Tuesday, May 23, 2017

More than you wanted to know about the 2017 BWR

You know you're in trouble when 60 miles into a 130 mile 'race' you've already shelled yourself so entirely that you start counting down the miles to the finish. That's exactly the predicament I was in as I gutted myself on Mesa Grande to catch the group of guys ahead of me so I wound't have to ride the remaining 70 miles of the Belgium Waffle Ride solo on Sunday.

Very anxious about the impending suffering at the start. 
I've never done an event like BWR before, never raced such a long distance with so many unknowns. Is it ok that my tires aren't tubeless? Can I eat and drink enough to finish strong? How will I stack up against girls who thrive in long grueling races? And most importantly, do the pro's eat the waffles in the morning/ will there be enough waffles for me? 

A creek crossing soon after my flat, thoroughly enjoying the dirt.
That tubeless tire question was the first of my worries to pose a real problem. About 30 seconds into the first dirt segment, the Cougar Pass descent, I felt the dreaded thudding of rim on rocks when my 'I'm a mountain biker so I'm going to bomb this descent' approach to the gravel grinder brought my Felt VR to an abrupt halt. Fortunately the Shimano support moto was within a few minutes of me, so after doing a little 'what should I do' dance and contemplating riding the rim until help arrived, the amazing Shimano bros saved the day and threw a new wheel on my bike. 

The mechanical was a blessing and a curse. It definitely took away the pressure I had placed on myself, and I spent the next 10ish miles genuinely enjoying descending rad gravel roads and talking to all the random dudes. However I have no sense of patience or tactics, and when those random dudes and I hit Highland rd (the second of 3 timed climbs of the day), for some reason I felt it was a good idea to go all out to try and catch all the women who passed me during the flat tire debacle. It freaked me out beyond reason that I was an unknown distance from 1st and I felt I needed to bridge that gap, RIGHT NOW, immediately (despite the sound reasoning from Janell that 'we have 130 miles to catch them'). Thanks to the incredible VR, that bike is like a dream to climb on, I was able to regain the lead by the top of Highland and double bonus I found myself in a great group of about 8 dudes who were riding hard across the flatlands towards Ramona. 
Having a grand old time... before the real suffering set in. 
After stressing about all the red lights in Ramona, we surprisingly caught the lead bunch of about 30 guys at the turn onto Magnolia, and the massive draft gave me some time to relax, recover and reset. I was a bit giddy about the idea of riding with so many heavy hitting studly, strong dudes, and it may have caused me to get a little chatty, so it's no surprise that as soon as the road turned to dirt and pitched up the group started turning screws and most the dudes rode away from me. I climbed Black Canyon solo for the most part, trying to catch the small group ahead of me while trying to also enjoy the waterfalls and other scenery. At the top I was with one dude but he promptly rode away from me after we turned onto Mesa Grande. And so I found myself alone, on the one stretch everyone had warned me NOT TO BE ALONE! 

Luck was on my side though because the expected headwind was nowhere to be felt, and after about 4 miles of looking up the road at that group of 8-10 guys who were 'just out of reach, why don't they wait for me?!' I decided I needed to either sit up and let someone catch me or dig deep and catch the group ahead. Since there was no one in sight behind me the only option was to turn myself inside out to catch the group ahead, and I spent almost every last match I had to make that happen. 

By the time I caught the group I was too shelled/gutted to think straight and the next 30-50 miles is a blur of trying to drink/eat/get as much of a draft as possible.

