Monday, October 30, 2017

Double Wammy but really lets talk about the Filthy Fifty

This past weekend was a doozy. A jamb packed two day fiesta of bikes and ice cream, tacos, friends, suffering and fun doozy. And to prove it was an excellent, over the top, not a second wasted weekend I felt like I got hit by a train this morning, and I'm sure I looked more than a little haggard at school today!

BUT, you guys! This freaking weekend! Wow.

I've been looking forward to this double header of a weekend for a long time now. The ridiculous plan was to 'race' the Circle of Doom in Pasadena on Saturday and then Filthy Fifty in San Diego on Sunday. There are not enough minutes to recap both before bedtime, so I'm just going to say that COD was 120 miles of gorgeous, harsh, brutal climbing and descending in the mountains just east of Pasadena. The 'race' had 5 times segments, of which 3 added up to the 3,000ft climb up hwy 39. It was painful, and glorious and everything I could want from a Saturday. And ice cream was consumed afterwards... 2 scoops of ice cream.

But the Filthy Fifty, a 50 mile out and back mountain bike race, was the main event this weekend. I've raced FF before, in 2013 and won, but that was a long freaking time ago and I wasn't even an endurance racer then! This time it looked to be an incredibly painful affair, just the way I like it.
So our alarms go off stupid early and we are in the van driving south by 6am Sunday. My body protested every thought of racing because I hadn't even begun to recover from COD, and I DEFINITELY didn't get enough sleep Sat night.

I choose not to warm up because you know I'm so good at making decisions, and after picking up some fresh new TASCO gloves and socks (all seasonal and orange and black!) rolled up to the line feeling pretty dull, like a butter knife.

After a nice intense discussion about staging and call ups and equity (more on that later because it was a LOADED convo, let me tell you!) we national anthemed and the gun went off.

Well you know me and my big ego wanted to ride with the lead guys, but less than 5 miles in and I was slipping off the back of that group. My legs didn't hurt, they just couldn't put out any power. This is where my usual endurance race panic began, at mile 5 of a 50 mile race.

So a bunch of dudes passed me, dudes who I DID NOT think should be beating me, and I had to swallow my pride and remind myself that I did indeed shell myself up Hwy 39 the day before because said ego wanted to take back the QOM on that climb which was stolen from me a month or two ago.

Well eventually I attached myself to the back of this group of 3 dudes who were hauling butt across the flat, sandy trails towards this random lake, and I did everything I could to stay behind them but not help them out at all (I couldn't have if I had wanted to...)

They aren't lying when they say Filthy. Photo: Phil Beckman
Then, miracle of all miracles, we caught the lead guys!!!! Hallelujah, a bigger group to draft off of! Sadly, soon after we caught the lead guys (a group about 15 strong), we came across a sketchy bridge and some rando dude in the middle of the group fell off the bridge causing everyone behind him to have to stop. As I was in the back trying to NOT do any work I was also stuck. But I was quick on my feet and I pulled a quick a-hole move, rode THROUGH the creek and around all the guys who were held up, and continued to chase those crazy fast lead dudes.

Alas the lead dudes were much faster than I could go on my own. So I had to settle for letting 3 guys catch me and sitting in on their group while I recovered from trying to be a hero and failing.

Well this group turned out to be pretty fantastic, and I sat on their wheels doing NO work all the way to the end of the out and back... and then some. Cool fact about this group, Johnny O'Mara was one of them, I hear that guy is pretty good at riding motorcycles or something... :)

So these guys let me follow them around for a while, or rather they had no choice since I had attached myself like a fly to fly paper. Eventually, on our return trip to the venue two other randos caught us, and we became 6 strong. On the way back we passed Wonder Woman, and a bunch of other people and I got to cheer and stuff so that was fun.

