Sunday, October 1, 2017

Baby on Bike!! - 15 week update

I can't believe we did it.  We actually made a baby!  It still feels mostly surreal  although as I start to see a baby bump feels a lot more like reality.  It's been an amazing experience thus far, with widespread emotions that I can hardly describe.  It's also been a process that has made me feel closer to Him, surrendering to the fact that this is in His hands...and trusting that He will take care of all that I have no control over.

We found out we were pregnant at 4 weeks on July 22nd....right after riding a Watertown Loop  with our happy neighbor Kim. It was a surprise in that although we were trying for a baby...I was 100% convinced it hadn't happened that month. I also had some good reasons to believe that.  Nothing though is more exciting/nerve wracking than seeing a positive line on a pregnancy test!

The first 9 weeks:
The wait until seeing baby's heartbeat on our 9 week ultrasound felt like an eternity as I was dealing with all day nausea and anxiety around miscarrying. I used to be a big worrier as a child and I thought I had really kicked that...welp, until Baby Morgan arrived.   Thankfully I was distracted by Tom's Leadville 100 dream and Colorado was also were I found a couple tricks (Acupuncture and Acupressure bands) to help with the nausea.  

How long we tried:
Tom and I started trying in April and miraculously got a positive pregnancy test on our first month of trying.  We thought...this is way too easy?!  Sadly, we experienced what they call a "chemical pregnancy" and we lost the baby in the first week of finding out.  We were crushed and I cried for two days (once in the lab at the doctors office) thing I realized in this experience is that nobody really talks about miscarriage even though it happens to a lot of women. It's truly amazing how soon you can begin to love a new life that's inside you.  Thankfully we got pregnant again in the 4th month of trying.  So... we still ended up with a pretty good batting average :) 

I really don't crave too much different than the usual cravings that I always have.  Pickles, Reese's PB Cups, and Salami.  The latter is the hardest because mama's aren't supposed to eat deli meat (so many rules!) until it's heated up..and I want COLD salami :)   In weeks 6-11 food was about survival and all I wanted were Bagels, Potato Chips, Fries, and bread. I even made a tip to Burger King and McDonalds both in week 7.  Thankfully I haven't been back since and my diet the past month has been much healthier -  almost exactly like it was pre-pregnancy.

Biggest Growth Areas So Far:
My chest (it's huge!), stomach and hips.  I seriously could feel my hips expanding during week 12 - ouchie.  I had to buy bigger pants around week 8 and most of my tops no longer fit.  In the last week I've finally started to sprout a baby bump - yeh!

Favorite Moment so Far:
Finding out we're having a baby GIRL! Tom was convinced Baby M was a girl, however I was thinking maybe boy.  When we found out the news Tom was elated...and proclaimed  "We are going to empower her to change the world!"  I knew 11 years ago I had married an incredible man...however, at this moment I knew I had also married an incredible father.

I thought I would be one of those super fit pregnant ladies that worked out every day just like before she was pregnant.  Turns out that's not been the case for me.  I struggled for a month feeling so nauseous, super HOT and tired. Although I would try to ride my bike or take a brisk walk - it just felt gross and all I wanted to do was sleep. Running never felt right and due to some early pregnancy issues I was actually advised to "be a slug" for awhile.   Thankfully I now feel almost normal and I've gotten back into an exercise groove. My preggo routine is a combination of outdoor rides on my fatty, CycleBar Spin Classes, Prenatal Yoga, and Treadmill Incline hikes.   I try to workout 5 days a week for 30-60 minutes - sounds like a "normal" person- eh?!  The most important goal at this point is to grow a healthy baby. So I listen to my body and just do what feels right.  I have no training guilt at this point and that feels incredible.

Lots of anxiety in the first 12 weeks.  Sadly, I think this took away some of the joy of being pregnant for me. I'm not sure if it's a result of the first loss...of if it's just a taste of what's to come for the rest of our lives. Once we found out baby was a girl it started to feel so much more real and exciting.  We've let go of the worry mostly and we've really enjoyed the past few weeks of dreaming about baby, her nursery, and what our life as a family will be like.  What's the best adventure stroller? And how will it feel to carry baby around the races in a frontpack/backpack?  How soon can we bring baby to Mexico?

