Saturday, July 26, 2008

GMs "midseason" pep talk. 

"despite the fact we're still in the middle of the Tour, the fact is that road racing season's basically over anyway. The astute rider has already written it off and begun focusing his or her attention on cyclocross. The key to a successful racing season is to always live a minimum of four months in the future, mentally-speaking. That way you can dismiss your poor performances as simple preparation. Sure, you may not get anywhere near the front of the pack in a road race this summer, but you're just trying to get some intense mileage in so you'll be ready for cyclocross season. Poor mountain bike racing is even easier to rationalize--you're just doing that to improve your bike-handling. And of course once 'cross season does begin, you're still under no pressure to get results because, really, you're just doing it to maintain your form during the off-season. With the right attitude, you can surf an entire year of racing like a great big wave of mediocrity. Winning is for dopers and sandbaggers."

Monday, July 21, 2008

East coast sweets. I guess you could say I celebrated. What the hell would I have eaten if I won?? Maybe a big bucket of lard.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

photo by Rob Jones

National MTB Champs

I have never really been a mastermind peaker, which means I have never had really had a rockstar Nationals. It's not that I crumble under pressure and  tank the big events (except that DNF at Nationals when I was crapping my pants for ten days after getting home from Belize...but thats another story). But some people just seem to be better at eeking out that extra few % on the right day. With the help of my brother Kevin we have gotten much better at the peak. During this time, I have discovered how to squeeze out what I like to call my "faux peak". Its a pretty easy recipe. Do a shitload of miles, rest, and then do some short, hard cyclocross workouts (or races) and voila - I trick my body into thinking that have a winter base under my belt. So, with the 7 day BC Bike Race in my legs I knew I was primed to pull out a Simms faux peak for Nationals. 

Unfortunately, with a 2 day delay on the arrival of my bike (thanks Air Canada) my faux peak was thrown off and my legs felt pretty noodley at the beginning of the week. But I did all the right things, all week long and hoped for the best. The morning of the race I started my warm up and assessed how my legs felt. I started with "good", moved onto "pretty good", and ended my warm up with "(potentially) great legs". I guess I was still a bit skeptical....

I was pretty realistic for Nationals. Marie Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain) is number one in the world cup series, has trained on this course for a decade (everything in the area is named after her) and has been National Champion for 5 years running. Catharine Pendrel (Luna) has had a phenomenal year cracking the world cup podium and mastered the Nationals peak when she was in diapers. My chances of beating these gals was pretty slim, but my goal was to get on the podium. I had to race smart and not blow it chasing down our Olympic MTB team to end up fourth. You know how much I hate fourth.....

photo by Rob Jones

With only 23 girls on the start line it wasn't exactly world cup aggression at the gun. I went into the first climb without blowing any matches. None! First goal - check. Marie was already waaay up the road on her new carbon hardtail but I blocked out the rabbit and concentrated on smooth. I got a small gap right away on the descents and focussed on riding steady. Don't blow, don't blow, don't blow.  I saw the chasers close behind but kept them at bay on the downhills. On lap 2 I saw someone come out of the tech zone right ahead. I didn't really recognize her because she wasn't wearing her National Champ kit (she has been in it every race for 5 years except nationals so you can understand my confusion). Marie was having some technical troubles. It was a good little carrot so I kept her close. When she stopped in the next tech zone and I got ahead I decided to up the ante a little bit to see where Catharine was. But there is a reason Marie is #1 in the world and when she sorted out her fork issues she caught and dropped me in one fell swoop. I had to stay focussed on my goal and not blow my good position. I only had 30secs on Amanda Sin (3 Rox Racing) in 4th so I went back to riding steady and grew my gap bit by bit. I kept it together and rolled in 3rd, my first podium finish at Nationals. A long time coming....The faux peak came through.

photo by Rob Jones

Lizzie and Geo finally got to witness a good race out of me at Mont Saint Anne. They have been watching me race national and international events here for years but I have never been able to give them a good show.  Throw the Thibaults in Quebec on holiday with Norm's godparents and Norm shipped out last minute for his birthday (thanks Stefan!) it was a family affair. But.....

