Saturday, August 13, 2016

Windham Week!

After we left Vermont Drew and I basically headed straight to Windham, NY for the HC XCO this weekend (actually in 2 hours... EHHHHH). I feel pretty dang fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to travel in the Stan's van with Drew and to have seen some new places and ridden some new trails this week. I think keeping things fresh and new has been good for my psyche and my soul, and I'm feeling pretty refreshed and ready for this race. It's also great feeling that layer of pressure stripped off and to be going into this race focused on having a blast racing. This week I did my workouts, crunched out the core, stayed off my feet and ate well so the race feels like the icing on the cake, whatever happens I did everything in my power to prepare for it, it's time to see how the cards fall/to see if my hard work will pay off.

It's pretty insanely pretty here too :) Makes workouts on the road really pleasant!
This isn't to say I think it'll be easy. It's crazy hot and humid outside, so hot that there is a heat advisory out for 3pm today, which happens to be our start time. And there are a TON of fast women here. But I'm excited to line up with them, to get to ride with an international field, and all I really want from this race is to finish in one piece with a smile on my face!
The creek behind our house, it's not deep but so so scenic!
Doin' the werk.
I haven't done much exciting stuff in Windham since we got here because I'm trying to use all the energy to train and recover, but I did have a killer workout on the road Wednesday. swam in the creek next to our house, and got some pre-riding in on the course. The track is very similar to last year when it was a World Cup, but it's much wetter this year. It has rained every day since we got here, like heavens opening up and dumping buckets of water on us type rain. The craziest part is how warm it stays, even when it's raining. It's going to be pretty messy during the race, so I'm excited for some mud splattered face pics :)

And now it's probably time to kit up, fill my bottles with ice, and warm up (ha, that's a joke because just going outside is enough to 'warm up') and get down to business! It's bike racing time!!!

Green, rooty, muddy, rocky, delightful goodness :)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Turns out I Love ALL the States

After Mont Sainte Anne I jumped into the Stan's No Tubes van with Drew to travel back to the US in the general direction of Windham, NY. Monday and Tuesday were basically the best two days of the summer, so you know I can't resist sharing photos and details of our time in Vermont! 

First, we drove to Kingdom trails in East Burke, Vermont. Pretty much the drive there was overwhelming because it was so damn pretty, tree lined dirt streets with incredible views and adorable houses every so often on the way. And then the bike shop was like bike shop heaven! It was in a red barn, they served beer AND espresso, and there were a ton of adirondack chairs out back facing the view of an incredibly verdant valley. Oh and there were little kids everywhere on bikes so stoked about riding... it was seriously exactly what I picture heaven to be like. 

AND THEN WE RODE THE INCREDIBLE TRAILS! We rode the most beautifully flowy, rooty, twisty trails through a forest straight out of a fairy tale. I literally pinched myself to make sure it was real. I want every person I know to go to this place at some point in their lives because it was THAT good. There was bright green moss, wildflowers and ferns lining the forest floor, and the trees let just enough light through to keep us cool while still lighting up the ground and making the air glow green. AND there was a river to swim in at the bottom of the hill in the quaintest little town you've ever seen. The weather was the definition of perfect, and I stopped multiple times to pick wild raspberries RIGHT ON THE TRAIL! Oh and there were wild mushrooms... I counted 15 species from my bike :) 
How cute is this bike shop, seriously!
We rode from 4-6pm, and there was light streaming through the trees the whole time. 
Oh and I almost forgot that at the end of the ride we rode through a maple farm where the lines connecting the tapped trees were just high enough for us to pass under. It was really freaking cool because I didn't know that's how they collect maple at big farms. Extra cool that the left the lines high enough for us to ride under without dying!  

After the ride we drove to Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, saw the shiny gold capital building and ate the most amazing dinner of soba noodles and kimchi. I loved this town as well, kinda wish we had a few days to hang out there. 

