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.