The Joy of Riding

Over the years of following my passions I have learned more about my health, body and mind that I ever thought possible. I have pushed myself through negative thoughts, poor self esteem, injury, fatigue, & sickness. My initial coping mechanisms were found behind forced smiles, ignoring the problem, keeping myself extremely busy, and continually trying to push through a brick wall. It hasn’t been until the past few years that I’m learning to slow it down, focus on what I can do, and most importantly practice self kindness.

We are all handed bumps in the road. We can either let those bumps stop us, or find alternate ways over them.

Recently, I’ve been re-handed up a healthy dose of asthma coupled with what’s thought to be some sort of allergy. Realizing I have ignored daily symptoms, I have had a handful of bad attacks during hard race & training efforts. My throat closes up, body shuts down, and feel like I can only breathe at a quarter the capacity I’m use to. Frustrating, but I’m taking the steps to figure it out – starting out with an inhaler and then in the waiting line for an appointment at National Jewish Health for the allergy mystery.

I feel like anything below 9,000ft is trying to kill me – so, instead of sitting around twiddling my thumbs we took our adventure above 9k all weekend and kept efforts at or below threshold.

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The weekend started with a double dip up and over and back up and over Independence Pass starting and finishing on the Leadville side.

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Staying well hydrated downing multiple bottles of Osmo Hydration for Women - as well as water from kind campers as the well was dry where we had planned to refill.

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Jeff stayed with me the entire time, keeping a watchful eye & ear on my breathing. As annoying as it may be in the moment, I am so grateful for him having my back. He really is my biggest supporter, encourager – the best adventure partner a girl could ask for!

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This was the first ride with an inhaler. I definitely noticed an improvement in my breathing – although I still haven’t tried to go full gas, and noticed a considerable change in my breathing & airways as soon as we returned home.

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The next day, we headed back to Leadville to ride another pass. Night and day difference from the day before as we had the mountain to ourselves on fat tires and 6″ of travel.

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Rides like this provides so many great opportunities to catch your breath, enjoy the view, and take it all in.

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Snow snakes are still holding strong above 13k! YIKES! This one bit HARD – I’m OK! :)

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Reaching the summit has always given me such a high! Being able to breathe clearly and confidently clear steep scree fields aboard the BH Lynx6 provided an extra shot of enthusiasm.

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Although this was my first real test of the BH Lynx6, as soon as I pointed my Continental Mountain Kings downhill, the geometry was like a glass slipper and felt like we had been riding together for years.

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Closing up on a couple great days on two wheels, the biggest lesson for me has been to learn my limits. That also means learning when it’s worth it as well as safe to be pushing those limits. It’s a gradual lesson that throws pop quizzes at me all the time, but I remind myself, “to slow it down, focus on what I can do, and most importantly practice self kindness” – it’s all relative. What works for one person will not work for another – it’s a personal journey.

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This weekend proved to fulfill everything I love about riding – adventure, views, great descents, learning more about myself and sharing it with someone I love. The smiles at the end of the day say it all.

I hope you all were able to get out and enjoy the joy of riding – whether it’s a bike path spin, single track cruise, XC race throw down, downhill runs… whatever gives you joy.

 

Rainy Days & Squeezed Lungs

From the name of the post you’d think a lot hasn’t been going right this season, and that’s most definitely not the case. This season has probably been the best season yet where everything is really falling into place. I am the most balanced I have ever been physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, there have just been a couple hiccups along the way that have unfortunately just been the (bad) luck of the draw.

So, what’s the difference this year? In previous years, admittedly I haven’t been the most confident or kind to myself. Mix in an unhealthy dose of expectations, and each race was like the world was going to come crashing down onto me. The change? I remembered why I race, and no longer cared so much what anyone else thought about me, my performance, the races I choose to do, etc. Once I let all that go, I was myself again… happy.

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Another change this year is that I have shifted a lot of my focus on running a kids MTB camp – Vail Valley Alternative Sports Academy. This program was created very last minute last year, and although the kids had a great time – I knew we could do better. Through a winter’s worth of planning, we are in our third week of camp and it has been such a joy to see everything fall into place. The program is centered around inspiring a new generation of trail stewards, teaching them the rules of the backcountry, riding skills, how to treat one another and other trail users, and most importantly how to share the stoke with others. These kids light me up, and I am lucky to get to work with them as well as the other coaches. I am working on keeping a good balance of putting my heart into this camp, racing, my other job, and my relationships/community. Hefty goals – but way more rewarding than letting something fall short.

Coming off a strong spring season it was time to focus in on some local races. I have committed to the Vail Town Series this year, gaining some high intensity training as well as helping the local shop with some points. This series is HIGHLY competitive, but really brings the community together to share the pain, suffering, & sting of short, cross-country races.

