Because adventures in the mountains sound so much better than racing a hill climb!
When my new friend Lydia asked if anybody wanted to join her last weekend on a 14er hike I jumped at the chance, as I’ve been saying for years every summer that I’d climb a 14er. With an iffy forecast we set out for Camp Hale north of Leadville early Saturday morning to ride the Colorado Trail from Camp Hale to Holy Cross Wilderness. Luckily the weather remained goregous!
Camp Hale was part of the 10th Mountain Division training grounds during WWII. At the end of our ride we spent several miles riding around looking at the ruins and reading the information signs that were around.
This segment of the Colorado Trail was absolutely amazing! The Camp Hale trail marathon was going on, so our first few miles were shared with trail runners, but soon we had the trails all to ourselves. The trail gradually climbed up to Tennessee Pass, where we got to PET LLAMAS! Tomas and Carlos had just finished up a 115 mile hike with their humans. I love llamas, so this was definitely a highlight for me!
We stopped short of the wilderness boundary as the trail turned quite rocky and hike-a-bike. We didn’t quite realize how much climbing we had done until we turned around and absolutely flew all the way back to our cars! With the riding around Camp Hale, the ride came in at 30 miles with just about 3000 feet of climbing. Amazing day adventuring on the bikes with no pressure of going fast!
We swung through Leadville for some dinner, and then continued onto Buena Vista for a quick grocery store stop and then up Cottonwood Pass where we would car camp and get an early start on our Mount Yale hike
5:30am came quickly and we got dressed in the chilly morning air and ate a quick snack before setting out. Once again the forecast had called for iffy weather, so we hit the trail at exactly 6am in hopes of beating any bad storms. First thing we noticed was how damn steep the trail is… Mount Yale is no joke in the case of steepness!
We took our time summiting, stopping for snacks and to rest. Finally we reached the top, and it was so freaking amazing! The weather was great, with barely any wind and mild temperatures (for being at 14,200 feet!)
After enjoying a quick lunch on the summit we headed down. Going down is what I dreaded the most as it’s so hard on the knees (and whole body as I would learn). We found it easier at times to run, though it was difficult in big clunky hiking boots. I see the appeal in trail running a 14er now for sure! The last few miles were tough, and Lydia and I were total chatter boxes on the climb up and nearly silent the last few miles! I limped behind, totally not enjoying myself, but as soon as I saw my car I felt so accomplished!
I’ve done two 14ers, Mount Evans and Pikes Peak, via road bike and found that to be easier in a sense than hiking them. Plus the elevation didn’t bother me (backed by heart rate and power data) until about the 13,000 foot mark. Hiking was a different story… my fingers and hands swelled considerably and I had a headache on the summit and it remained until I was below tree line. I think hiking must use more muscles and oxygen demand was higher? And my dumbass purposely did not bring my trekking poles… I should’ve!
Total trip was 9.7 miles with 4,326 feet of elevation gain! Max elevation of course was the summit at 14,200 feet. Starting point was about 9,925 feet according to my Garmin. Not too shabby! Total time with stops was 7 hours 15 minutes, with a moving time of 4 hours 3 minutes.
I’ve already started planning future hiking trips even though I’m still oh so sore! Best way to prevent soreness is to do a lot of it, right?! 😀
Cycling has done incredible things for my life… from fitness and health to crazy adventures and places I never would’ve been, it’s been a great ride the last 5 years. However, due to a character flaw of mine where I have to take something, and then take it to the extreme, in a way I lost myself over the last 5 years. Riding a bike that was originally purchased to get me outside and exploring turned into racing full race schedules of both mountain bike and cyclocross, with a decent spring road season thrown in. Goal was cat 1 license… then pro license… then a UCI points chase to become World Cup eligible. I struggled to juggle life, the bike, goals, and missing out. Missing out. Missing out on fun rides because they wouldn’t be the “right” type of training, missing out on funner races because another race was somehow a better puzzle piece to the wannabe pro racer life, missing out on other adventures for fear of injury/taking time away from the bike, missing out on just hanging out. Dealing with guilt. Guilt when I didn’t ride, when I didn’t ride how I was suppose to ride, when I didn’t want to drag myself to another race.
Then 2017 came. I didn’t train like I usually do, but was still reaching FTP goals. Then I got sick for well over a month in the spring which knocked me on my ass. Nonetheless, I had a crazy successful road season in my first go as a cat 3. But I wasn’t happy. I had to sit down and revaluate what I wanted from a bicycle. I realized I liked the IDEA of racing a World Cup more than actually putting in the money time, effort to try to actually do so. I liked the IDEA of racing constantly but when it came down to it, the travel, time, money was tiresome. I was sick of putting guilt on myself when I didn’t ride. I hated feeling like I was expected, though not sure by who, to show up at certain races or perform a certain way. So I stopped. My mountain bike race calendar got chopped to fewer and fewer races. Sometimes I rode like shit (Gunnison Half Growler), sometimes there was the flicker of a well trained pro license holder (Erock Sunrise to Sunset). I decided to not show up to a Laramie Mountain Bike Series race unless I truly wanted to (4 races into the 6 race series and I haven’t been to a single one). I wasn’t racing any road hill climbs, even though I am a current national champion in that discipline. I decided if my heart wasn’t into it, I wouldn’t do it. If I decided I wanted to run a 5k instead of riding on a weekend, I would. I would take chances, experience new things.
I remember reading a blog years and years ago when I first started riding by an up and coming U23 pro mountain biker, and how she described just walking away from pro cycling after Sea Otter one year and I remember being so confused and couldn’t understand why anyone would do that. I judged her pretty hard honestly, mostly because at that time I would’ve given anything to be racing at world championship events and living the pro life. But I get it now, though I was nowhere near her level.
It’s not just about the bike. I am more than a bicycle.
I can’t say whether this is a permanent change or just a relief from the past several years of heavy racing and training schedules. But I’m liking it, and doing some new things! I’ve actually gone for a run at 6:15am. I’ve climbed a 14er on foot after setting that goal 5 years ago. I’ve gone on some long mountain biking adventures and petted llamas and ignored Strava. I’ve camped in Mr. Fozzy for other reasons than a bike race. I’ve mowed my lawn and watered it faithfully instead of letting it burn up because I needed to be riding a bike instead of moving a sprinkler around every 30 minutes. I’ve lived a more normal life where riding a bike is a part of it, NOT my entire life.
