Wednesday, 19 February 2014

I've Moved!

Hey all! If you're looking for my blog, I've moved to a bigger and better home. You can now find me at:

Happy riding :)

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Getting Down To Business

First of all,  I'd like to say how happy I am that I will be racing for Norco Factory Team again next year! I'm so excited that I'll be racing alongside my teammates from last year, as well as with Cayley Brooks and Peter Disera. The team is a force to be reckoned with - look out for us on the trails! It will be an awesome season of racing and travelling with some of the coolest people around. Can't wait for the adventures to start.

Now, like the title says, it's down to business. One week ago, I flew to Tucson, AZ with Cayley and Laura B. to begin the winter's training. I'm still enrolled in courses, so I can't say that I've had much time to enjoy the beautiful sunshine. However, the riding has been amazing, and it's so nice to be able to get some longer days in without worrying about hypothermia. We've done some mtbing, climbed Lemmon, and rode (well, really, raced) our first shoot-out this morning. That being said, the was the first time that I've really put my Tactic to work - and man, did it feel good! I have literally never been so comfortable on a bike. Apart from the fact that my heart rate was through the roof, I felt like I could have been floating.

The next month will be spent training, filling my head with knowledge, and attempting to get some relaxation in. It's amazing how quickly your days can be filled up with training and school. I haven't taken a ton of pictures yet, but here are a few to give you a taste of Tucson:

I tried to replicate the picture I took on Lemmon here last here. I'd say it's pretty darn close. 

I think I'm going to start calling this bike The Stallion.

Kept calm while I ripped the Fantasy Island trails.

The C Brooks signature pizza, plus a lovely addition of bacon.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Out With The Old, In With The New

Well, another year has come and gone. As always, there were some real ups and downs. I think it would be unrealistic to expect smooth sailing at all times; there are going to be some rough waters and maybe even some hurricanes from time to time. I think this year had more than its fair share of stormy weather, for both myself and the people I hold dear. I had to watch friends go through some pretty tough things - things that no one should ever have to endure. Yet, through all these events, all I saw was bravery, determination, and poise. I am so impressed by the way family members and friends carried themselves through the toughest moments in life. I hope that you all realize how strong you are. I also hope that 2014 brings you the good fortune you deserve. And, honestly, I believe that it will. The universe is a finicky thing, but I really believe that good things await those who work hard, are kind, and are optimistic. You all fit this bill, and I hope you'll let me be a part of all the good things that are waiting for you in the future :).

As I said, 2013 brought some stormy weather. I had some of the worst races I've ever had, and dealt with some mental troubles that I thought I'd put behind me. As tough as these times were, I know I learned from them and I think (or rather, hope) that they've made me a better person. Not everything can make you smile, but everything (and I mean everything) can teach you something. I think it's safe to say I learned a lot this year, and am weirdly grateful for the trials I experienced on and off the bike.

Happily, 2013 also brought some of my best races and some of the best experiences I've ever had. I can't thank everyone who was a part of my year enough! Norco, Havy, Coach Dan, my friends and teammates, my family, and Lespy... you all made my year so much brighter than it would have otherwise been. Thank you for sticking with me through my teenage-angst and mood swings (which I guess are over now, considering I'm no longer a teenager... eeek!), my rough races, and any other sticky spots I got, well, "stuck" in. I wish words could describe how grateful I am to all of you.

2014 is set to begin tomorrow, and I'm pretty excited for it to start. After ringing in the New Year here in Nova Scotia with the one and only Lespy, I'll head back to Ontario for a week... and then I'll be off for the biggest adventure I've been on to date! 3 months of wicked riding are planned, taking place in Arizona, California, and Victoria. I'm going to miss my family and the snow (yes, actually!) but I'm so excited for the adventures to begin. And, after that, the race season will kick off. Bring it, 2014!

Here are a few choice photos from the year, I hope you enjoy them!

Spent some time riding in new and cool places last off season. 

Blue Ridge Parkway - it will forever be one of my favourite rides!

Sunny days in California made April one of the best months of the year

Got to ride and race the new 650b Norco. It was love at first sight. 

I spent a year with the two best siblings I could have ever ask for! (sorry I didn't have a picture of you, Jenna)

Why bother riding for 5 hours if you're not going to indulge in some deliciousness after? Peanut butter cheesecake dark chocolate cups... wow. 

I'm so lucky to have two of the most supportive parents in the entire world. Thanks for following me around the globe and back :)

What a wicked team. I love these guys (and guthrie too!)

Nova Scotia is pretty cool, I guess. 

