I learned some interesting things during this off season.
On the bike, you normally hit the brakes when you are scared. But for me, in my training, it was hitting the brakes that actually scared me.
Towards the end of the cyclocross season, I was sick and very tired…I caught one virus after another and was sick for over a month. My body had reached rock bottom, and I needed to give it a real break.
In the past few years, I would finish the cyclocross season in February, and I had to be ready to race on the mountain bike about a month later, in March. I would take a little break, but the truth is that it's hard to take a real break when you have to be respectably fit in a few weeks.
So this year, I did things differently. I did not plan any race or any training camps. I took all the time I needed to fully recover, to heal some lagging discomforts, and to reset. And let me tell you, it was AWESOME.
Although it felt totally out of my comfort zone -and pretty stressful- to take such a long break, I ended up enjoying it a lot. I got to spend quality time with my family & friends, work on my hobbies -without feeling guilty about it!- and do all of these things I normally don’t get to do when I’m on the road or too tired from training. I learned that I could be happy without having the usual structure and routine of training. But most importantly, I learned that I could be happy without the feeling of satisfaction & accomplishment I normally get from training. It turns out I could get that rewarding feeling from other activities as well, like taking care of my body, creating woodworking pieces, or spending time doing different activities with people I love. This realization may seem unimportant, but for me, it is an essential reminder that I am not just a bike racer. I am a person with many flaws and qualities, with many interests and loved ones, who rides her bike for a living. Small nuance, big difference.
It still didn’t take long until I jumped on the bike again, but I made sure I did it with no computer telling me how long I had been going for. The truth is I had been missing my mountain bike, so I wanted to get out and play on it. We had been hitting the brakes in training, but I was excited to actually let go of them on my MTB, and simply enjoy it!
This past weekend, David and I went on a 3 days trip to Sedona, AZ to ride and camp. It has become a tradition to head there for a few days every year. The trails are so fun in Sedona, and I feel like spending a few days there always bring my skill level (and comfort on the bike) up a notch, which gives me extra confidence for the upcoming MTB season. It also felt like a mini adventure, as we used this opportunity to camp, and just spend quality time outside.
We are now back in Tucson and I’m still just riding without intensity. The goal is to be able to be consistent throughout the whole CX season this year - and not fade in early December - so we are still taking our time. That said, although training is slowly increasing, I still won’t be racing the XC events at Sea Otter. I just don’t feel ready to race against the strongest ladies in the world yet, so I’ll wait until May to get back into Cross-Country racing. For now, I’ll jump in new events at Sea Otter - The Gravel ride, and the Enduro! I’ll also use the opportunity to be in California to visit the Specialized Head Quarters, and ride mountain bikes with friends in Santa Cruz.
I’ll just finish with two things I want to share with you…
Although I was super nervous about taking a break and not have a structured training plan for a while, I can honestly say that I do not remember the last time I felt so good in my body, and so energized. My motivation to work hard is always pretty high, but I don’t think I’ve felt it at that level in a few years. We’ll see if I have the same speech in a few weeks (depending on how the fitness comes - or doesn’t - come back), but for now, I can say that taking a break has been very beneficial, even if it was scary.
David and I have been working hard on very cool projects and partnerships for this coming Spring/Summer/Fall and I can’t wait to share more of these with you all. Stay tuned!
I’ll leave you with a few pictures of Sedona and the off season :)