Christmas Gift Ideas

Wow – have you looked at the date on the calendar? It is Dec. 14… Only 11 more days until Christmas. Not a lot of time to get those Christmas gifts sorted out. Well, as luck would have it, I’ve got a few ideas for you – particularly if you’re shopping for a cyclist or an otherwise active person.

These gift ideas all come thanks to my sponsors and I think would make anyone happy to find these under the tree or in the Christmas stocking on Christmas morning.

The Cyclery: chances are it is the off-season for your cyclist, so this is the perfect chance to give your cyclist a cross-country ski package that will help burn off the restless energy from not riding and help with Vitamin D absorption. Perhaps your cyclist’s wardrobe is a bit lacking? No problem check out the selection of Icebreaker Merino Wool at The Cyclery – guaranteed to have your cyclist looking good and staying warm.

KingsBridge Disaster Recovery: as a small or medium-sized business owner, now is your chance to get your business protected in the event of a disaster or threat. KingsBridge has just released their latest mobile application – Phoenix Mobile Enterprise. This application runs on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and is a seamless way to ensure your business is protected. Get your business prepared for the upcoming busy season. Not only is this the leading product in the mobile disaster recovery software space, but the KingsBridge guys are avid cyclists and if you talk to Skip and Steve nicely they might even join you for a mountain bike ride!

Stevens Bikes: ah nothing quite like a shiny new bike for Christmas. Can’t be a much easier gift to buy for your cyclist – guaranteed your cyclist will be thrilled with a new bike. Check out the new range of 2011 bikes from Stevens Bikes – are you looking for a road bike, mountain bike, cyclo-cross bike, time trial bike, or maybe a city cruiser? Stevens Bikes has got you covered. Hint – The Cyclery is one of the premier retailers of Stevens Bikes so if you’re not sure which bike to choose, stop in and talk to Vince or one of his knowledgeable staff – they’ll help you and make sure your cyclist has a big smile on Christmas morning.

Bell Lap Coaching: are you shopping for the cyclist who has it all – a new bike, shiny shoes, and fancy race kit? Well, what about coaching? This is something that a lot of cyclists overlook – thinking they can just go out and hammer day in and day out. Well, I suggest gifting a few months of training and coaching with Bell Lap Coaching. Coach Steve Weller is a dedicated and knowledgeable coach who can take your cyclist from back-of-the-pack to the front-of-the-pack in no time. Visit the Bell Lap Coaching website to check out the options for your cyclist. If you’ve got questions, don’t be shy drop Steve an email.

Clif Bar: on the bike and off the bike, one thing all cyclists need is reliable training, racing and recovery food. This food has to taste good, hit all the nutritional markers, and be easy to digest. Look no further than Clif Bar. Clif Bar is known for using organic and natural ingredients and has a complete line of food to suit your cyclist’s needs. Personal favorites include the Clif Shot Bloks (orange flavor), Chocolate Mint Clif Bars, Clif Kid ZBars, Clif C bars and on the Luna side, the Vanilla Almond and Caramel Nut Brownie bars are winners. Order a few bars or even a case – your cyclist will appreciate it. Heck, while you’re at it, order something for yourself – it is the holidays after all and we all need some healthy snacks to tide us over to the next Christmas party!

Champion Systems Canada: now is the perfect time to start thinking about what your cyclist will be wearing next year while zipping around the roads. You want your cyclist to look good, so the best option for you is custom cycling apparel from Champion Systems Canada. Very reasonably priced, durable, long-lasting, and excellent customer service are the hallmarks of the Champion Systems Canada line. You’re not limited to placing a big clothing order – you can order cycling kit for just your cyclist if you want!

Outdoor Gear Canada: wheels, shoes, helmets, sunglasses, group sets – you name it Outdoor Gear Canada has got you covered. With Outdoor Gear Canada you can get the latest gear from top brands including Giro and Mavic. A shiny new Giro Atmos helmet or a swank pair of yellow Mavic Fury shoes would look pretty darn nice under the tree.

Oakley: nothing says style and speed like Oakley. Your cyclist really really wants a new pair of Oakley glasses. If you buy only one gift for your cyclist this Christmas, go big and wrap up a swank pair of Oakley sunglasses. There won’t be any complaints coming on Christmas morning. But don’t blame me if your cyclist insists on wearing the new sunglasses indoors all day!