The first bigger local race was scheduled to be in May in our backyard, The Firebird 40. I work this event as well as race it – at times, very challenging… so I would be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat relieved that it was rained out. It’s rescheduled for this weekend! Fingers crossed we will have the green light, and my lungs won’t shrink on me again – more on that later.

Leading up to the Firebird, the Vail Recreation District puts on a short track series. Basically, a circuit 20 min dirt-power test. The best way to get sharp… fast! This is when I first had a lung shrinking episode. The first race was in Wolcott, which is about 15 or so miles from where I live – a perfect warm up. I pedaled to the event, excited to get in a good hard effort, rode an easy lap, and then an opener lap on the course – then BAM… my body shut down. My throat closed up and gasping for air caused me to throw up what little I had in my stomach. Anytime I got back on my bike it would do it again. The race was at a ranch with horse poo everywhere, so I chalked it up to having poo in my lungs.

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Over memorial day weekend, Jeff and I headed to Gunnison, CO for the Growler. Jeff did the full and I did the half – attempted to do the half that is. Leading up to this race I was so thrilled to get to race at Harman’s Rocks – the trails are SO MUCH FUN! They were either mind blowing fast and flowy or tricky and techy. Unfortunately, my race ended on the first climb as the half growlers were graced with bike breaking mud, and my cables had their last fit with the abuse I’ve been giving them over the season and frayed – I was stuck in my easiest gear and with a relatively flat and punchy course, I couldn’t bring myself to just ride it out. The next day, I went out and hammered myself on my other bike on the course in the best conditions EVER to dull the pain of not being able to finish on Saturday. Jeff had his own share of bad luck – in the finishing 9 miles of his 68 mile race he flatted, and flatted, and sliced his sidewall… ended up RUNNING his bike the remainder of the race. Bad luck for the Jarkoves that weekend – but that’s racing! How we handle adversity says much more about an athlete than how we handle victories.

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The next race was the first town series event here in Eagle. The trails were immaculate – so fast, fun, and 100% on the gas the whole time. I felt great during this race and ended up second, close behind Gretchen Reeves – friend and forever hammer. Not much to say on this race as it was so short… and painfully fun.

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The morning after this race I was off to a short visit with my family in Minnesota. One of my goals this year is staying more balanced – which means, more time with family. They may not fully understand my life, my choices, etc.. but I’ve learned that they don’t have to. They just have to love me and I just have to love them. Taking a week out of the busiest time of year for me is far more important than any work meeting, race or event. The photo below is my Aunt Audie – she has stories upon stories upon stories… one of the strongest women I know.

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Back to the mountains – and back to the grind. A grind I love… working, riding, staying connected to my community! Why does “the grind” have to be associated with such a negative connotation? ;)

I opted out of the next race – The Go Pro Mountain Games. Frankly, I just wasn’t excited about it and was really craving some bigger loops vs lapped races. Exhibit A: Not caring what other people think, what you do, what you don’t do, etc. YOU know what’s best for YOU! By opting out of racing, I got in two big backcountry rides and supported my friend who was racing. Win/Win!

Now we are sitting here – this present moment, the day after my second lung squeezing episode. Last night was the second town series race – a course that I don’t mind, big climb, fast descent, big climb, fast descent, etc. Again, great training opportunity and time to connect with the community. Well – my race went to a screeching halt after the first lap… started out good, strong, felt ready to roll, started to create a gap on the climb… and with the first downhill my lungs shriveled, the wheezing started feeling like I was now breathing through a straw. I tried to ignore it, to fight it, to calm down my breath… but it wasn’t until up the midway second lap climb that I had to pull over as things started to go blotchy and I was about to topple over. Friends were there as well as a PT who got me calmed down. It took 10 minutes to regain my normal breath, but still with a high heart rate… feeling a little bit normal and knowing I would be by myself I decided to ride the last lap to just finish. The light was beautiful and I got to ride with some friends, offered encouragement, etc. I was frustrated, but happy to clip along at a non lung squeezing pace.

VRD_berrycreek2015-22-(ZF-7808-97695-1-001)This was a huge eye opener for me. I have been extremely stubborn with this issue over the past few months… on training rides I can just scale back and ignore it, but in races it puts me in a place of no return – it steals your fitness, your spark, your fire. I feel so fortunate to live in a community with so many people who genuinely care, offer support, advice, etc – Thank you. I have finally made the first steps and have an appointment for next week.

I couldn’t get in before this weekend’s Firebird 40, but decided I will still line up whether racing or riding… Long Live Big Loops!

