Friday, December 26, 2008

Off Track – Plans are a Changing

Since the Hammerhead things haven’t really gone to plan, as evidenced by my lack of posting. My legs were completely trashed after that race, and mentally I was also completely spent. Although I managed to go singlespeeding and do some shuttles in the week after the race my head wasn’t in a training space and I ended up not riding at all at the weekend. I did however go watch some downhilling, very cool to see Rita race, and had a group of lovely cycling women over for a BBQ (including Emmeline Ragot, a really lovely French chick who’s currently the World Cup number 4 ranked woman in downhill!!!!). The BBQ was great fun and it was really great to have a group of women together from many different disciplines of this sport we all love, talking about riding. It will have to be repeated in the future.
The following week I had 3 days in Wellington for work and couldn’t get out riding as the meetings were all day affairs. I was able to be home for Wednesday so we headed up Kennedy’s, tackling the Croc first. Bollocks is all I can say. The Croc is quickly becoming my nemesis. I know I can ride it, I’ve done it a couple of times, but it seems like if I’m tired or stressed at all it quickly turns into a nightmare ride of hyperventilating and rubbish riding. I was not a happy camper when I eventually struggled to out at the top, but luckily that didn’t last. I actually made it much further up Kennedy’s than I expected after the nightmare of the Croc and while Pete and Michelle continued up to the top I blasted back down and did some little hill repeats of the little bit of down hill singletrack. Zoom up the 4wd drive as fast as I can, race down the singletrack, and repeat as necessary. I managed to get 3 hill climbs and 2 and a half descents in before Pete and Michelle appeared and I was grinning from ear to ear again. Which makes me think, if you are having a shite day on the bike, let all that crap out – have a wee tanty, then get back on the bike. It certainly made me feel better.
After that no more riding till the weekend and then there was very fun singlespeeding in the muddy wet forest. My legs were finally working again (phew) and my brain was fully back in the right place. Yay. Monday saw me back out on the roadie for the first time in months and months. It was a great wee 30km ride and I completely hammered the wee rollers on Cashmere Downs for the first time. Yes! Unfortunately there was a rather painful side effect that appeared as a result of this ride. My poor butt, and in particular my sit bones are not used to my roadie seat anymore and the next day I woke up with the mother of all saddle sores. So no riding on Tuesday and to make matters worse it actually kept me awake during the night. Bugger, I really wanted to ride on Wednesday, but no, it was not to be. Luckily by Wednesday evening it had settled down in time for Christmas, but no riding was done.
So this has lead to some tough decision making this morning. Obviously I very very much want to do the race in Bannockburn on the 30th, however it is a long long way to drive ($$$$) for an hour and a half (hopefully) on the bike. There are other complicating factors around New Years and friends visiting from Japan so Pete and I have decided to flag the race. This makes things a lot more simple, but I’m still feeling a bit gutted, I really like this race and was very much looking forward to the measure of progression it would have given me. Now I have to wait till April to do a race I’ve done before and see that progression. Bugger. On the plus side, there will be some riding of Hanmer, Craigieburn and possibly Wharfedale or Poulter Valley to make up for it. Yay.

Finally, belated Merry Christmas all. I got a lovely new camera which will let me take much better photos of biking for my blog. Here’s a few wee shots from my play session with it yesterday. Coffee anyone??

