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Switching it up

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When I posted up that I had randomly registered for a 5k on Facebook several people asked me if I was ill.

Good thing I wasn’t really kidnapped, or ill, or running against my will because no one came to save me!

I don’t know, maybe I’m just flat burnt out on cycling.  So my mind has been wandering to other things I could do, and I’ve been spending a lot of time being lazy.  In August I randomly decided to go swimming for the first time in three years, and surprised myself by swimming 1000 meters, which was way above and beyond what I had ever done before.  I had to rest a lot, and I was out of breath, but it felt fun to do something a bit different, especially since it is considerably easy to do after work.  Unfortunately I have been dealing with pretty severe shoulder pain since my road race crash in June, so I only gave swimming a go twice before I decided to seek out medical advice on my shoulder.

So the natural progression was to randomly start running, which is another thing I have not done since 2013.  OK, not very smart to go couch-to-5k in a span of an instant, but hey, that’s my style!  Randomly registered for Cheyenne’s Freedom 5k on a Friday afternoon, and found myself pinning a race number on by 8am Saturday morning.  Luckily my friend Gretchen was also running, so I had someone to hang out with (and her two adorable Italian Greyhounds).

Starting off near the front I looked down in the first quarter mile and saw a 7:30 pace on my Garmin and freaked out.  My previous 5k times (as an adult) were 33:50 and 35:49, so I knew a 7:30 pace was not sustainable in any sense, especially since I DO NOT RUN.  I really wanted to break a 30 minute 5k, so I tried to settle in the 9:45-9:50 pace range.  Oh boy, did it hurt.  My legs, conditioned by 3 years of strictly cycling, were very confused on what to do.  I actually asked a bystander with a bike at one point if I could borrow it, they told me it would be cheating.  Ha!

Coming down the final block was amazing, but my competitive edge took over and I looked behind me and then started sprinting so no one else would pass me.  Considering I spent the entire race going backwards through the field, I really wanted to finish “strong,” whatever that would be.  I’m sure I look like a dying giraffe while trying to run regardless!  I cross the finish at 28:45.  Instantly my legs locked up; not cramping really, just didn’t want to move.  I stumbled over to see that I finished 86th overall (out of 186), and found Gretchen and collapsed onto the ground.  I was super happy to have taken 5 minutes off my 5k PR with absolutely no running training, but HOLY HELL IT HURT.  Seriously, sign me up for a 50 mile mountain bike race or a jaunt up Pikes Peak on a road bike any day over a 5k!

Later in the day and the next day were absolutely miserable as every single muscle that isn’t used in a pedaling motion rioted against what had happened to them.  From my ankles to my butt I winced in pain as I attempted to hobble around.  My friend Nichole remarked on my “8 months pregnant waddle” I had going on at work that night!  Five days out and I’m just left with very tight and occasionally crampy hamstrings.  Which makes me wonder…

What could running be like if I, you know, trained?

Hmmm…

Cross training is good.  Like I mentioned earlier, aside from a triathlon and a handful of days running in 2013 and XC skiing once this past winter, I have done nothing but pedal a bicycle for years.  Across different disciplines, but still a bicycle.  I’ve had the highest highs and lowest lows on a bicycle, but unfortunately this year have struggled with motivation and coming out of a serious crash.  I’ve really started to re-evaluate what I want out of competitive cycling, at least over the course of the next year as I analyze if I could return to structure training with commitment and motivation to follow through.  So maybe switching up stuff could go good.  As I slip further into laziness and sedentary habits, I know anything that gets me up and moving will be a good idea and preserve fitness as well.

So I’ll see where this leads!

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Race Report: Tatanka Point to Point 50k

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Goodness, I am still so excited about this race!!!!

So I have some “rules:”

  • I don’t do heat
  • I am not an endurance mountain bike racer.  I am a 80-100 minute XCO racer.

The Tatanka 50k involved both things that break my rules… predicted 95 degree weather and 35 miles of South Dakota single track.  But I signed up regardless, as I know the Black Hills are gorgeous and I figured it would be a good teaser for September’s Dakota 5-O.  I vowed I’d survive and at least enjoy the sights as I suffered.

Since the NUE series now has a marathon category some heavy hitting pros are coming out, so I knew a podium probably would not happen (probably).  Waiting around for the noon start was pretty tortuous, and we all were talking about the heat as we fought for shade at the Piedmont elementary school we were starting at.  The start was a few miles of “neutral” roll out (these things are never neutral… my heart rate was pegged and I was getting gapped) before we turned onto a bit up gravel up Dalton Creek to the single track that would tie us into the Aid Station #3, meeting the epic (80 mile) course racers and the Centennial Trail which would take us back to Sturgis.

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6 miles in at the first aid station on my course! (Photo Milissa Melle)

The sun was beating down on us, and I know my Garmin said 108 degrees at the start (Karen’s even read 111!), as we climbed up the gravel.  It hurt as I struggled to warm up my legs and figure out how this whole day would go.  I came into the aid station at 6 miles in with rather good spirits, and topped off my bottle since it would be a grueling 14 miles until I could get water again.  The starting climbs on the Centennial Trail were tough, and I made friends with my small chainring, and had some mental talk about how I cannot go to a 1x drivetrain on my next XC race bike purchase.

We came to a summit, and I caught a good rhythm, and we popped out onto some fire road.  I was sitting in 4th place, which I was quite pleased about.  Unfortunately, I got a little too complacent on the fire road descent, and blew past the turn back onto the trail.  My mistake would add about 1.5 miles.  I finally realized my mistake when I hadn’t seen a “bull’s head” trail marker in awhile, and I heard voices above me in the trees on the hillside.  I turned around and frantically began climbing on pure adrenaline, swearing up a storm.  I came upon the turn just as another gal was turning onto it and I get even more pissed that I had given away race positions.  I race on many courses that I am super familiar with, or that are all taped off, so I got a bit relaxed in paying attention to the course markings… can’t blame anyone but myself.  Luckily I re-passed that gal rather quickly and settled into trying to make up time for my mistake, unsure how many other women were able to gain spots on me.

