Filed under: KingsBridge Train | Tags: Belgium, Bell Lap Coaching, cyclo-cross, cyclo-cross training, Germany, Marc Boudreau, St. Wendel, ulcerative colitis, vicki thomas, world championships, World Cyclo-Cross Championships
Here at KingsBridge we’re all about disaster recovery, and in a way, our sponsored cyclo-cross racer Vicki Thomas is on a path of disaster recovery as well. Read on to learn about Vicki’s recovery process from ulcerative colitis…
Got some excellent news yesterday from my Belgian gastro doctor: my recent blood sample shows no signs of inflammation. This means that I’m on my way to full recovery from this recent ulcerative colitis flare. The other piece of good news is that my body is responding well to the Imuran. Definitely the news I’ve been waiting to hear!
I had four days of excellent riding in a row and ended up taking a much needed rest day yesterday. It is so easy to forget during my recovery process that I don’t have nearly the same fitness, strength or reserves that I had in the past. It is amazing to me how much I’ve lost in such a short time.
I think what did me in yesterday was the three hour ride on Tuesday. In retrospect, this was probably a much too ambitious ride to do considering that four weeks ago I was in the hospital hooked up to an intravenous line and eating only chicken broth and dry toast… But it is this ambition that has got me where I am…
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of my recovery process for me has been my mental state. If you’re a regular reader of this web site, you’ll be familiar with my mental battles. All too frequently I would battle my “crazy brain” and lack self-confidence. Well, I’m proud to say that mentally, I’m feeling 100 per cent. It would be easy to get frustrated about my current lack of fitness and strength – but I know this will come back. How I’m riding and recovery right now will not be permanent. If anything this rotten 2010-2011 season has reinforced my mental resolve and strength – I know I didn’t ride and race like I can – so I’m super stoked to get out there and really race the way I know I can.
This period of recovery has also emphasized to me how important it is to get back to the basics. Basics of cyclo-cross like: smooth transitions and pedaling and focus and aggression on the bike. You might find the word “aggression” a strange on my website. But it is going to be a keyword for my 2011-2012 season. Last night over dinner, Marc pointed out that I’m not aggressive on my bike during cyclo-cross races – instead of fighting for positions at the start, I slip into a complacent mode of being “at the back” – the opposite of how I used to approach my cyclo-cross racing. This we determined is because “I got used to being in the back”. Well this is changing for the new season. I don’t want to be at the back nor am I going to be at the back.
One of the best parts of my recovery process has been the freedom to let my legs and mind wander. While out on the bike I can ride as hard and for as long as I want. My mind is free to simply relax and enjoy the moment. I’m not focusing on wattage numbers, cadence, the next interval, etc. If I am thinking it is typically about the drills and skills I need to focus on when I get home to make me a better racer.
Would I prefer to be in St. Wendel, Germany right now getting ready to race in the World Cyclo-Cross Championships on Sunday? Yes! This was my season goal after all. But everything happens for a reason and I can’t dwell on what didn’t happen. I know that really this season was out of my control. My body took over and I simply couldn’t race my bike.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in this recovery phase. I think the next phase will be the re-building stage where with expert guidance from coach Steve Weller, I’ll start getting my fitness and strength back. In a twisted sort of way, I’m looking forward to riding the trainer in my basement in Ottawa – this will be a sure sign that I’m on my way to a bigger and better 2011-2012 season.
Filed under: KingsBridge Train | Tags: Belgium, Bell Lap Coaching, Canadian National Cyclo-Cross Championships, Champions Systems Canada, Clif Bar, cyclo-cross, cyclo-cross training, Hasselt, KingsBridge Disaster Recovery, Koksijde World Cup, Marc Boudreau, Neil, Oakley, Outdoor Gear Canada, Stevens Bikes Canada, Stevens Carbon Team DA, The Cyclery, ulcerative colitis, vicki thomas, world championships, World Cup
Vicki here with my ruminations on this past cyclo-cross season….
For a cyclo-cross racer, this is kind of an odd time to be writing about my cyclo-cross season. But as you know, my season was cut short in December… I’ve had some time to think about this 2010-2011 cyclo-cross season and I thought I’d let you in on these thoughts….
In a nutshell, this was a very disappointing cyclo-cross season. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted or planned. The goals I set weren’t achieved. And quite frankly I didn’t race the way I can or wanted. This was not for want of trying. In fact sometimes I wonder if I “tried” to hard. I wonder what my season would have been like if when I first got sick again last May, I’d backed off on the training and let my body heal. But hindsight is 20/20. I felt good on the bike and everything was pointing towards the training benefits paying off into the cyclo-cross race season. But this didn’t happen. I fought my body each and every time I got on the bike to race this year. Is this an excuse for why my season didn’t live up to my expectations? I’m not sure – it is what it is.
