Monday, July 16, 2018

Breck 100 2018

Somewhere on the last climb of the Breckenridge 100, climbing my way back up to 11,500 ft on Boreas pass road, I looked back and saw a rider behind me. Certain it was Chase charging hard the way she finishes every race I panicked. Did I just work so hard for so long just to get beat in the last 5 miles of this 92 mile race?!

From earlier in the month, pre-riding lap 2 of the course. 
When the volunteers informed me that she had only been 19 minutes back when we first crested the continental divide, a quarter of the way through the last of 3 unique laps of the race I was beyond certain it was Chase closing in, and took off down the 'final descent' without grabbing any food or extra hydration. My feet were screaming, hands cramping, and head pretty hurty already from 12,000ft ascent all at or above an elevation of 9,000ft above sea level.

Crossing the finish line 9 miles later in first was a pretty epic feeling of relief. These races are hard, but they are even harder when you know your competition is faster in the second half of every race, which means I am constantly being challenged to push myself right when everything screams 'give up!' the loudest. How cool/brutal is that?!

Breck 100 is one of my favorite races, with stupid pretty views, an epic amount of high elevation climbing, and a pretty good percentage of single track, it's hard enough to break you down, but fun/pretty enough to keep you going. This year we were treated to beautiful clear skies, perfect temperatures and endless fields of wildflowers that I wish I had taken pictures of (the hardest part of racing for me right now is not getting to stop and smell the flowers).
Not from the race, but this was the view of the Nine Mile Range as we wrapped up the second lap. The drama of the clouds exaggerating the majestic beauty of the mountains is breathtaking to me.
I took the lead early on during the initial climb up to Wheeler Pass, the biggest climb of the day topping out at 12,500ft and although the remaining 80 miles of the race were sometimes unbearably painful, managed to hold onto the lead until the end. The focus of the day was to drink, eat and pace myself, and I think I did a good job in at least the eating category :) In total I consumed 4 gels, two Bonk Breaker bars, two packs of Bonk Breaker gummies, and a quarter PB&J sandwich from an aid station. Although tummy troubles on the first lap made me feel pretty nauseated on the initial climb, and a broken Camelbak nozzle made drinking hard, the force feeding and drinking is getting easier for me... finally!

Much like Tatanka two weeks ago, this race got pretty mentally tough about halfway through, but this time I focused on telling myself lies about feeling ok, and because of the elevation I let myself stop a few times to catch my breath and get a little mental reset going. Considering I've only been at altitude for a week, I choose to be kind to my body and mind, and accepted that it was hard, but didn't let that discourage me. Overall it was a pretty beautiful day of suffering and remembering how to race at altitude.

And then Thane Gave me the raddest coffee cup!!!
After crossing the finish line I ate about half a watermelon, and then laid down in the grass at someone else's tent for a good hour, feeling the feels, before devouring a HUGE plate of amazing home made food. This race is pretty rad because not only do you get to race so much awesome Breck single track, but the volunteers all make the post ride meal from scratch, and it's pretty much the best post race meal you will eat. I think I told most everyone I know that they should come do this race, but seriously, next year, you HAVE to come check it out. With three different distance options, rad sweatshirts, equal payout, amazing support on course, and the friendliest people in the world putting it on, it's just an awesome day all around. Plus with so much climbing and at such high elevation, this is the best race to prep for Leadville!!!

This recap is short and sweet because I am not a good enough wordsmith to accurately describe the beauty/raddness of the course. I just keep seeing the narrow strip of rocky dirt etched into the side of the nine mile range that lead us up and over Wheeler Pass. Fluffy grass crowded with wildflowers of every color flanking either side of the trail, and in front of me a few of the men dotting the climb, indicating the suffering I still have to endure to reach the top. And that's the image which will pass through my mind as I fall asleep every night, along with the regret that I have no pictures to prove the out of this world beauty was real. Maybe I was hallucinating, after all, much of what I've seen this summer has seemed to good to be true...

