September 1, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #3

Filed under: Out West Trip,Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 10:06 am

Once the pizza sandwich and ginger ale were consumed, I got on the road to Crested Butte. I didn’t know much about the town other than what I’d heard about the amazing quality of trails in the area. Once I was settled in at the hostel (which is huge, and, compared to a trail town/hiker hostel, has a weird, transient vibe to it), I walked down to the main street to get dinner. I wandered in to a pizza place called the Secret Stash and sat at the bar for a pizza and beer.

Given it was Thursday night, the mood was relatively calm inside. I was nearly finished with my meal when suddenly a raucous crowd poured into the bar area. A lady got up on a chair and announced that she was the bar owner and that Bud Light beer was free tonight. People cheered and the wait staff started tearing in to boxes of Bud Light and handing out bottles to everyone in sight. My first thought was W.T.F. This is Colorado… why is everyone freaking out about terrible beer?


Well, apparently, the city council had just approved a “Bud Light takes over your city” weekend. I’ll spare the details provided by the waitress, but apparently it requires businesses to only serve bud light (for free) for that weekend, and includes a huge free concert as well as food and a half  a million dollars to the city. The townspeople were very divided, but in the end, the Bud Light supporters won out. Soooo weird.

The next day, rather than dive straight in to riding, I decided to take a much-needed recovery day (I’d already clocked 18 hours in the past 3 days, so it was time). I started out with a bacon “scromlette” from McGills (where I ended up getting breakfast every morning since they were open at 6am).


That was followed up with coffee and blog-writing, then a massage and a drop-in visit to a great chiropractor. After a quick lunch of leftover pizza, I figured it was time to deal with my tire that I’d punctured and tubed a few days before. I’ve successfully patched several tires, though it’s always involved using a bench vice. I had no vice, so I had to improvise with what tools were in my bag.


It worked like a charm, and I took tire and wheel to a local shop where it could be sealed and I could buy a trail map. After a trip to the one tiny grocery store in town (tip- if you go to CB and plan on grocery shopping, do it in Gunnison on your way in so that you avoid the stupidly high small-mountain-town prices), I decided it was time for a quick spin before sunset. I made a loop of the “lower” trails, which were very nice.


The next day, I wanted something a little more backcountry. I saw the Deer Creek trail on the map, and, based on its description of “classic CB trail,” I thought it’d fit the bill well. It was a long climb to get there, and more climbing once I was on the trail. As soon as I was on the trail, I started dodging relentless cowpies. I had to hike-a-bike some near the top, and it was more of the same- a half inch layer of poo and urine slime, churned into the ground by cow hooves. I got to the top and briefly talked to some people who agreed that the trail was grosser than they remembered.

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About 90% of the whole 9 miles of trail was like that.


At least there were good views…




After my ride, I had a late lunch, laid around a bit, wandered around downtown, then had a nice dinner at the hostel. If I had to guess, I’d say there are more bikes in Crested Butte than there are cars. I borrowed one from a gal that worked in the hostel. It seems at though everyone has some sort of beater that they can just leave on any bike rack without someone bothering it. Awesome.



Bonus doggie pic of “Riot”


My next day ride was up to the 401 trail. The forest road up to the trail was surrounded by gorgeous scenery (notice the snow pack in the left of the first pic)




The trail itself was soooooo sweet





After my 401 ride, I had to pack and head north for my stay with the 9250 Cyclery guys. Random fun fact from the trip- the high mountains near Breckenridge have a fresh sheen of snow on top of them.

August 30, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #2

Filed under: Out West Trip,Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 9:28 am

Following my failed attempt at riding the “hard” part of the Vapor Trail course, I arrived back at the hostel to find that there was another CDT rider stopping in to take a break from the trail. It was a German woman who had actually started her journey in Montreal, Canada.

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Once I was cleaned up and starting to get hungry, I walked to a nearby pizza restaurant with her and a hiker. I love sitting and listening to their stories from the trail… it’s one of my favorite things about hostel-ing in a trail town. Afterward, we went to the grocery store and picked up ice cream for later.
Over dinner, we briefly discussed my failed ride from the day. I lamented that in order to achieve my pre-ride goal of “not being above the treeline during afternoon storms” that I needed to get a ride to near where I’d turned around earlier. The dude who was out hiking the Colorado Trail offered to help… he had planned on hitch-hiking back to where he’d left off the trail to come to the hostel. That spot just so happened to be relatively close to where I’d finish my ride. So, we decided that we’d drive the element up to the Alpine Tunnel Trail, then I’d get out and ride, and he’d drive to the trailhead where he needed to get back on the trail. Perfect.


