Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My plans for the season

It's been a tough first few months of winter. I've put in some big hours in ungodly cold temperatures, but it's time to head south for warmer climates, and from here the year starts quickly. I've left for Arkansas for a little under a month to get some solid training in a place where there is no risk of frostbite. I will be home in march, then will leave for California to do a big block and stay with the Haley's. Towards the end of that trip we will race Sea Otter, then it's out to New Mexico to race the tour of Gila. Shortly after which it's time to get on a plane for Belgium to race internationally for a few weeks. In June I will head west to do Nationals in California, and the Cascade classic in Bend Oregon. I will finish off my road season with another trip to Belgium and will fit in some local races when possible

This will be my first year U23 on the road so my focus will be learning and getting good results to build my resume. I will be racing with Flanders Cycling, a local Minnesota team. The owners, the Flanders brothers have developed a TON of experience over their long Cycling careers. It is an honor to race for a team with such a history and there will be a lot to learn from them.

Putting in the hours I do in 10 degree and below temperatures was extremely mentally (and physically) taxing. It got to the point where a 30 degree day felt so warm I would walk outside to do chores in a sweater. Now all there is to deal with is sunshine and a little wind! It's been 40-60 degrees, with some rain sprinkled in. With my Lazer Helmets Aeroshell this feels like paradise. 

Being in colder weather really increases air drag, between the denser air and the baggy clothes it makes a huge difference. In Minnesota on a road bike I was training at around 28-30kph, now at the same effort level in Arkansas it's 38-42kph. This does wonders for your motivation because part of the fun of riding is you get to go relatively fast under your own power, and the faster you go the more you see while riding.

So far there hasn't been too much of an issue with the traffic down here in the deep south. I've only had one guy buzz me. However, it's obvious I'm in a city, not the out in the sticks. Luckily it's only a short ride on the bike trail to get out of the city!

So far Arkansas seems like a diamond in the rough to me. On the surface it seems like just another urbanized industrial area... However once you do some exploring it rolls back the curtains and shows you some fairly impressive natural grandeur.
When you live in a place with winters as intense as Minnesota, there are certain things you just forget. Like the sound of waves washing ashore on a lake, the sight of sunlight bouncing off a rippling river, the sound of frogs chirping in a marsh, and what the color green really looks like. it's nice to be remind of those things and others a few months early.
It's been fun riding somewhere new and meeting new people. I do miss home a little, but not training there. The training really isn't THAT bad when it's 20s or higher, it's mostly that I've ridden everything around my house. Exploring is fun and makes training significantly easier, so when you already know exactly what you'll see it can take the wind out of your sails. Learning how to deal with that however, is a key thing in training for any outdoor sport. So when the time comes to train at home, I'll be ready. For now, it's just about enjoying what's happening in the present.
What's over the top of that hill? something I've never seen before.

Friday, December 26, 2014

What's been going on this Winter

As the nights get colder, my life and training starts to transition. I'm done riding my road bike now, it's time to give my MTB and 'Cross bike their time in the spotlight. There has been a lot of snow riding, whether it's on gravel roads or on singletrack. I've also been in the gym and doing uphill running for leg strength. After the first few weeks of winter training, it always starts to get hard to motivate yourself to go out and get the big hours in. You really have to dig deep and figure out why you're doing this. Because I'll be honest, most of the time winter training is not fun. It's cold, slow, limited, and boring. Once in a while you'll get that perfect day with sun, no wind, and perfectly packed ice/snow, but that rarely happens. This year it has helped a ton to have groomed MTB trails to ride on in mission creek.

It's also been a bit weird to be home during Christmas, I keep feeling like I should be in Belgium racing. A lot of my friends are out racing in Belgium and I kinda feel... out of the loop. While everyone else is out racing in the mud, I'm here riding snow. On one hand it feels good. I couldn't have kept racing after the road season I did, I would have been below par fitness wise and mentally. The strain of everything being super serious and disciplined is not there either, which is nice. After the last few years of racing almost year round, I got used to constantly feeling like everything has to be perfect, which isn't healthy.

Outside of Cycling, the farm has been doing well. We currently have 7 litters of little piglets on the farm so most of the chores are localized to the barn. The snow and freezing temperature has kept the farm from getting crazy messy like it does in the spring and summer. We've now had 25 litters on the farm in less than a year, and some of our sows are approaching their 2nd or 3rd litter on the farm. The nice thing about chores is it keeps you outside and is never boring, the pigs always have something to say and want attention. It's been less than a year of doing pigs full time and we're already supplying 8 restaurants and the Duluth Co-op.

