Seven months have passed since our last pass through California, but happily much seems the same. Spending time in my home state has brought a familiar rhythm to our typical nomadic travels. Here the winter bared trees cast long shadows that pass quickly to silhouettes before slipping into long cold nights. The short days seem to require more discipline to fit in all the essentials, although on the up side, darkness at 5:00 makes for a better excuse to get in lots of sleep.
Mike and I have enjoyed the past few months to pull back from our specific bike training and just be able to focus on having fun with our workouts. Not needing to "taper" for critical weekend competitions has allowed us to delve into other activities with that much more energy. Now we can take the time to surf when the waves come up, paddle board until we really need to stop, or hike and run around with out worrying about tiring out the biking legs.
We have found taking part in alternative activities/sports to be an important component in our yearly cycle of maintaining health and fitness. For sure, many of the challenges presented by other sports can translate to being better in some aspect of bike racing. Keeping up with the trail running will no doubt lend an edge when it comes to the inevitable off the bike muddy scramble up in cross country racing. When practicing yoga, I think about the way the moves and breath can enhance all the sports that I love.
A progressive strength and conditioning program is a consistent element of our seasonal training. Our programs (Mike's and mine) are different and diverse but we both try to focus the majority of our time on core strength and balance training. Working constantly around our mobile lifestyle has presented unique challenges but we have found ways to address almost everything we should be addressing with as few tools as a yoga mat and some random furniture. Keeping it simple guarantees, we always have a method on hand to get in what we need even when living in a tiny RV or spending days on end in the confines of airport travel.
Our arrival to California in mid-November was timed pretty close to the Singlespeed Cyclo-cross World Championships held in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. We were immediately glad we had been staying active as the weekend's festivities proved quite demanding physically as well as socially. Although we went into it all with a casual attitude, once the gun goes off - racing, as you might know, is racing!
Single cog racing is a lot of fun, even with the mud piling up, the bikes remained quiet and efficient - a testament to the simplicity of the single chainring (as well as to Mike's diligence in carefully setting our bikes up on the eve of the event). Adding the logistics of prepping bikes for competition when moving to a new place is never easy, but at this point has become sort of a specialty. Huge Thanks to many great friends who have once again opened their doors and made us feel at home. :-)
Some of my family came out to cheer and I laugh to think of the memories my four-year-old niece must have of the eye popping - costumed up, bikinis, skirts, wonder woman clad boys, furry beasts, skeletons, all racing bikes around in a freezing rain. Clearly a proud moment of mentoring for Mike and me! Huge props to the the SSCXWC staff who put on a unique and fun event and to all the people who made the effort to come out and take part as well as spectate! We were happy to be a part of another celebration of the bike.
Mike and I are glad to finally get settled out here in California - although by settled I mean tucked into our West Coast based vehicle and sports equipment stash. We are currently focusing on making the most of the boundless training opportunities, steep hills and big ocean that surround us out here in an effort to come up with the best fitness we can for a the race season that lies ahead.
We are still formulating our yearly schedule, but it looks like our primary early season focus will be the World Cups. Both Mike and I have been nominated to the US Olympic Long team, meaning that we have the honor of being one of nine women and eight men who have the opportunity to fill the final selection for the four (two men's and two women's) US Olympic spots. The first four World Cups of 2012 will be used as the qualifying races to fill the Olympic roster, so we will aim to arrive to those competitions with with some special form.
We continue to be impressed by the extensive tracts of quiet riding redwood duff trails out here in northern California. This progression and continued improvement outlines the work that key members of the off road cycling community have been doing to enhance the sport for us all. Apart from obvious topographical features The reason that stand out riding locations exist across the globe is because there are dedicated people who have invested their time into trail building. Thank you! Your efforts have not gone unnoticed! Another reminder to give props to your local trail builder or better yet find out what you can do to join in and lend a hand.
Up here in Sonoma County, the riding we like to do is more remote, steep and tricky to find. It helps to have a keen eye for phantom trailheads and good standing with the locals if you want to get into the goods here. Happily, once you get some semblance of the place, you can ride big trails/loops all week and when you get around to tapping into the same selection again, you can often still see your own lines from last week's ride.
Sonoma County works especially well for our winter training as there is so much diversity in routes and levels, we are able to customize each outing to suit our training needs. This is a year-round destination where the terrain and camaraderie have a good chance of coming together to offer the highest level of cycling experience. We are really enjoying getting reacquainted.
Hope you are all staying healthy and able to make time for a ride with a friend sometime soon!
All the best,
Mary and Mike
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