Friday, July 29, 2016

Boston Rebellion Course Thoughts

Carl asked how the course was here in Walpole, MA on Strava today, so here is a rundown of the Boston Rebellion US Cup XC course!

The race venue is called Adam's Farm and it's in the beautiful green field with a bright red barn complete with white trim surrounded by dense East Coast forest. When we arrived at the farm today it was raining a bit, but WARM, and by the time we left it was stinking hot and sticky, perfectly east coast humid.

The race starts on grass, but quickly takes us to a narrow gravel road, and then singletrack, a hole shot that will be crucial.

The singletrack is in dense woods, like dark, moist dense woods. The trail is littered with slippery rocks and roots, and there are a few super techy rock gardens whose lines I had to work on to dial today. Riders twist up a short climby section and then scream down a short descent and then basically wind through flat rocky beautiful woods for 6k. Near the end of the lap there are two short fire road sections, and a nice log you have to pop over. At the very end of the lap there is a sweet A-line/B-line split where the A-line takes you off a 3 ft drop (more if you launch it) and the B-line option forces you over 4 logs and then around a 180 degree turn.

Each lap boasts 350ft of climbing, but that doesn't mean it's fast because all the roots and turns and stuff really slow you down! I honestly had an absolute blast pre-riding today, like hooting and hollering fun, and the faster you go the more fun the course is... until your tire slips on a rock and you have to dab :)

We are doing 5 laps tomorrow, and there is some crazy stiff international competition so it's going to be wicked fast. Because it's a new course to me, because there is no huge climb to string out the field and because there are so many euros and fast chicks here I have NO idea what to expect. AND because I actually had SO much fun pre-riding today I'm really refreshingly excited about this race. I'm not anxious, nervous, uptight like I've been for the past two months, I'm genuinely excited to hit the start line tomorrow and see what happens out there!

Also I was too buys riding to take any pictures... oops :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Here we go... AGAIN

Sitting in the airport in Long Beach.

Earlier this week I wasn't too stoked about leaving home so soon. I wanted to stay a few more days to snug Brendan and work on the deck.

This afternoon, before packing I washed my Nine FRD (hardtail) and while following the mindless process I was reminded of how extremely lucky I am to have these two incredible race machines (the full sus is already in Boston waiting for me) and to get to take off on another adventure. How lucky I am to have my health, to have so many people rooting for me, and to have a wonderful home to come back to when it's over.

The tail end of this season feels a lot different from from the beginning. The beginning was full of hope and excitement and new things/challenges. Through this season though I let my own high expectations and pressures affect me a lot more than I have in the past and it didn't really have a positive impact on my racing and attitude lately.

After a week at home to reset though I'm ready to go back out there and fight. But I'm not going to fight the way I have in the past two months, I'm going to actively seek to have fun on my bike, to get back to the stoke that made me fall in love with the sport in the first place, and to share that stoke with the awesome people I get to be around in the next three weeks. I'm going to suffer and push myself and I'm going to be proud of my race weather I finish 1st or 10th and I'm going to learn as much as possible from the experience and the people around me. I'm 100% committed to ending the season on a good note, but that doesn't mean I have to win every race, I just have to make the most of them!

PS: The Long Beach Airport is by far my new favorite, it's super tiny, half outdoors and EVERY PERSON working here is so happy! How have I not used this airport before?!?!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On Being Home

I love traveling. I love seeing new places, waking up surrounded by pine trees, swimming in lakes and seeing the awesome bike racing community out at different venues across the country (and overseas). I think all the travel is one of the biggest perks of my 'job' but this week at home has been absolutely one of the best weeks of my summer by leaps and bounds.

When Menso and I woke up in Yosemite a week ago, and waded across Tenaka Lake I thought I was sad for the trip to be ending, to the idea of going home to dry, brown, hot Silverado. One week later though I could not feel happier to be at home, and I am actually a little less excited to leave on Wednesday night.

