Halfway

Halfway through the year and halfway through the Transcendence Series . Back in February when I was getting organized for Stories, this poin...

Aug 27, 2012

Getting smarter

So, I'm starting to learn some sense. Just because I sign up for a race, doesn't mean that I have to race. A few years ago, I was registered for a marathon and despite not being ready to run 26.2 and against the advice of my husband and my coach, I still ran. That was the closest I'd come to dropping out of a race - had I had a way to get back to the park without running, I would have quit. Fast forward to this weekend. I was ready to swim and ride, but not so much run. And I was not ready to race.

Had some conversations with Nick - race, don't race. Start the swim and ride, then pull out. Just do the whole event, but don't really race. None of those options sounded good. I knew if I started, I'd want to finish. I also knew that I would have problems just going easy and having fun. A few waffling text messages between me and Coach Adam "not racing, not feeling it" "gonna start and see how I feel..." Back and forth and back and forth. With him mostly responding with "don't race" "be smart"

Being smart was not easy. Showing up to Lory State Park and seeing everyone all excited and getting ready to race was hard. It's the first time I've signed up for a race, picked up my stuff and not lined up. But part of being a pro(elite) athlete is knowing when enough is enough. And this time I made the right call.

Aug 26, 2012

View from the sidelines

No race report from Xterra Lory this year. After hemming and hawing since before 24 Hours in the Sage, I decided Saturday afternoon that I wasn't going to race. When I headed out for my pre-ride, that was the deciding point. I was too tired and not fully recovered to be able to race. I also knew that if I started, I would have issues keeping the tempo down - the Lory course is fast and there's no "fun" riding involved. All fast, high speed riding. So I didn't even number my bike or set up my transition bag. I wasn't going to get tempted to do something that would hinder my recovery for the next race. So I was just going to ride - find some of the new trails in Lory that I haven't explored because I'm always there racing. I checked in with Lance before I headed out to ride - I planned to volunteer for a while and still have some fun.

Number one goal on the ride - stay out of the way of the racers. That meant going up. Number two goal - keep it chill, have fun and be safe. I was riding alone, on unknown trails. I knew I would be walking some sections, just to make sure I didn't wipe out and do something stupid. I took the first bike legal intersection to the right and headed up the mountain west of Lory. The Mill Creek Link trail - a few tight switchbacks, some waterbars, but nothing too crazy. Then I had a choice - either continue heading up (and I didn't know how steep) or go into Horsetooth Mountain Park. I had a map for both, but decided to stay a little closer to the race venue - my map for Horsetooth was a little small and hard to read with my glasses on! Now I was on Howard trail, which climbed up, up and up. This sign wasn't joking!
Yep - I was dismounting on some of the switchbacks and rock gardens!
Lots of rocks, lots of really tight switch backs and more then a few minutes of hike-a-bike later I found myself at another trail junction. The start of the loop on the top of the mountains. I opted to go right and ride the loop counter clockwise, intending on riding back down Howard trail and joining with the race course. This section of Timber trail was fun - flowing single track through tall pines and open meadows. Saw a couple packing up their camping stuff - there are six back country camp sites at Lory State Park. A huge buck - didn't count the points and a herd of does. Three hikers also passed me, going in the other direction. I continued onto the Westridge trail, stopping a few times to enjoy the views.
Race venue - looking down at the finish line and slip-n-slid

Another venue shot - the transition area and swim start. Water was really low - last year, we were turning around about where the water starts!
 I could see Longs Peak to the South west, other high mountains stretching off to the west and the burn scar from the High Park Fire. It got a lot closer to Lory State Park then I thought it did! Then I started back down Howard trail. I didn't get to far before deciding that I didn't really want to go that way alone. I turned around and retraced my tire tracks on Timber trail, passing one of the hikers again. He gave me a look - like "that wheel is so noisy, you're scaring everything away!" Since he had a huge pair of binoculars and was wearing camo, I think he was there for the wildlife! I was getting annoyed with the wheel - it's got that typical "wizzzz" sound whenever I coast. But just as I was really wishing for my quiet Stans wheel so I could enjoy the solitude, I saw this fella run across the trial and stop.
Look closely - he was about 30 yards off the trail

Zoomed in - did not get any closer!
Huh - time to make a little more noise! Took a few pictures, looked around for little ones, said a few loud, meaningless comments. He bolted down hill, not looking back. Whew - now time to focus on the drop back down to the Xterra venue. Quite a few tight switchbacks later - some I made, some I didn't, with some really fun little rock gardens for good measure. A hard trail, but a worthwhile descent for all my climbing! I popped out on the run course, ahead of all the athletes. Perfect. Dropped down the run course and was off to find Lance.

