Carrot speculation: on motivation and results

I am lucky enough to be able to coach an awesome group of cyclists. It’s a motley crew, with women and men ranging between junior to masters, I have a little bit of everything.

The needs of each different rider can be split into such broad categories (masters vs junior, mens vs women) but realistically, the individual differences between the rider are far greater than the difference between these constructed categories.

While one may be looking to complete an event, another may be hell-bent on a National’s journey; and that’s ok. We tailor coaching to both athletes.

The difficult part of it for me is to enable both these riders with confidence and a culture of success. Maybe it’s because I am not an innately confident person, it’s something that requires work for me!

Bike racing has always been 50-50 work and mental belief, and it’s in the 50% of mental belief that we can see the biggest leaps and bounds in terms of outcomes. I was having a chat to an athlete this morning and explaining differences in zones and their breakdown in max and threshold heart rate, and then how this is once again different to power-based zones. “but really, unless we are in a chamber doing a VO2 test with either gas exchange or lactate sampling, we are merely going off what is most likely numbers from the data from riding and testing you have done”.

The idea that coaching is anyway a precise science, especially for off-road events with the myriad of variables that are thrown at us, is a misnomer.

In so many ways, coaching is both an art and a science. We all understand the science, anyone who has successfully completed the Level 2 NCAS Coaching course has an understanding of anatomy and physiology in a way that a meaningful and successful training plan can be created. Sometimes I think I know too much; I head back through literature citing studies for whatever evidence I am looking for, when really the outcome would be no different!

The one thing, however, that makes the biggest difference to outcomes is motivation.

One athlete can follow a training program that is exactly the same as another athlete’s (BTW I never copy and paste programs…) and have wildly varying results.

Why is this? Well, there is a myriad of reasons. Genetic ability, social support, access to training sports and groups, previous training history, the ‘culture of success’, but I think the biggest one is motivation.

If you start training and the motivation is to complete a race, that’s very different to having a three-year plan to don the green and gold jersey. Neither of these is a poor motivation to take up coaching, but the passion with which you feel this, and the extent of vision and sacrifice you can make can lead to different outcomes.

For example, while I wrote a lot about ‘why do you ride’ in some of my earlier cycling documents for athletes new to coaching, it had always been a bit of an enigma when I asked myself that question.

I certainly didn’t set out to crush souls, that was never my intent, yet something pushed me to get up at ridiculous-o’clock every morning and train my guts out for years and years (ok intermittently for years and years between illness and kiddo’s but you know what I mean!) until one day the planets aligned and I got super speedy and had a whole bunch of great results.

Some say those in pursuit of endurance sports have a screw loose, and to be fair that’s more often than not true. Why else would people get up at 4am to train to the point of needing to vomit, for no financial or social reward (other than maybe a few Strava kudos and bragging rights)? It simply doesn’t make sense. Yet we still do it.

When I hear others talking about their motivation being ‘the feeling when i’m standing on the podium’ that really has a bit of a cognitive disconnect for me, just because it’s not been a driving force for me.

But that being said, I am not here to shame anyone who admits they have a desire to stand on the podium, if that’s a driving force then fantastic, we can definitely work with that! It is a competitive sport after all and we are trying to create the right environment (physically, mentally, socially) for success. It perhaps just requires a little deeper thinking in regards to what success means. Coaching is just not a one-size-fits-all approach, and I believe the process is more important than the outcome. You can have a successful race and not win, and a terrible race and take line honors.

An example of having a terrible race, yet taking line honors! I gave it my all, however I felt messy as I didn’t pre-ride the course, took many of the wrong lines, and cased 50% of the jumps. Still, it’s part of the process of having a more successful race in terms of the process.

I now understand that riding is important to me because it’s an area where I can set goals, achieve them, be rewarded for hard work, and literally see and feel strength and power. The reason I do it is not for the result but for the acquisition of mastery and a flow state. Thankfully, that in itself is linked to good performance, just a different way of getting compared to a tangible outcome-based motivation.

I am also old and maybe wise enough (well, or something) to know that in this sport there are many fish and many ponds, and being a big ol’ Salmon in a goldfish bowl doesn’t count for a lot in the big world; and that’s ok too!

Many sports institutes look for talent and quick results in a mechanised way, without thinking about the future or long term of an athlete. I would rather an athlete have a long happy life in the sport rather than go to hard (physically and mentally), blow up and turn away from it all.

So what’s your motivation?


Seeking: A life more adventurous

I just found myself consulting the magic 8 ball. The online version thereof. You know you’re in a quandary when you’re making decisions based on online images and java bots.

It was about a race. You probably know the one. I had decided to wait until an event piqued my interest before plunging in, because racing when you feel you ‘should’ rather than when you’re firing up, historically makes the whole fiasco harder to suffer through. But yet, there is a strong ‘should’ whenever an event comes up, even if my heart isn’t really into it.

Unfortunately my nihilistic tendencies can both help and harm life in the bike world: “it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things” can either light a fire under; “go get it what have I got to lose?” or alternatively “it doesn’t matter, why do I do this again?”. Like the story of the good and evil wolf, the one that wins is the one that gets fed, but go-get-it-wolf has been going hungry recently.

It’s fine when you are enjoying racing, feeling fast and motivated, and want to be there. It’s a lot tougher when you would rather be at home, running the dog, catching up on work or doing a whole host of other things that aren’t getting up sub-5am to trundle out to a bike race.