On Tuesday we made a cameo at the coolest bike shop in the East Coast, Bicycle Express, in yet another adorable town. We also got the inside scoop on the best Maple Creemees in Vermont and awesome stuff to do in Burlington while we were there. If you are in Vermont this is the place to go for advice on everything from where to ride to where to eat snacks! Oh and I learned that everyone in the area rides the most adorable titanium bikes for training... so there is also that :)
In lieu of the local knowledge advice we headed to Morse Farms to ride and eat Creemees. HUGE bonus was seeing this cute goat James. 
Goats are my favorite animals so this was the highlight of the day
I was supposed to just spin for an hour on Tues, so we cruised around some sweet snowshoeing trails, frolicked in some incredibly green fluffy ferns, and ended up riding through the most amazing field of grass and wildflowers. It was the perfect combination of bushwhacking and using my incredible navigating skills that resulted in quite a bit of laughing until I cried/my abs ached because apparently I'm the only one who thinks riding through a field with no trail in sight is a good time. Oh and you better believe there was more wild raspberry consumption on the ride.

Had a hard time taking this picture because I was laughing like a hyena at all the protests coming from Drew. 
Post Creemees we headed to Burlington to check out the world's tallest filing cabinet, which I thought was fascinating! It's 38 drawers tall, and DEFINITELY worth a stop to check out :)
JUST LOOK AT THAT THING!! A true work of art if you ask me :)
While in Burlington you cannot NOT stop by the Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory, so we did, and also took a nice sweaty walk on Lake Champlian, where we saw the Story Corps Airstream AND stacked rocks. Well, Drew stacked rocks while I attempted to be cool and make instagram stories... can't keep up with the even changing social media situation!
I was WAY stoked about this... 
And you can't tell by the angle but this was a solid contribution to this stack of rocks! Way to not mess it up Drew :)
And after a few more stops we left my new favorite state for New York. Fortunately the drive out of Vermont was again breathtakingly beautiful, so at least I had that as a consolation for leaving!

Monday, August 8, 2016

My Second Mont Sainte Anne World Cup

Yesterday I raced the World Cup in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada for the second time and I had SO much fun! The race was a blast from the start line to the finish, crashes, traffic, painful climbs and all! 

Highlights included:

Sitting at the start line looking at all the photographers and realizing (again) that this is it, the top of the sport, kinda like the end of the line... It was sort of a 'how the heck did I end up here' feeling!
Going over the bars on the start lap, which was just a regular lap without the river gap in it, on a rock feature that was for some reason closed during practice on Saturday. The crash cost me a few spots, and my bars got twisted enough that I had to pull over a few minutes later to try and straighten them. 

I proceeded to crash on every lap after that but in a different spot each time. Thankfully the second crash straightened out my bars, and somehow my bike stayed in one working piece despite landing front wheel first off a rock, and tumbling down Beatrice. Although I did have some good crashes this year, I crashed much less than last year, only once per lap, so I'm counting that as improvement!! Also I hear that Anneke Langvad fell down a lot too... So I'm in good company!

At the end of lap 2 I looked up at the start finish/leader board and saw I was in 26th place which was NUTTY because 
I've NEVER BEEN IN THE 20's before!!!! I wanted real bad to maintain that position but loosing traction on two steep switchbacks (because my weight wasn't in the right place) and another crash cost me a few spots. It was still super motivating though because that's where I want to be and I tasted blood and want more!! :)

It started raining on is halfway through the race and I got scared the rocks would get slippery, but my Kenda Honey Badgers handled the slick roots and rocks super well and the brief rain didn't end up being a problem at all. Other than that we had phenomenal weather during our race, not hot and sunny like it was during my pre-rides!

And the best part of the race was the cheering from the crowds and Gerrin in the feed zone! So many people cheered with me (I was maybe vocalizing my excitement at having survived) after I cleaned each A-line, I think interacting with the fans is one of the most fun parts of racing! 

