Friday, July 27, 2018

More Stuff I LOVE Right Now

I kinda wanted to do this on Wednesdays, but this week has been oddly busy with travel and riding bikes and all the things, so here we are, on a Friday :)

If you read my last post you know that I am doing the unthinkable this weekend.... TAKING A WEEKEND OFF from racing bikes! WHAT!? I know! It's freaking crazy (and still a bit hard, I'm crying inside, haha). Instead I'll be chilling here in Leadville, getting some good training in, and hopefully taking care of my body.

AND sharing with you all some more of my favorite things right now!

Yesterday, on my 3.5 hour ride that basically went through lunch time I pulled a Peanut butter and Jelly Bonk Breaker bar from my pocket and it was the best mid ride snack/lunch ever!!!!!! I eat a LOT of PB&J on long rides, but these bars are way easier than making a sando pre-ride, less messy (I always use too much jelly and the whole thing is a sticky mess when I eat it from being in my pocket) and just as tasty/filling! These bars are made from read foods, GMO free, plus have a good balance of calories from fat/carbs to digest easily but also provide the fuel I need 2 hours into a ride to finish strong. I freaking love them! Plus I was cruising up one of Colorado's many old railroad grades when I pulled it out so I didn't even need to stop to eat (like I do with real sandwiches)!

The second thing I am LOVING right now is the compatibility of my Oakley ARO3 helmet and EVZero sunglasses. I'm a big fan of sunnies and helmets that interact well together, and these two go together SO SO well. I have a few different styles of sunnies but reach for the EVzero Stride with  prizm road lenses every time. The lens is big enough to provide complete protection for my eyes but the shape/weight makes it feel like I have nothing on my face. Plus the Prizm road lens is the perfect tint that I can be on the exposed road in full sun OR in a shady forest and I always feel like I can see/the sun is being blocked adequately. I don't like having to think too hard about what gear to take on any given ride, I just throw on a kit and run out the door 99% of the time, and these sunnies make that SO easy. The only downside is that they make the world quite a bit prettier than reality, so when I take pictures I'm often disappointed the world doesn't look like it did through the Prizm lenses. 

 On my bike these freaking wheels are rocking my world right now. I'm racing on DT Swiss XRC 1200s, carbon wheels that can take a freaking beating, they are strong enough to withstand my sometimes less than graceful riding. They are legit wide (25mm hookless) and legit light, but really the only thing I care about is that they are bomb proof. I've taken them all over at this point on both my hardtail and FS race bikes, in a bunch of different states, a bunch of different trail conditions and they have been rock solid! Can't speak highly enough of these wheels. And for so long I thought that carbon wheels were destined to break at some point, like it was 'normal' to have a rim break every now and then... so far, not the case with DT Swiss wheels :)

Riding wise the Colorado trail has been knocking my socks off. I rode segments 8 and 9 yesterday and was squealing with delight from epic scenery, flowy, rocky, fast, rippin' trail and the perfect climbs that weren't ever so steep that I was dying. Plus I rode from town and within 30 minutes I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere wilderness. I freaking LOVE that feeling, just mountains and trees and lakes to keep me company! If you find yourself in the Leadville/Vail area hit this portion of the CO trail, you wont be disappointed! I hear Searle Pass is also bonkers good, so I'm trying to find a time to squeeze that one into the remaining time I have left in CO this summer.
Scenes from Colorado Trail segment 8... jaw dropping good :)

And lastly, I am living on breakfast sandwiches this summer! Breaky is my favorite meal by far and my end all be all of breakfast foods is a fluffy biscuit with an egg and some cheese :) I think this is one of those good combo of fats, proteins and cabs meals that is also super tasty. Also also I haven't found many places that do a good egg sando in Orange County yet (at least close enough to my work) so I'm living it up here in CO where there are some stellar egg sandwiches :) Also in Hood River, I think the best biscuit sando of my life was from Pine St Bakery in Hood River, Oregon last weekend, but that's prob because the souffle-ed egg and thick cut bacon rocked my world! 

Pine St Bakery is my ideal of what mornings in heaven look like. 

So yeah, some more of the stuff that's rocking my world right now. I hope someone somewhere reads this and finds inspiration :) Off to do my Friday hour spin, wash bikes and then take a NAP!!!
Have a great weekend friends!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Set Aside the Ego or Go For Broke?

It's pretty obvious at this point that I have a very addictive personality. Pair that with a big ego, an absolute love of riding bikes all day every day, and the ability to sustain an absurd amount of suffering and you end up with my current dilemma... do I go for broke and do an 100 mile mtb race every weekend for 6 weeks in a row OR do I take a knee, be smart and bow out one weekend to prevent a possible absolute implosion of my body?

Kicked off the summer of suffering with the F50. 
The plan for this summer was never to do 6 100 milers in 6 weeks. Honestly, after Tatanka, the first 100 miler of the summer which took place 3 days after the Firecracker 50, I felt defeated and dreaded the number of ultra races on tap for the summer. But I pushed through Breck 100, still feeling tired, and flew to Bend anxious about recovery and stress of travel etc still unsure of the plan to race so much in such a short period of time. But now, 3 races in, this is starting to feel normal! And this is where my problem arises. Feeling good isn't motivation to take a knee and rest for a weekend. Feeling good makes me want to charge on, to do every 100 mile race possible, to challenge myself in this insane way to see what I am actually capable of!
Tatanka, before the dying started. 