Well I think my group was getting tired of doing all the work, and they may have been catching onto the fact that I was starting to feel good, and then someone commented that they had me to pull them all back to the finish. My first reaction was 'HECK NO! I'm tired as crap, I cannot pull anyone anywhere. But eventually I did take the lead and do a nice long turn in which everyone learned that I cannot corner, nor can I follow course directions to save my life.

I tried to come off the front a few times, but the group slowed so much each time that I decided I may as well pull so no chicks would catch us (also I thought there was a girl up the road the whole time, so remember I was still panicking). So basically I pulled the whole group all the way to the last climb.

There was one sneaky jerk in our group who did the least work on the day (I'm pretty sure he was in the wind less than me), and halfway up the climb he passed me and proceeded to ride away from me never to be seen again. I don't have appropriate words for how a feel about this sneaky, slacky... I know I know, that's good tactics, but how do you let the GIRL in your group do all this work and then attack her on the climb?! That just seems... wrong. Anyway, I am proud of the work I did, so at least I have that :)
You're not dirty enough!
So we dropped everyone else in our group on that climb, and I do feel bad that Johnny and the other Baghouse dude did all the work on the way out just to get dropped by me, but what was I going to do? Wait for them?! Heck no! I drilled myself into the ground to get back, and crossed the line unsure of whether or not I had won. This is an awkward feeling, let me tell you. Do you put your arms in the air? Throw out a peace sign? Pop a wheelie? I had no idea so I half posted up, and then immediately ran into Nikki.

Photo: PB Creative

After rubbing dirt on Nikki's face (she was WAY too clean to have just finished a race named Filthy) a guy hosed me down, and then Nikki and I went for a cool down catch up spin. That was followed by some awesome Acai, eating half Brendan's tacos, drinking copious amounts of Badsea coffee and mingling with the common folk, hahaha, jk.

And THEN they gave me champagne to spray (none of which got on me so it wasn't really a champagne shower), and told me to life this huge, rad, eagle trophy over my head. Pretty sure they just brought that thing to emphasize how weak my upper body is, but after a struggle and a half it was over my head, and then we were off to ride more bikes and eat more tacos (at my favorite taco place which happens to be in San Diego).

The struggle is real. Photo: more PB creative magic.


<< Proof that I rode with Brendan once... I was even a good kid and didn't drop everyone :)

Below, best tacos of your life, Tacos Libertad, go there, eat the shrimp one, also the fried avocado... they are life changing. I even drank some avocado crema salsa while we waited for our food.

And that sums up day 2 of the best weekend ever. I had a great time, I hope you did to!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Bigger is Better?

I've said it before... riding my bike longer and longer just makes me want to ride my bike, well, longer. It's like the ceiling on my pain tolerance and the length of ride necessary to satisfy me keeps getting raised.

So when Dave Keosel threw out the Palomar/Santiago idea I couldn't resist. When Carl and I failed it was still the longest ride of my life, but I was taunted by a longer ride, the complete loop, conquering what seemed impossible.

Completing the ride last Saturday felt great... but you know that all the comments on Strava, Facebook and this blog meant. The suggestions of longer routes, the goading to ride from SF to LA... it all made me WANT TO RIDE LONGER! And now I'm itching for a new challenge.

But now my problem is the one person who has supported me the most in the past, Brendan.

I really like the SF to LA idea, especially considering we go to NorCal every year for Christmas. I want to complete the Hwy 1 1 route without stopping to sleep, in one shot, but Brendan is adamantly against this idea. He thinks it's too dangerous to ride that far on populated roads alone. He thinks I will get tired and fall asleep and get hit by a car. And while I understand that his opposition to this ride is based on the fact that he cares about me, I am frustrated by the presence of a great idea with no support. I cannot do something like this alone, I would need Brendan to meet me along the way, to check in, be around in case of the worst etc... but he refuses to be that support as he doesn't think the concept is a good idea in the first place.

