Friday, October 31, 2014

Why Wednesday's Rock my Socks

For the past 6-ish weeks I've been running to Laguna Canyon on Wednesday afternoons to shred the trails there with the Laguna Rads. The Rads are a sick group of guys who ride only the sweetest trails around, and they are wicked fast.
A sweet Laguna trail with ocean views. What could be better?
Last year I was totally intimidated by the Rads, because of rumors that they rode super techy, hard, scary trails. Also, they wont let girls be an official member of the club, haha. Carl hassled me for months about doing the Weds ride though, and eventually I caved and showed up to see what all the fuss was about. That first Wednesday we started the ride by climbing a terribly steep/long fire road. We are talking terribly terribly long. It was AWESOME! I loved every minute of that ride, every steep climb and every scary, techy descent. From that first week on I was hooked.
When I started riding with the Rads I was decently fast uphill and I had a little descending confidence. Now, 6ish weeks later, I feel faster uphill, and WAY more competent descending. I'm still far from Rachael Atherton status, but it is amazing how much I have learned in such a short amount of time, just from following different dudes down hill, and watching their body English. The pressure to go fast and try new things has also helped my descending a bunch!
Best of all, I get to ride with some of the coolest kids out there, plus some world champs to boot!
Maybe the biggest plus of riding with the Rads is the cool people on the ride every week. There are always super fast guys for me to chase up hill, and often super famous mountain bikers will show up as well.  A few weeks ago I got to descend behind Thomas Frischknecht and Hans Rey, which may have been the highlight of my mountain biking career. This week, at the Spooky Track challenge, I was on the same team as Brian Lopes, and Nino Schurter showed up as well. My team won, thanks to Lopes' incredible descending.
Lopes gave me the prize, a bottle of Lizard Blood (tapatio). It was another best day!
And of course there is the pain, suffering, learning how to corner, riding stuff I never thought possible before, going too fast and wiping out, riding in so much dust I couldn't see the ruts and cactus, and terrible, long, steep hike-a-bikes. I love every second of every Rads ride. My only wish is that I had come out for the fun earlier!

And that's why I love Wednesdays so dang much. How lucky to get to look forward to hump day as much as I look forward to the weekend?!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

QOM's and Lessons Learned

You would think by now I would know a thing or two about riding bikes for many hours. You would think I would know that in the first 3 hours of a 6+ hour ride it is very important to eat and drink. You would think I would know that race pace isn't sustainable for 6 hours, and that getting some dumb QOM on Strava isn't what makes riding mountain bikes fun (although it doesn't hurt :). 

Well, I guess I need to make those mistakes more than once to learn all those lessons, because this past Saturday, there I was, in the Santa Ana Mountains, 3 hours into our ride having consumed almost no water and absolutely no food, with a solid 3 hours of riding ahead of me. I was hurting. I wasn't enjoying the climb up Trabuco trail. But I want to go back to the beginning. 

 When Carl and I met at the San Juan trail head at 7:30 I realized my rear thru axle wasn't in the car, and had to book it back towards home to grab it. When I started climbing San Juan trail, 30 minutes behind Carl, I was riding at a pretty quick pace, partly to catch up and partly because I wanted the QOM (queen of the mountain) for the trail really badly. I rode moderately hard the whole way up and made it to Cocktail rock in 50 minutes. I thought this was a decent effort, but Carl told me I was slow as crap and that def some other girl had posted a faster time. I was sad/frustrated, so I did the only thing I could think of, punish myself for not being faster by continuing to ride fast. We hit the trail head for Bell Ridge in just under 2 hours, and dropped in without so much as a brief pause. The descent/hike-a-bike/descent down to Trabuco wash was a blur of dragging a foot and chasing Carl because he decided to NEVER stop (punishment for my earlier climbing pace perhaps). My riding was a mess because I was trying to go really fast, which just meant messing up, crashing into bushes and loosing my balance in ruts that are normally fun to surf down. When I hit Ding Dong trail, I decided I was over the QOM thing, and just tried to slow down and find some flow. It worked like a charm, I rode all but one switchback on the SUPER steep and techy trail, and hit the bottom in what is the second fastest overall (men and women) time for the entire Bell Ridge plus Ding Dong time. Beautiful. 
The sando, when I finally got it, was AMAZING.
I was in really bad shape as we started climbing again though. This was about 3 hours in, I had drank half a bottle and eaten nothing. I pulled a banana out of my pack and drank the rest of the bottle. We kept climbing. I sucked down most my Camelbak on the way up the wash, and bummed a water bottle off a random hiker on Trabuco trail. Halfway up Trabuco Carl and I were both out of water. I still hadn't eaten more than a banana. I felt horrible. Head hurt, body was tired, didn't want to go up hill. The only thing that kept me moving was knowing Brendan was up the trail ahead of us and he had a PB&J for me. I tried to motivate myself by thinking about the sandwich.