Even Kingston has its moments of beauty!

So much truth here.

I think this might be my motto for 2014. Being an optimist sounds like fun!

Again, so much truth. If only we could remember this all the time!

People that say they don't like the dirt have clearly just not played in it enough

Homemade peanut butter truffles. Sorry for the (second) food picture. At least it's not instagram, right?

20yrs worth of Sorels. They've served us well all those days on the pond. 

I may spend more time on two wheels now, but nothing feels better than a skate on the pond. 

Happy 2014, folks!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Last Push

This past weekend marked the last race weekend of the year for me. It also marked my last day as a teenager (D:!) and the last weekend of Fall Semester. Fittingly, the weather turned frigid on Saturday, reminding me that as all the fun stuff is going to have to take a back seat for a while, winter really is coming.

I headed over to Ottawa on Friday afternoon to meet up with the rest of the Norco crew for the Hammer & Anvil races. With a lot of rain on Friday afternoon, McNeely could be heard (multiple times) to say "the course is going to be sweet tomorrow". I was a little apprehensive about the forecasted cold weather, but I took his word for it and prepared to have some fun.

On Saturday morning, we saw sub-zero temperatures, but nothing too dramatic. The course looked pretty dry when I arrived 1.5 hrs before the race and the sky was relatively clear. Then, about an hour before, the snow started to fall. Before our race start, the course went from bare to having about 5-10cm  of fluffy white packing snow. Awesome. I wasn't really expecting anything from the race... standing on the start line, the only thing I was thinking about was how bizarre it was that I was about to race my bike in a snowstorm! The race started, and I sat mid-pack before gradually working my way up through the field. The course turned pretty technical with all the snow, and it was a ton of fun. Great way to spend a Saturday.

I ended up 3rd after what felt like the shortest race ever and only one fall on the slippery snow. I was definitely stoked to have the barn available to warm up in after the race!

After a team dinner and a surprise birthday cake from the boys (and let me tell you, that was the best cake I've ever eaten), I headed to bed dreading the -21 degrees in the forecast with the the windchill. Waking up, the weatherman didn't disappoint and I was gearing myself up to freeze my a** off. But, with the help of some lobster claws, a little sunshine, and hand and foot warmers, it wasn't too bad. The course had turned into a virtual skating rink overnight and I was a little leery of all the corners. My cautiousness meant I didn't race quite as well, and came up with a fourth place in the Anvil. Probably would have been more successful if I'd strapped a pair of skates to my feet, but it was still loads of fun. I guess there really is a first for everything!

Watching the boys race on Sunday was a ton of fun; lots of banter going back and forth between Evan and the Andrews. Super nice to see them sweep the podium! Big ups to Ride with Rendall for organizing such a fun event! It was a great way to finish up the year. You can find results and a race report here. Sorry I don't have any pictures, it was too cold to expose my poor finger to the air!

Back at school now for the last 4 days of classes. Not overly looking forward to the exams that are going to come in the next few weeks, but the promise of southern adventures in the coming months will get me through!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

It's been a long time.

Well, it's been a long time. So long, in fact, that I forgot the password to get into my blog, and spent about as long trying to figure it out as I did writing this whole post. It's been a busy fall. It seems that my professors failed to communicate with each other regarding the amount of assignments they would be giving us, and each decided to give us twice as much to make up for what they presumed would be a lack of work from the other teachers. This has resulted in my room becoming a cave and me being the only occupant for much of October.

I can't complain too much though; we were learning some pretty cool stuff. From learning to conduct a submaximal VO2 max test, to taking and examining our own blood lipid profiles, to... drawing with our feet (?). Lots of cool stuff going on in Kin! On a side note, a ran into a Queen's PHE/Kin alumnus on the weekend - none other than Kevin Simms! The world really is small. And very cool. But that's enough about school. On to more exciting things!

Taking blood lipid profiles: "Haley, you're a geyser!" as blood literally pours out of my finger. Cue lightheadedness. 

At the beginning of October, I raced the final U-Cup of the year with Queen's University. For those of you who don't know, a U-Cup win is a win of the highest honour. Those medals are coveted, let me tell you! The last race was at Ganaraska Forest, and was the muddiest race (by far) of the year. I managed to keep it upright and have a ton of fun on the trails while coming out with the W. Queen's also took the overall team award for the series for the fourth consecutive year. I think we may have started a dynasty or something...

