Friday, September 23, 2016

Other Thoughts from Brazil

I haven't really thought this through very well, but there are so many other aspects of the trip that I want to record for my own benefit. So, this may be random and scattered and weird, but here goes.

The aspect of the trip that had the largest impact on me was the situation with the course cutting. The whole ordeal was pretty dramatic and seemed so stressful Saturday night, but it worked itself out so beautifully in reality and all that stress seemed so unnecessary at the end of the weekend. More important than the Karma-esque excitement though was the strong impression that was pressed on me by Angelita's behavior, attitude and resolve. I have raced Angelita a few times before, but didn't really know her that well before this past weekend. I knew she was a phenomenal athlete, and a fun/friendly person, but I guess the thing that still makes me stop and feel amazed is the fact that she turned around and full on rode backwards on the wrong trail after missing the turn until she reached the spot where she had deviated from the course, adding 12k to the race and basically guaranteeing she would not win the stage. She was with a HUGE group, most of whom just continued on after realizing they had cut off a portion of the course, and decided to go against what so many others were doing, for the sake of doing the right thing. Even though it would have been easy to have just rode on with the others. It was an honest mistake to miss that turn, and in the end it didn't seem to matter to the officials that distance was cut out of the race by Isabella who also made the wrong turn but DID NOT turn around and go back... I hope in the same situation I would choose the route Angelita choose, even if it meant sacrificing the win, even if it meant spending an extra hour on my bike, and tons of extra climbing. At the end of the day our own integrity is all we really have, no amount of prize money is worth a clear conscience, and as upset as I was that Isabella lied about cutting the course, which meant trying to steal the win from me, I am equally, if not more, impressed by Angelita's honesty and commitment to doing what's right. And on top of that Angelita's persistence and calm presence in the debate over what should be done about the situation on Saturday night were such a great example to me of how to fight for something you care about without letting your emotions get in the way. Basically the outcome of the drama is that I learned a lot about sportsmanship, and professionalism in sport when things don't go your way. I will be forever grateful for the memory of the weekend and everything I witnessed/was a part of.

Another standout aspect of the week in Brazil was the food :) Most importantly the Pao De Queijo which is like little balls of cheesy bread (way more sticky, moist than wheat bread though) made with sour cassava flour that the Brazilians eat at breakfast and with afternoon coffee. I have been smitten ever since my first trip to Brazil last year, and ate as many as I could this trip. I even spent a few hours reading the history of how they were first made to serve to the Portuguese slave owners who wanted coffee and bread in the afternoon in colonial times, but not having wheat, cassava flour (or Mandioca flour) was the only option. I also bought mandioca flour so I could make them at home!
Most meals we ate were served buffet style, which I loved because I like trying a little bit of a lot of different foods, and I discovered that I also LOVE hearts of palm in salads! I also had some incredible chicken, the best sauteed greens and some ridiculously good salads.

Acai, yeah we have it in the US, but it's WAY better in Brazil, something about how concentrated and pure it is there. The Acai there is a lot darker in color, not as sweet, but more flavorful. We ate quite a bit of Acai, and now I'm craving it like crazy.
Coffee... I drank like 8 cups every day at breakfast (they were small cups...) and had some of the most decadent cappuccinos ever including the one pictured below after a double day of riding on Monday (I got carried away after the race and rode my bike AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE). I also love hanging out with Angelita, Luis and Amy because they valued afternoon coffee as much as I do, and would often have more than one cup in the afternoon, making me feel more like a normal person with my caffeine consumption :)

The riding in Belo Horizonte is another thing that blew my mind this year. Last time I was there I only rode once during our time in Belo, but this time Ike took us to three different trail networks FROM HIS SHOP right in the city. The first was a little fire road heavy but had some great descending and views. The next we called the 'jungle party' because it took us into the jungle (which is RIGHT NEXT TO the city) and included tons of rad singletrack, blown out powdery descents, ruts and roots and hike a bikes galore, and a sweet section in a national park that was jaw dropping pretty. The last was a ride in my favorite mtb park, Perdidas. It rained on Monday night so our perdidas ride was beautifully muddy and fast and slippery and awesome! Perdidas has the most perfect hillside benched trails, flow, deep crevasses to ride through, and sweeping views. And all that was a 10 minute pedal from this crazy big sprawling city of sky scrapers with 5 million people. I have some GoPro footage of the rides in the jungle and Perdidas, as soon as I finish editing it I'll post it up here because words can't do the riding in Brazil justice.

