Monday, March 16, 2015

Fat Bike Birkie race report!

Well it's official. My winter fat bike season is over. There were times when the season seemed to drag on forever (when my tailbone hurt) and there were times when I was having so much fun that I felt like every time I blinked another week had gone by. I had bad races, good races, and great races and learned something new every single time I raced :-)

I'm SO excited for long summer nights, riding on dirt and training hard for some big races this summer. However, I'm going to miss the craziness of winter racing and everything it entails. Checking weather forecasts 100 times a day, trying to figure out the perfect layering combo and most importantly...going around at the start line and squeezing everybody's tires. Because + 1 or  - 1 psi can make or break a race when you are riding in the snow :-)

Actually, now that I think of it I'm definitely ready for a break from the layers and craziness of driving in the snow. But without a doubt I'm going to miss seeing everyone on a regular basis! Hopefully we can have some reunions this summer...

Ok, back to the Birkie! Since Scott was really sick for the Polar Roll he decided that he was going to drive over to Marquette after the Birkie to get one good day of riding in before the snow melts. That meant taking two cars up to the Birkie. Kind of a pain but it worked out in our favor because we had to transport the series trophies and swag besides all of our bikes. Scott and Steve left bright and early Friday morning and Jill and I left a little later...after stopping for coffee (of course!)
The drive was loooong! We managed to break it up a few times with the usual stops (Chipotle, Starbucks) but by the time we pulled into the cabin the sun was setting and I was tired. After unpacking our stuff, and exploring the cabin, we drove over to registration, ate pizza and then it was time for bed!

There were 9-10 of us sharing a cabin but we all managed to get ready in the morning without bumping into each other too many times. Everyone started rolling out and before I knew it Jill and I were the only ones left in the cabin. This is where things turned a little crazy.

Normally I try to get to the race venue one hour before the race starts (at the very least). I hate feeling rushed and having extra time is always a bonus. I was shocked when I looked down at my watch and realized it was a little past 8 and we hadn't left yet (the race started at 9). Clearly I had spent way too much time in the bathroom :-) We headed out to the car and realized that EVERYONE had left including Scott and Steve (Scott had to get there early since it was the season finale). Normally that wouldn't have been a big deal but we were planning on following...someone. We had zero service so we couldn't look up the address to the Telemark Lodge (race start), we couldn't call anyone, and our Garmin wasn't cooperating.

We headed in the direction that we thought was the right way but eventually we came to a fork in the road (literally) that had a big sign next to it. Jill mentioned that she didn't recognize the sign so we turned around to go in the opposite direction. At this point it was 8:15 and I started feeling panicked. Not only did we have Steve's bike in our van but Steve was sitting 2nd in the series and I was sitting in 3rd. We both had to finish the race or we would lose our spots.

I started looking for a house to stop at to ask for directions. The only problem is that most of the property near us were vacation homes. None of the driveways were plowed..no one was home.  Jill found an address to a saloon that she saw near registration. We breathed a sigh of relief and headed in that direction. 10-15 minutes later we arrived in the middle of nowhere. We both went from being mildly panicked to freaking out in .01 seconds.

Jill started scrolling through the Garmin's history and luckily found the Telemark Lodge address about 5 pages down. After typing in the address we were on our way. The Garmin said our ETA was 9:05 which was problematic since the race started at 9. I'm not quite sure how we did it but we managed to pull into the parking lot with 7 minutes to spare. The rest is a blur. I remember everyone grabbing bikes, hearing my name being called to the start line and the rest is history. We had zero time to warm up, zero time to go the bathroom but none of that mattered. I was so happy just to be on the course and able to race.

The Birkie course is hard but ridiculously fun at the same time. It's kind of like being on a perfectly groomed roller coaster. There were a lot of downhills followed by uphills where you could get so much momentum going down you barely had to pedal up. BUT THEN there were also some super steep and super demanding hills that made my legs scream. I still had a cold and didn't feel the best but I tried to just focus on staying upright (the snow was getting soft on some of the downhills). It was the warmest race of the season with temps in the 30's and it felt downright balmy. I wore the 45NRTH liner gloves on my hands and was toasty! I also think this was the first race since the Solstice Chase (in December) where my water didn't freeze. Being able to drink during a race...I'll never take it for granted again :-)

Towards the end of the race conditions started to turn mushy and I had one very dramatic fall where I lost control of my bike on a downhill and landed on my face...haha. Landing on snow is much more forgiving then landing on dirt. Hopefully I got all of my crashes out of the way for the season!