The single track of the Centennial Trail is just amazing… well maintained, beautiful, and fun!  Though I did realize that riding on a bed of pine needles is soul sucking as it absorbs your speed, so sections where you’d expect high speeds you really felt like you were struggling to keep moving.  My legs had come under me and felt strong and happy.  I was carrying one bottle of plain water and then a 2L Camelback with Tailwind caffeinated green tea endurance fuel.  Due to the heat everything was so warm, but I’ve discovered that the green tea flavor remains very palatable at hot temps.  I reminded myself to drink often.  Surprisingly, I wasn’t really feeling the heat and it was pushed out of my mind, especially once we had cloud cover.  The climbs are rewarded with long, fast downhills.  I settled in with a guy who was playing music, which was actually enjoyable.  I kept asking if he wanted around on the descents, but he sat in, and got to witness my sketchy downhill switchback riding!  I had one near wreck on a switchback, but managed to unclip a foot and keep it all upright (skillz, yo).  The descents were so long my feet would start to ache and hands cramp up, and I joked that “what goes down, must come up!” as we began climbing again.

Up, down, up, down through the shade of the pines in the Black Hills.  I began to notice the strangest thing happening… I was passing other racers.  In endurance races I spend my time going backwards through the field, with people always catching and passing me.  But it wasn’t happening during this race!  It was so surreal!  It really lit my fire, kept me motivated.  Holy sh!t, I am having a really great day! I thought to myself.  On an ascent I caught a glimpse at another woman I recognized from the start line, and I silently swore as I realized I was at least in 5th place.  So I vowed to try to catch her.

The trail finally came to the creek bottom, and the weeds and plant life were taller than me (someone later told me we were riding through a field of poison ivy… oh, so that’s what it looks like…).  It made for some sketchy riding, as you couldn’t see stumps and rocks alongside the very narrow trail that could be trying to catch a wheel or pedal, and with limited visibility you’d find yourself spat out onto a dry creek bed without much warning.  Luckily all the stream crossings were dry, as some years it’s waist deep (which would be a nightmare situation for me and my fear of water).  However, they remained tricky to cross, with mobile basketball sized rocks to try to ride across, most slimy with moss that made them slippery.  I had to get off a couple of times for 10-20 feet, but nothing too bad.  Finally a sign appeared stating it was one mile until the trailhead, which is where the final aid station would be located.

Coming up to the Elk Creek aid station they had placed super cute signs advertising what there was.  My favorite one said “Choco Latte Milk!!” which made me laugh, as the idea of chocolate milk was completely unappealing at the moment, but it was fun to let it roll off my tongue several times… choco latte, choco latte!  Upon pulling into the aid station, amid cheers from the volunteers, I spotted the women I had been chasing, relaxing and hanging out.  As a volunteer placed a heavenly-cold bandana around my neck I filled my bottle, topped off my Camelback, and downed half a can of ice cold Coke (my only non-Tailwind thing consumed!).  I didn’t want to waste any time, so I thanked the volunteers, strapped my pack back on, and got moving to more cheers of encouragement – “Only 17 more miles, mostly downhill!”

I was 19 miles in and feeling great.

Surreal.

I found myself out of the saddle attacking climbs.  I came across more racers, marathon and epic both, walking their bikes on climbs and I powered past them.  I had spied the other lady out of the corner of my eye leaving the aid station, so I knew she’d was back there.  Out of the saddle, spin those legs, attack attack attack!  The clouds had moved in and thunder rolled, cooling the temps to the high 70s/low 80s.  The wind picked up and it felt great to have circulating air after the stifling creek bed jungle of poisonous plants and who knows what creepy crawly critters.  I passed another guy, and found myself on a summit, and settled in for a lonely 7 miles of riding by myself, including about 3 miles of straight descending.

My wrists hurt, my feet screamed.  I was so thankful that I had replaced my worn, bald tires, and that Anthony installed a new rear brake rotor for me, as I needed all the help I could get!  I still descended within my means, knowing that I didn’t want to crash.  The dark storm darkened the already shady trails.  I became hyper focused on the trail markers, not wanting to miss another turn.  I let out some hoots and hollers and began talking to myself as some weird delirium had begun to set in.

The trail turned up again to top out at the “Bulldog.”  I was amazed at how fast the last 17 miles were flying by – that volunteer didn’t lie!  The climb was TOUGH… averaging 13%, with many steeper sections.  I vowed to stay pedaling, passing two more racers who cheered me on as I let out some incomprehensible groan of pain as I granny-grinded up the whole thing!  Whole damn thing!!!  Who was this person riding my bike?!  This isn’t the non-endurance racer Heidi who can’t race in heat!

About this time I started seeing things.  Legit seeing things!  Black bears for tree stumps… lawn gnomes.  Focus Heidi.  I eyed the storm clouds, and begun to worry about my tent blowing away back at Hog Heaven Campground.  Gotta pedal faster, gotta save my tent!  I had already spent a few hours cussing myself out about missing that one turn, so at least I was worrying about something else.  My precious tent! Underwear and sleeping bag flying through the air!  Hurry, time to descend Bulldog quickly… gotta save my tent!

Plop… out onto the prairie.  I could see I-90.  Oh my gosh, getting so close!  Second bobble of the day, almost fell off on of the super high cattle guard gates, but I caught myself.  Laughed with a sprint distance racer about how scary the I-90 tunnel was.  Turned onto the power line climb and saw within striking distance the kit of my competitor.  It clicks… OH HELL NO I AM NOT LOSING THIS POSITION!  I downshifted into a tough gear.  It was a long, power climb.  I’m a power climber.  I can put down the serious watts and I told myself that I could do it, that I wasn’t feeling pain (which I wasn’t, my legs were still feeling completely fresh).  Once again I was out of the saddle, forcing myself to go faster.  As I turned onto the Fort Meade single track I checked behind me and all I saw was a male epic racer.  OK… time to focus.  The single track was sandy and loose and you had to take the descents with care.  This was no time to lose my race, getting careless while descending.

