Holiday Wishlist

It is that time of year – people are making lists, dashing off to the shops and fretting over what to buy loved ones and friends. Well, if you’ve got a cyclist or active person on your list, I’ve got some great suggestions for you that will make your shopping that much easier (you can thank me later)…

The Cyclery: every cyclist lives and dies by the chamois… Some chamois are friendly and very friendly – while others need a bit of assistance. Well thanks to The Cyclery, you can buy the cyclist or triathlete on your list some very helpful and soothing Assos Chamois Cream – and don’t forget an espresso mug to go with it. Chamois cream and a new coffee cup – can’t go wrong with this gift choice!

Clif Bar: there is nothing worse than getting hungry while out and about. Even worse for a runner, cyclist, triathlete or other active person is feeling underfueled while out training. Whether your athlete needs extra carbs, more protein, has a sweet tooth, is gluten-free, or is just a picky eater – Clif Bar has you covered with a range of products. I’ve sampled most of them and I can definitely attest for the Mint Chocolate Chip Luna Protein bar (gluten-free) and the Peanut Butter Pretzel Clif Mojo bar (great for tossing in your bag when you’re out shopping till you drop).

Lolë: chances are you’ve got a fashion-forward and active woman on your shopping list (or maybe you want a gift for yourself) – well this Canadian clothing company has you covered (literally). With good-looking, well-fiting clothes made for real women who want to look good, there is a wide range of clothes to choose from. Yoga wear, winter jackets, stylish pants, travel clothes, a snazzy new hat and scarf – there is something for every style and budget. I’ve got a range of Lolë clothing and I can tell you that the Travel Pants really are the ideal pants for traveling and that the Masella Jacket is ideal for cold blustery days.

Stevens Bikes: believe me any cyclist, triathlete, urban commuter or casual cyclist would really really like you to buy them something from Stevens Bikes this year. Remember when you were a little kid and you ran out to the garage or back yard to see that brand new bike with pink streamers on it? Well, give your favorite person that same six-year old feeling of excitement again this holiday season with a new bike – how about the Stevens Ventoux for the road cyclist on your list or the Stevens Velocita for your urban hipster?

Champion Systems Canada: everyone wants to look good and your cyclist, runner, triathlete, soccer player or nordic skier is no different. With a range of clothing and accessories to choose from you can give your athlete customized clothing that is both durable and good looking. After all, you don’t want your athlete running, riding, skiing, and swimming around town in sub-par spandex… Take a look at the Champion Systems Canada site for some great deals on good clothing – the casual clothing is also pretty darn sweet.

OGC: this Canadian company is the distributor for a range of solid companies, including Giro, Mavic, Opus, GoPro, and Thule. Let me tell you, that there isn’t an active person out there or on your list who wouldn’t want something from one or all of the OGC companies. Be it new shoes, a new helmet, a helmet camera, a roof rack, a new bike, or new tires – your athlete will be a happy camper.

Bell Lap Coaching: your athlete likely lives and breathes by a program. This program tells him or her how to train and why to train. Well, take things to the next level with top-notch coaching from a coach who has been there and knows what it is like to win races, lose races, come back from injury, and coach athletes to national teams, national titles and personal bests. Coach Steve Weller is the guy your athlete is looking for.

So hopefully this list will help you with your shopping and list making. Keep things simple and visit these fine companies to make your day easier and to ensure that your athlete is happy this holiday season. Of course when all else fails, a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a big bowl of ice cream does the trick (either to ease your shopping headaches or to put a big smile on your athlete’s face – who can say no to chocolate?).

Tabor World Cup Pre-Ride

I just got back from pre-riding the Tabor World Cup cyclcocross course. It is similar to the course I raced on in 2010 but there are also some big changes. Changes that I think have made the course even more challenging. The start is flat and fast and quickly we enter a series of steep ups and flowing corners. Then it is up a draggy climb and a fast run up some very big stairs. The course continues to climb after the stairs and we then descend down the hill with a series of straight stretches combined with a bunch of corners. A quick zip by the pit and then onto the steep uphill barriers. This is where the real climbing begins and then after a climb that seems to last forever we hit a quick section and a short steep descent, a fast little ridge (in the world champs we descended this and then ran up the hill – second set of stairs) and then it is a big descent leading into some tricky corners and by the pit for the second time.

The course is definitely more technical than the course we raced on last weekend in Plzen. The corners are very crucial and maintaining speed and flow between them and the straight draggy sections will be important. The steep descent is pretty harmless though there are some big ruts already – but the section is wide so there is lots of room to choose a line that you’re comfortable with.

Overall, it is a fun and challenging course. It is all big ring except the section after the stairs and the barriers. Today during the pre-ride the current World Champion Zdnek Stybar was out pre-riding – we waited at the barriers to see if he would bunny-hop them but we couldn’t convince him to do it! It is very cool to see someone so smooth on his bike – he makes everything look effortless.

