Monday, July 27, 2015

Wilderness 48

Slow down you're doing fine
You can't be everything you want to be before your time
Although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight (tonight)

Too bad, but it's the life you lead
You're so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you're wrong
You know you can't always see when you're right (you're right)

You got your passion, you got your pride
But don't you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true (Oooh)
When will you realize... [State College] waits for you?

And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old

I’m happy to say that, despite the title, this is not another story about how I dropped out of a NUE series race. It’s a story about how, six years after the last time I dropped out of a NUE series race, I’m finally starting to understand what it takes to finish one. Or at least what it would take for me, how annoying that fact is, and how I’m slowly coming to accept it.

As you may have guessed from last week’s post, after nearly 16 months of residence in State College, things are starting to come together in a way that feels like real life rather just a stop along the way. I suppose that per the original plan, we should have been moving away to our “forever home” in the next couple weeks. Now we are looking at another twelve months minimum, and I don’t think I can stand another year in temporary life detachment, so I’m starting live SC lyfe until I’m told otherwise. The first 16 months here has kicked my ass to the point that I’m starting to be grateful for it. It’s been so much harder than I expected on so many levels, but I’m reaching the point of having done things wrong enough that I’m feel like I’m on the verge of knowing how to do them right.

It’s funny how ahead of myself I was when I first started mountain biking. Even when I couldn’t even make the podium in a beginner-class DINO race, I couldn’t wait to move on to bigger and better things, since I didn’t really see racing against two other women in the expert class as something worth working toward. I somehow stumbled on Danielle Musto’s blog around 2007, and became immediately enthralled with the idea of 100 milers, 24 hour races, and mountain bike stage races. Casual cyclists ride centuries all the time, so surely with some serious training I could do it on a mountain bike? Soon I read all the blogs of all of the top female endurance racers across the country to try and figure out the secrets to success, and I started my own blog to document the journey. At least I was self-aware enough that today’s intro lyrics were also one of my first entries. SPOILERS: I just got old.

The logic seems reasonable enough: to be the best you have to emulate the best. I knew the kind of training loads the top racers were doing while they were at the top of their game, so that must be the way to get there myself, right? The problem was that I was looking at what these races were doing to get better once they were already pretty damn good, not what they did between newbie and pretty damn good. In my rush to be pro, no one, including the coaches that I spent lots of money on, told me how to be good.

It’s hard to imagine how much 2007 me would have loved the idea of living in State College. When the endurance world was practically a different universe from Bloomington, IN, moving to an endurance mountain bike mecca would have been a dream come true. By the time the opportunity presented itself, it seemed like a wash from a bike standpoint. I’d more or less given up on endurance racing, and was satisfied with the fact that the Midwest had become cyclocross hot spot instead. Luckily, I had actual human love driving my decision instead of bikes.

Once I was here the famous trails taunted me, and I couldn’t help but be sucked into wanting to race them, even though I knew how hard it was. Or thought I knew. Since moving here I’ve been continually humbled by what it takes to become good at riding Rothrock, but the regular reminders have been so much more to helpful than allowing myself to become overconfident in my Brown County bubble ever did. Anytime I start worrying about how to be great, Rothrock immediately smacks me back down into my place and forces me to figure out just how to be better. I want to be pissy about my lack of natural talent and how hard I have to work for every little gain, because I feel inadequate that I still can’t even ride the Trailmix Long Course in a decent time. However, over the past ten years I’ve asked myself the question that if I can’t be great, is it worth trying to be good, and I keep coming up with the answer of yes.

Rothrock is the greatest coach I’ve ever had because it won’t stand for an overly ambitious cookie cutter plan any more than my body will. I’m allowed unlimited brutally honest conversations about how I’m feeling, where I’m thriving, and where I need work. Then together we make the decision about when and how to push my comfort zone a teeny bit more. It definitely gives new meaning to #outsideisfree.

So the prescription for this weekend, like several before it, was to #climballthethings on my ‘cross bike and slowly extend the amount of miles, feet, and speed I could handle. This added up to 48.5 miles and 4,839 feet of climbing, including two of the three worst climbs of the Wilderness 101 race. I started in the late morning and linked up the course around the time the 10-11 hour paced riders were coming through. I was able to outclimb them with fresher legs and a lighter and stiffer bike, but I’m still a long way from being able to do the whole thing on my mountain bike that fast. At least now I have a realistic conception of that and know the work it would take to get there.

Heading home after what turned out to be a very tolerable ascent of Stillhouse, I found myself passing through the camp where the Transylvania Epic is based. As much as I wanted to do that race before I leave State College, I genuinely don’t know if I can ever get body to the point of handling it. So I stopped and snapped a picture to commemorate my day, and thought, “I don’t know if I’ll ever complete ‘singletrack summer camp’, but at least I’ve made it through gravel day camp, and that’s start.”

