It has been an incredibly hard, long and gloomy winter/spring for Dan & I.  Both on the personal life front and that the stereotypical Seattle weather seems stuck on the “liquid sunshine” setting.  I was in desperate need of sunshine and cyclocross.  I didn’t realize how much I needed both until I stepped off the plane in San Jose, CA to be greeted by the warmth of the Cali SUN.   Case in point, the Seattle conditions upon boarding: POURING and 47 degrees.

Two hours later, stepping off the plane in San Jose, CA – Cue the Hallelujah music. (I love the miracle of air travel!!!!):

Stepping off the plane and into the sunshine already put this trip and race experience on the 200% personal satisfaction mark.   I felt so Seattle to be in absolute bliss enjoying the pure WARMTH of the sunshine, its effect being magnified reflecting off my almost albino white “Seattle tan.”  I made a point to warn everyone at the Redline Booth to wear sunglasses when looking directly at me and my glowing white skin.  It was exactly what I needed.  Better yet, in two more hours, I would be riding the Redline Carbon Conquest Disc Cx bike in the SUN and RACE Redline Cross bikes in 30 hours.  My version of heaven on earth has just been defined.

I spent Friday riding around Sea Otter in a complete “Sun honeymoon.”   Like sunshine, I hadn’t realized just how much I have missed riding and racing cross until I clipped in to the Redline Carbon disc. Even writing this now, my heartbeat slows and I start going into a Zen state just remembering that moment.  I will pretend that the heat radiating from our pellet stove is a breeze of sunshine…

It has been a long March and April due to life and I have felt blessed when I am able to train in a somewhat structured fashion.  There is a very fine balance between family, life, work, coaching the Biking Vikings High School Mountain Bike team and being a professional bike racer.  As always, family comes first and I appreciate my husband encouraging me to make sure to find a way to not completely sacrifice my bike career to be there to support family.  Needless to say, it’s been very hard for me to respect my commitment to myself and bike goals as well as commitment to family.  I think every cyclist can share their own version of the similar struggle and balance.

Just the opportunity to be at and RACE Sea Otter was especially poignant for me and my family.  It truly symbolized the start of a dream coming true – I am a Professional Cyclocross Racer for Team Redline.   No matter what life brings, this upcoming season is going to be huge and I am VERY excited for all of the amazing opportunities that lie ahead.  This achievement is even more deeply appreciated in the context of that the Sea Otter Cross races will be exactly one week since the passing of my Grandma.

 At 94, her long life was completely devoted to family and providing opportunity for all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  My Grandparents generosity and financial blessing helped me buy my first road bike in college, which was the start of my bike race career.  At that time, I knew I had the potential, but only dreamed of racing bikes professionally.  Like most non-cyclists, my Grandma didn’t understand my passion (and addiction) for cycling, but was always interested to listen to my adventures and try to comprehend how riding for multiple hours in adverse trail and weather conditions could be fun.  Growing up on a farm during the depression and the youngest of 7, she never rode a bike during her lifetime.  I know she would have enjoyed it.

In her memory and in an effort to thank Team Redline for their unwaivering support, I came to Sea Otter to WIN.

It was nice to know that the weather at Sea Otter was hot even by Californian standards.  That weekend set the record for the hottest days yet for 2012 in the Monterey area.  It was also a temperature record for me (& most Northwesters), but anything over 64 degrees exceeds that definition.  Dan (my fantastic husband) and Tim Rutledge (the fantastic Team Redline manager) were on top of all race logistics – prepping bikes, water, ice and how to help me transition between the Single Speed and Elite Cyclocross races within 10 minutes.  It sounds like I was one of the few to have full pit support and spare bikes ready in true cross fashion.  My race success is only a reflection of their amazing attention to detail and preparation.

Once the gun fired, signaling the start of the Single Speed race (where we were mixed with the men SS and industry cx races), I knew it was just a matter of having fun on the Redline Conquest Single Speed.  I love dancing around corners and powering up hills on it.  I have to admit, my barrier technique was a little rusty, but my efforts in improving my running leg speed certainly shined in the deep gravel section.  It was just plain good to be riding Trusty (my nickname for the SS bike).  Better yet, the competition commanded I needed to RACE and execute strategy if I wanted the Single Speed win and coveted Sea Otter winners jersey.   Sitting on her wheel the first lap, I sized up what our strengths/weaknesses were and how to use mine effectively.  In this race, it was going to come down to power on the climbs.  Thankfully, my legs were itching to throw down power and I channeled all of my March/April personal frustrations into the ground with each pedal stroke up the climbs.  It was an outlet of stress release I have desperately needed.  The lead was mine on by the top of the hill on the second lap.  On the final lap, to keep myself focused forward and keeping the lead, I started challenging myself to see how far up into the men’s ss/industry race I could get.  Dan said I managed to get 6th – that’s how well he knows how I think when racing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the guy in the banana costume I had been chasing.

