Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Christmas Week full of Gifts!!!!

It's amazing sometimes how much can actually happen in a week!  As I sit here and type this post it seems nearly impossible that it was just a week ago that we were racing The Solstice Chase.

First of all....long overdue, I finally took a day off of riding and got my hair done!!!

When it comes to most things in life...Blonde is generally better.  (Blonde Ale, Blonde roast, and Blonde Highlights!!)

Then of course it was Christmas and for reasons you will read below this was one that was rather special to me and I tried to enjoy every second of it with my family!  My mom's tree always makes me smile and I was so happy to finally pass the "Santa" duties on to my nephew Aren!! 

Then on Friday the best Christmas miracle of all dad was gifted an improved heart!! He is now in the hospital recovering from double bypass like a champ and I admit I'm somewhat jealous of his bad ass scar!!  People always underestimate scars -- but I think they are the most powerful symbol of survival.  I promised not to show any gory or embarrassing photos, but I think it's pretty cute he gets to carry around this little pillow for the next few weeks!!  This gift more than anything makes me so happy right now.

Speaking of the gift of life...Tom's sister Chele rescued the cutest little Kitteh ever!!!  She's 3 year's old (still needing a name) and loves to snuggle with my niece Julia!

And then as if life couldn't get any better.... two more amazing things happened yesterday.....IT SNOWED!!! AND THE SUN CAME OUT!!!!

Half way through the ride I came out of the gas station to find these two "Bears" laying out in the sun and each requesting a Mojito. Really?  c'mon.

Tom and I smiled and laughed the entire ride....okay just kidding I complained almost the entire 5 or so miles that we had to break trail. Apparently this is not a strength of mine. However by the time we arrived at Starbucks I had forgotten all about my weakness!!

Last night we filled up at $1.99/gallon and I this has me really looking forward to our New Year's road trips to Michigan!

Now I'm enjoying a chill Sunday and recovering from some of the hardest VO2 max intervals I've done in a long time. I'm certain my coach is trying to kill me. Or at least wake up the sleeping of the two.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Solstice Chase - Can I have more hills please?!

Holy fatbike hangover!!! I have no idea what it is about turning the cranks on a fatty, but I can barely get out of bed the day after a race.   However, I must admit that in a good way it's kind of reminiscent of the college days as I usually wake up, realize I feel like crap and instantly think "damn that was a lot of fun!"
Photo Credit: 45NRTH Kurt Barclay
This year's Solstice Chase was shaping up to be a spectacular day at Big Rock Creek Retreat.  Conditions were swell, there was a tiny bit of snow and the race headquarters were in an awesome BARN! Barns are so cool....when we first walked into this barn to pick up our race numbers I was blown was so romantic that I instantly tried to convince Tom that we needed to skip the race and renew our vows instead!!

Photo Credit: Scott Spoo (Mr. Romance)
What I was most excited about for last weekend was a chance to see all of my favorite race buddies! The fatbike community is like no other and it's camaraderie and great people are what makes me want to race fatbikes forever!  What's even more awesome is racing with my 45NRTH teammates this year!!   We all did some quick chatting, shared some pre-race nerves and then I went off to get a few hard efforts in before the race. 

I was pretty jacked up about racing for the first time on my new set of Sarma Naran rims! These rims are freaking amazing! I could immediately feel the improvement in rolling resistance.  My bike felt light and fluffy and during warm-ups it felt almost effortless to turn the front end of the my bike.  WOW!!!

Since there was only a light dusting of snow this year everyone was assuring me it was going to be a "fast" day!  Well, I suppose it's all relative, but as I was climbing punchy hill after punchy hill in the first 5 miles of the race I was feeling anything but "fast" :)   In quads were in major REVOLT!!! I'm pretty sure that someone had picked up every single hill in Minneapolis and brought it to St. Croix Falls!  ouch.
Photo Credit: 45NRTH Kurt Barclay

Eventually I gathered myself and I spent much of the race riding with a couple of fast dudes and even got the benefit of some JP pulls.....well, before the ice ate him for breakfast!  At one point on the second lap I dropped my chain and afterwards looked back to find Danielle right on my heels!!! EEEK!!!  There are so many fast women racing this year that it seems like it can easily be anybody's day and I knew that for the remainder of the race I had to ride both hard and clean!  As I rounded the final turn and descended towards the finish I was stoked to have earned the top step and even more stoked to be able to share a podium with my teammate Danielle!!

