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.


 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
 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
 Notre Dame, Paris
Heaven, Paris

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bronze Medal at the World Championships

World Championship Bronze, all above photos: Michal Cervany
I rode to a bronze medal finish at the World Championships in Hafjell, Norway!!!!!  I'm a very excited person, but, honestly, this is a new level. I've never been so happy than riding down that finish stretch and across the finish line at that race.  I would have been completely ecstatic with my season if I defended my national championship title in July.  Then, when I equaled my best ever world cup finish at Mount Saint Anne, I started to believe that something big was really possible this season.  It was a bit hard to believe actually coming off of hip surgery in January and missing the first half of the season.  But, I pressed into the second half of the season without any limits.  This is the special thing about coming back from an injury.  I had absolutely no idea how I was going to fare against a deeply competitive world cup field that had been training and racing for months more than I had.  I had no expectations, and, with that, I also put no limitations on myself.  I was simply happy to be back racing my bike in earnest, and I just became more and more happy as the races ticked by.  As my sister says, when I am happy, I race fast.  I am truly grateful to be back, and I had so much fun with my new teammate, Kate Courtney, this year.  As one can see from the last post, we especially had a blast in France and Norway before Worlds.  This combination, along with the hours of support from many different people and hard work, really put me a great situation for the World Champs.  I was really happy. 

I scored my lucky number, 22, for a start position, and I was stoked.  This was definitely a great sign.  I raced the relay on Wednesday before the World Championships XC.  The relay is a team event where each country races a junior male, a U-23 male, an elite woman, and an elite man.  Each team member completes one lap of the XC course, and the country can decide any start order.  I raced the third leg, and, luckily, most of the other elite women did as well.  In order to have a good race on Saturday, I was going to have to start fast.  The relay leg, one lap against Jolanda Neff and Katerina Nash, two very fast starters, was a perfect opportunity to try this approach.  The three of us started within ten seconds of each other, and I was able maintain my distance from Jolanda for most of the lap.  I was in front of Katerina for the entire lap except when she passed me on the last downhill to the finish.  The U.S relay team had a great ride collectively, and we were only thirty seconds off the podium in fourth.  This was the best finish for the U.S since 2007, and it got me very excited for Saturday's race.  Then, during the U-23 men's race on Friday, my U.S and Specialized teammate, Howard Grotts, came back from an really slow first lap (44th place) to get a bronze medal.  This made me even more excited for my race.  I was having doubts about my start position in the third row because the start is crucial on the Norway course, but Howard's comeback ride made me believe that it was possible to podium without the ideal circumstances. 

Turns out, I didn't have to worry because, luckily, I got the perfect start on Saturday.  I lined up in the third row and lady luck was on my side again.  The gun went off, and I charged hard up the first climbs to find myself in the best possible start position of my career.  I was already in the top six riders in the first two kilometers of the course.  Perfect.  Now, don't freak out.  Kate and Kaylee, my U.S U-23 girls,  were cheering for me on the first lap like it was the lap lap.  All I could think is, I have a solid five more laps to go so just pace.  My aunt Sarah, uncle Mark, and cousin, Zane, were all at the race cheering me on.  This was so cool to have my family there to cheer me on.  They had the entire course dialed.  Zane was on the first climb, Sarah was on the second switchback climb, and Mark was on the last climb.  He was carrying a big american flag that he would dip into the track before I rode up, and then he ran up the entire climb beside me every single lap.  To have them and everyone else yelling for me out there really, really helped.  The entire race is a bit of a blur, but I felt great.  The first half of the race, I maintained ten to fifteen seconds off of second and third place, Irina and Maja respectively.  I was biding my time on when to burn my matches and get up there in medal position.  The third lap, I started to dig a bit more, and I could see that I was closing on Maja and third place on the main climb.  Then, on the downhill, all of the sudden, Maja was there.  She had suffered a flat tire, and, just like that, I was in the bronze medal position.  I continued chasing the silver medal and maintained my ten to fifteen second gap.  On the fifth lap, my quads started to twinge a bit, and I rode conservatively to try and protect my quads and my world championship medal.  But, that conservative effort caused Tanja Zjackel to close on me.  Marc Gullickson appeared sprinting at the top of a field at the beginning of the last lap screaming that the girls were closing on me.  'Oh hell no', I thought.  'I didn't spend all of the race in third place and all of that work to miss out on an opportunity like this in the last lap'.  So, I risked everything and dug deep the last lap to protect my position.  My legs actually stopped cramping for that last lap.  Maybe it was the coke or maybe it was more caffeinated Clif Blocks.  Who cares what it was? Thank you legs for cooperating.  I started up the last climb of the day, which is a long, straight drag up the mountain, and, to my shock, I could see Irina AND Catherine Pendrel in front of me.  I hadn't seen Catherine the entire race, and, with five minutes left in the race, the world championship title was about thirty seconds in front of me.  What?!?  Catherine suffered a flat tire in the perfect place very close to the tech zone, and her mechanic, Dusty, did a fast, world champion wheel change.  

