11045749_850800181626027_1363618091_o

Mountain biking mental games

Two weeks ago I crashed my bike. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last time. Nothing was broken, just grazing and bruising and another concussion. Today’s blog is not going to be about the dangers of head injuries, but I will be touching on that at some stage. Today I want to focus on the common issue of the loss of confidence. The struggle to ride the obstacles that were once conquered. It doesn’t even have to be a big crash to throw you off your groove.

IMG_20140422_154520

A pretty awesome crash that a year on has left me with a dint in my leg and I’m still not able to ride that rocky section!

Why does that happen? Why, when we know it’s a mental barrier, that we once were capable and now are not, why do we struggle to push past and instead halt at that roll over, grabbing the brakes at totally the wrong time? It can be so frustrating, infuriating, defeating and even potentially dangerous. It can feed our self talk, something we are already trying to work on.

When I’ve tried to read up on these things, it all seems to come back to our natural instincts, you know, those ones that stop you from leaping off cliffs. When we mountain bike we are often throwing ourselves into dangerous situations, whether real or imagined, and our brains are playing the mental battle to try to keep us safe. When we have a crash, or a near miss, it only makes that survival instinct ramp itself up and steps us back in our progress. So how do we get past that? How do I get past that, now that simple obstacles are holding me back?

IMG_20140228_173239

Taped up knees, a common sight among cyclists.

Firstly, acceptance. It’s natural that I’m going to find simply things difficult after a crash, so I can’t be too hard on myself or push myself into situations that are just going to hold me back in the long run. It’s going to take time to feel the flow again, and I need to give it that time and not get angry at myself. I need to get out on easy rides and just feel the groove again, let myself focus on the enjoyment of these easy rides and have fun without expectations. I need to give myself a break, increase the challenges in small steps whilst remaining relaxed.I need to be ok to take a step back if I try to push too quickly, and ask for help if I need it. The more nervous I feel, the more likely I am to have an accident just like the first one, so I need to focus on feeling relaxed again, and if that means a few weeks of easy rides, then that’s what it takes and that’s ok.

Other than that, focus on physical recovery, no point pushing the envelope with training if my body is still suffering, it’ll only put me back in the long run. With concussions, recovery can be a difficult process, but thankfully, 2 weeks on from my amazing crash, I am mostly healed up and ready to start going through the process of gaining my confidence back.

Oh, and get a new helmet.

How do you best deal with getting your confidence back after a crash or near miss?

Part of me never knew just how overweight I was...

Obsessed with weight

My whole life I’ve obsessed over weight.

When I was young I was known as the fat one of the family, was told I’d eaten too many biscuits whilst my stomach was patted before a debutante ball, that I should exercise more when I already played netball, soccer and squash. As a teen, I was what would have been considered MEDICALLY as a “healthy” size. As a teen, I was what would have been considered SOCIALLY as an “obese” size.

At university, my weight ballooned. I became focused on my studies because I wanted to do well. I wanted to become a member of the Golden Key Society (tick), I wanted to get first class honours (tick), I wanted to get into a PhD (tick). I was in an unhealthy relationship, I was mentally in an unhealthy place, and I funneled my issues into study and eating. I never knew just how overweight I was.

Now, I didn’t eat because I loved food. I hated food. Nonetheless, I ended up somewhere above 120kgs, I have no idea how far over that, because I stopped weighing myself. I hated myself. So much self loathing, avoiding clothing stores because it was horrible to try on clothes, how they sat, they way they felt, I already hated how I looked, I didn’t need to struggle with fashion chains to reinforce that.

Part of me never knew just how overweight I was...

Part of me never knew just how overweight I was…

I did try to exercise. Each time, someone made me feel ashamed, which sent me further into the spiral. I would go running, well, my attempt at a run, only to have bogans pass by in their cars and scream “run fatty” at me, or “go eat a cake”. I didn’t get it – you hate me when I’m fat and make fun of me, but when I’m trying to lose weight to become the size you deem acceptable, you make fun of me still? What do you want?

