Tuesday, December 20

The kids are growing up!

I used the wrong password to log into my blog. Twice. Life is full. And I am happy! I have been keeping up with other peoples blogs however, and I have been more than impressed and motivated by the blogs of some of my "kids." I'm friends with many of my former students and they keep me in the loop on their happenings, and they are too cool to not share!! Their journeys are all over the globe and each has its own flair and unique personality.

Kid sister PAIGE is in Lithuania as we speak! She went to her semester abroad a week late due to a certain wedding she was in and helping organize. :-) Her blog is intriguing, comical, educational and has SO Many awesome photos!

The Runner SARAH EMOTO was in my PE classes for years and I knew she was one who would stick with running and exercise in general. One Saturday while I was on the bike, I saw Sarah running solo and I knew I had earned my paycheck. Then I heard she was running from LA to DC. 3,000 miles later her voyage is complete. Read her story, her motivation to honor fallen heros and where the journey took her.

KYLE might be turning into a hippee. From rock climbing to snow boarding to living out of a tent in Yosemite to athlete extraordinaire, Kyle is truly living life. His photos make you want to go outside and find color and inspiration even in the bleakest of landscapes.

CARLY went to Nepal and embraced the culture to the fullest. Being a student at Point Loma University, she won the grand prize in a photo contest and you will see why with one peak at her blog.

And onto a peak at Brian's and my honeymoon...
Back in September, we went on a trip. And now that we have beat the Kardashian time-line, we know we are golden! We arrived in Jackson ready to hike our heels off, forgetting we were at 6k+ feet and although we were quite fit coming off the end of the race season, we do not have any form of walking, let alone hiking fitness. And these things do not manifest themselves until you complete the 2nd 9 mile hike at elevation.

Brian REALLY!!! wanted to see a bear. He looked for them everywhere. This sign stated one had been in the area the week before. He was pumped to say the least.

*Note his hiking attire. We were odd-man-out in these woods. Everyone looked like they fell off of an LL Bean catalog page complete with walking poles, pants that zip off into shorts, canteens, UV proof $90 shirts, and those hats with the weird cloth-mullet things. They most likely had food for 7 in their backpacks and an emergency blanket. For their 3 mile hike. We had shorts and t-shirts and whenever we saw a sign that said "1.5 miles to the lookout" we took it! Ouch...
This is the first ever self-portrait photo I have taken. Doesn't do the Tetons or glacial lake justice...
Storms looming over the Tetons, again, iPhone not so up to par with showing what it REALLY looked like!

At our cozy cottage inn, Brian did a bit of reading as I drank copious amounts of coffee....

The only bear we found...
Then we went to Yellowstone, but that's a whole other story in and of itself.

Thursday, November 3

Firestone Flashbacks

This is how you get through a 24 hour race. Yup. Coffee brewed in the pasture.

Our little home. So much food!
I took no videos, I took a few photos. Our 5 person team was trimmed down to 3 the morning of the event. Lets just say the boys didn't want to play. This left all the dirty work up to us. Me, Suzanne Sonye and Ina Teutenberg.
Thankfully it was really hot during the day. That sounds weird. But that meant that the night was tolerable. The fire pits got us all nice and toasty to go back out on the course where I got away with a long sleeve jersey and my bib shorts! Awesome!!

The course was so much fun! I have raced here so many times, I knew every part of the route! Although it was all linked together differently than before, and the cow-path breaking bumps were super rough by 3am! But I saw the tree that knocked Adam out, the switchbacks where Georgia Gould got heat stroke in 2008, the other set of switchbacks that Heather Ranoa lost her breaks and came screaming and carrenaing towards us in 2009. Lots of great memories of all my mountain bike friends!

Us gals kept it together, railing good times and having a blast until around 3:30am. Well back it up. I had 2 laps from roughly 12-2am and on lap 2, I passed a rider with double flats and zero lights. I said my usual "good job, have fun" and kept riding. Jerk!! I stopped and rode back up the trail to give the guy one of my lights. As soon as I started to head back down the single track POOF...there went my remaining light. Good thing I know that course so well! That was a fun descent and traverse back to the pits!

Then I finally hit a wall. If you know me well, you know how much I like my SLEEP!!! I had a 4am wake up call on Saturday to drive 3.5 hours to the event. I was cracked in every way. Trying to keep it together, I just lay down in the back of my Subaru on my camping pad with my sleeping bag and hatch open. And I passed out. One of those shaking-sleeps from massive stacked up fatigue. By that point I had ridden 6 laps, well over 60 miles and 6k of climbing and was beat.

But I didn't have enough time. Poor Ina shook my foot and said she had thought I was lost, because who in fact would sleep in an open car? My time to ride was close and she had made coffee, although it wouldn't stay hot long! Ugh. I couldn't do it! We decided to take an hour off and she was out on the trails again before sun up. My lucky straw got me the first laps, sundown lap and sun-up lap. So rad! Beautiful valley and sky, worth the effort!

We finished the day 22 laps ridden in 24 hours! Ina and I both did 8 and Suze did 6, one more than she did last year on a 5 person team! She got to ride that 6th lap in perfect temps in the nice crisp morning. Perfect!

Post race was the hardest for me. It was hot and no shade to be found. I was completely cracked and emptying all liquids I could find. Water, Coke, Gatorade. And sitting on a stump licking the crumbs out of the triscuit bag, I just couldn't get enough salt!!

Although waiting in the heat/sun was rough, have you ever put ice cold chamois cream on at 4am?!?! Hmmmm????!!!

And then the drive home started...

I went to my most favorite eatery, Ellen's Danish Pancakes to throw me in a food coma right off the bat.
Which quickly forced me to pull off the freeway for a power nap, waking only to the horrid thought of "Oh crap, I have 3 hours to drive solo. I CAN'T GO ON!!!" Despite all hardships, I made it home just in time for Brian to play pizza delivery boy! I had been thinking about this very piece of pie since 2am!
Yes, I promise to start eating better. Yesterday.

It seems I keep finding myself in oddly broken states with some amazing athletes and mentors, not to say movers in the sport for women. Ina and Suze were amazing teammates for the day and I continue to learn about the many layers of cycling, racing, competing and being stand up women for the sport, and in the sport. Thank you girls!

Wednesday, October 26

Exciting Times Ahead!

I know, I know. My blogging is total weak sauce. But seriously, these days are flying by and I am having a hard time staying on track!!

Big Wheel Coaching is picking up momentum and November is packed with seminars, certifications and meetings. Looks like I will be out of town 50% of the month! That is something I am going to have to get used to for sure. I am becoming quite the home-body but looking forward to some high quality "host-housing" next month and lots of learning!!

But before we reach November, we are going to sign off on October with style!! Friday I get to fight my "eating and driving" traffic ticket in the San Bernardino court and head off to last minute race prep.

Destination: 24 Hours of Halloween! In Los Olivos which means I get to eat at Ellen's Danish Pancakes, at least one time!! Woohoo! I raced here a ton when it was a national event, but its been a few years for sure! Looking forward to the dust, bumpy cow paths and lots of fun!

