Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fruitas and Enchiladas Part 2 (of 3)

Part 2 of our trip to the Great Wide Open was spent tearing up delicious desert single track in and around Grand Junction and Fruita. Martin was still on Euro time but wasn't going to waste a second of daylight. Sleep when you're dead is what I always say.

The plan for the day was to take everyone up to the top of the Ribbon. This would be the first time for the girls and I was excited for them. It's a lot to bite off if you haven't ridden that type of terrain. The plan was for everyone to ride the Ribbon and then the Todds would break off and ride Eagle's Wing to Eagle's Tail and we'd meet them in the parking lot of the Lunch Loops trail system where RF would be waiting. The rest us would make our way to the Lunch Loops via Andy's Loop, a supposedly easier route. Ahem.

The day started with a few issues but we stayed on schedule for the most part. Since this was the only ride of the day, we weren't in a huge hurry. Clouds were abundant so we just had to keep an eye out for any organized storms. It was hard to once again leave Ryan behind. This is one of his all-time favorite rides and even though he put on a big grin, I knew he was aching to come with us. 

Up on top of the parking lot in the sky as I call it, the girls were ecstatic. I remember the first time I did that ride. I was scared and mesmerized all at the same time. The plateau tilts downward so no matter what, you are descending and it's easy to pick up speed quickly so you have to ride back and forth, much like skiing, if you want to maintain control and not cook your breaks. For the most part you can see where the big slots are in the surface but you can never be too careful. The view is breathtaking. The Book Cliffs to the east are in full view normally, but due to drifting smoke from fires in Wyoming, the sky was hazy. Closer to us were the ridges that pierced the earth and jutted up at violent angles; a living testament to the tectonic techno party that shaped the landscape eons ago.

After many jaw dropping minutes accompanied by hoots and hollers, we eventually made our way down to the first hike a bike section. These wouldn't be so bad except that normal people like us have to hand down bikes and also then have to slide down on our butts. The slick rock is amazingly clingy but not always. We all made it down unscathed and I was hoping that this part wouldn't freak out the girls. We had a long way to go. But they were champs. There were a couple of step downs that I rode down thanks to my dropper seat post and newly polished tech skills. F-yeah! As our coaches said, ride like a 14 year old kid and practice every bump along the way and that's what I did. There was one particular step down that didn't go as planned and even though I was aware of the sand I was heading into, I still managed to eject myself.

After about an hour or so we made it to the point where the Todds went their way and we went ours. That's where the adventure began. We had a map and trail was marked. It took us in and out of a rocky spring bed. Soon we came to another sign that was part way up the cliff. Martin got out the map. I volunteered to recon. It was more of a hiking trail. There were flags marking where a new trail was going to go below me. I got to an opening that was fortified with large boulders. I could see flags above me but thought, "This is dumb. This can't be right" So I went back down and as I did, I heard a bunch of laughter. It seemed Carly had sat on a cactus! She was fine but a little tender. 

I told the group the trail was not rideable so we headed down the only way we could but it eventually ended at the edge of a cliff over looking a canyon. Crap! Where the hell did this trail go? I was getting grumpy. We went back to the trail marker and we all hiked our bikes to the little landing, handed them up one by one and continued walking. Anyone who has known me knows I HATE WALKING MY BIKE and this was no acceptation. Why would this be an option? It was way harder than Eagle's Wing and not rideable! We cut across the boulder field towards the Lunch Loops area. We knew where we needed to go but weren't sure how to get there. Eventually we found a rideable trail and I apologized to the group for my infant stomping antics. 

Andy's Loop actually turned out to be pretty rad. It wound us through blackened lava fields where the surface's crust changed colors at every turn. Each time the trail opened up, the views blew our minds. The trails were rideable and didn't have much exposure. There were a few areas but nothing compared to Eagle's Wing. We finally made it down to the parking lot. The Todds were already there.  Also some of the Trek Dirt Series' coaches were there enjoying some unstructured riding, which was awesome for them. We rested up a bit and decided to ride around the Lunch Loops area as a group. There are some pretty gnar trails in there so to stay together we did Lemon Squeeze. When we got back to the parking lot we goofed around a bit at the jump park. Yeah, I still couldn't manage to get air. 

The night ended with some local BBQ and another night hanging out at the motel. 

Tuesday started with a rain delay. The sky was thick and heavy with storm clouds and a drizzly rain kept everything pretty wet. Radar signaled that the rain was coming in bands. We could see some clearing off to the south so we waited it out. That just meant lot's of coffee drinking. I rode into town for a breakfast burrito and a change of scenery. The rain had started to subside. Ryan was there with Martin doing some work stuff. We went over to the bike shop and bought some stuff. Finally, it was time to get the bikes packed up and onto some single track.

The plan for the day was Loma Exit: Mary's Loop / Horsetheif / Troy Built depending on the weather. After we parked, Ryan skittered off to the Horse Thief drop in while we unloaded. As we began to ride I noticed my ever-failing Crank Bros seat post wouldn't pop up anymore. There was no way I could ride all day with the seat all the way down. I'd ruin my knees. Come to find out, I had moved the cable out of the way of the Go Pro causing the spring not to work on the seat post. Once we figured it out, I was back in action. We rode up to the Horse Thief, stopping along the way to take in the panaramas before us. I talked a few of them into taking part in the ritual of hoisting their bikes over their head in a victory stance above the Horse Thief trail. 

We arrived at the hike a bike section that I had learned to ride at camp. We sessioned it a few times. I wasn't able to clear the last step at the top but I was able to ride the middle section. Victory! 

Once down, we did the whole loop and then had to climb back up! We continued on Mary's Loop for a bit. Martin got up close view of the trail when he went nose heavy down a drop. Thankfully, he only dropped once. I happen to have had the Go Pro on. Here it is frame by frame. In the last photo you can see how close he was to the ledge. Luckily that rock kept him from sliding off.

The farther we went, the more worrisome we got. The sky was getting pretty dark towards Fruita and we could see the rain curtain coming towards us. We stopped and put on our rain layers. Good thing because we ended up riding in the rain for a good half hour. That's when Martin and April continued on via service road and the rest of us went on via single track. Once we were all back together, we decided to call it a day. I texted Ryan and he picked us up on a gravel road. The rain continued to fall so we drowned our sorrows in mozzarella at the Hot Tomato.

Rain doesn't mean we can't have fun, however. I think we were on our 2nd jug of whiskey and 2nd bottle of tequila and I don't even know how many beers. We spent our last evening at the motel practicing wheelies on the lawn. I'm sure they were glad to see us finally go. 