When your attention is diverted from racing; (and it’s not such a bad thing really: it is what it is: life), it’s much harder to get excited about it. School holidays mean lots of parenting time and little opportunity to ride (or even do work; it’s busy!).

Plus, the goals I have ticked off in the past couple of years have been epic. I want to shake it up a little, still race and crush souls (eventually) but perhaps in a different manner. Right now, the only way that go-get-it wolf is going to get a meal is by chasing adventure.

Adventure inspires me to do the suffering and hard yards that are difficult to do without a goal.

It’s far from scientific, but my important multi-pronged attack includes:

-Adventure rides in new places

-With cool people

-To do events that I have not yet experienced

-And probably with not too much riding in circles, at this early stage

I am seeking: solid climbs and good descents, new trails, variety and good feels. Feeling strong is always a goal so I am hitting new routes on the roadie, without any specific efforts right now,  to challenge myself to push the physical and psychological boundaries without the routine of a general training plan. I want to be a trailblazer of MTB adventure!

I am happily accepting offers of ideas of excellent events and adventures to have!


One hot mess

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Poor preparation leads to piss poor performance. We all know the sayings and most of us are able to get organised to an acceptable level. I have not really self-identified as a hot mess until just recently, when in a very short space of time;

-my DI2 display broke on my XC bike,

-I sweated on my Garmin 520 on the ergo and it died,

-I crashed my road bike at 56km hr, and though I was incredibly lucky to come out with just a mass of scabs, I put a nasty dent in the top tube of my road bike and busted my hoods…

-…and a brand new kit I was wearing.

I thought that was enough; like it’s more than three things that have gone wrong; I have had my fix of misfortune for the next few years.

So with one bike that’s working properly, I headed down to Thredbo for the Cannonball Festival. Long term athlete and gravity shredder Ben Forbes was heading down as well, so we decided to make a trip of it. With the serious Josh Hooton we had a good crew.

During my plane flight I noticed there was some black stuff under the seat in front. Weird, I thought, maybe the underside of the seat has deteriorated? It took only a couple more minutes to realise my winter boots hadn’t lasted into this summer, and the entire sole had disintegrated. By the time we picked up the hire car the shoe was a remaining leather upper with some stitching on the bottom.

Never fear; I will pick up some shoes en route in Cooma. Josh, Ben and I all made a B-line for the bathroom, and I came out and had no idea where they were so headed down the road to Cooma’s best; Target Country. Featuring shoes for $10 in both a size 8 and 11 (I need a 9…) I purchased these super-tight beauties and found the boys chasing the trail of bits of sole like Colorado-branded boot breadcrumbs, to find me.

Perfect; it’s time for coffee. Grab some food and I was surprised that the coffee was BETTER THAN AVERAGE! I go to text Aido to let him know…and my screen had died. On and off and on and off again; it was the iPhone equivalent of the blue screen of death. I am a bit stressed at this point as I run between the three places that sell phones in Cooma; AusPost, the Newsagency and the electronics store, and try and pick something up. It’s a bit of a hustle and back and forth as I get a phone from AusPost then head back to the Electronics store to pick up a sim adaptor.

We head to Thredbo, the boys sleeping in the tight three seater van while I floor the van in third up the climbs at 60km/hr (a gutless wonder, don’t buy a Hyundai van). We arrive and head to the accom. Ben assured us that it would be fine for four people, and as we check in we are greeted with a single hotel room with two single beds…and two pull-out beds underneath. Even with two people it would be a squeeze but we were fitting in four…

The next day was full of runs, and the All Mountain Assault race. The course had gotten faster as the rain dried through the day and then slower as it loosened up. I played it technically conservative, what with my recent brokenness, but fanged the pedal bits and came away with 5th in Pro women, wishing I rode my gravity bike more.


Cannonball, All Mountain, Thredbo, 2017
Looks can be deceiving; definitely a hot mess here.


The next day was epic for practice, with around 40km of descending on my 7 runs. I felt fine but lack of sleep was catching up…without a race we headed for some beers instead.

Saturday saw the Flow Motion Cup, basically a DH race on a Flow trail. Without much pedalling to be done it was down to being steely and quick. We were scheduled to race at 330pm however it was 530 before our race kicked off! The course had disintegrated a lot since the morning runs which made me think I should have just entered an age group and had it over with in good conditions, and had the rest of the day! The braking ruts were huge and intense and the course much looser than earlier in the day. Alas, I pedalled where I could and tried to stay smooth but couldn’t match the finesse of the super quick girls ending up 9th. Goes to show what a difference a few little mistakes can make in a discipline that takes no prisoners for imperfection! Our number four, Rob, did the race on his hardtail 29er singlespeed. What a crazy guy!

With my DH run for the next day scheduled again late in the day, I realised I would miss my flight to race, so instead headed on a Thredbo Valley Trail return loop on the big bike with the old Sydney crew; Rob, Marti and her friend Emma. While I probably wouldn’t choose the 160mm 14.5kg bike for a trail like this again it was a couple of good hours with good mates and finished with coffee; the way all good rides should.

Packing up I was sad to leave the sweet trails but ready to see the family again. While I love racing my bike, the long days waiting make me more anxious than just getting out there and racing of a morning, like in a conventional XCO, XCM or Gravity event.

