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Catching up on life in California

The South American summer days are still fresh in our minds, even after returning to the blossoming spring of Northern California. Crossing the equator during the winter/summer is a strange transition and even more so for any outdoor enthusiast or athlete who spends a lot of time in the elements. Suddenly needing five times the prep time to put on five times the clothing for essentially the same activity takes a bit of getting used to. Although in looking across the country to our home in Massachusetts or to the riders in Europe experiencing a particularly rough spring, we realize that California rain and all is really quite nice.

Our days have recently been overshadowed by the 8.8 magnitude earthquake and the aftershocks that have struck central Chile in the past month. Mary and I feel lucky that we didn't manage to extend our tickets for another week in the south as we had daily talked about doing.

It was hard to hear the news of the disaster and not be there to see firsthand to help our friends in Chile who were all affected in some way. The closed communications made us even more anxious, but now after some time we are relieved and thankful that the majority of the Chilean people and all those that we know personally made it through the disaster.

The firsthand reports that we have heard confirm the seriousness of the devastation, especially along the low lying coastal towns where an earthquake inspired tsunami wave swept in to take a huge toll. The small surf town we so recently left had its low lying coast devastated, as it was 100 miles or so north of the epicenter.

Even the fortunate will be feeling the effects of the devastating quake for months and years. We have been heartened by the attitudes of our Chilean friends, who were quick to emphasize how lucky and thankful that they and their families survived. The road to recovering will be long, but Chile seems to be headed in the right direction, we wish everyone the best.

Back in Sonoma County, California, we have had the opportunity to experience the full range of the fickle, changeable spring weather. Most rides start with sunblock and a raincoat combo and along the way, we find use for both. Northern California's spring outlines how perfectly incredible and difficult training on a bike can be when you just have to get out for long rides.

Two things that make the tough days more tolerable are the number of options for incredible rides and the kindred, off the charts talented, group of cyclists that reside in Sonoma County. The camraderie of the group rides here make the best days better and the tough days good enough to set out into the rain with at least half a smile. Our Mavic wet weather riding clothes have gotten a solid workout and have proven an effective shield from the nastiest environments and versatile enough to wear through the changing conditions without having to remove anything and risk getting dropped off the back of a long group ride.

On the bike, Mary and I have been focusing on long training rides with a good bit of speed and power work. For the most part, this means going out on big fun rides and not holding back when we want to go hard while not feeling the pressure of any specific interval structures.

In the shop, I have been working on developing our new custom-built titanium Seven Sola SLX 29er cross country race bikes. The process has taken a bit of extra time since making the jump to 29er has involved prepping some new equipment.

Transitioning into being comfortable on the bikes, however, is proving to be quite smooth since Seven Cycles has been able to incorporate our preferred geometry and exact fit position into the bikes. With our riding positions unchanged, we have been able to jump right on and feel the difference and advantages of the big wheels right away.

Our three weeks in Sebastopol passed quickly with our busy schedule of trying to stay on top of life's little, but major details. After our focus of training, the taxes, dental checkups, vehicle maintenance, bi-annual medical monitoring, blood tests and physical exams for the UCI, and aforementioned shop time left us most days with just enough time to squeak in eight hours of sleep.

Any time Mary and I had together was (and usually is) spent discussing logistical and travel details, team strategies, outlining and analyzing our training or just talking bikes in general. Also crucial to our short time in California was making time to spend with Mary's family and our friends, many whom we will not see for eight months or more. Though each day was a bit over full, we truly enjoyed the opportunity of living the good life on the left coast for a spell.

The cross country race season is here once again and we are excited to get into some competition. Mary and I will forego the traditional North American California spring in favor of a trip to Puerto Rico to compete in two UCI-categorized events and get in some hot weather training that we feel will better prepare us for the Pan American Championships in Guatemala City the following week.

The season following is shaping up to be on par with years past - we are both excited to continue racing the World Cup circuit as our top priority and hopeful to make the cut for the World Championship team for what we consider a hometown venue at Mount Sainte Anne in Quebec, Canada.

It seems that our first stage race experience will not be our last as we are also harboring an urge to get into another stage race or two sometime along the way. As usual, we are looking forward to attending various international races and experiencing the travel, people and places that go along with our particular mobile racing style.

Wishing you all health, balance, safety and a good sense of humor.

Hope to see you out on the bike or at the races,
Mike & Mary

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MTB "super-couple", former US National cross country champion Mary McConneloug and Mike Broderick live together, train together, travel together and race together. They also share this diary on Cyclingnews.

Follow their adventures as they race the World Cup cross country circuit and take on other adventures. Enjoy the unique, professional racing style of these two accomplished racers and world travelers.

You can also follow them via their blog at (opens in new tab).