Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ballinastoe Beginner's spin

Sunday I had actually planned to go on a spin around Djouce to prepare for the K Capital Cup 3 next weekend (try and find some of the trails that could possibly be used in the race), do some fast descents on ExTeeCee, section GC and do a few drills on the fireroad. The weather was great when I woke up, sun shining, dry etc.... but I wasn't. I don't know if it came from something I'd eaten the day before or from being soooo cold from the ride in the rain on Saturday (not the best idea when you've got a bit of a cold already), I was sick. My stomach was twisting and turning until I threw up. Then it was just feeling like having a semi flu and I stayed in bed with a lemsip. Grrrrr - and the weather was soooo nice outside!!!

Following my training session I was to take out a few friends on a beginner's spin. Yes, I do take beginners out. One of my girlfriends had came back to Ireland for a visit and another girlfriend, an offroad virgin, dared to take the plunge, so I had set up a beginners spin to go and try the Coillte created Ballinastoe mountain bike trails. And I woulnd't miss that! All lemsipped up to the eyeballs, I made it out and we were joined by 2 more guys from the club.

Three happy ladies in front of Lough Tay

Off we went and followed the markings for the trails and had a blast. Got some adrenaline going, created some scary looking bruises (see below), enjoyed the view over Lough Tay, hammered down some flowy, swervy singletrack, climbed around trees (a whole new meaning to "Caution - heavy plant crossing") and our first timer girl did so well, she was faster than some of us who chose to recover from a hangover by going mountain biking (no names named ;)).

Some of us suffered more, some less, for me it was a relaxed tootle (mind you, with that bug of mine I couldn't have gone that much faster, especially when the paracetamol started wearing off) and a reminder of when I started mountain biking, the first time off road and I was soooo scared! But, it seemed that our first timer liked her first spin offroad - even if it meant collecting some bruises and cuts (my legs used to be covered in them, but now I crash sooooo much less) and she said she'd consider coming out again (after her cuts and bruises have healed, however).  Wohoo - my mission of dragging more girls to the dark side - ahem, I mean to convince more girls to take up mountain biking - almost accomplished :)

Beautiful bruise to show off ;)

Some more pics of the spin can be found here.

Riding in the rain....

After a bit of a crappy training week (these seem to be accumulating recently....) and cutting my training short on Thursday I was looking forward to and being very motivated for a good weekend's worth of training, the last one before a 4 week stint of weekend races start (K Capital Cup 3, British NPS 1, K Capital Cup 4, Irish NPS 1) - especially because I would be quite rested by the weekend.

But, it never seems to go by plan. First I got a bit of a cold which started on Friday. Nonetheless I got up early on Saturday to go on my group road spin with St. Tiernan's Cycling Club (they start their spins just up the road from me, sooooo handy and means I don't need to get up that early :)).

Just as I got out of the door, it started raining, turning into a torrential rain shower by the time I had cycled up to the meeting point a few hundred meters up the road. 5 guys had also been so brave to stand this weather and we set off up the hill, the rain not letting up a bit. Within minutes we were all drenched wet right through to the skin (forget about rain jackets, the only suitable gear would have been wetsuits!). But we went on, during this horrendous weather, with the wind coming from the side and the rain drops like pins and needles on your face and eyeballs. Between Kiltiernan and Enniskerry there was such a huge puddle that even the cars changed the side of the road to get through (maybe I should call it flooding).

With every kilometer that we went away from home I felt colder, wetter, crappier. Also, due to a beginner out on his bike the first time we couldn't go very fast and I was getting cold because I wasn't generating enough heat from the exercise. Anyhow, we made it to Kilmacanogue, southwards onto the N11 and went on.

When I had to go for a pee I couldn barely pull down my cycling shorts, as all the feeling in my fingers was gone. I had to use my thumbs as hooks! Don't ask me how I got it back up... We went on a bit further, but because the miserable weather had not improved one bit, we were all happy to turn back early, making it a 2 hour only spin for me (I was down for doing a 3.5hour spin that day).

When I came home I tried to open the door, but couldn't, my fingers would not follow my brain's command to turn the key (somehow Quentin Tarantino's movie "Kill Bill" came into my mind: "Wiggle, my toe.... wiggle!", just I tried to say "Turn the key, turn it!" But it was just not possible, my fingers just couldn't grap anything any more. So I used my mouth to turn the key in the lock - thank god my neighbors didn't see that! Straight into the shower (well, after taking off clothes, which took another 15min or so) and a hot drink. I think I have never been so cold in my life!

I then looked at the rain radar and guess what, the biggest hugest rain cloud had just passed over Ireland, all yellow colour (meaning heavy rain....) and was just about to clear off. And true, for most of the afternoon the sun came out, interrupted only by a few scattered showers.

