Thoughts the Day Before

Last year at this time, I was pretty amped up. It was the day before the Koksijde World Cup. I’d been training on the course all week. I felt good. I felt too good – I was over confident. I felt like I was going to have an awesome race and ride like I’d never ridden before. I also needed to only “finish” the Koksijde World Cup to get the last points I needed to qualify for the Canadian Cyclo-Cross Team and the World Cyclo-Cross Championships. Well, I didn’t have a great race. In fact I didn’t race well at all. The good news is I got the points that I needed. I did qualify. But as I was racing I was in a such a negative headspace during that race that I convinced myself that I didn’t “deserve” to go to the World Cyclo-Cross Championships. Yes, I was in a very bad spot. I had done a very good job of crushing myself mentally.

And now here I sit, the day before the 2010 Koksijde World Cup. I’m in a very different spot this year. If I have an amazing race, I can potentially get the points I need to qualify for the Canadian Cyclo-Cross Team and the World Cyclo-Cross Championships. But it is a long shot. A very long shot. I know this. I’m comfortable with this. Yes, I’d love to get the points so I can qualify. But I’m realistic. I know where I am as a bike racer. This year is a different year for me. I’m focusing on small improvements that will take me to the next big improvement.

So today I sit here with no false hope. No crazy thoughts of having the best race of my life. Instead, I’m going to go out there and race my bike. I’ll pedal as hard as I can. I’ll run as hard as I can. I’ll stay off the brakes. I’ll keep my legs spinning as smoothly as I can in the sand. I’ll attack the power sections. I’ll sprint into the climbs. I’ll keep my eyes up and focused forward. I’ll keep my brain clear. I’ll listen for my supporters out there cheering me on.

I won’t shake my head. I won’t shrug my shoulders. I won’t let my neck slump. I won’t let negative thoughts enter my head.

Nope, it is a new year. This is a new me. I’m just going to ride, smile and try to remember as much of it as I can.

Can’t hardly wait to race at the Koksijde World Cup.

Expectations vs. Goals

As people we have expectations and we have goals. Things we believe we can do and want to do. Things we really want to accomplish and achieve. But what is the line between expectation and goal. What happens when the expectations take over and the goals get lost. This is when we tend to reframe our expectations as goals. We may even get caught up in the “tyranny of shoulds”.

This happened to me. I didn’t realize this until I had an excellent and challenging conversation with mental coach last night. This guy really just can cut to the meat of what I’m saying and dig out the key statements. There is no hiding behind words. Sometimes, like last night these conversations are darn hard. I literally feel my brain and heart squeezing as I dig deep to really be honest with myself about how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking. The brain is an amazing thing – it allows us to trick ourselves into believing we are doing okay – really it is our ultimate protection mechanism.

But thanks to people like Marvin, I’m able with some prodding to get past this protective barrier and come clean with myself. I’ve struggled with the mental game pretty much every race season. But this year I really want things to be different. And I admit after the race in Plzen I was feeling pretty darn low. I had one of those races where I fought the voices in my head for the entire race. Yes, this really only does make things harder.

Now though, things are going to be different. I’ve got a different perspective on this racing gig and what I want to do. I put expectations ahead of goals. The goals got lost with what I believed “I should” be able to achieve. I forgot that the goals are what got me are. The goals are what have made a stronger person. The expectations really for me, only serve to break me down. So know more “shoulds”. Now it is all about “going and doing”.

I just want to go out and ride my bike. Find the fun in it again. Not get wrapped up in outcomes, results, and consequences. I have season goals that I really want to accomplish. But I’ll never get close to these goals if I don’t accomplish the smaller goals – to go out and be completely in race mode and to have fun doing it. When I do this, I’ll be riding my bike the way I know I can and the way I want to (yes this is an expectation…). This won’t happen over night. Nor will I be able to completely break myself of the crazy brain and the expectation vs. goals pressure that I impose on myself. So I’ll approach this the same way that got me from a back-of-the-packer to where I am now – slow and steady.

Focus. Determination. Heart. Soul. Drive. Dedication. This is the stuff of dreams and goals.

