Training Week In Review – Week 9

Last week I rode a disappointing 86.9km after being sick all week and chalking up a DNF at the JetBlack WSMTB 12hr at Dargle Farm.

As I have written earlier, I lacked the motivation and will to get back on the bike for a big week of riding after a week of being sick and under-performing at a race I felt confident going into.  Week 9 was a week where life and procrastination got in the way of my riding.

My first ride of the week was at Bruce Ridge on Wednesday afternoon.  A short 11.1km to test out my new tubeless setup on Kate the XTC.  The new tyres felt good and looked good on my Crank Brothers wheels.

On Friday I braved a cold and foggy Mt Stromlo morning for a ride with MTB newbie John.  12.8km later I was back in my heated car on the way to work.  In the afternoon I headed back to Bruce Ridge for a short 13.1km ride for what felt like a very ordinary and non-fun ride.  I wanted to ride on Saturday but didn’t want to push it too much.

On Sunday I headed out to Bruce Ridge for my regular Sunday Morning and Social and Breakfast ride.  A sneaky pre-ride loop followed by the group ride and I had added 15.7km to the week’s total.  This coupled with a very enjoyable 24.6km at Mt Stromlo after breakfast and I had reached 77.4km for the week.

After a week of not having the motivation to ride, I ended the week on a high and the desire to spend more time in the saddle before I have a few weeks break for my Honeymoon.

Life Is Flow And Cycling Is Life

Earlier in the week I published a post focusing on my lack of motivation to ride and inability to  find my Flow.  After some words of advice from a few Bermers I decided to head out a little earlier for my regular Sunday Morning Social and Breakfast ride at Bruce Ridge.  With a half an hour before the others were due to arrive I headed out for a quick dawn lap of the winding singletrack.

Up until this ride I had ridden a total of 37km for the week; a far cry from the 253.6km I had I ridden the week leading up to Sunday a fortnight before.  My escape from the world, my outlet; the thing I use to control my anxiety and depression was no longer working for me.  Missing your Flow is like losing your mojo, your zen, your happy place.  I don’t ride for the hell of it; I ride because I enjoy it and I find it challenging.  Mountain biking is a sport you can constantly improve at; you will never reach your peak in any form of cycling as long as you adapt and change.

I had reached a plateau at the start of the year with my training and racing.  I needed new challenges.  Enter longer endurance races such as the 100km Capital Punishment and Mont 24 Hour; and short course cross country racing in the CORC XC Series.  I pushed myself further and got fitter and more confident because of it.  I ended up injuring myself during one of the CORC XC races and was suddenly off the bike for several weeks.  However I didn’t let this stop me; from the moment I was healthy enough to ride again I started a recovery training regime that got me back riding confidently again and improved my fitness.

Sensing that I was beginning to reach my fitness and riding plateau once again I took the huge step of reinventing my riding style.  As I was about to embark on a fitness training regime for preparation for this years Battle Of The Beasts I knew if I didn’t change something big I would lose fitness and motivation.  Something as simple as buying a new mountain bike was enough to help me break through the mental and physical barriers I was starting to build into my riding.

After riding over 1’700km on my trusty Giant Anthem X 29er Zooey I bought a new Giant XTC Composite 29er that I named Kate.  The simple act of paying a lot of money for a carbon hardtail was enough to motivate me to increase my riding time and as result better my race and training results.

Which brings me to my missing Flow.  After bonking massively due to illness at the JetBlack WSMTB 12hr and recording a DNF I couldn’t find the motivation to get back on the bike.  Partly due to still feeling sick, but mostly feeling like a failure; I struggled to find that balance between riding and enjoyment.

When you are off you can come off.  It’s as simple as that.  You don’t corner as cleanly, you don’t commit to obstacles with confidence and most importantly you don’t enjoy the time you spend in the saddle.

So this morning I headed off for a quick solo lap of Bruce Ridge and felt something I hadn’t felt during this week; I was enjoying riding.  I hadn’t yet clicked into that Zen mentality but I was close.  My lines were better, my cornering cleaner and I was enjoying tackling the obstacles on the singletrack.

As a group we did a short 10km loop of Bruce Ridge and I relished the opportunity to stay with the faster riders and push out a little bit more than I usually would for a Sunday morning social ride.  I even did something I very rarely do; I did a few jumps.  I’m a fan of sensible riding after, well lets be honest.. eating shit at Mt Stromlo showing off and not sticking a jump and tearing my pectoral muscle.  I had finally let go of trying to find my riding mojo.  As the very wise Argo said during the week you don’t find the flow…the flow finds you“.

The Flow hadn’t yet found me; but it was stalking me from behind on the singletrack ready to pounce onto my bike.

