Realm of Possibilities

Have you ever watched a situation unfold and realized that it’s something that would never happen to you? Or could happen to you? What’s your Realm of Possibilities?

For example- at my gym, there was a laser tag night. I joked that one of the coaches has probably been kicked out of laser tag before for being too rowdy. He laughed and said that wasn’t outside of the realm of possibilities.
Example two- I see a couple unloading three children from a van. One is screaming, one is pestering the screaming one, and the other is drawing on the side of the van with a marker. That situation is so far outside my realm of possibilities that it will literally never occur in my lifetime.
Example three- It’s 11:30 pm and you and your friends decide you want to go to Taco Bell. Everyone hops in the car, windows down, music up. Along the way, you change lanes without signaling. Suddenly, the police officer you just drove by (not speeding) dives behind you and pulls you over. He wants you and your friends to get out of the car for no specific reason. He calls for backup because you have no idea what you did wrong and you’re questioning his authority because of it. Things escalate, and you and your friends end up drug out of the car on the ground in handcuffs because you didn’t think you were doing anything wrong and didn’t comply with an officer acting as if you did. Oh yeah- I forgot to mention- You and your friends are black.

How far outside of your realm of possibilities is that third one? I’m going to go ahead and assume that most of my readers are white, and therefore, that situation is 100% outside of your realm. All the way. Just like me and a heard of children in a van. You will never be stopped and questioned by police because you “look suspicious.”

When things are outside your realm of possibilities, you tend to ignore them- especially if they’re unpleasant. I’m white and was raised in a middle-to-upper-class suburb by two parents. It’s easy for someone like me to deny that racial profiling by police even exists because it’s something that is so far outside of where I exist.

I can ignore it.

Last night, Black Lives Matter protesters shut down the “M” bridge in Memphis. If you’re unfamiliar with the Memphis landscape, that’s one of the two major arteries across the Mississippi River in to Arkansas from the city. As a cyclist, I can tell you, people feel ownership to roads. When you slow their forward progress by even a handful of seconds, they lose their shit. My social media feed was full of white people screaming about how that’s not the answer. It was also full of white people saying they’d like to take bulldozers, guns, grenades, etc. to the protesters.

Suddenly, the plight of Black People became something they couldn’t ignore. It was suddenly within their realm of possibilities that the profiling of a race could effect their lives in some way, shape, or form, and there was nothing that they could do about it.

And, that’s where I’m going with this. A lot of people ask, “what good is it doing to shut down an interstate?” That’s what it’s doing- it’s making the lifetimes of anger and frustration caused by racial profiling everyone’s un-ignorable problem. It’s bringing attention to someone else’s realm of possibilities. For most people reading this, being profiled by a police officer because of your race is far outside of your realm of possibilities. So, you don’t pay much attention to it. It doesn’t matter to you. You may have even decided that racial profiling doesn’t exist because you don’t do it yourself. Being stopped/questioned by a police officer because you’re “black and in the wrong place” or, in more politically correct terminology, “looking suspicious” is something that has not and will never happen to you.

People wouldn’t be shutting down interstates if a problem didn’t exist. I don’t have a solution, but I know that empathy and admitting that the problem exists makes a hell of a first step. I still claim Memphis as my home town, and I’m proud of Memphis for a peaceful protest on both the protester and the police side.

Winter Park #2- Cross Country Super Loop

Saturday may just be the hardest I’ve ever raced an XC course. I remembered from last year that there were a few spots that I refer to as “singlespeed purgatory.” They’re one(ish) mile stretches of forest road that are nearly flat/slightly downhill- basically, places where singlespeeders will get swamped by geared riders between the singletrack that the road connects. If you look at the elevation profile on Strava, you can see them very clearly.

Go ahead. Look. The race report will make more sense that way.

My goal of this race was to go harder than I thought I could go and find out just how deep my fitness went. So, I warmed up for a while- riding a quick loop of the first climb/descent and eating some Roctane gel a few minutes before I lined up. I think my heart was pounding harder waiting for the race to start than it had the whole time I was warming up.

We started at the bottom of the ski hill, just like the hill climb. The course made its way up 450ft of gain in one mile up the ski hill road before turning on to singletrack, then quickly descending to singlespeed purgatory #1. The race started. I went H.A.M. After 8-ish minutes, I went in to the singletrack just a few bike lengths behind another woman. Thanks to my pre-riding, I caught her after just a few techy turns of descending.  I hauled ass down to the first purgatory, where, about halfway through, I was swamped by Yeti Beti pro Natalie Raborn.

Luckily, she didn’t put so much time in to me that I couldn’t catch her on the next singletrack descent. It was short, but took us in to one of the more techy spots, full of wet rocks and roots. She let me by when she had to foot-down a big, slimy rock when I was right behind her. I did my best to settle in and float through the next few miles of rolling descent.

From about miles 5 to 11, the course mostly climbed, with the exception of purgatory #2 from miles 8 to 9. I didn’t see or hear anyone until I was well in to that flat part, where I was promptly swamped by two pros and one expert racer. I was somewhat frustrated and feeling a little blown up from my starting effort, but I did what I could- eating more Roctane, drinking, and spinning as hard as I could between gulps.

