strings attached

Many years ago, probably around 2005, I met a man named Matt Hickey.  I met him at a weird time in my life when I was doing a lot of binge drinking, occasionally to the point of blacking out.  When I met Matt, it was at karaoke night at the old Twilight Exit.  I was dancing and singing and I accidentally kicked off my shoe, losing it somewhere in the crowd.  I grabbed a random stranger by the arm and begged him to help me find my shoe. The stranger was Matt Hickey.  He helped me find the shoe.

The next week Matt placed an “I Saw U” ad for me in The Stranger and not remembering who he was or even what he looked like, I responded and thanked him for finding my shoe.  The interaction that followed was lighthearted but there was an air of “you owe it to me to go out with me because I helped you.”  Eventually I agreed to grab a coffee with him.

The whole interaction rubbed me the wrong way.

Matt and I never dated in any capacity. He was nice enough but there was always something about him that rubbed me the wrong way and had me keeping my guard up.  Matt had a good job and was a lot more stable than I was at the time.  He would do little things for me like buy my drinks or pay for my cab after a night of drinking and that feeling of “you owe me” never left our friendship.

In the years since we met, Matt became a fixture in the Seattle hipster and music scene.  Most people’s impression of Matt was that he was kind of a weird creep but that he was totally harmless and socially awkward.

Every interaction I had with him left me feeling uneasy.

Then, in mid-2016 Sydney Brownstone wrote a story for The Stranger outing Matt for running a porn scam wherein he would coerce women to have sex with him under false pretenses.  As the story broke, more women came forward and it slowly became apparent that “harmless” Matt Hickey was a serial rapist.  Just last month, he took a plea deal and was sentenced to three years in jail. This is not enough years.

So why am I telling this story?  I am telling it because this is an example of an entire community suspecting bad behavior and ulterior motives but brushing it off as “harmless” or excusing the person because they’re “socially awkward.”

I am writing today to talk about an experience that I have had with a person in the bike industry.  For purposes of this story, I will call this person “Kevin.”

I first “met” Kevin years ago when he added me on Facebook.  Any pro female cyclist is used to getting added by random people on Facebook and when I saw that we had a lot of mutual friends, I mindlessly added him back despite not actually knowing who he was.  Kevin would “like” and comment on many of my posts and I would see him doing the same on many of my friends’ posts.  Slowly I realized that all of our mutual friends were other professional or elite female cyclists or women in the bike industry.  I mostly ignored him.  He seemed harmless.

Fast forward to the last year, seemingly out of nowhere, Kevin now owns a fledgling bicycle parts company that sponsors many female athletes.  For purposes of this story, I will say he makes widgets.

I saw Kevin at an industry event early in the cyclocross season and he started asking me if I was happy with the Northwest Women’s Cyclocross Project‘s widget sponsor.  I told him that we had a long-standing and wonderful relationship with our widget sponsor and would not be considering another widget sponsor.  Immediately, Kevin started, for lack of a better phrase, trash talking the NWCX Project widget sponsor. Calling our sponsor’s company “a sinking ship,” and telling me that we should be using Kevin’s widgets.  I was very clear with Kevin that we were committed to our widget sponsor for at least this season and would not consider changing sponsors.

The whole interaction rubbed me the wrong way.

Later in the season, NWCX Project sent two riders and our team mechanic/my husband, Niels, to a UCI race.  Kevin as well as some other people had offered to help us find host housing.  I sent messages to Kevin and three other people seeing if they could help with securing  host housing.  What followed was an awkward and drawn out conversation wherein Kevin ended up booking and paying for a hotel room for the team (we never asked him to do this) and then telling me to help him sell his widgets in the Seattle area.  I felt really stuck so I agreed, knowing I couldn’t in good faith sell his widgets when NWCX Project had a widget sponsor.

The whole interaction rubbed me the wrong way.

Throughout the rest of the season, I would run into Kevin at many of the major UCI cyclocross races.  Every race we’d have some version of the same conversation where he would ask me if his widget company could sponsor NWCX Project, I would decline saying we’re committed to our current widget sponsor, and he would proceed to talk about how our widget sponsor would be out of business, was going under, or was a sinking ship.

Every one of these interactions rubbed me the wrong way.

I need to mention here, that every race that Kevin and his widget company would attend, they would set up a big compound with drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), food, heat, and a general “party” atmosphere.  He would always invite and encourage the NWCX Project riders and staff to hang out in his widget company’s tent, eat the food he brought, drink the drinks he was making.  The whole thing made me feel uneasy but at the same time, as a small program, it’s hard to say no to any help or to tell cold riders that they can’t hang out in the warm tent.

The last straw for me was this year at nationals.  It was the morning of the U23 and elite races.  This was the pinnacle of what our staff, riders, and parents had been working towards all season.  We arrived at the venue early and one of our riders went into Kevin’s widget tent to warm up.  Then, in front of my rider, Kevin approached me and said something along the lines of, “we need to talk about widgets for next year.” I again told him that I was not willing to entertain changing widget sponsors until after the season was over and I had had a chance to discuss future sponsorship with our current widget sponsor.

For Kevin, this was apparently the last straw.

