Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Threshold and what it takes

Ahhhh - finally after many consecutive weekends of racing (6 races in the last 6 weeks) and doing only short and sharp training sessions I am starting a proper build period again. Meaning long and hard rides, including VO2 max and threshold drills. Oh, you gotta love these, wanna know what a 3min stint of VO2 max feels like? Well, it goes like this: 

First you feel strong and sprint of like you are being followed by a herd of mad cows. However, about half a minute later, you start feeling out of breath and you feel oncoming pain in your legs and another few seconds later the pain in your legs has risen to the unbearable as the lactic acid accumulates, so you have no choice than to ease off a little, but just enough so that the pain is bearable and keep at that effort till the 3minutes is over. It is in these 10 seconds of total pain from when your legs are full of lactic acid to when you ease off a little that I ask myself why am I doing this to myself? 

2-hydroxypropanoic acid

I also had to do a few 1min flat out efforts today, these go like this: pedal like you are being followed by the "Infected" for 1min, then recover. And you know how these feel? They start is quite similar to the VO2 max drill, only that you go harder from the start and when the pain rises into the unbearable, you DON'T ease off..... which means that at 15 seconds to go your eyes start going cross, at 10 seconds to go you think you are going to fall off the bike, at 5 seconds to go you think your legs are going to explode and the last second feels like the hardest pedal stroke you have ever done in your whole life.

And yes, you've done it correctly when you feel like you want to give up competitive biking just after the drill ends...

So I guess the difference between world champ level and local champ level (if having comparable genetic disposition - ah the old nurture vs. nature argument) is just about who goes furthest in preparing your body and mind, you know, doing all those little things like pushing yourself this little bit further, turning that pedal one more time even when you think you can't, not eating that tasty triple chocolate muffin and not partying till late at night. However, there is also something sickly rewarding in enduring all these pains and sufferings, you do appreciate lack of pain and just chilling out, eating a piece of chocolate and drinking a glass of wine soooo much more. 

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Summer sunshine race 1 :)

Today, a super sunny and wam day, the first Irish NPS race this year was held in Ballinastoe, by Sorrento Cycling Club (actually mostly a roadie club). And, for being a mostly roadie club, they did a really good job in putting together the course in Ballinastoe:

Apart from a supersteep fireroad climb in the beginning the course consisted mainly of descending singletrack sections, some natural, some man made using the Ballinastoe Mountain biking trails, strung together by reasonable fireroad climbs. The singletrack was not massively technical - just very swervy - it was great to lean into the corners and ride out the berms, so the laps were superfast.

While there was great competition in the Elite man category, it was only Fiona Barrett and me in the Elite ladies category. Mountainbiking girls, where are you? We need you!!!
Fiona and me went off with the two Juniors and sprinted off the steep fireroad climb. I developed a good lead from Fiona from the start on and hung on to the two juniors for half a lap, then I overtook them. I caught up almost to Richie from the Elites, who had been dropped from the Elite field and who looked in difficulty. Then the two Oisins from the Experts who had started a minute behind started catching up to me and I made it my goal to not be overtaken in the first lap. I managed to stay ahead of them till just before the end of the first lap then. At the food area I saw that both Fiona and Richie had dropped out, unfortunately. This meant I just had to finish the race.
Foto found here.

I tried to keep my speed up despite having no competition and was getting on grand till lap 3 (my second last lap) where I fell off the bike in a corner and couldn't hook my foot out of my pedal - it was stuck!! I managed to get back to the tech zone without dabbing (thank god this course wasn't technical). At the tech zone we had a look at the stuck cleat and noticed that one of the bolts had gone. I didn't have any spare bolts with me (who has anyway??), so I decided that I would just try and do the last lap with my shoe stuck and try avoid dabbing. Well, it was going OK till I came to a little uphill section where my back wheel spun through and I fell off the bike again, with my shoe still stuck of course. I managed to get back up and somehow half walked/cycled up the hill with my left foot stuck and my right foot on the ground.... never looked so stupid before!

