Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Marathon Nationals and Disappointment

I couldn't sleep last night. Every time I shut my eyes my mind fixated on Sunday's marathon nationals race, what I did wrong, what I could have done differently and how bitter the disappointment of coming home without a jersey and title felt. My heart was pounding like it does during intense workouts and races, and at one point I felt like I was having a panic attack. As hard as I tried to think about something else my stubborn mind kept coming back to the details of the race.
I've dealt with disappointment before, with sub excellent race results or failed workouts, and I know there will be many more disappointments in the future, but this one has been especially hard to swallow.
Arkansas is beautiful, I can see why they call it the natural state. 

I flew to Arkansas on Friday morning feeling confident, calm, relaxed. I knew the course wasn't the best relative to my strengths, but I had faith in the training I had done, in the plan my coach laid out and in the fitness we had built. On Saturday morning I pre-rode the course, a 21 mile 'loop' of mostly narrow, rocky, flowy fun singletrack with a few short climbs. I felt good about the terrain, comfortable on my bike and confident that I could make the course work to my advantage.
Sunday morning Menso and I rolled to the course early, I did my warm up and arrived at the start still feeling good.

Lots of rocks in Arkansas. I loved it. The trails were pure mtb bliss. 
Here's where I get weird. I wrote a whole big thing, a play by play of the race. And sitting here looking at it I feel confused. I am frustrated and angry and bummed, but I don't know if saying the things about the people involved is the right thing to do. Long story short, instead of getting to race my own race, to go as fast as I am personally capable, another racer decided that blocking me (riding me off the trail, into trees and rocks, over and over) was a better strategy than just being faster than me. I don't know if that's just life, or a shitty approach to racing, or reasonable since she wanted to win too. All I know is that it sucked. It really fucking sucked and as a result of spending the whole second lap trying in vain to pass, and thinking about how I could pass her, I wasn't eating or drinking. All the accelerations from failed passes and 2 hours of racing with no food and very little to drink did me in, and 5 miles before the finish I came unglued emotionally and physically. I cracked so hard I almost quit (if it wasn't for sponsors and Brendan I would have ridden off the course and never looked back).

And that's the scenario keeping me up at night. If I had just sat in and drank/eaten a bunch I could have stayed with her and tried to out-sprint her. I should have been smarter. I should have thought it through. If I had only...
It sucks so bad to feel so confident about something, to feel like the race is yours, and then to come home empty handed. To think about how things would have played out if there had been a fire road to pass on, or someone had seen the shady behavior to corroborate what I experienced (I think the technical rule is you aren't supposed to block others).
But a wise woman once told me that you will have more losses than wins in your career, so knowing how to deal with defeat is far greater than knowing how to deal with a win. I'm still processing it all, feeling the emotions, letting myself feel the pain and disappointment, and hoping that I learn something from this that makes all this unhappiness meaningful.
In the mean time, I'm on a rest week, licking my wounds and doing my best to keep looking forward.

We flew home so fast after the race that I had to get on the plane still dirty from racing :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

I Guess I Just like 5th Place: Whiskey 50 Thoughts

There is a loose, steep 1 mile long climb near the end of the EpicRides Whiskey off Road named 'Cramp Hill'. It always seemed tongue in cheek, like a problem the amatures would have... until I found myself in my 44 tooth cog crawling up the rocks, being ever so careful not to set off the cramps in my quads and hammies on Sunday. The threat of my muscles seizing up and screaming in pain stalked me for the last 10 miles of the race, as I desperately fought with every ounce of my will to maintain my 5th place position. Sofia was hot on my heels and there was no room for errors or cramps to slow me down!

Boy building bikes. 
The race really started on Wednesday night when Brendan and I stared building my 2018 Felt Edict. I didn't really know I was racing until about Wednesday afternoon, so it's an understatement to say it was a stressful week. We left Orange County at 10pm Thursday night with the bike still not finished... but that's another story for another time.