The Team: This will be my one and only mountain bike race for 2011. Yikes! Barely getting it on the calendar! Thankfully, I won't be doing lap after lap after lap solo. I am on a 5 person coed team which promises to be highly entertaining and pretty dang fast. I asked "How serious are we taking this?" Answer: "We like to win." Got it. So Suzanne Sonye, Rahsaan Bahati, Ina Teutenberg, William Buckley, and well, me. I have been practicing my MTBing and feeling pretty sporty with it. Doesn't hurt that I picked up (Thanks Uncle!) a new Trek Superfly 100 which will for sure make me amazing. :)

I am planning on lots of photos, videos and funny stuff to take place at the event which I will gladly share with the masses. In all seriousness though, I am really excited about the event. It has been a great motivator to get me out in the dirt again which I truly love. it is giving me the opportunity to meet new people and amazing people in our sport at that. I am very grateful for the opportunity!

I am also doing product reviews and taking my off the bike fitness very seriously. I am at a juncture where I can really change my cycling for the better. Addressing the "health" of my feet with eSoles, using Trigger Point Therapy on my muscles, and Melt Method balls for my feet is just the beginning. And what better to do while watching training/coaching webinars?

Reviews to come on my coaching website once I have used the tools for a few weeks!

Enjoy your the last week of October!

Monday, September 26

Q and A. With myself.

When I slack off this long on blogging, the thought of a blog post is almost too overwhelming. There has been a wedding, honeymoon, job quit, business began, racing completed and recovery time had. So a brief Q and A will get me started today.

Q: Hey Joy, I heard you quit your job! You must be a) a house wife! b) a professional cyclist? c) You opened a bike shop! d) babies!

A: Yes, I have retired from teaching PE after 8 years. But ALL the assumptions of what I now do with my time are incorrect. Although I see myself as a trophy wife for sure, there is minimal cooking and cleaning involved. The professional cyclist idea is pretty cool, but I just completed my resume for 2011, and lets just say it's not gonna get me paid in 2012. Opening a bike shop would be ridiculous and Brian won't even let us get a puppy.

In late 2009 I began my own cycling coaching company, Big Wheel Coaching and I am now pursuing that dream full time and having a blast! I really feel scholastically challenged and find myself experiencing a lot of growth as an individual, elements I have been missing over the past few years. More (promise!!) to come regarding BWC in the next few days!

Q: Your married, right?

A: YES!!!! In the sprinter van en route from Bend to CA post Cascade Classic, I had a shock of a realization: I have 5 weeks to pull this wedding off! And BOOM! it happened!!

Slight car issues on the way to the ceremony! Right after this photo, Uncle Greg got the car started, subsequently COVERING my face with a spray of water.

There we are!! Who forgets to un-bussel their wedding dress?? ME! If that's as bad as it gets, I will take it!
Q: We heard you went to the Tetons and Yellowstone for your honeymoon. Who the heck does THAT!

A: WE DO! We a) don't like cities b) don't like crowds c) don't like the sun, sand or surf. We picked a spot we could go run around outside and see cool things, it worked out darn well!

We hiked high up into the Grand Tetons to find an awesome reflection, with no other people in sight!
Our Inn created AMAZING breakfast!!! I ate with regards only to taste, enjoyment, and until I was full. Or slightly beyond full.

Although we took a solid 2 weeks off the bikes, these cruisers kept us sane enough! We covered every inch of Jackson, WY to find the best sorbet in town.
Don't play with wild life!! Although we made a few videos mocking our lack of large game findings, we actually saw a ton of creatures!

Sundays you will find me at CycloCross races cheering for my friends and clients, working the pits and if I get tricked enough like yesterday, actually racing my bike! it's all in the name of work now and I am having a blast! Although the race yesterday was a quick kick to the gut, that maybe my lack of training since Cascade needs to be slightly bumped up. Once I got back from Cascade, Coach and I decided to put the heart monitor away and avoid structure. The local crit practice on Thursdays became my interval work and Sunday crits my intensity for the week. That was a vast, but highly important and needed, change from the majority of my extremely structured training and racing season. Since the wedding, I have taken a few weeks off the bike and finally wound up back in the gym, doing core and weight routines and even a TRX class or two. This time of the season is so fun, exploring new physical and mental potential!
This is what happens when Matt Breyer says: "Hey you should race tomorrow!" Me - Nope, I'm good! MB: "No, you should. It will be fun." Me - "OK. What time are we leaving?" Total push over.

Steel bike, great for upper body training!! Nobody said you had to get over these dang barriers nicely.

Doing work, as the Pit Boss for Breyer.

Monday, August 8

Racin' Days

Yesterday we raced in Brentwood, the heart of LA (I think...) and it was rad. Over $1,000 in primes for the women, a state jersey on the line and $300 to the winner. We raced our bikes hard from start to finish, great to have a race like this locally and not have to travel to one of the larger stage races. I showed up tired, fatigued, with flat legs and didn't put any pressure on myself. Funny thing is that I got 10th, which is usual, with a much different physical approach to the event. Conclusion: It's all in the MIND. Speaking of the mind, Brian has purchased several Mental Toughness/motivational books on tape to prep us for next season. Or the impending horribly hard winter rides and lack of heat in the house.

A few weeks back Brian and I took a trial honeymoon. We traveled to Boise, ID for Boise Twilight then on to Bend OR for the Cascade Classic. With his whole cycling team. It worked perfect because the boys traveled in a sprinter van pulling a trailer and Paul and I rode in the mini-van. :)

As I have stated before with the stage races, i was sure a time would come that the minutia of each stage, lap and climb would begin to blend and at Cascade they in fact did. I chose to race this 6-day event solo since composite options were slim. It panned out perfectly with great support from CashCall and since I talk a lot, I have a lot of friends in the peloton who were gracious enough to offer me feeds and moral support.

I was elated to not have a single flat, bee sting, crash, bonk, freak out or any other mishap. It was a clean race. 6 days of built up fatigue and racing landed me a 40th GC out of 106 starters and a 30th place on the last stage, making me finally feel like I was racing my bicycle, not merely a passenger in the event. It was very encouraging to see fitness gains and again the adaptation of stage racing coming through and not having to sleep 3 hours after each stage and waking up actually alert and ready to rock. Although 40th GC in theory is not something to blog about, for me its a big step, a sign of consistent improvement and one of my goals was to complete Cascade within the 5oth percentile. And that goal was achieved, and passed.

There were lots of funny aspects to the event, a few OH MY WORD moments, and a couple Heck Yes!! times, which I will probably delve into down the road. But for now it's time to build a business, plan a wedding and enjoy some relaxed bike rides with my friends!

Friday, July 8

If it hurts, fix it

As athletes, we know our bodies well enough to know when we are injured. However athletes by nature are stubborn and goal-driven, thus we allow ourselves to overlook the nagging back pain, slight twinge behind the knee and occasional light headed-ness.

When I crashed at Redlands, early April, my hand got stuck in the spokes of my front wheel, slicing a nice gash in my middle finger and making the other three just plain hurt. I kept thinking it would go away, that I was being weak or that I just wasn't tough enough.

