Monday, June 30, 2014

Colorado Springs US Cup Race Recap

Trying to have fun racing bikes, but having a hard time succeeding. 

This past weekend I learned that 7 is a very, very mean number. If 7 were the number of puppies at my house, or the number of mountain bikes in my garage I might have warm and fuzzy feelings about it, but 7 was the number of 3.8 mile laps us pro women raced in the Colorado Springs US Cup race this past weekend. Combine 7 laps (same number of laps as the men) with altitude and a little heat, and it makes for an almost 2 hour long sufferfest like none other.
Now, you probably know by now that I LOVE racing bikes, but this was maybe the first race I've done where there was no time for laughing, smiling and chatting up the spectators. This was 2 hours of punishment, whose reward was a few short descents and more laps of agony. 

This was a particularly stressful part of the course, a climb I could not clean, that haunted me the night before.

The race stared with sleep deprivation the night before on account of nerves. I lay in bed thinking about how hard I would have to work to pass other racers on the fire road ascents if I got stuck behind someone on one of the many narrow, super techy, steep climbs. Fortunately the race blew apart on the first lap, so getting stuck behind anyone wasn't an issue. After a hard effort off the line to get a good position going into the singletrack I put myself a little too deep in the red, and payed for it 2 laps later, and 3, and 4... I spent the race chasing 13th place, only to fall apart on lap 7 and get passed on the final climb, landing me in 15th. There was really not much I could have done as there is absolutely NO OXYGEN in the state of Colorado (or I am extremely wimpy about elevation!), and I made sure to leave everything I had out on the course.

Some highlights from the race include; crashing on lap one on maybe the easiest section of trail, then laying on the ground wrestling with my bike for a while, getting a bee (or wasp) stuck in my skinsuit on lap 7, and having it sting me in the ribs a few times while I tried desperately to not get passed, and lots of technical features (super steep/rocky little climbs, some ruts, and some fast loose fire roads) which made for a mentally and physically challenging race. 

In the end you can't really complain about spending your weekend mountain biking, as one course marshal kept pointing out each time I passed him, and the variety in courses over the 4 race series made for exciting times. I learned a bit about suffering, and had a blast hanging out with the super fast women I get to compete with/against. Oh, and I almost forgot! Even with this less than stellar performance I scored 10th place in the 4 race series, so that is something to smile about!

 Now it's time to reboot, get some quality training in, and do some (read A TON of) laundry!

Oh yeah, and a huge, gigantic thank you to the super awesome folks at SRAM for spending an hour or so before the race helping me deal with some bike issues. They were so so nice, and absolutely made my day. 
I couldn't have done it without you SRAM!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Pastry Eating Blog has a Mountain Biking Disorder

Aka, My Missoula XCT Race Recap
Gotta throw in a pic to break up the words :)

The first weekend of our epic summer of bike racing was a huge success, mostly based on the number and quality of pastries (and ice cream) consumed! Oh yeah, and two top ten finishes, 7th in stxc on Friday night, and 6th in the XCT race on Sat. Although the pastry eating was such an important part of the weekend this post will focus on the races to save you from a marathon read about the joys of butter and crunchy, flaky goodness. 
But gluten is the glue that holds your life together? No worries, full pastry report coming soon!

Friday night at 8pm was the pro women's short track race. The race was run as a miss-n-out, which for you non cyclists means that riders in the back were pulled off the mile-ish long course every lap. You don't want to be in last place in this type of race! I got a decent start, but soon found myself wishing the man with the whistle pulling riders would have mercy on me and end the torment. The pace was brutally fast, and the short, swoopy fun descent through the woods seemed much too short to really recover on each lap. At about 15 minutes in (it was a 20 min + 2 laps race) I was gapped off the lead group of 6, and ended up being the last rider to be pulled, saving me from the last two, most likely fastest, laps. Although there was a significant amount of suffering in that 20 minutes, I had so much fun following the fastest women in North America through the woods on the ripping descent, and 7th place isn't too shabby for me either!
Another picture for the sake of pictures. This was my view for 1.5 hours on Sat.

