Saturday, April 30, 2016

I've Only Got One Match...

Last night we kicked off the Epic Rides Whiskey Off Road weekend with the brutal Fat Tire Crit in downtown Prescott. I found accidental success here last May, by being persistent and patient, and was hungry at the start line for more of the same. 

The course has this epic-ly steep hill full of spectators and hecklers, a massive headwind on the descent and 8 corners, making the racing painful, tactical, and fun! The women race for 20 minutes + 3 laps. 

I felt confident going into the race because of last year's outcome and because I find a twisted pleasure in the agony of the Union st climb. The start went well, and soon I found myself in the break of 4, including Rose, Evelyn and Chloe. Rose and Chloe, being team mates apparently wanted to make us suffer like no other, and employed some fancy footwork attacking to really turn up the agony. By lap 4 my eyes were rolled to the back of my head and I was gasping for breath. My sit in and wait strategy was falling apart because an attack had Rose and Evelyn up the road a bit, and with Chloe not helping me out, I couldn't sit in! Then Chloe attacked me on the climb and my lungs and heart reached their breaking point trying to stay with her.

Photo cred: Les Stukenberg
After that I let the next group of 3 catch me hoping that we would be faster than me alone on the descents and flats, and that I could break them down on the climb. But apparently I went too deep during the first half of the race because I couldn't get my poor oxygen deprived legs to outclimb a snail, and by the descent I was so gassed each lap I had to work really hard to just recover. I'm not sure what Place I ended up, but let's just say it was NOT on the podium! A lesson in humility, a smack in the face from altitude, and a good serving of agony accompanied by searing burn in my lungs were all I got out of this race! 

Hurting like no other in the chase group, going into the climb I thought was my friend.
Photo cred: Les Stukenberg
But if I'm looking for the happy/beautiful/fun side, I got to ride with teamie Amy, who killed it in our chase group even though no one else would help her out, so that was fun. Also the cheering from the locals was top shelf. I love how many people come out and line the streets to see the crit racing action, and heckle us on the climb. 
Amy and I descending the back side of the course. I had to test out Anneke Langvad's aero technique, haha
Photo Cred: Dave McElwaine
To be honest, the normally extremely happy Lars who smiles her way through every bike race was struggling a bit yesterday. I think I put too much pressure on myself to perform well, and as a result have been letting dumb little things stress me out more than they should. Our way too long pe-ride on Thurs, the effects of the altitude on my lungs, the dead fatigued feeling in my legs, the decision about which bike to race... I need to let that stuff go and get back to my roots. I freaking love riding bikes, and doing it in cool places like Prescott?! Life doesn't get much better than this. So I'm having an attitude adjustment and choosing to enjoy every minute of the weekend, even if it hurts like hell! Bring on the suffering tomorrow along with the incredible trails, awesome women I get to race with, beer hand-ups, and rad team mates I get to hang out with! 

Friday, April 29, 2016

On the Road Again...

...would be a more appropriate title if I really had traveled a lot to race so far this year. It feels like I have but in reality this is only the second trip of the year, so yeah!
Yesterday I hopped in the #TASCOteamtransporter for the journey to Prescott, AZ for this weekend's Epic Rides Whiskey Off Road! I'm so stoked to be in this eccentric little mountainy town, facing the longest but most fun race of the season! The fun starts tonight with a 'fat tire crit' around downtown and up a massive hill, and continues Sunday with a 50 mile backcountry mountain bike party... err, race.
Some pictures from the trip so far...

My 5 star sandwich whose Brie was prob just mayo. 

The drive out is a lot more fun in the back seat of a sprinter van, especially with the TASCO crew on board. We (mostly me) laughed until we cried many many times, ate at a 5 star lunch spot (they murder all the yelpers who award them less than 5 stars) and rolled into town just in time to sneak in a pre-ride of the singletrack portion of the course!

I got a little heavy metal for the pre-ride...

The fools responsible for the laugh crying. If you're also in Prescott for the races check out their booth! Lots of cool stuff going on over there!

