Week 11: Allsorts

And we're off. Week eleven (eleven weeks to go, that is). Dang! I hope I counted those weeks right this time.

This week is an ode to allsorts. All sorts of good sorts. The peeps that keep your head in the game and wheels turning, without the traumatically relocated rear mech striking the spokes. Cycling celebrates individuality. Blood, sweat and gears. The lone gritty cyclist grinding out miles of training in normal Wellington conditions. It's part of the bravado of our sport.

I guess I imagined that racing for 24 hours solo would take it to a new extreme. But, in fact, it makes you realise even more that this is a team game. Now, I'm not about to enlist a bunch of Mud Cycles Factory Racing Team domestiques to form a grupetto for an assault on the hors categorie grind at Mt Stromlo, despite the idea of snacks at a critical point on the eigth, or ninth, or tenth (you get the idea) ascent of the climb being mighty appealing already.

But, I am already making the most of the team resources. Slackboy fixes bikes the bestest. Greg fixes people the bestest. Emily makes the bestest cookies. Lisa writes the bestest training. The list goes on and on. I feel very lucky. And I was reminded of that again this week.

It's getting the little things right that counts. Little things like a rear mech hanger that isn't bent sideways. Sadly, my utilisation of all of the course crossed the edge of the envelope and ended up with me dropping it like it's hot on the off camber on Sunday.


Add Revolution Components to the list of good sorts. Reverse engineering a knackered piece of bike componentry can't be easy. It's telling when Slim says, "At least the race isn't the next day this time, Kim". My reputation precedes me. Another tolerant team member.

Good as new and kiwi made.
Thanks Revolution Components!

In many ways, I think I have the easiest part of the bargain of everyone. If not easier then definitely more straightforward. After all, all I have to do is follow a few simple instructions. Pedal. Eat. Don't stop pedalling. Don't stop eating. Follow your training plan for the next eleven weeks.

While the instructions are simple, the execution of them is not always straightforward. Tuesday was a victory for persistence. There are a couple of sessions that crop up in my training schedule that are rapidly followed by a sinking feeling. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a bit of discomfort (that's the bravado speaking). But it's disappointing to fall short of the desired outcome. Time and time again. It's a goal. I get it. If it's achieved the goalposts move.

That's my "I'm glad that's over" race face.
I have a training one of them too.

I admit I've never been great at the spinning fast thing. I learned to pedal in Wales. There are lots of hills there. It was an era when steel frames ruled (they still do) and gearing choices were limited to saucer sized cassettes rather than dinner plates. I watched Miguel Martinez race at the World Championships in Switzerland without a granny ring on his bike. I thought it looked cool and instantly converted my race setup to 2x9. Add to the mix lots of encouragement along the lines of, "Check out the gear Kim's riding up that hill" and it would appear that the teenage female ego must be at least on par with your average male one. In a moment of heady high cadence defiance, I even rode up the infamous Devil's Staircase in the big dawg*. On my roadie. At sixteen. It resulted in a strange sensation in my kneecaps which when dissipated was replaced by a great feeling of satisfaction that it could be done. Style, finesse and efficiency? Pah! Stubbornness, brute strength and ignorance FTW.

For eighteen months I have embarked on a certain training session deep in the knowledge that the first low cadence bit would feel awesome then the high cadence bit would result in sore legs, expletives and almost certain failure to follow the instructions for long enough. But, my legs must have learned something in Canada. Or the maple syrup loading hasn't worn off yet. Because on Tuesday, they could keep spinning really fast. For the desired period of time. Same sore legs but only one expletive.

So, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then keep trying, race a stage race, practice fist pumps, eat lots of maple syrup and try again.

*only ever once. Once was enough!

Not the Princess Diaries

British Columbia. Done and dusted. Goal two of three for the 2013 season. It's a funny thing having goals. I'd never really set them before. And when I had, it was unlikely to be more than two weeks out from an event. My goal setting used to go along the lines of assessing how haphazard my self prescribed training had been for the days prior, ascertaining my general feeling of karma, checking the weather forecast, reading my horoscope and deciding what outcome I fancied from a rapidly approaching race. Kinda "pin the tail on the donkey-freestyle-ad lib" goal setting. Structured and planned, not so much. I'm pretty sure a fortune cookie would have been more reliable. Nek minnit, enter the world of being coached. Much to learn you still have, young padawan.