It was cold and cloudy when I started up the trail. The scenery was magnificent, though. Before I started the hike-a-bike to the pass, I took a few minutes to check out the site where the tunnel had gone through the mountain..

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I then started the first (and easiest) hike-a-bike of the day up and over. I made a quick stop at the top for a photo before heading down. Most of the train station still remains on the other side of the pass. It was somewhat surreal in the fogginess.

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Soon the race course took a turn off the old railroad grade to go up and over Tomichi pass. It was intermittent granny gearing and hiking followed by a final push up and over the top. It was snowing up there. I was stoked.

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As soon as you cross that spot, there’s a short descent, then the real fun starts… the hike-a-bike that everyone talks about. It’s steep, almost all rocks, and goes on for about an hour. I sang “99 bottles of beer on the wall” in my head several times over before reaching the summit.

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What follows is, at least during daylight hours, the reward for all the pushing. It’s a descent from over 12k feet to around 8k feet. The trail very quickly links in to a trail that’s open to motorcycles, and I found that the moto who had gone down not long before me (it was intermittently raining, and the tracks were super fresh) had taken excellent lines through all of the steep and rocky spots. I was able to “follow” him the whole way down. Dropper post central.

After one more short, steep, and sandy hike-a-bike, the trail dumped out on to a gravel road that meandered its way towards the final climb of the day- Old Monarch Pass. It was warm at the start, but about 3/4 of the way up, it was cold and raining. Like steady, soaking rain. Luckily I was mostly prepared. It would have been nice to have some more water resistant gloves.

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I’ll admit, the climb nearly crushed my soul. However, I eventually made it over the top and found the trail to take me to Highway 50.


Once I was there, I put all of my extra clothes on, brushed the mud off of my tail light, and began the descent to the Fooses Creek Trailhead where my car was supposed to be parked. I averaged 40 mph for several minutes. I might have gone faster, but I basically pulled off at every side road to check and make sure it wasn’t where I needed to turn off. Eventually, I found it, and I was very happy. As soon as I was in to some dry clothes, I ate some leftover pizza and a ginger ale.



With the 20 clothing change stops and an equal number of photo opportunities, the entire outing took me about 6 hours and 45 minutes. I expect I won’t take quite as long on race day (er, night), but it won’t take much less time, either. I can say that, without a doubt, this qualifies as the most difficult course I’ve ever taken on- day or night.

Once I was in the car, I drove with the heat blasting almost all the way to Crested Butte. I’d planned a couple of nice rides there, but since the extra pre-ride day was so brutal, I decided that my first full day in CB would be dedicated to recovery and a little wrenching. Photos of that tomorrow, because today is ride day, and it’s time to go.

August 29, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #1

Filed under: Out West Trip,Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 9:42 am

SO much riding the past few days, I hardly know where to start an how many posts to make out of it.

Sunday morning, I left Memphis around 8am headed for Amarillo. If I’m going to the south end of Colorado, it’s a good stop, because it’s almost 11 hours in to the 17 from home to Salida, and there’s a small trail system on the northwest edge of town that’s perfect for a post-car spin. It’s also a very scenic way to finish the day.





The drive from Amarillo to Salida is more highway than interstate, which is nice. The panhandle of Texas is vast and gorgeous place. Soon enough, I was in Colorado, making the push into the mountains.


My original plan for the afternoon in Salida was to drive to a spot where I could easily ride the “Starvation Creek” loop that’s near the end of the Vapor Trail route. However, when I arrived, it was storming on the mountains, and eventually started pouring rain in town. I ended up finding an excellent yoga class to go to instead.

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Salida has a resident deer population that wander through people’s yards

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That evening, the hostel was kickin’ with Continental Divide Trail riders and Colorado Trail Hikers. Two of the hikers were from Germany and one was from France, and they laughed at my hint of a Southern accent.

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Mountain town hostels are full of interesting people. More of that tomorrow…

The next day, I rode the first section of the Vapor Trail course. I left the hostel and began the climb to the Colorado trail. It was nice, and the Colorado Trail never disappoints with its mix of scenery, gnarliness, and occasional flowiness.

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It looked a little something like this:


There were definitely some spots that I was glad to see prior to tackling the trail in the dark. I don’t know how I ever went downhill at any rate of speed without a dropper post. I’d had it mounted to the inside of my brake lever, but ended up “modifying” my let grip and mounting it to the outside so that I could reach it easily.