Finally the Sturgis bike path appeared.  Home stretch!  This is about the time I felt the first ping of hunger. Wow, my nutrition was on point!  I regrouped with the epic rider and we chatted as we rolled towards the park, by the track, and into the finishing straight.

4 hours 34 minutes 23 seconds.

I HAD RACED AN ENDURANCE RACE.  THE HEAT DID NOT BOTHER ME.  I BROKE BOTH MY RULES.

Pretty much I was bouncing off the walls with excitement.  I just couldn’t believe it!  And, after some waiting, it turns out that I had finished in 4th, meaning I gained back my spots I had lost while I was out riding some extra credit fire road miles!

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All done!

In-race Fueling breakdown:

  • 2L Camelback with 6 scoops of Tailwind Nutrition caffeinated green tea mix
  • 24oz bottle refilled twice with plain water
  • half can of Coke
  • 3 Hammer Endurolyte tablets

Pre-race, since I had tons of time to kill between waking up at 6:30am and race start at noon I drank, drank, drank and drank some more water!  I think I peed 6-8 times before the race started!  I did do one bottle with a Hammer Fizz tablet in it so I would have electrolytes on board.  I ate half a bagel shortly after waking up, handful of gummy worms.  At 10am I had an Egg White McMuffin, Mcdonald’s hash brown, small Hi-C Orange drink, and small iced vanilla non-fat latte.  On the shuttle to Piedmont I ate half a Bonk Breaker PB&J bar.

I had… well, I just had no idea I could do something like this!  I haven’t been riding much, especially over the last 3 weeks since my crash.  The two days I rode before the race my legs screamed at me and I felt dead.  I almost considered not starting the race as I rode the day before around the campground… I felt that crappy.  I wonder how much becomes mental… like I’ve convinced myself so much that I’m “not” an “endurance” racer that I just go with no motivation or drive to keep pushing.  Just somehow for Tatanka it all clicked and finally things came together and I had one of my best races ever… nutrition, hydration, keeping the heat from defeating me.  Arghhhh, so happy!

So during a race season that hasn’t seemed to quite work out like I had planned, the Tatanka 50k ended up being a high point and giving me motivation to finish out the rest of my races with more positive thoughts!

Mr. Allosaurus is taking a bite out of South Dakota
Mr. Allosaurus is taking a bite out of South Dakota

 

Hog Heaven Campground is normally only open for the Sturgis motorcycle rally... but they let Tatanka racers stay there!
Hog Heaven Campground is normally only open for the Sturgis motorcycle rally… but they let Tatanka racers stay there!

 

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My awesome camp spot under a pine tree!

 

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On the way home I decided to check out the Flying V trails outside of Newcastle… well… if faint cow trails are your thing, here’s the system for you!
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Understanding in a Bike Crash

(Thursday fans get the reference.)

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It’s probably the most sickening noise and sensation I have ever heard/felt… the sound of my head slamming into the asphalt at 29.1mph.  For four years I have lived in fear of the day I would crash on the road in a serious manner, so when I heard the brakes and clanking of alloy and carbon and human bodies in front of me my heart sank.  At the speeds we were traveling I had less than a second to react, and with no place to go, my only option was to follow the laws of physics, and launch off my bike (which had hit a bike in the road) and fly head first into the asphalt.  People told me I screamed, but I really don’t remember.  I just remember the sensation of my head slamming into the ground, and the instant pain in my left calf muscle.  I remember trying to stand and the pain being severe enough that I couldn’t and I grabbed for one of the other racers that was already back on his feet.  A WY Highway Patrolman rushed over and picked me up and carried me over the guardrail and laid me under the overpass.  He was amazing and attentive, grabbing his first aid supplies to clean the road rash on my knee and shoulder, and doing a quick neuro exam.  Before long I was carried by the patrolman into the back of an ambulance, and whisked away to the hospital.

All because of a flatten dead crow in the road.  I’ve always had severe trust issues during road events, whether it’s rides or races because really in all reality your well-being is reliant upon everyone around you. Some guy swerved when he saw the crow, the guy behind him touched wheels, more wheels touched, and there you had half the lead pack on the ground, and me in an ambulance…

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So the Dad Dog Road Race was actually going pretty well for me.  I decided to try to be smart this year, and not pull at all and just follow the moves.  Last year I had been dropped before the turn around, yet this year 34-35 miles in I was still with the lead pack and able to respond to surges in pace and attacks.  I was out to win it, and my plan was going well… until, you know… that crow.  That had be rotting and festering for days probably, under that underpass… flat as a pancake… so flat a road bike would have just rolled over it.  (I’m not bitter, really.  I just don’t have fear of running over flat objects with my road bike.)

So crashing… yes… there’s actually parts of being in the hospital that are fuzzy, conversations that I do not remember.  My head CT cleared me of any skull fractures or brain injuries, and numerous leg X-rays lead to the conclusion I had a calf muscle strain.  Out the door I went, hobbling on crutches.  Luckily I have a stash of dressings at home that have always sat there “just in case,” so I took it upon myself to clean out my road rash and slap Tegaderm on all of it, and then settled onto the couch for a night of Jurassic Park and “woe is me.”  I’m doing ok as of now, considering.  I can walk around with a limp, but I’m walking.  My left shoulder is probably one of the most problematic things, as I have little range of motion due to pain.  My wounds are healing, though still very tended.  My head is bruised and swollen, and I still feel fuzzy, but I’m surviving.

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This was the race report I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write.  In all honesty, I’m not sure when I’ll be comfortable riding, let alone racing, on the road with a large group of people again.  I just know it could’ve been so much worse (or could’ve not happened at all).  My Rudy Project Sterling helmet did it’s duty, taking the impact and cracking.  I’ve always been a strong advocate of helmet use and am uncomfortable even riding around the block without one, and now I unfortunately/fortunately know first hand why helmets are a must when on a bicycle.