Eventually, I decided that I didn’t want to be that anymore. I wanted to be active, I wanted to be fit, I wanted to have a future and I didn’t care about the bogan comments. The want to change came from within me, the only truly successful way to lose weight and change your life, because you want it. I started walking, then jogging, then running, then cycling (when I finally felt a bike could take my weight), and weight lifting. I lost half my weight. It was hard, and I learnt that it will always be hard, but that little things like climbing stairs become easier, unlike those crazy hills climbs or runs when I’m trying to get my new PB. I aimed to just keep at it, but I did get obsessive. I weighed myself twice a day, I obsessed over how big I was and how little I should become. I constantly compared myself to everyone around me. I still thought I was huge. It took a long time for my mental picture to actually catch up with what I truly looked like. I remember two specific events. The first, I had to fly to the USA and I had always hated how uncomfortable and embarrassing it was to sit in what felt like tiny plane seat. I sat down and actually had room in the seat either side of my hips – what the f*ck! The second, I had always thought a friend of mine was gorgeous and tiny. I went to a party at her place, a kind of fancy dress party, and at some stage she decided to have an outfit swap with a couple of other people – something I never would have imagined I could do, being so much bigger than everyone else! Yet, it turned out I was smaller than her, I left wearing her dress, and had tried on some other guys outfit for the night, and I was stunned. I never thought she was anything but a normal beautiful size, and smaller than me, a size I wanted to be, and here was proof, staring me in the face, I was in her dress and it was too big for me. I was smaller than I realised.

Achieving physical feats I never thought I would - Quandary Peak

Achieving physical feats I never thought I would – Quandary Peak

Then enter the world of cycling. With all it’s rules and the harsh way that some people will treat you when you don’t know the rules – like the ridicule at not knowing if you’re meant to wear undies under cycling knicks (I’d never worn knicks before and I wear undies under my yoga pants!), the apparent taboo of wearing white leg warmers, having bar tape that doesn’t match your seat. I just wanted to ride a bike, I just wanted to get fitter and faster. Ignoring all of that, the more I rode, the more I realised I would need better clothing, cycling specific clothing, so I started to invest in cycling kit. Women’s kit is horrific for your self esteem. I’ve spent the majority of my cycling “career” buying men’s kit because women’s kit either doesn’t fit right, isn’t available in my “size”, or is just ugly (I don’t always want to wear pink and bows just because I have female organs). I have a fragile self esteem when it comes to my size, it’s been a long battle, and though I should feel empowered that I have lost half my weight and that I’m a “normal” size, putting on women’s extra large cycling kit just hits me where it hurts. Lycra is weird and unforgiving enough as it is, skin tight, showing all your rolls and creating new ones to remain in place as you race, adding to that a size that I know I am not is at times, and riding among some of the thinnest women I’ve ever met, all built for climbing hills it seems, is difficult to deal with. I know a couple of young girls who already, at 15, are buying men’s kit too because of the mental game women’s kit plays. It broke my heart to hear that from one girl, so young, so active and fit and out there trying. My only advice here is to ignore it. I can’t even do that well, but I try my best. I order cycling kit, I ignore the label and just wear it. I judge it on how it feels, is it comfortable, is it warm or cool, is it going to cradle my butt the way I need it to on those long rides? Yes, well then it’s great kit. Does it look good? I hope so, because I still want to like what I’m wearing, I want to like how I look in my kit because it does affect my mental state (despite how much it shouldn’t!). You know what doesn’t affect my mental state? How red my face goes, how hard I am wheezing, because I know I am trying, I know I am pushing my hardest and trying my best and I’ve come a damn long way to lose close to 60kgs.

Before I knew the "rules"

Before I knew the “rules”

I struggle at times. I want to high five that bigger girl as she runs around the suburbs, or has a smash out on the cross trainer at the gym – but I don’t know that it would come across in a good way. I want to encourage more women to start riding, but I want them to come to it because they want it. I want to help people change their lifestyles to healthy lives, to long lives, but they need to want it too. How can I achieve this? How can I encourage people without coming across in a somehow negative way, especially when I still look at myself and fail to see a true role model. My only idea of a way forward here is to keep working on myself. To keep working on my self esteem, to keep looking after my mental health and reminding myself that I’m doing awesomely. To keep being a friendly face at my gym and to be positive and encouraging to all the people I meet who are trying to lead active lifestyles. To keep being active, keep aiming at achieving things that push my boundaries, like the Scott 6+6 race in October, to keep ignoring the labels and be proud of what I have accomplished. So I’ve never won a race and I probably never will, I won the race to beat obesity, to avoid diabetes, to be healthy and fit, and that’s a much more important race.

