Twisty Roads

I rolled out of the house this morning at around 10:30 for a ride. To be honest, I really didn’t feel much like riding. I wanted to ride but I just really felt kind of lost on the bike. It is strange to be riding with no fixed goal or reason for the ride. I know I’m riding right now to rebuild the lost fitness and strength. But I’m used to having a goal for each work-out – specific power goals, intervals, etc. Right now I’m really just riding. Don’t get me wrong I love doing it, but somedays it is hard to get out there.

So this was how I was feeling at the start of my ride this morning. Directionless. I pointed myself to my favorite twisty roads and decided to ride for as long as I felt. Gradually the sun started to come out and with it my spirits began to lift. I found myself in Veerle and decided to keep on going – typically I turn off and head back to Blauberg via Averbode. Not today. Today I found myself on more twisty roads and on my way to Eindhout.

I ended up having a great ride. I let me bike take me where it wanted. I had some excellent podcasts loaded up on my iPod and really relaxed into the ride. Those twisty roads seemed to give me some excellent therapy. My legs opened up and began to find their rhythm. My heart and soul relaxed and I was able to enjoy the ride for the sake of the ride. In the end, I’m super happy I went out.

I’m guessing that part of the reason I’m feeling a bit directionless right now is because we’re in the big build up to the Hoogerheide World Cup and the World Cyclo-Cross Championships next weekend in St. Wendel, Germany. Well, I’m not in the build up for these races… But pretty much all of my friends are. I’m super stoked for them, but I’m also sitting here wishing I was part of the big show this year. Hoogerheide is one of my favorite World Cups and well, what can you say about the World Cyclo-Cross Championships – simply the ultimate race. I know that I’ll be there next season but next season feels very far away right now….

Tomorrow I’ll get out for another ride. This one will be a longer one, I’m thinking close to three hours of riding on the twisty roads and a few climbs. Just what my legs, heart and soul need right now. I’ll simply let the twisty roads guide me – this seems to be working so far.

Reflections on a Cyclo-Cross Season

For a cyclo-cross racer, this is kind of an odd time to be writing about my cyclo-cross season. But as you know, my season was cut short in December… I’ve had some time to think about this 2010-2011 cyclo-cross season and I thought I’d let you in on these thoughts….

In a nutshell, this was a very disappointing cyclo-cross season. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted or planned. The goals I set weren’t achieved. And quite frankly I didn’t race the way I can or wanted. This was not for want of trying. In fact sometimes I wonder if I “tried” to hard. I wonder what my season would have been like if when I first got sick again last May, I’d backed off on the training and let my body heal. But hindsight is 20/20. I felt good on the bike and everything was pointing towards the training benefits paying off into the cyclo-cross race season. But this didn’t happen. I fought my body each and every time I got on the bike to race this year. Is this an excuse for why my season didn’t live up to my expectations? I’m not sure – it is what it is.

I worked hard in the off-season on my technical skills. But still I have much more room to improve in this area. In fact more than my struggles with the ulcerative colitis this season, I wonder if my technical skills held me back more than my health struggles? I pushed myself technically this spring/summer/fall, but I still believe I can push myself more. There are skills that I simply need to “get”. Being smooth in my transitions. Really understanding gearing and how it applies to different terrain: sand, mud, steep climbs, off-cambers, etc. Technically I’ve come along way, but this season has shown me that I still have further to go. By making improvements technically, I think I can really improve my cyclo-cross racing.

Really there are no results to write about here. After a few weeks into the season it became pretty clear that the results I had attained last season were going to be pretty darn hard to achieve. Instead I had to look at each races as an opportunity to test myself technically and to simply just focus on getting around for 40 minutes. Not really what goes through the mind of an elite cyclo-cross racer on the start line. But it is what it is. I did have some races that I was happy/content with – my ride at Niel was decent for my first muddy slog of a Belgian race, I had a blast at Aspere Gavere and was stoked to be able to ride the crazy descent, Hasselt was fun as usual, and I really felt like I had a decent ride at Koksijde. Sand is still very challenging for me, but I felt like I rode better at Koksijde this year than I did last. Actually, even the Canadian Cyclo-Cross Nationals were okay for me – I was 16th – not the result I wanted or expected… But through it all, I didn’t quit, I stayed positive and just focused on leaving it out there. It just so happens that this year it was 16th (rather than 7th the previous two seasons…). If anything this cyclo-cross season has taught me more than ever to focus on performance rather than outcome. It would have been so easy to quit and crack if I had been only looking at my name on the results sheet.

