Monday, November 12, 2018

La Ruta Chapter 1: Championa

From Jaco beach on Wednesday afternoon. 
It wasn’t until this weekend, reading case studies sent to me by a friend in the medical profession, that the seriousness of Rhabdo really sunk in. A week after spending 8+ hours in a Costa Rican hospital before checking myself out my liver and function is returning to normal, and I’m starting to feel like myself again, sorta. I wont be able to ride a bike for a while, and I get exhausted from walking the dog for 20 minutes, but I can reach down and touch the ground, sit with my legs crossed, and do a myriad of other simple things that were unreasonably painful a few days ago.

I don’t think I ever really learned how to be concise, in writing or speaking, and since this was kinda a big life event for me in which I want to remember all the details, I’m going to break this recap into two parts. Here is chapter 1. 

La Ruta is a three-day stage race across the country of Costa Rica. Racers begin on the sands of Jaco Beach, on the Pacific Ocean and traverse jungle, volcanos, rural villages and cities to reach Limon, a beach town on the Atlantic side. The race organizers transport your belongings to hotels every night, and feed you/wash your bike, leaving racers with little to worry about each day besides a 3am wake up call, and weather you have the legs to complete the roughly 130 mile mountain bike expedition.

My journey began with a head cold that resurfaced Monday, the day before I departed for Costa Rica, a full day of teaching followed by a red-eye flight, and a lost bike en route to cap it all off. Standing in the airport at baggage claim, waiting for the super nice Copa agent to make some calls about the location of my bike, I almost wanted to scrap the race and lay on the beach all week. Fortunately my bike just choose a later flight from my connection in Panama to San Jose, so after some stress and a few Costa Rican Red Bulls (what the locals told me they call espresso) I was reunited with my Edict and we were on our way to Jaco. On the drive I saw two red Macaws in the sky and a murder of crocodiles on the banks of a river we crossed.  I went to bed at 7pm and had no trouble falling asleep, too tired to be nervous or scared of what lay ahead.

Thursday morning began with a lavish breakfast buffet at our hotel.  My ears were still plugged from the cold and the flight, so it felt like I was dreaming as I forced myself to eat potatoes, plantains and fruit, kitted up, and headed out to the beach. Fortunately for me the other ladies racing Elite were super nice and we chatted in the dark on the start line about how soft the sand was, how one woman had done the race 15 times, and about what to expect over the next three days. Because of work I didn’t get much of a chance to research the course, to ask veterans of the race for advice, to think of a specific strategy. I basically assumed I would ride at a pace that felt good, I had no expectations because of the head cold and lack of experience/preparation.
Already sweating, before the sun was up Thursday morning. 
The race start was chaotic, with everyone running down the beach (the sand was WAY too soft to ride) chased by a military style helicopter. And then we all stopped just out of town for the ‘second start’, something about helicopter footage I guess. Everyone was trying to take pictures with Lance and the woman on a Felt beside me warned to ‘pace yourself, the climb is long and steep’. I took her advice (at least I thought I did) and when we hit the waterfall marking the start of the climb I rode my own pace, surprised to be putting out decent power numbers and letting that familiar ‘I’m leading the race, but surely second place is right behind me’ stress settle in. Everything just seemed to come together and I was racing bikes, gloriously charging up a massive hill on the heels of the elite men, doing the thing I love the most.

The first portion of day 1 was uneventful, a steep 2,200ft fire road climb followed by a series of short steep climbs and descents. At some point I found myself with Brad and a few local dudes and we had a blast bombing the descents and charging the climbs, unaware of the future consequences of my reckless enthusiasm.

At some point we entered the densely forested jungle in Carara, and our progress was slowed by frequent stretches of thick, deep mud, which forced us off our bikes. Progress slowed so much that I stopped worrying about winning the stage, and focused on steady forward progress. Darin Maxwell’s mantra ‘Every good ride has a hike a bike’ was making me smile, as was the ridiculousness of the situation. The footprints of riders ahead of us were almost knee deep, and I tripped and slid down each descent, covering myself in red, slimy mud. Every time I looked ahead, a line of dudes pushing their bikes up each climb deterred me from thinking about miles covered or time remaining, and instead reminded me to focus on conquering each little climb, each small challenge. Clean my bike in a river, push it up a hill, slide down, repeat.

I was shocked at one point to hear Lance behind me, specifically taunting me for potentially letting ‘these old men beat…’ me. Every time I stopped to clean mud from my bike he would catch me, and then there would be a rideable climb and I would drop him and his entourage, it was ridiculous.
Just about the point when we all felt like the mud was getting out of hand, when our nerves were shot and we no longer though it was funny, a group of supporters in a river crossing informed us the mud was over. They lent me a brush to aid in cleaning my bike, so I stopped once more to free up the crown of my fork, wipe clay off my rims and quickly scrub my drive train.