Our race Saturday started at 4pm, and just like always the leaders took off at 100 miles an hour, forcing us mere mortals to go anaerobic instantly. There was a lot of shuffling for position on the initial climb but when I came up for air I was sitting in 5th place behind Erin Huck and Chloe Foresman. The next two and a half laps were an exercise in extreme suffering (and extreme exhilaration on the descents) to try to keep up with Erin, and by the third lap I was coming undone. In the feed zone Brendan told me I was a good 30 seconds from 6th place Lea Davidson, so I settled into a consistently hard pace and tried to keep it together. Lea caught me on the fun, fast, swoopy descent though (I may have gotten caught on the descent, but I feel like my descending has vastly improved in the past 3 months) and my hopes of standing on the podium started to wither. 
Chasing Lea hard, but going backwards :)

Mentally I decided that getting passed by the current National Champion wasn't so bad though, and I enjoyed the crap out of laps 4 and 5, where I could not ride hard enough to stick on Lea's wheel, but did finish only a minute back from her. 

Absolute highlight of the race? Watching Erin and Chloe attack each other over and over on the climbs on the second lap. When I told Erin later that I thought they were crazy for attacking each other so early in the race, she told me they were attacking each other on the climb on EVERY lap. That is who I race against, ha!

So that is the very long version of my MSLA XCT reacp. If you want the very very very long version let me know! I can remember every minute of that agony like it was an hour ago :)

Friday, June 20, 2014

First Stop, Missoula, MT

I love Missoula (in June). I love sweet, tacky, swoopy singletrack. I love dozens of bakeries full of gluten-y goodness. I love endless hills covered in green grass and trees (tons and tons of real trees). And I love their tiny down town filled with bike commuters. Yep, Missoula in June is the perfect place to start summer break. Throw in a wicked awesome XC race on Saturday with all my favorite mountain bike people, and I am a happy camper.
Here are some trip highlights so far.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Flying Alaska Airlines is the best. Unlimited snacks and coffee :) Plus a layover at the SeaTac airport = tons of free cheese samples and an amazing turkey sandwhich from Beechers. Not pictured is the free beer they serve on the Seattle to Madison flight. Yeah, Alaskan is THE BEST.

 Bakery #1 of the trip, Great Harvest Bakery gave me a thick, warm sample of amazing wheat-y seed-y bread, then made the best curry chicken sandwich I ever had!
We are staying in a rather rural neighborhood with family friends John and Lisa. Yesterday, John told me to look out the kitchen window because a deer had just given birth. It's hard to see in the picture, but the baby was so tiny that when it stood up (within 30 seconds of being born!) it could barley walk through the grass. The kids at school always tell me I watch the Nature Channel because we don't have TV at home so all we can do is look out the window. I guess they were right! Yay Nature!
Yesterday, after building up my bike BY MYSELF (I'm pretty proud of that, can you tell?) I did a lot of pre-riding of the cross country course. The descents were so fun I didn't want to stop riding, ever. There are also tons of wild flowers and trees for days. Heaven. I was smiling so hard after the first lap my face was hurting. 
I did some sight seeing yesterday afternoon. Found this great view on a short hike.

Saw some dudes surfing in the rapids of the Clark Fork River.

And I cannot get enough of these incredible views. 

Wish me luck in the XC tomorrow! I'm excited and nervous :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Let's Get it Started, HA!

Classroom is clean, grades are submitted, papers are signed off, and school is OUT FOR SUMMER!!! Although I have been a bit too stressed to look forward to this day too much, I am finally getting excited about this trip to Montana, racing my bike all summer and making memories with my favorite boy. 

First, a thorough recap of the grueling Big Bear Shootout #2, series final of the Kenda Cup West Series.