Some descending practice with the Queen's MTB team

The next weekend, I did none other than race my second ever 'cross race! I think that officially takes away my "beginner" status. Heck, it might even make me a part-time 'cross racer. Anyways, the race at Enniskillen Conservation Area in Clarington was a ton of fun. The course felt almost like mountain biking with some fast single track - it was great for a relative 'cross-newbie. Laura and I took charge of the race on the second lap and never looked back, working together to pull away from the rest of the field. On the last lap, all bets were off! We sprinted for the last single track section and I managed to gain the edge (after both of us sliding out in a slippery corner). The race was close - only about 1 sec between us - but I ended up taking the win. I think I might be starting to like this skinny tire stuff...

The next day, I headed up to Barrie for the legendary Brewery-Brewery ride. An easy ride out to Creemore primed us for a huge lunch. I should have known something was up when Dr. Watson only ordered a bowl of soup, but I was too busy eating my ogre-sized burger. Sure enough, the way back turned into a hammer-fest. I hung onto the lead group for the whole way and ended up with all the QOMs after sticking it out with the boys... Which led to the question, "Is it Strava-doping if it's a group ride?" Dr. Watson says it's okay, but I think its up for debate.

The next weekend was a double-header in Kingston, so I figured I had to race or risk being (rightfully) called "soft". The flyover, long and deep sandpit, and shattering head winds made for a tough course, but it was fun nonetheless. I came out in second on Saturday and first on Sunday. Yup, I like cross. It was pretty cool to see so many women out on Sunday - especially younger girls! The Ottawa Bicycle Club is doing some great work putting on this series. Awesome to see so much involvement.

Last weekend I headed home again to rip some trails in Durham Forest and to help out at the Norco Bicycles demo at Buckwallow. The snow and freezing rain weren't a deterrent to everyone wanting to try out the new 650B Revolvers - those bikes were coming in and out of the tent all day! I've got to say, after riding the Revolver for the latter half of the season and the fall, I don't think I'll ever give it up. I've never been on a bike that's so whippy, agile, and fast all at the same time. Can't wait to race it on Canadian soil some more come spring!

I'll have more (exciting) updates soon... just have to slog through this last assignment crunch and then I'm FREEEEE (until exam time, that is...)

Saw none other than Jack Johnson here in September. Unreal venue and show!

I may have a lot of schoowork, but there's always time to ride my bike :)

Sometimes I get so bitter at Kingston for its gruelling headwinds... and then it goes and does things like this. It's like Kingston is virtually saying, "SEE Haley?! I'm not that bad"

Monday, 16 September 2013

Provincials, School, and Mario Kart

Well, I guess the XC season is officially over. 2 weekends ago we had Provincial XC Championships taking place at Horseshoe Resort. This was the first race I'd done in over a month, and I was pretty nervous about how it would turn out. After more than two months of mediocre racing at best and downright awful at worst, I was anxious to see if I would be able to pull off a result. All the demons that athletes deal with in times of adversity - what if I can't do it? what if I haven't trained hard enough? what if I try my best and nothing comes of it? - were rattling around in my head. When it came down to race time though, I locked those demons in a closet and reminded myself why I race: to push myself past my limits, to have fun riding my bike, and to enjoy the company of a sick group of people (among many other reasons).

So, when the whistle blew, the field charged up a rather steep climb for the start loop. I was in a comfortable position, and was able to move into second by the end of the start loop behind Amanda Sin. Literally as soon as the race started, I stopped thinking about my worries and self-imposed expectations and instead focused on having the best race possible. I made it through the first lap still in second, but now out of sight of the riders on either side of me. About halfway through the second lap I was caught by Heather Gray, but somehow was not discouraged by this (maybe two months off gave birth to a new me?)... in fact, it actually motivated me more. I was able to pull away on the climbs of the third lap to roll in after 4 in second place. I didn't really have a placing goal, but I did want to pull off a good result, and I'm happy with 2nd Elite and U23 Provincial Champion.

After heading back to school, I went to Hardwood Hills yesterday to race the first U-Cup of the year. Always a good time. However, when I rolled up to the start line I noticed something funny... there were potatoes all mixed in with the wood chips (I'm sorry, what?). I remember thinking "oh man, I hope someone doesn't hit a potato and wipe out". Which should leave it pretty clear as to what I did right off the start line. Yup, I hit a potato. Luckily, I managed to keep it upright (although I'm not sure how), but it was close to a full-on yard sale. There was a pretty impressive collective noise of fear from the spectators when it happened. It got me thinking about Mario Kart for N64... it would be a cool addition to the tournament style of play (don't lie, you know what I'm talking about) if the leader of the series was allowed to select and hide a few booby traps before the start of the next race. It would add an interesting element to Mario Kart, just saying.

