Thursday, June 14, 2018

On Being Competitive and Finding Purpose

It's hard being a competitive person, especially if you have tasted success. It's a strange balance between expecting yourself to do well, wanting to do well, being realistic and all that 'if you think you can...' stuff.

Here I am, last day of school, getting ready to go proctor graduation, and then rush off to Carson City feeling these competitive person angsty feelings.

I love bikes!!!
Different people race for different reasons, and although for some it's as easy as a full time job doing something they are crazy passionate about, I feel like I've been floundering a bit since May when things were rough (lost my grandma and had a less than stellar day at nationals). Coming out of a period of frustration, stress and excessive traveling on top of working full time I needed to take a good hard look at WHY I'm doing all of this. And although I'm still trying to wrap my little brain around life, and why I'm here and what I'm doing, coming back to the basics of exploring the world on two wheels and spreading stoke for mountain biking is all I've got for now. That's pretty much how I got started on this strange path, and I want that to be my compass forward.

From the trails behind my house to world cup courses in Europe, I just LOVE MOUNTAIN BIKES!
Now that the most overbooked wacky summer of my life is here, I'm over the top stoked to just go out there and have a blast, give it my all and try to find happiness in each moment of each day. No one cares if I win or don't podium at all. What matters is that I focus on lifting others up, having a great time riding bikes, and spreading stoke. Competitive nature be damned, I will have so much fun racing my brains out this summer!

I was supposed to update the blog today, to revamp the 2018 race schedule/sponsors... but school and grading and packing... and I am plumb out of time. This weekend I'll hopefully have time for that, because this summer is going to be nutty and awesome and rad. Vanlife 3.0 coming in hot!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A little more real talk and a smidge about mental health.

Today a student asked me what I am doing this summer. After listing the places I'll be traveling to for races and other projects another student asked 'Why don't you just quit teaching and race bikes full time?'

Funny, I know. Obviously they have no idea what I was doing before I came to Laguna Hills High School to teach Algebra...

The day I failed my workout...at least I ended up here!
Anyway, that question has been on my mind, pretty much constantly this spring. I'm missing out on a lot of races because of school, Brazil Ride, Kanza, IronBiker... And although there have been times that I felt like I wished I had kept racing full time, and times where life seems like it would be WAY easier if I didn't have a full time job, I had this surreal moment of clarity when the kids asked me this question. And I told them the truth. When I was racing bikes full time, when it felt like a job, it took some of the joy out of it. And I was SUPER unhealthy. I felt immense pressure to be super thin, which resulted in disordered eating. I took all the fat shaming from male team mates too seriously, took the idea of power to weight WAY to seriously and as a result I was sick the whole summer of 2015 because I wasn't a healthy human.

Although it's hard to train, race, and work full time, for me personally it's healthier to have the balance and to know that the race results don't really matter at the end of the day, because there is so much more going on in my life.

But I'm not saying it's all good working and training. There are pretty major hurdles I have to overcome, and lots of sacrifice, like religiously going to bed at 9, but I'm a happier, healthier human when I know that even though I didn't land on that podium at Grand Junction, I DID help a kid pass a class they previously hated, or that last week I overheard a student explaining factoring to another (the epitome of joy for a math teacher, when kids can explain the material to each other, then you know they REALLY get it).
Every morning the commute is like a reset for me. New day, new possibilities!
It can be hard to actually HAVE balance though. Friday, when I failed the interval workout coach gave me I got pretty bummed, like almost crying on my ride bummed. But then I have to think back to the week, what was going on, what added stresses I have which can cause my body to not preform at it's peak on any given day, and I have to remember that JUST nailing workouts is one thing, doing them in a week when I had to pack my classroom, lost some sleep because of grouting a floor after school Weds, was stressed about if I have a job next year, and did a physically demanding job for 40 hours... is another thing entirely. And I need to be kind to my body and mind. Although I want to be careful to not use work/stress as an excuse (you know, really evaluate WHY I couldn't do it in case it is a variable I can control), it's also ok to be tired and to not have great workouts every time I get on my bike.

And one more thing.
Yolanda Neff posted on Instagram this week:
  • I have no idea what living a balanced life feels like. When I‘m sad I don‘t cry, I pour. When I‘m happy I don‘t smile, I glow. When I‘m angry I don‘t yell, I burn. The good thing about feeling in extremes is how intense life becomes. Two weeks ago I had no idea yet how this season would turn out, if I could turn the page after my early season collarbone injury, if the missed training sessions after my leg injury could be made up for, if my body would even be ready to race after four weeks on rehab mode. Question marks all over the place but all I knew was that karma is real. I just had to be patient. Today it feels like an eternity ago that we lined up for the first ever short track, and whereas my legs started to feel better and better with every race they got to do, my emotions hit the extremes. From buzzing exitement overload to explosions of happiness to bitter tasting frustration to massive relief and endless smiles. It feels like my heart just raced a marathon from heaven to hell and back. Thanks so much to every one who supported me at all times, thanks for all your kind messages and sharing these emotions. I can‘t wait for the next few weeks of sunny training and everything that‘s to come. Here‘s to a life full of emotions, because emotions are life 🖤

