Updated: Apr 14, 2020
In this post, JM Coaching Athlete Finn takes a look back on 2019. We believe that self reflection is key to improving training and helping athletes make sense of the good and the bad things that happened during a season. Putting events into perspective can help you understand their larger effects and make connections that improve your training. It's an exercise that cannot be done alone and an area where having a coach can really make a difference.
Finn was coming off a 2018 season that saw moderate success but some stagnation in performance and mentally. After discussing 2018 we concluded that there was not enough focus on one area, Finn had been stretched too thin between racing 2 disciplines and school. We decided to approach 2019 with a different mindset and new training techniques.
The 2019 season started with a decision to focus solely on cyclocross. This decision came about after finding a more natural success on the cross bike that was worth pursuing. This means I had a proper off-season break of about 2 months. Of course I couldn’t just sit around, so I filled my time with lots of back-country ski touring, rock climbing, and yoga. This was a really good break for me and I really enjoyed figuring out what school had to offer and learning new things! Through all of this I was super excited to be focusing on cross. It almost lifted a weight off of my shoulders mentally. In my head I had one thing I was focusing on and could put all of my energy into being the best I could at that one thing. Around this time I also put in an application for the Montana Cross Camp and I thought it was just a shot in the dark, but low and behold I got accepted! This fueled my fire even more and I was getting really excited for the season.
I channeled this energy into my gym sessions, making the most out of each one for two months. I was excited to get back on a bike as soon as I got home from school and get the miles in, but I wanted to do it a little different. I entered some early season gravel races with no expectations other than to get good miles in in a fun way. I loved these dirt roads and would like to do more next season because it took the monotony out of a four hour road ride. I continued into the summer taking the unbeaten path, exploring new areas on my cross bike. Looking back on my summer, the rides I remember the most are the ones where I was so far from civilization, I thought I would never find my way back. I spontaneously entered a cross country mountain bike race on a borrowed bike and took my first win of the season! This was a good sign for me, because I did not have much racing planned before I started cross season. Not racing much during the summer gave me some worries because I did not have a way to measure myself against others and get the high intensity head to head experience. But I had never felt better on a bike and things were shaping up nicely.
The Montana Camp was an experience of a lifetime, I learned more than I can express from the great coaches. Just as important, I made great friends and had the time of my life out there while we all pushed our limits. One of my favorite rides I did each week before the season was taking my 1.5 hour mountain bike training loop and doing it on my cross bike 2-3 times. It may sound crazy but this is where I felt my bike become apart of me. I became so comfortable on it, gained so much technical skill, and loved every second of it. I had memorized the trails to the point of it being too easy on my mountain bike, but when switching it up to the cross bike, it was a different ball game.
Coming into the season I was feeling very good on the bike and was happy about my fitness. I took the win at a local race to start the season before I headed up to move into school later that evening. The momentum carried into Rochester which was a new race for me. The course was extremely fast and demanded a lot of power, I was very pleased with how I felt even though the results were nothing to write home about. I then flew to Jingle Cross in Iowa which again was another new race for me and one of the biggest. This was my first race of this magnitude with traveling so far, racing not just the best in the country, but many European players as well. I was stoked to finish 20th under the lights on Friday night in one of the most fun races of my career so far. I was feeling on top of the world until the second lap in on Sunday when a rut threw me into the side of a barn. Right away I knew something was not right. I ran to the pit, grabbed a new bike and yelled that I think I broke my hand. I went on to finish another 3 laps with one hand and actually passed a couple people! I was trying to convince myself I just jammed my finger, but gave in and had my hand looked at. Upon getting an ultrasound done on my hand, they were fairly sure it was broken. I flew home in a lot of pain and spent the rest of the day at the hospital where it was confirmed I had a fractured metacarpal.
It was heartbreaking but I knew I had worked too hard to stop now. For a month and a half, I utilized a Peloton bike while I had a full arm and hand cast and then moved to my smart trainer once I got mobility in my wrist. This was a tough period of not knowing where my race fitness was and how bad my season was affected by this. One day after I was cleared I flew to Cincinnati to race Kings CX. I was fairly happy with how I felt given the circumstances. Now knowing I still had a good amount of fitness I realigned my goals for the season. Nationals, top 20, maybe top 15. With this in mind I excited for a 5 week block of racing to regain the high end power and intensity. Over the next 8 races I really surprised myself and everybody around with very good and consistent results. I almost accomplished a goal that was set for next year, which was winning the Vittoria series u23 jersey. I remained in the leaders jersey until the last day which was even beyond my wildest dreams. With very consistent races each weekend I was feeling very good at this point, I could have almost forgot I broke my hand halfway through the season. All that was left was Nationals.
In past years I had finished just outside the top 20, but this year I wanted to break that. I was feeling confident in the course before I even left for Washington because coach Joe had all the secrets and tips about the course. We had planned my training specifically for this course, mimicking important sections to give me an advantage on race day. My nationals started with the collegiate race on Thursday and with a surprise first call up, I was ready. I found myself riding alone for the majority of the race, but with a very clean race I was stoked to take 6th. The next day, I lined up for the relay with the University of Vermont. We had high hopes but with only a 3 person team we were already at a disadvantage. We took a heartbreaking second, just 4 seconds off the win, but equally was happy. The big day was Sunday in the u23 race. I was very confident in the course, my ability, and my fitness. I was first in the second row on the starting grid and ready. From the gun I ran the race I knew I needed to, I attacked where I planned, descended like I was able to, and gave it my all everywhere. I was overwhelmingly happy with an 11th place finish. As soon as I crossed the line I gave a big hug and thanks to coach Joe. I could not thank him enough for helping me save my season and recover for 11th at Nationals. I could not be happier with how the season went and how we handled our challenges. I learned so much from so many people and so many experiences. I owe a lot of thank yous to all of the people who were involved in shaping the amazing season I had. Now lets rest up and recharge for the next one.