Wah wah wah winter. The holiday countdown has begun…

I’ve been going a bit crazy of late, my bike mojo is waning, I’ve got the winter blues. End of financial year madness at work is stressing me out and this weather, i.e. rain/wind is giving me the royal shits.

Lucky for me though, I’ve got heaps to look forward to! I’m about to head off for three weeks cycling in France and Italy with Purdie. I’ve been waiting all year for it.

I’m looking forward to riding  in 30+ degree weather, not wearing gloves, jackets, shoe covers.

I’m looking forward to pro hours, pro kilometers and pro recovery – i.e. baguettes, poolside.

I’m looking forward to delicious food, cheese, cheese and wine.

I’m looking forward also to some Strava Challenges too… Rapha Rising and Women’s 100. These have added extra excitement to my trip!

Rapha Rising. This is something that ordinarily, I’d struggle to complete at home in Melbourne. But when my home is the Pyrenees for 7 days… this should be a breeze.  The Rapha Rising Challenge gives you 9 days, from the 19th to 27th July to climb an altitude of 8,800m. Consider this challenge done.

This is what I’m planning for the Pyrenees, thanks to The Cycling Life…10,000m of climbing in 6 days…. yes please AND we will get to ride to the top of the Hautacam to watch Stage 18 of Tour! This is what we’re planning:

Sunday 20th – Women’s 100. Route yet to be determined, but likely Bagnères de Bigorre including the Col du Lingous and Croix Blanche.
Total – 100km /1800m climbing

Monday 21st – Col d’ Aspin and La Hourquette d’Ancizan
Total –108km/2268 climbing

Tuesday 22nd – Col de Soulor and Col d’Aubisque
Total – 101k/1821m climbing

Wednesday 23rd – Col du Tourmalet (both sides…maybe)
Total 100km+/ 1961m+ climbing

Thursday 24th – The day that we climb the Hautacam and witness the finish of Stage 18 of the Tour de France
Total – 75km/1480m climbing

Friday 25th – Luz Ardiden
Total –  112k/1752 climbing

Saturday 26th – Sleep in

You can see my full itinerary here.

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Women’s 100. Thousands of women around the world will ride 100km on the 20th of July. Take the Strava challenge here to earn your woven badge.

There are four women with me on the Cycling Life Tour – Purdie, Trace and Kristina. We will be taking this challenge head on, we will ride 100 jet lagged kilometers together, uniting in the spirit and support of Women’s Cycling. There will be many #foreverbuttphotos #womens100 hash tags, bananas consumed, laughs to be had. I can’t wait!

I encourage you all to do so as well. You can join the Melbourne Women’s 100 in Kyneton by registering on the Facebook event page here. Or just get on your bike, and ride 100 km on July 20th.

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Following the Pyrenees adventure, Purdie and I are heading off on our own adventure. Strava challenges aside, this will be where our adventure will begin. The adventure –  lugging our bike bags across France, stopping off at Nice, then ending up at Bormio – Italy. Here, in Bormio we will ride the iconic climbs of the Dolomites, including the Stelvio, Passo del Mortirolo and Foscagno among others (and guided by fellow Melbournian Danielle Garden).

6 days later we will again pack our bike bags up and travel to Lake Como, for some real R&R (haha sure) before heading back to everything winter in Melbourne has to offer. I hope my body forgives me. Going from winter – summer – winter. Lets see what happens.

My holiday can’t come quick enough, 20 days and counting. 20 days of wind, rain and work left. Tomorrow it will be 19 days. I’m so excited! Can you tell?

 

 

 

 

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Battle on the Border, where I think I found my watts

The last month or so I’ve been complaining that I had lost my watts, I wasn’t really sure where they had gone. I was running 20 watts short on almost every training session I was doing. It was getting me down. My Super Coach assured me that athletes don’t feel fresh all the time, and that they (the watts) would come back, I’d just have to be patient. So I suffered through, feeling rubbish on the bike, waiting until the day that they would magically return.

Fast forward to last weekend. It really did feel like that, fast forward… All of a sudden I was packing my bike bag, getting ready to race Battle on the Border.