Some time later I was at the aid station, grabbing a bottle from the CTS crew, and the next thing I remember I was climbing this road that seemed impossibly steep. At this point Brad had stopped to fix his twenty-seventh mechanical, and my only companion was a young looking kid who warned me that I needed to slow down, that this was a long, long climb. I felt good, but heeded his warning, although the steepness of the climb meant I only had one option, push hard or fall over.
The kid was right about that climb, not only was it crazy steep (think 13+ % for a mile or more) but my blissful ignorance about the route meant I got to enjoy every second of the crazy long thing, wondering how much longer it could go on.

I felt fine, I was pushing the pedals, I was hopeful about the top being near, passing people who choose the shorter adventure route, laughing through slippery rock gardens and rushing river crossings… and then suddenly everything went to shit. Like the flip of a switch I went from feeling ok, hopeful even about the end being near, to an almost complete shut down, legs aching, delusional, tired, hopeless, lost my mind style shut down. I begged volunteers and spectators to tell me this was the top at each bend in the road, I told them I couldn’t do it, I started weaving across the road. And then when the steep one lane road climb turned onto a slightly flatter two lone road, I assumed we had reached the top, and the possibility of finishing the stage started to seem more possible. Shortly after the false feeling of relief washed over me though, I found myself continuing to climb. I resumed begging the spectators to let me go downhill, or let me drop out of the race, and each time they assured me I was really close to the top. My inability to ride in a straight line started to get dangerous, as now there was two way traffic on the road, and a ditch to my right that I kept falling in. I became certain that I was in Brazil, racing Ironbiker, and that the left hand turn I was supposed to take had already passed. I argued with the spectators now, and in the stretches between people I wondered where I was, and why I wasn’t at school teaching. What day was it? Why was I riding a bike? How soon until second place caught me and I could give up?

Eventually it all became too much, my body was shutting down and I knew it was no longer worth it to keep pushing. I stopped in the ditch and stood on the side of the road, not really sure what I should do since I didn’t know where I was and I don’t really speak Spanish. A white pick up truck rolled up a minute or two later, and the crew inside hopped out and helped me sit on the tailgate. They fed me Gatorade and water, and coaxed me back on my bike. The true top was only 500m ahead they promised. I was winning by a large margin, all I had to do was bring it in.

Thinking the finish was at the bottom of the descent in front of me I got back on my bike, and slowly made my way to the turn, where I was pleased to drop into the steepest road descent I’ve ever ridden. The road plummeted down the side of the mountain, dropping more than 2,000ft in elevation in 4 miles. At times the curves in the road were almost slalom like, twisting down into town at what felt like breakneck speeds.

The next chunk of time is a blur, I remember crossing a bridge over an incredibly beautiful river, and then turning uphill, being kinda pissed that we weren’t at the finish yet. I remember the white truck following me up the climb, trying to push, and having to resort to survival mode again. I remember drinking baggies full of Gatorade from random dudes on the side of the road, and asking for water on my espalda from the guy with an icy bottle. The white pickup people told me there was a gradual 2 mile climb to the finish, so I focused on turning the pedals over, smooth and steady. Somehow my brain was still ahead of my body though, because the train really came off the rails here. I caught a woman doing the adventure route and decided to ride with her. I couldn’t hold my left arm straight anymore. I was leaning to the left, and couldn’t steer straight as a result. I started falling over, for no reason at all, on a smooth, gently uphill fire road. I would just tip over. One of the times I fell I twisted my ankle badly, and sat on the ground for a minute, not really sure what was going on. The pick up people helped me up, and one of the guys from the truck ran along side me, gently leaning me upright every time I tipped to the left. The official in the quad ahead of me was upset. He didn’t like that I was unable to ride by myself, but the pick up people assured him I could do it. I was no longer in control of my body, just doing what I was told as best I could. I crept towards the finish. As soon as the course turned into a little pump track/skills park to the finish I was on my own, crashed one more time into a little log ride on the ground, and rode under the finish banner, still slumped over despite my best effort to hold myself upright on my bike. 
Hunched to the left since my left arm wont stay straight. 

All along the route people had yelled 'Championa', 'fuerte, championa' at me, and the finish was no different. It was hard to enjoy the glory of winning the stage though, all I wanted was to get help from the EMTs. 

I immediately asked for an IV of fluid right at the finish (after struggling to get off my bike), joked about what a disaster I was, and was laid on a stretcher to have my vitals checked. After a short analysis of my condition the EMTs decided I didn’t need an IV. I begged and begged for one, waited a few minutes and begged again. Each time they told me no. After 5 years of racing bikes, 2 of which being ultra endurance, I KNEW I needed IV fluids, that I couldn’t possibly drink enough to fix what was wrong, but didn’t know what to do as they were adamant that I didn’t need it.