The next day, I wanted to ride the course from where I’d left off before. I knew it was going to be a day at high elevation, so I got started an hour earlier. When I planned my ride, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that going back out of town the way I’d come in the day before meant that I’d be climbing for two hours on the road to get to where I’d been (the previous day’s ride back to town had gone by quickly because of the loss of 1900ft or so of elevation). Along the way, I also had a flat tire and took a wrong turn.

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I eventually found my way to the bottom end of the road up to the Alpine Tunnel…


It’s a long and grinding climb. Like two more hours of climbing long… up to the actual Alpine Tunnel trail, which takes you up to the mountain pass where a rail tunnel once went through the mountain. By the time I made it up there, I’d already been riding for more than 4 hours, it was past noon, and I still had 35 hard miles of course to go.

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I was debating about what to do… but what you can only barely see in that last picture is the black cloud coming over the pass. Just after I took that photo, there was thunder. Alpine storms above the treeline are like the WuTang Clan. So, I made the decision to turn and descend back the way I’d come in. The storm ended up chasing me all the way down the valley-


I was somewhat disappointed, but that night at dinner, I worked out a way to make a second attempt. Spoiler alert- it’s worth its own post. So, that’s it for now. I’ve got recovery to do.



August 22, 2014

Best Recovery Ride, Ever

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 11:25 am

Everyone’s got their own “bucket list,” including myself, though I’ve never gone so far as to write mine down. Seeing as I generally strive to live a bucket-list type life, it’s somewhat vague and often dynamic, though it has always included “smoke a joint with Willie Nelson” (I’ve yet to figure out how to get in touch with him). Also a recent addition, “spar with Glen Danzig” (following the posting of this link by @bigbikesthom on Twitter). It seems to somewhat revolve around musicians since music is always strongly in the backdrop of all of my greatest, worst, and most memorable life experiences.

Yesterday, I had the chance to check off a “thing” that wasn’t on my list because I didn’t know it was actually a “thing” until the night before- Go for a bike ride with a member of one of my favorite bands… a band that, along with other punk bands, once influenced how my teenage brain viewed the world around me.

Wednesday night, on twitter, I was tweeted to by Michael John Dimkich, asking if I could point him towards a good road ride when he and his band came through town. I didn’t think much of it and gave him my email address, then, while I was having coffee and reading email the next morning, realized who he was and that the band he was talking about was Bad Religion. I was a little speechless for a hot minute.

To go off on a small tangent…

Parents, you should encourage your children to listen to punk music. On the outside, you ask “WTF would I want my teen to get involved with something that’s usually associated with drinking, drugs, anarchy, rebelling against authority, and the like?” I think it’s the rebelling against authority part that’s important. It’s a whole culture of music that breeds independent thinkers. Lots of kids get in to mischief when they’re teens- regardless of the music they listen to. Would you rather have your kid’s mischief influenced by vapid, superficial pop music or by music that’s encouraging them to question what’s popular?


So, it goes without saying, the music of Bad Religion had a part in shaping the person I am today.

After exchanging a few emails and text messages, I drove to midtown to meet up with Mike for an easy ride.


Ok, so I’ll warn you now… my photos aren’t that great. I didn’t want to be obnoxious with lots of picture-taking and whatnot. My only regret is not getting a picture of the Bad Religion sticker on Mike’s top tube.

We made a loop that took us through some “scenic” neighborhoods and on to Mud Island from the north end, taking it pretty easy. We stopped to cool off for a few minutes on the porch at Miss Cordelia’s at the south end of the island before heading through downtown and on to Riverside Drive to check out the new bike/pedestrian lanes that were installed on one side of the boulevard. We chatted mostly about bike stuff. He’s got a wealth of stories about ultramarathon running and riding with pros that come through California on a pretty regular basis.

Some of the other band members are following his lead with the bike thing, which I thought was really cool-


Post-ride Gatorade, air conditioning, and hanging out with Mike and Jay:


Lots of fun. I’m bummed that the tour didn’t include a Memphis show, but really stoked I got to ride with Mike and meet some of the other band & crew members. Mike did say that he’d love to meet other cyclists in cities where they stop. So, if you’re a fan, and you see your city on their tour schedule, then use the powers of social media to meet up! (Mike is @michaeljdimkich on Twitter)

August 18, 2014

Tennessee State Championship Cross Country Ride

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 7:10 am

The state championship cross country race happened over the weekend at Montgomery Bell State Park. Matt and I drove up Saturday afternoon, pre-rode, and stayed the night in Dickson. Combined with a trip for a couple of pre-ride laps a few weeks ago, I was feeling good about the course. It’s a lot of up & down with a mix of both sweeping and tight turns and a bunch of roots and a couple of longer climb-y spots. It’s a very nice mix of course terrain for a state championship race.

