Monday, 29 May 2017

The Early Season

Hellllooooooooo from the summer-vacating, stress-free Soren!
Can't say I was anything better than stress-ridden just over a month ago during exam time, finishing up my second year at McMaster University. After coming back from B.C. mid-semester, I was annihilated by midterms, labs, and then exams every week. Training was tough with uncooperative weather and I got sick a lot. It definitely wasn't easy, but with my great friends at school, we were able to persevere until the end of exams. And in the end, I was very happy with my final grades and seeing my hard work pay off. During exam weeks I had my first races in Ontario!

The Ontario cup season began at Woodnewton where we had the full Trek Canada Team together for the first time of 2017! I had a great battle that day with Elyse Nieuwold and played my tactics just right to come away with the win! It felt amazing to be back on my beloved Trek Procaliber for the race season and to look so FAST in our new team kits!

That weekend I also did a Fast and a female Champ chat in Dundas, ON! It is amazing seeing all the young girls faces and attitudes light up as they get involved, active, and inspired throughout the afternoon. 

After finishing off my last two exams that week, I was racing Paris to Ancaster. The 70 km spring classic road/cyclocross race definitely had classic spring conditions that's for sure. It was pouring rain before the start (luckily lightened up for the race), was very cold, and there was STRONG west-ward wind that made for a nasty head wind 90% of the race. Let me tell you, that was not a good day to have bad racing legs. After a couple weeks of heavy training and school, all the physical and mental stress made for a tough race. It was still a fun time in a masochist type of way, but I was so happy just to be done.

But wait, after draining all my energy in that gruesome weather, I ALSO had to move student houses right after the race. I seriously cannot thank my dad and Tyler Orschel enough for helping me move houses after they both raced as well.
After moving student houses, I finished off my day driving 2hours home to move back up North to Orillia for the summer.

I was so beyond excited for chill time at home - I was desperate for it. After a good week of physical and mental re-cooperation, I was starting to really soak in the summer vibes. It is just sooooooo nice to be able to train on my bike and at the gym, then ACTUALLY have time to do some recovery after!!! What a novel feeling!!! No more running from classes to training, then back to classes, then quickly making food, then training, then cramming in homework..... at least until I'm ready for that crazy busy schedule again in the fall. I really do love my university life, but a lonnnggg summer is needed to reset.

The next weekend was the second Ontario Cup at a new venue in Kingston! Unfortunately, the insanely rainy weather made for floods that ruined the course despite the race organizer and local volunteers best efforts to keep it mostly ridable. After how ridiculous the second Ocup with because of snow last year at Duntroon, I have deemed this the #CurseOfTheSecondOcup.  Both the past two years at the second Ocup, I have had to run with my bike more than ride it. The trail could have easily been mistaken for a swamp. Luckily for me, my XC running background came in handy yet again and I was able to finish with my second Ontario Cup win!

After a couple weeks of training, I was driving out East again for Canada Cups #2 and #3 at Mt. Tremblant and Baie St. Paul.
At the same time as these races, the first two World Cups were happening over in Czech Republic and Germany.
These are the early season world cups I went to this time last year, but I decided not to go this year. It was a difficult decision as I always want to aim for the highest level and represent Canada, but  it was in my best interest for overall season performance and long term development to stay home and get quality training and recovery for this time of the year.
I definitely felt like I was missing out of all the European action, but I loved my time in Quebec with Trek Canada as well! Over the long May 2-4 weekend in Tremblant, I had a decent race and was content with my 4th place finish! This was my first top 5 result in an Elite Women Canada Cup which was awesome, but I also didn't feel completely on form during the race... like I just couldn't tap into my top potential and the legs weren't there.


The next few days I went to Bromont for some training with Peter Glassford and Molly Hurford. It was great hanging out with these two, and hearing all about Molly's Shred Girls books! She put her photography skills to use with our team photo shoot in Tremblant and took some great shots of me in her Shred Girls shirt at Bromont. You can order the Shred Girls book and order one of these t-shirts here:

 I absolutely love staying at the National Cycling Centre and riding the Bromont trails... it was so hard to make sure I wasn't riding too much so I would be race ready for that coming Saturday!
The Baie St Paul Canada cup was another late 4pm start on Saturday, and the course was the most dry I had ever seen it. This highly muscular, rocky, rooty course was so much fun at the high speeds in the dry conditions.
As soon as the whistle blew, I knew I finally had good race legs. Off the start I was in second on Maghalie Rochette's wheel and we got a gap. This gap grew throughout the race, and Mag was able to get a gap on me. For the entire race I was riding by myself in second position. I was very impressed with myself during the race and how good I felt ... I kept thinking it was too good to last and I would blow up soon, but that feeling never came!

