NUE Marathon #3 – Tatanka 50k

This past weekend we packed our bags and headed to the hills, The Black Hills. Growing up just 6 hours East on I-90, I was excited to head back and get to race on trails “somewhat” close to home. Through my first 22 years living in Minnesota, the closest thing I got to mountain biking was skipping ditches on our moped. Jeff grew up in Iowa and has made a handful of trips out to The Black Hills to ride and race mountain bikes – so, we planned to arrive a few days early so that I could get the feel for the new terrain, as well as take in the local attractions!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR6585.

The race is a three distance option point to point, an Epic 80 miles, a Marathon 50k or a Sprint 15 miler along the iconic Centennial Trail. Following the National Ultra Endurance Marathon Series, I had the 50k to look forward to. On paper, 50k seems pretty short for a marathon race, but with a course comprised of nearly 100% singletrack, the distance ended up feeling perfect. Oh yeah, we also started at 12noon with an ambient temperature of 111 degrees F setlling into the 90′s for the remainder of the race. 50k was plenty for me to manage with heat like that! After getting heat stroke in Costa Rica two years ago, my body seems to be a little more sensitive to the extremes. Knowing this, I was quick to consult my coach Lynda Wallenfels as to how to be prepared and stay strong through the high temps.

DSCN0715

My heat survival tips guided by LW:

  • I started hydrating on and off with water and GU electrolyte tabs four days leading up to the race. This may have made for constant potty breaks, but it was well worth the extra flushing.
  • If I managed the heat well, I estimated my finish time at 3:30 and up to 4:00 if I withered and suffered. I prepared my hydration plan for 4 – ended up drinking every last drop of what I had packed for 4 hours and ended up finishing in 3:30!
  • Lynda gave me some pro tips like after drinking out of your pack, to blow back into the hose so that the water in the hose doesn’t roast. Starting with a pack filled with ice water, this offered up a nice refreshing drink every 10-15 minutes or so. Something so obvious, but NEVER crossed my mind.
  • Lynda also gave me strict pacing instructions. “Go slow to finish fast”, she told me. Much like someone who is not accustomed to racing at altitude, if you go too hard at the start you’ll end up feeling it throughout the remainder of the race – which will make you go backwards. Basically, keep a lid on it!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR6581.

So, with the above list, I was as ready as I’d ever be to battle the heat and race a new trail system! Other Colorado locals Alex Pond and Becky Edmiston and I joined the shuttle ride to Piedmont, South Dakota for our 12-noon start. Alex and I talked about the day and how we both were going to keep it cool at the start, he said he wouldn’t lead it out, and I said I wouldn’t catch his wheel. Well, within the first two minutes of the race I found myself sitting on Alex’s wheel as he lead us out. Oops! Checking my shoulder, I had a group of men hot on my wheel so as soon as we made a turn off onto the gravel road I kindly let them pass me by so I wouldn’t get caught up in going too hard.

DSCN0711

From here to the start of the Centennial Trail, our route followed a bit of dirt road to a side creek trail that was intermittent two track, random rocks and side cut singletrack. Maintaining a steady pace, I was able to make up a few of the spots I let slip by on the road – always being sure I never felt my head throb or legs twinge. I let my body do the talking and followed its lead with a steady, forward momentum.

13667888_1339674476047101_577360512835742456_o

Hitting the Centennial Trail, we were greeted by Dirt Wire extraordinaire Thom Parsons and the NUE Race Director Ryan O’Dell. Both offered cheers and told me I was riding top 5 overall. This was surprising, so surprising that I nearly crashed clipping my bar on a wood post on one of the trail bridges! Haha – luckily, I saved it, laughed it off, and continued along up a great climb on winding trail.

DSCN0714

From the top of the first big climb, we plummeted down through the trees, twisting, bobbing and weaving…even blowing a few switchbacks as they came sharp and quick! This was a hoot, and lead down to four or five creek crossings that were bone dry and filled with bowling ball rocks. I bobbed on the first but sailed through the rest, keeping the fun high and the momentum good into the second aid. This is where I saw familiar colors and rolled up to a cooked Jeff downing an ice cold cup of coke. My first response was, “What are you doing here?!?” as I quickly dropped my pack, picked up two bottles, and gladly took an ice towel and cool water splash from the kind aid station helpers. Assuring myself he was OK, I rolled on yelling back “COME WITH ME”. He did not.

DSCN0713

I rolled on and knew there would be one more big climb, one super fun long descent, a mini climb and a “this is going to suck” stretch through a meadow before the finish. (***the guy who started our race told us just that, “the meadow is going to suck”). I continued my steady pace up all the climbs, chose safe lines on the descents, and kept downing my GU Energy Labs nutrition plan.

Our race started to merge with the Sprint racers, which caused me to take one wrong turn. One corner was a little confusing and a woman from the trail below said where she was coming from was where I needed to go. It only took me a few moments of bushwacking to know this was not the way, and showed her the right turn and carried on. It was so rad to see so many kids doing the sprint course. They had a big day, pushed up some steep pitches, but got to enjoy the most fun descent of the entire day! I absolutely loved giving high fives and hoots and hollers of encouragement as I passed.

13653173_1236529083026060_7445497448582473758_o

Before I knew it, I was to the I-90 crossing. To our luck, a storm was rolling in providing great cloud coverage and tempered the heat – I’m sure this made for a quick trip to the finish line and before I knew it, I was navigating the bike path to the finish line. I came across in a steady 3:30, no heat stroke, no leg cramps, and a huge grin ear to ear securing my third NUE Marathon win!

