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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!

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Thanks for the season, 2015

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Probably my favorite race photo from 2015 (Shawn Curry)

Whelp, it’s done!  Ended a bit rougher than usual, but I survived 11 months of racing for 2015.  The round up…

States Raced In: Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming
# of Races: 20 mountain bike, 7 road, 14 cyclocross
# of Wins: 4 (MTB), 2 (CX)
# of Top 5: 15 (MTB), 4 (road),  5 (CX)
# of Beverage Drinking Devices Won: Uhhh… I finally stopped counting this.  Water bottle overload!

Way more MTB than 2014, but 6 less cross races.  Interesting balance.  My first season as what I call a combo of “semi-pro” and “really slow wannabe pro” mountain bike racing, and while tough at times, it was fun and a good push for me to get faster and tighten up my skills.

  • I won a tube of “eurostyle” Chamois Butt’r.  I’m scared to try it
  • I finally accepted the fact that I cannot be highly competitive in a highly competitive category in cyclocross without training in a highly competitive manner.  So I raced single speed with the boys.  Problem solved.
  • The Laramie MTB Series was still my 2015 season highlight.  There was nothing like going from DFL by 15-20 minutes in 2014 to top 3 in every race, including winning one by an 8 minute margin.  To succeed locally in the race series that made me start racing in the first place will always mean the most to me.
  • Continuing with local success, I finish the Laramie Enduro, which caused me to cry happy tears to a stranger at the finish line.
  • I actually did not win any beer this year.  However, I think I earn enough alcohol during TCCX…
  • Racing is tough on bikes.  The $600 repair bill on my S-Works Fate is proof.
  • Do not forget your timing chip at a Without Limits cyclocross race.  They really won’t care if you drove all the way from Wyoming, cried, pouted, and gave them puppy eyes.  Instead they’ll negate your 6th place result in the regional championship SS4/5 race, and place you last in your ironically last race of the year.
  • Wow, road season… what a surprise!  5th place across the board at the 3 USAC road races I did, which was an utter surprise.  Apparently I’m really really really good at climbing on a road bike… even stranger since I’m not a small “climber type” by any means.
  • I flew to my first race – 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo.  Definitely an adventure from the moment Katey and I landed in Tucson to the moment I arrived home days later.  From POS rental RV’s to crash courses in bike building and tire pressures and my first 24 hour racing experience, it’s something I was super excited to be a part of!
  • I’m so happy I finally found a home on a great cycling team, Naked Women’s Racing!
One of the finish lines I was most happy to see... stuck it out in 30 degree weather to qualify for nationals at the Wyocity AMBC (Photo by Luke Blair)
One of the finish lines I was most happy to see… stuck it out in 30 degree weather to qualify for nationals at the Wyocity AMBC (Photo by Luke Blair)

Well, so what does 2016 have in store for me?  I did start out with a solo single speed entry to 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, but upon sitting down and looking at the logistics, it just wasn’t going to be a stress-free time.  The money I would’ve had to spend on lighting and then travel would take away from other stuff, so I transferred my entry to a gal in California.  Sad I won’t be returning to the desert, but it relieved a lot of stress in my life.  I do plan on racing at the Fat Bike National Championships in February since it’s in Ogden.  My big goal for 2016 is the Cross Country National Championships at Mammoth Mountain in CA in July.  I’ve decided to give it one last go as a Cat 1 before officially upgrading my USAC license.  However, I will race strictly pro/open in all non-sanctioned racing.  I’m planning on short track and XC at Nationals, and debating throwing the enduro competition in there as well since I may have purchased a trail bike with lots of squishy travel and a dropper post (the enduro is after all the XC competitions, so it in no way would affect my main goal)!  I dialed back my race calendar significantly, though it’s hard to keep adding events.  Hopefully I can make Rumble at 18 Road purely for the USAC points for both short track and XC call ups at Nationals.  Then I will be racing the Half Growler again, along with the Gowdy Grinder.  Naturally the Laramie MTB Series is on the calendar, along with the Laramie Enduro as I want to see if I can better my time.  I may do an early spring RME race depending on weather and how I’m feeling (but no endurance distance, just XC).  Glendo Trails Fest of course is an option since I can’t turn down good WY grassroots racing.  But that’s about all!  Of course some road here and there, but with my work schedule I will not make it a priority.  And finally, I am a returning member of the Naked Women’s Racing mountain bike team, so I’ll be rocking the Naked Juice in 2016!

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Of mud & snow

Last weekend I was all amped up to finally get out on the fat bike, and then mother nature and WYDOT had different plans, and all the roads leading to Happy Jack were closed.  Crushed, I quickly took to washing my cyclocross bike to make CycloX Louisville as a last minute idea to save my day and to prevent me from moping on the couch.

The overnight snow in Louisville had thawed and created epic mud conditions by my 2:45pm race time.  I gotta admit, I’m not the biggest fan of racing my cat 3 category, but I toed the line in a second row call up, and decided my goal would be to ride the hard, “Certain Death” line (the other option is called “Momma’s Boy” haha) each lap and just survive.