Proof I was with the leaders for at least one lap :)

Friday evening the Professionals are required to do a 20 minutes + 3 laps fat tire crit to determine call ups for the big event on Sunday. This is the part of the weekend that scared me the most, since I hadn't raced a crit in 2 years, and lining up with so many ladies who race the short, intensely fast xc and short track races meant it was going to be WAY out of my comfort zone. Somehow though I finished the crit on the podium... much to my surprise. It was a huge confidence boost to find myself with the lead group on lap 3 and 4, climbing the ridiculously steep hill with Annika Langvad, Chloe and Erin, it was pretty cool.

On Sunday morning I knocked out my warm up and hit the start line smiling, feeling ready and excited to suffer/shred bikes on rad trails. After all the cowboys in Prescott fired their rifles (and I bit my tongue to not make a corny joke about getting shot) we rolled out of town, 40 women all hoping to land a spot on the podium, big check in hand. The group stayed together for the 8 mile fire road climb, but right after I got the nerve to tell (my herione) Kate Courtney that I liked the article she wrote for EllaCyclingTips on body image she launched a savage attack, splitting the group in two. Although my first reaction was to try and go with the 4 leaders, I quickly realized I COULD NOT ride that fast, and considering the race was around an elevation of 6,000 ft, I had to be smart about pacing.
Ok, ok, I know, taking pictures during races is no bueno, but THAT IS THE WORLD CHAMP!!!! #starstruck
After briefly settling into the chase group pace I accidentally rode off the front and found myself alone by the first big descent. On the way to said descent the course took us down a trail with a series of crazy fun drops and it was thrilling to launch the Edict over them with wreckless abandon. I am already dying to go back and ride that trail some day, it was insanely fun! Somewhere around here I started to question if I should continue solo or wait for the riders behind me (so we could work together on the long fire road descent into and out of Skull valley) I dropped down into Copper Creek contemplating my options, descending cautiously enough, but letting the Edict float over waterbars ad having fun pushing into turns.

As I began the climb out of Copper Creek I looked up from my Clifbloks and saw Kate! She must have had a mechanical or something, but then I looked up further and saw the LEADERS!!! WHAAAAA How was I within sight of Anneka, Chloe, and Erin!? This was motivating! Maybe too motivating, because I proceeded to blow myself up on that climb trying to catch the world champion and the two fastest American World Cup Racers (for proof check my QOM on Strava haha)
At the top, when we hit aid station #1 I was 30 seconds back, the top 3 ahead of me, getting to work together on the descent, which had a HUGE head wind) and Kate just behind me struggling to get her tire to hold air. I was in the WORST position possible.

Photo: Bill Freeman the light God
So I did the only thing I could do, I dropped into Skull Valley alone, pushing hard the whole time into the headwind that made the descent feel more like a climb. At the turn around I was able to gauge my advantage on everyone behind me, and then focused on maintaining (an unattainable) pace for the hour long climb out. The first half went ok, then the power started to slip, then it slipped some more. When Kate caught me I made a valiant effort to pull her closer to the leaders (who, btw were still just 30 seconds up the road from me) but I blew myself up even harder, and when I pulled over she shot past me, not even willing to let me sit in for a second.

My pace dropped more and more over the course of the climb, but looking back I was reasonably sure I had a buffer, and once we got to the top I could coast in for 5th. At the top though I looked back once more and saw TWO WOMEN headed up the fire road in hot pursuit! PANIC ensued. The only option was to #sendit, sage advice I got from the fanny pack of Luke, a kid on the Laguna MTB team, down every inch of the descent and destroy myself on every climb.

