Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BRITISH MOUNTAIN BIKE SERIES Round 1, Sherwood Pines, UK 2010.

My second cross country race of the season has been one of mixed feelings and a whole load of relief, in more ways than one. Two weeks ago I raced in Italy and after a brief stop at home in Luchon we had planned to head to Spain for a race as part of my training to get these ol' legs up to race speed again in time for the first bock of world cups and European racing in May. However as always the Potters plans didn't go according to plan....at the end of the day when do Potter plans go to plan, but this little problem I could seriously do without and can't even make a joke about it right now as I feel like I have wasted alot of time, money and have been seriously peeved off with myself these past two weeks.

For the past 5 years I have had a niggling issue which I have struggled to find a cure for and over the years it has become more frequent and a whole lot more painful. During training, racing and even just sitting around my stomach would suddenly go into crippling pain that could last anything from an hour to half a day. After visiting doctors in both the UK and Oz I was left feeling like it was all in my head or stress related because as soon as I told them that I was a mountain bike racer and guide in the Pyrenees and that I love being active then of course all that physical strain is most likely the cause, no hint of bitterness there eh?

I remember countless races including my first cyclo cross world cup in Belgium last October when I spent the whole time trying to pedal, although I thought I was going to pass out from the shooting pain or my last 24hr race when the pain was there and I swore that would be my last 24hr solo race as I was certain racing ultra endurance events was contributing to the stomach cramps. But the race that really springs to mind was at a world cup race in Andorra two years ago when I had fantastic form and in a great position for my first year of world cup racing and then suddenly the knife splitting pain came along and all I could do was lie down on the side of the track and make a fool of myself as I lay their feeling like my insides were ripping apart. I was humiliated because it was the first time I had been reduced to tears on a race course and that little competitive voice inside my head started ranting and raving about how weak minded I am....because it is all in your head of course.
Since then most races I have had what I thought was stomach cramp, and at times I have been forced to back off the pace to ensure I at least finish the race. I love racing and the adrenaline rush I get when testing myself against other competitors, but there have been alot of races when I have felt so disheartened because instead of racing at 100%, I'm forced to survive at 60%. I have spent time working on breathing exercises and pilates in case it was a nerve problem. I have tried to find out information on the internet, but the symptoms were characteristic of so many health issues that I would give up in the end and just remind myself that it's all in your head and to stop fretting.

Anyway after our little racing adventure in Italy once again the pain came back with a vengeance and a few other symptoms which meant that Ian was not going to be talked out of taking or rather dragging me to another doctor for a second or rather third opinion, so we returned to the UK earlier than planned. I have to admit I felt like a goose sitting in the surgery room with other patients who were coughing, spluttering and obviously ill, when I actually felt fine now that the pain had ceased. In fact I almost walked out because I thought the doctor would think I'm going crazy and just tell me it was all in my head again....if I hear that one more time!

However after tests it appears I have kidney stones...I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. In some ways it is a huge relief, because now I can do something about it, but I wish I had found out sooner, say 3-4 years sooner would have been nice.
The doctor insisted I start drinking water all the time and no strenuous exercise for the time being that could cause dehydration....but I want to race? No answer!

So I guess I wasn't best prepared mentally for the first round of the British Mountain Bike Series, although legs were raring to go. Two nights before the race I spent most of the night with the symptoms and felt completely washed out on Saturday during practice. I decided to do some short efforts and if the pain came on during practice then I wouldn't make the start line. All was good, so I wasn't going to miss out on all the racing fun. But I could have done without the clocks going forward as I had another restless night sleep not from pre-race nerves, but pre-race stressing that the pain would raise it's ugly head and whether I was being stupid for not listending to the doctor's advice. When the alarm went off at 6:30am, I insisted on another 30 minutes shut eye. 7am and I still needed another 30 minutes pleeeeeeease. I was shattered and already feeling battered and I hadn't even left the house.

