Mountain bike racing

Insanity, my friends, Has Most Certainly Set In.

Amazing!

Amazing!

Whatever possessed me to do it, what reason I felt it necessary,¬†we may never know. After an impromptu hike in the Grand Canyon taken on the misfortune of my good friend’s broken hand (sorry, friend; but you were my inspiration!)…I am staring into the future of a fall season filled with blisters, black toenails and wondering where the next port-a-john is.

Yes, that’s right, I have cheerfully registered for a 50 mile off-road ultra-marathon. Oh, 50 little miles, you say; big deal, you say, you’ve done way more than 50 miles. No, my friends; two wheels will not be involved in these dirty miles, my own two feet shall carry me from start to finish. Yikes.

Maybe I CAN use wheels! :)

Maybe I CAN use wheels! ūüôā

I can not exactly tell you what (or perhaps whom) actually hit that register tab, I assure you it was not I who did so; but I do have an idea why I may have felt it necessary to allow it to happen. Boredom, and at the essence of boredom…is a dangerous imp¬†luring you to do something foolish. A weariness had surrounded me for several months, zapping my energy and motivation, leaving me¬†in search for something fresh and new.

Gemini at odds

Gemini at odds

I so easily grab onto a new routine and learn to accomplish it repeatedly without fail until¬†it no longer requires gray matter to execute. In turn, my inner Geminii becomes bored.¬†You see, my¬†‘twin’ believes:¬†“Why bother if¬†you don’t have to work for it anymore?” Inspiration becomes hard to find, performance suffers. I guess I’ll just sleep and eat cookies until I feel like doing something again. Wait. What? You said cookies. Oh yea…can you have too many cookies? oh yes. Yes you can.
 sugar coma
One of my favorite quotes is: “Good things come to those who wait. Greater things come to those who get off their asses and do anything to make it happen.” Right! Don’t just sit there, change may find you eventually, but why wait?!
no failSo as I listened to Mateuz M (thank you, Friend!) and after this particular weekend spent doing several engaging things I hadn’t done before; my Geminii began¬†that pursuit to end¬†the cookie naps. She needed a challenge to enchant and exhilarate her intellect and existence, I agreed.¬†I love to ride my bike. I love where is has taken me. I have no complaints and am an amazingly blessed person. I just felt a need for something…different. A change in scenery, so to speak, and¬†instead of waiting for opportunity to knock on my door, which maybe I would have slept through while drooling through a sugar coma, I went looking for that opportunity.
I came across the words adventure race and ultra-marathon and I kept coming back to them. I thought about how I felt after hiking rim to river to rim at the Grand Canyon. Sore. Doing it in a solid push through, as a challenge and to avoid being overtaken by the heat or monsoons; grand canyon monsoonI felt very sore. The barely able to walk, like a stiff robot possessing no joints type of sore. I also felt awesome.¬†That pain¬†felt awesome. Doing something that my muscles said “Hey now, what the heck are we doing here?” ¬†felt awesome. It was an invitation for my mind and body to learn to suffer in a whole new fashion; we are, after all, capable of so many magnificent feats; how could I not desire to achieve them all?! Dare I cross over to the dark side and get off my wheels to…run? On my actual feet?runner high
forget everything else

forget everything else

Without much more thought than that about it…well, the price was also going up that same day…I typed in my info and registered for the Antelope Canyon 50 mile ultra-marathon. I felt excited and refreshed and inspired! And then my head went “Eek. What did you just do?!” That’s ok, my heart won over…I’m still excited! I will be diversifying my methods of training. I get to educate myself on the different ways to increase on and off-road mileage, how to fuel on this runner’s sensitive belly and experience a few places that I couldn’t… or didn’t have the

Hi! Hello! Howdy!

Hi! Hello! Howdy!

chutzpah to… go on my bike. Yay! Brain re-activated, motivational fire re-lit.¬†Bye-bye cookies, hello blisters and oh, oh…a¬†shart or two? eep!

runner bethOk. I am not actually¬†new to running. I suppose you could say I have always been a runner. As a¬†high school kid in a mid-west state in the early 90s, you¬†didn’t ride bikes for sport, there were no mountains to climb, you ran. I played basketball, but at¬†barely 5’2″ and hardly triple digits in weight, I¬†mostly got to watch from the bench.¬†As a poor college student, all I needed was a pair of shoes and the fortitude to get out the door. Minimal¬†equipment, minimal money involved.¬†I competed in the 400m in HS, I was decent. I continued to run some in college, but really only to avoid the¬†dreaded¬†‘Freshman 15’. I¬†ran at least a handful of¬†half marathons in my late 20s and actually broke the 100 minute mark. I ran a total of¬†one marathon. It was hard. There was this very large wall I rammed into at mile 23. It was so big, I don’t know how I, nor anyone else, couldn’t see it just sitting there in the middle of the street. At any rate, I did finish that race, missing my goal time by about 10 minutes (because I thought I could outrun the pacer…of all the silly bs…) and upon crossing the finish line, I¬†promptly walked away from running and onto a bike. Nine years and 10s of thousands of bike miles¬†later, I am getting off my bicycle (temporarily, of course) and looking forward to running 50 miles on Navajo land in one of the most picturesque spots in Arizona. What better way to do it?!Antelope Canyon black and white runner

With a thrilling new adventure on the horizon and my desire to learn, train and compete reawakened; I have also committed to the Park City Point 2 Point, once again in that eleventh hour and with 5 weeks to make it happen. What finer way to end the 2015 season, before jumping in feet first to endurance running mode (pun intended), than a super tough mountain bike race through some of the most beautiful alpine trail this country has to offer! Giddy-Up!

P2P 2014

P2P 2014

I’ll keep you posted on the growth, enlightenment and sweet sufferings along my journey to Antelope Canyon! I’m so blessed to have all my sponsors on my side in this little venture I’ll call My Insanity from now on! Please take a moment to visit their pages and I will keep you informed on all the ways they¬†help facilitate my success!
Oh…the P2P I’m sure will bring on something to say, too!
Cheers to all of your intoxicating and bold adventures out there!
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Categories: Important Stuff, Mountain bike racing, Random Fun | 6 Comments

Gratifyingly Crushed at The Point 2 Point!

p2p flyer

When do I sign up for next year?!

 

The Park City Point2Point. Not for the faint of heart. Not for roadies on fat tires. Not sensationalized into something it’s not. It challenges your mental prowess, yet¬†has you grinning from ear to ear.¬† The P2P is an adventure style event- it’s not a closed course, hold-your-hand¬†kind of an event. Definitely one of the best races I have ever done…and also one of the hardest.
We’ve been to Park City the last four summers, it is indisputably a mountain biker’s paradise with over 400 miles of trail! These¬†Utahans know how to engineer good trail and they do it often…each year there is newly constructed singletrack. Park City loves their mountain bikers as much as their skiers and they cater to the lifestyle. With bike paths all over town and between all the resort areas, markets, fairs, breweries (be sure to get it in a bottle tho!) and miles upon miles of singletrack from one side of the mountain to the other and up and over and down-you get the picture. Downhillers, climbers, XC…there is something for everyone. Did I say I love it here?! Oh, I do!¬†Yes, I’d heard of the P2P and¬†considered it a bucket list event; so¬†when Kevin, less then two weeks before the race, says “Let’s do it and I already got us transfers in”; I said Heck Yea!photo 2photo 1

The race involves¬†13,000+ ft of gain in 75 miles, all at altitudes between 7200-9000ft, on over 90% rideable singletrack (I’m pretty sure it’s actually more) and you never travel same trail twice. You start from one resort, roll thru two others and end in a fourth. There is everything from flowy, dry sagebrush in Round Valley to¬†the rooty, aspen gauntlet¬†of Deer Valley, riding high¬†among the alpines of PCMR and down, down, down the rocky goodness of The Canyons. And this¬†happens in 10 days?!¬†Whew…ready or not…here we go!

Nutrition¬†for this particular race was a very important part of my¬†training. Since there really wasn’t any time for any specifically focused¬†physical training, other than throwing in some intervals and relying on the base mileage I already have; everything else was what I put in my body to help me get ready. So how do I get ready for such an epic event at high altitudes.¬† The key is hydration. Hydration and a lot of beets.

Why beets?ode to a beet Beets have a high concentration of dietary nitrates. Our bodies convert nitrates into nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to relax and widen (vasodilation). This allows more oxygen-rich blood to flow through the body and the more oxygen that reaches the muscles, the longer they are able to perform at high intensity; essentially, the body is able to do more work while using the same amount of energy. Athletes have tried to trigger vasodilation with various banned substances, including hypertension drugs and erectile-dysfunction medication, for years; albeit some of those may be more fun off the race course, simply consuming large amounts of vegetables that are high in nitrates, such as spinach, carrots, radishes, and beets- which packs the biggest punch- offers the same performance boost, safely and legally.  I love beets!

As for hydration,¬†obviously¬†performing such a demanding task as endurance racing, we are already hot and sweating, losing precious water. Due to the decreased pressure at altitude, moisture evaporates from the skin more rapidly and we also breathe deeper and faster- more water vapour lost as a waste product of breathing. This now makes the body work even¬†harder inevitably making¬†you hotter. The body‚Äôs natural response to this is to activate the mechanisms to regain a¬†normal temperature….by sweating. Now you are losing vital¬†stores of water from sweat, breathing and more sweat. ¬†There you are, dehydrated, before you even knew it. Pre-hydrating before an endurance event at altitude, you can help stave off headaches, lightheadedness, nausea and the dreaded fatigue. Don’t forget you need to keep drinking that water once you’re there!

Adding in a extra carbs prior to and for¬†the first few days of your arrival at altitude can also help in adaptation. Carbs can supply more energy for the same amount of oxygen in comparison to fats and protein- converting energy more efficiently. Of course, it would be preferable to¬†use whole grain sources of carbohydrates because, let’s face it,¬†the processed, white stuff offers nothing good for you. Some of you may say ‘Great, carbo-load!’. Not exactly the same thing and a whole other¬†discussion in itself…for another time. Moving on from all that scientific stuff…I could go on and on about such things as vitamin C and antioxidants and iron…I’m such a nerd.

ND heck yes

 

 

For such a hardcore epic race, there is no giant build up. There’s really no build up at all,¬†we had trouble even finding where it started the evening before on our pre-race recon. There is no shuttle to take you from start line to finish line or vice versa, if you don’t have a driver, you ride. It’s not sensationalized to draw in everybody, nor should it, this mountain biking stuff is quite dangerous and riding bikes is hard…I mean I had to sign my life away four times before they would give me a number plate! ūüėČride at your own risk

 

The two guys who run this race really¬†know how to put on an event, although,¬†how can they not with this kind of opportunity to show off Park City’s fantastic trail network to people who truly appreciate them. The volunteers are fantastic, always smiling, the course was superbly marked-not once did I question if I was going the right direction in a place where trails fork off everywhere; something even with a good sense of direction, I have struggled with in past races. The feed zones were organized, it was easy to find our drop bags and people would¬†jump in to help you get food, mix bottles whatever you needed to get back on course. They have an enduro section complete with prizes, they even have an “I’m Somebody award”…I like it. ūüôā With¬†keeping¬†registration relatively small¬†over the event’s six years running, it never feels like the trails¬†are over-crowded.¬†All reasons¬†why this extraordinary race sells out in less than 5 minutes…this is¬†the race mountain bikers dream of.

They say you can get lost...this sure made it easy not to!

They say you will get lost…

course markings

…these sure made it easy not to!

 

So we begin. Up at 4:45. Quickie yoga. Coffee! Small bite to eat. And off on our bikes, drop bags slung over shoulders, pedaling thru the darkness to the¬†start in Round Valley. We pick up a few others on the way, all of us hoping we know we’re going the right way. Of course, none of us have¬†lights, because who wants to carry them thru¬†the race. Bags dropped easily. Real bathrooms! -a luxurious and¬†important piece of real estate before racing. To the start line and bang! Well, more like a ‘pop’. It was a confetti gun.¬†It’s a “mass” start, but chip-timed so everyone’s time is true to them.

confetti gun¬† Paved road for a quarter mile. Super sharp left turn, around a metal pole, onto a bike path. Crap, there’s one gal already off her bike here! And then we climb. Singletrack comes within the first 2 miles and then it’s every man, woman or child for themselves. I went into this race with no expectations. I started it with high aspirations. I came to the conclusion after the first 15 miles that I just wanted to finish it.