Race Report, Uncategorized

Race Report: Gunnison Half Growler

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Photo by Dave Kozlowski

It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to blog or write a race report.  Florida Cup was a comically horrible, humbling experience in racing in my first pro USAC field in a “foreign” environment (Florida is really nothing like Wyoming… they have gators!).  Gowdy Grinder had potential until I launched myself airborne off my bike just shy of 3 miles in, banging myself up pretty bad physically and mentally.  2016 was quickly turning into the race season of crashes and lowered expectations.

And then it was time for the Gunnison Half Growler!  I was nervous about how this race would go since I have stopped formally training (I suppose that’s another topic for another time I should write about).  I knew I was looking at a 4+ hour day, which was way more than I had been riding in a long long long time.  I got to Gunnison about 2:30 on Friday, and was early enough to packet pick up that I was able to get a growler from last year (no growler finisher prizes this year 😦 ), and then checked into my little cabin at the KOA (which is the best KOA everrrrr).  Since it looked stormy, I quickly changed and jumped on my bike to head up to Hartman Rocks to get in a few “opener” miles.  Luckily I got in my miles before the monsoon set in!

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My “tent cabin!”
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Some pre-race miles before the rain

Race morning I was up at 7am and prepared my 2L of Tailwind and debated clothing.  Last year I was oh so thankful to have my thermal jersey when the rain set in, so I had a bit of paranoia going into this year.  I remember in 2015 the start was sunny, and less than an hour in there was freezing hail.  I tend not to trust weather forecasts, so choosing my clothing was just about the hardest thing!  Just a bit before 8 I set out into town, picked up breakfast, and relaxed in my car in the county parking lot.  I ended up going with my thermal jersey, and stashed a wind jacket and vest in my Camelback. for good measure.  I would end up regretting the warm jersey since the day stayed sunny until the last 20 minutes!

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I’m one of the pink dots in there (Photo by Dave Kozlowski)

Ugh, the start.  The start of the Growler is the scariest thing to me since a lot of the competitors do not have experience in pack riding, and we have a good 4.5 miles of “neutral,” high speed pack riding to survive through.  When the gun went off I was expecting the guy in front of me to move faster than he did, so I hit his back tire and came off my bike.  A frustrated girl behind me started in with the “SERIOUSLY, REALLY?” nonsense which frustrated me more as I tried to hop back on my bike in a timely fashion.  Finally I was up and rolling and tried to get to the front.  There were still a few scary moments, but I managed to not be part of the crash that occurred turning onto the dirt at Hartman’s parking lot.  Since it was dry and dusty I took to picking off people up Kill Hill, which I felt surprisingly good on (turns out I would end up 11th on the Strava leaderboard on Kill Hill… just seconds out of the top 10!)… I can still climb?!

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My face is one of… non-amusement?  (Photo by Matt Burt)

I feel like the first hour or so is all just about settling in.  I focused on smooth descending, remembering my form, and found myself confidently riding a lot of stuff!  My only goal for this race was to beat my 2015 time, though the course direction was reversed (and this year was supposedly the “harder” direction which I don’t doubt!).  After about that initial hour or so I settled in with roughly the same 10 people that I would ride around the rest of the day.  I remembered to try to just pace myself, spinning a lot of the climbs and reminding myself it was about the long haul and to not blow myself up since I was in uncharted territory in regards to lack of training and bike time this year.

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Up and over some rocky feature (Photo by Matt Burt)

The dry, dusty conditions made the race seem to fly by compared to last year where it was a slip and slide on a lot of the stuff in the first half or so.  Skull Pass (rough half point) came faster than I was expecting.  Unfortunately Skull Pass SUCKS in this direction (counterclockwise), and it was a long hike a bike over many sections.  Bright sun + no wind + hiking = sucky time.  I was remaining pretty positive and happy the whole race, but Skull Pass soured my mood.  I was never so happy to grind up that road to the aid station!  I had found myself not really desiring to drink my Tailwind, and was craving plain water, so I downed my one bottled, and stopped and had it refilled at Skull Pass.  I turned down the bacon as I didn’t know what it would do to my stomach 😦  I then set out to climb up to the high point of the course, and then enjoy a long double track descent.

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Train of racers (Photo by Matt Burt)

The road up to the power line area was another long, steep hike a bike as the road was very sandy and loose and after awhile the tires would just start spinning.  I really really really hate walking my bike, it brings back horrible memories of the Columbine Climb during the Leadville 100.  Luckily this wasn’t that long!  The race still seemed to be going by super fast, and I got excited at what my finish time would be… then would  come the death by a million small technical climbs.  Why all the technical stuff comes 30 miles in is beyond me… but Rattlesnake is just brutal when you’ve never ridden it before and your arms are noodles!  I had remained crash-free, so I walked a lot of stuff… a lot.

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Don’t mind me, I’m just taking my bike for a walk on Rattlesnake (Photo by Dave Kozlowski)

I had a fun moment when my teammate Michelle caught me at 3 hours 59 minutes.  She had told me at the start “see you at 3 hours!”  She has amazing endurance and badass descending skills, so I knew she would catch me… but I joked “what took you so long?” and we had a chuckle when she said “it’s 3 hours!” and I told her it was really 4.  We were now very close to the finish so I tried to let loose on the final descents, and shifted down on the double track to lay down the power and not lose any more positions in the final little bits.

4 hours 3 minutes 58 seconds…

31 minutes faster than 2015!

Woohoo!

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Woohoo! Half Growler 2016 done and done!

I was so happy with my result and how awesome I felt throughout the race that I immediately thought “wow, I need to come back next year and aim for sub-4 hours!”  That is a first.  I have never finished an endurance XC race (let alone any XC race really), and immediately wanted to do it again!  I ended up 6th in pro women… which was last place.  But that was alright as I knew I wasn’t aiming for a podium (ok, I would’ve been 3rd had I raced my age group.  Ahem.  Yes, I checked that.  Damn this pro license haha).  I was 24th overall for women, compared to 39th in 2015, so I’m happy to be solidly in the top half!  It was just so awesome to do a race since Fat Bike Nationals where I haven’t crashed or had what seemed to be the whole world working against me!

