Tuesday, December 18, 2018

6 Weeks In

Part of me didn't think it would take this long to 'bounce back'. I figured when doctors said 4-6 weeks that meant 4-6 weeks for normal people, people who don't derive joy from suffering like me. That I would be back to commuting every day by the three week mark, and normal by 6 weeks in.
I've only ridden mtb TWICE in the past 6 weeks. 
But over the course of the last 36 days I've come to realize that this really is as great of a 'reset' as I was warned it would be, it hasn't been 6 weeks till normal, but 6 weeks until I am able to eek out 2 commutes a week, TWO. And that much is tiring and kinda hard. I tried to push on my way home Thursday and it felt like hitting a brick wall, I didn't go faster, it just hurt more.
BUT don't feel bad for me, because as my body has been slow to come around, my mind has been much faster to process and deal with the initial grief, and now 'mountain to climb' of this setback. I know it will be a long long road to get back to where I want to be, which may not mean ever achieving the speed and power I had right before all this, and I've kinda settled in for the long haul.
The only hard part now is fearing that I like the sedentary life a little TOO much sometimes. Don't worry though, as soon as I get back on my bike in the pitch black at 5:30 to ride to XC practice I remember why I like the fast life too :)

Some real talk tidbits from the last couple weeks.

Making the most of less bikes means lunch dates with this kid :)
It was a no-brainer that this would happen and theoretically avoidable, but ceasing to ride my bike 30 hours a week and continuing to eat as if I was has finally caught up with me, and my clothes are getting very very tight, haha. I am terrible at counting calories and watching what I eat because that just makes me think about food all the time, which makes me hungrier than I should be. I've not been thinking much 'race weight' or power to weight ratios or any of that nonsense since I got back from Costa Rica, and while it's been freeing to not worry about how my weight will affect performance, it is a little tiny bit scary to think about how I need to be careful if I DO want to train and race again. I'm sure when I start riding more it'll balance itself out, but in the mean time, I may need to buy new pants :)

I've replaced one obsession involving wheels with another, because now I spend every waking minute thinking about throwing pottery on the wheel. Pottery has invaded every corner of our lives, clay is all over the car, on the kitchen table, in my classroom, and last night I was carving on a cup IN BED! hahahaha. Addictive personality I guess. It's been nice to fill the cycling void with something I love that I haven't had time for in the past 6 years because of bikes. I even made a bunch of Christmas presents for people, but sadly the studio I've been going to is crazy slow at firing stuff in the kiln, so most of them wont be ready until January :(

And lastly for now, real talk that I am so confused about... I mentioned a lot last year that I wanted to retire and try to start a family in 2019, and we are mostly on board for that plan. But to be honest there is still a big part of me that wants to race bikes next summer, especially when I think about specific races. I feel so torn when I get interviewed these days because if I say I'm retiring to have kids and then I end up racing that's going to be weird, and if I say I'm committed to racing I feel like a liar because I kinda really want kids.. Anyway, in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter, I know, but a ton of the people who follow me on social media (fans dare I say) do so because of my race results and all that hoopla, and I will be honest, I am scared to loose that. Again, I know it doesn't matter in the really big picture of life, having fans isn't nearly as important as living the life I want and doing what makes me happy, but the real talk honest truth is that it feels a little like the one thing that made me special and noteworthy is gone and I'm going back to being a normal person. This may sound crazy, but I'm just being honest. The more time that passes, the more OK I am with loosing my epic adventure riding, bike racing notoriety and I do know that who I am as a person is more important than how many followers I have, so here's to focusing on what makes you happy, on riding bikes, or not riding bikes because you love it, and enjoying whatever life throws at you.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

WHAT!? How has it been 4 weeks already?!?

Rode my bike to school last Tuesday, and all I can say is UFDH. That was NOT the magical, beautiful, glorious return to riding I had hoped for.

Instead it was a slow, hard, reality check of a ride that was honestly not as fun as I hoped :( Guess the old body still isn't ready.

That being said, 4 weeks into the recovery process (4 freaking weeks! How has time gone by so fast) and I am starting to understand my feelings a little better/cope with the situation.

There have been a lot of hard moments in the past month, but a lot of beautiful ones as well. In the long run I really want to remember everything I thought and felt during this time in my life because it's been so interesting and probably one of those pivotal moments that shapes me as a person more then winning a race ever could. I have a lot of random feelings/experiences, so this is going to be a little spazy :)
Sunrise on my one commute last week, made the pain worth it. 
First of all, it's hard to be the person who is known for smiling all the time, and then to have the thing that made you smile snatched out from under you without warning. I am happiest when I am riding my bike (any of them on any terrain). I've had to remember how to be happy without the bike. It was stressful at first to not feel happy or stoked, and to feel like I was a failure because this thing I have a reputation for, I felt like I was failing at it. I wanted to be the consummate optimist even in injury, but I couldn't find the bight, shiny silver lining, I didn't FEEL happy, and it seemed fake to pretend to just because it was expected. The messages from so many people about their injuries and recoveries helped so so much though, so I guess not faking being happy, just telling it like it is was worth it because the most beautiful part of this ordeal was all those messages. Thanks everyone :)

At the same time that everything felt incredibly hard/sad, I think I dealt with the hard stuff better this time around than when I've hit road blocks in life in the past. I felt sad, yes, and frustrated and angry... but the hopelessness and despair were easier to work through and not obsess on. I guess with age and experience it's easier to deal with stuff we don't understand. So while I'm bummed to not be living up to the happy Larissa ideal, I am proud of myself for coping a little better.

There's probably something about how cycling was my core identity and now I feel so far removed from it having to spend so much time off the bike that makes it hard to cope with injury. I'm sure anyone who has dealt with time off the bike experiences this. It was everything about me before, it was all I thought about, all I dreamed about, where a lot of my self worth came from, and now it's like a void. Maybe my advice to others would be to have a back up hobby, haha. Shifting my sorrow/all the time I used to think about how I wanted to be riding bikes to ceramics has helped, a ton. It's still strange to not ride every day, but I have something to look froward to on a daily basis since I know three days a week I'll be playing with clay, so that's cool :)

It helps that mugs make good Christmas gifts :) Gives me something to do!
One kinda hard thing for me to process is when people keep telling me I will come back stronger. It's frustrating because I will literally NOT be stronger. I lost a lot of muscle when my body was consuming itself, and now with 4 weeks of no riding I've lost conditioning. Maybe in 2 years I could regain the fitness I had at the end of this summer, but I'm back to square one right now, slower than I was when I first started riding bikes. I know they all mean well, but he feeling in my legs, the dull ache after hiking for 30 minutes, or that pain I felt on my 12 mile commute... yeah, not going to come back stronger any time soon. And that's ok with ME now that I have processed it, just in the last 4 weeks it's been stressful feeling like people expected me to be kicking ass in 2019. So, yeah, don't expect me to be stronger next year world. Hopefully I will be healthier and happy focusing on whatever makes me body stronger than I am today. That may not mean winning every 100 mile race I can get my hands on, but that's ok :)

I think one of the reasons this has been hard is that riding a bike was taken away so suddenly (as it is with a lot of injuries) at a time when I was already unsure of my future in bike racing. I was pretty sure taking time off to start a family was where we were headed, but the uncertainty and then not getting to make the choice threw me for a loop. And the scary thing is that now I'm starting to feel like this is the best thing that ever happened to me in the sense that I was forced to stop, where if it WAS my choice I may never have dialed it back enough to really try to do the family making thing.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Christmas 2018 Gift Ideas :)

Despite the absence of bikes I really enjoyed spending time with family and friends this past week. We caught up on what’s happening in everyone’s lives, laughed about ridiculous memories, and ate way too much good food. 