Heading home I was at the airport earlier than expected, and the airline was being a stickler for the weight limit. Fair enough, they have a policy. I take out my $10 target shoes, a couple of bottles and dump them in the bin. The new guy gets me to re-weigh my bike; it’s still over. I have nothing else to take out unless I can wrangle my dropper post.

Long story short, it takes me a lot of grunting, plumbers-crack and sweating, but I get the dropper out, and have likely completely fucked it in the process. I pop my bag to oversize and head to security screening. Security stops me and states that I can’t take my seat and post through, as they have deemed it a weapon (seriously fuck you Canberra!) and I have to check it in.

At this stage I am 98% beaten. Thankfully I speak to someone else and they get the bike back then lucking look the other way with the overnight luggage. I think I looked so bedraggled with my scabby limbs from the road crash, crusted sweat from the effort of taking the seat out, and bags under my eyes from a crappy bed, that they took pity on me.

I get a call from Aido; Elv had fallen over running upstairs at my sister’s house and perhaps broken her arm. Yep; she broke her arm.

So now I am home, which is great. I am exhausted, and I have;

-Three broken bikes,

-A broken garmin,

-A torn kit,

-Broken boots,

-A dead phone, and;

-One busted child.

So things are going well.

I am officially a hot mess.


Boosting a double (yet still a mess; look at that number plate!)


The data only works when you do

As a Level 2 cycling coach, I get data. I have the ability to analyse efforts, sessions, weeks and seasons with the help of complex training software at my fingertips.

I can build to a CTL, daily TSS, weekly ATL and target a ramp rate. We can do power efforts in any of the targeted zones to achieve optimisation. And we do. But the reality of coaching is that unless you’re training high-level track-letes (track athletes, I made that up, go me!) or very dedicated power-equipped roadies only, the data needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

For example, I work with many power-based athletes, however a number of these lack power on their primary race bike (either a cross-country or gravity mountain bike) but do utilise it in their primary training bike; their road bike. Does it make training these athletes harder? Yes and no. No, as traditional training zones are easier to implement and less variable than power zones. Yes, in that relying on heart rate for some training sessions leaves a bit of a query about the effort and intensity of the session.

While a 2hr tempo road ride will consist of sitting between your endurance and threshold zones, a 2hr tempo ride on the mountain bike likely consists of a significant time descending in a recovery or aerobic zone, and multiple bursts above threshold. On the flip side, mountain biking uses more ‘whole body’ energy output, so even a power metre equipped bike won’t tell the real tale of energy spent (whole-body kinematic mountain bike energy expenditure suits? Could be a market…). Thus, quantifying this can be difficult. Add in the heart rate lag and there is a potential to underestimate energy expenditure.

More often than not, this variation between power and heart rate-based sessions isn’t the thing that will undo the amateur self-coached athlete; it’s the reliance on what the computer says and steadfast belief that one is a machine.

 As an athlete and a coach, even I find objectivity in my own training difficult at times, so I can only imagine how difficult it could be for someone who buys software and a power metre or heart rate monitor and struggles with the intricacy of balancing life and training in a sensible manner.

Here are some examples of man vs machine type problems I unravel for athletes;

My ramp rate is stuck /or my CTL is trending downwards???

For athletes that have a small ramp rate that even trends into negative at times, you first need to review their data at a macro level. At what point does the ramp rate reduce? What volume and intensity was going on, and what were you building from? Many athletes fall outside the realms of an ‘ideal’ ramp rate (cited as being somewhere between 5-8) due to not being pro athletes.

Often a more conservative approach can yield a better long term result without stagnation, or a short period with a strong ramp rate may be followed by a more neutral phase before increasing training; remembering the adage that overload then rest yields results.

The other thing to consider is the data sampling; what time frame are you looking at ramp rate from? 7 days? 14 days? 21 or 90? Check your input before freaking out about any ramp rate anomalies.

Consider the role of recovery weeks and illness in augmented the carefully orchestrated plan for ramping up the training. Similarly, CTL—Chronic Training load (a rolling 42 day average of training expressed as Training Stress, or TSS/day*)—is only one indicator of fitness, but one that can be tracked and provide valuable data amidst and between multiple seasons for a long-term athlete.

For a few athletes I know, the difference between their high and low CTL is not huge; they don’t have a huge amount of time to train and even when not ‘training’ they’re still maintaining a large percent of their training time on the bike. Reaching towards a greater CTL would push these athletes into overtraining, and thus their CTL gets to a sustainable point, however we use their microcycle planning to craftily increase their gains in specific areas despite appearing flatlined on the CTL.

For a declining CTL firstly I would check the sampling rate again. Then I would have a more thorough look into the sessions. Frequent assessment of an athletes training should give you some insight into how this is tracking regardless, however having another look and specifically scanning for missed sessions, periods of illness and unexpected time off.

Looking at the bigger picture can also be beneficial; sometimes looking through and pinpointing a huge day can precede a drop in CTL and sometimes this is an error. Twice recently I have been reviewing two athletes’ remarkable downtrend. It seemed unexplained; they were both dedicated and were heading to the end of their seasons without their taper period started let alone finished or heading towards a transition. When I was able to pinpoint a 700+ TSS day a few weeks prior in both of their cases, and looked to that day of their program I was able to see that their computer file had uploaded multiple times, and hence it had augmented their training data for the rest of the season.

Deleting the duplicates and knocking that session back to 250 TSS showed a much more reasonable graph!

My power is the same as X but I am going slower, what gives?

