Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wow! What a month! This year will not be noted for it’s logical and uninterrupted training blocks. In the past I’ve hated turning up to races unprepared but I miss the atmosphere so much that I can’t be too picky about form at the moment. It’s the only time I get to catch up with the crowd before I jet off for another MTBA junior camp. I’m spending a lot of time on the bike at camps but, sadly, track standing and popping wheelies doesn’t really prepare one for long distance racing.

It’s been a festival of QLD events and I have enjoyed racing in my home state. Here’s a recap!


Strangely, I hadn’t raced this event before. It started as a December event but was consistently rained out so it’s now become ‘Christmas in July’ for mountain bikers, complete with delicious roast meal on Saturday night. The format is a Saturday afternoon 3 hour race and a late Sunday morning 3 hour on a different course. Changing the course up was a nice option and the Hiddenvale park definitely have some fun and challenging trails to choose from.

I’m not really a camper so chose the 1 hour drive back to Brisbane to sleep in my own bed. For those who stayed it was an exciting night with a small tornado sweeping through the village with icy westerly winds. Once the registration tent was rescued things went smoothly for the following day of racing although a few more layers were required. We can’t complain about our very mild winter in Queensland though and more southerners should make the trip up for a fantastic event.

Campers keeping toasty warm

The biggest appeal is the family-friendly nature with a kids event, jumping castle and wide, safe, open spaces for children to roam. My (non-riding) daughter pointed to kids on bikes and asked if they were racing. I said “No, they’re just riding – that’s what some kids do!”
I felt surprisingly good on Saturday and did enough to get a lead on second place, conscious of saving something for the following day. Not really having the fitness to back up, Sunday was a struggle but I still managed to take the win, and a bottle of Moet for my troubles. After surviving the loose trails I then almost did myself an injury hoisting the enormous perpetual trophy.

It's heavier than it looks!


I raced ‘The Push’ in 2012 and managed to win over local, and former road team mate, Ruth Corset on her home course. It would be a battle with her again after her honing her MTB skills in the intervening years.  Currently leading the National Road Series she was definitely not lacking in the fitness department.
The main reason for travel to Townsville was for assist local club coaches to develop their junior squad and skills sessions so we were kept busy for the two days leading into the event. Townsville has some great MTB parks close to town such as the Pallarenda trails and the Douglas Reserve where there is also a skills park complete with pump track and see-saw.  Having trails close to the city is vital for young riders so they can ride often on familiar trails. It encourages the parents to get out too and I saw many families out shredding together.

Tim got me out super early but it was worth it - Pallarenda sunrise

The best thing I did for my race form was to have no time or desire to train since the 3 Plus 3 so freshness was on my side. Feeling pretty comfortable after two hours I finally got a gap on Ruth. I didn’t attack as much as the guy who had been blocking me on the singletrack for the entire race finally got over his ego and he let me pass. Riding that section of freshly cut, loose, off-camber at my own pace helped me keep the gap which grew to 4 minutes by the finish line.

This race has really grown and sold out with over 700 riders. Apparently there is room to open it up to more entries but the club are not sure how many more they can handle without getting swamped. I hope they do allow more entries as it really is a top course now and I hope more riders travel from outside the area to have a go at The Push.

Rockwheelers Junior program is pumping!


Mackay is like a greener version of Townsville – flat in the immediate area but with sizeable bergs about an hour from town where they like to hold their major race of the year. With almost 2500m of climbing in 80k the Mackay Marathon wasn’t going to be easy. Turning up fatigued and then spending two full days on the bike running a junior camp definitely didn’t help matters. But that’s the main reason I was there and the race was going to be a bonus and one that I hadn’t done before.

I told fellow camp coordinator, Peter Lister, I wanted two things from the weekend – to ride through the tree featured on all the race websites, and to see the platypus the area is famous for. He came good on both counts and it took us around 15 seconds to spot our first monotreme and I got to see the second close up on the viewing platform.

Starting the junior camp at Mackay Christian College I was able to cut loose on their skills park. There’s nothing like the pressure of riding your first see-saw when 12 year old kids are doing it. Moving up to Eungella for the remainder of the camp the riders camped while I was treated to a cabin with the most incredible lookout. I could imagine coming up for a weekend without having to suffer through a 4.5 hour race. Apparently some people do that.