And that’s probably where the start of my medical problems took a turn from bad to dangerous. It’s also where I’m going to stop for today 😊 haha an unintentional cliff hanger, but this is too long already. Will wrap up my second and final day of La Ruta de los Conquistadors in a few days.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A few more random thoughts

So the knee pain thing has pretty much resolved itself. I still can't run without significant risk of angering my patellar tendons, but I'm riding pain free, and I can even push hard on the pedals again, so I think the old knees are ready to do some hard work. BUT... the headcold I had a month ago resurfaced with a vengance this week, mainly the wicked cough that keeps me up all night. Two nights of terrible sleep and a day of coughing until I thought I would pass out in class yesterday = yet again having to take time off the bike to wait until I'm healthy enough to train.

This sucks.

Time just keeps passing, La Ruta gets closer and closer, and I am still not training like I should be.

I'm trying to stay positive. I know I have been blessed with good health MOST of the time. That I had a flawless year of races with very few mechanical or bio-mechanical issues. I know I will one day be back to riding bikes all day in the sunshine, and that a broken bone would be much worse. And a random all day rain storm today helped me not feel like I missed out on beautiful fall biking adventures.

But it's still hard and frustrating and scary. I'm on antibiotics now, and with two solid days of not waking at at 5am and no exercise (major sad face) maybe I can kick this illness down by Monday.

In non-bike related news I am blown away at how much easier/happier the students are at my new school than last year. Not sure if it's just a good batch of kiddos or of the demographic is really that different, but so far these kids are incredibly pleasant to teach. They come in every day happy and excited and positive. I give them a task and I haven't heard complaining yet. They get excited about the online games we play, they are stoked to win or to move up in the ranks, a kid even told me this week that he broke into the top 10 for the first time (one of the games ranks the kids within the class based on speed and accuracy), and he was so proud of himself I wanted to cry. It's a strange experience to go from a difficult group of kids to this, but I feel guilty being so much happier teaching them because I know the students at my old school are dealing with so much more in life and that's WHY they are harder to reach. It's not fair that one group of kids has been dealt a difficult hand in life and just up the street, 5 miles away these other kids got such a different set of cards and an easier childhood. Not sure what to do with these thoughts, it's just been on my mind all week.

And on a totally random note, goat yoga. Why? I mean I love goats as much as the next person, but what if they poop on my yoga mat? or start eating my clothes? How can you relax and focus inward and concentrate on the movement of your body when there is a goat standing o your back?

I saw this goat yoga class last weekend on my way through San Juan Capistrano... hilarious, but strange.

I'm OBSESSED with Matcha tea lattes right now. Not sure why I'm craving it all the time, but I look forward to trips to Home Depot because Bodhi Leaf, a coffee and tea shop next door, makes the worlds best Matcha.

And all these cool fall weekends have been making me want to bake ALL THE FALL THINGS. Last weekend it was apple cinnamon scones. and today I made pumpkin coffee cake with browned butter maple glaze... it's really a problem that I can't ride bikes right now haha. And on Wednesday night we made sweet potato gnocchi, which was way easier than I anticipated it being! I guess I am liking being home as opposed to on the road racing all the time. It's been nice to bake and cook and relax on the weekends. 

Coffee cake  :) I'm pretty proud of this one, and it tastes better than it looks!

That't is, really random thoughts for a Saturday night. Off to bed to try and kick the cold. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Knee Pain and Life Lately

Actually really loving the pre-dawn commutes :)
Oh hey, yes, I'm still alive. Alive and crazy and hanging on by the skin of my teeth. Since school started life has been insanity. Waking up at 5 to ride to school in the dark for 6:15am XC practice (I'm assistant coaching the freshmen boys XC team at THHS), teaching until 4pm, plus afternoon XC on Tues/Thurs, and soon to be leading HS mtb fun rides on Wednesday and Fridays... yeah, by the skin of my teeth. I am SUPPOSED to be doing my own training on top of all this, but that hasn't been going so well and to be honest I haven't done a single workout in 3 weeks.

When the coaching gig came up I said yes because one of my personal goals this year is to be more involved in the school/get to know the staff and kids better than I did at Laguna. My coach told me to be careful not to let my huge aerobic engine trick me into running more than my joints/non-running body could handle. But of course I thought 5.5 miles on my first run back was just a baby run, that running 5 times a week on week 1 was easing into it, and that when I felt pain it was just weakness leaving the body, blah blah...

And two weeks in my knees suddenly hurt so badly I could barely walk last Monday during 7th period. I was close to tears from pain, frustration and fear that I was blowing the most important training weeks on my year.

