Breck Epic- Stage 4

I’m starting to get settled into a routine. The only thing I don’t like is that my routine begins with me waking up at 6:00am feeling like total crap. Since Monday, I barely feel like I can get out of the bed, my stomach doesn’t want me to eat, and, no matter how many cups of coffee I mainline, my head stays foggy and tired. I’ve given up on trying to eat a “normal” breakfast of eggs or anything hearty. Instead, I’ll go for a Clif Bar for breakfast and a shot of gel while I’m rolling around waiting for the race to start. Then, we line up and we’re off up a mountain, and I feel better within the first few minutes.

Today, I felt great within the first few minutes. I realized early on that I was riding with people that I was not used to riding with because they’d been ahead of me on previous stages. For the first few miles, I was getting the climb/descend accordion effect with Jen, the woman leading my race. Unfortunately, she left me behind going up the first ridiculous hike-a-bike after the first aid station.

After that, I had an excellent day. I figured out about halfway through that I must be finally acclimating to the higher altitude, because I was going up climbs feeling like I was at sea level. Most of them, anyway…


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At this point, I’m happy to sit back and see where the combination of acclimating and eventual fatigue will lead. It’d be nice to pull off a stage win, but Jen climbs like nobody’s business- both on and off of her bike (she’s gotta have a solid 4″ of leg length on me). Two more short(er) stages to go…

Breck Epic- Stage 3

The weather overnight took a turn for the better, and the skies were clear and mild as usual for the duration of stage 3.

This one has been my favorite so far. (It begs to be run as an Enduro)

After the obligatory climb/push up some mining roads, we rode French Gulch backwards. It’s a hell of a lot more fun in that direction! Then, we climbed/pushed (a lot) up and over French Pass. At the top, Jeff Kerkove was up there handing out Skittles (the video is a little long… I make a cameo at about 5 minutes in). Coming down from one of the high passes like this one is an incredible mix of exhilaration and terror. The singletrack is super narrow and steeper than it looks, so as soon as you let off of the brakes, you’re instantly going mach 11ty.

After that, it was more climbing- this time, on a slightly less rocky/steep forest road. It topped out at a little over 11k feet before we took the turn onto another section of Colorado Trail. The trail was mostly downhill. The top was flowy and smooth, and it became rockier and gnarlier the last couple of miles. Some people were a little put off by the rocks. I felt like Brer Rabbit in a brier patch.

I think I’m getting the hang of this “go downhill for longer than 30 seconds at a time” thing.

The remainder of the course was pretty straightforward up & down on jeep trails into town. I rolled in at 5 hours and change, 15 minutes behind 1st (maybe an improvement based on the increased techy-ness of today’s descents?)

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I’m solidly in 2nd place now and enjoying the stage race adventure. I’ve figured out that this is like an extended version of riding my first 100 mile MTB race. I entered it with expectations of racing, and I quickly realized that I needed to settle down and find out my own personal limits and start pushing them a little at a time.

Breck Epic- Stage 2

Stage 2 will go down in Breck Epic history as an “Epic” weather day. The weather at the start was 44 and about to rain. As we passed under the start gate, the rain also started, and, as the day wore on, it never stopped. The race course began by pitching up to 11k feet within the first 8 miles, descending, then climbing back up to nearly 12k on the Colorado trail (check out the map/profile here).

As I was alternately pushing/riding up the Colorado Trail, my hands started to go numb, though, at the time, I wasn’t too uncomfortable. However, at the top, it was really cold and pouring rain. I had my jacket on, but couldn’t zip it because my fingers weren’t working. I ended up stopping after the first few downhill switchbacks of the trail and asking other riders for help. Everyone’s hands had turned to ice flippers at that point, so it took a team effort, but my jacket got zipped.

The race turned into hypothermic attrition.

As I continued down the Colorado Trail descent, my entire body numbed, and my brain started to follow. I felt like I was watching a GoPro video of someone ripping down a mountain. After that, the remainder of the course was a blur of pushing, riding, shivering, and trying to look on the bright side… hey, at least it’s only 40 miles, and not 100.

I feel like I’m racing 3 of the toughest women possible. It never once crossed my mind that any of them would drop out of the race. Once again, I finished a solid second- well off of 1st, and a smaller chunk ahead of 3rd.