And that led me to cramp hill, where I proceeded to lay down the hammer and emptied every last drop of effort I was capable of. I could still see the two ladies chasing me on cramp hill, but I decided to not look back again until the pavement and focused every ounce of my attention on slaying the last fun, techy, rocky, jumpy trail on the course. The Edict ate up the technical trail, we floated over rocks, hucked drops and thrashed turns. I felt like a Goddamn shredder, although I was entirely spent and cramps were sneaking in on every part of my body, it was the most gratifying end to any race I've ever done. When I hit the road for the last 5 mile stretch into town there was only a rando dude behind me, #sendit had worked!
I'm so stoked I could float away on the wind with this huge piece of foam core!
This year's edition of the Whiskey was one for the books, for many reasons, but mostly for the intense pain I was lucky enough to endure, and the resulting pride I was able to take away from having fought the hardest I've ever fought for a result. Standing on that podium, the epic wind doing everything it could to rip my big check from my hands, I think I felt 10 times more joy than any of the 4 ladies who finished ahead of me. What a day, what a whilrwind weekend, what an EPIC race.

Then I jumped off the podium, ate the best burger of my life at Bill's Grill, and we drove straight home, arriving by 9pm, bedtime.

Black and blue buffalo burger = why I am going to move to Prescott. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

How do you have so much energy?!

Yes, yes, I hear this a lot, and although it feels strange to be writing this on the weekend when I only rode 6.5 hours total (not each day... trying to be good, it's stressful) I'm gonna give it a shot. Heck, I have the time, only riding 6.5 hours in 2 days leaves A LOT of free time!

Well, the comment that spurred this post was actually "I want to drink whatever coffee SHE is drinking!" Which made me think, yes, yes you too can drink the incredible crack like coffee I drink and I can almost guarantee it will make you feel like you can ride 200 miles in one day, one footed ,while singing at the top of your lungs and knitting beanies! I'm crazy addicted to Badsea coffee, brewed right here in SoCal (Carlsbad to be exact) and delivered by bike if you live nearby! How freaking rad is that?! And even cooler is that Badsea has agreed to give anyone placing orders with the code LCBWR 20% off! Like how I want everyone in the world to ride a Decree just once to experience how good it is (no seriously, for a while I was loaning out Brendan's Decree to everyone I know, not sure he was stoked about it, but I felt so convicted.... haha) I also want the world to drink just one cup of Badsea coffee, it's THAT good. I go to sleep at night excited to wake up just because I know I get to drink more Badsea coffee in the morning... ok I'll stop :)

Mornings mean I get to drink ALL THE BADSEA COFFEE!!!!

On the bike I'm 100% a Clif kid (although not technically sponsored by them). I love the fact that they have so many different types of ride food, so on my crazy long rides and races I'm never bored of the food in my pockets. I love 4+ hour rides because I save nutbutter filled Clif bars for those rides, and for the days I commute, work, coach, and then go to yoga. Having a really really good snack in my pack/the back of my mind helps me get though, no joke, that Almondbutter filled bar is on my mind all day. I'm also a huge fan of those baby food pouches Clif makes, they are a different consistency than gels, and made with real food, so it feels less synthetic and although they have a lower calorie count, they taste so good, and are so good for my gut when I've had 4 gels and need quick energy but can't be bothered to chew. To be honest I also think about the banana mango baby food pouches the whole time I'm riding if they are in my pack, like, at what point will I have earned that?! haha And sometimes, if I'm on a big adventure ride with Carl, I'll pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich because we almost always stop 4-5 hours into a 7-8 hour ride to sit on the ground and eat 'lunch'.
All the fruits and veggies and seeds on kale :)

Off the bike I eat anything and everything, including the food my students throw away. I'm not kidding, ask them. I did give up cow's milk this year, but that wasn't for performance reasons, more of an environmental thing. We don't eat meat often, especially at home but that's mainly because I'm scared to cook it. Most meals are based around all the veggies and some type of carbohydrate or starch, and for the most part they are simple and 'clean'. I find almost ALL my inspiration for trying new things from HalfbakedHarvest, a food blog with pretty pictures and a great variety of ideas that never gets boring. And of course all the waffles for breakfast, the gluten full kind :) According to GCN all I eat is waffles year round, which is mostly true, but there is a good amount of oatmeal and home made granola in there.
Some salmon thing I found on Halfbakedharvest

We also eat a lot of avocado toast with eggs. 