Then we ran into these cool kids while out riding. They got us all super confused about the course and then we realized it was almost sunset and basically a 2 hour ride turned into 3 hours really fast!
I love bike people, Bill (middle) is the best photographer but also the most encouraging, supportive friends a girl could ask for! Oh and Kenny takes pretty good pictures too, haha

And now we are here in this wicked victorian house on the most painful part of the crit course, getting psyched up to suffer like a dog for 20 minutes + 3 laps! Stay tuned for more Whiskey updates tomorrow when I'm sitting around waiting to race!
Isn't my bed pretty?! Haha, I feel like a 6 year old girl in this room, that or a 76 year old granny!
PS To anyone who has ever told me that they love reading my blog, you have no idea how happy that makes me. I may be all awkward and weird when you tell me, but just know that I am an awkward kid, and I don't know how to express my gratitude. I love you and I am so happy to know that > 1 person gets something out of these words I write!! THANK YOU!!!!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Setting and Achieving Goals

Rad helmet, huh?
I'm a pretty superstitious person, mostly when it comes to bike racing success. I have this huge fear that if I talk about my successes/skills/talent that I will jinx myself and the rest of the season will be a flop.
On top of that I still see myself as the dorky gold helmet wearing 22 year old newbie on the UCD cycling team who managed to crash myself out solo in a triathlon...
This superstition extends to my goal setting too. I feel like setting too ambitious of goals is setting myself up for disappointment, because as soon as I proclaim to myself and anyone listening that I want to go to the Olympics for example, that now I've assumed I am good enough for that, and bam, it won't happen. This may be a little bit due to the fact that I've kinda found some success unexpectedly, so I have this mindset that if I keep my expectations really low, I may surprise myself, and I think that's where the superstition comes in too, I only do well when it's a surprise. Not sure if this is making any sense, but the point is, it's scary for me to set ambitious goals.

A year or so ago my sister told me something kinda deep (she HATES talking about life and emotions and all that so it's kinda funny that this gem came from someone so anti-philosophical). She said "If it's scary, that probably means you care a lot about it and it's worth doing". So when coach and I started planning the 2016 season and he asked me to set season goals I raised the bar from last year, and set some ambitious ones. Those goals are always evolving in a way, because you can't foresee certain things, like crashes that compromise race results, but being 1/3 of the way through the season and having already met a few significant goals feels really freaking good.

2016 goals that have already been met:

Get on a US Cup podium. Met this one at Sea Otter with a 4th place finish in a stacked international field. Kinda the best result I've ever had, kinda proud of it looking back.

Win a UCI race. Met this one at Fontana City National, when I kinda had the perfect combo of good legs and the right course for me. I was inspired by SoCal CX superstar Amanda Nauman's UCI wins in CX this past season, her success made me realize it wasn't entirely out of the question for me either.

Get pee tested! Until this year I had never been pee tested, which made me feel kinda like a nobody in the sport (I know that sounds ridiculous!), but at Bonelli #1 I was pee tested for the first time and it was THE BEST! THEN I got the email telling me I qualify to be put in the random testing pool, and USADA has actually come to my house to pee test me since then! Maybe I'm the only one who feels like this, but being in the random testing pool seems like a milestone to me, like I'm legit now, haha.

I have other season goals, like making the podium at nationals, placing top 25 in a World Cup, a Whiskey podium... but I'm getting shy about them. Maybe if/once they are achieved I'll share those too :)

Something about visualizing an outcome though, training with that in the front of your mind when things are stupid painful, going to sleep at night with that outcome burning in your chest, and then seeing that outcome come true is stupid gratifying. It's motivating too, it motivates me to set the bar even higher. Maybe soon I'll reach the point where I'm stuck working for a year or more to reach that one specific super lofty goal, but for now it's fun to see the hard work pay off and the goals/dreams realized.
Back when my goal was just to finish the race on the lead lap. Fontana City National a few years ago, my second ever 'pro' race, long before I knew racing full time was in my future :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

On Self Confidence

Maybe that's what I'm talking about, maybe there is a better word for it, but I'm going with confidence.