I worked hard in the off-season on my technical skills. But still I have much more room to improve in this area. In fact more than my struggles with the ulcerative colitis this season, I wonder if my technical skills held me back more than my health struggles? I pushed myself technically this spring/summer/fall, but I still believe I can push myself more. There are skills that I simply need to “get”. Being smooth in my transitions. Really understanding gearing and how it applies to different terrain: sand, mud, steep climbs, off-cambers, etc. Technically I’ve come along way, but this season has shown me that I still have further to go. By making improvements technically, I think I can really improve my cyclo-cross racing.
Really there are no results to write about here. After a few weeks into the season it became pretty clear that the results I had attained last season were going to be pretty darn hard to achieve. Instead I had to look at each races as an opportunity to test myself technically and to simply just focus on getting around for 40 minutes. Not really what goes through the mind of an elite cyclo-cross racer on the start line. But it is what it is. I did have some races that I was happy/content with – my ride at Niel was decent for my first muddy slog of a Belgian race, I had a blast at Aspere Gavere and was stoked to be able to ride the crazy descent, Hasselt was fun as usual, and I really felt like I had a decent ride at Koksijde. Sand is still very challenging for me, but I felt like I rode better at Koksijde this year than I did last. Actually, even the Canadian Cyclo-Cross Nationals were okay for me – I was 16th – not the result I wanted or expected… But through it all, I didn’t quit, I stayed positive and just focused on leaving it out there. It just so happens that this year it was 16th (rather than 7th the previous two seasons…). If anything this cyclo-cross season has taught me more than ever to focus on performance rather than outcome. It would have been so easy to quit and crack if I had been only looking at my name on the results sheet.
Mentally, this has been my strongest season ever. There was a point at the start of the season when I didn’t know about the ridiculous anemia and the effects the ulcerative colitis was having on my ability to perform that I did worry that my “head had fallen off”. I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t race the way I believed I should be. Immediately I started to worry that I just didn’t want it badly enough. But deep down, I knew this wasn’t the case. Honestly it was a relief to find out I was fighting my body and not my brain. I’ve come a long way mentally in this bike racing game. It hasn’t been easy. But I think I’ve found my groove. I’m confident. I believe in myself. And I’ve learned to ignore the idiots out there – yes, in our little Ottawa cyclo-cross community there are people who were (and probably still are) talking “trash” behind my back and to others about how “Vicki sucks”. Well, I let this get to me for a bit but then I realized that I just simply don’t care about those idiots. I don’t have time to let them get in my brain. I suppose the hardest part with this has been wondering why people bother saying “crap” about others – what is the point in being outright mean to another person? Sometimes I’m tempted to say something face-to-face to these people – but what is the point – idiots just don’t get it. So thanks to my strengthened mental resolve and confidence, I was able to come out of this negative aspect of the season on top. I’m a good bike racer. I’m a strong bike racer. Those who know me, know this. As for the others – I just don’t care.
So where does this leave me for 2011-2012 cyclo-cross season? Well, I’m eager to start training again. But I’m not rushing things. I have to get healthy before I can do this. I have been out on my bike for the last three days and the riding has been slow but enjoyable. I find the riding now is not “effortless” like it was. But I know the strength and form will come back. I’ve got some goals set for the upcoming cyclo-cross season and I’m hoping to get out to do some road racing this summer as well. I’ll be out on all three bikes this spring and summer: mountain, road and cyclo-cross – plugging away and enjoying every minute of it.
One aspect to this cyclo-cross season that can’t be overlooked is of course my sponsors. I’m a very lucky bike racers. I’ve got amazing sponsors who support me for who I am and what I represent. They are not hung up on my results or podiums – they’re about getting the brand out there with a positive image. For this I’m very fortunate. It was very hard for me to contact my sponsors in December and let them know about the end of my cyclo-cross season. I have such a solid connection with all of my sponsors that I really felt like I was letting them down. The response I received from each and everyone of them was overwhelming. In a nutshell: get better don’t worry about the racing. Yep, pretty darn lucky. So a big thanks to:
- KingsBridge Disaster Recovery
- The Cyclery
- Stevens Bikes Canada
- Champion Systems Canada
- Clif Bar
- Bell Lap Coaching
- Outdoor Gear Canada
And many many thanks to the sponsor behind all of these fine companies: Marc. Marc has once again made this cyclo-cross season a reality. His faith and belief in me really keeps me going. It would have been easy to pack it in this season and change my plans and goals. But Marc wouldn’t let me do this. He was there to keep me steady and to remind me of what is important to me. Right now, I’m getting so much satisfaction from seeing Marc race so well. He is having an awesome cyclo-cross season and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Hopefully his success and experience will trickle down to me.