Power is a fickle mistress, it has incredible….er…power when used correctly however when not used well it’s just a bunch of useless numbers. For an example like this, we need to firstly account for the variables.


• power metre and calibration

• weight of self

• weight of bike (weight of water bottles etc)

• any other pertinent bike modifications

• weather/time of day/wind factor

An example of this is a local climb whereby it’s long enough to complete solid SST (subthreshold) efforts. If I were to compare watts from the start of the year to now I would be like ‘yippee, putting out 10w/more for the climb!’. But when looking at the time and seeing it’s almost 2min slower it begs to question what’s going on.

 • Check and calibrate the power metre If it’s a climb; take your weight into consideration and work out w/kg. Or brownies/day in off season. If it’s a climb, but you’re training for a flat TT then chill; outright power is going to be better than w/kg in a flat TT in all but the most marginal of cases

• Work on increasing outright power and getting aero.

• Have you changed equipment? Take note of the change in weight and fit of bike (ie: upgrading to a lighter bike, or making note of a heavier set-up is important too, including carrying an extra water bottle)

• Check the ride notes from last time; if it was a fine day with a bit of a tailwind that could be of benefit if the more recent one was in a wet gale.

Some very, very basic power analysis: First effort, a year ago. Rated as ‘very hard’ towards end. First and only effort but began with 50min less riding in legs than effort below. Slight tailwind, average 235w/average, good weather. 59-ish kg, 7.5kg bike. 16:50 effort. Obviously went hard and ‘blew up’  little towards end augmenting power.

Second effort, last week. Rated as moderate. Second of two efforts. Started this effort earlier into ride. Blustery winds and rain, self-paced subthreshold (more consistent as seen by less oscillation in power line) and nil blow up. 245w/average. 61-ish kg, 8.5kg bike + extra bidon. 18:50 effort. 

 If you look at all these factors as outlined in the captions above, and not just a power chart, it’s likely you will find a culprit. If not, having another good look through the power file for analysis will allow you to see if there are any drops or unexpected glitches from within the file.

The message behind this post is; power only works when you do. Put in the effort to train consistently, test frequently, upload consistently, talk to your coach and write good feedback and then you can work together to reach your athletic potential.

As a coach, work both within and outside the data to unravel the mysteries and joys of training athletes to be their best.

*TSS is a numerical measurement of intensity/duration of a given session based on heart rate and power thresholds

Worlds? No, it’s all about the local berg ride.

I think I have realised that while I love bikes, I have to accept that with my busy life it’s always going to be a fraught relationship. I love bikes when things are going well, when it’s warm, when I am fit. When things aren’t going well, when it’s cold and I would rather be in bed or drinking wine, and when I am unfit it’s significantly more difficult to love the bike.

I went to Cairns for XCO World Champs in the hope that the best case scenario would be that it would kick my butt into loving my bike again, and worst case scenario I hate it and I quit riding forever. I was a bit apathetic about which way the needle would point.

Neither of those things really happened. I struggled like hell throughout the race, simply unable to get going in the Cairns heat. It was still cold in Brisbane (for Brisbane) and I was not acclimatised. The legs were shite and I couldn’t climb. I could lift heavy things pretty well and look a little steezy on the D (that’s self-assessed, by the way: total FIGJAM). The saving grace was mitigating time lost on the descent. Alas, I got pulled and ended up a few spots ahead of where I started–which was second last on the back grid– so was a meager win.


Sucking in as much air as I could during the D at Cairns. Pic thanks to Mick Ross @ FLOW.


The other thing that happened was that I moved house. From 12km out of the city, we moved a further 12km into the sticks and up a mountain. That was a few days prior to worlds. I guess I didn’t account for the life stress going in, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Regardless of what happened in Cairns I was able to go home to an awesome place. There was solace there.

I had such a shocker in Cairns; I am not unhappy with the result, it is what it is, I just can’t believe how cooked I was from the gun. I haven’t had many races like that in my life, and that experience motivated me to not have another. Coming home, the mixture of that and the 20% climb to my house followed by the 30% driveway really kicked my butt into gear.

Arriving home, it was a bit of ‘what next’? What was supposed to end my season kind of marked the start of it instead. Or at least the start of something meaningful.

It seems to happen more distinctively every year; the season changes get harder or at least more definite. Last year I managed to avoid the whole fiasco by training through the whole thing, with motivation intact the whole time. This year I wasn’t so lucky. While I had managed to drag myself out of the big hole I had buried myself in earlier in the year, I certainly wasn’t quite thriving.

It’s amazing what happens when suddenly days are 30 degrees instead of 18. When you hit up your friends to come out and play rather than tucking yourself away.

A good mixture of friends, heat and coffee, plus some wayward motivation meant it all clicked one day when doing strengthie reps up GT/Glorious and Vera Blue “Regular Touch” came on my iPod and I felt this weird elated joy I haven’t experienced on–or off–the bike for a very, very long time. I didn’t even know I liked the song until then…I busted out a weird sprint up a little berg, nearly died, and had a smile from ear to ear. I could have cried tears of joy to actually be feeling something positive on the bike again. I am a long way from race form but it was nice to get the good ‘feels’ again.

In the space of a week or two my legs have suddenly lightened, the outlook is much better, and I am a much more positive person. I suppose when you’re in a bit of a hole your whole body moves slowly. When I am at work and I treat people in a major depressive episode, their whole life slows down. Getting out of bed happens sometimes. They move slowly. Speak slowly. Think slowly. So it makes sense my legs just wouldn’t go around very fast for much of this year. It makes sense I was pretty foggy on the skills, it makes sense that the effort was all just a little too hard.