Things I love about home + things I was able to do at home in the week I've been back:

Sleep in my own bed: Oh man is sleeping in your bed with your pillows and AC good :) So good I slept most of the day Tuesday and Wednesday after getting back. Extra bonus is how happy Davey dog is when he jumps in the bed in the morning to say hi, that's a pretty happy time of the day!

And a HUGE perk of getting good rest + being home is being able to do some quality training: Although I like to think that I did a pretty good job doing the right intervals and what not on the road, it's incredible how much harder I can go/how much better the work ends up being on the roads I know really well when all the variables like sleep and food and stuff are consistent and don't cause any added stress. The work I've done in the past week has played a huge role in helping me reset mentally from nationals, and I don't think that would have happened if I had stayed on the road!

Sopapillas from a box mix :)
Baking and eating real/healthy (mostly) food: Being home means having access to a full kitchen and having the time to plan and create the foods I am most used to and I think there is a lot of value in that. Plus I love baking so Italian Apricot cake, granola, home made croutons, and sopapilla were all baked in the past 7 days. Don't worry, the cake and sopapilla were made to share at dinner get togethers, which brings me to another highlight of being home...
Apricot cake made with a neighbors apricots!
Seeing all the cool/supportive/inspiring people in Orange County whom I love: I got to SUP with my rad inspiring neighbor Chay, we had dinner with her family, and we got to go to Maxwell's Backyard Get together. And tonight I get to cheer for all the rad OC Over The Hump racers! I could go on forever about how much the mountain bike community in Orange County means to me, from them teaching me to ride a bike to helping pick me back up when I'm down, but that's another post for another time. So grateful to have these people to come home to when I'm not racing.

And of course, the biggest perk of being home has been spending time with hubs :) I have enjoyed our week of hanging out together every day so much that I'm not really ready to leave again. We got to do some deck work, go on a hot dogpark dinner date, grocery shop together, eat dinner every night (in bed :) together. It's hard to explain how much I have enjoyed doing all the everyday mundane activities with Brendan this week. He's so fun to work on projects with, he's so smart, and thorough, and meticulous. He has the prettiest eyes and the best eyebrows, and I love his vision for things like our house and the van and raising fish in our little pond. He doesn't shy away from hard stuff, and he makes me want to be a better person.

We got the front footer up, which was a HUGE step for us, that was the thing that was the most confusing about how to do properly, and now everything seems like it's going to go faster as a result!

And I'm sure if I was home for a lot longer that I would get the itch to leave again, to travel and see new places and race bikes, but for now I'm savoring the last day and a half here in Orange County. I'm enjoying washing the dishes and doing the laundry and cleaning the floors... and kinda looking forward to being back for the long haul at the end of September :)

Friday, July 22, 2016

#VanLife Wrap Up

Haven't really been motivated to blog or communicate with the outside world in the past couple days. After we returned to Southern California from Mammoth I had three days off the bike, and it seemed like a good time to take a break from all the things, so I did. I also needed a bit of time to be calm and quiet and maybe wallow a bit, sometimes I think the wallowing is part of the process. I probably shouldn't admit this, but I was finding it a bit difficult to be super happy all the time, so I took a few days to just be, and it actually felt really really good.

Best part is that on the back side of the break I'm ready to face the world again, to get back into training and to be super enthusiastic about bikes and stuff!!! It's about 400 degrees here in Orange County though... so that's making the mountain biking a bit hard!
Best bike for Mammoth right there... Felt Decree, I love you!
The funny part is that our #VanLife trip ended on a really good note, which was in total contrast to my Nats experience. Menso and I spent the entire day Sunday riding the lift access trails in Mammoth, and although I was dragging a bit we basically started when the lifts opened and didn't quit till they were closed with just a short break for lunch in the middle of the day. It was pretty much my ideal day of ride the lift up, rail a fun trail down, get right back on the lift, rinse, repeat. Over and over. For lunch we ate salmon wraps at my favorite coffee shop in Mammoth, Stellar Brew. It was bittersweet because this was my last meal there for the year, but the wraps were HUGE and delicious and I wanted to buy every pastry but somehow resisted the urge :)