The conversation that followed, right in front of one of my young NWCX Project riders was basically Kevin accusing me of taking advantage of his hospitality, and using his tent, eating his food, etc. while I was “not part of the [widget company] family.” I was shocked and dumbstruck.  I quickly told Kevin that this conversation was inappropriate for it’s tone, for it being in front of a young rider, and for it’s timing.  I told him again that we would discuss sponsorship after the season was over.

The whole interaction left me feeling sick.

There has been a lot of momentum behind women’s cycling in the last few years.  Companies both large and small are seeing the value in truly backing and investing in women’s cycling.  There is however, apparently a dark side to this momentum.  There are people in the world and in the industry who may have less altruistic motives in backing women’s cycling.  There are Matt Hickeys everywhere in this world.  People who’s actions, on their face, appear to be noble and altruistic but who will always leave you feeling uneasy, like you owe them something, like they’re after something more than just brand promotion or a thank you.

In the last several months, there have been many conversations happening about Kevin in particular.  These conversations are happening behind closed doors, on facebook messenger, over text, email, and in person.  These conversations are taking place between women in the cycling industry; professional riders, visible industry women, and women such as myself.  Kevin hasn’t “done” anything to anyone that I know about, but the general consensus is that every interaction with him rubs us the wrong way.

This unease is why I will never allow Kevin to be our widget sponsor.  I do not like that he has put himself in a position to grant female athletes what they need to survive.*  I do not like his pushiness or that he has positioned himself to be as close as possible to female athletes, some of whom are underage.  If our widget sponsor does go out of business (I have spoken to him about this, he is doing okay) I would rather go broke buying widgets for our riders than expose them to someone who makes me and countless other women feel this uneasy.

The NWCX Project serves girls from age eight or younger to age 22.  I am extremely protective if these young women.  Many of their parents allow them to travel alone with me and Niels.  This is a responsibility that I take very seriously.  Yes we rely solely on equipment sponsorship and monetary donations but that does not mean that we will take money or equipment from just anyone.

As I said earlier, these conversations about Kevin in particular have been taking place behind closed doors while he continues to leverage his sponsorship to bring him closer to female athletes.  There is so much fear among women in the industry over speaking out about bad or problematic behavior.  We fear that we will lose sponsorship, that our positive and happy-go-lucky personas will be tarnished.  It has taken me 6 weeks to finally finish writing and publish this post because I have been scared about how it will be received, but I’m not scared anymore.

* I stole this sentiment from a friend who has had similar experiences with Kevin.

 

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single speed is for everyone (a SSCXWC race report of sorts)

When I announced my impending retirement from pro racing along with mine & Niels’ intention to create the Northwest Women’s Cyclocross Project, I also stated my intention to race some single speed cyclocross and target SSCXWC as my “A” race for the season.  Although I was half joking, I actually did want a goal to work towards to keep me on the bike through the gloomy Seattle fall.   I retired from pro racing and went back to work full time; I did not retire from riding my bike or the joy of slipping and sliding around in the mud.

Retirement means different things to different people.  For me, continuing to race single speed was the perfect balance of having something to train for while participating in a subset of a sport that embraces everyone from pro racers to total beginners.  Also from a pragmatic standpoint, it rarely conflicted on our local race schedules with the race times for the junior and geared category women.

img_6336

Kathleen at The Ice Weasels Cometh 2014 Photo Credit: Meg McMahon

So what’s so great about single speed? I first tried it after being inspired by my friend (and NWCX Project sponsor) Kathleen. Kathleen is a single speeder (and sometimes Cat 3 racer) who founded and runs the CXsisters network. I’ve rarely seen her race out of a rad costume, and seeing her in a race always puts a smile on my face because her joy is palpable.  She’s a fierce advocate for parity in women’s cycling and finding joy and fulfillment in riding a bike.  Her goals in racing are arguably quite different from mine.  I’m competitive to a fault, data-driven, and love to win.  But circling back to what makes single speed so great, is that Kathleen and I get to line up together week after week (at least we used to before she moved to MA where she now races the super-inclusive Zanconato Single Speed Cyclo-Cross Trophy Series) and each find fulfillment in our own way in a race that has no restriction other than one f**king gear.  We both get to finish the same race happy and feeling like we put ourselves out there.

For me, racing single speed got me out of my own head.  I stopped worrying about my equipment and started to really feel the flow of racing cyclocross.  There were days where I would double up on geared and single speed races and my single speed laps would be faster than my geared laps.

This year at SSCXWC, I went into the race with pretty low expectations for having a notable performance.  I’d fallen on my mountain bike in early October and badly sprained my back. I’d then tried to return to riding and racing too soon which had resulted in me developing an excruciating case of ITBS.  I had raced a couple times in the weeks leading up to the race and I was feeling shaky at best.  Instead of stressing, I decided I was going to put on a costume, have fun, and if the opportunity arose I would race my f**king bike.