The plan all along was to do a few 100 mile mountain bike races, take a weekend off and then race Leadville. It seemed legit back in May, when I was still in school, working and training and looking forward to a summer of travel, living in the van and racing. The original plan consisted of 3 ultra endurance races before Leadville, with a weekend off to reset before attempting to defend my Leadville title. Somehow that morphed into 4 100 milers before Leadville, and now there is a possibility of racing 5, which would make Leadville the 6th 100 mile mtb race in 6 weeks. At the beginning of the summer, after Tatanka and Breck, I was acutely aware of the time needed to recover from these efforts. I spent the entire week after Tatanka resting, sitting on the couch, squeezing my legs in the Elevated Legs, drinking gallons of water, letting my body rebuild. But the more races I do, the more I've lost track of how much of an impact ultra endurance races have on the body, and I need to ACTIVELY remember that it is NOT NORMAL to do so many of these races back to back to back. And this is where the addictive personality/ego are playing against me. Sitting on the porch on a Thursday morning, Telluride100 in 2 days, I am SO SO tempted to drive down there, race Telluride, and then knock out Pierre's Hole 100 in Wyoming the following weekend, leaving no weekends off before the big grand finale. How cool of an accomplishment would it be to win 6 100 milers in 6 weeks?
Breck, just long enough after that I was alive again :)

BUT, as hard as it is to miss a race, I am trying to make good decisions, to listen to logic and not the ego, SO I'm going to sit this one out. As much as I love racing my bike, as much as I love the scenery and the town of Telluride, I'm trying to remember that the cumulative fatigue and stress of the last 4 weeks may not FEEL that bad today, but it's there and it's a dangerous thing to ignore/push through.  It's insanely hard to pump the brakes and stay 'home' but I'm choosing to listen to everyone around me telling me rest is best.
High Cascades, somewhere near mile 60, loving life. 
The cool thing is that I have re-arranged a few things and now am going to go knock out Pierre's Hole on August 4th, a rad NUE race in a place I've never been. I was SUPPOSED to race Telluride this weekend and skip Pierre's Hole, but the whole point of this summer was to race in places I've never been, meet new people, tackle the NUE series for the first time and all that good stuff. I love Telluride, but I'm choosing to do something new, and coach wont let me do both. So sorry T, I'll miss that epic climb up Black Bear Pass. I'll miss the epic views and equally epic suffering on the last ascent, but trying to make good decisions :) Good luck everyone racing Telluride!!! Hope you look up and enjoy the scenery every time the pain seems unmanageable, it's the best distraction ever!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Smiling More (I know, I know, is it possible?!) AKA High Cascades Recap

You know what I love about ultra endurance racing?! No matter who you are, no matter how you place, everyone who FINISHES the race is a rock star bad ass who just accomplished something amazing! And I think this was the coolest thing about High Cascades100, the race really focused on celebrating everyone's accomplishment, even the people who crossed the finish line at 7pm during the awards ceremony 13.5 hours after the start. 

Stoked/cold at the start at 5:30am!
High Cascades is one of the few 100 mile races I've done where there is no other distance option, so I was pretty shocked to see a list of 65 women registered to compete in the event. Outside of Leadville most of these ultra races have small women's fields, so it was really really cool to see so many bad ass ladies signed up for 100.4 miles and 10,400 ft ascent in the Cascades. The course consisted of 65 miles of rad, flowy, twisty, often loose single track, a little pavement and some incredibly dusty fire road, all on a strange route of loops that twisted back on themselves making following the route a little confusing.                                                                                                                        I was pretty nervous about this race. It was the third stop in my 'race 100 miles every weekend' tour, and the only one I had to fly to since the drive was just a little too far. I was also nervous because the woman who has won the National Ultra Endurance series for the past few years was there, and I heard from a LOT of people that she is wicked fast!
My legs and body felt awesome when we turned off the pavement at the start of the first of two long climbs on the course though, and I just kinda went with a 'race your own race' mindset where I made an effort to pace myself, but allowed the good feelings in my legs to carry me through the first half of the day. I ended up having one of those magical mystery races, where my legs and heart felt light and powerful all day, a sensation I wish I knew the explanation for, so I could get those sensations every time I race! (although I'm sure this time coming down from 10,000ft to 3,000 may have had something to do with it) We climbed a thousand switchbacks and ripped down Twidlywinks trail, before trudging up the sandy freeway underpass climb, and then crusing up another long stretch of beautiful winding singletrack with glaciated volcano views and dense evergreen forests. At one point I started to understand why some people believe in Bigfoot because the trail was climbing through a dense forest of massive trees which was equally tranquil and un-nerving. The second half of the race was mostly down hill, including another rip down Twidlywinks. 

