Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One Week, Two Podiums...

I had a bit of luck with the media around Palmerston North this week. I think my impending trip to race in faraway lands combined with the NZCT Women's tour had the local papers on the scout for stories about female cyclists, so I made three appearances in the papers this week and also seemed to get quite a bit of publicity surrounding the La Femme Fun Ride on Saturday, especially thanks to XALT 110% Sports Performance, who used me on their flyer as "pin-up girl" for their competition (thanks guys!)... So I felt like a bit of a local celebrity here in Palmy this week!

The start of my training week is, really, a Tuesday... Monday is a rest day... A nothing day, in reality, but I guess a lot still happens on that day that I don't really pay attention to... Well, this Monday was when we confirmed our sizing for our new jerseys, which was a pretty exciting milestone for us. Tuesday, I had an interval session, and whilst feeling quite smashed, I somehow still managed to knock out my best average speed yet on that particular loop. Tuesday evening I had a phone date with Coach Sadie and we did some mapping and planning on how we were going to get me through the next three weeks without having me bury myself, but also without losing any of the base, speed or power that I had been working so hard on (it's a surprisingly delicate balancing act!). The thing I think I mentioned in my last blog was that I feel really great mentally at the moment. My head is ready to carry me through anything that my body won't, and that's a great frame of mind to be in going into such a huge undertaking as the Cape Epic. So we made a call to cut a couple of longer sessions out of this week and "freshen me up" a bit for Karapoti in a weeks time... Still some big weekends ahead of me, but not so much hard riding during the week, which will not only help me rest, but will let me tie up some loose ends before I go. We figured that realistically, to back me off now would have very minimal negative impact (if any), but for me to overdo it right now could have some pretty serious repercussions, so it was really a bit of a no-brainer to cull a couple of sessions.

The above meant that Wednesday, instead of 3 hours worth of hill reps, I had a half hour active recovery, which was actually a real relief. It also meant I got to head out to Massey Uni and check out the first stage of the NZCT Women's Tour, which was really cool. Watching hard Women race their bikes is always awesome and the strength of the World Class field present at this race is truly inspirational. I also headed to the doctor Wednesday afternoon to get my medical clearance form signed off for the Cape Epic. My resting heart rate was measured at 48BPM (in the middle of the day!) and my blood pressure at 90/60... It wasn't until I looked up a blood pressure chart afterwards that I understood why the doctor checked it twice (no wonder I have to sit on the edge of the bed for a couple of minutes before I stand up in the morning!)... This training has obviously put me in pretty good shape!!!

Thursday morning was my usual plyometrics workout and the afternoon saw me out in heinous winds doing sprint reps for an hour. It was bloody hard work and with 70km/hr gusts, I was having some pretty sketchy moments. I still wasn't feeling too well. I'd had a sore throat since Tuesday now and was starting to develop headaches. Friday was another rest day, asides from completing a morning core workout and I was hoping to shake this bug before the weekend. Saturday, I was supposed to be doing a 100km training ride then jump in with the La Femme Ride, but I made the call on Friday night that if I still had a sore throat when I woke up in the morning, I'd ditch the 100km pre-ride and just do the race. I really can't afford to be getting sick now and I know from experience that sore throat combined with long ride will manifest itself in a good flooring (so best to avoid that!). I was also rather stoked to receive a couple of packages on Friday... One from Adidas Eyewear containing my new MEGA Orange Evil Eye Pro Half Rims (in small size) and clear lenses for them and my Supanova glasses, and a second package from Jakub at Avantiplus Waitakere, who helped hook me up with my new Garmin Edge 500. New toys! Yeehaa!

