Throw Back To Tokyo

It all started when I decided it wasn’t a good idea to do the China CX races at the beginning of the season. I started thinking, “What else can I do?” and then it hit me… I remembered Timmy J., Jeremy, and Zac McDonald all had done the CX Tokyo! 

I had recently, even before thinking about CX Tokyo, grown a keen interest in Japanese culture, food, and the city lights. It blows my mind how their traditional views within society can keep 40 million people in line. You would think that crime would run rampant in the streets, it would be dirty and littered, and people would be jerks. Everything was quite the opposite.

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People were nice, even though I was a little shocked to learn that many people spoke little English. I guess I am too use to the melting pot of Europe where everyone speaks 3-6 languages. Apparently, the Japanese study English in school but then never have an opportunity to use it so they lose it (if you don’t use it you lose it).

The city was eye popping and with so many tall buildings! The only way to build as a contractor is up. The streets were clean and respect for the space of others was apparent everywhere I went. 

I was most excited about the food scene. I had been watching “Mind of a Chef” on Netflix and David Cheng was really getting me excited for some ramen. I had tried to make it myself and I thought it was ok, however, my ignorance was immediately realized upon digging into my first bowl of tsukemen. 

So after the post World Championship races Doug and I flew through Istanbul and then into Narita, 30miles west of Tokyo. The next morning we met up with Ryoji Aybeki, the CX Tokyo promoter. He was privy to my quest for the best bowl of ramen consequently we stopped for lunch on the way into Tokyo. In hindsight this was a blessing because when you walk into a ramen shop there is a vending machine type thing that you pick your ramen on, you pay, it prints your ticket, you hand it to the waiter and then wait for a steamy bowl of love.

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The problem was that all the text on the machine was in Japanese and completely indecipherable to Doug or I. We tried to shoot from the hip later in the trip and it wasn’t a complete failure, we still got great ramen, but Doug ordered the biggest bowl on the menu by accident and didn’t eat until the next day at dinner.

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Doug and I spent the first two days in the Tiato-Ku district, NW of Downtown, in Hotel Kurame. We walked everywhere, which may not have been great for the race but I have no regrets! We checked out historic Asakusa and the Skytree.

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And from 350 meters up…

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We had ramen all over and great coffee at “Bridge” recommended by my good friend Hans. We loitered in shop windows, picked up authentic handmade Japanese knives, bought souvenir chopsticks, frequented multi level malls, ate mochi on the road, and tried to blend in. We should have bought some medical masks to do this, maybe next time. 

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We wandered through temple grounds…

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And were inspired by the intricate bike parking garages.

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Pre-ride was Saturday. The course was all sand, which didn’t make me particularly excited. There was no need to do openers, simply riding the course was hard enough. 

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Doug and I spent all nights riding the train to somewhere new and checking out new districts. The night before the race was no different. We headed to Shibuya to check out the hustle and bustle. If I sat in the hotel room with my feet up, while in Tokyo, I would be looking back on the trip with regret. 

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We raced Sunday afternoon, which was nothing special for me. I felt as though I had the fitness just not the finesse. The sand was raping me. Aerobically, I wanted and felt as though I could pedal harder but, technically, my constantly shifting body weight was hindering any power output. I finished 6… I wanted that podium, but instead I pulled out my notepad (literally I pulled up the “Notes” app on my phone and wrote“sand practice”) next year will be better. Notice I had to cut the sleeves off my long sleeve jersey. Sun’s out guns out in February. 

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Big thanks to the Shimano boys for letting us take up room in their tent and all their help.

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Doug and I headed back to the hotel, packed bikes, and hit the town. We were going to check out the Imperial Gardens, but were stopped by a guard. I think they close at dark. We had some Gyoza, dumplings, and sake. Then to soak up the nights festivities we had Yakatori in the bowels of the subway station and it was marvelous. 

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Monday we embarked on a sobering Journey to find “The Great Buddha”. This entailed a short 5k trail from Kita-Kamakura station to Hase Station. We saw Mount Fuji on the way, which was epic.

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We found it!

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We even checked out the beach then trained it back to the hotel. 

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Tuesday we woke early to walk 3 miles to the Tsujiki fish market. 

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We were greeted with fishermen who looked annoyed to see tourists wandering around their domain but who cares. 

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We plopped down for sushi in the markets next to the auction area and enjoyed. The raw fish had a texture I had never experienced before. It melted in my mouth and the flavor was enhanced that much more as I was watching the Sushi master hand craft my sashimi no more than 3 feet away.

A ball of mochi for the walk back and that was all she wrote. Doug and I grabbed our bags and trained it to the airport. 

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I can’t thank Ryoji and CX Tokyo enough for the experience. I don’t think I have a regret or a bad thought about my experience in the city, interacting with the people, or the culture. Though, the jet lag was brutal!

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That’s a Wrap

Wow! The last 5+ months have been incredibly fast paced. Kicking off CX season in September and running straight through the first weekend of February. The only lull in racing was around thanksgiving and late December, which was actually nice because you could manage to get some training in!

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I am incredibly happy with the way the season has gone for me. In May I had no team or plan and I was stressed out thinking I was going to be running my own program with zero to very little support. Kona stepped in at the final hour and saved me. I can’t thank them enough. They didn’t only give me the opportunity I needed but a huge piece of mind, which is why I am so happy to continue riding for them for 201-18 season.

