SHRED OR DEAD

PRONOTPRO REPORT #10

Last Monday I wrote a recap of my go at the Nationals Road Race, which was held the day before on Sunday. I promise you it was the best post race recap I had ever written. The 'magic' of the internet means that it completely vanished as soon as I hit publish and it will never be seen again. As much as I stayed up late that night trying to recreate the best piece of writing I had made since I was in school (really, not that great anyways) it just wasn't happening. Now it's one week later and the TT and Crit are both in the books, as well as I drove clear across the country from Ottawa to Vancouver in 3 days.

I had started the road race last weekend knowing that I wasn't destined to do well. This wasn't pessimism. Accepting that you're sick (thanks Tour de Beauce, motorpacing wasn't the only thing I got from you) isn't an easy thing to do, and while I was getting better faster than my teammate Kyle I was still definitely not 100%. It turns out most people going to Nationals that plan on doing well, or winning, are bringing 100%. That's okay. Starting a race knowing that you're unlikely to make it completely through a race lets you race without any pressure on your shoulders. 

No pressure meant I basically said 'Fuck It' and went for broke. My legs felt much better than I had expected they would, so naturally I thought attacking 5km in to a 180km race was a good idea. Matteo Dal-Cin seemed to think it was a good time to go anyways, making us the first two clear, joined quickly after by five others who made short work of putting a minute into the disorganized, chasing pack.

I had to take stock of what was happening here. Two years ago during my first and so far only attempt at Nationals I had bridged up to the breakaway, spending three short minutes with the break before being popped over top the steep climb of that year's circuit. Missing last years race because of my broken collarbone meant I've been thinking about improving on those three minutes for the last two years. The situation unfolding around me had the right players to have a breakaway that could stay for quite a long time. Matteo (winner of Redlands this year) and Rob Britton (2015 winner of Gila) driving the breakaway combined with a good mix of the teams with numbers was the insurance I needed on making improvements from my last go.

About 20-30 mins into the break though I'd realized how quickly my lungs would fall behind the work my legs were doing. I would have to start skipping pulls, unable to recover before my turn, when i hit the front I was just slowing the break down which was the last thing I wanted to do. Some of the break believed me when I told them I was sick, some forced me to pull through anyways, either way the writing was all over the wall for me. I was dropped 50km after just over an hour of racing. My legs were so far ahead of my chest that when I was picked up by the chase I'd be dropped from that as well after 90km and my Nationals were over in a coughing fit and more snot thrown across my bike than I thought I was able to produce.

Immediately after pulling out of bike races I would usually hate my life temporarily. Strangely pulling out of this target race I actually felt pretty good about it. Well, physically I felt like a complete turd, but I had made the right choice in the first few KMs of racing. Sure enough I was a partial instigator of the move that would stay away until the end (though bridged by a few select guys, totaling 10 at one point) and I'd like to think that I could have made it with those guys, or at least been one of the only 18 men's racers to finish Nationals this year. Truthfully the most disappointing thing was hearing that Matteo, Ben Perry (Matteo's Silber teammate who had bridged up) and Will Routely (Rally Cycling, also bridged) had crashed in the final corner, the final sprint would be a lone Bruno Langlois who avoiding going down behind those three. Not that Bruno is undeserving of his win, I just would have liked to see everyone duke out to the line.

Of course. 50km in the break, struggling to make it to 90km meant I was probably (definitely) in worse health after the race than when I had started. So two days later at the Time Trial I almost didn't start. Posting a better result than my 2014 attempt while sick was nice, only being passed by the TT behemoth that is Svein Tuft (he started one minute behind me) was also nice. My parents being in town and actually doing a race with them around was nice. But I can't help thinking I made the wrong choice in starting while still trying to kick a cold. I'd been working on TT efforts, with a sweet bike to ride this year. All the nice things though, it was a course that doesn't really suit me and I could have used the recovery before the Crit the following evening. Sure enough my lungs hadn't cleared for the Crit yet, I would be dropped on a technical circuit, and watch Silber destroy from the sidelines with my folks. I was pretty stoked before my race though, watching TRT's Womens Squad control the race and send Kinley Gibson up the road where she dusted her breakaway partner in the final sprint bringing home a sweet special edition shirt.