Now secretly addicted to seesaws

It’s always disappointing turning up to a long race completely cooked and knowing it from the first ten minutes. My legs were telling me I’d done too much in the lead up and then I put them through several more hours of damage. It was great to see Ruth Corset in her element with the relentless rolling fireroads and take the win over a strong Sara White while I grovelled to 3rd.

View from my cabin at Eungella

I’ll be honest and say there is A LOT of fireroad but it does finish with 10ks of rainforest walking track with is closed to walkers just for the race. It really is spectacular and offers some of the best views and a true taste of the area.
The camp was fantastic and the riders fronted up to the shorter races a little fatigued but rode really well with their new skills and race tactics. It didn’t seem to hurt Zac Larsson or Kiah Dumigen who took out the 38k and 15k respectively.

Slightly cooked group - big 3 days!


So I’m about to fly to Europe for a month on Saturday. People keep asking me what if I’m packed and I start laughing hysterically.  Being responsible for the Australian Under 19 team is a lot more stress-inducing that traveling for my own racing but I’m looking forward to helping the young riders perform on the world stage. There might also be some early rides on the cards for the coach.

THANKS: Liv Australia, Shotz, For The Riders, Ride Mechanic, NS Dynamics, Maxxis, Mackay MTB Club, Townsville Rockwheelers Club

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Some thoughts on why more women don't race MTB - by a woman who does

I don’t really have time to get drawn into the ‘why don’t women race mountain bikes (MTB)’ debate. But then something pissed me off. In case you’re catching up the long running issue was again highlighted in this well-considered article . It explores the way sporting products (including MTB) are marketed to women. It was pretty much spot on and something that British Downhill is trying to counter by mandating that 50% of event promotion images must contain female competitors. Whether that will be successful remains to be seen.  You will have to find that article yourself, I know you can.

So back to being irked this morning when hearing about a female competitor contacting a race organiser to establish whether I was racing a certain event. Apparently if I was she would not enter the same category as the prize was obviously already determined. W.T.F? Are you for real? Sadly this is not the first time this has happened and it got me thinking. Not thinking about how men and marketing companies discriminate against women who race, but how we are frequently ostracised BY OTHER WOMEN.

I’m all for encouraging more women to be active and ride bikes. But if you want to race then it’s because you have set yourself a challenge to be the best bike rider you can be – the fittest, the most skilled, the fastest they are personally capable of being. Guess what? Other women also set that challenge. Do not expect me to gift you a race by not turning up. If you want to win a prize at a bike race then you do that by training harder and riding faster and hopefully on the day the winner is you. But sometimes other people are faster and that happens to everyone – me and world champions included.  Everyone has bad days. But how are you going to find out when mine is if you don’t enter? How are you going to know you’re improving if you don’t front up and compare your performance? For every woman who changed categories when they found out a woman they perceived as ‘faster’ was racing – you are part of the problem. It overjoys me when I hear guys say that placing in their age group has bored them and they want to race against the elite guys. I rarely hear that from women.

Maybe I’ve just never got the women’s mindset. I started riding with a bunch of guys and it was a sometimes brutal initiation. You get your tyre fixed once if you forget a tube or don’t know how to install it. After that, you better start walking. I rode stuff that scared the life out of me just because everyone else was doing it. If I was the slowest one on the ride and always being waited on, I went away, trained my ass off and came back when I was faster. I didn’t whinge about the ride not being ‘inclusive’.  Did I have doubts about my ability? Of course. But I turned up and kept turning up and that’s how I got better.

There are, I believe, deeper societal issues at play as well. At 12 girls start with the game of “You’re prettier” “No YOU’RE prettier” as if being better than each other in any realm means they can’t be friends. There is a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) undertone that competing against another female is somehow violating the sisterhood and how we should all be united against common enemies like men and patriarchal society etc. How does this result in less women racing MTB? How the hell do I know? I’m not a demographer/sociologist. This is just what I think about on my long rides when I’m feeling guilty about not spending time being ‘motherly’ with my daughter/working on my career/tanning at the salon so I can finally hook a doctor husband (please note sarcasm). Even when taking women’s rides I am told to ‘tone down’ my competitive image and to wear baggy shorts instead of lycra so I don’t intimidate anyone. Those of you who know me will have guessed I wear whatever the hell I want.

