Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Queen of the Hills

The 15 hours leading up to the Queen of the Hills race at the Black Hills Fat Tire Festival did not give me high hopes for the race itself. Packet pickup was advertised as going till 5 and after arriving at 4:30 we learned that they left at 4. We went to the next location where we were told they didn't have our packets there and it wouldn't matter anyways because they didn't have our race numbers so everyone would have to get them in the morning before the race. There really wasn't a lot of information about the race on the website either, it's a race that combines a hill climb, cross country race, and downhill time segments for the overall. I asked if there were separate  waves or different start times, no mass start. How the timing worked for the three separate categories- there will be people there so you'll know which portions are timed. Are there any feed zones? There will be people with coolers that will have water. We were also told that the course was marked so Sully and I left to go try to preside. The course was marked but not in any fashion that really made sense of where to go and our only race course map was a strava file which left much to be desired. We rode around for 1:30 and only went 6 miles because at every trail junction we would stop and try to negotiate if the course went this way or that way. Let's just say I was not impressed, and left feeling anxious about what was going to transpire the next day.  
Getting my HR down after the climb. Photo: Randy Ericksen

The morning of the race, having to get our numbers we arrived earlier than usual only to learn that it was going to start an hour later at 8 instead of 7 because of thunderstorms. We put our numbers on then went to get more coffee, or at least me more coffee. We came back after the rain had stopped and warmed up. They then started the call ups. They didn't do separate waves but did divide us by age group, and there were so few in my age group that I ended up in the front row with all the boys. I still get really nervous racing with guys because I never know how it's going to go. The race started on a bike path for about a mile or so before the hill climb begins, this helped tremendously to spread everyone out a little bit and have them fit into their proper position. Doing the hill climb even with a warm up doesn't change the fact that my legs were immediately filled with lactic acid and it felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. 

Going down! Photo: Randy Ericksen
I followed the wheel in front of me and towards the top I had to hop off to scramble up some rock features, I apologized to the guy behind me who told me I was doing fine and to keep doing me. I made it up the climb and saw the people that indicated the time section was over. Keep pushing but continue recovering. I was focused on riding when a minute or two later I heard a familiar voice, "Kate, there is a snake, get off the trail!" I have been told that enough times to follow the voice up to Sully who was standing off the trail with a stick in his hand (I wish there was a photo). He was calling out to the other riders warning them too. I immediately hopped off my bike and ran towards Sully when I noticed a snake in the middle of the trail, coiled up, hissing, and moving around. I then remembered that snakes can jump (or so I'm told) and I moved a little faster. Sully got in front of me and we avoided it completely- about 15 seconds later we heard a shriek and later found out that a lady had run over it. That snake was pissed, and I've never stuck around long enough to see a snake get that reactive. I continued on Sully's wheel for a bit thanking him for stopping otherwise my race might have been over if I was the one to run over it- he was soon gone as we got on a descent and he took off. 

After the descent I got passed by a lady, and tried to stay on her wheel for a bit after she told me to hold on but I couldn't keep pace with her for too long and watched as she slowly pulled ahead. The course flows really well with a few short climbs and two big ones. The course wasn't terribly crowded either and on the back side of the course the distance began to grow between each rider. I was riding along looking to the switch backs above me to anticipate what was coming when I looked down and saw it slithering underneath me. I screamed having run over a snake and got chills running down my spine. Two minutes later I saw a course volunteer, "I ran over a snake back there!" "Was it a rattlesnake?" He inquired. "I don't know but it could still kill me!" I didn't know if it was a rattlesnake, but there are signs posted about them being over the hillside, and after the first encounter was not sticking around to find out. 