I managed to keep one woman in sight and started to catch up to her on a section of trail (“Upper Chickadee”) that was new to the course (a re-route since a creek crossing in the original course was too high). It was a climby section of bench trail in some pretty tight trees. I felt right at home, and my comfort rewarded me with having the other women in sight when we dumped on to another forest road before the final steep climb of the day.

On that little bit of forest road climbing, I felt like I was at a standstill. I wasn’t gaining any ground, but I definitely wasn’t losing it. Then, at mile 11, we turned on to a climb called “Lonesome Whistle”- a super steep double track. Lucky for me, the little bit of rain the day before made it slightly less loose. I swamped the three women who’d passed me on purgatory #2.

Then came the dig. I didn’t know exactly what the rest of the course was, but I did know that I was at 1:08 in, and at the highest point. That meant that it was biased downhill for another 20-30 minutes to the finish. With purgatory #3 (a repeat of #1) in there, I knew I’d have to ride as brakeless as possible to put a sizeable gap between me and the racers just behind me and avoid another swamping where it was flat.

I hammered it as if it was the only part of the course I’d done that day. My right quad threatened cramps several times. I caught and passed several of the 50+ expert men that had started ahead of us. All of them were quick to give me room when I told them I was leading the women’s race (thanks for that, guys). If it was uphill, I was stand-hammering. If it was downhill, I was taking chances through the rocks and tight trees.

Then, the terrible, awful mile of flat forest road. I wish I still had a powermeter so I could see what sort of average cadence I was doing for that four minutes. It was like being in a nightmare where you’re trying to run from a monster/serial killer/tornado, but your body is stuck in molasses. I kept hugging the edges of the road, hoping to cut precious feet off of the curves and stay out of sight if at all possible.

I never saw anyone behind me as I went in to the last singletrack. It was another little bit of slimy, rocky/rooty mud and tech, which I rode through with smooth reckless abandon before it kicked out on to the last quarter mile of flat road to the finish. No one caught me. The next woman (an 18-year-old expert racer) finished just 30 seconds later, followed by the first pro woman 30 seconds after that. (you can see all the results HERE)

Holy Crap.

If I hadn’t ridden my a$$ off in that last 6 miles, I would have been toast. I felt like falling down at the finish line. I found some shade and just sat and stared off in to space for a good 15 minutes.

I did manage to rally for the Singlespeed podium (no mention of the overall at the podium ceremony, but whatevs).

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The next race is a couple of weeks away. It’s the “Rendezvous” course, which was my favorite last year and is waaaaay better for singlespeeding. Yesterday, I rode Super Walker before work to get a little overload on top of Saturday’s effort (spoiler alert- I bought a ticket for the Strugglebus… non-stop service to Struggletopia). I’ll probably do an endurance-paced longer ride on Tuesday and a short track race on Wednesday before backing off and recovering again for the next XC installment. It hurts, but the speed is totally worth it.

 

Every Ten Miles

With the extra horsepower I’ve felt on my singlespeed as of late, I’ve had a growing desire to buy a carbon hardtail. I like the Cysco and all, but I’m jonesing for something lighter and stiffer. I’ve got enough money saved up to buy something, but it’d involve some parts selling and maybe living close to paycheck-to-paycheck for a month or two. That’s not really my thing, so, even though the desire to make it happen is strong, I have been mulling over lots of purchasing options and not made any hard decisions yet.

Hold that thought for a few minutes.

Another strong desire I’ve felt for a long time is to get in to bikepacking. The pull I get from the mountains is almost magnetic. I feel physically drawn in to them. Good backpacking/bikepacking gear is expensive. That, along with Indy’s need for almost constant care, has been my barrier of entry in to the wilderness.

The other day, a man came in to the shop with a steel road bike and two flat tires. On his back, he carried a hacksaw and some hedge clippers. If I had to guess, I’d say he was somewhat homeless and did little odd jobs to feed himself. He was an incredibly interesting person. While I fixed his flats, he talked with my coworker Amanda about riding across the country and how free he felt doing it. As an avid bikepacker, she could relate.

He had a theory that every 10 miles, the landscape of the Earth changes. On a literal level, if you’ve ever ridden long distances by bike (or on foot), you might agree. When your mode of transportation is slow, you have time to notice subtle nuances in the terrain around you.

I thought about “every 10 miles” the whole way home that afternoon. Maybe it’s not the Earth’s terrain that changes every 10 miles of pedaling, but instead, your perception of the Earth around you. I’m drawn to the idea the same way I feel physically drawn into the belly of the mountains just to the West of my front door.

I went home and dropped a chunk of my carbon hardtail savings on a really nice sleeping bag and pad. The way I see it, it’s the difference between purchasing a “thing” versus purchasing an “experience.” I’m pretty good at riding the ti bike, anyway.

What about Indy?

I’ve found some very kind ladies at a doggie daycare called Rover’s Stay and Play. He gets to hang out behind the front desk and periodically go out make his right-hand circles in an outdoor kennel by himself. Between daycare and overnight help from Matt, I look forward to a couple of overnight trips this summer. I know Indy is somewhat of a burden to watch for anyone but myself, so I don’t have any current plans to go longer than that. Finding the daycare does open up a few more modest travel options than what I was limited to before, though, which is promising.