My original job was to do run sweep. Follow behind the last runner on course, pulling the mile markers and picking up trash. I was getting organized at the car, prepping my Osprey Verve and such when Lance pulled up. "Hey, can you stand here and direct the runners into the finish area? I'll get another volunteer out here soon so you can do sweep later." Okay! Something fun to do while I was waiting! And right next to my car, too! Awesome. I grabbed my waterbottle off my bike and my cowbell and proceeded to spend the next 90 minutes ringing that cowbell and guiding runners to "stay left of the cones and finish to your left." I only had to say "your other left!!" a few times. Then finally, another volunteer came to take my place. I got the number of the last racer out on the run course and headed up.
Some of those little dots way up high are runners...
I was about 20 minutes behind him, which gave me enough breathing room to collect signs, garbage and waterbottles tossed along the run course. Soapbox moment - next time you're in a trail run and you toss that gel wrapper down on the trail, someone has to go through and pick all that up. Please be a little more considerate of the volunteers and think before you toss it! Up the mountain and down the mountain - easy running and hiking. More then happy that I wasn't trying to run fast on that course today! My easy pace was more then enough. I finally caught the last finisher with about half a mile to go. I walked and jogged with him into the finish, giving encouragement the whole way. All in all, a fun day of no racing. I got a good ride on some sweet single track, with no congestion, then I got to give back to the event and volunteer. Maybe next year, the time won't be right after a 24 hour race and I'll be able to come back and race

Aug 24, 2012

USA Pro Challenge - take two

Year two of the USAPC spectating in the books. And while the riders still have two days out on the road, we are through with following for another year. This time, we got to watch two stages - and it was much more fun then camping on the pass and watching the peloton rolling slowly up hill. And we got to watch more of the race by staying in towns then going out on the trail and following the racers.
Larry Grossman - Leading out Dave Wiens for the sprint at the Monday Crit!
Stage 2 - Montrose to Crested Butte. We were in Gunnison for the 24 Hours in the Sage and decided to stay another day to watch the race roll through town. Monday before the race, Larry Grossman, the race announcer jumped in the Citizen's crit. It was a decent sized Field, with some heavy hitter locals such as Dave Wiens. Larry got a good start and got on Dave's wheel to shell the rest of the field. And it was a race between the two of them to the line, with Larry taking the sprint. Tuesday was the big day - a pass thru day for Gunnison, with the sprint point right on the main drag. We loaded up the Turtle and headed downtown. Found a good place to park, and took our chairs over to the square to watch the race on the Jumbotron. That was fun - along with the people watching that came with it. As the race neared town, the square emptied and the spectators lined the road. There wasn't much of a sprint because of the breakaway out front, but the peloton came through in a long, thin line - chasing hard. Then we headed back to the chairs to watch the finish in Mount Crested Butte. And the atmosphere was electric - I could hardly hear what Phil and Paul were saying on the broadcast because of the people cheering!

The breakaway rolling through Main Street Gunnison

Leaders of the Peloton rolling thru Gunnison - a little out of focus!
Stage 5 - Breckenridge to Colorado Springs. How could we not miss a finish right downtown? And with the three circuits around town, that made it even more appealing! We got downtown early enough to watch the Ride Stage 5 Crits - great racing by some locals speedsters, wandered around the finish expo, then secured a patch of sidewalk to watch the race rolling down Ute Pass into town. Watching them rolling past familiar landmarks was fun - and the speeds were fast. Then thru Garden of the Gods and onto the fast roll into town down Colorado Blvd. Three laps, up Cascade and down Tejon, with the break holding on for two of the three laps. Then the catch and one more lap to go. I could feel the wind in my hair as the peloton passed by! We caught the finish on the Jumbotron because there was no room along the roads near the finish! Again, the noise level was just incredible with cowbells, people cheering and banging on the boards
The Ride Stage Five crit with a MTB national champion in the lead!
Here they come - the Maxis car leads the way down Cascade
BMC leading the chase on the first of the three circuits downtown
The break - trying to hold on to the finish - they would get caught on this lap.
Cars waiting after the race - that's a lot of bikes!


