Tuesday, March 29, 2016

About Monday

Yesterday, Monday, was a recovery day. My training plan said 1 hour recovery spin. Coach's voice was in my mind urging me to stay off my feet and the anticipation of Tuesday's torture intervals seconded that. But life.

In the morning I swept, vacuumed and mopped all the floors in our house. I cleaned the entire kitchen, washed 3 loads of laundry, and put away all the random crap that Brendan and I left out over the weekend. I know I'm no mother of three, but cleaning is pretty physically taxing.

I worked all morning, up till 1pm when I had lunch and then threw on my kit to go for that recovery ride. And when I was spinning down Silverado Canyon Road at 1:30 pm on a Monday I was pretty overcome with an immense feeling of gratitude. Because last year at this time, one week before the real heavy hitting bike races start and the random bike racing house guests start showing up I was doing all these same things (the house cleaning and chores) BUT I was doing them after begging high schoolers to love math all day. Last year I was on my feet all morning and then after spinning home, on my feet again cleaning. I didn't really think too much about staying off my feet because there was always so much to do back then.

Post spin loving repping Ridebiker :)
When I zipped up my Ridebiker jersey and rolled out the driveway yesterday I felt so incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have been given this year to focus on the bike racing. The opportunity to spend the afternoon post spinning actually off my feet. I was grateful for the ability to plan race travel around when it is actually ideal to travel, not on when school gets out the Friday before the race, and to drive out to pre-ride Fontana this Friday in the morning, not after being on my feet teaching all day. I still have a hard time comprehending that this is my real actual life sometimes, but I am so so so happy to have the support that makes all these things possible. I've said it before, and I'll most likely be saying it again and again, but thank you so much, from the bottom of my heard Ridebiker, for making my dreams of racing bikes full time a reality. Thanks to everyone who has sponsored me in any way, donated monies to help me get to Europe, cheered for me and stood by me and encouraged me to pursue this dream. I cannot contain my gratitude.

So that was my Monday. Not a bad way to start the week :)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Squishy Bikes FTW!

A week or so ago, coach asked me why I thought he put a 5 hour day on my training plan for this Saturday. Being the shortsighted spaz I am, I guessed it was because I haven't gotten to play bikes all day for a while. Well, that wasn't the reason, but anyway, I got to play bikes with Carl on Sat just like old times in the Santa Anas. I'm not 100% sure if it was a great idea to go out and attempt a 10k ascent 5.5 hour day so soon after being knocked off my feet sick, but I promised coach I would play it by ear, and pull the plug if I didn't feel good during the ride.

Pretty sure I've blogged about the Lung loop before, but here's a quick rundown on the ride: 40 miles, 10,000 ft of climbing, up Trabuco, down Pinos, up San Juan trail, down Bell Ridge. I haven't done anything close to this amount of climbing in a while, so it was going to hurt regardless of the health situation.

So, I threw the Decree together in the morning (it was missing cranks... sometimes my bikes have to share), complained in my head the whole way up Trabuco about not having a 30 tooth chainring on my one-by set up, BUT was oh so grateful for the Decree's awesome climbing aptitude, and raked out limo feeling front end on the descents!

<< At Pinos Peak for the first time, looking down Pinos trail, ready to get my butt kicked on the slippery, loose, steep scree fields ahead.

It ended up being the perfect day in the mountains, complete with a crazy number of wildflowers, perfect temperatures, pretty fantastic views, a few stupid crashes, some poison oak, and 5.5 hours of squishy bike love!
My babe at Cocktail rock (top of San Juan Trail). You can't tell from the picture, but there is a great view of the ocean from here!

I think this is looking down on Los Pinos trail from Pinos peak. There are some wicked ups on the way down Pinos... it's def not for the faint of heart.