Round Valley is a little dry and dusty, flowy with some rocks and roots thrown in. It should also be renamed Windy Valley. It was playing¬†follow the leader at this point. I remember it feeling a little like the corkscrew roller coasters: swerving back and forth, bank left, bank right over and over. The gal that pulled ahead of me¬†during the first¬†climb, I reeled in and passed¬†in the curvy descent; of course, at the next hill I was again behind her. The bike was riding well and I was sticking to the trail. After about an hour, we made our way back past the start line and out onto a paved path leading to the next set of trails. Round Valley would be the only dry part of the course. With rains during the previous week, the rest of the course was¬†in absolute perfect condition. We finally start making our way into the trees. Climbing thru the forest with not much more to listen to but your heavy breathing and tires crunching over the trail. There are other riders around, but everyone’s too busy focusing and finding lungs to talk much. You wind around coming thru Deer Crest and then into Deer Valley. The hills already are eating me alive! Keep thinking ‘oh my god, really?’ and then¬†you’re rewarded with an exhilarating descent. All the previous suffering you experienced just minutes before, disappears into¬†a blur of trees. A grin plastered upon my now slightly muddy face…until the next gut busting, switchback filled climb¬†(altho perfectly made switchbacks, I might add). Mile after mile this pattern appears. I’m dying. I’m flying! I’m falling apart. I’m soaring!

Deer Valley belongs to those who love they’re handcuff handlebars, of which I am not. Man are those rooty trees close together! I hooked my handlebar on one, recovered just in time to hit the tree on the other side and go down. Luckily I was actually climbing at the time, so the slow motion really was slow and other than a slightly embarrassing moment and a hard foot down, no harm was done. I gotta watch out for that, and on one of the descents, there is was. Two aspens, the width of my handlebars apart, two giant sets of roots jetting out of the ground between them to which I shall go up and over. Nope, this will be the only spot I get off my bike and walk. There was no way I was fitting thru there and I honestly don’t think I would have.photo 4

The first aid station comes in at mile 28 at upper Deer Valley. Not eating as much as I should be, I choose to use the higher calorie drink mix. My portables are not working out quite as well as I had planned and I depended on those for some of my calorie intake. I had decided to use a nice little food trough attached to the top tube of my bike for easy access. The Bento-Box was a great idea; however, I didn’t¬†realize what shoving as many of¬†my muffins I could cram in there would develop into. They got a little smashed. Ok, the bottom ones were completely ground into the box. Do I scrape them out with my fingernail? Oh, I have gloves on. So no. Guess I’ll just eat the surviving scraps. I never thought to even consider the hair. I’m a girl. I shed. It happens and yes, my hair is everywhere. So somehow, hair has now embedded itself into my remaining smashed portable delicacies. I bite in, I discover something stringy that most certainly does not belong there. There’s no end to these hairs! Whatever, I need to eat and as I chew I have pieces of muffin dangling down my chin by¬†said hairs until I¬†can¬†stuff the rest of the muffin in my mouth. I sure hope I don’t choke on this. Who here knows the Heimlich?¬†I then¬†begin to wonder- will tomorrow’s morning constitutional also be strung out on hair like today’s meal of muffins? …yes, I do actually think about these things.¬†I’m sure you’ve all had¬†some¬†strange thoughts roaming around in your head while you’re suffering¬†amongst yourself, don’t pretend like I’m the only one. I will, surrender poophowever,¬†spare you further details regarding the hair.

 

 

 

 

I still¬†rely on¬†my GU- that trusty high octane Roctane. For less bulk and easy access, I squeezed multiple packets of the Orange/Vanilla and Lemonade Roctanes into gel bottles and marked them¬†where I needed to suck it down to each time for quick reference without requiring too much thought. I don’t want to have to think during an endurance event like this, the thought process better be completed ahead of time when I know I’ll be able to still think. I can fit two bottles on my Epic (that’s right, 2. On my small full-squish. I still get excited about that.) which I continued to¬†refill with Roctane brew at each aid station. This worked quite well, being able to drink calories and not have to take time to fuss with individual packs of the GU, I was able to maintain an appropriate caloric intake for myself. I did¬†use my mini Camelbak, holding 2.5 bottles of water,¬†up until the¬†PCMR aid station at mile 53 when it was drained and I was happy to ditch¬†it. The mini is actually a perfect fit for my size,¬†it sits above my pockets making it much easier to get in and out of them.

Ok. Off from aid 1. I am somewhere like 5th or 6th female at this point. I work as hard as I can on the climbs, but man, my lungs are just on fire. From here on out, it feels like I’m being passed by every¬†other person on the trail. The 60-something year old guy on¬†a single speed (with some ridiculous gearing, I might add) chatters at me as he mashes by. A very noticeably beefy guy spins past me…on a climb. (what?)¬† A girl in a skirt…with baby braided pigtails…calls out “You’re doing great” as she leaves me for Fogel climbing out of PCMR. Fine.¬†I don’t even care because after hauling my breathless tail up the those heart pounding climbs, I get to go down…and fast. Nature’s own amnesic. ¬†And oh how I love that.

free bacon¬† At mile 35, there is a small water and bacon stop. I don’t know what it is about all this bacon.¬†Do people even¬†like bacon? Burp that up while you’re riding. I think it’s all a conspiracy.

I skip it. The weather is actually rather cool, for being a Tucsonan, and I’ve been known to be something of a camel during races (yea, um, cause I hold my water well, k…) so¬†I have enough water to make it to mile 53, the next aid station. Here comes a super fun, technical, rooty, twisty enduro section¬†on John’s leading into a smooth flowing downhill- seriously, this is like the most fun I’ve ever had! Holy crap I never want it to end! It does end tho… right into a wall I’m expected to ride up. And then the Steps. Oh heavens, what do I even say about the Steps that the name doesn’t already imply? We go up them. It’s a little loose. It’s extremely steep. I’ve ridden these before, it wasn’t easy then but I don’t recall them being this absurd. I manage to ride all but one foot down in a switchback. I talked myself into it by saying I could take a break at the top; but, of course, at the top there comes another blue-ribbon descent in which I lose myself in and forget again all about what I just went thru to get to that downhill.

Up again around Shadow Lake. It’s dark and woodsy. Smells like pine. It’s very still out, maybe only the occasional bird or squirrel heard and not a breath of wind. I’m sure it could rain any minute. Two deer cross the trail at a dead sprint in front of me. Although the incline is painful, it sort of gets washed away as I watch the scenery pass by and enjoy the mystical feel¬†of¬†the surroundings. I am recognizing some of the trails now and¬†we’re on¬†the¬†only other¬†bit of double track since leaving Round Valley and¬†the brief road crossing from Deer Crest earlier in the race. Once past the lake, it’s down on Pipeline and CMG for a long, long time before hitting PCMR-mile 53 and the place to refuel again. These descents are sick! I can’t get enough! I am just skyrocketing down them at what must be mach 9, my face flushed back from the massive g-force I’m pulling. I keep focus. I stay off the brakes. I let go. It feels good! It feels really good! ¬†According to my Garmin, my max speed was only 32mph-I’m sure it must have missed something cause I know I was screaming fast! speedy gonzales

We enter Park City Mountain Resort at a fast pace and roll right into the aid station. I find my drop bag and ditch my Camelbak.¬†A random nice guy hangs onto my bike while I stock up on fuel. No more muffins for this little lady, but the baby red potatoes…Oh those salty little potatoes are a delight. Popping one of those extra salty lil guys in my mouth made me forget all about the hairs of past portables. Everyone should have a tasty baby potato smothered in salt, it’s like a kick in the seat of your pants. Of course, the aforementioned Bento-Box promptly ejected these heavenly treats on the first set of bumpy downhill roots I bounced across. Damn. That damn Box. I retrieve my last mix bottle of Roctane, ask the guy to keep an eye out for a tall guy dressed like me (my hubby ūüôā ) to ride thru looking for our drop bag and immediately ride UP out of the resort. I actually see people walking UP out of there, it was pretty stiff. Next stop, mile 62 and the¬†last mini-aid station before the final push home.

photo 8

Switch!

Armstrong now, a good climb- gradual, not sprinty with¬†lots of switchbacks and tree cover. This is where the rain starts. It comes down throughout the entire climb up and continuing down and over towards The Canyons on Mid-Mountain. I keep thinking, it’s raining, but I’m not sure I’m really getting wet. The canopy of trees helps to protect from the elements. Thankful for that. I climb with a fellow Arizonan, from Phoenix. He sits on my wheel all the way up the climb and part of the way over. We chat some 3-4 worded sentences and I ask¬†if he’d like¬†to go around, but he refuses. Says I’m plenty fast for his taste. Alrighty then. The trails start becoming rocky. They’re a little slick, but manageable and I’m just a little more cautious until the sun comes back again somewhere on a descent off mid-mountain and things start to dry out.¬†Somewhere in¬†here,¬†the Phoenix guy finally does¬†go around¬†and I continue on at my own pace. I think I’m somewhere around 7th place by now. People aren’t really passing me or being passed by me anymore. I’m ok with where I am. I went into this race at the last minute with no actual training for it and coming off a couple weeks of fatigue. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my race up to this point, so I’m just gonna keep to that.

There’s more up and down and all this part of the course seems just a tad bit easier than the previous 62 miles, which could all be in my head; but I’m ok with that, too. The final little ‘Oasis’ comes into view before crossing the road and heading down the Rosebud and Rob’s descents. It most certainly is an oasis. I honor my hard work with a Coke and a chocolate chip cookie. They are divine. The only time I ever drink soda is at a time like this. Almost done, still some hard¬†work to do, a quick sugar bump. As much as killer cokeI am against the Coca-Colas of the world, a product I can actually use to scrape the rust off¬†a car bumper; I would certainly pay any amount of money right at this moment for just a few sips of one. Yes! I am ready for the finish now!

pain cave (2)

Why, yes. Yes I do.

More awesomely fun descent and I can see The Canyons resort. I can hear the music and announcers at the finish line. And then, for some reason, I am riding away from it…uphill. What? What is this? Oh, you little teases. For one brief, tantalizing moment, I am headed down another titillating descent toward the finish line and in the next I am most definitely climbing far, far away from it. This is the only time during the entire race I start to feel slightly dejected.¬† My head runs from positive thought¬†and takes a nose dive into the dark pain cave.¬†A little whine comes out of me. The guy I totally chicked on that last downhill is creeping up on me and at some point says, “Yea, I’ll just get around you now”. Ok. The Ambush, so appropriately named, will end and the final descent into the finish will happen. Moment of dejection gone. I thought I could make it under 9 hours until I hit the Ambush awaiting me around that final bend. I tried to ride down that last trail as fast as I could, but in the end I came thru at 9:16. It was a great way to finish off such an epic race! We come together with the downhillers, who are¬†using a lift to access everything I just worked my little ass off getting to, and down into the music and cross the finish…after diving thru one¬†last lake of a mud puddle, which was basically unavoidable.¬†Yes! Done. I made it. This was the most fun I’ve ever had getting my rear end handed to me! I¬†am totally doing¬†this again next year!!

So. According to my precious little GPS: I rode 87.4 miles, including the¬†spin to the start and the¬†crawl¬†home from the finish-racing 75 of them. I climbed 13,254 feet at an average of just over 8.6mph. My total moving time for the day was 10 hours and 10 minutes with a race time of 9 hours 16 minutes, of which I was stopped¬†for 10 minutes of. I finished 8th in the open women, an hour and a half behind Gretchen Reeves. And that’s ok…I loved every minute of this day.

