I know there are a few of you out there who still visit this page, so I wanted to let you know, I’ve started a youtube channel to document the next adventure- Andrea’s YouTube Channel
I know there are a few of you out there who still visit this page, so I wanted to let you know, I’ve started a youtube channel to document the next adventure- Andrea’s YouTube Channel
Finally… I can’t go on without some structure and goals.
My year-long Longest Offseason Ever break has evolved (devolved?) in to feeling uncomfortably unstructured in my everyday life (other than work). As of late, I’ve literally felt envious when I’ve seen other athletes talk anything training related. I can’t stand it much longer. I’d wanted to do a better job at making the break something fun and exciting to follow along with, but it turns out, I needed a break from that as well. I’m all breaked out now, though.
The hard truth is, I take shit care of myself when I don’t feel the need to recover and maximize my training efforts. It’s like, “well, my body is useless now, so why bother?” I eat too much junk food, I stay up looking at dumb memes on the internet instead of reading a book so that I sleep better, I drink too much alcohol, I don’t exercise very often, and I haven’t done yoga more than a handful of times for a long time. My body feels like a tent rather than a temple.
It’s a hard thing to accept because bike racing doesn’t always make me happy (I wouldn’t have taken a year off if it did). However, it feels like having that external motivation is the only way I can be motivated to not treat myself like a garbage dump. When “normal” people look at an athlete and wonder, “what internal demons is he/she running from?” well… there you go. Future me will have to face this demon again at some point, but for now, I’m going to keep running.
So, its time to come up with a plan for next year. When I lived in Denver, it was easy to hop over to Winter Park on a Saturday and bang out a 2 hour race, then come home in time to have a beer and relax for the afternoon. I love that about cross country, but since I don’t have that within a reasonable distance of my house any more, I’ve got to look elsewhere.
This is where y’all come in. I don’t have many good ideas for races that are new and exciting (to me) other than The Lake City Alpine 50 (a new event for 2019 that looks absolutely gorgeous), and whatever Vapor Trail 125 evolves into. Both of those are late-ish in the season, so I’m looking to add to the front end. There’s always the early June Vail GoPro games as well… as much as I hate Vail, it’s got a wicked singlespeed payout.
Once I’ve got a season plan, I’ve been toying with the idea of a coach. For me, having someone to be accountable to is a huge motivation. I don’t know if it’s in my budget, though. If I can’t figure that part out, I have TrainerRoad, which is a great training program that I’ve experienced good results with. It’s a great “plan B,” but it’s just not the same as having a live human put forth the effort to hand over a program and me dutifully destroy it (in a good way).
While I feel lighter after getting all of my feelings out in my last post, I do feel the need to balance it by expressing thanks to the people/companies who helped me during the years that I bike raced out of Memphis.
Like I said- there are definitely a handful of people who weren’t bullies or jerks, and those people are still sticking around reading and watching my adventures to this day. Y’all know who you are. I do, too. I really appreciate your kindness. No, really… Those last few years in Memphis, I was having a hard time with depression, anxiety, and PTSD from getting hit by a car at Rouge Roubaix, and seeing a wave on the road/trail or having a friendly face in the bike shop sometimes felt like all that was keeping me going.
I had some really good local sponsors, too.
Outdoors Inc. stuck with me while I was trying to hustle sponsors from all over to support my endurance and cyclocross racing campaigns, and they support other local athletes as well. They’re a good employer and one of Memphis’ only outdoor-knowledgeable places to shop.
Nimblewear Clothing is another excellent company. I’ve worn my kits from them until they’ve become embarrassingly thin in the shorts. Not only are their clothes and designs awesome, but they were willing to flow me a couple of special one-ofs, like the short sleeve Interbike CX-Vegas skinsuit. I still wear that one on occasion.
Urban Fitness Kickboxing is also one, not necessarily cycling-related. I’ve explained my past curiosity of MMA here before, and Jon Trent at UFK was willing to take me under his wing and show me how to fight. Sure, it ended up with me having an extra broken nose, but, well, you don’t always win. I learned that long before I ever tried fighting off of two wheels. When he sold the gym to new owner Eric Ingram, Eric was happy to let me keep coming in to train Jiu Jitsu with him. When I got to The Training Camp in Denver, the comment I got from the first roll with an instructor was, “someone put a lot of time in to you.” Jon and Eric are good people. Coaching someone takes so much mental and physical energy that I don’t know if I can ever do enough to repay them for their help.
