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;-)

Friday, January 09, 2015

Feeling Fortunate

Keith and I have just started a 3 month road trip/training camp.  With news of an impending snowstorm we packed up our camperized van early and hit the highways before we got snowed in (and a good thing too as Kamloops experienced road closures after we got ~50cm).  
What arrived within 24hrs of leaving town!
Our sadness at leaving ski season behind diminished 2 days later as we met up with friends in Corvallis Oregon to do some spectacular road riding.  This state definitely deserved more time exploring but we were in search of sunshine and double digit temperatures so continued south.

We found what we were looking for in the Napa Valley of California.  After stocking up on some Clif Family wines and ridding travel fatigue with a couple nights and rides in the St Helena area we made our way to ClifBar to say hi and stock up on the food essentials; mojo bars, kits organics and luna protein top the list.
The Good Stuff!
This place is magic.  We have spent team camp in the Napa Valley the last 2 years and I finally got to show Keith why morning coffee is so good!

Also on the to do list was to meet our new clothing sponsor Capo and try out some pieces.  Wow, so excited to be in this stuff next year.  It is the nicest lycra I’ve tried.…and that says a lot .

We’re now settled in a block from the beach in Santa Cruz where you can smell the sea and huge cedars on the same ride. 

Life is feeling pretty good! After 10 years of base training at home through the winter it’s a fun switch things up and share the adventure with Keith.  It is one thing to travel for racing, but a entirely different experience to travel to train, explore and discover.
Checking out a cool little surf town called Capitola

Thanks to our awesome house/kitty sitter Jeanine for making it possible!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Apparently blogs take an off season's the off season recap

The fall and winter were awesome.  Now in California I think I'll use the past tense for winter;-)

After a busy September, October was play month and we did it well with a road trip to Moab, Utah, Fruita and Grand Junction...A very worthy 40hr detour on our way to Cross nationals in Winnipeg.

The last time I was in Moab (2000) I had gone with 4 guy friends from University on the Greyhound bus.  Starting in Bangor Maine it took us 3 days each way for a week of riding.  I was a totally different rider 14 years ago and although I appreciated the unique scenery of petrified rock and tumbleweed rolling down the road way I couldn't make the most of the trails.

This time we shuttled the Whole Enchilada and were giddy..well still are from the 3000m descent through alpine, Aspens and desert.  So happy to have my 5" Orbea Occam and Fox dropper post with me for all the rock ledges!

Cross Nationals
Winnipeg did an amazing job hosting this event.  The course was fast and challenging with double sand pits and steep run ups.  The downtown venue created a great vibe and the fast and female event kicking it off introduced me to some rad rippers.

Racing was fast and tough with my luna teammate Maghalie charging hard for us to go 1,2 at nationals and then having Gabby Durrin push me in the Grand Prix on Sunday
Loving disc brakes and DI2!

This trip also brought me back to the Province I lived in for half of a 7 month exchange trip I had done with Canada and Cuba (Canada World Youth) back in 2000/2001.  After 14 years I got to see my amazing host family again.  So lucky!

Cincy 3
I haven't done a lot of Cross racing outside Canada and this was definitely a cool event.  3 races, 3 different venues in 3 days.  We raced in the mud, rain and near freezing temperatures Friday, At night under lights Saturday and in Sun and over steep run ups Sunday.  Each course was unique and fantastic.  The quality of racing was top notch (I think 5 women from here placed top 10 at the following world cup and that was with many of us missing in Europe) so women's cross racing is on fire in North America and was a pleasure to be a part of.  Form was waining though so it was great to get home to recharge....for Hawaii

My first time to Hawaii did not disappoint.  I have never ridden somewhere where it was so easy to do 4-5hr rides.  The constant supply of banana bread stands definitely helped.  In one day we did an epic road ride, swam in a waterfall and went snorkelling.  Not bad.

And of course we climbed Haleakala the World's longest paved climb.  After driving up 2 days earlier  to hike we discovered it was 0 degrees at the top!  We went home and pre packed our jerseys with a down jacket (pockets busting at the seams!), rain jacket, winter gloves, knee and arm warmers, 800 calories of Clifbar goodies and enough water for a 3hr+ climb to 10000+ft.

Then we woke up to rain...a no go day for a 3000m Volcano, riding the West Maui loop was a darn good consolation prize though.
Homemade fish taco fuel!

