Double Double

Two double days in a row… Doesn’t get much better. Both days with time spent on the road bike and the ‘cross bike. Perfect combination of training.

Tuesday was an excellent day of training and racing. I kicked the day off with a skill session in my local park. I focused on dismounts/mounts, turning, and some start intervals. The usual stuff. This year I’m teaching myself a new way of dismounting… I used to always pre-unclip the left foot as I came into a barrier or obstacle. Now I’m only unclipping the left foot at the last moment before dismounting. This method is considered by some to be rather “risky”. Well, I also thought it was a bit risky until last week when Marc showed me how to do it and then we put it into practice in the woods. I’ve learned that it is much faster and when done correctly, there is no risk involved. So I’ve been spending a lot of time breaking down this dismount technique and working on getting the basics of it correct so when I do it at speed, I won’t have any issues.

Second part of Tuesday’s training day was spent at the Tuesday night training criterium. Again, another fast night at the local training race. All the usual suspects were out with a few new faces in the crowd to mix things up. I was having a great ride until my chain started to act up. All of a sudden the chain started hopping and skipping all over the cassette. This made for some rather erratic pedaling and riding. I stopped to look at it – couldn’t see a problem so decided to jump back in…. Well, as soon as I applied pressure to the pedals, the chain jumped from the big ring to the small ring and was chattering all over the cassette. Sigh…. Thanks to Shaun and Vince, I discovered that I had a “kink” in my chain and it was a bit twisted… Bummer but at least the chain didn’t break during the race. All in all, it was a great night of training/racing. I hit some good numbers and I did feel comfortable in the pack. Nice to see this form at this point in the season. Extra bonus of the night was catching up with my pal Sheri Jay.

Today is another day of doubling-up. Doing things in reverse today, starting with a road ride in the morning and a ‘cross ride in the evening. Today was all about 1 minute efforts on the road bike. Yeesh, never has a minute felt so long and so painful! Ah well, money in the bank for the upcoming cyclo-cross season. Looking forward to getting out on my new cyclo-cross bike again tonight. I have to say, I’m really liking the way the new Stevens Carbon Team feels. It corners really nicely. There are some smooth finishing touches on it like the flattened out top tube that allows the bike to rest on my shoulder nicely. And the paint job is slick – I love that yellow! Tonight Karl, Conor, and Marc and I will hit up the trails for some fast riding. Nothing like a night of chasing the fast guys through the woods, sand, and trees!

Yep, some pretty good days around these parts. Cyclo-cross season is right around the corner with my first race on Sept. 11 in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania. Can’t wait. My new cyclo-cross clothing will be arriving any day now. Looking forward to showing off the red, white, and black Ottawa Cross kit again this year. Many thanks to Champion Systems Canada for the excellent support this year.

If you find yourself wondering about cyclo-cross training, why not join me and a few others on Thursday morning for some ‘cross practice? The 90 minute session will focus on the basics of cyclo-cross with dismount/mounts, uphill shouldering, follow the leader, and a few other drills. Good time with a relaxed tone guaranteed. Email me for details.

Pinch Me

Guess you can tell by the title that I’m having one of those good days. Actually, day is too narrow – lets rephrase this to seasons or phases or times. Anyway, lets just say that I’m in a good place right now. Everything is just coming together so perfectly for the upcoming season.

I had a fantastic ride today. Legs felt great, ticking over nicely and just really loved every second of it. Rode to the little town of Merrickville today. It was super windy but it was sunny and dry – no complaints here. Great afternoon at the office.

I’m getting my schedule sorted out and have registered for a bunch of races already. Today I registered for Cross Vegas! I’m stoked. Can’t believe I’m going to race at Cross Vegas. I’ve wanted to race at Cross Vegas for two years now. Can’t really believe that I’m going to race this race. Kind of crazy, in 2007 I was racing with the 3/4 women’s field and held a masters license – now in 2010 after a few successful seasons in my legs, I’m racing in the elite women’s field at Cross Vegas. Cool. Very cool.

