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Blog of Pro Mountain Bike rider Kate Potter of the Cotic AQR Holidays Race Team
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THE PROLOGUE – tick, tick, tick, tick.....
Four days before the race started and there I was STILL packing, packing not just for the race, but the Potters annual May trip back to the UK, plus a family holiday to Italy part way through our visit. Then there was Marley....yes for those of you who don’t know I’m now a very proud ‘puppy-mother’ J So 5 hrs before our 20hr plus drive back to the UK we were introducing Ian’s mum and step dad to Marley as they were puppy sitting. So there I was anxiously running about making sure they had all the puppy necessities for my little pooch as I hated leaving him especially on his 4 month old birthday. Then just as I thought I had finished I realised something was missing....my puppy. Where’s Marley? So instead of conserving energy there I was running up and down the stairs, checking outside and on the verge of a teary breakdown....MARLEY??? Ian calmed me down and we checked my bags...and there he was packing himself into my race bag and hiding amongst the black helmet cases hoping he wouldn’t be found....next year Marley you will be at the races too as our little team mascot :)
Before I knew it I was waking up at 1am Tuesday morning leaving Luchon’s Pyrenean mountains behind me and heading for the Nottinghamshire Alps.....as I like to call them J. All went very smoothly until I decided to fall asleep in a twisted position and woke up with incredible back pain. It’s an old issue that was fixed and mended by AQR’s Physio Anne Dickins back in December. I spoke to Anne and it was too close to the race to manipulate my back as she did last winter. So I had a massage to try and reduce the knots and inflammation, a proper hard core massage for an hour that left me aching all over, hobbling around and looking in no state to ride a bike for 24hrs (oops), but at least I had more flexibility in my spine which was a plus.
On Friday morning we Potters, plus Cotic-AQR Team racers and support crew James Dymond and Rachel Sokal boarded Mini Blue (AQR Holidays hard core mini bus) bound for the Scottish boarders. The mini bus was pretty full, but we had all the necessities for every 24hr occasion...including the weather as the forecast was looking grim and there was the possibility of hail on Sunday morning. When we arrived at the venue we met up with the rest of the team who were taking part either as racer or support crew and everyone found their place or main job within the team straight away...although I had to keep an eye out on 24hr soloists Miss Dickins and Mr Jordan who were instructed to SIT.....I will add ‘PRE RACE SIT DOWN TIME’ to your next block of training J
Friday night and Ian and I retired to a lovely little B&B on the outskirts of Newcastleton. We always treat ourselves to a little pre-race relaxation, but that was not going to be. I found myself suffering endless back spasms and cramps throughout the night and had virtually no sleep from around 2am. At 8am I was already looking and feeling a state and the race hadn’t even started (double gulp). Ian wasn’t sure if I should race, but I couldn’t stand the thought of quitting a race after last year when I was forced to take some time off due to illness. Ian and I decided to think tactics....usually I just race and see what happens as it's such a long event, but I wasn’t sure how my back would cope with 24hrs on the bike so Mr Potter and I talked tactics to ensure I would finish the race as that is always number one goal.
ACT 1 – RACE DAY...on your marks!!!
Saturday morning and the COTIC/AQR HOLIDAYS RACE TEAM were all in great spirits. Anne, Anth and I, along with guest racer from Cannondale Hannah Bowers were kitted up and ready to roll down to the start line. Our support crew Ian, Simon, James, Rachel, Carole and Chloe had decorated the pit area with Cotic, AQR, Magura, KCNC flags and TORQ energy products, plus British colours too as it was the European Champs after all. At 11:30am we signed on and were presented to the local crowds and supporters who were lining the streets to wave us all off on our 24hr solo mountain bike adventure. It was a fabulous atmosphere and my spirits lifted, especially when I noticed a little Aussie flag had been included in the line up of national flags representing athletes who were taking part in the event....I may not be European, but I was certainly made to feel very welcome which meant alot to me J
Then it was time to roll....and roll out very slowly we did. It was never going to be a fast start as we had 24hrs of riding ahead of us all, but we started behind a Scottish local playing the bag pipes and were almost track standing as we followed him 100m down the road. I always practice my balance and have encouraged those I have been coaching to do so too, and there we were all four of us track standing and looking very relaxed....BRING IT ON TEAM!!!
ACT 2 – MIDDAY-MIDNIGHT...and we’re off!!!
Lap 1,2,3,4,5,6,7....and then I lost count, but I was feeling alot more comfortable than I expected to on what was quite a hilly course. There were long sections of twisty single track beneath the trees and switchbacks a-plenty. I started on my 2011 Cotic Soda, but after a few laps decided I needed to look after my back when the twinges reminded me there was no way I would last on a hard tail for 24hrs this weekend, as much as I love my Cotic Soda. Now I was on board the Cotic KP24 for it’s first 24hr outing, this is the second prototype that I’m testing this year so it’s all very exciting to be on a different bike, but due to a last minute build up I had not spent much time on it......