So there you have it. My thoughts and ruminations on my 2010-2011 cyclo-cross season. It wasn’t what I expected or planned. But it happened and I made the best of it. Do I wish my season was still happening and that I was getting ready to racing in St. Wendel, Germany – damn straight I do! In the end I was 5 UCI point short of making the qualification standards. Pretty darn good, all things considered. This time next year, I plan to be writing a blog post about my thoughts on the upcoming World Cyclo-Cross Championships in Koksijde, Belgium – my thoughts on what I want out of the race. That’s right – I’m going to be there on that start line on January 29, 2012.
Filed under: KingsBridge Train | Tags: Belgium, cyclo-cross, Six Days of Rotterdam, ulcerative colitis, vicki thomas
It’s Vicki here with a quick update on life in Belgium….
Yes, that’s right. Today, I rode my bike. It felt good. One week ago on New Year’s Eve I left the hospital after a one week stay due to my ulcerative colitis. If you had told me that one week later I’d have the energy and desire to ride my bike, I would have laughed out loud. What a difference a week makes. Granted I’m still quite sick. But I have more energy. I’m getting more sleep (about five hours a night now). I’m able to eat more foods – just added in vegetables, fruit and oatmeal today! So all in all, things are progressing along really well.
I still have to visit my doctor every week so he can monitor my health and ensure the medicine is doing its job. But this is nothing compared to being trapped in a hospital….
So my ride…. Well, this morning Alex, Marc and I hopped in the trusty Peugeout and zipped off to Boom (suburb of Antwerp) to hit up Decathlon, Saturn and Ikea. We had a good browse around – I picked up some awesome thermal tights. As we drove home, the roads were drying up and I proclaimed that if it wasn’t raining in Blauberg, I was going to go for a ride. I think there were a few raised eyebrows, but Marc and Alex know best not to argue…
Within 15 minutes of getting back to Blauberg, I was kitted up and ready to ride. I was way overdressed but the thinking amongst the guys (Karl, Alex, and Marc) was that I should overdress and most of all go very very slowly. This time I listened…. I pulled on my new thermal tights. Put on my brand new winter weight cycling gloves. And wrapped my feet in my brand new shoe covers. Top this off with my Belgian team jacket, super red hat, Oakleys, and Giro Atmos helmet and I was off. Oh boy, that bike felt so good underneath me.
I simply pedaled super easy down the main road to Averbode. I took my time. I think I was grinning the entire time! No music or iPod – just me, the bike and the fresh air. Can’t really complain about riding in 8 celsius on January 7! I stuck to my 30 minutes – it felt good. I do admit that I was a bit tired – my legs felt a bit empty by the time I got back here. Best part was talking about my ride with the guys.
I won’t be riding on Saturday since we have an action-packed day – Marc is racing (really stoked to be going to watch and cheer him on) and then we’re zipping back to Blauberg and hitting the road to Rotterdam. We’re all heading to Rotterdam to take in the track racing at the Six Days of Rotterdam track racing festival. We’ve got plans for dinner in Rotterdam somewhere, track racing and just generally a good time.
I plan to go out again on Sunday. Probably another simple easy ride – I might push it to 45 minutes or an hour. But above all else, I’ll be sure to take it easy. Simply just enjoying be on the bike is good enough for me right now. I’ve also started doing yoga again. It feels good to get my body stretching and bending again.
I’m along way from being healthy. I’m along way from doing real training. For now I’m just trying to get my body moving again and give it the feelings it so very much craves. So far 2011 is only one week old, but boy oh boy do I have great feelings about this year.
Filed under: KingsBridge Train | Tags: Belgium, cyclo-cross, Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Thrive Diet, ulcerative colitis, vegan, vicki thomas
This is Vicki checking in after a rather rough month of December… Life is truly an adventure…
This is the time of year when most people list off their New Year’s Resolutions and proclaim to live a better life. Well, I’m not going to do this…
As you most likely know, December was a very rough month for me. In fact this entire cyclo-cross season, which ended early after the Koksijde World Cup has been very rough. I didn’t race to my potential. My body couldn’t benefit from the hard training I put it through during the spring and summer. I couldn’t benefit from my improved technical skills. I kept at it but it just didn’t come together like I had planned. And then to top things off, my ulcerative colitis returned three days after the Koksijde World Cup.