But of course disaster never comes alone, so when I went down the straight natural singletrack section I punctured my rear tire so badly that my tubeless tire didn't seal fast enough and soon I was riding on the rim! I stopped and pumped up the tire, but it was still not sealing. And it's not easy to pump up the tire when you are stuck onto your bike! I tried to ride on for a little bit further but had to stop again as the air was almost gone again. I pumped it up again (this time taking my shoe off) and tried to get the tire to seal, which it seemed to do eventually and kept on riding carefully. I had to pump it up one more time, but could make it to the finish OK. Of course I had lost lots of time in my last lap, so the result time is a little misleading, and unfortunately they've got no lap times. So according to my Garmin, my lap times were approximately:

lap1: 22:26, lap2: 23:56, lap3: 24:45, lap4: 25:01

Total riding time: 1:36:08 (I had the auto-stop function on), showing my really fast 1st lap and the other laps progressively getting slower, with the cleat problem in lap 3 and the puncture in lap 4. Overall, I was quite happy with how I rode the course (apart from my slow last lap), as I was able to go really fast around the corners and take the berms properly. I feel a lot more confident as well to go on this slalom-like singletrack with high speed - I think the UK race really helped with this. So, all in all it was still a very enjoyable race, even though I would prefer having a bit more competitive pressure in it for me. Guess I have to race more abroad for that.

Foto from here.

And what a beautiful day it was - sunshine all the way! I think I might have gotten a tan today and I was really hot going up those climbs!

Ryan did really well in his race, leading from the start on and battling constantly with Peter Buggle who was back on the bike after the Cape Epic and superfast junior rider Liam McGreevey, who's leap up to the Elite category has proven the right step for him, eventually placing third. Ryan's report can be found here.

Thanks to Shane, who surprised himself coming third in the Sports category, for helping out with the bottles - it is as always really appreciated. Full results can be found here and some pics have been put up here by Rob and here by Arek (photos taken by Marta).

Next weekend will be my first non-racing weekend in ages (didn't say non-cycling...;)) as I will be celebrating a friends birthday in Kerry. And the weekend after that I will be in Drumlanrig, Scotland for the British NPS round 2, a UCI Class 2 event, who knows, maybe I can even pick up some points there :).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Last K Capital Cup Race

Last Sunday saw the last one of the four K Capital Cup races happening in the beautiful Forest Park of Castlewellan. Incidentally, I had my very first mountain bike race in Castlewellan about 2 years ago (the first NPS 2006) where I finished 26th in the combined male/female sports category.... - oh that was scary. From then on Castlewellan has become one of my favourite courses, always remembered with much fondness ;)

The course itself was great: The first killer fireroad climb (18% in sections) had been broken up by some really nice and tricky singletrack loops in the forest, but slowly leading you up to the top. Once on the highest point, there was a singletrack descent to another bit of fast, leveled fireroad followed by more great singletrack descending with lots of little technical bits and view over the lake back to the finish line at the lakeside. The course was dusty dry on the Saturday pre-ride and stayed dry for the race itself, just it was a little cold, where the hell is the summer???

Pic found here.

There were only 4 ladies starting in the Elite ladies category, one of them Polish rider Karolina Kozela, who I had remembered being very fast in Kilruddery about 2 years ago. I wasn't feeling very well, my legs still felt as if they hadn't recovered from the previous hard weekend's racing in the UK and for some reason I was pretty nervous, even though I had the series win basically bagged as long as I finished the race. Ah well, guess it's the expectations.....

Anyway, the race started, and as usual, most of the fun was happening in the first lap. Karolina sprinted up the hill with me close on her wheel (I still don't like sprint starts and took it easy enough), meaning that she entered the first bit of singletrack ahead of me. While riding the singletrack behind her, I noticed that my back tire had way to much pressure: it was spinning through on roots and didn't grip well on rock. I contemplated letting out some air, but didn't want to let Karolina get away from me. Then I noticed however that she was having difficulty with all the little tricky bits on the singletrack, having to walk many of them (according to her she had not been on her mountain bike in a few months), so I was confident that I would catch her again, stopped and let out some air of my rear wheel while Karolina got away. Oh, it rode soo much better with less pressure. A few minutes later I had caught up to Karolina and managed to overtake her before we hit the middle fireroad section and that was it for me with regards to Elite ladies battles for the rest of the race.