Fast forward to today and looking  back on this setback I feel a strange calm/appreciation for my broken body.
Trying to heal my knees with a butt load of stretching.
For one I never really appreciated my knees before. I know people who have suffered torn ACLs and chronic knee pain and broken bones... and I always knew in my mind to appreciate my normally functioning body, but being down with pain so severe you can't walk is equal parts terrifying and eye opening. As the pain slowly fades and I am lucky enough to start getting pain free commutes to school I am so so so grateful for every pain free pedal stroke. I am also full of retroactive gratitude for so many years of racing with relatively few injuries. And for some reason the gratitude for my hopefully soon to be healthy body and past is bigger than the stress about not training, so that's kinda great (maybe my mind is too overwhelmed from working so much that I can't hold both emotions at once, haha)

And secondly being injured means I can focus all my time on teaching and coaching, which I'm actually enjoying quite a lot. It's honestly been overwhelming to think about training after work, and the cumulative fatigue of teaching and coaching hit me hard at the Grizzly, so I'm secretly a little grateful that I haven't had to think about how to squeeze in the workouts for the past 2 weeks. The down time has been full of school work and sleep, and it's fueling the fire in me to race hard again as well.
I am the happiest girl when I get to ride with no pain :)

 It's been strange to me that I have lost all interest in racking up Strava data, that I'm not itching to run out the door the second school gets out, and that last weekend I didn't touch a bike on Sunday, but hey, I guess there is a time for everything and the time of excessive ride-till-you-die Larissa is taking a hiatus. I hope everyone is healthy and happy and enjoying all those miles and feet of elevation for me :) Thanks guys!
I will leave you with this picture of God smiling on the Santa Ana mountains from tonight :)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

PCP2P 2018

I know the way I went about this race, and pretty much every race is all wrong. As I worked my way through the trails in Round Valley in the first 10 miles of the day I thought a lot about racing my own race verses strategizing to win by abusing my competitors. I knew going out crazy hard was/is the most painful way to go about trying to win a bike race. I thought a lot about all the possible outcomes, but when push comes to shove, the only thing I feel comfortable with is going bananas from the gun, 110%, way too hard, establishing a gap and then holding on for dear life hoping everyone else is cracked just enough to not catch me for the second half of the race. So despite the slightly shorter distance of Park City Point 2 Point, only 75 miles instead of 100, I choose to use the same tactic. What the course lacked in length it more than made up in technical single track and climbing, so even though I feared getting my butt kicked by local power house and all around shredder Evelyn, I was hoping the sheer length of time it takes to complete the course would give me an advantage.

When the fruitloop cannon was shot and we crossed the start line I pinned it hard. The occasional glance at my power meter confirmed that we were flying, and so did the shearing pain in my lungs and legs. I realize that hitting cross country power numbers for the first 30 minutes of a 7 hour race AT ALTITUDE is definitely NOT a good idea, but I could not for the life of me shake Evelyn. At some point, as we smashed our way around the smooth, flowy fun Round Valley trails I made the conscious decision to go all in on this terrible strategy. Instead of easing off and racing smart I was going to try to blow both of us up as spectacularly as possible. I was hoping that from all my experience racing 100 milers that I could survive the suicide mission and everyone else would... well, not.

I just kept repeating to myself that I could do it, and surprisingly the first hour felt pretty darn good, at least in my legs. My stomach was a whole different story. Failing to pack instant oats, my usual pre-race breakfast, meant I had eaten regular oats 1.75 hours before the race start, and they were not digesting like the instant ones do. I had terrible stomach cramps for the first three hours of the race, and even threw up undigested oats twice an hour in. The stomach problems were a HUGE deterrent from eating and drinking, so although I was thinking about how I should be doing both, I couldn't bring myself to put anything in my tortured tummy.
From my fave photag PhotoJohnPhoto :)

When the first of the age group men caught me (wave 3 of the race which started 2 minutes after the open women's field) I was already deep into the Deer valley singletrack, much further along than I was in 2017 when I got caught by the same dudes. This was a confidence boost, as well as a reality check that I had indeed started out WAY too fast. I could still see Evelyn on the occasional tree-less section with switchbacks, so I kept the pace high and continued to tell myself that I could handle the obscenely fast start.

The course is pretty much all single track, like people in Park City are allergic to fire roads. It's heaven. If you ever do ride on paved road or fire road in this race it's for 30 seconds or less and it's just a means to get to another incredible trail. The race also feels like it's 95% climbing, topping out at 9,000ft twice, and getting almost 12,000ft of ascent crammed into 75 miles.

When the age group guys caught me I rode with a few of them for a while, secretly thankful to have someone to pace me as a few of them passed me and then slowed down (which normally I would be annoyed by, but this time I just breathed down their necks but refused to pass them back, which was prob pretty obnoxious). Then when we hit John's trail, the most twisty, rooty, windy, drunk trail you can imagine, with Aspen trees trying to take you out every 2 ft, Dan who used to live in San Diego  dropped me like a bad habit and I was super pissed that he put so much time into me in such a short actual distance.