Aside from being quite confused about the course markings a few times, and waiting for the next person to confirm I was going the right way, plus a hard crash on a sandy fire road, the race was just a beautiful 8 hours of riding my favorite bike in a beautiful place. 

At the end I got a bit paranoid that Carla, the super fast chick, was going to sneak up on me and finish super strong, (I did my research which informed me that she is really good at pushing the pace at the end of races, like Chase) but I continued to push myself and crossed the line in first still feeling pretty dang great! 
And double bonus, equal pay all the way down the podium :)
And the smiling thing. Well flying out to this race with some anxiety about racing so much every weekend with travel and only 6 days to recover from Breck I kinda had a reset moment. The anxiety, manifesting itself as a stabbing pain in my left shoulder blade was really starting to concern me. And sitting on the shuttle from the parking lot to the airport I realized 'I'm going somewhere new again, a giant hunk of steel is going to carry me to this cool new place, and I get to see good friends, race bikes all day and eat amazing food' WHAT is there to be anxious about?! So I just started smiling as I was walking through the airport, standing in security, and boarding the plane. And when I woke up Saturday morning my shoulder didn't hurt and my back felt great for the entire race! It's amazing what a little mindset shift can do, how the stories we tell ourselves and the things we think about can impact us in both good and negative ways. How just choosing to smile shifted my experience from stress to joy. And the best part is that looking UP, not at my phone, and smiling through the travel meant I actually SAW so many people, going places, which made the experience of traveling WAY more beautiful.

I am so unbelievably lucky to be living this great adventure this summer, to be away from home for 6 weeks of racing and riding and eating my way across the western half of the country. Thanks ShoAir Cycling Group for making this summer possible. I raced my heart out on Saturday, and can't stop smiling about the opportunities my bicycle has brought my way!

I also need to give a HUGE shout out to Sagebrush Cycles in Bend, OR for letting me come use a little shop space to work on my bike/helping me get those stubborn new brake pads in. You guys were RIDICULOUSLY helpful and nice, thank you so so much!!!!

You know we ate Salt and Straw Ice Cream on Sunday too... more on the Portland adventure soon!

A more traditional style recap of the race (more play by play action)...
By the time our rowdy group of crazies turned right onto forest rd 4130 to begin the first serious climb of the day my nerves had finally subsided enough that I could breathe. The massive cloud of dust engulfing us was a hilarious distraction from the fear sitting heavy in my mind that the 2017 NUE overall winner was in the MASSIVE women's field, that I didn't know if I had what it takes to beat her. Pretty quickly the survival mode that usually settles in much later in these long races kicked in, shifting my mindset from 'what's the strategy to win?' to 'race your own race and survive this ridiculous dust trail'. I found a nice rhythm, focused on staying with the duders in front of me, and soon enough we were at the mile 38 aid station where my husband (who I hadn't seen for a month) was waiting with a bottle and a smile. Seeing him was a huge boost in the joy factor, and I  powered on up the second long climb knowing I would get to see hubs again at mile 82. Somewhere on the climb to the high point of the course I ended up alone, very very alone. I started understanding why people believe in Bigfoot as the trail wound it's way through the massive trees, in a forest straight out of a fairy tale. After that climb I spent a LOT of time not sure if I was going the right way, so I waited a few times for the next dude to catch me and confirm I was on the course. A pretty severe side cramp prevented me from eating from mile 38- 85, less than ideal, but the pain made it impossible to reach in my pocket for food. I also crashed hard on the sandy fire road descent, which was funnier than it was painful. Why do I only crash on fire road?! During a quick stop at the hubby aid station, in which I inhaled a PB&J and an $8 whole foods energy bar (my husband doesn't look at prices... it's terrible) I was informed that Carla was only 20 minutes back the first time through. Knowing she finishes strong sent me into a panic, and I took off, hoping to stay in the lead just a little longer! A few dudes passed me in the next 15 miles, all of which I was CONVINCED were chicks when I saw them from a distance coming up on me, but was SO relieved to find to be men when they got close enough to pass. I rode my little brains out on Tiddlywinks, which was SO FREAKING fun even when I was tired, and then cruised into the finish with two random dudes somehow still in first! This was one of those freak races where I still felt alive at the end, no laying on the ground this time! In comparison to some of the recent 100 milers I have done this one was WAY less painful. Although my Garmin still registered 10,400ft ascent it never felt like we were climbing (too much) and the weather was so freaking perfect. One of the things I tell myself when I get anxious about racing is that 'I GET to ride my bike for 8+ hours today!' and this race really felt like GETTING to ride fun trails with cool people in an awesome new place! Thanks Mudslinger Events for putting on such a rad race!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Equal Payouts and the Evolving Bike Industry

I am so stoked to be a mountain biker. For lots of reasons, the trails, the people, the bikes... but also because I have NEVER done a MTB race where the payout wasn't equal. I realize this is strange considering I've been racing for 5ish years and Cyclocross and Road racing still have MANY races (including world cups) with pay disparities, but how freaking cool is that!?

