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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!

Uncategorized

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:

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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!

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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!