In more serious terms, it was a bit of a tough haul this year in terms of confidence and the mental side of the sport. I think that most people struggle at some point in their lives with motivation, confidence, and other aspects of what they're doing. At the time, it can seem insurmountable or at least exceptionally frustrating. I'm choosing to look at it in a good way, though... once you've pushed through something, you've proved to yourself that you're a lot stronger than you thought and in the future, the same problems will not be able to beat you down. I'm glad I pushed through and am already excited for next season. Hurrah for personal growth!

In light of the end of the season, I just want to take a minute to thank everyone who stuck with me this year, even through the rough patches... Obviously, my teammates are the best. Havy and the boys are basically a second family, and they help me through a lot more than they probably know - so thank you! I also need to thank my first family (that goes without saying, I hope), and my coach. Thank you for not giving up on me. Finally, I'd like to thank Norco, Shimano, Kenda, and Rockshox for helping a girl's dream come true (because really, that's what they do).

Now I'm just taking in the fall while back to the books at Queen's. The work hasn't really set in yet, and it looks like third year might actually be LESS stressful than second (?). There's still lots of time for riding and racing (if you're a university or college student, check out the U-Cup series, they're a blast!!), and even more time for hanging out with the people that put up with quick coffee dates and hurried conversations while I was around the globe this summer.

One last thank you... Thanks for keeping up on my racing and life over this past season! Hopefully I will update soon, and until then enjoy the beautiful fall!

Back in Kingston for the fall

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Merrytimes (get it?!)

The last couple of weeks have been a little bittersweet. Having not reached my goal of making the World Championships team, I had some time to reflect on my season and what went wrong (and also what went right!). I've come to the conclusion that while racing did not go the way I hoped this year, it really is just a setback. There is rarely a time that your life is 100% kink-free, and working out those kinks is part of what makes success so satisfying. So, I'm beginning the de-kinking (I'm not sure if that's a phrase...) process for 2014! With the help of my coach, some hard work, and some much needed down time at the end of the season, I will be ready to go for next year.

After Mt. Sainte Anne (which went horribly... there is no way to dress that performance up nicely), I came home for 2 weeks of rest, mental recuperation, and a little bit of a "normal" summer. I did some nice rides - of course, only in baggies - to rekindle the love of mountain biking, helped my sister get ready for her first year at university, and read about a thousand pages of Dan Brown. After that, I got ready for my first actual vacation in God knows how long! My bike and I flew to Halifax for a week of riding and hanging out in Lespyville. Fun is an understatement!

I spent the first few days exploring the local riding and the city, both of which I loved! The mtb riding is really unique... A bit like northern Ontario, but with a little je ne sais quoi. On Friday, we went for a rip with the girls from the local junior team. Man, those girls are talented! At 13, they are riding terrain that I wouldn't have touched until last year. Definitely bright futures waiting for those girls in the mountain biking world.

The local Juniors; Mackenzie, Isabelle, and Anya. Nice to meet you, girls!
On Saturday, we went out to the country and explored the place where Lespy grew up. I felt like I should have been frolicking in the heather wearing a kilt, with hair streaming behind me. Unfortunately, I don't have a kilt and I'm really not all that good at frolicking. On a serious note, it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The riding was pretty gnarly, and I did almost plunge to my death over an oceanside cliff (I may be exaggerating slightly), but it was awesome. A very memorable experience.
This is how I felt out in Prospect. 

I can see how people fall in love with the East Coast

Sunday rolled around, and it was time to man-up and face my fears... we were going out in the boat. We spent the afternoon and evening cruising around the water (man, I'd like to have a pirate ship) and I didn't even have a nervous breakdown. Another fear crossed off the list!

Believe it or not... I actually got in (eventually)

Also on the weekend my parents flew down with my sister, who is starting first year at Dalhousie. Pretty exciting stuff! She got all moved in, and we had a nice dinner together before saying our goodbyes for the next month and a half. Good luck at school Jenna, I know you'll crush it!

Jenna's new home!

All in all it was a great trip, and it was a great way to end off the summer! We have one more race this weekend - Provincial Championships - before I head back to school bright and early Monday morning. Happy new school year, everyone!

PS. huge congrats to all the Canucks who raced in RSA last week! You all did so well, and made the country proud.

This is my "I-hate-posing-for-pictures-so-I-will-just-stand-here-and-look-awkward" face. 

Thanks for letting me know my helmet had been crooked for the past two hours...

Not bad.