And I think that's enough for today. This trip left such a huge impression on me, I don't think I will ever be able to express in words every detail and all the meaning, but I am still oozing appreciation to Ironbiker for giving me the opportunity again.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

IronBiker Brazil 2016

Not sure I can write a race recap for this epic trip without it being super crazy ridiculous long, so I'm just going to highlight the two days of racing and fill in the details about Brazil, our other rides, and the stuff I learned later in another post.
Also on that note, I'm kinda back to blogging. I know nothing has been posted in a long time, I was writing, but going through some personal struggles that I don't feel comfortable sharing, so those posts probably wont ever be published here. Time has a way of healing that you can't really understand until you surrender and let it, so things are getting better. But being a human is still incredibly complicated, fascinating, hard, fun and crazy to me, so I'm sorry in advance if I disappear again.

Sooo, I came to Mariana in Minas Gerais, Brazil last year for this same race. That trip was a hilarious cacophony of misfortune, including my bike and shoes not arriving, getting attacked by a swarm of wasps halfway through Saturday's stage, and getting multiple flats both days. In the end I was excited to have survived and decided that maybe the main focus of racing in South America was always about survival. This year I learned that is not the case!

This year the race was only two days, 94k on Saturday and 64k on Sunday. A mining disaster in the state of Minas Gerais caused many of last year's trails to be washed away in a flood/mudslide, so this year the race had a little more fire road and a little less climbing than before, probably about 40-50% singletrack with 5,000ft ascent on the first day and 3,000ft the second. The start of both days is a "neutral" roll out leaving the historic town of Mariana, which means that the thousands of people racing all ride together following a lead truck, who does not go slowly, to the first climb. Fortunately being elite meant I got to start right behind the truck.

The start of Saturday's stage went perfectly, I sat between two pro men on the bumper of the lead truck and wasn't stressed at all about the thousands of people behind me sprinting and braking in a massive pack. When we hit the climb I felt good, so I rode a little hard, and at some point last year's winner Angelita caught up to me and we were climbing together. We crested the top of the climb in a pack of about 6 men, and crushed the following slightly dh fire road with them. At some point I rode away from Angelita, which I later learned was because her pedal was giving her grief, and the pressure of being the first female settled in.

I had changed my Garmin to read distance in km, since the course elevation profile I taped to my top tube was in km, and on it I had marked the 6 water stops. This meant I could mentally break down the stage into 7 smaller chunks, and km tick by much faster than miles, so before I knew it I was passing water station #1. At this race they hand you plastic cups of water with foil tops and you bite into them and drink as you ride. I grabbed a water and started setting goals for myself: I would try to stay ahead of Angelita for the first 30km, about a third of the race. When that goal was accomplished I set a new one, to stay in the lead for the first half... and so on. I didn't know at that point that Angelita and a few others, including another elite female, had missed a turn and short-cutted the course by a fair amount. Angelita turned around when she realized she had taken a short cut and rode back to the missed turn, the other girl did not, she kept racing as if she never left the course, and then denied she took a short cut. So from the halfway point on I thought I was in the lead (I mean I was legitimately in the lead) but the other girl, Isabella, was in front of me.

Up to about 80km I rode as if I really wanted to win, pushing every flat section, climbing hard and staying off the brakes in the descents. Around 60km in a male rider had told me about Isabella taking the shortcut and being in front of me (he was with her when she missed the turn, and he also hadn't gone back like Angelita so he could confirm that Isabella cheated) so I was only concerned with Angelita catching me, which I fully expected at every climb. Then when we were about 12km from the finish the race took us up this heinous false flat uphill shale singletrack trail that seemed to last FOREVER and my tiredness started to catch up to me. My left shoulder blade started to burn and I started looking over my shoulder more. I tried to keep pushing hard, but with 6km to go rather than using up the last of my energy, I backed off to save something for Sunday.

