WEMBO World Solo 24hr Championships - Canberra 2013 the history

jess-douglas-2013-wembo-champsThe longer I leave this post race recollection, the harder it gets, so many various stories have entered my mind on how to retell this journey I have been on.

Perhaps I will start at the very very start, just briefly.

To remind you my reader, I first got excited about riding and racing back in late 1992 when Norm and I moved to the Gold Coast. Norm's brother, Rick, had a few mountain bikes and lived in Nerang. We went for a ride in Nerang State Forest on some trails and whilst I was totally scared and did cry some on scary downhills, I was also busting to go for another ride as soon as I could.

From that introduction I also was having a go of local crit racing at Burleigh Industrial Estate on Saturday mornings and the up and back Sewerage farm handicap racing our near where we lived in Labrador. I can't say I was all that good however for the first time in my life I was facing my fear of being competitive and realising that it was fun.

jess-douglas-24hr-world-champs-2013-1We raced road and mountain bikes – not heaps, we couldnt really afford to but we were cyclists.

In January 1994 our daughter Saskia was born in Gold Coast Hospital and I did get back on the bike, and oh I was so unfit it hurt! Still, when you love riding your bike, who cares.

Eventually we left the Gold Coast and returned to Geelong by July 1995 and this is where we really stopped any racing or “proper riding”, just commuting or riding along the river paths for something to do.

Our lives took new paths and I started to try anything to do with sport, social basketball, indoor netball, fun runs, rowing, surf boat rowing, and then onto Aussie Rules football in the Victorian Womens football league. Both Norm and I then started umpiring football, I often was a central umpire for juniors in the morning and was a boundary umpire for senior games in the afternoon.

Even our daughter Saskia become a boundary umpire and we had one game where Saskia and I ran the boundary, Norm was the central umpire and my dad was one of the goal umpires.

jess-douglas-24hr-world-champs-2013-2Whilst doing all this, I also studied to become a personal trainer and was soon working in the industry, doing all sorts of crazy things like bootcamps, and loads of running and training.
One day Norm and I were with some friends at the You Yangs running the trails to Flinders Peak.
It was here that we were told that mountain bike trails existed on the other side and we should check them out next week. And so we did. And so the transition from runners to mountain bikers began.

This was in December 2005.
In January 2006 we had new bikes, and were signed up to race the Whittlesea 8hr Enduro.

You may have heard me say this before but it was at this race that I decided to start my journey to become a better rider, win more races, enjoy my riding more and become far more skillful.
I knew it would take a while, but I was willing to do this and also knew I would really enjoy the process.
And so Norm took it on to teach me everything he knew and he was awesome. Not only did he help me but we realised that we had a product here...and in 2008 we started MTBSkills.com.au

My goal was to ride my mountain bike at least once a week, for at least 1hr, improve 1 thing by 1%.
Do this 1 week at a time, 1 month at a time and in 1 years time I would HAVE to be a better rider...I could not fail this process.
And I didn't. It wasn't perfect, I had regressions, I had doubts, but I never gave up and remained consistent in my efforts every week and before I knew it I was really winning events.

I was good at endurance events early on as I was happy to keep pushing hard where others were happy to rest up. It was not until Norm and I finally decided to go to the National 24hr solo champs at Majura pines in 2009 at Easter that a whole new picture started to appear.

I had trained, I had focused and I beat Katrin Van der Spiegel who was dominant in these events.
I was now the Aussie champ and had a ticket to the 24hr Worlds in July 2009, in Canada.
I had never thought that this might occur being so focused on following a process I sort of forgot to think about “so what happens when I reach success and find new challenges and opportunities?”
We decided to go, scraped some money together and suffered jetlag and heat and hilly terrain like never before and came 4th in the world. I was coming 2nd, then 3rd, then 4th. It sucked. But I kept going and never gave up, I couldnt, coming all the way to Canada and quitting would be awful.

After feeling a bit let down I came back all fired up.
A renewed belief that I could do this, I could be a world champ if I did the hard work.
Whats more the next world champs was being held in Canberra in October 2010. I now had 18 months to get into my best form EVER.
I believed I deserved it, I remember waiting on the start line, looking at the amazing field of elite women and for a moment looking at them like they were awesome and I was someone who aspired to be them. Then I realised I am THEM.
Here was my thought changing game changing thought at that moment, “There is a World Champion for many sports in the world, Someone has to fill that title and in the big wide world, I have just as much chance to be that 1 person, so why cant it be me? I deserve it, someone has to be it...so let it be me!” I Never ever gave up on that thought the whole race through.

It was life changing.

The Solo 24hr World Champs took a hiaitus in 2011 and this really did put me into a weird place, my purpose seemed lost and I just turned up to any sort of race to see if I was having fun.
Everything from stage races all over Australia, to the National XC series, Marathon races, road and anything to try something else.
I felt lost, empty and not many of the races really gave me a buzz. I had heaps of fun, but they really felt like training and I didnt feel I belonged to scenes like the XC national series.
When the whole 24hr scene got back on track with a World champs in Italy in May 2012, I must admit I was scared to revisit the hard work again. I felt obligated but not motivated.

I decided not to force my decision to go, but it was my friends and acquantances that showed support and belief in me. It started to grow on me, leaving me with the excited feeling of racing again. But this time I had found my purpose – to show ordinary people that extraordinary achievments are possible. And so I won, Italy was a magical experience and it felt like a big monkey off my back. I was now 2 times World solo 24hr Champ.

Fast forward to my 3rd win in Canberra, October 2013 and here I am reflecting on how my life has changed, what it takes to win, my mental approach, my race smarts, my training and how wonderful my life is regardless of any race win.
My greatest challenge was to balance life, work and training with my desire to do well in all spheres of my life and stil win this race.

There is no doubt that this race was won in my head, focusing on building self belief, creating visual imagary of the race, the start, the laps, the feelings, the challenges from other competitors, eating drinking and even the conversations with Norm through transistion. I even focused on what songs I would allow to enter my head, what words, phrases, affirmations I would use, it was all well rehearsed in every single training session.

I rarely trained with others finding that my own company and silence was the only place to gain that concentrated meditation to practice my race mindset. Somedays it would take 60 minutes before I found “the zone”, sometimes only 5 minutes, but I just went out and rode until I got to the higher place where it was just me and the bike.

This feeling, it was like having warm sunshine on my back, no chain on my bike allowing me to pedal with no resistance, and a motivated attitude that invented challenges on the fly to smash out some good miles on the bike. I would get home knowing how to solve the problems of the world and feeling like I could do anything!

...but it wasnt all happy days with plenty of hiccups along the way.

I am off to bed for now...but tomorrow my blog will be all about the lead up to the race, the race, and how it really panned out on the course, from my perspective anyway!