Adam Pulford has been big on the 'push the bad thoughts out, focus on the good ones' mantra lately. At the start line he's said something to this effect to me, when I'm in that moment of kinda losing it with nervousness and need to redirect my focus. It's something I definitely need to work on because the voices in my head aren't always very nice.

Sunday morning I watched the first round of the World Cup on, because that's what you do when you can't be there yourself. I think watching races is kinda educational because I'm still very much on the beginner side of this racing thing. There were several rock gardens and gap jumps in the race, and as the riders navigated technical, tricky, bumpy rock gardens, powered their way up rocky, rough climbs with tight switchbacks and nailed the 'Rodeo jump' my brain went straight to the negative self talk.

'You couldn't have done that anyway.'

'It's a good thing you didn't waste money on the plane tickets and everything just to go and crash or walk those rock gardens.'

'You definitely would have crashed on that gap jump.'


Yeah, lots of negative thoughts. And they stayed with me all day. A kind of stale 'you aren't good enough anyway' feeling.

Then Sunday afternoon I went for a solo mountain bike ride in Laguna to fulfil the 3 hour moderate ride coach prescribed for the day. I was tired from Saturday and the previous week of intense intervals, and motivating myself to get up the first climb was tough. I'm alone though, so I can choose any route I want, and that's what I did. I hit a rough, techy descent, climbed a heinous steep trail out and then hit the next gnarliest descent in the vicinity. Somewhere in the middle of that second descent, when tricky rock situations are constantly popping up and I'm loving the challenge of riding them on an XC bike with full seatpost, I realized something; that trail was more technical than the rock gardens in the Cairns  World Cup! I just rode some really challenging, gnarly trails by myself on my XC bike because I WANTED to ride gnarly stuff. I choose these descents over the smooth boring ones... what on earth was my brain thinking when it said I couldn't handle Cairns. If I choose to ride this on my XC bike, I could ride any World Cup course!

After a gnarly rock garden in Mount Sainte Anne. 
There is a trend in World Cup XC courses, where they are getting more and more technical, so the rider with the most raw power is no longer favored over the rider with technical skill. I've never considered myself as someone with technical skill, so this trend makes me nervous and triggers more negative self talk.

Rock garden in Windham, NY
But on Sunday afternoon, as I continued my ride, continued to choose techy, rocky, fun trails (mixed in with some fast swoopy ones as well) I decided to push the negative thoughts out and focus on the positive ones. 'I just cleaned that super hard section with the crazy rut in it! I freaking LOVE this sketchy rock slab descent! Look further ahead, yeah, YES, I did it!' I decided to not compare myself to riders on a video recorded version of a race, and just focus on being the best I could be in Laguna for the afternoon. Those negative thoughts weren't doing me any favors. They weren't helping me progress, make decisions about where I am going with my career, using my time and energy to get me to where I want to be.

I'm going to continue to struggle with this, as I think many female mountain bikers do. But I'm going to do my best to recognize when I'm having negative thoughts in the future, and to replace them with positive ones. I don't always realize when I am cutting myself down with my self talk, but I'm going to try to be more conscious of it. Starting now, with this hard interval workout on tap for today. The one that I've been getting oh so close to nailing but haven't succeeded at yet. I can do this :)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Saturday Feels

Saturday, April 23 I spent a good deal of the day wishing I was in Australia for XCO World Cup #1. When we planned the season we targeted the World Cups in Europe for a few different reasons, among them being finances. I've come to accept that this decision is what it is, and that I can't change it now. But that doesn't mean I didn't feel quite a bit of yearning to be banging bars on the gnarly spider covered track in Cairns. 