Oh and did I mention that Gerrin, who was here as a DH mechanic, stood in the pits the whole race feeding me bottles and ready to fix my bike in case I broke it?! He is seriously the best!

Writing this recap from the Stan's No Tubes van on the road to Vermont. We are headed in the general direction of Windham, NY but hopefully there will be riding in VT and maple creemees en route!! 
Goodbye for now Canadia!! I loved you and your trails made me smile till my face hurt! So stoked to have had the opportunity to race Mont Sainte Anne again this year! 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Mont Saitne Anne WORLD CUP MADNESS!!!!!

Well I've been in Canadia for a few days now, and after two days on the track here in Mont Sainte Anne I'm ready to move here full time :)
Not a photo from the course, but the woods here are so dang pretty!!!
The course is wicked fun. It starts with a super fun pump track-ish section which i freaking love, and which includes the first over-under on the course where the track crosses itself. Then there is a rad rocky woodsy portion that's not flat, but not really a sustained climb before the first of three short but epically steep climbs. The climb is in the sun, on grass (so kinda slow) but it only seems to take forever, when in reality it's less than 2 minutes. Following that is another super fun wooded section with big old rock piles built up and the river gap at the bottom. Then you roll down through the feed zone and all the way to the bottom of the course before heading to epic climb #2, the one that's not only cray steep but also has ridiculously sharp switchbacks! I have a love hate relationship with that one, the switchbacks take your attention off the agony, but oye vey is it steep and painful. La Beatrice is after that, and I love Beatrice. It's the gnarliest sustained portion of the course, but it's so fun to bounce and slide down it and I'm surprised and stoked each time I make it to the bottom still alive! THEN there is the last cray steep climb which ends in switchbacks, but these are much more manageable! And after that it's a combo of techy rock situations, slippery roots, two A-lines which I love so much more than last year and a fast open descent through the feed zone to the finish.

My goal is to be less of a disaster than last year, to give it all I have but to keep it together in the techy sections. Last year I crashed so many times, it was like crash, get up, start riding, crash, repeat. It was pretty slippery last year, but it could be slippery tomorrow so I just need to stay cool and collected and keep my mind focused and sharp. I also want to enjoy every second of it, because after all, it's still so freaking cool that I am even here. And my focus has shifted off of putting crazy high expectations on myself, and instead making the most of the experience, of the legs I wake up with on any given day and remaining confident that I do belong here, yeah I may not finish top 10, but it's a work in progress! And oh do I love the process :)

So I don't have pictures of the course, when I was pre-riding I was hyper focused on the course and the lines and doing what coach told me to do, but hopefully there will be a bunch after the race :)

I did take pictures of the cool kids who helped me out so much this morning to get my bike totally dialed. Drew from Stan's is the man for helping me dial my wheels and Mike from SRAM made my bike shift like a dream this morning. Mountain bike people are the best, seriously so fun and generous, and I feel so fortunate for all the help I've received to make tomorrow as awesome as possible! Oh and the most helpful one has been Gerrin, who checked my shifting yesterday and has been an invaluable source of wisdom about pretty much everything bike related while I've been here.

I LOVE riding and racing SRAM equipment!
Gerrin, looking at my brakes, making sure they were dialed.
And you may have seen it on social media this week, but Canada has offered other gems besides the wicked world cup track. First, wild raspberries! I ate a ton on Thursday evening and they were as heavenly as wild raspberries sound. Second, mini ponies, so cute, so ridiculous looking, so interested in nibbling on my quads. Third I accidently found singletrack on my spin on Thursday and it was sooo so fun! Bermed turns, pump track sections, and gorgeous dense woods. Yeah, I love it here!!

Now I'm going to rest real hard, distract myself from the agony that will be tomorrow and enjoy a beautiful sunny day in Canada!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Yet Another State I Love

I've spent the past three days in central Maine with Rose Grant's family, and it has been the ideal spot to rest and train between races! The family's 'camp' is on lake Schoodic, like ON the lake and it is maybe the most peaceful place I've ever been. The days have fallen into a pattern of coffee, riding, lunch, swimming in the lake, reading/writing and spending time with the fam until dinner and then going to bed early. Like every day. The weather has been so pleasant, never above 85 degrees, there are no biting critters, and the lake water, while crazy clear, has been 80 degrees all week.

