Thursday, May 26, 2016

Good for the Soul

During Spring Break, I figured it was really time to try and hunt down a new mountain bike. I started looking at the Juliana Joplin, thinking if I needed only one bike that would be the bike to have. Plus, I have long admired Juliana as a bike company for  pushing the boundaries for women's bikes. I filled out an application for a grass-roots sponsorship, knowing well that it was a little late in the season trying to lock down anything but as Sully says, "if you don't ask the answer is always no." I was accepted as Juliana Ambassador and selected the Joplin as my weapon (bike) of choice. It's the most amazing bike, it has the heart of a trail bike but the body of an climber (which works well because it's the exact opposite of me). There is nothing it cannot do and I'm so excited to see where it will take me this next year.

Sully and I planned a trip to California for after law school to see his family and get a solid block of riding in. It's no secret that finals definitely put a damper on my training (as it should) and my candy consumption definitely went up. I only did about 6-8 hours of riding for two weeks (just for comparison the first week after law school I spent 16 hours riding). After one final I was scheduled to do 5 intervals, after the 4th one I started hysterically crying thinking I had failed (I didn't) and did not get to the 5th set. Law school really isn't for the faint of heart, or the emotionally unstable.

Never a dull moment with these two!t
We left Boulder after law school and headed towards Ogden to stay there for the night. Wayne moved there in February and we were the first official visitors. Luckily for us, he's still looking for a job and rode with us in the morning. It was my first ride on the bike and I couldn't believe how responsive it felt climbing, but didn't feel like I sacrificed anything on the decent either, although Wayne and Sully stayed significantly ahead of me. Wayne and I have matching helmets to go with our matching brain injuries! 

The first ride we did in California was around Lake Folsom. Sully has ridden around there and thought it was be a good location for intervals, it wasn't. But still a lot of fun, smooth trails to spend time on and continue to get acclimated to my bike.

Our next stop was Santa Cruz, which was amazing. Not just for the riding but the forests are awe-inspiring. The redwoods that grow there remind you just how insignificant you are, and yet awake and inner desire to always spend your days wisely (deep, I know-thanks law school). The trails around there are unlike anywhere else I have ridden. It makes sense why so many bike companies are located there, the perfect place to test equipment. I can't even describe how amazing the trails are so here are some photos (worth at least 1,000 words). If you mountain bike at all, this is certainly a destination worth going to.

House hunting 

I may have had excess amounts of candy before riding the teeter-totter 7 to 8 times...

Re-rooting with nature after law school (get it because it's tree pose for yoga)
We are now back in Park City, heading to Moab for a night of camping and then to Durango, CO for the first race of the season, Ironhorse. I was going to sign up for the expert category but they don't have one and only 2 women are in my age group so upgraded to the pro category to race with 10 women instead. Might be a bit demoralizing but as my coach said, "Don't be afraid to go with the pace, there's no consequence of exploding in a race like that, and having fast people to chase is good for the soul." Plan is to try and at least hang on for the first lap (6 miles) and then go from there. 

Sorry ladies, Wayne is off the market
I feel as if the tension I have been walking around with during law school is finally leaving my body. I'm returning to a normal sleep schedule and a normal consumption of coffee (at least for me). Somebody told me before law school started that the first year will really turn you inside out, I thought it was an exaggeration before I began and now I realize it's the perfect way to describe the year. 

California recovery day done right! 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Learning How To Ride (Again)

They say you never forget how to ride a bike, however, some of my moves were pretty questionable after five months off the mountain bike.
At least I can still wheelie!
I had good intentions of spending Spring Break doing homework, but that presented a challenge once arriving in Colorado and the trails being soooo close. Just for the record I did actively engage in finding and landing an internship for the summer, that counts as school work, right? It will be in Rapid City, SD, while not in Colorado it was an opportunity that was too good to turn down and at least it's the hills, plenty of riding, closer to Sully, and a host to a few races that seem like they'll be pretty fun, but will still head to CO for a handful. It might also help me figure out if I want to continue pursuing a law degree or not.

When I got to Boulder, Sully spent the next morning fixing my cross bike from when I broke off the rear derailleur, he switched out my tires (what girl doesn't love new shoes?!?) and did something to
the rear wheel that I hadn't noticed needed fixing. We went for a short ride after that, just to see how everything felt on the bike--I've known this now for a while but having a functional rear derailleur really makes the rides more fun! We headed to meet some friend for Happy Hour, which was much needed to acclimate back in to the Boulder Culture.

