Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Catapulted into a world of Elite MTBO

Apparently it's our restless gene to blame for landing Adel and I in the Czech Republic; to compete at elite world level in a sport we've never done, with people we've never met, a roadie and a trackie on mountain bikes we'd only started riding this year. Perhaps not everyone's idea of a fine way to spend a week in July but it seems a variant of genetic coding known as DRD4-7R is responsible for quite a lot.

I have to admit, I'd never even heard of Mountain Bike Orienteering (MTBO) before meeting Emily Benham at our MuleBar Girl Sigma Sport testing day at The Stable (MuleBar HQ). Mr MuleBar, Jimmy, had met her in the woods (riding mountain bikes I should probably add) found out about her exploits as MTBO world championship silver medallist and cordially invited her to join us.

MTBO, it turned out, sounded like a lot of fun. You get given a map a minute before you start then have to ride and navigate while riding to a series of checkpoints in the forest in the quickest possible time. Don't stop, that's wasting precious seconds, look at the map, pedal, look where you're going, get yourself to the right place and don't get lost or fall off, all in the same moment. It also sounded impossible!

Inspired by this alone I signed Adel and I up to the closet thing I could find to MTBO, a Gorrick Trail Trax event. The map and format are different but the general theme is the same, navigate round a map on a bike and do it quickly.

It was about this point that those restless genes popped in. As I've learnt this week they were responsible for driving our ancestors to take risks, to head out into the unknown in search of new food sources or to discover what lay over in the next valley. With food now in abundance they fuel a sense of adventure instead. "I think I've found my relay team for the MTBO world championships", Emily joked with us on Twitter after our escapades at the Trail Trax event. "This smells like a challenge" said Adel and I, "Where to we sign up...?!".

Friday, 26 June 2015

Corona Grab Condo by Natalisa Creswick

Struggling through Shoreditch with a bike box is definitely not one of the coolest things I've ever done. Especially when it only has three wheels and no handle courtesy of the combined forces of Easyjet and Ryanair and when the trendy people of London are stumbling squinty eyed into the Sunday evening glare to smoke outside daytime clubs.

You may wonder what this has to do with a cycling festival in Girona but sometimes things have their cost. Weekend shifts off work are like gold dust so I had to fly straight to the office on Sunday morning, fresh from Girona Gran Fondo if I wanted to spend a week in the Catalan sunshine. A small price to pay in my opinion, until the box broke and the half mile walk to the bus stop suddenly felt longer than the sportive itself. Most people might catch a taxi but I like to approach all things like an endurance sport.

I feel truly honoured to have been part of the second Girona Gran Fondo, organised by the lovely Dave & Saskia from Bike Breaks Girona, it was a very special week. Shop rides every day, a hill climb (10km mountain if you're from the UK, don't let them deceive you, that ain't no hill), urban downhill (to watch, not ride, Dave & Saskia like their riders to go home all limbs intact), night time nocturne through the cobbled old town and if your legs haven't quite taken enough punishment there's a 125km sportive on the last day. Throw in a rooftop pool party, free beer, free sausages and delicious Catalan dinners, what more could you want? Oh, there was wine, wine & cava and a bit more cava to wash it down.

The cycling was excellent but it wasn't just about the riding, the atmosphere was like nothing I'd experienced before in a sports event. The love of bikes transcended all languages and people to create a mishmash of lycra clad, enthusiastic cyclists sporting perma-grins and rapidly increasing tan lines. I made loads of new friends and got to hang out in the area's many cafes, restaurants, ice cream parlours, err, these places all seem to revolve around food?! We did go to the beach once!

Of course, it helped that Team MuleBar Girl - Sigma Sport did pretty well. I won the hill climb and the nocturne plus was 2nd in the sportive with Adel picking up 4th at the hill climb, 2nd in the nocturne and 4th in the sportive too. I now also know that a magnum of cava, won at the nocturne, no matter how many people you share it with is only going to end one way! 

We won some pretty cool prizes too. I'm now the proud owner if a Formula 1 Tag Heuer watch (yey!) for winning the hill climb & being 5th overall, only a minute and a half off the overall win. Plus a new helmet, a gorgeous gran fondo bracelet and trophies in the shape of traditional Catalan drinking vessels, porrons. I'm glad no-one weighed my hand luggage on the way home!