I’m looking forward to a healthier balance on racing, with a bit of Steamboat Stinger thrown in as a duo and hopefully actually enjoying Dakota 5-O this year versus just going through the motions. Naturally, I am tentatively planning on a full cyclocross season because cross is cross and cross is awesome, but really I am not committing to anything at this point. I actually am considering a trail running race even!
Last year at the Tatanka point to point race in Sturgis, SD I had a breakthrough race where I learned that 1) I can race a bike longer than 90 minutes, and 2) Heat doesn’t automatically kill me. I had an amazing time riding really awesome trails. So earlier this summer I decided to throw my hat into the race again.
Then I started to get hesitant…
It was suppose to be mid-90s. I haven’t been riding a lot. My right knee exploded on a road century attempt. And the realization that because I did so well last year, I had personal expectations to do even better. But what if I couldn’t?! Argh.
So I packed up and headed up to Sturgis, about 4:40 of a drive on Friday morning. The drive actually really wore me down, and my right knee was aching anytime I couldn’t use cruise control. Great, not even riding a bike yet and I’m in pain! I picked up my packet once I got into town, and asked to see the start list. I only recognize Jen Toops’ name (strong endurance pro from Ohio who I think is leading the NUE marathon series), and noted the lack of Colorado pro racers. Shoot, now I really have to race as I might have a chance! I thought… to my dismay. I don’t know, it’s easier to know you won’t podium because the field is stacked deep with legit full-time pros.
Drove up to Hog Heaven and grabbed the spot I wanted since last year… nice and shady and down in the trees. I set up camp, and took to staring at my bike, hoping it would do my race openers for me. Finally I kitted up and headed out into the 90 degree sun. Surprisingly, I felt really good. I hadn’t ridden since Tuesday due to the heat, but legs felt peppy. I ended up doing some hill repeats and riding 7 miles in the campground. Hmm… so I felt good. Time to see what the morning would bring!
Thanks to my shady spot, I managed to sleep in longer than last year, waking up at 6:44am, and then dozing on and off until 8am. I was going to ride down to the shuttle pick up with another gal I met at the campground named Cindy, who was racing in her 3rd ever mountain bike race! I ran and got my egg white McMuffin from McDonalds, and enjoyed an earlier breakfast than last year, and drank lots of water and a bottle with a Fizz tablet in it to get loaded up on electrolytes. At 10am we left for the downhill cruise to load up our bikes and wait for the shuttle to Piedmont. On the shuttle ride I choked down a PB&J Bonk Breaker bar, and another bottle of water. Here goes nothing…
The organization of the start was smoother this year, and we didn’t have to stand as long on the hot pavement, though I watched my Garmin creep up to 100 degrees. The start was completely different this year with no Karen Jarchow and Alex Pond to blast off the line, and I found myself and Jen leading out with some men on the “neutral” pavement part. Last year I was out of breathe and dropped hard on this part, but felt strong this year and as we turned onto the Dalton Creek gravel road climb to the start of the single track. Jen was riding strong and hanging onto the wheels of the men in front of her, and I tried my best to stick with her, but found myself gapped. I grappled in my head on if I was going out too hard, but eventually said F it, go hard, see what happens. I won’t lie, I had pictured a podium finish in my mind, so I decided to just go for it.
Single track went well, and unlike the previous year I cleared the first few rock gardens. Suddenly there was a fork in the trail and the guy in front of me that was off his bike yelled “they’re going the wrong way, this is the right way!” So I followed him, thankful he pointed that out. At this point I was in first, but it wouldn’t take long before Jen would be back on course and powering past me. I just concentrated on settling into my pace, which was hard, but not balls to the wall. One of the guys behind me was overheard saying “We have an engine pulling us!”
Due to logging in the area, the first aid station came about a mile sooner, about 5 miles in, and instead of jumping onto the single track of the Centennial Trail, we started a very long grindy fire road climb out of the aid station. I wasn’t going to stop but a cup of cold water tempted me, which I took a sip and then dumped on me. No time to waste and I set out grinding up the dirt road in the hot sun. In a way this change was nice, as I could just settle into a rhythm without worrying about rocks and roots and sharp changes in gradient. We eventually turned off into primitive single track that was overgrown and rough, and I just lightly spun. After that trail we spit out onto another road climb which was covered with cat head sized rocks where were awful to ride out. I started swearing and decided the race promoters must hate us.
Surprisingly, when we re-joined the Centennial Trail I realized we were a lot further down the course that I thought, and set up for the first big descent of the day… steep, lose, with tight switchbacks at the most unfortunate moments. Immediately my handling skills felt off and I couldn’t get in a good grove with my bike, so I knew I wasn’t descending as fast as I could and definitely not as smoothly. But I made it without incidence, and start plodding back uphill when the descent ended. I was kinda of shocked at how fast the course was flying by due to the change in the earlier parts and soon I found myself down in the creek bed jungle, which they had politely trimmed back this year, so visibility was a lot better and the poison ivy a little further away from human contact. I had one near crash as I haphazardly left the trail but saved it with a quick unclipping and change in my balance. The creek beds were dry this year, and not as slippery, so I rode more of them than last year.
After the longest mile ever, I plopped out at the final aid station, where a kid immediately put an iced bandana on my neck and other volunteers set to refilling my camelback, getting me Coke, filling my bottle, and feeding me watermelon. Someone let me know I was the second women in, which I nodded in agreement. I knew exactly where I was, and I knew I couldn’t get too comfortable off the bike for too long as I had no idea the gap back to the third. With my pack back on, bottle filled with cold water, and a big glob of ice down the back of my jersey, I set out for the last 20 miles.
The climbs out of the aid station are a bit heart breaking, but I plodded on, happy to have the stinging pain of frozen skin on my back from the ice and knowing there were some serious descents coming up. Last year I had some pretty serious cloud cover at this point which helped out mentally and physically, but this year was nothing but hot sun and blue skies. On the first long descent I started catching sprint and kid racers, which was a little hairy due to the speeds I would come up on them. Luckily everyone was great with moving aside! Down down down… aching feet and sore hands as they chaffed with my wet gloves. I never wanted the descending to be over so much in my life! Finally the climb up Bulldog arrived. Last year I was quite proud of myself for clearing the 13% average climb, but I rode maybe the first third of it this year and jumped off and walked. Walking kinda felt good, and I really had nothing to prove by riding it!