Photo: Randy Ericksen
The one unfortunate part of our preride mishap is that we went down this section that we were convinced was the timed downhill, it had a few drops, rock waterfalls and was really fun to go down. During the race I found out that we actually got to go up it. I made it up one of the features before having to get up and run the rest of the way up. The climb does feed into the timed downhill portion but it has more berms and less rock features. I started down and was passed by two guys but both were really nice saying they'd see me on the climb again. I got done and started lap two by asking if the snake at the top was taken care of. They didn't know but figured I would check again at the top of the climb. I started up and again had to get off at the portion that I ran up on the first lap. This time I stopped and gave a guy one of my extra CO2s since he had a flat. All I asked in return was that if he got in front of me he'd warn me of any snakes. I also asked that of any guy who passed me at that point and throughout the rest of the race. I check with the volunteers at the top about the snake and they thought it was gone. I was still reluctant coming around the corner and the section where Sully called me off for the snake. I then realized the faster I went the less time I would have if I did see. It was gone and I continued on my way. The first lap they cut out about 2 miles due to the rain and then decided to put it back in on the second lap, which made for some very challenging mental math trying to figure out how much I had left and how much of my bottle I could drink. It didn't seem to add much elevation which I was grateful for at that time and I got to the rocky climb sooner than I thought (miscalculation  
Sully working hard. Photo: Randy Ericksen
on the mental math). I was nearly out of my one bottle and just really wanted water. I got to the top of the climb and there was a group of volunteers there, I asked if they had any water and they told me further up the climb before the descent. I went to get back on my bike and completely missed landing on the rear wheel, yeah still not sure how I managed that- they all kind of stared at me and I said, "actually do have tequila" and then I got back on my bike and climbed up. I reached the top of the climb and saw the two people who were suppose to have water. I was only 2-3 miles from the finish and it was mostly descent but the sun had been exposed long enough and I had been out of my bottle long enough that all I could think about was stopping. I wasn't sure what the situation was so when I asked they took a bit to dig a Dasani bottle out of the cooler. I stopped for a few chugs and then handed it back and continued down into the finish. I got down to the finish and found Sully who had finished 3 minutes before me. I had saw him on one of the switchback climbs and tried to catch him but couldn't do it. 

I finished 2nd overall for women and first in my age group. I was 1st in the hill climb for women, 2nd in the cross country, and 3rd for the downhill section. When I was talking to Sully beforehand I actually thought it would be reversed, with the hill climb being my worst section. I think if it hadn't been delayed an hour the weather would have been perfect and one bottle would have been enough. I also thought the water station would be a little bit better since the race was 24 miles, but next year I'll just bring someone to feed me. The race was actually a lot better than I was anticipating and it seems like it has huge potential to grow and really be a destination race. I'm grateful to have options to race close to home. It seems that all the people who race in SD are really nice--I always stress so much about it--so I'm always very thankful for that (I haven't done a race yet in the state with anyone mean).
All that for a pair of socks...

We spent the next day going over some of the trails on the Wildcat Classic course (a race in August that everyone should come to!) that is outside of my hometown. Mainly we just climbed up to go down the amazing descent at the end--but definitely worth it. 
Trails outside of town I can ride to makes me VERY happy!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Gold Rush Gravel Grinder

Last time I said that forgetting your legs was the worst thing to do when it comes to a race, actually I take that back--forgetting to register for the race might take the cake. Fortunately when I emailed the race director for the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder her response was, no problem-we could always use more females.

The start- before I really knew what was before me. Photo: Les Hesierman
I didn't think having to pedal for 110 miles was going to be that bad until I learned of the 100 degree heat for that day but even then I could not imagine what I was in store for. At 6:00 race morning it was already hot out and my stomach did not like it, I was able to get about 1/4 of what I normally eat for breakfast down before the race started which I knew wasn't the best plan but it was better than nothing. The neutral roll out started and I cruised along thinking they would regroup us before sending us out on the gravel, they didn't so by the time we officially started racing we were already strung out-I had to quickly assess and get on someone's wheel. Having done one gravel race before I knew that I should hang on to someone's wheel as much as possible. And that's what I did for the first 40 miles. It helped that we were in a canyon by a creek so the heat wasn't terrible at this point. I spent the first two hours only taking in liquids, which I knew could potentially set me up for failure later but my stomach was not having any of it. I made it to the first aid station at mile 33 and refilled my bottles, thinking I had kept pretty good pace. I got food out to eat on the next section because I knew I needed to force something down or I would be done.  The next aid station was at mile 68, which made me a little nervous but I knew if I conserved my water, I could make it if I kept on pace.
Getting pulled around is my go-to move. Photo: Les Heiserman

I didn't keep on pace though and from mile 40 to 68 is a long, steady, gradual climb up. It was never steep enough that it warranted getting out of the saddle but steady enough that I was just continuously mashing my pedals and remaining in a static position. At around mile 43 I was starting to get worried about my water situation, there is no way I would be able to make it to mile 68 with what I had. But there was no other option either, I was closer to 68 than I was the beginning so only option was to keep going--and there wasn't a lot of cell phone service out there to call anyone.