Some kind of carrot falaffel on home made naan from halfbakedharvest 

And I have a HUGE sweet tooth, so there is always ice cream or hot coco after races. This is my favorite part of BWR, a waffle with ice cream on it that I can eat 100% guilt free since I just burned like 5,000cal. 
This past month I started swapping most the refined sugar in my life for Natural Delights dates, and that's been going pretty well. I know I'm still consuming sugar, but at least it comes from a natural source, and dates are high in fiber, so there's that :) 

That's pretty much it. My energy comes from coffee and dates and kale. Pretty basic, but hey, it works :) 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

BWR Bike Specs and Random Thoughts on a Thursday

I must have one freaking amazing saddle. Here is how I know: I have a saddle sore the size of a small grape from my old saddle (like 3 weeks ago), we have been peacefully co-exisiting for the last 2 weeks and SOMEHOW my crotch NEVER bothered me during the 7.5 hours and 135 miles BWR last Sunday or at all this week... this is some voodoo magic. I've never had a saddle that felt good after 90 miles, ever. This may have left my senses more observant of the pain in my feet though... if I distributed the pain would it feel less terrible in each specific place?

The Wend guy who I called out in my race selfie at Sagebrush Safari says "Hey, want to try a Wend chain for BWR?" and I say "why should I?" Well after some explaining about hot dipped wax and resistance and watts that I honestly don't 100% comprehend I say "ok, why not" WELL let me tell you that was the best why not decision I ever made! When I was passing Wafer riders at mile 110 and hearing their squeaky ass bikes I realized, hey! after bombing every water crossing with reckless abandon and charging through dirt and sand for 110 miles my chain is suspiciously SILENT! And it felt so smooth! 
And to be completely honest I have yet to wash my bike post BWR... but MY drivetrain is still so smooth and quiet! Every time I jump on the bike for another commute to school it's like magic. I'm sold. I will wax my chain with Wend religiously from now on!

Forgot to put this in my BWR recap, but somehow that race pulls out the deepest performance from me every year. Not sure if it's the distance, or the combo of road and dirt or the amount of climbing, but somehow I am able to give 110% each year, and never feel more spent than at the BWR finish line. This year my legs were tingling within seconds of finishing, and I spent a good half hour on the ground, kinda like last year. It took an HOUR to feel normal again. Anyway, pretty cool to know you gave something 110%. 

That poor guy I was an ass to on Tuesday, sorry. I shouldn't have told you that keeping up with you wasn't impressive, it's just like, kinda demeaning that you think since I'm a girl on a 'gravel' bike I would be struggling to keep up. Fact is, you weren't going fast, don't flatter yourself. 

I am garbage without Brendan around. The boy went to Sea Otter on Tuesday and I haven't gone to bed on time all week, I've been eating nothing but salad (because I'm so stinking lazy) and the house is a mess. What have I been doing with my free time (not training this week, so just coaching and commuting means I'm not quite as busy), good freaking question!

And the bike!
Some highlights of this bike that made it a dream to race 135 miles on, and the ideal weapon for the challenging conditions include:

Wheels - DT Swiss ERC 1400 super light, aero wheels that were easy to set up tubeless with Orange Seal, and took a serious beating on the dirt sectors. 

Bike- Felt VR, an endurance road bike that is 'adventure ready' with disc brakes, a little less aggressive geometry for comfort over the course of crazy long rides/races, super stiff/light frame and the prettiest color of any bike I've owned :)

Pedals - Crank Brothers Candy 11's I choose these pedals because they are easy to get into and out of (we had to dismount to hop fences a few times, and to run one rock section) and have a nice platform for support which my feet need on long rides. I LOVE these pedals, both because they are so good to me in mud and in dry conditions and because they are freaking pretty (hard to tell from this pic but they are gold)!