So this brings me to another idea/question that I have been pondering lately. How much is enough, and to what extent do I continue to push my body to achieve outlandish things, and when do I call it 'good' and stop striving for more? It's exciting to have a new challenge, to look forward to/train for/anticipate a new ridiculously long and challenging physical feat, but there MUST be a place I should stop and feel content, right?

These are just Thursday night thoughts. I feel pretty content now with the rides and races I've done this year, and the next three weekends are slated to be full of more incredible rides (while not as long as last weekend, they will be full of friends and fun). But just know that every day I'm daydreaming about the next big ride... and all ideas are welcome :)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Palomar/Santiago Peak Redemption Ride

I didn't plan my redemption attempt of the Palomar/Santiago peaks ride. With lots of stuff happening every weekend I had thought this past Saturday would be a Brendan day, when we would do Brendan things. But on Friday evening, when the boy offered to ride to Santiago peak the following evening to meet me (and descend Maple Springs with me in the dark) so I could conquer the biggest ride of my life I couldn't handle the temptation to just go get it done.

The route which Carl and I attempted two weekends ago, had been haunting me ever since the frustrating decision to pull the plug and take the shortcut home.
A very zoomed out version of the map of my route..

I was anxious about my lack of preparation though. For one, I took the long way home on Friday, and my legs stung a little from returning to my bike after a week off in NorCal. The Friday evening decision to do such a long ride meant going solo, as talking anyone into a 200 mile ride the night before is pretty much impossible. And most importantly I wasn't mentally prepared for the endeavor. I didn't get the right amount of sleep Thursday night, and all I ate for dinner was popcorn that night as well. It was a scramble to get the route dialed, upload it on my Garmin and pack the food and supplies I would need.
But the temptation was too great, and the excitement of potentially conquering this beast kept me awake late into Friday night (when I knew I should be sleeping), heart pounding and mind questioning if I could pull it off.

When the sun rose on Saturday I was just past the San Onofre nuclear power plant cruising down hwy 1 along the coast. My route was a little different from the last attempt, as I started form my house in Silverado this time, which meant getting 25 miles under my tires before I even hit the coast. The ride was uneventful through Penalton to the Oceanside bike path, where I calculated I was 40 minutes behind the last attempt (a result of stating from home, rather than Dana Point at Carl's house). I spent much of the time stressing about whether I should take the hilly back road Route that Carl and I took on the first attempt, or the slightly flatter hwy 76 option which Carl claimed had no shoulder. Eventually I decided to stop thinking because I needed to conserve every bit of energy to make it through the day, and stress is a potential source of lost energy. Not sure if this is a real thing, but my zen like relaxed mind held up pretty dang well over the 14 hours I was on my bike and I was surprised to be in really good spirits at the end of the day.

My first stop to refill bottles came at mile 60, 8 miles east of the ocean on the way out to Palomar. I felt good, and made the decision to ride hwy 76 all the way to the mountain. The hwy was surprisingly pleasant, with a massive shoulder for much of the way and no K-rails the entire distance to Pauma Valley. I rolled past Gilberto's Taco shop (the start of the ascent to Palomar) feeling tired, but hoped that was from 85 miles of flat pedaling, using the same muscles for so long.

Fortunately my climbing legs were stoked for the change of pace, and although I felt slow I somehow got a PR on the first half of the climb!

At the top of Palomar I filled bottles in the 'artisan spring' that comes out of the mountain side and bought a coke to wash down the pb&j in my pocket. There were a few other cyclists at the store/bakery that sits atop South Grade road, and as we talked we realized we had met before! I had to turn down their offer to join them for breakfast, since I had to keep moving to be done before midnight. I was at mile 100.8, just a smidge over half the distance I had to go, and interestingly it was 11:14, the exact same time we at lunch at the Palomar store two weeks ago, so I had made up 40 min on our last attempt.  Before rolling out I bought two cookies, inhaled 1 and stuffed the other in my pocket for the bottom of the dirt descent to the desert.

