Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The (insert race duration here) hour...

My first experience with a multi-lap duration race was the 6 hour at the, now defunct, Kooralbyn track in 2006. At the end of which I have hazy recollections of writhing around on the ground as every muscle in my body simultaneously cramped. Needless to say I have avoided these types of races ever since. Until now...

The Dell XC 6-hour piqued my interest as it was a new course (just outside Warwick) and a new race promoter which is worthy of supporting in itself. It was a while ago now so it’s difficult to go into detail but it was one of the best organised races I have attended and a super-fun course. The best bit of multi lap enduros is that you don’t just go into the bush, ride by yourself for 6 hours and cross the finish line. There are always people passing you and being passed so you’re never lonely! I felt really strong for this one which was fortunate given the amount of climbing – it was deceptive though as you were too busy enjoying the single track to notice much until around the 5th hour. Winning was great but it predictably was accompanied by the previously mentioned spasming which is very unbecoming!

After deciding that the 6 hour was about 2 hours too long I rocked up for the 4 hour at Karingal, near Sirromet winery. Quite a hot and humid day took its toll and with the course being situated in a valley there was hardly a hint of a breeze. I was a bit tired going into this one and decided that a 4-hour was about an hour too long! After one of the laps I had a bit of a snooze in the feed zone and contemplated remaining there until the end. Dragging myself up I managed to punch out a couple more laps to take the win. Another fun track if only someone would turn down the thermostat!

I’m not sure my plan to race myself fit is working but it was terrific to race locally again, something I have not done much of in the past year. It’s nice to be social occasionally without the pressure of a national/world title hanging over your head. These races are also much easier logistically as you don’t need to pull in favours from friends/family/strangers parents to feed you – just drop your esky in the feed zone and pick up what you need as you roll through. Sweet!

Friday, October 2, 2009

World Championships - Canberra

So given the year I have had, exactly how did I end up in the team for Worlds? A big thanks to coach Neil Ross for taking my World Cup 2008 ride at Stromlo into consideration. I had a week to recover from the epic, fly to Canberra, do a time trial at a reasonable pace and maybe stay for the big event.

I had no idea what my form would be like as I had barely started training again but it was worth a chance. Arriving in Canberra on Friday it was as cold as I remembered it. Quite a shock after the 35 degree Brissy days. Ah, the AIS food hall – what a welcome sight, like an old friend. Most of the team had already been there for 2 weeks in the altitude house. I’m interested in the training benefits of altitude but it didn’t sound that fun with all the gasping for air and sharing of a bathroom. Kind of glad I was in the ‘control’ group on that one.

Saturday was our turn to play guinea pigs as we were poked, prodded and needled by the physiology department who are always gathering more data on athletes to improve our knowledge of training effects. We did a VO2 test or RAMP test where you start on an ergo at an easy resistance, which is increased every 3 mins until you can’t maintain 90 cadence and the test is over. You also have a mask over your face and a tube in your mouth to record your O2 uptake, and a nose peg to make sure you only breathe through your mouth. Every 3 mins some one pricks your finger (or ear) and takes a blood sample that is analysed for lactate levels. Sounds great doesn’t it?? In the evenings there were information sessions about training, altitude, diet and other interesting tips.

Sunday was the time trial day – the day I would either fly home or go into camp with the team. I’d been given the cut off times and as long as I climbed within them I was good to go. After 3 laps I had my answer – I was in! That afternoon we moved all our gear to apartments in Kingston which would be the team base for all the Aussie riders (including downhill, 4x and trials). I roomed with Kath O’shea and Row Fry who had been competing in the international world cups this year. We were close to an IGA and a coffee shop which was all we really needed for the rest of the week.

Each night we had a team meeting and were given results of the previous day and a training session for the following day. The issuing of the Australian uniforms was pretty special – that’s when it became real and you actually felt part of a team. It was great sharing in the performances of other team mates as the races were spread out over the week. It was a bit more difficult staying focussed when others were finished their races and hitting the town though! The team had a big boost on Friday night when Australia grabbed both the mens and womens 4-cross world titles – so proud of Jared and Caroline!

