Halfway

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

May 30, 2014

Pride

Nick and I were talking about this on our final pre-ride before the Growler. As I've gotten stronger with the technical aspects of mountain biking, I've started wanting to ride everything. It's challenging and fun - and a good test of how far I've come from when I first statue riding. Trying to ride everything is just fine in daily training. That's when it's time to practice skills and figure out lines. The amount of time I spend working on skills will have huge benefits down the road. Being able to ride the rough stuff when tired or having the skill to muscle through a tricky rock garden will only save me time in the long run. It's usually faster to stay on the bike and keep moving forward. If I can clean the obstacles that is. If I can't, it's not a big deal during a pre-ride or trail day. 

But in racing, it's about getting from point a (starting line) to point b (finish line) the fastest. There are no style points for technical prowess during races unless it gets you to the line quicker. Being able to ride everything can be faster, but it can also burn some matches that might be needed later. The Growler last weekend proved that point for me. I might have garnered the cheers of the spectators for cleaning things and jumping rocks, but was it the smartest way to ride? I'm not sure after thinking about it. There were things that I walked because I knew it would be too much to try to ride (skull pass and one of the rocks on JoshO's on the first lap) but everything else I tried to ride. It was a pride thing - I knew I "could" everything and wanted to have the cleanest race I could. And I didn't consider cyclocrossing over the rocks as having a clean race. So there were a few times that I tried to ride something only to stall out and have to unclip anyway. Instead of having the momentum to just hop and over, it's minutes lost and energy wasted.

And there in lies the dilemma - how to handle the technical stuff in big races? Do I dial down the pride a little and accept that many of the other women aren't even trying to ride everything? Accept that it's going to be faster to cyclocross through some things and just do that? Or do I keep trying to ride everything, knowing that I may be giving up time and expending energy I might need later? Each one has benefits and drawbacks. If I stop trying to ride everything I might be faster on the clock, but that's not going to help me improve. At some point in time, I will be able to ride everything and will need to be able to ride it at race pace. A choice to be made at every rock garden. But a choice that can wait till is tie on a number plate again. 

May 29, 2014

Chasing sunshine at the Growler

Epic is overused, for sure, but I can't think of a better term to describe the Full Growler this year. We started under heavy skies, misting rain and with a course change due to mud. The clouds closed down for the first lap, with fog enveloping the highest point of the course. There was hero dirt, Hartman's pavement and peanut butter mud followed by slimy rocks. And then the sun came out, hardening the tacky mud and drying the slippery rocks. It never got warm, as rain threatened the entire day. There was fast racing, hard riding and a true battle with the demons as only 204 hardy souls finished their two laps around Hartman's Rocks. I met my time goal, but didn't move any higher in the women's field - taking 5th this year. Amanda Carey and Janae Pritchett had a close race, with Amanda taking the win in 6:15:39 to Janae's 6:18:09. Marlee Dixon rounded out the top three finish at 6:36:59.


May 26, 2014

Race Sherpa

Time to play race Sherpa for a day with Nick racing in the Half Growler! Nick made me drive the van to all the assigned spots and practice turning around so I felt comfortable on Saturday. No fights and I managed to safety maneuver the brown beast over the hills of Hartman's Rocks. We took advantage of the practice to check out the sections of trail that had been closed on the pre-ride. 

Finishing up the long climb on Nine-O. It would hurt even more in two days!

Then it was back to the KOA to plan race strategy for me helping Nick. It was going to be a busy day, with three planned exchanges - once for a bout of camelbak jousting, once of a bottle and then a quick pit stop for a fresh camelbak. With everything loaded into a tube, I was ready to go. I made sure I had plenty of drinks and some food to eat while I was out there. After all, I still needed to get ready for my own race on Sunday!

A quick downpour Friday night meant for a chilly morning Saturday. It also meant for pavement quality trails out at Hartman's. Everyone at the KOA was amped up for some perfect racing conditions. Nick left for the start and I headed up in the van. Time to go to work!

Nick near the front of the pack on the road start - love that orange helmet!
Photo - Jenn V
Leaders on Luge trail - nothing but dots of color rolling thru miles of green
The leaders soon appeared on Luge - specks of color streaming thru the Sage. I kept my eyes peeled for the blue and white ProCycling kit and Nick's orange helmet. He was further down in the field then I'd anticipated, but we made the camelbak exchange smoothly. Then he was gone. 