Instead, I was at home for the first non-racing weekend in a while, tasked with doing a longer ride to prep the system for Whiskey 50. (so yeah, I'm missing the first world cup, but how lucky am I to get to race Whiskey, and to go to Europe next month for World Cups #2 and 3?!?) To cope with the Cairns-missing disappointment Carl, Daniel and I planned a nice long Santa Ana suffer ride, based around the trails with the best wildflowers. Although I don't know if long Santa Ana rides are really that interesting to read about, so many thoughts went through my head, and it was just so nice out, I can't really help recording it.

The route: Park on Rose Canyon rd, ride up Trabuco wash, up Holy Jim trail, continue up Main Divide to the top of Upper Holy Jim. Drop into Upper Holy Jim for a minute, and turn left onto Coldwater trail (one of my all time favorites). At the bottom of Coldwater hit the sports park to watch some little league while eating PB&J, and then continue up Indian Truck Trail. At the top of ITT head back up Main Divide, and then down both Upper Joplin, lower Joplin and wrap it up with Rose Canyon Trail.

First of all, holy moly was the weather good. Earlier in the week we had some 90 degree days, but all day Saturday it was the most perfect 75 with a cool breeze, no flies and bright sunny skies. I think it was the most pleasant day in the mountains I've experienced in the 3 years I've been riding up there. 

Also, holy cow the flowers were incredible. I requested that we ride up Holy Jim trail because it gets lined with flowers of every color and we were not disappointed! Sadly I didn't take any pictures because I was chasing Daniel who vexingly was way faster than me, but just imagine red, purple, orange, yellow and pink flowers the whole way up, and down Joplin as well. Not only were there so many flowers, the greenery exploded due to rain we got a few weeks ago, and the whole ride was more like a jungle expedition than a SoCal one. 

Another highlight of the ride: getting recognized by people in my home trails. This may seem pathetic, but when people know who I am while I'm just out for a fun Saturday ride it totally makes me smile. I'm so lucky to live in SoCal where the cycling community is so awesome and friendly and enthusiastic. Thanks everyone who has ever taken the time to introduce themselves to me on the trail and for all your kind, encouraging words. Professional mountain biking doesn't come with the fame of baseball or football, but these encounters make me feel so freaking famous, hahaha :)

And a huge part of my time riding was consumed with thinking about how grateful I am that my body is in working condition, I can ride 10,000ft in a day, climb for hours at a time and just be outside doing what I love. There were times when the open wound on my hip hurt, esp when I punched it with my saddle repeatedly while trying to descend with a foot out, and I got stung by a bee, but it was seriously the absolute best day in the mountains. 

After the ride we posted up at the Travuco Canyon store for fruit Popsicles, iced tea and we may have split a donut :) while talking about the ride and basking in the perfect weather. Spring is pretty great, and if I was in Austraila I wouldn't have gotten such a beautiful Saturday in my favorite mountains :)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Life Lately: Firsts

I've been experiencing a lot of firsts lately, which has been super rad, but super weird to me. This is my third full year racing the Pro XCT circuit, as well as many of the other major races in the US, so I kinda figured everything would go the way it always goes. The weather would be how it always is and I would eat the same pastries at the same bakeries I always do... wait, pastries, what!?

Last year was very much same same everywhere I went, and I was a little worried it would be less exciting the third time around. Vail lake, Bonelli #1, Fontana, Bonelli #2, Keyesville, Sea Otter... same same. But the Gods have been conspiring to make this year one to remember, and even though we are just getting started really, SO much has been new, exciting, challenging and different this time around!

Here is what I'm talking about...

Saturday, March 12: First ever random pee test at a bike race. I waited SO long for this day and it did not disappoint. It took me 2.5 hours to pee the right amount and now I know why everyone else complains about those things :) Either way, that was pretty much a #bestday

Saturday, April 2: First ever UCI race win at Fontana City National. Not much more to say here except that I didn't really expect this to happen... EVER, so it was pretty cool. I could replay that feeling of wrapping up the last lap with a 2 minute lead over and over and never get bored of it, but I guess what would be better would be to do it again :)

Wednesday, April 6: First big-ish mid season crash ever which led to a pretty rocky week of uncertainty about whether I should race or let my body recover. I've never been more torn before between doing the obviously smart thing in resting vs the potentially reckless but may result in lots of points decision to race. That was a week of pro/con lists in my head I'll never forget! I'm pretty lucky to be surrounded by so many smart, caring people who helped me make the decision to race Bonelli #2 which ended up being the best decision!

