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.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Canada Summer Games 2013

What a week! After an almost two year buildup leading into the legendary Canada Summer Games, the week had finally come. We made the trek to Sherbrooke travelling in none other than The Beast (other names include Wesley, Big Wez, and/or the Black Mamba) piloted by our wonderful coach Mike Garrigan. Seeing the thousands of athletes dressed in their respective provincial gear was pretty cool... It really did feel like a miniature athlete's village! I think I underestimated the scale of CSG; in truth it was a pretty good replica of the Real Deal. Very lucky that we have such solid and competitive athletic programs in Canada. CSG seems like it is truly a way to breed Olympic Champions.

The Cauldron is lit!
The first day of racing was the XC on Saturday. Man.... What. A. Course! The most fun I've had on a race course all year. Rocky, rooty single track, many spectator-worthy features, and some of the fastest and most flowy descents around. Really well built course. Anyways, Team O hit the line ready to be a group of medal threats. Off the line, Laura B. got right up with the leaders who quickly put a small gap into the rest of us. She went on to put up a stellar fight and came out with the silver! As for me, I was a bit slow to get going in the first two laps, but was able to finally kick it into gear on the 3rd and final lap. That last lap was the best I've felt since May - definitely nice to see! I was a little disappointed with my race overall, but ending it on a high note was pretty uplifting.

Women's start. 

After a sweet rest day lake-side with BA and Uncle Havy, we kitted up for the Team Relay. After Saturday, Cayley and I were gunning for revenge and Laura was set on the gold as well. Laura was our opener, coming through with a ~3minute lead over the field after an unfortunate flat on Quebec's side. Cayley went out next and managed to increase the gap to both 2nd and 3rd, settling us nicely in 1st. As I waited for Cayley to roll in, the nerves set in... I knew Frederique would be nipping at my heels and I didn't want to let the team down! I set off and gave it my all; hammered the hills and stayed conservative and smooth on the technical (ever mindful of the risk of flatting). We ended the race with a 3 and a half minute lead over second, and accomplished exactly what we set out to do: win a GOLD for Ontario! Pretty unreal feeling.

Rest Day

Laura off the start

Cayley through the middle section of the course

I think I got whiplash from trying to watch and cheer before my lap!

Proud moment. 

Very satisfactory feeling! 
Some hefty hardware

On the men's side, we had Mitch, Steven, and Evan fighting for the top spot of the podium. It was a super exciting race to watch! Team O came through in about 1 minute behind team Quebec, gladly accepting a silver medal. Congratulations on a sick race, boys!

The third and final event was the XC Eliminator. I didn't have very high expectations heading into the event, as I had minimal experience with the sprint style event. All three of us girls qualified well, setting us up with good quarter final heats. All three of us won our quarter final, only to all end up in the same semi! Luckily for us, there were 6 people in the semi, 3 of which moved on to the final. Unfortunately, after some aggressive (but clean) play off the start line, we were unable to come through top three. Laura and I managed to qualify, but Cayley ended up in the small final. Really just a stroke of bad luck. Cayley took second in her small final, proving that she deserved to be in the big final. Laura took the silver medal after an aggressive "Wide Cut" while I ended up in fourth (really the worst place on the face of the earth...).

All in all, it was an impressive haul for Team O at Canada Summer Games. The experience was unreal, the races were fun, and the camaraderie rounded it all out quite nicely. Thank you to everyone at the OCA who made this happen, and everyone involved on the national level! A thanks definitely needs to go to Havy, who acted as Team O mechanic for the week. You did us a solid, Havy!

Best floormates - good luck, Softball!
If you're interested, there are some reports from the Games up on Canadian Cyclist and a sweet photo album (courtesy of BA) here.

Next up, MSA tomorrow morning bright and early!

Monday, 22 July 2013

On the Pursuit of Brilliance

The last two weekends were the most important races of the season for U23 Canadians. The Sudbury Canada Cup was followed by Nationals at Hardwood Hills, and these were the two races used for selection to the 2013 World Championships team. As you probably know, I did not race well. I was on the hunt for brilliance (well, at least brilliance in my own right), but it proved elusive. I've had many people ask me "So... what happened?", and there isn't really a clear answer to that question. I'm still trying to figure out what it was that didn't "click", but I can give you the bare facts.

I felt well rested and physically prepared heading into Sudbury. I was excited and felt like I was ready to have a killer race. Unfortunately, everything flipped upside down as soon as the whistle blew. My legs wouldn't turn over, and shortly after that the PANIC button was pressed. A downward spiral of negative thoughts paired with a rising feeling of panic ended the race for me. I'm not proud of the big ol' DNF beside my name in the results... in fact, I feel a twinge of shame every time I think about it. But, I know that it was the right decision. I wasn't able to put a lid on my thoughts, and I had to stop them before they did any more damage to my psyche (how crazy does that make me sound...).

