Well, it's been a long break for me since JoBerg2C, but I am coming back to cycling with a renewed enthusiasm and optimism. John and I have set some goals for 2018, and are feeling motivated by our commitment to these exciting races and events that are finding their way into our calendar.
That said, after a short recon yesterday of the Al Kheesa race course for the upcoming MTB race next weekend, the road to BC Bike Race feels like an impossible dream. It was so hot even at 6AM, and the short 5km course is full of sharp, quick ascents, spiky rocky moguls across a flat top section, and a few sandy bits, all of which got my heart up to 193bpm, and had my legs burning halfway through the first lap! I like impossible dreams, though. They get me fired up to challenge myself and to surpass my own expectations.
I have a note on my computer at work that says, "Raise your standards." I like that phrase because it doesn't necessarily refer to the long-term goal. To me, it reminds me to challenge myself about my day to day beliefs, assumptions and expectations. It gives me a little trigger to reflect on those daily routines that are no longer serving me. And it also comes to me when I am grappling with something, and helps me shift my thinking to the bigger picture.
It doesn't feel like pressure, though, which is a mistake I have made in the past. It's important to be intentional about the quotes or photos or inspirational messages you surround yourself with. They can be damaging if they don't align with your values, or if they are just external versions of your own inner critic - echoing out the self-destructive self-talk that holds you back and makes you play small. (I'm so curious what motivators other people have used in the past that have backfired, and what you have replaced it with.)
And remember it's taken me since May to mentally get back here, so it's not always a quick fix. I spent most of my summer in Qatar, where the weather was too hot to fathom, and the longer I stayed off the indoor trainer, the more I resisted it. When I got to Canada, and had beautiful weather and no excuses, I strayed from my daily practices that help support me to stay in alignment with my intentions and values. Nobody is perfect, and transitions like travel and breaks from my routine have always posed challenges for me. I have a pretty extreme personality, so I often have to work through the all-or-nothing thinking (and only after I recognize I'm in it).
I know many athletes who think taking that break was a mistake. They think consistency is key. And perhaps that's true for elite athletes or for those who can do that. But those same people, when faced with adversity like injury or personal grief, are often the ones who come back to their sport stronger, more committed, and with a renewed perspective (read this article for examples!).
So, I've giving myself a break about taking a break. And I know this year will take some creativity for training plans, especially since my regular training grounds have been turned into a high-traffic zone and one cyclist has already been hit by a truck in another place where cyclists go to train. It's a very unique situation, but we have managed for several years, so let's see what we can do this year. I'm looking forward to starting back with my coach, Szymon, soon and building that consistency again.