You thought I wasn't gonna sneak any more BCBR photos in here? Really?!

While I am still no Jedi master, my third goal for 2013 is one I set fifteen months ago. Yep, you read it right - fifteen months not fifteen minutes ago. That makes it my longest goal ever by a long way. Although, I admit, there was some freestyling involved. A matter of days after declaring I'd never ever consider racing solo for 24 hours, I was setting a goal for the World 24 Hour Solo Championships in Canberra. My justification was predominantly based on a geographic argument rather the consideration of what is involved in pedalling in circles (race organisers call them laps to make it sound better) for an inordinate amount of time. The reasoning went like this - it's a major event just across the Tasman, it would be rude not to go.

The moment of realisation that there is more pedalling to do after more than 23 hours of pedalling

Time has flown by since and here we are with less than three months to go until the big day. The upside of goal setting is it gives you focus. The downside of goal setting is it gives you focus. So, here's the you can't have your cake and eat it bit...

Last year, I raced a lot of cyclocross. Like, a real big lot. In fact, almost every weekend from May to August. It was awesome. It taught me heaps about bike handling, making it hurt, racing with the boys, wearing skinsuits and some 'cross specific on the bike off the bike hoppity hop over barriers stuff. It was as new an experience for me as it was for New Zealand. It was such a cool time with a cool bunch of people that I was a little sad when winter came to an end.

On the seventh day, she rode. Every single one!

With a huge endurance goal looming, comes the self realisation that solely smashing yourself to bits for 50 minutes might not be sufficient when it comes to the crunch in October*. Unless, your game plan is to go out in a blaze of glory after a scorchingly hot opening lap after performing a sweet 'cross remount off the Le Mans start. I'm keen to hang in there a bit longer than that. But still do the sweet remount.

So, this winter I will be doing a bit less 'cross racing. I'm still gonna enjoy a whole heap of racing on the doorstep (after all, the mighty Hutt does offer the muddiest CX series there is) and some of it will be week in week out but my travel further afield will be much less. Fear not, I am sure this will change in 2014. This is just a short term gotta meet that goal I set fifteen months ago thing. It will also have the fringe benefit of helping the bank balance before my second overseas racing adventure of the year.

I'm stoked to see a formal official proper National CX Championships on the calendar this winter. While I can wholeheartedly sympathise with those who prefer to just get up in the morning and race a bike round a park as fast as possible without worrying about reading the tome that is the UCI rule book while warming up on rollers looking serious beforehand, it is super cool to have a formal official proper National CX Champion's jersey up for grabs at the pointy end of the field. And I'm sure the guy and gal that get to wear them will do heaps to promote cyclocross here as well as represent New Zealand on far shores. It'll be me again when the goal setting thingy says so.

And, now that I'm all enthused by this goal setting stuff, I thought I'd share a bit of the countdown to the big day on my blog. I've always been rubbish at keeping a diary but I hope that the pressure of posting sequential week by week blog posts called "Week #" and making them look all neat and tidy and in order will help spur me to stick with it. Expect less Princess Diaries, more Toughen Up Princess Diaries. Week 10 kicks off next week. As long as I counted the weeks on the calendar correctly, that is.

*my coach has known this fact forever

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

A sweet collection of my favourite pics by the race photography crew from an epic week of racing, riding and exploring British Columbia. End of an amazing chapter.

Under starters orders on Day 1
Hitting the trails in Cumberland
More amazing singletrack on Day 2
And some more...
And some more!
It's Deliverance...but not as we know it Wellington folk!
Battling it out with the Queen of Lean on Day 4....and 5...and 6...
The race in on! Leaving Earl's Cove.
More technical riding...
Super technical piece of trail...proud moment getting a hardtail down it!
Powergirl in Squamish
Post race chinwags
Whistler Bike Park
Local wildlife
In the lead on the final stage - Day 7
Stage win!
Podium girls
Big snowy mountains in the sunshine

Normal Service Will Resume Shortly

Brrrrrrr. I'm not convinced about the sense in trading a Northern Hemisphere July for a Southern one. Nor is my body - that is the coldest I have ever felt on a bike. More base layers needed next time. Or more pies in the interim. Or more sunshine on race day. Feeling much better for a hot shower, soup and chips. I'm sure I will acclimatise soon and normal service with resume shortly.