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Skillz – Shuttles Rock

Shuttles up Vic Park again last night with scatter. (I really should get a photo of me in my fullface and pads for here). I haven’t been on the bike since the Hammerhead, but it has a new derailleur hanger since my crashes at the weekend and I put its big fat tyres on. We managed to make the 4:40pm shuttle this time and headed down Brake-Free, Seasame St, Dazzas, Brents, Bridges and out. As scatter is faster than me I picked my own lines through Brents and ended up riding the 3 drops (no worries) in the top half at low speed. Yay. On Bridges however I took the wrong line and ended up at the top looking down a wall of death. After a brief wave to scatter in the distance I daintily walked down, which was bloody difficult. We missed out on getting on the next shuttle but scored a ride with some nice boys back to the top. This time no mucking about, straight down Seasame St (not the best lines from me this time), Dazzas (nice flow), Brents (nana lines all the way), Bridges (ahhhh, you turn right there) and then I rode Double Drop for the first time (couldn’t be bothered getting off and pushing my bike down). WOW! That was scary but soooooooooooo fun. Blast down the 4wd track doing hucks and catch the next shuttle.
Back up the top and nice to get into the fresh air (it was a bit stinky in the bus on this run) and we decided to session Brake Free and practise our jumping skills. Wee, fun, but really tiring. Scatter showed me how to do the first double and I got it. Yeah!!! I also managed to hit a couple of the big tabletop jumps perfectly. Yes, yes, yes. It was actually bloody hard work just doing laps of this small track but I really felt like I was making huge progress, thanks scatter.
Then it was time to head down. I nailed Seasame St this time and managed to keep up with scatter most of the way down, a first. Then Dazzas (fast, fast, fast) and into Brents (nana lines again, silly I’m definitely riding the top drops next time) and Bridges. I knew the lines this time and then Double Drop, where I nearly had a whoopsie, but my new found skills saved me.
It was definitely the best ride I’ve had, which is saying something because I’ve been loving being on the bike at the moment. I feel like my skills, well my downhill skillz, are better than they’ve ever been and I just need to work on my fitness to get my up and across skills up there as well. I would highly recommend shuttling to anyone who wants to get a bit more confidence into their descending. Riding the same bits of track over and over in a short space of time without the oxygen debt of climbing really gives you a great sense of how the bike moves, what lines to hit and how fast (or much faster) you can go.
I guess its back to the hills for me. I should also try and find the motivation to do more roadie work, but my bouncy bike is just so much more fun. I think shuttling will definitely have to be a semi-regular thing though, its just so good.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Maxed Out – The Hammerhead

Way back in March was the last time I went riding in Hanmer Springs and reading my blog entries from that trip really shows me how far my riding has come.

We got into Hanmer just after lunch on Saturday and checked into our cabin at the Alpine Adventure Tourist Camp (very nice it was too, in fantastic secluded surroundings). We were both feeling a bit flat so it was an effort to get into riding gear and head out for a pre-ride in the heat. We called into Krank for an updated trail map and to get the skinny on the course from Neil. After a good chat we were on our way warned of loose gravel and nasty little tree stumps on the new track Mac 1. We gave this track a couple of rides and Neil was right, it was very loose in the tight corners, there would be carnage in the race for anyone who over-cooked those (hehehe). We then had a blast down camp track and back along Dog Stream, checking the entrance for the race off Jolliffe Rd, again potential for carnage. Then we headed up the road till we got to the exit of Bigfoot where it hooked up with Nature Trail. I’ve never ridden this so in we went. A nice little trail with a couple of scary bridges with no sides. Then up Detox. I really wanted to practise riding the rock drop in this section as last time I was here there was no way I would consider it. My first attempt was terrible. I took the hardest line over the highest steepest point in the middle and got bounced off my brakes and then over braked when I got them back. Only a small amount of skin off my leg as a reward (I was quite worried it might be worse before I looked at it, yay resilient skin).

Not too put off I was determined to get it right and this time surveyed the lines before heading in. After establishing that heading to the right would be best I was over and it was easy. Tyres hooked up on the rock excellently and I felt completely in control at all times, bring on the race.