My race was on Saturday 5th September. I rode as well as I could, considering my short preparation, and finished 40th, about middle of the Aussies. The course was great and they had made a few changes since the National titles there. It was shorter so we ended up doing 5 laps and there were more fun sections with jumps and berms – brilliant. I only had one crash but unfortunately it was in the section where all the television cameras were and was replayed on huge screens all over the course – me dropping over a rock, straight over the bars and into some soft bushes, all in high definition!

My flatmate, sponsor and awesome friend, Jo, flew down to watch me race and we were out for a big night that night. After some superb Indian food most of the XC team kicked on at the local bar and danced the night away with varied success until my legs finally screamed for me to stop. Post-race dancing is always a challenge!

So that’s how it all happened – a kind of last-minute, half-arsed, against-the-odds race with the world’s best, representing my country. Had a ball and gearing up for next year. A big thanks to Jo of eDiscovery Tools, Rob from Sram, Timmy and the boys from For The Riders bike shop, the physios at QSMC and Felt bikes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Flight Centre Epic

I am so rubbish with keeping up a blog (and a training diary as my coach knows...). Anyway, after being awfully sick for 2 months I managed to get a month or so of just base k's without my body deserting me again. A couple of 5 hour road rides under the belt should be enough for a 100km mtb race right?

The Flight Centre Epic is one of the 'big races' on the calender, with over a thousand participants from elite to weekend warrior. The companion 'half' was my first ever mtb race so it's a bit of a sentimental event for me. I raced the 100k in 2007 and came away with the win from Naomi Hansen and so it was we lined up again for the 2009 version.

Although it was still officially winter we had an unofficial 'instant summer' in Queensland with temps around 34 degrees for the day. It was a bit of a shock to the system for eveyone so despite a dry track it was a long day out. I really enjoyed to course this year, especially through Ma Ma creek singletrack where they had warned us it was a bit rockier than usual due to the rains washing away a lot of the top soil. Down one descent I had Tim McCullough (proprietor of For The Riders) behind me, boulder hopping saying "they weren't kidding!".

After halfway we started to hit the tail enders of the 'half epic' as they started 2 hours later. By this stage the heat and stomach full of gels was starting to take its toll and I was feeling quite nauseous with a pounding head ache. Between checkpoint 2 and 3 I started a conversation with myself about why I do this and whether I should pull out or not. Keep in mind I was leading at this stage and thinking about stopping - not in a good way!

Well I hate a DNF and I had already pre-spent the $1000 winners prize on a new set of race wheels so I was obliged to soldier on. The last quarter of the race was just keeping the legs spinning over and struggling to get corn syrup and water into my protesting stomach. The rocky course was taking it's toll on my hands and I kept checking to see if my forks were locked out...nope, think my arms needed a service instead!

I don't think I've ever been so happy to cross a finish line and from all reports this was a common sentiment. One rider was carried away on a stretcher with heat distress while I hovered around the rose garden, positive everything I had ingested over the previous 5 hours was going to reappear. A big thanks to Kelly and Alicia who got me some Gastrolyte and then into the showers which seemed like instant recovery!

My favourite part of the epic is sitting on the lawn at Peppers Hidden Vale watching the sun go down and reliving the day with other riders - the pain and the ecstasy. Lining up to do it all again next year :)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Parvo virus - google it!

Straight back from Alice Springs, rushing a uni assignment, off to Canberra 5 days later for a 4 day training camp with the National Downhill coach, Scott Sharples. Turning up in my ‘Brisbane winter’ riding attire really didn’t cut for down south. We stayed at the AIS which was great. The highlight being that for four whole days I didn’t have to cook or clean up! I love the food hall!!!

Most of the sessions were on the world champs course at Stromlo. I wanted to come back from the weekend having ridden something that I couldn’t ride before. I thought it would be the Hammerhead rock drop…until one of the other girls smashed her face on the second day and I wasn’t so keen anymore. I did do my first gap jump though so I was pretty chuffed.