Bulldog descent went ok. I took it cautiously, knowing it would be easy to lose my podium place or the whole race by getting too ballsy on the descent. Plopping out into the meadow felt great… until I went off course. Because it is not the Tatanka MTB Race if you’re actually staying on course (Everyone I talked to this year went off course at least once… course markings can be… not great). I saw a bunch of white streamers marking a turn onto single track so I grabbed the brakes and turned onto it. Luckily it didn’t take me long to realize it was not leading me under I-90 properly, so I turned around and hauled ass back to the Centennial Trail, pissed off at myself for turning off. Under I-90… yay!
Well, not yay. They changed the end of the course from the Ft. Meade trails of last year, which weren’t that bad, to a newly re-vamped section of the Centennial Trail. I really had no idea what to expect, but I was expecting something similar to last year. Oh no, oh no… why would it be like that? I was not prepared for the long climb to follow on moondust, which made traction hard and killed my willpower so I just started walking the climbs. I swore more, especially every time I rounded a corner and saw the trail continuing up. Dammit dammit dammit, this isn’t want I was wanting! The sun was hot an this section was very exposed. There was some descending before a steep climb up and then double track climb. OMG it’s never ending! I was sad I watched the time click away, nothing I wouldn’t impressively beat last year’s time with the new course changes.
Some of the descents on this section were just stupid with 6-12″ of powdery mood dust to suck in your front tires. When will this be over? Another super fast descent… to another climb. ARGHHH… but wait… bike path up ahead! YESSS! Luckily I was warned by another racer who rode several miles in the wrong direction on how to properly get on the bike path (once again, kinda sketchy course marking) and settled in for a few miles of being a roadie. Glances over my should assured that no one was close, and legs felt good enough that I knew I could throw in a sprint if I had to, but I was happy that I wouldn’t have to. The finish line was about .75 mile further down the path from last year, which added insult to injury to entire section after crossing under I-90.
4 hours 30 minutes. Done and done! Best marathon MTB finish and first NUE podium!
And I still beat last year’s time by 4 minutes even with the last bit of Centennial Trail moon dust madness!
I just might have to come back next year and hope I can win another buffalo 😀
2 liters with 6 scoops of Tailwind green tea caffeinated endurance fuel and 1.5 scoops of lemon endurance fuel with water topped in it at the aid station. Had 1 liter left at the finish of the watered down mixture. One slice of watermelon. Two 22oz bottles of plain water. Cup of Coke.
Mistakes: No sunscreen on my face. No chamois butter on my hands to prevent my gloves from chaffing. Also forgot a stick of Tailwind to dump on at the refill. I don’t have my crap together when it comes to bike racing this year really!
2017 marked my third time racing the Half Growler in Gunnison, CO. Great but challenging course and great little town just keeps bringing me back for more… even after all the mud of 2015! This year I was hoping to break the 4 hour marked since I came within 4 minutes of that last year. Easier said than done! Odd years marked a clockwise course, which is supposedly “easier.” They changed up the course a bit, taking out the long powerline road descent to pavement, and added in a lot more single track near the end.
Friday I did a short 10 mile ride to wake my legs up, and they just didn’t want to wake up. I didn’t get too concerned, as I’ve had pre-ride days of feeling like crap and then having good races. I was able to sleep fairly well and woke up about 7-ish to get ready. Like the two prior years, I struggled with figuring out what to wear, settling on a stretchy long sleeve base layer under my jersey, and big wool socks.
The neutral start managed to have a crash on the pavement that I avoided. The “neutral my ass” start was a lot faster and everyone strung out really quickly. That, or I was just a lot slower. Kill Hill went ok, and then started a long, double track grind of a few miles or so to the single track. I think that’s why I don’t like the clockwise direction… going counterclockwise we descended rather quickly after Kill Hill, which I think gave some recovery. On the doubletrack I watched myself go backwards through the field, and kinda settled in mentally of just surviving.
It was great to enjoy this direction without all the mud, hail, and rain of 2015! It was going by fast, especially when I realized it was time to climb to the highest point of the race and then descend to the biggest aid station at Skull Pass. I felt like I was riding pretty well technically, riding some stuff that more familiar with, but still walking some stuff that I felt like wasn’t worth the risk. I would even go off some drop on Skull Pass and feel my saddle hit my stomach, which is always an eery feeling (oh yeah, what dropper post? That damn thing I keep forgetting to use…). I had forgotten to lube my chain before the race, so I was being treated by the Song of My Chain’s People, which was getting rather irritating.
At the aid station I stopped to fill my water bottle and eat half a banana. Filling my bottle took way longer than expected, but I was on my way… until I saw a mechanic set up, who threw my bike up on his stand and slathered it in gooey thick glorious chain lube. “Thanks, now I’ll be able to hear my thoughts,” I told him, to which he replied, “Are you sure that’s a good thing?”
He was probably onto something.
The descent down and out of Enchanted Forest went well, and I found course traffic to be considerably thinned, but I continued to go backwards as people caught and passed me. I knew my goal time of 3:59 was busted, and just settled in to survive. My bike handling was getting messy, and at times I even struggled to get on and off my bike. My legs felt so incredibly dead, but then again, maybe I was just thinking they were dead. On and on I pedaled. At first it seemed like the weather would unleash it’s wrath, but luckily Michelle protected us all by putting on her rain jacket, and the sky cleared up! The wind did kick up, and it could get a bit much on some of the high ridges. Came across a Coke aid station, and the lady told me 4 miles, and I made her swear that she wasn’t lying and we all had a good chuckle. With the new single track out of the way, I knew it was one long grind up a hill, descent down, and then all the Ridge trail nonsense and then the finish would be near.