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As I decompress from all the travel, racing, and planning I have a feeling I will be constantly thinking about how next year will be better. While training will take a back seat to having fun for a few weeks I do have racing on the schedule. Three big mtb races this year will be my contribution to the Kona Endurance Team’s bid for world domination. I will be toeing the line for the Pisgah Stage Race in April, Transylvania Stage Race in May, and MTB Nats in Snowshoe, WV in July.

From now until the start of CX I have a few things I am most excited about. One being training and changing things up. I learned more than I could have imagined, and realized a lot more, over the last month, getting my ass kicked in Europe. So I want to incorporate those ideas into this years build. With the goal being to keep the progression rolling for 2017 CX.

Another thing I am excited about is to take this spring and early summer a bit less seriously. Training will be the main goal but adventuring will come a close second. Emily and I have a parkway thru-ride planned in June. We are going to ride south from Shanendoah National Park, 476 miles, to The Great Smokey Mountain National Park. I can’t wait for the views and solitude the Appalachians will have to offer.

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Instead of writing a lot of text I have pulled a ton of Meg McMahon Nugs, my favorites, and other pics throughout the season and have compiled an end of the year picture gallery. I hope you enjoy. Thanks for all the support this year. It was a banner year and I can’t wait to keep the dream rolling.

Worlds Done But I am Not!

Wednesday we drove as a team from Sittard, NL to Bieles Luxembourg, 2.5hrs through the snow covered Ardennes. It was pretty and rad, pretty rad.

Thursday was course preview day. And it was epic. Lots of snow and ice on course, very much so like Hartford was for nationals. It made for a very tense pre ride and the idea, at least for me, was to just get a feel for the layout. By the time Sunday came around for my race the course was going to be drastically different.

Kermy Shields flew in on Tuesday from NC and got an Airbnb just 15min bus ride from the course. To escape the “hotel life” and hang out with Kerm I hopped on a bus with him after pre ride and hung out with him in Alzette, Lux. I made some curry, which is the first time I had cooked in way too long, had a beer, and was able to lounge about in a house not a hotel room, avoiding my hotel room claustrophobia and constricting nature of things, like Tobin farting and Stephen stealing my bed to come watch TV or youtube videos.

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Friday morning Kerm and I checked out the Square, had a cappuccino, then headed to the course so I could get on the rollers for a spin. Spacing things out throughout the day is crucial when spending an extended amount of time in a hotel. Therefore, morning lounging usually takes up 3hrs minimum and riding later in the day helps stave off afternoon boredom. This allocates time spent Netflix browsing and reading to just before bed instead of all afternoon and all evening.

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Saturday was race day for Juniors, u23 women, and elite women. We watched all the action from our rooms before heading to the course for a final pre ride and openers. At this point snow was melting but there was still ice and hard frozen ground on the majority of the course. This lead to an incredible women’s finish, the most exciting of the weekend by far!

The day came and I was really excited to get after it. I felt terrible for Curtis White. He was feeling a flu at the beginning of the week and opt’ed to not start on Sunday. I would have done the same. To go out on the worlds stage not feeling 100% would have been a big shock and a huge kick in the nuts to anyones mental game. There is no need to end a great season on an extremely low note.

Saturday and Sunday produced some rain, which had the course supper muddy. Mostly soupy mud but some sections were thickening up. I goofed and left my music at the hotel so I had to warm up on the trainer to Doug’s jams, which was hard AF 90’s hip hop. I am not sure if you are familiar with “Killer Mike” but I now am.

Called up 26, and I was ready for the light to turn green. I had a good start, coming through the line in the mid 20’s. The first lap was good but then guys started coming by me and I could do nothing about it. Those damn Euro’s start so hard and never slow down. I wasn’t feeling super snappy, which was unfortunate because there was no hiding out there, especially when the leaders were turning faster and faster laps. Not sure if I could have taken my ktm around the course as fast as they were pedaling it.

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Powers came by me with 3 to go and I jumped on his wheel. He carried us out of the group I was with and we ended up getting pulled 2 laps down… This was a big disappointment. Getting pulled is never a good feeling especially at a race like worlds but, like I said before, van der poel and wout were just going nuts! Only 29 people finished on the lead lap.

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Looking back on the race I had a few small victories. One being the fact that I only flatted once and it was a slow leak so I was able to lose little to no time, two being I never crashed and felt good on the technical sections, three being I learned a ton! These last couple weekends have been eye opening. They have really showed me some things I need to work on for next year, and I am excited about it.

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A gigantic thanks to USA Cycling for the support. The mechanics did a great job among the chaos of dealing with 2 bikes for 31 riders, handling all the flats, and ever changing weather conditions. The hotel was great and logistics were never a concern.

Playlist of post race interviews below.

Now that worlds is done there is a little weight taken off my shoulders, weight that I have been putting on myself. I wanted to have a great worlds and I may not have done that but I am satisfied and content. This is probably the first time I am nearing the end of the season and I am not looking forward to taking a break.

Stephen, Kaitie A., and I have stayed in Sittard while the rest of the crew went home. Joe Devra and Doug are here and we are heading to Maldegem tomorrow, Lille on Saturday, and Hoogstraten on Sunday. Then Doug and I fly to Tokyo on Monday to race on Sunday. There are still 4 races left in my season and I can’t wait to race them.