A lot of things had to and did go right for me to take the win in Portland.  First off, I found image1 (1).JPGmy bike quickly following the crazy cornfield le mans start and was able to be close to the front of the field early.  Second, I raced on a brand new bike and decided to gear down from my normal gear rather than pull the gears off of my other bike – this was the right choice given the heavy conditions.  Third, I’d remembered to bring dollars for the stripper bus shortcut (read about it on Anne-Marije Rook’s absolutely perfect SSCXWCXPDX Race Report) putting me into about 5th place half way through the first lap.  So despite a wrong turn on the second lap which shuffled me from the lead back to 3rd, I managed to put together a near perfect race.

This was almost certainly my favorite win of my
career.  It’s no secret that I was a just slightly better than mediocre pro cyclocross racer.  Although I had one pro win, it was (fairly) pointed out that it was basically a local field in the race that day.  image2.JPGThis win was everything I love about single speed.  I lined up between pro rider Mical Dyck (two-time SSCXWC champ) and a lady who I’m pretty sure I lapped twice.  At the end of the race, I high fived both of them and I’m confident we all had a great time and felt fulfilled.  I got heckled, I heckled back, I accidentally body checked a dude in the yoga ball pit, and I never stopped smiling.  All of this is what makes single speed so perfect.

Going back to single speed being for everyone; I know that people love to bicker about gear and who can and cannot/should or should not play.  I know that there are single speed purists out there who think there should be barriers to entry, who don’t necessarily love how many people are coming over to single speed, or are annoyed by those who split their time between geared and single speed races.  What’s the saying? A gentrifier is anyone who showed up five minutes after you.  While my opinions may not be everyone’s opinions, I want to hold my hand out to anyone who wants to try it.  I DGAF if you’re a beginner or a pro, if you zip tie the shifters on your geared bike, or if you have flat or curly bars.  I know I’m pretty new to single speed, this being only my fourth season doing it, but I am and always will be fiercely pro-inclusion.  I firmly believe that inclusion is in the spirit of single speed and cyclocross in general.

Last year I suffered a big disappointment when I lost the national title to Nicole Mertz who had never even raced single speed before.  It stung, but at the same time Nicole was the better rider that day.  The most deserving rider won, it wasn’t me.

This year, I took a moment to peek at who’s registered for the women’s single speed race at nationals (I won’t be racing) and I saw that Mindy McCutchon is signed up.  Mindy is an insanely talented rider and a much better cyclocrosser than I ever was or could ever hope to be.  I LOVE that someone who will contend for a good finish in the elite race is going to race single speed.  I hope it’s a competitive and exciting race; I hope that more and more elite women try racing with one gear.

So do you want to try getting rad in a SSCX race? Know that no matter what, this racing is for you and that I will support you and high five you at the finish!

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I almost wasn’t

Yesterday was warm.  It was nearly 90 degrees when I left my downtown Seattle office to go for a ride at 5:10 PM. There was an abnormal amount of traffic due to a Seahawks game.  I love the Seahawks.  I am not a football fan but I am a Seahawks fan.  I’ve even sought out Seahawks bars in other cities to be able to watch the game.  But this isn’t about the Seahawks.

I am in the process of retiring from (letting go of?) a five year professional cycling career.  I still love to ride my bike. I still love to ride my bike hard, to go fast, to push myself.  Yesterday I went down to Lake Washington Boulevard to squeeze in some quick intervals before I lost the daylight. Lake Washington Boulevard has been lauded as one of the best roads to ride on in Seattle.  There are signs reminding drivers that cyclists have the right of way.  It’s flat with good pavement and gentle curves that you never have to stop pedaling through.  The speed limit is 25 miles per hour, exactly the speed I tend to average for these particular intervals.

There was a remarkable amount of traffic on the Boulevard, maybe due to the Seahawks game, maybe not. I waited for breaks in traffic to safely do my intervals.  I did my best to ignore a few overly-aggressive and obviously irate drivers. It was warm.  There was a lot of traffic.  I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a car either.

I was inside the last minute of my last interval heading north on the Boulevard.  There was a line of cars heading in the opposite direction.  I’d timed it perfectly.  I would finish the effort just a few hundred meters before I would turn off to head back to my office and grab my backpack.  I was riding 1 foot from the right edge of the road.  For just one short second I glanced down at my Garmin to see how much time I had left in the effort – 30 seconds.  I was going 25 miles per hour.  I looked up.  I was less than 15 meters from the grill of an SUV speeding down the wrong side of the Boulevard passing other southbound cars.  I swerved off the road, the driver dove back into his or her lane.  I was alive, but I almost wasn’t.

I’ve spent the better part of the last eight months creating a junior women’s development team.  I want to provide opportunities to young women who I believe have a future in the sport.  I want to help all young women learn about and embrace the freedom and beauty of the bicycle. I want to grow the sport and increase opportunities and pathways to success for female athletes.  I don’t want the bike to be scary or intimidating; but yesterday, for me, it was.

Yesterday, I was almost killed.  I don’t scare easy.  Yesterday I pulled over on the side of the road and sat down shaking and crying.  I was relieved that I was alive but distraught over the actions of a complete stranger who almost killed me.  I started thinking about the health and safety of the young women that I work with.  I felt so helpless.  I don’t know what happened to the social contract where we agree not to kill each other for no reason.  I want to open pathways for young women but yesterday I worried that I was putting them into danger by simply encouraging them to ride.

