Monday, August 21, 2017

Life Goes On

Goodbye for now #vanlife!!!

Home means doing A LOT of this :) 

Home from Colorado, soaking in the last week of summer, looking back on an amazing #vanlife trip that took my all over Utah and Colorado, and it feels like time is flying by. Just a moment ago I was cooking salmon and edamame on the $18 butane stove in the van while a summer monsoon poured down outside the van at a free campsite near Turquoise lake in Leadville. Just yesterday I was pulling my bike out of the back of the van to go ride up Columbine from my favorite parking spot at Twin Lakes. It's hard to let go of summer, but harder still coming back from such a beautiful place full of awesome memories and some legit personal accomplishments. 

But life goes on. And if I learned anything from the brief stint of full time professional athlete-ing I did, it's that the down time, fun rides, travel and racing is even more enjoyable when you are working full time and have to wait for it/earn it. 

On another note, I'm having some conflicted feelings about this social media/marketing oneself thing. Obviously I am very proud of my race results this summer, and I don't think that's wrong. But I see other people posting over and over about a single race win, or trophy/belt buckle earned and it's just interesting to me the line between marketing yourself and going too far. Sure getting exposure and sharing successes is great for sponsors and helps promote your brand, but at what point are you overdoing it, being obnoxious and causing people to roll their eyes? Someone mentioned this summer that I posted a ton about BWR and I didn't really think I did, so that was interesting to hear, and has changed the way I think about what I put out there. I see the truly successful cyclists, like Howard Grotts and Kate Courtney, and they hardly mention their big wins and successes, and I think that's pretty cool. We all know they are incredible athletes and they have too many race wins to dwell on any one achievement. And on the flip side I see others who drag out one win as if they changed the world, which looks tacky to me, but is that just good marketing? Anyway, just a thing I am pondering on this Monday morning. 

Life goes on, and right now, while I feel a great deal of satisfaction with a summer of racing well spent, I think what is on the horizon is more important than dwelling on things I achieved in the past. So onward to a new school year, a few more races (hopefully) and continuing to grow as a human. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Random Thoughts and Thanks

The view from the passenger window.... always beautiful. 

The drive back home from Colorado was rough. I looked in the rear view mirror a lot, wishing I could stay in the mountains, riding bikes, reading and sleeping in the van. But while my heart wants to live in the eternal summer of mountain biking I know in my head that working makes the free time so much more valuable. And to be honest, spending time in my classroom yesterday made me a little excited about the new school year. 

I left some loose ends and thoughts about Leadville unaddressed, so this is just a random collection of thoughts and thanks to the people I haven't acknowledged yet. 

It all seems like a blur now, but Jenny Smith mentioned in a comment on social media that I won 3 100 mile mountain bike races at extreme elevation in 4 weeks. And then when I thought about it, I raced 7 weekends in 8 weeks, all of which were endurance races, and all but Lutsen were at elevation (although big Bear and Tahoe were only 7,000ft max). AND the first race in the string of races, Lutsen, was my first ever 100 mile mountain bike race. What a wacky and cool way to spend the summer. 

Three 100 mile race podiums in 4 weeks... kinda nutty!

I am on a rest week now, which sucked for the first day but has been getting easier and easier as time goes by. Today, day 4 of not riding my bike, I actually am happy to not ride a bike... it's a scary feeling. I am very much looking forward to the weekends rides though! 

Van kitchen w/ podium flowers :)
You would think that living in a van would be cramped and lonely and hard, but I 100% am in love with the van life. I wouldn't have come home except that Dave dog was home alone as Brendan was in Asia all week. We used to joke about living in our van full time, but I'm at a point where I think I could seriously do it. We just need an internet connection, and a sink and I will be happy as a clam. I spent A LOT of time just chilling in the van alone, reading, getting healthy when I was sick, cooking... with the great outdoors just outside and a warm bed inside I can't really think of a reason to own a whole house besides the dog. I didn't really miss my worldly possessions, and it's kinda nice feeling like a shower is a luxury. When the small things become big things I think it's WAY easier to feel gratitude. 

My Leadville camp spot was pretty amazing. I did a lot of yoga and stretching here in the sunshine. 

And now the thanks part. 