Monday, November 5, 2012

Work the Plan: My 2012 Season Recap

Whole Enchilada Enduro-  Moab, Utah

A week has gone by since my last mountain bike race of 2012. I gave myself some time to enjoy this last win at the BT Epic and reflect on the year; something I didn't always allow myself to do. But as I was cleaning up the Top Fuel one last time before I give her back, I thought back on all of miles we put in together this year and yeah, it was a one sweet ride. Probably one of my best seasons ever.

Some highlights: 
I was really surprised by the wins in Arkansas. The trails down there are gnarly, especially at Syllamo's Revenge. Spa City wasn't gnarly but I wasn't sure what shape I'd be in since I had just started training with FasCat only four months prior. It was awesome to get a win right out of the gate but that can sometimes come back to haunt you. Luckily the good fortune carried through at Bone Bender in April (so thankful for the Bontrager carbon wheels) and then at Syllamo and Black Hills FTF in May. I got pretty lucky. I was sick for both of those races, having an indigestion issue in Arkansas and both an inflamed tooth and a weird flu-like issue in South Dakota. But as we all know, sometimes the bike works these things out. 

July was a high point of my season. Ryan and I had an epic mountain bike vacation that started with the Breck 100 race (I did the 32 miler). It was such a fun trip because so many of our team and other friends came out to do it too and cheering them on and then reliving it through everyone's war stories really made for a memorable race. I managed to get on the podium in my age-group some how. Though not the top step, to even get on a step in Colorado, to me, is an achievement. Then after that race, we sent our Top Fuels home and spent the next several days on vacation in Crested Butte, living out of the van, raging on our Trek Remedys. I absolutely love that bike. It makes me look like I have some handling skills. Add on the dropper seat post, and you can f'get about it. I took it to the Trek Women Dirt Series camp in Winter Park at the end of that trip. It did awesome for someone with my (lack-of) skill level. I learned so much at camp - mainly that I had the ability to do the things that scared me. I just needed to be taught how to do them correctly. Now I feel like I can go almost anywhere thanks to both the camp and my Remedy. Did I mention I love that bike?

September was another busy month for racing, starting off with The Dakota Five-0, one of my A races. Its popularity has really drawn some great talent and that top podium continues to allude me. But I don't let that overshadow the experience. I love going to this race and this year was no different. I managed 3rd in my age group and beat last year's time by 12 or so minutes. Plus the folks we were traveling with and the folks that joined us at the camp ground made it one of the more memorable trips of 2012. Next year they are doing it in reverse! 

Another favorite venue, Sugar Bottom Scramble, near Iowa City, was schedule for September. It got rained out. But we still had a great time on the road with everyone, despite the fact. That's one of the benefits of traveling with mountain bikers: they go with the flow and if we can't race, we eat and drink and still have fun. The rain out was scheduled perfectly before our next big race but unfortunately Ryan crashed and broke is collar bone so we missed it. Hopefully next year. 

Despite Ryan's injury, our big fall trip was still on. Fresh off the operating table, he drove his van with the Todds to Colorado. I was already there with Carly Thomsen and April Eyberg. We attended another Trek Women Dirt Series camp in Fruita and then spent the rest of the week tearing up single track all over the high desert. The creme d'la creme came when me and Martin Bixby got to race the inaugural Whole Enchilada Enduro. I have yet to post my race report but that was the most fun I've ever had on a bike. Period. Starting at 11,600ft in the frosty La Sal mountains and racing down to the desert of Moab is indescribable. It's sex on two wheels. Since Ryan missed out, we'll most def be going back. Needless to say, we'll both be on our computers no matter what time registration opens. I raced my Remedy and it was the perfect bike for it. We had to ride up a couple of places and it rode like a champ and when it came to pointing those wheels down, the Remedy sniffed out the lines and I just flew. My usual saying, "my favorite part of racing; being done," didn't hold true for this race. I wanted to keep going. Two hours went by in a wink. Though I only placed 10th out of 15 in the amateur field, I still had an epic day! And one I won't soon forget.

Once we got home from Moab, life got crazy. THOR took over with back to back events and I still had to find time to train. One more race to top of the season was booked for the end of October. But after Moab it was hard to stay motivated. Other racers had stopped focusing on training and were either doing CX or just riding for fun. Me? I had to go out and do intervals. When it's gorgeous out in October, the only thing I want to do is be on single track but I bucked up and did what I was told. I only had about 3 weeks of structure to get dialed and I wasn't sure if it was going to be enough time. But it all worked out. And I must give props to my coach Jason Hilimire from FasCat Racing. He has been the cornerstone to my successes this year. I also changed over to training with power, thanks to Ryan. Using power and working with Jason took me up a level. Going into a season with a new coach, there is naturally a level of uncertainty. But I did the work and trusted the plan. The result: 4 top podium finishes at endurance races with some additional top podiums at local and regional XC events. Thank you Jason and FasCat.

Along with a top coach, to be successful, the equipment must also too be top quality. I am very proud to race for Trek Stores' Midwest Cycling Community. Trek Stores made sure I was on the best equipment possible. When I am investing so much time, energy and money into trying to be the best racer I can be, having an amazing and fun bike to race makes it that much more sweet. I can't express how thankful I am to Jay and Kent for providing me and our race team with what we needed to succeed. 

Let's be real: racing is a selfish pursuit. It's like having a second job, with all of the training and travel. My family, friends and my bosses are an invaluable asset to me. Without them, this pursuit would be much more difficult. I am very lucky to have people in my life that support my bike habit. They keep me motivated and inspired. Especially that gregarious ginger with whom I share all of this. Even after he was injured, Ryan set aside his own disappointment to keep me energized. Every time I left for a training ride or finished a race he exclaimed how proud he was of me. He rooted me on at the Whole Enchilada and at the BT Epic. All season he made sure my rigs were always running perfectly. He's the one who pushed me into training with power and he's the one who hooked me up with FasCat. I owe much of my success this year to Ryan. I couldn't imagine doing this sport without him. He makes it so much more fun.

So what's next? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Coach's orders. Now that's a plan I can definitely believe in.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Berryman Trail Epic. The name says it all.

The Berryman Trail Epic was a great race to finish up my long season of mountain bike racing. We went there last year out of shape with the plan to JRA and check it out (It's an IMBA epic trail for crying out loud)! We had a great time then and vowed to return ready to do some damage.

This was the 5th year of the BTE. It's still a young event and the promoters are amped and completely engaged. They have an amazing venue host, The Bass River Resort, that totally embraces our sport and this event with open arms. Everyone there was welcoming and over the top nice. The race starts and ends at their front door. Our accommodations were again top of the line: cabins at the start line? f-get about it. Pizza delivered to our door? Okay. Honey-infused whiskey. Ryan will take two. This place knows how to party.