What I thought was “just a flare” turned out to be the worst ulcerative colitis flare I’ve ever experienced. I’ll be honest here with you (as I always promise to be on this site) – my ulcerative colitis has gone from being mild to severe. It has now consumed my entire colon. By the time I finally let Marc take me to the hospital on Dec. 24, I was on the verge of rupturing my colon. I was sick. I am so sick. But I’ve now been out of the hospital for four days and I’m starting to feel better. I’m not symptom-free but I do have more energy and I’m definitely better than I was two weeks ago. I’m on a new type of medicine (immune supressant drugs) that will hopefully balance my blood cell counts and allow my body to fight this disease. There is no cure for ulcerative colitis so all I can do is learn how with the advice of my doctors how to best manage my disease.
As for racing and riding? Well I can’t start real training until I’m 100 per cent symptom-free. I trained and raced through-out a flare last spring – fall. I thought I did a good of managing my training and flare but by the time the cyclo-cross season came, my body had been pushed to its limit and I couldn’t do what I’d been preparing for. I’m not going to make this mistake again. This last month of being sick has made me realize how much I love racing and riding my bike. I’m hoping that next week I’ll be able to get out for some light and short rides – really light as in small ring only and short as in 30 minutes long.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about nutrition and the inflammatory effects that food can have on the body. I don’t have any food allergies but I do feel better with less gluten and dairy in my diet. I’ve also been paying attention to how my body feels on a diet of mostly fruits and vegetables compared to a more meat-based diet. This combined with reading the Thrive Diet and poking around on various food and cooking websites, I’ve decided that once I’m healthy again and can eat fruits and vegetables again (for now I’m stuck eating chicken broth, white bread, eggs, and some meat and fish) I’m going to move to a gluten-free/dairy-free vegan diet for 85% of the time – this gives me the flexibility to eat meat, fish and eggs when I want/need them (partly because I struggle with very low iron so I do feel I need some natural heme iron sources). I’m hoping that this dietary change will help me a healthier person and keep my ulcerative colitis in remission.
So this is where I’m at…. There is lots of subtle change going on but no big New Year’s Resolutions on my plate. I do have one mantra for 2011: live everyday to the maximum, smile more, stress less and appreciate it all.
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, Brendan Brazier, cyclo-cross, cyclo-cross training, ulcerative colitis, vegan, vicki thomas
A few words from Belgium…
Just wanted to let you all know that I’m still here. I’ve taken a few days away from this site because I’ve been pretty focused on resting and recovering. And to tell the truth, I really don’t have a lot to say right now. I haven’t ridden my bike in over a week and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to ride it again. I really wish I could tell you about my latest training rides and preparation for upcoming races – but unfortunately this is not where I am right now.
Nope, instead I’m focused on getting healthy. 100 per cent healthy. This is different from the level of “health” I was in at the start of this cyclo-cross season. I now realize that I wasn’t healthy. I wanted to be healthy. I told myself I was healthy. But I wasn’t. I was fighting my body each and every time I got on the bike. Finally and ultimately, my body won. So now here I am sitting, resting, sleeping, waiting, hoping that I will get better.
So what am I doing to get better? Well I’m not riding. I’m not racing. I’ve switched to a gluten and dairy free diet. I’m taking some new medications. I’m trying to eat – this is hard because I really don’t have an appetite and food often makes me feel worse. I’m researching and reading – currently learning about veganism and Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Diet. I’m working hard to stay in a positive mental head space. I’m sleeping as much as my body wants.
Is it working? Hard to know. This type of healing takes time and patience. So this is what I’ll focus on – giving my body all the time it needs to heal and be ready for next season. I’m working hard at being patient with my body – it is very hard to not be frustrated with what I see as a “faulty” body – but it is the only one I have so I must do my best to give it time to heal. Time and patience.
I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be back next season ripping it up on the cyclo-cross bike zipping around the course in my red,white and black kit. Next year is going to be a good one. I can’t wait to get back out training with the “kids”, with Mr. Timbo Schleck Austen and to hold more cyclo-cross practice sessions (these benefit me as much as you). Until then – I wait and I get better.
