December 26, 2016

Practice your guts

I've had a chance to reflect on the 2016 race season for lessons learned -- and this is the big one. "Practice your guts" is a phrase I originally heard in reference to a quote from famed horseman George Morris. He is an exceptional teacher, and does not suffer fools, wimps, or excuse-makers lightly. Here is the full article where I first saw these words.

Practice your guts

Practicing your guts means getting on your bike for a training ride even though it's raining sideways -- because you might encounter those conditions in a race. It means doing hill repeats in the Gatineau Park until you can descend confidently without touching your brakes. It's embracing, rather than avoiding, situations that take you out of your comfort zone. I did a bunch of that this year.

Suck it up, buttercup
Draft-legal racing
Every season I try to do something new. This year, I signed up for my first draft-legal triathlon at the Ottawa Triathlon, which also served as our national championship. I immediately began looking for a drafting clinic where I could practice riding in a pack and work on some bike handling skills. Skimming through the race details, I saw something to the tune of "if you experience body contact on the bike, it's important not to panic and take everybody down. Just go with it." Body contact? On the BIKE?!  I attended a great clinic put on by the Bytown Storm -- by the end, we were riding comfortably side by side while leaning on each other, putting an arm over someone's shoulders, and passing a bike pump from rider to rider. We also spent some time on bike handling drills, and riding in a paceline.

I had a great time racing in this format at Nationals, and my fearful "what if" scenarios turned out to be not so bad! 

Female AG draft group coming into T2 at the Ottawa Triathlon

Flying mounts and dismounts
OK, so I should call what I did this summer the "not so flying" mount -- I threw a leg over, shoved my right foot in the shoe, pushed off and started pedaling. The dismount, well... you've kinda gotta be all-in for that one. I'd say these 2 moments are my least favourite in a race, as they're the only times I've felt I could actually get hurt. Seriously, I'd rather get punched in the face with a Garmin during the swim -- I had this happen, so I'm in a place to compare -- than do a flying mount/dismount.

I still get anxious doing flying dismounts

On one of my practice sessions a few days before the Early Bird Tri, I ran, jumped, got my right foot in, and managed to catch my dangling left shoe on the pavement -- whipped me over onto my right side like a fly swatter. Ow. Hit my head hard enough to piss me off and give me a headache, and put a nice divot in my brand new helmet (yes, wearing new gear for this exercise was stupid). So, my compromise to myself this season was to at least grit my teeth and leave the shoes on the bike... I figured the "shove foot in and go" method would still be faster than running in cycling shoes. Not to mention fishing around trying to get my feet clipped in.

Do I really want to mount with my shoes on the bike? Sigh... ok, fine.
Steep descents
This is the one I feel best about this season. Years ago, a bad mountain bike crash landed me in the hospital with a concussion, and left me with no memory of most of the day. I gave up mountain biking soon after. You could accurately call me a nervous descender when I finally picked up a road bike years later.

Universal sign for "warning -- change of shorts may be required"
If you've ever stood at the top of a hill on a bike looking at this sign, you know there's really only one way to get down -- and that's to just put on your big-girl underpants and get it done. And to feel comfortable with it, you've got to do it more than once.

Wheee! My fastest max speed so far, descending Pink Hill

What did you do this year to get out of your comfort zone? What are you planning for next year? 


  1. Just shy of 70kph is pretty damn fast! Was that on the tri-bike or the road bike?

    1. It was on my road bike. With somewhat white knuckles. Haha