Thankfully, finding the joy up Mt Glorious wasn’t an isolated instance, soon after I raced a crit in which I had mediocre legs but was willing to give it a red hot go, and a mountain bike race the next day in which the climbing left a little to be desired, but I felt like my bike was on rails. The senses were tingling, I was five steps ahead of anyone else (well, probably not but that’s what a good day riding feels like). That sensation of being unable to do no wrong on the trail is not one you get very often, so you have to appreciate it when it happens.


It was 38 degrees; I wore a singlet for practicality and to remind myself not to take myself too seriously. I was hungover and working on two hours sleep yet I managed to have one of those magic days railing bikes. Pic: Element Photo and Video


The road bike is no longer a fraught affair, as it was for a very, very long time.

It just goes to show that even those you reckon have it all together often don’t. I am glad those ducks are behaving and generally getting in their row again, and I have a whole new network of people to help corral them back into shape should they start wandering off. This year I have learned more than many others about friendship, working hard, relationships, expectations, sport and myself. I am extremely lucky to have a bunch of true friends around, not just flash in the pan ones, and much of that is due to cycling.

I see good things in my future!


Doesn’t hurt a bit. Punching big watts in the NP stakes….because the rig is in winter mode.


On privilege

It’s now August. Past the middle of the year. Yes, time flies. Every year passes quicker, and the last seems further away the more I age, and with life being crammed in from every angle it’s easy to see how it happens.

It’s now been several months from the ‘very bad time’ earlier this year, where a shoulder injury compounded other various events and left me pretty broken in all meanings of the word. Fast forward past a long break from the bike, a whole lot of help from people who mean a lot to me, a buttload of shoulder rehab, doing bulk base miles, a trip to Canada, and we are in August.

So XCO World Championships is in the second week of September, and somehow I managed a call up on the Elite Women’s start line. With the selection criteria being so stringent and largely unattainable except for maybe only one female, Cycling Australia chose instead—on home soil—to select a large team. I cannot complain; this has been a goal for me, though I cannot understand how they came to select me either. Yes, I had some stellar performances earlier this year but pretty much failed on all the selections fronts (ie: I was broken for both Oceania’s and National’s and didn’t travel for world cups).

Alas, I did get a call up and I am happy about it, though inevitably nervous; after all, my good early year form gave way to a lot of time off, a lot of rebuilding and racing Canada on base miles only (ie: not being particularly fast in any sense of the word) and though I have since began to ramp up intensity since my return, it’s hard to believe I can reach or exceed the level I was at early this year, if purely looking at numbers

The one main thing I can think about regarding the whole thing is privilege. The whole experience of a world championship is due to privilege. And I don’t mean ‘it’s a privilege to represent my country’ though that still rates moderately despite my largely non-nationalistic ethos.

I mean what it takes to get to that sort of level—especially those who are in contention for stripes—is a lot of privilege.

We like to talk about all the hard work it takes to be a cyclist. How hard it is. It’s true. Physically. To be good at cross country, or any other cycling discipline, you have to train yourself to encounter and embrace discomfort and pain. Every day, almost…whether it be torture via foam roller or VO2 max efforts. That reality is undeniable.

But what makes the ability to get to a world championship event aside from commitment and some legs? Well, firstly, you have to have some cash.

If you are young enough; mum and dad have to have some cash. In Australia, sponsorship is scant for our ‘popular-but-still-really-a-fringe-sport’ sport. Sure you can get a bike on a long-term invoice and some kit from a shop or distributor. But the thousands of dollars you need to travel Australia, and after that, the world? That’s on you.

Mountain biking isn’t a team sport. It’s you against the course for 90min of teeth-gritting, and so unlike road cycling, the team-sponsorship opportunities aren’t that great. Travel is self-funded for all but the best (and in some circumstances, all including the best), which makes selection policies for large events that stipulate overseas travel is a must, quite problematic.

Perhaps the benefit of this is that you have to be intrinsically motivated to continue in the sport; after all, no one is going to pay your way, you have to do it for the love, for the challenge, not for reward.

If you are old enough to be paying your own bills it doesn’t get easier; as training and work and the rest of life have to be crammed in. Athletes before have taken the plunge, remortgaged their houses, taken redundancies, in order to secure their overseas World Cup campaigns, in the name of worlds/Comm Games etc selection. Which is all fine and well; after all as mentioned, finding money in the sport is like spotting the Tasmanian Tiger and so if you want to have a campaign, it requires sacrifice.

The point is, there are few people out there that can afford the sacrifice. I am talking about the higher levels of sport, but when was the last time a socio-economically disadvantaged person found themselves on a podium of a state or national series event?

Sure, we live in Australia which is by and large very affluent, but cycling is a luxury pretty much for the 1%. You may not believe you’re the 1% but if you have a job in Austalia and money in your wallet you’re pretty much it when compared to the rest of the world.

The prohibitive costs of equipment are quite a wall to entry to the world of competitive cycling. When you add in the need to have time for training (often best accommodated by white collar work, or upper-echelon jobs that allow flexibility) that further excludes many potential athletes.

When you look specifically at elite women, knowing that they often have a later and longer lifespan within elite sport, the demands of children and cost of childcare are also thrown into the mix.