Pic found here.

So instead I tried to hang on to Oisin Boydell in Expert for a bit (it's my goal now to beat him by the end of the year) and I also had a nice battle with Rory Walsh in Experts, but I finally managed to finish ahead of him (disregarding the minute head start I had). Apart from that it was actually - and I hate to say this - a bit unexciting from a racing point of view, so I just enjoyed the really lovely singletrack. I even had to remind myself to push a little harder at times, I was supposed to be racing for God's sake! There just needs to be more women in my category! At least it was great to see so many more women starting in the Sports category - just need to convince them now to take the leap to Elites!

I finished the race over 15min ahead of Karolina who was closely followed by savage rider Fiona Barrett who had to travel up from Cork and had done an adventure race the day beforehand - fair play to her doing the mtb race as well! Just need to get her to reassess her priorities now ;) And very well done as well to Ann Duffy who keeps bravely taking on racing in the Elite ladies category due to lack of vet ladies competition in Ireland.

Pic of the 3 MAD series trophy winners found here.

All in all it was a nice race, even though it felt a little like just wrapping up. Most of the series placings in the categories had been decided in the previous races bar any unplanned accidents etc. so it was I guess a little less exciting than the previous races.

Anyway, time to relax a little after this, eat a Jo Burger (mmmmhhhh!!!) and prepare for the next races that are coming up soon. Thanks again to all the people helping out and shouting encouragement, especially Sean, who was doing my bottles, it's time to see you back the bike soon though! Also thanks to TorQ for their support, I used TorQ gels and Energy drinks throughout the race and felt they gave me just the energy I needed.

Full results of the race can be found here and the overall standing at the end of the league can be found here. Photos can be found here by Rob, here byArek, here (IMBRC) and here by Trey. Report by Andy Potts here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sunday Enduro race

Sunday saw the Enduro NPS Round 1 race also in Thetford, UK - both the NPS and Enduro races are always coupled together.

I had left the decision about what distance I would do till the morning before the race. I was put down for the 50km race, but decided last minute to go for the 100km (8 laps of a 12.5km course, re-using some sections from the XC race from yesterday, but with some added new sections, similar to the day before) - I was feeling ok after the race yesterday and it would be a great test to see how my body would deal with a double whammy back to back racing like this. The weather again was beautiful and sunny and we girls gathered at the start line, this time only 8 girls in the 100km Ladies Elite category. At 10:00am we went off and thank god, the speed was slower from the start. When I went off there were 2 girls that went off together ahead of me and I tried to follow them, but was not able to close the gap to them in the first lap. Considering that the race was 100km long I didn't want to kill myself either in the first few laps and thought I would have enough time to work my way up to them eventually. I stayed at a constant speed, and the gap between the 2 girls in front and me also stayed quite constant. Eventually one of the girls started falling back behind the other girl in about the second lap and I was able to catch up to her and overtake her. The first girl though stayed at about a distance of 50-100m ahead of me for the following laps.

Then I had a problem, I had 1 bottle and a few gels that would last me about 2 laps, maybe stretching it to 3, but then I would have to stop at the feed zone for a refill. Because, unfortunately I didn't know anybody there who could do my bottles and wasn't racing at the same time, so a feed zone stop would mean loosing valuable time (Sean, you were so dearly missed at this race!). So I decided to stretch the big bottle to 4 laps and then stop to grab another big bottle and rip the gels off all my other bottles so that I might be able to do the rest of the race on that second 750ml bottle without having to stop again.... Eventually, in about the 4rth lap I caught up to the girl in first, Sally, and followed her comfortably around the course. But then in the feed zone, I had to stop to get refed, whereas she could race through and grab a bottle from her soignour. Nonetheless, I pushed into the pedals hard to make up the lost time and caught up to her about half way through lap 5 and stayed on her wheel for most of the following laps, one time even leading the race for about half a lap after trying to get away from her (I noticed she was very strong on fireroads and could pull away from me there, usually this would also be my strength, but I didn't have that kind of power left after the really hard XC race the day before, which she hadn't done, so I tried to pull away from her in my favourite bit of singletrack, which I managed, but then she caught up to me again on the fireroad sections). So she went into the lead again and I stayed on her wheel.