However, things got a bit exciting on the last lap. I have never experienced cramping during a race before, and my quads started to twitch on the last lap, threatening to seize up completely. I wanted to push super hard to the finish, but I knew I had a good gap between myself and 3rd and should find places to spin easy to avoid completely cramping. I was successful at this, and 1km to go on the last descent I went off the big gap. Every other lap I felt like I hit this gap really well, but I landed nose heavy and completely face planted. I was up before I had registered that I was down but felt heat from my nose. I looked at a guy on the side of the trail and asked, "Is my nose bleeding?"  All I got was a wide-eyed, shocked face with aggressive nodding. My thought processes started off with: I need to get to that finish line and not waste this great race on a stupid mess up. I decided I was good enough to ride downhill to the finish, so there I rode, with a waterfall of blood pouring out of my nose.  I still haven't seen a picture of this finish line horror scene.

I quickly cleaned myself up and headed over for the podium! (Wearing the checkered Quebec Cup Leader's jersey)


Congrats to my Trek Canada team mates on their strong races, and a big thank you from all of us to Taylor Near for coming out to be our trusty mechanic and race-feeder! We couldn't be doing all this without the support and amazing equipment from Trek Store Toronto. The Trek Store is hosting the 4th Canada Cup at Hardwood Ski and Bike on June 18th, so come out and check out this awesome event!

Saturday was also an amazing day for Quinton Disera! So proud of him for winning his first Elite Canada Cup, and as a 1st year U23! Also incredibly happy for Peter Disera who rode to 3rd place earlier that day at the World Cup in Germany!


June 10: 
Fast and Female Champ chat at Horseshoe Resort on June 10! ALL girls 8-18 are invited for an afternoon of fun activities and inspiration with elite-level, super inspiring ambassadors.  REGISTER NOW at

June 11: Canada Cup at Horseshoe Resort
June 18: Trek Store Canada Cup at Hardwood

Monday, 13 March 2017

Winter Base Miles

Training has picked up and become a little more focused since the New Year as more specific race preparation is beginning!

In early January, I was in Thousand Oaks California for a road-riding training camp with MTB NextGen Team! This was my third year coming to California for winter training, and Thousand Oaks is definitely my most favourite spot in Cali yet.  I have also been to Santa Barbara area and San Diego area, and they also had incredible riding, but Thousand Oaks was very close to so many mountainous climbs and twisty descents that head right for the PCH and Malibu. All the roads were in pristine condition and there were bike lanes everywhere in the more populated areas.

Twisty routes

As many of you probably know, California has been getting hit with some NASTY weather this year! At least they are no longer in a drought... but now they have flooding! Most days were rainy and about 13 degrees, but we never actually got rained out of a ride and we did have a couple sunny, warmer days. I thought we had gotten the worst weather of the year for Cali, but the weather has actually gotten much worse since we left so the NextGen team was actually very lucky.

Up in the clouds

We were down south for 2 weeks and spent a lot of time in the saddle. It always surprises me how fast time goes by on the bike when you're riding somewhere new with friends. It feels like you're on an adventure, discovering new routes and new mountains, checking out the scenery, and just hanging out with friends.  Definitely not hard work at all! Ok, there definitely was some serious time in the pain cave, but that's just a part of the fun.

Loved the isospeed decoupler on the headset and seatstay on my Trek Domane
Found Team Quebec and joined in for a ride!

NextGen was lucky enough to have our Nutritionist, Ashley Armstrong, come down to guide us through nutrition that would help us fuel up on the bike, stay hydrated, and recover better. Every morning we would test our urine hydration to try to drink accordingly, and we would see the difference between our pre and post ride weight to determine sweat loss. Ashley also brought some amazing recipes that we cooked up for dinner... my favourite has got to be the Black Bean Burritos (recipe below!).  I have yet to make them since (it's on my to-do list, trust me), and so I'm not sure if I was just incredibly hungry or they really are as good as my taste buds remember!

Jeff Ain, the MTB NextGen Coach, was our saviour in a marshmallow.  That probably sounds very odd and let me explain: Jeff sat in the big, white van and drove around all day while we got to ride.  He gave us a safety net and carried out extra bottles and food in that support van so that we could have quality and quantity training. Now, if that's not the definition of a saviour I don't know what is.

