Monday, April 14, 2014

Here’s to the Heavy 20’s…


                When I started working my coworkers introduced me to what they call their decades…There’s the light 20’s…mid 20’s…heavy 20’s…or whatever decade of existence you’re in.  Well this weekend I entered my heavy 20’s at the Clarksburg Crit, but that’s not how I started out my birthday week. J

                The week started with an awesome group ride with Jeff, Shawn, and JR out in Morgantown.  Jeff and I needed some pre-ride fueling so we headed to Rising Creek Bakery for some baked goods.  Making a decision on what to get was a little difficult since everything looked and smelled amazing!  Still wishing I tried one of those macaroons, but the banana bread with icing was just what I needed to keep me going for three hours.

Just a few of the delicious treats from Rising Creek Bakery

                Last year, I opted to work on my birthday.  This year I opted to take a four day weekend!  Probably one of the best ideas I’ve had lately.  I don’t think I stopped moving the entire weekend. 

                Saturday was the Clarksburg Crit.  It was a perfect day with sunny skies and weather we haven’t seen in Pittsburgh in over half a year!  Dynamic Physical Therapy had a great day with multiple podium finishes.  I don’t think I could have asked for a better birthday present then going 1 - 2 at the crit with my teammate, Cara. 



Sunday started a little rough with a 630 wakeup call after a night out celebrating at dinner with my girl friends.  Dinner at Eleven was a blast!!!  Wine, good food, and great company is always the perfect combination!  Let’s not forget about Chocolate Stout Cake…. (I may have eaten it for breakfast this morning--thank you Christine).  But after some coffee (and prayers that I wouldn’t die) I was ready for my first ride.

What a good looking group of ladies, right? ;)
 
 
JR, Shawn, Jeff, Stephanie, Gerry, and I headed out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Stephanie said at the beginning “it’s always an adventure on a JR ride”.  Man, was she right!  I went to bed last night thinking “what the heck did I just do?!” …”wow, I’m glad I survived”.  I don’t think anyone realized that unless you tell me to get off and walk because it might be a little too difficult for a first time ride, I’ll just follow the group and try to do whatever they’re doing.  Having JR say “you are the best first time mountain biker I have ever seen” makes me feel pretty darn good.  Who knew 18 years of gymnastics would make me a somewhat decent first time mountain biker!  I’m very thankful for good body awareness.  Nothing like endo-ing for the first time and being able to catch the bike before it lands on your head.  (Sorry about crashing your bike multiple times, Stephanie.)  I will say I’m a little disappointed Jeff didn’t have the GoPro with him; we would have had a couple nice falls on tape…Next time.


 

Water break post endo.  Stephanie said "we need to see blood today"...There was definitely some blood shed. :)

 (Yes, that is a My Little Pony on Gerry's bike..he's a Brony)




It’s been five years since I’ve been on a team.  While I never thought anything could compare to the companionship and camaraderie I had on Temple Gymnastics being on DPT has surpassed all expectations and the season is just beginning!  Can’t wait for more adventures.

                Tomorrow it’s back to business, but I can’t thank everyone enough for making this one of my best birthdays yet!


Sunday, April 13, 2014

“Why Do You Race Bicycles?”

So, the most common question I get from friends and co-workers is, “why do you ride your bike and train so much?” There are many answers I could give them, but there is only one REAL reason I spend countless hours in the winter doing Zone 4 and 5 intervals and pushing my body to its limit and beyond.

I could tell them that it’s because I find a sense of balance, in a sometimes hectic world, when I am riding on my bike and that I can suspend reality for just a few hours.

I could tell them that I just simply enjoy riding my bike and it’s something I have done for years that I love and have a passion for doing.

I could tell them that I just love having those really, really cool tan lines all cyclists get each season.

I could tell them that I enjoy spending countless hours shaving my legs each year. I don’t know if they may believe that however (insert sarcasm)

However, here is the true reason why I ride, train, and race my bike so much:
















And This:




For me, it’s not about the individual praise that I may receive. It’s about the satisfaction and accomplishment I feel personally when the team does well and I can share in that feeling with my teammates, that I do this. Knowing that I have pushed myself as hard as I could for someone else, and that all my hard work and sacrifice means that someone else can feel that sense of accomplishment, means more to me than anything……

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Beet-down!

So I alluded to it in a previous blog that I had purchased Golden Beets and was going to give them a try. Jeff Curry, of Koele's cycling recommended that I cube them and roast them in foil.  Since he is a devout vegetarian, I took his advice and gave them a shot. HOLY COW they were good. Not asparagus or sweet corn good, but I would pick beets over many other options in my usual menus.