There was a lot of meaningless chatter in the 10 days before this race comparing the P2P to Leadville. Oh, which is more difficult, which one is harder. After experiencing both first hand, there is no answer to this. They are not the same race. Leadville is what it is-a sensationalized dirt road race at high altitude that costs hundreds of dollars to enter¬†in order to race¬†amongst thousands of other riders. It is absolutely¬†hard, can¬†mentally obliterate you and¬†is certainly a course to concur… but once is enough. The Point 2 Point is a race that will physically drive you into the ground-the climbs are gut wrenching and the descents can even beat you down. It requires focus the entire time you are in the saddle. Mentally, tho, it doesn’t¬†seem as exhausting because I actually had fun¬†during the P2P. I could go back there and race it year after year after year. It’s interesting and exhilarating. There is a down home, let’s-all-get-dirty kinda feel to it. It was literally¬†and absolutely the most enjoyable ass-whooping I have ever encountered at a race. No podium, no hoop-la waiting just for me at the finish. Just¬†phenomenal trails to ride on, the right amount of minimal guidance to get you through it and a hell of a great town to host it.

See you again next year, P2P! …I think I might actually train for it this time!

Diggin' Deep, Gettin' Down and Dirty and Lovin' every minute of it!

Diggin’ Deep, Gettin’ Down and Dirty and Lovin’ every minute of it!

 

I raced my Epic at the P2P. Could you ride a hardtail? Of course, but that Epic’s ride is pretty¬†hard to beat! During the short time between signing up and leaving town, my¬†rear shock decided it had had enough- Brain dead! From the time I sent an email to Oro Valley Bicycle, Specialized getting a replacement out¬†to me and the shop dialing in that plus some work on my rear brakes and service to the front fork, six days. Kevin finished up by putting on my carbon wheels and slightly more cut-down tires to lighten things up a bit. Done and race ready in less than a week! Super! I couldn’t have been happier with the way my bike rode during this event! Thanks OVB for getting it just right! Thanks to Specialized for replacing the equipment so quickly, to GU Energy for keeping my engine fueled right and, of course, thanks to my awesome husband for his personalized maintenance, hard work and putting up with yours truly!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Mountain bike racing | 3 Comments

The Magical Aura

 

old lady mojo¬† Ever lose your mojo? Maybe at¬†the least convenient moment? Not just during race season, but for the biggest races on your calendar…and then the last race of the season. Nothing like going out with a bang; which would be a good thing had it not been me who was shoved¬†out the bullet chamber, piercing thru¬†sticky muck and slamming right¬†into slick rock at super sonic speed.

This is not a story of dejection or woe. Nor is it the tail of the underdog overcoming hardship and opening up a can of whoop-ass on the competition. This is the real life of a slightly above-average mountain biker racer who took a chance as a pro. A story of absurdity with a little strife and buffoonery thrown in for your reading pleasure. Ok, sometimes it is opening up that can of whoop-ass and it is, just a little bit, for my writing pleasure.

So what the heck is mojo anyway? The dictionary tells me it is the ‘art or practice of casting magic spells or voodoo’¬†or it can be ‘an amulet or a charm believed to be magic’. Hmpff…If I could cast a magic spell on my beloved Epic, never would I so deliciously eat dirt again. Hmm..maybe I can stop off in Sedona for a Wiccan talisman to bestow super shreddy technical powers upon this bag o’ bones. ¬†¬†Skeleton dancer

unicorn bikeNo, it’s not magic. At least not in the sense illusion or witchcraft speak of. Maybe hitting a sweet jump for the first time or giggling thru some whippty-do’s on flowy trail or teetering inches from a cliff’s edge produce a mystical frenzy of thrill permeating our soul that can only be described as magic. This is what makes riding and racing mountain bikes fun. This is why we keep coming back for more, why we pick ourselves up off the ground to try again. Is it, then, that we create our own mojo by acting further on this derangement of pleasure? Doesn’t this then make losing it that much more disheartening? That maybe if we create it, we are who bring about it’s departure, as well. Ah-Oooh…it’s all in your head!.. she says.

Let’s think about that for a moment. Hesitation. Hesitation on a drop leads to two things: uncertainty followed by slamming into something much harder than your head. If we delve deeper…Uncertainty of what exactly? That the bike will break? Probably not. That the ground will suddenly shift three feet to the left just as you plan to land? Usually not. Although, I’ll swear to it that the earth has moved beneath my wheels on at least a handful of occasions. photo 2

Or is it That YOU can not make it over said drop? Yea, more likely, there’s¬†the ticket. Guess where that lies…in your head. Ok, so you hesitate. And you’re down.¬† But you pick yourself up and roll on. Next little obstacle: ‘oh, heck no! I’m gettin’ off before that rock eats me!’ And then- ‘that curve looks too sandy or that incline too loose’. BRAKE. Slide. In sets the frustration. Where does frustration come from? The dirt doesn’t cause it. Rocks don’t cause it. The insecure individual inside your head causes you frustration. Guess what’s just disappeared, unknowingly gone adrift into the oblivion of bad dreams¬†featuring broken teeth? Oh, my mojo. That marvelous concept I didn’t even know I had until it was lost. But now that it’s gone, I want it back. I need my mojo. Why? Because then focus runs out the door chasing mojo down. Oh, damn, I’ve lost that now, too. Soon after, joy finds it’s way out a window in pursuit of both mojo and focus. What the heck? Joy’s gone AWOL?!¬† So, for you equation lovers: no mojo= no focus + no joy= we’re no longer having fun here. And isn’t¬†fun why we’re here to begin with? ¬†My frenzy of thrill has just diffused into a black hole of discouragement and despair thereby taking me out of the present¬†moment and anxious for the next pain-inducing booby-trap laid out on the trail surely put there for me to bleed over. Time to stop. No, not stop riding, stop thinking. Ah-uh, sure, just stop thinking….it’s that rock collageeasy.

 

 

After a decent first race in the White Mountains followed by a nice little execution of endurance at the Dawn to Dusk, springing into a slightly less powerful, although still very passionate 24 HOP plagued with sight and back issues; came a less than spectacular performance at the Whiskey Off-Road, followed by a stellar show of skill¬†in the MBAA marathon finals, to then crudely schlepping along the course of the Full Growler; it’s safe to say I have a tendency of misplacing my mojo.lost mojo wombats

 

 

How do we go about the rediscovery of our mojo and halt the repeated displacement of that “magic”? Not by quitting. Besides, no one likes a quitter. No, I’m kidding; but quitting does last forever and whether we like it or not, is also sometimes necessary¬†in the body-demolishing sport we play at. This is more about faith and love and kindness. And delight in the things we do. Guess where all that comes from. That’s right. Inside yourself. I create my mojo, remember? Yep, I then also taketh away. By having faith in myself that I can do this, love of the journey my bikes take me on, kindness to myself when I fail by picking it up again and being positive I can do it next time and by remembering the delight that lunacy of soul-thrilling, whoopty-wahooing trail brings me. It takes going out to ride..just for the ride. No heart rate monitor, no segments, no scolding myself over putting a foot down, no structure. Just the simple pleasure of a ride, on dirt, in the trees, off the beaten path. Hearing my heart beat as I climb, purging the old air out and pulling refreshing air in and the feel of wheels crunching over dirt. The smell of sage (in a most recent case of¬†investigating into the missing mojo at Phil’s World) and sweat. The smile-inducing downhills and flow of multiple riders hitting all the lines along the trail. A good hoppy¬†beer afterwards over tales of this rock or that curve or some snake you were both thankful to have slipped by. These things are what make up that magic talisman, the elements that feed the soul and keep you coming back for more. Keeping the intention of “just because I love it” while in the midst of race season, while training hard and beating the self up over losses or squeaked by wins possibly undeserved, or not, is how we keep our mojo from making a dash towards some place less structured and a little more happy. I mean, isn’t this why we started doing this in the first place? Less of ‘the man’ telling ya what to do and more being happy. There is always going to be disappointment in life and anything worth having in life, whether for play or at the daily grind, takes hard work. Besides, sitting back having the silver spoon feed you isn’t¬†really that¬†fun anyhow.

IMG_0158 Believe in yourself. Work hard, play hard, enjoy your earnings and know you can do anything you want and there will be no more having to search for a concept you make up in your head. true meaning of mojo

I have many things to be thankful for. I have had some pretty awesome sponsors stick around and support me thru the wins and the losses. Incredible encouragement to be who I¬†am¬†and the best I can¬†be from Forest Canyon and Northern Arizona Gastro; tons of guidance, faith and anything I could possible need from Oro Valley Bicycle. Having¬†GU Energy Labs provide the absolute best in way of sport nutrition and their continued supportive inspiration,¬†has really given me the strength and stamina to survive some near-crushing endurance races and the training to prepare for them. My dear, loving husband has put up with hours and hours of training and bike maintenance and¬†the emotional roller coaster ride of¬†living with¬†an endurance athlete. He is my biggest supporter and I am his biggest fan. I am thankful for all those out there cheering when I round a corner or cross the finish, I hope I can inspire you all to be the best you can be. And cheers to remembering why we are all doing this…and never losing that damn mojo again!photo 3IMG_2236

Categories: Important Stuff, Mountain bike racing, Random Fun | Leave a comment

Nutrition for a 24 hour Solo…my experience.

Someone once told me that an endurance race was actually an eating contest. ‘He who has the best nutrition wins the prize.’ Of course, there are many components that go into completing an endurance mountain bike race; but all things accounted for, if you don’t fuel the engine, it won’t run! The best rule of thumb…eat early and eat often!eating contest

Although I rely heavily on the GU brand for most of my training and racing needs, I knew that making it through a 24 hour race with a happy tummy would require something more than only their time-tested gels and brews. So I worked to put together a small variety of bite sized foods containing the right amounts of protein, carbs and calories to complement my GU nutriments and see me through the entire race.

No unhappy tummy here!

No unhappy tummy here!

So how do we race well with a good nutrition plan? We train with it! A very important fact about race day is that we don’t ever do anything brand-new, we do what we’ve trained with, what we know works for us. There will be no G.I. distress on race day, there will be no surprise port a potty stops or returning from the trail sock-less and there will certainly be no bonking! This means that a nutrition plan starts weeks and even months before the start line.

The first thing we need to figure out is how many calories is enough to sustain energy, but not overload the system. Everyone is slightly different for this number; however, there is a particular range that works for most people and is a good starting point. This range is usually 200 to 300 cal per hour, give or take a few. Some of this number is based on weight, size, efficiency, intensity and duration of the sport you are participating in. The way to find out what is actually your ideal number is to train and practice, you will find out rather quickly what is too little and, as the training hours get longer, what is too much. Even tho your body is burning thru calories like crazy in a race, it is still only capable of metabolizing and digesting a certain amount of intake at a time; here is where the balance needs to be found. The other factors to consider along with your calorie intake is the amount of carbs you need, the amount of protein your digestive system can handle, water and hydration needs and when to watch out for fiber (and how much your own body is used to having). This brings me to think about pre/post race nutrition.
stuffed sweet taterThe age old adage of ‘carb-loading’ is on it’s way out the door. I know, personally, that dumping a giant bowl of pasta in my belly the night before a race just makes me feel sluggish, full and bloated. Doesn’t sound comforting anymore, does it? I am a firm believer that your body will perform its best on what it’s accustomed to and I am also a big advocate of eating real food. That means using the benefits of specific foods to promote top performance and timing it to best aid your goal. For example, going to high altitude for a race? Beets. Lots of them. They get those vessels open and increase blood flow. Add in whole carbs slowly and consistently leading up to it. And stay plenty hydrated. Need to recover? Get some carbs and protein in you quick. GU Chocolate Recovery Brew mixed with some unsweetened almond milk is great for this; but in the end, what you need is a whole meal consisting of Vitamin C, quercitin, protein and omega-3s. So eat your broccoli with some red onions, red apples and wild salmon.electrolytes
Benefits of a real food lifestyle could be a whole other chapter, or book, in itself. So enough of that and on to the immediate race plan.

