Monarch Crest- No Shuttle

The weekend of the Mt. Antero adventure didn’t stop with said adventure. Though, I did take Friday as a recovery day. I ran errands all morning then went tubing for the first time in the afternoon. Tubing may be my next favorite recovery day activity. I grabbed a tube and some advice from SUPDVK (only a block from the shop), and headed to a popular put-in spot a few miles west of town.

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Then, I put forth no effort other than to float down the river and occasionally flap my arms for the next couple of hours. I did manage to go full send into the water on one of the rapids, which was more fun and exciting than it was scary. As I neared the boat ramp by the shop, shop-owner Shawn happened to be near the river and caught it on camera:

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To make sure it was a full-blown recovery day, I took the shop errand bike back to my car-

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Because I went full send on recovering, I had the legs for another big adventure on Saturday. I really wanted to ride either north or further south on the Continental Divide Trail than the traditional Monarch Crest section. However, the shop shuttle to Monarch Pass was full. So, I decided I’d ride up to the Crest via North Fooses Creek (N Fooses is all doubletrack access road and takes you up close to the start of the Crest Route, and South Fooses is the Colorado Trail section that connects to the Crest Route a few more miles south of Monarch Pass).

I decided I’d once again tack on a little extra Colorado Trail to the beginning of my ride and then explore one of the trails other than Silver Creek off of the Crest Route.

The Route:
https://www.strava.com/activities/1074173637

The section of Colorado Trail from Blank’s Cabin to Highway 50 is excellent. It includes a flowy aspen tunnel, a steep techy descent, and a very rideable climb out of Shavano Campground. Once across Highway 50, the climb up to the Continental Divide is long and one of the less interesting, more character building efforts in the area. It’s a little Jekyll & Hyde- once you pass the split where the Colorado Trail goes up South Fooses Creek, North Fooses turns more doubletrack-y and rough, but never incredibly steep… until it goes all the way steep a few miles up.

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Of course, in photos, it looks pretty rideable. In real life, it’s basically a wall of loose rock.

As I was pushing up, I could see rain/thunder clouds passing over the area I was headed to. Just like with Antero two days before, I made the decision to keep pushing and watch the storm path. I eventually made it to the top behind the storm.

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Once I was on Monarch Crest, I rode pretty hard. There were no storms right then, but they were definitely in the area. I decided on checking out the Green’s Creek Trail. As I found the top of it, the rain started (pretty sure that black cloud in the background of the above photo is what I was under). Thankfully, I was well under treeline by then, and there really wasn’t any hail or lightning.

The Green’s Creek trail is, however, very rooty and rocky… and, in this instance, very wet. It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden wet roots. Honestly, I don’t know when I learned to do so, but somehow, I’m guessing just through instinct, I was able to do it. You basically have to point your bike in a general direction and not touch the brakes until your braking tire is not touching a wet root…

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It takes nerves of feckin’ steel. I found the limits of the cross country bike in both rear wheel travel and lightweight brakes. You either go really fast because you can only brake where it’s not wet/rocky/rooty, or you walk. Somewhere in the middle isn’t an option… I know, because as I got tired, I tried to slow down, and it resulted in slipping/falling more than once.

Somewhere before the bottom, the rain stopped, and it was warm and sunny. I stopped at the trailhead to refill my water bottles and let the last few miles of riding soak in before rolling back down to town. Unlike my previous adventure, the wind was pointed towards town, and I rolled back in with a grin on my face.

The Circumnavigation of Mt. Antero

The weekend following Firecracker 50, I was jonesing for big rides. I need some soul-crushing adventures in order to prep for Vapor Trail 125 in September. It’s a race that’s equally demanding mentally as it is physically.

Inspired by Jeff Kerkove’s route up/around Mt. Antero using the jeep road and Brown’s Creek trail, I talked to a few people with more trail knowledge than myself and planned a similar route that included more Colorado Trail as well as Little Brown’s Creek instead. I came up with this: https://www.strava.com/activities/1071335857 . Riding from town adds a good dose of steady pedaling as well as at least 1k ft of elevation gain. I also enjoy staring at the mountains as I approach them and trying to discern what my passage is going to be from a distance.
In this picture, Antero is the tallest peak with Mt. White just to its left. My route traversed across the base of Antero into the valley on the right, then up the back and across the saddle between Antero and White before traversing south to the base of Shavano off to the left of the picture.

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The first part of the Colorado trail was rough. The connector to the Colorado Trail from the Brown’s Creek trailhead on FS272 has been torn up and heavily shat upon by equestrian traffic. There was a trailer load of 10-20 horses at the trailhead. They’ve widened and pulverized the tread of several miles of trail into several inches of powder that’s a mix of what used to be trail combined with urine and feces. You can literally smell the trail when riding/hiking on it. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I’ve ridden miles of ATV and moto trails out here, and those vehicles don’t cause nearly the tread damage that horse traffic has caused.