Photo Credit: 45NRTH Kurt Barclay
Huge congrats to Megan (3rd place!) who is quickly becoming one of Minnesota's fastest.  And way to go everyone who toed the line and gritted out a finish. You all inspire me!!

Thank you Kurt and Scott with 45NRTH for kick ass race day support and for taking rad photos!  And of course, thank you Sarma for creating race long smiles.

Post race beers and fun were had by all   This is my favorite photo of the day... our podium hug almost resulted in a total catastrophe!!!  Frank -- you gotta put those stumps closer next year ;)

Photo Credit: Megan Barr (or at least I think her phone!)

Monday, December 15, 2014

STURMFIST5: Winter Gear of the Week

As most of you are already aware 45NRTH recently released their new line of Sturmfist gloves!  I am beyond stoked about these gloves as I've been spending the last couple of winter seasons surviving on lobster gloves & heavy doses of hand warmers.  Which means I had pretty much lost the freedom of all my fingers!

I'll admit, when 45NRTH first introduced a 5 finger glove my first thought was to think it wasn't possible to be warm in these gloves when the temps dipped below freezing. To be fair, history has taught all of us that fingers belong next to each other...well at least if they want to be warm!  However, I am happy to report that with the Sturmfist5 45NRTH has officially "re-invented the glove!" 

My first test ride in the Sturmfist5 was a couple weekends ago at the Elm Creek Frosty Frolic.  I remember when I left my car to warm up for the race the temperature was an exact 20 degrees.  After the race I checked the car once again...20 degrees. These gloves were absolutely perfect. In fact my hands were sweaty the entire race!  On the Sunday following the temp was around 20-25 degrees and I took the Sturmfist5 out for more of a slow chill ride (a ride that for me usually generates less heat and as a result usually involves cold hands!)   I never thought I'd say this....but I might actually consider wearing the Sturmfist5 all the way down to 10 degrees, definitely down to 15 degrees. My hands were super warm the entire 2 hour ride, and this was at a casual pace. 

If you want the sexy details of what makes up these awesome gloves read this!

Since I'm much less science and much more function.... I'll tell you what I love the best about these gloves -- the 100% merino wool liner! Yes, you read that right...100% MERINO WOOL!!!!

Bahh....You are welcome you GREEDY PUNKS!!
Remember, wool keeps you warm, even when it's wet. This is hugely important when you end up with sweaty hands in the early stages of a ride/race.  Half way through a ride I often find my previously warm hands are now freezing cold because the sweat is now turning to ice! Problem solved!

The merino wool liner - combined with 2mm of Aerogel in the palm are what really makes these gloves special.  I also love how these gloves seem to mold to your hand when you are riding.  The more you use them and break them in, the more flexible and functional they become. Finally a solution for 5 finger warmth....a solution that you are bound to love!

Monday, December 8, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

EEK!!!! It's officially FAT BIKE SEASON!!!  Get ready for some photos!!!

This year's fat bike season is shaping out to be one of the best ones yet!  I have plenty of fun news to share in the coming weeks, but what I'm most excited about right now is the opportunity to be a part of the first ever 45NRTH Team!!

As most of you know I've been using 45NRTH products for the past couple of years and I'm obsessed with anything and everything 45NRTH.  To now be able to race for 45NRTH this winter and to represent a brand that I feel so strongly about is a dream come true!   When you want the want 45NRTH.

Let's face it...every part of my body that has been cold since I started winter cycling has been suddenly warmed up by revolutionary product after revolutionary product from 45NRTH. The best new product this year is the introduction of the Sturmfist gloves!  I know some of you are dying to hear a review so I'll certainly get one up this week...but the Cliff's notes version is "they are beyond awesome!"

