Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Love and Cyclocross

If it don't come easy, you better let it go.
'Cause when it don't come easy, there's no natural flow.
Don't make it hard on your heart, you might be better off alone,
If it don't come easy, you better let it go.

I think that possibly the worst way to follow up a bad race is to come back six days later and race on practically the same course against practically the same field. No opportunity to start fresh there. About five minutes into the Indiana State Cyclocross Championships I found myself falling further into the Spiral of Suck that I had started the weekend before. And since the officials let the thing drag on and on, I had a loooong time to think about that Spiral of Suck before I was finally allowed to finish at 45 minutes.

The thoughts were basically that I was done - mentally and physically. That I had set a goal for myself for the season, to win my category in the OVCX series, and that I had accomplished that goal, with awesome overall race win to cap it off. It had been a very good year, and I had given it everything I had. And despite my desire to support my state's ongoing series, I had no desire to give any more. I thought I could skate by on a half-assed effort for the rest of December, but my competition was not going to let me get away with that. On the second lap, Tim O'Donnell yelled, "What, are you saving it for next year?" (possible nominee for heckle of the year?), and I yelled back, "Why, yes. Yes, I am." Time to go home and get ready for 2012, kids.

The thing is that, while cyclocross is notoriously hard, from the starting line at Apple Cross to the finish line at Kings, going hard had come surprisingly easy. Those first few "Holy crap, I'm leading!" moments laid the foundation for little successes that built every week and forced me to dig a little deeper and learn a little more about racing every time I went out. However, conscious willing of effort was pretty limited. Occasionally, I would have to make the decision to give an extra 10% effort in an acceleration to pass, cover a move, or prevent a pass in a straightaway, but for the most part, success either happened or it didn't. And for the most part this year, success happened for me. It was more about resisting the urge to back off than trying to force myself to go harder.

So during Saturday's very long and very conscious tour of the pain cave, I remembered this old song, and realized a) It had ceased to come easy b) I better let it go. While both love or cyclocross require a certain amount of grit for long term success, sometimes you have to take a break from a dysfunctional relationship.

This is really about allowing myself to enjoy my bike-free Christmas vacation that starts tomorrow and not ending my super-awesome 2011 season on a sour note. I'm pulling the plug one C priority race short of what I planned. In return, I’ll get the chance for a real end-of-season break before my official “start 2012 training date” of January 7th. I'm still inspired by those battling back from a slump like Sierra Siebenlist with her elite women's state championship this weekend, and the John Gatch in The Best Bike Blog Ever's awesome "Stations of the Cross" post. I'm putting it on the record now that I fully intend to follow up my Cat 4 OVCX championship with another one in Cat 3 next season, so if things start to go sideways and I start bitching about being "burned out" in mid-October, you all have my full permission to slap me, tell me to HTFU, and play this song.


Frederick said...

So much of it is a mental game Lindsey. (I know its almost a "truism" to even say that).

You had a 'let down' at the first Backyard Cross after such a high late in the OVCX. You're faced with a couple of choices after such a race (and we've _all_ had such a race before):

Say to yourself you're burned out and perpetuate that spiral...


Say to yourself "this is not how I want to end this season. Now, what things did I do well and what did I do poorly today and what adjustments do I need to make for next Sunday?"

I know it all sounds glib but one's 'mindset' preparing for a race can hardly be overestimated.

Just my .05 cents worth.


Neil said...

I spent this cyclocross season slowly building a base while watching Trailer Park Boys from the warm comfy of my living room so I am so envious of your effort I can hardly stand it, and I don’t even know you. Great job on a solid season.

Funny, my word verification to post this comment is "quit". Whatever.