On day four I was less chuffed when I was so sick with a flu that I had to pull the pin on the last session. Back to Brissy and I struggled through the week until Saturday when I couldn’t move my shoulders. The rest of my joints followed and I had to get someone to cut up my pumpkin by Sunday night! Blood test result – Parvo. Nasty virus causing temporary arthritis. Treatment – one week, no riding, no working. Lucky (or not) I had uni exams so I gained a lot of study time. My wrists came good in time to be able to hold a pen for the exams so all turned out ok…in a fashion.

Anaconda Enduro

This is a very post-post-race report so not too many details (that I can remember – damn you Black Sambucca!).

If you get the opportunity to take part in this event take it! It was so well organised with lots of fun stages. Most of the days were around 2 hours so basically an XC every day. Terrain varied with a surprising amount of single track and a depressing amount of sand. You can either ride it or you can’t – I sink! After being in the yellow jersey for the first 2 days I ended up with 2nd overall after 5 days with Jo Bennett having a blinder. Highlights – the night stage and post event dancing at various Alice Springs night spots. Lowlights – getting stuck solo for 10ks on a road section into a vicious headwind.

The country side was unexpectedly beautiful…just wide open spaces and a ‘nothing-ness’ that was stunning. I was well looked after by the Fredericksons and even learned how to make home-made pasta.

The Anaconda brought the fun-factor back into racing and it was great to see people of all ages and abilities having such an adventure.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Mother's Day...

What a weekend! The best training I have done in a long time and don’t my legs know about it. A stunning ride on the dirt up to Mt Nebo on Saturday it was nice to fall in the door feeling quite spent, have a feed and collapse into bed. South Boundary Rd on the way to Nebo is quite a busy highway on the weekend with riders of various paces making the trek. Some were have a leisurely spin, stopping for views and others were just on a mission – including the woman who recently bought my last MTB…looks like she was putting it through its paces.

Mothers Day was celebrated with a 5am wake up, fumbling around for coffee and breakfast and my flatmate and I wishing each a good day as we headed off for a ride while our kids slept. I think we may have missed the point of the celebration! I decided on a trifecta of river loops as I wanted the flattest possible ride after so many hills the day before. The first was solo, the second with someone called ‘snake’ and the third with a roadie named ‘horse’. The circles I move in…

It was very nice to be sitting in the autumn sun at Garage café mid-ride, watching the remnants of the Mothers Day Run searching for food and coffee. I returned home to a big bunch of flowers, hug & kisses and a demand for pancakes. Whose day is this anyway???

Monday, May 4, 2009

Up for the Challenge

I considered entering the Anaconda Challenge in Alice Springs so long that I actually entered and just booked the flights! It’s nice to be planning another race to another part of Australia I’ve never seen. A 5 day stage race, the Anaconda has got some rave reviews and features up on everyone’s “Must do before I die” list.

Had a bit of a surprise with a second at the State Criterium Champs a couple of weeks ago. My legs didn’t explode so that was a signal that I’m ready to start training again – starting very conservatively though as am now quite gun-shy. My coach, Warren MacDonald, is pretty easy-going which is a nice balance to my neurotic obsessive-compulsiveness. Ah, the ying and the yang!

My riding is the one part of my life that’s well under control at the moment with work, while enjoyable, always challenging when you’re the only one driving the business. My daughter’s social life is more hectic than mine and playing taxi in Brisbane traffic is breaking me. As a last hurdle our washing machine broke down…on the Friday before a long weekend…with 4 kids and 2 adults in the house…who all do sport. Ironically we have 9 bikes, 3 fridges, 2 clothes dryers…and now no washing machine. What’s the line from that Alanis Morrisette song – “it’s like 10 thousand spoons when all you need is a knife…”.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Back on the trails

Well after a quiet Easter today was the first day on the mountain bike in 3 weeks. It has been cruel walking past the new carbon Felt MTB and not being allowed to take it on the trails – which are 5 minutes ride from my house.
It was wet, muddy, slippery…and I loved every minute of it! Two hours of single track and not another soul in sight. And that, people, is why I ride in the rain. My legs are feeling better every day even though the other symptoms are unchanged. While I’ll continue with medical investigation I can at least start a bit of training if I am not tired and sore anymore. I am considering doing the Anaconda Challenge in Alice Springs…just considering…