We ran into Brendan 15 minutes from the top of Trabuco, and pushed, all three of us thinking about the water at the top. When we got to the top of the wall though, a quick search in the bushes turned up no jugs of water, like I had expected. This hit my will like a bus. I was done mentally and physically. I wanted to ride down the wall and then down San Juan to the car.
Carl wouldn't give up so quickly though. He kept running around, searching every bush until he hit gold! A huge, old jug of water and a brand new gallon jug! We all drank greedily, ate sandwiches and drank some more. I started to feel better, and so did Brendan and Carl.
The three of us post no-water meltdown, feeling much happier. 

We decided to push on towards Pinos trail. Brendan had never ridden Pinos, but despite warnings from me the night before of all 13 hike-a-bikes and the loose skree filled ruts running down every descent, he was still game to try it out. Sadly, Brendan crashed on the first descent, jammed his thumb and scraped a bunch of skin off his leg. This was bad news bears because we had a lot of technical descending and climbing to do. The rest of the ride was a blur of euphoria for me, and pain for Brendan. I experienced Pinos like I have never ridden it before thanks to all the descending skill I have picked up from the Rad's. I rode sections of trail I used to hate, and loved every second of it. The skree didn't feel scary, the ruts were ride-able and the steep rocky stuff, no problem. It was incredible. When we got to the very end, where big, chunky rocks are all over, and in switchbacks, I rode over stuff I used to think was impossible. It was an almost magical feeling. Brendan was just stoked to be done, and insisted he didn't enjoy any of the descent. Bah!
I was stoked at the end to have spent another 6 hours in the mountains, riding on razor blade rocks, with NO FLAT tires, thanks to Stan's No Tubes :) 

Absoulte highlight of the day, even better than actually getting the San Juan QOM, and second overall on Bell, was when Brendan said he was impressed I rode off this rock thing on Pinos. 

And that is the almost as long as the actual ride, ride recap of the Lung Loop with lots of bad choices!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Toilet Update Numero Dos

We made a bit of progress this weekend on the composting toilet/guest room bathroom, and I haven't posted about it in a while, so here is a little update. Among the things we have accomplished lately are:
Putting up drywall
Installing a pocket door
Mudding and sanding the drywall
installing tile floors, grouting them and sealing them
Installing a vent pipe outside for the smells
installing a ceiling fan (for more smells)

Now some pics of how it went down, and my manly man doing things.
Brendan working the roof. Thankfully the weather has been fall-ish so being on the roof is much more pleasant! That's the vent stack which will keep odors from the composter from bothering us.

A lot of the work this weekend was done in the ceiling fan dept. which meant fighting gravity all day. I found this very difficult when I had to hold things in place, but Brendan has impressive man strength and never complained once. Look at the pretty box he made for the ceiling fan! The box is so big because there is a hole in the ceiling on the other side of the room, so Brendan just harvested the boards which were in the ceiling fan's way for the other corner and replaced the opening with a box. He even got to wear his eye shield Christmas present for this task to keep all the falling saw dust out of his eyes.
                                                                                                                      One of the tasks I worked on this weekend was sanding, mudding and re-sanding the new walls, and then painting them. The corners proved to be much trickier than we anticipated, and I am by no means a pro wall creator, but most the corners will be covered with appliances anyway, so it's all good! I have been itching to paint and install trim for a while now, so this step felt pretty satisfying. This picture is of the pocket door into the small bathroom on the right, with the washer/dryer hook up on the left. It's going to be a tight fit!
Lastly, here are a few pics of our epic tile job from last weekend. Brendan and I both agreed that cutting and installing the tile and grout was by far our favorite step so far. We practically want to quit our jobs and become tile people. Seriously.
Brendan cut the tiles while I rode bikes last weekend. None of the corners in our house are square so we had to label them before pulling the tiles up to put down the mortar in order to ensure they went back in the right orientation. Then we laid the tiles, spaced them and waited patiently to grout the tiles.  During the week we sealed the grout, and now all we need is T molding for the transition from bamboo to tile. 

