“Maybe in war nobody gets left behind, but this is cyclocross!”
“The only way you manage to hold off racers is by blowing snot rockets!”
“You’re so slow you should ride the short bus to CX races!”
“The only time you’ve ever been called fast was by your prom date!”
“Maybe you could swim through the mud and call it a triathlon. Then you could be dead last and still win.”
Halfway through the cyclocross season, 2008 Olympian, Georgia Gould, found herself so deep in the hurt locker she was finding gym socks from the sixth grade. When the Luna rider couldn’t pull her results out of the pit, she started a campaign encouraging friends, fans, enemies and other riders to hit her with their hardest heckles, even offering prizes for the best. Heckles like these brought joy back to racing and helped her get perspective on her goals for her cyclocross season. The heckles helped her realize that she raced cyclocross for fun, and if she got results all the better.
You would do well to take note of Gould’s approach. Admittedly, few of us could launch a viral heckling campaign, but with cyclocross season coming to an end and nationals approaching, it’s the ideal time to take a moment to take stock of your priorities and adjust how hard you push yourself in the off-season accordingly.
Gould has pushed her off-season past her limits on several occasions, and every time she was reminded of the value of rest and respecting the sanctity of her off-season. She has learned from her mistakes at a high cost. Fortunately for you, she shared those mistakes with Singletrack.com and you can learn from them the easy way.
The effort of going from a strenuous cross country season directly into cyclocross season has taken the wind out of Gould’s sails repeatedly. Like many athletes, Gould spent much of her career resistant to taking time off from training, with visions of muscle atrophy dancing through her head.
Her first major experience of expecting too much from herself for too long came in the fall of ’05, the season before Gould joined Luna. “Halfway through the season, I was being beaten by people that I felt I should be beating,” she explained. Gould knew she wasn’t performing to her potential, but pushing harder wasn’t producing results. “I felt like I was trying harder than I’d ever tried, and I just kept getting worse. I got to a point where I was thinking that cyclocross just wasn’t for me.”
At that point, Gould took a full rest week. Allowing herself the space to recover from an intense season turned her performance around entirely. “The following week was my first podium,” she explained.
“Sometimes when you’re sucking, your first inclination is to train more,” said Gould. Her advice: be aware of your body, because often your training will be counter-productive. Trying to go straight from cross country season into winter racing without a substantial break is a recipe for disaster — but kind of like Grandma’s holiday fruitcake, disaster is one of those recipes you would be better off without. More importantly, going from a strenuous off-season without taking a break before cross country season will prevent you from achieving your goals for the upcoming cross country season.
Rest is imperative to replenishing your glycogen and fluids, and gives your muscles a chance to repair themselves from the strain they are put under. You may not feel the exhaustion set in right away, but when it hits, expect it to come with a vengeance. Be observant to your body’s demands for rest before the need for extended rest is unavoidable during key points in your season.