Then, right when I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, around mile 97, the really crappy dirt started. Dirt segments that had crazy deep sand, and rocks and the worst part was that the road was RIGHT THERE IN SIGHT parallel to the pock marked trail we were riding!!! I got dropped by my group who just hammered away across 'Sandy Bandy', my feet burned, and my pace dropped. When relief in the form of returning to the road finally came we went STRAIGHT up a massive hill. Fortunately for me this gave me the chance to catch back up to some of the group of dudes, but as soon as we hit dirt again I got dropped. And then the technical dirt started! I was trying to figure out how many more miles we could possibly suffer before the 'it's all down hill from here' point, obviously I didn't study the map well, and also praying the the other women were as shelled as I was. I spent the last 20 miles thinking every turn would take me to the final climb, and vacillating between thinking I could ease off the pace because everyone was tired and freaking out that they paced themselves better than me and were going to come tearing up the road behind me. The miles were ticking by so slowly, and when I finally saw the street sign for Double Peak rd I was incredibly relieved... until I saw how far up I had to go. 
Getting pushed by Speedo man near the top of the last climb. 
I crawled up Double Peak, fighting the feeling that I was going to barf (pretty sure I was starting to get heat stroke), tried to smile at the nice people cheering, got pushed by a man in a speedo, downed half a coke at the top (first time I stopped all day) and then limped back to the Lost Abby. 

Crossing that finish line was the most relieving feeling, but the small fact that I didn't have to ride my bike anymore didn't take away from the agony. After a small adrenaline rush were I might have given some more embarrassing interview footage to add to the plethora of already existing footage on the interwebs, I promptly laid down and almost died for about half an hour. About an hour later I was back with the living, ate the amazing lunch provided by Gear Grinder Grill and completed the day with a waffle topped with ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. 

When it was all said and done I would say that BWR was pretty much the perfect day in the life of Larissa Connors: see how far into the depths of suffering you can go on the bike with cool people and then eat fries and ice cream. But honestly the memory of the pain is still too fresh to think about next year... that was something else. And I loved it. 

To all the people who put on this event, volunteered, manned the aid stations- Thanks for a pretty unique and fun gravel grinder/gran fondo/race experience. I would not have lived without all those bottle feeds and the whole weekend was so well put together. 
To Gear Grinder Grill - Holy crap do you guys know how to make waffles and fries. I came for the food, let's be honest, and it did not disappoint. 
To my Felt VR- thanks for being the perfect bike, fast on the road, compliant on the dirt, I was never uncomfortable because of the bike, and every time we started going uphill the VR encounraged me to push harder, to climb faster. I can't believe one bike could be so good at climbing AND dirt. 
To waffles- thanks for being so delicious and letting me eat you twice in one day.
And to Carl- thanks for doing a bunch of long rides with me to 'prepare' for this. I enjoyed the training as much as I enjoyed BWR.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


I read something somewhere recently by some pro cyclist that described the phase between getting where you were and where you want to be as 'mid-bounce'. It had something to do with the idea that when you don't get what you want the low doesn't last too long and can be the thing that propels us higher in the future, you never know. Probably not the best explanation, but anyway I liked the idea of being mid-bounce and it's been stuck in my head all day.
Ok, so I had some low times, but now I feel like I am mid-bounce, on the way back up, finally ready to not let those bad times hold me down. A nice 'get your head out of your...' talk from someone who means a lot to me helped too. It's time to put my best foot forward and get back to living a life and doing the things and setting some goals, because not having goals leads to floundering. I've learned that floundering isn't good for me. So here's to new goals, and to focusing on being a better person, wife and friend.

That is all.

Oh and thank goodness this horribly tired Tuesday is over :)

Some pictures from life lately:

This winter it only rains when I am riding my bike... but that's ok with me :)

This rock, it's way cooler in real life, I swear. 
This Orange County is very pretty right now! 

This is on my commute to school when I take the dirt. I ride a different bike to school every day, so that is cool. And this view always makes the waking up worth it. 

More pretty green views. 

The flowers on my favorite trail are going off right now. This has been the best spring we've had by far!

Friday, March 17, 2017

It's Been a Rough Week

I've debated writing about this for a long time, think 6 months long. Well that's not entirely true, 6 months ago I had no idea where I would be in January. Then when I took a full time teaching position on Jan 31 I kinda knew it was over, but I didn't know how or if I should advertise that to the world (or at least the very small larzybikes blog reading world). It's going to be relatively obvious when I'm not on the start line at Fontana, and I guess that's why I'm putting this out there now, so it's not a major shock to everyone I know.