Although the laps were quite fast, averaging almost 23 km/hour with average lap times of 32min40secs, the speed felt comfortable for most of the race, only in lap 7 the effort started to take tolls on me and I was running low on liquid as well. So again I had to take the decision to either stop and grab another bottle of water and risk allowing her to break away from me or to try and stay with her but risking to bonk on the last lap. Finally, I decided to play safe and get another bottle as I was feeling more and more drained as the lap went on. Sally of course took the chance and broke away and pushed a good gap on me that I unfortunately could not make up for the rest of the race, giving her the win with a super fast time of 4:20:26 and me arriving in second place exactly 47 seconds after..... The next lady in third place was came in at more than 10min later.
The first 3 ladies in the 100km Enduro race

Full results and Joolze report can be found here. Pics from Joolze Dymond are available here. Pics from Rob Crayton can be found here. Ryan found some pics of us here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here (sorry, can't put them up here due to copyright).

I was very proud of my performance and how the race went, but also had thoughts going through my head such as - "maybe I should have tried to pull away earlier", "if I had also had a support person in the feed zone", "maybe I should have risked going without that last bottle"... etc. but then again, I was a little more tired from the hard race the day before, I still had a very good result and I have to say, Sally really deserves the win, she is an incredibly strong, consistent and determined rider, and I don't think I would have been able to pull away from her without her catching me again, so fair-played to her. Very interestingly our lap times both are very very consistent, the difference over 8 laps between my fastest (first) and slowest (7th) lap was less than 2 minutes and my slowest laps (4th and 7th) were those in which I collected my bottles....

Ryan thankfully had a good race too, and finished in a very strong 3rd place, making up for his DNF on Saturday. Well done!
100km Elite Man winners with a very happy Ryan :)

So, time for a few Thank you's again, firstly to Ryan for his consistent psychological support and training advice, to TorQ for also supporting me over the weekend (Ryan is now racing under their banner which I think is great because they make by far the best tasting gels that I ever had) and of course again to our B&B hosts in Magdalen House for getting up so early on a Sunday morning to prepare our breakfast.

Can't wait for my next UK race!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Going pro.....

.... nah, just kidding, but after last weekends results I felt almost like a pro anyway....

The weekend was spent mostly in Thetford Forest, UK, to take part in my first races abroad, i.e. the British XC NPS Round 1 race on Saturday and the British Enduro NPS Round 1 race on the Sunday.

Ryan and me packed up our stuff on Thursday evening and flew over from Dublin on Friday early morning to Stansted, which is about an hour from Thetford (if you go the correct way that is.... ;)). Got the rental car and decided to go straight to the race location due to the detour ("sightseeing") we had taken. We arrived in Thetford Forest an d built up our bikes, got changed and it started lashing.... :( and I was sooo looking forward to my first good weather race this season! When the rain let off a little, we took the chance and went off for our practice lap.

Course description: flat like a pan cake. A lap was 10km and consisted basically of smooth and swervy singletrack loops through the forest (mostly little walking paths) connected through some straight fireroad sections. The rain had transformed a few sections of the course into a bit of a mud bath, but apart from that is was pretty untechnical. Only 2 drops are worth mentioning, both of them bombholes - one of them with a tricky steep climb out that many people didn't get. Then there was one great bit of singletrack section that was very uppy and downy and became my favourite section of the course because you could hammer along this section, lean into the corners, fly down into the drops and use your speed to come out of them again, you could do almost the whole section without pedalling if you wanted to! The speed you got was amazing! Sooo much fun!

