Saturday, June 10, 2017

TASCO Sea to Mountains and Back

I left San Diego today with multiple thorns in my left arm, clumps of mud in my hair, a broken spoke, and a 26'' tube in my front tire (I rode a 29er hardtail today). I was unbelievably tired and we didn't even get to ride all 49.5 miles of the course we set out to conquer at 7:30 this morning, and all the suffering wasn't even for a race!
Sometimes being stubborn and persistent is an attribute, like 90 miles into 130 mile BWR when you want so badly to give up but know that if you keep going for 40 more miles you could possibly win. Or the time we were all strewn along the dirt roads in Calabassas at the Pedal's Fork Dirt Fondo, wiping mud off our tires, riding 10 feet and then repeating it, bu then rewarded with hero dirt on the second half of the ride. Today though, my stubborness was not an attribute, and Carl and I took the suffering a little past where we needed to on what was supposed to be a fun group ride turned ugly by unfortunate weather.

The plan was to ride from Hatch Cyclery in Leucadia (just north of San Diego) up through the awesome network of country roads and rad bike trails to Black Mountain and back on the first TASCO Sea to Mountains to Sea ride.

What should have been a super fun day of exploring some new dirt, riding with friends old and new, and a little good natured suffering started out on the questionable side when it started to legitimately rain on the drive down at 6am. We were blissfully ignorant though, with bagels and coffee in hand, blasting down I-5 thinking it was just some heavy June Gloom that would clear up by 8am.

We set off to ride with a group of about 30 rad dudes and a few ladies, still optimistic about the weather, all excited and anxious at the same time. then i got a flat maybe 3 miles in. Poo. My tire had no sealant, of course, and one bad tube later we were cramming in a 26'' tube Carl was carrying into a very wet 29'' tire. The tiny tube worked and maybe 10 minutes later Carl and I were cruising along again, the group somewhere up the road (they all assumed we would catch them).

One of the most exciting parts of the day was that Brendan decided to come ride with us, maybe because I promised him there would be a contingent of the ride who wanted to ride a mellow pace, and an overall shorter route. We caught up to and then passed Brendan's group all smiles and laughs, and soon Carl and I were on our own again trying to catch the faster group.

The first dirt portion of the ride was rad. Fun, unexpectedly techy singletrack in a suprisingly rural feeling open canyon. I had loaded the route onto my Garmin, so we were fine with directions, kinda. Only problem was us not being locals we didn't realize that the dirt we were on was going to turn into clay, and when mud did start to pack up on our tires we didn't know how to exit the route to pavement to save ourselves about an hour of pushing super heavy mud laden bikes across ever muddier dirt roads. We ended up stopping multiple times to wipe mud from our tires, away from our fork legs and out of out bottom bracket areas. Carl kept dropping his chain and in my stubbornness I ended up riding maybe 10 miles of pushing through ridiculous resistance, stopping only a few times when the wheels refused to continue turning.

Then, when we finally decided this was not worth it, we popped out at a park where a nice man had bacon and coffee! What an off, kinda awesome oasis to discover when you are soaking wet, covered in mud and starting to question all your life's decisions.

While Carl cleaned his bike I ate about 10 pieces of bacon, drank 3 iced coffees, and cursed a bunch about the weather, this was JUNE after all!

Some other riders from our group did eventually arrive at the 'aid station', but when we learned that no one else planned on continuing the ride Carl and I cruised out to ride back to the ocean on pavement. We only missed a small portion of the route (on the way out), and probably missed all the good singletrack, but heck, now we have a reason to come back!