Just over here having a blast on my bike.
I feel relief when someone else posts something I can relate to this so so much. Maybe it's personality, or being a competitive person, or we are just crazy but Im not alone, and I know many other women feel the same. Big picture I'm enjoying the rollercoaster of life, but also trying to not let the lows get me down so much. The last month has been tough, but I think I kept my head on straight-ish this time and I'm coming out of it swinging. Not going to let 2 bad workouts drag me back into the slumps!

Happy Sunday. Now go ride your bike!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Hunt of the North!!! Brought to you by Gravelstoke

Friday morning I awoke in my own bed confused by my surroundings. I had just been dreaming that Brendan bought me a surprise plane ticket to Kansas and that I was going to race Dirty Kanza, a 206 mile gravel race through the plains of Kansas, and arguably the most prestigious gravel race in the US.

It was my choice to not race Kanza. When the time to decide on such things was upon us I was convinced that to be a good teacher I could not miss any days of school for bike racing shennanigans (which is why BWR worked so well, close enough I don't need to miss school to travel), and made that call that I shouldn't go. Since then my tune has changed a bit, like the time Brendan convinced me to miss a Friday to drive to Prescott, AZ for the Whiskey, but for the most part I do feel obligated to my students and school.
Any way, staying home this weekend may have been a little hard seeing all the updates and hearing all the hoopla about Kanza/wishing I was there, but it DID mean I got to participate in the first ever Gravelstoke Hunt of the North, a scavenger hunt style bike ride in Northern San Diego county.
Any day where you see thses guys and drink their coffee is THE BEST DAY!!!!

This is not gravel, but this climb was sick!
The 'hunt' consisted of three route options with varying distances/difficulty levels that all hit 5 geocache sites with hidden colored gravel. Participants collected all 5 pieces of gravel and cashed them in for raffle tickets at the finish, where they could win some pretty freaking legit gear from some of my personal favorite SoCal companies (like Wend wax kits, and TASCO socks and gloves) I choose to do the 'extreme stoke' edition, which was a pretty fantastic compilation of 53 miles of the greatest gravel hits in the Carlsbad/San Marcos and Olivenhain areas.









Although I tried to load the route on my Garmin in advance, the dang thing didn't save the route, so when we rolled out I was 'stuck' riding with all the other crushers who choose to do the extreme stoke ride, and that was maybe the best mishap of my life. Being tethered to the group made the day WAY more fun, and although there was a good amount of stopping for scavenger hunting and waiting for the person who knew the route... it was really freaking fun following locals through the hidden stretches of dirt they ride every week. We dipped and wove between and under streets, along creeks and through open spaces in the coolest network of gravel roads and trails, which had me exclaiming 'HOW IS THIS REAL?!' all day.
When the group stops I work on my skills... Need to have all the skills!!!!!!
Badass lady alert!
The absolute highlight of the day (besides the Badsea nitro coldbrew in the morning, and Mexican ice cream before driving home), was riding on the front of the group with four super fast, crazy talented SD ladies, Laura, Casey, Christina and Leeanne. I was trying to keep up with Leeanne on this super rippin, twisty, bermy trail next to the smallest volcano in the US (yeah, it's a thing, and it's in SD apparently!) and just thinking 'wow, these SD ladies are super badass!.

Our super fun group of lady shredders and random dudes stayed together until about halfway through the day, when a few of us went off the front in an effort to finish the 53 mile route by noon. We got lost a few times, had to wait for Laura to tell us where to go a few times, and then eventually went too far off the front and ran into Andy and Casey who had cut off a dirt descent to end up ahead of us. Somehow I talked them into doing the whole extreme stoke route and I got to finish the day hanging out with two of the raddest Coureur teamies in CA (sorry BP, you've been replaced as my favorite Coureur!). Thank god for these tow, because they had the route on their Garmins and showed me all the 'funnest' gravel, and coolest tunnels, I fricking LOVE tunnels.
My fearless tour guides
At the end of the day I had 5 pieces of gravel in my pocket, a giant soyrizo burrito in my hand and a HUGE smile on my face. What a fun day! Turns out I was the only rider to actually complete the extreme stoke ride and we finished an hour late as a result, but it was worth every pedal stroke, climb, and stop to look at directions.

I'm sure Kanza was a life changing experience and all, but I'm also sure I had WAY more fun this weekend at the Hunt of the North :) Thanks Gravelstoke, for a really freaking good day on the bike.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

ISR

Traveling to new places under the power of my own legs is the number one reason I, as well as pretty much everyone else I know, loves bicycles so damn much. There's something special about using your body, the muscles and tendons and capillaries and synapses firing in your brain, to move oneself farther and farther away from home, to places new and exciting, remote, and rural.