Chain - WEND Sram hot dipped wax goodness. This chain is blowing my mind, all through the race and every day since, its smooth and quiet and clean... it's heaven to not have to clean and lube my chain every day. I'm so so freaking stoked about this, guys, get yourself a wax dipped chain! Do it!

Saddle -Fizik Luce like I said above, this is the first truely comfortable saddle I've ever ridden. 135 miles with rough, rocky dirt, no problem, my lady-bits are happy as can be. 

The drivetrain is a fun project Brendan worked to put together, SRAM RED with FSA SL-K crank with 48/32 chain rings. Brendan said this is 'gravel specific' gearing and I thought it worked great for the climbing and dirt we encountered. I personally wanted Di2 because the bike I raced last year had it, but this worked just fine and Brendan says anything electronic is cheating :)
The seatpost and cockpit are Zipp, and the power meter is a very not working Stages (which was frusty because I wanted numbers from this effort!) Hit me if you have any other questions about this speed weapon!

Monday, April 16, 2018

BWR Numero Dos (Defending my Title)

I woke up before my alarm Sunday morning, from a dream about waffles covered in caramel and pecans (I'm not making this shit up, seriously), after one of those restless nights that result from anxious excitement about doing something epic the following day. Fortunately it was a two minute walk from our van to the Gear Grinder Grill's waffle buffet, and in no time at all I was sitting down to the moment I waited the past 364 days for, the start of the 2018 Belgian Waffle Ride. Stage one is clearly consuming as many waffles as possible, so you know I ate three (probably one too many) waffles covered in butter, syrup and strawberries.

And then it was all the usual business of pooping, kitting up and anxiously sitting on the starting line questioning all the decisions I've ever made, like if I brought enough food, or did I really need the arm warmers.

One of the coolest features of BWR (besides the waffles) is the massive mass start, but being the dorky mountain biker that I am, the start of these things always scares the pants off me. So I did what I do best at the beginning of stupidly long races, I went to the front (hey, it's safe there!) and rubbed elbows with a bunch of guys who are supposed to be like really famous but I don't know who they are (sorry, I only follow pro female mountain biking). See photo below for proof.

IT ME! With the big boys! I stole this photo from Velonews.com btw
Things really got exciting when we descended Del Dios Hwy at what felt like 60 mph and I nearly fainted from fear. But then we turned onto the first dirt sector of the day and my fear was replaced by glee, something I was familiar with! Amanda Nauman had snuck by me on the road and I decided to bridge that gap ASAP, which resulted in much dude passing, and putting my new DT Swiss wheels straight to the test (I was pretty rough on them but they proved bomb proof at the end of the day). This year I came prepared with Orange Seal in my tubeless 32mm road tires, and it became clear after the first hour of pummeling rocks and drifting through sand that this was JUST like mountain biking, the only thing missing was a dropper post.
See my little backside hiding in there. Also stolen from Velonews...

When the first long dirt segment of the ride ended a selection had been made, and I was at the very tail end of it, chasing my little guts out to stick to the back. THIS was the first major highlight of the day! Making this selection most likely contributed a good amount to my win, but even better than that I proved to myself that I have some badass road bike in dirt handling skills (well, it's mostly my amazing Felt VR) to be able to stay with such a talented and strong group of dudes. Ok, enough bragging, they dropped me like a rock on Black Canyon so the gloating didn't last long.

Before we got to the longest dirt climb of the day though, there was QOM #1, Highland rd. Last year I went bananas on this climb because I was chasing back from an early flat. This time around I was letting the dudes dictate the pace as it made no sense to ride away from them. It was stressful feeling like we weren't going hard, since I knew the other women could easily climb faster than we were going, and I desperately wanted the QOM jersey, which I wouldn't earn if we didn't charge every climb. BUT I had to keep my cool and focus on doing what it takes to retain the most important jersey, the overall win. THIS is another highlight of the race for me, I used MY BRAIN over brawn for like the second time ever in my life. And it probably paid off given how shelled I was at the end (I would have DIED if I had gone hard on Highland). To distract myself from wanting to go all out ape shit hard I took selfies...
 These dudes don't all know who I am, they were prob confused who the strange, cell phone carrying chick was who somehow kept up through all that hammering in the dirt. 