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Some of us Naked girls post-race! (Photo: Michelle Hoffer)

So the theory has been posed… maybe it’s good that I stopped “training” in a formal, regimented manner?  That remains to be seen, probably.  But I have noticed my newly descending and technical skills, which I think has helped me make up those little seconds here and there that I might be losing by not having my full climbing fitness.  Who knows… I had fun, and that’s all I care about!

Oh, and I did oh so bad with my nutrition… thinking I had polished off my Camelback of Tailwind, I pulled  out the bladder once I got back to the car and was shocked to see I drank only a “few inches” out of it 😦  But I never felt bonked… only outside nutrition was one Clif banana-mango pouch, 1.5 bottles of plain water, and two pickle slices.  Something to work on leading up to some of the bigger races I have planned!

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Don’t worry, my post race nutrition was on point! Great dinner at Garlic Mike’s with teammates Brittany and Berta, and Berta’s husband Paul
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The desert was calling, and I went!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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My “I’m driving to Moab face!”
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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.

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I had a tailwind at my back all week thanks to Tailwind Nutrition! Giving some sponsor love at Navajo Rocks!
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Navajo Rocks trail system
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Big Mesa Trail at Navajo Rocks and one of a kind!

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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.

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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.

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Here it is… site of the 2012 elbow disaster on North 40!
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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!

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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.

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Selfie with Mr Allosaurs at his tracks!

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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.

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Eying the bench at Horsethief

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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.

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First ride of team camp at 18 Road!

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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.

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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.

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Getting ready to head out to Gateway in the rain (Photo – Roberta Smith)
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Before the Cloud of Doom (Photo by Heidi Wahl)
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“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!

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Heidi, Berta, and Kim do Colorado National Monument!

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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.

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Any place with dinosaurs is cool with me!

 

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T. rex didn’t quite fit in the selfie
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Chris LeDoux!

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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.

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Gonna take the back roads! Best way ever to avoid I-70 traffic!
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I’m home! Hi snow!
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March Blues

March always seems to be a tough month for me, and 2016’s edition was no different.  After Fat Bike Nationals I had my usual bottoming out of my mood as I came back to real life.  But for some reason I just couldn’t get over the hump to feeling better.  This whole month I fought constant fatigue (talking about “sleep 30 hours of the 48 hours you’re off of work” type of fatigue) and overall just not feeling well type of feeling.  Then my knees have been acting up.  Dr. Google suggests it’s patellofemoral pain, though Dr. Google also suggest torn meniscus.  All I know is anything hurts my knee, including sleeping, and it’s been popping all sorts of funny.  And naturally, the weather has me all sorts of down… we get glimpses of spring with 60-70 degree weather and dry trails, and then BAM!  Several feet of snow, and wind.  Lots of wind.  Trailing derailed, and I pretty much as okay with it as my couch is comfortable, and sleep is wonderful.  But not all is lost… so here’s the updates!

1. Chubby Chaser Fat Bike Race

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2016 Chubby Chaser Fat Bike Race at Happy Jack (Photo by Jessica Flock)

This is Laramie’s version of fat bike racing, which as held March 5th this year.  I took 10th overall, and 1st among the women… but it wasn’t easy!  There’s a HUGE difference between racing on groomed trails (aka Fat Bike Nationals), and racing on normal single track.  The power curve is completely different (road-style vs. cross country MTB), and it hurt!  The first climb up Pole Creek out of the Happy Jack trailhead I wanted to puke and quit as my body struggled to find that sort of race rhythm months before it needs to happen.  The temperatures were warm which also lead to rapidly changing conditions, with the trails being quite mushy at the end of the 3 lap race, and there was indeed mud.  I crashed hard on an icy off camber on Headquarters, managing to bloody my knee.  By the second lap I found a good race rhythm.  Happy I got to race in the snow at Happy Jack and experience a different side of fat biking racing compared to what I had done the previous weekend!

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I won a coffee mug! Because let’s face it, when I win bike races, it’s always a drinking apparatus I win! (Photo by Dewey Gallegos)

2. New sponsors!

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Woohoo, I have two new sponsors on board – Tailwind Nutrition and Dirt Components.  I was selected to be a Tailwind Trailblazer for 2016, which is super exciting stuff as Tailwind really changed my on-the-bike and race nutrition in my 2015 season.  I got to listen in on an informative presentation on the science behind Tailwind which appeased the science nerd in me, and now I know what additional foods I should avoid (like watermelon… who knew?) during races.  Dirt Components hand makes the “Thumper” all carbon fat bike wheels, and we’ve partnered up for all sorts of shenanigans when it comes to fat biking this upcoming year!  Because I needed to add another race season, right?  😀  I’m looking forward to dropping the pounds on my Salsa Beargrease with these sexy carbon hoops, and heck, maybe I’ll even ride the bike some this summer!?  Oh goody!

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3.  Umm… I went pro.

Yes, that’s right… USA Cycling granted me my pro mountain bike license upgrade!  Whoa, what?!  So I decided that doing this hybrid “pro non-sanctioned, but cat 1 USAC” stuff was for the birds, and decided to be pro across the board, and randomly applied for my upgrade, and received it!  This does change my plans for the National Championships slightly, as it opens up racing singlespeed as an option, but puts all my racing at the end of the week instead of slightly spread out.  But considering that in 2017 I am targeting a trip to Iceland instead of nationals, I am happy that I’ll get to race pro at nationals this year and get this newest step in my mountain bike racing journey underway!

