Friday, May 22, 2015

Time flies when you are having fun (and eating donuts!)

Whoa. I thought I should take a minute and update this blog...at least with some pictures. It's been busy around here! 

Last week was Active Commute Week and Friday was Bike to Work Day. The weather was not cooperating but that did not stop commuters in Grand Rapids. Tons of businesses had pit stops with really good food and coffee. I am not going to disclose how many donuts I ate...mostly because I lost count :-)

I've mentioned before on this blog that I'm starting a kids mountain bike team (with the help from a TON of amazing people) and on Friday I was able to go on air with Shelley Irwin (WGVU) to talk about it. What made the experience even more fun was that Sage (one of the kids who gave me the idea) was able to go on air with me. We biked down to the station in pouring rain and it was so much fun. I can't even begin to say how proud I was of Sage. We biked through the city, got drenched and then went on air...and she handled it all like a pro!

Of course after our ride we had to go out for more coffee, hot chocolate and another dessert (because the donuts weren't enough!)




Saturday I woke up early to (guess what?) more rain. Michigan is clearly the new Seattle. After a quick breakfast I hopped on my bike to meet my teammates Juli and Melissa for a very important job! We were leading out 3,000 Girls for Girls On The Run! SO...MUCH...FUN! I couldn't help but notice that my knee-high socks were right on trend with all the girls around me. Glad to see that I'm staying hip :-)


The promoter sent us directions a few days before and I was like, "perfect! I can practice following a cue sheet." I've been so busy I haven't had time to do any sort of practice for Dirty Kanza (not thinking about that now!) Anyways, somehow we all managed to miss a turn within the first mile and a half. Oh dear...things are not looking good for me in Kansas. 
But back to the race. It was incredible to see so many Girls On The Run!!! Lining up at the start was slightly terrifying as the promoter kept telling us to go out hard. Let me tell you...those girls are FAST! For one brief moment I thought I was going to get passed by them :-) By the time I was done my face hurt from smiling so much!

Sunday I woke up early again but it wasn't raining! Hurray! I met up with my teammates and friends and we did 7 laps at Yankee. Technically I should have been riding gravel but oh well...riding my Spearfish on singletrack is just too much fun. I was pretty tired by the time I was done and was reminded of how much I love my Spearfish. Best bike ever!!! 
Grand Rapids Bicycles hosted the WMMBA bi-monthly meeting on Monday and I was able to talk about my favorite-est subject ever...The Grand Rapids Dirt Dawgs (kids team). The rest of the evening involved bikes..beer...and food. Such a good rest day :-)

Tuesday was the Skirts in the Dirt trail day at Cannonsburg Ski hill. We made a little new trail and...my arms are still recovering. Holy Moly, trail work is a really good upper body workout!


Wednesday night was our ladies ride at Luton Park and it felt like it was ready to snow. It's funny how I can ride in 20 degrees in the winter like it's no big deal but when temps drop to the 50's in May I feel like I'm going to freeze to death. We had a really great ride though and I have to admit that Wednesday nights are one of my favorite ride nights of the week. 
So yeah..that's what I've been up to! Which brings me to FRIDAY!!! I'll be at the GRBC Ada location from 10-2 and 5-8 helping out so stop on by to say Hi if you are in the area. This weekend I'm going to be in full on panic mode. When I signed up for Dirty Kanza I thought that I would be 1,000 times more prepared then I am. I'm trying not to think about it because then I get really, really, really stressed about it. Luckily I don't have any long rides this weekend so I'm hoping I can get the Garmin that I just bought out of the box and figure out to use it. 

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

CoHURTa 100

A little over a week ago I was driving into Tennessee with my GRBC teammate/friend Laura for the Cohutta 100. I was a little worried that I wasn't ready to race 100 miles so early in the season but I didn't really care. The day before I left Michigan it was snowing and 39 degrees. Tennessee was warm, sunny and flowers were already blooming.
Once we arrived to the race venue we met up with our other GRBC teammates (Jill and Tyler) and our friend Matt. It was great seeing so many fellow endurance racers and friends that I met over the years racing the N.U.E Series. I have to admit that it makes me want to do as many hundred milers as possible this summer.