Nothing has ever made me question what we’ve created with NWCX Project and I still don’t but yesterday, my faith wavered just a little. Please look out for each other. Please don’t kill cyclists.

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One Tool Roll – A Million Uses!!! (or how you should support a pro)

When my friend Mike McGuffin, founder and owner of Greenlite Heavy Industries reached out to me proposing that I be the first recipient of his Support a Pro program I of course said yes.

I love his products not just for their style and durability but also for their versatility. The pants, shorts, and jackets are beautifully tailored and constructed while still being fashionable off the bike and functional on the bike.

Since the Support a Pro program involves me and the Jamis Pro Cyclocross team receiving the profits from the sale of all tool rolls, I started thinking about all of the ways that the tool rolls could be used by any cyclist.

bikes bikes bikes bikes!

bikes bikes bikes bikes!

Of course first and foremost its a great way for you to carry your tools on a ride or to the pits.  Since I’m obviously a master mechanic as evinced by this picture of me in an apron with a bike and a toolbox, I carry the essentials in my tool roll at all times.  I can fit a set of allens, the greatest tire pressure gauge of all time,* a tire lever, and a CO2 pump and cartridge.

This is great and all but as a pro cyclist I do so much more than just work on all my own bikes all the time with no help from any mechanics or my husband.  I also do things like eat food … and hang out with cats.  I soon realized that the tool roll could also help me integrate these other interests into my everyday life!

Since the pie chart of my brain is roughly 51% devoted to my cats, I soon devised a way that my tool roll could help me spend more quality time with them, even on the bike!

Step 1: Secure cat into tool roll

perfect fit!

perfect fit!

Step 2: Insert cat into carrier

cats love this!

cats love this!

Step 3: Travel with cat, arrive at destination, remove cat, and enjoy!

he was so happy about being able to spend more time with me!

he was so happy about being able to spend more time with me!

IMG_2710

~80% of my diet

The tool roll is also amazing for transporting snacks.  If 51% of my brain is devoted to cats, then roughly 48% is devoted to jelly beans.  Thankfully, the tool roll is excellent for not only transporting, but also protecting your jelly beans from inclement weather.

While I wish I could eat nothing but delicious jelly beans,** I am a professional athlete and I know that I need to eat “healthy” food in order to “perform” and “not get type 2 diabetes.”  No worries though! Tool roll to the rescue again! IMG_2709 The tool roll is excellent for transporting eating utensils so you can be a multitasker like me and eat on the road! image2 I’m sure most of us have experienced the extreme frustration of having to stop mid-ride to find utensils and eat your takeout.  You lose your rhythm, get cold, can’t find anywhere that will give you a decent pair of chopsticks, and most importantly are inefficient when you have to pull over like this.

Thankfully, since I can carry all of my utensils in my handy tool roll, I no longer have to make unnecessary meal stops when I train!

I can eat soup!

soup!

soup!

I can eat daal saag!

delicious! and efficient!

delicious! and efficient!

I can even eat some Asian foods with their culturally appropriate utensils!

i did not almost crash while doing this!

i did not almost crash doing this!

There are so many uses for a Greenlite Tool Roll that I’ve discovered just in the last few weeks that I have to say it’s definitely a must have for any dedicated cyclist.  So please, purchase a tool roll to get a great product and to support Jamis Pro Cyclocross.  While you’re at it, take a look at all of the awesome clothing on the Greenlite website (I hear they use an awesome model) and support a fantastic local company!

*I’m not sponsored by accu-gage, it’s seriously just the greatest tire pressure gauge of all time.
**Just not the bullshit black licorice ones

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The #waveback

Being a professional cyclist can be a lonely job.  Every week I spend hours and hours alone on the bike riding hard, not riding hard, wishing I had more friends to ride with, and listening to audibooks.  It’s because of all this alone time that I’m a huge fan of the cyclist wave or the #waveback.

The #waveback is an effortless and nice way to show a little solidarity with other cyclists and to lighten your mood I’ve left for rides in a foul mood and have finished feeling great just from the waves, smiles, and “hellos” I’ve gotten from other riders.

Doing the wave back is super easy and I’ve written a simple step by step process on how to do the #waveback

Step 1: Ride Bike

you should already know how to do this

you should already know how to do this

This is the easy part of the equation.  Just get on your bike and ride it.  Note however that if you’re riding inside, this post does not apply to you.

Step 2: Wave at Other Cyclists

just like this

just like this

Maybe even throw in a smile and a “hi!” or “hello!” Please note however that you should probably wear your bibs under your jersey lest you look like a total f**king fred.

Before you ask, no this is not limited to other racers, or to folks in lycra, or to grownups, or to people who look “pro.”  I’m an equal opportunity waver and you should be too.  I will wave at every man, woman, and child on every Kmart bike.*

It seems like some folks on fancy bikes have a little bit of a hard time grasping this so I’ve made a simple flow chart.

print this out and tape it to your stem

print this out and tape it to your stem

Waving Hall of Fame

I want to recognize some superior wavers who I have come across in my day.

1. Ian Crane who once enthusiastically waved at me while simultaneously avoiding being hit by a distracted driver who pulled out right in front of him.

