Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A New Direction, Well Maybe

As most people know, I am an avid adventure racer and triathlete, but I like to sprinkle in some road bike racing and trail racing too, I guess I’m kind of an all around outdoors person. In 2010 Trek started a Mountain Coop Team, the team consisted of one representative from each state. I was lucky enough to be chosen for the state of Illinois. I was also lucky enough to be kept on for the 2011 race season. As a Trek Mountain Coop rider, I not only raced for them, but I held group rides, took video and pictures, and wrote about all my adventures and gear reviews on my Trek Mountain Girl Blog. I have been very loyal to Trek and have swayed many of my friend’s opinions about bikes and converted them to Trek lovers.

My partnership with Trek has been great, I do love my Trek Top Fuel and my Superfly, but my reign as the Trek Mountain Girl has now come to an end. Trek has decided to move in a different direction this year and disband the Mountain Coop. It has been a great ride with Trek and I’m honored to have been a part of their team.

Sometimes things happen for a reason, so when I saw that Foundry Cycles was looking for a few good ambassadors for their bikes, I thought why not try a new direction myself. I went out and researched Foundry and found they make some really great bikes. I especially liked the Router and Auger. I’m a mountain bike girl at heart, but would love to try cyclocross in the near future.

The high-modulus CF frame gives the Router the best complete blend of light weight, stiffness, and strength.

After reviewing some frame photos it’s easy to see that each tube and junction has been optimized for maximum stiffness and minimum weight, with smooth blended corners and wide strong radius’s. For instance, the bottom of the tapered head tube brings increased stiffness but tapers quickly toward the top for weight savings.
The internally routed shift cables look clean and eliminate places to snag on branches or clothing.

The wide bottom bracket will provide stiffness during hard accelerations and hill climbing.

A replaceable derailleur hanger provides some insurance for the inevitable trail damage.

The dark subdued colors look amazing, not covered with flashy logos and needless bright eye catching colors.

The Router B1 in my choice for the perfect ride. The RockSHox SID XX is the most amazing fork on the market. Infinite tuneability with the dual air chambers, and so light you will lift it effortlessly over logs and rocks. All the Routers come with 15mm Thru Axle to ensure flex free cornering and ease of threading the axle on and off for travel to the trails. The 9mm quick release is finally dead. The SID on my old FS 26er is still going strong and leak free after years of abuse.

My team has several riders using Stan’s NoTubes wheels, they are lighter than anything else available. Choosing the Arch with X.9 hubs over the Crest means the Router was meant to be ridden hard. The advantages of Stan’s wheels cannot be understated. They set up tubeless the first try, every time. Sometimes even without a compressor.

I’ve never ridden Conti Mtn bike tires, but they enjoy a stellar reputation in the industry. Their black-chilli compound sounds second to none.

The all SRAM XX drivetrain is a solid lightweight and dependable choice. Designed as a system and working exceptionally well together. I’ve never understood why some bike manufacturers mix drivetrain components. SRAM/Shimano spends countless hours and dollars engineering, testing and optimizing their drivetrains to perform flawlessly. Then I get my new bike with mixed components? Why? Lowest bid is my bet, not best performance.

I’ve ridden x.7 and x.9 and found them to perform perfectly. They are even good at absorbing crash impact and trail debris with minimal to no damage. I would love to try an XX equipped bike.

My Avid brake equipped bikes have also been solid and dependable, but if I was able to choose, I’d go Shimano on brakes. It’s not a performance issue. It’s a feel. I prefer the more predictable handle pull on shimano. The next guy will probably say the same about Avid.

I think I would be the perfect person to represent Foundry Cycles. I would give the good, bad and the ugly in my blog post, talk the finer points of Foundry, hold group rides to get novice mountain bikes out and interested in the sport. My busy adventure racing schedule (my Rock Racing teammate and I were 2nd in North America in the Checkpoint Tracker series in 2011) would give my Foundry cycle, visibility to a whole new demographic, that of adventure racers, and believe me adventure racers are always looking for a better bike. Also, the Midwest has so many great mountain biking venues that I ride regularly, my Foundry cycle would be seen by an array of cyclist, who are most often looking for their next best ride. Yep, I would be styling on my new Foundry Router.

I also appeal to the female demographic and aren’t we always trying to get more girls in the sport. To that point I have the appeal to the older generation, if a mother of 3 can do this at 47 years old, anyone can. So let’s get everyone on Foundry cycle and loving the sport. I guess if I’m lucky enough to start riding for Foundry, I will have to change my moniker to Foundry Mountain Girl.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Soap Box - IHSA Sectionals

Yep, that’s right, I’m back up on my soap box, here it comes, my opinion of what felt like a robbery. Hey, what else do I have to write about, I still have 28 days of my forced training time off. BTW, my tailbone is feeling a little better, maybe the doctor is smarter than me after all.

