One Week

Really hard to believe that in one week I’ll be sitting in a hotel room in Toronto, ON getting ready for the Canadian National Cyclo-Cross Championships. Amazing how quickly the season comes. It seems as though we wait all spring and summer for cyclo-cross season and now that it’s here, it literally feels as though it is slipping through my fingers. This is a good thing.

I must admit it is nice to be racing Nationals in November rather than the traditional October Thanksgiving dates. But on the otherhand, if Nationals has been in October, I’d more than likely be writing this post from Belgium thinking about racing in Zondhoven and the Koppenberg Cross. Nonetheless in a week from Monday, I’ll be on a plane bound for Belgium. Gee I think I’ve been writing about this plane ride in pretty much every post this week – can you tell I’m excited?

So training is coming around again. I’m starting to get more energy so I’m now able to do some harder and longer work-outs. This is a refreshing change. On Thursday I had a long and rather torturish date with the trainer, the power meter, and my stop watch. Luckily I had Dragon’s Den (a CBC program) and the Ultimate Fighter reality show for company. Nothing quite like watching entrepreneurs sweat it out in front of deep pockets and watching guys step into the ring and literally get punched in the head – for some motivation. Push biking seems pretty easy after this!

To end the training day, I spent the majority of evening at the Queensway Carleton Hospital getting my third iron infusion. It was a long night (5 hours) but worth it. I have to say the staff at this hospital (particularly the nurses) are just excellent and are very patient with the interesting people that come into the emergency ward. Looks like I’ll have one more infusion before I leave. Hoping that these last two infusions do the trick and dig me out of this anemia hole. I am feeling better every day but now that I’ve started training hard again, I have to be careful to monitor my energy levels.

Bundled up for the coolish air and strong winds today for an excellent recovery ride. I hit up the trails I recently discovered for some fun and relaxing riding. These trails aren’t overly technical but the trail is very narrow and has a lot of twists and turns in it – so it is perfect for working on keeping the feet turning over and always looking ahead. Have to say it was nice to be in the woods out of the wind as well.

This weekend is looking good. Kicking off Saturday with a run and then ending it with some cyclo-cross riding with the EMD Serono young guns and Marc out in Kanata. Should be a good time – hopefully the guys take it easy on me! Sunday is race day. Well, not for me – I’m doing a rather intense training session on the bike instead. Two different sets of intervals and a long ride. But I’ll be out at the race on Sunday as well – plan is to end my ride at the Kanata Rec Center in time to catch the end of the first race, hop on the course for a lap or two and then watch the last race.

Since this is my last weekend at home for quite a while, I’m looking forward to getting some things done around the house, to relaxing a bit, catching up with some friends, spending quality time with Mr. Murphy and my favorite guy, and just generally enjoying life.

I’m wearing my Life is Good shirt right now and I’m pretty pleased that I can smile and say “yes I am Doing What I Like and Liking What I Do”. (The Life is Good slogan is: Do What You Like. Like What You Do.)

Back At It

Well, I’m back home in Ottawa. Definitely was awesome to travel and race in the first two World Cups of the season but it is also pretty special to be home. The 12 day trip was pretty darn good with every day really being a separate adventure. Where would I ride? What would I see and discover? What would we see while driving and touring around? What would the race courses be like? How many friends would I bump into and catch up with? Each and every day was filled with such experiences. Pretty darn good for 12 days.

But I must say it was nice to wake up in my own bed this morning, albeit rather early (4:30 – thanks jet lag). It was also refreshing to simply hop on my bike for my ride and not worry about getting lost and trying to memorize the streets signs and all the left and right turns…. I’m always one for adventure but sometimes the training goes more smoothly when I know that I won’t get lost or end up on a fast moving highway in Germany.

I had a great talk with my coach Steve Weller of Bell Lap Coaching. We talked about the past 12 days of travel, training and racing. Going into these World Cups I knew I wasn’t on top form but somehow I managed to forget this and expect a top form performance from myself. Luckily Steve knows me very well and understands what I’m going through right now. I’ve got a great training plan thanks to Steve that will take me into just after the Koksijde World Cup on Nov. 27. I’m looking forward to getting out on my bike and doing some intensity and long rides again – I’ve really missed this.

Today my ride was just what I needed. I got out on my ‘cross bike for an on-road/off-road ride. I hit up some bicycle paths, rolled along some bumpy grass trails, more bicycle paths and finally made it to a fairly underused local park. I rolled along the gravel path taking a few side trails along the way that emptied into a quarry. So far so good. Then I spied a very small opening in the grass…. An undiscovered trail – cool. Well, what a cool trail it is – twists, turns, up, down, rocks, roots, leaves, pine needles – it has it all. Maybe my Fangos pumped up to 50 psi were a bit much for the trail but I still made it through – besides it helps to get used to the rear wheel slip sliding all over the place. A great ride. I had Pearl Jam blasting on my iPod and the sun was shining – and luckily no sign of “jet legs”.

Tomorrow the action starts with some intense intervals. As nice as it is outside, I’ll be doing this ride in the basement on the Computrainer. I’d love to do it outside but I don’t have my SRM on my bike yet so I’ll be in the basement. No biggie really – I want to make sure these intervals are as high quality as possible and often this is better achieved on a trainer. I’ll be sure to get outside for the recovery portion of my ride.

Looking forward to this Saturday when we’re hooking up with local young and fast guns for a cyclo-cross ride. Should be a good one. I do have to go for a run beforehand – but the run will only make the ride that much sweeter. (Still amazes me that I ran a marathon once… Now a 20 minute run feels like work!)

Can you believe that in two weeks I’ll be back in Belgium? Hard to wrap my head around it. I’m really only home for 10 days and then I’m gone. And next weekend I’ll be away in Toronto racing at the Canadian National Cyclo-Cross Championships. Pretty fast and whirlwind but this is what keeps me looking and feeling young!

I’ve moved up on the UCI points ranking – I’m now in 55th spot. Not bad. But I’d like to get into the top 50 again and keep my spot there. I’ve got 47 UCI points – I need 75 to get into the selection pool for the Canadian Team that will race at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships. I’m not stressing about this points chase race. Nope, I’m sticking to my commitment to go out and have fun on my bike – I’ll line up with a smile on my face, I’ll stay relaxed, no crazy nerves or stressing about points. Nope – time to just go out and appreciate being able to do this.

Alright, my tea is getting cold and it is time to catch up with dirty little television show addiction – Top Chef Just Desserts….

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.)