And of course my favorite part of the weekend was breakfast, coffee and recovery rides with these two fools. Yep, I'm a pretty happy kid right now :)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Random Thoughts for a Thursday

I've been in Leadville for the past week working my booty off at recovering from the madness of last week. While I'm normally the one with endless amounts of energy, this week has definitely been slower paced, with a few naps, shorter than normal rides and lots of squeezing my legs in the Elevated Legs (aka personal masseuse :) I'm giving recovery everything I've got, and feeling good about heading to Breck 100 this Saturday. 

After chatting with Sonya Looney (eeek!) earlier this week I've had some thoughts floating around in my mind, thoughts I want to record, share, maybe even get outside opinions on.

Shredding rad trail in moderation this week :)
On Ultra Endurance Racing- I think the biggest takeaway from Tatanka last weekend for me was that, although we don't have world cup level competition at these events, it is still a big deal to win one of these races, which means I should stop selling myself short.                                        One of the things Sonya said to me that really stuck was that if I am thinking 'well there wasn't any competition there' about when other athletes boast of winning events then I'm probably doing that to myself as well. It's all relative, all of it at any event. So what that there was no one else there, did they/I push themselves to be their personal best? Then good freaking job! You rock! Don't poo po on that success, celebrate the crap out of it!                            As part of my personal growth as a human and athlete I'm learning (I would like to say learned, but I think I will always be working on doing better at this) that other women's success doesn't take away from mine, so celebrating them is WAY more productive than thinking 'oh, there wasn't anyone else there' or 'the field was so small, that win isn't really impressive'. Yes, I have had these thoughts in the past. I am not proud about it, and I realize how shitty this sounds, but I'm being real here, so don't judge too hard. 
Lots of lazy mornings :)
At Rebecca Rusch's Gold Rusch Tour at Sea Otter a few years ago one of the panelists said something to the effect of 'you'll loose more races than you will win in your career, so learn how to be happy even when you don't win' and I think celebrating the success of others is one of the best ways to focus on something positive rather than getting super bummed and beating yourself up after a less than stellar performance. I am still not always good at this, obviously, but this is what I want to be better at.

And in the lens of ultra races, yeah the field was small at Tatanka, but part of that is because not many people are capable of doing such a grueling race! I barely finished, I pushed myself past what I thought was possible physically and mentally, I should be proud of the win and not poo po-ing it because the field was so small!
So yeah, some honesty, personal growth/goals, and thoughts that have been on my mind as I recover like a banshee. 

And now it's time to eat, squeeze the legs and go back to sleep :) 

And between the resting I'm in THIS adorable town!!!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Why did I think that was a good idea?! Haha

It's incredible what a difference a day makes. Incredible how the mind can forgive and forget the pure torture I put my body through Saturday, the agony and misery... it's like a distant memory already.

But before the memory fades, I want to jot down some thoughts about the Tatanka NUE, the race that brought me to tears, more than once, possibly the most painful experience of my life.
The start, where I let the boys go. Photo: randy Erickson

I don't even know where to begin this story because the amount of suffering was so great, it started from the start line and continued for 9 hours. It consumed every corner of my body. This was one of few races I've ever done where I just stopped on the trail, multiple times, wondering how long I could just stand there before 2nd place caught me, where I decided less than halfway in that just finishing was going to be enough to make me proud of my effort.

The Tatanka NUE is a 90 mile ultra endurance race on the National Ultra Endurance Series calendar which takes place in the Black Hills National Forest in south western South Dakota. Tatanka is Lakota for 'big beast' or buffalo depending on who you ask. I'm going to stick with the beast option because this race was a beast and a half! The course took us up and over and through the Black Hills on beautiful fire roads and incredible singletrack. There were portions of trail that reminded me of racing in Brazil, incredibly verdant, with creek crossings and a smattering of sharp rocks always under our tires. Other portions of the course had us snaking through lush grassy hillsides, the green so bright it was almost blinding. I didn't come to SD with any expectations, but I left in awe of the beauty of yet another incredible state my bike has taken me to.
South Dakota is incredibly pretty, so green and lush and verdant! Photo: Randy Erickson
I knew from the gun that this race was going to be about pacing, eating, drinking and perseverance. The forecast called for 100 degree temps, the course had 15,000ft ascent in three unique laps (although it seems they cut a bit out to help aviod killing us), and my body wasn't recovered from thinking I could race the Firecracker50 in Breck at XC pace three days earlier (at 9,000ft elevation!).