A guy I caught and passed on Black Canyon
So then we get to Black Canyon and the guys actually do start going hard and I have to settle into my own pace and pray there are dudes from the lead group around me at the top so I don't have to ride the remaining 70 miles alone. About halfway up I found myself with a little group which included the best draft in cycling history, Ryan Steers. Then I accidentally dropped all of them and had to bridge to a few other dudes who got popped off the lead group of monsters. After accidentally dropping those guys as well I found myself in exactly the predicament I DIDN'T want to be in for a second year in a row, alone on Mesa Grande, the windy, winding, rural road that leads riders to the town of Santa Ysabel and then back towards San Marcos. It was clear I needed to work with the dudes behind me rather than burning matches alone in the wind, so I settled into a nice steady pace and ate some Clif snacks while I waited for them to catch up. 
Eventually two crushers caught me and then a few more and soon we were a group of 7, ripping along at man speed and things were exciting and fun and terrifying again! I was stoked to see Herbalife team member Blake Anton in the group, despite the fact that he was making fun of me for 'getting a free ride' (hey, if I went to the front the group would get slowed down, those guys can put out mad power), as well as a rad mountain biker who I rode with for part of True Grit. 

As we approached Sutherland damn I got nervous again about being behind dudes who have no regard for their lives and might bomb the rugged, pothole studded death trap of a descent we were facing, so I went to the front of the group (they were soft pedaling/eating...) and somehow accidentally dropped everyone but Blake and one rando dude. I guess I don't suck at descending as much as I thought. The problem was that Blake and rando descended like road bike ninjas and dropped the shit out of me, so I was again alone, when it was smart to always be with others. I decided to climb out of the canyon at my own pace and let the group catch me on the road again. This turned out to be a great idea, since a wasp flew into my helmet on the descent, so all the time I wasted trying to kill it, almost dying, getting stung, trying to kill it, screaming 'DIE you ASSHOLE' trying again to kill it didn't cause me to get dropped and left behind (far worst than being ahead). 

Soon enough the boys were with me again, and then we were on dirt and then we were crushing mtb style around Lake Hodges with was freaking rad. When we hit Del Dios Hwy again, this time in the opposite direction, things started to go south for me mentally. My feet started to hurt really bad, my toes were cramping, and my mind wanted to sit down on the side of the road and quit. The only thought going through my head was 'If Neil Shirley can do it, you can do it' and that got me all the way to the Oasis aid station. At this point I was starting to worry that I wouldn't make it to the final climb, Double Peak, which is heinously steep and long for mile 125, so I didn't hesitate when a nice man thrust a tray full of bacon in my face. I grabbed a fist full of the greasy, salty, fatty meat and literally shoved it all in my mouth at once. It was the height of class. 
This is the guy who saved the day! I stole this picture as well. (cyclingtips.com)
After the bacon I decided to finish the ride at my own pace. Trying to stay with the boys, while once easy enough, was getting very hard, especially with the pain my feet were in. Also my hands and forearms were starting to cramp, so I was freaked out that my legs were next! I slowed down a little and instantly started to feel better. Then, miraculously, double peak was around the corner, and suddenly I was tacking my way up the infamous climb and could see the light at the end of the tunnel, er Clif banner at the top of the climb!