Ridge actually went a little quicker than 2015, but I walked a lot. I’m weird with exposure and cliffs, and with my noodle arms it was better. I was so happy to hit Tail Pipe, as I knew the finish was so soon! I followed a guy up Tail Pipe with another girl behind me. As we hit the small bit of road that leads to Collarbone Alley I sized them up, and decided that I had been riding for 35 miles, and dammit, nothing was going to damper my fun on what has become a favorite short trail of mine! So I downshifted and passed them before, hit the dropper, and told the guys directing me onto the trail “This is my favorite part, I’m not missing it!” to which they cheered.
4 hours and 22 minutes.
Done to my relief.
Then I heard the announcer say I placed 4th in pro women and I started crying. Because it ain’t an endurance race without some sort of crying!
(Turns out Karen was mis-classed into age group, so I would officially be placed 5th when they moved her into pro. DFL, just like last year, by over an hour. But hey, I beat the girl who registered but was a DNS!)
I won’t lie, I’m disappointed I didn’t meet my time goal and I don’t really have an excuse. My body just didn’t show up to this race. But I did finish my third Half Growler, which isn’t too shabby! Initially I said “Oh hell no, it’s time to find another Memorial Weekend activity,” but by the next day I was thinking it’s time to plan for next year, which very well might be the direction that suits me a bit better! (Rumor has it they might stop reversing the course direction every year, though…) I do notice small things that help, like more confidence descending and I feel like I did well holding my descending form throughout the whole race.
It’s great, because every since the race my legs and body have been on fire and I’ve been riding strong. Thanks, body. Love you right back…
Breakfast – Egg White McMuffin, hash brown, medium Hi-C Orange
During Race – 2 liter Camelback with 2 scoops of Tailwind Green Tea Caffeinated Endurance Fuel and 5 scoops of Tailwind Lemon Endurance Fuel, half banana, 6 ounce can of Coke, 30-ish ounces of plain water
I drank 1.5 liters out of my Camelback. Which beats last year, where I drained maybe only two inches out of it. Nutritionally, I felt well fueled and hydrated! Mixing the two flavors and types of Tailwind I thought was great, as I got a small bit of caffeine but not the crazy amount I usually consume when I do straight caffeinated mixes (which I think contributes to late race hallucinations I’ll have of cats and gnomes… or maybe that just happens when I race in South Dakota). Lemon and green tea mixed well together flavor wise. I think I’ll experiment more with mixing.
So come December 1st, I think I’ll be giving it a 4th go at the Half Growler… eventually I’ll break 4 hours, right?
Hey, what’s the best way to start off mountain bike race season?! 57 miles at Bear Creek Lake State Park for Battle the Bear!
So, I don’t always have the best ideas 🙂 In my defense, Battle the Bear would be one of the first opportunities to race a mountain bike this year in this region. Since I have a lot of long endurance races on the plate and I knew I didn’t quite have the “Race 30 miles flat out on this course that favors power” fitness, I chose the marathon, or 57 mile, option. I hadn’t raced at this venue since 2014, but at least was familiar with it and it’s conditions. Yep, I totally understestimated how hard it was to do 57 miles there!
I opted to race age group, and all of the age group women would start together. From the start we formed a pack of maybe 6 or so that stuck together as we wound through the trees in the single track along the creek. I really like this portion of the course as it’s fun, has shade, and thanks to recent rains the dirt was tacky in the corners. First lap would spread out a bit more once we popped out of the trees, but I was still sitting in second and felt like I was riding strong. In an unlucky moment probably a mile or so before the finish of the lap my chain would bounce off on the pedal side, and I had to stop to get it back on, and a girl from my age group would pass me, putting me in 3rd place. Dammit!
Second also went well… but all I could think in the bright sun was I have three more laps of this shit?!
Herein lies the problem with marathon/endurance races in a multiple lap format: you get the privilege of riding past your car, expo area, cold drinks, shade, people relaxing over and over and over. And by privilege, I mean the horror and frustration of riding past your car, the expo area, cold drinks, shade, and relaxing people over and over and over.
Urgh. I like races where I know the only practical way back to my car and the only way to see my car again is to continue on for another 50 miles down the trail.
Third lap done… fourth lap done. Occasionally passing age group men that I catch, and getting passed by the fast pro/age group men. It’s hot, over 80 degrees. My knees felt like rotten watermelons, or at least what I assumed a rotten watermelon would feel like. My hands felt like they were blistering (don’t wear brand new gloves during a 57 mile race… like I did). I came across that start/finish line for my fifth and final lap, and gave it one big sigh and set out for the final 11-12 miles. Meh.
This lap I started catching kids in their race, which can sometimes be a hairy experience. I followed one little girl on a fat bike up a decent hill, and she stood up and sprinted up it out of the saddle. OK, thanks for making me feel super slow, little fat bike rockstar as I chugged up in my granny 40t cog and baby chain ring. I caught another girl on another big climb and told her that her pace was great and that I had already rode 50 miles so I didn’t need to pass. She paced me quite well up the hill, but I gave distance on the descent, which was lucky because she had a big crash. I stopped and grabbed her bike out of the trail and then scooted her out of the way of descending boys. Little kids are so brave as you could tell she was fighting back tears, but was saying she was OK. I got her back up on her bike and we set out on our own separate ways to finish our races. Lost a few minutes, but at that point I really didn’t care.
I continued on, trying to finish strong. About halfway through this final lap my Camelback gave me that final slurp of my Tailwind mixture and then air. I finally managed to drain my pack during a race! I had an entire bottle of Tailwind on my bike (already had drank my bottle of pure water), but the idea of 85 degree liquid didn’t seem appealing so I’d ride the rest of the race with an intense desire for cold water… even considered drinking out of the creek, weighing the symptoms of giardia vs the satisfaction of cold water.
I limped up Mt Carbon one last time and then onto the bits of single track that take you in the opposite direction of the finish and then back around. A junior girl racer came up behind me leading up to the most “technical” section of the race, which was just a very short, steep downhill with slight rocky ledges to drop off of. Had to laugh as I dropped my saddle and bombed down it and railed the left hand corner at the bottom, which means I dropped the junior racer for a total of 15 seconds until we came upon the hill to climb up to the finish. Hey, gotta succeed on the parts that are still an advantage to me in my old age and higher weight! Haha!
