Last night, I got my bike stuff ready. Helmet, shoes, clean bike's drive train, etc, and went to bed. Ready to get up and drive into the Toronto to do the Donut Ride. Something I do when I have nothing better to do. At 6am, the alarm went off and then, I heard it outside: rain. Damn. Looking at the weather forecast, there was a 40% chance that the ride would get rained out. I guessed it would dry up by the start of the ride and probably would not rain at all, but didn't desire to even ride on wet roads. I turned over and went back to sleep. At 10am, I rolled out of bed again. I can't remember the last time that happened. Rather that feel guilt for missing the ride, it felt strangely good. Cycling is all about riding in the morning. Some even ride before the sun comes up. I've passed the Morning Glory Cycling club here in Milton riding north on 6th line at 6:20am as I rode into work. The local Milton Bicycling Club starts rides at 7:30am. I always liked the Donut Ride because it probably the only ride left that starts every time at 9am year around.
On a positive note, racing at Track Nationals left me with numerous personal bests, and finishing mass start races against some top contenders - races that normally I would have not completed. I managed to build over that season I don't give up attitude. The race isn't over until it's over. I think racing too much last summer helped with that. I got to do stupid things like attacking off the front of the pack at the start of the race, etc.. I managed, with 10 laps to go, at the Provincial Criterium last year, be in a two man break away and hold the pack off until two laps to go. I managed, in December at the Forest City Velodrome, to twice over win points races, one against the almighty Steve Bauer, and one by lapping the field - something I thought I would never be able to do.
But something happened in the months following Track Nationals. I lost the will to race....although I saw the light at the end of the tunnel last Friday. The desire just hasn't been there this year. While I still have gone through the motions, the results prove I should probably just have stopped racing and go back to basics and ride for the hell of it. I raced the first Track OCUP and didn't get to finish the night because I was taken out in a crash that destroyed by bike (See the VIDEO) but I didn't really want to be there anyways. By the time, the second OCUP came around, I could have just as easily stayed home. Track Provincials? Yea, I raced it. But really didn't care...and it showed. I didn't break any personal bests from Nationals. The results just haven't been there.
On the road, I went from Mark Breakaway to Mark DNF. Yea, I finished in the middle of the pack at Calabogie Road Race this year but that race is pan flat. I raced down in Georgia doing a few of the very hilly crits of Speedweek and learned I don't do hills....or I no longer do hills. I used to. While it was fun, finishing was a struggle. For most of the races, at Speedweek, I got pulled. I've raced in Buffalo it the CAT1/2/3 races where last year I managed to finish every race including my first 75min crit. This year, oddly, while I managed to finish the same 75 min crit, just, I failed to make it longer than 10 mins without falling off the back of the pack for the other 3 times I made the journey. The Midweek Crit is something I just haven't feel the need to finish. Add to the fact, I took up helping with the timing and managing the race in July, and now I had a job to do. The races have been faster too. The Buffalo Crit was averaging 42-44km/h this year. Midweek was averaging 44km/h almost every week. That didn't happen last year.
Some explanation is required. I spent last year from Sept to Jan training hard for my first Track Nationals. That event was held in the new Milton Velodrome. I moved to the Milton partly to get out of Toronto - something I've wanted for 29 years - but mostly to be closer to the new track. In moving, I ended up moving to some of the best roads to ride on. I'm on the edge of nowhere - 5 mins from farmland and some of the best roads to ride. I'm 10 mins away from my favourite interval course in farm country. In Toronto, it was a 45min ride to get anywhere useful. While the new Velodrome is a boon to Canadian cycling, I also found the programs for the rest of us lacking. This situation has been a huge disappointment. I expected better. The only plus is I am closer to the Forest City Velodrome, now only 1h20 away. But I digress.
Riding to work and back is something I used to do that 4 days per week. However, now because of the distance to Toronto, I largely stopped riding my bike to work. I used to ride a old track bike to the office and back, and in the winter I rode a commuter fixed gear when the roads were good, and my cross bike with snow tires when the roads were a bit sketchy. I miss it. I am now a 2hr ride from the office. I used to ride to the office as a recovery ride or just because. If I didn't feel like training, I just rode into the office. Riding to the office now, some 55km away, requires some planning. In moving, I never thought of what rides I would do when I didn't want to do a training ride or "that" workout of the day. Milton was the only town in the GTA without a bike club (although that has just changed). Yes, my club Midweek does run rides, but that are rather infrequent, or require going into Toronto. I used to do the Donut Ride as a default ride, and I was 20 mins ride from the start. In Toronto, I could join the D'Ornellas club - they was a 30 min ride to the start. Or if I felt like getting up before dawn, do the Morning Glory Ride for a good hard workout. Now? I've taken largely to training on my own. But who wants to do that every weekend?
