Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fat Bike Birkie!!

Can you believe this awesome spring we are having?!  It feels like we are in Minnesota heaven. I've been spending most of the week letting go of the pressures of training/racing and really just letting the season sink in.  45NRTH Fat Bike Birkie was my last race of the year and I wanted nothing more than end the season on a high note. 

drove up solo on Friday night after work (Tom was already up there working some Salsa demos). It was hard to see so many Facebook selfies of my buddies as they headed out of town at 8am, 12pm, 3pm knowing that I wasn't going to reach Hayward until just before 8pm.  I was feeling flat most of the week, but Coach Matt's pep talk righted the ship and as I rolled into Hayward I felt a sense of calm.  The rolling hills of Cable are punchy bunch that don't always seem to suit me as a "bigger" racer.  I was determined to ignore all that, and to put on my best suffer face on Saturday.  Tom and I  joined Dolan and Hillary for some ravioli and we were all super excited that Birkie was going to be  Hilary's FIRST fat bike race!

Arriving at the race site Saturday morning was the best feeling ever!  45NRTH Fat Bike Birkie is it.  It's exactly what I love about racing.  Big, massive, epic events.  People were all over the place making last minute adjustments to their tire pressure, talking about the course conditions and really just beaming with excitement.  You can't resist the energy at an event like this, it's seriously intoxicating.  I was greeted with smiles by Scott and Kurt from 45NRTH who were both majorly jacked for the day and then I also got to hug Anne Hed and thank her for all she has done for me this season!!  I was feeling amazing.  I've been chasing a win at this race for a long time and I was ready to rock!

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph

The announcers went through call-ups and I managed a second row spot right on Jenna's wheel...not a bad place to be. Eventually I ended up right behind Matt Acker and after a 2 mile controlled roll out we finally made a right hand turn onto the Birkie trail and then were let free like a pack of wolves.  I had a solid start and was slightly behind Jenna.  It only took about 200 yards for me to realize I had picked the perfect tires in the Vanhelgas and that I had nailed the tire pressure at 8.5PSI.  The combination of the bigger tread and firmer pressure meant that I was rolling fast and also handling the loose corners better than most around me.  The grooming was incredible and the power sections combined with the drifty corners were making this a great course for me.

In the past Jenna generally drops me on the first few hard climbs and then I spend the rest of the race chasing her like a raging dog.  I have so much respect for Jenna as a racer that when I caught up back up to her 25 minutes in it nearly startled me. I thought, maybe this was it :)  I even held the lead a couple times for a tiny bit, but then eventually her climbing strength was too much for me and she slowly rode away.

At this point I looked back fully expecting to see Amber, Sheryl, Diana, Pam, Anna or Musto right on my wheel.  I knew I had a visible gap and so I focused mostly on my strengths which I think has made a difference for me as a racer this last year.  I focus less on my weaknesses while racing and try to capitalize more on my strengths.  I know hills aren't my jam and so I promise to make myself suffer on them, but then I also ensure that I'm upshifting faster than others at the top and taking advantage of my ability to descend, especially when it's loose. This yo-yo effect sometimes makes it hard for me to find a good wheel(s) in hilly races so I look for the bigger/taller guys to work with.  Sorry guys, it's true

The aid stations were amazing and I couldn't help but smile as I rode through and heard all the the cheers. I worked together with a few guys the second half of the race. 

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph

I was passed by Salsa's Tim Ek with a few miles to go and he offered a hello and a few words of encouragement. That was all I needed to find the strength to hammer the last mile of gravel road to the finish!  I saw no women in sight and was elated to again nab a 2nd step at the biggest and bestest fat bike race in the world!!

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph

I also got to ride through the finish chute with Hilary and share a congratulatory hug after she completed the short course event....her first fat bike finish ever!  Then Brendan, Tom, Pam, Danielle and all my favorite friends started rolling through the finish with big smiles on their faces.  

The post race festivities were on point and overall Saturday was a pretty special day celebrating an amazing season with Team 45NRTH.  Champagne was had!!  

Photo Credit: Jill Martindale AKA Arrowhead 135 Beist

I was filled with so many emotions.  Buzzing excitement  about the race and fat biking in general.  Overwhelmed with gratitude for all the support I received this season. Sad that the season was over, yet relieved to be able to relax and take a mental break. 

I was also elated to have accomplished my goal of winning the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, but mostly I was so happy to have been able to race with this amazingly talented ladies all year long!  More on this later.

Photo Credit: Jenny Scott
Anna, Danielle, Me, Jill, Chelsea

Today, the stoke level is high due to daylight savings (the best day of the year!) and arms my glutes are destroyed after joining my besty Ericka at at Orange Theory (that workout is hard!!!!) I don't even want to tell coach how tore up my abs are...for fear he'll make me actually do my core workouts. It's apparent I should probably do them. :/

Congratulations everyone on an incredible season, you should all be very proud.  We are all collectively a part of a pretty special revolution.  Just think...some day we'll all be able to say we participated in some of the first fat bike races ever!


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

February Fat Frenzy!

