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).

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Tribute toTrabuco Trail

I've taken a few days to process my thoughts and to get around to putting them down in writing due to traveling back from WY and life. In that time I've realized in a big way that the grief I'm feeling is much less than that of those who have lost their homes, loved ones and livelihoods in recent fires.

Even still my heart broke this Monday afternoon when I heard through friends that one of the very few open spaces in Orange County, in the mountain where I learned to love back country adventure, where I feel most at home and at peace was burning. Since Monday we have lost at least 5 of my favorite OC trails in a slice of National Forest which housed some of the few big trees, ferns and natural creeks in our overpopulated, freeway strewn county. And today we learned that the whole thing was preventable. An email from the arson to the fire chief a WEEK AGO warned that he was going to burn the canyon. I am loosing it, I have no words to express the grief I feel that my favorite slice of Orange County is gone, will never look the same in my lifetime. The verdant drainage where I have spent hours staring at trees and connecting with nature will be a black moonscape for years. If the trees don't make it the steep slopes wont hold, the trails will wash away and I can't even imaging what will happen to my beloved forest.

I don't know how to process this. It's too hard knowing it was intentional, and preventable. The only thing I can think to do is remember my favorite memories on my favorite trails (of which there are too many).
Trabuco winds up on the mountainside on the right of this picture. This is the shale section that is SUPER hard to clean, one of the places I learned to love to suffer. This whole canyon burned Monday.
This is a tribute to Trabuco Trail.

Trabuco trail, you taught me to ride steep, shaley climbs. I've climbed you hundreds of times to access Bell, Pinos, Yeager, and just to turn around and descend you. You started out gentle, green, lined with grass and big Maple trees. That one dang creek crossing always got me halfway to the steeps, and I was ALMOST able to cleaned the second gnarly creek crossing at the base of West Horsethief. That dang right hand turn got me every time but always gave us an excuse to stop and eat. After that it was so so steep, and loose. I remember the first few times I rode up Trabuco I couldn't believe that Carl was able to climb such long sections of crazy loose rocks, but the day I cleaned it myself for the first time I felt so damn proud. I distinctly remember climbing the shale on each of my mountain bikes, on my Marin HT and trail bikes, on my Cannondale Scalpel and on all of my Felt bikes. I remember how I would charge it full gas when I was newer to riding in the OC, but the first time I truly paced myself how fast I was able to get to the top, how 'mature' I felt. I LOVED the view from the shale, looking right across the canyon towards Yeager Mesa at the big Fir trees, feeling so much joy that there was real forest in Orange County. I've stopped so many times to take pictures of those trees because during the long school year, when I can't get away to the forests of NorCal or Colorado that was all I had. I remember the time we found a million and one lady bugs on the trail at the top of the shale section, ladybugs so dense you couldn't see ground through them. And the time we hit snow just past the shale in the third section of trail, the final push to the top. I've ridden past your Christmas tree so many times, but I didn't ever stop to take a picture, the one with the beer can ornaments and other year round decorations that indicated to us that we were almost to the top. I remember so many rides where I pushed SO hard here to drop Carl, or whomever I was riding with. And running into friends on that section so many times, feeling stoked that despite being so far out in the middle of nowhere I was seeing familiar faces, sharing the joy of the trail with them. But more often than not I was just riding with Carl or alone the whole way up, on long weekend rides. Trabuco was our gateway to all things good in the Santa Anas. The top of the trail never meant rest, because you took us to the hike-a-bikes of Bell, Yeager and Pinos (three other dear trails that we lost this week), but we almost always stopped there to find water in the bushes, to sit on the ground and eat a snack, and to let others catch up. Trabuco trail, you were one of my all time favorite climbs, a beautiful single track ribbon of technical rock problems, creek crossings, poison oak, and lung busting steep ascents. I'm so grateful for everything you taught me, how to clean rocky, chunky technical climbs, how to distribute my weight when climbing to maintain traction, and how to suffer. Thanks for giving me the outlet to get away from life, to sneak off into the forest, to climb into the clouds and to find solitude and peace. Thanks for helping make me into the mountain biker and racer I am today. Your brutality and beauty are unmatched.


