Friday, April 6, 2018

Winter Wind Down

As flowers start to bloom and the evening chill fades, I enjoy my time in Arizona, but know that it is winding down. Early morning rides are a norm as well as lingering dinners on the patio. I do enjoy this short reminder of summer. Soon we will be on the road back east and will have to face a few cold raining weeks. I will try to enjoy these last few wonderful weeks in Arizona.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nationals at Snowshoe

Last week I attended Nationals at Snowshoe WV. After being sidelined from racing for a year, I prepared as I could in only 6 weeks. I knew there was no way that I could get in race form in 6 weeks, but I feared that if I blew it off, I would never get in shape. I am getting to a point in my life that if I want to do the things I like, I need to be in shape. Riding a techy trail is so much more fun when you are floating effortlessly over rocks compared to sucking wind and thinking about all your aches and pains. Once I stop moving, it gets harder to move again. I just need to keep moving and stay fit. My fitness enables me to experience the beautiful outdoors on my mountain bike. It is my favorite thing to do, and I am not going to let it slip away just because I am getting older.

I had raced at Snowshoe 15-20 years ago, and never liked the course. I heard the course had been improved. Improved in what way, I had no idea. Once I got on course for a pre-ride, I could see that it no longer went completely up and down the mountain like in the old days. It also was not straight down fall line and 6 inches deep in mud. There were some really fun machine made downhill sections that were a hoot! They also had a beautiful enchanted forest section filled with moss and wet roots. I dug the wet roots. They reminded me of Mt Snow racing way back. The climbing was, well, just boring dirt roads and I was out of shape, so that made them seem a lot worse. I know there needs to be passing room, but why is it always on boring roads? The general feel to the course was all roads. Even the tech section was only 50 feet long and man made. I like the idea of a promoter making some tech, but it never seems like real mountain biking to me. The boring courses along with my lack of fitness, has been making it harder for me to enjoy racing these days. I suppose nothing will ever compare to the awesomeness of Bear Creek Nationals. That place had a super fun course that felt like real riding.

There were some really fast ladies in my class this year. My start was crazy fast and way over my current fitness level. By the time I hit the single track, my heart rate was so pegged that my hands went numb. It took me going through the course tape to realize that I was over my limit and had to back it down. Once I did, my hands came back and I was able to continue at just riding pace. I struggled on the climbs, and they seemed to be in my face all too much. It was really nice to have friends out there cheering for me. It helped make the race more fun. I finished 5th, which should be a solid finish, all things considered, but it did not feel like a great race. I am happy to be back out racing, and I suppose there is always another year where both my health and motivation will allow me to prepare earlier.

After getting home from my race, I went out for a ride at my favorite place. It felt wonderful to be floating over the rocks and soaring through the giant ferns again. The gentle wind on my sweaty body felt great, and the familiar smell of ripping ferns made my day. There is way more to mountain biking than can be found in a race. Additionally, what goes into racing can enhance the ride. So a little racing now and then is good, as long as it does not take away from the enjoyment of the ride.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Port Jervis - H2H Point Peter Pounder

The race at Port Jervis has been on my “to do” list all year. The township has been promoting new mountain bike trails and putting on races. It is always nice to go someplace new. I did the Erie 40 in the fall and while many of the trails did not seem finished, the ones that were new, were really nice.

I checked out the course a few days before the race and could see that much more trail building had taken place since the fall. I was tired the day of my pre-ride and did not fully get a grasp on how fun the trails would be at race pace. Actually, I did not know if I was even capable of a race pace. This race would certainly be a part of my training preparation for cross-country nationals next week.

The race looked to be on the long side with two 9+ mile laps. According to Strava, Cat 1 Men were running just under an hour and and Cat 1 women about 1:10 per lap. My casual pre-ride took 1:26. I did not like the thought of a 3 hour race, and hoped that I would have some more energy on race day.

I lined up in the back row behind the pro women and got what I thought was a good start, but as I was entering the single-track, everyone insisted on squeezing by me. I guess if I was young, I would try my best to pass any old lady before the singletrack too. I made an effort to hang on, and it worked. I rode the back of a train with my heart rate pegged for close to 20 minutes waiting for the right time to pass. I knew it would present itself, when I was ready.