They were neither swollen nor black and blue. My dexterity was basically normal too. They looked weird though, almost crooked and my knuckles looked fat and funny. Riding didn't hurt, but braking and shifting could be a problem. Things like pumping gas, making a fist, opening salad dressing or gripping anything for that matter were a real BIG problem. I would wake up during the night with my fingers hurting super bad and in the morning would find it hard to move them at all. They constantly throbbed and ached. So weird!

Yesterday I went to my favorite massage/torturer Jason Ravel and I said "dude, my hand hurts so bad!" Come to find out, the fingers were extremely mis-aligned. Different than being dislocated, the connective tissue was and still is all out of wack, pulling the bones all over the place (extremely scientific explanation I know!). After 30 minutes of "massage" on each finger, I can make a fist and they each looked nearly straight! And fist pump I did! It's not all the way cleared up, but lets just say my quality of life has improved drastically. And I was able to open a jar of olives without crying Uncle.

3 months, almost to the day! I should know better! But without a "substantial" injury of a bone sticking out or massive stitches, I thought i would be just fine. Now by no means is this a horrible injury, and I think of my friends who have endured broken collarbones, elbows, femurs, and shoulders this season, and this tiny issue pales in comparison. Yet it makes a very clear statement to me to not let injuries go overlooked. Left unattended, they will probably grow!

So if it hurts, look into fixing it!

Tuesday, June 28

Words to live by

I'm sitting here watching the trailers to True Grit, catching up on my friends blogs and thinking back to Mt. Hood, it all melds really well together! Again, an encyclopedia worth of life has passed since the last Mt. Hood climb but that last stage remains an amazing event.

I have found some awesome write-ups on Clara's blog about why we train and race and leading through her experiences training for the 2012 Olympics. If you have a chance, check them out HERE.

My day began by receiving a really endearing text from my boy Brian: "Harden up and earn your crust today!!" That's my boy! In fact perfect words to give me the swift kick in the bibs I needed to start the race.

Elated to have made it to the final stage of yet another stage race, I was primed and ready to go. I had studied the maps and route and knew where the tough spots would be. As I waited for the race to begin I felt the Northwestern Hospitality at it's best with massive bugs, flying things and critters crawling on me, flying into my helmet or my mouth. Ew! I would take a desert tarantula any day!

This stage was rad! I was able to stay with the bunch and with Clara way longer than expected and do slight moments of "help". When the road turned right onto a graded road covered with dirt and asphalt pebbles, I saw Clara go to the front with Peanut Butter so I jumped into the dirt and pedalled on up to flank Clara. I said "I like to ride in the Dirt!" She said "Ya, your a dirty girl!" It's the simple things you know. We, Clara excluded, were no match for the stronger teams heading into the mountains and as we blew past the 60 minute mark I plead with myself to just stay till 1:30, make it to the QOM! Time ticked by, I was with the group and I saw the 5k to QOM Almost "there"! The pace cranked up and the shuffle began, sifting out the strong, and at 1:28, I joined half the peloton, in the back.

As we rode up through the QOM, we were chaperoned by tall walls of snow on either side of the jeep-wide forest service road. The temps were in the 80's with high humidity, covering us all in sweat and splatter from the snow run-off which was cascading down the center of the road, which in fact was covered with moss. Awesome!!! We rode through gravel, dirt, switchbacks and freshly cut pines which smelled like Christmas Eve! Lost Lake lingered close by and the base of Mt. Hood seemed to be right around the corner.

Beyond the grandeur of the scenery, I was so pumped to in fact still be racing at 40 miles in. I was with a group of 5 leading into a screaming descent where I promptly got dropped, the caravan squeezed by and the chase began. I rode so hard my cheeks were streaming with non-tears, I was seeing black spots and going cross-eyed. The group of 4 was just beyond the caravan and in order to get past the caravan I had to ride the mossy shoulder with a rock covered drop off on my hip. With the group we gathered momentum and picked up 3 more, then 5 more and finally we were rolling steady and fast with 18-20 racers! I was in fact still RACING my bicycle. Rad.

With said group, however, there was of course the standard in-fighting and 5 out of the 18 were actually working. Of course since I am silly, I was working and promptly sat up to take inventory. It's these scenarios when you assess the competition. Who will draw the short straw and get dropped first? Who would be next? Whose gonna win the sprint? The thing that sucked the most is that the short straw came up in my hand. It was only a matter of moments.

At approximately 101 K of 110 K, I cracked. Nothing like the Gila crack where I was able to ride after. A crack that begins in your belly, heads to the quads, and fixates in the head with cramping, aches, shaking, and dizziness. The ironic fact was that I am a Sherpa by nature, carrying bars, gels, squishies and bottles. Yet, I take care of everyone else and HELLO!!!! I had consumed a ton but immediately remembered my breakfast sucked. Good job Joy Joy.

As I fell out of the pack, right next to the "Oregon Illegal Feed Zone" (Signs read "1 finger: Water; 2 Fingers Coke; 3 Fingers Gatorade- just awesome. but they were out of coke!) I realized I was riding to survive not for a placing today. Entertainment came from watching the rest of the group implode on the climb and the bets I had placed on the next riders to crack rang true - I would expect nothing less from a PE teacher, we can read through the most stalwart of bluffs.

Heading into the last turn, where the grade would peak at 16% on a gravely surface of shale and dirt I started to truly struggle. The zig and the zag began and oddly I found my front wheel diving into the left ditch. Oops. I stopped. Straddled my bike and put my elbows on the bars, head in my hands. WITH 1K TO GO! Wow, how can that happen? I went big and dug a Gu out of my jersey pocket and slammed it. Again, with a K to go. Befuddled I got back on the saddle, in the nick of time at that! The Peanut Butter entourage came around the corner in sync with my first pedal stroke. Phew, that would have been awkward!

As I crossed the line, Michael grabbed my bike and said "Every pedal stroke counts!" And that it does! With bloodshot eyes, shaking arms, unzipped jersey covered in salt, we had completed yet another one. "SoCal you look like crap" is something I remember hearing as well as the belly-laughs when I confessed to my Gu shot at the 1 K mark.

Always learning with eyes wide open, doing my best to Harden Up and Earn my Crust with the steady reminder that Every Pedal Stroke Counts. Great combo.

HERE you can find photos of the amazing racing, especially the 4th stage! I HIGHLY recommend this event to everyone especially if you are looking for a little taste of adventure, amazing food, and a great opportunity to Harden Up.

Friday, June 17

It's almost Brian's birthday...

Brian get's to blog for his team as well, you can check out his Memorial Weekend Report HERE.

There must be something in the water, because between the two of us we have each crashed 3 times (as of Memorial Day haha), gone through multiple wheels and shifters and Brian went big and broke his frame. The subtle yet ever present stress that crashing adds to our racing life is becoming palpable.