I dont' think I've experienced those hormonal mood swings people talk about. Perhaps Tom would disagree...but I do seem to cry a little more at sad movies....I seriously had tears falling down my face on the flight home from DC. How embarrassing. 

Sleeps been pretty normal and thankfully I don't have that frequent urge to pee yet.  I wake up once a night.  Sometimes I wake up at 5am and can't fall back asleep.  I think some of that is just that I workout so much less than before.  I have had some crazy wild dreams.  Like the other night I dreamt that we had the baby and it was actually our cat Savvy and I was swaddling her and feeding her a baby bottle and she kept squirming and trying to get out of the blanket. TOOOO FUNNY!

Weight Gain:
I've gained 11 lbs so far.  It's a bit above the average however I'm trying not to stress about it too much as things can change. Right now I'm guessing I'll be on the upper end of the 25-35 lbs recommendation.  That's okay.  I'm also not surprised as my appetite feels the same even though I'm not riding my bike 90 minutes a night.

Stretch Marks:
None yet, but I have a feeling based on my skin type there will be some in the cards for me.

Nursery Prep:
I ordered a colorful rug this week and I've been doing some Pinteresting.  A super nice friend of ours offered to give us his old crib (what a champ!) - heck yeah!. Other than that that we haven't made much progress other than deciding which room in the house she will sleep. 

Baby Clothes: 
I haven't bought anything besides the cute pair of Red Chuck Taylors.  We did get the cutest little onesie in the mail from our dear friend Andrea!  I'm so glad baby's first outfit has bikes on it!

Maternity Clothes:
On the other hand I did drop a huge bomb on maternity clothes yesterday.  Huge thanks to my mom for grunting out a trip to the Mall of America where I finally found enough cute work items to last the whole winter. I even found a cute little navy maternity blazer at a consignment shop.  Pretty sure I'm probably the only person that tries on a top in the middle of the store and then asks her mom to take a photo of it!  Sometimes mirrors just don't cut it!

Tom and I are really looking forward to our 16 week OB appointment on Wednesday and then the 20 week anatomy scan where we'll get to count baby's fingers and toes - eek!   It's amazing the excitement we feel right now anticipating baby's arrival. It seriously feels like this year will be the best time of our lives.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Why are you running? Grandma's Half Marathon

Why are you running?  It's an open ended question I've been asked many times over the past few months.  For some reason it still catches me off guard.  My response has generally been.."because I can."  Although that answer is true....the reality is a lot more complex than that. But here is something...

Back in 2008 at age 25 I made an impulse decision to run Grandma's Marathon.  It was really the first time that I registered for an endurance event that legitimately scared me. I hadn't ran even close 26.2 miles at that point, and to be honest, I wasn't sure if I was even capable. The journey to the start line was both invigorating and exciting.  Come race day I had set what I thought was an attainable goal of breaking 4 hours. I now know that I wasn't fit enough nor confident enough for that result and as such I was out over my skis early on in the race.  My goal was not realistic and at mile 9 I was already struggling to maintain my goal pace..

As I saw my goal slowly slipping away I had what I would liken to a panic attack - a mini freak out as I digested the reality that I wasn't going to rise up to my own expectations and heaven for bid the expectations of others. I could barely breathe and I walked A LOT and drank and ate very little.  I felt embarrassed as the racers ran by me.  By mile 17 I was wrecked and begged a stranger for a cell phone to call Tom (who was also racing and I assumed probably already finished).  My hope was that he could come and pick me up.  I thank God to this day that he didn't answer....because had he answered...I would have quit.  Instead I sat on the curb, devastated....alone.... and broken. I stared down at my shoes pondering my future, and how the hell I was going to navigate the next 9 miles.... and I was dreading how I was going to explain my disaster of a race to everyone else.

