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.

IMG_4975 IMG_4976 IMG_4977

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.

IMG_5003 IMG_4980

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.



July 25, 2014

Pedal Smashing

Filed under: MMA,Training — Andrea @ 8:46 am

Before I stop talking about fighting for a couple of posts (maybe), I would like to give a bit of a redux on my fight now that it’s had time to sink in, and I’ve looked through some pictures/video. I’ve dubbed my first fight experience as “panic braking into the rock garden.” From the get-go, I did exactly everything I’d practiced not doing for months and basically acted like an aggressive heavy bag. However, I did notice one thing that sucks… the punch that suddenly took me from, “I’m gonna stick this out no matter how much I’m getting my ass beat” to “Get the eff out before you are seriously injured” was illegal by the rules given to us prior to the fight. I’m guessing that from where she was standing across the ring (you can see a blue glove in the first photo below) the ref didn’t see it. Watching the video, it looks careless at worst, and not intentional… it’s not like she needed to sucker punch me to keep winning.



Like I said before, I’m not worried that I went down in flames the first time. It seriously reminds me of when I first started mountain bike racing. In my first real endurance race, the Fool’s Gold 50, I came in waaaaay too hot down a descent on Bull Mountain, and, in a similar fashion, I did exactly what I shouldn’t have done by grabbing both brakes and locking my eyes on to every solid object that could end me if I hit it, essentially guaranteeing that I’d hit something and yard sale at 30+ MPH. Aside from scaring the hell out of everyone who was in the general vicinity, I cracked at least one rib, severely pulled a groin muscle, bruised my arm enough that I thought it was broken, and punctured the shell of my helmet. I still finished, and held on to 2nd place. A broken nose is waaaaaaaay less painful than a broken rib.

Did I give up on descending? Well, hop in your way-back machine and ask the pros from TSE 2013…


It’s true… when I first started mountain biking, I sucked at it.

I no longer suck.

Speaking of not sucking, after last week’s volume of techy-climby stuff in Michigan followed up with a handful of rest days, I’ve started back in to my pre-Vapor Trail training camp in all-out wattage cottage form. Monday, I killed some 10 minute intervals. Tuesday, I lifted heavy stuff, then Wednesday, I had a kickass tempo ride, nailing 78 miles in about four & a half hours (water stops inclusive).

In case anyone else who reads likes to rely on the hose at the Wagon Wheel Rd. VFD, the water is cut off now. I had a sad…


But, there’s a church a few miles from there on Old Hwy 59 with a nice shady/cold spigot


…and a church on Hwy 196 in Galloway an hour or so later


The strong start gets me amped for workouts to come. It’s mostly hard training and good fitness with a side of “everything seems easy compared to fighting.” Not that Vapor Trail will be easy… I’m incredibly excited about it, though. The very loose plan of attack for the next month is to train hard, race the state championship XC race on August 17th, then leave for Colorado sometime in the week following that.



July 21, 2014

Tour of Da U.P.

Filed under: Trail Riding,Trails — Andrea @ 8:01 am

Ryan had been after me to make a trip up North with him for a while. So, we’d decided to leave the Monday following my fight as sort of a recovery-time trip. I generally made the best of having one and a half black eyes…


Our first stop Monday night was at his brother’s house in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It was a quick stay-over before we continued north to his Mom’s (Gail) house in Marquette, MI.

It was cold and damp up there, and we ended up borrowing warmer clothes from his mom and finding a local shop where I could get a set of arm warmers. Tuesday night, we hit up a group ride that left from a friend’s house and went to the North Marquette trail system. I later found out that it was supposed to be a “guys only” ride, though I’d been fully accepted into the group via both my riding ability and my skill of opening a beer bottle using an SPD pedal.

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Gail baked espresso cookies while we were out. No exaggeration- I probably ate a dozen of them within a two-day period.