Having done a few endurance races, I basically have an idea of the amount of calories I need and can tolerate an hour. My number is just about 230 for middle endurance and upwards towards 280 for ultra. To put this into perspective for you, I am 5’2″ and 110 pounds. I also have a basic idea of how much protein I can handle. Based on a rather unpleasant past experience, I know that I don’t tolerate a lot of protein per hour. My gut does not¬†like it; however, I know that I need some protein to help my muscles recover while in the middle of such taxing endurance events. This is one reason why I like to race and train with GU Roctane, because it utilizes certain essential amino acids without overloading the gut to help promote said muscle recovery while still riding. I have noticed such an improvement since I’ve started racing with Roctane! Grape Roctane is one of my favorite mixes and the Vanilla Orange gel is yummy! IMG_0813I also choose to use the GU brand because they¬†provide a favorable electrolyte balance and have carbohydrate ratios that work best for me. Of course taste does have a lot to do with it. If I don’t like the taste, I’m not going to eat or drink it; so it seems a very important factor and I have found many GU gels and brews that I actually enjoy the taste of even when it’s 110¬į outside; which for those of you who train in severely hot weather know what can happen to drink mixes when they swelter in the heat. Blueberry Brew is another of my favorite mixes (and has extra sodium!)…and…oh yes, the Salted Caramel gel¬†is like eating Christmas! ūüôā
The other product I found from GU that I’ve truly gotten excited about, is their Roctane electrolyte caps. I have always added extra sodium to my drink bottles during high heat/intensity training or races, but the difference with Roctane is there is also ginger and magnesium included to help stave off any potential stomach cramps or nausea. I have found this a huge plus! I just open those caps up and mix em right in. Easy. Done.gu-roctane-electrolyte-capsules

Ok, so I have a GU regimen down, I needed to figure out how to blend in those bite size morsels. I started with The Feed Zone and chose a few to try. What I found out, is although I might be a better than decent cook, I am a terrible baker. The preciseness needed for such things to turn out correctly left me with a giant mess in my kitchen during every attempt! I had to decide on 2 or 3 and just perfect making them. I’m not going to sugar coat this…it takes time…and lots of it if you’re inexperienced in the process. I had 5 months planning for my 24 hour race to play with this and once I got the hang of the portables I liked and worked for me, I could breeze thru them quickly (although still rather messily). They are freezable, so I can make a large amount ahead of time and now I have what I need to utilize them during any of the endurance races or all day rides I do without starting the learning curve over.
I chose three different portables, two on the sweeter side (carrot cake ball? Yum!) and one savory (mmm, pizza!). Two each was approximately a 100 calorie serving and I managed each down to a two bites-gone system. I also chose convenience so that I could just stick those bites into my pockets unwrapped and pop them whenever without having to fool around with wrappers. Wrappers are like child-proof caps…who can open them? Also, using real foods, in small bits at a time, that are essentially made with water, can be a great factor in digestion and hydration. Plus, as an added benefit, the simple act of chewing real food can be so uplifting amidst such prolonged physical activity in which we consume so much of our sustenance in liquid or concentrated form.

Mini Chocolate Cakes

Mini Chocolate Cakes

hydration

Hydration comes next. Water. You need it, no getting around it. Our bodies are 80% water, when we deplete it, we basically end up all contracted like a shriveled prune. Think cramps. Legs, sides, guts. Our muscles need not only the right electrolytes to contract and relax properly, but water to keep them plump and¬†give them space¬†to¬†continue those electrolytes¬†moving where they are needed. Also, in order to help a gut digest concentrated foods like gels, water is necessary to assist them in working properly. GUs are fast acting, but you must drink water to make them deliver properly, otherwise it’s a bit like eating a meal and you have to wait for the results. Can’t wait during a race or it’ll be too late. Although drink mixes are made with water, I believe we need to still include pure water to assist in the digestion and movement of all those sugars/electrolytes/aminos.

So, here’s how I broke things down for my own race.

Knowing how much…or how little…I may tend to drink when under a high stress situation (ie: the first lap of a 24), I start with a higher calorie drink while only drinking partial bottles and then switch off to the lower calorie when downing more ounces and eating other foods. I personally can handle about 3/4 of a bottle an hour, so this is my goal in each lap. Then, to provide enough water hydration, I drink 1/4-1/2 a bottle of plain (ice cold!) water between every lap. This gives me one whole bottle per hour. Great-hydration accounted for!

mmm..carrot cake balls

mmm..carrot cake balls

Calories:
Taking in one GU gel per lap, plus my bottle of Brew or Roctane gives me approximately 250-300 calories.¬† I don’t normally get an

Rolling Buffet

Rolling Buffet

entire bottle down and by supplementing with my portable foods, I can be sure I hit my count. With my gels giving almost instant energy (I alternated regulars with the Roctanes), drink mix supplying continuous calories and the bite size real foods providing long lasting fuel; I can keep just enough, but not too much, digestible fire burning throughout the entire race.

Another important piece of my nutrition, as with many athletes, is adding in caffeine. Studies have actually shown that not only does caffeine give an energy boost, it increases mental focus and decreases pain receptors. How can we go wrong? I am a huge proponent of using caffeine and find that it definitely assists my mental and physical alertness during endurance events. Caffeine does have its limits, it¬†will not¬†fix fatigue and one can build up a tolerance. Being the daily coffee lover that I am, I actually chose to be somewhat under-caffeinated during the week leading up to the race in hopes that when I needed it the most, the caffeinated GUs would work their best. I might have been slightly irritable during that week as a result of this, but you’ll have to ask my husband for a truthful answer! caffeineThe one thing I would change for the next time, is starting those caffeinated GUs earlier…I perhaps waited 2 laps too late. Live and learn.

The last thing to plan for is comfort foods. Think: cold weather, rain, dark night. What do you want? Something warm is what comes to my mind. I highly recommend chicken broth for those times when you just need something warm and savory, it can bring you back from the dark side immediately without overloading your stomach with something heavy. Want the noodles, too? Go for it, they’re usually minimal and contain some quick acting carbs.

So this is the basic plan that I trained for and raced with during my 24 hour solo. I researched and read studies, listened to other people’s experiences and tried new things. Actually, it was quite fun learning about different ways to feed your body while racing and I find the things food can do for you quite intriguing!

wheels¬† Keep the rubber side down and enjoy good food! ūüôāIMG_0321

Categories: Mountain bike racing, Yum Yum! | Leave a comment

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo…Solo Debut!

That's me! Lucky number 130!

That’s me! Lucky number 130!

I have been training for this for 17 weeks. I have been psyching up for it since October 1, when I got myself out of bed at midnight to sign up and assure me a slot. I have had the absolute best training plan to work with from LW Coaching and I have completed every bit of it to prepare my body. I have been a yogi and self-masseuse, although Kevin certainly knew when and where I needed his knuckles to dig deep. I worked at keeping positive and continuing to push when I was suffering and felt like quitting. I made a solid nutrition plan which I worked hard on in training. I learned how to bake (this proved to be no easy task and always a messy one) and pop portables to supplement my GU’s in order to make my calorie counts while still keeping my tummy happy. I know exactly how many Brews and Roctanes and water bottles I need to drink. My gear is right and my expert mechanic (also my dear husband) has everything working perfectly. Every detail that I can control has been dealt with and my total refusal to acknowledge our fabulous weather here in Tucson while the rest of the country wallows in snow and freezing cold has worked. It may actually be too warm in the first few laps!¬† Shouldn’t this be an advantage for me?!¬† I have the best possible pit crew supporting me who have experience and awesome attitudes. There is a niggle that has plagued me in the upcoming weeks, I’ve worked¬†it out best I can; but this is the race I’ve been waiting almost 5 months for and I will choose to dismiss it from here out. Epic Rides’ 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo is here and I’m about to make my solo debut. Luckily I’m smart enough to make multiple goals for such a large task at hand here; of course, we all know some mean more than the others. Yes, some of them are quite lofty ambitions, but not unattainable. And yes, one target is just to finish…that’s supposed to be¬†my easy one…

Nervous, but smiling!

Nervous, but smiling!

Always!

Always!

Checking the ride

Checking the ride

I’m excited and nervous waiting for the gun. I smile and talk to everyone (I am¬†surrounded by over 500 of my fellow mountain bikers), ready to run for our bikes. I hit the run hard enough to warm up and not be behind all 500 of those others, see Kevin swinging our pink feather boa and swing myself up onto my Fate effortlessly.

The Start

The Start

Lead out man...er...gorilla

Lead out man…er…gorilla

I have in my head to keep it conservative, I was happy with my roll out. People were passing me, that was ok, heart rate up a bit from the run, but that was ok, it eases. I’m just trying to stay upright in all chaos.¬† And man is it dusty! Then that first Bitch kills everyone’s momentum. Damn her! This is the first why in how these ‘hills’ earned such an affectionate name. Why are we walking? Never once since I’ve started riding these trails have I walked over a Bitch, but here I am walking the first one. I started calling out to the line of people ahead “Pedal!! Keep pedaling! Don’t stop, you can make it…you can do it!!” There is¬†braking on the descents and then the steam blows up the next steep grind. I bump tires and decide if I’m going to have any efficiency here, I need to get around and start to pass. Mostly trying on the downs to keep the effort low, but some is necessary on the ups. As the dirt flattens out, I know, oh I know. Too fast. Too must energy expenditure. Back off. Bring it down. And I do. I chill. I pedal, I drink. I relax. As the single track rolls on, I watch how I pass and I tool along behind lines of people until the yo yo effect begins on little techy spots and riding becomes to inefficient and I proceed to move around. The traffic is horrendous. Much worse than any rush hour of a major city…inhaling dust rather than exhaust. There are so many people crowded onto this trail. This is my first time starting this race…has it always been like this? I know I am working too hard, but regardless of how much I keep telling myself to reign it in, I end up right back there in the crowds. My first lap is simply too fast, I let it go and move¬†forward to¬†my next laps, I work to keep the effort and the time down closer to my goal. It

I've been called a Rolling Buffet.

Once called a Rolling Buffet.

takes until the third lap to get there. My crew is always where I need them and have things usually under control. Christina feeds and waters me, a horse come to trough…”You need to slow down” Cathy says nicely while she snaps a pic. I know, I’ll try harder. And so it goes on.

Determination

Determination

I see carnage on several laps. People down. Broken bikes. Rescue crews pointing me around. Each lap there are new barriers and warnings to obstacles ahead. But I know this trail, the lines are ingrained in my head so I know I can do them in my sleep (which will become helpful), these matter do not worry me.
Things start to feel different after you’ve been out there for awhile. In the dark, cacti look like odd people standing around in the desert until I can change my focus on them and I kept seeing some strange guy crouched in a wash under a tree. I thought he might have a camera or something. After my third time past ‘him’, I realized it was an empty, overturned camp chair. Sometime during the night, a cow must have keeled over near the Bitches because the smell was excruciating. At times I would lose track of where I was. I might follow the cactus person slightly off line and then realize, oh very wrong or¬†like screaming down the descent into solo row and begin to wonder ‘Am I still on the trail on in someone’s camp?’ There’s tents and set-ups on both sides of the trail, everywhere. The sunset on Saturday night was a splendid array of colors and the moonrise was even more spectacular! A ball of yellow fire rising from the dark outline of the dirt, just breathtaking and it awarded renewal to the mind. I have to remind myself to focus on what’s ahead of me instead of what’s happening in the sky! Man, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to witness it, tho!

Sunset lap

Sunset lap

Coming down the Rock drop

Coming down the Rock drop

Cowbells and horns sound loudly, people yelling ‘Go solo!’ ‘Great riding’ ‘Lookin’ good!’ and the bag piper playing near the Rock drop. There’s always a crowd of people on the Rock, you can hear them ‘yea!’ and ‘Doh!’ the riders ahead announcing who nailed it and who ate dirt at the bottom. Those who chicken out and walk down get a collective ‘Boo’ while the rider behind tries to carefully snake around them. There is an easy option to skip the Rock…I assume those walkers will take it next time ’round. One lap someone yells out at me as I begin to take the Rock…”What’s the capital of Arizona?” Oh, uh…give me a second…I know this one…”Phoenix!!” And the cheers rise up! Seriously! It all actually happens much faster live then it plays out inside my own head. People are constantly yelling encouragement out and I hear my name everywhere. I can’t help but smile and keep pushing on. I know I get slower as the laps draw on, but I’m ahead of schedule allowing for a little leeway and I’m on my lap times now. On my fifth lap, I feel smooth and effortless. Cornering fast and efficiently, pushing on the sections that suit me and easing up on the long grunts or steep grades. I get into a conversation with a gal on the Corral trails, figuring out later that she is the soon-to-be winner of the female Duo category. It was a positive little talk. I’m good, right? At a conversational pace, so it seems. I’m doing well with hydration and nutrition and even decide I need to pee (good sign!) and choose to just squat behind the trailer. I realize I forgot to ask about Kevin’s lap on the OVB Corp team…”how was it, honey? I’m sorry I didn’t ask before.” He tells me it was good, still a lot of traffic. I’m happy he gets to ride out there and take a break from having to care for me the whole time. I tell him I’m trying really hard to stick to my limits, I’m not sure I’m doing a very good job; but he reassures me.

