Monday, December 21, 2015

Solstice Chase 2015

Did you all know that 45 freaking amazing women finished the Solstice Chase this past weekend??!! That's 20% of TOTAL FINISHERS!!! It was seriously fantastic and I could not stop smiling my entire warm up because I just kept seeing so many MORE WOMEN!! 20% might not sound like a lot of women, but trust's a lot!

We did NOT have snow on Saturday but we did have some chilly (smack you in the face) air which caused us to bundle all the way up so it kinda sorta felt like winter.   As most of you know I’d been looking forward to the Solstice Chase since  forever… and Saturday was everything I could have hoped for and more! 45NRTH even proved that you don't need snow to have an Igloo!!!

This year we were again treated to a sweet pre and post-race experience in a barn complete with romantic lights, beer and pizza!   There were over twice as many fat bikers as last year nearly selling out he race at 300 racers!  It’s really incredible to me the growth this sport has seen over the past few years.  I remember back in 2012 lining up at races with maybe 20 other crazy people.  Good news though…crazy is contagious! 
Photo Credit: Matthew Pastick
Saturday's race proved to be one of the most competitive yet for women with a majorly stacked field (AWESOME!).  I knew it was going to be fast and competitive from the get go so I had prepared myself to suffer badly.  The first 15 minutes hurt crazy bad and about 10 minutes in I lost contact with Jenna’s group (pretty much the front group of dudes!) however I was also realizing that I had pretty good legs.  Days like that don’t happen often so…carpe diem!   About 25 minutes into the race I got into a good rhythm with about 6 or 7 guys.   It’s funny racing so bundled up….because I didn’t even recognize some of these guys I was riding with until the race was over!
Photo Credit: Solstice Chase
The course was hilly, bumpy and fast in parts with some really rad descents and sharp 90 degree turns at the bottom!  Braap!!!  As much as I was sad about the lack of snow,  I was enjoying the speed of the dirt and also was impressed by how well marked the course was (CAUTION!)!!!  Most of the race I focused on riding steady and staying with my group of dudes NO MATTER WHAT! 

The final massive climb tore my group apart and I quickly realized that I had chosen the perfect SRAM XX1 gearing for the race (32T up front).  I pushed through the pain and was happy to descend my way thorugh the finish as 2nd female and 17th overall!

Photo Credit: Matthew Pastick

Huge thanks to my CTS coach Matt  for nailing the training leading into this race.  Hilly courses are normally a challenge for me, but thanks to a handful of agony intervals I felt like a hill beist on Saturday!  Huge congrats to Jenna for the win! (your power is impressive!) and big YEH! to Danielle for creating a podium that she coined as a 45NRTH sandwich.  Jeff Hall took home the men’s win and Adam from HED nabbed the 2nd stump!  AND way to go 45NRTH Kurt on 2nd in the 21K!!!  The list could go on forever!   Great job to all of you racers out there….many of which was your first fat bike race ever!! YOU are all a bunch of beists!
Photo Credit: Solstice Chase

Monday, December 14, 2015

45NRTH & Blackrocks Winter Kick-Off Party

Hey Everybody!!!  Guess what?!?! It’s fat bike season!!! Today I’m recovering from an incredible weekend up in Marquette, MI taking part in the 45NRTH & Blackrocks Winter Kick-Off Party!  (That’s right….it’s winter!!! Just without the snow!)  If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know by now that Marquette is one of my favorite places in the entire world and this weekend sure did not disappoint. 

45NRTH & Blackrocks put together one heck of a weekend full of group rides, UP Snowcross racing and a killer party at the Blackrocks Cannery.   The more and more I race my bike the more I fall in love with this fat bike community.  I get so much energy from seeing everyone’s excitement on these bikes that today I’m nearly pinching myself that I get to do this for another 3 full months!

Dolan and I made the trek up there Thursday after work arriving just before midnight.  Most of Friday was spent dorking around like goons and taking some sweet team photos (which was a challenge without snow!).  We got a killer night ride in…where I may or may not have rocked a tripod down a super sketchy rooty downhill.  