I hitched a ride back across the country with Giant Langley/Smart Savvy, the team who took me in for Beauce. I was grateful for the chance to save 300$ on a return flight, it's also sort of cool to say that I spent Canada day in five different Provinces (though, I slept the entire way through Manitoba, literally not even knowing we had left Ontario until waking up in Regina). It was truthfully my first time going through the prairies (Banff doesn't count, it's not flat, Saskatchewan however is really REALLY flat) and it's interesting to see just what happens (along the highway at least) in the middle part of the country.

I'm still less than 24 hours at home, glad to be resting with Ginger but still waiting from Erin to come back from West Side Invite in San Diego where her and a friend already went 2nd & 3rd for the women in the Out of Towner Race. It will be a short week of relaxing though, BC's biggest week of racing starts on Friday, followed quickly by Cascade which I am pretty excited for this year. I just need to let the last bit of cold clear from my system and race confidently, remembering the one thing I should be taking from Nationals: that I can be in the important part of the race, I just have to remember to say 'Fuck It' and go for broke.

And speaking of going for broke. You might have already seen it on Instagram (sorry, you're going to see it a lot over the next two weeks) but I made another shirt design I have up for presale. The presale ends on July 24th so you need to order one before printing to get one! Just click right here! I'd also be really grateful if you'd share the links/photos with anyone you think would be interested in one! The internet is a big place!

life/work/cycling/arts/balance

I found this linked on A Photo Editor. I'm trying to watch more short films/videos to try and look for techniques I can use as I'm learning more and more about making short videos, what also captured me was how Joe speaks about the balancing act of pursuing something you feel worthwhile bounces back between awesome and, not so awesome. 

Definitely worth a look for the like, pretty animals and landscapes, as well if you're feeling existential about pursuing something in your life that's all encompassing in all the ways.

PRONOTPRO REPORT #9

I've been to a few races since I last posted. We raced on the Border of the US and Canada for our Provincial Championship Road Race, the next weekend we tripped over to Victoria on Vancouver Island for the Robert Cameron Law Cycling Series which also included the Provincial Championship Crit. I'd say as a team we maybe fell a little short of our goals. But at the same time we planned and tried our best to execute what we thought would work. I led Kyle out in the RR in Langley for 2nd place, and in Victoria we succesfully helped him defend the series leader jersey he earned on the first day of racing (in the short, hard Dallas Road TT, I was pleasantly suprised to get 3rd in that one..). So really, we didn't do all that bad. After Victoria, Erin and I were watching Netflix and two things happened. One, is that I cracked a molar on a corn chip. The other is that I finally got a spot to ride Tour de Beauce. 

I spent the next week confirming I would actually be able to ride, having a molar ripped out of my skull and trying to figure out just how the hell I was even going to get to Beauce flightwise (and, Nationals a week later). It was actually a pretty stressful week. Much of that week I was eating semi-solid food with a pretty serious ache in my upper jaw, I wasn't allowed to blow my nose or spit for a week as the perforated nasal cavity filled a hole in. But you know, sometimes it works out, I was luckily able to get a flight on family's aeroplan miles and the team I would guest ride for invited me to hop into the van to save on the return flight (I will be driving Ottawa to Vancouver directly after the National Crit on Wednesday).

Tour de Frieken Beauce.

Man. This race is way harder than anyone drills into your head. And I literally had someone drilling (okay, okay, they weren't drilling, they cut my molar into pieces, then yanked it out with pliers) into my head one week previous to flying out to this race. But it's hard. Did I say it's hard? It's hard. I think that I'm coming back into form that feels good for Nationals, Superweek and Cascades, but form without the time spent at the speed of UCI stage races isn't always translated right. I think I really understand why people do motorpacing after this. If I look at my files for the races the power isn't anything I'm not capable of, but it's the sustained effort and the sheer speed that you're travelling at that doesn't always equate to 'x' amount of time at 'y' amount of watts going up the local mountains.

But hey, it's also a lot of making myself used to being in the Pro Peleton again. Asserting my position close enough to the front of the race that I'm not caught behind splits because I did end up getting caught behind a split on three stages. Which is a pretty bad track record with five stages (plus TT), the last of which, I wasn't behind the split, I was just straight out dropped. So I know I have some things to work on, some of which isn't just motorpacing. 