When my alarm went off at 5am on Saturday morning, I still had a sore throat, and as much as I wanted to force myself out for a nice long ride, I knew it wasn't a wise decision to do so. It also wasn't really THAT hard to convince myself to switch the alarm off and have a sleep-in... So that's what I did (yep, I am human, after all!). At 11am, we watched the pro women doing the NZCT Tour roll out for their start and the La Femme "Fun" Ride rolled out not long afterwards. It was an interesting mix of riders doing the La Femme, and when the neutral vehicle pulled away at Terrace End, I was actually a little surprised at how quickly the pace picked up. It quickly became evident that not all of us were treating this as a "fun" ride... After all, we did have timing chips on, and there were prizes to be had and egos to feed, so off we went at race pace. I was actually really impressed at how large the field was (there were 61 ladies on the start line of the 50km race!). We have a great community of female cyclists here in Manawatu, and a huge range of speeds and abilities, but everyone just seemed so stoked to be out on their bike with other like-minded gals, which I thought was really cool. We were sitting in quite a large bunch which was surging backwards and forwards (which is pretty normal for such a big bunch). It needed to be broken up a bit for the greater good. I used a couple of small climbs to test the pack a bit and see who the faster riders were who could stay with me when I attacked. It looked like there were a group of about 5 or 6 ladies who were up for a little breakaway group. About 20km in to the 50km race, I was taking my turn at the front, glanced behind me and realised that a number of these stronger ladies were at the front of the bunch with me, which made it an ideal time to put in an attack. I added a couple of gears and took off up the hill. When I first looked behind me, I was by myself, and then about 10sec later, I was joined by two other riders. We had a bit of a chat and decided that we would make a go of the break. We had a good jump on the pack, and then two other riders bridged the gap and joined us (one of which dropped back off pretty quickly). So there were four of us working in the break with 25-30km to go. It took us a little while to get ourselves organised to work together, but once we had our little team rolling through efficiently, we were motoring along. Just quietly, I was pretty chuffed that I had initiated the break, and I was pretty intent on keeping away from the pack and maintaining the break to the end of the race. We didn't dare look back... We just kept our heads down and rotated through. I was really impressed by the work ethic of the girls in the break with me. There was not one of us that backed off that whole time. We didn't talk or sit up or look behind us... We were all on the rivet the whole way from the time we left the peloton (and my heart rate monitor confirmed that for me at the end when I saw I had averaged 90% of my max for the whole ride, which meant I probably spent the majority of my time in the break at 95%). One thing that had noticeably improved since the Bev May Tour for me was the strength of my seated climbing and my average cadence. I was maintaining my cadence and conserving energy really well, which I was very pleased with. We had one minor hiccup en route, when we missed a turnoff where we hadn't been directed properly by the marshalls. To be fair, they were also directing the pro women, and us being the first group through for the La Femme may have been a bit confusing for them, but it probably cost us about 30sec, and had we realised just how close the peloton was behind us at that point, I reckon we may have started panicking (ignorance was bliss on this occasion). As we came down Stony Creek Road with about 7km left to go, the lead vehicle pulled alongside us and yelled out the window "you have forty seconds on the peloton"... Shit, seriously??? Only 40 seconds??? We had been working so bloody hard, and to be honest, I thought we would have had way more on them than that, but the truth was that we didn't. I hit the panic button a bit at that point. I couldn't imagine anything more brutal than having initiated an attack and managing to hold it for 30km only to be gobbled up by the peloton on the finish line... There was no way I was going to let that happen... I was sitting in the draft of one of the other girls at this point and I remember yelling out "ok, let's go... Let's finish this off"... The pace didn't change and I realised that she was starting to get tired. I jumped on the pedals and passed her, towing her in my wake, and we picked up the pace as a group by quite a number of notches. One of our little team dropped off the back, leaving just three of us to rotate through. As we hit Napier Road, I was getting pretty bloody tired, too... And it was obvious that there was going to be a sprint finish between the three of us. I was under no false impressions. This last kilometer was going to hurt a lot... As we entered the last 300m, both girls were in front of me. I got up out of the saddle and sprinted my guts out passed one of them. My legs were burning with lactic acid. I ignored it and pushed on, then started gaining on the other, but it was a bit late to catch her and I finished second by a matter of meters. I later found out that the winner was a rather accomplished sprinter at a world masters level, so I didn't feel quite so bad. In the end, we came in about a minute and a half ahead of the peloton, so we picked up quite a bit of time in our final 7km push for line. It was a really bloody honest day in the saddle, and thank God I didn't do that 100km ride beforehand! We knocked out 50km in 1 hour 30 minutes at an average speed of nearly 34km/hr! The La Femme "Fun" Ride (I use the term "fun" very loosely in this context) was an awesome day out on the bike. It was challenging and competitive and it catered for a wide range of riding abilities. It was also incredibly well-organised (the race packs, post-race lunch and prizegiving were fantastic!). Definitely one to put on the calendar for next year!

Sunday was an early start. Up at 5.30am and on the road by 6.30am to head to Eskdale park in Napier for round 4 of the NZCT National MTB series. I had decided to jump in with my age category on this one, mainly because there was paperwork I would have to fill out to race elite (and I'm pretty sick of filling out paperwork with my upcoming trip!), but also because I knew my health hadn't really been all that crash hot this week and I wanted to get in a full training session without being lapped out. The start was a bit of a funny one. I heard the starter say "go", but I don't think anyone else did, and I took off like a rocket out in front of everyone (I thought at first I may have false-started!). The course was a real "fitness" course, as opposed to a technical course and it suited me quite well. I felt surprisingly strong and fast. The first small climb up past the feed zone I was quite comfortably pushing out seated in the big dog, which I was pretty happy with, then a nice piece of singletrack connected with the bottom of this absolutely brutal granny ring climb which seemed to go on forever. It was, however, the only big climb on the whole course, so once it was over with, the rest of the course was pretty fast, agile work (I was glad to see that climb behind me on my last lap!). After the climb, we undulated across the top of the ridge then dropped down onto Switchback trail. Apparently Napier had some rain the night before and it made the steep, tight switchbacks sketchy work for the first couple of laps. By lap three and four, I had figured that you just stick your front wheel in the rut and let the back wheel slide around wherever it wants to go and you would make it around in one piece at a reasonable pace. Then there was a really fast piece of singletrack straight through to the timing tent. If you picked your lines right, and stayed light on the bike, you could really pin it through there at a solid pace (and I think I did that pretty well today!). I felt really strong for the full four laps (although a little hungry as the timing of my breakfast was a bit off with the travel in the morning), and I lapped very consistently, too, which is pretty cool. I came in 1st in Masters Women, although it was disappointing that there appeared to not be any other ladies in my category (I know you guys are out there!!! Don't make me come and get you!!!). It would have been nice to be able to validate the fact that I had a really strong ride against some other competitors, although I did quite well against the other age group women who started at the same time as me. I ended up having a cracker of a day! I waited around for prizegiving and then headed straight home for an afternoon nap and some refueling. It was a lovely day out and I was so tempted to hang around in the sun, but I really needed some rest.

So now we are just about into the three week countdown for my trip. Most of the loose ends are tied up, with a couple of little outstanding bits and pieces (insurance... really must get onto that!!!). This week was a really good confidence week for me, and it was quite nice to see that once I backed my training off a little, my legs came up pretty fresh to put in some good efforts. The hard work is done now... I just need to maintain it and look after myself (and survive Karapoti and the Perverse Reverse next weekend!).

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