Iceland

Heidi Goes to Iceland: The 2 month countdown

Though this summer has quickly morphed into a “I can cram a winter’s worth of training into a few weeks in June to get ready for race season, right?” frenzy, I have something else looming on the horizon:  my 19-day trip through Iceland.

Oh, yes.  Iceland.  The trendy hotspot.

In my defense, I’m not going there because I saw the Blue Lagoon on Instagram *insert LOL smiley here*.  I’ve always known Iceland was some sort of misnamed haven of natural beauty, but my own obsession started in January 2014 when I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in theaters (which, to tie it to cycling… was the evening after my first USAC cyclocross podium!).  The movie is mostly filmed in Iceland, though they’ll have you thinking it’s Afghanistan or Greenland.  The first scene where he’s off the ship, riding the bicycle through Iceland I immediately said (probably out loud) “I’m going to go there and do that!”  So there’s the backstory.  No Blue Lagoon, no Instagram.  It wasn’t until the fall of 2015 or so I really started planning, as international travel was a daunting task to me, and I was still trying to chase a pro mountain biker dream.

Oh Walter Mitty, giving me a bad new obsession!

Original plans really settled around some expensive mountain biking tours in the highlands.  Which, still, I’d love to do.  But those plans faded away as I got deeper into my Iceland research and realized there’s a whole lot more I wanted to see from off of a bicycle.  Then when the Glacier 360 mountain bike stage race was created, I decided I would go there to do that.  But hell, the entry fee is nearly half the price of what I’m paying for having a camper van 19 nights… Ugh.  3 days of mountain bike racing, or maybe a longer trip?  Finally in the summer of 2016 I made some lodging reservations for September 2017, happy it was finally starting to get planned… and that plan was really basing myself out of Reykjavik for day long mountain bike tours and snorkeling (never mind my fear of water over 5 feet deep and how I won’t put my face in water…).  Then… naturally, life happened.  I changed jobs.  I no longer had a massive bank of PTO and flexible hospital nurse schedule.  Iceland would have to wait 😦  *sobs*

I mean, who wouldn’t want to mountain bike here?!  Maybe another time… (Photo by Joey Shuster)

After finally ditching the Glacier 360 race idea (though, naturally, I’d love to do it some day if I could find a willing partner since you must do it as a duo… hint hint), I set my sights on September 2018 and didn’t look back.  Wham, bam, full Iceland planning ahead!  Camper van reserved, nonrefundable airfare purchased, tickets on the bus into Landmannalaugar, and hopefully tonight, tickets for the ferry to the Westfjords.  That’s it, I’m going to Iceland!

I’m probably done about one thousand times the research as the typical traveler to Iceland.  I know this is true from reading the various Facebook Iceland travel groups I’m a part of, and how at least once a day I cringe at what appears to be someone buying international airfare without an ounce of research, who then wants to know what to see, bitch that Iceland is expensive, and that the roads are scary.  But I digress… I have an obsessive personality.  I have to know everything and anything.  If there’s a travel blog on Iceland, I’ve probably read it.  Travel guides?  Yep, there’s 3 on my coffee table.  Facebook groups?  Already discussed.  Quizzing friends I know who have gone there?  Done.  Million bookmarked sites on my laptop?  Most definitely.  I worked probably well over a year on my itinerary, growing it from 5 days to 19 days, and changing and adjusting as I discovered new things or when my boyfriend pointed out that we were missing the northeastern part, and that we shouldn’t (hey, I’m just happy he had some sort of input, ha!  And it was brilliant!).

I’m two and a half months from departure time, and feeling a bit of a crunch all of a sudden.  Not really on my itinerary, as in fact I have relaxed on that bit after being mad at myself for not going for 22 days and realizing it would be quite pricey to change my return flight home.  It’s all the little details… ensuring what time we get picked up for our camper van, getting PINs assigned to my credit cards, getting my middle name added onto my Icelandair ticket as they didn’t have a middle name field when I booked it, buying inverters and European electrical outlet adapter things (which lead to me shamelessly yelling “Didn’t the US invent electricity?  Why can’t they use our plugs? —-> the one stereotypical American attitude moment I’m allowed to have once a year), do I need a Sprocket printer to print photos for my bullet journal, where is the cat cafe located in Reykjavik, and how exactly do I photograph the Northern Lights?!

Arghhh… let’s not mention me buying a second rain jacket because it’s red and will look better in photos.

Travel bloggers make it all look so glamorous and easy.  Which is probably why I blog about my cycling races and life, not travel.  Because no one wants to read about how travel really is.

So for those who do, here’s how I’ve been surviving through this planning process of a 19 day road trip around Iceland:

  • Google Doc:  One page for each day.  I put sunrise/sunset time at the top, followed by travel time.  Under that I list each stop/thing I want to see/do, with possible maps (of hiking routes mostly).  Next are any hot pots planned for the day (yes, really, I’m NOT going to the Blue Lagoon).  At the bottom I list the campsite, price, and amenities (like free shower), followed by grocery stores the route passes through.
  • Google Maps: You can create custom maps with Google Maps.  This is really so awesome.  I have 19 maps, one for every day of the trip that mirrors the information in my Google Doc.  I also have one that just shows planned things for my one day in Reykjavik that is walking based.
  • Leuchtturm1917 Medium Size Hardcover A5 Notebook – Dotted Pages- White: I’ve been using my version of the “bullet journal” for about 1.5 years now.  I decided I wanted to create one for this trip that would have all the important details (flight info, embassy contact, insurance info, packing lists, whatever) and then space to journal and jot down stuff.
  • Iceland Travel Reference Map 1:400,000-2015: Though there’s amazing cell service in Iceland, paper maps are always good.  Plus it’s been a good planning tool.  I’m a person that still likes paper and analog format (hence the Leuchtturm journal), and it’s a good idea to have a paper map when driving hundreds and hundreds of miles around a foreign country.
  • Lonely Planet Iceland & Lonely Planet Iceland’s Ring Road: Two of the paper travel guides I got.  Though not as useless as the all powerful Google search engine, still lots of great information.  There’s many Iceland travel guide books on the market, and they all seem to have their pros and cons.

I’ve also decided to start making a pile in my spare bedroom of my house of stuff for the trip.  Though luckily I have a ton of tech gear thanks to my general lifestyle, I beefed up my rain gear options and bought new hiking boots.  I’ve also discovered the wonder of packing cubes, which I have gone crazy using for all my work travel.  Oh, and let’s not forget the amazing double person sleeping bag!  Some of the gear in the Iceland pile includes:

  • North Face Resolve Parka: what, a rain jacket with polka dots?!  Yes!!  I have gotten to use this in a few instances of Wyoming wind and rain, and it works well.
  • The North Face Women’s Venture 2 Half Zip Pants: Haven’t had a chance to play in the rain with these, but they came with good reviews.  Much better than my ripped up Showers Pass ones that I wore cycling in Seattle, and ended up more wet from sweat than the rain…
  • PackTowl Personal Microfiber Towel: Space is key in luggage and a camper van, and I only own regular bath towels, mostly with cats and dinosaurs on them.  Enter this towel.
  • Salomon Women’s Quest 4d 2 GTX W Backpacking Boot: I usually wear trail running shoes on my hikes because I was never a fan of my existing hiking boots, but realized something more durable and waterproof would be good for Iceland.  I’ve only worn these around the house so far, but am a fan and will hike in them more this summer.  I use Salomon trail running shoes as well, so the brand just fits me well.  Luckily like most things I’ve purchased for this trip, they will get used beyond Iceland on all the hikes I do.
  • Kelty Tru.Comfort 20 Degree Double Wide Sleeping Bag:  This sleeping bag is simply amazing, regardless of fitting two people!  OK, but it’s HUGE.  Luckily I smooshed it down into a 35L compression sack.  They told me it could not be done… but I got it done!  I didn’t want to rent a sleeping bag from the camper van company, as it would be hard to know how warm it would be. This bag has already been used on several camping trips this year, too.  Warm, snuggly, and even if you’re single it’s nice to have a big bag to stretch out in… or maybe share with a pet?  Either way, I’m a fan!