When the enduro was over we got to ride the gnarly trails used in the race, and I had so much fun remembering how to hick and loft the Decree off the numerous ledges and rock drops on each run. That bike, it just knows what to do. Only downside to the day was riding into a pole at the bus stop in town IN FRONT OF A BUNCH OF PEOPLE and tearing my knee up, and ending the day with serious 'park claw' where your hands are stuck in braking position from too much shredding :)

One of the coolest parts of Mammoth is there are incredible sweeping views pretty much everywhere!
AND THEN we drove to Lee Vining for the world's best fish tacos (which totally lived up to the hype) at a gas station! We happened to get there in time for a 60's cover band/hippy dance party, and with a view of Mono Lake in the background and the sun setting over Tioga Pass, it pretty much felt like heaven.
Those tacos... seriously unbelievable. I didn't even want to eat mine for fear it would be gone...
Post tacos we drove 20 more minutes north to Bridgeport and hiked down this gorgeous rocky trail to hit the world's best hot springs. It's kinda shocking I've been to mammoth so many times and never had Lee Vining fish tacos nor taken advantage of these free hot springs, but I'm so glad Menso suggested the detour. Its also kinda unreal to me that there are so many of these perfect hot tub temperature hot springs, just a pleasant walk from the road, with sweeping views of the Eastern Sierras IN THE NATURE!! After a weekend of racing and a day of riding park soaking in 103 degree water in this super pretty setting was pretty much the perfect end to the day. Bonus points for seeing a slew of colorful people at/around the different hot springs including my favorite, saggy underwear man... :)
This was how the hot water got into one of the hot springs, by flowing down the creases in this awesome rock! 
We camped one last time on Sunday night in a campground on Tioga Pass rd outside of Yosemite National Park. It was again bittersweet, the last night in the van for the summer (for me at least, Brendan is going to camp in it in August). I loved being on the road, but I am realizing more now how tiring it was to always be on the move, everything is just a little more difficult when you are living out of a vehicle, and while it seemed loads cheaper and easier than flying everywhere, just finding a shower each day was a bit of a challenge...

After our last campsite breakfast which was devoid of yogurt but complete with scouring maps (because that's what we do), Menso and I drove up and over Tioga pass into Yosemite. I'd only been to Yosemite once in my life, and had never been over Tioga pass so there was a lot of oooh and ahhhing from my side of the van, plus lots of other weird noises that mean I was blown away by the beauty of the rocks and trees and mountains and waterfalls and stuff... :) Menso was nice enough to drive the whole way to Santa Barbara mostly because if I drove us through Yosemite we surely would have crashed multiple times. How is it so pretty there?

And because we couldn't help ourselves, we stopped one last time to hike around Tenaya lake, which I now want to name my second daughter after. We ended up hiking IN the lake as much of its south-western shore was knee deep a ways out. And then there was some lake yoga, and some feet dragging as getting back in the van meant leaving the Sierras and heading into the desert to get home. Fortunately there was still a lot of Yosemite to drive through, so a ton more weird noises, some quick view point stops, and a bit of tourist traffic helped ease the pain of leaving the mountains. 

The view down into Yosemite Valley. I could look at this place in real life all day!
Oh and we HAD to hike to Bridal Veil Falls really quick on the way out... :)
And then we were in the central valley...
Boring, flat, brown dead grass as far as the eye can see. 
And eventually on the coast in Santa Barbara!
Mountains to sea in one day.
After a quick dinner with Menso and his fiancee Jacqueline I headed to Orange County and my boy and my pup and my bed :) 

And that's that! The second trip was 13 days long, we crammed 7 bikes and 2 people worth of camping gear in the van, ate about 7 large containers of yogurt and 4 boxes of fizzy water were consumed. We swam in 6 bodies of water, took 6 showers ate at Stellar Brew 5 times, and had a blast spending time with team mates and all the other amazing people who came to Mammoth for nationals. I wish I could wrap everyone up in my van and take them on our post Mammy adventures because the last two days really were the highlight of the trip for me. 

