Monday, December 1, 2014

A Lot to Be Thankful for

 Waimea Canyon

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season; delicious food, family, and, hopefully, a time to be grateful.  This year, I have an extraordinary amount to be thankful for, and I'm taking the opportunity to soak up the gratitude.  It's so easy to lose sight of how lucky we are to be healthy. Even at nine months post operation, I find myself slipping back into taking my health and the ability to move for granted, but there are certain landmarks that give me clarity.  The day before I left for Kauai, I was able to go for a nordic ski in Smuggler's Notch in Vermont.  Smuggler's Notch is a paved hill climb through a notch in between two mountains.  This road is at a higher elevation so it's usually the first place to get snow.  It's also closed in the winter, and it's the first place snowmobilers go to ride or 'groom' the trails.  This is a beautiful spot, and it was so great to be able to sneak in a ski before going tropical.  It was also the first time I was able to ski since hip surgery in January, and I missed out on a lot of skiing last year.  Snow is one of my favorite things.  
Smuggler's Notch
Then, I flew to Kauai to meet Jojo and her family to kick off our annual Kauai adventures.  It's been especially wonderful this year because we have our own place to live and a car to drive around.  This is way easier said than done (the rental market is completely flooded here), but we found a great spot with a big wave surfer as our landlord.  It was really meant to be.  We have been really squeezing all the life out of every Kauai day that we can.  We are full into our strength training block and have been spending a lot of time at the gym.  I even discovered a hip hop dance class at the Kauai Athletic Club every week, and I LOVE hip hop dancing.  I love it.  We've been bike riding around Kapaa, cruising our usual routes and saying hello to the island.  We spent Black Friday surfing kinda choppy, small waves which I still managed to get housed on and knock the wind out of myself twice.  But, it was still so much fun to get out in the water and catch some waves in a bikini.  A sea turtle even came to say hello to me.  We've been indulging in the usual tropical fruit; star fruit, papayas, and pineapple.  It's been awesome, and I've been so excited to get back in my groove on the island and with training. 

Today was the best day on the island yet, and it really made me appreciate being on this island. Jojo and I rode up Waimea Canyon on the west side of the island.  This is a 2.5 hour, seventeen mile climb that ascends up the side of a canyon, much like the Grand Canyon of Kauai.  It is spectacular.  We were even treated to perfect, new pavement.  After that epic ride, we drove to one of the most remote beaches on the island, Polihale.  The last time we were there was two years ago when we slept on the beach under a full moon.  It was as beautiful as I remember.  Jojo became superwoman, we tried to save a couple of water soaked bees, and generally frolicked around until sunset.  On the way back home, we went to the best saimen house I've ever been to, Hamura Saimen.  It's very local and authentic.  We took today by storm, and I'm loving life.  Kauai adventures are to be continued.  

Take advantage of the ability to move and fill up your days!  Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. 

Lea

 Waimea Canyon Overlook from the top


 Polihale
 Climb




 I'm grateful for my Superwoman, Jojo



Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Strength Block

 Hello Philly!  Here to get sore!
NYC from the train
This past week marks the official beginning of training.  I traveled down to see my strength coach and hip rehab ninja, Bill Knowles, at HP Sports in Philadelphia.  For the past couple of years, Bill was based out of iSport in Killington, Vermont so I was lucky enough to just drive down there for the day.  This was the first time I traveled to see him and, thus, spent three days strength training with him.  It was completely awesome as usual, and his new space is unbelievable.  Half the area is rubber lifting mat and the other half is a bouncy gymnast floor.  It's divided straight down the middle with a long trampoline and gymnast mats. The potential to do fun strength training in that playground is endless.  I started prepping for this strength camp two weeks ago so I would not completely embarrass myself.  Because of this, I thought I wouldn't get too sore, but, man oh man, was I wrong.

The first day, we worked on a lot of legs and mid body with resistance cords of all shapes and sizes.  I felt great and left feeling confident.  I woke up the next morning to my quads and mid body starting to get a bit sore, but I still thought I had this.  Then, we hit the legs again hard with some explosive plyo work (which is new and I'm really excited to add this to the program).  We also did one of the hardest lifts I've done on my arms.  I half hobbled out of there the second day and returned the third day in full on hobble mode.  Every single muscle in my body was sore, and this is not an exaggeration.  Bill is so thorough that even my forearms were sore.  Muscles were sore I didn't even know I had.  I couldn't sit down because anything resembling a squat brought tears to my eyes, and I had a hard time picking up a resistance cord that I dropped on the ground.  It should be noted that we didn't even go through the full workout.  It was just one or two sets to get the technique down.  That being said, I'm really excited to get going with this new and inventive strength routine…as soon as I can walk properly.  I swear I'm an Olympian.  No really.  I am.

