Thursday, November 28, 2013

Where does Yoga fit in?

Discovering Yoga has been a welcomed addition to my training regime.  One of the bonuses of being a full-time athlete is having more time for it!  Ironically, it is when we are crazy busy and think we don’t have time for it, that it is really needed!  It is amazing how taking time to slow down and breath deeply can alter an entire day.
Escaping to a park on a 10hr layover to take in some sun.  Travel energy restored!

So where does yoga fit into my cycling training?

I like to start my day with it and this is something that everyone can do.  Take 10 minutes first thing in the morning to gently wake the body up with some sun salutations.  Start the day breathing deeply and becoming aware of how your body is feeling.  It takes only a few minutes to increase your range of motion and bring some heat into tight muscles.  This is also an ideal time to add in that core workout you like to avoid!  Spend another 10 minutes doing some crunches, planks, core rotation and hip strengthening exercises.  Voila you have just done something good for your body and only 20 minutes into your day!

I see yoga as aiding in two facets of my training:  Mental and Physical

Around competitions yoga helps me calm my mind and focus only on what is important: The Now.  Performing a pose properly requires attention in the moment to alignment and breathing.  You tune out the distractions around you and listen to what your body has to say.  Even just a couple of poses grounds me, my focus and improves my energy

After training yoga gently helps restore your tight muscles to their natural length so that next time you are on the bike you can get optimal performance.  You do not need to overstretch your muscles, but giving a little attention to those tight and restricted hips and hamstrings can leave you feeling more comfortable on and off the bike and even sleeping better.

Yoga involves self-awareness, focused attention to alignment and breath as well as coordination.  It requires you to slow down your brain and body, at least for a few minutes, enabling the necessary physical and mental recovery to perform at your best.  Recognizing the need for this balance and focus in our busy racing and training schedules, last year Luna added PrAna clothing and Yoga accessories to our supporters. 

Thanks for your support!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fall adventures

Centennial Cone
Never having done any high altitude training before, I figured it was finally time to give it a try.  October isn’t the typical time for a cyclist to head to altitude, but this wasn’t about peaking for an event, it was about seeing how my body responded to it when it wasn’t going to mess up a World cup result.

So by mid-October I was off to Colorado, first spending some time near Denver at 1700m and then heading up to 2800m for another 12 days.

I think the first week was the hardest as I learned going too hard too early would feel horrible, but this was easily remedied by daily hot tub sessions so all was well.

Whether or not altitude actually makes you faster at Sea level is still debatable after many many studies.  There are those who swear by it and those that debunk it.  There is some evidence that altitude works, not because it creates physiological changes, but rather because of a placebo or “training camp” effect. In other words you think you’re faster and did the “right prep” so therefore you become faster (confidence/belief) or while at altitude you improve because you are actually a better athlete when you go to a camp.  You train with more focus and pay more attention to recovery.  Either way I wanted to see whether it worked for me and was something I’d like to add to my in-season.  I wanted to know whether I’d be able to sleep well, whether quality training would be compromised by the lack of O2, did I like being away from home for ~3 weeks or would quality be better at home on familiar trails?

Well I learned that too many consecutive episodes of Breaking Bad affect my sleep much more than altitude.  I slept like a baby there…except in the aforementioned circumstance.

Training compromised:  Depends what you want to do.  It is great for putting in miles.  Very scenic, lots to explore, but yeah you’ll be working harder every climb and your power for a given heart rate will be lower than at home and yeah V02 work will be tough…er. So you have to decided whether the proposed physiological benefits of enhanced oxygen carrying capacity and economy derived from  less air and less barometric pressure are more beneficial than the benefits of doing a Vo2 sessions to the best of your ability….still undecided here.

Did I like being away?  I loved exploring.  Although I love being home too, especially in the fall, there is something special about exploring new places every day and meeting new people.  Training motivation was high because everyday was a new adventure, a chance to learn a new area and see new things like rattlesnakes, big horned sheep head-butting each other and amazing mtn views.

So yeah, I liked altitude training.  I still don’t know if it is altitude that helps you be that 1-2% faster or just quality training and recovery, but it is now less of an unknown.  What can make you faster though is going somewhere that creates high training motivation, accommodates great recovery and inspires you.  I see more mountains in the future. 

 Roxborough Park

Dillon, CO

Iceman Cometh

 Sweet pumpkins at our host hotel 

Coming into the finish of Iceman in the lead is one of the more memorable moments of my career.  With 4000 people starting the race before the elite women and a beer garden at the end, there are a lot of people waiting for us at the finish, making a lot of noise.