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Health issues

Since the cramping episode in Ballarat in January I have been having a few health problems – just feeling like I am not recovering, constant fatigue, muscle cramps and rubbish performance. My life is pretty full with raising a 6 year old, running a business, training and (recently) university studies so I attributed it to partially overtraining and partially ‘overliving’. I tell my clients that recovery is the other half of the training equation but what do they say about plumbers never fixing their own taps…???

After 2 weeks of recovery after Oceania’s I feel possibly worse than when I was training. I have some strange symptoms such as muscle-twitching when at rest (which I have discovered is called ‘fasciculation’ – google it!) and a metallic taste in my mouth that I can’t get rid of. The latter by far the most distressing as I am now unable to taste red wine!!! A couple of doctors visits and blood tests and I am still none the wiser. My current supplements now include magnesium, zinc, Co-enzyme Q10, Vitamin C and I am thinking of adding Selenium…because, well you can just never have too much Selenium (actually I’ve found out more than 900 micrograms a day is too much). Every time I get my heart-rate up it feels like my legs are about to start the cramp-a-thon again. Luckily I am so busy I can’t dwell too much on it but yes, it’s starting to get me down. Just want to feel normal again L

So I am starting ‘abstinence April’ – cutting out alcohol (yes even the stuff I can taste like cider and beer), chocolate & standing up for long periods of time in high-heels in overrated establishments (read: Cloudland). My diet, which is always good anyway, will be full of antioxidants and I will get a full 8 hours sleep each night. Have to go now as I think a pig just flew past my window.

Catch up...

Gee it’s been a while since I updated so here is the short story…

Round 5 – Glen Orchy TAS

Finally getting to visit Tasmania was a highlight. The course at Glen Orchy was a lot of fun although my form did not really do it justice. Finishing 5th it was more a case of being glad the series was over. Losing the lead on the last day of 4 months of racing was disappointing, however Katherine O’Shea had ridden so well and consistently she was a deserving winner.

After travelling all around the country and not really getting to see anything, I finally went sight-seeing with a friend on Sunday. Port Arthur wasn’t somewhere I had on my list of ‘places to visit’ but it was beautiful and kind of fun to do the tourist thing (very informative guided walk and boat tour included). The guides certainly are passionate about their jobs and I swear one of them almost broken into tears when describing the lives the convicts endured, despite having given the story about a thousand times.

Oceanias – Thredbo NSW

Returning to Thredbo for the first time since I fractured a couple of vertebrae there last year was about putting some demons to rest and picking up some handy UCI points (there are double the points awarded at national titles). A quick trip I flew into Canberra Friday morning, drove to Thredbo, did one lap then put my feet up. On my reconnaissance of the course I found almost all of it had been changed from previous years – except the part where I had my crash! After riding the bridge obstacle successfully the first time I carried my bike back up and rode it again – and crashed in exactly the same way. Luckily someone had the forethought to cover the bridge railings with padding so no broken bits this time.

I can honestly say it was the most fun I’ve had in a race for a while. There was no series on the line and I had already made my decision not to do the European World Cup circuit so all the pressure was off. I raced as hard as my legs would let me but that was getting slower each race so I didn’t expect much. Coming away with 6th was fine and is my best Oceania’s result to date.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

National Series Round 4 - Mt Buller

Writing retrospectively about the race at Mt. Buller is a bit surreal, considering the devastation from the bushfires in Victoria since then. I passed through the town of Wittlesea during my trip (due to a 140km detour – I have no sense of direction) and can attest to how dry and hot it was the weekend I was there. This expanse of brown with temps around 46 degrees a week before the ‘black Saturday’. Needless to say I spent most of my time there in my hotel room in 24 degree comfort, also making use of the spa and pool facilities – there are some perks to the travel!