Carl and the flag just before dropping the last portion of Bell Ridge trail. Thankfully Carl took pity on me and waited a few times to make sure I was still alive. Normally with all the climbing on Bell we are really well matched, but I kinda fell apart at the end in a crash into every bush sort of way :) I did feel surprisingly good at the end of the ride, probably because I learned to eat a drink enough, FINALLY. Two gels, a package of chomps, a whole wheat bagel PB&J sando, two bottles of calorie filled drink mix and one with electrolyte tabs, plus two bottles of water later = no head ache :)

And a pic from Carl the action photographer! The picture doesn't quite tell the story about how loose and steep it is, but holy moly was it steep and loose. 

And don't worry, besides doing a ton of mountain biking, we also did some adulting this weekend. Taxes, yard work, house cleaning... I'm feeling old as the hills lately, but I don't think I hate it :)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Life Lately: Less Inspired

My 'office' more than I should admit this week. 
Maybe it's coming home from a super fun, pretty, epic weekend of racing, or maybe it's just being sick that's got me down, but I've been a little less than inspired this week (mostly the past few days). Some kind of flu something or other hit me hard on Thursday, and then failing my workout today, like doing one interval and then pulling the plug style failing has me down a bit. Worst part is we are experiencing the most perfect weather ever in SoCal right now, and it's just a matter of time before temps soar to the 90's and we are forced back inside during the day. And I'm stuck on my butt, trying to recover/rest/get healthy enough to pin it a week from tomorrow at Fontana.
Not sure if it's just me, but I'm always comparing my physical condition to the past, and always thinking I was WAY faster/fitter/skinnier whatever last year. When I stop and think about it, I know this completely unnecessary stress, but it is interesting that I was working full time last year at this time, and training, and commuting by bike... have I gotten soft?!?
So anyway, this week has been a lot of working from bed, some good and some bad bike workouts, a little yoga (maybe poorly timed hot yoga on the day I was starting to feel sick), some subbing, and taxes.

I finally learned to bring a full sized towel to hot yoga! Then when I sweat a lake onto my mat I can still grip it, and not slip and fall constantly!
I subbed a 4th grade class where the kids were so convinced I should be their 5th grade teacher that they wrote a script for my interview with the school. I don't think I'm cut out to be a 4th grade teacher, but it's fun to play elementry school every once in a while! These kids were wicked smart in math, AND I got to read  'Bridge to Terabithia' out loud to them... best sub job ever :)

When I was sick in bed I read a lot of Mountain Bike Action, and laughed out loud when I came to this page... oh mtb lingo, you are too funny!

And how can you be too bummed by a bad workout when Blackstar Canyon stays green and fluffy all the way through March!?? It was super pretty out, so I tried to focus on the beauty of the canyon and not the pathetic lack of power in my legs! 

This weekend is the last non-race weekend in a long time, so I'm planning on doing some bigger rides, working on the deck and hanging with the hubs as much as possible. The party really starts at Fontana in a week... then it's going to be a real whirlwind!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

And Then I Rediscovered Love

So the Keyesville Classic race was fun and all. It had all the ingredients of a great race weekend and the whole thing was a blast as always, but sometimes bike racing can start to become just that, racing. I get caught up in the competition, the suffering, beating boys, warm ups and cool downs, trying to eat healthy so I can be skinny, training plans, heart rate... all those things that are actually good, but can take over a bit sometimes.
Well after the XC race and devouring an amazing cheeseburger plus home fries and a baby coke on Sunday, Menso, Alfredo and I took off for a little bonus ride that pretty much reset my pure love for this sport. I was supposed to log a few extra miles as per coach, and Menso thought it would be fun to hit the Kern River Trail, 17 miles of single track that parallels the Kern River in what was supposed to be a net down hill point to point kinda situation. Brendan and Fiona would meet us at the river with the car, and from there we would drive home.

We were all tired, having just raced 24 miles of pretty tough trails in the sun. Menso smelled like a middle schooler who didn't understand that showering and changing your shirt every day is a necessity, and I had salt crusted all over my jersey. So we headed out at a conservative pace and just soaked in the scenery, made steady, even work of the climbs and let it go on the descents.

