Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Southern XC Round 2 - Crow Hill - 19th May 2013

Mummy not too bad!

Southern XC Round 2 – Regional Championships – Crow Hill
19th May 2013

OUCH! Mountain-bike racing hurts. I forgot.

Thank you, Southern XC, for the relentless and unforgiving course that was the Regional Champs and Round 2 at Crow Hill; and it certainly reminded me of what I had missed.

Yes, it hurt but I had so much fun doing it!

Owing to a few seasonal, physical and organisational mishaps, this was my first competitive MTB race for 2013. It was also my first since 2009 ... (except, the National Champs at Wasing last year, where I had done a 24 hour event prior to actually lining up, thanks to a toddler.) Sherwood had snowed me off and the first Southern XC round coincided with a Majorca trip.

But, third time lucky, I reached Crow Hill.

Having been kind-of out of XCO racing since pre-pregnancy, I had no idea how fast (or slow) I would be. I ride with Mr Collins, weekly, and he makes me suffer, but he’s not close to his pre-Willow levels of fitness either. I knew I could sprint. I knew I could go uphill. I knew I could be pretty darn good for 5 minutes or so. Perhaps a hill climb would have been a better event. BUT, I had an enthusiastic  Vitus Rapide 29 encouraging me off-road.

Crow Hill. Relentless. Not hilly. More than 5 minutes.

With a 10am start and a 3 hour drive away (yes! Ashford is miles from anywhere but France;) and with Nick racing the SE Divisional RR Champs, Willow was to spend the day with my sister. We were up and away by 5am: I won’t go on about what time we were up really. Did I say, I have a toddler ...?

However, I was at the venue and had pre-ridden the course by 9am, so I was feeling fly.

The course was exactly Crow Hill: I’ve raced here several times; it’s rooty and physically demanding. It hadn’t changed. Except, I had a great bike on which to ride. With a carbon 29’er, what are roots and bumps? And, on a flatter course, the bike’s rolling willingness was a huge advantage to me.

Although the course was familiar, the number of women starting was not – the last Southern XC I had raced, I was one of a few in the Elite/Expert category, along with several Masters women. Sunday’s race had 10 elite riders and many more numbers filling the categories behind us. A true representation of how popular cycling is becoming for women. Not sure how many of us were mums, though: something we need to work on!

And, as 10am ticked over and the whistle was blown, we were all hurtling around the field and towards the first part of the singletrack. And, following Sally Bigham, Emily Iredale and Carla Haines, was me! Yes, me! I was somehow, 4th off the start.

I was conscious that I had to be careful: not to go too hard. I wanted to last the full 90 minutes – quite ironic when Sally reminded me that the last time we met racing was 2009 British Marathon Champs. Today, I wanted to finish – my only aim of the weekend. But, despite my head trying to be sensible, I found myself becoming quite twitchy seeing Sally ride away from us and me unable to follow her. Of course, had I chased, I wouldn’t have lasted: Sally looks and rides as the World class athlete she is; I felt more akin to Iggle Piggle. But, I would have had a go! So, as soon as I had a clear path, I made a move and settled into Gemma-racing: on my own, at my speed, happily admiring the bluebells while breathing my lungs out and spinning my legs off! The bike wanted to ride fast too and it rolled over the course, carrying speed and me with it. I do think I may have been a bit too tentative with it but I am sure I will learn to let it go with a bit more racing.

Photo from Southern XC

Laps 1 and 2 were great. I was enjoying the variety of the roots, steep little climbs and descents, sweeping trails and pushing myself. It was really great. However, as I crossed the line into lap 3, I began to cramp. Nick and I had joked that I had no endurance and would be ok for a lap or two but I had secretly hoped we were wrong. I have no race fitness; my longest rides are 2 hours, usually; and I hate hurting myself! I knew I wouldn’t last. Not for race one.

Therefore, laps 3 and 4 were spent pedalling as softly as I could and gulping my Torq juice as often as I could without risking my 2nd place position but I knew Emily would catch me. She had to. I was in the Elite race and riding my last two laps at tempo. I was lucky not to be caught by the whole field as I coasted around lap 4 watching my heart rate drop but feeling my legs deaden. I reminded myself that my sole objective was to finish and that sprinting too hard and causing the cramp to seize me would have risked a finish at all.

Emily caught me. If only the race had been 10 minutes shorter.

