Monday, August 22, 2016

Ore to Shore..on doing MORE with LESS

ORE TO SHORE WAS FREAKING AWESOME! Marquette was as rad as I can remember and I was quickly reminded why this is my favorite race ever!!  I love so much about the town of Marquette...... the sandy race course, the amazing community, and the beautiful scenery.  It's always worth the 7 hour drive and I already can't wait until next year!  

Last weekends race performance (4th place!) came both as a surprise and as a relief.  I had taken some planned downtime in June following the DK200 and I would have been the first person to label my training the 4 weeks leading up to the race as "lackluster" and more "as able" than I would have liked. Don't get me wrong...I was still nailing intervals on nearly every ride, I just wasn't getting in the hours or rides/week that I was used to. I had a lot of training data telling me that Ore to Shore may not go down well.  So when I pinned my best ever Ore to Shore race performance, I was totally elated!! 

Why the lackluster training?  Like many of you, these days I'm more passionate about more things. We bought a house, I'm leading a key project at work, I have an amazing family I love to spend time with and I'm newly obsessed with SolidCore. I'm super stoked about all these things!!

The thing is, when one becomes more passionate about more things it doesn't necessarily mean that one is less passionate about those other just means that there is now less time for all the said things one is passionate about!! Bah!!

So how does one do more, with less time?  I'm learning it's about change, and adaptation. It's about saying "yes" to those things that make me happy, and saying "no" to those things that don't bring me great joy. It's not about missing workouts and feeling frustrated/guilty, instead it's about being flexible, making adjustments, and maintaining balance.  It's vowing to never to be a victim of my own choices. It's about BEing in the moment, living freely and confidently setting boundaries. It's about worrying less, and making the most of the time that I have.

When it comes to cycling and training plans it means less hours and more intensity. It's means REAL rest days and very few recovery rides. It mean murdering myself nearly every time I hop on the bike and in turn loving what this plan gives me OFF the bike. These days every workout has a purpose and this concept is helping me realize that I indeed can still have it all. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dirty Kanza 200 - You Amaze Me!

"Oh man, I didn't think it was possible for it to be harder than last year, I'm in a really dark place."  fellow racer and gravel enthusiast Carl Ring shared with me as I came up on him around mile 125.  His humbling words sharply matching my current realization....that things were starting to get really freaking hard.  By now it was about 9 hours into the race and around 3pm in the afternoon.  It was hot, I mean oppressively hot - clocking 99F on my Garmin.  There's no place to hide at the Dirty Kanza, and we were battling a 17mph headwind -- that of which we both knew would not disappear for the next 81 miles. I promised Carl that "it will pass" - because it usually does. It was a tough moment to share with someone I had crossed the finish line with in 2015.  As a person Carl rocks, and I badly hoped he would find the finish line.

At the 2015 Dirty Kanza 200 Finish with Carl
Photo Credit: Adventure Finish

Flashback 11 hours and I was sitting across from Tom at the IHOP taking down some french toast and feeling quite rested.

I wasn't overly nervous, but rather confident and excited about the adventure ahead.  It had of course thunderstormed overnight and so the roads were wet as I took my place in the starting gates right behind behind coach.  Matt's a pretty calm dude, never really on the rollercoaster....which makes his presence a postive one before a race and I was sure this would be a steady wheel to follow as we rolled out of town. 

Photo Credit: Linda Guerrette
The sun was still waking up and Commercial Street was absolutely buzzing.  There's a special kind of energy that surrounds this race and you can feel it from the moment you set foot on the ground in Emporia. I waited in anticipation as they called up some of my competition and embraced the reality that this was a much more competitive field than the previous year.  I knew a spot on the podium would be coveted, but I also knew that 206 miles was a long way to go and a lot can happen in that many miles.  I took a deep breath and within minutes we were rolling slowly out of town as fans lining the street cheered us on our way!   I was pleased to see the pace was a bit slower than last year's start and I stayed calm as we cautiously made our way through some of the first mud puddles. Things were seeming better than last year until , well until they weren't....