316553_10150942654385158_735155157_21838235_1803371160_n

A Hawaiian getaway

This year is such a big year for me. Roxcycl ambassador, turning 30 in 4 days, a trip to Hawaii, following up with a trip to Sri Lanka for my amazing friends wedding! That’s all before the year is half way done.

IMG_20150210_102954

Ten days in Hawaii didn’t quite feel like enough, and trying to incorporate training with a holiday can be quite difficult. I had organised my training weeks so that my “recovery” week coincided with Hawaii, allowing me to take it easy. However, I’m not really good at relaxing on holidays, I need to be doing things, I need to be active. As such, though it was a pretty chilled few days, I still managed to throw in a few fun activities, going with what was suggested, what was available, and leaving my week open to be active, to allow me to relax, and to go with the flow.

I managed to get in a couple of runs, demo-ed a specialised dualie 29er (so awesome!) for a couple of days, a few hikes and swims and taught a great crossfit workout (something completely new to me). It feels great to change things up. I barely rode my bike, realistically, and was able to get out running (so uncommon lately!) and even better I was able to get out hiking! I love camping and hiking, some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had have been out hiking and camping throughout Australia, especially with friends, multi-day hikes, it can be so rewarding. The scenery gives back so much, and being a biologist, finding gorgeous organisms that drive me to learn more about the surrounds is awesome.

IMG_20150210_134534One frustration I had whilst in Hawaii, and I’ve had it hiking in more “remote” areas of Australia is a lack of phone access. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love being unplugged for a few weeks to get back to what is really important, i.e. not social media, but myself, living in the moment. However, not being able to look up that species of cardinal and finding out if it was introduced to Hawaii as a way of making the place feel more like “home” to mainlanders (as many Europeans did when introducing species into Australia), or if the chameleon is native to Hawaii, I was pretty sure they were introduced but I wasn’t sure and wanted to look it up! I was also desperate to learn more about Big Island and the volcanoes whilst we were hiking around, but just couldn’t! I ended up writing down a whole lot of things to remind me to look it up later!

IMG_20150212_194410

I am happy that I managed to be so active but to take it (mostly) easy on my recovery week. I am happy that I planned to be flexible whilst away on holiday, as I know that my next trip won’t have the same kinds of opportunities. When I go away again, I will plan for the time before and after, and enjoy my time whilst I am there. I won’t pine for my bike, won’t pine for my weights. I’ll enjoy the people I’m with, my surroundings, my time to reflect on what’s important to me and what I enjoy.

IMG_20150213_212249

IMG_20150211_174723

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you deal with being active on holidays, or having holiday training? Any tips would be greatly appreciated, at the moment, my best time is to plan for either side and just go with the flow when the holiday comes around!

More holidays and hikes are planned in the future, hopefully you can join me on some.

IMAG6080

Race 3: Capital Punishment 50K in Canberra

IMAG6030

A new race this time, point to point instead of the laps, so it had a different approach. I have done one other 50K race, The Kowalski Classic, which is essentially ALL singletrack in Kowen, near Canberra. I finished that race in 4 hours, but I was pretty conservative in how I rode. I decided that for this race I wanted to get under 4 hours, and I wanted to push myself harder. Even if that meant that I pushed too hard and didn’t finish, I wanted to do that. Sounds crazy, but I’ve never pushed so hard that I couldn’t do anything after a race, I’ve never reached that limit and I have no idea how close I get to it, so I want to try. I want to know how it feels when I’m reaching that limit, I want to know how to gauge my effort without simply holding back for the whole race, being conservative in my efforts to ensure I “last”.

For a short race recap, check out my youtube video, here.