Aug 23, 2012

Two down, two to go.

Hill climb TTs that is! The Wednesday before Sage was the first 26th St time trial. Both Nick and I are racing the series, me on my road bike, Nick on his mountain bike. I was hoping to break 20:00 for the race, but also had to balance the bigger goal over the weekend. A good, solid effort but with an eye on the Garmin found me at the top in 20:12 - my fastest time yet, but slower then I'd hoped. No time to hang out at the top - we bolted for home and loaded up the camper to head to Gunnison.

The first race up Cheyenne Canyon was of course the wednesday after Sage. Nothing like trying to climb the canyon on tired legs! There is no soft pedaling or going easy in Cheyenne Canyon. That race was gonna hurt. As I left the line at 5:08, I felt like the poor dead squirrel in the middle of the road. Flat. Very flat. I felt better as the minutes ticked by, but Nick caught me quickly. When the next rider caught me, I was able to keep pace on the steepest sections. But man, I was tired. As I reached Helen Hunt, I realized that despite my fatigue, I had a chance of getting a new best time. So I dug a little deeper and pushed to the line. Close - 22:44, only 11 seconds off my PR for the canyon.

Two more races left - another crack at 26th St next week and another suffer fest up the Canyon. Should be good times!

Aug 20, 2012

24 hours of Fun in the Sage

Another great weekend at the Gunnison KOA for the 24 Hours in the Sage. KOA Dave, Michael and the rest of the crew took over the race from Mitch and Tracy and did an outstanding job. The KOA is one of the best venues for a 24 hour race and they keep the party and food rolling all weekend. It was a really fun event this year and I hope all the racers enjoyed the course, the party and the race.

Nick and I raced in Co-Ed Duo again, just hoping to go faster then last year. In the end, we finished 20 laps at 11:31, nearly 40 minutes faster. It was a very close race for most of the afternoon and into the night with the second place coed team. We also won the Duo Category overall, beating the men and the single speeders. We ran pretty consistant laps and stayed safe all night with the changing trail conditions. I'll get the full race report written later.

For me, this was a benchmark year. Out of the three obstacles that I have always struggled with, I finally cleaned all three. Not on the same lap, but I made it! The really tight corner with the huge rocks on Rocky Ridge - made that seven of my ten laps. The rock slap ob Rocky Ridge - cleaned it once, came really close twice, and walked my last three laps. It was just getting way to sandy and I didn't want to take any chances. As for the Notch? Cleaned that twice, foot dabbed once, hand dabbed once, made the left twice, but messed up the other four time. And the new obstacle just before Behind the Rock - I rode that every time. Had the line dialed and made it a point of pride to ride the punch bowl. So much fun! Like I said - more to come in the race report!

Aug 16, 2012

Sage and the Notch

In Gunnison at last and it's time for the 24 Hours in the Sage. Nick and I did our usual Thursday afternoon pre-ride just to remind us of the fun that awaits in Hartman Rocks. Dave Weins marked the course and it's pretty much the same as the last few years - just one little reroute to get us onto single track sooner. There is a tricky little rock face right at the top of the climb, and a feature I'll call the punch bowl. Nick showed me the line - its all rideable. I just have to trust my skills, my bike and my tires to stick to the rock. Then it's all the same - the rolling trail Behind the Rocks, the climb up and descent off Alonzo's, the meandering false flat of Luge into the more noticeable climb up Broken Shovel leading to the uber fun flowing ride down Sea of Sage. All really fun and trails I'm comfortable on.

Then comes the last third of the lap. I stuck on Nick's wheel for the start of Rocky Ridge. I knew I could make the first half of the trail. I'd cleaned that section every lap last year, on my Era. But there was that right left - right rocky turn that I'd made once last year. And the rock slap that I'd tried durning the pre ride last year and flubbed. I was dreading those two sections, hoping I'd see improvements in my technical skills. But also realistic - knowing that I'd been struggling in that area for three years. First the left-right turn. And a little throwing around of the bike and wheel and I made it around the rock, clear to start the little descent. Yay! No time to celebrate - the rock slab was next. I made the u-turn and approached the slab. Slight pull up on the bars, weight forward just a little and steady on the power. And I was up and over! Double yay!

