Rest weeks are sweet. My body and mind are happy for the reprieve, having gone hard for the first month of the season.
My coach, Tim O’Shea, puts it this way: “This shit ain't rocket science. If your body can stay one step ahead of the torture you put it through, you will either maintain fitness or get faster. If the body can't keep up, you get slower. Which is OK for brief periods and when done on purpose—through training, not stress. But what's crucial is being aware of the overload and coming up for air.
“We’re starting to turn blue. Time for air.”
I love riding during rest weeks. I spend more time getting ready to go ride (drinking coffee) than I spend pedaling. And the pedaling? I don’t leave my little ring. I coast whenever I can. I get passed by everyone. I love every minute of it. A true recovery pace is embarrassingly slow and takes a few years of experience to embrace fully. When I was younger, and stupider, some of the hardest rides I ever did were recovery rides with friends. Sometimes we still get competitive about it, except now it’s more about trying to out-slow one another. Which is a fun game to play. On a hill. Until someone falls over.
So for the past week I’ve been doing my best to sleep in. It's not easy work. The day after Gloucester I moved apartments (worst rest day ever and worst day ever). My new place is in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and, after living in nearby Williamsburg for the past three years, I feel like I’ve moved to a new city. And transitions like this are part of the stress that Coach talks about. So I've mostly tried to use this week to get settled into my new digs.
But by Friday I was finally starting to feel like myself again because riding slow felt like a chore—a good sign. I called Coach and told him how I was feeling and we decided that a low-key local race on Sunday, in New Jersey, would be a nice way to gauge how things were coming along. As a bonus, I could visit my mom, who lives in Jersey and loves it when I show up unannounced asking for food and shelter.
The next day I woke up early and drove the 70 miles down to Cherry Hill, N.J., for the Cooper River Cyclocross Race. The shortest drive and the earliest wake-up time I’ve had all season! The N.J. cup races put the A race in the middle of the day, which I was excited about. It meant I could look forward to hanging out after and watching some friends do their thing in the other categories. I don’t get to do many local races anymore. It’s nice to race in front of friends who don’t or can't travel to the UCI races, and it’s damn nice to race for the win. Having raced at a high level for a while now, I’ve learned to enjoy the little victories in between the big events.
The course at Cooper River was fast and flat with a set of planks and one set of stairs as the only obstacles. I attacked early and got 10 seconds on the chasers. Cameron Dodge bridged to me after starting dead last in the grid (he's a name to remember). We settled into the race, working together for a few laps, before being joined by Cole Oberman. The three of us took turns attacking one another, but because of the fast course nothing would stick until the last lap. Cameron made the winning move by riding the stairs. He was doing it the whole race, and in hindsight I shouldn’t have let him lead into that section. I was thinking too much about the sprint and ended up watching the win bunny-hop away from with half a lap to go.
I held Cole off for second, landing my first podium of the season. After struggling with my fitness and luck the past few weeks, it felt fantastic. Good morale is almost as important as good fitness, both of which will come in handy next weekend in Rochester, N.Y., at one of the hardest and hilliest courses of the season, Full Moon Vista Cyclocross.