The snowing is a-fallin’, so I figured it was time to update on my trip to Fruita and Moab last week! The week served as a spring training boost… lots of hours on the mountain bike, technical and difficult terrain, and hopefully giving me a mental boost. (Warning, lots of photos coming up… but it’s the best way to tell the story!)
I left Laramie Tuesday morning, taking backroads which luckily meant I got to avoid the mess that is I-70, though it required 30 miles of dirt roads (which actually weren’t too bad, and very scenic nonetheless). High winds were predicted pretty much everywhere in Colorado and Wyoming, so pulling into Fruita I skeptically eyed the clouds and tried not to blow over. La Quinta couldn’t check me in early, so that was the motivation to head to the Kokopelli Trails parking lot and suit up to ride and start my three day “Pro But So Not Pro Training Camp,” or so I dubbed it. As soon as I pushed off on my first pedal stroke it started raining. It stayed light, and I enjoyed sunshine later in the ride.
Rustler’s at Kokopelli as the raining was falling
Probably the highlight of riding in Fruita and Moab were revisiting trails I haven’t ridden in years and seeing the marked difference. I remember being the climb up the start of Mary’s Loop being so technical, and also having issues with all the ledges, and I smiled big when, this time, I was riding everything with ease! Usually my technical skills are not great in the spring (they were horrid during my February trip to Lake Pueblo), but during this trip I rode the strongest I ever have technically! Ledges, rock gardens, and exposure were handled with ease, and I also took many drops that usually I would’ve walked!
During my first ride I covered Rustler’s, Mary’s, Steve’s, and Wrangler trails, picking up PR’s across the board and also a top 10 on the leaderboard on Wranglers. Though it was INSANELY windy and scary at times when you have a cliff to the Colorado River on one side, I rode strong and was so happy I didn’t let the rain showers and wind keep me from riding! My Specialized Epic was riding like a dream, as I finally had it rebuilt by the Pedal House (wait, going 1400 miles without a tune up isn’t a good thing?!). Joel fixed up the bike like a dream, and I could tell the difference having a new bottom bracket and rebuilt hubs made. It was going to be a good week!
Got checked into my hotel and grabbed some pizza to go from Hot Tomato, and I set to packing for my day trip to Moab. Last time I had been to Moab was in spring of 2014 when I was sick, and unable to really ride, so I was excited to go back as Moab always has a special place in my heart. Wednesday morning I sprung out of bed and pointed my car and bike (and dinos!) towards the Utah line, excited to see the 80mph speed limits and clear, open roads and gorgeous desert terrain. Ever since I was 15 or 16 years old I’ve been enchanted by the desert, and I always feel so at peace in the barren, sometimes hostile, world of the desert. It was going to be a good day!
My “I’m driving to Moab face!”
The Dinos were excited for their first trip to Moab!
First up was riding a 17 mile loop at Navajo Rocks. I’ve only heard rave reviews of this trail system, and since it can be ridden as a big loop I knew it would be a good choice for my morning training ride. Folks, I did something I have never done before even – I took my Brain shocks off of full firm! I knew a lot of bumpy slick rock would be involved, so I figured having a squishier suspension would help reduce fatigue and soreness, especially for my arms that have been gently draped on a road bike on a trainer most of the winter. Navajo Rocks’ is just an amazingly beautiful place to ride! Parts were sandy, but it was more of a baby powder consistency that was moderately easy to pedal and control a bike through. A lot of slick rock is included on the trails… I’m not a fan of riding slick rock, mostly because of the roughness, but I toughed it up and challenged myself to ride the steepest pitches, enjoying the traction given by the sandstone. Once again, my technical skills showed up strong and I stayed confident and calm and rode a lot of stuff I didn’t think I could’ve. In a little over 2 hours I completed the loop, ready for lunch.
I had a tailwind at my back all week thanks to Tailwind Nutrition! Giving some sponsor love at Navajo Rocks!
Navajo Rocks trail system
Big Mesa Trail at Navajo Rocks and one of a kind!
I popped down into Moab so I could grab lunch at Quesadilla Mobilla, a food truck that is rated as the top place to eat in Moab. I love quesadillas, and hate eating alone at restaurants, so this was the perfect solution! There was a long line, but I enjoyed the sun on my bare shoulders and patiently waited. I had the Southern Belle, which has beef, corn, chili, and sweet potatoes and it was DE-LIC-IOUS! The house recipe guacamole was the perfect compliment. I gobbled down my food, and turned my car back north towards the Brands Trails.
This quesadilla was epic!
