If you suggested to me a year ago that I’d somehow be involved with the inaugural Grafton to Inverell women’s race this year, I would have sworn you were pulling my leg, my good one! At this stage last year, I was well and truly busted and my pain levels were such that the only leg I would have let you near was my good one.
Then I joined the Koiled Petbarn racing team toward the end of last year. Soon it became obvious that I wouldn’t be doing any racing for my fantastic new team in 2015. Yet I wanted to contribute to the team and I decided I’d help out by offering my services as a coach. Whilst I don’t have several years of experience in the world of cycling like many do, I have a degree in exercise science, and have been involved in coaching athletes in a variety of sports/disciplines for many years. In other words, as far as the world of exercise science goes, I’m a bit of an all rounder – rehab, athletic preparation, strength and conditioning, team sports – I’ve dabbled in them all. I have had limited success as an athlete, but coaching is where I shine – as both art and science collide – without the artistic part of coaching, I find too much science rather tedious.
Therefore, when head honcho of Koiled, Rach, presented me with a batshit crazy brief – prepare her for the toughest one day race in Australia, the Grafton to Inverell Classic, and it being the first year for women to be included in the entire distance (230km), I couldn’t resist.
Rach’s and my backstory go back to 2013, when she rode past me in my first HPRW Women’s time trial. I was clunking away on my roadie, trying to be as badass as possible, when this flash of crazy hair, pink, and some wicked wheels went whooshing past – full of hurt, no prisoners taken! Inspired, I looked her up on the internet (that sounds better than stalked her) and found her blog, Sock Puppet Racing. I left a message telling her that I wanted to be just like her “when I grew up”. Rach has this indomitable characteristic of possessing a grit factor, or “inner mongrel” or “bulldog”, possibly one of the best I’ve come across – and being in possession of a smaller, yet determined, bulldog, I just found myself pretty much relating to her experiences on the bike, albeit at a lower level.
Rach came to me with a bit of mixed year – firstly off the high of winning the Oceania 24 hour MTB champs, to sustaining a nasty quad injury in a crash at the Ipswich Open, which affected her Battle on the Border result. As I well know, injuries can have a habit of pushing you down mentally, and before you know it, you’re beginning to feel low and demotivated.
With this in mind, my initial strategy was to get Rach seeing what I term “flashes of her best self” – form that she would have attained during her best racing. When you get a few ‘wins’ under your belt, it’s mentally easier to dig deep into the harder sessions, knowing that you’re making positive changes. In the early days I was working out how to bring out the best in Rach, whilst simultaneously respecting the tremendous amount of experience she has on the bike and with racing. At the same time, I was using my exercise science knowledge to deliver the best result possible in eight weeks, whilst dealing with some major external challenges, such as work and kid wrangling.
Over the last eight weeks, we have both worked really hard at this project – Rach putting in the training, me monitoring her training load, physiological responses and data evaluation – not to mention the most important thing you can do as a coach, trying to make sure I was really attuned to how Rach was feeling mentally during the whole process – that is the “art” of coaching, and where I gain a great deal of energy and satisfaction.
We started the lead in to the main race with the Yarrabilba Women’s Tour – I came to support the whole team that weekend and it was the first indicator that our plan was moving in the right direction – with a solid performance. Then, we shared the thrill of silver and bronze in the National Road Championships for the ITT and road race respectively. Plus a placing in a Men’s B grade crit at HPRW, the first placing by a woman in three years.
In between these highlights, we met for some pretty brutal training sessions as we began to develop Rach’s “top end” speed/intensity and being the type of person she is, never faltered when I asked her to put in the work. We developed a new training tool, “The Smashed Crab Index”. I’m pretty sure she was redlining it on several occasions and that her pincers were going to pop! I knew that this Grafton to Inverell experience was going to be brutal, but just how bad? One thing I was quietly confident of is that given the power of Rach’s inner mongrel, she would be there at the finish line.
We were fortunate enough to have the support of fellow Koiled team mate, Neil Hamey (who also took photo of Rach, above) , who drove the support vehicle and provided Rach’s nutrition at the feedzones. Not only has Neil got tremendous experience at supporting riders, he’s also done the race, so he knew exactly what Rach was going through.
The final result? Rach was the third woman to cross the line – in her words – “it was harder by about one million than I expected!” What amazing grit to finish – what a champion!
So there you have it – I’m very proud of my charge. We had an amazing eight weeks of training together – I’m so pleased I was able to help out , and Rach, so glad to call you my friend! One cannot suffer through eight weeks of elevated Smashed Crab Indices and not become great mates as a result.
Naturally I cannot wait for the next adventure and my foray into coaching has me keen to do some more. I work on the “A Team” philosophy – “if you have a (coaching) problem, and no one else can help, and if you can find me, then maybe you can hire the A Team (aka – me – ha ha)” and “I believe that no matter how random things may appear, there’s still a plan”. If you would like help preparing for an event – please get in touch!