TheGo was fortunate to catch-up with three-time World 24-Hour Solo Mountain Biking Champion Jess Douglas ahead of the Paluma Push. Based in Forrest, Victoria, Jess is in Townsville with her husband Norm delivering MTB skills clinics, so we nabbed her to have a chat and score some champion-making tips.
“I decided that I would go out once a week for one hour and improve one thing by one per cent; nothing more” – Jess Douglas
You’re obviously used to the longer distances Jess — what are your tips for those going into their first endurance race? Have a plan. Work out where your water spots are and even decide how often you’re going to drink from your water bottle. Then decide on your nutrition. In a race I always go for a mix of carbohydrates and electrolytes. You want easy access carbs that go into your body easily. When you have carbs and good hydration, your brain functions better.
When I talk to people about their first race, they always mention their nutrition: “I didn’t drink enough”; “I didn’t eat enough”. I don’t eat that much during a race; I might carry gels and just do that; but I really focus on my hydration. Include how you think in your plan: You might hit 10km and think, “Great — I’m a quarter of the way” or a seventh of the way, so chunk it down into smaller bite-sized pieces so it’s manageable instead of thinking, “I’ve got 50km to go!”. Turn it around so you have control and have pre-planned it in your head.
Mountain biking is booming in popularity – what drew you to the sport? I’ve always ridden my bike. From the earliest I can remember, I loved getting on my bike and exploring what was around the corner on my own steam. However, as an adult at the age of 32 I realised that I actually wanted to do something with it — it was really fun and I was ready to find the competitive side in me. How I did that was I turned up to a race and, yes I was so scared, but I turned up with another female as a pair in a eight-hour.
I had such a ball and wanted to take it further. I was at a phase in my life that I was realising things about myself — I’d become a personal trainer, I was coaching people and I really started to understand the psychology behind it. And that psychology is that we are born into this Earth with the ability to do whatever we really want to do, but it’s us that stops us from doing it. We go, “Oh, I couldn’t do that”. So I realised that I had just as much chance to be a good rider as that chick over there who’s awesome, I just needed to do the hard work.
So how did you go from doing your first competitive event at 32 to triple world champion by 39? I had to make my progress achievable instead of putting myself up for failure by thinking, “Tomorrow you are going to be awesome Jess!”; which was probably not going to happen because I knew all the things that scared me like going over logs and rocks, and drops — even hearing my tyres skid was scary. At that time I was conducting boot camps and would say to my participants, “Every one of you has one per cent more in you and when you tell me you can’t, I don’t believe you! I want to see one per cent more, just one.” And I thought, geez, I’m preaching that and I can actually apply that myself.
So I decided that I would go out once a week for one hour and improve one thing by one per cent; nothing more. And do that every week and in a year’s time I would have to be better. It was just a fail-proof way of actually achieving it. And, low and behold, you go out and improve one thing by one per cent, and that opens another door. So you now start to realise that there’s more to learn. So the one per cents become 10 per cents, but it’s not that you forced yourself to do that, it’s just happened organically. So what’s really exciting about that is that it’s achievable for anyone at any level with any ability or disability; just as long as you want to ride your bike today.
Jess has shared three mountain biking tips with us — these can be applied to every level for those one per cent improvements!
Tip 1 – Attack!
Get up out of the saddle into the attack position…
Tip 2 – Beware the front brake…
Use the front brake less (unless you really need to STOP).
Tip 3 – Use that body!
Be relaxed, flexible and dynamic to (seemingly) effortlessly glide that bike through the trail.
To find out about Jess and Norm Douglas’ next mountain bike skills courses in Townsville, check back here: mtbskills.com.au/mountain-bike-skills-courses/far-nth-qld | jessicadouglas.com | mtbskills.com.au