Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Different Approach

 One of the many view of Gibraltor
 Gibraltor, Santa Barbara
 Racing Fontana Photo: Johnny Mueller

And, just like that, the 2015 race season has begun.  Last weekend, the season kicked off in Bonelli Park in San Dimas, CA.   Scott Tedro and Sho-Air Cycling put on this spring race series, the U.S Cup, and it's elevated the level of mountain biking in North America.  These first races are either C1 or HC UCI status which, in layman's terms, have the highest level of points and importance right below a world cup.  In other words, these races are high priority and the pro women are going fast.  I, however, as far as I know,  have been approaching this season a bit different than my competition.  I am placing my highest priority on the world cup series which starts in two months. I am placing a lower priority on these early season races and using them as great training.  And great training was exactly what Bonelli proved to be.

It was ninety degrees during our race at Bonelli, and it was also a lap longer than normal.  Our races usually clock in at about one hour and thirty minutes.  This race ended up being two hours long on a very punchy, punishing course.  It was hot.  I led out the start lap, and then, a lot of ladies passed me.  I definitely had a more conservative approach to the race because I was nervous about the eighty degree temperature change.  I was also a little unsure about my on bike fitness.  I suffered and did the best I could under the difficult circumstances.  I ended up eleventh.  This is definitely not my best finish in the least, and it was mentally challenging to have an off day. I was hoping for a top five finish.  It seemed like a lot of factors were stacked against me.  I was definitely bummed, but, then I talked to my coach, and this was apparently the plan.  We are training through all of these races.  But, Andy didn't really want to make that very clear before the race to put limits on me.  As he says sometimes, 'you could either win this race or maybe it's not going to go that well'.  Bonelli was definitely the latter of the two.

I traveled to Santa Barbara for the week in between Bonelli and Fontana with my Specialized teammate, Howard Grotts.  I spent three days exploring the endless cycling scene there, and it was fantastic.  I crossed the famous Gibraltor Climb and Camino de Cielo off my to-ride list, and it's definitely all it's cracked up to be.  This ride had amazing views, and Camino de Cielo literally traverses the ridge of the mountains.  I could look left and see the ocean and look right to see the mountains.  And, I would ride through the clouds.  It was an incredible experience, and I could definitely explore Santa Barbara for a long time.  I didn't even get into the mountain bike trails.

We traveled back to L.A on Thursday evening to prepare for the second U.S Cup in Fontana.  Thankfully, it was a cooler race day, and I have started to put the pieces together a bit more on the bike.  I had a solid start within the top 10, but, unfortunately, lost the lead group on the first lap.  But then, I bridged up to the lead group on the second lap.  I was thrilled to see them. Then, I lost the lead group on that same lap and then bridged back up again.  It was a day of being a yo-yo, but I am so pumped to be in the mix more, if even briefly.  I flew home the night of the cross country race to get back to Santa Cruz for a couple of days before flying to the Pan-American Championships in Bogota, Columbia.  Because I skipped the short track today, I was able to get an awesome four hour road ride on some new roads in Santa Cruz.  It was such a great day of training, and I felt good on my bike.  It's great to get some good sensations going again.

I have made the first step of the race season, and I think my unorthodox approach will pay off.  If last season was indicative, it might just be the ticket.

Thanks so much for the support!


 I made the perfect pancake before my big ride today
 In Santa Barbara, a friend had the exact replica of the 'Blue Goose'.  The Schwinn Tornado that was my mom's first bike and that my sister and I rode at Middlebury.  This is literally my favorite bike.  It, unfortunately, got stolen but it's good to know its kind is still out there
 Oakley is getting our Little Bellas mentors styled out with performance glasses.  Thank you so much for the support
 Racing in Fontana photo: Johnny Mueller
 Photo: Johnny Mueller
 Santa Barbara, CA
 The Clouds of Camino de Cielo
 Santa Barbara, CA
 My new murdered out Specialized Women Amira.  This bike is incredible
 Now I can take Jojo with me wherever I go.  Thank you Ogio.
 Getting my recovery on with Normatec. Next level. 
Racing through a field of flowers at Bonelli.  Photo: Joanna Petterson

