Sunday, 30 September 2012

study hard, bike harder!

Well, the first three weeks of school have flown by. It's super weird that the semester is already 1/4 over... not that I'm complaining! Classes have been pretty cool so far - lots of really (and I mean REALLY hands on stuff) - but I'm still excited to get away from it all come Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Probably the best part about school is the fall "U Cup" race series. I missed the first two races (because of Crank the Shield and then selling my bike) so I was amped to race today! The Queen's team is pretty sick and the races are always fun (and there's free food) so now that I have a bike in my possession, racing was a no-brainer. The race was at Hardwood, so I met up with C Brooks yesterday for some fun trails (even though we got poured on) before the race today. The 3 lap race only took ~55min (man, I felt like a Junior again!!) and had tons of great single track. I managed to take the W, with Swagler a close second. After some post-race slacklining, we devoured some burgers from the BBQ (which was my first bite of meat in a full week... I'll tell you that story in a minute) and then headed back home for some hot tub action. Solid day.

Now about the meat situation... As a second year Kinesiology student at Queen's, I am lucky enough to have the (mandatory) opportunity to work with cadavers as part of my Anatomy class. In case you didn't know, a cadaver is a human body that has been donated to science. I was more than a little apprehensive about this. I'm not squeamish, exactly, but the idea of touching a dead person really creeps me out. Anyways, I'd been fine up until this week because I hadn't had to actually touch the specimen. This week, there was no choice but to touch the cadaver in order to learn what we had to learn. I won't go into detail, but let's just say that human flesh feels exactly like steak. Making beef that night was definitely a mistake... Queue the gag reflex. It'll be a long time before I can appreciate a good steak again.

On another note, I've been loving fall riding in Uxbridge! Durham forest is absolutely perfect right now. I'm thinking there are going to be a few long rides there next weekend (Thanksgiving = 5 day weekend... score!). I've been up to a bunch of other stuff at school... socializing, studying, cooking... but I'll just give you a nice picture recap instead of boring you with more words!

Love the Farmer's Market at school! Raspberries are definitely my favourite
Can't risk bringing my wallet to campus... it would be the end of my biking career haha

Nice little crisp morning road ride by the lake

I've NEVER seen the lake this calm... basically a miracle

Saw this guy on a road ride, let me get super close before bolting!

Had a little bit of a hair issue ('twas a touch windy today)

I promise, the guy on the right is actually a girl...

Tricolour is the best colour!

Great group of ladies and gents. Top notch. 

October is going to be a bit of a #$@%^ with 7 midterms, but I'll get through it with the help of some good music, lots of biking, and a bit of a social life on the side. As much as people complain about being a student, it really is the life. Especially when you're a student-cyclist! You just have to remember to play as hard as you study :)

Monday, 17 September 2012

Crank the Shield 2012

This past weekend I was up in Haliburton, Ontario for Crank the Shield (the infamous Chico event). The last time I did Crank was in 2010, and let me tell you it was an interesting experience. Back in 2010, I had never done a ride longer than 2.5 hrs and I had literally no technical skills. It goes without saying that the three days of 4+ hours of racing had me completely cracked. It's a wonder I survived the experience haha.

Legs after CTS 2010... there were some worried glances at school the following week haha

This time around, CTS was absolutely epic. I tag teamed the three day stage race with my teammate Andrew Watson, who was an awesome riding partner. Day 1 was pretty (ha) wet, and the 3hr49 min were a bit of a slog. Watson still managed to make the ride fun, though, and we were all smiles when we crossed the line in 1st for our category and ~11th overall.

Watson and I on the podium after stage 1

Day 2 was SUNNY (believe it or not) and it turned out to be one of the most fun rides I've ever done. There was a ton of single track with awesome flow, and the road sections were all really scenic. Watson and I rode with Cayley, with Cayley and I doing the majority of the pulls and just letting Watson sit on the back (yeah... right haha). Watson and I crossed the line in a sprint (same as the first day), and ended up winning the 2nd stage as well, coming in about 13th overall.

Beautiful sunrise on the morning of stage 2

So sunny I can't even keep my eyes open! It's going to be a good day

Just like always, the morning of the third stage was frigid. The sun came out, though, and the day got warm enough to race in shorts and jerseys. Stage 3 was pretty sick; it started with  a little bit of road before about 9km of single track at Sir Sam's and then continuing with a mix of back country, road, and more single track. Before we knew it, the stage (and the whole race) was over. We ended up first in the tag team mixed category, and 13th and 14th overall. Lespy finished up with a stage win over DZ and a 2nd place overall (sweet ride Lespy!)

So chilly this morning! The lake was steaming

Crank the Shield was AWESOME, and I can't thank Chico enough for running it. Havi and Norco deserve a huge thank you for fixing bikes and lookin' good (as always) all weekend long. I had a blast with the team, so thank you!

Watson and I took the overall. Thanks for a sweet weekend watson :)

I'm back at school now, and am just getting back into the swing of things. So far there's not too much work going on... mostly just a lot of sleeping haha. I'm sure it'll pick soon, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts! I've hopefully got some U-Cups on the agenda for the next month, and maybe even some cross (?!). I've never tried it before, and I'm thinking this may be the year. Why not, right?