Things have been tough, but that's just a part of life, athlete or not. Some how I have to find the strength to push through the snow.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Summer in Basque Country part 2: The Racing

The races in Basque country are hilly. Mountainous in fact. When I first arrived, I looked at the race profiles and thought "really? Only 70k? That doesn't sound very far." When the road goes up and down though, it's long enough. Still, the races are pretty short. Usually only about two or two and half hours with some of bigger races being three. This allows them to be vicious and punchy, with tons of attacks and accelerations. As time went on I learned when to react and when to sit in. I was amazed how serious the racing was. Closed roads, full race caravans... In the first few races my seat was too low, which affected me a lot. I went to a bike shop and fixed that but shortly after I crashed hard. I feel like I never reached my full potential due to that injury but nevertheless I raced hard and learned a lot.

After racing in Basque Country for a while we went to Belgium for a week. I did a small Kermesse and a really big one called the Johan Museeuw classic. I was amazed at how incredibly fast the races there are. I had fun seeing some of my friends from 'Cross season while in Belgium, it felt good to be in a familiar place where I knew at least a little bit of the language.

One of the cool parts about racing over there is how team orientated things were. We trained together, raced together, traveled together and sometimes slept together. We had races where we'd have vague jobs to do for the team without compartmentalizing individuals. I did two big tours, The tour of Bizkaia and the Tour of Pamplona.

As the racing went on I got in more and more breakaways. None of them made it to the finish, but I kept going for them. Eventually, in my last race in Basque country, one did. I got away with one other rider before the big climb of the day with 4 riders up ahead. When the lead group of six riders caught us, the rest of the field was no where to be seen. I finished 10th that day.

To conclude my trip, I traveled to the UK to race the tour of Wales. The final stage was wet and miserable, just the way I like it. A group of riders got away and once I realized they wouldn't be pulled back I attacked. One other rider stayed with me and we worked together for a while, but he wasn't strong enough and was quickly dropped. I was solo with about ten seconds on the field for a while when two riders bridged up to me. We worked together well and the gap up to the front group slowly ticked down. When we caught the breakaway, we had a minute and a half on the field. The group worked together well up until about 10k to go. I had no idea how long it was until the final climb and started to get nervous. I should have attacked right there and then. Just as we hit the climb, the race leader came blazing by us with others in tow. Away in the break away all day only to be caught with 4k to go.

That concluded my final junior race. The last one I would ever do. I enjoyed my next week in Scotland, sight seeing and exploring, then flew home.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My summer in Basque country part 1: The culture

As promised here is the first of a several part series on my experience this past summer in Basque country with the Basque Junior team Beste Alde Orue Eskola.

First of, you may ask the question; why Basque Country? Most people haven't even heard of this place, let alone thought of racing there. To answer this I have to go back to the fall of 2013 in Belgium, specifically the Chainstay in Oudenaarde. One of the other people staying there at the time happened to be the father of a Scottish Junior who had done an exchange program with Beste Alde. He talked about it very favorably and I liked the idea of racing in the mountains with big junior fields so I contacted the coach of the team and things went from there. More specifically you may ask WHY Basque Country, not just why it happened. I'm a climber, I prefer mountainous terrain and really hard races that are very hard to find in the US, especially if you're not a pro. I also knew firsthand from the previous year in Belgium how much racing against European Juniors teaches you. Especially when the fields are 100-200 riders deep. I decided on the time frame of the end of June to the beginning of September, which had me miss US Nationals but do a lot of very high level races like the Tour of Bizkaia, Tour of Pamaplona, and Tour of Wales. The purpose of this trip was to learn how to race in such big fields, learn how to climb better, and grow as a rider and person.

While I was in the Basque Country I lived with a host family. They were my friends, replacement family, and support crew for the summer. When I crashed and got road rash, Begonia (The mother) took care of me with love and I didn't have to cook a single meal while I was there. Josu (the father) drove me to many races and taught me about Basque Country despite his limited knowledge of English. Txomin and Jon (the sons) were great friends and made sure I was included when everyone was rattling off in Basque and I didn't understand what was going on. They are incredibly generous people who welcomed me into their home without reserve. Their house was located in a incredibly scenic spot, right outside the small town of Abadiño which is just outside of Durango. Every morning I woke up to a view of the Pyrenees.

