Australian Solo 24hr MTB Championships - Easter 2011

What on earth happened?

Its time to give you the goss on what happened on the weekend.

My chance to get the 3 in a row Aussie solo 24hr champs has been and gone and the sense of relief is pretty good.


2010 was a good year for racing, I was beginning to learn heaps about myself and really focused on my goal of winning the World SOLO 24hr MTB Champs on my home soil in October.

In the end nailing the win was the most awesome thing and put me in a spot where I had no idea to do from here on.

I did not want to touch the bike for 2 weeks – not because I was sore or could not pedal the thing, but I just had no desire, no passion and almost hated the contraption.


I started to get invites for a few social rides and that made me perk up a bit, so I went along and started to have fun again.

It was just like old times, no program, no worries, no concern about having the energy for my next training session, loads of night rides and fun times.


Before I knew it, we were heading into Christmas and I still had no desire to race, or train specifically. Thankfully we had loads of invites to social rides and I even started running and paddling. We headed off to Tathra for a family holiday, rode everyday, swam and paddled some more.


It was upon our return home on the 1st of January 2011 that I realised I better start thinking about what I wanted out of my cycling. This was too long to sit and wallow about winning a world championship.

So I got in touch with my coach, Brendan and gave ourselves a date, being that of Monday 17th January to get the ball rolling again.

I would use such races as the Otway Odyssey and Bike Buller to ride into form, then add in the final touch of suffering in Terra Australis in late March.

This would be the perfect lead up to the Aussie solo champs preparing for another win to secure 3 titles back to back.


The problem was I still struggled to work out my reasons, my desire, and the true “want” for the win. 3 in a row sounded good, it also only “felt” like the thing to do. But as I said, somehow it just did not reach into my soul and say, “Lets do it!!!”

So I continued on with my 1% rule, hoping to consolidate back the passion. Just going through the motions praying that my training successes would build into the drive I needed to win this 3rd National title.


2 weeks out from my goal race, I did start to feel some fire in the belly, I think it was because I was really enjoying my training. I was focussed on this more so than the reason for it. Gee I had some good rides and was feeling physically in form.

Somehow though I could not get myself to focus on the race, how I was going to win it, playing out the race as I would normally as I lay down to sleep at night.

I did not talk to Norm about how it was going to play out either, we never spoke about tactics, nutrition or bikes much at all.

It also helped that everyone I know was behind me in my goals.


I only know this now as I reflect on the situation at hand…at the time I was trying my hardest indeed to start this race with purpose and desire so I could win it.


Fast forward to Canberra.

We arrived on the Thursday, went grocery shopping. Once again, no plan, no idea what I was going to eat or anything. We shopped aimlessly. Eventually I really gave Norm control here, finding it hard to imagine myself eating anything.

Friday we rode the trail twice, once on each bike. Claire was giggling with glee really loving it, I just could not find my flow, felt no love and just imagined that a few hours in the flow would come if I did not force it.

Once again, I put the negative thoughts aside and believed I would come around, finding my flow, finding the passion etc…once the race started.


Race day arrived and to be honest I still had not thought out any race plan or even given Norm instructions on how to handle me for the race. At around 10am, Norm asked me for input, I told him I don’t have a plan, just do whatever. It was crazy talk, but I was scared shitless of what was to come and was trying to avoid thinking about it for as long as possible.


At 12 noon, on the start grid, there was no turning back and I would have to just go with the plan of winging it.

As we started I remember getting my foot in the pedal first and getting a big gap on the group, not deliberately, but it just happened. I was cruising on the smooth hot mix of the crit track and felt no pressure from behind, so I assumed the lead role. It has been said that I started out fast, but there is no way this was the case. I just fell into my normal start pace, tapped out an honest ride and came in with a small buffer on the rest of the girls.

I started to enjoy the ride, just finding my rhythm and settling in for the day.

Norm fed me, I rode and so it continued.


