Training Days

The middle of February… This can be a tough time in what seems like a long month for pretty much anyone. We are still stuck in the dead of winter and the days really don’t feel much longer. If you’re in Ottawa, you’re surrounded by snow and is very cold (at least today). This can make for some long days.

Well, I’ve found a way to beat the winter malaise. (And yes, I know. I’ve only been back in Ottawa for a week now so I shouldn’t be moaning about the cold and snow..) My solution to these days that really aren’t that friendly to us bike racers? Ride the rollers… Yep, never will 45 minutes or an hour go by so quickly as it does as you’re slip sliding around the rollers on your two-wheeler. Trust me, I know.

I just finished my first roller ride of the season. Wow, hard to believe that way back in the ’90s I used to only train on the rollers. Let me tell you it wasn’t a pretty down there in the basement. I was wobbly. I definitely didn’t ride in a straight line. My shoulders were in my ears. I gripped the bars a bit too tight. My knees were sticking out. I even fell off once. But I got through it.

45 minutes of roller riding is done. The time went by so quickly. Much more quickly than when riding the trainer. I guess because I was too busy focusing on staying upright that I didn’t have time or the energy to think about the slowly ticking clock. I’m not ready to watch television and ride the rollers yet. So I listened to a podcast on my iPod and tried to ignore the sweat puddles forming on my body. Thing is, with the trainer I can towel off and wipe my glasses whenever I want – on the roller this just isn’t happening.

It’s tempting to take the easy route and ride the trainer. Much less risk involved. I can watch television, drink water, and wipe away the sweat. But riding the rollers will pay off in the racing season with a more fluid pedaling stroke and an effortless high cadence (at least this is what I’m telling myself). Besides time flies on the rollers.

Tomorrow I’ll break out and get outside for another trail run followed by some trainer riding time to flush out my legs. I’m fully back in the groove of training now. My body is feeling good. I really missed this structured training. So far the fatigue levels haven’t been that severe and luckily I’m not experiencing much muscle soreness. I’ve reacquainted myself with my foam roller and my stretching routine to help keep my muscles loose and limber.

So there you have it. Almost one week into training for the 2011-2012 cyclo-cross season. It feels good to be coming back!

On another note, I have written a book. It is called: An Unlikely Elite. This is my story of reaching my goal of racing at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships. You can download it in epub format or in pdf. If you like what you read, it would be great if you made a donation to my fundraising efforts for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada. You can use the PayPal button on the An Unlikely Elite web site. Thanks in advance for taking the time to read my book and for making a donation.

 

Rebuilding

Got some more good news from the doctor yesterday – green light to get back into training. What excellent news. I kind of anticipated this so I’ve been taking a very leisurely week with regards to the bike. If I felt like riding and it was nice out, I went for a ride. If I wasn’t feeling it, well I simply didn’t ride. I did this because I know next week once I’m home in Ottawa I’ll be spending quality time with my bike on the trainer in the basement.

I have to say this week has been rather nice. I just rode when I wanted. Did whatever type of ride I felt like. So it is Friday and I last rode on Thursday. It was an excellent off-road ride in the woods of Tesenderlo. I rode steady letting my legs churn at whatever effort they wanted. This meant I did sprint up some steep inclines. This meant I did work on a high cadence and not getting bogged down in the mud. This meant I cruised the bicycle path. Really, this meant I just rode and thoroughly enjoyed it.

We are heading home on Monday so my riding is over for this trip. I kind of would like to ride on Sunday (assuming the weather is decent) but I sold one of my bikes today and the other one has a broken shifter. So I won’t ride. No biggie. I got in way more riding in the first month of 2011 than I had expected after my health problems. (I initially didn’t expect to be riding until March…) So I’m happy and content with the miles and time I was able to get in.

These rides I got in probably taught me more about myself than any other rides I’ve done. They reminded me that I love riding my bike. They showed me that it takes time and patience to rebuild and feel whole again. They highlighted how much I really wanted to be racing in St. Wendel, Germany. They gave me the chance to really look at myself as a bike racer and think about what I want and how I’m going to get it. Really can’t ask for much more than that from a month of riding. Those rides I did in January were a gift.

Now I’m looking ahead a little bit. Thinking about and talking with my coach about the upcoming block of training. How are we going to approach it? What kind of spring and early summer do I want? Lots of good ideas and thoughts swirling around. Honestly, I’m looking forward to the trainer… It is a sign that I’m on my way back. I’m rebuilding and I’m getting ready for an excellent season.

Stoked

Dudes, I’m super stoked right now. I’ve got a fire in my belly and really I just need to get out and ride my bike. What has caused this urgent need to pedal, pedal, and pedal some more? The UCI cyclo-cross calendar for 2011-2012 is out… Oh boy, it is going to be a great season.

I’m pumped that the first two World Cups are in the Czech Republic. I really enjoy racing in the Czech Republic and there is nothing quite like racing in Tabor (where I raced my first World Cyclo-Cross Championships). The UCI calendar looks really good. I’m pleased that are a lot more opportunities for women to race in UCI races in Belgium/Holland. To name a few new races for us gals: Overijse and Baal. I race Overijse in 2008 – what an experience – one of the hardest courses I’ve ever done – can’t wait to race it again.

