Friday, July 31, 2015

Conquering La Beatrice

The summer of racing continues with the two most exciting races of my season, the North American World Cups! First on tap is The XCO in Mont Sainte Anne this weekend, and then we will drive down to Windham NY for the XCO there next weekend.
So exciting to be here! I was pinching myself all morning because it felt like I was dreaming!
The team arrived in Quebec City last night to a torrential downpour, but fortunately the rain let up this morning for me to pre-ride the 'XCO track' (that's what the Euros call the XC course).  Originally I wanted to blog about other things, like my time in the mosquito ridden Mid-west, but I have so much to say about the course here, and it's all I can think about!

First off, this is the most technically challenging place I have ever ridden! It took me 2 hours to ride 3 laps, but I think that's because I stopped to session some stuff, and re-ride things I messed up on, like slippery rocks.
The first half of a lap is relatively mellow, and has some rad bike park sections like a pump track and a swoopy turny part that are SUPER fun. There's also a river gap you have to jump, that part is a little less rideable! Fortunately there was a bridge across the gap today, so I could try and hit it with no consequence. I definitely attempted that feature about 12 times, and am only sure I cleared the gap on three of those attempts (because nice course marshals watched and let me know when I made it all the way across vs when I landed on the bridge).

Besides being scary, it's also really pretty here!
The second half of the lap is much more difficult. There are multiple SUPER steep climbs with slippery switchbacks where you are barely moving but pushing as hard as you can, a crazy technical rock garden named La Beatrice, and pretty much every descent is littered with drops, slippery roots or technical rocks you have to maneuver around or over. On my first lap I walked LaBeatrice. This is the rock garden I was most anxious about on the track, and it was just as steep, rocky and slippery as I had feared it would be. I overheard a coach telling his rider where the line was though, and the second time through I decided to go for it, and basically screamed the whole way down because I was so scared, and then after I screamed because I was so excited. It was terrifying, but the thrill of surviving the slippery, steep, all rocks at different angles descent was exhilarating, and I basically laughed the rest of the way down the track (which the other course marshals found pretty amusing). On my third lap I decided to hit it again to prove to myself I could ride La Beatrice, that the first time wasn't a fluke, and after a little slip up/running back up the hill I nailed it a second time, again screaming out of fear the whole time. Let's hope I don't scream on Sunday, I'm sure the course marshals, officials, and other riders are wondering how the heck I managed to get enough points to even do this race!
Right under the Shimano sign is the steepest, sketchiest part of La Beatrice. It's a lot scarier than it looks!
Then a bunch of drops, they may look small, but these bad boys are bigger than they look!
I was pretty stoked on the Scalpel today, because that bike seriously took care of me like no other. I was wishing pretty hard that I had a dropper post, but Scalpy handles rocks and roots like a champ. Even me casing jumps and drops, no biggy for the Scalpel. I was also pleasantly surprised by how well the Kenda Small Block 8 tires gripped the slippery rocks and roots. I never ride in wet conditions, but the tires kept me safe, and the only crash I had was because I wasn't looking where I was going!
Another really techy rock section. This one I kept accidently missing because I lined myself up for the B-line without even realizing it on each lap.
Post pre-riding madness (in the beginning I was pretty fearful/not really into riding bikes but at the end I wanted to keep going FOREVER!!!) I washed my bike off with about 100 DH boys. There are cute boys everywhere here... I like this World Cup thing...
This is a terrible picture of the 100 boys waiting to wash off their downhill bikes... swoon!
Now it's time to lay low and get myself mentally prepared for Sunday. A little more pre-riding is on tap for tomorrow, if I can survive that then I will be on come Sunday racing the fastest women IN THE WORLD!!!! Can you tell I'm a little excited!?!?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

WORS CUP Weekend Recap

Been doing a bit of traveling/exploring/napping, so this post is a bit later than most recaps... But WORS CUP weekend was no less exciting! This is one of my favorite races of the XCT circuit, and this year it did not disappoint!

The weekend started like all bike race weekends, with a nice pastry breakfast (at a place with a scone bar) and a pre-ride on Friday. The course was quite different from last year, which is one of my favorite things about WORS cup, they change it up and keep things exciting. The race was still at Cascade Mountain near Portage, WI, but the race director basically ran the course in reverse, save a few key features which have to be run in the same direction. The result was 3 smaller climbs rather than one drawn out one, and one less heinous fireroad situation.