All of the sudden riders in front of me began pulling over to the side of the road dropping like flies.  The mud wasn't nearly as bad as last year, but it was enough to scatter the grass with hundreds of riders, myself included.  Not again! I initially thought as my chain dropped. I pulled off to put it back on, promising myself I would walk the rest of the rest of the mud.  I couldn't get the chain to stay on the chainring and I had no idea what was wrong.  Looking up I saw coach walking with his bike.  I did the most logical thing I could think of and joined another random guy in a standing water pond and proceeded to splash water all over my derailleur and remove all the cake like mud from my tires.  Then, to my surprise, the chain stayed on!! I was freaking elated!!!  I picked up my bike and walked rest of the mud section praying it would work when I started to ride, soon enough I was back in the saddle feeling like some kind of survivor.  Thankfully that was the worst of it and the rest of the course was smooth sailing.  Except, I was on the chase - a different place from last year, where I had faired pretty well in the mud.  I slowly chipped my way through the field respecting the distance and the anticipated heat and wind. 

Photo Credit: Matt Fowler - Gravel Guru
Soon I was having a total blast, loving the views and the rolling prairies that occupy the first 50 miles of the race. I was holding a strong pace, smiling, and pointing at all of the running cows!!  This part of the course is so beautiful that I seriously can't believe we only have to drive 8 hours to experience it! 
Look at all these cats drafting off me through the creek crossing! :)
Photo Credit: Matt Fowler - Gravel Guru
I shared some miles with some good friends on this part of the course and was feeling absolutely awesome as I rolled into the first check point to be greeted by both Tom and Danielle's mechanic from GRBC, Ted.  Ted had offered to help me with some mechanical pit support and he was absolutely amazing.  I left that aid station in what I thought was about 6th place on a bike that felt nearly brand new!

It was an out and back leaving the aid station and I especially loved being able to exchange cheers with those that I recognized!  I found some good poeple to ride with and then a few miles later "POP" there went my tire, flat like a pancake.  I think I might have actually laughed, because this is epitome of Dirty Kanza.  The flint gravel here is horribly sharp.  I immediately looked down at my watch and made a goal to try to fix this flat in 10 minutes.  I knew I must have shredded the tire because it went flat so quickly.  I assessed and instantly found a huge gash that looked like someone had stabbed my tire with a pocket knife! (thanks Nick!) Woah, that's not good I thought, and then I remembered that I had packed a couple road tire boots.  I'd never booted a tire before, however, I confidently reassured all the racers that passed that I had everything I needed :)  In all honestly I only kind of knew what I was doing, but somehow it worked!   About 13 minutes later my tire was holding air and I was back on the trail feeling like the awesomest little bike mechanic in the world. Seriously...  I booted my own freaking tire!!! The stokemeter was sky high!

The next 40 or so miles are mostly a blur, but I remember passing a few gals, one bonking and another fixing a flat and a 3rd just because I was riding faster. I  believe I spent most of this section riding in a couple groups. I was nailing my nutrition plan and for the most part I was feeling pretty solid as I rolled into Eureka for checkpoint 2 at 102 miles. 

Photo Credit: Ted Stephany - Sound Probiotics
I was greeted by what seemed like a massive pit crew with everyone asking me what I needed.  I asked Ted for my spare Hed Ardennes rear wheel (thanks Brendan!) and he got to work on my bike.  I was sad to hear that Matt had suffered a race ending mechanical in the mud, but happy to hear that Danielle was feeling solid. Tom wiped the mud off my arms, sprayed on more sunscreen and stuffed ice packs in my sports bra and my back pocket.  THEY FELT AMAZING!! What a great idea! Ted worked on my bike and Brendan and Scott filled my pockets with snacks and a new spare tube kit. Tom swapped out my Hydrapak and told me I was in 3rd place!  I couldn't freaking believe it,  I was smiling from ear to ear - I mean I felt like a gosh darn millionare! 

It was a little quiet leaving Eureka.  We were heading right into the wind, and most around me were hurting and soft pedaling.  It seemed as though most of the people I was riding with with were still back at the aid station.  I managed to grab the tandem wheel of Michigan racers, Elliot and Sally.  They were all smiles with good energy and helped set a nice pace for us in the beginning.  Unfortunately about 10 miles into this 3rd leg "PSSST" and I looked down to see my tire slowly losing air.  Seriously, what is the deal?!   This time I pulled over and realized the gash was less severe and barely loosing sealant so I first attempted to seal it with a couple CO2 cartridges only to realize that the sealant wasn't quite holding.  I finally added a tube, and again booted the tire and was on my way.  I had been passed by only 2 girls during this time and was able to regain my 3rd position fairly quickly.  Soon after that my group came up on Carl.....who was hurting :(  We made our way across the water at miles 130 and then shortly after that things started to get pretty nasty for me.