The four stage tour was held around Murwillumbah (NSW) and included an 86km road race, 9km ITT, criterium and 77km road race. Battle was going to be our (Total Rush’s) first National Road Series (NRS) race this season, with Jess Toghill (QLD) joining us, along with Bridie (who had solo’d it at Mersey Valley Tour) and NRS first timers, Emma Scott and Kate Perry (Kelly was unavailable for this tour). We were here, totally unsupported, and were crossing our fingers for a trouble free, strong weekend of racing together.

We flew up to the Gold Coast on the Thursday morning, hired a car and drove to our accommodation in New Brighton, which was about 40 minutes from Murwillumbah.  We settled in, and went for a quick pedal.

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The start times for this tour were outrageously early. 7:45AM starts every day, which meant that we would need to be up at 5AM and on the road by 6AM to get to the start with enough time for my usual faffing about. I was not sure how the early starts were going to affect me, both mentally and physically. I was already tired from the early starts I’d had all week… and I wasn’t sure how my legs would go for my first NRS race of the season.

Stage 1. Murwillumbah Road Race
So we were up and fed at 5AM, at the race start by 6AM. With not enough luggage allowance to bring trainers, we would be warming up on the road. This would prove to be an interesting experience for me, because usually I need a good 30 minutes on the trainer to get the legs going. So we rolled around the cane fields, turning the legs over. I was feeling ok, but those little efforts were nothing compared to the intensity that I was expecting from the race. This course was going to be a challenging. The terrain was quite lumpy, weaving in and out of the rainforest, into flat cane fields. It had in two sprints and two QOM’s to add to the pain. One of the QOM’s was going to be particularly tough being about 2.5km long, it was sure to suit the climbers, and possibly split the field.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

After a quick team chat, we were on the start line with 55 other women. For some strange reason I was not feeling nervous on the line as I usually would. In light of my missing watts, I probably should have been panicking. After a hairy experience getting out of the neutral zone, we were racing.  Not long after battling through traffic on the road (vehicles and other competitors!), Jess went for and got the first sprint point! It was a battle and a half to keep a good position and out of trouble, I felt like it was a washing machine and we were churning around the front. I can’t really remember detail of the race, but there were a few attacks here and there and the pace was high, especially on the climbs and the descents.

To my surprise, my legs felt good and I was climbing better than I had done all year. I was able to stay with the bunch over all the climbs, and not get dropped on the descents. This is probably the biggest improvement I have noticed since the last year. In 2013 I would get dropped on every decent, I simply did not have the balls, skills or speed to hang on to the group. This year, I think I had the confidence, a little more race experience and I wasn’t getting dropped.

Nothing was being allowed to get away. Well, that was until, well I can’t remember exactly where, but somewhere after the 2nd QOM, a group of three being Tessa (VIS) , Lizzie (Specialized-Securitor) and Anna-Leesa broke away on some fast descents and smashed it solo all the way to the finish line. They finished approximately 2 mins ahead of the bunch.

I managed to hold on and finish with the bunch. Stage 1 complete. My legs were still attached.

The race was over and it was 10:30am. We had a a full day to put the feet up and go to the beach! I was very exited about that!

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Results

Stage 2. Dawn ITT.
The ITT would be interesting for the team for several reasons… a) we were racing at the crack of dawn b) we had no gear! The team was all in the same position, no proper warm up, no TT bikes, no aero helmets. All we had were our roadies and our legs. Bridie, who has just come off her Mersey Valley Tour ITT win, would have to go the roadie too. As everyone knows, the ITT warm up is very specific and important to prime the legs and get the heart rate to my usual 205 bpm… all we had was the wide open road…. and a can of V.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

The SC had given me an average speed to aim for rather than average watts. Partly because I was complaining so much that my watts had gone, and partly because the course was fairly technical, average speed would be easier to focus on. This was probably all an attempt to distract me from my whining about my watts. It worked. The course was a weird shape, with an uneven road surface, a pinch, sweeping bends and sharp left handers. It would be easy to brake too hard and wash away any speed and momentum you built up. That’s exactly what happened to me. In hindsight I was way too cautious of the corners, I lost so much speed braking and then having to make that time up. Still, I did a respectable time of 14.28 to finish 25th.

Tessa won, and did an incredible time, of 13.04, which was 1.24 faster than my time!

The time was now only 8:30AM, we had hours to wait until our crit at 1:30PM. Recovery time!

