Friday, October 30, 2015

Life is Awesome

Recently in English class we watched a TED Talk on how life can be awesome if you let it be; it talked about the three As of awesome: Attitude, Awareness, and Authenticity. It was done by a man named Neil Pasricha, who has a blog and has published a book called "The Book of Awesome". I'm not going to go very in depth into it because the video is everywhere and it would serve you better to watch it than to read my description of it. The basic idea, though, is that with these three things, you can see awesomeness in everything. This has got me thinking about everything that I think is awesome in the world, from simpler things like cold fall afternoons and snowy nights to more obvious things like cycling and physics. In this blog post I'm simply going to list a few things that I find to be exceptionally awesome, each followed by a brief explanation.
(Here is a link to the TED Talk:

Going out of your way while walking to step on the crunchy leaves
I love walking home from school and taking very wide, awkward strides just so I can crunch as many leaves as possible. When I see a leaf ahead and plan to step on it, only to find, when I do, that it is very soft and damp, a pure sense of disappointment runs though my mind. However, that disappointment is countered many times over by the amount of satisfaction that I get when I step on a leaf and hear that wonderful 'ckrunch' sound, like biting down on a kettle-cooked potato chip. This is even better when my feet are cradled in my wonderful Swiftwick socks.
Image result for crunchy leaves

Walking down the road at night after a fresh snow
Snow on its own is incredibly awesome, as is night time, and peaceful walks. The combination of all three is really too good for words, but I'm going to try it here. Walking down the road at night after a fresh snow when my footsteps are the only disturbance on the pristine white surface is definitely on my list of "Top 10 Things that I Live For".

Mountain biking in the fall
I love mountain biking, of course, and something about doing it in the cool fall air with the leaves on the ground makes it that much better. There are all kinds of reasons but I'll try to mention the less obvious ones. The leaves crunch when you ride over them - as you can tell I love the sound of crunching leaves. You don't sweat as much; sweating isn't that bad, but it's definitely more comfortable to be slightly cool than boiling hot. It's also awesome that my Kenda Slant-Six Pros work all the way until the first snow-fall.

This one is pretty simple to explain: physics is everything. Snow is physics, biking is physics, driving is physics, living is physics. That's all for this one.
Image result for physics

Music is awesome. I'm always amazed by how music can relate to so many people on so many different levels. I'm also amazed by the fact that music being so relateable means that somebody else knows pretty much exactly how you feel, happy sad or otherwise. I love music and recently went to a concert for my favorite band, The Front Bottoms. At this concert I had a great time with people who I've never seen before and may never see again. Music brought us all together regardless of how different we might be, apart from our music tastes. Music is incredibly awesome.

The idea for this blog popped into my head late in the night. Being dark, I couldn't really get a good picture of leaves. Being not winter, I couldn't get a picture of snow. I didn't really know what to do for the picture of physics or music. For these reasons, all these images came from a simple Google search, which is actually awesome as well - that I can find some beautiful images(and so many more amazing things) with a simple key word search. I Wish I could have made this post longer but I was feeling pretty enthusiastic about the idea and wanted to write it down before I forgot about it! I also have to get up early for the ABRA Franklin Cyclo-Cross race tomorrow morning!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Duo Racing 2015 Recap, Part 2: The Big Bear 2x12 Mountain Bike Relay

Just two weeks after a win at the Mountain State Dirty Double, Derek and I thought we would test our skills on a little fatter tires over considerably rougher terrain, The Big Bear 2x12 Mountain Bike Relay.  Two days before the race we headed up to Big Bear Lake campgrounds in Hazelton, WV for a pre-ride of the course.  The course was in excellent condition...dry and fast...just the conditions that I prefer to race.  However, the weather for race day would be a different story.   After rains set in all day Friday and Saturday morning, the course was going to be less than desirable.   While checking in at the venue, we recognized only one of the fifteen teams that we would compete with in the Men's Veterans category--Scott Benson and Gerry Pflug.   My initial though was "Oh, Craaaap".   These two gentleman are fast and have a strong resume of wins on mountain bikes.  Although they showed up with fat bikes, anyone would be foolish to think that they would be slow.

Derek lined up at the starting line for our first lap.    After a long gravel climb to thin the pack, Scott entered the woods ahead of us.    It was clear that the course was going to be muddy as the lead racers crossed the far end of the airstrip race venue 1-2 miles into the race with team uniforms that were barely recognizable.  At the end of that first lap, Derek had a lead on Scott and all other veteran teams.   However, Scott was not far behind, rolling up the cross-over bridge as Derek was exchanging the baton to me.

In the first few miles after I began my lap, I was surprised at how muddy the course was--worse than I had ever ridden it over the past 10 years.  But, I was more concerned that Pflug would be effortless rolling by me any minute.  In fact, I probably had as much difficulty staying on course due to continuously looking over my shoulder for him as I did with the mud.  As luck would have it, I held on to that lead and finished the first lap ahead of him.