The Community in Abadiño is very tightly knit, most everyone knows everyone. In general throughout Basque Country, there is a lot of Holidays/Parties, or "Fiestas" during the summer months. There was quite a few times where I was unable to go shopping because I forgot there was some Fiesta that day and all the shops were closed. Family, extended family, friends, and Neighbors all gathered for Birthday parties. While I was there I attended Jon's Grandmother's Birthday party. There was a lot of wine snacks, and a cake. What made it different from the US is how many people were there celebrating this woman. A good portion of the veggies at the party were grown in gardens around town. Pretty much everyone with enough space grows their own vegetables.
A lot of the food is vegetables, cured red meats, bread, and sea food. The food was incredible, similar yet different from the food I eat on my own farm. Much to my delight the first meal I had while there was Cured Coppa, one of the specialties of one of the Restaurants we supply. My generous Host Mother cooked me a lot of amazing dishes, one I had a lot was two slices of ham deep fried in butter with melted cheese in between. Yes it's as good as it sounds. 
All in all, Basque country is a fantastic place full of amazing people, food, and places. I had the time of my life over there and will remember the experience for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chequamegon Short & Fat 2014

I'm still working on my blogs for the summer, but I thought I'd do a quick update on how the Chequamegon went. This was my sixth time doing the race, and I really wanted to win it. I've been 100 something, 15th, 7th, and 3rd the previous years. This year I decided to take a risk and ride my 'Cross bike. I pre-rode the course on it and decided that while it was rough on the rocky sections, the extra speed on the hills and gravel was worth it.  I opted to run my HED Ardennes with Challenge Chicanes.

The morning of the race was very frosty and cold. I warmed up for 50 minutes with heavy clothes, but my legs were still stiff at the start. The plan was to make an attack at the second, larger gravel hill. When I made my attack I remember thinking that that attacked wasn't fast enough. I doubted that anyone was dropped but when I looked back, only one rider was on my wheel, Fletcher Arlen. We worked together for a while, trading attacks, until he made one that stuck in the rocky section after the Birkie. I was at a slight disadvantage because of my 'Cross bike. However I just got on top of a gear and started to close down the small gap. Once I could see him I decided to let him dangle until the finish so he'd be tired coming into the finale. We hit the gravel and I attacked! The Cross bike was a huge advantage on the gravel, and all the road racing helped. 

After the Short and fat I tried doing a few races but felt extremely tired from my big summer. After having my friend Gavin over for one last week of base training, I am now taking a few weeks to a month off the bike. I might do some racing later in the season, but I'm not promising anything. I also have been working on blog posts recapping the summer in Basque Country, so look forward to that soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Lesson in Pain

It's been a surreal first three weeks in Basque country. I have not been active on my blog simply because things have been more about adjusting to life here and trying to experience as much as possible. Last week was probably the biggest race in the schedule for this year, The Tour of Bizkaia. This was a world caliber junior race, the level was very high and the courses were very hard. Consisting of 5 stages over 4 days, with 2 mountaintop finishes, over a dozen cat 2 and 3 climbs, and one double stage on the last day with a Road race in the morning and a 12k Time Trial in the afternoon.

My entrance to the race went pretty well. I felt good for stage 1,  besides the rather eye opening experience of going 80kph down hill with hundreds of other riders packed around you, it was rather uneventful until the finishing climb. I was ran into by another rider at the base of the climb and nearly went down, we hooked bars and he crashed. Because of this, when the gaps started to open I wasn't in the first group. I trailed in the next group back for the rest of the climb and finished pretty happy at 55th place out of 200 some riders, confident for the next day.

