Monday, January 27, 2014

Noque Fat Bike Worlds

Wow....now that was an amazing weekend! In the walk of life there are certainly moments that stand out above the rest and I can assure you this is a weekend that I will remember for a very long time. Everything was epic...from start to finish. 

I am pretty sure it snowed the entire time we were away from Minneapolis, and finally decided to stop the moment we arrived back in town.  Tom and I both worked Friday morning and then took off to Marquette. The drive was snowy, slow and tense.  We were however sure to roll down the window and scream "on your left!" as we passed Brendan and Mike en route....

 
We finally arrived at the expo around 9:30 and quickly picked up our packets before heading to town for dinner. It was fun to see our friend Evan and his buddies from the Sports Rack.  We made a quick stop at Ore Dock for a beer and then Mike, Brendan Tom and I all headed back to Evan's place to get settled.  Evan's lovely girlfriend, Grace, made us sleepy time tea and we stayed up til 2 am! chatting and catching up.  I so love those two yoopers!

Thank God for late mountain bike race starts. This meant we had time to sleep in and sit down for a normal breakfast. I ordered French toast and while we waited for our food I hung out in the bathroom filling my bottles and hydration pack up with scalding hot water.  The forecast for the race was COLD, COLD, COLD! I think they said the temp would be +1 degree and that it would "feels like -20 degrees!"  in reality they should have just said "feels like horrible."  I assumed most of my water would eventually freeze but the same was for everyone so I wasn't dwelling on it. 


When we arrived at the school for the race start, I did what every endurance athlete should never do.  I tried a bunch of stuff for the first time ever!  I put toe warmers on top of my socks, I rubbed Vaseline all over my face, and then I rubbed embro all over my face, legs, butt, feet, hands and stomach.  I was instantly ON FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!  It was so hot and burning everywhere that all I could think was that "I really need to get outside!"  I left the building 10 minutes before start, ripped out a few hard efforts on the trail and then headed to get a front spot at the line. Soon enough we were off!

 
I had a pretty good start and was happy to be rounding the first corner with some of the fast men and then all the sudden the guy in front of me slid on some soft snow and wham, I was on my butt!  Crap!  I was quick to get up and looked ahead for Danielle and was happy to see I was still in the front.  Danielle has been racing fat bikes for a few years and had beat me pretty handedly last year.  I knew she would bring the heat and that winning Fat Bike Worlds would be far from an easy task. 

It didn't take long and soon enough she was passing me up one of the first climbs.  She was definitely seeming to have the edge on the hills and especially those climbs where we had to dismount and hike a bike. I seemed to have the edge on the descents and power sections.  So we played a bit of leap frog for the first 30 minutes or so until we both went off course.  Thankfully Danielle was leading at the time and noticed the trail did not seem right and so we both turned around quickly and didn't make it too far off course.  Once we got back on course  I decided to pick up the pace a bit and created a small gap.   I was off the front and riding all alone. This freaked me out a bit as I knew she might have someone to work with to catch back up. 

I began focusing on my race and thinking about my nutrition and how FREAKING COLD MY LEGS AND STOMACH WERE!!  I remember thinking that I shouldn't have used that embro crap and I figured that it was still on fire and making me feel like my body was freezing.   My plan was to drink the bottle on my bike first and then move on to my hydration pack.  Last year my hydration nozzle had frozen almost instantly in this race so this year I wrapped a toe warmer around the nozzle and left the hose dangling by my stomach under my jacket. I was happy to see I was able to get more than half of the fluid out of my bike bottle and I kept on pedaling...however something was totally odd...my winter race pants appeared to have a major frothy ice situation going on right in the crotch region.  I remember thinking "that's weird" and since it was snowing I began debating if it could actually be sleeting.  It started to get worse to the point that when I would dismount my bike to hike up a hill it was as if my pants were frozen together and almost weighing down like they were going to fall off! I tried to ignore the situation for the most part as I was just flat out confused. 

Finally about 45 minutes in I went to test my hydration pack and was pleased to have gotten a tiny bit of fluid out the hose and then suddenly the flow stopped....  "Ah crap it's frozen" I immediately assumed.  I reached back to hit the pack and see if  the water was frozen and then it hit me....THERE IS NOTHING IN MY PACK!!! 