One topic of conversation that came up a few times was that of ‘what should I get ________ for Christmas?’ This is a difficult question for some people in my family, because everyone seems to be pretty low maintenance and no real needs stand out. I can wrack my brain for hours to come up with a single thing my parents NEED, and absolutely nothing comes to mind, but the good news is this leaves fun/thoughtful gifts as the only option!

I found myself recommending a few of my favorite things as gift ideas for different people when asked what I thought my brother, or friend, or whomever would like, and decided it would be worth while to share a short gift idea post here since I personally like all the help I can get this time of year to find thoughtful, useful, meaningful gifts for the people I love.

#1 most important best, most useful gift that someone may not think of to get themselves? BADSEA COFFEE!!!!
In Costa Rica I learned that the absolute best quality coffee from all the farms in central and south America go to micro-roasters, and Badsea is my Micro-roaster of choice. They buy beans in small batches from different farms and deliver by bike or mail coffee to subscribers bi-weekly. Each bag is unique, incredibly complex and rich tasting, and includes a fun description on the back of the origin and characteristics of that particular batch. If there are coffee lovers in your life a subscription to Badsea is a fun way you can gift them this small luxury that will show up at their house all year, not just Dec. 25! Or maybe gift yourself the best coffee of your life, you work hard… you deserve to experience really really good coffee!

#2 Something small for the cyclist in your life that will have a big colorful/fun impact on their bike, WEND chain wax! 
Look how preeeety!

Wend is a local company that makes colored, scented wax you can apply directly to your chain in lieu of chain lube. Waxing chains is becoming increasingly popular because the way wax reduces friction between the links, which translates to a more efficient drivetrain, and helps prolong the life of your chain. I’ve been using Wend wax on the chain on all my bikes since BWR last year, and not only is there a noticeable difference in how smooth my drivetrain feels for a crazy long time, it also means I don’t have to lube my chain but once every 1,500ish miles. It also keeps my chain(s) crazy clean which means my legs, pants, the inside of my car… anywhere I used to get smudges of chain gunk, are all safe, every time I touch the chain my fingers come away clean! Triple bonus, having a bubble gum scented pink chain is rad, and the wax comes in a ton of colors!

#3 Another inexpensive gift that the athletes in your life will be stoked to receive? Bonkbreaker energy and protein bars! 
I go through nutrition products pretty fast (or I did when I was commuting and training like a crazy person) and for most of us running low = eating nasty gels or whatever samples we have in the cupboard from the swag bag from our last event. Having a bunch of tasty Bonk bars is a great way to communicate with someone that you care about their hanger and tastebuds, and I know from personal experience getting these staples as gifts is like a little treat since I don’t have to think about stocking up a little longer 😊 I recommend Caramel Macchiato and dark chocolate cherry flavors. Oh and I didn’t even mention that this is the nutrition that got me victories in every Ultra endurance race I did this summer, so you know, it works pretty darn well! Buy some for yourself while you’re at it and see for yourself!

#4 Last for now, but certainly not least, new gloves or socks from TASCO MTB. 
These gloves are stylish AND comfy :)
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in the fact that I wear gear until it’s threadbare and falling apart to the point it’s no longer functional. Gloves are one of those items that are constantly in contact between your body and bike, which means they both need to be crazy comfy, and that they tend to wear out faster than other items of clothing. Because of this having a few back up pairs is super convenient, plus like socks, gloves like to get lost in the washing machine! TASCO is another local company who somehow cracked the code to making super comfy gloves that are lightweight and easy to wear. The lack of seams on the palms make them feel like a second skin, and they last a pretty dang long time ( I still wear a two year old pair in my rotation and I beat the crap out of my gear). Make it an extra special gift by doubling up with a set of matching gloves and socks = double digits pack! You can now find TASCO products in a bunch of bike shops, including The Path, Rock N Road and Fullerton Bikes or online at https://www.tasco-mtb.com/.

This is just a short, easy, simple list, I’ll put more thought into bigger gift suggestions later this week. I know your special someone would love a dropper post and it would change their life… so stay tuned for more ideas for super fun, necessary gifts for the cyclists in your life. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Part 3: Apparently I am Kinda Stubborn

On Saturday I woke up to the most beautiful view of the valley below Gauyabo Lodge, at small bed and breakfast high up on the side of the volcano (around 5,000ft elevation). Early morning light was just starting to pierce the darkness in my room. And the clouds helping soften the light gave the sky a celestial glow. When I opened the doors to the small patio connected to my room I could hear goats and sheep welcoming the new day somewhere beyond the verdant wall of flowers and shrubs that blocked everything but the view. It was unreal to be in such a beautiful place so shortly after the trauma of the day before. For a moment I wondered if it was all real, the hospital, the Rhabdo, the race itself.

Breakfast views :) I wasn't allowed to drink much coffee :( haha
Intense pain in my legs as I hobbled back to bed was a pretty good reminder that the Rhabdo and hospital portions of the journey were not figments of my imagination. Eventually I managed to inch my way up to the breakfast room, starving from not having eaten anything the day before, and afraid if I slept in too long I would miss breakfast.

I spent the day with my rad cousin Casey and her boyfriend, who took multiple busses to get to Gauyabo to see me. We took a cab ride down the crazy dirt road that led back to town, made a quick pit stop at a coffee plantation to check it out, and then a bus to San Jose where the race organization had a hotel for all the racers who were flying home on Sunday morning.
Aquaires Plantation
All this time I tried to continue to drink as much water as possible, but I still didn’t really understand the severity of my condition, or the fact that I should be in the ER, not moving around. My limbs were all in tact, my body still sort of functioning, and being a bike racer, so used to soreness, pain, pushing through, I thought it was just the leftover feeling from the ordeal, just an uncomfortable reality I had to cope with for a day or two. I resorted to the mentality that I needed to suck it up and not be a wimp. This is probably the mentality that got me in this mess, the fact that I am so stubborn and capable of tolerating so much pain, that I’ve trained my mind to compartmentalize it and ignore it rather than actually listening to my body. That I’m afraid of looking weak, or asking for help, so I just keep going, certain that I can handle it. It’s a great skillset to have if you want to race 100 mile mountain bike races. A terrible mindset when things go wrong. To be honest I’m surprised now that I haven’t gotten Rhabdo before, when I look back on past bike riding endeavors where I stubbornly committed to more than I could handle. My ego tells me I have to go big, to persevere. I don’t listen to the real, physical signs that I need to stop.