Fortunately I have my Mr Potter who knows me better than anyone ever will, and knows how much he will suffer ear ache if I miss this race. At 7:30am for the first time in KP history I was force fed coffee and treated to breaky in bed. I have never tried coffee and can't understand why so many people like that horrible tasting drink that I'm sure I won't get addicted to anytime soon, although Ian said he has never seen me so wired....but methinks I could get used to breakfast in bed, so might have to make that part of the pre-race routine in future, hey love? Again no answer from the hubby.

So by the time we reached Sherwood Pines I was well behind schedule, but feeling alot better about racing. I love the challenge of racing cross country. You are tested in so many ways, physically, mentally, technically, tactically. Sherwood Pines has always been loved and hated for the same reasons. It can be hated by those who regard themselves as mountain bikers and in it just for the technical riding, while it can be loved by cyclo cross racers and roadies for the fast pace, action packed bunch riding that the course often suits. I don't think there is a course that every racer at one event will love as we tend to love courses that suit our strengths, and the great thing about mountain biking compared to most sports is that every course is completely different, and there will always be some element of the sport that challenges us. It certainly keeps me motivated as every race shows up weaknesses, but also areas that I know have improved since the last race. In saying all that I think course designer and organiser of the Midlands Series James Hampshire did an incredible job creating a fun filled bumpy ride that showed off some of Sherwood Pines best single track, as well as some interesting extras that kept you thinking all the time, but still included sections of fast paced riding that was good fun if you had a wheel to follow...and if not well a darn good training session if you gritted your teeth and kept going for gold.

I guess I should start writing about the elite women's race from my perspective, although I'm sure there are alot of stories to be told after this race, but here is my version. Firstly in true KP fashion I almost missed the gridding as I took myself off on an Aussie walkabout or rideabout as the case may be....sorry. Mr P, who I was told almost had heart palpitations when I wasn't at the start area, tried to look as chilled out as possible when I raced over, but me knows he was not quite so chilled as that :) .
It was strange suddenly feeling part of an old generation of regulars lining up for the first round of the British Mountain Bike Series, with both Jenny Copnall and Jenn O'Connor missing from the line up, but at the same time great to see more elite women lining up than ever before, as that can only be a good thing for cross country racing in the UK. On the start line there was Commonwealth silver medalist Rosara Joseph, and of course UK favourites Annie Last and Lily Mathews and my good friend Mel Spath who I knew would be tough competiton on this course. I had my race plan and knew today would be a training race for me, as I didn't want to get disapointed if the pain set in. There are alot of important races ahead and I had to remind myself that my goals are different this year, but you can't help wanting to win every time you line up for a race....that's what drives us all to do our very best, and there is nothing wrong with that.
So we took off and I managed to lead the girls into the first section of single track...I couldn't help singing to myself 'here come the girls', a song I heard on a mtb dvd. At this stage I was comfortable, had time to breathe, and just waited for the attacks to come fying by as that is the nature of this course. Soon enough Annie made her move and our group lead by Annie, included Rosara Joseph, Lily Mathews and myself split from the rest of the pack and for the first couple of laps we all stayed together, with Annie and I swapping the lead every so often. I kept to the front to avoid any mistakes in the single track that could cause a break away, as I still have fond memories of that happening to me twice at this race last year. The course had log jumps, dual descents, off camber banks, a roller coaster single track ride that was ace, and this brutal steep climb that turned into a steepish descent....it was a hard course physically and technically, but I loved it!
Four riders changed to three at some point leaving Annie, Rosara and I at the front of a chasing field, but on the third lap I had brain fade. Legs felt fine, but I suddenly got this wave of tiredness that I couldn't shake off just when Annie made her move and attacked over the log jump. For about half a lap I really struggled to focus and I started making little errors in the single track. Rosara managed to bridge the gap Annie had made from her attack, but it was like the caffeine hit from this morning suddenly wore off and I was ready for bed, even though legs felt fine. So I battled on without a wheel to follow and when I could I grabbed a Torq forest fruits gel from Ian that I hope would at least help me get through the final lap as there was still time to catch up if I could get my head into action. I could see the two girls out in front and was told by alot of people that it was only a 10 to 15 second gap. But I wasn't gaining on them until the end of the fourth lap, suddenly brain had come back to life and I could see them much closer now and I was making some lost time up on them both. As I headed into the arena with one lap to go I tried to go harder, and was more focused now, but still lacking the extra zip I needed to really get much closer than I had. I didn't stop trying, but halfway around the last lap I could only see Rosara now and I told myself to just see how close you can get with 1km to go. I managed to get down to a 4 second gap between Rosara in second and myself in third, but Annie had a storming final lap and took a well deserved win, with Lily Mathews in fourth and Lee Cragie in fifth position.
Well you have no idea how thrilled I was today, and although exhausted am pleased with how the legs are feeling right now. I'm still shocked I even made it to the start line, so although I have areas to work on, that will be addressed over time. Right now I just want to get myself back to full health and get my racing head back on so I can start training harder and hopefully pain free now.
As always thankyou to everyone who were cheering me on and who came over to say hello, it was really lovely to catch up with everyone again.
Plus as always a very special thankyou to my team Cotic Bontrager, and all the team sponsors who continue to look after Ian and I and give me the opportunity to race at this level. Also a very special thankyou to Tony Barton from Magura who gave up his time last Thursday to do some suspension testing and teaching with me. Last but not least thankyou to Mr Potter for coaching me, supporting me and dragging me to the doctor....yes you were right....this time :)
Photos will be up shortly...promise or just check out www.joolzedymond.com for all the weekend racing action.