Final Showdown

When style and finesse both leave by the back door (due to fatigue after a week long epic battle of racing), resorting to brute strength and ignorance is equally effective. Time for rest, food and chilling out.

Quick update to say, "Yey, I won the final stage!", as well as securing second place overall in the fastest women's BC Bike Race ever, clocking up 330km of the world's finest singletrack and 10,000m of climbing in under 20 hours in the shadow of Wendy Simms. Super proud of myself.

Proper blog update to follow...in the meantime, huge thanks to everyone who supports me, especially those who encouraged me to get back in the elite racing saddle. What a cool journey over the last 18 months.

Stage 7 podium in Whistler - top step!!


Wrestling A Bear

Well, here we are. On the eve of the final stage of the British Columbia Bike Race. Multistage racing is a funny thing. When you're in the middle of it you feel like there's so much more left to get through. Each day gets ticked off in its own right, packed full of the same routine. Breakfast (lots of). Chamois cream (lots of). Race. Eat. Sleep. Fit in some stuff which you hope will help your recovery. Fit in some travel to get from stage to stage. Before you know it, each day flies by and then the week is over.

 Water taxi transition to race start!

While, I will be relieved to have a day off eating breakfast at a certain time and getting on my bike to race on Sunday, I will also feel a little sad that it means I will have completed my racing in Canada. The reason I came to race the BC Bike Race was to become a better racer. A full week of racing on technical terrain seemed an ideal springboard for other endurance races later in the calendar. But, even I would not have imagined how transitional the experience would be.

Race ready

Pitting myself against one of the best there is has been incredible. It has also been a bit like wrestling a bear. Every day I have learned more about racing. More about trying to improve aspects of your game that are allowing your opposition back in the race. More about trying to maximise your own strengths during the course of the race to try to make a winning move work. More about a different style of trails and the technical riding skills a cross country rider needs to possess. More about how the girl you are racing against rides so efficiently. Of course, while none of this has changed the result in black and white (with a string of very consistent second places since Stage 1), each stage has become a more intensely fought battle. To the extent that today, after one hour and 58 minutes of racing hard against each other, Wendy Simms and I had a little laugh together. We could both predict exactly how it would unfold. "So, here we are again", she says. Both racing bikes that suited our own riding styles. Climber versus technical rider. Hardtail versus fully. Pro versus amateur.

Battling it out on Stage 5

I'm not alone in the interest that our battle has sparked. Fellow racers at the pointy end of the field have given support as we race by. Spectators, marshalls and event organisers have yelled out encouragement and time splits. At the checkpoint today, when we arrived at exactly the same time 27 kilometres into the race, someone yelled out "Wow, girls. No second, just first and first". I have ridden myself proud. My favourite interview question of the week has been, "So Kim, what's it like to have come from winter on the other side of the world to race your first multistage race, riding in BC for the first time on trails that are new to you, racing on a hardtail and being right up there with Wendy Simms?". I guess I never saw it like that. I came here to race. Brought my A game every day. Never gave up or backed down. And somehow, managed to give the local girl something to think about.

"She came back from the dead like five times."

"It's always good to see someone with heart not giving up despite having odds against them. There are still two days left and if she keeps playing the game to win, her day might be sooner than later."

It's a week that I will certainly remember. And build on. And I will definitely be back for another BC Bike Race. If only to prove it can be won on a hardtail. In the meantime, there's one more day of racing to enjoy.



Taking on the Queen of Lean

I had anticipated writing a pre race blog way before the 7th edition of BC Bike Race kicked off. Trouble is I was having way too much fun exploring North Shore to fit it into the schedule. It takes some effort to travel pretty much anywhere from New Zealand. I have to say, Canada is well worth that effort. This is my first trip to North America and I am absolutely loving the experience. Coach said it would raise my riding to a new level. She was right.

Mount Fromme was a stunning place to cut our teeth during that first week. Seventh Secret is my new favourite piece of trail in the whole world. It's like the most technical parts of the cross country trails in Fort William pieced together and extended to one whole kilometre of technical XC goodness. Amazing.