Next up came National Championships. I knew having a good performance was going to require a HUGE turnaround from last weekend, but I also know that a podium was well within my reach. I spent all week getting my head back in the right place, and was the most physically ready I've ever felt (no joke). Whistle blew, and I felt in my gut that it was going to be good race. I led off the start and managed to come around after the first lap in 2nd place with a ~10sec gap to the leader. Right where I wanted to be. I hit the wood chips at the start of the second lap and immediately felt myself slipping... I'm not sure what happened, but a switch somewhere turned off. From there I gave it my absolute all, but my legs were no longer in the game. I finished up a distant 6th with some dashed dreams and a bruised pride. This gallery tells the story of my race pretty well... just slowly moving back within the field.

They say you should "say little when you lose", and I agree with that: making excuses is no way to behave as an athlete and is definitely no way to improve. So hopefully the above doesn't read like a pile of excuses. Ultimately, I didn't race as well as my competition. I've got some work to do - both mentally and physically - but I can tell you that my heart is 100% in it. The last couple weeks were a bit of a setback, nothing more. I'm still on the hunt for a brilliant performance, and I have absolute faith that I'll be able to make it happen!

On the bright side of things, HUGE congratulations to my friend Mitch for winning U23 men's Nationals. You deserve it, and I'm so happy for you! Commendations are also in order for all my Norco teammates... you guys raced really well, and produced some excellent results.

Big thanks to Havy, Norco, Shimano, Kenda, and Rockshox - my 650B rig felt absolutely MINT these past weekends! Honestly couldn't have asked for a better bike to ride. I also need to thank my coach for not giving up on me, and being 100% dedicated to helping me find success... There are no words to describe how much that means to me.

Next up on the agenda is Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Team Ontario is sending a strong contingent, and we're looking for some good results!

Until next time!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Ridin' Solo (ish)

First off, Happy Canada Day! I trust that the holiday has been put to good use by those of you looking for an excuse to throw/attend a party (and, of course, by those of you seeking an outlet for all of your pent-up patriotism). As for me, I'm just looking forward to the obnoxiously loud firework display that will happen tonight in the booming town of Uxbridge.

The last few weeks have been quite busy for me. After a solid week of training, I headed off to Montana for a US Cup, flew back to TO for a grand total of 30 hours at home, and then made the trip to Windham, NY for what will be probably be my last race on American soil for the 2013 season. As much as I love travelling, I'm looking forward to the next week and half on familiar territory before making the trek to Sudbury for Canada Cup #3.

Let's start with Montana. My mom was having some serious anxiety about me heading to Missoula, as it was the first trip that I'd planned on doing completely and utterly alone. I'm not sure what she was expecting to happen to me in the tame and relatively small city of Missoula... but I suppose I can't begrudge a mother her worries. Apparently that's just what they do! Anyways, despite being too young to rent a car, the trip went off without a hitch. It was a pretty cool learning experience; organizing everything myself gave me a newfound appreciation for all the support I receive from Norco and the National Team when I'm on trips. That being said, I don't think I'll be taking that support for granted anytime soon. While showing up to the venue on race day in a taxi does have a little bit of a hilarity factor, I'll always prefer the beast of a truck that Norco has! Despite what I'm making it sound like, I didn't have to go it entirely alone... Scott/3Rox was super helpful in the feed zone and on the start line. Thank you for the help, guys!

Now about the races: Friday night saw the Pros take on the short track. Let me tell you, it hurt. I managed an okay race, finishing 13th. I was sort of in survival mode, just trying to make it through the sub-30 minute race. Ouch. I guess that's what short tracks are about, though!

Saturday rolled around, and after a long morning of mindless time-wasting (we didn't go off until 3pm), we were lined up to race. I felt a distinct sense of foreboding standing on the line: my legs hadn't felt very good in warm up, and I knew it was going to be a loooong race if I couldn't make them cooperate. In preparation for this, I hid my Garmin in my back pocket... I did NOT want to look down at the time and see that what felt like hours had only, in fact, been 15 minutes. Despite the boggy legs, I had a good start and a good first lap. Things started to slip after that, and I ended up a distant 20th. Lots of room for improvement! On the bright side, I had fun on the descent. Even a bad day on the bike is a good day by any other standards, so I can't complain.

Next up was the US Cup in Windham, NY. For some reason, I really love Windham. The climb is tough, but not too steep and the descent is wicked fast. Pretty good combination if you ask me. Some people say that a dually is the bike to choose for Windham what with the bumpy and rocky traverses, but I think my Team 9 was perfect: stiff on the climbs and fast rolling down the descent. What more could you ask for? There was no ST this weekend, so Saturday was the main (and only) event for me. I wasn't sure if a week was enough time for my legs to come around, but I was stoked to race nonetheless. I had a pretty good race, consistently reeling girls in to finish 5th. It was another long one (about 2 hours), but I think it was good for me in this case. I actually managed to consciously think about strategy and technique, which must mean my head was in a better space than last weekend. All things considered, it was a really fun race and a fun trip! Just another reminder about how much I love bike racing and the lifestyle surrounding it.