13631393_645044315647427_6323249328210233092_n

It’s been so fun following a series this year, getting to travel to new places and explore new trails! I have to say, the best thing about following this series has really been sharing it with our bike family who are doing the same. After awards, the crew got to hit the town of Sturgis for some good local treats! Next up will be Pierre’s Hole, another new location, course, and competition. It’s sure to dish up big climbs, stunning views, and pristine high alpine singletrack. I can’t wait!

Huge thanks to Team Topeak-Ergon for the support. Being a member of this team has given me an immense motivation to continue working hard and finding balance each day through this bike life.

13619833_10101731877825390_7909809294440906449_n

 

NUE Marathon #2 Bailey Hundito – Finding Balance

With my eyes set on the NUE Marathon Series, I sit here a few days post Bailey Hundito, my second win of the series, very content wth the postponement of our Wednesday night town series hill climb. Don’t get me wrong, I LOOOOVE a good hill climb, but was happy to postpone. There is the obvious reason as to the safety of the riders climbing up to a radio tower in the rain, thunder, and lightning. Then, there’s the accumulated fatigue and mental haze from the past training block and peak for last weekend’s race. Not one to back down out of my commitments, I knew I had to make this one as a few others conflict with summer travel, so I was ready to slug myself up that hill. With the storm that rolled in, I’ll take the rest, as I’ve been dragging a little more than usual after the Hundito.

13419136_10101705853288770_1481710444703474242_n

It’s been fun, and very helpful training opportunities using the local short track and XC races for some speed work in the space between NUE races. There was a huge chunk of time between True Grit and Bailey, so in that time I’ve been jumping into our local races and even got to participate in an event I help put on – The Firebird 40 – Colorado XC State Championships. All races have been great race experiences, playing with different pacing strategies, pushing my limits a little further and coming away with four wins and one second place (behind world cupper Erin huck)! With the good comes the bad, and I had one DNF at the Gunnison Growler with a hard lesson and reminder in being proactive with my temperamental allergy/asthma routine.

13120033_1192391204106535_6561267103741456159_o

13241347_1715271525425352_8698717518959313642_n

13413741_628121200673072_885745236052859223_n

Aside from racing I’ve been planning our wedding, working at Uncommon Communications and getting our first session of VVASA MTB 101 kids camp up and rolling. Finding balance in it all has been much more fluid than in years past. For whatever reason, this year I feel more together, confident, grateful, and happy. I’m not as easily swayed when things go wrong – I accept that they will go wrong, and remind myself that it’s in how I handle those moments that define me as an athlete and individual. Something that has really helped is that I have been much more aware of my support system – they are unwavering, always there no matter if I succeed or fall; Jeff, my family, friends, and my coach.

DSCN0340

I got to fully experience the race support at Bailey as Jeff was still recovering from a record temp Big Fricken Loop 108 mile race the weekend prior. He drove us to Bailey, took care of my bike, made sure I got up at 4am, made my coffee & oatmeal, and was at the Aid Station with needed GU nutrition so I wouldn’t have to scrounge for my bag. I really got the royal treatment; it was awesome to only have to focus on enjoying riding my bike smooth and consistent. Spoiled!

13432360_10101705853383580_8513128194659935409_n

That treatment really made the day a LOT easier. I was relaxed, excited and confident in my equipment, body and mind. From the start I took control, kept a consistent pace, and ticked away the miles – finishing first of the women and 8th overall in the men. It was a solid effort – one that I still feel lingering a touch.

13482921_1724615364490968_394115076596054235_o-2

IMG_0614

IMG_0617

So, now I rest, reap the rewards and start planning for the next NUE’s as we head to Tatanka in a couple weeks followed by Pierre’s Hole at The Grand Targhee Resort in Wyoming in August. Rounding out the NUE season, we’ll head back to Costa Rica in early September for the Volcano100. There’s still a whole lotta racing to be had this season, and I am so thrilled to explore new locations, meet new people and challenges ahead!

13493214_10154305280194228_1480899706_o

Thank you for reading, for your support, and encouragement.

 

 

Mawiage is wot bwings us togeder tooday…

I’ve never been the little girl who dreamt of the day she’d be married. In fact, I have always kind of questioned the whole process. What I saw, and I soon came to believe, was that when you got married, you ever so gradually stopped pursuing your own goals and adventures. That after saying, “I do” to whoever is standing across from you, you are really saying “adios” to that free-spirit, child-like energy within you. The fear is that the pace at which this separation would happen would be so slow, you never really realize you’re losing it…until it’s too far gone and you have become so consumed with the daily “busy’s” that once you realize you’re missing yourself the distance becomes too unfamiliar to know how to make the trek back.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4458.

Well, guess what. I’m engaged. Shit. ;)

So, how did I get here? What changed my mind, and what have I learned in the short time I’ve had this gold, peak-notched band on my finger?

13012685_10101644341059770_3717479848189722634_n

First, I got here by learning how to let love in. I had to first learn how to truly love myself, and be completely content alone. This allowed me to see the love that had been staring me in the face for years in a way I never knew existed. A lesson my dad taught me years ago, “you have to love yourself first” – a lesson, that like a lot of things took a good chunk of time to really sink it.