I digress.

I eventually made it to the Antero Jeep Road. It’s gnarly and steep the entire way up. There’s no rest unless you just stop.

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I heard thunder as I was starting to climb. My first instinct was to turn and go home, but I told myself that it was going to be a solid hour or more before I was near treeline, so I should make the decision there since the storm would likely move on by then. I talked to a couple of downward-bound hikers, and they said it’d just stormed like mad, but it seemed to have moved off for now. Once I was up high and the hike-a-bike was becoming more sustained, the skies looked grey, but not too foreboding. There were piles of pea-sized hail all over the place. I pushed on up some pretty tough pitches- in several places, the road bed is just loose-ish softball-to-basketball sized rocks.

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Once the road starts to switchback, it becomes slightly more rideable. The grade isn’t terrible, but, at the 12-13k elevation span, the watts available to get up small rocky punches and loose spots are greatly diminished.

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Above treeline is one of my favorite places, ever. I could’ve stayed up there a long time, but, after a snack and getting my windbreaker zipped up, I headed down into that saddle where the trails look like they converge:

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The view at that spot looks like the trail drops off into the sky:

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Once I was on the trail, it was standard Alpine rugged-as-ufck with a big snowfield at the top.

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It was really tough riding until the trail ducked into the treeline. Then, it was a mixture of flowy and techy rocks until the last mile or so when it began including intermittent punchy climbs before t-ing in to the Colorado Trail.

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The ride back home was the soul-crushing nail in the coffin. The CT traverse back to south to Blank’s Cabin rolls up and down/in and out of drainages for what seems like an endless number of miles before arriving to the Blank’s Cabin trailhead. The ride back in to town from there is almost all downhill. It was also almost all into a 20 mph headwind. Even though the elevation loss from the trailhead to town is around 2000ft, I was tucked behind my bars, pedaling at 200 watts, and only doing 12mph for the last 7-ish miles back in to town. It was the type of effort that can break people… though, the whole ride itself could be categorized as such, so it was really just another difficult patch to accept and work through…

Santosha

In Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, the word for contentment is Santosha, described as one of the key components to success on the path of self-realization.  It is the prerequisite to experiencing peace.

TKV Desikachar, a world-renowned yoga master, describes the meaning of Santosha as accepting what happens.  Simply accepting whatever life offers you and learning from it.  It is also accepting ourselves just as we are.  There’s no need for me to be different than I am, and there’s no need for my life to be any different in this moment.

…applicable both acutely to bike rides and chronically to everything else.

Adventure Dump #2- Matt Visits Salida

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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There were still a couple of large snowdrifts to hike over.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Over the Rainbow (again)

Since my days off from the shop are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I have quickly formed a tendency to do something a little “out there” on Thursdays, despite having a race on Saturday. Last week, it was another Rainbow Trail adventure.

If you recall from a recent post, I explored a section of the Rainbow Trail that people generally avoid due to an extended hike-a-bike. After figuring out that I’d gone the “wrong” direction before, I decided to go the other way on this outing.

The skies had been a little threatening most of the morning before I left, but I decided to pack a rain jacket and take my chances anyway. The trails here are super dry now, and any moisture that falls gets soaked up super fast. I headed up county road 110, hitting the Double Rainbow trail along the way. Once I made it to the Rainbow Trail, I started the walk.

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There are a couple of spots you can ride, but they are brief.

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It rained steadily for about half of the hike up. I was prepared, though, and thoroughly enjoyed being at the top of Poncha Mountain at the exact time that the sun re-emerged.

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The aspens up there are hardly believable.

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I have no pictures from the descent, because I was having too much fun. I will say, though, the view of Mt. Ouray on the way down nearly wrecked me with distraction.

The Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/1016899299

I bonked a little on the way home and drank the last of Leah’s almond milk in a recovery shake so I wouldn’t die all the way before I was able to make real food. A ride that includes two and a half hours of climbing isn’t my usual “thursday before a race” routine, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Gunnison Growler Race Report

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.

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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.

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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:

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Oops.

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.

Spot Rocker- the 2017 Race Machine

And now, for something completely different…

If you listen to JRA, just scroll on down to the pics, because you know the rest already.

In the not-too-distant past, I received an out-of-the-blue Facebook message from Mitch, the Manager of Team Gates Carbon Drive. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in joining, we discussed some specifics, and I said something along the lines of “f*ckyeah, let’s do this.”

If you have been following since the beginning, you know I’ve worked really freaking hard to reach out to sponsors and potential sponsors and, more often than not, get rejected or not even answered. I did get some really solid, long-standing support from the likes of Gu and Industry Nine, but was generally pretty burnt out on the whole process. So, for someone to actually take notice of my race results last year and reach out for this season with some really excellent team support literally brought me to tears.