Adel and I have had wobbly seasons through illness and injury so the feeling of power back in my legs couldn't have come at a better time. In fact, packing to come home I found my trainers and running kit languishing at the back of the wardrobe. I'd completely forgotten my back had been so bad the week before I’d brought them out just in case I couldn't cycle but still wanted to get out into the mountains. It felt like a world ago but had only been a couple of days.

Nothing is better for the soul than a week full of sport, good company, good food and good wine and it was an absolute pleasure to share it with my fellow Fondomentalists (to steal Shane's phrase). Quaffing more winning cava with new friends on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Gironion sunset was a fine way to end the week. Thanks to Dave & Saskiafor putting on something really quite wonderful. I loved every minute. Although I won't miss is autocorrect changing Girona Gran Fondo to Corona Grab Condo every flippin time!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Redditch Tour Series - Round 1

Tonight I made a point not to eat any MuleBar caffeine gels.  They’re so effective and powerful I was awake half the night after every round of the Tour Series last year.  I’ve got work early in the morning and want to avoid any of that 3am tossing and turning malarkey.  Except it seems that Tour Series fuelled adrenaline is pretty powerful stuff too, so even after driving home and trying to calm down I’m still too wired and awake to sleep.  To wile away 20 minutes or so I thought I’d write a few words about round one of the 2015 Matrix Fitness Tour Series over in Reddicth tonight.
My season was cut short bang in the middle of the Tour Series last year with a herniated disc.  It’s been a wobbly journey back to fitness which meant I only really started proper bike training in January. I’ve been doing some MTB and TTs so far this year so couldn’t wait to kick off again with some crit racing. I wouldn't be on the start line at all though without the amazing support and treatment from Nick at the New Malden Chiropractic Clinic (www.backandneckpain.co.uk). A huge amount of thanks are owed in his direction.
Did I mention the rain?  It was really rainy and haily and then rainy again and then the sun came out for a moment and then it rained again and then the wind blew a bit and then it stopped.  The roads were wet and then some.  So after many practice laps carefully sighting the corners the klaxon went and off we went – all 72 of us.  I couldn’t quite believe it either, 72 is an awesome number for a women’s crit.  Everyone loves the Tour Series.
There was a lot of jostling for position, a lot of elbows out and finding small gaps that didn’t really exist and that was just in the neutralised section.  Then bam…slide…barrier…person on top of me…I’d skidded out on one of the corners.  It’s off camber with a selection of slick white paint and shiny wet drain covers to choose from and I must have caught one of them just before I skated across the tarmac on my knee. 
I was so fired up in race mode and in my fight to want to get back into the thick of the racing I completely didn’t think about the fact that I could have a lap out as I’d crashed.  So henceforth came many lonely laps as I smashed it around on my own trying desperately to see anything resembling a bunch come into view.  I overtook a lot of other riders, both alone and in little pockets of people and finally with just one measly lap to go I caught the back of group three.  Sadly, I had nothing for the finish though, having beasted myself round umpteen times and attacked the hill more times than I cared to count my legs just couldn’t find it.  Still, it was an awesome training session if nothing else.  35 minutes of crazy high intensity has got to be worth something and the Cannonadale SuperSix absolutely flew up that hill.  Much bike love was going on amid the pain.  In fact, I can’t have looked too shabby as I overheard some spectators on the climb asking each other if I was off the front – I wish
So back home I have a bit of road rash here and there and some nice looking bruises developing.  I’ve never been more glad that I was organised enough to bring dinner with me from home.  Not because it meant I had something tasty to eat straight after the race for recovery but because in my cool bag was a very welcome ice pack which worked a treat on my hip the whole drive home.  Tonight’s Tour Series was a bit of adventure and I loved it, despite everything that didn’t quite go to plan.  A big smile is exactly why I race my bike, it’s just a shame it’s sometimes accompanied by road rash.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Just a little brief on the Belgium cross – I can officially confirm when everyone tells you its cold they are bloody right I was not expecting the amount of ice and snow I found. The first race was in Diegem a nice little town near Brussels, I pre rode the course the day before and felt pretty happy with everything. Washed the bike off and chilled to race day, however the first race morning was a little stressful as I found leaving your bike in the van is not a wise idea, one of my bikes was completely frozen. I now realise why everyone was air drying their bikes with such precision out there. However it was too late to do much about it so I one biked it on the first race, which wasn’t too bad really as most of the course was frozen anyway, there were some muddy patches that I ran instead of rode just to keep the bike working. Plus my running isn’t too bad so I don’t think it massively altered my positioning. I came 35th which I think was a reasonable position considering I was gridded toward the back and it was my first ever world class race. 