I am not sure what time it was when I started to slow, but it was dark. Now normally I come good in the night, and find a new pace but this time I started to feel sick and unable to eat and forcing down any drink.

Of course with less carb intake I was going to slow down even more.

I don’t think any 24hr athlete is immune to experiencing these low periods and eventually able to work their way out of them.

I asked Norm for caffeine earlier than normal on this day trying to see if this could get me out of it.

I tried to tell myself it would pass, just keep pedalling same pace, and gave myself spots to mark my time against to remain accountable. My lap times started to get slower and Jo Walls stayed the same. Eventually she passed me. By this time I was losing the fight, not just the one people were seeing on the track, but the one inside, the fight to win and push through the pain.

My flow was disappearing, I was crashing in stupid places and really hurting myself. I was trying to make up time by not drinking in spots I normally would and became totally cranky on the track to other riders.

In short, I was hating it.

I realised I would probably not have what it took to pass Jo for a long time, I might come good I might not, but could I be bothered anymore? Could I be bothered being on track and coming 2nd or even 3rd today?

It become apparent when on what was to be my last lap I had a couple of very hurty crashes on uphill rocky sections, landing and cutting my knee open and another one corking my thigh and landing on and spraining my hand badly. What power I had left to pedal was even less for the rest of the lap after this.

At this point I quit.


I came into transition and was scared to tell Norm my story. Sometimes it feels he wants me to succeed more than I do. But this time he knew, he did not fight me, but just asked me about regrets. I agreed I would regret the decision but would get over it. So I had a shower, hopped into bed and slept for a couple of hours.


In the sun of a new day, I still had no desire to race and chose to watch and spectate what was unfolding.

Jo Wall was hurting but really having a great race. Anne Antrecht was also pushing hard and coming in 2nd with a fight. Bree Webb was loving her new 24 solo experience, determined to push through and hold 3rd. Dianne Perry had reached her wildest dreams and coming in at 4th overall but had to work hard to keep Claire Stevens at bay for a 5th position.

It was a pleasure to see how much these girls fought and raced for their positions, with passion and desire.

I knew I had made the right decision. Despite their pain, they were smiling and having a great time, they wanted this more than anything today. I was glad I was not impacting at all on their podium positions.

It was not my day to shine, it was theirs.

Yes my heart ached, for the loss of 24 solo to me, but my heart also felt happiness for these girls who really are the new hard core soloists of Australia.


Stuart Plant got some words from me on microphone and for the media report. I used this public moment to announce my retirement from solo 24hr, no more Aussie titles, no more 24 solo worlds, not even a 24hr anywhere solo! I realised that this was the race I should not have done but needed to anyway, just to find out if I was done. Having now reflected on this via the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard, I realise the writing was on the wall from the get go.

Winning the 2010 world solo champs was my ultimate goal and I reached it. I found out how much I can do, how much I can hurt and suffer and how strong my mind really is if I so desire it to be and after that effort I was never ready to do it again.


So what does a retired champ do now?

She re invents herself and finds the fun in racing again.

There is so much left for me to achieve and to tell you the truth, I am really excited.

When things go wrong, sure it hurts, but I always feel renewed when I have to take stock of my life and get over the hurdles in front of me. It’s been a 5 year build to win the World Solo champs, I think for me the expiry date has been reached in this discipline.


What’s next you ask?

Well…where do I start?
My business MTBSkills is busy and so much to achieve and deliver here.
Get back in touch with my family and friends and enjoy some social time again.

I also plan on doing a few more things locally with women and cycling in road and MTB.

My major sponsor Giant bikes has loads of plans too, so I think I might even be busier than normal!


Thank you to anyone who has ever believed in me and if I have inspired, encouraged or shown you anything can be done…then I have been successful!

Remember it is just racing, and you must still be having fun so you don’t burn out so get out there and have a blast.


See you on a trail or at a race soon.

You are all awesome!