Sunday, August 22, 2010

Truck 'n trailer practice at Mont Ste Anne

Just a quick update. I have spent the last 2-days up at MSA, training on the World Champs course. It was great to get some time on the track. It is a cracker. I raced it last year in my first World Cup and had an absolute blast. It didn't take long to get familiar with it again. The 'tech' rock garden was pretty sweet in the dry...but anything could happen race day! Stu got a picture of me comin down...

OK so it does not look very steep but it kind of is. There are a couple of berms at the bottom to catch you as you literally have to 'let it go' once you line it up.

The course is a busy one with 2 main climbs up or across a ski slope & several sections in the trees littered with mostly rocks & a few roots. Throw in a few tight corners & trees to go around & I liken riding my MTB to piloting a truck & trailer through here. It pays to have some precision in knowing where your rear wheel will track because like a trailer, it shortcuts when you turn corners. If you calculate this well enough a 'line' can be alot smoother depending on whether you go around or over an obstacle, and in tight sections it can certainly help maintain go forward.

So, it is a good thing I am a farm girl & learnt to ride a four wheeler often with a trailer on behind. Precision! What else did I learn? Grunt. To get up and over a short climb, obstacle or pinch give it throttle, but the correct gear is key - wheel spin & you are probably stuck.

I am back in Bromont this evening. I have a couple of days training here before we make our way south to Windham (USA) - World Cup race day is Saturday. Keep you posted. nic :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Coupe de Canada, Bromont. 4th Place.

The start, I'm behind Mary McConneloug in an almost identical riding stance. I had a good start position as I was called up for the front row.

Salut! Yesterday I kicked off my pre-Worlds North American campaign with the Canada Cup final here in Bromont. I was fourth. This was OK, not brilliant. Which is exactly how my legs felt in the first 1-2 laps, OK but far from brilliant. Whilst I was pushing hard throughout I wasn't able to contend as I would have liked. Top American & very accomplished World Cup rider Mary McConneloug dominated from the outset as expected. I was 8mins down at the finish, I had hoped to be a good bit closer than this. Amanda Sin of Canada was 2nd & Mikaela Koffman third, 30sec ahead of me. Jenn Smith (NZL) rounded out the podium in 5th a couple of minutes behind me.

On race day I woke early to a bluebird day, clear skies and the mercury already on the rise. With a start time of 12pm & 30deg the predicted temperature I was immediately concerned about racing in the midday heat. I promptly filled extra bottles with water to dump on my head and help cool me down during the race. I also set about ensuring I was extra well hydrated (like peeing every half hour) and I intentionally reduced the concentration of my carbohydrate sports drink (Balance Elite Restore + Caffeine) to increase the absorption rate of water from my gut into my bloodstream during the race.

For those that are interested in a little physiology...
During exercise the vascular system distributes blood to skeletal muscle with the greatest immediate demand for oxygen (my leg muscles) and away from areas that have less demand i.e. the viscera & major organs. However, during vigorous exercise in a hot environment there is an increased urgency to dissipate heat in order to regulate our core temperature. To do so, blood is shunted to the skin to promote heat loss largely via sweat (evapouration).
An increased sweat rate contributes considerably to a decrease in blood plasma volume, making our blood more viscous (thick), and in turn our heart rate increases to be able to maintain a high cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart in 1minute). Our heart rate cannot compensate enough and as a result there is a progressive decline in cardiac output. So exercise intensity increases considerably in the heat, and so too does our percieved level of exertion and sometimes exercise performance (if we are not well prepared or heat acclimated).

Anyway... that is why I wanted to try to keep my body temperature down (water immersion) and drink a more dilute drink (maintain blood plasma volume from sweat loss).

The course was in great condition. It starts with a lengthy climb to the top of the course, punctuated with short steep pinches throughout. We had changed my front (XX) chain ring combination prior to coming to Canada with this in mind & I sure was grateful we did.

I started well, but by halfway up Mary & Amanda were creeping away from me and I was not capable of their pace. I felt pretty awful up the climb the first two laps, the harder I pushed the more my heart was going to beat a hole in my chest & my legs were protesting. However, brain and body managed to agree on a good steady pace and I was able to ride reasonably well here-after.

Going up the climb in the final lap I had a little dig to see what else I had and got sight of 3rd place. Confident of bridging up I let rip into the traverse tech single track section, only to find myself making errors and losing time hand over fist, including a dropped chain. Perhaps more fatigued than I realised I got it together again to finish 30seconds off 3rd. Next time.

Trying to hold good pace into the rougher rocky sections of trail.

Full extension of my arms, fork compressed. Initially I thought my position was bad, but apparently I was going fast through this section. Let's hope so anyway.

It is notably harder to ride smooth and fast on these trails, particularly when you are puffing like a little steam train from a good hard climb and then dive into a rock/root infested descent. Suddenly your fatigue is more apparent as your body position, upper body strength, reaction speed and overall co-ordination are all tested at once. Typically in a race in NZ you can be lacking in one of those area but still descend OK b/c the trail is much more forgiving. Riding and racing here are obviously providing great practice, and I am certainly working on improving in this area.