There were areas I knew I could improve on but this was really what I was here for the experience top races, and practice on obstacles we don’t always get in the UK. Ramps, ditches, sand off camberdescents etc.

The second race was Azencross Loenhout, this was super icy and snowy and pretty intimidating due to the weather conditions but really it was more suited to me there was plenty of running, lots of jumps and a nice fast road sections. I was slightly less nervous as I now understood the set up of Belgium races. So much less stressful no worries regarding pit equipment it is all there for you, people were there willing to help pit for you and generally treated you like royalty. I had a really good race, first half, then I made a few little mistakes, dropped a chain and slipped on some steps but still really got into the race and loved it. I would highly recommend the ladies to go out there and give it ago. I have so much to learn still within cross and thanks to MBG I have had a life time experience I will not forget.

Along side me I had a junior girl that does my local cross league Sarah Lomas that also put in 3 cracking performances. Give her a follow on twitter.

This weekend at Derby I rode a strong race and ended up finishing the National series in 5th position…consistency throughout the series assure me of this position and it has taught me a lot and given me great focus for next CX season…bring it on.

I have the National Champs next weekend then I will be turning my hand back into my triathlon training. Thanks to all the sponsors and my wonderful teamies and pit man GaryMcCaffery

Di Lee 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Into the Cross season

It's now well into the season, and nearly all the MBG’s have been doing a bit of Cyclocross with V and Lou doing the London Leagues and Emily, Phoebe and myself doing the National Series and our local league races. So far things are going really well, with the super support form MBG-Sigma Sport I was able to target the National series as my main events this year.
I am currently lying 5th overall in the series with 3 rounds left to go.  Last weekend was the inter championship at Hardwick hall seriously muddy but a great course for me. I had a really strong race holding 3rd place until I had a major mechanical that left me running a good chunk of the course. I managed to hold onto 5th place. I haven’t raced in quite so many of my local races due to the Nationals but the participants in the women’s field at Notts and Derby is continually growing, which is great to see.
Over the Xmas period I am going to do some international events in Belgium to gain some more experience and try to improve my technical skills before the Nationals Championship. I think the thing I enjoy most about cross is that every race is so different with such differing condition it makes it such an exciting sport.
I am really looking forward to the Milton Keynes Nationals as I’m sure the atmosphere will be buzzing after the World Cup. Once cross finishes I’m straight into the tri season with my first race being in Portugal - my training will change significantly, changes by increasing my mileage and regaining my running and swimming fitness.
I am excited about a busy few months ahead.

Di xxx

Monday, 25 August 2014

Euro Trip Challenge: Week One: The Plan, The Views, The Crash

I am writing this from a Cafe in Chamonix. it’s the start of my second week into my Euro Trip Challenge and many things have happened and plans have changed on a daily basis.

The initial plan was to live out of my havebike van,  touring the mountains in Europe and undertaking 4 mountain bike races in 4 weeks. I was given the opportunity to make it into a video diary for The Cycle Show and thus, the concept became a reality.

As with most things I do there was no plan, even less of a plan than even I was comfortable with. I left my house on Saturday morning with the van packed and still no clue as to where I was heading!

First though, I decided to sneak a race in in Brighton, the famous Brighton Big Dog. All my teamies the MuleBar Girls-Sigma Sport were racing and I got an on-the-day entry to do a Onederdog lap, which is a one-lap race that you can start whenever you want. It’s more of a fun category but I was grateful simply to get a ride!