At the very least, please promise me you'll go eat those Lee Vining fish tacos people!!!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Nationals Recap

Oh man, what can I even say about the nationals XC race yesterday? It’s hard to talk about hard races, and even harder when I feel like my season has been perforated with bad races. Worse still, this one was arguably the most important race of the season and it happened to be the worst feeling race of my career so far.

Last year I don’t remember races ever feeling like this. I was sick all summer and it sucked to race with a mucusy cough and restricted ability to breathe, but it never hurt like this. I don’t really know what’s wrong with me yet, some people are saying it’s the 6 weekends in a row of racing, or the international travel, or being on the road so long. It’s hard to think that doing what I love too much is spoiling it, that I should have skipped a race or stayed home more, because I love being on the road and racing every weekend… it’s just hard.

Start of XC. It's pretty cool to line up with these super fast ladies. 

Anyway, the race sucked. My start was great just like at Worlds, I was up in the lead group on lap 1, made the selection of top 5, and then it hit me like a punch in the face. Everything just hurt unbearably bad, my heart hurt like crazy, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t keep riding at race pace. From that point on I just wanted to get off my bike. I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide from the world and never again have to go that hard on my bike. I even wanted to get a flat so I could have an excuse to not continue in 5th place trying to maintain a pace I absolutely could not maintain.

It’s hard to admit that this is how I felt, and some people may think I should be keeping this stuff in my head, but I have to be honest about how things go because I feel like a farce just talking about the great races and podium finishes. This isn’t the first crappy race I’ve had this year, and it won’t be my last, so I’m going to suck it up and talk about it.

Head down, suffering. 
Laps 2-5 were a struggle. I climbed as hard as I could, which wasn’t very hard, and just didn’t touch the brakes on the descent because it was really the only part of the course I knew I could do well on. Each lap I prayed for a flat on the descent, and at the bottom of Shotgun trail each time I cursed my bad luck at making it down in one piece because then I had to go up again. On lap 4 Evelyn and Amy caught me, and I stayed with Evelyn through the bottom of the last lap. Then she attacked me on the last climb and I let her ride away, sealing my fate of 7th place.

I don’t think I’ve ever cried tears of disappointment after a race before. I kinda had to ride away and find a hiding place to cry my eyes out, and then cried again every time someone asked me how my race went all afternoon.

It’s so so hard to keep perspective, to remember that it’s just a race and there will be more races in the future (one in an hour in fact!) But the hardest part if investing so much of my life into acclimating to altitude, visualizing success and feeling so good early in the week just to had a shitty result. To have so many people telling me they think I can win, and rooting for me, and to feel like a disappointment. To have such incredible people working for team Ridebiker who did so much for me in the last two years, but also specifically at this race and to feel like I didn’t perform despite their hard work. That is the most soul crushing part of it all. BUT I know they all still care about me and are not going to leave me because I placed 7th instead of top 3… so perspective.

There are times when this 'job' seems so clear cut and simple. I train, I eat well, I rest when I'm supposed to, and then on race day I go out and give it everything I have. Then there are times when it seems so incredibly complicated. When I don't understand why I felt so bad during a race, when my mind screams no but I have 4 more laps and I have to somehow survive to the end. When I question everything I do, every decision leading up to a specific race because it just doesn't make sense why I felt so bad. This was one of those races. I think it's been a specifically confusing year because I expected everything to come together, and instead I'm facing all these confusing results and horrible sensations. These are the times I think I need to focus on the other aspects of the 'job' outside of specific results, so that's where I'm trying to go. Maybe now its time to focus on resilience and gratitude and cheering on others. And the good news is, that can be just as fulfilling as winning a race.

And now I’m going to leave this pity party behind, I’m going to stop crying every time I think about yesterday, I’m going to put the smile back on my face and do my best to have a blast racing short track. At the end of the day it’s still riding bikes, and riding bikes should always be fun :)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

This Is Life Now (Cont...)