After our pre-ride, we hit the registration tent, where I learned that there currently weren’t any other Cat 1 women registered. I crossed my fingers that there’d be some day-of ladies showing up from Nashville.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. It rained a bunch before the race. Luckily, the Montgomery Bell trail is also great for a championship race because it drains really well and holds up nicely to traffic in wet conditions. However, since 99% of the trails I ride don’t follow that rule, and therefore are off-limits in the rain to avoid trail damage, I don’t often get the opportunity to ride wet roots and occasional greasy corners (basically, 9 in 10 turns at Montgomery Bell will hook up almost as well as when it’s dry, but the 10th one will two-wheel drift you into the poison ivy).

Turns out, no more women showed up. I was pretty disappointed, and lined up to start with the 40+ cat 1 men. I hadn’t warmed up much, so I just tailed the back of their group when we were given the signal to go. Once we were in the woods, I kinda hung out there until my glasses were too mud splattered to see well. I stopped and crammed them in my jersey. I figured from there, as I warmed up, I could probably pick a couple of dudes off, but then my seatpack started to fall off. I stopped to fix that (it actually took two stops, because in my haste, I missed looping a saddle rail the first time). The guys were long gone by then.

I rode two sloppy laps all by myself, occasionally going hard, occasionally coaching myself through some higher-speed wet turn practice, and occasionally daydreaming about my upcoming trip to Colorado then snapping out of it and remembering that I needed to hurry up and get this isht over with. I kind of debated as to whether or not I should take home the prize money and jersey given my somewhat uninspired riding.

At the podium presentations, I’d learn via the race director that other Cat 1 women in Nashville had said they weren’t going to come because they didn’t want to race for 2nd.

So  much shit can happen during a mountain bike race… it’s so not  a sure thing, ever.


The state championship jerseys are pretty dope this year. I’m going to wear mine often as a testament to working so hard that no one else will show up.

August 15, 2014

Late Summer/Fall Stoke

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 7:39 am

You all may have noticed that I took something of a summer hiatus from serious racing. Unlike previous years, I didn’t travel much to race any 100′s or other stuff like Marathon Natz, Whiskey, TSE, etc. (outside of going to Dirty Kanza). I don’t want to say I was burnt out on traveling, it’s more like I wasn’t super hyped to race those races again, so there wasn’t much of a point to driving across the country to get to them. Also, I was having a killer time training MMA & fighting, so it worked out well to not have to leave town during that time. I prettymuch said, outside of Vapor Trail, I’d plan races and trips as the inspiration and opportunities presented themselves, and, as I expected, they have arrived upon my calendar in a fast and furious manner.

In about a week and a half, I’ll leave for Colorado, and, in no particular order, visit Salida, Crested Butte, Black Hawk (home of 92Fifty’ Cyclery), and a long-time friend of mine in Elbert. It’s a lot of road trip packed in to about two weeks, but it should be a ton of fun, as always.

After Vapor, I’ll have several opportunities to put my new-found sleep deprivation skills to the test.

First, starting at 6pm on Sept. 19th will be the St. Jude 24 hour charity ride. My MMA coach/friend/cornerman will be riding it solo, and I plan on being there for the duration to mechanic/cook/mentor him through the process… and by “mentor,” I mean I’ll threaten to kick him in the liver if he won’t leave the RV to continue laps at 2am on Saturday. Again, and I can’t say this enough… if you aren’t familiar with the awesome work that St. Jude does in the fight against terrible childhood diseases, you need to check it out. If you want to support John in his fundraising efforts, click and throw a few bucks his way: Support John Trent at the 24 hour St. Jude Ride.

Really… If I could get all of my readers to just donate a dollar or five, it would add up really quickly, and it would mean the world to me to see my readers give back to a place that does so much good. Just one dollar.

Following that, as long as I can manage a bare-bones amount of napping and sleep Friday and Saturday night, I’m going to get over to the Iron Mountain Enduro Sunday morning. It’ll be a last minute judgement call on my part. I’m not going to try and drive 3 hours/race enduro if I feel as though I’m too sleep deprived to be safe in doing so.  It is the inaugural enduro race for the state of Arkansas, so I am excited to compete if I’m able to.