A few weeks back at Barrio Logan, I was warming up on the trainer near turn 2 and just had an eerie feeling. I heard a crash, counted CashCall riders and asked a spectator on the corner "What color kit is down?" They replied with "Blue and white but not Swami's" Yup, that's Brian. I ran up there to find him having been jettisoned from the bike, into a tree and sitting on the sidewalk with a wide open finger drenched in blood. He is tougher than nails but as stubborn as an Ox. What needed stitches became a home art project of glue and tape.

Fast forward to Barry Wolfe Grand Prix. Lots of wind on the course and the boys were ripping it. Brian was railing up the outside with his team on his wheel, elbows brushing the hay bales. The strong wind blew the course tape onto the course, hooking Brian's handlebars and tossing him like a Bull Rider head first onto the asphalt. (He seems to always land on his head, I prefer to land on my left shoulder.) Teammate Devan rode over his bike after a few other riders ran into his back and when I got to him he was laying on the curb, arms crossed casket-style, eyes closed, with quite a bit of blood on his face.

It's actually slightly funny, because he just said "I'm ok, I'm just relaxing, Hows everyone else?" He claims he goes to his happy pace to deal with such issues. But it kind of freaks me out because I can't figure out what's wrong with him. Come to find out he had been knocked out for a bit and Devan had moved him and talked to him. A layer of his ear basically peeled off, so we called him Sloth from Goonies because it was super swollen and stuck out from his head. I know, we are super kind.
With two laps to go in the race, we turned his chair in the medic area so he could watch the finish and cheer for his teammate Dave as he won the race!

With a broken frame, helmet, seat rails and massive bruising on his neck and head, we took him to the ER. What a rodeo. They were horrible. Just put tape all over his head and scrip for Norco. He refuses to take Advil. A Norco would knock him out for a few days, so to say the least he did not get it filled and other than some surface wounds, he was just fine.
We have matching shoulders! But mine is on the left :)

Thankfully his little Bro Nich was around to help with comic relief!

While I was racing Mt. Hood, Brian and the boys were throwing down at the District State Road Champs where his teammate Dave won. I got back on Monday and the boys packed up and headed to Tulsa Tough on Thursday!

Tulsa was rad because it was Live Streamed through VeloNews. But I soon found this to be extremely stressful. I got so spun out watching it I color coordinated my closet and drawers! I will spare all the gore, but day one: Night crit in the rain. Crashes every lap, it was like Sharks vs Minnows with 10-15 riders coming out of the pits into the group every lap! 3 of his teammates crashed, one went down 2 times! Somehow he stayed upright. These were NRC races, so the big ballers show up and give no mercy to any riders! I was tweeting for CashCall and acting as Paul's eyes on the parts of the course that I could see.

Thankfully the race on Saturday was dry and the boys stayed safe. Sunday the race during the day with a massive climb called "Cry Baby Hill" which I think is rad! It was much easier to see the boys and I was glued to the computer! They were getting beer and water thrown on them each lap up the climb and Paul went through over 30 bottles in 60 minutes due to the 90+ degree weather and intense humidity. I could tell all the boys were suffering immensely and just kept watching the laps tick down. Finally 3 to go, their gonna be good. 1 to go....BOOM!! Brian comes into the last turn and ROLLS A TUBULAR tire and crashes, sliding on his belly across the screen! NOOOO!!!! The announcer says "Well Brian McCulloch has had enough of the race and has thrown his bike on the ground." So Funny! He was so bummed though. I sent Paul a text "Hey Brian down hard on last turn. Just let me know if he has a lacerated liver or something." He was fine. I was so proud of him! It was rad to watch the races live, to see him and his team dicing it up with the best in the country. Announcer Dave Towle said "CashCall Cycling is a team that fights above its weight and I love it. they show up with true determination." So cool.

I've said it before, but being a spectator is more stressful than racing!!! The CashCall Wives Club has decided we will have some bake sales so we can travel with our boys to the next race. :)

We know that this is all part of the beast. Training, nutrition, rebuilding our bodies and trying not to allow the things that are out of our control consume us. We are blessed to be in a great community and with directors/teammates that we trust implicitly and know have our best interests at heart.

Maybe I should work on planning the wedding now. :)

Thursday, June 16

Crit Fodder

Clara, Jade and Hilary warming up at our host house, which was on turn one of the crit!

Hailing from the industrial crit capital of the country, the IE, I was feeling primed and ready to race the Mt. Hood crit. The field was smaller than the NRC crits with less horse power on a course I could dig my pedals into. I was ready for redemption and some good juju. But usually the things we want the most we just can not have. I mean, all I wanted to do was ride with my team and be useful.

However I am a diesel and it takes me a few, er, laps, to warm up to the pace of crits especially with stacked up fatigue. I thought I warmed up well enough, but as I rode the back 1/3 of the group, trying to move up but kept finding myself in the gnarly headwind as the peloton strung out, a girl crashed in front of me and as I avoided it I saw a massive split created and BOOM I was dropped. IN A CRIT! I stayed in at San Dimas, Redlands, Gila, and now I got dropped. At precisely the same moment, teammate Jade followed an attack and got in the break as per our plan. One out the back, one out the front. It seems that whenever I am suffering like a dog trying to stay in, a teammate is cranking up the pace the front making my efforts that much more futile. Pretty funny if you think about it actually.
Awesome host house art!

Here is where I finally got mad. I haven't raced mad in years but I was pissed! I was embarrassed because I knew I could be in the race, I had committed to specific jobs and now I would spend over 20 minutes of a 40 minute crit CHASING!!! Michael was at the base of the climb and just kept telling me to relax and sit but the chase group was HORRIBLE. Girls attacking the chase, braking hard in the turns. You know it is super bad if I am telling girls to get off the brakes! There was one descending right had 90 degree turn where everyone was crashing. A girl in the chase group was riding straight out of the apex! I yelled at her to turn and she said "I'm so scared, this is so scary!" Really?! Then get to the back!!!

I saw the field slow and widen through the start finish and knew this was the chance to make junction. I jumped, found the group and pedalled to the front to find Clara, where I was supposed to be the whole race.

We got 2nd on the day. Clara tied with Kristen Armstrong of Peanut Butter 13 seconds back from first place. Sunday's road race was going to be a throw-down.

Before going to Gila, one of my many advisers told me "Your going to have develop an extremely tough upper lip and hold your head high." And that's just what I had to do. No time to doubt, no time to question my spot or what I was doing there. I knew that if I could chase back on and go straight to the front it isn't a fitness issue. It just always seems to be something...In this environment, I have the great opportunity to learn. Clara sat me down and said "Joy you are better than this! What can we fix." Awesome. Teach me, let me learn! Having her and Michael willing to spend a few minutes to help me eventually reach my potential was so great.

It's been said that Clara is worth three riders on the team with strength, knowledge, skill and know-how. Then it was said that I was worth three riders for the team in flats, crashes, mechanicals, and straight up bad luck. We gotta balance each other out. And I am totally stoked on my position. :)
I'm a busy bee and although our staff had an awesome director and mechanic, we were lacking a swanny. And a dishwasher. Bottle prep is actually slightly theraputic. Lots on my mind so might as well be productive! And we were going to need dozens of bottles for the last stage!!

