Monday, April 21, 2014

The Hellkaat 50 and the rest of Easter weekend...

Finally...spring is here and I kinda, sorta, believe it. I don't know if it's because our winter was so cold, so harsh, or so long, but I have a whole new appreciation for warm weather. Being able to just go out in shorts and a jersey feels amazing and riding trail is a complete novelty.

I had Friday off (from work) and my coach had me scheduled to do a 1-hour spin with a few leg openers. Normally I would do that on a flat road but I lowered the handlebars on my Spearfish and wanted to test the fit out on trail before Ted cut my fork. I headed out to Luton Park and rode a few sections of trail at a really easy pace. I think my total mileage was about 6 miles which means I'll have a total of 11 miles of singletrack under my belt this year before racing the Cohutta 100. Haha (I'm laughing about it now...we'll see how I feel at mile 60). Anyways, my second ride on the Spearfish was just as great as the first. I really love this bike.
I went to bed fairly early Friday night and was up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for the Hellkaat Hundie.
I was doing the race on my fat bike AND more importantly with my mom (who was racing on her Salsa Vaya). The Hellkaat Hundie had a 50 or 100 mile option and we opted for the 50 miler for two reasons.

1. This was only my mom's 4th time riding this year.
2. There was no way my coach would agree to me doing 100 miles on gravel the weekend before the Cohutta 100.

As I mentioned before the race itself was free, but was also a fundraiser for JDRF. I wasn't sure what the race was going to be like, but there were rumors that the midway point was a convenience store. That meant there would be opportunities to buy gummy bears and payday bars...I was strangely excited about this.

As it turns out, the Hellkaat 50 was everything that I love about the cycling world. A great turnout of cyclists supporting a great cause in a well supported race.
Racers getting ready to "GO!"
Sarah, Jill, my mom and I pre-race
The start was a neutral roll-out out of town and it all went really smoothly. Since this race had a "grassroots feel" to it I wasn't expecting to have cop cars blocking intersections for us...but they did and it allowed us all to stay together. Once we hit gravel, groups started to break off and my mom started pulling. No joke...she was in the front way more then me.
That's my mom up there!!!
The whole race was so much fun and I had a blast racing with my mom...even the time when she dropped me on a downhill and I couldn't catch up for the longest time :-)
Me and my mom...
Me and my teammate (Fatty/Metal Martindale)
Oh's us again
Eventually we got back on our bikes...I promise :-)
What a great day and hopefully the event raised some good money for JDRF!!!  I'm counting on the HellKaat Hundie to happen every year now! Gravel road races are becoming my favorite thing to do in the spring time and between Barry-Roubaix, the Lowell 50 and the Hellkaat Hundie we have some good ones around here.

PS. I promise that there won't be any selfies of me racing Cohutta. At least I hope not!!!

Even though I wasn't going all-out race pace I got a good workout in. 50 miles of gravel on a fat bike is no joke and now my focus is to recover, recover, recover. That made for a really low-key Easter at our house.
Very, very low-key!!!
It was the type of day where I would have liked to be on my bike all day long, but instead I went out for 1-hour recovery ride with Scott.  Powered by Jelly Beans of course.
From this point on my goal is to continue with recovering and try to get everything packed for my trip down South. This time I'm driving down alone which is kind of a bummer because it's a long drive to do solo in one day. However, Scott the Easter bunny did leave me a Starbucks at least I can stay caffeinated!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New Bike...and I LOVE it!

Yesterday I was finally able to take my new bike out for it's first ride. I had heard nothing but positive things about the XX1 Spearfish but I was still unprepared for how freaking awesome it is. I rode over to Cannonsburg ski hill and thought that I had the bike locked out because whenever I would stand up on a hill there was zero bobbing. However once I hit dirt the bike floated over everything. It's perfect and I can't believe that it's mine.

I still have to work on dialing in the fit, but I'll have it ready just in the nick of time to head down to Tennessee next week. About a month ago (when Michigan was getting dumped on relentlessly with snow) I completely snapped and signed up for the Cohutta 100. At the time the thought of riding 100 miles in the sun sounded absolutely fantastic. When I told my coach about it he was like, "there's not much time to get ready for that," and he was 100% right! Over the last month I did as much as I could, but I'm nowhere near ready to race 100 miles. Or maybe I am...we shall find out.  I plan on using the Cohutta 100 as a stepping stone for the Lumberjack 100...and it's also a good excuse to go down and catch up with some great friends that I miss seeing! I'm nothing but excited about this race and now that I have this bike I'm twice as excited. And now that I just went on and on about how excited I am to race in warm weather it's totally going to snow in Tennessee, right??? It better not....