Saturday, April 9: First time I've toed the line with the injuries. Now let's be honest, I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to road rash type pain, prob anyone else would have been all 'NBD' and never thought twice about whether or not they should race. BUT my elbow hurt like a beezy and the bumpiness of the course was pretty unpleasant resulting in my first 'I sucked it up and raced anyway' accomplishment :) Again, prob not that big of a deal to some people, but I was damn proud of myself for sucking it up and hanging tough!

Oh! Another first for this race was the weather. I've raced in the rain once before, but never in such slick, sticky, gnarly conditions, and it was CRAY! It kinda added to the epicness of the weekend that we were covered in mud, and freezing cold at the end and slipping around/falling off our bikes/running a bunch in the race!

Saturday, April 16: First ever US Cup podium!!! Also first podium at a HC race which basically means there was crazy strong competition and LOTS of points on the line. This was also the first race where I crossed the line feeling unbelievably grateful for my mechanical support from Brendan and Derek. I'm always grateful for their hard work, but this podium was 100% due to their hard work and flawless bike tuning :) I can't accurately describe the sense of pride I felt not for my own performance but that of the team. I love that I get all these different feels at the end of races (and during and before and after...). Riding for Team Ridebiker is THE BEST!

Soooo yeah, so far same races, vastly different experiences. I know there will be many more firsts in the future, some good and some bad, and the hope is I will accept them/deal with them with grace and composure, haha. This is a whole other post for a whole other time, but one of the biggest life lessons I've learned from racing bikes (both before I was pro and now) is that there will be highs and lows, and how you deal with them is way more important than the actual thing you are dealing with. But the point of this post is that this season has surprised me in many ways so far, and I think that's kinda cool! I'm learning and growing as an athlete and a person and that's all you can really ask for in the long run, right?! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Complete Sea Weasel Weekend Recap

So much happened last week/weekend that I feel pretty overwhelmed thinking about recapping the shenanigans. From incredible bike rides to seeing so many amazing people, eating like a boss and racing, it was kinda a whirlwind of bikes, sun stress and fun. I think the photos off my cell phone tell the story pretty darn well, so here is a 'photo essay' of Sea Otter 2016

Nicola and I drove up to Santa Cruz on Tuesday in Brendan's Sprinter van, which fortunately has nothing in the back of it, making it easy to cram 5 bikes and a bike box in the back.
We headed right for Soquel Demo forest and spun the legs out on a quick Flow trail lap. My arm was still hurting pretty good, but it was still a great ride surrounded by redwood trees. We stayed in Boulder Creek Tuesday night with road teamie Leah, and ate the best pizza of my life in town. Who would have thought Pho flavored pizza would be so incredible.

Maybe the highlight of the trip for me (which is sad because I was on a US Cup podium on Sat) was nailing my interval workout on Wednesday. After the crash and Bonelli #2 my body was on the struggle bus for quite a while, so hitting the numbers on such a hard workout was pretty special.
Riding out to the interval hill, not really knowing what to expect from my body. 
And post workout we hit up Verve, the best coffee shop in Santa Cruz with the absolute best cookies in the world! It was pretty much the perfect day, there's something about executing a hard workout and drinking coffee by the ocean, that's pretty much how I want to spend every day!

After that it was all business all the time! I got to help coach a skills clinic with Rebecca Rusch's GoldRusch Tour Thursday, which was attended by SO many women!

Got to meet some crazy cool people I've only seen on the internets before!