I don’t think most people would read so far in to a homeless dude’s theory of how the Earth’s formations exist. However, the more I think about the rate of personal transformation that can happen to you when you get on a bike and start pedaling, the more it fascinates me. I want to explore “every 10 miles” on both the literal and metaphorical levels.

Beti Bike Bash

My participation in the Beti Bike Bash marks my one year of racing in Colorado. Last year, I’d been reminded the day before the race that it was happening, and there was a singlespeed category. I’d gone in to it with no expectations and was extraordinarily surprised when I won against a relatively large group of singlespeeders (race report HERE).

This year, I felt far more prepared. I ran the same gear (34×21). Even though I’m a few watts faster, I remember it being just right- meaning that by the last lap, I was contemplating walking one or two spots on the course. The course itself is excellent for singlespeeding. It’s basically up a punchy climb, across the top of a ridge, then down a flowy/pumptracky/kitty-littery descent.

Side note- I realize that some of you reading may not know exactly what I mean when I say “kitty litter.” Imagine if you covered a concrete surface with kitty litter. It’s like that. Not a lot of traction.

Also noteworthy of my bike setup- Shimano warrantied a pair of XTR brakes for me last week. I installed the new brakes, rode them once around the park near my house, and, Saturday night before the race, the rear one puked mineral oil from the caliper on to my living room floor. By morning, the lever was mush, and I did a morning-of swap to a set of XT brakes off of Matt’s bike. Jeebus.

This year, an extra difficulty-factor was the heat. It was pretty damned hot out there- somewhere in the upper 90’s (some claimed 100). However, this is something I don’t mind at all. See, in Memphis, it’s the same temperature, but with very high humidity. I sweat a ton, and when there’s humidity, that sweat is just a useless loss of bodily water. When the humidity is literally single digits, all of that sweat evaporates, taking excess heat with it. So, as long as I was moving, I felt extremely comfortable. I will admit, though, as soon as I stopped, I felt like I was melting. The sun here is more intense than I can describe in words.

An extra ally in my heat protection was Matt. He came to the race with me and soldiered through the sun in the feed zone, dumping ice water down my back and handing up a bottle of cold water for my last lap. He was possibly more wrecked from race day than I was.

Back to the actual racing-

Because of the heat, participation in the race was down from last year. There were 15 pros (only 14 are listed in the results, but I saw at least one more walking in with a mechanical), 16 experts, and only two other singlespeeders. I went in with the goal of winning singlespeed and setting a time that’d be worthy of pro-level competition. We lined up last of the 3-lappers, and, when given the signal to start, I went for broke. When I made the turn in to the singletrack, I glanced back and saw that the other two ladies were waaaaaayyyy back. I put the hammer down with the intention of catching everyone ahead of me.

Because of the reduced participation, passing wasn’t quite as tedious as it was last year. Definitely still a thing, but not exhausting like before. I have an awesome Spurcycle bell, which is probably the most important piece of equipment on my bike. No racing singlespeeder should be without one.

I felt pretty amazing- uphill and downhill. Downhill, I’d still benefit from knowing the course a little better. There are a few off-camber/fall off the hill spots where I wasn’t smooth on any lap. Unlike last year, though, I could catch/drop other riders on the downhills. I found the edge of traction several times- your front tire makes a very distinct sliding noise on that surface, and I heard it more than once.

The end of the first lap came up so fast that I surprised myself. It was slightly less than half an hour. I couldn’t remember my exact time from last year, but I knew I was faster. Matt dumped what felt like a gallon of ice water over my back, and I soft pedaled for a few seconds to down some Roctane gel.

Side note- I opted to wear baggy shorts and my favorite tank top from the guy’s section of Target. It was wonderfully breezy, and allowed for the stowage of a gel flask in my cleavage pocket. The cleavage pocket is way easier to use than a back pocket, and, well… they’ve gotta be good for something.

On the second lap, my goal was to find the line between settling in but not going slower than I needed to go. I could feel a twinge of fatigue, but only if I thought about it. So, I didn’t, and I turned another lap in slightly less than 30 minutes. Matt dumped at least two gallons of ice water on me in the feed zone. It was so cold that I lost my train of thought and put a foot down to swap bottles instead of doing the super-pro throw/handup thing.

I charged the last lap hard. I still felt awesome, but I knew by the last climb that I had been riding outside of myself because my right quad started to cramp a little. Perfect timing. I’d never been so happy in my life to have a muscle cramp.

The result?

Singlespeed Winner, Faster than all the experts, and a time that would have placed me in 8th in the Pro category. I went 1:27:54. For reference, last year was a hair over 1:40. I took a little over 12 minutes off of my time.

Hell. Yes.

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So now it’s rest up for next weekend’s Winter Park XC Superloop race. I’m going to keep the harder gear on my bike. I remember from last year that the Superloop was a very un-super singlespeed course because of some flat sections. I’m hoping that with my extra fitness that I can push the harder gear for the rest of the summer.