.....WOW, I was grinning from ear to ear. Not only did the extra suspension help my back when I needed it to most, but it still felt super fast and XC racey on the fast sections of the course as I don’t like slothful feeling full suspension bikes, especially up hills.....I’m such a hard tail girl J Ian had changed the gearing on the KP24 to a double 40-26 with a ten speed XTR 11-36 (yes I know that sounds very technical bike jargon for me, especially for all those who know me....I had to ask Ian those numbers as I never remember digit combinations, but I thought it worth mentioning as it was a perfect range of gears for the course and my legs), those climbs were so much easier even in big ring and I didn’t notice any weight difference between the Cotic KP24 and the Soda. Usually I like to stand up and change position on the bike, but I was so comfortable I had to remind myself to do just that.
All was feeling good in the body and brain department, I was eating at the appropriate times, drinking plenty, playing on my bike whilst not wasting too much energy, and of course taking in the gorgeous Newcastleton scenery....what a beautiful area for riding a bike! Then darkness descended and it was time for some night riding action. I was using an Exposure Max D bar mounted light and joystick head torch. There was no change really from light to night except suddenly I could see frogs everywhere on the fire road sections....so I wasn’t always riding in a straight line as I tried not to bump into the little fellas.....they were so cute!!!!
ACT 3 – MIDNIGHT TO MORNING BLUES...and now I’m feeling off!!!
In the past I never used to go into 24hr solo races with the same mental approach as how I would start an XC or marathon race. It was more about how many laps could I complete without stopping? The 24hr test has always been about ME vs ME as I try to beat my brain so that I would cross that finish line at the very end no matter what the outcome. As this race went on I faced several challenges that obviously I could have done without, but every challenge was good training and I learnt alot about myself along the way.....
Firstly - The weather was closing in....no shock here as storms were forecast all weekend as was hail....but I noticed the temperature dropping which was not to be expected.
Secondly - I decided to do a stupid unnecessary gear change when I knew to be cautious as mud was starting to play havoc to riders out on course. I was half way round when my chain got stuck, and it took all my KP might and brain power to sort it out. All good so I thought, before I heard ‘click’ ‘click’ ‘click’, and was unable to put any power down, something was wrong, but I decided to keep plodding on as I would much rather Mr Potter sort it out in the team pit area than me....as much as I try I’m never going to be a world class mechanic J
Thirdly - I was forced to do a mechanical repair and you know what that means J I started that lovely last climb back to base when my chain snapped. Not a problem, I was cool, calm and collected as I tried to fix it, whilst dropping the link and searching for it in the muddy grass....why am I so clumbsy???? I finally repaired my chain (big pat on the back KP), hopped on my bike and very gracefully fell off the other side as the cranks weren’t spinning....OH DEAR!?!? I discovered there was a huge twist in the chain that I failed to notice...but I was still cool, calm and collected even when I had to run up the last grassy hill because I knew it was just a long descent back to base camp as soon as I reached the top....well so I thought...all the rain had turned the grassy bumpy straight into a mud pit. I tried to ride down it in an aerotuck position, but only sunk further and was forced to run...DOH!
Fourthly - I decided that who needs a bright light when one has Jedi force....again a KP clumbsy moment left me with a broken light, but I spent so long wondering how on earth I broke it that I didn’t really notice how much darker the trails had become. I think after 14hrs on the same loop you get to know them well enough J
Fifthly - Although prepared for the worst weather, when it hit at full force I was in my little space cadet world when Ian usually takes over in the KP thinking department. I suddenly realised at one point how wet I was in just my jersey and shorts, but didn’t change into wet weather gear when I needed to thinking I would over heat on the climbs. Suddenly extreme cold hit home. I was half way around, and I couldn’t warm up....I had no water proof or thermal layers as they were waiting for me at the end of the lap. I was starting to lose feeling in my fingers and the shakes meant early signs of hyperthermia. Fortunately when I returned to base camp I had an amazing team who took over and layered me up appropriately. To give you some idea of how cold it was I was wearing my Keela Mountain water proof that is only used in severe cold and wet weather conditions at 1800m plus in the Pyrenees...PLUS thermal layers beneath and I never overheated once on the climbs like I usually do, in fact at one point I was still cold.
Lastly - Possibly my most challenging moment out on course when I was truly tested by ME....at 3am motion sickness set in. I’m a terrible traveller, always have been, but never have I experienced such nausea on the bike like I did in the early hours of Sunday morning. I struggled to eat and drink the correct amounts of nutrition and had to stop more often than I like to for hurling purposes J Oh I can laugh about it now, but from 3am until the finish I was in a right state.