If you aren’t a follower of cheerleading, which you probably aren’t if you don’t have a child in the sport, you probably don’t understand the way it is scored. So let me explain, it’s pretty simple, a number of judges, watch the routine, everyone starts out with a perfect score, but have points deducted for mistakes. Some of the areas judged are tumbling, synchronization, appearance, difficulty, etc. There is a scoring matrix that says how many points or percentages of a point to deduct for each of the mistakes. The judging is very subjective and what everyone hopes for, is to have very impartial judges. Oh, but I know what you are thinking, that’s right, judges are only human and they make errors, they miss things, both good and bad and no matter how impartial they might think they are, it’s not always the fact.

Its human nature, in the Olympics, the German judge will always score a German higher, just as an American will always score an American competitor higher. In corporate America, the most qualified person for the job doesn’t always get it, because he might not be the right race, gender or know the right person. In competitive cheerleading, the judges from the North might not score the teams from the South as high as those from the North. It’s not fair, but it’s reality.

So let me get to the point so I can climb down off my soap box, I’m afraid of heights and need to get down from here. During the IHSA sectionals, the EHS cheerleaders, had an almost flawless routine, they weren’t the best team, but pretty darn close, I would have picked them as 3rd, based on my knowledge of the sport. So when they didn’t even make the top 5 teams, I along with everyone around me was shocked and wanted to know why. When I heard what the deductions were for, I was even more shocked, because I saw the video of the routine and I had taken over 150 photos of the routine and after reviewing both found the judges were mistaken, the mistakes they noted never happened. See for yourself, they look pretty perfect to me.

Here is the very sad part, there is no formal protest process in this sport, I understand why they don’t want to have one, because every team would be protesting if they didn’t get the outcome they wanted, but I think checks and balances could be put in place to prevent this from happening. Other sports have a formal protest process, for example, in bike racing everyone is afforded the right to protest within a certain period of time after the finish of the race. If a protest is lodged, then the officials review the tape and if they find that they were incorrect the scoring is changed. So if every competition is videoed, as it usually is, then, just review the tape, if it proves to be different than the results, change the results based on the video and that is the final score. This way, unless there is data to prove the points of the protest, there is no change in scoring.

Let me make this clear, I’m not accusing the judges of being prejudicial, but come on, we are all human and whether we like it or not, we do make mistakes and we sometimes pick that which is familiar over those we don’t know. I understand that there is no cut and dry way to score this type of sport, I’m not a judge and I don’t want to be. As a judge, no matter what you do you are going to be criticized by someone. What I am saying is, I truly believe that the cheerleaders were robbed and I’m sorry for them, after working so hard all season it comes to this. I especially feel for the Seniors, because this is their last chance, they don’t have a next year.

So girls, don’t get down, this is just a lesson for the future, life is not always fair, but you can choose to take something positive away from this even though you feel cheated. You know you did the best routine of the year, it was flawless in the eyes of most people and you should be proud of yourselves. I am proud of all of you and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

You have two weeks to show them what you have at ICCA state. The best revenge is to show those judges just how wrong they were. Bring It Tigers! I will be there cheering you on.

To see all the photos I took, click here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oh, It's Just A Scratch

I know, right, here I am writing about something other than my training and racing experiences. But, after reading this post, you will see, it really is about training and competing, it’s just not me who is doing it.

So this is how it goes, I have been into sports all my life and I always hoped that one day when I had kids they would love sports just like I do, especially running and the outdoors. Well guess what, all my kids went through the paces, soccer, t-ball, karate, running, dance, well Garrett didn’t try dance, and as it turns out none of these sports stuck with them. Garrett is a Music Man, not a Sports Guy. Jade and China on the other hand, almost put me in the grave when they became cheerleaders, I asked them “why do you want to cheer for others when you could be out there competing yourself”. When they started in this “sport”, well that’s what I though at the time, I was a naysayer, laughing at all the parents discussing stunts and tumbling and the points system while they critiqued every squad, taking notes during the competition. Oh you’re not going to believe this, but I have become one of them, yes me, I can hardly believe it myself.

So you still don’t know where I’m going with this, do you. I quickly found out that cheerleading is a “SPORT”, it’s one of the hardest sports you can ever compete in, with the most injuries of any high school sport. My oldest daughter Jade broke her nose three times in one season, she also hurt her knee and after three knee surgeries, it still isn’t fixed. Cheerleading is not for the faint of heart, if you want to be a cheerleader, you better learn to take a punch and like it.

