The Golden Giddyup that Wasn’t

We’ve talked about it on the JRA Podcast, but, if you’re like me, and don’t listen to podcasts, then this is news to you…

A few weeks ago, I was racing the Golden Giddyup. It was a cool race- one of the only opportunities riders will ever have to ride some favorite Front Range trails as a closed course. The course featured both uphill and downhill timed stages, and you could bring whatever bike you wanted depending on where you wanted to focus your speed. Since it’s not terribly difficult to knock out an uphill time on a normal weekday without ruining other trail users’ fun, I decided to take full advantage of the closed course and bring out the Mach 6 for maximum shreddage on the downhill stages.

I wasn’t the only one who was thinking the same way. There are a handful of ladies around here that are incredibly fast downhill, and they were all lined up at the start. I was stoked that the Open Women’s category was the wave to go just behind the Open Men. This meant that we likely wouldn’t be dealing with a dude who wouldn’t let us pass on a stage, which had been one of my biggest fears, given dude’s track records for just looking over their shoulder and trying to go faster when anyone is behind them (especially a woman) and wants to get by.

Stage 1 was uphill on a section of the Chimney Gulch trail (you can look at the Strava page I’ll post a link to below if you need some help knowing where that is). I went kinda hard, but not really. The Mach 6 is a little on the heavy side (around 28 pounds), and it gets a little unwieldy on steep, technical stuff because the bottom bracket is low and the front wheel likes to be off the ground… you know, all the stuff that makes it great at going downhill. So, I ended up walking a rocky section and soon after, pulling over to let the woman behind me pass (somehow I still managed a 3rd fastest time out of the group up that one).

Stage 2 was down the Enchanted Forest and Apex Trails. I got to the start of the stage ahead of the other women and went as soon as I could. Enchanted Forest is cool because, unlike every other exposed, loose-over-hard front range trail, it’s tread is comparatively soft and grippy… and it’s through a forest, as the name suggests. It’s the perfect sort of place for the Mach 6 to shine. It’s got steep downhill droppy root sections that, if you have the nerve for it, you can let loose and straight line. I was doing just that (see Strava page for proof): https://www.strava.com/activities/717363117

I was feeling really good- somewhere on the edge of being out of control, but not quite. Suddenly, at the end of the Enchanted Forest before the course turned on to the Apex trail, I was hauling the mail down the last major root section, when I heard a bad POWCRACK noise and almost instantaneously lost control of my bike. I managed to lay it down somehwat gently, considering the speed at which I was traveling. I quickly gathered myself off the track to try and continue, but when I picked up my bike, realized that my top shock eyelet had failed… catastrophically. As in, it went from being an O to being a C.

I was sad.

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I walked my broken machine down the Apex trail to the neutral support at the bottom, where everyone gawked and said they’d never seen that happen before. I continued being sad and had a shot of Wild Turkey 101 and a slice of bacon.

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The following Monday, I called up Pivot and explained what happened. It wasn’t their part that had failed, but, in the process of the Fox part failing, the linkage had broken the seat tube on the Mach 6.

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Even though it wasn’t technically “their fault,” they agreed to warranty the frame, though in order for them to get a warranty shock from Fox, I ended up having to prove to Fox that I hadn’t driven my bike into the roof of a garage whilst it was attached to a roof rack… which wasn’t all that hard to do, considering I had strava, chip timing info, and a couple of people who were willing to vouch for me (including a professional photographer who took a photo of my broken bike on course when I walked past her), and a solid lack of owning a roof rack or being friends with anyone who does.

Don’t expect that sort of treatment from all bike companies. There are some out there that would have given me a warranty shock and crash replacement pricing (maybe) on a new frame, rather than a warranty. Pivot is pretty rad, though, and in the words of their warranty guy, “we want you to be stoked on your bike.”

That, I am. I should have a new Mach 6 back in the stable any day now.

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Winter Park to Boulder- Hood-Rich Transients, Volume 1

In my last post, I lamented on the difficulty of making the race/ride home adventure in one day. My work-around idea was to make it in two. So, for the final Winter Park race, I made additional plans and brought a friend.