Our travelers were a mix of old and new. Gnarly Carly, Brad Auen (although his initials now stand for Bad Ass), The Lucas and newbies Adam (I've never raced long distance) Stoll and his wife Jennie, who, bless her heart, rode shotgun with Ryan while we were racing. She rolled with it beautifully.

The trip started off unconventionally. The company I work for, Clark Creative Group, had its 20th anniversary. It was a blast and I hated to leave. When I got home and Ryan saw how excited I was about how it all turned out, he suggested we drive by so they could all see the amazing tent and set up. We all piled out of the van and immediately our group was given a warm welcome and directed to the beer table. We talked it up with my work peeps and jumped in the photo booth for some quick photos. Everyone got into it, costumes and all. I had a feeling this was gonna be a good trip. We then drove a few hours to KC and got a hotel so that we'd be able to get to the resort at a decent time to pre ride the next day.

Photo booth shenanigans

We arrived around noon and we were allowed to check in early. It was in the high 40s, sunny and windy. Two friends from Iowa were meeting us later, Evelyn Johnson (Evie) and Trevor Rockwell. Once we got unpacked, we kitted up and Ryan drove us up to the hole shot. Well, everyone except Brad. The preride was a great idea because the trail was blanketed with leaves. High winds and storms days prior had dropped most of them right on the course and nobody is going to leaf-blow a 55 mile course days before a race. So, these were the cards we were dealt. The trail itself, without leaves, is flowy, but parts can be very rocky and/or rooty. Add on wet leaves and you just had to hope that your gear would get you through it. After about an hour of riding we took a wrong turn and found ourselves lost. We back-tracked and some locals pointed us in the right direction. A short recon ride turned into almost 1:45 ride but none of us were really going very hard so not a big deal. We got back to the cabin and then went into town for groceries.  By the time we got back, Evie and Trever were out pre-riding so we started getting dinner ready. Dinner was going to be pasta with home-made sauce and french bread.

Compared to last year, I was more relaxed. My Top Fuel was handling the terrain nicely and my Carbo Rocket fuel had come in just in time for the race. (Side note: Carbo Rocket Half Evil is the holy grail of enduro event fuel. I have been searching for years for something to work with my stomach and I have found it. No longer will I stress about what to use. I totally recommend giving it a try if you're having stomach issues on long rides and races. I didn't use anything else but this and some Honey Stinger waffles, but only b/c I can't handle it full strength). Temps were going to be chilly. Forecasts predicted a freeze over night with a starting temp in the high 30s. Start time was 8:30.

I got up at 5:30 but had been in and out of sleep for the previous hour, having stress dreams about missing the start time. I hate that! Once I was up, it wasn't long before folks started trickling out into the kitchen. I got the coffee going and mixed up my oatmeal. As the sun came up, the meadow out our back door was covered in frost. All of us warmed up in our winter layers. Luck was on our side: the wind was next to nothing and the sky was cloudless. It was gonna be an epic day! I did a few warm up sprints and dropped off my puffy coat at the cabin and rolled to the start. I decided I'd keep my knee and arm warmers on because I could drop them at the main check point with Ryan if I needed to. See, this race is kind of unique in that the course passes by a check point twice. They give you a bag to put your supplies into so you don't have to carry so much. It's pretty slick. As everyone lined up, I stood in a ray of sunlight to keep warm. I was ready to get race! The promoter yelled GO we were off in one big group. 250 racers, all at once. It was madness.

The start was on a paved road that lead us to the park's gravel service road. I marked a woman who was keeping a good pace and surging from one group to another. She was strong on the gravel and I had to work. She was on a Cannondale 29r so her big wheels were an advantage. It was was a couple miles to the hole shot and maybe a half mile out here comes Evie pushing hard for the trees. She was the first woman in the singletrack and was riding super strong, leading a train of dudes at a good clip. We hit our first climb and everyone was off their bikes. Under the leaves, the trail was a boulder field and it was steep enough that any amount of pressure was causing tires to spin. I hopped off and started running my bike. I got passed Evie and spurred her to come along. I jumped on the bike and because the trail was so bumpy, it took me off the trail and into the woods. Instead of unclipping, I just rode next to the trail for about 10 yards, praying I wouldn't run over a thorn. I got around a small batch of bodies and began my pursuit. I knew Evie was riding strong so I wasn't going to count her out. I kept the bike upright and steady and I got into the flow but it wasn't without some tension. With the sun shining through the trees, sometimes I'd lose the trail completely and I'd find myself breaking into turns to keep me from flying into the forest. It was nerve racking and noisy. The constant crunch of the leaves under tires drowned out any other sounds so I couldn't really hear anyone coming up behind me or if my bike was making any odd sounds. In fact my bottom bottle cage had come loose and I didn't even know it until I got onto gravel. Leaves got jammed in my cassette enough that I couldn't shift into some of the gears in the back. Or they'd get wedged in between my tire and the fork, buzzing like an annoying fly. By the time I made it to check point 1, I had to use Ryan's buck knife to get the leaves out of the cassette. Ryan tightened up my bottle cage, gave me my nutrients and like a crazed mad-man, pushed me almost all of the way through the check point, yelling at the top of his lungs "I love you!" even after I had disappeared into the woods (Come to find out later, he was assisting many riders the whole day). The entire stop took only a few minutes. I was the first woman through the check point. I was feeling good and confident.

Oh, but what a difference 5 minutes makes.