 

The April push…

Just when we get into a groove from being home from the last work, travel, race trip we start to pack our bags for another! I absolutely love this time of year when we can escape the spring storms for desert and costal sun. This time around we were off to California for the Santa Cruz MTB Festival followed by Sea Otter. Which will randomly end days later with a last minute decision to race on the Front Range of Colorado. IMG_6221

Being fairly opposite in nature, Jeff and my travels are usually quite entertaining. This trip began with a comedy of errors as we arrive into Santa Cruz after two days and many hours in the van to realize our hotel does not accommodate sprinter van sized parking. Jeff’s patience seems to take a vacation when navigating the large sized vehicle around costal roads and cities that are made for small sized sports vehicles and mini clown cars. Through periods of awkward silence and built up frustration – it was my turn to take charge, and I was able to find us a beautiful little Airbnb along the coast that ended up being cheaper than our claustrophobic hotel. SCORE!

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Not only did this place save us money, its location couldn’t have been more perfect. Just a short 10 minute walk along a dirt path brought you right to the ocean, away from the sound of cars, and closer to crashing waves and a cool ocean breeze! Not to mention it was just a short pedal from great trails at Demolition National Forest.

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We had a day to settle in, ride, and check out the local attractions – which usually just lead us to Whole Foods take out to enjoy along the beach. Then it was time to get to work! The Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival had a cool vibe and attracted a great bunch of people. The nice thing about this event was being able to see first hand how many people already knew about Ergon Bike and were excited to hear what they were coming out with this season. As many people know who work events like this, having a crowd of this type makes your job that much more enjoyable.

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As that event came to an end we were off to Monterey for the next! The Sea Donkey, Sea Beaver, or more properly known as Sea Otter; seen as the season kick off event for every discipline of cycling and most every bike brand.

It’s so nice to see everyone in one place from friends, racers I admire, sponsors and colleagues. My purpose at Sea Otter is to work – I handled all of Ergon’s PR as well as worked sales under the tent. Throw in a block of training, and I was happily at my max for what I could manage all while maintaining an up beat, positive attitude!

Being able to race would’ve been fun and a great experience, but it just doesn’t work for me. As much as I would get goosebumps of envy watching the girls line up – I know I have a long season of adventure ahead of me. My racing for the week was basically TT’ing the commute in and out of the venue each day. I must say, the oxygen rich (actually same amount of oxygen, just the partial pressure is the difference <–NERD) California air produces some very beautiful power numbers! What was far more beautiful than the numbers, were the winding roads along the commute.

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Sea Otter came to a close, and we were on our way back to Colorado. No trip to California is complete without returning with a full body of Poison Oak!

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As we returned home, the fatigue from the past two weeks hit me like a freight train! What better time to decide to do a last minute race on the Front Range! Jeff was off for a week in Germany a handful of days after we returned and wanted to squeeze in a race before he left. Knowing myself, I was very hesitant… but having a better mind set on racing this season and talking it through with LW we decided it was perfect timing for a “training race”. Let the game of recovery begin! Between rounds of elevated legs, mellow rides, and nutritious meals I was slowly returning back to normal.

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I had convinced myself I was excited about this race – but in reality, I was dreading it…I had a poor, less than snappy pre ride, and spent the day before the race tired, crabby, and cursing traffic. My attitude was NOT right all the way up to when we lined up in the morning. Bless Jeff’s heart he still loves me after being such a pill.

The funny thing is, once we were off – my crabbiness subsided and went right into a fun, race mode. I quickly realized what a “training race” really was. It was an opportunity to try out new tactics, paces, mental strengths etc. So, I did some smart things, some not so smart things, but all in all kept up a good pace through the 5 laps and 1,000 turns which happily lead me to a third place finish! I was utterly exhausted, but very content. Most importantly, I was proud of myself for turning my brain off and just pushing the pedals. It really is that simple; keep smiling and keep pushing the pedals!

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What’s next? Our local backcountry bash, The Firebird 40!!! This will be such a baller course this year! Check it out here.

 

 

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Over the past two weeks Jeff and I have pedaled across mesmerizing new stretches of trails, hours of sitting in the van, and jumping from hotel to hotel. It is a proper start to the season, but always a delight to be home.

Our first stop of the travel block was Sedona, AZ for the Sedona MTB Festival. Coming into my 5th year on a mountain bike, I have never been to Sedona before. My excitement for the new terrain was tangible as we concluded our 9 hour drive. We arrived right at sunset and took advantage of the hiking trail behind our hotel which led to illuminating red rock views surround by lush green shrubs and cacti.

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Throughout the weekend we roamed the Sedona MTB Festival talking with people in the industry and consumers about Ergon’s 2015 products. Along with the consumers we put the products to the test with Sedona’s techy flow. The conditions were perfect and the company even better. We had a chance to catch up with the IMBA crew Jordan and Lani on their recent adventures traveling year-round throughout the United States and beyond, leading trail work sessions, meeting with land managers and working with IMBA Chapters/clubs and the communities they serve to improve mountain biking opportunities. Of course, plenty of riding was involved in this catch up time.