And the very latest of the #vanlife saga, and the real birthplace of 'this is life now' is our stay in Mammoth Lakes, CA to prepare for and race National Championships (tomorrow, AHHHHHHHH!!!)

We arrived Monday night and spent the first few days camping in my favorite super secret camp spot on BLM land. The picture below is taken from our breakfast spot, which has 360 degree views of mountains and high desert.

Our days have fallen into a pretty pleasant rhythm of waking up with the sun, eating yogurt and granola with some fruit, aka an entire giant container of blueberries, making 4 cups of coffee for Larissa to consume alone, riding, swimming in lakes and cooking elaborate meals at the campsite. I might sound like a broken record (the last blog post was written in a very ADD state) but I love the simplicity and relaxed feeling of living in the van and racing full time :) Eating breakfast with phenomenal views doesn't hurt either! We could probably improve on our hygiene though, because swimming in a lake isn't quite as good as a real shower. 
I also mentioned in the last post that I was cracked and not myself last week/and that I cried on Monday's ride. Well Tuesday I turned a HUGE corner, and felt 110% back to my old self on and off the bike. We hit the nationals course for 2 quick laps, and then rode some other fun Mammoth trails singing at the top of our lungs the whole time. It was like riding a mountain bike for the first time, I never wanted to stop and my heart was filled with joy at the end. To top off a perfect day we ate my favorite bagel sandwich at my favorite coffee shop Stellar Brew for lunch and then swam in Convict lake. 

Here is a picture of the view from our singing ride.
And Convict Lake...
And we got to hang out with Lauren at the lake too, which meant the afternoon was full of laughs and ridiculous conversations.
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We continued to camp in our BLM spot on Tuesday night, and made Thai Curry for dinner. Unfortunately Menso didn't realize that silken Tofu isn't ideal for stir fry... and that curry paste needs coconut milk to make a sauce... but it turned out ok for another meal made on a 2 burner camp stove!

Our routine was a little different on Wednesday because neither of us rode, and rest days can be hard to fill when you are a naturally active person. I spent much of the day planning travel for the late season races, and then watched the cutest little 0 -10 year olds race their nationals races!

Look how many little shredders were in the 8-10 category!
And that brings us to today, our last light of camping for a while was last night, now Menso and I are both in condos/hotels in Mammoth and I almost peed behind a tree at the van just now because I'm so used to camp life... We got our pre-rides in today, did a little socializing with the best team ever, and now we are going to bed early because TOMORROW WE RACE!!!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

This is Life Now

#vanlife has taken us to quite a few places lately, and based on the number of comments from people interested in the whole van life aspect of my pro bike racer life, I feel like an update about the trip is in order!

On Wednesday, July 6 I left this adorable boy at home, and hit the road with Carl Baur to meet up with Menso (who drove my van home from Phoenix when I flew to the Czech Republic) and ride in Wrightwood, CA. We choose this destination based on the stellar riding there, the fact that the little mountain town is at altitude and that it was a great midway point for Menso driving from Santa Barbara and us driving from Orange County especially considering Menso and I would be headed to Big Bear after a few days in Wrightwood.

Boy Scout Trail is one of my favorites in the Wrightwood area! 

Wednesday's ride included 40 glorious miles of high altitude singletrack and fire roads, followed by a great veggie burrito in town. We rode most of the Wrightwood 50 route, minus one epic descent and heinous climb. Wrightwood is one of those super close to LA hidden mountain gems that I think everyone should visit to ride at some point!

 Wednesday evening Menso and I drove up the hill to camp at Blue Ridge campground, which we never found. We ended up pulling over at a random spot next to the Abominable Snowman, where Menso slept tent-less under the stars, and I in the van.
Yeah, Menso slept right next to this... just a little spooky if you ask me :)
On Thursday we did our road intervals out of town, Menso on all the climbs in the area and me on the main road through town which is reasonable flat. Not only are the trails in the area phenominal, the roads are outstanding as well. With little to no traffic and 4 rad 10+ minute long climbs it's not a bad place to ride road bikes. After my workout I climbed to 'Inspiration Point' on HWY 2 which has this great view of the back side of Mt Baldy. It still blows my mind how much wilderness there is behind LA!

