Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bonelli Cup Pro XCT

"The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It's the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun." - Napoleon Hill


So we all know the saying..."If it was easy, then everybody would do it."  Last weekend was far from easy.  It hurt...and it hurt a lot!  Sure it was hot, and I hadn't ridden my bike in the dirt for more than a couple days, but the reality is that the pace was just really, really fast!! This race hurt physically and at times it hurt mentally.

But I refuse to give up. This is my dream.

The truth is, if this was easy it wouldn't excite me. Sure, winning races can be a lot of fun, but my motivation has always come from the challenge, the suffering, and the progress.  Regardless of what the results show on paper...I raced well, I did not crash,  and I was very happy to have cleared some technical sections that I'm not sure I could have rode last year.  Also, since I did this race last year I was even able to see on Strava how much faster I could now both descend and climb. Strava is the bomb. Last weekend was a challenge, I suffered, and in the end there was progress.  Tom and I have developed a mantra over the past few years..."If you aren't happy with progress, then you will never be happy."

So it's onward and upward.

Tom and I arrived into LA Thursday afternoon, picked up this sweet KIA and then bee lined it straight to Bonelli Park.


It's amazing how much sh*t you can fit in this little guy
It was beautiful out and I couldn't wait to shred some dirt.  Huge thanks to our buddy Pam for borrowing us her awesome EVOC bike case...I am in awe as to how quickly we Tom was able to set up and pack up my bike. I literally went to the bathroom to put on my kit and came out to a fully assembled ride!  I need to get one of these cases ASAP.  I rode a couple laps and instantly fell in love with my Foundry Broadaxe all over again. I am always amazed at this bike's responsiveness and it was obvious early on that I had the perfect bike for the task at hand.

I was super stoked to be able to pre-ride Friday with my coach Matt from CTS. We have been working together for the past year and half and being able to connect with him each year in person is beyond awesome. We spent most the ride picking out the best lines and spending some quality time on the technical sections. Check out pro rider Erica Tingey's blog as she has some pretty good photos showing one of the PRO only sections of the course.

Saturday rolled around pretty quickly and soon enough I was having French toast (of course!) with Tom and his cousin Jenny and daughter Phoebe!  It was so nice to have some family in LA out cheering on the course! 

 
This years PRO XCT race was given an HC category which basically means it's the highest level of racing below a World Cup, it has more UCI points and it has a larger prize purse.  This year it drew a massive field of nearly 45 riders!! It is definitely one of the biggest pro women's fields the US has seen in a very long time.  I felt proud to be a part of this moment in history...but it's safe to say this was far from the easiest place to start out my pro career...ha!

Soon enough we were getting called up to the start line and then moments later we were off!! Things were a bit messy at the start and I didn't get a very good jump off the line at all.  I also wasn't nearly as aggressive as I should have been to make up for the lost time!  One thing I learned quickly is how fast the starting pace of these races can be. Heading into the single track I was pretty far to the back and things got strung out rather quickly. I focused on riding smoothly and for the most part was really happy with how I was racing, but I could tell instantly that my body was in shock.  The pace was fast, I was hot, and my legs were not super stoked about the steep climbs.(must ride more hills!!)  I fought as hard as I possibly could but eventually was pulled with a couple laps to go.  Rats!

Photo Credit: Christy Nicholson - Echelon Design
 
Sunday's short track went better for me, I had really good start working my way up towards the front of the field. However again I was not nearly aggressive enough on the initial climb to hold my position and as a result lost a few many places heading into the single track. Since there was single track section on each lap it was a constant bridging back up and eventually I fell off the front group.

Photo Credit: Philip Beckman - PB Creative Photo

I am so grateful for this experience as it has taught me so much and given me such a greater appreciation for the speed and strength that these pro women have. It has also fueled this fire...and I can't wait to train harder and keep on fighting. I am happy to have a solid 6 weeks to train and prepare for my next round at the Whiskey Off Road!!  Time to put in some miles!!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

THANK YOU!

On the eve of my first pro race I feel both excited and nervous, but mostly I feel ready and stoked to soak in the experience. 17 months ago I first voiced this dream. Now that it is actually happening I can't help but reflect on all the people that have helped make this a dream come true.  Thanks to Larry and Sophie for teaching me all about power.  Chris Balser...you were the first person to say I would be a pro some day and the help you have provided me along the way is absolutely immeasurable. Huge thanks to Rob Comfort and Matthew Larson from Foundry Cycles, you were the first to take a chance on me.


Tom your support humbles me and you seem to always believe in me more than I believe in myself...I would never want to be on this journey without you. Thank you to my dear family and my closest friends for your emotional support and for putting up with crazy schedules and crazy athletic dreams that never seem to stop.

Massive thanks to my CTS coach Matt Freeman who helped me draw up a road map ...without your knowledge, patience and support this moment would have never come so soon.  

