Sunday, July 26, 2015

Growing up Vermont.

 I took the L.L Bean vintage vest to our old adventure spots.  Desso's

Growing up in Vermont means growing up outdoors.  Being lucky enough to have outdoor oriented parents, my youth was filled with adventures outside.  My sister and I spent our summers barefoot running around the dirt road in our neighborhood.  We used to play kick the can or flashlight tag with all the neighborhood kids.  When In the Arena sent all of its athletes a vintage L.L Bean vest last week, it ignited many memories of my young adventures.  There are a couple of spots around our house where the paths were well worn in.  Thus, these particular adventures were burned into my memory.   
Occasionally we got to add some penny candy to that Snapple

My parents would take us on a weekly weekend pilgrimage to Desso's, the local general store.  This was probably a ten mile ride round trip on a dirt road.  Intially, we would huff it over to Desso's on our old school Schwinn ten speed bikes with the dial shifter on the handlebar.  Then, one Christmas, we got matching purple Mongoose Hilltoppers.  These machines still probably weighed just as much as we did, but we did get an upgrade in shifters.  To be honest, I was purely food motivated to haul this thirty pound metal machine up and down those roads.  My parents would buy us a snapple of our choice at the general store.  This was the kindling for my cycling career, and I still ride by Desso's (now Jericho General Store) often on my training rides. 
The snack spot at the Town of Essex pool

In the summer, we lived at the town pool.  The Essex town pool was closed in the morning for swim team practice and swimming lessons, and then it would open to the public at one o'clock.  From this time until dinner, we swam, played Marco Polo, jumped off the diving boards, or sunned on a towel on the hot pavement pool deck to warm up.  Every quarter of an hour on the hour, all the lifeguard whistles would blow for adult swim.  The adults got the pool to themselves for fifteen minutes every hour which Sabe and I would use for snack time.  Food wasn't allowed in the pool so we would go out to a fenced in area adjacent to the pool and eat pretzels and animal crackers.  My mom also put us into swimming lessons and diving lessons in that pool.  We learned how to do a pike dive, front flip, and swan dive even off the high dive board.  She also threw us onto the swim team.  I was a bit too late to the party so I was put into the lane with kids about three years younger than me.  This was the only time in my life that I didn't want to compete.  I was awful, and I would hope with all of my might for a thunderstorm on the days of swim meets.  The only way I could do the butterfly stroke was to jump off of the bottom of the pool.  Yes, I was that bad.  Regardless, I only had to go through early morning practice and cold water with the young kids for one year.  This wasn't enough time to taint all of our good childhood years spent at that pool. 
 The Long Trail trailhead 

One of my most impactful memories was our first backpacking trip on the long trail one summer.  My sister belonged to a hiking club in middle school (how cool is that?) so my parents decided to lead the group on a week long trip one year.  This way, I got to come.  This trip was a natural extension of our yearly family camping trips.  Each summer, my parents would pack up the twelve person tent (I'm not sure why, we only have four people total in our immediate family), the sleeping bags, and the pads and drive to a location to camp for the week.  We went to the Adirondacks where we sat in the car and watched a bear completely ransack the neighboring campsite.  We camped on Prince Edward Island where we ate fish straight from the ocean, and it poured on us for two days straight.  We even took three weeks to drive out west and camp at all of the major national parks.  Alone, this Out West trip has about fifteen blogs worth of memories.  There were two constant themes on all of these camping trips.  My mom used to bring Bisquick.  She would mix it with water to make a paste, form the paste around a stick, and roast it over the fire.  We would cover it with honey and eat it. We called it a doughboy, and it was delicious.  I would also always be so sad to leave our campsite that I would need to say a special goodbye to the place alone before we left.  