So yeah… enough Iceland brain vomit for now.  In a way, I can’t believe the trip is really happening in just a couple of months, especially after all these years of research and planning.  There’s still more to buy, loose ends to tie up, and then of course packing and all the preparations involved in any vacation of this length.  Until then, there’s plenty of mountain bike racing, hiking, and adventures to be had in my Rocky Mountains!

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Race Report

Race Report: 2018 Gunnison Half Growler

Photo by Dave Kozlowski

Well here’s a start line, let alone a finish line, I wasn’t really sure I’d make!

I got back on my bike post-op day 17 from my big surgery, and took things slow and easy and realized how quickly I lost fitness, but also core strength.  I had the refund deadline on my calendar, and debated back and forth if starting my fourth Gunnison Half Growler would be a good idea.  Finally I decided the best idea would be to give it a try… 5 weeks after surgery.  Yeah, don’t tell my surgeon…

This year I was unsure if I could get Friday off from work to make it to the Saturday rendition of the Half Growler, so I signed up for Sunday’s “late bus” offering, which I heard is actually a lot chiller and more fun.

Sunday’s version is indeed a lot more chill!  The neutral roll out, which I’m use to burning a match or two to stay at the 20+mph pace in the peloton, was in fact a lot more neutral, and served as a good warm up.  Kill Hill was painful as ever, and I started in on successfully going backwards through the field all day.  But racing wasn’t my goal, my goal was to finish, however long that took!

This being my third time racing the course in this direction, more and more of the rock features are rideable to me since I’ve had a chance to see their line.  Definitely nice, as my technical skills remind intact… however, sometimes the lack of strength and fitness meant I had issues with uphill technical features.  I only had one “crash” and it was on an uphill rock face where I just ran out of steam and stalled out, and luckily there was a tree there to catch my fall.  Which left me awkwardly stuck on my bike, leaning onto a tree at a 45 degree angle.  Thankfully there were two other girls nearby to assist me.  Whoops!  I’ve never been ashamed of walking, so walking I did when I thought I had to, or if a feature was beyond my abilities at the moment!  Including some non-technical climbs that I simply didn’t have the lungs for this year.  But overall I was feeling good, apart from my usual 15 minutes in “I wanna quit” thoughts, which soon faded.

About the time of Skull Pass I started traded spots with a 16 year old racer, which was actually nice for the distraction.  She had amazing descending skills, and I’d get her on the climbs.  Back and forth we went!  This year I remembered my dropper post on Skull Pass, and rode what seemed to be a lot more of it this year.

The course was dry, sandy, loose, and dusty this year, which made me think my tires were constantly flat, and made me miss the year of mud.  Or just a good rain the night before to pack things down.  With a 7am start I wore arm warmers and a thin base layer.  Arm warmers I yanked off within the first hour, and by mile 24 I decided to stop and take off my base layer and dump another Tailwind stick in my refilled camelback.  Imagine that, stopping to wardrobe change during a race!  Who was I?! (Honestly, quite weird to do this race NOT wearing a thermal jersey, like previous years)

Overall, I was really positive mentally during this race.  I just felt so lucky to be even riding my bike that I didn’t care that I was going a lot slower than my previous three times.  Even on Ridge (a trail I will always hate), where I decided to walk a hefty amount, I knew the finish was coming and I just had to keep moving forward.  And that I did, crossing the finish line at 4 hours 57 minutes!  Woo hoo!  I had given myself a goal of 6 hours, so needless to say I smashed that goal… and was only 23 minutes slower than my next slowest time.  23 minutes I don’t think is a huge amount honestly with all my extra circumstances coming into play this year!

Oh, and the pro men in the Full Growler race never lapped me!  Victory!  I think I had 21 minutes on Dave Wiens, ha!  Though I was thinking several times during my race, “Where in the world is Kalan Beisel?”

Nutritionally, things worked great.  I had worried about the longer time on course impacting my nutrition, but was able to pace things well.  I started with a 2 liter camelback with 7 scoops (700 calories) of Tailwind Nutrition green tea and lemon flavors mixed in.  At the halfway point at the Skull Pass aid station I had them top off the water, and later added another 2 scoops (200 calories) of naked Tailwind.  I also ate half a pickle slice and one Clif banana pouch.  I only drank about half of a 16oz bottle of plain water.  Sadly no aid stations had coke this year 😦

I was pleased to discover after the race that I felt no worse than I had in 2015-2017, and happily rode back to the start line to discover there’s no finisher prizes for this year, but still free beer.

Ugh… Ridge… I hate you (Photo by Dave Kozlowski)

There is just something about this race that keeps bringing me back to Gunnison year after year, so of course on December 1st I’ll be registering for my fifth Half Growler!  Now that I have experienced it both on Saturday and Sunday, I will be torn on which day to register for.  I liked the more chill neutral roll out for sure.  We shall see!  Just happy to be back on my bike, and “racing” and rebuilding.

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A Young, Competitive Cyclist’s Hysterectomy Story

I like reading other people’s experiences with things.  I’m beyond guilty of searching for people’s blogs and race reports before events to get an idea of the experience and course.  Sometimes it’s just nice to know others feel/see/whatever the same things I do.  But one area is missing… and that’s finding out the experience of an early-30s-childless-athelete who had a laparoscopic total hysterectomy.  So here’s my story… mostly just to document my recovery and story, and hopefully maybe someone else will stumble upon it as well.

The whole mess really started in the late winter/spring of 2017 with nagging pelvic pain that would come and go.  I trudged on, until the months of nonstop bleeding started occurring.  I had been on oral birth control for nearly 15 years and had very regulated periods and what not, so I knew things were not normal. I finally scheduled an appointment with my OB-GYN in early August 2017, and she ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed a cyst on one of my ovaries and polyp in my uterus.  I was put on “old school” high dose oral birth control pills.  I stayed on the pills for about two and a half months, but then the side effects became too severe that I went back to my old, low dose formulation.  My doc and I agreed on some watching and waiting, but by December 2017 the pain was becoming more intense.  Another ultrasound was scheduled, and it showed the cyst was gone, but the polyp still remained.