At this point I was reasonably sure I had the W in the bag, so it was nice to relax, enjoy the agony, descend some dirt, hit a surprise climb they snuck in right at the very end, and then roll into the Lost Abby Brewery parking lot all salt and cramps and relief to have done a thing. 
Stolen from Cyclingtips.com
Honest to God I did not think I could pull off the win two years in a row. I mean winning last year was a surprise to me, but with teaching and coaching and house re-modeling I've been feeling especially worn down lately, and I haven't done many 100+ mile rides in the past month or so. I also felt like the times I set on the different segments last year were bonkers fast, and that I could never ride that well again in my life, but crazily enough I bested many of my times from last year! 
All in all it was a fabulous day, one where I drug my body into the depths of suffering, where I wanted so badly to give in to the pain, but pushed through, and where I surprised myself with what my little muscles are capable of. When the adrenaline wore off I spent a good hour feeling like death, and there may be some photos of my laying on the ground wanting to cease to exist, but after some more waffles topped with ice cream all was right with the world, and the count down to next year already begun. 

Maybe THIS is why I'm more famous for this race than winning Leadville... there was so much interview-ing going on, I felt like a rock star :)
Stolen from cyclingtips.com
 Yes, I want to give an in-depth overview of my VR build and the bells and whistles that made it the perfect BWR rig, but that has to wait till tomorrow because sleep and work and marathon nationals is on the horizon so Imma be a good kid.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Quick Weekend Recap (mostly in pictures!)

Well the spring break that began with ridiculous amounts of work could not have ended in a better way, with ridiculous amounts of bike racing!!! 

Friday afternoon I jumped in the van and jammed to meet up with my consummate catalyst to adventure, Menso (and his buddy Dillon) and we headed north to Fresno for the Big Sandy mtb race. Although it rained precisely only while we were racing, the venue was stunningly beautiful, and the mud and cow poop we were covered in at the end washed off easily in the lake.  
You know I took a mid-race selfie, conditions were too epic not to :)

 Post race tacos by a pretty lake... yes please!
 And then Menso, being the bad influence he is on me, let me ride my bike back to town so I could get 50 miles in for the day. The post race spin was even more glorious than the scenery during the race, and the sky opened up bathing me in warm sunshine and igniting the grass and oak trees the most beautiful vibrant green. 
 Do you SEE that amazing road along the hillside?! I rode my bike on that!!!

And then we hopped in the van and dove a little further north to Mariposa for the Rumble in the Ranchlands gravel grinder. Fortunately the weather was beyond perfect, and once again we were treated with never ending gorgeous views of rolling green hills, crazy wild rivers and majestic old gnarly oak trees. To top it off multiple times herds of horses turned out to pasture galloped along side us as we charged down perfectly moist gravel roads, and at one point the green carpeted path was shrouded with bright pink trees. It was magical. If you're into scenery do not miss this race/ride next year.

The start of one of the most glorious days of my life. 

 I was fed pop-tarts topped with nutella at the first aid station... heaven.

Grilled cheese at aid station #2.

 Making sure these 5 crushers drank ample shots of burbon at each aid station ensured I could keep up with them for 70 of the 80 miles. 

And then Menso and Blake decided to make us all feel like sissys when the attacked with 10 miles to go, turning a glorious day of suffering into a thorough gutting that left me cross eyed and eventually off the back. 

It's all good though, because once I found my way solo to the finish we rolled back out onto the course for some cool down bonus miles, and then ate the most delicious chicken cooked in duck fat. Not a bad day. 

I could go on and on about how magical the gravel ride was, but it's past my bedtime and I'm freaking tired. Go do it for yourself, nothing I can say will come close to conveying how incredible this route/race was. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Motivation: Real Talk

Ok, ok, so still swamped with bathroom work, installing the toilet in an hour (!!!EEEEK, to have a real toilet again!) and I totally meant to blog every day during break and totally haven't, but yeah, life. A quick side note before answering the most common question I get, I feel like I'm kinda failing at a lot of things right now. I sucked at my intervals today, I'm not posting enough social media about all my sponsors (sorry everyone, I want my content to be genuine AND pretty, I don't want to just throw garbage out there just to have it out there), I messed up the thinset the first time and wasted a whole day on the rock instal fixing my mistake... yeah, But the good news is that every day I wake up thinking 'today I will try my hardest to do better' which is pretty much all I can do. I'm never going to have it figured out completely, but as long as I wake up feeling like I'm going to try, I'm going to count that as A-OK.
From Wednesday's awesome road bike party. I wanted to ride ALL freaking day but coach put me on a short leash!

