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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Inspirational Cyclist - Andrea Cohen

Meet Andrea Cohen, townie commuter extraordinaire and fearless ultra-endurance racer. You can find her out riding in any weather and almost always with a smile on her face. And to boot, she is newer to cycling like me! Andrea proves that it’s never too late try a new sport- which is something I wished more people realized!

Read below to hear about her cycling experience and for some inspiration to tackle something new and challenging! 



Photo By Marco Holgado


How did you get your start in cycling? 

Honestly cycling was always my fall back. After quitting rowing in 2009 I started commuting by bike. I also needed to fill the void left from rowing. I joined the University triathlon team and met Audrey W. and Sandy K. The combination of these two is where I really feel like I was introduced to cycling. Sandy taught the spin classes for the triathlon team and was my gateway into the Iowa City Women's Cycling team and Chamois time races. The Iowa City Women's Cycling team was my first taste of organized rides and racing. It really opened the door to the Iowa City cycling community. Audrey on the other hand being a huge advocate for Iowa City cycling really showed me how to integrate cycling into my life. While these two women were the most influential in the beginning I am entirely grateful for the Iowa City cycling community that will always support each other.



How long have you been riding and/or racing?

I have been commuting out of necessity since 2009 and I did my first endurance race in late 2011.


Looking back at your first endurance race, what made you decide to do it?

I blame Audrey. Also the race was free! After paying for triathlons and Crossfit the lure of “free” was enough for me to just try it. The lack of cost was intriguing, but also the laid back attitude really got me. I had been a part of structured athletics for so long I was really yearning for something I could choose to do because I wanted to! No coaches, no stressful race tactics, the expectation for me was to have fun! The first endurance race I did was the Gritty Brevet here in Iowa City, and I had fun. Some of my favorite memories are from that first ride.

FatBike Enduro - 1st Place Female Solo - Photo by Chelsea Bilskempter


For you, what is the lure of doing endurance races instead of the more traditional (and much shorter) gravel or mountain bike races?

Starting off gravel races were much less intimidating. There are bare bones categories, and you will always fit in somewhere. There are no requirements deliberating what bike to ride or how fast you have to go.

How do you plan for, or train for, one of these ultra-endurance events? How many hours do you spend on average on your bike (in a week?)

This is the hardest part for me. I am terrible at going on training rides and making a plan. Commuting daily has been a great source of mental strength. I always have to get up and ride no matter what the weather is. As far as training rides I really try to make it to group rides, local events, and long days by myself to even out my training. I like have a destination as well, so sometimes I will just ride home to Davenport. I honestly try to incorporate cycling and training into my everyday life, so it is almost scary to try and figure out how many hours I spend on my bike.


During a tough race, what goes through your mind? How do you motivate yourself to keep going and not give up? 

I always joke I am aggressively optimistic. What is the worst that could happen? I have prepared my bike, my body, my race plan, and the rest is out of my hands. I always want to know what is around the next corner, what if it is an awesome barn, or a friend I catch up to! Even if I have to walk I will keep going. Also I talk to myself a lot.

How do you recover after a nine hour race?

I really don’t expect my recovery to be much different from shorter races. I will just want a shower, good meal, and probably a high-five or two!

What kind of gear or equipment do you take with you for a long race? Anything you can’t live without?

I take everything I could possibly need, flat kit, food, water, lights, cue sheets, and extra clothes. The only difference is that I have to plan for probably triple the capacity of stuff for a normal ride. I can usually restock food and water, but everything else has to be what I want when I started! I am still learning and trying out new types of gear. When I started off I was over packing, now I am learning the proper balance between too much and not enough pretty fast. It has also been essential for me to learn how to use what I am carrying, or else what is the point. Also learning how my bike works and how to fix it is vital. So far I can’t live without chap-stick, my iPod, and a watch.

With all the races you have completed, I’m sure there have been many proud moments. Looking back, what has been the highlight of the past year?

My highlight was Heck of the North. I went up with my mom and she volunteered. It was an incredibly hard race for me and I finished! There were tricky snow-mobile trails better suited for a mountain bike, peanut butter-esque gravel, and massive puddles I thought I would get lost in. It was one of my first races where I felt a real bonk, but I figured out how to keep going and learned a lot from that moment. I also love that my mom was there. Now she knows I am not the only person wandering around on gravel roads in the middle of nowhere.

