Nothing better than refreshing the mind on the MTB
Last year I tried to juggle racing MTB Marathons with racing Xterra triathlons and even though I was told this was not a very good combination to try make work, by more than one person, I was stubborn and filled my 2013 calendar full with races every 2nd to 3rd weekend.
I was alternating 100km MTB races with 3-4hrs off road triathlons and fitting in weekends work on call in between. My whole life was scheduled. And as a competitive person I wanted to do well and pushed myself to the limit to try climb on that podium as often as I could. Whilst being disappointed if I couldn't achieve my goals.
With an already tired body I followed the Australian season with the European season racing Xterra's and by September my body and my mind were completely and utterly fried. I had nothing left in the tank and although the experience in Europe was awesome, the results of racing with an exhausting body was not.
It took me a while to recover physically and mentally. I signed up with Nico Lebrun for the 2014 season who had experienced my personality through the Xterra season and I knew he would be able to help me balance myself better. When I told him my (ambitious) plans for winter racing and the 2014 season he very honestly said to me "what do you need me for? if you stick to that you will be dead before the season even starts" He made it very clear to me that winter was for sleeping, and that I needed to chill. I listened. And "chill" I did. Literally. Moving to Scotland and training in bitterly cold winter conditions was quite an eye opener, but the stunning scenery I did it in was like chicken soup for the soul.
Winter training in paradise
This year I thought it would be wiser to swap the MTB Marathon format for the shorter MTB XCO format to work on two weaknesses of mine, 1) my MTB technical skills and 2) my top end power. The first round of the Scottish National Series were held 10 minutes from where I live, it couldn't be a better opportunity to start my 2014 season; Trying out the MTB XCO format for the first time so close to home. I hadn't raced since September and with absolutely no race fitness or speed in my legs I knew this was going to hurt!
The course was already completely marked on the Saturday afternoon and very easy to follow. I heard it was one of the lesser technical courses of the series but whilst practicing it my heart skipped a beat a few times!! I have this mental block with pure single track, you can give me the steepest, rockiest stuff and as long as its wide I am fine, but narrow single track and I am one of those people who rides like they need side wheels on their bike's!!
I found it amazing how much variety one can put in a 6km lap!! I really enjoyed the course with lots of different difficulties to keep anyone on their toes. I eyed up the two longer wider climbs as it was the place where I needed to make up time and tried to roughly memorise the course.
Pushing hard on the less technical parts of the course
Race morning arrived and I was nervous, not as much for the race itself though. I was nervous that mentally I would still be weak, I was nervous that I hadn't recovered enough from last season and that I wouldn't be able to push myself. Nervous that I wouldn't enjoy racing and finding out that may be that dream of becoming the best athlete I possibly could be, was not what I really wanted. I always get really nervous before a race, its something which affects my performance and I have to work on it, but never for these reasons. I wanted it so bad in 2012 and 2013 that I pushed myself through all sorts of pain and I wondered how much of that hunger was left in me. There was only one way to find out.
The organisers of the event did an amazing job, there was a very relaxed friendly atmosphere, instructions were easy to follow and before I knew it I was on the start line with the other girls ready to go. It was a small, but like always in these kind of events, quality field. Off we went and as always I got spat out the back at the start, I didn't panic as I was very aware I didn't have a fast start in my legs at the best of times but definitely not this early in the season. I tried to relax find some rhythm in the first bit of single track and waited patiently for the first climb. When it arrived I attacked and pushed as hard as I could. It felt great to be able to ride myself back to the front of the group. I tried to make use of the non technical parts as much as possible and pushed hard to make up for mistakes I might make on the technical riding. The course had a very nice flow and to my surprise I managed to ride quite smooth through the single track for a triathlete!! One lap to go and I started to feel the accumulation of lactic acid in my legs from the weeks training. The joy of a "training race" you never feel fresh at the start line! When I reached the finish I was very happy with the day, not because I came home in 2nd place, because lets face it the big guns were missing in action, but because I loved the race and although the faster crazier XCO format hurts like hell, I enjoyed pushing my boundaries again! The realisation that this is what I wanted and regaining the joy of racing made me very happy.
The whole day was very well organised, watching the kids race must have been one of my favourite moments of the day and I was very impressed with how smooth everything went. A big thank you to the organisers of the first round of SXC series in Forfar for a great event, I have already signed up for round 2!!
After a big break the 2014 Season has finally started!!