Sunday, August 29, 2010

Da Cooley Thriller, Carlingford

And now a report about my latest adventure: the “Da Cooley Thriller”, held last Saturday in the Cooley Mountains around Carlingford. I was a little reluctant to go racing up there again, painfully remembering getting lost on its course (as did many others) due to poor marking a few years ago. But a long time had passed since then and I had a 4 hour mtb spin in my training plan, so I decided that doing the race would be making the training that little bit more interesting. And so Oisin, who gave me a lift up, and I arrived early in the morning in the beautiful picturesque village of Carlingford at the race to some very breezy and quite fresh weather.

After the briefing the ~200 riders for the short and long course set off through the village towards the ominous looking mountains. It was a bit of a rolling start and I wasn’t quite sure where the race proper started. Unfortunately I was stuck somewhere in the middle of the stream of riders squeezing through the narrow roads of Carlingford, mainly keeping an eye on Cait Elliott, who was my main competition in this race. I should have been positioning myself better to the front, so that I didn’t have to fight through or be pushed around by a mass of overexcited roadie-goobers in world champion gear and with funny dangerous bar ends. Finally the people strung out a bit on the first bit of climb and I was able to work my way up through the riders. But then we hit some simple single track and the people ahead of me started walking!! It turned out that there were a good few roadies doing this race – not one I would have chosen for my first mtb race experience because I knew it was becoming a lot more technical than that!

Oisin and I (photo by 'manuel6b')

Once we hit the tarmac it was important to keep with a group to be sheltered against the strong headwinds up the hill. I managed to stick onto a good group for a bit, got dropped on a climb, fought my way back on and kept going with them up towards the masts. We were making good progress on the windy road. My legs were feeling fantastic and I knew that this race would be a good one. Just before the last off-road ascent towards the masts I stopped at the first feedzone for a handful of haribo provided by the organizers. I overtook a few more people on the ascent, grabbed my bottle from Dave and started the long downhill section. I had a lot of fun and witnessed two spectacular looking (but harmless) crashes of two riders. The weather kept up mostly, the trails were sweet, the climbs were hard and my legs were pedaling without effort. I really loved the singletrack, just technical enough to keep you on your toes not too scary so that I was even able to enjoy the spectacular views around the Cooley Mountains. Time flew by and I had to watch my clock to not forget to take a ZipVit Gel (new recipe flavours are fantastic) every 45minutes. There was so much nice singletrack that it was hard to find a place to even drink!

The last descent back down to Carlingford (photo by 'manuel6b')

Finally, after endless amazing singletrack I arrived at the second feedzone station at Windy Gap, where Aine provided me with another bottle and I gobbled up another handful of sweets. Then it was up the last climb – I remembered it to be long and draggy from the last time I did it, but today it was over in no time and I found myself on the last long and fun descent through the ferns towards the finish. I couldn’t believe that it was over when I arrived after 3h19min of riding, as first Elite women and 9th overall. I felt so great I could have done another lap. I wish I had had those legs during the World Marathon Champs. Married life is good for you!

I really really enjoyed this race – maybe I should switch to marathon racing? The trail marking and race organization were perfect, with free and tasty pasta provided after the race, and early results were even up that evening with full results the following day. The ghosts from a few years ago have been well and truly chased away and I definitely will be doing this one again next year!
Thanks to the organizers for putting on such a great event on such great trails, thanks to Oisin for the lift, thanks to Dave Gill and Aine Conneff for feedzone support and thanks to the weather gods for keeping the rain at bay.

Results can be found here.

More photos here and here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gym Time

Due to time constraints and changeable weather I’ve recently spent less time on the bike while I increased my time on the treadmill in my local gym. It was often easier to fit in an hour run in the gym than a 2hour bike ride in the rain (although the weather is all lovely now again). I also love the complete control one has over a training session in the gym – no winds, rain, coldness or darkness to endure and no thinking about which way to take – it makes it easier to “switch off” and just think of nothing. And if I can’t find a zen state I can at least watch TV (this is something special for me since I don’t have a TV at home)!!

A week ago I decided to try out my first spinning session which the gym offers free of charge for members. Thought I could show my fellow spinners what a great cyclist I am...... haha....