One of the neatest aspects of my friendship with Carl is that not only does he share my almost desperate need to get out there, to ride as far as we can from life and responsibility to places beautiful, rugged, and undiscovered, but he also has a knack for creating routes that allow us to do just that along with the physical ability to actually complete these rides with me. Over the past 5 years we have ridden hundreds of miles through some of the coolest places in Southern California. And the best part is, as we are climbing that random dirt road in North East San Diego county we will look to the left and see ANOTHER dirt road, and wonder 'where does that one go?'

This is the story of 'that one dirt road, the one off Black Canyon rd'

I've started at it a few times, on a ride or two with Carl, and in both editions of BWR that I have completed. It's a fire road, it heads North West. We could never really tell if it was smooth or gnarly, road bike friendly or requiring more tread, if it was a dead end, or if it led somewhere amazing. But Carl and I have been plotting to get back out there to check it out, some day.

This is Cliff, he is a genius.
On Saturday morning I showed up in San Elijo unannounced for the Italian Sausage Ride. Finally having a weekend home meant I got to spend Saturday playing bikes on what I was promised would be one heck of a route, don't bring your road bike, 52% dirt, 130 miles with 12,500ft ascent.

Cliff organized this BWR style ride, and choose the delightfully masochistic loop which took us through Ramona to Julian by way of an epic climb and then back to San Elijo via that one dirt road I always wanted to explore.

Then there were three :)
Although I had been under the impression this was a friendly group thing with multiple stops for water etc, somehow the front end turned into a race the second my Kenda Flintridge tires touched dirt at lake Hodges. The two dudes on mountain bikes threw down the gauntlet and by the time we resurfaced on pavement there were only 5 of us left (of the 20 something who started). Of course I continued to lay the hammer down up highland drive, I was determined to drop the mountain bikes, and as a result we were down to three when we rolled into Ramona.

After a quick bottle refill Brent, Ryan and I rolled on towards the biggest climb of the day. We were soaking wet from the light rain that fell on us for the first 2 hours of the day, but super grateful that it wasn't 90 degrees. The sun poked through the clouds as we dropped into Swartz Canyon county park on a sweet dirt path which stole almost 1,000ft of elevation. When we hit the creek at the end of the path we were at the bottom of an incredible canyon and a 3,000+ft climb, one straight unpaved shot all the way to Julian.

The next 20 minutes are the reason Cliff said 'don't bring a road bike'. We scrambled up and over an endless pile of rocks for the first thousand ft of the climb on a relentlessly brutal but mind blowing trail with this stunning view of the canyon we had just crossed. Every time I thought to grab my phone to take a picture huge rock problems would pop up and it took all my strength/bike handling skills to stay upright. It was like cross bike monster truck riding, so much upper body English to lift the front tire then power over the rocks.
Taken right at the end of the gnar, when I could FINALLY take a hand off the bars.
From when Ryan was dropped and we waited for him... :)
Frustratingly I got dropped by Ryan (who was riding 2.0 mtb tires) and Brent, so when the trail spat us onto a dirt road I had to chase hard to catch up. With 2,000ft of climbing left I settled into a leg numbing pace and I soon caught up, then dropped Ryan (hehe). I tried to drop Brent, but that guy is stupid strong, and my miscalculation of where the climb ended resulted in a poorly timed final dig the didn't pop Brent but did cause me to blow up. As the climb turned to rollers at the top I came unglued and let Brent ride away, cursing him in my mind. I was SOAKED, this time from sweat, when we reached Julian.


We weren't even halfway through the ride yet, but I scarfed down two cookies and half a sandwich, and loaded up on hydration before we rolled out, shivering because it was 40 degrees. Our next piece of dirt heaven was in Santa Ysabel Preserve, another chunk of land I have stared longingly at on rides that took me along Mesa Grande. The preserve was a wild mess of cow trails through super pretty oak woodlands, and thank God it was so pretty because some of the climbs were leg busting steep, and loose! More than once I found myself shouting 'HOW IS THIS REAL!?', basically existing in a space of mind blown euphoria the whole time we were in the preserve. The final descent out was a giggle inducing roller coaster of a joy ride that had me thinking 'well, t's kinda like I rode mountain bikes today!'

