Thursday, July 31, 2014

Best Week of the Year

Downieville week is finally here! I look forward to this week more than any other each year. I look forward to the race prep, pre-riding the xc and downhills courses. I look froward to seeing all the coolest bike industry people, old friends, and new friends. And I look forward to a serious amount of relaxing, reading and swimming in the river! This year the week of festivities was cut a bit short because of the Vermont trip last weekend, but I am still getting almost a week worth of riding the most rad trails in CA and chillin in the best little mountain town I know.
So far the week has included some awesome rides. The first was a solo xc course recon mission which took place late Tuesday afternoon. With no cars at the top of the hour long climb, and the sun setting it was a bit spooky descending through mountain lion territory. Despite being a bit scared, I had a great time lobbing down Baby Heads trail, dipping and weaving down Pauley Creek, and screaming down Third Divide trail.
Wednesday was a difficult hill climb workout followed by a rad pre-ride of the downhill course. I had even more fun on the dh course pushing the Mt Vision and my limits, and trying to stay alive. Today was shuttle day, and another run of the xc descent. Although I felt pretty confident on Tuesday I totally sucked today on the techy, loose, blown out trails. Looking back I may have been trying too hard to go fast, so I'll try to calm down on Saturday for the race!
All in all it's been an awesome week. Tomorrow calls for a nice little spin and some leg up time, and then it's game time! YeeHaw!!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Catamount Classic XCT Report

Well I wrote a whole play by play recap of the races yesterday, but then I deleted the whole thing :) So it wasn't the best day of racing I've had all season, but rather than reflect on all the negative, I want to remember the fun stuff!

For starters, the course was pretty darn exciting. There were super technical rock gardens, a few fun pumpy sections, a bunch of wicked steep punchy climbs and 4 exciting drops/jumps (I only hit 3 of them, but I massively regret not giving the fourth a try). Some of the dropy jumpy things were bigger than anything I would have attempted up until last weekend but our ride in Tahoe really prepared me well to launch them with confidence. I actually looked more forward to the drops on each lap than the climbs (wierd, I know). 

Along with a fun course, there were tons of super fast women in attendance (contrary to what I had predicted), so that meant being pushed to my limits, which only makes you stronger, right? 

The race itself was a bit frustrating for me, but on laps 2-5 I gave it my all, and crossed the line in 16th with nothing left in my tank. Although I was off the back of the lead group the whole race, I could very clearly hear the massive cheering sections yelling Lea Davidson's name. It was pretty cool how many locals came out and cheered their lungs out.

All in all it was a beautiful weekend with the best host housing! I'm happy i made the trek to VT!

Short track on Sunday was a bit frustrating as well, but this time because my legs would not cooperate. I spent the whole 20 minute plus 3 lap race just off the lead group (which, if I had bridged to them, would have made the flat parts of the course easier). I finished short track utterly beat, heart ready to explode and limbs burning. I hope all this high level, all out racing is making me faster because world cup #1 is just under two weeks away! 

Although this race weekend didn't produce the results I was looking for, I still finished the XCT series in 7th place (4 places better than last year!). I went to all 7 of the XCT races in 6 different states over the course of 5 months. None of this would have been possible without the constant generous support I received from Marin Bikes, who have done everything from life coaching :), to finding me housing last minute, to loaning me a rear wheel when I bent my own the day before leaving for this weekend! I could not imagine completing this season without these awesome folks as my support network. And on top of all that, they make amazing bikes that seriously shred; I have loved tearing it up on the CXR all season. Thanks also to Kali Protectives, I know I can take chances when I race because my noggin is safe in their kick ass helmets. And thanks to Continental tires for making such fast rolling while still grippy tires. Many times this season I have railed a corner, almost lost it, and felt those Race Kings hook up just in time to save me from going down. That is a good feeling!  

In a few hours I fly back to CA, where it's time to whip out the Mt Vision and get ready for Downieville!!! YeeHaw!

