Monday, May 24, 2010

A new bike and a new direction

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!

P.S. I have just bought a 2010 Bergamont Platoon Team. He's on layby to prevent me riding him through Winter. Thanks to Bike Otago and Bergamont for making it happen.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I love racing!

One thing I’ve realised very quickly is I’m not much of a drinker. Bonging 6 beers as fast as possible and competing for the biggest vomit of the night never really appealed to me. I have resolved to express my Scarfie tendencies in more constructive ways. We’re a funny bunch, Scarfies. Agreeing to random, unplanned missions around the country – the day before we embark on them – it’s our way of life. I love it.

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...