It was probably the most pathetic of all my race finishes, as usual I can sprint, or smile, or something, but I soft pedaled up to the finish and was oh so relieved that the 4 hours and 57 minutes of Battle the Bear was finally over! First stop? The water tank with ice cold water:D
I would end up finish 3rd in my 19-34 women’s age group, and was satisfied that I finished under 5 hours and wasn’t the last off the course. To me it’s early season, and I was coming off a lot of fatigue and achy knees from a tough gravel grinder and 10.5 hour training week leading up to the race. I knew mentally I wasn’t very motivated, mostly due to the heat and multi-lap format. One thing that was awesome is I didn’t not stop during this race except for a 15 second mental reset where I told myself to pull up my big girl pants and stop whining, and then while I helped the little girl who crashed. Usually during my longer races I stop at aid stations, so this was something new as I wasn’t off the bike probably more than 2 minutes tops the whole race.
Nutrition strategy: My egg white McMuffin was cold by the time I went to eat it, so I literally only had a hash brown and latte for breakfast (can’t do cold eggs texture wise). I ate a Larabar pre-race, and immediately took a Honey Stinger gel with caffeine while staging. I might’ve been slightly freaking out about my complete f-up of breakfast (I was a hot mess in my lack of preparation for mountain bike racing).
During race nutrition was 2 liters of water with Tailwind caffeinated green tea endurance fuel mixed in my Camelback. I also consumed a 21 ounce bottle of plain water, and one Clif pouch of mango and banana. No hunger, no growling stomach, no cramps! Once again another long race fueled perfectly by Tailwind!
I rode my 2016 Specialized Epic Expert Carbon, which is my primary race bike. First ride on my new Maxxis Ikon tires, and though I went on the high end of the tire pressure range, they gripped and I was able to have fun in the twisty single track! ESI limited edition purple chunky grips were under my hands. Love this bike for the ability to carry two bottles, so I could have plain water and also a back up bottle of Tailwind for if/when I drained my pack. And having the 2×11 drivetrain was great as I went from big ring power climbing to spinning my granniest of gears.
I’m bad at writing race reports anymore. So let’s see…
April 22nd was the Clasica de Rio Grande road race, or as I still call it, the Weld Country road race. This race was my first ever road race back in 2013, and this was my second time doing it. Rain/snow leading up to it led them to change the course and delete out the dirt section. I didn’t know how this race would go since it was 50+ miles long and the SW3 women would start and race with the P123 and master’s 40+ categories, and of course I had still not been riding a lot due to being sick and traveling.
Well, worth a shot, right?
The start was delayed an hour due to a massive SCARY crash in a masters’ men category at the finish line. The delay ended up throwing off my whole nutrition plan, as it meant breakfast was long gone by the time I had to ride a bike. But surprisingly the race went well! I managed chase back any gaps in the first 3 laps, though sometimes it was definitely a huge time trial effort. By the last lap it was whiddled down to the top 5 in SW3 and some masters. Coming up the climb the last time I knew I wouldn’t be able to chase back, so I would ride the final few miles in solo on the struggle bus for a 5th place finish! Woohoo! First long road race completed, and I was able to race with a mixed P123 field pretty successfully. And we stayed safe in our race start, too. Always important considering the other crashes that had occurred throughout the day.
The following weekend was Koppenberg, which is pretty much my favorite road event ever. Leading up to it was another snowy stretch, with the course under snow the evening before the race. I nervously watched my email and Facebook for updates from Without Limits, and woke up at 7am and crossed my fingers… and YES! The race was on, despite the muddy conditions! Road racing needs some adventure and adversity, amIright?!
I prepared a bit differently for this road race… out came my Pearl Izumi mountain bike shoes and toe spikes were added to both pairs (one was new, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get them muddy…). I took one bottle cage off in case I needed to shoulder and run with my bike. And I grabbed my can of Pam cooking spray from my kitchen cabinet for some mud control. Years of cyclocross has prepared me well!
Upon arriving I saw all the muddy bikes and knew I was in for an adventure, which I was up for as crappy conditions are something I like to think I have a skill for, and it’s never used in road racing. I met up with Becky and we started down the dirt road after the start for warm up and was greeted with peanut butter mud that sucked our power. I didn’t want to dirty my bike too much before the actual race so we stuck to the pavement.
The start went well in our small SW3 group. The dirt road was tough as people fought for lines and there was some shoving off of lines. I kept my calm, knowing I could probably ride myself out of whatever crappy line I ended up in. I was last in the line up the infamous 17% dirt hill, which is very different than my approaches in previous years. There was one rideable line that was dry, so really, no sense in trying to be the first up. We came through the start all together, but I was out front so it was neat hearing the announcer say my name and team as we came through!
Second lap seemed uneventful, and I was in 3rd position on the climb when the gal in front of me fell over maybe halfway up the climb when she caught a soft spot in a rut. I swerved my front wheel to avoid her went into the mud and made the split second decision to bail and start running. And that I did… up that damn 17% hill! A girl went off the front, and Natalia got around me and I chased until running was killing me, and then remounted, glanced back and noticed no one was running behind me. I decided this was my chance and took off chasing Natalia with everything I could muster through the thick, sloppy mud onto the pavement section.
I contacted Natalia shortly after we started our third of four laps and we agreed to work together to try to chase down 1st place. I would pull on the dirt/mud and hill, and then Natalia led on the pavement. It worked well, though we were never able to close the gap. I was more worried about getting caught by girls that were behind us than catching 1st place, honestly.
On the last bit of pavement on the final lap Natalia pulled away from me. The finishing straight is after a very high speed corner and I can’t corner fast on the road (well… won’t corner fast. I’m a wimp), so I knew she’d get me there anyway. I was SO DAMN HAPPY to cross the finish line in 3RD PLACE!!!! My very first USAC road podium, in my 3rd cat 3 race in my 3rd time racing Koppenberg 🙂
SO DAMN HAPPY!
Even Tim the official gave me a hug! Granted… I know this was a special race and it was something that totally worked for my past experience and ability to decide instantly that running during a road race would be faster, ha! I’m glad Natalia and I were able to work with each other and stay away from the chasers as well.
