Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When You're Trying REALLY Hard to Get Healthy

Yep, still fighting the headcold/bronchitis from hell over here (and getting nervous it's going to leek into my last little racing block coming up). My silver fox PCP claims the illness is on its way out, but I won't believe it until I can go 1 full day with no coughing and no mucus coming out of my face. Yep, that's STILL happening. In my incapacitated state, where even yoga makes me feel like passing out, I've been spending a lot of time cooking/baking and cleaning the house. Basically our house has never been so clean, and Brendan has never been so well fed. Some highlights include: fig pizza, chocolate chip coconut scones (inspired by scones we ate in WI this summer), coconut fried salmon, and quiche! Other than that there's not much to report.
What is life without bike racing??? 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On Being Sick, Still, and Trying To Enjoy the Rest of Summer

So I may not remember what healthy feels like... not to be over dramatic, but it's really hard for me to
know when I wake up if I'm healthy or still sick. As a result I pretty much always think, 'Great, I feel ok, I'm going to go do XYZ today" and then around halfway through whatever it is I am doing I hit this wall and go downhill, fast. I did take 4 days off my bike last week, stayed in bed as much as I could tolerate and slept a ton, but still, the illness from hell persists and I am going BACK to the dr tomorrow. (10 days of antibiotics has left me feeling more sick than when I got back from NY, boo).

On one hand, it sucks to be sick for so long, but on the other hand, I'm pretty grateful I am still in one piece, that the weather is nice, and that bikes exist. On Tuesday I was car-less, and needed to go to SD to pick up my newly correct passport. Since the route is pretty much flat, and because I am terrible at listening to my body and really thought I was healthy when I woke up, I did the logical thing and rode my bike there! Yep, 78 miles with bronchitis. It was as bad an idea as it sounds.

The ride down was punctuated by a sighting of the San O nuclear power plant boobs, 55 miles of road biking bliss along the Pacific Ocean, hitting a Broncial wall at mile 60 and wanting to die, and the most epic quad cramps of my life. There were feelings of sheer joy looking out over the tropical blue ocean, and complete agony as I summoned every ounce of strength I could find to turn the pedals over for the last mile when I was certain each pedal stroke would be the last my quads would tolerate.

This was when I was feeling the absolute worst... salt in my eyes, jersey soaked from sweat and humidity.
But, despite probably making the illness a little worse, I did get to do a little relaxing on the beach with Meryl (the best), took a mellow dip in the perfect water, and snapchatted my sister pictures to make her jealous (she was in school all day). I'm getting serious about getting healthy, I swear, but this partly miserable partly awesome bike ride was a nice summer-y activity to break up all the resting I've been doing!
Meryl is the best ocean partner.
Trying to even out the tan lines. Think I made any progress?
Pretty lucky to live near this, even if I do feel like crap :)
On an unrelated note, coconut fried shrimp you guys... OMG. We had them in Laguna on the anniversary date, and then HAD to recreate them because that was an incredible dish. We did tacos so it would be more like a meal, and it was just as amazing home made as it was at The Cliff.

Coconut fried shrimp, guacamole, cotilla cheese... all I need in life!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Finally Ready to Talk About Windham

It's easy to talk about races that go well, and pretty easy to write about races with crazy unforeseen circumstances like mechanicals and crashes. 

What's not so easy is to reflect on races that don't go so well as a result of really bad decision making, and just basic poor physical performance. What's even worse is when that race is the last big race of the season, when a ton of time, money and planning goes into it, and when that race is on a course you know you could be really good on.                                                                                                                                                           That second scenario sums up my day at Windham Mountain last Sunday, at my second and last world cup of the season, on a course designed with all my strengths in mind. To have a horrible start, to not be able to breathe because of the illness I've been carrying around all season, and to have the worst performance in terms of fitness of the year, that feeling is pretty crushing.                                                                                                                                               Although I came away from this race pretty disheartened, and physically wrecked, I did still get to race my bike with the fastest women in the world, so I guess there have been worse days! 

Here is a quick recap of the highlights from my second XCO this year.
Cruising down the rock garden section of the course. I loved this part, especially the cheering :)
The race consisted of 6 laps plus a long start loop. on the start loop there were three crashes which caused major bottle necks, resulting in me being forced off my bike to run it out... I channeled my inner Darin Maxwell and told myself 'every good ride has a hike a bike" right? 

This bike is seriously so fun to ride down a hill. Like a dipping, weaving, launching dream. 
Once I made my way around the back of the pack (the crashers and the like) I was able to slowly start moving from somewhere around dead last to just inside the top 30. This took considerable effort, but it felt good to be picking girls off one by one. 