At the turn off from the XC course onto the Kern River Trail. We didn't know how much suffering lay ahead of us at this point. 
The total mileage ended up being closer to 23 miles, and despite the 'net downhill' promise, we ended up climbing 3,000ft. It hurt, and we had to stop a few times to eat and for Menso to top off my water bottle from his camelbak, but holy cow was it pretty. The hills were bright green, the sun low in front of us and the trail was carved into the hillside in a way that afforded us vast views of the river valley and mountains beyond it pretty much the entire time. The trail itself was smooth and bermed and flowy in a way I mostly only dream about. One minute you were flying across the hillside, the next pumping through a fun, flatter section then hitting a bermed turn or stream crossing, navigating a small rock garden, then flying down the hillside again. We have nothing like it in Orange County where the climbs are all crazy steep as are the descents, and the speed I was able to maintain made me giggle constantly.

Towards the end there were fields of wildflowers on either side of the perfectly narrow trail, and it felt more and more like a dream as the ride came to an end. This extra credit adventure was the highlight of my weekend, because as soon as we turned off from the XC course onto the Kern River trail I forgot about heart rate, about training, and about setting PR's. I followed two very fast boys across miles of new to me trail with a stupid big grin on my race and laughed out loud at Alfredo's antics and mishaps. We suffered together on the climbs, and shared in the beauty of the remote canyons and valleys, meadows and streams of southern Sequoia National Park. It was the perfect reminder that this is the heart and soul of what we do. Yeah, sometimes there are hours of intervals and warm ups and dieting, and I do honestly love racing bikes, the work that goes into becoming fast, the sacrifice and the pain, but this ride was a particularly special moment to remember to stop and smell the wildflowers and bask in the nature and giggle on the descents :) And not a bad way to wrap up a race weekend either!

Perfect light and perfect riding partners. 
You can't see all the flowers here, but they covered the hill side!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Keyesville Classic All Mountain Stage Race

Singletrack AND beautiful views :)
If you've never been to Keyesville (just outside of Bakersfield, CA in Sequoia National Forest) this is an event you NEED to add to the bike riding/racing bucket list. Similar to Downieville in the destination style multi day mountain bike race feel, this event is super close for us SoCal people, and includes way more cheering/bonding/hanging out and meeting cool new people than any race I've ever been to. All of which is to say, I was pretty shocked the free camping style venue wasn't packed to the gills with racers! Although maybe the more intimate feel of the race adds to it's charm :)

Anyway, to top off the free camping, bluegrass, filet mignon dinner, 3 races in one weekend, and river to swim in perks of this race, the trails in the area are crazy good, and the XC race is 75% singletrack!

Here's a recap of the weekend's' races/events!
The Keyesville Classic is an all mountain stage race complete with short track, downhill and cross country stages over the course of two days. Riders can compete in and single event, or do all three to qualify for the all mountain title, but for the latter you must use the same bike in all three stages. I took the Nine (my Felt 29er hard tail) with a dropper post as it would be the most fun for short track and XC.

The first race of the weekend was a 30 minute short track, which hurt something awesome, and was crazy good for cheering/spectating because each lap was around 2 minutes. The best part of short track was being called 'motorboat' again during the race, that's what happens when you try to give the announcer advice on what to sat during a race... and almost crashing on pretty much every lap because cornering, it's tough :)
I was able to win short track, and got to do some epic cheering for the pro/open men's race before heading up the hill to practice the DH.

Hanging out before the DH.
The DH stage takes place on Saturday afternoon. Pretty much everyone rides up the hill to the start, hangs out for a while and then you charge the 3 minute course with everything you have. I was so pinned at the end that I had to lay down on the ground and catch my breath. To minimize chamois time for the day (it was a 6 hour chamois time kind of day already) I snuck in a quick lap of the XC course while all the DH runs finished, pre-podium. I ended up 2nd in the DH and tied for 1st in all mountain at the end of the day.