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Thursday, March 18, 2010



This month is all about reminding one’s legs how to suffer and go hard. I have had a great season of winter base training and strength work, and fortunately no major colds or health issues that have kept me off the bike...only a minor collision with a car that left me shaking in my shoes, but luckily no major damage to body or bike.

 When it did snow then it was great fun to get out in the mountains surrounding our little Luchon home. Ian and I enjoyed many a snowy mountain bike ride this winter, but also made the most of the days we could go snow shoeing which is not only a fabulous work out, but believe it or not you can get quite an adrenaline rush on the way down, especially when you head away from the main tracks and find yourself on your butt sliding from one switchback to the next. But now I’m itching to become faster on the bike, the fitness is there and I’m stronger than last year, but there is no point being fit if you can’t go fast. So now it’s time to hit the races for my favourite type of training....RACING!

Racing makes you fast, and very quickly points out your weaknesses. It’s not always about fitness and there is so much you can learn by just getting out of your comfort zone and racing the best mountain bikers in the world and of course the best mountain bike courses in the world. I love competing against other racers, BUT I actually get more of a buzz testing myself and my lovely Cotic Soda on different courses.  So this month I planned a Potter training and racing camp in Italy, which would also coincide with my birthday.

I do realise I babble on at times, so have tried to condense my writing by turning this blog into a diary, before the race report begins....I just hope that one day when I’m old and knackered I can look back on these adventures and be transported back to this time in my life when I’m fortunate enough to be riding a bike for a living....a living that is not about material wealth, as mountain biking will never pay the bills, but a lifestyle that enables me to BE ALIVE, and not stuck in a concrete jungle suffering from the stresses of the world and CSN....more about that soon!

So here is a little diary of my first week of the 2010 race season....

THURSDAY MARCH 4 – mini bus starter motor stops working AGAIN.....arrive at Ian’s dad’s place at the wonderful time of 10pm after 14hrs of driving. I have finally learnt the art of bump starting a vehicle after countless attempts between southern Spain and northern Italy. My alter ego ‘Veronica Stress Head’ also comes out to play and decides not to speak to Ian for 14hrs because I think he has forgotten my birthday....

