Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Last weekend I raced at the Napier Mid-North Island Cup, with Gav, Jude and Shane. A great weekend away was had by us all, lots of laughs, great weather and a fun course to ride. Gav did very well placing 3rd in Open Men. Here's a pic he snapped at the end of his race:
For me, this race did not go well on the whole. I've identified what didn't go quite so well and have reflected on what I did do well and what I could have done better. I find it is beneficial to find the cause of why my performance didn't go quite as well as planned, so I can make sure to be better prepared in the future. It is also very good to listen to well-seasoned elite racers who notice the small details that someone who is learning the art of racing (like me!) would overlook. Racing, to me, is about bringing out the best in you - and your competitors. This best is always evolving, and I know that every race, your best has the potential to become even better.
My descents were fast and for the most part, mistake free during the race - this is a strength I like to focus on, as I am able to pick lines quite well and evaluate them as they change over the course of a race. One particular girl I played cat and mouse with for two laps was stronger than me on the climbs but a little more hesitant on the descents, so I knew on the final lap I could just hold her wheel on the hills, attack at the crest, and make time on the descent. This plan worked perfectly - and I overtook her on a tricky steep "A" line chute - she took the B line so I created about 10 seconds for myself where I descended and sprinted to the finish. In that respect, it can pay off sitting behind a competitor for a while so you can identify where you can exploit their potential weaknesses. It's not sinister - it's just racing.
I also managed to catch up with my young team-mate Frank Sutton, his Mum snapped some shots unbeknownst to us - which ended up on Facebook later in the weekend (like everything does!)
I'll leave you with my take on my top 5 of " 20 Things That MTB Teaches you about Life", sent to me from my good mate Tanya (cheers mate - see Emily has gone to Subaru-Gary Fisher??) , you can find the fullpost here:
19. Desperation breeds mistakes (Be patient, stick to your race plan, and trust your instincts)
18. The hardest parts are also the loneliest. (This is why mates don't come out on a 60min 110rpm Tempo session.)
10. It's tempting to focus on the immediate problem rather than the big picture. (A bad day of training is not a problem. Carrying it over to the next day is.)
6. The fun starts when you push the limits. (Training is an investment in how much fun you will have in the future.)
1. Love hurts. But don't let it stop you from falling in love. (MTB, training, racing, it can hurt in all sorts of different capacities. Get back up,learn from it and move on!)
And - a quote from my favourite MTB shoe brand - Louis Garneau
"Learn from yesterday, live for today, and never give up."
Monday, October 18, 2010
October means exams for Scarfies = plenty of study and no socialising = busy. In addition, both the KiwiFutsal (Primary Schools) and Secondary Schools Futsal leagues have begun, which entails logistical coordination on a mammoth scale - sometimes not always going to plan.
Fortunately, I have managed to fit training and racing in, which balances out all the stress with a bit of high speed madness and definite fun! A spot of Commonwealth Games coverage managed to find its way onto the flat's TV. I am very proud of the effort the Kiwi cyclists and athletes put in - Shanksy bringing back another gold and Nikki Hamblin bringing back two silvers in Athletics. These girls came from behind to clinch their medals, which just goes to show what can be achieved if you keep a level head and focus on doing your thing.
First and foremost, I have some news which I am pleased about. Bergamont have announced their 2011 Bergamont-Endura racing team, putting me on the team as an U23 XC rider. I am excited about representing Bergamont and Endura at events around the country, and look forward to learning from my very experienced and sucessful team-mates. More about the team and the brands can be found on the Bergamont-Endura page.
Yesterday proved to be a typical spring day - totally unpredictable! Myself and Tanya Louw embarked on our journey out to Waipori Falls at 8am - a quality hour for a Sunday! Sometimes I forget how fortunate we are to be New Zealanders. On a great day, NZ scenery can not be beaten, which made the 60km drive to Lake Mahinerangi incredibly enjoyable, albeit difficult to navigate. We arrived at the site of Mahinernagi Madness MTB slightly late, just like everyone else, and went quickly to work setting up our bikes and registering. Navigation proved to be a major issue for most competitors, resulting in the start time shifting 45minutes late. Things change quickly in racing, so I went from being short of time to being in excess. Nothing wrong with extra time to check your bikes and warm-up again though! Unfortunately with the later start, I had to race the short course due to other committments in Dunedin in the afternoon, so this halved the distance. Next year I will be taking on the full course without a doubt.