So I'm big ringing out of the check point down a wide open service road that went slightly downhill. I was alone. I came to a fork in the road but there were no arrows what-so-ever. Shit! Suddenly groups of guys were charging at me from both roads. SHIT! Which way? Nobody knew. None were locals. So about 7 of us started back towards the check point and were met by another handful of guys. Everybody was freaking out. As we got closer to the check point we could see some people dumping into the woods. We all had missed an arrow that pointed down some single track. At that point everyone was seeing red. I jumped into the train and we were flying. I just kept praying that a rock or root wouldn't end my day. Some dude tried to pass me but by the time he was next to me a huge log was in his path and all I heard was "Oh God!" Thankfully, no crashing noises. I heard him again later when we had to go one by one over an elevated ped bridge that was maybe 4' wide. The other side was a sand pit that only cross racers would appreciate. Mr. Oh God almost slammed into me due to the sand. I almost made it all the way across the sand (about 10 yards) but had to clip out right at the end and got stuck behind a guy who wasn't going as fast as I wanted to go. I eventually got around him and back into the train. At one point a rock kicked up my back tire and I swear I went sideways. I remember thinking, this is going to hurt, but by some miracle, the tire found traction and I stayed upright. Thank you, Baby Jesus, I thought to myself. I had no idea if I had lost any positions so I was raging. We went by a group of hikers and one yelled, "Another woman". Shit. Ok, I still don't know if I'm 2nd or 3rd but I figured if I hung with these guys, I'd eventually catch whoever was up there. The plan worked. I came up on 2nd place and she politely moved over. "I thought you were in front of me". I was now! I told her what happened and then stepped on the gas. At the 3rd check point, the promoters were handing out the zip ties that we had to tie to our bikes. I mentioned that many had missed the arrow but that I was still having a great time. Eventually the single track gave way to a paved road that then led to a highway. I had gone pretty hard in the trees so when I hit the open road I was trying to recover a bit and eat. I looked back when I hit the highway and a group was coming. I knew she was drafting as she had done at the start. But to my surprise both 2nd and 3rd place caught up to me. We were almost back to the drop zone but had to climb a long road. 3rd place, NUE bad ass Laureen Coffelt from Tennessee who had raced me in Ark earlier this year, was on a Super Fly 100, was looking strong. She was chatting us both up as we climbed. Very friendly but I wanted to throw a stick in her wheel. LOL. 2nd place, also on a 29r, but a Cannondale, and I kinda traded places while keeping Super Fly close. As we crested a hill, we rolled by a trashy mobile home. Yeah, you guessed it. Two unfriendly dogs bearing teeth came out after us, barking at our heels. I stomped on the pedals but they didn't chase (the dogs that is). Not long and all 3 of us were back at the same check point. I told Ryan that I had missed a turn. I asked for my bottles and took off. The Cannondale rider stopped for her feed and didn't seem eager so I thought she might be cooked. But Laureen didn't even stop. She went right on through. I had to pee so bad and was hoping I'd be able to at this stop but there wasn't time. I had to go since the start but just couldn't find a good place and then after I went off course, I felt I couldn't sacrifice the time. Ryan was out of his mind yelling for me to catch her. I took off and saw two arrows. Which way???? To the right! Thankfully, someone was paying attention!

The last half of the race was hard. Hard in that the trail was un-ending single track. It never crested a hill or opened up onto a road. Though I dream of single track like this, when I'm in a long race, I dream of a break in the scenery or a long descent. I know. It's strange. And the other thing was I never saw Laureen in the trees. Luckily I didn't see the Cannondale rider either so I was chasing and being chased at the same time. I WAS RACING! So this is what it's like. Instead of wondering what position I was in I knew and had to work hard to battle the psychological and physical demons. To add to the stress, I asked for the wrong bottles at the feed zone. Instead of asking for the bottles with Carbo Rocket I asked for the bottles with water. So, for the last 20 some miles, I had only water and 4 Stinger waffles to fuel me.

I was alone for most of this section. A guy did come up to me and I asked what mile we were at. 15 to go with the last 6 on gravel. That meant 9 miles of single track and at my pace that was a good hour. The trail undulated up and down and around the box valleys of the forest. It didn't change much. I was able to remember what the last of the single track looked like and thought I was on it a couple of times only to get sent around another bend that didn't end. But soon I made it to the last big climb up to the gravel road. By the time I got up there I was teetering on the edge. I had maybe 2 swigs of water and I had eaten all of my waffles and had dropped one. Curses! I was alone. As soon as I had recovered from the climb, I shifted into the big ring and pedaled as hard as I could without going too far into the red. 6 miles. Damn. I kept looking back to see if the Cannondale rider was coming, since it was on the open road earlier in the race where she had caught back up to me. Not long on the gravel a rather large, line backer sized dude came cruising up behind me. Where did he come from? As he came up next to me I asked if there was any women close? He said he hadn't seen any in a while. Good. I kept on.

Then, there she was. Or was it?

I could see her crest each rise. I saw that the line backer had caught up to her and I was mad that I hadn't tried to draft. Each rise she got closer to me. My adrenaline started to kick in but I had to keep it in check. I was running on fumes and I wasn't ever sure it was her until I was a few yards back.

Quietly I rolled up to her wheel. She never looked back the entire time I was chasing so either she was spent or thought she had it in the bag. She looked back, "There you are." I wasn't sure if she had raced there before. We were on the same roads that we raced up at the beginning and I knew the road was going to go down steeply and do a couple of S turns before it straightened out. Once we were at the bottom, the wind was in our faces. I tucked in behind her. She clicked up a couple of gears. My stomach had butterflies. As we approached the next bend, I knew the course would take us off the main road and that's where I made my move. The road was covered in thick gravel so it was kinda a dumb place to put my nose into the wind but it didn't last long and as I came around she said, "Good job. You battled hard". I red-lined it to the finish. I had to slow down a bit to safely navigate some rather deep puddles and once through those the course turned into a camp ground. Ryan and Jennie were standing there. As soon as Ryan saw me he went nuts, running down the road toward the finish line. I turned into the finishing tent and crossed the line less than 30 seconds before the Super Fly rider. I bent over, heaving, trying to get my breath back. Ryan came running after me. Then Laureen came in and she was all smiles and again congratulated me on a well deserved win. She said she just didn't have anything left. She was just as excited that us old ladies took the top steps. Yeah, 40 is the new 20 in this sport.

Needless to say, I was very pleased and excited. Probably one of the best wins I've had and for it to happen at the last race of the season was incredibly satisfying. After not much structured training since DK50, I wasn't sure what kind of shape I'd be in. But it all paid off beautifully.

Afterwards we hung out and waited for our team mates to come in. Of course Brad, Trevor and Lucas were already in and eating by the time I got there. Show-offs! I rode back to the cabin, cleaned up and went back for some fine BBQ southern Missouri style! They had all the fixens, including two large coolers full of baked potatoes. Beer flowed freely and so did Ryan's honey whiskey. Soon Evie was in and then Carly and Adam. All were spent but had a good time.