Suddenly my somach was a total mess!  I tried to drink more water first to see if it would settle, but nope.  So then I tried to drink more dice.  Oh man....I spent the next 20 miles basically watching the miles tick by ever so slowly on my Garmin.  I started obsessing over the math and how many odd hours of suffering might remain.  There was no talking going on around me and believe it or not, even smilling was difficult.

Photo Credit: Linda Guerrette
As I passed Linda I started hoping I might not see any photographers, cuz woah! I was fixated on pickle juice - seriously it's all I could think about. Nick (my favorite mechanic ever had convinced me Friday night that pickle juice was a good idea... so on an impulse I had purchased a small jar of pickles and threw them in Tom's car.).  I was clocking miles under 10mph when I rolled into Madison at mile 161 I was literally a HOT MESS!  Seeing Tom waving me in was the best feeling ever. I needed his smile and his supportive energy, because it's the best in all the land. I swear this man is an angel, and he believes I'm capable of so much more than I do. He gave me another couple ice packs and I was also surprised and relieved to see my coach in the pit!

He had to end his race early and yet was there at a time when I really freaking needed it.  When you work with a coach for more than 3 years, they get to learn a lot about you...they see you at your best, and they see you at your worst. There was no hiding it at this point - I was hurting. 
Photo Credit: Tricia Fynewever Freeman
I sat down in the chair for the first time ever in a long race and I remember expressing that my stomach was a mess and that I didn't know what to do.

Photo Credit: Tricia Fynewever Freeman
I wanted to cry, but instead I drank the pickle juice and it tasted AMAZING, so I drank some more and then some more, and then some more, and then I laughed that I was probably going to blow pickle juice vom all over the course. 

Photo Credit: Tricia Fynewever Freeman
Coach told me to just keep drinking water until  my stomach felt better. I voiced that I didn't think I was going to beat the sun - a big goal of mine. He argued back  "c'mon you're gonna beat the sun"  They told me I was still in 3rd and I still couldn't believe it.  I  said "I know I will finish, but this is not going to be easy" Coach said, "just keep pedaling." 

Photo Credit: Tricia Fynewever Freeman
5 minutes had passed and soon I was back on my bike.  After a few miles I started to feel a little better and as a result the first hour went by pretty quickly. The next 2 hours however..... WOAH! they were downright excruciatingly painful. At this point I could no longer take ANYTHING in. Even water would upset my stomach to no end. I seriously was putting Red Bull and Coke in my mouth swishing it around and then spitting it out.  I had rememered reading somewhere that this played some kind of trick on your brain.  Again there were people scattering the sides of the trail sitting in the shade.  I wanted to join them. Just keep pedaling.... I even passed some 100 mile racers, one gal in particular was dry heaving right at the inside of a turn. I passed the 200 mile marker and cursed the amazing race directors for making this one 206 miles.  Those last 6 miles were brutally tough. I was soft pedaling and holding on like a thread with a mouth full of cotton. I was passed by at least 20 dudes in the final 40 miles, but the math told me that if I just kept on pedaling I was going to beat the sun!  I prayed I wouldn't be caught by another female racer and  got one last boost of energy as I crested the last punch of a climb into the town of Emporia!

The finish chute was lined with tons and tons of people!  I picked up speed and couldn't hold back the smile....Tom and Ted were off the ground arms in the air jumping for me, I managed a serious fist bump and felt my eyes well with tears!!   I crossed the line and was greeted by Kristi, LeLan and Jim - the most genuine of race directors I've had the opportunity to cross paths with. Naturally I slobbered Kristi with my best sweaty, salty, muddy mess of a hug.

I couldn't believe it...I had beat the sun and managed a 3rd spot on the podium with a time of 14:26.  This finish line was pretty special and sharing this moment with my main cat was about as good as it gets.

