Friday, December 19, 2014

Let the winter race season begin (EEK!)

Happy Friday! 

It's 5 a.m. and I am trying to tie up last minute things before we load up the van and head over to Wisconsin for the first race in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series. To tell you the truth I've been so busy that I haven't had much time to think about the race. I started a new gig at my favorite bike shop(s) in the world and it's been nothing but awesome. I love everyone that I work with AND I get to spend time riding my bike with really great people. I love it!

One of the things that I'm most excited about is that I'm going to be starting (and coaching) a GRBC striders and Devo team. I ABSOLUTELY can't wait for this. It's going to be so much fun to get more kids out on bikes and working with them on a weekly basis. Plus we are going to be at some of the local races in town and have a pro set-up for them, complete with shop tent, mechanic on hand and juice boxes :-)
Strider bikes are so freaking cute!
Besides being super excited about the GRBC kids team I've been having a really great time riding with friends! Last Saturday the GRBC ladies (and friends) invaded Sietsema Orchards. We had over 20 women show up which is pretty awesome. Especially in December on a Saturday morning. After our ride we hung out, ate fresh doughnuts and had flights of Cider. Yum! More pictures are up on the GRBC blog!
On Sunday I did a 5 hour ride on my fat bike and finished the ride by rolling down to the Midwest Regional Cyclocross Championships with Scott to cheer on our friends. It looked painful :-)

The only un-fun part of the week was having to rush sweet little Jeannie to the vet. On Tuesday I came home from work to find a bunch of plastic containers that were on the counter on the floor, along with a bunch of grapes. It didn't take me much to figure out which dog did it since Jeannie immediately ran to the corner when I got home (plus Ben and Naomi were still sleeping on the bed in the same positions that they were when I left them). 

Here's what you should know about Jeannie. She is the nicest, sweetest dog and when she does something wrong she becomes mortified. When I walked into the kitchen and saw the mess she put herself into the corner.  I "googled" dog and grapes and immediately had a panic attack. After a quick call to the vet we rushed over so that they could induced Jeannie to vomit. 

As it turns out she hadn't eaten any grapes after all. PHEW! I was very, very happy on the drive home and Jeannie was like, "why did we just drive to the vet so that I could puke?" I felt like a really, really bad dog mom. Lesson learned...I will never, ever leave grapes on the counter again. 
They warned me the shot they gave her to puke might make her "loopy." She seemed OK on the way home but the moment we got into the house she headed to the couch and stayed in this position for a few hours :-)
Well time to finish packing. Since Worlds I haven't done much speed work and I have a feeling that this race might be really ugly my friends. Eek! That being said I'm still really excited to see my 45NRTH teammates and do a mini road trip with Scott, Steve and Jill. Naturally this road trip will involve stops for coffee and chipotle. 

Let the winter race season begin :-)

Monday, December 08, 2014

GRBC fun!

How is it Monday already? My entire weekend centered around bikes...which made it really fun...which made it fly by. 

First of all a ton of new 45NRTH product arrived at GRBC. The Sturmfist gloves are THE BEST I've ever used (read about them here)! I've been testing the Sturmfist 5 out since the Iceman in a range of temperatures from low 20's to mid 30's. Last year my hands got cold all of the time but they have been nothing but toasty in the Sturmfist 5. The cool thing about the gloves is that even if my hands get warm they never get sweaty. I can't wait to try the Sturmfist 4 but first it has to get colder here. Minus the one snowy week we had in November the weather has been very mild.