The XC race on Sat started out in the heat and humidity of Mid-West mid-day. The field was a little smaller than usual, and pretty soon after the start I was able to get my booty into second place, feeling comfortable.

Then I pulled a Larissa and crashed my bike going up-hill. There was a rocky section I hit in the wrong gear and off balance and before I knew it I was falling down the hillside in a creek. I basically landed on my left butt cheek on a rock, which hurt a lot, and had to scramble out from under my bike as all these girls whizzed past me. When I did manage to jump back on my bike I was a bit discouraged, and in some pain, but still determined to not give up.

The rest of the race I pushed hard, moved back up to 3rd place, got passed by one girl on lap 3 (out of 5)  and ended up in 4th at the end. There was much suffering in the sun, chasing 2nd place, feeling hopeful because I was making time and closing the gap, then getting passed and feeling a lot of pain in my butt, and finally feeling like I needed to conserve to maintain 4th place (5th was moving in on me at the end).

I very much enjoyed the broken up climb, the skills park section with wooden bridges and jumps, and the descent full of steep off camber turns. The riding out here is very different than anything I do in training, so it's exciting and hard and scary all at the same time! There was also a significant amount of mucus blocking my airways and/or exiting my body during laps 1 and 2, which made breathing pretty difficult. One day my body will stop being a mucus factory, until then I need to learn to not get snot ALL OVER me when I ride a bicycle :)

One of the most exciting aspects of this race (besides eating cheese curds at the farmer's market before hand) was that Brendan's parents, Diya, and Colin all came to cheer for me while Brendan manned the pits handing me water (by which I mean trying to hand me water that I turned down pretty much every time, sorry Brendan!). Diya and Colin ran along side me on one climb which was pretty comical, and made me look forward to that part of the course, and I love having the support of the in-laws at bike races :) It makes me feel super loved/supported, and they are proud of me no matter how well I finish!
Pretty happy to land on the podium all things considered!
Then on Sunday, after eating cherry filled, whipped cream smothered crepes, and spinning for an hour to try and ease the pain in my bum, I suffered it out in Short Track for 18 minutes + 3 laps, and somehow ended up in 2nd place. The whole race I was certain all the women around me felt more fresh/stronger than me, but patience and perseverance pulled through and I was able to simply outlast all but one girl. There is no podium pic because said girl didn't stick around, so it looked pretty sad, but I am proud none the less :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Stuff That Motivates Me

A very creative title, I know... but this past week in Mammoth Lakes was filled with inspirational moments, amazing cheering and some pretty sweet food, all stuff that motivates me to ride bikes as hard as I can!

First of all, let's talk about the amature races. From little kids to old men, there were thousands of amateurs braving the gnar of Shotgun trail to pre-ride and race the Nationals XC. I got to see and encourage some of them while pre-riding, others I got to cheer for during their races, and they reminded me of the sheer joy that is mountain biking. Seeing the adorable, nervous, excited faces of the 8-9 year olds, and the sense of accomplishment of the older amateurs helped put the fire in my belly to ride hard be brave :) I especially loved hearing one of the 8 year old boys turn around and yell good luck to an 8 year old girl in the wave behind him at the starting line of his race, so so cute!
Got to do a lot of spectating with races on Thursday and Friday (mine was Sat)!
Not only did I get to spectate some awesome races and cheer my lungs out, but the cheering during my race was amazing. I heard my name all over the course, which is still so new and exciting to me (a year ago Brendan was the only one cheering for me by name :). I freaking love the enthusiasm of the spectators, and it may seem trivial, but the cheering really does make it easier to tolerate the agony of the pain cave! Thanks guys for all the cheering!!!

The food, this is a huge motivator for me :) We had the most amazing pita and lamb meat balls one night, tried Elk for the first time another night, and ate pretty much the best sushi ever on Wednesday night. After our interval workouts (well any ride really) I looked forward to the most amazing bagel sandwich of my life from Stellar Brew. Then I branched out and had the best rice, kale, carrots and beets bowl of food in my life, from the SAME PLACE!!! On Sunday am, as a reward for racing hard the day before, we got to eat Schat's Bakery... swoon. I love nothing more than a good bakery. When we first arrived in Mammy I was worried the food scene was going to be disappointing, I was very wrong! 