Looking at event start lists, the longer an event is, the lower percentage of women enter. Don’t women like long events? Or is it because they still do the bulk of housework and child-raising while holding down jobs and don’t have time to do the long k’s it takes to make 100km MTB even vaguely enjoyable?

Why should I care that more women don’t race? If women are riding and enjoying it and buying bikes so my sponsors are happy, shouldn’t I just take the prize money and shut up? I want other women to race because it makes the event better for me, for girls who come to watch their dad race (but not their mum??), for clubs who love to see families all getting involved. It makes the whole sport look great. Talking to one of my under 17 girls who won a race last week, she lamented that she was only one or two entrants and then the other girl broke her chain. She WANTS to compete and is likely to learn more about bike racing and herself from all the races she doesn’t win. If girls don’t want to race then that’s fine. But if they DO want to race but are being discouraged or conditioned to think it’s not a ‘feminine’ thing to do then that is NOT FINE.

I’ve always admired how men can race against each other then go have a beer or recovery ride together afterwards. Even in my riding group competition is permitted and trash-talking encouraged. You know THAT guy is the top dog and then THIS guy is second. This guy is a good climber, but THAT guy has the maddest skills. You don’t become the Top Dog by tearing that guy down personally and not turning up on rides because ‘it’s not fair’. If you want to be the Top Dog you get out and do an extra rep of your local climb and you get up in winter when its dark and you get fitter and stronger.

Do I believe that men are naturally more competitive than women? I’m not sure. Anyone on a bunch ride will tell you that’s absolutely the case. I’d say boys definitely have more confidence than girls, even at a young age. They’re a lot quicker to overrate their ability with absolutely no evidence, than a girl. But I know some very competitive girls. I’m not going to say we’re all great friends and spend time braiding each other’s hair when we are not racing. I don’t have to like them all, but I do RESPECT every one of them who put their arses on the line week after week racing the best riders they can find. So to all the women bemoaning that we are faster than you, content yourselves that you probably have higher salaries, more sex, cleaner nails and more girls’ margarita nights than the woman that just toweled you at the race.

If you want to know about racing hard and not winning, go race world cup. It’s about adjusting your goals. First you race to just not get lapped by the winners. Then if you get better you try not to get beaten by more than 15 minutes, then 10 minutes…I’d rather do that that win another set of men’s XL gloves in a race of one. But maybe I’m weird.
When I enter races I try not to think about winning or prize money. I don’t control who turns up to a race but, yes, sometimes my heart sinks when there’s a hitter on the line who I didn’t expect. I consider the condition I want to be at on that start line that would make me happy, and then work out if I am willing to make the sacrifices and put in the time to get myself to that level. If I’m satisfied that I’ve worked hard and smart, then the result is what it is. I don’t get angry at the person who beat me, I get angry at myself for being lazy or making poor choices in my preparation if that’s been the case. Or just accept that someone was better despite me being in the form of my life.

Well this has turned into a bit of a ramble. I’m not sure it’s answered many questions about women who don’t race, but it is a bit of insight from one who does and sometimes feels like other women would prefer she didn’t.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


It takes a lot to crack me, but Geoquest 48 hour adventure race succeeded. There were a few rookie errors from the start. There is no way I intended to race for 48 hours. Looking at the distances we had calculated on a 36 hour race, just in time for a steak and beer at the pub. It didn’t pan out like that.
I certainly feel the race was undersold to me by team captain ‘Tayles’ who had done three previous editions of Geoquest. It sounded like if you could paddle a bit, run a bit and not fall off your bike you could get through the race. I’d done a few 10k hilly runs a week and a whole five kayak sessions on the serene Brisbane River. To say I was a touch underdone was an understatement.