Slick as snot mud (Photo by Terri Smith)
Slick as snot mud (Photo by Terri Smith)

It was… well, a very very very hard race!  The mud was slippery as hell, and I can’t even recall how many times I ended up on the ground, usually when I was least expecting it. I did have one mechanical mishap when my front brake cable quick release came undone, so I had to stop and re-attach it, which caused me quite a few spots.  Nearing the end of the 3-lap race my rear wheel was stopped up with mud and grass so I had to fiddle with it a bit as well.  Overall the race involved way too much running/walking/hobbling/slipping up hills, and as a person whose strength is staying on the bike, it wasn’t that enjoyable.  Honestly, I was happy when the race was done… I finished 17th out of 20.  Compared to last year under dry conditions where I finished absolutely DFL, I was happy I at least held on for something.  And yep, rode Certain Death all three laps!

I'm becoming rather adept at drivetrain-side dismounts and flying remounts (Photo by Brent Murphy)
I’m becoming rather adept at drivetrain-side dismounts and flying remounts (Photo by Brent Murphy)
So much ridiculousness by the final lap that I was laughing about the horror of it all (Photo by Brent Murphy)
So much ridiculousness by the final lap that I was laughing about the horror of it all (Photo by Brent Murphy)
Coming down Certain Death (Photo by Shawn Curry)
Coming down Certain Death (Photo by Shawn Curry)

 

I finally had my go at fat biking today at Happy Jack thanks to a break before the next winter storm.  Oh man, it felt so good to get out there on the snowy single track!  A change I made this year is the decision to run clipless pedals on my fat bike.  Last year I really struggled with the steep learning curve of platform pedals, especially on climbs.  Luckily, that is now all remedied, and I learned clipless wasn’t the hassle I thought it would be, even with snow packed cleats!  It started out sunny and about 28 degrees, and after two hours of riding it was 14 degrees and the mountains were socked in with fog.  Frost was starting to collect on all surfaces, making things very pretty.  I pedaled about 11.8 miles in that two hours, reminding myself that fat biking is a lot slower going, albeit a blast!  I did two descents of Haunted Forest, working on my descending technique that Georgia has been helping me with.  I didn’t know quite how to dress, but ended up completely warm thanks to some new gear pieces:

  • Pearl Izumi Pro SoftShell Gloves – hands were super toasty the entire time, and never got soggy or sweaty unlike my other gloves.  I decided to leave my pogies at home, and these gloves did great keeping my fingers and hands perfectly warm and dry!
  • Specialized Therminal tights and winter bibs – these were two items I just picked up on clearance from Specialized.  I wore the tights over the 3/4 winter bibs, and was nervous about only have the tights over my calfs where the bibs ended and socks didn’t quite reach.  To my surprised my legs were HOT this entire ride!  I did have a few crashes in the snow, and moisture never leaked through, keeping me dry.  Considering I got both of these items for half off, I think they were well worth the money (and versatile for many types of riding).

I also used my Sidi Ghibli winter SPD shoes and Specialized winter wool socks, and my feet stayed toasty even when the temperatures bottomed out.  I had worn these shoes for CycloX Louisville and loved how they kept my feet dry even after being hosed off, so another versatile piece to my winter season biking gear collect.

so happy to be back on the fat bike!

Sunny skies on Headquarters
Sunny skies on Headquarters
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Couple hours later and the fog moved in as I climbed up Pole Creek
Frost forming on the pine trees
Frost forming on the pine trees
My hair ended up sticking straight out the side and frozen solid by the time I got back to the car
My hair ended up sticking straight out the side and frozen solid by the time I got back to the car
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Balancing Act

The days, weeks, and months since the end of mountain bike racing after the Leadville 100 haven’t been my healthiest.  My body was flat worn out, and frankly I just didn’t have the physical mojo to really ride a bike.  I tried as best as I could but then began the snowball of sickness and the aches and pains.  After spending a few days in New Jersey helping my best friend finish up packing for her move to Florida, I came home and got one ride in before I was knocked flat down with a respiratory virus that left me in bed and out of work for days.  I recovered, and headed to Cross of the North where I planned to race 5 times over 3 days.  After the first race where I went 1st to last in about 16 minutes I was not feeling well, and suffered through the single speed race the next morning to come down with a horrible throbbing headache, nausea, fever, and general malaise.  I skipped my afternoon SW3 race, and laid on the couch. With enough Tylenol and caffeine I survived to podium in SS the next morning, and survive to a “not last place” finish in SW3.  OK, I’ll get over this I thought…

Singlespeed 4/5 podium at day 2 of Cross of the North
Singlespeed 4/5 podium at day 2 of Cross of the North