Winter Park XC #1- Hill Climb Time Trial

Now that the weather is solidly nice (save a few thunderstorms), I’ve been able to get out and train on the road/trail instead of the trainer. I usually ride four days per week, usually doing some sort of higher intensity work unless I’m feeling kinda wrecked from previous training buildups, in which case, I go to the bike park-

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The mountains make it easy to go out and train hard without doing anything structured. When I first pulled the singlespeed out a couple of weeks ago, I took it up Green Mountain for a shakedown and, soon after, went up Mt. Falcon.

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Sunday before last, I rode it on our “Super Walker” Sunday morning shop ride- basically, you leave Boulder and climb Flagstaff (~2000ft of gain), descend ~500ft to Walker Ranch, ride the eight mile loop there, then ride back to the shop. The whole time you’re on the loop (an occasionally techy/steep/lots of climbing trail), the 500 or so feet you have to climb to get back to the top of Flagstaff will haunt your brain… if you let it.

https://www.strava.com/activities/600025890

Side Note- the GPS cut out a few solid times at Walker in that Strava upload. You get the idea, though.

It’s a delightfully soul-crushing three hours of riding. Flagstaff has been an integral part of my training this Spring. Based on the course description of the race that this post is named after, Flagstaff is a climb of similar length and steepness. So, even though it is a paved climb, it was a good spot to test pacing, SS gearing, and leg strength.

The Hill Climb TT course description comes with this note from the race director:
Reminder from the Race Director: “Please note that this series is a MOUNTAIN BIKE race series, so let’s have people racing on mountain bikes: Leave the road, the hybrid, the cross bike, the unicycle at home, and race the hill climb on your mountain bike. We are not the bike police but you guys know the difference. If it’s advertised as, sold as, and called a mountain bike, it probably is one. Bring the mountain bike!”

I only know the very bottom portion of the road used for the climb, but, based on that admonishment, I assumed that it would be smooth enough dirt to make my bike as light and fast as possible. I opted for a rigid carbon fork and some Maxxis Ikon 2.0 tires. It weighs somewhere around 20 pounds in that format-

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Saturday morning, I took Indy to doggie day care and headed off to Winter Park. After registering and whatnot, I donned my throwback Nimblewear skinsuit, and rolled around to warm up a little.

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My fuel strategy (based on my experience with a winter of trainer rides) was a Gu Roctane gel ~20 minutes prior to the start, one on the start line, and one ~20 minutes in to what I knew would be a 40-45 minute race, along with water and a bottle of Roctane drink mix (mixed kinda weak- about 100 cal in a bottle). The Roctane really makes me feel invincible (relatively speaking) when I eat it like that.

In my head, when I read “Hill Climb Time Trial,” I’d envisioned just that- racers leaving a start line one at a time, separated by 30ish seconds apiece. While I was warming up, I rolled to the start area and saw the Juniors and Adaptive Racers leave the line for their 9:00 start. Contrary to what I’d thought the race format would be, it was a mass category start, just like all of the other races of the series. That meant that the Singlespeeders would be starting in a group with the Expert and Pro categories. It didn’t really change my strategy because, well, singlespeed.

There ended up being 12 women total on the start line- one other singlespeeder, four pros, and six experts of various age groups. I recognized a few of the other racers from last season, namely Kathy Waite and Lisa Hudson- a couple of the pro women who won races in their category last year and beat me by at least ten minutes at all of the normal-length XC races.

Once we started, everyone sprinted off the line as if we were going for a holeshot. Based on my experiences on Flagstaff, I immediately went in to “pace yourself” mode at the back of the pack. However, once the hill started to steepen, they all started coming back. One by one, I passed the other racers, and, within the first mile, found myself riding with Kathy and Lisa at the front of the group. It was there that something happened in my brain that hasn’t happened since I was a fresh cat 4 road racer wondering why the cat 3 women weren’t staying with me on climbs and whatnot- I doubted myself.

The overwhelming thought going through my head was, “Holy crap, I’m going way too fast. I shouldn’t be riding with these women. They’re way stronger than me.” However, though the magic of singlespeed, I wasn’t able to slow down. I stood on my gear and pulled away with Kathy in tow. I expressed to her my surprise at how my legs felt and said something about trying to go as slow as my gear would let me go because I was afraid I was going to blow myself up before the top of the course. It was about that time that she seemed to go backwards. We were only about a mile in to the 5.something mile course

HOLY SHIT I’M STILL GOING WAY TOO FAST. Alarm bells were going off in my head.

Slowly, as I conquered every switchback and steep pitch, my panic faded, and I began to smile. My fear of looking over my shoulder disappeared, and when I finally did look, all I saw were the last couple of dudes I’d passed. I never wanted the climb to end. I felt amazing. Riding faster with each mile, I finished with the overall win by about a minute.

http://www.epicsingletrack.com/downloads/r1results.pdf

I was literally speechless. One of the dudes at the top asked, “Did you just WIN?” and I stuttered and couldn’t formulate complete sentences in order to answer him. I watched the other women finish, chatted a little, exchanged high-fives, and rolled back down. Just in case anyone questioned the trail worthiness of my bike, I took one of the singletrack trails down as soon as I found one and passed a person on a full suspension bike in the process.

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I was in a sort-of bad place over the Winter. I didn’t ride for almost a month, sold the powermeter off my mountain bikes, and felt incredibly slow and out of shape. I got my shit together and started making myself ride the trainer before work. I did intervals that turned my guts inside out. I still do, and I’m going to keep pushing that hard and see where it takes me.