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After a late night of strawberritas, it was time to hit the road to our first race of the season. My newly gained lack of tolerance lead me to sleep the entire van ride to St. George, which made checking into our honky low-budget hotel seem like a 4 seasons.

We spent the week leading up to the True Grit Epic riding trails and working from whatever place we could find with WiFi. It wasn’t until the second night at dinner where the stay at this hotel came to a screeching halt. Jeff found a couple spots of three little bug bites in a row and his itchiness was enough for me to do a little research. I came to find that it was BED BUGS! I don’t know how, but we were able to check out of that place and into a clean hotel within the hour. Poor Jeff had the heebie jeebies for the next few nights even after a proper hose down. :)

A couple days prior to the race we decided to stay off the bikes as up to this point, we’ve been riding quite a bit. We threw out the reality card and pretended to be real bike racers by treating ourselves to a massage before heading to Zion National Park with our friend Fixie Dave for a cold water walk through The Narrows.

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This was a great highlight of the trip as I get a little burnt out of monotony and strive to get out and experience traveling outside the norm that revolves around a number plate being zip tied onto my bars.

So, finally it was race time. Nerves and excitement were at a perfect level and everywhere we turned we ran into familiar faces. I was on cloud nine. What could possibly go wrong? There could be one thing to go wrong… which it did. I ( EARMUFFS ) got my period. I’ve talked about it in the past, and each month this little monthly treat is known to completely knock me on my ass giving me flu like symptoms. The night prior to toeing the line I was restless with cold, night sweats and woke up to my little friend. Knowing this was more than likely going to happen, my coach LW asked me a month ago what I would like to do – and I said, “Let’s see how I can mange with a good attitude and a healthy dose of over the counter drugs”.

I rode the waves of symptoms prior to the race and tried to stay positive. After warming up, my legs ached and my stomach was turning. I kept telling myself, the adrenaline of the race will act as a natural pain killer and along with staying hydrated and intaking a healthy dose of over the counter NSAIDs I will be just fine.

To my surprise, I was just that – I was just fine. Besides not feeling like I could really push the climbs as much as I would’ve liked, I stayed calm, consistent, and mentally blocked out the pain. Knowing the climbs were all fairly short, the sick feeling never stayed around too long. This took me to a great finish of second place behind a local hammer, Joey Lythgoe. I was completely stoked!

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I know a lot of people don’t like to hear about this issue, but it is something women have to deal with. Knowing I have the ability to work through it is a huge confidence builder for the season to come!

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Overall the block of work/travel/and racing was a huge success. We were able to catch up with a handful of our favorite people, meet new ones, get plenty of Vitamin D, and experience this one precious life we are given as fully as our energy levels would allow.

It is always a treat to come home to our little community in the mountains and be able to share the stoke with friends – that’s what it’s all about to me. Sharing the experience and writing my own story.

My apologies as it can be hard for me to put coherent thoughts together after a block of travel like this, so thank you so much for reading – and most importantly thank you to my amazing sponsors for standing beside me in doing what I love – living. BH Bikes Castelli Cycling Ergon Bike Limar Helmets Xpedo Pedals Handlebar Mustache Osmo Nutrition LW Coaching Smith Optics Pearl Izumi MTB Shoes Elevated Legs Yoga Off Broadway Yetis Grind Continental Tires

BH Ultimate XX1 29

With a new year comes new sponsorship, and this year I am very proud to announce I’ll be racing for BH Bikes. Admittedly, I would say I am like most of you when I associated BH with a strong representation in the road scene and very minimal US presence in the mountain bike realm. The only thing true about this assumption of mine is that BH is in fact one of the leading competitive brands of road bikes. As far as mountain bikes go, they aren’t too far behind. Ultimately, most of us are a product of what the media puts out and unfortunately BH hasn’t quite been given the light it deserves in the US quite yet. Have a look at any XC World Cup podium, you’ll be sure to see BH consistently reaching one of the steps.

So let me start out by telling you about one of the bikes I will be riding and racing this year.

Seen below is the Ultimate Carbon Hard Tail 29. What is she wearing, you ask? This beauty is built up full SRAM XX1 brakes and drivetrain, Rock Shock World Cup Blackbox Technology 100mm suspension, & Mavic Crossmax SLR wheels. The extra little bits I’ve added to personalize this whip are Ergon GA2 grips and SMR3 saddle, Xpedo M-Force Ti pedals, and Continental X-King on the front and Race King on the rear. How does this all transfer to your first impression? For me, it’s “Holy CRAP she’s beautiful and LIGHT”.

