Thursday, December 17, 2015

Getting ready for Winter ;)

So the last big race I actively trained for was the Fool's Gold 100. It was the last race of the NUE series, and quite frankly I was really relieved when I crossed the finish line. I had basically jumped right in to racing the NUE series immediately after the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series finished. The last race of the fat bike season was in March, followed by the Barry Roubaix (which GRBC sponsored -- and I HAD SO MUCH FUN AT!), and then it was April, and the start of my 100 mile mountain bike races...
Pic by Jenny Scott. Pretty much what all my dreams are made of.
Fool's Gold ended in September and I remember getting home and crawling in bed with Dan and telling him, "I'm done racing until December, I promise!"

That was a lie.

I couldn't help myself. It's an addiction, I swear! I seriously can't say no, especially when my friend Earl dangles a Cannondale tandem in my face and I've always wanted to try a tandem bicycle! It was quickly decided that we would race the Lowell 50 on his 26" tandem bicycle (complete with a fenders, a rear rack, a bell, and his family's Burley attachment...)

Earl and I did one shake down ride on the tandem before race day. We went out for a 30 mile ride from his house and I laughed hysterically the entire time. Riding a tandem is SO MUCH FUN! The Lowell 50 is a gravel road race that takes off outside of Grand Rapids, and they have two distance options: 34 miles or 57 miles. While we were out on our test ride, we decided to hit up some single track at Cannonsburg Ski Hill. Both of us were literally shrieking, screaming, and giggling with joy! Earl is a super fast dude who races for the Founders team, and I am so lucky he let me ride with him! What a riot. Race day came around and we had a good laugh at the start when we looked around and realized we were the only tandem on a 26". We were definitely the only tandem with a banana peel hooked to the rear rack, most definitely the shortest duo on a tandem, and most likely the shortest two people straddling a bike at the start line. One other tandem team, in a matching kit, asked us how many races we've done together. When we cheerily answered that it was our first race we could see them thinking, "aw, how cute!"

Thanks for the photo, Jack!
Oh yeah, the Lowell 50 was on Halloween, and although I had rush shipped a Mario and Luigi costume, they sadly hadn't arrived. I wore a dinosaur helmet as a last resort.

Earl and I somehow managed to maintain nearly a 21mph average for 57 miles. We came in 17th overall at the Lowell 50 and 1st place tandem by over a half hour! Needless to say, I LOVED IT, I loved dinging my bell, and I cannot wait to race another tandem race with Earl! (Barry Roubaix, perhaps?!)

The day after the Lowell 50 I raced the Grand Rapids Bicycle Company's sponsored KissCross race at Manhattan Park. I'm incredibly terrible at cross racing. I come to a complete stop before hopping over barriers.
Terrible at barriers.
I also can't resist the beer/fireball hand ups. I magically came in 3rd place at the race for B women, and I was really happy to bring some Pro Gold Bike Wash home as a prize for Dan. My poor Salsa Beargrease was COVERED in mud. :(

Photo by Patrick Helsel
I had told Dan I wasn't planning on racing the Iceman, but when my Dad got a Surly Pugsley and said that he wanted to race I couldn't resist that, either. (I might have a bike problem...) I'm really happy I did race the Iceman because I had so much fun! I was seeded in wave 5 and managed to snag 2nd female fat biker behind my GRBC teammate Kati Krikke! GRBC had a really awesome campsite with Gravel Bottom Beer, some snacks, and a bonfire at it, too! The Cannondale truck was nearby with a vat full of yummy spiked hot cider and I got to see a ton of familiar faces at the after party. The Iceman was my Dad's first fat bike race, and when I saw him coming through the finish line shoot in a GRBC Lumberjack jersey and heard all my friends and teammates cheering for him... I was so incredibly proud of him! It makes me so happy to see him loving the same things I love.

Kati rules.
What a BEIST!
I spent some of my "off season" doing bikepacking trips, too. Dan and I went on a trip with packable fishing poles and our fat bikes and we rode part of the North Country Trail. We walked our bikes across a suspension bridge and camped on the Manistee River Trail. I did a 200 mile round trip with a big group of friends in two days and we stayed in a hotel that was also having a sorority party the only weekend that we've had snow in Michigan this winter so far. 

Jane Van Hof was totally there.
Dan and I rode a lot together, too, which is typically rare when I'm trying to get some training rides in. Instead of worrying about getting a work out in, I was able to explore with him and to go on other group rides, like the WMMBA's last organized group ride of the year, the Turkey Burner ride at Yankee Springs. I've never been on the Turkey Burner ride before (I've always had to work Black Friday) but this year Grand Rapids Bicycle Co. had closed for a long weekend so that anyone who wanted to travel or ride could do so! (Thanks, Tom Smith!!!) I loved it. We got to ride with teammates, coworkers, friends, and new acquaintances, and we got beer and nachos at the Sand Bar afterwards. The community of mountain bikers in West Michigan is a lot of fun and I'm so lucky to be around them.

Speaking of the community here, we had a 45NRTH Ride Groomed event at the GRBC East Paris location and we were able to raise quite a bit of dough for the WMMBA to earmark towards grooming fat bike trails this winter! The amount of pride I feel when I think about GRBC and 45NRTH and all that they do for the community is ridiculous. It feels so good to be in cahoots with such incredibly brands and shops (including all the good folks at Velocity USA - thanks you guys for organizing group rides, for all the hangs, and supporting Skirts in the Dirt!) and I feel incredibly lucky any time I think about who my teammates, coworkers, or sponsors are!

I was able to do an interview with Andrea Pirkey on Mountain Bike Radio recently about fat biking and winter riding, too. Thanks Ben, Andrea, and Mountain Bike Radio!

Last weekend, Dan and I headed up to the Upper Peninsula for 45NRTH and Blackrocks Brewery's Winter Kick Off Party. We drove up and met up with all of team 45NRTH and a few other friends up in Marquette, Michigan. Holy cow. I've never had six pack abs before in my entire life, but I'm pretty sure after laughing so much this past weekend that I'm the closest I've ever been to having one! We did team photos, we hung out, we drank beers, we goofed off, there was a UPCross cyclocross race, we rode incredibly rocky single track that had me laughing out of nervousness because it was the most technical stuff I've ever ridden (the UP is a whole other animal of riding! I can't wait to go back!) and we got to hang out in beautiful Marquette, Michigan.

30 mins of cross was enough for me after having had a few beers...

 It completely blows my mind because my brother and sister-in-law went to Northern Michigan University for FOUR YEARS and they NEVER mountain biked! It's incredible up there!!! Beautiful, scenic, great people, great beer, great everything. I want need to go back! Thank you so much 45NRTH for bringing all of us up there. It made me so excited to get home and to help make our singletrack as amazing as it is up there and to work really hard on amping up my technical abilities. Next time I come up there, I will be able to ride so much more than this time around!

Photo by 45NRTH
Tomorrow morning, there's a few of us caravaning up to St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin for the FIRST FAT BIKE RACE OF THE GREAT LAKES FAT BIKE SERIES! I cannot believe it's fat bike season already, and I cannot believe that Arrowhead is a little more than a month away! Ahhh! I'm so lucky!
We also got Christmas Card photos by Katy Batdorff.. stay tuned to see our cards!