This is a loooonnng post, sorry if it’s a little boring!
So after my third and final race of the year I have some searching to do. This year has not followed the path that I was hoping it would. I have not only raced less than I had hoped to, but I did not reach my goals.
For the most part, things had been going really well in cycling throughout the year, running was improving (until an injury at the end of April), and swimming was fairly stagnant. As of about the middle of June I started to notice changes in my energy levels on the bike in particular. It frustrated me to no end and on some workouts I was so annoyed with it that I just about threw the bike. I missed Coteau-du-Lac at the end of June because training was not going well, and then the same thing for San Francisco in July. I then missed a week-long training camp in the middle of July.
What happened is not documented in bloodwork and so therefore apparently unknown to some degree - I hit a wall, not literally. It was extremely frustrating to be told that it was mental and that sort of criticism was not beneficial. For the entire month of July I was pretty much sleeping 11-12 hours a night and then waking up dead tired. I would miss workouts or go to a workout and have to drop out early. It felt as though as soon as my heart rate was elevated I was done, nothing left in the tank. So, I ended up taking about 2 weeks almost completely off. By the beginning of August I really had to make a decision on whether I was racing Kelowna or not. In hindsight I still think I made the best choice to do it. For the 3 weeks leading up to Kelowna I started with 1 workout a day and gradually managed to get 2 done a day. I still found that big days would leave me exhausted for about 2 days after.
I raced the sprint at Sooke, which went as poorly as it could have gone. I had a very flat bike with no energy to climb through the rollers and subsequently I placed 7th or 8th. This race was to see where I was at in terms of my recovery from being so exhausted for so many weeks, and to see where my fitness lay.
So coming into nationals I was well aware that I was not there to be competitive at the level I had hoped for, but really my goal was to get out the swim and onto the bike, and then from the bike to the run, and from the run to the finish. It was interesting to see the nervous faces on some of the men around me. It reminded me of how I was last year, but this time around I was ready to get out there and have fun! I had number 35 and so had a decent start position, a good start, and then faded back to a sluggish swim. The run from swim exit to transition was tough, mentally and physically, because I knew that I would have to stay with the other guys getting onto the bike, but my body was rebelling and guys started flying by me. Onto the bike I didn’t get into my shoes until I was up with 3 or 4 other guys, but I really struggled to find any strength on the hill and was dropped immediately. I was unable to help on the bike and was passed by others that got out the swim minutes back of me. I tried to hold it off, but on my 4th lap the motorbike caught me and pulled me out the race.
Watching the lead group go by was tough as I felt deflated knowing that for another year I had a DNF to my name. At the same time, I know that I gave every ounce of energy that I had and it wasn’t enough. Last year I psyched myself out the race and it frustrated me. Between not being 100% again and not being as fit as I should have been, there was nothing left in the tank. However, the added corners this year on the bike course were a lot of fun and I found myself taking more risks than I would normally just to try to stay away from the bright lights of the motorbike.
I have been given really helpful advice from a lot of people. I was told by somebody that I “deserve better” as he had seen the progress I was making on the bike earlier in the year. I know that with the progress I made in the early months of this year, I could have had a good race and to hear that validated by an impartial individual was extremely gratifying and gave me a little more drive to get back to Victoria and figure the next few months out.
For now, it’s time to get back on track and find that consistency in training again. I am pretty excited to do some cyclocross racing and cross-country racing this fall – just making training fun. I think nationals are back in Kelowna next year – 3rd time’s a charm, right?
Full results from this weekend found here. If you look at the swim times of those that finished and mine, you'll see that if I had the strength on the bike then it likely would not have been a DNF finish! I can't wait for next year so that I can smile crossing that finish line :)