Smooth

Smooth

At some point in the dark, a guy attempts to pass me without prior notification. This actually occurs several times, but without much consequence up til now. People, you must use your words, please. To me, it was a quite unreasonable spot to attempt such go-round, where in I proceeded to wobble just ever so slightly, plopping my ass in some cactus. Yes, I then shamefully did¬†scold the guy loudly; but I mean really, necessary? I’m quite sure that extra second to wait for a desirable location would have kicked you out of some lead that I know you didn’t have to begin with. I believe there was even a sermon by Reverend ChainRing before the start about being nice. I know, I understand both sides of the pass…it sucks for all parties involved. It’s not easy and I have been guilty of the inadvertent, yet ill-mannered pinch, but this is racing folks, not bumper bikes. I don’t like to hold you up just as much as you want to get around me. Ok, ok. So I’m not down; however, every time my rear quarters hit the seat now, the cactus spines suggest I not stay seated¬†there. I make it back to camp and change shorts. I will now forever be indebted to Cathy for plucking thorns outta my stinky white ass and yes, this makes us real sisters! I won’t complain too much about a few badly placed

My crew working hard!

My crew working hard!

Camp antics! He's my goofball!

Camp antics! He’s my goofball!

thorns, I’ve been thru them before and this, my friends, is nothing compared to what is yet to come.

The energy inside the exchange tent, even at 3am, was phenomenal! I don’t know what keeps these folks going, but they would all just be going nuts at every lap thru and I sure am stoked about that! It’s super motivating! During one lap, Cody yells out at me that there’s beer and cookies out on that trail. It’s about 5 miles in, he says. Great! I’m in! Well, I saw some whiskey tied to the wrong Tree and I saw some Spam on a hill. There was someone smoking pot¬†out on the His and Hers, maybe they have the cookies. But, alas, there were no cookies. That might have been a bit disappointing…
In all honesty, I feel completely awesome for the first 11 or so hours of this race. I am positive and smiling, riding well. Thanking my crew every time before I roll out again, trying not to bark out orders. I find out later how all the caffeine kept them laughing to a point when Cathy says she felt bad they were having such a good time while I was out there suffering. It’s ok guys, this is what we’re here for, I’m glad you’re having fun! They were out making noise every single lap with that horrible screaming spider monkey! I am racing as a solo, but it’s still very much a team effort. But by lap 11, I had started digging myself into a very deep, dark pain cave that I wasn’t sure I could crawl out of and not even their antics were shedding light inside.

first night lap

Rolling into camp after my twelfth time around, it’s somewhere in the vicinity of 5am. I am in pain. The searing kind of pain that stabs every muscle with every single type of movement. I have done all the core work striving to avoid this; but my back has given up, I have never felt such awful, relentless pain before. As I step off my bike, I fall over. I have gotten to the point I am unable to even hold myself up anymore, I literally could not stand up without the support of Kevin or Cathy and Christina. I felt as if my head was floating above watching my body flail around uncontrollably beneath it. My limbs wouldn’t listen to command. If I rest for a minute, maybe can I move again. I seemed to keep the bike upright thru painful pedal strokes even though I couldn’t walk. And had this been the only issue, I like to think I would have pushed on; but it was not the only concern. I could no longer see. After the dry winter and a lack of night wind, the dust and campfire smoke linger in the air. My contacts are done for and I have lubed them past their limits. This last lap I prayed to let the automatic drive take over as I was still letting go, speeding down descents I couldn’t see in front of me, hoping not to crash. It was also my last attempt on the Rock as I almost taco’d over my front wheel at the bottom from lack of control. “Whoa!” came from the few people left watching. Yes, Whoa indeed.
At my camp, the girls have hung motivational signs up telling me to ‘Be Awesome Today’ and that the ‘Pain is Temporary’.

Yea, what that says..

Yea, what that says..

I’m sure I don’t feel very awesome right now, but not for lack of my teams’ encouragement. I try to change out my contacts, but this only made things worse. My little eyeballs not only hurt, but now I could barely keep them open, any form of light sent them running for darkness behind eyelids. I had originally tried to use the motor cross goggles I trained with in an effort to avoid this exact problem, but by the end of one lap in them, my head and neck couldn’t tolerate it so I had to take the chance. I was extremely distressed about the whole situation. I did not want to quit, but it was like my whole body was saying “you have to”. I did not want to disappoint my crew, I did not want to disappoint myself; I was having a breakdown. I cried. I needed a nap. “It will be light soon, you’ll feel better.” they tell me. I know this, I can’t. I try to get up now after sitting, I can’t. I try to keep my eyes open, I can’t. “I’m so sorry.” I repeat over and over. They tell me I have nothing to be sorry for. Christina, with her pink boa, who has kept bubbly and positive for me, who has helped pull up my shorts when I couldn’t complete the task alone. “Christina, thanks for bein’ my Biatch. (as she has called our crew from the beginning…Beth’s Biatches) I’m not sure I even deserve a Biatch, but you’re the best Biatch ever!” Of course you do, she says, and I’m not just blowing smoke up your skirt. That would be ok, too. I’m still afraid I’ve disappointed you.

Sunrise of the exchange tent

Sunrise over the exchange tent

The next thing I remember is¬†Kevin waking me and saying the sun was up and everything is ready for me to go back out there if I want to. I want to, I do; but I feel my race already is over. I move, it hurts, but I can walk with less assistance. We talk for a few minutes. I get down some chicken soup and I am told I’ve lost first and then second place, but can solidly hold on to third as long as I go back out and ride and I am overtaken at how proud Kevin is of me. Ok, I can do this. So, now, how will I see? I¬†will try to¬†wear my glasses, but the sun, it’s bright, my eyes won’t keep open. What about Kevin’s sunglasses? They’ll fit over top, maybe. I hope so, cause these eyeballs will not accept those damn contacts back in. “Here, I’ll duct tape them

Oh, those glasses...That's some rigged up jazz right there!

Oh, those glasses…That’s some rigged up jazz right there!

together so they don’t bounce.” My golly, you’re a genius, it actually worked! My depth perception was a bit skewed and I squirreled around the trail at first; but I adapted and managed. I was talked into taking the Skip the Bitches bypass, the only lap during the race I choose to do so. By the time I rode back onto that last Bitch, I let it roll and can feel the trail under me again. I wasn’t fast by my own standards, but I knew I could keep riding. I drink water, get my hands on and off the bars and eat. Enough to keep going. I just kept pedaling. Little ring, nice and easy. My back still hurt with every stroke, but it was more tolerable at least. My raw undercarriage screamed out with every bump and I stood with weighted effort for brief relief. But I could see and I could hold my bike upright and¬†I could keep riding. Friends roll up behind me, yell out encouragement, pat me on the back, make sure I’m ok, are patient in passing and even offer to ride with me. I’m so grateful for them, I sometimes¬†shed a tear¬†at their voices; but it’s good leakage and they keep me going here. No, I can do this, ride your own race and thank you for offering. Kevin is waiting at the last climb before town. I stop just for a few seconds to get some encouragement and a smile, thrilled to see his face and feel his hand on my shoulder and then I slowly continue to pedal uphill, checking off each landmark in my head as I close in on the descent. I’m cautious descending, probably more speed would help me and I pick it up. My hands hurt holding onto the handlebars, but for heaven’s sake I don’t let go! This is not my last lap. I know I will go out again, no matter how slow. I came here to race. I came here to put everything I had into it and that’s what I’ve done. That’s what I’ll keep doing. I have asked my body to endure thru some terrible pain and asked my brain to shut off (or shut up) and let it go even when I couldn’t see the trail anymore, hoping memory would take me thru safely. My body gave argument and threw a temper tantrum, causing me to stop; but I did finally get it to listen and amazingly it did keep going. Emotionally, I may have been a mess; but I had found the mental strength to overcome my body’s weakness and along with my superior crew and all those out there rooting for me, that’s how I finish this race. After a stop at the camp and a change of clothes, I went thru the exchange for what would be the last time until the finish. Kaolin Cummings, who has been a superb announcer for almost all of these 24 hours, pats me on the back “I know you don’t feel it, but you sure are lookin’ good!” Yes, please, I’ll take all the sunshine and rainbows you want to blow up my ass right now!

Pushing thru lap 13

Pushing thru lap 13

My final lap, in the beginning I still have aspirations of making it in to at least get that 15th circle, I know time wise it’s possible. I decide on the Bitches…cause I won’t let them get the best of me. I granny-gear each one and give myself a little cheer at the exit. Next part is a favorite and I roll easily thru. I eat and drink on the easy¬†jeep track. The next climb is tough and I take a tiny break after, before¬†making the S turns on the His & Hers. Kevin is at the Whiskey Tree (the right one). I need to pee, don’t much care who’s around. With Kevin and a small cactus, I manage to cover most of my hind end; and then I carry on. I carefully and happily let many riders pass, all of them seeing the solo suffer thru to the end. My fellow OVB’er, Gary rolls up on me and despite my insistence that he not let me stop his groove, he stays with me all the way thru to the end. I was grateful for the distraction of his talking. Kevin is at the final climb, I¬†pause briefly and then continue my crawl back to the camp. I try to ride the descent fast and make a last minute decision to skip the Rock, although I’m sure now I should have taken it. I am about 5 minutes from the noon cut-off. My team and I decide we will wait.

On to the finish

On to the finish

My better than awesome support team! Christina, Kevin and Cathy

My better than awesome support team! Christina, Kevin and Cathy

Stick a fork in me..I'm done!

Stick a fork in me..I’m done!

So in the end, I met few of the many goals I placed on myself. I finished the race with 14 laps, 238 miles and 17,086 ft of elevation gain. I went there to race for it all, I absolutely went after it and I landed myself onto a 3rd place podium.¬†I have absolutely¬†nothing to complain about…I had no mechanicals, the Fate ran perfectly. No major, race-ending crashes. There were no hideous head winds. No cold, rainy, muddy weather. The pain and suffering come with¬†the ride¬†and I¬†know it,¬†so it has definitely been the best year for me to solo this race!

 3rd Place.

3rd Place.

Still up on a box!

Still up on a box!

Our bodies are amazing! How they can perform and what they¬†are able to¬†push thru, it’s definitely always beyond what you think. Never again will I underestimate what I can do even when I feel like I can’t because now I know I absolutely can…it’s whether I want to that will always make or break me. I have always held respect for those soloists; but now I am filled with such strong admiration for the people out there not only riding solo as fit athletes or maturing adults pushing on simply to prove they still can; but also the ones out turning in 17 laps and on rigid single speeds no less. I know it is hard and I know how strong you all are. I didn’t realize before going into this how just by my perseverance, I could inspire others to keep pushing forwards. This is perhaps the greatest thing I have come away with today. I am excited and utterly flattered at people’s reactions to my ride and I hope I can continue to inspire you! I feel extremely special at how proud you all are of me! Never give up!rock 7cropped-rock-8.jpgoh yea, baby

I’ve learned some lessons as an experienced XC racer yet newbie soloist…So will I be back next year to do it again, you ask. Mostly, it’s too early to say. I am both very proud of how I raced¬†and slightly disappointed in missing the mark on some of my more aggressive goals. I am told I have nothing to prove, but I’m not so sure I don’t…

I want to thank GU Energy for continuing to provide fuel for my journey. They have been an outstanding sponsor to have on my side and keep an eye out for a little blurb on my nutrition plan. Thanks to Forest Canyon Endoscopy & Surgery Center for the huge support and encouragement that they have given me throughout this. Thank you to Oro Valley Bicycle for being the best damn bike shop around!¬†They’re always there when¬†I need them, they¬†keep me in¬†top equipment and help my hubby keep it all running in superior condition. Thanks to ALL of you out there who were rooting for me and continued to cheer me on throughout the race…you helped get me to that finish line! And, of course, I can not even begin to thank enough my better than awesome, completely outstanding pit crew consisting of my sis-in-law Cathy, my friend Christina and my very understanding husband Kevin!I could not have raced without each of you! Thank you for holding me up when I couldn’t, for providing butt butter to tender spots and for being my brain! All photographs are credited to Cathy Wright…she’s awesome and you can check out her website over there on the left!

