Wednesday, May 27, 2015

World Cup Daydreaming

Last weekend was the first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Nove Mesto, CZE, the most elite level of mountain bike racing in the world. As I am now immersed in the world of social media, I was inundated with posts/pictures/videos of people I know, and total strangers getting ready to race/racing/having a blast in the Czech Republic.

Now they are all onto Germany for World Cup #2 in Albstadt and I am DYING to be there.

Every day at work when my mind wanders it's to the slippery, rooty track in Nove Mesto, or the flowy, techy looking course in Albstadt. Then a freshmen yells my name, starting me back into the reality of the end of the school year, when the kids think it's a great time to test the limits of what they can say or do (a kid asked today if he could bring strippers to my funeral... really, that happened).

When I left school on my bike today, the video clips of World Cup #1 played in my head while I did my intervals, and motivated me to tear my legs off to hit the right power numbers. The pictures of everyone's muddy bikes and legs I've been seeing inspired me through yoga, stretching and core.

Next year I hope to be there, lining up with the fastest women in the world. For now, I'll keep daydreaming about that day, and using the envy of everyone there to fuel the fire in my belly to get as fast as possible!

Plus, those legs! How inspiring is that!? (Is it weird that I want to touch them?)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Somehow It Keeps Getting Better!

One would think that after riding mountain bikes in Southern California for 4 years the trails would start to become less interesting, challenging, breath taking, and fun. One would also think that in that span of time you would meet and ride with pretty much everyone there is to meet and ride with in a 10 mile radius of your house. 
Somehow, for this kid, neither are true, and I'm more freaking stoked on Southern California and bikes than ever at the moment! 

For those following the life and training of this newly minted pro, here's the lowdown on what's been going on lately (mostly this weekend).

Working with a real serious coach has made a huge difference in my athletic ability. Each week my coach Matt provides a series of workouts, or rest days designed to build my fitness over the course of the season and to prepare me for specific challenges of upcoming races. Lately there have been a lot of intervals and commuting to school, so I requested a few days to play in the mountains for Memorial Day weekend. Matt gave me the green light to goof off a bit, so obviously I took that to mean ride your bike all day every day!

Saturday new 'how did I not know you before?' ride buddy Daniel and I rode all over Big Bear in an attempt to kill one another via exhaustion. The route covered 70 miles of mostly flowy, tacky, singletrack that left me with a huge grin at the end of the day and 12,000 feet total ascent. There were a lot of best parts, but some highlights include unlimited wildflowers lining the trails, huge trees, low clouds that made it super misty and pretty on SART, hitting some new singletrack I hadn't ridden before, and riding with someone who also likes to never stop and always go hard. 

The only picture I took all day because sometimes you just want to be in the moment (for 7 hours) and enjoy the flow and pain of the trail.
 This is the spot I fell off the trail last time I rode SART with Dave W. He laughed at me instead of helping me back up that steep slope to the right.
 Sunday Carl and I showed Daniel the best trails the Santa Ana mountains have to offer on the 'Lung Loop'. After Saturday's shred fest I wasn't sure how this 40 mile, 10,000 ft ascent ride would play out, but we still had a blast. It was super wet in Cleveland National Forest, and the overgrown trails left us soaked, the chunky surfy descents left us smiling and Ding Dong had me hooting and hollering as always. I've ridden Los Pinos, Bell Ridge, San Juan and Trabuco trails more times than I can count, but somehow they are still thrilling, the foliage is always breathtaking, and the agony of Trabuco is still my favorite! The cherry on top was showing Daniel new trails, and the fact that he actually liked them (most people I take out in the Santa Ana's finish the ride hating me...)
You know it's a good trail when there are this many rocks :) More crazy foggy low clouds made it another magical day in the mountains. 

