Friday, August 27, 2010

Road Worlds

World Championships is the keystone event of an athlete’s season. For cyclists, it’s two days of racing, two events, two chances to show the world how good you are. Think of it as the final presentation after a semester long project. The work is all done, you’ve completed every assignment and now all that’s left is to tell people what you know. It sounds simple, and in essence it is. As the athlete, all you have to do is show up and do what you know best.

2010 has been a long, busy and hard season for me. Racing started in February and it’s been full on since then. Physically it’s been difficult and mentally even more so. I’ve never been as dedicated to my training as I was this year. I trained harder, raced more, and didn’t do any outside activities in the thought that it would detract from my training.

As best as I can remember, it was after competing for six days straight that I cracked. Like a house of cards, everything just came crashing down. Something small (I don’t even know what it was) made me crack. I was mentally shattered and over it. I wanted to go home, sleep in my bed, and not even look at a bike. Luckily, this was perfectly timed in the middle of the season… or the worst timing imaginable. I went right into track camp, nationals, prep camp for Worlds, and finally World Championships.

By the time we got to Canada my legs were just flat. When you’re ready to go you feel sharp, ready to race and on top of the world. I didn’t feel that. I was excited to finally be at Worlds because, in my mind, the whole season came down to this event, but I just felt tired.

Photo: Barney Storey
One of the events that I focus on is the time trial (TT). It’s you against the clock, no excuses, you just ride your heart out. I gave everything I had that day which was enough for 3rd. I’m absolutely stoked to have a medal, but am disappointed in myself, because I know that I’m capable of much better.

After a full day of rest, and trying to regroup mentally, we had the road race. It was a race of attrition, with five trips up one of the biggest climbs to be in a Paracycling race. I’m not a climber, but on a good day, I can at least hang with the group on most roads. This was not the case. As soon I started out of the gate, I knew it was going to be an exercise in mental toughness. I went from racing to win, to just managing my time loss. The first lap was okay, I got gapped a bit over the top of the climb, but was able to catch back on on the descent. The second lap was not as successful. From there, it was myself along with a teammate chasing the leaders for third place. I did everything I could to help my teammate out. She’s a better climber, the course suited her more than me, and she had the legs that day. I did what I could to close the gap between us and the leaders then she had to go on alone. I was done and had nothing more.

The rest of the race was definitely a test. It was awful to get “The pity clap” coming through town. When you’re racing and are going at it alone, you better hope to be off the front; anywhere else is pretty miserable.

After finally finishing, I just wanted to leave. I went back to the hotel, showered, and ate dinner. I’m not a crier, I’ve never cried after a race, but I was so upset with myself that I couldn’t help it. I knew I was capable of racing better, I knew that I was capable of helping my teammate more and that if I’d been there to help her more, she could’ve placed better than 3rd. I knew that I was capable of being there at the end but I wasn’t. It felt like I’d failed myself, and my teammates. People have assured me that I didn’t let anyone down, and that may be true, but I feel that I let myself down. I’ve always been my harshest critic, but I think it’s what keeps me going. I’m never satisfied, and always striving to do more and be better. If I had won with those rides, it would be a very hollow victory because I know I can do better.

Worlds this year was disappointing. I went in and did what I do, but not as well as I know I can. After some time off and a chance to mentally regroup, I know I’ll be back firing on all cylinders. 2011 will be better than 2010, and I know what to do differently. Anyone up for a winter ski trip?

Photo: Anthony Zahn
"I have a bell and I'm going to use it!"
After being such a downer in this blog I have to say that there were definitely positives to the trip. It should be known that Baie-Comeau did a fantastic job with the event. The crowds were phenomenal and there were more spectators than any other paracycling event. The people of Baie-Comeau are also some of the nicest I’ve come across. I’m excited to go back next year for a World Cup.

I also want to thank my teammates, and say that I was blown away by their support. It was amazing to be surrounded by such caring individuals who gave me  everything from a shoulder to cry on, words of encouragement, and company while throwing rocks. Being part of this team has been a terrific experience. Watching a group of individuals come together as a cohesive unit, be supportive of each other, and extremely successful is something not many people get to experience. This year we were able to top the medal count for the event winning 14 total medals: six titles, three silvers, and five bronze medals. Here’s to Track Worlds, wherever they may be, and knowing things will only get better. 

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