I made the boys stop for a picture, if I had it my way I would have stopped like 17 times, but this final view caught my breath. 
We turned right onto Mesa Grande out of the preserve, pedaled the pavement a little and then dropped into Black Canyon, a dirt road I've only ever gone up. Then, after a ripping fun descent, we turned right onto that road, the one I always wondered about. It was magic. There is something about heading into the unknown, no map on my computer, no idea where it would lead. The dirt was awesome and it took us across and then up, and up and up. I was struggling with my jacket when we started climbing (the temp was back up in the pleasant to warm range) and although the boys initially waited for me, they didn't wait really enough because I was instantly dropped, probably needed more food and then chasing on the down hill. At some point I was struggling between gaping in awe at another amazing view and trying to ride ridiculously fast down a rutty sandy descent when my front tire washed out. The mini crash really set me back, so I stopped to take a picture, it was too good to pass up.
The view that caused me to get dropped.
What I did when the boys left me. 
The boys didn't wait for me this time, so when I got to the next intersection I had to ask some cowboys where the bikers had gone. After that I got lost a lot. At the next intersection I had to stop and upload the route on my Garmin, almost missed a crucial turn which would have meant missing the longest, most epic stretch of singletrack of the day. Fortunately mountain biker guy rolled up as I missed the turn and showed me the way. Then it was trails and views and mind blowing fun for miles and miles, in a place I never expected there to be epic trails. The best part was that this stretch of dirt helped us avoid an annoying paved descent with cars speeding by or getting frustrated when you take the lane. The dirt fun ended just up the road from Sandy Bandy, a dirt sector in BWR, so everything was familiar again as we rode around Lake Hodges.

After the lake I got lost a few more times, every time mtb guy would roll up and show me the way, and then I would accidentally ride him off my wheel. But then he was in front of me and I got lost in the strangest place, where the 'correct route' was to scramble down this broken concrete thing, and it looked so wrong, but apparently that was the right way. I spent a good 20 minutes trying every other option without success before finally climbing down the concrete thing and realizing that was in fact correct.


And then I was heading up Questhaven on the last climb of the day almost back to the van. I took the picture of the horse art on Questhaven because heck, why not take more pictures? When I rolled into the parking lot where we had started 9 hours earlier my legs were good and tired, and mind full of amazement at all the open space, bike paths and natural beauty in San Diego county, and my heart full from a day spent exploring.

Thanks for an incredible route Cliff. That ride lived up to the hype for sure, especially in quality dirt crushed with cross bikes. One Calzone and half a gallon of chocolate almond milk later and I was a happy camper on the drive back to Orange County. Every ride I do in North county makes me wish I lived in SD a little more each time.





Wednesday, May 23, 2018

GJOR

If you've been following along on social media you know that life has been a little rough in my neck of the woods lately. Between loosing my grandma, to crashing hard between intervals last Tuesday (resulting in a massive rash of most likely infected missing skin), plus flying out of state three weekends in a row for races and the funeral I knew full well going into this weekend that I may not have the legs or brain power to put together a stellar race.

Nevertheless, I still freaking love racing bikes, and having bought the plane tickets and regged weeks ago, before I could anticipate all the things happening, I jumped into GJOR weekend full speed ahead.

The format of this race is a lot like the Whiskey 50, a fat tire crit around town on Friday night, followed by a 45 mile back country mountain bike race Sunday, but this time in the super rad college town of Grand Junction, Colorado, the biggest town in western CO. A side note, I've driven through GJ many times and never really thought much of it, but spending three days there really opened my eyes, not only is there phenominal mountain biking, but the town is rad as heck! I will never use it as a pit stop again. Best part? I heard locals saying the race doesn't even go on the most fun trails! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE!? I thought those trails were AMAZING!!! Ok, back to race recapping :)

Having never ridden in Grand Junction Colorado before (HOW? HOW have I never ridden there?!) I wanted to see as much of the course before Sunday's race as possible. I was told that I needed to ride the first quarter of the race, a network of technical desert single track with some rock problems and option lines, as well as the descent that followed, a 6 mile black diamond rated trail deceivingly named butter knife (should have been named butcher knife if you ask me...). On Friday, before the crit I rode the first 10ish miles of the course, plus the pedal from my host house, plus the ride back to town, ended up being a 22 mile ride, in the heat of the desert, over the course of 3 hours because I stopped to talk to a lot of people. Not really the ideal prep for a short, fast crit in the evening. But skipping the fat tire crit earns you a 5 minute time penalty on Sunday, so I was at the start line, cracked but smiling at 6:15 anticipating a heave serving of agony.

And that's what I got. After 20 minutes of chasing with dull legs and searing lungs (yeah, 4,500ft is altitude to me) I decided it wasn't worth it to suffer anymore and pullled out with 5 laps to go. More on this decision in a future post, hopefully. Anyway, it hurt.

After another too long pre-ride Saturday (yeah, I know par for the course) Sunday's race FINALLY came around and I was excited to go ride bikes hard on fun trails. To be honest I was also quite nervous that the same issues I had at nationals would resurface, but more on that later as well.

Start of the back country race, as you can tell, we were all undecided about the Camelbak decision. Photo: Dave McElwaine 

The start of the back country race was fast, and after knocking bars and jostling for position with the lead group of 5 for a bit I decided to race my own race and back off a bit. The pace was high enough I was worried I was going to blow up, and I kinda thought the other girls chasing Katerina would too (unfortunately only one of them did).