This impromptu change ultimately proved to be a blessing, as within an hour the temperature dropped 5 degrees and a gusty front arrived from the south. I made my way to the front of the start and on the gun sprinted down the hill. We were greeted with a long steep climb which quickly put my heart into it's maximum pain zone. I was in the lead bunch after the first few climbs but was really feeling the burn. After the course tapered out a little, I got into the groove and really put it into the dog, averaging 35kph for the undulating final 10km. Coming into the final kilometer, I was cheered on by a group of walkers. This kicked me into a crazy gear -there is nothing like being extremely focussed and knowing that your performance has been consistently beyond max throughout the race. I arrived at the finish line in 59.3 minutes, with the next racer arriving a shade over 10 minutes later. The course was mainly loose gravel roads and 4wd track, but was still fun.
Looking back on the race, I feel great about my performance. I got the mixture of pre-race nutrition right for once, and did not feel tired during the race - after a week of hard training and no taper. All I could feel was pain and burning - a timely reminder that I am alive. After the race and for the remainder of the day I was feeling very strange, easily irritated and detached from reality. I'm not sure quite what this is - perhaps a post-race fuelling issue, perhaps a sign that I pushed way beyond, or maybe just nervousness about exams. Either way - it's all part of the journey and every race presents me with a new challenge - sometimes it really, really hurts!
I will leave you with this. It is a reminder to focus on your own race and trust your instincts. Just like Shanksy and Hamblin!
Monday, October 4, 2010
A good roadie friend of mine, Ruby Grant aka Mark Cavendish's future wife, joined me on the epic 6am mission to Invers, which made things fun. We were pretty hyper about the race (and seriously sleep deprived). Suffice to say she's now converted to dark side and hooked on racing. Stoked Rubes, well done on your 2nd place, and welcome to the dark side!
For me, Sunday's race was all about just getting back into the swing of things, and focusing on specifc skills, trying to get them honed for the big races later in the season. My specific aim for the race was to get ahead from the outset by making a strong sprint off the start, then maintain a consistent pace and dial each technical section. The sprint was awesome and going into the singletrack I was ahead of all of the girls and a few guys.
The remainder of the race was all about putting time between me and the girls behind, and I acheived this by being consistent and trying to ignore how non-responsive my legs were for the most part. For some reason I felt tired the whole race (probably fuelling issues), but managed to hold off and win by 4 minutes. Quite appropriate this was my first race on the Bergamont - still unbelievably responsive, reliable and quick!
Progress for me is about feeling stronger, racing faster and resisting fatigue for as long as possible. I have just compared Round 1's time to Rounds 6's time. I was trailing the series winner by 7 minutes in the first round, but lead her by 4 minutes in the final round. I am quietly please about this, as it shows I am becoming stronger and faster - a direct result of structured training.
With a new season comes a bunch of new opportunities, so I'd like to thank my sponsor, Bike Otago for their awesome support so far. You guys are so much fun to hang out with, and know your bikes backwards - I look forward to representing the team at this season's races and joining the staff for Summer - guaranteed to be a good laugh!
All the best to Charlotte Ireland, Jude Young, Erin Greene, Coaches and Support Crews for this weekend's 24 Hour World Solo Championships on Mt Stromlo, Canberra. Put it in the dog for the Kiwis!
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Over the course of August, I managed to 'acquire' some new machinery, in the form of a road bike and a race bike. Sitting in the hallway is a 2009 Diora Modena II roadie bike, courtesy of Kay @ Bike Otago. This is my training weapon of which I spend 75% of my riding time on, and while I enjoy my time on it, this does not mean I am a roadie - despite my reputation of being "my hypothetical roadie self" ;). The more exciting bike is the 2010 Bergamont Platoon Team. Suffice to say weighing in at 9.3kg's and SRAM/Magura specced, the Bergamonster makes climbing a breeze and descending a shitload of fun! Thanks Bike Otago and Bergamont for making it happen.