Waving at the girls like a crazy person because I was excited. 
Eventually I found myself climbing the dreaded steps situation, and reminded myself that nothing in Utah could possibly be as terrible as the climbs in my beloved Santa Ana mountains, and that carried me to the second high point. I finally felt good enough at the top to eat a PB&J Bonk Breaker, and it made a big difference since I was feeling the malnutrition feelings pretty hard. The ripping descent that followed was crazy fun, and it led me to the Aid station where Mila and Sienna had a feed for me. Somehow I had managed to force myself to drink the bottle I was carrying, so I grabbed a new bottle of Bonk Breaker hydration from the girls (which I would accidentally not drink any of) and was off to tackle the last long climb, and remaining 20 miles of the course.

At the top of the climb Karl was waiting to cheer/ ride with me, and the concept of being followed helped me dig deep to ride harder than I had been on the way up Armstrong. I also got intel that Evelyn was only 8 minutes back, which freaked me out, given how badly I was falling apart. The thought that I was dehydrated and under nourished was freaking me out, more so in my mind that in my body. My ego took over though, and the drive to impress Karl gave me the strength to dig deep, climb harder and pour every ounce of myself into descending as fast as possible. When Karl got a flat and had to stop I was secretly relieved that I could slow down again once I was out of sight, haha, and I did some calculations in my head about how much time I could loose per mile and not get caught.

I was stoked out of my mind when I got to the Oasis aid station in the Colony. I was hoping for pickle juice and some solid food since I was still behind in the calorie intake situation. The only thing I found that was suitable though was pickle slices and a PB&J. I was grateful for the pickles nonetheless, and after I drank some water I took off again, stressed about how long I had stopped for, hoping Evelyn would also stop.

By the time I reached the final descent I was pretty thoroughly cracked. The fear of being caught drove me to empty the tank on the last 10 miles of the course, and I limped down Olympic trail (which always looks like Greece to me) to Iron Bill trail listening for Evelyn's free hub, thinking every quaking aspen was her. I was crazy relieved when I looked up and saw the finish at Skull Candy and she wasn't yet in sight.

This race is one of my absolute faves. I love it because of the challenge and the pain and the scenery like most the other races, but this one is even better, set apart, by the amazing people who put it on and who pour everything of themselves into making it magical. Thank you to everyone who cooked bacon at aid stations, cheered, volunteered, worked hours and hours to make it happen, and especially for the Redel family who graciously host me every year and treat me like royalty. I am the luckiest girl in the world to get to race Park City Point2Point every year. Thank you for making it a dream :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Who's Sad About School Starting?!

Sometimes I tell myself lies to trick my brain into believing something that's not true. 'racing 100 miles every weekend is normal', 'you feel really good right now (at mile 80 of a long race)' or 'you love the pain of going uphill'! That shit works too, try it, the more you tell yourself something the more you really truly believe it. I think that's why they say stuff like 'it's all in your head' or 'if you think you can, you can'.
So it's funny that despite the fact that I should be a little depressed about going back to school in a few days, I'm actually genuinely excited about the school year! No lying to myself necessary :)
It probably helps that I've been living my wildest dreams in a very much take it past the limit Larissa fashion. Living out my wildest dreams a little TOO much, as I am now laid up in bed dreading the idea of getting up, and it's 2:45 in the afternoon haha (don't worry I went to school this am, I WISH I could have stayed in bed straight through 😂)
My pretty whip at Rockstore... the prettiest of the bikes :)
So here is what my wildest dreams look like SoCal style (because we all know I really just want to ride all day in the high country of CO, but sometimes you have to adapt your dreams to fit the surrounding landscape!)Sunday Carl let me drag him on an epic LA county ride complete with route that neither of us put much time or energy into. My only inspiration was to ride all of Mulholland, and to hit 100 miles but be back in time to have dinner with my little brother who has been surgrifying people at UCLA for the past 2 weeks. I threw some waypoints on Strava, and we were off across Mulholland before 8am. Fun fact, it's not all paved, so despite promising Carl that I had edited the dirt out of my route, it used to have some Backbone trail in it, we ended up crushing 10ish miles of dirt anyway.

A fun stop at Rockstore marked the first touristy point of the day, and I got to play dodge the massive bikers to fill bottles while Carl changes a flat.
After Mulholland took us to hwy 1 we promptly turned left to climb back into the humid mountains and immediately both almost died from not drinking/eating enough. A sit down break at the top to inhale almond butter and jelly, followed by another sit down break at the bottom of the descent to drink frozen coffee at the Chevron in Malibu fixed that!

And then, after another soul crushing climb to ensure maximum elevation gain/suffering we found ourselves dodging tourists in Santa Monica, the sketchiest stretch of hwy 1 to ride a bike!

The best part of the ride though, was rolling down Sunset, and suddenly realizing, we were riding the whole length of Sunset blvd! Right through Bel Air, Beverly hills, past UCLA, through some swanky cray neighborhoods all the way till...