Obviously the whole Leadville journey would not have happened without Brendan, and as my biggest supporter, and the hardest working guy I know I owe all the credit to Brendo. Brendan has tolerated so many weekends of insane training, my going to bed at 8pm on a regular basis, he gave up having a wife and van all summer so I could acclimate, he worked tirelessly on the van to get it ready for my summer of traveling, he has built and rebuilt bikes for me, and he flew all the way to Colorado for 2 days before heading straight to Taiwan for work, just to stand around in a feed zone waiting for me to zoom by twice and grab a bottle. Brendan is my hero. I know it looks like I'm the one racing bikes, but really WE are racing, his role just doesn't get finish line photos. Thanks husband. You are the best.

Getting to connect more with my team director Nicola Cranmer this summer has had a huge positive impact on my racing and on the outcome of the summer. People always tell me she has done so much for women's cycling, but I got to experience that first hand this summer. From the strategizing, to fun rides in Aspen, to always helping me out with the social media/marketing part of the job, Nicola has been an invaluable part of team Connors. I feel so lucky that Ridebiker brought me to her two years ago and that I get to be part of her team. 

One of the funniest aspects of the summer to me is that I FINALLY got to spend some time with my real life neighbor Erin Machan who lives 1 mile from me in Silverado, but whom I have never spent time with until we went to Colorado. Erin has the most generous heart, the kind of person who would give you the shirt off her back, and her helpfulness and generosity this summer had a huge positive impact on my race. Erin lent me everything from course knowledge to air compressors, she selflessly spent an HOUR helping me understand the different climbs on the course the first day I was in town, and though I really had nothing to offer in return she just continued to give. And as if that wasn't great enough, Erin is contagiously happy, which made hanging out with her and her boyfriend JJ ridiculously fun. 

Can't remember if this picture is in the last post. 
I already included the details of riding with Robert and Brian in the race recap, but I am still thinking back to how lucky I am to have ridden with them for the first half of the race. The weekend before the race Nicola, Pam and I were talking about how important it is to be in a group across the pavement during the race, and it was like Brian and Robert were sent there by an angel to be my group, haha. Also the two SRAM dudes I rode with on the way back, if only I remembered their names to thank them for letting me latch on and not help out! 

I have some pretty amazing sponsors, but among the best of the best is Brady Kappius. I had some issues the week before and Brady dropped everything Monday morning to help me get them sorted. I was in a panic before Brady stepped in and offered to help, and as a result I was able to pre-ride on the Edict all week which was ideal since I wanted to race the edict. 

Roger Hernendez is another sponsor who goes above and beyond for me, even when I screw up and fail to let him know what I need. Roger got me new tires for the race, which I'm sure resulted in my ability to descend so fast due to the extra grip, and to not get flats. Roger has been there for me through thick and thin, like really been there, and while I love Kenda tires a lot, I think it's the support I get from Roger that really makes it the best sponsorship deal. Thanks Roger :) 

And of course I'm so grateful that Lauren tolerated me for the first two week and pushed me to race Telluride and Breck. Those races helped so much and I WOULD NOT have done them if L-dawg had't been there encouraging and shaming me into racing. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


It was still so cold out at 6:30am that I could see the breath of every rider around me as 1,400 of us rolled across the line on Saturday at the start of the Leadville trail 100. One of the things I like most about these ultra endurance races is that the start is always so early in the morning that my brain doesn't have time to process that it is a new day until I am 10 miles into the race. You wake up at 4, eat oatmeal with peanut butter and a banana, kit up, and roll to the line in a haze, and before you know it 10% of the race is behind you! The morning of Leadville was blissfully the same, a daze of sleepiness that drowned out nerves and anxiety.

The start was FAST though, and the cold woke me up, as did the small talk from two SoCal friends, Robert Freeman and Brian Gordon, who found me just before the start of the first climb. As we ascended St Kevin's it became apparent that maybe we would be the same pace all day (even though Robert had NO idea what he was doing and Brian destroyed me at Tahoe Trail 100k). At the top of Kevin's we were still together, and Robert was a saint to wait for me when I got gap-ed off the small group that formed descending the pavement as I struggled to eat a Clif Shot and aero tuck at the same time.
Leading my group up Sugarloaf. Robert kept telling me to stop dropping the dudes... :)
By the base of the second climb a gap had formed between the top 20ish men and my group, and I led the guys up Sugarloaf working hard to pace myself for the long day ahead. The start had been so fast and exciting that I was worried I had gone out too hard on the Kevin's climb. I had assumed the lead of the race early on in the first climb, but a sense of panic that it was just a matter of time before another woman caught and passed me, a panic that I wouldn't shake for the next 7 hours, set in as soon as I was in the lead. As we climbed Sugarloaf I repeated the words from an email that 3 time Olympic gold medalist Kristen Armstrong sent me friday (!!!), to race my own race, and control the controllables.
The descent after the second climb is well known for being the place where people crash and hurt themselves, but when we got there I was stoked out of my mind to be bombing down the rocky/rutted fire road. My Edict effortlessly floats over the rough stuff and I was giggling with joy as we tore down Powerline. I also may have been screaming with glee... a dude said he wanted to ride with me because I reminded him that mountain bike racing is fun :)

