Monday, May 26, 2008

Race Report Irish NPS Round 3 Maghermorne

A race in a quarry?? Yes, a race in a quarry. Pretty far away too, so Ryan and me took the Silver bullet up to Monaghan on Saturday after doing a bit of a recovery ride together around our home mountains (one of the few times where we actually went cycling together! He says I'm too slow for any other rides :(). We did a bit of a hill climb effort to open up the legs for the race on Sunday and I did good - I really pushed myself. We skipped the pre-ride, it wasn't one of our A-races and besides, Ryan remembered most of the course from last year.

Start of Juniors and Elite ladies

So, Sunday noon we arrived at the race place and did a practice lap, which took me 25min. The course was really flat with a few serious kickers and short steep downhills, dusty, dry, and very gravelly, some sections had really big stones on them and washing your wheel out was a danger almost everywhere. There was no let up the whole way. In my category there was only one other contender, Cait Elliott. As she had just returned to training from several months of travel without training, I was pretty sure that she would not pose any serious threat.

The Juniors are sprinting off ahead (all pictures in this post curtesy of Aine)

We two girls set off with the two Juniors on our 4 lap race and from the start on I tried to get away from Cait. She tried to hang on for a bit, but I was able to get away about a third of a lap into the race. I sticked on with the Juniors for a bit and was caught by the Experts pretty quickly, all ahead Luke Manning, who was showing his full potential, trying to make up in the NPS for his bad luck in the K Capital Cups.

It's supposed to be a smile....

And so the race went on pretty uneventful, apart from in my second lap where I fell trying to avoid a big loose rock in the ground and being caught by another, throwing me back first into the rocky ground - my whole back is covered in scratches!! At this stage I really need to apologize to Stew - this is the second race I fell in front of him and obstructed his way! And thanks to Luke Ireland for not riding over me when I couldn't get out of the way fast enough. I got back onto the bike and went on to finish my race in first position with a total time of 1:19:31, over 10 minutes ahead of Cait. That was a really short race - I think 5 laps would have been better, since the laps were so fast.

Riding side by side, but not for long!

Full results of the race can be downloaded from here.

Ryan had a pretty good race too, also winning his race. He was very pleased with how rode and he'll be putting his report up here.

Some photos taken from Aine can be found here and somebody even took videos and cut together little clips, so here they are in order found on youtube:

Video 1 - covering Sports and underage races
Video 2, Video 3, Video 4 - covering Elite, Masters, Vets races

Oh - and I got a (farmer's) tan!! The weather was absolutely beautiful, albeit a little windy at times.

Roll on British NPS 3!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Race Report British Enduro Round 2 Drumlanrig, Scotland

After the XC NPS race on Saturday, Ryan and me tucked into a good meal at the local Thai restaurant in Dumfriess which we had found by chance when we were desperately looking for some half way healthy place to eat. We actually had 2 portions of rice each with and even though I think we had the biggest meals in the restaurant, we were still the skinniest people in there....

Beautiful bluebells were growing in the woods - amazing trails!

Anyway, Sunday morning was a bit of a rush to get to the race place due to miscalculation of time, but we made it in the end and arrived all ready at the start line in time. There were only 5 ladies in the 100km ladies category, including Sally Bigham, my biggest competitor who beat me in the last Enduro by a mere 47 seconds.

The whistle went off and we went up the hill. Sally and me took the first 2 positions for the race from the start and for the first out of the 8 12.5km laps I hung on to Sally to study her riding to find a suitable time and place to attack. She was ahead of me in the singletrack and I noticed that I might be able to break away from her by entering the long tricky singletrack section ahead of her in the next lap, because I had the advantage of knowing most of the trails due to taking part in the XC race the day before (they reused all of the trails from the day before and had added some more singletrack and a few bits of fireroad), so the plan was to attack her on the next lap at the start of the singletrack section and get out of her sight quickly and then stay on a steady speed and hope she won't catch up to me again.

