Race Report: 2018 World Unicycling Championships

Mental review and reflection is, in my opinion, the best way to learn and grow as a person. It’s how we can identify our weaknesses and work on them until they become strengths. In light of this, I made a review of my competition goals and performance at Unicon19—the World Unicycling Convention and Championships held in Ansan, South Korea. In the interests of open communication and transparency (and in case it might be interesting to you), I’m publishing that review here. Enjoy!

Before I can get into the nitty-gritty details of my goals and review them, I need to provide some background information to orient you on my mindset for Unicon19:

  • First, this was my third Unicon, but it was the first one where I was on the core organization team (Volunteer Director). While I find organization activities incredibly fun and motivating, it meant that we often worked 14+ hours per day and there was little time for me to get to the mountain and train before the races.
  • Second, this was also the first Unicon where I made racing a priority. So this was the first Unicon where I set goals for myself for the mountain unicycling (muni) competitions.
  • Third and last, the goals I set didn’t focus on my rankings as a rider but rather on my performance in terms of preparation and focus. This is because, as I wrote in an earlier blog post, my primary interest is not to be the best in the world but rather to keep a positive mindset and to motivate others. So I chose to not evaluate myself with respect to others but instead in terms of how well I know I could have done.

Now, for the non-unicyclist readers, let’s quickly talk about the races. There were four muni competitions: downhill, cross-country, uphill (same day as cross-country), and cyclocross. The “flavors” of each of the four races differ. Downhill has prelims (usually not super technical) and then finals (often crazy technical); cross-country is generally less technical but much longer; uphill is shorter and you cannot walk any portion; and cyclocross has multiple laps and is usually held in a city park with obstacles you have to jump over/crawl under/etc. Before Unicon started, I didn’t expect to be closely involved with the organization of any of the muni events, but I ended up helping out with downhill and uphill due to some unforeseen circumstances. But I got off scot-free for cross-country and cyclocross. 😉

My goals for each of the four races were as follows:

  1. Go to the practice day (if there was one)
  2. Sleep early the night before
  3. Prepare properly before the race
  4. Push myself but stay within my body’s limits

So. Finally. Let’s talk about how well I did in achieving these goals.

Downhill

  1. Practice day: Did it. And thank goodness I went. This was the first day I got to actually ride my muni (despite getting to Unicon five days before registration opened), and for the longest time during the practice day, I couldn’t seem to ride at all. Finally the amazing Roger Davies from UDC-UK gave me a few tips, and after following his advice to lower my tire pressure I was able to ride like I expected to ride. If you’re reading this Coach Rog, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! <3
  2. Sleep: Partial success. Due to unexpected circumstances, I ended up having to prepare all the event materials the night before in the organization trailers. This delayed my bedtime pretty significantly, so I think I only slept for 5 hours. Not ideal. Sorry to the people I snapped at on downhill morning. 🙁
  3. Pre-race preparation: Success. I remembered to buy snacks and electrolyte fluid the day before, warmed up before the race, and stopped talking to people a few minutes before I needed to race. I did forget my headphones, though, which meant I couldn’t listen to angry music before I was supposed to race. Next time!
  4. Push myself: Not applicable for downhill. The prelim course was short enough that I was done before my body began to suffer.

Ranking: 10/16 in my age group (faster than 40%), 19/25 in overall female (25%), and faster than 14/66 dudes (21%), though none of them were in my age group.

Overall impressions: Pretty happy. Wish I was a better rider so I wouldn’t have fallen off in a few places that I did, but that’s always the case for me. The only way for me to get better is to train more.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Cross-Country