Since there was some money available for the top three Pro spots at the final installment of the Winter Park XC race, I decided to put the Mach 429 in “race mode” and moved up from the Singlespeed category. This meant swapping the Pike for the SID World Cup and the I9 Trail 24 wheels for the Carbon Pillar Ultralight set. While it doesn’t feel as solid bombing downhill as with the Pike, I’m still “fast enough” downhill to be more than competitive in cross country racing at any level.

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I had a good race. I raced hard. The only snag I hit was when I passed two of my competitors on the first and longest descent of the day, only to be blocked by a dude I caught who had started TWO MINUTES ahead of me. I asked him to get around, and all he’d do was look over his shoulder and try to go faster, which wasn’t that fast. The second woman I’d passed earlier in the descent caught back up to me pretty quickly, and when we popped out of the trail on to the forest road, she called him a dick, and we continued racing (she’d had a front row seat to the whole, painful ordeal).

I digress.

I otherwise raced my heart out and ended up 4th behind Amy Beisel, Evelyn Dong, and Ally Faller. If you follow women’s cross country racing in the U.S. you’ve probably heard of the first two, but watch for the third one… she’s only 18, and she is kind of a monster. Though I was out of the money in the Pro category, I took home the overall singlespeed win for the series- something that had eluded me the previous year.

I crossed the finish line and regained my composure, then headed back to the car to eat and strap my bags on to my bike. At the time, the thought of climbing another 2,500 feet with a fully loaded bike seemed like an insurmountable task, but the weather looked clear, and Amanda was excited to get going. I was committed.

We headed off across the highway to Corona Pass Road, which would take us up and over the Continental Divide before we’d make our way down in to Nederland for dinner and camping. The views up there are something I can’t describe in available English language words:

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We reached the top eventually… I wasn’t really watching the time.

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On the other side, there are a series of abandoned train trestle crossings. Here’s a link to the story of Corona/Rollins Pass that you can read if you’re interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollins_Pass

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We descended the pass via the Jenny Creek jeep road- an adventure in and of itself. It takes you to the Eldora Ski area just outside of Nederland, where we were just a quick road ride away from pizza…

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The hippie pizza restaurant in Ned is also an experience. The person cooking the pizzas probably consumes more weed than he does pizza. We sat around in the brewery and listened to bluegrass and consumed large quantities of food (and a small quantity of beer). I called us hood-rich transients. Thus, the name of this adventure- Hood-Rich Transients, Volume 1.

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I’d be willing to bet money that Nederland has the highest per-capita rate of dreadlocks of any city in the world.

After filling up, we headed out to the woods to camp. There’d been reports of transients living in the campground, but Amanda knew of a spot far away from the transient camp. The adventure to get there was one of those where I quit believing her when she told me how close/easy to get to the spot we were going to was. It was OK, though, because it was a great spot where no one would be likely to come across our camp, and, as an added bonus, the view in the morning was amazing.

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In the morning, we packed up and rolled down to the Peak to Peak highway and up to Magnolia Road, which would take us back towards Boulder, where I was to be at work at 12pm.

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We stopped on Flagstaff Road- the final descent back in to reality- to take a picture at an overlook that really gave a sense of where  we’d come from. In the picture, we crossed the mountains just out of frame to the left.

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At the bottom, we at mass quantities of real food breakfast, and I clocked in right on time.

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I can’t really describe (again) how great of an adventure it was. I’m hooked on bikepacking now.

Oh yeah, and just to give my setup so far, since a lot of people tend to ask- most of it is made by J.Pak. The bottle/light battery/trash holders on the bars are Ruksacks, the top tube bag (most of my food fit in there) is a Snakpak, the seat bag (all my sleeping gear) is also made by him. I also used a Blackburn Cargo cage with a dry bag to carry some sleep clothes, a couple of extra layers for morning riding, and a rain jacket. If I were to need to carry real food/a stove, I’d probably try another cargo cage for that. I need something a little tougher than the dry bag, though.

 

Racing and Stuff

Jeez, it’s been two Winter Parks ago since I posted…

I’ve continued my trend of fun-rides and it’s worked out pretty well. Winter Park #4 was part of the Colorado Freeride Festival, so, unbeknownst to me, they offered a decent prize purse to the Pro racers. Even though some bigger hammers than usual showed up, I still could have finished in the money. Oh, Well…  I still picked up the SS win.
#4 was also my vain attempt at riding back to Lakewood from Winter Park. I’d planned accordingly with the exception of actually paying attention to the fact that finish times for that course were a full hour longer than the previous courses. I started up Corona Pass far too late in the day to make it through White Ranch before the sun started to set (and the park would be closed), so I ended up turning back just a few miles in to the ride. I decided that the only WPXC race with the right combination of “late enough that the snow has melted” and “early enough for the most daylight” is #3- the Race Rendezvous course.