Days like that will break you if you let them. I was so glad that it was over, then so cold on the ride from the finish back to the condo that I cried for a minute as I descended back into town. Then, I realized that A) crying washed the sand and mud out of my eyes, which, at the time, felt f*cking amazing and B) if I didn’t pay attention as I rode into town, I was going to get run over by a car. So, I pulled myself together and made my way back home safely. The 2nd hardest part of the day was actually getting into the building with ice flippers for hands (thanks to Thom from Cyclingdirt for the phrase “ice flippers”)  I had to unzip my jacket (I’d just put it on over my camelbak), unbuckle the pack, unzip the pocket that contained my room key card, then use the card to get into the building. Somehow, I managed, though it took women’s tennis-style grunting to muster the effort for each move.

Breck Epic- Stage 1

Yeah, I skipped a day. I’ve hardly got the capacity to type this post, though.

Today’s stage- Pennsylvania Gulch- included a little bit of the Marathon Nationals course that I rode two years ago. That meant we had the pleasure of climbing French Gulch… and by climbing, I mean pushing my bike for an extended period of time.

With the course length of 38 miles, I opted to carry water in a camelback and a bottle full of kinda strong Gu Roctane. The camelback would let me basically forgo using drop bags since I could carry a gel flask, powerbar, some shot blocks, and the “mandatory for high-elevation backcountry riding” lightweight windbreaker. It worked out well, though now that I’ve got a feel for pacing, I may use bottles for stages after tomorrow (long stretch of Colorado Trail, big gap between aid stations).

The course today was relentless.


As I mentioned before, I felt great, but I realized 1.5-2 hours in that I needed to back off a bit in order to not destroy myself on the first day out. I knew that there was a woman ahead of me, but it’s a long, long race, and I’m really new to the energy budget-ing required for the week. So, I started walking a little more. It’s sometimes a little hard to convince yourself to hop off the bike when you know that a relatively brief redline effort would get you up the hill in front of you. I felt slow, but hopefully it’ll keep me going strong for the remaining 5 days.

Most of the day was a blur of climbing, pushing, and descending hairy, rowdy, rock-covered jeep roads. Repeatedly. I ended up finishing in 4 hours, 42 minutes… nearly half an hour back from 1st place. Not exactly a great place to be in a stage race. We’ve still got 5 days of racing, though, so hopefully the “half an hour back” trend won’t continue. Whether it does or not, this is shaping up to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever taken on.



Day 11- more recovery (again)

Since I’ve fallen a little behind on the updating, I’ll keep 11 and 12 short and sweet…

With the advent of recovered legs on Wednesday, Thursday, I was itching to go back and conquer the moto trail that we’d bailed on the day before. However, under coach’s orders, I had to take it easy. So, instead, Ryan and I drove up to Targhee and rode the Rick’s Basin part of the PH course backwards (spoiler alert- it’s easier that direction!)

I rode the singlespeed and took it as easy as possible, though, relatively speaking, that’s not 100% easy compared to riding geared.

Afterward, I went back for one last dip in Moose Creek. I also tested the “underwater” feature of the new camera. It may not take the absolute best photos, but at least I won’t smash this one like I did the previous…


By then, it was time to start dinner and packing. Friday, I’d drop Ryan back off at the airport and make the 8.5 hour drive down (up?) to Breckenridge.

Day 10- Testing the Legs

Today was my only ride with much intensity between Pierre’s and the Epic. The mid-week workout on the training schedule between race weekends is never without a tiny bit of anxiety, because if it’s good, you know everything is on track, and the next weekend will likely be kickass. If it’s bad, then the next weekend is uncertain- I’ve definitely had my legs turn around by Thursday and Friday. I’ve also been in a hole.

Since Saturday, I’ve done everything I can to help my body recover from Pierre’s. Today, it was apparent that it’s paying off. I felt like there was no altitude.

We tried a few trails near Victor. I’d seen what looked like a nice singletrack climb on a local internet trail map. We rode several miles on a violently undulating powerline road before turning onto the real climb. It was incredibly steep, occasionally rocky, usually washed out, and covered in moto tracks. We alternated between pushing and riding for a half mile (average of 13% grade for the 1/2 mile). Unfortunately, we were low on water, and I was thinking about not totally wearing myself out. So, we turned and rode back down.

I hate that. Live to fight again, though, right?

Some people would have hated our ride today. We were on an exposed, steep powerline gravel road for a while. Then, we pushed and fought with a blown out moto trail. I don’t get why people hate rides like that. They’re hard. They aren’t flowy, smooth, or even technical in any sort of way that most people think of as rewarding. It’s a mountain bike ride, though. They aren’t always pretty, smooth, ride-able, or anything else that people long for when they come across trails like this one. I’m going to have dreams about what I missed by not fighting all the way to the top.

