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 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. 

Thursday, June 7

NVGP - 1 day away!

Boy does time fly! I am grabbing a latte at a small coffee shop before I drive Brian to the airport to head to Tulsa, OK for Tulsa Tough. Between bike-packing and food prepping, he took a few minutes to interview me about my new adventure. This is one of his "secret" fun things to do. Back when we met he was racing cat 3 and announcing for the Redlands Classic. That year Ina won, and he was so pumped to interview her.

This vlogging seems to be slightly above my pay scale, but until I figure it out better, here is the link to the vimeo video!

Joy McCulloch, NVGP Introduction

We are here to entertain! And to say thank you to all the NVGP sponsors and my teammates and sponsors at Helen's here at home for all the support and great opportunities!

More entertainment to come!!

Monday, June 4

Chasing Unicorns

I have been on a quest of sorts. But first, I have to mention a Unicorn Brian caught yesterday. I say unicorns, as they really don't exist. They are mystical creatures, and even in that world, quite elusive. When stuck in dreamland, you can chase unicorns for hours and come into a meadow just as you see the beast dissolve into a thicket.

Brian caught his unicorn. He wrangled him and rode up all the way up to the finish of the State Road Race Championships. 100 miles in 100 degree heat, the conditions that he thrives in! His team is amazing and they have won so many races together over the past 2 season, this one fell on him. And it was a great success. He has strived to win a Bear jersey since a cat 5 racer, and this victory was quite delicious. Not gonna lie, I got a bit misty eyed!

This month will bring quite the chaos for us. Thursday Brian flies to Tulsa, OK for Tulsa Tough. I fly to Minneapolis, MN on Friday for Nature Valley Grand Prix which Brian is skipping. I will fly home on the 17th and he leaves a few days later for Atlanta, GA for Road Nationals where he will meet up with his team who is driving to all these events. Phew. It's gonna be nuts! And I haven't told Moto yet...

Off to my unicorn....

My Colorado trip was rooted in a unicorn chase. I have had on my "shoot for the moon" goal list since last year to qualify for the Nature Valley Grand Prix Pro Chase - 6 races across the country where the top amateur finisher, male and female, each qualify for a spot on the Pro Chase team for the NRC event. The week would begin with a training camp and include a professional set up. A director, swanny, mechanic and the works. Now this chase was lofty for me! I am a well rounded rider, but my results haven't catapulted me to the top of the rankings. I am a worker by nature but we wanted to give it a shot this year.

Since CO is full of family, a trip there and an attempt to qualify at the Superior Morgul Omnium event was the solution. But for me, these paths are never straight forward and simple. I lack the ability to just ride away from people, so strong arming it just won't work. I was in CO without teammates which is never brilliant and I created a few more barriers for myself. I went to a horse show and twisted my knee in a pasture. Cool. I then found I was having a difficult time in the altitude. Although we live at 2,500ft, the 6,000ft of our ride to Lyons left me sluggish and just plain slow. The altitude was setting in!

I took 2 days off the bike. And opened the flood gates to illness. I hadn't taken a true "break" this year, and we have been going consistently since February. I was due getting sick. Back in the MTB days I used to race sick all the time. Must have been working in Junior High, someone is sick all the time and passing their ick onto me. Working from home must have made me a weenie again! The gunk settled in my lungs and head and created for quite the snot fest mingled with a ton of fatigue and feeling just really really bad.

The event began with a fun time trial. I finally dialed in my position and my mental approach to this event. Although my head and chest didn't cooperate, I was very pleased success with all the other aspects of the TT. It is such an art form, it is really exciting to gain improvements. And the landscape was breath taking!

The crit was wet. On the first lap a rider t-boned my rear wheel as I turned right and she kept going straight. She crashed as other riders started screaming. Here we go! The ins and outs of the crit and road race were pretty standard. Minus the fact that I had FAMILY at the race! Cousins with their kids, cheering me on! I sure hope I didn't hit one with my snot!
Gnarly steep climb "The Wall" is part of a legendary race course!
Highlight of the event: A rider leaned over, shook my hand, and said "Hey, you must know Suzanne." She recognized my jersey from Suzanne's facebook and was instantly a friend. I love this community!! Gwen and her husband and teammate invited me to lunch post road race, quickly embracing me in their cycling family. This was a much needed "hug" on a really hard weekend, mentally and physically. My brother and his wife had needed to make an emergency trip to WA on Thursday and I almost headed home at the same time and skipped the race. Having new friends in the peloton and grabbing some food together while rehashing funny race stories and the oddities of our sport was truly a highlight. Brian and I would totally do that for foreign racers in our peloton and it was very refreshing to have the offer handed my direction.