Then Monday after COTN I awoke in horrible flank pain right over my right kidney.  I’ve been plagued with chronic kidney infections since I was very young, and all I could think was NO NO NO NO!!!  I pounded 800mg of ibuprofen and went to sleep and woke up for my night shift hardly able to move with nausea and a fever.   I made it exactly 20 minutes through my charge nurse handoff before the off-going nurse picked up the phone and call the house supervisor and said she was sending me home.  Apparently me crying in the fetal position in a chair means I shouldn’t work.  I endured a painful drive to an urgent care, and after huddling with a space heater in a ball was sent home with some antibiotics and nausea medicine.  I then went through one of the worse nights ever as I had kidney spasm after kidney spasm that left me literally screaming and crying while my cat frantically circled me meowing.  I woke up Tuesday in even worse pain – something way different than any other kidney infection I had ever had.  My concerned parents drove over and fetched me up to deliver me to the ER.  The doctor finally convinced me to allow them to give me 4mg of morphine after a long discussion so I could tolerate a full abdominal ultrasound.  It did little for the pain, but I survived to get completely inconclusive results and a discharge home with more antibiotics.  Days later the pain finally subsided, but the kidney would spasm every once in awhile and remind me it’s there.  Another week of no riding down the tubes…

I finally gave racing cross another go at Blue Sky Velo Cup on the 24th, racing SS4/5 only since it followed my boyfriend’s SM5 race early in the morning.  I had barely been on a bike and my body still seemed off.  After taking the holeshot I spent 1.5 laps following a guy in an awesome skinsuit with “laser kittens” on it before overtaking the lead (in which the announcers yelled, “a young lady just took the lead!”).  I widened the gap to almost 3 minutes by the time the race was over!  I felt strong, even through the peanut butter thick clay mud, and cornering was on cue.  I came in for the win with a “half post up” (uphill bumpy finish).  Whoa, I just won my first ever USAC cyclocross race!  It was a great comeback and conclusion to otherwise a month full of sickness and frustration!

Blue Sky Velo Cup - winner winner for single speed 4/5
Blue Sky Velo Cup – winner winner for single speed 4/5

It’s all been a balancing act.  My body was just done and I was suffering the consequences.  Luckily in one aspect I was able to predict I wouldn’t have a great fall, and I scaled back on cyclocross this year (and started racing in a category I’m competitive in, instead of making myself miserable in the crazy hardcore SW3 field).  But it’s been hard, and of course I’ve fallen into a rut of lots of couch time and no motivation for much else.

Tomorrow begins training for 2016.  It’s gotten to the point I’ve gone quite stir crazy and need structured riding and workouts back in my life!  Who would’ve thunk?  Luckily I have my coach, Tony Diede with CritFit, to do all the thinking for me and I’m excited to get back at it.  I know I’ve lost a lot of fitness in the past few months and I’m dreading to see my FTP number after tomorrow’s test, but I know I have plenty of time to rebuild before XC nationals in July!  I’ve also taken steps to take care of my body physically, and have some specialist appointments coming up to see what’s with all the dying kidney nonsense, and I may be finally riding with my left knee covered to prevent yet another layer of scar tissue getting ripped off (don’t get cocky on beginner trails at Gowdy.  ‘Nuff said).

For some fun randomness in no particular order….

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I finally came up with something to do with all my race numbers which has grown to a significant amount that my idea of scrapbooking them is just silly! Book rings divided out by road, MTB, and cross with a bulletin board for pinning up stuff like special numbers, photos, my top tube pace sheet from LT100, pins and other little things down in my bike room
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I did some random “white girl yoga posing” during my hike at Buttermilk Falls in northern NJ in September.
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I did get to see some fall color before all my random health problems! Happy Jack is GORGEOUS!
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Because every girl needs bright pink MTB shoes! My new Pearl Izumi X-Project 2.0 shoes! Finally some carbon MTB shoes that are comfortable! I love them so much I hurried up and got a second pair from Sierra Trading Post to keep as a back up
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I took a selfie with the Atlantic Ocean
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My S-Works Fate was completely rebuilt into a brand new bike practically by the Pedal House in Laramie, WY. Um, chain maintenance is a good thing when you use XTR cassettes… lesson learned. But she’s all ready to go for 2016!
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MTB Race Season 2015: I survived!

Usually I’m excited for mountain bike race season to end because it means cyclocross starts… this year I was happy to see the end as I could stop with the endurance distance nonsense that had seemed like a good idea last winter.  2015 was an interesting year for mountain bike racing for me… It seemed to be either a high or low, but I learned a lot of lessons, better strategies for racing, and how to keep pushing.

  • 20 races, which is a lot!  Not all were major to-dos, and some were
Laramie MTB Series Open Women podium for overall series points (Photo:  Dewey Gallegos)
Laramie MTB Series Open Women podium for overall series points (Photo: Dewey Gallegos)

