Ten, wait, Eleven, Reasons Why Winter Was Also a Blur
1. The Olympics. The race season kickoff seems to creep earlier and earlier these days, but normally one can ease into things with some US racing before the big show. Not this year, World Cup #1 is March 17th in South Africa and marks the beginning of the Olympic selection process (best two Americans in World Cup Series ranking after the first four rounds) for London 2012. This necessitated the following changes to my normal winter routine.
2. Perpetual summer seeking. I like riding in the cold. Most of the time I’m content to hole up in Bend and ski in the morning while it warms up enough to ride in the afternoon with booties and a thermal jacket. This year that wouldn’t fly with the good form needed in March. So I went south.
3. California. As much as I love The Northwest, our southern neighbor is a pretty rad place to ride bikes in the winter. And most of the sponsors who get me through the summer have offices there. Thus, it was a logical start to winter training trip, 2012. Visiting and riding with the Santa Cruz area folks first, Fox Racing Shox and Giro, seemed like a logical start. We had lots of fun. And I didn’t get poison oak, the fear of which is why I didn’t spend the whole winter in Cali… Next up were Giant and Shimano in greater LA. Even sunnier. Perfect.
4. High School Kids. Also in California is the epicenter of kids getting on bikes these days. The uber-successful NorCal High School League has grown into the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. These fine folks held their annual awards banquet at Clif HQ in The Bay Area and they invited me to be the guest speaker and take some folks on a bike ride in Marin. It was a pretty eye-opening event. The students are amazingly articulate young adults who also happen to be stoked on bike riding. Happy days to them, learning an activity in school that you can carry on with through life is an incredible opportunity. NICA is hoping to bring High School MTB programs coast to coast by 2020. We should all help.
5. Sedona. While last fall was flying by I was keeping my ears open for good training locations for the winter. SoCal? Hawaii? New Zealand? Then longtime shred buddy Ross Schnell called me randomly and mentioned that he and the rest of the Over the Edge Sports shops were going in on a place in Sedona, Arizona for January and February. Sold. Sweet trails (so I was told) and super fun folks to ride with would make getting in shape seem like having a good time… Which it was, it was great to see the different crews rolling through town with a common goal, enjoy riding bikes in the sun. I met up with said crews after doing my workouts and we had lots of fun on the red rocks and never-ending trails. Go there sometime, and try to keep up with Jason First and Mike Raney from OTE’s new Sedona shop. Plus, talk to Troy about all things life.
6. Recess. With a long season ahead of me and a good solid training plan laid out with my longtime coach, Bart Bowen, I had a couple of rest weeks mixed in to regenerate and prepare for the next, ever-intensifying training block. I took advantage of some United miles and flew home to Bend for one of those weeks. It was magical to have a bonus week, house projects done, life in order, just time to spend catching up with friends and being able to relax at home. Plus, I got to go to a pretty awesome Beats Antique concert. Perfect.
7. Retail therapy. Since he loves it so much, Carl pointed out a craigslist posting for a motorbike like his. I called and they had already sold it. Oh well. Then a chance Superbowl Sunday backyard motocross session at garage framer Tony Emick’s place alerted me to the fact that it was still available. So, I got a fresh (to me, quite used though) KTM 200 XC-W. You know, to ride, and maybe even race, this fall after bike season… Pretty sure having a moto that feels like a MTB is going to make me ride more like a French Enduro racer, or maybe Danny Hart. Thanks for helping, Tony and Carl.
8. Planning. It’s going to be a long, convoluted season with many variables. This takes all kinds of vision in regard to what events to attend, how to get there and what I’ll need to succeed while there. Spring is going to fly by as well, with March 9 through May 21 spent across the Atlantic in South Africa and Europe chasing the World Cup and Olympic Selection. Here’s hoping I ride like I know I can and make the team. Regardless, summer will also fly by, mixing in some Enduro events with the XC and having a good time along the way…
9. Driving. I love being on the road, solo, with an outline but no exact plan to stick to. 3000 miles went on the old WRX (will it ever die?) from mid-January through the end of February. I met some great folks, saw some amazing scenery and assorted randomness, listened to a lot of NPR and got some good thinking done. And my beat-down car loved every mile of it. Especially the last 100, in the middle of the night in a snowstorm, hauling ass, returning home to Bend.
10. Winter. I think it flew by because I wasn’t in it much. Even Bend had record warmth through my departure in the middle of January. It was weird, not being in proper winter. Seasons run deep into my soul and I take a lot of emotional balance from the changes that come with life around the 45th Parallel. A necessary evil, chasing summer, in my opinion. This week in Bend, taking some time off the bike and watching it snow seemed to balance me out a bit, and getting straight into race season will seal the deal, but I’ll still long for the winter that never was. Good thing 2013 will see a serious paradigm shift for me… But hey, I’m always staying that. This time I mean it…
11. RACING!? Since everyone seems to prefer the list format to my run-on 2000-word reports, let’s just cover the season kick-off right here. It happened this weekend, the first one in March. I thought this was a fundamentally flawed concept, but it turns out riding your bike on sweet trails in Arizona all winter prepares one for riding on similarly sweet trails in Texas too. Despite moving from Lance’s (recently sold) ranch to a different ranch, Flat Creek Crossing, outside Austin, it was still on kick-ass (better!) singletrack and the date change resulted in P E R F E C T conditions instead of oppressive heat (like we’ll have in South Africa in 13 days). A bike meet on home soil also meant that I could hang out with my old posse from the Giant Factory Team, I miss you, Felice, Carl, Kelli, Frank and Steve K. Love your work, and company. Anxious doesn’t really speak to how curious I was to get to racing and see if I was on track, regardless of Nerd Box (SRM powermeter) quantification of my homework. Turns out I’m decently in shape, or at least good at riding my shiny new Anthem X 29er (26” is dead to me) on funsie trails. Or off the trails, which I was forced to do often after flatting out of the lead group about seven minutes into the race. I passed a lot of random dudes, and eventually people I recognized, after Frank gave me a handy-dandy new (inflated) wheel. Almost all of ‘em. Ended up 7th in the shortest XC race I’ve ever done, under 1:20 isn’t even time to have a drink or warm up… I almost didn’t care about the flat and ensuing couple of minutes lost, I was just stoked to be having a good time racing my bike (fast!) and feeling good about it. Here’s hoping that’s a trend that continues. Max Plaxton won, which won me $5. Rabobank/Giant teammate Katie “it’s the off-season” Compton ended up fourth, an impressive off-the-couch effort made all the more awesome by some comments made the night before about her competition… I’m glad we’re teammates, her being hilarious will make ten weeks in Europe go by much faster…
PS- I’m still building it out, whatever that means but I’ve created a Facebook Athlete page. Go Like it and I’ll do my best to cleverly keep y’all up to date this season. Good stuff is going to happen.