But you know. Timing is kinda good. The race acted essentially the same as motorpacing. And if I can get my head on straight for Nationals I should have a good go, the same for Superweek and Cascades I hope

I can say as I was riding to survive Beauce, it was humbling on a bunch of levels. Not just from seeing the big names slugging it out in one of the bigger UCI races in North America, but seeing big names that are people I've ridden with, in some cases been on the same team as some guys riding the front of the race. It was also humbling to be accepted as full on equal memeber of Giant Langley/Smart Saavy for the week in Beauce. The guys were washing bikes daily, cheering for the guys surviving, feedzoning and keeping up our spirits as the race ground them into pulp. So thanks guys.

PRONOTPRO REPORT #8

What is happening during race season. Sometimes I don't even know. One weekend I'm heading to California for training camp, the next weekend it's Provincials and I'm in a mad scramble to find a guest ride spot for Tour de Beauce. I looked at my calendar this week and realized Nationals is a month away, and before I know it we'll be in Bend racing Cascades.

There's been a lot of racing since coming back from California. And while personally I came up a bit short on my ambitions, I've had a great month of team racing. Working for my teammate Kyle in a few races, including helping him win an overall at Race the Ridge. But the Twilight Crit in Tour de Bloom was definitely the highlight of my month. My entire team rode out of their skin in the last eight laps, with ambition to place Michael high in the sprint and organized enough that we had seven guys in a row. I pictured UHC's 'Blue Train' from Superweek two years ago, but swapped it out with Red and high fives from the Vancouver friends racing down there. I'm trying not to dwell on not putting together my personal goals and revel in the ability to race with a bunch of really good dudes this year, especially dudes that are genuinely amazingly supportive teammates in racing and off the bike. That's all I have to say about that.

Outside of bikes, I went camping for the first time in probably close to five years, or more. I joined Erin and a 15(?) others at Golden Ears after doing the road race leg of Race the Ridge, hiked 4km into the spot to sleep on the ground before hiking that 4k back out to race the Crit. It was actually amazing. It's difficult to find the time to hang out with friends outside of work and training and even if I only got a few hours tired as hell on a rocky beach it goes a long way for your mental health. I snuck in another mental health moment this Monday when I picked up the board and hung out at Leeside for an hour. A little goes a long way.

I'm constantly trying to reassess how I can fit more creative bits in my day to day life. But it's like camping and skateboarding, outside of bikes the time is hard to come by. It's sometimes a source of stress in my life actually. I feel like I'm being pulled apart between two, three or four different things I want to be entirely part of my life. Racing and cycling obviously. Photography. Drawing. Skateboarding. I even think more and more about night classes for some skills I want to refresh in the fall, but I don't know how to fit everything in between all the sacrifices you make for bike racing. Most of the time I don't even know when to clean my house.

I made this poster in between times. Erin and Tree are putting on a sweet fun alleycat.

I made this poster in between times. Erin and Tree are putting on a sweet fun alleycat.

For now, I'm going to focus the next few weeks on prep for trying to get a spot for Beauce and figuring out how to finance my plane ticket to Nationals. As much as I'm stressing myself out about not having enough time for everything, the only way I'll start to fit it in is by actually doing at least some of the things.

PRONOTPRO REPORT #7

I think this is what North American stage racing looks like.

I think this is what North American stage racing looks like.

I quoted my Dad on my instagram during the Spring Series. His sage piece of knowledge: 'Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.' During Redlands this year, I felt like I was the bug.

I was trying to keep my spirits up after San Dimas didn't go the way I wanted, I couldn't figure out if my poor performance in the road race was due to temperatures soaring way beyond anything I'd seen this year riding or racing, my huge amount of nerves, or if I'd done something wrong in my last week of training and prep that would amount to poor legs come race day. I couldn't really pin down any of these factors and looming over my head was the idea that maybe I just wasn't hacking it.

We got to Redlands and I knew I needed to buckle down and do... SOMETHING.. in a bike race, this was why I came here. Hang with the big boys, get into some breaks or attack later if I was in position. I needed to do something to feel like I belonged here. And sure enough on the first stage I made myself get to second wheel on the starting line, and I followed the first lone attacker after about, 10 seconds of racing. I tasted it. I tasted the air at the front, off the front, of the bike race for the first time since I'd been in California. It was glorious. But it wouldn't last more than two laps when I conceded I should be saving some to survive another 18 laps up a climb whose steeper grade isn't designed for big boys like me. And sure enough, a total of 15 laps and I was popped out the back and pulled by the officials (I was clear to start the next day, I'd already surpassed the minimum laps on the HIghland circuit).