I missed the first two weeks of my second term of school while in California, so going back home was a slap in the face with reality. It took some hard work to get caught up in school but it wasn't too bad. I was very happy to come back to Hamilton with no snow on the ground too! That only lasted about a week though before I was stuck riding the rollers because of cold, snowy weather. I only had to ride inside a few times a week though, as I was going home every weekend to ski my brains out! Even though there was some snow in Hamilton, it was nothing compared to the amount of snow up north in Oro Medonte! Since I hardly get to go home between September to Christmas, this time of the year I really love it whenever I get to be home.  Surrounded by my family and home friends, sleeping in my own bed, and obviously getting dinner cooked for me! I also just LOVE LOVE LOVE Nordic skiing so much, and I really miss being a competitive skier, so whenever I get the chance to ski my day is made.

This is probably my most favourite term of Kinesiology courses I have had yet! I have Neuromuscular Fitness, Health Pyschology, Chemistry, and my favourite: Cardiovascular Fitness. They are all just so relatable (except for Chem) as an athlete, and I really enjoy what I am learning (except for Chem).  Well, Chem isn't THAT bad... it is my elective so I can't complain too much, but it definitely isn't as fun as my Kin courses.  After getting through the first round of midterms in all my classes, my spring reading break begun and I was off to Victoria, BC for a training camp with MTB NextGen and the National Team!

I spent just over 2 weeks in Victoria at Bear Mountain Resort leading into the first Canada Cup race of the 2017 season! The first week was filled with lots of hours training with the NextGen and Elite National Team groups.  Hartland is my most favourite place I have ever ridden and I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to train there a lot.  My first ride felt very choppy as I had not been on a MTB, let alone ridden challenging trails, for many months... but I soon was able to gain back my flow on those technical trails. 
My main gal

Photo Creds: Kevin Light

Rides with views >>

I stayed in a rented house with Sidney McGill and Quinton Disera right by the Bear Mt. race course and hotels - it was a perfect set up!

The NextGen athletes got to do a VO2max test at PISE to see improvements from the fall test! These tests are very challenging and put you deep into the pain cave, but I always look forwards to them because it is such an incredible opportunity to have high level physiologists monitoring your performance indicators through power, cadence, oxygen inspired, carbon dioxide expired, and lactate.

The weather was amazing the first week of training, and a little too amazing because then we got hit HARD by snow.  Lots of snow. Luckily, it was a Monday and everyone's rest day.  All the National Team athletes went down to Victoria city to go bouldering and go out for dinner.  I had never been bouldering before and I gained such respect for those bouldering athletes! It was so much fun and a different type of challenge I hadn't encountered before.  My forearms and fingers sure felt the different type of exertion!

Five days later it was race day. The course was insanely muddy and slick leading up to the race, and I was very excited for a mud fest! This race is ridiculously early in the year for a Canadian series and I, like many others, wouldn't exactly say there were "race ready". In the middle of the base-mile season, this race is a good indicator of where you are at and what you can work on for the next race ... over 2 months away. That being said, I went into this race will a fairly chill mind set - for sure wanting to do well to show for all the training I invest year-round, but not focused on huge results this time of the year.

The course was very old school style! It was a long loop where you can really only see the racers once per lap, and it begun with a 15 min single track.  Yup, a 3 min start climb, then essentially no passing for 15 minutes. The course was constantly rattling you around with rocks and roots... but I still fully enjoyed my Trek Superfly hardtail! It was a very fun race course overall, but there was no big exciting technical feature or climb.

As per usual at Canada Cups, the U23 category starts with the Elite category.  Beginning on the second row, I started the race and gave it my all up to the first single track, not wanting to get stuck behind a slower technical rider.  I was happy with that first big climb effort then settled into my race pace knowing it was going to be at least another 1.5 hours until the finish! We had 4 laps to do, and I was alone for most of the race.  Technical fatigue started to hit on lap 3 as I had many stupid, little mistakes that cost me quite a bit of time, but I had a strong 4th lap and charged for the finish trying to catch 2 girls I could see just ahead. I crossed the line as the 1st U23 and 11th elite! I would say my arms and hands where just as sore as my legs at the finish line from holding onto my bars.
Photo Creds: Jay Wallace

Happy with that performance, but more so determined to improve, I am now continuing my winter training blocks with higher aspirations!

Oh ya... then there is that school thing.  I missed school to go to BC so there was lots of catching up to do and midterms to write when I got back to Hamilton. I am currently sitting in my student house, watching a big winter storm hit, dreaming of warmer weather and riding outside...
only 1.5 months left before I am done exams and off for summer!

Until then,


Friday, 30 December 2016

2016; A Catch Up & Look Back

I realized that I have really been slacking lately... it's been half a year since my last blog post! What has happened since World Championships?! I'll try to give the important details and not make this a novel about the second half of my 2016.... 