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As someone who stacks up to 5’4″ and 100lbs, I’ll admit that the weight of a bike will pursuay my initial reaction when checking out new bikes. Generally, when it comes to most cross country riding and racing lighter is better, to a point of course. However, I have yet to be on a bike where the lightness of the bike compromises its performance and durability.

My first ride on the Ultimate was a 50 mile adventure of frozen snow packed single track, pavement, and snowmobile tracked out forest roads. Living at 6600ft, this as close to mountain biking as we can get out or door in January. My biggest take home note from this ride was the amount of terrain it opened up to me for winter base miles. So far – perfect for races with a LOT of road and a LOT of climbing.

My next ride on this bike was a bit more mountain bike specific on a 45 mile tour of the JEM Trails in Hurricane, UT. This system of trails are mostly fast and flowy with the occasional fun rock drop, chundry traverse and pebbly descent. Having not ridden a 29er, hard tail, or anything less than 120mm of suspension in well over a year I was a little apprehensive how this bike would handle real mountain bike conditions. To be honest, I’m not the best at line choosing – and find myself more of a point it straight and let off the brakes kind of rider.

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For me, where I have noticed a draw back in the past with 29ers has been tight, technical areas, and quick cornering. So far, with the Ultimate I felt much more in control and found once I was familiar with riding on trail again the handling was like second nature. On a geometry stand point this was due to the shorter wheel base giving me more of a sports car feel vs a semi truck.

The only time I noticed a slight inefficiency was on longer sections of ledgey, randomly spaced rocky trail you would have to pedal through. Having full suspension would be much more comfortable through sections like this, however if you find yourself riding & racing mostly smooth trail with the occasional technical feature – the Ultimate 29 would be perfect! The 100mm of travel and bigger wheels can actually dampen choppy sections of riding quite nicely.

How about drops? Well, I had a chance to test this one out without even knowing it. We were cruising down a fast, smooth, flowy trail when a nice fly-through-the-air drop came up and without even thinking twice I was safely landed and back in the train of riders zipping through the desert. Now, I wouldn’t recommend you ride drops all day long on a hard tail – but as cross-country races are getting more and more technical, this hard tail is still capable and competent of A-lines.

As we were nearing the final miles of our ride, fatigue settled in and my handling seemed to go out the window. I took sections slower, felt more rocks, and daydreamed of food. This section of riding has absolutely no reflection on the bike and purely bonk related.

Overall, this bike is a pure cross country race machine. Weighing in around 20lbs fully loaded – it’s lighter than my road bike and can handle far more than what I put my skinny tires through. I felt like I floated up longer climbs and easily zipped up short, punchy ones. Like I had mentioned, when my familiarity of riding trail came back I also noticed an increase of speed I could carry through corners – as well as a surprising ability to play off poor line choosing.

Races where this bike would shine would be The Whiskey 50, Day 6 of the Breck Epic, as well as the majority of all cross country races especially ones like The Beti Bike Bash but would also do well at the Go Pro Games. Where this bike may not be the best would be more unforgiving, longer technical races like True Grit.

This is of course just my opinion as there are plenty of people who race some of the most technically demanding races on fully rigid rides. Those people are in a completely different category and I love them dearly, as they are typically very crazy and good at partying.

Thanks for reading, and tune in soon for my next post talking about the BH Lynx 4.8 29er. Until then, enjoy the weekend riding, skiing, running or just soaking in some delicious Vitamin D!

 

 

 

 

Winter “Training”

I know I haven’t been in this cycling game for very long in comparison to my friends that I tow the line with, but I would gather that the majority of us did not get into cycling for the love of long winter sessions on the rollers.

My first two winter seasons in between racing, I fell suit to the routine of multiple, weekly indoor trainer workouts thinking that’s what I had to be doing. Little did I know that by doing this I was suppressing the very one thing that keeps me going. THE FUN! Where is the FUN?!?! A lack of adventure, big views, and cool, fresh air on my face is my kryptonite. No way did I work so hard to live in the mountains to be spending my winter days indoors?!?

Luckily, with LW Coaching at the wheel – this winter has been off to a MUCH better start than previous years. She understands that I need to be outside. I understand that I need to pedal occasionally, and that may mean inside on the rollers or trainer. Together, we found compromise and each day I look forward to what’s on my schedule.

Have a look what my “training” has been like over the past couple months.

Between November and December we replaced a lot of my “base miles” with cross country skiing, taking me to new trails right out my back door where bikes are not allowed.

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Hiking is another great cross training tool. The slower pace, minimal equipment activity allows for longer appreciation for the views around you.

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Then there’s what I have been missing most over the past two years; alpine skiing! I love speed, and although I can manage a lot on my cross country skis – there’s no replacement for the feeling of zooming down the mountain with EDGES! Making this activity work within cross training, I luckily have a very generous friend who lets me borrow one of her alpine touring set ups. Being able to climb steeper terrain and relearn the art of making turns has brought back a huge joy to my winter. Think hero dirt, but on skis.