There were only a few hours to go and I was battling my brain on every pedal stroke which was suggesting I stop every now and then. I worked out there were 3 laps to go until I could finish, but it felt like a life time away as I felt awful. Then Ian told me second place and 2010 UK champ Rickie Cotter was making time up on me. It was the first time I actually thought about racing other people out on course because as I said before I always treat these races as a battle between ‘ME, MYSELF & I’. Suddenly another little KP voice came into play....’RIGHT, let’s bring it on!!!’ I’m not sure what happened, but I attacked and the faster I went the better I felt. My legs were fine and the nausea calmed down until I reached the pit area where I saw Mr Potter and James running over to the tent....apparently I was 15min quicker than they expected and they had gone off to be social, but as soon as I slowed down the nausea came back again.
So now another ‘RIGHT, let’s bring it on moment!!! I had 2 laps within me and I wanted them over with. I completed another fast lap considering it was 20 plus hrs into the race. One more lap and I truly wanted to push the pace now....but Ian stopped me and gave me the biggest hug.....but there was no time for Mr Potter to get all soppy on me now, what was he thinking?????? I forget that Ian finds it hard watching me do this type of racing. Mr P then revealed that I had a big enough lead now to take first place....you would think I would be overjoyed hearing this news, but I still had to complete one final lap.....BLAH....best way to describe how I felt J
ACT 3 – ONE MORE LAP......
You would think I could sit up, relax, make the most of these awesome trails I had the pleasure to ride for 24hrs, but suddenly with another lap to go the whole experience caught up with me. My back went into spasm and for the first time I felt every bump and every bruise. The nausea was now at it’s worst, and I suddenly felt weak. It was the strangest feeling because I knew I still had to finish, but part of me already felt finished and this is where it became MRS POTTER vs MRS POTTER, the battle to keep pottering on. I finally made it to the top of the final descent and I would like to say in celebration I stuffed a Torq black cherry gel down me, but the shakes came on and I was going nowhere until I got some carbs down me.
When I crossed the finish line my team including Mr P were all there waiting for me with open arms, and boy did I need them. I was overjoyed that we got through this together. It was a tough race for everybody out there and in the pits, and definitely no solo effort by me, but a proper team effort by all of us....YAY TEAM!!!
EPILOGUE – ALOT OF THANKYOUS....
I’m so grateful to be part of a wonderful team of racers and support crew. I would like to thank everyone involved in the COTIC-AQR HOLIDAYS RACING CAMP who came along to the 24 Exposure 24hr UK and EUROPEAN CHAMPS...So in alphabetical order...including their main role...as everyone supported each other in a variety of different ways, but we always ensured every racer had their special person to turn to...even if it just meant a big hug when the going got tough... J
COTIC-AQR HOLIDAYS PIT CREW
CAROLE ARMSTONG – COTIC-AQR CATERING MANAGER, as well as Anthony Jordan’s special person.
JAMES DYMOND – COTIC-AQR TEAM MANAGER and overall support.
IAN POTTER – COTIC- AQR BIKE MECHANIC and my special person (obviously there are alot of job descriptions I could add here, but there are too many to list!)
RACHEL SOKAL – COTIC-AQR TEAM SUPPORT and future endurance racer.... your turn next year Rach!
SIMON USHER – COTIC-AQR TEAM SUPPORT, again in soooooo many ways, but also Anne Dickins’ special person!
CHLOE THOMAS – COTIC-AQR ‘glam’ COFFEE MAKER.....full marks from Mr Potter and also Hannah’s special person.
24 EXPOSURE TEAM RACERS - WELL DONE!!!!
ANNE DICKINS - 2nd place Vet Female
ANTHONY JORDAN - 15th place Open Male
KATE POTTER - 1st place Open Female
HANNAH BOWERS - 3rd place Open Female (although officially racing for Cannondale, Hannah will always be welcome as a guest team racer for Cotic-AQR as she is an asset to any racing team!)
THE COTIC/AQR HOLIDAYS RACE TEAM....although a new team, consists of three teams joining forces under a new team name. A huge thankyou to all our sponsors....
COTIC BIKES – Always the Potters bike of choice, but now our team racers too.
AQR HOLIDAYS & COACHING – Mountain bike Holidays, Coaching weeks, Skills coaching clinics, Bike related help, work and advice are only a small part of what we offer the team and YOU.
MAGURA BRAKES & FORKS
INDUSTRY 9 WHEELS
TORQ ENERGY PRODUCTS
CRANK BROTHERS PEDALS
PURPLE EXTREME LUBRICATION
FENWICKS BIKE CLEANER
*Also huge thankyou to Katie Collins and Kevin for supporting the team and helping out in the pit area, it was great to see your cheery faces!
*Plus as always thankyou to all the cheers and support from everyone out there who braved the elements whether by bike or by simply staying up and cheering us riders on.
*Plus thankyou to Sara and Paul from SIP events for inviting me to be part of the USE UK and EUROPEAN 12/24hr Solo CHAMPS. It was a fabulous event which the Cotic/AQR Holidays team will be part of again in 2012.