45NRTH Scott found some snow!

Bad ass endurance racer Tracey Petervary inspired me to finally learn how to ride a wheelie…..Braapp!!  I’m only two pedal strokes in…but it’s progress towards  my dream of one day rocking a finish line wheelie!

That's Tracey on the a boss!
And of course when the 45NRTH team gets together there is always bound to also be some  a lot of shenanigans… like dinosaurs, wearing your Wolvhammers to the brewery (totally normal!)

These boots are sooo HOT!
and being challenged to eat a cookie off the floor with just your face. Yeah... THAT happened.

Saturday was the big day – the Winter Kickoff Party!!!  Which meant we got to enjoy riding a couple of hours on some sweet UP Singletrack which included the longest, rootiest ( is that even a word? should be!) climb I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t believe how awesome the ride was on my new HED Big Deals! I swear these wheels just turn themselves. 
Laced with sweet Onyx Hubs!
AND THEN Saturday night we got to smash ourselves for 60 full minutes at the UP SnowCross race!!  Holy hard!!!  I had a blast racing with good friends and being scared by random people in the woods with fake chainsaws!  What a riot on a sweet course that even had a snow pit! 12 laps of fat bike bliss.
Photo Credit: 45NRTH

Photo Credit: 45NRTH
Afterwards 45NRTH and Blackrocks treated us to an amazing post-race party that helped raise money for the local trails!  There was great beer, great music, and even a TACO TRUCK!! 

45NRTH Kurt!  AKA - Bunny BEIST!
Talk about a perfect kick off to the season.  I’m really looking forward to returning to Marquette in February for the 906 Polar Roll.   However,  first on tap is the Solstice Chase this weekend.   Looks like we’ll be lacking snow, but we certainly won't be be lacking fun.  Hope to see you BEISTS on Saturday!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

43 Hours In LA - Laguna Beach X2 & Spooky CX

I'm finally recovered after an incredibly awesome 43 hour trip to LA to visit one of my favs Andrea.  This trip was a bit of a last minute (in my world) impulse booking and the sheer excitement about that along with such a short trip had me incredibly jacked as I ran out of work on Friday night.

I had a layover on Friday night and both flights were fortunately on time. I chilled out on the first flight and then on the second flight decided to put a dent into my Green Acres blog post.  One thing I've noticed is that just about every time I blog on a plane I seem to have an audience. This used to bug me, having someone read over my shoulder....but then I got over it since.... it's a public blog, dummie.  Friday was no different, however, it took me a bit by surprise when the gentleman to my right inquired "Are you a writer?"  huh?  dude....NO! .... Quit reading my blog...psycho. "Um no....not really, I just have a blog [insert snarl face].... it's about bikes"  wow that sounded pretty stupid.  does having a blog mean that I'm actually a writer? I hate writing, those essays in college suuuuckkked! of course he already knows it's about bikes...because he is reading the damn thing!   Suddenly I'm totally distracted with the lines of one of my favorite Chris Farley skits that will never get old!

"We got ourselves a writer here!"
Thankfully the random airline chat subsided and pretty soon I was all smiles and jumping into Andrea's car!!  The remainder of the weekend was reminiscent of an incredible roller coaster ride, fast paced with a mouth full of smiles. Bikes, Beaches, Cats, Shopping, Mexican Mules and amazing guac....We packed it all in!! I swear we talked so much in those first 18 hours that by the time we arrived at Spooky Cross my mouth was literally exhausted.

Saturday Morning @ Laguna Beach
My long time and super awesome CTS Coach, Matt Freeman also lives in LA and he borrowed me his fancy Niner "B" bike. I had a blast racing and really the bike worked like a charm landing me on the 2nd step behind Pro CX racer and Dirty Kanza Queen, Amanda Nauman !

Photo Credit: Mila Sebastian Allinson

Photo Credit: Jeff Urban
The best thing I'm learning this CX season is that even when "I'm not taking things seriously" I'm still able to extract my fitness and see good results. Fitness doesn't lie and biking is supposed to be smile and don't take yourself too seriously......seriously. 
More Cats ON BIKES!!!