Ryan, picking his way down a sketchy, rocky/rolly descent:


The next climb:

Day 9- Tourist Day

Tuesday, I took a day off the bike. Ryan and I decided to indulge in some of the local tourist fare. Amazingly enough, he’d suggested going horseback riding. If you’re just now joining us here at The Blog, you should know that I used to be pretty damn good at riding horses. However, I’d never suggested the vacation trail ride since Ryan (according to his own account) “might have ridden once as a kid.” So, when he said something about going for a ride, I jumped on the opportunity.

On a related note, I’d like to officially thank Mitt Romney for being so obnoxiously, controversially rich, that NBC see it fit to show the Olympic Dressage competition in a stretch for ratings. I was getting sick of swimming, gymnastics, and beach volleyball. I digress.

Amanda suggested Linn Canyon Ranch. I signed us up for the 3 hour lunchtime tail ride. When we arrived, we met Melissa, our guide, and Ashley and Roscoe, the horses. The ride was a gorgeous trip on BLM land through Aspen groves (some of them had to be hundreds of years old), pine trees, and open meadows. Other than Ryan’s horse (Ashley) taking him off-road through some bushes on several occasions, everything went swimmingly. After lunch, we swapped horses for the ride back, though Ashley was wise to my experience within the first few minutes and never went bush-surfing.

Afterward, we ventured over Teton Pass to Jackson and checked the Aerial Tram to the top of Mt. Rendezvous. Tourist trap? Sure. Scenic? Incredibly so…


Day 8- More Recovery

Monday was another laid back day.

After laying around and watching some Olympics, we went to late breakfast at the Teton Waters Ranch restaurant (they sell some amazing grass-fed beef there, too). Then, we followed that up with more laying around and watching Olympics while killing time before the tour at one of the local breweries.


After a little more snacking and laying around, we took off to explore some more of the local trails. I think I’m still dragging ass a little from racing on Saturday, but the scenery was worth it


Day 7- Recovery

Sunday was all about recovery.

I woke up stiff and sore, had breakfast at a local place in Victor (lord, I’d forgotten about green chili on eggs), and got a kickass massage. As soon as I was finished, it was off to Jackson to pick Ryan up at the airport.

We hung out for a little while in Jackson and had a late lunch/early dinner at a Thai place. While we were there, some bikers took a liking to my haircut. Enough so that one guy asked if I minded if he took a photo. I didn’t care, and I took one of him, too.

Speaking of mohawks… the Curiosity Mars rover landed successfully. Why is that speaking of mohawks? Well, this guy was the flight director: Bobak Ferdowsi. Maybe now, the mohawk will be seen as more of a sign of rebellious intelligence rather than social rebellion. On the other hand, there’s also the off chance that every hipster and wannabe will now decide that mohawks are the ultimate in irony. Time will tell.


Once we were back in Victor, we rode over to the pump track. I freaking love pump tracks.

Afterward, I waded in the icy creek for a few minutes to put the finishing touches on the recovery trifecta (massage, ride, and icebath).

The recovery road to Breck Epic is off to a screaming start…

Pierre’s Hole 50 Race Report

Saturday morning, I woke up feeling hungover.

Quick physiology lesson- when you go to altitude, there’s NOT less oxygen in the air. The air pressure is simply lower. The lower pressure means that there’s less of a drive to force oxygen across the membranes in your lungs, so you end up with less oxygen in your blood. When you arrive at altitude, your body’s first reaction is to attempt to concentrate your blood by dumping water out. It’s a lot like what happens when you drink alcohol, just at a slower rate. It can, however, result in a similar headache/run down feeling like what you’d get with a hangover.

I remember last time I was at altitude that a few days in, I had a similar morning. I took the morning off, had an early lunch at a greasy spoon in Cimmaron,  NM, an relaxed a bit. I felt better by that afternoon, and from there I continued to feel more “normal” with the ~7000ft of altitude.

Saturday, I had to race. At 6am, I felt pretty rotten. Luckily, the race didn’t start until 10:15. I had time to take some aspirin, mainline several gigantic cups of coffee, and make a delicious omelet that included feta cheese and leftover roasted sweet potatoes. I felt slightly better about the time I started packing the car to leave.

In the race parking lot, there were a lot of other women. I have no idea how many other women were racing, but it was a lot more than any other race- local or 100- than I’m accustomed to. They all looked strong. I fought off intimidation by thinking about how hard I’ve trained leading up to this race. I readied myself and rolled around for a little while to warm up. The race started like Syllamo on steroids… straight up a 500 foot climb on the ski hill access road then down a really fast descent. Everyone wanted to get to the singletrack first.


