It’s been a while, but we’re back to the races! And of almost equal importance – back to the blog 😋
To be honest, I haven’t thought much about writing over the past few months; I guess I’m saving the words to type out for papers… It’s been a busy semester, and coupled with training, has been more mentally draining than I expected. While I am genuinely interested in my program, there are the unavoidable times when the stress makes me question a lot of things in my life (everything, not to be overly melodramatic); and it takes away from the enjoyment I find in training and being active, which is difficult to deal with.
And so, after an admittedly tough patch, this first race trip of the year, the Bear Mountain Canada Cup, was a much needed pick-me-up from the winter-blues and a litmus test for the season ahead. If there’s a surefire way to lift spirits, let me tell you – a few days on your bike with friends is the ticket. I feel like a new person, and have a little healthier skin tone thanks to the sunshine.
Brody, Andrew, and I flew out to Victoria on Thursday and were stoked to find a re-designed race course that included the whole flow trail, a new “enduro-y” (but still XC friendly) singletrack, and a few sections of the old course in reverse. I spent a lot of time on course Thursday afternoon and Friday, not for difficulty figuring out the track, but more to get reacquainted to riding dirt and because it was super fun.
Having the first race of the year out of the way is a massive relief. I don’t like the feeling of coming out of the training season and having to face that first test; so often I’ve been massively disappointed after getting roasted at the NorAm opener for skiing, or last year getting throttled on the start climb here. But hey – this time it wasn’t so bad! It was pretty good, actually.
Starts are always going to be hard, and I struggled with the early pace in races last year. But with some targeted work through the fall, racing cyc*****ss, and being more deliberate with my warm-up, I really feel like things have come around. By the top of the climb, I was in touch with the lead group, which was an early mark of progress that I’m really happy about.
(Brody and I have been banned from talking about “cx” during mountain bike season during team trips and events…)
Haley Smith took a flyer on the first lap, and despite our best efforts, no one could keep up and she built out her lead for the entire race, which was super impressive on this fast track. Haley’s closest chaser was Catharine Pendrel, who finished second. Catharine was in sight of the chase group of Sandra Walter, Laurie Arsenault, and myself for the earlier parts of the race,
It was a fun battle with Laurie and Sandra for the 3/5 laps; it was especially cool to see how fast and comfortable Sandra was through some of the more steep, technical corners – cool in the impressive sense, I wasn’t too stoked on having to chase back the time she’d put into me. Over the back half of the race, I didn’t quite have the energy to fight to the end, losing a lot of time and falling back to 5th with Laurie 3rd (her first “real” Canada Cup podium – big congrats!) and Sandra fourth after a tough ride to the pits after a flat.
All in all, a sun-shiny weekend of bike riding and fun first trip of the year with Brody and Watson. I feel more positive and in touch with where I am at heading towards my first big block of World Cup and Canada Cup racing in May now that this race is done and dusted. It’s also nice to know I didn’t totally forget how to ride mountain bikes over the past five months 😅, no doubt some mid-winter trail time would be another way to up the early-season game. But geez, riding trails is SO GREAT, I was totally jazzed the whole time we were in Victoria. I missed it a lot, I’m already missing it now that I’m back home where it is still very wintery.
In any case – just a few more weeks of school to power through, a handful of local races including a little road, Paris to Ancaster, and the first mountain bike Ontario Cup, and the usual athlete-lifestyle business. New bike should be coming together soon and I am so excited for it! Once it’s ready to roll, I’ll be sure to share a post with it. We’re getting close to absolute dream bike here.