Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Training Begins

Photos by Rob Taylor
The moment the Florida Cup awards ceremony was over you could already hear people talking about next year. When you live for a sport like BMX, regret is a worthless commodity. The next goal is always close to your thoughts, the next lap is only a weekend away.

For myself, training has been a long term exercise in overcoming stubbornness. I have a tendency to reinvent the wheel, come up with my own training systems instead of listening to the Pro's suggestions. As each race passes with a less than desired result, the walls of stubbornness fall one brick at a time.

The most recent brick was that of the local race. When I started racing I held locals to be of the utmost importance. I figured that I needed to try my hardest in every race, pushing my body to the limit in every lap. I would build up to a local and gave too much credence to the outcome.

Now my focus has changed. Proper pre-race warm-ups including Plyometrics and practice laps have made local races into training days. Instead of resting up before the start, I'm now tired by the time the gate drops. The focus is entirely on performance.

The first test of this method came on Sunday at Charlotte BMX. That morning I went through the steps - Pilates done, Plyo done, practice laps done and now I slowly walked up the starting hill with three opponents for the race. My energy was spent and the heat wasn't bearing down on my black helmet but this is how it's going to be at locals especially for the summer.

In almost every lap I had to resist the temptation to go all out. I was here to perform, not to win. I was here to make the correct movements, not to overexert my muscles. I was here to train, not to crash.

Charlotte riders gathered with their Trophies
I stayed steady throughout, made the main and took third. I was really feeling the results of the workout. On the next day as I write this I'm satisfied with the progress and pretty worn out. The idea is that training days should be much harder than a big race day. On a big race day you are rested, fueled up and energized by nervousness. Compared to this Sunday, racing a Qualifier is a piece of cake.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Better Than Any Trophy

It was Friday afternoon, I had just finished work and returned home to prepare for the trip. It was to be my second SSA Championship. The car was packed and the cameras were powered up but I till had one last test to see if my injury was finally healed.

I shut the door to my exercise room, turned on Nine Inch Nails and started warming up. Ever since I pulled a muscle in my back just before the Sarasota qualifier I had been unable to jump and unable to touch my toes. After fifteen minutes of pilates and stretching I reached for the floor. I could feel the muscles elongate as I exhaled but it worked. Shortly after I was doing plyo jumps and with them a small part of my confidence was restored. I wasn't healed but it would have to be good enough. There was no time left.

Terri and I arrived at Tampa BMX roughly two hours later and just in time for 14 and older practice. I took my time pedaling slowly and easily. Having been off the track for two weeks I was rusty on top of being stiff and a little slow. I got in 8 laps to ensure that I would be able to perform the next day.

The next morning, I woke up early and eased into ten minutes of pilates next to my bed. Terri and I had breakfast at the hotel but then hit the gym for a few minutes on the stationary bike. It didn't matter how I performed on this day so long as I didn't enter the races cold.

The guys in my class are a cool bunch. They are all family men who race alongside their kids. They race hard and fast but with the common sense understanding that we all have to work on Monday morning. These guys all seemed to be prepared for this race. Even on my best day I'd have trouble keeping pace.

I lined up on the gate only a little nervous. Concentrating on my snap I got out well but immediately fell behind. That would be the trend all day. Back injury aside I can honestly say that I tried as hard as I could. I took 5th in all four motos and landed 5th overall.

The time that I spend on the bike only affects me and my opponents but the time I spend on the computer affects many, many people. I am reminded of this every time someone introduces themselves and thanks me for the news, updates and stories. One mother came up to me at the awards ceremony and said that her daughters faces light up every time I mention their names in the race report. Later on that mother returned with her daughter who wanted to have her picture taken with me.

This was the highlight of my weekend. Forget the racing or the pool party or even Better Recognize winning the Sunrise Team competition, those were all great but nothing meant as much to me as when I got to pose for a photo with 9 year old Allyson Mangold. Knowing that I'm inspiring a young person meant more to me than any trophy in the world.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

No Need for Excuses

Racing bikes, like any other athletic competition, requires perseverance. If you happen to be good at it right out of the gate, that's great but you won't stay on top forever. Eventually water reaches its own level. For us older riders it often happens sooner rather than later.

Having come into BMX from a Mountain biking background, I was able to utilize my fitness for quick gains in the Rookie division. My naturally fast pedaling allowed me to win the Championship race last year. I've learned that Intermediate is a whole different animal. Forget the natural advantages, this is where real skills start to matter.

My 2012 season has been rough. It started sweet with 2nd and 3rd place finishes in Jacksonville. Naples, however, was a bust. I was getting used to a new bike so I stayed away from risks. This safety first tactic left me in 4th place on the first day and then I faced the 41+ crowd the second day missing the main by one point. I couldn't afford to race Okee and could only swing one day at High Springs where I crashed in the first moto. Finally there was Sarasota which I didn't race because I hurt my back the night before.

With my qualifier performances awash, I accumulated 26 locals to bolster my ranking. Due to the merger the SSA was forced to change the value of locals. As a result I lost tons of points and fell from 1st place to 6th place.

It was unrealistic for me to assume that I could make a splash in my first season at Inter but that's the result of high aspirations. When you love to do something, you want to be the best at it.

As for the 2012 Florida Cup Championships, my desire is only to race. My injured back is still in rough shape. The best I can hope for is to complete the motos. I won't get a better position this year but as a consolation prize I have earned a special award for completing 30 races during the season.

This was a transition year, a time for adjusting expectations which will allow me to become better prepared for the next time around but I will persevere.