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Results

Stage 3. Crit 
After a 5 hour wait until the start of the crit, it was time to get excited. I was nervous and feeling very jittery about this one. My fear and increased heart rate could have been as a result of I drinking two “V’s” whilst waiting around, but in reality, I put my nerves down to the fact that the course was just plain frightening. It had three pinches, with each getting progressively steeper, combined with a steep decent to navigate and some left and right corners. All this technicality and the climbs, were going to split the field, that was for sure.

It was on from the gun, with various riders taking the opportunity to smash the field’s legs off. Our team goal was to, “just move up”. Riders were being shelled every lap. No surprise really, with Bridie, Holden and Bicycle Superstore setting the pace it was a fast climb and fast decent. We were strung out, almost in single file for most of the race… I was hanging on for dear life and “moving up” where I could.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

I was in a world of pain from that first pedal stroke. Too preoccupied with the pain that when I eventually glanced down to my Garmin to see how much more of this torturous circuit I had to endure, I saw that I forgot to press start. Bugger. I didn’t know how far in I was, how far I had to go. Ain’t no body got time for that. I didn’t have time to dwell. I just kept moving up, moving up.

I was in the hurt box so much that I had no idea what was going on at the front of the bunch. Ruth had attacked, and managed to get a good distance on the front of the bunch. The speed was picking up, then all of a sudden Lizzie kicked and skipped up the hill, down the decent and then everyone slowed down.

I was so confused, I didn’t realise that was the last lap. The race was over. Thank god. I was glad to just survive. Jess, Bridie and I finished with the bunch. Half of the field were pulled. Emma and Kate did a great job but got pulled after about 15 minutes of madness!

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This is 23 minutes worth of my file. Let’s just say that it HURT!

Results

Stage 4. Kingscliff Road Race
It was the last day of racing. We were all feeling weary. This course was full or rolling hills, a couple of pinchy climbs and a few flat sections around the cane fields. Our race objective was to stay towards the front, especially coming into the QOMs. The first part of the race was relatively uneventful. The bunch was staying together. Lizzie grabbed the first QOM and sprint points.

We had just gone over a little pinch, at about the 46km mark, when I did a very opportunistic thing. I managed to get myself in a solo breakaway. I’m not even sure how it happened. We were going over a little pinch, I followed the wheel of someone, then all of a sudden I looked back and there was a gap. Started to descend, looked around and the gap was bigger. I was at the point of no return. I then proceeded to TT my way for the next 25km or so, my biggest gap getting to 1.05 secs thanks to some great teamwork going on in the bunch.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

Riding solo I had a lot of time to think. My thoughts were mostly about keeping my speed at about 40km/hr. I also had time to ponder my missing watts, and of course, what I was going to eat for dinner. I was having a great tour, in terms of the goals I had set for myself. I had given it my all, and was not doing too badly overall. My legs were feeling great, considering they had three days of racing in them. I just had to keep pedalling, my team would have been working hard in the bunch. I was going to have Baby Pizza for dinner.

I ticked along, concentrating on my speed and picked up the next sprint and QOM points. The further I got, the more I begun to feel the bunch hunting me. I knew they would. I knew that the VIS, Holden and Specialized-Securitor trains would be forming and they would start to chase me down. They wanted the win. There was not much time separating the overall GC positions, a win for them here could easily change the standings.

At about the 70km mark I was joined Shannon Malseed (Holden), Bex Heath (Bicycle Superstore) and Emma Viotto (Brumby Suzuki) bridged over to me from the bunch. There was not much left in the race, with only about 10km remaining. The trains were coming! We spent the first 5km or so working turns and yelling at eachother, then we settled into a rhythm. We were aiming to stay away, but the trains were coming.

(c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

With 600m to go, we were caught. I was just behind Emma going around the roundabout when Lizzie came hurtling by, then all of a sudden, Emma was horizontal, Lizzie had gone wide left and I slammed my breaks on and went right, towards the gutter. I managed to get back on track, with a little less momentum, and get around the corner to finish 9th. My best NRS finish so far!

