Queenslander Melissa Bruce is preparing to leave the country ahead of the 2016 Red Bull Romaniacs. She lets us know how she's been preparing for the gruelling event:
Through the thick fog of sleep, I’m vaguely disturbed by some kind of noise over in the other corner of my room. I can’t work out why I am supposed to be awake. Is it work? Riding? Cycling? Training?
I stumble over to silence the alarm, meanwhile calculating how many extra minutes of sleep I can get while still managing to arrive on time to cycle the 15ks to my 50k group ride on a Wednesday morning.
I settle on a 5:15 start, and head back to bed for 15 minutes. Which disappears in what feels like moments. It’s pretty cold, so at 4:30 AM when I once again drag myself out of bed, the cycling kit this morning definitely includes sports thermals.
As I ascend the steep hill immediately on the exit of my driveway at 5:15 in the morning, the moon is still super bright, the stars are out, and the sky is crystal clear. The sound of my own breathing and thoughts keep me company.
Sure it’s early, and cold, and I’m alone, but I’m alive. And I love this scene.
Back home, on to a quick brekky and work is calling. I have a couple of important jobs I’m looking forward to seeing progress on. I get to the gate of my first client, and, on our second visit, the dearest little rescued Cattle Dog cross has dropped the aggression and fear from the previous week and greets me with absolute delight!
Seeing him make such huge leaps and bounds with the right behaviour management makes this job nothing short of amazing. 10 years as a professional dog behaviour specialist, and I still get to say I love my job! Though my second client is playing a difficult game of refusing to follow her training program, her dog is still managing somehow to make some progress, and I remind myself this particular job pays for at least a couple of tyres, so keep on keeping on, 2 down, 4 to go!
I get home at about 6:30 pm, to a delightful home-cooked meal my adorable wife (me) cooked last week. Which is the same delightful home-cooked meal I’ll eat tomorrow, and the day after. Do we want to be sleeping, or cooking? Do we want to be riding bikes, or washing dishes? What can I say, I discovered an extra few days in my year for riding by doing the big cook ahead! And more than a few more dollars for racing by almost never buying food out; don’t get me started on how much money I’ve saved not competitively drinking for the last 2 and a half years. What a waste of life that was for me.
Between training, riding, working, and basically eating the entire contents of my fridge, this is what my life as a privateer enduro racer looks like at the moment. But it’s about to get a whole lot crazier.
Today is exactly 2 weeks until I jump on a plane to Bangkok, then another plane to Frankfurt, followed by a third plane to Bucharest, then a bus to Sibiu, a small town in Romania.
No doubt Romania is famous for many other things, vampires probably are the first topic to come to mind for many fans of the ‘Twilight’ series. Of which I am not one. A fan of the Red Bull Romaniacs however, I am. And this is exactly where I am headed. 5 days of the very best type of racing. Well, that's what they say anyway!
About 10 months ago I was in a bit of a bad mood, and whenever I’m not too happy for whatever reasons, I look around for a new adventure or challenge to get me back on track. Fortunately, right at this time, I had just met Robert Nowak while assisting at a coaching day hosted by Just Right Motorcycle Coaching (where I learnt far more than I coached!) before the first of the Yeppoon Enduro-X events.
For anyone that doesn’t know, Rob Nowak is our highest finishing extreme Enduro privateer athlete, a 4X Erzberg starter, with a 29th place in Erzberg a few weeks back, and a Red Bull Sea to Sky finisher trophy sitting on the dusty workshop windowsill down in Melbourne.
Some people think his height is what gives him such an advantage in extreme Enduro, but I think it’s Christine, his wife. She is pretty much the best thing ever when it comes to race support, and I am so lucky to call her a friend! If she’s not organising everything, cooking up the best meals, or keeping everyone up to date with progress, she’s helping on the ropes dragging him up a hill at Erzberg.
Anyway, Rob is obsessed with extreme Enduro, and when someone like that adds their enthusiasm to an idea you’ve had brewing in your head for a few years, you start to think maybe you could make something like that happen too.
It has been quite difficult at times working out exactly what I’m doing with training, for an event I have never been to. There’s opinions for free around every corner, however I choose to keep a clear head and stick to a training program influenced only by experienced advice.