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4 weeks in glorious sunshine and superb trails unlike anywhere I have experienced in the world. Ian and I met in Portugal and Mr Potter knows it well...I on the other hand had been a guest here 10 years ago when Ian worked as a guide and now have myself a husband to ensure I stay on the right track in more ways than one....Yes there were a few entertaining moments for all (but I) when Ian just let me keep riding up certain lung busting climbs whilst he stopped the guests at the right trail junction and radioed me back just as I had recovered and was wondering where everybody was. He thought this was highly amusing as did others....grrrrr.
So what moments stood out for me apart from Potter ‘Good guide/Bad guide’ moments.....in case you don’t know what I’m referring to, in the AQR Crew Guiding World we Potter’s are known as ‘Good Guide/Bad Guide’ and our true colours are really shown when we work together.....Don’t forget we are a married couple, Ian overdoses on coffee and I’m always right! Now I’m not talking about irresponsible actions that affect guests in anyway....it’s just we have been told by most guests that they prefer both Potters to be in guiding action when out on an AQR guided trip. I’m not too sure why, but I think Ian and I bring out the best and worst of each other at the right times and this balance creates....um....POTTER HARMONY? No......um.....I will think on that one...’ENTERTAINING’ is the only word I can think of that has been repeated by guests often....but I’m sure there is a better word.....DIFFERENT, SPECIAL, HYSTERICAL....although a very good friend called us ‘THE DREAM TEAM’, which I quite like, although Ian thinks he is the ‘dream’ and I’m the ‘nightmare’ and that is why it works so well because you need ‘YIN’ and ‘YANG’ in your life....according to Chinese philosophy YIN is the female and negative force and YANG is the male and the positive force......DID A MALE COME UP WITH THIS CRAP!!!! I then carried on reading this strange philosophy and it doesn’t mean one is better than the other, instead they are both necessary and a balance of both is highly desirable....which I guess I will agree with, because I know I’m not always the best behaved wife or guiding compatriot, but at least Ian doesn’t get bored....and I keep a smile on his face most of the time J
So what moments really stood out for me in Portugal....was it the endless dry trails and blue skies, the blooming wild flowers and Eucalyptus trees that reminded me of my once upon a time Sydney home....or my favourite part of the guiding job and that is riding with groups of people from all cycles of life and seeing the endless smiles and personal satisfaction that comes with riding a bike in the fresh mountain air....Was it the single track or climbing to the top of the 4 peak Challenge, enjoying the undulating descents and unspoilt views....OR was it the food.....always a favourite subject with Mr Potter.....Ian and certain guests (John....most of you on coaching week, Simon & Anth) who overdosed on FIGOOS.....ingredients – figs, chocolate, brown sugar, almond and lemon juice or for me it was definitely THE GARLIC CARROTS.....ingredients – garlic & carrots....it might not sound as exciting as the figoos but they were delish, although I didn’t seem to have as many food groupies following me as Ian did L
Then there were the FUNNY moments that always happen on any mountain biking adventure....
Paul – Trying to bunny hop a ‘little’ river and making a big splash from head to toe as it was a little deeper than expected J
Anne – AQR’s physio who was given MY permission to ‘DO’ my husband J
Anth – Who does a great Marilyn Monroe impersonation on the bike J
Hannah – I will let Hannah explain how she remembers ‘car up and car down’ J
Iain – When we called the waitor Manuel (Faulty Towers), it really wasn’t his name J
Manuel – The sweetest waitor I know who was in training...but who I adored because he always brought me extra ‘Garlic carrots’...he was trained well by me J
Viv – Who decided riding every day was not enough, so found a bike machine to use with perfect views across the valley (see photo) J
Steve & Alison – Who know all about my ‘little screw’ issue that went a-missing....please tell me it was a wind up and didn’t involve ghosts (gulp) J
Helen – Who kissed the only muddy patch across the entire Algarve and got herself an instant tan, and a brown bike J
Alison & Al – also met in Portugal 10 years ago and also have their own ‘Yin & Yang’... Alison storms up the hills after a few Portugese alcoholic beverages....Al not so J
Mr Potter – who just should know better (I will let the photos do the explaining)
I must admit there were a few little tears as well as we departed Alte because for one month I really fell in love with this area and all the adventures that came about whilst guiding full time ...... :(
J.....but then I realised after endless motion sickness stops during our 20hr drive back to France that I was returning to Luchon, my little mountain home in the Pyrenees, and although I’m often sad when guests depart there are a whole lot more mountain bike adventures coming up to look forward to in 2011.
So now all the organisation and preparation that went into ‘AQR in the Algarve’ is behind me for the next month or two, as already enquiries about the 2012 ‘AQR in the Algarve’ have started to roll through, with most guests already committing to next year as this area really offers the perfect winter escape for mountain bikers. So March 2012 look out for dates on both the guiding and coaching weeks out in Portugal as I will be confirming them in the near future....but until then bring on Luchon as the trails are ready to roll on and new rides have been added to the AQR agenda....PLUS another 'Coaching & Training' week by special request in August and the Tour de France week which I'm already counting the days 'til.