As I write this I’m listening to the 2010 cyclo-cross season warm-up playlist that I created at the start of this season. I listen to this before and after every cyclo-cross race. Right now it is reminding me of how much I miss being out there with you guys racing my bike.
Filed under: KingsBridge Train | Tags: Belgium, Bend, Clif Bar, cyclo-cross, Essen, Marc Boudreau, Oregon, Overijse, U.S. National Cyclo-Cross Championships, ulcerative colitis, vicki thomas
Since I’ve been forced to take a break from racing and training, thought I’d share with you my tips on being a cyclo-cross fan…
I am a cyclo-cross racer. My husband, Marc, is also a cyclo-cross racer. This means I spend a lot of time at cyclo-cross race venues. Typically Marc’s race is early in the morning (10 a.m. or so) and my race is in the early afternoon (2 p.m or so) – we like to arrive two hours before Marc’s race and we stay until my race. So I really do spend a lot of time at the ‘cross race.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks that come in handy when preparing to be a fan all day. First off a few tips on things to bring with you to make your day of cheering as comfortable as possible:
- a folding chair – one that you can easily cart around with you
- a good book – yes there will be moments during the day when you won’t know anyone racing or simply want a break from the racing action – a good book goes along way in beating the quiet times
- a thermos – fill this with your beverage of choice: earl grey tea, strong dark coffee, chai latte, hot chocolate, soup – the options are endless – but know that you’ll be happy to have a nice warm drink to keep you company during the day
- easy-to-eat real food – think tortilla wraps with peanut butter/banana, sandwiches with hearty fillings like chicken and avocado, fruit that doesn’t requiring peeling or stickiness (so basically an apple or pear), natural energy bars (Clif Bar products like the Clif C bar come to mind)
- clothes for all conditions – a hoodie to keep you warm, a scarf to cut the crazy wind that pops up out of nowhere, waterproof tops and bottoms, a hat (or as we Canadians like to call it – toque), warm gloves, and a complete change of clothes – somehow you will end up muddy, wet, or if you’re like me – manage to spill your thermos of warm drink on your lap and dribble your tasty food down the front of your shirt
- an open mind – chances are you traveled to the race with a cyclo-cross racer – remember that said cyclo-cross racer might be a bit tense or stressed as the race time draws closer – keep this in mind if the conversation seems to get a bit “short” or if your racer starts to act a bit crazy – this is the race talking and nothing else…
As a racer myself, there is nothing worse than racing by a bunch of spectators and not hearing any cheering. Truly this is just not cool. If you’re going to stand out there and watch the cyclo-cross race then cheer for each and every racer. Even simple things like “That’s It – Keep It Going”, “Pedal, Pedal”, “Ya – Doing Good”. These words make a difference even if I don’t know who is yelling them. So do the racers a favor and cheer for them – whether you know them or not – believe me – we appreciate it.
The last thing to keep in mind when attending a cyclo-cross race with a racer is that time slows down once the race is done. Your racer will want to discuss the race with his/her fellow racers for what seems to you like an eternity. Your racer may go out on a cool-down ride or ride the trainer for what seems like a very long time. The changing, cleaning up and repacking of the car will also appear to take a long time. This is normal. We racers need some space after the race to decompress, relax and take stock of how the race went. Rushing your racer won’t help matters – often this will cause your racer to slow down even more… Luckily for you, you’ve brought a good book, a folding chair, a thermos, and some good food…
So there you have it, a few tips from me on how to be a fan for the day. Hopefully you can use these tips this weekend at whatever races you’re out watching. If you’re in Bend, Oregon this weekend, I think the warm clothes, thermos and change of clothes will come in very handy. Remember to cheer for all the racers out there ripping it up at the U.S. National Cyclo-Cross Championships – they will silently thank-you as they pedal by. If you’re heading out to Essen or Overijse for the elite men’s races in Belgium this weekend – definitely cheer for racers that aren’t named: Bart, Sven and Niels – remember to cheer for Jonathan, Enrico, Thjs, Radomir and all the other non-Belgians racing…
(Just heard from Marc – he was in 4th place at his race in Varsenare until a flat tire forced him to pit… he finished the day in 7th… Still an excellent result. Nice ride Marc!)
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
Filed under: KingsBridge Train | Tags: Belgium, cyclo-cross, Marc Boudreau, OBC Cyclo-Cross Series, Ottawa Bicycle Club, ulcerative colitis, vicki thomas
Latest update from Vicki….