Alone on rad trail. Photo: Jake Billings
My strategy seemed spot on when I caught the group on the Butterknife descent, and I was stoked to be rolling along the river in the chase group, only Katerina up the road.
But when the dreaded Windmill climb began (it's a 2,000ft climb that starts out gnarly steep and then just tortures you for an hour) I had to let Amy, Crystal and Evelyn go again, because their pace was going to murder me. At this point I was in 5th, and hoped I could make up time after the climb somehow.

Following Windmill, which seemed to take FOREVER, we got to descend this awesome jeep road which turned into 'please just stay alive' style fun. I hadn't seen this portion of the race yet, and I went off some surprise drops which was both crazy fun and terrifying. As I was trying to not die local shredder Alexis Skarda caught me and proceeded to pass me like I was standing still. I was both shocked and out of my mind stoked because I thought I was riding fast, but she just PLOWED through shit piles of rocks like it was nothing, leaving me with that 'one day I want to be that good' feeling. That was the highlight of the race for me. But then I was in 6th, poo, off the podium!

Having all the fun riding bikes! Photo: Jake Billings
At the bottom of the descent though I caught Crystal and had a renewed hope! Until the course turned straight up the longest exposed slickrock climb I have ever seen! And as Crystal and Alexis rode up that damn rock away from me the possibility of standing on that podium pedaled away with them. My body wasn't into putting out power and going up hill fast.


For the rest of the race I focused on having as much fun shredding gnarly rocky trails as possible, launched my bike off tons of drops and little jumps and living in the sheer fun of flying down new trails at break neck speed.

It got a little terrible at the end, when I thought it was 'all downhill' and it most definitely wasn't, but I crossed the line with so much mountain bike stoke  it didn't matter how much the race beat the living daylights out of my body, or that I didn't podium.
At the finish with my hero Alexis and Crystal

And this is the part where I say that I am incredibly stoked on my DT Swiss XRC 1200 wheels. I did a fair bit of blast plowing the rocks and they stood up to the test of my abuse perfectly. Credit also goes to the Kenda Saber tires that I rely on for dry races, they are clutch, and when they are filled with Orange Seal I know I don't need to worry about flats.
And thanks Taryn for lending me your ultra running camelbak. It was so light weight and rad and I would have DIED without it, all that technical single track meant it was hard to drink from my bottle! And extra thanks for the milkshake you brought me, I came back from the dead drinking that, sugar FTW!

And of course I have to end this post with a picture of the AMAZING tacos we ate at a restaurant called, wait for it, TACO PARTY! Awesome tacos, good friends, amazing mountain biking... yep, it was another best day.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Marathon Nationals and Disappointment

I couldn't sleep last night. Every time I shut my eyes my mind fixated on Sunday's marathon nationals race, what I did wrong, what I could have done differently and how bitter the disappointment of coming home without a jersey and title felt. My heart was pounding like it does during intense workouts and races, and at one point I felt like I was having a panic attack. As hard as I tried to think about something else my stubborn mind kept coming back to the details of the race.
I've dealt with disappointment before, with sub excellent race results or failed workouts, and I know there will be many more disappointments in the future, but this one has been especially hard to swallow.
Arkansas is beautiful, I can see why they call it the natural state. 


I flew to Arkansas on Friday morning feeling confident, calm, relaxed. I knew the course wasn't the best relative to my strengths, but I had faith in the training I had done, in the plan my coach laid out and in the fitness we had built. On Saturday morning I pre-rode the course, a 21 mile 'loop' of mostly narrow, rocky, flowy fun singletrack with a few short climbs. I felt good about the terrain, comfortable on my bike and confident that I could make the course work to my advantage.
Sunday morning Menso and I rolled to the course early, I did my warm up and arrived at the start still feeling good.

Lots of rocks in Arkansas. I loved it. The trails were pure mtb bliss. 
Here's where I get weird. I wrote a whole big thing, a play by play of the race. And sitting here looking at it I feel confused. I am frustrated and angry and bummed, but I don't know if saying the things about the people involved is the right thing to do. Long story short, instead of getting to race my own race, to go as fast as I am personally capable, another racer decided that blocking me (riding me off the trail, into trees and rocks, over and over) was a better strategy than just being faster than me. I don't know if that's just life, or a shitty approach to racing, or reasonable since she wanted to win too. All I know is that it sucked. It really fucking sucked and as a result of spending the whole second lap trying in vain to pass, and thinking about how I could pass her, I wasn't eating or drinking. All the accelerations from failed passes and 2 hours of racing with no food and very little to drink did me in, and 5 miles before the finish I came unglued emotionally and physically. I cracked so hard I almost quit (if it wasn't for sponsors and Brendan I would have ridden off the course and never looked back).

