Saturday, October 25, 2014

Scotland Part 2

Thursday (2 days until race day!)

My goal of waking up early so that I could acclimate to the time change was a big fail. Since I was wide awake until 2 a.m. Wednesday night I slept in until 10 a.m. Thursday. To tell you the truth I wasn't too worried about it. I figured all that mattered was that I was getting as much sleep as possible.

Scott, Ted and I headed over to our cafe for COFFEE, breakfast and more wifi. The cafe owner informed us that the butcher hadn't arrived yet so there was no bacon. Not a bad thing since I was in danger of overdosing on all things MEAT. Instead I had fresh eggs straight from the farm and toast. Delicious!
On the way back we had to stop by and say hi to the resident horse at our cottage. She's 34 years old and spending her retired years basking in the sunlight and grazing.
Back at the cottage Ted built up my other Spearfish and then it was the moment of truth...time to pre-ride the course. Our cottage was only about 10 minutes away from the race course which was awesome. We pulled into the parking lot and there was a lot going on. People putting up tents, race promoters walking around and riders pedaling around and pre-riding the course. There were also a lot of riders in full downhill gear.

Ted wanted me to change my suspension settings from what I usually ride with at home. Not only did I have my rear shock fully unlocked, I was running Kenda Honey Badger 2.2 XC Pro tires with about 18-19 psi in each one. I felt like I had a whole lot of squish going on but I used every bit of it on the course!

The start was easy to spot with a bright yellow arrow pointing up a rocky little hill. While getting ready I saw a rider fumble on the rocks and got worried that it was going to be crazy technical. In reality it wasn't bad at all...phew!
The entrance dumped me me into some of the prettiest singletrack I've ever ridden on. I felt like I was on the set for Lord of the Rings or the The Hobbit. I totally wouldn't have been surprised if I looked over and saw an elf or something.
After a few minutes of pure singletrack awesomeness we hit the first big climb which was really, really long. Some parts were gradual,  but there were some steep pitches that had me in my easiest gear. I knew from experience that the climb would seem a little steeper and a little longer with each passing hour. Ouch.
 Just when I thought it was over we rode through a tunnel and continued upwards.
The views were beautiful and I had a really hard time keeping my eyes forward!

I wish I could have gotten more pictures of the singletrack sections because there were little waterfalls and tons of wet bridges (which I did not approve of). The bridges had a fine wire mesh on the top to help with traction but that still did not stop me from slowing down dramatically each time I reached one. I figured it was time to face my "wooden bridge mental demons" since I would be riding over them for 24 hours!

I finished the lap in complete awe. It was 8-miles long with 1,500 ft of climbing per lap. There's nothing remotely like it where I live and I will be the first to admit that I did not feel comfortable on the long downhill switchbacks. That being said I could clean the whole course and was excited to ride something outside of my comfort zone. Plus the views...there was no way that I would ever get bored out there.

After the pre-ride I chugged some CarboRocket Rehab and we went back to the cottage. Even though the sun was shining off and on it was chilly and damp out. After scalding hot showers we headed into town and played tourists for the night.

Lots of pictures...
And dinner! With an appetizer of...you guess it! Haggis, turnips and mashed potatoes :-)
Afterwards we spent the rest of the night relaxing. I felt tired but once again couldn't fall asleep until 2 a.m. (sigh).

Friday (1 day until race day!)

We woke up to a light rain and walked to the cafe just in time before it started to rain really hard. So much for an early pre-ride. I had mentally prepared myself for it to rain for my entire trip to Scotland so I didn't let it mess with my head at all. Yes it COMPLETELY SUCKS to ride in the rain (especially for 24 hours) but it's one of those things that can't be controlled. Plus I had spent my entire years salary on rain gear so I was 100% prepared. My biggest concern was that I would slide off of my bike and all the way down the mountain if I did have to wear it because I was basically a giant Slip N' Slide with all my rain gear on. :-)

It was still raining hard after breakfast so we decided to stay at the cafe. We were there long enough that we ended up ordering lunch as well. I think the owner was getting sick of us...haha. Lunch was homemade carrot ginger soup (amazing) and a cheese panini (equally amazing). I was still taking a "wee bit" break from meat!
As luck would have it the rain died down in the late afternoon and we were able to pre-ride the last little bit of the course. Ted wanted me to double check my back-up bike and I wanted to see just how sloppy the course was from the rain.