My accommodation was at the bottom of the mountain so I drove daily to Mt. Buller village for practice, which was around 7pm when it was still 30 degrees. On the day of the race the bitumen had melted and I could feel it sticking to the tyres of the rental car.

They say you don’t get what you deserve, but what you expect. Well I expected to be tired and have an average race and guess what…? It was 36 degrees for our race and the course was twisty with plenty of climbing. The dust was black and at the end of the race you looked like you’d been rolling around in a campfire. At 1500m the altitude had an effect on those of us living at sea level, which we also get when racing in Thredbo.

Finishing 7th it was my worst result of the year but I narrowly extended my series lead and planned to have a week off training – my first in two years. The initial couple of days were the hardest then I settled into it, enjoying the sleep-ins, extra energy at work and lack of grumpiness. My daughter wondered who I was and what I had done with her mother J

The next and final round is in Glen Orchy, Tasmania which I am chuffed about. Tassie one place I have been dying to visit for about ten years, so to race there will be fantastic.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

National MTB Titles - Canberra 25th Jan 09

Heading to Canberra I was a bit apprehensive about how the body was recovering. Backing off the volume and just working on short periods of intensity I hoped to avoid a repeat of Ballarat. The Mt. Stromlo track is one of the most technical tracks and the course used for Nationals is the same as the World Cup course I raced last September where I finished 7th and first Aussie.

Arriving on Friday morning I headed straight out to the course to cut a couple of laps before the midday heat. The main talking point was the second of two scratchy descents - the Hammerhead. Being the so-called 'A line' it is the most direct way down and the quickest - if you survive! The 'B line' was also pretty sketchy and longer. I had a small crash there (see, I'm now rating my crashes) in practice, just picking the wrong line and not paying enough attention. Although many people were riding the rock-face drop-off of the Hammerhead (a lot of them unsuccessfully I may add), I went with high percentage riding...ok, I wussed out.

After another couple of laps on Saturday afternoon and a relaxing and at times hilarious dinner with friends that night, I was feeling good for race day on Sunday at 11am. The coolest day in Canberra of our stay, it was perfect racing conditions. The start was fast, beginning on the bitumen criterium circuit before climbing the fireroad and into the singletrack ascent. After locking bars with another rider and ending up in the dirt I settled into 6th spot and started to work my way into the race.

By the second and third laps Zoe King and I were having a good tussle for third place with some friendly shouldering in the single-track - all good practice for Europe! By the fourth and final lap I'd pulled away and looked good for the bronze before almost being brought down by a kangaroo which bounded into my front wheel. I can't complain that MTB racing is boring!

Grabbing third place and getting the opportunity for another champers-shower from Rowena Fry on the podium was a great buzz near the end of a solid domestic season. I now fly back to Brisbane in time to see my daughter off for her first day in Year 1, before travelling to Mt Buller for another national round in 6 days.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ballarat - National Road Race Titles

DNF - possibly the dirtiest acronym in racing. Did not finish. Although in Road Racing it's more common due to the strategy component and advantage of staying with the bunch, the only experience I've had with it is when I've seriously crashed on the MTB.
With a heavy program leading up to the MTB Nationals in a fortnight, I'd been feeling pretty tired and the legs were achey. I thought a week to freshen up for the road race would be enough though.
The Bunninyong circuit is tough with a 3.5km climb each lap for 10 laps. It was a hot day and with racing starting at 1.30pm hydration was important but difficult with so many riders going through the feed zone together. I missed two bottles which may have contributed to the cramp-a-thon which began on lap 4 in my left quad. By lap 6 when the pace was on I couldn't stand on the pedals without both calves and quads spasming. Having lost the lead bunch and wanting to fight another day, I rolled over the start/finish line and off the course. Making it to a rival team's tent, their director had to phone my director so they could push me up the hill to the team car - any remaining trace of dignity well and truly erased!
Time now for catching up on some sleep and resting before the MTB nationals in Canberra. I plan to overdose on massage and antioxidants (preferably from dark chocolate!) and to arrive at the start line relaxed, healthy and ready to tear it apart.