I even picked wild blueberries today after lake swimming. It was the perfect Maine day!

And I saw the most amazing sunrise over the lake on our first full day here. 

This is the view from my ride every day back into the neighborhood. There were pretty much always poofy beautiful clouds in the sky, and the buildings were all perfectly quaint!

On Tuesday I rode out to this incredible river. It was so slow and clear and pretty I wanted to jump in!

And a fair chunk of my time was spent reading in the hammock, which has made me realize we NEED a hammock at home!

Tomorrow we leave for Canada, Quebec to be exact. It's not a long drive, but waking up early will afford us time to ride when we get there. Here's to hoping the race goes smoothly and that I'm not as scared of the crazy rock gardens as I was last year!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

About My Favorite Race

You know the trails well, you ride them often, and maybe you even learned to mountain bike taking trips up Canyon to Lake Ilsanjo. This park is your sanctuary, your escape from the traffic and noise of the city, your outlet to work through frustrations at work, or to burn some calories to earn that post ride burrito or beer. You know every trail in both directions, you could ride that rock garden on North Burma with your eyes closed, the one before the screaming fast flowy descent after the fun jumpy section.

But it’s a whole different experience riding them in the race. You were surrounded by dudes at the start, chaotic, chasing wheels, sucking dust into your lungs as you gasp for air climbing out of Spring Lake Park, and getting stuck behind slower riders in the rock gardens. Other riders offer encouragement as you passed them up Warren P Richardson, and you grunt a ‘thank you’, or ‘you too.’ You dip and weave through and over the same rocks you know so well, but now your eagle sharp focus is on the dude in front of you, chasing him down so that as soon as you hit the fire road you can fly past him. Dude is going to get chicked!
Crossing the line in 1st in 2015.
It’s exhilarating and agonizing at the same time. There is searing pain in your throat from the dust, and in your quads from the 3,500 ft of climbing, but chasing dudes is making you descend like the wind and you’re sure there will be new QOM’s set on this date. You are so looking forward to that final long descent down Marsh and Canyon, when you can let go, and focus on heavy feet and light hands.

The Annadel XC is near and dear to my heart. The park is where I learned to ride a bike, where I first mountain biked clipped in, and where I went to escape the angst of being a teenager. The race includes all the best of the best trails in the park, a true tour of the goods for non-local competitors taking them from Spring Lake to the densely wooded Channel Trail and Warren P Richardson to the marsh at the far south-eastern side of the park. The community comes together around the cause of keeping the park open leading to an atmosphere of appreciation, for volunteers, riders, our favorite trails, and the opportunity to race on home soil. The event begins with a pep talk from Carlos, and ends with the best post race food on the planet, and the beer flows like water. Good beer too, thanks Lagunitas! Annadel is equal parts fundraiser and celebration. It’s a chance for elite athletes to flex their freshly shaven quads, win great swag and stand on the beautiful handmade wooden Bike Monkey podium, and for beginners to conquer their first race. It’s the best race of the season, for spectators, athletes, their families, volunteers and for our good friend Annadel State park. Thank you Bike Monkey for pouring your heart into making the race match the awesomeness of the park. And thank you Annadel for being there for us always.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Boston Rebellion: The Revolution led by Rocks

This past weekend was incredible. So good I'm not sure where to begin. From the revolutionary soldiers firing rifles at the start of our race to the Maple Water samples I consumed the whole event was a great welcome back to the East Coast and a Tea Party of a good time. 