And so, after getting lost and accidentally riding to La Jolla (adding about 8 un-necessary miles) Carl and i returned to Hatch around 11am to find almost the whole group, clean and happy chatting about the day over beers and more iced coffee. After much bike washing there was a raffle, for a free ride, with free raffle tickets we didn't even complete the whole ride to earn! Carl left stoked with a new pair of gloves and sunglasses, and Brendan and I left happy with a ridiculous memory of the wettest ride in June in Socal that we will one day tell our children about.
On the drive home we decided that we have had enough good luck, perfect weather, great mechanical-less days, and that every once in a while a ridiculous day with mud and flats and bent teeth on your chainring makes the flawless days that much sweeter. And heck, we still got to hang out with the raddest North County group of shredders... and bacon.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

I don't want to admit it, but....

As much as I would like the idea that 'Larissa never gets tired' to be true... the reality that everyone has a limit hit me like a 20 pound brick this weekend and I have to come clean, I could barely move on Monday. Thank heavens for a day off to relax and recover from a month of excessive riding and a weekend of non-stop fun. I don't really know when 300+ miles a week started to seem normal, but I'm going to be a big girl and calm the heck down now because coach was right, it's not going to end well if I keep that up.

But I'm not going to say I regret riding 1,500 miles in the month of May, May is bike month after all.

Highlights of the month of excess include a few epic rides that we started calling 'Bad Decisions Rides' and which I never want to forget. 

My bikes take me to some pretty rad places with some amazing people!

Before we knew how much suffering was in store :)
Bad decisions Santa Monica Hills Edition: Carl, Esther, Nikki and I rode all the miles with all the ocean views. We climbed until our legs almost fell off, laughed until I almost peed my chamois and drank cokes at the most ghetto gas station in the fanciest place. We had endless ocean views for the second half of the day and 125 miles with 13,000ft ascent to ponder just how many bottle of GQ6 and water are the right amount. Conclusion: 7 bottles, 2 with GQ-6 (all I had, but they had the endurance formula so that was rad!) 3 water (thanks rando man with the hose at the top of Mulholland) , 1 with Gatorade thanks to ghetto gas station and 1 with cucumber water from the ice cream shop I had free sample at. The ride concluded with me gorging on peanut butter stuffed pretzels while driving back to pick up poor shelled Nikki and Esther from the side of the road, followed by a meal at Peddler's Fork in Calabassas (and stem cell treatment for dessert?!). 
I brought this babe and was not unhappy about the 30 tooth little ring on the Deer Creek Climb! 

These girlies are so much fun to ride with (we missed you Lauren!!), and can we just talk about how Carl is the lone dude with three chicks... isn't it usually one girl with a group of guys in the cycling world?! 

The weekend before that was an epic bad decision day, but you already read all about BWR and the suffering/drama that went along with that. Still a little shocked with how well the overall ride went and how high my HR was for the first 3 hours... that's gotta do some long term damage!

Cruising through the dirt, wondering what not riding a bike feels like... at this point I was so ready to be done. 

Bad Decisions ride San Gabriel Edition was the weekend before BWR. Carl and I wanted to ride the Search Brigade LA route so we convinced seasoned Search Brigade veteran Lauren Mulwitz to come make questionable decisions with us. We had to cut the SBLA route a little short since I was supposed to ride only 6 hours (which became 8 hrs), but we still ended up with 134 miles and 13,000 ft. We got to charge sandy dirt roads, ride through tunnels and started the tradition of Coke and Snickers pit stops on long rides. Because you know when you are doing something healthy like riding bikes you have to counter balance it with eating the least healthy things! Carl and Lauren had a grand old time until the bottom of Hwy 39, when both of them started to unravel. The push back to the car was an interesting traverse through all the -dales, and Lauren got lost and ended up on the side of the road only 3 miles from the car, but post ride burgers never tasted so good. 

How Lauren feels about me 80 miles in... hahahaha
And the first Bad Decisions Ride of May was Carl and my attempt to ride the Dirty Devil route, also modified to fit my training restrictions but still 110 miles and 10,000 ft ascent. The forecast called for rain, but Carl and I threw caution to the wind and drove down to SD anyway and set out from Ramona with high hopes of staying dry. The absolute highlight of this ride for me was climbing Black Canyon rd, the most beautiful dirt road in all of Southern California. We started to get rained on about halfway through the ride and visibility was only 5 feet as we climbed back to Julian the second time so things got a bit dicey with the cars/danger factor but it was a glorious day none the less, complete with breakfast burritos from the most ghetto, I mean hole in the wall, Mexican restaurant in Escondido, plus hot chocolate for the drive home. 