Last obstacle on my was to a clean lap. The Notch. I've made it further up every year, getting the left hand turn into the Notch once. I've also crashed hard on the descent - twice. So that whole section of trail actually scares me. I approached the rock climb to the Notch, mentally rehearsing my lines. Up the rock, stick close to the trees on the second rock, look, pull the wheel around. And I almost made it - over shot the turn just a little, but made it past the left hand turn. Still had to walk the steps. But climbed back on and made a smooth run down. Weight back, no front brake, look and stay loose. Whew. One more time down the Notch. Just have to make it a few more times between now and Sunday! Here's to a great race!

Aug 14, 2012

Climbing to the Hill Climb

It's been such a busy summer that Nick hasn't had a chance to go bike packing yet. He's been dropping hints, setting up his bike, going on test rides and such. I've wanted to try it again - last trip was a bit much a few years ago - but with all the racing... It hasn't worked into the schedule at all. Then last week, at the PV Cycle Derby, when a few of his monument friends said something about riding up to watch the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. I didn't really pay attention, knowing I wouldn't want to ride up Barr Trail and such in one day. Especially a week before Sage. I should have.

Friday night, Nick gets fed up watching the hoop twirling and commercials on the Olympics. "I know! Let's ride up to Barr Camp tomorrow, camp and then ride the rest of the way to the toll road Sunday. We can watch some cars, then ride home." Okay... I'm hesitant but game - its not exactly what Coach Adam has on my training plan. Bit it sounds like fun - and I've never watched the Hill Climb. Time for some last minute packing! The kittens were more then happy to help with the tent. More then happy...

Saturday, right after they finished the women's mtb race, we hit the trails. Nick had his bike loaded with all the camping gear. I had all my clothed and my food and water. Not as much as Nick, but still a lot of weight. Took the easy way to Manitou - there was plenty of climbing to come. Dodged cars and vibram clad hikers up Ruxton Ave - plenty of sideways glances and double takes - Especially when Nick roiled by. I was amazed by the number of hikers I saw. It's been a while since I trained on the mountain, but I don't remember that many people! And the number of white dots on the incline revealed even more. Past the Cog parking lot and we kept going up the double track road that paralleled the Cog. I was in my easiest gear, trying to keep a good cadence and smooth pedaling style. We passed a few more hikers, then made the right turn onto Barr Trail.
Nick's bike all packed up - he was carrying most of the stuff

On Barr Trail - I did my fair share of pushing!
I remembered how steep the ascent up Mount Manitou was from my days racing the Ascent. I was prepared for some solid climbing. It was a little harder then I remembered, but having a weighted down bike didn't help at all. Nick warned me about some of the rock gardens - most of which I made, but a few I walked. No shame. Even in front of the hikers. Most of the hikers seemed to be in awe - people riding their bikes up this trail? Nuts! Yeah, kinda - but in a good way. Most of them understood how hard it was and were more then happy to let us ride by. Finally, we reached the Experimental Forest and No Name Creek. Most of the really hard climbing was over. Rolling with plenty of rock gardens all the way to Barr Camp. I did a little more waking, wondering why Barr trail hadn't been included in my Breck 100 training. I do have to wonder if the altitude messes with people's minds. In the middle of Barr Trail, riding up. Where do you think we came from besides Manitou Springs?
Nick getting the steri-pen ready to treat some water
After a "warm" welcome at Barr Camp (yes we rode up, yes we have real money, yes we want to buy some sodas.) we treated a few bottles and set out on Elk Park trail. Really fun, carved right along the mountain among aspens and pines. At the big creek crossing, we treated lots of water - enough for cooking and the ride to the campsite. More climbing, but with some awesome views of the mountain that you don't get on Barr. We were traversing just below the bottomless pit, hugging the mountain side. I could look up and see the Ridgeline where the endless switchback starts on Barr. Really cool. Then then trail opened up into a wide, flat meadow. Home for the night. We made camp, explored for a little, then cooked up some yummy dehydrated meals. Hey, when you're hungry, chicken and rice tastes awesome! I'm not the best tent sleeper, so it took a bit to fall asleep - and it was darned cold at 11000 feet!