Winter Park #5 was definitely the best course of all the courses. It was Point-to-Point style, starting in the ski area, and ending somewhere in the mountains west of Fraser. It was mostly singletrack, and played well to someone with both lots of fitness and very good bike handling skills. Even though I was singlespeed, I felt really good, so I took off after the Pro and Expert women up the first climb. After some jockeying for position in the first 5 miles, I was in 2nd place behind a young expert lady (who has been blasting everyone at a majority of the races. Despite my effort to try and chase her down, I never saw her, and I ended up 2nd overall, less than a minute ahead of Pro racer Kathy, who’d been chasing me all day. It was the perfect combination of course and fitness.

I discovered a new favorite (albeit too expensive to do often) recovery activity the Tuesday following the race when we went back to Winter Park with big bikes for some lift service riding. It’s like going to an amusement park, but with bikes and purpose-built downhill trails instead of sketchy-ass roller coasters assembled by carnies.

Somewhere woven in with all of that, I’ve been working my ass off. I did some mechanical support at Ironman Boulder. Triathletes are weird… it’s like a whole other sport that just happens to involve a bike. The bikes I saw were akin to a dog kept on a chain in the back yard- you definitely own it, but you don’t think about it much, and only really care for it enough to keep it alive.

The best part of the weekend was walking in to the shop tent and seeing another lady mechanic standing there. We shared a brief part of a second of surprise before getting to work fixing everyone’s clapped out stuff. Of course, I just took a picture of Knobby the dog, because that’s how I roll.

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Random bike…

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Also between races, I rode up to Squaw Pass. On the way down, I spotted a massive elk just chillin’ next to someone’s driveway just outside of Evergreen. If I had to guess, I’d say part of why he’s so large is because he terrorizes the local gardens. He also wasn’t very afraid of me. As someone highly wary of moose, I wasn’t very comfortable getting any closer than “across the road.” I don’t know how aggressive elk are, though I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of one trampling anyone. Better safe than sorry, right?

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With one more Winter Park XC left, I’m going to switch it up a little for the final race (where there is, once again, some $$ available for the Pros). I’m going to put the Mach 429sl into XC mode with my carbon wheels and SID World Cup fork (it currently rolls on a Pike, because the Pike is awesome) in hopes of taking home a little cash. We’ll see how it all shakes out. My work/commute to Boulder has me pretty exhausted most of the time, so I’ve had to really make time to get a hard effort or two in before the work day.

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At least I work right at the base of a kickass climb up Flagstaff.

If all goes according to plan, this weekend after WP#6, I’ll go to the podium party then ride off in to the woods for an overnight adventure with my (former) coworker Amanda, Indy wrangler and bikepacker extraordinaire.

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Dis-Organized Training

You may have noticed that my race report was absent following the previous Winter Park race weekend (way back on the 9th). I went to bed the night before with a slightly sore throat and woke up the next morning feeling like five pounds of shit in a 10-pound sack. I still raced, and I still won singlespeed, but I didn’t have the punch to pull off another overall win, finishing 3rd out of the women’s starters.

The next day, I went to my second ever jujitsu tournament. It was pretty small compared to the previous one, meaning I only had one other person to compete against. My lone competitor was fierce, but I won the first match via armbar and the second via triangle, giving me the gold.

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I’m testing for another stripe on the belt Thursday night, and I’ll be racing again at Winter Park this weekend.

I have to admit, I’ve somewhat lost my drive to do any sort of organized training plan. The dis-organized riding here is so great that I basically hit up Valmont Bike part before work a couple of days a week and try to get out for some sort of longer adventure on my two days off and Sunday mornings before work. The result is a general tapering off in fitness gains, but a gradual onset of awesomeness everywhere else. So, I’m not too concerned about it.

