Monday, April 12, 2010

You can't beat Wellington on a good day

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