The awards ceremony didn't get started until around 6pm to accommodate as many finishers as possible. They had raffle prizes and wanted to be fair about giving everyone a chance. Since it was cold outside, they packed us all into a smallish banquet hall. Everyone was some level of drunk, including the promoters. They were standing on the tables so they could be heard by everyone. When they called our names for the podium, we too got up on the tables. It was a riot! Tilford got the funds for the hole-shot contest and Evie, who was the first woman into the trees, pleaded that there should be a prime for the ladies. They gave in and handed her a $50 greenback, with a promise that there'd be ladies' primes next year for sure. They were super stoked that so many women showed up. Their first race had 2. This day there were 20. Yeah, better start spreading the love, boys. Then the promoters, Scott and Jake, called Ryan up to the front to award him with Fan of the Year. He told me later that he had techno blasting out of his van and was pushing as many guys up the road as he could. Even our crew told him his excitement gave them energy. Brad said hell, I'm doing this for Ryan. It was pretty cool! As the ceremony went on, things got even more rowdy. Ryan started handing up the whiskey bottle to the podium finishers and each one would take a pull. Then in ran out. Ryan bought a couple more small bottles, gave one to the promoters and they both finished it off. The room went nuts. Every so often one of the volunteers would come to the head of the room to ask if anyone knew about the last riders who hadn't come in yet. Two were still unaccounted for. Scott, the head promoter, wanted to give the last person a prize. Everyone voted to give him the Garmin GPS. Finally, word got back to Scott that the last guy was in. He was like, Get him in here right now! So the guy came in with another dude. The story was one of them had a broken derailleur and the other guy wasn't going to leave him out there alone, so together, they walked to the finish line. By then it was 7:30 and very dark but they made it in and they were celebrated. The group voted to give the other dude a head lamp. I thought the house was gonna come down after that. It was an amazing party with an amazing vibe. Brad got on the podium, 2nd age group and Trevor got first in SS. Lucas missed the podium by seconds. They all did amazing. Even more so because between the three of them, they each either went of course, crashed or had a technical or a combo, yet they all were in the top of their categories. Badassery!

By the time the party was over, we all were hungry again. We ordered pizza and had it delivered to our cabin. Where else does THAT happen in the middle of nowhere? I'm telling ya, it's aaaaaaawesome! While we waited for the za, Ryan started up a huge bon fire in the back yard (there was a fire ring) and we ended the night the only way mountain bikers know how: telling their stories and taking it all in.

This video illustrates the race very well, until he crashes out. You'll see Ryan at the hole shot and then at Berryman Check Point. The guy filming went off course at the same place I did!

Here's another video. I'm in there towards the end, getting beer.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fruitas and Enchiladas - Part 1

Looking into Moab from Hazard

Tom Petty has been to the desert, I'm sure of it.
Out in the great wide open.
Under them skies of blue.
Out in the great wide open,
A rebel without a clue.

Our annual trip to the Great Wide Open was incredible. A few weeks since returning from the high desert and I'm still abuzz with the memories, sights and sounds. That's what happens when you go to the desert in early fall. The views are so brilliant this time of year. So much, in fact, that the mind cannot possibly process the beauty it's taking in. It's like looking at a person who is so striking, it hurts. Your eyes see features that your mind cannot possibly process, so it doesn't. (Plus it would take too long to stop and look at everything and your riding buddies would start throwing rocks). So you just pedal on, stealing flirtatious glances over deep precipices and across wide horizons, all the while trying hard not to miss any details. Or die. 

This, to me, is the essence of mountain biking.

This year's adventure started out with a new twist. A few of us ladies, Carly Thompsen, aka Gnarly Carly and April "I'd rather be downhillin" Eyberg and myself lit out before the boys in time for the last Trek Dirt Series Camp in Fruita. Carly and I both did a camp earlier this summer at Winter Park. It was an eye opener for me and since we were going to be out there, I decided to do another one. It didn't take much convincing for Carly and April to sign up too. Sweet. We left right after work on a Thursday and rolled into Denver by 1am. A sweet hook up from April allowed us to sack out in style. By noon we were checking into our not-sweet-hook-up motel. Hey, they were bike friendly and that equivalent to 4 stars in my book. It was fortunately sandwiched between 2 liquor stores, a greasy spoon and a coffee shop. See? 4 stars! Plus free breakfast of eggo waffles, muffins, bagels, fruit, juice, etc. A funny thing happened after I checked in: as I was walking out of the little office, a woman entered with a bouquet of flowers. She said, "These are for Roxzanne Feagan". I turned around and I said, "That's me!" Ryan had sent me flowers as thanks for nursing him after he broke his collar bone. It was a wonderful surprise and earned points with the old German woman behind the counter. I eventually gave them to her when we left later in the week. 

Once we got settled into our room, we headed straight for 18 Road in Fruita. It's a good starting point for newbies who haven't ridden the area. It's not too technical nor strenuous. I had planned to take them down Kessle Run but took a wrong turn and ended up pretty far out from our car. Although I knew the fastest way to get to the trail was via a gravel road, I opted to go down a trail that I hadn't been on before. We hit a barrier fence and decided not to chance it. We went back to the road and hooked up with Kessel for the swoopy, whoopy ride back to the car. The girls were grinnin'. Good sign, I thought.

We headed back to the motel, cleaned up and hit the local shop and then got some dinner at the local brewery. It always surprises me to go into a brewery type establishment in such a cool part of the country and find it covered wall to wall with big screen TVs showing every football game on the planet. But I guess the locals need a watering hole too.

After dinner we drove up into the Colorado National Monument in hopes of catching the sun set. It was a great way to end a long day. Just us girls and the canyon. No bike talk. No tire talk. No wheel talk. 

Gnarly and April at 18 Road

Desert divas in Co. National Monument


Trek Dirt Series Headquarters
The camp began with registration at the famous Hot Tomato Cafe. Famous for the former pro racer owners and legendary photographer, Anne Keller. The vibe there was palpable, even though it was closed. We all knew we were at Trail Ripping Central, USA. After check in and getting assigned to our groups we headed out to a local ball complex where we utilized soccer fields for our skills and drills. It was my goal to launch myself off a jump and a drop before this camp was over. The first day was pretty basic, except I did manage to rip apart my der cage after I slid off of a teeter that I couldn't get to tot. Luckily it was only a small piece and somehow the chain managed to stayed on the rest of the day. It was a hot and sunny day. Lunch was sponsored by Hot Tomato so we all had our choice of pizza and salad. Once done with lunch it was time to head out into the Great Wide Open to test our newly learned skills on the heavenly terrain that is Fruita. Our group went to Mary's Loop. Rumor had it that the instructor had been able to teach new riders how to get down Horse Thief Bench only after one day of camp. I heard that when I was in Winter Park and we were with that instructor so I was amped. I've been coming out to this area for probably the last 8 years and never in my wildest dreams did I think I could ride down that rock fall. This day, damn if I wasn't gonna try.

As a group we decided, instead of getting in miles, we'd stop and session areas that would tap our skills that we learned earlier that morning. The first was a 1' step up onto an incline. To most dudes this would seem like a no brainer but to us ladies, who lack the upper body to bulldoze such a feature, we need to do a few extra things to ensure that front tire gets up and over the edge. One of the most important skills I relearned (I already knew how to do but didn't know I knew it) was the front wheelie lift to get up and/or over obstacles. I think this move will be a revelation to every woman who rides. This move will help them become mountain bikers instead feeling like a weak girl who can't lift up her bike. Anyway, I got up and over the ledge without issue, on flat pedals and was met with cheers. Even the  instructor was impressed. I was too since I'm new to flat pedals and had to use some extra body english just to make it work. Nobody else was able to do it so I felt a little rush of pride as we rode on.