Riders on the road - heading into the depths of Hartman's Rocks
Time to move on. Took a few photos and then climbed back into the van to hit the next spot. I didn't know how long it would take him to get there, but I didn't want to miss him. Drove a little faster then I should have in some places, but had no issues. I got parked and started the complex process of defizzing coke for Nick. With nothing to do but have a snack and wait, I hung out with some of the volunteers. The sun was coming out and it was getting nice out. Then the first riders appeared on Back In. Time to get to work again! To my surprise, Trevor VB was in the lead! Then came some of the other fast COS riders - Kyle B, Todd S, and Matt T.

Kyle B, making quick work of the turn onto Bambi's
Todd S - riding strong and looking good
Nick would be coming soon. I started looking at rear wheels, eyeing for the single speeders. Mark T came thru, telling me Nick was right behind him. One more SS rider came by and then I saw Nick's orange helmet. He pitched his camelbak and grabbed the bottle of flat coke. I told him place and time, and then went in search of his camelbak. I would only have about 15 minutes to get everything ready for him. Refill camelbak and grab his bottle. As I was leaving to hike up to Skyline, I decided to grab the can of coke from the tub. Couldn't hurt to have it with me!
Todd S heading onto Skyline

When Nick came around, he was still in third. He pulled over and took the camelbak, asking for a coke while he put it on. Well, I had the coke with me... But it was still in the unopened can. Nick wasn't gonna wait and wasn't happy with my mind reading skills. Too late to get it in the empty bottle from his bike. But I still had a chance. I poured the can into the bottle and took off running. I could possible meet him where the trail crossed the road. But as I was running up the hill, I knew it would be too close. I was seeing jerseys not to far ahead of Nick down on Broken Shovel. Another choice - keep going on the road or cross country to the Josho's climb. I decided on the cross country route. I barely beat the first single speeder to the point and surprised a few riders by re-appearing on the trail. Nick was very happy to see me and took the offered bottle and the info I had. The I bolted. I didn't know if I would make it back to town to beat him in. I still had to be careful driving back down to the road and very aware of riders racing back to town. Dave was outside the KOA and I slowed to ask him if Nick had rolled thru. He had - but only by seconds. It was going to be close!
Nick finishing - the Half Growler had to finish in town this year...

Nick was blown when he was finished. He'd pulled back into second single speeder, but was just toast. I've never seen him that physically exhausted after a race. It was a hard day riding for him. I'd had the easy part - driving around, handing out water and sprinting to trails. Mental note - always wear running shoes and comfortable clothing when taking the day to play race Sherpa. You never know when a mile cross country sprint will save someone's race!

May 22, 2014

Rock and Roll

That could so easily be another race name for Growler. You're either playing on some huge rocks or rolling thru endless miles of sage. It's a hard day on the bike, and that just for the first lap. I'm nervous but confident about the sections of trail we've ridden so far. There are things that I can clean and some things that make me a little nervous. It's remembering all the lines, the speed and power needed for the rocks that's going to be hard. Josie's and Gateway have the hardest stuff for me - I haven't ridden either one clean yet. Rattlesnake? As long as I remember the lines, I'm good - those rocks are super fun. Everything else is a matter of remembering timing and lines to make it thru smoothly. Except for the great unknown south of Powerline.  Last year when Nick and I headed to Gunnison, we knew the entire course, having timed our pre-ride for after everything south of Powerline opened. Not this year - we went out early and weren't able to ride the southern most trails. I'm excited about having something new, but a little worried. It's the mystery of the unknown and having to pick my own lines at race pace that has me scared. I don't remember much of those trails, just that the descent into Skull Pass (which we will be climbing this year) was tricky and that OutBack had lots of little power moves. But that was in the other direction. How different will it look this way? My first time seeing it will be Sunday, halfway thru my first lap. And then I get just one more chance to get it right, on tired legs on my second lap. Should be fun!