And we wrapped up Thursday night at an athlete party hosted by Crank Brothers, where I got to meet even more super cool people, ate the best BBQ of my life, AND discovered this crazy cool fruit that looks like a lechee! (also somehow this is the only picture I got from the CB party, hahaha)

Friday was all about pre-riding the XC course, socializing a bit and participating in a rad panel of Pros for the GoldRusch Tour. It was hard to be around the whole festival scene and not run around like a crazy person chatting with anyone and everyone, but I think I did a pretty good job hiding in the Ridebiker RV for a few hours to get off my feet in the afternoon. 
I did manage to meet up with the best wheel sponsors ever, Kappius Components...
Drink some VERVE COFFEE!!!!
A little more coffee :)

And catch a glimpse of myself in extra large scale.

And of course Saturday there was a good dose of bike racing, complete with a delayed start, 6 painful laps and a podium held at the wrong time hence the dirt still on my face. Apparently everyone else got the memo about the early podium because they at least were able to find hats! 

And more socializing, including finding the infamous Sea Weasel himself.

More amazing food and team bonding.

Creeping on some of my favorite 'celebrity' riders after another Pro panel at the GoldRusch tour.

And more schmoozing with sponsors. This is my favorite part of Sea Otter because I love getting to thank all the people who support me in person. Jim Felt in the picture below is one of the coolest sponsors to ride for and for some reason he really believes in me :) Pretty stoked the way this season has worked out that I get to ride Felt bikes... it's a dream come true. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, there was a bit of celebratory wine drinking Saturday night which may or may not have resulted in a massive dehydrating headache on Sunday. Let's just say the GoldRusch Tour skills clinic Sunday morning was rough. BUT once again, a great time with so many amazing women on bikes out in the sun, working on valuable skills like cornering in loose off camber switchbacks!

Sunday was the last day of the festival, and I finally got to meet my spirit animal Yoann Barelli. This guy is always SO STOKED to ride bikes. I love his enthusiasm and crazy videos on Instagram. This was the second best moment of the weekend (after nailing those intervals...)

And Nicola and I snuck in one last ride on the amature XC course. Pretty cool that a Felt athlete is sharing the leaders jersey for the US CUP! The hills surrounding Laguna Seca Raceway were glowing green, the Spanish moss was blowing in the breeze as it hung off the majestic oak trees and everything was basically perfect in the world for the hour we rode. It never gets old, spinning my feet in circles out in nature :)

AND FINALLY on Monday Brendan and I hurried to finish taxes before hitting Soquel together pre-drive back to SoCal. It's always fun riding with Brendan, and he forced me to take the trail we rode on our first ever ride when we were dating. Back then I broke up with him multiple times because I was so terrified. This time I was screaming with joy, hitting some jumps, and more in love with bikes and the boy at the end than the beginning. We've been riding bikes together for 8 years, kinda hard to believe how big that number is :)

And that's it, Sea Otter 2016. I have a HUGE love/hate relationship with the weekend, mostly because I put so much pressure on myself to perform well in front of all the sponsors who are there in person, and because it's so damn hard to balance saying hi to everyone with resting so I can race well, but from this side I think this was one of the best Sea Otter's yet. 

Today is a rest day, which means I'm not allowed to ride bikes (although I will 'walk' the dog from my bike in a bit, hehe). But mostly it means I need to be cleaning our filthy house. If anyone dropped by to surprise us I would be horrified at the moment, so it's off to vacuum 100,000 dead crane flies off the floor (what the hell happened here when we were gone?!?!) and wash about 12 loads of laundry :)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sea Otter XC Recap

Sea Otter is always one heck of an epic fun/exciting/exhausting weekend. There are so many people to see and thank and hang out with, there is racing to do and there are always shenannigans to top off each 'successful' day surviving the madness. This year was maybe the most eventful for me, and the event deserves it's own recap, but for now a quick recap of Saturday's HC cross country race. 