And then suddenly an Angel appeared.  A random man who was nearly 3 times my age.  He reached out his hand and said "come with me, you are going to finish this race."  He shared his TicTac container full of salt crystals with me and convinced me to "run to that sign" and to "run to that mile marker" for 100 yards, 200 yards, and 300 yards at a time.  He encouraged me to eat and to drink and eventually I ran across the finish line in a time of 5:48:01, uff dah!! I grabbed my well deserved finisher shirt and medal and then cried my eyes out into Tom's arms. 

Getting to that finish line was one of the hardest things I'd ever done in my  life. I was disappointed, but in the end I managed to laugh it off.  I quickly realized that this race would not define me, and nor would any other race.  Instead they would teach me things about myself that I never knew before. Truthfully, I hated some things that I saw in myself that day.  I hated the fear, the negativity, and the disbelief.  But...there were also a lot of things I saw that I loved. I loved the grit, the fight, and the perseverance that eventually followed my struggle.  I learned the importance of racing within my means and more importantly, I learned the true beauty of racing for myself and no one else. It was clear after the the race that that no one cared about my result as much as I did and that I had put so much pressure on myself that I missed the opportunity to truly enjoy the event.

Truly enjoying Grandma's Half Marathon!

Running Grandma's Marathon was the gateway drug. The suffering, the perseverance, and the joy that followed the's the explanation for a lifetime of endurance racing. It's the reason that I know that no matter what...the finish line will always be worth it.

Grandma's is why I'll always be an athlete. I knew it was time to return to Duluth and cross that same finish line feeling something different.


Saturday morning I felt no nerves.  Rather, I felt razzed with excitement and joy. I was shocked by the massive crowd of runners at the start line and somehow snuck my way up to a good starting spot.
I had no friends near me on the bus nor at the start line...this was about as personal as it gets.

Back to school!!! Dorm life!

I had set a realistic goal early on in training to break 1:50, but I struggled to get the speed up in my interval runs due to an early glute injury. The past couple weeks of heat also had me feeling like an elephant. :) So, in the days leading up to the race I wondered  if my goal was now unrealistic but quickly decided that my best was simply good enough.  My coach Matt had encouraged me to "just run by feel" and to let go of the pressures and limitations that my Garmin watch provides.  We had a beautiful cool day ahead of us.

Finally the National Anthem and then boom! we were off.  In the early miles I had no idea how fast I was running and I didn't know a single person running next to me. I was all smiles and racing completely within my means.  It wasn't until mile 6 that I first looked down at my watch to realize that I had just clocked a split of 8:02!! say what?!?!

It was a pace that was faster than almost every mile I had ran in training.  I felt really I had no reason to think that was "too fast." The confidence and optimism that followed that realization was magical as it carried me all the way to mile 9 where I saw Tom, Christina, and Brendan screaming for me. They gave me a huge boost that fueled me the last 4 miles to the finish line...this time with a face full of smiles instead of tears.

Saturday was a beautiful day!  just like all the others.  I live for these moments, and am so grateful for all those that share in this joy with me. Your encouragement and support is overwhelming at times.
Tom is not only the best adventure companion there ever was, but he was also my UMD college roommate for a night!! (no we didn't push the beds together...haha!) Huge thanks to Matt for agreeing to balance being a cyclist and an occasional runner - this variety is essential to my mental balance as an athlete. Thank you Lisa, Jeff, Rob and Missy for letting me be your running partner again - I enjoyed every mile. Lasty, big thanks to Travis for keeping my body tuned up - so that I can enjoy incredible finish lines like this!  

My cup is seriously overflowing!

Now it's time to cram in the Fatty miles....we've got a Leadville training camp on tap!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Fatty Season Wrap Up!

Has it really already been 3 weeks since Fat Bike Birkie!?!?  I'm becoming quite the tardy blogger it seems.  It's April 1st already...another one of my favorite days of the year...for obvious reasons.  When I was little I'd play tricks on my friends and then I'd laugh and say "April Fooled You!" ha, I was such a dork...and probably still am.