I lined up, and we raced up dairy farmers hill – the hill that I used to climb on my road bike for training! Some were complaining about the climb, but really the mountain bike has much easier gears for the climb! You can just sit and spin it up there! After that, straight into some fire trails that I had ridden on my cyclocross bike, so I knew what I was in for. We zoomed over to stromlo, following the bike path where a fellow competitor told me to stop, to slow down because I was going too fast. He caught me later at the refuel station and we leap frogged each other for the rest of the race until he got cramps. He urged me on so I could tell people I beat him – not true really when he had to slow down with cramps.

IMAG6029

Stromlo felt different for me. I had ridden it a lot when I lived in Canberra, and there was not a single thing that I had to get off my bike for by the time I left. I felt confident and fast with Stromlo – but now, it all felt new! Everything that had been an issue, that had taken time to conquer, was all back at square one! I had to get off for so many things that were just stupid. It got me down a little bit, but I tried to just focus on making up the time in between. I finished in 3 hours (10th in my age group!), which would have been much quicker had I not stopped so much, but was still a great time for me. It has taught me that I NEED to go and practice these places for the Scott. As it will be held at Stromlo, I plan now to go down for a few weeks in advance to ensure these areas I had conquered are back at being comfortable again, otherwise I will lose so much time in every lap.

The other big thing I learnt was that I need to double check my bike after a service. The gears changed perfectly, but the guys had pumped up my tyres far too much. I luckily checked that and changed the pressure, dropping it by 15psi for each tyre before I headed out. Unfortunately I didn’t have a shock pump, so I couldn’t fix that – it was set too high, I couldn’t compress the shocks at all, which may have contributed to how uncomfortable I felt on the trails that were once so comfortable for me. I had also changed a bit of my set up, which I had intended to return to normal, and the newness of that may have also contributed to the discomfort.

IMAG6044 All in all, it was a great race, I felt like I had pushed pretty hard, though I didn’t reach that all out goal. I rolled back to Canberra, an extra 10kms for my day of riding and spent the afternoon relaxing in my hotel room. I have noticed that after races where I push myself incredibly hard, I get emotional. I was watching Mean Girls and sewing on the bed, and ended up in tears! I spoke to my oracle, Eliza Kwan, who won the 50K despite crashing, and she told me it was a common occurrence. After pushing your body that hard, the influx of adrenaline, you can experience a bit of a come down. Knowing that, I just let it happen, try to relax, not try to do anything that is going to push my mind or body too much, eat what I like and of course, get some quality rest!

I followed the next day with a 2 hour spin around Sydney at sunset, and surprisingly that felt great. Thankfully it’s all flat around here so it could still feel fast without tiring me out. The weather was unbeatable, the company was awesome, and the route was great. I take that as a reinforcement that my training has been helping, being able to follow up a massive race with a comfortable 2 hour ride makes me confident that if I keep this up, the Scott won’t be too unbearable!

Looking forward to the next race, but first, my 30th birthday, which will be a crazy amount of mountain biking, and great company with loved ones! Woohoo!

How to choose a bike

bikes26, 27.5, or 29?

Tubes or tubeless?

Carbon?

Single or double chain ring?

Women’s specific or unisex?

Fox or Rockshox?

Hard tail or dualie?

A multitude of questions and to start with it can be incredibly overwhelming. When you want to invest in a bike, and not just a bike to rock around town on, but one you want to give back to you when you ride, you should try things out and learn what you can.

I’ve tried the full range of wheel sizes – personally I find the 26er a whip and a total weapon with tight corners and the most amazing fun to flick around corners. My first attempt at a 29er was poorly matched, the frame size was too big and as such the bike felt too out of control for me. Since then, I tried again in Hawaii and I felt like a demon! That beautiful Specialized Epic Comp 29er was fast, was fearless, hopped over logs with ease! It didn’t feel as quick around the corners and took a little more handling, but it was a fun bike! My current bike is a 27.5 and I feel the size works well for me. For what I want to do, some climbing, some technical, some tight corners, I feel the easier handling of the 27.5 size will work best for me. The 29er is quick, and I wouldn’t mind one in the future, but for now, the 27.5 is calling me.