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The icing on my Winter Park cake was going for a post-podium ride up Corona Pass road. It joins Rollins Pass road at the top of the mountains where I rode a lot last year. I wanted to see where the snow started…

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Answer- about 7 miles up. It’s another 7-ish to the top. I’ll try again after the next race.

My soul feels at home in the mountains.

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Going to Moab and Getting Older

If you go to Moab and don’t post about it on the internet, did it actually happen??!? I don’t want to risk it, so…

I posted before about winning the bike shop lottery, and that still holds mostly true. It’s not easy to find a shop where, around the beginning of May, you can just knock off for a few days and take a Moab vacation (Well, I could do that at 92Fifty, but that’s because it was snowing and whatnot).

I took Matt along for his first Moab experience. We rode the Slickrock trail on the first day since we only had the afternoon, and it’s a trail that’s both interesting/iconic as much as it is worth getting out of the way early.

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The next day was Porcupine Rim. The weather was spotty at best.

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As we climbed Sand Flats to the start of Lower Porcupine Singletrack, we experienced the whole range of sun, rain, and, as we entered the trail, a few minutes of steady snow. A desert snow storm at the top of one of the most famous trails around is a unique and beautiful experience. The trail was mostly hero dirt… also rare and beautiful. And fast. The Mach 6 is still one of the most fun bikes I’ve ever ridden.

It took most of Porcupine Rim to get my nerve for tech/chunder up after being on the trainer all winter. I was feeling brave by the time we were at the bottom, though. Rolling back in to town, we made a stop at Milts… another iconic Moab spot.

Day three, we finally had perfect desert weather. We rode in the Amasa-back area- up Hymasa, down Ahab, then up Amasa Jeep trail and down Rockstacker and Jackson. I had several small victories on Ahab where I rode spots that I remember walking in the past. However, I also made what could be considered one of the worst GoPro videos of Rockstacker, as I slid/walked down the most infamous droppy spots on the trail. I will say, though, I’m getting waaaaaaaay better at dealing with exposure and dropping off of ledges. There are some spots that I know I’ll get eventually. There are some that I’m OK with never getting.

Screenshot from the video:

Jackson

Since the weather had finally turned awesome, at the recommendation of the campground owner, we went to a local swimming hole following our ride.

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Overnight, the weather went back to crap. So, day 4, we didn’t get any more riding before we had to get to driving home. On the drive home, the clutch in my Impreza started to die. By the time I was getting off the interstate near my house, I couldn’t put the car in to gear without the engine shutting off. Luckily, I got to the house, and my car insurance has a great roadside assistance program. I paid all of $7 to have it towed to a shop… where I paid all of $1100 to have a new clutch put into it.

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That was a bummer considering I’d been shopping around for a new car and just hadn’t had the time to make it happen yet. I did eventually trade it in the day after my birthday-

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I leave it to you guys to guess which one is mine.

My birthday was pretty rad all around. Not only did I get a sweet new car with the help of my parents, I am finally in a place where I’ve got some friends that are stoked to help me celebrate. At work, shop owner Steve gave me cake

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Afterward, we went to Mountain Toad Brewery in Golden and had a couple of beers, and another cake that my amazing co-worker Amanda baked at home. I am not misusing the word “literally” when I say, I literally don’t remember the last time I had such a great birthday. I have tried to remember, but I can’t. I have no idea.

P.S. Speaking of birthdays, Indy turned 16 a couple of days ahead of my turning 35. He’s quite the little dog fossil.

Turning 35 is oddly frightening at this point in my life. Before now, every year older is another year more awesome. That still holds true, but, as I look around, I know that most women my age are “settled” with socially accepted careers and families. Here I am, a divorced bike mechanic, seeking out whatever adventures may find me in ColorAdo. Fun? Yes. Do I feel like others are judging me? Also yes.

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My early-life proclamation that I don’t want to have kids feels more permanent by the day.

I have no regrets.

The age thing mostly hit me when I was looking at the registration page for an upcoming jiujitsu tournament, and I saw that I’m eligible to enter the Master’s division. I probably qualify for the same in some bike races as well, depending on the governing body of said race. Other than some occasionally intense back and finger joint pain, I don’t feel old. I’m actually in super great shape… not “for my age,” but for anyone. I’ve got better abs than I’ve ever had, and I’m ready to tear up some XC races on the singlespeed this summer. Master’s class be damned.

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Mountain Ramblings

I almost don’t know what to write here.

Seriously… I’m constantly coming up with all of these deep thoughts and ruminations while I’m either driving to work or riding the trainer, then I finally get a spare hour to type them all out and I’m like, “uhhhhh… I’ll just post a bunch of cool photos from my phone.”

I wanted to write something deep about mountains, motivation, occasional depression, and my impending 35th birthday, but it’s hard to figure out how to combine them all in to one coherent post. I had it all figured out in a series of morning commutes to Boulder, but now the organization escapes me.

