15 January 2015

Can't Stop - Won't Stop

Admittedly I've been out of the "blog-o-sphere" as of late - work and life having taking their respective tolls on any leisure time to think and put said thoughts to the interwebs. I love to write, it's how I express myself, it's perhaps my best form of communication for when I'm afraid to open my mouth or when I do open my mouth and my thoughts come out all scattered, smothered and covered instead of in a tidy little package. Either way - I've missed writing and am hoping to rekindle that passion in 2015.

Yes - it's 2015 and I'm far too late for a "wow, look what I did in 2014 - here's what's coming in 2015" post. But in reality - what does it matter? Time is moving in a one-way linear fashion and life, well my life right now might as well be a snow-globe caught up in a washing machine. I find myself feeling very little in control and pushed one way or another by the demands of others. Not perhaps a fun way to live, but that's where thing are right now.

So I've gone on another tangent - in thinking about the real reason behind why I felt compelled to finally write again today - a quote. One of my dear friends from, who I've now known going on 8 years (yeah -- think about that for a hot second...) sent me this out of the blue last Sunday.
"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story." - Orson Welles
And it got me thinking - thinking a lot actually. I'm good at sharing when life is full of excitement, adventure and all things fun and happy, but what about when life gets dull, boring and sad? That's not a life worth writing about, that's not a life I want. We all have ups and downs and those times when if our story stopped, it wouldn't be a happy ending. It's easy to stop fighting for your dreams, your hopes, your happiness. It's easy to wallow in being sad, accepting the status quo and well, frankly it's easy to surrender. It's hard to fight. It's hard to take the risks, the scary leaps that may secure your happy ending, but if you don't take that leap - you won't even have a chance. And if you fall, well then you do what you do on the mountain bike, you pick yourself up, brush off the dirt, clip back in and pedal on.

I took a leap last year, and maybe didn't land exactly where I had hoped to. In fact I didn't. I feel like I've almost fallen flat on my face in a big pile of guano. But my story doesn't end here - not by far. I'm not ready to stop it, I can't stop it, so I'm going to brush off as much guano as I can, hold my chin up and get ready to take another leap towards that happy ending.

09 December 2014

Better Muddy than Never - NCCX #4 - Kitten of Vallejo

Apres racing....dirrrrrty
After a week of much-needed rain drenching the Bay Area, I was looking forward to some more "real" CX conditions at this weekend's race up in Vallejo. Granted it was still mid-60s with some sun peeking through the clouds, but I was ready and excited to get down and dirty on the CX course.

Pulling up to the race course, I was definitely not disappointed - racers were slowly pedaling around, some completely covered in mud. This was going to be messy. I was excited.

Initially I tried to stay clean and dry pre-race, which proved hard as all of the grassy areas were saturated. This put me mainly on the road, but since that seemed to be the situation for everyone, I didn't mind. I rolled around a bit - garnering some guts to randomly talk to some other ladies I saw spinning around. There are starting to be a few familiar faces at these races, which is super-nice, but it still doesn't quite feel like home and I still feel like the awkward random girl. Hoping this changes in the coming months....

Anyway - between races, I did give in and jumped on the course to see just how slick it was, and it was going to be a grinder. I caught up for a minute with Matt and Cisco from Team Roaring Mouse, who both said it was one of the most physically demanding courses of the season. Yay mud.

Lined up with the ladies - a little disappointed Chava wouldn't let me sing "Happy Birthday" to her at the start since it was her birthday - but then again, may be she heard how bad my singing is. Anyway - starting to have a few friends here which is fun when you have friendly faces to commiserate (or in my case giggle) with through mud.

For once (Coach B - you'll be proud!) I had a strong start and was about 3rd wheel off the pavement and on to the grass. Unfortunately that didn't last terribly long as we got a little bottle-necked when the course narrowed down and a girl ahead of me went down around a corner. The course was slick to say the least. After fumbling and sliding through some corners, I found myself sitting in 5th - not a bad position, but there were a few girls behind me who I knew had beaten me before so I wasn't sure how this would all play out.