There wasn’t one particular thing that changed my mind on marriage. I would say, it’s been a growing process of truly learning that life is what you make it. How you eat an apple could be completely different than the way I eat an apple. In fact, the way you SEE an apple could be different than the way I see it. One way not better than another, but both ways serving what each needs. The same with marriage. I have met so many different couples that approach their partnership in completely different, beautiful ways. As much as people like to tell you that their approach is the best, I’m finding the advice I feel the most drawn towards is less rigid and more learn as you go, but learn together.

For us, marriage isn’t the concept of ‘two becoming one’, but more a partnership. We are both adventure seekers, trying to see and experience as much as we can, and with someone like that by your side – the world is our playground! Our goals are not to grow inward, but to continue to grow outward to make some kind of positive impact in this crazy world.

In the short time, I said yes, I have actually learned a lot. The biggest lesson I have learned is that as much as this moment is about Jeff and me – it’s really about our loved ones as well. It’s been something that has brought our families together in a way they haven’t been in awhile. Admittedly, my life hasn’t been quite understood… but after making this decision, I have talked with family members more so than ever – and that has been really nice.

After being with Jeff for over four years, I didn’t think taking this step could really be much different. Again, I was wrong. It is a whole new level of love. For me, it’s not the “shout from the mountain top” kind of love, but more so this deeper connection of, “I’ve got your back…always” kind of love. That, too, has been really nice.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4472.

So, if anything… what I’ve learned… is that I really know nothing, but to just be open to what life has to offer, and to always stay true to myself. The only way you can lose yourself is if you make the choice to let it slide by.

 

 

 

 

International Day of Happiness

Recently, Facebook so eloquently nudged a reminder of where I was four years ago. A blog post I had written, “Equally prepared to succeed as I am to fail” surfaced, and I was instantly brought back to all the thoughts that were bouncing back and forth in my 27-year-old head.

It’s the moment or part of our lives we go through self-discovery to figure out what pulls us out of this downward spiral of self-doubt.

My 20′s were filled with ups, downs, and back and forth rollercoasters. Wanting everything to happen at that very moment, versus trusting the process and having a little patience. Common for a 20 something? Sure. Was I content with this constant pull of clutter in my head, no.

So many adolescent girls go through that awkward, unsure stage of their lives where these self-doubts clutter their everyday thoughts.  These thoughts then start to shape how they carry themselves, how they process interactions and relationships, and what they aspire to become.

In the post, I wrote about how cycling pulled me out of this clutter. What I learned since this post, was that it’s not just cycling that has made me who I am, allowed me to be happy, know myself more deeply, and truly feel happiness.

Cycling allowed me to shut everything else out. It was a pause button to the reality of every single influence that was knocking on my door. The time on my bike gave me an unapologetic space to be sad, happy, confused…but most importantly, it gave me time and space to breathe through it all. It gave me a glimpse of the first look to my OWN thoughts, the first sounds of my OWN voice.

In a way, it was a gateway drug to a healthier lifestyle. As I spent more time on my bike, I became more in tuned with myself. I started treating my body with more kindness through eating better, drinking less, and sleeping more. By learning to be alone in my own thoughts, through meditation, I gradually started stripping myself of all the layers trying to be something I’m not. I was finding my happy. What I found was that I didn’t need anyone’s approval to be happy – it was an inside job.

I feel like the simplicity of two wheels, a dirt trail, rocks, roots, bumps, bruises, laughs, and friendships along the way completely saved me.  Saved me from living someone else’s life and never truly knowing myself, my capabilities, or my breaking points.

The best part of all was when I learned I didn’t need anyone’s approval – my life started to become richer with all the things I was forcing in my 20′something-year-old self. Less force, and more ease. My outlook has become less of “success vs failure” and more about learning from my mistakes, and not letting hiccups completely turn my world upside down. Being an eternal student, and understanding it’s OK not to have it all figured out.

So, today, on International Day of Happiness – I hope you start the conversation of what that is for you so that instead of just one day of happiness, you start to cultivate a life of happiness.

 

True Grit 50: Cross-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed

The first race of the year brings on a full gamut of emotions, from the pre-race nerves, start line electricity, and the finish line elation. Who am I kidding, I go through this entire spectrum pretty much each and every race I line up for – Ha. I think I just forget about it after not racing for four months. The past weekend was no exception. I was all of the feels; excited, nervous, and ready to line up for the first National Ultra Endurance Marathon Series kick off.

12524325_590211544464038_2453645453046411240_n

Committing myself to a full series has proposed a little challenging since I started riding and racing five years ago. I somehow always ran into roadblocks of health halts and financial woes. Continuously seeking and fighting balance, the scale evened out a bit in 2015. I was able to put together a solid season and felt ready to start looking at some bigger goals. With a new level of support, I decided to follow the NUE Marathon Series. I plan on hitting 5 races all over the US and Costa Rica! The first stop was in St. George, UT this past weekend at the True Grit 50.

I had done this race twice before, two years ago coming in third, and last year coming in second. The theme of 2015 was a full season of 2nd and 3rd place finishes. This culmination of results had me thirsty for a win. The challenge of pulling off a W at the True Grit Epic was a combination of the need for early season fitness and technical skill. Two things that can be difficult living in the mountains. I quickly found that it was just an adjustment of priority – I made an effort to do the work, schedule desert trips, and absorb every ounce of wisdom from LW Coaching.

With all the work behind me, it was time to line up. I was happy to see a bigger field this year and excited to get started. I could barely sit still during the National Anthem! Finally, the countdown hit the end of its rope and we were off. Starting with a neutral roll out, I made sure I stayed up front, but not too far up front. I didn’t want to get caught up in the top 15 pro men as I’d be sure to blow a fuse within the first 45 minutes.

