In a race where you have to push your body as hard as you can for 45 to 60 minutes, it takes some mental fortitude to keep your head in the race. Your legs and lungs are screaming at you to take it easy for a while — maybe just skip the rest of this race and start over next time. Sometimes it takes all the mental power you have just to keep on going, let alone holding that wheel or bridging to the next guy up the road. But summoning the will to do just that is essential if you want to improve.

I’ve had mixed results keeping my head in the race thus far this season. I’ve had some real successes like at Horning’s and Astoria. In those two races, I chased wheels and worked hard out of every corner. I kept up the intensity (for the most part) from the whistle to the finish. I’ve had some pretty miserable efforts too such as Barlow, Alpenrose, and Hillsboro. In those races, I didn’t maintain my focus and didn’t execute a plan. Since two of those races were the initial dates on my calender, I’ll excuse myself. However, Hillsboro was a real disappointment. My latest outing at Kruger’s Farm was a mixed bag.

At Kruger’s, I was very aggressive from the gun and worked hard to shut down gaps and stayed in the front of the race for a couple of laps. But once guys started coming around, I didn’t make the full effort to keep with them. If I’d have hung on to Benno for a while, I’d have gotten to the front of the race again. And over the last couple of laps, Butler and Quirk dangled 20 seconds up the road. A couple of hard efforts on my part could have bridged that gap over the course of a lap and a half. The thing is, those kinds of efforts are really hard. Focusing the mind to work through the pain is the challenge.

Sure, sometimes you just aren’t going to have the goods to deliver the deal. However, I’m not sure that I’ve ever left 100% on the course. I’ve had some great efforts and done well over stretches of a bunch of races. But I haven’t been nearly as consistent during races as I’d like to be.

My best results of the year were; Horning’s 11th, Barton 12th, Hillsboro 12th, Astoria 14th, and Kruger’s 6th. I’ve been pretty consistent over a range of courses. However, my best result was at the course least suited to my strengths. Horning’s had a lot of elevation and though I dropped a lot of weight coming into the season, I’m no climber. The difference was that I was mentally on top of my game.

I might have done myself a disservice by stating that one of my season goals was a top ten finish in a Crusade race. I got too wrapped up in my placings — even during races, and I didn’t execute the plan. I’ve got to go out and race my race. If I train hard and keep the focus sharp during races, then the results will come.

I’ve got two more races and my season is over. This coming weekend is the Portland, OR stop on the USGP series and I’ll be racing the 35+ race on both Saturday and Sunday. There are over 80 guys registered so far and I won’t be getting a call up. That means I’ll be staging by lottery so I could be anywhere from third row to last row. I can’t control that but I can control how I race my race. No matter where I stage, I have to get out there and race hard. Pass the guys I should pass, chase the guys who are faster, and work out of the corners. Never sit in. Get going at every opportunity and remember it’s a 45 minute race, not a 60 minute race like I’ve been used to.

I’m really looking forward to the weekend and I hope I can keep it frosty upstairs.

One Response to “Head games”

  1. John Wilson says:

    Nice posts Brooke, yes the racing is as much mental as physical. I know I need to really concentrate to keep my oxygen deprived brain working. It is hard to tell what is my real limit. Am I really at my physical edge, or did I just give up?

    I had a great race with Martin Baker at Fox Hollow. I knew from previous racing, and how this particular race was going that Martin was a little stronger than me. But, I had a tire advantage (I won’t be so bold to say I was out handeling him -Martin=Grffo’s, Me=Dugast Rhino’s – I know, I guess I have more money than fitness). Martin attacked twice, got a gap, I said to myself, OK this is it, the stronger racer has made his move, I will settle into my spot (bad brain – stop that). Twice Martin slid out in the greasy conditions and I was back on his wheel. I think Martin was a little more cautious after that and instead of pressing my advantage there, I was content to race with him. Perhaps it was my crash at Hillsboro that kept me wanting to stay upright, perhaps I was near my physical limit, or perhaps I was content to be racing up so to speak since Martin has beaten me every race this year. Amazing that all that is going through your head during a race.

    Fox Hollow didn’t really have any spots to open up and lay down some extended power. Bike handeling, and accelerating back up to speed were more important. That is probabally why I was that close anyway. Still the mind games. Like your earlier post, I never feel bad about a race where I give everything and get beat. I do second guess myself if left something out on the course trying to protect.

    Still it was great fun to dual at the front of the race. Rare experience for me lately. Martin if you are reading, thanks for the great race. It was really fun.

    PS: It was a photo finish. Martin had [well earned] position on me going into a tight & twisty finish [Martin's brain was working] but I dug for the line and lost by maybe 12 inches – Closest CX race for me!

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