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. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

SilverRush 50: Where Do You Want To Go?

There were two things that happened at the SilverRush 50 that I didn't plan for:
1.) Launching my bike off my car rack on the way to the race (don't worry it's fine!)
2.) Winning an entry into Leadville 2016....my mother is already praying

I guess I knew #2 was a possibility but it seemed to be the furthest thought from my mind, I was focused mostly on trying to improve my Leadville coral position and on racing my own race and not worry about anyone around me. I successfully achieved both of those even with my legs deciding not to show up.

The race started like it did every year, with some chaos interrupting my calm focus. The first year I had to call my dad to help me figure out where the start was, last year I had to call Dana to bring me my camelbak, and this year I was driving when I hit a dip and launched the rear wheel of my bike off the bike rack and smack onto the street. Fortunately I saw it right away and with my friends in the car right behind me they both reassured me that it was fine. Not like I had a second bike if it wasn't fine so figured I would ride it until it broke (it never did).

At the start I double checked my rear tire pressure and it seemed to be holding so wasn't going to fret about it. The hike up at the start is always awful, immediately my legs were questioned why I was doing this but once I was on the bike they seemed to settle into a rhythm. I had talked to my coach
about the course and decided it best to ride the first 10 miles conservatively at it is a steady climb, there would be plenty of other places to blow myself up. And so I did, I settled into my pace and just turned over the pedals hoping to wake my legs up. The last 4 miles of the climb are on a donkey trail that is pretty rutted out and has some questionable lines. My only goal was to not have to walk any of it because I knew mentally it would make my day harder. So I didn't, I kept climbing and was thankful to the guys walking behind me who would call out to those in front of me that I was coming.

Preach, girl.
I was relieved when I turned off the climb and onto the gravel road that pulled me down by the first aid station and into the forest. I kept descending knowing it would only lead to more climbing. That climb was followed again by a quick descent and another climb that  sent me over the highest point and down into the turn around. I knew I didn't want to waste too much time at the half way aid station so when I rode by I grabbed two bananas and five gels just to be safe, because what's a race if you don't cross the finish line with at least an extra 1700 calories of food. 

The way back always seems shorter than the way out, and it is, time wise but nothing substantial because all those downhills on the way out become uphills on the way back. The way back though involves about a mile or two of hike-a-bike section which made me grumble because I hate hiking with my bike. After that it was followed by a descent back into the forest when I saw one of my friends on the way out. Unfortunately it was on a corner and only realized who it was after passing her. We shouted at each other and then continued on our separate ways. Getting back to the final aid station seemed faster than I thought it would be. The climbs are shorter and the descents are longer. I followed one guy into a descent and saw him crash right in front of me but luckily I took the cleaner line and remained unscathed. I pulled into the last aid station not really needing anything but figured if they were handing out water I would take it. The girl I rode to
This is Suzy, she's also from West River, we represented
only had coke and not wanting to waste time waiting for water I took it and mentally prepared for the last push of the day, 4 miles up the gravel road before taking the 10 mile descent into town. I settled into a pace, and kept rhythm by reciting prayers and old poetry (really the only time I break out any poetry is when I'm climbing on my bike). About half way up I got passed by one lady and was able to sit on her wheel for the most part and have her pull me the rest of the way. I also knew that the descent provided two lines so wasn't worried about getting stuck behind some cranky old guy like last weekend. Before I knew it we were turning onto the descent and I was opening up my suspension. I felt great going down, smooth, clean, and focused. Maybe one of the most confident descents I've had in a long time. I was able to pick clean lines and navigate around other riders with ease. I knew this is where I could make up some time so I kept pushing and kept pedaling. I watched the mileage climb with the approach of town near. I had passed three girls on the descent and didn't want them to have the opportunity to pass me back. With 1.5 miles left to go there is a short steep hill that I knew if anyone would catch me it would be on that, especially if I had to get off and walk. I focused, shifted down in time and mashed up it and kept cruising to the finish line.
I was happy with my finish I took an 1:05 off my time from last year and 5 minutes off the time from the year before (5:50 was this year). I felt pretty good because I had raced my race and even with my legs not feeling 100% I was able to keep riding and not sulk about it. I ended up winning my age group which was nice, especially because second place came in 30 seconds behind me. Winning gives me the opportunity to race Leadville in 2016. I didn't even think about that as being an option. When I was up on the podium they give you an option of taking the coin to register later or passing it up. I took it; but still have yet to register.