Moving on to the regional level, I want to shoutout to Industry Nine and Cysco Cycles. While they weren’t in Memphis, they were close enough to have a local-regional feel to them. I still love I9 hubs more than other hubs. Way more. I just can’t always afford to build wheels with them when a stock bike comes with something that’s “OK enough” to not bother me. Cysco built me two amazing custom titanium bikes, but, now that I’ve searched the interwebs, I realize that they are not around anymore. Kinda sucky. The unicorn of a road bike was extra-amazing.
Finally, even though they aren’t at all regional to the South, I have to send one last extra shoutout to Gu Energy Labs. They have literally sponsored me, in some way, shape, or form, since the beginning… like, used to have to fill out a paper order form and fax it in beginning. I’ve gone to races I wouldn’t have been able to go to with their help. This year is no different- I’m in the 2018 Salty’s Squad, which gives me some extra stoke to train for my upcoming adventures.
Thanks to everyone who has helped me. I appreciate each and every one of you, whether it was through sponsorship or just the act of “being nice,” you’ve all helped me more than you probably realized.
I can’t tell you the number of racing years that I’ve reached the middle of the race season and thought, “I’d really love to go do _________, but I have to stay ready for ________ bike race.” I have quelled that thought countless number of times- my heart lies in both adventure and in competition, so I’ve let the competition side win every time.
Next year will be something different.
In the world of training periodization, the post-season (what I talked about in my previous blog entry) would be considered taking a break. The Off-season is when you lay the foundation for pre-season and in-season training. Off-season training is often less specific (at least in the early phases). It often includes strength training and other sports that can build similar fitness to the demands of your sport (for example- if you’re a road cyclist, you probably wouldn’t make gymnastics or table tennis your off-season sport for training, but you might mountain bike, run, hike, play soccer, or XC ski… things that require cardiovascular endurance that aren’t necessarily riding a road bike).
So, in the spirit of Phil Gaimon’s “Worst Retirement Ever,” I’m taking on the “Longest Off-Season Ever.” I have no plans other than to take on whatever the mountains call me into.
Ok, well, that’s sort of a lie. I have several things I want to do but that I’m leaving myself open to not doing if they just don’t work out:
-Bikepack my big regional loop that I failed on in September
-Summit all of the peaks >13k feet within that loop (human-powered only for the approach to them would be a bonus)
-Rainbow Trail in a day on bike (on or around the summer solstice, most likely)
-Rainbow Trail on foot in <30 hours
I’m not saying I won’t go to any bike races, running races, burro races, or the like. I’m just saying that my focus is going to be taking a year off from planning my outdoor activities around the goal of bike racing. I feel like I’ve always bike raced not just in the spirit of competition, but also in search of new trails and challenges. For me, that latter aspect of bike racing has died off. While there’s lots I haven’t done, I feel like my sample of racing successes are representative of some of the most challenging events in the sport. The first few that come to mind:
– Three seasons of NUE 100s, the middle season being totally singlespeed and still finishing 5th overall in the series for Pro Women (also finishing 5th overall in the 3rd season, but with a geared bike).
– Breck Epic 3x singlespeed, with 2x 2nd place finishes and 1 win.
– Dirty Kanza 200, 3rd overall woman
– Vapor Trail 125 win and “new” course record.
Races, no matter how difficult, technical, etc, are still required to stay within the confines of permits, emergency access, course marking/sweeping, aid station support, and general safety for their participants. I’m looking to take on feats of endurance that are outside of those confines.
Now, for the “audience participation” part of the show. How do you want to watch this? Should I keep doing like I have with spotty blog posts and most frequent pictures on social media? Or, should I move forward into the increasing popularity of the YouTube Channel? All of those? At some point, Time becomes a factor (the infrequency of blog posts being example #1). I kinda feel like uploading a video blog might be easier. I’ve definitely videoed my thoughts while out on previous adventures only to delete them later for one reason or another.
Hit me up. I’m here to entertain. You let me know the vehicle.
The weekend after Vapor Trail, I ended up racing the Banana Belt XC race as part of the Salida Bike Fest. I didn’t want to go at it singlespeed, so I rode the Viral Skeptic- a belt-driven, pinion-geared hardtail. It’s a fun bike, and I like where the belt/pinion combo is headed, but it’s definitely suited to more burly riding than cross-country racing. Nevertheless, I won the race… barely. There was a nice write-up in the local paper.
Thus begins the post-season few weeks of emotional turmoil. It’s hard to describe, because it starts out as a feeling of relief, but then spirals into feelings of emotional turmoil and drinking too often. You’re trying to act “normal,” but athletes don’t usually do a good job of being normal people. I thought that I was the only one who felt like that until Josh Tostado came through town a couple of weeks ago, and we hung out over a beer. I found out that not only do we eat exactly the same way during races (a gel flask supplemented by whatever looks tasty at aid stations), his description of activities following Vapor Trail was similar to mine.