Anyways, back to the bike. I was so excited to finally take it out for a test ride that I didn't realize that I was still missing a water bottle cage until I made it to the trail. I guess it didn't matter anyways because I then also realized that I left my bottle of Carborocket sitting on the kitchen counter. Oops. It's probably a good thing that I could only do a short ride because once I was on my bike I wanted to stay out there all day. I've been dreaming of riding on dirt for so felt surreal.
Unfortunately I had to cut my ride really short (1-lap) but it was for a good cause-cleaning up Merrell trail in Rockford. I will be the first to admit that I need to go to more trail clean-up days and I plan on it this summer. There is a reason why all of our trails are in such great shape and it's because so many volunteers work on them. There was a really huge group that showed up to clear fallen trees and debris and we got done pretty quickly. Next time I definitely plan on bringing my own leaf blower, rake and chainsaw though!

It's all about teamwork...this tree was in our way :-)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Recovering from a fat bike hangover!

The tell-tale signs of a fat bike hangover are all present. Deliriously happy, dragging my feet, and consuming large amounts of the peanut butter cups that Scott made...
It probably goes without saying (since the two main ingredients are peanut butter and dark chocolate) but holy moly, these peanut butter cups are amazing! Here's the recipe (Scott used peanut butter instead of almond butter and eliminated the coconut). But be's impossible to eat "just one!"

This was another big volume week (for me). On Tuesday I did a 3 hour ride followed by a 6 hour ride on Wednesday followed by a 4 hour ride on Thursday. Wednesday was by far my favorite day of the week since I rode my Beargrease out to Grand Haven and straight onto the sand.
Riding along the shoreline never gets old and I feel so lucky to live so close to Lake Michigan. It was slightly surreal to ride next to the water and not hear any waves crashing. There's still quite a bit of the shoreline that is frozen.
Round trip was 82 miles and I will be the first to admit that I was pretty tired by the time I got home!

The longer rides motivated me to start using my Barking Bear frame bag this week. So far I really like it and it's amazing how much "stuff" I can fit in it.
On Saturday I was able to do some unplanned product testing on the frame bag since I got stuck riding in the rain for the last hour and a half of my ride. Good news..the frame bag kept everything dry! I, on the other hand, was completely soaked!
When all was said and done I put in about 20 hours on my fat bike this week. Awesome!!! Besides work and walking the dogs, I didn't have time for much else (except eating peanut butter cups) and I'm really happy today is a rest day. It's cold, windy, and rainy today so once again I have no temptations whatsoever to go outside.

This week will be much lower volume and then I'm racing riding the Hellkaat 50 with my parents. I am so, so, so excited for this race. We had to mail in postcards that will be used for our number plates. Since I'm the queen of procrastination I waited until the very last minute and had to hand deliver ours. I didn't plan it but looking at our number plates I realize that they all have a "butt" theme. And I can't wait to see my dad's face when he get's handed his number plate....Bahahahaha. Mine is the one of the lower right side (of course!)

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Lowell 50-Race Report

Race Day!!!
I woke up and had the usual, oatmeal with almond milk and fruit, lots of coffee and a bottle of raspberry lemonade carborocket.  Scott and I dropped off the dogs to my parents and were on our way to the race. It was so nice to only have to drive 30 minutes to get to the race. Once we arrived at Fallsburg Park I picked up my number plate and warmed up a little.

There were two different distances to race, 57 or 34 miles. The fat bike division was in the 34 mile distance. I watched the 57 milers take off and lined up for my start. Temps were in the low-30's and I was shivering uncontrollably. What the heck? I spent the winter racing in single digits...30-degrees should feel like a heat wave!

Finally we were off. The start was pretty controlled as racers tried to get in position. Gravel road races are tough because no one wants to miss the break or get stuck riding alone. But at the same time everyone was trying to avoid the million gazillion potholes that were all over the place!