It’s been a FAT BIKE FRENZY!!!.  So much has happened in what feels like so little time.  We took the shortest month of the year (even with the leap!) and managed to fill nearly every waking moment with something exciting and memorable.  I’ve raced 5 incredibly awesome events in 4 weeks.  Then, we decided it was totally normal and possible to buy a freaking house right smack in the middle of it.  It’s been a wild ride trying to fit in all the travel, training, racing, packing, unpacking, shopping, pinteresting, decorating, working, Frostbiking, partying, and caring for sick cats (they are better now!) – all in no particular order.  This is our life.  We wouldn’t want it any other way.  Buying a house was a pretty special deal for us – it felt like we had been rebuilding and saving forever.  I still pinch myself when I turn the keys…I mean we have actual neighbors and stuff.

I’ll remember this month of racing for a long time.  It was incredible to see feel the results of to me what feels like many years of dedicated training all coming together.  Thanks Matt! Historically a season like this would cause me to come apart at the seams. I’ve matured a lot as a racer taking things much less seriously – smiling more – and reminding myself that cycling is my passion (not my job!) and that I’m lucky I am to be able to do what I love weekend after weekend.   I am again behind on blogging, but I do think each of these races deserves in own special recognition – because after all, this is my favorite season of the year.  So here are the highlights of what seemed like the fastest February ever.

Iron Line Fat Bike Race:
We all know I love cats – but the truth is…I love dogs too.  I wrote about this awesome adventure of a race getting to share the trail and event with sled dog teams on 45NRTH Chronicles page.  It was a riot and a fun post to write. The best part – racing in a long sleeve t-shirt and then hanging out afterwards in the sun!!  I was reminded of the great community of fat bike racers and how fun it is to see all my friends as we travel to destinations across the Midwest.  I was inspired to keep on traveling. This races wins “Best Surprise” of the year.

Photo Credit: Jenny Scott
Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout:
I love Cuyuna, and the mountain bike mecca that this town has built.  They put together an awesome new race course with enough rad singletrack to make just about anyone happy.  It was warm and the riding conditions were mint – that almost never happens.  Plus there was free Red Bull and tons of 45NRTH swag to raffle off!  This race wins “Biggest sufferfest start” of the year as Hollywood Jay set a roaring pace that had me dropped and chasing a wheel for a torturous 2 mile roll out. I loved my Dillinger 4 studs on this day as well as the killer “up-north” bar party!

Photo Credit: I think Danielle's Phone
Penn Cycle Fat Tire Loppet:
We hosted 5 people in our tiny apartment the night before – it was awesomely crowded – and then we got to treat them to Hoagies, our neighborhood greasy spoon.  We were all grateful for the late start.  and being the 2nd race in 2 days I expected this one to hurt…but not nearly as bad as it did. OUCH! Penn put on a first class event and they had a big turn out!  I had a great start, but then suffered badly, like what I’d imagine a road race breakaway feels like.  Pam was hot on my wheel for most of the race – did I mention how bad this hurt? This race wins “Happiest to see the finish line” for this year.  
Photo Credit: Matthew  Pastick
Tom waving to his mom...priceless.
Photo Credit: Tom's sister Michele

Fatbike Frozen Forty:
BRR!  Seems they jinxed this race when they put the word “Frozen” in the name.  It is always the coldest and the longest race of the year.  It’s also the most humbling and really the only race that provides a long enough time for us all to experience the rollercoaster that is endurance racing. I think it’s also the most satisfying of races to complete.  It’s far from easy. I raced in my Wolfgars for the first time and gleamed with joy that I had warm toes for 4.5 hours!  It was beautiful.  Elm Creek is the best groomed trail there is – and I love that course like a sister.  This is also the race where Kurt at 45NRTH broke out the polar bear fur! This race wins “Best Snow Beard” of the year! 
photo credit: Matthew Pastick
906 Polar Roll:
Marquette.  I adore this town and all of its beauty and simplicity – and because it’s always treated me well.  45NRTH kicked off the weekend with its RideDuluth video and then Saturday we were all treated to a very tough race – one that forced  us to dig deep and decide what we were made of.  Soft snow isn’t necessarily my forte as I prefer to stand on the pedals and smash. Over the first 10 miles I traded places with Danielle(who has much more finesse) and we couldn’t stop laughing with all the crashing that was going on.  I think I crashed my bike more than 30 times this race!!  My abs were blasted from trying to balance on the trails and from laughing so hard Saturday night that I thought my ribs might explode!! This race wins a double for “biggest crashfest” and “best after-party.” I think I’m still recovering from that epicness :)

Photo Credit Hilary Dolan
Last weekend was finally some sleeping in and finishing up some moving stuff.  Plus I got to check out Frostbike and  practice my grooming skills in the 45NRTH booth.

Check out that sweet photo above me of Elm Creek master groomer C.J. Smith!
Plus I finally got to meet Jim from Onyx for the first time!  What a great guy!  It's been so awesome to ride their hubs this season and I'm excited to hear that they have something pretty rad up their sleeves! Frostbike also taught me how massive my quads look when they are larger than life.
All-City makes some great bikes, and I’m stoked to be representing their Macho King in this photo.  This steel stallion will be my bike of choice for the upcoming Dirty Kanza 200.

Next on tap is the Grand Finale, AKA the Fat Bike Birkie....see you all on the trail!