I'm a big fan of cheesesteaks so, when I was in Philly, the birthplace of the cheesesteak, I had to take full advantage.  I went on a mission to try and compare two of the fabled best cheesesteaks in town, Pat's and Gino's.  These two joints are literally across the street from each other.  When you order, you have to be prepared.  It was reminiscent of the soup nazi in Seinfeld.  I went to Gino's and ordered "one wit onion and american cheese" (proper ordering lingo).  It was pretty good, and I had to compare it to Pat's.  I ordered a Philly favorite, "one wit onions and wiz" which means with Cheese Whiz.  Yes, when in Rome…I had to get back to the hotel to beat the traffic so I didn't stick around to eat it.  It, luckily, fit perfectly in the side door console in the rental and I was off.  In my opinion, I liked Pat's better.  The second cheesesteak had a more generous offering of meat, and I had the option to get it with onions AND mushrooms.  They both were delicious but Pat's won the cheese steak off.
 My mom even got a great jacket from L.L Bean 
 L.L Bean Retail Therapy.  Oh yes. 
 These Bean Wellies should be perfect for the Kauai Mud.  Bring it. 
 One of my favorites from today.  L.L Bean flannel
This is my favorite from today.  This classy L.L Bean hoody is wicking and quick dry.  It's fashionable performance. 
I took the Vermonter train eleven hours back home on Saturday.  It was a long trip, but it was definitely more relaxing than driving for seven hours, and it provided a whole new perspective of that part of the country.  It was really cool, and I would definitely do it again.  Especially since Amtrak has wireless internet, I could get a lot done.  Today, my mom and I had some retail therapy to tackle my soreness.  Two weekends ago, L.L Bean opened a new store in Burlington which I am thrilled about.  It was packed opening weekend, and it was hard to really shop.  But, today, it was a bit more calm so my mom and I could thoroughly shop all the amazing offerings.  We went wild, and I completely gave my winter wardrobe a makeover.  I am so excited.  Thank you L.L Bean for making amazing pieces of clothing.  Their signature line is stylish and their active line is functional.  It seemed to do the trick because now I can walk smoothly, and I even bent down to pick up a couple of hangers today.  I wouldn't say it was pretty, but I could do it.  Retail therapy works every time.

I'm off to Kauai soon, and I'll be dispatching island adventures shortly.

Thanks for reading,
Lea


 Mission Cheesesteak: Gino's
 Mission Cheesesteak: Pat's


 Riding Trains
 View from the Train








Sunday, November 2, 2014

Where do you live?

Lake Tahoe
I just barely wrapped up my month long California tour.  Sabe's host family in California (otherwise known as Sabe's California family) took both of us up to Downieville for the day.  That's right, I finally got to ride the legendary Downieville, and it was as fun, amazing, and epic as everyone talks about.  I had no idea, but it's just about an hour drive from Tahoe.  Downieville has been hosting an 'all mountain' race for years, and it was arguably one of the first 'Enduros' around in the states.  With all the talk, I've always pictured Downieville in my head as rocky, technical, wide open fire roads.  I was completely wrong in what I envisioned.  We climbed for about an hour and a half on a wide open fire road with amazing views of the surrounding peaks.  This was the only thing that was remotely close to what was in my head.  Then, we dove into the most gorgeous, redwood forest on some incredible singletrack and descended, and descended, and keep descending.  This was the longest descent of my entire cycling career and one of the best.  Once we descended down to the second half of the downhill, the trail is positioned perilously on the edge of a beautiful canyon.  This was exposed trail.  I can only imagine what it's like to race on that trail seeing as riding it was making me dizzy.  The ride totaled five hours of incredible mountain biking, and one of the best rides of my life.  