  1. Practice day: Failed. The practice day for cross-country was a) the day after downhill and b) three days before the actual race. So I decided to give my body some much-needed sleep and rest and to work on organization stuff instead. I’m torn 50/50 whether this was a good decision. I definitely needed the rest, but it would have been much better to have known the course before the race.
  2. Sleep: Partial success. I helped out with Trials Finals the night before, so I didn’t go to bed as early as I would have liked. But I think I slept over 6 hours, so it was better than downhill.
  3. Pre-race preparation: Not so good here. I brought a Gatorade but no food, but since I was volunteering afterwards I got fed. I should have warmed up more, and if I had thought more clearly about the course (or had gone to practice day), then I would have known to switch my pedals from the long holes to the short ones on my cranks. I definitely wish I had done better pre-race preparation.
  4. Push myself: Partial success. My goal in cross-country was to complete all three laps, since I was hoping there would be riders who would give up after one or two. (There were.) But I would have liked to push myself to ride harder, but I’m not sure how I could have done it. The course played to my weaknesses as a rider: about 1/3 of it was hiking uphill (for me) and the remaining 2/3 was downhill on a paved or gravel road, which required spinning my legs very, very quickly. Have I mentioned how terrible I am at spinning my legs very, very quickly? Maybe that’s a good takeaway – I need to work on cadence training before 2020.

Ranking: Dead last in standard female (12/12, 0%) by quite a good margin, but I beat 7 standard guys (6 did 2 laps, 1 did 1). If we include the unlimited category, then I rank higher than 1 female (2 laps) and 4 males (2 did 3 laps and 2 did 1 lap).

Overall impressions: There is room for improvement here. Seeing the course is very important and I need to somehow make that a priority over organizing next time. Also, I need to work on cadence training so I can spin out better on non-technical stuff. Lastly, I should ride more with my short cranks.

Uphill

This one is easy to evaluate – I didn’t compete! There were three main reasons I didn’t race: 1) I’m not very strong at uphill to begin with, 2) the schedule switched so uphill was after cross-country, making it even more difficult than usual, and 3) I agreed to help run uphill so my friend could get some much-needed hiking-alone time in. In hindsight, I’m 100% okay with making this choice. The race ended up being pretty short-staffed, plus I got to wield a walkie-talkie and say things like “The course is ready for competitors, over.” Good times. 😀

Cyclocross

  1. Practice day: Not applicable – there is no practice day for cyclocross. 🙂
  2. Sleep: Achieved. Though it would’ve been hard not to get enough sleep before cyclocross – unlike the other three muni races, which all required 05:30 shuttles from the hotel to catch the muni bus, cyclocross started at 14:00.
  3. Pre-race preparation: Substantial room for improvement. I did not buy any electrolytes beforehand, so I ended up mooching two tables from my friend after the race so I wouldn’t die. I did ride the course one time before the race, so that was good. But I really should have found a better way to deal with the intense heat of a Korean summer afternoon. Perhaps preparing ice water before the race and dumping it on myself right before the start and even during the race would have worked. Alternatively, doing sprint training sessions during the afternoon in the days leading to the competition might also have helped. But my energy levels were really low by week 2 of Unicon, so I don’t know how this would have worked.
  4. Push myself: Failed here. Or rather, maybe I succeeded too much? Something happened during the third lap, I’m not sure exactly what (maybe I overheated?), and I transformed from my normal cheerful self to an overly dramatic angry person. I exploded at the end of the race when someone stopped me from riding on to a completely unnecessary fourth lap, and I threw my unicycle to the grass and said a few choice expletives. I really don’t know what I was thinking. After a minute of these ridiculous dramatics I started to calm down and I apologized to the people around me and tried to smile again. A bit embarrassing, to be honest. Hopefully it never happens again. (>.<)

Ranking: 28/45 (39%) overall female, 13/19 (33%) in my age group, would have ranked 61/72 (15%) in standard male. I’m too lazy to calculate unlimited stats, so we’ll just stick with standard here.

Overall impressions: Pretty unhappy with how this race went. But I don’t know how I could have fixed it. If I tried harder, I might have collapsed or something due to the heat. But I didn’t want to slack off too much. Maybe I could have exerted more effort to stay cool during the race. Food for thought!

Final notes

Well, I guess there’s not really much left to say! It was nice to think about this and write it down, because now I know a few things that I need to focus on for my next competitions. See you in 2020, world. 🙂

3 Replies to “Race Report: 2018 World Unicycling Championships”

  1. Great blog Jenni! Sounds like you were being stretched/pulled in many different directions. Your outcome however seemed to be achieved, having a good time and learning from your experience.

    The Crazy Viking Dude

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