Eating a fun foreign to me fruit on the plane. 
The flight home was another exercise in sheer will power. I refused to let Brendan fly down and help me (for all the reasons listed above), which, looking back was ridiculous. I collected my bike bag and luggage alone at LAX, pushed it all through Immigration and Customs, made my way slowly to the curb to get picked up.

And on Monday morning, because I am an idiot, I went to school and taught a full day of classes before heading to urgent care to get more blood work and talk to a doctor. I got a call from the doctor at 6pm to inform me that my CK was 9,000 and AST/ALT still alarmingly high. Unfortunately she gave me the ‘option’ of continuing to drown myself with water, although she recommended I go to the ER, so you know I choose the ‘suck it up’ option of drinking at home and going to school the next day. A combination of not wanting to inconvenience Brendan, not wanting to spend the money or waste the time going to the ER and REALLY not wanting to miss more school, all resulted in the decision to stay home and drink water to ‘cure’ myself. A week later, after reading case studies about Rhabdo and talking to a lot of people about it, I understand that the levels of protein in my liver were insanely high, that I absolutely should have been in the ER the second I got home, and that I am very very lucky to have recovered despite my stubbornness and aversion to medical care. It validated that Monday was infact unbearably painful (so much so that I basically sat on the edge of my desk for the last two periods of the day because standing and walking, oye vey. This isn’t the first time I have been stubborn and convinced myself to tolerate unreasonable amounts of pain to learn in retrospect that It was in fact un-necessary (I could have taken short term disability, or just a regular sick day…), and it most likely wont be the last. But this leads to the worst part of this ordeal, the thoughts in my mind resulting from this catastrophe, which I will save for yet ONE MORE post about La Ruta and Rhabdo.     
Flowers from my sweet co-worker Alexis.
The best part of all of this drama was reading all the kind comments on social media following the whole ordeal, so many people shared kind thoughts and words of encouragement, making it so much easier to cope with the pain of the initial recovery, and frustration of being off my bike for so long.
And of course I am acutely aware every day of how fortunate I am in the grand scheme of things. With the fires raging in Northern California, and with so many people finding themselves without a home this Thanksgiving, I am grateful every day for my health, and home, and the wonderful people who make my life so beautiful and fun. Thanks everyone for the support and love. I hope through this I can learn to be a better person through all of you.

Friday, November 16, 2018

La Ruta Chapter 2: El Hospital

On Thursday night I went to bed with a bottle of electrolytes on the pillow next to me. The pain in my legs (which seized my quads, hamstrings and calves immediately following my massage that afternoon) prevented me from sleeping much, as did the frequent times I needed to pee from trying as best I could to hydrate all evening. Early on in the evening I noticed my pee was reddish brown.
I've seen the movie '24 Hours Solo', I knew in the back of my mind this wasn't good. 

At breakfast Friday morning multiple people re-assured me that my legs would come around once we started. I wasn't really sure what to do, but as I was winning (by 29 minutes) everyone just encouraged me to take it easy and complete the stage, then ride hard on Saturday in the last stage to seal the win. I boarded the bus to the start feeling uneasy. 

Stage 2 took riders straight up a volcano, and then back down the other side, a roughly 23 mile climb up 8,000ish ft followed by a 22 mile descent. It was supposed to be easier than day 1, and everyone reminded me this over and over. You'll be ok, it's easier. 

When we arrived at the start, getting off the bus was impossible without the use of my arms to lower myself to the ground, and standing at the start line, straddling my bike I wondered how I would get ON and start moving forward on my own. somehow I was able to get enough momentum to move off the line, and then I poured everything I had into pushing the pedals. I told myself that pain is just a sensation in the mind, I hoped that it was true that my legs would start to feel ok after warming up. I pushed myself to stay with Lance and his group, and eventually, since I couldn't see the second woman, I eased off to let her catch me. When she did I rode on her wheel for a long time. Having expected it to feel easy I got worried when I started struggling to keep up. 

Photo from a spectator
I did all the things ultra endurance racers do to cope with mental challenges, I split the climb into chunks in my mind, watched the feet tick by on my Garmin, found landmarks to focus on, told myself that I liked it, and tried to enjoy the pain. But at some point it became too much, I dropped off the wheel of the woman I was following and went into survival mode, hoping the buffer I had from day one would be enough to maintain the leaders jersey.

Every time there was a descent (there were a few fun, fast ripping breaks in the climb) I struggled to support my weight with my knees bent, meaning I could only ride either seated or with my legs locked. If you've ever ridden a bike down a hill you know that descending with locked knees is not fast, and seated is even slower. This was incredibly frustrating as the descents are where I usually increase my advantage in long distance races. I started to dread the 23 mile long descent that was to follow our ascent of the volcano. 

When I got to the first aid station, some 4,000ft up the volcano, I stopped to talk to the CTS guys (about the brown pee and the pain) but they didn't speak enough English to understand, so I took a bottle and pushed on. Soon after, close to tears, the route passed by an elementary school where something like 300 little kids stood at the fence yelling 'Si Se Puede!" 'I hope so' was all I could think. 

By the time I had climbed 5,000 of the 8,000ish total feet of the day I knew I needed to stop. I was just looking for someone who spoke English so I could have a chat and determine if I was making a terrible decision by continuing on. Fortunately for me at the 5k from the top sign I spotted a group of women from the US who were there with a large group of friends some racing and some supporting! I slowly pulled over and broke down with the emotion of potentially dropping out of the race. It's really hard to describe the feeling of knowing you need to stop when you are winning. Of making that judgment call that this is the point when your health is at risk, that winning is less important than stopping to potentially mitigate damage. And on top of all of this, knowing you've traveled all this way for the last race of the year, the biggest race of your season... and this means you will go home empty handed, of all the people who I wanted to deliver this win to like my coach, Felt, and Bonk Breaker. I've never dropped out of a race before, I've never needed to in 5+ years of racing bikes. It was a crushing feeling.  

Emotionally I explained what was happening and Heather and her nice friends listened, texted Taryn, gave me a coke, and helped me sit on the side of a ditch (since I couldn't sit on the ground, too painful). Eventually it was decided that I should NOT continue on, and long story short, we ended up at the hospital in Cartago thanks to translating help from Tatiana. After a brief wait in the crazy crowded waiting room I was taken back, blood was drawn and I was hooked up to an IV of fluid, the IV I had wanted so badly the day before. When my blood work came back it was clear that there was a dangerous amount of protein in my liver, and three of the things the tests measured were alarming (CK 3000, AST and ALT both pretty high). By this point I had told Tatiana it was ok if she left. I felt bad keeping a complete stranger in the hospital with me, and she had friends and a life to live outside. The bad thing though was this left me alone, in a hospital where 99% of the staff only spoke Spanish, with a dying cell phone, unsure of how long I was going to be there. 

I sent out a pathetic tweet, emailed everyone I could think of to help me get my things (since all I had was bike shorts, a rain jacket and a sports bra, no shirt, no passport, no money...) and prayed the IV fluids would fix everything so I could get out of there ASAP. 