I spent the off season riding my bike to hurt myself, because physical pain clouded out the emotional pain in my mind and it seemed like the right solution. Those mega rides you saw on Strava, those were my coping mechanism to block the feelings and convince myself that everything was all right. Every day I woke up hoping that I would feel like my old self again and want to train properly, but that desire never returned. I knew in the back of my mind that not racing might be just as hard/painful as racing would be, but the fact that my mind isn't in it kinda made the decision for me.

So here we are, March 17, 2017 and it's entirely too late to do the work I would need to do to stand on a start line for any of the big upcoming races. (yeah, this is making me so unbelievably sad)

The good news is that I am healthy physically, and that on a day to day basis things seem ok. I can focus on the task before me each day and find joy and purpose in bike commuting, teaching Algebra and working on the van with Brendan. But every once in a while the reality of what has been lost is too great to ignore. During those times I have to just let the bad feels wash over me, and surrender to the thoughts about what if, why, and whose fault is it that I'm here (which I often feel is my own but that's a whole other struggle). This week has been especially hard, like crying in my classroom for an hour after school on Thursday afternoon, and then again on my commute home at the red lights hard. It's hard to see everyone else get excited to race, to know I am so far from where I was last year at this time, and to think about having to answer the question 'why weren't you there?' It's especially hard when the students are being extra frustrating and I have thoughts about what I was doing last year at this time, and why I'm here now.

I'm not going to talk about what happened that got me here. But the short story is that no, I wont be there at Fontana, or Bonelli. I wont be at Sea Otter or Whiskey... I will be ok though, because bike racing has taught me that I can do hard things. That it's ok to feel down and sad, but the roller coaster of life will go up again, eventually, and that waiting out the lows makes the highs more fun and exciting.

And most importantly bike racing has put so many incredible people in my life and I'm so grateful for the support from friends and team mates who have been understanding and kind. Thanks guys.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Life Lately

This fall has been great here in SoCal. Yeah I'm sad about the lack of rain, and concerned for the nature with the increasing state of drought we are in, but on a day to day basis, it sure is nice to ride bikes in the sunshine, hike mountains and work on the yard.

One of my favorite things this fall has been spending time with the amazing female athletes who live in Southern California. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by women who are both incredibly physical strong as well as strong in character, who push my on my bike and mentally. Sometimes being a professional athlete can feel isolating/lonely, but I've learned this year what a difference it makes to get out and ride/hang out with these rad women.

Wednesdays have been for riding all the miles with Jess.
This week we cruised through De Luz, on the most beautiful country roads you wouldn't expect to find in San Diego, devoured a sticky bun bigger than my face, and drank about 10 bottles in 97 miles because it was HOT out there! Jess pulls pretty much the whole time when we ride, but I feel extra cool riding with her because we can be twinsies (at least for another month :)

Best bakery stop on a ride to date!
Spending time on the ground outside the gas station because you are 85 miles in and hot and thirsty!
Last Thursday I got to shred mtb with Lauren, which meant laughing till my abs hurt, and all the crashing!
Thankfully the trails were empty, because we were a tornado of ridiculous!

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 Saturday I got to ride in the Laguna Dirt Fondo, a 50 mile ride supporting the middle and high school mountain bike teams. I've ridden with these kids a few times, and it's seriously the most inspiring thing to ride with little future shredders. There were also quite a few rad adult shredders there, somehow I ended up riding with the leaders for part of the first 25 mile loop, and HOLY COW were they going hard. A stop at an aid station put me off the back of that crazy group, but I had super shredder Brandon to ride with to the start finish and then spent the second 25 mile loop either alone or passing/getting passed by some of the 6 guys who actually did the whole 50 mile option. The highlight of the ride was going down Art School/TNA at the end still feeling fresh and giggling with glee. I blame Menso and Carl for the fact that at this point a 50 mile mountain bike ride doesn't feel like enough to wear me out. It was hard to resist the temptation to keep riding after finishing the dirt fondo, but Sunday's hike scared me just enough to be a good kid and go home to rest.