This wasn't the bolstering my confidence needed. The next day didn't help. While I struggled to hold onto the back of the pack the first two laps, after an hour and a half of racing I felt like I could survive, even maintain my position or better it on the long backside climb. On the last lap I even was going to make it to the top with the lead group, bad luck putting me behind three riders falling for no reason in the middle of the road. One Flinstone stop later and I was chasing like mad, in vain, and my stage two was over.

The TT, the TT was alright. I didn't hit even close to the power I should be doing for a 17m effort. But it wasn't a bad ride/time for someone who was feeling more and more like something just wasn't right with me and my riding.

Rolling around the crit the next day, besides confidence feeling like it was left back in Canada my legs just wouldn't turn comfortably. Whether it was in my mind or not, warming up with my teammate Kyle Buckosky (and pre-riding the Sunset loop) I felt I was dying when Kyle looked like a damn cucumber rolling up the climb. To make a long story short. I got dropped. I got dropped before the minimum cut to proceed to the final Sunset Stage. 

To say I was disappointed is damn big understatement. Weeks ago racing in Vancouver I was able to easily duke it out with riders having a great week in Redlands (I'm looking at you HR Block, Nigel Ellsay). A bigger, deeper field definitely makes it harder yes, but getting dropped was never something I was expecting. I got changed quickly and grabbed my camera to shoot some pictures of my teammates still surviving, the whole time trying to figure out just what the hell was wrong with me. I hadn't been riding well over the last two weeks. What had changed?

While I photographed the race I thought hard if I'd done anything to screw up the training I'd done over the Winter and Spring. And the only thing I realized I'd changed differently is adding an Iron Supplement into my routine. I participated in a paid study back in December that required me to check my Iron levels to participate. I just qualified for the study, but I was borderline Anemic. The advice was to make sure I started on a supplement to get my Iron in check.

I'm a logical person. I had doubts that adding Iron into my routine would actually hinder my performance, but it was the only change beyond heat (which had subsided) that was new. I stopped taking Iron that night.

After walking the Sunset Road Race course, photographing Brendan Armstrong trying to chase back on after flat and Kyle hanging on during one of North America's hardest and Iconic races we packed up the trailer and headed to Oxnard California for six days of training or relaxing (depending on your motives) before our yearly Team Camp in Santa Rosa, just North of San Francisco. 

I started my rides here with an easy hour and a half to feel things out. I still felt like I had logs for legs, but I at least needed to turn them over after travelling a couple hours in the car. The next day I joined my teammates for a coffee ride, but I also wanted to take advantage of being in California with nothing else on my schedule. I left the coffee shop with Geordie and Christian for what was supposed to be an easy loop, totaling three-ish hours. The loop was around Lake Casitas and included a longer climb that I was planning on getting dropped for. 

I'd been off the Iron for a little over three full days now, trading drafts with the guys the pace went from easy, to tempo, to Christian jamming to me finding legs again and actually eventually riding away from the dudes. At the end of a ten minute effort though I was pretty gassed. But was riding way, way better than I had the previous weeks.

Three days and three (hard) rides later and I'm riding like my old self. I put in a five hour day where I went to Dogtown Coffee located in the original Zephyr Surf Shop, which was pretty fucking cool for a skateboarder. And I've found my climbing legs apparently, six seconds off a KOM on a 40m effort today. 

I spoke with my Mum about all this, to which she let me know that I may have inherited an intolerance to supplementary Iron from her. Turns out she had some issues some 30 years ago. So while I'm still disappointed that in Redlands I wasn't able to perform even halfway to what I hoped I could have done, I'm pretty glad that I seem to have identified something as a problem. More glad that removing it from my routine and apparently I can ride again. 

Bike racing is pretty much a result oriented thing. A thing that in order to get those results you put work in over weeks, months and even stacking experience and miles over years to get to the point you're at right now. So dealing with frustration and disappointment isn't easy. If I hold onto that disappointment and frustration, it will be more difficult to get to to the next race, healthy, trained and in the right mindset to just fucking get over it and attempt to achieve your goals again. And hey, if part of getting over it is riding in ridiculous California with good friends and teammates, then I'm ready to keep getting over it.