To kick off October, I’m venturing back in to the Adventure Racing world. This time, I’ll be going to the USARA Nationals in Maryland with the Michigan Racing Addicts team. Though my adventure racing experience is somewhat limited (I’ve done exactly three- two solo sprints and one team 12-hour), they sent me an extensive race resume that has me confident that I’m going to be in the company of some very skilled guys for the race. Also, when I saw the term “30 hour expedition format” used to describe the event, it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

The next three weekends looks like this:

10/11: Lula Lake Land Trust 5-Points 50

10/18: Rest or Race to the Canal (fun race/course, but I’ll need to play it by ear on the recovery end)

10/25: 12 Hours of Night Nationals

About that last one- I am not usually super stoked about lap races, but OMG look at the payout on that one! Even a 3rd place finish would put me in the black for the weekend. I should be in prime overnight racing form by then, too, so I’m gonna race the hell out of it.

To wrap everything up, there’s always the Oak Ass 50/100 in November. I might have cyclocross and/or MMA back on the brain by then, but I’m definitely not ruling it out. As you can see, it’s about to be a wonderfully busy late summer/fall. I’m stoked because normally in September and October, I’m tired of training and traveling. Instead, this year, I’m totally excited to get in to some new, killer races.

August 13, 2014

Vapor Trail Training- Syllamo Edition

Filed under: Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 7:11 am

On Saturday, when I said that “very soon” there’d be a Syllamo night ride, what I meant was that I’d be driving over that day and riding that night. I figured I’d ride the Orange Trail since it has a little bit of everything as far as terrain goes, and it’s one of my favorites. I packed as if I’d be out much longer, because I figured that if I were having a kickass time, I’d stay out longer and add the blue trail to the ride (that’d take it from a 1 hour ride to a 3+ hour adventure that would include some darkness hike-a-bike practice). However, Mother Nature threw a couple of wrenches into my plans.

When I arrived at the cabin, there was a thunderstorm approaching quickly. Looking at the radar, it looked like it’d be passing through and gone just before sunset, but the question remained of how much rain the trail would see. It did pass through, and the sunset was gorgeous.


I arrived at the trailhead right as the light as getting low


By the time I was geared up and getting on the trail, it was dark enough in the woods to have my lights on. I realized that the rain had dampened things just enough to warrant being aware of the slick, rocky spots- Strike 1 against a Blue Trail adventure. Also, by the time I’d gone down the first descent, I’d stopped and hauled my bike over at least 5 downed trees. It was tedious to say the least. Even though, when I was actually riding, I was having a good time, I decided against adding any tree-covered distance. I’m feeling pretty good about the night riding stuff.



That second one is the view of supermoon from the top of Cedar Scrappy (it looked a lot cooler in person). Aside from the immense amount of deadfall, the ride was a lot of fun.

Sunday morning, I was slated for 6 hours on the bike with some ~10min climb intervals thrown in. All of the gravel road climbs that take you from “creek” level up to “mountain top,” take 8-12ish minutes from the bottom until they begin to level off and roll. My plan was to make a large loop that’d take me through/past at least 3 hard climbs.

I started at the first trailhead on Green Mountain Road and headed up the hill. Along the way, I happened to cross paths with some guys from out of town. They were trying to ride the Yellow trail and wanted to see the Sylamore Creek overlook, but they were almost bushwhacking because of the overgrowth on the section they’d just ridden, so I told them to follow me and directed them to the trail entrance from the Red Trail trailhead, were they could access the long, less-overgrown part of the trail that’d take them to the nice scenery.

Soon after that, I arrived at my first climb- Sandy Flat Road. It’s one that, over the winter, I tried at least twice, and was thwarted by high water at the bottom. This time, it was nearly dry. I hit the lap button on my Garmin as I crossed the creek bed and hammered my way up. It went well, but I realized a few minutes after I’d passed the top that my effort had boiled my insides in the heat. I felt so bad that I almost cut my loop off to go back to the car. However, I remembered some of my own advice I’d given to any aspiring endurance racers- at some point, you will feel terrible, and you’ll want to quit, but you have to regroup, eat, drink, go easy, and accept the fact that you can feel better and go back to racing if you allow yourself to.

So, I decided to not cut my ride off. The heat was oppressive, though. It was so humid that even though the temperature was “only” in the low 90s, the heat index was over 100. My distance/timing to the point where I wanted to refill my water at a campground worked out so that I ran out of water in my pack and my two bottles right when I reached this point-


That’s my “I’m way too hot, and I’m about to have to hike-a-bike down this hill through waist-high blackberries” face.

OK, so I didn’t hike the entire hill, but it was a very slow roll- underneath the terrible prickly and thorny bushes, there’s hidden washouts that are top-tube deep as well as lots of deadfall…  any of which could end you if hit at speeds greater than 5mph. I made it down to the Barkshed campground and sat in Sylamore Creek for a good 15 minutes to cool off.

