Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Santa Cruz

Seabright Beach.  A short walk from the cottage we are staying in
I feel incredibly lucky to be a professional athlete and get to do what I love every single day.  The training has been absolutely incredible in Santa Cruz, and I haven't even scratched the surface of the road riding here.  I've explored new roads every single day I've been here and there's endless thirty minute climbs that you can link together. The roads wind through the big redwood trees and all over the mountains.  The mountain biking is equally spectacular.  The soil is perfectly loamy and the trails are plentiful.  I've also been able to squeeze in two different surf sessions on the glassy waves here.  It's been fun to say the least.  The last surfing session a little sea otter was dining about five feet away from us.  This otter was hanging out on his back while a live crab crawled around on his stomach, and then he ate and topped it off with some kelp. I also live a ten minute walk away from the Santa Cruz boardwalk.  I can hear the screams from the rollercoaster on the weekend.  So, last weekend we rode the wooden rollercoaster at sunset.  It's longer and way more exciting than at first glance.  It was well worth the five dollars. 
 Santa Cruz Boardwalk's finest
Another view of the wooden roller coaster

I'm ramping up for the season opener next weekend in Austin, Texas.  The competition will be stacked and it will be the first showdown for project Olympics.  Most are using it as a warm up for the first world cup in South Africa.  I leave for the first world cup three days after I get home from Austin so the season is kicking off with a bang and a lot of airline miles.  I spent this past weekend racing to prep for the beginning of the season.  On Saturday, I did the Snelling Road Race which was five rolling laps through blooming cherry trees and fierce winds.  The cross winds were blowing so hard that a tumbleweed blew through the peloton.  Because of the conditions, it was a race of attrition.  If a gap developed to the next rider, it took extra effort to close it.  Going into the last lap, I was able to close gaps and stay with the ten girls that were left in the lead group of the race.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see how I stacked up at the finish line because my water bottle cage rattled loose.  Regardless, it was a great effort and I'm excited with how I strong I felt.  
We made the necessary roadside fruit stand stop on our road trip to the mountain bike race

The next day, Jojo and I road tripped it down to Bakersfield, CA for the Foothills Classic Mountain Bike Race.  I was very impressed with the race organization here for a local race.  My race entry included a free ticket to the bbq and there was a vendor selling authentic stroop waffles.  These culinary perks always get me excited.  The lemon filled waffles were great fuel for the race.  The course was a dry, rolling loop with an amazingly fun descent through a mini chute with banked corners.  I dubbed this descent pump track canyon and was looking forward to it each lap.  The pro women started with the Cat 2 men and it was excellent to battle it with the guys and get a cross country race in.  It made me very excited for the upcoming races.  

 A little Sunday morning treat at Verve, the coffee shop down the road
It's amazing a little gnome can eat so much fish tacos! Homemade tortillas, salsa, and slaw make for a delicious meal
 Don't even think about skateboarding with your roller blades in hand on the boardwalk
Think fast thoughts for me this weekend!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Changing Gears

I have officially switched gears and arrived in Santa Cruz, California for some on the bike training.  I was supposed to cap off my Vermont winter training block with the Lake Placid Loppet, and I was minorly devastated to find out that they had postponed the race because of lack of snow. It hasn't been the best winter in Vermont.  I had been training for the 50k for about a month, but I substituted the Eastern Cup 10k Skate race at Trapps instead.  I have never done a 10k before and it was quite the experience.  It was a time trial start and I went off second to last.  The last skier to start fifteen seconds behind me was an Olympic gold medalist in nordic skiing and had won the World Cup overall the first year they started a sprint world cup for women. She was coaching a local program and decided to hop in the race and dominate. I was thrilled to be starting fifteen seconds ahead and I just tried to hang on as long as possible.  I learned so much skiing behind her for one five kilometer lap.  She was incredibly smooth with a relaxed technique.  It really helped pacing off of her as well since I'm used to an hour and a half effort as opposed to a half an hour effort on skis. On the second lap, she put the hammer down and dropped me.  She skied to twelfth place and I skied a top forty finish.  I'm completely thrilled with my finish.  I've been feeling fit and strong. I already am excited to ski next year.  

I'm also thrilled to be in Santa Cruz training for the next month.  The first week here was a fun and eventful one.  Jojo and I traveled a bit and visited the Jelly Belly Factory.  The exact place where all of the delicious jelly beans are made.  Have you ever heard of the Harry Potter jelly beans?  It's become my new favorite past time to give people these jelly beans and have them guess what flavor they are eating.  To give a sampling, some of the flavors are grass, soap, dirt, sausage, and booger.  They throw in some blueberry and toasted marshmallow to fool you into thinking these are delicious beans.  The dirt really does taste like dirt.  My friend actually likes the grass flavor and my favorite guess so far has been 'leather'.

The local Saturday farmer's market is the best market I have ever been too.  There are endless stands of beautiful produce.  I'm so excited to be in the land of fresh fruit for the next couple of weeks.  Oh, and by the way, the riding is amazing here as well.  Climb after climb through the big redwood trees.  I am loving life.

 Here's a Year of the Dragon mosaic made out of jelly beans at the Jelly Belly Factory

There's a tent at the farmer's market dedicated solely to sauerkraut.  Love it!

More market goods.  The fresh pasta lady. 

 We picked up an old beautiful English cruiser for getting around town. You can ALWAYS use another bike.

Thanks for reading!