I’m a sucker for tubeless, but I can appreciate the extra speed you’d get from the tube set up – just as I can appreciate the wider tyre for more grip and stability especially in the wet!

I currently have a beautiful hard tail and I feel that for my endurance events, sitting on a bike that has no rear suspension for 6+ hours will leave me feeling a little worse for wear. Dualies are smoother and much more forgiving of the little mistakes, good thing for when I’m starting to feel a little fatigued towards the end of my rides.

It’s easy to end up wanting the next biggest thing, the shiniest bike, the beast that will be the envy of those around me – but what good is that if I can’t ride the thing properly? What use is a high end bike if I don’t have the skills to appreciate those components and those shocks? I want a bike within my means, that will help me to develop my skills and that I will continue to use for a long time because I love to be on it.

As part of the Roxcycl ambassador program, we, the ambassadors, are given $1000 to help us to achieve our goals. For me, I wanted to put that to a new bike, one that would accommodate my butt for 12 hours and not have me writhing in agony! The good people at Roxcycl also have connections with bike stores in Sydney and are doing their best to get me sorted with a bike that does what I need, gives me room to grow, won’t cost an arm and a leg, and leave me with a great relationship with one of the brands! As such, I’m doing my best to educate myself, to get out there and demo a few different kinds of bikes to see what it is that I like and don’t like. It still feels like a difficult decision, but thankfully I have a lot of great advice from people in the know to help me out.

How do you choose your next bike, or any sporting equipment, that is a bit of an investment? What factors are important to consider?

 

Race 2: WSMTB 4 hour at Wylde

Back at the site of the first cancelled race, a familiar Clear skies that led to rainchain of events began. We arrived, early, with threatening clouds in the distance and a rainy night before, but the sun out and shinning. Just like last time, the sun was overtaken by clouds and the rain started falling. Everyone thought that they would cancel the event again, but, after a half hour postponement, we would begin.

No one was excited. No one was smiling at the slippery tracks that lay ahead and mud that would cake onto the wheels and frames of our bikes. No one, except me.

For the short race recap, check out my youtube video here

I don’t know what it is, but I love riding in mud and sand. I like to practice in sand, knowing that my bike will be unpredictable and that I need to respond with the changes, without over correcting, but just going with the bike. I think too many people were trying to control their bikes too forcibly, and they ended up in a lot of trouble. That’s IMAG5912[1]not to say I didn’t lose control, but I never came off the bike, just spun out, but managed to save it and stay upright.

A lot of people quit this race after the first lap. That was the not the way to go, in my opinion. That first lap was the hardest, it was the muddiest, the most dangerous for those heading out at full speed and those uncomfortable or new with handling their bikes and may not have had much experience on different trail conditions. The second lap, which I headed straight into, was much more compact, a bit drier and I shaved 10 minutes off my lap time! That little bit of sunshine when the rain stopped had done wonders. I was still covered in mud and had mud caked into my tyres so badly that I spun up all the hills like I was on a roadie, but the trail was much nicer to ride, far less slippery. To illustrate that, Rex went out on the 3rd lap (for his first) and came back without any dirt on him! It’s like he didn’t even go riding! We both got another lap in each before the 4 hours was up, so 60km of single track ridden between us.

base camp

In the end, it was a really great race. We both enjoyed riding it, I lost control a couple of times when I was pushing the envelope a bit and was getting a little cocky (mostly on my last lap!), but it was thoroughly enjoyable. I think I managed my hydration well for this race, and considering I have a 7 hour endurance race here in a month or so, I’m stoked I have that set! Now, I need to work on food. When you were once obese, it’s difficult to convince yourself you need to eat high energy foods during sporting events, well, it is for me. I look at these things and feel as if they are unnecessary and will somehow magically make me gain back all the weight I had once lost. But, as athletes, putting ourselves through so much, pushing ourselves so hard, we need to fuel our bodies appropriately. We need to replenish the energy we are burning through, or our bodies will fade, and we’ll hate the experience. I’ve been trying to work on this, but this race, though I didn’t feel super fatigued, I know I wasn’t refueling as well as I could be. With the appropriate choices (i.e. not just super sugar filled “energy” bars or gels, more wholesome foods), I will be able to keep my energy levels up, without putting the wrong kinds of things intIMAG5909[1]o my body, and paying for it later.