This record of never entering a race with unequal pay isn't really my doing either, it just happened that every race I have wanted to do already HAD equal pay...  until recently, when I registered for a race which had a deeper purse for the men than the women. To be fair it was really close, the website stated that the top three men and women would recieve equal pay, but the men's pay went 5 deep where the womens only 4 deep. And even though this doesn't seem like TOO big a deal, it didn't sit right with me.

A month or so ago I woman I race with often, Chase, mentioned to me that I should use my platform as an athlete with a large audience to help advocate for equal pay in some of the ultra endurance races that don't already have it. I've been thinking about that conversation ever since, so it was a no brainer when I read the race website for said NUE I was signed up for that I should email the promoter. Long story short, he changed the pay schedule so top 5 male and female racers get the same payout, which feels like a little victory for everyone, and made me very pleased. BUT the conversation we had through email, and the responses I got on Twitter when I posted about the issue have me thinking, so I wanted to share a few of those thoughts here.
From Bentonville where TONS of women ride mountain bikes!
My main issue stems from a conversation I had with a few different industry insiders back when I was racing for the Marin factory XC team 4ish years ago. I was told by multiple guys that marketing to women wasn't worth their time because women just buy men's bikes, or they get hand-me downs from their husbands/boyfriends. I remember being VERY upset by one of these conversations at Sea Otter, it made me feel sick to my stomach that my gender 'wasn't worth' being marketed to. I know it's business and bottom lines and nothing personal... This was only 4 years ago. Fast forward to present day and things have changed a lot.
Most companies now acknowledge that marketing to women is VERY worthwhile, and that we are the largest growing sector of the market (my argument 4 years ago when I was told that we didn't matter). But think about it, if you have the viewpoint that women aren't worth marketing to, obviously women are going to be slow to join the sport, which means at races there are going to be less women registered than men. DUH! So when the race promoter tells me that 'men support the race more than women' I kinda feel miffed. MORE WOMEN WOULD SUPPORT THE RACE IF YOU GUYS DIDN'T TREAT US LIKE WE DIDN'T MATTER a short time ago!!!

From Carson City Off Road, an Epic Rides race with a HUGE equal payout!
And on top of that, in my van there is a bike magazine from 2014 with a Specialized ad with a skanky nurse pumping up a bike tire, boobs hanging out, skirt so short you can see butt cheeks. OK, how do you expect us to support your race in droves if such a short time ago the message you were sending us was that we are not athletes, but sex objects?

Thing are changing, and pretty quickly, so I'm not terribly worried about this issue. But I just have these kinda pissed off feelings when people say the race should pay the men deeper because there are more of them. Yeah, way to be short sited and NOT forward thinking. Thanks for treating my gender like we aren't important up until a few years ago, and now saying it's still our fault that field sizes are small... that's really helpful.
Women's fields are growing, but not giving equal pay is NOT going to encourage this growth.
Usually I try to focus on the positive, and there is so much positive, like all the US Cup races I ever did having equal pay, and the Epic Rides races (where there are over 100 men and around 40 women) having HUGE equal pay... just had to get the frusties out I guess. Thanks for listening :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A few of my favorite things

 This blog is funny. Funny because although I intend to do so many things, even now in the summer when I have 'all the time in the world' (yeah right!) I somehow always feel like I'm failing to write all the things I want to write about. 

So here is a post that has been on my mind for a long long time. 

You all know I ride a lot. And all that riding means I've spent a LOT of time using all kinds of equipment both good and bad. When I'm out on my bike I think about some of the things I use more than others, so I wanted to put together a short post about my current favorite things. Hopefully this will become a recurring Wednesday topic because I freaking LOVE sharing things that work for me with others, especially if that means they get to experience these foods, clothings, gear as well!

The number one bike part that has been on my mind lately is my saddle. I'm knee deep in a summer of ultra mountain bike races, and the thing I can't get over is how I still feel so so good every time I sit on my saddle. Not sore, not raw, not uncomfortable despite 2 100 mile races in two weeks and a few 50 milers leading up to that. I'm on the Fizik Luce, 'regular' width and since I first built up each of my bikes with this saddle it's felt like the most comfortable shelf of support! I've been through some bike seat nightmares in the past, on saddles that made me cry (literally) after races, so this whole 'I still love this saddle even after all this riding' thing is kinda blowing my mind!

Contact points are critical for cycling, and besides my tush, I think my hands are the number 2 most important body part. This means good gloves are indispensable. I've been using TASCO gloves (they are all the same) for 2 years now, and I NEVER have hand pain with them like I did with all the other gloves I've ever worn. Pretty rad to be able to be on my bike for 10 hours and not once think about my hands because they never hurt! 

A new to me snack combo has been blowing my mind lately. First of all, TRAIL TRUFFLES! The name pretty much says it all. These little chocolate flavored balls are made out of dates and stuffed with peanut butter, coconut, hazelnut butter... and they are SO freaking tasty! I'm a huge fan of eating 'real' food on my bike so these are a great snack, packed with carbs, fat, potassium, and flavor. Plus it's like eating candy on the bike! I usually make them my reward for getting to mile X in a race, and looking forward to such a yummy snack is a great mental boost for me. (Full disclosure I eat these off the bike ALL THE TIME too. Hungry? one of these little truffles is a great snack to tie me over until whatever meal is next!)
 I've also started eating Bonk Breaker caffeinated chews and they are another 'made from real food' treat I LOVE during races. I think chews absorb faster than solid food like bars, and when you are sick of gels these things are perfect! Also like candy, lets be honest, so yeah.