Spending so much time by myself and in transit over the last two weeks led to my realization of a few important things. Firstly, if there is not even a small part of you that can rock out to Taylor Swift, you are doing it wrong ("it" being life). Don't lie, you know that somewhere deep inside you is a teenage girl  (even if you are middle-aged man) that can sympathize with her. It's simply a fact of life.

Secondly, I am no good at taking photos. Exhibit A: the lack of a single picture in this entire long-winded and boring blog post.

Thirdly, I love hills. Preferably hills that stretch on beyond the tree line. Not sure what it is, but they just make me feel calm. I think I am going to have to live somewhere with mountains in my backyard. Or at least make my future "sugar-daddy" (Grandma's words, not mine) buy a vacation home in the Rockies.

Lastly, the maxi skirt is literally the perfect article of clothing. Breezy and light for those hot days, yet insulating and warm for brisker (is that a word?) weather. Don't knock it 'til you try it. That goes for all you men out there, too (probably try it in the privacy of your own home, though).

Well, now that my 2 week American tour is over, I'll spend some time at home training and watching a Tour of the French variety. June treated me well, and hopefully July will be even better!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

"You'd be faster if you used your brakes less"

After a brief hiatus from the social media world, I'm back to the land of virtual communication. It seems like it's been forever since I last wrote, so hopefully I can remember all the important things that have happened over the last few weeks! First up, the remainder of my 2013 Euro trip:

After Albstadt, Team Canada headed to Nuremberg for a couple days of training and recuperation, and even a few hours of playing tourist! Normally, we don't get the opportunity to do/see the things that vacationing people do when they come to Europe, so it was nice to be able to see some of the history and culture of Germany outside of racing.

St. Lorenz church in Nuremberg.

As much fun as Nuremberg was, I was itching to get to Czech and get on the course for World Cup #2. I'd only heard great things about the course in Nove Mesto, and it was not a disappointment! The climbing suited my style, and the technical features were challenging but fun. It reminded me of riding in Baie St. Paul, Quebec (which is one of my favourite race courses)! Unfortunately, as much as I loved the race course, I didn't really get the opportunity to race it. Come race day, I was taken out in a crash about 200m from the start line and was unable to continue racing. Even still, I counted my lucky stars... My body was all in one piece and I had no serious injuries. It was a big disappointment, but it could have ended so much worse. No sense in dwelling, so on to the next one!

Despite crappy weather, the race in Czech was SO well spectated! The locals sure do love their hometown heroes. 

The name of the town we stayed in... Try and pronounce it. I dare you.

You'd be surprised at how hard this is to find in Europe! 

As usual, the trip with Team Canada was spectacular. The staff are so well prepared and are willing to do anything and everything to help the athletes perform better. We are so lucky to have such awesome support from Cycling Canada, and I am very thankful for it! 

After Europe, I spent a couple of low-key weeks at home. My days consisted of bicycle riding, eating, laying on the deck, and other such important endeavours (I've said it before, the life of a student athlete is just so tough...). I've been enjoying the time spent with my family and am very grateful that we get to spend a few months together before my siblings and I all head back to school in the fall. 

This + a bike ride = the perfect summer day!

Celebrated Sam Wagler's 20th in style
Thai food for Sam's bday dinner. For some reason, this little guy really creeped me out.  
After a 5 month hiatus from sushi due to a VERY traumatic experience, I've made my comeback. 

Finally, the most recent event of the last few weeks... O-Cup #3 at Sir Sam's in Haliburton! The race started well, as I managed to take the lead and hold on to the lead group for the majority of the first lap. Things went downhill after that, however... I was feeling some training load in my legs and for some reason couldn't manage to stay upright on my bike. Seriously, I could have used a set of training wheels out there. Or maybe a hover craft. Anyways, I managed to eventually reign my erratic riding in (come on legs, get it together!) and made up a spot by the end of the race. I finished 4th, and am not totally unhappy with my race. When in doubt, remember that every race you do makes you faster! Shout out to my big bro Tavis for having a great race. Super proud of you! As always, Sean put on a great event and everyone had a lot of fun. Thanks for taking on the OCup series, Sean! 

After the race, a few of the U23's went for a little swim... It was terrifying (see: List of Fears). I hate to be sentimental, but I am so grateful for the opportunities and friends that have come to me through biking. I would never have had the ("ahem") balls to do half the things I've done if it weren't for you guys. You have all made my life so much richer, and I thank you for it!

I may have needed a helping hand, but here's proof that I am in fact conquering my fears this year. There may have been some screaming and booking it to the shore afterwards... but that's beside the point.  

It's now time for some solid training and soaking in the sun. In about a week I'll be headed off to Missoula, Montana for some US Cup racing action. Let the adventures continue!