Saturday, April 1, 2017

Fatty Season Wrap Up!

Has it really already been 3 weeks since Fat Bike Birkie!?!?  I'm becoming quite the tardy blogger it seems.  It's April 1st already...another one of my favorite days of the year...for obvious reasons.  When I was little I'd play tricks on my friends and then I'd laugh and say "April Fooled You!" ha, I was such a dork...and probably still am.

Fat Bike season is definitely a wrap at this point and my bike is long overdue for some type of season bike cleaning is the worst! This years Fat Bike Season was definitely one for the books as we tried our best to make the most of a dirt and ice filled winter.  I had a blast racing, meeting new people, and seeing Tom get stronger.  The season was also filled with a lot of sadness, which makes it difficult to write about.  I want to to remember all the fun stuff, but I'd be lying if I said tears weren't rolling down my face during the moment of silence at the start of Fat Bike Birkie.

Chelsea and I made a girls road trip to Marquette for the 906 Polar Roll and basically raced in short sleeves on one of the funnest courses of the year (well after the lung busting initial climb)....the first 10 miles felt like we were racing on an Olympic Luge course - total awesomeness.

PHoto Credit: Hilary Dolan

Mother Nature cancelled Fatbike Frozen 40 on us, which was a sad day, especially since this race is in my backyard.  Admittedly 4+ hours would have been a little hard on me training wise, but I still missed racing on my favorite, perfectly groomed single track loop at Elm Creek. 

On a whim I decided to race the Mora Vassaloppet the next day which ended up being one of my favorite races ever!  It was my favorite kind of course - fast, rolling, and drifty!  They had more snow in Mora and the course was total snow! I was stoked to share the top step with Adam from HED and also to race with these awesome ladies!

Photo Credit: Hollywood via Robin's phone

Then, Tom and I made a last minute decision to drive to Grand Rapids for the Farmers Fat Bike Race. We were looking forward to staying at Danielle's house with our good friend Spoo who was also supposed to make the trip.  Sadly, this is the week that Spoo passed away suddenly doing something he loved, running.

It's hard to talk about still, and some days I realize it's hard to believe he is actually gone. Spoo and I shared some pretty special moments together in my first years as a mountain biker.  Tom and I actually met Spoo running back in 2008ish.  We knew him as the "mountain biker" so naturally when I decided to ride bikes - he helped show me the ropes, and we made a lot road trips together to Mtb races in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. He was also there with Lisa sceaming and cheering when I won my my first Natz medal.  He also snickered when as he video taped me awkwardly going over the bars during the XC race :)  I wish I could find that darn video!

2013 CAT 1 Short Track Podium
PHoto credit: Cycling Dirt

Spoo was a very happy, smiley and positive person to be around. He loved Tom's nickname "The Bull" for me.... he would call me that often.  He also loved to give me a hard time.  Damn we miss you Spoo, you made us laugh so much!

We decided to dedicate Farmers to Spoo. 

There was basically no snow - but the dirt singletrack was pretty rad. Spoo loved nothing more than Singletack - this was his kind of course.  I spent the first 90 minutes of of the 3 hour race trying to hold off Tom who kept yelling "I'm coming for you" through the trees (hah!). Damn he is cute. Eventually he caught me and we got to ride together for a couple laps - my favorite 45 minutes of racing all year.  

Photo Credit: Rob Meendering

Eventually though I was getting a little tired  and was convinced he was sandbagging (or felt bad beating me) since I knew what kind of training he had been doing.  So... there may or may have not been some married bickering going on after he rubbed my wheel ha!!  - but eventually I dropped him ...sucker :)  I know it's only a matter of days before I'm chasing him like a dog!

We wrapped up the season at Fat Bike Birkie where I was shocked to be handed out the #1 race plate.  It was a competitive field on a course with about 25% ice. The organizers did the best they could to make this a safe race for us - moving the location of the event.  Cancelling this event would have been the saddest thing ever - so thank you to all the volunteers for the countless hours of trail work.  Thanks to 45NRTH,  I had the right tool for the job in the studded Dillinger4s. 

Photo Credit: American Birkebeiner Foundation
However, I road like a donkey and laid it down pretty hard in the first icy turn!  I knew better than to take that corner like that. I recovered fairly well, and then spent the first couple of laps battling with eventual winner, Leia for the top spot. We seemed closely matched and I envisioned the race would come down to the final lap - perhaps even a finish line sprint.  

