Transcendence

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...

Jun 30, 2013

CTS Epic Mountain Bike Endurance Camp

What a treat - riding classic Colorado single track with an awesome group of people. Coach Adam invited Nick and I up to Breckenridge Friday and Saturday to join the ride portion of the Carmichael Training Systems Epic Mountain Bike Camp. This was a three day camp focused on endurance mountain biking, specifically the Breck Epic Stage Race, the Breck 100 and the Firecracker 50. This camp was more then just saddling up and riding bikes though. There was education on hydration and nutrition for long, epic events - always important especially at altitude and with multi day events. A presentation discussed the benefits of training with a power meter and how the data you get on a mountain bike differs from a road bike. (As a late converter to a PowerMeter, I would have loved to have gone to that talk!) And since most of the fun of mountain biking comes from getting to fly downhill, there were also skill sessions and video analysis of riding. A lot of information to cram into three days - especially when the epic rides were included!

We missed the Boreas Pass-Gold Dust ride on Thursday because of work, but showed up Friday morning ready to hit the trails. The athletes were all happy, excited and ready to ride. After a short review of the day's plan - hit the Colorado Trail section of the Breck 100 - the different groups formed. Nick and I joined up with an awesome group led by Coach Jim,  local guide Tim  and mechanic Don. Then it was out into the woods. I have to admit to never going to Breckenridge and just riding. We've always always had an agenda - pre ride this race course or that race course. Or we've been racing and just following the arrows. So I get completely lost out there when I'm not on a section of trail that was in a race. Pretty sad, I know. This weekend changed all that - and whet the appetite for more days of riding up there. We took our time getting from the Ice Rink to the Dredge trail head. Mostly single track, all fun, with some gradual climbs, some steep inclines and one super fun descent down Slalom (a new cut of single track thanks to the locals). Worthy of the name for sure! When we got the Dredge, the CTS truck had set up a refueling station complete with Gu, Chomps, Gu Brew and Roctane as well as tools and other supplies. A quick pit stop, then off to the Colorado Trail at Middle Fork.We traversed the CT between Middle and North Fork, then started the long climb up to the ridge. And I mean long - I've done it a few times and it hurts every time! Everyone was feeling the altitude and the heat as the talking ceased and the pace slowed. But finally, the descent. Our group spread out along the trail as we dropped back towards Dredge. A few stops to regroup, but we were all smiles at the CTS tent. Love that section of trail, every time I ride it. And everyone had gotten to practice skills on the decent, feeling the flow of the trail and the bike tires flying over dirt. We opted to take the bike path back into town since we were already at four hours of quality single track riding and there was another big day coming. Everyone was tired, but happy. A fun day of riding bikes - can't beat that!
That's how you ice an Achilles after a fun day of riding - in the cold snow melt Illinois Creek
New group leaders - Coach Daniel and Mechanic Rusty, but the same group for Saturday. And this was all new trails for me - or at least new directions to trails! We headed north on Peaks trail, then up and over on the CT - climbing and dropping down to Hyw 9. I've never ridden that section and it was super fun. Fast, flowing with some tight corners, some little launchers and flowing in and out of pines and flower filled meadows. We continued east on the CT - up the tight switchbacks and across the ridge. It was rolling terrain, climbing and descending, meandering through fields and aspen groves, then into shaded pine forests. Then the descent back to Dredge where the CTS tent was stationed. Having that support out there was fabulous - While I still carried plenty of water and food, I was able to refill bottles and hydration bladder if I needed to. And the food - from Gu to potato chips, if someone needed something, the CTS staff had it. After everyone was topped off, we retraced our steps west on the CT to Blair Witch trail and did a loop dropping down towards Keystone. Blair Witch reminded me of the speeder chase in Return of the Jedi - flying between trees, dodging rocks. Just awesome. The group was starting to get tired as we regrouped at the CTS tent, so it was time to start heading for home. No bike path this time - our goal was to take as much single track as we could find. It was a good idea in principle, but it also meant lots of climbing. And the wheels were starting to come off a little. Three days of solid, four plus hours of riding will do that to anyone! So we modified the original plan and followed the Firecracker 50 Course back into town. Only one more long hill with that route and we got to finish the day out on the Carter Park Switchbacks!
Happy campers on Peak Trail at the start of Day 3 of the CTS Epic MTB Camp
I was honored to have joined the camp for the two rides this weekend. It was a perfect trip - no worries besides where to ride my bike. And getting to ride with other, like minded athletes who just want to get better and have fun made it even more enjoyable. Judging by the smiles on everyone's faces, Nick and I weren't the only ones who had a fun time. If you're tempted by the thought of three days of well supported riding, education and prep for races like the Breck 100 or the Breck epic, then consider the Epic Mountain Bike Endurance Camp for next year.

