Could I actually become an Aussie 24hr champion again?

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Norm and I have been living in Geelong for near on five weeks now…and Life Is Good.

Better than its been …forever!

If you have been following the things I have been up to, you would know that the past 12-18 months has been a little crazy, ups and downs all over the place, busy with our businesses, not really able to settle into a happy place within myself, yet continuing on regardless because thats how you get stuff done.

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We are now at the end of April 2015 and I can look back at what I have achieved since this time last year…it always astounds me.

When I was working hard to win the World 24hr Solo MTB championship in 2010, I had spent some time finding motivational quotes…well…to keep me motivated!
One that sticks with me every single day when I am procrastinating or afraid to make a move is this:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is now.” 

What was I dreaming of 20 years ago? Back in 1995 I was 22, Saskia was 1 year old and I was attending TAFE completing a Chef pre-apprenticeship course. Norm and I both rode our bikes still however most of our time was spent parenting, living week to week and living on the Gold Coast.  But if I was to look at what was deep in my soul, it was the daily desire to be active, to ride my bike,  to create anything from home made pasta through to artwork and to see Saskia grow up learning new things, words, walking, talking…just the normal stuff that parents dote over.
Norm and I were young & fairly lean in the finance department yet we spoke of dreams daily, stuff that we envisaged for our future and we were not scared of taking a chance.

Its funny now at 42, that what I thought might be an age of some stability and thinking I would know who I was & what I wanted yet it is actually not quite like that.

Instead my stability comes from being calm about the daily trials, realising life is a constant journey, every single day and there is no “moment” when you have made it, just hundreds and thousand interactions and experiences that are only achieved via doing and being.
There are no mistakes, no regrets just lessons and new ways to view options.

Yes I am often nervous or have fear which is often generated because I don’t know, I am lacking knowledge and trying something new but yet I have learnt to embrace this and enjoy the process which is essentially learning and accepting change. 

Why would I even bother telling you this?

Because we all have struggles, we all have fears, and we all have the chance to be awesome and live awesome every single day, even when its tough, even when we are faced with total grief and devastation, there is always good and yes sometimes its an effort to find it. 

So that tree I did plant 20 years ago, the one where I dreamed of living this life has really stuck its roots in.

I am that life long cyclist, I do ride my bike nearly every day, I even teach people how to ride, I have fun with people whilst we ride bikes, I have many bikes, I explore, I go to new places every single year, I have enough income and stability to feel supported and I have my husband by my side every day. Our daughter Saskia has grown up to be the person I wished for, someone who is loved, needed and valued and gives back to the world in the same way. She makes me proud.

It is timely that when I faced with adversity and wondered about my self worth, wondering about the effort and what is all for anyway, that I spend time reflecting on all the amazing things I have actually achieved. This leads me to my next part of this story, the daily stuff and why I keep planting my trees. 

It has been worth all the effort in continuing to race my bike, and teach and grow the world of cycling through many mediums in my life.
I keep meeting people who thank me for what I do, and in turn I keep building relationships with sponsors and mentors and I thank them for what they do. 
Its getting more and more challenging to define my role as a cyclist,
Because I race, 
I mentor, 
I coach, 
I ride, 
I guide and run camps, 
I get to go overseas on my bike and visit new places and meet new people, 
I give back, 
I even make my customers coffees,
I deliver motivational talks to young adults,
I get to test run new equipment on my bike, 
…and I get to work in the industry that I have the most passion for every single day of my life.

 So when I get asked, “Jess what do you do?”…Its not a straight answer and its just the way I like it.
When the kids at the schools I get to visit talk to me about life and goals, I always tell them to listen to their heart, and to never lose sight of that glow and to keep finding things that make you excited to get up in the morning.

Since our move to Geelong, I have been able to find that little spark, that excitement of getting up each day.
There is CrossFit, Bikram Yoga, MTBSkills Bootcamp at the You Yangs, BMX and just general riding around the river with Norm - oh and running too!
Its allowed me to get excited about my goals this year, racing, keeping fit, being an ambassador for my sponsors and having fun doing it.

The last couple of weeks has brought a couple of exciting opportunities.
The very special new additions to my current mountain bikes in the form of XTR Di2 componentry
The first female to race and finish the Bendigo Epic 100miler event.

IMG 7587First of all, we got delivery of the mother load of Shimano XTR goodies and Norm spent the next week sorting it out, being Di2 and and after market fit out, there was lots to consider and learn along the way.
We decided to set it up with one shifter, even though there is a double chain ring, a 26 & 36 tooth.  The rear cassette range is an 11 - 40.  Lots of range and setting up the synchro shifting is still an ongoing process.  I have figured that it really depends on the kind of course you are racing, if its big dog country, then you need to gears shifting right at the last moment to the small chain ring and vice versa.

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I do LOVE Shimano XTR and now this next level Di2 is just WOW.  Why? Its electronic shifting! I love my Di2 on my roadie and now I get to love it on my mountain bike.

The hardest thing? Getting used to shifting down the cassette with the top lever and shifting up with the bottom lever.  I have stuffed up a few times climbing a hill with momentum, as I have gone to go to an easier gear, I have found I have gone into one of my harder gears. Doh!

I have since ridden with the Di2 gear on at the Bendigo Golden Triangle Epic 100 mile race and of course, did not miss a beat, but thats another story about the actual race. 

We have the battery mounted outside on the downtube on the bottle mounts, getting the wires sorted at the moment is a little messy, but I am going to do some homework on what others have done before me and get this looking schmick.