This last race in the Kenda Cup Series was identical to the Big Bear race two weeks ago in every aspect except the bike I choose to toe the line with. Coach Matt said it was a good idea to race the Ninja Beast (Mt Vision) to get a feeling for climbing on/racing it in preparation for D-ville in August. So I went to the line a little nervous about racing the slightly heavier, much squishy-er bike on a course very well suited to a hard tail. This time I tried to pace myself a bit better off the line, and I set the Garmin to beep every 5 minutes to remind me to drink (also coach's idea). Just like last time, the first climb was a bear because of the altitude, and the desire to crush as many pro men as possible. Then I settled into a comfortably painful pace, and made steady progress towards the single track. The first few miles of single track in the race are climb-y, and sprinkled with little technical rock features. I was pleased with how easy these features seemed on the Ninja, as well as the ease of passing people on the loose/brushy sides of the trail. Ninja bike basically made the last 10 miles of the race a blast, and we cruised down the rocky, technical final descent to a first place finish as well as a series win. 
Although there were only 2 pro women in the final race of the series (and at Bonelli #2 I was alone), I really enjoyed racing this series again this year. Team Big Bear makes each race so much fun (especially the creepier of the race crew, ahem, Gavin), and I really enjoyed chasing the men around at every race, trying my darndest to keep up. 
I am also so pleased with the Ninja Mt Vision. Climbed great despite it's super slack trail geometry, and then was a blast to descend on. Thanks Marin Bikes for letting me race two of your awesome mountain bikes this year!

Now stay tuned for epic Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado trip  updates! I am currently sitting in the Seattle Airport eating cheese samples waiting for my flight to Missoula. Let's do this thing!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kenda Cup Champ!

This week is crazy busy with finals, the end of the school year, graduation (I have to be IN graduation), preparing to leave for a few weeks, and training. I have so much to say, but no time to sit down and over share about life, father's day, etc. so here are some quick weekend highlights.

Brendan and I went to a Mini show on Saturday morning. The Mini club told him about how they go to the track with their Minis... they might be a bad influence :)
Brendan basically geeked out about cars, and modifications for an hour. 

Then we hit Sprouts for Snados, and kale soda? Who on earth thought THAT was a good idea?
I fell in love with an $80 chunk of cheese strings (which expires on June 23, do I smell a clearance item?) and Brendan tried the kale soda. Wierdo.

After our fun little morning adventure Brendan napped while I did a fun little ride to Irvine Lake. 
The lake is actually much prettier from the back side than the side I ride by on my way to work each day!

Sunday I drove up to Big Bear alone because Brendan felt sick, and shredded the XC race on my trail bike. I have no pictures of the race because I was flying solo, but it was a blast. I will post a formal race recap as soon as the craziness dies down! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Almost Done

The last week of the school year just zipped right by. Just like that, bam, it's Friday. I do love weekends, but I'm not ready for summer... yet!
Besides having weird numbness in my left arm for the first half the week (probably from my little head on crash last weekend), and a fun little mountain bike adventure on Thursday afternoon in which Davey got lost, this week was pretty calm and relaxed. I tried to enjoy the crap out of teaching, which can be hard when all 200 of your students only want to watch World Cup on their phones all day. Thankfully the district heard my silent prayers and blocked all sites streaming World Cup, which was especially good today because there was a heightened interest with Mexico playing at 9am. And now, some pictures.
The school holds a 'hello goodbye' assembly to say goodbye to the seniors who are graduating. At the end of the assemble the seniors give a flower to their favorite teacher (or two, or three). I was surprised and honored to be gifted a few roses and carnations. The kids are so sweet at the end of the year, and some of these seniors are rock star students who I know will go pretty darn far. 
Maybe you can't see the drop, but I got a few shots of the Mt. Vision in action thanks to HS mountain biking shredder Dylan. We went for a little spin on Thursday with the Dave-meister. Davey decided 20 minutes was long enough to run, and took off, not to be seen again until he was delivered to my front door by a kind neighbor. Up until he quit Davey was a stellar trail dog, running right along next to my rear wheel. Maybe with some practice we will have a mountain biking pup!
Another action shot from the day. I have to admit, it took some warming up, but I was pretty stoked on this bike by the end of the day. Climbs like a champ, handles techy stuff with ease, and descends like a pro. We are going to have fun this summer, this ninja bike and I. I was also beyond stoked with the fresh rubber, some 2.4 Conti Mountain Kings. If you ride SoCal you know dry, loose trail conditions pretty well. These tires hooked up really well, and made me feel like a boss despite the dry-loose-ness.

