March 2017

Roller skating and rollercoasters

The best thing about National Champs was seeing my athletes go and slay it. The other best thing was having my 5 year old’s birthday on the same day, allowing me to appreciate something in the midst of being unable to race and keep the sport of XCO racing in perspective. Also I got to rollerskate, which was cool for me, and terrifying for Elv and her best mate who just did the splits for two hours.

The days after Toowoomba were really hard. I was in a flux, incapacitated at work due to the injury, yet still planning on racing Nationals. I would be like ‘fuck yeah i’m racing at all costs’ then head out on the bike and be unable to get out of the saddle due to the injury, then come home in a state of despair. This happened a couple of times; the ultimate motivation to crush skulls, followed with the reality being unable to ride my bike and using codeine (yuk) to sleep at night, on my back (the worst) then waking myself up when I move from the pain. It was quite the rollercoaster.

Thursday the course practice was moved, I was still unable to load bear with my right arm, and I made the decision not to race. It was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make, but once it was done there was a calm. What I suppose it’s like when you’re struggling in the water when you can’t swim, drowning, and all of a sudden you learn to float.

With my endgame wanting to be worlds ’17, I had to come to terms with the fact that despite riding with the top women in Australia in XCO, and on one day being the top woman in XCO, without completing Oceanias or Nationals I have little chance of ending up in Cairns in September.

It’s a learning process, the coach-athlete process is one that has me always learning, and the athlete and coach relationship I have with myself is no different.

I am a ‘no regrets’ kind of person and that’s served me well here. Having a break now is excellent both physically and mentally after a long and tough national season, with many ups and downs. Plus noone should have to do pre-0400 starts forever.

Some excellent takeaways I have made that will assist both myself and others I coach from my own season include:

•Don’t doubt the importance of having someone to bounce ideas off. As my own coach I feel this is sometimes a little more difficult. Yes I trust the process and it has been by and large pretty successful, but having a sounding board definitely would have helped with an objective eye cast over my decisions.

•Pre 0400 starts have a limited lifespan, and it shortens along with daylight hours.

•If you’re feeling consistently flogged, you’re probably flogged. Having one day of sunshine and rainbows in training amidst weeks of grey drudgery does not a fresh rider make.

•Your stupidest crashes will probably cause you the most damage, and be the most frustrating.

•Hard work begets results. Too much hard work can push over the other side of the optimal curve, regardless of how cluey you are.

•Don’t doubt the power of having a community and support in the training and racing journey. Likewise, don’t doubt the power it wields when taken away or diminished.

•Never doubt the power of a woman scorned. Hell hath no fury like a cyclist with a point to prove.

•When you love what you do, it’s not hard work at all. When you stop loving what you once did, have a good look at what’s going on around you.

•You can feel shit and have a good race.

•You can feel awesome and have a terrible race.

•There is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to worrying about race weight, as it turns out when you’re skinfolds are already in athlete-land, just eat well and make peace with having a lot of muscle mass. When you climb faster than tiny people then it doesn’t matter if you’re 57 or 61kg, it’s about the endgame. And it seems that, every time, i’ll feel better and be more powerful even scaled to weight, at around 60kg rather than 57.

•When you head for a break after a long season, 11hr sleep at night is definitely a thing…





Bike Purgatory

To say Oceanias didn’t go to plan would be a bit of an understatement. While I am still sore and sorry about it, you can’t change the events that transpire; it is what it is. I suppose the disappointment was all the more palpable as I really enjoy, and tend to ride well, on the rocky technical Toowoomba course. The hard gritty climbing usually suits me, the descents are a bit wild. All in all it’s a course I usually like to race and do well on. So I suppose I came into the race with expectations to smash it out of the water and have a good race, and leave nationals, this Sunday, as a bit of an afterthought.

 Having really been experiencing the grind of bike racing and training the past month or so, I took a bit of a confidence hit after a road crash 9 days prior to the event. Having never hit the bitumen, the thud of the hard ground at 42km/hr far outweighs any mountain bike crash where the lading is usually dirt, scrub and foliage. Plus you don’t usually crash at that high a speed offroad.  

Landing on my shoulder, with a secondary blow to the head, I was lucky to walk away with musculoskeletal damage, a buttload of bark off and a headache.  Fortunately, no broken bones however my shoulder range of movement was greatly restricted, I was unable to hold the bars on the mountain bike for about a week after; thankfully just in time for a solid day on the course for Oceanias, thanks to cramming buttload of physio and NSAIDS into the week leading into the event.

The gun went and the start was fast, with Samara, Holly and Bec leading up the climb, I was dangling. We pretty quickly had a break on the rest of the field, but I was working for it. It wasn’t a ‘no chain’ day by any means. I had one of those about two weeks ago where I was ready to crush everyone’s soul in racing and that was a bit foreboding; you don’t have too many of them!

Solid start, into singletrack in fourth. Pic: Hixit.

By the end of the first lap I was in third, uncomfortable but to be expected when you’re consistently on the limit. I had passed Bec struggling with her bike, and Holly was just ahead, she had ducked into the singletrack as I was coming into the start finish. The next climb was good, I was putting down some good power, feeling strong.

Turning into the first powdery descent; poof! I was on the ground, on my shoulder; my front wheel had washed out. A very silly crash. The adrenaline was charging in race mode so I grabbed the bike, jumped on and kept on riding, kept on pushing. In the next rocky section I began to notice the shoulder again, namely because stabilising my bike was not happening and—poof!— I ended up in the bushes. I kept on going,  feeling a bit beaten up by this stage. Bec came past having fixed her mechanical. I kept going, however stabilising those bars was such an issue that even climbing I couldn’t hold my line straight. I continued for the remainder of the lap, wildly pinging about the rock-gardens with little finesse and extra wildness thanks to lack of shoulder stability, I pulled into the feedzone to pull the pin.

No feed here: was on a mission. Pic: Hixit.

Having spent so much physical and mental time and energy getting myself and shoulder to a place where I could race, post road crash, it was a huge let down to be unable to continue.

I was: exhausted, deflated, downtrodden and anxious about it all. In fact I had been so anxious the nine days prior, with the ‘can I? can’t I?’ of the shoulder really weighing down on me, it was like a big fat nihilist exhaust valve had been opened. Unlike my bike mechanical at round one, I was much less sad because I had been dealing the injury in the lead up to the event. I just felt defeated.

I watched the rest of the race, then stayed for the elite and junior mens races. There were a lot of broken faces on that course!

The rest of the day was just one of being wound up so tightly, as I found myself once again in bike purgatory, the ‘can I? can’t I?’ this time for National Champs, this weekend.

There’s definitely a part of me that’s sick of the extra fight required to come good from an acute injury just prior to a race, but the main part of me is worried about having done all the work and sacrificed so much the past six months, being as fit as I have ever been and in with a good chance, and then being unable to race. I suppose I have until Thursday to go do a hot lap or two of the course, see if it’s a feasible wish, and commit to it.

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