Since the last time I posted, I’ve ridden a big loop at Buffalo Creek, including the new Little Scraggy trail (sorry, no pics), I’ve taken Brandon, the service manager at the shop who just moved from Chicago, up Mt. Falcon and down Lair of the Bear, explored the Bard Creek trail with Jake, and went on a pre-work trail hunt with Clayton (which also resulted in nabbing a Boulder Strava QOM as we were hammer-down descending back to the shop, trying not to be late).

If you have ever lived someplace else besides Colorado, and then you move here, it gives you a whole ‘nother level of appreciation for the fact that, in an hour and a half of either riding or driving from the house, you can be in some pretty amazing places.

The Bard Creek trail is one of those places. Jake and I made a shuttle out of it, parking a car in Empire, and driving another to the Herman Gulch trailhead. We found out rather quickly that, while the trail is 100% legal for cycling, it is 100% a hiking trail. Most of the trail was extremely narrow (that is, in the places where the trail actually existed as more than just a sight line between cairns) and extremely steep. It also runs mostly above treeline (from about mile 1.5 to mile 10.5), making it as awe-inspiring as it is aerobically challenging.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that we likely hike-a-biked for 7 of its 15 miles. Our average speed was 3.6 miles per hour. You can see the map on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/651266584/overview

That’s about as solid of a trail as you get up there. The rest was cairn-hunting and following a GPS track on Jake’s Garmin:

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You know you’re way up there when the elevation makes your Gu packaging all puffy:

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A high Alpine lake… you almost can’t tell that there’s water in it because it’s so clear:

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Spot the cairns #1:

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Some hike-a-bike:

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Spot the cairn #2 (hint, it’s not the bush in the middle):

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Eventually we made our way down through some thick aspens and a soggy creek bed

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The final big view of the day on Empire Pass. It’s pretty amazing that the entire time, we were so incredibly isolated, yet never too far from a major interstate:

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It’s hard to convey in pictures and words on the internet the feeling of being in such a remote and beautiful place so close to where I live. It’s like every day off is a single-day dream vacation.

Working doesn’t suck, either. I periodically get to be a bike wizard/hero and save someone’s vacation/race/charity ride…

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…not trying to brag with the postcard pics…

I just know that posting them here will make my mom happy.

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.

 

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.

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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.

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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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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…

Ode to the Surly Crosscheck

Hop in your way-back machine and set it for the Fall of 2008. I was in the process of changing road teams (from Kenda to Metro Volkswagen), and I decided that I wanted to race a little cyclocross, but that I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a bike, AND I wanted something that could be flipped between fixed gear and singlespeed. So, I went to Bikes Plus in Germantown and got this:

I ran it fixed gear for a hot minute before I realized that riding a fixed gear sucks ass.

Soon after, I decided that I wanted to race a gravel grinder (way before they were as popular as they are now). I set it up 1×9 with some old Shimano stuff we had laying around the house. Before you say anything… I’m not really sure what was up with that stem. It was definitely before I understood the concept of “stack and reach,” and it also had a small-sized clamp, so I think I just wanted something longer than stock (TWSS), and that’s what was around the house.

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In case you were wondering, that was the first time of many I raced (and had my ass handed to me by) Cary Lowery.

In the years following, it went back to being a SSCX bike. I rode it in a SSCX race at the National Championships in Kansas City (it was a non-championship race, and I raced against the dudes… and Betsy Shogren).

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…and later it became a wannabe mountain bike with a flat bar, a Kenda Karma 2.1 on the front, and some sort of small Bontrager “mountain bike” tire on the back…

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It kinda sat around for a while after that. I got really nice, pimped-out carbon cross bikes, placed 3rd in Masters Worlds a couple of times, then decided that having two full race seasons per year was no longer what I wanted to do. So, I sold the fancy carbon rides, and the Crosscheck was once again my CX steed. This time, with a plethora of “leftovers” from other bikes that had come and gone through the stable:

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I raced it in one or two SSCX It’s basically in the same iteration now, except it’s got my I9 road wheels and a set of fat road tires on it. I use it for a good portion of road training and grocery getting now. For training, I’ve been riding it up Lookout Mountain on a 40×16. It’s a haul, but it’s been an integral part of getting ready for competition team tryouts.