FRIDAY MARCH 5 – ...MY BIRTHDAY!!! Ian hasn’t forgotten...oops! I am presented with some wonderful presents and am reminded that I’m the one who likes surprises, so there was no need to ignore Mr Potter for 14hrs was there? Well he shouldn’t pretend so well that he has forgotten my birthday. I had a wonderful day walking dogs, dining on the edge of Lake Bolsema with family, and discovering some urban biking action around the streets of Montefiascone.

SATURDAY MARCH 6 – Discover some great off road on my training ride and the most amazing single track whilst being chased by dogs...legs were truly put to the test today.

SUNDAY MARCH 7 – Another day out on the bikes, but this time Ian and I ride around Lake Bolsema with a goal to beat 3hrs....2.5hrs later with two wrong turns!!! Really pleased, but then my brain tells me that it really wants to do 3hrs, so make Ian keep riding around in circles even though he has blown J

MONDAY MARCH 8 – A huge lunch before we embark on our travels again. This includes the biggest cake I have ever seen. Ian decides it’s time to throw his diet to get down to ‘XC race weight’ out the window and focus on becoming faster downhill with his little saying “FAT IS FAST!” The Cotic Bontrager Race Team now head further north to Lake Garda for the first race of the 2010 mountain bike season. ...YAY!

TUESDAY MARCH 9 – We are staying in a lovely little apartment on the edge of Lake Garda that was very cheap for some reason.....wind, rain, sleet and snow follow the Potters around on their 3hr mountain bike training session. My hope to swim in the pool and bask in the sunshine is not to be as the pool has frozen...DOH!

WEDNESDAY MARCH 10 – The Potters are snowed in and the only English channel on TV is CSN. I’m truly frustrated and depressed by the ongoing news and state of this world we are living in. I’m actually pleading with CSN reporters to report on something happy for a change, surely there is something to smile about, something to keep our minds of the horrors and disasters that confront mankind every day..... ‘Veronica Stress Head’ raises her ugly head once again, but this time I take it out on the turbo. After the most intense interval session that I hope will cheer me up, I’m left hobbling as legs have been truly hammered.

THURSDAY MARCH 11 – Recovery day and I’m banned from watching anymore CSN!!! Snow has finally melted and the sun is shining. It is time to explore the area. Only an easy spin today, but we see so many cyclists riding around the lake that I’m truly tempted to scrap the recovery day. Ian locks the bikes away just in case. By chance we come across a gorgeous old fort on the peninsula where we act all touristy and buy postcards.

FRIDAY MARCH 12 – PRE-RACE TRAINING!!! Time to check the course out....Where is the course Kate? What time do we register? So many questions, but not knowing any Italian I say we just rock up and hope for the best. Although Montichiari is not on our map, I see a sign after 20 minutes of driving around in circles and then we spot mountain bikers. Who needs a map eh? When heading to a mountain bike race in Europe, just look for bikers, caravans and concrete steps and you can’t go far wrong. The course has kind of been marked out and we simply follow other mountain bikers and enjoy the single track which I might add is super steep, super muddy and oh so much fun, although grip is an issue on the climbs. I’m also suffering from severe leg pain after training on Wednesday, the DOMS effect (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) has well and truly raised its ugly head. Perhaps choosing to use a double chain ring on a steep course such as this is not the wisest decision, but I remind myself that ‘PAIN IS AN EMOTION AND EMOTION IS TO BE ENJOYED!!!” (gulp) . Plus with the amount of mud on this course I decide to risk more leg pain rather than chain suck. Then we see other riders appearing from nowhere, and we’re not too sure where they have come from. I spot riders heading into what looks like a castle...we follow them inside the castle and next minute we are descending down a long set of steep steps that are inside the building. We are actually racing inside part of this amazing looking, centuries year old castle....I can’t stop giggling as I doubt health and safety in Oz or the UK would approve, but I love it!