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Snow to Sun

 Should we hit this drop? 
I could get used to this place 

It’s been one rollercoaster of a week!  I squeezed out the last bit of Vermont winter until I flew out to California to get on my bike at the last possible minute.  I capped off the phenomenal winter with an amazing backcountry ski with turns in a fresh field of powder.  I’m talking untouched, pristine snow.  And, to top it off, I skinned to the highest point I’ve ever been.  I was treated to a great view of Mount Mansfield.  Then, the day before I left, I drove over to New York with my parents to race in the Lake Placid Loppet, a twenty five kilometer half marathon ski race.  The conditions were prime, and it was warmer than ten degrees so it felt simply tropical compared to the deep freeze the east coast has been in.  I was absolutely inspired by my In the Arena teammate, Caitlin Gregg, and U.S Ski teamer Jessie Diggins World Nordic Championship podium performances.  (Congrats Caitlin!  So awesome).  I tried to channel these ladies and went out hard.  I dropped the small group of guys I was skiing with on the downhill  (thank you VTXC for waxing my skis rocket fast).  Then, I maintained my pace to pick off some people for the rest of the fifteen kilometers for the win.  I won a beautiful container of maple syrup made from the very maple trees that line the very ski trails we raced on.  I also won a Swix jacket.  Sabe said that I was surprisingly prize motivated.  When it comes to food and ski stuff, I become very prize motivated. 

I, then, jetted off to our normal spring training spot, Santa Cruz, CA.  It's still very crazy to undergo a stark weather transition.  I am in a winter wonderland one day and summer weather with the breeze blowing on my bare skin the next.  I hopped right on my mountain bike and hit the dirt for two days to get used to two wheels before the USA Cycling skills camp.  Then, I flew on Thursday to Bellingham, WA with a great group of Under-23 ladies to hone in our technical skills with coach Shaums March.  It was probably the best weekend of riding of my life.  This is saying a lot because I'm lucky enough to log in a lot of amazing rides.  But, on this past weekend, the weather was perfect, the trails were amazing, and we all stepped up our riding to the next level.  With more world cup courses incorporating big free ride features such as jumps and drops, I've needed to progress my riding.  It's a necessity to be comfortable in the air, and, for the last three days, we've spread our little wings and started to fly a bit.  There has been so many times that I've been mountain biking and taken the line around jumps or drops.  Every time I do that, I want to ride these features, and I get a bit bummed that I'm not.  This weekend was completely different.  We broke down a trail that was packed with jumps and drops and progressed.  By the last day of the camp, I was riding the majority of the features on this trail and trying jumps and drops bigger than I ever have.  It was just the most fun to be in the air on my bike.  It was so rewarding to actually ride the features.  Maybe Jojo and I can ride the same trails now.   I am so completely excited about the weekend, about mountain biking, and about the season.  The season kicks off next weekend at Bonelli Park in California.  There will be a live feed of the first two races of the season on the internet.  I race on Saturday, March 11 at 11 am PST.  Look at the U.S Cup website for the live feed.  Thanks so much for the support.  Life is great. 

 Caffeine is needed before hulking myself off of things so early
 My Specialized Teammate, Kate, and I
 Really digging the dry northwest riding
 Our crew for the weekend. Miracle coach, Shaums March, in the middle

 These ladies were so much fun to ride and progress with.  Kaylee Blevins, Kate Courtney, and Shayna Powless

We rode our bikes off of this

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Pro Athlete Personality Spectrum

My parents, Jojo, and I were having a discussion tonight about the pro athlete lifestyle.  We, pro athletes, come in all different shapes, sizes, and have varying personalities.  Human differences are what makes the world go around, right?

