Thursday, August 13, 2015

Respecting your limits

Looking forward!

After slugging through to the finish line of my lowest World Cup result since 2007 I found a nice piece of grass to collapse on and contemplate what the heck had just happened out there. How had I gone from racing to win, to just trying to finish?  My manager, Waldek, worried came over.  He picked up my bike and spun the wheels.  I laughed.  I had already checked that.  My brakes weren’t dragging, just my body.

I pride myself on my consistency, I have finished in the top 3 of the World Cup overall since 2008 and top 5 in 75% of the World cups I have done.  When I’m off I can usually still piece together a decent ride, but after 3 laps of trying to hold wheels in Windham my dig was gone and I was just trying to turn my legs over. (If the race had been all downhill though I would have been on fire!)

As with any performance it is never just one thing that leads to having a good race and never just one thing that leads to a bad one.  Typically if you have the legs you have the head, and if you don’t have the legs a strong head can’t help you no matter how many tricks you try.  

Windham wasn’t an A race for me, but it was still important and I felt I could put out a good ride with some training load.  This course had always favoured me and I had won off of a big training week the previous year, however, training weeks are never stand alone events.  You must consider the weeks leading into them as well.  I didn’t respect mine enough.  It’s easy to ride momentum and still perform but eventually 9 weeks of racing in a row, 4 x 3-9hr time zone changes, 100+hrs of travel and training catch up to you.  

I wanted to race, to do as many events as I could and still build form for Worlds on September 5th and hopefully that long term goal is still a success, but for the short term I did not give enough respect to what the past two months had looked like.  As a North American, even my “home” World cup is 4500 km away.  So lesson learned, I’m not invincible:-) the depth of the World cup is damn good and sometimes just doing a bit less gives you much more.

So now into final prep and easing back into training surrounded by beautiful mountains and possibly every rider on the circuit, here in Livingo, Italy!

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Mont Sainte Anne

And now that MSA went so well I can say that the stage race training hit was a great success!  I had raced day1 of ST3 pretty hard and so backed off on day 2, but then got caught up in racing again on day 3 and was a little worried that maybe I overdid it, but 2 days of recovery and then 2 days of light course prep had me feeling sharp and ready to go.

It was the 25th anniversary of MSA hosting a World cup or championship event. I always love racing here, the course is tough technically and physically allowing no hiding.  You have it or you don’t.  It suits my aggressive “go for it” race style and the fans create an awesome atmosphere.  The course was its usual gnarly self with the addition of a new rock section and was super slippery the day before the race.  I chose to ride my full suspension Orbea Oiz with Fox electronic lock out system and Maxxis ikon tires (18psi).  It was the perfect set up to have me feeling fast on the descents and able to put out power on the climbs.
Photos by Matt Delorme

I had a decent start but not good enough to not get caught in traffic on the first switch back climb and stuck going slow on the descents.  By lap 1 Jolanda already had an unsurmountable 50 second gap. With another half lap I was clear of traffic but the gap had grown to 1.22.  I set into chasing down the win feeling great physically and technically. Lap by lap the gap shrunk down to 34 seconds.  Not enough, Jolanda remains the woman to beat.

My teammate Katerina Nash rode to 7th in her first World cup of 2015 and Georgia to 25th and we were able to claim the Top Team award for the first time this year.  Emily Batty also took a strong 4th.

After cheering on the guys and our 3 Luna U23 riders, all of whom were able to finish the MSA World cup for the first time, we celebrated with team dinner and then the MSA 80’s party. With a few hours sleep and Madonna still playing in my head we were back on the road, this time to Windham for the next stop on the World cup circuit.

Singletrack 3; Life is good

Having done so much racing and travelling recently it was time to readdress my aerobic base before the next round of World Cups and travels.  But how do you get a good training hit that will help you carry form till September with only 2 weeks between nationals and World cups?  I decided to take a gamble on stage racing.  Doing the BC Bike race last year had worked so well for my July-September races that I felt a mini-stage race might do the trick.  Singletrack 3 , a transrockies event, was being hosted in my region of BC this year.  Keith was already registered for their 6 day event so I figured I could get in a solid training block …and some fun… with the 3 day event and still have sufficient time to recover for the MSA World cup.

