Monday, February 22, 2016

Santa Cruz Training Block

Due to a lack of winter in Vermont, my usual pilgrimage to the west coast began a little bit sooner than usual.  I came to Santa Cruz two weeks ago to get out of a Vermont winter that couldn't make up its mind and get in the sunshine.  So far, it's been awesome.  I've been able to get some amazing miles in warm temperatures.  With the longer, endurance rides on the training schedule, I have ridden some new routes around Santa Cruz and discovered the magical Big Basin road.  This road winds through the biggest redwoods I have ever encountered and it was mind blowing. After riding this road once, it then became my mission to incorporate this road into as many rides as possible.  I was able to squeeze it into a longer five hour ride and ride the entire road.  It was awesome.

The fun just keeps happening.  I went to Morgan Hill to the Specialized Headquarters to pick up my new mountain bike for the season and ride on the infamously fast lunch ride.  It was a very hard first effort of the season.  I reconnected and rode with a handful of friends in the area and headed up to my teammate, Kate Courtney's, house in Marin this past weekend with some friends.  We put in big hours and smiled the entire time.  Generally, I am training, eating a lot, and training some more. There's not much time for much else.  It's been a lot of hours, and I'm really putting in a lot of hard work.  But, the most important thing is that it's been really fun and enjoyable.  Thank goodness I'm surrounded by good friends and have good ride company.  It really makes all the difference.  I'm also taking advantage of some peace and quiet in the redwoods before the season winds up.  I have to cherish this sedentary and settled moments because they don't happen too often. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Vermont Community: The Rasputitsa Ride

There’s really something different about Vermonters and
Vermont community.  We are living in an age where we all constantly stare at computer screens.  In my youth, we grew up playing kick the can
with all of the neighborhood kids, and Sabe and I spent the majority of the
summer barefoot.  We rode bikes through
the backyard, past the elementary school, and across route 15 everyday to go to
our local chocolate shop, Snowflake Chocolates.
Every single day, we would ask for something that they didn’t have,
usually ribbon candy or sponge candy, for our aunt and then pick up a free
sample.  We thought they never caught
on.  We lived outside, and we are still
lucky enough to live outside.  I love

But, we are dealing with a new generation that has emerging
neck problems from looking down at screens in their hands too much.  Right now, we are dealing with people that
text while they walk and walk directly into poles.  People think it’s more important to text
their friends back instead of paying attention to the road while they are
driving (it CAN wait, please, for the sake of yourself and everyone on the
road).  For these reasons, this is why
Little Bellas is so important.  Sabe and
I are striving to give kids the outside experience that we had growing up.  Kids need to romp around in the woods on
bikes and get muddy.  They need to sing
at the top of their lungs in the woods.
We aim to create a comfortable space where they can let go, be
themselves, and get goofy.  We want them
to have a chance to look at each other with wide eyes at the top of a drop
instead of at little text bubbles on a screen. 
It’s very different to feel and see that experience than to try to type
it and express through emojiis.  The
Little Bellas aims to get kids outside, push themselves, and find out what they
are capable of.  We give them the skills
to eventually look at each other with a smirk on their face at the top of a
drop and nail it.  We want to create
tough little cookies and send those empowered girls out in the world to conquer

This is also why an event run like Rasputitsa run by
Vermonters really resonates with our organization and with Sabe and I.  Heidi and Anthony decided to create a gravel
grinder race and hold it in the worst conditions possible, during mud season in
Vermont.  And it can get pretty bad.  The riders valiantly drag themselves over
miles of hilly dirt roads that could be a mud pit or a frozen
tundra.  Riders slog through Cyberia, a
three mile stretch that’s closer to a singletrack than a road.  If riders can make it through all of this,
they can pretty much do anything.  In a
way, the Rasputitsa event is creating an experience similar to the Little
Bellas.  We are riding bikes instead of
staring at screens, and we are discovering what we are capable of.   Then,
most importantly, we stand around a campfire afterwards and swap war stories.

This is exactly what the Rasputitsa pre-ride accomplished; a
community Vermonters have a knack for creating.
There was challenge, there were great people, and there was a damn good
campfire afterwards.  There were even
homemade donuts that Heidi’s mom made from scratch.  That’s worth its weight in gold.  And, there were tough Vermont
conditions.  Sabe and I had been testing
our bike set up for this ride, and it turns out that dirt roads are a lot
different two hours up north.  So, we
showed up with road bikes with road tires.
Sabe had racing slicks with absolutely no tread, and everybody was on a
cross bike.  There was ice, and it was
hidden under dirt.  So that wasn’t
ideal.  All of the sudden, I would find
myself road biking over a skating rink holding my
breath.  I was the last one of the group
ride bringing up the rear of the pack because Sabe is way more brave riding on
glare ice.  We also showed up with the
most layers on.  I was wearing my
Specialized Defrost winter riding shoes and winter fat biking pants, and I was
completely toasty.  Sabe was wearing an
L.L Bean rain coat and some L.L Bean down. We were poked fun of at the
beginning of the ride.  Our set up was
more suited to sledding or building snowmen, but, by the end of the ride,
frozen riders wanted to know where to get my winter riding pants.  I’d say we nailed the outerwear but were a
little off on the tire choice.  The after
party was one of the best yet and really put the cherry on top of an already
amazing event.  Rasputitsa hosted a
raffle and picked four winners to go on the pre-ride with us.  They took the benefits from this raffle and
donated one thousand dollars to the Little Bellas.   This was good people doing good things and
helping other good people do good things.
And we are growing cycling and keeping the sense of community and real
human connection alive during it all.
The Rasputitsa pre-ride event was a big win all around.  I can’t imagine how fun the actual race is
going to be in mid April.