Jun 24, 2013

Simplicity

There is simplicity in riding a bike. Almost everyone grew up on two wheels, the bike a rite of passage and the first taste of freedom. Who doesn't remember hopping on a bike and just pedaling away? Life was simple. Life was fun. Two wheels and a helmet - that was all we needed.

It's amazing that something so simple becomes so complicated when we got older. No more just hopping on the bike and heading off for adventures. Everything is planned and plotted. Every detail organized, accounted for and recorded. We have computers that tell us how long we rode, how many miles we covered and how many feet we climbed. If you're lucky, the gadgets will also tell you how hard you are working and how fast your heart is beating. Every inch of the ride measured for later analyzing. It's all useful data for sure, especially when training and racing. I've been using a power meter for the last six months and I love it. It's really refined my workouts and has provided me with more data then I can imagine. It's my favorite toy for sure and staring at the numbers after a workout is addicting. But what happens when the gadgets stop working? When the HR monitor goes on the fritz and starts reading in the high 200s? Or the batteries in the Garmin aren't charged and there's a gap in the data? Or when the power meter conks out and reads ridiculously low? After becoming trained to follow the numbers for every ride, what happens? Can today's tech addicted two wheeled freaks reconnect with the dirt and ride on feel alone? OR will the rides and races be considered "wasted efforts" because there's no data and no pretty lines on the charts? Nick's been harping on me about that the last few months - concerned that I'm letting my toys dictated the ride, not the other way around. Because it's the ride that should pick the bike - the right tool for the right trails. I'm not sure he believed me when I assured him I was riding my bike, not riding for the numbers.

Then comes 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest. My biggest race of the year. Of course I want all the data I can use to make sure I'm racing smart. And looking at the trends after the race - learning for the next time. We get to Gallup and head off to pre-ride. And my power meter has chosen that moment to go on the fritz, reading super low - 30 watts when climbing. Did what I could in the middle of the woods, but realized that I would be riding numberless for 24 hours. No problem. Return the racing to the simplicity of pedaling without anything but how I feel to follow. And that's exactly what I did. Instead of following the numbers at the start, I followed my fellow solo women. Instead of worrying about how fast I was climbing or how many watts I was sustaining, I rode what felt right for that moment. I followed the trail, followed the knowledge in my legs and mind of what was too hard or two slow, what was safe and what was pushing the limits. I rode through heat - monitoring my physical status mentally instead of with the numbers. I dressed for rain and watched the lightening crackling around me - analyzing the raindrops in my lights instead of the kJs I was burning. I slithered through the mud, feeling sorry for my bike, but having fun. It was serious racing, but I was just riding my bike - not staring at the numbers. And unlike at other races, because those numbers weren't staring back at me, I just kept riding. Never discouraged by how slow I was riding or how low the watts were. I didn't let the lack of data drag me down. I embraced the chance to follow my heart and listen to the internal, innate data  points guiding my race. And I had fun. Even in the mud, I was smiling. How can you not smile about the idiocy of it all - riding through the rain, lightening and wheel sucking clay for what? A jersey. A jersey I wanted bad enough that I would have kept riding if the race hadn't been held.

And that is really what racing and riding is all about. It's not the numbers, not the statistics. Those are for later, after the partying and fun is over. Riding is about suffering with friends, the simple act of turning the cranks for as long as you can - or want. Having fun and enjoying the moment.

But I still want my power meter working again!!!

Jun 19, 2013

Mud, sweat and 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest

For my first 24 Solo attempt, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would it be easier or harder than the frantic, Nascar style duo races Nick and I did together? Would I be able to keep my head on and keep pedaling for the entire 24 hours? How would I do against a stacked women's solo field, all of them with years of racing and plenty of solo experience? I still don't know the answers to the first two questions - but that is due to circumstances beyond the control of the race. I did find out how I would do in that group of experienced racers and while the race was shortened, I handled myself well and finished second. With Nick's help and the occasional pep talks, I rode the entire time we were able to ride. I don't know what would have happened had the race gone the entire 24 hours, but I am not going to dwell on the "coulda-woulda-shouldas." I raced what everyone else raced, under the same conditions as the rest of the field. Warning - the race report is long! Pull up a comfy chair and a cup of coffee...