The descent off the back of Palomar was much faster than our previous attempt, as it was 10 degrees cooler and I didn't have to stop and look at the map at every intersection. Soon I was on hwy 79 pedaling towards Temecula.

Crooked helmet nerd. 
Just past Temecula I stopped at a gas station for cheap iced coffee (the small cup I had in the am wasn't enough) and a bottle refill. And then I rolled across the st to a bakery Jess Cerra introduced me to in order to purchase a rice crispy treat as big as my face. While I gnawed on the cinder block of a treat I got a text from Carl saying he was at the bottom of ITT, and that he would climb to the peak with me! Overjoyed I jumped back on my bike and absolutely crushed myself across Grand ave through the towns of  Murrieta, Wildomar, and Lake Elsinore, in the most epic headwind I did not expect ( I checked the forecast the night before and had been expecting a sweet tail wind on this heinously long, straight stretch of the ride).

As I approached the end of Grand I checked my phone, and my heart dropped when I read that Carl had changed him mind and decided to take another route home. I was pissed. The only reason I rode so hard into that damn headwind was because I felt bad Carl was waiting, and it turned out he wasn't waiting at all!? I still haven't forgiven him...

Anyway, I let myself seethe anger as I approached Indian Truck Trail, the climb that would take me to Santiago peak. I dreaded this climb all day, this was the portion of the ride that would make or break me. I had so been looking forward to having company, to the motivation of someone else doing the same strange road bikes on a rough, sandy fire road thing with me, and now all I had was solitary agony to look forward to.

The view back on ITT from the top of UHJ, wish this pic
was as pretty as real life.
Anyway, after one last stop at a gas station to update Brendan on my timeline (he was still going to meet me at the peak thank god) I embarked on the hardest, what felt like the longest, climb of my life. ITT is a sandpit in the summer and fall, so my 28mm tires just dug in and spun, and many many times I was pushing with all my strength just to stay upright. I pedaled and pedaled and pushed and grunted my way to Main Divide (the fire road which runs the ridge across the Saddleback mountains). I told myself the whole time 'you have SO much further to go' so I wouldn't get my hopes up, and actually sooner than I expected I was passing the gate at the top of ITT and turning right onto MD.

Then the cramps hit hard, at mile 177. My inner thighs tightened up really painfully really fast, and I had to concentrate on turning perfect circles and steady forward progress. When I got to the bottom of Upper Holy Jim trail (a crazy steep single track we only ever ride DOWN, ON MOUNTAIN BIKES) I got off my bike, pulled the cinderblock of a rice crispy treat out of my pocket and started slowly hiking and gnawing my way to the top of UHJ. I took a LOT of small breaks, fell, tripped and stumbled WAY more times than I care to admit. At one point I tried to shoulder my bike but could not handle the pain on my shoulder, so pushing was the only option.
UHJ from my nice little hike.

Somehow I managed to hike all of UHJ and the remaining mile of MD to the peak before it was completely dark out, a minor miracle considering I began the climb up ITT at 4:11pm. I had made it my goal to at least get up UHJ before dark because I was scared of mountain lions, and achieving this goal made me quite happy. The view as I hiked had been quite stunning, a sunset my phone could not possibly capture the beauty of, and the last drops of light still glowed on the horizon when I got to the towers. I was pretty much stoked out of my mind at the top, simultaneously yelled for Brendan and sprinted to the look out point for a picture (which didn't turn out). I'm pretty sure the dudes in trucks at the peak thought I was deranged. Sadly Brendan's e-bike ran out of battery on his way up, so he wasn't at the peak, and upon seeing a text from him that read 'it's getting cold, hurry up' I ran back to my bike and started down the hill.
Last drop of light in the sky at the peak :)

Well, I could write a novel about how awful the next hour of my life was because you should NEVER ride a road bike down Main Divide towards Maple Springs, gloveless, at night, after 180 miles, ever, for any reason. I had to stop like 3 times to rest my hands they hurt so much from the bumpiness and the general fatigue of every muscle in my body didn't help. Adjusting my eyes from riding in bright day time all day to pitch blackness other than what my dinky headlight illuminated was a challenge and I'll spare you the details about the sensations in my nether regions, needless to say, it hurt.