Each Geoquest varies in the relative time spent on each discipline. On Friday we got handed the race plan and maps and there was precious little mountain biking and a lot of time on foot. Having been a runner in a previous life, I relied on muscle memory to get me through, but there is no substitute for time on your feet, even if it’s just hiking. I also made the mistake of panic-buying new shoes before the race thinking my Nike Pegasus wouldn’t handle the rugged trails. Yes, I gave thanks for my extra-grippy and water-resistant Salomons when we were scurrying over rock cliffs and through mud puddles, but for running on firetrails they were too stiff to be comfortable and after the 24k rogaine my Achilles and my right knee were on fire and my feet felt like they had been crushed.

Ticking boxes from the start, it was also my first ocean kayak experience. With blue skies to start the race it was quite exciting punching through the waves to reach the water. But despite seeing dolphins and rainbows at the beginning, things soon changed to a vicious 3m swell around the point. My co-paddler, Andy C, issued instructions with calmness so I thought the conditions were fairly normal. It wasn’t until we reached shore that he confessed there were quite a few nervous moments. Not as nervous as our members in the other kayak, Andy M and Tayles, who ended up upside-down in the huge waves. Quote of the weekend went to the volunteer at the first checkpoint:

Volunteer: “Are you having a good time so far?”

Andy M: “No, not really”

Volunteer: “Oh well, it could be worse. You could be that guy whose bag was floating around the ocean”


How not to start a kayak leg: upside down boats are bad

Fighting the cold was a constant battle, so having all Andy M’s clothes soaked due to a dodgy boat hatch and ‘no-so-dry’ dry-bag was suboptimal. Luckily we had a long beach run ahead to warm us up. The clothing I brought was perfect for the conditions with a couple of light long sleeve thermal tops, Liv cycling vest, arm warmers, undershirts, beanie and rain jacket. A late purchase of some 2XU tri shorts was essential for forest toilet stops without the need to completely undress that comes with wearing bib-nicks.

As long as we kept moving I was pretty comfortable, however we were guilty of stopping too long in transitions when we should have grabbed and run. The winning team were fed on burgers and pizza and foods that could be consumed while moving. Spaghetti Bolognese, while delicious, was less portable. The length of the race meant we weren’t working at maximum intensity so I went with some low GI foods like peanut butter and honey sandwhiches and salty crackers with some medjool dates and Shotz gels to perk me up if the blood sugar was bottoming out. Instant coffee meant a lowering of my usual standards but it was purely about caffeine delivery for the night stages.

There were some spectacular moments on the first day. Clambering along rugged coastal cliffs while coasteering then coming upon sand dunes at Anna Bay complete with camels which could have seen us in a Saharan desert race. It would have been worth attaching a Go Pro to my backpack to capture some amazing scenery. The late addition of the snorkelling leg I thought was going to be an absolute chore, turned out to be one of the most fun. While not tropical, the conditions were sunny and looking for checkpoints underwater was a great way to see the fish and coral and make a mental note to come back to that spot for a summer holiday. As a tourist advertisement for the area, Geoquest was a massive success.

I'd definitely come back summer

Less successful was our rafting leg. Originally a body boarding stage, the organisers switched to inflatable craft a week before the race due to safety concerns. Crews had to leave racers uninflated craft of choice in the transition zone along with a pump. Andy C had managed to secure a raft which allegedly was fit for 4 people. Perhaps the two adults and two small children pictured on the front of the box may have comfortably traveled in it, but our whole team plus packs required a version of twister just to all get in and resulted in a lot of paddling in circles with the toy oars. Trying several different combinations led to the two rowing members kneeling in a manner similar to the stress-positions they use to torture inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

Arriving cold and frustrated into transition we were greeted with the joyous news that the race-provided canoes that were to be used during the river crossing had not been delivered and competitors would be required to swim the 50 metres across. Given that we would be hitting the crossing at 10:30pm and the ambient was around 8 degrees this posed a problem. For an hour of hiking I wondered if this was the leg which would bring me unstuck. Could I voluntarily get in water that cold for the sake of a race in which we were coming last?

So that’s how the four of us ended up naked on the bank of a river in the freezing dark putting our gear in garbage bags to keep it dry. I approached it like ripping off a Bandaid – just get in quick get it done and deal with the pain later. It was compounded by the fact that we weren’t even sure where we were able to get out on the other side so just aimed for a large tree we thought we could climb out on. I started paddling briskly as I entered the icy water, one arm holding my gear on top of the water, the other engaged in a sort of side-stroke. Halfway across the frigid water started to slow everything down and I wondered when they found my nude corpse clutching a garbage bag of perfectly good clothes, whether the coroner would be able to piece together the circumstances of my demise. Finally reaching the other side, climbing through some mangroves and up onto the bank we all descended into fits of laughter. Did that just happen? Did we really just do that? I felt oddly revitalised and even warm once clothes had been donned and we were back on our way.