Each year, I hear myself tell people “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done” and each year I dare for something more. So onwards to the next challenge! What will it be for you?

Keep 'em turning!

Keep ’em turning!

Categories: Mountain bike racing | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

TOWM

start line 35m

Mark, Cory and Kevin..waiting to get their 1 gear over the 35 miles!

"Chillin" on the start line

“Chillin” on the start line

Well, it sure has been awhile since I’ve updated this! I guess I just didn’t have anything to share that¬†I thought you folks¬†might find interesting. But, after 3 months off the race scene¬†while¬†building some base miles and goofing off with no particular purpose in mind; I made it to my first race of the season this past weekend at Epic Rides’ Tour of the White Mountains. With a brand new huge venue (super fun with an¬†Amphitheatre and giant fire pit!) and mostly new course (some wicked fun trails!), I was ready to¬†jump into¬†the 50 miler once again, with working brakes (last year they were a fail!)¬†and all new lines to hit! I arrived in town and got to catch up with some fellow racers and friends I hadn’t seen in quite some time, so the weekend was already starting out fantastic!

Going into the race, I didn’t have huge expectations, I wanted to ride hard, enjoy being up in the mountains and maybe get onto the podium as an added bonus! There was quite a chill in the air at the start (28 degrees!) and I am fully a desert rat now, so this is cold! I pulled on my bright green CEPs (for a little warmth and style! I think they might make me faster ūüôā ), two pair of gloves, some non-thermal black sun sleeves (what if I got hot out there??! Can’t have too much on!) and¬†pedaled my bike right up to the front of the pack on the start line. It turned out to be a great day in the saddle for me! The trail had small steep and frequent climbs, some¬†fast jeep roads mixed in with a ton of singletrack¬†and lots and lots (and lots!) of rocks! I’m so happy I decided to ride my dual-suspension Epic¬†for this! And after getting lost off course once and stopped one other time debating on where I was, conceding to having to¬†use my bike as a pulley system¬†to manage getting myself up¬†the gigantic never-ending¬†hike-a-bike hill and then eating dirt once on a loose sandy curve (what¬†race would it be without a little dirt snack?!)…I managed to stay ahead and pull out a first place podium! I had such a blast at this event! I found myself smiling on every flowing section and even on some of the climbs. I came onto the start line without a single nerve. I enjoyed some tasty (FREE) New Belgium beer¬†at the finish line. This is how I want every race to feel!

My bike started out the race super, sparkling clean thanks to my awesome husband and ProGold’s wash…I did return it with just a bit of mud on the wheels (and frame and bars and me!); but the chain still ran smoothly thanks to Xtreme! My nutrition was spot on, thanks to GU Energy, and I felt balanced the entire 4h37M (and what turned out to be 53.9 miles) I was out there!

Next up is DCB Adventures Dawn 2 Dusk endurance solo in December….but really, everything from here on out is training for the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo….SOLO! Yep, you read that right. The crazy girl is doing a solo ūüôā

50 Miler Women's podium. And there's Cassi standing in spot #5!

50 Mile Women’s podium. And there’s Cassi standing in spot #5!

Single Speed 35 Miler Podium. (Yep, that's my super husband up there!)

Single Speed 35 Mile Podium. (Yep, that’s my super husband up there!)

35 Mile Women's podium. Super mom, Katherina Beeler takes the top seat!

35 Mile Women’s podium. Super mom, Katherina Beeler takes the top seat!

Categories: Mountain bike racing | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Super Fun IronHorse Classic, Durango CO

At The Stables Guesthouse.

At The Stables Guesthouse.

What a relaxing time out in the woods at our little cabin in Durango! No TV. No distractions. Just birds and deer, a peaceful spell in the cool shade of oak and pine and aspens. Sampling a bit of the Colorado Trail. Shredding some seriously silly singletrack at Overend (yes, as in Ned!) Park. What a perfect way to saddle up to race the IronHorse Classic on Sunday!

 Just before Star Wars at Overend Park. Super fun and difficult!

Kevin. Just before Star Wars at Overend Park. Super fun and difficult!

With all this prime trail around here, we still must pre-ride the course. Just a lap. It’s only 6ish miles..with close to 800ft¬†of gain. The initial climb is going to be tough repeated x3. The next couple of flowy track is good. A little off-camber. A little exposed here and there. Then there is the college maze at the top. What drunk person laid this sucker out?! No seriously. It winds thru these trees, taped off so tight I can barely (if at all) get my bike to turn it. I think they offered some students free beer and then said “Have at it, folks!” This will be interesting. Ok. Enuf of that…off for some scenic riding on the CO Trail.

On the CO Trail

On the CO Trail

Race Day:
Kevin and teammates Tom & Bryan are out there early in the AM. I get to cheer. What is this I see happening here?? An obstacle course on the lap thru? Oh my! I watch people clean everything. I watch people totally botch it and face plant, followed by the crowd’s immediate response..”Da-ohh!”. Am I going to embarrass myself here?? Kevin clears it all beautifully both laps..I had no doubts ūüôā

Kevin teetering!

Kevin teetering!

I get a couple¬†of little runs thru the obstacles before the start of my own race. It’s a little nerve-wracking. I certainly don’t want to be booed for missing something or kill myself in the process. And then there is the¬†bar-thru…this will be interesting…

At the start, it’s on fire. Then the road turns upwards. Then I hit¬†the dirt. Not one woman clears the start and we’re all walking up the first switchback. Then the race begins. I get stuck a bit behind some slower climbers. Not much space to pass. I manage to get around a few. The climb is tough, but all doable. The downwards slope between climbs is fun, but a little rutted..so bumpy on the Fate I chose to race today. I was a little nervous on my choice at first, having ridden the Epic to pre-ride; but in the end it was the absolute best bike to race here with all the tight turns and climbing¬†involved.IMG_4281
Sliding into the drunken maze, I do better than yesterday, but still I end up running thru some of it. Is this a cross race? Whew, back onto a descent. A brief road climb and then the last singletrack back to pavement. I put a foot down on the lefty, but deal. Now the scary part.

Wahoo!

Wahoo!

Coming into the obstacle course, I’ve practiced the smaller jumps, but the line seems better on the bigger side now. I take it. Over the wood hump. Peddle. Over the two rock gardens. Peddle onto the balance beam. Jump off. Sharp right. Over the teeter-totter. Sharp left into Steamworks bar. Holy darkness! OH-Camera flash! Right turn, left turn. Down the steep-ass ramp. Sharp left. Sand. Water feature. Right turn. Lamp posts, curb.¬†Right turn, curb! 90 degree angle hill. Whew! Two laps to go!

I have been cat & mousing with 2 other women and pass them both on the road to the walk-up. Again I see no one ride this. The climb is a bit harder, but still clear everything. The maze this lap is better..I stay on the bike with the occasional foot down. The descents are a bit faster and I clear all the downward switchbacks. Sweet! One of the gals passes me going into the last descent. Ok, I still made it bit harder for her to do it this time. Back onto the obstacles. Taking the big jumps again, this time a little faster and with a bit more air. People are yelling and hooting every time I clear something. They’re banging empty¬†kegs on the ground inside the bar. I contemplate taking a beer hand-up..No, no, still one more go-round. This is SO much fun!!

Final switchback descent

Final switchback descent

Last lap. I catch that chica¬†back before the climb. I know I’ll have to really push to stay ahead. My granny gear sees a little more use this climb, still clearing every turn. Descending just a little faster.¬† Going into the maze I can’t seem to get my legs to work right, here I’m stuck in a tight turn foot out on a tree, frozen. Move would ya! Finally freeing myself, I see her behind me, she closed a bit on that section. Man, she just kills that! I descend well enuf to stay ahead. Hit the road climb hard. I feel a cramp coming on. Ignore it! Into the last descent. Clear it all. She’s right on me til near the bottom. Hit the pavement hard and peddle. The leg wants to cramp. She comes up on me and gaps me just a bit going into the obstacles for the last time. This is where I gain it back. She hesitates and slows. I fly thru it fast. Uh-oh, I shoulda snaked her around the sharp right..we hit the teeters at the same time and I can’t get around her going into the bar. She almost comes to a complete stop at the top of the ramp. If only I had gotten past, I could be gone. My chance… Do I take the deep water feature? Not thinking quickly enuf tho, I follow her right over the other one.

Water features..final lap.

Water features..final lap.

Again she’s slow enuf, I’d a blown right past if only… Hindsight is always 20/20, ain’t it?! Rounding the corners is where she slows again, but no opportunity to go round. There should be no braking here! So I slam it into the last uphill to the finish, knowing¬†I am not a sprinter and she gets me by a second. Boy what a lesson in tactics I just had. Next time.

That was seriously a fun time! Having so many people around cheering and jeering. Filling the pavement with assorted barriers for spectator and rider enjoyment, what a brilliant idea! Having never in my riding lifetime been on a pump track or any sort of obstacle course, I had no idea what I was in for or if I could even ride¬†that sort of thing, but this was truly¬†fantastic! And come to find out I was only 1 of 2 girls who took the big jumps..that’s confidence building! I will definitely be back to do this again! And maybe even throw in the Race the Train event on the day before!

Dessert time!

Dessert time!

Categories: Mountain bike racing | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Flagstaff Frenzy…State Series Final

So that’s it for the AZ season, the state series is over. It was a stellar year for the MBAA with some fun race venues,¬† top Pro riders making a few appearances & incredible volunteers keeping everything running. There was a huge turnout for the women’s races at almost every event! I’m thrilled to have gotten to race some old and new faces this year!

Caiden Plummer: Cat 3 (15-18) Champ

Caiden Plummer: Cat 3 (15-18) Champ

Team OVB came thru with quite an awesome showing! We had 11 teammates, of which made it out almost

Cassi Morelock: Cat 2 (30+) Champ

Cassi Morelock: Cat 2 (35-49) Champ

all the races & really represented for Oro¬†Valley. We come out of the 2013 season with four State Champions! That’s huge! First time racer, Cassi¬†topped her Cat2¬†class, making her I believe, most improved over the season! Caiden¬†stood on the #1 podium for the age group above where he started out..just kicking some serious tail out there! His dad, Kit towered over the others with his ‘rock-it’ hands up in the Cat3. And I shared the top of the Pro podium with Kata Skaggs in the first ever tie for state champ.

Kit Plummer: Cat 3 (40-49) Champ

Kit Plummer: Cat 3 (40-49) Champ

Kata and Beth sharing the fruits of their labors.

Kata and Beth sharing the fruits of their labors.

We had a couple a regulars out there at every single race competing in each of their Respective categories: Doug really rocked in the Cat3¬†group, consistent and moving up at every race. Kevin held strong and pushed thru some of the toughest Marathons they had to offer. And Randy put the hammer down in the Rock-Crusher Category and¬†was a great captain for the Team Event. Bryan took his shredly¬†descending skills, worked hard on his endurance this year and stepped up on the podium at one of the toughest races at the Flag event…awesome! Cory brought out some new talent and then showed ’em how its done on Super D. And of course I can’t¬†forget Tom, who, after becoming re-acquainted¬†with his big toe, put in many hours of volunteer work for the team & MBAA. Way to go everyone!! Keep up the awesome and inspiring work! I am super proud of all the athletes on Team OVB and ever honored to have been on the same team with such exceptional people!

As for my own experience in my 3rd year racing the state series and 1st year as a Pro; it was a spectacular year filled with wins and losses, new skill accomplishments & hard crashes, laughter & tears; I have proved my power and I have gotten my butt¬†thoroughly handed to me, fulfilling, yet cultivating something slightly less then sensational in the end. Partially my own trying to fit absolutely as much as I possibly could into one season & the inability to pick which ones to make A races. No, they can’t all be A races! I have certainly learned a lot this year!