I am so glad I did.  Although I live within 1.5hrs of all the stages I raced, of the 120 km of trails we did over 3 days I had only ever seen 20 km of them before.  The first descent we hit in Salmon Arm had me smiling ear to ear knowing I could easily come back to ride it again.  Each day offered superb trails, marking and race organization and so much fun.  

What I love about mtb stage racing is the community feel.  From the first night where we pulled into camping to see familiar faces already set up, to meeting riders during the race and hanging out rehashing the day afterwards, everyone had such great energy and excitement for the adventures that lay ahead with each stage.  
Photos by John Gibson

The stages were pretty short (ideal in my mind), my longest day being just over 2.5hrs of trails and each day had a timed descent where we could focus on putting out a best effort.   I was happy to make the top 20 overall on the timed descents, even better placings than my overall stage results.  Day 1 was Salmon Arm, Day 2 Silverstar mountain at 1600+m and Day 3 an epic 1.5hrs of hard switchback climbing to a 1200 m descent.  Needless to say it was awesome.

Living out of the van with Keith, sharing an adventure every day with friends and getting in some good training was the perfect summer training block for me.  I definitely see more mtb stages races in my future and was sad to stop at only 3 days of racing, but also excited to head to MSA for the World Cup.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The last 4 weeks have been quite the whirl wind, 4 heated races in 3 countries, triumphs and narrow misses.

After almost a month at home with great local racing in Squamish and Revelstoke, camping, gardening and a tough training block that left me using all my best mental tricks to bring quality to my final sessions it was time to hit the road again. 

US Cup finals
Travel began by touching down for 4 nights in Colorado Springs for US cup finals.  Heat, elevation and my always strong teammate Katerina Nash pushed me to earn a narrow victory as well as the US cup overall and this little belt. 

World Cup, Switzerland
By Monday, my manager Waldek and I were off to Switzerland to join our Swiss teammate Andrea for the 3rd World Cup of the season.  Lenzerheide was one of the most beautiful places I have had the fortune to visit.  It felt like a true summer vacation having clear and sunny skies every day  and time to read in the mountains after lake swims and fun training. 

After having focused on my start for the last training block I was happy to enter the singletrack in  6th and quickly move into first with Gunn-Rita.  We rode together for 2.5 laps before I slid out on a loose corner and never quite got back up to full speed.   The course was so fun to ride it was tough not to do too many laps in my pre rides, but it became quite punishing  by the end of the race. With a half lap to go I was caught and passed by a hard charging Lea Davison and claimed 3rd on the day.   The first half of the race were some of the best sensations I had had racing all year so I left the race excited for what could come and inspired by Gunn-Rita breaking the record of world Cup wins with her 29th and Lea Davison riding to her best ever World cup finish.
One of the neatest parts of the weekend was having the chance to watch and cheer for the u23 women’s race which was after ours.  It’s inspiring to see how talented and hard working the next generation of riders is.

Pan Am Games
As soon as the races finished, it was back to the airport, bound for Canada, but not home.  A quick change in the airport and I was in team Canada red and white rather than luna blue.  I’ve been fortunate to enjoy the excitement of a games event before (Rio 2007, Beijing 2008, London 2012, Glasgow 2014), but never a games in my own country.  Arriving in Toronto to the Pan Am colours was a lot of fun.  Through the week I went through some the usual Games extremes of being totally nervous and wired to completely relaxed and ready to go.

Mountain biking took place near Barrie Ontario at Hardwood Bike and ski so the mtb team did not get the chance to visit the games village in Toronto, but instead got our own perfect little village at Horseshoe resort.  We were totally spoiled with our apartments and catered meals.

Proud Papa.  Mum and Dad volunteered at the Games
Looking good on a rest day.  Our secured residence in the background 

In case you were wondering how tight the racing was.... two gals going for Gold

Our race course was on the same course we had raced at nationals one year previously.  The year before it had been a tough battle for the title with Emily Batty where after several laps I was finally able to ride away and become national champion.  