2. Rhae Shaw who will always wave and yell “hi!!!!!” and 90% of the time will flip and ride with me for a bit. Rhae has more than once flipped and ridden 20+ k back to my home with me.

3. Literally every little kid on a bike ever.  I kids love to wave and say hi and share a big “I love riding my bike” grin.

4. Pretty much every local Seattle area pro rider including Carson Miller, Steve Fisher, Tyler Farrar, and Zach McDonald all of whom always give a friendly wave and a smile.***

5. Without fail every mountain biker I meet up with on every trail.

Waving Hall of Shame

With the good of course comes the bad.  On any given day I’m maybe 1 for 10 on the #waveback.  There are however those who are the worst of the worst.

1. Literally every dude in a blank Capo kit on his $30,000 whatever road bike who is way too busy stemgazing and way too cool for school to be bothered to wave back.****

2. A large unnamed local masters team who I swear not one member of the team has ever waved back, smiled back, or even acknowledged the crazy lady enthusiastically waving, smiling, and yelling “HI!!!!!!!!!!!!!” at them.

I want to start a movement and I know I’m not the only one. I would challenge each and every one of my fans, readers, and followers to make it a goal on your next ride to acknowledge every cyclist you see and try to make the roads a friendlier place.

* I will not however wave at someone on one of these things because just no.
** not a bike
*** #wavingispro
**** They’re probably also too busy scoffing at my habitually mismatched kit to be able to wave back, but don’t forget mismatched kit is also pro.

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More vegan, less bummer – eating on the road

I was stoked to receive a lot of good feedback after my last post about attempting to make a vegan version of everyone’s beloved Nutella.  It made me realize that aside from using this forum to push my pro bike, feminist killjoy, and narcissistic agenda I can give back by sharing a little bit of the knowledge I’ve gleaned over the years.

I remember my first race with a pro team, it was the 2012 Tour of the Gila that I raced with Primal/MapMyRide as a guest rider.  The team went grocery shopping as soon as we arrived and I’m pretty sure I spent about $350 for 6-ish days worth of food.   I bought food for about 15 different unique meals and ended up probably leaving about $250 worth of food with our lovely hosts.  While I imagine my leftover food didn’t go to waste, it was a huge waste of my money to approach eating on the road in this manner. I’ve learned over the years that I can cut down on the variety in my meals but still enjoy cooking and eating while I’m traveling.

My favorite thing to cook on the road is one of many varieties of a vegan sautée and as promised I’m going to share the easiest and best meal I love to cook when on the road.  It’s a sweet potato, black bean, and kale sautée.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup diced sweet onion
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 medium sweet potato – washed and cubed
3/4 cup (1/2 can) whole black beans – drained and rinsed
3 cups chopped green kale
1 chopped Field Roast apple sage sausage
1.5 Tbs Colavita extra virgin olive oil (Colavita grapeseed oil is fine too)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. fresh or dried dill weed
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste
[optional] sriracha hot sauce

In a large skillet or sautée pan heat the Colavita olive or grapeseed oil over medium heat.   Add the minced onion and garlic to the oil and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the IMG_2410onions begin to become translucent and the garlic starts to slightly brown, add the cubed sweet potato and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  While stirring, slowly add a little salt and pepper according to your own taste.  I love that we have the Rachael Ray sea salt and pepper grinders to use for this!

Next add the Field Roast apple sage sausage to the mixture and continue to cook over medium heat for an additionalIMG_2411 3 minutes, stirring every minute or so.  Of course you can use any protein of your choice.  I’ve also used seitan or vegan “chicken” strips.

Next add the cumin and dill and stir the mixture with the spices to make sure the sweet potato and protein are well coated.  Add the black beans and water to IMG_2412the mixture.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cover for 5 minutes, stirring every few minutes.  Add the kale and a little more salt (if needed) and cover the mixture again.  If the pan is getting at all dry, add a little more water before covering again.  Once the kale is wilted stir the mixture and sample one piece of sweet potato to make sure it has cooked through.

I like to serve this sautée either on its own or over a bed of cooked quinoa IMG_2413 (1)or rice.  After serving you can finish it with some sriracha sauce to add a little kick.

I love this recipe so much.  I can mix up the protein or type of beans or kale that I use to add some variety.  In addition, the recipe tends to make about two meals worth of food and it’s just as good reheated as it is right off the stove.  Total prep and cooking time is only about 30 minutes so it’s easy to make in a time crunch.  It’s got a great balance of carbohydrates, protein, and good fats and is good slow-burning fuel for long days in the saddle and can also aid in good recovery for after a long ride or race.

As for racing, I’m sitting in my hotel room in Philly trying to stay calm going into tomorrow’s Philly world cup.  It will only be my second world cup and I’m so excited to be able to race one on home soil and on a course that I love.  From here Team Colavita heads to the most fun race of the year – Tulsa Tough – which always promises to be a party with a bike racing problem.

More news and recipes coming soon!  Thanks for reading and sharing!

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Being Vegan Without Being a Bummer

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted! Not that I’ve been uninspired or had nothing interesting to say (I always have lots of interesting opinions to share! feminism! bikes! veganism!) it’s just that ~life~ has been super busy and I’ve let my blogging go by the wayside.