Finally I ran into Brendan pushing his commuter/hybrid e-bike (yeah I know, I hate e-bikes, but Brendan uses his to commute and he never touched any single track, I promise. I would divorce him if he did). and I was so so happy. Somehow I was an great spirits, not crying, or broken, or bonked like I had imagined I would be the night before. Brendan brought me a wind vest and a teeny tiny bit of candy (which turns out I was not into because I ate a lot of sugar all day and really just wanted a steak), and together we began the descent down Maple Springs to home.

When we got to the road I realized I wasn't going to get 200 miles, so Brendan offered to let me coast down the hill and get all the miles while he stopped at home, grabbed clothes for both of us, and then we would meet at the Silverado Cafe. Well I got to the cafe and was starving to death so I aborted the mission at 195 miles (still conquered the route and complete loop) because the open sign in the window indicated to me that salty fries were in my near future. Maybe as disappointing as Carl bailing on ITT was the feeling of pulling on a locked door handle when I tried to walk into the cafe. I tried a few more times, before accepting my misfortune that they decided to close the cafe early (it was 8:30pm) for no good reason at all. I sad down outside, pulled the rice crispy treat out of my pocked and continued gnawing.


When your rice crispy treat is this big it takes 195 miles to eat it. 
A few minutes later Brendan pulled up, I threw my bike in the car and we were off to find steak burritos, fries and root beer. 

Mission Accomplished.

A few stray thoughts from the day:
Has anyone else ever attempted this ride, same route or not? I wonder if I am the first to do a thing... that would be cool.
I really really 100% now feel like an endurance athlete. I woke up a** early, set out alone to do a big thing, and all day just kept my eyes on the goal, engaged in positive self talk, and did the thing that I set out to do. I feel like my mental game is pretty dialed, and I'm kinda stoked to not only have finished, but finished happy.
I only took pictures at the end because I was worried my phone battery would die during the ride... there were many other pretty things to see, sadly they have to live in my mind :)
I still can't believe I didn't get any pinch flats, with tubes in my tires all day, WHAT!?!?
I only drank 8 bottles over 195 miles in 14 hours... probably still need to work on that.
Felt good enough to do the local Sunday hammer group ride the next day but spent all day Monday hobbling around like a granny as a result.

And a last side note: thanks Brendo for letting me do this silly thing, sorry Scott T that I didn't tell you I was attempting it again (I didn't even know until the night before), and I'll forgive you eventually Carl.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