I am drooling just looking at this. Seriously, pesto, cream cheese, a runny egg, spinach and a tomato... oh man!
Besides all that good stuff motivating me to race my guts out in Mammy, let's not forget all the good times we had just riding bikes, camping, and seeing all my favorite people in the same place at the same time! Last week was a freaking blast! I can't wait for Nats next year, but until then there are a few more races to race and a bit of work to be done :)
On Sunday we played like fools on the DH trails. It was seriously so much fun. Bike racing can be a lot of intervals and agony and restricted calories, but days like Sunday... So so fun. Giggling, almost crashing, flying down the trail, wide smiles that make your cheeks hurt fun. 
I spent the whole week with this crazy kid who thinks a hardtail on DH trails is totally acceptable! I guess when you can ride like a boss you don't really NEED all that suspension :) 
Got to see Deckerator a few times, including while he kicked ass in the XC race! Fast dudes are my favorite!
Rode with this fool as well. He survived 3 hours of Daniel and I dragging him across and down the mountain on Sunday! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

So I Finally Had the Guts to Race at Nationals

This past weekend marks my first ever elite level national championships experience. Despite a kinda bumpy road over the past year to get here, I think things worked out pretty well, and by pretty well I mean I am over the moon happy to be where I am today! 

The probably too long version of how the race played out:
Start of the XC race, I'm to the left of Lea Davidson in the red. 
I was a basket case before this race, kinda blew my warm up, and had to work really hard to find some focus and calm as I sat on the far right side of the front row waiting for the start. When the gun finally went off all the stuff in my head immediately went out the window, it was time to suffer like a dog for 90 minutes.

I had a great start and hit the singletrack in 6th place behind 2014 national champion Lea Davidson. The pace was surprisingly easy up the climb on lap one, so I relaxed and enjoyed not being in the hurt locker because I knew that was coming.

The course consisted of a mellow-ish climb broken up into flatter portions on singletrack and steep painful portions on fire road taking you from 8,300 to 8,800 ft followed by a fun, twisty, technical descent. I was elated at the end of lap one to have stayed with the lead group all the way through to the bottom of the descent. I spent a good deal of the early season being dropped on descents in races, so keeping up with Georgia Gould down Shotgun (the really technical part of the descent) was very exciting. 

The remaining 4 laps were an exercise in exploring the pain cave. This is how pretty much every lap played out: Erin, Chloe, and Rose lead to the final painful steep part of the climb, Erin and Chloe start attacking each other at the top, Larissa gets popped off the lead group and rides like a crazy person down the hill to try and catch back up. 

By lap 4 I was off the lead group of three for good and starting to loose motivation/ having those thoughts that if Georgia (who was 20 seconds behind me) caught me I would be ok with that. At the top of the climb I glanced back and saw a flash of red charging up the climb, Lea was in hot pursuit! If two riders passed me it would push me out of the top 5. This was all the motivation I needed to absolutely destroy myself for 20 more minutes to maintain my position! 

On the last lap I focused on not blowing myself up too early while still riding hard enough to stay away from Georgia and Lea, and then at the very top I stood up and absolutely railed everything my legs could give to the start of the descent. At the bottom I was alone and crossed the line in 4th place. 

I'm proud to have finished Nats in the top 5, especially with all the doubt in my head and nerves at the start. I owe pretty much all the credit to the team of people around me, cleaning and maintaining my bike, feeding me, giving me advice, reminding me to calm down, cheering for me and encouraging me to keep pushing, without this team and the support Ridebiker Alliance has provided me I would not be able to perform at this level. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is seriously the dream I described to Brendan every night last year as I lay in bed. It's still kinda hard to believe that dream is a reality now. 

Thanks to everyone else who played a part in getting me to the finish line. Thanks for cheering, especially Cyrus Hembree because you made my day both in Mammoth and Colorado Springs :) Thanks Kappius Components again, I know getting me those wheels wasn't easy, but what would I do without them?! Thanks Cannondale Bicycles for giving me the opportunity to CHOOSE which bike I race on any given course, and to Damio and Don for keeping them running flawlessly. Thanks Kenda tires for making a tire that could handle the kitty litter scree of Mammoth so well, and not get sliced open on all the sharp things out there! Thanks Adam and Brendan for the feeds and for keeping me focused and centered, and to coach Matt for all the work you did to prepare me for this week over the past year. Thanks GU Energy Labs for providing me with the nutrition I need to perform while riding bikes fast, and to Crank Brothers for not only supporting me in general, but for making awesome pedals that just freaking rock! Thanks Sugoi Apparel for the sweet kits (I had a lot of doubt about creating my own kit, but I'm so stoked with how it turned out!), and Steve Blick for surprising me with the coolest looking/feeling new sunnies just before the race! 