After our regular after ride breakfast at Edgar’s Inn, I headed out for Mt Stromlo for a quick ride.  When I was getting ready in the carpark I had a quick chat with one of my favourite Bermers, Kris.  For a downhill convert she seemed very happy to be going for a cross country ride and considering the sunny day, the smiling riders coming down the mountain and the fact Mt Stromlo is one of the best mountain biking Mecca’s in the world; I too was happy even before I got in the saddle.

I headed off for a warm up loop before tackling the climbs up the mountain.  At the beginning of my warm up I ran into good friend John and went for a relaxed spin with him as he cooled down after already conquering the switchbacks, climbs and rewarding downhill.  Soon I headed out for my main ride and quickly found I was going fast without really trying.

The switchbacks up the mountain felt easy, free flowing and I was passing some riders as I powered up the climbs.  By the time I reached the end of Echidna Gap and was about to embark down Western Wedgetail I knew my Flow had finally caught up with me.  I took off down Wedgetail, entered Skyline, Luge and finished at the bottom of Old Duffy’s Decent.  The downhill ride felt so good I even took the A-line on Duffy’s and launched my XTC off the rocky drop to finish the first part of my ride.

Still feeling good I headed off to the western side of Mt Stromlo for some more riding.  Each track felt good and I felt more confident with each pedal stroke.  By the time I reached the carpark I had ridden 24.6km and although I was fairly exhausted I wanted more!  Alas I packed the bike into my car and headed home.  After a quick refurb of my gear and bike for the start of the week I sat down and reflected on my week of riding.

What started off as a week of feeling unmotivated and disillusioned after a bad result in my first 12hr race; ended up with my Flow finding me.  All I had to do was stop trying to find it and relax.  Just as life has it’s ups and downs, so does cycling.

Life is Flow and cycling is life.

Where Is My Flow?

Firstly, let me get something out-of-the-way.  I like the Pixies… a lot.  I’ve seen the band live once and Black Francis as a solo act twice.  There is nothing quite like watching a fat, sweaty, old, white man screaming out the lyrics to Debaser in Spanish!  Surfer Rosa and Doolittle are unbelievable albums and are my go to albums when I feel like zoning out and just ignoring the outside world.

So anyway, after last week’s disappointing result at the JetBlack 12 Hour at Dargle Farm I have only ridden three times this week.  Wednesday was my first day back on the bike and was a short test ride of my new tubeless tyre set-up at Bruce Ridge.  I didn’t do anything special and didn’t push too hard.  When healthy and motivated I regularly ride between 250-350km a week including at least 100km on the dirt.  But after my DNF at Dargle Farm I’ve been feeling flat and unmotivated.

A lot of people are telling me a DNF is better than a DNS and at least I gave it a go.  I’m not the sort of person that generally gives up; although I am prone to being half-assed.  So after “giving up” last weekend I am now stuck in a rut of “half-ass”.  I didn’t go into the event over-confident; I was still sick but had been riding strong – maybe I set my expectations too high.

This morning I drove out to Mt Stromlo for some dawn riding with good friend and MTB newbie John.  We did the entire of Loop 2 in just over an hour which isn’t a bad effort for someone who can count the amount of times they have ridden on singletrack on one hand.  Although it was freezing cold, foggy and wet I enjoyed the ride and John definitely did judging by his big smile coming down Luge.

John On Luge.:John coming down Luge:.

Even though I powered up the switchback climbs and rolled down Luge and scored a new PR on Strava; I never felt that moment where I ‘clicked’ with my bike and the trails.  I was close but there was no ‘Flow’.

Kate At Stromlo.:Just a little foggy on top of Mt Stromlo:.

After lunch I headed off to Bruce Ridge for some afternoon riding.  Once again I wasn’t feeling very motivated but I geared up and got ready to ride.  I don’t usually ride with my headphones on; but knowing there wasn’t going to be too many people out riding I selected my Pixies playlist and headed off onto the trails.

While Black Francis was screaming at me and Kim Deal rocked out Gigantic I started feeling I was close to ‘clicking’ this ride.  I did some reversals of the normal trails and rode some of the more difficult segments.  But alas I wasn’t quite getting there.  I chose some ordinary lines that caused my back wheel to slip out on several occasions, over cornered some of the switchbacks and managed to head-butt a low branch on Pub Run.

Slowly I rode back to my car when Where Is My Mind? started playing.  I really like this song and can play along to it on both bass guitar and drums.  So when Black Francis sang about his encounter with a particularly bitey fish while snorkelling in the Caribbean I equated the bridge and chorus with my inability to ‘click’ while riding…
“With your feet on the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
If there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself
Where Is My Mind Flow?