Transitioning into the cross country race season is always a bit of a challenge no matter how many miles you have under your belt. Even if you have spent the winter riding consistently and preparing with all manner of exercise regimens, competing in stage races, etc - the feeling of getting back to cross country racing always seems abrupt.
Something about the start of the race being of utmost importance to the eventual outcome, on occasion, a number of seconds that can prove as critical as the remainder of your time on your bike that takes some getting (re)used to. After three or four competitions, embracing the fast start and being willing and able to put yourself through the paces seems to come more naturally, but prior to that there seems to be little that we have found that can help prepare us.
Rather than give us any clue on how to train this aspect of the racing, the years have taught us to just expect to suffer a little more at the outset of each season until the races harden us up.
With that in mind, Mary and I were happy to be able to attend a couple of cross country race weekends where we could reacquaint ourselves with the rigors of racing before getting into the World Cup season. Spending time in the Caribbean is by no means the most difficult way to pass a couple of weeks - so it was an easy choice to return to Puerto Rico now for our fifth season to get a bit of the suffering out of the way as well as start things off on a on a tropical note.
It seems to be part of the human condition that our perception of time seems to pass faster each day. In many ways, it felt like we just left Chile, where Mary and I were happy to have a bit of time to stay after our intense experience at the Trans Andes Challenge.
Two weeks there turned out to be just enough time to recover from the racing and feel like we were able to relax and enjoy some non-bike related activities. It was nice to have the opportunity to spend some time with our Chilean friends and see at least a little bit of the country in the peak of its summer glory. As always, it seemed way too soon to board the plane when the day arrived, although the knowledge that we would be returning next season for another action-packed trip was enough for us to go without regrets.
Northern California welcomed us back with an onslaught of icy winter storms that had us scrambling for our wet weather gear. Flood conditions were in effect as the rains hammered the already saturated ground overfilling creeks and piling snow on the local hills. Still, we found no reason to complain as even in the grip of the darkest storms there were moments of calm often allowing us to slip out between the rains.
As every seasoned cyclist knows (or uses as motivation to get out in harsh weather) once out pedaling on the bike, it never seems as bad as when you are looking out the window anticipating a wet and/or cold ride.
Our time in Sonoma County slipped by more quickly than we would have liked, soon the days had accumulated to nearly a month and we were scrambling to pack everything up for the next journey.
Which is where we are now and will be for the next six months - on the road, en route, mid-journey. Something about existing in this state has become our specialty. Transitioning from place to place and race to race, while maintaining our training, health and team logistics is a lifestyle that we have become accustomed to. This is what we live and work for and the season is here!
We've just finished with our first cross country races of the season and though it hurt like it was just that, things went really well! A pair of victories for our two-person team on one day is something that we cherish, so really it couldn't have gone any better. [Mike & Mary won both the Clasico Mountain Bike Florida and the Medalla Light Ultimate Dirt Challenge in recent weeks. - Ed.]
Despite missing a connecting flight through Dallas on our way there and having to spend the night and next day taking turns on a single almost useless spin bike in a grimy little gym just to feel like we were getting something done, we were happy with our transition into the season.
It's not like we had a giant ash cloud delaying our travel until the night before the first world cup or anything!
We actually felt pretty lucky to have such a gentle reminder that travel plans, no matter how well though out, always have the chance of going wrong. In the meantime, we continue to count our blessings and try to remember not to sweat the small stuff while en route.
Hope your race and/or riding season is getting off to a good start.
All the best,
Mary and Mike
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MTB "super-couple", former US National cross country champion Mary McConneloug and Mike Broderick live together, train together, travel together and race together. They also share this diary on Cyclingnews.
Follow their adventures as they race the World Cup cross country circuit and take on other adventures. Enjoy the unique, professional racing style of these two accomplished racers and world travelers.
You can also follow them via their blog at www.maryandmikeride.blogspot.com (opens in new tab).