Finally I heard sounds of people cheering and before I knew it I was at the finish line and rolled across in 6th place. Whew! That was a tough race. We had 60 women racing the longer distance, by far the biggest female fat bike field yet.
Racing in the winter can be hard. I hate driving in the winter and trying to cram a bunch of races in a short season can be tiring. But it's totally worth it. When I look back at this winter I think I spent the majority of my time racing with a smile on my face. Even when conditions are really hard, fat bike racing is so much fun. Not to mention it introduced me to so many great people. I have so many awesome memories from this past winter.

I want to give a huge thanks to all of my sponsors. This winter wouldn't have been possible without their help. My Salsa Cycles Beargrease makes racing pretty darn easy :-) Thanks to  Grand Rapids Bicycles and Ted Bentley for keeping my bike in tip-top shape and a ton of support. I loved heading into the bike shop Monday mornings with a race report :-) I also want to thank 45NRTH for supporting a all-female fat bike team and giving us top notch support and gear. It is easy to represent a company that makes such great product but the people behind the company are amazing.

Last but not least I want to thank my amazing teammates April Morgan, Chelsea Strate, and Jill Martindale for being so awesome. I'm truly lucky to be part of such a great team. If I had my way we would all have the same summer schedule as well!

Onward to spring and gravel racing (gulp!)

Friday, March 06, 2015

Fat Bike Birkie or Bust

Time for my last fat bike race of the season. The Fat Bike Birkie is the season finale of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series and the biggest fat bike race in the country. I think there are 800 fat bikers signed up between the two distances. That's pretty awesome. 

Full report when I come back. In fact, I'll have to do a summary of the last 3 races that I've done. I meant to blog sooner about them but these last couple of weeks have kicked my butt. Scott got really sick with some sort of cold/bronchitis thing right before Marquette and even though I tried really hard to avoid all of his coughing, sneezing germs,  I got knocked down too. I haven't been sick in a really, really long time so I can't complain...that much :-)

So time for the last road trip of winter! I'm excited to race, I'm excited to see my friends and then I'm excited to be home for a while. After these last couple of months of hurt tailbone/frostbite/cold I am ready to get some good training in. And (I can't believe I'm saying this) I'm REALLY ready for winter to be over. Don't get me wrong, I love winter and I love riding in the snow. But by the time March arrives I'm always ready for it to disappear immediately. Especially because this winter really kicked my butt. Plus our granny greyhound (Naomi) has been having the worst time this winter. She's 12.5 years old and watching her trying to maneuver through the snow and on ice has been painful. I absolutely can't wait for the first warm day when she can just relax in the sun outside. 

Bring on the sun, bring on trail and bring on fat bike rides on the beach!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Frozen 40 race report!

Well after a month of sitting on my butt and letting my tailbone heal I was finally able to race this past weekend. I wish I could say that I had this awesome "comeback race" where I felt amazing, was super fast and everything went flawlessly. But that only seems to happen in the movies :-) If anything my race was the exact opposite of "super fast and feeling amazing." 

Here's the low-down...

I left for Minneapolis bright and early Friday morning with my friend Steve and little Lolo. Our mission was simple-drop Lolo off to her new family and then make it to Minneapolis at a decent hour. Lolo was THE PERFECT passenger in the car and slept (and snored) the entire way. I couldn't believe it! Steve and I were very nice and shared the "puppy holding time." Note: I should get friend bonus points for letting Steve hold the puppy because I really, really didn't want to share :-)
I will be the first to admit that I was blinking back tears as we got closer to Lolo's new home. Luckily I didn't bust out crying because that would have been awkward..for both Steve and I :-) I would be lying if I said I didin't get attached to her. I mean, I get attached to dogs that I see in commercials...haha. However, once we arrived at Lolo's new house I was happy. She won the lotto when it comes to her new family and I know she is going to have THE BEST life!
After dropping her off we hit the road again, went to packet pick-up and then settled in at T6 Brent's house (my race home away from home). For the last couple of weeks I had been waking up every night for puppy potty runs and let me tell you...I had zero issues falling asleep that night. 

Even with a good nights sleep morning came way to quick. It was cold out. The type of cold that hurts to breathe. 
From the start I knew that I was going to have a rough day in the saddle. I know I mentioned that I have asthma a million gazillion times on this blog but I'm going to mention it again. I've outgrown it for the most part but it still flares up in really cold weather. I've been really fortunate so far this winter because temps have been fairly mild. That came to a grinding halt at the Frozen 40. Not only was it -4 out but there was a windchill of -20+.