My start was less then stellar but within a few minutes we reached our first (and most evil) climb of the day. That warmed my legs up in a hurry and by the time I reached the top I was gasping for breath and ready to race :-)

Eventually I ended up with a group of about five guys on cyclocross and mountain bikes. They were racing at a really good pace and I planted myself at the back and willed myself to stay on. I don't ride in groups often, and it took a while to get used to not seeing what was in front of me. The guys did a great job of taking good lines, but even so I hit a few teeth rattling potholes that probably would have flatted my little Ford Fiesta. My big tires just couldn't avoid some of the potholes like the skinny cross tires could...haha. Mud was flying in all directions and half-way through the race I reached the conclusion that with all the run-off from farms, I had probably swallowed some cow poo. All in a days work, right????
Photo: Jack Kunnen
Even with such a high volume training week I felt really good. There were a few times on pavement where the guys lowered their heads and started hammering so hard that I was convinced I wouldn't be able to hang on. Trust me, I was dangling at times. But I was able to push through the "bleeding from the eyeballs" feeling and we ended up racing together until the finish line. It was a great day for sure. I was the first female fatty and second fat bike overall. These gravel road races are SO great for training and I'm really happy to be getting such consistent training in. 
I love my muddy fat bike!
I have to admit that seeing this after crossing the finish line made me very, very, very happy!
Fat bike podium!
After the race it was fun to hang around with everyone. Where else but a race can you walk around with a bunch of mud on your face and have everyone act like it's completely normal?
Me and my GRBC teammates!
Bragging about my Metal arm warmers...
I'm not even going to try and explain this photo! My teammates are the best :-)
This coming week is going to be another heavier training week with no racing! However, I do have another gravel road race coming up. The HellKaat Hundie is right around the corner and rumor has it that the course is going to be fun. It's a free race, but to enter you have to send in a postcard. I think the deadline is April 12th which means I need to get one in asap. I can't wait for this race. Not only is it a fundraiser for JDRF but I'm going to do it with my parents! On my fat bike of course :-)

Friday, April 04, 2014

A perfect day for a recovery day!

Normally I hate cold and rainy days. But not today. It's perfect weather for a recovery day because there is absolutely no temptation for me to do anything active outside.

My coach pumped up my training volume a lot this week. A 4-hour ride on Tuesday, a 5-hour ride on Wednesday and a 3-hour ride (in pouring rain) yesterday. Wednesday was the only nice day out of my 3-day training block and it felt great to be in the sun with my arm warmers pulled down. Now we are back to temps in the low to mid-30's and rain. It's weird. A few months ago I would have considered 30 degrees as balmy. But all it takes is one or two nice days and I have grown soft :-)
My Beargrease was all over the place this week...
Needless to say, I was dragging my feet at work today. Literally. I think my manager thought I was being overly dramatic because I was shuffling around but lifting my legs took too much effort :-)

I've done all of my secret "oh-so-pro" recovery tricks today. A pizza from Brick Road (gluten free of course), a vanilla machiatto from Starbucks, and most importantly...a nap after work!
I have the best nap buddies!
Tomorrow's race will be a good test to see if the pizza helped my legs recover faster...haha. But for now, it's time for bed. I've learned that (for me) the most important aspect to recovery is getting enough sleep. There was a time when I would have been disappointed in myself if I went to bed before 2 a.m. on a Friday night. Things have certainly changed because it's not even 9 p.m. and I'm all fist pumping because I'm going to be asleep before 9:30 p.m.

Lowell 34-Fat Bike edition tomorrow. Hope to see lots of you there :-)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Spring has sprung (kind of)

The signs of winter are slooooooowly disappearing from the mitten state! Last week was pretty nasty, but by the weekend temps were in the 40's and 50's (gasp)!  I was able to get out for 4 hours on Saturday and 4.5 hours on Sunday.

On Saturday Scott and I pre-rode the 34 mile route of the Lowell 50. I had to do a few tempo intervals so I rode my bike out to Fallsburg Park to meet up with Scott. It was a grey, gloomy day and I was really happy once I got my intervals out of the way and was able to ride with my hubby. 