Then there was some serious Saturday afternoon snacking, river ice bathing, more snacking, map reading and hanging out, which ended with a campfire and a bluegrass duo. I brought leftovers from Friday's dinner to eat, so I didn't indulge in the steak meal for purchase, but I hear it was really really good. I got to meet a TON of cool new people on Saturday, there was some awesomely bad joke telling and singing along to the music, pretty much the only thing missing was roasting marshmallows and Brendan Connors :)

And Sunday we got to crush a 24 mile cross country race (after a nice relaxing morning or coffee and reading) which consisted of 3 laps of a crazy fun, swoopy, smooth, and fast single track course. There was some heckling of the men I passed, some riding by myself freaked out about getting caught, and some giggling with joy over the pumpy fast descents that were WAY less scary than last year. Oh, also I crashed INTO a rock on the last descent before a really steep little climb and had to run, haha. Thankfully no one was watching :) 
In the end I took the All Mountain title back (I lost it last year to Christina Turner) but feel like the winning was more along the lines of spending every minute of the weekend in the most beautiful place hanging out with cool people and racing bikes. 
Women's XC podium.
 The promoters of this race work their butts off to make the event fun, full of entertainment, accessible to everyone and a really really good time. From getting to know all the participants, and hosting an awesome raffle post race, to providing incredible on site food and joining in with the heckling during races SamBarn knows how to put on a good time. Thanks guys for the fun weekend. I cannot wait till next year's race :)

Post XC there was one final adventure to be had, but I need a nap, and the to do list is really long right now... a blessing and a curse, but I'm not done reminiscing about the weekend, OR Kernville/Lake Isabella area.

A sneak peak...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sponsor Highlight: Sugoi Apparel

Just gotta give a quick shout out to the Ridebiker mountain bike team clothing sponsor Sugoi Apparel. I've been rocking my 2016 kit for a few weeks now and it looks so freaking crisp and clean! 
2016 kit looks good when I'm racing...
AND it still looks good 2.5 hours later when I'm drinking podium champs (yep, that's the SAME kit I raced in... shit gets real when it takes you 2.5 hours to complete your pee test with USADA!)
I thought nothing could top last years floral craziness... but this year's kit is off the chain! 
2015 floral awesomeness!
People be tweeting about it too, like 

Philip Mooney
Mar 17
@RideBikerAlli @TeamRideBiker@SUGOI_Apparel I love the@Larissa_Connors kit!

So you KNOW it has to look good.

Besides me being a little crazy and loving having two different colored leg bands (white and pink, swoon!), Sugoi is rad because they do completely custom kits, they get 'em to you fast (think 4-6 weeks fast) and they let you order the number of kits YOU want, not a minimum of like 20. WHO NEEDS 20 OF THE SAME SIZE JERSEYS!?!?!!? Yeah, no one, that's what I thought. What's even cooler is that Sugio is a HUGE piece of the Ridebiker puzzle that makes mine and the 17 other pros on my team's careers possible. So thank you for that Sugoi, thank you for making kick butt kits, and for supporting my dreams, and all the dreams of ALL THE PEOPLE!!! Want to know more about how they support me and my team mates? Want to know how you can be part of the Ridebiker/Sugoi/Love family? Go here and read and stuff, OR just email me or chat me up at a race. I LOVE talking... so I can tell you EVERYTHING!
Oh, and did I mention my crotch has had NO PROBLEMS with these shorts, like, ever (and I do gross stuff like leave them on until 7pm the night of the Bonelli race because hygene, you know, not my strong suite). 
Oh and MOST importantly, they let me put a tramp stamp on my shorts... favorite detail right there!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Bonelli Short Track Recap

Ok, I know, I'm going kinda overboard on the Bonelli race recaps and stuff. I just want to jot some stuff down about this short track because it was actually kinda interesting and I learned some stuff from it. 