New England Worlds – Kinda Sorta

I had really been looking forward to racing at “New England Worlds” aka “Gloucester” all season. But sadly it is not to be. Those tests I had done earlier in the week revealed some additional health issues that I need to sort out in order to be healthy. I’ve learned that I’m really just getting by thanks to my fitness and cycling-determination…. Once again a testament to how living a healthy and active lifestyle can keep you out of the hospital and living a full life. Problem is, that as a result of the ulcerative colitis flare, I’ve developed a pretty severe bout of anemia coupled with a too low hemoglobin/red blood cell count. This explains a lot. In a strange way it is a relief. This news explains why each race this year has been a struggle.

How am I feeling? Well, in a way, relieved – now we know what is going on. But in another way, I’m damn mad. I’m downright angry. Why does happen to me? Why do those people who eat poorly, don’t exercise and quite frankly treat their bodies like garbage disposals, manage to avoid the problems I’m having? Some days I feel like pulling up to the nearest golden arches and hunkering down to a Big Mac, large fries, and chocolate shake. But I don’t. And I won’t. Because that is not the attitude that got me here.

Got me here to this place where I’m surrounded by super friends and sponsors. Friends who cheer for me no matter how I’m riding. Friends who encourage me every step of the way. Friends who when I’ve cracked, have been quick to send emails and post comments reminding me to keep chasing the dream. Friends who know what it is like. Sponsors who were there in the beginning when I was transitioning into elite racing. Sponsors who believed in me to provide me with bikes, clothing, food, shoes, helmets, travel and living support. Sponsors who know that I’ve got lots of great races left in me. (Do yourself a favor and check out my sponsors – some top-notch products and people. Overwhelmed would be the appropriate word.)

I’ve had a few pity parties for myself this season. Wondering what is going on. Why can’t I ride like I did last year? I even asked myself if I still wanted it? And the answer: Yes I want it. Yes, I will be racing at the World Champs in St. Wendel, Germany. Yes, I know I can compete with the best. Yes, I know I’m stronger and smarter than this time last year. Yes. Yes. Yes.

So this weekend there will be no racing for me. I’ll be cheering on my favorite guy. Doing whatever he needs to ensure he has two excellent races. Gloucester is a special place for us. This is the first race we traveled to outside of Canada. This is the first time I stood in the pits. This is the first time I saw the elite women whiz by and wished I could be like them. Gloucester is the first time I stood on the podium. Gloucester is where we were bitten by the ‘cross bug. Can’t hardly wait to get there. If you see me in the pits or roaming around, stop me and say “hello”. Looking forward to a great weekend of racing, cheering, friends, and hanging out.

Ache

That’s what I have right now. A good hard ache in my legs. That ache that reminds you of the ride you did earlier in the day. Walking up the stairs, your legs feel a bit heavy. Walking down the stairs, well your legs feel down right angry. Stretching your quads brings on this deep feeling reminding you of how hard you made the bike go. Suffice it to say, a good ache. An ache that is an indicator of time well spent. Kind of like an “ice cream headache” – hurts so good because it is so darn worth it! (Uhm, yes for the record I love ice cream and gelato – I could eat it everyday – chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, chocolate mint, chocolate with hot fudge sauce – I think you get the idea…)

Basically, I had one of those rides that brings on the ache during and after the ride. Today was “testing” day – a chance to measure myself against the SRM and see where my hard training has taken me. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of tests. That same anxiety I used to get in high school and university during testing time, also happens during bike testing time. I know it is silly. But I chalk this up to my type A personality – always wanting to do and be better – never quite satisfied with the outcome or result.

The test went okay. Not the most ideal day for a test – ridiculous winds up here in Ottawa. I decided to do the efforts into a crosswind – the headwind was just too darn strong. All in all, it went well. For a test, that is. Immediately following the last effort, I was feeling a bit rotten – I wasn’t 100 per cent happy with the numbers that I was producing. But this is normal for me, never 100 per cent satisfied. I can tell now from the ache in my legs and my overall fatigue that it was a good, hard, solid effort.