Naturally Jill and I had to model the Toaster Fork and Lung Cookie :-) 
It turns out I'm a horrible model because I'm not wearing the Toaster Fork correctly. It's supposed to go around the face but clearly I was jealous that Jill could cover her mouth and nose...haha.  
Thumbs up for 45NRTH!
Friday we built a snowman in the window, just in time for the Tinsel and Trolley event Friday night. Thanks to Velocity USA this snowman is NEVER going to melt :-)

Clearly we all like the new GRBC military caps!
Saturday I was back at the shop bright and early for the Ada Santa parade and more importantly...Global Fat Bike Day. Let's face it...every day should be Global Fat Bike Day :-) It was a really fun morning with lots of Christmas decorations for our bikes and lots and lots of coffee!

just being my normal self :-)

The parade was fun. We had to ride really slow so we all got to practice our balancing skills...something I clearly need to work on. I think I must have put a foot down at least 100 times. New goal for next year: learn how to do a track stand! After the parade I went back to the shop, ate ANOTHER bagel, more candy, and more coffee. Finally I forced myself out of the warm shop to do my ride. The sun was out and temps were in the high 30's...surprisingly warm for December!

Sunday I had an endurance ride so I took my fat bike out to the beach. Since we don't have snow right now I figured the next best thing was to ride on sand. I arrived at the beach in record time and was patting myself on the back for being so speedy :-)
I had the entire beach to myself and it was awesome. Riding next to the waves will never, ever get old!
On my way back I realized why I was so speedy on my way there. I had to deal with the wind blasting me in the face the entire way home. By the time I finally pulled into my driveway I had been pedaling for almost 5.5 hours. It was a really good workout but now I am pooped. So glad that today is a rest day!

Tomorrow night spin class at GRBC (ada location). We start pedaling at 6 p.m! Hope to see everyone there!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Thanksgiving weekend

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend! I think this was one of my favorites because it was so low-key. The rest of my family went up North so it was just Scott and I. We rode bikes, walked dogs at the Humane Society and made homemade pizza. Technically Scott made the pizza and I helped by eating it  :-) 
Thanksgiving Day ride...brrrrrr!
On Small Business Saturday we woke up really early so that we could ride over to the GRBC Gaslight Village shop for a pancake ride! I will be the first to admit that early morning ride times in the winter are not my favorite but once I was out and pedaling I was happy. The sun was just rising and there was very little traffic on the roads. It was so, so, so much fun! More pictures can be found OVER HERE! As a general rule I will eat pancakes any time of the day but something about riding in the cold makes them taste THAT much better. I think I ate three plate sized pancakes after one hour of riding :-) Yum!

I had big plans to wake up on Sunday as well. Initially my plans were to be on my bike by 9 a.m. so that I could ride out to the last Kisscross race of the season. HOWEVER, when my alarm went off I decided that sleeping a tiny bit more in my warm bed sounded like a better idea..haha.

Eventually I got out and managed to ride a little over 4.5 hours before having to go into work. The air was super swampy but it was warm enough that all I needed was a thermal jersey and vest. However the temperature dropped a ton by the halfway point of my ride and the last 1.5 hours were spent pedaling in the rain. I guess that's what I get for turning off my alarm and staying in bed :-)

Now that it's officially December it's time to start gearing up for the winter race season. What we really need around here is some snow. After spending all summer long of planning and training for 24-Worlds I find myself wanting to do another endurance race. I miss long rides!!! Luckily I do have a mini-adventure right around the corner. Details coming right up (as soon as I figure them out myself!)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Adventure by semi-truck!

Last week winter hit us hard! It was completely AWESOME (minus the scary driving conditions and having to shovel multiple times in one day) and I felt like a kid again playing in the snow with my fat bike :-) Within a few days we had 24 inches of snow dumped on us!

On Friday I met up with Jill to ride Merrell. Conditions were great and I'm pretty sure I was laughing the majority of the ride. I definitely need to brush up on my snow riding skills ;-) In fact, I think I need to just brush up on my pedaling skills in general after taking so much time off after Worlds.
Anyways, after riding a lap Jill and I headed back to the parking lot to find a semi-truck blocking the entrance. Apparently it had taken a wrong turn and then got stuck trying to back out. Oops! Not only was the driver stuck, but so was everyone in the parking lot.

We put on our superhero capes and tried to physically move the semi-truck ourselves. For some reason it wouldn't budge...
The first tow-truck that showed up wasn't much bigger then my van and broke an axle trying to free the semi. Oops! As it turns out all the other hikers and fat bikers in the parking lot were driving trucks or SUV's with AWD. With a bit of an effort they were able to drive up the snowy bank and around the semi-truck. The only people left in the parking lots were the ones who were driving mini-vans. That would be myself and Jill.