What advice can you give for those who are thinking about giving an endurance event a try for the first time?

Don’t worry! I am always so relieved by the accepting attitude surrounding these events. Just keep pedaling, eventually a friendly face will show up if you are riding alone. I have had some of the best 5+ hour conversations with people who started as complete strangers. 


What do you think is the best way to get more women involved in cycling?

I think the best way to get women involved in cycling is to keep an open, positive attitude. That is the first thing I remember loving about the Iowa City Women’s Cycling team. They took me on their group rides, invited me to their events, and really made me feel like I was a part of the community. Now that I have branched out I am still a part of this family. I still feel like the core group of ladies are there to help me if I need anything. So while teams are important, for me the respect and appreciation of each lady as an individual is so important! 



Do you get inspiration from other endurance racers? Any blogs that you can recommend?

Some ladies I look up to would be Rebecca Rusch, Sonya Looney, and Tracey Petervary. I follow them on facebook and they will post on their respective blogs; http://www.rebeccarusch.com/, http://www.sonyalooney.com/category/blog/, http://trayp.blogspot.com/. I also like to check out Salsa bikes blog and Mountain Bike Radio. 
 (Andrea also has her own blog at: http://andreafromiowa.wordpress.com/)


What are your plans for the upcoming year?

First up is Land Run 100 in Oklahoma, then my third TransIowa attempt, the Royal Almanzo, Dirty Kanza, Gravel Worlds, and Heck of the North are the races that are hopefully set in stone. The rest of the time will be filled with local races!

 Thanks Adrea for all the inspiration you provide! I'm looking forward to seeing you on the bike this spring and hopefully we will be at some of the same races. Maybe I'll even run into you on my way to work now that I get to townie there!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Trail 100 & a Wedding - Last Two Days in Phoenix!

Well it's our last night in Phoenix and I'm super sad to leave - but also really excited to see my newborn niece tomorrow!

Hanging out w/ the new bride and her turtle!
Yesterday we decided to spin out our legs on a short 13 mile road road before hitting the trails. On the way we even stopped by a little farmers market and picked up some local citrus - Arizona Sweets and some little clementine-like oranges. I went to two different booths while Aaron stayed with the bikes and neither vender would let me pay for them - just gave them to me for free! It must have been the sweet spandex I was rockin' ;)
Tatum Blvd trailhead for North Mountain (Trail 100).

The views were gorgeous and reminded me of an Old Western movie.

Phoenix Mountain Biking
I'm really going to miss this view!!!

We could have played out on the trails forever, but we had a wedding to get to....and I was a little completely cooked from all the climbing on South Mountain.

What a fantastic trip,we already can't wait to come back! The mountain biking was so much fun and there were plenty of technical features to tackle and all the people we met were friendlier than we could have imagined. I still can't believe how lucky we were to meet Mike, the trail steward, that led us on a 20 mile bike ride through South Mountain and all the relatives and friends of the bride & groom that we met at the rehearsal dinner and wedding. You guys were so nice to meet and hang out with! And, to top things off, I didn't see a snake once!!

Pre-birthday drinks in Tempe

A little photo booth fun!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

South Mountain

Phoenix Day 2:

Today we headed to South Mountain to try out the National Trail. We had a little bit of a rough start trying to figure out how to get to National Trail and asked another mountain biker that was headed our way for some direction. Well this guy, Mike, just happened to be a trail steward and super nice guy, and ended up riding with us, aka leading us, for my most spectacular and gnarly mountain bike ride to date.

We climbed up to the ridge line to get onto National and within the first 5 miles had already ascended about 1500 ft. The Epic's were AWESOME and I made it up chunky climbs and step ups that I never dreamed I could do. The pictures just don't do the trails justice.

This is what we just rode up...
...and this is where we are headed up next
Steep Climb to National Trail

The view from "the top" of that climb
I finally got over my downhill demons and road some sweet drop offs and descents. Although I was a bit more reserved once we hit an area with steep drop offs. And there were plenty of areas that all three of us had to walk down or hike up and over.