There's one, last technical descent about three hundred meters away from the finish line.  I rode down the first rock drop and nose wheeled, unclipped, and just barely saved myself from going over the handlebars.  I just thought, get to that finish line.  I am so close.  Riding down that finish chute, it literally felt like I had won the world championships.  This was one of the best days of my entire life.  When I told the news of my hip injury and surgery to Benno, my Specialized team manager, in January, he responded by saying, "we don't care about anything else but the World Championships.  Just do everything you can to heal as fast as possible and be fast at World Champs."  My reaction in my head was, "yea, that would be nice, but it's also a little bit crazy".  There are at least about thirty people that helped turn crazy into a reality.  Each of them deserve to wear this medal everyday for at least a month.  Look what is possible when an athlete has a great team to help and the best support network.  Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who supported me and made this possible. 

Thank you for your support. 

 Sweet, new custom USA Cycling Kits 
These are the prettiest podium flowers I've ever seen 
 My Specialized teammate Kate Courtney and I are psyched with a fun season
 Three of us on the Specialized team got bronze at the World Champs, myself, Downhiller Troy Brosnan, and U-23 Howard Grotts
 After Worlds, I explored Norway with a group of friends. This is the 'end of the world' in Norway.  At the end of a peninsula. 
 Norwegian Castle Tower
Norway under a full moon 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

World Cup Finals and World Championships

 Meribel World Cup Teamwork with Annika Langvad photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany
 Top of Galibier
 Photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany
Photo: Michal Cervany

I am on the second week of an awesome european racing trip.  This season is short and sweet since I missed the whole first half so it's great to get back in Europe.  Last weekend was the world cup finals in Meribel, France.  The course was awesome, had a decent amount of climbing, and was marked with a great amount of natural features.  This is good to see in a day and age when they are building more manmade obstacles and jumps.  I started on the fourth row (which is not ideal in a mass start) so I was crossing my fingers for lady luck to be on my side.  It turns out she was for the start.  I barely missed a crash one hundred meters after the gun went off and kept on snaking my way through as many people as possible.  I found myself in the top ten faster than I thought I would, and I was excited.  I could see the leaders, I was feeling good, and I was in a solid position.  Then, moments after I passed the technical zone going into the second lap, I got a slow leak in my rear tire.  I rode it gingerly for half a lap until I could get to the next tech zone for a wheel change.  I dropped to about fifteenth, which was a bit of a bummer, but I just did the best I could do with the situation.  I hammered as hard as I could and passed as many people as possible to secure a top ten finish.  I am actually thrilled with this result as I am feeling great for the World Championships. I was able to work my way back up to tenth in a fast and very competitive field.  This is something to be excited about. 

We stayed in Meribel in the french alps for five days after the race.  We had a training schedule full of alp ice baths, patisserie sampling, and classic climbs.  Literally, my coach is the best.  Officially, on the training schedule, my coach ordered me to try two of my favorite french pastries. My coach and I really get along.  Kate Courtney, my fellow Specialized american teammate, and I adventured to one of the classic french alp climbs that is usually in the tour de france, Col du Galibier.  This was a thirty four kilometer climb and truly one of the most beautiful and amazing bike rides I've ever done.  It literally felt like the top of the world at the summit.  

Now, we are in Hafjell, Norway preparing for the World Championships next weekend.  It's like Vermont here but with more water and a lot more fish.  There's as many different types of salmon that you could ever imagine at every meal here.  It's awesome.  I race the team relay on Wednesday and the main event, the cross country world championships, is this Saturday.  Today, we had a Specialized team ride on the course with our downhillers, Aaron Gwin and Troy Brosnan.  These guys are ranked the second and third best downhillers in the world with world cup wins and world cup overall titles to their names.  We took a solid hour to analyze the best lines over the entire five kilometer course. It was so valuable to get their insight and analysis on the world championships course.  Gravity racers have a different way of looking at a trail, and it's great to open up the perspective.  I had such a blast out there today, and I'm incredibly excited about racing.  Thanks to these boys, I feel like I have the course dialed, and I'm ready to go. 

The live feed link is here. Saturday. Noon.  6 AM EST.  

Send me some fast, good vibes! Thanks for the support. 


 I found my spirit animal, the goat
 Psyched to be on top of another alp, La Madeleine
 Kate is psyched to be on top of Galibier

 Can you tell we were excited to be on top of Galibier after a 2.5 hr climb?  We pranced around the summit a lot 

 Bananas are my midnight snack of choice and Kate made sure that she kept this one for herself.  She honestly tried to put it in the hotel safe under lock and key

 This is how you feel after racing a world cup
 Meribel, France
Not a bad view for the week in France. Life is fantastic