The highlight had to be how the Laramie Mountain Bike Series went for me this year.  Last year in 2014 I placed last in every open women’s race, usually a good 10-20+ minutes off the top 3 gals, so I had low expectations going into the series this year.  I’m always super nervous to race in Laramie since it’s home turf and worry about my results a bit more than most do for that reason.  The first race surprised the crap out of me when I placed 3rd just 1.5 minutes back from the fast girls I always figured I wouldn’t be able to keep up.  I turned around the following week and placed 2nd!  OK, maybe it was a fluke… I tend to get slower as the summer goes on (or does everyone else get faster??), so I was worried going into the LMBS before the Laramie Enduro that I wouldn’t do so hot, especially since it involved a lot of descending and always brings in some racers that are just in town for the Enduro.  Nope, once again 2nd!!  Going into the 5th race of the series I was actually just a few days out from the Leadville 100 and on my taper.  My coach told me to give it a good first lap, and then pull the plug… ha!  I was on FIRE that night, I totally forgot about tapering!  It’s amazing what training + a proper taper can do, and I flew that night, leading from the start and never looking back to win my very first LMBS with a lead of 8 minutes!  The final race of the series came two days after Leadville, and was harder on my physically, but I held on for a 3rd place finish in the 40 degree rainy weather.  I finished 2nd place overall in series points and won a total of $50 over the course of the series in payouts… it was $40 to race the entire series, so I broke even and then some 😀  Nothing beats the Laramie Mountain Bike Series, plain and simple!

LMBS #1 - This photo is illustrating me lining up behind Georgia Gould... for all the other races for some reason she chose to line up behind me!  Talk about pressure! (Photo by Jessica Flock)
LMBS #1 – This photo is illustrating me (pink helmet) lining up behind Georgia Gould… for all the other races for some reason she chose to line up behind me! Talk about pressure! Funny enough, the only race I fumbled a pedal on was one where she wasn’t there.  Whew.  (Photo by Jessica Flock)

 

LMBS #4.  Yay for cattle guard crossings!  (Photo by Jessica Flock)
LMBS #4. Yay for cattle guard crossings! (Photo by Jessica Flock)

 

Climbing up Middle Aspen like it was nothing at LMBS #4 (Photo by Dewey Gallegos)
Climbing up Middle Aspen like it was nothing at LMBS #4 (Photo by Dewey Gallegos)

 

Start of the final LMBS #6 in super chilly temperatures (Photo by Jessica Flock)
Start of the final LMBS #6 in super chilly temperatures (Photo by Jessica Flock)

 

The sketchy line is faster... I need to learn to take it!  LMBS #6, just hanging on 'til the finish (Photo by Jessica Flock)
The sketchy line is faster… I need to learn to take it! LMBS #6, just hanging on ’til the finish (Photo by Jessica Flock)

Another fun time was the New Belgium short track races in Fort Collins.  These are low key races, but are a kick ass workout (and makes me miss cyclocross that much more!).  I had one win in Expert Women, and did it on my first race on my single speed to boot!

Gail and I raced in tutus for the final New Belgium short track... only our fanciest for the evening!  (Photo by Kristin Eagle)
Gail and I raced in tutus for the final New Belgium short track… only our fanciest for the evening! (Photo by Kristin Eagle)

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo gave me a super early taste of mountain bike racing, where Naked Women’s Racing took 1st in the 4-person women’s class!  Awesome race, and I was so happy I pulled in 5 very consistent laps under my time goal!  And I am still proud of how the Laramie Enduro went and that I finally went back and finished that race, and pulled a mid pack result in Open Women to boot!  Glendo Trails Fest was a hoot even though the XC race ended up being a lot harder than I could imagine, and I learned I’m horrible at pump tracks.  And the Gunnison Half Growler… well, what a muddy fun time!

It wasn’t always smiles, though.  I had some big disappointments.  The Gowdy Grinder was one of the biggest ones that still pains me to this day.  I really wish I had stayed in Open Women instead of “scaring” myself down in Advanced Women.  It was just set off a domino of events that lead to a very bad race for me, and what I consider a truly embarrassing race result.  It’s the first time I’ve cried at a finish line (hopefully the last, unless it’s happy crying!).  Crashing myself out of 40 in the Fort wasn’t fun either, so I might be back to do that race again in the 20-mile version.  Ridgeline Rampage was a good lesson in pacing, and that my XCO race pace is not appropriate for my first 50 mile race.  I think my body is still trying to digest what happened to it over the 73 miles I did during the Leadville 100.  The Wyocity AMBC up in Casper came seven days after LT100, and my body was destroyed.  The race was held in freezing temperatures and I had not brought anything but a summer kit, which was the first challenge.  I was destroyed physically and mentally on a tough course with a lot of climbing, but held on to finish.  I was the only female in the cat 1 race, which is always harder because my mental toughness wears off when I’m racing against no one.  I wanted to quit after each lap, but held on, and surprisingly came in only 10 minutes after the last cat 1 male!

Wyocity AMBC on Casper Mountain... freezing in 30 degree temperatures and not loving life... but I survived!
Wyocity AMBC on Casper Mountain… freezing in 30 degree temperatures and not loving life… but I survived!