Sock DopingSo what have I been up to? Well I spent all winter getting super muddy and racing cyclocross all over the U.S. I had some good results and some not so good results but most importantly I had fun!

I managed to stand on a few UCI podiums thanks to the support of fantastic sponsors like Jamis Bikes, Psimet Wheels, Osmo Nutrition, and (probably most importantly as you can see) Donkey Label socks.

I went to nationals which as many know was a giant clusterf**k and evenSS Nats though I wasn’t able to pull out a result in the elite race, I managed a solid 2nd place in the single speed race behind the always speedy Mo Bruno Roy (one place better than last year!!!)

It was right around when I was wrapping up my cyclocross season that I was finally able to announce that I would be riding for Colavita Pro Cycling for the 2015 road season.  Since I’m basically THE WORST at keeping secrets and had been holding this news in for over 4 months, it was a huge relief when the press release finally came out and I was able to publicly share the news.  Niels and the cats had gotten really sick of listening to me talk about it.

HeadshotSo that brings me around to the point of this post.  I’ve realized over the years that being a vegan can be a bit of a bummer, especially when I’m around friends and teammates eating all sorts of delicious looking and smelling foods that I choose not to eat.  The number one thing that I’m jealous of in recent history is Nutella (nope, not Bacon, this Jew is double restricted from that).  Rather than complaining and grousing about not being able to eat it, I finally decided that hey, I’m part of a team that encourages rider creativity and cooking! I decided to make my own damn Nutella.  Never mind the fact that I’ve never even eaten it and that I only knew three things about it (hazlenut, chocolate, not vegan), I was gonna make Nutella.

So here it is, my homemade vegan Nutella.  I’ve been told by my office mate David that it’s good but isn’t as sweet as Nutella but that it’s still “very good.”  I can’t disagree.

Vegan Nutella!Ingredients:
2 cups hazelnuts
1/2 Perugina Bittersweet Classic Chocolate Bar
3/4 cup condensed coconut milk
2 whole vanilla beans
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown rice syrup

Toast 3/4 of the hazelnuts on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes

Add the coconut milk, hazelnuts, brown rice syrup, and salt to a food processor and process on high for 3-5 minutes.

Use a spatula to scrape any un-blended ingredients into the middle of the processor and turn the processor back on.

Break the Perugina chocolate bar into small pieces and add them either as the mix is processing or while it’s off.  Add the vanilla beans in the same way along with a dash (I used about 2 tsp) of the Rachael Ray salt.

Allow to process until the mixture is fairly smooth (it may still be a tiny bit gritty), divide into mason jars, refrigerate, and enjoy!

So that’s what I’ve been doing, racing, training, and cooking.  I’ll share more adventures as they come!

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the lone ranger

It’s time for cross again (#crossiscoming, etc.) and that means new team, new kits, new equipment, etc.  Last year I had a really successful season just putting together my own sponsorship and being master of my own destiny.  While having a team on the road is amazing and necessary for success, in cross I’ve always preferred to kind of freelance my “team” and sponsors.

It’s super likely that this loaner attitude of mine is inspired by the greatest cycling movie of all time.

It’s also entirely likely that I’m pissy and controlling and want to be able to spend cyclocross season racing on my own terms and according to my own schedule, but really who’s to say.

So the question then becomes, how do I get sponsors?  Of course I’ll be working again with Jamis Bicycles, Bikesport NW, and Psimet Wheels because they’re all the best but how do I get cold hard cash to fund the season.

I first tried to go to other companies in the bike industry but quickly realized that much like me, no one in the bike industry has any money. cookbookThen I thought about maybe sharing my vast knowledge with the world and fundraising by writing a cookbook and nutrition guide and sharing my unique vegan perspective.  This seemed better in theory than in practice.

Once I realized that my cookbook would not be the overnight success I had hoped for, I decided that what I really needed to do was get real famous, and quick.  Enter my awesome buddy Robert Grunau a freelance journalist and ROAD Magazine. Together they wrote and published a really great article about me which makes me look like way less of a dip than I really am! Thanks guys! I figured that the article would make me an overnight sensation and the sponsor dollars would ROADjust start pouring in! While the article is beautifully written and laid out and did net me several more twitter followers I was disappointed to not wake up the morning it was released to millions of sponsor dollars on my doorstep (maybe I should have put my home address in the article?)

So in the photolast week things have started to get a little more real.  I finally decided to just pound the pavement and look for people who want to give a 34 year old angsty pro cyclist money to help her pedal her bike.  So far it’s been slow going but I’m sure the momentum will pick up soon, maybe when I move to a new street.

So onward to cyclocross season whether I’m ready or not!  I’m super grateful for the support I do have and for the support that continues to pour in.

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CRASH!! (2013 in review)

This whole last year I kept telling myself that with all my bad luck, I couldn’t wait for the year to be over. I pretty much quit blogging after June and my battle with Alexander the Grapefruit (not quite RIP but pretty much on his last leg … no pun intended). Looking back at the year though, I actually had what is definitely my best season on paper despite so many huge setbacks.