Unfortunately I may have rubbed my fourthplaceitis off on Norm as he finished 4th in the Masters race Sunday........he hates being 4th!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Underpantless in la belle province

After the NY NMBS we high tailed it out of Windham to get to Georgia Gould's farm where the boys were staying all week. From what we could tell, the Gould's pretty much owned half of NY state as the family had properties scattered all over. They were hosting the Kona team, the Luna team, family from Italy, family from out of state, and maybe a few random people off the street to bring the party to an even 50. We had a yummy BBQ, drank wine, played ping pong and looked for bears. Unfortunately I was flying out to Quebec Monday afternoon so I had to get a childhood's worth of memories in just one morning so we trucked down to the river to see "the Forge", the coolest swimming spot ever. I wasn't really planning on swimming before my flight but when I saw how awesome it was I dove in with shorts and a sports bra.  I jumped off the high rock, swam upstream and checked out the crazy rock formations smoothed out by the river. We hit "the picnic rocks" and skipped rocks, tested out war paint colours, picked berries and looked for "pollywogs". As Ben said, "its like Narnia!" Too bad for me I had to take off to catch my flight. I was freezing so I changed into some dry clothes on top of my packed luggage. No time to dig for dry underpants. I figured it was a short trip so I went to the airport commando, smelling like river. Its not like I was flying to europe or anything. I could take my wet clothes out of my bag and get some underpants on soon enough. It was worth squeezing out a few extra minutes at the river. easy peezy lemon squeezy. But I was wrong.

I arrived in Quebec with spare wheels. No bag, no bike, no underpants. I had been on 2 small planes so I figured they just didnt fit and would be here in the morning. I filed the paperwork and went to the airport hotel with my parents. My mom offered me her "flannel nightie" but I took her up on some HIGH waisted XS shorts and an XS tank to sleep in. Its not a fashion show OK? We headed to Mont St Anne the next day with no bike or bag and no clue where they were but I wasnt too worried.  Delayed luggage is pretty normal. Two days later I started to get worried. The airline had no clue where my bags were and the dudes from India that were manning the "help" lines appeared to be quite useless. 

I had washed my clothes by then (while hanging out in my high waisted shorts) but I still had no underpants and no bike. It was time to stop hoping for the best and get proactive. My legs felt like crap and I needed to ride. I tracked down the local Kona dealer but he only had DH bikes to loan me. He did take pity on me and gave me a good discount on a chammy and sports bra and suggested renting a bike from the hill. The shopping selection wasn't exactly prime in Beaupre (unless you want cheese curds) but I found some underpants and something  to sleep in (no, not a nightie) and a change of clothes. Then I rented a bike. Not exactly your finely tuned race machine with heavy ass wheels and 40psi in the tires but my legs really needed a spin. It was a $150 spin. But I did get some good looks when I ripped down the trails and nailed the skinnies with my rec rider attire. 

Of course once I shelled out some cash my bike and bag showed up that night. I had to wash everything in the bag because it smelt like dank river water but at least I had my own underpants back and my sweet sweet Hei Hei. Traveling is so glamorous.

New York NMBS race report

I wasn't exactly feeling snappy after the BC7, even after taking most of the week off  the bike. Surprisingly enough I had gained a few pounds after 7 days of racing. I would like to think it was a few pounds of pure muscle but I dont have the documents to back that up.  I knew all those hours (and extra weight in gold) would come into form at some point, I just wasn't sure when....Flat or not, I knew I had to get some efforts into my legs to make all those hours worth something so I took off for New York.

Check out those pipes! Maybe all that BC singletrack made me a wee bit top heavy?
photo by Dave McElwayne

Even though I had a 3rd place finish at the Fontana NMBS, I had flatted in AZ and missed the last 2 races so I had a pretty rookie call up position. Lets just say there were only a few girls behind me when the gun went off. The jist of the course was that it criss crossed UP Windham ski hill and then criss crossed back DOWN. It was a really fun course but had a good chunk of climbing so I didn't want to blow what shred of form I might have in my legs off the start line so I took it a bit easy to feel it out. At the first bottleneck into the singletrack I wondered if that was such a smart plan. But my legs felt OK so I started to move forward and pick people off. The leaders were long gone but I was warming up and moving forward. I burnt a few matches to get by gals but I think my legs needed it. My third lap was a bit flat as I lost my 8th place position to Emily Batty (Trek VW) on the climb but all in all not as painful as I had expected. More importantly, my legs felt better than when I had started. A good sign for the STX.