Thursday, June 9

Brian is heading to Tulsa Tough!

Brian and his team, CashCall Mortgage Cycling Team have touched down in Tulsa, OK for a weekend of fast and furious racing at Tulsa Tough! You can watch live feed on Velonews, but I'm a little sketched out to watch. I would rather just wait and and hear how it went after the fact, I just can't handle the stress! It's so awesome that Brian and the boys get to race out of SoCal!

I gotta tell ya, the 2011 season so far has been amazing. It's
not the trip to Gila or Mount Hood. It's not competing in the Redlands Classic or losing 2 pounds. It has been watching Brian have a blast with his team! The six of these guys are like fraternity brothers and they race till the end for each other every single race! Seeing Brian have the opportunity to mentored and developed by a team and manager is awesome. he can also put all his mad skills to great use. He is a tactician, analyst and pit bull on every course! I see him as the glue that keeps his team together and it is just awesome to watch!

A-Train (Anthony) and Brian post A-Train victory, he and Brian were in the break together, with BMc throwing down the lead out!
Brian celebrates as Anthony crosses the line!
And Brian gets his first win of the year! The team went 1-5 and 7th on that day!

Each of the athletes on CashCall have already grown by leaps and bounds this year and their cohesion is palpable. The rest of the season is sure to not disappoint! So maybe I will tune into Velonews tomorrow night and watch some of the live action!!

Tuesday, June 7

The beautiful Pacific North West!

Mt. Hood Cycling Classic 2011

I lived in Oregon when I was small, in a tiny town called Boring, outside of Gresham. Obviously a town like this would not suit me so I left when I was 4. When I did the NORBA MTB circuit, my travels took me to Aspen, Vermont, Arizone, Brian Head UT, upstate New York and the Carolinas, but never had I ventured into the mossy Pacific Northwest. I was pumped!

I was honored again to be a member of the Pactimo Cycling Team, a Sand Lot Gang of composite riders solicited to ride for 2012 Olympic hopeful and veteran Clara Hughes. Getting this invite would parallel receiving an email from Mia Hamm to shoot some soccer goals together or Jennifer Azzi asking me to come play some 3-on-3 basketball at a Hoop-It-Up tournament with her. For you males who forgot women get paid to play, its like wearing the same jersey as Alexis Lalas or Larry Bird, and not just because you won the radio call-in contest. LEGIT. I went into the weekend with eyes and ears wide open for all learning opportunities to continue developing all my skills on and off the bike.

In Hood River I met my new teammates, Oregon local hot-rod Jade Wilcoxson and Hillary Billington, another Oregon favorite. More on these gals later! I soon received the name "SoCal" due to my tan and the rampant tan-envy from the Oregonian peloton, and my standard shorts and t-shirt with flip-flops. Between the 4 riders, director and mechanic, we had our squad set for battle against the heavy-hitters Peanut Butter 2012 and the rest of the small, yet feisty peloton.

I have done hundreds of miles in prep, had chaos on the work front, and lots going down leading into this week of racing. My battle wounds are nearly healed yet my mangled shifters remind me with every shift and brake how crazy this season has been. I was as ready as I could be.

The event began with a 3.1 mile Prologue with about half as much climbing as the one at Redlands and I soon realized as I patrolled the parking lot that I was one of the very few on a road bike. My clip-on TT bars against thousands of dollars worth of the highest technological advances on the market. Thank goodness I’m a worker bee, not a GC rider!

Jade and I spun through town and over the country side to do some course recon and I was in heaven after 5 minutes. A massive river tumbled into the Columbia, dwarfed by towering Mount Hood, crystal clear sky and dense, eerie forests. We rode by orchards for every pear imaginable, Bosc, Bartlett, Angue...and up into the foot hills. The Prologue would be harsh! I was 5th from last, dry heaving at the finish and cross eyed as I stared out on the amazing view from Panorama Point. Ugh, this weekend is going to HURT! Clara was 2nd by a hair with Jade riding to an impressive 6th and Hilary safe in the middle!

Day two, Stage 1: 58 mile road race. This distance is cool, I can hang no worries! The route was amazing, careening along the Columbia, billowing clouds and temperatures in the high 70’s. I was feeling comfortable and confident, riding well in the group. Now Brian recently pulled the SRAM Rival components off the cross bike so that I would be compatible with everything Michael has at the races (which I promptly crashed at Ontario). Well I don’t like the way it shifts and I miss my Campy. I miss shifted, tried to shift again as the peloton turned a hard left UP. Stuck. In the big ring. I had been way up the group instead of my usual last 10 riders! My heard sunk. I jumped off, got the chain into the small ring but by the time I was back going, the 50 rider peloton was gone and I was behind the caravan. SOLO. Seriously, my fitness was golden, my position was great, my mind was clear but a pilot error got me dropped. I was really upset because up till now, I only get dropped due to fitness, now that my fitness was up, I made a technical mistake.

Let the chasing and suffering begin. I am pretty sure my chase was the same length as my prologue, 8:48 and my average wattage was way higher than the day before. Sure helps to have a MASSIVE carrot of the entire peloton to get you in gear. There were only 3 team cars in the caravan bringing the total of cars to 7. The medical car kept brake-checking me, guess she wanted business, and I was having a horrible time getting around COMM 1. They were also WAY off of the peloton, which isn’t normal. Usually (since I am experienced at this) I can sling-shot off the last car into the group. Now I had to gun it. The Peanut Butter car was rad though. Kristen Armstrong’s husband was riding shot-gun and as I yo-yo’d through the caravan again he said “This is it, make it or break, they are about to crest the hill” so I pinned it and got back on. So frustrating. But sure as heck not going to stop. When I get “good” it’s going to be awesome because I will have a mind of steel from getting kicked in the head so many times!

As soon as I was with the group and recovered slightly, the course leveled out a bit and feeding could take place. So I collected empties from my teammates and went back to the car to fill up. 2 bottles on the bike, 2 in the back of my jersey and 2 in the front, then hammer back into the group before a descent. Find the girls and do the hand off to Clara. But the other gals didn’t want a bottle since we were heading to a climb, although as the Snack Cart, this made me nervous looking at their single bottles knowing I would not be back to help them. I off loaded the extra bottles to a solo Tibco rider and off to prep for the climb. Where I promptly got dropped. I tried not to get frustrated, knowing that had I not used so many matches to get back on previously, I would for sure be in the second group. But no time to pine over what might have been, time to dig in and get over the top.

I am starting to loath chasing. Things bother me like cars in the road, or the girl who for literally 50 minutes pedalled 8 watts higher than me and stayed 75-100 meters ahead of me. Just SIT UP! We are alone. The time trial is tomorrow! Two is better than one. We teach that our women’s clinic to the rec group! I kept checking behind me and finally saw two gals coming so I sat up and rode in with them, nice steady pace practicing for that day that I am in the break away for 30k, not out the back. :)

Our girls did awesome with Jade securing 6th again and Clara 2nd in the bunch sprint plus taking the QOM (Queen of the Mountains) jersey. Still not in yellow, sitting in 3rd GC behind World Champion and Olympic gold medalist Kristen Armstrong in 2nd and her teammate of Peanut Butter in first/yellow with a solo breakaway on the day, Alison Starnes.