How can I thank everyone who supports me enough? I feel like I can't, but just know that when I smile, either in a race or on a ride, it's because all these amazing people believe in me and that feeling is the best feeling in the world. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

On The Road Again (Kinda)

First time on the course = squealing/giggling/massive smiles for days.

After all of 1.5 days at home it was time to hit the road again, but this time it was just a 5 hour drive North East to Mammoth Lakes, CA for XC MTB Nationals!!! The plan was to head up early to not lose the benefits of all the time I spent in CO at altitude (the nationals course is all between 7-8 thousand feet), camp for a few nights, pre-ride the crap out of the course and explore Mammy a little. 

Saturday we hit the race course and had some fun following fellow RideBikerAlli racer Spencer down the sketchy, loose, super fun descents that will make the race interesting to say the least! There was quite a bit of screaming, crashing and squealing on my part, lets hope I have as much fun during the race! I also crashed pretty hard trying to wipe snot off my glove on a tree... going up hill... so yeah, that happened! Post bike riding we found some incredibly pretty lakes! I had no idea that Mammoth had both XC trails AND super pretty lakes!

Leftover burrito picnic lunch (last nights dinner in a warm tortilla purchased from a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant) at a pretty lake!

Pretty lake #1

Pretty waterfall #1

On Sunday I had a bit of work to do on the road, and then we explored some hot springs near our rad camping spot in the middle of nowhere.

Stoked to do good work with incredible views!

See what I mean about the awesome views!?!

Mammoth is really good at rocks! SO many pretty rocks everywhere!
Hot springs at Hot Creek Hatchery. This place is super pretty and may have been where bathing took place...
View from the campsite. Waking up to this doesn't suck!
And today (Monday) there were hill repeats and the best bagel sandwich of my life in the morning, and napping is on tap for the afternoon. Nailing two workouts in a row + relaxing and exploring the pretty sights = living the life :)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Three Weeks on the Road

If you've been following my blog for the past three weeks, you probably know that I haven't been in Southern Cali since a few hours after school got out on June 18. For the past two years I have done similar bike racing/fun trips, but this one was a bit different because it was longer, involved quite a bit more driving and was very much 'fly by the seat of your pants' unplanned. Here is a quick recap of the trip with some interesting details I choose to record while on the road.
Everything I needed for three weeks of travel (minus the camp stove and thermarest I borrowed from Taryn).
Basic travel overview:
en route to SLC from Missoula
- Flew from Orange County to Missoula MT on June 18 (stayed with family friends, raced bikes)
- Drove from Missoula, MT to Sun Valley Idaho on June 21 (camped in rental car with bike)
- Drove from Sun Valley to Salt Lake City on June 22 (Rode in Sun Valley for a few hours in the am)
- Flew from SLC to Denver on June 25 (involved last minute borrowing a bike bag!) then drove to Colorado Springs for racing bikes
- Drove from Denver to SLC on June 29 (very last minute plan to drive with new friend Sam rather than rent a car in Denver and stay in the area because rental cars in CO are EXPENSIVE in June!)
Views from drive to Fruita
- Drove from SLC to Fruita, CO on July 1 (camped in a tent alone for the first time in a deserted desert parking lot)
- Drove from Fruita to Breckenridge, CO July 2 (rode sick Fruita trails in the am)
- Drove from Breck to Denver on July 4 (post Firecracker to spend time with the niece and nephew)
- Drove from Denver to Crested Butte on July 6 (stopped in Salida to ride Monarch Crest on the way)
- Drove from Crested Butte to SLC on July 7 (rode C.B. in the am before this bear of a drive)
- Flew from SLC to Orange County on July 8

You may notice in all that driving that I essentially drove between SLC and Denver 3 times during this trip. This part seems a little painful, but each of those drives was on a completely different route, so there was plenty of scenery, and on one leg I had good company (thanks so much again Sam, you made that one much more bearable!) A lot of the reasoning behind driving so much was to save money. My original plan was to rent a car in Denver on June 29th and stay in the mountains close by through the 4th, but because I wasn't sure about plans until a few days prior to this portion of the trip rental car prices in Denver went through the roof (cheapest was $57 per day), while they stayed relatively low from SLC (I got my rental for $20 per day).