Many of these adventures were accomplished with my mom wearing a similar vest to the one I got in the mail.  L.L Bean gives people the tools they need to get out and experience the outdoors.  I bet that red vest sat around many campfires and even hiked the long trail.  Maybe that vest was put around a shivering kids shoulders on a chilly summer Vermont day at the pool.    In the age of computer screens, the outdoors is needed now more than ever especially with kids.  The memories that can be made even within one's backyard can last a lifetime and plant the seeds to a healthy and fulfilled life.  Not to mention, my mom's vest is probably still kicking around, just like the one that showed up in the mail.  And, if it succumbed to the one hundredth adventure or a flaming doughboy, L.L Bean would replace it.   Thanks for L.L Bean for getting us and our Little Bellas outside.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The European Mountain Tour

 Jumping for Joy in Switzerland on a training ride
Specialized Women are leading the world cup team overall standings Photo: Michal Cervany

The past two weeks have been phenomenal with ample time spent in some of my favorite places in the world.  The first week, I traveled to Sella Ronda in the Italian Dolomites for the World Marathon Championships.  The World Marathon Championships is a longer race than I usually compete in.  This race was sixty kilometers with twelve thousand feet of climbing.  The cross country world cups are an hour and half of racing compared to this four hour effort.  I had done the amazing Sella Ronda ride with my family about five years ago.  My sister led bike tours for Trek Travel in this region and treated our family to a trip of a lifetime.  The Sella Ronda is a huge rock massif among the jagged Dolomite peaks, and five mountain passes complete the ride around Sella Ronda.  For the Marathon World Champs, instead of climbing many switchbacks up paved roads (read: easier grade climbing), we just climbed straight up dirt roads on our mountain bikes.  It was epic and incredible.  Although I didn't feel great on race day, this race still goes down as one of my favorite experiences on a bike.  I couldn't have picked a better place to have an off day, and I still ended up in ninth place.

And, just when I thought it couldn't get better, the trip skyrocketed.  We drove over through the dolomites and the alps to the World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.  We were treated to the drive up the iconic Stelvio Pass, a climb which is one of the top on my 'to ride' list.  My sister also has guided many bike trips in this region and I finally got to have a famous sausage sandwich at the top of the climb. Lenzerheide, Switzerland didn't disappoint.  Team Specialized stayed in fantastic lodging in the town nestled by a lake and towering peaks.  The landscape was breathtaking the world cup course was so much fun.  It was unlike any other course I've ridden, packed with technical single track and flow.  In short, it was a blast, and my racing reflected just how much fun I had been having.  Happiness is fast, and I had stocked up on happiness watts for two weeks.  When it came to race time, I was ready to go.

Like the previous world cup, I had a front row start in eighth position.  This is a huge advantage in a mass start race.  Unfortunately, I came out of my pedal about ten pedal strokes in quickly erasing a front row start advantage.  It wasn't ideal but not all was lost.  I got stuck in some traffic that I desperately got around as fast as I could, and I just set out to pass as many people as possible in the opening laps of the race.  Luckily, I felt fantastic and I was able to ride onto podium position in fifth by halfway through the lap.  I was trading leads with world cup points leader, Jolanda Neff, for third position for the majority of the race.  Neff also happens to be Swiss so I felt like I was battling an entire country.  On the last lap, I attacked Jolanda on the opening biggest climb, and she didn't respond.  Then, World Champion, Catharine Pendrel appeared in front of me, and I was closing.  To have my best world cup finish twenty seconds in front of me was extremely motivating.  Halfway through the lap, I caught Catharine and passed her.  She then passed me right back so I stayed on her wheel and tried to recover for a decisive attack.  I sprinted as hard as I could in the final feed zone, and I didn't stop sprinting until I reached the finish line.  With a last lap filled with all of this excitement, I also clocked the fastest lap time of the entire race.  I am just so excited.  Combined with the women's world cup final game and my result, I didn't sleep much that night.  To clock that kind of result on fourth of July weekend, wearing the national champion kit, and to do it on the same day that the U.S women's soccer team won World Champs, it's a weekend that will be remembered.

Thank you to everyone for all of the cheering, comments, and support.  I hear you.  It makes a huge impact.  Thank you!

 Teammate Christoph, Howie, and myself were there for a Specialized store opening in Italy.  Red carpet and all
 Training for the World Marathon Champs

 Top of the final descent at World Marathon Champs
World Marathon Championships Photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany

 I LOVE mountains…especially these ones

 Team Specialized took a gondola to the top of a peak after the race and played in the snow!
 Passo Stelvio
 Lupines in Lenzerheide
 Photo: Michal Cervany

Photo: Michal Cervany