Day 3 was awesome. We had two events which is a new format for me. I felt like I was riding all day. And I for sure took 3 showers. They were pretty quick though.

The morning brought an 11 mile Time Trial over in Trout Lake, Washington. At the base of Mount Adams, another picturesque snow covered volcano. I really liked this course! We drove 40 minutes to get there and my face was glued to truck window remembering driving through Yellowstone, The Tetons and the Rockies as a kid looking for elk, moose, and big foot.

I am still “practicing racing” so the goals here are a proper warm-up on my sweet non-TT bike; having the last half of my TT with higher power output than the first, and trying to hold the straightest line possible and not look at too much of the livestock. I sure hope I at least won the “I’m on a road bike category” as I placed 6th from last. Better than the prologue, by 1. We were started 30 seconds apart and I could hear my chasers coming with their Darth Vader disk wheels, bearing down my neck like the Grim Reaper. Focus, just let them go, ride your ride. I finished riding hard at max power and cooked. Progress.

We were able to see the last 3 riders finish, Kristen, Clara, Alison. You could hear Kristen coming a K away, her team car behind her bellowing instructions “out of the saddle, dig harder” and the likes. She crossed the line with a heave and we saw Clara crest the 1K sign. Silence. Steady like a torpedo and smooth as if she was back speed skating on the ice. She won, by 6 seconds. Before we knew the results, she said she felt awesome about her ride and that if she won or got second, it wouldn’t change how she felt. She had done her best. Awesome.

Time to travel back to the house, eat, shower, sleep, prep for the crit!

Thursday, June 2

Where was I? Oh yes...

Since the Mt. Hood Classic prologue begins at 5:30pm today, I thought I should get on it make it happen to finish up some Gila entertainment before I get too deep into Hood. But just to say, I can feel another great adventure has already begun. Hood River Oregon is an amazing town!

So leading into the last stage of Gila, I had a few jobs. Get bottles. Be with the main group in the valley for support and just for the team to have more of a presence. And to collect arm warmers and vests from Flavia and Clara. I know, super important stuff here.

We knew that most likely I would get detached at the sprint then it was up to me to get back to the group. We began with a 2 mile neutral roll through town which was awesome! Clara, Flavia and I sat right behind the moto with Colavita and Tibco breathing down our necks for the race to actually start. Like clockwork, as the attacks went and the sprint line came, off the back I was. But this time with a bigger group!! Win. But somehow it ended up just two of us rotating together to get back to the peloton. I was running a 12-27 and on all the descents I was maxing out at 130 RPMs trying to find some gears!

This time it only took 35-40 minutes to get back to the caravan and the group. I rode to Michael and the team car, laughing, grabbed 4 bottles and he said "Hey, good to see you, I knew you would be back." Back in the peloton there was a break up the road and Clara wanted the group to be moving faster. "Joy, can you go to the front and set tempo?" Sure thing! Then Tibco got ansy and started attacking. "Joy joy GO" I heard Flavia yell from behind. D'oh! Now it was time to cover attacks!

As we neared the feed zone, there was a crash and saw out of the corner of my eye a little ball of green tumble. Flavia was down! She was tied at the moment for the Climbers Jersey with Mara Abbott, so I stopped with her, helped her get back on her bike then paced her back to the caravan and the peloton. At precisely 2:07 race time, when we made contact, I grendaded so bad, i'm sure you could have heard it! Funny because the night before I knew I had 2 hours of solid hard work left in me. And no doubt, after these efforts I was done! I spent the next hours riding solo through some of the most beautiful landscape I have seen in years. I kept telling myself to ride just a bit harder, to keep building my fitness. To practice taking arm warmers on and off in a fatigued state, to eat and drink a lot. I crossed the line 30 minutes behind the winner (Local friend Katie Donovan!) with a grin from ear to ear! Clara had won the over general classification in her first even back since 2003! And I was 2nd to last GC. On paper it doesn't look that good, but my number one goal for Gila was to finish. And I did.

The thing that really cracked me was driving 10 hours straight home, getting 4 hours of sleep and heading to work. Ouch. But it was all worth it!

Now to build my bike and get ready for a prologue!

Tuesday, May 24

Stepping Stones

I promise that as I continue to stage race, that my race reports will become much more concise and fluid and timely. As of now each experience is so big and multi-faceted that it is hard not to fixate on even of the smallest signs of improvement and excitement. I still have one day of Gila to dig through, and that day, I finally felt like a bike racer. But until then, there is a slight side step to the Stepping Stones and Building Blocks that are becoming my weekends of hugging the fog-line on the local mountain roads.

So much happens each and every day and ride, its extremely hard to narrow it down. There have been crashes, but even those are far enough past that my hot pink sweatshirt lint is sticking to the uncovered scabs. Hot huh.

There was a crit in the rain, there was a turn with a large paint strip. Both my wheels went right, my body ejected left. Thanks to hours of softball as a teen and many afternoons spent on the slip-n-slide as a toddler, I kept my chin/face up and slid belly first into home. Er, almost the curb. I was shocked, and even more stunned as 2-3 racers behind me hit me as I lay prostrate on ground, launching them onto the slippery asphalt next to me. You slide really, really well on wet asphalt. I burned through two jerseys and a base layer to get some stellar road rash on my stomach, hips, and elbow. The worst is seeing your friends go down, and some sustain painful injuries.

The week following Rain Crit brought the largest volume and intensity of training I have had to date. The majority of my training period is done solo, and this week fell right into place. By Friday I was wrecked and fatigued, up against some huge climbing days.

This is where the fun began. Locally there are awesome roads, climbs, and places to experience! Friday I headed to Oak Glen for roughly two trips up the front side and realized there is virtually zero traffic up there.

3 hours, 5k of climbing 41 miles. Time for Mexican food!

After many Tour of California discussions, Brian and I decided to sit out the hype and pedal it out instead. One of our most favorite rides is Idyllwild through Hemet round trip. We picked up Mark on the way and embarked on an amazing ride. As we rose above the smog line and into the thin mountain air, I couldn't help but be thankful for the amazing place we live. And began wishing the boys we leave me alone! I was cooked and their pace was relentless, yet Brian would push me back into the group and keep me together. Oddly, I think this was statistically our best Idyllwild trip, but if I had read it strictly by the legs, I would have hung it up. They do lie sometimes!

92 miles, 7,200ft of climbing, 5:15 ride time. Plus a nap. And Mexican food.

Sunday Funday! Do you ever get an itch? An idea that won't go away and you aren't satisfied until you have explored it fully? Sunday was that day. All Brian said was "Don't do anything stupid."

The Plan: Ride to Big Bear round trip solo so I could see the finish of the Kenda Cup MTB race where I could see many friends and some of my awesome clients! I had no idea what would go down!

