Monday, January 17, 2011

I'm back....!

In Elite that is. It was February 2007 that I last lined up for a National Series Elite race. Since then I've happily lined up in Masters. This year however, XTERRA Worlds loom large, and to be remotely competitive I will need career best MTB form. That in mind I'd decided use the 2011 NZ MTB Elite XC Champs as an interim focus.

I fully intended to make a stealth attack on the boys... and not take an Elite licence until that race. But with a few different training plans on the horizon, I decided I had best test where I was at, so I know what to work on. I've got plenty of endurance at the moment, and am skinny as ever. But Elite level UCI format XC is a different kettle of fish. So I decided on Thursday that Sundays UCI Cat #2 race at Napier would be the comeback.

The first time in nearly 4 years that my bike has sporting an NZ "Elite" race number. Somewhat lower than it used to be. In golf its apparently a great achievement to shoot a round that matches your age. This was my version.... the race plate matching my age. That'll do for me. I used to have a habit of having race finishes that matched my number plate. With 20 starters in Napier, I was quietly confident of at least beating the number plate

3rd lap or so up the steep climb. Strangely it was climbing that had been my biggest worry pre-race with the last 4-5 weeks dedicated to 1/2 ironman training. Instead I was climbing pretty well and actually enjoyed this section of the track. It was the descents where I was pretty average (literally riding like a triathlete), and lacking any real brute strength and punch. No suprises there. And plenty to work on for National Champs

For first 3 laps I was in the mix. My descending cost me, as did strength. Then I wavered mentally on Lap 4... drifting out of contention. Still, I am stoked with a result like that on limited specific prep. Lots to work on in the next 6 weeks and many areas to improve. And lots of ideas for how to do it.

4 years ago at my "farewell" at Mt Vic I was 5th.... so not much changes. I've certainly got faster, but so have many others. Fellow veteran's Stu and Mikey also shared the podium with me that day. Dirk on the other hand was 2nd in the U17's back at Mt Vic, while Patrick Avery (whom I batled for 6th at Napier) was 4th. Great to see such progress from the young guys. Exciting for the future in NZ.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The never ending education

I sometimes wonder what it is that makes me continue my pursuit of my sporting dreams, and it is really quite simple. It's searching for the performance you are entirely happy with. Where the result is somewhat irrelevent, it is putting together the complete performance that matters.......Which is why I'm a bit disspointed about my weekend.

Tauranga Half did not go to plan. Just under 4hr15 and top 25 overall. Within seconds I recorded an identical time to last year. This was not the plan. I swam faster, I biked a bit faster, and I folded on the run. It just wasn't happening. Coulda, shoulda, woulda? I didn't.

I just felt lat and struggled to get power down on the bike. I tailed off throughout, and by the time I started the run my hamstrings were already cramping. Not plesant. On reflection there were many reasons, and many contributing factors. Many of them I should've controlled better. I will bank those lesssons, and not make the same mistakes again if I front back at Tauranga again. The positive is last year I was happy as with Tauranga half. This year I was average, I struggled, and I still did the same time as last year. I'll take that as a positive. My base fitness is quite reasonable. XTERRA is 3 months of yet.

To vent some frustration I lined up for the NDuro MTB race the following day. Not suprisingly I lacked any 'zing' in the legs but was relatively strong. I just didn't have the punch or real top end speed. Rode upp to 2nd at about the 45min mark before fading a little, then taking a little unneccesary deviation and sampling some extra singletrack along with Patrick Avery after a course marking hiccup. Ah well. Extra training. 4th in the end so can't complain too much.

Time to rest up the legs then kick into phase two of the season. Developing some MTB speed for National Champs.

Bobbing round awaiting the swim start. One of the few times I would still be surrounded by the other "pro" swimmers for the rest of the day.

4km or so into the run. Trying my best to fool my legs into thinking they actually have some 'go' left in them.

Friday, January 7, 2011

And so it begins

In less than 24hrs it's all on again for 2011 race season. Except while most MTB'ers are choosing whether to go with the National Cup race in Tauranga, or the N-Duro in Rotorua, I've made the obvious choice....

.... Tauranga half ironman

Maybe not the typical choice for an off road athlete. NZ's premier half ironman, with a flat fast bike course that favours the strong swim/bikers. I'm on a bit of a hiding to nothing as while its a draft illegal race... the speeds are that high that the front of the race is a freight train, and I will have been unhitched very early (like in the first few hundred metres of the swim).

Nevermind, it becomes a very hard self paced time trial of swim/bike/run for hopefully not too much more than 4hrs. After giving it a nudge last year, its exciting to go back and try and improve my perfromance. I've got a time goal rather than a placing to strive for....And it should really benefit my "base" fitness for the upcoming MTB season... which will probably start the next day.

After a few visits to the candy shop that is the wideopen warehouse, my sweet Avanti chrono is now all decked out in vision parts, fast wheels, and all ready to go.

Unfortunately we can't afford wind tunnel testing... so a solid weeks training in Palmerston North between christmas and new years was the next best thing. I tried to have an easy week this week, but the weather didn't really cooperate. Stunning sunshine "forced" me into a couple of MTB missions... including the Moerangi trail. 36km of Singletrack epicness. Am sure that's a good taper? Will soon find out tommorrow.

Despite my mocking of triathletes and the "all the gear, no idea" mentality I'll even be sporting this piece of go fast goodness. Although judging by the name tag inside the helmet I'm not sure it will ever have been as slow as its likely to be tommorrow?!