Keith tests out one of the contenders, but Julia really does have the World's Best Banana Bread

Atop Haleakala 0 degrees

The next day we had clear skies in Kihei and headed to Paia to start the climb...where it was pouring rain...but hey we were there so decided to try.  After an hour we got above the rain and wind and climbed into sunshine for the next 2000m. I knew the fastest women's time was a 3:17 so of course hoped to go under that!  It was a fun (okay..not all the time) goal and I squeaked in under 3:14, but records are mean't to be broken and by Canadians so within a month young talent Karol-ann Canuel rode an impressive 3:10.47.  Watch out for this girl, there is some talent.
Matt refreshes after the climb, we got amazing weather for the final 2hrs of climbing but enjoyed it too long and ended up descending 9000ft in pouring rain.  After hauling up a down jacket and winter gloves I was happy to use them!
December was about packing in winter and family and both were awesome!  

Ohh and an Olympic Preparation Worksop in Ottawa too.  It was really inspiring to get together with coaches, athletes, COC and IST staff and see how huge of a collaborative effort the Games are, how much work everyone from every aspect does to make them an amazing and successful experience and how much support we as athletes have to do our best.  The 3 days were full of amazing speakers and people 
NB girls unite.  Boxer Mandy Bujold on NB/ON was my roommate

Olympian and humourist Jean Luc brassard will be the Chef de mission in Rio

We even got in a little food competition

Talking Rio, Sport and getting the most out of Performance at the games

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The sweetness of desire, relief, pride, exhaustion; It’s hard to put into words just what it felt like to Win the Mountain Bike World Championships on Saturday in Hafjell, Norway.

I often get asked what race victory is sweetest and I think I now have a clear answer, Worlds 2014.  Every victory, be it your first World cup top-20 or a win at any level is sweet, the reward & validation of your efforts; but this win was 2 years in the making.  After a heartbreaking ride in London, It was a 2-year process for me to return to the rider I am capable of being.

In the beginning of my career, winning was easier. Not because the competition was weaker, but because I didn’t know better.  I didn’t have to get results, I just had to do my best and I always wanted to give my best. I loved it. It was fun. I raced with desire, confidence & belief.

Sometimes the key ingredient of success is the thing we do unconsciously.  Loving doing something so much that it does not feel like sacrifice or work, it is life, the life we choose.

With success comes the expectation of success and with that somehow we warp our minds into thinking that Success is a stress, a weight on our shoulders, something that requires more seriousness.  We can lose that sparkle, that central puzzle piece that connected all the other pieces. Before the race my confidence went through ebbs and flows, but by race day I was ready for battle, Ready to embrace the challenge and ready to do a race I would be proud of no matter what the finishing position.

Crossing the line as World Champion in 2011 was exciting, being able to repeat it 2014, knowing where to look for that missing puzzle piece so that by race day everything fit together flawlessly was an even bigger accomplishment.

Wearing the rainbow stripes is an honour I embrace. I will continue to have great days and days where I make mistakes, but I will always give you my best on each day.

I look forward to having fun wearing and racing in the rainbow stripes everyday of next year!

There are so many people that made this ride & my career possible.

My husband Keith, key to keeping mtn biking fun and my head on straight and life in balance
Waldek and Dusty from Luna who were in the pits to save my race with the fastest, most quietly confident wheel change ever.  Staff cannot win a World Championship, but without the professional competence of these two it most certainly could have been lost.
Dan Proulx, who coached me for 11 years and now mentors me as I coach myself

Mom and Dad, who travelled to Norway because they still just love watching their little girl race.
My mother and father-in law Sues and Grainger for cat sitting for 2 months so that Keith could travel with me!

Luna; the team with the vision to give women, just like out male counterparts the opportunity to support themselves and race professionally on mtn bikes

My teammates on both Luna and team Canada, especially Maghs and Sandra, for believing and dreaming with me and inspiring me with their own riding and attitude.  I feel so lucky to spend my life surrounded by great people!

So Thank you Thank you Thank you Family, Friends fans and Sponsors.  You are the best!

Pink bike photo epic

Take a lap with Claudio Caluori and Jose Hermida
Watch the whole race here

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

After an amazing 12 days in France it was time to be lining up for World Cup finals.  I loved the area and the course.  There were 3 good climbs and some very fun technical, nuanced descending.  I was riding clean and smooth in training and looking forward to using the descents to my advantage.

The race started well and I climbed into the chase group with Gunn-Rita and Pauline, Jolanda having already escaped off the front with her amazing starting abilities.  I was climbing well, but without my Windham fire.  Whether it was a bit of the altitude, training load or just race tension I started flailing when I entered the technical sections.  My ego and descending skills are closely connected:-) and I won't lie and pretend it wasn't distracting to be riding so poorly in the woods. Pretty much every lap I was making a time costly mistake or getting caught behind another rider making one. I never really found my flow but rather bridged and chased all day.  That being said; on a day where I felt off it was very rewarding to be able to keep it together for a strong result claiming 4th on the day behind some very talented women.

