World Cup Frenzy

This is how I feel, a tad frenzied. It is 9:30 and I’m not very close at all to packing. I’ve made a few piles of clothes and other stuff on the floor. But I’m not anywhere close to being ready to jam things into bike boxes and into my carry-on. Today has been a very good but busy day. I did get lots done and most importantly I connected with a very good friend for some coffee and a great chat.

As for the rest of the day? Well, I got in an excellent road ride. Felt so nice to be out on my familiar training roads and just enjoying the crisp fall air. I didn’t think about racing. I didn’t worry about the garbage from the weekend. Nope, I just focused on pedaling, smiling and taking it all in. I did do a little bit of “mental packing” – putting ideas and thoughts in little spots in my brain for future reference.

Oh, I suppose I did think a bit about racing since my mind wandered to the excellent training day I had yesterday. Marc and I zipped out to Karl’s to play in his front yard. Karl’s cyclo-cross course is great. Sand. Steep climbs. Fast descents. Mud. Ruts. Barriers. Grass. Can’t ask for much more. The atmosphere of the training session was bang-on with all of us constantly laughing at each other and also learning a bunch as well. I can’t thank the guys (Karl, Conor, Evan, and Marc) enough for their advice, patience and help on Monday. With their help, I conquered the steep climb and with their encouragement made it down the descent. All in all a good time on the bikes.

Now my bikes are clean and ready to be put in bike boxes. I’m hoping to get in a morning ride but considering that I don’t have much done in the way of packing or even collecting stuff to pack, the ride is looking like a distant memory. But you never know, I’ve been known to work miracles before!

Checked the start list for the Aigle World Cup – lots of fast girls on the list (myself included). Looking forward to connecting with my Belgian, Dutch, and Danish cycling friends. Amazing how time and distance are erased as soon as you get together with your cycling pals. I do have to say that I really can’t wait to get to Belgium permanently for the winter. It is a chance for me to put the ridiculous from the weekend behind me and to forget about the silly people. Most importantly, I can get settled into my racing, training and enjoying life in Belgium.

Right now even though things seem a little bit disorganized and crazy, I couldn’t be happier. This time tomorrow I’ll be on my way to Frankfurt and soon enough I’ll be pre-riding the World Cup race course. Life is good. The only thing that could make this trip better is to have Marc come along. Oh well, at least he’ll be there with me in Belgium very soon. I’m looking forward to spending time with my dad – wonder what he’ll think of his first World Cup experience? Perhaps I’ll see if I can get him to write a blog post on his impressions of World Cup racing?

Alright, my tea is getting cold and I really should do some packing….

Fun on Cyclo-Cross Bikes

Yesterday was simply a solid and fun day on the bike. Marc and I stayed home this weekend and raced in our local cyclo-cross series: the Ottawa Bicycle Club Cyclo-Cross Series. This is a fantastic series that offers a welcoming environment, challenging courses, excellent organization, friendly faces, good hard racing and some exuberant fans. Can’t ask for much more out of a cyclo-cross race. I don’t get to race at home much (in fact, I think this might be my only race at home this season), so it was a real treat to get out and race with my local “cyclo-cross community”.

I first started racing cyclo-cross way back in 1994 in this very series. Back then we were a small but dedicated group of racers and it is just awesome to see how this local series has grown to have over 200 racers of all ages and abilities. The one thing the Ottawa Bicycle Club Cyclo-Cross Series has is a true sense of community. This is what really made my day yesterday. I really enjoyed watching the first race and cheering on so many of my friends and then racing in the last race and being cheered on as well. It sure helps a lot when you’re “running” up that darn hill at Laurier Park to hear people cheering you on and giving encouragement. (Thanks so much for the cheering – that hill seemed to get longer and steeper each lap!)

As for the race? Well, I wasn’t sure how I would feel given the health hoops I’ve been through all summer and of late. But I’m happy to say that I felt pretty much okay. I didn’t kill myself out there since I still have to be careful with my energy levels and health. But the legs were turning over fairly well and I felt like I was riding smoothly in the technical department. My goals for this race were pretty simple – good dismounts/mounts, sprint out of the saddle after the remount, no front brake, always pedaling and to look up. I think I did a pretty good job on these goals. My dismounts still aren’t as smooth as I would like – seems to be a timing issue, I’m either getting off too close or too early – but this will come with more training and more racing. I’m very happy with how I was able to stay off my front brake and to remember to keep pedaling while braking. As for looking ahead – this was another checkmark. So all in all, pretty good. But of course there were other things that I noticed that I can improve on – I struggled with maintaining momentum on the uphill barrier dismount – I felt like I was coming to a complete stop, making the run up the hill very challenging. And admittedly, my running was probably the weakest part of my game yesterday – need to think about high knees and fast feet.

