Thursday, May 27, 2010

2010 Irish NPS Round 4 - Magheramorne, NI

I didn't feel too bad after the ROAR and felt fine on Sunday too. It was a long drive up to the quarry in Magheramorne on yet another beautiful summer's day. Going by the last time I raced there I knew the course should be fairly flat, with just a few kickers strewn in. I had just enough time to squeeze in a practice lap before lining up with Cait Elliott, Valerie O'Neill and Shona D'Arcy, the latter having bravely stepped up to do the Elite race for the first time.

One of the many little drops (Photo from Shane Lavelle)

The course is unlike any other XC race I've done. It's flat over black earth and loose gravel, along dusty paths, some shrubbery and up and down old and steep earth movements and derelict buildings reminiscent of quarry activity. There was some tight singletrack with some steep furrows and a good few fast bombhole descents and a few nasty kicker climbs, but any pain was usually over in less than 10 seconds. With the course being so open some of the sections required tucking in tightly against the head wind and only the lukewarm water of that murky river crossing gave a bit of respite from the hot midday sun burning down on us (this is Ireland that I am talking about).

Splashing through the welcome river crossing (Photo from Rose)

We had to do four laps and set off leaving only a dust cloud, following the Juniors who were started with us. My plan was to go out front and get away. It's nice when something works to plan. I got to the front and steadily increased my lead, mostly racing on my own, passing the occasional rider and being occasionally passed. The course was very fast and it took a while for the other categories to catch up when I rode with some Masters and Vet riders. On the last lap I got a bit of a stomach cramp but there was no danger from behind, so I could ease off a little bit until I reached the finish in first place with Cait in second and Valerie in third.

Groupshot of the Elite Women competitors (Photo from Martin Grimley)

Thanks to Aine for being my feed zone angel.
Results available here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

West Wicklow ROAR

On Saturday last weekend I did the West Wicklow ROAR, a multi-sport adventure race combining kayaking, road biking and off-road running around Blessington Lakes. My coach doesn't like me doing off road running much due to the risk of injury, but I've just been longing to mix up my training a bit again and since I had no big races coming up I took this opportunity to get my AR fix in.

The race itself was broken up as follows:

2km kayak
11.5km bike
7km run
18km bike
7km run
16.5km bike

Confidently I put myself down for the Elite wave....

Photo by John Fields from ActionPhotography

I was a bit concerned about the running stages, since I hadn't done any running at all in ages, and decided to do my first run in ages by doing an IMRA race on the Wednesday a week and a half before the ROAR for some training (I am aware that this was a bit of a stupid idea....). This was more a test to see where I stand and to see if and how much my mountain biking fitness would carry over to mountain running (and also to enjoy the social side of it and meet some old friends). It was an 11.3km run, not particularly steep, but about half of it over pretty technical rocky terrain. I came in 7th lady, at 140% of the men's winning time. Not bad since this is the best percentage I've ever had in a mountain run, even when I used to run regularly! So I was happy with that, but not with the pain that I had to endure the three days after! My legs felt as if I had subjected them to a marathon with my thighs and calves giving out every time I tried to sit down or stand up or walk down stairs. I couldn't do any type of training until Saturday and had to take it fairly easy at the weekend too. Serves me right going out like this. I did a few more short running sessions to get my legs used to the sensation before the Saturday of the race.

Anyhow, Saturday came along with some glorious blue skyed weather and a heat wave and some of the other Elite ladies including old mountain biking champs Beth McCluskey and Jenny McAuley. I was hoping that all the time I would lose on the runs (I knew that both Beth and Jenny would be better runners) I could make up on the bike legs. How wrong I was....

On the 2nd run - Photo by John Fields from ActionPhotography

Well, it started off kind of on a bad leg. The kayaking leg. In this race we were provided with 2-person sit-on-tops and you just did it with whoever arrived at the boats the same time as you. I have to admit, my knowledge about kayaking does not extend much further than that it involves a kayak, water and a paddle and I've been able to get by with these basics through any adventure race (usually due to my partners having more of a clue and telling me what to do). That's bad, but the worse thing was that the person who was going to share the kayaking leg with me had as little clue as I. Anyhow, we made it back to the beach eventually.... Another mistake was to take off my shoes before the kayaking leg. I thought I'd be able to run back to the bike transition bare-footed, but all I could do was hop along the side of the gravel road to avoid the gravel digging into my feet. Next mistake was to use cleat pedals, meaning at each transition I would have to change from biking shoes into running shoes and from running shoes back into biking shoes etc. Well, I didn't have so much of a choice because my pedals have ceased onto my crank arms (I have already twisted two Allen keys), but if I was doing such a race again I will get this sorted and put on flat pedals and cut out the time of taking off one pair of shoes, tying them onto the rucksack, putting on another pair of shoes etc. Finally on the bike I was having issues with my chain not going into the big ring and had to stop to put it up manually - should have really adjusted them beforehand.....