I spend a majority of my commute time on CO Highway 93. It parallels the Foothills between Golden and Boulder, and runs on the top of a mesa a few hundred feet above the surrounding cities, so the view is one of the most spectacular ones you could ask for on a commute. It’s a constant reminder of my time in the mountains last summer. I’m hopeful that I’ll get to repeat at least a few of those adventures this summer and maybe add a couple more to my memories.
I think anyone who reads my blog can relate, but seeking out things in nature that leave me awe-struck is like an addiction… looking for awesome moments. And, I don’t mean “awesome” like in a Ninja Turtles/Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure sort of way… I’m talking like the dictionary definition sort of awesome.

awe·some
/?ôs?m/
adjective
extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.
“the awesome power of the atomic bomb”
…Like the time I narrowly escaped a lightning storm on Rollins Pass, or when I went up Kingston Peak and discovered wind that picked my bike up off of the ground while I was trying to hike-a-bike. They’re those times when you realize that there are places where, as much as they’ll never admit to it, humans won’t permanently impose themselves into because Mother Nature is still in complete control.
I’ll go back up there at some point, but for now, my adventures stay close to home so I can take care of little Indy. He’s turning 16 just before I turn 35. He’s still truckin’ along, albeit he’s equally as blind as he is incontinent, and he’s all the way deaf. He seems content to stay in his pen in the yard when the weather is nice, but I never leave him for too long. He’s at close to half of my Instagram feed if you want to see his cute old man-ness.
The other half is fun and interesting things from the bike shop. Since we just had a spring snow storm, this weekend was renovation time. I got a new and improved work space.
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We’re finishing it up today. I’m pretty stoked.
Outside of snow days, my coworkers and a few dudes from the shop-sponsored team are doing Sunday morning Flagstaff rides from the shop. The climb up Flagstaff is wonderfully difficult. It’s steep and only gets steeper as you go up.
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The riding out of Boulder seems to be pretty amazing. I’ll probably end up with some good pre/post work/days off road miles from up there. As much as I hate to admit it, it’d be rad to live in Boulder. However, like most mountainside cities, the cost of living there is way higher than what your average service worker makes at her/his job. Matt wrote a really good post for Mountain Bike Radio just the other day about what mechanics are expected to know/do vs. what they’re paid: MBR Opinion-What’s your Bike Mechanic Worth?
It’s frustrating and a trigger of more than one depressive episode. How? I recently pulled a calf muscle. I’d love to go to a one of the kickass doctors and PTs in this area. However, I have high deductible insurance. So, while I won’t go broke with a $3500 maxiumum-out-of-pocket if I were to fall off a cliff tomorrow, I’m definitely not spending my savings on a “luxury” like seeing a doctor for a pulled muscle. Luxuries should be things like weekly sushi dinners, $7 chocolate bars, and occasionally buying paper towels at Whole Foods because you don’t want to make the extra stop at King Sooper’s. Instead, luxuries have become things like “medical care” and “being able to live within a 20-mile radius of my workplace.”
Ugh.
I won’t complain too much, because I am doing what I love, which is more than what I can say about a lot of people who live where they want, have super duper health insurance, and frivolously spend $20 on paper towels at Whole Foods. Most mornings, I’m pretty excited to go to work. I feel that that’s a pretty rare state for most people.
Speaking of the bike industry, if you follow my Twitter account, you may have seen the recent posts about #pulleygate. Basically, one of our JRA listeners figured out that SRAM Ceramic Hybrid derailleur pulleys only have one ceramic ball bearing in them. We found this to be humorous, because, let’s face it- that technically is a ceramic hybrid… just not in the form that 99.9% of consumers would expect.
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After a few posts, Ed Nasjleti from SRAM (who I’ve know from back in the Team Kenda Tire road racing days), hunted me down and called me at work to discuss #pulleygate. Turns out, the one ceramic ball and six steel ball model isn’t a consumer-deceiving ploy to save SRAM money on ceramic parts… it’s to give you the dirt-grinding advantage of ceramic combined with the less frequent maintenance schedule of steel. He saw my point, I saw his, and we spent another 25 minutes discussing other random and interesting bike tech. It’s always fun to talk to someone who has been in to bikes since before you learned to ride one.
Skipping back to the pulled calf muscle thing (I told you I wasn’t feeling the organization this morning)- That happened a few weeks ago at the gym. I basically overdid it a few days in a row. My left calf kept being sore (but just like “did a hard workout” sore) until it finally got “limping” sore and started to develop a lumpiness to it just behind the tibia. I’ve had to back off to no Muay Thai practice (since that’s mostly bouncing around on your toes), and technique-only drilling in Jiu-Jitsu. Because of that, I’m not going to compete in the May 14th State Championship tournament I’d planned on going to. I need to heal up and rehab it before I go tournament speed on it.
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It’ll be OK eventually. I’d just like to stop injuring the left side of my body, though. Two years ago it was my hamstring, now it’s the calf. I’m getting way too much experience with pulls and strains.
Despite the injury, bike training is still going pretty well (it doesn’t seem to bother the injury). I’m about to put the wraps on the eight week “General Build Plan” offered by TrainerRoad. I’ll re-test myself in a couple of weeks and figure out which “Specialty Phase” programs to use to peak for summer racing. I’m looking forward to smashing some singlespeed pedals in the near future.
P.S. I have no idea what sort of fuckery WordPress has done to make hitting the return key no longer put spaces between pictures and paragraphs. So, sorry this post looks like crap.