When the neutral roll out was over and we turned left onto the first dirt climb I let the men ride away, a strange feeling, but to be honest I don't think I could have kept up even for the first 10 miles if I had wanted to. My body felt dead. I drank and climbed and drank. The miles ticked by slowly.

The first of the three loops was a 50 mile beast of a start, with 8,000ft of climbing. I was pretty numb for most of it, alone and scared about the pain I would experience later in the day. 25 miles in we hit the highest point of the loop, and the main aid station. I stopped to refill my bottles (something I NEVER do during races, but I didn't have Brendan with me to hand off bottles) and to gratefully accept an ice towel around my neck. Then I was flying down a crazy steep, rad trail with a ton of jumps that almost took me out over and over. My feet started hurting before the first loop was over, and the deep feeling of despair that I may not have what it takes to finish set in when we were grinding up a sandy hill in a strange/beautiful ravine full of HUGE cows that were making the sounds my muscles would make if they could make sound (think cows giving birth haha).

Photo: Randy Erickson
Rolling out on the second loop was a no-brainer, although my body hurt already, and temps were soaring, it didn't make sense to quit only 50 miles in. The second loop began with an epic road climb, of which I was blissfully unaware when the pavement pitched gently up. It was gradual enough at first to not seem like such a big deal, until 20 minutes later, in full exposure to the sun I was starting to loose hope. Thoughts of heat stroke were in the front of my mind, I wanted to vomit but had nothing in my gut to follow through the desire, and eventually I resorted to tacking all the way across the road. A spring in the hillside gushing with icy cold water came to the rescue just before the end of the climb, and after sitting in the water for a minute I convinced myself that calling 911 wasn't necessary after all.

Sometime later I was descending alone, convinced I was supposed to be climbing still, and stopped in a panic that I was loosing elevation unnecessarily/that I missed a turn. After playing a solo game of Marco-Polo for 5 minutes, and struggling to find a map of the course on my phone I realized that I was in fact going the right way and un-enthusiastically continued descending, knowing every foot I dropped was another foot I would have to climb. Fortunately, after an unreasonably long stretch of JUST dug trail (no joke, it was like they cut down the plants for the trail on Friday) I found myself with two other Epic lunatics and hearing their despair made me feel a little less alone. Somehow it helped me to spend the energy to encourage them, and soon-ish we were at the aid station with the ice towels again. This time I straight up SAT down on the cooler, and shoveled watermelon and pickles in my mouth, committed to not leaving until I felt human again.

The rest of loop B was a blur of pain and cramps. I would drink and drink and drink, the cramps would subside and then creep back in. Near the end of the lap I noticed my front tire had lost a TON of air and stopped to hit it with a C02. The course was littered with sharp rocks, so it wasn't really a surprise that after bombing all the descents like a bat out of hell I would have a puncture. Fortunately the Orange Seal in my tire held for the remaining 20 miles of the race, giving me no mechanical excuses to drop out.
Not sure what point in the race this was, and also not sure HOW I was smiling... Photo: Randy Erickson
Rolling through the start finish at the end of B loop/start of C was hard. I was praying hard for the second half of B that the organizers would make the call to not force us to complete the final 13 mile loop, or that all the other women would have dropped out, making it un-necessary to complete the last lap to win. Sadly no one said anything about cutting the course short, and somehow (I am honestly still shocked at why) I managed to get back on my bike after more pickles and bottle re-fills to knock out the last 13 miles.

Lap C was ugly, and beautiful. My body hurt every inch of every mile. From my big toes to my lower back, to my head, everything screamed in pain, and at 1 pm the heat wasn't letting up. I crawled up every climb and put as little effort into every descent as possible. On the second climb I silently thanked a random dude doing one of the shorter races for blocking the trail, causing me to have to dismount and walk. The cramps in my hamstrings were barley manageable. Ad we climbed I committed to stopping at certain mile markers, and somehow pushed through most of my mentally planned stops. 7 miles from the end another Epic lunatic dude caught me and informed me there was only one small climb left, causing a wave a relief to pass over me (although he was wrong...). I let him ride away from me and thought only about steady forward progress, counting down every tenth of a mile to the finish.