I have never wanted to have kids, it was never in the cards for me for a multitude of reasons, so I was “ok” with having a hysterectomy, but my doctor did not want to jump to that right away.  When I was 3 years old I had both of my ureters reimplanted onto my bladder, and she had concerns about anatomy and scarring that could make a hysterectomy high risk.  So we agreed with proceeding with a hysteroscopy to remove the polyp and also take a better look at what was going on in my pesky uterus.  I underwent that procedure in mid January 2018.  Overall it was quite easy, I was ready to go home like 20 minutes after leaving recovery, and had just very mild cramping which I took ibuprofen for.  The polyp  was removed, but the doctor did see suspected fibroids.

Unfortunately the pain and bleeding increased significantly in the month following what was hopefully going to be a solution, so I decided to proceed with scheduling a hysterectomy with ureteral stents (to aid in visualizing my ureters so hopefully they would remain unharmed).  By then I had waffled between “I’m not training at all!” to doing intervals on the trainer in the basement.  Really my whole spring, and resulting summer race season, was in limbo and from an athletic point of view I was really lost at what to do.  So I skied, kinda rode, and was lazy a lot.  And naturally, I wasn’t feeling well, so motivated to really hammer on the training plan wasn’t there.  A date was set, and suddenly there was just waiting.  And hoping 5 weeks would be enough recovery to still race the Gunnison Growler…

Some people think that because I didn’t want kids that this was an easy decision to make, but let me tell you, it was NOT!  It’s one thing to not have kids by choice, it’s another when it’s anatomically impossible anymore.  I had more than several occasions where I seriously considered canceling the surgery, wondering if I was making too serious of a decision.  I’m only 34, and have plenty of friends who had babies at 38, 39, 40… I don’t know what the future holds, and what might change.  So it was tough.  Luckily, I would keep both of my ovaries, which means keeping eggs so if I win the lottery, the chance is always there for a biological child.  (Oh hell, who am I kidding… cats and bikes all the way!)

So after a hectic April of multiple work travel trips, personal vacation to Florida, one last ski day at A-Basin, surgery day came on April 20th.  Pre-op was all the standard stuff, and soon enough I was in the OR and out within minutes.  I woke up screaming that I had to pee and confused why I wasn’t on the beach anymore.  My bladder was spasming awfully from the cystoscopy and stents.  My amazing PACU nurse was quick to bring warm blankets to help soothe the pain and I finally really realized I wasn’t on a  beach for reals, and that after months and months of tests, ultrasounds, pills here and there, and what not it was all over.  There was no going back, it was done and done.  Kinda freaky…

I eventually was transferred to my room that I would stay in overnight.  So… I went into this surgery thinking the pain wouldn’t be any worse than finishing out a mountain bike race with a few cracked ribs, and that I would refuse all opioid pain meds after PACU.  Ummm, chalk that up to one of the worse ideas I’ve had in a long time…

First time I tried to pee I was in tears due to all the trauma in my bladder and ureters.  I wasn’t even really being bothered by my three laparoscopic incisions or the big one in my woman parts internally.  Sitting up felt like everything was going to fall out of the bottom of me.  I walked to the bathroom hunched over like a 100 year old granny with bad posture.  I was pissed off I was in pain, but remained stubborn and took only Tylenol.  By 6pm, a few hours after getting to my room, I finally agreed to a Norco pain pill.  I ate some dinner, and settled into feeling crappy, as the gas pains from them inflating my belly were starting to begin.

This was not some cracked ribs, or deep lacerations from decomposed granite, or even landing head first at 30mph.

So, pretty much, I didn’t know how to deal with it.  I felt like a big baby.  Dammit, I can push on and ride bikes and race injured, why couldn’t I handle a hysterectomy?!

I was barely able to get any sleep thanks to unnecessary things beeping in my room (I was a night shift surgical nurse for years, so that added to my grumpiness about all the unnecessary noises).  Finally got some good sleep from 4-7:30am and woke up really excited for breakfast.  I had taken myself (whoops… what does high fall risk mean again?!) to the bathroom a few times overnight and the pain was less and less (and also meant peeing less blood), and was feeling a bit better.  My doctor came in right as breakfast came and took the bandages off the lap incisions and gave me scripts and instructions for home.  Naturally I asked when I could exercise, and she told me not to even think about it.  Sigh.  (My doctor has no idea that I’m a competitive cyclist actually… probably should’ve told her.)

My Boy and parents got me home by 9 or 10am and we settled in for movies and laziness.  The gas pain was becoming my main issue, along with an intense fear on my part about becoming constipated (nurses are a bit poop obsessed if they’ve ever worked post-surgical).  Luckily The Boy was ever so attentive, running and getting me meds, and feeding me, and helping me through intense bouts of pain when the gas would irritate the phrenic nerve and give me crazy awful shoulder and neck pain.  Laughing hurt, I was deathly afraid of sneezing, and I thought my belly button was the grossest looking thing in the world.

Before surgery I had grand plans of returning to work by Monday possibly (reminder, surgery was on Friday), and just getting back to normal life immediately, but that just wasn’t the case.  After all, I had a uterus, cervix, and both fallopian tubes removed, and those are like… you know… organs.  The Boy took me on a mile long stroll in the park on Sunday afternoon in the sun, which felt good.  Monday and Tuesday post surgery I slept in, laid around, and reminded myself that it was completely okay that I just sit back and rest.  I’m a highly Type A “I must be doing something!” type of person, so this was beyond challenging.

Wednesday, post op day 5, I probably overdid it.  I did 4 hours of work from home, and then walked 2 miles in the park by my house, cooked a decently big dinner, and this just wiped me out.  Thursday I didn’t really feel well, so The Boy loaded me up in my car and we went out to Curt Gowdy to enjoy the sun and warm weather and did a small walk on one of my favorite mountain bike trails.  Which let me tell you, 60+ degree weather, sunshine, and my favorite mountain bike trail just meant I was super sad I wasn’t riding a bicycle.  Seriously, why couldn’t there have been like two feet of snow during my recovery instead of sunshine and 60-70 degree weather?!  Friday and Saturday was followed up with more hikes and sunshine, and by Saturday morning I was feeling a lot more like myself, with just soreness around my incisions on my belly.  Sunday I decided to talk myself back to Gowdy where I walked Stone Temple Circuit for the first time ever, and saw so many things I miss while riding a bike… mainly a very phallic rock feature, but hey, whatever, LOL.  I also scouted out some new lines on features I struggle with, so it was like training, right?

At my 1 week follow up appointment (post op day 10) my doctor removed the knots on the stitches on my belly.  I asked about when I could ride a bike, and she told me to wait.  DAMMIT.

And that kinda brings us up to current day (post op day 11).  I returned to work, and realized having to fully sit up in a chair and wear pants was awful and created a lot of soreness.  So I’m opting for dresses the rest of the week.  Ever since post op day 3 I’ve been taking 800mg of ibuprofen twice daily for pain control, and occasionally heat packs.  I’m feeling more of the “internal” stitches and trauma now, with dull pelvic pain.  The incisions really only smart with clothing rub on them or I move in just the wrong way.