I didn't even know I would get a finishers trophy! Everyone should come out for this event next year!
AAAAAaaaaannnddd Sunday I got to hang out with one of my favorite team mates, Nikki and her boyf Nic, and bag Gorgornio peak, FINALLY! This hike is advertised as the hardest of the SoCal peaks, so I was pretty intimidated by the 18 miles, 6,000ft grind, but it went by like the blink of an eye.

The two most memorable parts of the hike were meeting ranger Fisher and drinking root beer floats after. Ranger Fisher was blocking the trail about 4 miles up checking permits, you have to carry one to hike in the Gorgornio wilderness. He had the biggest biceps I've ever seen in person and a lack of sense of humor to match. We spent quite a bit of time imagining how Ranger Fisher keeps in such good shape in the wilderness, bench pressing and dead lifting logs. He also assured us that eventually everyone would get lost in the wilderness... a foreboding warning that fortunately didn't come true on Sunday!The root beer floats were as epic as Ranger Fisher's biceps. We stopped at the Mexican Restaurant in Forest Falls to use the restroom and somehow ended up with huge cups full of ice cream and root beer as well as an entire can of whipped cream. Oh and Nic ordered fried ice cream... We are the healthiest ones! 
Post hiking I couldn't help jumping on my bike to explore some new to me trails near Yucaipa. I love riding in new places, late afternoon temps were perfect and the trails in Crafron hills didn't disappoint! Neither did the views of mount San Bernardino! 

Hope everyone in SoCal is making the most of this crazy warm fall. One day we might get rain... One day. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Possibly The Most Epic Shuttle Ride in CA

View from the Plunge. I couldn't get enough of the blue hills in the background! 

 This past Sunday we completed what is quite possibly the most epic shuttle ride in California, a mountain bike ride consisting of 87 miles, 12,000ft ascent and 18,000ft descent. The route consisted of 4 awesome South Sierra trails, Cannell trail, Just Outstanding trail, the old Keyesville Classic DH trail and Kernville River trail. With only a few miles of pavement, and one sustained climb all day, this has to be the most glorious combination of rides around.

The inspiration for this ride struck this past summer, when Menso and I were driving Van Diesel around, en route to nationals in Mammoth by way of a few fun southern California trails. On the way up hwy 395 from Big Bear to Mammoth we stopped to camp at elevation on Sherman Pass. The following day I shuttled Menso on Cannell trail and then we ghetto shuttled (when you drive up, ride down and then hitch hike back to the car) Just Outstanding after. After JO, as we soaked our legs in the Kern River we talked about the possibility of linking all the good trails in the area together, an idea I thought was ridiculous at the time.

Fast forward a few months, the XC season over, I'd been doing a handful of epic rides, and suddenly I felt up for such an excessive ride. So I begged Brendan and Allie to help shuttle, Menso put together a spreadsheet of the route to estimate how long it would take, and we picked a date everyone was free. On Saturday Menso dropped off water and Clif snacks at the halfway point (the only downfall of this route is lack of water and food after stage 1 of 4), and then we all met up at Pizza Barn in Kernville for calorie loading.

Somehow I failed to look at the spreadsheet in too much detail, and was genuinely shocked to learn Saturday night that the ride had 14k ascent and was close to 90 miles. Those stats coupled with starting at 9,200ft after less than 7 hours of sleep put me back in a place of doubting I would complete the whole ride, but unreasonable optimism/stubbornness wins out more often than not, and I woke at at 5:00am with the guys to start what I was now worried would be an epic suffer fest.

Sherman Pass, photo taken by Brendan MUCH later in the day.
The 'A-group' as Brendan called us, those who choose to attempt the whole epic shuttle, consisted of Menso, Dom from UCSB, Vinney and myself. We rolled out of camp at 5:30am with headlights on in 30 degree temps and soon found ourselves at the lookout at Sherman Pass, with a clear view of Mt Whitney surrounded by pink early dawn.

