"The more things change the more they stay the same". That adage with its blended elements of zen and pessimism is a pretty accurate summary of my attempts at racing standard cross country events this season.
I'm in good shape. A couple weeks ago I set a new PR on the Bolton hill climb, and at last week's Wednesday Worlds I had a 1 minute gap on my nemesis on lap 2, rode off the course, he passed me and I was able to claw back a 30 second advantage by the top of the climb. So the fitness markers are there.
My skills are improving. While I'm not setting the world on fire I am much smoother than I was a year ago.
My cool kid inhaler seems to be working. I can start hard without wheezing, and generally feel like oxygen intake isn't a problem beyond the usual at my limit and can't go any harder sort of thing.
I've even switched to half and half in my coffee instead of light cream.
With all of these indicators going the the right direction I've decided to try my hand at a few standard distance XC races this summer.
And at the risk of sounding melodramatic it's been all for naught when I toe the line for standard cross country races. It's like I somehow have reverted to the fatter, slower and less smooth version of myself from years past at those races.
For both XC events this year it's been hot- over 85 degrees with high humidity and an even higher pollen count, and I've also dug really deep midweek before both races so I may not have been in optimal racing condition.
It just confounds me. I'd like to be able to do some races that are a little shorter and cheaper than marathons, but really it's been an enormous sense of frustration to be able to race for 1 hour or 4 hours but not 2.
So I'll be sticking to marathons for the rest of the season, which was the plan all along.