As soon as we hit dirt, I was in my zone and quickly took the lead. I got into a good rhythm throughout the first series of knife edge climbs and technical descents. Through the first aid station, I took a bottle hand-up from friend Richie, aka Mountain Bike Jesus and was on my way to Zen, the most technical loop of the whole course. For the most part, I kept it smooth through Zen, being careful not to waste any energy on moves that wouldn’t pay off in the end. Here is where I still count my blessings I had put on a dropper post. I hit one of the rock roll sections a little less rolly and a little more nose wheelie that welcomed. With the ability to get low and throw my weight back, I was able to save a crash and ride it out. Yikes!

Exiting Zen, my friends gave assurance I had a good lead. Taking two more bottles of GU Energy Labs Roctane, I carried onto the second half of the course. This half was much less technical and much more “on the gas”. Knowing I had a good lead, I decided to scale it back a notch. I enjoyed the middle finger drops followed by the Poppy trail flow before flipping it to the Stucki climb. This is where my “scaled back” pace started feeling reallllly slow. Something wasn’t right. I ignored any hesitation and just kept plugging away to the ripping fun descent at the end of the never-ending monotony of Stucki.

Once on this ripping fast descent, I knew what was up. My front tire was low. I must’ve burped it during my Zen nose wheelie! Not wanting to waste a CO2, I precariously got my way to where I knew there was on course support. Any dip in the trail, I’d lean back and unweight the front end as much as possible to get me to where I could either use a floor pump, or say goodbye to one of my CO2 cartridges. With luck, the on course support had a floor pump. He got me back up to my lucky 19psi from what had been riding at 12psi! Yikes, no time to worry about that too much, it was time to carry onto the next set of trails.

This is my favorite part of the course, one short rim loop followed by the best loop of the whole day Barrel Roll. After the short rim loop, I got to the two-way traffic the moment the second place woman was starting the rim loop. Having it in my head how much of a lead I had, I kept it steady – however, once I hit Barrel Roll I was unsure if my steady was too slow and started frantically getting myself to the finish line. This resulted in a comical flailing moment that I was so lucky to share with my friend, Noah Sears followed by an equally comical uphill crash! Oh man, GET ME TO THE FINISH!

Once I hit the pavement, I had it in my head that any guy I saw was a girl and ran scared the whole way to the finish line. With one last glance over my shoulder, I was in the clear and for the first time ever threw my hands up and crossed the True Grit 50 with the win!

10338866_590211507797375_8727266734216000764_n

YAHOOOOOOOOO! I did it! I was so happy, and so done. Hit my goal of under 4 hours with a finish of 3:53, and got the TOP STEP among some pretty stellar ladies.

12814084_590211521130707_5342805624494490144_n

1918357_589898817828644_8558154238967568325_n

The rest of the day was flooded with all the feels. Proud of my day, the day my friends had, the Thai food we all devoured, and of course – Menchies. We were all pretty YOLO for FROYO by the end of the day.

941318_10101591837457410_4474524685263751946_n

 

I can quite honestly say, I couldn’t have pushed myself to the limit that I did without the top notch coaching from LW, support from Team Topeak-Ergon, fast wheels to have chased the weeks leading up to the race, and the encouraging words from friends. This community is unlike any other – a real family. Thanks for helping me get here. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coach’s Corner: The Benefits of Training with Power on the MTB

Quote

For the past two seasons, I have been using power on my road bike for specific interval training. Being able to hand over raw data to my coach, Lynda Wallenfels has helped her strategically maneuver my schedule to keep increasing my fitness and motivation without risking burnout. Using power, I treat workouts like a game of Super Mario, as if hitting my numbers and beyond will earn me that 1UP.

This has worked great for indoor training and days on the road when the dirt is still covered in snow. However, once the thaw hits my motivation to grab the road bike goes down and all I want to do is ride dirt. That makes training a little more variable as I’m purely going off heart rate and perceived exertion. This has worked – OK, but who wants to settle for ok? After a successful 2015, it was a no-brainer to add a Stages Cycling Power Meter to help boost my training into the 2016 season. The crank set up was quick and easy, and the pricing is quite reasonable. Click the image below to check out their site.

12509278_569606769857849_1363009889612488423_n

If more miles on dirt isn’t reasoning enough, I went to LW to ask her input on other important benefits of training with power on the mountain bike.

KJ: What do you find is the biggest benefit of adding power to your mountain bike vs. just using it on the road?

LW: With power meters on all bikes you get a complete picture of the athlete’s efforts. Fundamental to endurance training is to apply a training load followed by recovery. What is the optimal load? Optimal recovery period? Before power we could only guess. In 2003 Dr. Andrew Coggan developed a set of metrics that models workout stress, longer term training fatigue, fitness and recovery (form). We worked with him as beta testers to refine these for practical use. Since then we’ve learned a lot about the “when” and “how much” variables of training.

KJ: Where do you see the advantages of looking at an athlete’s power versus heart rate?

LW:  Heart rate is a response where power is what moves the bike. Heart rate his highly variable – down a coffee or Red Bull and your HR goes up for the same power (in most cases – but maybe not). Power data is objective ground truth – what really happened, what the athlete can do. Power data can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses. Once identified, creating the ideal program for an athlete based on event demands and goals becomes much more clear.

Spotting a limiter example: with power data, it might be discovered that an athlete has trouble at low cadence, high power efforts. These are often crux in MTB events. So, this athlete would benefit by doing some hard, low cadence steep climbs – and probably some SS work.