Insane amounts of relief right here. 
When I hit the actual last climb though the wheels came off the bus. I could see rando dude way up above me through the trees, indicating that I had a lot of climbing left, and the despair suddenly was too much to bear. I stopped behind a woman doing a shorter race and just started sobbing 'I can't do it' Having raced a few ultra endurance races at this point, I know the power of positive self talk, that the mind is stronger than any muscle in the body and that often the lies we tell ourselves can help up achieve unthinkable things, but this was absolute next level suffering. I sobbed in gasping breaths that I couldn't do it, over and over. I sobbed as I pushed my bike around switchbacks, the last three miles seeming like a marathon of their own. When the trail FINALLY pointed down again I begrudgingly got back on my bike and coasted the final mile of trail. And then when we turned onto pavement I pedaled as little as possible to make it to the finish.

It took more than an hour for me to be able to walk again without feeling like I would pass out. I alternated between laying on the ground and sitting while the nicest humans on the face of the earth brought me (hot) pickle juice shots and ice towels. Although it was such a relief to be done, and a shock that I had stuck it out, the pain in my body held on long enough that I feared I wouldn't ever leave my spot laying on the ground.
Maybe 3 hours later, after a meal and a shower and lots of time contemplating WHY I did that to myself....
And since this is already the longest recap of any race I'm going to stop here for now. I have more thoughts and feelings about Tatanka, I think I may have learned some things that are worth sharing, but right now I'm going to be smart and prioritize recovery. It's time to squeeze my legs (again, thank you Elevated legs, I've been addicted to squeezing my legs this weekend) and take a nap.

Spoils of my efforts, a crazy cool necklace, a rad trophy and Dairy Queen :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

MOAB!!!!!!! in June! In pictures

As you probably know from my social media, last week I spent a few days in Moab working on a little filming project. Although I know just about everyone on the planet was wondering WHAT HE HECK ARE YOU DOING RIDING IN MOAB IN JUNE!?! I'm not going to lie, it was fun as heck! And even though temps hovered around 100F when I was there, the arid desert and gentle breezes made it not seem so terrible! Throw in a freaking rad filming crew and some shreddy partners in crime, plus a huge helping of Trail Truffles and I'd say it was one of those unexpected experiences of a lifetime! 
Below: A recap of some things I learned this past week, and a bunch of pics from one of the most stunning places I've had the pleasure to ride. 
Thing I learned #1 
Well I kinda already knew this, but my biggest takeaway from the week was that I want to work on being a better listener. I get super amped and excited and stoked, but sometimes, slowing down and listening, pausing after someone talks to really hear what they say, that's what I want to be better at in life! I learned this mostly from the sound guy Chris, who was telling me how his autistic brother taught him this lesson. The crew was made up of a bunch of random duders and everyone, from the director to the BLM consultant all had cool stories and insights. I learned so much from being around a different crowd (other than just bike racers).  

When I showed up for my 6am call time on Thursday the first thing that I noticed was this gorgeous red Felt compulsion. The still photographer John has been riding this beauty of a bike that Brendan designed and I just felt giddy with excitement when I saw it in the wild :)

The male 'talent' Casey was a rad dude who used to do the types of races I do now, and also started his own energy food company Trail Truffles. These things pretty much blew my mind because they are freaking delicious, and just like eating candy on the trail except they are sweetened with Dates making them full of nutrients like potassium to stave off cramps! The truffles are little cocoa flavored date balls stuffed with coconut or peanut butter or some other amazing snack. Serious game changer when it comes to on the bike nutrition! 

Thing I learned #2
The heat isn't that bad if you manage your effort, and stay hydrated. I was anxious about shooting outdoors all day in Moab during the hottest time of year, but I pounded water, Gatorade and electrolyte tabs, and even though it was a sweaty week, I was never really miserable. Before I would have said DON'T go to Moab in June, now I feel like I would prob do it again!