To my surprise the course was in great shape! Yes there were a few slippery spots and a few puddles but other then that you would never have guessed it rained as much as it did. I was happy, Scott was happy and Ted was really, really happy!

The last climb intersected with the bottom part of the World Cup Downhill Course. The sign pictured below had the address to the nearest hospital which was slightly alarming!
 I thought this was a billboard but really it's a banked turn for the downhill course. Crazy!
 
It started raining again during our ride so we crested the top of the final climb and enjoyed the final switchback descents. As always I was braking too much...need to work on that!
It was cold and I was tired. After picking up my race packet we walked the pit area to see where we would be set up.
Scott and Ted's home away from home for the next 24 hours
Naturally I had to be my dorky self!
We were all hungry but I had Scott and Ted drop me back off at the cottage so that I could get ready for the race. I wanted to conserve all of my energy and get all of my gear ready for the next day. I knew that if I were to go out to dinner I would just worry about what I had to do when I got back. I had so much adrenaline going through my body I almost wished that I could have started racing right then and there.

While Scott and Ted were out to dinner I entertained myself by checking out the swag bag. It had all the normal things like gels and chain lube but it also had this...getting whiskey in a swag bag was a first!
On a side note, the World Championships are in Northern California next year. Here's what I'm thinking...we each get a full bottle of both white and red wine in our swag bags from some awesome Californian winery! One can dream, right???

Finally Ted and Scott got home with dinner for me. It turns out that it's a little harder to order "take-out" in Scotland then it is in the United States. In Fort William there were designated places for "take-away" and the rest of the restaurants were for dining in. When Scott explained that he wanted to order a dinner to go the waiter said that they would figure something out and came back with this...
The restaurant literally wrapped a ceramic plate in saran wrap and sent it home. Awesome! Dinner was chicken with some sort of cucumber sauce, potatoes, and then more potatoes. PS. I don't want to eat a potato for at least another month!

Then it was time for bed. I never sleep well the night before a race and this one was especially bad. I think I finally dosed off around 1:00 a.m. and I had crazy race dreams all night where I couldn't find my socks, and then I missed the start, and then I was riding inside a building. I'm not sure why but not being able to find my socks is a common dream of mine before racing. And it's an ironic dream because I always bring a ton of socks :-) Anyways....

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Scotland part one

I can't believe it's been a full week since I crossed the finish line at the 24-hour World Championships. So much happened on that trip that it seems like a lifetime ago. At the same time I am so-freaking-tired that I feel like it could have been yesterday. I know that I am ridiculously slow when it comes to recovery but it still always surprises me how long it takes.

All summer long I trained and raced with Scotland in the back of my mind. For the longest time it seemed like I had all of the time in the world to save up money and train but as the event got nearer it seemed like time started speeding up. There was so much to do to get ready for the race!

Before I knew it my training time was up and I was tapering down and trying to pack a massive amount of gear into two pieces of luggage. I crammed everything that I absolutely needed (cycling shoes, helmet, kit) into my carry-on and Scott packed all of my lights into his. My Twin Six messenger bag was my "purse" and inside of it was clothing and a container of CarboRocket that I couldn't fit into my other luggage. Trying to maneuver my carry-on and bulging messenger bag down the narrow aisle of the plane was too much for my uncoordinated self and I managed to swing my bag into a few heads along the way...oops! I have no doubt that I was THE PASSENGER that all other passengers hate :-)
We flew out Monday late afternoon from Detroit. I was ridiculously excited since it was my first "real" time out of the country (I'm sorry...but I can't count Canada, eh!) I knew that Scotland was 5 hours ahead of our time zone and a lot of people advised me to try to sleep on the plane. Normally I fall asleep on a plane before it takes off from the runway so I didn't think it would be a problem. Did that happen this time? Nope. I was wide awake the entire time. Scott dozed off and I got sucked into one of those movies that you shouldn't ever watch on an airplane, The Fault in Our Stars. I didn't realize it was going to be so sad and before I knew it I had tears streaming down my face. So embarrassing!!! Especially because on my other side was some complete stranger..haha.