The course is completely rideable and most of the roads are in pretty shape. That being said, there are a few sections that will make "picking the right line" challenging!
Like this one!
And this one!
Don't let these pictures scare you. The roads have another full week to dry out and even if we have to deal with a few puddles and what. Who knows when we will be able to ride trail around here. For now, we can get our excitement from dodging potholes and blasting through puddles :-)

Sunday was a monumental day in the fact that I was able to ride without a hat! I don't know when the last time was....maybe sometime in October? It felt amazing and I loved all 4.5 hours of my ride.
One less layer!!!
As great as these rides have been, they have also been eye opening. I have A LOT of work to do. I feel like my endurance completely disappeared over the winter, and I need it to come back...and the quicker the better.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep myself busy with some gravel road racing on my fat bike :-) I have to say, I can't say enough good things about my Sarma Naran rims. Unlike Scott, I haven't been picking the good lines on my rides. I've been hitting multiple potholes at full speed and my rims have been holding up great!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Barry-Roubaix race report

I can't say enough good things about the Barry-Roubaix. Not only is it one of the biggest races in Michigan, it's one of the biggest gravel road races in the country. The course is great and the after-party is even greater. This year did not disappoint in any area!

Heading into the race I was really excited to race, but also incredibly nervous. Have you ever heard the saying, "you are only as good as your last race?" I'm not sure where I heard that saying first, but personally I think it's a HORRIBLE saying-and I refuse to believe that it's true. However, in the two weeks leading up to Barry-Roubaix I had a lot of little mental demons that I constantly had to fight off. At least once a day I found myself worrying that I was going to feel just as bad as I did at Birkie. For the most part I was able push those worries away. But still...

On race day Scott and I loaded up the car and headed down to Hastings. I was racing in the 36-mile fat bike division which meant I was starting in Wave 9.  After almost 2-weeks off the bike I was much, much more rested then I had been. I could tell because my heart rate was higher just sitting in the car then it had been at any point during the Birkie race. I took it as a good sign.
pre-race selfie ;-)
We were able to take advantage of VIP parking this year with our 1UP USA rack this year. Seriously...I love everything about 1UP USA. I love that the racks are made right in Wisconsin, I love the quality and most importantly, I love how easy they are to use.  The VIP parking was just an added bonus :-)

After registering I warmed up, wished Scott good-luck and rode up and down the street a few times. My legs felt light and I felt fresh and I silently thanked my coach a million times in my head for making me take so many rest days.

I lined up way earlier then I probably needed too...but it was a good opportunity to catch up with a lot of people that I hadn't seen all winter. Temps were in the mid-30's and I was so happy that I wouldn't have to worry about my hydrapak freezing. After such a harsh winter being able to stay hydrated is a novelty :-)

Then it was moment of truth time...Wave 9 was off. The first couple of minutes were on pavement and our speed was pretty civilized. Once we hit the dirt our group started to break apart, especially after the first couple of hills. I always forget how many hills are on the course. There aren't any long, sustained climbs....just a lot of short, power hills with flat sections in between. You basically have to be on the gas the entire time.

I was so happy with how I felt (and really relieved). I definitely need to work on my threshold, but I felt pretty good on the hills. Truthfully the hardest part for me was trying to keep up on the downhills and paved sections. I was racing with a few other fat bike friends and they would put the hammer down whenever we hit a flat section. I still had my 28t ring on the front of my fat bike and I couldn't spin fast enough. I guess it was good practice for racing my SS :-)

It felt so good to be racing again that I'm pretty sure that I had a smile on for most of the race. At one point I saw a tandem pulled over to the side of the road. The guy was bent down and proposing!!! I was so excited I screamed out loud as I went by. Truthfully I'm also surprised that I noticed it since I am one of the most unobservant people that I know when I'm in the "race zone." Of course, the next day Scott had to hear about how I wish he would have proposed on a tandem...haha. Poor Scott!

I really love the Barry-Roubaix course but I was really happy to see the finish line. All those hills on a fat legs were burning and I was tired. I REALLY need to work on my endurance over the next month.
photo: Jack Kunnen
I was the 1st female fatty across the line and 11th overall out of the guys. It was so much fun and the after-party was great too. Barry-Roubaix will be on my schedule every year!
Our bikes post race
I'm planning on spending almost all of April at home to get some really good training in and do a few local races. That being would be really great if it would warm up around here. It was snowing again today. This morning I woke up to the radio warning about occasional white-out conditions. Instant grumpiness ensued!

After an entire winter of blogging about how awesome snow is, I feel slightly ridiculous saying this, but please......MAKE IT STOP!!! I was ready for spring a month ago!