Tuesday, May 28


I have never been known for my reading prowess. I believe I became a fine reader of the Dick and Jane novels at the age of 8 or 9 as my best friend Laura had already progressed to Shakespeare and Potok. The scribble was on the sidewalk indeed, I would become a PE teacher. I liked to play, interact with people and things while using all my senses other than ocular.

I have moved into my early 30's *gasp* and I have graduated from all scholastic work and find my eyes peeled open and glazed over for hours on end staring at a computer monitor. Laptop. iPhone. Or the striking sun on a bike ride. When I do read, it's under the alien light of electronics and is most likely a recipe, cycling updates, or training methodology. Never, ever, raw nothingness content. Ever.

Then I hit the road. As my job has shifted I have found myself commuting from our town in the hills to LA, Santa Monica, Orange County, Arkansas and Oregon. I am not a huge music groupie *gasp* but I really needed something to stave off the white-knuckled city driving and mirage inducing open highways.

Audio Books. Genius. Before I delve into these, I have purchased a stack of highly recommended books. I have gotten stuck in the genre rut of sports, motivational, you-can-do-it books which began with the following:

Apolo Ohno: Zero Regrets - Be Greater Than Yesterday

I never finished it. He whined too much. And although I am a huge fan of Olympic Ice Skater Clara Hughes, I couldn't handle another lap around the ice oval. Not one more.

For the ears, I selected the following within my PE Teacher-Now I am a cycling coach, mindset:

Chris McCormack: I'm Here To Win

Completely genius. Amazing insights into the mind and life of a champion and the sacrifices elite athletes (insert business person, mother, wife, friend...) must endure to reach their goals. I really enjoyed his approach to the mental game and creating mental fortitude which helped him overcome so many obstacles. A must read!

Chrissy Wellington: A Life Without Limits

Amazing! This gal is a nut! I loved it. She embodies the endurance athlete to a T and is completely open about her issues, drawbacks and short comings. She is truly a genetic phenom because her luck was surely lacking. An awe-inspiring journey on all levels the showcased the deep bond competitors build.

Driving to Boulder, CO last summer, I decided to take my mind off of anything serious and see what all the craze was about on the two following series. They did not disappoint and at least kept my eyes peeled for hours on end!

Stieg Larsson: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy

EEEEEKKKKK!! This was crazy, and so well written it was impressive. I have watched the movie, and the first two movies that were made in Sweden, and they don't even crack the surface of how crazy these books were. Time has never flown by that fast before on the open highway, that's for sure!

Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games

Meh. I mean they were really good, and I could get through them easy and were really well written. But maybe in my mind I was comparing them to CS Lewis and J.R.R Tolkein (no, I never read those - my parents read them to us, and we listened to them in the car while traveling the US as small people). The afore mentioned series were both rooted in something much deeper than human nature and seem to have a very timeless flare to them. I was listening to a podcast with Brian a few weeks back and the speaker had this to say about the series: "The other has no basis in a religion of deeper belief system, which makes the books good, but not empowering." I feel like he nailed it on the head.

The movie was good though, and was pretty close to the book. I am interested in watching the next ones when they come out!

I won't bore you with many more of my audio books today, but I must leave you with my most favorite of all.

Garth Stein: The Art of Dancing in The Rain

Get it. Buy it. Listen to it or read it. Just do it. I have listened to it twice, and I would purchase it in real-deal book format as well! I love pets, and this is written with the voice of a labrador, just amazing.

A week from now I will embark on another traveling voyage and I have my iPhone cued up with multiple books to nourish my mind on the way. I have proposed, and accepted, the challenge of ready a real-live hard copy book every morning. I am over half way through it and my wind and spirit surely appreciate the respite from technology, being in the 'know', and contact with everyone and everything. I encourage you to take 10 minutes a day do the same!

Monday, May 13

Onwards and Upwards

Summer has landed in full-force here in SoCal with the house sitting pretty at 80 degrees at noon on a Monday. Moto and I are using the google search to find smoothie, gazpacho and salad recipes that won't make us sweat while creating them. 

We have spent the morning hard at work going through race and ride reports from my 25 clients with a fine-toothed comb. Yes. 25. This, along a few other reasons, is why this blog has been dormant since August. Excuses aside, Big Wheel Coaching is booming and the most reward venture I could have asked for. My clients are athletes that range in all levels of ability, yet are all smashing their goals, reaching new PRs and improving on and off the bike for a higher quality of life. 

I have had great blessings over the last 10 months and experiences I will carry with me forever. In September, Brian and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary in the mountain town of Idyllwild with Moto enjoying great food, clean air, and awesome hiking trails. Shortly thereafter, I joined "Team DB" on the Track for a shot-gun learning approach to track racing and the Team Pursuit. Olympian Dotsie Bausch was hot off of a Silver Medal in London and ready to cultivate the next wave of track racers. I joined Tara McCormack (Exergy) and my good friend Amber Gaffney (Optum) on one of the amazing and crazy learning periods of my cycling. Dotsie along with her husband Kirk and coach Bert Glennon put us through the ropes on the track. Seven sessions later we suited up for our 8th time on the track - National Championships Qualifier! Who is nuts now! We made it to the medal round and finished a crazy 3rd or Bronze. I will cherish this experience forever, and in the future will delve deeper into how it made me a stronger, smarter, happier and better cyclists. And person. Thank you Dotsie!

