Most people do crazy stuff when they turn 40 - the classic midlife crisis type affair. There's buying a snazzy new car (does a 4WD Merce...

Mar 27, 2012

My Fate

I've been riding Specialized bikes for years. My first race bike was the 2008 women's Era, a full suspension bike designed small enough for me. It was (and still is) an awesome, reliable ride that took the bumps, climbed really well and handled like a charm. I briefly tried another brand, but went back to the Era. I just couldn't find another bike that fit as well. It got pretty fun at the races when I showed up on my "antique" and everyone else was on brand new steeds. So last year, when I upgraded to the carbon Era, I was thrilled. Even better climbing, outstanding handling on any terrain I was willing to ride. Lighter then the older Era by a few pounds and with better suspension as well. But now, everyone was jumping on the 29er wagon and asking if I was also planning on switching. And last year, the answer was no - I really loved my Era and none of the 29ers out there seemed to go small enough without needing to do some really crazy adjustments.

And then I read about the Fate - the new Womens 29er hard tail from Specialized. And my want meter went into overdrive. It took six months from when we ordered my tiny little Fate, but I finally got it. And after two solid weeks on that bike, I love it. I will write up a full review later, but it's been so much fun. Getting used to the hardtail and the tractor trailer affect on corners has been a bit if a challenge, but much less then I was afraid of. I was really worried there would be a huge difference in handling between the Era and the Fate, but so far no. The Fate rolls a little faster and takes a little more muscle to maneuver, and has a wider turning radius. And when I get back on the Era after a week on the Fate, it's a matter of minutes before the twitchiness goes away and I am cruising along. And that's what we were hoping with getting me in a 29er - being able to seemlessly switch between bikes depending on the ride and terrain. Mission accomplished - a fast and fun 29er that didn't need many changed to fit me perfectly.

Mar 24, 2012

Red Light Blues

I knew the group road ride today was gonna be rough. I was feeling pretty beat up when I started my easy warm up over to Starbucks and as the fast crowd and the really fast crowd started filling the street corner, I wasn't looking forward to what was coming. I'd already revised my target goal from the left on to Link to the light in the middle of Mark Sheffel. And on the roll out down Boulder (before we'd merged with Platte) I was joking that I might not even make to Mark Sheffel. The roll out was that fast - nearing 20mph and the group was stretched along the road even at that point. I should have known better - I've done enough group rides now that I try to stay near the front on the roll out. But the group was so much bigger and moving so fast, I didn't really think about it. Then, cruising down Platte, the light near the mall turned yellow. The riders in the front (about half a block in front of the back of the pack - with that half block a solid stream of bikes two-three across) went through the light and kept pedalling. Most of the pack went through the light as it switched from yellow to red. It was solid red when the tail reached it and cars were already starting to honk. So we stopped. It was about eight of us on the wrong end of the light and we watched the peloton continue down Platte, waiting for the light to change.

The main pack was already under Academy Blvd when we finally started riding again. I knew it was going to be hopeless unless they got every light between there and Pete Field red. Two triathletes dropped into aero and motored off. I'm not sure what happened to the other four riders at the light - they may have just bailed. Jayson waited for me until after Academy, then I told him just to ride if he thought he could catch the group. I would try to stay on his wheel, but not to hold up if I popped. And I did. It was a solo effort from Powers Blvd, down Mark Sheffel, down and over the Link road hill, and down Old Pueblo Rd. I was there to work (or as Coach Durner said - "my plan is to make someone suffer on this ride - I don't care if it's just me!") so I rode as hard as I could. I almost made it to the rail road tracks before the herd came charging back, so wasn't too upset. The rail road tracks had been my goal. Then I got a good look at who was leading the pack today - a who's who of the local pros, both on and off the road. The really fast boys all showed up today! And it was pretty clear through Fort Carson that riding fast was the plan. We were cruising along at 25-26 mph on that stretch. But this time I made it all the way through and to the left hand turn with the pack. Then I was done - time to ride home on my own, easy. Would I have made it further today if I'd been more aware and riding nearer the front at that start? Who knows. But a good reminder of road tactics - especially when the groups start getting huge like that!

Mar 20, 2012

Gift of sight

One year ago, on March 11, I was under the knife (and the laser and the cryo wand) to save the vision in my left eye. I was lucky - the tear and detachment in my left retina was small and I had caught it quickly. But that didn't make the experience any less scary. From having a black spot, a hole in my vision, to being having surgery and a gas bubble in my eye, it was a stressful few weeks. A week sitting on the couch, not being able to do anything. Hoping that when the gas bubble went away, my vision would be normal again. There was a chance the the I would not get vision back where the tear had been. Then gradually starting some activites again - walking and riding inside, no swimming. I was driving, but I couldn't even get my own bike on and off the car because of the lifting restrictions!

