Adventures of the Cotic - A Quick Release holidays mountain bike race team

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Biking... AND running!

Kirsty reports from The Clumber Park Off-Road Duathlon

October.  The leaves are starting to change colour, the nights are drawing in.  My team mates are either enjoying a well-earned break after the cross-country season, or starting to think about base training for the year ahead.  Some are even drawn to the pain locker of cyclo-cross.   I, however, am dusting off my running shoes ready for the offroad duathlon season.

Clumber Park was the first race in the inaugural Midlands Offroad Series, with two more races to follow at Sherwood Pines and Holme Pierrepoint.  It’s great to see more offroad duathlons springing up all over the place, and there was a healthy turnout with some strong competition.
Coming off the back of a 4-week break with virtually no running and riding, I was interested to see how I would go.  Would I have retained my fitness from the Haute Route?  Or had I eaten too many post-race ice creams?!

I had an entertaining evening pre-race.  All my Nottingham-based team mates had deserted me and scattered to various corners of the British Isles, so I stayed at the local Youth Hostel.  It had been taken over for the weekend by the “Rough Stuff Fellowship” – average age appeared to be approximately 60, with enough tales of adventure and misadventure to last a lifetime.

Anyway, back to the race.  For me, duathlon is like a game of cat and mouse.  Running is not my strong point, so the first run is all about limiting the deficit and trying to hold something in reserve for the rest of the race.  Then comes the fun bit… how many people can I chase down on the bike.  In theory, if I can catch them by the halfway point I stand a good chance of staying ahead.  At Clumber, there were 3 girls ahead of me after run 1, so I had 3 main targets to chase (and countless blokes as intermediate targets).  My first catch came early on the bike, the second was close to halfway, and the third was past halfway.  The game then is to put as much time into them as possible before second transition.  It seemed that my week in the Pyrenees was still providing some fitness benefits, and I was enjoying finding my flow on the singletrack sections, so fingers crossed it would be enough.

I led into second transition, only to discover that I had racked my bike in the wrong place (this was the first duathlon I had competed in where there was a ‘right’ place, all the others you simply racked your bike wherever you chose to in the transition area).  I was slightly bemused when the race director asked “Are they your trainers?”!!!!

And so the hunter becomes the hunted.  Have I put enough time into my competitors on the bike to stay away on the run?  At Clumber, the second run was an ‘out and back’.  I managed to hold my lead to the far point of the course, and counted the steps on the way back until I passed my closest rival (who high-fived me… nice bit of camaraderie J).  I reckon I had just over a minute.  Dig in, she’s a good runner but you’ve only got 1.5k to go…  Focus on your own race, don’t look back…
Phew!  That was close.  1st place :-)

Great race in some good company.  Looking forward to the rest of the series.

PS Turns out I narrowly avoided disqualification for racking my bike in the wrong place.  Thankfully no-one complained to the race director so I escaped with a ticking off.  Lesson learned!!!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Elbow & Shoulder Dominoes

Katie is getting back to strength after some unplanned time off the bike.. she explains why...

I've never been injured like this before.  Usually the adrenaline gets me back on the bike, after a quick check nothing's broken.  But this time, I just couldn't get up.  I gave it a few minutes more, and then 10, and still couldn't get up.  Okay, I thought, so this fall might be a little different... And so it was.  Almost 11 weeks later and I'm just beginning to turn the pedals again.  Just from a few sore muscles, no broken bones!

I was practising at Round 4 of the British National Series at Margam Park.  Less than a few minutes in, and the course headed down a very steep section - very loose, very rocky, very ouchy.  While others were standing at the top figuring out how (or whether) to ride it, I thought hesitation would only make me whimp out completely.  So after one look, off I went over the edge.  Clearly, some hesitation would have been good on this occasion ;)

Too much speed, not enough traction, no control... somersaults, THUD.  Shoulder injury, neck injury, whiplash.  I was lucky it wasn't worse (gulp).

So much of what happens in life is a result of a crazy myriad of factors.  Some within our control, some not (in this case, mostly within my control)!  Sunday morning, before caffeine.  Brain not warmed up.  Legs not warmed up.  And the first time off-road after many weeks road riding in Italy.  Not a good combo.

I've had to live life in the slow lane since July, much needed after hauling too much luggage around Europe while volunteering for months.  So what have I learnt from my couch while nursing my sore muscles?

1.  After weeks of road riding, get your dirt mojo back first before trying loose, steep drops.  Margam Park is not Italy, or Scotland!
2. Don't let your brain try the 'less is more' braking mantra, unless you have said dirt mojo back.
3. Do wonder why everyone else is standing around the top looking down the drop.
4. No point braking once you're in the air.
5. The smallest, cheapest rental car with no suspension is not good when you've just sustained whiplash.  Especially when the drive home is 10 hours.
6. Handbag on good shoulder makes a convenient & classy sling (rest forearm on top of bag in between the handles).  Camouflage rehab.
7. If last week feels like a blur and you feel strangely indecisive, you probably have mild concussion even though no-one's mentioned it.  If so, walk to the doctor rather than drive!
8. Stay in the same place so you can get regular osteopath/physio treatment.  Missing sessions will mean your shoulder tightens up like a plank of wood, and the words “deep tissue massage” take on a whole new painful meaning.
9. Don't carry your bike bag or luggage, even though your sore shoulder is “getting better”.  You may get your bike bag and luggage all the way to NZ, but your shoulder will tighten up even harder than a plank of wood, and the words “deep tissue massage” will have you running (hobbling) for the hills.
10. Keep cranking up the heat in the sauna/hotpool, and you have an excellent stationary form of exercise endorphins and muscle rehabilitation.  Feel refreshed without moving a muscle! 

Injury can indeed be a blessing.  Crucially, my shoulder injury helped identify the cause of my long-standing problem with tennis elbow.  The effect of the crash on my upper body helped my osteopath identify existing neck & shoulder weaknesses and their underlying role in my tennis elbow.  What had initially seemed like too much mouse-clicking was actually a case of various muscle weaknesses and subsequent over-compensation - a complete domino effect within my upper body.  It may well have taken much longer to identify the cause of my tennis elbow if it hadn't been for the shoulder injury. 

And best of all, when you finally get back on the bike again, every pedal stroke is so liberating.  Sofa treatment really is great for enhancing one's gratitude.

Happy pedalling, Katie :)