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!