Vallnord, Andorra

13th September 2015
First time to Europe, first time in the national team, and my first World Championships!!
 So how did it feel and what was it like? It was incredible. Looking back, it’s surreal. I almost can’t believe I did it. But what I know for sure is that I definitely want to do it again. I want to feel the excitement and adrenaline that can only come from an international race. I want to represent Canada again, and I will do so, proudly. The other athletes and the staff are amazing, I could not have asked for a better team in Andorra. For those of you who have never heard of Andorra.. Aka the general population- it is a very small country in between France and Spain. Andorra doesn’t have its own airport, so we flew in to Barcelona and then took a couple hour bus ride to Vallnord. I wish I could have seen more of Barcelona, as we just flew in and drove out of it, but the scenery and views on to the way to, and in Andorra were incredible. I only spent 5 days really in Andorra, but having never been to Europe before- it was still quite an experience! I loved it, and I would really enjoy going back.

There were a couple factors that made this trip challenging, but it’s all good experience. I had to deal with altitude, jet lag (a five hour time difference), limited communication with home and strict dietary needs. The altitude was moderate, it wasn’t extremely high but for those of us who live and train at sea level, it does have some effects. We had to make sure that we were well hydrated because the air is very dry. I mean so dry that when I forgot to leave water out by my bed the first night, I woke up with chapped lips and my tongue almost felt like sandpaper. Thin air also increases your heart rate, which is a big factor when racing, but I found the dryness was the bigger problem. Neither did I feel very jet lagged, but all I know is that around the 3rd day, by lunchtime I was absolutely exhausted and had to lay down for a couple of hours. My energy level that day was on par with how I felt after the overnight flight from Toronto to Barcelona.

And I could write a whole other blog about the challenges with needing to eat gluten-free. It started a couple of months ago, specifically 2 weeks before nationals. What a curve ball, learning how to fuel myself and get enough carbs without wheat. It is possible, but research and time is needed to figure it out. I really don’t mind the issue, I can deal with it as long as I’m not sick. However, I think the one of the biggest challenges this summer, happened the week before I would leave for Andorra. Luckily I was able to work through the sickness over a few days before my departure with the help of my mom, dad and naturopath Dr. Roselyn.

I came into worlds with my legs rested, but the rest of my body was weak. My goal for the first day in ️Andorra was to gain back my strength, and I succeeded. I was able to pre-ride the course all three days with the other juniors and I was so glad!

I’m not the best technical rider, so I was glad that the course didn’t have any huge features or crazy sections. In dry conditions, I was able to ride the whole course. The day before the race, I was ecstatic to have the course dialled. I knew I was riding to the best of my ability, what more could I want? However, when that course is wet, it is very difficult, even for more skilled riders than me. The lap has descents so steep that when they are slippery, it was almost impossible to ride. That made for a lot of running during the race!

Now, to finally talk about the race. So much happened, I just have too much to tell everyone about! But the race… The part of the race I was most proud of, is not even part of the race, but the morning of.

Every racer has to learn to manage their nerves, and that includes me. Especially as a teenager who has been riding all her life, but seemingly got catapulted into high end racing only this year! It only makes sense to be nervous about such a big event, but with the help of friends, family and coaches, I gained the right perspective on this race. I’ve felt it before, and there really isn’t any better way to enjoy the race than trusting yourself. Somewhere in all the encouraging and inspiring messages… Came the words-” do your thing.” Similar to what everyone was telling me, but reminiscent of a different sport. I was a gymnast for 10 years and these are the words that have stuck with me. Simple and motivating, they really helped me out. Worlds is one of those events where it is so easy to hope for, or expect a miracle. But do my thing? That’s easy. It’s what I’ve been doing and it’s what got me here. And after all, the person with the highest expectations and who put the most pressure on me was myself. The easiest way to relieve that and the worry was to set achievable goals that had nothing to do with results. Figure out what would define this as a successful race for myself, and then go do it. That’s exactly what I did and I was really happy with my race. It also let me thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Starting in the back row, I could only move forward. Representing Canada, I could only be insanely excited on the start line and ready to give it my all. The music, the heartbeat, the silence before the horn, the crowd… That crazy atmosphere is so addictive, all I could think was that I need to do this again. I am going to do this again. I am going to get faster and improve my skills.

I want to thank everyone who made this trip possible, everyone who helped me get here and everyone who helped me at worlds. Mom and dad, first of all- Thankyou guys. I love you. Thankyou to the rest of my family, you’re awesome. Thanks to my coaches and mentors who have guided me along the way and contributed to the athlete that I am, new and old. Dad, Feenstra, Randy, Jamie, Lespy, Kaarin.. To the new ones I met through the national team; Ian Hughes, Dan Proulx. I also hope to get to know the rest of the national team members like I did, Haley Smith. Taking the time to talk about things and do a lap with me was hugely appreciated. Thanks Haley. Thanks to the rest of the team too, for being such great people to have around and motivate me! Thankyou to Cyclesmith and CJRT for being such an awesome support system to come through as a younger rider. Thanks to everyone I have raced in the NS cycling community who have made me always want to go faster and push me. The best person for that is always my longtime friend and teammate Odette Comeau. I also want to thank my sponsors, you are a huge part of why I was able to travel and race so much this summer. Thanks to BNS, S4S, Steele Ford, and Bontrager. Thank you also to Cycling Canada, Global Relay and  ECOASIS Bear Mountain Resort as sponsors of the national team.

If you made it through all that, you get to watch THIS ‘amazing’ interview..

I am an aspiring athlete looking to make my mark on the mountain biking world. I love racing and training with my teammates, and I am looking for new ways to be faster and stronger- the fun is always in a good race!