I basically felt like I was riding at Breckenridge or some other place at a higher elevation. No matter how hard I tried to pedal I had zero power and felt like I couldn't get enough oxygen in my body for the life of me. My teammate Chelsea passed me early into the race and I tried to yell good job at her (twice). Looking back it was comical because I was trying so hard to yell and it just came out in a giant whisper. There was absolutely NO WAY that she could have heard me. I watched her pedal away and if I had a rope I would have tied it to her bike. Chelsea totally would have pulled me through the trees...for a while at least! :-)

The race was run incredibly well and the course was awesome but I am not going to lie. I really, really wanted to stop. Seeing the finish line was so, so GREAT! It ended up being 46 miles and I was out there for 4:43:00. Definitely a hard day but oh well. I finished! And the good news is that my 45NRTH teammates April Morgan and Chelsea Strate took 1st and 3rd. What can I say??? My teammates ROCK!!!

A few of my friends were at the finish line and almost immediately my friend Jeff was like, "you have frost bite on your ear. Go sit in the car." I have never had frost bite in my life and I will be the first to admit that it's not normally something I have to worry about here. Like I said earlier,  temps have been on the milder side this whole winter and it's not like I go out on long training rides when temps are in the negatives. Apparently my left ear was slightly exposed and I never felt it. The moment I got into the warm van it felt like it was someone was stabbing me with a giant knife. Holy OW!!!!

Since I didn't know much about frost bite I spent the night "googling" it which is THE WORST thing you can do. After reading a few articles I started neurotically checking my ear every hour to see if it there were any signs of it turning black. It wasn't black but it was swollen and leaking. Gross. Frost bite = scary stuff!!!
Needless to say morale was low on the drive home the next day. Steve and I were both sore, tired, and frost bitten. Worst of all....we didn't have a puppy to cuddle with. 
post race and no puppy blues...
Monday I went to the doctor to get my ear checked out. He took one look at it and was like, "yup, you have frostbite." He was nice but basically gave me the same information that I read online. In fact, I'm pretty sure the printout he handed me was straight from Wikipedia :-)
On the mend 4 days later but still gross. My future as an ear model might be over before it even began...
Winter has not been kind to me this past month. The tailbone and asthma were both due to ice and cold weather but I'm pretty mad at myself for letting myself get frostbite. I should have been more aware. I just keep reminding myself to keep things in perspective. In the long run this is no big deal.  In fact, in terms of frostbite I think I'm getting off really, really, REALLY easy.  Based on some of the pictures I've seen online mine is the equivalent of getting a small burn. 

This coming weekend I'm racing up in Marquette. Scott drove up today with our granny greyhound Naomi and I'll be driving up Friday. I'm not sure how my lungs or legs are going to feel next weekend but I can tell you this. I'm MUCH more equipped to handle what winter has to throw at me!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Throwing myself a tailbone "pittie" party...

This past weekend turned out completely different then I initially thought it would go. First I was planning on traveling to MPLS to race the Loppet. On Wednesday my tailbone was still hurting...grrr! I figured that it would probably be in my best interest to avoid the long drive and decided to go up to Traverse City (about 9 hours closer to home) to compete in a fat bike race up there. I woke up Friday to a "still hurting" tailbone and by Friday night I decided to be smart (for once) and not race. Talk about being bummed out!

I basically spent the whole week missing workouts and freaking out about it. My poor coach and poor Scott :-) I will be the first to admit that I do not handle missing workouts well (even if I know that it's in my best interest). 

So I spent the weekend having a tailbone "pittie" party for myself. Literally.



Let me start out by saying NO we did not get another dog. This cute little puppy (Lolo) was adopted by my friends in MPLS and I will be delivering her to them soon. In the meantime I'm trying to potty train her. I'm totally using Ben and Jeannie to do it because she will follow them outside and watch them. If they go she usually will. It's safe to say that I have never seen my dogs so tired. Jeannie usually LOVES going outside but now that she's been going out every hour on the hour I think our backyard is losing it's novelty :-) 

Hopefully taking time off from training will help my tailbone heal. In the meantime I'll just take lots of puppy pictures and post them. Because who doesn't think this is cute???

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dear Ice, You SUCK!

