Tuesday, 28 August 2012

SA Marathon Champs - MTN Gravel Travel - Yolande Speedy

After a very successful SA XC Champs and my wrist finally on the mend the SA Marathon title was my next goal.

With the level and depth of Elite ladies racing in SA having improved dramatically over the last few years I knew that it would be a tough battle for the jersey and that I needed a really focused and strong training block leading up to it.

Paul meticulously engineered my training plan but life threw a few spanners in the works and before I knew it 2 weeks had passed with very little structured training. I made the last two weeks count and being happy with the numbers from my Cycleops PowerTap booked my ticket to Cape Town.

EpicSports made the final touches to my GT Zaskar ensuring it was race ready with a Continental Race-King rear tire and X-King front to handle the course terrain in the predicted wet conditions and I headed off early Thursday morning with Amy for our flight to the Cape. Owe Paul a coffee or two for the early morning lift to the airport!

We were met by Amy's Aunt who had kindly offered a place to stay for the weekend and spent the next couple of days focusing and preparing for the race.

Waking up a few times the night before to howling winds and rain I knew as predicted we were in for a cold wet race and that was confirmed during our dark early morning drive out to the start at Diemersfontein Wine Estate.

I went through my normal pre-race routine trying not to shiver too much and soon it was time to line up at the start. After a quick race briefing we were off at a pace up the first climb with Araine, Cherise and Therresa battling it out in front.

I hung in as long as I could but soon knew I was in trouble and that I would have to hang back and settle into my own pace.

I fell into 8th place; Ischen, Amy, Mariske and Sam passing me. Keeping a steady pace, all the time hoping I would feel my racing legs coming back I caught Sam further up the climb and seeing Mariske not far ahead I focused on closing the gap.

The hard climb was rewarded with some awesome flowing single-track and my GT with it's Conti tires handled superbly. Unfortunately my nirvana was suddenly interrupted when coming around a sharp corner onto a rocky drop-off and finding two riders portaging I was forced to take a dodgy line to avoid crashing into them consequently sending myself over the bars. As Murphy would have it I tweaked my sore wrist which made any further descending much less enjoyable.

Luckily my bike was unharmed though and I was quickly on my way.

Sadly not even my USN Vooma Gels could help me find my legs and I lost sight of Mariske. With about 15kms to go Sam was hot on my tail and we passed Amy who had stopped with a puncture (Very sad as she had an amazingly strong and had been lying 5th). After quickly asking if she was okay I pushed hard to keep ahead of Sam but it was not my day and I had to settle for a disappointing 7th place.

Congrats to Cherise for a great ride in tough conditions and welcome to the sport of MTBiking :)

A big thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for believing in me, sorry I could not bring home the jersey but I'll be back to fight another day!

Thanks too to Advendurance for an awesome marathon course and event and Powasol for the much needed bike wash!

Till next time,

Monday, 27 August 2012

MTN Gravel Travel; SA Marathon Champs in Wellington - Amy McDougall

I was in two minds about doing SA Champs as I couldn’t afford flights and accommodation but really wanted to do it. About a week before the race, I found a special on flights, and my aunt who lives in Cape Town offered for Yolande and me to stay with them over the weekend.
I was excited as I had never raced and barely ridden that side of the world. I love hard marathon racing. I was amped for the challenge that lay ahead!

Yolande and I arrived in Cape Town on Thursday morning at 9 20. The weather was nippy but beautiful and sunny. Looked like a perfect weekend ahead! Right..?

Thursday and Friday’s weather was so stunning in Cape Town, it was hard to believe the predictions for Saturday were all: very cold, very windy and rainy. This would add a nice twist to the already challenging course set out for us!

As I opened my eyes at 5am on race day, low and behold, I was greeted by the sound of rain and wind, and the cold was almost audible! I found myself wondering: Uh, what am I doing?? Parting with my bed was a feat in its self. Half of me wanted to roll back over, but no, over 1800m of climbing and endless amounts of Single Track lay ahead… I had a good feeling about this one; it was going to be epic!

My Team Edition Ghost XX fitted with Ritchey, Sram, Crank Bros egg beater peddles and Continental tyres; was packed, and ready for whatever the elements and Mother Nature (who seemed to be on PMS) had to through at us! 

I slipped into my Decca kit, groggily downed a bowl of oats and coffee with Yolande before setting off on our adventure.
The drive from Cape Town took us an hour and a half; it was dark and rainy the entire way, the car swerving from the wind at times. Uh, what am I doing??

Luckily the rain had stopped and it was semi-light by the time we got to the race venue but it was freezing. All the big names in Mountain biking were there, all hungry for that SA Champ jersey! I was anxious on the start line, the field was super strong and I was not quite sure what to expect.

As the whistle blew we immediately started climbing the longest climb of the day. The leading group of ladies consisted of Cherise Stander, Ariaan Kleinhans, Ischen Stopforth and Therisa Rahlf. I found myself not too far behind in fifth. I maintained this position till about 50km in. I was pushing hard; the uphills were steep and painful, but totally worth the effort when the downhills came! The single track was phenomenal, it was super smooth and bermed so you could just fly through it sometimes literally! This course was very challenging but I was in my element!  

Mariska Strauss caught me and I started feeling the beginnings of cramps in my right leg. Putting less pressure on the right leg only started the left leg going… I carried on for about 10 km before having to stop and stretch it out. 
To my relief the cramps stopped, this was about when the rain started properly. With 15km to go, I slipped on loose sand around a corner causing my tyre to burp. For some reason, a faulty bomb adapter or maybe a combination of nerves and frozen, fumbly fingers, I couldn’t get the thing to work. Eventually I got help from a guy with a broken bike. By the time I got going, I had lost 3 places, the chances of me gaining them back in the last 15km were minimal but I fought back as hard as I could.

I was upset about losing those positions, but I rode my heart out and this was definitely one of the best mountain biking experiences of my life!  I have made huge improvements in my performance since the beginning of the year and I am looking forward to new challenges, more exciting experiences and getting better and better!

The race was extremely well organised by Advendurance, the course was exceptional, no problems with the markings and no bottle necking. Big congrats to Cherise Stander for taking the honours in the ladies race, and Max Knox in the men’s Ultra marathon. Also, Kudos to everyone who dragged themselves out of bed for the race, I’m sure it was well worth it!

Until then, keep the rubber side down, later!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Time to Taper f or SA Champs in Wellington - Amy McDougall

With a tough three weeks of training done; tough because of the howling winds, freezing weather and even some snow. I am glad I managed to grit my teeth and do the base miles regardless!

My training previously, was higher intensity in preparation for SA Cross Country champs in July and since then has been more time in the saddle which has prepared me for the tough Marathon coming up this weekend in Wellington. I am looking forward to the race as I hear it is very technical, which is my biggest strength, not to mention loads of fun!!

My trusty, light and fast Team Edition Ghost bike has just been serviced at Ballistic Bike Trading and is in tip top shape, ready to take whatever this tough course has to offer!

I am flying down with Yolande Speedy and staying with family in Cape Town who stay (conveniently) a few km from Tokai Forest. We are spending a few extra days down there which will be undoubtedly spent exploring and making the most out of the great trails down there!

My exciting weekend (and some) will of course be recorded with my Bryton Rider 40, which I have become completely reliant on during and after my training!

Until then, keep the rubber side down!