Rippin' the singletrack. 
At the bottom Brian, Robert and I were still together with one or two other dudes, and once again, Robert was a hero to come back for me twice when the group rode away from me on the long flat road leading to the first aid station. I was freaked about being by myself on the road (everyone warned me to NOT be alone there) but also trying to pace myself because even the lowest parts of the course are at extreme elevation.

Soon we were at the first aid station, and then tearing down the only singletrack portion of the course, where Brian aired it out on anything that even slightly resembled a jump.

The boys stopped at the bottom of Columbine, the longest sustained climb of the race, and I took a bottle from Taryn, who is pretty much the best friend ever to hang out at an aid station all day just to hand me two bottles.

Columbine is about 3,000ft of consistent climbing, topping out around 12,500ft. I fell in love with it on Tuesday the week before the race and kept that positive association with the typically dreaded climb in my mind the whole way up. I also counted the feet I had left to go on my Garmin... I know it sounds lame, but I LOVE the idea that every few seconds you have a few feet less to go up, and if you just keep turning pedals the elevation ticks by and then you are suddenly at the top!
And that's how it went. At some point Robert caught back up, rode with me for a while, and then decided he was going to go for broke and rode away. It was hard to watch him go, but I was being as patient as possible with the pacing, and knowing how hard the top of the climb was meant saving something for the last 4 miles. I felt good the whole way up, and at the top the helicopter hovering over the mountain made me feel so cool... leading the 'race across the sky'. I kept my mind in check though, it's a long race and anything can happen.
I think this is from the top of Columbine, where the climb flattens out a bit before the turn around. 

On my way back down, pretty close to the top I saw basically all the women I was racing against all together and the panic resurfaced because they were closer than I wanted them to be. I turned the descending back up to 11 because I knew this was where I would gain time on my competition, and the Edict again made my day because I could take even the worst of lines and the bike turned them into rad rowdy fun.

I think the Columbine descent was my favorite part of the race because the entire way down I was passing a stream of people on their way up and it felt like a mountain bike party. I cheered, screamed, hooted and hollered my way down the fire road, thoroughly enjoying the fact that 1,400 people were all out on the same mountain, loving the heck out of the same sport I love. It was glorious.

And then it was a matter of catching a few dudes and hanging on like glue as they pushed their way back to the pipeline aid station where Brendan was waiting for me with a feed. At some point I begged two super strong dudes in SRAM kits to not surge and drop me, apologizing profusely for not doing any of the work, and thankfully they were super gracious and agreed to not attack me/leave me for dead.

The hardest part of the race is probably the climb back up Powerline, a crazy steep mile of rutted out fire road at mile 75ish. Again, I focused on turning the pedals over, and divided the climb into little chunks, just make it to that tree, ok now that spectator. Near the top a dude dressed like a piece of pizza gave me a little push (he was pushing the dude ahead of me for a while and I was seething with jealousy!) and then it was just a matter of a few thousand more feet of climbing, two descents and an annoying flat/slightly uphill finish loop.

The last 4 miles contains a seemingly endless, straight, false flat climb on fire road and I started to come unraveled here, watching the Garmin, knowing I had 4 miles left, then 3.9, 3.8.... The last 4 miles took FOREVER. I got passed by 4 dudes, but I just kept thinking about Kristen's email, and telling myself that I could do it. When I was reasonably sure there were no women behind me I settled into a 'just get this done' pace, and finally I turned onto 6th street, crested the last rise and saw the finish line.

I wanted desperately to wheelie across the line, but when I got there my brain and body were too tired to put together the necessary steps to pull off said wheelie. I also could not have balanced with no hands on the bars for the life of me, haha, but I did drop down to hug my bike as soon as I crossed the line. This bike, I can't get over it.