OUR ROUTE TOLD US TO GO TO HOLLYWOOD blvd! Neither of us had ANY idea we were near the heart of Hollywood until we started seeing stars on the sidewalk, and TMZ tour busses! It was the CRAZIEST end to an epic ride ever. I've never even been to Hollywood, so it felt so touristy and funny to be riding my bike through it, nbd!

 For all the beautiful and natural places I've enjoyed riding my bike, this was hilarious and fun and awesome in a very unique way. Plus we took the whole lane, so we added to the spectacle!

And then dinner at Peddler's Fork, followed by Diddy Reise Ice cream sandos just made the day over the top good. If you want stupid fun/hard route ideas hit me up, apparently I'm good at planning crazy days in the saddle :)
And yesterday, because I hate cars and couldn't be bothered to drive to San Diego like a normal human, I rode my bike to Carlsbad to visit all my favorite people and tape an episode of SoCal cyclist podcast with Brian! It was another magical day of ALL THE MILES, hearing about how these rad SD companies are killing it/growing from garage operations to big deal international buisnesses and drinking nitro coldbrew from the back of a prius :)                                                                                                                                                         Topped the day off with a burrito from Primo Market in Oceanside (best taco tues deal in the world bwt) and a train ride back to the OC because I was literally dying. 

Got to go fer a rip with Nate. He is rad and was operating his business out of the garage until 2 months ago!

And this is Ryan who not only broke his back this year, but makes the most delightful smelling, visually appealing chain wax in all the land!

Look for the episode of SoCal cyclist we taped Aug 28!

Yep, it's had to be bummed about the school year starting when you spend the last few days of summer doing all your favorite things, with all your favorite people and killing yourself on the bike in the process! One more day of living in excess to put the final nail in my coffin tomorrow. Big Bear HERE WE COME!!!!!!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Leadville Part 2: The Interesting Stuff

I think the play by play of how the race unfolded is less interesting than all the emotional and technical details that played out on Saturday. This is also the stuff I really want to remember when I look back on my bike racing career 20 years from now, like handing a 10 year old kid my water bottle at the finish line when he had actually asked for my autograph (my brain wasn't working too well and I learned a day later from Lauren that the boy had NOT in fact asked for the bottle, haha). 10 minutes later I gave his sisters my bouquet of roses because I felt bad that only the boy had gotten something and the flowers were the only other thing I had to give. It's crazy how frazzled my brain was, how everything turned into a blur of joy and fatigue, loving the hoopla but also dying for a minute of peace and quiet. 

Leadville is a pretty special town and race. This year’s race was errily similar to last year but the summer was crazy different. I didn’t know until early this summer that last year my coach was nervous about how much racing I was doing (I only did three 100 milers in 4 weeks last year), and this summer I was WAY more ambitious about planning my race schedule with 5 hundreds plus a 50 miler in 6 weeks. Racing 100 miles takes a HUGE toll on your body, so although I had a ton more experience with this type of racing, I was also biting off WAY more, and had to spend a lot more time dedicated to recovery. Instead of doing intervals during the week like last year I spent most of the week days this summer resting and going for easier rides. Matt wrote ‘take it easy!’ on almost every weekday ride in July. So the thought of the cumulative fatigue from all those races was definitely making me nervous leading into Leadville. I actually mentally blocked the idea that these races are so tough in order to not freak myself out, which actually worked really well, so well that I started thinking racing 100 miles every weekend was normal, just a little thing, not a big deal, haha. BUT knowing I wasn’t doing intervals made me worried that my top end, my speedy end, wasn’t there like last year. Another difference between 2017 and this year was my mindset. I felt such a sense of peace and contentment with my career coming into this Leadville that I wasn’t really stressed about winning. I didn’t stay up all night imagining having to out sprint anyone, or getting dropped on Columbine like last year, I was just excited to get to race my bike in the morning!
Somehow almost all the race photos make it look like I was alone, even though I spent half the race with rad OC people. 
The similarities all played out during the race, climbing Kevins with Robert and Brian, pulling everyone up Sugarloaf, hanging with a rad group across the road and climbing Columbine alone because Robert dropped the living daylights out of me and I dropped everyone else… It felt good for so much of the race to play out the same because it eased my stress from the first 10 minutes where getting spit so far back in the group, and held up in incompetent dude traffic temporarily had me super freaked out.

Another huge similarity was my bike setup. I raced the 2018 Felt Edict again, this time on a regular production frame, not a proto like last year.

So pro I clean my own bike before big races :)
I ran a RockShox Sid World cup fork with a grip dual lock out, and a Rockshox Delux rear shock, 100 front and rear. I ran the same gearing as last year, SRAM XX1 one by 12 with a 32 tooth chainring in front and 10-44 cassette (the 44 being a Wolftooth modification).

My cockpit was the same as last year, Crankbrothers Cobalt11 bar and stem, and I also rocked the Crankbrothers Candy 11 pedals because I like the extra little platform for support on long races.