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sparkle Unicorns

Still the same after 8 years!
Heading up to Breckenridge for the Firecracker 50 was the perfect anecdote for spending the previous weekend in NYC; navigating traffic, tourists, and roller bladders (yes, that's still a thing there- I know I was shocked too!) around central park while riding. NYC was great, in that I was able to catch up
with friends but it quickly reminded me why I didn't remain on the East, too many people-all the time. Not to say Breckenridge wasn't crowded, with it being a holiday weekend it was but at least I was in the mountains and riding my mountain bike.

I signed up for the team category with Carly, the fiancee of one of Sully's riders. We had talked about it at the Grand Junction race but I postponed registering because I was having a hard time coming up with a team name. With only a few days left I put down the only name that seemed reasonable: Sparkle Unicorns. We both had a similar approach to the race; casual. I was grateful for, because I have the SilverRush 50 this weekend and didn't want to blow myself up by doing two 50s in a row.
Good vibes on the preride 

We started the race by going through the 4th of July parade in Breckenridge and then I pulled off and headed back to the house while Carly started the first lap. It's a bit odd going second because you have a vague idea of when you will begin but no definite way of knowing. I gathered my things at the house and headed to the park to watch the pros come through and help do feeds for Sully's team. Other than that I spent most of the time trying to avoid the sun and hoping that I didn't miss Carly coming in. After and hour or so waiting in the park I couldn't handle it much more and decided to at least put my ride clothes on so if Carly did show up I would be ready after she had to find me.

The finish is a really fun descent with switchbacks carved into the hillside so you can see the riders coming down. I saw Carly in full descent mode and edged out of the transition zone to get ready for the baton handoff, and by that I mean number plate. She rolled in and I asked her how it was, "really fun!" We fumbled to switch out the number plate and then I took off. I hadn't ridden much of the course but had an idea after talking to people about it. The first few miles are a road climb up which I saw a lot of people starting to suffer on their second lap, I felt bad passing them because I was feeling fresh to death (and looking it too) so tried to give them a "good job" and maybe give them a little life to keep going. The road section is followed by turning off onto a drainage ditch that is wide enough to pass and only about a 1% grade. I cruised through the first aid station, remembering to eat and drink by the clock and continued on my crusade. I was really surprised by how nice everyone was when I tried to pass, nobody tried to out sprint me or be an ass about it which made it easier to keep passing. It was a fun course because I was either climbing or descending, not a lot of just flat pedaling which kept it interesting and moving fast. I saw Sully at the second aid station where I took a bottle from him just to get some water in before tossing it back to him. 

The next section is the one I had been warned about by multiple people, Little French. It's a loose rocky section that is rideable but one miss turn and you'd be off the bike. I started the climb up and sat on a wheel until they got off to walk and moved up to the next one. I wasn't sure I'd be able to ride it all and got passed by one guy taking the B line around me so I thought I'd sit on his wheel to navigate the group of 5 walking in front of us. He got off his bike and hiked in behind them. I followed suit because if he didn't think it was worth it I figured it probably wasn't. Besides, it is good practice for Leadville. I got back on my bike before the top which put a little bit of time between me and the group behind me which meant I could enjoy the descent all to myself and I did, silky smooth single track that pulled you down the mountain.

The third aid station at mile 21 appeared sooner than I thought it would. I knew from earlier when Sully was there that it was about 20/25 minutes to the finish but there were also about 5 switchbacks
Tried to get him at the end!
that you had to climb up to get down to the other side. I started climbing up and knew it wasn't worth trying to get around anyone on that section so sat still until it opened up onto a straight climb that had enough room to pass. I made my moves to try and get to the descent sections sooner and was soon sitting on a guys wheel that seemed fast and warranted no reason to go around him. Right over the crest where we started the descent he scooted around another guy to begin his descent, I tried to follow by saying, "on your left when you get a chance" but he didn't seem to find a chance. I thought that was okay because we had to cross a road and I planned on passing him there. We hit the road and I said, "Can I get around" but he sprinted back onto the single track. I then sat on his rear wheel for the
next 2 mile descent trying to find the chance to make my move. He took a wooden feature and I tried to sprint around on the trail but he cut me off. I sat on his wheel all the way through the finish and then he turned to me and said, "I'm really sorry darhling, I should have let you pass." Maybe it was because of recent sexism I've been dealing with at work, or maybe it was because I hadn't had coffee yet, but I unloaded on him, "Yah, you should have let me pass." His response, "Well, I was just out there trying to give it my all." "Oh, and I wasn't?!?! I was and mine was faster than yours!! You should have let me pass because you knew I was girl and we aren't in the same category, we aren't racing against each other." I was pretty livid, but Sully and Carly soon intercepted me and we were revealing in how much fun the course was and how we wouldn't want to have do two laps. The guy who blocked me ended up doing a 40 minute slower lap time than me so joke is on him- because in the end he got beat by a girl--sucker!
Game Face!