I crossed the finish line (with arms up – I’ve been practicing!) where Tim was stationed and ready with water and towels.  Only when I stopped did I realize how hard I managed to ride –  I had to think about how to unclip.  To save time, we had pinned both race numbers on top of each other so that Dan could easily tear of the SS race number off to expose the Elite race number.  Dan literally directed me off the SS bike and onto the Redline Carbon Disc bike, ate a gel packet, drank my bottle of Nuun (thanks Nuun!), wrapped ice-soaked towels around my neck and I was off circling back to the start line.   It’s amusing we did a pit stop style turnaround on the infamous Laguna Seca Raceway.  I’d be curious how our turnaround time compares to the cars racing this track…

Although it is a cross race in April, I strongly believe the only way to help promote women’s cyclocross & single speed racing is to support it through racing.  In this case, for most of us on the start line in the Elite race, it meant racing on tired legs where all of the other women who also race cross were recovering from their XC Mountain bike race earlier in the day.  I appreciated that the Luna Women were on the start line and helped set the example of racing for the promotion of the sport.

I felt much better than I expected starting my second race (within 1 hour of starting the single speed race).  It was awesome to be gunning for the hole shot and settle into a Luna team sandwich position, with Georgia on my wheel!  Dismounting for the first set of barriers, my previous single speed race, fast start and heat began to take their toll.  At least the race had been shortened to 30 minutes, so it would only be 28 more minutes of forcing my lead legs around the course.  I knew I would have to dig deep to keep my spot on the podium, but that’s the point of cross in April – fitness training.  After some mental encouragement, my legs came around and I actually started feeling better as the race progressed and started to seriously gain on 4th place.  I was actually bummed that the race got shortened to 30 minutes instead of our traditional 40 minute race length because I know 4th place would have been mine with an extra lap.  Regardless, I was thrilled to accomplish my Sea Otter missions: Win the Single Speed race and Podium for the Elite race.  And all in the luxury of sunshine!

The next morning, Dan & I got to enjoy a spin along the infamous 17 Mile Drive along the Pebble Beach Golf Course (which I now know is a very famous and expensive golf course) on the Redline Carbon Conquest Cross Bikes.  I rode the disc version while Dan got to rock the newly-installed-for-Sea-Otter Carbon prototype FSA SL-K cyclocross brakes.  Thank you, FSA for allowing me to help test these amazing brakes!  Dan being on the FSA SL-K Carbon brake bike was probably to my disadvantage.   It is amazing how much lighter the Carbon SL-K Cross brakes are compared to their SL-K alloy predecessors, and they weren’t that heavy to begin with!   It’s hard to imagine the Carbon Redline Conquest bikes getting any lighter – the disc brake version is still lighter than my road bike!   

My Redline Carbon Conquest Team Disc Cross bike waiting to ride 17 Mile Drive.

Although incredibly gorgeous, despite the fog blocking what I imagine are even more breath taking spectacular views, 17 mile drive is fairly hilly.  It’s not really a complaint, but with Dan being on the lighter Redline bike with fresh legs, I have to admit I got a bit grumpy watching Dan spin away from me on the major climb that seemed endless.  On the same hand, it was fun to see him fly.  We even saw Christoph Sauser riding while spinning along the ocean shoreline.  Always awesome to share the road with a World Champion.

I spent the rest of the day at Sea Otter stalking the podium with Ellen, who placed 2nd in the Single Speed race.  As well as getting to meet and personally thank our Team Redline sponsors at FSA and Kool-Stop who help make our Redline Conquest Team bikes the cross industry gold standard.  Being involved with the bike industry through my work with BikePT.com, I also appreciated the opportunity to learn more about how components and products are designed and developed.  Every aspect of cycling is a truly amazing invention!  

Sea Otter Women Single Speed Podium – go Team Redline!

Dan & I also got to help Tim and the Seattle Bike Supply crew break down and pack up their expo exhibit.  It is incredible how much work and how hard everyone works to make events like Sea Otter possible and such a success.  Dan & I are masters of packing Tetris and enjoyed the concept and challenge of loading over 30 bikes, 6+ tents, tables, chairs and the BBQ grill into the Redline sprinter van and trailer.  Even more impressive, we were able to do it in less than 2.5 hours.  Go Team Redline!

Before – Halfway there: bikes staged and ready to load.  Note the BBQ grill on the right – even that got loaded for the trip home!

After.  Ta-da!  And with room to spare!

PS – Don’t forget to put sunscreen your feet when wearing sandals!  Thankfully, this didn’t turn out to be nearly as painful as it looks.  It is proof that I am actually a slight shade of tan from my normal radiant Seattle glow.