Wisely I had put my wet clothes onto the heating and into the drier, so that in the afternoon, at about 4 o'clock, when my clothes had dried off, I went out on another spin, in the sunshine, dry and almost warm (whereever the sun was shining and no wind) and made up another 1hour and 45min of a very powerfull and motivated spin.

Thank god I had gone out again! I felt sooo much better after, feeling that I had done some very good and strong training. I could really push into the pedals, and it is such a great feeling to be able to pedal hard and give it all. Yeah, motivation!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Race report: I won :)

Well, ok, I'll say a bit more about the race, the 2nd race of the K Capital Cup Race Series, which was held in Moneyscalp Wood at the foot of the Mourne Mountains.

First off, what a great course: A lap was 5km with 150m climb and lots of technical singletrack. It started off with a super steep uphill fireroad section by the tech zone and then into some nice technical singletrack loops off the fireroad and into the woods - sometimes fast and swooping, sometimes tough and uphill. Joining the fireroad again there was a bit of a climb and some straight fast fireroad sections into a headwind at the top of Moneyscalp hill. At the end of the fireroad, there was a steep droplike descent into a few sharp corners, requiring concentration and skill. This was followed by a muddy singletrack section with some exciting chickenwired narrow bridges that challenged your concentration even more followed by a tree-tunnel and around a corner just to meet a steep uphill singletrack climb - tough if you reached it in the wrong gear!

Onto the fireroad for a short bit on the top of the hill again and back into a long singletrack descent that swooped nicely around the trees, over a little rock garden and through the woods to a short kicker just to meet you with the following decision almost at the bottom: to dare going down a supersteep drop or to take the long chicken run. Another bit of singletrack, fireroad and a superfast entry into the last singletrack section finally led you a little back uphill to the finish area just out of the last bit of singletrack. All in all a very enjoyable and well put together technical course which did not leave you much time for a breather!

The course profile

GPS tracks of the course

Thank god the weather held up, or the course could have turned into a very schlompy and slippery affair - but apart from the freezing cold, it was perfectly dry!

So, now to my race. We girls (just 4 of us: Beth, Ciara, Jess and me) started just after the Elite men and together with the Juniors. The whistle went off and the girls sprinted up the hill - I took my time and went pretty easy (between you and me: I'm just pretty crap at sprint starts), so I had the disadvantage of getting into the first singletrack section behind all the girls, Beth in front, followed by Ciara and Jess. Beth got away quite well with the other two girls making some small mistakes, allowing me to overtake them, just to make some mistakes myself! Damn, the whole race I rode as if I had never been offroad before!

Anyway, I got away and caught back up with Beth on the fireroad climb to the top of the hill. I stayed behind her all the way (couldn't overtake her - she's pretty good at not letting you - another thing for me to train!) and so she went ahead of me into the downhill singletrack section where I eventually lost her due to me making some stupid mistakes. I think I saw her a few times ahead of me on some of the singletrack sections, but wasn't 100% sure. And then, just before the end of my first lap my chain went off..... Anyway, what a surprise it was then later to see Beth standing in the finish area - she had to retire due to injury.

From then on the race was pretty uneventful, I could not see either Ciara or Jess turn up behind me, I was overtaken by many people who started behind me and lapped by the Elites (twice even by Robin Seymour, but only just about!) but most of the race I was riding by myself, no interesting battles and such. Another lap down and I saw Jess standing in the finish area as well, she had a technical issue with her gears and had to pull out as well, so it was just Ciara and me in the race at the end. I felt pretty crap and lead legged throughout the race, no power, no snap and my technical riding was totally under what I expect to be my capability, even my practice laps the day before went better. I made endless mistakes, walked(!) some very slight uphill sections, used my granny gear(!) and somehow could not concentrate better.

So I actually didn't do the drop in the race either - figured it would probably be safer to just go and do the chicken run each time as I wasn't in a mad rush either with Beth and Jess out of the race and Ciara far enough away. And paradoxically, even though I thought I wasn't going very fast, I just didn't feel I could go much harder - my legs didn't feel tired or burny, they just felt heavy and slow. Even my heart rate wasn't that high. Ah well, this was my first race this season and I came first in the end. Which made me race series leader :) (although Beth and me are now equal in points because I had missed the first race, I am leader as I won the latest race). Results from this race can be found here and overall series rankings can be found here. You should see the leader jersey, it says "Elite Series Leader 2008" on the front :) Feeling like a REAL Elite now :)

The race series leaders in all their glory (photo from here)

Big credit to Sean for so duly doing my bottles each lap (and for shouting encouragement when I slowly crawled up the last bit of singletrack). Thanks to the organizers for providing a tent with biscuits, cakes, sandwiches, tea and coffee and even Cappucino - great against the freezing cold at the foot of the Mourne Mountains - what a panorama! I hallionized whatever I could grab and when I came home I had a huge delivery pizza, tasted like the best pizza ever - you should have seen the speed at which I ate it - I even put Ryan to shame :) All in all a great (but freezing) day out, even though I wasn't particularly happy with how I rode.

