Friday, May 31, 2013

Climbing Back On Top

Well finally the World cup season has begun.  I can’t remember the last time I have started my race season so late.  Before World Cup 1 in Albstadt the only racing I had done since dabbling in Cyclocross was Sea Otter one month previously.

The first two world cups were an eye opener for me, not because the level of competition or my own strength was much different, but because it became so much clearer to me how my goals and mental space affect my performance.

I know this shouldn’t seem like a new topic, I often write about goal setting and focus, but there is nothing like back to back race weekends with two totally different head spaces to bring real meaning to words.

Having changed up my training and approaching racing with a “racing to build confidence” approach I wasn’t my typical fired up “I’m going to win this thing” self.  Not setting the goal of racing to win, I neglected to set another goal that was meaningful and inspiring.  I had done this preparation for Sea Otter and was happy with the results, my racing and form.  Not having a goal that inspired me meant I wasn’t excited, I hadn’t drawn up a plan of attack for my race, I wasn’t primed and somehow I thought it would just click on in the race.  I set myself up to participate and that’s what I did.  I woke up that morning feeling foggy and sluggish and the fog never lifted.  After the initial adrenalin of the start I settled into following wheels, my legs sluggishly turned over and rather than seizing every opportunity to move to the front, I watched the race ride away from me while fighting a mental battle to move forward.  I new I was pushing too big of gears, that my cadence was too low.  Rather than willing myself to “just go faster damn it!”, I was able to switch focus to improved technique to salvage my race and finish 12th. 

When you have an off race, particularly following a disappointing end of season it would be easy to convince yourself that is “just where you are”.  But I knew that would be a lie and if that was where I was at then I had to do something about it because it wasn’t where I wanted to be.  I knew I didn’t approach the race like me at my best.  I had no fire and my ride was uninspired.  Attitude is under my control.

Racing without striving for excellence is boring and unrewarding.  I love racing because it is engaging, hard and feels so incredible when it comes together.  That is what I wanted and what I needed to bring into Czech, fire, desire and raw racing.

But first good food, good company, sightseeing and quiet Polish country roads

For Czech I knew where I wanted to be riding, had a race plan and tackled my self-doubt demons to send them packing.  When you are in the right headspace to ride well you know it long before you line up to race.  I was smiling leading into Czech.  It was going to be good, I was looking forward to it.

The race got off to a good start and I held a decent position into the first single track ... two positions further up would have been ideal (lost 15 seconds to the leaders stuck in traffic).  Rather than catching a draft and sitting wheels though I started attacking through the start finish.  Every opportunity to move up had to be seized.  That lap I posted the fastest women’s lap of the day and the only sub 15 min women’s lap (just barely 14:59!).  I was on charge mode and soon enough had connected with the front of the race. I got confidence that I am that rider that can set a blistering pace and break apart a world class field.  Had I timed my efforts a little more, ensured I always lead in the singletrack the race may have turned out a little differently, but I always need a couple challenging races to fine tune.  The important thing was that I was up there, wanted more and know that I can achieve more.

                                                             Marius Maasewerd image
The race-winning move came on lap 4 of 5.  I had attacked again…on a not super smart section to attack and as soon as my pace slowed Tanja Zackelj attacked.  Maja, Eva and I were all there, but none of us had the leg speed to go with her.  It was pretty impressive.  Maja regrouped and set off in chase while Eva followed me into the next climb.  Being thrown off by the change of events I took a bit to regroup and settled into chase mode.  Eva flatted shortly after and it became an uneventful ride to the finish, which can be ok. 

Tanja grabbed her first World cup win after posting the fastest lap times for the last 3 laps, Maja was second sliding out in the final corner in what was shaping up to be a sprint finish and I was back on a World Cup podiumJ.  Alexandra Engen took 4th and Eva got a wheel change and was back out to claim 5th.