I’ve been on a two week “off season” since the AMBC where I was given the instructions to “just ride if you want to.”  It’s actually been weird going from many hours a week of training to unstructured nothingness, but I’m starting to feel refreshed and motivated again!  Since both my hardtail and full suspension mountain bikes are essentially broken in different ways (the Epic is still trashed from LT100 with cooked rear brakes, broken spoke, and shocks that need servicing like whoa, and the Fate needs new brake pads, brake bleed, and shifter cables/housings), I’ve been spending quality time on the rigid single speed, getting in rides at Gowdy and loving the simple life where the only option is to go hard or harder.  My single speed Crux also arrived, so I’ve been spending a whole lot of time not shifting!  My legs are hurting a bit, but it’s been fun!  I’m doing a weekday cyclocross race in Golden this coming week, otherwise it’s still a few weekends before I can start that season.  Definitely not as much planned for this year, and I’m finally smart enough to avoid racing at Boulder Reservoir so I can stop bitching about having to race there.

Of course I’ve already begun to think about 2016.  First idea that I’m really playing with is a go at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo in the SOLO female single speed category.  Yeah, solo and no gears… ha!  Damn the allure of the desert… I already have my team name thought of, so I can say I’m quite serious about this!  Other than that, I think my A race will be a return to competing at the National Championships, and give it a first and only go at a Cat 1 title before submitting the big scary upgrade request to a UCI pro mountain bike license!  Seeing that Nationals are back in the picture, so is Rumble at 18 Road and US Cup (if they’re held, of course!).  Other than that… I’m not sure what’s in store!  More awesomeness at the Laramie Mountain Bike Series for sure, the Gowdy Grinder, and hopefully some short track.  Due to Nationals, no Laramie Enduro is on my plate *as of right now*, and the LT100 will never be on my plate for decades to come, if ever again.  A lot of stuff will depend on work and mental state.  I don’t have every weekend off automatically anymore, so I have to balance which events are most important to me!

2016 is still a ways off, though, so for now it’s time to ride bikes, have fun, crash a little, and hope all this single speeding turns me into a beast!

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Just stop.

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Yesterday I set out to do four hours on the first part of the Laramie Enduro course.  Hoping for a smooth go at it as a kickoff to three days of endurance rides, I ended up getting lost for a good 30 minutes and doing a lot of unnecessary climbing while blindly following mountain bike tire tracks that were not going where I wanted to go.  I got frustrated at having to stop and fiddle with Google Maps to find my way.  Then I kinda realized it…

I’m caught up in a world of numbers and expectations.  This many hours without stopping.  Maintain this, do that, don’t stop here because it’ll mess up the segment time.  Keep focused on the numbers.  Pedal pedal pedal.  Go faster.  Try harder.  Don’t stop and take a deep breath and look around.

Yesterday I did just that – stopped and looked around.  The scenery was gorgeous.  The prairie is still green, uncharacteristic of this time of year.  The sky was deep blue, wildflowers were in bloom everywhere, and a cool gentle wind blew.  I don’t remember these views as I miserably raced the LE in 2013.  Too much pedal pedal pedal, keeping eyes focused on the trail up ahead.  Yesterday I looked up.  I let my speed slow and I pedaled at a steady pace that made it easy to breathe and just look around.  It’s been a crazy three years… going from not touching a bike for fourteen years to diving rather recklessly into competitive cycling.  Traveling, training, racing.  From the nervous newbie who had never ridden a mile without stopping toeing a line at a beginner race to lining up with my pro mountain biker hero behind me on the start line of an open/pro race in three short years.  My parents are right when they say that I don’t get into something unless I’m going to put 110% in and perfect it.

Dirt forest service roads leading essentially nowhere, just me and an overstuffed Camelback and my mountain bike.  And goodness, my phone to keep me from getting lost.  I stopped, checked the map, took photos, just stopped for a breather.  I live at a rather frantic pace and it’s been wearing me down the past few months… on the bike, off the bike, in a shitty career situation, in personal relationships.  With the countdown to the Leadville 100 rapidly approaching as summer slips away (ever the pessimist I am), the already frantic pace gets more frantic.  But holy crap, when did riding a bike become a full time job that I work a real full time for that drains money, energy, time, and life from me when I’m far too old and not talented enough to actually get paid to do it?

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I churned out just shy of 34 miles in about four miles with twenty minutes of stop time.  Oh lordy, twenty whole minutes of stopped time?!  I mean, who cares that it involved almost T-boning a moose coming around a blind corner leading to a staring contest with the large beast as my heart pounded out of my chest and I thought about how much it’d hurt when it attacked me.  I had twenty minutes of stopped time, argh!

I use to always take photos on rides… road and mountain.  It rarely happens now.  I see stuff – cows, llamas, pretty sights – all the time, but never stop.  Must keep moving.  And I miss it.  When did riding a bike stop being about silly experiences and photos and just enjoying myself?  Yesterday I took photos.  I stopped and chatted with horseback riders that could not believe I was on a 30-odd mile ride on a mountain bike.  I forgot how much normal people find these mundane rides that do not impress anyone in the cycling world absolutely amazing.  I took a few selfies.  I stopped and caught my breathe on Headquarters as I cleaned the climb up perfectly for the first time, though at 3mph.  I stared at a moose staring at me.  I looked at wildflowers.  I looked at the mountains.  I felt blessed to live under these gorgeous Wyoming skies.