Winning at Bike Shop Roulette

As you may recall back in February, I was splitting time between two of the three Elevation Cycles locations- Downtown and Boulder (after being uprooted from the Highlands Ranch store by a coworker who was, to say the least, unfriendly). Not long after my schedule started creeping into being Boulder-heavy, it was announced that the next week (March 1st), the store sold to two new owners and would no longer be a part of Elevation Cycles.

Nick, the owner of Elevation, who I’d met at 24 Worlds just months before, gave me a choice of staying at the Denver/Highlands Ranch locations of Elevation, or “quitting” Elevation and starting at the new shop. Considering that my Boulder co-workers and I got along really well and the unfriendly coworker that I’d fled from was still working with no repercussions for his unfriendliness, the choice was pretty easy to make.

I don’t know that all of my Boulder co-workers were given the same option.

Anyways…

I’m incredibly happy with the people I work with. They all race bikes (and they’re all really good at it). They’re all incredibly nice/funny/fun to hang out with. I look forward to going to work in the mornings. The fact that they’re all good bike racers has provided me with renewed motivation to get out of “winter blues” shape and prep for a few local bike races this summer. I’ve been riding four days per week and lifting/doing super-power-yoga two days per week, along with my usual jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai classed at night.

Oh yeah- and the name of the new shop? Republic Cycles Boulder… a nod to the term “People’s Republic of Boulder” and “The Boulder Bubble.”

Part of my training plan is using the program TrainerRoad. Because of the limited time I have to ride, it’s a boon to my reclaiming of fitness. If you’ve never used it, and you aren’t afraid to ride indoors, I highly recommend it. It’s like having a coach, but for $8 a month. I know a lot of people who despise the trainer and get bored within 5 minutes. Those are usually the same people who hop on with no plan other than to watch a tv show or movie. If you use it as a hard/fast training tool, you won’t have time to be bored. Get on, warm up, do an interval workout, cool down… done. You’ve knocked out an hour to hour & a half before you realize it, and you’ve done something incredibly meaningful for your fitness.

That’s where I am now. I have added on some extra riding on Tuesdays and Saturdays (my days off). I was able to do a Saturday threshold workout on Lookout Mountain and last Tuesday, after I did my morning trainer intervals, took some out-of-town friends on a ride up and over Green Mountain. I’m looking to crush it at the Beti Bike Bash in June.

That’s the story for now. If you want little day-to-day snippets and pictures, listen to JRA and/or follow on Twitter & Instagram (links on the sidebar).

Edit to add- I’m gonna try Snapchat… I’m BrickhouseMTB on there if you swing that way…

Tournament of Champions 18

I’m currently in a spot where I’ve got way less time for the internet because of general life goings-on. When I’ve got free time, it’s mostly not being used to tell all 100 or so of you who still visit here on occasion what I’ve been up to. However, I’ve got a rare 3 days off, and I’m killing a small amount of time before I go out on the road bike and enjoy the awesome weather.

Last weekend was the first time I’ve ever competed in a Jiu Jitsu tournament. It’s also the most nervous I’ve been about a competition since racing in Masters Worlds CX a few years ago. I think my heart rate was over 100 for a large part of the morning beforehand.

The competition started with the No Gi category. When I was signing up, the options were 0-2 Years experience, 2-4 years experience, and 4+, with a note of “NO SANDBAGGING!” So, naturally, I signed up for the 2-4 category because I’ve probably had a few days more than 2 years of consistent training (I found out later that 2-4 is considered the “blue belt” division for No Gi).

When the first match started, I was immediately caught a little off guard by how fast and aggressive the fighting was. Matches are 5 minutes long, and it took me the first few minutes to fight my way out of non-dominant positions. I think this was about the point that I started to turn it around when I shimmied my way out of her guard…

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…and eventually took her back

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And (no picture of it), got a submission with a short choke.

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Then, in the winner’s bracket, I proceeded to lose my next two matches… one on points, and one to a last-minute armbar. The armbar chick fought a tiny bit dirty. The 3rd time she sawed her forearm across my face, the ref warned her to stop. It didn’t bother me. Even though I was losing the match, I kinda took pride in blatantly ignoring her elbows to the eye and forearms to the face in the process.

Then, it was time for the Gi division. That entry was a little more straightforward… white belt. I got off to a rocky start, losing my first match on points.

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(it only went downhill from that pic)

However, I won my next two matches- including a 20 second guillotine choke. As for that one- when the ref said “fight,” the woman immediately stuck her head out. I immediately started looking for my opportunity to wrap it up.

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The other win was by armbar. I was stoked. Then, I lost my last match on points. I was disappointed.

No medals, though not a bad day overall. I’m really excited that there are so many excellent competitors who want to go all out and kick ass. I’m excited to go back and improve.

I’ve got way more to blog about with huge changes at my workplace, but now I’ve got to eat some breakfast and tinker on my road bike. Maybe tomorrow.

Nailed It.

Yesterday turned out to be one of the best gym days I’ve had in a long time.

