Monday, 16 September 2013

Provincials, School, and Mario Kart

Well, I guess the XC season is officially over. 2 weekends ago we had Provincial XC Championships taking place at Horseshoe Resort. This was the first race I'd done in over a month, and I was pretty nervous about how it would turn out. After more than two months of mediocre racing at best and downright awful at worst, I was anxious to see if I would be able to pull off a result. All the demons that athletes deal with in times of adversity - what if I can't do it? what if I haven't trained hard enough? what if I try my best and nothing comes of it? - were rattling around in my head. When it came down to race time though, I locked those demons in a closet and reminded myself why I race: to push myself past my limits, to have fun riding my bike, and to enjoy the company of a sick group of people (among many other reasons).

So, when the whistle blew, the field charged up a rather steep climb for the start loop. I was in a comfortable position, and was able to move into second by the end of the start loop behind Amanda Sin. Literally as soon as the race started, I stopped thinking about my worries and self-imposed expectations and instead focused on having the best race possible. I made it through the first lap still in second, but now out of sight of the riders on either side of me. About halfway through the second lap I was caught by Heather Gray, but somehow was not discouraged by this (maybe two months off gave birth to a new me?)... in fact, it actually motivated me more. I was able to pull away on the climbs of the third lap to roll in after 4 in second place. I didn't really have a placing goal, but I did want to pull off a good result, and I'm happy with 2nd Elite and U23 Provincial Champion.

After heading back to school, I went to Hardwood Hills yesterday to race the first U-Cup of the year. Always a good time. However, when I rolled up to the start line I noticed something funny... there were potatoes all mixed in with the wood chips (I'm sorry, what?). I remember thinking "oh man, I hope someone doesn't hit a potato and wipe out". Which should leave it pretty clear as to what I did right off the start line. Yup, I hit a potato. Luckily, I managed to keep it upright (although I'm not sure how), but it was close to a full-on yard sale. There was a pretty impressive collective noise of fear from the spectators when it happened. It got me thinking about Mario Kart for N64... it would be a cool addition to the tournament style of play (don't lie, you know what I'm talking about) if the leader of the series was allowed to select and hide a few booby traps before the start of the next race. It would add an interesting element to Mario Kart, just saying.

In more serious terms, it was a bit of a tough haul this year in terms of confidence and the mental side of the sport. I think that most people struggle at some point in their lives with motivation, confidence, and other aspects of what they're doing. At the time, it can seem insurmountable or at least exceptionally frustrating. I'm choosing to look at it in a good way, though... once you've pushed through something, you've proved to yourself that you're a lot stronger than you thought and in the future, the same problems will not be able to beat you down. I'm glad I pushed through and am already excited for next season. Hurrah for personal growth!

In light of the end of the season, I just want to take a minute to thank everyone who stuck with me this year, even through the rough patches... Obviously, my teammates are the best. Havy and the boys are basically a second family, and they help me through a lot more than they probably know - so thank you! I also need to thank my first family (that goes without saying, I hope), and my coach. Thank you for not giving up on me. Finally, I'd like to thank Norco, Shimano, Kenda, and Rockshox for helping a girl's dream come true (because really, that's what they do).

Now I'm just taking in the fall while back to the books at Queen's. The work hasn't really set in yet, and it looks like third year might actually be LESS stressful than second (?). There's still lots of time for riding and racing (if you're a university or college student, check out the U-Cup series, they're a blast!!), and even more time for hanging out with the people that put up with quick coffee dates and hurried conversations while I was around the globe this summer.

One last thank you... Thanks for keeping up on my racing and life over this past season! Hopefully I will update soon, and until then enjoy the beautiful fall!

Back in Kingston for the fall

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Merrytimes (get it?!)

The last couple of weeks have been a little bittersweet. Having not reached my goal of making the World Championships team, I had some time to reflect on my season and what went wrong (and also what went right!). I've come to the conclusion that while racing did not go the way I hoped this year, it really is just a setback. There is rarely a time that your life is 100% kink-free, and working out those kinks is part of what makes success so satisfying. So, I'm beginning the de-kinking (I'm not sure if that's a phrase...) process for 2014! With the help of my coach, some hard work, and some much needed down time at the end of the season, I will be ready to go for next year.

After Mt. Sainte Anne (which went horribly... there is no way to dress that performance up nicely), I came home for 2 weeks of rest, mental recuperation, and a little bit of a "normal" summer. I did some nice rides - of course, only in baggies - to rekindle the love of mountain biking, helped my sister get ready for her first year at university, and read about a thousand pages of Dan Brown. After that, I got ready for my first actual vacation in God knows how long! My bike and I flew to Halifax for a week of riding and hanging out in Lespyville. Fun is an understatement!

I spent the first few days exploring the local riding and the city, both of which I loved! The mtb riding is really unique... A bit like northern Ontario, but with a little je ne sais quoi. On Friday, we went for a rip with the girls from the local junior team. Man, those girls are talented! At 13, they are riding terrain that I wouldn't have touched until last year. Definitely bright futures waiting for those girls in the mountain biking world.

The local Juniors; Mackenzie, Isabelle, and Anya. Nice to meet you, girls!
On Saturday, we went out to the country and explored the place where Lespy grew up. I felt like I should have been frolicking in the heather wearing a kilt, with hair streaming behind me. Unfortunately, I don't have a kilt and I'm really not all that good at frolicking. On a serious note, it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The riding was pretty gnarly, and I did almost plunge to my death over an oceanside cliff (I may be exaggerating slightly), but it was awesome. A very memorable experience.
This is how I felt out in Prospect. 

I can see how people fall in love with the East Coast

Sunday rolled around, and it was time to man-up and face my fears... we were going out in the boat. We spent the afternoon and evening cruising around the water (man, I'd like to have a pirate ship) and I didn't even have a nervous breakdown. Another fear crossed off the list!

Believe it or not... I actually got in (eventually)

Also on the weekend my parents flew down with my sister, who is starting first year at Dalhousie. Pretty exciting stuff! She got all moved in, and we had a nice dinner together before saying our goodbyes for the next month and a half. Good luck at school Jenna, I know you'll crush it!

Jenna's new home!

All in all it was a great trip, and it was a great way to end off the summer! We have one more race this weekend - Provincial Championships - before I head back to school bright and early Monday morning. Happy new school year, everyone!

PS. huge congrats to all the Canucks who raced in RSA last week! You all did so well, and made the country proud.

This is my "I-hate-posing-for-pictures-so-I-will-just-stand-here-and-look-awkward" face. 

Thanks for letting me know my helmet had been crooked for the past two hours...

Not bad.