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Taking a look back; a 3 act journey
All winter long I dream of summer. I tell myself that winter is fun and to count myself lucky to live in a place where we have seasons, to enjoy different activities and to take in the beauty, but I am just lying to myself. I am sure that one day I will come to fully appreciate winter for what it is and I do find a way to have lots of fun through the winter, but at this point in my life I would be a happy boy if it was summer all year round. It is not all year round though. For that reason, and because I like it so much, it always seems to fly by as fast as a goose booking it for the beaches of Mexico in October. Although summer is not over yet, we are in the last chapter and this summer has been no different than all other summers. One minute you are full of excitement as the flowers start to come out and you can take that damn hoody off, the next you are waiting in line at the store to buy a nice, new hoody for the fall semester (thanks Maman)!!. Like all summers though, this one has been filled with amazing moments with friends and family. Adventures were had and new places explored. I have not written much about what I have been up to this summer yet and there are a lot of things to cover. To not scare you with a black and white wall of text, I will split up the blog briefing on summer into three acts that I will post at separate times. The first will be about the rough start to my season, deep analysis into the human mind and my build up to Nationals. The second will be about Nationals, the Canada cup and bits of sunshine from our trip to Maine. The third and final act will be about the US cups and the world cup in Mont-Saint-Anne as well as 8 easy steps to get your entire house clean without moving a finger.
The first half of my season ended when I got back from the Canada Cups in Ontario at the end of June. I came home with my tail between my legs and fog in my mind. I know I was on good form, but if you are not in the right headspace it does not matter. I was not in the right headspace, I was in outer space and I had shitty performances. I was questioning everything from what the universe is to what is the best way to live my life. Luckily I am looking back on it and can call it some philosophical bullshitty nonsense with a kind of discussed half smile, but at the time it all felt very serious. I love bike racing for a lot of reasons and one of them, which I have come to deeply appreciate over the past couple years, is how it can be used as a tool to gauge if the thought patterns I am feeding in my mind are helping me reach my full potential. For example, if I am experimenting with a new thought pattern that I have never explored before and I feel my performance on the bike is affected in a negative way, I take it as a clue that this particular thought pattern is probably not right for me. Same is true if a thought pattern affects my performance in a positive way. This is probably true for many sports, but I feel cross-country mountain biking, with it’s brutal physical intensity that demands you to empty yourself every time you compete, to push your body to the limit, and the close interaction to other competitors make it an excellent laboratory for gauging thought experiments. Now you may say that the thought patterns that affect the performance on the bike may not affect other aspects of your life, maybe not for everyone, but for myself at least it is the case. I could go into a lot more detail as to why this is true for me, but this is turning into some heavy business and I would rather not go there. I can sum it up by simply saying that this is the case for me because I believe what I feel on the bike and competing is so closely tied in to my personality and my soul that it translates to all other aspects of my life.
After coming back from these races I knew I had to change my thought pattern. Never easy to do. I decided to take an a lot more easy going approach, to do things the way I enjoyed doing them, to appreciate the moment more, and to expand my bandwidth to different things to see what I could learn. I kept training hard but gave myself a lot more freedom. I believe this was key because it allowed my training to be a lot more personalized and in the end I was able to train harder because of the extra attention I was giving to how I felt. I held two weekends of my bike camp for kids, a project I started a few years ago that continues to blossom. Nothing brings me back down to earth as much as watching kids shred trails for the first time. I plan on continuing to put energy into this project and I really look forward to seeing where it will go. (CAUTION! PLUG WILL FOLLOW). You can find more info at www.trailtrybe.com. But kidding aside, I am trying hard to get the word out so that one day Mont-Tremblant will have a well established portal of entry for kids wanting to get into mountain biking. It is slowly picking up speed and I am excited to see where it will go in the next few years. I worked with the local bike club and did some events for my local shop, Jo-Vélo. By participating in these events I was more involved with the local bike community and it helped me appreciate how awesome of a place Mont-Tremblant is. An other important focus was to enjoy the moment more, which I had a hard time with at first. Now that I have the hang of it a little more it has made a lot of little moments magical, especially moments with friends, family and my girlfriend. I am still far from fully embracing the moment in all situations and I believe there is a balance to be had there, but I am getting closer to finding this balance. It was an amazing few weeks at home leading up to nationals and I was heading into the second half of the season fully refreshed and feeling good.