So here is the year in review starting with …

THE BAD (CRASHES)

Crash 1: The birth of Alexander

Memorial day, I hit the Imagedeck while in the lead group at Pro Nationals in Chattanooga, TN and chased back on despite a broken shoe and shifter.  That night, Alexander was born.

Alexander was/is a Morel Lavallée lesion which was fantastic because there’s literally nothing known about how to actually treat this type of injury.  I basically spent several months with an ace bandage around my leg trying to smoosh Alexander into submission.

By the time I left for Cascade Classic (one of my favorite races of the year before which I was hit by a car in 2012) Alexander was about 50% smaller than when he was born.  Little did I know that the best thing I could do to help get rid of him would happen during Stage 3 of Cascade Classic …

Crash 2: Punching Alexander in the Face

Broken Bike

goodbye, dear friend

Despite having taken a lot of time off the bike going into Cascade, I was riding surprisingly well.  I’d made the lead bunch over MacKenzie Pass and had finished a solid 7th in the TT which had me sitting 9th going into stage 3, the Cascade Lakes Road Race. I was sitting middle to front of the pack on a descent following Liza and Sophie when someone hooked Soph’s bars and took her, Liza, me, and about 20 other girls down in a massive pileup.  I landed hard right on Alexander’s face and my left wrist and elbow.  With the help of Jono, Niels, and Liza I managed to get on a new bike and chase back into the peloton and with the help of Emily, I finished with the pack … barely.

I went straight to the med tent and my leg was already starting to swell, badly.  I wrapped the heck out of Alexander and figured my race was over.  Amazingly, the next morning Alexander was smaller and the swelling in my leg was completely gone.  Apparently I made the unintentional medical discovery that crashing again on a Morel Lavallée lesion can cause it to rupture and mostly go away.

You’re welcome, science.

Crash 3: I can’t believe I just f**king crashed again

This one was so f**king ironic and stupid.

I was racing our local Friday night track omnium and I had just finished bitching to one of the officials that I wasn’t going to race with the Cat 3 men because they had allowed a particularly sketchy and dangerous rider to return to racing after years of issues and causing a huge crash a few weeks prior.  I decided to race with the women instead because in 4 seasons of racing on our track, I’d never seen a crash in the 1/2/3 women’s race.  Not less than 3 minutes into the first race of the night, a 15 lap scratch, some non-local girl took out her own front wheel and crashed out 6 people, myself included.

Thanks to Dennis Crane for catching this amazing photo series of the crash which includes a bonus photo of me angrily gesturing towards the girl who caused the crash.

Even though this crash wasn’t bad, I did hit my head which sidelined me for a couple days.

Crash 4: Okay, this was totally my fault

I’m embarrassed to say that not more than a week after Coach Kendra scolded me for never training with gloves, I managed to crash on a recovery ride and land smack on my palms.  My timing was impeccable since this was only 4 days before Starcrossed and Cross Vegas, two notoriously dry and bumpy races.

The best part about this crash was that I did it in the most dipshit way possible.  I was riding no hands and trying to get a bottle back into my pocket when a light breeze or a pebble or something knocked me off my path.

cool.

Crash 5: Pretty sure I just broke every bone in my arm

hello, I would like to bite your arm

hello, I would like to bite your arm

November 30th was my favorite race of the year, Baystate CX in Sterling, MA.  I love this course and had been looking forward to this race all year.  I had what felt like a great start … for about 10 seconds.  I was moving up the left side of the pack when I felt someone start pushing me hard on my right.  I leaned back into her and kept my eyes forward.  I thought I was in the clear when she came back into me so hard that I was pushed into someone else’s wheel and did a swan dive off my bike putting my arm through the orange fencing as I was flying through the air.

I have never been in such immediate and excruciating pain after a crash.  I couldn’t move my left arm and had to support it with my right hand.  I was taken away in an ambulance and given anti-nausea medication because the pain was making me physically ill.  I was 100% certain that my shoulder was separated, my arm was broken in at least one place and that my CX season was over.

Amazingly, I managed to not break a single bone or separate my shoulder just further proving that vegans are actually invincible.

THE GOOD (RESULTS)

Looking back on all of these crashes could be extremely discouraging and upsetting if I hadn’t in fact had such an awesome year.

Good Result 1: Pro Nationals

My first National TTbig achievement was finishing 9th in the TT at the inaugural women’s pro national road championships.

Yes 5th or 3rd would have been better but after 18th last year and a lot of illness going into Nationals I was pleased as punch to finish in the top 10 and surrounded by very good company.

Good Result 2: Cascade Classic

Despite being low on fitness and training volume and despite Crash 2, I rode well at Cascade.  I had a good ride for 7th in the TT and even got a nice nod from Cycling News. Even after the crash I still finished 10th which was a better result than I had hoped for given my injuries, fitness, and the crash.

Good Result 3: National Champion Baby!

You guys!  I won an elite national title!  National Champs!

With literally (not figuratively, literally) no team pursuit experience, my dear friend Ruth Winder had enough faith in me to ask me to be on her team pursuit team for nationals.  This was a calculated risk because despite the fact that I can pedal a bike very fast, I have no indoor track experience, and can’t get off the line in a standing start to save my life.