My youngest daughter China is a Varsity cheerleader and she is on one of the best squads in the area, earning 1st place in her first two competitions and 2nd in the third competition which was this past weekend. This is what I have been leading up to.

This past weekend was the Mt Vernon Invitational, the girls went into it on a very poor week at practice, they were all a little nervous. At the start of the routine the music was wrong and the girls were confused, but they quickly regrouped and by the time the problem was corrected, they were back in step, jumping, yelling, tumbling, stunting, all in perfect unison and they were totally amazing.

They pulled off an almost flawless routine, with only one small error that I could see. They only lost first place by 9/10th’s of a point and they brought in their highest numerical score of the season. This is where I get to the point of the story. These girls are tough, one flyer, Madison was competing with bruised ribs and during the competition Megan was hit in the face and her nose was a fountain of red. Do you think she ran off the mat to first aid or fell down crying, nope she finished the routine and then covered her nose to try to stop the blood from running onto the mat. Come on now, that’s pretty darn tough, we aren’t talking about insane adventure racers, we expect this kind of action from them, we don’t expect this from a teenage girl.

Bloody Nose

So I think Megan deserves the “Oh, it’s just a scratch award” What is this award you say. This award was created by my friend Bruce, it’s for those who get hurt but keep going anyway, as in, “oh, it’s just a scratch”. For example, if you crash your bike on the road while going 25 mph, taking off a layer of skin, then get up, get back on your bike and finish the race, you would be nominated for this award.

One day I’m going to design a golden Band-Aid to give out in just these types of situations. You are the girl Megan and lets not forget Madison gets an honorable mention for being injured in a previous practice.

Madison (middle)

So Let’s Go Tigers! Show them what you got at sectionals this weekend.

Go Tigers!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Water Logged

If you don’t already know, due to my broken tailbone, I have been forced to take six weeks off biking and running, but I can swim as long as I don’t kick. After 10 days of my forced downtime, I’m now water logged and sick of swimming. On the upside, I think I’m getting some muscles in my arms. Only 32 days to go and hopefully my tailbone will be ready for Ironman training. You can see my plight in the video below.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Moral Of The Story

I think someone might be sending me a message. This reminds me of that joke about the guy sitting on top of is flooding house and while a boat, a plane and a helicopter try to rescue him, but he refuses to take the help because he says god will rescue him. Then after he drowns, he is in heaven and asks god, “why didn’t you save me” and god answers “I sent a boat and plane and a helicopter, what else did you want me to do”.

My story is this, I broke my tailbone in mid-October, I took a week off training, and then moved to a modified training schedule, still competing in all the races I had already registered for. Well, the tailbone pain just kept getting worse instead of better. I know that my doctor said to take it easy, but I think his idea of easy was not my idea of easy. So when late December rolled around, I decided it was time to come off the easy training plan and back on to the normal training plan. Get this, my tailbone started hurting even more, I just couldn’t figure out why it was hurting so bad. So after another visit to the doctor, he said that he wanted me to take 6 weeks off of running and biking. So if you know me, you know I took this very badly.

Ok, so I saw the doctor on Friday, and the way my mind works, I figured I would give this taking time off thing some good thought before committing to it. That means I would go ahead and ride on the snowy trails on Saturday and run the Castlewood trails on Sunday, then on Monday I would start my 6 weeks off, well maybe.

So 45 minutes into our run on Sunday, I’m running along telling Chuck about a movie I watched that I knew he would hate and the next thing I know I’m on the ground, rolling around, chanting in my head, “it doesn’t hurt that bad, don’t cry, don’t cry”. Chuck runs over to me and says please tell me you didn’t land on your butt. I of course replied, “no butt is fine, but everything else hurts”. Chuck grabs my arm and pulls me off the ground, after a couple minutes of walking, as I finish the story about the movie, we start running again. We finish another hour of running, then I pull my bloody gloves off to check the damage, then I pull down my bloody tights to see how bad the knees are. Who knew that the dirt feels like concrete when it’s 28 degrees outside.

So now I have to think was the doctor telling me to slow down my first offer of help, then his telling me not to race, the second offer, and now the falling down, my third and last chance to get it through my thick head, that I have to take some time off.


Is the moral to the story, don’t tell Chuck about horse movies, because he hates horse movies.

You decide!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Day on The GORC Trails

7 am on a Saturday morning in January, 18 degrees, virtually no wind, Good friends and fast bikes.

And me, I wasn't riding, I was just videographing, when I'm told not to run or ride for 6 weeks, that's what I do, ok, well, that's what I will do on Monday, I had to get one more weekend in first. Hey, you can't just go cold turkey without giving your mind time to digest something like this and get all the tears out too.

Oh, and I ran into my nemisis, Terry, while I was out there, good thing I was loading my bike or I would have had to kick his butt.