Jun 18, 2013

24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest - short version

Wow. What a crazy day and super tough race at 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest. Congratulations to everyone who was out there and braved the wacky conditions. I took the plunge and raced solo in a stacked field, featuring former national champions in solo, duo and four women classes, as well as solo winners from 24 Hour Races around the country. It was a really close battle for the first 10 hours between the top three women, then the weather took over. Faced with lightening within a mile of the venue, heavy rain and rapidly deteriorating trails, the race was paused as of 10:26. Unfortunately, there were plenty of racers, including the top five solo women, still out on course. We all ended up donating a lap to the trail gods due to USAC rules. Then came the uncertainly as we waited to see what would happen. A 6:30am restart sent us back into the woods for the last 4.5 hours of racing. In the end, Nina Baum took first, I finished second and Rita Borelli was third. We all finished with 10 laps, plus our donation lap. 

While the call to pause, drop the lap and restart the race will surely be controversial, I think given the conditions it was the best call. Would I like credit for my mud lap? Yes. But I also understand the reasons why it was dropped. It changed the dynamics of the race and altered the strategy of many racers. But the responsibility of the race director is to ensure the safely of everyone - racers, course volunteers and other support staff. 

I'll have a full (and probably long) race report posted soon.

Jun 11, 2013

24 Solo

By this point, I should be confident in calling myself a 24 hour veteran. After all, we've done 11 24 hour races in the last five years, from the competitive insanity of Old Pueblo to the laid back fun of Sage. Nick and I have survived many crazy things at the races, from the wild weather in Arizona to a duel in the sage with a leading SS team. We've also had the last minute death of a motor home and still been able to pull ourselves together and race strongly. But the key word with all those races has been "we" as in a duo team. I've only done the Nascar style of duo racing - finish a lap and get a few minutes rest while getting ready for the next lap. I've ridden thru the night, throwing down fast laps under the illumination of the Exposure Lights. I've bolted away from the exchange tent with the race on the line and pulled it off. But I've always had Nick on my side, on his bike right before or after me.

Not this time. I will have Nick on my side like I always do. But this time, I'm doing all the pedaling. Nick will be in camp, running my pit. For the first time, I'm going solo. Its a little scary - the thought of riding and racing for 24 hours. I know the demons will hit harder, sinking in doubt and uncertainty. Nick will have to be my demon slayer - keeping me pedaling for as long as I can. There are so many things to worry about, from pacing and eating to keeping my wits about me. Will it be harder then my duo races? I don't know. I don't get to sleep during duo races - but I do get the break from the bike. I also have to ride hard knowing Nick is counting on me. This time, the only person counting on me is me. Nick will be waiting and worrying about me, and ready to spring into action after each lap, but ultimately it is my race.

24 Solo. If I'm not ready by Saturday for my first attempt at a solo race, then... all the work, all the prep and all the training has been done. All that is left is for me to ride my bike.

Jun 8, 2013

One Week

The week before a 24 hour race is always crazy. Lots of stuff to get done - all the packing, cooking, bike prep and maintenance work. No matter how many of these things we've done, there is no easy way to prepare. We can have all the lists and checks in the world, but it all still had to get done. And so much of it is last minute. I can't pack my clothes until after that last wash of the week (except for the winter stuff - hoping not to need it in the middle of June!) All the dry food can be packed away, each item marked off the list so it's not forgotten. But the cooking has to wait. So I'm going to be making a mess in the kitchen the day before we leave, guaranteed. Potatoes, rice, chicken, sausage, rice cakes, chocolate cake, rice porridge.... Lots of cooking so we can eat real food. Bikes can be looked over - Nick takes care of all that, but they are always in use until loaded onto the van. And with having more then one bike, that doubles Nick's work just before the race. So as much as we like to be organized and prepared, there's still a lot to do.


