Sunday, May 25, 2008

Altitude Training Camp - May 2008

The Superbagneres (1830m) has been my home for the past week. I have one more week before I head off to Andorra for the fourth round of the World Cup series. My coach Matt Hart has always encouraged me to spend time up in the mountains, as it’s supposed to help increase those red blood cells that every racer needs to go hard for long periods of time. Today I’m at the half way point of my two week altitude training camp, and I can’t wait to return down to Luchon. I’m so lonely!!!!!!!! I’m living in a cosy little studio apartment. The bed is in the kitchen and my bikes are stored in the I said it’s very cosy. Most days when I look out of the window I feel like I’m floating in the clouds. The temperature is also very chilly, so I’m always wearing plenty of layers because I haven’t worked out how to turn the heating on just yet.

Matt said I had to train down in Luchon every morning, but then try and spend every other minute on top of the Superbagneres. So each morning at the glorious hour of 7am I braved the Superbagneres, 18km road descent. It was taking me almost an hour to ride down to Luchon the first few days. The first part of the descent was quite scary because I was descending through the clouds. At that point I don’t think my speed even registered on the powertap computer. I always wore a dozen layers and water proof everything, and yet still found myself shaking from the cold. The cloud was so thick that I couldn’t see far enough out in front to let go of the brakes, so would have to look down at my tyres and ensure they were following the road markings and not taking a detour off the side of the mountain. After about 10km of descending I would suddenly break through the clouds and it would be so much warmer, but then I would be way too hot. I would have to stop and strip off all the winter layers, and then suffer backache down the remaining 8km as my bag would weigh a tonne from all those extra layers. I could never understand why Ian calls me Queen Faff, but last week even I was fed up with my faffiness.

So I train hard down low for anything from 2-5hrs and then face a lovely 18km road climb back up to the top of the Superbagneres.....result: EXHAUSTION! The first couple of days were both mentally and physically tiring. The body ached from all the riding, and the brain ached because I was always forgetting something. There are no shops up here and if I forget any clothes then it’s a right hassle to return to Luchon to collect them. I’m starting to get used to it I have basically taken all our belongings, including pillows and duvet, pots and pans...and all Ian’s DVDs and made this little studio a home away from home.

Ian is guiding every day and having a great time entertaining guests. He said it’s only for two weeks and then I can return to the land of the living. When not on the bike I’m working as AQR secretary, and practising French. I’m watching all these really cool French game shows, including ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’. This show is helping my French no end. I’ve also taken myself off for little walks when the cloud has lifted. Yesterday was amazing as the cloud had disappeared completely, and I went walking along some of the higher trails that we usually only ride in the summer time when the lift is open. I came across deer, mountain goats, red squirrels and pyrenean vultures, which are huge. At the highest point of the walk I sat down and had an in depth conversation with myself. I must say, all this time with myself made me realise just how boring I can be. As I said I’m so lonely!!!!!!

This morning I decided to walk down the mountain, rather than ride down the road. It was raining heavily and I thought the trees would offer more protection from the cold. I took the most direct route down...which also happened to be the steepest route. Since I hadn’t told Ian I was mountain biking, I heard this grumpy little voice (that be Ian’s voice) telling me that I should have told him I was mountain biking. He hates it when I don’t tell him where I’m riding on the mountain. So I walked and tried not to let myself get tempted to ride my bike. Instead I used my Cotic Soul as a walking stick....I must tell Cy that the Soul does not make a good walking stick. I was actually talking to my bike, apologising for not using it as a bike, but it was not happy. It kept trying to accelerate down the hill or purposely kick me in the shins with it’s pedals.

I was half way down the mountain when I came across one of my favourite trails. You have no idea how tempted I was to ride it. But, with head hung low I took the fire road down to Luchon. I could hear that grumpy Mr Potter voice once again in my ears,‘if anything happens to you….’. The problem with riding in Luchon by yourself is that the trails are so quiet, you rarely see any person on them. If you knock yourself out there’s a good chance you won’t be found for days.

When I was almost at the bottom of the Superbagneres I didn’t think it would be such an issue if I rode the rest of the trail. As I jumped on the bike I lost my balance and ended up on the ground. I hurt my wrist and noticed that I was covered head to toe in mud. So I forced myself and my argumentative bike to walk one of the easiest trails here in Luchon....I just hoped that no mountain biker would see me.

When I finally arrived at the hotel, Ian took one look at me and I knew I was in trouble. It was one of those looks that a loved one gives you that makes you feel really guilty. Ian asked me why I didn’t tell him I was riding down the mountain by myself. No matter what I said, he didn’t believe me that my damaged wrist, bruised shins and muddy attire was the result of walking my bike down the mountain.

Did I mention before how lonely I have been...well once Ian started lecturing I was back on the bike, back up the mountain, and grateful for the peace and quiet :)

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