I’m feeling pretty good about the course. The key for me is to really let the bike go in the corners – this is something I struggle with, but if I can stay confident and calm I should be fine. It is interesting – Nancy said to me today “I think you pre-rode better today than you raced last Sunday”. This is an interesting comment since often during the pre-ride and day of warm-up I’m able to go easy on the brakes but during the race, I tend to over brake. Not sure what this is all about….

I must admit I’m feeling a bit stressed about the course. You see, I like the course – it is good for someone like me with a lot of power – but the flip side is that there are a lot of girls with lots of power as well. But all I can do is all I can do. I’ll go out and give it my all. I know where to really bury myself and I feel comfortable with all sections of the course. I just will go out and ride as hard as I can. Maybe stressed is the wrong word – but I guess I’m just feeling the typical day before nerves.

One thing that does help today is having Ignace here. He has done so much for me – it is amazing. The parking at the race is not the best so he has left his mobile home (camper) at the course so we’ll have a good spot for tomorrow. Complete with a tent, power washer, and a fridge full of Coke and Red Bull!

Tonight rather than going out I’ll connect with Nancy who has brought a portable burner and hotplate with her – this way I can make some of my own food and not have to find some good pre-race food. I find it is a bit challenging when I need to avoid gluten and dairy. Tonight I’ll have some rice with a bunch of veggies and also cook up some rice to eat before the race. A big thanks to Nancy and Andy for all of their help, support and friendship. Looks like I’ll be brining some extra maple syrup and Canada hoodies back with me to Belgium!

Alright, I’m going to watch some episodes of Modern Family and maybe the UFC from a few weeks ago. Thanks for the support, cheering, comments, emails and the belief. I really couldn’t do this without you guys backing me. Some days I wonder what I’m doing – but then I remember how low and sick I was last year and I’m super grateful to have this second chance.

If you see Marc this weekend – give him a big hug and kiss for me. Can’t wait to see him on Tuesday.

Nittany Lions Cyclo-Cross Day 2

Sunday morning came fast and furious after a night of bike cleaning, cyclo-cross kit washing and attempts at rehydration. I guess it was much hotter than we realized on Saturday – I had a wicked headache after the Saturday race that continued well into the evening…

Saturday night ended up being very chilled out – more salads and fruit from Wegman’s and some tasty pasta made at home. There was a Chopped marathon on so I kind of become glued to this for longer than is healthy…

Anyway, on to Sunday. We were up and out of the hotel in good time with lots of time to do some recon laps of Sunday’s race course. There were some small changes but nothing that was really a game-changer. Still very muddy with the big difference being that the mud run came right after the start and the course essentially ran in the opposite direction. Lots of time to relax before the race and I even had time to read a bit and momentarily lose a shoe… Marc was up first and I didn’t get to see any of his race since I raced next but he had another good day (although an early incident has left him with a black and blue finger).

I’ve written a race report over on the Race Reports page but in the event you don’t want to click over, here are the Coles Notes:
– lethargic start and first half lap
– got my head in the game and passed a whole lot of people to move up into 8th
– made a series of small mistakes that cost me time/space/distance and energy
– lost four spots
– fought back and finished in 10th
– my turning was much better with cleaner lines that allowed me to pedal and accelerate
– energy management (for the most part) was better – I used both chainrings this time and was aware of my cadence
– I was able to recover at times on the course
– running was not the best
– I should have changed my bike – Marc said I was likely putting out 60% power due to the mud in my cassette…
– I need to beat the mental hurdles I insert during the race – ignoring my breathing, ignoring the lap card that tells me I have to race for five laps, ignoring the feeling of having my shoes nearly sucked off

All in all, a good day on the bike.

Apart from the racing, the best thing about these weekends and the entire cyclo-cross season is connecting with our racing friends. It is amazing the bonds that are forged out there on the cyclo-cross course and over the season when we’re all slogging through mud, snow, ice and giving it our all. It was great to see so many friendly faces and to hear the cheers for “Go Canada” “Come on Ottawa” – this really is super.

After a pretty quick exit from the race course we were on the road by 4ish for the drive home. Thanks to some Starbucks coffee, a can of Mountain Dew and some filling eats at Cracker Barrel we made it home in decent time. We were welcomed by a very happy fat grey cat (Murphy our 17 year old kitten!) and I had a great package to open from Lolë. Can’t beat a package of new clothes after a weekend of racing – I tried on all of my clothes and I’m pretty excited to show off this fine line of Canadian clothing at the races and out and about – thanks Lolë for the support.

As for today? Well a recovery ride and some hot power yoga are on deck – for some reason my ribs and chest feel like they’ve gone ten rounds in the Taekwon-do ring – guess the running, the slogging and powering through the mud have woken up some under-used muscles!