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Life hasn’t been easy this year.  I struggle with the balance of this fledging semi-pro mountain bike racer thing and life and happiness.  But the past few weeks I’m working towards positive changes.  I’m leaving my current job position and returning to bedside clinical nursing… leaving a position I always thought would be my dream job that instead I only found to cause me a lot of stress and depression in my life.  I’m learning I need to balance my expectations and goals in cycling to maintain a desire to keep riding.  And dammit, I’m going to start stopping and taking more photos when I ride.  Especially of llamas.

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I’m not sure how Leadville 100 will go on August 15th, or hell, even the Laramie Enduro on August 1st.  I know the unexpected that is out of my control could ruin the day, but I can’t let that ruin my life if it happens.  My self worth is not hinged on a single day on a mountain bike, nor is the summation of all my race results.  Have I trained enough or in the right way?  I don’t know.  But I’m slowly evolving into the mindset that I have the physical capability and strength to finish the race.  I’m finally figuring out my nutrition, I’m learning a pacing balance, and I’m finally getting excited!

One thing I promise myself:  when I make it to the top of Columbine Mine on that day at 12000+ feet, I will stop, dig out my phone, and I will take a photo.  🙂

 

 

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May Wrap Up

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Month five of 2015 down.  Most time duration and elevation gain in a month, so I continue to build on stuff, even though Wyoming got confused and had some Seattle-like weather for most of the month.  While I debated building an ark for the impending flooding and doom, the month ended with some hot, sunny weather.

May was a busy month jammed packed with a lot of things…

  • Started off with my team’s charity event, Ride for Reading, where we donated and delivered a couple thousand books to an elementary school in Denver

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  • Afterwards my fabulous teammate, Brittany, and I headed up Mt. Falcon.  Reminded me a lot of east coast rocks, with lots of chunk terrain… anytime I can be reminded of PA while riding I get happy… however, Brittany’s definition of “the climbing is over!”  needs worked on!  😛  We did some 2000+ feet of climbing in 9 miles.  The fun started when a thunderstorm rolled through and we had to bomb the descent in the pounding rain and hail.  The lower part of the trail turned into a slip and slide, and I slide out and ended up covered in mud.  Fun times!

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  • First weekend in May included Koppenberg, where I was the first up the Koppenberg climb, and placed 5th overall.  I followed up with a 7th place finish at the Wheels of Thunder crit the following weekend in the cold rain.
  • The weekend of May 16th & 17th I spent it down in Denver with my teammate Wendy.  On the 16th we did the VIDA MTB Clinic at Valmont Bike Clinic.  I wanted to do a clinic to gain more confidence on flying two wheels off the ground, off drops.  I didn’t do a whole write up on the clinic for the blog as I came away mostly disappointed because I was matched with a coach who had a personality that clearly didn’t mesh with mine, along with riding style and thoughts and opinions on cross country mountain biking that were polar opposites of my thoughts and opinions.  After a morning of struggling with a slammed seat and feeling completely disoriented on my bike, I put my seat back to my PROPER height, and was nailing table top jumps at the dirt jump park.  I went with Wendy to her afternoon group, which was working on basic technical skills.  I found a couple of rock drops at Valmont that I was soon flying off of.  The coach of Wendy’s group, though a downhiller, was amazing and said my technique was great, and I ended up going off the medium slopestyle jump confidently!  Now just gotta translate that to the drop on Stone Temple Circuit at Gowdy.  I did have a very scary and nasty fall off of a rock feature that knocked the wind out of myself when I took my seat to the stomach with all my body weight, but I got back up and rode the rocks.
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Medium slopestyle jump at Valmont
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Swishing around the pump track
  • The 17th was the Superior Morgul Bismarck Road Race.  This is the course that was part of the Coors Classic (and is seen in American Flyers.  Cue cheesy 80s music).  It’s tough with a decent amount of climbing and included 3 trips up the “Wall.”  Another girl and I were first up the Wall, but I hung back and regrouped as I knew it wouldn’t be smart to go solo in the wind.  I nearly dropped off the back of the pack coming into the Wall the final time (the finish was at the top), but caught, and ended up placing 5th as I opened a gap on the climb!  Woohoo!  It was so painful… not sure I’ve ever really felt like I was going backwards pedaling as hard as I could in the granny gear before.  Definitely a surprise, as I wasn’t sure how I’d do in a road race that didn’t involve any dirt sections.
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Pain face at the finish (Photo by Shawn Curry)
  • New Belgium Brewing Short Track started in Fort Collins!  Oh man I love these races, and they served a purpose as my VO2 max workouts for the week.  First week I had a good gap in 1st place, and had a very hard over the bar crash as a lapped rider swerved into me.  Seriously one of the hardest crashes I’ve ever had, and it was on flat ground, funny!  I ended up in 2nd by a few inches, but it was still a good race!  The following race (damn rain kept interfering and two dates got canceled) I placed 2nd to my super awesome pro friend Suzie.  It was fun racing super hard again, and on my Fate.  I think I still prefer a hardtail over full suspension!  As bonus fun I got to ride Suzie’s Trek Superfly single speed, which I had been eying since last year due to the black/purple color scheme.  I took a lap of the course, and found single speed to definitely be interesting, but awesome as there’s no shifting to think about!  So I’ve decided to purchase the same bike 😀
  • Following weekend I traveled to Crested Butte and Gunnison for the Half Growler.  Whew, what a crazy race, but I stayed smiling!  The Sunday after the race I went back to Gunnison and watched Wendy race the Meowler (32 mile MTB, 9.5 mile trail run duathlon), ate some lunch, and then headed back.  I willed myself onto the bike and rode Upper, Upper Upper, Whetstone Vista, and Tony’s trails… WOW!  What an AMAZING ride!  The weather played nice with a break in the rain/snow, and the trails were natural and chunky and rooty.  I was transferred back to my east coast rocks happy place (side note… who knew my happy place would be the rocks of Pennsylvania?!).  My legs were tired so I took the climbs easy, but I couldn’t get enough of the terrain.  I only turned back when daylight started to run out and because my cell phone died.  I had planned to ride again on those trails in the morning on Memorial Day, but was greeted with a few inches of snow and a pretty bad headache so I headed home.  But I am definitely returning to Crested Butte!
Whetstone Vista
Whetstone Vista
  • The rain slowly began to break as the month wound down.  Maybe summer was coming after all?  I ended May with the Gowdy Grinder.  I’m still at a loss at how to process what was an incredibly disappointing race for me as I went from 1st to 6th in a matter of 10 minutes in advanced women.  Part me just cracking, part not being use to racing in heat (anything over 70 and my body hates me), part rear tire that hates keeping air in itself, part my technical skills not showing up, part possibly too hard of a pre ride the day before, and part a lot of pressure on myself to continue the podiuming streak at this race.  Luckily my parents were there at the finish line for hugs as I couldn’t help but to shed some tears at the immense disappointment.  I realized I should’ve trusted my skills and stayed in open women, which is what I originally registered for, as Mo Rocka and Albert’s Alley are definitely easier to handle without the brutal short lap of Stone Temple beforehand, and I shouldn’t have worried about the “real” pros in that category… I honestly think looking back I would’ve had a better race experience in open, which is the opposite of what I was thinking when I went to advanced.  I just can’t win… need to trust that initial instinct.  It’s really left me evaluating a lot about racing this year and training and why I do what I do.  We’ll see…
When things were still going good at the Gowdy Grinder
When things were still going good at the Gowdy Grinder