This race was the second of the US Cup series, and the third in a three weekend long block of races for me. Following my Fontana success, crash, and struggles at Bonelli #2 I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I knew there were almost 60 women in our field including many national champions from all over the globe. Fortunately the elbow/hip wounds took a dramatic turn for the better Friday night (which I actually slept through completely for the first time since I crashed) so that gave me some hope.
The start was fast, as to be expected, but the course took us up the pavement from the line all the way to the top of the Laguna Seca race track before spitting us onto the crazy short, physically challenging HC level course. This was great for me, and by lap 2 I was sitting in the lead group of 8ish riders, relaxing on the climb and doing what I had to do to stay with the group on the descents. Every corner was incredibly dry, loose and off camber, so I had some issues in the middle of each lap (I'm pretty sure I should have worked on these more pre-riding, so that's something I'll do different in the future) but had good enough legs to bridge back up on the flats/climbs. 
The best cheering section on the course :) So fun to race well in front of good friends who are crazy supportive!
On lap 3 of 6 I was starting to think about strategy. The group I was in was big, and all the girls around me looked like they felt great. I was struggling on the descent-y stuff, so I was going to have to work the climb to chisel down our group or I would end up 7th-ish at the finish. The end of the course was a techy obstacle course through some random bridges/woodchips and tight turns which meant positioning was going to be HUGE coming into the final sprint. Positioning is something I'm still working on, so I didn't want it to come down to that. 

Then I got incredibly lucky, and one by one girls in my group started having mechanical issues. We went from 8 strong to 4 by lap 5 and on lap 6, even though I got gapped off the lead group of 4 Luna Chix riders, I was feeling comfortable about not getting caught and was able to concentrate on maintaining and finishing strong rather than stressing about strategy. 

And that's how it played out. I held my position, crossed the line in 4th and a HUGE wave of appreciation for my mechanic and equipment washed over me :) Although I felt a little guilty standing on the podium when there were so many deserving girls in the race who suffered mechanical difficulties, I know that this bike racing thing is a team effort and the team behind me delivered me to a podium finish on Saturday. I appreciate Derek's hard work every weekend (esp last week when he washed all our muddy bikes) but I feel like this one made me especially grateful to be on such a solid team working with such incredible people. 
And then I almost missed the podium, but at least I'm not wearing jeans this time!

We have to hit the road to drive home soon (after a quick ride in heaven aka Santa Cruz), but I have much more on my mind about this past weekend. I'll leave it at this: bike people are hands down THE BEST!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Recovery is a GO!

I want to write a nice, thoughtful post about what I learned at Bonelli #2, about the risk/reward of racing while injured or sick, or about how much I have learned about being a good team mate from my lady team mates... but we have to leave in 45 minutes to drive to NorCal and I haven't packed yet! Those things will have to percolate a little longer and I'll write those posts at some point in the future. For now, a quick injury update :) 
The arm is healing, but I still can't twist off lids without a serious amount of pain. The wounds are still pretty gross, but they decrease in 'radius' daily, most the discomfort I'm experiencing is from the itching of healing skin. The craziest thing is how sore my legs were after the race, Sunday through today. Like can't walk down the stairs forwards sore. I haven't experienced this since running my last marathon years ago, so it has been a pretty bizarre feeling over the past few days. I think my body is working really hard at repairing injuries and can't really be bothered to repair muscles at the same time. This is making me feel a little old, because in my 20's I could crash and bounce back really fast... now my body is pissed with having to do two jobs at once! 
So that's that. Off to Monterrey with us. Looking forward to riding bikes amongst Redwood trees very very soon!!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

I'm Sorry Body...

At about 10:45am yesterday I decided to line up at the first US Cup of the year, and give the 6 lap race in muddy conditions a shot. I had just pre-ridden a lap of the HC course, and although my arm and side hurt, the pain seemed to be a result of road rash being jostled rather than the sprain. I knew that if it got too bad my team supported the idea of me dropping out, but I also knew that if I could pull off a top 10 finish I would at least earn valuable points which could help my World Cup starting position. 

The sky started to open up as we headed to the start line, and I was pretty anxious because I had a hard time warming up/my body didn't feel right. I tried to push the negative thoughts out of my mind though, and when the race started it was the typical shift in focus from what if to full 100% concentration on the task at hand. My start was slow, and by the first long climb I was sitting mid pack, in a field of about 50 women from all over the world. It hurt, and there were crashes, running, slipping out in the mud, and riding around fallen riders. By the end of lap 2 I wanted to quit. Everything felt off, my arm hurt, and I was already working so hard but not yet in the lead group. 