Problem is, my liver function was crazy messed up, and nothing passes slower than time spent watching fluids drip through an IV bag. 

The hospital was small, and it was most likely short on resources. I stayed in the ER, on a bed surrounded by all the other ER patients the whole time I was there. I was 'forced' (I mean I guess I could have tried to hold my pee) to use a bedpan, a first for me, and was informed that there was no water for me to drink when I told a nurse I was thirsty (I guess there was water but no cups or bottles). I passed a lot of the time trying to conserve cell phone battery in case of emergency, which meant not communicating with the outside world. As a result I felt incredibly lonely. Sorrow about not getting to finish the race, loneliness, regret (of having gone out too hard on day 1), as well as frustration and anger washed over me in waves. A steady stream of tears ran down my face for the entire 8 hour ordeal, and as much as I wanted to 'be strong' and stay positive, nothing could block the feeling of hopelessness that I didn't even have money to pay for a cab if I COULD or NEEDED to leave. I knew in the logical part of my brain that back home Brendan loved me, that Taryn and my family and even my students cared about me, but it was hard to deal with the immediate feeling that no one in Costa Rica (even the NUE director who had brought all us NUE winners down there) cared enough to visit or help transfer me to a closer or better hospital. The day before dozens of people had been yelling 'Championa' at me, and now I was alone, unable to speak the language in a ragged hospital, not sure how long I would be there, what liver damage meant, or what I would do when it came time to leave. 

Shortly before my phone died Lance texted me 'do you need anything?' I wish I had said yes, an apple empanada, a ride to the hotel, a bottle of water, a friend. The loneliness was worse than the illness. 

There was a dr. on site who spoke English, he wasn't on duty, just filling out paperwork, but he came and explained to me what he thought was wrong, that I needed three more bags of fluid before more blood tests might show improvement. The IV bags continued their glacial dripping. hours passed. I tried to sleep. 

Eventually, around 6:30pm, the La Ruta organizers sent a young man to deliver my Tupperware of clothes and help me get a cab to the hotel. The doctor didn't want me to leave, but I couldn't handle the idea of spending the night in the hospital, after hearing a man get his leg amputated with little pain meds (in the not sound proof trauma room), and seeing a man die in the bed across from me, and feeling the weight of the loneliness for all that time. 

Getting out of the hospital bed was a feat of sheer will, and hobbling to the cab, while avoiding the NP who disapproved of me leaving, alarmingly painful, but I told myself it was because I had just been sedentary for so long (although I learned later that it was a result of my body continuing to metabolize muscle). 

Lots of misunderstanding along with my unhappiness/loneliness resulted in the decision to leave the hospital. I know now it was the wrong choice, but in the moment I just felt like I needed to get out of there. I'll conclude this ridiculously long recount over the weekend, but this is the bulk of the story, basically Friday sucked. 

TLDR: Larissa rode too hard Thursday, continued to race Friday, ended up in the hospital with Rhabdo, was lonely, 

Monday, November 12, 2018

La Ruta Chapter 1: Championa

From Jaco beach on Wednesday afternoon. 
It wasn’t until this weekend, reading case studies sent to me by a friend in the medical profession, that the seriousness of Rhabdo really sunk in. A week after spending 8+ hours in a Costa Rican hospital before checking myself out my liver and function is returning to normal, and I’m starting to feel like myself again, sorta. I wont be able to ride a bike for a while, and I get exhausted from walking the dog for 20 minutes, but I can reach down and touch the ground, sit with my legs crossed, and do a myriad of other simple things that were unreasonably painful a few days ago.

I don’t think I ever really learned how to be concise, in writing or speaking, and since this was kinda a big life event for me in which I want to remember all the details, I’m going to break this recap into two parts. Here is chapter 1. 

La Ruta is a three-day stage race across the country of Costa Rica. Racers begin on the sands of Jaco Beach, on the Pacific Ocean and traverse jungle, volcanos, rural villages and cities to reach Limon, a beach town on the Atlantic side. The race organizers transport your belongings to hotels every night, and feed you/wash your bike, leaving racers with little to worry about each day besides a 3am wake up call, and weather you have the legs to complete the roughly 130 mile mountain bike expedition.

My journey began with a head cold that resurfaced Monday, the day before I departed for Costa Rica, a full day of teaching followed by a red-eye flight, and a lost bike en route to cap it all off. Standing in the airport at baggage claim, waiting for the super nice Copa agent to make some calls about the location of my bike, I almost wanted to scrap the race and lay on the beach all week. Fortunately my bike just choose a later flight from my connection in Panama to San Jose, so after some stress and a few Costa Rican Red Bulls (what the locals told me they call espresso) I was reunited with my Edict and we were on our way to Jaco. On the drive I saw two red Macaws in the sky and a murder of crocodiles on the banks of a river we crossed.  I went to bed at 7pm and had no trouble falling asleep, too tired to be nervous or scared of what lay ahead.

Thursday morning began with a lavish breakfast buffet at our hotel.  My ears were still plugged from the cold and the flight, so it felt like I was dreaming as I forced myself to eat potatoes, plantains and fruit, kitted up, and headed out to the beach. Fortunately for me the other ladies racing Elite were super nice and we chatted in the dark on the start line about how soft the sand was, how one woman had done the race 15 times, and about what to expect over the next three days. Because of work I didn’t get much of a chance to research the course, to ask veterans of the race for advice, to think of a specific strategy. I basically assumed I would ride at a pace that felt good, I had no expectations because of the head cold and lack of experience/preparation.
Already sweating, before the sun was up Thursday morning. 
The race start was chaotic, with everyone running down the beach (the sand was WAY too soft to ride) chased by a military style helicopter. And then we all stopped just out of town for the ‘second start’, something about helicopter footage I guess. Everyone was trying to take pictures with Lance and the woman on a Felt beside me warned to ‘pace yourself, the climb is long and steep’. I took her advice (at least I thought I did) and when we hit the waterfall marking the start of the climb I rode my own pace, surprised to be putting out decent power numbers and letting that familiar ‘I’m leading the race, but surely second place is right behind me’ stress settle in. Everything just seemed to come together and I was racing bikes, gloriously charging up a massive hill on the heels of the elite men, doing the thing I love the most.

The first portion of day 1 was uneventful, a steep 2,200ft fire road climb followed by a series of short steep climbs and descents. At some point I found myself with Brad and a few local dudes and we had a blast bombing the descents and charging the climbs, unaware of the future consequences of my reckless enthusiasm.

At some point we entered the densely forested jungle in Carara, and our progress was slowed by frequent stretches of thick, deep mud, which forced us off our bikes. Progress slowed so much that I stopped worrying about winning the stage, and focused on steady forward progress. Darin Maxwell’s mantra ‘Every good ride has a hike a bike’ was making me smile, as was the ridiculousness of the situation. The footprints of riders ahead of us were almost knee deep, and I tripped and slid down each descent, covering myself in red, slimy mud. Every time I looked ahead, a line of dudes pushing their bikes up each climb deterred me from thinking about miles covered or time remaining, and instead reminded me to focus on conquering each little climb, each small challenge. Clean my bike in a river, push it up a hill, slide down, repeat.

