Rediscovering the Fun Of Mountain Bike Racing

Goals.  I have written before about how important goals are to help you find your way in your athletic pursuits.  However, if the same goals help you apply pressure on yourself, you will not be free to enjoy what you are doing and just do your best.  I think this is what happened to me at the beginning of this season.  No matter how I tried to frame my goals as process (faster swim, smoother bike, quicker run) they were really outcome goals (winning).  Because I was so worried about performance I could not enjoy the moment, and as a result my performances were less than they could have been.  It took a trip to the Canadian National Mountainbike Championships and then a Canada Cup mountain bike race for me to sit back and gain some perspective.  I went to those races to test myself against the mountain bikers and in the process gain some fitness.  However, my mind set for each of them was unfortunately not as positive as I would have liked – all outcome with no process.  This story is a bit about my mountain bike racing, and how I believe that is so important for Xterra athletes to develop bike fitness, but is also a bit of a mental lesson for all of us. As soon as we are not having fun, we will not perform.  Period.  Read on….

Continue reading “Rediscovering the Fun Of Mountain Bike Racing”

Xterra Season Kicks Off in Temecula

Well, my first triathlon of the season is now in the history books and I am now flying back home to do some bike racing before I head out east.  Unfortunately, race #1 did NOT go as planned, but it was good enough to bag second place. I am going home a little disappointed only because I felt that my form was much better than my performance. I think I miscalculated some training and ended up pretty flat on the day of the race. My run absolutely sucked, there is no other way to describe it, and I didn’t ride much better. This was a bummer for me but great for Jamie Whitmore and great for Candy Angle, who nearly caught me by the end of the race.  The result was still pretty good, no matter how much I hate to lose, but the race was well below expectations. There was one positive aspect to this race and that was, thanks to Neil Harvey and the Pacificsport National Triathlon Center, my swim! I screwed up the start, swam alone for much of the first 400 meters, dropped back to a group and still ended up coming out of the water with the lead women fresh as a daisy.  Normally with that kind of open water tactic I would have lost a lot more time so my swim fitness is good.  I had a lot of fun, as usual, down in Southern California, so read on for the details of our trip…

Continue reading “Xterra Season Kicks Off in Temecula”

The At Home Training Camp with some Olympic inspiration 2

As my last block of training before heading into full blown race season, I had planned a training camp at altitude but I wanted to do it at home, in Victoria. Following the "sleep high, train low" philosophy, I decided to sleep at about 6000 feet while continuing to follow my VERY demanding training schedule without modification. This can be facilitated by using an altitude tent by Hypoxico. This year I have pushed to new levels not only cycling but definitely with my swimming and running, but using altitude can improve your aerobic fitness quicker and with less damage on your body because it will challenge your cardiovascular physiology without impact/training. There is a lot of debate over the effectiveness of altitude but I find it is mostly scientists that are debating whether it works. Coaches and athletes are just doing it and winning and not worrying about debates over scientific evidence. I truly believe that altitude, whether it is real altitude training or in a tent, works well for developing endurance fitness.

However, altitude is very demanding. There were some very ugly days in the pool, on the bike and trudging through some runs because altitude adds another heavy load to your body beyond what you are treating it to while training. Because I was still training at sea level, I could still do all of the quality work that I had planned, which really isn't possible when you go to altitude to train (at least until you are acclimated). It is important to use every physiological marker you can to determine how your body is recovering: your morning heart rate, your weight, an evaluation of how you are feeling and, particularly while training with altitude, your blood saturation (as determined with an oximeter). While training at altitude I use an oxygen monitor to determine exactly what % oxygen is inside the tent and an oximeter to see how this % oxygen is affecting me. HOWEVER, if one of these markers should be inaccurate, say due to an oximeter that is a piece of junk, you may make unfortunate decisions based on the marker. One of these poor decisions might be increasing the altitude. And thus begins the story as to why I skipped the NORBA in Fontana….. Continue reading “The At Home Training Camp with some Olympic inspiration 2”

Slogging Through The Sea Otter Mudfest

 

My first race this season was the Sea Otter Classic, mountain bike racing’s annual pilgrimage to Monterey, California. This race is a big festival with downhill, bmx, dirt jumping, road racing and cross country mountain bike racing mixed in with some fun rides and a big consumer trade show. It is a gigantic circus at the Laguna Seca Race Track where one of the toughest challenges is to find the start and get there on time while riding through thousands of spectators. Mayhem is always on the menu.