Post-race my biggest concern was my fatigue levels. Well, pretty happy to tell you that I wasn’t completely wiped out and even managed to stay awake until 11 p.m! A definitely refreshing change from the past weekends when I was completely wiped out after 40 minutes of racing. It was also really nice to be out there for over an hour riding my cyclo-cross bike. Have to say that grass was pretty soggy in parts! A great day indeed. Many thanks to Bob and Cheryl for giving up their morning once again to setup and manage the race and not to mention the post-race score tallying to figure out how we all did. Also thanks to Bob for being so accommodating and allowing me to race the last race of the day. Thanks to the guys for letting me race with them – hope I didn’t get in your way when you went flying by!

I said to Marc in the car after the race, “I haven’t been this happy and smiling this much in a long time after a race.” What a feeling. Thanksgiving indeed.

(To get an idea of the race, check out this video made by Karl Hoppner. Looking forward to more fun on cyclo-cross bikes with these young guns this afternoon. I can definitely say training with Karl, Conor, Marc and Evan has helped me so much this year. Thanks guys for the help, advice, and encouragement.)

Like a Kid?

Yesterday was just a great day to be a cyclist in Ottawa. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was shining, there was a bit of wind and most importantly – no rain. I seized the day and the weather for another easy ride. The plan was a 45 minute ride… This plan didn’t hold together all that well – I ended up riding for 90 minutes or so. But it was an excellent 90 minutes.

I set out with a loose plan – essentially ride on as many bicycle paths and patches of grass as possible – all in my Ottawa suburb. So this is what I did. I explored a new bicycle path, followed a worn trail in the grass, zipped along busier bicycle paths, hit up some trails by the 416. Really just like a kid who takes off for a “bike ride” I simply followed my eyes, ears and heart. If the right turn looked more interesting, I went right. Big puddle on the left, okay ride right through as fast as I could. I’m pretty darn sure I was smiling the entire time – this is based on all the smiles I received from those I saw out enjoying the fresh fall air.

So you can easily understand how this 45 minutes turned into 90… Can’t blame me really. Great ride. Good sensations in my legs and body. I didn’t push the pace, rather I rode so I could get a feel for my legs. All in all, a most excellent ride.

I closed off the day with a photo shoot with Marc L. Many thanks to Marc for coming out to snap literally hundreds of photos of me rolling along on my trusty Stevens Carbon Team DA and wearing my long-sleeve skinsuit (thanks Champion Systems Canada). The photos are for my rider cards. Yes, I’m finally getting rider cards! Pretty stoked about this. Rider cards are sought after at all the races in Europe – people collect them just like hockey cards here. For the past three years, I’ve had to say “Sorry, I don’t have rider cards”. But not this year! Thanks Marc for the photos and for the work behind-the-scenes with the lay-out. Definitely appreciated.

I realized that in my blog post on Monday, I neglected to tell you about Marc’s weekend racing. Well, it was a weekend of ups and downs. Saturday was a challenging day thanks to an early race collision that resulted in a bent derailleur hangar and this was followed with a flat… But through it all, Marc dug deep and kept on going – I was very inspired by his doggedness. Sunday was a much better day for Marc – he rode very strong and even a late race crash didn’t set him back. It was great to watch him race, cheer him on and then hear all about the races afterwards. Another excellent weekend at the cyclo-cross races.

Today I’m taking it easy. No riding for me. Truth be told, I’m tired. Plus my quads are a bit tight – must have been the running last night. I just got home from my second iron infusion. Crossing my fingers that these iron infusions help. Have to say that the staff at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital have been amazing – super friendly, super patient and just top-notch professionals. So today is all about rest. Maybe a bit of light yoga to stretch out my muscles but other than that, I predict the couch will be my training partner this afternoon!

But before my afternoon nap, I have to take off to do a few errands. Off to The Cyclery to pick up some supplies for next week’s trip to Aigle and Plzen for the season-opening World Cups. Then a break at Sbucks to catch-up with the KingsBridge head honcho.

(P.S. I’ve registered for the Brockville race. Looks like I’m racing the early race. So to all the little kids out there – be gentle when you pass me! Seriously, looking forward to racing at home and to soaking up the supportive vibes of the Ottawa Bicycle Club Cyclo-Cross Series. This is where it all started for me.)

(P.P.S don’t forget to pick up the latest issue of Canadian Cycling Magazine – I’ve got two articles in the issue. One about carbohydrates and training/racing and the other is about cyclo-cross training/skills. A couple of good reads if I do say so myself!)

(P.P.P.S make sure to pick issue 10 of Cyclocross Magazine… There is an article in this issue about mental training/coaching. I was interviewed for this article and I think it reads really well and includes some very useful information.)

Roller Coaster

I feel like I’m in the middle of roller coaster season rather than cyclo-cross season. Roller coaster basically sums up how things have been going so far. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time and clicking over to read my race reports, you can most likely understand why. But just like any respectable roller coaster, my cyclo-cross season is having some solid moments of ups with its downs.