So there you have it – a complete Christmas list for your cyclist. No excuses to not “know what to buy” – you can choose from bikes, skis, clothing, software, food, custom cycling clothing, helmets, shoes, wheels, sunglasses and coaching services. Lucky for you my sponsors have got your back and will help you take care of your Christmas shopping.

What are you waiting for? Time to get busy and get that shopping done. Remember there are only 11 days until Christmas….

How to Be a Fan

I am a cyclo-cross racer. My husband, Marc, is also a cyclo-cross racer. This means I spend a lot of time at cyclo-cross race venues. Typically Marc’s race is early in the morning (10 a.m. or so) and my race is in the early afternoon (2 p.m or so) – we like to arrive two hours before Marc’s race and we stay until my race. So I really do spend a lot of time at the ‘cross race.

Over the years I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks that come in handy when preparing to be a fan all day. First off a few tips on things to bring with you to make your day of cheering as comfortable as possible:

– a folding chair – one that you can easily cart around with you

– a good book – yes there will be moments during the day when you won’t know anyone racing or simply want a break from the racing action – a good book goes along way in beating the quiet times

– a thermos – fill this with your beverage of choice: earl grey tea, strong dark coffee, chai latte, hot chocolate, soup – the options are endless – but know that you’ll be happy to have a nice warm drink to keep you company during the day

– easy-to-eat real food – think tortilla wraps with peanut butter/banana, sandwiches with hearty fillings like chicken and avocado, fruit that doesn’t requiring peeling or stickiness (so basically an apple or pear), natural energy bars (Clif Bar products like the Clif C bar come to mind)

– clothes for all conditions – a hoodie to keep you warm, a scarf to cut the crazy wind that pops up out of nowhere, waterproof tops and bottoms, a hat (or as we Canadians like to call it – toque), warm gloves, and a complete change of clothes – somehow you will end up muddy, wet, or if you’re like me – manage to spill your thermos of warm drink on your lap and dribble your tasty food down the front of your shirt

– an open mind – chances are you traveled to the race with a cyclo-cross racer – remember that said cyclo-cross racer might be a bit tense or stressed as the race time draws closer – keep this in mind if the conversation seems to get a bit “short” or if your racer starts to act a bit crazy – this is the race talking and nothing else…

As a racer myself, there is nothing worse than racing by a bunch of spectators and not hearing any cheering. Truly this is just not cool. If you’re going to stand out there and watch the cyclo-cross race then cheer for each and every racer. Even simple things like “That’s It – Keep It Going”, “Pedal, Pedal”, “Ya – Doing Good”. These words make a difference even if I don’t know who is yelling them. So do the racers a favor and cheer for them – whether you know them or not – believe me – we appreciate it.

The last thing to keep in mind when attending a cyclo-cross race with a racer is that time slows down once the race is done. Your racer will want to discuss the race with his/her fellow racers for what seems to you like an eternity. Your racer may go out on a cool-down ride or ride the trainer for what seems like a very long time. The changing, cleaning up and repacking of the car will also appear to take a long time. This is normal. We racers need some space after the race to decompress, relax and take stock of how the race went. Rushing your racer won’t help matters – often this will cause your racer to slow down even more… Luckily for you, you’ve brought a good book, a folding chair, a thermos, and some good food…

So there you have it, a few tips from me on how to be a fan for the day. Hopefully you can use these tips this weekend at whatever races you’re out watching. If you’re in Bend, Oregon this weekend, I think the warm clothes, thermos and change of clothes will come in very handy. Remember to cheer for all the racers out there ripping it up at the U.S. National Cyclo-Cross Championships – they will silently thank-you as they pedal by. If you’re heading out to Essen or Overijse for the elite men’s races in Belgium this weekend – definitely cheer for racers that aren’t named: Bart, Sven and Niels – remember to cheer for Jonathan, Enrico, Thjs, Radomir and all the other non-Belgians racing… 🙂

(Just heard from Marc – he was in 4th place at his race in Varsenare until a flat tire forced him to pit… he finished the day in 7th… Still an excellent result. Nice ride Marc!)

Tough News

As you know, I’m all about being honest on this site… So I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m sick. Really sick this time. Sick with the ulcerative colitis to the point where I can’t even think about my bike let alone get out and ride it. This flare came out of the blue last Thursday and initially it wasn’t too bad – I was able to ride and to eat fairly well. This is not the case anymore.

I had a couple of good rides on Monday and Tuesday – though I was pretty much wiped out for the rest of the day, but it still felt good to get out and ride. As for Wednesday and Thursday – there wasn’t any riding. Really all I did was lie on the couch.