Disbelief, and overwhelming joy.
It's hard to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line as the first woman. This was a goal I set back in March, a race I feared and respected so much that it just never seemed realistic to think I could win. Of course I always wanted to win, but it seemed too big, too important, too far out of the reach of my physical ability. Riding around the course all week, after my mindset shift to positivity I kept thinking about how grateful I am to have so many people supporting me, giving me encouraging messages and emails, and such great sponsors. As I approached the red carpet on the ground, and the tape stretched across the finish line I just kept thinking 'we did it'. This wasn't a thing I did, it was a thing that my whole community did, from Brendan designing the best xc race bike, to Matt coaching me through the shift from XC to endurance, to Nicola always getting me whatever I need to train and race well, Carl riding bikes with me all winter and spring, Erin lending me all her course knowledge and camper amenities, Taryn, Bill, and Brendan feeding me during the race, to all the people who have been there for me, have encouraged me, and who have believed in me.

We did it guys, we won Leadville!!!!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wednesday: Less Freaked Out, More Stoked Out!

Driving into town yesterday. I'm falling...
In some respects a LOT has changed since last week at this time, in other respects things are much the same. Most importantly I have basically made a 180 mentally. Last week when I pre-rode the Leadville course (over the course of 3 days) I was so freaked out. Seeing other people pre-riding made me anxious, thinking about if I would find a camping spot in the increasingly busy town, if I would find a seat in the coffee shop (the best place to get online and check email...), if someone way faster than me was coming to do the race, if I could stay with them on the climbs... all freaked me out. I was running around getting more and more worked up, anxious, nervous and scared. Then my back started hurting, probably because that's where I harbor my stress, and that REALLY freaked me out.

Twin Lakes, near the halfway point of the course has become my favorite place lately. I have parked here and eaten lunch with a view of the lakes and mountains half a dozen times in the last two weeks!

But that weekend away from town, all the rad people in my life sending encouraging messages and being reminded what a great team of people I have working with me made such a HUGE difference. From the awesome body work from CTS coach Dave in Colorado Springs to the personal message on Facebook from Chloe Woodruff (!!!!) I am SO lucky to have so much support and so excited to give it my all on Saturday. The anxiety and freaked-outedness has been (almost all) replaced with confidence in my coach's plan, in the super rad bike I get to race and in the little fact that mountain biking is supposed to be fun, and that's why I'm here. I'm going to give it my all on Saturday, but I'm also going to be smiling from ear to ear if the race is anything like the last two rides I've done here.
The top of the largest climb in the race (called Columbine) is INCREDIBLY beautiful! Sadly I wont be up there long on Sat, but at least the sights on the way up will distract me from the pain :)

Tuesday I got a second shot at climbing Columbine and instead of focusing on the pain and power numbers the whole time, I actually enjoyed it. I concentrated on percieved effort and the top, which was agonizing last week, was actually fun! And then the descent was SCREAMING fast and wicked fun. I know it's fine road, but hey, it's still mountain biking!

And today I took a second shot at the other hardest climb of the race, Powerline. Last week I felt like someone was stabbing my left shoulder with a steam knife when I climbed this trail, I was in agony, and I hated how the climb reduced me to a crawl. It was still hard today, but this time I felt like I was actually riding, my back felt great, and the worst part was over in a mere 8 minutes!!

What a difference a week makes :)

Thanks friends and family and coaches and team and team managers and all the people who got me here and support me. You guys are amazing and I love you and I am SO stoked to race my bike 100 miles one more time this summer!!!

You see these snowy mountains everywhere you go here. I love it, it's like having a majestic mountain watching over me :)  Every time I see this range it's beautiful in a new way, with a brilliant blue sky, wrapped in low clouds, covered in a new dusting of snow (two mornings ago!), I can't get over their beauty.
Now I need a shower... real bad :)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Leadville: Thoughts and Prep and Stuff

Major edit (I'm putting this first because I feel bad that I may have come across as too self depreciating before): I don't feel inadequate per say, just I don't think I do well with pressure. I have an amazing coach and team of people in my corner and I know that the preparation has gone well, and that coach has gotten me where I need to be for this test of physical ability. I am excited to be at this place in the process, where you get to see how that work pays off. I am excited to represent such an awesome team and to participate in such a rad race, and most of all I feel incredibly lucky to be here. To everyone who said all the encouraging things this week and this year and all the time, thanks :) You all really do make a difference and I am also so lucky to have such great friends. 