The finals, held in Flagstaff, comprised of some fantastic single track, tough climbing and a few very technical sections under the canopy of pine trees on Mt Elden. I chose to race my Specialized Fate hardtail again, thinking of all the climbing I would be doing..I should have chosen my Epic beast. I had forgotten about some of the bouldering I would encounter and have not, as of yet, attained the extra physical skill it takes to do such things without my rear suspension. So, regardless of how fast the Fate cornered and accelerated, I suffered on some of the technical rocky goodness. I have a lot to learn. (I say that a lot, I better get educated quick!) Already being behind after trying to climb Rocky Ridge & descent into the Hobbit Forest, I decided not to waste anymore energy on frustration. I let go of the things I could not do and started having fun with the things I could. Whooping around curves and down the hills, thru the trees. Fantastic!

After passing a woman coming cautiously into an exposed & off-camber section of trail, I hear a loud yelp and the sound of falling rock and broken shrubbery. Peeking over my shoulder, she had gone over the edge & down the mountain. No kidding. Carefully tossing (setting..) my bike off the thin single track, I run back to help her up. It is quite steep here and full of loose rock, I’m not sure she could have gotten herself & her bike back up alone. After I apologize for pulling her bike scraping across the rocks (eek), she makes it up the slope & appears unharmed other than lots of rash & a little hurt pride…we’ve all been there. I run to my bike and get back to the race, oh, I don’t know, 10 or 15 min later. Well, what are ya gonna do, nurse first, pro mountain biker second.
Continuing to enjoy the rest of my time on the mountain trail, I finally roll to the end. Teammates are there and with a huge smile plastered across my face, I shake my arms up into the air crossing the finish line…not in first place. I feel good, tho. I didn’t let the little things ruin me and I didn’t let my sometimes overwhelmingly competitive nature interfere with doing the right thing out there.

I was expecting to finish 2nd in the series to Kata after a poor performance at Estrella due to crashing and opting to do the Marathon race in Prescott. To my surprise, we actually tied! Can you believe it? Apparently a first time for MBAA series. I’ll take it! I feel honored to share the podium with Kata. We have pushed each other and shared new experiences together this season. I ventured into the unknown of the real Pro mountain bike scene with Kata. It really has been a fun year!
At this moment, I am still not yet at the break in my season; but sitting on the porch of a cabin in the mountains outskirting¬†Durango, getting ready for the Iron Horse Classic. Three weeks after this, will be the Montana Pro XCT¬†and then this will be the end of my season until fall…and the beginning of a much needed¬†rest & vacation! After spending 3 out of every 4 weekends since January racing out of town & working the ICU on the ones between, I am ready for a little quality at home time with my hubby & friends!
I will be undertaking a little education this summer while assisting Kit a bit with the newly established Oro Valley Mountain Bike Club as their resident pro ūüėČ and occasional ride leader. If you have (or are!) a high schooler in the area, come on out and join us! Especially you girls out there..it’s not just a men’s sport!! Lets show those guys who’s got skill! Check the group out on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/503836456345993/

I am so very thankful for all support I have received throughout this season! Aside from the many fans (my friends!) and my husband (who is my biggest fan!), I have had the privilege of working with some very respected physicians, nutritional & bike maintenance experts; and the absolute best bike shop around!
GU
ORO VALLEY BICYCLE
THE HEART CENTER
PULMONARY ASSOC OF S. AZ
PROGOLD
NORTHERN AZ GASTROENTEROLOGISTS
SPECIALIZED

And thanks to MBAA for another great season of competition!

Enjoying the AZT afterwards

Enjoying the AZT afterwards

Scenic AZT

Scenic AZT

Categories: Mountain bike racing | 2 Comments

Epic Rides’ Whiskey Off-Road 50 Proof Pro Race Weekend (whew!)

Wild Wild West!

Wild Wild West!

Here we are in beautiful downtown Prescott, Arizona on the famous Whiskey Row prepping for a weekend of epic riding, racing and a little bit of suffering. This will be my first year to compete in the Pro race held on Sunday after Saturday’s Amateur open. I did the 50 miler¬†last year for the first time, I know what I’m in for as far as the course is concerned; the difference this year is I will be competing amongst a highly stacked field of some of the best female mountain bikers in the world and I will need to compete in the fat-tire crit on Friday evening to avoid any time penalties at the start of Sunday’s race. I’m as ready as I can be at this point and I’m ready to get out there and shred some dirt!

FAT-TIRE CRIT:

OhMyGosh! This was the most fun I’ve had racing on the road maybe ever!
I wasn’t taking this part seriously, I didn’t feel nervous, I was just doing this so as¬†not to get a time penalty in the real race on Sunday. I had no intention of wasting my legs on this part of the event. However; even tho I had¬†watched the crit last year, I had no idea the state of absolute giddiness that I would experience actually participating in it!
It’s all about the fans. They totally make the race! All the spectators..yelling, heckling, handing out beers and dollar bills..dressed up as gorillas and human GU packets..it was truly spectacular!
Despite the fact that I had every plan to pull myself from the crit early, I just couldn’t do it, I was having too good a time! Don’t get me wrong, as each 1 km lap passed by, the giant hills got harder and I suffered just a little bit more; but all the motivation from the people on every corner completely overshadowed¬†any pain. Each lap I would say “ok, I’m gonna pull myself this lap”¬†and then I’d¬†hear the roar of the crowd, the¬†cowbells from every direction and squeeze myself thru the people like I was¬†topping out Alp¬†d’huez¬†in the TDF and simply keep on going..I couldn’t help it! Each lap after the ridiculous monster-climbs, I would scream downhill faster and faster careening around¬†the right-hander at over 30mph..it was absolutely exhilarating!

zoom-zoom

zoom-zoom

In the end, I was able to put in 5 laps and raced for 15m21s¬†(a crit consists of 20m plus 3 laps) before getting pulled off. I was nowhere¬†near the front of the pack, I was nowhere near the back of the pack. I am extremely happy to be in the middle..right where I belong right now. This shed a whole new light on what I was doing. This crit race wasn’t for us, it was for the spectators, all the people who continually support our mountain biking; but rarely get to see us race. It is hard work to watch a mountain bike race, you need to either hike or bike yourself out onto the course somewhere to watch racers go by once or you typically only experience the start and finish. This was different, this you could¬†actually get involved in¬†all the action. This was pretty awesome.

THE DAY BETWEEN:

IMG_0198Not having to race until Sunday, Saturday came as a nice little respite and the chance to support and cheer on the racers out there doing the Open race. I was going to the T-intersection aid station to hand up bottles to Kevin. I got in a great little in-between-day workout and experience the other side of racing. I stood out there waiting for Kevin to arrive and clapped and cheered and talked up a little motivation to the other riders. I got to see friends coming thru and root them on…seeing their smiles when they heard a familiar voice felt great! Once Kevin came thru on his singlespeed¬†and successfully obtained his bottles of GU Brew, I hung out a bit longer and then slowly climbed back up alongside the others. I chatted for a few minutes with racers on the way up and then hung out at another intersection for a bit again cheering. It was a lot of fun to support all the people racing…and I know from experience, sometimes that can mean the difference between cracking and not out there. Riding back out and making it to the finish line for Kevin’s finish. He did awesome out there on that tough singlespeed¬†course! We had a ton of OVB racers out there, a successful race for the team as a whole..way to represent guys and gal!

Kevin ready to get his race on!

Kevin ready to get his race on!

Cassi ready to shred!

Cassi ready to shred!

Paul making his way thru the start.

Paul making his way thru the start.

THE MAIN EVENT:

I’m not so nervous today, I have lucky number 13 to ride!¬† I’m ready to ride my own race today. I’m not worried about the other women or where I’ll be in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely have goals set for myself; some definitely attainable, some maybe a little steep, but all doable. I want to enjoy my Whiskey and be proud of how I finish!
I get to chat a bit at the line with Georgia Gould, such a nice gal she is, and wish Chloe a great race. I can see¬†my¬†heart rate¬†is below 100…a good sign I’ve got the nerves channeled¬†and under control and it will be the last time I look at it throughout the entire race. I’m as ready as I can be for this. Lets go!

The Start!

The Start!

The road out of town is a killer climb right off the bat. With a police escort, we all ride as a group until he pulls off..then it’s all on, baby! I’m thrilled to be in the main pack until after hitting the dirt. It’s pretty cool to be able to ride along side some of the best female mountain bikers in the world! I still can’t believe sometimes that I am part of this elite group!
Once we’ve hit dirt, the group really starts to get strung out. I’m happy being in the position I’m in, somewhere in the middle. The climbs are tough, the singletrack is fun and the descents are a bit hairy in spots. I pop off a couple a times, some by my own missed step, some no fault of mine; but overall I feel I’m riding well and most importantly, I’m really having a lot of fun!

The first aid station comes after a lofty climb at about 16 miles in. Kevin is there ready to hand up bottles. I feel pretty great still and as always I’m happy to see him there. On to the descent into Skull Valley…which is not really all downhill, but the climb out is brutal.

Hitting aid station 1. The steepest parts of the course. Thanks for cheering there, Nicole!

Hitting aid station 1. The steepest parts of the course. Thanks for cheering there, Nicole!

I get in a pull¬†line with a couple other ladies on the way down, fun stuff! And at the turn around, I grab up¬†a neutral bottle¬†and douse my back with the cool water. I already know the climb out is going to get warm with total exposure to the sun. Climbing out I feel pretty good still. I make sure to drink, using GU Roctane¬†really helps keep the body fueled and engine fires stoked. I push hard when I can and push thru when it hurts. A couple of girls¬†pass me, but I keep them in site and use them as my carrot. Then a little over a mile before hitting the aid station back where Kevin is, I start to get overheated. My pedals are barely turning over and I’m riding at 4mph¬†at times. I’m starting to really suffer. I keep talking to myself and try to keep my mantras going. That last mile is the steepest and seems to never end. I finally see Kevin just coming into the station and I¬† so so happy to see his face! I get completely drenched with water, so much my socks are soggy and squishing! But holy cow, it feels fantastic and both the cold shower and Kevin’s uplifting encouragement give me a push and I can continue the climb to the top..pedaling just a little bit faster. I am 30 miles in and 4 miles from the top: Sierra Prieta Overlook.

Close to the top!

Close to the top!

On the way, I see familiar faces and hear voices call out my name, it keeps me going & makes me want to push harder. My friend Steph¬†follows me up the road a bit urging me on. And the next intersection is filled with more people cheering. It’s so wonderful to have excited spectators hootin’ and hollarin’, keeping the energy flowing!

I finally hit the top and start some gnarly, rocky, arm fatiguing descent.¬† Holy crap! I decided to race my new Specialized Fate, my first real hardtail¬†and am still learning to descend on it..not quite just running down everything in your path like on the Epic…but still the right bike choice for today’s big¬†climbs. I make it thru with a hefty dose of fear and no other issues, take some big cleansing breaths and move onto the mini enduro¬†and super fun singletrack..waiting for what I know is coming..cramp hill, as it is so affectionately known as. On some of the of the fun, sweeping singletrack I am surprised by more friends rooting me on..seriously wonderful! IMG_0991So, not once in the 2 years I’ve done this race have I made it thru cramp hill without doing exactly that and having to get off my bike. Today is going to be¬†different. Today I’m riding on Sunday and today I’m going to make it. I try to pedal as often as I can on the downhills beforehand, keeping the muscles from locking into any constant position. And then, cramp! Before the hill! Argh! Ok, it’s not so bad. I spin the legs, I talk to my muscles, it gets better. And I see it. I gear down, ready myself both physically and mentally and spin into it. The legs start to whine a little, I keep spinning them. They protest a little more, I am not going to let you get the best of me Hill! And I make it up! This is it! I’m so happy and the final stretch is here! There is some sketchy downhill singletrack, I falter a little thru it and Tracy Thelan¬†catches me, this is the second time she grabs me on a descent today. I was really hoping to keep my position,¬† but she comes around and is¬†riding the lines¬†better than I today. I try to stay close. Thru the water crossing and I nail it perfectly, I hear more familiar cheers and Cassi runs along after me “You can catch her! You look great!” What motivation! I keep it up¬†and then come up on Tracy off her bike fixing her chain. Oh, man! I feel for her, but without being a serious injury that needs my attention, this is still a race and¬†I have to continue on past.