Squad goals. 
I got on a mountain bike for the first time since last October. The guys at Republic Cycles in Boulder set me up with a sweet Rocky Mountain Instinct, the one do-it-all mountain bike, and it did. I was eternally grateful for the Maxxis tires that came on it, which saved my life a few times from going off the trail. I've not only missed riding my mountain bike but the camaraderie of being on the trail, riding with friends, running into other friends, being a rolling carnival is really the best way to describe it. We then went out for tacos and Sully got one with kale on it, I asked if I could try it which I did and then he said, "you didn't like it did you?" I shook my head no...he stated, "you've been away from Boulder for too long and have too much kale immunity." It's not the same staple in Vermillion as it is in Boulder.

Power Move!
The next ride we did at Hall Ranch, which I've always had a rocky relationship with. Most of it is a rock garden. It's always challenging as the only way you can get better there is to ride there, nothing else translates to getting in shape for insane power moves and at the same time a finesse that somedays is there and others not. It's my favorite trail depending on the day and this ride it started out as my least favorite trail. They reworked a few of the little sections which I bobbled over and stepped off, and turned awkwardly, and put a foot down, and sighed...a lot. Sully kept reassuring me that he'd ridden recently with people who didn't get the same sections, he always so encouraging. I, however, kept blaming the fact that maybe I should ride a mountain bike more than once every 5 months. I somehow managed to make it to my nemesis the "big rock" which I spent 4 months one year working on getting up; now was the real challenge of seeing if any of it had been retained. The first approach I rode my line and managed to get my front wheel on, okay not bad. The second approach I hit the same line as the first and a few grunts and power moves later I was on the top, "Oh my gosh! I made it!!" I went back down and rode it up a few more times just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. Feeling a little more confident in my riding skills we rode to the top, headed over to the loop and then charged back down.

Sully was in a good spot to catch me..and take a photo
 Once again I found Sully waiting for me at the bottom of the rock in a position to catch me if I did tumble over, fortunately it did not happen, and I'm still not sure if he would be able to catch me if I did, but it is a really sweet gesture. I continued on my way not wanting to put a foot down. Minus one turn at the top (the sharp left hand drop, that I never get) I rode the whole way down without stopping or putting a foot out. I felt satisfaction knowing that my downhills skills (mostly the bike) were on par for the occasion.

I then went up to my parents house to spend sometime with them and see some friends, which is always so nice, both seeing my parents and friends. I did some riding around my hometown, which is always so hard because most of my rides I just look up and envision the amazing trail system we could have there, one of these days! I also started back with a coach, which makes dealing with the headwinds so much better in Vermillion. I'm pretty excited with the workouts he has structured for me and seeing where the race season will take me. It's been nice getting back to that structure, I didn't realize how much I missed it until it started.
More Trails, Please!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Revelations Not Resolutions

I used to think my bikes didn't require much maintenance and then I moved away from my mechanic. 

I haven't been outside on a bike since mid-December and so when temperatures finally reached nearly 65 degrees I jumped at the chance to get outside in minimum layers. Not wanting to ride my road bike because it needs some work opted for my cross bike. Plus then I could get on the back gravel roads with more ease. With no real route in mind I just started riding and formulating a plan to loop it all back. I was only about 8 miles into my ride when I started going down a hill full of peanut-butter sticky gooey mud. I even turned onto this road because it looked less muddy than the one I was on. Alright I'll just take it easy and get through the ravine onto the other side, it looked a little bit drier. I was sliding/pedaling down this hill when I looked down and saw my chain slip off the front chainring. I tried to navigate over to the side so I could stop and put it back on but didn't have enough momentum so had to get off in the middle of the muddy section. I was thinking about how 
Too much power....
dirty I was going to get trying to negotiate the chain back onto the chainring when I noticed that that wouldn't be a problem-- because the slack that cause my chain to fall off was there because I had managed to rip the rear derailleur right off. At this point, 8 miles from town I proceed to begin to laugh, hysterically. Which is quite the upgrade from this fall when I suffered a mechanical and threw my bike in the ditch and sat down and cried. Realizing how far I was from town, on some back road with a "minimum maintenance" sign on it there was only two things to do- start walking and start calling for a ride back. The walking proved to be much more challenging than I had thought. The mud that had caked my bike added at least 50 pounds (only a slight exaggeration), a lot of heaving and hoeing to get 200 yards back out of the mud. Eleven minutes later (I'm so weak-'it's like the push-up I did last year isn't even relevant'-Liz Lemon) I had made it out, finally resorting to dragging my bike by the handlebars, and trying to stay upright as my shoes became engulfed in the mud. I found a stick after I was out of the thick of it and cleared off as much mud as I could so that the wheels would spin, thus making walking easier. I began to go 
Dirt is the new pink
down my call list, I tried a few different people with no answer and figured I would just keep calling until I got someone or made it back to the major highway to hitch hike back to town (Wayne would be so proud if I did manage that). Fortunately I was able to get ahold of the same friend who picked me up this fall and saved me from getting into the back of someone's truck and being the start of a bad Lifetime movie. I managed to get the bike home and give it a bath--it looks like a pretty clean break at the hanger with no damage to the rear derailleur, frame, or wheel. Sully reminded me later when I was crying about it that it was just a bike. 

