Monday, January 31, 2011

Inspiration

Every fast or fun (or both) ride for me has a soundtrack.  Every slow one too, but they are often far more forgetful.  This is usually only one song repeating through my head for the duration, only coming to the fore of my focus when I let it or when I'm in pain.  It doesn't matter whether that is pain from being boxed or pain from attacking and kicking away from people, it comes up. 

For me the Huka XL was a good fun race, and one that I'm proud of.  The song for this race was Taylor Swift's Love-story (or something like that).  I can't say I'm a fan of this song at all, but it must have been playing close to the start of the race to have been that stuck in my head.  For the first 20-30km I was suffering and getting frustrated so having some teenage bint singing rubbish in my head only served to annoy me more.  However as the race went on and I started feeling better so I started to enjoy the sweet melodies of it...  Not quite to the point of wanting to listen to the actual song, but I have to admit there may have been a bit of tuneless warbling emanating from the forests at times.

Two days ago I rediscovered an old favourite that always gets me going.  This is the song that was in my mind tonight as I dragged the Tuesday night ride up Happy Valley and kicked over the top.  Not an amazing feet, but something that was inspired by this song.  It's definitely not the most amazing song, but it has a history with me.  I first heard it watching 'Roam', the song in question is Boy Sets Fire's 'Rookie' (for those who feel the need to listen to any music suggestions they read online, get onto grooveshark and find it, it is bloody good, but not until you have read where it comes from).  This song accompanies what, for me, is the most emotive piece of mtb cinematography ever.  The section is shot in Whistler with a group of (amazing) riders chasing each other down the trail, just having fun, but riding on the limit, flat out and so fast.  This too me is what riding is about.  I grew up chasing Ben Thomas and Steve James round the trails in Swinley Forest, and this section of film encapsulates that style of riding so well.   I sadly can't say that I can ride as well as those guys, but it's a similar feeling I would imagine.  From the first viewing on, that section has always given me goosebumps, always made me want to ride and always made me ride harder and think faster, to the point where there is no conscious thought, just reactions and experience allowing you to process rock, root, berm and jump. 

As such this song has been The Song for my warm ups, starting with my Junior National Champs ride where I came 3rd, a result I'm too proud of for it's actual position.  But as I have said many times before, I rode as well as I could, I left everything on the track and it's a result I think I deserved.  I wasn't good enough for 1st or 2nd, but 3rd was mine to fight for.  Since then all of my fastest rides have been powered by this song, it just has something over me.  My mind just switches off and pain doesn't matter, only going as fast as my tyres, my legs, lungs and heart will let me.

So that is a little insight into my mind.  As odd as it may be.  Music has a massive power over me.  I miss my speakers so much, headphones cannot do this justice. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The joys of a day in the sun on bikes with mates; Wellington Champs

Turns out there was a bitch of a headwind on the way out to the race.  Thankfully I found a tame roadie to sit on the back of up the Hutt rd.  He didn't seem too miffed at a mountain biker in baggies, tee and with a messenger bag sitting on, although he probably would have liked me to take a turn.  Then managed to tuck in behind an old couplle in their car along the front, gotta love how slow they accelerate some times.  The woman in the passanged seat definitely didn't appreciate that though, got some abuse so stuck my tongue out at her before swinging off around them.  No help up the hill though, just sweating away in the 34-34.  Taking it easy can be a little scary up Wainui!

Got to the start and signed on, spun around a bit,, got some kit on then hit the front row for the XC race.  Had a blinder of a first 50m, led the field, then realised I was and decided that it probably wasn't the best plan.  Probably should have had a little more faith as I ended up one wheel back from the split up Jungle Gym and had to take a dodgy overtaking manouvre to get past the guy.  Sorry for the t-bone, but I had little choice.  Gained some ground on the leaders, but never quite made it up.  On the first descent of Spoonhill I was on it (like a car bonnet!) but it did cost me my one bottle which rattled lose.  I paid for that later in the race.

After that I didn't see the guys ahead at all, and was just in no mans land until Hisky started to catch me towards the top of the second lap.  By this point I had worked out that I had cocked up bottle-wise and had reverted to consolidation, trying not to go backwards and sweat out all of my remaining fluids.  Annoyingly the legs felt sweet and I love the trails up there; just seem to suit my style of riding quite a lot of the time (gutted we didn't get to race Snails, I love pinning it on that track).  Held Hisky off until I cocked up on the last descent, about 200m before the end, with another guy in sight.  Managed to clip a tree, which essentially cost me 2 places.  In reality I should have gone harder up the final climb, but never mind eh.  Live and learn.

Not sure where I rolled in, but it wasn't good.

Next up was the Super D, but not before a spin to the Dairy to refuel with powerade and water.  The Super D was set to run down Bee-line and Bee-line extension, a fun, flowing descent, with a few jumps, a few rolling drops and lots of fun high speed stuff.  Not enough to warant a DH bike (Gav) and maybe not even enough to warant putting the seat down.  The track is around 3mins (with only about a dozen guys going under 3mins) and requires pedalling all the way for a fast time. 

I took an early run and set a good time, although I'm sure I can go faster, I mucked up one corner which cost me a good few seconds, and getting a couple of the jump/berm combinations dialled would get a fair amount more speed without increasing the risk to me and my little xc rig.  But never mind, I think I got a 2:58, one of the fastest pro-elite times, so I was pretty happy.

After this my mind turned to beer, with some talk of sculling a beer a lap for the short course.  Turns out time was against us so short course sober it was.  4 laps of a really short course was what was left in front of us.  Not sure what happened again, did ok, just enjoyed it really.  Descents were fun again, but I was just keen for it to be over.