Yep, the entire 50 ounces of EFS was all over my crotch/thighs/bike/and stomach. I had left the nozzle open....already winning the DA award of the day.  I felt my cycling jacket and front of it was a massive ice block.  I knew this was not good.  And of course I began to have an insanely idiotic debate with myself about whether or not I was being crazy for wanting to continue the race.  I knew darn well how cold it was outside.  I also knew that I was covered in water.  But then of course like any rational person would do I convinced myself that "no one loses their thigh or stomach to frostbite, right?"  so I carried on and blocked it out. Ironman had taught me that rarely do races go as planned.  I  was concerned about having a lack of calories and fluid because I wasn't sure how much nutrition was on the course. But I have also learned over the years that X+Y does not always equal Z.  Just because I was short on nutrition and fluid didn't mean that I couldn't win the race!!   I remembered that last year they had aid stations but it wasn't sure if it was 2 or if it was 6.  Thankfully there were plenty of aid stations so many that I never even had to reach for my emergency stash of gels. Thank you so much to the volunteers who all embraced the cold to help us all have an incredible race. 

Eventually the movement and my body heat melted the ice from my pants for the most part and I was flying and feeling happy as I went through the half way point to see Tom snap this photo!!

Check out my frozen EFS crotch? Actually..... quit looking at my crotch!!


The second half of the course was fast and net downhill.  I had a blast using the power sections to my advantage.  The temperature however seemed to be getting colder and colder and my feet and hands were eventually numb!  I question how dangerous these conditions really were.  I'm not sure how much more I could have done to keep my feet and hands warm and honestly the last 45 minutes were really toeing the line of miserable for me....I pedaled as hard as I could knowing that a Fat Bike Worlds Cowbell and a warm place to lay down were on the horizon.  Finally the dome was in sight and I had done it.  I had finished the race in 3:02, I was the first female and the 2014 Fat Bike World Champ.

I was elated and traumatized all at the same time.  I bee lined it to the dome and immediately began stripping off all of my wet clothes.  By the time Tom caught up to me inside I looked like this:

 
Wow, I was speechless.

And really stoked to share a podium with these amazing ladies!


Arianne, April Midrift, Danielle
 
I also enjoyed sharing stories with Evan, Mike, Brendan and all the rest of our cycling friends who endured some very tough conditions to finish this race. 


Brendan, Happy to be done!
 
Then.... it was time to celebrate!!

Two things I love the most about Marquette are it's people and it's breweries. We spent most of the night at my favorite one, Blackrocks.  We of course had waaaayyy too much fun!  4th place female, Jill even showed up....as a hot dog!!

 
Huge thanks to Evan and Grace for hosting us, you both are amazing, we love hanging with you and having a warm cozy place with awesome coffee was incredible.  

And a huge thanks to all of you that encourage, support and believe in me.  You know who you are...... I share this massive cowbell with all of you!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cold Catfish Cup

Did I mention how much I freaking love racing my bike!?!?!  It had been nearly a month since the last time I raced.  I know a month doesn't sound like a whole lot of time to most people, but when you race your bike 40+ times in a year....a month is an eternity!!

Photo Credit: Michael Boehnlein - he donated the proceeds to MORC....so freaking cool!
****This is also one of my favorite photos of all time!!****
 
I was so pumped all week that I could barely stand it.  In fact I was so excited for the race that I even arrived 1 hour too early...crap!  But I wasn't phased, as it was 30 degrees and we had a summer breeze. Finally the gun went off and we ripped a lap around the lake and eventually into the single track. I  was loving the race energy and I couldn't stop smiling....well that is until the 2nd lap when the course pretty much turned to mush.  Eventually the hike a bike / tripod shuffle / getting bruised and battered by your bike situation started to really rattle my cage.  My poor buddy Rob had to witness a mini  major meltdown of mine that took place after my sketchy tripod shuffle resulted in a major smashing of my crotch!!!   Sorry Rob, I promise to be super positive the next time I'm holding u up in the single track.  Rob is apparently really good at riding (tripoding) through a bunch of sh*t.  I need to master this craft.

Photo Credit: Amy Marsh
As Rob is right behind me I'm guessing this is 10 minutes post meltdown.
 
I came through lap 2 somewhere around 1:45...which was already about 5 to 10 minutes more than I had planned on 3 laps taking me...oops.  But to my surprise Tom was waiting there with a 3rd unexpected bottle of EFS that he somehow made magically appear! Thanks babe!  I raced the last lap mostly on fumes but was rather happy to see that the trail was starting to firm up and my riding skills were seeming to have improved.  Finally I came through the finish at 2:36 in First Place!!