And… that is the end of road season, minus a hill climb or two that I might find myself in later in summer. It’s the changeover to crit season in Colorado and the final few road races didn’t spike my interest/didn’t suit my abilities to spend the money. I was scared and really worried about my upgrade to cat 3 when the season began, but I am very happy with how it all turned out! In all 3 races I felt like I was in the mix and only in that 2.5 minute range off the winners. So happy I took the chance on the upgrade and the risk of stepping up my road racing game!
That Fort Minor song that goes “10% luck, 20% skill, 15% concentrated power of will, 5% pleasure, 50% pain…” can be rewritten for this year’s edition of the Boulder Roubaix as 100% concentrated power of will for me. I’ve been knocked on my butt sick for a solid 2.5 weeks now, with bronchitis now extending into the 2 month zone. I missed the CSU Road Race two weeks ago, so sick I could barely move from the couch. I assumed after some antibiotics I would be good to go for the Boulder Roubaix, but the cough, sore throat, and fatigue have held on. Last Monday I tried some sweet spot intervals on the trainer, which I did indeed nail… at a 190bpm heart rate and my lungs flared up angry and I took the rest of the week off the bike. In reality I had spent like 9 hours total over 3 weeks on a bike, and none of it in a very productive manner really. But hey, I was pre-registered and this race only comes around every two years so…
To the race I went!
After pre-race shenanigans involving long lines and no toilet paper in the port-a-potties, I grabbed my bottles and headed to the start. This would be my first cat 3 road race, and I was nervous about the pace and dynamics.
Cat 4 road races go like this: Start – sprint sprint sprint. Every corner – sprint sprint sprint. Every hill – lurch to a slow grind. Then sprint sprint sprint in between.
THANKFULLY… at least in this race, it was a whole different beast! We started off slower than I start my rides from my house! I actually could take the time to get my mud-filled cleat clipped in without panic. My friend Errin was racing with me, and we both remarked how this was so different than cat 4. I was waiting for mass sprinting to start, but we just rode along in the full field of 16 at a casual pace. It was great because Errin and I got to chat and actually enjoy ourselves, and my lungs and legs could slowly warm up and accept what was happening to them. The field was largely either RacerX or ALP Cycling, so I definitely saw some team tactics opening up.
First lap went well. I think there was only two attacks, which never stuck and were reeled in quite quickly. On climbs I found my way riding up through the field which was nice to see, even though I knew I couldn’t put in the effort I knew I was capable of healthy. Towards the end of the lap where we got into more grindy asphalt climbing with some steep pitches on the gravel I could feel my limitations. I would come through to start the second (final) lap just behind the main group. Hey, I stuck with them for one lap!
Errin has been similarly sick like me, and told me to go ahead as she wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t exactly want to solo TT, but I set out. About halfway through this lap Cindy would catch me, which was nice and we stuck together, and I got to hide from the wind a bit. We would pass Lorna who had a mechanical, and she would join us, so we had a little group of 3 going into the finish. I knew my gas tank was nearly empty, but I kept pushing out of stubbornness. On the final big gravel descent I caught Michelle, so I added to my train. The finishing stretch on Oxford Road is really awful, and I ended up pulling them most of the way. I knew this would led to everyone sprinting around me, but I was ok with it as I was redlined and knew I didn’t have more to give and probably wouldn’t be able to hang on their wheels if someone else was pulling anyway. They all jumped a bit before the finish, and I rode my struggle bus of 170 watts to the finish.
So happy to have finished! Biggest chunk of riding I’ve done in weeks, and I did 1 hour 58 minutes at an average heart rate of 186, eek! I was a little sad I couldn’t throw down one of my 800+ watt sprints when it mattered, but uhhhh, I finished!!! 🙂 I felt like I definitely left it all out there on the course, and was super proud of myself for the effort I put in considering all the factors working against me! I would end up 13th, and only 2:33 off of the winner, which I found shocking as I assumed it would’ve been a much bigger gap!
The course was insanely bumpy… gone was the buttery smoothness during Old Man Winter in February, and in its place were bumps, wash board, and ruts. My hands felt like hamburger by the second lap. Both of my palms are bruised and I have a blister on the right one. Luckily my trusty Specialized Ruby survived the beating! Some places were a bit soft, which is one of those moments I thank my mountain biking skills. I also found a big mud puddle and rode through it. Because road bikes need mud, too!
Comparing to 2015, I was only 2 watts lower on average power, and several segments show comparable times which gives me some relief! I guess luckily I survived this year due to my stubbornness (or concentrated power of will, ha!) and muscle memory just taking over in a race situation.
Bike: 2012 Specialized Ruby with Continental Grand Prix 4000SII tires in 25 width with too much tire pressure
Equipment: Pearl Izumi 9seventy Racing kit, Giro pretty lace up shoes, Smith Overtake MIPS helmet, Smith sunglasses, Pearl Izumi Pro short fingered gloves
Fueling: 21oz of raspberry buzz Tailwind Nutrition consumed during race, 12 oz of plain water during race.
Now I am hoping to recover some more and possibly race the Clasica de Rio Grande in two weeks. Not my style of road racing at all with it’s rollers and complete lack of sustained climbing or lots of gravel, but if anything good training! I plan on finishing out April and my road race season with the Sunshine Hill Climb and Koppenberg Road Race. Then it’s onto racing mountain bikes and a few gravel grinders!!
Making my “I only race this on odd years” return to time trialing…
Umm… what?! Sub 30 minutes?!
So this race kinda started out a bit hectic. On Thursday I decided to schedule a bike fit for my new-to-me 2007 Felt B2 aero bike I had purchased off Ebay a few months prior. Turns out it wasn’t the simple fit process that I thought it would be, and there would be chopping, and new parts, and many many shims to get the older technology to fit with modern day parts. Patrick at Bicycle Station tidied up my fit at 5:30pm on Friday night, and I was sent out the door for a test ride in the impending darkness around the local neighborhood. Procrastination almost got me, but they came through with a TT bike that now fit me perfectly!
Second hectic bit… I failed to correctly set my alarm on Saturday morning. Saturday is not a weekday, or so my iPhone says, and I set an alarm for 7:05am on weekdays. Luckily I received a wake up call, and I quickly threw on my skinsuit and some socks, and threw everything in my car.
Third hectic bit… the line to pick up bib numbers was insanely long… like 15-20 minutes long.