And now, a year later I can truly say it was a gift of sight, the surgery that repaired my retina. After all, it used to be that something like that happened and you went blind - there was nothing that could be done. Then doctors figured out how to repair a retinal tear, but I would have been immobilized for weeks as the eye healed. In bed, with sand bags next to my head to keep me from moving. And now? A week on the couch, three weeks really easy as the gas bubble disolved. Sure, there were position limitations for how I could sleep and I couldn't read or do anything that required focused vision. But the amazing thing is how "simple" it is to fix now today. A year later, and I'm riding, running and swimming like nothing happened. And hoping no one I know has to go through that! The prospect of losing your sight is scary - and getting it back is a blessing.

Mar 12, 2012

The Philosophy of Kittens

We can learn a lot from animals regarding balance in life. Their philosophy is to play hard, play crazy and have fun, then nap hard and recover for the next bout of insanity. If there's a comfortable lap open for the nap, even better! It's been fun watching those two tearing around the house like crazy nuts. They're playing with a mouse or a grocery bag, or a little stuffed animal. anything is a cat toy and if it makes noise, even better! Sasha has favorite toy that she carries around, drops and tosses in the air for a few minutes, then moves on to the next spot in the house. And George is just a little gremlin, getting into everything. They get their exercise and have their fun. Then it's nap time. And these kittens sleep hard - George's eyes roll back into her head and she'll topple off your legs if she's not careful! Little furballs, snoozing soundly, saving energy for the next round of fun.

Sleeping hard - recovering for the next round!
And that's exactly how we should treat our play and exercise. Get after it, get muddy and have fun. Make every moment on the trails, in the pool or on the road count. Live in the moment and enjoy the fun - that's what it's all about. Even doing serious workouts can and should be treated like play, just like my kittens. Then, after getting home - recover like the kittens! Get what needs to be done done - clean the bike, eat something healthy, wash clothes, etc - but don't go out and look for something to do just to be busy. If it's time to recover, it's time to just chill out as much as life allows. After all, without recovering, it's gonna be hard to get crazy and play the next time!

Mar 10, 2012

Digging deep....

After a lovely trip to Arizona for the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, it's back to the grind. And that means attempting to stay with the group road ride - aka Saturday Morning Worlds! The roll out along Platte was brisk and it was a really big group. I was a little skittish at first since I haven't been in a group for a while and it was a big group. There was also a pretty stiff wind from the south that I was not looking forward to. Sure enough, at the right hand turn, things got nuts. I knew that I wouldn't be able to take a turn on the front, so I hid in the back. Even hiding in the back was pretty hard work today - there were some fast guys on the front today. It was also kinda a weird day in the pack. Lots of surges and accelerations - on the gas to prevent the gaps from happening, then breaking to avoid the wheels of the people in front of me. I made it to the left turn onto Link and then was spat out the back. And with the wind, it was hitting a brick wall. I tried to hop on the wheels of some of the trailing riders, but I was done. I managed to stay with a small group until the hill, then it was a solo time trial into the wind until the turn around.

I did manage to keep the number of times I was dropped to three this time - on Link, on the frontage road to Ft Carson (I made contact, sprinted to close the gap, but that was just enough effort to put me in the pain cave and I couldn't hold wheels anymore.) Finally, when the pack attacked on road in Ft Carson, I was done - I said goodbye and rode my own way home, meandering through the Broadmoor and doing a few shorter climbs. No Zoo for me today - although I did meet up with the group again just before Cheyenne Canyon. Someday, I'll make it up to the Zoo with the main group, I just need to get a little stronger! But I was digging deep to stay with the pack on the main drag - the numbers were good!

Mar 8, 2012

Circles in the Desert - 2012 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo

Nick and I came to 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo with a plan and a goal, and the knowledge that proper execution of one would achieve the other. We were also hoping to climb that final step on podium this year. We came prepared for anything after the AZ Hurricane of 2011, but the weather did not prove a factor in the race. And while we successfully executed our plan, completing a very solid 19 laps, Nat Ross and Rebecca Rusch – the King and Queen of Pain ruled the day. I can’t really say we were competing against them – they could have finished 20 laps easily. Nick did a great job of keeping the pressure on Nat, but I wasn’t even close to Rebecca! The race between the top three teams stayed fairly tight until darkness. Every duo on the podium did awesome against some really tough competion this year

As usual, Nick did the start lap. I have no desire to endure that kind of chaos – holding Nick’s bike was tough enough! It felt like there were more bikes and more spectators crowding the road this year. Then in a cloud of dust, the running for the bikes commenced and the herd of racers descended on upon the waiting steeds. Nick had a good start and was off into the desert. The first exchange is nuts with the riders jammed into the tent, waiting. I got to the tent to watch the first riders flying in hot. Nat and Rebecca exchanged just three minutes ahead of us – but that was the closest we got to them. Nick had a solid lap, doing what he always does – getting me out ahead of the craziness and minimizing the passing.