So yeah.. the cycling.  It’s been an awful wait.  The weather has been gorgeous and the looming Gunnison Growler keeps creeping closer and closer.  I’m not sure when I can ride, and how it’s even going to feel.  I’m thinking I’ll start with gentle road rides, or possibly even the trainer.  I’m accepting that it is quite a real possibility that my first time back on a mountain bike will be in Gunnison.  Is it smart to do a 35 mile tough as hell mountain bike race after not riding for 2 months, and 5 weeks after a major ass surgery?  I have no idea, but I’m going with a solid NO.  I do still have a few more weeks to cancel my entry if I have to.  Life is in limbo, and I’m kinda just having to learn to live with that.  You never know what you got, until you don’t got it anymore, and that’s where I am with the cycling nonsense.  I wasn’t riding because I burned out and didn’t want to, and now that I can’t, I want nothing more than to ride a bike.  Sigh.

That, in a long winded nutshell, is my story thus far.  I’ve learned “hysterectomy” can be a dirty, or feared, word.  I don’t like that.  Women shouldn’t have to suffer through pain and other symptoms.  Or wonder if they’re alone.  So here’s my story.  I’ll updated it as necessary.  Fingers crossed for salvaged a meager race season with no expectations aside from fun and shenanigans!

Race Report

Race Report: 2018 CSU Cobb Lake Road Race

Pretty much the story goes… 9Seventy Racing helps volunteer at event, so since I had to be there anyway for a few hours… why not also “race” my bike a few hours?!

  1. I haven’t ridden more than 20 miles on my road bike since July
  2. I had ridden my road bike exactly two times outdoors since October
  3. Training… what the heck is “training?”

I’m actually quite a fan of the little Cobb Lake circuit course they put together, so I figured why not… if anything it would be a hard training ride, and since it’s an open category race for the women, it’s not like I ever have a chance at good results when roadie pros are coming out to it.  I did my first outdoor road ride of 2018 a handful of days before the race, and the bike seemed ok.

Just like in 2014, I stayed with the main pack until the first trip down the dirt segment, and then bye bye bye majority of the field.  ‘Tis cool… they probably train.  LOL!  I ended up working with three other girls for the next four laps.  There was a stiff wind from the south, so it was great to have bodies to hide behind.  It was tough… I found the dirt segment to take the most from me, as it was stupidly rough and it was hard finding that perfect gear to ride in.  Going up the climb to start the 5th lap I lost contact with two of the stronger chicks I was working with, so I got to do the lonely TT of soft pedaling shame for the last lap.  It wasn’t bad, almost felt like recovery, woo hoo!

I would finish 24th, in something like 2 hours 12 minutes.  I do believe that is faster than my 2014 time, so victory for me!

Hey, I showed up, I pinned on the number, and I gave it what I had to give.  I really can’t complain!  🙂

9Seventy Chick Squad out in force

I don’t have a lot to say… honestly.  Weird for my race reports, but road races tend to have less of the weirdness and thoughts that mountain bike racing has.  Most of the race I was just focused on my very sore sitz bones that haven’t been on a road bike for hours in a long time, and the weird clicking from my bottom bracket.

And… thanks to Tailwind Rebuild, I didn’t have soreness the next day and actually CRUSHED my trainer recovery ride!  Nothing like crushing 30 minutes at 115 watts 😉

Uncategorized

Heidi Does More Than Ride a Bike

I haven’t updated since July… and really, my life seemingly did a 180 in that time span.  My last couple of posts were about hiking a 14er and the need to do more than just bike bike bike.

So what did I do, July 2017 through today, January 13, 2018?

  • I showed up to a Laramie Mountain Bike Series race finally, mostly because they wanted the trophy back (the open series winner trophy is a roaming trophy that goes to the next winner every year).  I won race #5 in complete surprise, and in one of the toughest battles I have ever had in a XCO length race.  And I won thanks to my DESCENDING skills.  Yes, I won on the descents.  The DESCENTS.  Hands down one of the best days on a bike ever.  And marked the 3rd year in a row that I’ve won LMBS race #5 for open women.  It’s MY race, clearly.

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    Photo by Jessica Flock
  • I ran a couple more 5k’s.
  • I learned the Steamboat Stinger is best raced not hungover.
  • I climbed Mount Massive, which is the 3rd highest peak in the contiguous US.  2nd highest in Colorado.  I ate gummy bears, said embarrassing things about Slovaks, and enjoy more time with my great friend Lydia.
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  • I ran up Medicine Bow Peak.  RAN.
  • I skipped Dakota 5-O for photographing SCCA rallycross, which I haven’t been to since 2012.  I got dirty and giggled like a little kid during ride-a-longs
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  • I won 3 single speed cross races, and had poor results at most of the rest of them.  I won at taking beer hand ups.  Finished 2nd in the Colorado Cross Cup.

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    Photo by Brent Murphy
  • I raced in my first rallycross event and learned that mountain biking skills cross over to racing a car on dirt somewhat.  And I wasn’t last in any of the races I did.  #winning

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    Photo by Brent Murphy… convinced a cycling photographer to come join the gasoline side!
  • I camped in the snow.
  • The Boy and I road tripped to Moab for my 34 birthday.  He broke his hand 5 miles into the Whole Enchilada, and yet finished the rest of the ride (another 21 miles) by blowing me out the water on technical features.  We camped.  We off-roaded Fozzy and explored and drank Redd’s apple ale under the milky way.  We finished off with a hike up to Hanging Lake.
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  • I strapped on alpine skis for the first time in nearly 9 years and realized how amazingly awesome it is to fly down snowy hills.
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  • I purchased a plane ticket to Iceland after planning for 4 years and having to postpone the trip due to changing jobs in 2017.
  • I’ve done yoga since mid-October every single week.
  • I sat on my couch a lot.  I cuddled my cat.  I worried what was happening because I was not constantly riding a bike

I lived life.

Hope is not lost for the bicycle.  I think some people think this of me.  I think I finally just learned balance… or got the bug to just have a crazy life that involves a lot of different activities.

For 2018 I will continue racing for 9Seventy Racing, a team of kick ass multisport athletes.  I have registered for the Gunnison Half Growler for the 4th year in the row.  I have plans to race LMBS, Gowdy Grinder, Lory XTERRA (relay again), and Erock Sunrise to Sunset.  Maybe a little bit of road, though I’m not looking forward to renewing my USAC license.  I am requesting a downgrade to cat 1 in mountain bike, because let’s face it, my desire to be pro is long gone.  In between I will ski a lot, fat bike, avoid the trainer, camp, laugh, smile, sit on my ass if I want to, and furiously keep planning my 19 day trip to Iceland.

Here’s to 2018 and the adventures that lie ahead, regardless of if I ride bikes or not!

Uncategorized

Adventure weekend! Colorado Trail & Mount Yale

Because adventures in the mountains sound so much better than racing a hill climb!

When my new friend Lydia asked if anybody wanted to join her last weekend on a 14er hike I jumped at the chance, as I’ve been saying for years every summer that I’d climb a 14er.  With an iffy forecast we set out for Camp Hale north of Leadville early Saturday morning to ride the Colorado Trail from Camp Hale to Holy Cross Wilderness.  Luckily the weather remained goregous!

