Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Retired

This is the first winter in nine years that I haven’t trained for the road or mountain bike season ahead. Although I finally reached my long time goal of moving up to pro (on the mtb), I have decided to put racing away for a while (I did, however, purchase a license just in case). It was a difficult decision, and I know it will be especially hard once racing season begins, but I think it’s time to switch gears (no pun intended). Over the past nine years of racing I have made some incredible friends, and pushed myself to limits I never thought possible. And now I think it’s time to redirect my energy in slightly more selfless ways. Now that I’m not trying to cram sixteen to eighteen hours of training into a week while at the same time working a full time job fifty miles away, I have found that I have far more time and energy to pour into my friends, family and community. This is not to say that racing is an exclusively selfish endeavor, I just think it's time for me to move on.

It's also looking like xc mtb racing has decided to move on, at least the East Coast mountain biking I knew when I first transferred from road to dirt in 2004. My second mtb race ever was at the 2004 NORBA Nationals in Snowshoe, WV. This was NORBA at its height. Kabush’s sideburns were in peak form, Alison Dunlap had not yet retired, and Dara Marks-Marino was my favorite underdog. My initial intentions for traveling to Snowshoe were to follow-up on a crush I had on a certain semi-pro. The crush never went anywhere, but my love affair with racing in the dirt had just begun. Although my chain broke on the first lap, I felt strong and was eager for another shot at the podium. And that’s how I ended up traveling to Mt. Snow the following weekend. I know, a little over kill for a sport racer, but I’m glad I managed to experience NORBA at its peak. Looking at the 2011 calendar, it seems that the only Pro XCT race to hit the East Coast this year will be the Hoo-Ha.

But the void left by the glory days of NORBA (and 24hr racing for that matter) has been filled by the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series …slightly ironic when you consider that the NUE is the bread and butter of my husband’s racing career. The hundred miler scene is pretty healthy these days, and continues to grow with each additional season. This year the NUE has grown from 8 to 11 races, many of which sell out early in the year.

So, I’m still not exactly sure what this blog post is about. Is it about my own personal decision to stop racing and reinvest in forgotten pockets of my life, or is it about the evolution of mountain bike racing on the East Coast. I’m not quite sure. Maybe it's about Pareto efficiency. Pareto efficiency is that point of minimal efficiency, where supply and demand sort of meet, but have yet to arrive at that sweet spot where a socially desirable distribution of resources has been found and the overall well-being of society has not yet been satisfied. We're all just doing the best we can, trying to make the best decisions we can with what little information we have. Someday we will finally reach equilibrium. And this blog post is already too long

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Month in Review

Alright, I’ve got some races to catch up on, so I’m afraid it’s going to have to be the Reader’s Digest version. First there was the Stoopid Fifty. I’ve always had intentions of doing this race, but it never seemed to agree with my schedule. This year I finally got my chance. As we lined up a light mist slowly built into steady rainfall for the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the race. Heading up Bear Meadows Road, I started making my way to the front in an effort to avoid the bottle neck as hundreds of riders made a sharp left up the Tussey Extension. I was especially excited to race on my former home trails. So many good memories of grad school days! At Aid Station #1 I was feeling surprisingly strong as well as chit chatty (the latter not really being that surprising). While jib jabbing with old friends I managed to ride off with only one water bottle ….what was I thinking?! By the time I made it to Aid Station #2 I was slowly starting to come apart. After rehydrating and shoving fistfuls of Swedish fish in my mouth, I headed off for the last leg of the race. Finishing behind Janelle, I rolled in at 5th place.

Next came the Hoo Ha. After a long, hectic week at work, I decided to focus my efforts on the XC race rather than trying to tack on the short track and Super D. Arriving in Harrisonburg on Saturday night, my friends and I were treated to a hearty burrito dinner prepared by the infamous Nick Waite. We sat on his lazy front porch, sipping boxed wine as an evening storm rolled in. The following day well ALL lined up at the starting line to race one of the most historic races in the mid-Atlantic. I think it might actually be the longest running mtb race on the East Coast, but I would have to crosscheck that statement before passing it along as fact. Nick was telling me that mtb races used to always include a pond jump as one of the events. Why did that ever die?! We need to bring pond jumping back to the mid-Atlantic.

The mass start proved to be a bit confusing and frustrating, especially for the amateur women who never really know who exactly they are racing or how many ladies are actually in their field. Dry conditions made for great handling over roots and rocks on the climb; however, I felt like I was going to slide out at any moment on the descent. With my hydration blunder still fresh in my mind from the weekend before, I took full advantage of all the neutral feeds, using the cool water to keep my core body temperature down. Unfortunately, two of the fastest girls in our field suffered major damage to their rear derailleurs, opening up an opportunity for me to have a better finish than I originally thought possible. Lindsay Honaker continued to race even after having worked on her bike for over 40 minutes only to race the final lap on her make-shift single speed. What an animal. Sorting through the tangled web of erroneous race results was a test of both patience and manners, but at the end of the day I got to climb to the top of the podium. Yay!