After cleaning the beets in cold water and peeling, I cubed them into roughly ¾" cubes. I put them in foil, drizzled with EVOO, and seasoned with sea salt, garlic and a little cayenne pepper for a little kick.I put them in the oven at 450° for about 40 minutes and patiently waited... When I checked them, they weren't quite done, so I put them back in, uncovered for another 10 minutes.

The beets had a bit of an earthy smell and my first thought was that they were going to taste like dirt, but what a pleasant surprise. I ate the entire contents of the foil package and when I was done, wished I had a few more beets to eat. But the good news is... I pass the grocery store where I found them every work day, sometimes twice a day. I will be hitting McGinnis Sisters in the very near future with Golden beets on my mind... or maybe I'll just try another new veggie instead.

Weekend at Billys

This past weekend was a weekend free of racing, so I decided to tag along with Billy and head up to his dad’s farmhouse on the shores of Lake Erie. Even as the weather was finally starting to warm up, I was really looking forward to getting away from the Burgh for a little R&R.  The plan was to head north and ride my trusty Cannondale Caffiene in and around the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.  There isn’t any single mile of singletrack, but there are miles and miles of dirt and gravel roads that are closed to automobile traffic, as well miles of mowed paths.  It would have been ideal for a cross bike, but as mine was trashed in the car accident, we were forced into using our second choice out of the stable.


Saturday morning, we departed Billy’s home and started making our way to the northwest corner of Ohio.  After a brief stop for breakfast, we arrived a little after noon to the farmhouse.  The brutal winter took its toll on the house and as we arrived to find the water lines had burst in the basement, even with waterline antifreeze in the system. Billy’s dad was going to head to town with the girls to get parts while Billy and I headed out on the bikes.  Despite the early forecasts for mild temperatures, it was downright cold as we headed out the door. Somewhere in the mid to high 20’s, depending on who’s thermometer you wanted to trust. But it wasn’t the cold that was memorable, it was the WIND.  Blowing in directly off the lake, the cold air bore right through even the thickest of layers. 
Gotta love some beach time!

We parked, jumped on the bikes and started straight into the wind. As you can see from my Strava file, even the trails are mostly arrow straight.  We couldn’t ride all the trails because there were several  nesting sites for Bald Eagles in the refuge area that were roped off and access was prohibited. But we eventually made our way out to the shores of the lake.  The water along the shore yards was frozen solid to at least 100 yards out.  If it looks like our smiles are forced, they are.  Just taking my glove off to hold the camera and take the photo was painful. BITTER COLD.


After riding in the cold, I was looking forward to a hot shower… until I remembered that we still hadn’t fixed the water line. That became my first priority… we cut out the broken section, glued a new piece in place, turned on the water and the water poured out of the pressure regulator and the expansion tank… ugh!  A quick phone call and we found the parts we needed, but as it was after 7pm, and we hadn’t eaten since around 10am, we were all starting to get touchy.  We combined our trips and grabbed the parts, and finally got some good food in our bellies.  After dinner, we put our efforts together and finally got the new regulator, expansion tank, and pvc pipe in place.  It was a bit disheartening when we turned the water on for a third time and heard water rushing, but to my relief, it was on the line to the outside spigot and on the “other” side of the ball valve and it was easily isolated. By 10PM, we finally had water, but my hot shower was going to have to wait, I was too tired to wait up for the hot water tank to heat the water.

We woke up Sunday to Sunny blue skies and relatively no wind. Temps were still hovering around freezing, but without the wind it was really pleasant.  Billy wanted to get in some extra riding so he rolled out a few minutes earlier than I did, but I had a general idea of where he was headed so I decided to just try to catch up to him.  I followed his tracks in the snow for well over an hour and I thought I had him trapped on a large peninsula and knew he would have to ride back past me to head somewhere else, but found out that there was an unmapped levy on the peninsula that took him over to even more trail options.  As the snow had melted by this point, I lost his trail and had to pick what looked like the path I would have expected him to take, but guessed wrong. I rode for a little while longer and then headed home to wait for him.As it turned out, he was out for another 2 1/2 hours and we had to go pick him up when he flatted and then discovered his spare tube had a large slice in it.
For the record, this is not Dynamic Physical Therapy's handiwork, but it did the trick!


It was great to get out and ride again. Because of the thumb, I wasn’t able to shift the rear derailleur without out letting go of the grips and using the palm of my hand to select the gear.  Thank God the trails were as flat as they were and with 45 miles of riding in two days, I registered ZERO vertical feet of
climbing.  Shifting was at a minimum and only required with a change of direction because of the wind or when the trail cover went from gravel to grassy stubble.  It was just what the doctor ordered. Thanks Billy, Arryn, Addie, and of course, Rich for putting up with me for the weekend.   Can’t wait to get to do it again!

Monday, March 31, 2014

“In like a lion, out like a lamb


 “My new teammates Cara and Chas remind me what it’s like to be a college student again”-Billy.