The Cross Vegas trip will involve a lot of firsts for me. First time to Las Vegas. First time racing at Cross Vegas. First time at a bike trade show. First time doing an evening race. A lot of first times. No complaints here. I’m super looking forward to the race and to attending Interbike.

Oh, in case you missed it, I’ve started writing rider diaries again for Cyclocross Magazine, my latest rider diary is posted. Also there is an article about the latest Stevens cyclo-cross bikes that Katie Compton, Marriane Vos, Hanka Kupfernagel, Niels Albert, and I will be riding – check it out. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Canadian Cyclist Magazine to read some of my latest articles.

Well, I guess that is about it. Tomorrow I’ve got a great day of training on deck. Hill sprints and cyclo-cross starts in the morning chased with an evening cyclo-cross ride with Karl and Marc. I’ll strap on the helmet camera tomorrow night and shoot some video of my favorite sand course.

So Close

Mmm, the cyclo-cross season is so close. So very close. The tell tale signs are everywhere. People are posting more about cyclo-cross. Old blogs are seeing some life again. Twitter is going crazy with all the #cyclocross hash tags. Bikereg.com has become super popular for us ‘crossers again as we race to get registered. People are mumbling about tire selection, chainring ratios, tire pressure, carbon this, and aluminum that. Yes, some good feelings in the air. I like it.

Had a great ride today. Took out my trusty Steven Super-Prestige. Have to say, I’m really going to miss this bike. It is going to a new home and I know the new owner will have some awesome times with it – just as I have. My new bikes are almost ready so I can’t hardly wait to get out and give them a go. Many many thanks to Vince at The Cyclery for helping me out so much. The support I’ve received this year from Stevens Bikes has been overwhelming – this is saying a lot since the season hasn’t even started yet! Huge shout out to both of these fine companies for their support, patience, and commitment to helping the sport grow.

So, my ride. Well I hit up my usual stomping grounds for some riding in the singletrack and doubletrack. Had a great time. Some solid music flowing into my ears, the weather was perfect, and the trails were pretty much empty. Just me, my bike, and nature. No complaints here. I hit up three of my favorite training loops. Each loop offers a little something different. The first one is all about sand and tight turns. This sand is serious – it reminds me of the sand at Koksijde (if you’ve raced at Koksijde you know what I mean!) – deep, unpredictable, leg-sucking sand. The second loop is one I call “the bridges” – yes, it features a number of bridges, some tight singletrack, some wide open doubletrack and short punchy climb. The third loop is the one I filmed the other day – bit of everything – sand, singletrack, roots, pavement, and doubletrack.

All in all, a most excellent time on the bike. The training time whipped by and I really wanted to stay out longer. But there is method to the training system and as tempting as it is to ride long and to ride hard each and everyday, this is not going to get me where I want. I am heading out again in a few hours to do some skill work. Yep, you guessed – more time spent on the dismount/mount. I realized today as I was dismounting/mounting over logs that it is so easy to revert to the old ways and bad habits – no time like the present to break these habits.

Had a good training day yesterday. I must admit V02Max intervals are not my favorites. But the work has to be done. And I’d much rather be out doing a challenging ride than sitting at home not…. Sealed the deal yesterday with a run. Yes, a run. That time of the year so I have to dust off my running shoes and pound the trails. Each time I go out for a run, I’m stunned to remember that I once was a runner and have even run a marathon! I definitely prefer sitting down and pedaling!

We had a great night last night. We hooked up with Karl Hoppner and his family for a most excellent meal and good conversation. All the plans for the ‘cross season in Belgium are really coming together. I’m feeling super organized (okay well I still have to book my flight and lease a car). I think this season is going to be really special and it will be great to have Karl and his family around for it. I’m looking forward to getting in some good training with Karl, showing him my favorite Belgian training routes, introducing to my Belgian friends, and just getting fully-immersed in life in Belgium again.

