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,