My duties with the CashCall Cycling Team increased significantly at the start of the new year and I transitioned my racing to their squad so I could keep everything in one place and gear up for a lot of travel and racing out of area with Brian. Early season racing found me tired and frustrated with taking a 180 turn too tight and clipping my pedal, taking myself out 10 minutes into a race. This fate was accompanied with a handful of mishaps and issues that effectively took me out of the running for any sort of result. Not to be discouraged, I joined my friend Amber Neben and the Dare To Be Project on an exciting campaign of the San Dimas Stage Race. Again, an amazing learning experience from a wonderful woman and mentor. Amber teamed up with the Swan sisters, 2 local junior racers, Addy A and myself for the race. As chance would have it, a mechanical put me out of the front group on the circuit race and place me safely in the chase group with both the Swan's. I told Amber I took my mentoring to the next level that day, keeping the girls fed and hydrated and safe in the pack, ensuring that they would start the rip-roaring criterium the next day. Another rewarding experience that literally came out of the blue. 

Then there came the Redlands Bicycle Classic with Lululemon, Sea Otter by myself and Joe Martin solo in the pouring rain. Each of them harboring amazing lessons, hardships, and successes. Those are for another time though. :-) 

Fast forward to present-day and life is good! After being on the road for the better part of a month, and Brian only being there for Joe Martin (5 days) I was more than ready to be home. Everything is better here in the small town of Yucaipa. It's not flashy or easy by any means, but this is where my family is. I love going to the group rides and local races and seeing so many friends! Being able to hang out with Brian and Moto is priceless. This weekend we went back to our roots of spending the weekend traveling to and from local races together. The laundry room is an explosion of salt-covered kits and snot riddled gloves and there are more dirty bottles to be cleaned out than I can count. Perfect! 

This is hard for me to admit, because it happens so rarely, but my motivation levels were at an all-time low heading into Saturday's Devil's Punchbowl Road Race. Brian, the forever motivator, told me to suck it up, he had already packed the car. All I had to do was get dressed and get in the car. Makes it pretty hard to say no to a bike race. As a solo racer, I have to be crafty. The other 2 strikes against me are the fact that I am not a climber nor am I sprinter. These three strikes would bench many a road warrior, but I am just a sucker for punishment. And punishing others. My goal at these races is to get as close to the podium as possible, get a good workout, and make other people suffer. I achieved all three with a 4th place on a wildly hot race that gained just under 5k feet. If I can get this up that, so can you!

The aftermath of the race is where the true story lies though. It was brutally hot and was a good athlete - drank a recovery drink, electrolytes, ate a pre-made sandwich and even a smoothie I had frozen and put in the cooler. However, the days efforts took their toll on me as I waited in the feed zone as Brian slogged his 80 miles and 9k feet of climbing to the finish. I got a cracking head ache that forced us to stop on the drive home. I just kept thinking if we make it home, everything will be fine. But as we got closer, I felt worse and worse. Brian started talking about Mexican food and I made him put a cork in it for fear I would uncork my belly 3 miles from home. Once we turned onto our street, and home was almost there, he drove slower....but you know when you really have to pee and your OK, until you SEE a port-o-potty...then you HAVE to go?! That's just what happened. We got in the driveway, door open and puke all over the door, and driveway. Brian is champ because I puked so much my nose started to bleed a ton. He got the hose and cleaned the driveway so Moto would eat it (dogs are disgusting) and let me sit on the driveway and heave it out. Oddly, we couldn't stop laughing about it and he was gracious enough to grab me some crackers and 7UP to ease the pain. Every day, making the memories our fun life is made of!

To cap our weekend adventures off, we created ground hogs day, loaded the car and headed to another bike race on Sunday. The barometer raised another 10 degrees and we were greeted with a pretty cool course at Chuck Pontius. I will spare you the details, but another 4th was to be had on the day for me. Several hours later, Brian lured me into the men's 1/2/3 crit of 75 minutes. It doesn't even take candy or anything cool to get me to race another event, total push-over. I was his only teammate for the day, and I am sure our discussions made quite a few of the guys racing laugh at least a little bit. Who brings their wife to a race, puts her in the race, then tells her to go to the front and do work? Brian does of course. He got in the early break which eventually lapped the field, as I sat tucked into the top 20 ticking the minutes off one by one. At the 50 minute mark, the length of the women's race earlier in the day, I was pretty knackered. Then I hear him coming. You can hear it a mile away and I knew exactly what he was going to say. Come on Joy! To the front, we have work to do! I told him I was spent, and he told me we didn't have time to discuss this matter, on his wheel! Yes Dear...He had rallied his friends and breakaway-mates to the front to keep things steady and under control for the remaining 25 minutes. I was already 2 bottles in and all I could do was hold him near the front. A big surge came and he cracked the whip, "Go Joy Go!!" And what else to do but bridge the gap, pull the pin on the grenade and fade to the back of the pack. I "sat" there until 2 laps to go and saw his little blue body make a violent attack off the front and my blue body let go of the grenade and I blew out the back. At least I got a 2 lap solo cool down to finish the race. :-) 

