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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