So, Derek was off again for another amazingly fast lap in the worsening muddy conditions, finishing in the lead, and leaving me once again for a lap of muddy paranoia.  Fear of being chased down kept me moving on the first lap.  But, would fear be enough to keep me moving as fast while considerably more tired on the second lap?  As I motored on, slipping and sliding, I began to forget that I was being chased down.  The racers were more spread out.  I didn't see anyone behind me, or in front, for miles.    Then, all of a sudden I heard the sandy, grinding sound of a drivetrain closing in fast.  Adrenaline kicked in... but only for a moment as I soon realized the passerby was one of the pro/ex leaders.  A couple of miles later, I managed to roll through the finish in the lead, giving Derek and I a nice 2nd win for 2015.

Monday, October 26, 2015

So,What Have You Been Up To Since We Last Spoke? (Part Deux)

Well guys and gals, it's my favorite time of year again!!! (well, except for Oktoberfest month) It's FALL of course. That is when we can relax a bit since road season is over, enjoy a nice long ride through the Western Pennsyl-ginia countryside with our friends and soak in the scenery...

Ah, this is what i'm talking about!! Early in September, Mr. Jim and I ventured down to his old stomping grounds in Charlottesville, VA to do some relaxing, riding, and of course spectate at UCI Worlds. This is the first time in 33 years that the UCI races have been in the United States, so Jim and I planned this trip back in March when we were in Crozet, VA getting in some long distance, early season rides. The city of Richmond played host to the races and they did a fantastic job. The crowds were large each day for the races and the city looked great and the atmosphere was electric, especially on Sunday for the UCI Men's Elite race.  While we were in town one day, we ran into the Swiftwick rep, so we stopped and chatted with him for a bit and, of course, picked up some swag!!! #dowhatmovesyou

I think the most exciting part of the weekend for me was just spending some quality time with Jim and our friends in Virginia. The riding in that part of the world is amazing, and if you ever get the chance to take a ride there, DO IT!!

Well, back to reality and Pittsburgh where the leaves are changing and CX season is just starting for me. The first race of the year was Kickoff CX in Point Marion where the team had a great showing and snagged a few podiums!!!
(in amongst the raindrops that is) I think JR. appealed to the higher powers for rain on that weekend so I would actually get dirty, but I guess we'll never know.........Hmmmm

A lot of folks take their CX racing very seriously, but I just enjoy being out there on my bike, riding, and enjoying the company of my friends!!! For me personally, a bad day on the bike is better that a good day at the office. So, the second CX race was The Mason-Dixon CX race in Mount Morris where I had my very first DNS (Did Not Start) ever, since I had a nasty fall in warm ups. I'm still feeling the aches and pains today, but will be back out there for The Franklin CX race on October 30th.

Well kids, that's it for now, but I'll leave you with one of my favorite moments from the past few months......

Thursday, October 22, 2015

As the leaves turn

Well it is that time of year for cross racing!!!
Or it can be a good time to get in some cross training. It can be good to give your body a break from spinning circles to lighting weights or pounding the pavement/trail for some running. Even a good hike in the woods can will help use the muscles differently than they are used to.

As the fall turns into winter it may be time to break out the skis for some fun out in the snow. Cross country skiing uses the legs muscles similar to riding and if you get after it you can get your heart rate up to what you may see during the race season on the bike. Mountain bikes can be fun to play in the snow also. Especially night riding with some headlamps!
Whatever the weather brings there is always something that you can do outside even with the short days. Just make sure you have fun and #dowhatmovesyou!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cross is back! My favorite race season of allll. Last fall the ABRA CX series kick-started my 'official' race scene career. Before cx, the only races I was doing were the DIY Pittsburgh alley cats (I still nurse a soft spot in my heart for Brad Q and
Alex loses a shoe
- photo by Cassie Fetzer
Erok's punk rock Halloween cats). Despite many mid-race mechanicals, I managed to win the beginner women's series and upgrade by the end of the year, as well as reel in some racing in DC and Ohio. I was totally hooked, and I wanted to drag other city-rat women riders along with me. Over the past year I've been hyping every female cyclist I know up on the sport, and when Kick-Off CX finally finally rolled around I towed down a couple newbs and showed em the ropes. We arrived super early to check out the course, and boy were their faces priceless when they saw the no-longer-anywhere-close-to-dry mud pit slop-fest run-up JR engineered coming out the woods. Alex was racing on a borrowed bike (thanks KJordan!) and flat pedals with sneakers, and she stared at the slippy mud climb in shock for a good minute. She would later lose a shoe to the suck mid-race. 