I was shocked at one point to hear Lance behind me, specifically taunting me for potentially letting ‘these old men beat…’ me. Every time I stopped to clean mud from my bike he would catch me, and then there would be a rideable climb and I would drop him and his entourage, it was ridiculous.
Just about the point when we all felt like the mud was getting out of hand, when our nerves were shot and we no longer though it was funny, a group of supporters in a river crossing informed us the mud was over. They lent me a brush to aid in cleaning my bike, so I stopped once more to free up the crown of my fork, wipe clay off my rims and quickly scrub my drive train.

Some time later I was at the aid station, grabbing a bottle from the CTS crew, and the next thing I remember I was climbing this road that seemed impossibly steep. At this point Brad had stopped to fix his twenty-seventh mechanical, and my only companion was a young looking kid who warned me that I needed to slow down, that this was a long, long climb. I felt good, but heeded his warning, although the steepness of the climb meant I only had one option, push hard or fall over.
The kid was right about that climb, not only was it crazy steep (think 13+ % for a mile or more) but my blissful ignorance about the route meant I got to enjoy every second of the crazy long thing, wondering how much longer it could go on.

I felt fine, I was pushing the pedals, I was hopeful about the top being near, passing people who choose the shorter adventure route, laughing through slippery rock gardens and rushing river crossings… and then suddenly everything went to shit. Like the flip of a switch I went from feeling ok, hopeful even about the end being near, to an almost complete shut down, legs aching, delusional, tired, hopeless, lost my mind style shut down. I begged volunteers and spectators to tell me this was the top at each bend in the road, I told them I couldn’t do it, I started weaving across the road. And then when the steep one lane road climb turned onto a slightly flatter two lone road, I assumed we had reached the top, and the possibility of finishing the stage started to seem more possible. Shortly after the false feeling of relief washed over me though, I found myself continuing to climb. I resumed begging the spectators to let me go downhill, or let me drop out of the race, and each time they assured me I was really close to the top. My inability to ride in a straight line started to get dangerous, as now there was two way traffic on the road, and a ditch to my right that I kept falling in. I became certain that I was in Brazil, racing Ironbiker, and that the left hand turn I was supposed to take had already passed. I argued with the spectators now, and in the stretches between people I wondered where I was, and why I wasn’t at school teaching. What day was it? Why was I riding a bike? How soon until second place caught me and I could give up?

Eventually it all became too much, my body was shutting down and I knew it was no longer worth it to keep pushing. I stopped in the ditch and stood on the side of the road, not really sure what I should do since I didn’t know where I was and I don’t really speak Spanish. A white pick up truck rolled up a minute or two later, and the crew inside hopped out and helped me sit on the tailgate. They fed me Gatorade and water, and coaxed me back on my bike. The true top was only 500m ahead they promised. I was winning by a large margin, all I had to do was bring it in.

Thinking the finish was at the bottom of the descent in front of me I got back on my bike, and slowly made my way to the turn, where I was pleased to drop into the steepest road descent I’ve ever ridden. The road plummeted down the side of the mountain, dropping more than 2,000ft in elevation in 4 miles. At times the curves in the road were almost slalom like, twisting down into town at what felt like breakneck speeds.

The next chunk of time is a blur, I remember crossing a bridge over an incredibly beautiful river, and then turning uphill, being kinda pissed that we weren’t at the finish yet. I remember the white truck following me up the climb, trying to push, and having to resort to survival mode again. I remember drinking baggies full of Gatorade from random dudes on the side of the road, and asking for water on my espalda from the guy with an icy bottle. The white pickup people told me there was a gradual 2 mile climb to the finish, so I focused on turning the pedals over, smooth and steady. Somehow my brain was still ahead of my body though, because the train really came off the rails here. I caught a woman doing the adventure route and decided to ride with her. I couldn’t hold my left arm straight anymore. I was leaning to the left, and couldn’t steer straight as a result. I started falling over, for no reason at all, on a smooth, gently uphill fire road. I would just tip over. One of the times I fell I twisted my ankle badly, and sat on the ground for a minute, not really sure what was going on. The pick up people helped me up, and one of the guys from the truck ran along side me, gently leaning me upright every time I tipped to the left. The official in the quad ahead of me was upset. He didn’t like that I was unable to ride by myself, but the pick up people assured him I could do it. I was no longer in control of my body, just doing what I was told as best I could. I crept towards the finish. As soon as the course turned into a little pump track/skills park to the finish I was on my own, crashed one more time into a little log ride on the ground, and rode under the finish banner, still slumped over despite my best effort to hold myself upright on my bike. 
Hunched to the left since my left arm wont stay straight. 

All along the route people had yelled 'Championa', 'fuerte, championa' at me, and the finish was no different. It was hard to enjoy the glory of winning the stage though, all I wanted was to get help from the EMTs. 

I immediately asked for an IV of fluid right at the finish (after struggling to get off my bike), joked about what a disaster I was, and was laid on a stretcher to have my vitals checked. After a short analysis of my condition the EMTs decided I didn’t need an IV. I begged and begged for one, waited a few minutes and begged again. Each time they told me no. After 5 years of racing bikes, 2 of which being ultra endurance, I KNEW I needed IV fluids, that I couldn’t possibly drink enough to fix what was wrong, but didn’t know what to do as they were adamant that I didn’t need it.

And that’s probably where the start of my medical problems took a turn from bad to dangerous. It’s also where I’m going to stop for today 😊 haha an unintentional cliff hanger, but this is too long already. Will wrap up my second and final day of La Ruta de los Conquistadors in a few days.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A few more random thoughts

So the knee pain thing has pretty much resolved itself. I still can't run without significant risk of angering my patellar tendons, but I'm riding pain free, and I can even push hard on the pedals again, so I think the old knees are ready to do some hard work. BUT... the headcold I had a month ago resurfaced with a vengance this week, mainly the wicked cough that keeps me up all night. Two nights of terrible sleep and a day of coughing until I thought I would pass out in class yesterday = yet again having to take time off the bike to wait until I'm healthy enough to train.

This sucks.

Time just keeps passing, La Ruta gets closer and closer, and I am still not training like I should be.

I'm trying to stay positive. I know I have been blessed with good health MOST of the time. That I had a flawless year of races with very few mechanical or bio-mechanical issues. I know I will one day be back to riding bikes all day in the sunshine, and that a broken bone would be much worse. And a random all day rain storm today helped me not feel like I missed out on beautiful fall biking adventures.

But it's still hard and frustrating and scary. I'm on antibiotics now, and with two solid days of not waking at at 5am and no exercise (major sad face) maybe I can kick this illness down by Monday.