After the 1st stage the race got a lot harder. No one was holding back for a final climb, so the whole day was very fast and hard. On stage 2 the lead group finished with an average speed of 41kph despite two cat 3 climbs that day. At some point my seat slipped down without me noticing and I paid for it dearly. Between that and getting hit by a car recently my back started to hurt, and a lot. I fiddled with my position over the final three stages but never quite figured it out and became familiar with an ever constant pain, both physically and mentally. You see, I've never actually quit a race. I've been pulled out, but never taken myself out of a race. This is something I take great pride in and it was the stage for a battle between myself and I over 7 hours of collective racing

I did a lot of solo riding over the week, no resting, nothing to distract myself from the pain besides the occasional cheering from spectators. For the last 30k or so of stage 3 I simply repeated the line "pain is temporary" out loud over and over again. I'm sure from an onlooker I may have looked a little bit insane. In the moment, there was many times I would have gladly been kicked in the balls if it would have some how transported me to the finish line. The physical pain itself wasn't the hard part. I'm pretty used to that. It was the idea that I was enduring this pain as the victim, not the aggressor. Pain can feel rather good when you're doing well in a race, but when you're dropped it serves only as a reminder that you're not good enough. I told myself I was going to quit many, many times over the weekend. In the end however, I just couldn't bring myself to end it.

Now that it's all over, I can look back at it with pride. Sure, I did terrible results wise, even if you consider the caliber of field. However I made mistakes and I'm learning from them. The biggest thing to me is that I didn't quit. I endured. For now, that's enough.

Don't think I haven't had any fun though! The past weeks have been just that almost exclusively, racing or not. Over the next week I'm going to catch up on my experiences, but I think this will be all for now.

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Plans for the Summer.

Up until now I've been fairly vague about my plans for this summer. Some of you may be wondering if I'm doing anything at all... While I'm in the USA I'll be guest riding for various teams and I'm riding for Focus bikes, HED Wheels, Enzo's Cycling Products, and Lazer Helmets across the board.

So my plans...I am very excited to announce that from June 22nd to September 1st I will be racing with a Spanish team called Beste Alde Orue Eskola in the the province Basque country (which is in Spain). We will also be racing in Belgium, and the UK for the Junior Tour of Wales. I will live, race, and train at the foothills of the Pyrenees for 2 months. Obviously this is a huge and very exciting opportunity for me, the caliber of racing I'll be attending is really high and will be on closed roads with 60-120, 17-18 year old's everyday. Plus I will get to do lots of climbing, my favorite type of riding. This year really is a dream come true for me, I've wanted to race in the Pyrenees ever since I watched The Tour de France for the first time.

I've had a fairly late start to the season as I've been plagued by a recurring hip injury that started at my crash in the Namur World Cup last December. It was a long and frustrating winter between that and the record breaking sub zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures but my confidence is high and I'm feeling stronger than ever. My racing season started with an excellent trip out to Colorado to get some quality training and racing in. I guest rode for Natural Grocers in Colorado. Soon after getting home I raced Kenwoods, on my HED Jet 5 wheels, where I placed second in the  1/2 race. Last weekend I went out to the first Minnesota series XC Mountain bike race, the Wooly in St Croix. Unfortunately a crash wherein I broke my lazer helmet forced me to take the last two laps easy as to not injure myself for my upcoming trip, but I still had tons of fun riding some really great singletrack on my beautiful new Focus Raven 29'er.

This weekend I've opted to go to the Memorial Classic in Minnesota instead of my usual staple of the Snake alley weekend. I'm sad to miss such a classic as Snake, but it just makes more sense to do an Omnium with two road races and a TT with my upcoming schedule.

The Basque country is a rather confusing conglomerate of provinces in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain on the Atlantic coast, and is  home to the Basque people, who (mostly) speak Basque (Euskara). Basque country is thought to have been home to some of the oldest civilizations in ancient history.

 "According to some theories, Basques may be the least assimilated remnant of the Paleolithic inhabitants of Western Europe (specifically those of the Franco-Cantabrian region known as Azilian) to the Indo-European migrations. Basque tribes were mentioned by Greek writer Strabo and Roman writer Pliny, including the Vascones, the Aquitani, and others. There is considerable evidence to show their Basque ethnicity in Roman times in the form of place-names, Caesar's reference to their customs and physical make-up, the so-called Aquitanian inscriptions recording names of people and gods etc."

While racing in Spain, I'll be staying in the city of Durango (Which was the first place in the world to be attacked by Nazi Germany's Airforce in 1937 during the Spanish civil war) in the province of Biscay. I'll end this with some pictures of the mind blowing landscape and architecture. As most of you know I am Home schooled and these trips are a big part of my education in seeing different cultures and learning new languages (I am currently learning Spanish and I'm sure I'll pick up some Basque). In short, I am very excited for this opportunity to become more worldly and create memories that will last a lifetime! Thank You to every one that has supported me in making this happen.