Dylan descending into a creek crossing next to the old model A. 

And now we are off to another epic Big Bear weekend! Let the summer fun (almost) commence!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Head On

The highlight of this weekend was a short love ride in Aliso on trail bikes (both 650b because we are cool like that). The ride was short because Brendan is still building his endurance post knee surgeries, and I got hit head on by another mountain biker shortly after Brendan went back to the car. Here is a play by play of the ride, starting with...
Brendan wrenching on my bike :) He really is the most useful, as well as cutest husband. Once we got the Mt Vision dialed just right, we headed up meadows trail to visit with the goats. 
This picture was taken just after we both grabbed the electric fence (not knowing it was electric). Too bad you can't see the shock on our faces (haha, get it!). 
Then we headed down Mentally Sensitive, because Brendan had never ridden it, and I wanted to see how much more fun it would be on the trail bike than it was on the hardtail. Post Mentally Brendan was worked, so he headed to the car while I did a bit more riding. A little while later I was riding along a flat singletrack trail when out of nowhere some dude came screaming around a blind corner right into me! We smashed into each other helmet on helmet, so I was a bit dazed immediately after, and kinda limped off with a very bent wheel and brake rotor. Brendan offered to give me his front wheel back at the car, but his front tire looked particularly shitty, so I used the excuse that my head hurt to call it a day. I was pretty bummed about the brand new wheel that got ruined, but that is mountain biking, you never know when a wreck is going to take you or your bike out for a bit. I also have to admit I cried a bit after the crash because I was so sad about the bike, how lame is that?! 
The rest of the weekend involved much more of this...
Taping, taping and more taping of the racing stripes...

Safety first! Brendan is so safe he wears a helmet when spray painting (but no dust mask for the fumes...). 

Needless to say, we WILL NOT be painting racing stripes on the Prius any time soon because holy cow that was a LOT OF TAPING! 
A sneak peak at the paint job. Brendan is not very happy with it, so we will be peeling the stripes off soon and re-painting them. Ugh! 

Now I'm just hoping time slows down, because that was my last weekend at home for a long, long time, and I'm not mentally ready for summer to start! 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Brendo is Famous!

Meant to post about this a few days ago, but that hubby of mine was pretty famous for about four hours on Thursday when his post about my time trial bike hit the top of and stayed there for a long freaking time. 
He even earned reddit gold for the post. My favorite comments come from men telling Brendan he is a jerk for showing up their sad skills :) He is a pretty handy hubby :) When  asked him how he felt about all this hoopla, Brendan told me he hadn't intended for the post to get so popular, and that he was embarrassed by it. Not only is he super smart, and creative, but so humble! 

In other news, I have done intervals on three out of the last four days, and more coming up on Tuesday and Weds. It's a good thing I trust coach so much, because, ouch. 

We spent the rest of our Saturday in the garage doing this...
Brendan wants to eliminate all chrome from the mini so we have been plasti-dipping the crap out of the car. Should have the project finished by the end of the day tomorrow, pics to come! 

Have a great Sunday.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What Exactly is Recovery Anyway?

Two thoughts have been on my mind lately. and I am wondering if the great internet community can help me understand life, or at least these two issues. 
First, I keep hearing how important recovery and rest are for athletes. I believe the hype, and have been riding less hours for the past few months, and taking more days off the bike than I ever did before. The point about recovery that confuses me is, what do you do when you are "recovering"? I often find myself, as I imagine all working athletes do, running around making dinner, doing laundry, unloading and loading the dish washer, walking the dog, and cleaning the house. Sometimes, if my workout was hard, my legs hurt when I'm standing in the kitchen making dinner. I can't imagine this is good for recovering from that workout, but that meal needs to get made. I have heard ex pro roadie friends say you should be off your feet as much as possible when not riding, but that doesn't seem possible/reasonable? So what does recovery/rest mean? Is one to sit on their butt all afternoon, and force the significant other to make the meals and do the chores? Or am I being to wimpy, and should I suck it up and do the things because a little standing after a workout isn't going to kill me? 
This leads to the second question I have been pondering. What does one do on a day off the bike? I find myself wanting to go hike with the dog, work in the garden, or go to Yoga, but are those activities really rest? I get restless avoiding physical activity, but I'm not sure I am actually resting if I spend these days physically exerting myself. 
So great internet community, what do you think about recovery and rest? I would love to hear what works for other working athletes, or anyone else with an opinion! Maybe one day I'll know what I am doing with this bike racing thing!
PS, Tuesday nights are the best because we rotate who cooks, so I am off the hook most Tuesdays. This week we had amazing buffalo tacos thanks to Keith! Like always, they were the best tacos EVER!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Big Bear Racing Madness