The Brands Trails are the first trails I ever rode in Moab, way back in October 2012. I cracked my elbow on North 40 during that trip, the day before my 29th birthday. I remember I had to walk what seemed to be a large portion of stuff, but was excited that since Strava was still brand new in 2012, I was able to get in the top 10 on Rusty Spur. So this was my return to where it all started for me in Moab, and also a bit of redemption for my poor left elbow and shoulder. So I start riding North 40, and I start laughing as I’m riding down the trails because, well, it all seemed so easy now! Sometimes I need to be reminded where I came from, especially as I’m struggling with training and wondering if I’m in over my head by turning pro for racing this year. It was just an overall great mental boost. I had one near over the bar experience, but luckily I saved it, and quickly found the spot where my elbow was cracked and shoulder all boogered up by lack of bike handling that sent me into soft dirt in 2012. I took a quick selfie, and then set on my way to explore some more.
Here it is… site of the 2012 elbow disaster on North 40!
October 2012 vs April 2016… so much has changed!
I took Lazy (?) over to the southern end of the trail system. I came to Deadman’s Ridge and I pondered the warning sign for a second, and decided to set off to see what it would be like. It starts out moderate, but gets more and more difficult, which provided great practice for uphill technical climbing. I managed to clean a good majority of the trail, albeit slowly. I did walk a couple of portions as I reminded myself I was riding by myself, in lycra, with a XC bike and it was better to play it safe. I then bopped down to Rusty Spur, and set out on one near-race pace effort, after the best Strava time I could post. I was only held up for a few seconds by one couple that politely let me pass… and I missed the QOM by 5 seconds. Sigh. But I took minutes off my 2014 time, which is amazing. Because minutes is big!
After nearly two hours, I called it a day on the bike and headed back to Fruita… but not before a quick detour to the dinosaur tracks at Copper Ridge! I also discovered they extended the Dino Tracks trail to the tracks site, but I knew I shouldn’t push for more riding, even if it involved dinosaurs in the trail name. After hanging around for a bit and taking some silly photos and calling my parents, I begrudgingly got back into my car and started the drive back.
Selfie with Mr Allosaurs at his tracks!
Thursday morning would be the final ride of my personal training camp, with the afternoon marking the start of my team’s spring camp. I chose to return to the Kokopelli Trails in the morning so I could ride Horsethief without the crazy wind. My legs were feeling the past two days of mountain bike miles, but I pushed on. I felt like I was going so slow, but it was one of those days where my mind’s perception of how I was feeling and Strava told opposite stories! I pondered the Horsethief Bench drop in, and after walking and analyzing some lines, I do believe I could clean the top half with the proper bike (so sad my Specialized Rhyme is still on backorder as it would be perfect!) and my elbow and knee pads (and perhaps full face, ha!). But for this trip I walked down it, which honestly is probably just as scary as it’s hard to scramble down that thing with an awkward 25-lb bike! Horsethief went well, once again I was riding so much more than what I remember riding in 2014, though I had a few moments marked by lack of confidence, so I’d make myself turn around and ride the feature.
Eying the bench at Horsethief
After dropping off my things at Moon Farm, which is where Naked Women’s Racing was invading for the last half of the week I headed up to 18 Road for an afternoon ride with my team. 18 Road and I do not have a good history. Only two times I have been there was for a race, and both those years the races didn’t go too swell, with the race in 2014 trashing (I like to use the term destroying, honestly) my brand spanking new S-Works Fate, resulting in a DNF and my only hitchhiking experience. So I was back to kick ass and take some names, and call Prime Cut all sort of nasty names for it’s peanut butter mud. We ended up splitting into two groups after a ride down Kesseler’s, with me wimping out on the Zippity group because, well, I hate exposure. My group ended up hot lapping Prime Cut and PBR. I wrecked on a rock on Prime Cut, which didn’t really hurt me physically, but really bruised my ego hardcore since it happened in front of my teammates, and it’s not a hard feature whatsoever (aka I’ve always been able to ride it, even in 2013 as a noob). Next time up it I cleared it, called it dirty names, but still was feeling my hurt ego. PBR was a hoot, and I really could see the improvements I have made in cornering and descending since my ride with Georgia and incorporating her tips into my fat bike rides so it would be natural come spring.
First ride of team camp at 18 Road!
Friday morning we set out to Rabbit Valley for an all day desert ride. I’ve never ridden in this area, so I was excited to see the new terrain. We had quite the large group, but surprisingly it went well, which doesn’t always happen with mountain bike group rides! Kerri and I set out on the lead, with me chasing her frantic pace. I was feeling the miles adding up in my legs, but it was good to have a rabbit to chase. However, my technical skills were starting to fade, much to my ego’s displeasure. We rode out on Western Rim, which is another beautiful desert ride. Since motos share these trails there were lots of pump track like bumps which added to the fun. After Western Rim we all rode the Kokopelli trail to the start of Zion Curtain, and split into two groups. I decided to stick it out for Zion, which would be the longer ride option. Of course by then it was HOT (80 some degrees) and my body was going WTF, my mind was going WTF, and my grumpy self set it. I felt like I was bonking, but was well fueled, but started to get obsessed about running out of water (I didn’t count on it being a 5-6 hour day… showing my inexperience with group riding vs. my solo hammerfests). We would split more on Zion Curtain. Honestly, not sure how I feel about Zion Curtain… glad I rode it, but ehhhh, not sure the hoopla. Western Rim blows it out of the water, so maybe that’s why I feel that way. I finally fell back from the lead group as I couldn’t push the hard pace anymore in the heat, though Brittany held back to stay near me. I finally found my legs again on the final miles of dirt roads back to the car, which I suppose was a good thing! Overall it was a 31 mile day with some tough climbing, technical parts, and lots of mental stamina training.