A not so great picture of some of the real trees on the Yeager side. There were a few pockets of large Fir trees that looked out of place in Orange County, but made me so so happy every time I climbed Trabuco. 

And while this is a huge loss for all the mountain bikers I know in the OC, I am almost more sad for all the people who didn't get to experience Trabuco trail. I'm sorry you will never know the joy I felt after cleaning the steep shale, or the smile that always consumed me when I looked across to the giant trees nestled in the crevases off Bell Ridge.

I spent much of today unable to process my feelings, crying as I remembered details of this section of forest that wont be there when I get home. I have so many memories in the Santa Ana Mountains, and I honestly think living in Cleveland National Forest made me who I am today. I'm crazy grateful for that.



Monday, August 6, 2018

Pierre's Hole 100 (a very traditional Race Recap)

The boys started fast, and at an elevation of 7,900ft above sea level with a 1,500ish foot climb off the gun with no warm up I was quick to let go of my 'finish on the men's podium' dreams once again. I tried to settle, but the cold morning air and competitive bug in my mind wouldn't rest and soon I found myself riding WAY too hard, like usual. Starting too hard at altitude is a dangerous strategy, because you can't really recover from going into the red above 6,000ft, so I struggled with my desire to shred XC pace and knowledge that I was actively sabotaging my race by blowing myself up early.

 The course consisted of 3 laps each of which was around 32 miles long, and had about 3,500ft of climbing. My real plan was to hit lap 1 hard, get a gap and then maintain that lead for the remaining two laps. Any excessive effort would mean more recovery ground for my body to make up before Leadville in just 6 days, but a win on the day would be my 4th NUE win (of 4) securing the series and a trip to La Ruta in November. Strategy has never been my strong suit, so I spent much of the first lap emptying the tank, thinking about racing XC (where the whole race would be one lap) and railing the downhills to get as much free time on 2nd as possible. 

I rolled into lap 2 in the lead but completely unsure of how much I was leading by. Oddly my wrists hurt SO much from pushing the descents so hard. They hurt so much that I was starting to wonder if something was wrong, if I should leave the race to tape them up before hitting laps 2 and 3. I settled into a comfortable pace, hoping I was pushing as hard as the other ladies behind me. I was a bit behind on the eating and drinking game, so I focused on devouring a peanut butter and jelly Bonk Breaker bar and drinking as much Lemon Lime Bonk Breaker hydration mix as possible. The long descent in the first half of the lap basically dropped 1,000ft in 3 miles with 785 switchbacks, all of which you COULD pedal out of. 
Chasing Robert up the climb, from our pre-ride, but this was my view for some of Sat. 
The hardest aspect of this race was the fact that you could pedal the entire time, if I wanted I could stand and sprint out of every single switchback on the descent, resulting in absolutely NO rest. On lap 2 I actively decided to recover as much as possible, already feeling the effects of starting too hard but knowing I had 60ish more miles to go. Somewhere around the middle of the lap I started passing the 100K racers and that was a HUGE motivation because it meant I got to cheer for all the rad women on course. 

At the end of lap 2 I stopped at the feed to grab a few pickles, a cookie and swap my camelbak for 2 new bottles of Bonk Breaker Hydration. I wasn't cramping, but fear that I might and knowledge that pickles help meant force feeding myself, which sounds so strange in retrospect. 

I felt pretty ok going into lap 3. The first half of the lap was my favorite with the longer climb and switchbacky descent, so I settled in and decided to enjoy the heck out of it. Despite falling over on the easiest rock garden and smashing my knee into a rock (thanks to the lady who offered me advil immediately after), I had a blast sailing down '38 Special' and looked up for the first time to take in the stunning views of the Tetons. 
Proof he doesn't hate me after I destroyed him :)
About halfway into the lap I saw Robert ahead of me and my motivation to ride hard was renewed as I slowly reeled him in. That and the intel from a volunteer that I may be as little as 5 minutes ahead of 2nd place. After inhaling another 3 pickles and a handful of Bonk Breaker Chews at the last aid station Robert and I cruised into the last 20 miles, which was also the hardest part of the race for me because of the never ending short, punchy climbs. Somehow I was still able to push on the ups though, and soon I was dropping Robert, which made me want to push hard even more. I realize this makes me an ass, but the last portion of the race was basically just an effort to put more time into Robert, who thought he was in 5th overall putting me into 5th. Full disclosure Robert spent a good portion of the trip reminding me how he dropped me while nose breathing on Columbine during Leadville last year, so yeah, I needed revenge.
I crossed the line in 8 hours and 58 minutes feeling pretty freaking good considering! 