Post ride we met a bunch of rad locals and roadies, used a bit of coffee shop internet and headed to Lake Gregory for a lake swim 'shower' (our hygiene has been less than perfect on this leg of VanLife, most days we consider a lake swim good enough...). Neither Menso nor I had ever been to the town of Crestline, CA before, where lake Gregory is located, and we were both blown away by how cute of a town it is/how great the lake was!

After our lake shower we drove on to Big Bear, where we parked up on top of Radford Rd, at about 8,000ft and camped in what ended up being one of my favorite camp spots yet. We had a view of Mt Gorgonio, and were surrounded by giant pines and green grass full of wildflowers. We also had two huge downed trees to sit and cook on, and extra bonus, Menso got to ride down from our campsite to the ski area on singletrack on Friday morning to get to the lifts and do some lift access trail riding!
You can kinda see a peek of Gorgonio through the trees.  
Friday was chill, Menso rode all day and I relaxed/worked a bit, and then we found legitimate showers at a campsite across the lake for $3 and actually cleaned ourselves. For dinner we used two dinky camp pots and Menso's two burner stove to cook rice/quinoa, kale, sweet potatoes, and apples trying to recreate my favorite meal from the Angel Fire weekend. For a camping dinner it was pretty legit. We did learn though that a cutting board is key when campsite cooking... and dishes, dishes help too. For experienced campers we didn't leave town very prepared and we've been using old yogurt containers/salad containers/recycled plastic forks... to eat with :)

I already blogged about the race Saturday, but I didn't mention that I rode lift trails Sat afternoon because WHY THE HECK NOT! They were wicked fun on Brendan's Decree, and a bit scary, just how I like it. Post race I washed my hair in the bike wash, like shampooed it and everything and felt almost like I had taken a shower!
This drop off had a ramp... but look how far down that guy is down there!
Sunday was for riding to Sugarloaf peak with Carl, in an epic shuttle ride that still included 4,000ft of climbing, and took us all the way down Santa Ana River Trail. It was the perfect day on a bike, great weather, beautiful trails, and root beer floats at the store in Angelus Oaks after!

Sunday evening Menso and I showered again (we are on the every other day program) and then drove to Sherman Pass to camp above 8,000ft again. We didn't spend much time at this camp spot off a forest service road because Menso wanted to start riding early Monday morning. I dropped him off at the top of Cannel Plunge trail (10,000ft!) and did a bit of yoga/stretching/core in the warm alpine early morning sun.

View from the end of our ride.
The day was a little bit not perfect from that point as I kinda had a breakdown on Menso's second shuttle ride of the day, which was my first ride. I kinda didn't mean to be out in the sun doing so much climbing as we encountered on Just Outstanding trail, and that combined with not having coffee all day made me a little loco/unhappy. I was kinda bonky and unhappy, like I've never been this unhappy on the bike before cried two times unhappy, but felt so bad about being grumpy, so I tried my best to hold it together.
After the ride Menso hitch hiked back to the top to retrieve the van while I reconsidered my life, and then we swam in the Kern River... which made everything better. 
And then we were off to Mammoth! The Mammy installment of VanLife will have to wait till tomorrow because we have more places to be!!! 

But this is life now. Driving, riding, looking for bodies of water to swim in, and eating... not bad!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

State Champs Recap Finally!

#van life can take over a little, and it can mean multiple days without internet/time to blog... not a bad thing, but WHAT IF I NEED TO WRITE A RACE RECAP!?!?! Haha, so here's a brief one (because so much other stuff has happened in the past 6 days I want to write a real #vanlife post soon as well!
A little pre-Big bear workout at altitude had me like *gasp*
So pretty last minute style I called coach and asked if racing Crafts and Cranks/State Championships was a good idea. The race was in Big Bear, CA which is at elevation, and I hadn't gotten to race in Big Bear yet this year. Coach gave me the green light, so Menso and I headed out on Thursday and van camped on top of Radford Rd to sleep.