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With the compromise, I know I have to do this every now and then… no more than maybe a couple times a week – but I have to admit, the workouts LW gives me when inside are quick, efficient and keep me motivated the entire time. It’s not so terrible.

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What has also made this winter much more enjoyable is Jeff’s willingness to try new things! I have been dragging him along on ski tours and planting the bug to learn how to downhill. Having a winter adventure partner is a huge benefit for not just companionship and your own personal photographer… but most importantly, safety. I am much more cautious in the winter vs summer – and take the proper precautions when going into the backcountry.

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So, what is it that moves you? Once you figure that out – “training” will lose it’s “work” feeling and be replaced with a childlike recess bell.

Happy Winter “Training”!

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”  -Albert Camus

A glimpse back at 2014…

It’s no secret that our household is addicted to any outdoor adventure. Albeit our adrenaline addiction, Jeff and I are also documentary nerds. We love trying to capture our escapades in photo, video, and words in attempts to share our passion with all of you. With Jeff’s recent “Top Photos of 2014” post… I felt the need to do the same, and as I thumbed through my archive it made me relive each moment and feel grateful for the collection of memories we have created together. Images have a way of making you forget the pain and effort it took to get to these places, and just lets the wanderlust take precedent.

Enjoy a trip back to my 2014 – and I look forward to maybe crossing paths in 2015!

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Sausalito, CA. Photo: Saya Ikeda. We spent a good portion of our spring traveling in the Ergon van with our friends Yuki and Saya. Of all the activities we did on this trip, this is my favorite photo as it’s the only image I have of Jeff sitting still. :)

IMG_0781Colorado Trail. Molas Pass, CO. Photo: Jeff Kerkove. Jeff has been gradually passing on the high alpine addiction to me. In 2014 he introduced me to new, memorable sections of the Colorado Trail. Here is a great example of hypoxia

IMG_0554Vail Valley Alternative Sports Academy. Eagle, CO. Mike McCormack, Laura O’Connor and I started a kids mountain bike program in Eagle this past summer. It was such a great experience introducing the younger generation to the sport and teaching them to be good stewards of the trail.

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Bridal Falls. Telluride, CO. A weekend escape to Telluride brought a new appreciation for Colorado.

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Rincon de la Vieja. Costa Rica. Andre Vargas Photography. In 2014, I traveled to my very first international event. Through the hospitality of the Rincon de la Vieja’s race director Juan Carlos I got a taste of a new culture and diverse terrain. This trip was an amazing life experience, far more than just a race, and I cannot wait to return.

IMG_2463Benchmark. Vail, CO. Photo: Jeff Kerkove. Having learned how to mountain bike in the Vail Valley, some of my favorite rides have been bringing Jeff to the routes that sparked my love affair with riding. Here we are cresting Benchmark, accessed off Vail Mountain, en route to Two Elk, which descends down into Minturn, CO. If you like a BIG climb, vast views, swooping turns, and rock navigation, this is a perfect ride for you!

DSCN0595Jones Pass. Fraser County, CO. Photo: Jeff Kerkove. This is probably the most beautiful ride I have done to date. What this photo doesn’t show is how terrible my body felt. Lessons on this ride were that riding above tree line should not be rushed as your body holds onto those wasted efforts like a rattle in between your ears and elephants in your cycling shoes.

IMG_2508Eagle, CO. Photo; Jeff Kerkove. Our true backyard trails are extremely diverse ranging from high desert to alpine and everything in between.

DSCN0836Mt. Shermon. Leadville, CO. Photo: Jeff Kerkove. We enjoyed a long, warm fall in 2014 which meant getting to play up high well into November!

IMG_3950Browns Pass. Buena Vista, CO. Our first big snow took us to Buena Vista for a new hike and views.

IMG_4281Hanging Lake. Glenwood Canyon, CO. Photo: Jeff Kerkove. To us, the off season doesn’t mean hanging up the bike and sitting on the couch. There are too many places to see close to home!

DSCN0996Moab, UT. Photo: Jeff Kerkove. One last desert camping trip in the books before the temperatures dropped too low for comfort. This was my first time on the iconic Slickrock trail.

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Can’t wait to see what adventures we’ll snap in 2015! Cheers!

 

Making ends meet…

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Sometimes the words come easy – and others they are like trying to catch a pig in a tub of jello. Not that I know what that would be like, but as I’d imagine it would be equal parts entertaining and frustrating.

I digress. I also have not written in quite some time, which has been a trend over the past year.

My last post – I had just wrapped up my 2014 race season a very sugarless description of sub par in my opinion. Bad luck and an over thinking attitude, topping it off with money stress caused me to not race a whole lot mid season on. When I did race, I wasn’t tapping into my potential and continuously getting in my own way.

