Sunday, January 19, 2014

Race Report: Ninja Night Race #2

Post-race portrait by Matthew Hulet
I almost didn’t get around to sharing my “race” reflections from the second instalment in this new night series to hit SoCal.  Mainly because I was the only one in my category. So… calling it a race is a bit of a stretch, I think.

However, I am always one for a challenge, and racing without any other bunnies out there is a challenge indeed.  My “category” began with the Cat 1/pro men and despite not sharing the start line with any other girls, this was still one of the coolest starts I’ve ever experienced. I think only rivalled by the rolling Test of Metal start that goes down in Squamish. A tie, I think.

We assembled on the San Diego Velodrome – the first mountain bikers in history to have had the privilege – and did a neutral start behind cycling legend Eddie B, who led us out on a motorcycle for two whole laps of glory.

Wait, wait, wait, I’m not setting this up right. Back up. We assembled under the big lights of the Velodrome to rock out with a band, listen to speeches, and enjoy a beautiful rendition of the national anthem (I prefer O Canada, but O Well).  And then? Boom, the lights all went out, and the only illumination was the head and handlebar lights of the racers. It was like magic. What a feeling.

Our two track laps felt like winding up a bolas then we were out of there like a shot, charging towards Balboa Parks urban singletrack. Except one of the men totally crashed on the first corner so that was a bit of a drag, and a good reminder to get away on the front of your race. I hung with a couple guys for a bit working to keep their pace and catch up to the group, before settling into my own [slower] pace.

Amazing prize pack with goodies from
Sock Guy, Suja Juice and the BANK
For my race I felt good and positive, just focusing on keeping that power in the pedals and not allowing my mind to wander too much. I got to cheer on some fellow Ninjas who were also on course doing a great job and the spectators cheering us along by name from the sidelines were also a highlight. However, also on the sidelines were some sketchy, shady characters and they got my heart racing for other reasons. Yikes.

Finished my 7 laps without any hassles and at one point, I did actually see, like, 50 bunnies – real ones – streaming across the course. The critters come out at night!

Special thanks goes out to Reina, who took literally hours out of her evening to sit in rush hour traffic on my behalf after I left a critical piece of race equipment in my garage. She delivered it just in time, with a smile before turning around to sit in rush hour traffic again on the way back. I almost didn’t want to share this part, because it’s so embarrassing for me, but it’s honestly one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me so I wanted to say that publicly. Meanwhile, I'll never forget said piece of equipment again. Lesson learned. 

Check out all the photos here: and here:

And full results are here:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ninja Business

What started as a small role (arranged over a single tweet for goodness sake!) sharing my acquired knowledge of mountain biking with skills clinic participants has turned into much, much more, so I just wanted to share a little bit about what's up with all this "Ninja Stuff."

I'm now a USAC Certified Cycling Coach and working on becoming an IMBA Certified Skills Instructor as well. That means that when you sign up for one of our skills clinics, I'm one of the qualified coaches you'll be working with. I LOVE these clinics. It is so much fun to meet all kinds of riders and remind myself that this sport is hard, rewarding, exhilarating, and challenging all at once. Seeing it through others' eyes never ceases to amaze me. 

I'm really excited that we seem to be on to something, and that's allowed us to grow our skills clinics and take this thing on the road. And we were honored to be mentioned in San Diego Magazine's Get Happy issue as one of the 36 ways to feel amazing (we made it to #11, thankyouverymuch). You can keep up to date with upcoming courses at Next weekend we'll be in Orange County ... then we're off to Phoenix (again!) ... then up to LA. I'm excited to meet even more riders, but I'm also selfishly looking forward to getting to ride all these new trails! Laguna and Malibu, here I come!

Next order of Ninja Business is TEAM NINJA

Now that we have all these great riders getting to know each other, working out together on Tuesday nights in Balboa Park, and practicing all the skills they learned with us in clinics, it only made sense that we would start a team. 

Team Ninja has really taken off. And although we are stoked when our members show excellence on the race course (so many podiums already!!), we've also made it our mission to give back to the community, encourage more people to ride, be good ambassadors of the sport and support our chosen charities. 

Sponsors have rallied to our cause and so have riders so now we are 40+ riders of all ages and abilities. 2014 is going to be tremendous and I can't wait to see what this team will accomplish, on and off the trails. 

If you're interested in joining Team Ninja, you are WELCOME! Details are on the website:

So that brings me to NINJA NIGHT RACE 

Of course, if you have a bunch of skilled riders and they're already on a team, it would be great if they have somewhere to race! That's why we started our own race series, too. I was being a little facetious though, really -- there are already a lot of awesome organizers in this area, including Racers and Chasers and Quick and Dirty. So we wanted to add to these events rather than compete with them, plus give local racers another chance to rack up the points they need to move up the ranks. That's how we came up with the idea to race at night. It's the first USAC-sanctioned night race ever. We ran one back in October, and coming up THIS THURSDAY is the second in this historic series. 

This event is going to be unlike any other mountain bike event I've seen. We've got amazing sponsors and no less than four full demo trucks are going to be joining us, bringing bikes (Norco, Neil Pryde), neutral support (Zumwalt's Bike Shop) and lights (Light & Motion). 

By the way, Light and Motion is bringing 40 light sets for demo so don't let a lack of lights stop you from coming out for the fun. If you like what you try, you can pick it up for 15% off. You'll have to get behind me in line, though! 

Ladies especially -- please join us. I happen to know that registration, though rotund and healthy overall, is a pale sickly thing when it comes to women's sign ups, as is often the case. If we want women's racing to thrive, we gotta sign up and show up.

Last thing on the race, and coolest of all (at least I think so), we're the first mountain bikers ever to be allowed on to the velodrome where this thing is going to start. It's spectator friendly, we're running a raffle with amazing prizes from our sponsors and all the proceeds are going to the Monarch School. Plus, we hired a band, and a Tamale guy, so I think of this more like a "Mountain Bike Party." It's going to be awesome. Make sure you're there, even if you don't race. You won't want to miss out. 

So these days I pretty much eat, sleep and dream Ninjas. I am very lucky to have met such a great crew, led by my coach, friend, and Head Ninja Richard La China. Mountain biking and I have had our ups and downs over the years, but I've never been more excited to stay with my training, share what I know, and lend a hand however I can to help others find the joy of riding. Happy Trails! 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Love Nest Achieved!

Over the past week, the house hunting -- which we've been engaged in casually since I got here -- turned a little more serious. We gave our notice a couple days ago at the house we've been sharing with roommates since I relocated to San Diego after our wedding last March, and now we're about to move into our first "real" place of our own in our married life! EXCITING!

Today, our search came to a happy end with a great 2 bedroom/2 bathroom condo we're renting from a nice guy in a great part of town. If it weren't for the fact that we have to BYOF (Bring Your Own Fridge), I'd even say I was worried about it being Too Good To Be True. Since it has a garage and an additional parking spot that means we can use said garage for all our toys, I'm worried it's TGTBT anyway. 

The other great feature of this place is of course, location, location, location. Not only will we still be living in "the shadow of La Costa," so I can ride to my favourite mountain bike trails, we'll also be living at the top of a particularly gnarly Strava Segment. Thank god Base Miles are over! Because here come the hill repeats ....