And here's where I found my Unicorn! I received the first ever Coach's selection to join the Nature Valley Grand Prix Pro Chase Team! For me this is a huge honor and nods to my work ethic and dedication to the sport.

I am extremely excited to take part in this event and be able to go to training camp this weekend! My eyes are wide open, ready to accept new information, make new friends of my new teammates for the week, and to become a more well-rounded cyclist, racer, and teammate!

I will do my best to document this new adventure and share the wisdom I have the honor of learning! And I will ride my Unicorn as well as I can!

Tuesday, May 29

The long road to Arkansas!

It seems like a lifetime ago, but back in April we traveled to Fayetteville, AR for the Joe Martin Stage Race. Being that I can work remotely and that part of my work includes working for CashCall Cycling Team, I got to tag along. Sadly, we had to leave Brian at home to tackle his day job. He flew in for the event though which was great!

We all raced LA Circuit race in the morning, and I made the not-so-educated decision to race the men's p1/2 event. Now I have done quite a few mens/masters events, but never one this long. Due to the nature of the course, there was a lot of surging and rubber band effect was in high force. The shuffle put me at the front of the race a handful of times which was not where I wanted to be! Brian was pumped to have me there, and as he rode through group, he would get me on his wheel and have me move up with him. Some of the other riders were not too pumped on this however, and I received a good half-dozen rib shots and hip shoves from these guys! Really dude? Keep your hands on your bars! This race ended up being 2:15 race time. That's LONG long long. With 2 laps to go on the 4 mile circuit, a rider told me "Maybe you don't belong here!" Thanks for the motivation pal!! I told him "Thanks so much for the support. I really appreciate it. And since your behind me, you don't belong here either." Not sure how I came up with that, and that I said it nicely, but I did. I rode right next to him for the last 2 laps. I'm probably NOT the chick you want to pick on. I know way too many people, and my husband is 5 wheels away. He and his teammates, lets just say, are a bit protective of me. 

As we loaded up, Brian was insistant on the following rules: Never go into a truck stop alone. Always be with one of the male riders. Bad things happen at these places! Always have your cell phone charged and lock the car. Always have cash. Never go anywhere alone. As he walked away I told driving partner Shelby we probably won't ever have kids. Unless we could put them in a bubble. 

3 days to Arkansas! We saw LOTS of this!
The front seat became command central as I updated training schedules for clients, scheduled hotels for the team, coordinated with our host families in Fayetteville and worked on more logistics.

I was super impressed with this truck stop find! No junk!
We finally arrived in AR and the riders were starving! They found the closest Chipotle as I hit the pavement to find local food!
Crepe truck!

Roasted local chicken and veggies! Awesome!
Once to the riders host houses, we fired up the iPhones to find a nice spin route. I am always glad to have 6 riders to sit behind, because their recovery pace....not so much mine.
Heading onto new roads in AR.

Awesome lush forest and smooth roads. With dead armadillos. 
At my host house, I found this card! 2010 Webcor including my good friend Lindsay Myers, now of Tibco. Host families really love having riders at their homes and follow them for years. So cool!
Host house decorations. 

Host house COFFEE. So. Awesome. 

Host house welcome!

Heading to the Time Trial. I loved the area!
I went to Joe Martin as a solo rider. This was an NRC event and one that we thought may suit my riding style a bit more than the massive climbs of Gila. This speculation proved true as I had a great time, and some solid results. Traveling with CashCall makes being a solo rider much easier as they help with just about everything a girl could want! At the start of the first road race though, a guy walks up to me and asks "how's LA?" Turns out to be the brother of a longtime Helen's racer. His wife was in my race and was able to give me bottles, carry my spare wheels in his truck, and give me an instant calm feeling that I had a friend in the caravan.

After the TT, we were at the host house washing all the team bikes outside. I took my flip flops off and promptly stepped on a bee, ending his short life in my foot. Here's the problem. I am really really really allergic to bee's. I quickly plucked the stinger out and found a sharpie to outline his death circle. I had a lot of work to do, so taking benedryl at 4pm was a bad idea. On the following road race stage, lets just say my inner character was tested multiple time with the hottest, itchiest, most annoying foot ever. The sweet relief of taking my shoe off and putting ice cold water on it after the event was quite satisfying.