Legs are still hurting from that ‘wonderful’ training session three days ago, but I’m really excited about racing on this course. The drive to the course takes about 20 minutes and in that time we notice there is still patchy snow around, and although very sunny, the temperature remains chilly.

There is no opportunity to check the course out today to see if the steep sections, both up and down have dried out, so I choose to have lower tyre pressures and mud tyres. I know I’m going to regret this decision if it dries out, but that is the risk I take as I was out descending and climbing Ian yesterday simply because his tyres were too hard.

I still don’t know where the start loops is, and take myself off for a little exploring on the road sections and through the castle, and of course up and down all the steps that make up part of the race loop. I avoid any mud as the bike and I were a state after yesterday’s practice ride and there is no bike wash close by. Finally gridding starts and there are girls everywhere. It is just like a world cup with some of the world’s top racers here. I find myself on the second row and when I look behind me I can’t see the back of the grid, which is awesome. It is so cool to see how many female mountain bikers have entered not just the elite category, but other categories as well. More than 50 in every category....COOLIO!!!!

So the countdown to the race start begins. I know my legs are not race ready, but I also know this is the start of a long race season which won’t end until October. There are 30 seconds to go as a guy calls out ‘trenta’, and as I pull myself into my start position........suddenly half the field have taken off, including the very front row of past world cup winners and world champs....as if they need any more of a head start. We are called back, so I stay calm and wait with one foot clipped in, but then so many girls have continued forward that the organisers shrug their shoulders and that is my signal to get a move on if I want to race.

So I attack this very long steep tarmac climb with every ounce of energy and mentally scream at my legs to stop complaining. From the back of 50 girls I managed to pass riders and end up around 15th by the time we hit the off road single track which is fast and flowy, and oh so much grippier than yesterday. I realise pretty quickly that I should have more air in my tyres, but remind myself that ‘PAIN IS AN EMOTION AND EMOTION IS TO BE ENJOYED!!!’, This is a training race after all and it is good mental and physical preparation for what is in store this year.

There are virtually no rest spots on this course, as the descents are not very long and always lead into another steep climb. There are so many steps to ride, including a dozen drops offs all in a row and a long climb up a set of steps would you believe that are just spread out enough so you can ride up them.  I’m with a group of 5 racers and we are all working at 120% to try and drop one other. By lap 3 I’m fighting it out with one girl now, who just keeps attacking and attacking, but never quite getting rid of me. We soon find ourselves passing other riders who have blown, and I have moved forward to 11th position according to Ian when I start my own series of attacks. I move into 10th position by the final lap and Ian warns me that 9th was struggling and not too far out in front. I am chasing hard and finally catch 9th going into the final piece of single track that begins steeply, before some very tight switchbacks, and then continues on like a roller coaster....one minute you are going down, the next using all your might to climb the short sections without running and then going down again. We end up stuck behind a rider from a different category and both of us are forced to slow the pace. I try to speak French for some reason, hoping she might pull over and let us pass, but perhaps my strange aussie/french accent in Italy came across all wrong as I’m completely ignored would you believe J

At the end of the single track we drop onto a long piece of tarmac, and I remain on her back wheel thinking about where to make my attacking move, but the cobbled streets are narrow and I’m pushed into the barriers by some very aggressive elbow action from Daniela Veronesi who takes 9th by 1 second. I’m shattered, but buzzing from head to toe because that race course has to be one of my all time favourites.....so many steps, a castle and the steepest single track that will keep me smiling until the next mountain bike race challenge comes my way.

SUNDAY MARCH 14 – An early 5am wake up call, although I have been awake all night as I’m still buzzing from the race adrenaline that is a natural part of racing. I close my eyes and I can still feel myself descending down all those steps. Ian and I pack Mini Blue and head home to Luchon.....just 13hrs to go.....now I’m really tired. Poor Ian is going to have to chat to himself again J

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