#SantaRosaStrong

Not even really sure what to say, except that I have been off the grid almost completely for the past 7 days mostly due to the catastrophic events in Northern California. My hometown, Santa Rosa, caught fire a week ago Sunday night, and the tragedy that followed only got worse for days on end. My parents and sister are still living in Santa Rosa, and when my parents were evacuated from the home I grew up in on Tuesday afternoon I knew I couldn't keep teaching in SoCal. I was too distracted/distraught and needed to go be with them. The fear that a fire which only grew for the first three to four days would harm my family was too terrifying, and my parents didn't even have a place to stay from day to do as hotels were filling up with the 90,000 displaced residents of a town I hold so dear in my heart.
So I left school Thursday to drive north not exactly sure what to expect. The radio informed me on the drive that the disaster was still out of control, the fire spreading, more evacuations being ordered through the drive north. 
When I arrived in Rohnert Park (the town my parents were staying in) early Friday morning the sky was permanently dark with smoke, tanks rolled through Cotati as we sat down to coffee, and the mood was a mix of tense and caring with every stranger we encountered, from the people in line to the cashier in the cafe. 
From Friday morning through the weekend I witnessed the most amazing community come together to take care of one another. People offering others rooms in their not-yet evacuated homes, too many volunteers at the Fairgrounds for me to help out, a pages long list of free resources for evacuees. The beautiful mountains behind Santa Rosa continued to burn, but the people of my home town outshone the fear and destruction of the fires.
I've heard and read (in the newspaper) so many insane stories this week. Stories of families escaping in the nick of time, people surviving by jumping in swimming pools, residents saving their animals with a garden hose as their homes burned... I've seen the fire damaged portion of town myself, where the fire jumped the freeway and took out businesses and homes. My sister's school was burned badly on the first day, but somehow the hospital where my dad works, which was right in the path of the fire, is undamaged. 
I feel so fortunate that my family is safe, my parent's home somehow spared, and my friends all accounted for. My heart breaks for those who got out with seconds to spare though, who lost homes and memories, pets and even loved ones in some cases. This week has been an awesome reminder that at any minute you can loose all your earthly possessions, and of the value of your loved ones. I want to cherish and nurture your relationships with family and friends, every minute on earth with the people you love is irreplaceable, and so much more valuable than anything else. 
We return home tomorrow, and will be riding my bike to work Thursday... life will go on. But the things I've witnessed this week will stick with me forever. I'm proud to be from Santa Rosa, and even if there is heartache and pain now I know that the community will take care of each other. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

That Time We Failed

Laying in bed on Friday night, trying to fall asleep at 8:30pm but failing due to nerves I realized something: I'm addicted to that nervous feeling you get the night before a big race, when you don't know if you can do it, if your body can handle it. And when there is no big race, I get this feeling by planning bigger and bigger weekend rides, rides that I'm not sure my body can handle. I have joked a few times since school started and the race season began winding down that my ceiling has been raised this summer, as in the amount of riding I can do in one day, and the number of hours or miles it takes to wear me out is much higher than it used to be. So lately I've been searching for that bike ride high that comes from biting off something bigger than I can chew, and conquering it. Kinda like racing, but with no competitors, just my mind verses my body.

This weekend's epic ride definitely falls under the category of 'bigger than anything I've done before'. Our plan was to ride from Carl's house to the summit of Palomar Mtn, down the backside to Temecula, then to Corona where we would climb Indian Truck Trail to Santiago Peak, and then loop it back to Carl's. The planned route had about 200 miles and 17,000ft ascent. We borrowed VR2's from Felt to handle the road/fire road combo, and also for the comfort of tall headtubes, compliance to bumps and disc brakes. 

Before I recap the ride I need to note that Carl is a freaking beast. Most people know this, but it's seriously impressive that he was even willing to try this ride with me. Carl does not race, does not have a coach and certainly does not train like I do, so the fact that he keeps up with me on most our adventure rides is freaking rad. I am stoked/lucky to have someone in SoCal as nutty as me to do these crazy rides with every weekend. Also Carl takes awesome pictures, almost all the pics below are courtesy of Carl's phone. 

We started at 5:30 in Dana Point, and cruised along the moonlit ocean on Hwy 1 to Camp Penalton. It was already warm, and we both wore just a jersey and shorts despite the early start. In the military base we watched a beautiful sunrise and hit a 'Camp Penalton traffic jam' pictured to the right. We made it to Oceanside just after sunrise, and headed east on the bike path that parallels Hwy 76.
SoCal has some great bike paths!
The ride out to Palomar was pretty uneventful, winding through beautiful northern San Diego county roads lined with avocado and pomegranate trees drooping under the weight of ripe fruit. I let Carl draft because we both knew my fitness was better after a season of endurance racing, and sooner than I expected we were at the taco shop at the base of Palomar. It helped that my Garmin was on 'battery saver' mode which means the screen was black all day, as in I have no idea how long it took to get there because I refused to look at it. 

Somewhere between the ocean and Palomar on one of the Lilac's :) 
After a quick water bottle refill we started climbing. Here I left Carl to ride at his own pace and I soaked in the scenery which is pretty gratifying on Palomar since you are rewarded with better and better views as you ascend. 