Power profile example: power data tells you how much power you can maintain normalized to body weight, and there are known ranges for various levels of cycling from recreational to world class, and they are broken into time bins (sprint, neuromuscular, VO2max, threshold). This is more info to help assess and figure out where the biggest gains can be made for the goal event.

KJ: Is it possible to rely too heavily on data? Could data ever hold an athlete back?

LW: Quite the opposite! Most athletes are prone to overtraining. Who wants to ride easy when stoke level goes to 11, right Karen? When used right, power data helps the athlete stay on track to reach goals. In most cases we advocate athletes to race with power meters but not looking at them, instead racing by feel. That “feel” is a calibration of your senses to what you can actually do, and gained by training with power. Training with power teaches you to execute.

In short, power data is knowledge, and with knowledge comes power.

KJ: Do you have any tools or resources for mountain bike athletes to learn more about training with power?

LW: Glad you asked. Resources first:

The fundamental power metrics are described at http://lwcoaching.com/power-training-glossary/. Normalized power is the base metric to which all others are related.

http://lwcoaching.com/performance-manager-chart-explained/ explains the concepts behind the Performance Manager Charts. This is a tool available with paid TrainingPeaks subscriptions and WKO+ software.

The concepts of power profiling on TrainingPeaks http://home.trainingpeaks.com/blog/article/power-profiling

Now, some tools.

https://connect.garmin.com/ is a great place to store your data as a starting point. Most worthwhile services can connect to your garmin account and automatically receive and process your files anytime you upload to garmin. As a bonus (and this is huge over time) it’s a backup of your precious power data.

http://home.trainingpeaks.com/products/products-for-athletes lists the TrainingPeaks offerings. The online athlete edition (premium) includes several tools to analyze your power data, including PMC, power profiling and a power file viewer. Their phone app is great too. WKO+ desktop software has advanced features and is only recommended for true geeks.

https://strava.com/ has great support for power in the premium version. At $6/month it’s a bargain. It generates a PMC style fitness/fatigue/form chart for you.

image003

 

It generates a power curve for every file, and compares the current ride’s data to your historical data.

image004

Strava probably doesn’t need further description here, but using the power data as well as segment times makes it easy to test different pacing strategies.

KJ: Thanks Lynda!

As you can see, there are many benefits to training with power. Even if you are someone who goes cross-eyed when you start looking at data. That’s where having a coach plays a huge role in continuing to make gains in your sport. He or she does that work for you, and you can just focus on following directions. If you’re not ready to jump into coaching, start by taking a look at the online tools Lynda mentioned to fully reap the benefits of using power.

Want to ask Lynda more about power? Check out her facebook page, LW Coaching. Each month she does an open coaching day where you can ask about any of your training and racing questions. Her next one is coming up Feb. 4th! Click the image below to check out LW’s facebook page.

Feb 4th 2016 Open coaching day

Lynda has been a plethora of knowledge to my training and racing over the past two seasons. I’ve never been one to hold something good to myself, so please check it out – and happy training. :)

FullSizeRender

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Moments of 2015

Without a doubt, 2015 in its entirety was a most memorable chunk of fun in my bike life – a lot of things clicked this year and the things that didn’t, I was able to pull up my big girl pants and handle with a little more grace than in years past. Here’s a look at my favorite moments of 2015 – adventures, career, races, and more! Because, let’s be real… none of us are living our days purely based on training and racing.

We kicked off our 2016 work/play/race stint with a trip to Sedona for the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival. This was a first for me, and if I had to describe this location in one word – magical would take the cake. It’s a playground of red dirt, hairball trails, and lush green shrubbery.

Spending a few weeks on the road can come with its challenges. Jeff and I hit a few of those this year; traffic stresses, hangry lows, lodging discrepancies and balancing each others training/work/relationship needs. Through it all, we learned how to compromise and most importantly we were able to laugh at the moments of comedic relief.

Through it all, we came out stronger with a new found respect for each other’s differences.

2015 marked the second year of the Vail Valley Alternative Sports Academy, a kids MTB 101 program that I’ve been allowed to take the reigns on. In one year, with the help of my staff, community, and volunteers we were able to introduce 120 kids to the sport over June and July! It’s an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to see my ideas come to life, and the reward is in each and every smile on the kids’ faces.

This season’s race results were the best yet. Stats wise, I hit 8 podiums out of 11 races. 2 of the 3 missed podiums were mechanicals and 1 was a body mechanical. Beyond the results, the biggest gain in my race season was the ability to stay balanced in my work, relationship, and athlete life. I was able to bounce back from health/injury hiccups by taking the ample amount of time to recover and work on preventative measures from having it happen again. I’m predicting this will be an ongoing lesson, but it feels great to have finally put together a season that I’m proud of.

DSCN2117

DCIM100GOPROG0073967.

Adventure! There were so many great trips above treeline this year, and each and every one was amazing. Quite possibly the most memorable was my first bike pack trip with Jeff from Aspen to CB and back. Time spent in the mountains fuels my soul.

IMG_8734

11796428_10101375302734730_8748494658503635626_n

Last but not least, riding with friends. It’s quite amazing what the power of a group of supportive, encouraging, like-minded people can do for your confidence. Fun is fast, and I feel quite fortunate to have a solid supply of fun and fast friends who give me that boost to push my limits!