This past week was definitely NOT a good week from a training standpoint. Michigan keeps having Jeckyll and Hyde weather. One day will be warm and everything will start melting, the next will be cold and all the melting snow turns to ice. Ugh. 
Intervals on slush and ice are always fun! NOT!!!
For the most part I've been able to stay outside and upright but everything came to a crashing halt at the Thursday Throwdown.
The Thursday Throwdown is fat bike Time Trial at a local greenhouse. It's super low-key and a ton of fun. You can find more pictures here on the Rules of Endurance page.  Having a training series like this is really awesome for getting a hard effort in. Last week the course was icy so I decided to take it easy. I hate ice and trying to go all-out on it didn't sound like a good idea.

We had to do 6 laps and right about 2.5 laps in I hit an icy patch on a slight downhill turn and the next thing I knew my bike was flipping out from underneath me, my feet were in the air and I landed directly on my tailbone. It was a very dramatic fall for not going very fast. I hit the ground so hard there was a moment that I thought I was either going to poop my pants or puke my brains out. I kid you not...landing hard on the tailbone SUCKS!!! I'm not sure how long I sat on the ground but it felt like a long time. The only reason why I eventually got up was that I knew my friend Steve was going to be coming around the corner and the last thing I wanted to do was be sitting directly in his path on a bunch of ice.

I'll be the first to admit that initially I thought I was broken. Standing up hurt, pedaling hurt...my butt hurt :-)

I pedaled when I had to and coasted whenever I could. After a few minutes I realized that if I was able to pedal I was probably just really bruised. So I soft pedaled my way around the course twice more (I had less then 3 miles left) and finished.

I thought sitting around for a while would make me feel better but in all actuality I just started to hurt worse. So I took off, shed lots of tears on the way home and spent the entire next day walking around like a 95-year old lady.

The good news is that I'm on the mend. I'm able to sit on my bike and pedal which is awesome because I've bruised my tailbone once before and I could barely sit for the first 2-weeks. It hurts to pedal hard but oh well. I'll deal.

This Saturday we are heading to Minneapolis for the Loppet race. Racing hard will be hard but to tell you the truth I'm more worried about the car ride over. Luckily I've had numerous offers to borrow one of those "cute, little" donut pillows to sit on. Something tells me I'm not the first mountain biker to land on their tailbone :-)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Absence makes the heart grow fonder?? Finally...a blog update!

I can't believe that it's been almost a month since I've posted on this poor blog. I don't remember winter being this BUSY before. Last week I did 3 fat bike races within 7 days, had two fun weekends with friends, and then Scott went out of town for a week. The races were a blast and I was really happy with both of my results. More importantly I'm happy to see so many more women racing fat bikes this winter. The field seems to have doubled this year and racing against fast women is just going to make me stronger. It's amazing how riding on snow covered double track can be just as technical as riding rocky and rooty singletrack :-) Every time I cross the finish line I feel like I've learned something new.

We also had our 45NRTH Happy Hour at the Grand Rapids Bicycle Company and then a "Conquer the Cold" ride the next day. All of this fun is making winter fly by and I feel like spring will be here before we know it..unless we have a spring like last year and it will be winter until June :-)

Anyways, it's impossible to write about everything that happened over the last month. From this point forwards I'm going to start doing small updates every couple of days...even if it's just a picture. Expect a lot of cute dog pictures...haha.

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite photos from the last couple of weeks....











PS. I also did a radio interview on WGVU about Fat Bikes! Naturally I had to bring my fat bike along with me. Here's the link to the show! I hate listening to my own voice while getting interviewed so I haven't listened to it yet myself. Maybe I'll save it for the next road trip over to MPLS!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Solstice Chase-race report!

And...I'm back. Talk about A LOT of driving and A LOT of fun. I think we spent a total of 20 hours in the car. Luckily we had a few breaks for coffee and Chipotle.

Heading into this race I had no idea what to expect. After a few weeks full month of couch surfing after Worlds I slowly started training again but for a different type of race. I was hoping to do the Tuscobia 75 in early January. To make a really long story short I was really, REALLY broke after Scotland and couldn't sign up. When I finally could it was sold out and I was put on the waiting list. By now I've come to terms that it's not going to happen. Bummer!!! Oh well...if anything I got some good long-ish rides in and I'm going to keep building up on those rides for some early summer endurance races. Throw in some of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series and I'm going to be training hard and racing hard. That's the plan and I'm excited about it :-)

Anyways, back to the race. On Friday morning Scott, Steve, Jill and I all piled into the FatBike-mobile and headed West. Last year Jill and I drove by ourselves to most of the races and I think the ride over was a little "eye opening" for my hubby and Steve. FYI: Yes it is possible to laugh for 9 out of 10 hours!!!
At every gas station stop we perused the aisles for the foods with the highest amount of calories. Jill is racing the Tuscobia 150 and one of the race rules is that you have to finish with 3,000 calories on you. We did find a package of sausage that met the requirements. The only problem is that Jill is Vegan...so IF for some reason she did have to bunker down for the night, sausage probably wouldn't be the best emergency food.