I started with Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai classes in the morning before going home to eat lunch and mentally prepare to go back to the gym and participate in the Competition Team tryouts. The only real information I’d received about what would go on during tryouts is that we’d have to run a mile(ish) in <7 minutes, that there would be more running on Green Mountain, more conditioning, and that the sparring to follow would be intense and long lasting.

I planned for it as if it were going to be a three hour cross country race. Since the 18 of us (me being the only lady) were to be outside on a mild 60 something degree day and inside with the heat on (for extra slipperiness), I packed a cooler with two bottles of Gu Roctane drink, two bottles of water, and a baggie full of Roctane Gels and chews.

First off was the run test. Everyone is required to be able to run four laps of the office complex in which the gym resides in under 7 minutes. I was able to pace myself really well, and I could tell that the trainer intervals and singlespeed laps up Lookout I’ve been doing on the bike paid off in dividends. My laps splits were super consistent, and my time was 6 minutes, 10 seconds, with energy to spare.

I downed half a bottle of Roctane while everyone was finishing up, and we continued our jog upwards towards Green Mountain. There, we did a couple of conditioning laps up a short hill and then moved onward to the final “outside” running test, which was three laps up a bigger, steeper hill to a telephone pole and back. I reverted back to my trail running days for this one… the first 100 yards or so was a gradual slope before the next 50-70 yards pitched up steeper. I jogged the lower half then powerwalked the steep part. I also had a pretty good edge at running downhill because I’ve had a lot of practice. Lap one… Everyone took off full gas. I was someplace in the middle of the group. By the end of Lap 2, I was persistence hunting the only two or three dudes ahead of me. I passed them someplace before the summit of Lap 3 and never looked back. Nick, the Coach who was directing the test, actually told me to go out for another lap because he thought I’d only done two. I asked him, “Oh, I thought it was just three. It’s Four?” It took him a fraction of a second to figure out that I’d caught the dudes he thought were leading the pack.

These dudes are legit. Even I was surprised by that one.

When we arrived back at the gym, I had a Roctane gel and most of a bottle of water. Next, we made a lap of a conditioning circuit- various exercises like battle ropes, tire jumps, agility ladders, and a heavy bag flip/drag. That was followed up by a partner drill. You paired up with someone similar to your size and had to shoot a double leg take down on them, but, instead of taking them down, pick them up over your shoulder and run to the other end of the gym, set them down, shoot again/carry them back, and repeat 4 more times before switching places. I paired up with fighter Nicholas Clem. We beat everyone.

More gel, Roctane, and water, and it was time for the hard part… the Sparring.

I went two rounds with a couple of the guys and did pretty well. Then, Kirsten Runstrom, a really badass Muay Thai fighter/coach geared up, and we sparred a 5 minute round. That was, by far, the hardest 5 minutes of the day. She’s fast, accurate, and any time I’d drop a hand, she’d take full advantage of it and flurry me backwards across the full length of the short side of the gym. Her teep kicks to the body were vicious as well. I kept my shit together, though. I used some of the fakes and feigns we’ve been drilling in class (along with some head/body combos and angles that I learned back in Memphis) and landed a decent number of kicks and combinations. She was probably taking it easy on me.

Those three rounds were followed up by a Jiu Jitsu roll with another white belt (landed a triangle and a guillotine), then one more round of Muay Thai with Kirsten and one more round with a guy who is an excellent wrestler. I was holding my own with him standing, but had to play all defense once we went to the ground.

I should mention, I splurged on a new set of headgear, and it makes sparring feel like a very aggressive pillow fight.

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But wait, there’s more!

Everyone thought it was over, but we did one more bout of conditioning with several minutes of fast feet/sprawls/pushups. Then, we high-fived, bowed out, and ate cookies. Yeah… I made cookies for everyone.

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So, I’m on the competition team! First competition? One week from tryouts- Tournament of Champions 18. I signed up for the following divisions: White Belt BJJ 121-140, NoGi intermediate 121-140, and all weights/belts submission-only both Gi and NoGi.

The first two, I hope to do well. The two “all-belts/all-weights”, I hope to learn something. For my bike racing readers not privy to what that means, that’s basically like entering two “you versus other beginners” races and two “all categories race together” races.

I need to cut a very tiny amount of weight. The weigh-ins are Friday night. Since I started adding the intense bike workouts to my training, I’ve had a hard time keeping my weight up to its happy place of 142 pounds (I’ve been fluctuating around 141). To make sure I don’t have any sort of “oh sh*t” moment on weigh in day, I’m going to do a water-manipulation cut only… basically, while maintaining the same normal eating routine (minus the cookies, maybe), I’ll overhydrate for a few days in order to stimulate aldosterone hormone production by my body, then Thursday and Friday, cut water consumption way back. The elevated aldosterone level will make my kidneys continue to remove extra water from my blood during the time that I’m not drinking a lot of water. Friday morning, I’ll figure out if I need to leave work early to ride the trainer for a hot minute to sweat anything off before weigh-ins. My guess is that I won’t need to. My weight has been very willing to stay off as of late. By not changing anything about my normal eating habits, my energy level and mood should remain intact.

I’m stoked. The Competition Team is like a family. It’s a really great, talented, and supportive group of people to work with, and we all want to see each other succeed.