It’s no wonder cycling is seen as the new golf, and why parents (often late to cycling themselves because of the aforementioned reasons; no judgment just a fact) see their child’s cycling career as a legitimate career path.

Why am I writing this? Because I am dead-set ordinary. Yet I am privileged; privileged enough to be a person that owns a house, has a supportive husband, a kid at school (and with outside hours school care help when required) and a job that while is staunchly in the blue collar brigade, pays the bills and I don’t have to turn up too often. Privileged enough to have a bike (or two or three) and a car and all the other material items that so many people confuse with happiness (BTW: it’s a ruse, I have experienced enough of life to know the lure of shiny things don’t make you happy).

I am privileged enough to be afforded enough time on my bike in between everything else that I can race at a relatively high level, I live in a place where I don’t fear for my life, and food is on the table every day. I am privileged enough that things like ‘skinfolds’ have at times entered my vocabulary, and in a country where obesity is rife, reducing them is the last bastion of the privileged. After all, if you can’t pay for food or don’t have a job, counting macronutrients is the last thing on your mind.

So with this in mind, and—sadly—knowing that the best potential mountain biker in the world is probably on the couch, downing KFC and drinking VB, I am acknowledging my privilege, heading to Cairns to throw myself down some rocks in a white, green and gold unitard.

PS: Don’t get me wrong, sports federations have to have some way of selecting riders which usually involves overseas campaigns, and there is no one to help the fact that the money in the sport is scant, I am merely highlighting the privilege one has to have to undertake such a feat. I don’t have the answers, I just do the sport because I love it.

“What in the Fresh Hell is this?” and other reactions to the Woodford Island Gravity Enduro National Series race.

A few weekends ago saw the Gravity Enduro National Series make a comeback for its fifth round at the mysterious Woodford Island.

I had just gotten a bigger travel bike (my rocky Mountain Altitude: so good!) and was looking to adventure, so Aido and I decided to go to ride some fresh trails, and take friend and coached athlete Annelie down to taste Gravity racing for the first time, too.

Having coached several Gravity athletes, I know what the physiological demands of racing are like. I had raced a couple of ‘proper’ (ie: not lady enduro’s) gravity races around five years ago, before an entire category of bikes had been created for the discipline, and rode a 26″ 120mm bike (which was terrifying), so I had a taste of what gravity courses could be like in Australia, too.

The season where I did some gravity marked quite a shift in how I ride, and what I could ride, and my riding back on XCO turf.

So a few years later when winter is snapping at my heels and endurance and intensity work (or…you know…training) isn’t very appealing, I thought ‘what the heck, let’s get a bike and do some jumps’. So I got a bike, rode it twice and headed down to the Island.

We were fortunate to get some tracks in prior to the race, Annelie only rode a couple the morning of the event and rode the hairy trails of Woodford Island pretty blind. Being under the pump time wise, Aido and I just rode through most of them the day prior, missed out a few bits, and certainly didn’t stop and session everything. I have learned there is definitely value in doing this sessioning when riding with the right people, and I will endeavour to do this if I chase any more enduro racing.

The trails had just been cut in. If you conjure up a vision of an Island with trees on it, you’ll probably get a good idea of what the riding consisted of; it was super, super steep sand, littered with sniper rocks and bigger rock gardens, and blown out corners you just hope will catch you (but it’s kind of 50/50). Zero Pina Coladas, unfortunately.Most of the girls racing elite were all like ‘WTF is this!?!’,

Most of the girls racing elite were all like ‘WTF is this!?!’, however the hilarity in throwing yourself down the sketchiest steepest rock chutes and drops meant that we all had a pretty good time.

Stage 1: The machine built stage I am guessing, started with a long pedally traverse followed by shale-y off camber rocky dusty corners, a couple of drops and a rock ledge into the finish. I didn’t pedal too much as an act of self-preservation, staunchly believing my experience at the race was just that; and experience, and I wouldn’t try and get caught up in squirrel-brain race mode.

Stage 2: Significantly steeper, quite off-camber, with perhaps the sketchiest, steepest switchbacks I have ridden (very steep and about a metre and a half wide; sliding in is the only way and they were just lol-worthy in their sandy constitution). Good run, a less pedally stage, I just kept it smooth which worked well.

Stage 3: Stage three featured a bit of a traverse with a few little hucks at the top. I was secretly excited for this stage because I thought it suited me but ended up being the worst, as I lay it over between rock gardens on the flat and twisted my bars sideways. Cue getting back on, moving bars back, pedalling, then sliding down a drop into a hairpin (also made of sand), losing it again then not being able to get back on and just like “wtf’ hollering down a chute, very inefficiently. 10/10 for hilarious misadventure.

Stage 4: Sand corners and steep chutes marked the start of the stage, followed by a gnarly rock garden. I hadn’t practiced this and as such did some kind of awkward ungraceful dismount and snivelled down most of it, then rode the remainder of the steep sand chutes and drop to the end. Lost a lot of time here but wasn’t worried in my non-race, race mentality.

Stage 5: Another challenging one, slow speed rutted sand corners and a bunch of small jumps over logs opened up to a technical sand rock garden which I hadn’t ridden up until race day. The biggest rush came from nailing it during the race run, a small victory amongst so many stuff-ups, when the rest of the field except Ang struggled on it.

