Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where am I now?

Just got into Canberra Australia yesterday. It's been quite an adventure! I spent 2hrs driving what should have been 20 minutes thanks to google maps trying to send me on a route that didn't exist! All this time I was driving a right hand drive standard Toyota Yaris with my bike box in the back. I made my way to Tracey and Jeremy Sheppard's place (of Victoria, BC fame) and slapped my bike together with 20 minutes od day light to spare. On my short spin through their neighbourhood I saw 2 kangaroos! a muma and baby. My ride was accompanied by tons of cacatua birds.

It's been fantastic to chill out with the Sheppards and their roomie Dale and play the what's so and so up to game. Also had my first mamoth sleep in ages which was delightful! Feeling like I'm in a bit of a time warp though flying from hot and hummid China too a crsip energizing spring in Australia. Today's high will be 15 degrees.

Okay, so that was pretty cool

I came to the Olympics with the belief that I was a medal contender, but respecting the level of competition in the women’s field, I was thinking a top 5 would be a great ride. To race all race in medal contention was awesome.

I didn’t have to convince myself that this was just another race to keep my head cool for race day. It’s weird but being here has not been overwhelming. It feels right. Like another World cup with more surrounding fanfare. The athletes around me look like me and my friends and everyone is so good at what they do, so the atmosphere stayed relaxed around the village.

The preparation.

Tuesday was my first training day in Beijing. I got out for 3 laps of the course with Marie. She kept asking me in various sections if this was the same as last year and the answer more often than not was no. The course was more rugged and even more steep climbs had been added. It was a super cool and interesting course, but very tough.

Every lap I was doing the steep chute faster and then final lap while trying to get in a tempo lap I took a big flyer landing with my back wrapped around a tree and struggling for breath. Dang! I hate ending training sessions like that. I got into a pretty introspective mood analyzing what caused me to crash and how I could make sure it didn’t happen again. The day before the Swedish rider broke her collar bone there and had to be sent home (replaced by a Slovakian rider) and apparently Gunn Rita cracked a rib.

The next day I headed out “to get back on the horse”. It was supposed to be an easy day, but I needed to get my confidence back. I was riding horribly till I cleaned the chute and gained that confidence. Another lap and I was feeling happy again.

Thursday – Pre race Day – I awake to pouring rain. Good thing umbrellas came in our care pack! Eating in the meal hall we are drowned out by the sound of constant downpour. This will definitely change the course, but probably not for the better even for me. It’ll become slick and thick and my confidence on the chute is still a little wavering. I want to know tire choice though and see what the course is like if this is race conditions so we keep to our schedule and head out in the rain.

It’ll be mud tires if this keeps up. The course is greasy and I walk the scary sections. It’s not worth a broken bone the day before the olympics to ride conditions that’ll most likely be better next day. 1 lap is enough so I just do some clearance and visit Waldek for a massage.

That evening, after Mary Mcconneloug and I spend 30 min longer than necessary to get back to the village (Taxi drivers here don’t really seem to know where the village is and often refuse to pick us up!) we get the call that the race has been postponed until Saturday at 10 am. I was actually relieved. I wasn’t feeling ready to go. Even though mud is usually my friend, my crash made me want to race in good conditions. Mud would have made it an awful slog. Now I had done my preparation and was being given a buffer to really get ready. As a bonus we now got to race in the morning. Good for both you at home and me who was wondering what I would do with myself all morning. I had the Bourne trilogy ready in my room for some diversion.

Friday – the real pre race day – The course has dried up a ton. We trained at 3 that afternoon. My legs feel decent and I do some intensity to clear them and zone in my frame of mind. I head out for one lap. Both male and female racers are lining the chute as it’s kinda greasy and sketchy. I take a deep breath and go for it. Clean it, give a huge sigh of relief and call it a day feeling ready to go. Marie later tells me both she and Irina and a couple others went down there, but are okay.

Race Day

Saturday – I have a wicked sleep and the alarm bolts me out of bed. I feel good, calm, prepared, confident. We hop the 7:30 bus to the venue. There’s definitely some nervous energy going on. Some riders have withdrawn into their ipods, others are hoping and dancing around. My warm up goes well, especially with the cooling vest to keep me comfortable. I see my family and Waldek before the race. Dan, my coach, has been with me all week as the team manager. Everyone is pumped. I get called up 3rd and “the most famous foreigner in China, a Canadian - get’s the crowd cheering a chant for Canada.

