Howdy everyone! Just wanted to touch base, it’s midseason… how time flies when you’re having fun! I just wanted to let you all know how my downhill racing season is going so far.
Sea Otter Classic / Pro GRT 1 I raced downhill and dual slalom. This was my second pro race ever and first dual slalom race. My bike was a tad small for the DH Course I needed a bigger chainring on the Transition scout and on dual slalom I needed less fork. For being on a bit of a mechanical disadvantage I was able to secure 15th in DH out of 25 and 10th out of 15 in dual slalom. It was an awesome experience to race with some of my riding heros and be around such a festival environment. Excited to go back and beat my times next year!
NW Cup #1 was at Port Angeles, Washington. This was a wet muddy practice and qualifying run however it cleared out for race day and was a blast to ride! They had us go down the new trail and boy was it steep and techy at the top. I ended up 5th in my third Pro race event ever.
NW Cup #2 / Pro Grt #2 was also at Dry Hill in Port Angeles, WA. Same conditions as the race before and turned into and awesome race day venture! I improved my time on course from the previous year by 13 seconds and landed in 9th out of 19 women from all around the country. Brakes open and looking ahead!
NW Cup #3 was at Ski Bowl in Mt. Hood, Oregon the track was absolutely perfect, the weather was amazing! The woods were a bit sketchy and slick where exposed roots laid out but I put the rubber down and attained 3rd place.
NW Cup #4 took me to Silver Mountain Bike Park in Kellogg, Idaho. It poured on Friday, stayed overcast on Saturday and was sunny Sunday making the pro track perfect before race time. I hit the biggest drop that I’ve done so far, that I’ve been wanting to hit since last year and got 3rd place in the race.
NW Cup #5 went back to Ski Bowl at Mt. Hood, Oregon. The weather was not as welcoming as it was in previous races. It poured Friday, Saturday and Sunday seeping into the ground. While Cannonball and the upper bowl tackiness was still there, the woods got really muddy and slick. I was off my game and felt like this was the worst I had ridden all season. I got 2nd place but still was a tad disappointed in my time. I look forward to facing similar conditions to push my mind strategy and my limits on the bike.
My next couple races will take me to Yacolt, WA this Saturday to try my hand out in Enduro racing. After that I will compete in the last two NW Cup races at Stevens Pass in Washington. Wish me and my fellow competitors luck! Hope you all are having a great season!!
This year I have one big goal. I want to change my relationship with failure. Last year was an awesome year. It was packed full of fun and adventure. However, I didn’t really come out of the year feeling like I had achieved my goals. This was partly because of an early season injury and partly because of a mindset change. My vision of what I wanted to achieve on a bike changed. I wanted to focus less on hammering out miles and long sufferfests and more on downhill skills. Because of this my beginning of the year goals didn’t really mesh with my end of the year goals. I tried to adjust as I went along but it left me feeling a little unsatisfied. I felt that I had achieved so much over the year but I didn’t have that clear feeling of success. Then I started thinking about my goals for this year. I do really well with goals. I love the process of achieving them. They help me stay on task. I started thinking about trail features that scare me and I started thinking about speed. However, more importantly I started to think about the process. Big(ger) features and more speed is a hard thing for me to tackle. It’s scary and it is messy. While looking at a feature the task frequently seems so cut and dry– just ride off the damn thing (with body positioning in mind). There is so much to learn about body positioning and line choice, but so much of it just comes down to courage. You just have to pull yourself together and ride the damn thing. Then I started thinking about courage. I started to think about how to get the courage, and for me so much of it is wrapped up in how I feel when I don’t do something or don’t pull it off they way I want to.
Then I read some of Syd Schultz’s posts about doing things you are bad at and it really hit home. I have perfectionist disease and I really hate being bad at things, especially in front of people. But you know what kills courage? Being terrified of failure and not allowing yourself to suck at something. Most of the time it isn’t even about being bad at something. Instead it is about not being as good as you would like to be at something (hence the name perfectionist disease). Well you know what? Having the courage to be bad is the first step to having the courage to ride tricky features. And that is what No Apologies is all about. We are not going to apologize for not being perfect because we aren’t perfect. We are learning. We are pushing ourselves and we will fuck up. We will case that jump, ride a sloppy line, be scared, push our bikes over and up, but we will do that while knowing that we will do better next time. Part of the process of growing is doing all of the above. It is about being out there, trying, and not apologizing for who you are or where you are in the process. It is about being okay with vulnerability.