Until yesterday I still did think that I could keep racing and that I’d be lining up at next weekend’s double-header of Scheldecross and the Kalmthout World Cup. But it is just not going to happen. I can’t eat or drink much right now. All I want to do is sleep. So racing is out of the question.

This is hard. Really damn hard. I’m so frustrated with my body. Some days it would be easier to understand why this is happening to me if I was a person who lives an unhealthy life. But I don’t – I do everything I can to be healthy and still this ulcerative colitis shows up and puts a stop to my dream and goals.

The only thing I can do now is focus on getting better. Since I’m not racing I have the chance to take some medicine that normally I wouldn’t be able to take. I’m hoping this will help and then I can get myself back on track for next season. (I’m still secretly hoping I can be well enough to race at the Hoogerheide World Cup at the end of January…)

I know that I’ve got a big engine inside of me and lots more kick left in these legs of mine. I’ll be back next year ready to race the season I had planned to have this year.

Many many thanks for your ongoing support and encouragement of my racing and training. I really do appreciate the amazing comments and emails that you send. Each time I race I know that I’ve got your support with me while I’m racing through the mud, sand, grass and crazy descents. Please know that I’m trying to do the same for you – if you listen closely during the race you can hear me shouting “Keep Pedaling”, “Good Job”, “Awesome Ride”, “You’re Doing Great”.

Have a great Friday and get out and spin some miles for me. To all of my American friends who are racing this weekend in the U.S. National Cyclo-Cross Championships – best of luck. The course in Bend, Oregon looks pretty darn narly – looking forward to seeing how all of you do.

A big shout out to my sponsors for the overwhelming support I’ve received this season. These companies have made it possible for me to chase my dreams and goals:

KingsBridge Disaster Recovery

The Cyclery

Stevens Bikes Canada

Champion Systems Canada

Bell Lap Coaching

Clif Bar

OGC

Oakley

Go Time

It is time. Time to get to the airport, get checked in and get on the plane. I’ve been anticipating this day for a while now. But now that it is here, I kind of wish I could delay it for a few days. Everything seems a bit rushed right now. I know I’ll be okay once I get on the plane. But I wish I had a few more days with Marc. A few more days here at home to think and to just be. Don’t get me wrong – I want to go. It is just harder this year to go alone without Marc. (He’ll be getting to Belgium on Nov. 25 and believe me, I’m already counting down the days.)

I caved and ended up bringing a suitcase with me this time. No luck getting everything into two bike boxes and a carry-on. Really the items that took up the most space aren’t my clothing – it is all the Clif Bar product and my ulcerative colitis medicine! Can’t leave this valuable stuff at home. I’ve got my iPad loaded up with a couple of television shows, one of my favorite movies (Up), my favorite pro rider (George Hincapie), and some yoga to stretch the muscles, mind and soul.

Tuesday is going to be a busy day. Build bikes. Get out for a two hour ride – try out both bikes. Get unpacked. Get some food. Beat the jetlag and get sorted out for the first race in Niel, Belgium. Karl and Denise arrive on Thursday – I’m looking forward to showing Karl my favorite training routes and helping them to get oriented with Blauberg, Herselt, Averbode, and the area.

I’m racing on Thursday in Niel and then I’ve got a solid week and a bit of training until the next set of races – Hasselt on the 20th and Apere Gavere on the 21st. I really liked the Hasselt race last year. Asper Gavere? Well, I got through it! This year I’m looking forward to riding better technically at Aspere Gavere – the mud is my friend and so are steep muddy descents!

I’ve been thinking a bit more about Nationals on Saturday. What a day. It was one where so many of us had goals that we wanted to tick off. But just as in life, this doesn’t always happen. I’m taking all the good I can from that day. The good on and off the bike. I got to meet some new people, reinforce friendships, cheer on my good friends, and race my bike. Many thanks to the “kids” for their overwhelming support this season – training with these young guys has just been awesome. Between them and Marc I’ve learned so much already. Thanks to Natasha for the email today about my health issues – it really does help to have some advice from someone else who has been down the same rocky and uncertain road. Things will get better. Soon enough I’ll feel like myself again. I can’t wait to see what I can put together on and off the bike when this comes to fruition.

Alright, I best be off. The clock is ticking and we’ve got to now jam all my gear into the back of our trusty Matrix. If you see Marc out at the races – be sure to give him a hug and a kiss for me and cheer extra loudly for him. Can’t wait to see him on Nov. 25.