Of course I took the picture in the least techy spot...
And then AFTER the most techy spot, when Daniel was no longer upright. And of course I laughed first before asking if he was ok... I'm a terrible person. 
Today, Memorial day Monday, I am not allowed to ride bikes (sad face), so it's off to Snooze for brunch and paddleboarding! Happy Monday world!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Random Thoughts on a Friday

Social media is such a strange beast. On one hand, it's so easy to get wrapped up in chatting and commenting and posting that you can fail to actually live your life. On the other hand, I know I really appreciate those kudos on Strava, likes on Instagram, and the nice comments friends and randos post on my Facebook comments/pictures. But I have a whole new appreciation for social media beyond the ego stroking aspect of the beast this year.

After the first Bonelli race an interesting thing happened, a bunch of random people started friend requesting me on Facebook (oddly mostly from Latin America). Being the lazy/naive person I am, I added anyone with a bike in their profile picture, not really thinking much about it. Then my feed was flooded with posts in all different languages about people I didn't know at all. At first it seemed a little annoying/frustrating that the posts of my real friends were flooded out, BUT then I noticed something really cool: lots of people all over the world LOVE riding mountain bikes. I always knew that mountain biking existed on other continents before, but now I was seeing all these pictures of all kinds of people racing and riding bikes in Indonesia, Columbia, Kenya, you name it. It gave me a bigger perspective of this incredible group of people I belong to, and made the world seem so much smaller, that even though these people are thousands of miles from me, living incredibly different lives, they have the same feelings of joy I get when I turn the pedals around in circles on a bicycle. I could have made an athlete page for these people to like, but I'm actually really happy to see these pictures every now and again when I browse the news feed. Thanks Facebook for giving me perspective, and bikes for bringing us all together!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

GRAN FONDO FTW!


Despite the lack of Dolphin and Buffalo herd sightings, Catalina Gran Fondo weekend surprised me by being my favorite weekend in a long time. 
One of 2 buffalo sightings of the weekend. 
Before last weekend I had never done a Gran Fondo, and didn't really know what to expect/how to go about riding one. Is it a race? Is it a fun ride with aid stations and photo ops and whiskey hand ups? 
Turns out, a Gran Fondo is ALL THE THINGS!!! And it was awesome!
A brief rundown of the ride/race/party.

Friday afternoon we took the ferry over to the island and checked into our adorable hotel with the most comfortable beds with the fluffiest pillows and comforters. It was like a dream. 

Saturday morning, after 'sploring sleepy Avalon, hunting for coffee, and meeting a rad Canadian, I got back in the giant fluffy bed and basked in the glory of no pre-race nerves. Did I mention the bed was luxurious? 


Eventually I had to drag myself out of the bed so nice I took a picture so I could always remember it, kitted up, and hit the "start line". Remember kids, this isn't a race? Or is it? See, still confused.

The Fondo started out with a HUGE climb from sea level to some absurd elevation in which I thought I was cool and tried to ride with the leaders and failed (they later told me there weren't going very hard, jerks!).

After some early Fondo suffering, I found myself riding with some pretty rad young guns, Spencer (who happens to be kinda like my team mate!) and Daniel. They proved to be invaluable Fondo buddies as 47 miles is a long way to go on a mountain bike, and having guys around to draft is clutch. 

Spencer was the nicest one and waited for me when I got dropped on the descent to Two Harbors, and then I was an ass and didn't wait for him when I dropped him on the climb out of Two Harbors ( I still feel bad about that Spencer! Sorry!). It was a very steep climb. 

Then it was just a matter of keeping the hammer down and crushing every climb. The 47 mile long route met up with some of the shorter routes, so I had a great time cheering for other riders as I passed them, and every once in a while I looked up at the beautiful ocean views. 

Finally, with 15 miles to go I caught Daniel who was taking a break (the horror, stopping at an aid station, who does that?!), and we tortured the crap out of each other to the finish.

The rest of the day was spent drinking 25 free smoothies, cheering for other finishers, drinking a beer, swimming in the ocean, and socializing with the cool Team Big Bear folks. It was an incredible event, I didn't eat any aid station food or get bitten by an eel, and I finished the ride in around 3 hours. 

I ate my peanut butter banana sando AFTER the ride because there was too much crushing going on to eat it mid-ride. 
The rest of the weekend was legit too, hero dirt, yard work, a 3 hour hike with the pups surrounded by wildflowers... The kind of weekend that made Monday a very painful, tired, sore day. 

