Friday, July 23, 2010

The long road to reality

While most of us will never race our bikes for a living or for international fame and fortune, I think most of us have some little spark in our heads that we can always be better. We're one weekly training session away from destroying the field at the next race, we're a few watts shy of watching everyone crack on the local training rides, we're just a pound or two heavy to mop up on the hills. It's thoughts like this that drive many of us racers to pound ourselves into mush just about every time we clip in. On one hand, these thoughts are our motivators and enablers to keep us on the bike and working towards our goals, but looking the other way, how much does this idea of making ourselves stronger and faster drive a wedge between us and reality.

I've struggled more this year with this diametrically opposed set of circumstances than in the past. I think with my little taste of a successful race season last year and an early season win, it fueled me onward like an addict looking for the next fix. Then reality came crashing in and I felt flat on my face. My training spiraled downward to where I was riding, but not training, I DNF'd, I fatigued, and I realized that the reality is I need to find a better balance. I had to really step back and take a long view of how everything was evolving around me and see if I was anywhere near the track I needed to be on. The quick answer at first glance was that I was nowhere near where I planned to be. Looking a little deeper, I tried to figure out where I got off track and why was I still heading in what felt like the wrong direction.

As I touched on earlier, a taste of success can be a dangerous thing. Over the winter, I was determined to come out of the gates hard and was putting in the training to go with it. After bagging the first race of the season it just stoked the fire that much more. I tried to dig in harder only to realize that as more outdoor riding weather approached, so did a lack of focus in my training. I just wanted to go out and ride my bike. Sure I was putting in hard efforts, but I wasn't smart about it. I was just burning myself into the ground every chance I got. Slowly, but surely, other things started to creep in. The duties that were mostly shirked over the winter started becoming more important items on my list of items to complete. Our young family had increased by one since the end of last race season which demanded more of my time. Everything was slowly piling on and while I was making a valiant effort to keep everything lifted, I didn't see that I was sinking further into the ground below me with the weight I was carrying.

My training, racing, and general attitude have been yo-yoing back and forth the past few months. It's left me feeling flat over all aspects of my life and has been reflected in both my mental and physical wellness. I was motivated by my friend George while on vacation in California where he took me on a little ride to get my butt back in gear and start training more once we returned. I carried that motivation into the rest of June and was just starting to feel good about my form again when my body decided it was time to revolt. I caught a cough/cold that has lasted on and off for 2+ weeks and has sapped my energy. My list of projects to start or complete finally began overwhelming me as well. This combined grind was dragging me down. Toss in that my original racing focus for the year was to move up in class to compete in the experts in mountain bikes and it all came to a head.

I'm slowly coming to the reality that is where I should be setting my sites. Looking at the things I need to accomplish versus want to accomplish, I have to draw a line and shift my focus. I've been indulging myself to the point of sickness with my wants list while paying minimal attention to the needs. For the time being, I've scaled back my bike plans to focus on a single race for the rest of the season as a true goal. The 24 Hours of 7 Oaks is my focus and once its done in early September, I'm going to make a big shift into attacking the needs list. I've always had a bad habit of leaving projects unfinished and the majority of my time is going into these projects. I'm hopeful that over the winter I can make a big dent in this list. I'm hoping that once I strike a better balance I'll slowly be able to take away the stress of having so much imbalance between my wants and needs. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

IMBCS #4- Summerset shootout race report

The Summerset shootout was my first race last year moving into the Cat 2 (sport) class. I finished pretty respectably in 9th or so overall and 3rd in class. It was my kickoff to what may be the best season I'll ever have. Things would definitely be a bit changed up for this year's installment. Not only would I find myself up in the Cat 1 class doing more laps, due to flooding, all of our laps would be on the northern section of trails which happen to be all of the climbing. 7 laps of the north side was the call for around 20.5 miles of racing with steep, tight, and technical singletrack punctuated with a small road section where the big motors could really crank it up.

As we lined up for the start, the field looked pretty small. I was surrounded by a good number of teammates flying the Rasmussen flag. Fine by me, I thought as it meant I didn't have to contend with as many fist fights getting a good position in the track. I figured with a good sense of the trails, I'd have something of an advantage over the out of towners and I wasn't looking forward to attempting passes on the north side. Someone raised the question to see if all the course reroutes from the beginner and junior races had been pulled. The answer was affirmative so we set ourselves and took off. The opening road section strung out the pack slightly and I headed in about mid pack. The leaders were pulling away just a bit when suddenly I found myself right back among them at the entrance to the first climb. Sure enough, not all the course markings were pulled and one of the leaders had wrapped caution tape and a metal stake up in his drivetrain causing all but a couple to stop.


We hit the first climb and I felt pretty decent having gotten a fair warmup in. I was chasing Alread's wheel and when he bobbled one of the steepest pitches and had to put a foot down, I road around him. The leader's had checked out by this point and I settled into my pace. Unfortunately, the north side doesn't allow you to recover anywhere on the singletrack. If you're not climbing, you're descending through some fast and rough sections with lots of little tecnhnical challenges that keep you tense. I wrapped up the first lap in a shade over 18 minutes. The lap went pretty well and although it was hot, I felt good. Laps 2 and 3 ripped off pretty equally in time, but by the end of lap 3 I'd been passed by the lead sport rider, Neil, who was absolutely crushing the course.

Still cruising

Running on empty

By the start of lap 4, I was paying a toll for my pacing. I'd been going harder than I thought and my body was most definitely letting me know. My time dropped to over 20 minutes for this lap and I began to wonder if another DNF was on the horizon. I really didn't want that to be on my record, but the demoralizing nature of the course was pounding me into submission quickly. Another lap and another minute slower. By lap 6 I was pretty sure I was last place in the expert field and desparately just trying to finish out. My slowest lap was 6 at just over 25 minutes. I walked pretty much all of the bigger climbs (4ish spots) on this lap. I was feeling pretty low. Lap 7 I got a shade more energy and dropped back into the mid 23 minute range as I only walked 1 or 2 of the climbs. I finished DFL in the expert field, but I finished.

Completely out of gas:

The UGLY side of racing:

I managed to finish 3rd in class because the others in my class DNF'd. At least I made it to a podium spot... I've got to say that my goals and expectations for the year have made a pretty big flip flop. I've gone from thinking I might be a mid pack rider to just hoping I can finish the alotted number of laps and retain my sanity at the end. It's been a huge leap for me this year. I'm definitely going back to the training drawing board come fall/winter, but for now it's hold on and run with it. I appreciate all that my sponsors have done to help me get this far- Rassy's, Ergon, and Oakley, but now I need to get my engine up to snuff.