Estimation of $$ spent on rental cars: $356.92 (this accounts for the fact that the team is reimbursing me for the rental car that got me from Missoula to SLC)

Number of different rental cars driven: 4

Miles driven just to get from place to place: 2,306

Estimation of money spent on gas: $191.97 (this is a very rough estimate, only includes miles driven on the trips listed above, and I used 30mpg as an average fuel economy which might be a little inaccurate because they were all small cars, but there was a lot of driving up and over big mountains)

Food/lodging Overview
Sleeping in the car in Sun Valley.
This trip was based around doing three races,  in Missoula, Colorado Springs and Breckenridge. For the Missoula race I stayed with friends of Brendan's parents in an awesome house with incredible views. In Colorado Springs I stayed with the team in an awesome hotel with a full sized fridge and kitchen which meant I could cook for myself! And for the race in Breck I camped for a night with friends way up on a and stayed in the house of a very gracious local the night before the race.

Campsite in Crested Butte
The rest of the trip was a combo of staying at BFF Taryn's house in SLC, camping in the nature at free campsites alone, and staying at my brother's place in Denver. Since this trip was so 'fly by the seat...' and I only really knew for sure what I was doing for the weekend of the Missoula and CO Springs races, I usually didn't plan where I was camping until a day in advance. This actually worked out quite well, because as I learned, you can camp on National Forest land off a dirt road for free. I basically jumped on the Wifi at a coffee shop after riding every day, searched up free camping, and was able to find National Forest camping in all the places I was going.
View from my tent in Fruita
Breck was the only stressful lodging situation because it was the weekend of the 4th of July and camping is prohibited in all of Breckenridge. Thankfully friends helped me out for this one though! In summary I spent $0 on lodging, camped in seriously beautiful places, and got to spend time with friends and family.

I tallied up the amount I spent on food via a google spreadsheet each day mostly because I was curious about how much money I was spending on nutrition. This was especially useful because I am a super frugal/kinda stupid individual and I get anxious about spending $$ on food which results in poor decision making. Throw in eating out a lot/ cooking for just one person when I can cook, and this was a potential source of stress for me. I vowed in Sun Valley that I would prioritize my nutrition though (after a day of very poor decision making), and not skimp on eating well because food is fuel and after all the whole point of this trip was to race bikes fast, something you need proper fuel to be able to do!

Average spent on food per day from 6/19-7/7/15: $26.3

Total spent in the same time period: $526

I included all nutrition items purchased for myself in the total/average, so we are talking from every cup of coffee to groceries when I was able to cook. I am pretty lucky to have great friends who fed me very well on more than one occasion when I was staying with them, so this may have caused my totals/averages to be lower than what is reasonable. I ate a lot of instant oatmeal, especially when camping, and when I eat out I usually have enough leftovers to provide another meal, so this helped keep the average $$ spent on the low side (well, I don't really know, is $26 per day low for someone on the road?)

I know there are other incidental costs of being on the road for extended periods of time, like spending $30 to have my drive train cleaned up in Salida, but in terms of travel, lodging and food I spent $1,074.89. Here is the exciting part though, I won some $$ racing bikes, totaling $1,064.23!!! And that's that, three weeks on the road riding bikes, camping, sight seeing, lots of blowing my nose due to allergies, meeting tons of super fun/cool people and most importantly racing bikes!!!
My favorite travel companion, Scalpy the green beast!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

ALL THE PICTURES From the Tail End of the CO, UT Trip

The tail end of my epic 3 week journey from Denver to SLC and back over and over consisted of a day in Denver with my adorable niece and nephew, hitting Monarch Crest Trail, and a short ride in Crested Butte before the long long drive back to Salt Lake for the last time. I fly home in a few hours, where I will send two days repacking my life before heading to Mammoth for Nationals.

A quick recap of the last two days of riding in beautiful, colorful Colorado.