Breathe, Heidi, breathe.
So needless to say, I was on my trainer a bit later than anticipated for my warm up. I haven’t really been feeling healthy lately, and was feeling rather apathetic about the pain to come. I did about 20 minutes, with about one minute of actual true effort. But it loosened up my legs. I had enough time to braid my hair, get all aero-d up, pee, and head to the start line.
My start went good and I settled in for my half hour or so of pain. There was a slight headwind on the southbound leg, and it really caused me to lose some motivation. My chest and lungs burned. I was coughing/puking up thick mucus that got stuck everywhere (my face, skinsuit, then my hand which smeared it all over my left aero bar). To my surprise I caught several cat 4 women’s racers, which was a first, as usually I only catch the youngest of juniors. I came into the turnaround point a smidge over 14 minutes. I knew I was laying down a fast time, but wasn’t sure how that would translate going north, which is slight uphill (maybe 1% average, more rolling terrain than anything). Usually I do well on this portion since I have the knack for laying down power on false flat climbs. There didn’t seem to be a tailwind to help the efforts, in fact it felt more like a crosswind. Booooo!
About two miles out it dawned on me that I could possibly break the 30 minute mark. I was pretty unsure at how my 23 mph pace played into how fast I can ride a mile (I’m horrible at math). Coming towards the finish there’s a downhill roller, flat stretch, than an uphill roller into the finish line. I knew at a 1.5 minutes out from 30 that I just had to go for it, so I shifted and mashed down hard. I ended up doing some weird out of the saddle, but still in the aero bars power sprint (butt was maybe a few inches above the saddle). I passed another cat 4, and just put on the pain face and powered through with 32.5 seconds to spare!
Naturally, SW3 (oh, this was my first cat 3 race, yay!) is a competitive field. I finished 10th, but only seconds out of several places higher. It was nice to see how close we were all grouped. I was 1:55 out of first, which is a pretty close margin for me, as historically it was much much much bigger! I kinda whined once I saw I would’ve won the cat 4 race by 20 seconds, but hey, that’s what happens when you upgrade and play with the big girls! Just happy it wasn’t a complete blow out, and that I rode the course faster than I thought I ever could!
(Trying something new for race reports, a summary of… things)
Bike: 2007 Felt B2
Equipment: Voler aero long sleeve skinsuit, Giro pretty lace up shoes, Giro TT helmet, Handlebar Mustache “winter in the city” socks, Smith sunglasses
Fueling: 24oz of tropical buzz Tailwind Nutrition consumed about 30 minutes before start, nothing during the race.
2017 race season is upon me… dang, that snuck up fast!!
It’s time to announce the wonderful partners I have for my 2017 season!
First up, my team for 2017, 9seventy Racing! We are a multisport team based out of Fort Collins, CO. I joined in September 2016 and instantly loved the small, close knit feel of this team.
This winter fat biking was made that much more awesome thanks to my lightweight, carbon Dirt Components Thumper wheels!
So honored and excited to be a Tailwind Trailblazer for the second year! I just wrote a blog post about my experience with Tailwind Nutrition and how it has helped fuel me for all my cycling adventures.
Back again for 2017 is ESI Grips, the best handlebar grips ever!
I was selected to a be 2017 Pearl Izumi Ambador, which is all about taking the ass out of ambassador and spreading the love for all things bike related, looking great while doing it! Pearl Izumi’s gear was some of the first items I got way back when I started riding, and I’m happy to be able to now represent them!
So what does 2017 have in store for me?
Off the bat this weekend is the Frostbite Time Trial, the annual foray into pain caving! I purchased a new-to-me time trial bike over the winter, and look forward to killing my legs over the course of 30 minutes (and getting to wear my “alien helmet”!).
I’ve had about 15 different plans for my 2017 race season, depending on mood and how my training was going. There hasn’t been a whole lot of training going on compared to previous years, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, either. Due to our unseasonable weather I have been able to get in some good outdoor rides, including two runs up Rist Canyon where I’ve taken over 8 minutes off my personal best on the climb!
So far the plan that is sticking is to focus on longer, marathon mountain bike races. Gunnison Half Growler, Laramie Enduro, and Dakota Five-O are on tap, and will be supplemented with Battle the Bear, Casper Mountain Challenge (8 hour version), Steamboat Stinger (duo), and possibly Ridgeline Rampage. I will do a handful of road events, including the CSU Cobb Lake Road Race and Boulder Roubaix. It’s taking shape!
I’ve been using Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel for about 1.5 years now, and decided it was about time to share my experience!
I happened upon this product in the summer of 2015 when I had several endurance mountain bike races looming ahead of me. I’ve always been horrible about eating while on the bike, so I had to come up with a solution, and fast.
Gels – end up everywhere except in my mouth. Gloves, handlebars, jersey pocket, shoe, top tube, hair… just not very practical. Plus I found that certain brands and flavors soured my stomach, and most don’t go down easily without a bunch of water
Waffles – I loved Honey Stinger waffles, but they were horrid to try to eat during a race situation. Hard to open packaging, and trying to chew/swallow with your heart is 185 is not ideal
Chews – Fun, like fruit snacks! But some are awfully chewy (see the part above about high heart rate and trying to chew). Plus you have to eat the whole package to get the amount of advertise calories, and whose got time for that sometimes?!
Dense bars – I love me a PB&J Bonk Breaker bar… as long as I’m standing completely still so I can chew through the denseness and calorie laden thing that it is.
This was everything I had tried, along with items like English muffins with peanut butter and honey (so so so delicious, but impractical during racing), Larabars, and just hoping whatever measly calories was found in Osmo mix was enough. Tailwind was to be the solution to all of this: easy to use, easy on the stomach, and provides the adequate calories.
The #1 thing to remember about starting to use Tailwind is that it takes some finesse and time to get right. You simply do not open up the package and simply use it like you would a gel. You need to experiment to see what works for YOU – how it works for YOU, how much works for YOU, what flavors/combos work for YOU, etc. You also have to let go of the solid food idea. When I started with Tailwind I treated it more like the standard electrolyte drink mix (like Osmo, Nuun, etc). I would drink it, and then still be eating my chews and waffles and gels. I think this is a common issue with people who try Tailwind is that they calorie overload their stomachs because they’re also consuming all the standard amounts of gels and what have you.