I was saved by the grace of God-- and this is really the only way I was able to keep going. The race director was around mile 50 and had a barrel of water. It seemed like he was picking someone up on the course (I'm not sure the reason he was out there- maybe he took pity on our poor souls who were slogging away) but I reloaded my bottles there and it saved me. One of the guys I was riding with said he was calling it. We were at a split and he said if you go left it loops you back to town on the 70 mile course and if you go right you'll stay on course. I asked if they would take our times over for the 70 mile- he didn't think so. I decided to keep going but immediately questioned my decision as I rode off.   
The next 18 miles didn't go by any faster. It was miserable, somewhere in that time span I questioned everything, riding bikes, racing bikes, doing Leadville- they all seemed like awful ideas and yet the only thing I could do was to keep riding my bike. I simultaneously hated my bike and desperately needed it. I was in a low for about 35 minutes, and began eating by the clock and trying to work out of it. I began taking breaks; every 20 minutes or so I would find some shade, get off my bike and just stand there letting the breeze cool me off, eat something, stretch and then get back on to continue. One guy made the comment that we were no longer racing, we were just surviving. It changed my perspective a bit. I started saying I can survive this, I will outlast-as long as I don't get heat exhaustion. 

I struggled into mile 68 planning to drop out, have my dad come pick me up and go eat a hamburger. I rolled up to the check point and then asked how many women were in front of me, "you're the first one" I responded, "Well... I suppose I will keep going then." I took a break inside the lodge and refilled my bottles, pulled some food out of my drop bag, and then got back on the bike. I didn't make it very far as the course wasn't marked and my cue sheets were some what confusing at this point, or I was becoming delirious (just kidding mom!). I turned around and went back to the check point and asked which way to go. One guy was about to leave and told me he'd take me back the way we needed to go. Thank goodness! I was not in the mood for getting lost. I hung on with him for a while and then told him, "I'm probably going to drop off so don't feel like you need to wait for me." I did and he kept going, but at this point the directions were more clear. 

We finally reached a sustainable downhill section, which I thought would be a nice reprieve but it was mostly a two-track with enough rocks that I felt like a Raggedy-Ann Doll and every muscle in my body remained braced for impact. My chest became so ridged that I was forcing air out just so I would breath in, no need to go all vaso vagal out here. There is one last good climb going into mile 85, I actually misread the cue sheet so when I started it was only a mile, I then realized that it was closer to three. A lot of people were off their bike walking up it. I'm not sure if was the heat, the fact that sometimes I ride a single speed or the fact that I hate hike-a-biking but I kept mashing up in my lowest gear to avoid getting off the bike and walking. It wasn't terribly steep but at this point in the race everything seem to expend more energy than necessary. 

Last climb- but still 25 miles to go. Photo: Les Heiserman
I made it to the last check-in point around mile 86, got some water and then turned around. The next 25 miles or so are mostly downhill, not steep enough that you can coast but at least it wasn't uphill. I watched the miles tick by (not fast enough) and couldn't wait to finally get off my bike. With 10 miles to go one of the guy who was walking up the hill earlier blew by me like I was standing still, sure I was still cruising at 22/23mph but there was nothing left. I started singing, "Everything hurts sometimes" my own rendition. I've never had so many simultaneous aches at the end of a race, down to my bones hurt and I think if someone had offered me a ride at that point I would have taken it, that's how far gone I was. Fortunately nobody did so I kept riding down Spearfish Canyon. I was so happy when I was done, I got off my bike and laid under a tree for a good 30 minutes--which rendered some very weird stares but my response was, "just say no to gravel". 
Sharing our tales of misery
I spent a good portion of the race thinking I was never going to do a gravel race again. I later found out that I won my age group and the women's overall walking away with $200---I realized shortly there after that I'll probably do gravel again. For our podium picture, they said 3rd place was still out on course...
Having second thoughts about my retirement
I'm grateful to the race directors, as I saw both of them on course making sure that people had enough water and seeing if riders needed anything. And also to my best friend Heidi, who let me stay at her house and take over her kitchen to make all the food I thought I was going to eat during the ride. 

Here is the break down: 
Miles: 110.8
Time: 9:06:07 (Time I was actually riding: 8:37- I said I took a lot of breaks in the shade...)
Avg. Speed: 12.1
Elevation: 6,401
Avg. Heart Rate: 155
5(!!!) Snake sightings

10 Bottles of Water
5 Servings of Skratch
4 Rice cakes with blueberries and chocolate (I was carrying 6 total along with 5 sweet potato cakes, 2 gushers and 1 sharing size Peanut M&Ms bag but never consumed them..oops). 

Monday, May 30, 2016

To Get Where You're Going

Have you ever went to play baseball but only to forget your glove? That's what showing up to a race and forgetting your legs feels like. You can still race, but it's not very pretty. That's how I felt at Ironhorse. I finished, it wasn't pretty and I never want my legs to decide not to show up again.
Not race course but definitely worth riding!

