Monday, March 31, 2014

Michaux MTB School

This is the 7th year that the Michaux MTB School of Hard Rocks put on by Zach Adams has been run.  I've been involved as an instructor for the last two years and its been a really great experience.

 The camp is divided between a men's group with instructors Harlan Price  , the legendary Jay De Jesus and racer and coach, Ryan Fawley.  The campers have the option to learn from all the  instructors as the weekend progresses.  Sometimes having things said in a different way really helps and then of course the personal style of the coaches clicks with different people.  The women's group was led by me and the ever enthusiastic and very fast, Cheryl Sornson.  I'm always amazed at the positive nature of women mountain bikers and the energy that is created by a group of women learning.  I also loved that later in the day  the women could switch to one of the men's group and visa versa if they preferred.

I really like the idea of a dedicated weekend to learning and practicing mountain bike skills with a group of people and some really great instructors.  Ideally, a mountain biker does something like this at least twice a year.  I recommend a more intensive weekend camp and then some clinics or private lessons.  If you are a racer, then it will make you faster for racing.  If you don't race, it will totally increase your fun factor while riding trails.
photo by Liz Spencer
I know that a lot of riders who  can do some features in situ on the trail, but can't in a field.  I know many riders who say, I'm not incentivized by a board in a field, it has to be on the trail for me to jump over it.  And I say that is a bad attitude.  Learning skills in a field with repetition will only enhance anything that you do on the trail, especially when you figure out the how and the why of the body mechanics of a move.

Of course the weather was less than ideal, meaning it rained hard most of the weekend and nothing was left clean or dry.  But my new favorite phrase is "There is no bad weather , just bad friends"  , so make sure that you have friends that will go out with you on the tough days and make the most our of it.
photo by Liz Spencer
There was also a little rippers group led by a very sweet and qualified Karen Krasley. I think its great to have kids and adults learning together.  It helps them both.  Whenever you find yourself complaining about the rain, make yourself a kid again and enjoy the mud.  The little rippers certainly did! And the junior racers camp led by Jeff and Gunnar.  Gunnar had attended the camp the first year as a little ripper and is now an instructor, so cool!
Photo by Ralpe Pisle

And any instructor will tell you, that they learn a lot by teaching others.  I always learn something about teaching, technique or people and of course my own riding.  It is a very gratifying part time job for me.  Next up for me is professional development and finding some fitness.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tuscarora Off Road Weekend Marathon

The format of this race was to do as many laps as you could between 10 am and 2 pm.  The lap was 6 and a half miles and took around 45-50 minutes for me.  It was a cold morning in the 30's.  It is always tough to dress for a cold weather race because you know that you are going to hot on the climbs and cold on the long gravel descent.  But you could tell the folks that have been biking all winter, not just because they had better fitness, but because they had less clothes on.
Photo by Jack Copley

It was a great women's field with a dozen girls.  The gun went off and up the hill we went.  I went my pace and got some saddle time in.  Selene and Laura were pushing each other hard and had a great race with Selene winning on her new bike that as a size small fits two water bottles.

 Laura is on the fast track to racing success this year.

I finished five laps and ended up in third, which was good enough for the cool El Salvadorian machete prize.  In the words of Cory Rimmer "Tough day at the races. Skills kept me in the race and my legs took me out. Lots of training to be had."  My skills were remarkably good.  Maybe all the cross country skiing had a positive effect on my mtb skills?  I also really like the Scalpel and my Kenda Nevegals, they rock on the rocks!
 It was great to get racing and really, just riding!  I have a lot of work to do to get in shape which is full of possibility and promise.  I want to be able to do TSEpic again but its hard to know if two months is enough time to be ready for a 7 day stage race.

Zach puts on nice races and feeds us great afterwards.

Tuscarora Off Road Weekend Super D!

I really love a two bike race weekend.  I got to pack up both the Scalpel and the Jekyll and head up to Fast Forward Racing Productions Tuscarora Off Road Weekend in Tuscarora State Forest.
Oldest in the middle

This was a special weekend because it marked the first mountain bike ride of the year, as well as the first race.  I don't recommend that, mind you!  But you have to start somewhere.  And now that I've started, I'm where I'm Zen, it must be the Yoga.

After squeezing into my NoTubes jersey and Zoic baggies, The first race on the agenda was the Super D on Keane Trail.  Last year, it had snow on a most of the trail and was really tough.  This year had less snow on all of the trail, but all corny, slippery snow was just on the toughest, steepest section.  My first run, I actually walked most of it and contemplated skipping the race entirely.  I had no courage.

But, being an experienced rider and being a mountain bike instructor, I decided that I needed to really use my knowledge of technique to conquer the fear voices in my head.  I mean we all have fear, but we need to manage it or it will run wild and have us in a gripped flight or fight mode unable to relax and perform.

 I was thinking about the huge lump that I still have on my hip from crashing hard in the snow and landing on a rock on the Keane Trail last year.  I was thinking that I hadn't actually rode this particular Jekyll in exactly one year.  I was thinking that I hadn't ridden a mountain bike since December 20.  All these things that our brain does to keep us safe and alive and comfortable.

I tried some  different lines.  I talked to some of the other riders. I watched the men's first and second place riders in practice and saw them playing on their bikes and having a hoot. I tried some different techniques like more weight on the  front wheel and less front brake.  I kept a lot of weight on my feet and stayed low.  I tried to set up for things and be proactive.  I tried , then I did.  My friend and mentor Gene Hamilton always uses that phrasing when he teaches ( and he borrowed it from Yoda)  "don't try, do".  And of course my winning run wasn't perfect, but it felt good and fun and fairly smooth.

Smooth is fast.  I want to be smooth.  And I keep finding an outlet for those ambitions in racing.  I really don't have to win to feel satisfied, of course it feels so frickin good to win, but priority is smoothness.  I want to be , skillful, fast, fit and  have a bunch of fun doing it.  And since I don't have to win to feel good about myself, it frees up a lot of good energy.  I really enjoy being out there.

But, I did win the super D, by a good margin, too!  I beat a really phenomenal downhill rider, Anne Galyean.  She is  an amazing woman on and off the bike and a rider who I probably won't beat much in the future, if at all .   But it wouldn't of mattered where I placed, because I figured some things out technique wise and I overcame debilitating fear.

Super D shouldn't die because of Enduro.  Its still a really cool format and a great opener for a cross country race or great practice for both XC and Enduro.  Thanks to Zach and his sponsors  for the cool prizes, too!

Sorry, no pics of me yet from the Super D!  Next blog about the next day's race

Friday, March 21, 2014

Always start at the beginning, Spring Training Camp in Georgia

Blackwater Falls at Spring levels

One of my favorite shots of Springer Orchard and Canaan Valley

Some of the best lamb  that I ever had
When you go to the South, you have to eat fried chicken
Oliver would juice us up in the morning
Yoga has been a big life saver for Carp's back

It was great to wear shorts and see pear blooms

Of course mountain bikers always find dirt
So many awesome dirt roads in Georgia
Grits, HaySue's and fresh maple syrup
Fried Chicken rest stop

Gravel rousing
Hello, its me