4.  Training

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The Gail & Heidi Weekday Ride Club… so exciting to have this awesome chick to ride with on weekdays! Even if she tricks me into climbing Stove Prairie

It wasn’t pretty.  There was a whole lot of laziness this month.  Sadly the weather didn’t always play nice when I had the days off to ride outdoors, either.  Not all was lost, and I did get to spend a day doing hill repeats of Indian Summer down in Fort Collins, which was surprisingly fun.  Then I got to spend a day at Soapstone with my friend, Chris. It was an awesome ride, and one of the first that I stopped and took a lot of photos during.  I also got out on some good road rides, including tackling the dams (and establishing a lot of new PR’s), “attacking” Georgia up a couple of climbs (leading to the new joke, “You doing intervals or something?”), and a fun day with Gail going up Poudre and Stove Prairie for some big climbing miles before the next round of storms.  Today I finally did the FTP test I’ve been avoiding for 4 weeks, and though it wasn’t pretty and I didn’t push as hard on the first 8 minute block as I could’ve, I obtained the “typical” 2% increase to 221 watts.  My highest FTP ever!  I’m looking forward to building on it, and eventually testing outdoors one of these days.  And whoops… turned out TrainerRoad never had my updated FTP from my test in January saved in my profile (most likely my mistake and misclick somewhere), so from January to middle of March I was doing all my workouts with an FTP set to 205 instead of 217… caused slight panic, but I realized I had been doing a lot of billat workouts which are VO2max and I was still in the proper zone.  My threshold and tempo workouts were probably the most affected.  Shucks.  I took careful caution today to make sure my new number was updated!

Beautiful 70 degree mid-March day at Soapstone!  Too bad all the trails are once again snow covered
Beautiful 70 degree mid-March day at Soapstone! Too bad all the trails are once again snow covered

5.  Pedal House.  They rock.

My 2013 Specialized Epic FINALLY had a full tune up performed… for the first time ever!  Once again Pedal House in Laramie worked their magic, with Joel going above and beyond to scrub off some sort of biohazardous substance that had molded itself to my frame (guessing hydration mix + mud + dirt + saliva), along with installing a new bottom bracket, cassette, chain rings, and brakes.  Seriously, this is the bike shop everyone needs to be going to!

Mr. Allosaurus, my new adventure buddy, proclaims the Pedal House the best bike shop ever after getting that Epic in the background all fixed up!
Mr. Allosaurus, my new adventure buddy, proclaims the Pedal House the best bike shop ever after getting that Epic in the background all fixed up!

April is going to be a big month… Next week is my team’s training camp in Fruita.  I have a “conservative” 27.5 hours of riding mapped out in Training Peaks over 6 days!  Oh boy!  But with temps in the 70s it’ll be great to be out in the sun logging some good mountain bike and road miles as I prep for mountain bike season to begin in May.  It’s time to buckle down, get the motivation going again, and put in the work!  (It’s also time for this damn weather to be nice and warm!)

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Exiting the sweet spot…

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Well, I guess I can say I’m just about 1 month into official training.  January 11th might’ve been a bit late to really start a training plan, but it’s been working out (and I was doing “training” in November and December as well, in all reality).  I’m just finishing up TrainerRoad’s Sweet Spot Base, using a combo of High Volume 1 and 2 to work around my work schedule.  Ideally this should be 12 weeks, but I’ll squeeze it into 7.  I extended the end-of-base an extra week to accommodate a sort of a taper, if you will, leading up to USAC Fat Bike Nationals on February 27th.

In absolutely EXCITING news, I was able to mountain bike, on my “skinny” tires, on dry trails this week at Lake Pueblo State Park!  I pulled off a 47 mile, nearly 6 hour day on Friday, chasing around Colorado hammerheads.  I was hesitant to do that long of a ride, as well, I don’t ride that long… surprisingly, I found my hurdles to it be mostly mental.  Yes I was sore and tired and I walked some very steep pitches, but I survived with decent pep left in my legs!  I followed up on Saturday with 32 miles in about 4 hours, riding solo for about an hour before meeting up with my teammate Heidi 1.0 and her husband.  All in all, great training and it was a great physical and mental boost to be getting sunburnt and hearing the dirt underneath my tires.  I did find myself to walk a lot of technical features that shouldn’t be an issue for me, but it’s early enough that I am not going to stress too much about that.

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You know, I’m not sure what was up with my face, but I was having a blast in the sun!

Otherwise, training has been a lot of intervals.  Last November I purchased a Tacx Vortex Smart trainer, hoping it would solve all my problems I fought with using a “dumb trainer” and TrainerRoad… mainly that being not having the right gear ratio to produce the correct prescribed power without wonky cadences.  The Tacx ended up being an absolute headache, and it was plagued with many issues.  I finally sent it back end of January and purchased a Wahoo Kickr Snap instead.  Wow, what a difference!  I have had issues with TrainerRoad’s Power Match feature, which utilizes my power meter to control the trainer resistance.  It is slow to respond, and when doing 2 minute long VO2 max intervals, I really don’t have a minute to wait for the resistance to be applied correctly.  So for now I’ve decided to use the Wahoo as my power source.  Yes, it might be off 10 or so watts, but in the grand scheme of things 10 watts does not make that much of a difference.  Whew… stupid technology!

When I did test on January 11th I tested out at an FTP of 217 watts… holy crap.  That is usually what I see at the end of spring/early summer months!  It has been tough adjusting to the new FTP, but I’m chugging along!

For road stuff… well, when the weather allows I have been getting out!  Gravel, road… whatever I can get with this winter-like winter we’ve been having!  I made it to another women’s Oval Ride, and am planning on going again this weekend.  I’m learning the longer miles and hours aren’t as scary as I once thought they were, both on the road and on dirt!

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Both of my attempts at the Oval Ride have been on days with wet roads, leaving me looking more like a cyclocross racer than a roadie on a serious training group ride!

 

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I was able to get out in the sun with my friend Gretchen for a nice, relaxed 50 miles!

For the next two weeks it’s a lot of “calmer” tempo and endurance trainer workouts, tapering off some intensity for fat bike nats.  Tomorrow I’m fat biking and demoing some sweet carbon Salsa goodies, and the Oval is on board for Saturday.  I’m going to try to squeeze in another day on the fat bike before heading to Utah to race.  So we’ll see… I remember how well my taper worked leading up to the LT100, and luckily nationals falls in between training plans, so hopefully all goes well!  I had the brilliant idea of racing both my master’s age group and the pro category, back to back with less than an hour in between, so yeah, I’ll need all the help I can get!