Travel + Love + Friendships + Continuing Career Goals + Adventure + Race Focus + Fun

The above were all big contributors to my 2015. I look forward to continuing the flow in 2016 aboard Team Topeak-Ergon! Cheers to taking new opportunities by the huevos and running.

Off Season Scramble

Once my headache cleared, I was more than ready to get back outside! The best part of the off season is getting out and playing in the mountains for however long you like – the only governor being daylight and energy levels. Here is a little of what we’ve been up to so far this fall.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 4.10.40 PM

We’ve hung up the cross country bikes to be sold and stick to long (to us) travel rides. Dirt Surfer. Eagle, CO.

DSCN0096

With no races coming up, there is always a reason to prolong your rides to catch the last light on dry dirt in between fall storms. Riddle. Eagle, CO.

DSCN0108

With the pending snow soon to blanket the mountains, it’s always a gamble on each cruise through the alpine until it’s our last. Elkhorn Trail. Beaver Creek, CO.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR6354.

With trail conditions being put on temporary pauses with the changing of seasons, lunch rides start to switch to the road. Cottonwood Pass. Gypsum, CO.

DCIM100GOPROG0026399.

Mix and matching equipment and sport. Cottonwood Pass. Gypsum, CO.

DSCN0126

Sometimes, we don’t mind hanging up the bikes to fulfill our hypoxic needs by climbing mountains. Peak One, 10-Mile Range. Summit County, CO.

DSCN0125

DSCN0140

I’m gradually learning that as important as it is to follow a structured plan – it’s equally as important to have bouts of flexibility. The off season is a time for a me to get out, immerse myself with all kinds of activity, and recharge for the season to come!

Keep playing, moving, and having fun!

2015 Bike/Life Season Wrap Up

The 2015 season marked my fourth year racing in the elite category, fifth year trying out this whole racing thing, and the most consistent year yet! My main goal every year is to maintain a good life, bike, and financially sustainable balance from start to finish – all while trying to build a career around this bike life. Year by year, it’s motivating to see how things are gradually coming together. 

The season started with a new partner – BH Bikes, racing and training on the Lynx4.8 and Ultimate hard tail gave me the best tools for the job throughout the whole season! Another new partner was Limar Helmets – knowing I have a tendency to test lines and lawn dart here or there, I was confident in this lid keeping me safe no matter what I put it through. Along with the continued support of Castelli Cycling Apparel, Ergon Bike, Continental Tire, Xpedo pedals, Pearl Izumi shoes, Osmo Hydration, Smith Optics, Handlebar Mustache socks/apparel, community support of Yoga off Broadway and Yetis Grind, as well as the guidance of LW Coaching – I was stoked and grateful for every bit of help. With this village, I could focus on the fun part – putting in the work, staying motivated, healthy, and most important have fun riding and racing my bike!

FullSizeRender-2

Once the bikes rolled in, we were off to the desert every chance possible to familiarize ourselves with riding trail after a winter of road rides, skiing, and (minimal) indoor riding.

Continually working on the bike/life balance – stars alined more than a few times where fun and work overlapped as Jeff and I got to travel together and work multiple bike festivals in warmer climates. Our first trip to Sedona was a great February escape to get to play on technical trails in the warm sun. We’ll return for the 2016 Sedona Mountain Bike Festival – and I’ll be sure to bring a dropper post this time.

image3

St. George is beginning to be one of our favorite places to ride in the winter, and helps that my coach lives there and can show me all the lines!

image2

The True Grit 100/50 has continued to be a great test to early season fitness. My second year racing the 50, and one step higher than the previous year. We definitely look forward to this March event and will return in 2016!

IMG_6267

Come April, we continue our bike/life balance by traveling to California. This year, we worked the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival followed by Sea Otter. A real treat getting to train at sea level, work, and spend time together.

DCIM100GOPROG0153505.

Morning work commutes are so fun with an abundance of oxygen.

IMG_6263

Evening dinner dates along the beach were just the ticket to take full advantage of traveling together.

15583_473599859458541_6191092579475656240_n

A few days after returning from California, we had a last minute decision to race the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series – Ridgeline Rampage, a 5 lap race on a 10 mile track.

FullSizeRender

As dizzy as we were with so many short laps, it was a great training opportunity and happy to have held onto third in a field of strong Colorado competition.

We are lucky to live in a valley with so many training opportunities – the Vail Recreation District puts on a Short Track series as well as a smoking fast XC Series. No doubt, the handful I was able to make helped rev the engine for my longer races throughout the season. Each race finishing 2nd and 3rd.

11270335_1588590118093494_5173820965258409028_o

Linda Guerrette was out at all the races – catching great images of the painful fun we continually come back to.

DCIM100GOPROG0035004.

In May, the Gunnison Growler was a little bit of a bummer for me with a race ending mechanical – a frayed cable locked me in my easiest gear. It was an extremely wet spring causing for a gamble when it came to trail conditions. I look forward to racing this one again next year for another shot!

June provided the first open window to ride high. This month was event work heavy with a rescheduled Firebird 40 – providing for great training blocks and local races. It’s also when I started figuring out a nasty breathing issue. Not letting it break my stride – I stayed focus on the races ahead and came out strong in July.

DSCN1471

11722253_10206017376446017_549242061318690783_o

The Firecracker 50 was the first race where everything clicked, body, breathing, motivation – it was all there.

image1-2

A finish I’m sure to remember for awhile.

11692618_10207495599936499_1553521547383046409_n

Finishing second definitely felt like a win, especially with a podium kiss from the Race Director – Jeff Westcott.