Then, we ate like 7 dishes from the Thai place down the street. These are the stories that keep racing fun and enticing. We surely don't win often and we don't ever quit. But sometimes we get pretty darn tired. Now lets hope I can just be a better blogger and do this a bit more frequently. 

Friday, August 17

Playing at Home: Success on many levels!

Racing at home here in SoCal has a completely different feel for me than it did last year. This year we have a strong crew of 4-7 racers at any given event that will be sure to put the smack down and make the events hard, fast, and exciting.

The last few months have truly delivered on this level. The cool thing about Team Helen's is that we can commit to a team goal and make it happen. At the same time, we can also have plan A-B-C come into effect for a podium finish. Having multiple cards to play is a great trait for any team to have!

Let's start with Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. We had 6 racers which instantly gave us the numbers. Our goal was to ride for the sprint, with sprinter extraordinaire Suzanne Sonye ready for the finish. However, a late-race breakaway got up the road with Shelby Reynolds, who was fresh off of a successful campaign at the Tour of The Dairlands. She was hungry for a win, and we were confident in the peloton that her odds were great in the break. The field could not organize a successful chase to overcome the break, but on the last lap, they were dangling only a few seconds ahead! Rounding the final turn, we could all see Shelby post up in celebration! Her first WIN and on a great and fabled course! She told here tale HERE.

The next event to tackle with the team was San Marcos Circuit Race. I like this one, because it is hard. Tactics don't shut teams down, legs do. We had Brenda, Sarah, Suzanne and Shelby along with myself for this race. As it happened, SCVelo's strong women Amber Gaffney went for a prime and just kept rolling. I jumped on her wheel after the turn-one right hand turn and told her to mush! Just keep pedalling and lets get a gap! A gap we got....and just kept rolling. Her engine is huge...on the bike side climb, she was seated muscling it out as I was standing, full gas, to stay on her rear wheel. We turned right into the headwind on the false flat and she just wouldn't let up!

Chaos ensued on the course due to the fact that the cat 3/4 women had began 1 minute behind us and riders from both groups were all over the course. Suzanne and a few other riders joined Amber and I for a few laps, but she just kept digging. These efforts brought us back to what was left of the field and I had teammates Brenda and Sarah to help control the pace and attempt to tame Amber. She attacked on the climb 1 more time and we both soloed in for 1st and 2nd. That 1st pot on the podium is so elusive, yet so enticing! I always think, what more or LESS could I have done, utilized the team better, been more patient, been smarter, to ensure our team got on the first block. But 2nd was an exciting place to be. Suze also placed 3rd, rounding out the podium.

Now it is no secret that our little hit squad wanted to win Brentwood Grand Prix which just happened to be the SCNCA (district) state Crit Championships. Added to our roster was Dara Rogers and Michelle Ignash so we were in full-force. This is always an exciting event, as some extra racers join the start list due to the prize of the jersey and much larger cash purse than usual. While chatting to my homies in staging, someone said "Joy, you just got a call-up!" What! I have never been called up, and the one time I am, I miss it because I am talking?! Shocking...yet so predictable. The call-up gave me a little extra motivation to actually clip in at the start too...

This race was fun! I love this course and laughed just a little attacking up the gutter in the choppy pavement. The first time I did this event I was white-knuckled the whole time. This year it was a blast. Fast turns, swooping corners, and being part of a team that attacked, counter attacked, and set a fast tempo. Long story short, we wanted a sprint finish. And sprint indeed we did! It is a long course, so we were patient until the last lap. Emily Georgeson, who had just won the Cat 3 Women's State Title (and is my client...I can plug that here, right!?) Is also on Helen's and was there racing with us as well! After each team member had done their job, Emily was up there for one last lap. I got on her wheel and calmly said  "A little faster, a little bit more..." Brenda came around and took over for her, as she dive-bombed the descending turn. Suzanne and Shelby were right on my wheel as our black train swooped through the next two turns and onto the finishing straight. I dug as deep as I could, then Suzanne and Shelby launched past me to finish 1-2!! So exciting! In some of the photos you can see me coming in around 15th with my fist in the air, so excited to have executed a team plan, at a big big race, with so many sponsors there! You can read a report by Suzanne HERE.

Most recently, we raced at Ladera Ranch. This town reminds me a Smallville or the Truman Show - just a bit too perfect for my style. I do have to say though, the promotors are excellent. The women's field is traditionally small there, however they continue to offer a large and GOOD prize purse for the ladies. (Although men were COMPLAINING about the purse not being cut in half since our field was small. Thanks for the support guys....)