Thanks to all of you that have encouraged, supported and competed against me along the way. Every bit mattered.  Lasty, thanks to all of my previous coaches, each of you have helped shape me into the athlete I am today. It seems only fitting that my race # tomorrow be the jersey # of the greatest basketball player of all time.  Now..."If I could be like Mike!"

Fat Bike Birkie

I can still remember my first fat bike ride 2 years ago as if it was just yesterday.  I was strolling down Cedar Lake Parkway smiling like a kid on her brand new Big Wheel…and people in cars were stopping and pointing and laughing.  That was just the beginning.  At that time I could have never even imagined the amount of energy, joy and excitement this new winter sport would bring to my life.  Feeling blessed doesn’t cut it.

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph
This past weekend 500+ Fat Bikes made their way up to Cable, WI for the best Fat Bike race of all time, the Fat Bike Birkie.  This race was so incredible that I’m scared my post here won’t quite give it the justice it deserves.  To say they rolled out the red carpet would be a massive understatement.  EVERYTHING was top notch.  The grooming on the course was like no other grooming I had seen before… it was unscathed and it felt like we were racing on snowy pavement!!  Throughout the 47K course there were a whopping 7!! aid stations, which were all manned by amazing hard working volunteers!  THANK YOU so much!  The start of a the race was equipped with music, an announcer, preferred start call-ups, a neutral snowmobile roll out and even the National Anthem! 


Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph
I can’t stop bragging about it.  The finish line was incredible…lined with people cheering and they were announcing each person’s name as they crossed the finish line. The post-race heated tent was massive (think Chequamegon!) and we were all treated to a free beer and the biggest bratwursts I have ever seen in my entire life!!  To top it all off, American Birkebeiner Association and Freewheel Bike even managed to convince God to turn on the sun and heat!!!   I could not stop smiling.  The post-race party put on my Fat-Bike.com was a real treat and so much fun to share a beer (or more) with many fellow racers!!  These are really just the details…none of this gets even close to explaining the positive energy we all soaked up in one incredible day.  Thank you to all the sponsors, the volunteers, and to all the racers that helped make this one of the best days of my life.

Photo Credit: Todd  Bauer

The Race:
Fat Bike Birkie was named named the US Fat Bike National Championships which meant that it drew an incredible crowd of big name racers from all parts of the country.  Specialized legend Ned Overend made the trip as well as the Queen of Pain, Rebecca Rusch.  A 9Zero7 posse from Alaska rolled into town as well as many of the best male and female racers in the Midwest.  It was a competitor’s dream.   

Due to my placing in some recent races I was able to get a preferred start call up and therefore started right on the back of Hollywood’s wheel.  My start could not have gone better and soon enough I found myself in a pack with the top 10 men…yikes. 


Photo Credit: Fat-Bike.com - Hey NED!!!
That once in a lifetime opportunity quickly dissipated when we took a left hand turn onto the trail and the snowmobile picked up the pace.  This is when the race really started.  The course instantly felt INCREDIBLY HILLY!  The truth is there aren’t many hills in the city…. and I haven’t ridden any of them in a really long time!  My legs and lungs were both totally pissed off and suddenly I went from feeling awesome to feeling really not awesome.  I was soon passed by Diana who was FLYING, and then Amber, and then Sara.  I was hanging on to 4th when my buddy Seth rolled up. Seth and I were able to work together for a portion of the race (okay to be fair Seth probably did a tad more work than my suffering self ).   Together we worked our way up the field and I eventually caught all the way up to Diana.  

Photo Credit: Todd Bauer

Diana and I began sharing the work up front and I was bracing myself for what would eventually be a battle between the two of us for the finish.  Turns out I was wrong as suddenly we were passed by a charging Jenna who was basically mashing her way up the hills in a way I’ve never seen before on a fat bike.  I reacted on instinct and forced myself to keep up.  I managed to stay with her for a brief period of time, but eventually fell off.  It was however enough of an effort to put a gap on Diana thus allowing me to roll into the finish in 2nd place.  What an incredible race!
Diana McFadden, Me, Jenna Rinehart
Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph
Huge congrats to Jenna and Diana on their amazing races. I am also very happy for my good friends Seth, Brendan and Lisa who all raced extremely well! Seth has lost 65 lbs in the last year…. Brendan had his best race to date…. and seeing my fav friend Lisa finish the race strong and with a smile on her face was one of my most rewarding moments of the weekend.   
 
 
Thank you Tom for the hand-ups ….and for simply being my rock this winter.   Now it’s time to trade the snow for some dirt.  Until next year friends….thanks for checking in!
GLFBS Podium:  Martha Flynn-Kauth, Jill Martindale, Danielle Musto, Chelsea Strate, Me
Photo Credit: Brent Twin Six

Monday, March 3, 2014

Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout

First of all, I just have to pull this cartoon out one more time!!  I swear I seriously can't stop laughing.