Right now, I feel strangely calm. A few weeks ago, I was practically a nervous wreck. I’ve had a few nightmares about turning up to the start line with no GPS, I’ve spent way too much time worried about what will happen if I lose my baggage, can’t find my way through the connecting airports, the idea of loosing my knee braces completely panics me, my alarm doesn’t go off on one of my race days, or I struggle with not finding my around in a non english speaking country.
I’ve only travelled to Japan alone before, I haven’t done any overseas travel like this, so I am more worried about that, than the actual race. What happens with that, happens, I know I’ll have done all I can to train.
But now, I think I’ll be able to handle it! And if something goes wrong, I’ll fix it, change it, or accept it.
I have made some big alterations in my usual training style for this event. Time will tell if they are going to pay off, but basically I have broken a lot of what I will need at the event down into about 5 categories.
Technique; wheelies, front wheel placement, pivot turns, hill practice repeats, wheel hopping, difficult creek beds, log hopping, and obstacles. I’ve learned to set aside time to do this alone with no riders around to ‘hold up’, unless they’re doing the same. Whether it’s before a faster ride, when I’m waiting for people, or on a day all of it’s own.
Speed and cornering is covered at Motocross club practice days and coaching. This has been helping with corner speed, jumping confidence, aggression, and sprint type bike fitness. I was even asked what Finke was and one of these MX days, and who the name of that dude was that does the mad wheelies on the Husqvarna…
Anyway, moving along, off the bike fitness is something I know I can work on on week days, so I try to make sure to spend as much time on the cycle as possible before work, the rower when it’s raining or I want a change, and add in a strength session or two as well. I notice the difference the more I train off the bike, the better I can tie all the other ‘subjects’ together.
As I wanted to spend more time working on technique rather than just mass Ks, only in the last few months have I started pushing big days on the bike for bike fitness, as well as combining all of the above. Interestingly enough, with good technique, off the bike fitness, and nutrition, ‘race pace’ and endurance seems easier to step in and out of than previously. No training will be exactly like the event though.
GPS experience has tied in with a few events and general use, which I’ve felt quite confident on after the first few days.
Mental resilience is by far the most difficult aspect for me, and something I will need to make a conscious effort to keep in check for the race. For me, I have found keeping to myself, riding alone or with positive, supportive people, focusing on my own race, and reminding myself that not only do I have nothing to prove to any other rider or person, I own my own race and owe no one anything at any time; well, this all helps to keep my head in check. Plus, did I mention training as much as humanly possible?!
One thing that is worth stating, while there certainly are the people who enjoy a good chat behind your back about your race prep, likelihood of failure, lack of skills, as well as the obvious and what I like to call ‘de-evolutionised’ gender inspired verbal diarrhoea , for the most part, my life is, lets say, distanced, from this.
I am often praised for competing in a male dominated sport, however the vast majority of guys are nothing short of supportive, making every effort to treat you as the equal you are. I think these guys are not at all the minority, and really need to be recognised and applauded for helping to make such a big change in women in motorsport becoming just as welcome as the men.
At the end of the day, for Romaniacs, my goal is simply, to finish. That of course, is not simple, but I am very realistic about my skill level, and will keep this in mind through the whole event.
I won’t lie, it has been a difficult road over the last 10 months, but, I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s a part of me that’s not happy until I’ve been 20 shades of miserable fighting my way out of some slippery bike and soul breaking creek bed. So this is basically the perfect race for me to train for.
I’ve had a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, there is one final thing I want to remember about this sport. In many ways, it is a very selfish sport for the racers, and very selfless for the supporters.
I know that personally I have chosen to put friendships and relationships on the back burner, and with a one track mind, spend every spare moment focussed on this race. It’s all been about me, I, my results, my achievement, my race. But I do hope at the end, some good will come of it besides my own happiness, or disappointment.
Perhaps someone will see that things that you think are impossible are actually possible, someone with an injury will have the courage to try something they thought they couldn’t do, or someone who feels stereotyped will realise they can break that mould they were cast in and chase their dreams.
In the mean time, I’m going to be doing everything I can to get to the finish line, and I look forward to telling you all about it after the event!