After the Downieville adventure, I headed down south to meet up with Jojo for a couple of days in Santa Cruz.  We were mostly focused on liquidating her storage unit.  Take notice, asking a professional cyclists or bike tour guide where home is one of the hardest questions to throw out there.  Most of these nomads can better answer the question, 'where do you have a storage unit?'  If jojo and I go by where our stuff is located, we have three lovely 'homes'; Vermont, Kauai, and Santa Cruz.  This 'living out of a bag, storage unit lifestyle is sometime logistically challenging or a bit chaotic. But, we are the luckiest to have the opportunity to experience all of these amazing places.  And nothing made me feel more grateful than to be able to sneak in two sunset surfing sessions in between the storage unit haul out.  It was awesome to spend some time in Santa Cruz, and now I'm back 'home' in Vermont.  At this home, I actually get to unpack my bag and put my clothes in a closet.  It's a luxury.

The other good thing about being home is the opportunity to cook.  I took the kitchen by storm tonight and made Korean Bibimbap.  It was delicious.  It pretty much an asian version of my tower of power recipe I frequently use.  I stir fried a bunch of veggies and steak, piled it on top of rice, and topped it off with a fried egg and a red pepper paste sauce.  Head on over to my friend, Tayler Wile's blog, for the recipe.  Thanks for the inspiration Tayler.

I'm decompressing a bit and ramping up for our time on Kauai.

Happy Off Season!

Lea

 The Downieville Crew
 Riding with Sabe's California Sister
 Back in VT and riding with Mom and Dad.  Mom is attacking us
 Gorgeous Vermont Twilight
 A Little Bella wanted to dress up as me for Halloween, so I dressed up as her.  And then I went trick or treating with my 11 year old crew
It's candy trading time! 
 Who honestly gives out pretzels at Halloween?  


This is my version of Bibimbap

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happiness Watts



Lake Tahoe.  Wow. (what's wrong with this photo?)
As bike racers, we spend the majority of the year living like monks.  Training so hard that all you can do is collapse on the couch to recover and try to function like a normal human being. Ride, eat, sleep, repeat.  Cyclists have power meters on their bikes to measure the power that they are putting into the pedals.  This power is measured in watts.  Most cyclists are absolutely obsessed with these numbers because, simply, the more watts someone has, the better.  This year, I was introduced to the amazing concept of happiness watts.  Finally, someone put into words how I tend to approach life as a professional athlete.  I strive to balance between doing my best as an athlete to reach my potential (i.e living like a monk) but to also have fun while doing it.  Years ago, we used to call this an 'average american' day.  Every once in awhile, one needs to sit on the couch and eat pizza like an average american.  Now, enter happiness watts.  It's the concept that I go faster when I'm happy so I should do things that make me happy, like eat ice cream and bacon (usually separate but maybe together includes even more happiness watts).  My coach, Andy, intuitively knows the concept well.  He even included two mandatory pastries into my training schedule on my last day in France for world cup finals.  Now that's a coach that knows the importance of happiness.



This offseason, I am really capitalizing on building up an ample supply of happiness watts. After a short stint at home in Vermont, just enough time to unpack and feel like I actually do have a home, I flew out to Santa Cruz for the Specialized Women's Brand Launch.  Specialized invited non-endemic media to introduce them to the women's brand.  This was an amazing group of ladies who I had so much fun with over the weekend.  I haven't laughed that hard or that much for awhile.  We rode mountain bikes, road bikes, and cruisers, we ate tater tots at Burger, we skipped rocks in the ocean, and generally frolicked around in cycling bliss.  I was reunited with my teammate, Kate Courtney, and my sister, Sabe, and it was as glorious as I remembered.



Then, Jojo and I headed to Colorado Springs for the USA Cycling mountain bike committee meetings.  Here, we discussed the nuts and bolts of mountain bike racing in the U.S and gave our feedback.  This was another great gathering with fantastic people.  Then, we jetted back to Santa Cruz to hop in Jojo's sprinter van to the Santa Cruz Enduro for the weekend.  We camped (so enduro), we shredded in baggie shorts (so enduro), and we conquered.  It was fun to race my first enduro and get to really experience the type of racing jojo has been doing all summer.  It's really hard and also a complete blast.  I won and Jojo came in second so the weekend couldn't have gone better.



After that, I headed up to Tahoe to check out where my sister will be stationed for the winter.  In short, it's awesome.  There are piles of single track everywhere that usually include epic climbs, descents, and views.  We've been riding a ton, and I've accidentally put in a decent training week with all these adventures.  I rode mountain bikes for a solid nine hours over the weekend alone.  I'm stocking up on happiness watts especially since Sabe figured out how to make maple marshmallows from scratch.  Anything Sabe bakes and anything with maple, yes, it's mind blowing.