Camp Hale was part of the 10th Mountain Division training grounds during WWII.  At the end of our ride we spent several miles riding around looking at the ruins and reading the information signs that were around.

Can’t say I see this warning too often on a mountain bike ride
Ruins of bunkers at Camp Hale

This segment of the Colorado Trail was absolutely amazing!  The Camp Hale trail marathon was going on, so our first few miles were shared with trail runners, but soon we had the trails all to ourselves.  The trail gradually climbed up to Tennessee Pass, where we got to PET LLAMAS!  Tomas and Carlos had just finished up a 115 mile hike with their humans.  I love llamas, so this was definitely a highlight for me!

Carlos and Tomas!
We crossed the highway to get a photo with the pass sign
Flowy single track through green scenery
Parts of the trail had it’s share of chunk!
Looking for trolls!

We stopped short of the wilderness boundary as the trail turned quite rocky and hike-a-bike.  We didn’t quite realize how much climbing we had done until we turned around and absolutely flew all the way back to our cars!  With the riding around Camp Hale, the ride came in at 30 miles with just about 3000 feet of climbing.  Amazing day adventuring on the bikes with no pressure of going fast!

We swung through Leadville for some dinner, and then continued onto Buena Vista for a quick grocery store stop and then up Cottonwood Pass where we would car camp and get an early start on our Mount Yale hike

My new Fozzy makes an excellent tent! I am just barely too tall to comfortably lay straight out, but I slept pretty damn well considering! Oh, and I learned how to set off my own car alarm… whoops

5:30am came quickly and we got dressed in the chilly morning air and ate a quick snack before setting out.  Once again the forecast had called for iffy weather, so we hit the trail at exactly 6am in hopes of beating any bad storms.  First thing we noticed was how damn steep the trail is… Mount Yale is no joke in the case of steepness!

Steepness can be overlooked with scenes like this!
No really, this is so awful looking. Never hike a 14er in Colorado!

Getting ready to scramble

We took our time summiting, stopping for snacks and to rest.  Finally we reached the top, and it was so freaking amazing!  The weather was great, with barely any wind and mild temperatures (for being at 14,200 feet!)

Summit-hiking boot shot
A guy loaned us his cardboard sign, so had to take the opportunity to look like a typical Coloradoan!
I’m on a mountain selfie!
PB&J at 14,200

After enjoying a quick lunch on the summit we headed down.  Going down is what I dreaded the most as it’s so hard on the knees (and whole body as I would learn).  We found it easier at times to run, though it was difficult in big clunky hiking boots.  I see the appeal in trail running a 14er now for sure!  The last few miles were tough, and Lydia and I were total chatter boxes on the climb up and nearly silent the last few miles!  I limped behind, totally not enjoying myself, but as soon as I saw my car I felt so accomplished!

I’ve done two 14ers, Mount Evans and Pikes Peak, via road bike and found that to be easier in a sense than hiking them.  Plus the elevation didn’t bother me (backed by heart rate and power data) until about the 13,000 foot mark.  Hiking was a different story… my fingers and hands swelled considerably and I had a headache on the summit and it remained until I was below tree line.  I think hiking must use more muscles and oxygen demand was higher?  And my dumbass purposely did not bring my trekking poles… I should’ve!

Total trip was 9.7 miles with 4,326 feet of elevation gain!  Max elevation of course was the summit at 14,200 feet.  Starting point was about 9,925 feet according to my Garmin.  Not too shabby!  Total time with stops was 7 hours 15 minutes, with a moving time of 4 hours 3 minutes.

I’ve already started planning future hiking trips even though I’m still oh so sore!  Best way to prevent soreness is to do a lot of it, right?!  😀

Uncategorized

It’s not just about the bike.

Scrambling my way to the top of Mount Yale

Cycling has done incredible things for my life… from fitness and health to crazy adventures and places I never would’ve been, it’s been a great ride the last 5 years.  However, due to a character flaw of mine where I have to take something, and then take it to the extreme, in a way I lost myself over the last 5 years.  Riding a bike that was originally purchased to get me outside and exploring turned into racing full race schedules of both mountain bike and cyclocross, with a decent spring road season thrown in.  Goal was cat 1 license… then pro license… then a UCI points chase to become World Cup eligible.  I struggled to juggle life, the bike, goals, and missing out.  Missing out.  Missing out on fun rides because they wouldn’t be the “right” type of training, missing out on funner races because another race was somehow a better puzzle piece to the wannabe pro racer life, missing out on other adventures for fear of injury/taking time away from the bike, missing out on just hanging out.  Dealing with guilt.  Guilt when I didn’t ride, when I didn’t ride how I was suppose to ride, when I didn’t want to drag myself to another race.

Then 2017 came.  I didn’t train like I usually do, but was still reaching FTP goals.  Then I got sick for well over a month in the spring which knocked me on my ass.  Nonetheless, I had a crazy successful road season in my first go as a cat 3.  But I wasn’t happy.  I had to sit down and revaluate what I wanted from a bicycle.  I realized I liked the IDEA of racing a World Cup more than actually putting in the money time, effort to try to actually do so.  I liked the IDEA of racing constantly but when it came down to it, the travel, time, money was tiresome.  I was sick of putting guilt on myself when I didn’t ride.  I hated feeling like I was expected, though not sure by who, to show up at certain races or perform a certain way.  So I stopped.  My mountain bike race calendar got chopped to fewer and fewer races.  Sometimes I rode like shit (Gunnison Half Growler), sometimes there was the flicker of a well trained pro license holder (Erock Sunrise to Sunset).  I decided to not show up to a Laramie Mountain Bike Series race unless I truly wanted to (4 races into the 6 race series and I haven’t been to a single one).  I wasn’t racing any road hill climbs, even though I am a current national champion in that discipline.  I decided if my heart wasn’t into it, I wouldn’t do it.  If I decided I wanted to run a 5k instead of riding on a weekend, I would.  I would take chances, experience new things.

I remember reading a blog years and years ago when I first started riding by an up and coming U23 pro mountain biker, and how she described just walking away from pro cycling after Sea Otter one year and I remember being so confused and couldn’t understand why anyone would do that.  I judged her pretty hard honestly, mostly because at that time I would’ve given anything to be racing at world championship events and living the pro life.  But I get it now, though I was nowhere near her level.

It’s not just about the bike.  I am more than a bicycle.

I can’t say whether this is a permanent change or just a relief from the past several years of heavy racing and training schedules.  But I’m liking it, and doing some new things!  I’ve actually gone for a run at 6:15am.  I’ve climbed a 14er on foot after setting that goal 5 years ago.  I’ve gone on some long mountain biking adventures and petted llamas and ignored Strava.  I’ve camped in Mr. Fozzy for other reasons than a bike race.  I’ve mowed my lawn and watered it faithfully instead of letting it burn up because I needed to be riding a bike instead of moving a sprinkler around every 30 minutes.  I’ve lived a more normal life where riding a bike is a part of it, NOT my entire life.

I’m looking forward to a healthier balance on racing, with a bit of Steamboat Stinger thrown in as a duo and hopefully actually enjoying Dakota 5-O this year versus just going through the motions.  Naturally, I am tentatively planning on a full cyclocross season because cross is cross and cross is awesome, but really I am not committing to anything at this point.  I actually am considering a trail running race even!