Fat Bike season is definitely a wrap at this point and my bike is long overdue for some type of season bike cleaning is the worst! This years Fat Bike Season was definitely one for the books as we tried our best to make the most of a dirt and ice filled winter.  I had a blast racing, meeting new people, and seeing Tom get stronger.  The season was also filled with a lot of sadness, which makes it difficult to write about.  I want to to remember all the fun stuff, but I'd be lying if I said tears weren't rolling down my face during the moment of silence at the start of Fat Bike Birkie.

Chelsea and I made a girls road trip to Marquette for the 906 Polar Roll and basically raced in short sleeves on one of the funnest courses of the year (well after the lung busting initial climb)....the first 10 miles felt like we were racing on an Olympic Luge course - total awesomeness.

PHoto Credit: Hilary Dolan

Mother Nature cancelled Fatbike Frozen 40 on us, which was a sad day, especially since this race is in my backyard.  Admittedly 4+ hours would have been a little hard on me training wise, but I still missed racing on my favorite, perfectly groomed single track loop at Elm Creek. 

On a whim I decided to race the Mora Vassaloppet the next day which ended up being one of my favorite races ever!  It was my favorite kind of course - fast, rolling, and drifty!  They had more snow in Mora and the course was total snow! I was stoked to share the top step with Adam from HED and also to race with these awesome ladies!

Photo Credit: Hollywood via Robin's phone

Then, Tom and I made a last minute decision to drive to Grand Rapids for the Farmers Fat Bike Race. We were looking forward to staying at Danielle's house with our good friend Spoo who was also supposed to make the trip.  Sadly, this is the week that Spoo passed away suddenly doing something he loved, running.

It's hard to talk about still, and some days I realize it's hard to believe he is actually gone. Spoo and I shared some pretty special moments together in my first years as a mountain biker.  Tom and I actually met Spoo running back in 2008ish.  We knew him as the "mountain biker" so naturally when I decided to ride bikes - he helped show me the ropes, and we made a lot road trips together to Mtb races in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. He was also there with Lisa sceaming and cheering when I won my my first Natz medal.  He also snickered when as he video taped me awkwardly going over the bars during the XC race :)  I wish I could find that darn video!

2013 CAT 1 Short Track Podium
PHoto credit: Cycling Dirt

Spoo was a very happy, smiley and positive person to be around. He loved Tom's nickname "The Bull" for me.... he would call me that often.  He also loved to give me a hard time.  Damn we miss you Spoo, you made us laugh so much!

We decided to dedicate Farmers to Spoo. 

There was basically no snow - but the dirt singletrack was pretty rad. Spoo loved nothing more than Singletack - this was his kind of course.  I spent the first 90 minutes of of the 3 hour race trying to hold off Tom who kept yelling "I'm coming for you" through the trees (hah!). Damn he is cute. Eventually he caught me and we got to ride together for a couple laps - my favorite 45 minutes of racing all year.  

Photo Credit: Rob Meendering

Eventually though I was getting a little tired  and was convinced he was sandbagging (or felt bad beating me) since I knew what kind of training he had been doing.  So... there may or may have not been some married bickering going on after he rubbed my wheel ha!!  - but eventually I dropped him ...sucker :)  I know it's only a matter of days before I'm chasing him like a dog!

We wrapped up the season at Fat Bike Birkie where I was shocked to be handed out the #1 race plate.  It was a competitive field on a course with about 25% ice. The organizers did the best they could to make this a safe race for us - moving the location of the event.  Cancelling this event would have been the saddest thing ever - so thank you to all the volunteers for the countless hours of trail work.  Thanks to 45NRTH,  I had the right tool for the job in the studded Dillinger4s. 

Photo Credit: American Birkebeiner Foundation
However, I road like a donkey and laid it down pretty hard in the first icy turn!  I knew better than to take that corner like that. I recovered fairly well, and then spent the first couple of laps battling with eventual winner, Leia for the top spot. We seemed closely matched and I envisioned the race would come down to the final lap - perhaps even a finish line sprint.  