Photo Credit: Mike Riemer - Salsa Cycles

This was easily the hardest race I've ever done. I've never experienced heat or or stomach pain like that for that many hours.  It's one thing to suffer for an hour or two, but it's another to suffer for 5 or 6 hours....that was something else.  It was epic and it left me wrecked and sprawled out on Commercial Street for at least the next 2 hours. Surely long enough to hear Carl Ring's name as he crossed the finish line :) 

"I have a feeling we'll meet again in Emporia" - Carl Ring

That experience was pretty damn special, and truthfully, I'm not sure where you go from here....

But for now, it's to the couch and enjoying all of those things that I love away from my bike, which is still full of gravel (Doh!)

Huge congratulations to all of you that found the finish line on Saturday when there was a DNF rate of 41%. I'm certain you all have some kind of nasty, stubborn determination deep inside. And to those of you who were forced off the race due to mechanicals and/or heat exhaustion - I know you'll cross that finish line next time and I also trust that your feeling of accomplishment will be so much greater than any of us can ever imagine.  For this reason, I envy you.

I'm filled with so much emotion and grattitude right now.  So many people came together to make this experience a reality.  I'm so grateful for Tom and his neverending suppport and encouragement. He's the most selfless, beautiful person I've ever met.

Photo Credit: Mike Riemer - Salsa Cycles

I'm grateful for all you and your support - Your energy is utterly contagious. I love cycling and what what it allows me to learn about myself.  We all get something a little different out of sport.  For me, nothing really tops the way it feels to battle, to perservere and to eventually prevail.  I thrive off brutal conditions and find way more satisfaction in the suffering and the perserverence, than I do in the end result.  Thank you Jim, LeLan, Kristi and the rest of the Dirty Kanza crew for reminding me that I'm capable of so much more than I realize.

Until next time...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Finding the Smile when the Times are Tough...

Last week I had a pretty big week at work - busy days filled with meetings and then a few fun evenings socializing.  I'm always striving for balance and admittedly even more so in the past couple years.  The athlete in me will never die.... there are just many other things in life in which my passions are growing.  Thursday night I left work late around 7pm after intentionally taking the previous 3 days of off the bike.  Mentally, I was exhausted and I had some serious agony intervals on tap....  I wanted nothing more than the couch.  Instead, I dusted off the lights (which I then forgot) and asked myself what was the worst that could happen?  If anything I'd at least be moving my body, right? 

Well I freaking nailed those intervals in a way that I haven't nailed intervals in a really long time. It  was surprising and beyond rad.  These moments are pivotal.  They remind us that that the miles are not everything, that rest is real, and that we are always capable of so much more than we think we are.
I've always wanted to do this!
photo credit: Star Tribune
It got me thinking about this whole concept of mind over matter. The reality is, we can only be tough, when we are tested. Of all the things I've discovered as an endurance athlete, the most profound is that fitness is only a small factor in what determines our success on race day. There will be injuries, dead legs,  mechanicals, and horrible weather. There will be runny noses and crashes, hard family times, and work stress.  We cannot possibly control all of this. But we can decide each and every day to control our mind, to be strong and to be positive.  To chose mind over matter.

Truthfully, I'm not usually confident in my training or in my fitness, but I'm always confident in my ability to suffer, to dig deep, and to find the smile when the times are hard.  I'm confident in my ability to be tough when I am tested.

This spring I've had some really strong days on the bike, such as the Dickie Scramble and the Fulton Gran Fondo - I'm pretty excited about those efforts. I'm also pretty stoked about my noticeable increase in core strength --> thanks [solidcore]! 

However, to some degree I feel it's nearly impossible to feel "ready" for a race such as the Dirty Kanza 200.  The miles never feel like enough and there is no getting around the fact that somewhere after 120 miles - it's gonna hurt like hell.  This is why I'm also prepping my mind - to embrace the pain.  It's less than 20 days away and I can't wait to race my bike...ALL DAY LONG.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Beating burn out - hitting the road, and rippin' gravel!

Some time last week a friend asked me something like this "How do you prevent burnout when you quickly move from one season to the next?"  At first glance I couldn't help but chuckle.  Truth be told -  I've  been on the struggle bus lately....and in all reality there are many times in a year that I feel like I'm a stack of smoldering coals just about ready to burn out.  I'm far from immune to this concept of burn out, however, the trick I've learned over the years is being able to acknowledge that moment, spend some time in it, and eventually determine what is needed to ignite a spark. 