With the smaller field and Helen's having 5 riders, we were truly the team to recon with and set the pace. It was hot, over 100F and you could tell motivation was not at it's peek for the peloton. Michelle got in a great move with Bonnie from SCVelo which forced the riders in the race without teams to chase. As they were reeled in, Suzanne counter attacked, the field shuffled and set me up perfectly to attack on the back-side rise. One rider came with me, Jenny Rios from SCVelo and we established the break. And it stuck. Not growing, and not shrinking, the gap hovered around 30 seconds. All of a sudden. Alexis Ryan from Tibco (USA National Jr Crit and Road Champ - heading to junior worlds in Austria) bridged to our duo, making two sprinters, and me. This is where the chess comes in and where I am the worst. I have good fitness, good bike handling skills - but what do I do NOW!!! Brenda had told me before the race - ATTACK on the last lap and get away from the sprinters. So that is what I did. We shed Jenny for a bit, but I didn't want to just lead Alexis out, so I sat up and Jenny got back on. 3rd was mine for the day. An exciting finish since we actually got to stand on the podium - I haven't done that since the MTB days!

I always have such mixed emotions from these results! I am so excited to have a podium finish and have the opportunity to ride for a result, yet frustrated because I didn't play the tactics correct, or I over thought things. But, I always learn. I don't make the same mistakes more than once, and I always add to my understanding of the sport. It is also a big bonus in these situations to know that if the break had been caught, we as a team have sprinter options, our plan A-B-C and that once it is over, we can learn and grow more as a team. Pretty cool stuff.

This Sunday is the Summer End Ontario Grand Prix, I am sure something exciting for the team will happen!

I forgot....

I actually ForGet a lot, but I truly ForGot to complete my Cascade updates. At this point, I have forgotten how much my quads burned, how hard in fact it was to carry 7 bottles from the team car to disperse to my teammates in the peloton - one in my teeth. And I can't remember why I hoarded an extra bottle in my jersey up the last climb after random riders kept asking me for it.

I do remember what the 7,000 hr drive home felt like. I do remember what VO2 efforts felt like after the six-day stage race, and how awesome it felt to be home. But I will probably forget that stuff soon.

Having a few weeks at home with racing locally on the weekends has given me plenty of time to get accustomed to the swamp cooler in 108F days while getting reacquainted with the foam roller and yoga mat. Work is hoppin' with new coaching clients coming out of the woodwork which presents some great new challenges.

This is also a rad part of the year, it's almost anniversary time! Last year Brian and I spent our honeymoon in Jackson Hole, WI and the Grand Tetons plus some excursions in Yellowstone! I am super smart, so I planned the wedding the day after my birthday, on a holiday weekend. This means Brian gets a day off work Monday and every year, we are going to plot an adventure to a state or national park. We decided this year to keep it close! Just a few weeks away and we get to back up the Subaru and Moto and head to Idyllwild - a town I have ridden to 5x as much as I have driven! Cafes, hikes, mountain biking, family time!

Next weekend Brian is racing the Mt. Whitney Stage Race starting in Lone Pine, CA and I get to play full support role! I don't think we have been full support, in, years?! Looking forward to exploring, watching Brian suffer, and search for mountain bike trails.

I am pretty sure I forgot a few things...

Monday, July 30

More from Cascade!

Once joining the FCS/Rouse team for Cascade, the prerace instructions became quite different from those I had conjured up for my solo adventure. DS (Director Sportif) Kendra Wenzel assigned some of us the duties of racing at the front, getting into early moves and breaks, and always having a Purple Jersey represented in all the moves. 

The McKenzie Pass Road Race began with a ripping long descent which led into some fun rollers and eventually a 20 mile climb to peaked out out the thick, fog-laden forest into a moon-scape barren landscape of an ancient lava field. Spectacular!

In hindsight, Brian gave me advice from home: "Joy, you can't race a 3:30+ road race with 6k+ of climbing like a 1:30 circuit race." Well said...I rode the front, I got in my first ever moves in an NRC event, I represented the team and helped keep the pace high. Until the course went up. I avoided a nasty crash, assured all our GC riders were still in the group, and started my journey to the top with 3 other riders. Courtney Lowe from NZ and the Optum team kept the climb about 7 watts higher than was "comfortable" for me and we just kept digging. After the long climb, we got to enjoy an amazing and screaming fast descent which led us to the valley floor and the town of Sisters, OR where the road quickly turned left, up and up. The last 10k of climbing would be the death of me, putting the last nail in my coffin to get me popped from my pod of riders only 5k from the finish. Ugh. 

However, discouraged I was not! I was confident enough to race at the front of the event and I was able to follow the players in moves and trusted my racing instinct. In races past, I have not been confident with my fitness or racing savvy enough to be assertive with my racing. This time, I was not just a passenger. I finished the stage excited knowing that I had done a good job for my team and done my part in working towards the team goal. This was much more rewarding that fighting for 40th place solo. 