I'm not one to hide my feelings, or pretend to be super confident when I'm not. I know there is a school of thought out there that you should pretend to be healthy and happy and confident all the time, and then your competition (and sponsors and all the people) will think you have everything under control. I just can't do that though, when I feel nervous or scared or worried or sick or injured it feels fake to hide that. And I've been struggling big time lately with feeling inadequate/worried about this Leadville thing.

Yeah, I just did 2 high altitude 100 mile races, but this is the big one, the only one that really matters. Hearing about the super fast women who will be there is making me nervous/uptight. Thinking about their times from the race in the past seems unattainable to me. I'm scared of how much it's going to hurt riding back up Powerline on the way back, I'm worried I'm going to fall apart and my pace is going to slow to a crawl on the back side of Kevins (the last real climb), and I'm nervous I won't live up to everyone's expectations of me (heck, I'm being honest, I know that sounds ridiculous). I think there is also this added pressure I'm putting on myself because of the fact that I essentially moved out to Colorado for the past 4 weeks specifically to acclimate for THIS race. I was so freaked out that last week I had to LEAVE the town of Leadville physically because just being there was making me freak out. I blew my last workout, and ended my long ride Thursday with back pain so severe I was almost in tears (most likely from carrying all my anxiety in my left shoulder blade).
A picture I snapped at the top of the second to last climb on the course, I wasn't a happy camper when I took the picture, but at least it was pretty out. Hopefully I can focus on the beauty on Sat, and not the pain!

The time away from the course has provided some perspective though. Along with some soul rejuvenating rides with some amazing women over the weekend, spending time focusing on enjoying my bike, the scenery and taking care of my body has helped me re-focus my perspective. I'm going into this week, the last 5 days before the big day, concentrating on making good decisions, and worrying only about the things that are actually in my control. When Saturday morning comes all I can do is my best, and if my best is second or third or fifth place, then I will be proud of that. I will spend my energy thinking about eating and drinking enough in the race, pacing myself like I did in Breck and keeping a positive mindset when things get painful. If I apply everything I've learned this summer about racing long distances at altitude I know I will make my sponsors and friends and family proud. I already know I CAN finish this race, now I get to see how fast I can do it.

In the mean time, some pictures from a weekend of remembering what it's all about and continuing to fall in love with Colorado.

Friday and Saturday I got to spend some time in Colorado Springs with my old teamie Amy. We went on a wicked good ride Saturday morning, and Captain Jack's trail had me smiling till my ears hurt and giggling like a little kid. The dirt was perfectly tacky from Friday afternoon's rain, and screaming down twisty, pumpy singletrack was a good reminder that it is after all summer vacation, and I just really LOVE riding mountain bikes! I also got to have coffee and ice cream with road teamie Leah, which was icing on the COS cake!
Amy and I both rocking Kenda tires, and loving life. Following Amy was rad because she shreds. Riding with talented women is so inspiring :) 

Amy took me on a rad tour of Cheyenne Canyon from her house, which included LOTS of single track, some getting lost, and these SWEET tunnels on Gold Camp road! 
Immediately after the ride I jumped in Van Diesel and headed to Aspen to spend a little quality time with mentor and team director Nicola. I don't get to see Nicola often, so it was really nice to spend part of the weekend hanging out with her and even going for a ride Sunday! The drive to Aspen alone made me want to cry it was so pretty, but Aspen outdid the rest of Colorado with it's gorgeous trees, wildflowers and mountain views.
Driving to Aspen over Independence Pass. 
 On Sunday Nicola and I rode to Maroon Bells with local Aspen crusher Rachel. Again, the beauty of the Rocky mountains blew my mind the whole time, and again it was SO fun riding with such good company. Rachel rocked my 2015 floral kit and made me laugh the whole way up the climb, which was upsetting to a road biker we passed ;)
I had to choose who to match, kinda wish I had rocked the floral for this one :)

Apsen is like Switzerland, it keeps getting better at every turn!

At the top of Maroon Bells there is a beautiful, crystal clear lake and a stunning view of the mountains that feed it. I can't believe this place is real!

After the ride we had a race-strategizing sesh with my gracious host Pam, which was equal parts hilarious and terrifying (thinking about how fast I have to ride on Sat). It feels so good to have such a great team in my corner, Nicola and Pam were all over it and it was exciting to talk race strategy with them over lunch :) 
Sadly after lunch I had to jump back in the van and head to Boulder because I needed to wrap up some bike maintenance stuff today on my rest day. BUT it meant driving back over Independence Pass, and this time I stopped at every chance I had to make the most of the scenery!