FINALLY the long, race void month of May is OVER and we are back in the mountain bike race game! I have to say I did kinda love May though. All that training, sleeping in on the weekends, and no driving became some of my favorite things in May. But what I love more than all the things is racing my bike!

This weekend gave me two chances to race bikes, a chance to ride with hubs, and the chance to be camp leader of our campsite! (don't ask Brendan who was camp leader, he says my leaving a stake in the ground when packing the tent means my leaderdom is revoked. Whatever).

The first race took place on Saturday afternoon. We arrived at Snow Summit in Big Bear at 1pm, hustled to get kitted up, grabbed some lift tickets and hit the lift to pre-ride the super D together (out of love).
Brendan was really happy, I swear. Maybe he is trying out a new, serious photo look!

The Super D course was mostly the same as last year, a fun, long run down some xc-ish dh trails, with the addition of a new trail that was cut just a week or so ago. As you can imagine, this meant VERY loose, dry conditions, and I got to surf it out in the deep, dusty ruts once in my pre-ride and twice in the race. We did a two run format race, with combined time counting towards the win. As the only pro female, I had to work super hard to beat myself, but no worries, I came out victorious! Despite nearly being killed by a car on the second run (it pulled into a parking lot right in front of me as course marshalls looked on) I had a great time, and left the race with that sexy dust/altitude cough. 
                                                  Maybe the most notable aspect of the Super D race was the stealth beast between my legs. I have no action shots to prove it, but Brendan finished building up this hot mama literally minutes before we left Silverado (stolen seat post and all). The race was a plush, dreamy cloud of carving trail and lofting rocks and roots on my new Mt Vision. We are still getting to know each other, but I think I'm falling for her (don't tell Harriet).
Saturday morning, after a long, cold night of not sleeping, we grabbed some caffeine, and headed back to Snow Summit for more racing fun. First, and most importantly, I relaxed in the back of the Prius while Brendan wrenched on my bike :) I have the best boy, have I mentioned that?

 Then the gnar shredding continued with a 25ish mile xc race of epic painfulness. This is how the xc race played out. Larissa starts WAY too hard, but doesn't realize her lower than normal power numbers are from altitude, so she tries to go harder. Larissa blows up after first climb and rides in a haze of agony, on fire road for what seems like FOREVER! Larissa gets passed by a few pro men who she was beating, decides this is unacceptable, goes really hard to try to drop them. Larissa finds herself cracked again on Skyline trail (FINALLY SINGLE TRACK) but is too tired to ride some of the techy climbing obstacles. Larissa runs into TONS of beginner, sport and little kid racers on single track and decides to cheer them on ranther than being too agro about passing. And finally, Larissa has a blast descending to the finish behind some of the rippingest little kids around. 
All in all, I would say it was an awesome race where I drank not nearly enough, ate nothing at all, and somehow still managed to finish with a smile. It may have been those rad kids killing it at the end that got me through. Good work little racers! 
Although I didn't feel fast like a rockstar, my #CTSathlete coach must be doing something right, because I did earn top step. 

And there you have it, the first race back from a 3 week hiatus! I couldn't get it done without the support of a few good industry people, so thanks Marin Bikes for trusting I will shred on your machines, Continental tires for keeping me hooked up in loose, dry conditions (I appreciated not loosing traction this weekend!), #Kaliprotectives for keeping my noggin' safe, #Guenergylabs for keeping me hydrated despite myself, #sramMTB for making the best 1 by drive train ever, and Suarez Ropa for the killer kit.