Needless to say I'm still loving my off season and this was one of the best weekends in a really long time. Thank you Andrea for your amazing hospitality!!
Sunday Fun Day! Post Laguna Beach wave surfing + seeing a sea lion 10 feet away!!!

And thank you Matt for the sweet bike and the sweet "It's 90 degrees and I'm racing in California!" experience. You both rock!
Best coach eva!!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Green Acres CX Recap

I’m finally getting around to a bit of Green Acres CX weekend recap. This race is so fun that I always laugh after Saturday at the mere reality that we get to experience the awesomeness all over again on Sunday. 

Saturday warm up smiles with Hollywood
Photo Credit: Matthew Pastick
Every year the crowds are massive, the fields are strong and the courses are technically challenging.  They always promise a corn maze, big climbs, sandy run ups, off camber descents, and a rideable (only if you’re Rad!) step up section. 

TRYING to be Rad.  I pinky swear I rode it once...
Photo Credit: Mark Woker
There’s also beer, and food trucks and huge sponsor giveaways (can you say HED wheels…three times fast!) Not to mention, this year the weather was perfect!  Well perfect in terms of what I consider perfect cx weather.  60 degrees, sunny, dry conditions…heck yeah!  I’m not one of the crazy cats that enjoys freezing warm ups, mud slaughtered broken bikes, and frozen appendages.  I know what you’re thinking….this is coming from the chick that rides her bike when it’s 30 below outside….well yeah, that’s in a bunch of warm 45NRTH clothing alongside a bunch of realists.  CX is not for realists…CX is about enduring pain. Seriously, it’s sick.

Photo Credit: Todd Fawcett

I got off to a bit of a slow start on Saturday…perhaps it was the shock of the first steep climb, or maybe it was the fact that after 2 weeks of not racing I’d forgotten how flipping insane the pace is at the start of these races.  Regardless I was chasing from the get go and found myself mostly mixing it up with Megan in 4th and 5th place. When it comes to racing I’ve always found success to be a result of hard work, fitness and a bit of luck.  Jen who was leading the race suffered a flat tire and somehow I managed to nab the 3rd spot on the podium even after crashing out on a corn cob in the corn maze.   These days I’m not taking any podiums for granted.

After the race on Saturday I came to the realization that I’d somehow tweaked my ankle. It was a little sore….but nothing too crazy. As the night went on things got increasingly worse and it swelled to the point I could barely walk home from dinner with Tom, Brendan and Hilary.  Um…Random!   Hilary is a PT and she assured me that I hadn’t done anything horrible, gave me some advice to ice, ibuprofen, and compression and then even applied Kinesio tape on Sunday morning.
Yes it’s true I actually am a crazy cat.  Walking seemed alright on Sunday morning….but warm ups were excruciating painful. So much that every time I got off my bike to run (3 times in a lap) the pain would nearly make me vomit.  Standing on the pedals didn’t feel so hot either, but it was tolerable.  I guess after you’ve played a college basketball game with 8 shots of Novocain in your big toe you start to believe that just about anything is tolerable! 
Photo Credit: Todd Fawcett
Tom’s boss Demian was at the race and he saved the day by taping my ankle at the last minute! I was really unsure about racing and truthfully I felt a bit ashamed for even considering it…as really I didn’t have anything to prove.  However, I did have a big group of amazing friends who’d given up their Sunday to come watch me race! I figured what was the worst that could happen…I pull out after a lap?  I was prepared to do that mentally.  I also was prepared to give it my best shot and when the whistle blew I stood on the pedals and took the initial hole shot as if there was no pain. 

photo Credit: Matthew Pastick
The good thing about CX is that just about everything hurts the entire freaking time.  So for the most part I blocked it out and other than the first barrier section and the sandy run-up things were pretty manageable.  The pace was hot from the get go and early on I was sitting in 2nd place chasing Nicole along with the rest of the chase pack. In the end it was Nicole’s turn to flat and after failing to hold on to Jen and Corey on the final lap I again surprising landed myself on the 3rd step. I was happy to have nabbed back to back podiums…but even happier to be done racing on this cankle!  Wowzer.