Once I was feeling better (and I was getting a little tired of the little fish trying to gnaw on my blackberry scratches), I got on my bike and rolled around to look for a water spout, only to find that there wasn’t one. I was totally dry and about an hour’s ride (not an easy ride at all) from the car. I began to contemplate a “plan B” that involved rolling out to the highway and either hitchhiking back or trying to make it over to the next campground that actually had water (Gunner Pool).

As a last resort, I decided to ask the family that was picnicking near the campsite if there was a hose over where they were. I kinda knew there wasn’t, but I figured it was a good way to at least get a bottle of water that could get me to the next camp over for a full refill. Fortunately, they were really nice, and gave me enough water (and a big slice of watermelon!) to get me back to the car. They also had a really cute and sweet scruffy terrier.

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The combination of cooling down by sitting in the creek and standing in the shade drinking cold water and eating watermelon revitalized me for the last push back to the car. It was also getting late enough in the day that the sun wasn’t straight overhead, so the shade on the road was an added bonus.

Even though the middle 4 hours of my ride was like my self-described “low point” of a race, it did eventually get better.

Once I was back at the cabin, I showered and made an early, 2-part dinner (enough food that I could have a full meal and another half-size 2nd dinner around 7:30 or 8). I inhaled half a ribeye steak, a bowl of veggie and rice stir-fry, and a sweet potato.


Right at sunset, a lightning storm came over the mountains towards the cabin. I managed to catch a strike with my camera phone.

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The next morning, the clouds were hanging out in the White River Valley, and I sat around on the porch with some coffee until they were mostly gone.


With the oppressive heat and humidity in place, I’m really glad that Vapor Trail time is closing in fast. I am planning on leaving sometime around the 24th and going out to pre-ride some of the course in Salida before road-tripping to a couple of other places in Colorado before the race. For now, I’m prepping for the State Championship XC race this weekend. My fitness is reaching a nice peak, so it should be a good race.


August 9, 2014

Vapor Trail Prep

Filed under: Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 6:52 am

Vapor Trail 125 training is officially in full swing. Not that long, hard rides aren’t always a staple of my training program, it’s just that now, I’m extending them into night hours. Wednesday, Kenny and I took off from the house around 7:45pm (I rode an hour before we met, just to get some extra mileage), and rode a loop up the Wolf River Trails, on the road to Stanky Creek, two laps there, and then rode back the way we came. The fastest I’ve ever mustered for that route was a fraction under 4 hours, so I was expecting our ride to be around 4:15-4:30 (total time ended up being about 4:25).

Night riding is a lot of fun. It’s definitely something I’m still getting used to, but I’m figuring things out things like the light brightness I like, and the pros/cons of wearing glasses (Pro- eye protection Cons- sweat & fog, and, if someone is riding behind you, their lights will reflect on the inside of your glasses, and it’s more difficult to see. Also, when you lean over the front of your bars, some of the light from your front light will also give you the same reflective effect).

Along the way, we ran in to (literally) some of the nighttime denizens of the woods. Early in the ride, I was moving along at a good clip when suddenly something brown dashed out of the woods and under my bike. As I caught the object in the lower half of my peripheral vision, my initial thought (based on speed and color) was that it was a rabbit. However, it lodged itself momentarily between my chainring, crank, frame, pedal, tire, and the ground before rolling off back into the woods.


Somehow, this exchange resulted in the unclipping and loss of a shoe.


We laughed about that one for a good five minutes. I’ve always wanted to catch one and keep it as a pet.



One of my favorite things about night riding is the lack of people on the trail. The people you do see out there aren’t the usual “joggers wearing both headphones” or “family on walmart bikes” that you have to watch out for in the daylight. Really, the biggest thing you have to watch out for are the nighttime spiders that start building webs across the trail the instant the sun sets. Most of the time, it’s just a stray web on your cheek or arms, but occasionally…


When I got home, I was tired and hungry. After a quick shower, I dove into the leftovers that the guys had left for me in the fridge- cold Kale salad and some pizza.


No pics of the pizza. I ate that first. Knowing I’d be riding for 5-6 hours that night, I’d also brought home a treat for myself from Whole Foods earlier in the day.