Catch the Race replays here on Red Bull 

It was a solid weekend for Canada with a 3rd and 9th in the women’s race (Myself and Emily Batty) and a 5th (Max Plaxton) and 7th (Geoff Kabush) in the mens’.

Both races drew large amazing crowds to cheer us on.  Here Max climbs to 7th in Albstadt.  Podiums in his future

Luna took second overall in the team rankings with Katerina’s 7th in front of a home crowd and Georgia’s 24th.

ClifBar owner's Gary and Kit joined us in Czech for some pretty exciting xco racing.


Thanks for the preride ALN.  So fun to ride with girls that love attacking descents!

Luna draws a crowd at the Shimano booth autograph signing

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Feels like 10 years ago

I have spent the past two weeks with my parents at our family home, a 150-year-old farmhouse on 100 acres in rural New Brunswick (saying rural New Brunswick may be redundant).  Having gotten into cycling well into my teens and having left NB in 2001 for BC I really hadn’t explored my home province much by bike.  Now, plenty of 3.5-4hr rides in my training allowed me to get to know NB much more intimately than I had before.  NB may truly be one of the best places to be a cyclist.  There are so many beautiful quiet road routes and, in Fredericton at least, a network of bike paths and mtb trails to make any city or cyclist envious. 
Mum and Dad indulge me with a cute photo op

With a stage race ideal for my training that first weekend, I checked out velonb for some upcoming races and found myself a road race in the Miramichi.  I couldn’t remember ever having been to the Miramichi and it had been a good number of years since road racing and probably 9 years since I had strapped on aero bars so why not? 
yup, those are aero bars

My memories of learning to road ride and race in New Brunswick were of getting dropped in the first 5 km and then riding by myself for the next 60km.  There were very few women so we raced with the men regardless of experience, age or ability…. much like today.

I created my own stage race weekend with a 15km prologue on Friday followed by 40 min of tempo.  Saturday was 120km with 1hr of motor pacing at the end.  This was quite hilarious as Dad and I figured out our communication signals.  I was flattered he thought I could accelerate and maintain 60km/hr up hills as well as his f150 did.  Sunday, 5 minutes from leaving the house for the Miramichi and the TT and road race there was a familiar knock on the door. “Really, way out here?” Yup, anti-doping was buy to collect a sample and then I was off to the races.
I had hoped that racing would be different some 10+ years later.  I decided to race the A men as I had a 5hr day on the agenda and I wanted to dice it up with the boys.  I had forgotten how a fit man’s ability to produce 1200+ wattage spikes trumps my ability to hit 800 Watt spikes even if I have been a mtb World Champion and am in the draft.  At 62 km in we hit 56km/hr and yup, 10 years later I still get dropped and have to solo in the last 33km.  So to all you women or men out there that struggle with the same problem, my advice
Never lose the draft.  It is self-survival
If you start losing a wheel, don’t feel bad for the people behind you also getting gapped and move into the wind so they can have the wheel!  None of us want to be that person that ruined someone else’s race, but you need all the help you can get!  Have them jump around you and dig like hell to hold their wheel.
Anticipate hard moves and be prepared.  Position yourself near the front
Get your equal ability friends to get out racing so you have buddies to enjoy finishing the race with if the drop does happen;-)

After that experience it was time to hit the dirt again and remember where I do excel.  NB has some of the most rugged trails out there.  You realize how densely forested it is and how much other places cut roots when you ride in NB.  A couple hours of riding here and you will be learning to master the art of off-camber roots and thanking your dual suspension. The mtn bike community in Fredericton is superb and I got out for some great guided tours of some pretty sweet single track.
 Although originally confused by the signage, we found our way to some pretty sweet trails.  Anna Healy was there to put the hurt on the guys and show me why she always kicked my but at the NB races!

Time flew by with so much good riding to do, so much catching up with old high school friends and most importantly just being able to hang out with Team Mom and Dad!
 Dee and I at the cottage                                  mom and I in some beauty NB forest

I am now en route to Germany for the first World cup of 2013.