Saturday was a something I was looking forward to for quite some time.  The opportunity to race fat bikes twice in one day!!!  My double race day started out at Elm Creek for the Frozen Frolic time trial format race.  My only goal for this race was to "make it hurt!"  I always love these time trial formats as it ends up being super awkward at the start as we all attempt to "self seed" ourselves.  Of course being female only magnifies this awkwardness even though it shouldn't.  I met my buddy Spoo at this race and me and him are pretty similar in riding ability with him getting the edge on the technical sections and me generally getting the edge on the power sections. Spoo was a gentleman and let me go ahead of him. 
Photo Credit: Maple Grove Cycling
The moment this happened I felt a cloud of doom pass over me :)  I remember thinking damn it...I should have just let him go first. So of course as I rounded through some of the first icy corners I slid out and landed hard on some boulder which gave me a massive quad Charley horse!!   This was really not the kind of "hurt" I was going for.  Soon enough I was making a friendly gesture to get out of the way of snickering Spoo as he passed me.  This turned out to be a blessing because I spent the remaining 45 minutes chasing him like an animal!  If it wasn't for the log short cut late in the loop I would have likely not been able to make the pass.  I rolled into the finish smiling and happy to have successfully completed my first race of the season! 

Photo Credit: Maple Grove Cycling
 Huge congrats to these chicas, I love racing with you! 

Me, Pam, Amanda -- Photo Credit: Scott Spoo

Saturday night was the 45NRTH Vinterhammer Superfat Crit which was a part of the Freewheel Winter Bike Expo!

Getting Ready to Rock! Photo Credit: Mark Woker

I have watched this race a couple times in the past year, but was a little too chicken shit to participate as they always have a bunch of wooden ramps and berms scattered about.  I was telling my coach last week how I was scared that I was going to hurt myself on the wooden obstacles and he pretty much told me to quit being a puss and race!

Urban race start! Photo Credit: Mark Woker
I will be honest I was expecting the race to be a bit more goofing around than actually racing hard BUT I WAS SO WRONG!  It turned out to be a 25 minutes Short Track style race and I pretty much felt like I was gonna vomit the entire time!!

 Photo Credit: 45NRTH
It was super fun to be racing at night in front of a fun cheering crowd!!

Photo Credit: 45NRTH
 Next up...THE SOLSTICE CHASE!!  Can't freaking wait....

Bonfire Season...ahhh!! Photo credit: Maple Grove Cycling

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Winter Gear of the Week - Craft Storm Tights/Bibs

When I bought my first fat bike a few years ago the first thing I also did was purchase a pair of Craft Storm Tights. Ever since then there has been no turning my back.  Craft storm is just downright amazing and in my opinion a really strong price performer relative to some other options out there.

Craft refers to them as "tights" however I actually would probably call them more of a pant as they kind of have a slightly looser fit to them.  I like this because since the tights don't come with padding I usually just wear a plain old set of riding bibs underneath them. They also look a bit more casual for say riding to a brewery and such.  However, they are definitely tight enough to enhance performance on the bike and you never have to worry about them getting caught in the drive train or bunched up on your saddle...even when you are riding over people!

Photo Credit:  Andy Gregg (Marquette Photo)
The Craft Storm are unique in that they have a wind breaking  and weather proof front panel.  The rear side of the pants is a little thinner ,material to allow your legs to breathe a little more.  These pants are so amazing that they even kept my legs from getting frostbite last year at Noque when I dumbed an entire hydration packs worth of fluid on the front of my pants!

I have had the same pair of Craft tights for I believe close to 3 years now and they are just getting to the point that I think I need to replace them.  So I like the durability. 

This year I also purchased my first pair of the Craft Storm Bibs and they are easily my new favorite!!  My biggest concern is usually keeping the booty warm so I was worried that since the bibs would be just one layer it would be too thin.  However, I have found these bibs to be actually even slightly warmer than the storm tights I've been riding.  These bibs definitely fit more like a standard tight/bib short and are made out of a nice fleece material to keep the legs warm!  And to quote Tom, apparently these bibs make my legs look "really powerful."  Of course, that was exactly what I was going for :) 

Rocking the Craft Storm Bibs at the Frozen Frolic, maybe Tom is right....
Photo Credit: Maple Grove Cycling

So when comparing the TIGHTS to the BIBS I'd say it really comes down to style and preference.  So go ahead and pick your poison!!! Or hell If you can swing it, buy both!

Craft Performance Storm Men's Bib TightsCraft Storm Tights - Women's