This year however the tables would turn.  The racing was just as heated, driving full gas from lap 1, but Emily raced with an assertiveness and drive that was impressive and on the last of 5 laps pulled away in the final minutes of racing to claim gold by 7 seconds.  I was disappointed not to win, but happy with the way I had ridden and fought to the finish and happy to earn silver for Canada and share the podium with Emily Batty (CAN) and Erin Huck (USA).
A 1-2 finish for Canada
Catching up with ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and family at Canada House after the race
The crowds were amazing.  It was so loud I could not even here my husband cheering on the climb, the event sold out and mtn bike fans and curious new comers lined the track.  It was a beautiful experience to get to race a home games, win a medal in front of Canadians and share that experience with them.

Emily and I were invited into Toronto for an outdoor medal ceremony downtown and then to visit Canada House.  By midnight i was finally able to get some sleep.

But there no time to stay and enjoy the games.  Keith and I were off for the 10+hr drive to Saint Felicien Quebec for mountain bike nationals. After a pancake breakfast with friends in Oshawa Monday we headed to Ottawa for a night to check out the capitol and visit family.  
The bike paths in Ottawa are awesome for riding and seeing some of the most competitive commuter racing ever
We pulled into Saint felicien Tuesday evening just as the skies were opening up.  After 3 weeks of 34 degrees, temperatures had plummeted to 13.  I was feeling pretty exhausted from a busy Pan Am race day and two full travel days, but after so much racing and travelling it was time to target that aerobic base again and I logged some good rides on and off road leading into the race.  I was a little worried I might be tired for Saturday’s race, but the best thing about being beaten the weekend before is the motivation it gives you to not let it happen again!

Sometimes you need help to realize how hard you can go to win a race and this weekend it was my husband Keith out on course encouraging me to keep driving and asking myself for the 100% that allowed me to win.

After a relatively dry week it poured rain overnight and the course was extremely slick race morning. Although I was able to open a second here and there on the climb and descents on lap one a slip or not being able to see on the descents through incredibly fogged up glasses caused me to slow again.  On lap 2 I had to ditch eye wear and set to pushing for my best pace while racing mistake free on such a slick track.  I eventually pulled away at the crest of the climb and grew the lead to 37 seconds by the end of the race.  I was proud to earn my 6th national xc title and represent Canada for another season.
It got a little dirty out there
What a crew! Happy to stand amongst this group of up and comers and also to share the elite women's podium with Emily Batty and Sandra Walter who rode strong for 3rd

Flying home now where I will take part in Singletrack 3 and Keith in Singletrack 6 this weekend.  Some good local racing from our camper van is always a treat mid-season and I’m looking forward to my first transrockies event.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Albstadt: Round 2 Ding ding

After 11 days in Europe it was time to line up again for round two of the World Cup series.   Luna had spent an ideal week south of Albstadt on the Danau (Danube river) watching canoe and Kayaker’s paddle past, riding along the lush river valley under castles perched on cliffs and enjoying delicious fresh baked bread daily. Perks of Europe!

With more time away from travel and jet lag I was feeling mentally and physically much more amped to race.  There’s nothing like having 2+ minutes put into me in a race to light my fire!
Speaking of light, check out the magic tree Matt Delorme caught in the Black Forest
The start box reserved for the top 8 women, has the sound and intensity of a bee swarm.  8 women doing their final warm up, knobby tires on trainers, managers and media swarming back and forth, everyone focused on their role. With 5 minutes to go we roll to the line and our preselected start positions.

I was feeling ready to go and determined to see the front end of this race.  The gun went off, the bees were released and we swarmed the first corner.  Lining up on the outside to carry speed around the first left hander back fired, I got pushed out to the fence and lost positions, as we entered the corner a second time, having completed the start loop, for some reason I thought this time I would get through that corner using the same line, but again: fence, the price of not adapting.  