Stage 6: Stage six was pedally at the top, off camber and loose like the rest of the stages. It featured a long and sketchy rock garden, which was a bit straighter than the one in stage 5. With some confidence gained throughout the day I nailed this stage and felt pretty good!

The liason stages consisted of a lot of pushing up vert goat tracks (or not really tracks at all…), thus the race was much more of a multi-stage downhill than others I have participated in!

In a way, just riding and not worrying about it, and being a bit vague on the stage details without sessioning stuff was a good way to minimise expectation, and though I beat myself up a little for being a kook (mainly stage four) I exceeded my expectations with a two stage seconds and one third; unfortunately this consistency didn’t continue for the other three stages and I blew out just off the podium with my various misadventures. It was the kind of race in which everyone seemed to have a slide out or a silly off, it’s just the nature of such a fresh, loose trail.

Annelie did very well, throwing herself down the stages; most unseen, and keeping spirits lol-ing despite an almost 1:1 crash:stage ratio.

If I was to take it a bit more seriously I would ensure we had enough time to practice all the tricky bits rather than just getting through the stages, and I would probably work on the top end and some race runs in training, as I was reluctant to pedal too hard because of the squirrel brain that occurs when you push the limits without precedent.

All in all; would do again, I enjoyed riding the fresh trails and entering a race that was so different to what I usually do, and just riding to complete and have fun. 10/10 for the race coffee van, too! I am not sure I want to devote my life, time and devotion to the sport, but I enjoy the challenge and am up for a few more days of runs.

I could see how it could become a sport you train for and dedicate yourself to, but I am pretty happy just lining up for fun gravity racing at the moment; I enjoy the challenge and am up for a few more days of runs.

BC Salad Wrap!

Well I am back in Australia, home from a journey of epic proportions through the amazing BC, Canada. My trip was a two-week whirlwind and I made many amazing memories: all good boxes to tick on a journey to the other side of the world!

But how did my non-training training plan go when put to the test in a seven day stage race?

Well in the end I managed to ride relatively consistently, placing 72nd overall in a field of 625 riders, and 7th female overall, it was a strong year for women at BCBR! We raced 33,000 feet (you do the maths) of elevation, over 300km, and to say that the racing was tough would be an understatement! However by the end of the week (aside from a small cry during and after the Squamish stage…) I was getting stronger and having some XCO feels on the shorter stages that reminded me of early in the year, which is very promising.

So now I will write a list of things that worked well for the race:


Caring less is sometimes more. Keeping it lo-fi and relaxed helped me to mitigate the stress that I would usually try and place myself under during a race. It eased expectations I had for myself which was very useful coming off my injury and time off earlier this year. Having never raced for seven days I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would be a rollercoaster. Doing the miles and backing up multiple days was really useful, knowing that some days you would probably feel pretty average but could keep trucking regardless.

Back it up. Back to back training was key. Getting the miles in mean I knew I could finish the 20hrs of racing, even though at times it felt as though I never would! Ideally, if this was a priority race, I would pull together a full plan for the race, have a longer lead up and incorporate much more intensity, but in my current state it was about perfect! Having a stronger top end would definitely have helped, especially on the first day where the 12km climb to start nearly killed me (well lack of top end as well as ongoing jetlag) and I missed the first wave by blowing up slightly.

I was sub three hours on the stage (the cutoff was three hours!) and literally the first person to get the second wave sticker. As a result, all other stages I was at the front of my wave which has some benefits (less dust) but also some disadvantages (you are the wheel people are sitting on, you have no wheels to sit on! no help for the rollouts, getting stuck behind fast roadies at the back of wave one when you catch them, or not having lines to follow on the days that started with bigger gaps between waves).

Skills, yo. Singletrack skills. The trails in BC are like nothing in Australia, but having a solid foundation of skills on the bike and general comfort on your mountain bike is key. While the skills developed throughout the week to the point where you were looking at something then riding down going ‘well I am giving this a crack I guess we will see if we can ride it out’, riding trails that consisted of kilometres of features strung together, that  in Australia would be seen as a single major trail feature in an XCO race.


Don’t sweat the brownies. Eating all the brownies was pretty important in finding my mojo again after my crash and injury…but that didn’t stop me cursing carrying some extra kg’s up every climb in the race. It’s a commitment to maintain race weight year round and one I wasn’t happy to do mid-winter, but it definitely added some extra toughness on the more hilly days.


Coffee. The coffee in Canada is, thankfully, not as bad as in the US. In fact, the Rocky Mountain guys had a Giotto Rocket in their office. Good choice, guys! I didn’t take a hand held coffee machine and instead relied upon campsite offerings and the occasional espresso when we found a town.

This all worked well enough, except for stage three, a long one featuring many fireroad hills and grovelling in bulk proportions, in which I had no caffeine until the final checkpoint.

I smashed two red bulls and ate some caffeinated Clif Blocks and then passed about 10-15 people up the two final technical climbs and railed the descents. I pretty much saw colours in that last hour. But I digress, if you need the caffeine as I obviously do, perhaps be a little more organised than I was an at least line your pockets with caffeinated gels or something. The less snivelling the better!


Sick North Vancouver trails.

Dropper post. The dropper post isn’t a must-have but is certainly a ‘nice to have’ option. Railing super steep descents and cresting over things where you can’t see the bottom, it was like a bit of added insurance and worth the half kg penalty (which didn’t stop me cursing it every time the trail went uphill).


