Dis-Organized Training

You may have noticed that my race report was absent following the previous Winter Park race weekend (way back on the 9th). I went to bed the night before with a slightly sore throat and woke up the next morning feeling like five pounds of shit in a 10-pound sack. I still raced, and I still won singlespeed, but I didn’t have the punch to pull off another overall win, finishing 3rd out of the women’s starters.

The next day, I went to my second ever jujitsu tournament. It was pretty small compared to the previous one, meaning I only had one other person to compete against. My lone competitor was fierce, but I won the first match via armbar and the second via triangle, giving me the gold.

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I’m testing for another stripe on the belt Thursday night, and I’ll be racing again at Winter Park this weekend.

I have to admit, I’ve somewhat lost my drive to do any sort of organized training plan. The dis-organized riding here is so great that I basically hit up Valmont Bike part before work a couple of days a week and try to get out for some sort of longer adventure on my two days off and Sunday mornings before work. The result is a general tapering off in fitness gains, but a gradual onset of awesomeness everywhere else. So, I’m not too concerned about it.

Since the last time I posted, I’ve ridden a big loop at Buffalo Creek, including the new Little Scraggy trail (sorry, no pics), I’ve taken Brandon, the service manager at the shop who just moved from Chicago, up Mt. Falcon and down Lair of the Bear, explored the Bard Creek trail with Jake, and went on a pre-work trail hunt with Clayton (which also resulted in nabbing a Boulder Strava QOM as we were hammer-down descending back to the shop, trying not to be late).

If you have ever lived someplace else besides Colorado, and then you move here, it gives you a whole ‘nother level of appreciation for the fact that, in an hour and a half of either riding or driving from the house, you can be in some pretty amazing places.

The Bard Creek trail is one of those places. Jake and I made a shuttle out of it, parking a car in Empire, and driving another to the Herman Gulch trailhead. We found out rather quickly that, while the trail is 100% legal for cycling, it is 100% a hiking trail. Most of the trail was extremely narrow (that is, in the places where the trail actually existed as more than just a sight line between cairns) and extremely steep. It also runs mostly above treeline (from about mile 1.5 to mile 10.5), making it as awe-inspiring as it is aerobically challenging.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that we likely hike-a-biked for 7 of its 15 miles. Our average speed was 3.6 miles per hour. You can see the map on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/651266584/overview

That’s about as solid of a trail as you get up there. The rest was cairn-hunting and following a GPS track on Jake’s Garmin:

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You know you’re way up there when the elevation makes your Gu packaging all puffy:

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A high Alpine lake… you almost can’t tell that there’s water in it because it’s so clear:

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Spot the cairns #1:

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Some hike-a-bike:

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Spot the cairn #2 (hint, it’s not the bush in the middle):

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Eventually we made our way down through some thick aspens and a soggy creek bed

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The final big view of the day on Empire Pass. It’s pretty amazing that the entire time, we were so incredibly isolated, yet never too far from a major interstate:

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It’s hard to convey in pictures and words on the internet the feeling of being in such a remote and beautiful place so close to where I live. It’s like every day off is a single-day dream vacation.

Working doesn’t suck, either. I periodically get to be a bike wizard/hero and save someone’s vacation/race/charity ride…

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…not trying to brag with the postcard pics…

I just know that posting them here will make my mom happy.

Winter Park #2- Cross Country Super Loop

Saturday may just be the hardest I’ve ever raced an XC course. I remembered from last year that there were a few spots that I refer to as “singlespeed purgatory.” They’re one(ish) mile stretches of forest road that are nearly flat/slightly downhill- basically, places where singlespeeders will get swamped by geared riders between the singletrack that the road connects. If you look at the elevation profile on Strava, you can see them very clearly.

Go ahead. Look. The race report will make more sense that way.

My goal of this race was to go harder than I thought I could go and find out just how deep my fitness went. So, I warmed up for a while- riding a quick loop of the first climb/descent and eating some Roctane gel a few minutes before I lined up. I think my heart was pounding harder waiting for the race to start than it had the whole time I was warming up.

We started at the bottom of the ski hill, just like the hill climb. The course made its way up 450ft of gain in one mile up the ski hill road before turning on to singletrack, then quickly descending to singlespeed purgatory #1. The race started. I went H.A.M. After 8-ish minutes, I went in to the singletrack just a few bike lengths behind another woman. Thanks to my pre-riding, I caught her after just a few techy turns of descending.  I hauled ass down to the first purgatory, where, about halfway through, I was swamped by Yeti Beti pro Natalie Raborn.