I rolled up to the start area and weaseled my way up to almost the front. It was a good spot- only one other woman was ahead of me, so I knew I could keep an eye on everyone and have an idea of my placing as we cruised up the hill. It was a good strategy. When the race finally started, I rode at my own, hard pace. I could see the woman who was ahead of me, and one other passed me, so I managed to enter the singletrack in 3rd place.

The descent from there down is the “mill creek” section. It takes about 20 minutes to get down and begins with several swoopy downhill switchbacks… the ones I wasn’t very comfortable with negotiating. This time, though, there was a guy ahead of me that was actually holding me up. He wasn’t being totally slow… just cautious. The ground was incredibly dry and dusty, so it was very hard to see the trail ahead in the crowd of riders. Eventually, the slow-ish guy overshot a turn, and I passed him. I increased the speed a bit, and made it down quickly (and even got a compliment from the local guy behind me for picking good lines).

The next part of the course was a paved road climb. I paced myself at about 8.5 mph. During the next few miles of climbing, I was back and forth with several women- one of them on a singlespeed. I was unaware that there was a women’s singlespeed category for the 50 mile. Would I have done it? I dunno… both the women who passed me were riding 32×20, and, as I’d found out earlier in the week, that was too much for my level of fitness/acclimatization.

We then descended Bustle Creek, which dropped down lower than the road we’d just climbed. Again, the track was so dusty that you couldn’t really see the ground. There were a lot of washouts and holes that I narrowly missed by blindly following the guy in front of me that looked like he knew where he was going. The course then cut through a ranch and climbed back up some doubletrack. Amanda had previously described the climb to me as “soul-crushing.” It was hard, and, in some spots, very steep. It was there that I caught up with another woman on a singlespeed. I passed her when she walked the steep spot at the start of the climb, then she caught me in the middle, then I left her again on the steep spot at the top. I thought she was gone, but she caught back up and passed me as I tried to recover on the road climb that followed the doubletrack out of Bustle.

As I cruised in to the last aid station on the loop, Evan Plews, the men’s 100 mile leader, passed me. As we both drifted towards the aid area, he yelled at me to GET OUTTA THE WAY.

Uh, yeah dude.

The last part of the loop was a swoopy, rolling trail with a couple of rocky patches. I realized there that I was getting more comfortable with the higher speeds of the mountain hills vs. the ones I was used to back home. I passed back through the start/finish area, topped off a bottle, and headed back out for another loop. A couple of miles down the trail, I realized that I was feeling overly tired. I’d neglected to eat much during the last section of trail. Knowing that the long descent was approaching, I made the decision to pull off the trail and cram a powerbar. While I was doing that, another woman rolled past me. I got back on the trail and started to reel her back in. I noticed that I was getting the most time back on the technical and downhill spots. Within a few minutes, I was on her wheel, and she let me by. It was motivation enough to send me flying down Mill Creek at breakneck speed (I caught a couple of guys who had passed me back before the start/finish).

P.S. The Jet9 RDO LIVES for descents like Mill Creek.

The next climb was mostly a solo effort. I knew there was at least one woman coming for me, so I kept the pace going. It wasn’t until the second time up Bustle Creek that I saw another female racer. I started reeling her in. When I passed her, I tried to look like I wasn’t sweating out of my eyeballs and breathing like an exhausted racehorse. Once I was back on the road, the caffeine from the gel I’d eaten at the bottom was starting to kick in, and I pushed the pace a bit until I reached the top.

After a quick stop at the last aid station, I headed back out for the last few miles of course. Suddenly, my right thigh cramped itself into a giant knot. I yelled at it and beat it with my fist. It eventually calmed down enough that I kept going, though it kept threatening to cramp again whenever I’d go uphill. I backed off, but then realized that the last woman I’d passed was a couple of switchbacks behind me. I was going to beat her or lock up completely while trying. My hail mary strategy was to stand up every climb and push a hard gear. Sounds odd, I know, but the cramping was worse if I sat and spun.

Thankfully, it worked.

I rolled across the line in 5:33. Thirty minutes behind the winner, and good enough for 6th place overall (They placed me as 4th women’s open, but 2 women in the singlespeed category finished ahead of me as well). I was exhausted and stoked.

Stoked with 6th? Yeah. Why? Well, since CX season ended, my races have basically been solo efforts. Either everyone is a lot faster than me or a lot slower than me. I haven’t had the chance to actually be competitive and race with other women. So, yeah. I’m super stoked. I left everything out on course.

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