long sleeve skin suit – I’m slow with the connecting the camera to the computer step…)

So Very Close

Oh, spring is so very close. It is almost here. I can feel it. The sun is blazing these days and I love the sound of melting snow. (Yes melting snow makes a sound…) To top it off, I’m going to get myself outside for my ride today. With a high of 9 celsius, this is the perfect temperature for a first spring ride of the season.

I’m starting to feel my body coming around. Finally! I know that it takes time to rebuild fitness and strength but I think I’m on the way to feeling close to my old self. Mentally I really just want to ride more, run longer and go to more yoga classes. This is a good thing. I’m over the fatigue that I was battling in the first few weeks of getting back to training. My appetite has returned and my body is telling me that it wants to go.

The weekend of training was pretty good. A hard and challenging run on Saturday thanks to the melting snow and layer of slush. Wow – my legs were burning. Awesome! Sunday I had a date with my rollers and some tempo intervals. This was my first time doing intervals on the rollers – good news is I didn’t fall off and I learned that the faster I pedal the easier it is to ride the rollers.

I’m stoked to get outside this afternoon to get a good dose of Vitamin D and the feeling of wind in my face. Keep your fingers crossed that the promised warm temperatures do actually happen. There is talk of a ride to Merrickville on Sunday…