Then we hit the dirt! Cannell trail is a 26 mile playground, beginning with some seriously fun whoopy, bermy, twisty, joyous descending. But pretty soon the fun was broken up with some soul sucking climbs, at 9,000ft climbing loose steep trail isn't the most fun. I struggled a bit with the altitude, adjusting to riding with a heavy pack, and having not consumed coffee in the morning a general feeling of deadness between the descents.

The first 10ish miles alternated between short climbs, broad meadows we had to cross and swoopy grin inducing descents. The ground was crunchy frozen, and a few puddles on the trail were icy around the edges as well. We all bundled up at the start though, so besides frozen toes I was toasty warm. The southern sierra is incredibly pretty, and seeing it in the fall was kinda special. Meadows were bright gold, the fir trees towered over us and the rock formations took my breath away. Lack of memory space on my phone prevented me from taking many pictures, something I really regret now.
Another pic from Brendan, of Karl on Cannell. Pure back country goodness right there!
The last 6 miles of Cannell is an out of this world descent, dropping something like 5,000ft on beautiful, fast, smooth single-track with this stupid good view of Lake Isabella and the valley below. Similar to the feeling I had descending the Whole Enchilada I struggle to concentrate on the bike riding because the view was too distracting. Eventually I stopped, deleted a few apps off my phone to clear up space and took a few pictures. Then I commenced shredding! At some point I realized that we had been descending so long that my brakes were on fire, so I had to switch from constantly feathering my brakes to letting go for short periods hoping this would help cool them off. The tail is crazy fast though, and it was still early in the day so I was trying to be conservative and not kill myself on stage 1!

At the bottom, after many exclamations of OMG THAT WAS AWESOME!!! I stripped off my warm layers, dropped them at Dom's car (parked at the trail head) and rolled into town to find coffee. The majority of the pavement on the ride was the pedal into Kernville connecting the bottom of Cannell to the climb up to J.O. The boys had stopped to tend to a slow leak in Dom's rear wheel, so I had time to scarf down an apple turnover and 12 oz of coffee at Big Blue Bear. Starting before sunrise in 30 degrees kinda threw me off, and I didn't really eat or drink for the first 3 hours of the day, so the pastry and coffee were like heaven.

After a nice respite we headed off to climb Old State Road, a 4,000ish ft gain to get to the top of J.O. This route choice by Menso was a stroke of genius, Old State Road turned out to be the most pleasant smooth dirt road in the history of dirt roads, and the hour and 19 minutes it took to climb it flew by. On the way up we chatted about ADD, bilingualism and philosophy... we are intellectual like that, haha.

And then we hit Just Outstanding, a trail that very much lives up to it's name. Fourish miles of pumpy, swoopy, dh glory under a dense, low canopy of trees, this trail is my idea of what heaven is like. The tail drops 2,000ft with only one or two little ups, and at one point you ride through this tunnel of Manzanita trees that feels super spooky cool! I started before the boys, who stopped AGAIN at the top, under the assumption that they would catch me. I wasn't descending at 100% because I brought the Edict which doesn't have a dropper post. Consequently I was getting stabbed in the ovaries every time I got behind the saddle, and backing off a bit relieved me from the abdomen beatings. The boys didn't catch me though, so I rolled onto the fire road at the end shouting for joy to no one but the trees.

Once we regrouped Vinney decided to head down the fire road because he wasn't feeling it and our group was reduced to 3. The original route included the entire Wagy Ridge trail plus a climb out back to the top of Wagy, a little backtracking and then continuing on Wall st trail to the Keyesville DH (Dutch Flat trail). After a few setbacks, a later start than originally planned and some calculations about our estimated finish time we decided to nix the little loop. The best part of Wagy Ridge is the first mile anyway, and we were still hitting the 4 main stages of the day that make the shuttle epic.