Our to do list is still pretty long, and includes:
Hook up water to toilet
Install T molding
trim and baseboards
frame the window in the room
door jams and frame pocket door
rewire a light switch that the electrician put in wrong
put the deck back together
build a trap door for accessing the compost drum

It's a long list still, but I think a lot of the remaining items sound fun! Can't wait for trim and baseboards!

We should be able to use the toilet within the next week. Want to help break it in? Jk!! There is a long list of neighbors who have already expressed interest, get in line. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Sunny Side

Ok, so I have definitely been a bit of a drama queen this week. On Monday I was ready to give up on bike racing, to "read the signs" that it wasn't meant to be, and throw in the towel. But all I needed was a bit of time to remember that I freaking love bikes. I love bikes upside down and sideways and no matter which way the wind blows. I will love bikes if I'm sponsored and winning races, and I will love bikes if I'm just riding home from school listening to the Beach Boys. I just plain love moving the pedals around in a circle and feeling the sun on my skin and wind on my face. Although this Monday was a particularly tough day, the bike Gods have come through during the rest of the week to remind me that bikes are the best and my life rocks.

On Tuesday night I skipped my intervals and rode my mountain bike in Silverado. I climbed loose, steep, off camber switchbacks I have never even tried to clean before (prob because the tires on my trail bike are boss), and I shredded the crap out of downhills I used to walk. I loved every second of it.
My playground at dusk. No bike computer, no worries. Just my favorite bike and favorite trails. 

On Wednesday I rode with they typical suspects in Laguna, and again, cleaned some climbs I never used to think possible. I also chased the fastest guys I know across the twistiest trail ever and didn't get dropped and then followed Hans Rey down Lizzard trail, and at the bottom Thomas Frischnecht said I was fast (yeah, I'm name dropping). It was like being in a dream.
Blurry, but awesome photos of why my life is so good right now.
It was the best day :)

Today I rode home thinking about the Wednesday night ride, and smiling the whole way. I never wanted to get off my bike. I swear, if you're having a bad day, go ride a bike, then see how you feel!

To top off all this awesomeness, I have been LOVING teaching the kiddos using technology. We use almost every day and I've been having some out of this world good conversations with the freshmen about Domain, Range, and functions. It has been an incredible experience to give up control and let the kids discover some of the material on their own. I have so much love and respect for this group of kids, they are just so engaged, and they way they think is fascinating.

All in all, things are pretty darn good in my corner of Orange County, and the weekend is just around the corner :)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thoughts on a Particularly Rough Monday

I've heard a lot of no's in the past few months (in relation to bike racing) and oddly, despite the fact that these closed doors should make me sad, I've really just become more appreciative of the yeses in my life. I've never been more grateful for a full time job that I actually enjoy doing. I've appreciated the heck out of being married to a super cute bike engineer, and I've been oh so happy to own our little canyon home. I've spent the past two summers traveling all over the country racing my bike and I've met tons of amazing people who have taught me a ton about bike racing, life and having fun. I'm stoked beyond words for those experiences, and for the chance to ride so many fun, sexy bikes.
 These closed doors do make me wonder sometimes though. Is this a sign that this period in my life is over? Why am I really doing all this bike racing stuff, and is it all worth it? If I never make it to the "top" or where ever one strives to go in bike racing then why did I dedicate so many hours of my life to training and traveling and being so poor? Am I the type of person who can keep fighting when things get hard?

I'm not sure of much in life right now. All I know is that I really really like riding bikes, fast, and trying to beat all the boys. I know that I love commuting to school, and going on 5 hour rides on the weekends, and that the people in the bike world are my people.

Maybe in a few weeks I will feel more like fighting for the dream again, but for now I want to marinate in these questions. I want to ride my bike to make my soul happy and not worry about how I'm going to make ends meet, or get to far off races. I want to meet new people, and ride with old friends and maybe along the way I will find some answers.