Saturday, March 5, 2016

Lessons Learned from Chico

It's been a few days now since Chico Stage Race, and I was a little overwhelmed with life over the past three/four days, but I need to finally take the time to record what I learned from the last race weekend. I think it's super important to reflect on races, especially ones like this that was such a different experience from mountain bike races. So here goes. 
I think the biggest takeaway from the weekend, and one that I have been told about in the past but am still trying to figure out, is that wasted energy is wasted energy. This means everything from being in the front of the race when you shouldn't be, to nervous stressing on the way to the race. The girls on team Twenty16 are SO good at pre-race energy management, and I learned more from watching them and emulating what they did than I ever could from someone just telling me to calm down. It's amazing how much different I felt at the start of the TT on Sunday morning after watching the girls for two days and finally starting to do what they did, ie arrive at the race, gear up, warm up, go to start line, all completely cool and composed. I let Ralph deal with bike things, and I just focused on nailing the warm up and then the race. I seriously think my decent TT result was a product of managing my energy more wisely, channeling the nerves into the warm up and pinning it when it was time to go. It's kinda hard to explain, but the whole experience made the "pro" status seem so much more real and tangible. My job was to execute the proper warm up and then destroy myself for 10 miles, and just like in teaching, I used the tools around me to properly do the job for the morning. I'm still trying to figure out the "on the front" part of wasted energy, I understand that sometimes being on the front of the race, in the wind, is good, and sometimes not so good. I was told that I was unnecessarily on the front in the circuit race, and I didn't really understand, but for now I will just listen for instruction and go where the team tells me. If that is to the front, then I will do it, if not, I will follow their lead. 
I have decided that I do in fact love time trials :) It's its own special kind of pain, and pain management is such a huge part of the mental job of a cyclist. 
Second thing, and equally as important, is the value of good communication. This seems like a no-brainer, and it's weird how this is so relevant in my non bike racing life right now as well, but if I'm being completely honest I have a lot of room for improvement in this area. Good communication means everything from just letting your team mates know when you are near by them, to communicating with coach that I feel like I got hit by a truck and don't think hill repeats are a good idea after a stage race. Poor communication caused me to make some pretty gnarly mistakes in the road race, and caused my team mates some grief in the circuit race, BUT watching them race, listening to them communicate and just being there for three races in a row (TT is solo so I'm not counting it here) taught me so much about good team communication. Also on the positive side, at the end of lap one in the road race, being told exactly what to do to help out the team when I was on the front by Allie... it was really really cool. 
 Loving the gravel section of the road race. I was so anxious about getting crashed out in the gravel that I pinned it to the start of the gravel, and ended up having a blast!
 There are a bunch of things I already knew in the back of my head, that I was reminded of and I need to work on like crazy. These include that I need to keep my cadence WAY up, especially in the 90 mile road race. I need to eat and drink WAY more, ESP in a 90 mile road race. Sometimes the goal is to cross the like 100% depleted not even in the lead group if your job is to attack in a certain part of the race, and there are other team mates who the team collectively is working for. Jess demonstrated HUGE selflessness that taught me a lot about this concept on Saturday, and although my mountain biker focus has always been to get MYSELF to the finish line first, I would love to become the team player Jess is. I learned that it's faster to be on the outside and swoop in the corners of a crit, not stay on the inside every time (HA, did I do that wrong!) and I that moving up in a crit is crazy hard, but it's easier closer to the front because there is less slowing and accelerating going on. Oh and your health, it's crazy important, so being aware of all the little things that might jeopardize your health is so so key!

I think the biggest thing I learned/witnessed was how much work goes on behind the scenes to make a successful pro road team run smoothly, and it was so cool to be part of that team. From Gabi always filling, distributing, redistributing, and washing our bottles of water, drink mix and recovery AND giving us amazing massages, to Ralf and Tim loading, unloading, washing, tuning, reloading our bikes, to Nicola 'directing traffic' and keeping us on track/updated/current on social media and cleaning the house we stayed in even though she stayed somewhere else, to Mari who talked us through each stage before and after, delt with all the officials and random drama, it was an amazing effort from everyone.

Chico Stage race was an incredible experience, I can't wait to race road bikes again! But also mountain bikes, but road bikes! Ugh, there aren't enough weekends in the year to race all the bikes I want to race. Not a bad problem to have :)

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