Wagy is another must do trail in the southern Sierra, with some super fun swoopy, roller coaster like rollers, where you get just enough speed going down to carry you up and over the next rise. After the turn off on Wall St trail we had some climbing and then we hit the water stash and met back up with Vinney! This called for a sit down kind of stop to eat, and drink the cokes Menso ingenuously stashed. After only eating the pastry, a gel and some shot blocks in the first 65 miles of the day, the cokes and Clif granola bars tasted amazing! I was still feeling really good though, and completing the ride started to seem attainable at this point (in my mind I kinda always assumed I may not make it to the end, esp since the last trail was the most physically demanding). Vinney decided to call it a day here, and descended back to the car via the paved hwy, with an epic headwind the whole way... not much easier than what we did!

A bit of climbing and some really cool rock formations later we arrived at the top of the classic Keyesville DH, aka Dutch Flat trail. Once again I rode off the front because Dom and Menso were descending considerably faster than me, and Menso needed to stop and stretch at the top. This trail dropped 2,000ft in 4 miles of steep DG, with some tricky rock sections thrown in. The view took my breath away a few times, when it looked like we were about to ride off the face of the earth, with Lake Isabella still the gem of the vast expanse below.

I was surprised to not get caught by the bottom, so I rode in circles and waited, still feeling good but battling a gut ache from eating only ride food like gels, and dreading what stage 4 had in store for us. When the boys finally arrived Menso was looking pretty cracked. Dom and I cruelly joked for a large part of the day about enjoying seeing Menso suffer, but it was only something to celebrate because we were both used to getting our butts kicked by him. We rode out to Kernville River Trail on the Keyesville XC course, KRT is a right had turn on the far end of the course. At the turn off Menso decided to bail to the road as well, blaming a painful hamstring/not wanting to further injure himself.

And then it was just Dom and I, cruising the 16 remaining miles to the car parked at the bottom. The river trail was 100% punishment, so it wasn't much of a cruise, every fun, fast DH was rewarded with a kick in the face steep, long climb, most of which were sandy to boot. I resorted to steady forward progress, dialing it back a bit to guarantee I would survive to the end. Although my head and body felt great, my legs weren't able to put out as much power for the last 10 miles, so concentrating on just moving forward was all I could really do. Somehow the trail kept going up, every corner we rounded revealed MORE up, up up up. BUT eventually, finally, we came to the final intersection and MTBproject promised us it was all down hill from there (although it wasn't, there were 3 more little awful climbs).

And then it was over! The longest, most epic mountain bike ride of my life, one I originally thought I wouldn't be capable of finishing, was over! What a feeling that was. It would have been a bit more exciting had our whole group survived to the end, but we already have plans to go back and do it again... so maybe we can capture the satisfaction of surviving such a crazy big day with everyone soon!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sufferfest Dirt Fondo

This was a total random spur of the moment race/ride that I only really signed up for because I saw an ad in a printed bike publication and thought, why not?! (Am I the only person who still sees events in those printed local newspapery things and makes decisions based on them?!) I had never been to Pedaler's Fork before, and never ridden dirt in Calabasas so it seemed like a good opportunity to do something new/ride with new people. Plus I always heard the food at Pedaler's Fork is out of this world good! And double bonus, there was a cash prize for the first male and female finisher... so that may have been motivation as well :)

Well the Pedaler's Fork did not disappoint in being the cutest restaurant on the planet, and at only an hour and 15 minute drive from Silverado, I was already stoked when I arrived. It did rain a bit as I was sitting in the van getting kitted up, but the rain stopped for the start, and the first hour of the ride was glorious.
Our route and elevation. The loop to the left was the first loop. 
The whole ride was 45 miles made up of two loops, both of which began at Pedaler's Fork. We started with 3 miles of road out to Millennium trail, and when we hit the dirt we were greeted with some awesome switchbacks and a pretty hefty climb. The ride was advertized as a 'gravel/dirt fondo' so a lot of people brough cross bikes, including me. I also happened to bring my race hardtail because the gearing on the cross bike scared me and since I wasn't sure what the weather was going to do. I was pretty stoked on my choice to ride the Felt Nine because the gearing was easy enough that I rode all the switchbacks all those cross nerds had to run :)

The initial climb earned us this amazing descent on a sweet smooth/narrow strip of dirt benched into the hillside, just ripping down to a random dog park.