Cheerios for now
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What a wonderful weekend of winter biking action we Potters have just returned home from here in Luchon. I must admit I’m nicely knackered after 6hrs on the bike off road action, but loving the aches and pains all the same...although I could do without all the bruises covering most of my body, including my butt! I have definitely earned a day of rest tomorrow and funnily enough am looking forward to it for now. I actually don’t like recovery days, never have, never will...unless the weather is rotten, but even then I have trouble relaxing and love nothing more than braving the weather to mountain bike or hike on all of the wonderful and varied trails we have out here in Luchon. There is something truly magical about breathing in fresh mountain air and looking down over all the small villages that scatter across the Luchon valley. I have seen these views for over 6 years now and I’m always dazzled by the scenery. I have even started a ladies hiking group and 2-3 times each week Marnie, Nina, Helen and of course our four legged companion Miloo brave the cold wintry mornings to see the sun rise over our sleepy town and bring wintry warmth across the Luchon valley.
I had hoped to write the second instalment of my 2011 blog a little sooner (sorry....I can’t believe it’s February!), but training and AQR work have beat me to it I’m afraid and have taken priority recently. There is alot going on with AQR Holidays and Coaching in 2011, but before I go on I shall explain what Ian and I are up to this year and where we are heading to in the future, but in order to understand our new, but not so new direction I need to put an end to 2010 once and for all.
2010 was quite a frustrating year for Ian and I on many different levels, and I’m hugely relieved that we have entered 2011 on healthier, happier and more exciting times. I have always been very fortunate in the health department and rarely suffer colds or flu, if ever (touch wood), but since 2004 have suffered the most incredible pain at times that doctors back then were unwilling to investigate further. I remember the last 24hr solo I finished back in 2007, for most of the ride I felt like shooting stabbing pains were my constant companion, as well as the usual 24hr solo discomfort you learn to expect from such an event. I swore I would never give birth, nor compete in a 24hr solo event again. So I turned to XC only to give my body and brain a break from the frustration I was feeling at the time, although a different level of pain, full time XC would be a new challenge and perhaps I would finally rid myself of the stabbing feeling that seemed to be joining me on nearly every long race and training session back then.
I felt rather guilty that my team Cotic Bontrager who wanted to support me in my ultra endurance endeavours were now supporting me as an XC racer which wasn’t their intended goal at first, especially as Cy had developed the awesome KP24 full suss machine for endurance racing purposes and I hadn’t put her to a proper test yet. I couldn’t face the thought of another 24hr solo challenge back then though because I’m the type of person who has to give everything 150% in order to feel happy about my performance, and only riding at half of my ability due to the pain was not good enough for me and causing me alot of distress. I was also starting to think I was imagining the pain since doctors ignored my symptoms no matter how many repeat visits and ongoing tests didn’t lead to any concrete evidence that something was actually wrong. I decided a new racing direction would prove the best medicine for body and brain at the time, so XC it would be and why not try and race for my country.
2008 and 09 were fantastic years and I loved all the XC challenges that came my way. It meant a step back from guiding full time leaving Mr Potter to take on the extra responsibility that my absence would bring to our Luchon AQR guiding team, and then there were times we would be forced to close AQR in Luchon altogether when Ian would be supporting other Aussie racers which meant no income, but again we would earn a variety of life experiences instead that we could add to our personal life CVs as I call them. I was fortunate enough to have the support from the Australian national mountain bike coach during this time and learnt alot about myself as an ‘almost’ full time mountain bike athlete, as I was still juggling racing all over the world with running a full time holiday and coaching business over the internet, as well as sponsor commitments. I have always believed in the old saying: ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’, because along the way I met wonderful people, visited new places, and rode different types of terrain and loved what I was learning from all these experiences because I knew it was making me a better person. I was relieved that I went on to win the 2009 British Cross Country Mountain Bike Series for the Cotic Bontrager Race Team, as well as the 2007 British Marathon title because I wanted to ensure my sponsors didn’t think I was wasting their time as I was so grateful for all their ongoing support. I rely on my sponsors to help me race, and feel the pressure more than most to ensure I do my job as best I can.
Then 2010 came crashing down, and although I believe things happen for a reason well I’m still waiting to find reason in what happened. Through no fault of my own I lost the support of a great national coach and all that Australian mountain bikers had been working towards since 2008 for a crack at the 2012 London Olympics disappeared and those results and points were now worthless. As always I knew there were 2 more years to invest money and time into the sport and help an Australian make it to the Olympics, and I was overeager to give it my best shot. However as early 2010 races proved my energy levels were not where they should be and this pain returned with a vengeance, as well as repeated bouts of other symptoms I shan’t go into detail about, but which started to scare me. I was fortunate enough to have Ian and his family really help me more than they realise during this time because I don’t think I have ever been so unhappy.