Photo Credit: American Birkebeiner Foundation

Unfortunately on the 3rd lap I lost control of my line on a fast downhill clipped the bars of a slower racer and we went down in a full on 2 person yard sale...a pretty painful crash that seriously took my breath away...bruising my hip, breaking my saddle, denting my helmet, twisting my knee and eventually causing the end of my race.  Carnage!! I feel so lucky it wasn't worse and still I feel bad that I don't know the racer I took down so I can personally apologize.  He was so nice about it - making sure I was ok (I do think I got the worst of it).  I just couldn't believe he wasn't totally screaming at me! I'm bummed the season ended this way for me  - but I also know this is the reality of racing and there will be so many more races!! Huge congrats to to everyone on their finishes, this was a hilly and technically challenging course!

I am stoked to have won the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series for the 3rd consecutive year.  

Alexandra, Sonia, Yours Truly, Chelsea, Anna, Jenny and Jill
photo credit to Chelsea Strate

This was another big goal of mine this season and it's no small task traveling to all the races and also performing consistently. I'm so proud of these ladies standing next to me, that I'm so lucky to call great friends.  These women are genuine, positive, and supportive. They are so good for this sport and THIS is why Fat Bike racing is my favorite sport of all.  Thank you for making these winters so special!

I am grateful to Kurt, David, Scott, and Jeremy at 45NRTH who provide amazing support to our team that goes so far beyond the gear and equipment. These guys make sure we have everything we need before and after the races, they give us hand-ups, set up warm tents, and hand us beers at the finish line. They hug us on the bad days, and give us the biggest high fives on the good days!  Thank you for letting me represent your awesome brand.  Best team ever!

photo credit to Jill Martindale

Huge thanks to the rest of my sponsors who help make chasing dreams - HED, Onyx, SRAM, Bicycle Fit Guru and of course the nice guys at Tonka Cycle and Ski. Thanks for trusting me with your brands, and helping me ride the best gear - and for just being rad people.  I've got my bike or wheels at Tonka almost every week and I couldn't thank Nick, Jason and Steve enough for putting up with me these past couple years!

Nick and Tom - couple of studs

Big hugs to Tom who chases dreams right alongside me - I can't wait to see you crush Leadville!  And of course thanks to Matt Freeman - my CTS coach for the past 4.5 years...that's a college education.  I could never keep the power up and my mind level without your help!

and that's it folks!   HAPPY SPRING EVERYONE!  I've got some new athletic adventures ahead this on tap which I'll share more on later....but in the meantime, get outside and enjoy all that warmth and sun!  

Monday, February 6, 2017

Fat Bike Maddness!

Alas, there is a lot of awesomeness (and a bit of sadness) to write about and I finally have some time to do it (which is the best thing ever!)  The blog hiatus shall officially come to an end.

Riding Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail with Tom and Luke - the only time I pulled all ride :) 

We're sitting right smack in the middle of yet another ridiculous fun fat bike season.  I'm literally pinching myself weekend after weekend that I get to call this sport my passion. The events, the community, the smiles and ALL the positive.  This winter sport has been the ultimate joy for me. Although we could use about a foot of snow right now I'm trying to make the best of this warm winter alongside a bunch of other rad folks doing exactly the same thing.  Here's the highlights from the races thus far.

Solstice Chase: If you want to shock the system at the beginning of the fat bike season - ride outside your comfort zone on this initial climb and you'll quickly remember what race pain feels like.  Great opening weekend on some soft snow which made for a few snow angels and a rewarding finish. I got to chase Jenna around on this day and that's always a special treat for me.  I also enjoyed breaking in the 45NRTH Naughtvind kit....seriously the best winter bibs this world has to offer. The highlights of this weekend were the new 45NRTH fires and starting and ending our weekend at the Dalles House. This race wins the "Best Post Race Vibe" award and the rights to "Best Popovers Ever."