Anyway, just as we finished the practice laps it started raining again, so we set off to find our B&B "Magdalen House" about 15min away from Thetford Forest in a place called Methwold. It was located just at the end of a farm driveway, with open farmland around 3 sides of it, beautiful! The countryside was beautiful anyway, I loved it!
Random pretty driving through the countryside pic :)

We were very well received in the absolutely cute and quaint B&B by the owners Keith and Lorna who really did everything possible to make our stay as comfortable and stress-free as possible. The first great thing was we were supplied with abucket of soap water, brushes and a water hose to wash our bikes off the mud and dirt - a quite sandy and rough dirt that was loudly grinding in your brakes and between the chain rings with each pedal stroke. The B&B itself was very beautiful and pretty inside, very clean and well kept and just felt very homely. After washing our bikes and then ourselves we set off to eat at a Thai/English restaurant. A lovely Thai meal was had - with 4 portions of rice for the 2 of us - we would need the energy tomorrow.
Ryan in front of our B&B "Magdalen House"

On Saturday when we arrived back at the race location the field in front of it was filled with tons of cars and people - the racing scene in the UK is just so much bigger than in Ireland, it was great to be part of such a big event.

The hustle and bustle around the start area - they had catering and sales tents!

My race started at 1pm and we 16 Elite ladies gathered at the start line, the first 10 ladies or so gridded in the first 2 rows, me having to start in the third and last row - wow - three rows of ladies racing! Never seen that before! The weather was beautiful and sunny, so that was a plus too. It was a little strange to start in a group where you don't know anybody and have no idea how you compare to them - I knew that the favourite for this race was Jenny Copnall and recognized her by her jersey, so I knew who to chase, but no idea about the others really. The whistle was blown and we were off. From the very beginning, even before we hit the first singletrack the group started to separate, about 4 ladies in front and I worked my way through the girls to try and hang on to the 4 in front, entering the singletrack in about 5th position. The speed was very fast from the beginning on and I could see that Jenny got away from the front group quite early, with a group of 3 girls working together trying to follow her. For most of my first lap (out of 5, they had added one since the course was bone dry and therefore very fast) I worked as hard as I could to try and catch the group of 3 in front of me - it was great to always have an aim in front of you. My heartrate monitor told me that I went super hard in this first lap (not that I really needed telling), with my heart rate up in the 180s! and I almost binned myself in this first lap. I had to let off for a bit by the end of it and was overtaken by some girls, but by my second lap I settled into some "comfortable" racing speed (mind you, I was still giving it my all, but at least it felt more sustainable for the race length) and overtook them again, slowly closing in on the group of 3 girls in front of me. As it happened one of the girls from that group dropped back, being my target to catch for the next few laps - so cool to have people to chase!! She had a big "TARGET" written on her bum (metaphorically) and I chased her down in I think which was the last lap - it actually really suited me that they added that extra 5th lap, because I think I overtook most of the girls in the last lap (not sure though, it's all a bit of a blur though to me, the race that is). Once I overtook girl in position 4, I saw number 3 and chased her down, and as soon as I had gotten her I saw number 2 and chased her down as well, and then it was just a short bit that I had to keep away from them until I was finished with my race. When I finished and got confirmed that I had indeed finished in 2nd place just after multiple British Champ Jenny Copnall, I was head over heels! I had come in at 2:12:45, 3min and 22sec after Jenny and had put a gap of just over a minute onto Paula Mosely who took third.

The 3 happy winners! First international success for MAD Ireland!!! :)

That was soooo much fun, but I think I've never gone so hard in my life, I really really pushed myself hard in this one, really enjoying the craic of racing against lots of very strong and good girls, you always had a target or were being chased and never spent a minute of the race by yourself. Also, it was such a friendly atmosphere, the girls chatting to each other on the trails while racing (I know my coach will now say that I didn't go hard enough if we could chat), but it was just so nice! I was told that this was their biggest Elite ladies field they've seen so far, so I am really proud of my result, even though a few of the big names were missing (such as Kate Potter and Amy Hunt).