TV crews and team support withdraws and we’ve got 30 seconds to go. The gun goes off and I’m starting fast! Someone rubs my wheel and a Chinese rider goes down behind me. God the crowd is going to hate me! I then manage to fall back from 5th to 20th. Luckily this is pretty common and doesn’t get me flustered. I just start laying down the best power I can and passing whenever I can. By lap 2 I have caught the chase group. Sabine already has 35 seconds on us. Fullana, Maja, and Irina are right there. I close on them and hear the gap top Sabine. Too much, it’s time to boogey girls. I pass Fullana to grab Maja’s wheel. Down the next decent Irina takes the right line so I go left and get to the corner first. The previous lap I got past two girls doing this. Neither woman is willing to give up a medal position though, and Maja passes me on the next climb while Irina grabs my wheel. Over the following 4 laps Sabine and Maja stretch their lead on me while Irina sits in.

Lap 5 and 6 I know I have to shake Irina, but we’re just too evenly matched on the day. I try to stretch it on the climbs with everyone screaming for me. She keeps clawing me back, but doesn’t have enough to attack me. It’ll come down to whoever makes a mistake. After the chute final lap we have two climbs to go and two descents. On the last climb, an incredibly steep one, I consider whether to middle or granny it. I have to be able to respond to an attack. I decide too late, shifting under a lot of torque. The gears crunch and I have to dab. Irina yells and also has to dismount, but I can’t get off till she’s clear. We run up the hill with her in the lead and hop back on. Into the descent I’m unclipped and have to be a little cautious. I chase her down, but there’s not enough time. I round the corner to the finish as she crosses the line. I’m momentarily bummed, but decide I can’t be too disappointed with a ride like that. Being defeated in the final stretch by last year’s world champion, but getting 4th at my first Olympics, the Olympics I didn’t think I’d honestly be at 2 years ago is pretty freakin cool! I’m glad I was able to give you guys at home a show;-) Thank you sooooo much for all the emails and comments here. It was great to have so many positive comments to come home to when the media is so medal focused - they think 4th is a huge disappointment. I’ve never been 4th at an international competition when all the best women were there. Yes that medal would have been nice and I got a little choked up watching it being presented to Irina, but 4th is a huge accomplishment. My family, friends and the CCA staff were all amazing. Stoked for what I accomplished, not what I didn’t. Thank you!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Whew, I m here!

It’s Thursday and I have just been told that our race will be pushed back a day due to deteriorated course conditions. Whoever heard of a mtn bike race being postponed because it got muddy! Honestly though I feel good about it. We now get to race Saturday at 10 am. So the typical morning race, not afternoon. The men will go after us at 3.

I’m feeling good. Got onto the sleep schedule easily. Legs get another day to recover from travel, get another day to know the substantial course changes since last year and it’ll be a better calibre race without the mud.

So what are the Olympics like? Pretty rad. Keith and I took the 12 hour flight over on Monday and then I went off to the village as he met up with my parents and cousin Adrian at the airport. Our bus went through security screening to enter the village and then I went through security to get past bus drop off. A COC staffer was there to take me to Canada’s digs and point out the cafeteria, the international zone and some other stuff.

I had shipped a bike a couple weeks ago so got to go out for a 30 min spin before it was dark. I almost mowed down a couple people weaving through the village. After that it was supper, a massage and bed. I didn’t even unpack or check out any of my new gear. Oh and I saw Shawn Johnson the 16 year gymnast at dinner and she’s even smaller in person! Crazt to see the athlete’s live. I have to remember I don’t actually know them I’ve just been watching them on tv!

Woke up at 5am and then headed for breakfast at 6:30. The village was already alive with people out training and heading for breakfast. Some of the athletes that were done their events were just on their way to bed.

The cafeteria is open 24hrs/day. We can always get cereal, salad, Asian, Halal, Mediterranean and international cuisine. Oh yeah and Mcdonalds! It’s actually pretty popular…particularly when people have finished.