Photo credit: Ben Mullin
Norpine Classic: What a great surprise!! Lutsen has always been a great place to race and the Norpine Classic knocked it out of the park on their opening race!  From Friday nights beer tasting all the way to the post race party I'd say this one definitely wins "Best All Around Event." One of my favorite courses ever with some sustained climbs and a fast and drifty course (Braap!)   Even though it was -11 degrees that day and I may or may not have covered my face enough, I had the time of my life!!
Photo Credit: Matthew Pastick

As you may know, our cat Chubbs passed away the Wednesday before this event, and the compassion the racing community shared with both Tom and I on Friday night nearly took our breath away. Thank you so much, that meant the world to us.  I dedicated this race to the cat with the best meow there ever was.

QBP Fat Bike Rennet: Three Rivers Park District stuck it to crabby old man winter and gave us all the opportunity to race under the lights on snow when the rest of MN was half green. It wasn't the firmest of snow, but who's complaining?!?! I was stoked to actually make a smart decision for once about tire pressure (3 psi) and also to only yard sale ONCE in this race!!  Cheers to Solidcore and #abs2017 This race for sure takes the "Overachiever" award and I'm already looking forward to next year!
Photo Credit: Brady Prenzlow
Top Step Love - Apparently riding 0 PSI is actually a thing...just ask Kevin.

Freewheel Fat Thursday Cyclocrit: I was able to sneak out of a work a little early to make it over to Lord Fletchers for their 3rd Crit. The "Most Crazy Technical" race of the season thus far had us riding over docks, through volleyball courts, across the ice and through swampy frozen corn maze like brush!  It was a riot and Tom put the screws to me pretty good (he is getting quite fast these days)! I think this race also wins "Best Tacos Ever" because I'm still dying to have those carnitas again. I was also elated to break in some new matchy HED Wheels!!! complete with Dillinger4 Studs and Onyx "Right Meow" hubs!  ALL THE COLORS!!! So humbled and grateful to represent these amazing local brands.....all led by some really great people!

Yes Coach, I know I should wash my bike more.

45NRTH Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout: Always one of my favorite race weekends of the year filled with an abundance of festivities from start to finish.  We got a late arrival into Crosby on Friday but were welcomed by a house full of all of our favs! Some folks were upset we had to switch to Sagamore, but I love this course, it's fast, it's flowy and requires you to pedal your bike smoothly through the fast, drifty corners. I loved the roll out pace and the fierce chase group competition from Sonia, Tom, Brendan and Chris. It's no doubt that Sonia is one (if not the best) trail riders in the state.  Teach me how to pedal through all the corners too!! Complete with the Cuyuna Lakes Yeti, the recent opening of Red Raven Bike Cafe & Cuyuna Brewing and all race proceeds going to the trails....I'd say this event wins "Biggest Smiles" of the year.
Finding all the laughs with Evan Pre-Race with my main squeeze right on my wheel :)
Photo Credit: Touch the Sky Blue
Photo Credit: Touch the Sky Blue
Photo Credit: 45NRTH David Gabrys
And...can you believe the season is only half over?!?! :)   Looking forward to the coming weeks and praying for snow like crazy.

Huge thanks to 45NRTH, HED, ONYX, Tonka Cycle and Ski, SRAM MTB and Ride iSSi.  You all inspire me to ride fast, and more importantly to always be the best possible version of myself.

The amazing Nick Milton...thank you Tonka for always finding a way.

Beyond bikes...

Saying a very sad goodbye to our beloved cat Chubbs in midst of all this fun was the hardest, most gut wrenching thing we've done as a married couple. We find peace knowing she had a great life, yet we all still miss her like crazy.

We also snuck  away for the weekend to visit our friends John and Sara on Marco Island....where we saw freaking wild dolphins!!!

And lastly we finished our first DIY house project (a new Vinyl floor!) which left me sore and walking like a Grandma for days. Thanks Chubbs for forcing the issue :) We're pretty proud and so grateful for all the help from our friend Jeff.

I now plan to dedicate this week to chilling, and sleeping, and enjoying the accomplishment of a major milestone at work.  Oh and giving Vito ALL the attention. Life seems to just keep getting better and better.  Or at least that's how we like to believe it.

Until next time....keep the smiles up and the wings spread wide!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Iceman Cometh - a surprising finish!

Oh my gosh!  I'm still in shock/awe/surprise about a top 10 finish at's exactly the positive fire and momentum that I was needing as I prepare for the the intense (and crazy fun)  fat bike season that's ahead.