Feeling a little under the weather tonight (not sick exactly, mostly just like I've been hit by a Mack truck haha) so I'm just hanging out with some tea and watching the CMAs. Man, I don't think I'll ever get enough of Luke Brian! And to answer a question I was asked earlier this year.... Yes, girls (meaning me) do pretend that the good ol' country boys are singing about them. Especially when the good ol' country boys are named Jason Aldean ;)

Aaaaaaaaaall for now!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Worlds 2012

 I love biking. I mean I really, REALLY love it. Nothing else in the world makes me as happy as I feel when I'm biking. Biking has given me so many opportunities and experiences that I would never have had if I wasn't obsessed with these two-wheeled machines. World travel, best friends, and sick riding are just some of the things I've been lucky enough to experience, and I'm so grateful for all of it.

As you may know, my race at World Championships this past week did not go as planned. A disappointing start led to a disappointing crash, which led to a (more than) disappointing finish. I think the fact that I love biking so much makes a "failure" such as this way harder to handle than, say, failing an exam. I've been kicking myself in the face since last Friday because of the stupid decision I made that effectively ended my race.

Immediately after the race, I felt like I had failed. But, within half an hour, I started to realize that it wasn't in fact a failure, but the most valuable learning experience I've ever had on a bike. As Lespy says, "It's all practice 'til it counts". While he was referring to something entirely different when he told me that, it applies pretty well here. Yeah, I screwed up. However, now I know exactly what NOT to do in order to win. I'm pretty happy that I've got that figured out already.

Aside from the race, this was the most fun Team Canada trip I've ever been on, hands down! The team was so sick, and I had so much fun with all the guys and gals from across the country. You guys rock. The staff was awesome to work with, too. As always, Scott was an endless source of entertainment. The mechanics, soigneurs (how do you spell that?), and coaches were uuuuuuh-mazing. Thank you for an unforgettable trip!

To put it plainly, leaving Austria sucked haha. It was such a fun trip, and heading back to school was not exactly an enticing prospect. Watching the elite races, the team relay (who kicked ass, by the way) and the eliminator got me SO pumped for next year; it's going to be a loooong off season. Hopefully I'll be heading to Europe with Cayley next spring for some more Euro racing action. I've definitely caught the bug... I just want to race and race and race!

I'm back at school for the time being, but only for three days haha. Up next is Crank the Shield, which is a 3 Day stage race in Northern Ontario. It was a blast the last time I did it in 2010, and it should be even better this year! I'm tag-teaming it with none other than Dr. Watson, and hopefully I'll get to ride a bit with my other Norco boys and Cayley. Pretty stoked on this, should be a blast.

The jet lag is hitting me hard, so I'm going to cut this update short (well, short for me haha). I've got a couple more days of rest and recovery (aka major maple syrup consumption) before pounding out the ~220km of trail this weekend.

Only 7.5 more hours of lectures this week before I'm free! Counting down the hours when you've only been in school for one day is a good sign, right?

Antoine had a little crash, took those stitches like a man ;)

ALN got a nice little stinger during the race. In case you can't tell, that's an Avid disc brake.

Jealous, Dr. Watson?

One of the last sunsets in Saalfelden. Picture doesn't do it justice. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

What can I say? The Austrian life "ist gut"

I left Uxbridge last Wednesday with 120lbs of luggage (no, I’m not a Prima Donna… bike stuff just weighs a lot) and high hopes for the 2012 Mountain Bike World Championships in Saalfelden, Austria. Oddly enough, I was really pleased that I was on a red eye flight, as it meant I didn’t have to waste a day travelling. The flight was as uneventful as an 8hr plane ride can be (ie. less exciting than watching grass grow). I didn’t even have to use my creepy-man-diverter pillow – I ended up sitting next to none other than Mr. Antoine Caron, another of the XC racers on the Canadian mtb team.

The flight landed in Munich, where we met up and hung out with the rest of the team until our bus came to take us to Saalfelden. It seems like I’ve seen every kind of transportation there is since I’ve been racing internationally… planes, trains, vans, and buses. The only thing left is boats – and given my aversion to open water, I’m perfectly happy should it remain that way!

Some snow capped peaks we saw on the way in

 The 3hr bus ride went really quickly, and after some cool, winding mountain roads, we ended up in Saalfelden! The town is small, filling my first criteria for a relaxing place to be. The first thing I did was scout the town and surrounding hillsides for any castles (I have a small obsession with old/ancient architecture… castles, churches, you name it) and lo and behold, I found one! Unfortunately, you can’t visit the castle, because it’s privately owned and is currently occupied. Bummer.

Thirteenth century castle 

Just some mountain scenery

Our first couple days in Saalfelden left a little bit to be desired in the weather department. We did our first ride in ~8 degrees C and pouring rain… Never have I been so abruptly reminded about how much I HATE being cold! I can safely say that I am not looking forward to the winter. Fortunately, the weather turned nice, and even after what Scott Kelly described as “Biblical rains” (about 40mm over the course of a day and a half), the XC course was hardly muddy! Getting on the course was really exciting. It’s a super short loop, only about 4.5km, and it goes by REALLY fast. I’m predicting that the U23 women will be doing ~16minute laps. Good thing I brought 6 water bottles!
The course is unlike any course I’ve raced before. There is a lot of climbing (around 180m per lap), and the descents are wicked fast. There are a couple of features that will take some guts to commit to, but I’m pretty confident that I’ll get them down pat by Tuesday. I’ll try and get some pictures this week to show you guys what the course is like!

Cayley and I made a friend :)
Best reason to come to Europe - chocolate cereal
For the last couple of days, Cayley and I have just been hanging out around town and checking out the sights. As I said, it’s pretty relaxing here. The town is starting to get all set up for the events (Trials is taking place at various spots downtown… some right in front of restaurant patios!). I’m getting REALLY excited for the race – only 3 more days!!!

Most difficult thing I've had to do so far: figure out how to work the washing machine.