Oh, and in other news, I went home to Miami for my grandmother’s 93rd birthday back in June. She is so freaking cute it breaks my heart.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Albuquerque

I am now heading back to DC after spending the last few days in Albuquerque for the National Tribal Environmental Council conference. I think the main thing I learned from the entire experience is that I have a lot to learn about tribal environmental issues. It was truly a humbling, sobering experience and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend.

I also found a little time to squeeze in a couple mountain bike rides with a bike I rented from Fat Tire Cycles. Renting a bike seems to be the way to go now that the airlines are really ramping up the cargo fee. On the first day Nina Baum and her friend Adam were kind enough to show me some of their local trails. I was really impressed with the trails around Otero Canyon. Great climbing, technical rocky stuff here and there, fun descents, and endless miles of single track can be found in the Cibola National Forest. Between the altitude and the slightly heavier bike, each climb was a slow, lung burning experience. I also found cornering to feel a little awkward on 29” wheels as my center of gravity seemed a little difficult to locate at times. I was pretty impressed with how easy it is to get over big stuff on a 29er. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera on the ride! Thanks again Nina and Adam for letting me tag along!

For my second ride I headed to the foothills where I happened upon a local who was kind enough to let me follow him around. These trails were super fast on hard packed dirt with very little climbing. It’s a popular area with lots of intersecting trails, making for a few close calls with cyclists and trail runners. One group of cyclists confused me with Krista Park! It must be my impressive quads. Speaking of quads, when I got back to the car a woman sheepishly approached me, and asked if cycling makes your thighs get big. She was hoping to fit into her skinny jeans and wanted to know if I thought cycling was a good way to tone things up. Although all bodies are different, I conceded that my thighs tend to get bigger the more I ride and squeezing my badunkadunk into tight jeans does pose a problem. That’s the ugly truth. Although, I suppose I could have advised her to spin in an easy gear with a high cadence.

So, now I’m heading back to DC, where I will then catch a flight to Miami for a quick visit with the family. Poor Jeff is starting to get restless back at home.

BTWD Report

Bike to Work Day was a huge success, both in DC and in Frederick. I think this is the first time is hasn’t rained in three years. Jeff was kind enough to join me in leading convoy #25 from Poolesville to DC. In addition to Jeff, we had two other members on our convoy, one of which had never been on a ride before! It was his first ride ever! What a perfect way to spend Bike to Work Day!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Greenversations

Bike to Work Day post on EPA's Greenversations

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

BTWD Convoy #25

Join me on BTWD! I'll be leading a convoy from the Poole's General Store on River Road, leaving at 6:30am on Friday, May 21st and ending at Freedom Plaza. You can find more information on all of WABA's convoys HERE or you can find a que sheet for Convoy #25 HERE. Hope to see you there! (click map to enlarge)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chasing Legends

According to reports, the big debut of Chasing Legends at the Tour of California was a huge success, eliciting a standing ovation from the crowd!!! See Jason's interview on the Sacramento news!!! This is a huge success for Gripped Films!!! I can't stop using "!!!!!"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

French Creek

Over the past couple years, the Mid-Atlantic Super Series (MASS) has really become a hot-bed of competition for the ladies. The generous payout draws some of the strongest ladies from both the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. Whenever a race promoter uses low turn-out as an excuse for small payout, you can point to the MASS as a good example of what happens when female racers area taken seriously.

At any rate, the race went fairly well considering the competition. The elite Cat1/pro field was stacked with some pretty fast ladies and I was surprised to find myself pulling to the front up the first climb. I eventually faded back, but did my best to hold a consistent pace to the finish. At the end of the day I finished in 7th place, not a fantastic result, but not horrible either considering the competition. The humble MASS "podium" looks more like a bunch of kids at summer camp. Payout went as deep as 9th, so I had some cash to cover entry and a post race meal at a cozy diner near the PA/MD border.

Cat1/Pro Female Winner: Kristin Gavin (what a beast!)
Cat1/Pro Male Winner: Jeff Schalk (yay!)









Oh, and not to get sappy, but Jeff and I met for the first time at French Creek three years ago. Funny how things work out.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

FBC Survey

In an effort to gather some baseline information on the current status of cycling in Frederick, the Frederick Bicycle Coalition has put together a brief survey. Please take a few minutes to help us better understand our community and what influences our travel and recreational behavior!