I know most of you are thinking it's silly to be surprised, and to some degree I agree, however if you recall I had a couple blah performances in September (Doh!) and then I took way too many days off my bike in October to be comfortable setting too high of expectations for myself.  So I didn't....and perhaps more joy in racing comes with less expectations and just being in the moment.

Tom and I made the full drive (10.5 hours) to Traverse City on Thursday, and arrived just in time to enjoy a couple pints of Grand Rabbits (yeh Michigan!) at the Rare Bird Brewpub, which was a super cute little place. 

Friday was spent dorking around the expo, trying on all the sweet new 45NRTH Naughtvind gear, and chatting non-stop with my Michigan BFF.  My coach Matt and his wife Tricia arrived in the afternoon and we headed over to Timber Ridge to get in a little pre-ride of the race finish.  Coming from California, Matt was pretty stoked about all the leaves, and it made me reflect for a moment on all we take for granted here in the Midwest. 

Friday night we enjoyed some of the best wood fired pizza ever! at Filling Station Microbrewery and come Saturday afternoon Matt and I were stoked to finally arrive at the start line to warm-up for our 2:30 pm start. So late!!  I noticed instantly that the pedals seemed to be turning themselves!!  This almost never happens, so when it does.... carpe diem! 

Photo Credit: Steve Bartzen
The start was a tad intimidating as I lined up next to 17 badass chicas... a couple Olympians (no big deal!) and more than a handful of other decorated cyclists. I promised myself that no matter what I would not end up racing the next 27 miles by myself.  Finally we were off charging towards Timber Ridge at a pace a bit faster than I remembered back in 2013.  

Things were brisk, but steady until we hit the first sand section at which point a gal totally endo'd  right on her face in the sand (gnarly!). I was lucky to stay upright and sneak by unscathed and of course this gave the signal for the front group to hammer....and so hammer we did and suddenly I realized I was in something like 7th place, which of course I knew would probably only last for a brief bit. Holy long sentence!  I was quickly passed by some gals chasing and soon enough I was in total sufferfest mode trying to hold onto any and every wheel that passed me and at the same time trying to decide when to take a breather and focus on the saving "it" for the rest of my race.

Finally things settled down and eventually I found myself in a small chase group with Alli Draggo, Sally Price and Mary Penta.  I was barely holding on the climbs and Alli (a powerful roadie) spent most of this first part of the race throttling the rest of us on the front. There wasn't much working together, nor did there seem to be a desire to do so. Alli seemed content to hammer.  I just hoped I could hold on as long as possible and I'm guessing the 2 others felt the same way..  Finally we started to hit some of the single track sections at which point it became quite clear what everyone's strengths were.  Mary was definitely smooth in the single-track, had a little pick-up but was smartly not burning her matches up front. Alli was hammering the power sections but slowing down in the single-track and Sally was probably the hardest working cyclist I've ever raced with, but really mashing the pedals and burned some matches having to catch up after a couple issues.  

Alli fell off in one of the single-track sections and then the race became very tactical.  I attacked on the descents and Mary attacked in the single-track. Sally was dead set on pulling up the climbs and regaining control at the front.  As we headed towards the final miles you could tell all of us were deciding when to make a move and it was Mary that went for it first. I held onto her wheel for a brief while and then was gapped slightly as she powered up a climb. I had no idea at this point what place we were battling for, but I guessed it to be somewhere around 13th place. Sally fell off the back and thankfully I was graced by a long downhill which allowed me to bridge up to Mary. The two of us then battled our way into the final 1K of the race, passing the young Haley Batten who was fading.
Photo Credit: Jill Martindale :)
I debated about what time was too early to attack (remembering how going too early cost me in 2013) and decided I would do so on the 2nd to last climb. The moment we turned left to climb I got out of my saddle and cranked the pedals as hard as I could. It was enough to create a decent sized gap heading into the last technical singletrack section. The course was now lined with millions of people of racers which had been partying since their finishes around noon that day!  I crossed the finish line solo and mostly happy with racing a smart race. 
Photo Credit: Steve Bartzen
Tom greeted me with a hug and and I gave my coach a high five.  I had no idea what place I was in, but I knew I'd at least beat a few people.  I headed over to the GRBC tent and Jenny handed me a Vivant Farm Hand, which tasted SOOOO good.  As you can see Danielle, who wasn't able to race, was still super stoked for me!