The standard STX "pain face" had not shown up yet
photo Dave McElwayne

The short track course wasn't much to look at but it made for one of the best STX races I have ever done. Although I had another mediocre start position, this time I chewed up the rhubarb in my big ring to move into top 5 off the line. As per usual, the Luna gals jumped off the front but on this course, they could not seem to open a very big gap. We had about 7 gals in the chase group that could taste the blue train. Heather Irmiger (Subaru Gary Fisher) lead the chase for the first chunk of the race. It always amazes me how much power that wee body can churn out. After the race, she complained that I gave off a crappy draft because I was too skinny, uhhhhm how much draft do you think I get, a saquatch behind a bunch of midgets? I felt great but I didn't know how long my legs would last so I played it smart and resisted my own impatience and let the wee one work.  We caught Georgia Gould (Luna) then Katerina Nash (Luna) charged ahead. We caught Katerina and then Georgia took off. Damn team tactics. Even Catharine Pendrel (Luna) bridged up and tried to work us over but we were too many and too strong for them to get away for very long. We were actually making them work pretty hard for their podiums. Finally the chase group lost a bit of steam so I decided to take my fresh legs to the front. But I was torn. I didnt want to tow the group up and get spit out the back but they were so close! I made a push on the second last lap and got a bit of a gap. I wondered if it was too early but had to go for it. I was closing in on Georgia in 2nd when Micaal bridged up and then I made my first error. I tucked behind her to get a bit of rest for the final sprint but there wasnt much room for sprinting. So I ended up 4th. But my legs felt great so maybe those extra few pounds from BC7 had gone to the right place. 

After the race I went to grab my vest and the men were getting ready to start. A voice in the start blocks sheepishly said "Hi Wendy, uhm I am your stalker". Awesome! I finally get to meet my stalkers. Even Joy was there. I think they were a little nervous at first but once they knew I wasn't creeped out we were all BFFs.

Super D
I decided to sign up for the super D at the last minute. I had my plush Hei Hei Supreme and the XC descent was a blast so I figured the super D would dish out more of the same. The fact that the course was being described as "terrifying" and "unsafe" just spurred me on. Unfortunately those reports meant that a lot of girls decided not to race because nationals was the next weekend and they were playing it safe. Barry and I prerode the course right after the mens STX race and it was fine. I would have liked to have had a bit more tread as it was pretty DH oriented but no time for that. I lost the Lemans start to a DHer. Ouch that hurt the ego! So I pedalled my sticks off to get ahead. The plan was to try to work the upper portion that required a bit of fitness and get into the tight singletrack first then try to hold on for as long as possible. I figured the DHers would catch me on the fast open run into the finish. But things went better than planned and I rolled into the finish with over a minute buffer. I even beat Barry by 5 seconds! As tim.goater would say, he got "bloused". No financial gain, no glory, just bragging rights. 

Sunday, July 6, 2008

BC Bike Race recap

BC Bike race. photo by John Gibson

Day Zero - Shawnigan Lake school
Logistics. A seven day point to point race has a LOT of logistics and day zero is the time to sort it all out. Norm and I drove down to Shawnigan Lake with my sisters friends Mark Duk and Brad Marlborough (Pain for Pleasure) from Calgary. Brad mentioned he had packed running shoes so that he could go for a jog every morning. Norm and I snickered and bet how many days that would last. I bet zero days. Norm bet one day. Later in the week a weary looking Brad got a little embarassed when we asked how his running program was going. Zero - I win. We met up with the Kona crew Dave McNaught (mechanic and driver), John Gibson (aka "the Gibtron" our photographer) and our fellow Kona team of Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon. It was going to be a fun week. We picked up our big bag of schwag and listened to the pre race logistics in the dining hall of Shawnigan Lake school. Nobody rides alone. Watch out for cougars in Whistler. Carry your rainjacket even if its 30C. Got it.