Funny how some time and space really brings your faults to your attention vs. putting on the Minnesota “I’m fine” and fighting your way to the next “ok” performance. Sounds harsh, but for where I want to take my riding, marketing career and life experiences – I can’t afford to make the same mistakes twice. Especially in a world where it’s becoming harder and harder to maintain sponsorship. Let’s face it – cycling is an amazingly expensive habit, and for those of us who are a bit vagabond and passion driven vs. money and reliability driven – it becomes our yearly battle to just get all the pieces to come together to make it to the start line while not going further into debt.

So, I sell some more gear, work hard when it’s coming in, babysit, house sit, dog sit and constantly search for reliable & consistent work (with the flexibility to ride/train/travel) <–the unicorn of all careers.

The funny thing is, with all the stress of making ends meet – I wouldn’t really have it any other way. I don’t know any other way. It’s either this way – or working the grind and not riding or pursuing what makes me light up.

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As sponsorships come and go – being accepted and declined. I still sit here eager to start a new season, reminding myself I am just entering my 4th year and to be grateful for everything that has lead me to this very moment.

This moment that is very real – returning from three days of Moab chunky bliss to my little space in the mountains. Unlike any other trip back from a riding binge, this trip I return with a heavy heart reminding me how precious life really is.

Spread kindness, inspiration and support… always, as you never know when your last moments are up.

Off Season Reflections

As my roots grow a little deeper into the cycling community, my reflections become a little less race focussed and a little more life focused.

I have learned so much in the past three years of racing a bike, and have been fortunate to have a supportive base that enjoys seeing me succeed and stays by my side when I fall.

As supportive as my friends and family can be – I am my mother’s daughter and am exceptionally stubborn. For this reason, I tend to learn things the hard way.

The biggest lesson I have learned is that when my mind gets laser focussed on results – I fall a part. I lose what pulls me the most – the fun. I may not be the elbows out – fierce competitor you see racing every weekend… but I do have a competitive nature that is pulled not by results, but by adventure, thrill, and pushing my own boundaries. Pushing my boundaries to catch a glimpse at what my potential is… in my racing, my relationships, my career, my life.

So, as I soak up the last bit of fall… playing on trails, learning new skills, catching up with loved ones… I will work on what matters the most… having fun… and whatever 2015 will bring… I will line up as an example of someone who is motivated by just that – fun.

In the meantime – enjoy this photo string of what I have been up to…

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Rincon de la Vieja MTB 100

One thing has been constant since I was a little girl is that I never shy away from a challenge or adventure. When Jeff asked me if I wanted to come along to Costa Rica with him to race the RIncon de la Vieja 100 Challenge I’m not sure I even let him finish his sentence as I was quickly ‘eugoogalizing’ what I was getting myself into.

The Rincon de la Vieja is Latin America’s first and ONLY 100 mile mountain bike race. What further sets this race a part is the course’s profile is like a saw blade that cuts through 5 different microclimates while circumnavigating an active volcano! I’m not sure I could think of any other event that could test all my weaknesses; distance, extreme temperatures, and a weak stomach in a foreign country. Challenge aside, I was fueled and motivated by the pure adventure the race would provide. Not to mention getting to share it with my partner in crime.

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Our travels were quick and easy. Each flight I was glued to the window as if it were my first time on an airplane, and as we made our landing into Liberia, Costa Rica I was like a little kid hopped up on pixie sticks. The race director Juan Carlos Villa Solano, his wife Laura and crew made our logistics seamless from the moment our feet touched Costa Rican land to when we headed back to the USA. His wife Laura who seemed to have the event running smoothly by the huevos picked us up from the airport with a crew. We were joined by four other Americans, Sonya and Matt Ewonus, and Brenda and Lee Simril.

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The race photographer Adres Vargas of Lead Adventure Media drove us to the hotel we would call home for the next four days; Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin. I was happy he was driving as the roads were narrow, winding, rough and there seemed to be no speed limit. Throughout the week I was constantly amazed how everyone got along on the roads with no aggression (American fail numero uno). Cars, trucks, bicycles, farmers herding their animals – everyone shared the narrow sometimes single lane roads and no birds or curse words were thrown out.

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Our accommodations were perfect, the beds were comfortable, we had running water, and the food was amazing. It was the first resort I have been to where I knew what I was eating came from the land within a five mile radius of the resort. No sign of a waffle batter self serve machine, packaged pastries or fake sugar packets near the coffee. (American fail numero dos) Our sector of rooms were quickly renamed the American compound. The only noises we heard around us were the sounds of the farm animals waking up, cicada screams, and the occasional monkey squeal. None of which was a nuisance but more a comfort bringing me back to growing up on a farm. I quickly befriended the free range goat, farm dogs, and was the first to climb the giant tree filled with vines out or front door.

