Down time…

November 8, 2007

It's been a tough few months and a long time since I posted a diary entry. I have struggled to articulate how I've been feeling and it seemed better to write nothing rather than to shroud my diary in gloom and grey clouds!

The last few months have been a bit of a roller coaster ride. My cycling career is probably typical of most athletes - every high seems to be followed by low. I know my training is about investment and commitment to my goals and aspirations, however sometimes it's impossible to see through the disappointment in the moment and maintain focus on that elusive bigger picture.

I'm happy and relieved to report that the gloom and grey clouds have now gone, replaced instead by sunshine and fire in the belly to be a better and faster cross country racer. I'm looking forward to the opportunities and challenges posed by the year ahead - it's going to be fun!

An update on the lows: World Championships disappointment

Somewhere in 2007 I hit an unspectacular slump in mood and form. I was tired after Nationals in February, yet despite ongoing illness and declining motivation I continued training and racing. I went overseas feeling exhausted and in need of a break,and not surprisingly I returned home from racing World Cups feeling completely cooked. I was frustrated with my form overseas - I was tired, my legs weren't strong enough, my starts weren't fast enough and I felt as though I wasn't good enough to be racing World Cups. By the time I returned home I was desperate to improve as a cyclist, but was mentally and physically exhausted.

I was relieved more than elated to achieve my goal of being selected to represent Australia at the World Championships in Fort William. I had worked so hard to satisfy the Aussie selection policy and had invested so much time, money and energy towards achieving the goal. I had been so disappointed to miss out on selection in 2006 that I had my heart set on competing at Fort William in 2007.

My decision to miss out on representing Australia at Fort William was therefore a difficult one - my indecision is probably well reflected by the fact that I didn't actually decide to stay home until a day and a half before my plane departed! I desperately wanted to go back overseas and despite trying to force the training, my body was run down and I knew I needed a break. My bank account was also telling me I should stay home!

Also, I needed a break now so that I could prepare myself for next year's World Cup season and Olympic selection process. The task of peaking for Worlds in August, and then Nationals in January, and then Oceanias and World Cups and next year's World Champs seemed impossible. So I opted to sacrifice the short term and stay home, earn some money and have time away from training and racing. I am still extremely disappointed about missing out on Worlds, however I feel that it was the right decision to stay home, rest, and work hard towards being stronger (and hopefully faster) for 2008.

A bizarre last few months

My decision to miss out on World Championships was rational and objective, yet although I knew I had to stay focused on the bigger picture, I did feel like I had failed. I am admittedly a little emotional, so pretty soon objectivity was lost and my little cycling world came tumbling down. I wanted nothing to do with cycling and managed to ignore and avoid everything to do with mountain biking. I went skiing and walking instead of riding, and announced to Tim and Ruby that I was done with cycling and would never ride again. It really was quite bizarre.

Luckily Tim knows me well and suggested that I do a little bit of cycling 'just in case' I decide that I might want to return to mountain biking. So I did do some cycling, in amongst the working and skiing and complaining. Admittedly most of my sessions involved me heading out in my gloom and returning home a few hours later grumbling about being tired and cold and telling anyone who would listen how glad I was that I had quit cycling.

However I did have some great rides; my favourite session of winter became riding (well, dawdling) up Falls Creek on my mountain bike in the snow, and finishing at the top with a ski. My favourite ride was a long bush ride with Tim, because he asked me to marry him at the summit of Mount Emu! (of course I said yes).

Out of the rut: The bigger picture

My retirement didn't last too long. My coach Garron returned from Worlds and pretty soon I was back on a training program. I feel as though I have had a good rest away from structure training and racing, I'm excited about heading back overseas to try and be a better mountain biker.

Right now it's all about the bigger picture. Garron keeps mentioning how I need to break eggs to make an omelet. If that's the case, then there are broken eggs everywhere at the moment and the omelet better be good! I would love to be selected to represent Australia at the World Championships in Italy and the Olympic Games, and to perform to the best of my ability at these races.

My weaknesses as a cyclist were made glaringly obvious during races overseas, in particular my lack of leg strength. I think this lack of strength is mainly because of my accident and the fact that I have avoided any activities that load up the lower back of left leg. I still have very compromised muscle function, my left hip flexor is useless and I feel like I pedal in a style similar to Nemo, the crooked little cartoon fish in Finding Nemo. Tim is a brilliant physio and works hard to help me to be the best I can be with what I've got, which sometimes doesn't seem like a lot! So I'm trying to be disciplined and avoid my strengths so I can work hard at improving the weaknesses - always tough on the ego!

I've started a new training program that's all about strength and recovery (and physio, of course). I am hoping to find some form in time for the Australian National Championships at the end of January, with the focus being Oceania Championships in March, several of the World Cups, and the World Championships in August. A fun year ahead!

Now that the gloom is gone, I'll try write a little more regularly. The task ahead is enormous, but it's going to be an exciting ride.

Thanks for reading,

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