As we came through a super swampy section, I noticed Chava hot on my tail. She's super fun to race with and packs a ton of power. This could get interesting! I was very excited that we had several barriers to navigate - maybe a little less excited that the barriers were quite flooded and it was blind luck whether the muddy water came up to your ankle or your knee as you  sloshed over them. My poor bicycle....

Due to the mud the laps were taking pretty long - so we only ended up doing about 3 1/2 laps. A little disappointed for sure, but those 3 /12 laps did take the full time. I went down pretty hard the 2nd lap in a sand pit, but our field had gotten so spread out there wasn't an impact on my placing.  At the end of the day I ended up a solid 5th. Not awful. Not amazing, but I was pleased considering I was able to stay ahead of two girls that had been ahead of me in prior races. Guess there is something to be said for being a dirt-loving girl. Haha.
Selfie time -- "Look! we're MUDDY!"

See - serious mud on the skinsuit!

Up Next? One more NCCX race down in San Jose and then OFF-SEASON!! (or as my friend Kyle calls it - BEER AND COOKIES!)

21 October 2014

Homecoming '14 aka DCCX

Normally I ramble on here about bicycles and adventures and life seems pretty exciting - but admittedly, I've been struggling adjusting to life on the west coast. Don't get me wrong - the weather and the riding is amazing, and all the people I've met are incredibly nice, but at the end of the day, I've got a bit of a Dorothy complex, and there's no place like home, and I miss my friends and teammates with an ache that won't go away. So, for 36 hours this past weekend, I clicked my heels, and went over the rainbow and back to the DMV to catch up, laugh, and pretend to race my bicycle.

Fresh off a redeye Saturday morning, I popped on a fresh shirt, stopped by Buzz for a Pumpkin Latte (omg I miss those!!) and went to cheer on my teammates at DCCX Day 1. Mel was racing the Women's Elite race at 12pm and the boys would be racing the Men's 3/4 later on. I almost cried when I strolled up to the team tent - it felt like I was home again for the first time in a long time. Everyone was there - full of smiles and hugs. Mel had even made cupcakes to pair perfectly with beer on a perfect fall day.

From the team tent, we had a good view of some barriers and the "W' turn section (a couple 180s up and down a small hill), which made for an awesome place to cowbell and cheer. The course would go the opposite direction on Sunday, but in between races, I threw on some shorts and spun around with Dawn to get a feel for the course, as well as the awesome Trek Boone that she was letting me borrow for the weekend. And not only was Dawn letting me borrow her sweet ride -- she had put pink bar tape and cable housing on the matte black frame - making it look ladylike and badass at the same time. Perfection in a bicycle :-)

The course was fun and fast, and I was excited to attempt to tear it up on Sunday. We rolled back to the tent to prepare to cheer on the guys - and fuel up with some pizza and cupcakes of course. Something's gotta soak up the beer...
Matt crushing them Men's 3/4

Matt had a solid race - and I was excited to see Rachel and Dave out cheering as well. Everyone was at DCCX it seemed! We watched bit of the men's pro race before packing it up and heading over to Mel's for a team barbecue. So good just to sit and catch up - watch Griffin and Bryce play -- and the excitement got even bigger when Coach Brian and Amy stopped by for a bit! Great to see them.

The evening flew by way too fast, and before I knew it, it was bedtime for little racers.

Up and early Sunday ... and when I say "early" it's early by the fact that I was still on west coast time. I may have gotten 8 hours of sleep, but 7am still feels like 4am and is painful. My Mom made pancakes, which was awesome pre-race fuel. Then it was time to head back to DC to not only cheer, but race myself today! Time to get stoked!

It was freezing (again - by west coast standards) so I did my pre-riding wearing fleece pants and an assortment of jackets. I guess my blood has thinned a little out on the west coast... The "reverse" direction ..which is actually the "normal" direction from the past few years, had a few tricky spots in it - but again, more than anything - I was just stoked I could corner with traction and without fear of sliding out on crazy loose dirt.

Start of the Women's Elite Race
With my Bicycle Outfitters Family, and my parents smiling and cheering, and a pre-race peanut butter cup since my stomach was a bit funky this morning - I took to the start line, smiling to be back with some of the "usual suspects." I had a 3rd row start - but I almost didn't care, and pre-race nerves were almost replaced with a feeling of sheer joy as I felt like I was back where I belonged.