 
It's so true!! We are absolutely freezing here.  It's true, this is the coldest winter I can ever remember.  It's true that anyone that lives in Minnesota is certifiably crazy.  It's true that we are all numb.  It's true that last year I rode my bike outside when it was 9 degrees and I bragged about it on facebook!  It's true that we toed the line on Saturday in -13F weather, and I was nervous about it.  It's true that I didn't wear goggles and questioned whether or not I was going to lose an eyeball.  It's true that I put Vaseline AND embro all over my face. It's true that my face was ON FIRE!!   It's true that at times I was super warm! It's true that when I immediately got into my car after the race it was still -13F!!!!  It's true that no matter what the conditions are...racing my bike is always a total blast!

only 20.8 mpg?  Boo...
 
Tom and Chelsea picked me up from work Friday afternoon and I quickly sprinted from my desk hoping to avoid having to explain to another colleague why it was completely normal to race my bike in this type of weather. Geesh, explaining 4 inch tires is hard enough!!

We made good time in the car and I even drove for a small part of it. Who would have thought? We arrived just in time for the Fish Fry and swag raffle at the Crosby American Legion.  Fish is definitely not my ideal pre race meal, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow and keep it chill. It was a blast and fun to be amidst a lot of race energy and I loved sharing the excitement with all those volunteers that worked extremely hard to make this race happen!  Our table made out pretty well winning a couple sets of poagies and even a "pity" pie.

Brendan, Mike, Chelsea, Tom and I all piled in to one hotel room and I managed to be that girl that passes out at the slumber party well before it's over!  Saturday we were up early getting ready, discussing clothing attire and having an Embro party!!


When I went downstairs to raid the continental breakfast I found Mike's Salsa just chillin' by the fire.  Can't blame him.
 
 
Finally the race was here and we all toed the line for the start.  My warm up consisted of saying "Hi" to some good friends, adding an extra set of hand warmers to my gloves and then rolling 20 yards to the start. 

 
Needless to say the moment the horn went off my legs felt like total garbage.  It took a while to get 'er going and eventually we were weaving our way around the Sagamore Unit, then onto a super fast power section before eventually making our way to some really gnarly single track which even included a trip down the Bobsled!  It was by far some of the hilliest and most beautiful single track I've fat bike raced in!!  The snow was pretty fluffy and SUPER deep.  So deep in fact that one time I failed to keep my front tire on the track and the second it hit the fluffy edge it sunk 2 feet deep sling shoting me over my handlebars!! It was a riot!!  Soon enough we were taking a left hand turn and heading to the finish line!!!  I was happy to cross the line first female and 8th overall!!   Soon after  Mike, Brendan and Chelsea all came rolling through the finish with smiles on their faces!


Brendan and Mike
 I had a blast hanging out at the ice race with all the other finishers, and Chelsea and I even took home some of the most beautiful mugs I've ever laid eyes on!!! 


Chelsea, you're supposed to close your eyes!!
Huge thanks to Aaron Hautala and his team for putting on an exceptional race. What a great weekend!  You can never beat a donut post race and I can't wait to see what you cats pull out of your hat in 2015!  Trust me, you haven't lived until you've ridden your bike in Cuyuna.


Chelsea, Me, Rhonda, Yeti -- way to go girls!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

New Lazer Gear!!!

Look what arrived this week just in time for Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout!! A brand new Lazer Helium Helmet and matching flash yellow Magneto sunglasses!!  Of course I was so stoked that I immediately put them both on right after work!

 
I've been racing in both Lazer Helmets and Lazer Sunglasses for the past year.  The Helium helmet is my favorite, it's super light, and the gel sweat resistant forehead band is so awesome that it's hard to believe I actually raced without it for so many years!  I will admit I'm a fan of the flash yellow craze and can't wait to rock this combo for both the mountain and cx seasons! 

 
This is my first set of the new Magneto shades and after racing in them this past weekend it's safe to say they one of the best inventions in cycling eyewear to date.  The magnets on the frame of the shades snap right on to your helmet strap, which means no more ear piece rubbing and no more headaches during a race. I even crashed a few times Saturday and they stayed right where they were supposed too!!  This is also the perfect concept for winter riding as you don't' have to bother with trying to get the earpiece's to fit amongst all the layers. Frankly goggles just haven't really worked for me, so these were a life saver this weekend!  Lastly, if the sun goes down, or if sweat gets on the lenses, no worries....you can just flip them right up to the magnets on the top of your helmet. So cool!!!! 


Thank you Lazer!!! I am so lucky to be able to race and train in best helmets and sunglasses this market has to offer!! 

Pretty sure you wont' be able to miss me in 2014!