North Shore goodness

So, pre race week was a lot of fun. Then the business end of things kicked off two days ago. The first day, Day Zero, of BC Bike Race is traditionally a travelling day across to Vancouver Island. The weather turned warm just in time for the race start and I have to say these are the hottest conditions I have ever raced in aside from the World Champs as a young whippersnapper in the junior ranks in 1996. I'm pretty sure that Aussie acclimatisation period has faded over the last 17 years but for a kid who grew up riding in Welsh weather, I'm doing pretty well.

Day One. What can I say. There are some riders whose achievements and personalities are such that they become notorious in cycling. Wendy Simms aka the Queen of Lean is one of those characters. She destroyed the women's field at last year's BC Bike Race and I will happily admit I have a photo of the six time Canadian CX Champ ripping up the cyclocross circuit hanging on to Katerina Nash's rear wheel sat on my desktop computer. I was fully expecting some schooling in Canadian racing during this trip. Add in the current Swedish XC Champ and a bunch of other pinners in the field of solo women and it was tricky to know how it was all gonna pan out. Day One was certainly going to be the way to find out.

Only one way to find out!

You know you're in North America if a marching band kicks off the proceedings! Pre race nerves for a whole week's worth of effort were soon out of the way and the race was on. That schooling in Canadian racing I mentioned earlier was dished out within the first ten kilometres of racing on Bevan's Trails, a particularly rooty piece of singletrack. While the roots on Fromme offered decent traction, their cousins in Cumberland had missed the memo. Nevertheless, I kept rubber side up and settled into it. On the long slog up Forbidden Plateau - a seven kilometre gravel grind - I passed Wendy. I couldn't believe it! First, I caught sight of her. Then I realised I was catching. Then I was passing. Then I was gaining time. I was pretty sure she'd be on the gas on the descent so tried to keep the pace on down the first Enduro section and scored a top three chick's time on my hardtail! My dropper seatpost is my new best friend forever.

Under starter's orders

Somewhere on a narrow piece of track well adorned with local foliage, I missed a turn. I kept going hoping to see the distinctive pink ribbon to rid a sinking feeling I had that I was off course as the trail became narrower and more overgrown. Sadly, a clearing in a trail appeared before any pink ribbon. I got back on course and at a crossing point a marshall enthusiastically yelled out, "Second woman, only 30 seconds down". Dammit! I chased hard to get back up to Wendy and we rode at a sweet pace together gaining some places in the overall standings in the process, but ultimately that hard effort of closing the gap cost me time in the last ten kilometres. A friendly Aussie who was enjoying some trans-Tasman banter said, "Come on! Don't let her out of your sight!". I replied, "She already is!". Time for less talking and more damage limitation. I crossed the line two minutes down. Who knows how long that wrong turn cost me, but hey, that's racing. While I'd like to think it was two minutes I suspect it was closer to one and I'm happy to take some lessons on riding your bike like it's all floaty and light over technical rooty bits, which Wendy does incredibly impressively. To be able to rock it with her in a race has made my year.

Solo chicks podium

 Yey! A medal!!!

Super cool race report on pinkbike.com here 

Today, was Canada Day. I wore special socks with a cool maple leaf on them. Stealth Canadian. Maybe that will make me more floaty over the roots.

Canada Day socks

Stage Two was a point to point race from somewhere in the woods near Cumberland to Campbell River.  It promised to feature less climbing but an amazing 35 kilometre section of singletrack. Boo to less climbing. Having finished in the top 50 riders overall the day prior, I had the dubious honour of a "red group" start. Red was right. The gently downward trending gravel road start combined with red mist resulted in my GPS telling me we clocked the first eight kilometres in 13 minutes. The pace felt hard. A slightly more steep climb which was loose in spots allowed me to almost get on to Wendy's wheel before she pulled away on the first gnarly descent. With almost all of the climbing done for the day early on, I was keen to keep riding smoothly and put in a time trial effort in the last 4 kilometres of the race which was paved or gravel roads to round off the day. Mission accomplished.

 On the gas with 100 metres to go!

 Yey! Another medal!!!

So, here I am. Two second place stage finishes. Second solo woman overall. Lead on third consolidated today. Another flatter stage tomorrow then into more climbing as we head from the Sunshine Coast towards Whistler. There's the small matter of consuming some 4,000 calories a day to stay on top of my game. Better get on to it.