Stage 2 took us an hour away from the metropolis of Bend, OR for the Time Trial. The out and back race paralleled a crisp, clear river which was more than inviting to soak our sore and tired legs in. I was really excited because there was very little elevation gain on this course and I now have a TT bike, compared to putting clip-on bars on my road bike like last year. I have also been able to spend more time on the TT bike, making it that much more of an enjoyable experience. (Except for the time in Lodi that I was on the TT bike and Brian took us "exploring" for 3.5 hours in 100 degree heat - I hated the TT bike that day!) 

Recalling my weak warm up from the prologue, I was more focused than ever to get a really good warm up in for the TT. Pacing and line selection on the road are key to a good TT, and although it truly is nothing to "blog about" I got 39th out of 93 riders. Now if only I could start to focus on the bike...No real shuffle was made in the GC (General Classification) and the Rouse riders didn't lose or gain much in the over-all picture. I have come to enjoy TT day because it's a short event. Last year racing at Gila for Clara Hughes, I was instructed that it was "a hard recovery day" for me and to basically just survive. As my body has become more efficient and I have adapted to the work load of stage races, I could finally put some solid efforts into the pedals and start to really test myself. I like this event because it takes power, smarts, skill and focus. A few of those I lack though....but, I enjoy the fact that it is the rider against the clock, no sitting in, no fluff, just work!

Another "win" for me in this TT was that it went smooth! Bad things happen to me in these events: 

Redlands 2011 flat front tire half of the TT
Murrietta 2012 Dropped chain on the climb, had to get off to put it back on
Redlands 2012 Foot came out of the pedal down the start ramp, couldn't clip back in
Nature Valley Grand Prix 2012 Flat rear tire 1/4 of the way through

That is about a 50% suck rate for my history of time trials! So each time I get the mechanics down right I am pumped! Now to begin fine-tuning the craft and moving up the ladder! 

Friday, July 27

Cascade Cycling Classic: What a difference a year makes

Oh Cascade! Bend, OR was my favorite city to visit in 2011 with Boise, ID a close 2nd. Putting the two cities on the same trip, and at the virtual end of the season, makes this trip really special. Brian and I had a great time traveling there last year with CashCall and we were really excited to do it again.

But things don't always go as planned. Life calls, and June unfolded to be very stressful and ended on a very difficult note. As I have said in previous posts, Brian and I were hitting all the big races in June, but in an odd alternating fashion that had us missing each other at each stop along the way. By late June, it became apparent that Brian's Grandmother who was also his mother figure, was succumbing to a rapid onset of aggressive cancer. We spent almost 2 weeks sleeping on her floor, helping with the hospice nurses and around the clock care along with his family as the matriarch of the family made a peaceful transition, with all of her family by her side. The short nights and insurmountable stress took it's toll on Brian, and the decision was made that he would fore go the PNW trip.

I was extremely sad and nervous to continue with our plan. Not that I can not travel without him, but I didn't want to leave him behind. But knowing we are set up with an amazing network where he would find hours of therapy and release on the bike in the mountains and working on his grandfathers wood working tools, we decided I should tackle the last big event of the season along with Brian's CashCall teammates.

I had several composite team options to race at Cascade. However, last year I raced solo and I had a blast. None of the set-ups intrigued me, so I stuck to my guns to play by myself. Until I got the call Monday night that a rider for the FCS/Rouse professional team had become sick and couldn't be at the event. Now THIS was an option that I could go for! Being a free-agent I have found I am a type of mercenary, hired gun to come in and take care of business. Quickly my focus went from sitting in seeing how well I could place solo, to riding my tail off at the front of each stage for the greater good of a team that had the potential to place riders in the top 5 each stage.

Last year I was excited to finish 50th on stages and remember pedaling past the 'workers' of the larger teams without a full understanding of what they had endured for the last 3 hours. Now that experience would be mine, and I was more than ready!

I was a bit stressed to join an elite roster at the last minute, which created some very restless and sleepless nights and moderate anxiety. Could I be up to the task? Could I follow through? Would I let them down? What was I doing!! Thanks to Kathryn Donovan and Anna Sanders of the Rouse team, I had been offered the open slot, and by no means did I want to let them down.

Going into the prologue, I didn't quite know what to expect even though I had pre-ridden it several times. It was a short 2.5 mile course suited well for the time trial bike and power and speed. One would think I could rip on these short and hard efforts. However, I was jittery and scattered and botched a good trainer warm up before hand. I really believe for these 6 minute "races" I just have to spend 60+ minutes flogging myself in a warm up to get my body ready for the demands of the event. I placed a disappointing 81st, but knowing I now had the job of a worker and teammates had placed much higher in the GC, I was content and able to find some rest to prepare for the next stage.