So as we begin the month of June, one I hope will be a month of self control and solid training, when I look back on May I'm super grateful for so many amazing rides, the bikes that took me to so many great places, and the friends who suffered through those rides with me. 
And I am especially grateful for Carl, who is always up for almost any amount of suffering and who somehow continues to keep up despite being an 'old man' haha, jk Carl, you will never be old if you keep this up!

Carl suffering through our last ride in April, a 55 mile epic shred fest in Wrightwood.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Favorite Things

Currently bummed I don't get to participate in Vital Ditch Day with hubs because I gotta be a responsible kid and teach those hooligans in my classes ALL THE MATH today...

But a questions someone asked me this week reminded me that choosing to be happy is where it's at, so instead of thinking about what I wish I had or was doing, I'm trying to be happy where I am in life and committing to enjoying the things around me. 
#1 favorite thing right now is this bike. I got to borrow it from Felt's demo fleet, and it's making all my hopes and dreams come true (ok, that's exaggeration, but it is a dream to ride). 

#2 is any meal that consists of a ton of veggies in a bowl. I've been making Brendan eat an excessive amount of veggies and fried eggs and it never gets old!

#3 favorite thing is that all the most delicious fruits are ripening in my neighborhood, and I'm in heaven picking mulberries and Apricots from the neighbors trees on my way home from school each day. 

#4 is my Catlike mountain bike shoes... the more I wear them the better they get, I've been commuting in them every day and my feet have never been happier. 

#5 is that all the time I've spent at home this spring (as opposed to last year when I was traveling for races ALL THE TIME) means we have put in a lot of work on the yard and it looks so good (if you're into astro turf... which we got because it's green and stuff).

Life isn't bad in our corner of the world. Different than last year, but not bad. And there is a 3 day weekend on the horizon! Cheers to Memorial day and riding all the bikes!!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

More than you wanted to know about the 2017 BWR

You know you're in trouble when 60 miles into a 130 mile 'race' you've already shelled yourself so entirely that you start counting down the miles to the finish. That's exactly the predicament I was in as I gutted myself on Mesa Grande to catch the group of guys ahead of me so I wound't have to ride the remaining 70 miles of the Belgium Waffle Ride solo on Sunday.

Very anxious about the impending suffering at the start. 
I've never done an event like BWR before, never raced such a long distance with so many unknowns. Is it ok that my tires aren't tubeless? Can I eat and drink enough to finish strong? How will I stack up against girls who thrive in long grueling races? And most importantly, do the pro's eat the waffles in the morning/ will there be enough waffles for me? 

A creek crossing soon after my flat, thoroughly enjoying the dirt.
That tubeless tire question was the first of my worries to pose a real problem. About 30 seconds into the first dirt segment, the Cougar Pass descent, I felt the dreaded thudding of rim on rocks when my 'I'm a mountain biker so I'm going to bomb this descent' approach to the gravel grinder brought my Felt VR to an abrupt halt. Fortunately the Shimano support moto was within a few minutes of me, so after doing a little 'what should I do' dance and contemplating riding the rim until help arrived, the amazing Shimano bros saved the day and threw a new wheel on my bike. 