The time trial was uphill, which is much more awesome than something technical, or something long like the Gila 16 mile TT. So Brian and I had "fun" with this one, and he got in the local newspaper. Always looking for fame. :-) The yuckiest thing ever: We shared a TT helmet. Brian raced first, and as if the humidity hadn't made me sweat enough in my warmup, putting his soaked helmet on and having his sweat run all over my face was the icing on the cake. Now that's love.
Brian is famous. 
For one of the road stages, Brian loaded me in the team car and dropped me in the parking lot and left me to my own devices. So this is it. This is the life. My little base camp as everyone else sat in nice chairs under their ez-ups with a cooler filled with nice drinks. It's great practice for me, and if I can thrive in this setting, I like to think that in a more structured setting I will be able to really excel.
"Team" set up
Host housing is awesome. And Brian says he doesn't like small pets. At Merco, the cats slept on him every night, and little Princess here did not disappoint! And yes, we were in trundle beds. :-)
Pet friend!
Joe Martin was a bit of a break through for me. I finished just at the 50% point for the TT which for me is a big goal achievement. The field was smaller, and leading into the first road stage, I knew that Tibco and Optum would be active all day. And they were. I made the split and barely missed the break. Paul of CashCall had given me one goal: Finish top 10. If a break of 2 goes, let it go. So I played it slightly safe, riding in a group that was 5-15 on the road. I ended up 10th on the stage and completely spent. I loved the route and terrain and made sure to check out the pastures and scenery from time to time, so the experience wouldn't pass me by!

Stage 3 the group stayed together, after being whittled down quite a bit. It came down to a wicked fast bunch sprint finish, where I stayed in for 13th. Totally new experience for me, and watching the bigger teams navigate the finishing 5k was awesome.

The crit had a horrid hill in it right at the start finish. It was one of the races that you go into with lofty expectations of making a break, which gets down graded into make the split, to at the half way point not losing a GC spot. it was really really hard. Probably the hardest crit course so far this season. I was able to actually move up a spot - the value of finishing!!! - and finished 11th GC. I was very very excited about this result even though the field was smaller.

I quickly took Brian and some of the staff to the airport and settled in to mentally prepping for the 2 day drive home. Michael, our German rider who flew to the event, really wanted to be home Monday. I said that ain't gonna happen. We are going to show you AMERICA! Oklahoma and New Mexico did not impress.

Saturday, May 26

I had an Amelie week.

Upon my arrival in Boulder, I felt a bit "off." I attributed this to the long drive, the altitude change and a long first half of the season. Translate into a mid-week head/chest cold that knocked me flat! All good though, as I got to enjoy some much needed extended family time and again enjoy some uncharted territory. 

My local friends know that I am a minimalist with my cycling attire. For me to have ALL my SoCal clothing on and soon don a borrowed jacket, it was COLD!! My bro took me on a spin to Lyons, CO through the "Fruit Loops" and to an excellent hot latte

Cold yet happy. 

Latte! My feet were SO COLD I took my shoes off and warmed my toes up by the heater before getting back on the road. 
Not sure how my brother did it, but after a freezing 3:30 ride, he jumped on his horse Stadt for some skills and drills. 
Thankfully, the next day warmed up and we got to do some more riding in squares. Everything is a square here! And what looks like a country road is actually a fast and busy thorough-fare.

Lunch break on Monday, Jeremy shows up on with his "bike-on-bike"! I got to spend half a day at his work, Trainingpeaks, and even got to work from a desk like normal people. Cool place with some awesome staff!

And now, for the Amelie bit. In 2002, I took a trip to CO solo and that was a loooooong time ago! Now I have a little family with Brian and Moto, and their absence did not go unnoticed. Thankfully I am quite self-sufficient and independent (to a fault...) but I still really missed Brian. A few Halloweens ago, we put him in a gnome outfit and the name has stuck, with affection of course! So I went and found my own Gnome and took him on some adventures!

The original Gnome, eating a cookie. 

Atop Flagstaff Mountain, where a stage of the CO Pro Tour will end. Ouch!

Jeremy looks like "Ernest Goes to Camp!"

Hiking is not our forte, so we got to the base of the trail...

View of the Rockies and the Continental Divide at Sundown.

I thought Boulder was fun, and for outdoors stuff! Not on Pearl Street at least. 