The finish of stage one was anticlimactic to say the least. It was an uphill finish, tons of riders who rode the 60km option were standing around and I wasn't sure if the race organizers knew about Isabella cheating. Since no one there spoke English I ended up just riding back to the start and decided to tell the dude in charge about what happened later. We showered, had lunch, and I shot Lucas a text.

In typical South American dramatics, there was some confusion, lots of heated discussion about the situation and a little frustration, but in the end the race organizers and officials interestingly decided to give me 1st place for the day and score everyone else 2nd.

Day 2 again started with a neutral roll out, but this time I got pushed around a little more and lost my spot on the bumper of the car. I ended up somewhere in the middle of the swarm of aggressive men near the front, which was equal parts super stressful and exhilarating. When we hit the first long climb Angelita rode away from Isabella and I, and I decided to stay with Isabella for as long as I could. The overall stage race was scored on points by position and I spent a good amount of time during the first half of Sunday's stage obsessing about what the results would be if I finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd... and how Angelita had to finish to guarantee Isabella not win. To be honest we were all a bit upset with Isabella for lying about cutting the course. We all understood it was an accident, but she was never going to tell anyone, meaning she would have stolen 1st from me on Sat, and not cared at all about the fact that I rode longer than her and was beating her until the point she missed the turn.

Then a had a mishap on a rocky situation, and soon after I crashed pretty hard in a turn on a descent. After the second crash I picked myself up and decided I was too fixated on this girl and this situation, and that I would just ride my bike and have a good time, rather than stressing about results. So for the remaining 35ish km of Sunday I took the time to look at the scenery, to smile and cheer on the men who passed me, and to have fun on the sweet single track descents. The course took us through open valleys of farm land, through tiny rural villages, and up and over beautifully forested hills. We climbed an incredibly steep fire road that made me so grateful to train in SoCal, and descended some rocky, jungly, steep, awkward descents. We waded across a few rivers and rode through countless farms.

Then the unbelievable happened... as I was rolling through a village about 10km from the finish I saw Isabella ahead of me, walking her bike! I slowed to ask her if she was ok/needed anything like a tube, but got a growl for a response so I sped out of there, wondering what happened to cause her to abandon the race. Out of that village was a crazy fun rock climb, some deep crevasses to ride through, and then a beautiful trail carved into a bench in the hillside to the finish. I had to sprint at the end because in my lackadaisical state Amy had caught me, but I finished 2nd on Sunday, putting me in 1st for the overall title!

For a while I felt guilty about taking the overall win. I felt Angelita deserved it. Had she not taken the wrong turn I assumed she would have caught and beat me. But as time passed I accepted the win as somewhat deserved, and feel incredibly humbled to have the opportunity to race with Angelita, Amy, Isabella, and Viviane. There is SO much more to say about this experience. So much I learned from the people around me, about dignity and honesty and respect. I feel like the experience and the learning was more epic than the win, but the champagne shower was pretty sweet as well. I am very happy to have ended the season in Brazil, racing with so many fun, happy, enthusiastic people. Thanks IronBiker Brazil for having me, and taking care of me all week.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Windham Week!

After we left Vermont Drew and I basically headed straight to Windham, NY for the HC XCO this weekend (actually in 2 hours... EHHHHH). I feel pretty dang fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to travel in the Stan's van with Drew and to have seen some new places and ridden some new trails this week. I think keeping things fresh and new has been good for my psyche and my soul, and I'm feeling pretty refreshed and ready for this race. It's also great feeling that layer of pressure stripped off and to be going into this race focused on having a blast racing. This week I did my workouts, crunched out the core, stayed off my feet and ate well so the race feels like the icing on the cake, whatever happens I did everything in my power to prepare for it, it's time to see how the cards fall/to see if my hard work will pay off.