My super fast friend Carey Lowery gave me some of her amazing bread that she makes and told me to save it for after the race. In hindsight I should have just eaten the whole darn loaf immediately :-) Everyone was talking about the race day weather forecast...which was NOT GOOD! There was a 100% chance of rain, severe thunderstorms, severe lightening, hail and even the chance of a tornado. Usually I try to not focus on the weather because it's one of those things you can't control and everyone has to deal with it. However, the thought of tornadoes and lightening strikes was a little scary. I didn't want to go up in the air with my bike all "Wizard of Oz" style.

Carey and Zeke had to take off, so after saying our good-byes (boohoo), Laura and I put our kits on and hopped on the course to pre-ride some of the singletrack. The trails were in great condition and so much fun. In hindsight I should also have just ridden 100 miles on Friday...haha.

After our pre-ride we checked in at the Copper Inn Motel (that's my last time staying there for real), got our aid station bags together, dropped aid station bags off and then got ready for bed. It never fails to amaze me how quickly the day before a race goes by.

Sure enough we woke up to pouring rain. Finally, a chance to use the super fancy rain jacket that I had bought for Scotland. Since it was raining hard there was zero warm-up. To tell you the truth I never warm up much for a hundred mile race anyways. They all start so early that it seems like I'm getting ready until the very last minute. I lined up with everyone else in the rain and before I knew it we were off.

From the get-go I could tell that it was going to be a long day in the saddle. My legs felt crap-tastic! Never a good feeling when you know that you have 100 miles to go while feeling that way. I think the biggest reason why I felt so bonky was that we had spent 2 days in the car and I did a lot of snacking on car food instead of eating full meals. I know better and take 100% responsibility...stupid, stupid, stupid!

The first bit of singletrack wasn't too bad for all the rain we were getting. It was fun. I was riding a brand spanking new Salsa El Mariachi with Velocity USA Blunt SS wheels and Industry Nine hubs and the bike was 100% amazing (thanks Ted for being such a great mechanic)!!! Let me tell you those wheels kept me upright on wet roots when I should have gone down due to rider error. Of course, now I want the wheels on all of my bikes now!
By the time I made it to the first aid station at mile 22 (I think) I was HOT and losing air in my back tire. This is what happens when you go tubeless and enter a race without getting a few rides in beforehand. I was at the aid station way too long trying to cram my rain jacket into the ziplock bag, putting air in etc. Finally I was on my way.

Once the sun came out I felt like I was overheating big time. I'm not someone who ever feels good in the heat but usually I can manage it IF I have time to acclimate. This time I felt like I was riding in a muggy, hot rain forest. I had to stop at the 2nd aid station to put more air in my back tire and then stopped at the 3rd aid station to refill on CarboRocket. One of the volunteers kindly cleaned my sunglasses since they were covered in mud but accidentally took my lenses out. It was hard to get them back in with all of the mud that was everywhere. Oh well! Usually I am in/out of aid stations really quickly but this time I was spending so much time at them I felt like I was on a first name basis with all of the volunteers.

The rest of the race was more of the same. I got REALLY lost (flew down a hill and took a left when I should have gone right), had one of my aid station bags disappear, etc. etc. etc. But to tell you the truth I really didn't care. I was suffering big time but was still able to enjoy the view (at least once or twice). Plus I got extra mileage in for Dirty Kanza. Now that I think of it maybe that's why I took a wrong turn in the first place. Subconsciously I WANTED to ride longer then 100 miles...haha. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Towards the end something kicked in and I started to feel good. Maybe it's because I got to rest and cool down while trying to look for blue arrows in the gravel when I got lost...who knows!? The final singletrack flew by and I enjoyed every second of it. Before I knew it I was crossing the finish line in 5th place and was back with my friends. Once the drop bags were returned I was also reunited with my missing drop bag.

My brand spanking new bike is no longer new! In fact I'm sure that I will be finding Cohutta mud on it a month from now.
Huge thanks to the race promoters and volunteers for being so great. It's hard enough to put on a race in good weather conditions. Conditions were definitely less then ideal this year but everyone was helpful and cheerful...even when standing in pouring rain. I WILL BE BACK next year for another Cohutta. Hopefully next year is the year I crush those Cohutta hills instead of them crushing me :-)

Now it's time to focus on Dirty Kanza...eek! And speaking of Dirty Kanza I did an interview with my Salsa teammate Andrea Cohen about the race. You can listen to it here!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Back in the Mitten!