Anyhow, the music was put on and the (quite cute) instructor shouted instructions at us, “Warm up on a low resistance”, “Put up the resistance”, “Pedal faster”, “We’re going up a long hill now…”, “SPRINT for one minute!!!” etc. all to the beat of dance music. We basically climbed a 20min hill at a low cadence and out of the saddle – and I couldn’t stand up for the whole time! I know cycling while standing isn’t my forte, but my-oh-my, I have never cycled up such a long steep hill! All the other girls were able to keep it up – thank god I didn’t tell them that I am a cyclist! (I have the suspicion though that my resistance level was a little higher than the ones of my fellow spinners….). I was barely able to complete the sprints and was completely wrecked when the session was over. I cannot believe how hard such a spinning session can be and I also cannot believe the buckets of water I sweated during this session.

I am definitely adding spinning sessions to my bad-weather/darkness/coldness/winter alternative training repertoire.

For more information check out Rockfitness Gym and check out the special offers page for great deals!

Friday, August 20, 2010

We will!

Best cake topper ever!

One of the other reasons why we've been so busy is because Ryan and I got married on the 19th of August. We were very happy how everything worked out on the day (including Sky Diving incidents and Wedding dress DIY disasters). Our wedding was a very special few days full of joy spent with our families and friends.

Just married :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

2010 World Marathon Champs - St. Wendel, Germany

I know I am a little behind with my blog updates, but the last while has been super busy and I am only now starting to catch up now with “normal” life. Here's my first update:

After the fantastic experiences of the last two Mountainbike Marathon World Champs Ryan and I were really looking forward to this years edition. It was even more special to me since it was going to take place in my home country, in Germany. However, this years profile could not have been more different from the last two races that took place in Italy (2008) and Austria (2009).

Race Profile

While the previous two years featured huge climbs up big mountains with just as long descents (over some amazing single track each time), this year’s course was characterized by countless tiny ascents and descents. The course maps also looked very different – this year’s looked like somebody had eaten spaghetti and gotten sick all over a map – it was very compact and consisted of tons of little loops that seemed to use every fireroad there was. The pre-ride showed that each climb was not more than a few minutes and that most of the course would be on fireroads – up AND down…. Not something that fills a true mountain biker’s heart with joy…. It looked to be a very fast (road) race.

2010 World Marathon Champs Course

I was still hoping for my legs to come around for race day – they hadn’t been great all week (I still haven’t figured out this whole peaking thing) and even on the day before they were just feeling heavy and leady and full of lactic acid. On race day then we lined up and were off. And I knew from the start that my legs weren’t happy to go hard. The fast nature of the course meant that the girls stayed mostly in one big bunch and it was important to stay with them.

At least the pre-ride was fun!

However, I was struggling from the word go, not enjoying myself at all. I stuck with them for as long as I could – thank god the speed wasn’t that high, but then a lapse in concentration meant I was spewed out at the back. Just like in a road race there were gone instantly and even though I could see them just a short distance ahead of me I could not for the sake of it close the gap. And so I had to content myself with riding around the very long and not all to interesting fire roads around the woods. I wasn’t too happy with it, but my spirits were dropping even further when I noticed I was running out of drink around 20km before the next feed station. It was a warm day and I was suffering badly, not a situation you want to be in.

Walter, Ivonne, Mel, Werner

I finally arrived at the 2nd last feedzone, completely dehydrated, happy to take on the bottle from Walter. I was hoping to finish before Ryan, but he eventually caught me with about 7.5km to go. But I wasn’t the only person to suffer – I caught another female rider who had completely blown her lights 3km before the finish and couldn’t answer any attack – I doubt she even noticed what was going on around here, so I wasn’t even the worst off. I was glad when I arrived in the finish. I finally placed in 31st place out of 43 starters, a few places down from the last two years in a smaller field, so not a result I am proud of. But unfortunately my legs just weren’t up for it. Now 2 weeks of recovery and social time with my wedding coming up!

Thanks to Ivonne Kraft for being so nice and organizing superb feedzone support for Ryan and I in form of Werner and Walter.

Selected Results:

1. Esther Süss (Switzerland) 4:33:47
2. Sabine Spitz (Germany) +0:01:57
3. Annika Langvad (Denmark) +0:02:54
4. Elisabeth Brandau (Germany) +0:07:51
5. Birgit Söllner (Germany) +0:07:54
6. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) +0:08:12
7. Kristine Noergaard (Denmark) +0:08:59
8. Sally Bigham (Great Britain) +0:09:56
31. Melanie Spath (Germany) +0:39:42

Full results and report are available on cyclingnews.