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