This cookie...definitely not enough calories!
It was dark and cold by the time we reached our destination of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, and we were hungry and tired. My pre-race spin consisted of me pedaling up and down our hotel hallway a few times. We went to bed pretty early and I had one of those dreamless sleeps. No nightmares of missing the start or losing socks...hurray!

As always our alarm(s) were all going off way too soon. We layered up, and then headed down to see what our breakfast options were. Part of "race morning excitement" is the continental breakfast. You never quite know what you are going to get. This one was pretty good...I settled on oatmeal, a banana and coffee. Living large :-)

The race venue was less then 10-minutes away and we were some of the first racers to arrive. It was super organized and the registration spot was a barn decorated with Christmas lights. I loved it!!!
Since we arrived so early Jill and I headed over to another heated barn to hang out until our 45NRTH teammates April Morgan and Chelsea Strate arrived. When they finally did it was like a big old fat bike reunion. I am so lucky to be part of such a great team!

Finally it was time to line up! 45NRTH was there with a tent and I felt "oh so pro" being able to hand off my winter jacket. I know I just mentioned how lucky I am to be part of such a great team but I have to mention it again. Words can't even describe how thankful I am to represent such great companies and have such awesome teammates. I was smiling a huge grin at the start...until the promoter said "go" and then that grin turned into me gasping for air.

My start was chaotic at best. There was a bit of a cluster within the first couple of feet. A few people tangled wheels and a few handlebars were entwined. I can't quite remember where I was in all of this but I know I had to put at least one foot down...maybe two. It took a while to get going but once I got clipped back in I started chasing. As painful as it was I remembered how much I love fat bike racing.
Photo Credit: Kurt Barclay//45NRTH
The course had a ton of climbing and some of the doubletrack sections were really bumpy. After about 20-25 minutes I finally started to feel better and settled into a good pace with a few other guys. I was riding along, feeling good, when all of a sudden I hit a patch of ice and then immediately hit the ground. It took a few seconds to get back on but luckily there was no damage. After a lot more hills I was finally done with one lap. Heading through the transition area I was told that April was about a minute up. I knew that my speedy friend Megan Barr couldn't be that far behind along with Jill and Chelsea.

I felt much, much better on the second lap. I caught a few guys and eventually started riding with a guy who set a really good pace. Half-way through the lap I mentioned that I needed to watch out for the icy spot where I crashed and within a few minutes of saying that I was on the ground again. OMG! Talk about feeling like an idiot. I can't believe I managed to crash in the same spot TWICE!!! I freaking hate ice! Luckily my bike was still OK and I wasn't hurt (minus a few bruises and a REALLY bruised ego!)

The second lap seemed to go by faster then the first and before long I was crossing the finish line in 2nd place behind my teammate April Morgan. My friend Megan Barr (Twin Six) finished right behind me in 3rd and Chelsea and Jill finished in 4th and 5th. It was so cool to have such a strong field of women racing fat bikes!
With my teammates April and Jill (Chelsea had to leave early)
Last podium of 2014
I can't say enough good things about The Solstice Chase. The promoters and volunteers do a great job putting on the race. We hung out for a long time afterwards in the heated barn. Outside they had a wood fired stove for pizzas...it was pretty awesome.
Finally we packed up and left and headed to stay with Twin Six friend Brent for the night in MPLS. We stayed up way too late and had to leave way too early. I think the drive back was probably the most painful part of the entire race.

We stopped in Madison for lunch and found a "s'more station!" Talk about a whole lot of awesome!

It felt really great to go out and race. I have a few early season endurance races in the Spring so I won't be doing the entire winter series. I did that last year and it was too much time in the car and too little training. However I'm definitely going to do at least 5 of the races. All of the races are so much fun and so well run...I can't stay away. One thing that The Solstice Chase taught me is that I have a lot of work to do before this race!!!

Next up is Fat Chance! I'm still a tiny bit bummed that I can't race Tuscobia but Fat Chance is an awesome race and venue...I can't wait!