If you want more insight into my training you can check out my Strava account. Luckily for you I am too lazy to disconnect my Strava account from my Training Peaks account so everything I do makes it to Strava. Sorry to my followers on that platform for all the unnamed morning and lunch rides.
Next up in Part 2 - Nationals, the Canada cup and bits of sunshine from our trip to Maine.
Thanks for reading!
© JF LECLERC
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Spreading the roots to eat the fruits
It is not uncommon for me to hear the phrase « What you plant today, you harvest tomorrow ». It is thrown around quite a bit by some bearded wiseman that I hang out with when we are not both too busy trying to prove some people wrong. As I am driving home from Victoria after an epic 8 months of expanding my bandwidth (probably just gathering information for some alien life-force under which earth is ruled) I have had a bit of time to reflect on that phrase. Although I think it is interpreted the same way by pretty much everyone, to me it means that the effort you put in today will reward you in the future. This got me thinking to what I have been up to during my time in Victoria. Throughout the past 8 months I have put more effort into achieving my goals, on and off the bike, than I ever have before. But honestly it was all so much fun that it doesn’t even feel like it.
I have been living with the #elnido crew whilst in Victoria and it has been awesome! From epic adventure rides to late night discussions to wrenching in the rain, we eventually always end up celebrating with chocolate. All of it has been a hell of a time. I have a lot of respect for everyone living in that house and I look forward to creating more memories with them in the future.
I have also had the chance to be part of the mountain bike division of the cycling NextGen program for its first year. The level of support has been amazing and I am really proud to be part of the program and to grow alongside everyone involved. My two main training partners, Rhys and Max, are some of the most talented riders and coolest people I have had the chance to know, and I am stoked to be able to share the journey with them. Many evenings were spent finishing greasy rides together, tired and muddy. It was also great to work with Jeff Ain, Cycling NextGen coach and easy going, fun loving guy. He brought us together and kept us pointing in the right direction. He has trained us well, and now that he has let his pack of pit-bulls off the leash, I feel sorry for everyone that will be left in our dust this year.
School has been a really great experience as well. It was challenging at times, but I like challenges. I enjoyed all my courses and learned a lot. Learning how to manage time and creating strategies to be more effective will stay with me for the rest of my life and come in really handy as I get into more difficult courses over the next few years. I did find it hard sometimes to consciously sacrifice parts of the athlete lifestyle, like sleep and stretching routines and missing workouts in order to be able to focus on school, I think that the distraction from thinking about riding all the time has really helped. I have been training hard but because it is straight off the bike and into the books it feels like I have a lot more in the tank and I am going into this season really hungry.
And finally, to be able to share the experiences with my girlfriend, who joined me in Victoria, has made everything even better. Those little moments that become special when you share them with someone and doing our own little adventures (In the downtime when we are not doing our serious epic adventures) have eliminated all dull moments and made life more flavourful.
« What you plant today, you harvest tomorrow. » I think that is true, but I don’t think it means you need to suffer in order to enjoy life later. There is no need to suffer at any point. The key, for me anyways, is to make the process the best part and this past year has been just that. When you really enjoy putting seeds in the ground, you harvest a hell of a lot more. It doesn’t matter how things turn out because there is no other way I would rather be spending my time.
TAKING A LOOK BACK; A 3 PART JOURNEY
Part 1 is just below this post, to read it just scroll down a little.
Part 2: Nationals, the Canada cup and bits of sunshine from our trip to Maine.
