Stoked

Dudes, I’m super stoked right now. I’ve got a fire in my belly and really I just need to get out and ride my bike. What has caused this urgent need to pedal, pedal, and pedal some more? The UCI cyclo-cross calendar for 2011-2012 is out… Oh boy, it is going to be a great season.

I’m pumped that the first two World Cups are in the Czech Republic. I really enjoy racing in the Czech Republic and there is nothing quite like racing in Tabor (where I raced my first World Cyclo-Cross Championships). The UCI calendar looks really good. I’m pleased that are a lot more opportunities for women to race in UCI races in Belgium/Holland. To name a few new races for us gals: Overijse and Baal. I race Overijse in 2008 – what an experience – one of the hardest courses I’ve ever done – can’t wait to race it again.

The only disappointing factor in the UCI calendar is the lack of double-header races in the U.S. For someone like me who has to drive typically eight hours to get to a race in the U.S. – this is a long way to go for one race. But it is what is so I can’t complain – just need to get on my bike and ride.

Yep, so feeling pretty jazzed right now. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to rebuild my fitness, build new fitness and to really get my technical skills where they need to be. No issues here – this is just the kind of challenge I thrive on.

Yesterday I was talking with Marc about the World Cyclo-Cross Championships in St. Wendel, Germany… The first year I tried to make the Canadian team, the World Cyclo-Cross Championships were in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands – I didn’t qualify for the team and really didn’t have an emotional connection to the weekend of racing. In 2010 I was honored to be chosen to the team and to race in Tabor, Czech Republic. This year, I did not make the team and really I found this past weekend very hard. I so badly wanted to be there and was thinking about the races all weekend. I guess this is because I now know how special it is to race at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships. I want to have this feeling again.

So, I suppose the next logical step is for me to step away from the computer, to put on my kit and go out for a ride! This is going to be a good season – I can feel it.

Go Time

It is time. Time to get to the airport, get checked in and get on the plane. I’ve been anticipating this day for a while now. But now that it is here, I kind of wish I could delay it for a few days. Everything seems a bit rushed right now. I know I’ll be okay once I get on the plane. But I wish I had a few more days with Marc. A few more days here at home to think and to just be. Don’t get me wrong – I want to go. It is just harder this year to go alone without Marc. (He’ll be getting to Belgium on Nov. 25 and believe me, I’m already counting down the days.)

I caved and ended up bringing a suitcase with me this time. No luck getting everything into two bike boxes and a carry-on. Really the items that took up the most space aren’t my clothing – it is all the Clif Bar product and my ulcerative colitis medicine! Can’t leave this valuable stuff at home. I’ve got my iPad loaded up with a couple of television shows, one of my favorite movies (Up), my favorite pro rider (George Hincapie), and some yoga to stretch the muscles, mind and soul.

Tuesday is going to be a busy day. Build bikes. Get out for a two hour ride – try out both bikes. Get unpacked. Get some food. Beat the jetlag and get sorted out for the first race in Niel, Belgium. Karl and Denise arrive on Thursday – I’m looking forward to showing Karl my favorite training routes and helping them to get oriented with Blauberg, Herselt, Averbode, and the area.

I’m racing on Thursday in Niel and then I’ve got a solid week and a bit of training until the next set of races – Hasselt on the 20th and Apere Gavere on the 21st. I really liked the Hasselt race last year. Asper Gavere? Well, I got through it! This year I’m looking forward to riding better technically at Aspere Gavere – the mud is my friend and so are steep muddy descents!

I’ve been thinking a bit more about Nationals on Saturday. What a day. It was one where so many of us had goals that we wanted to tick off. But just as in life, this doesn’t always happen. I’m taking all the good I can from that day. The good on and off the bike. I got to meet some new people, reinforce friendships, cheer on my good friends, and race my bike. Many thanks to the “kids” for their overwhelming support this season – training with these young guys has just been awesome. Between them and Marc I’ve learned so much already. Thanks to Natasha for the email today about my health issues – it really does help to have some advice from someone else who has been down the same rocky and uncertain road. Things will get better. Soon enough I’ll feel like myself again. I can’t wait to see what I can put together on and off the bike when this comes to fruition.

Alright, I best be off. The clock is ticking and we’ve got to now jam all my gear into the back of our trusty Matrix. If you see Marc out at the races – be sure to give him a hug and a kiss for me and cheer extra loudly for him. Can’t wait to see him on Nov. 25.

Checking in from San Diego

After a whirlwind weekend in Vermont I now find myself in San Diego, California. Sunday was a great day of hanging out at the Catamount Outdoor Center watching the racing action. It was hard not to race but that crash I had on Saturday really did a number on my shoulder.

By Saturday night I could barely lift my arm… So there was definitely no racing for me on Sunday. I thought I had separated my shoulder but thanks to some amazing attention and care from Deb Paulson, I learned that my shoulder is not separated just badly strained. Deb is a massage therapist and she did some amazing release work on my shoulder and gave it a thorough assessment. Thanks Deb for the help on Sunday! The shoulder is feeling much better today. It is at about 75% so I’m confident that it will be fine for tomorrow’s race in Las Vegas.

So with no racing for me on Sunday, it was fun to just 100 per cent focus on Marc and his race. Boy oh boy did he ever have a good ride! It was awesome to see him riding so well and to just keep digging deeper and deeper. I was so proud to see him race so well. Many thanks to Conor for doing the pit duty for me on Sunday – this gave me a chance to relax and hang out with my parents for a bit.

Really the day was just about hanging out and watching racing. I got to catch up with lots of friends and meet new people. Can’t ask for much more from a day. Thanks to everyone who gave me words of encouragement and the odd hug here and there. I really appreciate it. This is a hard and frustrating time but I know that I just have to keep digging deep and pushing forward and good things will come.