If you follow me on social media you know I'm crazy into waxing chains right now, I've been using Wend Spectrum wax to make my chain super quite, clean, smooth, efficient AND COLORFUL!!!! I'm kinda still shocked I didn't know about this waxed chain thing before BWR, but it has changed my life, no joke, because chain care is SO MUCH EASIER now. I highly recommend it! Also it just looks so cool to have a pink chain and pink ESI grips :)

And last thing I'm crazy about right now for today, having a dropper post on my hardtail. I've been rocking a dropper on my HT for a while now, but it's starting to pick up momentum as a thing people are doing, and for good reason. I'm using a KS LEV Ci with 100m drop and it makes the hardtail SO FREAKING versatile! With the seat down just a little you can move the bike around A LOT more underneath you, which makes cornering, descending and shredding lots funner! I mean, it's kinda a bad thing because I never know which bike to race now, both the Edict and the Doctrine (HT) with the dropper are super capable, but I guess in the long run having options is never a bad thing :)

 So there you have it, a few of the things I really freaking love right now. What are you using and falling in love with? Anyone have any new snacks, gear or clothing that is making every ride SO freaking good?

I'm off to Oregon to race the High Cascades 100 tomorrow... the summer of extreme racing continues. it's a good thing I have a saddle that is so comfy! :)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Breck 100 2018

Somewhere on the last climb of the Breckenridge 100, climbing my way back up to 11,500 ft on Boreas pass road, I looked back and saw a rider behind me. Certain it was Chase charging hard the way she finishes every race I panicked. Did I just work so hard for so long just to get beat in the last 5 miles of this 92 mile race?!

From earlier in the month, pre-riding lap 2 of the course. 
When the volunteers informed me that she had only been 19 minutes back when we first crested the continental divide, a quarter of the way through the last of 3 unique laps of the race I was beyond certain it was Chase closing in, and took off down the 'final descent' without grabbing any food or extra hydration. My feet were screaming, hands cramping, and head pretty hurty already from 12,000ft ascent all at or above an elevation of 9,000ft above sea level.

Crossing the finish line 9 miles later in first was a pretty epic feeling of relief. These races are hard, but they are even harder when you know your competition is faster in the second half of every race, which means I am constantly being challenged to push myself right when everything screams 'give up!' the loudest. How cool/brutal is that?!

Breck 100 is one of my favorite races, with stupid pretty views, an epic amount of high elevation climbing, and a pretty good percentage of single track, it's hard enough to break you down, but fun/pretty enough to keep you going. This year we were treated to beautiful clear skies, perfect temperatures and endless fields of wildflowers that I wish I had taken pictures of (the hardest part of racing for me right now is not getting to stop and smell the flowers).
Not from the race, but this was the view of the Nine Mile Range as we wrapped up the second lap. The drama of the clouds exaggerating the majestic beauty of the mountains is breathtaking to me.
I took the lead early on during the initial climb up to Wheeler Pass, the biggest climb of the day topping out at 12,500ft and although the remaining 80 miles of the race were sometimes unbearably painful, managed to hold onto the lead until the end. The focus of the day was to drink, eat and pace myself, and I think I did a good job in at least the eating category :) In total I consumed 4 gels, two Bonk Breaker bars, two packs of Bonk Breaker gummies, and a quarter PB&J sandwich from an aid station. Although tummy troubles on the first lap made me feel pretty nauseated on the initial climb, and a broken Camelbak nozzle made drinking hard, the force feeding and drinking is getting easier for me... finally!

Much like Tatanka two weeks ago, this race got pretty mentally tough about halfway through, but this time I focused on telling myself lies about feeling ok, and because of the elevation I let myself stop a few times to catch my breath and get a little mental reset going. Considering I've only been at altitude for a week, I choose to be kind to my body and mind, and accepted that it was hard, but didn't let that discourage me. Overall it was a pretty beautiful day of suffering and remembering how to race at altitude.

And then Thane Gave me the raddest coffee cup!!!
After crossing the finish line I ate about half a watermelon, and then laid down in the grass at someone else's tent for a good hour, feeling the feels, before devouring a HUGE plate of amazing home made food. This race is pretty rad because not only do you get to race so much awesome Breck single track, but the volunteers all make the post ride meal from scratch, and it's pretty much the best post race meal you will eat. I think I told most everyone I know that they should come do this race, but seriously, next year, you HAVE to come check it out. With three different distance options, rad sweatshirts, equal payout, amazing support on course, and the friendliest people in the world putting it on, it's just an awesome day all around. Plus with so much climbing and at such high elevation, this is the best race to prep for Leadville!!!

