National Championships
National Championships
Photo: Rob Jones @ Canadian Cyclist

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what to write this week. After skipping an update last weekend with the rush to get home from Andorra and find a smidgeon of recovery before Nationals, there are a few keynote thoughts running through my brain. Do I talk about the messiness of trying to balance my global, multi-discipline schedule? Dealing with the waves of objective success and failure? The equipment that’s carrying me through these events, from 20 minutes to (most recently) 5 hours? In the face of “too-many-options-syndrome”, I’ll share some thoughts from National Champs this weekend. But I will also take this as an opportunity for a call to action; let me know what you’d like to read about, and I will start crafting some essays! 

This weekend was our National MTB Championships at Hardwood Hills in Ontario. I will be brutally honest: I kind of hate the course at Hardwood, and have always struggled to find any semblance of flow there. It’s an interesting mix of “Ontario style” single track (think fast, tight, twisty, and punchy) with some very venue-specific jank. The lap is long at 6.5km, and has somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 significant “features” on it. It’s a lot of sprinting up to speed, cornering tight, slamming on the brakes to hit an awkward feature, and then reaccelerating. Of course, if you’re a Hardwood wizard, local, or just someone who rides there frequently, then it probably doesn’t feel quite so awkward… but I have yet to figure out the Hardwood puzzle!

I was very tired in Andorra last weekend. I managed to get sick right after Tushar (no, not COVID, but an energy-sapping cold nonetheless), and I think the sickness + Tushar recovery + transatlantic travel in the few days preceding the World Cup were too much for me to absorb. The legs felt dead all week and I really struggled energy-wise. I was upset that I wasn’t able to give it a real crack in the World Cup, but sometimes that’s just how it goes. The waves of success and failure, right?

After Andorra, we flew back to Ontario the very next day. Two nights in Uxbridge with my family, and then it was up to Hardwood for the weekend. Short Track on Thursday night, and XCO on Saturday. I don’t think it’s a secret that I’ve been struggling in XCO-style events, but this weekend was an improvement. The struggle has been a combination of low confidence, RED-S recovery, lingering fatigue from these longer races, and just missing the “rhythm” of fast racing. Before the Short Track, I managed to convince myself that I would get spat out the back immediately (silly brain), so I was quite nervous. Still, I felt no pressure. That’s been one of the gifts of this varied schedule: my professional worth and performance ambitions don’t hinge on any one event, which has given me a lot of “freedom to fail”.

The Short Track went much better than I expected. I did way too much work in the first half chasing down the 1, 2, 3 attacks thrown by Canyon MTB, and faded on the final two laps. Just had to do too much, against competitors that were too strong! I ended up 5th, which is really irrelevant; the biggest takeaway was that I could have confidence in my ability to push my body. Recovering from Thursday night to Saturday was a bit tough, and I woke up on XCO morning feeling a bit tired and still with sore legs. Not ideal, but one thing I’ve learned is that rarely, if ever, are things ideal. You have to learn to forge ahead with what you’ve got!

It had been quite hot and humid in Ontario all week, and XCO day was no different: 32 degrees celsius plus the humidex, and mostly full sun. In the race, I lacked the punch to be in the fight for the podium, but it was much better than last week. I have a feeling that the zippiness I’m missing is still buried under some fatigue, and I’m just hoping that it’ll get a little more accessible every week! BUT there were many bright sides from the race: I was engaged and “on it” the whole time, rode consistently, finally had all the awkward features dialled, and was much more in the conversation than I have been in XCO. I, again, finished 5th, just a handful of seconds from 4th. Moving in the right direction!

The best part about Nationals, though, is seeing the Canadian cycling community and making those connections. It’s such a good reminder that objective results don’t REALLY matter to anyone but yourself; what does matter is the time and energy you give other people, how you carry yourself through disappointment and success, and the investment you bring to the race. In other words… what matters is the impression you leave. To all the juniors and cadets that were out there racing, I feel like that’s an important piece of experience-based advice to heed: you WILL have failures in your cycling careers. You WILL experience disappointment in addition to success. In the long run, what actually matters is the attitude you meet those sticky patches with and how you connect with your community. 

Lespy and I felt so spoiled to have the support of so many people out there, all of whom seem so excited about the direction we’re going with our cycling. And we were SO grateful that Drew (manager extraordinaire) and his wife Katy drove up from Pennsylvania (!!!!) to support us at the races this weekend. Also extra special was having my family there. A soul-filling weekend, even if the results aren’t shiny. 

I’m at home in Uxbridge for a few days before we travel down to West Virginia for the next World Cup. I’m hopeful that it’ll be another step in the right direction, but also humble enough to accept whatever comes. Thanks for reading!

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