This race will be a little different then the last 24 hour event - we have the van set up for sleeping now, and got to test the pit out while in Gunnison for the Growler. The Wally-World tent sucks big time (nearly got blown over by a gentle gust of wind), but it works for the price. Makes a great living room/kitchen for 24 hour racing. We've got the cot from Old Pueblo, a nice table and stove and other items that almost rival the Turtle in comfort and convenience. Almost. I miss some things about the Turtle, but it's long gone - dead in Tucson.  We have the Brown Bullet now, all decked out as a comfy, cozy bedroom. Nick got a sweet bed frame built up and we put a thin mattress inside. Bonus with the bed frame is all the camping gear now fits neatly underneath the bed.  We have to bundle up to start cooking in the morning, but it's better then a U-haul van! So this race is already off to a better start then Old Pueblo. 

Jun 7, 2013

Ascent Cycling Series off to a great start

Focused on the rocks
Photo Eldon Goates
Mostly photos - the race report is on PikesPeakSports.us
It was a really good start to the race series - cool but perfect weather for racing, a fun trail and a good crowd. Nick actually got  to race this year and had a fun time riding in circles on his single speed.

Eyes on the trail
Photo - Tim Bergsten

Nick in the mix with the pros
Photo - Paul Magnuson

Nick being trailed
Photo - Eldon Goates



Jun 5, 2013

Rider or racer?

Once again, I'm blogging about the Ascent Cycling Series. Hopefully some insightful thoughts, some random rambles and lots of photos. All my stories and training topics for the Ascent Cycling Series will be on PikesPeakSports, as well as the race reports and some photos from the fun.

I ask myself this question all the time. Sometimes I want to be a pure racer, other times just a rider out for fun. But there's nothing wrong with either! I address it more in my post on PikesPeakSports.us for the Ascent Cycling Series this year.

Dodging rain drops

II was sure we would get soaked when we left the house for the ProCycling Tuesday mountain bike ride. The clouds loomed dark and grey over the mountains and a small shower had already blown through. The set up was classic for a monster thunderstorm and a super soaking. Many of the regulars bailed on the ride because of the weather, but Jen, Leah, Craig, Nick and I pushed on. If anything, the trails would be quiet and in awesome shape if it started raining! We met in Stratton this week for a change of pace. A nice meander up Chamberlin - avoiding climbing up the Chutes and we found ourselves on Gold Camp. There was a large group of riders waiting at the top - some to descend, others for riders still climbing. So far, the clouds were holding off and although muggy for Colorado, it was a perfect night for riding. Everyone was in a good mood and the pedaling was awesome. Jen planned on dropping Spring Creek to Columbine, then descending down to the canyon. Haven't done that trail in a while, so was looking forward to something different. And some sand surfing! Without any recent rain, I knew Columbine would be deep as loose gravel. Sand surfing around those switchbacks is always fun - and I'm getting better at controlling the bike at speeds down that trail. (Although I'm still not fast on that kind of surface. Then it was back into Stratton. Since Jen didn't know the trails in Stratton well, I took over the lead. The next 30 minutes turned into "how to get lost five minutes from the parking lot" as we wandered around on the main trails and the fun side trails. Because I do a lot of my workouts in Stratton, I know most of the fun trails and the best ways to connect the loops. I could spend two hours in Stratton and maybe hit the same trails twice. 

And the rain held off. We had some wind and the clouds never lifted, but we stayed dry the entire ride. It was a really good afternoon for a fun time on two wheels - and a perfect example of fickle Colorado weather! Instead of skipping the ride, just bring a rain coat. Chances are, nothing will happen and the rain won't materialize. But stay close to home in case it does!

Jun 4, 2013

Growler part deux

I'm not sure why this race report has been so hard to write. Maybe because I wasn't every really racing - I was riding hard, but my primary aim for the Original Growler was to finish in one piece. After the full pre-ride and crashing on Friday before the race, I was more then nervous. Would I really be able to finish a course as demanding as the Growler? I was nervous about my bike choice - I went with my Era, knowing the bike was a little slower then my Fate. But I also wanted the suspension for some of the technical spots. Staying on my bike and riding everything (or almost everything) would be easier on my little bike. So I was sacrificing speed for fun and flow. I was also worried about the heat. Hartman Rocks gets really warm - and unlike at Whiskey, there would be no shade to hide in near the end. No shade at all - and very dry and dusty.  Nick was in charge of my water and I knew he'd be  awesome and on top of things like usual. So all I had to do was ride my bike and stay smart. I kept that mentality the entire race - ride my bike, be smooth and relax.  Ride the first lap smart and paced, then if I could pick up the pace on the second lap. That would be hard - between the fatigue of the first lap and the growing heat. Overall, I did well. I had a fun time on my bike, finishing just off my goal time in 7:09:31, and placing 4th woman overall. But I'm just not sure I was "racing" at all. I was too focused on staying upright to ever really attack on that first lap and then getting too tired on the second lap to really pick up the pace. I stayed pretty consistent, handled the heat well and kept the rubber side down. I was very happy with how I handled the technical sections, even as the race progressed. So I'm not going to call this a race report - more like a collection of thoughts and observations from seven hours in the saddle and a few photos. I may have a more formal "race report" later - or maybe not!


