Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kona Vacation

I feel so lucky to be taking a vacation with Jojo and her family on the the Big Island in Hawaii for the week of Thanksgiving.  We arrived on the island on Sunday and spent the day seriously decompressing and chilling out.  I think this may have been the first time in my life that I have relaxed.  We are staying about a block away from magic sands beach in Kona and yesterday we explored this beach.  I am absolutely blown away by the water here.  It's so unbelievably clear and blue. Two sea turtles that actually came right up the beach to say hello, and I saw many brightly colored tropical fish.  We walked the coast line without shoes which became pain tolerance training.  The majority of the coast line is sharp, jagged lava rock, and this is very unforgiving to the feet.  It was still well worth it because the lava rock is fascinating.  We capped off a wonderful day with the extremely clever movie, Wreck It Ralf.  I give it two thumbs up.  Today we went to a brackish cove and explored a bit more.  The whole experience is better told in the photos below.

My sister, Sabe, the Little Bellas director is absolutely killing it on the LB front.  We have some very exciting news to announce very soon so stay tuned.  We are thrilled about expanding opportunities to get more girls riding bikes.

I am off to Kauai at the end of the week through the holidays so I'll be dispatching more island adventures.

Happy Turkey Day!  There's a lot to be thankful for.

Lea

 Boarding down the channel from the freshwater pond to the ocean
 Snorkeling


 We probably saw fifty Sea Turtles today
Relaxing Island Style

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Tropical Finale

 Stage 1 of the Langkawi Stage Race
Wow! My season was officially over at the World Championships, but the excitement has continued well past that first weekend in September.  In fact, it's been full gas since then packed with racing, a wedding, the Chequamegon Little Bellas camp, Interbike, a USA Cycling board meeting and a trip across the world to Malaysia and Thailand.  There were many highlights, but the most different and adventurous experience came from the Langkawi Mountain Bike Stage Race on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia.  I started the trip in the beginning of October by spending a day in New York City for a Specialized photo shoot.  This was my first time stepping foot in NYC and walking around.  It was a cool way to start off a great trip.  I unpacked my bike, they snapped a couple of photos of me and the race machine, and packed it up again for the Malaysia Stage Race in the matter of six hours.  Then, I was off on an eleven hour flight to Dubai.  I had an eight hour layover in Dubai and found a gym where I spun for an hour and took a shower.  Now, that is the way to fly across the world.  I felt like a new human. 
There were many puddles like this one in Langkawi
 Pink and Yellow Leaders Jerseys
Racing on the beach on the last stage
After thirty five hours of traveling, I finally landed on Langkawi and got settled into my own little hut in the jungle.  I spent two days riding with my Specialized teammates and getting the legs flushed out from the travel.  The stage race began with a short five minute time trail around the city square on the coast.  It was gorgeous.  The women's field was top heavy with a handful of consistent world cup podium contenders.  I knew it was going to be a battle all week, and I was right.  I clocked the third fastest time on day one, and the top five girls were all within thirty seconds of each other.  Things didn't change much on the next day, and subsequently the longest distance stage 'around the island'.  There was a group of seven girls seemingly glued together and battling for position for two thirds of the race.  We got a taste of the island's challenges on this day.  There was thick mud, thin mud, and all different kinds of mud in between.  There was a mud puddle that was as deep as my belly button and swallowed Eva Lechner whole.  She rode into the puddle, stopped, went over the handlebars and dove into this mud lake.  She stood up with brown stream running down her. I was laughing out loud.  Later on, Taylor attempted to ride through the same puddle, stopped, and tipped over.  She was still clipped in and was having a hard time unclipping while underwater.  For a second, she thought she was going to drown in a five foot deep puddle in Malaysia.
I gave my race number to a group of school girls
After the puddle incident and on the main climb of the day, the pack whittled down to four.  Team Colnago started attacking and counter attacking us, but I was able to keep it together.  With one km to go, I attacked on the last small hill and stayed away to the finish.  I was so excited to get a stage win and put on the pink leader's jersey.

The third day was a long point to point stage that covered the length of the island.  About two kilometers into the stage, I was already tired of jockeying for position with seven girls again and wanted to try and put some distance on the pack.  I felt great and attacked on the first rise and hit it hard.  I was alone and saw the strong master men leaders come by me.  I hung onto their wheel through the pavement and open road section which was key in solidifying my attack.  Then, I hit the main climb of the day.  It was a steep muddy climb where we could only hike our bikes.  It was a solid thirty minutes of pushing my bike up a mud slope (my downhill ski racing hiking skills came in handy) and then another hour along a ridge in the jungle mixing hiking and riding.  I was alone in the jungle and suddenly heard the loudest boom I've ever heard.  I honestly thought it was a bomb.  My mind raced, is Malaysia a peaceful country?  What country is angry at this island?  Should I wait for another racer?  I decided to speed up in hopes of catching another person and I also decided that I needed to brush up on the country's current affairs.  Thirty minutes of slightly panicked racing later, I heard the same booming sound and realized it was thunder.  This mistake definitely lit a fire under my hike-a-biking.

I was relieved to finish the longest 40 km of my life and get another stage win.  I finished this mud war with a leach on my neck and narrowly missing running over a snake.  I put five minutes on second place and up to thirty minutes on my closest rivals.  This was a critical day for me in capturing the overall title.  The next three stages, I raced conservatively.  To maintain my lead, at the very least, I had to finish with second place and keep my fingers crossed that my bike and body kept running smoothly.  Luckily, this is exactly what happened.  There was more mud, hiking, heat, and fun.  The cross country course went right by an amazing waterfall and the final stage was a short track on the beach.  The Langkawi Stage Race had an amazing press entourage that I can only compare to the Olympics.  There were school kids cheering us on in each stage.  The whole island was so excited about this race and warmly welcomed us.  It was a crazy and amazing experience, and I won which is always really fun.
 The Final Podium on the Beach

The entire elite men and women's field capped off the Malaysia experience with a tour around the island.  We jet skied to some small islands off the coast, rode boats through a mangrove forest, walked through a bat cave, saw Langkawi's signature eagle, and visited a fish farm.  Then, I set off to meet my friend from Middlebury College, Lindsey Linton, who happened to be in Thailand the same time I wanted to visit post race.  My Thailand story is best told with photos, but it included riding elephants, visiting temples, thai cooking class, and a foot massage.  All in all, words can not describe how incredible this year has been.  I am definitely very tired from all this excitement and so relieved to be back home in Vermont. I am jetlagged beyond imagination (there was exactly a twelve hour time change to Malaysia).  It's time for some serious rest and recovery.

Thanks for the support!
Lea
 Linton, Our Thai Cooking Instructor, and me.  So full after cooking and eating five Thai dishes
 Temple on top of a mountain outside of Chang Mai
 So excited to meet up with my friend in Thailand.  Random Coincidence
 Temple in Chang Mai at night
 Prep Work in Cooking Class
 Cooking Class was the highlight of my Trip to Thailand. I've already cooked three recipes from the class
 Getting ingredients at the local market
 Riding in the back of a truck to the temple.  Popular form of transportation here
 Riding an Elephant

Hiking to a small village outside of Chang Mai