I have been getting a little dorky about teaching theory, and someone recently told me about this video by Carol Dweck. I loved it and have officially made it my goal this year. I have already been working on this, but it feels good to have an official goal. For me, mountain biking is the perfect place to practice my growth mindset. I am going to replace “can’t” and “didn’t” with “not yet.” I am going to give myself permission to fail. I hope that you will join me in my quest to view failure in a new way, because in the words of Leonard Cohen, “there is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” Let’s get out there and there and enjoy the process!
My early summer was struck down by injury. I was off the bike for almost 7 weeks. Completely off– I didn’t ride around town, the block, anything. For an average American, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. To me, it was a major life disruption. It made me realize how amazing my life is on a day to day basis; how thankful I am to have the opportunity for adventure every day of my life. I know that a big part of it is me, my husband and my community. We put a lot of energy into building a life of adventure, wonder and sheer bliss. I struggle with anxiety and adventure is the best medication I have found. It just has to happen- bike or no bike. And it did. There were sunsets and waterfalls all around, but I have to say, there is nothing like mountain biking. I sometimes feel like we have been let in on the best secret in the world. I don’t understand why everyone isn’t spending all their waking hours (and more) on a bike.
After 7 weeks off, I am reminded of another reason why mountain biking is the best sport ever (p-value = 0.000000007). It is such a mental sport! It takes me to a place in my head where I have to meet some of my deepest fears and one of my biggest critics. It is a constant dance with yourself and with your limits. Last week, I did my first real trail rides since the injury. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, even though my injury wasn’t from a big crash (I literally fell over sideways from a standstill and dislocated my shoulder), I was still feeling timid. This has a fair basis in reality since the odds of dislocating it are much greater right now, but I was surprised at how timid I was.
My first lap down the beautiful steep, rooty mess that is Cummins Creek introduced me to one of the biggest problems with fear: sometimes it makes you do stupid stuff. I had to find the line between being too timid and too brave. Even though I roll my eyes whenever my husband says it, sometimes you just need speed AND you just need to go for it. You are either in or out, but being in between often throws you over the bars, into the corner or on your butt. This is the line I was playing with. It’s the line that I am always playing with, but it is heightened when returning from a crash or injury. I have to both trust myself and know my limits.
The second lap was pure joy. I opened it up. I played well on that line. I loved every second of it. This is why I love mountain biking. If you are able to examine your fears, your trust issues, and your own criticism, it will reward you one hundred fold. It’s a bonus if you can apply these lessons to your daily life as well, OR perhaps I am overthinking it. Either way, I love it and I am so happy to be back at it!
On Saturday, June 20 I volunteered as a sweep for the Mary’s Peak 50K trail run. Being a race sweep means I stay behind all the runners, making sure they are safe and on the right course, all the while clearing the course of all the signs and markers.
I had looked forward to sweeping this race on my bike because since I started training for the Cascade Creme Puff Fritter 50, I’ve got the crazy eyes for long distance rides. Plus, race promoter Mike Ripley always creates an interesting and challenging course.
This experience ended up being different than I expected, and I learned a lot from both the long hours spent on the course and my riding/volunteering/training buddy, Clarinda.
I drove up Woods Creek Road to meet a group of very fast looking runners swarming out from the Mary’s Peak North Ridge trail head. An army of nicely toned legs and the crazy look of ultra-anything flew past me as I frantically pulled my bike out of the back. Yes, I was a bad volunteer that morning. I was running late and had parked my truck just moments before the racers took off.
After I got on my bike and checked in with Ripley, I joined Clarinda, and we set off for what was to be be a very. long. day.
A word about my friend Clarinda. After working in Minnesota for the past few months, she was back in Corvallis for a handful of days when she was asked to fill in last second as a volunteer sweep the following morning. She said yes, and I was happy to get to catch up with her and chat about what she’d been up to.
We took off down to the North Ridge extension trail. Whoops. wrong turn. Now we see the trail head. That was just a warm-up, we told each other. Haha, right? As we headed up the extension we ran into the 25K runners just bombing down the hill toward us. I always tell trail runners that they have it easier because I can at least sit down on my bike. Sort of a joke, but these guys in particular struck me as seriously aggressive and impressive.
At the end of the extension trail we were back at the parking lot and faced the biggest elevation gain of the day – North Ridge trail up to the top of Mary’s Peak. I think Ripley has fun planning his routes, because as a cycling and running event promoter, he seems to enjoy having his runners run up what is popular for cyclists to cycle down. Take North Ridge for example – rooty drops characterize this switchback-heavy technical climb. Most people choose bike up East Ridge. Buuuuut, this was not a race for mountain bikers, so a’slogging we did go, hoping to finally catch up with the slowest runners and feel like we were doing our job.