I love the Kenda SaberPro 2.2 tires, raced them all summer, so throwing a fresh pair on my bike was a no-brainer. OrangeSeal has also been in my tires all summer, and it did a fantastic job of keeping me rolling.

Again like last year my Edict had a 125mm KS LEV Ci dropper post, and although some people may think the extra weight is un-necessary, it’s less than half a pound more weight, and it makes the bike more fun on 99% of the rides I do, so I kept it on because I’m no weight weenie, and what’s half a pound!?

The only real change in my bike setup was my wheels and saddle. This year I have been rolling on DT Swiss XRC 1200 wheels, which have been freaking bombproof. I MAY have developed a little more finesse in my riding style, but I’m pretty sure I’m still beating the shit out of my bike descending like I’m being chased by a bear all day every day, and those wheels have performed flawlessly. The Fizik Luce saddle was another HUGEly important update to my race setup because it’s so comfy that I never once thought about my crotch during the race. Considering how much pain I’ve experienced in the past from saddles, it’s insane to look back on a summer with so much racing and to think that after every 100 miler I wanted to ride MORE and the Sunday ‘recovery ride’ was never painful because of my saddle!
Slamming Bonk Breaker Hydration like a boss.
As far as nutrition this year I was more dialed than last year, probably where the experience of doing so many 100 milers comes in. I drank 5 full bottles of Bonk Breaker Lemon Lime hydration mix mixed to the recommended concentration. I ate 4 Gu gels, 2 Bonk Breaker macchiato flavored bars, 2 packages of Bonk Breaker Chews, and an Apple Pie Lara Bar. This was a bit more solid food than I expected to eat, but shoulder/back pain prevented me from being able to reach my food easily, so I just kinda took whatever I could get my hands on each time I reached in my pocket. Normally I would slam Gu's until I get sick of them, but started and ended with solids this time, not by choice, but it seemed to work pretty well. I started to cramp going up the pavement on the last real climb, but focusing on drinking and eating the chews helped LOADS and I finished crampless :)

The absolute highlight of the race was hearing everyone in the feed zones and on Columbine cheer for me. Each feed zone was basically a 250 meter stretch of road lined with people and tents, the pipeline and powerline aid stations had 200-300 people in them, plus the 200ish at the base of columbine. And a LOT of those volunteers, crew, family members of racers and spectators were yelling my name, I felt absolutely famous all day! Mountain bike racing isn’t a mainstream sport in the US by any means, so to have SO many people out there cheering for you, knowing who you are, stoked you are winning, it’s special. It was flattering, and humbling in a way I can’t put into words, I’m so unbelievably grateful to everyone who has supported me through this journey, and to then also have so much support in the form of cheering and encouragement and stoke on the course, it gave Robert goosebumps 😊 haha. 

I savored every second of rolling into the finish with the moto escort, this is one of the few races where I get to feel so cool. Even though my jersey zipper broke resulting in  me looking like an absolute dufus crossing the line fully unzipped, I also savored rolling across the red carpet at the end. Brendan surprising me with an anniversary present was another highlight I never want to forget.

It's a strange feeling that almost a week has passed, that everything I worked for this summer is over, and the school year looms less than a week away. Currently trying to stave off post event depression with my favorite scone and coffee in the OC after the best massage from magical Steph early this am. A handful of races left in this calendar year and then some very different goals are on my horizon. As long as I focus on gratitude for where I am, I'm sure each year will continue to be the best year ever. Thanks for following along :) 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Leadville100: All the Fun All the Time!

It’s no secret that I am super socially awkward, so I had no idea he was joking when Jeremiah Bishop asked me if I had ‘done this race before’ at the start like of the Leadville MTB100 this year. I laughed and continued to fidget awkwardly on the front row of Gold corral (the first staging group of the race). Singing Bohemian Rhapsody and practicing my bike tricks before the start helped set the tone of my race, one of having fun and not taking myself or the pressure to defend too seriously. I learned this year that I preform better when I come from a place of joy rather than any other emotion, so I wanted the race to be a big party, playing bikes with 1500 friends from every state and 35 countries!

The start was WAY faster this year than last, after I attacked from the line to ‘win’ the first 15 seconds of the race (I know the serious guys prob thought I was an idiot haha) the boys quickly took over and drilled the pace down the 3 miles of pavement, until I was spunout and started loosing positions. Last year coach had instructed me to burn matches to stay on the front, esp if there were other women there. This year I was going to pace myself better in hopes of a faster finish time, but that meant I fell back pretty far into the swarm of dudes. When we hit the dirt at the base of the first climb I was surrounded by agro not-quite-fast enough dudes who got super cursy/mean to each other when a few made mistakes and had to jump off their bikes to run. I laid down the law, telling way too serious tandom duo to chill and instructing the whole group to relax and be nice, as it’s just a bike race, you know, like a good teacher 😊

It's funny that I'm alone in all the pictures the race photographers got.
At the top of St Kevins, that first climb, I was crazy stoked to look around and see Robert and Brian, JUST like last year. We descended the road together as I forced myself to eat a Macchiato Bonk Breaker bar (it’s hard when you still have oatmeal in your belly, but eating early and often is so important in super long races).