And that's the scenario keeping me up at night. If I had just sat in and drank/eaten a bunch I could have stayed with her and tried to out-sprint her. I should have been smarter. I should have thought it through. If I had only...
It sucks so bad to feel so confident about something, to feel like the race is yours, and then to come home empty handed. To think about how things would have played out if there had been a fire road to pass on, or someone had seen the shady behavior to corroborate what I experienced (I think the technical rule is you aren't supposed to block others).
But a wise woman once told me that you will have more losses than wins in your career, so knowing how to deal with defeat is far greater than knowing how to deal with a win. I'm still processing it all, feeling the emotions, letting myself feel the pain and disappointment, and hoping that I learn something from this that makes all this unhappiness meaningful.
In the mean time, I'm on a rest week, licking my wounds and doing my best to keep looking forward.

We flew home so fast after the race that I had to get on the plane still dirty from racing :)









Tuesday, May 1, 2018

I Guess I Just like 5th Place: Whiskey 50 Thoughts

There is a loose, steep 1 mile long climb near the end of the EpicRides Whiskey off Road named 'Cramp Hill'. It always seemed tongue in cheek, like a problem the amatures would have... until I found myself in my 44 tooth cog crawling up the rocks, being ever so careful not to set off the cramps in my quads and hammies on Sunday. The threat of my muscles seizing up and screaming in pain stalked me for the last 10 miles of the race, as I desperately fought with every ounce of my will to maintain my 5th place position. Sofia was hot on my heels and there was no room for errors or cramps to slow me down!

Boy building bikes. 
The race really started on Wednesday night when Brendan and I stared building my 2018 Felt Edict. I didn't really know I was racing until about Wednesday afternoon, so it's an understatement to say it was a stressful week. We left Orange County at 10pm Thursday night with the bike still not finished... but that's another story for another time.

Proof I was with the leaders for at least one lap :)

Friday evening the Professionals are required to do a 20 minutes + 3 laps fat tire crit to determine call ups for the big event on Sunday. This is the part of the weekend that scared me the most, since I hadn't raced a crit in 2 years, and lining up with so many ladies who race the short, intensely fast xc and short track races meant it was going to be WAY out of my comfort zone. Somehow though I finished the crit on the podium... much to my surprise. It was a huge confidence boost to find myself with the lead group on lap 3 and 4, climbing the ridiculously steep hill with Annika Langvad, Chloe and Erin, it was pretty cool.

On Sunday morning I knocked out my warm up and hit the start line smiling, feeling ready and excited to suffer/shred bikes on rad trails. After all the cowboys in Prescott fired their rifles (and I bit my tongue to not make a corny joke about getting shot) we rolled out of town, 40 women all hoping to land a spot on the podium, big check in hand. The group stayed together for the 8 mile fire road climb, but right after I got the nerve to tell (my herione) Kate Courtney that I liked the article she wrote for EllaCyclingTips on body image she launched a savage attack, splitting the group in two. Although my first reaction was to try and go with the 4 leaders, I quickly realized I COULD NOT ride that fast, and considering the race was around an elevation of 6,000 ft, I had to be smart about pacing.
Ok, ok, I know, taking pictures during races is no bueno, but THAT IS THE WORLD CHAMP!!!! #starstruck
After briefly settling into the chase group pace I accidentally rode off the front and found myself alone by the first big descent. On the way to said descent the course took us down a trail with a series of crazy fun drops and it was thrilling to launch the Edict over them with wreckless abandon. I am already dying to go back and ride that trail some day, it was insanely fun! Somewhere around here I started to question if I should continue solo or wait for the riders behind me (so we could work together on the long fire road descent into and out of Skull valley) I dropped down into Copper Creek contemplating my options, descending cautiously enough, but letting the Edict float over waterbars ad having fun pushing into turns.

As I began the climb out of Copper Creek I looked up from my Clifbloks and saw Kate! She must have had a mechanical or something, but then I looked up further and saw the LEADERS!!! WHAAAAA How was I within sight of Anneka, Chloe, and Erin!? This was motivating! Maybe too motivating, because I proceeded to blow myself up on that climb trying to catch the world champion and the two fastest American World Cup Racers (for proof check my QOM on Strava haha)
At the top, when we hit aid station #1 I was 30 seconds back, the top 3 ahead of me, getting to work together on the descent, which had a HUGE head wind) and Kate just behind me struggling to get her tire to hold air. I was in the WORST position possible.

Photo: Bill Freeman the light God
So I did the only thing I could do, I dropped into Skull Valley alone, pushing hard the whole time into the headwind that made the descent feel more like a climb. At the turn around I was able to gauge my advantage on everyone behind me, and then focused on maintaining (an unattainable) pace for the hour long climb out. The first half went ok, then the power started to slip, then it slipped some more. When Kate caught me I made a valiant effort to pull her closer to the leaders (who, btw were still just 30 seconds up the road from me) but I blew myself up even harder, and when I pulled over she shot past me, not even willing to let me sit in for a second.

