Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Waking up to the Sound of Music

The day has finally come! As of 8 pm this evening, I will have boarded an airplane to take me to Munich, Germany. After that will be a short (by comparison) bus ride to Saalfelden, Austria. With the combination of the 8 hour flight and the 6 hour time change, I'm desperately hoping to be able to fall asleep as soon as I sit down on the plane. Waking up upon landing would be absolutely ideal... fat chance of that happening. Good thing I've got my trusty neck pillow and creepy-man-diverter pillow courtesy of the Belisles ;)

When I first found out that I'd be travelling to Austria, I had to look up where exactly that was. I knew roughly where it is (attached to Germany... but that didn't help me much. My knowledge of European geography is somewhat lacking). The flight lands in Munich, and then we drive ~160km Southeast to get to the little ski village of Saalfelden, Austria. In case you guys are in the same position as me, here's a map:

I did NOT realize there were so many countries tucked into Eastern Europe.

As behind any athlete, there are a lot of people who helped get me here. I'd like to thank the following people for supporting me on my trip to Worlds - I honestly couldn't have done it with you:

Jim and Dave Smith from Gowanlea Farms
Grandpa and Grandma Smith
Grandma Turner
The Belisles (Cathy, Steph, Kayla, and Spencer)
The Snoddons (Suzanne, Brent, Cal, and Ashley)

Thank you guys SO much! Your support means a lot to me.

I'd also like to mention the rest of my family... my parents and siblings especially. They put up with a lot of stuff in order to support me; my weirdly busy-but-not-busy schedule, last minute planning, stress of waiting for selections, and many other things that get tossed their way. Thank you guys for putting up with me :) Love you guys!

There are many other people who deserve thanks... my coach, the OCA, the CCA, Norco and Havi... I'm slowly learning that so many people play a part in even just one athlete's life. I'd really like to thank Kevin and Norco for getting me and my bike ready to go. Because of them, I'm probably going to be the most prepared racer Mr Scott Kelly has ever seen. You da bomb, Havi.

T-minus 12 hours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 20 August 2012

my trek to wisconsin

After Buckwallow on Sunday, I rushed back to the 'Bridge to pack and give my bike some TLC before heading to Wisconsin. Team Trek Canada was kind enough to take me on for the week, so we left bright and early on Tuesday morning; Mitch and Cayley in their Trek hats and me with my guard firmly in place against any Trek-ness that may rub off on me (just kidding... but not really). Props to Mitch for driving the whole day to get us to Wisconsin in good time.

I think loving to ride and loving to race are two separate things that don't always go together. Some race courses are so "to the point" (go up this hill and then down it five times) that it wouldn't be very fun to simply ride them - the enjoyment you get from racing them is derived from a weird desire to blow your brains out. More rarely, you have the chance to race a course that is a blast to ride as well as race. Wisconsin was the latter type of race course; tons of swoopy single track, drops, as well as some killer switchback climbs. I was SO stoked to race the Subaru Cup course in Wisconsin.

I was a bit of an anomaly in Wisconsin for the whole weekend. I was the only person riding a Norco, and as such people knew I was Canadian even before talking to me! I was the recipient of tons of cheering on Saturday and Sunday purely for the novelty of being Canadian and riding a Canadian bike.

I had some bad luck on Saturday morning (about an hour before the race) when I realized that my derailleur hanger was bent/cracked and my shifting was really off. Flashback to less than an hour after leaving Barrie on Tuesday morning: "CRAP. I forgot my spare hanger. Oh well, chances are it won't break. It's too late to go back for it anyway". Oh, the irony. Anyways, the guys at Shimano were really nice and got my shifting working, but there was still a huge risk of my hanger snapping if I were to ding it off anything. I was more than a little wary, but I knew there was no sense in letting it throw me off, so I just tried to forget about it.

The XC race was alright (thankfully, my derailleur stayed attached to my bike). I ended up 14th overall, 3rd U23. I felt like I raced passably well - I tried my hardest, but my hardest on Saturday was flat and unimpressive.

The Short Track on Sunday was lightyears better. For those of you who don't know, a short track race is a short loop (1-2km) that we race on for about 18 minutes, plus 3 laps. It can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes, and it is the most painful thing I have ever endured. The short track in wisconsin was full of sketchy, loose corners and had a couple punchy climbs.