In non-bike related news I am blown away at how much easier/happier the students are at my new school than last year. Not sure if it's just a good batch of kiddos or of the demographic is really that different, but so far these kids are incredibly pleasant to teach. They come in every day happy and excited and positive. I give them a task and I haven't heard complaining yet. They get excited about the online games we play, they are stoked to win or to move up in the ranks, a kid even told me this week that he broke into the top 10 for the first time (one of the games ranks the kids within the class based on speed and accuracy), and he was so proud of himself I wanted to cry. It's a strange experience to go from a difficult group of kids to this, but I feel guilty being so much happier teaching them because I know the students at my old school are dealing with so much more in life and that's WHY they are harder to reach. It's not fair that one group of kids has been dealt a difficult hand in life and just up the street, 5 miles away these other kids got such a different set of cards and an easier childhood. Not sure what to do with these thoughts, it's just been on my mind all week.

And on a totally random note, goat yoga. Why? I mean I love goats as much as the next person, but what if they poop on my yoga mat? or start eating my clothes? How can you relax and focus inward and concentrate on the movement of your body when there is a goat standing o your back?

I saw this goat yoga class last weekend on my way through San Juan Capistrano... hilarious, but strange.

I'm OBSESSED with Matcha tea lattes right now. Not sure why I'm craving it all the time, but I look forward to trips to Home Depot because Bodhi Leaf, a coffee and tea shop next door, makes the worlds best Matcha.

And all these cool fall weekends have been making me want to bake ALL THE FALL THINGS. Last weekend it was apple cinnamon scones. and today I made pumpkin coffee cake with browned butter maple glaze... it's really a problem that I can't ride bikes right now haha. And on Wednesday night we made sweet potato gnocchi, which was way easier than I anticipated it being! I guess I am liking being home as opposed to on the road racing all the time. It's been nice to bake and cook and relax on the weekends. 

Coffee cake  :) I'm pretty proud of this one, and it tastes better than it looks!

That't is, really random thoughts for a Saturday night. Off to bed to try and kick the cold. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Knee Pain and Life Lately

Actually really loving the pre-dawn commutes :)
Oh hey, yes, I'm still alive. Alive and crazy and hanging on by the skin of my teeth. Since school started life has been insanity. Waking up at 5 to ride to school in the dark for 6:15am XC practice (I'm assistant coaching the freshmen boys XC team at THHS), teaching until 4pm, plus afternoon XC on Tues/Thurs, and soon to be leading HS mtb fun rides on Wednesday and Fridays... yeah, by the skin of my teeth. I am SUPPOSED to be doing my own training on top of all this, but that hasn't been going so well and to be honest I haven't done a single workout in 3 weeks.

When the coaching gig came up I said yes because one of my personal goals this year is to be more involved in the school/get to know the staff and kids better than I did at Laguna. My coach told me to be careful not to let my huge aerobic engine trick me into running more than my joints/non-running body could handle. But of course I thought 5.5 miles on my first run back was just a baby run, that running 5 times a week on week 1 was easing into it, and that when I felt pain it was just weakness leaving the body, blah blah...

And two weeks in my knees suddenly hurt so badly I could barely walk last Monday during 7th period. I was close to tears from pain, frustration and fear that I was blowing the most important training weeks on my year.

Fast forward to today and looking  back on this setback I feel a strange calm/appreciation for my broken body.
Trying to heal my knees with a butt load of stretching.
For one I never really appreciated my knees before. I know people who have suffered torn ACLs and chronic knee pain and broken bones... and I always knew in my mind to appreciate my normally functioning body, but being down with pain so severe you can't walk is equal parts terrifying and eye opening. As the pain slowly fades and I am lucky enough to start getting pain free commutes to school I am so so so grateful for every pain free pedal stroke. I am also full of retroactive gratitude for so many years of racing with relatively few injuries. And for some reason the gratitude for my hopefully soon to be healthy body and past is bigger than the stress about not training, so that's kinda great (maybe my mind is too overwhelmed from working so much that I can't hold both emotions at once, haha)

And secondly being injured means I can focus all my time on teaching and coaching, which I'm actually enjoying quite a lot. It's honestly been overwhelming to think about training after work, and the cumulative fatigue of teaching and coaching hit me hard at the Grizzly, so I'm secretly a little grateful that I haven't had to think about how to squeeze in the workouts for the past 2 weeks. The down time has been full of school work and sleep, and it's fueling the fire in me to race hard again as well.
I am the happiest girl when I get to ride with no pain :)

 It's been strange to me that I have lost all interest in racking up Strava data, that I'm not itching to run out the door the second school gets out, and that last weekend I didn't touch a bike on Sunday, but hey, I guess there is a time for everything and the time of excessive ride-till-you-die Larissa is taking a hiatus. I hope everyone is healthy and happy and enjoying all those miles and feet of elevation for me :) Thanks guys!
I will leave you with this picture of God smiling on the Santa Ana mountains from tonight :)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

PCP2P 2018

I know the way I went about this race, and pretty much every race is all wrong. As I worked my way through the trails in Round Valley in the first 10 miles of the day I thought a lot about racing my own race verses strategizing to win by abusing my competitors. I knew going out crazy hard was/is the most painful way to go about trying to win a bike race. I thought a lot about all the possible outcomes, but when push comes to shove, the only thing I feel comfortable with is going bananas from the gun, 110%, way too hard, establishing a gap and then holding on for dear life hoping everyone else is cracked just enough to not catch me for the second half of the race. So despite the slightly shorter distance of Park City Point 2 Point, only 75 miles instead of 100, I choose to use the same tactic. What the course lacked in length it more than made up in technical single track and climbing, so even though I feared getting my butt kicked by local power house and all around shredder Evelyn, I was hoping the sheer length of time it takes to complete the course would give me an advantage.

When the fruitloop cannon was shot and we crossed the start line I pinned it hard. The occasional glance at my power meter confirmed that we were flying, and so did the shearing pain in my lungs and legs. I realize that hitting cross country power numbers for the first 30 minutes of a 7 hour race AT ALTITUDE is definitely NOT a good idea, but I could not for the life of me shake Evelyn. At some point, as we smashed our way around the smooth, flowy fun Round Valley trails I made the conscious decision to go all in on this terrible strategy. Instead of easing off and racing smart I was going to try to blow both of us up as spectacularly as possible. I was hoping that from all my experience racing 100 milers that I could survive the suicide mission and everyone else would... well, not.

I just kept repeating to myself that I could do it, and surprisingly the first hour felt pretty darn good, at least in my legs. My stomach was a whole different story. Failing to pack instant oats, my usual pre-race breakfast, meant I had eaten regular oats 1.75 hours before the race start, and they were not digesting like the instant ones do. I had terrible stomach cramps for the first three hours of the race, and even threw up undigested oats twice an hour in. The stomach problems were a HUGE deterrent from eating and drinking, so although I was thinking about how I should be doing both, I couldn't bring myself to put anything in my tortured tummy.
From my fave photag PhotoJohnPhoto :)

When the first of the age group men caught me (wave 3 of the race which started 2 minutes after the open women's field) I was already deep into the Deer valley singletrack, much further along than I was in 2017 when I got caught by the same dudes. This was a confidence boost, as well as a reality check that I had indeed started out WAY too fast. I could still see Evelyn on the occasional tree-less section with switchbacks, so I kept the pace high and continued to tell myself that I could handle the obscenely fast start.