Photo story here

It has been a great World cup season for me finishing on the podium of every World Cup event I entered, claiming my 11th win and 30th WC podium (top 5) since 2008 and finishing 2nd overall in the series.  It was the season I had hoped for without a broken clavicle, to come back from injury and have this consistency is icing on the cake.  Looking forward to one more exciting race and strong performance at World champs in Norway to cap off the season.

Thanks so much to the Luna team, our sponsors and my family for all your support this season and every season!

Tragedy shocked the WC community when we learned that a young rider, Annefleur of the Netherlands and Team Focus passed away from injuries resulting from a crash on Friday.  We all raced with a flower on our plates to honour her in Sunday's race.  My heart goes out to her friends and family

Monday, August 18, 2014

MSA, Windham, Europe adventures

It has been a pretty hectic month.  But now I sit with Keith in our mountain apartment for the week in Meribel France enjoying the very non-hectic side of being a bike racer.  Training and relaxing in the mountains.
Balcony view
Above Meribel:  Rode up to 2300m then came down a trail that is best in hiking boots
Most trips to Europe I make are full of course prep and recovery rides.  After a month of mostly racing, race prep and travel though it was time to log some solid training to maintain my form for World Champs.  So Keith and I headed straight over to France after the World Cup in Windham.

I couldn't be happier with the way the last block of racing went.  Winning Nationals and regaining the maple leaf jersey, winning commonwealth Games, a fantasy accomplishment to follow in the footsteps of my Canadian Predecessors Marie Helene Premont and Chrissy Redden.  (Since mtb has been in the Games, Canadian women have not relinquished the gold) and then a 2nd and 1st at the World cups in North America. This is the first year I have coached myself, so to not only have a strong start to the season, but to maintain and build form was exciting.

After Tuesday's CG race in Scotland and all the hype that follows a games medal it was back to reality packing bikes to head to the World Cup in MSA the next morning.  My first morning in msa began with a Pre 7 am knock on the door for a blood and urine sample to WADA.  Unfortunately the later was a 2hr process which means I had just enough time to make it to the trailer to meet the Red Bull crew and Geoff Kabush to film the preview of msa.  Very lucky to have people to unpack and build my bikes!

I had heard there was a new river gap but had never seen it.  Luckily Geoff is a pretty good wheel to follow so after a quick peek to see what it looked like and follow his entrance speed I was airborne. From there is was trying to get caught up on sleep, recovered and onto the new time zone to bring my best game on race day.  I felt strong and fit in MSA but a little flat. I think I had been emotionally up so much recently it was harder to bring the same spark this day. I climbed well but was sloppy in the transitions and didn't attack the descents.  The course was great, but the heat and humidity oppressive.  I was very happy to earn 2nd to an on form Jolanda Neff on the day.  The podium was special, being able to share it with my Luna teammate Katerina and country mate Emily Batty.  My close friend Sandra Walter also scored a career best 13th and Evan Guthrie a 36th.  Woot Wooo
Yes, it is true.  I am no longer on 26".  Raced the 27.5 Orbea Alma
The next morning Keith and I were off again while the rest of the team headed to NY.  Keith needed part deux of a root canal... in Toronto.  Yup just normal life in the mix.  With an added 9hrs of driving with this route we decided to make a trip of it exploring Canadian towns we hadn't seen before like Kingston, St. Catharine's (proper spelling I may add:-) and Niagara falls which was beautiful for the most part except the strip that looked like Las vegas.  I even saw Elvis.

Riding past the falls was like going through a rain shower
 We were able to get in some great training days leading into Windham and then settled into an amazing home in the Catskills with Luna for the rest of the week.  Race day was pretty much perfect.  I knew my form was good and just had to bring the necessary fire.  I drove the pace early forcing a split that only Jolanda went with.  She came around me before the descent which I thought would be perfect but quickly realized I had more descending pace on the day and finally sneaked by in the final woods section.  From there I settled into a hard pace focusing on all the flat rough transitions on the climb.  Everything you gained on the flat open climbs could be easily lost fumbling through the rocky wooded traverses so you had to save a little to attack these.  I couldn't be happier with the way I felt and raced this day, on the climbs, descents and traverses.  It was an amazing day and return to the top step of the World cup podium for me and was enough to put me into 2nd place overall all with a 2pt buffer over Tanja Zakejl!

Ok now back to Toronto!  On a plane To Geneva!  Doh no luggage!  48 hrs later, Luggage!
Bec Henderson saved me with a bike loan or i would have gone crazy, and gotten really sore as the little walk/hikes we did in the mtns left Keith and I pretty sore. #OneTrickPonies  Thank you Thank you Bec!
Starting the hike would leave us hobbling
Back in familiar territory on bikes!