It took me a while to post because I wasn't sure what to talk about--I spent most of 
Feeding my soul
Christmas Break trying to feed my soul with nordic skiing, biking, hiking and avoiding anything law related. I gave back my mountain bike because the contract was over and with the option to purchase I couldn't justify spending more money than my tuition on a bike that just sat in my house begging to be ridden. It's been weird, like when I broke my leg in college and all of sudden wasn't an athlete. I've been defining myself as an endurance mountain biker but without a mountain bike I feel like I'm having to redefine who I am. This resulted in crying a lot, wondering if I was slowly morphing into a person I might not recognize and wondering if it would be worth it. I struggled with coming back to law school and when I finally left for school turned around twice on the drive wondering what the heck am I doing. I even made a deal with myself that if my grades were below a certain average I wouldn't come back but unfortunately (or fortunately) did better and so resorted to coming back with a little better attitude. I'd like to say that has made all the difference but it still seems that something deep inside is begging for more. I've applied to a few other programs at this point, nothing law related, just to see what might come of it. And the option to transfer law schools is still on the table. I just don't know how much of it is environmental and how much of it is actually the law school process. 

I was able to get some nordic skiing done the past two months when we had snow, and have been running more. Sully was here for about a week and we did a 4-mile race. He beat me by 20 seconds and paced me for a mile or so and then I couldn't keep up as he slowly edged ahead. I'd like to say that it was because he came from altitude but Sully is deceivingly fast, I thought this might be the one race I would beat him at, doing a 7:46 mile pace. It's the first race we've finished together; the last one I dropped out of so joked how he could pace me again for a bit and then I'd just pull off the course. This semester, I've tried to make a point of going to Sioux Falls once a week to ride inside at a shop which is nice to (a) start doing some interval work (b) be surrounded by people who ride (c) stock up on groceries.

I'll be racing for World Bicycle Relief again this year, which I'm really excited for. I haven't thought too much about what races to do besides Leadville and even that seems like a maybe somedays. It's been strange to think that at this point last year I had my bike, a training plan, a coach and this year I'm just like #yolo! (you only live once--all the cool kids are saying it.) We have spring break next week so hoping to use that time to start figuring out summer plans and spend some time outside on bikes!! 

The most frustrating thing is that all the misery and discomfort I feel is totally normal for law students and not uncommon at all. People wouldn't keep coming to law school if it wasn't worth it, would they? I guess that's what keeps me, misery loves company and there is no better place to surround yourself in that stew than in law school. Someone once told me that if you just take a step, it doesn't matter what direction you'd soon start to figure out if it was the right one or if you should have stepped in another direction. I think a lot about law school in terms of a training ride, am I getting what I need out of it or is better to cut my loses and go rogue. That's what I'm trying to do this year is have revelations and not resolutions. Okay maybe just one resolution to spend more time upside down. 
The more blood to the brain the better, right?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Opposite of Loneliness

"We don't have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that's what I want in life...It's not quite love and it's not quite community; it's just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people who are in this together. Who are on your team." -Marina Keegan 

I haven't posted in a while because I really wasn't sure what I would be posting about. I had a post in my head all about withdrawing from law school; and well since the last day to withdraw has passed, I suppose I will write about staying. But first all about South Dakota CX State Championship! 

I had planned on racing my crockett (geared bike) and only because of Sully's voice in my head saying "bring your single speed just incase something happens to the crockett when preriding" I brought my single speed. I did two preride laps on my crockett. On the first lap after climbing a hill and having it flatten out a bit, I went into a turn and hit a bump with my front wheel, knocking both hands off my handlebar and on the way down into smacking my
Photo Credit: Chad Pickard  
handlebar with my face, by the grace of God, I was able to find the drops and save my mouth from what I imagine a great discomfort. I did the descent but realized how fatigued my hands were from the position of the hoods. Between the hand position, not wanting to break my face, and not shifting with about 6 minutes to go decided to switch to my single speed. Fortunately not much was required to switch bikes. I went up to the start line, there was one other lady and a bunch of dudes, but no other single speeders! Yes, victory would be mine. There was one big hill (the biggest I've seen in eastern SD thus far) and even on geared bikes people were getting off and running so figured I wasn't at that much of a disadvantage being single speed.  