The next morning, we set out on a loop of the larger/more climbey South Marquette trail system. There was a course used in a local cross country race that incorporated most of the trails within a 3-loop cloverleaf. The trails we found were mostly machine-built, flowy, and sometimes steep/kinda rocky. One part, near a golf course, had signs every mile or so saying to be quiet. Then, once you were past the course…


Near the end of our adventure, we climbed up a steep forest road to the Marquette Mountain overlook, then descended a trail called “Scary,” which was definitely one of several trip highlights, as it dropped from what was probably the highest point in town down to almost lake level… quickly.

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With all of our navigational breaks, the 29-mile ride took close to 4 hours. Back at the house, we ate, napped, had more cookies, and packed our things to go to Ishpeming for another group ride on the Ishpeming/Negaunee trail system. We found a handful of local hammers (including the town “Antique Gun Show”) and hung on tight.

Every riding community has an Antique Gun Show (a.k.a. “silver fox” or “bald eagle”), and if you don’t know who/what I’m talking about, you should go ride with Todd Henne in Arkansas.

I’m not sure I could find my way around those trails without local assistance, so I’d suggest the Wednesday night @6:30 group ride from Jasper Ridge Brewery if you’re ever in the area (there are several groups, so all skill levels are covered). The trails are worth the visit- lots of steep, tech stuff that will challenge you in all sorts of ways. It’s a nice, hand-built complement to the machine-built  smoothness of the South Marquette system.  Highlight of the ride? Hearing  locals’ discussion of where to go next- something along the lines of, “let’s take that two-track that crosses the luge” (thing you will never hear in Memphis #123). It was a pretty exhausting but highly rewarding two-a-day. Gail had made polenta lasagna and kale salad for dinner, which, along with more cookies, was another highlight of the trip.

In keeping with our “ride lots of trails in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan” theme, Thursday Morning, we drove to the Houghton/South Range area at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula.


That afternoon, we rode the snowmobile route from South Range to Houghton to ride the Michigan Tech Trails. If you can tolerate riding in loose sand, those things will take you anywhere you want to go:


The ride out was fast, because it’s all downhill by about 1.5%. It’s worth not getting in to a half-wheel contest with your riding partner at that point since you’ll be climbing back up that same grade in tire-deep sand on the way home…

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The tech trails are really cool. We rode the “red loop” first, which has some neat wood features that I only took pictures of.

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It also includes the “Hairy Toad” trail, which, with all of its rocks, was another favorite for me. On a stroke of luck, we found a brand new downhill dirt jump/flow trail that was like an express train from the upper trail system to the lower one. No pictures of that one, only grinning and occasional whoo-hoos.
After a couple of hours there, we headed back up to South Range. The “uphill in the sand” ride back was as fun as I’d imagined it being. I get excited at the prospect of hike-a-bike followed by terrain that tries to be soul-crushing, no matter how simple it is.

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Something that’s hard to get used to… it stays light really late up there. This photo was taken at 10:00pm:


Friday morning, we drove up to Copper Harbor. We started by riding the suggested “IMBA Epic” loop, which covered most of the trails in the system. Then, we rode up Brockway Mountain on the road to the Flow trail that meanders back to town.

From the Red Trail on the Loop:


From the Flow Trail (that wooden structure is part of the “Overflow” gravity trail that takes a much more direct route down the mountain):


The Copper Harbor trails are cool and lots of fun, but definitely don’t skip the other ones in the U.P. area, because they’re equally, if not more enjoyable. We also stopped by the Swedetown Trails in Calumet. I didn’t take photos, because the accumulation of leg hurt from all the other riding made the loop at Swedetown a bit of a mosquito-driven deathmarch. We toppped off the long day with a pasty from Toni’s.


…and a little Tour-watching back at the house


Saturday morning, we started the long trip home by driving back to Fond du Lac. As a little recovery, we tried to go ride some nearby trails. I say “tried” because all of the designated “bike only” trails in the park were way overgrown. So, we ended up just going on anything that wasn’t marked as a hiking-only trail.


Back at the house, we ate dinner and sat around watching the Tour with the kids and animals.