Multiple runner-free switchbacks later and reality was settling in – we had ridden only a few miles and climbed just a sprinkling of the 5,000 total feet of elevation. We stared up at Oregon’s highest coastal peak and started asking ourselves questions. Clarinda wondered why she had so readily agreed to this the night before. She pondered on her general tendency to agree to things. I wondered: did I trick her into doing this? Am I a total jerk? Am I going to break my friend? Will we ever see those damn runners? (Nope on the last one.)
My friend Chris calls this “Level 3 fun.” The kind of fun that is often only enjoyable in hindsight and includes a mixture of misery quests, getting lost, and in this case, realizing early you may be in over your head and there’s nothing you can do about. Just finish. Get your butt in the saddle and your feet on the pedals and seal the deal.
Our slog-fest up to the peak ended at a very busy parking lot; in addition to the 50K there was the Mary’s Peak Hill Climb Time Trial. I checked in with my fellow volunteers and then cruised over to the other event aid station. Oh yeah, new station with new treats. These folks did not disappoint, and offered me bowls of full-sized candy bars.
Non-bike related commentary: Different aid stations are much like different houses on your trick or treating route, and getting the full size stuff is like when your mom drives you to the rich part of town and you end up totally scoring.
After making an unappetizing electrolyte cocktail of Gatorade, Heed, and Nuun (taste buds < bonking), I biked up to the proper top of the peak. Riding a figure 8 pattern with a view that spans the Cascades to the coast, I cleared the trail and met Clarinda back down at the parking lot. We reminded ourselves that the hardest climb was over. Down East Ridge we rode, out of the Siuslaw National Forest and into the vast network of singletrack on mostly Starker Forest and other private land. I appreciated the opportunity to discover some pretty cool trails and revisit some that make up the Mudslinger XC race held every April.
Bagging Mary’s Peak may have been the hardest section, but our ride was far from over. After checking in at several aid stations, we realized we were never going to catch up with even the slowest runners. I guess when you sign up for a 50K trail run you mean business.
So, cruising along the course, we had a lot of time to chat and had established a nifty little system for clearing the all the signage: roll up to the tree/fern/green thingy, carefully extract the fluorescent pink and white ribbon from the branch/frond/green thingy, apologize to all fronds damaged in the process, pull the signs stapled to the trees, scoop up mini traffic cones, and cram them into a giant pack on Clarinda’s pack. Slam dunk. Do you know how many slam dunks you can have on a 32 mile course? So dang many. We rode a bit, we cleared a lot. Rode a bit, cleared a lot. This resulted in an interesting cadence and fewer apologies to the greenery as we yanked ribbon, roped off sections, and oh so many little orange traffic cones.
The rest of the ride pretty much followed this uneventful pattern. But the final stretch was most memorable for me. At 4:30 p.m. we rode an exposed, high grass trail called Mohawk that affords a beautiful view of the coast range. We stopped to eat and check in with people via text. Yes we are still alive. Clarinda and I had expected to be done by this time, but all in all we still had another 3 hours to go. As we made the final stretch down the gravel road to the finish line at the Blodgett school house, a truck came roaring up behind us. It was Ripley, rolling down his window and gingerly trying to find an acceptable way to tell two hard-working ladies that they were “balls deep.” Go ahead and say it, I told him. He agreed, and offered to help clear the rest of the course leap-frog style. Yeessssss please. To this day (7 whole days later) I see an innocuous little ribbon tied to a tree in the forest and I scream in my head NOOOO!
A quick late afternoon snapshot on Mohawk trail, in the Blodgett area. Note the exploding flannel in my new favorite accessory, Revelate’s Feedbag.
And that brings me to the point of me writing this post – after riding 10.5 consecutive hours with Clarinda that day, I was amazed by the smile on her face and her super positive attitude in the face of something challenging and frustrating and more than a little tedious. Hours before she had doubted herself, but she was totally fine! In fact, she went for a ride the next day. I don’t always reflect such positivity but she inspired me by her actions. Earlier Clarinda had questioned her tendency to agree to things, but her willingness to get out there is what makes her a good friend for me to learn from. At the end of the ride as we loaded up our bikes, she reflected on many things she learned that day: her limits are far higher than she thought, she isn’t so worried about some upcoming Oregon 24 Hour Race, and she knows a bit more about the right mix of hydration and nutrition on long rides. As for me, I was pretty happy to log so many hours on my bike, since the Fritter could take me nearly that long, and Clarinda’s positive spin left me in a pretty good mood. We never did catch those runners, though.
You never realize how much something means to you until you put it all on the line. What I mean by all on the line is: “to give whatever it is you are doing, every atom of energy that you have to give”.