Luckily, she didn’t put so much time in to me that I couldn’t catch her on the next singletrack descent. It was short, but took us in to one of the more techy spots, full of wet rocks and roots. She let me by when she had to foot-down a big, slimy rock when I was right behind her. I did my best to settle in and float through the next few miles of rolling descent.

From about miles 5 to 11, the course mostly climbed, with the exception of purgatory #2 from miles 8 to 9. I didn’t see or hear anyone until I was well in to that flat part, where I was promptly swamped by two pros and one expert racer. I was somewhat frustrated and feeling a little blown up from my starting effort, but I did what I could- eating more Roctane, drinking, and spinning as hard as I could between gulps.

I managed to keep one woman in sight and started to catch up to her on a section of trail (“Upper Chickadee”) that was new to the course (a re-route since a creek crossing in the original course was too high). It was a climby section of bench trail in some pretty tight trees. I felt right at home, and my comfort rewarded me with having the other women in sight when we dumped on to another forest road before the final steep climb of the day.

On that little bit of forest road climbing, I felt like I was at a standstill. I wasn’t gaining any ground, but I definitely wasn’t losing it. Then, at mile 11, we turned on to a climb called “Lonesome Whistle”- a super steep double track. Lucky for me, the little bit of rain the day before made it slightly less loose. I swamped the three women who’d passed me on purgatory #2.

Then came the dig. I didn’t know exactly what the rest of the course was, but I did know that I was at 1:08 in, and at the highest point. That meant that it was biased downhill for another 20-30 minutes to the finish. With purgatory #3 (a repeat of #1) in there, I knew I’d have to ride as brakeless as possible to put a sizeable gap between me and the racers just behind me and avoid another swamping where it was flat.

I hammered it as if it was the only part of the course I’d done that day. My right quad threatened cramps several times. I caught and passed several of the 50+ expert men that had started ahead of us. All of them were quick to give me room when I told them I was leading the women’s race (thanks for that, guys). If it was uphill, I was stand-hammering. If it was downhill, I was taking chances through the rocks and tight trees.

Then, the terrible, awful mile of flat forest road. I wish I still had a powermeter so I could see what sort of average cadence I was doing for that four minutes. It was like being in a nightmare where you’re trying to run from a monster/serial killer/tornado, but your body is stuck in molasses. I kept hugging the edges of the road, hoping to cut precious feet off of the curves and stay out of sight if at all possible.

I never saw anyone behind me as I went in to the last singletrack. It was another little bit of slimy, rocky/rooty mud and tech, which I rode through with smooth reckless abandon before it kicked out on to the last quarter mile of flat road to the finish. No one caught me. The next woman (an 18-year-old expert racer) finished just 30 seconds later, followed by the first pro woman 30 seconds after that. (you can see all the results HERE)

Holy Crap.

If I hadn’t ridden my a$$ off in that last 6 miles, I would have been toast. I felt like falling down at the finish line. I found some shade and just sat and stared off in to space for a good 15 minutes.

I did manage to rally for the Singlespeed podium (no mention of the overall at the podium ceremony, but whatevs).

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The next race is a couple of weeks away. It’s the “Rendezvous” course, which was my favorite last year and is waaaaay better for singlespeeding. Yesterday, I rode Super Walker before work to get a little overload on top of Saturday’s effort (spoiler alert- I bought a ticket for the Strugglebus… non-stop service to Struggletopia). I’ll probably do an endurance-paced longer ride on Tuesday and a short track race on Wednesday before backing off and recovering again for the next XC installment. It hurts, but the speed is totally worth it.

 

Beti Bike Bash

My participation in the Beti Bike Bash marks my one year of racing in Colorado. Last year, I’d been reminded the day before the race that it was happening, and there was a singlespeed category. I’d gone in to it with no expectations and was extraordinarily surprised when I won against a relatively large group of singlespeeders (race report HERE).

This year, I felt far more prepared. I ran the same gear (34×21). Even though I’m a few watts faster, I remember it being just right- meaning that by the last lap, I was contemplating walking one or two spots on the course. The course itself is excellent for singlespeeding. It’s basically up a punchy climb, across the top of a ridge, then down a flowy/pumptracky/kitty-littery descent.

Side note- I realize that some of you reading may not know exactly what I mean when I say “kitty litter.” Imagine if you covered a concrete surface with kitty litter. It’s like that. Not a lot of traction.

Also noteworthy of my bike setup- Shimano warrantied a pair of XTR brakes for me last week. I installed the new brakes, rode them once around the park near my house, and, Saturday night before the race, the rear one puked mineral oil from the caliper on to my living room floor. By morning, the lever was mush, and I did a morning-of swap to a set of XT brakes off of Matt’s bike. Jeebus.