Before I go further, I want to discuss the myths I hear about Tailwind:
“It’s a runner product.” This was told to me by a cycling coaching company. So apparently it means that if the Tailwind powder senses a bicycle nearby, it doesn’t work?! I don’t know, that is just bizarre to me. Runners and cyclists alike have been sharing products for decades, and I’ve never seen a gel or package of chews marked “For Cyclists Only” or “For Runners Only.” Yes, runners love the every loving heck out of Tailwind – BECAUSE IT’S AN AWESOME PRODUCT. Not because it can sense there’s a pair of running shoes involved. (Tailwind was born out of a gut bomb during the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, to boot.)
“It has too many calories.” Another thing that makes me scratch my head. This isn’t an electrolyte drink mix intended to be used alongside other food products. It IS your food product, and that is why there are calories in it. Each scoop contains 100 calories. You are free to mix it as low or as high calorie as you desire. And when a several hour long road ride can burn 2000-3000 calories, I’m sure the calories in Tailwind will get used appropriately!
So I began my Tailwind journey, and discovered I did love the product. Went down well and my stomach liked it, and most importantly so did my tastebuds (especially when the product got hot, which often happens in the summer). When the Leadville 100 rolled around I still had not perfected my methods, but I filled my Camelback up with it and set out. I did fine through the first aid station. But that little demon in the back of my mind went, “Oh, you haven’t eaten any solid food, don’t you think it’s time for a waffle?” So I had a waffle, and proceeded to puke my stomach contents out while riding my bike. That started the beginning of the end of my LT100 journey. I did the two hour long climb up to Columbine Mine not eating or drinking a thing, only to be saved by a cup of lukewarm ramen noodles, Coke, and watermelon at the summit. But I had taken an irreversible nutrition detour.
That experience convinced me to ditch the need to constantly intake solid or accessory calories along with my Tailwind.
I went into my 2016 race season with a set nutrition plan, and this led to me rocking two of my endurance mountain bike races with a happy tummy and fueled legs!
I have come to use Tailwind for everything from short road rides through many-hour mountain bike endurance races. After all, it’s as much of a road cycling product as an endurance mountain bike racing product (as much as a running product, whatever that still is)!
For typical, run of the mill short rides, maybe 1-2 hours in length I will use 2 scoops (200 calories) into a 24 ounce bottle.
For longer road rides with potential for extended climbing or rare stopping moments, or during road races, I will use 2-3 scoops (300 calories) into a 24 ounce bottle, x2. I use to always run a bottle with plain water, but as I’ve grown accustomed to Tailwind, I have started to use Tailwind in both of my bottles.
Mountain bike training rides, maybe a couple of hours, I will use a Camelback with plain water, and run a 24 ounce bottle with Tailwind
Epically long days on the mountain bike (3+ hours, remote, hard training) I will mix Tailwind in my Camelback. One of the things I love about Tailwind is it rinses clean out of any hydration reservoir and bottle you use with it. I have 2 and 3 liter reservoirs. I will do the math on how many 24 ounce bottles that equals, and run about 2-2.5 scoops per “bottle” in the reservoir.
For XC mountain bike races averaging 1.5-2 hours long I run one 24 ounce bottle with 2-3 scoops (my mountain bikes can only hold one bottle)
For endurance mountain bike races exceeding the 3 hour mark I run a 2 liter Camelback with 2.5 scoops per “bottle” in the reservoir. I place a bottle of plain water on the bike. This is because sometimes during hot summer races I “crave” plain water. It is also much easier to refill at aid stations, and sometimes you need to use the plain water in a futile attempt to remove mud from your drivetrain!
Pretty much it can be summed up as 2-3 scoops of Tailwind in a bottle, regardless of situation!
So what about additional food? If I racing XC mountain bike or on the road bike, I do not consume anything besides my Tailwind bottle(s). For endurance mountain bike races I will often start craving a “real food taste.” I have found that Clif Organic Energy Food pouches in banana/mango are amazing. It pretty much contains mashed up banana with a hint of mango, and added electrolytes, all at 100 calories per pouch. If I’m eating food while on a bicycle, 90% of the time you find me with one of these pouches! Other than that, I am guilty of taking a can of Coke at aid stations, and for rare events like the Dakota 5-O I will participate in the bacon and beer hand-ups by the Bacon Angels. But I’ve learned to listen to my body and ignore any of the other temptations (like the bacon during the Gunnison Growler).
What, I thought you said no additional food earlier in this post?!
Moderation. A banana pouch or half can of Coke over a 4.5 hour time period seems sane to me, and my stomach has handled it fine. It’s breaking the thought process of “consume a gel every hour,” or whatever it might be for a particular person. Let Tailwind be your food source for your body, and the half can of Coke the food source for your mental cravings! (Fun factoid: I only ever drink cola soda products during endurance mountain bike races! I dislike it otherwise!)
For training rides or other adventures, I do partake in eating other food. Simply because it’s a whole different dynamic when not in a race situation. First off, my body isn’t freaking out from the stress of a race situation. Second off, I often can end up in pretty remote areas, and I want to be well fed. This is where the Larabars, Bonk Breaker bars, gummy bears, and heck, a good ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich (squished and mashed from being shoved in a pack) come in. Often I will just bring a single bottle of Tailwind and run water in my Camelback on anything I deem super adventurous, as I know food breaks will occur.
It’s complicated, I know. That’s the intimidating factor of Tailwind is that it’s not just a “open it up, use it.” You have to be willing to experiment with scoop amounts, timing, and what works for what. But once it all falls into place… oh man! The glory!
On the subject of flavors… I’ve tried all 7 flavors that are available, and I like them all… even the orange, and I typically hate orange flavored stuff! Three are available with caffeine. I tend to use my caffeine flavors for endurance races (though I will admit that drinking 2 liters of caffeinated mix makes you get a wee bit loopy after about 3 hours), and sometimes if it’s early morning and I need to wake up.
So that’s a little about my journey with Tailwind!
Disclaimer: I am a sponsored Tailwind Trailblazer. However, the company did not encourage me to write this review, nor tell me what to say, positive or negative. This is my honest recount of using a product that I truly love and believe in!