Now I'm just looking forward to getting my forks back and getting back out on the mtb again!  Road ride tomorrow...

Friday, January 28, 2011

The night before.

I'm a little bored, so what better to do than blog?

Tomorrow is the PNP Wellington champs, a combo of XC, Super D and Dirt Crit racing at Wainuimata Trail Park.  I'll be riding out there again before a 16.5km XC Race; good warm up if you ask me, so long as it's not a head wind!  I rode at Wainiu the other night with Owen, Andy and Leigth (sp?), feeling like a bit of a goon in my lycras whilst they were all in baggies and tees; in fairness though I held my own on the desecents; always love it.  I did manage to kill another wheel though, this time the demo Stumpjumper 29er HT's rear wheel, only thing I can think of that did it was manualing through a roller, I was light though.  Never mind! 

Tomorrow I will be riding my bike again, but with Aiden's Float 140 fork (set to 130mm) as my DT is back at the menders again, play in the bushes, hopefully it comes back fixed this time!  As it is, having the extra 30mm of travel might slacken up my head angle just enough to make my bike more stable on the Super D, should be perfect.  Massively looking forward to the race!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

NZ National Round 2-Napier; starting the season on the wrong foot

Starting with the end, I managed to claw my way through this UCI cat 2 race in Napier to finish a fairly poor (but hard earned) 12th place.  Although I had no real expectations going into the race as I haven't raced these guys over this kind of distance before, I was still hoping to be in the top 10 rather than just outside as I was.  I'll explain a bit what happened in this wee post and probably ramble about a bit too.  It will be less of a VFTP (View From The Pack) and more of a VFTB (View From The Back)...

I had managed to blag a lift up to Napier with the formidable Stu Houltham of National Champs, World Cups and World Champs fame.  It was definitely a preferably option to taking the bus up there, getting to chat away about Stu's racing, studies (currently doing his Masters thesis in Exercise Science, for which he is studying the daily protein requirements for female endurance athletes) and general bits and pieces.  Also thanks to my parents I had a place to stay with some of their old friends, Leigh and Mike.  A massive thanks to them for that and for all they did for me.

Stu and I made the drive up on the Friday, getting to the venue around mid afternoon in time for a sifty 3 laps with current NZ National Champ Mikey Northcott.  Did some line spotting, getting the cheeky inside lines on the switchbacking descent dialled amongst others (a favourite being a corner early on that had a tree near the exit with roots fingering out onto the line; the best line ended up taking the corner pretty wide and hipping out of the exit over the roots.  Real easy but felt great) and just learnt the course.

To give a quick overview of the course, it felt a lot like home (in the summer mind, the dust was killer) in that there was little ascent or technical stuff.  It was going to be a full on physical battle with only one sustained climb in the 6.1km lap.  From the start the course climbed gently for the first 200 ish metres before dropping into the first piece of singletrack which spat the riders out at the base of the aforementioned climb around the 5km to go mark and the site of the 2 way tech zone.  For me this climb was a bottom gear (34T chainring, 11-32T cassette; time to mtfu) job at the start as it was pretty steep and dusty.  However it shallowed out after about 400m into a nice steady climb to the top of the next section of singletrack.  From here on the course was mostly singletrack with little opportunity to pass or drink, so the climb was going to be key.

The course then dropped away sharply into the singletrack before contouring round the hill with some little pinches out of wee valleys before entering the main descent of the lap.  This was a pretty nice descent, which could be flowed through with some skill through the 4 or 5 switchbacks it contained (2 with cheeky inside lines that were significantly faster).  From here on it was kind of a blur of singletrack mostly rolling along the bottom of the valley with only one significant climb for about 200m before the 2km to go mark.

So, getting to the race itself.  I was gridded favourably at 10th (out of about 20, the results aren't up yet, I may be overestimating!) right on Stu's wheel.  From the gun I held my position in around 10th and managed to stay on the outside trying not to get boxed in.  However after about 150m disaster struck.  Having left my old XTR cassette on my race wheels (and having tested it, but not under racing power) my chain jumped out of top gear and that was me on the deck straight away.  Thankfully no one hit me, but I laid there until everyone had passed before hopping up, straightening the bays and getting up and going.  This cost me about 2mins (had to get the tool out and just needed to calm down a bit) so from here it was a case of chasing both the elite and junior field.

I worked my arse off for the whole of the first lap and failed miserably at drinking, getting too caught up in nailng myself.  By the start of the 2nd lap I was up to ~16th I think, having passed a few juniors and other riders.  From here it kind of goes into a bit of a blur of passing and laps.  I did have to stop on the 2nd lap before the climb to change my front wheel having realised that I had buckled it in the crash which cost me a place.  However that was swiftly rectified, taking this person and a further rider on the climb.  After this though it felt like I was in no mans land and by the 5th time up the climb my legs were starting to feel like they would be cramping any time soon.  I pushed as hard as I could on the 5th lap, but as I came through the start finish for the final lap I could see that the person in front had a large gap on me (I couldn't see them!) so I made the decision to play it safe, not risk cramping and just defend my position in 13th.  Turns out this was wise as I passed someone on the climb who was obviously suffering with cramp allowing me to jump up to 12th.

So 12th was the result and my result was 12th...  Not the best, but a ride that I feel relatively happy with considering the lack of speed  in the legs and the somewhat unfortunate circumstances.  I did the best I could and left it all on the track.  I even got $60 for my efforts! Luxury; I can definitely cope with this winning money lark.

All that's left now is to see if I can get that wheel true and recover and train in time for Nelson.  Who knows, I might even try and do some intervals!

Mikey Northcott pre-riding one of the wee valleys