Seems though that these ups are happening when I’m not racing. The ups are happening when I’m cheering on Marc, watching my friends race hard and succeed, and when I’m helping people learn new cyclo-cross skills. Such was the scene this evening. Tonight I helped out the OBC and held a session for a small group of kids/teenagers. In total we had five kids/teenagers all with a range of racing and cyclo-cross experience. A good little bunch of kiddos eager to learn and definitely willing to attempt to rip my legs off. Thanks to Marc and Conor for demonstrating skills and for providing their expert opinions, we had a really good session. Things were kept pretty basic with the focus being on the “dismount – mount” sequence. By the end of the 90 minutes all of these young racers were getting off and on their bikes very smoothly. We played some follow the leader at the end and I was impressed with the creativity the kiddos demonstrated with the route! All in all, a great night of helping out the future of the sport and seeing people thrive. Definitely an up on this roller coaster.

Training wise, well really I haven’t been able to do anything this week. Monday was consumed with preparing for the endoscopy and colonoscopy and then Tuesday was quite literally swallowed and sucked up with these two procedures. My 11 a.m. appointment ended up being at 2:30 – so I was at the hospital from 10 until 4:30… Not like I had the energy or desire to get on a bike when I got home. The only thing I really wanted to do was eat! I hadn’t eaten any solid food since Sunday night and really jello and popsicles don’t count as food…. I took it easy today as well – my body basically had no food left in it so I really just needed to rest and eat. The eating part I don’t mind, but resting is hard. Good news is that we’ve already got some results back. So tomorrow I’m back to the hospital for some additional procedures that will hopefully make a difference. By next week we’ll know even more and keeping my fingers crossed we find out what to do to put this ulcerative colitis to rest (at least until Feb. 1…). So another up on the roller coaster.

Of course the biggest up on the roller coaster is yet to come… It is of course: Gloucester! There is no place quite like Gloucester. Great race course. Solid fans. Excellent organization. Beautiful location. Just a great spot for some cyclo-cross racing. My focus is on having this weekend be full of ups as well. Positive mindset – anything can happen and in my visions, only good things are going to happen. Looking forward to racing, hanging out with our super hosts Mike and Cathy, cheering on Marc, Steve, Conor, Karl, Evan and the rest of the Ottawa crew who is making the drive down, hopefully catching up with Erik B., and just generally enjoying be out on my bicycle.

As the new favorite shirt says:
Do What You Like. Like What You Do.

Cyclo-Cross Tips and Tricks

I held another cyclo-cross practice session last night for a good group of people. The idea for the session was really to get the basics down well. To build confidence with dismounts, mounts and turning – the components that I see as the basics of cyclo-cross.

We warmed up nice and easy with some turning drills, practicing sliding around on our seats to see how this affects the turning ratio and comfort level. It is amazing to see how far people will push their limits when surrounded by others doing the same! Next up was tripoding. I find tripoding is a useful skill particularly in downhill cornering and cornering in loose terrain such as sand. Tripoding can give you that extra feeling of “security” you need to stay off the brakes and let the bike roll.

After this warm-up we switched gears to focus on dismounts and mounts. We took these super slow and easy. Breaking these techniques down to the basics and literally starting off at a walking pace. I find this is the easiest way to learn new skills and to break “bad habits”. Going fast is great – but often speed and learning don’t always mix. One rider had a great break-through last night and became comfortable with the “coast” and moving her hand from her handlebars to her toptube. Awesome!

Finally after all this we broke out the barrier and started to speed things up. We played around with the approach to the barrier with pretty much everyone finding a different spot where they’re comfortable at getting off their bike. In my opinion, the dismount distance is completely individual – it really depends on your foot speed and agility. Same goes for the remount – don’t get caught up in getting back on the bike right away or within two steps – just do what feels right. What is most important is to get off the bike quickly and smoothly, to float over the barrier and to get on the bike without wasting energy.

The last component of our session was to set up the grid and practice a little circuit that involved attacking the barrier and then working on some high speed turns. This gave everyone an opportunity to practice the turning skills we warmed-up with and to do things with a bit more speed.

All in all, it was an excellent night of training. I really enjoy seeing people learn a new skill – particularly the big grin that breaks out when they realize that they’ve “done it”.

As for me? Well, today was supposed to be about motorpacing… But I’m wiped out today with an ear ache, sore throat and a nasty ulcerative colitis attack. (Admittedly I probably brought this all on myself by getting stressed out and putting too much on my plate. Some things never change I suppose.) So today is a recovery day. About to get layered up in my leg warmers, thermal vest and long-fingered gloves for a skills session myself. On the agenda for me: cornering speed and fluid dismounts/remounts. And yes, I’ll be starting off slowly and not going too hard – it is about recovery and learning today.

Just a reminder that this year you must pre-register for the Ottawa Bicycle Club cyclo-cross series. There are two registration dates:
– tonight from 3 – 6 p.m at The Cyclery
– Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m at The Cyclery

Additionally you can register online through the Ontario Cycling Association website. You cannot register on site – you must be pre-registered to race….

To see the Ottawa cyclo-cross race schedule and full registration requirements, visit http://cyclocross.org.