For me this past weekend I realized that my dreams, goals and vision are truly becoming my reality.
Growing up my dream was to become a Professional Motocross racer. Every weekend we would load up the dirt bikes and I would watch my Dad compete in races. He was stunning to me, watching him soar in the air, rip apart the dirt from the surface of the earth and roll on the throttle like hell on wheels. My Dad is relentless, resilient and never backed down from his dreams. At 52 years old he is on one of the fastest series known to man. Parallel to a graceful poetic dance he finds the fountain of youth on the Moto America Road Racing circuit.
What is incredible is that my Dad retired from Motocross and Arena cross to make sure my sister and I were raised right. He raised me alone, my half-sister had a mom and our Dad, so most of the time it was just Dad and I. After decades of being out of the racing scene he taught my sister and I how to ride motorcycles. The first time I rode my own dirt bike I knew that I was hooked, already at only 6 years old. I rode around in a big open field on my Honda z50, the good old kind with a red metal gas tank, big wheels and leather seat. My Dad had to chase after me to get me to stop.
From then on it was an addiction I would not be able to relinquish. The racing gene was inside of me, it has shaped me, helped me grow and it challenges my capacity for growth everyday.
My dad discovered road racing at a track day at Infenion raceway in Sonoma, California on his newly gifted Yamaha R6. We could see it in his eyes, how the racing gene boiled inside of him, as he grinned from ear to ear. This one single day eventually led my dad into racing in the AFM (American Federation of Motorcyclists) and he had his Professional-racing debut when he was almost 50 years old.
My dad displayed unyielding results in AMA SuperSport West and made the move up classes to Daytona SportBike. He currently is still moving up the ranks and pushes his limits not only as racer but as a father, my inspiration, my motivation, the apple of my eye and the person I think of when I’m on the starting line. In my mind he tells me that I CAN do this, I CAN win and I CAN achieve anything I put my mind too.
This weekend was my debut as a Cat 1 racer, winning my first race of the 2015 season. It also happened to be Father’s Day. Before the race I thought to myself. “Wouldn’t it be cool if I won for not only me but for my dad?”
The Pro/Cat 1 race-course was burly and unforgiving. My first time on the course Friday I wasn’t sure if I could make it down the full length of the rock garden. I managed to buckle up and gain my confidence & speed throughout the weekend. On race day June 21, 2015, I released ever atom of energy that my body, mind and spirit could expend. All I could think about was my Dad and how proud of him I was and how proud he would be of me for chasing my aspirations. My time was 5:13:68, winning by .18 of a second, the last few petal strokes and grunts of pain were worth it.
All of my tears, pain, heartache, joy, passion, optimism and strength came down to this moment. I cannot wait to race for what matters in the Professional realm next season. Having the racing gene wasn’t a choice but something that I was born with. If I had a choice I wouldn’t change a damn thing. Cheers to my Dad, Roi Holster for instilling in me the work ethic, passion and drive that it takes to be a successfully racer. I cannot thank my sponsors enough for believing in me and helping make my dreams a reality.
I dislocated my shoulder 5 weeks ago. I have been dedicating myself to dealing with this injury as gracefully as possible. I vowed not to have any major meltdowns or sink into depression. Injury is integrated with the sport that I love and I have to learn how to deal with it. I prefer to keep it to a minimum, but it is an unstated risk that we take every time we get on the bike. I won’t say that I have been 100% successful with cultivating grace, but like any challenge, sometimes it takes a few tries. I might say it is a little like that skinny that you keep riding off of. You don’t fall, you just kind of ride off the side. You keep doing this until you listen to yourself and look ahead and relax. Nothing to it after a few tries. So, that is where I am. I keep riding off the side of my injury skinny, then I shake it off, relax and look ahead.
And the good news? This shoulder dislocation isn’t as bad as it could have been. I have a mild Hill-Sachs impaction and a minor tear in my inferior glenohumeral ligament. It will take time, but it won’t require surgery and likely won’t take as much time to heal as the other bad things that can happen when you dislocate your shoulder. I am trying to be good and listen to my physical therapist even when he dodges all questions about timelines involving the bike. I guess we will know when I am ready. I just have to be patient.
In the meantime I have been finding ways to stay busy. I gave my PhD proposal seminar. I have have been camping and hiking with friends. I am taking advantage of not having wheels by hiking in wilderness areas and with some of my very best friends who don’t ride bikes (I still love them). I have been playing the role of the supportive shuttler; when you can’t ride it is important to enable your friends to have as much fun as possible. And of course, I have been doing PT exercises and spending a lot more time on stationary recumbent bikes at the gym.
