Today was the start of the Carpathian MTB Epic, a three day stage race in Romania. I was under the illusion the 10km prologue would be a gentle introduction to the beautiful mountains surrounding the resort. I was in for a shock!
The day started pretty chilled breakfast and working out the jigsaw of putting the bike back together after, what already felt like, epic journey to get here.
After packing my camelbak in the heat of the Romanian afternoon I wasn’t entirely convinced carrying a bag was the best way forward, but it was too late to go back to bottle cages now. The music playing loudly and the chilled out vibe reminded me of the Trans Alp and as the sun shone I made my way out onto the course.
10km doesn’t sound like a very long way but it soon felt like it. The climbing was insane! I always knew it was going to be, it’s hard to practise for ‘mountains’ in Southern England but I kept pushing forward, knowing that it had to end eventually, didn’t it?
The ground was loose gravel and rocky and traction was proving tricky. The first descent was steep but manageable down a grassy bank, this brought you back into the area over two little jumps and then back out and up.
This final climb finished with two switch backs and then a short descent onto a gravel road which took me into the woods. I felt at home in the wood it was cooler and felt more like home riding the trail was loamy and I enjoyed making my way through the trees. Until, I got to the first ‘A’ line, when you see three downward pointing arrows you know its worth having a little peak before jumping in. I am glad I looked.
Nerves have always been a nemesis, I know everyone gets them, I seem to tie myself in knots quite easily pre-race and the knots had not released my brain yet so my feet hit the ground and there they stayed until I was at the bottom. Mind-set is something I find fascinating, how one way day it can just flow and on others not so. Whether your approaching a steep descent or your own ‘steep descent’ being able to think clearly enables you to react in the way you want to. Lets just say today there is a little fog in my brain and thinking clearly is hampered!
Anyway, back to the course after another fun section through the woods it was back to the climb a long an arduous single-track trail, the jumps and drop offs soon made me realise we were riding up a downhill track, the climb got so steep it was taking all my efforts just to keep the front wheel on the ground. I decided pushing may be more efficient and got off I am not sure if this was the case and what felt like a long time passed before the gradient eased out enough for me to remount.
After the ‘hairy’ descent and brutal climb it was just a case of staying on two wheels back round into the arena. With a sign of relief to see the white arch and flags again after what had been a testing adventure.
After a shower and sitting down to write down my thoughts on today it was a mental and physical battle, but one that I did enjoy, I think. The Carpathian team fitted an extraordinary amount of gradient, obstacles and work into 10k it was packed full of surprises no kilometre was the same.
Tomorrow it gets a little more serious! 60km 2,700m of climbing… I feel tired just thinking about it.
This post is a little different instead of a story of adventure I asked Michelle Reed creator of Basecamp Nutrition, bad ass mountain bike racer, and of course super team mate for the Bike Trans Alp to share some nutritional wisdom and recipe selection to getting those pedals turning through the winter.
But first.. an introduction from team Basecamp.
Hi everyone, my name is Michelle.
I am a South African currently living and working in Germany. I am a qualified BSc (Hons) Nutritional Scientist and currently completing a Nutritional Therapist diploma. I have a great passion for living a healthy lifestyle and helping others create the same for themselves and their families.
My aim is to further my studies to become a sports nutritionist and to always keep up with the latest and greatest in the world of nutrition, to educate those who require my services.
Remember health is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.
Hey guys, my name is Tom.
I am currently living and studying in Bayreuth, Germany. I am doing my masters in Sports Economics with a focus on competitive sports.
As a competitive cyclist, currently riding for a German mountain bike team, Kreidler, I have gained a lot of experience regarding what to eat and what to avoid.
With all the knowledge Michelle has and my experience as an athlete, we hope to present you with a lot of great recipes that will support your healthy lifestyle.
Never lose the fun when cooking and eating! The recipes presented here should only give you an idea. You can (and should) adapt them to your very individual taste.
Healthy recipes for winter training
In my (Michelle’s) opinion an athletes performance revolves around 3 aspects; head strength, physical fitness and nutrition. Nutrition is one of the easiest ways to help improve performance and keep your body well conditioned.
Training through winter is never an easy process and it is the time of the year when many are preparing for their upcoming season. Come rain or snow training comes first to ensure you are earning that 1% over your competitors. The long hours in the saddle are accumulating to set up a strong base for the new season.
With intense training and a change in conditions, your body is put to the test in more ways than one, which makes taking care of it highly essential. This means supporting its processes in order to ensure that you are recovering quickly and not catching any colds along the way.
As a natural process with the increase in training, comes an increase in cortisol and inflammation. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is not only secreted at the sign of a stressor but also during intense and prolonged exercise. This natural increase has a tendency to lower immunity, which is why during this time many athletes battle with illness.
In order to help support your body by strengthening immunity, aiding digestion and absorption of nutrients and regulating inflammation, it is important to eat foods that hold the properties to do so.
Here are the links to our healthy recipes to keep you going through winter.
Breakfast – Warming raspberry oats
Lunch – Broccoli salad
Dinner – Pumpkin soup
In 2016 a couple of friends had completed the first ever Alps Epic, having followed their progress I decided this was the event for me in 2017, so when I noticed the early bird offer of €500 I entered straight away.