We made it all the way to Telegraph Pass Road (just past the Buena Vista parking lot) and then proceeded to hike the bikes down Telegraph to meet up to Desert Classic. Holy fast and flowy-ness! Mike told us it was a really underrated trail - I can't see why anyone would like it!?!? It is a cross country mountain bikers dream with the super fast and flowy, short and pop-y up and downhills. I would ride that trail over and over again.

National Trail Mountain Biking

The Desert Classic went ride through the back of Mike's neighborhood so he invited us over for a beer. He was seriously the nicest person we have ever met biking! And really everyone down here and completely blown us away with their friendliness!

We popped back onto the Classic and took it over to Pima and back over to Beverly to our car.

We headed straight to In-N-Out Burger and got a Double Double 'animal style' to split. It was pretty tasty! The burger, fries, and milkshake held us over until the rehearsal dinner for our friend's wedding. It was at a place called Bobby Q's - where we enjoyed some brisket, half a broasted chicken and some fantastic mac 'n' cheese. Gah, I'm getting hunry again just thinking about it! It was really fun to meet Emma's family too, they were super nice!

We are up in the air for riding plans tomorrow. We want to make it over to Camel Back at some point and visit Tempe and Papago park. Oh boy, there are too many choices and too little time!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Phoenix Day 1:


Aaron and I headed to Phoenix to see one of our good friends get married. Since the wedding date fell over Aaron's Spring Break from school, we decided to make a little mountain bike vacation out of it. I was a little nervous to leave with my sister's due date a week away... And of course my niece decided to make her appearance the night we left - little stinker! Aghh, I can't wait to hold her!!

Now to "keep myself distracted" with mountain biking until I can see my sweet baby niece! We booked a hotel within a couple miles of North Mountain and rented some sweet Specialized Epic Expert Carbon FS bikes (somehow I managed not to take a single photo of the bikes!). We headed out on the N100 trail.

This is my first trip to Arizona and the trails out here are crazy chunky! I thought the trails at Clinton Lake in Lawrence Kansas were rocky, but whoa, the trail today was pretty much all rock! It was a mix of chunky rock and loose gravely rock which made for interesting (read scary) downhills. It took me a minute (or maybe an hour) to get used to the 29er full suspension and new terrain - I'm used to a 26" hardtail and used to not having to worry about landing on a rattlesnake if I crash or have to hike a bike. 

While some of the descents were a little sketchy, the climbs were great. I couldn't believe how well the bike climbed and got me over uphill rock sections. Talk about a huge confidence builder!

There were so many beautiful plants and cacti to see. Definitely a little different scenery than what I'm used to in the Midwest.

You can't tell very well from the photo below, but it looked like a field of glass in the sunlight. Turns out, it was glass left over from the 60's when this area was a trailer park and people used to shoot bottles out here... At least that is what a local told us who was walking by.

It was a great first day of riding! I can't wait to see some more trails tomorrow!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

YORR Silent Auction & Hand Built Bike Show

What a night! Thank you to everyone who who took part in the first ever NCJC Youth Off-Road Riders Silent Auction & Hand Built Bike Show. The community really came together to help support youth cycling and I am so proud to be apart of that community and to have had the opportunity to be on the fundraising committee to help plan and organize the event. I haven't heard a total amount of what we raised, but I'm certain it far exceeded expectations! 

Here is a collection of my favorite photos from the  night. A huge thank you to my sister and brother in law for letting me borrow their fantastic camera! And if you haven't read my other posts on the Youth Off Road Riders, make sure to check them out here and here

Guests arriving... 


Wayne & Cara signed in guests

YORR members Kendra and Willie greeting guests as they arrive
My dad and nephew arriving

My husband Aaron (on the right) showing off his 'mustache march' mustache


Some of the hand built bikes....





Some of my favorite silent auction items...

Jersey & Photo signed by Jason McCartney

The Iowa City Women's Cycling club put together these baskets :)

I really, really, wanted this painting! Whoever won the auction is a lucky person!

The real fun began with the live auction!

Jay Herman is the best emcee and auctioneer ever!

This little guy was getting into the live auction spirit using his penguin hat "to bid" on items :)

Riding off with his live auction win!

 Everyone was having a really good time!

The little kids dancing together :)

My aunt Jane and my Mom even came out to support the event!

Event coordinator Robin Armstrong!

Thank you!