The mechanical was a blessing and a curse. It definitely took away the pressure I had placed on myself, and I spent the next 10ish miles genuinely enjoying descending rad gravel roads and talking to all the random dudes. However I have no sense of patience or tactics, and when those random dudes and I hit Highland rd (the second of 3 timed climbs of the day), for some reason I felt it was a good idea to go all out to try and catch all the women who passed me during the flat tire debacle. It freaked me out beyond reason that I was an unknown distance from 1st and I felt I needed to bridge that gap, RIGHT NOW, immediately (despite the sound reasoning from Janell that 'we have 130 miles to catch them'). Thanks to the incredible VR, that bike is like a dream to climb on, I was able to regain the lead by the top of Highland and double bonus I found myself in a great group of about 8 dudes who were riding hard across the flatlands towards Ramona. 
Having a grand old time... before the real suffering set in. 
After stressing about all the red lights in Ramona, we surprisingly caught the lead bunch of about 30 guys at the turn onto Magnolia, and the massive draft gave me some time to relax, recover and reset. I was a bit giddy about the idea of riding with so many heavy hitting studly, strong dudes, and it may have caused me to get a little chatty, so it's no surprise that as soon as the road turned to dirt and pitched up the group started turning screws and most the dudes rode away from me. I climbed Black Canyon solo for the most part, trying to catch the small group ahead of me while trying to also enjoy the waterfalls and other scenery. At the top I was with one dude but he promptly rode away from me after we turned onto Mesa Grande. And so I found myself alone, on the one stretch everyone had warned me NOT TO BE ALONE! 

Luck was on my side though because the expected headwind was nowhere to be felt, and after about 4 miles of looking up the road at that group of 8-10 guys who were 'just out of reach, why don't they wait for me?!' I decided I needed to either sit up and let someone catch me or dig deep and catch the group ahead. Since there was no one in sight behind me the only option was to turn myself inside out to catch the group ahead, and I spent almost every last match I had to make that happen. 

By the time I caught the group I was too shelled/gutted to think straight and the next 30-50 miles is a blur of trying to drink/eat/get as much of a draft as possible.

Then, right when I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, around mile 97, the really crappy dirt started. Dirt segments that had crazy deep sand, and rocks and the worst part was that the road was RIGHT THERE IN SIGHT parallel to the pock marked trail we were riding!!! I got dropped by my group who just hammered away across 'Sandy Bandy', my feet burned, and my pace dropped. When relief in the form of returning to the road finally came we went STRAIGHT up a massive hill. Fortunately for me this gave me the chance to catch back up to some of the group of dudes, but as soon as we hit dirt again I got dropped. And then the technical dirt started! I was trying to figure out how many more miles we could possibly suffer before the 'it's all down hill from here' point, obviously I didn't study the map well, and also praying the the other women were as shelled as I was. I spent the last 20 miles thinking every turn would take me to the final climb, and vacillating between thinking I could ease off the pace because everyone was tired and freaking out that they paced themselves better than me and were going to come tearing up the road behind me. The miles were ticking by so slowly, and when I finally saw the street sign for Double Peak rd I was incredibly relieved... until I saw how far up I had to go. 
Getting pushed by Speedo man near the top of the last climb. 
I crawled up Double Peak, fighting the feeling that I was going to barf (pretty sure I was starting to get heat stroke), tried to smile at the nice people cheering, got pushed by a man in a speedo, downed half a coke at the top (first time I stopped all day) and then limped back to the Lost Abby. 

Crossing that finish line was the most relieving feeling, but the small fact that I didn't have to ride my bike anymore didn't take away from the agony. After a small adrenaline rush were I might have given some more embarrassing interview footage to add to the plethora of already existing footage on the interwebs, I promptly laid down and almost died for about half an hour. About an hour later I was back with the living, ate the amazing lunch provided by Gear Grinder Grill and completed the day with a waffle topped with ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. 

When it was all said and done I would say that BWR was pretty much the perfect day in the life of Larissa Connors: see how far into the depths of suffering you can go on the bike with cool people and then eat fries and ice cream. But honestly the memory of the pain is still too fresh to think about next year... that was something else. And I loved it. 