Suspension set-up. My bike was running a Fox 32 Stepcast up front paired with Fox 90mm rear shock on my Rocky Mountain Element. While this bike was almost perfect, I would definitely have greeted a little more suspension most stages. The choice is hard, with 33,000 feet of climbing in just 7 stages, you want to be as light as you can! Perhaps the new Element platform with 120/100 would be the perfect option?


Yes you’re camping at BCBR, but it’s in a pretty phenomenal part of the world. In hindsight I don’t even mid that I didn’t sleep 50% of the nights.


Gearing. Underestimate your ability and go low. Then go one lower. I dropped to a 30x42T set up for the race from a 32x42T as my ‘home’ gearing, but by day five I was looking for something lower, as less fit/cleverer with gearing-guys would pass me spinning up a climb while I was grinding away at 40rpm doing unintentional strengthies.

Support. I was lucky enough to have Rocky Mountain Team support throughout the week, meaning my bike was looked after and good to go for every stage. What’s even better is they handed me Coke when I came across the finish line pretty buckled most days. I am infinitely grateful for their hospitality. While you probably can’t get a sweet team set up (I was very lucky, after all!) you can purchase a bike care package from the Bike Obsession mechanics, who pack an entire shop into a travelling van and look after bikes through the night like vampires. With 300km of hard singletrack, it’s probably not a bad idea.

What didn’t work?

Recovery skills. Still something I struggle with, though I foam rolled each day, stretched and acted like a sloth. It wasn’t until day six where I was completely broken and so fatigued I had a cry and was walking around like a very sore zombie, when I headed for a massage, which helped a little. Moral of the story? Look after yourself before you get so fatigued you’re having a little weep in the bushes. BCBR have free daily yoga, so that could be an option if it’s your thing.

Sleeping. Or not. I am a dodgy sleeper at the best of times so add the intensity of bike racing, another time zone and camping in a tent and I was cursing not sorting out a good pharmaceutical option for getting to sleep, because after all sleep=recovery

Caffeine: as mentioned above. Don’t run out if you’re coffee-dependent.

Huge thanks to Rocky Mountain Bikes, Adventure Brands Australia and Cyclinic Suspension For getting me/allowing me to head on what was an epic adventure!

The Final Countdown

That’s a wrap! Training: done. Aside from a short ride tomorrow, I’ve now completed my BCBR “non-training” training plan.

Surprisingly enough, I haven’t felt the need to use a Garmin or HRM at all. I expected myself to get a few weeks in and be ready to go, to compare my 5min power efforts to mid-national season, but I know i’ll struggle to hit my 410w/5min max from the start of the year, even at a higher weight now, and in the end the numbers don’t make you any happier. They are tools of progress and for motivation, but there is the light and dark side of that and I have enjoyed free-ranging it for a while, especially at this time of the year where the goal is ‘ride bike lots’.

Instead of looking to numbers, I have been able to gauge my increased fitness by my ability to suffer and dominate in local crit races (a great improvement from dying 20min into the first crit back after a couple of months off…I just quietly ghosted home after that!) and assessing my increased tolerance for multiple long days in the saddle. That being said, I haven’t done anything over four-ish hours, though I have backed up to four x 3-4hr rides in a row.

I’ve never been one for backing up, and so to be able to hit out a solid 10-12 hours in three days has been an achievement in itself!

Want to know what the BC Bike Race is like? Check this out, it’s well worth your time (entries for 2018 are opening soon guys…).

The recovery I talked about last post? Yeah…i’m still not so great at it. Nothing says recovery like walking the kid and dog for 5km then cleaning and packing the house in preparation to sell it, staying up late doing coaching and invoices and trying to hit deadlines. That in itself justifies the wine, which is unfortunate as it impedes recovery. However, that’s the story of real life and I know once I hit that plane I will be super relaxed. Maybe.

So what have I been up to this week leading into BCBR?

Monday: Off (after a weekend of Gravity Racing Saturday and a Social 1hr45 trail ride with an athlete and mate Sunday)

Tuesday: 3hr15 including 1 hr of mixed threshold and VO2 efforts, in intervals: last big hard session pre-BC (very, very hard session due to the intensity mixed into the longer session!)

Wednesday: 1hr recovery

Thursday: 2hr15 including 4 short singletrack efforts, with an athlete. Due to ongoing fatigue I cut the efforts short (for me, he had to keep going!); after all, it’s no time to dig a hole right now!

Friday: Day off including core stability and conditioning: no heavy squats and deads at the gym now.

Saturday: 90min short hit out with newly rebuilt bike, check everything is ok, then complete several VO2 efforts before packing up bike and everything else.

Sunday: Sleep in (until at least 6am!) and leave for BC! ALSO ARRIVE IN BC—what a time-warp!

So yeah; I’m coming good. I am not peak-fit but I know I can get through if I:

a) eat enough food during the race,

b) don’t try and race XC pace, and;

c) ride happy.

Packing and other preparation

Executive management skills don’t come naturally for me, so here is a picture of how my packing is going:

Wow, at least I got the important stuff…like Fisiocream.

Also, I am not innately a happy camper so I have invested in a fancy camping pillow, ear buds, eye mask and no doubt a small flask of something to get me to sleep. JK about the last one…or am I?


Me, every morning.


So now I just have to trust the process, relish the singletrack, enjoy my time away and just be me: a happy shredder exploring some of the best trails in the world!And now I leave you with one of the finest adieu’s out there…

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