Filed under: KingsBridge Train | Tags: Belgium, cyclo-cross, Kalmthout World Cup, Karl Hoppner, Marc Boudreau, ulcerative colitis, vicki thomas, World Cup
Ever wonder what it is really like to race at a World Cup?…
Up early today, lots of snow on the ground and the drive to Kalmthout is going to be slow. No problems, this is why I always pack my race bag the night before. Okay into the car with Marc and we’re off. We made it with plenty of time and now I can get settled into my pre-race routine. Marc is off to check out the course and to cheer on Karl.
My race is at 1:30 so I’ve got lots of time to get ready, pin on my numbers and eat my pre-race meal. Just the way I like it – lots of time to relax and get in my groove before the race. I put some music on and let the course run through my brain. I see the start and the first entrance onto the course. It is going to be icy and it is going to be slippery. Fine with me, I’m pretty comfortable in these conditions. I’m running the file treads today and I’ve got the pressure set just right so I’ll get some good traction and still be able to roll over the bumps and lumps in the snow and ice. Really there is only one line today. Keep your wheels in this line, head up and remember to keep pedaling and everything will be fine. Super icy corners – I’ll likely dismount and quickly run them. Up and over the stairs as quick as I can. Sprint into the fly-over and let the bike flow on the way down. Keep pedaling. Eyes up.
Time is starting to tick by. I like to eat two hours before my race so it is time to dig out my plastic container with my homemade ride pudding. This is white rice cooked in water and then I add sliced banana, a blob of natural peanut butter and rice milk to give it the pudding texture. Carbs. Protein. Comfort. Perfect pre-race meal. Marc is back and is busy with my bikes. Luc and Ignance are here now as well – everyone is starting to get a bit excited. I’ve got my skinsuit pinned up and my race clothing is ready to go. Cold one today so I’ve decided to go with leg warmers and my Sealskinz socks and gloves.
Alright, what is the time? 12:00. Okay, time to get some warm-up clothes on and hop on the trainer. I like to ride for 45 minutes to an hour to get loose and ready for the race. It helps me stay relaxed and actually takes my mind off the race a bit. I ride, chat with people as they come by and just enjoy the moments. My warm-up routine is roughly 20 minutes or so of easy riding followed by 4:30 minutes of tempo with a 30 second all out effort, recover for 5 minutes and repeat the effort – I follow this with more easy spinning.
Ah, good warm-up. Legs feel really good. They ticked over really nicely and I was able to really open up the legs. Just the sensations I want before a race. Okay the race starts in 40 minutes or so. Off the bike for a quick pee. Back on the bike for more spinning. 1:00 – time to pull on my race clothes and then back on the trainer for a few more minutes. Wow, it is 1:15 already – time to get over to the start. Quickly change my shoes and socks – I always like to start with dry shoes and socks. Quick hug and kiss from Marc and I’m off.
I love riding up and down the start/finish straight of the race course. It is relaxed yet tense at the same time. A collision of all ranges of emotions happens in this very short space. Some of the other racers are visibly nervous. Others are super relaxed and are joking. The fans are starting to come out and crowd along the course barriers. I see Luc and Johnny – they’ve got their cameras ready and are already cheering for me. I pedal along up and down, chatting with my friends and really just wishing the race would start.
The whistle blows and we’re all in the start area waiting for our call-up. I’m in the fourth row today. Ah well, no big deal. Everyone is pushing trying to move up a bit – trying to get an edge on the start. The gun goes off. We’re off. Okay, sprint, settle in, catch a wheel. Ya – nice start. Here comes the corner, pay attention to drifting wheels and listen for squealing brakes. Crash, no problems you saw it coming and got around it. Onto the snow and ice. That’s it. Settle. Settle. Relax your shoulders. Just pedal now. You know what to do. Look up. Easy on the brake. Here comes that icy corner that Karl told you about, off your bike and around you go, back on the bike sprint up to speed. Settle in. Breathe. Calm. By the pits – there’s Marc and Ignance – they’re cheering and pointing at the good line. Get ready for the fly-over. Sprint. Sprint. Keep pedaling up and over and pedal on the way down. Good job. Okay back into some slippery stuff. Don’t lean the bike too much. Relax. Pedal. Good job. Ah the bike is sliding, stick out that foot and catch the bike. Nice! I hear Luc cheering for me. By the pits a second time. “Nice ride” “Good job” Onto the pavement and time to go around again. It is a fast one today. Five more laps to go. I can do it. I’m loving the course and having a great day on the bike. Keep going. Pedal. Focus. The bell lap! Yes, the bell lap. I’ve done it. Good job Vicki. Just keep it going now. By the pits – Marc is so pumped up. “Awesome ride” Okay, just stay calm and upright now. Onto the pavement, there is the finish line. Give it one more big hard effort. Ah, I did it. There’s Denise with my warm-up clothes. Luc is there taking some pictures. I’m ecstatic. Excellent race today. What a feeling.