Thanks again to Rex for riding and supporting me on this race, to my local bike store, TBSM, for the marquee and the lovely Glenda and Hunter coming out to show their support, and to my sponsors, Roxcycl Australia, without whom I may never have decided to challenge myself so hard in 2015.

Check out the calendars to see what races I’m up to next, why not come and join me on one? Happy trails!

Pill box hike

#theprogram

Something I have seen a lot of throughout my cycling training is constant talk of following the program, what’s on the program, and I can’t do that because it’s not on the program. I have paid for a couple of programs before and for the #mygoalrox ambassadorship, I have utilised the knowledge of some fantastic athletes I know, and these previous programs, to develop one of my own. But I feel there is a problem…

We are pretty hard on ourselves. I see it among so many women and I know I am guilty of it, almost excessively. The pressure to “follow the program”, that you must trust the program and you will succeed ONLY if you follow the program, is unnecessary and in some respects, I believe quite negative.

IMAG5685_BURST009

This ride wasn’t on the program, but I would have been kicking myself to miss out on beautiful Hawaiian scenery if I didn’t ride!

Looking back at my first couple of months of following my own program has taught me a couple of things. First, I need to pace myself and really need to get comfortable with rest periods. Our bodies need rest, and taking a couple of days OFF from physical activity isn’t going to result in me magically gaining back tens of kilograms – a true fear that haunts me to this day. I need to take a day off, I sometimes need to take a week off, so that I can recover and be stronger for the next few weeks of training.IMAG5678_BURST004

The second, and the most important to me, is that the program isn’t a solid and definite thing. We can’t follow our programs 100% (due to injury, illness, life commitments), and if we aim to follow our programs 100%, then recovering from “failures” becomes harder. Just as those who attempt to follow strict diets are more likely to throw the towel in and blow out massively (if I ate the cookie at morning tea, I may as well eat this entire cake and start the diet again tomorrow! Sound familiar?). When you don’t make the program and follow it exactly, you’re more likely to get down on yourself and less likely to do another kind of activity that could be beneficial. It’s made worse when you do follow the program, sacrifice so much, and don’t see the “promised” results that your program creator indicated at the beginning, which in retrospect you realise that the program wasn’t actually designed just for you, nor did it suit you and develop and change as you did, hence you didn’t necessarily see the same results anyway.

Now, don’t get me wrong, programs are great and I think essential to success for our goals. But, I think we need to see them as a guide. We attempt to follow the workouts we need, but if you don’t make them, it isn’t the end of the world. It’s no reason to abandon the rest of the day or week and beat ourselves up about the apparent failure. We are human, we will stumble, but we are following a process and the best way to go forward is to back ourselves. So when we don’t get that ride in that we were meant to do, or we didn’t do that run, no more should we beat ourselves up. We should take a step back, we should look at our progress so far, we should enjoy the journey and not be so focused on just the end. We should forgive the mistakes and use it as a way to learn how not to make that mistake again, or what we should do next time that may make it easier to succeed at following the program as best we can. Of course, if you’re not making any of the workouts listed on your program, it’s time to revisit the program, revisit your goals, and decide what it is you are really wanting from the whole process – but a stumble is not a failure.

 

Not afraid of failing

Becoming an ambassador for Roxcycl has been an incredibly empowering experience for me.

I feel so much confidence to try new races, to commit to the training, and my only guess as to why that is, is the people I have supporting me.

Surprisingly, that isn’t just the wonderful people at Roxcycl. My friends, my family, my fellow ambassadors, people I meet at the gym, professional cyclists I’ve approached, all have met my questions and doubts with incredible enthusiasm and support.

I have so many people believing in me that for a change, I really believe in me. I know we all hear that we must believe in ourselves, and I have said it to others many times. I feel it’s true, we should, but I also feel that often it can be hard. I wish it hadn’t taken an ambassador program to get me to realise that, that I am capable, but I am also so thankful that I really believe it. I’m hoping that I can utilise this support and reach out to others, to share my experience and encourage them to get out there and challenge themselves, because I believe in them too.