To all the people who put on this event, volunteered, manned the aid stations- Thanks for a pretty unique and fun gravel grinder/gran fondo/race experience. I would not have lived without all those bottle feeds and the whole weekend was so well put together. 
To Gear Grinder Grill - Holy crap do you guys know how to make waffles and fries. I came for the food, let's be honest, and it did not disappoint. 
To my Felt VR- thanks for being the perfect bike, fast on the road, compliant on the dirt, I was never uncomfortable because of the bike, and every time we started going uphill the VR encounraged me to push harder, to climb faster. I can't believe one bike could be so good at climbing AND dirt. 
To waffles- thanks for being so delicious and letting me eat you twice in one day.
And to Carl- thanks for doing a bunch of long rides with me to 'prepare' for this. I enjoyed the training as much as I enjoyed BWR.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


I read something somewhere recently by some pro cyclist that described the phase between getting where you were and where you want to be as 'mid-bounce'. It had something to do with the idea that when you don't get what you want the low doesn't last too long and can be the thing that propels us higher in the future, you never know. Probably not the best explanation, but anyway I liked the idea of being mid-bounce and it's been stuck in my head all day.
Ok, so I had some low times, but now I feel like I am mid-bounce, on the way back up, finally ready to not let those bad times hold me down. A nice 'get your head out of your...' talk from someone who means a lot to me helped too. It's time to put my best foot forward and get back to living a life and doing the things and setting some goals, because not having goals leads to floundering. I've learned that floundering isn't good for me. So here's to new goals, and to focusing on being a better person, wife and friend.

That is all.

Oh and thank goodness this horribly tired Tuesday is over :)

Some pictures from life lately:

This winter it only rains when I am riding my bike... but that's ok with me :)

This rock, it's way cooler in real life, I swear. 
This Orange County is very pretty right now! 

This is on my commute to school when I take the dirt. I ride a different bike to school every day, so that is cool. And this view always makes the waking up worth it. 

More pretty green views. 

The flowers on my favorite trail are going off right now. This has been the best spring we've had by far!

Friday, March 17, 2017

It's Been a Rough Week

I've debated writing about this for a long time, think 6 months long. Well that's not entirely true, 6 months ago I had no idea where I would be in January. Then when I took a full time teaching position on Jan 31 I kinda knew it was over, but I didn't know how or if I should advertise that to the world (or at least the very small larzybikes blog reading world). It's going to be relatively obvious when I'm not on the start line at Fontana, and I guess that's why I'm putting this out there now, so it's not a major shock to everyone I know.

I spent the off season riding my bike to hurt myself, because physical pain clouded out the emotional pain in my mind and it seemed like the right solution. Those mega rides you saw on Strava, those were my coping mechanism to block the feelings and convince myself that everything was all right. Every day I woke up hoping that I would feel like my old self again and want to train properly, but that desire never returned. I knew in the back of my mind that not racing might be just as hard/painful as racing would be, but the fact that my mind isn't in it kinda made the decision for me.

So here we are, March 17, 2017 and it's entirely too late to do the work I would need to do to stand on a start line for any of the big upcoming races. (yeah, this is making me so unbelievably sad)

The good news is that I am healthy physically, and that on a day to day basis things seem ok. I can focus on the task before me each day and find joy and purpose in bike commuting, teaching Algebra and working on the van with Brendan. But every once in a while the reality of what has been lost is too great to ignore. During those times I have to just let the bad feels wash over me, and surrender to the thoughts about what if, why, and whose fault is it that I'm here (which I often feel is my own but that's a whole other struggle). This week has been especially hard, like crying in my classroom for an hour after school on Thursday afternoon, and then again on my commute home at the red lights hard. It's hard to see everyone else get excited to race, to know I am so far from where I was last year at this time, and to think about having to answer the question 'why weren't you there?' It's especially hard when the students are being extra frustrating and I have thoughts about what I was doing last year at this time, and why I'm here now.

I'm not going to talk about what happened that got me here. But the short story is that no, I wont be there at Fontana, or Bonelli. I wont be at Sea Otter or Whiskey... I will be ok though, because bike racing has taught me that I can do hard things. That it's ok to feel down and sad, but the roller coaster of life will go up again, eventually, and that waiting out the lows makes the highs more fun and exciting.