The first climb is only wide enough for one rider and so steep that down the line it feels like the pack has come to a halt.  Inevitably someone dabs and then you are all running.  Actually this would have been ideal, but we were walking.  By the time I summited that first climb, Jolanda, the race leader was already entering the next climb.  Although I committed to my plan of racing to lead lap 1 and worked my way through traffic making some passes on the descents and climbs I felt pretty proud of, and catching positions 2-10, I still lost a demoralizing 50 seconds in lap one.  
Always great crowds in Albstadt.  Especially with a sunny day.
Luckily wins aren't the only goal and performance of value in racing.  With Gunn-Rita in the chase group I knew I had a rider I could work with to have my best performance on the day.  Together we pulled away from the other chasers, accompanied by a time by a very talented u23 swiss rider Linda Indergrand.  Aside from lap 1, Gunn Rita and I together clocked most of the fastest laps.  Between the two of us we have 40 World Cup wins and 6+? World Championships (the lion share belong to her). We race to win, we race to give our best ride and we worked together equally and let our legs and gumption have the final say.  It made the 7 relentless laps satisfying.

In the end we were so evenly matched it came down to a pass in the final 100-200m.  Gunn Rita made the winning move and I came home for 3rd, satisfied with a big improvement from 1 week earlier and disappointed to not have another World cup or relentless challenge the following week to attend.
Setting up for the finale
So I'm headed back home, but rather than wanting to recharge I am energized by racing and want more of it! 

I’m a peacock.  You gotta let me fly;-)

Next stop: BC races, Colorado Springs US Cup finals and finally Lenzerheide World Cup first weekend of July.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

World Cup 1, Czech

It feels good to be back racing World Cups and everyone on the circuit was all smiles starting in Czech.  The season seemed to take forever to arrive. With the slow build up I was able build a strong foundation in my training, but for the top-end speed I need to win, I really need to race and there is no better place to start than in Czech.

What makes Czech special is both the crowds and the terrain.  Fans bus in from over Europe for their favourite racer, marathon athletes racing that weekend, fill the surrounding fields with their camper vans and locals arrive with costumes and creative noise makers (chainsaws).  

The trails are like coastal British Columbia, flowy and root strewn.  This is one of the few courses where you feel like you get to spend a substantial amount of time going downhill fast, and the climbs are technical, especially when the rocks and roots are wet, demanding attention as well as power.  You have to be on your A-game physically and technically to perform well.

I knew going in that I could be strong, but felt some of the other women racing all spring in Europe might have a step on me, which they did.

The course went from fast and dry Saturday to sluggish climbs and slick descents Sunday, but it was no less enjoyable.… ok maybe faster climbs would have been nice;-)    My body felt good, but not exceptional.  I rode consistently lap to lap, recovering from losing positions on the start loop by passing girls in the rocky descent and where ever else I could, but never quite tapping into that raw climbing power i have come to rely on.  Hopefully with more days on the time zone and a hard race in my legs I will find that this Sunday in Albstadt where it is all about climbing.

Railing the descents and striving to clean the expert climb each lap as well as winning the end of the race (cinched 2 positions last lap…a goal of mine to raise the back end of my racing) were the highlights.  So for the moment I am content with 4th, but have some work ahead to be riding at the front of the races.

Friday, May 08, 2015

It’s on

4 races down and still 2 weeks out from the first World Cup of the season! With early season high UCI point races and wearing the rainbow stripes, I knew there could be a danger of me coming out hot this season and fading towards the end.  So I have patiently (nervously;-) committed to a plan of a slower ramp into the season.  Although at the first events it was hard to come up a little short at the end of my races (2nd, 4th & 2nd at Us cups 1,2 &3), I felt good, had fun racing with my team and learned a lot about racing in groups, something my pin it from the start preferred strategy doesn’t offer:-). The importance of always having a race plan and commitment to a goal even if I’ve raced hundreds of times was also reconfirmed.  You do not show up and win without a fiery spirit and focused mind.

My persistence and learning was rewarded at US Cup 4 with my first ever Sea Otter Classic win, a race reputed for being a tactical game with large groups of racers typically sticking together for much of the race.  It was a punishing race that demanded putting it all out there in a final attack to edge away from Australia’s Rebecca Henderson. 