It's pretty insanely pretty here too :) Makes workouts on the road really pleasant!
This isn't to say I think it'll be easy. It's crazy hot and humid outside, so hot that there is a heat advisory out for 3pm today, which happens to be our start time. And there are a TON of fast women here. But I'm excited to line up with them, to get to ride with an international field, and all I really want from this race is to finish in one piece with a smile on my face!
The creek behind our house, it's not deep but so so scenic!
Doin' the werk.
I haven't done much exciting stuff in Windham since we got here because I'm trying to use all the energy to train and recover, but I did have a killer workout on the road Wednesday. swam in the creek next to our house, and got some pre-riding in on the course. The track is very similar to last year when it was a World Cup, but it's much wetter this year. It has rained every day since we got here, like heavens opening up and dumping buckets of water on us type rain. The craziest part is how warm it stays, even when it's raining. It's going to be pretty messy during the race, so I'm excited for some mud splattered face pics :)

And now it's probably time to kit up, fill my bottles with ice, and warm up (ha, that's a joke because just going outside is enough to 'warm up') and get down to business! It's bike racing time!!!

Green, rooty, muddy, rocky, delightful goodness :)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Turns out I Love ALL the States

After Mont Sainte Anne I jumped into the Stan's No Tubes van with Drew to travel back to the US in the general direction of Windham, NY. Monday and Tuesday were basically the best two days of the summer, so you know I can't resist sharing photos and details of our time in Vermont! 

First, we drove to Kingdom trails in East Burke, Vermont. Pretty much the drive there was overwhelming because it was so damn pretty, tree lined dirt streets with incredible views and adorable houses every so often on the way. And then the bike shop was like bike shop heaven! It was in a red barn, they served beer AND espresso, and there were a ton of adirondack chairs out back facing the view of an incredibly verdant valley. Oh and there were little kids everywhere on bikes so stoked about riding... it was seriously exactly what I picture heaven to be like. 

AND THEN WE RODE THE INCREDIBLE TRAILS! We rode the most beautifully flowy, rooty, twisty trails through a forest straight out of a fairy tale. I literally pinched myself to make sure it was real. I want every person I know to go to this place at some point in their lives because it was THAT good. There was bright green moss, wildflowers and ferns lining the forest floor, and the trees let just enough light through to keep us cool while still lighting up the ground and making the air glow green. AND there was a river to swim in at the bottom of the hill in the quaintest little town you've ever seen. The weather was the definition of perfect, and I stopped multiple times to pick wild raspberries RIGHT ON THE TRAIL! Oh and there were wild mushrooms... I counted 15 species from my bike :) 
How cute is this bike shop, seriously!
We rode from 4-6pm, and there was light streaming through the trees the whole time. 
Oh and I almost forgot that at the end of the ride we rode through a maple farm where the lines connecting the tapped trees were just high enough for us to pass under. It was really freaking cool because I didn't know that's how they collect maple at big farms. Extra cool that the left the lines high enough for us to ride under without dying!  

After the ride we drove to Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, saw the shiny gold capital building and ate the most amazing dinner of soba noodles and kimchi. I loved this town as well, kinda wish we had a few days to hang out there. 

On Tuesday we made a cameo at the coolest bike shop in the East Coast, Bicycle Express, in yet another adorable town. We also got the inside scoop on the best Maple Creemees in Vermont and awesome stuff to do in Burlington while we were there. If you are in Vermont this is the place to go for advice on everything from where to ride to where to eat snacks! Oh and I learned that everyone in the area rides the most adorable titanium bikes for training... so there is also that :)
In lieu of the local knowledge advice we headed to Morse Farms to ride and eat Creemees. HUGE bonus was seeing this cute goat James. 
Goats are my favorite animals so this was the highlight of the day
I was supposed to just spin for an hour on Tues, so we cruised around some sweet snowshoeing trails, frolicked in some incredibly green fluffy ferns, and ended up riding through the most amazing field of grass and wildflowers. It was the perfect combination of bushwhacking and using my incredible navigating skills that resulted in quite a bit of laughing until I cried/my abs ached because apparently I'm the only one who thinks riding through a field with no trail in sight is a good time. Oh and you better believe there was more wild raspberry consumption on the ride.

