With ‘cross season over and done with, now is the time to make gains so that I can improve my performance and get stronger for ‘cross season 2017.  I’ll do a mix of gravel rides, mtb races and probably some crits later on in the year to get the legs sharp for ‘cross.

For now, a month into the 2017 ‘cross season, it’s time for lots of work.  My legs are pretty fatigued right now; we’ve had a good block of training  but I’m far from race ready physically – and probably more important, mentally.

Coach Christina introduced me (and several other of her athletes) to Mario Arroyave of Utmost Performance several weeks ago and between the two of them, they’ve started me thinking more about the process then race results.   I’m old school.  I was brought up with the mindset that 2nd place is the first loser and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think like that any more.

At yesterday’s gravel grinder my legs felt absolutely horrible.  The first section of the ride was mostly into a brisk headwind and coupled with dead legs, gravel roads and a bit of a steady grind uphill not to mention it was damn cold.  My brain really went back and forth between wanting to just turn around and go back to the truck and warm up vs. pressing on and getting some fitness out of the day.  I was miserable and hurting and there was absolutely zero fun factor whatsoever.  Holding onto any wheel was impossible, especially in the first half of the 50K ride.

I was horrified that my perceived performance was suffering.  I’ve worked very hard over the last 15 months to improve my fitness and here I was unable to hold onto anyone’s wheel for longer than a few moments.  I just knew that I was going to be the last person to cross the line and that messed with my head more and more as the ride continued on and groups of people just left me.  Checking behind me, there was not anyone else in sight.  My brain was thinking that was because everyone else and their dog was up the road.

Part of my brain accepted that this was a part of the process.  It’s early on in the season and my legs are supposed to be fatigued.   But I still overwhelmingly was frustrated with my performance – based on the fact that my legs felt like trash and I was sure I was going to be buried in the results somewhere.

As the course started to turn towards home, I caught a bit of a tailwind and my pace picked up a bit.  I started to feel a little bit better and pressed on, and became a more positive – I knew based on other gravel grinders (where essentially I’m riding alone in the last portion of the ride) that even though I felt pretty shitty, there was really no telling just where I was in the order of things.

When I finally crossed the line, I noticed there really weren’t a lot of other riders milling about, and only saw a handful.  Imagine my surprise when I later saw the results that I had finished 6th out of 100 or so riders who did the 50K distance.

So… what did I learn??

Because I was so intent on the outcome – wanting a strong finish position – I pretty much took away any chance of breaking into the top 5.  Had I been more focused on my own performance, I would not have gotten as down on myself as I did and more or less thrown in the towel on some of the harder sections of the ride.  I would have tried to hold onto those wheels a little bit longer; all of which would have likely propelled me into the top 5.

So… I will chalk this one up as a learning experience and move on; making sure I continue to move forward in the process as I prepare to make 2017 a fantastic ‘cross season.