Now I'm used to dudes passing me on descents, in pretty much every mass start event I do, I climb hard and then get passed a bunch on the descent by dudes who rip. This time there was a very strange turn of events and I was passing dudes on the DH! Not just dudes on cross bikes too!

When we hit the road though I was kinda lost so I sat up and let some of those dudes catch me back, haha. I followed a group of three guys for the next portion of road out to a fire road where there was much course confusion due to missing flags at the turns (rumor has it hikers pulled the course flags?!).

It began raining when we were on the road, a light sprinkle that was just enough to turn the dirt on the remainder of the first loop into thick clay that did NOT like bikes. I have never ridden in conditions like this, so initially it was SUPER frustrating to have the clay pack up so much on my front tire that it literally stopped my bike and no amount of watts could force the bike forward. I would stop, wipe the mud off my tires, start riding again and within 30 seconds come to a complete halt again. I think the most frustrating part was that visually it LOOKED like the trail consisted of primo hero dirt, so inviting and tacky looking, but in reality it was just 2 inches of wet clay. For a little while riding in the grass on the side of the trail worked, but eventually that wasn't an option either and we all ended up shouldering our bikes and walking, clay caking up on the bottom of our shoes with each step. There was much swearing, until we had walked so much that it got ridiculous, and then the swearing and frustration turned to laughs and humor. Thankfully the fire road was littered with dudes walking or stopped wiping off their tires, so I was not alone in the suffering. We weren't even done with the first loop...
At some point we were able to pedal again, but the bike was so caked in clay that it felt like I was riding with a handful of brakes. Also I just have to say I was pretty pleased with my CrankBrothers Candy 11 pedals, even with cleats and pedals caked in clay I just hopped on, pushed down and pretty quickly I was clipped in, didn't have to waste any time cleaning mud out of my pedals. Thanks pedals, for being so freaking awesome!

When the fire road of clay from hell finally spit us out on pavement I was overjoyed. Also lost, again I let some dude catch me so I could use their sense of direction to not get lost.

When we rolled into the Pedaler's Fork parking lot at the end of loop 1 it was pretty clear not very many people had any desire to complete loop 2. I think they all though it would be more hiking in clay. I was too dumb/stubborn to call it a day though (I didn't drive all the way to Calabasas to ride 20 miles!) so I rolled out of the parking lot alone to attempt loop 2.

Well I pretty much immediately got lost and spent about 10 minutes riding in circles looking for course markings, and then consulting strava, where I had downloaded the map ahead of time, but had a hard time finding it.

Eventually a lone rider appeared, the last person to decide to ride the whole Fondo! I don't remember this guy's name (I am a major ass, but I met so many dudes yesterday... it's so hard to keep track of them all!!) but he basically saved the day because his garmin was able to tell us on the fly if we were on course! Without this dude I would have been out there ALL day looking at the map, questioning myself... I am so lucky someone behind me choose to do the whole thing.

Photo cred: Derek's ridic video :)
Anyway, we climbed a HUGE hill, I hit a sweet jump and before we knew it we were back at the Pedaler's Fork! After the huge hill (which was very steep, so thanks again Felt Nine for having such low gearing) I found out I was in 5th place overall, out of 6 but who cares, so I tried to ditch the dude whose Garmin had saved the day, but then I got lost, again, and had to wait for him, hahahahaha. In the end we finished together 5th and 6th of the 6 total people who did both loops (more than 100 people started the ride... 6 finished).

And then I drank a coke, ate the most amazing veggie burger of my life and hung out with Derek (the best mechanic team Ridebiker ever had!) and Roger from Kenda... it doesn't get much better than that!