We finally made it to Horse Thief, a famous trail in the area. To get to the trail, however, there is a right of passage: getting down a cliff face that is precarious even on foot. Our instructor was amazing. She broke down the "trail" into sections and we  sessioned each section until we could do it and then we'd move on. The first section was a series of four step downs that got progressively taller. It took me a couple tries to get past the 2nd & 3rd steps. The last step was about 2 ft tall with a line that pointed my tire directly into the side of the cliff face, with no clear transition. I couldn't wrap my mind around it enough to attempt it so I didn't. But that was ok. The next section had a high line and a low line. The high line had some step downs along the way while the low line, also with step downs, had a safe crevice, that didn't have quite the consequences to the left and right. That's the line I took. I did it on the first attempt. I looked up at what I had just ridden and couldn't believe it. Not that it was so easy but part of the puzzle of that descent had been solved and it didn't seem so daunting anymore. I could ride anything if I could ride that, I thought. The last section was pretty gnar. Her line required sorta sliding down a flat boulder into a crevice and onto a rather unwelcoming pile of boulders. I was satisfied watching our instructor nail it. It was liberating in some odd way. She made me believe it was possible. That has never happened to me on the bike. Watching dudes ride has never done that for me either. Just In that short session I felt like I had just plugged into the mountain biking matrix and suddenly had technical descending skills. One caveat: I was riding my Trek Remedy that has 160m of travel and slack head angle and of course my seat was slammed to the frame. But I still had to believe I could do it and as they say, mental is half the battle. We did get to ride part of the Horse Thief but not much before we had to turn back and hike up the Bench and then ride down Mary's Loop to the truck. I knew I'd be back after camp. My hope was that this day wasn't just a fluke.

See this video footage of awesome girl power to get an idea of the descent.

After returning from the trail, we all met back at the Hot Tomato for some grub. The boys (Ryan and the Todds) had arrived earlier that day and were also at the Hot Tomato when we arrived. I couldn't wait to tell Ryan how I had ridden part of Horse Thief Bench! After a much-needed beer, us girls walked to Over the Edge bike shop, another iconic location in this little bike mecca, for bike tech sessions. There, patient mechanics answered our girly questions about suspension, drive train and breaks. They broke down each area to help us better understand the inner workings of our rigs. I took the suspension class, learning a bunch about all the adjustability my Remedy has. 

Later that night, after word that Martin was delayed, we all hung out outside the motel. Fueled by tequila, whisky and electrolytes, we were a bit loud. After some sneers from other motel guests, we moved our party to the picnic table on the other side of the lawn in front of the motel. Eventually other riders arrived and joined the party. Nobody is a stranger when ya ride out there.  

Our view from the motel. 4star!
Carly and April intently listening to yet another bike geek session.
Todd taking over bike repair duties on this trip.

Porch clowns.

Day 2 of dirt camp was my day of redemption. 

The morning started off way awesome. The owners of Hot Tomato made an appearance welcoming all of us campers and then giving away prizes. Just knowing these two ladies are at the epicenter of mountain biking in the west is inspiring. April won a prize in the raffle of discounted gear from Sugoi. Everyone got some swag: a tshirt or a hat or a notebook plus a canister of Kicking Horse coffee beans. Couldn't have been happier.

For the second day of camp, we were given the opportunity to choose which advanced skill classes we wanted to take. I chose drops and jumps. I didn't choose them at Winter Park and wish I would have. I was very nervous because I didn't know if I had my form and timing down enough to not totally biff over the edge of the ramp they had set up. But true to form, the instructor broke down the move so simply that I wanted to smack my forehead. It still took a few runs until I was smooth but I made it through the sessions without falling on my face. I was dreading the jumping part. I really sucked at it at Winter Park but I left that day feeling like, with more practice, I could get it down. Timing is key. That afternoon was spent at 18 Road riding PBR, a new trail that has some jumps and kickers. Our instructor was a hellian on the trail and was really smooth. Our sweeper was none other than Ann Keller! Woah! Nerve racking. Plus she was taking pictures so that was even worse but so fun and cool to shred with these chics! And to my surprise, the Todds and Martin went riding by when we were on a break so it was fun to give high-fives to the boys.

After a few runs, I think we were all pooped. It was the last camp for the instructors and it was party time!
Jump session
Dirt Series Instructors
After camp was over, we all met up and hung out at the motel. We got to catch up with Martin who was jet lagged to the max but had already put in a few hours on the bike despite still being on Euro time. But that's what ya do when you're in the land of single track and it's daylight. And you have some of the greatest riding buds anyone could ask for. And beer.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Answering the Call of Colorado

Summer in the mountains always does something to me. I don't know if it's the lack of oxygen or the images of sunsets over alpine vistas burnt into my memory, but I always leave longing for more. Colorado has so much to offer. We've been to many parts, but usually the same parts, so this year the Hubs and I decided to break away from tradition and see some new stuff. Sort of.

We started in Breck, which isn't different. But we did do a different race than usual. For the past several years, we've competed in the Firecracker 50 over the 4th. Since many of our own team and others were competing in a much longer event a week later, we decided to skip the FC50 and compete in the Breck 100 race. Yes, that's 100 miles through Breck's high country. I opted for a much shorter version, a 32 miler and some others did the 68 mile version. Ryan and a few other brave souls attempted the hundy. A few finished. It's a big chunk to bite off, so merely attempting it is a feat in and of itself. No shame in not finishing. You can't mess around with ego when you're at 11,000 feet.

I had a pretty good race. There were a lot of ladies at the start line and like the FC50, we had to ride up Boreas Pass to spread us out. Riding up that thing is tedious when you're a flat lander. Everyone, even the guy on an old Trek 6000 with flat pedals wearing a Tshirt was going faster than me. It's such a punch is the psyche but I continued on. At the top of Boreas we veered left and onto dirt roads until we hit the dreaded Little F-ing French climb. The area was hit with a land slide last year and the rocks and shale seemed more loose than in the past. I had to dismount way earlier than I ever have and that didn't make me happy at all. I was determined to climb it since I was going to get to it with much fresher legs but it was not to be. Traffic and loose rock ended that notion. I did hop right back on and ride until I absolutely couldn't a couple of times. I made sure to ride over the "pass" and down through the rocky spring. After than it was single track heaven, albeit narrow and a steep grade if one were to fall. Believe me, I've been there.