Home for the night - looks cozy, huh?

View from camp of Pikes Peak - not even the summit!

But the sound of helicopters and motorcycles soon woke us. The sun was already warm, but the tent was in the shade. Time to get moving. Nick packed up while I made breakfast - oatmeal for me, dehydrated eggs for him. Two riders sped by on the ribbon of single track with a wave. Then Nick's buddies - Greg first, then John - also passed. We were on the right trail! One more rider passed just as we were finishing - we met Jon again at the stream everyone got water from. We treated all our bottles and bladders, then set out for the last push to the road. Mostly a fun trail with about 20 minutes of straight up pushing just below the road. Then we broke out of the trees and could see the line of single track stretching all the way to the road. It took us 1:16 to go that 4 miles from the campsite to the road, but we were treated to some spectacular views along the way.

Just below the road and we could here the sounds of the race - cars roaring, people cheering. And sirens. Apparently there were a few accidents. We had to wait a while before some cars actually started running again. And while we had a great spot for viewing, I'm not sure it was the smartest spot to stand. I can see why people like race cars - the noise, the feeling, the rush as they speed by. We could also see action on the corner below us - and hear the people shouting when someone spun out. A few drivers corrected, two got pushes from the crowd.
Me on the mountain - it was pretty cold up there!

Race car on the switchback below us - where a number of cars spun out

Getting close - going fast1

Old cars = really loud noise! And it echoed well at 12,000ft!
Nick getting some video for his dad.

We decided to bail before the weather turned. And it did according to what I read later - but we were already off the road. Back down the way we came, across the north east face of the mountain, traversing below the road and the Bottomless pit. I could still hear some cars, but it did get quiet for a while. (Greg would later forward us the link to the YouTube video of someone crashing hard, off the road, above where we were standing.) The bike packing gear on my seat post made it a little harder to get my weight back and I did end up walking one stretch of Elk Park trail. The same stretch we'd hiked up to get to the road. Back through the boulder fields, along the cliff side, and through the trees and we popped out right near Barr Camp. A few astounded looks from the hikers gathered on the deck of the cabin as the four of us set off down the trail. That was a pretty fun section to ride down - and there weren't that many people that high on the trail so it was also really quiet.
The trail back to Barr - streching off into the distance. There are two riders way ahead of us.

Nick coming down, back into the trees

Instead of taking Barr trail all the way down to Manitou, we took a back trail down to the Ring the Peak route. One big controlled skid for several miles, thanks to the recent rains in that area. We got a really good look at the Waldo Canyon Burn Scar - gonna be a few years before some of those trails are open, I think. There was some soil sampling involved and some dust clouds, but everyone made it off the road successfully. A rolling traverse back around the base of Pikes Peak to the Incline and we were done with single track. I was starting to get tired, feeling the effects of climbing up the mountain the day before. But we were almost home - just had to get through Manitou Springs safely and onto the bike path to home. Getting through Manitou was the hardest and scariest part of the whole ride - both days! Lots of people out and about and not all of them paying attention or expecting bikes. Once we got on the bike path, it was an easy, flat spin to home. Good thing for me - I didn't want to see another climb for a while!

But it was a fun weekend - did some things I haven't done before. Rode my bike up Barr Trail, did another bike packing trip with Nick and got to watch some really fast cars driving like maniacs on Pikes Peak. Much better then staying home and watching the ribbon twirling!

Aug 10, 2012

Fighting the wind at PV Cycle Derby

Nick and I - wearing the leaders jerseys
before the race
photo Carol Lyndell
The last race of the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series found us at the Peaceful Valley Scout Camp just outside Elbert, CO. With the series leader's jersey packed safely in my bag, I was hoping to have a smart race and hold onto the Series win. But first I had to finish the PV Cycle Derby. Having never ridden out there, I didn't know what to expect. I found a fun course, the usual great volunteers and some really challenging conditions. Truly one of the most enjoyable races of the series, with plenty of single track, wide open roads and a nice mix of technical and easy riding. But it wasn't easy at all - one of the longest races in the series. I was so close to breaking six hours, taking the win and setting a new course record in 6:04:03. Congratulations to Natalie Ryan for taking second in 6:26:20 and Pam Seidler for finishing third in the woman's race in 6:39:02. With the win, I also held onto my Marathon Women's Pro Series lead, keeping the green leader's jersey. Nick also had a solid race, finishing third in the men's singlespeed half marathon race to wrap up the Half Marathon Singlespeed Series win.