We landed in Amsterdam in the middle of the night for us (early morning for them) and I had that strange discombobulated feeling where I was tired but excited at the same time. Kind of like how I felt in the middle of the night while racing the 24-hours of Hanson Hills. There was only one thing to do...order lots of coffee.
Finally we hopped back on the plane for a short little flight to Scotland. I did manage to fall asleep for an hour on this flight and felt extremely tired when we touched down in Glasgow. It was 7 a.m. in the morning there and the sun was shining. I was actually surprised to see the sun because I had mentally prepared myself for rain (lots and lots of rain) the entire time we were there.

We still had a 3-hour drive to Fort William. After getting MORE coffee we found our rental van, loaded up our luggage and were on our way. Technically it took about 10 minutes of sitting in the van before we were on our way because Scott had to get used to the steering wheel being on the right side of the car (which is the wrong side for us) and also get used to the idea of driving on the left side of the road. I cheered him on and told him he was doing great but inside I was silently screaming.
The roads were ridiculously narrow in some spots and I counted at least two times when Scott went up on the curb within the first hour. I tried to help him navigate but I kept wanting to say "take a right in this round-about" when really we needed to take a left! This picture doesn't do justice to how narrow some of the roads were! Luckily everyone was driving very slowly around the corners.
The drive to Fort William was amazingly beautiful. We stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe for what would be the first of many fish and chip meals! So, so, so good!
Finally we arrived in Fort William which is located right in the highlands of Scotland. There were mountains surrounding the area and I was so excited to start exploring. We rented a cottage from a couple that had lived on the land their entire lives. One of the owners (Jennifer) was born in one of the original cottages and could trace her ancestors back to the cottage as far back as 1860. I had been told over and over again how beautiful Scotland is and it's absolutely true.


While we were talking to Jennifer a search and rescue helicopter flew towards the mountains where the race was going to be held. Jennifer turned towards me and said, "I really hope you don't break your neck during the race!" I did not find this reassuring at all. All summer long I imagined two things about the Worlds course. I imagined a ton of twisted roots and pouring rain. After Jennifer's comment about breaking my neck I started to imagine huge drops too. While I was really excited to pre-ride the course I was also really nervous.

After we got settled in I decided to sit on the couch for a few minutes and the next thing I knew I was waking up 2 hours later. That night I was so tired but still couldn't fall asleep until 2 a.m. The time change was harder to deal with then I thought it would be.

The next morning we walked down to a nearby cafe for coffee and wifi. I also had my first proper Scottish breakfast. The theme of my breakfast was sausage, sausage and more sausage :-) It was really good and my favorite part of it was the black pudding. For some reason I thought black pudding was a type of dessert (because pudding!) and I kept remarking to Scott that it had a "different" taste and consistency to it. Kind of like a grainy jello. He just nodded his head and kept his mouth shut until I finished the whole thing. When I googled it I found out that black pudding was actually blood sausage. Eek.
Post breakfast we headed back to the cottage and then into town so that I could do was spin my legs out. I always feel like crap the day after traveling so I stuck to a flat paved path and just enjoyed the views. The weather was absolutely perfect for me. Temps were in the high 50's and it was sunny out. It was so beautiful out I wanted to stay on my bike all day but after a few leg openers I called it good. I knew that staying on my bike all day-and all night-would come soon enough.
Afterwards we explored a nearby castle which was pretty cool to see. It's not every day that you can just drive around and see castles (or the remnants of castles) in the distance!
GRBC at Inverlochy Castle
Then it was time to pick up Ted at the train station. Ted has been my mechanic forever and I couldn't imagine doing a 24-hour race without him. I was so excited that he was able to meet us in Scotland!
Ted was exhausted so after a quick dinner of (what else?) Fish and Chips AND Haggis we called it an early night!

To be continued....

PS. Fat Bike Night is tonight at the Grand Rapids Bicycle Companies Ada Location! Let's eat, drink and talk fat bikes...hope to see everyone there :-)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Stay tuned!