Only 1.5hrs away we had to go to the Col de Telegrafe and the Galibier.  Amazing sunny day for it

Add caption 

That's a whole lotta switch backs

So now it is amazing riding in the mtns, training for Worlds and looking to maintain my position in the overall as we race World cup finals on March 24th in Meribel, France....and maybe launching a new Orbea too!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Commonwealth Games

Photo by Rob jones
Moving into the Village
After two good training sessions in Ontario after nationals, Max and I were off to the airport to connect with Emily and Raphael for our flight to Glasgow Wednesday night.  (Max and I stayed to check out the mtb athlete accommodations for the Pan Am Games next summer and enjoy the local riding).

At the airport we were escorted to the front with special commonwealth athlete status. Bonus! Quickly, we were settled into the 6hr flight to Glasgow where we were greeted by Games staff at the airport, again streamlined through customs, accreditation and were met by our bags on the other side.  You could really get used to that level of service!

With time to grab a coffee we were on a bus with athletes from track and field and headed to the village where Ian Hughes from Cycling Canada was there to meet us after security.  Getting into a games village is very similar to going through airport security.

Ian gave us a tour of the village showing us critical things like where we could get the best coffee, get laundry done, make our own fruit smoothies and of course our home for the week.  Emily and I moved into the top floor of a house we shared with the Canadian track team.
Lochness in the vilalge
Over the week we had the chance to see them racing live and I think I finally understand how all the different events work!  Luckily with 2 days before our race the track events finished…spectating was getting a little too exciting and we needed to focus on some more chill time.
On this side, the Canadian Commonwealth team staff travels with physios and massage therapists, norma tech boots and ice tubs so we can get in all the recovery we need around training.  We have an athlete’s lounge where we can go to hang out and unwind, cafes and meal halls to connect with friends.  It’s a pretty sweet 24 hr/day set up.

1 day after arrival the team road out to the venue together for some laps.  The course was fast with lots of little rocky features that wound us through Cathkin Braes Park 7 km from the village on a hill overlooking Glasgow.  As a team we were able to test out all the lines and really get the course dialed.  That time training with the team really helped. By race day I had 10 laps in on the course and was feeling confident and ready to go.
Even though the depth of competition would not be the same as at a World cup, the top ladies were on form and my nerves were much higher as we approached the race.  Games events become so medal focused that you have to keep reminding yourself that it is not wanting a gold medal that makes you go fast, it is being prepared, calm, confident and riding well.  Our team environment was perfect for this.  The village was very relaxed.  We didn’t talk about the race more than we needed to, we treated it like just another bike race…and yet darn those nerves still creep in there when you know a medal is possible!

The race
Tuesday we awoke to overcast and blustery skies.  I was anticipating a 4-way battle with Emily, Annie Last and Rebecca Henderson for several laps before any separation would occur to determine the top 3.  We lined up, the gun went off and all the favorites seemed to have fallen behind.  Rather than dictating the start it was being dictated for me, but I stayed calm feeling the race really wasn’t going to separate until the first climb and I had time to get to the front…but I better make it happen.

The race went smoothly sitting in about 6-10th until that first climb and then I made a move to go around and try to claim the front.  I got there before the climb started switch-backing and found only Rebecca Henderson was still with me.  The climb was less than 3 minutes long, but by the time I reached the top and the ABC line descent I was alone and knew it was my opportunity to create some more daylight.  Training with Emily we had realized the least risky C line was also the fastest so I set to work on gaining seconds wherever I could.
Overcast and Blustery on race day but the Scotts were out in force
The crowds were brilliant.  On the grassy sections where they were clapping politely I felt like I were in a golf tournament and at other times a really well attended noisy mtb race!  Friends and family were out there cheering us on as well as other Canadian athletes with a break in their racing and training schedule.  It was really special and as I worked my way around the course trying to secure a healthy time gap in case one of the plenty of jagged rocks lining trails such as Broken Biscuits and Timorous beastie decided to give me any trouble, I was able to see the big screen tv’s and see Emily riding strongly in the silver medal position.  Go team!

With 3 of 6 laps done and a healthy lead I was able to minimize risks and back off in the rough sections.  But man is it stressful when you feel a race is yours to lose!  My Maxxis Crossmark tires were trustworthy though and guided me to the finish where our team coach Ian had the Canadian flag ready for me to carry across the line. 

It took until we were walking out to the podium and I saw our flag ready to be raised for it to really sink in how incredible a day it had been.  Seeing two Canadian flags rising side by side was icing on the cake and having a fan in the crowd start singing our anthem made the moment even more special.

Thanks to everyone who came out to cheer us on, who was at home yelling at their tv’s and sending us great energy.  It is always a pleasure to race for you.

So now until Sunday!  Time to learn a new course and settle into Mont Sainte Anne!