Love riding with Randall's crew on the weekends!
Sometimes it's plain old rest, other times it's simply having options, or it's a change of pace, or it's skipping a ride for a couple beers with a friend. Sometimes the mere sense of freedom that accompanies a choice is all that is needed.  I've also learned that I personally need to plan short breaks into my year of racing and decide which few events are most important to me - putting less emphasis on those other events or seasons that are not as important. This way when I'm in an "off season" it's easier to take that day off or to cut that ride short, or skip those annoying intervals. 

Photo Credit - Matthew Pastick - after saying hello in downtown Wayzata

One thing that I specifically do in the spring to fend off burn out is to join in more group rides! I find group rides to be the easiest way to add on the miles - for some odd reason the suffering is just a little more tolerable with others + who doesn't love a coffee/donut stop in the middle of a 5 hour ride? 

Not only have I been using these road rides to add miles to my training, but I've also been using them to mix up the intensity - replacing some of my interval workouts. One night a week I look for a group ride that's just a tad outside of my comfort zone --  I've learned that the simple fear of being dropped and maybe even worse being that girl that everyone has to wait for is a huge motivating factor for me to push myself beyond my perceived limits.  I'm learning when best to use my matches so that I can manage a consistent effort throughout a ride.  It's it's own little challenge and this is all great timing because...

Photo Credit: Todd Bauer
That's me, and my fitness clone Jeff Shupe

It's gravel season!  Spring has always been my favorite time of year and the local gravel scene is only helping solidify that.   Dickie Scramble and Miesville56 where the two local gravel races I chose this year mostly because I love the festive post race small town bar atmosphere.  I loved sharing both of these ride experiences with some people I had just met.  That's the beauty of gravel.  Eventually you end up riding with a smallish group of people with similar fitness sharing the workload and motivating each other to keep pushing.  This camaraderie is incredible and it's always the highlight of my ride.  Plus, there are usually cows some place near the gravel....and I freaking love cows, especially this little ginger cow. So cute!

In other news I'm pretty excited to be representing Lift Cyclewear this coming year!  I've been a fan of this Minneapolis based brand since they first launched last spring and I could not be more excited about their 2016 clothing line!  The knickers are bad ass and there is a top/bottom for just about any occasion...+ no more tan lines ladies!! I just love all that this brand represents. Don't just dream - dream big!! 

Use my ambassador code APRIL10 for 10% off online
I also saw some of these items fresh on the rack at Tonka Cycle and Ski

What's on tap?? Well, I'm beyond jacked for my Michigan BFF - Danielle to arrive tomorrow night.  She's coming into town for the Fulton Gran Fondo (and a bike fit with the Bicycle Fit Guru)!  The Fondo is the best bike party ever...and with approx 1500 people, this weekend is sure to be a gosh darn riot! Help me welcome Danielle to spring in Minneapolis - she'll be riding the 100 on her Beargrease "Skittles" with Tom (uff da!) Make sure you give them a good shout!!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Life Lately...

Guess what's April!!!!  I know...I just have to get that outta my system at least once a year:)  Life has been pretty awesome lately and my cup has been overflowing like mad since the end of Fat Bike Birkie. NEED A BIGGER CUP!  I'm pretty excited  about the future and what life appears to have in store for me, yet at the same time I'm loving the simple joy of this warm cup of coffee next to me.   Here's are all the awesome things I've been up to:

Feeling Grateful:
I spent much of the last month feeling overwhelmed and grateful for all the amazing support I've been given this past winter.  I'm so lucky to have an amazingly supportive husband, friends and family that "get" me (hugs!) and I'm so humbled to have the support of an incredible team of sponsors such as 45NRTH, HED, Tonka Cycle & Ski, Onyx, SRAM, iSSi, and the amazing Bicycle Fit Guru. Plus I get Matt at CTS, the best coach this sport has to offer.  Combined they all make it possible for me to race my best best and even better these brands are driven by some of the most amazing people in the cycling community. They inspire me to be faster, more gracious, more positive, and in the end a better role model for all those inspiring cyclists out there.  Thank you for trusting me with your brands.