I know I'm ready for the race. Despite the knee issue (and a few other niggles that seem to be appearing) I've done the training I've needed to. Both physically and technically so I can handle the length of the race and the terrain. I learned long ago with my marathons that two weeks before and the week of the race are not the time to be crash training. It might feel like I'm getting slow and sluggish but throw in some hard efforts and the reality is all too plain. After weeks of riding hard, it does feel strange to just go pedal around. That doesn't settle the mind, but I have to be smarter. The hay is in the barn - all the work that matters has been done. The panic workouts just decrease the effectiveness of all the prior training by piling on fatigue. There will be no "testing the knee" or making sure the Achilles is happy. What happens on race day will happen - regardless of what I do today. I can either lessen the chances of something happening or hasten the pain. But this lazing around is starting to drive me nuts...

May 18, 2014

Potato Nested Baked Eggs

It's no secret I've been using the Skratch Labs Feedzone cookbooks for the last year. I've gotten recipes for training food and living food, ranging from fish tacos to  pie and rice cakes to meat balls. Everything I've tried has been good and well deserving of the hashtag #yum. I've also taken the basics of the recipes - like the pie crust. I'll make the basic pie crust using the gluten free flour and then go crazy with fillings. From strawberry-rhubarb to banana-coconut-pecan, everything has been good and yummy on the bike. And although, I'm not an egg person, Nick is. So I've also tried the baked eggs and a few other things. Last time I made baked eggs, I chunked potatoes and tossed them under the eggs before baking. Nick liked it, but it was a little messy. So this time I took it a step further and made potatoe nests for the eggs. And viola - a nice, neat package for the eggs. So with great respect and thanks to Skratch Labs for the ideas, here's how to make Potato Nested Baked Eggs
Ready to go in the oven to finish out the eggs. 

- preheat oven to 375, grease muffin tin ( I have a rectangular tin since they fit better in containers) 
- Shred and season potatoes. Any seasonings work - use whatever you like, including salt. 
- press a handful of potatoes into tin, making sure it covers bottom and sides evenly. 
- bake potatoes for about 25 minutes. You want the nest a little crispy.
- remove tins and let cool. Add cheese if desired to center of nest. 
- crack one egg into each nest, trying not to break the yolk
- return pan to oven and cook for another 10 - 15 minutes or until eggs set
- remove pan from oven
- loose edges of the potato nests while still warm and let cool for a few minutes. 
- finish cooling on wire rack

For Nick, I put one egg nest onto a bed of raw spinach with some bacon crumbles. The spinach will wilt when he wants up the dish for breakfast. That's just one serving idea though...
Breakfast for Nick - fresh spinach, bacon and potato nested baked eggs. Yum! 

May 16, 2014

Frustration

I've been lucky - very few injuries over the course is my athletic life. Most likely because I pay close attention to the little niggles and take quick action. So right now, I'm a little frustrated with myself. I tweaked something in my right leg and it's being reflected into my knee. Sharp pain with moving from flexion into full extension and my entire right quad and IT band are tight and gummy feeling. I don't think the knee pain is actually coming from the knee. It's the process of figuring out where the pain is being reflected from and calming it down. At the same time, I need to figure out why it started in the first place. A lot of detective work without a lot of time to get it done. And it's frustrating because I should have paid better attention to the little things and this might not have flared up this bad. Bad enough that I considered taking the elevator to the 10th floor to teach my exercise class! 

Looking back, I can't remember exactly when the knee pain appeared. I know when we were in Gunnison pre-riding my back, especially the left paraspinals were super right. More the they been in the past. Did I take care of it then with stretching and rolling? No. I didn't really pay much attention to it. After all, I was more focused on the big (for me) gear I was riding on my Camber. I though that was the issue and things would calm down once I got back on my Fate and had the little ring. But when I did my two workouts, I could feel a twinge (more then a twinge, really) in my knee. Even then, instead of doing the little things - stretching and rolling, I ignored it. It was nothing. It would go away. But no, instead of going away, each day it got worse. Tighter in the quad and more tender on the patella. When I was spinning easy in my road bike last Friday, I knew something was wrong. Still did my long ride on Saturday, trying to stay in the easier gears so I wasn't stressing my knee. Fatigue in my legs made it even harder to muscle thru the technical stuff and every time we stopped, it hurt worse. A long ride wasn't smart, but the weather was perfect and I really wanted the hours on the bike. I was actually lucky - if the weather had been nice Sunday, I may have tried to push thru the pain for another long day on the bike. But we had snow and cold, so it was a short - and painful ride. With two weeks before my big race, it was time to stop. Time to be smart, which I haven't been up till now. 