To add to the bummer of not having Brian along for the trip, I got to stay in a EuroVan. Weird, I know. At these big races, we are set up with Host Housing. I coordinate all the housing for CashCall, and this host would take 3 riders. 2 in the house in private bedrooms, and one outside in the EuroVan camper. I raised my hand for outside! Brian LOVES EuroVans. I told the boys I wanted to try it out and tell Brian all about it. Justin wisely told me "If it sucks, don't be stupid and tell Brian about it. You don't want to crush his dreams." Good to know...

I ended up on the couch inside one night, however, due to an INSANE!!! thunder and lighting storm. The Van felt like a tent and the crack of thunder were right on top of the lightning. The brightness of the strikes were almost blinding and the pelting rain made quite the clatter on the roof.

The other nights posed much more therapeutic sleep rituals with wind chimes, flowing water, and wind in the trees.
My "room" for the week! Stove, sink, fridge, awesome!

Able to put my feet up and relax in bed, looking into the forest in the front yard. 

Our host created this waterfall and stream, complete with 15 foot tall burned out tree. I sat at the table and worked for hours!

Tuesday, June 19

Just call us the Wonder Pets!

Nature Valley Grand Prix has finished, and as we blend back into our "normal" lives, I thought I better get the remnants of the story out into the blog-o-sphere before the next adventure begins! Now looking at it though, this blog is more of a blog-o-vomit. Much too large, but oh so important.

I have lots of "small friends" meaning 6 years old and under. They really like the Wonder Pets.

And who wouldn't? Their theme song goes something like this: "What's it going to take? Teamwork!!" (I double-dare you to click the link and watch the video. Do it.) 

And we, our Nature Valley Pro Team, rallied like the Wonder Pets and made it happen.

After binging on cheese curds and photo-bombing our director Michael, it was back to business with the remaining three, and very serious stages of the event.

Crit #2 - This was a day on the bike! We still had the amateur jersey to defend, and Lindsay was in good form to land another top 10 performance. I'm not sure what the deal was, but the energy level was spun on high and maybe the peloton was too amped up from a "rest" day, but holy crash-fest. Bri C went down on the first lap as another rider slid across the pavement. From then on, it was nothing but a battle for me to find my way to the front and to Wee Brie. I had made the inevitable rookie move (wiat, it's not a rook move if I have done it like 5 times...) of not clipping in well at the start which instantly put me in the back-half of the pack. 3 laps later, I was able to tack onto Brie's bright green shoe covers and finally shield her from the menace that was the pack. But a few turns later, as we were coming through the start/finish, the ripple affect began at the front of the race, 15 or so wheels ahead. Wheels started to rub and cross, and the dominoes started to fall. Brie went down right behind me in what I hear was a spectacular crash, which actually neutralized the field. Lindsay, Bri and I got together and rode back to the start.

Here I found Brie heading to the pits for a bike. Problem: Brie is Wee. The bikes were not. This champ rode a 53cm from for the rest of the race. She usually rides a 48cm. She never once complained, whined, or blamed her misfortune on anyone or anything. She rode like a champ, with blood on her elbows and knee, on a bike a few sizes too big.

The last 2 laps of this race was like dodging land mines. Lindsay stayed safe at the front to finish with a spectacular 9th. I literally attacked and sprinted for 2 laps straight just to stay 30th in the strung-out field, with Wee Brie and the jersey on my wheel. Going up to the finish, she was able to come around me and sprint for a top 20 result, and remain in the amateur jersey. I was cracked. I had ridden the gutter lap after lap, trying to keep the Jersey out of the crash-cluster in the middle of the pack, and raced heads up for 28 laps, tongue hanging on the top-tube with Brie on my wheel saying "a little bit more, more to the front, just a little bit more" and Bri C close at hand for more support and protecting of the jersey. What a rad ride with 2 teammates within talking distance the whole time.

Finally - a road race!! In the rain. Remember San Dimas? With sideways whipping wind, freezing temperatures and horrific downpour? Well this was close. But it was warm and muggy, and the rain was scheduled to depart. 40 minutes into the race, the sky began to come back to blue, and the pelting downpour abated. But what a blast it was to race in the rain. Sketchy has heck, but a bit more exciting than your average neutral roll out.

The day before we had ridden to a coffee shop, and the ride home with a latte in my bottle cage had put more latte on my bike frame than in my belly, so I was lucky to get it washed in the race. I soon realized I should have washed my sweaty helmet in the shower the night before, because I getting a steady stream of the nasty gunk mixed with rain, coming down my face. Awesome!

We still had the jersey, and a good shot at another top 10 finish. My work was surely cut out for me. I had been given the assignment of road captain, which elated me because I am a busy-body and what better to do than mother-hen 6 other riders? I was also excited because I am starting to be able to see things that need to happen on the road, but the legs aren't ready to follow the directions. But with able-athletes ready at hand, this could be good.

Looking around the group, I realized we had most of our riders still in the pack. There would be 4 horrible QOH climbs, that made the hill on the San Dimas circuit race look and feel like a bunny hill. These girls were going to rip it. We were able to stick together for the most part, and keep Brie and Lindsay near the front, without being on the front.