Huge thanks to Hilary and Demian for all your help and more thanks to all my dear friends Lisa, Christina, Jeff, Kathy, Eman, and Anne for coming out Sunday to cheer me on. Your support means the world to me and without it I might have passed on Sunday’s race and missed the wonderful (yet painful) experience...hugs!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Finding YOUR offseason - CX style

As much as I’m stoked that “winter is coming!” I’m absolutely loving this super warm fall that MN is having and the fact that for the most part we’ve had only sunny and warm weekends!  CX continues to be a much needed change of pace (literally!) and I’m really happy with my decision to race this year.  The common question I get as an all seasons cyclist is “dang…when do you ever take a break?!”    

Truth be told….that’s happening right now. It might not seem like it to some, but after 3 years I think Coach Matt and I are finally figuring things out.  We’re learning that an off season for me is really more about relaxing my mind and mental focus and less about taking time off my bike or avoiding races altogether.  There really is no one definition of an off season or one formula for finding balance. It’s really much like a long race nutrition plan, everyone needs to figure out what works best for them and often times it's a result of a lot of trial and error.

Photo Credit: Matthew Pastick
I went into this CX season with long endurance fitness and two simples goals. 
 1 – Have Fun!  2 – Regain my top end fitness prior to Fat Bike Season.  With a focus on those two goals I’m having one my most successful race seasons yet! I’ve picked only those races that appeal to me and I’ve decided to keep it local and lighthearted.  I’ve ditched the “pit" bike and spare wheels and I’ve really not stressed about anything. I merely show up and ride as fast as I can.  That's pretty damn simple. So far this season has been filled with broken bikes, yard sales, a couple podiums...

Jen Nowlin, Yours Truly, Nicole Mertz, Carrie Sansome, Corey Coogan-Cisek
Photo Credit: Ann Frank-Shantz
heckling, dig deep efforts, nasty bruises, Fulton beer, tons of smiles and a bunch of Matthew Pastick blooper photos that prove I really need to work on my barrier skills!!  Folks...this is NOT how it's supposed to be done!

Long story short, I’m in a good place right now.  I’ve been inspired by the chance to race against some of Minnesota’s fastest ladies again.  Seriously these gals just keep getting faster and faster….and keeping up with them is taking me to some really dark places!!  I’m literally finishing races falling over my bike unable to stand up and contemplating “how on earth could I possibly put myself through that torture again?” Only to repeat the process a week later :) 
An excruciatingly painful battle for 3rd with Corey at Baker Orchard
Photo Credit: Matthew Pastick
I’ve also been inspired by all of you racers that refuse to sweat the small stuff – you know who you are…. always smiling, grabbing donut hand-ups, and working your butt off.  You’re the ones that really know what this whole riding your bike thing is all about.

Ladies and gentleman...that's Chelsea Strate!
Photo Credit: Zane Spang
Next up is Green Acres CX and I’m actually planning to race both Sat-Sun events because it’s the best CX race ever!   
Ride Bikes, Have Fun, Stay Awesome
Photo Credit: Jeff Frane

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Chequamagon 40 Fat Tire Festival

Chequamegon 40 is always one of my favorite race weekends of the year.  Not sure what it is about Hayward/Cable area, but it seems to have grabbed my heart over the past few years of mountain biking.  Last weekend was no different. 

Tom was in Vegas for Interbike the week prior and didn't land in MSP until just before 5pm on Friday.  As a result we + Dolan had a late trek out of town, but this was OK since I am always trying to hoard the work vacation and heck we still arrived in time to take down some pizza at the Saw Mill. 