Full results and race report written by Joolze Dymond can be found here and pictures (also by Joolze) can be found here.

Unfortunately Ryan had been less lucky in his race, having been forced to crash at 30km an hour in his first lap and hurting his already sore shoulder even more so that he decided to pull out after a few more laps to save his energy for the Enduro race on Sunday - thanks for cheering me on though!

And of course, a success like this would not have been possible without the help of the following people: Ryan for being such a good coach - sledgehammering me into fitness over the winter and it's finally paying off (I know there's an "I told you so" from you now), Eamon McConvoy for handing out the bottles and gels while his son, Conor McConvoy was racing for 3rd place, what a fantastic result! and the hosts of Magdalen House for adjusting their breakfast to our dietary needs and being so welcoming and helpful.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Race Report K Capital Cup 3: Djouce

The race weekend started as usual with a pre-ride of the course on Saturday. While the week had been beautiful and warm, it had cooled down again dramatically to wintery temperatures. The course was amazing, one of the most technically demanding courses that I have ever ridden: you either found yourself descending some loose off camber or twisty and turny super technical single track or you climbed up some tricky single track - they even made you climb a super steep downhill track in the uphill direction. The single track sections were linked by some fast fire road climbs on which you could hammer at max speed. The two most interesting sections for me were a narrow undulating single track rocky path along a small cliff by a river ("Gran Canaria") and a steep drop into a mushy section followed by another river crossing. A funny bit was the very technical swervy and off camber descent at the Earl's Drive - the squeaking of numerous disk brakes wet from crossing a huge puddle beforehand filled the air - a hilarious sound!

When I arrived at aforementioned steep drop I asked if there was a chicken run - just to be told that I was standing AT the chicken run and that the proper drop was a little further up and even more tricky. I waited for a bit to see others trying to go down it and across the river and only saw one pro rider making it across without crashing. Hmmm..... I think I walk this one... And so I did. Just got back onto the bike before the river to avoid wet feet.

Jaisus, what a technical course!! After one practice lap I was feeling a little intimidated by it - secretly wishing I could drop back into the sports category.....

Anyway, race day arrived and it was freezing cold outside and hail was hitting us on the drive to Djouce. The weather forecast had given something along the lines of "Bitterly cold with strong northerly winds. Showers of hail and sleet becoming widespread in the afternoon. Temperatures between 3 and 7 degree Celsi
us...." eerrgh....

Racing in a hail shower...

I was nervous - the trail was super technical and there was a lot of off camber track - something I'm not very good at. My apprehension was made even worse when during my warm up I crashed on a bit of single track, hurting my knee and my already bruised left hip. I actually almost dreaded the race.

At the start line it turned out that one of my main competitors, Beth, unfortunately couldn't start, so my main target for this race was Tarja. We 5 girls shared the start with the Juniors and off we went on the sound of the whistle uphill over the grassy start area.

As in the last race, all of my racing battles happened early in the race: From the start on I tried to chase Tarja and did my best to hang on to her wheel - all my winter training was being tested there! She entered the first single track section ahead of me in first position, but I was able to hang on and caught her on the climb up to Exstacy (oh I love having done those soul destroying hill reps now!!). Going down Exstacy I got a big twig stuck in my wheel that stopped it from turning and I had to stop to pull it out - loosing valuable time. When I went back on my bike again I noticed my chain had gone down too, so had to fix that as well - by this stage Tarja had caught up to me again and overtook me. Hitting a flat fireroadie section I put my head down and hammered up the trail overtaking Tarja again to get into the next singletrack section ahead of her, a long off camber descent. I made a few mistakes on the descent and had to dab a few times, getting stuck at trees etc, so that when I came out of that section Tarja had caught up to my wheel again and managed to head into the next single track bit before me. At that point I was telling myself to stay at her wheel as best as I could and to concentrate on not making any more mistakes. At the next long fireroad I pushed hard and did my best to overtake Tarja as fast as I could to disappear into the next singletrack section (GC) aiming to get out of her sight as fast as possible. I rode GC well without problems and headed up the long singletrack climb after the river crossing. This climb afforded a great view upon the riders behind you and I saw Tarja's coming up that climb about fifty meters behind me. At that point I told myself to concentrate, to ride smoothly, to not make any mistakes and to try and increase the gap. Down the squeaky Earl's Drive descent and down to the drop - looking back and no Tarja in sight I walked the big drop and ran through the icy cold river water - what a mistake! I should have gotten onto the bike before the river and kept my feet dry. The shock of cold water and wet feet made it so much harder to control my feet and to clip into the pedals again, so I had to run a lot of the next uphill section.