Trying new things:
After a long, intense season of training and travel I'm about as shelled as the next gal and desperately needing a break. So I try new things to "mix it up." In the process I stumbled upon   [solidcore] (thanks Christina!). Okay I admit Coach has been trying to get me to do more actually do my core workouts for the past 3.5 years.  Generally speaking, I hate core and if I I have to do it by myself..nope, not happening. Well this class rocks - it's essentially an amazing smoothie of all the things that I love about strength training, hot yoga, the Fix Studio and endurance sports..It's an intense 50 minutes (with JC yelling positive encouragement at me to "find it"). It's flat out rad and it leaves me walking (legs shaking) out the door with one of the best endorphin highs there is.  After 10 years of no core workouts, I'm convinced I might actually dig up that six pack again.

I so deserved this racer back tank!

Spending time with family & friends:
One of the things I miss the most during fat bike season is my family and many of my closest friends.   It's hard all winter not being able to spend as much quality time with them since half the winter were spending weekends in the hotel on the road or trying to keep our life in order when we are back in town.  So lately we've been binging on family & friends, traveling to SW Florida and hosting parties and rides and such. I've put on a healthy 5 lbs in this process -- a true testament to the amount fun that's been had!

My amazing parents Karla & Jack!

Wrapping my head around Dirty Kanza:
200 miles is heck of long way no matter how you slice it... and it takes an enormous amount of mental strength, grit, & pit bull desire to reach that far off finish line.  Getting my mind prepared for an effort like that is a process that takes place over a couple of months, not just a couple days.... I'm starting that process right meow.

photos like this are good reminders of just how deep I have to dig at Dirty Kanza.

Being a homeowner:
Tom and I slowly adjusting to the joys and challenges that come with buying a new "oh, we need a water softener? and oh..we don't have one those?"  Haha!  However we're also loving waking up in our own place, meeting our friendly neighbors, and are looking forward to getting our hands dirty in the backyard this summer.

I'm so in love with our new table - it's actually the same one that's in the Cuyuna Bike House!

Geeking out about about agriculture:
Lately I'm also geeking out about my job in the agriculture industry- getting involved in lots of exciting things related to world trade, on campus recruiting, and project management. Growing up in the suburbs I couldn't tell a farm from my backyard but these days I'm proud as ever to work a company that's helping feed the world.

Next on tap is a bunch of group rides and getting my fill of the local gravel scene.  Bring on those warm sunny spring days, I can't freaking wait!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fat Bike Birkie!!

Can you believe this awesome spring we are having?!  It feels like we are in Minnesota heaven. I've been spending most of the week letting go of the pressures of training/racing and really just letting the season sink in.  45NRTH Fat Bike Birkie was my last race of the year and I wanted nothing more than end the season on a high note. 

drove up solo on Friday night after work (Tom was already up there working some Salsa demos). It was hard to see so many Facebook selfies of my buddies as they headed out of town at 8am, 12pm, 3pm knowing that I wasn't going to reach Hayward until just before 8pm.  I was feeling flat most of the week, but Coach Matt's pep talk righted the ship and as I rolled into Hayward I felt a sense of calm.  The rolling hills of Cable are punchy bunch that don't always seem to suit me as a "bigger" racer.  I was determined to ignore all that, and to put on my best suffer face on Saturday.  Tom and I  joined Dolan and Hillary for some ravioli and we were all super excited that Birkie was going to be  Hilary's FIRST fat bike race!

Arriving at the race site Saturday morning was the best feeling ever!  45NRTH Fat Bike Birkie is it.  It's exactly what I love about racing.  Big, massive, epic events.  People were all over the place making last minute adjustments to their tire pressure, talking about the course conditions and really just beaming with excitement.  You can't resist the energy at an event like this, it's seriously intoxicating.  I was greeted with smiles by Scott and Kurt from 45NRTH who were both majorly jacked for the day and then I also got to hug Anne Hed and thank her for all she has done for me this season!!  I was feeling amazing.  I've been chasing a win at this race for a long time and I was ready to rock!

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph

The announcers went through call-ups and I managed a second row spot right on Jenna's wheel...not a bad place to be. Eventually I ended up right behind Matt Acker and after a 2 mile controlled roll out we finally made a right hand turn onto the Birkie trail and then were let free like a pack of wolves.  I had a solid start and was slightly behind Jenna.  It only took about 200 yards for me to realize I had picked the perfect tires in the Vanhelgas and that I had nailed the tire pressure at 8.5PSI.  The combination of the bigger tread and firmer pressure meant that I was rolling fast and also handling the loose corners better than most around me.  The grooming was incredible and the power sections combined with the drifty corners were making this a great course for me.