The whistle blew and I completely botched my start -- awesome. But seeing friends and family smiling and cheering I decided I might as well see what I could do, shifted down and sprinted to bridge up to the lead group. Gigidy. I wasn't going to win - but I could at least have fun for a few laps - right?

What brought a HUGE smile to my face, more so than any place I might be fighting for - were the people cheering for me. When you're in the pain cafe and can only focus on the taped off stretch of grass in front of you - most of the sidelines can be a blur - but you DO hear and sometimes you DO see the folks that are there supporting you. What I heard - was my name, my old race nickname, and tons of cheers. It felt like home, because, well it was home.

Coming up on the W-turn, I did about fall off my bicycle laughing a few times because the BORT family was there in rare form. Mel was cheering and laughing, and well, munchkin had brought a little bit of SF to throw in to the wild mix and Hot Cookie was waving as the ladies passed by. Nothing gets you riding faster than a pair of bright red undies ....

While my legs started to poop out, my smile didn't - I grinned at my parents as I climbed up the finishing stretch one final time and finished around 15th or so with a huge grin on my face. At the end of the day - this was one of the first races, where a less than stellar performance didn't annoy me - and while maybe it should have, what really mattered this weekend, were the family and friends I was reconnecting with and the sense of home and happiness.

Thanks as always to the amazing Doug Graham for the photos, HUGE thanks to the ENTIRE Bicycle Outfitters Race Team for a fantastic weekend, DCMTB for a fantastic race as always, and all my MABRA friends who I got to catch up with  - I miss you all so much -- anytime you want to visit California - you've got a place to stay!

Up next? Rest weekend and then back to NorCalCX up in Novato November 2nd!

14 October 2014

NCCX #2 - Lion of Fairfax

My wish for cooler temperatures didn't quite come true as I headed up to Marin on Sunday for the second race in the NCCX series in Fairfax. Funny to be going to Fairfax, California, since I'm so used to being in Fairfax, Virginia. Slight difference, but even seeing signs that said "Fairfax" made me feel a little at home, which is something I really need these days.

This race was held at a local elementary school, which definitely made for an interesting course, parking and warm-up. But, in a fantastic twist of fate, as I was doing some laps  up and down the road, I heard someone say "Emily" and as I looked over with a slightly be-puzzled look on my face since I'm more or less a lone wolf on the CX scene here. And much to my happy surprise, I saw my friend Laurel, who also used to race in MABRA-land smiling and ready to race CX! I was so excited to have a familiar face to warm-up, laugh and then line up to get my butt kicked with. It's the little things - but they can be the difference between night and day.

With the heat raging again, Laurel and checked out the dusty, technical course and then waited in the shade for our time to take the line. As I'm quickly discovering that NorCal is a mecca for fast, fast cyclists, I wasn't completely shocked when two world-cup racers ... Rachel Lloyd and Katerina Nash rolled up to the start line. Names I usually read about in Velonews were now on the same starting grid as me. Pinch.

The typically chaotic start funneled us across a blacktop and almost immediately onto some narrow, loose single-trackish terrain, before popping us back out onto a wide gravel path. I felt almost as if I was riding on snow as traction was virtually non-existent due to the gravel and loose dirt. The first lap was a bit chaotic, but with a nice power section and .... drum-roll please ... a barrier! the field soon started to string out. My HR felt a little high so I dialed it back a bit - noting that the lap count gave us 7 (!!?!?) laps to go. While I think I lost about two spots, I was actually thankful to have some space the 2nd lap to ride some sections I had to run previously due to traffic. Slow and steady ... right? There was a section of the course that wound through a weird dirt field - it was almost like riding in dirt the consistency of baby powder and at least an inch deep in a few spots. I still haven't figured out quite how to corner smoothly in this stuff - if that is even possible. Sigh. I was a little proud of myself though as I was able to ride a root little kick up. Yeah mountain bike skills!