Then of course I was running up and down the mountains with my 2L bladder full of water, although I did away with it on the 2nd run and decided taking out the mandatory kit and a bottle would be easier. It was, but my legs were still not used to this kind of terrain, some of it on the open mountain side and with wet shoes blisters were developing and the bottoms of my feet were starting to give out.

Well done to Jenny and Beth battling it out in front with Jenny taking the win only 2min ahead of Beth. Both were closely followed by Derval Devaney, a triathlete. I came in 26min behind Jenny with a time of 3h51min. I looked at the splits later and only my bike legs were comparable, I lost time everywhere else. Ah well, in the end it was a great way of spending a Saturday and getting some good aerobic endurance training in.

Results available here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Bike Details

Ryan actually went through the effort already to describe the details for our new 2010 race bikes on his blog, so this is taken almost directly from his blog. In short, for 2010, both Ryan and I are racing on near identical 2010 Specialized S-Works Epics. The bikes are basically the stock S-Works bikes with some modifications from our other sponsors: KCNC, Schwalbe and a little help from Stan at NoTubes.

The detail pics below are from Ryan's bike, but mine is virtually identical (I've got a white saddle though and slightly different disk brakes).

Outside of the paint work, the major changes on our bikes this year are:
  • Full SRAM XX drive train, we have a double (39x26) on the front and 11-36 on the rear. I haven't moved out of the big ring yet....

  • NoTubes Podium wheelset – from NoTubes, we are running the NoTubes Podium tubeless wheels – total wheelset weight is 1.26kg. Slightly heavier than my old ZTR 7000 wheels but the additional weight is in the ZTR hubs which, due to the flange spacing, will give a slightly stiffer (and more affordable!) wheel

  • The frame has been upgraded with a stiffer carbon front triangle and the liberal use of ceramic bearings for the bottom bracket etc...

  • The rear brain shock has also been updated – a slightly heavier weight in the inertia valve gives better terrain sensitivity. It is also now produced with Fox which should alleviate some of the quality control issues some earlier versions had.

KCNC components are used throughout to also drop the weight down to a hardtail beating 9.4kg (20.7 lbs). This is not showroom weight, but ready to race weight with tires, sealant, bottle cage and pedals. It feels light, very light.

Tires, we stick with our general purpose setup of a 2.1 Schwalbe Rocket Ron on the front and a 2.1 Racing Ralph on the rear. We use this exact setup for 95% of our racing and training.

Well, what can I say, I've ridden the bike a few times now and I love it. I have decided though to leave the bar ends off it for a while. I like the simplicity of not having them, it feels like another thing to think about while I race. I will probably put some on my training bike though and see if I like them more when I get used to them.

The above pic is actually from Ryan's bike, my seat post will be sporting a German flag. The pic with the wheel is also from Ryan's bike, I'd have turned the Schwalbe tires another half turn ;)

Many thanks to our sponsors for helping us put all this together - Cycleways, Specialized, Schwalbe, KCNC and NoTubes.

"His 'n' hers"

Monday, May 10, 2010

2010 British XC Round 2 - Wasing Park

On the Friday evening on the weekend of the race Ryan and I flew over to Bristol and drove the 1.5hours to our B&B for the next two nights. The weather on Saturday morning wasn't great. It was 8 degree Celsius accompanied by a dreary drizzle. We drove through the very pretty and posh country side to Wasing Estate where the race would take place. Quickly we built up our bikes and ventured on a practice lap around the course. And it turned out that I absolutely loved the course. It was set in this beautiful estate and meandered through bluebell woods, along small lakes, twisted through dense forestry and met a few little drops here and there. There wasn't much climb per lap and it was technically pretty easy, but the vast amount of sweet singletrack leading through this beautiful scenery made all up for it. I just love courses that are set into the countryside as if they belong there. One lap was about 7km long, but had only about 100m climb, most of it at the start of the lap. I did a second, "hot" lap with a few repeats and because I loved it so much I did a third lap.