I have developed my own rating system that analyzes the spectrum of organization, personality, and precision in athletes.  I'm prefacing it with this.  This rating system is NOT a judgement.  It's just a spectrum.  We all have to do things a certain way to try our best and gain confidence.  At one end of the spectrum, there's triple type A (AAA).  This is hyper organized and uptight about everything.  A triple type A has everything completely precise and dialed.  If I were to walk into AAA's house, it would probably be neat.  AAA probably wakes up and goes to bed at the same time to the minute.  AAA maybe weighs his or her food and is calculating the numbers on the back of the box.  AAA may not do well with the constant flux and fluidity of traveling and racing, but they probably have adapted.

Then, the scale ranges down from triple type A (AAA) to double type A (AA) to type A.  I probably make up the other end of that spectrum.  Maybe I am a type C.  When it comes to goals and things I am passionate about, I have more of a AAA approach.  With training, I am hyper focused and very precise.  Training is the priority, and I get it done.  Simple as that.  I very rarely don't get the workout in.  I work extremely hard and pour everything I have into training because I believe hard work pays off.  Anything to do with training or improving is dialed in my life.  When we moved into our new townhouse, the kitchen was the first room to be moved into and functional.  Eating is crucial to everything, recovering and being properly fueled.  Plus, I love cooking and eating good food.  The second room to be dialed was the  basement because it's our gym.  Anything outside the training scope tends to be sent into chaos. I tend to have a more triple type C (CCC) approach. For example, I'm still working on unpacking some office boxes…two years later.  If you haven't received an email reply from me in a a little while, it means I haven't had a proper rest day in a while.  I should just set up an automatic response that says, "If I haven't replied to you for seven days, you can email my coach here and tell him I need a rest day".  I am usually late.  It's because I chronically over schedule because there's just too much fun to be had in one day.  If you walk into our house, thanks to Jojo, you can probably make it through the front door without tripping over something.  But, when Sabe, my sister, and I are here alone, and both training hard, it gets dicey.  Proceed into the house with caution.

So, it may come with some surprise for those who know me, that I was early the other night.  I was ready before Jojo and waiting at the bottom of the stairs for her.  I was really ready, with my jacket and shoes on and everything.  I yelled to Jojo, "Jojo, I'm ready to go…It's really weird".   I didn't even know what to do with myself.  I wasn't running around the house frantically grabbing things.   I am getting a bit more organized so packing for trips will be easier. It's shocking for a type C like myself.  My mom's jaw dropped when I told her.

We travel to so many different locations, and train and race in so many situations, I find it's easier for me to be on the Type C end of the spectrum.  It's just more fun to revel in the adventure of it all then just get bogged down in the details.  Racing in Malyasia and you usually eat pasta with red sauce the night before a race? Well, it looks like you'll be having curry with rice instead because it's the only option.  But isn't it so cool that I get to eat curry in Malaysia?

Where do you fall on the scale?  It's okay if you are a AAA.  You are definitely not alone.  You would have the company of two time Olympic Time Trail Gold Medalist, Kristin Armstrong, who proclaimed herself a AAA to my face.

In other news, here's what I've been up to.  There's been a great mixture of fat biking, training riding, skate skiing, and strength training.  I'm aiming my sights on the Lake Placid Loppet next weekend and then I head out to California at the beginning of March to get on my bike and start racing. It's going to be hard to leave this amazing winter.  I love snow.  But, I also love single track and Santa Cruz so the transition should be pretty seamless. I am psyched.  Life is good.

 Perspective, this is all I could do in the snow last year.  This winter is way better. 
 Check out my new L.L Bean hat!  It's my favorite!
 Jojo made me a nutella snowflake for Valentine's Day.  It was delicious and gone in about four hours
 Cold feet are my limiting factor on the Fat Bike.  Until I get the Specialized winter shoes, the Defrost, plastic bags in the shoes do the trick

 I won the most amazingly delicious pie at the biathlon on Thursday night.  It was awesome.  It's the little things. 
 Here's the women's elite wave on the American Birkiebeiner.  Sabe had a front row call up and had a great race placing 14th.  So awesome sister! 
 This is the truth.  Sunday morning local, handmade doughnuts are awesome. 
Taken from the driver's seat of my 3.5 hr skate ski at Craftsbury.  It was ten times more glorious than this photo looks