A photo of me with camels because I'm not posting one of me swimming naked

The lack of sleep and long hike took its toll on Andy M and at 19 hours we made the decision to leave him with the support crew at the transition and continue as an unranked team of 3. Placing was not a priority at that point and at least we could finish the race. Pushing the kayaks out onto the river I was looking forward to seeing the sun rise on the water. The Lakes region did not disappoint with the first rays hitting a thick layer of mist on the water’s surface. It was fairy-tale stuff. Opting for some rented double kayaks and skirts it was surprisingly warm until we were required to land on an island and run up to the top of a hill to look for a checkpoint. The two night river kayaks were some of my favourite legs of the race – so peaceful, just the stars and the soft splashing of paddles.

Having done a 24 hour MTB I knew the energy restoring effects of sunrise and felt pretty good for the next leg where we were finally on the bike. I’d had a couple of micro-sleeps while paddling but was sure the trail action would keep me awake. On paper it looked like a fairly straight forward 57km ride and after driving it for the first hour and a half and knocking of 30ks we were hopeful of getting through it quickly. The next 90 mins only chewed up 10k though as we rode up a rocky water course and negotiated long fireroad climbs that were too muddy to ride. Fatigue was setting in, we were having silly crashes and one of the bikes suffered a snapped rear derailleur cable.

I’ve suffered through some tough MTB races but there was always the reward of a great view or fun singletrack descent. There was nothing rewarding about this pointless foray through the bush and I was pretty jack of the whole thing by then. We arrived at the start of the next rogaining leg in the afternoon with the second night looming and an estimated 12 hours of hiking, paddling and riding left to reach the end. I just couldn’t face another night without sleep and it wasn’t something I had expected to do. Completely cool with being wet, nude, sore and lost and it wasn’t that the legs were empty as we were the second fastest team overall on the MTB stage. Two nights of sleep deprivation is just not something that I could get through and I couldn’t think of a good enough reason to keep going given we were out of the running to even get recognition of finishing as a complete team.

Unfortunately there is no option of continuing as a two-person team due to safety rules set by the organisers. We called our support team to pick us up and grabbed 30 minutes sleep by the fire while we waited for them. I felt terrible for Andy C and Tayles for bringing a premature end to their adventure. I’ve run through a dozen scenarios wondering if there was anything which could have got me through that patch. Maybe a short sleep? Can of Coke? Foot massage? It’s misleading to look back and think there was something left to give, when at the time you’re just out of answers. I also found it disconcerting watching your team members deteriorate, hurt themselves due to extreme fatigue and struggle to string a sentence together at times. Looking at my teammates, they were in quite a state (as was I) but I knew they wouldn’t stop if I didn’t and I wasn’t sure if I was OK with that.  Geoquest was a very strange experience in that way. We really must look insane to other people!

Would I do it again? Absolutely. But I would train my arse off, especially for long distance running component. If you’re cool with sleep deprivation, go ahead and amble through Geoquest and enjoy the journey. If not then go hard and get it done so you can spend Sunday night celebrating.

Massive thanks to our incredible support crew Tanya and Rob. It was such a relief to see you guys and you did an amazing job anticipating everything we could conceivably want. Support crew duties are an event in their own right. Also thanks to Liv for my Lust 27.5 which has become my ‘do everything’ bike and For The Riders for preparing it for the onslaught of conditions; Ride Mechanic for the Bike Milk and Moonshine to make sure both my bike and body were free from friction; Shotz nutrition for their gels and recovery bars to keep me going; Maxxis Tyres for the Ardent Race and Ikon combination that proves itself again. And finally to my team mates. We didn’t make it this time, but just taking the start line was a win. Until the next one!

Anna Bay Sand dunes - keen for some sand boarding!