That said, my performance hasn't really dropped. While I had not gotten faster, I haven't gotten slower either. I competed in the Ohio State Track Championships at the Cleveland Velodrome last weekend (middle of August). I won the two primes in the CAT 3/4 Scratch race, got first in the 2km pursuit for my age category (1st of 5 riders - including against the guy that won all the mass start races) and podium spots in the 500m and 200m TT's. If my time on the 2K pursuit in Cleveland were stretched out to 3k, it is bang on my time for the 2015 Track Nationals. At the Michigan State TT championships in July, my 3k pursuit time was the same as Track Provincials. In the D'Ornallas Club TT a few weeks again, I got 22:22 on a 15km TT that has a nasty hill in it - that would be a PB on the Real Deal Thursday night Time Trial course I used to do every week. So, I still have the TT performance. I think grey matter - what is between the ears - just needs to be switched back on to feeling the desire to win mass start races. I seem to have lost that.
But then it happened. I didn't ride for three days. Normally, I would ride regardless of the circumstances. Last week, I took some time off to "prep work" for something else non-bike related so I could not ride, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Time off. I think I did a 1 hour easy ride in those three days. That is it. Thursday I rode 55km into the office and home again. I've gotten used to the ride, but it's almost fun although I can't do it 4 time per week. Three days - I didn't train and I didn't care. Then, I dragged myself down to Bloomer Park to race on the track Friday night - I wanted to try racing the Madison again something I haven't done in a year....and it was actually fun. I didn't care I screwed up half of the exchanges. I didn't care that I almost lost contact with the pack in the scratch race (although I managed to chase back on). It was just fun. I took time off, and it improved my attitude. Doh.
So, I sit here. Latte finished (hmm....time for a refill). Thinking I should ride today, but also thinking it doesn't really matter that if I don't. Next weekend, is slated to be busy. Because of the fun at Bloomer Park last Friday, I'm looking forward to race at the Thunder Games at Bloomer Park this coming weekend. Madison races for two nights. Fun. Add the Erie St Crit in Windsor, ON, and it should be a fun weekend...or if nothing, else, I'm just doing it for the fun it.
Going forward, I think I want to change things up. I signed up for a York University course - something I have done done in a while. I'm studying Psychology part-time at York University and I have taken a course almost every falls for years - except for last fall. I think this course will be a useful change of pace. I think I will keep up with the track training until Track Nationals travelling to the FCV for training and to Bloomer Park for racing. At Track Nationals, I think I will only do half the races. Race whatever I feel like. When Nationals are over, I will focus on PsychoCross. Midweek CC is running a cross race in November and I want to race it. I completely suck at cross, and I really don't care. So, it's not possible to take it too seriously. I would like to get better at hills. I finished tenth in the Niagara Classic some years ago - on a course with a hill it in that hit 16%. I intend to pickup a Woohoo Kickr to help with climbing (nevermind, it's just cool). I think in the coming road season, I would like to focus more on road racing - no so much to be good at it, but to improve my performance in racing crits and racing track. I think there is something to building endurance on the road to stay mentally tough. I want to do the Hairshirt ride again next June. That is a 324km ride to Toronto to Niagara Falls and back. Not so much to improve my time on the ride, but more because riding that distance forced me to ride many century rides leading up to it - something I had not done once this year. I want to travel to France in July to climb some mountains and watch the TDF in person.
My goal may be to compete in Track Worlds which, by the way, are coming to Los Angeles for 2017 and 2018. I just can't lose track of what I starting cycling: to stay fit and keep a healthy lifestyle. To that end, I have to keep it fun....and when it's not fun, back off until it is. Most of racing this season has just been work.
Most important, I will keep in mind, that if I need a break, I take it. I think this is an important lesson to remember. The last thing I need is to be burnt out. Cycling is done for fun.