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 8.33.37 AM

 

1375071_10153503314661151_5482355205740537217_n

Keeping things rolling, Jeff and I joined our friend Yuki Ikeda in a three person team for the Breck 100. This format was really fun as each person took a 30′something mile TT pull. We raced our way to the first team to ever beat the open men’s finisher’s time! It would be fun to see more teams sign up next year, and it become a competitive field.

11313063_10153379725549228_4326617958313508259_o

In 2014, I helped start a kids mountain bike program, Vail Valley Alternative Sports Academy. Going into 2015, I took the reigns in programming, managing, and building the program – and with an overwhelming amount of community support we sold out each session!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR7086.

As much energy as this took, it was by far the highlight of the year – being a part of the growth and momentum of getting kids on bikes is a huge passion of mine, and seeing the affect it has had on our small community goes well beyond any podium finish of a race. The kids have a way of making it all come together – we talk very little to not at all when it comes to racing, but focus on the stewardship, fun, and empowering parts of the sport. Our goal is to cultivate riders, not racers – as we feel the ones who want to go onto racing will happen naturally.

kyleandkaren.be2015

August was probably the biggest event push, which actually went right into September this year with the Breck Epic, Interbike and our new event The Vail Outlier Offroad Festival. Keeping it all in check – I made sure I was present when it came to work and scheduled a couple races around working to keep things rolling.

My role changes a lot, but mostly comes down to media monkey – curating content, managing social media accounts, professional photo caption writing, coordinating results/images with the real media, etc. It’s a fun – time consuming job… and really takes 100% of my focus. Racing and working events just doesn’t work for me – something is bound to fall, either you’re not going to race your best or work your best. Considering, work pays my bills… I sway towards the working end of the spectrum – grateful that it still keeps me involved and on my bike!

DSCN2118

Signing up for The Grand Traverse – Aspen to CB MTB race motivated a weekend bike packing adventure. Jeff and I rode from Aspen to CB – camped- then rode back CB to Aspen. A great way to tour the course and get a little bit of adventure spliced in.

IMG_8100

Photo Credit Chris Miller

Photo Credit Chris Miller

The race itself was quite an adventure! A stunning course, 40′ish miles, 9,000ft of climbing – all through the high alpine backcountry.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.49.31 AM

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3662.

Colorado always brings out stellar competition – happy to have finished on the podium with these two hammers and friends.

12038465_534165343401992_3385133264411387976_n

In the Vail Outlier Offroad Festival‘s first year – I was allowed to take Sunday off work and jump into the RockShox Enduro race.

12063427_10101440985615710_8593107303772254339_n

This race was such a blast being able to jump into a laid back race during an event working weekend.

EClark_150927_3667

Apparently, fun is fast as I was skirting off a podium spot until a mechanical stopped me in stage 3.

The final event for 2016 was Moab Rocks – a 3 day stage race put on by TransRockies Events.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 12.55.20 PM

I felt the strongest all season, and was off to a great start. Unfortunately, a crash in stage 2 kept me from lining up in the final stage. Overall, a good lesson that sometimes slower is faster, and to maintain composure after trying to make up time after a mechanical.

12109329_10101453105138090_332463393617064438_n

So – as I close the book on 2015, I look forward to 2016! The past four years of racing have given me compounding lessons, experiences, and building fitness to keep progressing in the sport. I am so grateful for every success, set back, and everything in between as each experience continues to shape me along this bike life journey.

Thanks for following along, and cheers to 2016!

Keep smiling! :)

 

Moab Rocks: Save the Brains!

In contrast to previous years, my fire to race was still burning bright into October – health, motivation, and fitness were firing on all cylinders. That’s why when we were given an opportunity to race a three day stage race in Moab a week prior to go time, there was no hesitation. I was instantly on the phone with Coach Lynda and fine tuning the days leading up to the race.

Prior to deciding to do this race, I had taken a few weeks off any structured training to give full attention to work as well as immersing myself with the fall foliage and high alpine trails – no HR monitor, no governors, just my riding company and the flow of the trail. With a week to go until three, short, technical days of racing LW scheduled me a mix of rest and short, intense intervals. Seeing consistent numbers in the 300 & 400′s I was giddy to line up and see what this fall fitness had in store.

DSCN0075

Moab Rocks is put on by the fine, Canadian group of TransRockies Events – who have a list of other events such as Singletrack6. This was the third running year of the Moab event and after experiencing their organization’s professionalism, kindness, and really felt their love for the sport – I’m confident it’ll just keep growing. From last year alone, they increased their entry by 40%! Read MTBR’s event production recap here.

Having worked the past three years of the Breck Epic, 6-day stage race in the high alpine of Breckenridge, Colorado – I was ecstatic to get my turn at stage racing. Reviewing the stages, they were all relatively short and somewhat familiar.

  • Stage 1: Porcupine Rim – 29 miles – 4,400 feet of elevation gain
  • Stage 2: Klondike Bluffs – 25 miles – 2,800 feet of elevation gain
  • Stage 3: Magnificent 7 – 29 miles – 2,800 feet of elevation gain

Lynda talked over a couple strategies for stage racing – and I went for the “just go hard everyday” route. I’m growing a better sense of what paces I can withstand, and my approach was to start fast and hold on for the amount of time I know I can hold it and then settle into a more steady state rhythm. I’m not one to worry about who else is racing, or waste time wondering what my competition will do – all I can control is myself, my effort, and my race. That being said, there were a handful of other strong and technically savvy women ready to rip for the weekend – Jaime Brede, KC Holley, Pepper Harlton, and others from all over the states were on the line.

