The transition from racing XC to endurance races

The transition from racing XC to endurance races

I started racing cross-country mountain biking four years ago, after being inspired by the Olympics to get out and give it a go.

last year I decided to try a new challenge and turned my attention to endurance racing. This is a very different type of riding which is as much about mental strength and physical.

Here is a little video about the transition. Please subscribe to my channel and follow my blog for more updates on training towards my next challenge.

The Trans Alp.

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Mud, Sweat, Gears and over training

Mud, Sweat, Gears and over training

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….

 

National Cross Country Series Round 3, Fforest fields

National Cross Country Series Round 3, Fforest fields

This weekend I travelled to Wales for the third round of the British Cycling Cross Country Series. Arriving at the venue on Saturday it was clear there was going to be some good climbs ahead! I set off on my practise lap eager to get in a couple of practises, as the course turned out of the arena you were it with the first climb the first section was a bit muddy this crossed a fire road where it then opened out and started to climb more steeply after the second bend my body was ready for some down! The next section was good fun singletrack weaving through the trees to an A/B line. I felt good so went for the A line it was steep and twisty but as long as you looked ahead and kept the bike moving it was manageable, I made a note to come back and practise it again!

After this came an open fire road and then more climbing! After the second climb came my favourite section a fast descent through the trees with some technical roots and steep off camber sections. The next part included obstacles such as a stream crossing, log jump and a little more climbing!

I felt happy with the course and went and chilled out with Vanessa from Arrow Cycles.

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Race day came quickly and I was soon being called into grinding in between Mel and Vanessa on the back row. I got a good start as the riders in front piled into the tight grassy bend I followed Vanessa on the outside, thanks Nessie! I pushed hard on my first climb but as always found this first explosive start left me with a bit of an energy debt which I needed to pay back and climbing this monster hill was not helping me do so!

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The singletrack came as a relief and I worked hard to catch the rest of my category with a few riders in sight I kept pushing on, my first two laps seemed to go in a daze, I worked hard to catch and pass Emma and new I needed to get enough distance between us on the climbs as she was fast coming downhill. On the third lap in the final section a girl in the expert category crashed badly in front of me and after moving her bike out of the trail and looking at her knee I decided I had to help her to a Marshall, a few riders including Emma passed me and said they would go get help, thanks to those who did! Heulwen who had crashed and I made our way gingerly down the trail using my bike to support us both until a Marshall came running towards us, I left Heulwen and got back on a little cold but glad she was now in good hands and could get some proper first aid. I carried on but new my next lap would be hard as I felt like my body needed to warm up again!

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Overall there were lots of positives from my race, my climbing improved as I went on, where I sometimes find steep off camber turns hard and enjoyed the challenge and felt faster in technical areas.

Also my nutrition was a lot better than usual I managed to eat more pre and post-race and benefited from this.

Thank you Emma for talking to the marshal’s and exchanging places!

Thank you to Bike Fixers for keeping my Silverback Syncra 2 in tip top condition. Thanks also to Grip Grab, Dog Tag and Arrow Cycles for once again adopting me!

Lap times:

Lap 1: 00:25:56

Lap 2: 00:24:43

Lap 3: 00:26:32

Lap 4: 00:26:28

Southern XC Regional Champs Wasing

Southern XC Regional Champs Wasing

Southern XC Series Round 3 Wasing

After a not so successful round last time I was feeling a little apprehensive about my next race. After spending three hours working on my manuals on Saturday with Scott form Fit in No Time I felt a lot more confident and went out to practice the course on Sunday feeling more confident in my technical ability.

The course was a mix of singletrack and fire road with technical bits dotted through the trees. The first technical A/B line I decide on the B line not too convinced in my ability to manual for the double log drop. There was then a sharp left hand bend to a fire road climb which I found tough but manageable. After the climb the course worked its way back into the woods and soon the next technical feature was in sight this was a series of log steps, after watching someone roll over them I had a go and found, as with most technical ground, keeping momentum was the key to success! I had another go to make sure I was entirely happy and found a slightly better line straight down the middle which felt a bit smoother.

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The next A/B/C line which had been heavily featured on social media and was interesting to say the least! I decided the B line was the best option and had two goes to make absolutely certain I was happy.