Interesting profile - notice my heartrate steadily decreasing over time

And so I did attack on the steep climb towards the first singletrack section and sped off. I actually managed to do my fastest lap on my second lap with a time of 44min 3 seconds - the fastest ladies lap time of the day! On lap 3 I started slowing down again to a more conservative speed and cycled on. Unfortunately my lower back started hurting a lot (it had already yesterday in the XC race) during the race as the course was so rooty and rutty and it really shook you about, especially on a hardtail. Then it seemed that my attack move might have been a little too fast and had taken too much out of me, affecting my lap times. Eventually, just before the end of lap 4 Sally had caught up to me again and overtook me.

For the rest of the race she was able to steadily widen the gap by staying at a pretty much constant pace whereas I was having more and more difficulty with my back, having to stop multiple times to stretch it out and therefore having increasingly slower laps. When Ryan lapped me on my 7th lap, he told me that there was no girls for miles behind me, so at least there was no danger from behind, because my back was giving me serious trouble there was I had no chance to catch up with Sally, so at least I knew I had safely bagged the 2nd place and didn't have to kill myself for the last lap. The last lap was actually the most enjoyable, I rode it relaxed and smoothly, knowing this is the last time I had to go over these roots, around these corners, along the lakeside, through the field of bluebells in this absolutely stunning estate and actually enjoyed the prettiness of it all on this beautiful day.

After six and a half hours I went over the finish line, only able to lie down on the ground - exhaustion really kicks in when you allow it and Ryan was really good in trying to make me drink and eat. Well, he had already had an hour to relax as he had finished the race in 5:30h, taking a very respectable 4th place in his race.

The "Silver Bullet", a 1992 Peugeot 205 - who would have known it fits 2 adults, 3 bikes and a ton of other stuff!

Thank you also to Karen for doing my bottles and for running for a bar for me and thanks to Matt from Torq for his supply of racing fuel, especially that spontaneous donation of a caffeinated gel at the start of my last lap - you really felt the kick of the caffeine!

All in all it was a really good racing weekend and I am pretty happy with my performance. I wish though I had a full suspension bike for courses like this, my back was still killing me a few days after.

Another great performance from the Irish squad was shown by Peter Buggle in the 50km race who took first.

Results, report and photos of the race can be found here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Race report British NPS Round 2 Drumlanrig - A disappointing race in a great location.

This weekend saw the British NPS and Enduros round 2 in the beautiful setting of the Drumlanrig Castle estate in Scotland. On the drive up to the castle, you turn left into an avenue skirted with trees that leads directly towards the castle, affording a great view, like a grand entrance. The start/finish area was just in front of the castle, just amazing!

Drumlanrig Castle - what a setting for a race!

We did our practice run on Friday, the course started with a sharp climb up a fireroad and through a feedzone, then pretty quickly you hit the first bit of tight singletrack. Most of the course was actually singletrack, probably about 90%, very dry, but also very rooty and rocky, you really needed a full susser to get the enjoyment out of it. There was only very few fireroad sections interspersed in the about 7.5km long course with about 180m of climb per lap. There was one fun drop worth mentioning just at the finish area, great for the spectators. The course was 100% rideable and could be cleared without dabbing.

Due to my 2nd place in the first round I was gridded in the front row for the start – wohoo! I knew I had to push hard in the beginning up that fireroad climb to hit the singletrack before all the other girls. The plan was to hang on to Jenny Copnall as long as I could from the start on.

Yeah, great plan, should have worked too, had I not messed up my start.... I stupidly decided to grab my bottle just before the start as I had a dry mouth (ah – the nerves) and wasn't ready when the whistle went off. Until I had it stowed away again half of the girls where ahead of me up that climb. ARGH!!! I got stuck behind some slower girls and the gap to the front girls started to widen immediately. I was able to catch up with some of the girls though during the race and there was a good bit of jostling for places, I never knew which position I was in, I overtook some girls and was overtaken by some others.