New England Worlds – Kinda Sorta

I had really been looking forward to racing at “New England Worlds” aka “Gloucester” all season. But sadly it is not to be. Those tests I had done earlier in the week revealed some additional health issues that I need to sort out in order to be healthy. I’ve learned that I’m really just getting by thanks to my fitness and cycling-determination…. Once again a testament to how living a healthy and active lifestyle can keep you out of the hospital and living a full life. Problem is, that as a result of the ulcerative colitis flare, I’ve developed a pretty severe bout of anemia coupled with a too low hemoglobin/red blood cell count. This explains a lot. In a strange way it is a relief. This news explains why each race this year has been a struggle.

How am I feeling? Well, in a way, relieved – now we know what is going on. But in another way, I’m damn mad. I’m downright angry. Why does happen to me? Why do those people who eat poorly, don’t exercise and quite frankly treat their bodies like garbage disposals, manage to avoid the problems I’m having? Some days I feel like pulling up to the nearest golden arches and hunkering down to a Big Mac, large fries, and chocolate shake. But I don’t. And I won’t. Because that is not the attitude that got me here.

Got me here to this place where I’m surrounded by super friends and sponsors. Friends who cheer for me no matter how I’m riding. Friends who encourage me every step of the way. Friends who when I’ve cracked, have been quick to send emails and post comments reminding me to keep chasing the dream. Friends who know what it is like. Sponsors who were there in the beginning when I was transitioning into elite racing. Sponsors who believed in me to provide me with bikes, clothing, food, shoes, helmets, travel and living support. Sponsors who know that I’ve got lots of great races left in me. (Do yourself a favor and check out my sponsors – some top-notch products and people. Overwhelmed would be the appropriate word.)

I’ve had a few pity parties for myself this season. Wondering what is going on. Why can’t I ride like I did last year? I even asked myself if I still wanted it? And the answer: Yes I want it. Yes, I will be racing at the World Champs in St. Wendel, Germany. Yes, I know I can compete with the best. Yes, I know I’m stronger and smarter than this time last year. Yes. Yes. Yes.

So this weekend there will be no racing for me. I’ll be cheering on my favorite guy. Doing whatever he needs to ensure he has two excellent races. Gloucester is a special place for us. This is the first race we traveled to outside of Canada. This is the first time I stood in the pits. This is the first time I saw the elite women whiz by and wished I could be like them. Gloucester is the first time I stood on the podium. Gloucester is where we were bitten by the ‘cross bug. Can’t hardly wait to get there. If you see me in the pits or roaming around, stop me and say “hello”. Looking forward to a great weekend of racing, cheering, friends, and hanging out.

Interbike

Thursday was a long but very good day. I spent the day at Interbike. Honestly I had no idea what to expect, I haven’t been to many trade shows – and never had I been to a bike-specific show. Well, lets just say that Interbike was crazy!

The trade show floor was massive and it was packed with more bicycling retailers than I even knew existed. I’m not sure what I expected but I wasn’t ready for the incredible amount of people and noise. I was extremely tired by 4:00 but in a good way. I spent the day talking and wandering. I had a great meeting with Clif Bar that really made my day and from there things just really got better. I had a great chat with the gang from Cyclocross Magazine – looking forward to working with this magazine again. Hung out and chatted with the Sinclair Imports/Stevens Bikes team for a while – a top-notch group of people. That booth was super busy – some very fast bikes on display. (Yes, I have photos – I’ll get them up on the weekend.)

So all in all, a really good day at Interbike. I took some photos of some cool looking gear that I’ll post on the weekend. I’m just too tired right now to do this. It is bright and early on Friday morning and I’m just getting ready to fly home. Looking forward to getting home to Ottawa and relaxing with Marc and Murphy (the cat). I’m racing on Sunday in Rochester, N.Y. so Saturday is going to be a busy one.

Had a bit more time to think about my race at Cross Vegas on Wednesday night. it was not fun to get lapped but I did all I could to prevent this. I was on the gas the entire time and really just didn’t have the “oomph” in my legs to hold off the surge. I am happy with my start. I was right in there from the gun and held my position fairly well – that was definitely the fastest start I’ve ever experienced. My regret is that I wasn’t able to sit on some wheels – I made that race hard on myself because I was out in the wind alone for the 40 minutes. So more good lessons learned.