And so starts the detective work. Is it my back? The bound up quad? The adhesions in the IT band? Or something else? Every thing hurts,but the pain is magnified right on my patella. And time is running out to solve the puzzle and get back to full form. 

May 13, 2014

Back to winter...

Winter does not want to let go this year! All week, they were saying that the snow would move in Sunday morning, with wind and cold. Nick and I took advantage of the perfect weather Saturday for a nice long ride in the mountains. We had the trails to ourselves since most people decided to celebrate Mothers Day early. I was tired from the week and my right knee was aching with hard pedaling. It was a solid ride and I was able to work through the knee pain for a fun day on the bike. I didn't take care of it after the ride - having to dash to work. I paid the price for ignoring the twinge all week - by Saturday night, it was full fledged pain. Yikes. Not good.

Sunday morning, I wasn't even sure I wanted to ride. My knee was hurting badly and the light rain was rapidly turning in heavy snow. Nick didn't let me sit around and feel sorry for myself. We have the clothes - we have lights. Might as well get out and have some fun and get muddy. With my knee hurting,I knew riding the scheduled time was't happening, but even doing something would make me feel better. 
The Exposure lights aren't just for darkness! Tail light in the snow....

And with the snow, it provided the chance to climb Columbine again. We only can climb that trail when it's wet because of the kitty litter quality traction. So up we went. My knee was aching, but I was doing good climbing. Only missed one switchback going up, which was really solid for me.
Look closely - it might be May, but I'm hiding among fresh snowflakes!

Pedaling thru a winter wonderland...

Once we hit Gold Camp, there was a little more goofing off on usually unclimbable trails. The snow was getting harder and mixing with sleet. Nick's hands were numb (he'd thought it's May - I don't need the heated grips again!) and my hands were soaked. Time to head home. It was a short ride, but fun to get out. I was covered in mud, face red from the stinging sleet, but happy. My knee still hurt, but I'd gotten over the feeling sorry for myself by playing in the snow. 

May 7, 2014

Gunnison goings on

What's a really good way to get into a fight with your significant other? Make me drive the van on narrow, rocky dirt roads! Okay, only slightly joking - but me and the van do not get along well. At the Growler, with Nick racing Saturday and me racing Sunday we will be out on course to support each other. Last year was easy - I could just drive out to the end of Gold Basin road and wait till Nick came along. It was far enough into the race but not too far - I could give Nick his pack and call it a day. Not so this year. Going counterclockwise means no easy place to get support. And getting off the blacktop! Yikes. Nick drove out to where we wanted to make the exchanges, but the it was my turn. Not only did I have to drive the van, but he wanted me to turn around, back up and get parked in a few places safety. I can do most of that on blacktop - but something about the dirt just freaks me out. And my driving on the dirt was freaking Nick out. He made me drive all the way back down to base area - I think I was doing about 8 mph the whole way back. There's a lot to think about with a vehicle that size - and I am so not used to driving it. I think I could have walked down Kill Hill faster then I drove down it!  But I survived and think I can manage the van come Satuday of the Growler. 

After creeping down to the base area, it was time for dinner. And I needed a drink after driving the van! Instead of hitting our normal steak dinner at Ol' Miner - we went to KOA Dave's new restaurant on the western edge of town. Double Dave's Steakhouse - and it was worth it. It was really delicious and a great atmosphere. Nick had no problems with the food and we didn't even have to quiz them about ingredients. We were lucky to have live music as well during dinner, which was even better.  We will definitely be heading over there from now on. 

Friday night we stayed at Hartman's - found a quiet campsite when we drove in and just parked. It wasn't quite as quiet on Saturday with lots of motos and mountain bikes riding by. And dusy. It's very dry up there right now, despite the recent snow. So every time someone went by, we got coated in dust. It was an easy choice once we found out that the KOA was open -  after a few hours on the bike and all the dust, a shower sounded really nice. And no parties - there were plenty of people up on the rocks getting ready for late night shenanigans. We didn't have to deal with any of them and got a great nights sleep.
Waking up to this view definitely was nice