This recap is short and sweet because I am not a good enough wordsmith to accurately describe the beauty/raddness of the course. I just keep seeing the narrow strip of rocky dirt etched into the side of the nine mile range that lead us up and over Wheeler Pass. Fluffy grass crowded with wildflowers of every color flanking either side of the trail, and in front of me a few of the men dotting the climb, indicating the suffering I still have to endure to reach the top. And that's the image which will pass through my mind as I fall asleep every night, along with the regret that I have no pictures to prove the out of this world beauty was real. Maybe I was hallucinating, after all, much of what I've seen this summer has seemed to good to be true...

And of course my favorite part of the weekend was breakfast, coffee and recovery rides with these two fools. Yep, I'm a pretty happy kid right now :)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Random Thoughts for a Thursday

I've been in Leadville for the past week working my booty off at recovering from the madness of last week. While I'm normally the one with endless amounts of energy, this week has definitely been slower paced, with a few naps, shorter than normal rides and lots of squeezing my legs in the Elevated Legs (aka personal masseuse :) I'm giving recovery everything I've got, and feeling good about heading to Breck 100 this Saturday. 

After chatting with Sonya Looney (eeek!) earlier this week I've had some thoughts floating around in my mind, thoughts I want to record, share, maybe even get outside opinions on.

Shredding rad trail in moderation this week :)
On Ultra Endurance Racing- I think the biggest takeaway from Tatanka last weekend for me was that, although we don't have world cup level competition at these events, it is still a big deal to win one of these races, which means I should stop selling myself short.                                        One of the things Sonya said to me that really stuck was that if I am thinking 'well there wasn't any competition there' about when other athletes boast of winning events then I'm probably doing that to myself as well. It's all relative, all of it at any event. So what that there was no one else there, did they/I push themselves to be their personal best? Then good freaking job! You rock! Don't poo po on that success, celebrate the crap out of it!                            As part of my personal growth as a human and athlete I'm learning (I would like to say learned, but I think I will always be working on doing better at this) that other women's success doesn't take away from mine, so celebrating them is WAY more productive than thinking 'oh, there wasn't anyone else there' or 'the field was so small, that win isn't really impressive'. Yes, I have had these thoughts in the past. I am not proud about it, and I realize how shitty this sounds, but I'm being real here, so don't judge too hard. 
Lots of lazy mornings :)
At Rebecca Rusch's Gold Rusch Tour at Sea Otter a few years ago one of the panelists said something to the effect of 'you'll loose more races than you will win in your career, so learn how to be happy even when you don't win' and I think celebrating the success of others is one of the best ways to focus on something positive rather than getting super bummed and beating yourself up after a less than stellar performance. I am still not always good at this, obviously, but this is what I want to be better at.

And in the lens of ultra races, yeah the field was small at Tatanka, but part of that is because not many people are capable of doing such a grueling race! I barely finished, I pushed myself past what I thought was possible physically and mentally, I should be proud of the win and not poo po-ing it because the field was so small!
So yeah, some honesty, personal growth/goals, and thoughts that have been on my mind as I recover like a banshee. 

And now it's time to eat, squeeze the legs and go back to sleep :) 

And between the resting I'm in THIS adorable town!!!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Why did I think that was a good idea?! Haha

It's incredible what a difference a day makes. Incredible how the mind can forgive and forget the pure torture I put my body through Saturday, the agony and misery... it's like a distant memory already.

But before the memory fades, I want to jot down some thoughts about the Tatanka NUE, the race that brought me to tears, more than once, possibly the most painful experience of my life.
The start, where I let the boys go. Photo: randy Erickson

I don't even know where to begin this story because the amount of suffering was so great, it started from the start line and continued for 9 hours. It consumed every corner of my body. This was one of few races I've ever done where I just stopped on the trail, multiple times, wondering how long I could just stand there before 2nd place caught me, where I decided less than halfway in that just finishing was going to be enough to make me proud of my effort.

The Tatanka NUE is a 90 mile ultra endurance race on the National Ultra Endurance Series calendar which takes place in the Black Hills National Forest in south western South Dakota. Tatanka is Lakota for 'big beast' or buffalo depending on who you ask. I'm going to stick with the beast option because this race was a beast and a half! The course took us up and over and through the Black Hills on beautiful fire roads and incredible singletrack. There were portions of trail that reminded me of racing in Brazil, incredibly verdant, with creek crossings and a smattering of sharp rocks always under our tires. Other portions of the course had us snaking through lush grassy hillsides, the green so bright it was almost blinding. I didn't come to SD with any expectations, but I left in awe of the beauty of yet another incredible state my bike has taken me to.
South Dakota is incredibly pretty, so green and lush and verdant! Photo: Randy Erickson
I knew from the gun that this race was going to be about pacing, eating, drinking and perseverance. The forecast called for 100 degree temps, the course had 15,000ft ascent in three unique laps (although it seems they cut a bit out to help aviod killing us), and my body wasn't recovered from thinking I could race the Firecracker50 in Breck at XC pace three days earlier (at 9,000ft elevation!).

When the neutral roll out was over and we turned left onto the first dirt climb I let the men ride away, a strange feeling, but to be honest I don't think I could have kept up even for the first 10 miles if I had wanted to. My body felt dead. I drank and climbed and drank. The miles ticked by slowly.