I was racing the stage race which was done in Omnium format so each stage carried points rather than time to determine the overall GC. However, the biggest race was the cross country on the final day since it carried UCI points which eventually will determine who goes to the Olympics for their country so most athletes were focused on this final day. There was a star-studded female field with reigning Olympic and world champion Gunn Rita Dahle, cyclo-cross world champion Sabine Spitz, Commonwealth Games Bronze medalist Kiara Bisaro, three-time world champion Alison Sydor, and two-time Olympian Jimena Florit (who has left us to go back to mountain bike with Luna Chix!). I was super excited to test my fitness against the best to see where I am at in this early stage of the season.

 

Although not every race was a great one, I did have at least one trip to the podium and I got some excellent training out of the super marathon of a cross country. I have to send out a big thank you to my bicycling sponsors because this weekend was very hard on my equipment. Thank you to Shimano for the overhaul and to Orbea, Maxxis, Fox Racing Shox and even Saris for your help this weekend (that pump was handy). I am really fortunate to have you guys to help me as well as my coach Houshang Amiri, who was there to see the good, the bad, and the very ugly….Thanks and a shout out go to all this year’s partners (who are all in the Sponsor 2006 section!) but especially Saucony, Nature’s Path, Orbea, Sundog, Shimano, Maxxis, Fox, Aquaman, Gu, Profile, Titec, Fizik, Powertap, Powercranks, Computrainer, Kinesys and Rider’s Cycles for building a top notch machine for this weekend!

 

 

Continue reading “Slogging Through The Sea Otter Mudfest”

Winning Under Pressure – Conquering Keystone!!

No victory is as satisfying as when you MUST win; all the pressure is on you to perform, and you are the target. This was the case this year at Keystone because if I didn’t win and tie up the points series, a win at Tahoe might not have meant an overall for me. Given that Jamie Whitmore has won this race for the past three years, convincingly, one would assume the odds were against me. The course is all above 9300 feet, peaking out at 11, 700 feet, the swim is very short, the bike is very short, and the run is very long. Looking at my resume, this wouldn’t look like a suited course for me. But for the past two weeks I have brushed that aside, moved in with my Saucony teammate Josiah Middaugh in Vail, Colorado, and made it my mission to win this race, with the kind of intensity I usually reserve for Hawaii. And it paid off! I led from mile two of the bike course and from there continued to put time on my competitors until I finished with three minutes at the finish. Particulary satisfying is the minute I put on Jamie on the run course and given that I have been passed on the run at the last two races in the final metres to lose by seconds this is significant! So, altitude schmaltitude, Tahoe will be mine!!! I am pretty excited, obviously, because this is a huge confidence boost for the US Finals in Lake Tahoe, at a measly 6700 feet. A lot of great stuff happened since our fun times in Crested Butte, so read on for the story…. Continue reading “Winning Under Pressure – Conquering Keystone!!”

Milwaukee Mishap Means No Number One

It was all over except for the news reports, I had a four minute lead built up by a third fastest swim and fastest bike leg, and as I went out onto the run I was certain my run was going to be a formality. I steady clicked through the miles, careful to drink whenever possible, and focused on leg turnover. Then disaster struck?. I took a wrong turn at about 4 km to go, adding about 600m while I traveled back to the course en route to the finish. I continued on, trying to not think about the error, but with about 300m to finish, Jamie surprised me, running by into the finish, and I had nothing to answer with and lost the race by 22 seconds. That is racing and it was my own error (likely caused by a little heat induced delirium, it was almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit and about 88 percent humidity, I spend a little time with an IV post-race) and I am SO mad that I handed over the win when I already owned it. I am now focused on our next race in Keystone, which may be pivotal for the series. I am at a 10 point disadvantage for the series, and I can?t afford to be more than that going into the finals in Lake Tahoe. Jamie and I have further pulled away from the rest of the girls for the overall title, almost assuring ourselves of the top two spots (barring a DNF disaster in Tahoe) but unless I win in Keystone, CO in three weeks, even a win in Tahoe won?t ensure a first place in the US Series. Nothing like a little pressure to make you step up, huh? So I am on my way to Boulder right now, my second favorite training place on the planet, to adjust to altitude and try and get my best possible race at 9500 feet. But going back a bit to the story of Milwaukee, city of beer and brats??. Continue reading “Milwaukee Mishap Means No Number One”