Photo Credit: Amy Marsh
 
I immediately went to the Potter's Pasties food truck and bought a Chicken Pot Pie Pasty....heaven in a doughy pocket! I can't wait until I deserve to eat another one of these!!! Big thanks to Tallgrass Brewing for the tasty IPA and and even bigger thanks to everyone at Angry Catfish and MORC and all the sponsors for making Cold Catfish Cup happen.  So much work goes into these fat bike races as far as trail grooming etc.  I am so grateful to live and race in such an amazing community!!


Photo Credit: David Gabrys - 45NRTH
 
Next up is the FAT BIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS!!! this coming weekend in Marquette, Michigan! I love the town of Marquette and I am really looking forward to what should be incredible weekend of racing and kicking it with some of our favorite cycling friends! Did someone say Blackrocks?  Is it Friday yet??

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Just Like Riding A Bike

I raced a 5k Saturday!  The Frosty Frolic 5K has become and annual tradition for us and I decided that this year I wasn't going to miss out on all the fun!  It was a bit of a risky choice as I haven't ran more than 4 times in the past year.  My coach's only instructions were "just don't hurt yourself." So when it snowed a 1/2 an inch the night before I'll admit I was pretty nervous.


9 am start?? I need more coffee!!
 
I decided that even though I had no business racing, I'd actually try to race. It's just like riding a bike right?  It was a bit crazy, but I actually felt like I had picked up just where I left off. I felt efficient and fast and even though my legs were majorly freaking out the last mile, I felt fit and was finally was able prove that fitness does carry over across sports. This was something I always pondered when I was training for Ironman competitions.  For the record...muscular fitness DOES NOT carry over!! Today I am a total wreck. I could barely get out of bed this morning and it feels as though I played in a football game last night, not that I had ran a 5k. Nearly every muscle in my body is sore...from my calves all the way up to my neck!  The ropy muscles in my back are killing me and every time I laugh, my abs scream in agony.

I managed to finish in 24:39. I was shocked to break the 8 min/mile mark and win a Pizza Luce wager with Lisa. I finished about 10 yards behind Jeff who is 62 years old for goodness sake. I tried with all my might to catch him on the final stretch but Jeff is a running beast. Afterwards we enjoyed breakfast and coffee with some of our very best friends at Jeff's house. 

Jeff, Tom, and Eric
 
Does life get much better than this? Thank God for recovery pants...you had me at hello.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sometimes Less is More...

2013 was a year of feeling stuffed, never knowing when to step away from the table...I was always wanting more. More fun, more energy, more adrenaline, more sun, more dirt, more travel, more watts, more skills, more laughter, more passion, and definitely more tires.

Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing?


In 2013 I raced 41 times.  For the record...THAT'S WAY TOO MANY TIMES. I'm still not sure what the right # of times is, but it's definitely south of 41. Admittedly I figured this out about 3/4 of the way through the year,  but I was at that point where I had already shoved the last bite in my mouth and I was too embarrassed to spit it out.

Finally I conceded and my last 6 weeks resembled more of a weekend warrior's lifestyle than a serious cyclist's. I trained only when I wanted to. I still had a bit of structure but I allowed myself the freedom to "just be."  I ate a thousand cookies and I spent some amazing time with family and friends. I laughed, loved, cheered, and cried. Eventually I got on my fat bike and fell in love with winter all over again.


Photo Credit: David Gabrys 45NRTH
Tom and I raced the Solstice Chase 25K because we could and because riding your bike in snow is so much fun. We were both arguably out of race shape and the course was challenging to say the least.  It was our first snow bike race together and we both had our fair share of snow job yard sales.  It was a total blast!  Tom cut his face on a branch and I took home a pretty cool mug.  I freaking love when races give out pottery as awards - so cool!

Photo Credit: Heide Tupy
 
Afterwards, we celebrated Christmas 4 times and I loved watching the kiddos open up their gifts! 

Because every kid should have a cat piano!!!
 

Then we flew out to California to celebrate the life of Tom's Aunt Sally who passed away suddenly. She was an amazingly strong, loving and generous woman. As we connected with family we hadn't seen in 5-7 years I couldn't help but think this was part of God's plan.  Last weekend was one of the most authentic weekends that I can remember. Life is fragile and family matters.

We returned home in time to ring in the new year with really great friends. As  I write this post with a bit of a headache from wanting more champagne....I realize my resolution for next year is pretty obvious. 

2014 will be the year that "less is more."