I was abnormally nervous for the Ironhorse race, maybe more so than any other race I've done. I'm not sure it it was coming off a year of law school without a gauge of where I'm at, racing with the pros, or it only being 18 miles. Fortunately we were staying with some friends, and Bryan was racing the pro men's category, which took off 1 minute before my race. I mainly just followed him around like a puppy  the whole weekend in preparation of the race. He made me feel better when preriding the course the day before he reminded me that everyone would be suffering. After a lap on course and picking his brain some more we went and rode some other trail in Durango. Durango has an amazing trail system, we only scratched the surface so certainly worth a trip back. Because of the race we kept it short and only did an extra hour of riding off course. 

The morning of the Ironhorse we woke up and went and did a lap on course, okay I did half a lap because my legs weren't feeling great while Bryan finished a full one. I spun out a bit longer on the road hoping to start a spark in my legs but really wasn't too worried about it at this point. I got back to the house, ate and put my legs up and then ate again.
Following Bryan and Sully around 

Before leaving I changed into my kit, filled bottles and went through the schedule with Sully for feeds and then followed Bryan out of the house. The race starts on an uphill and is pavement for about 2-3 minutes before reaching the dirt. I followed Bryan up and down some hills to warm up to help get my heart rate up before the uphill start and then cruised around till the race and touched base with Sully again before the start.
Back row is where it's at

The start was really uneventful, there were about 25 women and I started in the back. We started and immediately the pace was set pretty high, it's mainly a race of who can get to the dirt first because after that the passing becomes very questionable. It was in the first few minutes, on the pavement that I realized my racing legs were not going to be with me. I got on the dirt climb and continued to turn the pedals over trying to inspire my legs to do anything, something, but there was no spark. I was hanging with a small group of girls and just trying to hold on with everything I had. There are two big climbs on the course and both on the first half of each lap. The one big issue I have with the race is the age group men started 3 minutes behind us. They caught our group on the second climb and immediately separated us out. The fast guys seem to know how to pass, realizing that a 1-2 second delay isn't going to make or break them, in order to wait till it's clear. It's the guys who are midpack, and not all of them either, but those guys started making really sketchy passes and left me as the collateral. I would hear one guy go to pass and give him the go followed by, "me too", "me too", "me too" until I would be run off the trail. I got jostled like this more than I was comfortable with and finally lost it when one guy who passed me with no warning and not in a passible spot caused me to go off on the side of the trail. I asked him if he was serious in my most grown up voice, he told me I could use my words to tell him it wasn't clear, so I used my words to call him an asshole. I immediately regretted it because he seemed like a huge jerk who wasn't worth the sin. It's the first time that I've actually lost my cool during a race and realized soon after that it wasn't worth it. The thing that I'm sure he didn't realize was that it wasn't just him but the 12 guys in front of him who had the same mentality. I took a moment to regain my composure, and didn't have another problem after that. As my friend Kara says, "it only takes one jerk to ruin the moment." 

The second half of the lap, is fast, with even some questionable descents. There is a loose baby rock decent that immediately turns into a sharp uphill and a few tree branches that could really ruin your day. I was the most nervous for the descents, but it's the only place I was able to catch people and make up any time. 
Even Sully's hand up couldn't save me- Photo: Kenny When

The one really cool feature this race has is that you go through a brewery in the middle of town right before the finish. It's really fun, the crowd is cheering and yelling so loud and there is so much energy. Because of the transition from outside to inside it's really hard to see anything inside the bar other than the light on the other end, so I would just go towards that and hope for the best. From there it's a steep ramp off the back porch and back onto the race course. On the second lap I grabbed a beer hand up but immediately regretted it because it wasn't tequila so dumped it out and continued on my way. 

The final two laps were really uneventful on the third lap I caught up with one girl on the climb and I sat on her wheel for a while and then she sat on mine, then she started to pull away and I muscled up every reservoir inside of me to go with her and it worked, I went and then I immediately dropped off 7 seconds later. 
So glad to be done!

I finished almost last, but that's okay. I wrote my coach after the race saying that even though it wasn't the result I was hoping for it was hard to complain having spent the previous two weeks riding with little rest and going into the race without fresh legs. I told him that I had followed Bryan (he finished 6th) around so didn't think it was my nutrition/rest/hydration/warm-up or pre-ride but just that the legs were not there after all the riding we had done. He wrote back saying he could see I was fatigued from the training that I've been doing, and sometimes it needs to happen to get where you're going. 

I'm off this weekend and just doing a few rides this week in Boulder and then will be heading back to South Dakota. The next weekend I'll be doing a 110 mile gravel grinder in Spearfish, and planning on bringing my legs to that one. 

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.