Mentally, this has been my strongest season ever. There was a point at the start of the season when I didn’t know about the ridiculous anemia and the effects the ulcerative colitis was having on my ability to perform that I did worry that my “head had fallen off”. I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t race the way I believed I should be. Immediately I started to worry that I just didn’t want it badly enough. But deep down, I knew this wasn’t the case. Honestly it was a relief to find out I was fighting my body and not my brain. I’ve come a long way mentally in this bike racing game. It hasn’t been easy. But I think I’ve found my groove. I’m confident. I believe in myself. And I’ve learned to ignore the idiots out there – yes, in our little Ottawa cyclo-cross community there are people who were (and probably still are) talking “trash” behind my back and to others about how “Vicki sucks”. Well, I let this get to me for a bit but then I realized that I just simply don’t care about those idiots. I don’t have time to let them get in my brain. I suppose the hardest part with this has been wondering why people bother saying “crap” about others – what is the point in being outright mean to another person? Sometimes I’m tempted to say something face-to-face to these people – but what is the point – idiots just don’t get it. So thanks to my strengthened mental resolve and confidence, I was able to come out of this negative aspect of the season on top. I’m a good bike racer. I’m a strong bike racer. Those who know me, know this. As for the others – I just don’t care.

So where does this leave me for 2011-2012 cyclo-cross season? Well, I’m eager to start training again. But I’m not rushing things. I have to get healthy before I can do this. I have been out on my bike for the last three days and the riding has been slow but enjoyable. I find the riding now is not “effortless” like it was. But I know the strength and form will come back. I’ve got some goals set for the upcoming cyclo-cross season and I’m hoping to get out to do some road racing this summer as well. I’ll be out on all three bikes this spring and summer: mountain, road and cyclo-cross – plugging away and enjoying every minute of it.

One aspect to this cyclo-cross season that can’t be overlooked is of course my sponsors. I’m a very lucky bike racers. I’ve got amazing sponsors who support me for who I am and what I represent. They are not hung up on my results or podiums – they’re about getting the brand out there with a positive image. For this I’m very fortunate. It was very hard for me to contact my sponsors in December and let them know about the end of my cyclo-cross season. I have such a solid connection with all of my sponsors that I really felt like I was letting them down. The response I received from each and everyone of them was overwhelming. In a nutshell: get better don’t worry about the racing. Yep, pretty darn lucky. So a big thanks to:

And many many thanks to the sponsor behind all of these fine companies: Marc. Marc has once again made this cyclo-cross season a reality. His faith and belief in me really keeps me going. It would have been easy to pack it in this season and change my plans and goals. But Marc wouldn’t let me do this. He was there to keep me steady and to remind me of what is important to me. Right now, I’m getting so much satisfaction from seeing Marc race so well. He is having an awesome cyclo-cross season and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Hopefully his success and experience will trickle down to me.

So there you have it. My thoughts and ruminations on my 2010-2011 cyclo-cross season. It wasn’t what I expected or planned. But it happened and I made the best of it. Do I wish my season was still happening and that I was getting ready to racing in St. Wendel, Germany – damn straight I do! In the end I was 5 UCI point short of making the qualification standards. Pretty darn good, all things considered. This time next year, I plan to be writing a blog post about my thoughts on the upcoming World Cyclo-Cross Championships in Koksijde, Belgium – my thoughts on what I want out of the race. That’s right – I’m going to be there on that start line on January 29, 2012.

Tough News

As you know, I’m all about being honest on this site… So I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m sick. Really sick this time. Sick with the ulcerative colitis to the point where I can’t even think about my bike let alone get out and ride it. This flare came out of the blue last Thursday and initially it wasn’t too bad – I was able to ride and to eat fairly well. This is not the case anymore.