The Alps Epic is a pairs event but I hadn’t even thought that far ahead yet and just entered with a plan to sort the partner bit out later.
After posting on Facebook that I had entered I got a message from a friend who I had been riding with a while with a local club and within an hour he had entered as well and that was the partner issue sorted.
The next few months didn’t really go to plan with training and I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t anywhere near as well prepared as I could have been.
Jump forward to June and after a full day at work the car was packed up and off we headed to Dover to get a 10pm ferry to France, I then drove through the night until we reached a town called La Plange which was around a 4-hour drive from the race start, we had 2 nights here before then driving down to the start town of Montgenvre.
One of the first things we noticed was how cold it was at 1800m plus above sea level where we were staying which got me concerned as I didn’t really have any warm clothing with me except a Gillet and a waterproof top, so on route to Montgenvre we stopped off in Val D’isere and I managed to get myself a warm top.
The sights on route driving through the Alps were amazing and the #cantcopythealps is very fitting, for anyone that has never been it should be a must on your list of places to visit.
We arrived in Montgenvre and found our accommodation for the night, this night was €50 for the night and included food as well which was perfect so no hassle as this would be where we would stay for the next 3 nights.
We completed our registration and collected our packs and numbers.
Stage 1 was a short Prologue stage and didn’t start till the afternoon, I found this really tough, a combination of the altitude and heat, yes after all my concern a couple of days earlier of it being cold, it wasn’t it was really warm, mid to high 30’s every day.
After finishing stage one I noticed my chest felt tight, I thought nothing of it as it had happened before and I had been told by the doctor that it was probably just a cramp and nothing to worry about, it settled within mins so I thought nothing of it.
The next day was the first proper stage, loop back to Montgenerve of 61 Km and 2750m of climbing starting with a 7km climb.
All started off well and we got into a good rhythm on the climb until James chain snapped, after quickly fitting a power link we carried on and soon reached the first feed station, we didn’t take much as both still had a fair amount in our camel backs and there was another feed station in 20Km, so off we went onto the next climb before our first taste of the proper descents, tight switch back after tight switch back.
We passed through the time cut off point and started the climb to the next feed station, this is where I really began struggle and noticed I had the route sweeper and medic for company on an Ebike.
I pushed on to the feed station and by the time I made it there I was not in a good way, I sat down in the shade and took on some fluids and food as the medic checked me over before telling me I needed a drip as I was very dehydrated.
They called down to race HQ and another medic arrived and took over, allowing him to carry on following the route, James also carried on and finished the stage.
Meanwhile I had a drip put in at the feed station and was taken back down to the race finish in a 4×4.
At Race HQ I was given a once over by the event doctor and ate his salted crisps before being given the okay to carry on the next day.
The next day the plan was a different one and I took 3 litres of Torq Energy in my camel back and 2 x 750ml of Hypotonic drink in a bottle, by the first feed station a lot of this was gone, we filled everything back up and carried on. Unfortunately, we missed the cut off by a matter of minutes at the next feed station and couldn’t carry on the stage.
Day 4 was a much better day and we started well, apart from forgetting my gloves which led to some sunburn on the backs of my hands. We settled into a long climb at the start and the descents again were incredible and like nothing I have ridden before, this included a full on bucking bronco moment at 30mph that I somehow managed to keep hold of. The 29er carbon Hardtail was defiantly not the bike of choice for this event. We completed stage 4 in 7 hours 40 minutes.
Unfortunately, I was still struggling with getting my breath and even walking upstairs or a slight slope was hard work let alone riding a bike for 7-8 hours, I was also bringing up all kinds of funky stuff when I coughed! So, after a chat with James and the event doctor I decided to miss stage 5 and see how I felt after that.
So, I spent day 5 helping the organisers with laundry and whatever else I could do to help, unfortunately I was still not feeling any better for stage 6 so I sat it out and let James ride with a couple of guys from Oxfordshire with a team name of the Gnarly Nutters.
I was gutted to have missed the finish of the event but sometimes you just know something isn’t right.
The after party was great with lots of free beer and a huge BBQ. The food and hospitality throughout the event was incredible and everything was taken care of from your laundry to your bike.
At the end of every stage you racked your bike, it was then taken and washed before getting a once over from the team of mechanics before being taken to the over night secure storage area, all you had to do was check your tyre pressures and lube the chain and away you go again.
There was also massages at the end of the stage all included in the price and a huge buffet of food to refuel you along with an evening meal and huge and varied breakfast every day.
Everything was thought of and done for you, all you had to do was ride your bike, eat, sleep and repeat.
On returning from the event I visited my GP and was given an Inhaler and have since been diagnosed with exercise induced Asthma.
This is defiantly an event that I will be coming back to again maybe as a mixed pair with an eye on a podium.
I have learnt so much from this event and hopefully it will all help me in my next challenge.
Next year I am taking on the Transpyr solo, but I’m not making the same mistakes again. I was nowhere near well enough prepared physically and the work on that has already started with the help of my new coach and Mountain Bike Stage Race and Marathon Racing legend, Sally Bigham, who is really starting to put me through my paces and will have me in the best shape I can be in come June 2018.