Had a hard time taking this picture because I was laughing like a hyena at all the protests coming from Drew. 
Post Creemees we headed to Burlington to check out the world's tallest filing cabinet, which I thought was fascinating! It's 38 drawers tall, and DEFINITELY worth a stop to check out :)
JUST LOOK AT THAT THING!! A true work of art if you ask me :)
While in Burlington you cannot NOT stop by the Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory, so we did, and also took a nice sweaty walk on Lake Champlian, where we saw the Story Corps Airstream AND stacked rocks. Well, Drew stacked rocks while I attempted to be cool and make instagram stories... can't keep up with the even changing social media situation!
I was WAY stoked about this... 
And you can't tell by the angle but this was a solid contribution to this stack of rocks! Way to not mess it up Drew :)
And after a few more stops we left my new favorite state for New York. Fortunately the drive out of Vermont was again breathtakingly beautiful, so at least I had that as a consolation for leaving!

Monday, August 8, 2016

My Second Mont Sainte Anne World Cup

Yesterday I raced the World Cup in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada for the second time and I had SO much fun! The race was a blast from the start line to the finish, crashes, traffic, painful climbs and all! 

Highlights included:

Sitting at the start line looking at all the photographers and realizing (again) that this is it, the top of the sport, kinda like the end of the line... It was sort of a 'how the heck did I end up here' feeling!
Going over the bars on the start lap, which was just a regular lap without the river gap in it, on a rock feature that was for some reason closed during practice on Saturday. The crash cost me a few spots, and my bars got twisted enough that I had to pull over a few minutes later to try and straighten them. 

I proceeded to crash on every lap after that but in a different spot each time. Thankfully the second crash straightened out my bars, and somehow my bike stayed in one working piece despite landing front wheel first off a rock, and tumbling down Beatrice. Although I did have some good crashes this year, I crashed much less than last year, only once per lap, so I'm counting that as improvement!! Also I hear that Anneke Langvad fell down a lot too... So I'm in good company!

At the end of lap 2 I looked up at the start finish/leader board and saw I was in 26th place which was NUTTY because 
I've NEVER BEEN IN THE 20's before!!!! I wanted real bad to maintain that position but loosing traction on two steep switchbacks (because my weight wasn't in the right place) and another crash cost me a few spots. It was still super motivating though because that's where I want to be and I tasted blood and want more!! :)

It started raining on is halfway through the race and I got scared the rocks would get slippery, but my Kenda Honey Badgers handled the slick roots and rocks super well and the brief rain didn't end up being a problem at all. Other than that we had phenomenal weather during our race, not hot and sunny like it was during my pre-rides!

And the best part of the race was the cheering from the crowds and Gerrin in the feed zone! So many people cheered with me (I was maybe vocalizing my excitement at having survived) after I cleaned each A-line, I think interacting with the fans is one of the most fun parts of racing! 

Oh and did I mention that Gerrin, who was here as a DH mechanic, stood in the pits the whole race feeding me bottles and ready to fix my bike in case I broke it?! He is seriously the best!

Writing this recap from the Stan's No Tubes van on the road to Vermont. We are headed in the general direction of Windham, NY but hopefully there will be riding in VT and maple creemees en route!! 
Goodbye for now Canadia!! I loved you and your trails made me smile till my face hurt! So stoked to have had the opportunity to race Mont Sainte Anne again this year! 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Mont Saitne Anne WORLD CUP MADNESS!!!!!