When I was a first year junior I did not know much about anything and it was bliss. Since then there have been a couple instances of dealing with self imposed pressure and failing. Because of these failures I have been trying to relearn everything I did not know that I knew when I was a junior. Bear with me here. As a first year junior I had no expectations but to have fun and give my absolute best. I did so many things perfectly without even realizing it. I had a great race season that year in what was my first real competitive season and I got on the podium at nationals and represented Canada at World Championships. After that successful year I decided it would be smart to put everything behind cycling and I set very big goals for myself. If I had done good things with no experience, surely I could do even better with extra focus and a bit more sacrifice. I went into the next season probably overtrained and totally burnt out mentally which resulted in more than one bad scene. I lost touch with all the good feelings of racing and I did not know how to get them back because they were there without even thinking about it before. This is when the journey really started. From that point on I set off to figure out what those feeling are and how to get them. Obviously I would have preferred to never lose touch of them in the first place, but I made a mistake and am picking up the pieces to put them back together. It has not been easy and it is taking a long time, but it is paying dividends as I start to uncover how to control the input and output of those feelings and understand them.
I could go on to describe the events in the week leading up to the national championships race, the course, the weather, and so on. But even if it is just to scratch my own itch, I think it is more interesting to talk about what is going in the mind during a race weekend.
This year at nationals was a good example of the progress I have made in controlling of the feelings I mentioned earlier. I put a lot of pressure on myself for this race and unlike when I was a first year junior, I was conscious of what a result meant and getting a solid result was important to me. Back then it would just have been about doing my best and seeing what happened, I did not care what the result was as much. This year I was able to harness that feeling of just going out there to see what I could do and use it even though I did care about what the result was and did know what was at stake. I pushed hard in the race and was feeling good. I worked a lot on my starts in the past month and it payed off. An attack in the last couple laps saw me loose the first two guys, but it also secured my third place. I am happy with the performance and the result for what they are, but the greatest victory for me is in the demonstration that I am getting to a point where I can harness the feelings I want when I want. The fitness is usually not the problem in my case, and I think in a lot of cases, and I am on a steady progression in terms of my mental performance which, I think, will really allow my ability to shine. Who knows how much there is left to uncover, but I know I am moving forwards.
After nationals I went home for a couple days before going to Saint-Felicien for the Canada Cup. I will give a more superficial resume of this race so that everyone reading this does not think I am a total nutcase. I drove over on the Thursday for the Saturday race. I did the drive solo but I actually really like driving so I did not mind. The course was really fun to ride with good natural flow. To prepare for some important races coming up I decided to keep the training up after nationals and was a little tired heading into the race. I also believe nervous energy from high tension events like nationals take a lot more out of your body than a lot of people take into account. The fatigue was obvious during the race, but the head was in the right place and I pushed hard to come across in 8th place. Not the best result, but strong performance.
With the fatigue level at the high end there was only one solution. VACATION!! I joined my family in Maine with my girlfriend and my friend Sarah to spend some time on the beach. I still spent some time on the bike and kept the focus up for that time, but off the bike I enjoyed each moment. We spent a lot of time at the beach and played a fun game called ‘’the life of the seaweed’’ where the point is to lie down in the sand on your back right where the waves crack and surrender yourself to the ocean like a poor seaweed does, getting dragged back and forth mercilessly on the sand by the waves. It is strangely fun, especially when you do it together. You will get a bathing suit full of sand though. My family has been going to the same place every summer since I was a baby and it is always special to go back there with a whole new year of perspective under my belt. I wonder how I will see it when I am 40 or 50 years old. It was a lot of fun and I felt very refreshed heading into 3 big weekends of racing in a row; Boston rebellion HC*, MSA world cup and Windham HC*.
*HC = Hors Category which is the highest ranked race besides world cups.
Next up in part 3 - US cups and the world cup in Mont-Saint-Anne as well as 8 easy steps to clean your entire house without moving a single finger.