I came across this blog today on Lifestyle Management, and it spurred me to write this post.

Great expectations. Yes, we all have them, and that’s what I had for this race season. I’d spent solid time on the bike all winter, both indoor and outdoor and started off the spring season in pretty good shape. I’d imagined this would be the platform that I’d be able to push off of and realize some great gains early to mid-season. Well, not everything always goes to plan…

The season started out pretty much like I’d expected. I was a little faster than I was this time last year. My legs felt strong. Ken was still faster than me, but the margin was holding steady. I was placing around, or just ahead of where I was last year, kind of just outside the top 10, in 11th or 12th on the ABA races and managed a 7th in one of the Fat Tire Tuesday races. But since then, I’ve felt a drop off in, well, everything. I feel sluggish on the bike, and generally just slow all around. This is likely due to the fact that since spring has sprung, my training, diet, and sleep regimen has pretty much gone out the window. Life, that’s all I can say. Life for a 35 year old married man, who’s working more than full time, and doing renos about the homestead, gets a little busy… Life has been exciting for me the last while to say the least, but training has admittedly taken a back seat in the last while. That said, I don’t just want to throw away all the valuable training I have done. There is still a lot of racing left this season (including the TR3 in August) and there might be a chance I can still rally. Life isn’t going to get any less busy though, so part of that is going to mean training smarter and focusing on the weakest parts of my game.

Last night at Fat Tire Tuesday, I got smoked! It was a dirt crit, so a short 1.5km loop on the open flats with no hills to speak of except one short power climb. There was a 4 lap, 5 lap and 6 lap category. I raced the 5 lap. This was a suffer-fest from start to finish. From the second we started to the second I rolled across the finish line, I was maxed out, and red-lining it. The first 3 laps weren’t bad. I held in there just behind the lead group, but started to fade and get passed by one rider, and then another. Lap 4, I faded a little more and the lead group was soon nowhere in sight and I had to drop off the chase group totally. Lap 5 was just more of the same, with even less jam in the legs and although I didn’t get passed again, the gap between me and the chase group ballooned to a big gap. Racers I had beaten at the Bacon race not just a couple weeks ago left me in their dust, and I had to wonder why. It didn’t take me long to pinpoint, it was pure and simple, fitness. Although I’ve been riding quite a bit, mine has been waning the last month or so and this course was a flat-out sprint with nothing technical. No hard climbs, no sketchy downhills and no twisty single-track. It reminded me a lot of Cyclo Cross race actually, and although it’s painful for me to remember my lack of success in CX last season, where I really fell short was pure fitness. These kinds of races just aren’t my thing, clearly…

But, lucky for me mountain bike racing isn’t just about fitness. Mountain bike racing is about twisty single track, sketchy downhills and hard climbs. It’s about bike handling skillz,and in my provious races where I had better results, that was likely the key factor. So, my point here, know your game, or more to the point, know your strengths, so you can work on your weaknesses. Part of that is managing your expectations. I have to realize that I’m just not as fit as I might think I am, and results are going to vary depending on the type of course. Some are just going to suit me better than others, and when it comes to a race like last Tuesday, I can’t get too down on myself when I don’t place well. I know I need to put in the time, put in the miles and get my fitness up. That’s going to be my best opportunity for improvement this season, because it’s where I’m suffering most.

This is going to be hard though, because the season has started, and there is a race almost every week. Putting in the BIG miles while still trying to get in some intensity work and recovery time will be a challenge. If I don’t figure something out though, I know what I can expect – just more of the same. I’ll probably hang on to the fitness and speed that I have now, and maybe get a bit faster, just from racing, but nothing huge. Finding the time to get it all in will be the key.

This weekend is a double header in Canmore, Iron Lung XC on Saturday and then the Organ Grinder Enduro on Sunday. Wish me luck!