With new bikes, came a new training program, of which I have just completed the 6th week. Unsofar I have had many learning curves (and one big roadie crash) and have come to realise the importance of recovering well, listening to your body, and fuelling it with what it needs. Already I am feeling stronger on the climbs, faster on the descents, feel I have improved endurance and an all-round stronger body and more determined and committed attitude. Lisa Morgan has taken me on for my first proper race season, and does all the hard yards analysing my progress, deciding training and putting up with my stream of questions and piss-takes. Occasionally, when enough is enough, I am treated to a delightful lecture when I've been more troublesome than usual ;) Thanks a tonne Coach - I'm absolutely loving the program, and I think you know how much I appreciate your guidance and support.
Out there on the bike, 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, I spend a lot of time thinking. I think about how University is just like being on the dole, except your parents are proud of you, how funny Emily Batty is to have wirless hair straighteners at her races, and most importantly - how the hell Paul Henry gets away with all the shit he does (an inspiration - truely!). I also interrogate myself as to why I want to race, and understand what motivates me to voluntarily visit the hurt box everyday. I can put it down to two things: I enjoy riding – every aspect of it. The pain, the challenge, the fun, the good people and the coffee. I also enjoy training. Why do I train? I train to race. But, why do I race? To get the best out of myself. Why do I want to get the best out of myself? To see what I am capable of. One day in the future, I would like to compare my best self to world class athletes. But in order to be your best self, you've got to understand how get there. Strange as it seems - I reckon it's very similar to baking a cake, and here’s why:
• With a cake, you have to have the right combination, quality and proportion of ingredients. You also have to be committed to making it happen. If you skimp on the input, the output won’t be as good. Just like training, you get out what you put in.
•There is a very key ingredient to make a cake rise, which is often forgotten: baking powder. If you don’t have it, you get a flat cake. I liken this ingredient to determination and resilience on the bike. Important, and often lost sight of when the going gets tough.
• If you don’t get the right ratio of ingredients, the cake’s gonna taste funny, be lumpy, or blow up altogether. Sometimes you are lucky and when you shake things up a little, it works out ok. But for the most part, follow the recipe – it is tried and trusted for a reason. Follow your program, trust it and don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal.
• Just like the cops say, “don’t drink and fry - you just might die”. If you don’t keep an eye on the baking process, more than likely, it will burn and be uneatable. If you eat burned cake, you might die too ;). Just like baking, when you train you have to look after and listen to your body and mind – after all, it is what you are investing all your time into.
If you just so happen to get the combination just right – you get a world-beating cake. The same goes for becoming your best self – you only get out what you put in.
Monday, June 28, 2010
I’m a little bit worried about what I’m going to do when I get really old. I see old people around everywhere struggling to just be mobile. Do they ever get frustrated? Do they ever reminisce about the good old days when they could run a half marathon in under ninety minutes? Why is a nineteen year old talking about problems sixty years in the future, you ask? Well, I’m actually thinking about the opposite to restricted mobility – going fast. I’m noticing more and more that I’ve got to be going fast, otherwise I can get impatient and frustrated. This can be potentially problematic, so I try to redirect this attitude from rushing through study and channel it back into the bike. I guess my point is we’ve got to make the most of the time we have. I don’t want to be moping around on a mobility scooter in sixty years wishing I had made better use of my body when it could actually be made to go fast.
So, in my typical last-minute fashion, Fi from Bike Otago and I decided to enter the Southland MTB Club’s Mad Winter Enduro (on night that entries were due – as usual!). There’s something so exciting about racing - the promise of going fast in the weekend made it incredibly difficult to concentrate on studying for exams! Somehow I managed to live through them, and all of a sudden we were heading to Invercargill in Scotty’s newly established mountain biking van. Check out how comfortable the bikes are in the back!