Because this was the last US Cup race in the series, and since it was the only stop on the east coast, there was a bit of a celebratory air to the weekend. Team Ridebiker kicked off the shenanigans with a post pre-ride meet and greet party catered by the amazing _____ mexican restaurant. It was super fun to meet a bunch of east coast riders, chat with them about the riding in the area and eat delicious burritos. Although it had been raining when we arrived at the course to pre-ride the sky opened up and it became a gloriously sunny and warm day, just in time for the party. This caused some confusion about which tires we should run, but by the end of the evening most of us had decided that Kenda Honey Badgers were the best choice for the rocky, slightly muddy course. 

Saturday, after eating breakfast with team mates at the hotel (which I thoroughly enjoyed each day) we arrived at the course to the most perfect bike race weather one could imagine. It was sunny without being hot and for the east coast the humidity was almost nonexistent! 

I got down to business with warming up and also set to work mentally preparing myself to race bikes. While I have set really high expectations for the past few races, and spent time visualizing exactly how I wanted each race to turn out, this time I approached it a bit different. I still narrowed my train of thought to focus on the task at hand, but I reserved a good deal of my thoughts for enjoying the race, for laying it all out there but simultaneously remembering that I love bike racing and that regardless of the end result having a great time was as important as placing well. 

The start was awesome because revolutionary soldiers fired rifles into the air to send us off after the national anthem, but it was a bit chaotic as well. I ended up hitting the singletrack in something like 8th position, not exactly what I had wanted, but my hole shot getting skills apparently need some work. Over the course of the first two laps I tried my darndest to get around riders who where letting a gap open to the top 5, but each time we hit fire road (of which there was very little) the same riders would surge and do everything possible to keep me from passing. 

Eventually around lap 3 Evelyn and I were able to take control, but by then it was a little too late to chase down 5th place, and our strategy turned to figuring out how to beat each other. I tried to be patient and sit on Evelyn's wheel, but periods of her slowing made me think I could come around and start chipping away time on the gap to 5th (who might flat, or get tired...) so I ended up doing some work as well. When I was in front I also accidently showed my cards a little too well, and I'm pretty sure Evelyn realized that if she attacked in the last rock garden I would be gapped enough that she could beat me. For some reason I was struggling with a few of the New England rock gardens, something about how the rocks don't move and that they are spaced just far enough apart to catch your wheel. 
Most likely a shot of the finish, still having a good time after being out gunned by Evelyn. 
My strategy of riding Evelyn off my wheel didn't pan out so well (I figured at the very least being in front of her meant if I slowed in a rock garden she would have to as well) and she ended up getting around me just in time to attack that last rock garden and held a couple second gap to the line, landing me in 7th place. 
The good news about the finish is that I was stoked to have raced my bike for the past hour and 45 minutes, so not landing the podium spot I wanted wasn't soul crushing like it was at nationals. 

The best part of the race was going off the A-line drop on each lap because it was the only 2 seconds where you didn't have to pedal. Overall though I never felt like quitting, or going back to teaching, or like I was having a heart attack, so I'm going to say it was a great time. Every bermed turn, or steep pitch or rooty descent was engaging and challenging and fun in the best possible way, making it pretty much my favorite race this summer. 

AND the BEST part was that finishing 7th was all I needed to keep my 3rd place rank in the 4 race US Cup series, which is extra lucky since the podium was only 3 deep :) 

After the race, instead of heading straight back to the hotel, we spent a ton more quality time with team mates and East Coast mtb-ers. We sampled Maple Water and fizzy water, chatted with Roger from Kenda and Marty the race organizer. We ate Bubba Burgers and popcorn and drank Katerina Nash's podium champagne. 

The Boston Rebellion was a great reminder that racing bikes is as much about the solo interval rides and agonizing surges on lap 4 of a 5 lap XC as it is about the people you race with/against and the ones who support you or set up the course. It was a perfect combination of suffering and celebrating all that makes mountain bike racing so awesome. And best of all it was great to feel like myself again in terms of just good old fashion having a blast out on the course. At some point my body will come around too and I will feel fast again (hopefully before next year, haha) but it's just great to feel happy racing again :)