When we hit the powerline climb everyone wanted to pass. I made my move, digging for my legs and lungs and they answered. First time in quite a while, so that in itself was good, but that on top of the 20 minute effort was really exciting. I am not super fast on the downhill, so you can be sure I booked as hard as I could trying to hold my position. I ended up catching the leader, who may have had a mechanical problem, but I will take any motivation that comes my way. I was pretty excited by that point, and the course was so much more fun at race pace. I was having fun and racing hard. I don't know if I have done that since nationals at Bear Creek in 2014.

So my first lap was super awesome, but as the clock ticked away, my legs started to fade and lap 2 was not as good. My foot and calf started to cramp. I kept the wheels rolling best I could, trying to ride smooth and drinking everything I had left. I took my last sip of water a few hundred feet from the finish line. I held my placement, but lap 2 was more of a struggle to complete.

This race by far was one my best efforts in the past year. I am happy to be back racing and actually racing. I am looking forward to racing at nationals.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Leaping into Spring

After many cloudy, rainy and cool weeks in New York, the sun has finally come out! Not only is it wonderful to see blue sky, but it is amazing to be surrounded by all the green that the rain has created. In between the spring raindrops, I have been visiting my favorite spots in the woods and watching the transformation. Today the laurel are blooming and the ferns are nearly touching my handlebars. The season I love is finally here!

It has been seven months since my last post. During that time, life has had it’s ups and downs, but I blog today because last Sunday, I returned to racing XC. I did not prepare with any training, I just showed up with what I got, as if it was my first training ride of the season. I did not feel good as I started to warm up, but it got better. It usually does get better. Getting over the first few hurdles is always the hardest. We all have reasons not to race, but many times the reasons to race outweigh the reasons not to race. Sometimes you just have to take the leap!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Erie 40

I am not much of a fan of cold weather racing, but being that I had missed most of my race season due to an iron deficiency, I entered Erie40 on a whim. My teammates were doing the race and it was a new event with brand spanking new trails, just built this year. The township had embraced mountain biking and building trails to help bring tourism into their town. This sounded like a great idea and I wanted to support the town for it's effort by entering the event. My intensions were more to support the event than to actually race. I chose the shorter 25 mile distance because it seemed like a realistic ride length for me.

When I got there in the morning it was freezing! The freezing part was not that much fun, but it was only a few hours until we were all on course and defrosting in the single track. For some reason, I misinterpreted some local knowledge and thought the course would be mellow. Much to my surprise, the trails were pretty rugged and full of sharp, shale-like, tire cutting rocks. So what I thought would be a mellow sub 3 hour ride turned into 3 hours and 45 minutes of me feeling like my arms were going to fall off. Normally this would not be a problem on my trusty Pivot, but I brought a steel hard tail.

As I rode, it seemed like everyone was getting flat tires. I rode as light as I could and placed my tires as cleanly in the sharp rocks as possible, trying not to flat. It was slow going, but my teammates pledged to hang together when possible. I ended up riding most the race with Marianne. She waited for me a few time, but casual riding was our thing that day. We were out to enjoy the day, and check out the new trails. It was a nice spot with numerous views and while the trails did not seem finished, they were fun to ride.

We were the first two ladies to roll in to the finish line. Shortly after, Stef and Jen rolled in to join us. I was pretty wiped out afterwards as it was more demanding than I was prepared for that day. However it was a great way to close out the season. I am really glad to have gone and really enjoyed hanging and riding with my awesome local ladies.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bike for Life

I can offer no better excuse to why I have not posted here in a while, other than my bike has been idle way too much. Most of my summer has slipped by without all the big rides and races about which I blog. What I thought was a little mental burn out, turned out to be a bit more physical. After dragging on every ride and struggling to finish even a short ride, friends convinced me to see a doctor. I ended up having low iron levels, a drop that occurred in several months since my last blood work at my annual check up in May.

I mention this because sometime as athletes, we do not always step back and see ourselves objectively. We tend to have higher expectations for ourselves and don’t always see the whole picture. We also tend get impatient with results when training or healing. Being aware of that, I kept telling myself to be patient. After two months I was worse than when I started. I needed to be told to go to the doctor. When I look back now, I can’t believe I did no go sooner.

