Nove Mesto World Cup: Memory Capsule
This is a challenging post to write. Where do I start: the result? the race itself? the lead-in? the struggle of the last two months? There is so much that went into this weekend’s World Cup, and to be honest I’m struggling to make sense of it all. But for the sake of my future 90 year old self (who I’m sure will want to remember how these events made me feel, rather than a cut-and-dry factual account), I’ll do my best to recount this weekend.
If you’ve been following along with my journey, then you know that self-confidence and belief have historically been my area of weakness. Confidence does not come easily to me - I have to work at it and train it, much like any of the physical skills required to race a bike fast. Leading into these first two World Cups of the year, my confidence was at a pretty low point. I had really been struggling throughout March and April with desire, motivation, and to be honest, the training. I was seeing the poorest numbers in training that I had in years, and I felt tired and worn out in a disconcerting way. I’m not clear on the reasons for this slump I was experiencing… a little of it was definitely from the hole created by an incredibly hard February of training and racing, some for sure was due to my Grandfather’s passing and the emotion of my Gramma T dealing with a stroke, a dash of it was probably due to the emotional hangover of my life’s best autumn ever (Andrew proposing), and some likely came from my surprise success at last year’s World Championships (as they say, success does have a cost - especially when you’re not prepared for it).
Maybe you’ll recall that at Sea Otter this year, I chose not to race the long course and actually took a self-mandated break from social media and the race scene. All of the above stressors had combined to overwhelm me, and I have a confession to make: that week at Sea Otter, I’d realized that I’d relapsed with my eating disorder. I was experiencing so much stress and anxiety from life over the last 6 months that the old habits of control (which had been dormant for a while) resurfaced and I’ll just say that I was in a pretty rough place. So, I gave myself an intervention and the following month between Sea Otter and the World Cups was all about cultivating awareness and self-compassion to keep these anorexia-related thought patterns and actions at bay. Things did start to look up - my fatigue levels began to recede, my food-thoughts became healthier, and my perspective began to revert back to a positive and gratitude-centred outlook. The training still wasn’t exactly confidence-inspiring, but I was doing the work to the best of my ability and I knew that was all I could do.
Why am I writing so much about the back story? Because I want to tell you - and have a reminder for myself - that things don’t have to go perfectly for you to achieve your goals. Often, the biggest breakthroughs come on the back of disappointment, struggle, and adversity. I’m expecting a lot more adversity to come over the course of my career, and I’m sure that I will need this reminder in the future.
So. Moving on…
I arrived in Europe for the first World Cup in Albstadt with literally no idea what to expect from myself. In 2018, I had a terrible race which actually made my goals for the weekend easy: just do better than last year! The short track went pretty well, and with a second row call-up I was able to get relatively clear at the beginning of the XC. I rode my own rhythm (almost time-trial-esque) and had my first Euro top 10 finish with a 9th place. This was definitely a bit of a surprise for me! It was a solid confidence-boost: I remembered that I DO know how to compete, and that everyone out there is just a set of heart, lungs, and legs just like me.
After that solid weekend in Albstadt, I went into Nove Mesto wondering what was possible. In a meeting with my sport psychologist (Sharleen Hoar) before the short track, she asked me, “How much proof is enough? When will you have enough proof for you to believe that you can do this?”. Her question (which I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing) was like a an epiphany. My goal for the weekend became different - I became aware of the hesitation I’d been operating with and I didn’t want that anymore. I wanted to put myself out there, and any fear or doubt I’d been harbouring became irrelevant.
The short track was solid. I did not race intelligently (lol) - instead I went for it and led the first two laps or so. I needed that experience - I needed to show myself that I could do that, and still be in the mix afterwards. I finished 14th, securing that second row call-up for Sunday, but my fire was lit.
Then came the XC. I had a solid start, actually leading the start before riding in around 8th for the remainder of the start loop and first lap. Around the end of lap 2 or lap 3, I found myself solo in 6th with about a 50 second gap to podium in front of me, and a small gap to the chasers behind me. And then the gap in front started to come down. With two laps to go, I was 28 seconds off the podium and I felt like I was picking up steam. With one to go, the gap had shrunk to 15 seconds and I still felt strong. I found a “next level” on that last lap and moved from 6th to 5th, then 4th, and then 3rd. I definitely had a “holy SHIT” moment when I made that final pass to move into third: this was uncharted territory, folks. I knew I just had to focus on the process and stay in flow mode, and it would all work out.. and what do you know, it did! But man… I’m still processing that emotional ascension I experienced on the last lap.
And hell, that was a cool podium to be a part of! First Elite World Cup podiums for three of us (myself, Sina, and Malene), a career-best for Bec, and obviously, an incredible ride from Kate. I’m humbled by how supportive all the women are of each other and by the hugs of congrats I received from my competitors at the finish. You are all inspiring me to find the best person in myself, and are truly showing that celebrating others’ success doesn’t diminish your own. In fact, it makes it stronger in many ways. So thanks, guys!
Third feels pretty damn good, and achieving that first World Cup podium is LITERALLY a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will cherish forever. But the best part of this whole weekend, and the thing I’ll savour the most, is the love and support I feel from the whole community. I’ve received so many messages (which I’m still reading through) and had so many interactions with people that have just buoyed my soul to new heights. Thank you for being so amazingly supportive.
And it’s true what they say, the people around you are what make life’s accomplishments worthwhile. Sharing that finish line moment with Lespy, Tara, Dan, Havy, the team, Shar, my family via FaceTime… You guys made that special. Without you, it’s just another bike race. My heart is full.