Money! Money!

I went through the finish after the first lap and thought maybe we'd be doing 3 laps total, but then they informed me there was three laps to go, oofta. The finish is flat and sends you right into two barriers with enough speed I was concerned I'd end up like the guy in the video, "Joey's Okay" (google it) but had somewhat smooth sailing over them. I didn't gain or lose any spots on lap two and only on the third lap did I pass someone going up the hill. I also picked up a leaf but it sounded like I was losing air in my front tire. I was sure I would wash out on the descent if that was true but also realized that the wheels I was riding on didn't cost that much ($10) and would just ride the rim if I had to. It only took another half lap to figure out when I hadn't gone flat that it was a leaf and I was fine. The last lap after the top of the hill I was thinking about the descent when I ran over a bunch of leaves and smashed my front wheel into a rock. Immediately I lurched forward and almost took a stem cap to the sternum, oops, don't get complacent. Focus on right now. 

Right after finishing I was informed I won money, who knew moving to SD would have such perks!
Singlespeed queen
Leading up to the race I didn't ride much, I took my single speed out 2 weeks ago and did about twenty miles without meaning to but the simplicity is so nice and you can just zone out, so that might be my 'A' bike while on the prairie. I did take my mountain bike a few weekends ago with a guy from law school who has a mountain bike, I think he might be the only in the law school with one. All the leaves had fallen so it made some descents and corners questionable but we finished mostly unscathed. It definitely made me realize how much I missed it. But the snow will be here soon I wouldn't be doing much riding except on the trainer! 
I realized where most of my discomfort was stemming from in law school: a deep rooted sense of loneliness. I don't mean that as in I don't have any friends, because I do. I told Sully the other day, "I just need one person who wants to go on spirit journeys with me." My discomfortable comes a lot from the unknown because I don't know anyone here who has tried to train for 100 milers during law school and survived. If I stay for the second year, does it get better? Is it easier to travel? Can I have the time to go on these epic adventures? And is this how I'll feel the rest of my life or does it get better or does it get worse? In Boulder, I felt like I could pick plenty of peoples brains in the athletic community, from nutritional habits, pros and cons of wearing bibs, what is the best route, what is a new route, race strategies, and if it's normal to cry during a bonk. I know that I'll find that community feeling in the legal profession eventually. I haven't decided if it makes me feel better or worse that Even Artichokes Have Doubts.

I'm still not really sure what made me decide to stay at law school. Maybe it was enough inverted yoga poses that got more blood to my brain. I really thought I was going to leave. I have a bad habit of staying in situations longer than I should thinking that they will get better, if I just give it a little more time, it'll change. I also hear that the first year of law school is designed to turn you inside out and most of it is spent being miserable, so I wonder if I would be having similar feelings elsewhere as well. I also worry that maybe I'm prolonging it so that I can be at peace with my decision. Like when I DNF'd at the Whiskey 50 and it took me 6 miles of trudging through the snow to cry all the tears out and be okay with the race ending at mile 13. But then I wonder how much of it is how much I hate living here and not actually law school. I also worry too much for my own good so I try not to think to far down the road. I don't know what's making me stay, and I don't know if I want to leave.   

I have no classes left and now only (yeah, ONLY!) finals to get through and then a new set of skis** to christen in the Colorado Snow! 
It's like I summoned the snow-gods!

**Skate-skis for all you nordorkers who want to go when I'm back. 

-P.S. Also if you can't tell I'm on a bit of a kick with Marina Keegan's writing. Unfortunately her life was cut short 5 days after graduating from Yale in 2012. Check out her essay's and stories, I feel like she's continuously helping me develop as a person. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chasing the Sun

After Leadville I took two weeks off the bike and tried to settle into law school. I spent the first two days crying--this is why bonking in the woods is more ideal than surrounded by people. And a good idea to have your mom around so you don't pack up the entire car and leave. It's not that I don't want to be in law school I do, or at least pretty sure I do. It's just the adjustment from Colorado to South Dakota has been a lot harder than I thought it would be.
Does this count as a trail?

