Saturday, February 14, 2015

Good Luck Frozen 40ers!!!

Happy Valentine's Day to all the cuties out there!
The importance of February 14th, 2015 isn't that it's Valentine's Day, it's that it's the Fat Bike Frozen 40 in Elm Creek, Minnesota!! The Frozen 40 is forty miles of single track on some really fun trails that I wish I could ride on every day. I'm really excited for everyone that gets to race on this course this year. Good luck to everyone, I can't wait to see how well you do!! There is an incredible roster of super fast and awesome ladies signed up for this race and I think it'll be a nail biter to see who makes the top 5 top 10. I wish I were out there with them, duking it out and cheering them on, but alas I will resort to this:
Maybe I'll close my eyes real tight, put ice in my jersey pockets, and pretend I'm out there at a -2 degree start...

This year, I'm showing my body a little love on Valentine's Day.

My left hand has been a little numb since January and I've been doing a really good job at ignoring it. After spending time in the car last weekend, it became harder to ignore when I realized the discomfort had spread up my arm and that my shoulder was feeling pretty fatigued. After racing at Cuyuna it became impossible to ignore when someone approached me after the race and asked if I had recently been injured. Something's off and it needs to be fixed. Taking a break and allowing your body to rest is super important. As much as I love racing, I need to take some time to let my body relax and to get things working correctly again.

C'mon left shoulder, whats up?
I made an appointment with Jason Ross at Train out Pain to figure out what was wrong with my left side. It's been getting weaker, my scapula was winging, and I began thinking of the worst possible scenarios which involved surgery and never being able to ride my bike ever again! Luckily, I can be a hypochondriac and a bit dramatic sometimes when it comes to my health, and my left side isn't that bad. Jason is amazing and I'm so lucky that he's willing to work with me to fix this! I think the best guess as to what I've done to my poor shoulder is that I fatigued it and then got whiplash and upset a nerve or some muscles when the minivan flipped. Ignoring it hasn't helped. I'm really optimistic about working with Jason and am going to work my hardest on all of my physical therapy homework assignments! So this Valentine's day, I'll be vicariously living through all of my friends racing at the Frozen 40, wishing I were there, while treating myself to some take out on the couch in my pajamas and simultaneously doing some armpit exercises. If Ninja is really lucky we'll go for a little hike today and I'll wear my pajama pants under my snow pants. 

Yup, he looks lucky.
Be a sweetheart body, and heal up soon, okay? <3

Friday, February 13, 2015

Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout & Reed's Lake Rager

"Are you sure you don't want to go to Cuyuna?"
"Yeah, it's a long drive and there are fat bike races the next two weekends."
"Are you sure?"
"I think so... Yeah, it's a shorter race. I'll plan on the longer races of the series."
"Okay. So you're sure you don't want to go to Cuyuna?"
On my way to Cuyuna...
This was mine and Danielle's conversation all freaking week about whether or not I should go race the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout last weekend. The Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout was the only race of the whole 2014 Great Lakes Fat Bike Series that I had skipped last winter and I had initially planned on racing it this year because I had heard great things about it. Then the winter season hit and I found myself gone every weekend. To give myself a bit of a travel break, it made sense to skip Cuyuna again this year. I do better at longer races and hearing about the icy 30k course for the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout made me think it'd be better to stay at home and to get a longer ride in.

Then Friday evening hit, and Danielle asked me again if I was sure that I wasn't going to go. I was at the Ada Bike Shop and everyone there encouraged me to rethink my decision just as much as Danielle did. I called Dan to receive some affirmation that staying at home was the right choice, but there's a reason why we're dating -- he said, "if you don't go do Cuyuna you might regret it all winter. Maybe you should go." Sometimes he gets me better than I get myself. Having a supportive boyfriend who didn't mind that I would disappear on a whim for a fat bike race was the last reason I needed to jump into my car (which I wasn't even sure would run for a consecutive 11 hours in a row) and to drive straight through the night to Minnesota. I stopped about 3 hours away from the race to post up in a Super 8 for a few hours. I was SO happy that the race didn't start until noon on Saturday!!!
Pre-race layering up / layering down again at the 45NRTH tent. Matt Acker in the background.
The worst part about the drive was that I knew all my racing buddies were already in Crosby, MN and that they were eating pizza and having a 45NRTH tire studding party. Whyyyyy wasn't I there yet? Why hadn't I left earlier in the day? I kept kicking myself in the butt for not carpooling with pals while simultaneously patting myself on the back for being sporadic and for going to race despite driving alone and packing an hour before leaving. I'm incredibly lucky to have sponsors like 45NRTH who procure studded tires for me to use the night before a race, and even luckier to have a teammate who hand-studs those tires for me after meticulously studding her own. Thanks to Kurt and Scott for helping me to get those Dillingers on my Sarma rims before the race, and thanks Chelsea for having the most incredible and talented little studding hands on the planet!!
So pumped to have studded tires! Photo by Ron & LeAnn Plinski
Boy, was I glad to have a studded Dillinger 5 up front and a studded Dillinger 4 in the rear! That course was incredibly hairy and there were a lot of slick corners! I hadn't tried studded tires on my fat bike before, and I absolutely loved how they felt on areas that I knew I'd be losing traction on normally. The course was a ton of fun; twisting in some spots, flowy in others, and there were some two-way climbs/descents that enabled me to cheer on other riders and high-five Martha Flynn when I was climbing/careening downhill. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face! At one point during the race, Chelsea Strate, Scott Patterson, and I were all riding in a row on our Beargrease's wearing our 45NRTH jerseys. I really wish someone had snagged a photo of the three of us racing together, because I thought it was pretty stinkin' cute.
Scott and Chelsea are pretty cute on their own. Photo by Ron & LeAnn Plinski
4th overall female, 3rd in my age bracket. I LOVE THIS MEDAL.
There was one water crossing near the end of the loop that looked super icy. There was a big dirt clump at the end of the ice to get back on to dry land that I was really excited to have practiced before the start of the race. It was a tricky one! Nailing stuff during a race that I couldn't hit the first time I came upon it always makes me super stoked. The Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout was a shorter race than I might have preferred -- taking me about an hour and a half to do the race -- but I'm really, really glad I made the drive out for it. One of the areas that I can always use practice in is my speedwork. I can hop on a bike and ride it all day, but taking off hard and maintaining max effort is an area where I want to get better. Any time I get to practice going fast and keeping that speed is well worth it. I feel like I'm a better mountain biker after riding my fat bike on that icy trail! I wound up coming in behind April Morgan, Pam Nielson, and Chelsea Strate for the 4th place female. Thanks to Aaron and everyone at the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout, it was a fun course and I wish I could have stayed for the after party!
Myself and Pam, photo by Ron & LeAn Plinski
After the race I hopped back in the car and drove back to Grand Rapids. Yikes. I rolled up to my house at 4am and immediately crawled under the covers. As much as I had wanted to stay in Minnesota, there was a short track ice race on Reed's Lake in GR on Sunday and I wanted to ride those studded Dillingers more!! Even though driving through the night can suck, missing out on tomfoolery and camaraderie in my own neighborhood because I'm stuck in a car can be even worse. Despite being tired, Raging on Reed's lake was all I dreamed it would be: a bunch of my buddies laughing, smiling, crashing on ice, and having an overall awesome time! Everything from singing the National Anthem as a giant conglomerate of cyclists on the middle of the lake to seeing ice-cube medals on the podium was hilarious. Thanks to Jeff Jacobi for tossing this event together. What a blast - both races were totally worth the lack of sleep!
Jenny Scott is my favorite guerrilla. Ever. Photo by Joshua Duggan
Quinton somehow squeaked into the studded class on his single speed All City - I got banished to the outer lane.
Photo by Joshua Duggan
Photo by John Holkeboer
Look who came to town from Salt Lake City!
Terra Trikes dominated the Reed's Lake Rager and proved to be the best bikes on the tiny, icy course.
I LOVE THESE MEDALS TOO. Maybe I'll win one next time...
Seriously, all of the fun in Minnesota and back home in Michigan was well worth the drive. :)
Myself, Scott Patterson, April Morgan... & a photobomber