Just Short of My Richmond Repeat

How painful to your heart is being passed in the final kilometers of a triathlon… I had sworn off being passed in the run this winter by training my BUTT off in the run, but managed to sabotage my own race this week after coming back from Europe. I felt pretty good as soon as I got in, and was psyched to do some training to kickstart the system and get ready for Richmond but I think I kickstarted too much, because my good feeling off the plane turned into a blown feeling by the time of the race, and my horrible run was the result. I practiced the bike course too much, and the run course too little.. I was caught and passed at the infamous boulder hopping section (flashback to 2002 when Anke passed me there while I was going unconscious from heatstroke). No heatstroke for me, it wasn’t THAT hot, but a pass that I couldn’t counter meant I lost the race by a tiny margin. It is frustrating to think of all of the little mistakes I made during the race that had they not been made, maybe I wouldn’t have finished the race with a deficit. However, the bigger issue was I made the rookie mistake of being so nervous about a race that I thought I needed to do more to get ready, rather than less, and paid for it. Still, even though Jamie had a better day, it was a good race, Jamie and I were both top 20 overall on the day, which is definitely respectable, and we continue our deathgrip on the US Championships series as we are tied in first, with a sizeable lead over third. The best thing about this week, however, was the message from my Italian friends, so please check out the photos in “Other Photos” so you can see just how amazing those people are!! And then, carry on to the story….

Continue reading “Just Short of My Richmond Repeat”

Xterra Eastern Europe – Czech Republic

Okay, no matter how many times I have travelled to Europe, the overseas thing always seems to squash me for a week or so. As I started to describe in the last report, I had three days of travel to get from Mt Saint Anne, Quebec, to Ottawa, to Toronto, to Heathrow, to Prague and then finally to Hluboka nad Vltavou. Luckily, Ross met me at Heathrow so my homesickness went away, but I was a little out of it from lack of sleep and travel fatigue. Needless to say, from my seventh place result, I was not feeling my best. I was consistent though, I had a bad swim, a bad bike and a bad run (really bad run!). It has been a long time since I have performed so poorly and it didn’t feel good at all. Renata Bucher, our new Swiss star, had an awesome race, running and biking her way into first place, and I am so happy for her to get her second win this season. Having said that, I am pretty motivated this week to perform much better here in Europe. Ross and I did have some fun in Czech Republic, but it was not without incident, and the story follows…. Continue reading “Xterra Eastern Europe – Czech Republic”

The Race That NO ONE Could Love….

This week I traveled back to good old Quebec to get some mountain bike racing in.  I felt like I didn’t have enough speed work done for my cycling in Temecula and thought this mountain bike racing would be good preparation for the middle of the Xterra season, and a goal of mine is to go to the Mountain Bike World Championships at the end of August. I worked hard on my cycling this winter, and need to test it against some mountain bike specialists so Danelle and I packed up to go beat ourselves up in the dirt a little. We got more of a beating than we bargained for. The Canada Cup race at Mount Tremblant went from a fun, albeit very technical, fast but slippery circuit with lots of wood bridges, roots and rocks, to a boggy, foot deep, muddy mess. It was the kind of course where you totally destroy your bike and have absolutely no fun in the process. Sorry Jim, this race was really what might define technical…like, can’t even ride your bike technical (I know, you took enough abuse after the report on Temecula, I’m sorry xo) I toughed it out to finish top five, but it was pretty far from expectations.. Continue reading “The Race That NO ONE Could Love….”

Should have broken the wishbone instead… our Christmas Break!

My first post of 2005! I have had an eventful holiday to frame my planning for this next season. It seems that 2004 has ended in numerous tragedies for families around the world, and although I haven’t personally endured a tragedy, we did encounter a life threatening scenario. Nothing that compares to the catastrophe in Asia, but combining our experience with the shock of the news of the tsunami gave us pause. This motivated me not only to plan this season, but also to think about where I want to be one, two, four and ten years from now. I hope that everyone had the ability to look outside their normal daily pursuits, and consider the global consequence of our daily lifestyle, and also to recognize that now is the time to live, this moment, because you never know when your next breath might be your last. We were lucky this time, on our Christmas backcountry snowboard trip, when a tree and broken femur created a very scary situation? Continue reading “Should have broken the wishbone instead… our Christmas Break!”