Luckily we had provisions...
It started to get really dark so we ended up leaving with a friend and waiting it out at a nearby brewery. Jill brought the important stuff with her. Beer and gummies...you can last a long time with those two items :-)
I finally arrived home 8-hours after I had left. The funny thing is that my total ride time of the day was a small fraction of the time I spent talking and laughing with friends in the parking lot and at the brewery. Winter training is fun :-)

Unfortunately we are now back to where we started...which is with zero snow. Over the weekend it warmed up and rained non-stop so all the snow melted. A few years ago I never would have imagined myself wishing for a long, cold winter but here I am! Come back snow!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Iceman race report

Before:

A few hours later:

I think those two pictures summarize my race perfectly. I've raced a lot of Iceman's in varying conditions (snow, cold, sun, warm temps). There was even one year where I raced with a broken collar bone that had only been healing for three weeks. However, this Iceman/Rainman/Mudman was by far the most challenging one to date. 

Without further ado...my Iceman race report!

Jill and I drove up early Friday morning to work the Grand Rapids Bicycle Co. tent and meet up with some sponsors.



Working the expo is one of my favorite things to do as it's a great way to see a ton of friends all in the same room. However it's also really tiring. By late afternoon I was DRAGGING and finally headed over to our condo around dinner time. Scott made some pasta and I spent the rest of the evening in a tired food coma. 

We were sharing the condo with Steve, Jill and our friend Mike (Soupy) and discussion centered around wave times and what the heck we were going to wear. While we were all trying to think positively about the weather, (maybe it will be sunny and in the 70's), common sense told us that we were going to be cold and wet. The weather forecast was calling for temps in the low 30's with an 80% chance of rain. Ouch. 

I was extremely excited and had a hard time falling asleep (no surprise there). Once I was asleep though I slept really soundly. No dreams about getting lost or losing my socks...hurray! When I woke up my first thought was the weather COFFEE and my second thought was to look outside. It was dark and raining...surprise (not!)

After a quick breakfast I grabbed my gear to figure out what to wear. I decided to forgo the awesome rain jacket I invested in for Scotland and instead wore a short sleeve base layer, twin six jersey, GRBC vest, arm warmers, shorts and knee warmers. I heat up quickly when racing and didn't want to be too hot. 
P.S. Looking back it seems weird that I was worried about "being too hot" seeing that it was raining and cold out but whatever...

By the time we found parking and finished getting ready I didn't have much time to warm up. To tell you the truth I figured staying warm and dry was more important anyways. With about 25 minutes to the start of the race I started pedaling around and lined up with the rest of Wave 6. Lucky #6!!!

Last year the Fat Bikes all started together but this year we were all separated into different waves like all the other divisions. I had no idea who I was up against but I did know that I was not happy with my placement in Wave 6. Somehow I managed to line up in the very back row. We were all packed together so there wasn't any easy way to scoot up with my fat bike. I just hoped that my legs would feel good enough to have a fast start so that I could move up quickly!

Luckily my legs did feel good. I didn't have any top-end speed by any means but I was able to move up past a lot of riders and was really happy with how "light" my legs felt. After a mile or two on flat pavement we hit the first dirt and we were on our way. Water from puddles was spraying me from all directions and within a few miles I already had a mouth full of mud. The little rolling hills hurt a tiny bit but I tried to use them to pass as many people as possible. Some were a bit sandy (despite the rain) and I was loving the extra traction I got from my Beargrease!  On most of the hills people had to stay either to the right or left but I could go right up the middle!

A few miles in I heard a cuh-razy sound coming from my brakes. Ok, by this point everyone had noisy bikes but mine sounded like a giant boulder had gotten wedged in between my brake pads. It was alarming to say the least. Right about this time the course turned to pure...mud. It was spraying all over the place and I was seeing an alarming amount of wreckage out on the course. There were racers all over the sides of the course walking or fixing their chains or getting up from a crash. It was a little extra work to push my super sized tires through the mud but I had zero issues with crashing or sliding out. 