Photo Credit: American Birkebeiner Foundation

Unfortunately on the 3rd lap I lost control of my line on a fast downhill clipped the bars of a slower racer and we went down in a full on 2 person yard sale...a pretty painful crash that seriously took my breath away...bruising my hip, breaking my saddle, denting my helmet, twisting my knee and eventually causing the end of my race.  Carnage!! I feel so lucky it wasn't worse and still I feel bad that I don't know the racer I took down so I can personally apologize.  He was so nice about it - making sure I was ok (I do think I got the worst of it).  I just couldn't believe he wasn't totally screaming at me! I'm bummed the season ended this way for me  - but I also know this is the reality of racing and there will be so many more races!! Huge congrats to to everyone on their finishes, this was a hilly and technically challenging course!

I am stoked to have won the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series for the 3rd consecutive year.  

Alexandra, Sonia, Yours Truly, Chelsea, Anna, Jenny and Jill
photo credit to Chelsea Strate

This was another big goal of mine this season and it's no small task traveling to all the races and also performing consistently. I'm so proud of these ladies standing next to me, that I'm so lucky to call great friends.  These women are genuine, positive, and supportive. They are so good for this sport and THIS is why Fat Bike racing is my favorite sport of all.  Thank you for making these winters so special!

I am grateful to Kurt, David, Scott, and Jeremy at 45NRTH who provide amazing support to our team that goes so far beyond the gear and equipment. These guys make sure we have everything we need before and after the races, they give us hand-ups, set up warm tents, and hand us beers at the finish line. They hug us on the bad days, and give us the biggest high fives on the good days!  Thank you for letting me represent your awesome brand.  Best team ever!

photo credit to Jill Martindale

Huge thanks to the rest of my sponsors who help make chasing dreams - HED, Onyx, SRAM, Bicycle Fit Guru and of course the nice guys at Tonka Cycle and Ski. Thanks for trusting me with your brands, and helping me ride the best gear - and for just being rad people.  I've got my bike or wheels at Tonka almost every week and I couldn't thank Nick, Jason and Steve enough for putting up with me these past couple years!

Nick and Tom - couple of studs

Big hugs to Tom who chases dreams right alongside me - I can't wait to see you crush Leadville!  And of course thanks to Matt Freeman - my CTS coach for the past 4.5 years...that's a college education.  I could never keep the power up and my mind level without your help!

and that's it folks!   HAPPY SPRING EVERYONE!  I've got some new athletic adventures ahead this on tap which I'll share more on later....but in the meantime, get outside and enjoy all that warmth and sun!  

Monday, February 6, 2017

Fat Bike Maddness!

Alas, there is a lot of awesomeness (and a bit of sadness) to write about and I finally have some time to do it (which is the best thing ever!)  The blog hiatus shall officially come to an end.

Riding Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail with Tom and Luke - the only time I pulled all ride :) 

We're sitting right smack in the middle of yet another ridiculous fun fat bike season.  I'm literally pinching myself weekend after weekend that I get to call this sport my passion. The events, the community, the smiles and ALL the positive.  This winter sport has been the ultimate joy for me. Although we could use about a foot of snow right now I'm trying to make the best of this warm winter alongside a bunch of other rad folks doing exactly the same thing.  Here's the highlights from the races thus far.

Solstice Chase: If you want to shock the system at the beginning of the fat bike season - ride outside your comfort zone on this initial climb and you'll quickly remember what race pain feels like.  Great opening weekend on some soft snow which made for a few snow angels and a rewarding finish. I got to chase Jenna around on this day and that's always a special treat for me.  I also enjoyed breaking in the 45NRTH Naughtvind kit....seriously the best winter bibs this world has to offer. The highlights of this weekend were the new 45NRTH fires and starting and ending our weekend at the Dalles House. This race wins the "Best Post Race Vibe" award and the rights to "Best Popovers Ever."