My life on wheels is a sort of comedy of errors, and I was glad to have partners in crime this time. The ripping climbs seemed to not agree with Bri C and I, and we found ourselves doing my least favorite race tactic: attacking from the back. This means we got dropped, but I like to pretend we are off the front and going somewhere great, like winning, instead of digging into the depths of our quads just to make contact with the rear of the peloton. I like to visit my friends in the caravan, drop my empty bottles in random team cars, and practice drafting off of foreign bumpers. So I gave myself a few opportunities. Why not!

When I would get back to the group, I would pretend I had been messing with my shoes at the back of the peloton and ride to front, find the homies and temper my breathing so it was like I never left. Then I would get dropped again on the next QOH. Cool. On one return to the crew, I was informed that Lindsay had a mechanical and needed some assistance ASAP. Come to find out, she couldn't get into her big ring. I said, well, let's practice our skills from Super Secret Squirrel Training Camp, and go back to the car. Some of the trade teams had been getting feeds from their cars as I came back to the group, so this was as good a time as any. Lindsay and I drifted back, I filled up on 6 bottles and headed back to be the lunch lady for the team. Lindsay ended up finishing in the lead group of the race, riding the small ring the whole. Time. Slightly ironic, she and Michael had been talking about cadence work at dinner a few nights before...

Then I got dropped for real. As Michael drove by I grabbed the coke he was handing out the window and told him I was pretty jacked, let the funeral march begin. Bri C was able to make contact up ahead with the main group, with Erin, Wee Brie and Lindsay. Cat was in between, and I was tail-gunning with some highly unmotivated partners. I usually have a my garmin, but somehow had let the battery die, so was riding by braille. This was actually really cool, and when I had been in the group, I had just talked to my teammates about where we were on course. I asked one of the girls with us where we were at and she said "107k"....ok Cool. This is Minnesota. In America, and we are dropped. Tell me in words I understand! The circuits would begin at 112k...some of the chasers wanted to drop-anchor so we would get pulled before the circuits which would entail 4 x 3 mile laps. NO WAY! If I got pulled, I would have ridden the 4 laps on my own, on the sidewalk! (If you think I'm joking...think again!) Into the circuits we went and motivating the group became a full-time job. It felt like teaching last period high school PE on the last day of school. Begging and pleading for just one small effort towards our progress. Somehow we latched onto another chase group containing teammate Cat. On the last lap, one of the chasers had the awesome (please note slight sarcasm) idea to attack after doing moderate to fair work load. This is always "cool" to attack for 40-something-ish. But I'm not going to just let the group ride away, so I sat just close enough on her wheel to expend my last match of the day.

Lindsay had stayed in the front group, Brie had only lost a minute, and Bri C and Erin were in the second group. And the amateur jersey stayed with the team. Another awesome day for the Wonder Pets!

Stillwater - This was like a race you see on the TV. Straight up, lined with Santa Clause and silver spandex boy, kids ringing cowbells and racers names scribbled in chalk up the 22% grade. THIS was REAL bike racing! NVGP had excellent start music - I forgot to mention the Metallica at the start of the crit 2 days prior...it made me want to bang bars, so maybe that's where the crashes came from. Anyways, the atmosphere was electric as the jersey wearers were called up and the race began.

We had to make 25% of the race to be counted. Goal #1. Goal #2 - make it half way. I got both done. And it was horrible and hard. I was disappointed that my legs wouldn't get me up the climb with the group, but I put that in a box and hid it away so I could enjoy the experience that was Stillwater. The fans, the noise, the amazing course, the chalk on the road with strangers running next to me as I flogged myself to try and stay on the wheel, any wheel ahead of me. Once I was pulled, I jumped on the sidewalk to cheer on my teammates and other friends remaining on the course. I was so proud to see Erin, Wee Brie and Lindsay dicing it up like true warriors, and Brie and Lindsay making it to the last lap and one final time up the climb. Brie still had bandages on her elbow and knee, and Lindsay was channeling all her positive energy to stay in lead group.

The Finals Stage...

A great experience indeed. Final stats, I was able to move up from 90th to 47th after my "exciting" yet unfortunate flat in the time trial. This was the first time I have done this NRC event, adding it my list of favorites.

Riding with a cohesive team and having the honor of being the road captain is an experience I will cherish for a long time.

Lots of lessons learned - some the hard way.

Way too many laughs to count - but I think they will help with my 6 pack project.

Great friends made - host families and teammates at these events quickly get boosted to "family" status as we get to share and experience a bond that nobody else really gets. So sorry about the "PIZZA" joke.

Because in fact, we are the Wonder Pets. "What's it gonna take? Teamwork!" 

Thursday, June 14

Cancelled stages doesn't equate to cancelled fun!