My pace dropped more and more over the course of the climb, but looking back I was reasonably sure I had a buffer, and once we got to the top I could coast in for 5th. At the top though I looked back once more and saw TWO WOMEN headed up the fire road in hot pursuit! PANIC ensued. The only option was to #sendit, sage advice I got from the fanny pack of Luke, a kid on the Laguna MTB team, down every inch of the descent and destroy myself on every climb.

And that led me to cramp hill, where I proceeded to lay down the hammer and emptied every last drop of effort I was capable of. I could still see the two ladies chasing me on cramp hill, but I decided to not look back again until the pavement and focused every ounce of my attention on slaying the last fun, techy, rocky, jumpy trail on the course. The Edict ate up the technical trail, we floated over rocks, hucked drops and thrashed turns. I felt like a Goddamn shredder, although I was entirely spent and cramps were sneaking in on every part of my body, it was the most gratifying end to any race I've ever done. When I hit the road for the last 5 mile stretch into town there was only a rando dude behind me, #sendit had worked!
I'm so stoked I could float away on the wind with this huge piece of foam core!
This year's edition of the Whiskey was one for the books, for many reasons, but mostly for the intense pain I was lucky enough to endure, and the resulting pride I was able to take away from having fought the hardest I've ever fought for a result. Standing on that podium, the epic wind doing everything it could to rip my big check from my hands, I think I felt 10 times more joy than any of the 4 ladies who finished ahead of me. What a day, what a whilrwind weekend, what an EPIC race.

Then I jumped off the podium, ate the best burger of my life at Bill's Grill, and we drove straight home, arriving by 9pm, bedtime.

Black and blue buffalo burger = why I am going to move to Prescott. 







Sunday, April 22, 2018

How do you have so much energy?!

Yes, yes, I hear this a lot, and although it feels strange to be writing this on the weekend when I only rode 6.5 hours total (not each day... trying to be good, it's stressful) I'm gonna give it a shot. Heck, I have the time, only riding 6.5 hours in 2 days leaves A LOT of free time!

Well, the comment that spurred this post was actually "I want to drink whatever coffee SHE is drinking!" Which made me think, yes, yes you too can drink the incredible crack like coffee I drink and I can almost guarantee it will make you feel like you can ride 200 miles in one day, one footed ,while singing at the top of your lungs and knitting beanies! I'm crazy addicted to Badsea coffee, brewed right here in SoCal (Carlsbad to be exact) and delivered by bike if you live nearby! How freaking rad is that?! And even cooler is that Badsea has agreed to give anyone placing orders with the code LCBWR 20% off! Like how I want everyone in the world to ride a Decree just once to experience how good it is (no seriously, for a while I was loaning out Brendan's Decree to everyone I know, not sure he was stoked about it, but I felt so convicted.... haha) I also want the world to drink just one cup of Badsea coffee, it's THAT good. I go to sleep at night excited to wake up just because I know I get to drink more Badsea coffee in the morning... ok I'll stop :)

                    
Mornings mean I get to drink ALL THE BADSEA COFFEE!!!!

On the bike I'm 100% a Clif kid (although not technically sponsored by them). I love the fact that they have so many different types of ride food, so on my crazy long rides and races I'm never bored of the food in my pockets. I love 4+ hour rides because I save nutbutter filled Clif bars for those rides, and for the days I commute, work, coach, and then go to yoga. Having a really really good snack in my pack/the back of my mind helps me get though, no joke, that Almondbutter filled bar is on my mind all day. I'm also a huge fan of those baby food pouches Clif makes, they are a different consistency than gels, and made with real food, so it feels less synthetic and although they have a lower calorie count, they taste so good, and are so good for my gut when I've had 4 gels and need quick energy but can't be bothered to chew. To be honest I also think about the banana mango baby food pouches the whole time I'm riding if they are in my pack, like, at what point will I have earned that?! haha And sometimes, if I'm on a big adventure ride with Carl, I'll pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich because we almost always stop 4-5 hours into a 7-8 hour ride to sit on the ground and eat 'lunch'.
All the fruits and veggies and seeds on kale :)

Off the bike I eat anything and everything, including the food my students throw away. I'm not kidding, ask them. I did give up cow's milk this year, but that wasn't for performance reasons, more of an environmental thing. We don't eat meat often, especially at home but that's mainly because I'm scared to cook it. Most meals are based around all the veggies and some type of carbohydrate or starch, and for the most part they are simple and 'clean'. I find almost ALL my inspiration for trying new things from HalfbakedHarvest, a food blog with pretty pictures and a great variety of ideas that never gets boring. And of course all the waffles for breakfast, the gluten full kind :) According to GCN all I eat is waffles year round, which is mostly true, but there is a good amount of oatmeal and home made granola in there.
Some salmon thing I found on Halfbakedharvest

We also eat a lot of avocado toast with eggs. 