I roll back to the car. Put on some more warm clothes and onto the trainer. I like to spin out my legs for 20 minutes or so after each race. Helps me keep them fresh for the next day and it gives me time to think about the race. Today I can’t stop smiling. I just had such a great ride. Everything seemed to come together today. What a feeling. I love this sport. Marc and Ignance are back from the pits – Marc is stoked. We talk about the race as he and Ignance clean my bikes. Okay, time to get changed and eat some food. Ah, what a day. Couldn’t have asked for more.
Car is packed and before I know it we’re back in Blauberg. Great day. Karl and I vote for Sultan’s for supper. We monopolize the supper time conversation by talking about our races and what we loved about the course and how it felt out there. Marc, Alex and Denise try but they can’t get word in. Great day. Can’t wait for the next race. Thanks for the cheering and support.
(Of course this is a fictional account of today’s World Cup race in Kalmthout, Belgium. I wasn’t able to race today due to my illness. But this is how I imagined the day and I’m pretty sure how it would have turned out. Nothing quite like the emotions of race day.)
Filed under: KingsBridge Train | Tags: Belgium, Bell Lap Coaching, Bend, Champion Systems Canada, Clif Bar, cyclo-cross, Hoogerheide World Cup, Kalmthout World Cup, KingsBridge Disaster Recovery, Oakley, OGC, Oregon, Scheldecross, Stevens Bikes Canada, The Cyclery, U.S. National Cyclo-Cross Championships, ulcerative colitis, vicki thomas, world championships, World Cup, Zolder World Cup
It is Vicki here checking in from the land of cyclo-cross, chocolate, beer and waffles…
As you know, I do my best to be honest with you at all times about how my racing and training is “really” going. So I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m sick. Really sick this time. Sick with the ulcerative colitis to the point where I can’t even think about my bike let alone get out and ride it. This flare came out of the blue last Thursday and initially it wasn’t too bad – I was able to ride and to eat fairly well. This is not the case anymore.
I had a couple of good rides on Monday and Tuesday – though I was pretty much wiped out for the rest of the day, but it still felt good to get out and ride. As for Wednesday and Thursday – there wasn’t any riding. Really all I did was lie on the couch.
Until yesterday I still did think that I could keep racing and that I’d be lining up at next weekend’s double-header of Scheldecross and the Kalmthout World Cup. But it is just not going to happen. I can’t eat or drink much right now. All I want to do is sleep. So racing is out of the question.
This is hard. Really damn hard. I’m so frustrated with my body. Some days it would be easier to understand why this is happening to me if I was a person who lives an unhealthy life. But I don’t – I do everything I can to be healthy and still this ulcerative colitis shows up and puts a stop to my dream and goals.
The only thing I can do now is focus on getting better. Since I’m not racing I have the chance to take some medicine that normally I wouldn’t be able to take. I’m hoping this will help and then I can get myself back on track for next season. (I’m still secretly hoping I can be well enough to race at the Hoogerheide World Cup at the end of January…)
I know that I’ve got a big engine inside of me and lots more kick left in these legs of mine. I’ll be back next year ready to race the season I had planned to have this year.
Many many thanks for your ongoing support and encouragement of my racing and training. I really do appreciate the amazing comments and emails that you send. Each time I race I know that I’ve got your support with me while I’m racing through the mud, sand, grass and crazy descents. Please know that I’m trying to do the same for you – if you listen closely during the race you can hear me shouting “Keep Pedaling”, “Good Job”, “Awesome Ride”, “You’re Doing Great”.
Have a great Friday and get out and spin some miles for me. To all of my American friends who are racing this weekend in the U.S. National Cyclo-Cross Championships – best of luck. The course in Bend, Oregon looks pretty darn narly – looking forward to seeing how all of you do.
A big shout out to my sponsors for the overwhelming support I’ve received this season. These companies have made it possible for me to chase my dreams and goals:
- Clif Bar