Friday, February 6, 2015

Short's Brewing ControversiALE Fat Bike Race

Last year, the Penn Cycle Loppet Fat Bike race was one of my favorite races out of the whole Great Lakes Fat Bike Series. I was really looking forward to spending more time at the City of Lakes Loppet enjoying all of the festivities. There's a Luminary Loppet walk, a FREE snow sculpting contest (we'll dominate that contest for sure next year, 45NRTH teammates!!) and a beer garden where the Surly Brewing beer flows freely... all of it sounds amazing, and last year when I missed all the winter fun at the Loppet it made me really want to experience all of it this year.

Buuuuuut we had some unpredictable weather and instead of hopping into a car and driving to Minneapolis for the Loppet, I found myself cramming my fat bike into the back seat of my little sedan (RIP Montana Minivan) and heading towards Traverse City at 6:00am Sunday morning for the third race of the Short's Brewing Fat Bike Series: the ControversiALE fat bike race! As bummed as I was to be missing the Loppet, I was pretty damn excited to be heading up to Timber Ridge resort to ride the 50k course that would be a mix between groomed fat bike trails and groomed single track! Groomed single track on a fat bike is my preferred way to ride. :)

I got to Timber Ridge resort just in time to register, play around with my tire pressure, and to say hi to a few folks before making it out to the start line. I had chugged coffee pretty much non-stop from Grand Rapids on up to TC and I was feeling pretty wired at the start of the race. There were a ton of familiar faces inside of the lodge and I was already really happy that I had braved through the storm to make it up for the race.

As I was rolling up to the starting line, I noticed a Farm Team jersey lined up in the front row: Dan Jansen! Then as I found a spot to wait for the count down, I noticed William Shaver and a few other friends from Grand Rapids. Doh! Why didn't I try to carpool with anyone? Poor planning on my part.

The course for the ControversiALE race was ah-maze-ing! The first portion of the course was some twisty and fun single track, which reminded me a lot of a roller coaster. It was difficult to pass people at this part, but it was also really fun to weave around corners and to see a line of fat bikers in the woods rolling around, looking somewhat choreographed. There was some wider groomed trail after that, with a few good hills, and then more twisty, roller coastery single track. So fun! After the first 10-ish mile lap, the conditions of the course started deteriorating just a little bit. Luckily I had let a lot of air out of my tires at the race start, so I didn't have to stop to adjust anything. The biggest problem I had all race was having the insulated bottle on my bike freeze, so I had to dig around in my back jersey pocket for my back-up bottle. Trying to ride single track and reach for a bottle blindly on your back is hard. I tried to wait for wider, flat segments to grab my bottle, but managed to drink maybe 1/4 of it over the 3 hours it took to do the race... whoops. Not good, Jill, not good.

I was so happy to have been the first woman across the finish line! My legs felt incredible, my bike handled amazingly, and everyone up at Timber Ridge resort was awesome. Those folks at Einstein really know how to throw a party. I'm hoping I can make it up north a few more times before the snow melts, because that was probably one of the funnest courses I've ridden yet this winter.

And now I'm driving to Minnesota for a race that I hadn't planned on doing... the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout. I know it's crazy to drive 22 hours round trip for a fat bike race... but I woke up this morning feeling like I needed to go. What a crazy person. As awesome as it is to race in Michigan, I miss my Minnesota friends... Cuyuna here I come!