I usually don't give short track much thought, it comes the day after we tear each other apart in XC, I never considered it a discipline I was good at, I'm not a sprinter, and I usually just do it for practicing my starts, sprinting and 'pack handling' skills. This attitude means I'm usually more relaxed before short track then XC and I am willing to try stuff I wouldn't try otherwise, like attacking. At this weekend's STXC I did just that, and it resulted in a $50 prime and Brendan said I did a smart thing at the end... so I'm calling it a success!

Short track, for those who don't race bikes, is a short race, this time 15 minutes plus 3 laps (each lap was a little over a minute long). Because it's so short, you are going REALLY hard the whole time, and there are typically a few prime laps, where the announcer calls out a cash prize for the first person to cross the line at the end of a particular lap.  

As expected our race started out very fast, and the first three/four laps were a blur of fighting for position as we flew down the pavement, up a little dirt hill and then twisted through the turns on the grass to the finish. Around lap 4 I settled into the top 7, and was able to relax enough to make an assessment of who was feeling good/near the front, the usual suspects plus two random girls I've never seen before. Around that time Colt yelled out about the first prime, and the pace quickened with Georgia gapping us all off enough to take the first $50. A few laps later another prime was announced, and as we cruised down the pavement I decided to attack hard, off the front. I was on the front anyway, on accident, and I knew the little hill was a good place for me to get separation. I also figured as long as I was very near the front by the end of the lap, even if I didn't get the prime, it would be more likely that I would be in the break and it was close enough to the end of the race I could land a podium spot. So I dug deep, gave it everything I had, and somehow held onto the lead through the end of the lap, earning the second $50! AND extra bonus, Georgia and I were up the road from everyone else. I dug, Georgia took a turn on the front,  I put in another effort, but the group behind us was close enough the we ended up sitting up and letting them catch us (maybe because Georgia figured it wasn't worth working with me when she knew her team mate Katerina could beat me in a sprint). So we ended up with 6 off the front, meaning I had to beat at least one of the girls in our group to podium.
On the final lap Chloe attacked from the front, when I was in the back of our group, right before the hill, and I couldn't make it around everyone to go after her. She soloed to the win, and I was able to cross the line in 5th (after accidentally coming into the last right hand turn on the wrong side of the girl in front of me and having to waste time repositioning myself to make the turn cleanly, which cost me the sprint). 
Discussing the race with life coach after crossing the line.
No champagne this time, but I wouldn't have touched it with a 10 ft pole if there had been some :)
Anyway, this recap is longer than the race, but I was stoked that my attack from the front was a 'good move' according to Brendan, that hungover I was able to race so well, and that I got the prime! It was pretty fun considering short track is typically the most painful 15-20 minutes of one's week. I have a lot to learn about bike racing still, but the progression from complete newbie, to where I am now is crazy exciting, you know, like those corny sayings, it's the journey, not the destination... or something like that!

Now it's back to the grind of training/core/training/rolling/trying to not eat ALL THE COOKIES... you know the usue :) Can't wait to do it all again this weekend at Keyesville!!!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bonelli #1 Race Recap

So this year the first Bonelli Park race was the second round of the Kenda Cup West series and the first PRO XCT of 2016. Despite extreme anxiety over not living up to my expectations of myself, I was pretty calm the morning of, and at the start line for the cross country race on Sat. That doesn't mean I didn't go to extreme measures to make sure everything was the same as last year to try to ensure a similar result (we had the same meal for dinner the night before as last year, I ate the same breakfast in 2 waves, with the same timing...I'm not superstitious... :). 