On race day the temperature was even colder, 7 degrees! And that at the start of May! There wasn't many girls in my category, the biggest names were Lily Matthews, Kate Potter and Maddie Horton and I knew that Lee Craigie could have a shot for the top 5 on a good day too. I felt good during my warm up and I liked the course. I was looking forward to this race!

Starting on the first of 5 laps I immediately took the lead. It didn't last long though, with Lily Matthews taking over, Kate Potter settling into 2nd position and me into third. I made sure to stay on Kate's wheel and was determined to not get dropped. On a bit of climb I passed Kate who had let a small gap open on Lily and set on to close the gap to Lily. However, we then just hit one of the few bits of straight fireroad, one of the few places you can drink easily and I had a sip, with Kate taking the chance to overtake me again to nip into the singletrack ahead of me. I stayed on Kate's wheel and followed her through the loose singletrack in the woods, but then disaster struck. I took a corner too fast and lost traction and the next second found myself on the ground. I got up, but my handlebar had twisted and needed to be tightened up. While I tried to fix this, all the girl behind me passed and when I was finished I had to chase them from the last position. I managed to catch a few, but noticed I had fixed my handlebar slightly off center and decided to get Ryan to fix it at the feedzone. It was all a bit of a blur, but it seemed my handlebar was tight, but my front skewer had come loose and I had rounded a bolt and had to finish the race with the slightly off centre handlebar because it would take too much time to fix things. Again I started to a chase when I left the tech zone. When I went into the next bit of singletrack I had to stop again to tighten skewers - they defo weren't tightened up enough before the race! At the end of lap 2 I had clawed my way back up to 6th place and could see Lee Craigie leaving the start/finish zone. I caught her halfway through the 3rd lap and then tried to chase down Gabby Day in 4th place. It was hard to judge how fast I was going in comparison to the others, since I was riding by myself for the last 4 out of 5 laps, apart from the few times I passed people. I was told I was closing in on Gabby Day, but unfortunately I didn't catch her, so that I finished in 5th place. Lily Matthew showed a great performance on the day and won the race, followed by Kate Potter in second and a strong ride from Maddie Horten for third place.

Elite women's start

And to finish off a disappointing race I was selected for random dope control. Perfect, I can't even do a cool down. In a frenzy I tried to find Ryan who was off somewhere else to warm up for his race, or our rental car - which Ryan had moved without telling me (my chaperone must have thought I'm a bit dim-witted.... "no, really, the car was here, a grey car, it was right here.....") trying to get at a warm jacket and then find my racing license, tried to organize somebody to do Ryan's bottles for his race while I go for a supervised pee, waiting for the presentation to finish while freezing my *ss off.... all in all a not so great day at the office.... (thank god I have a second office, right?).

Anyhow, again it has been shown that to have a good race the following three things have to be in perfect condition: you mind, your body AND your equipment. I probably would not have beaten Lily, but I had felt that 2nd place was definitely within my reach if everything had gone right. It was a bit of a risk in taking our new bikes over, having ridden them only once before after building them up, but it's no excuse. I should have checked every bolt and every skewer closely beforehand after building them up again from the flight. Lesson learned. Now, where's that locktite?

Results available on

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Bike :)

Finally, we've received all the bits and bobs for our new S-Works Epics and they are now fully built up and ready to go. Tonight I will take my new bike out for the first time on the Epic club spin. While the geometry of my new bike is the same as last year's S-Works Epic, the biggest change is that my new bike comes with SRAM XX drive train and brakes, meaning I've now only got 2 chain rings in front. Another change is that I am trying bar ends for the first time - I've always been afraid of wrapping myself around a tree with them, so we'll see how that goes. Below is a picture of the bike, it's also painted, in contrast to the naked carbon from last year, so it looks a lot brighter, but less stealthy. Anyhow, I'll put a full spec online in a bit - now it's time to get ready for the club race!

Thanks again to Cycleways, Clee Cycles, Schwalbe and NoTubes for their generous sponsorship :)

UPDATE: Well, I'm back and fed from the Epic club race, waiting for Ryan to evacuate the shower so that I can hop in. I can say that I absolutely love my new bike! It rides really well, very light, and it climbs like a Gazelle - effortlessly. I am not sure about the bar ends though - on the way to the race I kept reaching for them when I had to brake - reminding me of my road bike hoods and I was still a bit paranoid of wrapping them around a tree. I'll leave them off for the second round of the British National Series this weekend, but I'll give them another go afterwards.