How have you gotten your happiness watts lately?  Get some. They are important.



Lea

 Kate and I frolicking at the Specialized Women's Brand Launch


 Santa Cruz Sunset
 If there's one constant in Tahoe, there's always a lot of females who shred 
 Said shredding females best side 
 Sabe and I at the Specialized launch.  Ocean Spin
 Tahoe.  Lake Marlett and Lake Tahoe.
 We are roasting Sabe's maple marshmallows and taking it up a level


 The Flume Trail.  It drops off a cliff to the left down to the lake
 We rode.  Watched the sunset.  Then, rode for 45 mins in the dark.  Darkness and no lights makes things really exciting


 I love the Tahoe moss
 Amy Shreve chooses the right beverage before the Santa Cruz Enduro.  Total Domination. 
Naturally, I arm wrestled at the USA cycling meetings

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Celebration Tour

A Beyonce concert has been near the top of my life list for a while now.  I looked up concert dates for her 'On the Run' tour with Jay Z this summer and noticed that there last stop was in Paris the Friday after the World Championships in Norway.  I tried to find a partner in crime to go with me to this concert to fulfill my dreams, but, as of a month before the concert, no one was available.  Then, walked in Andrea, my friend from Santa Cruz who was traveling to Norway to hang out with her boyfriend on the bike circuit.  It didn't even take any convincing.  Jordi mentioned the idea to Andrea, and she was already looking into our Air BnB options for lodging twenty-four hours later.  This was the kind of excitement I was looking for, and our own version of our 'On the Run' tour was born.  


It's hard to imagine things getting even better after a bronze medal at the World Championships, but that result just sent me skyrocketing into the atmosphere.  This trip was the perfect way to celebrate a fantastic season.  I drove around Norway with friends until thursday after the race.  We didn't quite have enough time to travel west to Fjord land, but we took in the coast line instead.  It was beautiful, and it wasn't without some travel misadventures that we will remember for years to come. Chloe designed one day of our trip around seeing viking churches. We drove for about four hours and pulled into a parking lot.  It turns out our viking church pilgrimage was a reproduction of the original viking church in an amusement park that was completely boarded up and broken down.  Don't always believe everything you google.  I'm literally still laughing about it. 

I then headed to Paris on Thursday for the first time in my life.  Everyone said I would love Paris, but I thought it would just be another city.  Everyone was right.  I loved it.  There's something different about Paris.  We saw the Eiffel Tower lit up at night.  We saw Monet's 'waterlilies' which was literally life changing.  This is no exaggeration.  I was completely captivated.  This is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my entire life.  Not everyone in the room was completely captivated by 'water lillies'.  Andrea and I noticed an older couple sitting on the bench staring at our legs rather than taking in the painting.  We assumed that they were shocked out how disproportional my quads were to the rest of my body and how many scars Andrea had on our legs.  I guess they hadn't come into contact with many female mountain bikers. We topped off our own 'On the Run' tour by seeing the Queen Bey herself that evening.  It was magical just as I expected.  It was the best concert I've ever seen.  I'm so lucky I got to check so many things off my life list on this trip, and I got to add some more.  I want to go back and see those Norwegian Fjords. 

Now I'm in full off season mode except for racing the Santa Cruz Enduro next weekend.  Let the fun continue. 

 Little Bellas Photo Shoot in Millstone Hill, VT.  Gorgeous. 
 Fall Offseason Adventures in VT.  Lake Willougby.  (taken by GoPro)
 Jojo enjoying Lake Champlain.  (taken by GoPro)




 This is not a Norwegian Viking Church.  This is a broken down Norwegian Amusement Park. 
 World's End.  Norwegian Coast. 
 This is what lighthouses used to look like in Norway.  They lit a fire in the basket
 Norway. 
 A Viking Boat. 
 Sitting under a full moon by this tower was a good way to spend the night in Norway. 
 This is a cardamon cinnamon roll and absolutely delicious
 In Norway, they put butterflies in the sidewalks.  Boots courtesy of L.L Bean
 This is a delicious french dessert. 
 Louvre, Paris
 Paris
 Notre Dame, Paris
Heaven, Paris