At the top we stopped for cokes and to eat the PB&J we had in our pockets. Here I looked at my Garmin for the first time, mile 85, 6,000ish feet of climbing. It was about 11:15am when we got to the Palomar General Store, and we had another 1,000ish feet to climb before we could descend the back side. We were mostly on time, but didn't know much about the dirt descent coming up.

Where the cashier is ALWAYS rude to cyclists even though we give him money... I discovered there is a much friendlier bakery next door... we will go there from now on. 
Our dirt route to the oven. 
 After lunch we rode out to the observatory on Palomar mountain, and found our dirt road that would deliver us to the desert. The dirt was MUCH sandier than we expected, and after MORE climbing, in sand, we finally started to go down hill maybe an hour after leaving our lunch spot. This, and the fact that we had to check the map a lot, set us back a fair amount time wise. The views of the desert were phenomenal though, and we had to stop at one point for a picture. It's pretty rad descending from 6,000ft to the desert in one shot.

Somewhere off the back of Palomar. 
Unfortunately for us this weekend had some unseasonably high temps (well Saturday did at least), so the desert at the bottom of the mountain was pretty warm. My Garmin read 100 degrees for 2 hours of our time in the desert. I pulled us to Temecula as Carl slowly started to unravel. Every pitch on Hwy 79 caused him to fall off my wheel. After fixing the only flat tire of the day in the heat of the full sun 10 miles outside of Temecula, me running out of water and a little more trying to be a good draft we rolled into town and found a gas station for water re-fills and snacks. I think we were at mile 119 at this point and I realized all I'd eaten was 2 gels, a sandwich, cookie and coke, a package of Clifbloks and a nutbutter filled cliff bar. I went back inside to buy a granola bar and sour gummy worms. The good people of Temecula probably thought we were a bit strange for sitting down on the ground right outside the Quickmart to eat our snacks and inhale bottle after bottle of ice water.


When we started rolling again I calculated the time and distance to ITT and knew things would be dicy. We had to be at the base of Indian Truck Trail by 3:30 at the latest to make the summit of Santiago by sunset. Carl was slowing down more and more, so we finally had the discussion about splitting up. I know that at my own pace I could get to the top of at least ITT by dusk, but my light wasn't fully charged and I would still be riding for 2-3 more hours after getting off the peak. My ego flexed it's muscle a bit and I decided to push on, I felt really good, and I really really wanted to finish the whole ride. Carl was going to regroup and try to make it over Hwy 74 and then coast home.

Before I left Carl asked me what Brendan would say about trying to finish the ride alone. I dismissed the comment thinking Brendan would never think of attempting this ride in the first place, but as I got closer to ITT I started thinking more about the situation. It would be dark by the time I got to the summit, that much was pretty certain. Even if I made it to Santiago Peak at sunset I would have to descend Main Divide and Harding Truck Trail in darkness. My light had about 30 minutes of power, and then I would be alone, in the wilderness, with mountain lions and sharp rocks, without a light. I was on a glorified road bike, about to descend fire roads with very sharp rocks, which means the chances of getting a flat were pretty high. I would need to SEE to be safe, and I had no suspension as back up for hitting a rock wrong. I wanted so badly to just go for it, but the idea that something terrible happen, leaving me with no cell reception alone, started to outweigh the ego wanting to conquer the ride. I thought about how terrible it would be for Brendan to learn that I died on Harding truck trail while he is in Italy, and even worse, in a preventable situation.

So when I got to I-15, ALMOST to ITT, I pulled the plug, turned around, and rode back towards Hwy 74, sad, frustrated, but knowing in my gut it was the right decision. I climbed El Cariso fire road to get off the street for a while, since the cars were starting to annoy me, and then descended Ortega Hwy with a heavy heart wishing I was on ITT instead.