This year, an extra difficulty-factor was the heat. It was pretty damned hot out there- somewhere in the upper 90’s (some claimed 100). However, this is something I don’t mind at all. See, in Memphis, it’s the same temperature, but with very high humidity. I sweat a ton, and when there’s humidity, that sweat is just a useless loss of bodily water. When the humidity is literally single digits, all of that sweat evaporates, taking excess heat with it. So, as long as I was moving, I felt extremely comfortable. I will admit, though, as soon as I stopped, I felt like I was melting. The sun here is more intense than I can describe in words.

An extra ally in my heat protection was Matt. He came to the race with me and soldiered through the sun in the feed zone, dumping ice water down my back and handing up a bottle of cold water for my last lap. He was possibly more wrecked from race day than I was.

Back to the actual racing-

Because of the heat, participation in the race was down from last year. There were 15 pros (only 14 are listed in the results, but I saw at least one more walking in with a mechanical), 16 experts, and only two other singlespeeders. I went in with the goal of winning singlespeed and setting a time that’d be worthy of pro-level competition. We lined up last of the 3-lappers, and, when given the signal to start, I went for broke. When I made the turn in to the singletrack, I glanced back and saw that the other two ladies were waaaaaayyyy back. I put the hammer down with the intention of catching everyone ahead of me.

Because of the reduced participation, passing wasn’t quite as tedious as it was last year. Definitely still a thing, but not exhausting like before. I have an awesome Spurcycle bell, which is probably the most important piece of equipment on my bike. No racing singlespeeder should be without one.

I felt pretty amazing- uphill and downhill. Downhill, I’d still benefit from knowing the course a little better. There are a few off-camber/fall off the hill spots where I wasn’t smooth on any lap. Unlike last year, though, I could catch/drop other riders on the downhills. I found the edge of traction several times- your front tire makes a very distinct sliding noise on that surface, and I heard it more than once.

The end of the first lap came up so fast that I surprised myself. It was slightly less than half an hour. I couldn’t remember my exact time from last year, but I knew I was faster. Matt dumped what felt like a gallon of ice water over my back, and I soft pedaled for a few seconds to down some Roctane gel.

Side note- I opted to wear baggy shorts and my favorite tank top from the guy’s section of Target. It was wonderfully breezy, and allowed for the stowage of a gel flask in my cleavage pocket. The cleavage pocket is way easier to use than a back pocket, and, well… they’ve gotta be good for something.

On the second lap, my goal was to find the line between settling in but not going slower than I needed to go. I could feel a twinge of fatigue, but only if I thought about it. So, I didn’t, and I turned another lap in slightly less than 30 minutes. Matt dumped at least two gallons of ice water on me in the feed zone. It was so cold that I lost my train of thought and put a foot down to swap bottles instead of doing the super-pro throw/handup thing.

I charged the last lap hard. I still felt awesome, but I knew by the last climb that I had been riding outside of myself because my right quad started to cramp a little. Perfect timing. I’d never been so happy in my life to have a muscle cramp.

The result?

Singlespeed Winner, Faster than all the experts, and a time that would have placed me in 8th in the Pro category. I went 1:27:54. For reference, last year was a hair over 1:40. I took a little over 12 minutes off of my time.

Hell. Yes.

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So now it’s rest up for next weekend’s Winter Park XC Superloop race. I’m going to keep the harder gear on my bike. I remember from last year that the Superloop was a very un-super singlespeed course because of some flat sections. I’m hoping that with my extra fitness that I can push the harder gear for the rest of the summer.

Winter Park XC #1- Hill Climb Time Trial

Now that the weather is solidly nice (save a few thunderstorms), I’ve been able to get out and train on the road/trail instead of the trainer. I usually ride four days per week, usually doing some sort of higher intensity work unless I’m feeling kinda wrecked from previous training buildups, in which case, I go to the bike park-

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The mountains make it easy to go out and train hard without doing anything structured. When I first pulled the singlespeed out a couple of weeks ago, I took it up Green Mountain for a shakedown and, soon after, went up Mt. Falcon.

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Sunday before last, I rode it on our “Super Walker” Sunday morning shop ride- basically, you leave Boulder and climb Flagstaff (~2000ft of gain), descend ~500ft to Walker Ranch, ride the eight mile loop there, then ride back to the shop. The whole time you’re on the loop (an occasionally techy/steep/lots of climbing trail), the 500 or so feet you have to climb to get back to the top of Flagstaff will haunt your brain… if you let it.

https://www.strava.com/activities/600025890

Side Note- the GPS cut out a few solid times at Walker in that Strava upload. You get the idea, though.

