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Time to reflect on a busy year

By:
Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjå
Published:
December 17, 2009, 1:55 GMT,
Updated:
December 17, 2009, 2:06 GMT

Babies and bikes can mix, even at the highest level!

Gunn-Rita, Bjørnar and Kenneth soak up some sun in Tenerife.

Gunn-Rita, Bjørnar and Kenneth soak up some sun in Tenerife.

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The hours of the day have become shorter than ever since I became a mother, but increasingly exciting as well. We expected the summer of 2009 to be filled with quiet days at home, barbecuing and getting a tan in the garden. However, the gas barbecue is still standing unused outside while we're left with unforgettable memories from an active summer together with little Bjørnar.

Christmas and New Year are approaching rapidly, and we can look back on an action-packed summer and autumn, both on and off our bikes. I'm not quite ready to celebrate Christmas yet, but most of the presents have been seen to. We're still lacking Christmas baked goods and a Christmas tree but luckily we still have a few days left.

End of the season and our holiday

We closed off the season at Rock d'Azur in the second weekend of October, where we both rode the marathon and the XC distances. For us it was nothing but enjoyment, and extremely good technical training for me, as I haven't ridden much off-road this past year. It was also a great opportunity to do a little promotional work for Merida France. This in turn gave us the chance to spend time with some of the Merida riders and support team, something we've done far too little of this past season.

We had a few days of holiday after the race in the south of France together with my mother and father, who came with us to look after little Bjørnar. It's a beautiful area, both for tourists and cyclists, especially at that time of year.

In the last week of October we three travelled to Tenerife for a week of bathing, naturally without our bikes. It was our first holiday with little Bjørnar - a wonderful holiday, but a lot more busy than a holiday without a child. Early up and early to bed, and full speed all day long. Luckily Bjørnar sleeps a lot during the night and almost none at all during the day. The best part of the holiday for him was doubtlessly the outdoor pool at the hotel. He loves swimming, just like his mother.

Winter training

On November 1 we started up base training again, as we usually do, only on a somewhat reduced level compared to earlier years. I'm lacking part of a solid foundation to be capable of training at the same intensity and doing the same exercises that I've done in previous years through the autumn and winter. But if we do things right through this upcoming year, it's likely that we'll be able to do much the same winter training as before, when November 1, 2010 comes along.

The Swine Flu has spread its way through Norway this autumn, as it has done in other countries, and we weren't let off easily either. It caused a 14-day break in our training which was unfortunate for us, but it's always nice to comeplete something and get it finished! A good cooperation is, and always has been, an important element in our efforts, and we run the same system when sick too. All three of us fell ill at the same time, and we probably set a new world record by visiting the doctor's office a total of four times in one and the same week.

Now we're on the move again with training, and can look back on a reasonably good week of varied exercise. Kenneth and Bjørnar still struggle with a bit of phlegm and coughing, but it's nothing serious. We hope and believe that the two remaining weeks of 2009 will give us good days of training with hopefully 'kind' winter weather.

Wonderful experiences

Little Bjørnar will be nine months old two days before Christmas, so he is no longer a little baby. He's begun standing up while holding onto the table and all legs of the chairs, so there's a lot of stumbling and falling going on these days. He's got bruises on his forehead, and they say there are more on their way. It's a fun period.

He says 'Mamma' and 'Pappa' without understanding the meaning of the words. He's totally unafraid of anything, and therefore has no concept of possible consequences of his actions. Now it's no good putting him down on the floor for a second while one has a quick trip to the bathroom, or letting him sit in front of the television while I'm in the kitchen. One has to follow his every move during this period.

In many ways we can look back on a successful season. We won the Gunn-Rita Marathon in the end of June, only three months after Bjørnar was born. (This year the Gunn-Rita Marathon organised the Italian marathon championship, and will organise the European Marathon Championship in 2010 and the World Marathon Championship in 2011).

A few weeks later we both became Norwegian champions in XC, which our mother club, Sola Cycleklubb, organised. We were even able to take part in the Cup race in Bern, Switzerland, which we used purely as a training exercise on our way towards the World Marathon Championship in Graz. In the end of August the whole family took part in Birkebeinerrittet, something we had been longing to do after many seasons without being able to take part in that race.

Unforgettable European Championship gold medal

The greatest day in the season of 2009 was naturally when I got the European Championship gold medal in Estonia on the 20th of September. We put a ring around that date a few weeks before Bjørnar was born. Naturally, it was impossible to make a detailed racing schedule for us this year. Neither did we have any guarantees that I'd be back on my saddle quickly after Bjørnar was born.

Even so, we set ourselves the goal that if I was back on my bike again, the day of the European Championship would be the day I was in best shape this year.

We knew the championship track in Estonia well from previous races, and we knew very well what sort of training we needed to do beforehand for me in my situation, and regarding terrain and type of track. During the last two interval training stints we had before the championship, I experienced high speed and lots of power. After my massage the evening before the race, Kenneth said to me: "These legs are capable of winning tomorrow," and that's what happened.

It hasn't been easy getting back into good cycling shape again. It would be a lie to say things have gone smoothly and without pain. Being a mother involves a huge amount of effort, especially the first time round, so they say, something I've certainly experienced physically once in a while. The same goes for Kenneth in his role as a new father.

We've had weekends when we've simply had to refrain completely from exercise and training, and focus exclusively on rest and sleep. Getting up two or three times every night for over half a year, either to feed or comfort little Bjørnar, is very tough. From time to time I doubted whether I'd manage to get in shape for the European Championship as the summer passed, but once again we managed.

This year's European Championship gold has, and will always have, a special place amongst the greatest achievements on our bikes. We would never have managed it without all the help we've received from our family. Their efforts have been worth gold, quite literally.

So no matter what you, as a new mother, have set as a goal for yourself, don't underestimate the importance of receiving help. Rather ask for help once too often than once too seldom. Don't give up on your own dreams and goals, even if you become a mother. If you plan well and receive good help from those closest to you, you can achieve unbelievable things.

And now it's just about time to feed Bjørnar here at home again. Yes, he still receives breast milk, but I've luckily managed to reduce the milk production somewhat so I don't have to pump several times a day. He eats three times a day with porridge and dinner, but he still prefers milk from mother.

This turned out to be a long summary, so you'll be hearing from me again in a week, when you'll be able to read a little more about our Christmas preparations here at home, and how Bjørnar reacted during his first encounter with a Christmas tree. I'll post a few new pictures from our activities this autumn. The most important issue here at home now is sleep and what importance and focus it will have in our preparations for a new season.

A certain amount of physical exercise in the run-up to Christmas is very valuable. It gives you new energy, a great feeling and puts you in a good mood, and that's important when you have busy days and have to fit lots into every day.

Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita, Kenneth and Bjørnar

Multivan Merida Biking Team
www.gunnrita.com
 

Author
Gunn-Rita Dahle

Norwegian cross-country mountain bike racer Gunn-Rita Dahle is probably the best female rider this relatively young branch of the sport has ever seen. World champion in 2002 and 2004, Olympic champion in 2004 and unbeaten in the World Cup in 2003 and 2004, she has a breath-taking palmares. Dahle says her success is due to an unrelenting focus - she describes herself as a '24-hour athlete' - and the constant support of her boyfriend and coach Kenneth Flesjå. Follow her exploits on Cyclingnews as she works to stay at the top of her game in 2005. Or, for more Gunn-Rita, see her personal website: www.gunnrita.com

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