In the past Jenna generally drops me on the first few hard climbs and then I spend the rest of the race chasing her like a raging dog.  I have so much respect for Jenna as a racer that when I caught up back up to her 25 minutes in it nearly startled me. I thought, maybe this was it :)  I even held the lead a couple times for a tiny bit, but then eventually her climbing strength was too much for me and she slowly rode away.

At this point I looked back fully expecting to see Amber, Sheryl, Diana, Pam, Anna or Musto right on my wheel.  I knew I had a visible gap and so I focused mostly on my strengths which I think has made a difference for me as a racer this last year.  I focus less on my weaknesses while racing and try to capitalize more on my strengths.  I know hills aren't my jam and so I promise to make myself suffer on them, but then I also ensure that I'm upshifting faster than others at the top and taking advantage of my ability to descend, especially when it's loose. This yo-yo effect sometimes makes it hard for me to find a good wheel(s) in hilly races so I look for the bigger/taller guys to work with.  Sorry guys, it's true

The aid stations were amazing and I couldn't help but smile as I rode through and heard all the the cheers. I worked together with a few guys the second half of the race. 

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph

I was passed by Salsa's Tim Ek with a few miles to go and he offered a hello and a few words of encouragement. That was all I needed to find the strength to hammer the last mile of gravel road to the finish!  I saw no women in sight and was elated to again nab a 2nd step at the biggest and bestest fat bike race in the world!!

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph

I also got to ride through the finish chute with Hilary and share a congratulatory hug after she completed the short course event....her first fat bike finish ever!  Then Brendan, Tom, Pam, Danielle and all my favorite friends started rolling through the finish with big smiles on their faces.  

The post race festivities were on point and overall Saturday was a pretty special day celebrating an amazing season with Team 45NRTH.  Champagne was had!!  

Photo Credit: Jill Martindale AKA Arrowhead 135 Beist

I was filled with so many emotions.  Buzzing excitement  about the race and fat biking in general.  Overwhelmed with gratitude for all the support I received this season. Sad that the season was over, yet relieved to be able to relax and take a mental break. 

I was also elated to have accomplished my goal of winning the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, but mostly I was so happy to have been able to race with this amazingly talented ladies all year long!  More on this later.

Photo Credit: Jenny Scott
Anna, Danielle, Me, Jill, Chelsea

Today, the stoke level is high due to daylight savings (the best day of the year!) and arms my glutes are destroyed after joining my besty Ericka at at Orange Theory (that workout is hard!!!!) I don't even want to tell coach how tore up my abs are...for fear he'll make me actually do my core workouts. It's apparent I should probably do them. :/

Congratulations everyone on an incredible season, you should all be very proud.  We are all collectively a part of a pretty special revolution.  Just think...some day we'll all be able to say we participated in some of the first fat bike races ever!


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

February Fat Frenzy!

It’s been a FAT BIKE FRENZY!!!.  So much has happened in what feels like so little time.  We took the shortest month of the year (even with the leap!) and managed to fill nearly every waking moment with something exciting and memorable.  I’ve raced 5 incredibly awesome events in 4 weeks.  Then, we decided it was totally normal and possible to buy a freaking house right smack in the middle of it.  It’s been a wild ride trying to fit in all the travel, training, racing, packing, unpacking, shopping, pinteresting, decorating, working, Frostbiking, partying, and caring for sick cats (they are better now!) – all in no particular order.  This is our life.  We wouldn’t want it any other way.  Buying a house was a pretty special deal for us – it felt like we had been rebuilding and saving forever.  I still pinch myself when I turn the keys…I mean we have actual neighbors and stuff.

I’ll remember this month of racing for a long time.  It was incredible to see feel the results of to me what feels like many years of dedicated training all coming together.  Thanks Matt! Historically a season like this would cause me to come apart at the seams. I’ve matured a lot as a racer taking things much less seriously – smiling more – and reminding myself that cycling is my passion (not my job!) and that I’m lucky I am to be able to do what I love weekend after weekend.   I am again behind on blogging, but I do think each of these races deserves in own special recognition – because after all, this is my favorite season of the year.  So here are the highlights of what seemed like the fastest February ever.