It’s a delightfully soul-crushing three hours of riding. Flagstaff has been an integral part of my training this Spring. Based on the course description of the race that this post is named after, Flagstaff is a climb of similar length and steepness. So, even though it is a paved climb, it was a good spot to test pacing, SS gearing, and leg strength.

The Hill Climb TT course description comes with this note from the race director:
Reminder from the Race Director: “Please note that this series is a MOUNTAIN BIKE race series, so let’s have people racing on mountain bikes: Leave the road, the hybrid, the cross bike, the unicycle at home, and race the hill climb on your mountain bike. We are not the bike police but you guys know the difference. If it’s advertised as, sold as, and called a mountain bike, it probably is one. Bring the mountain bike!”

I only know the very bottom portion of the road used for the climb, but, based on that admonishment, I assumed that it would be smooth enough dirt to make my bike as light and fast as possible. I opted for a rigid carbon fork and some Maxxis Ikon 2.0 tires. It weighs somewhere around 20 pounds in that format-

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Saturday morning, I took Indy to doggie day care and headed off to Winter Park. After registering and whatnot, I donned my throwback Nimblewear skinsuit, and rolled around to warm up a little.

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My fuel strategy (based on my experience with a winter of trainer rides) was a Gu Roctane gel ~20 minutes prior to the start, one on the start line, and one ~20 minutes in to what I knew would be a 40-45 minute race, along with water and a bottle of Roctane drink mix (mixed kinda weak- about 100 cal in a bottle). The Roctane really makes me feel invincible (relatively speaking) when I eat it like that.

In my head, when I read “Hill Climb Time Trial,” I’d envisioned just that- racers leaving a start line one at a time, separated by 30ish seconds apiece. While I was warming up, I rolled to the start area and saw the Juniors and Adaptive Racers leave the line for their 9:00 start. Contrary to what I’d thought the race format would be, it was a mass category start, just like all of the other races of the series. That meant that the Singlespeeders would be starting in a group with the Expert and Pro categories. It didn’t really change my strategy because, well, singlespeed.

There ended up being 12 women total on the start line- one other singlespeeder, four pros, and six experts of various age groups. I recognized a few of the other racers from last season, namely Kathy Waite and Lisa Hudson- a couple of the pro women who won races in their category last year and beat me by at least ten minutes at all of the normal-length XC races.

Once we started, everyone sprinted off the line as if we were going for a holeshot. Based on my experiences on Flagstaff, I immediately went in to “pace yourself” mode at the back of the pack. However, once the hill started to steepen, they all started coming back. One by one, I passed the other racers, and, within the first mile, found myself riding with Kathy and Lisa at the front of the group. It was there that something happened in my brain that hasn’t happened since I was a fresh cat 4 road racer wondering why the cat 3 women weren’t staying with me on climbs and whatnot- I doubted myself.

The overwhelming thought going through my head was, “Holy crap, I’m going way too fast. I shouldn’t be riding with these women. They’re way stronger than me.” However, though the magic of singlespeed, I wasn’t able to slow down. I stood on my gear and pulled away with Kathy in tow. I expressed to her my surprise at how my legs felt and said something about trying to go as slow as my gear would let me go because I was afraid I was going to blow myself up before the top of the course. It was about that time that she seemed to go backwards. We were only about a mile in to the 5.something mile course

HOLY SHIT I’M STILL GOING WAY TOO FAST. Alarm bells were going off in my head.

Slowly, as I conquered every switchback and steep pitch, my panic faded, and I began to smile. My fear of looking over my shoulder disappeared, and when I finally did look, all I saw were the last couple of dudes I’d passed. I never wanted the climb to end. I felt amazing. Riding faster with each mile, I finished with the overall win by about a minute.

http://www.epicsingletrack.com/downloads/r1results.pdf

I was literally speechless. One of the dudes at the top asked, “Did you just WIN?” and I stuttered and couldn’t formulate complete sentences in order to answer him. I watched the other women finish, chatted a little, exchanged high-fives, and rolled back down. Just in case anyone questioned the trail worthiness of my bike, I took one of the singletrack trails down as soon as I found one and passed a person on a full suspension bike in the process.

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I was in a sort-of bad place over the Winter. I didn’t ride for almost a month, sold the powermeter off my mountain bikes, and felt incredibly slow and out of shape. I got my shit together and started making myself ride the trainer before work. I did intervals that turned my guts inside out. I still do, and I’m going to keep pushing that hard and see where it takes me.

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The icing on my Winter Park cake was going for a post-podium ride up Corona Pass road. It joins Rollins Pass road at the top of the mountains where I rode a lot last year. I wanted to see where the snow started…

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Answer- about 7 miles up. It’s another 7-ish to the top. I’ll try again after the next race.