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As the race time was nearing the excitement was building. Maybe it was that I had no idea what anyone was saying during the race meeting or that I couldn’t understand anyone’s nervous chatter around me, but I was 100% calm, ready and excited for the adventure ahead.

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The race was broken up into 6 aid stations, referred to as PC1, PC2, PC3, and so on. Our race start was scheduled for 5:30 am which due to some delay from all the racers getting there actually started rolling at 6:00am. Starting in the Northern Pacific dry plains of the Pampa Guanacastera we had a 30 minute neutral roll out, downhill on what would be the finishing climb at the end of the race. This was probably the only ever true neutral rollout I have ever experienced. Besides some yo-yo’ing from the pack and the occasional rear tire skid from riders around me it was fairly smooth and uneventful. I had a great position and separated myself from the mess fairly quickly as we set off on some of the steepest roads I have ever raced on. You knew the road was going to kick up to a wall when it would go from gravel to paved. I found myself getting a little caught up in the excitement of these aggressive roads and looking back probably went too hard within the two hours of the race. Something coach Lynda warned me about, but my age in racing really showed and I was just having too much fun!

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Andres Vargas – Lead Adventure Media

The parent like voice of coach Lynda was starting to get more stern, so I scaled it back as we began our venture into the Cloud Forest. This section was cloudy (obviously), wet, muddy, and full of river crossings. Temperatures were perfect ranging from mid 70′s to low 80′s. Moments of this microclimate were eerie but oddly calming. I saw rivers that were so crystal clear and blue that they looked fake, and the BUTTERFLIES! HOLY COW, the butterflies were the size of your HEAD and as blue as whatever those blue things were in the movie Avatar.

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Next, was the climb up to their Continental Divide into the Tropical Rainforest. Finally, we had a long, somewhat “settling in” climb which felt similar to Colorado terrain. As I began my descent off the Continental Divide, my body was craving a long, ripping downhill for some fun and enjoyment. Instead, it was like I was in a boxing match with a low grade descent that required big ring pedaling with a few blows of steep pitches thrown in for good measure. This is where I started really feeling the heat as we were now consistently staying above 90 degrees.

I knew my body was beginning to shut down when I would have to stop multiple times on one of the few fun trails thinking I had to pee, but could not. Instead I would sit there with a nauseous pain that couldn’t be relieved. Thinking maybe I was just behind on fueling or hydration I pounded anything I could, Fanta (while singing “wanna Fanta, dontcha wanna), salt pills, Honey Stinger chews – nothing seemed to relieve this odd pain I have never had before.

Carrying on, I gained a second wind through a challenging section of Moab like terrain, but instead of red rock it was a blinding white limestone rock. I road the coat tails of my second wind all through this section, clearing steep, loose climbs with locals cheering in Spanish “VAMOS VAMOS, VAMOS CHICA!”. We were now at the Junction of the Rincon de la Vieja and Miravalles volcanoes and this area until the finish served up the hottest temps staying above 100 and maxing at 111!

From PC5 to PC6 is when things were getting quite foggy. My lower abdominal pain became more frequent and I still could not pee, my vision started to blur, and the hammer inside my head seemed to be endlessly pounding.

I stopped at PC6 and spent a good 15 minutes trying to pee and hanging out in the bushes where I’m sure there were many snakes ready to latch onto my blindingly white Caucasian bottom. When I saw the other American couple Brenda and Lee roll up I thought, “Oh good, maybe I can ride with them and try to spin out of this fog I have gotten myself in”. I jumped on their wheel and it quickly seemed like I was following someone with two rear wheels vs one. I knew I had to ride alone, take breaks, and not push myself too far into a hole.

This teeter tottering of symptoms continued until a mere 10k from the finish where I stopped by a car that was casting just enough shade that seemed so inviting for a little siesta. A kind woman, Lina tried to help me as much as she could but my responses were confused, slow and delayed. At this time all i wanted to do was fall asleep. Lina, who later I realized became my angel poured cold water over my head. I will never forget how shocking this felt. It completely took my breath away, sent an aching pain throughout my entire body and all I could do was rest my head in my hands to compose myself.

My race was done.

Turning down medical help I went back to my room and laid in the shower under the luke warm water fully dressed until I could clean up and curl into bed.

I later found out that 100 people did not finish out of 250 riders due to the heat. Sonya and Jeff told me similar stories of their races which always sends a pit of pain in your heart being the one that didn’t finish. However, I knew I made the best decision for my body and have learned a great deal in just one day.

Mountains of gratitude goes out to Juan Carlos, Laura, John, Courtney, Andres, Lina and the rest of the crew that made this experience possible.

All things said and done, I cannot wait to go back and do it again.

PURA VIDA!