I'm back in the States! We flew back to Michigan on Thursday and I spent the weekend on the couch. I had zero motivation to do anything and that includes my blog. Plus it doesn't help that the pointer finger on my left hand is swollen and won't bend. The lazy part of me keeps saying, "it will heal!" but a small part of me keeps wondering if I broke it somehow. It's amazing how many little bruises appear after a 24-hour race and you don't know when or where they came from :-) I'm giving it another week before I really start to worry!

Anyways, I had an amazing trip and thank you so much for all of the well wishes. Blog post coming tonight but for now...it's back to work I go....BOOOOOOOOOO!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Scotland here I come!!!

Next weekend will be my last race of the summer season. I can't even begin to talk about how excited/nervous/excited/nervous I am. This is by far the biggest race I've ever done. Not only is it the 24 hour solo World Championships but it's also my first time out of the country (besides Canada, eh!)

I will be the first to admit that I don't know what to expect from the course in Scotland. The promoter has been sending race info and updates and it's a little overwhelming. Some of the course will be on the World Cup course (will I even be able to ride it???) and the list of female athletes coming from around the World is amazing and also incredibly intimidating. I started googling the names and realized that making it into the top-10 is going to be SO TOUGH. The mental demons started coming out in full force and I had to check myself. Instead of being intimidated and questioning myself I'm going to go out and race my heart out. This is going to be an amazing experience and I want to enjoy every moment of it. Every single photo that I've seen of Scotland looks ridiculously beautiful. I won't have a lot of time there but I'm going to do my best to experience as much of the country as I can.

This would not be possible without a lot of help from sponsors, family and friends. The support has been overwhelming. Salsa sent me a brand-new "twin bike" for me to race on and I've had a ton of other sponsors send me parts/gear overnight. I am so,so, so proud to work with so many great companies. And speaking of great companies I have a new sponsor for 2015. I'm so excited to be partnering with Velocity Wheels. I love these guys and I can't wait to race on the new Velocity Blunt SS wheels.

From this...
To this....
To this...
To this...
I just have to say that the fact that I get to race in Scotland on wheels that were designed by friends and hand built by friends IN MY HOMETOWN is ridiculously cool. I trust these guys and the wheels explicitly, which is very important when bombing down hills in the dark at 3 a.m!

I'll try to post pictures from abroad. The lady that we are renting our cottage from said that she was having a "wee" bit of issues with the wireless so I'm not sure what the situation will be when we get there. Regardless, I'll have a lot of stories to tell when I get home.

Well I'm off. I'll do my best to represent. Before I go though, I want to thank everyone again for being so encouraging and supportive. It means the world to me :-)

Monday, September 22, 2014

24 hours of Fat (Hanson Hills race report)

It had been a while since I've competed in a 24-hour race and they are just as fun as I remember. This was my first time doing a 24-hour race on a team and while it was MUCH easier then racing solo, it was still hard.

Packing for a 24-hour race is a project in itself. After work on Friday I spent the rest of the day charging batteries, making multiple trips to the grocery store, and digging out my warmer clothes. Hanson Hills is a few hours North of Grand Rapids and temperature predictions for the night were low-50's/high-40's. Good for riding...bad for sitting around.  Thanks to the Grand Rapids Bicycle Company we were able to take the shop van...which meant I could be excessive in my packing. I basically brought all of the gear that I own just to be safe :-)

Saturday morning came WAY too early with my alarm buzzing at 4:30 a.m. I finished packing my lights, double checked everything a million times and before I knew it my teammate/favorite travel buddy was sitting in my driveway. It was time to head up North.
Our van was fully loaded
Yes I'm completely biased but I couldn't have asked for a better team of people to race with. Our team consisted of my fellow GRBC teammate Jill Martindale, Eric Wolting (Freewheeler), Steve Bartzen (Farm Team) and myself. We were racing in the 4-person elite category on our fat bikes. Steve had a cyclocross race to do in the morning so we had to hold down the fort until he arrived. Because who doesn't do a super high intensity race that involves jumping over barriers before racing for 24 hours on a fat bike???

