At the weekend I travelled to Henham in Suffolk for my first cross country race of the season. I have not been feeling great for the last few weeks, my body and mind have felt tired and I have found things have been getting on top of me in all aspects of my life.
Training between 6 and 12 hours a week, working full time and running your own business does not leave a lot of recovery time, and I think I have now officially burnt out!
I have been ignoring the ‘warning’ signs that this was coming. I have been really tired even though getting plenty of sleep. I had a few little colds, not felt like training and training was certainly not going how I wanted it too and to top it all I felt mega emotional!
This all caught up with me at Henham. I did a practice lap and after the great inspiring session with Steve Manser the day before I felt confident on the course.
My start was not great I missed my pedal and everyone else shot off. Where I can usually recover from moments like this, this time my head was telling my body it was game over and my legs were in complete agreement.
I finished my first lap knowing that the first lap I usually find hard, but this was different. When I pushed down on the pedals I had no power, I felt like I was going backwards, after another lap I decided that I should listen to my body and stop.
I have never pulled out of a race and this was such a hard thing to do I kept wondering whether I made the right choice, was I just being a wimp?
Looking back on my decision it was the right one. My body needs some recovery time and trying to push it too hard on Sunday was just going to mean I would need more time off.
My plan now is a training free four days when I can concentrate on letting my body recover fully.
It has been a steep learning curve for me, I have been training so hard spending every spare moment I have on the bike, working on my endurance doing 5 hour rides and dedicating my time to becoming the best mountain biker I can be. So it is really frustrating when you get to the start of a race not feeling your best and not able to perform in the way you feel you should.
What I have learnt from this is to look out for the signs of overtraining and workout a way with my coach that I can focus on training for the Trans Alp in the most efficient way possible.
Part of my challenge is I am always pushing myself, which isn’t a bad thing, but part of that is I am not very good at saying no and take on too much.
Anyway in every situation there is a chance to learn and improve. I am now on my last recovery day feeling a lot happier and rested.
I look forward to what tomorrow brings….
Sunday was my first XCO(Cross-Country Olympic setyle) race this season and I was really excited about racing the Mud Sweat and Gears series as the races are always really well organised and there is always lots of people to cheer you on!
My Mum Had also decided to try her first ever cross country race which added to the excitement.
We arrived at Henham Park at 7.50, collected our number boards and headed out on the practise lap. Mum had never been on ‘singletrack’ so I had to coach her down a few parts, but I was very proud of the way she handled some of the steeper descents and also obstacles such as logs which she roll over with ease. Well done Mum!
The course was a mixture of fire roads and twisty singletrack through the trees. It was fun and not technical but had one ‘A’ ‘B’ line, where I actually think the off camber ‘B’ line was, in ways harder than the straight down ‘A’ line.
After course practise we had a short amount of time so I went off to warm up, during this time I accidentally managed to ride into a tape barrier which was lying on the floor, which pulled me off my bike quite harshly leaving my left side felt rather battered and bruised. Not the best start!
We gridded just before 10. As I stood on the start line my mind was full of thoughts about the race and the training I had put in over the winter, had it been enough? We stood on the start for a good 10 mins whilst everyone was gridded and my muscles became cold.
As I sprinted off the line I got a pretty good start and was happy with my place going into the first bend. Power endurance has never been my strong point and I soon felt like I had to slow down to recover.
Getting cold had really affected me as my first lap felt like my warm up and it wasn’t until my second and third laps when I felt I was starting to gain on the leading group.
On my second lap I passed Mum just after the only ‘A’ ‘B’ line in the course and she said she had a tumble, but seemed in high spirits so I carried on but felt a bit concerned if she had hurt herself badly.
My the last lap I was feeling really good and crossed the line feeling like I could of done another lap even though I had been working at the top end of what I’m capable of, I felt like I had more to give. I wad relived to see Mum had finished and was smiling!
I finished fourth which I am pleased with and after analysing my results from last year can see that my fitness and pace have improved.
My next race is the Nationals in Plymouth which is going to be my first ever Nationals at elite level. I know this is going to be a tough challenge and feel very excited about the opportunity to race alongside some of the best riders in the country!
Thanks to Bike Fixers for keeping my bike in tip top condition, to Dog Tag for supporting my Pedal 2 Pedal racing team, to Grip Grab for the best gloves and over shoes and Silverback for my awesome bike!
On Sunday I travelled to the final race of the year, Mud, Sweat and Gears at Langdon Hills in Essex.
This was my first ever national series race back in 2012 and since then I have done the course three times and it never gets easier!
The course starts with a climb through a field and then turns into the forest for a short rest bite before turning up hill once more. The course is mainly single track through woodland linked together by open cart track sections.
I did all my usual warming up and course ride and was ready to go. I hadn’t been feeling well and this really affected my race, I felt okay on my first two laps but on lap three a mechanical and feeling wiped out brought me grinding to a halt, almost!
I had to ease off due to feeling un well and this insider ably effected my lap times adding four minutes to my lap.
Having raced this course previously and enjoyed it I was frustrated not to be able to give it my all and see how fast I could race it.
Thank you to Martyn for coming and cheering me on, Velo Virtuoso for all your support, Bounce for keeping me fuelled and Lake for keeping my feet comfy this season.
Yesterday I travelled to Shouldham Warren in Norfolk. This was a new course for the Mud Sweat and Gears series and I was excited about trying it out.