Cat Johnson (Boulder), Trina Jacobson (San Diego), Lindsay Bayer (Washington DC), Bri Clark (Illinois), ME, Erin Burton (S. Caroline), Bri Walle (Oregon) 

Here in the midwest, things get a little crazy. Yesterday was a double day, meaning a time trial in the morning which was awesome...minus a solid flat rear flat I got the 2 mile mark. Out of 7.7 miles. You know the sound. You know the feeling. The feeling deep down in your belly that covers all spectrums, and the feeling as your rear rim quickly collides with the asphalt surface below. The culmination of these things gives me a belly ache.

However, with our nifty Pro Chase team camp, we talked a lot about what to do in such dire straights. A moto official was behind me and saw the flat, as it was on the one and only descending turn. He waved at me, drove the 1 mile + ahead to the turn around where there was a wheel pit. A few minutes later he came back the opposite direction (it was an out and back) and told me a wheel was ready for me. By the time I got to the turn around, 2 fast fast chicks had passed me, but a nice Shimano mechanic was waiting for me with a wheel. I rode so hard on the way back I almost puked at the finish. I guess that's what you are supposed to do in these things.

I got 90/95...I could speculate for days about where I woulda-shoulda-coulda placed minus my mishap, but at the end of it all, it's just the way racing pans out sometimes. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty disappointed and upset about not starting the event out on a high note.

Our videographer (yeah, that's right, we have one of those here at the team) decided to follow me around at the TT. So here's his take on my event. Brian says I sound stressed, but I was warming up on the trainer and well, stressed haha. There is also an interview of me at camp, that has something to do with "Awesome."

Crit time was rad! We have 7 teammates, and we got a clutch set-up on the infield with our mechanics ready to rock. The crit was fast and flat, with some choppy pavement and lots of turns. We had a few options to exploit and we did a dang good job of it. Our girl Lindsay is hilarious, and got 10th. For some great insights into our camp and life here in WI/MN, check out her blog!
Me, followed by Wee Bri (spotted by neon shoe-covers) and Amazon Bri - we spent the majority of the race together!
We have 2 Bri's. Lil Bri and Amazon Bri - because she is my size. Big Bri and I kept Wee Bri safe all night, because she in fact got 8th in the TT, thus securing the Amateur Jersey for the first 2 stages. This was a huge honor for us and a great acheivement for our team. We were able to finish 5 of the 7 on the same lap as the winner, and all 7 moved on to todays stage. (which never actually happened)

So, here's the deal. We got BACK from our crit at like 9pm, these chicks are hungry, spun-out, excited, dirty, and hungry. So bedtime lands well after 12am. Thankfully, race time today was like forever later, so we got up at 9. Which of course is my normal rising time.

The late start time allowed me quality time to eat, check facebook, wash kits, do some work-work, eat a few more times. and be late for the van ride to the race. All in a torrential downpour. But the rain, here in the plains, is not quite SoCal status. There is thunder that cracks through your skull, lighting that hits houses, and tornadoes that transplant cows. Our race times required us to prepare our bodies and our bikes for battle in these conditions, with the premonition that the event would in fact be cancelled. The stage went from an awesome, 74 mile course with a few gnarly dirt/gravel sections, to a 15 lap circuit race with points laps and no free laps. Shockingly...the team directors balked incessantly and race was cancelled.

Out of the freshly chamois-buttered bibs, back into the van with my soaking wet yoga pants and sneakers for the 1.5 hour drive home. One would think that we would rally and go straight home and jump on the trainers in the garage. But instead we went to the grocery store and bought Wisconsin Squeaky Cheese (which Wee Bri promptly asked the other shopper lady "what would you pare these with?), chips, and microwave mac-n-cheese. Duh.

Our team of 7 is shaping up awesome. Besides the fact the this is the first race I have been able to put my hair in teeny-tiny pigtails since like 2008, things are shaping up quite nicely.

Trina - you always need a mom in the group. She's up before the sun, baked chicken and made rice and keeps us on schedule.

Wee Brie - She is addicted to the YouTube and secured a jersey. And laughs more than 5 of you combined. Look into it. She's also from Oregon, so could double as a fixie-type person.

Amazon Bri - She's a lawyer. And my-size. And we pretty much ride the same. Creepy.

Cat - Cat's from Boulder, climbs hills faster than most, and is vegan and gluten-free at the same time. That takes some effort. Don't look into it.

Lindsay - OH Lindsay - bundle of nerves and laughs and has the legs and guts to back it all up. Hilarious and moving up fast!

Erin - The Sleeper. She said her TT wouldn't be that great. She is our 3rd highest rider. She said she was scared of the crit (this was her 5th, yes FIFTH crit ever) and she stayed in until the end. Ball of muscle and tenacity, legit.

And me. And you know enough about this one.

With our results on the first 2 stages, we are sitting 4th team GC - behind Optum, Exergy, Lululemon....then us. Very exciting and lots of racing left.

With 7 laptops, a few old jerseys, tons of laughs and a sprinter that has an uncanny resemblance to our DS Michael Engelman. Such a blast.