My soul feels at home in the mountains.

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Winning at Bike Shop Roulette

As you may recall back in February, I was splitting time between two of the three Elevation Cycles locations- Downtown and Boulder (after being uprooted from the Highlands Ranch store by a coworker who was, to say the least, unfriendly). Not long after my schedule started creeping into being Boulder-heavy, it was announced that the next week (March 1st), the store sold to two new owners and would no longer be a part of Elevation Cycles.

Nick, the owner of Elevation, who I’d met at 24 Worlds just months before, gave me a choice of staying at the Denver/Highlands Ranch locations of Elevation, or “quitting” Elevation and starting at the new shop. Considering that my Boulder co-workers and I got along really well and the unfriendly coworker that I’d fled from was still working with no repercussions for his unfriendliness, the choice was pretty easy to make.

I don’t know that all of my Boulder co-workers were given the same option.

Anyways…

I’m incredibly happy with the people I work with. They all race bikes (and they’re all really good at it). They’re all incredibly nice/funny/fun to hang out with. I look forward to going to work in the mornings. The fact that they’re all good bike racers has provided me with renewed motivation to get out of “winter blues” shape and prep for a few local bike races this summer. I’ve been riding four days per week and lifting/doing super-power-yoga two days per week, along with my usual jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai classed at night.

Oh yeah- and the name of the new shop? Republic Cycles Boulder… a nod to the term “People’s Republic of Boulder” and “The Boulder Bubble.”

Part of my training plan is using the program TrainerRoad. Because of the limited time I have to ride, it’s a boon to my reclaiming of fitness. If you’ve never used it, and you aren’t afraid to ride indoors, I highly recommend it. It’s like having a coach, but for $8 a month. I know a lot of people who despise the trainer and get bored within 5 minutes. Those are usually the same people who hop on with no plan other than to watch a tv show or movie. If you use it as a hard/fast training tool, you won’t have time to be bored. Get on, warm up, do an interval workout, cool down… done. You’ve knocked out an hour to hour & a half before you realize it, and you’ve done something incredibly meaningful for your fitness.

That’s where I am now. I have added on some extra riding on Tuesdays and Saturdays (my days off). I was able to do a Saturday threshold workout on Lookout Mountain and last Tuesday, after I did my morning trainer intervals, took some out-of-town friends on a ride up and over Green Mountain. I’m looking to crush it at the Beti Bike Bash in June.

That’s the story for now. If you want little day-to-day snippets and pictures, listen to JRA and/or follow on Twitter & Instagram (links on the sidebar).

Edit to add- I’m gonna try Snapchat… I’m BrickhouseMTB on there if you swing that way…

Ode to the Surly Crosscheck

Hop in your way-back machine and set it for the Fall of 2008. I was in the process of changing road teams (from Kenda to Metro Volkswagen), and I decided that I wanted to race a little cyclocross, but that I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a bike, AND I wanted something that could be flipped between fixed gear and singlespeed. So, I went to Bikes Plus in Germantown and got this:

I ran it fixed gear for a hot minute before I realized that riding a fixed gear sucks ass.

Soon after, I decided that I wanted to race a gravel grinder (way before they were as popular as they are now). I set it up 1×9 with some old Shimano stuff we had laying around the house. Before you say anything… I’m not really sure what was up with that stem. It was definitely before I understood the concept of “stack and reach,” and it also had a small-sized clamp, so I think I just wanted something longer than stock (TWSS), and that’s what was around the house.

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In case you were wondering, that was the first time of many I raced (and had my ass handed to me by) Cary Lowery.

In the years following, it went back to being a SSCX bike. I rode it in a SSCX race at the National Championships in Kansas City (it was a non-championship race, and I raced against the dudes… and Betsy Shogren).

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…and later it became a wannabe mountain bike with a flat bar, a Kenda Karma 2.1 on the front, and some sort of small Bontrager “mountain bike” tire on the back…

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It kinda sat around for a while after that. I got really nice, pimped-out carbon cross bikes, placed 3rd in Masters Worlds a couple of times, then decided that having two full race seasons per year was no longer what I wanted to do. So, I sold the fancy carbon rides, and the Crosscheck was once again my CX steed. This time, with a plethora of “leftovers” from other bikes that had come and gone through the stable:

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I raced it in one or two SSCX It’s basically in the same iteration now, except it’s got my I9 road wheels and a set of fat road tires on it. I use it for a good portion of road training and grocery getting now. For training, I’ve been riding it up Lookout Mountain on a 40×16. It’s a haul, but it’s been an integral part of getting ready for competition team tryouts.