All the female cyclists are sharing an apartment. We each got our own room to help us sleep with the jetlag and focus for the upcoming race. My coach Dan is here in the village which has been fantastic and my Luna manager is set up for massage in walking distance from the venue. There’s a trek bike store that Oakley has set up as their cycling home. So I get to go there and grab unlimited drinks and food from their stash, get a massage and lounge about in a comfy air conditioned loft.

The village is definitely amazing. In Canada’s building we have an athlete’s lounge where we can get on the internet, make snacks, watch movies or Olympic coverage and just hang out. Across the hall we have a wellness centre where there are tons of yoga mats, a quiet reading room and a power nap room! The medical centre is staffed with chiros, physios, massage therapists and tubs for contrast bathing.

The village is huge and beautifully done. There are little gardens between the apartments with water moats, sculptures and lots of plants. In the international zone we can get our hair and nails done and go shopping, the cafeteria is big enough to feed thousands of athletes without any line ups. There’s a fitness centre for training and relaxing by the pool. There’s pretty much everything.

The atmosphere is great. Good, calm energy, the Chinese volunteers are very helpful and the air quality is supposed to be excellent with the rain. Although it looks really hazy it hasn’t affected me at all on the bike.

Bell has been an amazing sponsor. They supplied each athlete and staffer with a smartphone with unlimited text and email while in china, as well as 300 minutes of international calling. And we get to keep the phone! It’s been great for touching base with my family here. Unfortunately I actually feel cut off from what’s been happening in the non cycling parts of the Olympics. CBC online which was amazing for live coverage is unavailable here.

I actually feel totally calm here, like I belong and know what I’m doing. I don’t feel overwhelmed by it and the calibre of athletes here. We’re all good at what we do and this is our chance to show it. I’m looking forward to the race. Hopefully it’ll go smoothly for Marie, my Luna team mate Georgia and myself.

So Saturday 10 am in China…so 7pm Friday for BC folk and 11pm in NB. Oh and I have the number 4 plate. Last Olympic Champ Gunn Rita has the #1 plate, my team mate Marie #2, Germany’s Sabine Spitz #3.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm on route! After two great weeks of training in the Kamloops heat, keith and I were up bright and early to catch our first flight. I was just as nervous heading to the airport as I am for any big race...and it's still 5 days away. I just can't wait to be there.

We're now enjoying the perks of the maple leaf lounge as we await our flight to beijing. From there I'll head off to the village and Keith will rendez vous with my mom, dad and cousin.

I'll try to put up a little blurb every day to share my experience!

Waahhoo

Friday, August 08, 2008

Kamloops, You Rock!


Some pics!


The luna crew enjoying some cappuchinos


Sandra and my cousin Adrian at our pancake breakfast in Italy


Atop the Fluela pass


Our new kitten has taken to breast feeding off of our large male cat Isaa! He doesn't seem to mind though


The BBQ I just assembled all by my self!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The sweetest sight



There are some moments in a race to savour. One of the best has to be looking behind you on the trail in the final minutes of a race and not seeing another rider. With about 4 minutes to go at the MTB World cup Sunday I got to look back at the forest trail I had just covered, seeing hundreds of bike tracks through the mud, but no other riders. With 200m to go I could hear my name being called and knew I was about to win my first World Cup. The eyes started to well and a smile formed which wouldn’t leave for several hours. The venue of my first elite Canada Cup race in 2004 was now the host of my first World Cup win!

I woke that morning at about 4am to the sound of pouring rain… and I fell back to sleep smiling. The rain would continue until the final moments of our race. A quick peak at the course prompted me to throw on Maxxis Medussa mud tires. It was a good call with the mud bogs and slick descents. The course, which had been altered recently on account of the large amounts of rain, took us immediately into a climb up a buff DH track before sending us back down mucky ski slopes and into woods which descended and traversed a lot of rocky and rooty terrain before spitting us back out at the start finish. Marie had her usual strong start, but we were together by the top of the first climb. I made a couple failed attempts to pass before heading into the first single track descent. After that I knew I felt comfortable pushing for more speed on the descent and made sure I got ahead before the next woods. Marie held my wheel into lap 2, but the gap increased on the climb and then more on the descent. Each lap I was able to pull further ahead as I got more comfortable in the mud. I couldn’t believe that having fun in the mud was my job! I crossed the line to big hugs from my mom, Dad, brother and husband.

