How often do things go exactly as you hope? Unless you're superhuman, the answer is probably never. Especially as the "thing" gets more ambitious, with more moving parts and potential for obstacles to arise. Yes, we will probably all experience "hot streaks" in our careers and lives, where things seem to flow like water and it all comes together like magic. But more often than not, we cannot plan for, and then execute, our futures in minute detail.
This past weekend (and many race weekends this year), did not go as I'd hoped. I am much fitter, much more skilled and definitely more combative than I was able to display on the race course. My goal was to attack that race and move up steadily from my 50th place start, and it just didn't happen. My body was super flat, with legs that felt asleep and improperly activated. Despite that, I was able to ride a good start loop (coming through top 40) and was engaged in the racing. My brain was online, and I knew that I could work my way through the field as Albstadt is nearly always a race of attrition. However, at the beginning of lap 2, my tire joined my legs in the Flat Department, and I had to work my way to the tech zone, instead of up the live timing sheet. I was one of many people who flatted out there, as innumerable small, sharp rocks had emerged over the course of the U23 races (the intense mud earlier in the week had dried/been cleaned from the course due to hundreds of riders riding multiple laps) and left the descents treacherous. I got going again after my flat, and made about 10 passes afterwards, but I just wasn't "on".
That probably sounds like a bag of excuses, but it's not meant to. Rather, it's meant to show myself that things hardly EVER go to plan. It's cliche, but the only thing we have control over is doing the next right thing. In my recent history - with the pressure of the Olympics and an underlying health condition I didn't know about - I would not have had the resiliency needed to cope with such a crap day at the office. In fact, in 2021, I wasn't able to finish the Albstadt round of the World Cup. So, though I joked on instagram that my only win of the day was the morning's Wordle, there were many more wins out there.
I finished that effing race and got the DNF monkey off my back. I found mental focus on a very off-day, physically. I managed to have some smiles, and be a good teammate for Lespy despite my own poor race. There was a specific corner on course that I hit every lap and thought "DAMN, I'm good at this" (also many where I thought eeeEEwwwWWwww I'm horrible, haha). I also still finished on the lead lap even with my flat, which may not sound impressive, but I will take as a mark in the win column.
I'm currently frustrated AF, knowing that I can race so much better than I did last weekend. It would be very easy to start counting my failures from the year, allowing the negative half of my brain to make its case for why I suck and should be ashamed/sad/defeated. But that attitude is a choice, and as with any choice, there is at least one other option. So, instead, I'm choosing to be motivated. Some of the best moments in my life have been pieced together from deep frustration; in fact, I think frustration is one of the most powerful motivators. It's an engaging, consuming feeling. It's a call to action, to problem-solve, to look forwards. So, I'm letting those things fill me up and am keeping my focus on the long game of this sport (and of my life). I've accepted that I was (let's face it) crap last weekend, but acceptance is not the same as resignation. Rather, it's the firm ground from which you can step towards better things.
Coming back from RED-S and from the severe mental health hole I was in during the pandemic has been such a huge challenge for me so far. But, it's a challenge that I chose, and that is empowering. There is beauty and power in choosing to do hard things - things that challenge you to grow and evolve. In many ways, I am starting from scratch. Yes, I have a buttload of fitness and skill accumulated from the last decade of racing, but I also have a new body and brain that are responding to stimuli in a different way than I've ever experienced. The same sequencing that worked for me in the past is no longer working during race week, and I'm having to discover a new performance equation. It's maddening, frustrating, and exciting all at once. It honestly feels like these are the elements of passionate pursuit that I've been missing, so though the feeling of failure SUCKS, I will take it knowing that I've been gifted an opportunity to rise.
That's all the philosophical, self-indulgent rambling I will subject you to (for now!). In equipment-based news, this weekend was the Ibis Exie’s debut at the World Cup. Though I didn’t manage to showcase it super well, Jenny Rissveds showed just how great it is, riding to podiums in both the XCC and XCO. Lespy also had a great ride, posting lap times in the top 30s, before he had a nasty crash. It was very cool to be riding a bike made on American soil at a WC. Being here in Europe without our mechanic could have been very stressful, but our equipment has made it much less so. High quality bearings that easily handle insane mud (the first few days in Albstadt were akin to riding in peanut butter, cement, and rivers at varying points on the course) without needing maintenance (blows my mind - I literally can’t even remember what a creaky bottom bracket sounds like), suspension and on-site service from Fox (thank you!!), and an extremely light frame and wheel set meant that racing in Albstadt was pretty stress-free.
I’m now in NMNM, CZE with Lespy for our second World Cup of the year (and at my favourite venue/course). We're looking forward to a beautiful week with SUNSHINE (which is a rarity for Europe in the spring), and are feeling hyper grateful for the opportunity to be here racing our bikes. So... a HUGE thank you to MFR for getting us here, to Cycling Canada for the on-the-ground race support, and to all the family and friends that nudged me to keep going on this path. Yay bikes!