I bought my first mountain bike in the year 2000 on a fortuitous whim. I never would have guessed at the adventures it would take me on. That summer I spent most of my evenings and weekends exploring the incredible trails around the Wellington region and figuring out how to ride them.
Fast forward a few years and I had begun racing, only recreationally and not particularly well! In my first local club race I took so long to finish everyone had gone home except the friends I’d driven out with, though in separate cars so they could have gone home, and the race organiser. It was freezing cold, had hailed that morning and there had been snow at the high point of the course! It was the support of those friends and the local mountain biking community that helped kindle my passion for the sport. It wasn’t long after that I allowed those same supportive people to convince me to enter my first Karapoti.
It was on the back of a 5 hour and 2 minute result in 2003 that my resolve to get better started to strengthen. By 2005 I’d managed to work my way down to a decidedly more respectable 4:09 but was far from satisfied. Forced to sit out the Classic in 2006 I didn’t get my next chance until 2007 when I came home in a resoundingly successful 3:17 which I backed up in 2008 with a 3:08, good enough to make the podium. My not-so-secret-weapon? Olympian and Commonwealth Games mountain biker turned part-time coach Robyn Wong. Whether brought together by chance or fate there can be no doubt about the impact she had on my racing and the many life lessons she taught me, key among which is to never say never (I credit her not only with the successes I had on the bike but those I continue to have as a coach). Certain my initiation to the sub-3 hour club had to be just around the corner I set my sights on elite level racing here in NZ, the USA, Canada and Australia.
Just before Christmas 2008 my bike slid out on a gravelly corner during a time trial and I hurt myself far worse than I thought at the time. The initial impacts of the concussion appeared mild but several months later I still needed ongoing treatment. When I eventually got back on my bike and training I was plagued by illness and injury which stunted my efforts through until early 2010.
I had always said that at the end of my racing career I wanted to know that I had left it all out there and that I couldn’t have given more, so I headed overseas again in 2010 in the hopes that being able to train full time would enable me to reach the levels I was aiming for. A further concussion while racing in a Canada Cup in July of that year was the last time I kitted up for an elite race and meant I would have to turn my focus elsewhere…
For a couple of years that focus was very much centred on my recovery. I was lucky to be able to keep a hand in cycling through coaching, which I started back in 2008.
Until 2016 I kept my coaching to part-time, letting my full-time job as a data analyst pay the bills. And suddenly, the time was right to take the plunge!
Here and now, my primary focus is Cowbell Coaching. And all of the passion, enthusiasm, commitment and professionalism I had for my own racing resides in the hat marked ‘Coach’. Incredibly, coaching has enabled me to feel a sense of achievement and satisfaction that not only matches, but in some ways surpasses the pure elation I experienced from racing, and thanks to the limitless vision of many of the riders I’ve been privileged to coach my vision also continues to expand.
‘Limits begin where vision ends’ is a direct quote from Gary Mack’s book Mind Gym: An athlete’s guide to inner excellence.