Up next will be the 8-week long Short Power Build phase of the training program.  Lots of billat work and VO2 max, and suffering!  I haven’t quite tweaked the plan to allow for my team’s training camp in Fruita in April, but I’ll deal with that soon enough.  What I usually do is put my work days on my Training Peaks calendar, and then add all the 6o to 75 minute intervals from the plan into the week, preferably on work days, as that is the best time for me to do intervals indoors on the trainer (which is something I may be doing long after I typically give up the trainer since it’s the easiest way for me to accomplish training with my sort of work situation).  I save days off from work for rest days (funny that I spend days off, off the bike!) and longer rides.  It requires some thinking, but it went okay I think during the base phase so I hope to keep it up.  Who knows, I’m training lost and scared at this point!

In other news…

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NEW KIT DAY! How fabulous are our Naked Women’s Racing kits this year?! HELLO PINK! Loving them so far, and so happy to learn that the Castelli bibs are comfy over long hours on the mountain bike!

 

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Sponsor Love: Goodies from Honey Stinger! Loving the grapefruit Chews so far!

 

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(More) Sponsor Love: My ESI Grips came! Yes, I’m going to be matchy matchy with my team kits and grips this season!

So there’s my bit-o-update on training and what not!  I can’t believe I’m racing a national championship in less than two weeks… time flies, and there’s just not enough of it in my life!

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Where have I been?!

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I’ve been here and there, man, I’ve been everywhere!

Missing in action, apparently!  Well, I’ve been chugging through January, enjoying some rare days of outdoor riding, chugging away on my trainers (plural because I jumped into the headache world of smart trainers… that’s another post for another time), working, and trying to rebalance my life.

I had a building breakdown come to a head right around New Year’s.  My health, family, work, relationship, and cycling worlds decided to work together to bring everything to a boiling point, and I had to really step back, and refocus and rebuild.  It was a scary time because I have never really had that much stress from different angles attack me at once.  But I found a happy place returning to the world of yoga, which I look forward to going to weekly, and have refocused and calmed my life.

Around the time of critical mass I decided to make a major change in my cycling life and training, and stepped away from having a coach in 2016.  Personal and financial reasons played a part, and it still scares me, but I am slowly learning every day how to plan workouts and schedule blocks around key races.  It’s not perfect, nor will it be, but I’m learning as I go.  I’m finding myself about as motivated as I was in previous seasons – whether that’s a good or bad thing, I don’t know!  I do plan on posting a wrap up of my January training next week when I have time (I’m cramming this post in before a shift tonight).  During a night of tears and drama (I think January 2nd or so…), I wrote below my feelings on the change to my training… just my thoughts.  Maybe it’ll help someone else out there debating the coach vs. no coach thing, or maybe people will just shake their heads.  I try to be honest.  My life, especially when it comes to cycling, isn’t sugar and candy and victories all the time.  I think it’s a lot of guts and tough decisions mixed with smart and stupid decisions, and just persevering through the world’s toughest sport which I decided to give a whirl at age 28.

This is in no way a knock to my former coach, who was with me over 3 seasons as I grew from a beginner cyclist to self-described “very very very slow bottom of the pile” pro mountain biker. It is merely my thoughts after those 3 seasons and some life changes on why coaching might not work for everyone, and why that might be ok. After a lot of soul searching, I decided it was best to part ways for my 2016 season.

Why my life doesn’t work with coaching:

  1. Incredibly unpredictable work schedule: I do not work a Monday-Friday banker hours job. I am an RN at a hospital who works night shift 7pm to 7am (which is really 6:30pm to 7:30am if I’m lucky that day) varying days the week. On top of long hours and wonky days that sometimes means my “Saturday” is really Tuesday, and my “Tuesday” is really Friday, it’s a mentally and physically demanding job. I don’t like to hype up being an RN like I’m a superhero, as I’m far from it. But very few people outside of nursing understand the stresses and demands of the job. On paper to an outsider, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do a 60 minute interval workout sometime in there. But after a night that can drive some to tears or drinking or a career change, getting home at 7:45am, cramming “breakfast” down my throat, and trying to unwind to be sleeping by 8am (without relying on pharmaceutical drugs, but sometimes slamming melatonin or Ambient in hopes of falling asleep fast) means that waking up at 4pm to get in a workout is mentally, sometimes physically, impossible. I need flexibility in that, and frankly the cycling world just doesn’t get it.
  2. I’m a stubborn critter that is going to do what I want: Last winter I remember ending up very pissed off when I opted to ride for 30 miles and a handful of hours with my boyfriend. Some former teammates and then the coach jumped on my case for not choosing a longer, harder, less enjoyable to me road ride. It irritated me to no ends. Crazy lives means limited time to see my boyfriend. I had a blast that day, yelling at llamas and cruising along with him enjoying some alone together time that we do not always get readily. Frankly, I can’t do that. I’ve reached the point where cycling can sometimes be miserable to me, and if it means skipping a 4 hour prescribed endurance ride to ride 2 hours with someone I like, somewhere new, on the mountain bike, in the snow, or whatever, then I want to do it, no guilt aside from the guilt I place on myself.
  3. I don’t have the best health: Yes, I’m too young- 32 – for health problems. But I have them. And sometimes that means working around them and grinning and bearing some time off the bike that once again needs to be guilt free. I can’t control when my kidneys become angry, but I’m working on it. I’m realizing that I’ve done a lot of stupid things that are causing current-day problems, so I’m working on fixing and preventing those so I’m not in the middle of a desert ignoring a UTI by chugging gallons of cranberry juice because a 24 hour race is more important to me at that time anymore.

I’m scared. I’m scared I’ll royally F up my first season as a pro and I’ll waste a lot of time (and money) traveling to my A race to perform crappy. I know I struggle with motivation and my couch is a powerful influencer of my laziness. But then I look back and see how having a coach wasn’t a motivator to me as much as I thought it would be… I would still choose the couch some days. I also look back and see how I would choose to intervals when I effectively went coach free this winter… like, I did threshold intervals all on my own choosing. I’m excited because I see the potential of this season with fun stuff like my team training camp in Fruita, potential trip to Moab for long days riding, and finally a love for fat biking that has me itching to go hammer in 15 degree weather. I finally understand to the most basic extent that blue line that taunts me on Training Peaks and that became an unhealthy fixation this fall and winter, and how it’s important to keep building it up, but not to lose my wits when it dips slightly as I can see that it does that all year long sometimes (and losing my wits = laying on the couch getting so stressed that I end up not riding at all).