Good thing I had an assitant. I don't like kids. Or magicians. 

And there was fire! And the Gnome was as relaxed as ever. 

We grabbed some Kale Chips and roasted vegetables on the porch of an eatery, and got to see some firetruck action!

Brian has QUITE the affinity for peanut butter, almond butter, all when I saw this at Whole Foods, I went back and got him out of the car. The cashier asked me "I can't help but notice, but is that a Gnome in your bag?!?!" hahahaha. 

The slightly crazed Husky's wanted a piece of him!

To say thank you for their hospitality, I left this little gem for Jeremy and Suzanne. 

Finally home with our favorite pet, MOTO!

It's summer at home!

And back to the crazy colorful breakfasts!

I took my bike on a trip!

My neighbor asked me yesterday if I had found work. The reality is, I have more work than I can handle some days! My client list has grown to over 23 athletes and my contract work is picking up fast! The awesome thing about that is that I can do all that work in my jammies in the house. Thus the neighbors think I don't work. Sigh...

Our adventures have been colored and many, so on easy ride day may just allow me rehash some of them! I have a fresh french press of coffee percolating as I listen to/watch the Exergy Tour and all the awesome women competing there!

We decided I needed to go to Colorado for some bike racing, and realizing the cool fact that I could not only see my brother and his wife, but my parents, 3 cousins and their families and one awesome aunt! So on the road I went, 16 hour drive with a few detours, the complete Hunger Games trilogy on my iPod, my lap top and my bikes!

Before I left, I spun the legs out up and around Oak Glen. I have yet to actually eat apple pie or an apple dumpling up at the day! 
A quick spin up to Oak Glen before heading out of town. This route is awesome on a weekday morning!
People tend to mock me for living in the not-so-hopping metropolis of Yucaipa. But hey, we are above the smog a lot of the time, right at the base of the mountains, we can see the starts, and we are at 2,300ft. Not bad! Yucaipa BLVD has gone through major changes in a city-wide attempt to boost our presence in the area. The roundabouts are pretty cool! And this sculpture was completed just in time for the carnival. Pretty cool!
Yucaipa roundabout! In honor of the Oak Glen Apple Orchards. 

Moto knew it was trip time. And that she wasn't coming along!
My trip took me straight out the I-15 to Grand Junction. I utilized my contacts on FB and received an excellent ride selection: The Colorado Monument Loop! 3 hours with +/- 3k climbing and views that were pretty rad. I never train with headphones - I have enough going on in my head anyways - and I was pumped to have complete silence on this solo ride on smooth new pavement under sparkling blue skies.

Grand Junction, CO

This road went straight UP from the Ranger Station!
Riding through the park, the ranger gave me a tail and front light for my bike. For the 3 tunnels! This one actually got me a bit sketched out, so I put in my one effort of the day. There was no light at the end of the tunnel! It was hot and dry, above 90 degrees, but once I dipped into the shade of the tunnel, it was easily 20 degrees cooler and damp. And creepy! There were no cars out, period, so I am not sure what my issue was!

Up, up and away!

Highest spot on the route. 

Amazing view back to where I rode up from. The colors were amazingly vibrant, no photo could do it justice. At least from the iPhone. 
From Grand Junction, I headed to higher ground in Frisco, CO. Roughly 9,000ft and threats of thunderstorms and hail! I took an easy easy easy spin on one of the coolest community bike paths I have ever been on! I took it towards Breckenridge, where I ran into hail and flipped it quick! But not so quick as to get winded...

The plan was to just pass by Frisco, but my parents - who live near Sacramento - just happened to be staying there with their friends! So I spent the night. Why not!? There is always wifi to be found which allows me to complete training plans, athlete communication, and facebook posting.
Bike path day!
Don't worry, we were stopped - snow storm gridlock!
 I guess the hail meant something else was coming! Good thing I got new wiper blades. This was my 2 days of winter, all winter.

I love food, and my parents friends bought me a sandwich. But I couldn't eat it for like 4 hours!! It tortured me in the passengers seat, but proved to be very delicious once I got to sink my teeth into it!
 I hustled down to the "flat" lands outside of Boulder for my sister-in-law, Suzanne's first ever horse show!! It was pretty awesome to watch and such a complicated, multi-faceted event, it was really fun to get to watch. But those metal bleachers in 50 degree misty weather....brrrrr.
Suzanne jumping!
 This horse is HUGE! And I could live in their horse trailer. So nice and spacious!