Stoked on the heat acclimation training :)
 Thing I learned #3
Lots of lingo. I learned that 'make shapes' is photographer speak for, look like you are trying hard, really point those elbows, lean that bike! 'Sending a chin fax' is code for turning on and off my microphone, 'outro' is the opposite of an intro, 'slate' is when they clap that little film whiteboard thing to start a segment, ... ok, not THAT much lingo, but it was fun hearing all the film guys talk in their technical jargon and feeling like an outsider :)
Making shapes on some slick rock :)
 On Thursday, my first day of filming I felt like a total newbie, incompetent fool, but by the end of the day Friday I felt like a gosh darn pro! It was one of those experiences like laying tile, where I was frustrated that I wasted a whole day Thursday floundering and was kicking myself that I couldn't go back in time an start fresh knowing what I knew at the end of the week.

Thing I learned #4
6am call times may seem terrible but they are the best thing ever! the air was pleasant, almost cool in the am, and the light was glorious. After shooting stills, while Casey was filming I would go pre-ride my next section of trail and bask in the incredible early morning light in the desert. I highly recommend riding in the early morning in Moab, its pretty special.

My Edict in the am golden hour light, in front of one of MANY crazy deep canyons I rode along the rim of. 

On Friday after I was done filming I decided to ride back to the house via Goldbar rim trail. It was freaking hard, hot and WAY longer than I expected. Along the way I saw Gemini Bridges arch, some awesome rock formations, ran out of water, rode a trail down to the Colorado river that was WAY too technical for my fatigue level, and got SUPER salty.

Goldbar Rim takes you along the top of the crazy high wall of rock you see to the right if you drive into Moab from the North. 

So salty and tired that I literally just collapsed on the ground when I got back to the house. 
 And on Saturday, after one more 6am morning, followed by filming some REALLY rad footy on Slickrock trail, the team all went to brunch and got all nostalgic and sad that it was over... It was really quite sappy and nice :)
Last beautiful early morning light of the trip!
Photo of a photag 

Casey, purveyor of the finest ride snacks in the land!

Photag John and BLM consultant Mick, chillin in the heat on the slickrock

Best bike ever, that made every desert trail a blast!

Casey, Avatar Dave and me, getting sappy at the end of a long week of pushing eachother. 

Ending the week with one of the best breakfast burritos I've ever had at the Love Muffin Cafe.

The crew from the mtn shoot. Every human here was incredible! Thanks for the laughs and good times boys!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Summer 2018- Where I'm going (and where I've been)

Phase 4 = lots of van camping in pretty places :)

 In the blink of an eye we (Nikki, Nic and I) are sitting in the van, headed towards Breckenridge, Colorado. Phase 3 of the summer of grand adventure is over and Phase 4 has begun! I’ve been putting off summing up where I will be and when, so I’m taking the chance while Nikki drives to jot down a quick list of which races I’m hitting and where I’ll be.

Starting with the past two weeks:

After school got out Brendan and I drove to Carson City, Nevada for the Epic Rides race there. Phase 1 was that race + 3 days at home after to knock out some bathroom work and pack.

The following Thursday I flew to Bentonville, AR to film a fun little interview with the CEO of Sam’s club. I stayed in Arkansas for three days to ride and experience NWA (North West Arkansas). This was Phase 2a, followed by phase 2b: FAMILY TIME (for 2 days)
From Arkansas I flew to Oakland to spend 2 days with my family in Santa Rosa. My little brother was in town from college in PA, so it was great to go canoeing on the Russian River and drink an excessive amount of coffee with him, my parents, and my sister.
Family dinner in my childhood back yard :)
From Santa Rosa I flew to Moab Utah on Wednesday to do some work filming some fun little workout videos. It was really freaking hot, and crazy long days, but so fun. This was Phase 3, the project I said yes to because WHY NOT overwhelm yourself with travel and work before kicking off a summer of racing?! 

Nikki and Nic met me in Moab and from there we drove to Crested Butte for a few days of epic green views and incredible trails.

Sun setting on phase 3: Filming Job in Moab
We are now on our way to Breckenridge for the Firecracker 50, a fun, festive 4th of July race at elevations that will make my legs burn 😊This kicks off phase 4: get as high as possible and suffer like a dog!
Traveling with these two is a lot of fun, farts and laughs!
After Firecracker I will continue on to Sturgis, SD for the Tatanka 100 on July 7. I have never been to SD, so feel free to dm me suggestions of coffee shops and places to eat amazing food!