So, yeah… my level of normal is “Josh Tostado.” I’m cool with that, though.
The weekend after Banana Belt, I wanted to knock off and bikepack in the mountains a bit. I loaded up the Viral and set out with an ambitious route. I only made it one night, though. The forecast before I’d left on Thursday morning called for nice weather until Saturday afternoon. I figured I could manage a half day of bad weather. I packed for it. However, Friday morning, the wind was insane and the skies were dark. I stopped in the St. Elmo general store for a snack and extra coffee, and the store owner spoke of bad weather moving in early. Apparently, it had already snowed on the other side of the Continental Divide (where I was headed). I pressed on up Tincup Pass, but before I could reach the top, I encountered more wind and winter precipitation in the form of graupel. I didn’t know graupel was a thing until I moved to Colorado. It’s like spoonfuls of shaved ice being thrown from the clouds.
Bad circulation in my hands is something I’ve battled since I was a kid going duck hunting with my dad. It’s only gotten worse with age. Despite my preparedness in water/windproof clothing and chemical heat packs for my warmest gloves, the brief chill I experienced on Tincup went straight into my hands and turned them into useless flippers. I couldn’t bear the thought of dealing with early bouts of bad weather and bad circulation for the whole trip (as opposed to just half a day), so I turned and went home. As I got lower/away from the weather and felt the circulation return to my hands, I stopped and took these photos-
Part of turning around goes back to my “trying to be normal” part of the post-season. I’ve pushed myself though the same discomfort of loss of hand circulation *conservatively* hundreds of times by now during the racing/training process. My bikepacking trip was supposed to be fun, and, battling cold and snow, even with all of the clothes I needed to be safe and warm, wasn’t going to be fun. However, it’s hard not to view quitting as just that- quitting. If you’ve ever wondered how I keep going when races or training rides seem physically impossible, it’s because the emotional pain that I experience when I quit is far worse than any pain of pressing on in difficult situations.
At least I got some nice photos while I was out…
I’m slowly starting to get my shit back together and getting back into my safe space of being an athlete. I’ve gone for couple of hikes, started running a little, and started a little light weight training with a local trainer. I’ve kept the riding somewhat short and fun, and I hope to get in to some snow-related activities once winter really sets in (if my hands can tolerate it). I’ve shopped a little for heated gloves- holy crap, they’re expensive. I’m hoping I’ll have some cash left over for a set once the 429sl sells and I’ve purchased its replacement.
This is a long one- settle in with a snack.
I approached Vapor Trail 125 with an attitude of strategic indifference. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from racing it once and listening to the stories of others, it’s that if you set lofty expectations other than “do everything you can to ensure finishing strong” then you will often fail miserably. I held any other goals as well as the expectations of others at arms’ length, making my only goal an easy one- apply my improved fitness, experience, and elevation acclimatization to this year’s race and better my previous time of 17 hours, 36 minutes. That’s it- go faster than Memphis Me from 2014.
One thing that’s a bane to all racers is what to do on Saturday before the race other than lay around desperately trying to take a nap. Lucky me- the local farm-to-table had a field-gleaning day. They opened up the leftovers of the corn, broccoli, and cabbage harvest to the public to come in and take whatever they could find for free.
Matt and I picked for a couple of hours and then went home and took to processing it all. We blanched corn and broccoli for hours and ended up with a freezer full of veggies for the winter:
I had several gallons of broth in there prior to harvesting the veggies, so that went in the fridge to thaw. Yesterday, Matt turned the thawed broth and various veggie/potato additions in to nearly 8 gallons of soup. We’re pretty set for the winter now.
So, most of my day was spent thinking about the vegetable blanching and freezing process. Around 5pm, we were winding down and cleaned up, so I ate dinner and got all of my stuff prepped for the 10pm race start. My plan was to sustain myself off of mostly Gu Roctane gel and blueberry pomegranate drink mix. I’d grab some solid food from the aid stations as needed and carry a Snickers bar in case I got hungry between (which I did, given that the time and effort between aids one and two is long and the most difficult portion of the course).
All of the black and white pictures coming up were shot by Jeff Kerkove as part of Ergon’s coverage/support of the race.
I’m not sure who came up with the number plate strategy of distributing them in alphabetical order, but they did, so I ended up with plate number one. I felt weird about it. That number is “supposed” to go to the previous year’s winner, and they handed it to me with Josh Tostado (said winner) in line behind me. I briefly begged letting us exchange numbers, but it was already set in race-stone.
That last one is my coffee table. The map of this area stays open there 24/7 as a permanent fixture.
I sat around drinking beet juice until the last possible minute before changing and rolling to the start a block from the house.
The race begins with the most neutral rollout of any race in endurance racing history. We get a couple of miles out of town, stop for a pee/clothing adjustment break, then roll slow for a couple more miles until we get across highway 285 (safely crossing the highway as a group is the main priority for the neutral rollout). Not long after the crossing, the course turns up CR 250 towards the Colorado Trail, and the race is on.
I stayed at the very front of the group during the rollout for safety reasons, and as soon as the race started up the first road/climb, I settled into the pace I’d hold for the rest of the night and part of the next day. A lot of people passed me- according to Earl (VT125 Moto official and Manager at Absolute Bikes), who was recording numbers/times of racers as they entered the Colorado Trail, there were only 9 people behind me (out of 46 starters). I knew that there were a handful of women ahead of me, including Tracy Thelan (VT125 veteran and seasoned endurance racer). She’d taken off really fast at the start, and I knew that chasing at that time was a bad idea.
The Colorado Trail was in great shape. Afternoon rain showers meant hero dirt, so the traction was beautiful. I was feeling strong and really starting to warm up, but resisted the urge to burn any matches. I took it easy down the last CT descent (holy sketchballs) and rolled in to the first aid station. At that point, I was a little sleepy and the course ahead was daunting. However, at Aid 1, I saw a bunch of 92Fifty friends. It was a highly motivating and uplifting place to pass through at that time of night- exactly what I needed before riding off into the meat of the course.
The next few hours was more of the same. I paced myself, ate, drank, played songs in my head, and generally tried to think positive thoughts. The time flew by quickly, and, soon enough I was on the final hike-a-bike up Granite Mountain before dropping down Canyon Creek to Aid 2. I’d been only using my handlebar light on low for the anything that was non-technical climbing, and near the top of the hike, that battery finally died. It surprised me a little, and I exclaimed, “Oh, perfect timing!” The person hiking just ahead startled at my exclamation and took off up the trail. I then realized that I’d caught Tracy (for the first time).
I wasn’t in a hurry to chase at that point. It was <50 miles into the race, and the upcoming descent was really rowdy in some spots. I plugged in my backup battery, zipped my jacket, ate a snack, and generally made myself cozy before turning on the high beams and rallying down the mountain. I have some great lights (Light & Motion Seca 2000 on both handlebar and helmet), and I comfortably set a PR time down to the final bump in the trail before Aid 2.
At Aid 2, I saw Tom Purvis, and he let me know that Tracy had just left before I got there. I hit up the bathroom, refilled bottles, and ate a piece of breakfast sausage. I knew that the climb up Monarch Pass was the only thing between me and warm, dry socks and shoes. It’s also one of the parts of the course that poses the largest mental test to racers- you’ve been awake, pedaling all night, and the climb is a monotonous 9.25 miles of gravel road. The combination of sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion can be overwhelming.
I didn’t feel good up the climb, but I expected that. The sun hadn’t risen over the top of the mountains, so my body was still wondering why TF it hadn’t slept all night, and, though my pacing/eating/hydration were good, my legs and stomach were whiny. My back hurt a lot from carrying a *pack and helmet light all night.
*The pack didn’t have water in it- just my light battery and my “Alpine Kit” that I always carry when I’m going to be in the backcountry and up high for long enough to get hypothermic if I were to get caught in rain/thunder. It’s a waterproof jacket, rain pants, warm gloves, and a thin wool hat. I feel irresponsible carrying less for outings at Vapor Trail elevations. It’s saved me more than once.
I had to really work to keep it together up that climb. The back pain was terrible, though the immense amount of discomfort was doing a good job of keeping me from falling asleep while riding. My legs kept trying to slow down, but I willed them on with the thought of dropping the pack and switching to a lightweight helmet at the next aid station. I finally made it up the pass and across the short, but seemingly endless section of Continental Divide Trail that connects Old Monarch Pass to (new) Monarch Pass.
At Aid 3, I caught up to Tracy again. She was about to leave as I rolled in. I felt bad, so I dumped my bike on the ground and immediately started the process of doing what I needed to do to feel better. Right then, I was only thinking about survival and finishing, but, in the back of my mind, I knew that the short break, lightening of my clothes, and sunlight above treeline were probably going to bring me out of my hole.
Also, they had bacon and peanut butter sandwiches, which magically sounded like the most delicious thing in the world, even though my body had been rejecting all thoughts of solid food prior to that moment.
Matt was there to help out and take photos of my exhaustion.
It’s easy to dwell too long at Monarch. Everyone is nice, there’s food, and the asphalt is warm to sit on.
The knowledge that it’s possible to emerge from the sort of hole I was in is something that you only gain through many races of experience. Very slowly, the pain lessened in my back, and the full sunlight brought some awareness back to my senses. My body started to come back online, and I was able to dig up the strategy I’d thought of the night before- go back to the same pace I’d started with and then start going harder after negotiating the Starvation Creek/Poncha Creek loop.
I can only assume that all of the people being shuttled up there were told that there’d be Vapor Trail 125 racers on the Monarch Crest trail, because everyone I passed seemed to let me by quickly.
The Marshall Pass aid station sits at the top of the Starvation/Poncha Creek loop, so you pass it twice. When I arrived there, my coworkers Leah and Roland were there and let me know that Tracy had JUST left. I drank some warm Coke and saw some sort of monstrosity of a creme-filled maple-glazed doughnut that looked like the best thing in the world, so I crammed half of it in my mouth and left the other half for my return trip.
The Starvation Creek jeep road that leads to the trail takes you up a mind-melting series of rollers that seem to get progressively steeper and longer. Every time you think you’re finished with them, another bigger/steeper one is in front of you. It was there that I caught Tracy. She was walking. I got off to walk a particularly steep pitch, passed her, and then got back on my bike to ride the last one. I didn’t look back… I just started riding as if she were going full-gas to chase me down.
Somehow, at that point, it was as if I hadn’t been riding all night. I set a PR time down the Starvation Creek singletrack, then, when I made the turn to go back up Poncha Creek road, I was able to settle right back in to climb it at a decent pace. I encountered Earl on his moto about halfway up the climb, and his enthusiasm of seeing me leading the race snowballed into my energy up the climb. I ended up with the Strava QOM for the loop, knocking it out in an hour and a half.
At the top, there was some thunder in the distance. I inhaled the other half of my magical doughnut, filled just one bottle, and took off as quickly as possible. The course from there is mostly downhill (except for the parts where it’s not), so I switched from endurance pace to cross-country pace (well, as close to XC pace as you can get at mile 90something). At the top of the Silver Creek trail, I paused briefly to slam some Roctane gel and some water in order to ensure a strong finishing pace on the Rainbow Trail at the bottom.
I miraculously felt like the remainder of the course flew by. I had no idea how far back Tracy was, but I kept riding as if she were closing in fast any time I’d let up. I rolled in to the parking lot of Absolute Bikes at 2:16pm- finishing time of 16 hours and 16 minutes, and 11th overall…
As soon as I sat down, my backbone was the only thing providing my body with any structural integrity
Link to Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1178438336
Winning Vapor Trail is something I didn’t think I’d ever do. I’ve felt burnt out on endurance races for a hot minute now, so the fact that I wanted to push myself that hard was somewhat surprising (Cross Country is whole ‘nother thing that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying). I feel like this performance was a perfect last chapter to the previous 6 years of endurance-distance competitions. It feels a little conflicted, because I’ve finally gotten good at it. But, knowing how to race a 100 miler means nothing if you don’t have the motivation to do it.
The long races have always served me as a vehicle for seeing new trail and new adventure. Now, living in Salida in such close proximity to so many new trails and new adventures, I am ready to explore outside the confines of the race course.
It’s been a rainy summer here in the mountains. Saturday’s Breck 68 was no exception. I haven’t raced on this exact course since 2010, when it was my first singlespeed 100 (I am glad I don’t have the same strong feelings about the bump in the road that is French Gulch, since that climb is in basically EVERY Breckenridge bike race). I was happy to come back and do it over again with way more experience/fitness/acclimatization and without the 6:00am first lap start up Wheeler Pass.
It rained a lot. I packed the car in the rain, drove in the rain, picked up my race packet in the rain, set up my pit cooler in the rain… you get the idea. Not sprinkles, not storming (yay!), just a constant, steady rain.
There’s some variation of a quote about there never being bad conditions, just bad clothes. Saturday was no exception. The temperature in Breck was 50. However, on the drive to Breck, the temperature was 42 over Hoosier Pass- an elevation I’d be racing at more than once on course. It had also been raining all week in the mountains, so there was sure to be standing water and high creek crossings on course, even if the rain stopped.
So, I dressed for a day of 40s and rain. It’s really easy to cool off if you overdress and get hot. It’s wayyyyy harder to warm up in those conditions if you get too cold. I saw a lot of people dressed for an hour of 50 and rain. I also saw a lot of people DNF because they were hypothermic. I wore normal summer kit, waterproof socks, rain pants, a real rain jacket, and mid weight gloves. The gloves were my weak point. I don’t own an waterproof gloves. Later I was given the advice to put latex gloves under my normal gloves. That definitely would have been an improvement, given my issues with poor circulation. I also put a few extra things (cap, arm/leg warmers, warm gloves) in plastic bags inside my pack (my Osprey Rev pack with no reservoir) in case the isht really hit the fan, weather-wise. I don’t usually race with a pack, but in this case, it was important to carry the rain clothes if it got warmer and to carry the other stuff if it got colder. It’s a super light piece, so without water in it, it’s hardly noticeable.
I entered the Pro Women’s category because there wasn’t a women’s singlespeed category available at registration. Also, I have been turning course times similar to Pro women, and there’s usually money available for placing. Once the race started, though, I didn’t really pay attention to who was ahead/behind me. I figured it was going to be a long day, and that things would just shake out however as long as I was keeping a good pace.
First order of the course was to climb up to/over French Gulch. I swear that climb is smoother/easier since the first time I did it back in 2010. We descended American Gulch on the other side, where I had flashbacks from Breck Epic 2015 when Sara Sheets and I battled up that climb after trying to kill each other over two other mountain passes. At the bottom, I stopped at the aid station to refill a bottle and swap to dry gloves (the aforementioned bad circulation was biting me in the ass). It took some effort to get the dry gloves on because the muscles controlling my right fingers had basically stopped working, so it was like trying to cram wet noodles into a glove. One of the aid station workers rubbed my hand between hers to get the circulation back, and I was able to manage getting the glove on. It was a bad chunk of time to lose on course, but I feel like it was necessary for my hands to be functional in order for me to continue racing.
The next climb up the Colorado Trail is a tough one with an awesome downhill reward. The toughness level was increased by the number of wet roots on the steep parts. I walked a good bit. That was also the warmest part of my time on course. I removed my rain gear and stuffed it into my pack. At the bottom of an really awesome descent, I filled another bottle and headed out over the last hump of that loop (Tiger Road) before rolling back in to Carter Park and starting loop #2.
At the park, I grabbed my windbreaker out of my stuff. The rain had started alternating on/off, and it was a little windy and chilly, so it felt like the right clothing for the rest of the day. I kept my rain jacket & pants in my pack, because, even though the weather seemed to be improving, it could potentially turn to downpours at any time. I don’t screw around when it comes to weather in the backcountry.
The 2nd loop started with a hard climb up Indiana Creek to Boreas Pass. Again, I had some flashbacks from Breck Epic. Once at the top of Boreas Pass, the course goes down the Gold Dust Trail. It was there, that I had my only wreck of the day on a wet, sketchy, high-speed, off-camber bridge. If you want to hear the details, you have to listen to the latest episode of Just Riding Along. It’s funny in a self-deprecating way.
The Gold Dust Trail seems to go on forever, but I eventually made it to Como, where I fueled up in order to start the long climb back up Boreas Pass. I gathered all of my mental energy and made it my goal to have empty shells of legs at the top of the pass. That worked out really well, because I suddenly found myself approaching the aid station before I was expecting it. I could smell the barn from there, so I hauled ass over the top without stopping.
Somewhere on the last singletrack, another singlespeeder caught up to me. I asked if he wanted to get by, and he mentioned that we were racing each other. I told him that even though I was singlespeed, I was definitely entered in the Pro category. Fun fact of the race I figured out later- I ended up finishing a little less than 1 min behind him. If I had turned on “ludicrous speed” for the last downhill and beaten him instead of staying “conservative” and letting him by, I would have been 2nd singlespeeder of the day behind Dan Durland.
Looking at the results page for just the 68 mile race (not the 100 or the 32), here are your rain/cold Did Not Finish/Start (DNF/DNS) stats:
4 DNFs during the 1st lap (started the course and quit before the end of the 1st lap)
26 DNFs who finished a 1st lap and didn’t start a 2nd
16 DNSs (people who looked out the window that morning and were like, “Nah”)
Hopefully some of those 46 people can read this and take it as advice on dealing with the weather. I’ve been hypothermic more than once in the middle of summer in Colorado, so I’m coming from a place of lots of personal experiences in doing it wrong.
I ended up 2nd overall woman by about 14 minutes.
Carbon Drive is really awesome in those conditions. The only complaint about my drivetrain was the freehub on the Stan’s Neo Ultimate rear hub. It was popping/creaking during the race, and making me feel like it was going to catastrophically fail at any point. When I took it apart on Monday, I found that the rubber seal between the hub shell and freehub body had failed to keep mud out. The low points of the drive ring were filled with mud, and the lubricating grease had become mud-fouled as well. I cleaned/re-lubed everything, but I don’t know if it caused permanent damage. After years of Industry Nine reliability, I’m not at all impressed with the performance or reliability of the Neo Ultimate hub.
I’m still pretty shelled from the effort. It was a really nice hard day of training for Vapor Trail 125, though.
Before we get started, I just want to mention that the deer in Salida are pretty out of control. They aren’t afraid of people, and sometimes even act aggressively towards pets. They also poop everywhere.
Now that’s over, time for Adventure Dump #2. Matt came to visit, and since he has been living at sea level since mid-may, I made the riding plans sub-epic (I don’t GAF, I’m taking that word back). It was perfect timing for more reasonable adventure, because I was racing on a duo team for Firecracker 50 the Tuesday following Matt’s visit.
Day 1, we rode Marshall Pass up to the Continental Divide/Colorado Trail to Starvation Creek. Afterwards, we hung out at the river and visited the local shooting range. I’ve shot plenty of shotguns and a rifle or two, but it was my first time shooting a handgun. It’s definitely a little harder to aim.
Day 2, we rode some Colorado Trail from Blank’s Cabin. The section from Blank’s to the Angel of Shavano Campground is one of my favorites because of the Aspens.
Day 3 was definitely the raddest. We caught the first shuttle of the year up to the Monarch Crest Trail. I had only ridden the full trail twice- once on my first-ever trip to Salida and once during Vapor Trail 125 (I honestly don’t remember much of the VT125 passage because I’d been riding all night).
There were still a couple of large snowdrifts to hike over.
It’s a lot of fun to play around above treeline for a handful of miles on a clear/sunny day.
We stopped at my favorite water refill spot on Marshall Pass. I’ve been using an MSR Trailshot filter and loving it.
You might notice from the photos that I put the RS1 fork on the 429sl. If you haven’t already heard me talk about it on Just Riding Along, I will say it again here- the RS1 is the cross-country Pike that I’ve always dreamt about. It’s not SID-WC light (weighs in between 1600-1700g), but it’s stiff, plush, and freaking awesome. If you have the $$, and you’re on the fence about it, I say go for it.
The three days of “normal person” adventures was a perfect lead-in to the Firecracker 50 race. I teamed up with Brad Berger- one of my other new-this-season Gates Carbon Drive teammates. He hammered a 2:12 lap, which put me someplace in the top 10 of 65 teams. I managed to reel in some of the ladies ahead of me, but also got passed by Cody (who turned a 2:02 lap)- the dude half of the eventual winners. My lap time was 2:27- fastest of any of the women who were on teams, and comparable to the mid-pack pro times. We ended up in 3rd place… not shabby, considering we were the only SS team on the podium.
The short/hard effort of XC-distance racing is a good blast of intensity to keep the watts topped off while I’m exploring for hours otherwise. With a couple of days of hard rest, I was ready for the hike-a-bike extravaganza that was my next weekend off/next blog post.
So many adventures, so little time.
It’s been long enough since these two races happened that I don’t remember a lot about them to report other than copious amounts of sweat, dirt, and heavy breathing.
I’d been conflicted about whether to race the Colorado XC State Championships in Eagle or to race the Beti Bike Bash back on the Front Range. I ended up going to Eagle because I’d never ridden there, and it avoided taking a day off of work (the Beti Bike Bash was on Sunday in Bear Creek Lake Park where I raced my season opener).
Other than having a hard time finding the start line, the Eagle Race went extremely well. I only had one other singlespeed competitor, and I won by a few minutes.
While I was waiting for the podium, I ate the only restaurant meal I’ve purchased since I moved. If you only do it once every few months, $14 for a burger is totally worth it.
I wasn’t planning on attending the GoPro Games. It’s a huge freaking circus of vendors and various “extreme” sports lodged in a whitebread resort town… basically the sort of venue I avoid at all costs. However, I happened to look at their website early in the week, “just to check it out” and noticed that the singlespeed category was getting PAID. $500 for a win? Yeah, I’ll deal with the other crap to have a go at that. I also knew that sort of payout would bring out some competition, but, given my power numbers from the Eagle race, I felt ready to take on anyone.
Two other racers were at the start- Gretchen Reeves and Sara Sheets. That’s about as high as you can stack a 3-person singlespeed field. When we took off, I got the holeshot up the first hill and on to the singletrack
Gretchen came back with small attacks at the top of the first couple of short climbs, edging ahead of me to get into the downhills first. I definitely wasn’t rubbing her back tire down those, either. She was pinned. We started up the long climb of the course, and I ever-so-slowly pulled ahead. Again, the powermeter was clutch for pacing.
The course switchbacked several times, and each time I’d turn and look back, Gretchen was a tiny bit further back. I got to the top of the long climb and hauled ass back down. Once I started in on the second lap, I didn’t see Gretchen anymore, but I kept it in my head to not let up because she was RIGHT THERE.
I rode the entire lap with the mental image of her chasing me down if I slowed at all (my power was a little higher up the long climb on the second lap). It paid off…
I think a big part of my success this season is having good sponsors to work for. Gates and Spot have given me some really good stuff to go out and hammer on. And, while SRAM isn’t “officially” a sponsor, that RS-1 that I’ve ended up loving more than any other fork in the world was the answer to my “I want to try an RS-1 if I can get one for free” plea. It also helps that I’m in a city I love. It’s almost like the layer of stress I felt in the crowded Front Range has converted into a layer of power living in Salida.
The adventures here are unlimited. Like I referenced before- it’s hard to not go out for an all-day exploration the Thursday before (or the Thursday after) a race weekend.
Nearly two weeks ago, it was re-enforced in my brain that people’s memories about the difficulty of a trail system are highly subjective and very skewed towards the difficult portions of said trail. I’d been warned repeatedly of the tech that awaited me in Gunnison and had people freak out a little when I mentioned that I’d be singlespeeding it.
The Gunnison trails used in the Gunnison Growler course are mostly buff, smooth dirt. If I had to guess a percentage, I’d say 90% of the course was silky smooth, flowy, bermy sage surfing. The other ten percent is where the trail crosses a rock formation- probably ten to twenty feet at a time’s worth of rock garden navigating. Apparently, those rocky punctuation marks in the trail burn a lasting impression in to people’s brains moreso than the silky parts, because based on the descriptions I’d heard, I was expecting it to be the the other way around.
The difficulty in the race for me was singlespeeding it- not because of the terrain itself, but because the race started with the bane of all singlespeed existence: the “neutral” rollout.
A “neutral” rollout is where you’re in spin-coast purgatory, burning matches at 120rpms and hoping to hell that you don’t get spit out the back of the group as the lead vehicle gradually accelerates to speeds that far exceed your (and even a lot of geared riders’) ability to hold on. According to people I talked to following the race, the “neutral” rollout from town to the race course ~4 miles away was rolling in excess of 25mph for the last two miles. Needless to say, my belt-drive equivalent to 32×20 gearing had me riding off the back for a mile or two before hitting the dirt.
It’s worth adding in here that Sunday’s full-distance Growler course (two 32 mile laps) was accompanied by a non-competitive Half Growler ride (one 32 mile lap). The competitive version of the Half Growler was on Saturday.
What I’m getting at here is that the combination of a fast rollout and an additional bolus of less competitive riders on course meant that I hit the singletrack with people who tended to granny gear the climbs and walk the technical spots. No bad vibes to them… they were doing alright and having a good time. They were pleasant to be around and generally courteous. However, I went in trying to race, and, for the first 32 miles of dirt, was in a conga line of 10-20 people, and couldn’t. I’d try to pass a person or two, only to have them pass me back on the intermittent dirt roads in the first half of the course. The second half of the course, there just wasn’t room to pass 5-10 people at a time without being a jackass.
I re-adjusted my expectations somewhere on the first lap and rolled in to the pit area feeling nice and warmed up, ready to kill my second lap of much more open trail. The second lap was pretty great. I had free reign over the climbs and rode most of the technical stuff. Other than the rollout, the course is pretty great for singlespeeding.
Back when I’d entered the Growler, I didn’t know if I’d have a team bike ready or not, so I’d just entered the Pro division instead of singlespeed (I was the only woman on a singlespeed doing the full version, anyway). I ended up finishing 5th in the Pro category. I didn’t think I’d get any sort of prize (the podium was 3 deep at the Saturday half), so I committed the pro-faux-pas of leaving before my podium presentation. I was already home when friend/COSprings singlespeed legend Dan Durland sent me this photo:
I don’t want to dwell too much on the race logistics that made the Growler less of a race for me (I’m just repeating them here because they’re pretty relevant to a race report post). It was still a fun time on a gorgeous, unique course. I still had a killer day of training- I left with tired legs and more skill than I’d started with. So, I consider it a success.