After some frantic bike packing on Sunday followed by a relaxing evening with Jenn and Shane I was quickly at the airport on Monday morning at 5 a.m…. What seemed like the longest day ever ended with my arriving in San Diego to connect with the KingsBridge crew at the DRJ Fall World show. Good day at the show capped off with a fine sushi dinner and then I was back to the hotel to build one bike and get some much needed rest.

I had a great ride this morning along the San Diego Bay. I hooked up with a small group of cyclists for a bit and then did some exploring on my own. This afternoon we’re driving to Las Vegas and tomorrow it will be go time. Yes, I’m nervous about tomorrow. But I just have to line up and race as hard as I can. This is all I can do. This is what I will do. Had a great talk with my coach today and I’m feeling pretty good about tomorrow. Looking forward to visiting Interbike on Thursday as well. It will be a whirlwind couple of days but it will be a “good” whirlwind.

Oh, some disappointing news… The UCI Cyclo-Cross Training Camp is canceled. This is a real drag. Upside is I’ll get to race at Gloucester now! Haven’t raced there since I won the women’s 3/4 race in 2008. It will be great to race there again. The real hassle is now I have to change my ticket again… I originally booked my flight for the first World Cup in Aigle, Switzerland on Oct. 17 and then I changed the flight so I could do the ‘cross camp and now I’ll have to change it again… Each time I change the flight it is a minimum $250 charge… Sigh. Oh well, not like I can flap my arms and “fly” myself there!

Well, next check in will be from Las Vegas. Be sure to send me some speedy vibes for around 8:20 Las Vegas time Wednesday night. Thanks again for the kind words, emails and positive thoughts.

Pushing the Reset Button

It has been a few days now since the opening season races and I’ve had more time to think about them. Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that I got what I deserved. I went into Saturday’s race over-confident and when things didn’t go exactly “right” I gave up. Yes, I gave up. I know, I’m not impressed either. As for Sunday, well I should have won that race easily. But I didn’t push myself hard enough. Instead I rode just hard enough and then when I made the mistake in the sand I was scrambling, luckily regaining the lead and then ending up second due to the mechanical. But the thing is, it should never have come down to any of this – I should have ridden harder and smarter.

So today, I hit the reset button. Time to get back on track and focused for the season. This past weekend was good because it highlighted many mistakes – both mental and physical. But now it is time to get down to what I do best and that is racing my bike. Yes, I expect to make more mistakes as the season goes on. But these will be different mistakes. They won’t be mistakes that involve – giving up, rolling over, not going hard enough, or being over-confident. I expect the mistakes I’ll be making will more along the lines of – too much brake, going too hard and blowing up, blowing corners, a few crashes, and forgetting to pedal. Still mistakes, just a different breed of mistake. A breed of mistake that will set me up for being faster eventually – so long as I recognize the mistake and work hard to fix it. And this you can be assured of – I will work hard and I will fix my mistakes.

Racing this weekend in Williston, Vermont at the Catamount Outdoor Center. It is going to be a great weekend of racing, cheering, and hanging out. We’ve got great host housing set up again this year. And thanks Ken and Denise Hoppner, we’ll be traveling in style. My parents are coming down to take in the races and to hang out (guessing they’ll do some shopping as well…). I predict a tasty supper at Moe’s, a visit to EMS, Borders, and Small Dog Electronics. All in all, it is going to be a good time.

It Is Here

Bike shops are hopping. Local parks are full of people doing “weird” things on their bikes. The low murmur about cyclo-cross has risen to a full on roar. People are excited. Racers, promoters, fans – everyone is ready for it. Well, good news is – it’s here. The racing starts now.

Well, not now but for me anyway this weekend in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania. Marc and I are making the trek down on Friday – the trusty Matrix will be loaded with Stevens Carbon Team DA bikes, all the wheels we own, and lots of sharp looking Ottawa Cross clothing. Yes, I’m excited. Can’t wait to get out and race my bike. Seems like a long time coming. Nothing like getting the first race of the season into the legs. In addition to the racing I’m looking forward to catching up with my cyclo-cross racing friends in person.

For those of you who have been waiting to find out about the local Ottawa Bicycle Club cyclo-cross series – well, the schedule and registration information is now posted. I can’t say enough good things about this local series. This is where I first got my taste of cyclo-cross, way back in 1994. I was out racing on my Specialized Rockhopper with toe clips. There weren’t a lot of us out there but we were a mighty bunch of racers. Many thanks to the tireless commitment of Bob, Ian, and Cheryl to continue to volunteer their time to keep this series going.

I actually can’t believe how quickly this cyclo-cross season is going to pass by. Two weeks from now I’ll be in Las Vegas getting ready for Cross Vegas. Then a little over a week later I’ll be on a plane to Switzerland for the UCI Cyclo-Cross Training Camp. By Oct. 27, I’ll have two World Cups completed and then on Nov. 6 I’m racing at the Canadian National Cyclo-Cross Championships in Toronto. Finally on Nov. 8, I’ll be back on a plane and landing in Belgium where I’ll stay for the winter. Busy times. Fast times. Lucky times. Fortunate times.

If you’re looking for a small focused cyclo-cross practice session, drop me an email. I’m holding a session this Thursday morning and have room for a couple more people. We’ll work on dismount/mounts, shouldering the bike, turning, and really anything you want to practice.

Well, I best close this off. I need to get some rest… Tomorrow morning I’m going to be behind the motorbike trying to keep my legs spinning and my lungs from popping out of my chest. Oh yeah, nothing like motorpacing to fire up the body sensations!

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.