I had a front row call up, a clean start, and was able to settle into a top 10 position on the start loop. After the short start loop, I did a little work to ensure I was close enough to the front to not get held up on the descent and then settled in around who I predicted would be the race leaders, Gould, Nash, Huck, Grant and Woodruff. 
The next two laps were an exercise in both being assertive to hold position and self control to keep calm and not go to the front and destroy myself. We raced 6 full 3-mile laps, and although the pace seemed easy at times in the beginning of the race, I knew the last two laps would not be easy, so saving something was important. I focused on staying glued to the wheel in front of me on the descents (which was AWESOME because I didn't get dropped descending like last year, even when I was on Nash's wheel!!) and on watching the others, trying to figure out their strategies and weaknesses. 
As the race progressed our group of 6 got some separation from the rest of the field, and Chloe started attacking at the bottom of the descents as well as on a few climbs. I tried to stay calm, cover attacks, sit third wheel as much as possible. The one time I would go to the front was leading into the final descent, to guarantee I didn't get dropped because there were a few turns I didn't feel super confident about. This resulted in a bit of flack when we passed through the start finish because Brendan and everyone cheering though I was sitting on the front for the whole race... and I probably should have come off the front on the pavement, but feeling comfortable/having the chance to eat and drink without worrying about an attack worked well for me. 
Around lap 4 Erin and Chloe's increased pace on the climbs allowed our group to shed the other three, although I could still see Nash pretty close behind us. I was still comfortable though, which meant a fast final lap would probably put the nail in the coffin, and place Chloe, Erin and I on the podium. On the first climb of the last lap a was a little too anxious about not getting dropped by the other two and rubbed Chloe's wheel from behind, hard enough to make me loose my balance and have to throw out a foot. I was able to rejoin Chloe but, mentally settled for third, and just sat on her wheel through the first half the lap. She eventually got a small gap on me on a descent, which I tried really hard to close, but I ended up crossing the finish line 7 seconds behind her for third. 

The fascinating thing about this race for me was that I was able to do so much thinking and work on positioning myself rather than just doing everything in my power to keep up like last year. I didn't pull aside to let the others descend in front of me, I noticed who was getting gapped in descents, to know not to be behind them if possible, and I kept my cool/was able to anticipate the outcome of parts of the race based on observation. I was stoked with my fitness (being able to stay in the lead group all the way to the end), and really just had a blast racing my bike even though I had placed so much pressure on myself to do well. Oh, and I ATE DURING A BIKE RACE! 2 gels and 1 whole bottle with of drink mix!

I had some weird thoughts during the race as well, when we hit off camber descents I focused on the fact that my tires were up for the job to keep myself from braking, and instead of thinking 'only 3 more laps to go' I was thinking 'I only get to do this section 3 more times' which was pretty awesome. Every climb and every descent felt way shorter ad less terrible than last year, and the Nine was the perfect bike even in the rough rock garden. 

Obviously there are a lot of people responsible for the successes in this race. Brendan stayed up crazy late on Thursday night building my hard tail (Nine FRD) and some of the parts he took off his own personal bike. He gave up his entire weekend to support me in the race, tolerated my spazy stress in the morning wanting to drive out to Bonelli an hour too early just to be safe, and did an excellent job in the feed zone. Kappius Components send me extra wheels in the nick of time so I could pre-ride both the Edict and Nine and make a decision on tire set up and bike choice on Friday, and Crank Brothers also stepped up in an unconventional way when asked for some extra help last month. The whole team Ridebiker crew worked their tails off to make race day as easy as possible for all of us who raced, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for everything they do on a daily basis to make cross country mountain bike racing exciting, and relevant, and accessible to us here in North America. 

And I have to mention that after I was done being pee tested (I was randomly selected by USADA, and then it took me 2.5 hours to be able to pee the requisite amount) I may have cried for a few minutes in the RV by myself after reading all the tweets from everyone at home watching the race, excited to see how I was doing and cheering for me. I don't think I will ever get used to the feeling of being so supported by so many friends/fans/family. Racing bikes is fun, but you guys make it something really special, I am really grateful to know all of you and to have your support! 

Short short track recap coming when I have pics (I never really think twice about short track, but this one was particularly interesting). 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bonelli Park Like Woah!

