- Starting too early. A subscriber to periodization, I began base aerobic training for the 2009 season during the first week of December 2008. The roads were fit for riding by the second week of March, which means I was on my trainer every week for over three months. Some may have the mentality for this, but apparently I do not. By the time the weather turned reasonable, I was already burned out. My rides seemed disappointing, I never felt like I was improving, and it took a long time to get out of that fog.
- No specificity. Mountain biking and track racing are staples of my season. My “burning out” in March, which I now clearly understand was overtraining syndrome, was misdiagnosed by my primary care doctor as postconcussive disorder. I underwent a battery of $$$ tests, and for months was instructed not to race or ride off-road. As a a result, I missed a ton of conditioning. As an added bonus, the idea that I may have a brain injury that may affect my long-term activity level was extremely depressing. A neurologist found no PCD and gave me the green light to resume a full spectrum of activity, but not after the months of waiting had already drilled a hole in my riding season.
- Stress. This year was intensely stressful. Just when things were turning around for me on the bike, in June I went off to a week of CISSP bootcamp. It was an intense, 100+ hour hell week of studying and testing, culminating in a 6-hour examination. At the end, I was completely and totally fried. Mentally ravaged. And for the four weeks it took to get my results, I spent every day wondering if I would have to go through it all over again. Even after I found out I passed, it took weeks to mentally come down.
- Not riding. I did what I thought made sense, given that I had missed so much time on the bike – I went for strength in the gym, hoping to help bridge the gap. I worked out with Sarah every week, making terrific gains. However, each workout took a few days to recover from, which made the scheduling of meaningful on-bike training difficult. Not only this, but the translation of workout strength to bike strength just wasn’t there. I never felt like it was converting for me. But no matter what, I wasn’t getting the saddle time. There is no substitute.
- Bad fueling. You’d think I’d have this nailed by now, but years later I still don’t have it. I blew it on Mt. Wash by misjudging the conditions and running out of water in the heat. I wasn’t feeling too well to begin with, and no way would I have PR’d this year, but even still, I haven’t been able to find the magic (tolerable+effective) combination of electrolytes and carbohydrates. HEED and gels, together, are just not getting it done for me. Recently I started learning about Nuun, which I am planning to try.
- Poor self-awareness. Reading all this, it’s easy to see that I should have low expectations coming into cyclocross season. But being frustratingly competitive, I went head first into the CX season finishing near the tail end of every race, wondering where the improvement over last season was. I beat myself up week after week, racing through illness until I realized that throwing in the towel on being competitive this year was not only a good idea, but absolutely necessary for my health (in all respects). Looking back, I should have embraced this year as a fun off-year and taken it easy a long time ago.
Joe Friel wrote a blog post on off season exercise the other day that really helped level my perspective.
2 thoughts on “How a season goes wrong”
Dude, stay clear of Nunn… unless you like popping Aklaseltzer mid ride and dealing with all the gassy side effects of that.
Found this post after reading your response to my query over at CXMag Forums. I'm in a VERY different place than you physically (and therefore emotionally), and as a result I have very different goals for my racing than you do; but still I found this helpful. Thank you –Beth