Since cyclo-cross season is getting so close, it really is time to start ticking through my “to do” list. Clothing is ordered and will be ready very soon – thanks Champion Systems. Bikes are nearly ready – thank-you to The Cyclery and Stevens Bikes. My head, feet, and wheels are taken care of – thanks OGC. My eyes are protected from the sun’s rays and those pesky twigs – thank-you Oakley. I’m never going to go hungry on or off the bike – thanks to Clif Bar. My legs, lungs, heart, and soul are right on track – thank-you Steve Weller of Bell Lap Coaching. My travel, logistics and behind-the-scene support are spot on – thanks to the fine folks at KingsBridge. Most of all, my number one fan is cheering me along every step of the way – thank-you and big hug for Marc.

Now, I guess I best book my plane tickets and sort out a car… Plane tickets are easy – just need to punch in the dates and book it! I’m hoping to lease another Reanault Kangoo from IdeaMerge – great support system with their new car leases and the Renault Kangoo is perfect for cyclo-cross racing. No time like the present to push the buttons and get the last little bits done.

So close. Love this time of the year. Body is ready. Mind is sound. Time to get out and have some fun!

Oh, almost forgot… Some of you have read my articles in Canadian Cycling Magazine. Well stay tuned for the next issue where I have written an article about cyclo-cross… And if you haven’t read my other articles – well – what are you waiting for! (written with a grin on my face!)

Ache

That’s what I have right now. A good hard ache in my legs. That ache that reminds you of the ride you did earlier in the day. Walking up the stairs, your legs feel a bit heavy. Walking down the stairs, well your legs feel down right angry. Stretching your quads brings on this deep feeling reminding you of how hard you made the bike go. Suffice it to say, a good ache. An ache that is an indicator of time well spent. Kind of like an “ice cream headache” – hurts so good because it is so darn worth it! (Uhm, yes for the record I love ice cream and gelato – I could eat it everyday – chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, chocolate mint, chocolate with hot fudge sauce – I think you get the idea…)

Basically, I had one of those rides that brings on the ache during and after the ride. Today was “testing” day – a chance to measure myself against the SRM and see where my hard training has taken me. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of tests. That same anxiety I used to get in high school and university during testing time, also happens during bike testing time. I know it is silly. But I chalk this up to my type A personality – always wanting to do and be better – never quite satisfied with the outcome or result.

The test went okay. Not the most ideal day for a test – ridiculous winds up here in Ottawa. I decided to do the efforts into a crosswind – the headwind was just too darn strong. All in all, it went well. For a test, that is. Immediately following the last effort, I was feeling a bit rotten – I wasn’t 100 per cent happy with the numbers that I was producing. But this is normal for me, never 100 per cent satisfied. I can tell now from the ache in my legs and my overall fatigue that it was a good, hard, solid effort.

I’ve got an excellent weekend of training to look forward to. Saturday is a double day with a morning run… Yes, run. Time to condition the legs and brain to the efforts required in a few weeks. Chances are that within a little over a month, I’ll be doing some darn hard running with a bike on my shoulder and a helmet on my head. So no time like the present to get out and do some “light jogging”. In the afternoon I’ll be out working on ‘cross starts and getting in a long ride. Sunday is another interval day featuring, start efforts, threshold riding, sprints and some sweet recovery time. A good weekend indeed.

So remember that video I told you about? Well, I’ve finally got myself organized and opened a YouTube account and uploaded the video. Now, there isn’t any fancy music with the video nor are there any crazy descents/crashes. It is really just a video of me riding around my newest ‘cross training loop. Anyway, here it is:

I plan to shoot more video of different training loops, skill sessions and even some warm-up laps from various races. Some videos will be more exciting than others, so stay tuned.

Well, time to shut the lid on this little black Mac and take a break from the computer. I’ve got the movie: Race Across the Sky to watch. Oh, have you seen the Shut Up Legs t-shirts? I so want one of these – but I don’t think they’re available anymore. Hmm, maybe I should make some Ottawa Cross – Shut Up Legs t-shirts – now that would be cool….