I will be using several training plans from TrainerRoad (Sweet Spot Base High Volume II, Short Power Build High Volume, and MTB XCO High Volume Specialty) in order to accomplish my training this season, so I’m indeed not just making this up off the top of my head. Naturally, the plans are in a Monday-Sunday format for those with those perfect jobs without shift work, so I am altering them to stack 60 minute days on my work days, and longer workouts on my days off. Thanks to Sara Kammlade organizing the Women’s Oval Ride in Fort Collins, I look forward to utilizing those rides on weekends when I can for long, 4-5 hour tough days on the bike for a combo of endurance and intensity that in no way I’d ever get on a trainer. As far as conditions stay hero (or at the very least rideable) and especially up to USAC Fat Bike Nationals I plan on being on the fat bike as much as possible as more long, sometimes intense days that also keeps my mountain bike skills sharp over these winter months. I really discovered a love for fat biking this winter that was lacking last year, and I think it’ll definitely help out in a training sort of way, and not to mention it’s pretty darn fun!

Yeah, it’s not perfect, and there’s no way I can make it perfect. 2015, at least to me, was a great season with awesome road racing success and victories on the mountain bike (HELLO, I WON A WOMEN’S OPEN LMBS RACE!!), and I hope I can build on that.

 

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4,970 miles later, it’s a wrap!

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Thanks to Toolbox for Strava, I have a unique insight into my final 2015 stats:

4969.4 miles
(or roughly from Washington to Moscow)
(or 19.96% of the Earth’s circumference)

16 days 13 hours 48 minutes 4 seconds
(or 6.83% of my life excluding an average of 8 hours for sleep)

227,717 feet climbed 
(or Mt McKinley 11 times)
(and I have reached the mesosphere layer of the atmosphere)

321 logged rides

3,381 feet
(longest sustained climbed, which was Columbine Mine during the Leadville 100)

79.1 miles
(longest single ride, which was Newcastle WY, to Custer, SD during Tour de Wyoming)
(8 out of 10 of my longest rides ever occurred in 2015)

Summary compared to other years:

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 3.40.53 PM

Yes, it bothers my OCD that I didn’t finish above 5000 miles, and some more motivation would’ve solved that problem, but it’s easy to see that 2015 was a big year for me, at least I think so!

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2016 Resolutions

I’ve never been a New Year resolution type of person.  But I’ve decided to throw together a list a random bike and maybe not so bike related goals for the year.

1 – Save for Iceland!

There are no words... (Photo by Joey Shuster)
There are no words… (Photo by Joey Schusler)

I have become completely obsessed with the idea of going to Iceland and mountain biking.  I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland, but after completing some research on the biking options, I MUST GO!  The landscape is just out of this world!  My goal is for the summer of 2017, which gives me about 1.5 years to save up money for airfare and the two tours I want to go on.  I’ve had a passport for years but have never been out of the US (minus going to a Mexican border town pre-9/11 when you could just cross freely), so it’s about time I start making memories and using that darn thing!

2 – Shred the gnar gnar

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Sammie says, “What?!”

At my team night I purchased a 2016 Specialized Rhyme Comp Carbon… yes, a 650b tire bike with squishy suspension and a dropper post.  Definitely NOT the highly-efficient stiff 29er XC bike I’m use to riding!  Though I am waiting until February for it to arrive, I already have big hopes and plans!  This bike will come to Iceland with me, and I look forward to strengthening my descending and technical skills.  I’m also playing around with the thought of racing enduro at the US MTB Championships in July since I’ll already be there and it comes after the XC races.

3 – Racing is racing, and you get what you put into it, but it’s also a lot of fun

CycloX Valmont (Photo by Shawn Curry)
CycloX Valmont (Photo by Shawn Curry)

I admit, I’m bit bit burnt out and overwhelmed about another race season coming up.  My big A race is XC nationals, and then getting the official pro license upgrade.  But I’m also excited to ride in new places and go fast and get out of breath.  I gotta remind myself that racing needs to be fun.  I did an okay job of acknowledging that during my 2015 cyclocross season, and scaled back the racing and pulled the plug early when mentally and physically I was not happy.  So I’m vowing to myself to not let the stress get to me and to remember the fun and thrill of racing, whether I’m in first or last or just lost in the trees.  I’ve told myself to give it a good go in 2016, and in 2017 I’ll try to step back and explore more and maybe try some new stuff.

4- Take care of myself
My health hasn’t exactly been great this fall and winter thus far.  I’ve had more X-rays than I’ve cared to have and have been in more doctor offices and urgent care/ER settings than I ever want to be.  I’m trying to figure some stuff out, and fighting off new things that are popping up.  Just today I was diagnosed with severe tendinitis in my right wrist, and was started on steroids and placed in a splint.  This is on top of my bunionettes flaring up (Merry Christmas to me!) and kidney infection in the last week and a half.  My body is tired and worn out.  I should’ve rode today but instead I napped and nursed the wrist, because frankly I don’t planning on resting it to the point of not riding, so I’m hoping it’ll be good for a few days of riding this week.  But my body is telling me it’s not happy, and I should listen to it more often!

5 – Have adventures
This year I want to go back to Moab and ride lots of stuff.  My team’s training camp is in Fruita and I look forward to exploring some new trails.  There’s Lake Pueblo for some winter time blues escapage.  Dammit, maybe finally go camping that I’ve been talking about the past few summers, maybe finally climb a 14er?  Ride my squishy bike at Glendo.  I just want to explore, which is also good training (at least I think so).  I have some big blocks of time off where I hope I can make this happen!

 

I think that’s all I can come up with for now… I’m not particularly great at these things!  But I already did start an Iceland savings account, and hopefully my new bike will arrive in February, and adventures can begin with some big time off blocks!