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Sunday, we finished the drive. It’s a looooong day.


I’m pretty sure Indy was happy to have me back.


Observations from the trip:

#1- the Upper Peninsula dialect is equally as unique and endearing as a thick Southern accent.

#2- Don’t take a trip up to that part of Michigan without visiting all the trails. Lots of people just go to Copper Harbor. It’s great, but the others are too good to miss, and not far away.

#3- Take bug spray. The mosquitoes are the size of hummingbirds, and the flies have found their way into someone’s meth stash.

#4- Bring some fall clothes. It warmed up some from our first days there, but overnight lows in the 40s/50s in the middle of the summer are pretty normal.

#5- Hardtail or Full Suspension? You definitely won’t die on a hardtail, but there are lots of roots, rocks, and techy stuff that make a full suspension a good choice if you’ve got one.




July 13, 2014

Fight Time!

Filed under: MMA — Andrea @ 6:47 am

Friday- Weigh in day. I woke up, had a double espresso, gave that some “working time,” and stepped on the scale at 137.6 pounds. Weigh-ins were at 5:30, so I had all day to sweat off that couple of pounds and chill out until it was time to go. I decided that I’d throw on a few layers of clothes and go over to my parents’ house and mow their lawn for the while they’re out of town (they’ve got a huge yard and a baller zero-turn riding mower).
While I was out there sweating, my phone was blowing up with John and the dude who was the matchmaker for the fights trying to get in touch with me to tell me that my opponent- Toni Tallman, had reported in that she wasn’t going to make the 135 weight, and wanted to see if we could fight at 140 instead. Just to prove to myself that the cut to 135 was do-able, before I had a snack and some water, I went back home, cleaned up, and weighed again…



Since I had 5 pounds to play with, I ate a couple of small snacks, drank a bottle of Gu Electrolyte Brew, and laid around until it was time to go. Just before I left, I weighed myself again, and was 138.6 pounds. At weigh-ins, their janky beam scale said I was 135.5. Toni ended up weighing in at 142… meaning she was probably a full 10 pounds over our initial intended weight class.


Saturday, I watched Ryan and Matt race a local training series crit. Time seemed to move like cold honey all day, but eventually, it was time to get going to the fight venue…


John and I settled in to a spot in the “blue corner” side of the locker room and, as the start time approached, he wrapped my hands up so we could start warming up.

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I had occasional waves of nerves, but generally was pretty calm and focused.

Fight time finally arrived…

This is where things went all 6s and 7s. I totally cat 5′d it. The bell rung, and it’s like I forgot most of the things I’d learned about how to not get hit in the face. We squared off, I took a bunch of hard hits (maybe landed a couple of my own), then we were against the cage for a hot minute. I did get in a few body shots that felt awesome, but once we broke, it was back to taking hits to the face. About that time, I remembered that I had legs and landed a couple of leg kicks that felt solid, and, I saw a glimmer of that taking a bit of the hardness out of Toni’s punches, but, unfortunately, by then, I was so beaten up that I couldn’t take the incidental punches that’d make their way through even if I’d gotten my shit together and started to do what I’ve been practicing so hard in the past few months. I knew my nose was broken already, and my “live to fight another day” instinct was like, “dude, it’s time to GTFO,” so I verbally tapped out at just under 2 minutes in to the fight.

Disappointed? A little. Discouraged? Nah.
John said to me just before the fight that I was about to learn so much in the next few minutes. He was exactly right. I made lots of defensive mistakes. LOTS of them. I know exactly what they are, and the wild thing is, it’s all stuff that I’d planned to do that totally escaped me as soon as we threw the first punches. Learning the hard way x1000.


‘Tis but a flesh wound! I should heal up with some ice, ibuprofen, and time. I don’t have any symptoms of a concussion, and, other than a slight modification to the shape of my nose, nothing is permanently hurt.

Ryan got the whole thing on iphone video, and I’ll try to get it uploaded to youtube today.

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