If at first you don't succeed...

If at first you don’t succeed…

Try, try again.

Try, try again.

It’s now 8 months until my #mygoalrox event. That’s a long time to plan, to trial out different strategies, to hopefully be performing at my absolute best for the Scott 6+6.

I lost my weight, 60kgs, by myself. I didn’t have a trainer, I didn’t follow a special diet, or ask for help from anyone. I was naive and a little bit silly about my approach, thinking that I couldn’t ask for help. Well, not this time!

I have a great support network at my local gym already, and have enlisted the help of a personal trainer to help me shape a weight lifting program that will not detract from the cycling and be prepared to alter it dependent on my feedback.

I have also met wonderful people in the cycling community over the last couple of years, and have been picking their brains and asking for advice on how to structure my program and what kinds of tips and tricks they have come across in their careers. I feel so lucky, I have planned almost 4 months of my training program, completed the first month of it with a few changes and lessons already, and feel that I am in a great position with fantastic support to keep learning and shaping and progressing.

I have more in mind than simply competing in the Scott 6+6. My general goals for 2015 are;

  1. to increase my general fitness – I think everyone wants that in some form.
  2. to encourage and inspire women who see themselves as “just average” to get out there and try something – we are all more than just average and can achieve anything that we back ourselves to achieve.
  3. to turn 30! Not really a goal, but an exciting event nonetheless.
  4. to not be afraid of failing – too many times I have quit something before I started because I was afraid of failing and of somehow being judged for it.
  5. to revel in the journey – I want the biggest part of my goal to be the people I meet on the way, the skills I learn, the training process, the fitness I gain.

So no more fear, time to believe in myself, time to back myself, time to approach with tenacity the biggest fitness challenge I have undertaken, and to focus on every step of the journey. You with me?

Race 1: WSMTB 4 hour at Yellomundee

After the first race of the series was disappointingly cancelled 5 minutes before it started due to rain, I was even more nervous for the second round. I wasn’t sure what distance each lap would be, nor was I sure of how difficult the terrain would be. I took comfort in the fact that it wouldn’t be completely impossible for me, as I have some level of skill and they wouldn’t chose a terribly difficult terrain for an endurance event. Don’t get me wrong, a little smattering of technical parts, with A lines for the more skilled, but some nice flowing sections too. Thankfully that was the case! Rex volunteered to start first, which I was incredibly thankful for. I feel a little tentative about starting with the pack when so many are heading out – but I intend to work on that and improve my comfort for starting with the pack.

The mass start.

The mass start.

For the short race recap, check out my youtube video here.

For some great action shots, including yours truly, check here

I sat about, waiting, anxiously, for Rex, guessing how long a lap might take him. The course brought riders back towards base camp before heading out for another 5-10mins of singletrack, so you get a great warning when your buddy rides past. A high five and I was away, smashing my way through the course, feeling the pressure from people appearing behind me, and having no idea what was coming around the next corner! Completely new obstacles were a fantastic surprise, and stem chewing fire trail climbs, allowing the fast to get past, and all of us to sky rocket our heart rates. I attempted to be consistent, to be conservative in my ride, as I wanted to have enough energy to continue the rest of the laps.

Base camp

Base camp

One obstacle stumped me. A steep, rocky, uphill climb. I love rock gardens, I find them so challenging and confronting. I needed more confidence for this section, as well as more strength and fitness to maintain appropriate momentum for the climb. I balked at it the first time, and then each subsequent lap I decided that running up it was going to be quicker than trying to ride up it. A good lesson for the next race – practice the loop first, preferably with enough time to work out the best way to attack obstacles, or to get around them if running is going to be more efficient for me.

I had about half an hour rest between laps, we had a marquee for shade, and a camp bed to rest upon, and that was a winner. I felt that I recovered well, I ate, not excessively, but had a mix of gels, vegies (carrot, celery, some apples), and a delicious creamy chicken dish that despite how delicious it was, cream was not a good choice.