Mr Potter dragged me back to doctors and demanded answers because we were both starting to worry more about the effects these symptoms were causing to my long term health and well being as they were becoming more frequent and now often at rest too. After several blood tests and some not so pleasant tests I finally knew what was going on internally, and although I needed time to sort myself out I could now do something about it. It turns out I had been suffering a form of kidney stones for many years which the doctors think was brought on by overconsumption of drinks with electrolytes in them and that I also had a sunny D deficiency which brought on parathyroidism. It meant some time away from racing and ongoing doctors visits and tests, but I was allowed to guide again and enjoyed being at home....At the same time I found out that I was selected for the 2010 Cross Country World Championships and again my spirits were lifted because I had a goal and I could feel my energy levels responding to the need to give this event my best shot. I love having goals you see...I love challenges....although uncertain how my body would respond I was excited about training myself up again to be in the best shape possible and hopefully pain free once and for all.
What frustrated me was that I had used British sponsors money to get me to the World Championships to represent Australia because I really wanted to see how far I could go at international cross country level and as always help Australia gain Olympic points along the way. Yet here I was racing as best I could given the mechanical issues, but again only at 50% but this time pain free. I had nothing to give back to my Team Cotic Bontrager at the end of it all, and felt like I had learnt nothing along the way because I endured the same mechanical problems one week after the next at the most important event of the year.
After returning home to Luchon and still gaining new found strength week on week, I realise now that I probably was still only at 50% level of health back then anyhow. Although feeling so much better than I did earlier in the year made me think that I was back to my normal base line level of health and fitness. I returned to full time AQR guiding duties alongside Mr Potter during October and was finding alot of pleasure in meeting new people from all rides of life and challenging a few too to some extra long mountain bike rides before and after the traditional 10am-4pm guiding day. I love seeing how happy guests are when riding our Pyrenean back yard that is filled with trails that we have access to virtually all year round. At the same time I was reflecting on my reasons for racing XC because I wasn’t sure if I was truly learning anything anymore or whether it was truly making me as happy as I am when living out here in the mountains and being part of AQR Holidays. Part of me had lost enthusiasm to race at that level when I was putting so many other important aspects of my life on hold and no longer feeling like I was learning anything about myself.
Then I heard the wonderful news of Anne Dickins finishing 4th at the 24hr solo world championships in Australia on my bike, the first Cotic KP24 prototype. Ian and I tried to support Anne as much as we could leading up to this event as she came out to Luchon for some coaching advice and support in August last year. Anne had only 6 weeks before her international 24hr solo debut and was lacking preparation due to a recent knee injury. From my experience at 24hr solo racing it’s not always about how many hours one can sit on a bike for before the event or even how fast you are at the time....it is the event where your time on the bike counts from the start to the finish and where you face the most uncomfortable 24hrs of your life. It is a race against one’s brain and pain threshold, and no matter where you finish it is a worthy performance that not many people in the cycling world can fully comprehend. I was so excited for Anne when she let me know her result and how pleased she was with her performance, plus the Cotic KP24 finally got the 24hr solo outing she deserved in Australia of all places.
At the same time I started meeting more and more people, ladies in particular who wanted to face new personal challenges on the bike such as 24hr solo events or stage racing and I could feel my excitement for the sport return. I have been involved in teaching and coaching from the age of 16 and I have always felt more comfortable teaching and supporting people than being competitive against other people, except myself...oh and Mr Potter J. I don’t know why but in the past I used to feel intimidated and confused by the fact that people thought I was their competition, even though I know that was what you do when you race, but I could see how it changed certain people off the race track and not always for the better. For me I always go into races just wanting to give it my best shot and finish with sore legs and a smile on my face and what will be will be....I absolutely love feeling completely knackered after a day on the bike and hate it when I don’t feel like I have given a race my best shot at feeling tired by the finish line. When I stood on the number 1 spot on the podium knowing I had won the 2009 cross country series I thought I would be more excited by this plaque I was holding in my hands, but it was just this huge sense of relief that I had won a series for my sponsors because it gave me more credibility as an athlete begging for product and/or financial support so I could continue racing for the next season. Deep down I was more excited by the effort it took to keep up with Annie Last to the end of the final national round race that made me truly happy....as I was shattered and so earned my sleep! J
This made me think about the past and why I started racing in the first place....and suddenly I caught myself thinking about personal challenges and before I knew it or had time to think about the implications of what I was announcing, I had signed up to do the 24hr Exposure National solo Championships in 2011. The thought of Ian and I joining forces again, KP as rider and Mr P doing all the pit crew work and overdosing on coffee which I personally think is much harder brought a smile to my face. All my 24hr solo memories really excited me again after I thought I had laid them to rest....but I shan’t repeat Ian’s thoughts J Since then I have been loving training again for myself and testing myself against the bike in every possible way....and as yet I have remained pain free, well except for the sore butt when sitting on a saddle for too long, and the blisters from my endless mountain hike challenges, and the massive crash yesterday when we went all day trail exploring, oh and the 3am turbo brain training session as I like to call them. I’m feeling remarkably good, even though the body, brain and my pain tolerance are being trained on an almost daily basis.