The course is pretty much all single track, like people in Park City are allergic to fire roads. It's heaven. If you ever do ride on paved road or fire road in this race it's for 30 seconds or less and it's just a means to get to another incredible trail. The race also feels like it's 95% climbing, topping out at 9,000ft twice, and getting almost 12,000ft of ascent crammed into 75 miles.

When the age group guys caught me I rode with a few of them for a while, secretly thankful to have someone to pace me as a few of them passed me and then slowed down (which normally I would be annoyed by, but this time I just breathed down their necks but refused to pass them back, which was prob pretty obnoxious). Then when we hit John's trail, the most twisty, rooty, windy, drunk trail you can imagine, with Aspen trees trying to take you out every 2 ft, Dan who used to live in San Diego  dropped me like a bad habit and I was super pissed that he put so much time into me in such a short actual distance.

Waving at the girls like a crazy person because I was excited. 
Eventually I found myself climbing the dreaded steps situation, and reminded myself that nothing in Utah could possibly be as terrible as the climbs in my beloved Santa Ana mountains, and that carried me to the second high point. I finally felt good enough at the top to eat a PB&J Bonk Breaker, and it made a big difference since I was feeling the malnutrition feelings pretty hard. The ripping descent that followed was crazy fun, and it led me to the Aid station where Mila and Sienna had a feed for me. Somehow I had managed to force myself to drink the bottle I was carrying, so I grabbed a new bottle of Bonk Breaker hydration from the girls (which I would accidentally not drink any of) and was off to tackle the last long climb, and remaining 20 miles of the course.

At the top of the climb Karl was waiting to cheer/ ride with me, and the concept of being followed helped me dig deep to ride harder than I had been on the way up Armstrong. I also got intel that Evelyn was only 8 minutes back, which freaked me out, given how badly I was falling apart. The thought that I was dehydrated and under nourished was freaking me out, more so in my mind that in my body. My ego took over though, and the drive to impress Karl gave me the strength to dig deep, climb harder and pour every ounce of myself into descending as fast as possible. When Karl got a flat and had to stop I was secretly relieved that I could slow down again once I was out of sight, haha, and I did some calculations in my head about how much time I could loose per mile and not get caught.

I was stoked out of my mind when I got to the Oasis aid station in the Colony. I was hoping for pickle juice and some solid food since I was still behind in the calorie intake situation. The only thing I found that was suitable though was pickle slices and a PB&J. I was grateful for the pickles nonetheless, and after I drank some water I took off again, stressed about how long I had stopped for, hoping Evelyn would also stop.

By the time I reached the final descent I was pretty thoroughly cracked. The fear of being caught drove me to empty the tank on the last 10 miles of the course, and I limped down Olympic trail (which always looks like Greece to me) to Iron Bill trail listening for Evelyn's free hub, thinking every quaking aspen was her. I was crazy relieved when I looked up and saw the finish at Skull Candy and she wasn't yet in sight.

This race is one of my absolute faves. I love it because of the challenge and the pain and the scenery like most the other races, but this one is even better, set apart, by the amazing people who put it on and who pour everything of themselves into making it magical. Thank you to everyone who cooked bacon at aid stations, cheered, volunteered, worked hours and hours to make it happen, and especially for the Redel family who graciously host me every year and treat me like royalty. I am the luckiest girl in the world to get to race Park City Point2Point every year. Thank you for making it a dream :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Who's Sad About School Starting?!

Sometimes I tell myself lies to trick my brain into believing something that's not true. 'racing 100 miles every weekend is normal', 'you feel really good right now (at mile 80 of a long race)' or 'you love the pain of going uphill'! That shit works too, try it, the more you tell yourself something the more you really truly believe it. I think that's why they say stuff like 'it's all in your head' or 'if you think you can, you can'.
So it's funny that despite the fact that I should be a little depressed about going back to school in a few days, I'm actually genuinely excited about the school year! No lying to myself necessary :)
It probably helps that I've been living my wildest dreams in a very much take it past the limit Larissa fashion. Living out my wildest dreams a little TOO much, as I am now laid up in bed dreading the idea of getting up, and it's 2:45 in the afternoon haha (don't worry I went to school this am, I WISH I could have stayed in bed straight through 😂)
My pretty whip at Rockstore... the prettiest of the bikes :)
So here is what my wildest dreams look like SoCal style (because we all know I really just want to ride all day in the high country of CO, but sometimes you have to adapt your dreams to fit the surrounding landscape!)Sunday Carl let me drag him on an epic LA county ride complete with route that neither of us put much time or energy into. My only inspiration was to ride all of Mulholland, and to hit 100 miles but be back in time to have dinner with my little brother who has been surgrifying people at UCLA for the past 2 weeks. I threw some waypoints on Strava, and we were off across Mulholland before 8am. Fun fact, it's not all paved, so despite promising Carl that I had edited the dirt out of my route, it used to have some Backbone trail in it, we ended up crushing 10ish miles of dirt anyway.

A fun stop at Rockstore marked the first touristy point of the day, and I got to play dodge the massive bikers to fill bottles while Carl changes a flat.
After Mulholland took us to hwy 1 we promptly turned left to climb back into the humid mountains and immediately both almost died from not drinking/eating enough. A sit down break at the top to inhale almond butter and jelly, followed by another sit down break at the bottom of the descent to drink frozen coffee at the Chevron in Malibu fixed that!

And then, after another soul crushing climb to ensure maximum elevation gain/suffering we found ourselves dodging tourists in Santa Monica, the sketchiest stretch of hwy 1 to ride a bike!

The best part of the ride though, was rolling down Sunset, and suddenly realizing, we were riding the whole length of Sunset blvd! Right through Bel Air, Beverly hills, past UCLA, through some swanky cray neighborhoods all the way till...

OUR ROUTE TOLD US TO GO TO HOLLYWOOD blvd! Neither of us had ANY idea we were near the heart of Hollywood until we started seeing stars on the sidewalk, and TMZ tour busses! It was the CRAZIEST end to an epic ride ever. I've never even been to Hollywood, so it felt so touristy and funny to be riding my bike through it, nbd!

 For all the beautiful and natural places I've enjoyed riding my bike, this was hilarious and fun and awesome in a very unique way. Plus we took the whole lane, so we added to the spectacle!

And then dinner at Peddler's Fork, followed by Diddy Reise Ice cream sandos just made the day over the top good. If you want stupid fun/hard route ideas hit me up, apparently I'm good at planning crazy days in the saddle :)
And yesterday, because I hate cars and couldn't be bothered to drive to San Diego like a normal human, I rode my bike to Carlsbad to visit all my favorite people and tape an episode of SoCal cyclist podcast with Brian! It was another magical day of ALL THE MILES, hearing about how these rad SD companies are killing it/growing from garage operations to big deal international buisnesses and drinking nitro coldbrew from the back of a prius :)                                                                                                                                                         Topped the day off with a burrito from Primo Market in Oceanside (best taco tues deal in the world bwt) and a train ride back to the OC because I was literally dying. 