It was a great weekend for my team too with Katerina Nash putting in a great ride for 3rd and Georgia Gould claiming her 3rd World Cup 5th place of the Season.

The weekend before at the Mont Sainte Anne World cup I got to stand beside Marie Helene on the podium as the Canadian anthem played for her victory. With Beijing quickly approaching it was pretty emotional for me. In Bromont positions were reversed, but I once again got to share the 1-2 positions with my Beijing team mate.

During the week I cracked my podium champagne with family and friends in Bromont over a sushi dinner. Liz, a physiologist with Pacific Sport and my brother’s girlfriend had just returned from Olympic Staging in Japan with Canada’s men’s rowing team. My brother Geoff got into character for Sushi making with his new Japanese garb. There’s nothing like being on the road and getting to share a great home cooked meal & laughs with friends!

So now it’s prepping for Beijing. I’m back in Kamloops where afternoons are 32 to 37 degrees and I’m able to get in some good heat acclimation while enjoying the benefits of being at home. I head to Beijing with my husband on the 17th and yeah I’m more than a little excited;-) This year has been amazing. Everyone has been so supportive and I definitely consider every email and confidence in me a huge part of the success I’ve found this season. Thanks and look forward to sharing my time at the Olympics with you. I’ll try to keep my blog updated!

Catharine
cpendrel.blogspot.com

Friday, August 01, 2008

Yeehaa!


Thanks again to canadiancyclist.com for the photo

You’d think that to ride to 2nd at a World cup you had this phenomenal day where everything fell into place. So it was weird to be racing in 2nd, but feeling kinda flat, like I was still mentally and physically a little sleepy. It had to be the slowest World cup start I’ve ever done…and the reason I was able to lead the first start loop!

I lined up with Gunn Rita Dahle on one side and Marie Helene Premont on the other - no pressure! Gunn Rita set the pace off the start with Marie and I moving up to rematch after last weekends’ close race. I ended up leading the start loop side by side with Marie. This start loop in years past usually saw me drop into the 40’s. Going into the climb I was third wheel. Marie was opening on Gunn Rita and I. Near the crest I knew I should try to lead the woods, but my legs didn’t want to attack for the hole shot. The gap to Marie grew. After the first woods section I made a surge to pass GR and try to hunt down Marie. For 3 laps I chased her down with her opening on the last half of the course and me closing on the first half. The gap stayed under a minute until 4th lap. Behind me, my team mate Georgia Gould was moving up from a bad start and mixing it up with Lene Byberg and Gunn Rita. Katerina was also riding top 8. Go Girls!

On 4th lap fatigue was starting to be a factor on the demanding course. 2 weeks on daily thunder showers meant the woods were slow going in mud and slick roots and rocks. I was pretty happy to have tricky conditions, but the mud drained my legs as much as everyone elses and I started to slow as Marie plunged on.

The race ended up being almost 30 min longer than Nationals with the course additions and muckier conditions. I was happy again to be on my Maxxis Ignitors. Last lap was one of those rides to survive. I wanted to be able to finish without being caught. I felt pretty good on the major climbs and technical woods, but struggled with the grassy climbs and felt myself giving in to the desire to rest. Lucky The Quebec fans were amazing. Loud cheers spurred me on, as loud or louder than any worlds in Europe. Keith, Heather and Kiara (who is sitting out the world cups due to continuing back pain) as well as my parents and the Hadley family were great, going hoarse from cheering.

Riding the last minute into the finish was amazing and I have to admit a little emotional. It didn’t really sink in till then that this was 2nd at a world cup, not a national event. My first World cup medal and a show of promise for our Olympic team headed to Beijing in about 3 weeks!

Luna also had a fantastic day with Georgia overtaking Gunn Rita for 4th and coming closing to Lene Byberg’s third place finish. Katerina finished 7th, a little disappointed on the day, but with fire to move up this coming weekend in Bromont.

Big congrats to Amanda Sin who claimed 10th with a great ride and Wendy Simms who over came 2 flats to finish in the top 15. Jean Ann also rode a great race to finish 20th.
On the Men’s side Geoff Kabush showed why he’s national champ and bested last year’s 3rd to finish 2nd to Olympic Champion Julien Absalon. Derek Zandstra continued his impressive season finishing top 15 after dropp