So now I guess it’s time to explain what 2011 is all about for Mr Potter and I....as you can probably guess it’s all about the personal challenge of riding a bike in whichever way we fancy....whether guiding, coaching, trail exploring and of course racing.....from my experience there are multi layers of success one can achieve from riding a bike and yet it is the personal experiences without material gains that have brought the greatest satisfaction to me over the years, this also includes seeing others put the hard work in too and knowing they have improved and feel like they have achieved on the bike no matter where they cross the finish line. Right now I hear so many reports of athletes feeling forced to take banned substances by the pressure top level racing brings about where winning is the be all and end all. It saddened me to find out that a girl I raced in Italy felt the need to take a banned substance to improve her performance possibly because winning was her only means to experiencing material success and/or personal worth as I can’t understand why else one would risk tarnishing the sport or themselves in doing so...but worst of all how could you take joy in any personal success when you have chosen that path. Anyway that is another subject altogether that I will leave the media to report on.
In any case it’s time to say goodbye to one half of a wonderful team who have supported me since 2007. Andy Gowan originally from Bontrager and Andy Griff from Bontrager really looked after me in more ways than one over the years and I’m so grateful for all the support they have given me. It was an honour to meet Keith Bontrager two years ago, and actually be interviewed by the man himself and I hope to still support Bontrager where I can in the future.
Now it’s time to announce the start of a new team that I’m really excited to be part of and where personal success within the team will come about through hard work and dedication to the sport, and alot of laughs along the way too. Cotic are again our number one bike choice and it makes sense that AQR Holidays play an integral role into the development of this team as it is a long term project, not a one year team plan that we hope to create and that I will be part of now and in the future. 12 riders have been selected who also have their own personal mountain bike challenges that we aim to support so they too can experience personal success and feel excited about the personal challenges they have set themselves for 2011 and beyond.
The new team for 2011 is called The Cotic AQR Holidays Race Team, and we will be at UK events such as –
EXPOSURE 12/24HR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
12:12 TORQ IN YOUR SLEEP
BRITISH MOUNTAIN BIKE SERIES
24HR ADRENALINE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
NATIONAL & EUROPEAN 4X
DUST TILL DAWN
*plus select regional race series that are situated close to team riders, including those in Wales and Scotland.
THE COTIC AQR HOLIDAYS RACE TEAM 2011
IAIN COLLINS – XC & Team events.
KATIE COLLINS – XC & Team events.
ANNE DICKINS – 24hr solo and pairs.
JAMES DYMOND – XC & Team events.
ANTHONY JORDAN – 24hr solo and pairs.
RUTH OWEN-EVANS – XC & Team events.
IAN POTTER – XC & Team events.
KATE POTTER – 12 & 24hr solo events.
KIRSTY PRIOR – XC & Team events.
MATT PRIOR – XC & Team events.
ROBBIE RICKMAN – 4X & Endurance downhill events.
RACHEL SOKAL – 12hr solo & Team events.
TEAM SUPPORT –JAMES DYMOND, IAN POTTER, KATE POTTER, SIMON USHER
THE COTIC AQR HOLIDAYS RACE TEAM would also like to thank the following companies for their support in 2011 –
A QUICK RELEASE HOLIDAYS
MAGURA FORKS AND BRAKES
KCNC STEM, BARS, SEAT POSTS, SEAT BINDERS,
........CHAIN SETS, CHAINS AND JOCKEY WHEELS
INDUSTRY 9 WHEELSETS
A QUALITY RIDE COACHING
SKINS COMPRESSION CLOTHING
TORQ ENERGY PRODUCTS
ALIGATOR I-LINK CABLES
CRANK BROTHERS PEDALS & HEAD SETS
FENWICKS BIKE CLEANER
BIGFOOT BIKE BAGS
PURPLE EXTREME LUBRICATION
JOOLZE DYMOND PHOTOGRAPHY
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Well I am a little late in wishing you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR, but I will have you know this blog started on the 1st January 2011 and now it is the 7th January, so I'm determined to finish it today. My 2011 New Year's Resolution is to take one photo every day, plus write a blog about riding, guiding and Potter racing adventures every 7 days too. I will not fail in this first month of 2011 and must learn to be concise (one of my many resolutions).....if only that were an easy task!
My slackness has nothing to do with Writer's block either. My brain is constantly filled and over filling with exciting biking adventures from the last few days of biking here in Luchon and also planned Potter AQR ventures for the future, but it’s these very adventures that are slowing me down and getting in the way of my writing time. At the moment I blame the weather.....'blame' not 'moan about' that is. The weather has been annoyingly GOOD here in the French Pyrenees!!! There are too many sunny winter days when I just wish it would be horribly wet, cold and miserable because I work so much better when I know I can't go out and play in my Luchon 360 degree panoramic view of a back yard. I often set my alarm for 4am and work until 11am, because I work solidly when I can't feel the warmth of the sun or see the mountains surrounding our little village home....but around 10am the fidgeting starts and there is an internal pressure, mental torture and compulsive need to escape the confines of the office room.....LET ME OUT!!!!!