I had not been very well in the run up to the race and had doubts about competing on Sunday but decided as I had made my way half way across the country I should go and give it a go!
We arrived at the course at 8am in perfect time for practise, before the start at 10am.
The course started with a long gentle climb which turned on to a single track which led into the first bomb hole. It then opened up again on to cart track before turning once again into the forest single track. The course was very similar to Thetford in this way and also Dunwich where I have done training, in the sense that it had long sections of single track linked together by open cart tracks.
The course was relatively flat and I knew it would be a fast paced race which would suit my competition. It was quite sandy and loose in places, but because of the fast conditions I decided to stay with hard tyres and loose a little grip over soft tyres which would be harder to push. This worked well and during the race I felt happy and able to carry my speed and only had a few little slips which didn’t effect my race.
My start was not great there was too many riders on the start line and it was hard to get going when we were so tightly packed but I made my way up the hill in touch with the lead riders.
On the first lap we went straight up missing the first bomb hole this is meant to spread out the riders but it didn’t work very well in my favour getting stuck behind riders I needed to get in front of, I waited for the next opportunity to pass and took it. I now had to work hard to catch the others, this is always hard when there is no sight of any one in front but I kept pushing on and soon started to catch up and pass other riders which gave me a boost.
Half way through my third lap I caught sight of Alex Nichol from CCN she seemed quite far away but I pushed on and by the end of the third lap I was on her wheel as we went out into our fourth lap on the hill I took the opportunity to pass. Determined to stay in front I kept focused and pushed as hard as I could and soon when I looked back she was gone. I knew that I had to keep the gap because if she caught me on a long cart track with a 29er she would have the advantage but every time I looked round there was no one there. Coming up the last sandy straight I gave it one last big push over the finish line pleased with my progress and glad that I had raced.
Overall in my category I came third and was fifth girl back out of 19. A great result considering how I was feeling.
I was 14 mins behind Laura Sampson who came first. It took me 1 hour 36 mins to complete the 18 mile course with an average heart rate of 177bpm and max of 186bpm. Garmin data here.
Lap 1: 23.20
Lap 2: 24.37
Lap 3: 24.17
Lap 4: 24.06
Thank you to Velo Virtuoso, Bounce and Lake for your continued support. Big thanks to my Mum who acted as driver, support and chief photographer for the day!
On Saturday I travelled to my parents in Suffolk, ready to take part in round six of the Mud Sweat and Gears series. The alarm went off at 6.20 on Sunday morning and the pre race routine kicked in, oats for breakfast, packing the car, checking I had enough gels and electrolyte drinks, bike on the roof and off we went.
I hadn’t been feeling very well for a couple of days and wasn’t feeling very strong going into this race.
Arriving in time to practise the course, Thetford in Norfolk is a pretty flat part of the country and so the course was mainly flat single track through trees with a slight incline and decline in places. There was one bomb hole which had an ‘a’ and ‘b’ line, this was a simple straight in and out pit so no issue.
After practising I had a banana and cereal bar got my gels and lined up with the others. Today there was five of us in the elite/expert category. I lined up in the middle looking at the bend we had to get round out of the start thinking that would be the best place to start, this turned out to not be the case as the whistle went being in the middle and not the fastest off the line meant I got squeezed by other riders but kept my head down and pushed on. The first lap was short to help spread us out before we entered the singletrack for the second lap.
This first lap felt hard the start had been very quick and my legs felt heavy from not having a proper warm up. I came through the first lap at 17 mins way off the pace I hadn’t had a chance to drink because the ground although flat was rough and I was getting shaken about quite a bit.
Coming into my second lap I felt pretty weak my legs were heavy still and my stomach kept cramping, not a great start when there is four laps left. I kept pushing on riding my own race and trying to not panic about being far behind. To make things a bit more interesting my Garmin fell off my bike which meant I had to stop and pick it up loosing time and becoming a bit flustered about being off the front group.
Half way through lap two my Dad popped up at one of the cart tracks full of support which spurred me on. Going into my third lap he told me I was gaining on another girl ahead and kept talking to me at the gates on the way round, it was so encouraging to know I was gaining on her and getting faster, my legs had eased up and I had been able to drink and had a gel which gave me an energy burst I desperately needed!
I caught up the other rider and over took which again was a big boost, I kept pushing forward riding as fast and as faultlessly as I could. After a while I felt I had lost her enough to start enjoying the race a little more the single track sections through the trees where brilliant and although it felt like you were a rag doll being shaken about the down hill sections were fast as the trees seemed to fly by. Coming into the last lap I felt good and decided to put everything into gaining on the others. The last singletrack section on this lap my legs started to feel a bit tired but I pushed on determined to finish fast.
Crossing the finish line was a brilliant feeling I felt at home on my bike for the first time since getting it and everything flowed together (once I got over the first heavy legged feeling)
I came third in my category and fifth girl back out of 14 which I’m very happy with.
My next challenge is Ride London next weekend and then the last nationals of the year in Staffordshire.
My lap times were;
Lap 1: 17.07
Lap 2: 22.17
Lap 3: 22.45
Lap 4: 21.49
Lap 5: 21.46
Thank you as always to my sponsors and support. Especially to Velo Virtuoso and Geared Up Cycles who keep my bike in brilliant condition, even after I crash it!