And then this is what happens when you find out you're in 10th place and in the money$$...say what!?!?!?

Sweet Photos By Jenny Acker
 The rest of the night was an awesome fun blur of hanging out at the campsite with 45NRTH teammies, Matt, Tricia and all the rest of my favs!  My heart is full after such a great weekend.   Huge thanks to Tonka Cycle and Ski, SRAM, Ride iSSi, and Bicycle Fit Guru for all your help in making this mtb season both fun and fast!  Your products and support inspire me to be the best possible version of myself.

Friday, November 4, 2016 were pretty special.

Oh October…I don’t’ even know where to start.  This month was one for the books and I’ll remember many of those special moments for the rest of my life.  It was a nice break from our typical routine which generally involves toast in the morning, work, racing, getting up early,and making sure I get in those 5 rides and trying to always hit the watts on my workouts. 

 Instead this past month was mostly about “US”, celebrating 10 years of marriage and me getting the opportunity to support the love of my life while he persevered to his 8thIronman finish.  The month was a steady reminder of how blessed I am to share my life with someone –and someone so damn awesome at that.  I try desperately to never take this for granted, and as such I spent most of October just staring at Tom in awe.  10 years, how did that happen!!

We kicked off the month with a trip to downtown Louisville for Tom’s Ironman.  Tom drove down mid-week with Jeff and I took a Friday night flight down.  This allowed me my first opportunity to book my very own UBER…and oh my gosh… where has THAT been all my life! UBER for President!

We’ve been to Louisville before but this was the first time staying right downtown. We shared a room with Jeff and together splurged on one right by the Finish line….it was surprisingly schmancy and I had a blast running (yes that’s right) along the nasty Ohio River! 

It was a sunny weekend and I was totally lifted by all the Ironman energy!  I rocked a solo spectatathlon on race day (my first time) and I truly loved internalizing the experience. 

I took the spectator bus out to the bike course and even took a small nap on a concrete bench. And of course I snapped a bunch of photos,cheered loudly and then shed a fear tears as Tom crossed the finish line. 

Each Ironman is its own special experience and this one wrecked havoc on Tom’s stomach…. causing him  to spend much of the marathon vomiting all over the place. UGH I could not have been more proud of him for finding a way dig to new depths.  Then, our friend Jeff crossed the line to nail a healthy PR at the ripe age of 65….a truly incredible accomplishment.   What a great way to end the racing season for both of these cats.

Then Sunday morning I got my first glimpse of Brett Farve in real life as I was heading to the airport. I never really thought of myself as much of a “Jersey Chaser” but nope... turns out I’m just as guilty as the next gal…

I was so flustered/excited/stoked I couldn’t even hold a conversation with the UBER driver!!!

If you know us well you know we’re downright obsessed with Mexico.

Our first trip to Mexico together was to Puerto Vallarta for our Honeymoon, so I suppose It’s no surprise why we fell in love with this place. I remember on that first trip hanging out in the pool looking at the ocean and dreaming about what we wanted our life to be like in 10 years.

At that point we weighed a combined 50 lbs more, I had just wrapped up a college basketball career and Tom had just finished his first Ironman in a pair of my Big Ten mesh basketball shorts and Nike Shox…you know those shox that went all the way from your heel to your toe?  Yeah…

I still hated running and mountain biking was so far from the realm of desire or possibility. Heck, we were supposed to have a couple of elementary school kids by now.

A lot changes in 10 years, but then again a lot doesn’t.  We still kept our promise to return to Puerto Vallarta for our 10 year anniversary and we still dream about what our life will look like in another 10 yers.  Perhaps our dreams really haven’t changed all that much after all. Mexico... we adore you.

And then Tom took another trip around the sun (quit doing that!!)…and I surprised him with a costume, which of course I stole to wear while I handed out candy on Halloween! [insert Chewie voice].

I’m pretty sure I am still hungover from the month of October (so much sparkling wine!) – but nonetheless I am beyond stoked for Iceman this weekend and can’t wait to see my Michigan BFF and all our other racing favs…plus I get to race again with Coach!   Braap!