This race was really freaking fun, but I absolutely could not have done it without the support of a few key sponsors. A puncture on the first lap had me worried I should stop and throw a tube in my tire, but after a little sealant sprayed on my legs and had me worried, the Orange Seal in my rear tire sealed up the hole and I didn't even loose enough tire pressure to have to stop and add air. 
 This was a rare 100 mile race where I didn't have any stomach issues. Normally I spend the first hour wanting to hurl, or I drink the hydration mix at the neutral aid stations and feel nauseated, or I cramp and have to manage that, but this time my tummy felt great the whole time, not even a hint of cramps in my legs. The biggest difference between this race and others? I ONLY drank Bonk Breaker hydration mix (in my own bottles stashed at the aid station) and I ate a decent amount of solid food, Bonk Breaker bars and chews. I'm so freaking stoked to have found race/ride nutrition that works with my stomach and is so good at fueling my body for such a long time. I honestly think Bonk Breaker deserves the credit for why I felt so dang good on the last lap and was able to continue to push so hard. That and my rad coach who has pretty much nailed it this summer. I'm so stoked to have wrapped up NUE #4 with a perfect record. Not a bad way to begin to wrap up the 2018 summer of suffering and adventure.

This little bike. I am so in love. 
Oh and of course we rode Mill Creek trail back to Alta after the race, which blew my mind. Much more on Wyoming and what an amazing weekend we had coming soon. 

We had too much fun pre-riding... and post riding and recovery spinning on Black Canyon!







Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Mindset Check Wednesday


Last Friday as I rolled up the street on my hour recovery spin, head full of thoughts about rest weekends and racing and all that good stuff I ran into my favorite bike race announcer Dave Towle. Dave announced all the collegiate nationals races I participated in, including the year I was on the podium for the road race and the year we won the TTT and the team overall national champs titles. Dave says things like ‘the pack is strung out like a runway model’ when announcing crits, and he is just an all round awesome, inspiring, positive guy.

I was stoked to get to do my spin with Dave, and the conversation we had over the next hour of cruising the Mineral Belt trail was a fill-my-heart with joy kind of conversation. I rolled back to the house feeling deeply happy with my life and bike racing career, and full of gratitude for the past 5 years of people I have met, places I have gone and experiences I have had.

I’ve felt this joy a lot this summer in little bursts here and there, just so stinking grateful to be where I am kind of joy, but I’ve never really thought hard about what to DO with it. And I realized as I coasted down the hill on Friday that no matter what happens for the rest of the summer, I am so satisfied with my career, so deeply happy with my life that winning Leadville isn’t NECESSARY. It would be so freaking rad to win again, of course, but just to go out there and give it my all, to finish the summer with a solid effort, no matter what happens on august 11, I will be stoked out of my mind.
Stopping and recognizing that I am in such a good place, that there is so much to be grateful for and proud of is exactly what I needed to take the weight of the pressure off my shoulders. Coming back to such an important race and thinking all this time that I NEEDED to defend my title has put some un-necessary stress on my rides. My pre-ride of Columbine, where I didn’t drink for 2 hours because I was so stressed about trying to best my time from last year is a great example. Being an ultra competitive person means feeling the pressure to repeat that performance big time. But that stress/pressure can be really unhealthy I think, if you don’t balance it with joy and gratitude. 

So I’m happy to be in a mental place now where of course I’ll do everything I can to try and win again, but also feeling satisfied with my career means it’s not all or nothing. I’m wrapping up this season for the joy of riding bikes, pushing myself, doing a little suffering, and sharing that joy with others.

Thanks Dave Towle, for sparking the flame of joy on that ride, with that conversation leading me to this place of peace and gratitude.