As I sat and read through my teammate’s blog last week, I read that quote a second and third time. It left me frozen at my laptop screen as I realized that for the first time in awhile I forgot what it was like to be a college student myself. I tried jamming so many things into the beginning of the semester that I was barely having time to enjoy them. It wasn’t a surprise that it all caught up with me and I was left locked out my apartment dressed in my bike kit and slippers.
            After a long phone call with my dad who is 330 miles back home in New Jersey, I found a new perspective and reconnected with my old self again. It reminded me why I wanted to learn how to ride a road bike in the first place: to be able to finally join my dad on bike rides. Somehow in the mist of the chaos, I had spread myself so thin to the point that I grown farther away from my family. I’m glad that it only took a couple little dumb mistakes to realize it, but I just wish I would’ve seen it before it affected others around me as well.

(My dad and I at the Navy road race last spring)
           
On a brighter note, I was able to make it to some pretty sick competitions in the past month.

I traveled down to UNC with the WVU Cycling team for an amazing weekend with a second in the crit and third in the road race. 



(Chas and I trying to stay warm before the race. I will never own enough clothes to be warm.)



(My girls and I at the start line.)

I also became closer with some new friends :) 




I ended the month with Equestrian Semifinals Championship. Even though I know you all are huge collegiate equestrian super fans, I will briefly explain what this means. Each Region sends their Regional Champion Western Team to one of three Semi-Final sites (which is Ohio, Texas, and North Carolina this year). The three top teams at each site will advance onto Finals in May. Riders from all over the country from California to Arizona to Indiana shuffled into the St Andrews University show grounds bright and early for day 1. By day 2 only a few schools remained standing. It ended up being the closest horse show I have ever been apart of with Clemson and St Andrews running away with the top 2 spots and leaving a 3-way tie for the last Nationals spot going into the last class between Delaware Valley, New York State, and WVU. Unfortunately, Delaware Valley took the 3rd spot. However, one of my teammates qualified for Nationals individually, so we are all wishing her the best of luck.

(Members of the WVU Equestrian Team that qualified for Semifinals)




I prepare to finish out the last month of this semester with a few changes set forth. The first is obvious: To not overschedule myself. I need to refocus on school and slowing down the pace to be able to enjoy every minute left of being a student. Second, to never go a week without talking to my family again. No one should ever be too busy to talk to his or her mom. Period.

I have already started my first steps into getting back to the old way of life. I recently stepped down as Co-Captain of the Equestrian Team. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can only focus on one sport while I finish out the remaining of my Masters to be able to get the most out of it.


March happened in the split of a second and it left me with a giant lesson learned the hard way.



Side lesson learned: don’t race sick. Ever. Even if it is a training race. Your doctor will lecture you when he gives you antibiotics. Also, the last 4 laps will be the worst. I also learned this the hard way…           

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Broccolini What?

I think I have some kind of black rash on my face...
A couple weeks ago, after the first West Pennsylginia Spring Classic, the ABRA Training Race at the base of the Laurel Mountains in Fairchance, PA, the Allegheny Cycling Association was to hold their annual Awards Banquet at Lattitude 40. Like so many of the race participants, at the conclusion of the racing, I packed up and quickly headed for parts north. This was going to be my second Banquet that I’d be attending and was really looking forward to the evening with Amber and so many of my cycling friends. The first year was a very special year for me because I took home the Individual Championship in the “C”s with Teammate Shawn Geiger taking home 4th place honors in the “C”s as well.  And this year was special for another reason as the Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder Cycling Team took home the Team Championship in the “B”s and I would be introduced as one of the new board members for the ACA.  After getting all gussied up, Amber and I headed out to Robinson with Mackdiddle in tow.  At almost 2 years old, it can be a real crap shoot as to whether or not she is going to be on her best behavior.  I swear she has already learned to say the word “NO” in 14 different languages as well as morse code. But on this night, we were blessed with the little angel that we know and love.  Thank God for answered prayers!
All gussied up!


For someone who LOVES bubbles, this lighted bubble wall left a lasting impression on Mackdiddle 

For a second year in a row, the food was outstanding and with the asparagus being on the menu, I was reminded about the previous year when I discovered my love for that vegetable. Up until I was 41 years old, I had it ingrained in my head that I hated that particular vegetable. But being left with no other healthy option, I had put a healthy portion on my plate and vowed to myself that I would eat as much as I could without complaining about it. To my surprise, I found myself devouring that, plus a second portion as I had found a new favorite veggie.  And as I sat there eating dinner this year, I kindof laughed to myself out how ironic it was that I went from cringing at the thought of eating asparagus to buying 4-5 pounds in an average month. (Heck, there are 4 pounds of it in my fridge right now.) And with that little revelation, my mind started wandering... what are some other vegetables that I shy away from because I learned as a kid to hate them. Or what have I've never tried because I always had a different, more familiar option to eat instead?  I made up my mind to be more open to trying new foods, especially healthy ones and to make decisions based on whats true for my tastebuds and not on stories.

