Wrapping up a NorCal winter

Our pre-season training locale has been a great opportunity for Mary and I to stay put for a couple of months and take advantage of the benefits of being in one place. After some time spent re-learning how to relax, we have been able to re-learn how effective it can be to have the opportunity to train from a stationary standpoint. We have come upon a rhythm in Northern California that seems only possible when living in a special community and around like minded and positive people.

Mary and I have logged lots of hours on blissfuly demanding Sonoma county trails and roads while taking the time to get reacquainted with our eclectic assortment of Seven Cycles bikes. These mountain, road, 'cross and "specialty" bikes are the platforms for a continuous stream of alternative/prototype component testing that we take part in for R&D for our sponsors in an effort to find any possible advantage for a better day in the saddle.

We have been mixing up our rides with recipes of workouts that we know work for us from past experience while integrating some new ideas into the program that we hope will be effective in our soon upcoming race season. Long days on the road to build the endurance along with more heavy workouts exclusively on dirty ribbons of vertical singletrack to keep us in tune with the finer points of ripping it up and expanding the limits of our technical riding.

Lately our favorite rides have taken advantage of our "specialty bikes" - not 'cross bikes but more capable backcountry machines that borrow things like flat bars and disc brakes from the MTB and lighter tires and component choices to ensure they still roll well on the road. The local access to underutilized/ closed off dirt roads provides some fantastic opportunity to go out and connect pieces that would otherwise not be all that much fun on a specific road or off-road bikes. Many of these rides have defined our banner training days, the primal adrenalin rush of being a bit concerned for personal safety definitely outlines the feeling of accomplishment from pulling off some unprecedented loop.

This sort or ride can certainly add an exciting dimension to the daily training. In fact it seems as if the best rides are the ones that bring us the closest to our limits before relenting. Even those that have us lost, riding extra miles and bring us to the point of struggling and wondering if it will indeed be possible to make it home before the end of the day. Somehow when we find our way back to the comforts of civilization, it is these experiences that lend perspective on how great it is just to be safe at home where the food has never tasted so good, once again.

Mary and I are continuing our efforts into maintaining a program of alternative training techniques to enhance our cycling and overall health. This of course includes a good bit of time focusing on specific points on the yoga mat and in the gym but luckily also includes lots of paddle boarding, surfing, hiking and outdoor fun. We feel strongly that most anyone's cycling program could benefit from alternative training to help us stay strong and suffer less pain and injury throughout the rigors of the cycling season.

Sonoma County really comes through in the fresh, organic, locally grown foods department and these offerings have helped us to get through the holidays healthy and fit! Mary and I are usually willing to spend that little bit more when presented with the option to buy premium foods sourced from people who pride themselves on producing naturally and vending fresh. Mary has been utilizing this virtual arsenal of glorious calories to whip up one nutritious feast after the next in the kitchen. We have both really been enjoying the fruits of the land including the benefits of living within an ultra premium wine growing region.

Northern California has had an incredibly dry start to the winter months and while we have been happy to take advantage of fantastic training weather, it's clear that winters without normal precipitation levels will eventually lead to bad things. We are still hopeful that the winter will turn on out here and provide us something to snowboard and ski on sometime soon as well as replenish the land with sweet drinking water that is (remarkably) still almost possible to take for granted living in NorCal.

It's hard to say definitively if these are the indicators of some grand effects of the global warming trend but it's hard not to feel like this could be the case. Each of us is a part of the problem and the solution, so please remember to to act as a steward of the planet and whenever possible minimize your impact. It is clearly well into the time where we should give the planet every consideration as we forge our own way.

Mary and I are heading to Chile to kick off our 2012 competitive season with another go at the Trans Andes Challenge. We are excited to get back into racing and into another adventure down south in the South American summer! Our past experiences of racing the Trans Andes as a duo pro team have been deep learning experiences on many levels.

Off road stage racing really has a way of asking a lot from the body and mind and can bringing you well over the limit if you are not careful. Stage racing in general has brought on experiences that have helped us become better riders, racers and even better people. This season we are looking towards the Trans Andes as another great challenge as well as a fantastic opportunity to get in a type of training depth that is more in line with the upper end of what we ask of our bodies. We are headed south this year with hopes for another fantastic race experience, to train up for the next phase of cross country-specific racing and most of all for the unmatchable adventure.

Chile, here we come!

Mike and 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 www.maryandmikeride.blogspot.com.