By the 10-mile mark my chain was revolting! It was skipping all over the place and kept seizing up. I had to get off a few times to fix it which made me start to get really cold. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I had two gears that I could use. My very easiest or my very hardest. 

I stayed in my hardest gear for the most part and I know I pedaled up a few hills with a rpm of 10. It was borderline ridiculous how slow my legs were turning over :-) At first I was frustrated that I couldn't ride as hard as I wanted to but then I realized that getting mad wasn't going to get me to the finish line any sooner. Part of racing is dealing with bad conditions, right???  I was just thankful that I had a few gears to use and that my chain was still working because there were a ton of people out there trying to fix broken chain links or carrying their bikes. So I either spun really, really fast or mashed my brains out. I found myself cheering my chain on more than once..."just hold on a little longer" and "just a few more miles...stay in one piece please!"  

Finally I hit the final climbs and was able to clear all of them. Go fat bike! Then a bit more really muddy singletrack and I was across the finish line in 1st place with a time of 2:36-something. My time was WAY slower then last year but I could care less. Not only was the course a little bit longer but the cold, rainy, muddy conditions made it WAY harder. Anyone who lined up at the start line in those conditions and persevered is a complete rock star in my book! 

I was so happy to see Steve standing at the finish line with my bag of warm clothes and I was even happier to see boxes and boxes of cookies stacked up under a nearby tent. Instantly I put on my sweatshirt, hat and jacket and then made my way to the tent to get a few cookies. Priorities :-) My mouth was chattering uncontrollably so Scott and I decided to leave right away and take the shuttle back to our car. The driver had the heat cranked and it felt so...freaking...good. 

After a really long, scalding hot shower we went back to the venue to hang out with friends and sponsors for the rest of the day and had a blast. Eventually the rain started to turn to snow which is way prettier in my book. I can't wait for snow and lots of it!

Even though the Iceman is pretty short compared to what I train for it is one of my all-time favorite races. Why??? I don't know :-) I think it's because it's a combination of reasons. Not only was it one of the first races that I've ever done but how often do you get to race and hang out with 5,000 other cyclists??? I love the whole Iceman weekend and everything that it entails. Next year I'll be back for sure!

PS. I recorded an episode on mountain bike radio about racing in Scotland. HERE IS THE LINK TO LISTEN!

Friday, November 07, 2014

Iceman...ready or not!

Good morning! It's almost time to head up to Traverse City for the Iceman Cometh race, along with about 5,000 other people. My coach had me do a few intervals on Tuesday to "wake-up" my lungs but other then that I've been on my bike very, very little since Worlds. I'm either going to feel really good or really, really bad. Let's hope it's really good :-)

I'm racing fat bike (of course!) tomorrow and take off in Wave 6. My lucky number. Judging by the forecast it's definitely going to be ICEman this year as temps are going to be in the low-30's with a mixture of snow and rain when I take off. Totally doable, right??? Scott is taking off in Wave 1...I'm going to do my best to catch him!!!

This is always one of my favorite races and I know I'm going to have fun regardless of how I feel. Be sure to stop by the GRBC tent today...we will be next to Salsa and 45NRTH!

See you all up there :-)

PS. I'll be posting pictures on my instagram page and also on mtnbikeradio's page

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Scotland Part 3

Race Day!

I woke up to an empty and silent cottage. Scott and Ted were up early in the morning and had already gone to the race venue to unpack and set-up the tent. I ate breakfast, got ready and waited for Scott to come pick me up. It was chilly out BUT NOT RAINING!!! Hurray!

We had to be at the venue by 9 a.m. so that we could park our car near the tent. Since it was cold out I went straight to the cafe at Ben Nevis to stay warm...no need to waste any energy shivering. I entertained myself on Facebook and was completely overwhelmed by all of the well wishes coming my way from friends. They had started a "24 hours of Cowbell page" on Facebook and already I was getting so much support and cheers it was unreal. I know I had the biggest smile on my face the whole time in the cafe...it was awesome.