I still haven't gotten into a groove with riding. I never thought that I would feel so claustrophobic in the vastness of the open prairie, but it's a little unnerving with how much space there is. If someone is chasing you, there is nowhere to hide. I have no sense of direction and worry if I wander too far away I'll just keep going. I also thought I would never miss climbing but boy I do. I used to think in terms of thousands of feet which has since been readjusted to hundreds, the most climbing I've had thus far is 761ft. over 50 miles (no shifting out of the big front chainring either...). Normally that would have equated to roughly 5,000 to 8,000 feet of climbing depending on the route. The one benefit is that it's teaching me to pedal, because it's so flat there is no coasting, just lots of pedaling.
Story of my life: Surrounded by dudes at a bike race
I also experience my first cross race here (about an hour away from school), in years past I've only raced one or twice a season and always on my singlespeed but decided to do it on my geared cross bike. The cross scene is still developing here so the women all race together instead of in separate categories. Which didn't make sense to me until I showed up and there was a total of three of us for the race. There aren't too many men either so we raced with the men cat 3/4 and the master's category. Racing for 10 hours is very different from racing for 30 minutes. I don't usually incorporate a warmup before my races because
At least I look fast, right?
racing for 100 miles there is plenty of time to warm up. A 30 minute race, as I've come to find requires a proper warm-up, when the race was ending I felt like I was just getting going. *Note to self, riding to the start line is not a sufficient warm-up.* The course was all on grass with a sandpit going through a kids playground. It was fun, hard, and depending on how you look at it I either got last, 3rd or 1st. Last because there were only three women and I was last (dropped a chain but I was out of contention before that), or 3rd because there were three of us and that at least gets me a podium spot. Or first, because I was the only woman racing in my category. I was all set to make my Irish exit until I realized I locked my keys in my car and my phone was in there. So much for not having to talk to anyone. It was actually a blessing in disguise as I had to ask someone to use their phone and then wait 30 minutes for AAA to show up. Then I started talking to people, or more they started talking to me because I was the only one they didn't know. It's a small group of passionate people, and it's nice to know that they exist over here.
I have no idea what I'm doing

I have yet to see too many people when I'm out riding though. Which is a little disconcerting as I've had many near misses with cars. Cars here just aren't aware to watch for cyclists on the road. I've taken my cross bike out just to get away and onto gravel roads away from traffic which is great, except for when I flat or double flat as I did today. The first time about 4 miles down a desolate road that had posted "travel at your own risk" at the beginning which I thought would be perfect for the bike.
 I'm still not sure what caused it and after using my spare tube decided to head back towards town. I was about 6 miles out still when I stopped to put more air in because it was looking a little low and needed to make it back to town because I have a very, very short list of people I know to call. I pulled over and touched the valve core when it blew. No! So I did what anyone would do 6 miles from town with not a soul in sight, I threw my bike and hand pump into the ditch and sat down to cry. Mid cry I stopped hoping that I would be able to find my hand pump when I finished because it's a nice little one but then carried on for a few more minutes before digging it and my bike out of the weeds. Luckily I have one classmate's phone number who was free to come pick me up. I was talking to Sully later about it, how alone I feel when riding and in general here and how in Colorado someone would have been out there with a spare tube. To which Sully added, "yah, and you're a girl so you would have gotten so much free stuff in Boulder." 

Adjusting to riding has been hard, the one thing that has been constant in my life for the past four years seems to be crushing my soul here. I know it will get better, and over time who knows maybe I'll really end up liking head winds and I'll be really fast at changing flats and dodging cars. As a result of my angst from some of my rides I've started running. I was so upset (mainly from a car almost hitting me) with how crappy a ride was this weekend that the next day I just started running and kept running for 9 miles, it was definitely a much needed spirit journey. 
And now I do things like this...for fun

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Leadville 100: Fight Like Hell

"Help! I need help!!" My focus was abruptly interrupted at mile 16 during the Leadville 100 when I was desperately trying to wrangle my derailleur into working. 

Coming into Leadville was uneventful, I left Law School Orientation early for it and was focused on trying to get prepped for the event. Sully and I headed up to Leadville the Thursday before where we did packet-pick up, a pre-ride and met up with the World Bicycle Relief Team. Friday was spent much of the same, taking it easy, making sure the check-lists were complete, food was made, bottles ready. Sully went over the bike once more and I was good to go. 

Final thoughts...
The morning of the race, I didn't feel nervous, I didn't have a lot of excitement either, I felt focused and calm--two things that I did not expect. Sully and I rode down to the start line and I maneuvered my way into the front of my wave. Some guy around me crashed, which was a little comic relief because the race hadn't even started yet. The gun went off and the waves started to move, I didn't have to wait long because I was towards the front and before I knew it we were off. I always get a little nervous for St. Kevin's, even with doing Leadville before. Everybody talks about the bottle neck and the jostling for position. Neither time has it happened to me where some asshole runs me off the route but it's always in the back of my mind. As we started up into the double track climb one of the guys I know passed me so I sat on his wheel to get through the throngs of people. After the initial climb I settled into a pace but still weary of everyone around me. I pulled my arm warmers down so I could drop them at the first aid station around mile 11. I was only able to get one off in time to drop it before turning onto a three mile descent on the pavement. This is where I knew I could make up time from the previous year; instead of eating on the descent, tuck go faster and eat on the climbs. So that's what I did. 