Some kind of carrot falaffel on home made naan from halfbakedharvest 

And I have a HUGE sweet tooth, so there is always ice cream or hot coco after races. This is my favorite part of BWR, a waffle with ice cream on it that I can eat 100% guilt free since I just burned like 5,000cal. 
This past month I started swapping most the refined sugar in my life for Natural Delights dates, and that's been going pretty well. I know I'm still consuming sugar, but at least it comes from a natural source, and dates are high in fiber, so there's that :) 

That's pretty much it. My energy comes from coffee and dates and kale. Pretty basic, but hey, it works :) 







Thursday, April 19, 2018

BWR Bike Specs and Random Thoughts on a Thursday

I must have one freaking amazing saddle. Here is how I know: I have a saddle sore the size of a small grape from my old saddle (like 3 weeks ago), we have been peacefully co-exisiting for the last 2 weeks and SOMEHOW my crotch NEVER bothered me during the 7.5 hours and 135 miles BWR last Sunday or at all this week... this is some voodoo magic. I've never had a saddle that felt good after 90 miles, ever. This may have left my senses more observant of the pain in my feet though... if I distributed the pain would it feel less terrible in each specific place?

The Wend guy who I called out in my race selfie at Sagebrush Safari says "Hey, want to try a Wend chain for BWR?" and I say "why should I?" Well after some explaining about hot dipped wax and resistance and watts that I honestly don't 100% comprehend I say "ok, why not" WELL let me tell you that was the best why not decision I ever made! When I was passing Wafer riders at mile 110 and hearing their squeaky ass bikes I realized, hey! after bombing every water crossing with reckless abandon and charging through dirt and sand for 110 miles my chain is suspiciously SILENT! And it felt so smooth! 
And to be completely honest I have yet to wash my bike post BWR... but MY drivetrain is still so smooth and quiet! Every time I jump on the bike for another commute to school it's like magic. I'm sold. I will wax my chain with Wend religiously from now on!


Forgot to put this in my BWR recap, but somehow that race pulls out the deepest performance from me every year. Not sure if it's the distance, or the combo of road and dirt or the amount of climbing, but somehow I am able to give 110% each year, and never feel more spent than at the BWR finish line. This year my legs were tingling within seconds of finishing, and I spent a good half hour on the ground, kinda like last year. It took an HOUR to feel normal again. Anyway, pretty cool to know you gave something 110%. 


That poor guy I was an ass to on Tuesday, sorry. I shouldn't have told you that keeping up with you wasn't impressive, it's just like, kinda demeaning that you think since I'm a girl on a 'gravel' bike I would be struggling to keep up. Fact is, you weren't going fast, don't flatter yourself. 

I am garbage without Brendan around. The boy went to Sea Otter on Tuesday and I haven't gone to bed on time all week, I've been eating nothing but salad (because I'm so stinking lazy) and the house is a mess. What have I been doing with my free time (not training this week, so just coaching and commuting means I'm not quite as busy), good freaking question!

And the bike!
Some highlights of this bike that made it a dream to race 135 miles on, and the ideal weapon for the challenging conditions include:

Wheels - DT Swiss ERC 1400 super light, aero wheels that were easy to set up tubeless with Orange Seal, and took a serious beating on the dirt sectors. 

Bike- Felt VR, an endurance road bike that is 'adventure ready' with disc brakes, a little less aggressive geometry for comfort over the course of crazy long rides/races, super stiff/light frame and the prettiest color of any bike I've owned :)

Pedals - Crank Brothers Candy 11's I choose these pedals because they are easy to get into and out of (we had to dismount to hop fences a few times, and to run one rock section) and have a nice platform for support which my feet need on long rides. I LOVE these pedals, both because they are so good to me in mud and in dry conditions and because they are freaking pretty (hard to tell from this pic but they are gold)!

Chain - WEND Sram hot dipped wax goodness. This chain is blowing my mind, all through the race and every day since, its smooth and quiet and clean... it's heaven to not have to clean and lube my chain every day. I'm so so freaking stoked about this, guys, get yourself a wax dipped chain! Do it!

Saddle -Fizik Luce like I said above, this is the first truely comfortable saddle I've ever ridden. 135 miles with rough, rocky dirt, no problem, my lady-bits are happy as can be. 

The drivetrain is a fun project Brendan worked to put together, SRAM RED with FSA SL-K crank with 48/32 chain rings. Brendan said this is 'gravel specific' gearing and I thought it worked great for the climbing and dirt we encountered. I personally wanted Di2 because the bike I raced last year had it, but this worked just fine and Brendan says anything electronic is cheating :)
The seatpost and cockpit are Zipp, and the power meter is a very not working Stages (which was frusty because I wanted numbers from this effort!) Hit me if you have any other questions about this speed weapon!