Thursday, August 16, 2012

Where to Begin?

I don’t know exactly what happened Saturday.  The Olympics are such a strange beast; racing is such a strange animal.  If you had asked me Friday if I was ready I would have confidently responded yes without any false bravado.  I felt so ready, I felt fast, I was excited, and I was sharp.  So where did everything go wrong?

That is open to interpretation; of which there are many (see appendix A. joking).  I had an ok start and was able to move into the top 3 by the end of first lap, the pace felt too slow evidenced by the fact that the gap we had opened at the front had come back together, but at the same time my body felt tight and pulling on me or like I was under water.  I knew I had to split the race apart, to make it harder and went to the front and drove it.  But every effort I made seemed to only work a couple of seconds and then the rider I passed was coming around me again. 

I was getting gapped on the crests of climbs and not sticking wheels meaning I was constantly bridging.  I felt like I was several days into BC Bike race, mentally dull, and physically off the pace. 

There are always game changing moments in a race, moments where if you can just keep your rhythm you will have a good day, but if you get sidelined it’s over.  For me this was lap 3.  Julie, Sabine, and Georgia started riding away and Annie, Ester and I were together.  I thought I had gotten my mojo and magic back though and was passing both girls on the descent when one changed lines into mine and took me out. I was forced off my bike and had to run.  There are days when I have the legs to bring back mistakes and days that I don’t.  On the day reclosing opened gaps was no longer in the cards.  I was frustrated and chasing again.  Every time I felt like I had started to find my rhythm another woman passed me seemingly effortlessly.  Normally I race with aggression and fire, this day it seemed I could just sit and try to drive. 

I felt scared and overwhelmed by calling on my body and having it not respond.  I started feeling like something was seriously wrong with me, (enough that I got blood work done the next day; maybe Val D”Isère wasn’t an altitude problem?  Maybe it was my body shutting down, but no, thankfully I am healthy).  My body has been so faithful to me over the last 5 years, staying healthy and allowing e to push and pull every last ounce out, why did it choose this moment to say no more?  But I don’t think you can underestimate the effect of the Olympics on one’s nervous system.  My morning heart rate looked like I was under strenuous training load, like I really was several days into a stage race.  I think I gave all I had on the day; my body gave me the best it could in the moment.

Every time someone passed me I thought I could just grab their wheel, regroup and get going.  In Mont saint Anne I was way off the pace and then rallied and put out my fastest lap time on the last lap.  I could do this again, Keith was on the sidelines telling me I could and I believed it, but it didn’t happen.  I was pedaling backwards while the others streamlined by me looking amazing.  Everyone seemed to have a momentum I was lacking. I finished a distant 9th.

To be honest and fair I don’t feel I was so far off form a medal was impossible, but I don’t think I was my best either and I think my body just shut me out.  It said this is too much and turned off, despite the mental trickery and commands I threw at it the last 45 minutes of the race to stop f***ing around.

Did the nerves sending waves through my body the previous two days cook me?  Was it muscular fatigue from earlier bridging efforts or lack of fitness that had me so far off pace?  Was I right and was amazing Friday, prepared too hard and wasn’t sharp Saturday?  Was I mentally dulled by stimulus overload?  Have I pushed myself hard for the last 4 years and my body chose that day to say “screw you”?  I don’t know if I will ever know for sure and feel sad that this day didn’t turn out the way many of us hoped it would, but don’t worry I still want to kick some ass at Worlds.

I had an amazing, and I mean absolutely incredible support network behind me.  I had excellent coaching, team support, family support, mechanical support, community support, team mate support.  My preparation was solid and well thought out.  We were all ready, but I was the only one that could actually deliver and make all our hard work recognized. I feel an ache inside about this.  My result did not do justice to the preparation that was put into the event.  We were number one in preparedness and my consistency over the last few years gave us no reason to doubt I could get the job done.  Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

I have received so many amazing emails from you all and feel so lucky that even in a devastating moment for me some of you were able to find inspiration.  That is the power of the Olympics and what helps us move past disappointments.  Knowing that no matter how we think of our result, to someone it is amazing and even in failure we can inspire and make a difference.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

World Cup Finals

Luna goes 1, 3 and 5 overall on the World cup and Waldek goes loco on photoshop.

How times have changed!

I can’t believe that I haven’t written about winning the World Cup overall yet!  I guess there have been other things on my mind!

It has been good year and definitely a full year with training camps starting in January and World cups starting in March and of course, always the Big O in the back of your mind.  The start of this year would also be my first time racing internationally as the World Champion, something I wanted to do well. A big year indeed; It got off to a great start with a 3rd in South Africa and remained solid throughout. 

I have been going event to event, but always with one event in the back of my mind and now I am finally on the trip that will culminate with the Olympic games. So yes there has been a lot on my mind and with moving from one focus to another sometimes you don’t make enough time to acknowledge all the joys along the journey.

I have come off a great couple weeks at home, the local boys generously offering themselves up to help me in my interval sessions (Thanks Chris, Keith, Paul, Evan, Pete, Martin and Aaron you guys rock!), trying to improve on those embarrassingly poor starts at the North American World Cups. 

Many of my competitors chose to prepare at altitude, but for me altitude is a training unknown.  The gains made by being home, sleeping well and training on known terrain have been very dependable the last few years.

The Tuesday before Val D’isere Keith and I flew to Europe for World Cup finals. At midnight the following day we were finally tucked away in our hotel at 1800m with a ride and river dip already in our adventures.
Keith and I checking out the stunning views surrounding our apartment

My pre-race training was good and sleeps okay.  I felt fast and technically sharp and was happy on the course and was fired up to see if I could start better.   Being ranked number 1, I got to choose the best line for the start, which was significant on the rough grassy start there. 

The start was bizarre though, we didn’t know it would be an air horn and the air horn didn’t have enough air but eventually choked out a noise some girls realized was our starting gun.  Delayed, but off and holding my own until the first corner where a rider cut in on me and next thing I know I am at a standstill watching the field stream by with my crank caught on the wrong side of the course stake which was intended to hold the course tape, not the racers.  When I got going again I was in the 40’s.

Luckily the first climb was long and open and I picked off enough girls to reach the top 20.  After the climb though there were no opportunities to pass until mid lap.  The other racers seemed content to sit in line waiting for riders to clear.  They weren’t racing to win.  So I got off my bike were possible and ran past them, gaining 2-3 positions this way.

It was probably the most frustrated I have been in a race, wanting to move forward, but unable to.  I eventually worked my way up to 11th, but from there, just stalled.  Rather than my normal climbing prowess I was just maintaining or losing ground.  I suffered and it wasn’t much fun.  Over the course of the next 3.5 laps I moved up to a disappointing 9th.  It was not how I had envisioned my last race before the big show and this overshadowed the Overall title for sure.

I’m not really sure what was up. My body was off, be it travel fatigue, altitude, starting too hard, prepping too hard at altitude or just a weird day, but my overall Olympic preparation has been good and I know you don’t mysteriously lose form over a  plane ride so I head into my final Olympic preparation motivated, confident and with youthful joy and excitement….and yes as the World cup leader and World Champion.  Very cool and only achievable thanks to the great support of my husband, team LUNA, coach Dan and Team Canada.  Thank you all!

 Post Finals dinner celebrations at le 1789, a great restaurant in Val D'Isere