Perspective; it’s a funny thing, For the last hour of racing I thought I wasn’t able to create a pace or move hard enough to shake Chloe, meanwhile Chloe thought “Catharine’s pace was insidious… I had a long time to suffer on her wheel.  I wish I could say that I was waiting to make a move… but that move was only going to be dropped.”  It was a lesson for me in sticking to my guns and persevering even if success is not immediately apparent.

After racing Iceman two years ago …my first race as the World champion, I learned a thing or two about how to race the course.  DO NOT DO ALL THE WORK!  Actually that isn’t fair; Chloe Woodruff and I traded up pulls equally in 2011 for the 2nd half of the race.  Chloe appeared to have the best form in the group and wasn’t afraid to use it, but we both got out smarted in the end and she had to settle for 2nd and me 3rd.

This year I was coming into Iceman fitter and having actually worked my top end recently.  I knew that if I raced tactically I could win, but also that one does not have to be the fittest rider to win this race if you are smart.  Fitness is not a guarantee of success when drafting is a significant factor and the longest climb is still less than a minute.  I either had to make the race so hard you couldn’t fake it or play a really smart race, or both!

The race starts on asphalt for about a km before heading into double track.  I was pretty content to sit in the group, but made sure I was near the front.  The course is super sandy so not being stuck behind too many people is key.

The race nitty gritty
A group of us started cycling through pulls.  Conveniently, it was my turn headed into the first twisty singletrack at about the 25-minute mark.  A couple hard accelerations out of the corners and I looked back and only had 3 gals left on my wheel.  Emily Batty, Chloe Woodruff and McKenzie Woodring.  Good stuff

Everyone seemed strong and sharp and we rode together well for another 30 minutes.  Another singletrack section and I come out of the woods into a climb and see that Chloe and I have a bike length on Mackenzie and Emily. I step on it to grow the gap.   Baring technical problems it’ll be Chloe and I to the line. 
 Remembering our last Iceman where Chloe dropped me like a bad date in the final kilometers I knew a fresh Chloe at the finish could be a problem.  I had to play offense, making sure that if I were doing the lion share of pulling, it wasn’t an easy or free ride.  Chloe was like my shadow though, matching me climb for climb, shift for shift.  As we got nearer to the finish I became more and more worried it would come down to a sprint for the line, but then at the crest of a climb I saw I had finally gained a bike length and set into growing that distance.  This is where perspective comes in.  The whole time I thought Chloe was bidding her time to crush me at the finish, thinking my pace wasn’t high enough, but her take was different! 

So many times I think we give up prematurely on an attack thinking it was unsuccessful, but perseverance does play off if you play your moves right.

So after being out-smarted and out raced in 2011 it felt extraordinary to find success at Iceman in 2013.
Sometimes the gals have to help each other out!

Country mate Geoff Kabush took the men’s win.  Celebrations started with the cheers'ing of our huge (and heavy) Ice chalices full of Bell’s winter ale.

Thanks to everyone who made this spectacular event happen and with equal prize money and pay out for men and women! Iceman Promo, Steve, Waldek and Scott
Mr. Iceman
Scott and Chloe talk shop over some tasty beer.  Kabush's worse for wear trophy in the background
Way too many people's lips touched my trophy at the after party!  Yes you Sault st Marie boys!
Oh yeah and Waldek was 3rd in his Category.  GO Luna guys!

Monday, September 16, 2013

World Cup finals: Hafjell Norway

          Luna again claims the number 1 team position in 2013

By Monday afternoon I was in Oslo and greeted by sunny skies, a beautiful 21 degrees and teammates Georgia and Dusty.  We settled into our condo in Hafjell for the week.  I liked Norway immediately…probably as it felt like home.  Driving from Oslo to Hafjell I could easily have been driving from Vancouver to Whistler…although highway speeds were much slower!

The course in Hafjell was a nice change from the now normal charge from manmade feature to feature.  I felt like I was just out riding trails…unfortunately the RedBull coverage didn’t showcase the course that well.  There was a lot of climbing and rocky descents with enough shale to puncture more than a few tires on race day. After a relaxing week of good riding and team-time including dinners in Lillehammer and Oslo I was towing the line of the final World cup of 2013.