Stage 1 Shawnigan Lake to Lake Cowichan - approx 90km
There was no staging for Day 1, first come first serve. Norm is always aware of these important details so we hovered around the sign-on area until they opened it up. We were fast enough to get a second row spot mixed in with all the big wig boys. Rubbing shoulders with Tinker. I was a little worried because I had done a run workout on Thursday and my hamstrings still hurt to the touch. I wasn't feeling so spry. Stupid lunges. But we needed to start fast and get into the singletrack before the other 400 racers bunged it up. Unfortunately everyone else had the same game plan. The start of the race was supposed to be nice and easy - two short loops around Shawnigan Lake school before hitting the trails. A chance for the photographers to get some cool shots from the helicopter. But it was absolute mayhem. Everyone had pent up excitement from months of training for this event and there was chaos from the gun. Crashes, swearing, bumping. That would have been fine but unfortunately the school groundskeeper had decided to cut the long grass in the field we looped through so 5 minutes into the race 400 people were frantically removing grass out of their cogs or worse - trying to repair broken derailleurs. We finally pulled out of the chaos and settled into a long hot stage. My legs felt like crap so we had to go pretty steady to start but it turned out OK as people were cracking all over the placein the heat. We haven't seen much of the sun this year so it was carnage. I know a lot of tough racers that cracked that day. Our slower start may have saved us as we finished strong on the rail trail into Cowichan. 4:51 for stage 1 and into the red leaders jerseys with a solid gap. Top 10 overall. An A&W recovery burger and a dip in chilly Lake Cowichan made us feel much better before heading off to our homestay with Larissa.

Stage 2 Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni ~125km
There was a bit of grumbling about this stage because of the lack of singletrack but I realized that people will grumble about everything. Its too easy, its too hard. It has no singletrack, it has too much singletrack. At 30C the heat was going to be a major factor for this long stage. We wanted to be with a big group for as long as possible. The only problem with that plan was there was some pretty jiggy riders in the pack. I was riding my Kona Kula 2-9 Deluxe which was perfect for this kind of stage. Unfortunately I was goofing around with the Optimus Prime mask we had borrowed from Larissa's son Kierce so I did not notice that my fork was blown so the ride was a little rougher than it should have been. Not my most professional race day prep. In my defense, the mask had a built in voice mutator! We had a great ride and stayed with a big group without mishap for most of the day until about km 85 when the first of very few hills blew the pack apart thanks to Wicks. We pace lined it into Port Alberni on the hot dusty Bamfield road for another stage win. 4:42. We exited the venue immediately as a sweet homestay with Tom on Sprott Lake was waiting for us.

We hit the awards after a yummy BBQ and found inspiration from the "President" of Port Alberni. A jolly drunk cracker with a bad sunburn, straw hat and big belly who was married to Miss Port Alberni 1963 ( oh you can only imagine!). After he invited us down to the local pub for some "brewskies" (he was going to be there all night) we took off in the Kona truck in a blaze of roman candles. The Harbour Air truck followed us out and we thought we would get in trouble but they just smiled and passed us two cold beers through the window. Back to Tom's for a chocolate fountain desert and we all went to bed pretty happy.

Stage 3 Port Alberni to Cumberland ~80km
The buzz about camp was that today was the first day of "real" BC singletrack. The president of Port Alberni lit the canon to start our race and we made our way towards Cumberland where some sweet trails awaited us. With a good buffer on our lead we didn't have to worry as much about racing so we got to enjoy the ride. Unfortunately Norm was starting to get sick with "the funk". Sore throat, green phlegm, thick head. Its pretty hard to go through these stage races unscathed. It was only day 3 and you could already see that consecutive hard efforts were taking their toll on teams. Catastrophic mechanicals. Sickness. Heatstroke. Cranky pants. Tears. Fisticuffs. And it would only get worse. We rolled into Cumberland in 4:11 with big grins and went straight to Dave and Erin's cold basement. The heat was starting to catch up with us too.