My legs felt like garbage in warm up (to be expected after almost 2 hours of racing the day before), so I was pretty apprehensive about how the ST was going to feel. Everything changed on the start line, though, and I was ready to crush it. I lost count of how many laps we did - something like 8 or 9 - I just waited for the bell lap to tell me when the race would be over. Once I heard the bell, I made my attack to overtake 6th place and gave everything I had to hold it for the next three minutes. I crossed the line in 6th overall, first U23 and I couldn't have been happier.

Right after the ST, we packed up our stuff and started the drive back to Ontario. All I can say is Mitch is a champ (he drove through the night to make it back to the homeland). Big thanks to Trek for letting me tag along for the week!

Only 2 weeks left till World Championships!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 13 August 2012

looks like i gotta work on my garter snakes...

First things first: I can't believe the Olympics are over for another 4 years! I don't know where the last two weeks went. The Olympics are my favourite time of the year (after Christmas, my birthday, thanksgiving, and summer vacay) and it's sad to have to put them away until 2016. I'm really proud of all the Canadians that competed at the Olympics, especially Emily and Catharine. You guys are quite the inspiration!

Aside from being glued to TSN and CTV for the last two weeks, I've been working really hard to get ready for 2012 World Championships. The last two weeks have been pretty tough, but I feel like I'm read to go again! I read a quote a while back (don't know where I read it, or who said it, although I'm making it my mission to find out) that said "You think training's hard? Try losing.". That really hit home; it's once of the things that gets me through really tough workouts (in addition to the desire to improve!) and I can tell you I said it quite a lot in my head during the last stretch of training! Of course, training's not all hard - a bunch of my rides were up on the beautiful roads and trails of Muskoka (so fun!), which definitely makes things easier. Being able to jump in the lake after a ride doesn't hurt either.

Yesterday was the first real test since the Windham WC in July: O-Cup #6 in Buckwallow. Buckwallow and I have an interesting relationship... I haven't raced there since 2010, and that ended with a severely damaged rotator cuff and my first DNF (and only DNF) ever. I suppose you could say that it has been a love/hate relationship. It's really technically challenging, and I LOVE that, but it's also not so fun when you eat it on a rock and break yourself AND your bike.

So, after a disappointing race in Sudbury to say the least, and then having more than a month off racing, I was ready to kill it at Buck. I felt good, despite the hours in my legs, and was excited to ride my bike. I had an alright start, but got stuck behind some people in the single track (I've got to work on getting first wheel!). I rode with some other ladies for the first two laps, but by the 3rd lap we had stretched out and I was riding alone. I rode in for 5th, and was 2nd U23. Not my best performance position-wise, but I felt great, didn't crash (the love/hate relationship is slowly becoming one of just "love") and saw my HR right where it should be. On a side note, I wasn't expecting to have so much upper body fatigue, especially since my dad commented on how jacked my "pythons" were looking... I guess Tav was right when he said "pythons? Yeah right, more like garter snakes". My arms STILL feel like rubber (buckwallow is preeeeetty gnarly) - maybe I should work some dips and curls into my training plan haha. Congrats to everyone else that raced, and good luck at provincials! It's been fun racing with you girls. I also want to give an exceptionally big thank you to Havi and Norco for all the support this year. Can't wait until Crank the Shield to see you guys again!

As you probably know from my previous post, I've been selected to Team Canada for the 2012 World Championships in Austria! As the departure date moves closer (August 29th) I keep getting more and more excited. I'm stoked to have a sick race and experience some European culture. On the flip-side, I'm quickly realizing that the trip poses some potential problems. Heading into second year university at Queen's, I have a lot of expenses that some other racers don't have (tuition, rent, books, etc.) and also am unable to have a job because of classes. The trip to World's is going to cost ~$3000, and I'm struggling to scrape the cash together and still have enough left over to feed myself this semester. If you or anyone you know would be interested in donating or sponsoring me for this trip, let me know (by email <> or phone (647)-203-1315) and I'll get a sponsorship package to you. I would really appreciate any help you can offer!

On that note, I received a very nice surprise from Chico Racing yesterday, in the form of a donation to myself and the other Ontarian riders heading to World's. Chico started a collection, and doubled the amount of donations they received! I was really touched by this kindness, and I can't thank Chico and company (and all those who donated) enough. Chico is a huge supporter of cycling in Ontario, and it was awesome to see and be the recipient of such a level of support. Thank you, thank you, thank you! If you're in seeing the results of the race and/or checking out any of the running and riding events that Chico puts on you can get to their website here.

Sorry for the long-winded post! I'm heading off to Wisconsin tomorrow for the Subaru US Cup, so be sure to check back midweek for an update and some pictures!