I pulled the group up Sugarloaf, the second climb, again JUST like last year since only one of the dudes in our group was willing to do any work, with Robert on my wheel keeping my pace in check. Thank God for that boy, I see an uphill and all I want to do is dig deep into the depths of my engine, but Robert reeled me back in a few times, reminding me to pace myself which prob saved my arse on Columbine.

On the Powerline descent I caught myself apologizing to the dudes behind me a few times and changed my mantra from ‘Sorry!’ to ‘I’m a bad-ass, I’m not holding anyone up! Shred on sister!’ And before I knew it we were through the first official aid station at Pipeline with a solid group of about 8. After digging a handful of BonkBreaker chews out of my pack I sat up and looked around to find myself surrounded by dudes from Orange County!!! How freaking crazy is that!? I go all the way to CO to race the highest race in the country just to ride with bros from the ocean! And you damn well know I started telling jokes because the pace was chill enough for me to breathe.
This is the perfect time to explain why my time was slower this year/strategy/some more technical aspects of the race. Leadville is a unique mtb event because despite having over 10,000ft of climbing, there is also A LOT of flat road riding and fire roads where drafting is crucial. The crazy pace at the beginning (probably initiated by world champion Alban Lakata) coupled with my decision to pace myself rather than go into the red in the first 20 minutes meant I was riding with the dudes in 40-50 place after the first climb, whereas last year I was with 25-30th. Because I was with slower dudes, and since drafting is so important, I had to make the conscious decision on the road to stay with the group this year even though they weren’t going as hard as I wanted. If I had ridden off the front I would have just burned myself up and blown up on Columbine, so the slower pace was a casualty of tactics. In this race in particular I had to weigh a fast finish time against winning, and to be totally honest I think there was still fatigue in my legs from the 100 miles I raced the weekend before, so at the end of the day a win was more important than trying to set a PR, because that could have resulted in implosion.
When we got to the base of Columbine my favorite bike industry goon Yuri handed me two birthday cake Gu’s and I sucked those bad boys down so fast I almost didn’t taste their incredible Funfetti flavor! In what simultaneously felt like seconds and a lifetime I climbed the 3,000ft up Columbine Mine fireroad, catching and passing a few dudes along the way. At the top I focused on survival, and was proud to pedal the whole top section (LOTS of people walk most of the last 2 miles, including the dude right in front of me which motivated me like crazy to ride the whole thing).

The trip down Columbine was longer than I expected, but I was having a BLAST cheering for everyone. I just felt bad that I only had a split second to cheer for each racer, and I wanted to be as encouraging as possible, but lacked the creativity to make everyone laugh or to distract them from the pain.

After Columbine it was all business trying to figure out a plan. I was with Rob McGee, a rad OC dude whose step son was on the middle school team I coach! Just the two of us was less than ideal, but we did what we could to the base of powerline, and then I settled into my own survival pace again. Looking up Powerline, this insanely steep DG climb with a fun rut down the middle of it, I saw 5-6 dudes hiking. You know this made me want to ride it even more, so I focused on staying upright and crawled up the hill thinking the WHOLE time about how the Santa Ana mountains (my training grounds for the last 6 years which burned down last week) prepared me for that very moment. Near the top Pizza man gave me a push and I was beyond stoked to only have 3,000ish more feet of climbing left!

Crushing the Sugarloaf descent was one of my favorite parts of the race, because my Edict absolutely destroys bumpy, rocky descents, I passed a dude descending (I used to GET PASSED by dudes!) and I was SO STOKED on my Kenda tire/DT Swiss wheel combo! No flats or wheel problems all summer!? HOW, just how?! Esp if you know how hard I ride my bike!

The rest of the race was a mix of passing dudes, eating, drinking Bonk Breaker hydration mix and thinking about how much better I felt than last year at the end. Rolling onto the pavment back into town I was ALONE, like no one in sight behind me. I was a little stressed about not knowing how far back 2nd place was, but I kinda actively didn’t seek out that info all day because I wanted to race MY OWN race, not dependent on what anyone else was doing. As I cruised up ‘boulevard’ the final 2 mile false flat I was stoked to still feel ok, and savored every minute of the moto escort back to town. I let Rob catch and pass me so I could cross the line alone and immediately hugged the living daylights out of my Edict for delivering a second Leadville100 victory!

And then Brendan Connors surprised me with a turquoise necklace anniversary present because it was our 6th wedding anniversary!
Best engineer husband ever :)

Literally JUST a play by play, I know, more on my thoughts, emotions, bike spec, nutrition plan etc tomorrow (promise, it's already written, just didn't want this to be too long).