Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Short Track Lessons

Sunday was the final short track race for the year, and under a gloomy grey sky it was the funnerest (yes, that’s a word) one yet. I was hoping to finally break that magic 5 lap mark in my 20 allotted minutes and not to feel like it was time for lung replacement surgery after the race. Amazingly I achieved both these goals and now feel qualified to pass on the important lessons I learnt from these 3 races. Note that these lessons apply specifically to the Kennedy’s Bush course, which I like to think of as my own since it’s where I learnt to ride my bike properly.

Lesson 1: First at first isn’t a recipe for first
Or in actual english, just because I can get the hole shot (or get into the singletrack first) doesn’t mean I should. In the first race I didn’t get the hole shot, poor line position, but was in the top 3 and had to work really hard through the singletrack. In the second race I went all out and got the hole shot and then proceeded to explode as I went far too hard on the singletrack again. In the third race I went out hardish, was in second, actively took it easy through the first bits of singletrack and hit the hill climb with lungs still intact.

Lesson 2: Lungs help you breathe
Sure this seems self-evident, especially to cyclists, however when you’re out on the short course and you’ve got that big hit of adrenalin off the start line and all you can think is “GO AS FAST AS YOU CAN” you can forget this. In fact you can almost disregard it, and that’s what I did in the first two races by taking my lungs out of my chest on the first lap and leaving lying at the bottom corner of the course. It was very irresponsible of me and made it extremely difficult to finish the race. In the third race I looked after my poor fragile lungs and they looked after me. Nary a cough was heard after the third race.

Lesson 3: Spin for the win
Well, not the win, overall anyway. Well, a win of sorts, for me personally. Anyway, the first two races I pushed a big gear up the hill because I could, for the first 3 laps anyway. It hurt and was hard, but I didn’t go fast and got progressively slower through those races. The last race I dropped down into my baby chainring on the first lap and spun up the hill as fast as pushing a bigger gear. On the second lap I spun up faster than pushing a bigger gear and on laps 3, 4 and 5 I got faster each lap rather than slower.

Lesson 4: I like to go downhill
Well duh! Not so much of a lesson this one, more a bit of showing off. I went down that course fast. As fast ,and in some cases faster, than the sport guys. It was really, really fun and I want to do it again and again and again.

Lesson 5: There’s nothing like support
A good sports bra is mandatory. No, that's not what I meant to say. I ride recreational, but that doesn’t mean I’m not competitive. I’m out to push myself as hard as I can. For me it’s not about winning, it’s about improving and I do take these things pretty seriously (blush). Having people cheer you on is great. I loved having all the people cheering me on and heckling on Sunday, it made me go faster. Having the 3 races one after the other means there’s always plenty of spectators on hand to yell support no matter which category you’re racing in.

Lesson 6: Not all pain is good
Burning, jelly legs are good. Burning, jelly lungs are not good. Flopping down because you’ve expended all your energy and your legs don’t work is good. Flopping down because you can’t breath is not good. Flopping down on gorse, matagauri or rocks is not good.

I loved the short course series. I’m not a sprinter, and I never will be, but I loved every pain filled insanely fun minute of it. We had lots of people along to these races who all looked like they were hating it during the races (especially the uphill bit) but were all grinning and laughing on the finish line, so hopefully there will be more in the future. Huge thanks to Craig and Rebekah at the Christchurch Singletrack Club for organising these races.

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