Aug 8, 2012

More Wednesday Night Action

Wow! Just as I was getting bummed about the coming end of the Ascent Cycling Series I get notice of another local race series - Colorado Endurance Sports TT series on Wednesday nights. It starts up the week after the Ascent Cycling Series finishes, on August 15th and continues for the next four weeks. Four races - two climbs up the 26th St and Gold Camp road course and two up Cheyenne Canyon. Classic Colorado Springs climbs that we ride every week. And now, we get to pin a number on and challenge not only ourselves, but also our riding partners! There are classes for every rider - from Pro to beginner, mountain biker to singlespeeder. I did the series last year and it was great fun, well organized and a good challenge. With two climbs of Cheyenne Canyon this year, it's going to be even more of a challenge! I'm breaking out the skinny tires for sure...

See you on the 15th at 26th and Bott! Check out the flyer for more info...
TT Series Flyer

Aug 4, 2012

Peaceful Valley

An early morning start to the day found us in the hills of Elbert and tall pines of the Black Forest by 10:00am. We quickly got set up in the shade and headed out for a short course inspection. Thane said the back half of the course was the more technical section, so the south we headed. A short road section and then the orange arrows dumped us into single track. Bobcat gulch, Thane called it. I called it fun! The trail was painted onto the canyon walls, a thin ribbon dancing among rocks and through the pine trees. Short steep climbs, twisty descents and rolling trail covered In pine needles. Technical rocky sections needing some good awareness on the bike, and some tight sections I might be walking come Sunday! So much fun and so quiet under the tree cover. Except for Kyle talking! His third mtb ride since the car incident and he was talking up a storm. It was nice to see him crushing the single track again. We didn't get the whole lap - so the first ten miles will be a surprise for me. I have three laps to try and clean everything, so I'm not too worried about it. It's going to be a fun finale to the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series. Hoping to decent my leaders jersey and have a strong last race!

Aug 1, 2012

Breck 100 - Collapse at Como

Two laps done, one lap to go - the longest lap of the race. Having pitted at Jamie's house, I rolled through the lap/finish line with a smile for Larry G. I was entering uncharted territory as I headed south on the sunbeam trail towards Boreas Pass road. Not only was I about to ride my mountain bike further then I had ever ridden,, I was also riding my bike for longer then I ever had -eve in my slowest iron distance race it had "only " been seven hours on the bike. I was already at seven and a half hours with thirty plus miles to go. All that and more roiling  around in my head as I turned off Boreas Pass road for the first section of single track. I was still feeling okay but I knew I was getting tired. Now was the time to be mentally strong and keep focused on the next few minutes, not the next couple of hours.
The goal for the next few hours - reach the finish line!
Photo - Nick Thelen

The Blue River single track connected Boreas Pass road with Indian Creek Road. It meandered thru trees with a few punchy little climbs. Nothing technical but fun and quiet riding. Private property lined either side of the trail - huge homes tucked away from the world. Too soon,, the fun ended and we popped out onto the road. From there until the top of Boreas Pass, it was climbing. Nothing but climbing. Indian creek road was paved at first, with more huge mansions on either side of the road. A gradual climb, I was able to settle into a descent pace and eat something. At the stables and the road pitched upward a little steeper. We kept climbing on, now kn dirt, until the shooting range. Then it got steep for a moment - still fairly smooth but really steep. Just before the creek crossing the road leveled out. I had to walk the second bridge in the creek because I messed up my line and didn't want to bounce off rocks.

Then the fun really began. I had ridden most of Indian Creek during our preride and was hopeful to get at least that much. Not so much a trail as a rocky 4x4 track, we climbed up and up. I made the mistake of looking ahead of me to the south. Oh yeah, time to cross the continental divide again. And it looked so far away. Just focus on pedaling I told myself and put my head down to concentrate on picking an efficient line through the rocky trail and rough double track. I was going slower and slower, struggling for each pedal stroke. Out of gas and running out of energy. I finally gave in and started pushing. Tried a few timed to get on and ride but it was too much work. I was pushing faster then i was riding and if was taking less energy as well. Some of the 68ers around me kept riding, very slowly pulling away. I had hoped to ride more of that section and when Jamie blazed by me on her way to a 2nd overall in the 68, it was a blow mentally. I knew she was riding less then me and lived on those trails, but still. She was riding and making it look easy. I was walking...