This and That

I know it’s not a very ‘cross-focused title, but sometimes it is challenging to come up with a catchy title. I should be thinking of the search engines when creating my titles (so say the search engine optimization folks) but sometimes I just need to let my fingers do the talking. Okay, enough about the title, lets get onto the argy-bargey (thanks Phil, Paul and the cool dudes at the Velocast for this fine word)….

First off – big news – I have update my sponsors page. I’m honored to be supported by such a fine group of companies. Without their support, this sweet life I lead racing my cyclo-cross bike all over North American and Europe simply wouldn’t be possible. So click on over to the sponsor page to read about these great companies. Just to make it easy for you, I proudly present my sponsors for the 2010 – 2011 cyclo-cross season:
KingsBridge Disaster Recovery: the leader in business continuity and disaster recovery planning software.
The Cyclery: this Ottawa bike store has all your cycling needs covered and the friendliest mechanics in town.
Stevens Bikes: the fastest cyclo-cross bikes around. Just ask the current Women’s World Champion.
Outdoor Gear Company: dealers of fine Giro helmets and sweet Mavic shoes and wheels.
Clif Bar: tasty Shot Bloks, Clif Bars, and Luna bars. You’ll never go hungry with Clif in you jersey pocket.
Champion Systems: custom sublimated clothing for an affordable price – now there is no excuse for bad kit.
Bell Lap Coaching: coach Steve has the skills, the knowledge and the dedication to take you to the next level.
Oakley: Jawbone, Radar, Full Metal Jacket, Enduring… Plus smooth t’s, luggage, caps. Be fast and look good.

In keeping with the updates theme, I’ve also updated my 2010 – 2011 race calendar. I still need to fill out the racing while I’m in Belgium, but I’ve got the World Cup and elite women’s races listed. Like the past three seasons, I’ll be racing with the junior boys when there isn’t a women’s race on the calendar. Anyway, click on over so you can see where I’ll be out having fun and chasing my cyclo-cross dreams this season.

Have to say it is full-on cyclo-cross mode around here these days. Recovery rides are spent in the woods riding my trusty Stevens bike. The trick is of course on these recovery days to keep the legs from getting to excited… To do this, I focus on small things such as: eyes up at all times, constantly pedaling, riding with my hands on the tops rather than the hoods (to curb the over-braking tendencies), to only use the rear brake, and to focus on a high/smooth cadence. By doing this I’m able to maximize my time on the ‘cross bike – even though I’m not ripping around at top speed, I’m still training my body and mind with some crucial skills that come race day, will be second nature.

Today, though was not a recovery day… Nope it was all about that crucial first “45”. The start is perhaps one of the most important sections of the race. A solid start can help you get into a hard-charging group and often can help you avoid the “first corner” pile-ups that happen as the course narrows from the start/finish straight to the hole shot. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that I have not had a good history with my starts. I’ve had trouble getting amped up for the start and for really putting all my energies into blasting off the line. Well, this is all history for me now. I’ve been working all summer on short intense sprints, my mental attitude to the starts, and really I’ve recognized that if I want to be in the race – I need to start better. So today I drilled myself into the ground with five 45 second start intervals. This may not sound like much but when each of those intervals is done at full gas, five is plenty. I like the numbers I’m seeing. I like the explosion I’m getting in my legs. I’m learning how to use the entire bike to propel me forward. I can tell already that my starts are going to be better this year. Great way to be feeling on this mid-July afternoon.

The rest of the training week is full of tempo intervals and lots of time in the saddle. Nothing like the Sunday long ride to put a smile on my face. I’ll also get out on my ‘cross bike each afternoon for a skill session. Focus will be on barriers, dismounts, mounts (flat and uphill) and uphill/downhill turning.

I’m really looking forward to getting back to Belgium. I wish I could be out riding at Averbode and Kasterlee this weekend! Not to mention hanging out with the ‘cross gang before and after the races. Soon enough though I’ll be back in Blauberg for a winter of racing, training, and soaking up life.