The rest of the race went pretty smoothly. I did have to stop at one time to put on a rain layer. A cloud burst opened as I was approaching a fire road descent making it extra fun over the rocky covered road. As the sun came out the trail headed up so I had to stop again to take off the rain layer. After that, I was all about the finish line. I had ridden these trails last year with Ryan and Galinsky so it was all very familiar. And luckily, I warmed up on the roads that made up the last few miles of the race so when I got to them, my energy level shot straight up. I pounded up the roads until I could hear the music from the finish line.

After a few iterations of the results, I ended up with a 2nd place in my age group. Not bad for a flat lander, eh? All in all, I'm glad we did this event. There were about 18 of us from the flat lands so it was really fun to come into the finish area with a fan fare and then turn around and be the fan of those finishing later. We stuck around all day, squinting up the hill in anticipation of our friends coming in. And when we saw one, everyone got up and ran to the fence. Ryan snagged a bunch of brews from the beer tent and made sure to provide a beer hand ups so that finishers could cross the line in style! We got to meet our cycling coach, Jason Hillmire of Fascat Cycling. He almost won the 68!

Afterwards we cleaned up and met up at the brewery for some very well deserved carb heavy chow. It was a great day with great friends.
2nd place in age, 7th overall

Our coach, Jason Hillmire

Vacation, Day 1
Once racing ended, vacation began. Ryan and I stayed one last night in a very comfy bed at the Fireside Bed ad Breakfast. Interesting place, to say the least. Clean and quiet. The owners are British and there are British antiques and displays all over the place. Breakfast was super tasty and we met some pretty interesting folks staying there. Some just travelers and some cyclists.

We spent the day after the race driving to Crested Butte. We took our time, stopping at passes and a rest area to take in the views.

Arkansas River Valley

We arrived in CB under heavy storms. There was likely chance of rain each day in the area so it was nice to have everything in the van so we could stay dry and mobile. Since it was raining, we spent the afternoon paroozing the town of CB which is very cool, laid back and hippy-ish. There are more bikes than cars and folks ride straight down the middle of the street. If you had a car, you were likely a tourist. You'll be happy to know that Big Al's Bicycle Heaven is owned by an Omaha native and they gave us great advice on where to ride given the amount of time we had to spend in the area. They also were spot on as to where to get an awesome burrito. Be sure to leave room for a couple of margies to wash them down.

We killed some time in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, which is really just an exhibit in the town's local museum. It's cool how the town has adopted the mountain bike and the lifestyle. Townies rule in that town.

After the tour, we hit the local grocery and drove around. When we came back to the main part of the town, we were greeted by music. As we got closer, it was clear that right smack in the middle of the late afternoon people were gathering in a green space to hang out and listen to some live music, much like we would do at Jazz on the Green. We loved the spontaneity of the spectacle and decided to join in. When in Rome, I guess. We stuck around for an hour or so, but because we still needed to travel to get to our first camp site, we headed out as the sun was starting to get low. 

We drove a good 10 miles out of town into a large glacial valley. The views were breath taking. Once down in the valley, we hunted for camping sites. The only one we found was full so we back tracked to a dirt parking lot (that had porta potties). The sign said parking, so we parked. I unpacked the Cliff Bar wine pouch, our plastic camping wine glasses, and we toasted each other, "To us and so sweet single track" or something like that. 

Day 2
The next day we got up with the sunrise. I was in charge of the food while Ryan prepared the bikes. We opted for flat pedals only because it was going to be a relatively short day and we wanted to test them out. Pedaling in flats wasn't that bad, actually. The shoes were a bit hot but other than that, they performed just fine. We killed the day riding to and down the famous 401 Trail, twice. It's not technical and the view was indescribable. I'll let the pictures tell the story...

We had to pass through town on our way to the next trail, so we decided we deserved a buritto (really we were too tired to cook) so we hit up the burrito joint in town and celebrated with football-sized 'ritos and strong margies. I really like vacation!

Before dark, we drove a solid 15 miles in the opposite direction. Following the advice of our buddies at Big Al's, we took a dirt road to the town of Almont. If you like fly fishing and river running, go there. That's all they have! As we passed through town, the mountains got closer together and soon we were in a canyon. We camped next to Spring Creek. The camp hosts were great and warned us of bears so we had to make sure we kept all of the food in the van.

Day 3
On tap for the day was Doctor's Park. After reviewing the topo, we opted for clipless pedals. There was going to be typical Colorado gravel grinding on this ride so the more efficient the better. We parked the van at end of the trail, which was in the camp site, and we headed up the road. We rode through heavy forested areas where lucky folks had set up homesteads. One had R&R on the fence, so we had to take a picture as a reminder that someday we could be so lucky.

Once we popped out of the canyon, we were in open hillsides. The map said we were going to have to cross a stream. It was pretty wide and deep, so we took off our shoes and tip toed across. My sensitive feet were not very happy about this.

Once across the water, we rode up, up and up some more. Had to walk in a couple spots.

As we got going again at the top of this god for saken road, we could hear a rumble in the distance. A blind corner was just ahead and we didn't want to be caught there with some 4WD thing coming at us so we hurried to get in a safer view of what was coming. Well, needless to say, we didn't expect what we saw. A real live cattle drive was coming down the road and we were in the way! Upon seeing us the cows scattered into the trees. Not knowing what to do, we stopped. The cows and their calves were mooing at us as if to say, "Get the hell out of the way"! I started making my way towards a grove of trees thinking that would be a safe place. Not that cows were agressive, I just wanted to be out of the way. Well, that wasn't the best idea since the trees were in the direction the cows were going. The cowboy driving the cattle gave us a stern talking to, telling us to stay put and they'll be on their way. He had a 10 yr old daughter helping him on her horse and it was touching to hear him teaching her what to do. He was calm and in control, despite how we felt at the moment. 

With the cows safely out of the way, we continued up the road until we finally hit single track. Well, it was single track. The cows made it more like muddy, motocross track. But our Remedy's handled it without a foot down. We popped out into a field with the option of taking a trail called Doctors Park Bonus. It wasn't all that, but the view I think was the bonus part.

The next section was the downhill and all I can say is there are no photos because it was just that fun and fast. All I can say is, the climb was totally worth it, although it is driveable, so if you have two vehicles, shuttle! The downhill is kinda technical. A couple of sections have drops and there are some rock gardens but for the most part it's pretty buff. Then, when you get more into the canyon, the end of the trail becomes a black diamond with streep switch backs and rocks. But I rode it, so that should tell ya that it wasn't too bad. 