Moral of the story: you HAVE to do the Catalina Gran Fondo at some point in your life! Best Gran Fondo I've ever done! 

*There should be a million glorious pictures of ocean views/sailboats/nature and stuff... BUT sometimes you are having too much fun riding bikes to stop and take pictures. I needed my personal photographer to come along... Next year Carl, next year!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Weekend Recap will Have to Wait!

I want to recap the incredible time I had at the Catalina Gran Fondo, and the overall outstanding weekend that just passed, I really do. But, the weekend may have been a little too amazing, and we may have stayed up a little too late rock climbing last night, and I may be just a little too exhausted from 4:30am alarms the past two days... so it will have to wait.

In the meantime, here is a picture of Bearla right after she fell into our mosquito breeding pond... it was pretty gross!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wrapping up Another Great Week!


Currently I am sitting on the couch clutching a warm cup of tea, and loving the sound of rain on the roof/skylights. An hour ago, I was suffering like a dog in the pouring rain, commuting home/doing my prescribed intervals. I have to say, although I feel guilty even thinking it, this storm made me appreciate the drought a little bit. I have only ridden in the rain 3 or 4 times this year and it's been pretty nice. I do love the rain though, especially looking out our huge picture windows at it from inside the warm house :)

This week has been a bit crazy, with training ramping up again (I had two much needed chill weeks after Whiskey), and school still in full swing. Here are some highlights from the week, and random thoughts I have been thinking, if you're interested.

~After work on Monday Brendan and I went rock climbing, as we have been doing for the past few weeks. Mostly I like rock climbing because coach says I can do that instead of core, but also I find it very philosophical. On every ascent, I am always making corny comparisons between climbing and life in my head. My most common thought is that rock climbing has taught me that any progress is good progress. When I get one foot even an inch higher than it was before and push myself up, it can make a HUGE difference in my perspective and where my hands can go. Like life, even if it's hard, just keep inching your way up, and bam, perspective and possibilities will change. Corny, I know!

The am mtn bike ride was very nice :)
~Wednesday I ditched school to spend the day at Urgent care (after riding my bike of course) due to my second horrible case of poison oak in a month's time. Last time I broke out, I sucked it up and waited out the rash. This time it was too much, and I went in to get some RX meds to speed up the healing time. The DR definately made fun of me for continuing to ride on poison oak covered trails, but it was SO worth it, the rash is almost gone, and I slept last night, so that was nice. I did think I would get a lot done, staying home from school and all , but nope, just mountain biking, dr. office, pharmacy and sleeping.

~I have been trying to enjoy the crap out of every last day of school, because you know, I wont be doing this next year. I've even convinced myself to enjoy the 4:30am alarms, pre-dawn commutes into work, and endless lesson planning. Knowing it's coming to an end gives me a whole different perspective. I'm also getting a kick out of teaching solids of revolution in Calc, and exponential functions in Algebra. I'm more and more excited each day about what next year has in store, but I will also miss teaching. Overall I feel so blessed to be leaving a job I love for another job I super love :)

And that's that. Now to rest up for the Catalina Gran Fondo this weekend! I hope there are dolphins and buffalo all over the place! Oh, and fun trails, cool people and lots of suffering, I want that too!!!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Weekend Recap (Gran Fondo Prep Edition)

This weekend was full of biking, as one would imagine, plus a healthy dose of yard work. The only thing missing was rock climbing, Brendan wouldn't let me climb because he is a good husband, and wants my poor smashed up ribs to heal. Here are the highlights of the weekend.

Started the weekend off with an awesome ride with the Laguna Canyon Riders Middle School MTB Camp. I'm surrounded by 14-18 year olds all the time, so being with 7-13 year olds was a blast! We talked with a police officer about bike safety, a ranger about the habitat in Laguna and how we can help preserve the park, and then rode bikes!! I may have gotten in trouble by a kid for not following the rules and walking my bike on one section of trail, but other than my misbehaviour, I think they liked me :)
Highlight of the ride, one kid exclaimed at the bottom of Camarillo trail, "That was a pure adrenaline ride!" Yes it was little kid, yes it was!
Then I got to ride bikes WITH BRENDAN!!! I showed B-dan some of my favorite trails on a ride that was supposed to be 1.5 hours, but really lasted 3 hours, oops! I love showing my love trails that I love!