Incredibly enthusiastic cheering from Scott (the man behind the concept of Ridebiker) as well as the other awesome SoCal fans kept me going though, and somehow by lap 3 I had made contact with the lead group of 7. This was remarkably encouraging, but as soon as I got up there, Eva Lechner attacked the climb and I lost my grip. Any other day I would have loved to dig deep to respond to the attack, but flat legs and a body struggling to recover meant it wasn't in the cards, and I spent the rest of the race battling for the last spot in the top 10 with Lea Davidson and Kate Courtney. 

I ended up crossing the line in 10th, and although this isn't my best result in a while, I am more proud of it. I don't necessarily consider myself adept at handling hardship and adversity, but this test of my ability to push through despite the pain, the discomfort and the flat legs, and to achieve the goal I set myself for the race was pretty meaningful in the end. I would have much rather been healthy and in 1 piece with no massive holes in my body or sprained joints, but despite all this I stuck it out and saw it through. Heck, even having the nerve to line up at the start took a lot of courage. 

Overall this race was one heck of an experience. The slick mud on the course, the rain and cold, the huge international field and the slippery off camber descents along with the issues going on in my body made it one for the record books.

Today, Sunday, I am doing my best to recover. My legs have never been so sore after a race before (prob because my body is working at repairing skin and sprains, so my muscles are taking a back seat), and even my hour recovery spin was difficult. Soon the road rash will be a scab, then a scar and the bruising and swelling in my elbow will be gone, and all I can hope for is to come back at it swinging at Sea Otter next weekend! Until then, a nap :)

Oh and if you want some more, here is a video highlight reel of the race!

All Photos in this post are courtesy of Bryant Mena, who was killing it out there with the race photography yesterday!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Well Poo

Monday's sunny recovery ride... when the future seemed bright.
This week took an interesting turn yesterday in the middle of my interval workout, when I hit the least assuming of rocks and hit the deck, hard. Everything was going so well, I was about to finish my only hard workout for the week, and my plans included an afternoon of foam rolling, a few runny eggs for lunch, and some stretching/yoga in the sun on our back deck. But none of that happened. Instead I spent 45 minutes descending the 10 miles back home with a shattered handlebar, blacking out while on the phone with the advice nurse and then 5 hours in the ER getting X-rays and having my wounds scrubbed. A rock, like the littlest, least threatening rock on a fire road derailed my week and possibly my plans to head back to Bonelli for the first US Cup of the year this Saturday. Poop.

Tuesday's ride with awesome team mates was also cheery!
I've seen plenty of other people get injured in this sport, many far worse than my sprained elbow with gnarly road rash. I always felt bad for them, but couldn't ever really sympathize all the way till now, because I've never been sidelined during the season before, and it kinda blows.

On the way to the ER I was certain my arm was broken because it was so so swollen, but X-Rays showed my 'I'm going to miss so many races' tears were premature and all my bones are intact. What a weird feeling of relief to know that I'll be back on my bike soon, but maybe not soon enough for this weekend. To want so badly to race bikes but to have a broken body that needs time to mend first. I'm so so grateful nothing is broken, but so worried that I will jump the gun and race too soon, causing further damage to the bruised up, unhappy swollen ligaments and tendons.
Adrenaline got me through the first hour post crash :) After the adrenaline wore off I couldn't lift my arm evento my heart! 
So that's where I am right now, doing my best to keep the arm elevated, iced and anti-inflamitoried, and to keep my thoughts positive. I'm so so grateful for the support from everyone who has reached out in concern, and for all the kind words on the social medias. Thanks everyone for all your thoughts, prayers and encouraging words. At the very least I will be out there cheering my butt off at Bonelli, so that could end up being a fun substitute for racing. :)