My plan was to update this blog with short posts on a frequent basis.

#FAIL

This last month has been extremely busy. Not just with training but with starting a kids team. Once it's up and running I'll be able to just focus on the program but right now...we are building the program. There are so many logistical things to work out...aggggh! I absolutely love it though and I can't wait for the first practice.

This past weekend I went down to Tennessee to race the Cohutta 100. I would like to say I had a perfect race but not so much. A lot went wrong but oh well. That's part of racing. I still got a crazy good workout in (how can you not when you are climbing non-stop) and it was awesome seeing all of my friends.

Cohutta post coming up soon!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Welcome back to endurance training...

Last week was my first week with longer rides and I swear I'm still recovering. I think my legs/arms/everything went into shock. It seems absolutely crazy that two weekends from now I'll be racing a hundred miler. Eek!

I'm hoping the rain stops as I have a long ride to do tomorrow. And now that I'm no longer training for a race in Scotland I don't feel the need to ride in the rain...ever :-) Then on Saturday I'm off to speak at a ladies night in Fort Wayne. I think the event sold out with 120 ladies and I'm excited to be a part of it.

Be back soon...in the meantime check out the instagram contest that Grand Rapids Bicycles is holding! The contest ends April 20th so there's plenty of time to post pictures!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Barry-Roubaix race report!


Barry-Roubaix!!!!

I always get ridiculously nervous for Barry-Roubaix. I'm not sure why but I think its a combination of the sheer awesomeness of the event, combined with the fact that 3,000 people compete in it, combined with the fact that it's a local race. I wanted to represent!

Jill and I arrived in Hastings a little over an hour before our wave was scheduled to go off. We had already picked up our race packets the day before (during our GRBC finish line recon ride) so there was no rush. After the Birkie debacle (where we almost missed the start) we already felt like we were winning. All we had to do was finish getting dressed, run to the bathroom a million gazillion times and then head to the start line.
GRBC had tents on both sides of the start line which was really nice for shedding layers. However, it was SO cold out so I really didn't have to shed any layers. I think temps were hovering in the low-20's at race start. After wishing all of my teammates good luck it was time to line up with hundreds of other racers. Barry-Roubaix is one of the first races of the season and everyone was excited/nervous. I know I was!

After a few moments of chit-chat we were off. Our start was controlled but picked up speed as we hit dirt. I had to multitask by staying with the main pack but also watch out for potholes that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. My legs felt kind of dead but I ignored the feeling and kept trying to hammer. It wasn't long before I was climbing the 1st of the 3 sisters (series of 3 hills that are one right after another).

The roads were in perfect condition and I was so happy that it was sunny. I was using a hydrapak with Carborocket (yum!) in it and was shocked when I went to take a drink. The liquid in my tube was completely frozen and I couldn't get anything out. I couldn't believe it.

Actually, let me take that back...

I could believe that the water in my tube froze because it was cold out AND it happened to me all winter. What I couldn't believe was that after an entire winter of racing and having my water freeze I managed to do it AGAIN (at the end of March).

I started to get very, very thirsty towards the middle of the race and downright bonkish by the end. I spent the last 10-miles looking at other racers back pockets and wondering how much food they had left...haha. I'm always happy to see the finish line but this time I was EXTREMELY happy to see it.

The Barry-Roubaix is a great race. It's a total hammerfest and the hills hurt...a lot. However from start to finish the race is top notch and the after-party is so much fun.
Wearing my new Velocity USA hat...that's me at the bottom :-)
So happy to be on the podium with these awesome ladies. The first year that Barry-Roubaix had a fat bike class there were 2 females. This year we had 16!!!
As happy as I was to take the win I was even more happy just to hang out with my teammates after the race. All of my teammates had great races and I was so proud of everyone. If this is any indication of what the year is going to be like we are in for a lot of fun :-)

Next up for me is TRAINING and lots more TRAINING. I have the Cohutta 100 coming up at the end of April and I am nowhere ready for it. Last year I died a thousand deaths during that race. There's a good chance that might happen again this year :-)

And then one month after Cohutta is THIS RACE...EEK!

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!