I’ve got an excellent weekend of training to look forward to. Saturday is a double day with a morning run… Yes, run. Time to condition the legs and brain to the efforts required in a few weeks. Chances are that within a little over a month, I’ll be doing some darn hard running with a bike on my shoulder and a helmet on my head. So no time like the present to get out and do some “light jogging”. In the afternoon I’ll be out working on ‘cross starts and getting in a long ride. Sunday is another interval day featuring, start efforts, threshold riding, sprints and some sweet recovery time. A good weekend indeed.

So remember that video I told you about? Well, I’ve finally got myself organized and opened a YouTube account and uploaded the video. Now, there isn’t any fancy music with the video nor are there any crazy descents/crashes. It is really just a video of me riding around my newest ‘cross training loop. Anyway, here it is:

I plan to shoot more video of different training loops, skill sessions and even some warm-up laps from various races. Some videos will be more exciting than others, so stay tuned.

Well, time to shut the lid on this little black Mac and take a break from the computer. I’ve got the movie: Race Across the Sky to watch. Oh, have you seen the Shut Up Legs t-shirts? I so want one of these – but I don’t think they’re available anymore. Hmm, maybe I should make some Ottawa Cross – Shut Up Legs t-shirts – now that would be cool….

Girl Racer

Yes, okay, I’m ripping my blog title off of Mark Cavendish’s book Boy Racer… Sorry, sometime a girl has to dig deep to find a title and as I have an affinity for Mr. Cavendish’s book, I thought I’d honor him with my title. If the Manx Missile is reading this blog, lets hope he posts up in the comments… Come on Mark – we know that you have lots of down time right now – you’re only in the last week of the biggest race in France… Alright, I suppose I can dream that the likes of Mark Cavendish would read this site… Now on to the real meat of this post.

Really all I have to say is: thanks! Thanks for the support. Thanks for the emails. Thanks for the Twitter messages. Thanks for the Facebook messages. Thanks for the blog comments. All of these seemingly small things add up and give me a great feeling. The encouragement, the words of wisdom, the understanding – it keeps me coming back for more and wanting to do my best.

This might sound a bit lame but it is true. I’m in a funny spot as a bike racer – I don’t race with a team. I train primarily alone. I really have only myself to look to for motivation when things are feeling a bit tough. But thanks to your constant support, I know that there are people out there who are very similar to my teammates – encouraging me when I need it, giving me a kick in the butt when I need it, and simply just being a presence through the good and the bad.

Speaking of good – I had a fantastic weekend of training. Saturday saw me up bright and early and out the door by 6 a.m. so I could get my intervals in and ride to the Gatineau Park to hook up with Skip so we could ride out to watch the OBC Grand Prix. It was an excellent morning of riding, chatting, handing up bottles, catching up with friends, cheering on Marc and the Scott Boys, watching the Stevens girls rip up the field, and seeing young Timothy cross the line with a big grin on his face. All in all a great day to be a bike racer in Ottawa. Sunday was equally fine. Marc and Shaun convinced me to come out on the Scott team ride. I was a bit hesitant as I didn’t want to slow them down – but luckily they all had six laps of the Gatineau Park in their legs! What a great ride – my first time doing the MacGregor Lake loop. Thoroughly enjoyed it. The conversation was good, the pace was perfect (just enough to push me out of my comfort zone) and the time whipped by. Thanks guys for a great ride!

So an excellent weekend of riding, friends, cheering and simply having fun on bikes. Life really doesn’t get any sweeter.

Looking forward to the ‘cross season starting. My race schedule is looking pretty good with lots of variety of races in it and of course with the big one in January in St. Wendel, Germany.

Now, I best be off and go finish Mr. Cavendish’s book. It is a great read. In fact I channeled my inner-Manx Missile on Sunday during the ride with Scott Boys. I thought about what Mark goes through to make it through the mountains so he can unleash his sprint at the end… This actually did help me focus on the wheel in front of me and to get up and over some of the hills on Sunday. So thanks Mark – you are doing for me what I hope I’m doing for others!