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!

 

Reset.

I haven’t felt the want or need to do any recaps lately, because frankly I haven’t wanted to dwell on the broken record of bad luck that’s been playing.  It’s taken me a few weeks to sort out this Debbie Downer look on competition, racing, and riding.

Luckily, I have a very patient, understanding and knowledgable coach (LW Coaching) who has helped me sort through it all – as well as a group of pretty stellar friends who know me best.

The problem is I wasn’t having fun, and that kills me that I wasn’t able to look past all the bad luck moments and start fresh and motivated each new opportunity.  Instead, the compounding events laid heavy on my shoulders and like a vacuum it sucked up all my spark and motivation.  Being someone who absolutely loves a challenge and most importantly one that’s on the bike – this left me feeling extremely empty inside.

In the dark moments I threatened myself to quit racing all together, focus on a career where I don’t have to constantly stress about money, and hide away in a hole. Knowing this was a little irrational I took some time away from any structured riding, cancelled a few upcoming events, and did a lot of reflecting.  In one weeks time I had more fun on the bike than I could remember, rode with friends I haven’t in awhile, hopped into a road race/adventure, saw new sights, and felt new inspiration.

One thing that LW encouraged me to think about in this time was what motivates me.  Throughout this week I realized what doesn’t motivate me are other people’s expectations. The “why don’t you race this-I bet you’ll win” “with how you’re riding, you are sure for a top ten” etc. The result does not motivate me, and in fact it inhibits me. What motivates me is the adventure of the unknown, the thrill of pushing harder than I ever have, taking a new line down something hairy without blinking an eye, the views, sharing the stoke with friends new and old, and most importantly being a positive role model.

Finding the balance is key.  I think it’s easy to give in when times are rough – but taking a break has given me a new perspective and I’m now able to see things in a different light.

Here’s a photo montage of the past few weeks and the places I go to find clarity.

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Thank you for reading, and see you on the trail!

Fire Flat 50…. Errrr 25

With a competitive field, 50 miles of some of my favorite riding, and a beautiful day forecasted my nerves and excitement were at the perfect level.  Unfortunately, my day ended a lot sooner than I had planned.  Here’s how it went.

Lining up along the main street in Breckenridge all the women congregated among the pro men and the streets were lined with 4th of July festivities.  The creator of the event Jeff Westcott and the announcer Larry Grossman were perched above the start line dressed as an American Cowboy and Uncle Sam.  The day was getting started off right!

Our women’s field was stacked! Katie Compton, Jenny Smith, Kelly Boniface, Jari Kirkland among the recognizable names as well as the slew of us who names aren’t as recognizable or mentioned but equally as likely to have our day.

We began rolling up towards Boreas Pass Road and it was a very enjoyable, comfortable pace; women were all able to sort themselves into a good position.  Around one of the first switchbacks where I started feeling like it was time to put some work in, friend and pocket rocket Kelly Boniface road up next to me and chatted for a moment then buzzed effortlessly up… I knew she was off for a great day.   Staying with her would’ve put me out of my pace and knew I had to keep it steady and in control on the first climb.  This is where things started breaking up.  Staying patient, I kept steady and found myself hanging off the wheel of Katie Compton.  Knowing she’s notorious for hunting, I stayed on her wheel like glue and sure enough her pace kept us steadily passing women who may have gone off too hard right away.  Katie’s power created some space before the first left hander onto some much needed trail after all the road.

Katie pulled off at this moment with what I later found out was an allergy attack.  I steadily rolled on focussing on riding smooth and steady focussed on the next person ahead of me.  Steady does it, I would tell myself… happily never going into the red.  I got to the first rocky descent and found myself behind a local Breck team rider – and thought to myself, he’s from here – he probably knows the fastest lines… follow him!  So… I did… and my steady pace came to halting stop with following him over a nasty blown out rocky mess in the jeep road.  I kept rolling the hiss thinking I was just imagining it or it was someone else.  I was in pure denial.

{This rider later told me he never chooses good lines and we both agreed he needs a sign on his back saying “don’t follow my line”}

After seeing the stream of stans spewing out of my tire, my denial wiped away and my heart sank.

I hung my bike on a tree and began to fix the problem…. the problem that propose itself as a nice little slice in the sidewall.  Something so small I thought I’d be fine with just a tube – shamefully I had no boot or GU wrapper to help seal it up.  I fumbled around and it took me much longer than usual to fix this problem, but finally was off.  At that time Katie rolled up to my spot with the same problem.

Determined to steadily clip back up, I pushed every climb and rallied every descent.  Once hitting Little French – it was like a battle field!  SO MANY PEOPLE proposing more obstacles to ride up than the trail provides on its own.  For the most part people were pretty good at not walking three abreast across the trail and allowing those of us riding to get past, but anyone who’s ridden up Little French knows that one little thing that throws you off seems 10x harder than it should.  Making it to the top I rolled across the stream and knew this coming trail was fast, so asked if I could get by when it was safe to a rider ahead of me – I must’ve scared him because as he turned to look behind him he cross his bars and crashed on the loose rocks.  Making sure he was ok, I rolled on.  This is where it came very apparent my race would be night and day different if I could get those 15 (yeah, 15) minutes back.