Photo credit: Ben Mullin
Norpine Classic: What a great surprise!! Lutsen has always been a great place to race and the Norpine Classic knocked it out of the park on their opening race!  From Friday nights beer tasting all the way to the post race party I'd say this one definitely wins "Best All Around Event." One of my favorite courses ever with some sustained climbs and a fast and drifty course (Braap!)   Even though it was -11 degrees that day and I may or may not have covered my face enough, I had the time of my life!!
Photo Credit: Matthew Pastick

As you may know, our cat Chubbs passed away the Wednesday before this event, and the compassion the racing community shared with both Tom and I on Friday night nearly took our breath away. Thank you so much, that meant the world to us.  I dedicated this race to the cat with the best meow there ever was.

QBP Fat Bike Rennet: Three Rivers Park District stuck it to crabby old man winter and gave us all the opportunity to race under the lights on snow when the rest of MN was half green. It wasn't the firmest of snow, but who's complaining?!?! I was stoked to actually make a smart decision for once about tire pressure (3 psi) and also to only yard sale ONCE in this race!!  Cheers to Solidcore and #abs2017 This race for sure takes the "Overachiever" award and I'm already looking forward to next year!
Photo Credit: Brady Prenzlow
Top Step Love - Apparently riding 0 PSI is actually a thing...just ask Kevin.

Freewheel Fat Thursday Cyclocrit: I was able to sneak out of a work a little early to make it over to Lord Fletchers for their 3rd Crit. The "Most Crazy Technical" race of the season thus far had us riding over docks, through volleyball courts, across the ice and through swampy frozen corn maze like brush!  It was a riot and Tom put the screws to me pretty good (he is getting quite fast these days)! I think this race also wins "Best Tacos Ever" because I'm still dying to have those carnitas again. I was also elated to break in some new matchy HED Wheels!!! complete with Dillinger4 Studs and Onyx "Right Meow" hubs!  ALL THE COLORS!!! So humbled and grateful to represent these amazing local brands.....all led by some really great people!

Yes Coach, I know I should wash my bike more.

45NRTH Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout: Always one of my favorite race weekends of the year filled with an abundance of festivities from start to finish.  We got a late arrival into Crosby on Friday but were welcomed by a house full of all of our favs! Some folks were upset we had to switch to Sagamore, but I love this course, it's fast, it's flowy and requires you to pedal your bike smoothly through the fast, drifty corners. I loved the roll out pace and the fierce chase group competition from Sonia, Tom, Brendan and Chris. It's no doubt that Sonia is one (if not the best) trail riders in the state.  Teach me how to pedal through all the corners too!! Complete with the Cuyuna Lakes Yeti, the recent opening of Red Raven Bike Cafe & Cuyuna Brewing and all race proceeds going to the trails....I'd say this event wins "Biggest Smiles" of the year.
Finding all the laughs with Evan Pre-Race with my main squeeze right on my wheel :)
Photo Credit: Touch the Sky Blue
Photo Credit: Touch the Sky Blue
Photo Credit: 45NRTH David Gabrys
And...can you believe the season is only half over?!?! :)   Looking forward to the coming weeks and praying for snow like crazy.

Huge thanks to 45NRTH, HED, ONYX, Tonka Cycle and Ski, SRAM MTB and Ride iSSi.  You all inspire me to ride fast, and more importantly to always be the best possible version of myself.

The amazing Nick Milton...thank you Tonka for always finding a way.

Beyond bikes...

Saying a very sad goodbye to our beloved cat Chubbs in midst of all this fun was the hardest, most gut wrenching thing we've done as a married couple. We find peace knowing she had a great life, yet we all still miss her like crazy.

We also snuck  away for the weekend to visit our friends John and Sara on Marco Island....where we saw freaking wild dolphins!!!

And lastly we finished our first DIY house project (a new Vinyl floor!) which left me sore and walking like a Grandma for days. Thanks Chubbs for forcing the issue :) We're pretty proud and so grateful for all the help from our friend Jeff.

I now plan to dedicate this week to chilling, and sleeping, and enjoying the accomplishment of a major milestone at work.  Oh and giving Vito ALL the attention. Life seems to just keep getting better and better.  Or at least that's how we like to believe it.

Until next time....keep the smiles up and the wings spread wide!