Friday, July 25, 2014

A whirlwind Start

I have been really living it up in the past two weeks, not even two spare minutes to blog! At the moment though I am sitting in the O'hare Airport, waiting for a plane to Burlington, VT for more bike racing adventure, plenty of time to reflect on recent adventures.

For starters I spent a week at home in Silverado (two weeks ago), got in some good training, some light house work and a bunch of ocean swimming/paddle boarding. I figured it was a great opportunity to take advantage of living near a swimmably warm part of the Pacific ocean. Highlights included breakfast at Snooze pre-paddle boarding in La Jolla, swimming with Leopard Sharks, and some serious relaxing in the sand.

Then it was off to Tahoe for #Mooneywedding2014 late last Friday night. I picked up Brendan from work at 9pm and we drove through the night to Davis, napped for 4 hours, rode bikes in Auburn, washed in the American River, and arrived at the wedding right on time! This leg of the adventure included shredding Connector trail (one of my favorites), amazing lake Tahoe views complete with lightning and thunder DURING the wedding, dancing with my love, and sleeping less than 5 hours in a 36 hour span of time. No pics because my phone is being dumb and not sharing them.

Post wedding we hit South Lake Tahoe for more mountain biking. The lightning all day forced us to ride below tree line, a blessing in disguise. Rather than riding Mr Toads Wild Ride we decided to hit a trail system near by, I think it was called Channel Trail. It was really a group of three-ish trails that all started and ended in the same place linked up with a paved climb. The dirt was perfect (because it was raining on us the entire time we were riding) and the trail features were outstanding. The highlight of the ride was hitting a bunch of jumps and drops, and we finished the ride with a three foot drop that blew my mind. I have never even attempted anything this big, and felt like this kid afterwards. No pics because it was too dark for any to turn out :( I also cleaned some doubles which was pretty thrilling as well.

And then Brendan flew back to Orange County, and I hit up Santa Rosa for some training and race prep. I even got to ride some sweet semi secret trails on the Sonoma Coast with rad new friends (who I met on the trail).
 I love Redwood trees.
 The 'Sound of Music' spot.
New friends MaryLynn and Gary. Thanks for showing me around guys! 

And that's it in a nutshell. Now on the some mountain bike racing! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WORS Cup XCT Weekend Recap

The racing this year seems to be getting more and more fun as summer days fly by. This past weekend Brendan and I were up in Madison Wisconsin for the #worscup XCT short track and cross country races, both of which took place at Cascade Mountain. Sadly I took very few pictures, mostly because my phone was dead 98% of the time, and also because I was having too much fun ripping through swoopy, twisty, tacky trails, and dodging mosquitoes to stop and capture the beauty of central WI.

STXC (or short track) was at twilight on Friday night, and as I failed to bring clear lenses on this trip, I could not see a damn thing the entire race. The field was small, and right off the line a group of four (including me!!) whittled the pack down by pushing the pace and attacking each other often.

Me, in a lead group? EEEEEEE! I had so much fun in this race. How does bike racing continue to get MORE fun?

The course included a few short climbs and a rad foot-ish high drop which I had a lot of fun launching. I knew about halfway through the 18 min + 3 laps race that my only hope of getting on the podium was to push the pace of the lead group enough to keep it at just 4 girls, but that I would easily be out ridden by the other three in the last lap. The plan worked pretty well because, although I was dropped a little on the final stretch, I came in fourth for my first ever short track podium!
Tiny picture borrowed from Cycling News because my phone was dead!

Saturday's XC race was also loads of fun, despite the fact that I spent the morning a bit anxious about the role a good start would play. Luckily I had a good start and hit the first, very sandy and terribly hill in a decent position.
Following the sand hill there was a mile or so of tight twisty single track through  a dense forest of trees, which left no room for passing, I found myself stuck in this section behind two girls who where not going as fast as I hoped, and a gap formed between the leaders and us. This meant I had to work pretty hard when the course opened up to fire road (really just mowed bumpy sections of the ski runs) to get around them, and begin to close the gap to 4th place. I spent laps 2-4 closing the gap on Chloe Woodruff (who was in 4th), just to have her decimate me in the 5th lap. Crossing the line in the top 5 was a pretty great feeling though, so I'll take it!