Finally it was time. Out of nowhere I heard the sounds of bagpipes playing and we all lined up behind several different barricades. Even though it was a neutral start the men, women and age-groupers were separated just to keep things organized. Standing at the start line I was very, very excited but also very, very nervous. I knew that there would be a time when everything would hurt and I was mentally preparing myself for that. My biggest goal was to "ride my own race" and not get caught up in the start. Trust me when I say that there are times when I take off way too hard and I was determined that this would not be one of them.

More bagpipe playing (every race should have them), and then the promoter said a few words. To tell you the truth I don't remember much about the start. I tend to have tunnel vision once the countdown begins and become completely oblivious to anything happening around me.

And then we were off!

For the first lap we skipped the beginning singletrack section (to avoid a cluster) and instead started riding up a dirt road that led to the first big climb. This was a great way to break the field up. Even though I was in full-on race mode I was looking around at the views so much I'm surprised I didn't get whiplash.

For the most part I rode at a really conservative pace for the first lap. Every now and then I would pass someone or someone would pass me but I made sure to ride my own pace. I was really happy with how my legs felt and before I knew it I was rolling through the transition area...one lap down.

One of the best things I've ever learned with 24-hour racing is to make a nutrition list and detail it per hour. It's a great way to keep track of calories etc. and is also really helpful for the pit crew. This way Ted and Scott didn't have to guess about what I would want. And if I came in demanding a cheeseburger they could just point at my list and say "no!"  :-)

For this race I decided that I would switch out my hydrapak every lap since I would be rolling right by the pit area. I carried 25 ounces of water with a single serving package of CR half-evil endurance formula dumped in (222 calories). I also ate a few honey stinger organic chews every other lap during the day. Scott also handed me two Rocketlytes every hour. I loved these because they have ginger root powder and peppermint extract. This was the first time that I had ZERO stomach issues for the entire 24-hours.

The sun was shining for the next couple of laps and I was perfectly warm wearing just a jersey, arm warmers and shorts. It was fun riding in a diverse field as I met a lot of different people and heard a lot of different stories about 24-hour racing in Australia and Italy and so on. The course was a little muddy in parts from the rain the day before but overall it was in great shape. Even so I switched bikes every other lap so that Ted could clean my bikes and look them over. One guy asked me if I brought a half dozen of the same bikes with me because they were so clean but really it was just Ted doing a great job at keeping my bikes clean.

It started raining right before darkness fell. I was at the top of the first long climb and remember wondering what it was doing down at the base and if Scott and Ted knew that I was getting drenched. I vowed to change my shorts when I got back to the pit area. Wet shorts plus riding on a bike for a long time = no fun.
By the time I got back to the pit area Scott and Ted had my back-up bike and spare helmet ready to go with my NiteRider lights attached. It was only 6 p.m. but already getting really dark. We were so busy switching everything that I completely forgot to change my shorts and didn't remember until half-way up the first climb. The singletrack sections were really, really dark and I was happy to have such bright lights. Some of the technical areas got even more slippery and there were some areas that I was definitely not comfortable on. However I just kept reminding myself that momentum was my friend and for the most part I was able to clean the sections.

The course layout had us rolling past the transition area before heading back out for the final climb (which was getting longer and longer each time). Scott was always standing in the EXACT same spot with a smile on his face. For the longest time I didn't ask what place I was in or what lap I was on but by the middle of the night he told me that I was closing in on 5th and that 4th wasn't that far ahead either. I was excited and tried to make up as much time as possible on the climbs since I knew I was slowing down too much on the switchback downhills. I passed a few more girls but it was impossible to know if I was lapping them or catching up to 5th place.

It was much colder in the middle of the night and since I wasn't drinking as much I switched to the CarboRocket Hydration mix and started eating more solid foods.  Bananas, ham, cheese, potatoes...you name it. Scott would hand me whatever I had on my list as I rolled by and it was usually gone by the time I made it to the course entrance.