I’ve alluded to it a couple of times, but, since I’m pretty limited on ride time and ability to travel because of Indy’s failing mental health, I’m pouring a lot of energy in to MMA at The Training Camp. Tomorrow afternoon, I’m trying out for the competition team. It’ll open up the opportunity to train and compete in Jujitsu, Muay Thai, and eventually, another go at MMA.

You can find bikes like the Crosscheck pretty easily now, but, at the time, there weren’t many of them. If you’ve got piles of random bike parts around your house, I’d highly recommend dropping a little cash for a frame and making it in to, well, whatever you want… as I have for the past few years as my mood, needs, and interests changed.

Doping in Memphis

Winter is tightening its grip on the Front Range. I’ve taken a lot of my physical activity indoors with the recent revisiting of MMA. You might remember last time that I trained a good bit in MMA, I lost a fight and ended up with a broken-as-hell nose. In the following months after that, John Trent, who I’d been training with, sold his gym, and I was only able to get back in for Jujitsu classes for a few months before moving away.

Fast forward, and now that I’m not living high up in the mountains a long drive from civilization, I’ve found a new MMA home at The Training Camp. I’m starting slow, unlearning a few bad habits, honing good ones, and learning piles of new ones. There’s a large amount of experience under one roof there. I’m looking forward to trying out for the competition team in January.

Speaking of competition, one of the master’s dudes from Memphis finally got popped for doping, this time for testosterone and Ritalin: Master’s 40+ Winner Busted

It’s sad in lots of ways… mainly because I know Todd Hickman is a really nice guy. If you didn’t click that link before you met him, you’d think so, too. He’s never the guy that you hate to see show up for a group ride. I’ve always suspected that there are other 40+ dudes in Memphis who are taking testosterone (and/or ritalin, which is just as easy to get a script for from your family doctor). Most of those dudes have gigantic egos and tend to reside on the “asshole” end of the “how nice are you?” scale. So, it’s sad that it was Todd and not one of them.
It’s sort of like if a group of cars passed you on the interstate doing 110mph. One of the driver tailgates you and flashes his lights at you and another one seems to exercise some sort of common courtesy to pass you before speeding back up to his group. Later down the road, you see that the one who’d not acted like a dick has been pulled over by a Trooper and the rest of the group continued on without him at 110mph. You’re glad that one driver doing something dangerous is off the road, but you wish it was the dude who’d acted like a jerk.

I hope that Todd’s experience and punishment (4-year ban) is a wake up call to any other Memphis-area masters racers who are riding down the same road. I hope that Todd comes back clean in 4 years and continues to ride and race, because he’s a kind-hearted person who screwed up real bad.

Maybe I’m naive in saying so, but as a female, I feel like there’s much less concern about my competition being dopers (with the exception of maybe some of the upper-level racing I’ve done). For one, a 40 year old woman can’t waltz in to her doctor’s office and claim sexual dysfunction in order to get a (out-of-competition) legal prescription of testosterone. So, we’ve got that going for us. Also, women generally just get faster with age (to a point, of course). Outside of confounding life factors, it’s not like a 35 year old woman can tell a huge difference between her ability to train and recover the way she did when she was 22 because of a change in her hormone levels. While the allure of things like stimulants and EPO might still be there, the draw to take testosterone is less than that of men.

Anyways…

I went back South for Thanksgiving last week. Unfortunately, the weather was terrible, so my plan to hit Syllamo on the way back home was thwarted by torrential amounts of rain. I did get to ride bar bikes with Kenny one night

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We cruised Germantown neighborhoods then stopped at Huey’s for burgers. I’ve taken to ordering an Old Fashioned at any bar I go to, just to see what I get. While it’s an incredibly simple drink, what usually comes out it some sort of watered down shot of whiskey with a cherry and an orange slice in it that may or may not actually contain bitters. I’ve only found one bar so far (the Golden Moon Speakeasy, where my love of Old Fashions first began) that actually makes one as good as (better, actually) what I make in my kitchen.

Other highlights of my trip back to Memphis included sushi dinner with the parents-

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Low point? Getting a speeding ticket two hours from being back home in Denver. The trooper had no mercy on me even though little Indy was crying/howling in his crate because he had to potty. If you’re wondering, the price of doing 82mph in a 75mph zone in Colorado is $98.50.

That’s mostly it for now. Time to do some yoga before work.

Finding Peace.

Life since Breck Epic has been hectic…

Ok, that’s an understatement, but I’m gonna roll with it.