So in summary I really enjoyed the race, and it is great to have the first one under my belt. I was a little tense lining up, having not had a major XC race since May (Offenberg World Cup) and following my strength block at home it was always going to be interesting as to how I went. I have also enjoyed a couple of hard training blocks since arriving in Bromont and as this race is in the plan to build for Ste Anne in 3-weeks time, things are good.

Post race last night we had a pleasant evening with all the Kiwi crew here (10 of us!) plus friends of Thierry & Melissa's here for a BBQ. Thierry generously cooked a beautiful peice of lamb on the BBQ (rotisserie style) and we enjoyed a good few laughs. This morning I went out for a nice recovery swim in Lake Bromont and this afternoon a spin on the bike is in the pipeline, or just a play down at the BMX track perhaps :) Maybe a French lesson too (got a bit distracted with the race toward the end of last week).

Finally a BIG THANK-YOU to our generous hosts & friends Thierry & Melissa for feeding us, doing tech support and the XPREZO support in the lower tech/feed zone for me. This is very much appreciated. Big congratulations to Melissa on her second place in her category yesterday too! Thank-you Sebastian for taking some great photographs and giving them to us, they are awesome to have. Merci beaucoup!

Thanks for reading, check back soon. Cheers! Au revoir pour maintenant. Nic :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekend Wrap

While Rotorua (along with the rest of NZ) suffered under heavy rains... Nic was adapting to the heat of a Canadian Summer as she gave her race legs a good test at the Final of the Canada Cup Series at Bromont. She'll report in later, but apparently the race legs were a little flat for the first few laps...

.... so she was a tad dissapointed to only make it to 4th. Nevermind. Good start to the North American campaign

.... Meanwhile back in Rotorua I took to trying out my skills as a post-race interviwer, as the Dean Watson/N-Duro pact with the devil seems to have run its course, and not only did we see the first wet N-Duro in a long time.... the race course was pretty much a river. Winning time a good 30min+ longer than expected. So my woosing out with a sore shoulder may not have been a bad move. And save's me from hours of bike maintainance.

At least my training bike got a good work out though, dragging Tony the Tiger Bushlove to a 3rd place Open/8th place Overall finish. Didn't throw him on the ground like it did to me 2 weeks ago. He must've been nicer to it?!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Becoming a Cyclist & an update...


Yes I am in Quebec, Bromont to be precise. I have been here one week now & it is superb! I have a mountain of interesting, technical trails a short warm up away & the temperature mid 20's most days. I am from Raetihi, a little cold blooded maybe, so the first few rides in the 25-27deg heat I felt like I was going to melt. I am not complaining, I am adjusting. I have completed my first hard training block since arriving and I feel suitably thrashed but good. I like this.

Following my 'debut' in Europe I had a great 2-months home in Rotorua, getting stronger! I completed my first 'gym based' strength/conditioning programme, amongst many an interval session & long ride. It was a little challenging at the time, riding on trashed legs every other day is not the greatest feeling and several times I thought 'S*^#t! I am getting slower not faster'. This feeling was made no better when 7 weeks into it I hop on the scales & find out I have stacked on 2.5kg...woe alright! Too many beef or venison hot pots? Cabin had also put on weight but that was partly before I got back and, he eats pies and ice cream :)

On second thoughts, I was quietly excited. Because when I started mountain-biking (racing) two years ago I watched the Tour de France (for the 1st time) and decided that a rear-end like Fabian Cancellara was what I would need to go fast - power! Sure every girl has a bit of a complex about getting a bit 'choddy' (thicker) but I flipped the coin & decided that a few extra pounds were aok with me as long as my wattage went up. So now I am here in Canada whipping that extra 'muscle' into XCO specific strength and I am hopeful it is working :)

I will spend 5weeks in total here ahead of the World Championship event (Sept 4th). Within this time I have two races - the Canada Cup final here in Bromont & the World Cup series final in Windham, New York. Both of these races I am looking forward to, I am confident I am improving and just maybe I am starting to become a mountan biker...we will see.

In other news, Cabin is at home nursing a very sore shoulder. His housemate/room mate/physio goes away for 6-weeks & within days he has a 'big off' on his MTB. From what I believe it was a wet miserable Sunday and Poppa felt the urge to go ride fast in the forest. Flying around the berms of Dipper (yes the Dipper trail) his trusty Cannondale let go & smack! Choosing to use his shoulder to stop himself, so he is a regular at The Physiotherapy Clinic this week and has had to shop for a new helmet also, busting his in several places - ooh.

Cabin's edit: I crashed on my training bike... The Cannondale is far too good to let me crash

Unfortunately Cabin will not be joining me, following the volcano erupting & disrupting our plans for Europe I guess he figures I am capable & can manage without him! Not so. I certainly would prefer to have him here, he such an integral part of my preparation and he knows what is needed to help me perform my best. But, it is expensive, we have a house & he must work. He is holding the fort, and I am very fortunate to have his generous support. And, the support of my sponsors - Avanti, Nature Valley, 2XU, Balance Nutrition, New Balance, Smith & n-Duro events, Rotorua. It means alot.

The NZ team for the World MTB Champs has been finalised and go the Elite Women - 4 of us! (Rosara, Fiona McDermid, Jen Smith (USA based) & I). Also best wishes to Annika Smail who is racing the World Marathon Championship event in Austria this weekend.

That is all for now & I promise more news soon! Au revoir, nic