It has definitely been a turbulent year for me, never finding my best form or confidence.  I had developed a pattern of starting hard and then fading dramatically.  My mind had not caught up to my new reality of having the speed to get to the front, but not the capacity to recover from that effort.  In order to finish the season on a positive note I had to admit that perhaps an alteration in goals was needed…maybe racing to win was not in the cards, but racing for a solid result was.  I raced to have my best performance on the day, driving every climb and accelerating through every corner, and driving to maintain speed across rough sections.

After an abysmal start where I entered the first climb 8th from last I was thankful for the extended climb to work my way into the top 10-15.  I steadily worked my way up to Katerina and tried to help bridge her up to Tanja Zakejl who sat only 85 points ahead of her in the World Cup overall, but since South Africa Katerina has been suffering with stomach issues and just wasn’t feeling healthy enough to bridge up and I went alone. 

Even if a top 3 was out of reach for me (I had lost 47 seconds already with my start) helping Luna secure the top team position and Katerina her position in the overall was a worthy and motivating goal so I set to work.

I was able to move into 7thh position by lap 2, just behind Gunn-Rita and Maja. Unfortunately I couldn’t clear Maja before the descent and Gunn-Rita pulled away, opening a gap I wouldn’t be able to close.  From there I raced in 6th until the final lap when Tanja over took me.  I was able to finish the season with a 7th place and knowing that I raced a good race.  I climbed strong, descended well and gave everything…other women were just better on the day.  I now enter the off-season (or perhaps cx season) with strong motivation and confidence for a great 2014 season.

Home for 2 nights and then Vegas and Star Crossed!

Apparently Hell for espresso is just adding milk!

Going Swiss

After World Champs in South Africa I got to spend another 2 days with team Canada taking in all-you-can-eat Sushi on the Indian Ocean in Durban, riding through Sugar cane fields and monkey havens with Maghs, David and Dan and of course the Tiger-Tiger Worlds after party.

      Sushi sandwich 

From there it was on to another adventure in Solothurn, Switzerland.  When I first raced World Cups in 2007, Sandra Walter and I stayed with her aunt and uncle in Bern for several weeks, loading up their Golf every weekend to head to the races.  There I also met the Schneitter’s.  Nathalie was one of Sandra’s teammates and her family welcomed myself and other visiting Canadians into their home.  They became my #1 cheering squad in Europe.

Below Sepp, Prisca, nathalie and Sonya

So it was back to my roots for a week with Nathalie and her family, speaking a mixture of English, French and hand gestures.  The weather was fantastic, great for rivers swims in the Aare, good rides and beautiful views of the Alps.  The Schneitter’s gave me a home away from home to make my 1month on the road fly by.

After a week of sun and 30 degrees some donner and blitz (my sparse Swiss German) lit up the sky and the rain started falling just in time for the Swiss cup Sunday.  The organizers put on a great event in Langendorf, only a 10 minute pedal from Nathalie’s house.  Rooty singletrack and fast roads to climb made it a fun and challenging course.

3 of the top 15 women from Worlds were able to make the race and I had a chance to redeem myself from the weekend before and more importantly prove to myself that Worlds was a bad day, not a representation of my current form.

I had planned/hoped to stay in the group of Ester Suss, Kathrin Stirneman and Nathalie for a couple laps and practice my group riding skills….but then I thought “attacking and leading would be more fun” so I tried that instead.  I felt great and opened a gap, which Ester Suss was able to close.  For the rest of the race we rode together.  She wanted to lead and I was content to gain confidence sitting on and ensuring I was there until the end of the race. 

Following has its advantages and disadvantages.  I got a draft, but was not able to make use of my faster singletrack speed.  This was the perfect race for me to gain confidence and try following rather than leading so I stuck to that plan.  On lap 4 of 6 I made a mistake on a climb and Ester got away, but I was NOT going to give up.  I chased her down and was surprised at how quickly I could bring her in on a climb when I stood up and hammered…she had just climbed her way to a 3rd place at Worlds.  We did another lap together and then I tried to use my climbing speed to get away on the final lap.  I was initially successful, but soon she was back on my wheel and able to sprint around me to lead the woods…exactly what I needed to do in order to get an advantage.  I chased her to the finish, but again made a mistake on a rooty climb and was not able to make up the lost time before the finish line.

I was happy to claim second in a strong field with Kathrin finishing 3rd and Nathalie fourth.  With a fun and confidence inspiring race behind me and a relaxing week with friends I was ready for World Cup finals.

Thanks Prisca, Eddy and Nathalie!!!!
Solothurn, Switzerland

Taking the tram up for a fun "recovery ride" down