It was an awesome day out, the girls were on form and loving it and totally dominated the podiums, I was so proud to be wearing my team kit and part of the day with them! I still don’t know the time I got but I tried really, really, really hard to the extent that I could taste blood and my lungs were on fire! It felt so good to be back putting that sort of effort into riding, I am not fit enough to be going particularly fast even when I try that hard but there is nothing like a race to force you to push your body to it’s limits and I loved the feeling….

At night time of course I was peer pressured into staying and partying and was offered a floor to sleep on at race organisers Rory and Sabrine’s house.

On Sunday I took myself to a cafe to book a ferry and have a look at the footage and audio I got from the race. It’s quite a big deal to me to be trying to self-film and record, it’s fiddly, takes organisation and commitment throughout the day and with the support of Rebecca and V I felt like I was happy with what I had got.

I booked a ferry for that evening, got stuck in traffic on the M20 and made it on with 5 minutes to spare. I was just thinking “Is this seriously what my whole trip is gonna be like?!” because, to be honest, that’s what my whole life tends to be like…

On the ferry I set about filing the footage I had got from the race...only to discover it had disappeared!!! I was devastated, my Go-Pro was refusing to work too. I drove a few hours south from the ferry and set up camp in a lay by and as the rain pelted my tent I really felt a lonely feeling of “what the hell am I doing?!”

The next morning I made my way down to Chamonix, unable to use sat nav in the van because the lighter plug doesn’t work I had to get on wifi in service stations and memorise the motorways and big town names to head for. Eventually I arrived and hooked up with Nina, a girl I had met at my first and only proper race this year. I had contacted her on Saturday to ask if she wanted to ride with me….and it’s still the best decision I have made this trip!!

I was made super welcome in her boyfriends little flat, where they pulled out a bed for me and took me in as if we’d known each other forever. Together we talked about my plan and it started to come together. I knew I had to get to Eurobike in Germany at one point and I contacted a few race organisers that I had come across thanks to a facebook shout-out and as I waited for the replies we could then just concentrate on some local riding.

Riding. That’s what I came out for after all.

I got my Go-Pro fixed at Epic TV in Chamonix and took a ski lift up Brevent with Nina and Spencer to check out the riding on their door step.

From here, it’s really best to look at the pictures on facebook as the words can’t describe the variety and enormity of the riding I have done in the last few days. Chamonix, Le Tour in Switzerland, Pila in Italy and Tignes/Val D’Isere in France. There have been times that my little London brain has felt fit to explode with the views and the magnitude of the mountains, to get to the top and then let loose ride, ride and skitter down the rocks and paths to the bottom is truly an incredible, incredible thing to do.

It has been taking me a while to get back into the flow after a long time off of my mountain bike in the UK, but each run I felt more confident and relaxed.

The thing that has really fucked my brain up is the cliff edges. Here it seems to be normal to find tracks away from the main Bike Parks and off the beaten track and no-one seems to bat an eyelid at the mountain drops along the side of the path, shrugging it off with a simple “yeah, you just can’t commit to riding at 100% when you are here as the consequence is too high”
But somehow riding at 90% seems totally fine!!!

After a few days in Chamonix and no positive response for a race for the first weekend, Nina decided to join me and show me around Val D’Isere and Tigne and it appears that I have picked up a little riding and travelling buddy for the next week or so. It’s AWESOME!!!

We had some good days riding, we started with a black run and then moved on to blues and reds. Bit of a backwards decision, but decision making does not seem to be the strong point of this trip!

At one point we came across a big ladder drop, about 2 metres high. Higher than any drop I have ever done before. After looking at it for a long time Nina decided to go for it, her analysis being that it looked fine from the top and she had done bigger drops before. I was unsure, but trusted her judgement and took to the camera to film her.

I was inspired and impressed that she went for it but without having seen someone do it ahead of us she hit it with too much speed and landed miles down the landing. She held on but the speed and rutted landing was too tricky to maintain and she hit the floor a second or two later with a big bruise developing immediately.

I was then even more unsure and after some more deliberating decided not to do it, we had the last ski lift to catch anyway. Which we made with less than 2 minutes to spare!

