Form can be a complex maze to negotiate. A left turn instead of a right can have you on the start line feeling like you’re dragging bricks. But are your legs the only ones to fault? What about the happenings occurring in that squishy stuff between your ears?
Since making the change to training myself for this season, I’ve done a lot of digging around on the interwebs. In the process I’ve found lots of helpful articles and of course the ever-present, opinionated pieces or ‘Holy Grails’ to training. But not a terribly large amount on sports psychology and the role it plays.
Utilising the online training applications has meant I can predict, to a certain degree of accuracy, how my legs would feel on any given day. What I’ve also found is I’ve been able to predict, again with a certain degree of accuracy, what my mental state would be on any given day. Usually drifting between a passive hippy and a caffeine addicted, eight year old.
If form is a complex maze, then your psychological state must be that maze from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, complete with Voldemort! The Oceania Mountain Bike Championships proved that to be true. It was my last day of practice on the course, and I had spent most of the day stressing about bike problems that had been plaguing me for the past week. My practice laps were going terribly, with crashes and being generally useless.
The Toowoomba trails weren’t overly technical but I was finding it very difficult to get up to speed. After my second lap, things weren’t looking good and I went back to the car to have a whinge. I was in a frustrating position as I was distracted from riding which could end up with me crashing and sustaining an injury just before the biggest races of the domestic season. But I also needed to learn the track.
I knew my Bianchi would hold up, I just needed to let everything go and flow. I took some deep breaths, put on some music and ripped out one last lap. Focused on riding this time, not learning the track. I just had my best lap of practice! And I learnt how to control that caffeine addicted, eight year old!
First in the four-day, back-to-back racing schedule was the U23 Oceania XC race. The course was brutal with very little time to recover. The climbs weren’t super steep which meant neither were the descents. So you still needed to put the power down to make it over the small rock gardens. My start was dismal but as the race progressed, I found myself moving up from 11th to 7th where I remained for the rest of the race.
Towards the end, the Toowoomba weather was starting to hit hard with the oppressive heat and humidity. Drinking was proving difficult as for most of the course you were doing something, either pedalling or negotiating rough terrain. I knew I’d have to think harder about drinking on Saturday’s National XC race.
I was happy with 7th as it gave me some much-needed UCI points, but I was ready for more! Lucky I didn’t have to wait long as Saturday brought the final round of the Elite National Series. The course was slightly different with another start climb utilised. This one had more single track at the beginning, which meant the start was even more crucial.
Again I had a dismal start and again I found myself moving up the field as the race progressed to move from 14th to 10th. Placing 10th is what can be refereed to as on the bubble as UCI points go down to 10th. The one point I earned made the pain a little easier to bear!
The ‘short course’ on Sunday was scheduled for 25 min plus 3 laps. With a lap time of around 3:30 min that meant a 40min ‘Short course’ all up! My start went as expected, dismally, but I wasn’t too far back on the leaders at the end of the first lap so I just kept my head down trying to drop what power I had left.
I wasn’t quite sure what position I was in but I kept pushing on and passing people until about the 25 min mark. Then with 3 laps to go, people started telling me Paul Van Der Ploeg was seconds in front! I put my head down once again and pushed hard to make the catch.
With the catch and pass made, Dad started telling me Chris Hamilton was only seconds in front! Although I think this time he was playing tricks to keep me pushing hard. I still did push it to the line, where I found out I had finished 6th! This time I had popped the bubble though, as UCI points went down to 5th.
All in all it was a great week up in Toowoomba. The trails ended up being loads of fun and the racing matched the weather, hot! Of course there’s always a next race and this time it’s in 2 weeks and it’s the National Championships. I’m looking forward to finishing off the summer domestic season strong!
*There was an Eliminator on the second day but I don’t wish to relive getting eliminated in the first heat!