Highlights of the race included a rad "skills park" section, with a sweet bridge crossing/gap jump option, a tricky rock feature I was pretty stoked to clean each lap, a ladder thingy, and some weird water bars with huge rocks planted in them. The course also had a section called "slick rock" which was quite literally slick with algae, and super sketchy, and lots of mini g-outs and pipes we had to ride over. Hopefully some of the pics taken by all the photographers on the course will surface, but for now you just have to imagine how cool it was! Oh, and I almost forgot, hundreds of mosquitoes, and warm temps + humidity which meant finishing the race soaking wet!
First ever XCT podium, I love racing with these awesome chickas.

So, I feel like it needs to be mentioned that those Conti Race King tires we threw on my bike literally just before packing it in it's box saved my butt a few times with their ability to hook up on steep sandy climbs, in tacky dirt, on slimy rocks and through tight grassy turns at high speed.

Continental Tires, you rock! Also I'm stoked on the Suarez Ropa skinsuit I have been rocking for the last two race weekends, it's way more comfy than bibs and a jersey, just saying. Of course I'm ALSO super stoked on Harriet, the Marin CXR 29er I've been racing all year. That bike has been a rock star in pretty much all conditions. 

And most importantly, I'm so thankful for the pep talk (and all the weeks of training/preparation) from my rad #CTSAthlete coach, whose words of inspiration in my ear helped me keep my eyes on the finish line, and believe in myself through the tough parts of the race! 

And there you have it, the nitty gritty of my first ever XCT podium finish. Let's hope there are more in the future!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Back on a Plane!

The summer of bike racing adventure continues with a trip to Madison WI (actually Portage, but who even knows where that is anyway?) for XCT race number 6! I am currently sitting in John Wayne Airport getting ready to fly out to WI for some pre-riding, Short Track racing and an awesome (hopefully) Cross Country race!
In the last week and a half (since returning from CO) I have been training, cleaning the house, and laying low. It's been a nice, short break from being away from home.
I even got to ride with this cool kid in Silverado last weekend!

For a hot minute this week I started to feel a bit of bike racing burn out, which resulted in the burning desire to take up ocean swimming. To satisfy the ocean craving I set out to swim a mile in the ocean in South Orange County with rowing coach extraordinaire Meryl. There were thousands of surfers and a few waves, so we swam out really far to stay out of the way, I learned I am a VERY slow swimmer, and I had a bit of a panic attack on the way back in because I was certain a surfer would run me over and cut me in half with the fin thingy on his board. Overall I give ocean swimming a 9 out of 10 for being super hard, super scary and overall awesome! Come off season I'll be in the ocean every chance possible! 

And that is basically the only exciting thing that has happened in the Connors household in the past two weeks! Bring on the bike races!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Last Epic Road Trip Recap: UT to CO

Picking up right where we left off, leaving Utah. We got an early start on Wednesday to head East to Colorado, and hit Steamboat Springs around 2pm. After renting a bike for Brendo from this great bike shop, we hit the Emerald Forest Trails which were super easy to get to from down town Steamboat. Brendan especially loved riding here because the climb was gentle and interesting, so we barley noticed that we were going up hill!
There were awesome views on the climb, an incredible fern forest at the top, a mini rain storm on the way down the hill, 
and a nice river at the end of the ride to ice my legs in!

Immediately after the ride we hopped back in the tiny rental car and kept driving east to Denver. The scenery on the drive was awesome the entire way. Not an ugly view the entire time!

And then in Denver we got to meet this awesome kid! My first, cutest, and only nephew!!!
He didn't care for me, but was pretty ok with Brendan, which made me jealous!

Thursday was a blur of pre-riding of the Colorado Springs course, and spending HOURS in the car because Colorado has worse traffic than LA. On Friday we sat in a ton of traffic again, this time headed to Boulder to explore the town and ride Valmont Bike park.