-          I set out to finish – I did.
-          I set out to achieve a benchmark and test myself – I did.
-          I set out to have fun – bloody hell, I did!

In doing so, I finished on the third podium! And, unless Sally and Emily are hiding a little person somewhere, I think I may have been 1st placed mummy! Willow, be proud (she’ll be at Wasing, balance-bike racing!)

Thank you to all those who helped me:
PMR@Toachim House/Vitus/CRC pit-stop crew (aka Sophia, Craig, Emma and Jack!)
Vitus bikes at CRC
My ickle sis and her hubby for Willow-sitting.
Southern XC for a great course and event (as usual.)

And, in tribute to Richard Wood - he told me I pedal fast years and years ago. Today I had to. RIP.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

And so begins 2013! Kingswood Duathlon 24th February.

Kings Wood, Challock, is a beautiful part of Kent and my training rides take me there regularly. It's one of Kent's highest points - which isn't very high, really - but it is very, very pretty. And, in the snow, it is even prettier. Unless you're racing there ...

Back in January, I decided that I'd welcome my gorgeous new Vitus 29'er by riding it in Ashford Tri Club's Kings Wood Duathlon, organised by Nice Work Events.

Back in January, we did have a short spell of warmth, suggesting that February might be, just might be, bearable.

Back in January, when the whole year seemed miles away ...

... 9:00am this morning came upon me way too quickly.

Bloody hell, it was bloody cold!

The temperature was -2 and the wind was bitter. My warm up began in the car with my heating on full while sitting on my hands. And, I covered myself completely in my Sportique warm-up cream. I do think it was just as well we were beginning with a run because I'm not sure I could have accelerated myself into heat as quickly on my bike. It took two Torq gels and a lot of jumping to feel a little warm but I clearly wasn't alone because the race start was unlike any quick 3k ... we must have all been suffering!

The event was a 3k run, a 14k ride and finished by a 3k run, on forest trails and tracks. I began steadily but within about 5 minutes, I'd set a few 2013 records - I hadn't seen 193 on my heart rate monitor for some time! However, what did worry me was the ease with which my body adapted to this while running. The bike-leg, on the other hand ...

I entered this event purely because I wanted to race my Vitus and my Vitus definitely wanted to race. Beautifully finished with some customised-Collins accessories and pair of new Schwalbe shoes, the bike looked good and fast. In fact, it was a bit of a head-turner and it lapped up the attention! Racing it was brilliant.

But my riding legs weren't. I so need to do more work on them! Lots more work. Ouch.

The final leg was tough. I have a lot of admiration for those mad people who race regularly like this: running after a bike effort?! I grovelled for most of this.

Mostly, it was such a fun and well-organised event. I was the first lady home and 8th overall - contentiously: I was a bit stupid and didn't pay attention to the markings and was overtaken and out-sprinted at the end - not that I could have sprinted! I came away with a lovely crank-style trophy and a win for the Vitus and PMR@cing Toachim House Team.

I wish I could have shared it with Willow but the bitterness was a bit too much to expect her to endure.
Next time!

Can you  spot her?

(Thank you very much, Liz and Ali of TriSpirit Events and, of course, Mr Dave Hayward for the brilliant photos!)

Sunday, 17 February 2013

How fittingly predictable.

What is it about February?

I intended January 1st 2013 to be my time to renew my healthy ways. A stressful house-move in October, a career upheaval, the cold and wintry desire for comfort - and, of course, Christmas - left me feeling far from fit. My bike-riding and running had been nearly non-existent and my calorie intake had been incredibly existent. Not forgetting the Christmas holiday was filled with germs. So, January 1st 2013 was my renewal. I was meant to crack on with the look-after-me-and-my-family regime ...

But I kept postponing that! Willow had her 2nd birthday - I had to spend a week prep'ing that. Then I had exams to mark. Birthdays. Valentine's Day ... Hold on. Does it look like I'm committed to my cause?!

Perhaps January 1sts don't work for me.

One year ago this weekend, I began this blog. Therapy to overcome PND and to make myself fit. An outlet to motivate myself and other parents to lead healthy and active lives and promote such to their children. A documented reminder about why I need to include sport in my and Willow's lives.

One year later, I have a much more impressionable daughter who actually asks to go running or on the bike with mummy.

In Willow's words, 'Golly gosh, mummy,' get out there and bloody well inspire her!