Saturday was suppose to be our super awesome 90 mile rode ride from Grand Junction to Gateway Resort and back… but of course, it had a to rain. Don’t worry, we all set out to ride it of course. In the rain. Ugh. I was not really prepared for cold weather riding for this trip, but luckily had brought a fender, knee warmers, my rain jersey, and toe covers with me. Melanie set out on a fast pace, and I grabbed her wheel, and then I found myself on the front for really no reason except I hate eating road spray. Kim and I set a decent tempo starting the climb, but then the group peeled off to take off their jackets when the rain stopped so I kept going because that’s how I road ride. In silence and alone, haha! I controlled my watts up the climb, staying in high tempo/low threshold range. For some reason I expected there to be some massively steep climb, but instead it flattens off to a false flat with fierce headwind. Really demoralizing to be pushing 12mph on a flat into the wind. And then the Cloud of Doom enveloped me about mile 20… freezing rain, ice pellets, 35 degree temps. It was… miserable. Demoralizing. Chilling. I stopped once to pry my chain onto my big chainring so I could push a bigger gear. Then I started shivering as the rain soaked every layer of me down to my bones. Heidi1.0 was running SAG, and at mile 26 she had stopped on the side of the road so I decided to pull the plug as I was shivering so bad I decided I didn’t have anything to prove in the mental toughness department. I slinked into her backseat, huddled in a towel with the seat warmer on, giggling as I changed into a “Don’t Ride like a Douche” tee shirt and a spare pair of her socks. So much for my long ride day! But I did put up some good times on the climb so I decided not all was lost. About half of my teammates on the ride chose to dry off during lunch at the resort and then ride back in the now sunny weather, but I really had no desire to sit on my soggy chamois and pedal with my soaked socks and shoes for several more hours. Oh well! Damn rain! The Kokopelli mountain bike group ride had fantastic weather, and I’m still jealous.
Getting ready to head out to Gateway in the rain (Photo – Roberta Smith)
Before the Cloud of Doom (Photo by Heidi Wahl)
“I’m soggy and wearing a funny shirt!” selfie at Gateway Canyons Resort after Heidi1.0 rescued me
Sunday morning was the final day of camp, and most were headed out of town trying to beat weather on Vail Pass or out to ride on Palisade Rim. Berta, Kim, Erin, and I set out for Colorado National Monument. Unfortunately Erin would double flat within miles so she dropped. It ended up being a fantastic ride and end of my training week. We rode at a good tempo, conversational pace, and enjoyed the views (and I enjoyed listening in on Kim’s and Berta’s conversation). I kept thinking of American Flyers, and wishing I had some fantastic 80s music to bike to, but alas… it didn’t happen. We stopped for some photos, and otherwise enjoyed the ride! There was some threatening clouds, but the rain stayed away. 46 miles later, and training camp was complete!
Heidi, Berta, and Kim do Colorado National Monument!
Berta flatted just a couple of miles before the end of our ride.. in the best place ever! The guy who lived across the street owns a bike shop and quickly came over with a pump and tools to get her rolling again!
All in all it was a good week. I came away very pleased with how I was riding on the mountain bike, feeling a new mental toughness with pushing through the soreness and cues to stop, and blown away by my technical skills early on in the week. Moon Farm was an amazing venue for my team’s camp, with all it’s quirky features, brash baby goats, rabbits, and dinosaur statures. And hello, I cannot help but to love a place that has a Chris LeDoux memorial as a native Wyoming girl! Naturally, it was a highlight to see so many of my teammates that I haven’t seen since last year and to also meet a lot of new ones! Erin and I hatched some grand adventures for our trip to MTB Nationals this summer, which got me even more excited than I already was.
Any place with dinosaurs is cool with me!
T. rex didn’t quite fit in the selfie
Team photo at the Moon Farm farmhouse
Thanks to Naked Women’s Racing for putting on the camp, especially Heidi1.0 being the ring leader! I also gotta give thanks to Tailwind Nutrition for keeping me fueled for all my riding adventures, Pedal House for getting my bike ready to have the piss beat out of it for a week, Specialized for their amazing bicycles that kept me going on both the road and trails, and ESI Grips for keeping my hands happy and on those bars.
Gonna take the back roads! Best way ever to avoid I-70 traffic!
I’m home! Hi snow!