Race day dawn with a chorus of bellbirds and I was a bit nervous. By the time we got to the Trust Camp for registration I was really really nervous and struggling to keep my breakfast down. I was worried I’d be too slow and get mown down by the elites, or that I wouldn’t handle the intensity of the climbs and I wouldn’t finish. Waiting at the start line I just wanted to get going as I was actually starting to psych myself out a bit. Then we were off, up the very gentle incline of the shingle road. I stuck to my strategy of take it fairly easy off the start line and that proved to be a good idea as when we rounded the corner to enter the Mac 1 single-track there was a line!!!! After standing round for half a minute or so we were off and I was right behind a group of girls. Their speed kept me in check on the single-track so I exited with no dramas and then we were flying towards a short 4wd climb to Black Dog. One of the girls from the group was quite close to me and I decided I wanted to be ahead of her into the single-track and so for the first time in a race I passed someone going up a hill. Yeah! Flew down Black Dog, zigged zagged through the trees and the finish chicane and then out onto the road, down Camp Track and then the climb up the road to Timberlands. I Hate Timberlands and knew it would be my biggest test in the race. The first lap went really well and I rode the whole thing, slowly, but on the bike the whole time. Then out into the baking sun and up the road some more where the chick I had past previously raced away from me and then zoom down the other side. I was pretty conservative on this descent as I wasn’t sure how far it was before the turn into Dog Stream. Made a nice turn into the single-track carrying good speed and then I went into conservative mode knowing there was the really big climb up Bigfoot ahead. I had however forgotten how long the climb up the road was, it went on and on and I clung to the shadows to conserve energy and adopted my favoured spin spin spin, low body position. At the entrance to Bigfoot I let some faster people through and headed up. First set of switchbacks, no worries, 2nd set, the same, 3rd set, small dap, 4th set someone off in front of me so had to run round the 2nd corner. Up and up I climbed (rasping my lungs out as the intensity increased) nailing all the switch backs. Finally though my lungs ran out of puff and my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest and I had to walk the last 2 sets (there’s about 20 switchbacks in total). I gave myself a second for my vision to clear and then I was off. YeeeeeeHaaaaaaa, that climb was sooo worth it. Down the hill I flew, over drop offs round tight corners, through rooty sections and into ruts. It was fantastic and I was grinning like an idiot at the bottom. I almost overshot the entrance to Nature Trail in my enthusiasm, but I pulled it together and settled into a slow climb. Out into the now really blazing sun on the 4wd drive up to Detox and it was like being in an oven. There was no breeze and the sun sucked the moisture right out of you and your energy with it. I settled into a gentle spin, but it was hurting and I knew I was in trouble for the rest of the race. Finally a tight right hand turn and the breeze was back and the rest of the climb was bearable. Unfortunately by now the elite men had started passing me and I knew my descent was going to be holding these guys up. I hate descending under pressure but I decided I was going to just ride my lines and be very clear that I wouldn’t be moving till I was comfortable. So when I heard the call of “Rider” I’d just call back “I’m not moving yet” and when I could I’d move off to the left. This meant I felt obliged to take the chicken line and miss the rock drop on my first lap whichw as disappointing but it took the pressure off for a second. Detox was really fun and I was grinning again at the bottom.
Onto the road and my blast down was slightly curtailed as I braked to let some elites into the single-track of Mac 1 before me. No one in front of me this time and boys whipping past I was going much faster into the gravelly corners than before. Which was all good, until it wasn’t and my tyres just let go. Owwwww! Bollocks, that really really hurt. Back on the bike and feeling a bit despondent.

Out of the singletrack on and up to Black Dog. Zip down and someone calls out “Go Mel” from the timing caravan and I feel much better (no idea who it was, but thanks). I can do this. It’s about finishing, you know you’re going to be at the end of the pack, but you will finish. Second lap and mentally it’s actually easier, just 2 big climbs. Zip down Camp Track, up the road to Timberlands. Legs completely toasted, spin spin grind grind grind, shit. Walk walk walk. Plenty of people are streaming past me now, but that actually doesn’t bother me, must finish though. Back on the bike and spin up the single-track and out into that bloody sun. Up the road and then down the road, much faster, I know where the turn off is this time. Into the single-track and conserve. Mentally I’m struggling with the climb ahead of me, shit my legs are gone, how am I going to do it. Crawl up the road in the shade and a very nice man tells me to keep my head up as it opens your chest and makes breathing easier. I thank him for the advice and then think I must be looking bloody awful for such advice to be given. Finally the start of the single-track is in front of me and it’s as bad as I thought. My legs have nothing to give. I only manage to make it up the first 4 sets of switchbacks and then I’m walking. Gutted, but I have to finish and this is the only way I’ll do it. I look at my speedo and am gratified to see that I’m probably walking faster than I could ride at this stage. Finally I reach the top and again enjoy the fantastic ride down, although there’s a faint hint of terror lurking in the back of my mind as I’m feeling super dopey from exhaustion. I ride all my lines and make it to the bottom an extremely happy camper. Up into Nature Trail and then onto the “road of death” to Detox. I just can’t ride it, I’m soo spent. I push my bike for a while till it levels off a bit and then spin slowly to the right hand corner and into the breeze. No one is around me this time and I nail the rock drop. The rest of the lap is just pain. I’m out of water and the fuel tank is not only empty, its fallen off and is lying somewhere on Timberlands. At one point I start singing Mr Brownstone out loud to trying and keep going and it works. Finally I’m in the final single-track, zipping through the trees and speeding over the finish line. I’m very broken but am getting better at hiding it. I get some water straight into me and after a while it’s the prize giving and my name is called out as 3rd in the Sport 30-39yrs Women. Wooo hoooo.

Anyone looking closely at the results will see that I also managed to come last, but hey, I finished, I got a place and I had fun. I rode the same amount of track in this race as during the whole time I was in Hanmer in March so I’ve gotten soooo much fitter. And I have a very nice set of scrapes to show for my efforts, and a NZ Mtb Calendar. Today I feel terrible. I think I managed to give myself some heat stroke on the drive home as our air-con in the car doesn’t work. By the time we got to Amberly I was a mess and we had to stop for some cool air and food. Met up with Andy and Cath at the Nor-Wester and they had the same problem!! I’ve never felt this bad after a race so I’m planning on resting up this week.