The mountain biking race season continued, and honestly I felt quite burnt out. National Championships was a disappointing race as I just felt like my tank was empty and I couldn't find the leg power, similar to how I felt at Worlds.  After riding in around 10th the first couple laps, I begun to ride up through the field and finished in 4th. I was happy with my semi- come back, but still disappointed leaving Quebec. 

First time ever racing a full-suspension bike on the Top Fuel 9.8! 

I then had a MUCH needed rest week and begun my focus for my final race of the season: the Mt. St. Anne World Cup. This was my first World Cup race in front of a home-Canadian crowd and it was super weird staying with my parents pre World Cup race!  I was riding in 8th for most of that race, finally feeling like I had my energy back! The St Anne course is definitely the most physically demanding course I had ever ridden.... suffering up long, steep climbs then having to stay focused for very technical sections down. I learned that I have to work on my bike handling while fatigued at the end of a race because I had some pretty major mess ups that cost me a lot of time. I went flying over my handle bars on "The Beatrice" (it was spectacular and I didn't even get a good picture!!!), which caused my tire to burp, leading to other little crashes through the whole last lap. I felt like I was just scrambling to get to the finish.  My goal was a top 10 and I was able to nail that with a 10th place! I wasn't ecstatic about that performance but it was a good finish to my race season. 

My body and mind finally got the real break it was needing. August was a month of true care-free summer for me. I LOVED IT. Usually, World Championships is in September so I'm very race focused through to the end of the summer, but this year was different as Worlds was earlier, so I enjoyed August to the max. It was filled with lots of cottage, family, and friend time. My childhood best friend and I went on a camping/ hiking trip in Banff! We wouldn't have been able to do that without all the help from my Uncle Winne and Aunt MB who live out west, thank you both! 


Then it was back to McMaster University... but this time living in a student house! This semester I've been living with 4 awesome girls, most of whom are in Kinesiology with me and some also on the running team with me. I ran this fall again with the Varsity running team! Our ladies team was strong this year and we had some great races.  My courses have been Musculoskeletal Anatomy, Growth, Maturation and Physical Activity, Biomechanics, and Chemistry. I worked hard studying and it paid off as I finished with grades I'm really happy with.

Even though I had a 40% midterm the day of the Fast and Female Ontario summit, I was able to make it for half of the event! There were many incredible ladies there as ambassadors - about half had been in Rio competing just months earlier. Fast and Female never ceases to put on anything less than inspiring and super fun events for young girls. 

Trek Canada MTB Team has been a never faltering support pillar for me, and I will continue to thank them for all the top-end equipment and race support through 2016 and into the new year! 2017 will be my 4th year on this team, which really feels more like family.  Barry Near, owner of Trek Store Toronto, is the hero to us Trek Canada folk, and huge thanks to Taylor Near for the mechanical support year-round! 
We had a team event at the Trek Toronto Store back in earlier December, at the "Saddle, Sore" book launch. The book was was written by Molly Hurford. Trek Canada team member and manager, Peter Glassford, talked along side his wife Molly about coaching and introduced our 2017 Team. Next year, come see Sarah Fabbro, Jon Barnes, Peter Glassford, and I representing Trek at the Canada Cups, Ontario Cups, National Championships, and many local events! 

I also got named to the Next Gen MTB team, based out of Victoria, BC! This is a U23 training team coached by Jeff Ain, with strength coach Adam Keelberger, Nutritionist Ashley Armstrong, physiologist Paula McFadyen, and mental performance coach Danelle Kabush. I am SO grateful to have such incredible team mates and coaches. 

This will be my first year working with Jeff Ain as my full-time coach, as I am no longer being coached by Kevin Simms. Kevin was everything anybody can search for in a development coach and I 110% recommend him to anyone. We had many many successful years together and I owe much of my performances and my physical and mental toughness to him. Thank you Kevin for 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012...  and for being one of my greatest teachers. 

 Jeff as my new coach is the next step of my athletic development.  He is an excellent coach and I'm VERY excited for 2017 to travel around the world with him and the Next Gen MTB crew for training camps and racing! #POWERFORWARD 


I want to send out a massive amount of appreciation to Erik Sesbreno, my nutritionist, who has been working closely with me for a year now. He puts so much effort into his athletes and I'm very thankful to have his brain power behind my fueling!

Thank you to the Ontario Cycling Association, OHPSI, Mike Suraci, and Sean Kelly for the training camps, the healthy athlete weekend, race projects, and other support throughout 2016. 

Morning Glory Cycling Club was a huge help this year with their bursary for developing cyclists. 