Brendan's Aunt and Uncle came and cheered for me. They yelled "Go Connors" among other things, which made me smile. It was pretty darn motivating to know they were on the swoopy banked turn part of the climb each lap, and that I couldn't slack off because they were going to be there cheering :) 

 Tongue out always makes you faster, it's science. 
Each lap basically took us straight up a hill, and then plunged down through the trees, occasionally crossing the ski slopes, on very dry and dusty trails. There was one notable rock garden on the descent that I wanted to fly through, but on each lap I mentally beat myself up for not going faster through it. Despite my feeling slow through the rocks, I felt really good on the descents. There were tight trees, rocks, roots and off camber turns, all of which I railed as hard as possible. It was freakin fun!

It started to really hurt on lap 4, but I told myself I would get pulled at the end of lap 5 to motivate myself to go as hard as possible since my race may be over soon. 

There were only 2 fire road climbing sections which felt like a slog straight up the hill, the rest of the climb was in the forest, or on these weird banked turns. The last fire road section was the worst, but I forced myself to suffer the most on this section. I didn't want to leave anything out there, especially on that climb.

In the end I was 34th, forced to sprint across the line against some Argentinian (or maybe Columbian?) chick. It hurt. Then I got to meet a ton of cool people and go out to lunch with Brendan's Aunt and Uncle, so all in all, it was a good day.

Immediately after lunch we had to pack our bikes and what not for a very early departure. It was bitter sweet boarding the plane to head home. After so many weeks on the road, I am ready to be home for a while, but I enjoyed the crap out of every minute I was out there living the dream. I learned a lot this year, about descending, about racing, about who I am and about how to be a "pro". But I think the biggest lesson I am starting to learn (I won't claim to have finished learning this one) is the importance moderation, which even applied to racing/not racing in the right times. More on this later, but for now I am getting healthy, and staying off my bike till I am feeling 100%.
Not a bad place to pack a bike, huh?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Waiting Game Windham, NY Style

This picture sums up my time spent off the bike pretty well :)
I freaking love bike racing! Not sure if you could tell. And this summer has been an exceptional summer of bike racing. Despite having a gnarly cold which has probably become a mild case of bronchitis over that past 8 weeks, I have enjoyed every minute of traveling, training in new or weird places, pre-riding, waiting around, and racing bikes!

Tomorrow is my last big hurrah of the year, and then it'll be back to SoCal, some off time and a lot of neglected house cleaning/chores :) As such, I have made a point of enjoying every minute of this week, and have been constantly been thinking about how fortunate I am to have such amazing sponsors and people behind the scenes making this work. It's pretty humbling to think that without the generosity of others I would not be here, with the luxury of a team house, rental cars, an incredible bike to race on, a rad mechanic (who sometimes throws things at me), and Adam always taking care of the details so all I have to do is eat, sleep, ride my bike and focus on what is going to make me fastest on Sunday. It's the end of the summer and I'm still pinching myself. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with gratitude :)

Highlights of my last week on the road (for now, Sept. has some fun stuff in store, but more on that later) include a lot of reading, coffee drinking, making incredible food, sitting on the porch and enjoying the beautiful NY landscape, riding my bike on incredibly pretty roads, yoga, exploring the town of Windham, and sleeping 8+ hours a night. I want to always remember this time of my life, and I am so so grateful for every second of it!
All taken from training/recovery rides on the road yesterday and Wednesday. It's incredibly picturesque here. I know winter may suck a little, but I could live here all summer!
The cute farm house we are staying in. There's even a garden out back whose green beans I have been stealing :)
Been doing a lot of sitting/staying off my feet, but also taking a little time to explore Windham. At the country store I found an adorable 4 horned goat (!) chickens, jams of every flavor, and a very tempting candy selection. I may have had the self control to not but the candy, but I did get a homemade doughnut :)

Today (Saturday) I did a little more pre-riding, and now I'm off to spectate the women's DH finals! Gotta make the most of the world cup experience!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Photo Essay of Training in NY

Yesterday and today I got to do a little exploring around Windham, on the trails and the roads, and oh man is it pretty! I was thinking about the beauty I saw in the forest yesterday, while shredding a rad trail network east of town, and was tempted to try and describe the scenery with my words (partly because I never wanted to stop and take pictures) but I'm not sure my words can do this place justice. I went back to that trail network today after doing a bit of interval work on the road and grabbed a picture or two, as well as a bunch of pictures of the beauty I saw on the road. 
Saw this rad old house en route to the trails. Pretty sure it got taken out by the massive flooding Windham suffered two years ago, but besides flood danger, this is a pretty sweet location!