Taking time off the bike is not what I would have chosen, but it gave me an excuse to focus elsewhere. In addition to working on some home renovations, I was engaged in a female recruitment committee for the NJ National Interscholastic Cycling Assoc. (NICA). 2017 will be their first year and I have been tasked with creating a promotional video to try and recruit some girls.

I needed to do some soul searching and try to remember what it was like to be a girl in high school. This also happened to simultaneously be happening at the time of my 40th high school reunion, which I did not attend. When a classmate forwarded pictures from my reunion, I could not believe it was my high school class. Everyone looked old. After looking harder at myself, I realized that I looked just as old, it was just that I perceived myself as much younger than I actually was. I can honestly say that in some ways, mountain biking makes me feel younger today than I was in high school. Is mountain biking the fountain of youth? I’m not sure. I will leave that discussion for another day.

I also thought about what mountain biking adds to my life, and what would I have done if mountain biking was around when I was a teenager? As cool as it sounds to me now, I probably would have been way too wimpy to ride a mountain bike back then, but I am sure many other kids would have jumped on it and loved it. With mountain biking offering an outdoor physical activity in nature, it is an ideal activity to make available to future generations.

I have been super stoked to work side by side with some inspiring people from our mountain bike community these past few months. I don’t need to race or even be on a bike myself, to be a part of the stoke. I say this as to invite anyone else to help get kids outside and on their bikes for life. This post is dedicated to all the passionate people who take time to share this awesome sport of mountain biking with other people. It is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give to another person that can last a lifetime. Get out and ride a mountain bike and take a friend with you! Thanks Art for taking me that first time!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

SSAZ for Schilling

Before I made the trip out west, I decided I would like to ride SSAZ in memory of Chris Schilling, who was an insanely dedicated single speeder, and all around great giving guy. I had not been riding my single speed much, actually hardly at all, but SSAZ seemed to be the right time. It is a laid back gathering and I would have no pressure to finish or keep any sort of race pace. I could just go out and ride for Chris. It was me, him and one gear in the desert. Hopefully there would be other enthusiasts to keep me company or at least be a carrot on a stick.

The night before I got a sneak preview of the course profile and although I did not let anyone know, I did have some doubts that I could finish. I figured I would just try it, and not sit home and say "I can not do it". We began at 9:00. The first 8 miles were a flat neutral roll out on pavement and then we were instructed to remove our front wheels for a lemans start. Then 35 or 40 similarly crazy people raised their front wheels in the air before we were let go up the mountain.

Right from the start I was telling myself I had the wrong gear. Standing, sitting, standing ,sitting until my back hurt so much that I just stayed seated. I did not think I could keep the pedals turning that slow, but I managed to keep going and stay mostly seated. The hill went on for what seemed like forever. It took me so long to climb that I had plenty of time to accept the fact that I may have to bail at the rest stop. "Was I a jerk for thinking I could do this?" went through my head, but I kept going.

When that climb was done, my back felt fine and I quickly forgot all those negative thoughts. I can not say the rest of the ride was any easier. It was actually harder with a few forever hike a bikes and a gnarly downhill that I walked way too much, but I was in to finish and pushed through navigating the scantly marked route. I stopped many times to look around for blue tape and check my cue sheet. I really enjoyed the adventure of doing most of it by myself, and it was on trails that I had never ridden.

I knew the route was supposed to have 4900 ft elevation gain and when I reached 4700, I had the feeling that I was so close, but the climbing kept coming at me. Every time I crested the top of a mountain, I expected to see the city and all I saw was another mountain. My garmin read 5200 feet before I saw civilization. I wish I could say it was an easy ride down, but the last trail was pretty gnarly. I finally rolled back into camp at 3:56pm and noticed that my teammate Marianne was the first female to finish.

This was by far the hardest ride I have done in years. Physically spent, yet functioning and thinking clearly, all with a smile on my face. It felt perfect to be riding my single speed bike for Chris! Then we drove home and the sun set like it does every other night, just another amazing Arizona flag sunset.