Monday, August 15, 2016

When things come together

The last World cup felt good.  Winning always feels good of course, but it’s more than that, it’s executing what you set out to accomplish.  I sat out nationals to focus on prepping for Rio and had a solid training block that for the first time this season had me confident that I was going to a World Cup healthy and capable of winning.
After a fantastic ride at the La Bresse World Cup where I finished 2nd after being 1min 40 back mid-race due to problems at the start, I made starts a focus of mine.  Starts have always been my Achilles heel and as such the focus of a lot of training attention.  Having developed a bone infection before Albstadt in my broken thumb (surgical pinning got infected) I was encouraged to train road-only until the eroded bone had strengthened.  This led to a change in how I was going to improve my starts.  I was going to try to do it with mental rehearsal.

What blew me away the most was that I literally could not see myself starting fast.  I couldn’t feel how my body was supposed to move.  What it would look like to generate that speed and power quickly.  No wonder I always went backwards off the line!  It took some time, isolating what it would look like, feel like, sound like to start fast in a pack, to hold wheels, find holes to move through.  I felt good in training but it wasn’t until I got to Czech for the world Champs that I got to see if I had actually made gains.  It was exciting to start strong and in contact with the leaders there, to improve on that in Lenzerheide grabbing 2nd wheel into the first singletrack and then to take the hole shot in MSA and feel good! For me starting well will take continuous work to stay on top of, but its very cool to have found big progress in a skillset after years of racing.

Taking control of the race early in Sainte Anne allowed me to ride off the front and focus on just riding well consistently.  I have been racing MSA since nationals in 2004 and every year it feels more and more like home.  I love all the families and volunteers that come out to cheer us on, excited as riders and as Canadians to see both Emily and I ride so well heading into the Olympic Games. 

Last Sunday I scored my 12th World Cup win, my 4th at MSA.  It felt amazing and was a good confidence boost headed in Rio.  The Olympics are an unique event.  It is definitely the most intense competitive experience you can imagine.  I know just how hard I will be challenged physically and mentally.  There are more women than ever before capable of winning a medal, but I am looking forward to the challenge and would love to see the Canadian flag rise once again.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sitting Out to Step it Up

 On any given day there are at least 5 women that could take the win at a World Cup and many more that are vying for the other podium positions.  This season is a racer’s gift. I constantly have others challenging me, pushing me to find more.  But I can also see that no one’s season goes perfectly according to plan.  We have all gotten sick, had injuries, made mistakes. It leaves the door always open for the rider with the most perseverance and legs on the day to see the front and know it is possible to get there.
 Living in western Canada offers huge advantages as a rider like a plethora of amazing singletrack and temperate climate.  When it comes to a European biased race calendar it is also not without its challenges.  Travel days to Europe for me are typically 17+hrs and a 9hr time zone change. To get to Eastern Canada, a 9+hr airport day and 3hr time change.  In many ways I think this has contributed to my consistency as a racer.  By necessity I have to plan in a lot of rest days around races and so enter fresh and capable of giving my best.  This amount of travel also means that if I am not conscientious, it would be easy for my fitness to take a gradual decline in-season.  It took years to figure out how to be as fast in September as I could be in July.

I rarely sit out important races, unless forced to by injury.  This year however, I did by choice sit out Nationals.  It sucked.  It’s hard watching the social media roll out and not being a part of it.  It sucks to not fight for the right to wear the National Champion’s jersey which would no doubt have been a nail biter of a race.  But it also feels good to commit to an Olympic preparation plan that is optimal for me.  In order to rebuild my form between Worlds and Rio I need some time on the same time zone and preferably in one place.  Racing nationals, 4500 km from my home, would have meant either being on the road since I left for Worlds in June until I returned from Rio and finding an eastern home base or compromising training by adding in a quick trip back to BC before the World cup in Mont Sainte Anne.  Either could have worked, but as an athlete entering their 3rd Olympics and an athlete that favours the home environment over training camps and altitude, coming home to my trails, my bed, the interval climbs I know intimately, well it was just the right call.  

Sitting out a race is tough, but it also makes me more fired up to step it up for the next one. But please bring the next one soon!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Where did the winter go?

Last update in October…sheesh.  Must have been that school thing taking up some time.  With the Olympics looming and entering my 9th year as a professional bike racer, it was great to ensure some mental and physical variety in the program this winter with the addition of an anatomy course and staying home to log lots of ski miles. For me focus tends to lead to focus and I always feel like I perform well when I am engaged in learning on multiple fronts.

Bike racing and travelling is back in full focus and swing now though.  The World cup opener in Australia went fairly smoothly despite surgery on my thumb 2 weeks prior.  A bone break in late February wouldn’t unionize so pins were inserted to stabilize the break.  My thumb is still ridiculously fat looking but grip strength was not impacted and riding carried on pretty much as normal thanks to Di2 shifting enabling a left hand set up. The only way my thumb held me back was by limiting the skills work and bike play I did in my world cup preparation leaving me feeling a little off form on features but strong in general as I raced to 4th position.

Back home after Australia I felt like I got my first good mtb training block in in a while. Getting out on dirt everyday on my home trails without feeling protective of an injury had me feeling sharp.  Joining my teammate Maghalie for some skills training with Shaums March (March North West) had me feeling progression again.  Training with Shaums was one of those “what if?” experiences.  What if I had been doing skills work with him 5 years ago…where could my riding be now?  How can I best incorporate his feedback into rapid progression this summer?
Every time you work with a good coach you feel like you get some great nuggets of info that help you progress, it is consistently working with those pieces and checking back in on your progress that leads to big improvements.  I have been super fortunate with the coaches I have had to work with in my career.  My coach Dan always creating sound and challenging programs and my husband Keith being the second set of eyes helping in the daily training environment and skill progression. Adding Shaums’ Gravity racing background to the mix was the perfect addition.

And now I sit at a coffee shop in Germany killing a recovery day, waiting for World Cup #2 in Albstadt Germany this Sunday.  Having met Canada’s automatic selection Criteria for Rio already, and with Canada looking secure for 2 positions for our women, I get to enter the final selection event this weekend feeling relaxed but still anxious to go out there and give it my best.  With 89 ambitious women lining up and dreams on the line you are sure to see some epic battles! I feel like the women’s field is stronger than it has ever been. Wishing everyone the best of luck as I take a moment to appreciate this awesome journey we are all on. The opportunity to fight for an Olympic spot, to race to be the best in the world at what we do, what we love, is pretty sweet.