All in all it was a pretty epic day for a 45 mile 'race'. Between the 3 miles of hiking with 20 extra pounds of mud on my bike, to being lost pretty much the whole time, it was the perfect combination of physical and mental challenge that made such a short distance such a sufferfest. Oh and I got stung by a bee in my butt because I thought I would be cool and rock baggies, which meant the bee flew up my shorts, got stuck, panicked and stung me. As if my butt wasn't big enough already! Thanks baggies.
Why yes, I did steal this from instagram... hence the very poor quality. This is the 'podium' shot... hahaha
I didn't take any pictures because I was busy being lost and trying to conserve cell phone battery and also covered in mud, but I'm kinda bummed now because the scenery was out of this world. Also I've seen pictures from Dirty Kanza (I think in 2015) where the riders have all shouldered their bikes and are walking through a field and I totally had a moment where I felt like I was there... but I didn't have 200 miles to cover. Something about moving so slowly and knowing how far you have to go/not knowing how long it will be muddy makes you feel equal parts despair and panic, I can't imagine that feeling in a 200 mile race!

Moral of the story, add this dirt Fondo to your list of Must Do events for next year! It was a blast, I think because of the suffering but also because there were so many cool people there. There's something about suffering with a big group, sharing a ridiculous mud filled hike a bike heavy day with a bunch of randos who also thought it was a good idea when we started in the am!

Huge thanks to Pedaler's Fork and Sufferfest Brewery for putting on such a fun off season event and getting me out to Calabasas to ride, finally!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Quick Weekend Recap

This past weekend was exhausting, the kind of weekend that I need a whole day to recover from. That wasn't in the cards as I woke up at 5:25am to ride to a sub job in the rain yesterday. How did I manage to teach and train full time before?! ha
But this past weekend was also amazing. So amazing I didn't stop to take pictures (because I never really stopped at all). As I am currently procrastinating doing things I should be doing, here is a quick recap of the weekend!
Friday night I found out that this past weekend was the Warrior's Society Vision Quest, a 55 mile mtb race through the mountains I live in. Although I haven't really been too interested in participating in the event before, it seemed like a great idea at 10pm on Friday, so I packed a camelbak and set out bike clothes to poach the race starting at 5:30am. It was too late to pay to be a legit racer, but spending the day communing with all my favorite people in the mountains seemed like the most fun Saturday, and Brendan said it was ok if I wasted the morning pedaling :)
I left the house at 5:30 (to not get in the way of the official start) and was climbing Black Star in no time. The route took us up Black Star canyon to Main Divide, down Motorway trail, up Maple Springs, to Santiago Peak, down Holy Jim trail, up West Horse Thief, and then down Trabuco trail. I had a blast saying hi to all the riders as I cruised along Main divide and then loved every minute of the newly groomed Motorway! Climbing Maple meant more chatting and hanging out with rad mountain bikers, and I met the raddest dude from Czech on the final push to the peak. Then before I knew it I was hiking up West Horsetheif and was greeted at the top by crazy friendly faces and within an hour I was at the finish line.
I have always wondered how I would fare on the VQ course, it always seemed hard, like the type of race that would break me, that one could fall apart on and end up limping in to the finish. To my pleasant surprise though I felt amazing at the end! The human body's ability to adapt to training is incredible, and I guess all the long rides with Carl paid off!
After I crossed the finish line (in 6 hours 15 minutes) I had to pedal to Felt and Brendan put me straight to work washing metal for more deck raining welding. We worked kinda late into the night which made bed feel incredible when we finally got home.
Then Sunday I woke up early again for the Non Dot Advanced clinic in Santiago Oaks where I got to mentor a ton of amazing riders on the techy sections of Grasshopper trail. It took a bucket of coffee to get me going, but I can't explain how fulfilling it is to teach skills clinics, and this one was over the top good.
I am so so lucky to live in a place where I have the opportunity to teach mtb skills, and not only was the Non Dot crew so so on point with how they ran the show, but the clients who participated in the clinic were the most fun group!
Post clinic Brendan and I took care of some business, did more welding, and then crashed at 8pm, which is a very good thing because 5am Monday came much sooner than I wanted it to :) I just can't stand how good and full the weekend was though, and I want to remember stuff like this for a long long time.