Massachusetts and California, February 28, 2009
Mike and I spent the better part of the late fall and early winter out at Mike's family's home in Massachusetts. Can't think of many places that can match the beauty and where we feel so much at home. It's always great to return to this special place when we can ride tight, narrow, singletrack through a kalidescope of changing forests and color and still jump in the ocean for a quick swim. This is a brief and super sweet period since any appreciation of the nice days is magnified greatly by what is sure to lay ahead.
We quickly got into the season when the balaclava, tire studs and indoor trainer sessions started to become too much of a daily threat. On days like these, we were motivated to get out in those "nice" 30 degree (Fahrenheit) spitting grey moments as it just might turn out to be the best training opportunity for the day.
Once the wood splitting and cold, sun-starved days started to become more of a feature than the quiet recuperation for which we had come, we decided it was time to head to Northern California. We came for the holidays, but our love for this place was rekindled as soon as we stepped into the lush, wet NorCal winter, and it dawned on us that this would certainly be the area we would choose for an extended winter training ground.
Now we have two months of serious exploration and training hours since we moved here to Sebastopol. The intricate network of quiet roads that wind through the rolling, coastal ranges of Sonoma County have been the perfect place to log in some epic miles. The diverse terrain offers roads looping in all directions–along vineyards, creeping through endless chains of hills and river valleys, into dank redwood forests, up over steep sun-splashed ridges and down to the edge of the jagged, Pacific coast.
It is pretty much like candyland here! Except it is no game as the often slick, deteriorated pavement conditions, agitated drivers, tight turns and sheer drop offs are the norm here. A 'cross bike is often my choice for most road rides to help absorb a little of the abuse on the body and to give a few more gear choices for the abundant steep climbs. West Sonoma county is definitely keeping us on our toes (and the brakes)!
We have found the off road riding options to be quite amazing, but the majority of our rides have been on the road up to this point–which is atypical for Mike and me. Out of necessity, we usually travel with one bike. Last winter, we trained the entire off season in Chile on our Seven Sola hardtails.
We have been psyched to get in rides ride with many of the area's quality cyclists - people who have helped us push our limits in training, dial us in on the all important roads that connect those epic road loops and show us access the secret, backwoods trails. Thanks and a shout out to all the Norcal Rippers who have helped show us the lines around here!
Even our off season housing logistics have seemingly been handled by some cosmic biking power that has allowed us to step into several housing opportunities that came our way at just the right time. We may have had to change housing locations seven times in the past three months (which seems pretty normal to us, hopefully keeping us prepped for the constant state of travel for which we need to be fit), but we have been moving from one great situation to another. Thanks once again to all who have helped us both on purpose and inadvertently. We are feeling the NorCal love!
It is dumping rain right now, but we have been graced with enough unseasonably perfect sunny days to make the rain a good thing. It is a relief to see the reservoirs filling up, and I am glad for a little extra time to catch up on some business and rest the legs. It can be difficult to muster up the energy to keep on top of team communications (let alone meet my Mom for lunch), when the long and hard training leaves us pretty worked over at the end of the day.
My homeland of Marin is only an hour's drive away, which has proved close enough to make day trips for the legendary MTB riding. Mike and I had the opportunity to help lead the endurance ride for the Northern California High School Mountain Bike Leagues' clinic day at Camp Tamarancho a few weeks ago. It was awesome to ride the infamous Pine Mountain Loop with the teenage crew of aspiring mountain bike racers & riders and really fun to share, talk and ride bikes. I am inspired to see such upstanding youth interested in challenging themselves in this way. We also are very impressed with the infrastructure of the Norcal HS MTB League and the dedicated adults who run this great program.
We experienced a seeming reminder of the random and surprising way things seem to happen on the bike as well. Aas we descended the pavement down from a fun day of riding Pine Mountain, a dog lept from the bushes into my path, and I went down. Luckily, it was not very serious – just pavement scuff and bruisesenough to remind me how lucky we all are to have every moment (and each good, safe ride) that we have.
I needed to take it easy for a few days after, but I am fine now and back into the training with a new scar on my knee that will remind me of the day we rode with those cool kids.
There will be a lot of travel and racing in the next seven months as Mike and I focus on an international World Cup race schedule as well as several domestic events. Both of us are excited for the opportunity to represent our sponsors on the race circuit and are getting ready to navigate the challenges of life on the road.
Our first competition of the season will be the Pan American Championships in Santiago, Chile. The next event is the opening round of the World Cup in South Africa and then we head to Europe for several months of racing World Cups and national series races out of the RV! So lots of exciting travels, racing and adventures await.
Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy and Active 2009.
Mary and Mike