I must have a break from staring aimlessly at the computer screen with this internal screaming rattling inside my mind. I open the windows to warm the office up. It is January 3rd and here I am actually opening the office windows to warm up the permanently cold stone walls of the office....during winter the Potter home is also known as the ‘igloo’, a Luchon locals joke (Ha! Ha!) J.
I shut the blinds and attempt another hour of work as I have so much to do....tick, tock, tick, tock....YOU KNOW YOU WANT’S IT.....then that voice starts and grows in intensity....YOU KNOW YOU WANT’S IT....A voice with demonic overtones that is starting to sound like that ‘Gollom’ character from ‘Lord of the Rings’. YOU KNOW YOU WANT’S IT.....I MUST ride my bike.....YOU KNOW YOU WANT’S TO....I’m starting to wonder if the Cotic demon on my bike’s head tube really does possess me....YOU KNOW YOU WANT’S TO....focus on your job KP....YOU KNOW YOU WANT’S TO....it’s no use my thinking has been impaired, but one more job before I stop..... YOU KNOW YOU WANT’S TO.....grrrrrrrr!
It is 11am and Ian dares to open the office door to see the woman he fell in love with bedraggled in 100 layers and a dressing gown to keep warm, with red worn out eyes, hair sticking out on end and slurred incomprehensible speech. Those Cotic demon like characteristics are starting to take hold of such an ‘innocent fragile angelic creature’ (OK I threw that last description in for effect J ) Mr Potter does look scared though because he knows at this time of day the slightest action on his part could bring the ceiling down. He asks me if I would like a drink, but methinks it is to see if the internal Cotic demon has possessed me yet or not......I SNAP!
I shan’t print all the words that fight their way out of my mouth because the words are merely a build up of noise going on inside my brain. Thankfully my boss is also my husband and he is the one who drags me down stairs and demands that I ride my bike for the sake of his hair colour. Mr Potter understands that the Cotic demon is like a puppy dog that needs constant feeding and walks.....my Cotic demon must be given attention too so it's time to hit the trails and play in the sun, oh dear which Cotic bike to choose from? My Cotic Soda, Cotic X or Cotic KP24.....oh golly gosh I have to make a decision and now there are three Cotic demons trying to take over my brain.....YOU KNOW YOU WANT’S ME.....Oh for flop’s sakes!
Mr Potter quickly sends me on my way on the Cotic Soda before I start becoming an indecisive KP. All the tension, red eyes and head full of steam finally subsides (the scary looking hair remains but is covered by my helmet), as has the Cotic demonic voice who is speaking to me like an angel now because we all know we are where we want to be. The two of us together have been like screaming school children desperate to get our own way, but now we can relax because we have found our trail and it’s time to pedal!!!
There is something quite surreal about riding trails by oneself in the middle of the week when one knows they really should be working. I feel like a guilty school student who has missed classes even though my boss has given me the go ahead, but it’s difficult to see Mr Potter as the boss when he know very well that ‘wife’ means Boss in Aussie-english J.
I stop every now and then to look around at our beautiful mountain biking playground, before my little Cotic Soda (which we shan’t say too loud as I don’t want the other demons to moan about my choice today) and I recommence blasting up, along or down our favourite Luchon trails with Mr Potter joining us on occasion too when he thinks it’s safe to do so. I must admit that this is all part of AQR Holidays work as well (can you sense my guilt) as we always have new trails to check out and even clear, new ideas for different loops in the guiding season and general training to ensure we can do our job as guides and race from March until November if time allows for it.
I return later in the day around 4 or 5pm when the sun has disappeared over the mountain peaks and darkness is closing in. I know my work brain will switch back on now and no more Cotic Demons will fight for trail riding attention until the same time tomorrow. Their distractions have been engulfed by darkness and the sun has disappeared for another day. So it's back to AQR work for 4hrs until Ian has to drag me down stairs for dinner by our little wood burner where I happily fall asleep to the sounds of Ian playing his 'darn' Xbox machine....yes the machine and I don't get on, but Ian has his demons too :)
For me life can't get much better than this....MOUNTAINS + BIKE + ADVENTURES = COTIC DEMONS....because knowing the mountains are on your doorstep might mean early starts and late nights, but the Cotic Demons also remind you what a biker’s life should all be about.
So what are my 2011 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS and ADVENTURES.....well to ensure I don’t break my first resolution (the one about being a little more concise and to the point), I will briefly state what they are, and elaborate on them some more in 7 days time:
COTIC ‘to be announced’ RACE TEAM – a new team!!!
AQR HOLIDAYS – a new trail adventure!!!
AQR COACHING – a new ‘A Quality Ride’ chapter!!!
IAN & KATE POTTER – a new journey!!!
Hope you all feed your Cotic Demons on a regular basis too for your own sake......I will be back! (heehoohaahaaa....there’s that wannabe scary laugh again)
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