Well I've been in Canadia for a few days now, and after two days on the track here in Mont Sainte Anne I'm ready to move here full time :)
Not a photo from the course, but the woods here are so dang pretty!!!
The course is wicked fun. It starts with a super fun pump track-ish section which i freaking love, and which includes the first over-under on the course where the track crosses itself. Then there is a rad rocky woodsy portion that's not flat, but not really a sustained climb before the first of three short but epically steep climbs. The climb is in the sun, on grass (so kinda slow) but it only seems to take forever, when in reality it's less than 2 minutes. Following that is another super fun wooded section with big old rock piles built up and the river gap at the bottom. Then you roll down through the feed zone and all the way to the bottom of the course before heading to epic climb #2, the one that's not only cray steep but also has ridiculously sharp switchbacks! I have a love hate relationship with that one, the switchbacks take your attention off the agony, but oye vey is it steep and painful. La Beatrice is after that, and I love Beatrice. It's the gnarliest sustained portion of the course, but it's so fun to bounce and slide down it and I'm surprised and stoked each time I make it to the bottom still alive! THEN there is the last cray steep climb which ends in switchbacks, but these are much more manageable! And after that it's a combo of techy rock situations, slippery roots, two A-lines which I love so much more than last year and a fast open descent through the feed zone to the finish.

My goal is to be less of a disaster than last year, to give it all I have but to keep it together in the techy sections. Last year I crashed so many times, it was like crash, get up, start riding, crash, repeat. It was pretty slippery last year, but it could be slippery tomorrow so I just need to stay cool and collected and keep my mind focused and sharp. I also want to enjoy every second of it, because after all, it's still so freaking cool that I am even here. And my focus has shifted off of putting crazy high expectations on myself, and instead making the most of the experience, of the legs I wake up with on any given day and remaining confident that I do belong here, yeah I may not finish top 10, but it's a work in progress! And oh do I love the process :)

So I don't have pictures of the course, when I was pre-riding I was hyper focused on the course and the lines and doing what coach told me to do, but hopefully there will be a bunch after the race :)

I did take pictures of the cool kids who helped me out so much this morning to get my bike totally dialed. Drew from Stan's is the man for helping me dial my wheels and Mike from SRAM made my bike shift like a dream this morning. Mountain bike people are the best, seriously so fun and generous, and I feel so fortunate for all the help I've received to make tomorrow as awesome as possible! Oh and the most helpful one has been Gerrin, who checked my shifting yesterday and has been an invaluable source of wisdom about pretty much everything bike related while I've been here.

I LOVE riding and racing SRAM equipment!
Gerrin, looking at my brakes, making sure they were dialed.
And you may have seen it on social media this week, but Canada has offered other gems besides the wicked world cup track. First, wild raspberries! I ate a ton on Thursday evening and they were as heavenly as wild raspberries sound. Second, mini ponies, so cute, so ridiculous looking, so interested in nibbling on my quads. Third I accidently found singletrack on my spin on Thursday and it was sooo so fun! Bermed turns, pump track sections, and gorgeous dense woods. Yeah, I love it here!!

Now I'm going to rest real hard, distract myself from the agony that will be tomorrow and enjoy a beautiful sunny day in Canada!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Yet Another State I Love

I've spent the past three days in central Maine with Rose Grant's family, and it has been the ideal spot to rest and train between races! The family's 'camp' is on lake Schoodic, like ON the lake and it is maybe the most peaceful place I've ever been. The days have fallen into a pattern of coffee, riding, lunch, swimming in the lake, reading/writing and spending time with the fam until dinner and then going to bed early. Like every day. The weather has been so pleasant, never above 85 degrees, there are no biting critters, and the lake water, while crazy clear, has been 80 degrees all week.

I even picked wild blueberries today after lake swimming. It was the perfect Maine day!

And I saw the most amazing sunrise over the lake on our first full day here. 

This is the view from my ride every day back into the neighborhood. There were pretty much always poofy beautiful clouds in the sky, and the buildings were all perfectly quaint!

On Tuesday I rode out to this incredible river. It was so slow and clear and pretty I wanted to jump in!

And a fair chunk of my time was spent reading in the hammock, which has made me realize we NEED a hammock at home!

Tomorrow we leave for Canada, Quebec to be exact. It's not a long drive, but waking up early will afford us time to ride when we get there. Here's to hoping the race goes smoothly and that I'm not as scared of the crazy rock gardens as I was last year!