I’ve alluded to it a couple of times, but, since I’m pretty limited on ride time and ability to travel because of Indy’s failing mental health, I’m pouring a lot of energy in to MMA at The Training Camp. Tomorrow afternoon, I’m trying out for the competition team. It’ll open up the opportunity to train and compete in Jujitsu, Muay Thai, and eventually, another go at MMA.

You can find bikes like the Crosscheck pretty easily now, but, at the time, there weren’t many of them. If you’ve got piles of random bike parts around your house, I’d highly recommend dropping a little cash for a frame and making it in to, well, whatever you want… as I have for the past few years as my mood, needs, and interests changed.

Doping in Memphis

Winter is tightening its grip on the Front Range. I’ve taken a lot of my physical activity indoors with the recent revisiting of MMA. You might remember last time that I trained a good bit in MMA, I lost a fight and ended up with a broken-as-hell nose. In the following months after that, John Trent, who I’d been training with, sold his gym, and I was only able to get back in for Jujitsu classes for a few months before moving away.

Fast forward, and now that I’m not living high up in the mountains a long drive from civilization, I’ve found a new MMA home at The Training Camp. I’m starting slow, unlearning a few bad habits, honing good ones, and learning piles of new ones. There’s a large amount of experience under one roof there. I’m looking forward to trying out for the competition team in January.

Speaking of competition, one of the master’s dudes from Memphis finally got popped for doping, this time for testosterone and Ritalin: Master’s 40+ Winner Busted

It’s sad in lots of ways… mainly because I know Todd Hickman is a really nice guy. If you didn’t click that link before you met him, you’d think so, too. He’s never the guy that you hate to see show up for a group ride. I’ve always suspected that there are other 40+ dudes in Memphis who are taking testosterone (and/or ritalin, which is just as easy to get a script for from your family doctor). Most of those dudes have gigantic egos and tend to reside on the “asshole” end of the “how nice are you?” scale. So, it’s sad that it was Todd and not one of them.
It’s sort of like if a group of cars passed you on the interstate doing 110mph. One of the driver tailgates you and flashes his lights at you and another one seems to exercise some sort of common courtesy to pass you before speeding back up to his group. Later down the road, you see that the one who’d not acted like a dick has been pulled over by a Trooper and the rest of the group continued on without him at 110mph. You’re glad that one driver doing something dangerous is off the road, but you wish it was the dude who’d acted like a jerk.

I hope that Todd’s experience and punishment (4-year ban) is a wake up call to any other Memphis-area masters racers who are riding down the same road. I hope that Todd comes back clean in 4 years and continues to ride and race, because he’s a kind-hearted person who screwed up real bad.

Maybe I’m naive in saying so, but as a female, I feel like there’s much less concern about my competition being dopers (with the exception of maybe some of the upper-level racing I’ve done). For one, a 40 year old woman can’t waltz in to her doctor’s office and claim sexual dysfunction in order to get a (out-of-competition) legal prescription of testosterone. So, we’ve got that going for us. Also, women generally just get faster with age (to a point, of course). Outside of confounding life factors, it’s not like a 35 year old woman can tell a huge difference between her ability to train and recover the way she did when she was 22 because of a change in her hormone levels. While the allure of things like stimulants and EPO might still be there, the draw to take testosterone is less than that of men.

Anyways…

I went back South for Thanksgiving last week. Unfortunately, the weather was terrible, so my plan to hit Syllamo on the way back home was thwarted by torrential amounts of rain. I did get to ride bar bikes with Kenny one night

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We cruised Germantown neighborhoods then stopped at Huey’s for burgers. I’ve taken to ordering an Old Fashioned at any bar I go to, just to see what I get. While it’s an incredibly simple drink, what usually comes out it some sort of watered down shot of whiskey with a cherry and an orange slice in it that may or may not actually contain bitters. I’ve only found one bar so far (the Golden Moon Speakeasy, where my love of Old Fashions first began) that actually makes one as good as (better, actually) what I make in my kitchen.

Other highlights of my trip back to Memphis included sushi dinner with the parents-

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Low point? Getting a speeding ticket two hours from being back home in Denver. The trooper had no mercy on me even though little Indy was crying/howling in his crate because he had to potty. If you’re wondering, the price of doing 82mph in a 75mph zone in Colorado is $98.50.

That’s mostly it for now. Time to do some yoga before work.