Got to go fer a rip with Nate. He is rad and was operating his business out of the garage until 2 months ago!

And this is Ryan who not only broke his back this year, but makes the most delightful smelling, visually appealing chain wax in all the land!

Look for the episode of SoCal cyclist we taped Aug 28!

Yep, it's had to be bummed about the school year starting when you spend the last few days of summer doing all your favorite things, with all your favorite people and killing yourself on the bike in the process! One more day of living in excess to put the final nail in my coffin tomorrow. Big Bear HERE WE COME!!!!!!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Leadville Part 2: The Interesting Stuff

I think the play by play of how the race unfolded is less interesting than all the emotional and technical details that played out on Saturday. This is also the stuff I really want to remember when I look back on my bike racing career 20 years from now, like handing a 10 year old kid my water bottle at the finish line when he had actually asked for my autograph (my brain wasn't working too well and I learned a day later from Lauren that the boy had NOT in fact asked for the bottle, haha). 10 minutes later I gave his sisters my bouquet of roses because I felt bad that only the boy had gotten something and the flowers were the only other thing I had to give. It's crazy how frazzled my brain was, how everything turned into a blur of joy and fatigue, loving the hoopla but also dying for a minute of peace and quiet. 

Leadville is a pretty special town and race. This year’s race was errily similar to last year but the summer was crazy different. I didn’t know until early this summer that last year my coach was nervous about how much racing I was doing (I only did three 100 milers in 4 weeks last year), and this summer I was WAY more ambitious about planning my race schedule with 5 hundreds plus a 50 miler in 6 weeks. Racing 100 miles takes a HUGE toll on your body, so although I had a ton more experience with this type of racing, I was also biting off WAY more, and had to spend a lot more time dedicated to recovery. Instead of doing intervals during the week like last year I spent most of the week days this summer resting and going for easier rides. Matt wrote ‘take it easy!’ on almost every weekday ride in July. So the thought of the cumulative fatigue from all those races was definitely making me nervous leading into Leadville. I actually mentally blocked the idea that these races are so tough in order to not freak myself out, which actually worked really well, so well that I started thinking racing 100 miles every weekend was normal, just a little thing, not a big deal, haha. BUT knowing I wasn’t doing intervals made me worried that my top end, my speedy end, wasn’t there like last year. Another difference between 2017 and this year was my mindset. I felt such a sense of peace and contentment with my career coming into this Leadville that I wasn’t really stressed about winning. I didn’t stay up all night imagining having to out sprint anyone, or getting dropped on Columbine like last year, I was just excited to get to race my bike in the morning!
Somehow almost all the race photos make it look like I was alone, even though I spent half the race with rad OC people. 
The similarities all played out during the race, climbing Kevins with Robert and Brian, pulling everyone up Sugarloaf, hanging with a rad group across the road and climbing Columbine alone because Robert dropped the living daylights out of me and I dropped everyone else… It felt good for so much of the race to play out the same because it eased my stress from the first 10 minutes where getting spit so far back in the group, and held up in incompetent dude traffic temporarily had me super freaked out.

Another huge similarity was my bike setup. I raced the 2018 Felt Edict again, this time on a regular production frame, not a proto like last year.

So pro I clean my own bike before big races :)
I ran a RockShox Sid World cup fork with a grip dual lock out, and a Rockshox Delux rear shock, 100 front and rear. I ran the same gearing as last year, SRAM XX1 one by 12 with a 32 tooth chainring in front and 10-44 cassette (the 44 being a Wolftooth modification).

My cockpit was the same as last year, Crankbrothers Cobalt11 bar and stem, and I also rocked the Crankbrothers Candy 11 pedals because I like the extra little platform for support on long races.

I love the Kenda SaberPro 2.2 tires, raced them all summer, so throwing a fresh pair on my bike was a no-brainer. OrangeSeal has also been in my tires all summer, and it did a fantastic job of keeping me rolling.

Again like last year my Edict had a 125mm KS LEV Ci dropper post, and although some people may think the extra weight is un-necessary, it’s less than half a pound more weight, and it makes the bike more fun on 99% of the rides I do, so I kept it on because I’m no weight weenie, and what’s half a pound!?

The only real change in my bike setup was my wheels and saddle. This year I have been rolling on DT Swiss XRC 1200 wheels, which have been freaking bombproof. I MAY have developed a little more finesse in my riding style, but I’m pretty sure I’m still beating the shit out of my bike descending like I’m being chased by a bear all day every day, and those wheels have performed flawlessly. The Fizik Luce saddle was another HUGEly important update to my race setup because it’s so comfy that I never once thought about my crotch during the race. Considering how much pain I’ve experienced in the past from saddles, it’s insane to look back on a summer with so much racing and to think that after every 100 miler I wanted to ride MORE and the Sunday ‘recovery ride’ was never painful because of my saddle!
Slamming Bonk Breaker Hydration like a boss.
As far as nutrition this year I was more dialed than last year, probably where the experience of doing so many 100 milers comes in. I drank 5 full bottles of Bonk Breaker Lemon Lime hydration mix mixed to the recommended concentration. I ate 4 Gu gels, 2 Bonk Breaker macchiato flavored bars, 2 packages of Bonk Breaker Chews, and an Apple Pie Lara Bar. This was a bit more solid food than I expected to eat, but shoulder/back pain prevented me from being able to reach my food easily, so I just kinda took whatever I could get my hands on each time I reached in my pocket. Normally I would slam Gu's until I get sick of them, but started and ended with solids this time, not by choice, but it seemed to work pretty well. I started to cramp going up the pavement on the last real climb, but focusing on drinking and eating the chews helped LOADS and I finished crampless :)

The absolute highlight of the race was hearing everyone in the feed zones and on Columbine cheer for me. Each feed zone was basically a 250 meter stretch of road lined with people and tents, the pipeline and powerline aid stations had 200-300 people in them, plus the 200ish at the base of columbine. And a LOT of those volunteers, crew, family members of racers and spectators were yelling my name, I felt absolutely famous all day! Mountain bike racing isn’t a mainstream sport in the US by any means, so to have SO many people out there cheering for you, knowing who you are, stoked you are winning, it’s special. It was flattering, and humbling in a way I can’t put into words, I’m so unbelievably grateful to everyone who has supported me through this journey, and to then also have so much support in the form of cheering and encouragement and stoke on the course, it gave Robert goosebumps 😊 haha. 

I savored every second of rolling into the finish with the moto escort, this is one of the few races where I get to feel so cool. Even though my jersey zipper broke resulting in  me looking like an absolute dufus crossing the line fully unzipped, I also savored rolling across the red carpet at the end. Brendan surprising me with an anniversary present was another highlight I never want to forget.

It's a strange feeling that almost a week has passed, that everything I worked for this summer is over, and the school year looms less than a week away. Currently trying to stave off post event depression with my favorite scone and coffee in the OC after the best massage from magical Steph early this am. A handful of races left in this calendar year and then some very different goals are on my horizon. As long as I focus on gratitude for where I am, I'm sure each year will continue to be the best year ever. Thanks for following along :)