The only disappointing factor in the UCI calendar is the lack of double-header races in the U.S. For someone like me who has to drive typically eight hours to get to a race in the U.S. – this is a long way to go for one race. But it is what is so I can’t complain – just need to get on my bike and ride.

Yep, so feeling pretty jazzed right now. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to rebuild my fitness, build new fitness and to really get my technical skills where they need to be. No issues here – this is just the kind of challenge I thrive on.

Yesterday I was talking with Marc about the World Cyclo-Cross Championships in St. Wendel, Germany… The first year I tried to make the Canadian team, the World Cyclo-Cross Championships were in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands – I didn’t qualify for the team and really didn’t have an emotional connection to the weekend of racing. In 2010 I was honored to be chosen to the team and to race in Tabor, Czech Republic. This year, I did not make the team and really I found this past weekend very hard. I so badly wanted to be there and was thinking about the races all weekend. I guess this is because I now know how special it is to race at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships. I want to have this feeling again.

So, I suppose the next logical step is for me to step away from the computer, to put on my kit and go out for a ride! This is going to be a good season – I can feel it.

Recovery

Got some excellent news yesterday from my Belgian gastro doctor: my recent blood sample shows no signs of inflammation. This means that I’m on my way to full recovery from this recent ulcerative colitis flare. The other piece of good news is that my body is responding well to the Imuran. Definitely the news I’ve been waiting to hear!

I had four days of excellent riding in a row and ended up taking a much needed rest day yesterday. It is so easy to forget during my recovery process that I don’t have nearly the same fitness, strength or reserves that I had in the past. It is amazing to me how much I’ve lost in such a short time.

I think what did me in yesterday was the three hour ride on Tuesday. In retrospect, this was probably a much too ambitious ride to do considering that four weeks ago I was in the hospital hooked up to an intravenous line and eating only chicken broth and dry toast… But it is this ambition that has got me where I am…

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of my recovery process for me has been my mental state. If you’re a regular reader of this web site, you’ll be familiar with my mental battles. All too frequently I would battle my “crazy brain” and lack self-confidence. Well, I’m proud to say that mentally, I’m feeling 100 per cent. It would be easy to get frustrated about my current lack of fitness and strength – but I know this will come back. How I’m riding and recovery right now will not be permanent. If anything this rotten 2010-2011 season has reinforced my mental resolve and strength – I know I didn’t ride and race like I can – so I’m super stoked to get out there and really race the way I know I can.

This period of recovery has also emphasized to me how important it is to get back to the basics.¬† Basics of cyclo-cross like: smooth transitions and pedaling and focus and aggression on the bike. You might find the word “aggression” a strange on my website. But it is going to be a keyword for my 2011-2012 season. Last night over dinner, Marc pointed out that I’m not aggressive on my bike during cyclo-cross races – instead of fighting for positions at the start, I slip into a complacent mode of being “at the back” – the opposite of how I used to approach my cyclo-cross racing. This we determined is because “I got used to being in the back”. Well this is changing for the new season. I don’t want to be at the back nor am I going to be at the back.

One of the best parts of my recovery process has been the freedom to let my legs and mind wander. While out on the bike I can ride as hard and for as long as I want. My mind is free to simply relax and enjoy the moment. I’m not focusing on wattage numbers, cadence, the next interval, etc. If I am thinking it is typically about the drills and skills I need to focus on when I get home to make me a better racer.

Would I prefer to be in St. Wendel, Germany right now getting ready to race in the World Cyclo-Cross Championships on Sunday? Yes! This was my season goal after all. But everything happens for a reason and I can’t dwell on what didn’t happen. I know that really this season was out of my control. My body took over and I simply couldn’t race my bike.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in this recovery phase. I think the next phase will be the re-building stage where with expert guidance from coach Steve Weller, I’ll start getting my fitness and strength back. In a twisted sort of way, I’m looking forward to riding the trainer in my basement in Ottawa – this will be a sure sign that I’m on my way to a bigger and better 2011-2012 season.

Almost Time

Yesterday Karl and his family packed up their camper and hit the open road bound for St. Wendel, Germany. On Saturday Karl will race in his first World Cyclo-Cross Championships. What a lucky guy to be racing at the top level of his sport. Definitely a well-earned honor. When Karl left, I told him “try not to cry on the start line like I did”.

Yes, that race – the World Cyclo-Cross Championships has a powerful effect on me. There is nothing quite like lining up in your country’s national colors and racing with the best in the world. This is huge. It is an honor but it also represents sacrifice, dedication, risk and accomplishment.

I wish I was racing this weekend in St. Wendel, Germany. Plain and simply – I’m not.

So to the Canadians who will be out their ripping it up in their red and white skinsuits (Karl, Benjamin, Yohan, Natasha, Derrick and Craig), remember this:

– you deserve this honor

– you worked hard for it

– have fun and soak it all in

– smile when people cheer for you

– whatever happens¬† out there on the race course – remember that we’re all supporting you and are super proud of you

Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a shout out to Nikki, Gabby, Helen, Katie, Amy, and Sue. Have a great race and enjoy every minute of it.

I’ll be out there pedaling with you – cheering you on and sending you all the speedy vibes I can.

It’s the World Cyclo-Cross Championships! A great time to be a cyclo-cross racer. Looking forward to hearing all about the race and how it played out.