My favorite part of racing is seeing Phil Beckman on course... :)
The actual race was super fun, but to be honest I was a little cracked still from all the racing and traveling in the past 5 weeks.

In typical Big Bear racing fashion the Pro men and women started together, and it was fun chasing the fast dudes up the initial fire road. I felt awesome for the first hour, up the smooth fire road climbs, and down the flat sections I was even making time on some of the dudes. The course took us all the way out on fire road and then across Skyline trail to make for an incredibly singletrack heavy XC race. About an hour in my head got to me with the thought that I couldn't see anyone behind and the cracked feelings of general burn out, and I dialed it back just enough to have fun.

Highlights of the race included riding behind the shreddiest grom Turner on Skyline, seeing all the cool SoCal people at the start and drinking a few beer samples at the beer fest afterwards. Menso and I both won pro XC state champs, we are going to blame Van Diesel for being the winning vehicle. I also got to hang out with some of my favorite industry people, like the cool kids from TASCO, Crank Brothers, and Oakley, it was seriously the best festival/beerfest/race and I'm so sad I didn't take more pictures. Seriously if you live in SoCal you should come to this event next year (everyone had TOO MANY beer tickets!).

We both missed our podiums, so this is the best alternative. 
K, it's time for a lake swim, a nap and then some delish camping dinner.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Struggle :)

I'm not gonna lie, after our race on Saturday in Nove Mesto it was hard to not feel too gutted with disappointment. It's definitely a sign of being competitive and caring a lot, which is probably a good thing, so I don't think there is anything wrong with feeling upset about a bad result. BUT then there is a point when you need to decide what you're going to DO with that disappointment and those poopy feelings. Thankfully, a few days before the race U23 US rider Kate Courtney posted this quote on Instagram:

The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. -Baron Pierre de Coubertin
And that quote, especially the part about the struggle, was kinda percolating in my mind all weekend.

I have spent a good amount of time reflecting on those three years lately, because quite a few women have contacted me asking for advice on how to go from Expert racer winning every race to successful pro. I think I needed these women more than they needed my advice though, because through the reflection about how I went from full time high school teacher to full time bike racer I kinda had an epiphany last weekend, that shifted the way I view 'failure races' in a big way.

From year 1 at Missoula... no podium!
For the past three years I have been racing domestically in the Pro XCT series. In my first year I was doing it just for fun, because Brendan kinda pushed me to upgrade to Pro and it seemed like a cool thing to do on the side. I wanted to do well, and after a year of mid-pack results I was hooked on coming back the following year to try and improve. The second year I also struggled, improved some, but no podiums and no outstanding races. I was working my ass off training and teaching, but still not performing as well as I wanted to perform. So I decided to do the whole thing AGAIN for a third year.

Then last year, almost to my surprise, I was suddenly on the podium, riding with the lead group, consistently finishing in the top 10, and it felt so good to finally feel like the hard work paid off.

BUT THAT'S JUST THE THING... I didn't land on the podium at Bonelli last year off the couch, I worked my butt off for two full years of unsatisfying results, no payouts and no podiums. I woke up at 4am and rode to school and taught and rode home, did my intervals and went straight to bed. Fortunately I loved every minute of the struggle, but there was a LONG struggle to get to that point.

And that brings me to this year, the first year I have attempted to race world cups in Europe. Three Euro races in, three mid-pack finishes, and I realized that yeah, it is frustrating to get beat by girls I KNOW I can ride with, but this is the beginning of the struggle, just on a different level! This isn't something that's going to happen overnight, I'm not going to be in the top 20 tomorrow, it's going to take persistence and hard work and blood/sweat/tears, and possibly years of racing.

And I'm ready to commit to that! I'm ready to throw in everything I have to doing as many world cup races I can, to see what another year or two will bring!

I'm excited to see where the next two years will take me, I'm excited to continue to share the process with everyone, and I know if I give it everything I have, even if I never make it past 30th place in a world cup, I wont regret anything when I do decide to retire and start a family.