After a quick warm-up it was time to line up for the Le-Mans start. Any of you who have done one of these know how hectic it can be, but I managed to be in the middle of the pack heading out of transition. The first two laps were rough – my derailleur threw a tantrum, refused to shift single gears and slipped when under climbing pressure, and to add to it all I was also hungry and had too many clothes on for the weather! But, you really have no option but to grin and bear it, so I decided to hunt down a girl through the single track to distract me. I even threw some drama into the mix by sprinting past her on the inside line through a hairpin in the transition zone! Fi blasted off to complete her laps, while Celia and Scotty fed me up with bananas, a chocolate bar, Powerade and Peak Fuel - great for someone who was seriously lacking sugar!
After Fi came in I was feeling much better and only had summer gear on. We were hoping to get in another lap, so I latched onto the back of an R&R rider and chased her around the single track. Little did I know it was Erin Greene, which explained why I was blowing myself to bits trying to keep up! Nevertheless it was great to see her race lines and style and even better to have two former Otago Girls’ girls out on the track. After a reasonably quick lap, Scotty hooked me up with some Peak Fuel and told me to use it for the next lap. I was stoked to be able to do another, so gave it everything I had and have never felt so shattered! I sprinted through the transition zone to the finish. Little did I know, I had already passed it, and a spectator had to tell me I had finished – I never realised because I was so focussed on what was ahead! I think it’s safe to say everyone had a great time, thanks so much Southland MTB Club for another great event, to Scotty Cain for being support crew and congratulations to everyone else for surviving!
Because I’m relatively new to racing, I always feel I come away from a race having learnt a whole heap about how my mind and body handles racing. Coming away from that race, I reflected on what got me to the finish line when I felt my body couldn’t. There seem to always be the same two quotes that stick with me during a race, especially when I feel I can’t give anymore. Lance tells me that “We are so much better than we know” and Lisa tells me to “Give everything in the moment”.
“Give everything in the moment, we are so much better than we know” resonates well with me. It gives me the belief that everyone has the capability to do things they would not even imagine are possible. This is what goes on in my mind when I am trying to beat a fellow competitor, when I’m so tired I want to get off the bike and collapse, or when I want to just walk away. It’s like another energy I draw from to get me to the finish line. Of course I can bloody well go fast to the finish, so I trick myself into thinking my life depends on it. I always tell myself that I want to cross the finish line in the future at a World Cup race, and tell my friends, parents and coach I gave it my all, had nothing left - despite the outcome, fantastic or terrible. I am going to give this racing thing my very best. There is no room for excuses, reservations or doubts anymore. Ultimately, out there on the track, I am my own greatest rival. But, if I play my cards right, I can be my own best friend.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Do you consider yourself to be much of a philosopher? I certainly don't! But I appreciate life lessons, motivational quotes and can sometimes rock out with some kind of coherent statement that explains reoccurring observations I have. Lately I have realised that sometimes the greatest display of a person's strength is in admitting their weaknesses. I have seen and heard some truly inspirational stories from various people, some of whom you would not expect, people who have risen from bad spaces to the top, or even just overcome roadblocks, and become stronger, faster or better for it. I admire them for their courage and determination in the face of adversity.
My recent encounter with failure lately has been bloody good for me. I received a 48% in an Economics test six weeks ago and it has been screwing with my mind ever since, I have questioned my entire Degree over it. We recently had another test in which I got a 67%, and while not being the 80%+ I aim for, it is a step in the right direction. It may seem arrogant, but I was bought up to always achieve highly and in my mind, anything less than a B+ is a failure. I have always maintained good grades throughout my education. While this attitude has generally been beneficial in my life until now, upon reflection, I certainly don't know what I was thinking - measuring my success with arbitrary grades? Who's to say you're not good enough? Who's to say you're the best? Who's to say you need to put more effort in? Only you, and only you can achieve your goals. So while I continue to aim high, failure has put my ambitions into a realistic perspective.