By the time we arrived at Hanson Hills recreational area we had exactly 58 minutes to unload our gear, set-up our pit area, register, and get kitted up. Instantly Jill and I voted for Eric to do the first lap and I have to say, not feeling rushed to get to the start line was really great.
Our home away from home for the next 24-hours
Eric came through the transition area and then it was my turn. Hanson Hills is a really fun course full of twisty singletrack and a few steep but short climbs. The course is sand based and there were a few really sandy pits out on the course. Those were the most fun because my fat bike just bombed right through like it was nothing. Before I knew it I was already bombing down the very bumpy and sandy downhill into the transition area for Jill to take off. 
Obviously we were undecided on whether to fist bump/slap hands
Having a few hours between laps was a novelty. It was pleasantly cool out but the sun was beating down on us and I kept getting sleepy.  Just when I would reach the point of contemplating taking a nap it would be my turn to go out again.
Eric working hard!
Finally Steve showed up...our 4-person team was complete. This meant that we all had even more time between laps. I prepped my lights and got ready to head out for my all-time favorite lap in a 24-hour race...the dusk lap. I love riding on the trail just as darkness is falling.
Even though it was still bright out it would be dark in an hour...
And so we kept pedaling around and around and around. Once the sun set it started to get cold. Really, really cold. I would be hot and sweaty while out on the trail but the moment I got back to our pit area I had to cover up immediately. To me that's the hardest thing about racing on a team...staying on top of things while in between laps.
By the middle of the night we all started to look slightly dazed and confused :-)
The Hanson 24 had a 12-hour division too and it seemed like that's the division most people were racing in. Eventually the 12-hour racers all packed up and drove away and I realized that our team was one of the few remaining tents in the field. At one point I thought that it was just the four of us racing...which I found to be really funny. I was like, "are we all just riding around in circles in the dark by ourselves?" And then, "let's keep going!" We were all racing each other for the fastest lap time anyways :-)

By the middle of the night Jill headed inside to try to get some sleep while I did another night lap. We had been told to watch out for Bears and Porcupines out in the woods and my crazy imagination got even crazier with sleep deprivation. Jill mentioned to me that she would make little "wahoo" noises every now and then to warn off the animals. I thought it was a good idea but for some reason became very indecisive about what noises to actually make...total sleep deprivation. Instead I just stared straight ahead and pedaled as fast as I could. I didn't want to look into the woods...because if something was watching me I would rather not know about it.

In the past when I've raced 24-hour races solo I always had huge fantasies about what it must be like to be on a team. I always envisioned warm cozy beds and lots of sleep. Au contraire my friends...NOT SO MUCH!

In reality, it was like this...
3 a.m. picnic!
It got so cold and wet outside that Eric and Steve took cover in their cars in between laps and Jill and I found some nice, cozy tables to sleep on inside of the lodge. We took some grey blankets from the shop van (used to transport bikes) and also had our sleeping bags. I found it impossible to sleep. Not so much because the tables were uncomfortable, but because I would come in super wide awake and hyper after riding in the night. 50% of my adrenaline was from having so much fun riding in the dark and 50% of my adrenaline was from riding away from all the bears and porcupines that were chasing me (in my mind). Once I got done with the lap I would wake up Jill, we would eat a bunch of food, and talk about if we saw anyone (or anything) out there. Then it would be time for her to go crank out a lap. By the time I finally got sleepy it was time for me to get ready to go back out.
5 a.m. selfie...getting ready to ride in the cold, dark woods
We all depended on each other to pass on ride times etc. After Jill would head in I would have to go out shortly to wait for Eric. I started to wait for him in the back of the van with a million more grey blankets piled on top of me. Being cold and sleep deprived was the hard part...brrrrrr! The funny thing is that temps were still in the 40's/50's. Hard to believe that in a few months I'll be racing in single digits because...#winteriscoming.

As luck would have it I also had the sunrise lap. This was by far my worst lap...mostly because I was exhausted. And then I started to beat myself up because I was like, "if you get so tired racing on a team how are you going to race solo????" Eventually I stopped being so hard on myself and enjoyed the first rays of sunlight shining through the trees. Although I didn't like it as much as the dusk lap it was still pretty awesome!