I was happy with my laps. I was getting quicker by a minute each lap. I was also getting dehydrated, with sharp headaches developing towards the end of each lap, and needing to drink a whole lot more water than I had prepared for. Thankfully, the rural fire brigade had set up a bbq and had plenty of cold water to buy, a wonderful respite.

So many lessons learnt, and as I have said before – got to be in it to win it! We were in it, we got 2nd place in the mixed pairs, as there was only one other mixed pair to compete against. A faux placing, but still placing ahead of the couch!

Thanks to Rex for riding and supporting me on this race, to my local bike store, TBSM, for the marquee and some very comfy knicks, and to my sponsors, Roxcycl Australia, without whom I may never have decided to challenge myself so hard in 2015.

The final WSMTB 4 hour, round 3, is on at Wydle mountain bike trail, a gorgeous mountain bike park, on the 22nd of Feb – come along, I’ll be riding in pairs again, but my aim is to increase my laps by riding doubles.

IMAG5271_BURST006

Applying for the ambassador program

Follow this link to see my youtube (poor quality) video application for the Roxcycl ambassador program.

When I first heard about the Roxcycl Ambassador program, I really didn’t think I was good enough to apply. I shared the link on my Facebook page as I knew there were so many inspirational women I knew who I thought would be great ambassadors, but why did I think I wasn’t good enough? What changed my mind and made me apply?

I look around me and see so many women talking themselves down. When I initially thought I wasn’t good enough to apply, I asked myself why, what makes me think that? I realised that I have heard friends of mine often tell me that I am too hard on myself. I never thought they were right, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I, along with many other men and women (especially), are horrifically hard on ourselves. We talk ourselves down, we back away from challenges we think we aren’t good enough to achieve, we are what is holding ourselves back.

I went to see Col. Chris Hadfield, astronaut, engineer, fighter pilot, human being extraordinaire, when he toured Australia, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have long admired Chris for his positive attitude and strong motivation to encourage fellow humans, children especially, to reach for the stars. His discussions moved me to tears and I remember he mentioned being afraid. He asked, what are you afraid of, and why? What skill can you learn from that fear in order for you to conquer it?

I realised then, I am afraid of failure. I was afraid to apply so publicly (with a youtube video) and not get chosen. I was afraid to set myself a goal, the Scott 6+6 hr race, and not reach it. I realised that I have always been afraid. I have predominantly chosen the “safe” things, the things within my comfort zone. Now, when people learn more about my life, and the huge variety of places I’ve lived, of work I have done, of solo travel, I have often heard “wow, you’re brave, that is such a scary thing for me”. But every time, those things felt like they were within my comfort zone. I can move to a new location and feel comfortable. I can travel overseas and feel ok (you’ll notice it was always to predominantly English speaking countries!), I can do a PhD because I know I can use my brain (most days!) enough to succeed (see, still talking myself down!). But aiming for something physical, especially when I had been so obese for most of my adult life, when I had almost always come last at the running and cycling events I had tried, when I didn’t feel I could, like other girls can. That was outside my comfort zone. That was new. That was hard. And I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I was good enough to apply, being the last at things. I didn’t think I was fit enough to apply, having such an inactive history. I didn’t think I was someone who could inspire others.

But, I am. I am good enough because I am last at things. I am good enough because I overcame such an inactive history. I am inspirational because I have changed my life, because coming last has still never stopped me from starting a race, and because I want to challenge and set myself a goal, I want to push myself as far out of my comfort zone as I can to show myself, and you, that I can. That we can. So I applied. I had become comfortable with the idea of not being chosen, and I had told everyone publicly that I was going to enter the event, regardless of the result of the ambassador program. I decided then and there that I was going to change my own attitude and push myself to my limit and enjoy every step of the way, becoming a better, stronger, and healthier (mentally and physically) me by the end. Because I am good enough.

Euroka

I want us to stop using negative terms when we refer to our abilities or our bodies. I want us to start believing that we are more capable than we ever imagined. I want us to start to chase the dreams we’ve been too afraid to chase. I want us to start defining our self worth through meaningful measures, not those placed upon us by others. I want us to push boundaries, and change lives, and start something new. We can.