Thanks for the words of support, the speedy vibes and the cheering – it really does make a difference! (Huge thanks to Marc – couldn’t do this without him!)

Cyclo-Cross Life

Ah, can you smell it? Or maybe you can feel it in the air? The mornings a tad more crisp. The sun is setting that touch earlier. Yes, cyclo-cross season is just around the corner. Really can’t beat the feelings of anticipation when it comes to a new cyclo-cross season. Lots of questions about fitness, technical skills, tire choices, new kit arriving and travel and race plans being finalized. It really is kind of like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter all rolled into one!

As you likely know (if you’re a regular reader) – my training is going super well. I’m hitting numbers that quite frankly – I’ve never seen before. Efforts are getting harder, going deeper and the recovery is really improving. I’m super happy to be feeling as well as I am on the bike. I daresay that I haven’t felt this good on the bike in a very long time – in fact as far back as 2010 when I did have one of my better seasons. It is amazing what being healthy, feeling confident and having some solid training can do!

I’ve pretty much got my travel plans for the first two World Cups of the season sorted out. I’m going to fly into Prague on Oct. 12 and drive to Plzen. Got a good rate on the super Hotel Ibis and I’ll stay there until the following Thursday. Then it is off to Tabor and I’ll bunk down at the Hotel Kapitol until Monday morning. I’m super fortunate to have my good friend and mechanic Ignace traveling to the two World Cups this year. This takes a lot of pressure off of me and it really helps to have someone there in the event that something goes wrong with my bikes. Thanks Ignace – you can expect some tasty Canadian maple syrup to be making the trip with me! The only piece of the puzzle I’ve got left for this trip is the car rental… I’m leaning towards a Volkswagen Golf (or similar) – most people say that the bike boxes will fit. I think they will – and the price is right for this size of car. It is amazing how expensive car rentals are!

Logistics aside, I’m really looking forward to returning to the Czech Republic. I had a great time in Plzen last year – my dad and I took in the city and just had a super trip. I’m already thinking about the delicious hot chocolate I had at a wonderful little cafe in Plzen. I’ll definitely be having one after racing on Oct. 16. I really like the course at Plzen – I didn’t have a very good ride there last year – but this is a new year and I’m in much better shape physically and mentally this  year. I’m also looking forward to racing in Tabor – it will be interesting to see what the course is like now that it is not covered in snow and ice! The other highlight of this trip is connecting with all my cyclo-cross pals again – it is amazing the friendships that have developed over the years.

As for the Belgian end of the season? Well, I was just looking at flights and there are some excellent prices right now. (If Marc were here to consult with, I’d likely have booked by now!) Looks like I’ll fly to Belgium on Nov. 8 – this gives me a couple of days to catch my breath after racing at Canadian Cyclo-Cross Nationals on Nov. 5 in Toronto. Then it will be full-steam ahead while in Belgium!

I just find feel that even though the season hasn’t started yet and I haven’t raced yet, that this is going to be a great year. I feel good. Things are falling into place. I’ve got some fantastic sponsors again this year. I really just can’t wait to get started.

I think what really helps this year is that life away from the bike is really going well. I’ve got a new job with Blue Volcano Media that I’m really enjoying, I’ve got some excellent freelance clients that I’m working for as well – so this really helps me balance the demands of training and racing. It is nice to not be working – but I find that for me, I get really absorbed with bikes, bike racing and performance. If I have something else to balance out my life and my focus, I don’t get as crazy…

So, really, things are good. The cyclo-cross life is treating me well and I’ve got no complaints! Life is good. Each day I realize how lucky I am to do what I do and it is even better to connect with people who have goals and dreams – this helps me keep digging that extra little bit when I’m out training and to buckle down when I’ve got deadlines coming up.

To sum things up in a few words: Dudes – I’m stoked!

New Sponsor: Lolë

I am very excited and pleased to announce Lolë as a new sponsor for the 2011-2012 cyclo-cross season. To say that I’m stoked to be sponsored by such an outstanding and forward-thinking clothing company would be an understatement. Lolë is all about getting women active and inspiring them to live healthy and fulfilling lives – this fits perfectly with me and with what I’m all about.

For those of you not familiar with Lolë – think designed to fit women’s bodies – for women of all shapes and sizes. Clothes that look good, travel well, and make you (and me) feel good. Can’t ask for much more out a shirt or a pair of pants!

I’ll be blogging over at the Lolë blog and holding some Lolë-sponsored cyclo-cross clinics. I’m really looking forward to my being part of the robust community of inspiring women that Lolë has created. The blogs really are worth visiting – interesting posts from women all-over the world involved in all sorts of  cool things.

Thanks Lolë for the opportunity to be part of the team. Live Out Loud Everyday!

Stay tuned for news about the upcoming cyclo-cross clinics and other Lolë events.

P.S. be sure to follow Lolë on Twitter and Facebook