I have also changed bikes and I’m now on a Santa Cruz Tallboy 2 full Suss with dropperpost as opposed to a Cube carbon hardtail 29er.
Camping and Mountaineering
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What are your dreams made of?
Next week I reach the ripe old age of 30! This is a super scary thought for me, I don’t know if anyone else feels the same but in my head I had this elaborate portrait of what being 30 would look like. I would have a lovely house, husband, dog and maybe kids with a great high flying job in marketing probably in London. Well I guess I am almost there I have an incredibly supportive boyfriend, a slightly mischievous dog and a lovely house a.k.a building site because buying a house in southern England is like selling your soul to the mortgage company.
Just writing this has actually made me feel better about myself, It’s often the case that we take for granted what we have. Especially in todays ‘social’ world where every image on Instagram shows just a tiny slice of other people’s worlds, and usually it’s the good stuff you see!
I have taken the time recently to take stock of all the amazing memories, people and achievements in my life that make me grateful each day to be who I am. I am however, a great believer in always pushing forward and have goals and aspirations, dreams that I want to reach.
I have not had a ‘normal’ career path but I have certainly learnt who I am along the way. Starting with a degree in fashion, I still remember my interview and convincing my Dad that the black suit dress was not the best option and instead opting for a far zingier outfit. They must have liked it because the next thing I knew I was starting Uni in Southampton and couldn’t of been happier. Southampton was brilliant I have awesome memories learnt a hell of a lot about life, love, friendship and fashion of course! I also learnt that the fashion industry was not for me. After three years working hard on my degree I found myself back at home feeling rather delated and not sure what to do next. Not to be knocked down by the first hurdle I decided these feelings were normal and that’s feeling down was not constructive. After some soul searching I found my way back to my comfort zone of the class room and started my Masters in Marketing Management at the same time as being an intern for the university. This was a fantastic opportunity to keep learning (pushed way outside my comfort zone) and earn money. Win win.
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This time I left Uni with a direction and a drive to earn money! This drive landed me in a job in telecoms…. Que feeling totally confused and disinterested in trying to sell Voipe (I still don’t know what this is 7 years later). This first taste of employment taught me to search deeper and that money was not the bee all and end all.
Some would say ‘fate’ created an avenue to pursue my own path for a few months whilst I recovered from a back injury. This was my first taste of working for myself and I lapped it up. The thing I loved about working for myself was problem solving for clients. Whilst I had been an intern the Director of Marketing, who I reported too, was far too busy to give me things to do so I went off round the university and found ways I could improve the business services by listening to my colleagues and trying to solve their problems. I loved the creative freedom of thinking on my feet.
After my back injury Pilates was my way back to health, as well as biking this is where my hunger for living a healthy balanced lifestyle grew. I had always loved being outdoors but now being outside was an escape it allowed me to release tension and feel alive again. I spent so much time walking the country lanes with my Mum whilst I recovered, I loved the silence and peace I found in walking. My passion for biking was re-ignited when I could go further and needed a non-load bearing exercise.
After a while of working for myself again came the drive to earn money, also the drive to be closer to Martyn, living at home in Suffolk with a boyfriend on the Isle of Wight was not ideal!
So I returned to Southampton and my first taste of the real marketing world working in an agency. I enjoyed this new challenge in a fast paced industry where every 15 minutes counted towards a client’s bill. An opportunity came my way to combine my passion for health and fitness with my career in marketing and I was soon re-locating to Surrey. Surrey Sports Park the most beautiful gym I had ever set foot in! I had great fun at SSP working with the sports performance and fitness teams in the marketing department I also love being able to train at lunch and have free membership to this fabulous facility!
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This was also where my coaching journey began and I did my cycle coaching award and then coached at the Sports Park. I enjoyed my job but the 45 min commute was meaning I couldn’t coach or train as hard as I wanted to and my passion for cycling had grown to racing and after working my way into elite level at cross-country I wanted to dedicate more time to my sport.
Moving to Dreams Come True was great I had a brilliant boss who was very flexible and working for a small charity felt homely and fitted well with my values.
Working at Dreams, where we help young people with serious illness achieve their dreams has made me think about my dreams and goals. As a coach, it is so rewarding watching kids and adults work on a bike skill and then by the end of the session leave with confidence and more ability than when they started. Some of the kids I coach have been coming for four years and it’s the best ever feeling looking at where they were and were they could potentially go as gifted young riders. One of my life goals is to never stop learning and with this in mind I decided to take the plunge and learn how to be a Pilates instructor. I have seen first-hand the benefits Pilates has given me. My goal for 2018 is to combine my cycle coaching with Pilates and offer wellbeing programs for women and girls where I can show the benefits of leading healthy lifestyle through cycling, getting outdoors and maintaining a good strong core and working on posture and alignment.
It seems scary writing this down because it makes it so real. This is my goal and I am on a journey to change my view point in life. As my Dad would say ‘happy are those who dream dreams and are prepared to pay the price to see them come true.
I’d love to hear some of your life goals and how you are going to make them happen so please get in touch.
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