2013 Year in Review

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Photo: Snowy Mountain Photography

The last “official” race of the year is in the books and I have entered the off season. In years past, at this time I would have been plotting and scheming, writing out very specific goals for next year, races I want to do and expectations of how each one will play out. I haven’t done that this year. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I’ve put some thought into it but when I start to think about it I just feel tired. I think that’s a good sign I’m truly ready for an off season. My coach has trained me well, and physically I have gotten enough rest and recovery, so this burn out is 100% mental.

I started 2013, my first attempt at focusing solely on cycling. It was hard. I am a great athlete, but I crossed the line from being able to win races based purely on fitness. I struggled with learning skill and strategy. And lacking those two essentials effected my confidence. And the lack of confidence ate away at my focus and happiness.

My coach asks that my race reports include two things: two things I did well and two things I could improve. So in the simplest year-end review, I’ll break it down this way.

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Photo: Snowy Mountain Photography

Two things I did well:

I hired a cycling coach! I have been working with a coach for the past eight years. I need the security that comes with a coach because I worry about everything. Am I doing too much? Am I doing too little? Should I toughen up and power through or should I back off a take a rest day? Coaches help me stay consistent with my workouts and consistent workouts will always deliver consistent results.

I chose races that were outside of my comfort zone. Of course, doing so had a negative

effect on my confidence during the race (or at least during the pre-ride). I went to Jingle Cross and rode features I have never seen before. (I literally laughed out loud when we pulled into the Johnson County fair grounds parking lot, seeing the severely off-camber downhill Mt. Crumpit.) I put myself out there when I was absolutely terrified of hurting myself, or worse, failing. At the time, it was awful but each race got a little better, confidence wise. Next year I will be able to draw from the experience and will be stronger for it.

Things I could improve:

There are actually three things I will work on in 2014, and I must work on them diligently to reach my goal of placing in the top 10 – 20% of each race.

First is working on my skills. My first experience riding off-road is cyclocross.

I’ve never ridden a mountain bike and this year was the second time I have ever ridden any type of single track (the first being that one cx race at Swope Park, KCMO, two years ago). Some of the best cx racers I know have had solid backgrounds in mountain biking. They know how to handle their bike and how to move their body to manuever technical features.  I once told someone that I would never try mountain biking because I didn’t want to scar up my legs. HA! Well, I’ve earned enough scars in cyclocross in the last two years so that is no longer a concern. I will be splitting my time between the road and mountain bike next summer. It’s not going to be easy. I know I will fall–A LOT! But I think that learning to ride technical features will lead to more confidence.

And that is the perfect transition to my second item of focus: confidence. I don’t even know what to say here without being a complete Debbie-downer. Let’s just say that no matter how prepared I am in my training, I always go to the line with a large amount of self-doubt.  (I’m not alone. Even Olympic athletes struggle with this affliction.) I know that this is the number one thing that effects the outcome of every race. Most of the time the doubt will fall away as soon as the whistle blows, but as soon as the first bobble, crash, or elbow hits, I’m back to thinking the worst. I struggle so deeply with this I can no longer ignore it. I have a coach for my body, I now know I need a coach for my mind. JB is a huge fan of the Athlete’s Mind Coach self-hypnosis. I dabbled a bit with it this year but never found the time to commit. That will change in 2014.

Finally, I know I need to focus more. When my confidence is out of whack, I lose all focus. Or, just the opposite–I focus so intently that I slow waaay down, focusing so hard on executing every turn so perfectly that the speed suffers. Hopefully, if I am able to be successful in improving the first two points here, skill and confidence, focus will come almost automatically. I will be empowered so that my focus will not be shaken by anything and my brain will send messages of, “I got this!” instead of “I am so bad at this!”.

I love cycling and all signs point to the fact that I am good at this sport! The only thing standing in my way of being GREAT at this is me and my mind. It seems so simple yet is incredibly complex. One thing is for sure, I am NOT giving up. Even when I have been paralyzed with fear of failure, some little ember inside me still burns and keeps me going, trying, reaching.

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2013 hasn’t been a BAD year by any stretch. There have been a lot of high points–podiums as a Cat 4 and Cat 3. Even finishing mid-pack in a very large and competitive scene is a big plus! But I know I am capable of doing better. And isn’t that what keeps the amateur scene alive and growing? The believe that with each passing year we can improve, that next year will be the best ever.

I truly believe it will be.