I have to say a HUGE thank you to Cisco  and the guys from Team Roaring Mouse for cheering me on along the course. Again - when you're the new kid in town - it means the world to have someone know you and cheer for you.

Few more laps to go and I noticed they dropped the count by two instead of one ... and then shortly after I realized that that was because I was getting lapped by the leaders. Wheee. But hey - still pretty cool to see world cup racers for another split second. And soon started to realize that my gamble to dial it back earlier might just be paying off, as I was able to catch up to and pass a few of the girls who had gotten ahead of me earlier.  Finally on the bell lap, I made a push to try and bridge up - but my tank was about spent.

When the dust settled - I was able to find Laurel and we cooled down, laughing about the ridiculousness of the race ... the course, the speed, the heat! Yay California! Laurel had to split, so I wandered over to see how I had ended up overall and was pleasantly surprised to find a 9th place finish! ...and no it was not out of 9 either! I had managed to hold my own in a crazy fast field. Not bad for the MABRA girl racing the NorCal circuit :-)

Up next ... special delivery back to MABRA land to race DCCX with my Bicycle Outfitters Family. Can't wait :-D

06 October 2014

Cross No Barriers? Vallejo Cougar NCCX ...

Apparently seasons don't follow the "norm" out here in Northern California as this past weekend temperatures were hovering in the low 80s near the coast and even higher inland. This does not feel like October...this feels like mid-July in the desert. Hot and dry. And I have to race CX? Giddy up ...

One thing I do enjoy about CX races and being a 'Cat 2 on paper' is that the ladies' races usually don't go off until midday, which enables me to sleep in more than for your average race and thankfully the NorCalCX series was no exception. So after a decent night sleep, I packed up the TDI and headed north to Vallejo to take another crack at CX in California. This was the first race in a 5-race series I signed up for -- the NCCX Series put on by SuperPro racing. They named all the races after wildcats so I figured they had to be fun :-)

New races bring an additional bit of anxiety to your normal pre-race nerves. Here I was, on my own, 2500 miles from MABRA CX, and trying to navigate my way around a new CX landscape. Luckily, most folks are friendly and I got my nerve up to randomly ride up to some other ladies, say hi and see what the skinny was on pre-riding, racing and whatnot.

Rolling down the mulch pile "obstacle"
We were able to get on the course and do a little recon -- it was definitely a different type of course with some stairs, run-ups, a whoop-de-do over a mulch pile, a ride-under (yes!) but NO BARRIERS!! Isn't cyclocross supposed to have barriers? Little disappointed for sure :-/ but new state, new series, let's see how this goes!

There were about 13 women in the A field -- not quite as big as the other weekend, but a decent sized field I figured. We had a wide open start up the road and onto a grassy hill. With fewer women, I was able to power to a fairly decent start as we began to wind through the course. But that was probably as good as it was going to get, as in one of what you'd probably call a "power" section of the course, another girl made a pass. I tried to stick on her wheel, but the 90+ degree heat started to get to me.

Thanks to the guys from Ornotbike for taking shots
of the Women's A race :-)
With 2 steep run-ups, and a mulch-covered hill that after a few laps became a run-up for me at least, I was starting to overheat and get a little dizzy. I had to slow my pace to slow my heart rated down so the race wasn't a complete loss. I would have given anything for a bottle, but sadly, as I saw support and bottles of water waiting for the other girls in my field, I was here solo, so there were no hand-ups, no spray-downs for me. Ugh. Note to self ... whine more to get support next time...ha.

Admittedly I lost cont of laps, but finally when I heard that bell going, I knew I could drag myself through one more. I could see a few girls coming behind me, but tried to at least keep it steady and hold whatever position I had finally slipped to...which when all the dust settled, turned out to be 8th. I'll take it...:-)

After the race I soft-pedaled back to the TDI and dumped an entire water-bottle over my head hoping to get my HR down to something near-human. Later when I uploaded my data for Coach B my average HR turned out to be 184 for the race. Ouch.

So live and learn, and maybe one day I'll figure out how to ride in hot, dry, dusty CX races ...

Up next?
NCCX #2 up in Fairfax and here's to hoping for a few more barriers and cooler temperatures!