LINK TO SURVEY HERE!!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wawayanda


Last weekend Jeff and I headed up to New Jersey for the first race of the H2H Campmor series at Wawayanda State Park. Neither of us had ever raced there before and we were both surprised to find the course was reminiscent of something you mind find in Michaux. Although there wasn't much climbing on the 9 mile lap it included some impressive rock gardens and technical singltrack. It was a hot day and the autobottle was fully loaded. I got a great start, but then began to fade half way through the first lap. The heat made my head want to explode, and I began to consider pulling out if I continued to feel like ass. Somewhere in the begining of the second lap I saw Melissa Kern on the horizon. Wow! I was shocked to find myself within reach of the great Melissa Kern. We went back and forth for a while. She'd pass on the climbs and I'd make up ground on the descents. I was leading going into the last lap, let her pass me on the climb and really didn't put up much of a fight. It had already been a long race and I just didn't think I had much energy to get scrappy. Damn! If only I had known she was only 1 minute ahead! Surely I could have put my head down and suffered enough to make up 59 seconds. Well, I guess it's the good news/bad news. Excited that I'm finishing within reach of some super strong ladies, disappointed in myself for not following through with a good fight. So, I took 4th, Melissa 3rd, followed by the two pro women in our field (1st and 2nd).

Other Race Notes:
- Jeff won!
- We saw three bear cubs while pre-riding the day before!!!
- The autobottle was again the best self-feeding design at the race!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Greenbrier

In addition to catching a healthy amount of the sweet air, I also snagged my first win of the season at Greenbrier last week and maintained my title as Maryland State Champ ...well, for the Cat1 females aged 30-39. I was super anxious about getting a good start in an effort to get the hole shot into the first technical section. I was shocked to find myself leading up the first hill and made a sizeable gap on the field by the time I reached the bottom of the first rocky, technical section. It wasn't long before the talented Lindsay Bayer passed me on the climb and I looked nervously over my should as Julie seemed to be gaining on me. Thank God for technical descents, as this was where I was finally able to put some good distance between Julie and I, securing second place overall and first place in my age category. Yay!!!!

Friday, April 30, 2010

English Ivy

This month's invasive exotic species is the deplorable English ivy (Hedera helix). Native to most of Europe where natural controls keep this unwieldy vine in check, it has become a particular problem in the United States and Australia. Much like kudzu, English ivy will slowly take over a forest and eventually wrestle entire trees to the ground under its oppressive weight. On Earth Day '10, English forces joined the Friends of Rock Creek Park in an effort to halt the advancement of the English ivy take over. It is a slow tedious process, but I guess Rome wasn't built in a day. And all of this leaves me with an ethical dilemma. What should I do with the English ivy my grandmother gave me for my 30th birthday?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Baker's Dozen

What better way to get to know your new team than to race with them for 13 hours and then hang out around a bonfire with lots of good beer? Emily, Jessica and I came together as the Gripped Racing Chicks in the 3-person coed class. Although we knew the winning teams would most likely be comprised of a mmf combo, we didn't let that get us down. We fought the good fight and laid it on the line each and every lap. Jeff even joined me on a lap, sitting on my wheel and offering words of encouragement along the way (I think that ended up being my fastest lap). The course is fast and smooth, with only a few rock features here and there just to keep things interesting. Although we didn't take home the win (that went to Wes Schempf and Co.), it does look like we were the first all female team. Can't wait for next year, I hear there may be a 3-person category just for the ladies! Oh, and I forgot to give props to Amanda Watson for coming out with her drums! Hope you're killin' it down at Speed Week Amanda!

Tsali

Things have been quite hectic lately, which has left me precious little time for the blogging. Right now I have a back log of three race reports, roughly five or six deep thoughts, two invasive exotic species of the month, some FBC news, and a few other miscellaneous items. For right now I'll do a brief race report from Tsali. (click photo to enlarge)


On our way down south, Jeff and I managed to talk past our exit forcing us to drive through the heart of Gattlinburgh, which is kind of the Epcot of Tennessee (Tennessee's Disney World equivalent being Dollywood). Although it's a big drive, I always welcome an opportunity to race on Appalachian soil and squeeze in a quick visit with the family.

Neither Jeff nor I had a fantastic race. Although Tsali is fairly untechnical, there are very few places to pass on the course as much of it is narrow, side-hill singletrack. I had a pretty bad starting position, which is really no one's fault but my own. Also, because the course wasn't too technical, it didn't really play to my strengths very well. I need to stop scrubbing so much speed on the berms.

Jeff had an amazing start with a four man break on the first lap, but then had a number of mechanicals including a massive gash in his side-wall, causing him to ride the last lap on a flat. He is a bigger person than I am. I would have made my way for the car after mechanical #2. (click photo to enlarge)

The biggest success of the entire weekend was Jeff's Autobottle (c). Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the Autobottle in action, but suffice it to say that the Autobottle is the latest in self-feeding technology.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Frederick Bicycle Coalition!

The Frederick Bicycle Coalition is up and running!!! Soon our website will be ready to accept member applications and donations. We are also hosting a fundraiser at AgorDolce on April 2oth. Click image to enlarge: