September 16, 2014

Life after Colorado, in pictures

Filed under: Out West Trip,Training — Andrea @ 3:48 pm

Since my previous rant, I’ve been slowly trying to dig myself out of the post road trip depression hole. It’s a slow and ongoing process to get back to normal, but I’m making it.

I failed to mention previously that on the way home last week, I got pulled over in Texas for going 80 in a 75. That’s the sort of situation that has the potential to end one of two ways- you can either be kind and treat the police officer like a fellow human being just doing a job that not a lot of other people really want to do, or you can be an ass, question his motives, assert your right to not “be detained”/roll down your window, and get yourself a giant-ass speeding ticket. I chose option “A.” When I went to take my wallet out of my purse, I did it where it was easy for him to see inside, talked to him respectfully, and, when he asked where I was coming from, I told him about the crazy bike race I’d just done in Colorado, and he chuckled and said it sounded like something they’d made him do in Ranger School. My karmic prize for not acting like an ass…


The day after I got back home, I went to Campbell Clinic again to start another round of anesthetic injections into my left hamstring. The previous series had worn off sometime after Dirty Kanza, and a lot of my longer training rides before Vapor Trail were done with frequent stops after the 3.5-4 hour mark to keep the sciatic issues at bay. We’re not doing a cortisone shot this time, so it isn’t nearly as bad as far as the pain level goes, and I don’t really have to take any time off from training since my schedule has been mostly recovery since the race, anyway.


Riding has been pretty laid back. I’ve broken out the cyclocross bike, though I haven’t quite gone H.A.M. on it just yet. The weather has been pretty nice, too. The summer heat seems to have broken while I was gone, and it’s been chilly enough to wear arm warmers at least once.

A cyclocross bike propped up on a pumpkin… for cyclists, it doesn’t get much more “decorative gourd season” than that.


Cyclocross season in Memphis will officially start while I’m still in the throes of my late mountain season. I’m not too worried about it, though. I have no dreams of going big with it this winter.

Speaking of hallmarks of Fall, I gladly skipped Interbike this year. However, through the magic of Colorado, my race resume and other relevant information went to Interbike without me. Some new and exciting things are happening for my 2015 season, but they’re all so new and exciting that I can’t say anything else right now. It’s potentially awesome, though.

Other somewhat random and fun things… Matt pimped out my scooter with some vinyl dots:


My parents’ dog is still adorable:


Following my crewperson duties for John at the 24 St. Jude Ride (click the link and donate, pleeeease), I’ll be heading over to Arkansas for Sunday’s Iron Mountain Enduro. There’s only one other woman signed up for the Pro/Cat1 division so far, but according to my brief e-stalking, she appears to be awesome, so I’m excited:


In other dog-related news, I’ve been taking the geriatric residents of the house out for a short walk every day. Considering how much they sleep or just lay around and stare into space all day, I think the little bit of exercise will improve their health… just like with people. Turbo is a little arthritic, and Indy slows down if it’s the least bit warm, so our pace is very laid back.


Today’s gym workout assured that m calves will be almost unbearably sore in the morning (the “sprint” part was ~20m, run out & back, done  behind the building in between each individual exercise, and we went through the list twice).


It was a really good one for cyclocross conditioning, though, so I’m not complaining too much.







September 12, 2014

Getting stuff off my chest

Filed under: Out West Trip,Trails — Andrea @ 7:40 am

It’s time for me to get my after-road trip crybaby rant out of the way so that I can move on with prepping for the next big adventure. I generally try to keep the mood of this blog positive, because that’s how I generally exist in life. However, it’s not always like that, and, in the spirit of “keeping it real” in the blogosphere, I’m making this post.

I’m pretty sure that the obligatory post-road trip depression actually set in before I’d even left Salida- about the time that I could summarize a week’s worth of local news for Memphis with “2 murders and a mob-style beating by a gang of teens, mostly minors.” The icing on the cake- one of my good friends from Arkansas (Scott Penrod) was hit by a car and in the ICU.

I’m going to get off on a tangent for a second, because, in the scope of cyclists and cars, I always hear the same thing. “It could have been so much worse.” I’m guilty of saying it myself. You know what, though? It could always be worse. You got hit by a car and only had cuts and bruises? Definitely could have been worse. Oh, you got put in the hospital, but were out a few days later? You aren’t dead, so it could have been worse! A driver killed a cyclist? Well, the way they ride in groups all the time, it definitely could have been worse, because it was only one, and not more!

Fuck that. It could have been better. The drivers who can’t get it through their thick skulls that there are other people on the road who aren’t surrounded in steel and airbags could get their collective thick skulls out of their asses and pay attention to their surroundings. The police and justice system could stop siding with distracted drivers and start punishing them for being negligent human beings instead of just saying, “Oh, what a terrible accident, but it could have been worse.”

Last weekend, I rode my bike for more than 19 hours, and during that time, interacted with traffic for less than an hour. It’s not that I think that drivers outside of where I live are any better or paying any more attention, it’s that I was in a place where it’s possible to ride a bike for 19 hours without coming into contact with people wrapped in steel and their own agendas. Since I was hit a year and a half ago, I’ve been fighting my own fears and panic attacks, gritting my teeth and saying, “I won’t let this beat me,”  but it’s slowly wearing me down.

I went for a late-afternoon walk while I was in the mountains, and was told to take pepper spray. It wasn’t because there were ill-intended people around- no mobs or murderers. It was because I wasn’t at the top of the food chain. I’m OK with that.

Along the theme of people wrapped up in their own agendas, while I was gone, Matt rode out to look at a bandit trail that’d been recently cut. He found a twisty, staub-filled path that basically followed none of the sustainability recommendations put fourth by IMBA. It (along with other illegal trails) is cut in an area that’s designated as a “Natural Area,” which means that, by the law, mountain bikes aren’t allowed. Thankfully, the park stopped enforcing that rule years ago, but all of the signs and the written laws are still intact, waiting for the wrong hiker/walker/etc. to get pissed off and raise enough stink that we’re tossed out again. The people doing this crap are brazen enough to cut illegal trail, then name it something like “El Bandito” on Strava- I showed someone that didn’t believe me, and he was flabbergasted, saying, “wow, that’d get you arrested out here!” They just. don’t. care. Matt called the trail-cutter out on a local facebook forum and was the subject of all-out ridicule that verged on bullying. These people have no idea how good they have it in Memphis, because they’ve never lived in a place where trail access to mountain bike has been reduced (like odd/even days for hikers/bikers on some urban Colorado trails) or eliminated altogether. No, they just want more trail, so they go out into the woods and cut it whenever and however they please- legality and sustainability be damned. Don’t you dare question it, either.

I love mountain biking. I can’t question that, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t put up with all the crap I put up with in order to ready myself to ride and race mountain bikes in places bigger and more awesome than my hometown. It just makes the crap so much more obvious when I go someplace else. It makes it hard to come back.

Alright. That’s all out. time to move on.

September 8, 2014

Vapor Trail 125 Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing,Out West Trip — Andrea @ 12:59 pm

As I mentioned in my last post, my acclimatization to altitude is somewhat lacking. It hasn’t kept me from having a good time any time I’ve been to the mountains (no altitude sickness, etc.), but it does keep me from riding my bike as fast as I’d like to. When I lined up for the Vapor Trail 125, I knew that, and I planned my “race” strategy accordingly… do what I can, pace-wise, feed and hydrate well, and deal with the fact that I am basically in the granny gear or pushing my bike most of the time that I’m going up a hill. Sort of like a 125 mile Enduro race.

Saturday basically took forever. If you ever want to try and break a hole in the space-time continuum by making time go backwards, plan to do a bike race that starts at 10pm. I charged all my lights and unpacked/repacked my Osprey pack and drop bag more than once. Finally, 7pm came, and I went to Absolute Bikes to fill out my waiver and get a sweet race beanie.


The rider meeting was at 8pm, and, though I was tempted to do so by my nerves, I didn’t kit up yet.


The enormity of the race really started to sink in during the meeting. I got nervous. As soon as the meeting was over, I went back to the hostel and made myself a soup bowl-sized mug of coffee to drink while I paced around getting ready.


A little before 10, everyone lined up at a bridge downtown for the neutral rollout. It’s actually pretty cool- since the racers need to cross a major highway to get to the race course, everyone follows a police car out of Salida to Poncha Springs just a few miles away, where it stops next to a small airport for a final pee/clothing adjustment break before continuing to highway 285, where several other police cars were waiting to stop traffic and let all of the racers cross safely as a group.

Once we were across the highway and the police car pulled away, the group quickly stretched out and split apart as we started the first climb several miles up a gravel forest road to the Colorado Trail (go back to my first VT125 post to see pictures & a Google Earth track). All of the women in the race were basically some sort of Colorado endurance superstar in one way or another, and they left me in their dust at that point (with the exception of Bec Bale, who was just a minute or so behind me). I just kept going at the pace that my physiological speed governor would allow.

Riding the Colorado Trail at night is a rush. I used a head and bar mounted set of Light & Motion Seca 2000 lights. They’re so incredibly bright that I was able to keep them on low power the whole time, with the exception of the final Colorado Trail descent and the descent off of the Alpine Tunnel pass. Bonus- the enduro model will run for 10 hours on low. I still carried spare batteries but never needed them. I arrived at the first aid station at 1:40am.  Though it’s relatively early on the course, that aid station is the last one before the long drag in the mountains. I took a pee break, ate half a breakfast burrito, grabbed an extra base layer from my drop bag, and set back out.

The climb up to Alpine Tunnel is long and gradual, and can mentally break you if you let it. I alternated sitting and standing as well as awareness and staring at the ground in front of me, and the two hours to the top passed quickly. The moon was incredibly bright, and was competing with my lights for the reflection off of the frost that was on the pine and aspen trees along the road. At the end of the road at Alpine Tunnel trailhead, it was bright enough to dimly light the bare tops of the mountains around the pass… the view was surreal. I stopped for a pee break, and to just soak in the awesomeness before making my way to the Alpine Tunnel hike-a-bike.

It was at the hike-a-bike that I caught up to one of my female competitors. I started hiking before her and descended a little faster (she mentioned something about this being her first night ride in some extreme length of time). However, she caught up and left me when I stopped to change into a warmer jacket and gloves. The next section of road was gradually downhill for a couple of miles, and the temperature was somewhere below freezing. My hands can go from OK to useless ice flippers in the space of five minutes, so I enact a “disaster aversion” strategy of keeping my core warm and my gloves dry.

The next challenge was Tomichi Pass and the infamous hike-a-bike up Granite Mountain. I mostly walked up Tomichi, though I did find a few sections to be momentarily granny gear-able. Once I was on the other side of the pass, it was somewhere around 5:15 in the morning, and I began the long push to the top of the mountain. When I stopped for another pee break about halfway up (there’s a pattern emerging here), I noticed when I got back on the trail that my eyes had adjusted enough in the very slight morning dimness that I didn’t need to turn my lights back on. I made it to the top about the time the sun was turning the sky all sorts of cool colors.

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One of the “benefits” of being forced into riding slow is that the faster people are in the dark when they do the Canyon Creek trail descent from the top of that mountain. Also, since it was so cloudy during my pre-ride, I’d had no idea that the initial part of that descent was along the spine of the mountains. I took that as a satisfying consolation prize. Once you’re past the timberline, that descent is full-gas awesomeness. I raged it so hard that I caught up to several people who’d left the top of the mountain while I was still taking photos and enjoying the view (bonus- despite slowing down and chatting with a couple of the caught guys for a minute before passing them, I got the Strava QOM for the lower half of the descent). You basically take about an hour to lose all of the elevation that you spent all night gaining.

The next aid station is at the bottom of that descent, and my arrival time was 7:41am. Though I was very stoked from going downhill and seeing morning in general, I wasn’t feeling my most awesome. Imagine riding all night, doing a metric crap-ton of climbing both on and off-bike, then rolling into the aid station at the bottom of another 2 hours worth of climbing and saying, “Hey, I’m ALMOST halfway done with the race course now!” On top of that, though I’d had what I’d consider a “normal” amount of water for an effort of that duration/intensity/temperature, I was peeing way more than normal, which made me think that my electrolytes were off. I mixed up some Gu Blueberry Pomegranate Brew (double sodium, and the single-serve stick packs are really convenient to pack for a ride), and decided that I’d drink all of it on the way up to the next aid station at the top of Monarch Pass.

If I had to pick a place that was my “low point” of the race, I’m probably not alone in saying that it was somewhere on the Old Monarch Pass climb. I did my best to zone out and not think about it, and made it to the top somewhere in between daydreaming about pizza and using a roadside rock as a pillow to take a nap.

Two and a half hours after leaving the previous aid, I arrived at Monarch Pass… the place where most people who want to DNF do the deed. Though I was at kind of a dark place in my experience, I knew from past races that a short break and some self-care can really turn things around. So, I sat down while two very kind aid station volunteers brought my bag and gave me various food choices. I took off my base layer and knee warmers, had a cranberry muffin, some bacon, and a 16oz Redbull along with a couple of electrolyte pills. It rejuvinated me enough to enjoy the sweetness of the next part of the course- the Monarch Crest Trail. It has a couple of tough kickers in it as far as climbing, but it’s mostly rolling with some fun downhills and gorgeous views. Bonus- picked up another downhill Strava QOM for the descent to the aid station at the Starvation Creek loop.

The Starvation Creek loop is about as fun as it sounds. You start by climbing about 500ft on jeep road until you reach the singletrack descent (I accidentally passed it in my sleep-deprived state and had to turn around and find it when I reached the dead end of the road). The singletrack drops down… and down… and down… it’s so long that you quickly stop enjoying the downhill and start dreading how much you’re descending. I literally slowed down because I wanted it to be finished. Then, you cross the creek and start climbing a rocky jeep road back up- about 2000ft back up. It’s warm at the bottom (hearing people complain about how “hot” it was made me chuckle a little), and there are biting black flies that will circle and nail you right when you’re suffering most. If someone at the aid station for the loop had given me the choice of either doing the loop or opting out with a full-force kick to the liver, I’d choose the liver kick.

I made it through in about 2.5 hours… actually not too terrible of a time, considering I required two pee breaks, and I either granny-geared or hiked during the entire climb out. When I passed through the aid station for the second time, I ate several handfuls of really salty potato chips and took another electrolyte pill. That seemed to do the trick for extending times between pee breaks, because I didn’t have to go again until I was back and showered, despite continuing my same water consumption. I could also just about smell the finish line 25 miles away.

Leaving Starvation Creek is the last of the long climbs of the course. You get on the Colorado Trail and go up and up and up until you make it to the descent down Silver Creek. I quickly realized that I was getting a little fatigued and sloppy with my downhilling and decided it was in my best interest to back it off a couple of mph so that I wouldn’t end myself or my bike that close to the finish. Once I was down that, I found the last aid station at the bottom, where they had the best treats of the day- bacon and egg rice bars as well as salt and vinegar chips. I wanted to stay and eat more, but the last section- the Rainbow Trail, was calling my name.

Definitely one of my favorite parts of the course, BTW. It does have a couple of steep hills that I had to hike, but all of them are followed up with the payoff of flowy goodness. It was a perfect icing to my 127 mile cake. The hardest part of the rest of the course was navigating the highway 285/50 intersection. The entire course had been marked with pink pin flags and tape, and the construction zone at the intersection had wooden stakes and pink flagging stuck in to both sides of the road. Being mildly delirious, I was momentarily stupefied, but then noticed the pink course flags mixed in amongst the construction markers. I followed them to find the county road back in to town- downhill the whole way.

I finished in 19 hours, 27 minutes… near the bottom of the finisher list. However, to be a finisher on that list feels like an accomplishment in and of itself. Aside from the sleep deprivation and requisite soreness from riding/pushing so much, I actually felt slightly less bad than when I finished any other sea-level 100-mile mountain bike races… another discovered advantage to the physiological speed governor. Then, I got hungry.

That used to be a gigantic hamburger with bacon and avocado


I also needed dessert


Rather than putting myself through the torture of driving back today, I’m taking the day to relax, nap, eat, and get a massage. It will make the 17 hours of going back home slightly less bad, though it’s always sad to see the mountains in my rear-view mirror.


September 6, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #5

Filed under: Out West Trip,Trail Riding — Andrea @ 1:19 pm

The good news is, my fork is feeling better. The bad news is, through the magic of the cool testing & training equipment found around the 92fifty/Elevated Legs compound, I was able to quantify just how much I’m affected by the 9k+ feet of elevation. Sitting around in the house, the pulse oximiter tells me that my red blood cells are only 93% saturated with oxygen… something you’d only expect to see at sea level if you were dealing with a person who has a pulmonary problem of some sort (like asthma).


I laid around in the Elevated Legs for a while breathing oxygen from the O2 generator, and, surprise! I made it (temporarily) up to normal.

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The idea behind the setup like the one in the 92fifty studio is that you can get all of the good physiological adaptations you’d see from hanging out at altitude, but by doing higher intensity sessions indoors with supplemental O2, you can still train your top end like you’re at sea level.

So, there’s your brief and informative science lesson of the day.

Wednesday, I packed up my stuff and headed out to visit Megan- a high school/horseback riding friend who moved out of Memphis forever ago. She’s settled in to an awesome little farmhouse in Black Forest with Sara (her girlfriend), two horses, dogs, and kittens…

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I also sold my first road bike to her. Sadly, it developed a weird crack in the downtube, and she moved on to a different bike. She was nice enough to let me take her parts off of it and take it home with me to hang on the wall.