May 5, 2014

Happy at Hartmans

With the Growler fast approaching, it was finally time for a road trip to Gunnison for some fun in Hartman Rocks. I had a shorter day at work and Nick was able to leave early so we were on the road 2:30 Friday - heading southwest. Our first stop was actually just outside Canon City to explore the Section 13 trails. Nick was riding and I was running, and the trail system was perfect for a little escape. There's not much there yet, a long lollipop with a crisscross in the center of the loop. I ran the lollipop as a figure eight, managing to run up the steeper side on each little loop! It was a fun run with some nice rock features, a great view of the city and Pikes Peak. I think it's better for running or a less experienced rider though - Nick said it took him about 35 minutes to ride the entire trail system. But there is potential in the hills and the BLM knows it. We had a ranger stop by as we were getting organized to ride to ask if we liked the trails! Then it was back in the van for the rest of the drive over the pass to Gunnison.
Nick powering up one of the steep hills at Section 13 in Canon City

Saturday morning was chilly but clear. I warmed up breakfast as the sun peeked over the rock formations of Hartman Rocks. We took our time getting ready to ride, allowing the warmth to permeate the sage. It was time to pre ride what we could of the Growler, check out the counter clockwise course. Armed with the map, food and plenty of fluids, we dropped the Notch into the base area. Can't skip Kill Hill, even on the pre-ride! Nick took off up the hill on his single speed and I plodded my way to the top, already wishing for a 30. There is a lot of road on the first lap going this direction, hopefully enough to spread out the field. I've only ever ridden south on Luge and discovered exactly why it feels like a long climb during 24 Hours in the Sage. It's a fun and fast downhill riding north! Then some more road before hitting the start of the real course on Top of the World. And it's aptly named riding this way - I felt like I was climbing up to the top of the world. A few rock obstacles right in the start of the trail that I think might cause some issues during the race, but otherwise it's just a fun trail. I love the descent on the backside, rocky and flowing. A few more road sections, then the bulk of the single track fun.


It's easy to feel tiny in a setting this expansive. Alone, just me, my bike, the sage and the mountains

And then come the rocks - lots of them. Some easy, some not so easy
Gateway, Josie's, Buddy Bear, Dave Mos and Enchanted Forest. All fun with more then a few challenging sections. Nick and I practiced a few lines in the big rocks. One section I didn't get, but I could see the line. Just not enough umph to get up and over. Oh well - something to keep working on. That stretch of trails is just fun riding. Lots of rocky section and plenty of climbing this direction. Long steady grinder climbs that were fun descents the other direction. It's almost nicer having the long climbs instead of the super steep punchy climbs. There's better flow on many of the trails counter clockwise. We didn't get to ride anything south of the power line road due to closures for the sage grouse, so there will be some surprises come Growler weekend. The Skull Pass climb and Back In are both going interesting. We finished out the rest of the lap with Skyline, a ripping descent down Josho's and the big rocks of Rattlesnake. Nick gave me some line pointers on Josho's, despite me balking about taking the rock face. After Rattlesnake, it was back onto Becks and the Notch. I've ridden those two trails I don't know how many times from 24 Hours in the Sage and they never disappoint. Our plan at that point was to ride the start of the second lap - Tailpipe and the Ridge. But Nick was having some issues with his chain - he'd just single speeded the bike and it was slipping. So he went back to the van to fix the problem and I headed back out in the Sage. It was good for me to finish the ride alone - I get a little complacent sometimes just following Nick's lines.

One of the long steady climbs on the counter clockwise route

The tight switchbacks climbing up Gateway

Sunday was more of the same. A shorter ride with fewer stops to practice the technical sections. I was  working on staying focused on the long climbs and not soft pedaling. It's an issue I have - I'm super focused on technical and during workouts, but can get distracted in the easier trails and when climbing. And that's one reason I lose time in the longer races. It was actually a really good day on the bike - my legs were heavy from the week's workouts - more then I would have on the second lap of the Growler. And I was still able to get the power and body English to muscle the bike up and over the rocks. Hopefully I'll remember everything come the end of May! Otherwise - ride my bike, eyes where I want to go and keep it smooth. I'm looking forward to a fun but long day on the bike at the Growler. My bike is awesome and I've gotten the training in. And I love riding at Hartman's Rocks.

Finally making the tight left into the notch consistently after how many attempts?

Eyes on the trail, focusing on the next obstacle in the Notch

Nick playing on rocks, taking the A line