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Vermont Winter: A Clif Shot for the Soul

The Specialized Fat Boy in all its glory
Now this is what I'm talking about!  It's been an amazing two weeks in Vermont so far with winter in full swing.  It just keeps snowing.  It makes me so happy.  My friend, Michela, gave me her used back country skis and boots, and now I am completely set up to go AT.  Last year, I didn't really get an opportunity at all to play in the snow, barring the two times that Jojo pulled me around in a sled (once to watch my sister's nordic race and the other time for fun around the park) because I was recovering from hip surgery.  This year, I am making up for some lost time and really loving every moment out there on skis and on fat tires.  

It's been brutally cold, yes, but it just means that it keeps snowing.  This is what winter is supposed to be like.  I don't mind braving the cold temperatures, but, I do have to admit that I was a bit scared of the single digits when I first came returned back from Kauai.  I am a chronic over dresser, but this fear really sent me into overdrive.  The first time my sister, Sabe, and I went backcountry skiing on Mt. Mansfield, I wore about five layers on top and three layers on the bottom.  This set up was topped off with a down coat and heavy pants.  I underestimated the fact that backcountry skiing includes a weighted hike to the top with skis on.  I was a walking sauna.  Literally, it was disgusting.  I've been slowly dialing in the layer set up for the last week, and today I finally nailed it.  I wasn't steaming out of my coat on the way up.

Despite the unexpected overheating, the skiing has been amazing.  I've had to shut off this part of my brain for about four years.  After the recovery from the first and second surgery, skiing wasn't really part of the plan.  I grew up downhill ski racing, and it's one of my favorite activities in the world.  The fact that I get to ski mixed with fresh powder has really reignited my passion for skiing.  A flood gate of love for skiing has broke loose.  After Sabe and I went once, I was so excited to go skiing the next day, I couldn't sleep that night.  This is real.  I can get in a great workout earning my turns and then float in fresh powder on the way down.  It really doesn't get any better than this.

I've been loving mixing back country skiing with strength training, nordic skiing, and fat biking.  This weekend, I not only cheered on Sabe in her Super Tour ski race at Craftsbury, but I jumped in the 10 km skate race myself.  Nordic ski racing is one of the hardest sports out there.  This amount of suffering really prepares me for the deepest of pain caves in the summer.  This is exactly why I signed up for the Gattineau Loppet, a 50 KM skate marathon race in Ottawa, Canada, the night before this ten kilometer race just in case the suffering was too overwhelming.  Jojo has returned back to Vermont from Kauai and now officially takes the title of tannest human in Vermont.  She tried split boarding today, and we went for an amazingly fun back country ski.  Specialized also sent me the Fat Boy, and it's been phenomenal to have a fat bike to ride around in the snow.  My instagram feed has been filled with pro cyclists putting in the base miles in very warm locations.  That's great.  It's amazing to observe how differently all of my competitors prepare for the upcoming season.  I know, for me, this kind of fun, love, and snow is enough to fuel me for awhile.  It's like a double caffeinated Clif Shot for the soul, and that is really good preparation.

Think snow!


 The Sun Sets on a Cold Trapp Family Lodge
 Skiing Selfie!
 Backcountry with my Sister!
 This is my happy place

 I won a bet with Ed Dombroski about Cyclocross Worlds and he made me an apple pie
Ed also makes a mean breakfast.  Perfect fuel for a good day of training

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Tropical Transition

Which of these things is not like the other?
I have officially completed my slow and gradual migration to colder temperatures.  My tropical transition trip has really been fun.  I started by leaving Kauai (very hard task) to go to Santa Cruz, CA to film a promotion with Specialized Women.  I always ask myself 'why am I leaving paradise?' but filming with my teammate Kate Courtney took my mind off the dilemma.  We had so much fun.  We shot for a day among the big redwoods.  I can't divulge details until the commercial is launched, but it involves Kate having it together and being able to go to the bathroom in the woods really easily.  I don't have as easy of a time and I spent the whole day taking a long time to go to the bathroom and throwing my clothes frantically around the redwoods.  I'm excited to see how the final product turns out.  If having fun determines the quality of the piece, it should win an oscar.