On the bike and everything clicked – riding was smooth and fast. I was holding my speed well up and down the bitches, ticking over the pedals through the cholla forest on Corral Trail, the rolling climbs up on Rattlesnake, the twists and turns and dips of His and Hers, up the steadily deceptive climb on Junebug and finally the ascent up Highpoint and the awesome fun drop back to camp. It all seemed so fast and easy this year. I turned my fastest lap time ever – a 1:11:01, knocking three minutes off my prior best.

Mar 5, 2012

Spring Time in COS...

Means snow one day and 70 degrees the next day! Luckily, we are in the middle of some of those uber warm, gotta get out and pedal weekends. And get out and pedal we did. Two fun rides, one chill and the other me chasing the boys has left me with some tired legs and great tan lines. Sunday, the fun ride up Stratton then all the way to the end of Columbine. I haven't ridden the whole length of Columbine in a while. Nice pace up Gold Camp, then blasted down the single track. For a perfect Colorado day, there weren't that many hikers out. Bobbled one of the switch backs but otherwise kept the rubber side down.

Today was not a chill ride. It was Tracy chasing after the boys as they rode their own pace. Unfortunately, they had to stop and wait for me at every intersection in Red Rocks. I wasn't riding slow, but I wasn't staying on the train at all. Had a few guys making fun of me as Nick, Dave and Matt dropped me on the climbs and I'm chugging along a switch back or two behind! First time I'd had someone tell me not to get lost! But it was good - just what I needed for the days ride. A hard, steady tempo with some fun techy stuff mixed in. I actually cleaned one of the rocks I've been struggling with and I did it tired. Good stuff. One more say of spring, the. It sounds like winter it coming back. Just in time for me to get my new bike, of course... Will be waiting for some dry trails to take that beauty out for a spin!

Mar 1, 2012

The good, the bad and the ugly at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo

Twenty four hours is a long time to race and there are always trends durin the race. A few observations on this years event - outside of my race report.

The Good - Last year I was disgusted by the amount of trash, water bottles and gel wrappers carelessly discarded along the course. This year was completely different with much less trash and such on the trail. It was nice to see that riders were taking responsibility and being aware. We sometimes act entitled to the race and the trails. That's not the case - good stewardship of the land is the only way we can continue racing and enjoying the desert single track. Thanks to everyone who worked hard during the race and after to make it seem like we'd never been there. Hopefully next year will be even cleaner!

The Bad - One of the awesome things about 24 hour racing is the blend of people on the trails. But that can also lead to conflict between racers, riders and people there to have fun. While Nick and I fall squarely into the racers class, we still respect everyone out there pedaling. And everyone should encourage all participants in the race, regardless of speed or size or skill on display. Some of the people I saw riding deserved as much recognition as the racers. But that's not always what I was seeing or hearing while in the exchange tent or out on course. Let's keep mountain biking chill, fun and inclusive. Disparaging comments about fellow competitors does nothing to further the growth of the sport.

The Ugly - I don't care how fast you are or where your team stands in the race. There is no excuse to be a jackass while passing! I know there were a lot of people out on course this year and I was admittedly getting frustrated. If I was rude or made a bad pass - I apologize. There is nothing aerobic about racing 24 hours with the amount of passing required this year. But letting riders know you are back there, then executing a safe, clean pass proves much more then running a slower rider into the cactus. It's just a race and if the 10 seconds you have to wait to get around us that important, go ride on the road. To the rider in green and grey who passed me on my 4th lap - just because you yell rider back and ding your bell five times does not mean I have to stop that second. Yelling at me when I am waiting to pass the rider in front of me does no good. If its not safe to pass, it's not safe to step off the trail either. And then screaming at the next rider that rider back means yield and yield means get the hell out of the way does wonders for me wanting to support you or your sponsors. Had I gotten your race number, I would have reported your pathetic lack of sportsmanship to Todd. Back of the Pack Racing has a few more examples on their website of the jackasses in action, down at the bottom of the race report. (Back of the Pack Race Report) Hopefully the jackasses will stay home next year so we can enjoy the race!