I was a bit worried when I wrote last week’s post that it was already a bit past its moment, but I also really hoped that I was wrong. It took six weeks after my cycling rock bottom to acknowledge that I might actually be on the path to success, and by the time I did, I was worried that my upward trajectory was going to turn into more of a John Wert style climb – a barely perceptible gain in elevation that is covered in obstacles and mostly just makes you wonder why you’re going so slow. After two Saturdays in a row where I failed to make any real improvements on key Rothrock Trailmix segments, it was time to reevaluate.
I knew the improvement would flatten out eventually, and I think it may have been a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think that I may have stressed myself out a bit during my last two Saturday rides because I basically have one ride per week where I have the opportunity to show progress toward my goal of completing the Rothrock TrailMix long course by the end of the summer. I realized that my Saturdays were starting to feel the way that I used to feel when I raced DINO cross country races, like everything was continually on the verge of being screwed up.
I’ve noticed in the past how with cross country I always felt like the race was determined in the first five minutes and the rest was just an hour or so of suffering after that to make it official. I would get really stressed out during races and very short-tempered as a result. Any small thing that went wrong during an XC race would set me off. On the other hand, I’m a lot better at keeping my cool during ‘cross races, and experience has taught me that practically never does a ‘cross race reach completion without something small going wrong and rarely does it make that much difference in the end result.
When I realized that I was panicking at the thought of having to brake for hikers, correlating my quality of performance versus the percentage of the ride which I had visual or audio contact with Frank (which in my mind means he’s slowing down for me and thus pointing out that I am slow), and dwelling on how untalented I am and that cycling just doesn’t come easily for me, it occurred to me that even without a Bikereg page to stalk, my unofficial “race” goal for the summer was slipping into unhealthy territory. I think having a goal is still beneficial for me, since other these symptoms, which I have thankfully recognized and caught early, I am enjoying one of those beautiful states of flow where skipping workouts doesn’t even occur to me as an option unless I genuinely need the rest and junk food actually starts to seem unappealing. I’ve only ever managed to get into this state for a few months at a time every couple of years, so I definitely want to keep it going as long as possible. I think that the answer is to keep working toward the goal but in a more indirect manner. I may need to spend some time on longer road or gravel rides where my heart rate isn’t pinned the whole time, or go to Cooper’s Gap and practice my skills on some rocks that I haven’t memorized yet.
That will have to wait at least another week, though, as I can’t take a TrailMix breather quite yet. The actual race is this weekend, and I’m signed up for the short course race. I’m trying to treat it as an exercise in recognizing and letting go of my XC-stress. I know that riding the rocky singletrack will be much different with lots of other people, and doing so well will require calm and flexibility. It will also likely mean that even riding relatively well and in a calm and flexible manner, I won’t PR any of the singletrack sections, and I have to be okay with that.
It’s a bit funny thinking about the old man yelling at me on Bald Knob at the race last year, because I’m trying to avoid getting into the same mode myself this year. I still think of the spot where the incident occurred as “The Richard Rock” (“call me Richard because I’m such a dick”), and I’ve still only cleared the entire section about three times ever. Despite an overall disappointing ride last Saturday, I did at least clear The Richard Rock. I’ll take that as a good omen for this weekend, where I will try to repeat the action with other people around, but more importantly, not be a dick.