As a Hammer Nutrition Ambassador this year I got to learn even more about their amazing products and show others how they fuel my training and racing. 

Thanks to Smith Optics this year I had unbeatable eyewear for every training session and race in any season or weather. 

The National Team, including head coach Dan Proulx, the mechanics, and physiotherapists, made it possible for me to race over seas at world class events with world class support. This was my first year really with the National Team crew, and I look forwards to many more years!

I had some injuries this year that would have seriously impacted my season had it not been for the magical Larry Bell and Laura Hutchinson, my fantastic chiropractor and physiotherapist! 

AGAIN, enormous shout out to Trek Canada MTB Team, supported by Trek Store Toronto and Trek Store Barrie. 

Am I forgetting anyone?
Oh! MY PARENTS! Of course, thank you and I love you, I love you, I love you to my mom and dad for supporting my athletic and academic dreams every step of the way. 

So what do I think of 2016? I think I can do better next year - bring in on 2017!

Monday, 11 July 2016

World Championships

Nove Mesto Na Morave: the best race venue I've been to yet! Three hour drive from Prague, this biathlon stadium and open, pine forest made the most fun course with lots of roots, rocks, and jumps! 

At Worlds, there is 3 days of XC racing; day 1 is Junior men and women races, day 2 is U23 races, and day 3 is Elite races. However, this year it was different and the U23 men and Elite women raced on day 2, and the U23 girls and Elite men races on day 3. From the past 2 years, I'm used to racing first, so this year I found it difficult to have to wait until the last day to race... especially since my friends were done racing and care-free well before I raced. 

Team Canada stayed a 40min bike ride away from the course, and we rode to and from the race site each day for training. I have never had so many days between flight arrival and race as I did here... I didn't know what to do with all the time I had to prepare on course! With that extra time, I was really able to recover from jet lag, travel fatigue, and still get enough quality time on course. By race day, I had my lines and the features dialled! I was confident and smooth on the rock gardens, gaps, doubles, and fast flowy single track. 

After watching the first two days of racing on the local live sports TV channel, it was finally my turn to get the action. 
I was the last call up to the start line, starting on the last row. My start was difficult as I got boxed in, so found myself chasing from behind beginning the race. 

Our race was 1 start loop + 4 full laps, and overall, from start to finish, I couldn't find my usual race spark. In the past 2 world cups, I was gaining ground on the climbs with awesome power and spark in my legs. But in Nove Mesto that day, I felt flat. There was nothing in particular that was wrong, and I felt perfectly prepped and trained for this big day, but it was just one of those unfortunate days where your body doesn't quite cooperate. 

Despite my body not enjoying the climbs, those climbs were incredible because I was able to really take in the crowd. I have never seen or raced in front of such large and LOUD crowds before! Another bright side is that I felt great technically that day, and I got some air time for those cheerers. This was an insanely fun course, so I did actually have fun in my race despite being disappointed with my performance and result. 

Those days happen... but extraordinary good days also happen and I know that will be coming my way soon. Some fellow Canadians did have their amazing race! Congrats to everyone on Team Canada! The highlights would probably be 3 Junior boys in the top 16, Bouchard finishing 20th in Elite men, and Emily Batty sprinting for her first World Champs medal in 3rd. 

I want to send out a massive recognition to my coach, Kevin Simms. He puts so much passion into his athletes and their individual training needs. 

Thank you to Trek Store Toronto for a bike that never faltered and rode smoothly on such a bumpy course. 

Thank you to Cycling Canada for this incredible experience to represent our country in Czech. The support from this team is world class with the coaches, mechanics, physio, and organization. 

Can't forget about the Smith Optic glasses I wear every single day... Love my Pivlocks. 

Hammer Nutrition Canada has been fueling me through training and racing this year. I rely on their quality products to be properly prepared and recovered nutritionally. 

Thank you so much to everyone who donated on my Go Fund Me site, in person at Hardwood, and who personally contributed. Support from family, friends, and the community is something truly special and I'm beyond grateful. 

Instead of flying home the next day as most Canadians did... The Barrie/Orillia crew stayed for 2 extra days in Prague! Quinton, Peter, Erica, Gunnar, and I stayed in a little apartment near Prague 1 and walked around touristing for 12 hours each day! All of our feet and legs were shot by the end of each day. We enjoyed the beautiful buildings, bridges, parks, views, transit system, and the FOOD! I had the delicious, traditional bohemian pastry, Trdlnik, each and every day. It's very important to take time and energy to enjoy the places you travel to for racing, or else you don't get to experience the real culture. 

Now I am home for a few days before driving easy to Baie St Paul for Nationals!