And most importantly bike racing has put so many incredible people in my life and I'm so grateful for the support from friends and team mates who have been understanding and kind. Thanks guys.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Life Lately

This fall has been great here in SoCal. Yeah I'm sad about the lack of rain, and concerned for the nature with the increasing state of drought we are in, but on a day to day basis, it sure is nice to ride bikes in the sunshine, hike mountains and work on the yard.

One of my favorite things this fall has been spending time with the amazing female athletes who live in Southern California. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by women who are both incredibly physical strong as well as strong in character, who push my on my bike and mentally. Sometimes being a professional athlete can feel isolating/lonely, but I've learned this year what a difference it makes to get out and ride/hang out with these rad women.

Wednesdays have been for riding all the miles with Jess.
This week we cruised through De Luz, on the most beautiful country roads you wouldn't expect to find in San Diego, devoured a sticky bun bigger than my face, and drank about 10 bottles in 97 miles because it was HOT out there! Jess pulls pretty much the whole time when we ride, but I feel extra cool riding with her because we can be twinsies (at least for another month :)

Best bakery stop on a ride to date!
Spending time on the ground outside the gas station because you are 85 miles in and hot and thirsty!
Last Thursday I got to shred mtb with Lauren, which meant laughing till my abs hurt, and all the crashing!
Thankfully the trails were empty, because we were a tornado of ridiculous!

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 Saturday I got to ride in the Laguna Dirt Fondo, a 50 mile ride supporting the middle and high school mountain bike teams. I've ridden with these kids a few times, and it's seriously the most inspiring thing to ride with little future shredders. There were also quite a few rad adult shredders there, somehow I ended up riding with the leaders for part of the first 25 mile loop, and HOLY COW were they going hard. A stop at an aid station put me off the back of that crazy group, but I had super shredder Brandon to ride with to the start finish and then spent the second 25 mile loop either alone or passing/getting passed by some of the 6 guys who actually did the whole 50 mile option. The highlight of the ride was going down Art School/TNA at the end still feeling fresh and giggling with glee. I blame Menso and Carl for the fact that at this point a 50 mile mountain bike ride doesn't feel like enough to wear me out. It was hard to resist the temptation to keep riding after finishing the dirt fondo, but Sunday's hike scared me just enough to be a good kid and go home to rest.

I didn't even know I would get a finishers trophy! Everyone should come out for this event next year!
AAAAAaaaaannnddd Sunday I got to hang out with one of my favorite team mates, Nikki and her boyf Nic, and bag Gorgornio peak, FINALLY! This hike is advertised as the hardest of the SoCal peaks, so I was pretty intimidated by the 18 miles, 6,000ft grind, but it went by like the blink of an eye.

The two most memorable parts of the hike were meeting ranger Fisher and drinking root beer floats after. Ranger Fisher was blocking the trail about 4 miles up checking permits, you have to carry one to hike in the Gorgornio wilderness. He had the biggest biceps I've ever seen in person and a lack of sense of humor to match. We spent quite a bit of time imagining how Ranger Fisher keeps in such good shape in the wilderness, bench pressing and dead lifting logs. He also assured us that eventually everyone would get lost in the wilderness... a foreboding warning that fortunately didn't come true on Sunday!The root beer floats were as epic as Ranger Fisher's biceps. We stopped at the Mexican Restaurant in Forest Falls to use the restroom and somehow ended up with huge cups full of ice cream and root beer as well as an entire can of whipped cream. Oh and Nic ordered fried ice cream... We are the healthiest ones! 
Post hiking I couldn't help jumping on my bike to explore some new to me trails near Yucaipa. I love riding in new places, late afternoon temps were perfect and the trails in Crafron hills didn't disappoint! Neither did the views of mount San Bernardino! 

Hope everyone in SoCal is making the most of this crazy warm fall. One day we might get rain... One day.