Megan Jastrab: Expectations and Doubts

 

Recovery is not a linear process.  Since crashing in December, my fitness level has varied quite drastically. Some days, I feel like a million bucks, while other days, I question whether I will even be able to finish a race when I start racing again. I am trying my best to trust the process, but it is difficult when I feel like I am “failing” my efforts by not being able to reach the power numbers I know I should be able to hit. 

I titled this blog Expectations and Doubts as a reminder that expectations are what can lead to doubts. This is the first time I have had a significant injury that I had to take so much time to recover from. I knew it would be hard to get my fitness back to a high level with the injury and time off, but knowing it and experiencing it are two different things. Once cleared to ride again, I was still heavily limited in the intensity I could complete due to the torn glute muscle. 

As I am typing this, I am about a week and a half out from my first race back with Team DSM-Firmenich PostNL. I have waited so long for the moment to be back in the peloton. I enjoy watching bike racing and training, but my true passion is racing. I miss the feeling of being in the bunch, fighting for positions, and thinking about the next step for the race and where I need to be. 

 

 

While I am excited and motivated to get back to racing, I am nervous and have a lot of doubts about what the feeling will be like when I am in a race again. Even with all the physical therapy, extra exercises off the bike, and easing back into training that I have done, my body is in pain most days from other muscles compensating while training. Mentally, it is also hard to feel confident going into a race when I can’t hit power numbers that I feel confident in. I know I do not excel during training sessions, but many doubts have recently crept in after a few max-effort sessions. I know that my power doesn’t dictate how races go, but there are good feelings on the bike that I aim for, but I haven’t had those feelings in a while. 

There is no pressure from the team on race results for my return to racing, but I would like to be able to race at the front and not feel like I am just hanging on. I know it is my first race back, but I still want to see the effort I have put in the past several months show a bit in the race. 

I was planning to end my blog with the pre-race feelings, but I decided to add a section after I finished Vuelta Burgos. For my first race back, I must admit that it went way better than I thought it would! I was instantly comfortable in the bunch and could position where I wanted. On the first day, I was positioned well for the sprint and sitting in a top-five trajectory, but I had to avoid a crash and lost all of my momentum with 200m to go. Even with that, I was in the top ten and received the white jersey for being the best young rider. The next day was more climbing, and I worked for my teammates. The third day was a sprint again, and I was well positioned and at the front in the final, but I just lacked some of the needed top-end speed and finished 6th. The last day was the queen stage, and I was able to try to get in the breakaway/attack until something went, but nothing went away. 

 

Photo: Cor Vos

 

I wish I could have finished higher up on the two sprint days, but I am happy with how my return to racing went. From the number of doubts and nerves I had before starting, the confidence I gained from just being at the front of the race in the finals again brings so much motivation moving forward this year.

Thanks for reading,

Megan

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