The rest of the course made its way through the forest with a couple more A/B lines to choose from. I enjoyed the course and felt happy. Lining up on the start I got a good start leaving the arena in 4th place, the first climb was hard on me as it always takes me a while to kick into gear!

Southern XC 2015 R3-120

I was at the back of the field and got over taken by a few riders, I worked hard to pull them back and by my third lap had overtaken four people (not in my category) my plan was to keep consistent lap times which I accomplished.

I had a slight dilemma on my third lap when I reached for a gel to find they were all gone! They must have dropped out around the course. I had a little bit of a panic but new that all I could do was keep going and just drink more of my High Five 4:1.

Lap times:

Lap 1: 22.24

Lap 2: 22.37

Lap 3: 22.42

Lap 4: 23.14

Lap 5: 23.35

I finished happy with my progress finishing only 12 mins behind Cat Ross which is a huge improvement on two weeks ago! It would have been interesting to see if I had been able to have another gel whether that would of made the difference in my final lap times however, my lap times are a lot more consistent than usual which is one of my targets, so overall my best race so far this year and looking forward to Nationals next week!

Southern XC 2015 R3-157

Thank you to Southern XC for putting on great courses. Thanks to Karen and Fred for picking me up and cheering me on, well done to Fred who came second in his race Karen who came sixth in hers and Edith who started her first race. Great progress all round for the Pedal 2 Pedal team

Thanks to Grip Grab, Bike Fixers and Dog Tag for your support.

Southern Cross Country series round 2, Crow Hill

Southern Cross Country series round 2, Crow Hill

Today was the Southern Cross Country series at Crow Hill, in the New Forest. This was my third race in 3 weeks. So feeling a little tired and having  done nothing all week due to a swollen ankle, preparations were not their best.

I had been unsure all week if I should race and finally decided on Thursday that as the race was only an hour away it was worth a shot and hopefully I would gain some more points towards my ranking.

Arriving at Crow Hill I felt relaxed (unusual for me on race day) as I had taken the pressure off by saying just go along and ride.

Practise went well and my ankle felt alright and as long as I clipped out gently,  it didn’t cause too much agro. The course at Crow Hill is great, relatively flat with twisty sections in the forest, tied together with fire road. It was rather slippy in places and a few tree roots were already starting to lose their bark and reveal white flesh which was being polished under so many people taking the same line!

I finished my practise lap in time to see Fred, who I coach and who now races for Pedal 2 Pedal, ride home to take third place in the under nines race. After watching his podium, feeling very proud of his achievements  I went off to warm up.

Arriving on the start line I still felt calm, which was a nice change from my normal nervous feeling!

Start of the cross country race at crow hill, new forest

The race started on an incline and I got a great start, unlike last week in the Nationals and left the arena in fourth position. This huge burst of energy cost me though and as I recovered in the single track and the path opened up I was over taken by a couple of riders but kept pressing on.  A silly mistake on a corner in my first lap ended my grip on the group and cost me greatly in time.

I pushed on and felt okay during my second lap, even enjoying it to a certain extent. I hadn’t managed to take on as much water or food as I would usually, but as I was taking it slightly more gently than usual I thought I’d be okay. This was not to be the case and as I pulled up the hill ready for my third lap I knew my pace had dropped to a crawl! I pushed on the pedals but my legs had nothing left in them. My heart rate had dropped to around 166bpm so I knew I had loads more to give,  but my strength had been sucked away and my tired legs felt heavy.

Someone once told me that when things are tough, all you can keep doing is the right thing, so today that’s what I did. I kept turning the pedals and pushed as much as I could making the most of the downhills to recover and altering my cadence to ease the pressure on my legs and ankle which was now starting to feel a bit sore.

Racing southern cross country series

Coming into my fourth lap knowing I had two more to go was hard work. When you have lost touch with other riders it makes it ten times more difficult to push on because you have nothing  in your sights to push on to!

As I was coming back round to cross the arena Cat Ross (Specialized Ruslip) over took me, I felt a wave of disappointment at being lapped as well as a tiny bit of relief at not having to do a fifth lap.

Every race I learn something different. Today I learnt that a big sprint start will cost me dearly in energy so to make sure I am fuelling well.

Thank you to Bike Fixers for making sure my bike was in tip top condition, Grip Grab for keeping me warm (I needed my leg warmers today) and Dog Tag for your support with Pedal 2 pedal.