I went to bed that night feeling really annoyed with myself. I think I have a really strange brain and all I thought about that night was doing the drop. It was annoying me because I felt the only thing holding me back was will power, not ability. I was absolutely determined to do it.

So the next day we went to it first thing because it was far away and we needed to make sure we were able to ge the ski lift back, which meant i couldn’t practice on smaller ones first. I was feeling scared but steely determined. Thanks to her crash and general “meh” mood Nina wasn’t up for it again so I couldn’t just copy her (which is a favourite of mine when it comes to new things!)

On the run in my brain said something like this “No, yes, no….oh fuck, yes…”

And then everything slowed down, I heard Nina telling me it was perfect, but I knew it wasn’t, I was dropping the front end and I knew I was gonna crash.

The thing that saved me  (aside from my Lazer Helmet) I think was the fact that I am good at relaxing when I crash on an MTB, I rolled pretty far and hard, smashing my helmet and goggles on the way. I sat up and Nina got to me and I was pretty scared as I knew I’d hit my head pretty hard, I was shaking and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mountain straight away in case I started passing out and before the pain kicked in. Nina convinced me to stay still for a bit. I dunno, both choices have their pros and cons, if I had been more badly injured I didn’t want to be stuck in the woods with nobody around. As it was, I was OK, just really, really sore.

I managed the three hour drive back with some singing along to the radio to boot and now it’s time to go and have my bike checked over. I’m hoping it’s A. able to be sorted fast B. Not extortionately expensive.

The best thing of all? it was all caught on camera! Go check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1464416623831896&set=vb.1407513006188925&type=2&theater&notif_t=like

The next stage of my trip starts tomorrow as i head north with Nina to Switzerland and then Germany, with my next race booked in back in France this weekend. Fingers crossed the plan continues to (sort of) stay together…..

Monday, 21 July 2014

A Day in the Lakes .

Well after Texas 70.3 triathlon, I decided to race a little closer to home and enter an half iron distance race in the Lake District - a 1.9k swim 90k bike 20k run. This was the complete opposite end of the spectrum to Texas. The hilly, off road run and pretty god dam brutal. The swim started in Ullswater, a beautiful setting and a great opportunity for me to start the race well. I was the first lady out of the water and 2nd overall behind the lead male, I didn’t really get the lead I was hoping for with two ladies about 1mins behind me, but still a good solid start and on to the bike. It seemed to take me a while to settle into the bike, probably because I started out at the very front of the race and felt that loads of people were overtaking me, however I wasn’t really it was just the top end male riders that were trying to establish their positions in the field. Around 12miles into the ride we hit the first major climb Kirkstone Pass, here I settled into my zone catching a few men up the climb and getting into the feel of the race. The descents were fast and really enjoyable except for the odd sheep getting in the way. The bike route was on some fast country roads with spectacular scenery anyone riding over there I would definitely recommend the route for a general ride the route can be found on the website and map my ride http://www.trihard.co.uk/ADIL/ADIL%20cycle%20route.htm
I came off the ride with a 7minute lead on the other ladies, which really pleased me. Now it was to the run, it was a fell run with two fells reaching 1500m I knew it was going to be tough but I do enjoy off road running and decided maybe the steepness might help me. At the top everyone was walking / crawling I just kept telling myself to keep going I kept reminding myself I was fine at least it wasn’t the 3 peaks, I didn’t have to carry my bike. Keeping positive at 8mile I was still leading and carefully descending as fast as I could. However downhill running doesn’t come to me as naturally as others. People were catching me, the real fell runners were flying it was amazing to watch they literally fall in style, however I was struggling to keep pace. I was over taken by a lady that literally jumped over me, she was amazing and there is no other way of bigging this up, she just left me for dead. All I could do was push on hard and maintain 2nd place, which I did. I was pleased with 2nd and every credit to the winner Jenny Latham she put an exceptional run in.  I felt I raced a well-paced consistent race with no major problems. I loved wearing the new kit from Wildoo, I decided to wear my jersey on the bike over my blueseventy trisuit as it gets pretty chilly on the tops in the lakes, also my new lazer helmet was great for my support team to spot. The custom colours are great, especially with the Oakley Radars. So now I am going to take a little bit of recovery time then before we know it the cross season will be upon us.