Race Report

Race Report: Return to Tatanka

Last year at the Tatanka point to point race in Sturgis, SD I had a breakthrough race where I learned that 1) I can race a bike longer than 90 minutes, and 2) Heat doesn’t automatically kill me.  I had an amazing time riding really awesome trails.  So earlier this summer I decided to throw my hat into the race again.

Then I started to get hesitant…

It was suppose to be mid-90s.  I haven’t been riding a lot.  My right knee exploded on a road century attempt.  And the realization that because I did so well last year, I had personal expectations to do even better.  But what if I couldn’t?!  Argh.

So I packed up and headed up to Sturgis, about 4:40 of a drive on Friday morning.  The drive actually really wore me down, and my right knee was aching anytime I couldn’t use cruise control.  Great, not even riding a bike yet and I’m in pain!  I picked up my packet once I got into town, and asked to see the start list.  I only recognize Jen Toops’ name (strong endurance pro from Ohio who I think is leading the NUE marathon series), and noted the lack of Colorado pro racers.  Shoot, now I really have to race as I might have a chance! I thought… to my dismay.  I don’t know, it’s easier to know you won’t podium because the field is stacked deep with legit full-time pros.

Drove up to Hog Heaven and grabbed the spot I wanted since last year… nice and shady and down in the trees.  I set up camp, and took to staring at my bike, hoping it would do my race openers for me.  Finally I kitted up and headed out into the 90 degree sun.  Surprisingly, I felt really good.  I hadn’t ridden since Tuesday due to the heat, but legs felt peppy.  I ended up doing some hill repeats and riding 7 miles in the campground.  Hmm… so I felt good.  Time to see what the morning would bring!

Thanks to my shady spot, I managed to sleep in longer than last year, waking up at 6:44am, and then dozing on and off until 8am.  I was going to ride down to the shuttle pick up with another gal I met at the campground named Cindy, who was racing in her 3rd ever mountain bike race!  I ran and got my egg white McMuffin from McDonalds, and enjoyed an earlier breakfast than last year, and drank lots of water and a bottle with a Fizz tablet in it to get loaded up on electrolytes.  At 10am we left for the downhill cruise to load up our bikes and wait for the shuttle to Piedmont.  On the shuttle ride I choked down a PB&J Bonk Breaker bar, and another bottle of water.  Here goes nothing…

Pre-race photo with Cindy from Michigan

The organization of the start was smoother this year, and we didn’t have to stand as long on the hot pavement, though I watched my Garmin creep up to 100 degrees.  The start was completely different this year with no Karen Jarchow and Alex Pond to blast off the line, and I found myself and Jen leading out with some men on the “neutral” pavement part.  Last year I was out of breathe and dropped hard on this part, but felt strong this year and as we turned onto the Dalton Creek gravel road climb to the start of the single track.  Jen was riding strong and hanging onto the wheels of the men in front of her, and I tried my best to stick with her, but found myself gapped.  I grappled in my head on if I was going out too hard, but eventually said F it, go hard, see what happens.  I won’t lie, I had pictured a podium finish in my mind, so I decided to just go for it.

Single track went well, and unlike the previous year I cleared the first few rock gardens.  Suddenly there was a fork in the trail and the guy in front of me that was off his bike yelled “they’re going the wrong way, this is the right way!” So I followed him, thankful he pointed that out.  At this point I was in first, but it wouldn’t take long before Jen would be back on course and powering past me.  I just concentrated on settling into my pace, which was hard, but not balls to the wall.  One of the guys behind me was overheard saying “We have an engine pulling us!”

Due to logging in the area, the first aid station came about a mile sooner, about 5 miles in, and instead of jumping onto the single track of the Centennial Trail, we started a very long grindy fire road climb out of the aid station.  I wasn’t going to stop but a cup of cold water tempted me, which I took a sip and then dumped on me.  No time to waste and I set out grinding up the dirt road in the hot sun.  In a way this change was nice, as I could just settle into a rhythm without worrying about rocks and roots and sharp changes in gradient.  We eventually turned off into primitive single track that was overgrown and rough, and I just lightly spun.  After that trail we spit out onto another road climb which was covered with cat head sized rocks where were awful to ride out.  I started swearing and decided the race promoters must hate us.

Surprisingly, when we re-joined the Centennial Trail I realized we were a lot further down the course that I thought, and set up for the first big descent of the day… steep, lose, with tight switchbacks at the most unfortunate moments.  Immediately my handling skills felt off and I couldn’t get in a good grove with my bike, so I knew I wasn’t descending as fast as I could and definitely not as smoothly.  But I made it without incidence, and start plodding back uphill when the descent ended.  I was kinda of shocked at how fast the course was flying by due to the change in the earlier parts and soon I found myself down in the creek bed jungle, which they had politely trimmed back this year, so visibility was a lot better and the poison ivy a little further away from human contact.  I had one near crash as I haphazardly left the trail but saved it with a quick unclipping and change in my balance.  The creek beds were dry this year, and not as slippery, so I rode more of them than last year.

After the longest mile ever, I plopped out at the final aid station, where a kid immediately put an iced bandana on my neck and other volunteers set to refilling my camelback, getting me Coke, filling my bottle, and feeding me watermelon.  Someone let me know I was the second women in, which I nodded in agreement.  I knew exactly where I was, and I knew I couldn’t get too comfortable off the bike for too long as I had no idea the gap back to the third.  With my pack back on, bottle filled with cold water, and a big glob of ice down the back of my jersey, I set out for the last 20 miles.

The climbs out of the aid station are a bit heart breaking, but I plodded on, happy to have the stinging pain of frozen skin on my back from the ice and knowing there were some serious descents coming up.  Last year I had some pretty serious cloud cover at this point which helped out mentally and physically, but this year was nothing but hot sun and blue skies.  On the first long descent I started catching sprint and kid racers, which was a little hairy due to the speeds I would come up on them.  Luckily everyone was great with moving aside!  Down down down… aching feet and sore hands as they chaffed with my wet gloves.  I never wanted the descending to be over so much in my life!  Finally the climb up Bulldog arrived.  Last year I was quite proud of myself for clearing the 13% average climb, but I rode maybe the first third of it this year and jumped off and walked.  Walking kinda felt good, and I really had nothing to prove by riding it!

Bulldog descent went ok.  I took it cautiously, knowing it would be easy to lose my podium place or the whole race by getting too ballsy on the descent.  Plopping out into the meadow felt great… until I went off course.  Because it is not the Tatanka MTB Race if you’re actually staying on course (Everyone I talked to this year went off course at least once… course markings can be… not great).  I saw a bunch of white streamers marking a turn onto single track so I grabbed the brakes and turned onto it.  Luckily it didn’t take me long to realize it was not leading me under I-90 properly, so I turned around and hauled ass back to the Centennial Trail, pissed off at myself for turning off.  Under I-90… yay!