 Kate taking a break during filming

 Can anyone spot me?
 Marin Sunsets

One of the many views from Mt. Tam
After the Friday filming, I went up to Marin with Kate to stay at her parents house and get a good weekend of training in.  I absolutely fell in love with riding around Mt. Tam.  This should be expected since it's the fabled birthplace of mountain biking, and it's absolutely gorgeous scenery of rolling hills and ocean.  We spent Saturday doing hill intervals up Mt. Tam.  Twice in that same day, I had an occurrence that has rarely ever happened.  Kate and I were pulled over switching layers at a look out, and a car stopped and a woman said "Congratulations on your title.  You're Lea, right?"  I was shocked and humbled that someone recognized me.  Then, on the same ride, a car slowly drove past and a guy said my name and said he was a big fan.  It's quite the cycling party on Saturdays on Mt. Tam.  I realized that I train in relatively remote places; literally on an island and on a land island called Vermont.  It was different and fun to be inside the buzzing hive of California cycling.  On Sunday, we went on another epic ride through the mountains and toward the coast.  Kate's mom and super soigneur, Maggie, picked us up at the beach to complete a great point to point ride.  I love point to point rides.  I squeezed in one more ride up Mt. Tam before hopping on a plane Wednesday evening to Salt Lake City, Utah for Outdoor Retailer.

I met the great folks at L.L Bean for the Outdoor Retailer trade show to help them get the word out about their great, new gear.  The first day, I met with the women's product designers and walked through the entire show to observe what all the other companies were up to.  We talked casually about what we liked, what we would like to see added to the L.L Bean line, and what was trending.  It was a really neat experience to go behind the scenes of the first steps behind some of the L.L Bean women's active lines.  These are literally the places where ideas are born and pieces are created.  The next day, L.L Bean held a press lunch event complete with New England charm.  They served Maine Lobster Rolls and invited the press to see some new pieces.  L.L Bean has made a beautiful signature stand up paddle board that I was drooling over, and they really have some new outdoor gear and color combos that I can't wait to get my hands on.  Not to mention, I was completely obsessed with specially designed L.L Bean hats they made for the event.  Fingers crossed that I can get one of those because I will never take it off.   I feel so proud to work with a company that is a really a collection of good people that embody core New England values on all different levels.  In every single way, it was such a great experience.

 Darn Tough Socks was representing VT well at the show by handing out my favorite; maple cremee with bacon topping
 Teva was handing out sandals to personalize so I made my mom a pair of new cheering shoes
 Look!  There was snow at OR.  These ladies are behind the great women's active line at L.L Bean
 This was the fastest form of transportation at OR 
 LL Beanies.  My favorite
 Clif Bar has some amazing product coming out in february.  REAL food.  The Mango Banana and Ginger Beet were my favorite at the show but the pizza could be awesome after I'm three hours into a workout
 Naturally, there was a llama at Outdoor Retailer.  Wait…what?

 L.L Bean's signature SUP.  If there was water, I might have paddled it right out of there

Now, I finally made it home Vermont.  I gradually eased into the colder temperatures.  Even yesterday, it was a nice, sunny thirty degrees.  I have to admit, nothing could really get me prepared for the ten degrees that greeted me today at Sabe's nordic race in Lake Placid, NY.  But, I got out there and reveled in the beautiful contrast that is my life.  I exist in two places that couldn't be more different and both are so special in their own ways.  Whether it be the beach or fresh groomed corduroy, I am so incredibly lucky.

Go get out there and smile.  This is what it's all about.

Thanks for following!


 Hanging with my sister in VT!
This was the best Reuben I've ever had at ADK Cafe in Keene, NY.  Homemade sauerkraut, pickles, bread, and what they call 'soviet sauce'