The race itself was pretty exhausting, made even harder because it was so hot and the air so stuffy and humid – I was looking forward to my next bottle at the end of every lap – big thanks to Rachel to do the bottles for me! The steep climbs became harder and harder as the laps went on and I was happy we only had to do 4 laps. I was pretty disappointed with my race, never felt I got into any kind of rhythm and just couldn't catch the two girls who were just in front of me for some of the race. I was pretty pleased then to find out that I actually had managed to work my way up to 5th position after all, earning 10 UCI points – my first UCI points ever!

I felt pretty crap after the race and had no idea how I would do the 100km marathon the next day....

There were a few more Irish people at the race taking home a good few trophies:

Rachel Wisdom came third in the ladies Sports race, Robin Seymour took 3rd in the men's Elite. Ryan had an unfortunate crash damaging his rotor so that he had to race most of the race with breaks rubbing but still placing 19th. Peter Buggle came 2nd in the Masters category after he was stolen out of his win by Ian Nimo who overtook him on the last few meters before the finish line after Buggle had led through most of the race.

Full results, report and photos can be found here. Jenny Copnall's experience of the race are recorded here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A weekend in Kerry (where the butter comes from...), non-racing

Yep, a weekend without racing. And what a beautiful weekend - the summer had finally arrived, leg wax equipment and shaving cream are sold out and sunglasses were the needed accessory of the day.

For the weekend I went to Kerry for a friends birthday party. Of course I took my bike with me... what a question! I got a lift with some of my friends on the way there (it's suuuuch a long drive from Dublin, almost as far away from Dublin as you can get in Ireland!) and had planned to cycle some of the way at the end. Unfortunately I had to change my start location nearer and nearer to our destination because we were held up in villages with the most annoying traffic lights and it was getting later and later. And while the weather was perfect during the day, sunny and warm when we were strolling through Limerick for a suitable lunch spot - the largest BBQ of the world competition was held there and made us very hungry, the weather turned worse the nearer we came to our destination at the west tip of Kerry on Valentia Island.

Finally, I got out in Fanfore, about 55km before Valentia Island and started cycling and it started to rain. Halfway through I was wet onto my skin and started to get cold. In addition I had to fight my way against a strong headwind and it was getting later and later and darker too. I didn't have lights on my bike and I didn't even know when the last ferry went!

Eventually I made the last ferry at 9:30 (thank god! if I had missed the ferry I would have had to go the long way round over the bridge, a 20km detour....) and arrived wet, cold and tired in our rented house on the island. Chameloen like my healthy red colour returned to my blue lips and white hands and feet when I warmed myself with hot chocolate and on the fireplace in the kitchen.

The next day I decided to cycle between the mountains in Kerry and back on some of the Ring of Kerry while the others took a walk abound the island. It was another fine day and the ride went well, it was all pretty flat and I did about 107km in about 4hours 25min. I decided to get a lift for the last 30km because I didn't want to be late again for dinner!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Profiles of pain

I was just looking at some of my Garmin training logs and they look quite interesting, I'd like to call them profiles of pain.....

There's some obsession with these graphs, especially when you come home after some particularly hard training session - just having a quick peak at the profile before hitting the shower.... ;)

For example:

3 x 15 min threshold - easily visible

Can you see what I did here?

Graphs generated with SportTracks application.

ALDI cycling gear

Last time when ALDI had a special on cycling gear I went in at lunch time but all stuff was already gone by that time, so this time I decided to go in the morning and this is what I just bought:

2 x cycling shorts
1 x gilet
1 x short arm cycling top
1 x soft shell cycling jacket
2 x cycling socks
1 x cycling sun glasses with 3 pairs of lenses
1 x short finger cycling gloves
1 x cycling underwear

And all that for only 71.40 Euro!! It's hard to find better value than that!

The only annoying bit is that for most of the women's gear it's a pink and black theme and it'll clash a bit with my red helmet, but at least I've just doubled the amount of cycling gear I own!