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cat Power

It’s been another hella week at work, and my brain hasn’t had time for much beyond organizing the work required to build 200+ admissions email campaigns for all of Penn State’s regional campuses and academic colleges. Dates and filters like whoa. However, before I take off for a butt-kicking weekend in Rothrock that I’ll inevitably want to blog about on Monday, I thought I’d be remiss to let the significant event of last week slip through the cracks.

After I wrote last week about the small bit of disappointment that came when the PACX schedule finally arrived and I found myself lacking in friends that shared my excitement, my spirits were bolstered by two text different text conversions the next day. The first was with my friend Isabel regarding ‘cross clinics and shoe color choices, and I was glad for the reminder than even 10 hours apart, we can always count on each other to be amped for ‘cross. The second was from Tanya, who I met at the local Wednesday ‘cross practices last fall and with whom I’ve started doing some gravel riding this summer.

She asked if I was interested in joining the Laser Cats Feline All Stars team based out of Philadelphia, as she was going to race for them this ‘cross season. I’d seen a laser cat kit or two last season, but I hadn’t realized it was actually team. Knowing that a) this was a thing b) they were open to new female members required approximately three nanoseconds of contemplation. There’s a women’s team called Laser Cats?!! Do I want to be on it?!! Um...HECK YEAH!!!

So after a year of being a ‘cross orphan, I now I have the best features of my last two teams all at once: kits with cats on them (Velo Bella) and teammates that I will actually see at races (Speedway Wheelmen) I’m not sure if any of my new teammates has a “hot tube” yet, but I’m pretty excited.

I’m especially stoked because, in addition to solving my ‘cross orphan problem, it will also solve my “what to wear” problem. I’d been scanning the Internet for cool retail skinsuits for the season, because I thought my beautiful new TCX deserved something prettier and matchier than dumpster old Speedway Wheelmen skinsuits that were on their third season. I was really close to shelling out $220 for a Vanderkitten skinsuit a few days before this transpired, but held off in an effort to be financially responsible. It turns out my patience paid off, as I’m hoping to order a team skinsuit soon that will be even cooler.

This is the prototype I snagged from Instagram. I can only hope they are actually this fabulous in real life.

So last week was a big win in the "things work out when you let them" column. Will that trend continue into my actual racing, my anxieties about Frank's job, and my vague plans for the general future? I guess we will find out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


With the busy past couple of weeks that I’ve had at work, I just couldn’t bring myself to do any more focusing and typing than was already required of me. However, I’m starting to feel that a little mental active recovery may be in order, and last night gave me an occasion to pick up the blogging again: the PACX schedule was released.

I’ve been feeling left out after the OVCX schedule was released weeks ago and Facebook is becoming full of more muddy profile pictures, #crossiscoming, and announcements of Shamrock Cycles’ new team whiskey sponsor each day. I’ve still been counting the weeks until Nittany Lion Cross, as it would presumably be my first race of the season, but it just doesn’t feel real until the races are on the calendar and I can start to mentally walk through the season and make plans. Then last night as I waited for Frank to get home from the bike shop, I saw that the PACX schedule had quietly slipped into my news feed. Now I had a ‘cross schedule, too, although I still felt left out knowing that Frank was my only Facebook friend who would be particularly excited about this news. Still, I was excited to finally have concrete plans for the season.

I was a bit disappointed to see that the Cross of the Corn was still on the schedule for August 30 (too hot and too early) and yet the last weekend of September and first week of October were left open, making it hard to hit a groove with three weeks of no racing so early in the season. The series has also been extended from 10 to 14 races and will run four weeks later than it did last year (December 20). There is no announcement yet about the number of best races that will count this year, but last year it was a reasonable 8 out of 10.

Once I got everything on my calendar, I started to feel better about things. The August 30 race is what it is. We probably would have done the International Intergalactic Global Open Team ‘Cross Relay on that day, anyway, so I’m thinking of it not so much as the first race of the season, but the prologue to the season. It’s just something that we have to show up and do to get call-ups, then we have Labor Day Weekend, do one day of Nittany for a tune-up, and *then* the season begins. That means a double PACX weekend followed by two weekends off. Luckily, the first race of the APCXS is on one of those weekends, so we’ll probably do that as filler. Then it’s a long hard march from mid-October to late December.

To be fair, I like my ‘cross seasons like my ‘cross races: go out hard, see where you stand, and just try to hold on until the end. This schedule isn’t super conducive to that with the races that count being awfully spread out early on, then the season being long and steady in the end. I’ll make it work, though. It’s what I wait all year for.


In more recent news, Frank and I have gone gravely lately. While I’m still not particularly good at it, I don’t hate climbing gravel on my ‘cross bike the way I do on my mountain bike, so the focus for the last couple of weekends has been getting in as many gravel miles and feet of climbing as we can. It’s been fun having a new challenge to distract me from my stagnating singletrack speed, and it’s allowed us to see some new parts of Rothrock that we’ve never been to before.

Our July 4 ride in the Alan Seegar portion of the forest, which is the only part that has never been logged. Giant pines and rhododendrons abound.