I had a couple of good rides on Monday and Tuesday – though I was pretty much wiped out for the rest of the day, but it still felt good to get out and ride. As for Wednesday and Thursday – there wasn’t any riding. Really all I did was lie on the couch.

Until yesterday I still did think that I could keep racing and that I’d be lining up at next weekend’s double-header of Scheldecross and the Kalmthout World Cup. But it is just not going to happen. I can’t eat or drink much right now. All I want to do is sleep. So racing is out of the question.

This is hard. Really damn hard. I’m so frustrated with my body. Some days it would be easier to understand why this is happening to me if I was a person who lives an unhealthy life. But I don’t – I do everything I can to be healthy and still this ulcerative colitis shows up and puts a stop to my dream and goals.

The only thing I can do now is focus on getting better. Since I’m not racing I have the chance to take some medicine that normally I wouldn’t be able to take. I’m hoping this will help and then I can get myself back on track for next season. (I’m still secretly hoping I can be well enough to race at the Hoogerheide World Cup at the end of January…)

I know that I’ve got a big engine inside of me and lots more kick left in these legs of mine. I’ll be back next year ready to race the season I had planned to have this year.

Many many thanks for your ongoing support and encouragement of my racing and training. I really do appreciate the amazing comments and emails that you send. Each time I race I know that I’ve got your support with me while I’m racing through the mud, sand, grass and crazy descents. Please know that I’m trying to do the same for you – if you listen closely during the race you can hear me shouting “Keep Pedaling”, “Good Job”, “Awesome Ride”, “You’re Doing Great”.

Have a great Friday and get out and spin some miles for me. To all of my American friends who are racing this weekend in the U.S. National Cyclo-Cross Championships – best of luck. The course in Bend, Oregon looks pretty darn narly – looking forward to seeing how all of you do.

A big shout out to my sponsors for the overwhelming support I’ve received this season. These companies have made it possible for me to chase my dreams and goals:

KingsBridge Disaster Recovery

The Cyclery

Stevens Bikes Canada

Champion Systems Canada

Bell Lap Coaching

Clif Bar

OGC

Oakley

Moving Forward

Some of you might be wondering what is next for me now that it is pretty darn clear that I won’t be racing at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships…. Well, I had an excellent talk with my coach Steve Weller of Bell Lap Coaching yesterday about this very topic.

First off, I have to say that this season really has been a struggle. It is hard to have put in so much hardwork and training over the spring and summer only to have it not come to full fruition during the race season. There is nothing more frustrating than racing my own body. I admit that at times I have faltered. Wondered if I should take a break and just take a step back. But in my heart of hearts I know this is not the right answer for me. Through all the health struggles I’m having, the one thing that has allowed me to keep going is knowing that I’m not doing any further damage to my body by training. I’m not slowing down my healing process so there is no point in taking a break.

One thing that came up with my talk with Steve is how frustrated I am at often being last. Being last sucks. There is no other way to state this. I hate it. I’m frustrated because I know that I’m not a last placed rider. I’ve developed fitness and skills that if I was 100 per cent healthy would put me higher on the results list. But right now I have to accept where I am. This is not where I want to be and I know that next year I won’t be here again.

So, this should give you an idea of what is around the corner for me. Status quo. Yep, keep on training. Keep on racing. Keep on learning. Keep on getting better. Keep on getting healthy. Essentially right now, I’m building towards next year. I’m focused on maximizing my time here in Belgium. This means doing all the racing I can. Getting in all the technical training and learning I can. Getting out on my bike in all types of conditions so that on race day I’m ready for the frozen mud, frozen sand, squishy sticky mud, intense descents, and wheel-sucking sand.

Really all I can do is what I’ve been doing. Yes, I’m thoroughly disappointed to not be going to the big show in St. Wendel, Germany. But I’ve had an idea for a while now that this would be an uphill battle this year. I’ve raced at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships once. And I know that I’ll do it again. It just won’t be this season.

70

I need 75 UCI points. I have 70. I’m five points short. So there is no World Cyclo-Cross Championships for me this season.

Not much I can do about this except get on my bike today and work on getting better, stronger, and smarter.

Guess I’ll go do this now…