Iron Line Fat Bike Race:
We all know I love cats – but the truth is…I love dogs too.  I wrote about this awesome adventure of a race getting to share the trail and event with sled dog teams on 45NRTH Chronicles page.  It was a riot and a fun post to write. The best part – racing in a long sleeve t-shirt and then hanging out afterwards in the sun!!  I was reminded of the great community of fat bike racers and how fun it is to see all my friends as we travel to destinations across the Midwest.  I was inspired to keep on traveling. This races wins “Best Surprise” of the year.

Photo Credit: Jenny Scott
Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout:
I love Cuyuna, and the mountain bike mecca that this town has built.  They put together an awesome new race course with enough rad singletrack to make just about anyone happy.  It was warm and the riding conditions were mint – that almost never happens.  Plus there was free Red Bull and tons of 45NRTH swag to raffle off!  This race wins “Biggest sufferfest start” of the year as Hollywood Jay set a roaring pace that had me dropped and chasing a wheel for a torturous 2 mile roll out. I loved my Dillinger 4 studs on this day as well as the killer “up-north” bar party!

Photo Credit: I think Danielle's Phone
Penn Cycle Fat Tire Loppet:
We hosted 5 people in our tiny apartment the night before – it was awesomely crowded – and then we got to treat them to Hoagies, our neighborhood greasy spoon.  We were all grateful for the late start.  and being the 2nd race in 2 days I expected this one to hurt…but not nearly as bad as it did. OUCH! Penn put on a first class event and they had a big turn out!  I had a great start, but then suffered badly, like what I’d imagine a road race breakaway feels like.  Pam was hot on my wheel for most of the race – did I mention how bad this hurt? This race wins “Happiest to see the finish line” for this year.  
Photo Credit: Matthew  Pastick
Tom waving to his mom...priceless.
Photo Credit: Tom's sister Michele

Fatbike Frozen Forty:
BRR!  Seems they jinxed this race when they put the word “Frozen” in the name.  It is always the coldest and the longest race of the year.  It’s also the most humbling and really the only race that provides a long enough time for us all to experience the rollercoaster that is endurance racing. I think it’s also the most satisfying of races to complete.  It’s far from easy. I raced in my Wolfgars for the first time and gleamed with joy that I had warm toes for 4.5 hours!  It was beautiful.  Elm Creek is the best groomed trail there is – and I love that course like a sister.  This is also the race where Kurt at 45NRTH broke out the polar bear fur! This race wins “Best Snow Beard” of the year! 
photo credit: Matthew Pastick
906 Polar Roll:
Marquette.  I adore this town and all of its beauty and simplicity – and because it’s always treated me well.  45NRTH kicked off the weekend with its RideDuluth video and then Saturday we were all treated to a very tough race – one that forced  us to dig deep and decide what we were made of.  Soft snow isn’t necessarily my forte as I prefer to stand on the pedals and smash. Over the first 10 miles I traded places with Danielle(who has much more finesse) and we couldn’t stop laughing with all the crashing that was going on.  I think I crashed my bike more than 30 times this race!!  My abs were blasted from trying to balance on the trails and from laughing so hard Saturday night that I thought my ribs might explode!! This race wins a double for “biggest crashfest” and “best after-party.” I think I’m still recovering from that epicness :)

Photo Credit Hilary Dolan
Last weekend was finally some sleeping in and finishing up some moving stuff.  Plus I got to check out Frostbike and  practice my grooming skills in the 45NRTH booth.

Check out that sweet photo above me of Elm Creek master groomer C.J. Smith!
Plus I finally got to meet Jim from Onyx for the first time!  What a great guy!  It's been so awesome to ride their hubs this season and I'm excited to hear that they have something pretty rad up their sleeves! Frostbike also taught me how massive my quads look when they are larger than life.
All-City makes some great bikes, and I’m stoked to be representing their Macho King in this photo.  This steel stallion will be my bike of choice for the upcoming Dirty Kanza 200.

Next on tap is the Grand Finale, AKA the Fat Bike Birkie....see you all on the trail!