This is the attitude I intend to carry in to next season's racing. I have spent a bit of time lately writing up a document outlining the next season, medium and long term goals, potential races, as well as doing a SWOT analysis. I have inadvertently realised through my epic road bike rides that I thrive on speed, power and a challenge. It's great to get everything down on paper, and I am pleased to observe that a lot of strength I will draw on in the new season lies in the support of the various parts of the MTB community. If you have any suggestions or experiences you'd like to share with me they would be greatly appreciated!
I’m sure you will agree that the international cycling season is a very exciting time for all of us (despite the
ridiculous school girl bitchings, professional cycling doping scandals) ! A special mention must go to Nic Leary and Rosara Joseph who have been performing well in the recent World Cup XCO rounds, as well as our DH boys Wyn Masters, Justin Leov and Cam Cole. Great work NZ, keep it up! Lisa has also recently departed to Canada for her international season and is doing a lot of cool tripping and racing around the place – go hard Cheif!
Monday, May 3, 2010
So, agreeing to compete in the first round of the Invercargill Winter Series the night before and leaving Dunedin at 7am is just second nature. Bloody hell though, I forgot how really freezing cold even Autumn can be in our southern parts, and it proved to be very troublesome during warm-up. It took a long time to get my legs to even respond , and I had to design an improvised warmup strategy – not knowing at all the physiological effect, simply responding to body signals. Of course, this created doubt about my ability to race strongly, but luckily with some stern talking to myself, I managed to reign this stray pony in before the start line.
I always dread mass-group starts. Boys, girls, young and old, all vying for the front row. The consequence yesterday, I was the last girl going into single-track. Instead of lapsing into stress mode, I just reassured myself to focus on getting into a rhythm and sussing out the track first lap. I managed to pass three chicks first lap and was feeling really good about my response to a totally new track. I like to continually set micro-challenges when I race, so targeted a chick up ahead. I closed the gap surprisingly quickly, latched onto her tail for a good 5 min through singletrack, trying to stress her into making a mistake and getting tired. Whether or not this worked, when the first opportunity arose I hatched my attack – I passed her and put in a strong sprint along the fire road to create a gap.
The second lap I was focussing on putting in a consistent, strong and flowing lap and also close the gap with the next girl ahead. Unfortunately, with my race face getting in front of my logic, I missed a turn off back into singletrack and lost 2 minutes trying to retrace my steps. Instead of being frustrated, I used a Steve Gurney strategy to refocus – “energy goes where attention flows”. Cheers Steve – you’re working wonders even in your retirement!
Coming into the 3rd lap I made a resolution to build on the intense focus and strong performance I was giving. Despite feeling strong, I was starting to feel tired, but focussed on using specific skills- pumping, intense efforts and flow to aid momentum and speed. This proved to be an absolute winner and I put in my fastest lap yet.
I came into the finishing straight to see Ben with his camera out, egging me on. I put in one final sprint and managed a 1.21:55 for 3rd Expert Open Woman (don’t be fooled – Expert is just an extra lap!). The result was a nice surprise, I never focus on results, just performance. But it’s always welcome!
I guess my state at the end of the race reflected the strong effort I felt I put in. I was well and truely blown at the end, wobbly on my feet, my hand cramped, had a hoarse voice, my joints were screaming and RH elbow was locked and painful. Despite the pain I loved it – and was proud of my effort.
Although there a few issues to work on in regards to starting and keeping it together when things aren't going well, I have taken stock and am quietly pleased with how my riding has progressed over the past 6 months. I have never actually committed to a specific training program, but reflecting on the sheer quantity and occasional structured intensity of riding, I guess I’m doing ok!
I’m definitely excited about what the next race season will bring. It’s going to be a huge learning curve, but I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve with specific training and direction. With the new Carbon Bergamont arriving early August and the direction and support of a truly inspirational Coach in the new season, I’m hell bent on giving it my best - and seeing where this new stretch of road takes me...
Monday, April 12, 2010
Uh-oh.I developed two illnesses over Mid-semester break.
a) A love affair with Wellington. It always has been my second home.
b) A racing addiction. When's the next hit?
