Saturday, April 05, 2014

Sidelined

I was pretty excited to be heading to South Africa and Australia for the first World cups.  I was riding well physically and technically and importantly, I was having fun racing and training. I was in a good spot. I looked forward to the challenge of lining up against all of the World’s best.

So you can understand my frustration when I hit the dirt and got up with the familiar burning and “wrong” feeling of a broken clavicle.  It was one of those crashes that shouldn’t have happened.  I was riding a jump I had done several times that week, but with confidence sometimes comes lack of judgment as well.  I wasn’t feeling up to that trail at that moment, but chalked it up to being silly.  It was fine.  There’s this thing though where hesitation and jumps don’t mix.  I still went for the jump line was too tense came down nose first and went over.  Boom.  No hopping on that flight the next morning. 

It’s amazing how two clavicle break experiences can be totally different.  When I broke my right side last year it was off a pretty massive jump and I basically pile drove my head into the landing.  One of the scariest things I’ve ever heard was when the hospital attendants told me I was presenting like a neck injury.  I had been prepared for a broken clavicle, but not that.  But, my neck was ok, just really tight.  I had back spasms for 2 weeks that made getting out of bed in under 20 min a source of pride, I was on the trainer relatively quickly, using a stool to get on, but my muscles had to compensate so much that my scapula was like a wing and got brutal muscle cramps.  I was told it was highly unlikely the bones would fuse back together due to the location of the break and surgery was suggested, but every day I was feeling better and I wanted to be back on my mtb.  I didn’t need painkillers and my strength and mobility were returning so I decided to let my body heal itself.  6 weeks later I was able to line up at my first race.

This time my break is a relative walk in the park.  Again no painkillers, and this time no back spasms or other major tissue damage from the crash.  I feel like I am starting rehab at the 2+week mark of last year’s recovery and have a great team to get me back riding comfortably.  So I am hopeful for a quick comeback.  I also have the experience of having gone through an injury like this before.  I know what I did last year that set me back, choices I made to feel more confident on my bike heading into worlds hat probably hurt my form, but also what training was effective.  I know I can comeback from much worse in 6 weeks which means this time isn’t as scary and devastating.

It’s interesting how perspective changes.  I was having so much fun riding.  The trails had just recently shed their snow and all the trails that had been hidden from us for 4 months were there to help us remember why we love mtn biking.  The last thing I wanted to do was to return to the basement and the trainer.  But then I started to love and appreciate my Kinetic trainer again.  With out it what could I do.? It was enabling me to feel progress, feel healthy, feel human and do my job.  I was lucky to be able to ride it, to train and have a job I love, a team that supports me and family and friends to make me laugh.

People seem impressed at how positive one can remain in the face of adversity, but sometimes adversity just shows us how good we actually have it.

See you on the trails

Catharine

Monday, March 24, 2014

Busy Busy


Every good trip starts with some of this...okay so not too busy for the finer things
Bonelli was  a great stop on the Pro xct US cup circuit.  Nice scenery and tough racing.  Scott Tedro and Shoair have invested so much into putting on great races with live coverage, points and equal prize money for men and women.  We need more innovative leaders like him!
After 10 days in Templeton we were lined up again, this time at Bonelli Park near San Dimas.  The course was super hilly and tough with little recovery or reprieve from the 30+ degree weather.  After feeling a little conservative in my racing in Texas I wanted to give a full out effort.  I gave everything for 2 laps up the climbs and again it was my teammate Katerina that was my match and taking turns driving the pace.  At the end of lap 2 I decided to try the B line in one section to see how it worked out as a race line option.  In training the difference between the A and B line had been minimal, but entering at speed ...and sliding out on a corner, made the B line significantly slower and I exited a disappointing 10 seconds back.  I guess it was a bad race line option!  It took a bit to mentally regroup and Katerina built a 20+ second advantage. Once I got myself back together I was happy to maintain lap times with her and claim 2nd on the day ahead of fellow Canadian Emily Batty who also put out a very strong ride.
Racing the Short Track.  Would love to see these at World cups!
Teal's back! Luna checking in at Oakley.  After seeing some eyewear testing for optics and safety (bullets were shot at the lenses!) there is no other eyewear I would put on my face!  Oakley dominates safety and performance.

Maghalie locked and loaded for the tour

Shimano USA head quarters...lots of goodies coming your way...

Getting our shoes heat molded

Waking up to this view every morning at team camp was a real treat.  We have held Team camp in the St. Helena area of California the last two years.  The riding is amazing and somehow all the craziness of team photo shoots, product testing and team meetings flows along smoothly and we still have time for amazing training rides.
Maghalie earns the nick name bumps after several accumulated crashes in her first set of races.  Watch out for this talent!


After camp, Oakley and Shimano we were back racing in Southern California, this time Fontana, for stop #3 on the Pro XCT US Cup circuit.  I always enjoy the course here and this year it was even better.  I loved that there was a descent where riding well could actually allow you to open a sizeable gap rather than everyone just hucking the same jump the same way lap after lap.