Many thanks to KingsBridge for helping me out so much on this trip – from arranging the travel, being my uber-support at the race, and for just being a good group of guys. Big shout out to Dave Smith of the Element Hotel – the rooms was awesome, the hotel is super nice and having the trainer on Wednesday night was huge. Many many thanks to Stevens Bikes for their continued support – thanks to Vince for the kind and encouraging words before and after the race, thanks to Peter for just being “Peter”, and thanks to Ralf for helping me out so much. Big thank-you to Clif Bar for really setting the tone for my day on Thursday – nothing like having the support of such a solid company and group of people.

Time to finish the packing and get to the airport. I’m sure I’ll see some of you on Sunday and others next weekend in Gloucester, Mass. Racing in Gloucester is one of the upsides of the UCI Cyclo-Cross Training camp being canceled – I haven’t raced in Gloucester since I was in the 3/4 women’s category and wishing I could race elite. I only hope I can inspire someone else to chase their dreams as I was inspired by watching those fast girls.

Cross Vegas

I can safely say this is the latest I’ve ever made it home after a cyclo-cross race. It is 1 a.m. on Thursday morning… But the early morning/late night was definitely worth it.

I admit I was a bundle of nerves early in the evening. Thanks to the KingsBridge crew for putting up with my “shortness”. The support I received from these guys was awesome. They just basically were there to help me out in any and every way. Thanks Skip, Steve and Jason – I owe you guys!

Well, Cross Vegas is pretty crazy. Lots of people. Lots of cheering. Lots of everything really. It was a fun time.

The race? Well, the race was as expected hard. I’d say this race was as hard as a World Cup. Some of the top women in the world were there today. It was fast. It was windy. The grass was really dense. And did I mention that it was fast?

I had a not bad night. The best part about my race was my start. Usually I don’t have a very good start. But tonight I had a great start. I actually came by the pits the first time in 18th position! This is awesome. Unfortunately I started cracking shortly thereafter. I really just put head down and turned my legs as hard and as fast as I could. I rode well technically – the barrier re-mount could have been faster but all in all, I’m happy with how things came together. I won’t lie, getting pulled was not one of my race goals. But I came out and rode as hard as I could for as long as I could and to top it off I had a good start. This in my books is a good ride.

It was great to catch up with more people and to meet some new people. The Stevens Bikes tent was pretty darn busy and I think everyone had a good time. My bikes were very popular with a number of people giving them a test ride. This all makes for a great night at the races.

I do have to say that it was dry out there. I really wished I had had a bottle in the pits. I couldn’t believe how thirsty I was. Ah well, another lesson learned. Luckily I was able to swing by the Clif Bar booth after the race for some post-race food and drink. I literally drank all of my water before the race – not often I drink two cycling bottles plus an additional 1 liter of water in three hours!

After my race I had a good chat with Marc. I admit I had a few moments of feeling sorry for myself but luckily Marc was on the other end of the phone to shake me out of this and to remind me of the facts of life. It was so good to talk to him after the race and to tell him all about it. It also helped to have him remind me that there are some things that are beyond my control.

I hung out and watched the elite men’s race with Vince and Peter. I think the conversations we had were as equally entertaining as the men’s race! It is something else to watch the elite men fly by – they were cooking. Too bad that Driscoll got caught at the end – but he went for it. This is all you can do. Picked up some cool t-shirts at the race – thanks to Schlamm and J-Pow.

We closed the night off with a fine meal at the Red Rock Canyon Resort and now I’m about ready to hit the sack. I had planned on riding at the Red Rock Canyon tomorrow morning but I realized that I’ve been up at 6 a.m (on Monday 3 a.m.) everyday this week – I think I’ll sleep in a bit tomorrow. I know the Red Rock Canyon isn’t going anywhere and I have full intentions of bringing Marc here for a trip one day. We’ll do some riding, we’ll check out the Las Vegas strip, and we’ll just have a good time.

A massive thanks to the Element Hotel and Dave Smith for the amazing accommodations and for arranging for a trainer. Having such a comfortable place to sleep and relax really does make a big difference. It has been nice to not be staying down on the strip amongst all the action. The trainer helped a lot tonight – I was able to easily warm-up away from the hub bub and just do my thing. Thanks a lot for the incredible support. All this from a person I’ve never even met! Incredible.

Most importantly – thanks so much for the emails, blog comments, Facebook comments, Twitter comments. All of these really do have an impact. I can’t say enough about how much it means to me to know that you’re out there cheering me on. Things will get better – I know they will – and when they do – I have you to thank.