I made it round the first lap without being caught again by any of the girls although I think I might have seen Tarja closing in at me at some sections where I had a view back. However, when I left the open finish area to start my second lap I could not see her, and neither during my second and third (last) lap. The only problem I had was that my legs started almost cramping during my last lap and I focussed most of my concentration on riding smoothly so that I didn't have to put my feet down which might have led to my calves cramping up. Because that would have been annoying - loosing my leading position because of a cramp. The rest of the race was pretty uneventful apart from being overtaken one by one by the experts who had started behind us and being lapped by a handful of Elites - even saw Robin chasing Ian Bibby up the hill as if his life depended on it - a great sight!

So I made it over the finish line ahead of all the girls with a comfortable gap. My second win in this series! I was pretty happy with how I rode and how the race had turned out. Thank god I had let out some of the air of my rear tire just before the race to get more grip. Click here for full results and here for Andy Pott's race report on Cycling News. And some pictures can be found here, where I found the picture shown above. My flat mate Alan also took lots of photos from the race which can be found here.

Thanks again to Sean for doing my bottles and generally helping out. Soon you'll be asking for money! And thanks to all the encouragement shouted on the trails, it is such great motivation to see people's enthusiasm and hear people shouting your name! Makes you put out that extra bit of power you thought you didn't have.

So, I'm looking forward to my next two races which will take place in Thetford, England next weekend - they'll keep me from becoming all big-headed after my two wins ;)!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Good spins!

Ok, I've noticed that most of my spin posts somehow had a negative sound or described bad conditions or how hard it is to be a mountain biker, so finally I've got the chance to offset this trend.
Since I had this cold and stomach bug, and I hadn't done any proper training since Saturday, I was well recovered by the middle of the week. AND the weather was getting really nice and summery warm. So, when I felt good enough again to do a bit of training I set off in the evening (wohoo, the first evening training session!) towards my local training ground 3Rock via the Kilmashogue hill climb. Man, I was feeling good! The weather was so nice that I only needed to wear one layer of clothing: my short-sleeve jersey and my cycling shorts! (Gotta shave those legs...) Woah, so warm! This is the weather I'd love all year round.

I didn't try for a PB on the 'Shogue in the beginning although I thought I was going fairly fast. However, halfway up (the new route) I felt I was going really well and I increased my power, thinking that maybe I could do a sub-16min climb. Damn, I was feeling good! So, I passed a WORCie on the way up (love that feeling ;)) and when noticed I was only one bend away from the finish I hammered up the last bit as if I was going to win the World Championship - from the corner of my eye I saw my heart rate hitting 180bpm and the time, the time.... 15min 48sec!!! Yay!! I made it! Man, what a great feeling of achievement. For the rest of the spin I felt good, did a lot of singletrack technical riding in view of the technical Djouce race coming up this weekend, and only fell of the bike twice (one time hitting my knee to bleed - ouch!!). But this didn't stop me from enjoying the beautiful evening mountain scenery and serenity that the Wicklow mountains exude in the dawny light and felt just soooo zen..... :)
Sunset pic from my phone camera - it doesn't do the real view justice

On Thursday the weather kept just as good, so I did another technical spin up 3Rock, such peace, such delight, at one point I stopped and all you could hear was the sound of birds and a motorbike in the far distance - can't believe I ever considered selling my mountain bike ;)