Riding up 38 it was smoggy and humid! The thick air stuck to my skin and clogged my lungs, I felt like I was back in Vermont prepping for Mount Snow NORBA national! As I got closer to Angelus Oaks the air cleared and the smell of pine started to over take the smog and I knew I was in for an adventure. I saw Jason Reynold (ZZ Top) and his pup heading for a walk and he offered me food and water, as did "Naked Man" (Those of you old-skool NORBA racers know him - now he works at a boys camp by Jenks Lake. And is no longer called Naked Man. His name is Rick.) Somehow, I seem to have people looking out for me and it is awesome. Rick passed me about an hour later and stopped, just checking to make sure I was dialed. I was since South Fork camp ground is open!

I have never ridden this far up HWY 38. From South Fork to Onyx hands down the worst, hardest, longest, when-will-this-end part of the ride! But I really really wanted a PayDay and a Coke, and there is NOTHING out there, so I knew I just HAD to get to Big Bear. And once you come this far, whats another 11-12 miles?! Unfortunately for the return trip, those miles rapidly ticked by as I descended into town! D'oh!

Here's the truth: Any part descending on this ride - INSANE head or cross winds. My triceps were on FIRE by the time I got home! The ride "down" the mountain contains about 3k of climbing. Jokes on ME! I never ever ride with headphones so I created training plans and wedding menus in my head in between spotting cloud creatures.

But getting to the race was the best reward! So many hugs and smiling friendly faces. I never thought I would be "that girl" that shows up to a mountain bike race on my road bike! But I have business to attain to! The ride home flew by, the PayDay and Coke were delicious, and I even ate some Cheeze-its for some salt. :)

94 Miles, 6:06 ride time, 9,300ft of climbing. :) My arms hurt the worst.

This ride was truly a breakthrough for me. Fatigued, solo, uncharted territory and success. I was never stressed, nervous, down, or unmotivated. I have some racing to do and exploring beyond our local San Bernardino mountains is to be had, the best thing I can do is prep myself both mentally and physically!

Total in 3 days: 230 miles, 21,500 ft of climbing and just over 14 hours. :) I did not ride my bike today.

Awesome to see Allison and Justin Mann out as well, and their blogs are awesome! Allison is coming off a rough spot of training with a foot injury, one day we will be lining up together in the dirt again!!

Tuesday, May 17

Gila days 3 and 4 and more!

The largest thing I learned at Gila was adaptation. The body is truly an amazing thing and experiencing a vast adaptation to training/racing stress through the event was so cool. I woke up Friday morning alert and ready to rock. Day 3 at Redlands had been polar opposite! At Gila we had already experienced 2 4+ hour days in the saddle and it was awesome to wake up ready to at least ride on Friday!

Now a time trialist I am not. I like to think that in the future, with my history of mountain biking and being a power rider, the TT is something I could sink my teeth into. But with limited training time and the lack of an actual TT bike, that art form will have to wait to be developed. I decided that prior to Gila there were only a few things I could stress about and the TT just couldn't fit on that list. I have only done TT's at the stage races I have participated in this year, which adds up to 4. I'm a rookie.

The Gila TT was LONG!! 16.5 miles with TONS of wind and climbing. I put my clip on bars on, grabbed my aero helmet and did what I could. Although I was told to ride it like a "hard recovery day" I actually did try, and came in 3rd from last. It was really, really, hard. But to save the day, Clara won the TT as well as moving into the over GC lead. Rad. I knew I would have work to do over the next few days so my finish was fine. I was just stressed to make the time cut!

Before the TT I saw our buddy Reid Mumford of Kelly Benefits and went over to say hi. He asked how I was doing and I just shook my head and said "This sure ain't SoCal crit racing" and we both had a good laugh. What a different world I have jumped into!

The second thing I learned at Gila was to rest and recover. Eat soon and much, sit/lay/nap much. I am a horrible napper, but found it relatively easy to fall asleep at 2pm given the opportunity. I could feel my body healing and coming back into form.

Day 4, the crit, was the first time I was no affected by the elevation. thank goodness because this crit was awesome! Most SoCal crits last 40-50 minutes. This crit was 70!! So cool for me because at these larger events, I usually don't feel ok until 30-40 minutes into the event which is right about when other people start to feel poopy! My instructions were to stay in, stop tail gunning and conserve for Sunday. My non-sister Desira Miller (everyone thinks we are related. Because we are over 5'5" and ride bikes, and are white?!) was there working with SRAM (this was AWESOME because I got to see one of my favorites every morning and after every stage, just the little slice of home I needed, and she got heckle me at the crit) every time we rode up the climb and past the pits she would yell at me to to get off the back, haha, its getting better!!

Clara won the crit, sealing her overall lead once again with an amazing sprint. The crit was livestreamed and I got word that Papa Paul, Brian's team manager aka the Godfather, had been watching it at work with the whole office and could even pick my helmet out of the peloton! So cool! He said they all knew Clara had the win coming out of the last turn!

It was pretty awesome to be part of a team, let alone a team in the leaders jersey! And to know the team had a few small tasks for me that were within my skill set making me not just a number in the peloton, but more like Baby in Dirty Dancing, when she carried the watermelons to the party. :) Someone else could have done it, heck they could have gone without the watermelons, but it was her way of being part of the group!

The main issue I had after the crit was eating. Brian thought I was lying but seriously, the body gets so taxed that nothing sounds good and you start force feeding yourself because you know you are in vast caloric deficit and if you don't eat, the next day will be horrid. Nothing like eating a burrito at 10pm in bed...

Tuesday, May 10

Tour of the Gila: Stage 2

Sometimes, bike racing is just plain hard. Because of that, I would like to dedicate this post to my Team Mom Cynthia Sjogren who enjoys taking the road less traveled and is on her 4th day of a hospital stay. Training with Cynthia has taught me many, many things, some of which I can share. :)

First and foremost, "Suck it up Buttercup!!"
Secondly - "if this old lady can do it, so can you!"
Third - when in doubt, sing a really annoying song, preferably out loud.

She dubbed one Brian-Induced death march in steady downpour and 40 degrees the "Unicorns *Pooping Rainbows Ride" and taught me that even in the most dire of straights, humor can bring you back to the front porch.

What does this all have to do with Gila, all the way in NM? The lessons I have learned on the wheel of Cynthia, Brian, Mark, Andrew, Craig, got me through this day. To many of the racers it was just another day in the peloton. To me, it was like getting kicked in the shins. Repeatedly. By 20 5 year olds. It just kept coming. As was my fitness. But doing these events on a solid aerobic fitness base bodes well for lots of development which I am sure to reap the benefits from down the road, but that Thursday suffering at 7,000ft, it was just one hard day.