Ten days later, I found myself shopping Brunton's Chocolate milk at McGinnis Sisters in Monroeville. With a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, I was reminded of my promise I had made myself at the banquet. So I started shopping the produce aisle. One of the things that caught my eye was Brocolini. So I grabbed a "bunch" and checked out. When I got back to the office, I googled Broccolini and found out that it was a cross between Broccoli and Chinese Kale. It had florets similar to its big brother but had stalks more like the consistency of asparagus. I found a recipe or two online and thought sauteing them in butter, garlic, salt, and a dash of red pepper sounded good. But when I got home, Amber said she was in the mood to make one of her favorites, pasta with broccoli and cheese. With a little convincing, I persuaded her to give the Broccolini a go. 

So we started prepping. I blanched the broccolini in salt water and after a couple minutes, shocked them in an ice bath. On a whim, I blanched some of the asparagus for a few minutes as well and added that to the dish. 

Amber prepared 2 boxes of whole wheat rotini and started dicing a small block of Monterey Jack. 

With the pasta done, we placed that into a cold water bath to stop the cooking process as well. We set aside a portion of the plain pasta for Mackdiddle to snack on this week. We cut the broccolini and asparagus into about 1 inch long sections and added that to the bowl with the cheese cubes. A little parmesan cheese, lite italian dressing, and some chia seeds and dinner was ready.

So my thoughts on the broccolini is that I will definitely eat it again.  As you might expect, it tastes alot like broccoli but with a flavor all its own. In hindsight, its a safe food adventure but it was nice to actually get Amber to try a new food with out having to threaten her with bodily harm.

If I had my own rating scale, I would give it a 5 out of a possible 5 cranks.

Spoiler alert... I also bought Golden Beets. I haven't eaten beets since I was about 6 years old and eating dinner at my friend, Gregg Cooks. Stay tuned for my impressions of that adventure

Monday, March 24, 2014

Viva la Suenos-A Mexican Pictorial

Days in Mexico for me usually begin here on the roof with a cup of coffee and a nice view of the East side of Isla Mujeres. I can have a beautiful view and check out the morning traffic before starting out for morning training.

Mara Villa Caribe,  Isla Mujeres 
I recommend getting in a nice breakfast before doing any hard training. I like to work on sprints and 20 minute intervals here because there is a variety of terrain. I fuel up heavily before I roll out.

Breakfast on the Villa private beach
7am is the time of choice to get on the road. It gets pretty hot mid-day so I like to be back in by 10 or 11.

Getting on with it-Isla Mujeres 
2 long stretches of road make Isla Mujeres perfect for intervals. The views are awesome for dulling the pain or enjoying the recovery.


Open Roads

All Roads have a View

Spending so much time on the bike would typically be a problem but Caito loves to collect sea glass for jewelry designs and ride around in her Barbie Car while I train!



After many hard days on the bike we decided to head off the island and into the Jungle. This year we went to Chichen Itza. This is the best time of year for a visit as it is the Spring Equinox. The most special time for the Mayan people. History tells us that they believe it the combining of the Earthworld and the Underworld. A perfect time to make wishes to the Gods.

El Castillo, Chichen Itza
We drum and dance to summon the Serpent Kulkukan!


Tribal Drums to Summon the Cycling Gods



Dance to Summon the Cycling Gods

I not very superstitious but decided this was the perfect time to prey to the Gods for a safe and productive year! The story says that at the moment of the Equinox a Serpent Snake Spirit (called Kulkukan) will slither down the side of the pyramid El Castillo and into the underworld. I decided to follow him.

Kulkukan to the Underworld
I climb deep to wrestle Kulkukan.

Cenote Snake Wrestling
I defeated him so the Mayan people danced in my honor!

Devin was Victorious!
 They put me on the Local Mayan liquor Label!

I'm Famous Here!

All the fame must have gone to my head. Caito was not very happy so she decided to put life back into perspective.

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

No Way Jose

Got it!


Wow-that was close. I guess I should include Caito on a recovery spin.





After 10 days of hard training it's time to put the legs up. Hopefully I will have a chance to balance some of those wicked tan lines.

Tired

In the end I remind myself that it is a privilege to be supported by such great teammates and sponsors. Cycling is a difficult road to travel. We spend much time and money in order to live up to our own expectations, fulfill dreams and play a part in something bigger than ourselves- Our Team. All of the help during our journey is needed, welcomed and apppreciated. We can't do what we love without You. Thanks Team!


12 days later and 4 lbs lighter