Well, not yay.  They changed the end of the course from the Ft. Meade trails of last year, which weren’t that bad, to a newly re-vamped section of the Centennial Trail.  I really had no idea what to expect, but I was expecting something similar to last year.  Oh no, oh no… why would it be like that?  I was not prepared for the long climb to follow on moondust, which made traction hard and killed my willpower so I just started walking the climbs.  I swore more, especially every time I rounded a corner and saw the trail continuing up.  Dammit dammit dammit, this isn’t want I was wanting!  The sun was hot an this section was very exposed.  There was some descending before a steep climb up and then double track climb.  OMG it’s never ending!  I was sad I watched the time click away, nothing I wouldn’t impressively beat last year’s time with the new course changes.

Some of the descents on this section were just stupid with 6-12″ of powdery mood dust to suck in your front tires.  When will this be over?  Another super fast descent… to another climb.  ARGHHH… but wait… bike path up ahead!  YESSS!  Luckily I was warned by another racer who rode several miles in the wrong direction on how to properly get on the bike path (once again, kinda sketchy course marking) and settled in for a few miles of being a roadie.  Glances over my should assured that no one was close, and legs felt good enough that I knew I could throw in a sprint if I had to, but I was happy that I wouldn’t have to.  The finish line was about .75 mile further down the path from last year, which added insult to injury to entire section after crossing under I-90.

4 hours 30 minutes.  Done and done!  Best marathon MTB finish and first NUE podium!

And I still beat last year’s time by 4 minutes even with the last bit of Centennial Trail moon dust madness!

Marathon open women podium!
Jen and I with our buffalo trophies

I just might have to come back next year and hope I can win another buffalo 😀

Nutrition:
2 liters with 6 scoops of Tailwind green tea caffeinated endurance fuel and 1.5 scoops of lemon endurance fuel with water topped in it at the aid station.  Had 1 liter left at the finish of the watered down mixture.  One slice of watermelon.  Two 22oz bottles of plain water.  Cup of Coke.

Mistakes:  No sunscreen on my face.  No chamois butter on my hands to prevent my gloves from chaffing.  Also forgot a stick of Tailwind to dump on at the refill.  I don’t have my crap together when it comes to bike racing this year really!

Race Report

Race Report: 2017 Half Growler

All smiles on Collarbone Alley (Photo by Dave Kozlowski)

It was just one of those days…

2017 marked my third time racing the Half Growler in Gunnison, CO.  Great but challenging course and great little town just keeps bringing me back for more… even after all the mud of 2015!  This year I was hoping to break the 4 hour marked since I came within 4 minutes of that last year.  Easier said than done! Odd years marked a clockwise course, which is supposedly “easier.”  They changed up the course a bit, taking out the long powerline road descent to pavement, and added in a lot more single track near the end.

Friday I did a short 10 mile ride to wake my legs up, and they just didn’t want to wake up.  I didn’t get too concerned, as I’ve had pre-ride days of feeling like crap and then having good races.  I was able to sleep fairly well and woke up about 7-ish to get ready.  Like the two prior years, I struggled with figuring out what to wear, settling on a stretchy long sleeve base layer under my jersey, and big wool socks.

Somewhere in that with an orange helmet! (Photo by Matt Burt)

The neutral start managed to have a crash on the pavement that I avoided.  The “neutral my ass” start was a lot faster and everyone strung out really quickly.  That, or I was just a lot slower.  Kill Hill went ok, and then started a long, double track grind of a few miles or so to the single track.  I think that’s why I don’t like the clockwise direction… going counterclockwise we descended rather quickly after Kill Hill, which I think gave some recovery.  On the doubletrack I watched myself go backwards through the field, and kinda settled in mentally of just surviving.

Suffering is better when the scenery is like this! (Photo by Dave Kozlowski)

It was great to enjoy this direction without all the mud, hail, and rain of 2015!  It was going by fast, especially when I realized it was time to climb to the highest point of the race and then descend to the biggest aid station at Skull Pass.  I felt like I was riding pretty well technically, riding some stuff that more familiar with, but still walking some stuff that I felt like wasn’t worth the risk.  I would even go off some drop on Skull Pass and feel my saddle hit my stomach, which is always an eery feeling (oh yeah, what dropper post?  That damn thing I keep forgetting to use…). I had forgotten to lube my chain before the race, so I was being treated by the Song of My Chain’s People, which was getting rather irritating.

At the aid station I stopped to fill my water bottle and eat half a banana.  Filling my bottle took way longer than expected, but I was on my way… until I saw a mechanic set up, who threw my bike up on his stand and slathered it in gooey thick glorious chain lube.  “Thanks, now I’ll be able to hear my thoughts,” I told him, to which he replied, “Are you sure that’s a good thing?”

He was probably onto something.

The descent down and out of Enchanted Forest went well, and I found course traffic to be considerably thinned, but I continued to go backwards as people caught and passed me.  I knew my goal time of 3:59 was busted, and just settled in to survive.  My bike handling was getting messy, and at times I even struggled to get on and off my bike.  My legs felt so incredibly dead, but then again, maybe I was just thinking they were dead.  On and on I pedaled.  At first it seemed like the weather would unleash it’s wrath, but luckily Michelle protected us all by putting on her rain jacket, and the sky cleared up!  The wind did kick up, and it could get a bit much on some of the high ridges.  Came across a Coke aid station, and the lady told me 4 miles, and I made her swear that she wasn’t lying and we all had a good chuckle.  With the new single track out of the way, I knew it was one long grind up a hill, descent down, and then all the Ridge trail nonsense and then the finish would be near.

Seriously, the scenery! (Photo by Matt Burt)

Ridge actually went a little quicker than 2015, but I walked a lot.  I’m weird with exposure and cliffs, and with my noodle arms it was better.  I was so happy to hit Tail Pipe, as I knew the finish was so soon!  I followed a guy up Tail Pipe with another girl behind me.  As we hit the small bit of road that leads to Collarbone Alley I sized them up, and decided that I had been riding for 35 miles, and dammit, nothing was going to damper my fun on what has become a favorite short trail of mine!  So I downshifted and passed them before, hit the dropper, and told the guys directing me onto the trail “This is my favorite part, I’m not missing it!” to which they cheered.

4 hours and 22 minutes.

Done to my relief.

Then I heard the announcer say I placed 4th in pro women and I started crying.  Because it ain’t an endurance race without some sort of crying!

(Turns out Karen was mis-classed into age group, so I would officially be placed 5th when they moved her into pro.  DFL, just like last year, by over an hour.  But hey, I beat the girl who registered but was a DNS!)

I won’t lie, I’m disappointed I didn’t meet my time goal and I don’t really have an excuse.  My body just didn’t show up to this race.  But I did finish my third Half Growler, which isn’t too shabby!  Initially I said “Oh hell no, it’s time to find another Memorial Weekend activity,” but by the next day I was thinking it’s time to plan for next year, which very well might be the direction that suits me a bit better!  (Rumor has it they might stop reversing the course direction every year, though…)  I do notice small things that help, like more confidence descending and I feel like I did well holding my descending form throughout the whole race.