Training did kinda get messed up due to the weird weather, but seemed to have worked out OK.  Trails are finally drying out so I look forward to some long mountain bike miles at Happy Jack for some endurance, and hopefully long after work rides on the road – though now it’s thunderstorm season!  I’m looking forward to getting the single speed and opening up another avenue to experiment with and hopefully sharpen some of my mountain biking skills at the same time.  Time to just keeping moving forward…

 

 

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April Wrap Up

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Woohoo, big month!  Highest mile month since I’ve started riding, and my first time riding over 500 miles in a month!  Also my highest time and elevation gain month.  Go me!

Training continued to go alright, and I got in some big rides.  It’s the start of that in between season where the trainer can’t be put away quite yet, but I’m doing more outdoors, such as using certain mountain bike trails for interval repeats, which is actually pretty awesome!

I “only” raced twice, but it felt nice to not be racing a ton going into May, where I’m racing every weekend.  I had an insanely successful Boulder Roubaix that surprised me beyond belief when I placed 5th!  I also finished my first endurance mountain bike race, Ridgeline Rampage.  Definitely a mental challenge, but I pushed through and survived though I had some pretty bad back pain for 3 days following the race.

RME Ridgeline Rampage... getting a 50 mile mountain bike race under my belt!
RME Ridgeline Rampage… getting a 50 mile mountain bike race under my belt!

April training brings May races…

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Flexibility

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Drink up, little flowers!

 

Flexibility.  The new way to describe my 2015 race season thus far!

I’m very detail oriented and a huge planner.  I like everything minutely figured out, usually months in advance in the case of bike races.  I like a schedule, and sticking to that schedule.

Ways 2015 is teaching me to just go with the flow:

  • I got into the Leadville 100 on my first try ever.  Goodbye Pierre’s Hole 50 race in Grand Targhee, goodbye considering the Steamboat Stinger, and goodbye for training just around cross country events and racing.
  • My “A” cross country race, the Nordic Valley ProXCT in Ogden, UT in May, was cancelled a month out.  Suddenly I was without the need to ever be in super fast XC race shape this year.  But I also felt relief of not having to be in super fast XC shape, surprisingly.  I quickly shrugged off negative feelings, and registered for a 60 mile gravel grinder up in Casper, the Rattlesnake Rally.  Lemons, lemonades, something to that effect.
  • I decided against Rumble at 18 Road for the first time in my very short XC racing “career” just a couple of weeks ago.  Which was an awesome decision as this crazy winter storm going on closed I-70 and the promoters postponed the race due to mud today (taking a hint from last year’s mudfest, apparently).  That all worked out in the best way possible.
  • I was all excited to give another road race a go after my surprisingly awesome results at last weekend’s Boulder Roubaix.  Naturally, Mother Nature this week has gone psycho, and the gravel portion of the Clasica de Rio Grande is unrideable (to most of roadie persuasion I’m guessing, I’d still try it 😛 ) so my race was canceled 24 hours out this morning.

