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.