On July 8ish I will head back down to Breckenridge where I’ll camp and ride for a week leading up to the Breck 100. I did this race last year and it was AMAZING and hard and I’m so stoked to do it again, but on a full suspension bike this time.

After Breck 100 I fly to Bend, OR for the High Cascades 100 July 21. I’ve also never ridden in Bend so I’m SUPER stoked about this trip.

Following High Cascades and a day in Portland with friends I’ll fly back to Colorado and drive down to Telluride for the T100. I also loved this race last year, and can’t wait to see all the rad Telluride friends we made last year + eat at my fave Telluride spots.

The following weekend I have NO RACES! Which is strange and prob a good thing. I’m thinking about heading over the pass to Aspen for the weekend to see friends and ride fun Aspen trails.
And then LEADVILLE!!!!! So stoked to go suffer it out above 10k again this year!

Colorado is... perfection :)
The week after Leadville I’m torn, between hitting some new to me Colorado spots, like Steamboat Springs to ride rad trails and hang out with radder people. There is an NUE (national ultra endurance series) in New Hampshire the next weekend, and I’m thinking about doing it, but there may be more filming in the works, or I may be burned out, so I’m leaving the two weeks after Leadville unplanned for now.

Eventually I will need to make my way back to CA to prepare for the new school year.
And after that I have a few races in mind, but the summer of living in a van, traveling here and there to ride in amazing places will be over.

Again, if you know the best coffee in any of these places, or must eat at restaurants, please don’t hesitate to dm me or comment! And if you live in any of the placed I mentioned and want to ride hit me up! I would love to shred with you!!!!!!

Wish me luck on the ridiculous amount of traveling I will be doing! It's going to be a wild ride!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bentonville for President!

Yesterday I rode the 'Back 40' trails, an extensive network of trails North of the town of Bentonville Arkansas which crosses roads a handful of times, just straight across before diving back into the woods. Northwest Arkansas is the kind of place where cars slow and stop at these trail crossings even when it's their right of way. The trails are like nothing I've ever ridden. For each 3 minute climb you will be rewarded with AT LEAST a 3 minute descent because you deserve to be screaming down a flowy rippin' joy ride if you put in a 3 minute effort! And the people here are the kind of people who feel like real friends seconds after you meet them for the first time. Oh, you are a mountain biker, we have so much in common how could we NOT be friends!? And lastly the town itself feels like stepping into the Truman show. The town square is a gorgeous green epicenter around which adorable families swarm, shirtless runners stride down the street and bikers of all types are always cruising through. It's almost too good, causing me to wonder if I was dreaming most of the time I was there. 
Main street at dawn. This is America to me :)
The reason I came to Bentonville was for a fun little interview with John Furner, but I'm going to say I stayed for the trails and people.

The only picture I have from the filming,
I was having too much fun :)
On Friday after the video bike ride interview (more on that when it's ready) I rode out to Hobbs state park to shred trails there, came back to town to meet up with master trail chief Gary, rode some crazy fun jump line/gnar, and then joined Girls Bike Bentonville for their Friday evening ride. It was the perfect day in the life of Larissa, riding bikes from sunrise to sunset, only stopping to drink incredible coffee at ONYX and eat hush puppies at The Press Room. 

On Saturday I rode the Epic Rides race course with Gary in the morning, and then hit the Back 40 in reverse in the afternoon, along with a handful of random trails I found on accident on the way back to town. Along the way Gary and I picked up differend lady shredders to join us on the mission of RIDE ALL THE TRAILS, and the day ended at dusk with TWO $1 scoops of ice cream from the Walmart museum.
My head is still spinning from the ridiculousness of the last 2 days (180 miles of riding, 15,000ft of climbing in a state whose highest point is 2,700ft above sea level, endless amazing people met) and I'm itching to go see Georgia O'keefe at the Art museum in town (it's free!) but here are some pictures from the last two days. 