So race phase 1 is complete with some valuable lessons learned.  No onwards and upwards to the World Cups!

Luna 2015.  I'm loving the composition of our amazing team this year.  With 3 U23 women, Maghalie, Hannah-Rae and Andrea and 3 x 30-somethings;-) we are just the right blend of energy, enthusiasm and experience and continue to help each other raise the bar.
Look closely and you will see the suffer face needed to win Sea Otter!

Switching things up

For me, it’s important to keep switching things up in my racing and training.  The past two seasons I had change imposed on me by broken collarbones.  The recovery from these gave me the opportunity for some midseason reboot time and a refocus on being in the moment. It also made me grateful to be able to train hard and race.  Remembering how much of a privilege it is to do what I do and be physically able to, is a gift I never want to take for granted.  

In the past two years I’ve also taken time for a solo trip to Colorado’s mtns to see what living and training at 2800m feels like (ouch), relished 3 weeks training in France over famous mtn passes with my husband Keith before Worlds last year and most recently was able to share my “pro cyclist” lifestyle with him this past winter as he took a leave of absence from work to join me on the road to train.  We headed south in our sprinter van and logged some great miles on our road and mtn bikes.  The best part though was just getting to explore at a leisurely pace.  To go where ever our desires took us.  Places like Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Prescott, Moab and Sedona, which I had heard so much about gained a sense of familiarity and friendships were formed that will have us travelling back to these special places.

From a training perspective, I’m not sure yet what was better, logging more bike miles though the winter or my traditional focused routine of trainer rides and xc ski miles.  Time will tell. Both have their advantages.  The former being a large bike base and presumably higher efficiency that will carry me through the season, not to mention a fitter than ever training partner and the later the mental and seasonal variety of skiing with short and focused bike work.  My hope is that a very solid cycling foundation this season will have me strong throughout the World Cup season right up until the World Championships in Andorra.  There are always so many variables that go into having a successful season, but I think the soul candy and training variety this last season offered will be good for the big picture.

I’ve now gotten to enjoy a couple weeks back at home, got the garden in, taxes done, pear tree pruned as well as reconnected with friends.  As much as I loved the adventure of being on the road I am thriving being back home where home-life balances athlete-life and gives me energy, where I have my familiar routine, trails and climbs to get the most out of my efforts.  I was happy with the progress in my racing and form from US cup 1 to 4, but I feel even stronger now and look forward to one of my favourite courses on the circuit, Czech on May 24th, and another ride upon my freshly painted Orbea Oiz.
Love the spring flowers at my house!
                                    His and her work stations at a recovery week campground

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Getting closer to Racing

It is March already!  Time on the road has flown by and I wish everyone the opportunity to see the country as I have the last 2 months.  Having the freedom of a camperized van and friends stashed around California and Arizona has been wonderful.  Getting to log big ride days on the road has allowed us to get to know so many areas, get excited to find out what else these areas have to offer and excitedly plan our return trip with friends we want to share it with.
Oakley has started its One Obsession #LiveYours campaign.  I feel like I am!
We based our travel around training blocks, around great roads in Januaury when we wanted long road rides and Arizona and Utah in February when we wanted techy trails and skills work and discovered quiet campgrounds in the mountains make for the best recovery weeks and skills playgrounds! We loved California's coastal campgrounds and road riding and Arizona and Utah's red rocks are like Bc's Squamish or Victoria, awesome.  The difference being in BC you switch out red rock for red wood, sand covered rocks for moss and then add some roots, but the flavour is the same!

We came south anticipating great riding and lots of it, but even better than the trails and roads have been all the amazing people we have met along the way.  Thanks to everyone that has made the first 2 months of 2015 incredible from Corvallis to Temecula, San Luis Obispo to Sedona!

Team Camp starts for Luna March 11 and then it is off to the races!  Looking forward to our new Orbea bikes decked out with Shimano Di2 and Fox icd!  And after 2 months on the road the PrAna and Capo clothing refresh will be particularly appreciated;-)