Journals Riders

Charliiy Berry journal: the long-awaited return to racing

Rider journals 2021: Charliiy Berry #03/May

Charliiy Berry is one of ten riders keeping a journal for The British Continental in 2021. Charliiy rides for the new Pro-Noctis – Redchilli Bikes – Heidi Kjeldsen team and is a full-time physiotherapist. In her third journal entry, Charliiy reflects on her long-awaited return to racing…

Compared to some other journal writers, my return to racing has been slightly more understated. With national road races and team series events not beginning until later in the year, and racing abroad looking to be off the cards for a good while, my return has had a more homely feel. No Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for me.

I knew I needed to get back in a bunch – ‘get back on the horse’ – as quickly as possible 

I knew I needed to get back in a bunch – ‘get back on the horse’ – as quickly as possible. I also wanted to avoid too much pressure. This meant focusing on local races and a return to where it all began: the Odd Down circuit in Bath. It’s like home, although it does come with its own expectations. How would I match up to previous results, for example? Either way, I was buzzing to be back racing. And to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in over a year? Priceless.

I’d be lying if I said I was happy with my result (12th). It wasn’t all bad; my legs had been good. But my head had let me down. I had let small negative thoughts spiral. Overhearing the talk of a crash in the race before, people clipping pedals, everyone adjusting to being back in a bunch, I took the corners slower than I had wanted to. It’s amazing how quickly the brain can take these things and spin them into catastrophising situations. 

At the head of pack. Photo: Stuart Lessels

After a few different race debriefs with my coach Peter Georgi, DS Rick Lister, and sports psych Steve, I was feeling a lot more positive about the situation and was being less hard on myself. Onto the next one, as they say.

I had a couple of time trials and Zwift races in between crits. Although they weren’t going to provide the bunch skills I needed, it was good to know that my legs were still there. It gave me chances to run through race prep, how to stay in the zone, et back into the swing of packing a race bag and pre-race routines. All important stuff when racing. 

The next bunch race was at the Velopark in Torbay. I had raced there once before, probably back in ’18 and had won, although this didn’t seem to be adding to my confidence at this point.

I shouldn’t have worried though; it was great. I discovered I hadn’t actually lost all ability to corner at speed or ride in a group. I’m actually okay at this racing stuff. I felt confident, strong and in control. A huge difference to the race before. I had more trust in the riders around me again, a decrease in negative thoughts and those I did have I was able to respond positively to. You know what they say: happy head, happy legs.

Back in the bunch: Photo: Stuart Lessels

And you know what? I won! Yes, it was a small local race and nothing to write home about. But it was an important building block. 

So I’m just here rebuilding ‘my wall’, putting the foundations in so that later in the year I have the head and the legs I need. I put this huge pressure on myself. I worry about my results. I attribute importance to other people’s opinions. I do it in all areas of my life. And although I’m now aware of it, it’s not something I can just switch off. 

A few commented on my result at Odd Down, how they expected me to do better. ‘Has she lost it?’ Some observed how ‘big’ I looked this winter (a subject for another time). ‘Is she still racing?’ Others remarked on my absence from Strava. ‘Is she even riding?’ 

The feeling of relief I had that I hadn’t lost it – whatever it was – was immense

I had let all of this in and, as I like to put it with Steve, I had been watering the weeds (negatives) instead of the flowers (positives). So the feeling of relief I had that I hadn’t ‘lost’ it – whatever it was – was immense.

What can I learn from this? Don’t listen to the uneducated opinions of those outside of your support network. Don’t base your self-worth and value as a rider on results or a training session. Trust the process. Build your wall. Water the flowers and not the weeds.

Featured photo: Stuart Lessels

Find out more

Charliiy Berry journal #2: let’s talk about Jay

Charliiy Berry journal #1: how to get through injury

Rider journals 2021: introducing Charliiy Berry

Follow Charliiy on Twitter

Follow Charliiy on Instagram

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