Monday, 22 July 2013

On the Pursuit of Brilliance

The last two weekends were the most important races of the season for U23 Canadians. The Sudbury Canada Cup was followed by Nationals at Hardwood Hills, and these were the two races used for selection to the 2013 World Championships team. As you probably know, I did not race well. I was on the hunt for brilliance (well, at least brilliance in my own right), but it proved elusive. I've had many people ask me "So... what happened?", and there isn't really a clear answer to that question. I'm still trying to figure out what it was that didn't "click", but I can give you the bare facts.

I felt well rested and physically prepared heading into Sudbury. I was excited and felt like I was ready to have a killer race. Unfortunately, everything flipped upside down as soon as the whistle blew. My legs wouldn't turn over, and shortly after that the PANIC button was pressed. A downward spiral of negative thoughts paired with a rising feeling of panic ended the race for me. I'm not proud of the big ol' DNF beside my name in the results... in fact, I feel a twinge of shame every time I think about it. But, I know that it was the right decision. I wasn't able to put a lid on my thoughts, and I had to stop them before they did any more damage to my psyche (how crazy does that make me sound...).

Next up came National Championships. I knew having a good performance was going to require a HUGE turnaround from last weekend, but I also know that a podium was well within my reach. I spent all week getting my head back in the right place, and was the most physically ready I've ever felt (no joke). Whistle blew, and I felt in my gut that it was going to be good race. I led off the start and managed to come around after the first lap in 2nd place with a ~10sec gap to the leader. Right where I wanted to be. I hit the wood chips at the start of the second lap and immediately felt myself slipping... I'm not sure what happened, but a switch somewhere turned off. From there I gave it my absolute all, but my legs were no longer in the game. I finished up a distant 6th with some dashed dreams and a bruised pride. This gallery tells the story of my race pretty well... just slowly moving back within the field.

They say you should "say little when you lose", and I agree with that: making excuses is no way to behave as an athlete and is definitely no way to improve. So hopefully the above doesn't read like a pile of excuses. Ultimately, I didn't race as well as my competition. I've got some work to do - both mentally and physically - but I can tell you that my heart is 100% in it. The last couple weeks were a bit of a setback, nothing more. I'm still on the hunt for a brilliant performance, and I have absolute faith that I'll be able to make it happen!

On the bright side of things, HUGE congratulations to my friend Mitch for winning U23 men's Nationals. You deserve it, and I'm so happy for you! Commendations are also in order for all my Norco teammates... you guys raced really well, and produced some excellent results.

Big thanks to Havy, Norco, Shimano, Kenda, and Rockshox - my 650B rig felt absolutely MINT these past weekends! Honestly couldn't have asked for a better bike to ride. I also need to thank my coach for not giving up on me, and being 100% dedicated to helping me find success... There are no words to describe how much that means to me.

Next up on the agenda is Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Team Ontario is sending a strong contingent, and we're looking for some good results!

Until next time!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Ridin' Solo (ish)

First off, Happy Canada Day! I trust that the holiday has been put to good use by those of you looking for an excuse to throw/attend a party (and, of course, by those of you seeking an outlet for all of your pent-up patriotism). As for me, I'm just looking forward to the obnoxiously loud firework display that will happen tonight in the booming town of Uxbridge.

The last few weeks have been quite busy for me. After a solid week of training, I headed off to Montana for a US Cup, flew back to TO for a grand total of 30 hours at home, and then made the trip to Windham, NY for what will be probably be my last race on American soil for the 2013 season. As much as I love travelling, I'm looking forward to the next week and half on familiar territory before making the trek to Sudbury for Canada Cup #3.

Let's start with Montana. My mom was having some serious anxiety about me heading to Missoula, as it was the first trip that I'd planned on doing completely and utterly alone. I'm not sure what she was expecting to happen to me in the tame and relatively small city of Missoula... but I suppose I can't begrudge a mother her worries. Apparently that's just what they do! Anyways, despite being too young to rent a car, the trip went off without a hitch. It was a pretty cool learning experience; organizing everything myself gave me a newfound appreciation for all the support I receive from Norco and the National Team when I'm on trips. That being said, I don't think I'll be taking that support for granted anytime soon. While showing up to the venue on race day in a taxi does have a little bit of a hilarity factor, I'll always prefer the beast of a truck that Norco has! Despite what I'm making it sound like, I didn't have to go it entirely alone... Scott/3Rox was super helpful in the feed zone and on the start line. Thank you for the help, guys!

Now about the races: Friday night saw the Pros take on the short track. Let me tell you, it hurt. I managed an okay race, finishing 13th. I was sort of in survival mode, just trying to make it through the sub-30 minute race. Ouch. I guess that's what short tracks are about, though!

Saturday rolled around, and after a long morning of mindless time-wasting (we didn't go off until 3pm), we were lined up to race. I felt a distinct sense of foreboding standing on the line: my legs hadn't felt very good in warm up, and I knew it was going to be a loooong race if I couldn't make them cooperate. In preparation for this, I hid my Garmin in my back pocket... I did NOT want to look down at the time and see that what felt like hours had only, in fact, been 15 minutes. Despite the boggy legs, I had a good start and a good first lap. Things started to slip after that, and I ended up a distant 20th. Lots of room for improvement! On the bright side, I had fun on the descent. Even a bad day on the bike is a good day by any other standards, so I can't complain.

Next up was the US Cup in Windham, NY. For some reason, I really love Windham. The climb is tough, but not too steep and the descent is wicked fast. Pretty good combination if you ask me. Some people say that a dually is the bike to choose for Windham what with the bumpy and rocky traverses, but I think my Team 9 was perfect: stiff on the climbs and fast rolling down the descent. What more could you ask for? There was no ST this weekend, so Saturday was the main (and only) event for me. I wasn't sure if a week was enough time for my legs to come around, but I was stoked to race nonetheless. I had a pretty good race, consistently reeling girls in to finish 5th. It was another long one (about 2 hours), but I think it was good for me in this case. I actually managed to consciously think about strategy and technique, which must mean my head was in a better space than last weekend. All things considered, it was a really fun race and a fun trip! Just another reminder about how much I love bike racing and the lifestyle surrounding it.

Spending so much time by myself and in transit over the last two weeks led to my realization of a few important things. Firstly, if there is not even a small part of you that can rock out to Taylor Swift, you are doing it wrong ("it" being life). Don't lie, you know that somewhere deep inside you is a teenage girl  (even if you are middle-aged man) that can sympathize with her. It's simply a fact of life.

Secondly, I am no good at taking photos. Exhibit A: the lack of a single picture in this entire long-winded and boring blog post.

Thirdly, I love hills. Preferably hills that stretch on beyond the tree line. Not sure what it is, but they just make me feel calm. I think I am going to have to live somewhere with mountains in my backyard. Or at least make my future "sugar-daddy" (Grandma's words, not mine) buy a vacation home in the Rockies.

Lastly, the maxi skirt is literally the perfect article of clothing. Breezy and light for those hot days, yet insulating and warm for brisker (is that a word?) weather. Don't knock it 'til you try it. That goes for all you men out there, too (probably try it in the privacy of your own home, though).

Well, now that my 2 week American tour is over, I'll spend some time at home training and watching a Tour of the French variety. June treated me well, and hopefully July will be even better!