Last week, I put the finishing touches on the build up of my Spot Rocker singlespeed (of course, it snowed 10″ immediately after, so I’ve only ridden it once). Today, I finally got around to taking some nice photos…

It’s steel, belt-drive, RS-1, and Quarq equipped. It’s a bike with as many personalities as the weather in Colorado.

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Gotta fly the WC Rainbow seat pack as a nod to winning Breck Epic that one time.

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Level Ultimate Brakes and a Whisky Parts Co flat bar… that sucker comes stock at 840mm wide. I chopped it to 730.

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-I’m missing my I9 hubs. They have not been granted access to SRAM’s Predictive Steering hub, though, and mismatching would make me itchy.

The maiden voyage was pretty great. Belt drive is super quiet and smooth, and the belt-compatible frames have to be extra stiff in the bottom bracket & chainstays because flex will derail your belt. The result is a metal frame that pedals like its made of carbon. The chainstays on this particular frame are also super short- something I’d never experienced in a frame. It makes it way boost-ier and fun.

I am going to withhold totally gushing over the RS-1 right away, but will say I was incredibly happy with it on ride #1. I want to try it on the 429 since I’m more familiar with that frame, and that will give me some back to back comparison against a Pike.

Next race is Battle the Bear on the 13th. Since I’m a little more concerned with being ready(ish) for Gunnison Growler not long after that, I’m going to train right on through it rather than tapering back for it. I’ve heard that one’s a beast!

Boulder Running Adventures

When  I first started working in Boulder, I made the climb up Flagstaff Road a somewhat regular part of my training. It’s literally right outside the door of the shop, so it’s a good pre-work leg burner. I couldn’t help but notice on the way up that there’s a trail that crosses the road in various places. It looked somewhat gnarly, so I was intrigued. However, all of the signs say “No Bikes.” So, I took to two feet and started exploring.

Holy wow.

I’d had no idea that there was an entire trail system up/around/over the Flatirons. And the “No Bikes” thing? Unfortunately, a lot of the trails in Boulder are closed to bikes. However, you really wouldn’t want to ride a bike on large portions of the trails.

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Ok, now that I look at those pictures again, maybe they’re the “perfect” trails to ride down (pictures always reduce steepness by 10% of the grade), but there are a multitude of straight up/down rock steps with tight switchbacks and whatnot. You’d never go up any of the trails, and people would literally die trying to go down.

The ruggedness makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I started with small run/hikes up and around the Flatirons and corresponding peaks. Green Mountain is the easiest and closest to where I park at Chatauqua, so it was the first route I came up with. This picture is from an intersection near the top at the exact moment I started wondering “when TF am I going to be at the top?”

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Not long after, I visited the 1st/2nd Flatirons trail, which is a shorter, but no less steep climb. With a short scramble, you can sit on top of the first Flatiron (the one in the background is the 3rd, I think).

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I started to get a little brave and made a bigger loop out to Bear Peak… slightly larger than Green Mountain, and a significantly longer run. The last hard climb before the top goes though a burned area and can be demoralizing if you don’t like seeing what sort of challenge is ahead of you.

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At the top, you have the choice of scrambling to the summit, going down the Fern Canyon Trail (The descent down Fern Canyon is the right amount of dangerous, if you’re trying to go fast), or continuing on to nearby South Boulder Peak. The top of Bear Peak has an amazing 360 view.

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East:

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South:

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North:

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West:

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Seeing the trail out to South Boulder Peak inspired a new personal challenge to myself. I wanted to run all three peaks before work the next Sunday. I called it Boulder Three the Hard Way.

Physical challenges are the high octane fuel to my motivation…

Up Green Mountian:

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At the top:

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Bear Peak:

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And off to tackle the out & back up South Boulder:

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I couldn’t find any survey markers or cool stuff up there, so here’s a weird iron thing driven into a rock-

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The run down Shadow Canyon from there was exhausting. It’s at 7.5 miles/8,500 feet of climbing in, so my legs were already pretty torn up. I made it down with no falls or rolled ankles and motored on to the return on the Mesa Trail… which is neither flat nor all downhill until you’re at the last mile.

Here’s the route/profile: https://www.strava.com/activities/760836310

Fourteen miles in 3:45 doesn’t sound that impressive until you start looking at the gain/loss on each climb and descent. Running downhill there is like its own lite version of parkour.

I’m hoping that my body holds up to the running enough that I can do it all Winter as an alternative to riding in the cold or on the trainer. I’m still having some pain from previous overuse injuries in my left knee and foot, but listening to my body and doing a lot of yoga and foam rolling seems to keep it relatively minor. This Saturday will be a good test… I’m going to go out and try a self-supported trail marathon. It’ll be scenic, if nothing else.

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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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).

podium

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.

bbbpodium

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.