Early Monday morning I hit the road to get from Denver area to Salida to jump on the 10 am Monarch Crest shuttle. I decided on Sunday afternoon that although I have already ridden Monarch Crest, I wanted to do it again, very last minute (the theme of this trip). The drive was incredibly pretty, with sweeping views of 14,000ft mountains, and high country meadows... I wanted to take pictures the whole time.
No complaints about driving for a few hours when the views are like this the whole time. 
I got to the shuttle just in time, and was on the trail by 10:40am. This point to point trail is my #1 favorite ride. The shuttle drops you off around 11,900ft and the first 10 miles hug the ridgeline with unbelievably good views of the surrounding mountains, alpine meadows, and trees for days. Some sections dip into the forest on tacky, smooth single track lined in bright green, just to pop back out above treeline for more breathtaking views.
This is my heaven, wet dirt and trees, plus this trail flows like no other!
A section above treeline just before heading back into the forest. 
There was lightening in the forecast for 1pm, so I was a little rushed to get below tree line before the storm. I have heard a few horror stories in the past two weeks about the dangers of getting hit by lightening...

Near the end of the Continental Divide section of trail. Made me want to race the entire Continental Divide really badly!
After staying super high up for about an hour, the trail finally descends 1,000ft or so on this ridiculously fun techy trail littered with rocks, roots and swoopy turns. I was alone, but couldn't help pinning it down this portion of trail because if felt like the Scalpel was made to dip, weave, float over and sometimes smash through the rocks and roots. I was beaming and cheering by myself in the forest for quite some time :) I probably yelled 'It's the best day' and 'I'm so happy right now' 20 times...

Post techy fun descent there is smooth, fast trail through wildflowers and meadows. 
And then you get to hit Rainbow trail! This is another seriously fun portion of the ride, but sadly for me my rear tire had a small gash that wouldn't seal on it's own. As a result I had to baby my rear wheel/keep stopping to put air in the tire for the second half of the ride. I still had a lot of fun, got hit by some cold heavy rain, rode through a river for a while and popped out for the last section of trail with more sweeping views and wildflowers.
Stoked out of my mind about the views and what an incredible ride I just experienced. 
Fortunately the rain didn't last long, my tire eventually held enough air to get me back to the car (without putting a tube in it), and my two hard crashes didn't damage my bike/body enough to prevent me from finishing the ride. I did cough myself silly on the 5 mile pavement cruise back to the car, my lungs don't like altitude + allergies. 

I pretty much immediately threw my filthy body/bike straight into the car and headed to Salida to get some plugs for my tires/a quick service of my drivetrain post ride. Being on the road solo for so long means not really taking care of my bike like I should, so I figured spending a little $$ on some TLC for Scalpel would probably go a long way. We hit Absolute Bikes in Salida, and they BLEW me away with the incredibly fast, friendly and thorough service. The boy I talked to took the tires off my rims to look for the puncture!!! I didn't even ask him to do that! And they definitely could have charged me twice as much and I would have thought it reasonable. PLUS he worked on my bike right after I dropped it off, so that a few hours later (which I spent writing about the Firecracker and drinking an unhealthy amount of coffee) my bike was ready! Another super friendly boy helped me figure out where to ride in Crested Butte the next day, and I was back on the road to find a camping spot in the rain. 

The drive from Salida to Crested Butte also took my breath away/cause me to pull over multiple times to take pictures. I'm pretty much only writing this blog post because I feel the desperate need to share how incredibly beautiful Colorado is with the world.

It rained a lot on my last three days of adventure. Being from drought ridden CA, I rather liked the rain :)
I arrived in Crested Butte at dusk, and the moody/cloudy sky made the scenery even more magical. I honestly think CB is the prettiest place I have even been. The landscape is so dramatic, and green!
Snowy mountains in the distance. 
My plan was to drive out on Washington Gulch road and look for a camp site on National Forest land. Thankfully I got there with enough time before the rain that I was able to set up my tent and climb in! The meadow I camped in was full of other campers, so although I was camping alone again, it wasn't as scary as in Fruita!
Wildflowers EVERYWHERE! 
In the am I woke up early and rode for a few hours on some pretty fun/technical trails. It would have been nice to have had more time to explore, but I did get to see an epic amount of flowers, aspen trees, snowy peaks, and sweeping views on my short ride. At one point I was in a meadow and there were pink, blue, purple, red, orange and yellow flowers in every direction. It was magical, and my cell phone camera couldn't begin to capture the beauty!
Looking down on Mount Crested Butte from Snodgrass Trail. This town was seriously adorable!

Aspen trees so dense you can't see past the white trunks. 
Sweet, smooth, perfect trails... 
Post ride I grabbed coffee and an egg sandwich (I'm obsessed right now), and hit the road to get to SLC by 6pm. I didn't really realize when planning this trip that this leg of the drive would be 7.5 hours, so that kinda sucked. It was pretty enough though, and there were two huge rain storms, so overall I would say it was a great day! 