Hwy 74, from Carl's perspective maybe 40 minutes behind me. 
By the time I got to San Juan Capistrano I was happy though. On Ortega hwy, as I wound down to Orange County through a gorgeous canyon, I had realized that the ultimate goal of any weekend ride is to have fun, ride bikes and see pretty places. On all accounts Carl and I did exactly that. We rode a new route, conquered one heck of a ride despite not finishing the planned loop, saw some stunning scenery and we both ended up getting a good serving of suffering. And most importantly I think for the first time ever, I didn't let my ego get in the way of my well being, and I made a good decision that I can be proud of.

But that doesn't mean this route wont be haunting me, until one day we come back for it :)


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Grizzly100

Holy heck this race was fun! 
Imagine picking three of your favorite trails and stringing them together to make a sweet route that you would normally ride on any given weekend and then racing that route with a couple hundred rad people. Yeah, it was pretty great, and the best part is that racing means no stopping which is my favorite! 
The Grizzly 100 was the last race in the National Ultra Endurance series. At 60 miles it wasn't the longest race I did all year, but it was pretty tough. 
We started in the Village in Big Bear and immediately climbed up to 8,000 to Grandview point , which as it sounds, has a grand view. The boys went out WAY too fast, so after about 2 minutes of me thinking I could keep up, I admitted defeat and settled into a pace I knew was more sustainable over the course of the race. When we got to the top of the first descent I got stuck behind some dudes who did not know how to ride a bike down a hill (like coached warned me not to do) but I figured their snails pace was keeping me from killing myself on the crazy steep and loose 7 oaks trail. 
At the bottom a group of about 5 had formed and we tore up the fire road to the start of one of my all time favorite trails, SART. This trail is a net downhill trail, about 10 miles long with a ton of little punch climbs in it. There are tons of crazy exposed sections where you could fall off a cliff and lots of screaming fast flowy bits that always remind me why I love mountain biking so much. 
Despite SART being one of my favorites, I was having a really hard time finding my mojo on Saturday, so it was a bit frustrating feeling slow and sloppy on a trail I know how to shred. I also had to pee so so bad but refused to stop since it was a race, but that made it crazy hard to concentrate, haha. I felt confident though, that the gap I had a the beginning only grew across SART, so that was a good feeling.
 
After SART the course took us up a 3,000ft climb called Radford. This climb came around the halfway point and is the portion of the race everyone dreads. Somehow I blinked and the climb was over though... which is pretty lucky I guess! During the hour I spent ascending I saw Clif pro team rider Menso fixing a flat and I passed 8 dudes who went out too hard earlier in the day. Those 8 dudes would never catch me, but Menso did which was kinda cool because we got to ride together. 
At the top of Radford we tore down some singletrack and the had another much shorter fire road climb to the start of Skyline trail. I had thought Chase, the woman I was most scared of, was right behind me on Radford, because I looked back at one point and was CERTAIN I saw her. So I rode hard up Radford and the next fire road climb. I hoped I could gain time on the descents, but was pretty afraid that if I let up on the climbs I would get caught. 
When I rolled onto Skyline trail though I was already pretty beat and we had something like 18 more miles of racing to go! The Edict is crazy fun to race though, and made Skyline a little easier than when I have raced it on a hardtail in the past, and the miles slowly ticked by. Eventually Menso caught me so I had company to follow and chat with. And then I dropped my chain and menso and some other dude we caught took off, leaving me alone with my fear of getting caught and crazy tired legs. The last 10 miles felt like 50, especially since every turn resulted in another uphill in sand, but eventually I turned onto Knickerbocker fire road and knew the all downhill from here portion was all that lay ahead. 
After the race we had a great time hanging out with the SoCal mtb community, eating some crazy good sandwhiches (thanks erin!!!!) and then Brendan and I rode Hannah Flats trail, ending right as it got dark! Pretty much the perfect day :) 
Thanks Bear Valley Bikes for hosting the best end to the season ever! Now it's time to do some exploring and crazy off season adventuring!!