I felt great through out the race, I started pretty conservatively and found my groove which served me well. My next adventure is the SilverRush 50 this weekend, I'm excited to see how it goes as the first year I did it I loved it and last year I loathed it so could be funnnnnn!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bashing with the Betis

18 miles doesn't seem very long when comparing it to my other race distances, but when in the midst
That would be nail polish going on...
of it, it seemed like it when on forever. It didn't help that for the first 6 mile lap I kept looking at my power meter box instead of the mileage box so felt like I was going nowhere when really I was making progress.

The race had started off with me in the second row, there were no official call ups and I didn't want to push my way up. I started next to a girl I knew so that helped. Sully and I had talked about how important the start would be and getting from the double track to the single track as fast as I could. I didn't get there fast enough and was following many others into the line. I wasn't worried though because I had no idea what to expect, and knew not blowing myself up on the first lap was probably in my best interest. There were a few steep switchbacks climbing up, one girl in front of me tried to pass another but ended up running into her, I got off my bike and ran around 
I'm surprised I didn't melt in the heat
them which spiked my heart rate and gave me a little anxiety because I wasn't sure if that was proper etiquette or not. I jumped back on my bike (good thing I've practiced my cross mount!) and took off on the chase, the girl I knew was still in front of me and I knew if I hung around her I would be okay. I've always struggled with passing people and would only follow suit when someone else made the move around someone and I would try to sneak in with them, like, "oh, I'm coming by too!" but usually would get caught behind and would lose some seconds until I could get around too. 

I made it through the first lap, and saw Sully at the start of the second to get my first bottle. I grabbed it on a short climb up and took some in. I knew I could push harder on the second lap and so I did, I also knew that I had to get more aggressive with passing, upgrading from my, "hi, when you get a chance, but really no rush, I'd like to get around you, but really only when you can" to "when you get a chance". I kept picking people off, and tried to get to the next person in front of me and just keep pushing. Some of the dirt was lose on the back side and I was constantly worry that I would slid out but kept it somewhat in control. I did most of the passing on the second lap, the group had spread out and I had no idea where I was in relation to anyone. I passed through the finish with one more lap and with Sully standing if I wanted water or GU, I thought about it for a moment too long before shouting "GU!" at the last minute to grab it. I knew I needed something to ward off cramping as it was hot and extremely exposed. I had to take it in and was trying to figure out when but went into the single track right behind a lady and knew I was not in position to ingest it then. I needed to get round her so I could get the GU. I took the left on a clear shot and got around her, but knew with 5 miles left I had to not get complacent and keep pushing. I took in 
half the GU because that was all I could manage before needing both hands on the bars. By now I knew the course enough to know where I could gain time, the short uphills and where I should reign it in, the loose corners. With 3 miles left I realized I should have put something in the bottles, like scratch or nuun because my calves were beginning to cramp. Just the first signs when you feel your muscles start to pull. I tried to prevent them from seizing by staying in the saddle on the short climbs and stretching them on the descents. I kept pushing but could keep feeling the slight ting in both my calves and would pull back just a little. The last half a mile twists around with sharp right turn onto double track that has a steep climb before flattening out into the finish. I took the right but had to get out of the saddle to get up the hill, that's when it happened, both calves seized, which was both hilarious and not. I was so close and yet was far enough that I had to keep pushing, I'm sure I 
During the cramp
was grimacing the whole time. I crossed the finish line and immediate got off my bike, sat on the ground and stretched both legs out. I was announced the unofficial winner of my age group as I sat there and had one of the shop owners and Sully come up to grab my bike and give me water. I rode my bike around for a cool down with Sully and then I had to stop and throw up the coffee and GU I had taken in. Ooops. Negative feed? 

Parker all dressed up for the drag race 
We hung around for the drag race and the podium. I ended up winning my age group and getting third for the expert field which I was pretty happy with. To give you perspective last year I raced sport and got third in my age group. I felt great through out the whole race, minus the cramping but was happy that I kept pushing and kept racing and didn't get complacent. This was the race I was hoping to have at Grand Junction, but glad to at least have it. 

Last Tuesday I hosted a happy hour and silent auction at the shop, which was a huge success, $1,700 was raised for World Bicycle Relief with some really cool prizes being donated for it. It was pretty amazing to see so many people show up and support the cause, it might have helped that there was free beer, but whatever gets people in the door! 
We're all winners!

This weekend I head to New York City for a wedding and decided to fly with my bike because I'll be there for four days and it seemed cheaper and easier than having to rent one. It might be little excessive to take my bike but why not? 
New kit day and new spot on the podium!