I have about 100 more pictures, but maybe it's better if you just go there yourself and see all the pretty things! I'm sad to be ending this long, beautiful trip this afternoon, but more adventures are on the horizon!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Firecracker 50 AKA My Battle with Altitude

To celebrate America's birthday on Saturday I decided to race my bike 50 miles at the highest elevation I have ever ridden. Although I didn't think much of it when I signed up, this turned out to be one of my favorite races of all time! Here are some highlights of a very long, very high, very painful race.

This race was huge! Like seriously, epically huge! There were more than 1,000 people racing their bikes, either doing the whole 50 miles solo, or paired up in teams of two. The size of the participants wasn't the only huge aspect of the race either. The start had the HUGEST crowd I have even seen at a bike race, kids and families lining the streets of Breckenridge, giving high fives to the racers as we rolled through downtown during the neutral start. It felt like racing a world cup there was so much hype :)
The pro ladies during the neutral roll out. It was pretty fun to start with the men (and use them to draft... :) good views for days)
The whole race was really really high. The town of Breck is at 9,600ft, and the rest of the race was between that and 11,100ft. Remember I live at about 1,000ft so the elevation was a HUGE deal to me. Fortunately I have a really smart coach, and awesome friends who gave me great advice about racing that high up. Their advice worked out really well because although it was hard, I felt pretty good the whole 4 hours and 13 minutes of racing. 

The course, while it did include it's fair share of fire road, was amazing! We climbed an awesome old railroad grade to 10,800 ft, descended some sweet, smooth, flowy singletrack, climbed a second time on super steep rocky  creekbed like trail to 11,100ft, and then rode up and down and all over in the forest on techy, beautiful trails back to town. The absolute highlight was riding the French Gulch section (the super techy climb) on the second lap because I passed three pro dudes who had to walk on this climb. Oh and the last portion of trail was 'flow trail' esq, which was an absolute blast on lap one, but very hard on lap two when I was gassed. 

The volunteers were out of control good. They had bottles of water or sports drink for us at EVERY aid station on BOTH laps, had gels and solid food, and went out of their way to get me what I needed (solid food on lap two!) They also made the most incredible post race food, I had a heaping plate of the best salad of my life, chili AND BBQ chicken. 

The pain, while contained for the most part during the race, was off the charts at the finish. I don't know if my emotions get out of control because I love racing bikes so much, or what happens to me, but I sobbed like a little girl on the way back to my car after finishing partly because I hurt so much and partly because I don't know why.
Stoked to finish in front of a few of the pro guys I passed on the second lap. 
The finish (even at the end of lap one) was awesome. Larry Grossman (the dude doing the announcing) made me feel like a rockstar when I crossed the line, and not only did I win dollars, but they also gave me TWO trophies, a jersey AND a rad patriotic water bottle! I did not go into this race expecting to win, but it was a very nice cherry on top of an incredible racing experience.
These ladies rock! So honored to share the podium with them :) 
And last, but most definitely not the least, the absolute highlight of the weekend was the generosity, excitement, and support I got from the cycling community (both from people I already know and love and from the rad people of CO). My old team mate Bryan and friends from Boulder let me crash their camp site on Thursday night (AND fed me delish coffee on Fri am), because I didn't plan on doing this race and was a little panicked trying to find a place to stay on Thurs afternoon. Nick from Breck Bike Guides (possibly the cutest bike shop on the planet, which also sells awesome bike art) helped find me a place to stay on Friday night so I wouldn't have to camp in the rain at 10,800 ft. Total strangers Jeremy and Teresa very generously provided me with an incredibly comfortable bed and were the most gracious hosts (esp considering they didn't even know I would be staying with them until about 6 hours prior to my arrival). I was not expecting anyone to know me, but there were spectators on the course cheering for me by name, and I got to eat my post race meal with some super cute, and also seriously fast juniors from Boulder Junior Devo team! I love bike people, I could go on for a while about how rad they are and how many nice people helped me out/cheered me on/congratulated me... I am so humbled to be surrounded by so many great people. 

Moral of the story is that you should start planning now to race the Firecracker50 next year! This race rivals Downieville as my all time favorite bike race :) Well done Firecracker 50, well done!