Finally came my favorite lap. Brent (the promoter) allowed the 4-person teams to do the last lap together. So Steve, Jill, Eric and I all dressed up in our Metal kits and headed off into the woods to pack down the sand with our fat bikes one more time.

Since Steve didn't have a Metal kit he borrowed one of my Metal jerseys.  Also, sweet...Steve and I wear the same size. That's just awesome :-) We can share clothes!
This was an experience I won't forget. From eating seaweed crisps and gummy bears with Jill at 3 a.m., to laughing hysterically for no reason at all, to riding together and having a ton of fun on the last lap and most importantly...taking the overall win on our fat bikes!

I couldn't have asked for better teammates then Jill, Steve and Eric! I definitely plan on racing with these guys again soon. 

Epilogue: We finally drove home early afternoon on Sunday. I slept a little bit and then was strangely too tired to sleep Sunday night. Monday I worked and then Tuesday I flew out to Vegas for Interbike. Hence the reason for the late, late, late blog post. I've been trying to stay on top of training, work, getting ready for a few more races and dialing in sponsors for this winter and next summer. Lots of exciting things happening....hopefully I can update soon..really soon!!! I know I'll be posting a few pics tomorrow from a new sponsor that I'm really excited to be partnering with :-)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Home!

So this past week was a major lesson in sleep deprivation.  We raced the 24-hours of Hanson Hills last weekend, came home Sunday, worked Monday and then flew to Vegas on Tuesday. Then we took the red-eye back on Thursday night. As a result I think I missed out on two full nights of sleep this past week.

Talk about being a complete and utter Zombie!

Our 24-hour race was awesome and Vegas was a lot of fun. Full recap coming up...but for now I'm going to bed. I did a 58 mile ride yesterday and a 91 mile ride today. Both were on my fat bike and I'm exhausted. Time for some Zzzzzzzz's!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

50 shades of purple

In my last post I was talking about how excited I was for Skirts in the Dirt. I can't believe that it's been over a week since the race happened and I haven't updated my blog once. I suck!!!

Skirts in the dirt was easily the most fun that I've had all summer. We had around 30 women show up to our skills clinic the day before the race and it was a blast. I was so excited so see so many women conquer their fears and try new things. It was 100% awesome.

We were out in the sun all day and by the time I went to bed I was exhausted. That did not stop me from waking up early though. I was too excited about the race. And I got even more excited when I showed up at the venue and saw that the parking lot was already filling up. A lot of little tutus were already pedaling around and warming up. It was so cute!
The next thing I knew I was standing in line to buy a skirt to race in. And not just any skirt mind you. It was a pink skirt with smiley faces on it :-) Completely awesome and completely made to fit a small child. Luckily I had bike shorts on underneath.
That's me on the left, my friend Steve was rocking the skirt on the right
There were over 125 women who showed up to race...pretty incredible for the inaugural year. I'm writing a blog post about it for Salsa so I'm not going to write much more, but I'll be sure to post a link when it's published.

This past Sunday was my birthday and I will be the first to admit that I feel really old right now. Not so much from being a year older, but from crashing my brains out on a wet bridge. My war with bridges continues....sigh.

This was probably my least glamorous but hardest crash in two years. It rained the last couple of days, I was bombing down a hill (ON A PAVED PATH) on my fat bike and the next thing I know my head was bouncing twice off of wood.
Thank you Lazer Helmets for protecting my head...again and again and again!
I am so sore....so, so, so, sore!
One of the many various purple bruises from the crash...I'm pretty colorful right now :-)
Even though crashing sucked, I'm really, really, really lucky I'm not more hurt. I eventually was able to start pedaling again and made it down to the GR Bike Park to practice my pump track skills for the GRBC ladies ride. We manage to have fun wherever we are. 
I spent the rest of the weekend eating birthday cake, ice cream and spending a lot of time with my family. It was awesome. 

This coming weekend I'm racing the Hanson 24 race and then a day after that I'm heading out to Interbike. Scott couldn't go but he was able to transfer his airline points so that my favorite travel buddy could go instead. I can't wait!!! PS. Thanks Scott :-)