The small peloton had a massive acceleration roughly 40 minutes in heading into the sprint, which I knew about. Yet that 4 minutes of complete VO2 effort left me dangling off the back with lack-luster stragglers and a few other worker bee's. Let the chase begin. Mentally I knew what happened, my heart was thumbing out of my eyes, my quads seizing up. But the lure of the caravan, just around the corner, inch-worming its way up the climbs, kept our group motivated to make final contact. It's a horrible feeling to be 50 meters off the last car of the caravan just as the front car drops over the crest of the climb to begin careening down the Gila Monster. Gapped. Out. Again. I found it interesting that I wasn't getting stressed or angry, just much more focused. We had a group of 5, which descending the gnarly Gila Monster - a route I did not know - I sheepishly thought to myself that I was glad we weren't with the other 45 riders at that time!

The hardest thing about the chase was eating. I didn't know my compatriots, some sketched me out, some attacked, and I just couldn't get food in riding a steady zone 3/4. I couldn't drink. This would pose to be my biggest downfall. I had learned the day before to surf the cars, ride the bumpers, hang on the tail just long enough to catch a breath and get up to the next car in the caravan that in the valley, our little group made contact. As I crawled past Michael and the car I grabbed a coveted bottle and headed through the group.

The group had been riding chill. For a long time. But once you are popped and you are 5 vs 45, you do the math. I found Clara and Flavia and they both did a really bad job hiding their amazement that I was back! Clara said "put it in the 27 and spin. Eat. Survive. That's it."

It had taken 1:10 minutes to get back!! That's insane. I paid for one 4 minute effort for 1:10. It was slightly eerie how the time passed descending the Enchanted NM forests and rolling through the desert like land. I tried not to look at my Garmin, I thought about those horrid, freezing winter rides, I thought about what Cynthia would do. Just keep pedaling, if you are steady, you will get there. It never even crossed my mind that we could get time cut, because we were going to make it back!

There were a few crashes in the bunch, some crazy tactics as I worked on my pack riding skills and hid as much as I could. Alas the final big long 15 mile climb came. And again, engage parachute, ride through quicksand, or straight drop back through the pack, it happened. I was alone again. As the caravan passed, Michael and Bea handed me extra bottles for the ride out and encouragement "Just ride your pace, make it to the finish. You did good." Hearing that kept me in it. I knew I could get to the end, just not too rapidly. The caravan was starting to take a liking to me because they got to see so much of me - falling out of the group, riding back to the group, and falling out again. Several team cars gave me a thumbs up, words of encouragement and a smile. Perfect. It was beautiful outside, amazing landscape, no Unicorns Pooping Rainbows today! I was experiencing raw racing at its best!

As cars snaked by I attempted to ride some bumpers but the only one slow enough was the ambulance. At least I am from SoCal so extreme smog is no big deal. But that was short lived! I found one other rider who had been in a crash earlier and rode together in silence into the finish. Shockingly only 10 minutes down on the winner. Cool.

I was beat. But a huge improvement from Redlands where my mind was foggy, was that my mind was clear, just my body was extremely taxed. I was covered with salt, my eyes completely blood-shot and water pouring out of them, cheeks and thighs covered with spit, with snot running down my lip. Where's Brian when you need him, right? haha.

I sat on the curb still in kit and helmet, with my head in my hands coughing, and coughing and coughing. I think I coughed up dirt from the Beaumont Stage it was that bad! Clara was busy doing interview and during a down moment she stuck her head out the door: "Are you ok?" haha yup, just give me a minute. :)

All I did the rest of the day was eat, shower, eat, sleep, eat, snack, and sleep. I was still on the list, I was not anywhere near defeated, and I found as much silver lining and sunshine I could. I was sharing an amazing experience with people who believed, even in my novice state of experience, that I could make it to the end. Super sweet. :)

Sunday, May 8

Gila Stage One: Mogollon

Back in 1996 otherwise known as the 10th grade for me, a collage-aged male told me I had no natural talent, in anything. He also told me I had really feminine hands that were not proportionate to my body...anyways. When I was told that, I did the only thing I knew how to do: WORK. HARD. Work ethic can get you through a lot of really rough days. I sure came in handy over the Gila.

The peloton at Gila was HALF the size of Redlands. The part that was lacking was the Pack-Fill, otherwise known as my peer-group. While they were off put-put golfing or babysitting, I was getting a blow-by-blow bike racer inservice, by some of the best tutors in the business!

The day was roughly 77 miles with a lot of flat on the way out. The ladies were chatting, eating and drinking in the crisp - albeit thin - morning mountain air.

Two hours in I had my first mini-lesson: Peeing on the bike.
Now I have the "privilege" of being around the boys when they do this and I am always quite jealous. This day was the first day I have ever coveted another riders shorts. I hate shorts, i wear bibs. But in this scenario - the short wins. There were many pee stops, pee stop induced crashes, and more pee breaks. I saw one girl peeing ON the bike. I thought that only happened 9 hours into an Ironman. In the dark. I saw Clara stop once with Kristen Armstrong and thought this is my chance, just DO IT! ....stage freight. Once you squat on the side of the road, with 7 others, you look up at the caravan crawling by. Of mostly mails staring out there windows looking for deer or something, but rookie move, it didn't happen. It was 4.5 hours before that relief could be had.

Lesson 2: Going to the car for feeds
This was exciting!!! I would grab empty bottles from the team, raise one up, the officials would call Michael and the team car to the front (from the back, our starting spot was well last...) and I would roll to the car and do the exchange of goods. I grabbed bottles and bars and headed back through the peloton to hand off the snacks. I felt like the ice cream cart! it was so fun! And it really helps the time pass!

Then the historic wind picked up and I soon learned that if I was alone, that wind was 10 times worse. The wind caused attacks which cause crashes which cause gaps. This chain of events sent me to a place I became very familiar with: OFF. THE. BACK. Now there were others there, but sometimes, not so much help. I think it "only" took us 20-30 minutes to ride back to the group. This time. :) You have to ride through the caravan of follow cars to get to the peloton, so when I passed Michael I grabbed more bottles and headed to my homies!

The goal was stay to the base of the Mogollon climb, which I almost made! I was pretty pumped, and just rode my pace as steady as I could to the top. I had passed of my last bottles and the girls were unleashed to tackle the climb! Flavia O (Froggy) ended up 2nd and Clara (Red-Hot) an impressive 3rd with my homie Mara Abbott winning the stage. This put Flavia in the climbers jersey for the next day!

I was so bummed at the 2 hour mark when teammate/homie/travel partner Beatrice Rodriguez (Bea) had been involved in a crash and her rear derailleur had been broken off! When I was finally getting back onto the group, she was in the car and I almost looped out. Not know why she was there, if she was injured etc was slightly stressful and unsettling. But at the end of the we were all glad that she would live to ride another day and no bodily harm - only emotional and to the bike - had been done!

Also Laura Hines who broke her femur at SDSR was on the mend and had come along to do swanny duties of helping in the feedzone and being a lifesaver! This was much appreciated!

Favorite part of the day: The car ride home 70 miles from the top of Mogollon was with Michael, Clara and Flavia. I fought the urge to nap hard and listened and absorbed some of the coolest lessons for the bike and life to date! What an awesome experience. Hands down, that 6 hour period provided me with more learning, feedback, and development than I have received in half a racing season. Being part of a team with the goal of development for a weekend was truly an honor. I almost took notes.