And I walked the rest of the way to Boreas Pass road. As an old railroad line, Boreas Pass was a respite from the steep climbing we had just tackled. But it wasn't mentally soothing I could see exactly where we were headed due to the lack of tree cover. And it was a long way away - or so it seemed. I found some friendly 68ers and tucked in behind them. Wheels to follow always managed to make the feel easier climbs easier. It didn't seem to take that long to get to- and surprisingly, I was just a little over my projected time to that point. Maybe I was working thru some of that fatigue and would be able to pick up the pace kn the east half of the divide. I snagged my bottle and a potato at the aid station at the summit. But I didn't dawdle at all. With angry clouds building into towers over the mountains and thunder rumbling ever more frequently, I wanted down. Off the pass and into the trees on Gold Dust Trail.Luckily, one of the most fun descents of the entire race was coming up on Gold Dust. Sure the CT was awesome, but Gold Dust is pure enjoyment on two wheels.

It started raining just as I dropped onto single track. At first, just a light mist that was enough to start mud puddles forming in the low sections of trail, then a small stream formed down the center of the trail. Despite the rain, I was still moving pretty quick on the upper section of Gold Dust and having fun. But it was getting colder and the rain was starting to intensify. I made swift work of the fast descent and took the sharp right hand turn near the camp ground as thunder kept rolling. Rain poured down harder and harder. Just before the mud pit where I was planning on walking anyway I stopped to get my rain coat out. I was also happy to have my arm warmers on as the temperature had plunged with the rain. No sense in freezing my tail off and getting soaked when I'd carried the darn coat this far... I walked my bike through the mud as pea sized hail started pelting me. Good thing for the helmet! Unfortunately, the next section of Gold Dust, the really fun bobsled run like section that dropped down to County Rd 50 was more a river then a trail. The high, banked walls that provided so much fun under dry conditions funneled the rain into the center of the trail. A stream of mud instead of tacky single track. I was pretty ginger going down that section - not wanting to slide out on a root or tear a sidewall on a rock. I still managed to go off trail once or twice before the road crossing. I was covered in mud, my bike was covered in mud and my waterbottle was just filthy. Oh well.

But as soon as we crossed the road, the sun was sparkling and the trails dry. The dark clouds drifting away over the mountains to the east, revealing blue skies. How's that for racing in Colorado? Ride one mile and the weather changes! I walked the two bridges of Tarryall Creek and peeled off my coat. Didn't need it anymore - no sense in roasting. The trail was perfectly dry as we got under tree cover. I was really happy that that section of Gold Dust was dry. It was more technical then the top half, with a few long rock gardens and lots of roots that would be very tricky wet. Dry and tired, I knew there were going to be sections that I was gonna walk. Wet and tired? Don't want to even think about it! It was rolling down all the way to Como, with a few punchy climbs to keep the legs awake. My pace wasn't super fast anymore, but I was smooth through all the rocks, and efficient in the roots. Approaching the rock garden I knew I was going to walk, I warned the guys behind me "At some point, I'm gonna be off and walking." One of them responded "yep, me too..." Whew - no pressure then! I hit my dismount point and hopped off the bike. That was the last section I planned to walk. I pushed my bike carefully through the rocks, no running for me at that point, and got back on. The rest of Gold Dust meandered through aspens, with tight corners and sidewall eating rocks. I kept my weight back, stayed in a comfortable gear and steered the bike smoothly - searching for the most efficient line down to the road.

Just after the trail opened up onto the road leading to Como, one of the Yeti Betis passed me. She seemed so fresh and happy to be on her bike - still spunky after all those miles. Tall, ponytail and riding a yeti - I was sure it was Natalie Ryan, one of the other women in the 100. We talked briefly and then she was gone (It wasn't Natalie, but one of the other Yeti Beti riders - I was too tired to notice the lack of an Aussie accent when we were talking!) I watched her ride past the Como aid station with a wave and keep on trucking. My heart sank - I wasn't going to catch her... I had to stop and get a clean waterbottle and some food.