After just a few days of training, me and Ruth along with teammates Colleen Hayduk and Jade Wilcoxson (aka the Bad News Bears) took our motley crew to the boards in LA and pulled of a win in the 4k Team Pursuit!

Niels was so proud of me that he took me out for vegan soul food …

Vegan foodsAND ice cream!

Ice CreamGood Result 4: Starcrossed

Starcrossed is our only local UCI CX race.  I just wanted to finish in the top ten but managed to have a good start, make the lead group, and finish 5th!  I even got some tweeps to notice me!

signed,
someone else

Good Result 5: NCGP

After Crash 5 and a disappointing week of racing on the east coast where I’d hoped to walk away with 30-40 UCI points but managed to eke out only 7, I made the last minute decision to head to North Carolina for the NCGP of Cyclocross.

holy crap!

holy crap!

Long story short, I had a very good start and was off the front in the first 1/2 lap with my friend Beth.  We worked together until I was able to ride one section that she opted to run.  From there, I was on my own for the entire cold, muddy, rainy, sloppy race.

The whole race I was just saying to myself, “holy shit Cutler, don’t mess this up.”

I rolled across the line about a minute up on second place and was amazed to walk away with my first UCI cyclocross win.

When I started racing at the professional level a year and a half ago my only goal was to eventually win a pro race.  There were times this year that I really didn’t think it would ever happen and I was shocked that when it did happen, it was in a CX race which is … not my strongest discipline to say the least.

Good Result 6: I got way more Twitter followers.

There is nothing that is more important in cycling than your level of minor celebrity.  This year I proved that I’m doing something right by going from 50 twitter followers to over 600.  I would say this was my biggest win of 2013.

I head to CX nationals to contest the single speed and elite races next week.  Even though I’m nervous and excited I am also really ready to take a break and start regrouping for next year.

Hopefully less crashing and more winning.

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The Upside of Injury

It’s interesting but in the last few weeks I feel like Alexander Alexander the Prima Donnathe Grapefruit has gained more celebrity than I’ve ever had. I think it’s kind of going to his head and I’m not going to lie, I’m getting a little jealous of all the texts and emails that I get asking how he’s doing.  He tags along everywhere I go and is a total prima donna who requires constant pampering.

A little more background on Alexander, he is what’s known as a Morel Lavalée Lesion which is an extremely rare type of hematoma / lesion that can be really hard to get rid of.  It’s cool though because if I can’t be good at Euro racing, at least I can have a French-sounding injury.  My awesome Doctor tried to aspirate him with the biggest needle known to man but stubborn old Alexander wouldn’t budge.  Since he couldn’t be drained I was told that in order for him to heal I had to stay off of my bike for at least two weeks.

I’ve been doing everything TigerI can to get rid of him.  I wear a compression dressing almost 24 hours per day, I do epsom salt compresses on him, I take anti-inflammatories, I take arnica, I use Traumeel gel on him, I dress him up with Rock Tape, I even got a tattoo of a badass tiger on my hip to try and scare him off of my leg.* I wanted a quick fix and none of this has worked quickly however it is working slowly.  He’s getting smaller and a lot less painful.  I can actually sit down and fit into my tight jeans and shorts without feeling like I’m being stung by a million angry yellow jackets.

It’s no secret that when an injury happens to you it feels like it’s the longest and worst thing in the world.  When another rider is injured I always think “oh six weeks is nothing!” but here I am at the end of two weeks and I feel like I may never be able to pedal a bike fast again.

Despite being off the bike I have been allowed to swim which has been my saving grace.  Since I used to race triathlon I have a bit of swimming experience and a super extensive collection of fun swimsuits.  I also have totally atrophied t-rex cyclist arms which were sure to propel me through the water with ease.

So what is the upside of injury?

For one, I have been able to do a lot more around the house with Niels.  No, I still haven’t scooped the litter box because cat poop is gross.  I have however helped with our awesome garden.

I also have been able to spend a lot more time with one of my best friends, Sharon.  Swim across the lakeSharon was even kind enough to escort me in her kayak in an ill-conceived nearly 3 mile swim across Lake Washington. She was then kind enough a couple of days later to escort me to coffee after I threw my back out from swimming too much 😦

SwimsuitsAlso with swimming I am doing a lot less laundry.  So instead of a constant laundry explosion all over our house, I just have a suit or two hanging in the laundry room.

PeddlerFinally, the coolest thing I’ve gotten to do with all of my spare time is to speak at an event at Peddler Brewing that was put on by my favorite local bike shop, BikesportJess & Savannah I was overwhelmed by the turnout.  The place was at capacity and they were actually having to turn people away.  I got to hang with Paralympic gold medalist  Meg Fisher who is the COOLEST and I met and hung out with #1 Vanderkitten fan, Savannah who is going to be my new riding buddy come Cyclocross season!

Today’s the day I get to get back on my bike and try to get back into a training routine.  I’m still targeting Cascade Classic even if a slightly deflated Alexander the Grapefruit is still tagging along.

*JK it’s a matching sisterhood tattoo with my #1 lady, Mimi

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