What an awesome weekend of bike racing. All those nerves and the anticipation, and excitement, well it was all worth it for 2 beautiful days of racing in SoCal with some crazy fast/fun ladies. I'm going to be 100% honest and say that I'm still a bit hungover, from both the racing and the podium champagne, so a real recap will have to come tomorrow when my brain is working better. Overall I learned a LOT, felt fantastic in the XC on Sat and am very pleasantly surprised with my progression as a bike racer. It's the little incremental improvements that build into being good at something, and I got to see some of the fruits of my labors this weekend in a very rewarding way. 

But like I said, all the details will come tomorrow, for now enjoy these podium shots from Saturday (Sunday's podium wasn't nearly as rowdy).

I didn't shower on Saturday night because Erin helped me out with a champagne shower after the race. 

Larry Longs said I was pulling a Marla Streb at this point. Being compared to her made my day, although I'm not sure it was the best comparison :)
Got to rock the Rad's tramp stamp with pride this weekend... and now Katerina is Strebbing!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Bonelli Park XCT HERE WE COME!!!!!

Well the weekend of my favorite ever Bonelli race is upon us, and I have to say I have ALL THE FEELINGS right now. Here are a few:

Excited, I love that place and the course, mountain bike racing, all the team Big Bear peeps who put on the race, seeing all the women who will be lining up tomorrow for the first time since last season, and all the things!

Special warm fuzzy feelings. Riding around during my pre-ride brought back all the good fuzzy feelings from last year and it made me smile.

CRAZY scared that I wont live up to my own expectations of myself (and let's be honest, the expectations I think other people have of me) because WHAT IF I CAN'T HACK IT AGAIN!?!?

Somehow weirdly calm. I have this strange calm feeling stemming from the thought that I know I did my homework, I am staying off my feet, I have been training, and yogaing and foam rolling, and taking my vitamins, and doing my core, and hopefully that means I am as prepared as possible to go into battle tomorrow! Oh also I have a wicked fun Hardtail to Shred tomorrow, so that makes me feel ready and calm and pumped too!

So today I rode the course 3 times, twice on the hard tail and once on the full suspension and I think I am leaning toward racing the hardtail. I'm so stoked to have a great time on my favorite course, with my favorite spectators, on the best bike tomorrow! It's hard to contain the excitement, but I'm doing my best to lay low right now, drinking some tea, taking care of a bit of work, and getting my head in the game to fight with every fiber of my being tomorrow. Also, I took a nap earlier :)
See you on the course! And SoCal, you better bring your cheering A-Game because I'm bringing my racing-A game, gonna leave it all out there in the mud tomorrow!!!! :) 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sponsor Highlight: Kenda Tires

I can't really do this sponsor justice with my words, but I'll do my best to highlight who they are and why they are so great.

Honey Badgers for the muddy days :)
Kenda Tires has been hooking me up with tires for two years now. Kenda saw me to my first real successes on my bike, has provided incredible support during the race and off seasons, and expresses their belief in me in ways I am so grateful for. Roger from Kenda goes way above and beyond to make sure I have enough of the appropriate tires at all times to get the job done, in both training and racing.

So Kenda has been making all sorts of tires for 50 years, and in my 5ish years of riding mountain bikes, I've been on Kenda tires for the past 2 years. Over those years I've developed the ability to hone in on the different components on my bike and how they affect the overall performance. I think the coolest part of that is feeling the connection to the dirt through your tires (which is an extra special feeling after you've been on a road bike for a few days). Living in SoCal we have some pretty difficult conditions to ride most of the year, loose small rocks over hard packed dry dirt. It means without the perfect tire choice/air pressure combo you will be sliding around a lot. And oh yeah, rocks, we have tons of rocks! Big rocks, small rocks, grippy and sharp rocks, pretty much any rock type you can imagine, we have it. This is one of the reasons I love working with Kenda so much, they make phenomenal tires for the trial conditions we have out here.