With the uphill I took my arm warmer and stuffed it in my middle jersey pocket (because I didn't want to litter) where it would be out of the way and took out some food to eat. I was in my groove working my way up the double track on the back side of Powerline when I heard one guy not even finish his sentence, "Hey girl in the pink helmet your arm warmer..." But in that moment the arm warmer had slipped from my jersey pock and straight down into my rear derailleur, slinking around it like a serpent and clogging up the whole system. "Ohhhhhh Fudge!"
Except, I didn't say Fudge. I wrestled with the arm warmer trying to get it to untangle and saw the end of the race looming. Some guy called out if to see if I needed help, I exclaimed, "Help! I need help!" and he stopped and was able to rig it back into some what of a shape that would get me going. I remember standing there and looking at the impending climb, and thinking Okay, you have two options now, you can quit, blame it on the derailleur and walk away orrrrr you can fight like hell. Oh yeah, option 1 doesn't exist. I took off with a vengeance, I had no idea if it would hold so I would ride that thing until it broke and then I'd start running. I took off continuing the climb, at first gingerly shifting and seeing what my range was, not much- about 5 gears in the middle, no easy climbing gears and nothing on the top range. Gears are shifty so that's fine. I had some reprieve at the top which opens up into Powerline at the bottom. It's a really fun descent and I bombed down it, taking the B line as much as I could to make up time and get around people. Powerline proved to not be too difficult getting down, there is only one really good line and most people are pretty cautious about it so I kept my distanced and followed suit. At the bottom and once on the pavement towards the Pipeline aid station the guy who helped me made a comment while passing "Dang, you went down that hill and passed me like I was standing still." I laughed and thought of all the sketchy events that have led to the confidence I now have in descending.
Blue Steel face

The next section is really great if you can get onto a group- it's about 5 miles of pavement and if you can sit with a group they'll pull you right in to the aid station. Expect that gear issue, I couldn't get into a hard enough one so when the group took off my little legs were spinning as fast as they could but to no avail. I was stuck out there on my own with a lone single speeder behind me. I'm sure people who saw me were thinking I should just shift to a hard gear. Fast twitch muscle have never been my strong suit. 

After the derailleur issue I lambasted myself for not taking my phone, there was no way to tell Sully at mile 40 what had happened so he could prepare. I thought maybe if I saw someone at the aid station at mile 23 I could have them text him. I didn't know anyone who
was going to be there, let alone who had Sully's number. I slowed a bit but not much as I still wasn't hopeful I'd know anyone but then I saw the Luna Pro Team's Van- he should have Sully's number. I rode to the side of the van "Chris! Can you text Sully that I bent my rear derailleur. It's working but will need something." "Yeah, sure! anything I can do?" I told him I'd just wait till I saw Sully, I don't know why I passed. But that's okay. I continued eating, drinking, riding and making sure not to shift under load. The section is fast, only about 50 minutes and I rolled into the 40 mile aid station to see the WBR tent where they told me to keep going Sully was further up. 

I turned onto the dam and towards the end I saw a group of pink shirts (the same ones from the last time) and waved to acknowledge that I saw them. I rode up and they were all ready to hand me food, "My derailleur, did Chris text you?" Sully had only taken my phone to the aid station, which I thought could happen- I told him it was bent and when he was looking at it, I took in some food and drink and waited for the diagnosis. Since Sully hadn't gotten the text he didn't have a spare derailed to put on there and asked if I could deal with it until he saw me again at mile 60. He had bent it back a little more so I was able to access a few more of the harder gears. I told him that was no problem and began the process up Columbine. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I had no idea if my gear range
was going to get me to the top without snapping my chain or throwing everything into  the wheel. All I had to do was get to the top and then I could just coast downhill if all else fails. I've always had a vendetta with Columbine, it is the same mountain that gave me a TBI but I've never felt like I've ridden it to my full potential. I'm not sure if it was the broken derailleur, the fact law school started on Monday, or plenty of past visualization but I had the best ride up it. I actually think by not having my easy gears I went up faster (and I did, it was my fastest time up, including training rides). I was making up time, and passing people doing it. I did make a point to try and tell everyone "good job" as I passed them, because I've been in their place where everything starts to fall apart on the climb. Towards the top one guy asked me why I was in such a good mood, I informed him, "I start law school on Monday! So this is great!" 