To top off my efforts on the day, I had the pleasure of being ASADA tested. Now that is an experience and a half. Quite amusing really because I had beetroot for dinner the night before. #pinkreallyismycolour

Results

I had an amazing weekend racing and spending time with my Total Rush team mates. We did well as a team and all learned a lot, such a pleasure. We survived three days totally unsupported, with no on-road mechanicals or flats, we picked up sprint points, rode aggressively, climbed our hearts out and survive the three 5am starts in a row – with not being late once. I can’t wait until our next race together, for me that is Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley. My home town!

I learned a lot about myself this tour too. What SC had been telling me  about being patient and my watts would return, was true. She was right, of course, I think I found them somewhere on the border.

GC results

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And yes, I did have Baby Pizza for dinner. My usual Peroni and a fungi pizza. Delicious.

You can watch the NRS race videos by clicking here. Race photos supplied by TBS Photography and used with permission. Thanks to Total Rush for keeping our bikes in top race condition, to 4Shaw for keeping my feet warm and to my Super Coach, Bec Domange for always being right.

Mt Donna Baung ITT when almost #nogarminnorules sort of comes into play

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Lets just say that I was not enthused at all about riding the Mt Donna Baung ITT. It was a real case of CBF from my part, especially when I woke it to torrential rain.

I was off at 9:30 am and it was a 1.5 hour drive out there. It was raining, I mean belting down. I checked the radar and it was not looking like it was going to stop anytime soon.  I tweeted @CyclingVictoria, with the hope that the race was cancelled. It wasn’t. So I reluctantly dragged myself into the car, Purdie driving and we set off into the washing machine to the start line.

I had never ridden Donna. I only studied the profile for 15 minutes or so the night before, from what I could work out, Donna is just a steady uphill climb. No real false flats, no real pinches, just steady. My race plan was simple, I had a goal in mind to try to maintain 220 watts for the entire climb and/or keep above 16/17km per hour average, this would get me a time of +/- 1:03 minutes.

My enthusiasm to race didn’t get any better on the drive out there, in fact, I fell asleep quite quickly. I was not looking forward to racing in the rain. But thank god I wasn’t doing the Warburton Road Race, like my teamie Kate Perry was. Don’t get me wrong. I’m far from a fair weather rider. I commute every day, rain hail or shine. But pushing yourself to the limit in the rain, is less than ideal, especially when the finish line is at the top of a mountain at 0 degrees.

We arrived at the start line, and I sat in the car. Delaying the inevitable warm up. Purdie almost pushed me out of the car. Just get on your bike and ride it. So I got on the trainer and did a half effort warm up. Reports that it was snowing at the top was not encouraging me to go any harder.

I was off at the head of Mens A grade. I had my goals, just needed to stick to them. Don’t focus on the wet, or the cold. Just focus on the numbers, I thought.

Within the first 10 minutes, I was passed by the whole of Mens A grade that started behind me. Not long after, I realised that my trusty Garmin was having issues. As I wiped the beaded water from the screen my speed was going from 6km/hr to 30km/hr. I was confused. Was I going too fast, or too slow? It was affecting my distance measure too. I had no idea how far I had gone. How hard was I pushing… well I forgot my heart rate strap, so that was another number I was missing.

I don’t know why I was stressing, I could barely see the screen anyway, it was still raining…so I just thought to myself, #nogarminnorules. Suck it up and ride. My legs felt like rubbish, full of lactic. I was stressed that I was going to hard, I I had no idea how far I had to go or how hard I was pushing. I was too much in the hurtbox to take my hands off the handlebars. I just kept spinning as fast as I could. I started to pick off other riders. As I gained elevation the visibility became poor, I was riding into a cloud. Finally I saw the 5km to go marker on the road.

This is where I started to get into a rhythm, then before I knew it. It was snowing, and I crossed the finish line. I put my 100 layers on, and descended with no idea of the time that I did. I got changed and got in the car, and waited for the results to come out. As we drove back home, I was anxious at what time I did. I felt like I did a good time, I pushed hard, but I had no idea how hard I really went. I just rode as fast as I could.

57:23 was my time. Remarkable, I was not expecting that time at all. 2nd fastest time by a woman!

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There is something to say for riding without the stats. Just riding as hard as your body will let you. #nogarminnorules, sort of. It was fun, but next time, I’d prefer my Garmin was visible.

April obsessions

It’s been a while since I’ve posted my monthly obsessions… so here we go, I’m back on the bandwagon!