Also saw this cute bridge from my road ride. The rocks and the river and the trees... I can't get over how pretty it is out here! I especially love the green-ness :)

This is the pretty river I rode next to. Hills covered in trees for days out here.

More waterfalls. 

This is what the awesome trails looked like. Tons of trees, sweet hero dirt, green grass/moss covering the ground. 

I also tried to ride this trail, but turns out here when they say hiking only there is a good reason for it. I ended up hiking only for a good while before giving up and riding back down to find another route into the forest. 

The house we are staying in is SUPER cute as well. It's kinda like a farm house, just no animals or crops. 

I've spent a lot of non-bike riding time on this porch eating, reading and just looking at the scenery. 

Clouds as seen from my walk to the coffee shop. The clouds are always killing it here as well. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

MSA Recap (Super Long Version :)

Last Sunday I competed in my second ever World Cup race, in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada (near Quebec City). This race was especially important to me because, I knew going into it I would face a large number of challenges, such as extremely difficult terrain, and traveling and racing out of the country. I watched this race last year on Redbulltv.com, and distinctly remember being super impressed with them women for riding the  remarkably difficult rock gardens and gap jumps on the course. I remember thinking that if I ever made it to MSA, I would definately have to take the B-lines in those places because I could never imagine jumping across a river.

River Gap jump. Biggest/only gap jump I've ridden ever.
During the two days leading up to the race I pre-rode the course and found it to be just as difficult as I had anticipated. The rocks were slippery, the rock gardens steep and terrifying, the gap jump HUGE and the climbs crazy steep. Although I was pretty comfortable with the course by the end of the day Friday, I still had never ridden 2 of the A-lines, one over a steep/slippery/scary rock, and the other the river gap. I never had the courage to hit it without a bridge there because the thought of failing was too strong in my head.

When I woke up in the morning on Sunday I told myself that I could do it, that if I thought I could, then I could, and that I would hit the river gap and the other A-line I had never practiced. Turns out mind over matter really is a thing.

I started the race in the way back, as to be expected when you're #50 out of 60 starters. Still pretty starstruck about the fact that I was lining up behind Yolanda Neff, Maja Wolskskskzskjalska, Irena Kalentieva... you know, the fastest women IN THE WORLD!

The start was fast, but thankfully the start loop involved more fire road and pavement than a normal loop which allowed me to move up a bit. I guess that was everyone else's plan though so I wasn't able to move up as much as I had hoped though. We all ran on the first time up L'Enfer de Sainte Anne (the climb to Beatrice), and then down Beatrice (the most technical rock garden of my life) on the start lap, it was a bit of a shit show. The remaining 5 laps were a hot mess of riding hard on the short climbs, other girls getting in my way on the techy climbing features (usually off their bikes running), me making mistakes on the techy rock descendy stuff/having said girls who I just passed pass me back, and having a freaking BLAST riding the most technical terrain I have ever raced!

The highlight of the race was hitting all three A-lines including the two I was too afraid to hit in practice. I was especially pumped to clean the river gap 4 times, the first of which I was so surprised I made it that I lost time kinda freaking out that I had just jumped something so big :) The second and third times I hit it I landed hard on my rear wheel and cracked my rim, but fortunately the Kappius rims are so well built that I didn't even flat, and was able to finish the race despite the cracks. The whole race I kept experiencing that feeling that got me into mountain biking in the first place. The feeling you get when you ride something so scary and over your head hard, make it to the bottom alive, and instantly want to ride it again! I live for that feeling :)

The climbs were short and steep, and the descents crazy scary. Definately not a course suited to my strengths, but still so so fun. 
See the roots!? This was a fun section of sweet dirt and fast bermed turns. 
Although I am a bit disappointed in my finish (34th place) I am extremely proud that Scalpy and I rode so much super scary hard stuff this weekend, and neither of us got too badly hurt. I learned A LOT about how to ride a bike this week, and I learned that the saying 'If you think you can or you think you can't, you are right' is pretty true when it comes to riding bikes on slippery, steep scary rocks and 5 foot gap jumps. I also learned a ton from Alex Grant about mindset and expectations, stuff I will carry with me into every race in the future. The support from the team was incredible, and Daimo did a phenomenal job righting all the wrongs that had crept into my Scalpel over the last few weeks alone on the road. It's way easier to go shred crazy scary trails when your suspension is dialed perfectly, tire pressure is on point, and drive train shifts like new. Above everything else, I'm so honored to be here with this team, and so excited to race in Windham next weekend! 
At the end of the race my cheeks ached from smiling so much. I had so much freaking fun!