Anyway, the most common question I get is something along the lines of 'how do you ride so much?' as in, how do you stay motivated. And I'm going to be super, real, gritty honest, which is going to make me seem like not such a great person.

Motivator #1 is ego. Yep, those mileage and ft climbed numbers on my Garmin/Strava are some of my biggest motivators, and probably not in a good way. The more I ride, the more I feel like I NEED to ride to impress people, and it kinda just snowballs out of control until I ride myself into a hole and crack. Remember the last week of December/first week of January, as soon as I laid down two 500 miles weeks I felt like I needed to continue to ride 500 mile weeks. I honestly get anxious if I know I wont hit 200 miles in a week, and multiple times in the last 2 years I have sabotaged entire weeks of training by over-doing it and then not being able to hit my numbers on interval days. And don't even get me started on the whole QOM issue... Writing it down makes this all seem incredibly ridiculous, and I know that no one really cares about my Strava data, but this is real talk, so yeah.
Mexican ice cream post 85 mile ride... yes and yes!

Motivator #2 is food. Again real talk, not painting myself out to be better than I am, I am scared shitless of being fat, and riding lots means I can eat things like nachos, or cookies, and riding MORE means more eating. I'm sure food is a fairly common motivator, doesn't every meal after a 100 mile race just taste like heaven? That burrito after a 6 hour shred IS the best burrito ever, even if it really is just another regular burrito, and that post race hot chocolate with extra whipped cream, I LIVE for that hot chocolate!

What I thought were the world's best nachos... because they came at the end of a 50 mile mtb epic. 

Motivator #3 Again is kinda gritty; addiction. I'm almost certain I have the type of addictive personality that leads some to be alcoholics, I NEED it to feel ok. If I don't get out and do something active every day I start to loose my sanity. Before bikes it was running, and if it wasn't bikes I'm sure it would be some other activity, but I'm addicted to the endorphins and the pain. Often the suffering acts as a coping mechanism, if I focus on the physical pain I wont think about the emotional pain, and I feel like I have learned a lot about dealing with pain through racing/training/torturing myself. The feeling of accomplishment I get from doing bigger and harder things on my bike is also addictive, so there's also that 'what next question in my mind driving the training and hours of pedaling.
Up in the Santa Ana's looking out at my favorite fire road Maple Springs WAY up above Orange County.
One of those amazing places that draws me back over and over. 
All this is not to say I am not motivated by the usual pure stuff that most people would gush about when asked why they ride. I really do just love the feeling of pushing my limits, sometimes just being alone, in nature, in places no one goes, of riding that obstacle I've been trying to clean for months, and because my bike just makes me feel free and powerful and like I can do anything. I value the time I spend in the mountains surrounded by trees and ridges and gorgeous rocks more than anything else in life and getting out to be there, and see that is crazy motivating. But the top 3 really drive the obsessive way I go ride for hours and hours, log 200-300 mile weeks, and often knock out 50 mile mtb rides with 10k of climbing.

JUST LOOK AT THOSE ROCKS!!!! Another of my favorite roads that I could ride over and over and over!

And like everything in life, all this is like a pendulum. Sometimes the addictive/ego takes over and I ride my brains out, and sometimes I calm down and focus on what coach says to do and let the upcoming races motivate my rides more than wanting to impress everyone on Strava. I know most my top 3 motivators are ridiculous, and to be perfectly honest one more time, I'm kinda hoping that exposing myself is going to help me relax (at least until the race season is over) because I'm having a hard time juggling all the riding with real life. but there you have it, the three main reasons I ride so damn much.
The view from Hurricane Rim trail in Utah. One of those amazing places bike racing takes me!

Thanks for not judging :) I'm aware that I am psycho, that's the first step, right?