Enjoy!

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Muesli – This one is particularly delicious, from my 2nd favorite café Palate 

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My new 4 Shaw merino arm warmers and socks, get yours here

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My new Alice McCall dress. I rarely buy anything that isn’t cycling related. This is one item!

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Vegemite on rice cakes, with tomato. Delicious.

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I get my nails shellaced fortnightly. This is my latest colourway.

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My new TT bike thanks to Total Rush. I looooovvvveeeee it!

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My new cat Vans. I love cats. Sooo cute!

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Icy sticks. These ones are made with yoghurt. Also a fave of mine!

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Wunderunder pants by Lululemon. Perfect for mooching around in.

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#Foreverbuttphotos

Some stats, some juice and lots of pink

So. I’m almost over beetroots. I’ve been eating them, drinking them and peeing them. Everything except for bathing in them, but If I had a bath at home – well, who knows. I’m back on the ‘beet’, all in the name of science. I say that loosely. I’m not collecting qualitative data, and definitely not running a T-Test.

Why? Well, as mentioned in a previous post, I am curious to find out if beetroot dosing would actually increase my performance. There is lots of research to support the benefits of beetroot and the nitrates that they harbour on your muscle efficiency. I’m a bit sceptical. Increased performance could be so many other factors. I’ve dosed before and was not convinced. The opportunity to test if BRJ is all it’s talked up to be came up again… So it was worth a try, again.

How? This time I was able to conduct a better test… by racing the same Lancefield course I could replicate and measure (again, loosely) the before and after BRJ dosing. So. Last weekend I raced the Northern Combine Women’s Series/SKCC Trophy race whilst ‘on’ the BRJ. Two weeks earlier, I raced Stage 1 of the Northern Combine 3DT ‘off’ the BRJ.

I’ve written a report on stage 1 of 3DT look that up here if you want, or don’t. So, here’s how Saturday’s race panned out – in very fast forward so that you can get to the stats.

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Photo credit Jo Upton Photography.

Last Saturday, was almost like déjà vu. Everything was the same. I ate the same food, again there was a thick layer of frost, again my feet were numb, again we waited for ever on the start line, again there were the usual suspects in B grade….Again, we rolled out in a relatively orderly manner.

Again, we started to roll fast turns straight away. We needed to get warm, the air was cold, and so was I, the fact that we spent about a thousand years on the start line was not helpful to my legs. They were feeling heavy. But, I was feeling good. “Race, not ride” was today’s mantra. After an epic fail at the first major corner (half the peloton went straight instead of turning), we hit Dons Rd fast. I hate Dons Rd, just hang on. But, the bunch started to break up. Again, by the time we got to the pinchy sections on Rochford Rd, we were down to eight or so, trying not to be caught. Interesting in that these pinchy sections, the sections that I hate the most usually, felt okay. Again, in no time we were descending, I looked up, and the first lap was almost over.

Not again! Lap two, we continued to rolled turns, well, most of us did. Some were more fatigued than others, and they had a nice ride on the back. Again, we saw some strength with one bridging the gap to get back on. We were still rolling fast. The worst section for me, Dons Rd came and went. Again, the same usual suspects were on the front on Rochford Rd, Oh no…Again, I was starting to fail, just hanging on for dear life and nearly not making my turns. Just before the last climb, I thought it was race over, my mind started to melt and so did my legs. Again, everyone started to dart up the hill and I thought to myself “race, not ride – you’ve got to break your 6th curse”… I pulled something from nothing. We were on the false flat before the finish (on the top of the climb), again Tessa off the front, Simone chasing and 3 of us side by side across the road. Wow, Tessa had already crossed the line by the time we thought about sprinting! That girl is amazing. Simone was close behind. We clicked up a few gears and bang. Harriet 3rd and me, 4th. wow… That was not the same as last time.

So, let’ analyse the results…

Data comparison

3DT SKCC Trophy Race
Beetroot No Yes
Distance 60.8 60.2km
Time 1:46:20 1:45:29
Ave speed 33.9 34.2
Max speed 69.8 67.0
Cadence ave 90 rpm 89 rpm
Heart rate 185bpm N/A
Place 8th 4th

It is pretty much exactly the same. Same distance, same time, same average speed, same cadence…except different end results. I moved up four places. That is an achievement. I’m very happy with the result! I am finally seeing some results and my training looks to be paying off.