The first of the three loops was a 50 mile beast of a start, with 8,000ft of climbing. I was pretty numb for most of it, alone and scared about the pain I would experience later in the day. 25 miles in we hit the highest point of the loop, and the main aid station. I stopped to refill my bottles (something I NEVER do during races, but I didn't have Brendan with me to hand off bottles) and to gratefully accept an ice towel around my neck. Then I was flying down a crazy steep, rad trail with a ton of jumps that almost took me out over and over. My feet started hurting before the first loop was over, and the deep feeling of despair that I may not have what it takes to finish set in when we were grinding up a sandy hill in a strange/beautiful ravine full of HUGE cows that were making the sounds my muscles would make if they could make sound (think cows giving birth haha).

Photo: Randy Erickson
Rolling out on the second loop was a no-brainer, although my body hurt already, and temps were soaring, it didn't make sense to quit only 50 miles in. The second loop began with an epic road climb, of which I was blissfully unaware when the pavement pitched gently up. It was gradual enough at first to not seem like such a big deal, until 20 minutes later, in full exposure to the sun I was starting to loose hope. Thoughts of heat stroke were in the front of my mind, I wanted to vomit but had nothing in my gut to follow through the desire, and eventually I resorted to tacking all the way across the road. A spring in the hillside gushing with icy cold water came to the rescue just before the end of the climb, and after sitting in the water for a minute I convinced myself that calling 911 wasn't necessary after all.

Sometime later I was descending alone, convinced I was supposed to be climbing still, and stopped in a panic that I was loosing elevation unnecessarily/that I missed a turn. After playing a solo game of Marco-Polo for 5 minutes, and struggling to find a map of the course on my phone I realized that I was in fact going the right way and un-enthusiastically continued descending, knowing every foot I dropped was another foot I would have to climb. Fortunately, after an unreasonably long stretch of JUST dug trail (no joke, it was like they cut down the plants for the trail on Friday) I found myself with two other Epic lunatics and hearing their despair made me feel a little less alone. Somehow it helped me to spend the energy to encourage them, and soon-ish we were at the aid station with the ice towels again. This time I straight up SAT down on the cooler, and shoveled watermelon and pickles in my mouth, committed to not leaving until I felt human again.

The rest of loop B was a blur of pain and cramps. I would drink and drink and drink, the cramps would subside and then creep back in. Near the end of the lap I noticed my front tire had lost a TON of air and stopped to hit it with a C02. The course was littered with sharp rocks, so it wasn't really a surprise that after bombing all the descents like a bat out of hell I would have a puncture. Fortunately the Orange Seal in my tire held for the remaining 20 miles of the race, giving me no mechanical excuses to drop out.
Not sure what point in the race this was, and also not sure HOW I was smiling... Photo: Randy Erickson
Rolling through the start finish at the end of B loop/start of C was hard. I was praying hard for the second half of B that the organizers would make the call to not force us to complete the final 13 mile loop, or that all the other women would have dropped out, making it un-necessary to complete the last lap to win. Sadly no one said anything about cutting the course short, and somehow (I am honestly still shocked at why) I managed to get back on my bike after more pickles and bottle re-fills to knock out the last 13 miles.

Lap C was ugly, and beautiful. My body hurt every inch of every mile. From my big toes to my lower back, to my head, everything screamed in pain, and at 1 pm the heat wasn't letting up. I crawled up every climb and put as little effort into every descent as possible. On the second climb I silently thanked a random dude doing one of the shorter races for blocking the trail, causing me to have to dismount and walk. The cramps in my hamstrings were barley manageable. Ad we climbed I committed to stopping at certain mile markers, and somehow pushed through most of my mentally planned stops. 7 miles from the end another Epic lunatic dude caught me and informed me there was only one small climb left, causing a wave a relief to pass over me (although he was wrong...). I let him ride away from me and thought only about steady forward progress, counting down every tenth of a mile to the finish.

Insane amounts of relief right here. 
When I hit the actual last climb though the wheels came off the bus. I could see rando dude way up above me through the trees, indicating that I had a lot of climbing left, and the despair suddenly was too much to bear. I stopped behind a woman doing a shorter race and just started sobbing 'I can't do it' Having raced a few ultra endurance races at this point, I know the power of positive self talk, that the mind is stronger than any muscle in the body and that often the lies we tell ourselves can help up achieve unthinkable things, but this was absolute next level suffering. I sobbed in gasping breaths that I couldn't do it, over and over. I sobbed as I pushed my bike around switchbacks, the last three miles seeming like a marathon of their own. When the trail FINALLY pointed down again I begrudgingly got back on my bike and coasted the final mile of trail. And then when we turned onto pavement I pedaled as little as possible to make it to the finish.

It took more than an hour for me to be able to walk again without feeling like I would pass out. I alternated between laying on the ground and sitting while the nicest humans on the face of the earth brought me (hot) pickle juice shots and ice towels. Although it was such a relief to be done, and a shock that I had stuck it out, the pain in my body held on long enough that I feared I wouldn't ever leave my spot laying on the ground.
Maybe 3 hours later, after a meal and a shower and lots of time contemplating WHY I did that to myself....
And since this is already the longest recap of any race I'm going to stop here for now. I have more thoughts and feelings about Tatanka, I think I may have learned some things that are worth sharing, but right now I'm going to be smart and prioritize recovery. It's time to squeeze my legs (again, thank you Elevated legs, I've been addicted to squeezing my legs this weekend) and take a nap.