I was prepared for the walking section of Columbine, after the gravel road, it funnels into a goat trail that can be somewhat limiting because you have people coming down on the left and nowhere to pass on the right. If anything I've learned, it's to sit tight here and just go with it. I don't know if it was because I got up there faster but there was very limited walking. The last time it was almost 1.5 miles of all just hiking because of how backed up it got, but this time there were sections of walking but usually only 100-200 yards before being able to ride again. I ran into one of the ladies I knew- she told me that somebody crashed right in front of her going down Powerline and caused her to crash and go over the bars, she landed right on a rock with her chest and had been having trouble breathing the rest of the time. So she was going between walking, riding, and sitting to catch her breath. That lady is hard core (side note she finished and finished well!). Once I got to the top I knew there would be no time to waste, but I knew I needed to grab some food. In the midst of telling Sully what had happened to my derailleur I handed my food back to my mom when I went pee and forgot to grab it back. I had enough bites of things left and a whole bottle of skratch that got me up the mountain. I had even started looking for food that had been dropped when I was hiking but didn't find anything (my mother is thanking the lord I did not pick random race food up from the ground, Wayne, he other hand is probably shaking his head...). I got to the top refilled my bottle with water and took in some oranges and watermelon. I turned around and did the short 100 yard climb up and right before the descent started, I was on a tandem's wheel. I thought about passing them but then they made the move through the middle and I realized I just needed to stay on their wheel. They navigated through the throngs of people now pushing their bikes up and the people on the right riding down. Fortunately, most people realize that a tandem coming down is like a freight train so they conceded the right of way to them and I was able to squeeze by behind them. Once we got to the gravel section the tandem completely dropped me. That was fine, the gravel had been a little loose on Columbine so I was being a little conservative still. On a flatter section I went to drink but dropped my bottle and thought about stopping to pick it up but then ran over it so at this point I was completely out of food and water but only had about 10 minutes to go before I saw Sully again. 

I got back to the aid station and Sully had his whole tool roll laid out. My dad held my bike while Sully switched out parts and I ate food and posed for my mom to take pictures.
Before I knew it, Sully told me I was ready to roll, he said it might make some noise but it should shift smooth and not cause any more chain tension. OH MAN! Was he right-smooth as butter- and I was on a roll! I left the aid station and stopped by the WBR tent to see Claire and two of my friends who I missed on the way in. I quickly filled them in on my adventures and they then told me I should go and keep riding. The next section back to Pipeline Aid station isn't anything special, there is one mile of single track which is nice but that's really it. I avoided the back log that happened about 1/3 of a mile behind me. Sully and I had initially talked about him being at the Pipeline Aid Station but figured he wouldn't have enough time to get back there so mentally took stock of my food/water situation incase I needed to make it to mile 89. I could do it so I didn't take anything from the aid station and was able to get in a group this time for the pavement section. Before the turn off for Powerline I saw Sully's big blue van so knew he was close. The WBR girls were planning on being on Powerline so I thought maybe he was with them. I turned the corner and saw him with his tool roll and food waiting for me. He wanted to make sure the derailleur was holding up. I grabbed some more food and was grateful to be able to restock just incase I needed it for the climb.
Teamwork makes the dream work.

Powerline is always tricky because there is really only one line up and that seems to be the one people want to walk up too. I knew I could make it up a good chunk of it before needing to walk- fortunately Powerline draws enough crowds that they yell for you at walkers to get out of the way. I saw the WBR girls which helped to give me a little surge of energy. I figured I just needed to make it to the photographer so there is proof of me being a badass, I did but the photo has yet to show up. About half way up it becomes so steep that I'm at an advantage to walk because it's faster- so that's what I did. I made it a point to get back on as soon as I could and begin the climb up into the 4 false summits before reaching the top. Going down this section is much more fun than going up. It's only 3 miles but still takes me about 50 minutes. I still felt great going up, and once I got to the top I found a girl's wheel to sit on for the descent. She rallied and it was all I could do to keep up with her but her lines were smooth, not what mine would have been had I been doing it solo. We got down the mountain pretty fast and soon we were almost to the home stretch. More descending on pavement followed by a 20 minute climb up to the last aid station. I had made a rough plan to see my parents at this one, drop my camelbak and get one last fuel grab before the descent into town. As I approached the aid station I couldn't find them so I grabbed a handful of M&Ms and a cup of coke. I then saw they had full unopened cans
and I asked if I could take one and stuffed it into my sports bra--incase of emergency. I was now ready to begin my descent with a jersey pocket full of M&Ms and a can of coke in my sports bra.  I still approached the descent like I had most of the other ones, with reckless abandonment, especially knowing I was so close to home. Toward the end of the descent you end up on a narrow gravel road, about 6 miles from the finish, this is when I started to feel the fumes. I searched in my bag and pulled out my in "super case of emergency" bar, I had never tried it and immediately regretted it, it reminded me of tequila, not what you want when you're that far into a race. 