There were a couple of late-season races. I went to the Winter Park XC finale the weekend after Breck Epic and felt alright despite the physical destruction I experienced the previous week. I can attribute that, in part, to the wisdom I’ve gained though years of racing. I felt like a total animal off the start, but knew that on partially-recovered legs to not follow that feeling and end up fully shelled and barely moving forward. Wise pacing paid off, and I won the “King of the Rockies” race, giving me 2nd place in the series behind a woman who’d just attended a couple more races than I had.

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Then, there was Cougar Slayer. You park in Boulder, take the bus to Nederland, and race back to where you started.

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It’s a net loss in elevation, but is still an absolutely brutal course. Since it was a gps-navigated course, and I attempted to use a Garmin 500, I got lost a lot. I had to sit and wait at intersections repeatedly while my Garmin caught up to me. I eventually resorted to riding with other (slower) people with better GPS units. So, I missed the 8 hour cutoff for the handmade belt buckle. I do get the 100% totally uncelebrated, unrecognized (other than right here) title of “first woman to ever complete the full Cougar Slayer course.” So, there’s that.

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I realized while I was on course at Cougar Slayer that physically, I was recovered (and possibly even stronger) from Breck Epic. However, I wasn’t mentally prepped for the final task I’d scheduled for my season- Vapor Trail 125. It became obvious to me after a couple of race days that the Breck Epic rivalry between Sara Sheets and I had become legendary. I had all sorts of people I’ve never met before asking me about it (Sara is somewhat legendary herself, so the idea that another rider came out of “nowhere” and challenged her to the point of near physical breakdown astounded a lot of people). You can’t go to a race like Vapor Trail 125 without being fully prepared both mentally and physically, so I bailed on it…

Maybe next year.

Getting away from racing and on to the point of my extended hiatus and this blog post… Somewhere in the midst of the whole “living in the mountains” experience, a hard reality hit me.

I belong nowhere else.

I’ve alluded to it in the past, but I’ll go ahead and say it out loud here- I was having some serious issues while living in Memphis. From the time of Vapor Trail 2014 until I left town in March, I was basically a prisoner of anxiety attacks and their resulting depression. If the trails were too wet to ride (common in the Memphis winter), you have to ride on the road if you want to ride at all. I kept having panic attacks when I was road riding. I kept feeling like a failure, a worthless person, and all the other things that go along with losing the ability to do something you once loved because of an invisible handicap.

Then, the mountains happened. I found a place where I could exist with the option of not having an anxiety attack any time I rode my bike. Last Spring, Someone wished that I find peace where I was headed. I feel like I finally have. I feel at home in the mountains. My soul feels at peace here.

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I’ve found friends in the mountains, too.

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…because, basically, this is how I felt in Memphis:

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As a result of my decision to not go back to Memphis, part of my “too busy to write a blog post” was procuring non-seasonal employment and a place to live… both pretty tall orders in Denver/Fall. In the midst of it all, I went with 92Fifty teammate Tim Lutz to 24 Solo Worlds in Weaverville, CA. Along the way, we stopped at Park City and Lake Tahoe, which are pretty amazing places to ride.

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When I came back, I had a job at Elevation Cycles waiting for me (the Boss there was pit crew next door for Kelly Magelky at the Worlds race). So far, it’s been pretty rad. It’s the first shop I’ve been in where starting pay can cover real-life living expenses, and none of the employees seem disgruntled & under-appreciated (aside from 92Fifty… where I was the only employee, and was neither disgruntled nor under-appreciated).

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So, this is now… a rental house in Lakewood, career-path bike shop employment, and a lifetime of mountains to explore by bike. I feel like myself for the first time in a really long time.

Breck Epic

When I started Breck Epic Stage #1 with 4 other singlespeed women, I really had no idea how the week wold turn out. My experiences there the previous two years have been that everyone rides kinda hard and the race ends up unfolding on its own with generous time gaps between the participants. This year turned out to be very different.

On day one, Sara Sheets and I rode to the first singletrack together. However, after the first climb/descent, she disappeared in to traffic going up the next climb. I figured it wasn’t worth chasing my ass off on the first day, so I just kept it steady and finished 4 minutes, 27 seconds behind her. That’s nothing in stage racing. I was stoked.

What followed after that was the hardest 4 days of riding either of us could possibly imagine. I rode downhill with reckless disregard for personal safety because I knew I could out-descend her and make her chase. However, by the last descent of stage 3, she reduced my downhill advantage to an easily surmountable gap. We traded uphill blows as well, both riding and hike-a-biking. We’d periodically battle from the time we cleared starting-climb traffic until we would get to the final descent of each stage, absolutely exhausted, and she’d let me roll ahead of her and finish a few seconds ahead. According to the power numbers, we raced each day a little harder than the previous. It was sort of nuts.