Stage 4 Cumberland to Sechelt~60km
Hump day. Although today was a bit shorter in distance it was a loooong day because we had to wake up super early and catch a ferry from Comox to the Sunshine Coast, drive down the coast and hop on another ferry into Earl's Cove. Jump off the ferry and start racing with dead weight legs 30 minutes later. At 7am I had told Norm that I felt like I had rockstar legs but by the time the race started at 11am I felt like crap. My window was gone. I was also feeling a bit queasy after my "sunshine breakfast" (it will blow your mind) but we eased into the race pretty well. Norm had finally admitted he was sick and I was starting to feel the tickle in my throat so we backed off a bit. Just that little bit and Katie Compton and her husband Mark (Spike Shooter) came a chargin'. We battled it out with them for most of the race but managed to gain a few minutes in the lush Sunshine Coast singletrack to keep our winning streak alive. 3:41. Four for four. We were getting a good collection of jerseys. Up ahead teammates Kris Sneddon and Barry Wicks had taken the stage win and moved into the overall lead so they would be in yellow the next day. Kris Sneddon was from the Sunshine Coast so it was a matter of pride. His parents lived 5 mins from the finish so we blew off some fireworks and headed to the Sneddon's for a BBQ.

The boys looking good in yellow with Demo Dave. photo by John Gibson

Stage 5 Sechelt to Squamish~65km
Another "short" stage with lots of travel. But this was a racer favourite from the year before so everyone was excited. The course ended with a 12km downhill into the Langdale ferry that heard many hoots and hollers. By now Norm's cold was full blown and Katie and Mark were finding their groove so we always had to keep looking back to keep tabs on our lead. At one point Norm said "Spike is right behind us" so I said "well, shouldn't we pick it up?" and he responded "I HAVE been picking it up! can't you tell??" 4:12. Dave shot off some more roman candles as we crossed the line but a few wayward sparks lit his rocker hair on fire! (FYI he may look rocker but he is all country). Onto the ferry and a drive up to Squamish and we were all fried. Everyone was tired and a bit cranky. Gibtron cranky. We got to Malaika's house and were pretty much socially retarded by the time she got home. Communicating through grunts and clicks. Five days of racing was making us stupid. But both Kona teams were wearing the leaders jerseys so we couldn't complian. There were teams that were out riding twice as long as us everyday, some with head injuries, stitches, eye patches and beat up bikes so we had to keep our mouth shut. Demo Dave and the Gibtron were keeping us glued together.

Kona in the leaders jerseys. photo by John Gibson

Stage 6 Squamish to Squamish ~65km
Kona had 4 guest riders for this stage (Mark, Dik, Pat and Eddy) so Kona jerseys of varying vintages were scattered all over the course. Pretty cool bike company if I do say so myself. The boys had been drinking into the night so they were a bit fuzzy on the start line. (I am pretty sure Matson was still drunk as he had a stupid grin on his face and a glazed look in his eyes). Apparently Matson blew chunks so violently at the top of 9mile climb that the rest had to turn away with goosebumps for fear of puking too. But we missed all the antics. Until he drank a beer at the finish and dry heaved under the trees. This was my absolute favourite stage. The Squamish crew had given us the best singletrack of the Gearjammer and the Test of Metal to pull together an absolutely amazing day. 3:53 of BC's best riding. Two more jerseys for the pile. Norm's new rule of new clothes in=old clothes out was going to devastate my closet.

The Kona crew. Pre-puke. phot by John Gibson.

Stage 7 All Whistler, all day ~47km

Everyone was pretty shattered going into this stage but the distance was "only" 47kms so we all planned for a shorter stage. I was pretty queasy at just the thought of gels and gatorade so I hoped I could keep my energy intake to a minimum. But this was by far the hardest day of the lot. They sent us STRAIGHT up Whistler mountain. Ouch. This was followed by 40kms of pure singletrack which, when your body is battered, is a tough feat. At one point Norm asked me if it felt like I was drunk because we felt so fuzzy and slow. I bounced off roots and rocks like a pinball. It was definitely not my smoothest day on a bike. At one point I hit the dirt so hard I was frazzled into submission because I had no clue how it had happened. 3:37 of absolute great singletrack that I could only grit my teeth through. The only thing that kept me going was the push to keep our top 10 overall position.

Finally done. photo by John Gibson.

The post race party was a great success as Sneddon sealed the deal and noone puked. But we all felt pretty dull and beat up the next day. Thanks to Demo Dave and the Gibtron for being the best support support crew ever. The bond of fireworks is a lifelong bond. Thanks to all of our homestays for keeping us well rested and well fed. Thanks to the BC Bike Race crew for pulling together such an incredible event. And thanks to Kona for letting us race in memory of our friend Denis Fontaine. He popped into our thoughts throughout the week.