Sunday, March 22, 2015


I imagine when I die, my blog and Facebook page will be like the cardboard boxes of previous generations, which my kids and (perhaps) grandkids rummage through to find out what I actually did with my life. I like to keep it current so here's a quick catch up:


New proper grown-up fulltime job with MTBA as development coach. Feel both privileged and pressure of such responsibility. Realise that bulk of job involves getting kids excited about mountain bikes, riding with kids on mountain bikes, planning camps on awesome MTB trails. Not all bad really!

Daughter also starts high school. How the hell do I have a kid that old? Feel need for more naps.


Score a silver and bronze at the XCO double header riding off bulk Xmas/New year k's. Learn how much work goes in to events behind the scenes. This should be a competitive category it's own right as it's just as exhausting.


Arrive a bit worn down by lots of work travel, social drinks, late nights and eating out. Have a great time with mates ripping the Crackenback and Thredbo Valley trails though while Jenny Fay gives me a spanking. Finish 2nd after a Day 2 cramp-fest.

This is the first year for this event. Great concept and well run, but not quite enough trail to justify 4 stages (prologue, mountain climb, descent that has A LOT of up-hill, 70k marathon). Five laps of the marathon was a little unnecessary and boring. I hear there is more trail planned for 2016 so it's worth checking out. Hot tip - it's very rough and lots of sitting down so a dual-sus bike is best. My 27" hardtail was like bringing a knife to a gun fight.


Ok, so I'm at MTBA events to work but have a great boss so I can sneak a 90 min race in. I discover that the week I had off training post Snowies has not been enough. I can't say it was really a recovery week- a few late nights, running around working at Oceanias lifting heavy things, 5k run each morning, running laps of the track filming junior riders. I then had a moment of self doubt and stupidity, smashed a 5 day uber training block and put myself right back in the hole. I'm much better giving training advice than taking it.

Surprised to make it on the podium in 5th with my heart-rate tanking and legs stuck in 2nd gear. Thoroughly enjoyed the track and chatting to many people about the future of the sport though.


I really wanted to be in good form for this, but knew I wasn't. Thought about not starting, but didn't want to miss the trails. During the race I thought about not finishing (really easy as you pass back through the race start twice) but I don't want to get into that habit. The only race DNFs I've had have been in ambulances. There was nothing medically wrong with me, I'd just stuffed up my prep. Besides the trails were too good to miss, even if I had the grovel up some climbs to get to them. It was a typically Rapid Ascent race from the first descent down a forest gutter trail which looked as if it hadn't been ridden in years. I thought I'd missed a turn then remembered the rules for a RA event - if you think no race director would send you down there, you're on the right trail. True wilderness riding.

The last time I did the Odyssey it started in Apollo Bay and had about 1000m more climbing that the current version. It's still very tough but a lot more fun for those not racing for a paycheck. Most of the bitumen and uninteresting fireroad is out of the way in the first 20k leaving you a combination of sweet flowing bedded-in singletrack, some raw trail that appeared to have been hacked out fresh that morning and a couple of moments of "WTF is the trail??". Creeping around at training pace, I actually still enjoyed the race which is not often the case when I'm so results-focused. This race just made it to my 2016 list so I can give it my best effort.

We finished today with a couple of hours at the You Yangs MTB park today. Our guide, Cam, was very patient as we spun up the hills. I couldn't resist pushing it on some of the net DH tracks though. What a great place and reinforces why I race - to have the opportunity to ride MTB trails all over the country and globe.


I've been a bit goal-less with my riding as I try to adjust to a new lifestyle. After a couple of weeks of letting my body recuperate, I now have to find my way around a kayak and dust off the runners. Geoquest - 100k kayak, 160k MTB and 80k run - is on in June. I'm in a team with 3 hard ass adventure racers and I'm the token female necessary for a mixed team. We have 48 hours to complete it which doesn't sound like a lot of sleep. I would regard this as my biggest challenge to date and it probably won't sink in until I prove how thorough useless I am at paddling. I needed a serious challenge though - not wondering how fast I can go, but will I even finish? I guess I will find out soon.

Thanks to my sponsors: Liv Cycling AUS, For The Riders, Ride Mechanic, Shotz Nutrition, Maxxis Tyres, Rudy Project