It’s great, because every since the race my legs and body have been on fire and I’ve been riding strong.  Thanks, body.  Love you right back…

Nutrition plan:

Breakfast – Egg White McMuffin, hash brown, medium Hi-C Orange

During Race – 2 liter Camelback with 2 scoops of Tailwind Green Tea Caffeinated Endurance Fuel and 5 scoops of Tailwind Lemon Endurance Fuel, half banana, 6 ounce can of Coke, 30-ish ounces of plain water

I drank 1.5 liters out of my Camelback.  Which beats last year, where I drained maybe only two inches out of it.  Nutritionally, I felt well fueled and hydrated!  Mixing the two flavors and types of Tailwind I thought was great, as I got a small bit of caffeine but not the crazy amount I usually consume when I do straight caffeinated mixes (which I think contributes to late race hallucinations I’ll have of cats and gnomes… or maybe that just happens when I race in South Dakota).  Lemon and green tea mixed well together flavor wise.  I think I’ll experiment more with mixing.

So come December 1st, I think I’ll be giving it a 4th go at the Half Growler… eventually I’ll break 4 hours, right?

Race Report

Race Report: Battle the Bear – Marathon 57 Mile

Jake Holschuh Photography

Hey, what’s the best way to start off mountain bike race season?!  57 miles at Bear Creek Lake State Park for Battle the Bear!

So, I don’t always have the best ideas 🙂  In my defense, Battle the Bear would be one of the first opportunities to race a mountain bike this year in this region.  Since I have a lot of long endurance races on the plate and I knew I didn’t quite have the “Race 30 miles flat out on this course that favors power” fitness, I chose the marathon, or 57 mile, option.  I hadn’t raced at this venue since 2014, but at least was familiar with it and it’s conditions.  Yep, I totally understestimated how hard it was to do 57 miles there!

I opted to race age group, and all of the age group women would start together.  From the start we formed a pack of maybe 6 or so that stuck together as we wound through the trees in the single track along the creek.  I really like this portion of the course as it’s fun, has shade, and thanks to recent rains the dirt was tacky in the corners.  First lap would spread out a bit more once we popped out of the trees, but I was still sitting in second and felt like I was riding strong.  In an unlucky moment probably a mile or so before the finish of the lap my chain would bounce off on the pedal side, and I had to stop to get it back on, and a girl from my age group would pass me, putting me in 3rd place.  Dammit!

First lap start (Jake Holschuh Photography)

Second also went well… but all I could think in the bright sun was I have three more laps of this shit?!

Herein lies the problem with marathon/endurance races in a multiple lap format:  you get the privilege of riding past your car, expo area, cold drinks, shade, people relaxing over and over and over.  And by privilege, I mean the horror and frustration of riding past your car, the expo area, cold drinks, shade, and relaxing people over and over and over.

Urgh.  I like races where I know the only practical way back to my car and the only way to see my car again is to continue on for another 50 miles down the trail.

Third lap done… fourth lap done.  Occasionally passing age group men that I catch, and getting passed by the fast pro/age group men.  It’s hot, over 80 degrees.  My knees felt like rotten watermelons, or at least what I assumed a rotten watermelon would feel like.  My hands felt like they were blistering (don’t wear brand new gloves during a 57 mile race… like I did).  I came across that start/finish line for my fifth and final lap, and gave it one big sigh and set out for the final 11-12 miles.  Meh.

Sometimes I can corner on a bicycle. Thank goodness I was having one of those days! (Jake Holschuh Photography)

This lap I started catching kids in their race, which can sometimes be a hairy experience.  I followed one little girl on a fat bike up a decent hill, and she stood up and sprinted up it out of the saddle.  OK, thanks for making me feel super slow, little fat bike rockstar as I chugged up in my granny 40t cog and baby chain ring.  I caught another girl on another big climb and told her that her pace was great and that I had already rode 50 miles so I didn’t need to pass.  She paced me quite well up the hill, but I gave distance on the descent, which was lucky because she had a big crash.  I stopped and grabbed her bike out of the trail and then scooted her out of the way of descending boys.  Little kids are so brave as you could tell she was fighting back tears, but was saying she was OK.  I got her back up on her bike and we set out on our own separate ways to finish our races.  Lost a few minutes, but at that point I really didn’t care.

I continued on, trying to finish strong.  About halfway through this final lap my Camelback gave me that final slurp of my Tailwind mixture and then air.  I finally managed to drain my pack during a race!  I had an entire bottle of Tailwind on my bike (already had drank my bottle of pure water), but the idea of 85 degree liquid didn’t seem appealing so I’d ride the rest of the race with an intense desire for cold water… even considered drinking out of the creek, weighing the symptoms of giardia vs the satisfaction of cold water.

I limped up Mt Carbon one last time and then onto the bits of single track that take you in the opposite direction of the finish and then back around.  A junior girl racer came up behind me leading up to the most “technical” section of the race, which was just a very short, steep downhill with slight rocky ledges to drop off of.  Had to laugh as I dropped my saddle and bombed down it and railed the left hand corner at the bottom, which means I dropped the junior racer for a total of 15 seconds until we came upon the hill to climb up to the finish.  Hey, gotta succeed on the parts that are still an advantage to me in my old age and higher weight! Haha!

It was probably the most pathetic of all my race finishes, as usual I can sprint, or smile, or something, but I soft pedaled up to the finish and was oh so relieved that the 4 hours and 57 minutes of Battle the Bear was finally over!  First stop?  The water tank with ice cold water:D

I would end up finish 3rd in my 19-34 women’s age group, and was satisfied that I finished under 5 hours and wasn’t the last off the course.  To me it’s early season, and I was coming off a lot of fatigue and achy knees from a tough gravel grinder and 10.5 hour training week leading up to the race.  I knew mentally I wasn’t very motivated, mostly due to the heat and multi-lap format.  One thing that was awesome is I didn’t not stop during this race except for a 15 second mental reset where I told myself to pull up my big girl pants and stop whining, and then while I helped the little girl who crashed.  Usually during my longer races I stop at aid stations, so this was something new as I wasn’t off the bike probably more than 2 minutes tops the whole race.

Details:

Nutrition strategy:  My egg white McMuffin was cold by the time I went to eat it, so I literally only had a hash brown and latte for breakfast (can’t do cold eggs texture wise).  I ate a Larabar pre-race, and immediately took a Honey Stinger gel with caffeine while staging.  I might’ve been slightly freaking out about my complete f-up of breakfast (I was a hot mess in my lack of preparation for mountain bike racing).

During race nutrition was 2 liters of water with Tailwind caffeinated green tea endurance fuel mixed in my Camelback.  I also consumed a 21 ounce bottle of plain water, and one Clif pouch of mango and banana.  No hunger, no growling stomach, no cramps!  Once again another long race fueled perfectly by Tailwind!

I rode my 2016 Specialized Epic Expert Carbon, which is my primary race bike.  First ride on my new Maxxis Ikon tires, and though I went on the high end of the tire pressure range, they gripped and I was able to have fun in the twisty single track!  ESI limited edition purple chunky grips were under my hands. Love this bike for the ability to carry two bottles, so I could have plain water and also a back up bottle of Tailwind for if/when I drained my pack.  And having the 2×11 drivetrain was great as I went from big ring power climbing to spinning my granniest of gears.