But…I’m going to say that I don’t think that the results are entirely because of the BRJ dosing, environmental perhaps? Could it have been that I was more familiar with the course after racing it twice before? Maybe it helped me know where to use my energy and where to conserve it. Maybe I just raced better? Maybe I raced, instead of rode? Maybe I ate and drank more? Maybe I had a better sleep the night before?

Or was it the BRJ? Maybe it was the nitrates in the BRJ made my oxygen transport more efficient, made my muscles fire more efficiently, so that at the end, I still had the power and energy in the legs to do better in the important, final stages…Maybe?

All in all, the race felt good, apart from a minor mind melt down before the final climb. I ended up in a good position. Do I think that it was the BRJ? The answer is maybe? I’m racing the Preston Mountain Classic on Sunday… we’ll see because, I’ve bought a new juice to try:

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Get on your bike and ride it. In the cold, with your friends and have a bloody awesome time doing it.

You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @lowercasev

South Gisbourne Saturday, Skinsuit Sunday and a weekend of 6ths

Hawthorn Trophy Race – Northern Combine Women’s Series Race Two – South Gisbourne

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Well. What to wear? I distracted myself with some serious fluffing on the morning of the Hawthorn Trophy Race. I stood, staring at a pair of leg warmers for a good twenty minutes before putting them in my bag. I wanted to bail. But it was the second Northern Combine Women’s race, so I couldn’t, could I? No, come on…support women’s cycling and all. Just get on your bike and ride it.

I had raced the course once before. At last years Hawthorn Club Championships. I cringe when I remember that race. I was all fresh faced, nervous and excited. It was my first race. Ever! I did not know what to expect.

All I can say about that first race, is that it was torture… probably the hardest riding I had done up until that point. I was so new to cycling. I was naive. I was not prepared. Had done absolutely no training…. I was used to just getting on my bike and riding it, and not very fast.

I was in a world of pain. I was dropped. I had never peddled so hard in my life. I thought about giving up. But I didn’t, I finished… I was exhilarated, on an adrenaline high. You live and you learn. Despite the fact that the race could have broken me, it made me want to get better and made me want to race my bike. In a strange, strange way. I’m sure that was where I picked up the cycling bug.

But today, I wanted to bail… because… well, I did not know what to expect.

That sounds silly because, well, I did know what to expect. I knew the course, I knew it was hill-descend-repeat, I knew it was going to be tough. Very tough. My brain was harassing me again. What if I was not better, what if it was going to the last time I race there, what if I can’t keep up.

On the start line I gave myself a pep talk. Told myself to get over it. Everyone is probably feeling the same. This time, it was different for me. I had been training, it was not my first race, I am better now.

Fast forward 55km and 1 hour 48 minutes.

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I rode as best as I could. I did the things I wanted to do, like give the climb a good effort, and all the things I was not supposed to do, like stay on the front too long. But I rode hard, I rode to my strengths. Of course I could have done a few things better. Manage my energy levels for one. The last lap was tough. Physically and mentally. I was mentally drained by that stage and the prospect of smashing it up the last hill was daunting, everyone else seemed so fresh. I probably psyched myself out of it in many ways, bloody brain. The course had a distinct pattern, a rhythm, of decent, climb, repeat.

That last lap I did not replicate my pattern. Especially on the last little climb. Usually I would punch up the first section, then on the second section put some more power. This time I punched up the first section, and then ran out of gas. My gasket blew again. Just like Tour of South West. Great.

Bummer hey. Not that I was even close to the front anyway. That last little section, the section I want to be good at, the hill, I bombed it. You live and you learn. Just like I did almost a year ago after the club champs. This time I rolled in 6th, B grade women. The race did a lot for my lack of motivation of late. It reaffirmed a few things for me.

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Almost 12 months on and the race was still torture. The funny thing is, of course it was going to be. In reality, racing is always going to be tough. If it is not tough, you either are not peddling fast enough or your in the wrong grade. Each time you race, you will be pushed to your limits. It is never going to be easy. It is racing. You train for this. You train hard to be able to push yourself. Each time you move up a grade, it is because you need to be challenged.