As I expected, the “being wound up from riding” part of my ride made it kinda hard to sleep afterward. It was probably close to 2am before I was solidly asleep, and I sweated and tossed & turned for the remainder of the night. Too bad I can’t be like this guy…


I’m feeling good about my night ride skill building. Very soon, there will be a Syllamo night ride. That will be a big step outside my comfort zone not only in the difficulty of the trail, but also because it’ll be solo. I don’t usually ride by myself at night, though it’s generally because in the city, you have to worry about ill-intended people who you may encounter. The likelihood of coming into contact with anyone at Syllamo (much less someone who is out looking to rob or kill the next vulnerable individual they encounter) is minimal. I’m both nervous and excited about it.

August 5, 2014

I AM Racing Battle of Nashville Criterium

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 12:10 pm

Last Thursday, my tentative weekend plan was to drive to (almost) Nashville on Saturday to pre-ride the state championship XC course, then spend the night there, and find a long group ride to do the next morning. I posted on Facebook looking for a group (or a route), and, after a few suggestions, I was clued in that there was a criterium Sunday, and that’s where all the fast people would be. The first place purse for the P/1/2/3 racers? $500.

Racing crits in Nashville is a slightly different animal than racing crits in Memphis. Most of the racing they do in that city is criteriums, so the women who reside there are very good at them (not that the women in Memphis can’t race crits… they just do it literally a fraction of the time of the Nashville women). They are very strong, very comfortable with handling a crit course, and, as I’d find out, they strategize very well as teams, so it would take every ounce of my fitness and brains to take home the cash.

I ended up not having a free spot to stay in Nashville Saturday night, so Matt and I day-tripped the XC course, and I drove back to Nashville Sunday morning (my race wasn’t until 1:00, so it wasn’t a big deal). I arrived in plenty of time to get registered and warm up (on a borrowed trainer, since I’d realized somewhere around Jackson that I’d left mine in the garage… thank you, Marsha). It just so happened that I was set up under a tree in the one techy spot on course- a downhill into a chicane around the outside of a roundabout. Someone’s rear tubular blew out and rolled there in the Men’s 3/4 race, and it caused a rather spectacular wreck that almost put a racer into the laps of nearby spectators. There was also plenty of nudging, loud talking, and baby chopping through the chicane… being downhill, guys in the middle/back of the pack were trying to move up in the pack around the shallow turns, and it made for some precarious moments.

Here’s the course  (ignore the green/checker garmin start/stop dots):


Like I said before… any women’s race in Nashville with this sort of purse is going to bring out the ballers. When the 15 of us lined up, I was wondering if I’d be targeted or not… I don’t think I’d raced any of the women out there on the road in the past. Other than the 2013 Rouge Roubaix that I DNF’d due to a strike from a car, I hadn’t road raced outside of Memphis since 2010. I was, however, wearing a 100-series number, which let the field know that, whether my reputation preceded me or not, I was good enough to be a category 1 racer.

Once the race started, my question was answered. The two main teams- Belladium and Team WE Sports started launching attacks from the gun. I didn’t chase immediately, but did make the mistake of following a couple of early ones, only to have the attacker sit up as soon as she was caught. So, I stopped following and made the teams start working against each other again. This gave me some decent rest until about 30 minutes in (we were racing for 50min), when a $25 cash prime was called.

The ladies who had been up front throwin’ bows all took the bait and went apeshit sprinting for it. I did my thing and used the prime-winning wheel as a leadout for a counter-attack. One Team WE rider (Jessica Christensen) stuck to my wheel, and a Belladium rider (Shannon Mathis) quickly bridged the gap. We immediately started working it, and the teams behind us let the non-Belladium/WE riders scramble to try and pull it back.

Elastic, snapped.

The three of us worked well together and generally shared the wind. I did, at one point, tell them that I wouldn’t challenge them for the announced $75 gift card prime to MOAB Bike Shop, but asked if they’d wait for me after they sprinted each other for it… and let them know that if they didn’t, I’d just counter attack them. Everything went very smoothly, and we continued our harmonious breakaway journey immediately following the prime.

As the laps whittled away, I had to scheme up how I was going to win. It’s a constant running-thorough of various scenarios in your head, weighing the risk, chance of success, and consequence of failure of each one. The most obvious was to wait for a 3-up sprint once we rounded the chicane and were in the final straightaway. However, I didn’t know the sprinting prowess of the two women with whom I’d been riding, and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not bad at sprinting, but if one of them was a total ringer for a sprint, I wouldn’t be the one winning. Another possibility- attack and finish solo from a lap or more out. Eh, my legs weren’t really feeling up to that. Not that their legs were feeling up to chasing me, but a lap or more would give them lots of time to work together and possibly counter, leaving me in the dust.