Thanks to our friend Vince we had some posh accommodations near OO.  In true April fashion we also had some midnight pre-race shenanigans which involved me dumping my entire recovery drink's worth of powder all over my suitcase and then trying to shake it all off out the sliding glass door (while it was raining)....and then a couple nasty frogs jumped in the cabin...GROSS! Naturally I screamed and begged Tom to get out of bed and take control of the situation. 

After that things seemed quite relaxing and uneventful on race morning.  We all checked in early and I got a stellar warm-up in....I was feeling great and hopeful that I might be able to nab a top 10 spot in what appeared to be one of the most competitive women's fields in awhile, complete with top XC pros Chloe Woodruff (national champion!) and Evelyn Dong. It's cool to see Cheq 40,  get some national attention - it deserves it.

I was lucky to line up next to Rebecca Sauber at the start and I'm pretty sure at this point we we're talking about how she carries lipstick in her jersey pocket. Rebecca has great competitive energy and I hope I can start more races next to her!  

Finally we were off as a pack of nearly 2000 carefully making our way through the streets of Hayward.  I can never remember these turns by heart but i seemed to hold my own and happily sitting on the wheel of Jorden Wakely for most of the roll out, until we took the infamous turn onto Hwy 77 and the 4 wheelers take off!  Suddenly it becomes a smashfest and an important part of the race in terms of holding your spot.  It's always a gongshow when we take the left turn down the ditch to Rosie's field.  I made sure to be in the right gear however there is always some kind of mess.  This year there was a slow motion crash that took a few riders down in front of me (I think Abby and maybe one other gal).  I managed to stay up right but had to dismount and run my way up to Rosies with the rest of the folks around me.  Not the best way to start the race, but not the worst either.

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph
After that the beginning of the race is mostly a blur of tortuous punchy hill after punchy hill.  Outside of the Fat Bike Birkie I can't think of many other races that start out so brutally.  I'm always gasping for air and wondering "when in the heck is this going to flatten out?"  I wasn't exactly sure what place I was in (maybe 8th through 10th?) but I knew i was in pretty good company right around Jen, Abby and Corey.  I'd say things were going just okay until all the sudden I shifted up a climb and heard a "Snap!" At first I thought I broke my chain and then I heard that dreaded spoke noise.  "Ah hell!" I thought not again.  This time I actually  had a spoke wrench on me even though I had no idea how to use it :)  I set my bike down and felt around only to find that all the spokes were in tact!!! What on earth?  Oh well...GAME ON!  I was pleased to not have had my race ruined however slightly bummed about having to stop briefly - but like most races these small crashes or mechanical issues happen to a lot of people so I didn't let it bug me too much. 
Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph
The rest of the race flew by quickly and I seemed to feel better and better as the miles ticked by. I grabbed a bottle from Tom and OO and then felt surprisingly AMAZETOWN! on the climb up Fire Tower . I was  jacked to see my favs Hollywood and Kristy Kreme at the top with a Coke hand up!! Nothing...i mean NOTHING beats a Coke hand-up (thanks guys!).  I also could not believe how many people were on the course and how many cheers I heard through OO, up Fire Tower and then heading to the finish line!  I LOVE ALL OF YOU!!! and although I didn't have my best legs on the bike I still had the biggest smile on my face!  Only 358 days until next year!!!

Smiles + Vince was top 10 fat bikes!
Congrats to Vince and Dolan on amazing fat bike finishes and congrats to the rest of my racing friends and to all you fast ladies for killing it out there!  Huge thanks to Vince (and his wife Jen) for the hospitality. Thanks to SRAM, iSSi and Tonka Cycle and Ski for your support this MTB season. 

Now I've gotta hustle up and get my bike ready for Metal's a beautiful day!! Psyched for some snot flying suffering and hoping these agony intervals I've been doing will pay off soon!

Meanwhile these photos pretty much sum up the awesomeness that was this past week. I'm feeling super grateful for 9 years!!! + I becoming an Aunt again + having amazing sponsors that I appreciate so very much! and should get a fat bike, the end.

45NRTH introduces the Wølfgar!

That's Amelia!
Hot Pink Onyx hubs?! You're so spoiled right meow.