Perhaps my favorite coffee shop in the land, ONYX Coffee, is where I stopped a few times to re-fuel over the weekend. The lavender latte and avocado toast are incredible, the whole place is stupid cute, and the people there are crazy nice (in CA this place would be full of snobby hipsters).

It felt like I was in Narnia much of the time, just lush green plants everywhere, trees over every trail, creeks, streams and rivers galore, and endless bridges taking you across them. I was loosing my mind for most of the ride on Friday because it was so dang pretty.

 You're just riding along, trying to get back to town at the end of the day and you run into this kind of thing, a MASSIVE wall ride on a jump line that isn't on any of your maps. It's insane. Gary was telling me they are building an average of a mile of new trail every week, so any map you use will be outdated by the time it gets printed. The craziest part is that the women and kids I met all ride this stuff, like no big deal! How is this even real?!

The 'Hub' at he center of Coler trails, a crazy pirate ship looking bridge that drops you into some amazing flow trails and jump lines. Because just starting at ground level is like, way too boring!

And one more picture of epic drops. This one was on a trail that had TWO jumps over the trail, so yeah, HUGE. Gary rode it like NBD and I just stood there collecting flies.

After my adventure to Hobbs on Friday Gary took me to the Pressroom, a super hip restaurant in town. I was already dying from riding so much, but Gary was convinced we should ride Coler trails because the forecast called for rain on Sat and those trails get muddy. These cheddar jalapeno hush puppies saved my life/were insanely good, maybe because I was starving. We need to eat more fried cornbread in CA, hot and crunchy on the outside, soft and tasty on the inside... I'm drooling thinking about them. The re-fuel stop helped me get through 4 more hours of riding, and a few extra hush puppies stashed in my pocket tied me over till we ate dinner at the Peddlers Pub (yep, an amazing bike centric pizza joint with crazy good pizza and salads!)

The ladies of Girls Bike Bentonville. Such a fun group, all crazy strong and skilled, and most mammas! I LOVE that in this town EVERYONE is into mountain biking, moms, dads, and kids. It felt like in this place the sport is anything but male dominated, adding to the 'Is this real life?' aesthetic.

Saturday we started the ride with Melissa, an absolute SHREDDER whose rad kids built a trail complete with drops IN THEIR YARD because there aren't enough trails everywhere hahaha. On the race route there are crazy bridges build because the trail didn't exist around massive rocks, so they just built platforms to connect dirt, and a super pretty waterfall. Oh and a super fun G-out, endless flow trails, jumps, drops... it's going to be STUPID fun.

 Sadly I have no pictures from the second half of the ride, when Betsy joined us, followed by riding with Kyla. When we got back to Melissa's house to meet up with Kyla about 12 little shredders all come out of the woods, I'm not making this up, within 3 minutes of getting to the house there was a SWARM of 6-12 year olds on bikes. It was unreal, like the posse I hope one day MY kids get to run free with. The kids and I all hit the back yard trail in a party wave and then played a quick game of 'circle of doom' in which I was the third person to put a foot down (facepalm).

Then I rode the reverse Back 40 loop, and hit every trail I saw on the way back to town. On the way I found Wonderland trail, a fun jump line up high in the woods and couldn't NOT ride it. I also found Sally, a sweet trail connecting the middle school to town which is just a constant stream of skinnies, drops, and features (oh yeah, there are skinnies and drops and obstacles everywhere here, everywhere!)

And my second day ended as the sun hit the horizon (that's a lie, I was riding for a good 20 minutes after this, got lost, and rolled into town STARVING and so so happy).

Long story short, this place is worth a trip. Yeah I know it's so 'far from other riding', and you may think, why Arkansas when I can go to Colorado or PNW?... but it's worth the trip. There are so many trails you wont ride them all in three days, believe me, I tried. And I was just riding in Bentonville, there are literally hundreds of miles of trails in Arkansas, making it the perfect place for a week long vacation/road trip. The people and food and sigh seeing are worth the trip, and you'll leave a MUCH better mountain biker than when you arrived. And the best part is that you'll spend at least 80% of the time you are riding with the gleeful kid on a roller coaster feeling, flying down yet another flow trail, lofting your bike over rollers and off drops, wind in your face and a huge smile on your lips.

And nothing I write does this place justice.