Entering the creek-crossing..fun stuff!

Entering the creek-crossing..fun stuff!

Now, I’m looking for the off-shoot onto the road. 4 miles of pavement. If I can hit it, I know I can stay ahead.
There it is. And I push hard giving whatever I have left down the pavement. And, after 48.1 miles and 6800 ft of gain,¬†I cross the finish line in 4h15m59s, positioning me in 32nd out of 51 starters and 44 finishers. I am happy! For the first time this year while playing with the big dogs, I have finished mid-pack; make that twice if you include the Crit on Friday. I¬†am stoked to have had the mental strength to push thru the pain, the suffering and the ebb and flow of emotions out there. To know that whatever training I did or didn’t do, I physically could still maintain. I am thrilled to feel absolutely proud of how I raced today….for myself and no one else. No expectations of grandeur. No pressure to do what I can not do and I did what I could do..race hard, keep pushing and enjoy the journey. And I certainly did enjoy myself out there!..most of the time! ūüôā Today I became an elite mountain biker.

Worked-Over!

Worked-Over!

Even my toes hurt! Ha!

Even my toes hurt! Ha!

Thank you so so much to my friends for being out there in all those tough spots and in the random ones! You all are what kept me going! The spectators who were just out there cheering and having fun-it’s you who helps keep the mind running strong! Again, the fans really make this race what it is!
Also, I have to thank Kevin for always being my rock and my biggest fan! Keeping my bike in perfect condition! Standing out there for hours to hand up bottles! Seeing him there gets my heart pumping and the legs spinning  faster again!

Thank you Oro Valley Bicycle for helping get my bike race ready so quickly and for all your support that never stops coming!
Thanks to GU for keeping me stocked in the best bike nutrition out there! No bonking allowed!
Thanks to ProGold¬†for having the best stuff to keep the chain running smoothly and the bike sparkling at the start of each and every race.¬†And thank you to Northern AZ Gastroenterologists, PASA, and The Heart Center for helping fund my adventures in mountain biking..without whom, participating in¬†some of these races wouldn’t be possible!

What an Epic weekend! Whiskey Off-Road, I’ll see you and all the brutal sun, dirt and sweat you can throw at me again next year!

Categories: Mountain bike racing | 2 Comments

A Marathon…MBAA Prescott Punisher

I have been contemplating moving away from the shorter distance XC races and going more towards endurance or even ultra-endurance events. Already having my race season planned out this year and not having the time or training to switch it up this Arizona season, the only race left on the schedule¬†at this level is the Whisky Off-Road. This¬†has now become¬†my focus. I have definitely noticed that all¬†the training geared¬†for the XCT¬†races has not exactly helped my endurance…or my climbing, So I need Whiskey training! Already registered for the Pro race for MBAA’s¬†Prescott Punisher, I am thinking about switching categories to do the marathon and when I found out about¬†the change to a much later start time of the pro race, I opted last minute to go ahead and¬†follow my gut and just do it.
Am I taking away from what I’ve set out to do with this whole pro journey by skipping the pro race & choosing to do marathon today?¬† No, I don’t think so. This is my¬†first year in the big girl scene…I’m learning this year. It takes time to understand how to race at this level of play; however, not being a tender age of 25 anymore (I know, can you hardly¬†believe it?!), I also need to go after what I enjoy doing most right now¬†and to¬†stay where my strengths lie. I believe this¬†comes down to¬†the challenge of longer endurance racing. I can better teach my brain to enjoy pain & suffering for longer periods of time then teach my body to be a sprinter for short ones.¬†This is¬†just who I am..and there are plenty of endurance events out there.

GU me! My day's nutrition.

GU me! My day’s nutrition.

So there it is. I again find myself standing on a start line, this time lined up with both men and women seeking to ride as much as possible before the¬†3.5h¬†time cut-off. This course-¬†or so I’ve heard, not having pre-ridden it, I will just be surprised- is not technical and has a lot of climbing. Good. A perfect jump into marathon, a perfect training tool. I feel calm and collected, talking with Katie Ellis,¬†waiting for the start whistle. Katie¬†is always fierce competition and with her and Liz Vito¬†usually battling it out on course, I am sure to have a tough race¬†ahead of me. I am ready to just roll with it.¬†And we’re off!

Lap 1: Too hot as always! I really try to hang back at first and think I’ll just ride with Katie and Liz for awhile, try not to kill myself too early in the day; but as always, that doesn’t sit well with me and I am off and around them searching for the next rider ahead to catch. The hills on the first half of the course are killer and I decide early on how long I¬†will try to keep myself in bigger gears grinding away at them. Most of the course is jeep road, a little rutted, a little loose; but I have recently learned a new cornering technique¬†I have found¬†extremely useful and decide to focus on doing this.¬†Once you plug away to the top of the saddle and thru the first¬†tunnel under a road, the course becomes quite fun. Twist and turn downhill and¬†a sharp left turn onto the singletrack. Here it flows. I concentrate on pushing into my handlebars into the turns and pointing my belly button thru it. I’m having a ball! The singletrack¬†turns upwards and switchbacks to another saddle. A local racer catches up and motivates me thru the trail. Down and around thru the second tunnel, one more¬†short singletrack back to the jeep road thru the venue. An incredible lap time! Boy, I hope I can keep that up…

Lap 2 is much of the same. I descend faster now knowing what is ahead and I’m climbing well. Now, just keep hydrated and¬†the nutrition going…its still early¬†on a long day in the saddle.

Lap 3 is when I hear the SNAP! What the..? And as soon as I feel myself pogo-ing off the bike seat, I¬†know. I have just busted my rear suspension! I feel myself bouncing all over the bike every time¬†I run over a little rock or bump in the trail and as I climb I’m sagging towards the ground. Ugh, I have to figure out how to manage this. I get to a spot I can get off and assess things. I turn the Brain’s rebound all the way to slow and the shock is already as firm as it will go, so not much else I can do..I¬†am assuming,¬†because in all honesty, I’m not completely sure of what I’m doing. I get back on the bike and keep going. It feels weird back there. Like I’m smashing my rims into everything, I know its really¬†just me bottoming out the rear shock that no longer works, but I can’t get my mind back to the task at hand, so I get off the bike a second time and make sure there isn’t a flat back there, too. Nope, just a busted oily mess. Ok, keep going. I come thru the venue and yell out to my teammate Tom if there is anything else I can do to help it and he basically shakes his head no. And so I deal.

Busted! Dirty, Oily Mess.

Busted! Dirty, Oily Mess.

Lap 4: I’m just getting used to the feel of the bike. The longer I go, the less I seem to notice the bounce and sag. It does make climbing just a little more difficult…

Lap 5: How am I ever going to be ready for the Whiskey??! This is the thought that plays on repeat in my head. These climbs are killing me. I’ve been down to my little ring since last lap on most of the hills and they just keep getting harder. Stop thinking about it and focus on the task at hand. Pedal thru. Keep pushing. Good job. One more hill ’til a bit of relief. Oh, the fun part is coming up! I’m good, feeling better. Singletrack! Keep practicing your cornering, focus on that. Here comes the last bit of climbing. CRAMP! AHH! Ok, I know how to deal with this. Spin thru it, easy gears, keep the legs moving. Gone..for now. Better drink more…its only lap 5 and I should have two more to go at these times..

Lap 6: Getting closer to the finish, I know I will be going out for a 7th. I have no idea where any of the other women are. My last couple of laps have been fairly consistent in time, but I am afraid with being on the verge of cramping and already using easier gears, I will be slowing. I try not to and just keep talking to myself, keeping it going. More hills, more descents, having to work harder to keep focus on each individual aspect I’ve given to different parts of the course to manage my mind and my body. Then in the same place as lap 5, cramp. This time a little worse. Oh my god, my adductors! I shed an invisible tear at the shearing pain¬†and talk myself thru it…aloud, for the brush and dirt and world to hear.¬†Spin, move the legs, easy gears, don’t stop. Oh the pain. Ok, its better. Oh the pain!¬† I get to the second tunnel and¬†the tearing in my legs¬†has dissipated. Whew. Let’s go. My lap time wasn’t too off the previous ones, a good sign and with 8 minutes¬†remaining before the cut-off, I head out to…

Lap...

Lap…

Lap 7:¬†Throwing¬†down my Camelbak¬†as I ride thru the venue, it’s empty and I have no desire to continue carrying it, my neck is sore and the removal of it sends relief thru my shoulders. Teammate Tom is (and has been) yelling out encouragement as I roll thru, grateful for the mental support!¬†At this point, if I had actually heard someone telling me that I needn’t go out on that 7th lap, I probably wouldn’t have; but I didn’t hear that and I still didn’t have any sign of where any of the others were and knowing Katie if she had the ability to go out again, she would; so I did. Honestly, I’m glad I did. I didn’t come here today to stop just because I could; but now¬†I just want to get thru this lap. I have hardly any liquid left. I’ve eaten my final GU. Its fine, 30+ minutes and I’ll be done. I push as best I can and just try to keep a grip on where I am and what’s next. The hills are a bitch, but I climb them all. The juniors are out there and I see them climbing, motoring themselves up those hills as if they were floating feathers, as I crawl¬†around them filled with lead. I send them encouraging words as I pass¬†at the descent. My arms are fatigued from descending, but I¬†roll down them. I forget that my rear suspension isn’t working, but am reminded with the occasional buck off the seat. Out of fluid now, I’m almost 3/4 way to the finish line. The fun sections, the singletrack¬†and that’s it. Luckily there are still other riders out there as the other races have continually been sent off while we strive on thru the day. As I hit the singletrack, I see him coming up from behind and move over to let him pass. Hunter Keating, the men’s marathon leader, laps me. He finishes his 8th lap about 2 minutes before I will cross the line. He looks and sounds like its lap 1! Amazing! Sweating up the last hill, it hits again. Cramp! I am talking to my legs out loud pretty much continuously. I come up on riders who look at me wildly and get out of the way of the crazy girl talking to herself. I try to reassure them, but it doesn’t matter. The pain is tremendous with every push of the pedals. Again, spin, move, go. And again, just as the other laps it vanishes as I get to the final descent on the jeep road into the finish line. I am done! “You looked strong out there all day!” I hear…yea, no one but a select few riders lucky enough to be¬†out there were witness to the agony in my legs..it always dissipated before lapping thru the venue.

I managed to win the marathon doing 7 laps. This equals out to 50.7 miles and just over 4500ft of elevation gain (only about 3/4 of the Whiskey gain!). I see Katie at the finish line and talk with her. This is when I finally learn that none of the other women made the cut-off to get a 7th lap. I am happy with my performance and how I managed the day..altho I do need to work on that cramping issue.  Maybe I am not quite ready for the big Whiskey as a pro this year. So..tomorrow off to Mt Hopkins to get in another big climbing day and on fatigued legs.

1-Beth, 2-Katie, 3-Liz

1-Beth, 2-Katie, 3-Liz

After finishing, I get to see Kata and Chloe before their race. I was there to cheer them on as they lapped thru the venue. The smile on Kata’s face when¬†we stood there screaming at her, trying to motivate her was priceless. Did I miss being out there with them? Yes, there are some great¬†girls racing the pro category here in Arizona and I’ve had a blast competing with them. Am I glad that I listened to what I need and went forth with the marathon? Yes, definitely yes.

Team OVB had a great day out there, as well! With Kit earning himself a 1st place and Cassi and Caiden working hard for 2nd. Most of all watching our two juniors (Caiden and Bryan) be able to mentally push themselves all the way to the end even when their bodies were fighting against them really shows what strength they possess and what kind of racers they are and will become! I am proud! Way to go guys!!

A huge thank you to Oro Valley Bicycle for giving continual support to me! I seriously have the best bike shop standing behind me and they work hard to get my Epic fixed up and even into a new bike as quickly as they can. Also, a big¬†thank you to GU for keeping me stocked with lasting-energy; I certainly wouldn’t be half the racer without it!

Categories: Mountain bike racing | 1 Comment

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