With some food in me and a water bottle that wasn't covered in mud, I still had hopes for a solid climb back up Boreas Pass Road. Yeah - hope is such a precious thing... I turned northward and looked up again at my next goal - so far, so high, so many miles away. And it quickly became obvious that I had nothing in my legs. The stretch of Boreas Pass between the Como and North Tarryall Creek road was gradual, but I was in my 24 - spinning with no energy to even try my 36. Not good, not good at all. I tried a few little accelerations, hoping to shake the lead out of my legs but there was nothing left.

My pace slowed to a crawl on North Tarryall Creek. Spry seeming 68ers kept passing me, streaming by, offering encouragement. I attempted a few times to get on wheels, hoping for a tow to the top of the switch backs at least. No go - I'd almost make the junction, then just fall off the pace completely and watch them climb away. I ate my Chocolate Raspberry Roctane, hoping for a burst of energy from the quick calories and caffeine. Nothing. By the time I finally reached Boreas Pass Road again, all I wanted to do was stop. Stop, get off my bike, sit down and take a break. The clouds were so pretty - drifting across the mountains around me - a blanket of white and grey. The mental and physical low I had been worried about had hit with a vengeance. And unlike the 24 hour races where I'd imploded with two laps to go, there was no going back to the camper and laying down while Nick was out riding. I was on my own. The only way to get back to camp was to keep pedaling. So keep pedaling I did. Phil and Paul from the Tour would have been all over me had I been racing on the roads. But I was alone with the suffering - me vs the fatigue, me vs my bike and the climb. A long, gradual climb with glimpses of the ultimate destination around every turn. Stopping was so appealing - but it wouldn't get me home, to the finish line. I had miles to go, but just put my head down and stayed in my easy gear and kept pedaling.

Finally at the top, I stopped for moment. Time to catch my breath and down half a banana. Less then ten miles to go - and most of it was down hill! Off down Boreas Pass I went, tucking low and aero to maximize my speed. Kept reminding myself to shift before the turnoff at Bakers Tank. A steep uphill waited there and I'd been caught off guard during the pre-ride. I didn't want to walk anymore. Just before the turn, another woman caught me. She was in the 100 - we rode together up the hill, with her talking about working together to try and break 12 hours. I couldn't stay on her wheel on the gradual climb on the single track just north of the Tank. But I wasn't giving up that easily - not this close to the finish line.

On my cheat sheet, I'd written at the second Boreas Pass aid station "Go like hell for the finish line." While my time was going to be quite a bit slower then I'd hoped, that still applied. Go like hell for the finish line - find the down hill and let the bike fly. I caught the woman who'd just passed me right after the trail tipped down hill. I quickly slipped around her, offering compliments as I passed. Around the switch back, jumping roots - the bike soaked it all up. The pre-ride made me comfortable on the tight trail sliced out of the mountain side. I proceeded to catch and drop two men in the tight, steep section before Boreas Pass road. A tight left, then a tight right and I was almost done. A few rolling climbs, another steep descent. I caught another guy just before the final, steep drop back down to Boreas Pass road for the final time.

Wait, I'm done! I can stop pedaling now! Yay!
Photo - Nick Thelen

Here comes the smile - with Mom, who volunteered out on the second lap
Photo - Adam Pulford

Onto the blacktop and I didn't look back. Tucked tight into aero on my mountain bike, trying to eke as much speed as I could on the downhill run. It was a desperate race to try and break 12:00 - but I knew I wouldn't be successfully. There was just too much distance left and only a few minutes to go. A hard right onto Sunbeam Road, then bolting across the pavement to Sunbeam Singletrack. Kept it smooth, kept it fast, but it wasn't enough. I made the traverse across the top of Carter Park to cheers. The loop past Jamie's, then into the finish chute. 12:04:41 - well off my goal time. But a successful race in that I'd finished and finished strong. And I was still smiling - bone tired, everything hurting, but a smile on my face. My first 100 mile mountain bike race - like with so many things, I went for the hardest one and passed the test. Yes, I struggled at times and had a full collapse at Como. But I was able to hold it together and keep moving forward - I never gave into the demons. So while there are things to work on for next time, I'll take a fine finish this year!
Women's Pro poduim - Amanda Carey, Jari Kirkland and Me (3rd pro, 4th overall)
Photo - Nick Thelen