I found myself caught in a group who were strong climbers and break squeezers on the loose rocky road descents.  After one guy completely came to a stop at a puddle on the road I knew I had to take some really bad lines again to get around as there was no budging.

Making it off the rocky jeep roads I sense some low air pressure, so popped the remainder of my co2 in and hoped for the best!  From there until the transition area, I rode my little heart out – ignoring the pending black cloud that I was seemingly not able to shake.

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Rallying back through the transition I rolled back to the van, pulled out my other tube and of course it wasn’t holding air.  I gave up… threw a pity party for one, cried for a good 30 seconds, and felt completely depleted.

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Friend, Josh Tostado rolled up to my hot mess express and tried so hard to get me rallied to just finish.  He offered tubes, air, and more encouragement I deserved at the moment…. I took none of it, and threw in the white flag.

The day took victim to 4 open women’s races due to the same issue.

As I get further into these racing experiences I’m learning that everyone will always have an opinion about what you do and what you don’t do.  Typically you will always be doing something wrong.  However, I am also learning more and more to let all this roll off your shoulders – make the best decisions for you at that time – and trust yourself.

In this case – I made the decision that was best for me at the time.

I never lose – I either win, or I learn… and lately I have been doing a lot of learning.

Bailey HUNDitO

It’s been a week now since towing the line to a man in Wranglers about to set us off on a choice of 50 or 100 miles of racing with the POW of his shot gun.

HUNDO START-L

A little background on this event.  The Bailey HUNDO/HUNDitO is a non profit race with a variety of charitable beneficiaries; The Colorado High School League, Colorado Mountain Bike Association, Trips for Kids Denver/Boulder, and the Bailey Trails initiative.  There is a minimum fundraising effort of $250 per rider – all of which benefits the above charities.  Entrants- or FUNDracers as the Bailey Board likes to call them- typically go above and beyond this minimum required amount which results in warm fuzzies all around for not only the FUNDracers, Race Director and Board Members – but the hundreds of lives that are affected by the altruistic efforts.

Much like the Firebird 40, I played the role of employee as well as athlete.  A balance that is fun, challenging and most importantly rewarding.  Months prior to the event I started assisting with the many moving parts to make the day come together.  In a way it takes away the stress of the competitive side of the event, and in another way it becomes easy to lose your focus on where your head needs to be once your tires hit the dirt.  I found the only way to manage this balance was to take things one day at a time, one email at a time, and tick tasks off my list as they came.  I am definitely a person who feels the need to give an immediate response to a questions and concerns, and whether this was a fault or a positive quality I found myself answering emails at all hours of the day and in anywhere I had some kind of signal.

The day before the race Jeff and I drove down in the Ergonmobile to pre ride the opening section of singletrack, which would prove itself to be the only stretch of dirt that I would know prior to racing.  Somehow I have only ridden in Bailey one time prior to race day, and realized none of the trails I rode were part of the race.  Loving the excitement of “what’s around the corner” I wasn’t worried about it leading up to race day, but looking back on the day I would have definitely had a bit of an advantage if I had known the trails.

Conditions were a tad loose and without really knowing the trails I knew that I would be in quality control mode all day ie. keep a lid on it to not lose your face to a loose corner from getting too rowdy.

As we settled into camp I wasn’t really required to do much on site work, but found myself going back and forth trying to lend a hand when I could.  It was awesome getting to meet the faces I had been emailing over the course of the few weeks prior to the race and be able to thank them face to face for their help.  I tried to hit the hay early though knowing I would sleep very little with the early morning wake up call for a six am start.

Sleep would be a very loose word I would use to describe what I did that night.  The moon was like a lighthouse beaming through out tent walls and the river a few decibels too high for me to really get into a deep sleep.  I read somewhere that the night before a race isn’t extremely crucial to good sleep compared to the nights a week and most importantly two nights prior to the event.

Getting up was a bit abrasive as it always seems your alarm goes off right when you fall deeply into dream land.  Setting myself up for a properly fueled day, I stuffed down two pieces of Rudi’s gluten free cinnamon raisin bread and coconut oil spread – washed it down with freshly squeezed oj and stayed in our tent until it was time to roll to the line.  I had forgotten warm clothes so I rode to the start line donning my pj’s over top of my Castelli Ptarmagin Group race kit.  It is inevitable that I will always forget something on weekend trips.

It was quickly time to line up and ready to rock!  I positioned myself towards the front one wheel length behind new mom and speedy racer, Jenny Smith.  Something I am continually working on is correctly positioning myself in mass starts.  Jenny does a great job at getting the front row position – so I pardoned my way up closely behind her.