After the ride, RF and myself took a much desired dip in the creek rushing by. But we had to hurry because the skies were getting dark by the minute. As we drove away, the rains came. We dodged another bullet. We were close to Gunnison, so we decided to go check out the town. Ryan was looking for a bike part, so we stopped into the local shop for that and also to find out where to get a burrito. We scored. And their margies were huge!

We headed back to Crested Butte in time to catch the local weekly FREE XC and Downill races. The ski mountain has this stuff for locals and vacationers so to bring folks to the resort in the summer. When we arrived it was packed with racers and fans. Live musicians were on stage and beer was flowing. I had to pinch myself. This was a Wednesday night!

But, before long we had to call it a night and head to our new vamping sight. We drove out of town again and into the hills just south of town. We found the end of our next adventure and parked in the "no camping" parking lot. But since we were parking and not camping, we figured we'd be ok.

Day 4
Our last ride in the Crested Butte area was Deadman Gulch. It was to be our longest day on the bike but not too much longer than the others. We got up pretty early and good thing because people were showing up, including some of the park staff. Seems there was some trail work being done that included hauling of cement blocks for anchoring. Their trail crew was of the 4-legged kind.

This ride was different from the others in that it had multiple ascents and descents on all kinds of terrain from service roads to double track and single track. The trails were open to motos and ATVs so the trail was pretty loose and tedious to climb. But of all of the trails, I felt the most remote and out there on this day. We did come across some ATV users and an older couple driving their off-road looking golf cart on the service roads but the single track was all ours! It went from tree-lined mountain scapes down through aspen forests. The very end lost elevation quickly with switchback after switchback until we it dumped us out at the creek where we had started. It was a fun day in the saddle and a great ending to our Crested Butte adventures.

We left Crested Butte after the ride and one last burrito. We didn't want to spend all morning driving to Winter Park (our next stop on our Colorado tour) so we decided to go part way and camp. Ryan asked about a gravel service road that would take us a litte out of the way but it was totally worth it. The views were spectacular. We drove through miles of Aspen forests that opened up with views of the "back side" of Crested Butte. I could only imagine its magnificence in the fall with all of the colors. 

I saw this guy as we were driving. But he pulled a Far Side and wouldn't pose for me!

We stopped for the night at a great little campsite just off the interstate outside of Vail. We couldn't even hear the traffic and the sites were nicely spaced apart so you didn't feel like you were invading. Good times. We hadn't taken out pet sheep with us so I took a shot of him in his element. We capped the night and the week with some Cliff Bar wine and our books.

Our next adventure took place, at least for me, at Winter Park Resort's Trestle Bike Park. Ryan was there only a day before he had to head to Steam Boat Springs for an enduro race. My adventure was with the Trek Dirt Series Skills Camp. It was just for ladies and my goal was to learn how to better jump, drop and descend technical terrain. I've been racing for several years, but I still have so much to learn and I figured I could learn a lot from the rad chicks that run the series. 

Carly Thomsen and Jen Deep joined me in my quest for mad skillz. (Photos courtesy of Jen). Ryan and I (along with our dear ol' friend Mike "Rusty" Resetar) took them on the mountain to give them a taste of what was to come. 

We, of course, capped off the night stuffing our face at a family Mexican joint in Fraser, just down the road. (I think RF was jealous of my dinner choice). 

During the camp, went through similar sessions, going back to the basics of balancing, turning, weight distribution, and moving into more advance sessions using stunt equipment to simulate jumps and drops. There was even a small pump track that totally kicked my ass. I could see how just having one of those around could improve how one performs on a trail. (Photos courtesy of Jen).

I don't have any images of me up on the mountain, but I was in one of two "advanced" groups that went down a jump trail called Rain Maker. (Check out this video of dudes sessioning it). After a morning of rushed skills sessions, I wasn't convinced that I had the mojo to catch air, even though our coach, Canada's National Downhill Champion, Casey Brown, drove it into our heads that we had what it took. It's one thing to session a ramp made of wood where you can see where you're landing. It's a totally different thing to approach a 5 foot jump going fast where you can't see what's on the other side. Oh and knowing you're on a mountain and that endless streams of adrenaline filled dudes are boring down on the same trail didn't help. 

Yes, I was terrified. Leaving the earth just doesn't sit well with my control-freak nature.

Believe me, I was in the safest place I could be to learn how to do this. The trails are beautifully made without a rock in site of the landings. For me it was 90% mental. They gave me the knowledge, I just had to believe I could do it. The first time down, I rolled everything. The wall rides and the berms were the most fun because I could do them at speed and remain connected to the ground. These berms were like 20 feet high and the faster you went, the higher up you go on the wall. Intense! Just don't break or look down! Total blast and a feeling of relief and accomplishment was shared among our group. We went up for another run. The second time we rolled through a bit faster and less stopping. I really focused on what I was doing. Knees bent, arms bent and out, roll to the lip and explode over the top! There are so many jumps on this run that it was impossible not to get air on at least one. I can proudly say, I probably got air on a few but I chickened out on most. I think I just need more practice! 

After the day on the mountain, we had time to clean up and meet at a local Tex Mex place on the resort. Our first drink and chips n salsa were on the house, thanks to the manager of the bike park. While Carly and Jen hit up the mechanics session, I hung out with a couple of chicks from Vermont, who I just yesterday I noticed were written up in Dirt Rag magazine. They have a yoga/mtb retreat business and they contributed to a column about yoga for mountain bikers. Such a small world!!!

The next day was more of the same. We got longer sessions on skills of our choice and then after a delay getting on the mountain due to heavy rain and lightening, we had time for one, maybe two runs. I opted for one. After seeing an unfortunate endo gone bad and hitting the deck myself, I lost my mojo and decided to call it a day. Ryan was at the bottom waiting for me and when he saw me all kitted up in my hardcore armor and full face helmet, he was all smiles. I told him that I had gone down Rain Maker a few times and he took a step back, "Woah"! I agreed. And even though I didn't come away with confidentially getting air all of the time, I did come away with the knowledge to do it and to keep practicing. I also came away with bits of riding advice that I never knew that will totally help me in my XC riding and racing. All in all I recommend the Dirt Series camp. It's a great way to learn and be in a safe environment where mistakes are expected and improved upon. The instructors were top of the line; women who have riddin and raced in World Cups and all over British Columbia. Ladies came from as far away as Vermont and California. With partnering sponsors like Trek, Bell, Crank Brothers, and Five10, we had top of the line opportunities to test some great equipment. They really did it right.

The day ended with Carly and Jen bidding me farewell as they had to get on the road. Our good friend Sarah Viamonte came up from Denver to hang out and catch up. We returned to Fraser to again have some homestyle Mexican food at the same restaurant but that just seems like the thing to do after a day, hell, a week of riding bikes in the mountains.