The weekend quote on the NZ Stockmarket Stocks board on Jervois Quay summed the weather up perfectly: “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day”. And a bloody cracker it was! The capital put on a superb show for the Revolve Women’s XC Race on Mt Vic. Ash and Marjolein, the instigators, were elated with a field of 51 for their first Revolve Race in a series of three.
The mental space I was in at my last race started to bother me on Friday afternoon. So I went for a mission out to Upper Hutt to consult with the Chief. A glass of red (not from the tap – or a Hardy’s bottle!) was the interim solution. Then it was down to business. We sorted out my goals for the race and strategies to stop me from lapsing into sift mode. My major goal was not results focussed as usual, but rather, process focussed, with the primary aim to smash myself the entire race and push beyond my usual 95% threshold and step up into 110%. EG: Actually race.
The girls out on the track were an incredibly enthusiastic and supportive bunch! Everyone was simply keen as bean to get out on the bike and have a good time. It made for a far more relaxed start line than I’m used to. From the outset, I knew things were different this race. I was 100% focussed and correctly warmed up. I had a great start and was in the front five heading into the single track.
Jo had specifically warned me about the section on the south end of Mt Vic. Essentially, it is a gradual fast descent into a very very step ascent. As advised, I gave myself and the rider in front enough room to get up with momentum, but a girl stopped in the middle and the result was a hilarious pile up! About 6 riders passed us in that short time, but within seconds I was back on the bike and hauling ass up the hill. I was getting into a great rhythm and determined to make up those 6 places. By the top of Mt Vic I had made up three and was starting to really feel the pain – but, for once - loving it.
The first real drama happened when I failed to bunny hop a kerb. The result was a pinch flat and I knew it as soon as I went into the descent. Masked by adrenalin, rationality and focus failed me at this point and so I sat on the side of the track and had a sulk, and decided that was the end of my race! One thing I have learnt (but don’t rely on) from life in general, is people can step in and think for you when you can’t quite think for yourself. When this happens – it is magic. Al from Bushlove Racing spotted me and proclaimed “on ya bike!!” and changed my tube for me. What a fantastic dude – he epitomises the Bushlove attitude: just do it!
Elated to be back in the race, despite losing any possibility of placing, I made a deal to smash every second of this lap even when I could push no more. This attitude proved to be a fantastic motivator, as I was out on my own for half of it. It prevented me from sifting and I managed to pass two more girls. On the final climb up to the road, I was shattered. But, there was one final girl that I was hell bent on passing. So I pushed beyond my pain barrier to catch up with her. It paid off and at the top of the rise I was right on her tail. There were two lines through the gate so I threw one last effort into the cranks, took the inside line across the road and called the pass leading into the descent. Sport is like this - for an eternity of pain, there is that single moment in a race where you experience brilliance. This was it. For the first time ever, I really felt like I was racing.
It seems that my own passion for the atmosphere and a sifty-go-lucky attitude was replaced by an incredible focus. I encouraged the girls out on the track but did not deviate from my own rhythm. It was funny being on the receiving end of encouragement, after a spell of supporting friends, feeding, marshalling and preparing Oceania’s. When one of the girls yelled “Go Otago!” at me down the final descent– that was it. There were no pins that I hadn’t already pulled out, but the word Otago got me into 120% mode and I rocketed around the Velodrome to the finish, arriving in some sort of delusional state where I felt a bit drunk to be honest! Not that I’m complaining!
What a fantastic race. Despite the flattie and the collision, I had absolutely no regrets. My body was telling me that it had the best fun ever pushing itself beyond the limit. The transition from sifty child into focussed competitor has proved to be the most valuable achievement in terms of riding this year. It has proven to me how essential it is to get your mind in the right space, by setting goals, developing strategies and an intense focus. A massive thanks goes to the Vorb chickies for encouraging me to get amongst the race, Al for his quick tube fix and Jo for your wicked pre-race tour. I’ve got to specially mention Lisa, for foregoing live Idol (what!!?) on Friday night to talk me through everything - showing me how to tap into that focussed mindset that she has mastered. Without your advice and support I’d still be trying to find my race face.ardyHHardf