You can hear the daily reports (and some early-week interviews with other racers) on the JRA Mountain Bike Radio Page: http://www.mountainbikeradio.com/just-riding-along/breck-epic-2015/

We finally relented for Stage 6 and rode at a friendly pace for the shorter/easier final stage. It was a relief to cross the finish line. I think we both couldn’t quite believe what we’d just been through…

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I had a lot of people ask about my bike setup for the race. Steve Domahidy of Domahidy Designs was nice enough to let me use one of his Ti Hardtail frames. I put a Pike on it (the one off my new Pivot 429sl) along with Industry Nine Pillar Ultralite Carbon wheels, a Quarq powermeter, Endless 22t Kickass cog, a dropper post, Ergon grips and SMC3 Saddle, and some beefy-ish Maxxis tires. I took that bike through Hell and back, and everything was incredibly solid (and comfortable as well).

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I also want to send my appreciation out to some other sponsors who helped me through the week in one way or another…

Gu Energy Labs (Daily, I consumed somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 scoops of Roctane Drink, 3 scoops of Gu Electrolyte Brew, 7 Roctane Gels, and a bottle of Recovery Brew)
92Fifty Cyclery
Elevated Legs (every day for at least an hour!)
Smith Optics

There were also some great photographers on course, and I’ve been sharing a daily pic or two on my Facebook page.
Devon Balet
Eddie Clark (responsible for the great stage 6 finish photo above)
Micheal Kane (took the other nice shot of me riding)
Liam Doran

Mike McCormack and his army of staff & volunteers put on an amazing event.

Bike Race/Human Race

I raced my third Winter Park Cross Country race yesterday and secured my 3rd win in the Singlespeed category. For as awesome as the previous race was for someone on a singlespeed, this one was bad. I rode the same gear- 32×21, and, while I usually expect gear choice to be one of compromise (gear so that you’ve got the “right” gear for a majority of the race and gut through the rest), this time I felt like I had the wrong gear- on either end- for a majority of the time. It started on a five mile climb with the last mile or so being steep, rocky forest road. There were a lot of similar sections where I was either standing on my gear at 30 RPMs or hike-a-biking. There were what seemed like an equal number of slightly downhill gravel road sections where I was totally spun out for minutes at a time.

I probably wouldn’t have had as hard of a time with the steep spots if my legs weren’t loaded up with Breck Epic training. My average power numbers were definitely a little on the low side. Unfortunately, I forgot my garmin at the previous race where I was feeling awesome, so I can’t compare between the two with anything other than knowing I felt way better last time and finished 4th overall for the women rather than 16th like yesterday (the course had a little to do with that for sure, but I’d still expect better).

So, now I rest. Of course, I’ve suddenly got all sorts of ideas for crazy rides, but I’m forcing myself to take a hiatus from them until after the Epic.

I feel like I need to take this chance of having some spare Sunday afternoon time to write a rebuttal to my own blog post from a couple of days ago where I stated that everyone needs to be humbled by the mountains so that they learn another level of respect for nature. One thing I’ve also learned from being in Colorado is that everyone also needs to live for a given period of time in a place where you see, on a day-to-day basis, the products of a large minority population living at or below the poverty line. In Memphis, you can’t get away from it. You don’t have to watch the news- it’s visible any time you drive/walk/bike in the inner part of the city. No matter how high you build your fences and how much you gerrymander school and voting districts, the crime and difficulties that result from a population of individuals oppressed by generations of lives of poverty are visible all over. There are zip codes in Memphis that have 3rd world infant mortality rates.

I’ll never personally know what it’s like to be a poor black person, but you’d better believe that living in Memphis made me realize just how privileged of a life I’ve had as a middle class white person. There are a lot of people here, living in their unique mountain bubble, who haven’t and won’t ever see, first-hand, the struggle that some people face just to exist in everyday life. It’s not their fault, and I’m also not saying there aren’t people struggling and poor in Denver. I’m saying that the crime and problems that exist as a result of a huge population of people in need are far more invisible here than they are in Memphis. The end result is a noticeable undercurrent of attitude and behavior that lack both gratitude for one’s good quality of life and empathy for those who don’t share that same quality of life. Not that people like that don’t exist in Memphis, it just seems like there’s way more of them here.

So, Colorado people (or maybe I could say anyone lucky enough to have a house, computer, and internet), some of you need to realize just how lucky you are to be in such an awesome place. Don’t take your mountains, nice weather, and generally high quality of life for granted, because there are sooo many people who will never get a chance to experience what you’ve got.