I think Independence Pass is my favorite place in the US. 

View looking back at Aspen before finishing the ascent to the pass. 

View on the other side of the pass looking toward Twin Lakes. 
 And now here I am, on Monday afternoon, sitting in a coffee shop in Boulder, feeling much more relaxed and actually getting excited about this race. It's going to hurt, but it's going to be fun riding with 2,000 other crazy people who think 100 miles at extreme elevation is a good time :) Bring it Leadville!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Colorado Road Trip Update: SoCal to Telluride Recap and Pictures

I realize there hasn't been much in the way of a trip play by play this summer, and at first I wasn't really going to blog much about the whole ordeal. Then Brendan's brother sent the family a photo essay of his trip to Greenland (which I LOVED) and I realized that maybe family members would like to know where we/I've been and to see pictures. I've been taking pictures like nobody's business because I can't get over how pretty it is in CO, so here is a run down of how I got from Orange County to Leadville (part 1), and a photo essay of the trip so far. (Long post warning, this is mostly for my grandma, who I can't call because of no cell reception, and who I want to share these photos with. Love you Nana!!!)

I heart Convict Lake.
On July 13 I drove from Silverado to Mono Lake, CA en route to Tahoe Trail 100(k). Of course I stopped to soak my legs in Convict Lake, and timed it to have dinner at the Tioga Pass Mobile, where you can get the world's best fish tacos. The Mobile was CRAZY busy (summer tourists coming out of Yosemite) but there was an AWESOME free concert on the back lawn which I stayed to listen to for a while, and an unbelievable sunset across Mono Lake. And then I pulled the van off the hwy still in view of the lake to sleep for the night on a little dirt road/pull out.
Fish Tacos, seriously worth the stop if you ever end up driving up 395.  
Muggy, pink, blush sunset over Mono Lake. It was breath taking in person.
So many people, such a good band, this seems like the peak of summer to me. (I hope the video works)

Van in my camping spot taken the next morning. 
 Friday I finished the drive to Tahoe, spun my legs out along the lake (which was stunning) and then somehow lucked into swimming at a private beach (the kiosk boy pretended I was a resident!). I parked the van in condo complex at Northstar where friends from SoCal were staying, a short pedal to the race. Saturday I raced the Tahoe trail 100, and then followed the race up with a nice ride with college friend Marcus who happens to live nearby!

Getting champagne showers... my favorite, especially when it turns into a champagne WAR.
Dinner views from the van in Tahoe and a picture from the top of my post race ride with Marcus with a great view of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierras.

 Saturday night I drove to Reno, NV to spend the night with college friend and room mate Amanda. We had a blast catching up, but it was short lived because I had to be on the road Sunday am to drive to Salt Lake City. Along the way I stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats to spin out my legs. The Salt Flats are where people go to set land speed records, and it was WAY cooler than I expected it to be! It looked like a snow-scape, and I tasted the ground to confirm that it is indeed VERY salty! Ironically I went to the salt flats to ride as slow as possible, as it was a recovery day.

In Salt Lake City I met up with my travel buddy Lauren, and we spent the night with another good friend from college, Taryn and her boy Bill. On Monday Lauren and I met up with the coolest Iranian mountain biker I know, Sina, and I showed them my favorite ride in Park City, Mid mountain trail to Wasatch Crest. The wildflowers were outstanding, and the trails so flowy, fun and fast. After a quick McDonald's ice cream stop, I dropped Lauren off in SLC and rushed to the airport to pick up Brendan's parents, who, by an incredible stroke of good timing, flew into SLC that day to start a road trip with friends. We took a detour through little cottonwood canyon to look at wildflowers, saw my first wild moose, and then had an incredible Irish meal at Flanagan's in Park City where I learned the history of father Flanagan! The evening was complete with a high mountain thunder storm and another awesome sunset.
We are all weird, but at least they make me feel normal?

Trails lined with wildflowers. I wish my cell phone photos could do the flowers justice. The hillside to the right is covered in flowers of every color. It was spectacular!

I also LOVE the aspen and fir trees, crowding together, creating a beautiful canopy of green.