I found this AMAZING jersey at University Cycles in Boulder, they even had a tank top version. It was love at first sight, but alas, bike racing doesn't leave much spare change in your pocket for spendy clothing.
Valmont bike park was one of the highlights of the trip. We rode every trail there, which included multiple skills loops (complete with log rides and drops), a few pump tracks, a dual slalom course, a few jump lines and a flow trial. 
We stayed on the jumps for a while, trying to clear this double. It was super fun, but I need to work on my jumping skills!
One of my favorite obstacles was this log/ladder ride. 

 The entire day Saturday was spent racing bikes, no need to go into that again! But Sunday we went for a soul ride on Sourdough trail with my team mate and some friends. The entire ride was above 8k ft, and involved the most technical climbing I have even done. My shoulders were burning by the end, from working so hard! 
We crossed some super pretty rivers!
And enjoyed the crap out of the awesome trees.
Post ride we ate some of the best burgers I have ever tasted. My burger had three types of pork on top of the beef patty (bacon, pulled pork, AND pork belly!).

And that was the trip! Monday we flew home to SoCal to get some good training in for Subaru Cup in Wisconsin, our next stop! 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Road Tripping days Who Knows through Who Cares

So, I meant to blog much more often on the last mtb racing trip we took, like more than once a week often. However, poor Internet access, crazy traffic, trying to spend as much quality time with my 14 month old nephew and riding got in the way big time. I still have many rad pictures to share and rides to archive so this week I'm going to recap our trip in two chunks: Missoula to SLC, and SLC to Denver. 

Missoula to SLC, here we go!

Our life in the days following the Missoula XCT looked a lot like this from the window of a very small Mazda2.
and this...
 Thankfully, just before departing Missoula we got to indulge in our favorite Missoula treat, Big Dipper Ice Cream!
And we got to hit Java on 4th in Sun Valley for the most delicious coffee snacks on earth, the Bowl of Soul  (as per Darrin's suggestion)
Sadly we took a wrong turn en route to Sun Valley due to lack of Google Maps-ability, and arrived too late to rent a bike for Brendo to ride. We hiked instead. Hiking kinda sucks, just going to put that out there. I tried to run to get that wind in my hair feeling, running sucks too. 

We got to Salt Lake City late Sunday night, and woke up early Monday to hit the trails up in Park City. Brendan had never been to PC before, and was BLOWN AWAY by the sick free bus service (on which you can take your bike) that delivers you from downtown PC to the middle of the mountain every 15 minutes.
Brendan loved Deer Crest Trail. Flow and scenery for days!
Then we found ALL THE ASPEN TREES!!! (Isn't that boy sexy?)
And a rad, old, who knows what it's for building.
Then Brendan busted out his mad skills and took the banked turns on Loose Moose trail as hard as possible! 
And of course the CXR loved playing with the wildflowers of Utah. What a pretty, awesome, special place! (This picture is on Mid-Mountain trail, maybe the coolest part of the Park City trail network)

On Tuesday I finally let Brendan sleep in while I went out to do a quick little structured workout. I didn't realize however, that we were at altitude, which made my intervals very very hard. 
 I was a bit bummed, until I looked around at the gorgeous road I was on (Mill Creek Rd), and then found a sweet trail to take me to the bottom.
The trail was called Pipeline trail.It stayed really high for a long time, and then I took Rattlesnake something or other straight down to the bottom. 

 I couldn't stop taking pictures, it was just so darn pretty!

Then we hit up the SLC Natural History Museum to see all the dinosaurs!
Brendan and I are museum nerds, it's ok, we accept it :)

That evening we rode Bobsled trail, a short, SUPER fun little descent right out of downtown SLC. Brendan was heard screaming in delight as he rode the progression of wall rides that takes you up through the trees. If you're ever in SLC, you must ride Bobsled. So so good. So good in fact, that I have no pictures.
Oh yeah! And we got to hang out with some of our favorite people, Taryn and Bill, who now live in a real, adult house with real, adult height ceilings! Sadly we have no pictures of them, or their awesome, adult house either. Thanks for giving us a place to stay guys!! You're the best and we love you!

We left for CO early the next morning. Road trip part SLC to Denver coming soon!