As the shot gun went off we were off! Feeling very comfortable riding in a pack I stayed towards the front keeping my eye on Jenny, and even got to ride Jeff’s wheel for awhile until his group got a little speedy on the road, but I was able to hang onto the end of his group and Jenny got shot off the back.  Trying to stay calm and focussed and save energy by working a little harder than I would want to stay with the group (it makes sense, I promise) – it carried me to some of the first punchy climbs.  This is where Jenny and I went back and forth a few times until she gapped me on one of the low visibility, loose descents.

hammerin

From here on out I stayed in a comfortable endurance pace and found myself in a group of 100 miler men that kept me pushing, smiling, and having fun.  Everything was going perfect – I was riding a strong, comfortable tempo pace, fueling properly, and most importantly enjoying the new to me trails as much as the loose conditions would safely allow.

It wasn’t until the 50 course broke off to a separate loop than the 100′s and the group I was with all wished me a good race and I was… ALLLL BYYYYY MYYYYSELLLLLLLLF.  This is where I found it kind of boring – I saw absolutely no one in front of me and looked back at the top of the singletrack climb and saw zero people behind me.  Trying to keep it together I pushed a little to find some wheels to ride with who knew the corners and turns and could keep my pace safe and speedy.

flowers

I found no one.

The people I would catch up to I would quickly pass and no one would grab my pace.

As I got to the finishing stretch of road – which was way longer than I had thought.  My head stopped racing. (RED FLAG!) I began to start wondering if the volunteers all knew where they were going, and if they had enough help throughout the inner workings of the race.  I caught a few people on the road, but I wasn’t trucking…

At one point I looked behind my shoulder and saw a white helmet and jersey barreling down the road.  I had to take a couple glances as the rider was familiar – and lookey there it was Nat Raborn – third place female with hungry eyes for second.  Balls.

She passed me on the flat rollers and I didn’t have the power to keep up.  She had thought she had missed the turn and slowed down at one point but as I approached she kept trucking.  I kept her in my sight and knew I would have her on the steep climb prior to the descent to the finish line.

I did get her on the steep climb, but little did I know that the finish line was a long flat runway off of the descent.  Before I knew what was happening Nat’s former professional basketball player stature was standing HAMMERING past me literally right. at. the finish line!  She then collapsed at the line out of exhaustion.

My heart sunk into the pit of my stomach, and even though I was still on the podium – it stayed there for the remainder of the day.

I rolled the finish line – cleaned up – and went right to work.

It’s really a cruddy feeling not feeling the way Nat did at the line, and it’s taken me until writing this to learn from this experience.  She had an amazing race and for that I am stoked for her!  Just disappointed in myself for letting up before the race was finished.  Realizing there will always be something to learn from EVERY single race experience and we never “have it in the bag” – and can never let up… even just a little… or we will be hammered down at the line.

I am happily taking a couple weeks to put in some heavy rest, fun riding, and hard training to prep for the second half of my season.

Keep on rolling, and thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Peaks, Valleys and Wheelies

“As much as I know I’m not one to go out guns a blazing every single week – it’s still a difficult inner battle while in you’re in the valley to keep your focus on the peaks ahead.”

Having a strong, early season – this is always a good reminder, stay positive, focussed, always have fun, and appreciate every effort.  The past month and a half has been filled with plenty of training efforts with a number plate on my bike.  The last couple weekends I have been in the valley, putting in hard XC training efforts and planning for the peaks.

Besides riding my bike I have been assisting in starting up a new kids program where I live in Eagle, CO.  Vail Valley Alternative Sports Academy was thought up by myself and Mike McCormack – providing kids with a fun atmosphere and positive role models who are teaching the little shredders how to be good stewards of the trails.  Mike is definitely the brains behind making things actually happen, and I feel lucky to be a part of it for many reasons…

Being one of the many athletes in this valley, it’s hard to get away from the competitiveness that blazes most the trails along the I-70 corridor.  To appreciate where you are even when you’re not at your peak performance… and most importantly HAVE FUN!  Just through the first week of rides with these kids, my perspective on riding and racing has become much more whole.

I am reminded of my path, my influences, and how far I’ve come.

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One thing that is the same in all three photos – my love for sports, being active, and most importantly the childlike, free-bird feeling that comes with it all.  The thing that unfortunately changes as we grow are our performance expectations.  We start creating layers of some realistic and unrealistic expectations in performance and in that, we tend to lose that child like feeling of why we lined up in the first place.  This is where working with the kids hones me in and keeps me with the right perspective.

Throughout my day to day interactions I try very hard to emanate the FUN in riding.  Racing at the professional level, you have to be very focussed – BUT you really don’t have to take yourself too seriously.  Pop a wheelie, catch some sweet air off a curb, stop to smell the flowers, and never forget a snack break.  All of this shouldn’t change with age.

Riding with the kids keeps my inner skinned knee child like demeanor present and in check to be a positive influence to the next generation of shredders.  This experience helps me appreciate where I am even when I’m in the valley on my way up to the peaks.

See you on the trails!