With about 4 miles left I saw Sully, I thought about stopping but realized I was so close so the only thing I could think of to yell at him was "I'm dead!" clearly brain function was starting to go too. After seeing him it's a double track again that feels like a rutted out alley. I saw a RudeBoy (it's a team in CO that gets rowdy) and knew he'd navigate the section with ease so I followed his lines up onto the gravel road that flows into town. Last time I raced Leadville I was so unprepared for this section but now I knew what to expect so it wasn't as demoralizing. I could see the crest of the hill that I needed to reach to begin the descent into town. At this point I was really only on fumes, I don't remember any other time that I had felt so spent in any race or training ride. I reached the pavement and turned onto the final stretch. It was all I could do to turn the pedals over. I remembered the coke (a weird thing to forget) and opened it with about half a mile left and chugged it like I was in a frat house. I shoved the can in my jersey pocket and proceeded to the finish line. I don't remember much just a blur of people yelling. As I crossed the finish line I tried to put my arms up--but almost fell off the bike in the process so put them back down almost immediately, the pictures are real gems. I got my medal and went and found my mom, dad and Sully and almost immediately  regretted chugging that can of coke. I don't know if I've had much more than a sip or two of pop for at least 12 years so it was quite the shock to the stomach, which so kindly reminded me of that fact when I was throwing it up later. 
The best team!

I finished in 10:09- about 16 minutes faster than my previous attempt. I finished 39th for women and 8th in my age group (it's a weird race because they clump all the pros and amateurs together in the same age groups). It might have been the best race of my life. I relished every moment and only the last few miles did I start to fumble. I loved racing for WBR, and I'm really proud of how I dealt with the derailleur issue, a few years ago I'm not sure I would have had the perspective to keep going. It was really a great hurrah before law school. And totally worth spending the first two days of law school bonking from it. 
The best mechanic/support crew!!

If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically & emotionally: Give up, or Fight Like Hell. 

These are the HILARIOUS finish photos. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Be Grateful

Survived the crash date
"What's your last training ride if you don't cry on it?" I posed to Sully after I had gotten off the bike, gotten some food and gotten some perspective. I was on the last 40 minutes of my 4 plus hour ride and almost to 50 miles. I had one of my banana wraps explode in my jersey pocket earlier which had put me in a calorie deficit, had been facing a strong headwind on the way back and was about half way up the segment after Powerline (about a 45 minute climb) when I lost it. Not fully, complete
breakdown mode, I didn't have that much energy to waste- but my fears bubbled up to the surface and I did the most logical thing to do- released them in the form of tears. "What if the race isn't fun, what if I'm slow, what if I don't PR, what if I crash on this descent and don't get to race, what if it was all for naught." Everything came out and then I reached the summit, turned around and descended back to my car to eat my emergency snickers- as they say, you aren't you when you're hungry.

If you give a moose a salt block....
Sully pointed out that this was normal, and it seemed to happen at least once a year in training mode for me. It was true and I probably would have been surprised if I had made it through the whole thing without crying. It doesn't help that I've been living out of a laundry basket of riding clothes from my car as all of my things have been moved for the start of law school and my lease ended July 31st. Fortunately I've had some stability in the form of my family's cabin over by Crested Butte, no internet, no cell service (there is a landline), and no people which has led to my first Pintrest Project, and moose watching! It's also given me a lot of time to just be, especially before the chaos that this week will bring, with law school orientation, flying back to CO, racing Leadville and then flying back to start law school.

I've put a lot of stress around getting a PR at Leadville and trying to get as close to 9 hours as possible. It will be rather hard, as my best training times put me around 9:30 and that's been for only half the distance. It's stupid to put so much focus on this one race though, I've had a great season and
Like this ride to a carousel...
some really epic training rides. If something goes catastrophically wrong at Leadville, it's not the end of the world. I'm not defined by this race-  plus I did register for 2016 already soooo....

When I finally told my mother in passing that I did register for 2016, she said she figured "I would and it was fine as long as it remained fun but to also remember that when I'm climbing those hills in Leadville that I could be on the flats of Iowa with a party bus behind me" (there is talk about doing RAGBRAI- the ride across Iowa, with the whole gang). She does have a point if anything it's just a great last hurrah before law school - I mean what's a going away party without 1500 other people to celebrate with you?

I did express some of my fears to Barb, who has accomplished many Ironmans, marathons, x-terras, triathlons and various other athletic accomplishments- and she gave me some great advice "Stay in the moment. Pass through the bad patches. Be grateful. You got this!" And so heading into race day, I will remember to be grateful that I even have the opportunity to get to the starting line. 
Calm before the storm.