The Original Growler taking over US 50 just before the turn onto Gold Basin Rd
Photo Jesse Parker


Finishing up the race - with the Gunnison Valley in the background
Group road rides at prep for mountain bike starts!
This was a mellow start. I think everyone was mentally prepping for the long hours ahead and the energy trying to escap on the rad wasn't worth it. We had US 50 all to ourselves - a living, breathing mass of cyclists sprawled across the entire road. It was a nice neutral rollout as well - we were pointing out all the road hazards and making room for people to squeeze in. A far cry from the angry, writhing herd of women at Whiskey! At least until the dirt. At the dirt, the niceties were forgotten and the racing was on. I was swallowed by the mass as we climbed Kill Hill. I knew the left line was smoothest and held onto my spot dearly. One of the few victories for the day. 
Focusing on the rocks!

Fitness does not equal strength. 
I've known that for a while, but this was a great reminder. It's really easy to be fit on the flats or the dirt roads, but when rocks get in the way, strength and technique will shine every time. It's a lot faster to ride through things then to stop and unclip, then have to walk. Fitness alone will not get up and over some of the technical sections of this course. And as the day gets longer and I got tired, I was really happy to have the strength to apply power when I needed it. I was able to keep riding in sections the guys around me were off and walking.
Setting up for the next rock obstacle
Photo - Dave Kozlowski
Practice makes perfect.
Or how working in skills can really make a race fun. I've been better about actually practicing the skills and drills with Nick. On this course, every single tool and trick I've been working on came in handy. Balance? Yep - especially when someone unclips and topples over in front of you! Wheelies? Oh yeah - no rest for the weary on the back half of that course. Flow? Can you say Sea of Sage and Enchanted Forest? Getting my weight back? Only one way to clean Skull Pass and that's to have my rump as far back as I can get it! Made the Skull Pass descent on both laps and was pretty proud about that.
Getting tired, but still paying attention

Etiquette matters - even in a race.
Overall, this was the mellowest event I've been in. Yes, we were racing and time mattered. But I saw very little of the Cat 2 syndrome I usually see. If someone bobbled a rock, they got out of the way. If someone needed around, the pass happened at the next chance. Most everyone knew it was a long day. I don have one little rant about the guys. I only a few times had someone in my way on a technical section and he didn't move (once was on purpose - he stopped right in the middle of the easy line and then gave me shit about taking chances and being cocky when I balked on the hard line. I wish I'd just ignored him and taken the bigger drop.) And then on Skull Pass - rider back means rider back. And that means move, not stop in the middle of the rock and stare. Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I'm not gonna ride that - and I'm not stopping just because you are walking! Me yelling at the herd on the rock to move got a few laughs from some of the men behind me. I guess I'm not the only one who gets annoyed by the "if I can't ride it, it's not rideable" mentality in some racers. 
I also pulled a few stupid moves, so I'm not an angel. Getting waterbottles when I'm not thinking straight isn't my strong point , so I will apologize to anyone I chumped while wandering across the trail. 

This was one of the times I bobbled a waterbottle hand off. Sorry!
Help can make the race. 
All the top riders had ample support out on course in addition to the neutral aide tents. When someone heads out for a 64 mile ride with naught more then a bottle and a bar, you know there's lots of help. Me? I had Nick. And he's the best support person I could have. In addition to racing Saturday, he spent all day Sunday helping me. I saw him seven times in four different spots. He had to ride his bike to all of them - and fast enough to beat me! He lugged water bottles and food around, took my back pack to swap my bladder out and get me fresh (and ice cold!) fluids. And even when I wasn't quite thinking straight, he got it all sorted out and kept me moving.
My awesome bottle sherpa! He raced Saturday and then helped out all day Sunday!