So, I settled on my old faithful… the two-turns-out attack & long sprint. It’s too short to allow for opponents to collaborate and work with each other, is a very unexpected place to get attacked (everyone is focused on their own sprint timing at that point), and, I’d noticed two incredibly subtle things that I knew would work in my favor- Jess was a little (and I mean by almost an imperceptible amount) sluggish up the riser at the end of the back straight, and I didn’t think that either of them would match my speed and line choice through the chicane (I was taking the straighter/faster, but slightly riskier “through the gutter” line, and they were avoiding the gutter).

We made it through the roundabout at the end of the back straight, and I launched myself up the hill and into the lefthand sweeper at the top. It wasn’t my smoothest attack, so I went extra hard across the top and carved my way through the chicane, blasting out onto the straightaway and sprinting with all I had (which, according to my powermeter, is about 20 seconds at 643 watts). I had absolutely no idea how big the initial gap was or how quickly they were closing in on me, but as soon as I threw my front wheel over the finish line, I looked over my shoulder and Shannon’s front wheel was about at my hip.


I still got it, baby.

It was an excellent race as a whole- a great venue, fun course, well run, great prizes, and exciting competition. Now it’s back to the mountain bike game. I’m planning on hitting the training pretty hard from now until the State Championship XC Race on the 17th, then heading out to Colorado sometime near the end of the month in order to prep for Vapor Trail.


July 28, 2014

New Allies in the Heat Battle

Filed under: Product Reviews,Training — Andrea @ 6:51 am

Just when I was conceding defeat to the terrible summer hotness of Memphis, I happened upon a couple of new products that, as of this weekend, are swinging things back in to my favor.

Product #1: the new Gu Brew formulation

Because of my own personal preference for taste and digestibility, I previously diluted my Gu Roctane and Gu Electrolye Brew drink to somewhere in the neighborhood of 90cal per bottle. That’s not a bad strategy, and it worked pretty well for me, but it also meant that while diluting the sugar, I wasn’t getting quite as much of the electrolyte part of the mix.
They’ve now re-formulated the Brew to be lighter on the carb side (it’s 70 calories per serving as opposed to the 90 previous calories). The sodium content is 250mg per serving (with the 500mg per serving blueberry pomegranate option)- similar to the previous version of the mix. Additionally, they’ve now got a “plain” flavor (which I haven’t tried yet), and they’ve got single serve, pocket-sized packets that make it super easy to take your drink mix with you in order to continue consuming it throughout your longer rides.

I tried the lemon lime and watermelon flavors over the weekend, and, I can say that lemon lime tastes good (better than it did previously), and the watermelon is so good that it makes you actually want to drink the whole bottle, even later in the ride, when drinking anything sugary used to seem kind of like a chore.

Product #2: Camelbak Podium ICE Bottles

If you live someplace hot, you know that the previously available versions of insulated bottles aren’t really that good. Both Camelbak and Polar make bottles that, at best, marginally keep your drinks from boiling within the first hour of your ride, but still don’t make that much of a difference… certainly not enough of a difference to warrant dealing with the scum that seems to grow inside of a Polar bottle literally within one long ride (both of the ones I used during Dirty Kanza started the day totally clean and ended the day with scummy spots), or the fact that if you’re not careful with how you drink from a Polar bottle, the top would suck down a little and trap part of your lip with it. The previous version of the Camelbak insulated bottle just didn’t work well enough in the soul-crushing heat to bother paying extra for one or carrying the extra weight.

Enter the Camelbak Podium Ice.

My strategy over the weekend’s rides was to fill two of them with ice, keep one as plain water, and the other as Gu Brew. I drank at least one bottle of Brew per hour in addition to enough water to wash down whatever food I was eating (honestly, with the new formulation of Brew, I could probably go without the plain water, but I didn’t want to get too far off from what’s worked for me in the past). During my Saturday ride, the ice lasted long enough to make two more cold bottles of brew and water at the 2-hour mark. That remaining ice melted during the final hour of the ride, but the drink still remained refreshingly cold.

The result of combining these two products, along with some strategic ride planning (making two loops from the house so I could get an ice refill 3 hours in), meant that I finished my 5+ hours on Saturday feeling nearly as good as when I started, despite the heat index being well over 100 by the final hour.

I’m really stoked on all of it. The new Brew formula is so easy to drink, and the single serve packets make it incredibly convenient  to carry in a jersey pocket on long rides (even the small pockets on my new kits). The combination of that and having constant access to cold liquid is a proverbial game-changer. If you’re someplace oppressively hot, give them a whirl ASAP.



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