After a weekend of races in Seattle, I took the following Monday off. The two races, despite being short, took a pretty big toll on me. I hadn’t raced back- to- back since July of last year.
On Tuesday I started my first proper week of training.
I signed up for the WTNC. For most cyclists in BC, the World Tuesday Night Championships in Vancouver are all too familiar. A weekly criterium that produces 40 minutes of aggressive, fast, elbows out racing, with a prize at the end of the season for whoever placed the highest consistently. Throughout the season though, the only reward is showing up the following week, possibly as defending champ.
Having only heard tales of this epic weekly affair, I was a little worried about whether or not I’d be able to hold on. I rode to the race with Amiel, and a new found friend named Von. The course is at UBC, and features a fast decent followed by a climb. I was told that the win always comes from a break, so I rode near the front, covering moves and attacking a couple of times to try my luck. Everyone was racing that day though, unwilling to let a move go up the road if they weren’t in it, so any move was quickly brought back and then countered. I found myself a little bit surprised when the bell was wrung, indicating the final lap, and struggled to move up before the finishing climb. My power, again, wasn’t there to keep up with the final acceleration, and I finished low down in the pack.
But I was pleased that I had managed to stay in.
On Wednesday I spoke to Mark on the phone about my emerging plan. He was keen to hear that I’m back on the bike, but wanted to ensure that I am in a good space, with goals, and a sufficient support network and contingency plans in place. He let me know that without the intention of putting pressure on me, there are some upcoming races that he’d potentially want me in. Personally, I don’t see that as putting pressure on me. I see that he has faith in me, despite me being less than I had agreed to be. It has given me confidence and motivation.
Upon getting back from Vancouver’s race, I hopped on the bike and rode to an evening race at Newton Heights. Noted for the its unrelenting hill repeats, I knew I was in for a hard hour of racing. I did my best to stay at the front to accommodate the ground that I would inevitably lose when the pace ramped up on the climb. I ‘sag’ climbed, so that if people were overtaking me, I would still be in the pack and have a draft, instead of getting dropped once we crested the hill. Fortunately, I exceeded my own expectations, and managed to finish seventh. Granted, the field wasn’t very big, but the attrition rate was high and I was proud to make it to the end.
Thursday’s ride was more of a swim than anything else. I woke up to pouring rain, but had been warned by The Weather Network the day before, so it came as no surprise. I initiated the Oli Rain Ride 2.0 plan, and pulled out the cross bike with obnoxious fenders. They’re custom, full wrap around with plastic flaps that drag if I go over the smallest of bumps. I threw on an appropriate amount of clothing, and put my rain shell in my pocket. Usually, riding my cross bike with fenders is the last thing I want to do, as I can go faster, farther, and more efficiently on my light road bike without the added weight and wind resistance. However, comfort is key. The less wet I am, the less miserable I will be and the longer I’ll be able to ride. Also, the fenders keep the bike relatively clean, and the hassle of having to meticulously clean and maintain a race bike adds time to every ride. On rainy days, I generally just want to get it done, and don’t want to freeze. My move to accommodate my mental comfort first, and physical comfort second (sometimes, yes, physical comfort will be what affects my mental comfort) allowed me to have solid morale out in the rain. I actually quite enjoyed myself.
On Friday, I tried to do the Tripleshort ride. Every Friday at 6 am, a bunch of fast dudes hammer for just over an hour, racing over every hill for 40 km, finishing with 5 laps around Beacon Hill Park before the final sprint. I lasted 20 minutes, opening gaps between me and the wheel from which I was drafting. I realized that I was going to get dropped, so I went straight when they turned back for town and did my own three hour endurance ride. The early morning sun and the view from some roads I’d never explored before turned it into a good day.
I rode the Oak Bay Ride on Saturday like a race. I knew that I would be tired, so I made an effort to ride conservatively to make it to the end. My two goals were to be first over the Panorama climb, and to try my hand at the finishing sprint. I pulled a bit here and there, and attacked twice. I didn’t go with the lead group that attacked on Panorama, but rode steadily and caught them just before the end as it leveled out before the final little hump. I accelerated past the group and managed to get around Dylan Cunningham just before the top. I was also fifth in the final sprint. It’s just a group ride, so none of this is impressive, but having the legs to participate was nice. It was fun.
It was wet and cold on Sunday, so I took out the old, fendered cross bike once again. I posted on Facebook to find some company, and, fortunately, three cool guys were able to join me. I was super tired on the ride, and well in need of a rest day when I got home.
So that’s week one. Just over 500 km, and just under 18 hours. It wasn’t easy. Physically I tired quickly. Mentally, however, I am feeling fit. I’m motivated. I’m happy to be on the bike. I’m enjoying it. And I’m accommodating and aware of my mind. I know what I need to do in order to keep myself going. I realize that perhaps my focus on my mental may not appear to be the most efficient way of becoming physically fit, but as I am learning, mental fitness is the most important part. I might be a little slow to come back to a high level, but I’m focussed on enjoying the process, and following a path to a sustainable level. I do NOT want to overdo it.
The most difficult part this week, mentally, has been dealing with how unfit I am. I know I’m not fit, and I understand that I can’t expect to be right away. But getting dropped on climbs, or not being able to hold on to a group ride is never a reality you want to accept. As I’ve said before, it’s in my nature to remember myself at my best. I will always strive to match and surpass my past achievements. Knowing you have been better than you are currently can be infuriating. However, knowing that I have been better, reminds me that I can be better.
And I am getting better.