Thursday, I made up for not riding on Wednesday and, after breakfast, went to Colorado Springs to ride with Dan, who really made me miss my singlespeed.


He’s also taking on the Vapor Trail 125 tonight, so we had plenty of post-ride banter about how terrible the weather could possibly be.

I stopped back through Megan’s to change and eat some lunch before heading north into the suburbs of Denver to see Ben Welnak (from Mountain Bike Radio). He’s like, super-dad of the century as well. We waited around for a storm to pass before riding, and, since I took about 4x as long to prepare to ride than he did, he started dinner and wrangled kids while he waited on me.


Ben swore that the rain would be gone quickly after sunset, so we left in a drizzle and rode up Waterton Canyon towards the Colorado Trail. It was soooo gorgeous. It also never quit raining. I was more disappointed in not seeing any nocturnal creatures than I was in the wet weather.

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Friday morning, it was time to get over to Salida. After I ran around Denver shopping for waterproof socks and gloves, I got on the road and made it to town around 4:30. I hit up the local shops for some souvenirs to take home and caught a couple who were on the Continental Divide Trail. They’d stopped by Subculture Bikes to get a brake fixed.

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The people working in the shop were super nice and remembered me from stopping through last year. They invited me to have a beer and go get pizza with them. Very cool.

So, now the countdown to race start begins… about 8 hours from now. The lights are charging, the bike is tuned,  and I’ve made a tentative clothing selection based on a more optimistic forecast than what I’d seen earlier in the week. The next post you see will be a race report…


September 3, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #4

Filed under: non-bike — Andrea @ 7:31 am

Since I left Crested Butte, I’ve had to dial the riding back a bit (actually, my last day in Butte was pretty laid back relative to the previous week’s rides). I’ve been hanging around at the 92fifty Cycles compound, going for quick rides in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, eating delicious home-cooked food, and spending free time laying in my bunk relaxing in the Elevated Legs (if that sounds like a good time to you, keep an eye on their website or give them a call, because it’s a service they’ll be offering to everyone in the future.


The riding right out their driveway is pretty amazing. I haven’t taken any pictures of it, but it’s a really cool mixture of technical and chunky rocks and smooth flowy stuff. Yesterday, Jon, Kyle, Debbie (a coaching client/customer of the shop), and I rode out to the park. Jon and Debbie split off to work on some skills, and Kyle and I played enduro for a while. Once we finished up, the grill was kicking and a bunch of friends came over for a Labor Day cookout.


They’re serious about their Coors around here.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty chilled out. I went for a walk around dusk (which included a hand-held pepper spray in case a mountain lion came after me), then we had a fire and smores.


Today was another good taper day. It began with coffee and hanging on the porch with the animals-

Duke and Biscuit



Rocko (who has his own house)



And this little dude, who was making laps with his cheeks stuffed…


After another couple of hours in the park, I cleaned up, ate, and drove up to the shop to work on my bike. It needed some grease in the BB bearings (the ones that come stock in the Wheel Manufacturing adapter are apparently made in the same factory as Crank Brothers pedals). Also, the fork was giving me a rash. It wasn’t getting through all the travel (despite the air pressure being somewhat lower than what’s stated for my weight on the fork stanchion), and when I’d unweight the front wheel to get up obstacles, it’d make a “thunk” as it decompressed.

After the grease re-packing, I first checked the damper oil. The damper was warrantied by the shop a couple of months ago, and, turns out, only had 80mL of oil in the bath instead of 106mL. Once that was fixed, the thump was still there. I took the lowers off, and, while I couldn’t really measure what leaked out during the removal process, it did look more viscous than the 15wt that normally goes in there. Once it was back together, the thump seemed to be fixed. Tomorrow’s ride will tell for sure… I’ll be sure to find a hill that will (hopefully) utilize all of its travel.

September 1, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #3

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


At least there were good views…




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



Bonus doggie pic of “Riot”


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




The trail itself was soooooo sweet





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

August 30, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #2

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

August 29, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #1

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

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

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





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


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

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

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

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

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

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It looked a little something like this:


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


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

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


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

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


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



August 22, 2014

Best Recovery Ride, Ever

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 11:25 am

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

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

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

To go off on a small tangent…

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

August 18, 2014

Tennessee State Championship Cross Country Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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