This weekend I decided to try something new to me.  Patience.  You've seen it before, I like to go out hard and split things apart, but women's racing is changing.  The races are sticking together more and I know that to continue improving I have to be open to new strategies and build confidence that I can use these strategies successfully.  For me this means I have to be able to launch a successful mid to late race attack.  So despite many internal urges to be the one dictating the pace this weekend I was going to leave that to the other women that I have to presume would want to win equally as much.  I still pulled as much as or more than the select group I rode the first three laps with, and equally hard, but I wasn't going to be the one to really try to blow it apart until it could be a winning move.  I was going to be smart. Phew!

For the most part it was Katerina and I trading up pulls, climbing hard, but not maximally.  Team dynamics in mtb racing are interesting.  It is not like the road, we are all racing individually and most of the time my stiffest competition comes from my pro team or my national team.  At the same time that we are going for our best individual results we also want the best team result.  Unlike road we do not have a designated leader, some of us can leave it to a sprint at the end, some of us can’t.  We have to do the best we can to ride a race that hopefully allows our team to go 1,2. Riding with Katerina and I was Emily Batty, definitely a rider that we have to respect, but alone against the Luna team there is also some understanding that she is not going to trade up pulls, so she benefits from drafting unless we (Luna) are constantly trading up attacks which we didn't so the flat stretches involved a lot of weak pull-throughs, looking around, patience and sticking to a plan.

I felt good so after 3 laps together I followed my race plan and launched an attack into the climbing section of the course.  As I was driving up the climb I could look back and see a good gap with Emily chasing hard and Katerina on her wheel. I expected Katerina to jump around Emily before the descent where we had been able to separate ourselves from her each of the previous 3 laps and knew based on her dominance the week before that she likely had the legs to jump across to me, but through the start finish we were still in the same order.  On the final climb Katerina attacked and pulled away from Emily.

It felt great to be riding strong physically and technically and to have been rewarded for patience so when on the climb final lap my bike started making a horrible noise I was momentarily deflated.  I quickly hopped off to see what the heck was in my wheel, could see nothing so decided to ride it out until either something stopped me moving forward or got dislodged.  A spectator let me know it was just the cable end that had somehow bent into my spokes. Soon enough it had broken and my bike sounded smooth again and the race was mine to lose.

Fontana marked my first race win amongst some of the best in the world in quite some time.  It felt great to feel strong, to enjoy that moment of victory and the confidence and dreams it inspires. 

Huge congrats to Sandra Walter on 2 weekends of break through rides, to Teal on her post back injury comeback rides, Maghs on her solid rides and amazing attitude despite some painful cuts and bruises, Hannah on her first pro races and of course my ever podium dominating teammates Katerina and Georgia. 

I’ve seen a lot of impressive riding these past couple weeks on the men’s and women’s side, Canadian and American.  The level of racing in North America is on the rise and I couldn’t be more excited to see new faces nipping at the podium.  Please everyone give a high five to Scott Tedro and Sho Air when you see them.  Through their personal investment in racing they are reviving mtb racing and we are all the beneficiaries.

You can watch a rerun of the women’s and men’s races here

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Templeton Valley Farms



Maghalie and I were so fortunate to be connected to Edwin and Katrina, friends of the Luna team who love riding bikes, growing good food and sharing a laugh.

After 10 days riding the amazing roads and trails around San Luis Obispo, Templeton and Atascadero, eating fresh eggs and garden veggies we were sad to be leaving our new friends, but racing calls!


Downtown Templeton.  I guess when you don't need to salt the roads cars last longer


Post ride stop at Avila Beach near San Luis Obispo

Not a bad place to recover after training!

Catching up with Luna Mechanics past and present.  Awesome seeing ya both!

Now we're off to Bonelli for US Cup 2

And they’re off


Racing has begun with the Mellow Johnny’s classic; first stop on the US cup circuit.  After 3 months off racing Luna reunited in Austin for the first trip of 2014.  Cyclists are pretty like-minded, within hours of arriving that evening we ended up at the same grocery store as Team Scott and Kona and got caught up on months off the circuit over a Whole foods dinner.

The course in Texas was a ton of fun.  Rocky descents and lots of little rock step ups between twisting fast wooded areas.  The average grade is 0%, but only because every little grunt we go up is balanced by a loose fast descent.  Keeping air in the tires, being well positioned into the woods and heat management were going to be the critical race factors.

Race day was clear, sunny and 30 degrees.  I raced conservatively lap one but with a timed hard effort on the biggest climb I was able to grab the lead and take only teammate Katerina with me.  At mid lap there was a non-flagged off corner that I missed but Katerina caught.  This was the corner that would later catch Emily and Rachel, but I was able to do a quick 360 and sprint back up to Katerina.  We raced the rest of the day together which was fun and hardJ Knowing that she was the stronger sprinter it was up to me to try to get away before then.  Unfortunately for me, Katerina could match me on every climb and descent, but I liked being pushed and was happy with 2nd and the way my body felt in its first real test.

Looking forward to the next two stops in the US Cup series in California at the end of the month, But first some fun with my new teammate Maghalie.  We spent another two days in Texas hoping to enjoy some hot weather but instead got rain, wind, freezing rain and some sub zero temperatures… what happened to that 30 degrees of the day before?

Now we’re headed to California for 2 weeks of “hopefully” sunshine, great riding and adventures