I had made sure to register all the way back in February, hah, so I had first pick of spots at the line up for my first ABRA 1/2/3 race. I normally get a strong start to the hole shot and today was no exception, but the caliber of ladies around me was impressive and I was dropped off the lead pretty quickly. I ended up racing neck to neck with my teammate
Women's 3/4 podium
Stephanie Lamb. I've been riding a ton of miles for the National Bike Challenge this year, and just started mountain biking this summer to work on my technical skills, but I could tell by watching her lines that Lamb had the experience over me. She dropped a gap on me in the pinwheel and I just couldn't quite make it up on the final sprint. It's obvious that I'll be learning a lot from racing with her this year, which I'm totally stoked about. I've got plenty of strong experienced dude friends who race and are free flowing with advice, but there's something really valuable about being able to learn from someone who actually races your field. So, congrats Stephanie! Be ready for me to glom onto your wheel all season ;)

ABRA cheering section
I caught back up with my cat 4 lady friends after the
race. Elise R podiumed of course, Alex completely annihilated her goal of not finishing dead last, and Elise W nailed her first race with a 7/16 finish on her commuter bike (complete with a rack and comfy Brooks saddle…she DID take the fenders off though!). My teammates Nikki and Kara also got a first cx race under their belts, and looked like they had a lot of fun doing it. Now that our morning race was out of the way, we gleefully revved up for the real reason we were there for the day: cheering and jeering the men's races! …If there was a podium for cx spirit, we all would have been on it. 

I climbed back onto my bike for the brand new women's 3/4 race JR added to the end of the day. I am so over-the-moon about this field; it gives most of the women who show up the opportunity to do a second race, adds a later slot that out-of-towners could easily make (lookin' at you Cleveland), and means the stronger cat 4 women can seed up and out of the beginner class. Not to mention, it pays out equal to the men's field! Everyone loves them some podium ca$$$h!! Ultra thanks to JR for being proactive about women's racing :) This time around I maintained a good gap between two Stephanies - Sydlik ahead of me and Lamb behind. 
Just a little mud
I finished in second, rolling through the finish line hand in hand with my teammate Jeff G, racing the men's 3/4 field. Gee, I wish I had a picture of that, but you'll just have to recreate the cute in your imaginations. After the podiums I cleaned up and packed up, jumped in my carpool and headed out to Maryland with Elise R and David G for Hyattsville CX the next day. It was another gruelingly muddy course. I started about mid pack, based on the points I picked up at my few MABRA races last year, and got clogged up in the start. But, I passed more people than passed me, and finished 8/32. Not horrible for a third race of the weekend. Later I realized, as a bonus, it means I just managed a start-line call-up at MABRA#2, Schooley Mill CX. I'm looking forward to seeing how well I climb through the ranks of MABRAland. It's going to be an exhausting season :D

Thanks to Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder for pulling me on board for this cx season (and beyond!), to Swiftwick for all the socks I mucked up this weekend, Cannondale for swapping out my cracked helmet, ProGold because I always have a stash when I need it, ABRA for throwing the best races, and all our other sponsors! (Especially Honey Stinger, dang I wish I'd had some of *those* stashed away). 

See ya next weekend!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Welcome to Cross...

Cross has arrived!!! And for me it started with ABRA’s Kick Off Cross.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been on a bike in months due to a crazy work schedule, moving into a new house, and traveling for work and weddings.  The only expectation I had for myself was to get muddy!  Mission accomplished!!!

Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder at Kick Off Cross

I’ve ridden a cross and mountain bike a handful of times, but not recently.  Something I’ve always struggled with on a mountain and cross bike is cornering.  Usually what runs through my head is “don’t die..You have to go to work tomorrow!”.  Well, thankfully I was able to attend Chris Mayhew’s and Eric Lundgren’s cross clinic not too long ago and we spent a good bit of time cornering!!!  This was definitely helpful for my first race.  I was able to pick good lines and not hit the brakes during any of the turns even the super muddy ones coming out of downhills! 
While I may not have been fast (by any standards)…actually barely moving at times because of the mud and my lack of endurance…It was a blast!! 

Shout out to all of my awesome teammates!  It is invaluable to have experienced racers there with me like Stephanie Lamb and Shawn Geiger giving me tire pressure tips.  Also where else can you find a teammate as selfless as Lamb offering to let teammates use her pit wheels or trade bikes if needed..the answer is no where!!  She is a one of a kind, class act!  EJ Hubstenberger hanging out in the pit cheering us on!  Cara Bacher who was nervous with me at the start and not knowing what to expect, but did awesome on only her second cross race!!!  Way to go!!!  Jeff Gernert who cheered and kept the fire going so we could all have a place to warm up post race!!!  Awesome job to all of my teammates who placed in the races also…Stephanie Lamb placed 5th in the elite 1,2,3 women’s race and 3rd in the 3,4 race… And Anna Lena who placed 2nd in the 3,4 race.

As always, JR Petsko and Gina Desmond—Thank you for providing awesome, fun, muddy races locally!!  This community would not be the same without you and ABRA!
Thanks to our sponsor, the only company I trust to get my bike clean, ProGold Bikes!

So many products to keep your bike well maintained and clean!
Our ProGold Bikes Cleaning Product Section in the bike cave.

The Bianchi Squeaky clean post wash with ProGold Bikes

Thursday, October 1, 2015