Got out for a pretty good ride on Monday. It was a gift to see the blue sky again and to see the green grass. Thanks to a solid bucket of rain on Sunday and slightly warmer temperatures, the bulk of the snow is gone. No complaints here considering it is December. Time will only tell how long this respite from the snow and the negative temperatures last….
Though, even with the rain and warmer temperatures, many of my favorite roads were not rideable. A thin layer of ice and in some cases some pretty narly ice ruts made the roads less than welcoming. I was forced to stick to the main roads for the most part but still managed to put together a decent ride. Basically did the tour of all the towns around Blauberg: Averobde, Zichem, Scherpenheuvel, Rillar, Aarschott, Wolfsdonk, Testelt, Averbode and back to Blauberg.
You have probably noticed that I haven’t posted any race reports from the weekend… This is because I did not race. I had full intentions of racing but I simply couldn’t. So I’m sick again. Yep, my ulcerative colitis has shown its ugly face again and I’m in a full-on flare. I have no idea what has caused this flare. All I know is that I’m frustrated and disappointed with my body. I eat properly. I get lots of exercise. I rest a lot. I’m not in a stressful situation. I’m taking my medicine. And still I get sick. I was simply way too wiped out and in too much pain this weekend to go out and race my bike. I was really looking forward to racing at Averbode as well as returning to Rijkervorsel to have a better ride there than I did last year. Instead I spent the bulk of both days in bed. Not fun.
On a plus from the weekend – Marc had a great ride on Sunday and finished 6th in the Averbode race. He also had a great race on Saturday but was held up by some annoying chain suck issues and had to settle for 12th on the day. I wish I could have been there to cheer him on. Super proud of how well Marc is riding right now – he really is coming into his own here and the hardwork and determination is paying off with some excellent rides. Definitely inspiring.
I was pretty wiped out after my ride on Monday but I think I will get out again today. The riding gives me a bit of a break from my ulcerative colitis symptoms. Only problem is not being able to eat much – makes it hard to prevent the “floating black spots” from appearing… Not sure where my bike will take me but I know it will be to a happy place.
(P.S. congrats to all the award winners at Sunday night’s Ottawa Bicycle Club Cyclo-Cross Awards night. Massive shout out to the youngsters out there who come out every weekend to haul their heavy bikes around the course and just keep giving it their all. We should all ride our bike with such enthusiasm!)
Filed under: KingsBridge Train | Tags: Aigle, cyclo-cross, cyclo-cross training, Czech Republic, Ottawa Cross, Plzen, ulcerative colitis, vicki thomas, world championships, World Cup
Vicki here updating you with my recent racing trip….
I’ve just returned from a 12 day trip to Europe that saw me racing my bike in Aigle, Switzerland and Plzen, Czech Republic. These two races were the opening World Cup races of the 2010 – 2011 cyclo-cross season. The World Cup races feature the top racers from each country – with everyone racing for the top step on the podium and the coveted UCI points.
I had my dad along for this racing trip and this really was one of the highlights for me. My dad got to experience and truly understand why I love the sport of cyclo-cross. He got to see first hand how friendly and supportive the cyclo-cross community is – with friends of mine helping out in the pits, showing how to properly clean bikes, and just generally making him feel welcome. To top it off, he got to see me race with the fastest women in the World.
We traveled around Germany, France, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic in our trusty rental RV. The RV is really part of the cyclo-cross culture in Europe. All of the top racers travel to races in RVs – each one trying to have a bigger and flashier one than their counterpart. Ours was a medium-sized RV that gave us everything we needed – a portable home on the road. We found some excellent campsites and even parked up in a public parking lot one night. Thankfully my dad was in charge of all things RV – driving, maintaining and parking. I was merely the co-pilot, managing the GPS system and ensuring that we had tasty food to eat. A good traveling team!
The racing was okay. I learned a lot of lessons about myself – both on and off the bike. My fitness is not quite where I’d like it – due to some complications from my ulcerative colitis… I’ve been battling a pretty severe bout of anemia and fatigue. Which makes training and racing a challenge. But my goal for this trip was to earn some UCI points that would help me earn my spot on the Canadian National Team for the World Cyclo-Cross Championships in St. Wendel, Germany. Mission accomplished. And now I’m ranked 55th in the World. Not too shabby.
Next up for me is the Canadian National Cyclo-Cross Championships in Toronto, Ontario on Nov. 6. Then to make my life extra busy – I’m hopping a plane to Belgium on Nov. 8 and will race my first race on Nov. 11 in Niel, Belgium. I’ll be in Belgium until Feb. 7. Really looking forward to the season of racing and training in Belgium.