So here's to the struggle. To working hard and not seeing results, to remembering to enjoy the process and to living every day to the fullest :) Cheesy, I know!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Quick Last World Champs Thoughts

I feel like there are a few loose ends on the World Champs fron that I want to jot down before leaving town again for the next race/adventure. Although there is a lot on my mind, especially in the mindset arena of racing, I only have 30 minutes till go time, so this is gonna have to be brief and not very deep!

I think I said this every day we were there, but the food at our hotel was amazing. I have never eaten so much meat in one week before, but each meal was so fresh and the meat was always crazy tender and delicious! Some of my favorite meals of the trip:

This cappuccino... oh man where did Pavel Jr learn to make foam? Because I want to go there and learn! It was soooooo dense it tasted like whipped cream. I also can't get over how ordering espresso drinks in Europe pretty much always means getting a free cookie!

The oatmeal was also so incredibly good, but probably so because it was made with heavy cream! They called it porridge which I thought was adorable the whole time :)

This meal: meat wrapped in meat stuffed with cheese! Pretty sure it was pork stuffed with bacon, either way how awesome is that?! Stuffing meat with meat?! We ate this Saturday night, so don't worry, I was done racing by then!
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And then Sunday night they fed us THREE MEATS! Steak, pork and chicken in one meal! Again, hilarious and awesome! And also so tender and flavorful, I think that cow was alive Sunday morning...
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After my race on Saturday post dinner the juniors and I headed back to the venue to check out the after party concert and staff race. In an effort to make the most of the experience we figured one cannot just miss every party in Nove Mesto. There was a concert/party each night and it kept me awake in my hotel room anyway, so why not be awake AT the concert instead of in bed!? We got there at 9pm when the first band was playing...
And then watched the ridiculous staff race which included a couple hundred racers ranging from serious all spandex types to dudes in Pterodactyl costumes made of trash bags. One dude did a wheelie for 90% of the race, one rode backwards the whole time, and another was on a fully rigid touring bike with panniers. In the 40 minute race the leaders lapped the field by lap 3 and it turned into a hilarious loop of people who pretty much all didn't know how to ride the ledges we were spectating at. I wish I had pictures but somehow I only took video of the mayhem. The coolest part was being in this throng of hundreds of people, none of whom spoke English, but all of whome spoke the love of bikes... it must be how football enthusiasts feel in Texas.
The masses lining up for the staff race, before they changed the start line to screw over the agro racer types who got there early for a front row start!
And of course we did some laps around the venue to check out the food vendors, where we found mountains of MEAT! hahaha Althouh we refrained from eating an entire turkey leg, we did split some poppy pastry that was incredibly good :)

And to make the absolute most of the weekend the junior girls and I rode the sweet trails around the venue on Suday morning, and then spectated our guts out all afternoon.
Cheering for the U23 women with Kelsey and Rachel, 
The crowds on Sunday for the Elite Men's race were as nutty as everyone said they would be. There were THREE stadiums built in the woods for spectators, none of which we could get onto because they were PACKED. We ran all over the course cheering for the US men, and of course Yaro (the favorite Czech rider), which meant I was VERY sore on Monday!

More crowds cheering during the men's race. There was also beer, meats and pastries for sale all over the woods. How funny is that, to be eating sausage and drinking beer while cheering for super skinny guys racing their bikes... haha

And the stands at the finish were CRAZY packed! We got there just in time to see Nino take the win and Yaro claim silver in front of his home country!

ANd then I did the sketchiest travel move I have ever done, flew home on the 4th of July. The plane from JFK to LAX was particularly nerve wracking because we landed jut after sunset which meant the whole city of LA was exploding with fire works below us. I couldn't help being nervous about terrorist attacks the whole time, thankfully the country was safe across the board!

In 15 minutes I'm off to altitude to prepare for Nationals. It was actually really nice to spend 36 hours at home with Brendan :) Although I love life on the road, I am also already looking forward to coming home again in 2 weeks!