Not so long ago, I’m pretty sure I’d be crying over all these changes to my race season and normal “routine.”  Now I just laugh. I feel like I’m doomed when it comes to racing a mountain bike this year, as the 10 day forecast is saying rain for next weekend’s Ridgeline Rampage.  HAHAHAHA.  Just laugh, Heidi, just laugh!  After all, it’s just racing bikes!

So I’m sitting here with a rare weekend to have this time of year:  no races.  I considered the Denver Fed Center crit, but decided to plan a long road ride with some teammates in Fort Collins.  If it ever stops raining.  This storm is just about the most bizarre storm I’ve seen… 6″ of snow in my lawn with heavy rain, thunder, and lightning going on in the present moment.  I’m literally confused when I look at the window and see rain with all the snow piled around.  However, I am LOVING this moisture… my lawn and berry garden really needed it, and naturally so does the mountains, reservoirs, etc.  Gowdy has been scary dry, so I’m hoping this helps calm down the dusty trails a bit!

But yes, rare weekend.  I’m almost lost at what to do… and of course unfortunately the weather puts a damper on just long fun rides until Sunday.  But it’s also refreshing knowing I can sleep in, get stuff around the house done, hang out, relax, and be off the roads, which are quite frightening right now (or closed).  Whew, this going with the flow and having the flexibility to adapt and change is nice.  I think I’ll stick with it 🙂

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Not Too Pro To Wave

So this is, and always will be, an interesting debate in the cycling community… waving or acknowledging other cyclists when you’re out riding.

One of my favorite moments to this day on a bike was back in 2012 when I was struggling up LCR38 to Horsetooth Reservoir, some 50-odd miles into a torturous “A” pace group ride that was advertised as beginner friendly and no drop, and Georgia Gould passed me with a friendly “Hi!!” as she zoomed off by me.  I think my eyeballs about popped out of my head and I was almost too shocked to respond.  An Olympic medalist and mountain biking royalty took the time to acknowledge little me in a collection of random REI clothing wearing a helmet with a visor (gasp!) pushing 7mph up a road!

I’ve always been the waving or acknowledging type, and I think this is partly based on when I was a newbie and how cool it was to feel like I was part of “something.”  Like, whoa, they waved at me-type of something.  Everybody on a bike I make a point of waving at, or if I’m descending at a decent speed or otherwise need to keep my hands where they are I still nod, smile, or lift a few fingers.  My latest thing is waving to vehicles who take the time to wait out the 5 seconds or so for me to clear an intersection before they proceed.  I usually get smiles and waves back, and hey, maybe I changed the “cyclists are evil” perception a bit along the way.

However, apparently I am a minority.  Getting waves in Colorado is almost like pulling teeth sometimes, and it’s spreading to Cheyenne, where we’re already a pretty tiny cycling community (I will not even mention Seattle… not a single wave, just these weird deathly glares every time).  Heck, yesterday I got a blank stare back from someone I know and have ridden with.  I’ll admit, it irked me.  Seriously, just wave!  Yell hi!  Smile!  Cuss me out, throw something, do something!  We’re a small group, we should stick together…  (maybe I just need to buy a motorcycle??)

Aside from the horror of everyone failing to acknowledge me, I think it’s just part of being a welcoming member of the cycling community and being a good ambassador (along with not riding like a jackass, and you know, making an effort at those stop signs).  You could make a newbie’s day, as Georgia did in my case back in 2012.  People in full on team kits can be intimidating whether they’re a cat 5 or a pro – it all looks the same to people who aren’t in the know, so sometimes that mean mug look isn’t the most welcoming.  I use the Greenway here in Cheyenne a lot to connect to different roads, or on days when I just don’t want to deal with cars, so naturally I run into a lot of recreational cyclists, and I always make sure to slow and say hi.  I slow and ask people if they’re alright if they’re off on the side fiddling with their bikes, especially out mountain biking since it’s remote a lot of the times (I “rescued” a mom on a cruiser bike a few weeks ago who couldn’t get her chain back on and was getting ready to push the bike and trailer back home on the Greenway.. .made me feel happy that I could get her on her way again and that she could finish her ride with her family!).  Yeah, sure, there’s intervals and steady states and blah blah blah for training, but a couple of minutes isn’t going to kill anyone.  Neither does lifting up a hand for a wave, regardless of how many darn cyclists there are nowadays on the Front Range.

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Being a good ambassador of the sport is something I’ve been acutely more in touch with since joining a bigger team with a rather pronounce logo stating NAKED on my kits that makes me, well, more rememberable.  So maybe my waving and smiles and hellos are in hyper mode, but at least no one can accuse me of being too pro to wave, right?

So what’s everyone’s thoughts… am I overboard with the waving expectations?  Do you wave or acknowledge other cyclists in some manner?