Eddie Clark Media

Eddie Clark Media

The first stage, Porcupine Rim would propose a somewhat straight up, straight down profile leading up with a 4k climb and then a plummet down a rocky, demanding descent. It had been a few years sine I had ridden the full porcupine descent, so my strategy here was to gas it on the climb and ride steady on the descent – taking zero risks! The countdown was on, nerves were tingling with excitement, and we were on our neutral rollout to San Flats rd. Once we hit the steeper pitches of the road I followed the pace of the lead group of men until it got a little too snappy and then grabbed onto the chase group for the final steep pitches. Once we were to the SlickRock trailhead, I fell off that group and quickly realized it would be more efficient for me to latch onto the approaching group of three men who were on a good clip. Jumping on with them, we hung together for awhile – I helped bridge two gaps to a couple guys who were spit off the chase group. Once we hit a couple steeper pitches I was off again and now fairly solo as the road conditions were a mixture of soft, loose gravel and super steep – Costa Rica like paved sections. For the last 20 minutes of climbing, I caught onto a few guys and as much as we kept each other going – we kept it pretty conversational.

The turn off of the road to the timed descent was comical – it went straight up! A little past the start of the timed descent I tried to clean my glasses while riding a couple times until finally pulling over to give them a proper wipe down as they were covered with sweat stains. Now, was the fun part! It took awhile for me to get into a rhythm on the descent, but I clipped my way down – pushing the climbs and settling into the flow. More than a few times I got caught up on bad lines, and with no hesitation walked verses risking a nose wheelie. Finishing up the day, I felt great – first woman by 4 minutes and still feeling fresh.

Stage 2 was an unfamiliar stage for me. Having never ridden at Klondike Bluffs, Jeff and I did a quick ride on the first 10ish miles of the course before getting into town. This stage started with a 4 mile drag race on two track before diving into single track for the remainder of the stage. After warming up, my legs felt great – surprisingly, no perceived fatigue and they had that snap. During this start, I positioned myself again at the back of the lead group of men – except this time, I held it all the way to the single track! I even got to draft off Jeff’s power booty for a little bit on the rolling, sandy double track prior to the slick rock – life goals. ;) Once I hit the trail, I settled into my own pace and knew I would be fine if I just stayed steady. Well – the demanding terrain of Moab had it with me and I punctured 8 miles in. With a lodged valve plug, it took quite some time to get it fixed – Eric Davis, who had stopped to help another female pro, Jaime Brede the previous day with a serious crash, stopped again to help me fix my issue. It took Eric, myself, and three other guys to get the valve stem unstuck and me back rolling – THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your help! The next series of events is where I did everything wrong. ( enter lessons learned here) After leaving Eric, I was determined to make up time – I went off, and “pinning it” wouldn’t even begin to describe my motivation to catch back up. After the stage, people talked of the “possessed woman” who was “hauling ass” – yikes! They assured me I was being safe while passing appropriately. This pace lasted for about 20 minutes until I had one inevitable bad placement of my front tire, sending me hitting the unforgiving slick rock. The remainder of the stage was me licking my wounds back to the finish line.

Eddie Clark Media

Eddie Clark Media

Once across the finish line – I was a wreck, dazed, sore, and instant tears. All I wanted to do was sit down and close my eyes. The medic was extremely helpful and got me cleaned up. After some chatting as well as checking out my helmet – we found out I knocked my noggin’ explaining the headache, sore neck, and slight confusion. This is when I started to get a little concerned as I’ve dented my helmet two times prior to this case, all within the past month.

Other issues were not so much of an issue – my head was the biggest factor that needed to be taken seriously. That didn’t stop me from planning to race in the morning. Jeff switched my wheels (I dented the rim of the set I raced on that day) and did the normal race day check, my nutrition was ready, and my motivation was high. Stage 3 was the stage I knew the best, Mag7 – a route we ride every time we visit Moab. I was confident I was going to make up all the time I had lost by pushing the two bigger climbs and staying smooth on the trails.

Sunday’s night’s sleep was anything but restful – tossing and turning to the headache that wouldn’t let up. It pained me as I knew what was going on. As I woke up, I knew what the right decision was and chose to sit out the last stage. It crushed me, and I was an emotional wreck. A combination of hard work, passion and love for the sport – all had to be set aside for the safety of my brains.

Once Jeff finished up his race – which he consistently chipped away to a 3rd place overall finish – we headed out to find some shade and moseyed around a great little watering hole. A perfect place to relax and soak in all of the weekend’s happenings. A great way to put it into perspective – focus on everything good that happened throughout the weekend and not get so held up on not being able to compete the last day. Through pushing on after a bad crash, staying motivated and strong, as well as spending time with friends in a beautiful place – the weekend was quite a success! Most importantly, there will be plenty more to come.

12109329_10101453105138090_332463393617064438_n

In hindsight, it’s really astounding to see what competition does to us. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to be racing my bike – even if it risked a more serious head injury. It’s now four days after the crash and my first day waking up without a headache. Words are no longer blurry on my computer, I can get back to work, as well as riding my bike. There really is no knowing what would’ve happened if I had raced the final stage, but what I do know is that I have many more moons to line up, feel strong, and continue enjoying this crazy bike life.

Moral of the story: Save the brains and keep smiling!

12115911_10101452414681770_291595342127206942_n