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The most notable aspects of this new gear is the flexibility with setting up your synchro shifting, the shiny shiny shininess of the crank set and how effortless it is to actually change gears and even under load, which has been really stress free.  Given that I used it for 100 miles the other day in one hit, and with a heck of a lot of gear changes I was impressed.

I am yet to test out the battery life, or even do a bit of homework on what you get out of the battery in hours.
Enough about the technology, though I used all day long at my latest race.
I loved the fact that I had entered the 100 miler at Bendigo this year, and had full knowledge that my fitness and ability to hurt hard was really only at maybe 55-60% of what I would like. 

But its actually really fun to work towards a goal again, well a few goals.
My big goal is to be 100% race fit to do my best at the Scott 24hr which is now the Aussie Solo champs and whilst it would be mega cool and totally amazing to grab that title at 42, I would just love to feel awesome and fit…its been a while.

The 100 mile event started at 6:30am which was delayed a little due to light, and with Rishi and I the only females on the start line, and about 16 men, the small and intimate group chatted like we were about to embark on a social ride.  

After we started we could only just see, and rocks wet with the morning dew were slippery and a cause for concern.  Though 30-40 mins later, we were all enjoying watching the sunrise through the farm land, I did consider stopping and Instagramming this.  
The first lap I had Brendan Hills pass me on a winding climb and that was about it until the next lap.  

Each lap consisted of starting on tight single track winding its way upwards, and nothing was too long up, nor too long down, though corners were a reoccurring theme. 
As we rolled up one hill side and down the next the half way mark heralded a drink change and a snaffle of some fruit cake, my vegan mind knew there was probably eggs in that there cake, but today a little egg was not high priority as was carb intake. 
We were then greeted by a fast winding but flat dirt road that snaked along the flowing aqueduct for nearly 5km. Nice to just pedal, unfortunately no one to sit on with a bit of a head wind most of the way.
After the pseudo rest period came a magic up and down roller coaster ride along a power line track. 
Each lap this was something to look forward to, pedal hard, coast, pedal up and over the crest and back down the other side - repeat.
After a sneaky drop into some single track, the course spat out into an open 4wd track section with a hard right up a couple of nasty pinches on the power line road with no love given away here. 
Its a challenge to remember the sequence of events from here, though it did involve single track, climbs and corners oh and rocks too.  The final 8km seemed to take forever and did not involve a fast section home…well not for me anyway.
Each lap was a little over 50km, maybe 52? 

The event centre vibe was a welcoming blanket to be whipped off a moment later as I headed out for lap 2.

This lap sucked.  I think I did not have enough to eat and drink, due to the cold and early start. I chugged along a little more, the quads burned a little more on each climb and I could feel my pace dwindle.  And so it did as I was passed by 2 riders including the ox man Adam Kelsall.
Adz said, you will come good Jess. I hoped he was right, because I was hurting and needed to do this effort one more time  So I spent a bit more time eating, drinking and having gels and whilst I never felt amazing I did knuckle down and get the job down without complaint.
A welcoming sight in lap 2 and 3 was having elite riders pass with ease and watching them with a pang of “I want what they have!” and then there was the chance to pass a lot of other riders at the tail end of the 50 and 100km, and its always nice to spend a moment having a quit chat about each others sufferance.

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It was a long day. 

The race took me 9hrs.
I hurt a lot, but never felt unmotivated or like giving up.
…and I won the first Female 100miler Bendigo Golden Triangle Epic.

For those that always wonder and ask, here are some quick things about racing even when you are not 100% awesome.

1. Get up and do what you need to do to be on the start line, I hate early mornings but I just got up and ate breakfast, prepared my bottles, got my number on, dressed appropriately and got to the start.  
2. Dont think too much about the task at hand.  Its 100miles, which is around 160km so if you can break this down into small chunks then you will succeed.  If you think about the end result too much it can wear you down mentally.
3. When you think you cant go any harder, just do it anyway. Forget cramping, forget saving your energy for later, forget having a breather because you earnt it, just ride as fast and as hard as you can All The Time and you will finish quicker, Simple As That!

How do you train for such an event? Well there are a few rules I live by:

Do something, its better than nothing, so if you cant do that 100km training ride, do a bloody well 10km one, its better than 0Km.

Be consistent. By promising you will do something each time you are tired or time poor or have no desire to train, you will create a momentum that will build into a motivation that you cannot manufacture just by will power alone.  Success creates Success.

Do not focus solely on the result of a race. Sure you may want to beat such and such or win or whatever…but more so, you cannot control other riders, but you can control  you and your mind and your bike and your nutrition. Choose to know this and believe this and develop a plan that will deliver this.


Finally….I must really thank those that support me, even when I have been down, and not so great at being me.

Giant Bicycles Australia  who are family to me and of course gift me with wonderful bikes to ride and race.

Shimano Cycling Australia - what can I say, I get to use the latest and greatest componentry with XTR goodness on all my MTB’s.

Bike Box who supply me with my favourite tyres Schwalbe, for MTB and Road.

Adidas Eyewear - thanks Chanh and Lionel for believing in me and giving me the best lightweight and of course good-looking eyewear.

Jet Black Products for being that ongoing stalwart of support with my night lights for racing 24hr events, a HUGE help and of course has always given me the winning advantage at night.

2015 - cant believe its already May tomorrow.
I am off to work (on my road bike) for Topbike tours for 4 weeks over in Corsica and Italy, after that its full steam ahead into June and some mega fun racing and goals to achieve.