It was the longest night ever. I think we rode in the dark for 12-13 hours. By sunrise I had moved up to 4th place and had a 5 minute lead on 5th. I knew that the women behind me would be chasing the entire time and that I would have to keep pushing the pace. My legs were definitely fatigued from all of the climbing.  I was still in the same freaking shorts from the day before and the same socks. My socks had gotten wet and had bunched up under the soles of my feet and don't get me started on those shorts. But I reasoned that if I managed to stay in the same wet shorts for 18-hours I might as well make it an even 24 :-)
Finally Scott said the magic words...ONE MORE LAP! At this point my nutrition list that I had made was completely discarded and I went crazy at my little buffet table. I think I managed to shove a apple pie and swiss cake roll and then more apple pie in my mouth at the same time...best combination ever. In Scotland I also discovered this amazing invention by Nestle called the Aero bar. I grabbed one of those for the road and then headed back out for my last lap. I had built up a 30-min lead on the 5th place women but in a 24-hour race a 30 minute lead doesn't seem like much. I was super paranoid that she was going to catch me and willed my legs (which felt like they each weighed 100 pounds) to keep pedaling.
Despite the fatigue I tried to absorb everything in the last lap. I tried to smile at each photographer who had been cheering me on, thanked all of the different volunteers who had spent the night huddling by fires cheering, ringing cowbells and squeaking rubber duckies at us. And most importantly the views...I tried to take them all in one more time. They are something I will never, ever forget.

Finally I hit the final descent and made it across the finish line to the smiling faces of Scott, Ted and a bunch of other cheering people. I finished in 4th place with a total of 20 laps (30,000 ft of climbing!)
The people who were staying in the cottage next to us had come to watch the finish...a lady that Ted had met on the train was there to cheer. It was so awesome! The promoters had custom hats to hand to us, along with a big bottle of beer. I will be the first to admit that I was ready to bust out in happy tears. Mostly because I was happy with how the race went but also because I was REALLY happy that I could finally take the shorts I had been wearing for 24 hours OFF! Trust me when I say that they did not feel good!!! Luckily I was too happy about my race to care much about the fact that I might have a chamois seam imprinted on my butt for the rest of my life :-)

The moment I stepped off my bike I felt like the ground was coming up to meet me. Kind of like the feeling you get when you've been on a boat for a long time. Instead of "sea legs" I had "bike legs." Scott and Ted finished packing up all of my gear and I sat in the chair in full-on zombie mode. By the time we got home I managed to take a shower and the next thing I know I was curled up in a ball on the bed...too tired to even get under the covers.

The No Fuss promoters did an excellent job putting on the race complete with a really fun presentation dinner at night...where I consumed large amounts of food :-) The promoters also announced the next couple of venues for the 24 hour World Championships. Next year it's going to be in California...after that New Zealand and then Italy.

That night I had a really hard time sleeping because every part of my body was sore and whenever I closed my eyes I would see trees heading straight at me. Oh well...a small price to pay.

The rest of the trip was really short. We had two more days in Scotland to cram in as much as possible. It's such a beautiful country and everyone that we met was incredibly nice. I definitely want to go back for a bike-packing trip someday to explore more of the country because I feel like we were only able to see a small part of it.

Here is a blog post I did about the race for Salsa Cycles and here is a video of the race. Just watching the video makes me want to go and do it all over again which is saying a lot seeing that I'm still not 100% yet.

After the race I took a few weeks almost completely off from the bike and I have to say it was definitely needed. Right now I'm in the middle of trying to finalized a lot of sponsorship stuff and I've also started strength training again. I feel incredibly weak and as you can see from this picture I have a long ways to go. Onward to getting stronger!
I want to send a huge amount of thanks to all of my sponsors, family and friends for being supportive. Most importantly I want to thank my hubby Scott and mechanic Ted for being such a great pit crew. Words can't do justice to how positive they were throughout the night and how much I appreciate everything they did for me. I know that standing in a pit area for 24 hours is not easy and there is no way that I could ever have done it without them. Racing solo for 24 hours is definitely a team effort!