My go to favorite tire all year last year was the Small Block 8 because it hooks up so well in the loose stuff, and also has nice low rolling resistance for racing. I traveled and raced all over the US last year on the Small Blocks, and was surprised at how well they worked in other conditions as well, like the slippery wet mess in Mounte Saint Anne. This year I was introduced to the Saber, which is another incredible tire for SoCal conditions, and which helped me take my cornering to the next level over the past few weeks. I'm not good at the technical nerding out on specifics of bike parts, so let's just say that the rubber is crazy grippy, like grippier than any other tire I've ridden. Brendan was telling me about the Sabers and how they are made with a new compound... lots of stuff I didn't understand, but it's also cool to know that Kenda is pushing the envelope and developing new rubber compounds/always coming out with new tread designs. Oh and Brendan also told me about some new super cool tires that aren't out yet, but sound crazy good... I think I'm supposed to keep my mouth shut about why they are cool... for now :) And my other fave Kenda tire is the Honey Badger which I fell in love with at some point last year (like seriously I remember feeling like I found a new best friend the first time I rode them) and raced on last weekend at Vail Lake. I threw those guys on my bike because the weather looked sketchy, and although it didn't end up raining for the race, the Honey Badgers gave me incredible traction with high pressure and flew over the damp sandy course.
Saber 2.20 front and rear. I really really like this set up!
Kenda's support goes WAY beyond tires though. Kenda has been one of the biggest contributors to the cross country race scene here in SoCal for the past who knows how many years. The series they support, the Kenda Cup West, was my ticket into bike racing down here, the means by which I got all the race experience I needed to develop into a decent rider, and the driving force behind the excitement about racing that gets others into the sport. I'm crazy grateful for passion for mountain bike racing Kenda has, because their races have meant so much to me personally and to my career over the past 4 years.  So thanks, Kenda, for being not only crazy good at making tires, but also for giving us a series of exciting races to look forward to each weekend, and the opportunities that come along with being able to compete every weekend in the spring. You guys seriously rock :)
Flash back from last year when I was rocking the small blocks!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

International Women's Day

International Women's Day has me feeling all warm and fuzzy and grateful for all the incredible women in my life. Here are a few women (in no particular order, Cara!) who inspire me to be my best, encourage me, pick me up when I am down, and are roll models of strength in my life. 
My grandmother is one of my greatest heros. She is 80 years old, smoked since she was 15 years old, but quit hard core in her 60's and is such a great example of strength, and unconditional love.

Seester is also such a great example of strength and courage and forgiveness. We have been through a lot, but she is always there, even when I impale her on the mtb to keep her from getting faster than me...

My brother's wife, she puts up with my brother... and had the most adorable babies AND is a kick butt speech therapist!

Taryn Barrett, the reason Brendan and I met/started dating. Taryn inspires me to be a better person all day every day, plus she is the funniest one!

Any and every woman who 'let me' coach them or has been on a ride I led, you are truly brave :) I love meeting women of all cycling ability levels, I learn so much from them and it's so inspiring to see others improve! Plus there are so many kind lovely women out there, it's one of the best parts of being a pro cyclist to meet so many different women and get to share their progression in the sport with them!

 Amanda Seigle, who not only inspired me to be wicked fast on the bike since day one, but is also so brave and strong and whose adventures inspire me to push my limits and try new things!

All the women on team Twenty16, holy cow are they strong, brave, professional, kind, generous, and all around amazing people!

The ladies behind Project Bike Love! These SoCal based chicas have so much passion for getting bikes in the hands of women who need them all over the globe! Their dedication and hard work are so inspiring!

And of course all the amazing women on team Ridebiker inspire the crap out of me! These ladies can shred as hard as any guy, they are fun and kind and bright and funny, and I am so so so glad they are my team mates!!! 

Happy International Women's Day everyone!!!