I’m glad it spurred me to start training and racing. I’m so happy with my progress to date. You know what? You can never know “what to expect” going into a race. As someone once said to me “try to plan, but expect the unexpected”?

I’ve just got to get over my doubts and get on my bike and ride it, and try not to blow a gasket. I need to get out and have some fun on the bike.

Results can be found here.

Skinsuit Sunday SYCA-Cross

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I was exhausted after the previous day’s racing and needed some fun on the bike. So I blew off my scheduled hill efforts and opted for some SYCA-Cross cyclocross. In hindsight. It was probably just as hard as hill efforts!

Cyclocross racing is kind of like a criterium race, in that you do multiple laps of timed, short course, but it is frantic. Throw in a few barriers, requiring you to mount and dismount, bunny-hop or stack. Throw in a variety of terrain, mainly mud, gravel, grass or whatever then hell you can get your bike and ride over. It is a crazy mix of mountain biking and cross country and road riding. It is addictive. It is well, the hardest racing and the most fun racing you will ever do. You will fall off. You will love it.

So I joined a few skinsuit clad cx-ers route en route to Mill Park where  Whittlesea Cycling Club  was hosting SYCA-Cross. We all rode out together, looking like a weird bunch of colourful cyclists riding weird road bikes with knobby tyres.  I was out of place. I had the colour. I did not have the skinsuit. That must change! Despite my not fitting in with appropriate cx attire I was pumped. Looking forward to some bike fun.

We got to the track early. So had heaps of time to take advantage of the coffee van and Beatbox Kitchen Burger Van. We also had heaps of time to cut a few laps of the track. The course was awesome, very technical, windy, with grass, a few little pinchy climbs, gravel, mulch, hay bails, logs and a bmx track!!!

Fast forward three hours and we were racing. Actually some were racing, I was scrabling!

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The stronger riders were straight off the front and I was left peddling frantically to try and catch up. Think scramble, people, riding bikes everywhere, sliding, weaving, stacking, on-off-on. There I was, my heart beating at 200 bpm, weaving, sliding, jumping, stacking, sweating!

The feeling I  get during a CX race is so hard to describe, it is a mix of pleasure and pain. I love the adrenalin, it is fun, but it is hard and it hurts. My attitude towards cx racing is very, very laid back. I’m not taking it seriously. I’m doing it for fun, and a laugh. I do not worry about placings. I worry about staying upright and negotiating barriers!

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I just got in my bike and rode it, like crazy for 40 minutes. I think I came 6th… again. We had an awesome day on the bike. I loved every minute of it. Sometimes a fun day out on the bike is just what you need!

Results can be found here.

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What’s next? SYCA-Cross is a four race series, I’ll do them when I need the laughs and same with Dirty Deeds, if I get a costume together – I’ll do them too.

Next on the list: Pink skinsuit. Pink Stackhat.

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Helmet, get one, then put it correctly on your head

This is just a quick note to remind everyone on how important it is to wear a helmet. And wear it correctly. Every time you ride your bike. So I binned it. Bumped my head on the asphalt, which put a crack in two sections of my beloved S3 helmet.

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Fig. 1. Me saying goodbye to my cracked S3. Wah.

After my crash, I rode straight to TR and bought a new S-Works Prevail helmet. Don’t quibble about the price, because how much is your head worth. I’ll speak for myself, mine is worth a lot. I use it every day. My new helmet is super light and fits my head well. Make sure yours fit your head well and correctly. Check the owners manual to find out how. My owners manual looks like this.

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Fig. 2. My owners manual.

For your helmet to be effective you need to be a) wearing one, b) fitted correctly and c) without damage. Mine was all of these things, yet it still cracked – because it was doing its job. Absorbing shock, and protecting my head.

Have you looked at your manual? I’m not going to tell you how to fit your helmet, check it for yourself. But do it. Now. Make sure its on properly. You don’t want to be one of those daggy people with a helmet that is too big, too small, hanging on the back of your head, with too long straps, with the straps not done up, without its shell, with bumps, dirty and well just, plain uncool.

Just get on your bike and ride it, with a helmet, correctly fitted.

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Fig. 3. There’s more padding in the box of my new helmet, than in the helmet itself. Yet it is still so bloody comfy!
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