Saturday afternoon Brendan slept while I slaved in the yard. The price I pay for dragging the boy around on bikes all morning.
Now the hard work, setting the stones so dogs don't dig them up!
Then the BEST part of the weekend, playing bikes for 6 hours in the Santa Ana's (which is like going home for me). We'll call this Catalina Gran Fondo prep, I hear there's 8k of climbing in the 50 miler! So on Sunday I dragged Adam all over, up and down, through the poison oak, and almost all the way across my favorite little range.

We saw swarms of millions of ladybugs, and forests of yucca, jungles of poison oak, and dozens of real trees (a rarity in SoCal, haha).

We climbed 8 thousand feet, in 47 miles and suffered like dogs on the road ride from Trabuco Wash to Silverado.





We stopped to look for Carl at Pinos Peak (he was there half an hour later), and drank secret stored Santa Ana water.

We rode so long my Garmin and Stages both quit, resulting in no data collected.


Trabuco trail: Don't worry, as soon as you are absolutely spent from riding loose shale on a steep incline, it get's harder...

And we lost all the elevation gained on Trabuco trail in 20 minutes descending Yeager Mesa. It was a gloriously thrilling, butt on your rear tire, free fall down coffee dirt back into the oak.

It may be a while before I get to play like that in good dirt on the Santa Ana's again, so I savored every second of steep as crap climbing on loose shale, slippery free falling, and fire road crushing. It was the perfect day, followed by 3 more hours of yard work.

Now I'm already looking ahead to riding on the magical island of Catalina, among the buffalo next weekend. Catalina Gran Fondo, here we come!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Thank You Friends

Dear friends/family/all the people!
It means more to me than I can express, all the well wishes, supportive messages and stoked reactions to the news I shared this week. I was overwhelmed by your encouragement and nice words. Your cheering and enthusiasm make me smile, and make all the hard work so worth it! I wish I could high five every one of you right now, and/or go ride bikes with you! Hopefully we will ride together soon! Until then, keep being awesome!
Thanks again!!
Larissa

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

In Case I Haven't Already Told You Four Times...

I made a really big decision last week. As a result the past few days have been especially busy, but for a very good reason. I'm trying to make the most of the last few weeks of school. I want to be the best Alg 1 and Applied Calc teacher there is, because time is running out.

The last day of school is 25 days away, and when I say the last day, I mean the very last! The decision I made was to resign from teaching to race my bike full time for a year or two (or three or ten, who knows!).

This decision wasn't made lightly, it's been in the back of my mind for at least a year because Brendan has wanted this for about that long, and I am still processing what it means. Sometimes I am elated to be following a dream that will expire if I wait too long. Another part of me is pretty scared to leave a normal, comfortable job in which I am pretty unlikely to fail to take up a very unconventional job at which I may very well fail. I will miss the Algebra 1 and Applied Calculus students who make me laugh, test my patience and make me so proud every day, but the best part is that I can always go back to that. There will always be cute 9th graders who need to learn Algebra, and this is my one shot at giving bike racing my all!
Starting June 18 it's going to be racing bikes all day eer day!
So now it's time to pursue the dream 100% No more excuses that I was on my feet all day the day before a big race. No more waking up at 4:30am, and getting sick 20 times a year from germ infested high schoolers (I mean that in the nicest possible way). No more missing races because I couldn't get the time off work to travel to them, and no more bloodshot eyed Monday mornings in 0 period where the kids want to know if I'm on drugs. No kids, I am just very tired. No person should race 50 miles and then immediately drive from Prescott, AZ to SoCal!

So, who wants to spend September, October and November in Moab/St George/Sedona/Prescott/ALL THE FUN PLACES!!!! with me? :)