Tuesday Lauren and I hit the road for Colorado. We drove 7 hours to Durango, which took a little longer than expected because of tons of road work (the theme of our time driving together). When we arrived we immediately hit the yoga and stretching in a grassy patch by the river. Then we had a picnic dinner, and walked through the adorable but touristy town. We especially liked the train that runs from Silverton to Durango, complete with guy shoveling coal in the engine!!! Sadly I didn't take pictures of the tiny pull out we camped on Tues night, but we kinda just rolled in, slept and then rolled out. It rained all night though and I kept Lauren up all night with comments like 'I hope we don't roll off this cliff' hahahahah (we weren't actually that close to the cliff...)

This picture is for you Thaddeus, don't pretend that you don't read my blog!!!!
 Wednesday we rode out and back on the Colorado trail, where both Lauren and I crashed multiple times because we were having so much fun swooping and dipping and weaving through the rocks and roots, and between aspen trees. Turns out Lauren cracked some ribs in her crash (we didn't know until literally yesterday, 2 weeks later) but we still had a ridiculously good time. Before the ride a super nice lady gave us some water from a wine bottle, making Lauren look like an alchy ;) The people we met everywhere we went were so so nice. We also took 20 minutes at the end to sit in the creek, which I called a river and was promptly corrected by a local that it was in fact WAY too small to be a river (socal perspective haha).

This part of the Colorado trail blew my mind. It's just a perfect strip of dirt surrounded by fluffy green plants, and trees sitting on the hillside just perfectly. And the dirt was so tacky... in short it was NOTHING like trails in SoCal :)

Trees and trees and trees for days. I can't handle how much I love trees!

Riding back down the road with our bibs down post creek sitting. I'm lucky to have had a travel buddy as weird as me.
Tuesday night we camped on another dirt road above town, which I also failed to document because it wasn't particularly exciting (although the views driving back to town were amazing!) And Wednesday morning we parked at my favorite Durango Bakery, Bread, for cinnamon rolls and coffee before our rides. 
Lauren and I split up for this one because she was sore from the crash and I had to do torture intervals. I followed a route my team mate Levi recommended and post hour of climbing intervals later I looked up to realized I was in the back country, alone, like really out there. At first the rugged back country nature of the trail was thrilling and I was wishing with all my being that Carl could be there to experience it. But then I realized I was ALONE in the BACK COUNTRY where bears most definitely live. At this point it was kinda too late to turn around, so I stayed extra alert, and prayed for no bear sightings, they are nocturnal, right?! Fortunately I was distracted by some incredibly fun, techy features on the trail, like rad dh rock gardens, and steep steep switchbacks with drops hiding around the corner. My bike ate up the tech, and once again I was thinking about how lucky I am to have ridden for years in Socal on steep, rocky trails, which made all this so so so fun. At the bottom of the back country loop I had to walk my bike over quite a few fallen trees and across several muddy water crossings, adding to the back country feel, but making me an hour later back to the car than I told Lauren. As soon as I got within cell reception I called to have her pick me up at the bottom (rather than ride 10 miles back to town) and the final stretch was a glorious, stupid fast, rocky single track descent called Halfin Creek, which had me squealing with delight. I highly recommend riding this trail if anyone reading this ever goes to Durango, it was incredible!
Lauren met me at the golf course at the bottom, and after another picnic lunch of PB&J we hit the road for Telluride. 

The scenery was pretty out of control good on this ride too! This is the mountain on the east side of Durango, on the backside of that mountain. 

Trail features on back country Durango rides.... :)
The drive from Durango to Telluride is without a doubt the most beautiful drive I've ever experienced. We were oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing the whole way. We saw a marmot (my first ever), there was an epic rain storm when Lauren was driving the most sketchy/cliff-y portion of the drive, and we stopped a bunch to take pictures and to check out the town of Silverton (the town most race announcers mistakenly say I'm from). 

Not sure what the view point was called but this is from around 11,500 ft looking out at the San Juan National Forest. 

Same spot as the last photo, looking North towards Silverton. That pond has lilly pads! How is this even real?!

The rain added to the drama of the scenery. I love how moody the mountains are here in the afternoons. 

Found some great soap in Silverton, and grabbed a cup of coffee at the cutest ice cream parlor. 

Lauren in the cute ice cream parlor. The mining history in Colorado is pretty rad. 

We drove on that road! It was crazy, not just because it was so pretty, but also because it must have cost a fortune to build it!

And one more mountain picture. The red peaks in the San Juans were pretty spectacular!
And since I already blogged about how amazing Telluride was I think this is a good place to stop for now. Soon I'll recap T-ride to Leadville, complete with 1,000 more pictures.