Spoils of my efforts, a crazy cool necklace, a rad trophy and Dairy Queen :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

MOAB!!!!!!! in June! In pictures

As you probably know from my social media, last week I spent a few days in Moab working on a little filming project. Although I know just about everyone on the planet was wondering WHAT HE HECK ARE YOU DOING RIDING IN MOAB IN JUNE!?! I'm not going to lie, it was fun as heck! And even though temps hovered around 100F when I was there, the arid desert and gentle breezes made it not seem so terrible! Throw in a freaking rad filming crew and some shreddy partners in crime, plus a huge helping of Trail Truffles and I'd say it was one of those unexpected experiences of a lifetime! 
Below: A recap of some things I learned this past week, and a bunch of pics from one of the most stunning places I've had the pleasure to ride. 
Thing I learned #1 
Well I kinda already knew this, but my biggest takeaway from the week was that I want to work on being a better listener. I get super amped and excited and stoked, but sometimes, slowing down and listening, pausing after someone talks to really hear what they say, that's what I want to be better at in life! I learned this mostly from the sound guy Chris, who was telling me how his autistic brother taught him this lesson. The crew was made up of a bunch of random duders and everyone, from the director to the BLM consultant all had cool stories and insights. I learned so much from being around a different crowd (other than just bike racers).  

When I showed up for my 6am call time on Thursday the first thing that I noticed was this gorgeous red Felt compulsion. The still photographer John has been riding this beauty of a bike that Brendan designed and I just felt giddy with excitement when I saw it in the wild :)

The male 'talent' Casey was a rad dude who used to do the types of races I do now, and also started his own energy food company Trail Truffles. These things pretty much blew my mind because they are freaking delicious, and just like eating candy on the trail except they are sweetened with Dates making them full of nutrients like potassium to stave off cramps! The truffles are little cocoa flavored date balls stuffed with coconut or peanut butter or some other amazing snack. Serious game changer when it comes to on the bike nutrition! 

Thing I learned #2
The heat isn't that bad if you manage your effort, and stay hydrated. I was anxious about shooting outdoors all day in Moab during the hottest time of year, but I pounded water, Gatorade and electrolyte tabs, and even though it was a sweaty week, I was never really miserable. Before I would have said DON'T go to Moab in June, now I feel like I would prob do it again!

Stoked on the heat acclimation training :)
 Thing I learned #3
Lots of lingo. I learned that 'make shapes' is photographer speak for, look like you are trying hard, really point those elbows, lean that bike! 'Sending a chin fax' is code for turning on and off my microphone, 'outro' is the opposite of an intro, 'slate' is when they clap that little film whiteboard thing to start a segment, ... ok, not THAT much lingo, but it was fun hearing all the film guys talk in their technical jargon and feeling like an outsider :)
Making shapes on some slick rock :)
 On Thursday, my first day of filming I felt like a total newbie, incompetent fool, but by the end of the day Friday I felt like a gosh darn pro! It was one of those experiences like laying tile, where I was frustrated that I wasted a whole day Thursday floundering and was kicking myself that I couldn't go back in time an start fresh knowing what I knew at the end of the week.

Thing I learned #4
6am call times may seem terrible but they are the best thing ever! the air was pleasant, almost cool in the am, and the light was glorious. After shooting stills, while Casey was filming I would go pre-ride my next section of trail and bask in the incredible early morning light in the desert. I highly recommend riding in the early morning in Moab, its pretty special.

My Edict in the am golden hour light, in front of one of MANY crazy deep canyons I rode along the rim of. 

On Friday after I was done filming I decided to ride back to the house via Goldbar rim trail. It was freaking hard, hot and WAY longer than I expected. Along the way I saw Gemini Bridges arch, some awesome rock formations, ran out of water, rode a trail down to the Colorado river that was WAY too technical for my fatigue level, and got SUPER salty.

Goldbar Rim takes you along the top of the crazy high wall of rock you see to the right if you drive into Moab from the North. 

So salty and tired that I literally just collapsed on the ground when I got back to the house. 
 And on Saturday, after one more 6am morning, followed by filming some REALLY rad footy on Slickrock trail, the team all went to brunch and got all nostalgic and sad that it was over... It was really quite sappy and nice :)
Last beautiful early morning light of the trip!
Photo of a photag 

Casey, purveyor of the finest ride snacks in the land!

Photag John and BLM consultant Mick, chillin in the heat on the slickrock

Best bike ever, that made every desert trail a blast!

Casey, Avatar Dave and me, getting sappy at the end of a long week of pushing eachother. 

Ending the week with one of the best breakfast burritos I've ever had at the Love Muffin Cafe.

The crew from the mtn shoot. Every human here was incredible! Thanks for the laughs and good times boys!