Roll on Djouce!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In times of need even the devil eats flies

Ok - Ryan keeps giving out that my expansive collection of German sayings (a heritage from my granny) cannot be directly translated into English, but they just "hit the nail on the head".

Well, from all that unusual running activity my upper thighs and right foot hurt a little, as they weren't used to the constant banging. So after a week of running in our organized little forest I'd had enough of this running business and just yearned to be on a bike again. Also, it was supposed to be my recovery day, therefore I wanted to go for a ride rather than a run. So I asked my daddy if we had any bikes that were in cycleable condition. We eventually fished this one out of the shed:

OH MY GOD. The saddle! It was wider than it was long! We tried to adjust it - resulting in a weird angle which meant I constantly fell off it to the front - but when we adjusted it more backwards leaning, then I could not move my legs freely.... who would ever design a saddle like this? And did you see the cute purple bell and the huge headlight? Amazingly it had 5 gears, but did you see the gearshift?! And the curved handlebars?! Oh my god. The only thing missing to complete the picture was a shopping basket. We pumped up the wheels and I went for a ride into the country - but after a few km of constantly moving off the front of the saddle I decided to cut it short - it was soo bad that I had to stand for most of the ride. In addition the rear light cover fell off. I hope nobody recognized me on this thing - was thinking of putting on my sunglasses for anonymity.... but then again I need not have worried - the people I met on my spin had bikes that let mine look like a Ferrari among Fiats.... ah well, in times of need even the devil eats flies and I got to be fit for K-Capital Cup 2!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In Germany even the trees stand in file..... ;)

On Thursday before the first K Capital Cup I had to travel urgently home to the north of Germany and booked a oneway flight only as I did not know how long I would stay. I decided not to take my bike either as it would have been too much hassle and I did not know if I would have the chance to go on long bike rides when I was over. Besides, the north of Germany is quite boring anyway with regards to mountain biking - there is no mountains, it's flat like a pancake! I had fortunately packed my runners, just in case as it's easier to squeeze in a bit of runnning rather than biking between family duties. So, in order to not loose all my hard earned fitness that I built up for the start of the racing season (my pennies in the piggybank :)), I went running instead in a little forest down the road. When I showed Ryan my gps tracks as recorded by my Garmin Edge 305 from one of my typical runs, he broke out laughing: "Even the trees stand in file in Germany!"

Friday, March 7, 2008

Times of loss.

Thanks to everybody who has expressed their sympathy during this time of grief. This is a difficult time for all of us. Your thoughtfulness and kind support are greatly appreciated and a source of strength. Thank you.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sometimes it can be really hard

In comparison to normal people I do a lot of sports. I have a coach that I talk to every day about my training, progress and mental state and who takes this feedback into account to plan my training, what drills I should focus on etc. Every week I have a detailed training plan that I try to follow. Because one important thing in being good in your sport is consistency in your training.

However, a few days ago I got up to a training session that must have been one of my worst. I dragged myself out of the bed (I wasn't particularly tired), onto the bike (which is my new and shiny Grand Canyon 9.0 LTD Special Edition) and up the mountain (and the weather was even pretty OK, apart from extremely strong winds). I managed to get to the top and out of the wind. I started the first of 4 repeats of a 3min lactic acid treshhold climbing drill, and 40 seconds in, thinking I am dying with a 175bpm HR, I looked at the HR monitor and it said 155. Only 155bpm and I was dying!!! I could not believe it. I had no power, no motivation, nothing. Did not want to ride. Wanted to stop and sit down and cry and be picked up by my coach (I had the dignity not to ask him to do that). I gave up. Took my bike and went home. I was so down and disappointed with myself. Mentally drained of any motivation and power. I didn't even ride to work, but took the LUAS instead. Sometimes it can be soooo hard to keep going... Is it really worth it? Do I really want to put myself through all the pain and suffering? Do I really have what it takes?

But then again, a few days later I had a good training session. Went out on the bike, felt good, warm weather, bone dry trails, did my 4 x 3min VO2 max drill and did it well. Came home buzzing. It is on these days that I'm reminded how much I enjoy biking. And it's soooo good that the racing season is starting soon with the K Capital Cup Racing series. Finally I can see if all those hard earned pennies in the piggybank of winter training are paying off.