Now that I have a plan and an end in sight, I am starting to look ahead and think about how to adjust my goals accordingly. I really love goal setting. As cheesy as it can be, it is a system that works well for me. My goals pre-injury were to finish the Cascade CreamPuff and my first enduro, climb 500,000 feet for the year, improve my downhill skills, and learn how to manual. I don’t have a date I will be back on the bike and I don’t know how slow the progression will be. However, I can think it is safe to say that my planned enduro and the CreamPuff are out. I still have my fingers crossed for the Fritter (the half CreamPuff). I will have to wait and see if that will be possible, but a girl can dream. What does that mean for my future with the CreamPuff? Will I tackle it for 2016? Well, I wouldn’t want to give any spoilers. What about my climbing goals? Missing two months when you are trying to climb half a million feet in one year is a pretty good setback. I can’t imagine being able to make up for that AND make progress on my PhD. I will say that IF my return goes well, I will have to shoot for 417,000 ft. That means I will have to come back strong with my climbing, but I am going to be optimistic with that. Downhill skills? Well, that was a loose goal anyway. I just wanted to go out and practice. I can do that when I am free to do the fun stuff. Manual? Yep, I can still work on that towards the end of the year!
I am extremely stubborn, so I hope that these will be realistic adjustments to the year. It is possible that I will have to readjust as I go farther down the road to recovery, but that is part of the process. Goal setting is a process of getting to know yourself. It is about learning where to put the end point for maximum growth. It isn’t about hard and fast rules. It is about setting yourself up for accomplishing things that are just out of reach. It is about learning from failures and setbacks. This injury is just a setback. I hope to learn how to let go of some of my stubbornness and be kind and patient with myself. Dealing with downtime can be just as important as pushing performance. It can also serve as a reminder to appreciate everyday that I am a well enough to spend hours on the bike doing what I love most.
Do you have any suggestions for dealing with setback? How do you deal with injury?
I have to admit something. I have never even been on a cycling team before. I was searching for a team that I could feel proud of. I wanted to be on a team with like-minded, kick-ass individuals who were passionate about cycling the same way that I was. I wanted a team that was about more than performance. So, when I realized that there weren’t enough teams that fit this profile, I decided that we would just have to make one!
The thing about creating a team when you have never been on one before is that it can take time to figure things out. However, one thing that I knew from the start is that we needed jerseys. We needed cute and cozy jerseys that we would be stoked to wear. So, we started the search. For a small team in the sunrise of their career, it can be a daunting task. We struggled to find options that wouldn’t break the bank and would be able to support a small order size. We also struggled with the diversity of our team; as not everyone would want a tight fitted cross country style jersey.
That is when it was time to step out of the box a bit. Why not find a company that would fit our values AND our style needs and print them ourselves? Enter Ashley Rankin, founder of Shredly. From the beginning, Ashley was super supportive and helpful. She dealt with my questions about screen printing, order logistics, timelines AND she was still happy to support our fledgling team.
We knew that supporting a US clothing company that designs gear for and by a lady shredder was a no brainer, but we had never had the Shredly experience. There are not enough stores that carry Shredly. I hope that will change in the future, but for now, perhaps our experiences can help inform your decision to go Shredly.
Once we got the gear in our grubby little hands, we knew it would be magic. It was REALLY hard not to wear the jersey before getting it printed! A quick try on gave me my first impression. All I could think was: Stupid Sexy Flanders! I was dancing around the house repeating: “It’s like wearing nothing at all!” Seriously cozy.
I couldn’t resist getting a pair of the Louise MTB shorts and yogachams to go with the jersey. Neither of these disappoint. The chamois sit a little shorter then I expected. At first a felt a little startled, but in performance, it allows it to sit better when worn with knee pads. The chamois itself was has been super comfortable on every ride. The shorts, besides have a great print, are made with a light weight fabric that I will continue to praise as the summer continues.
The jersey printed like a dream. As Ashley promised, it took the print really well. Even our Honeybones designed Branson looks great on the back of the big jersey pockets. Beyond the print, the lightweight jersey is completely breathable, fits well and provides the perfect amount of coverage. As demonstrated by that stupid sexy Flanders, I frequently forget about it when I am on the bike. This is a wonderful thing. The last thing that you should be thinking about when you are shredding is your jersey. Although highly discouraged, it performs well during shoulder reductions as well.
The added bonus is that the jerseys are super easy to spot! It is easy to spot your teammates out on the field!
Still need convincing? Here’s what other No Apologies! have to say:
Stephanie Says: “I love supporting a homegrown company, especially a women’s specific company that shreds. I mostly like that Shredly has well thought out clothing for the task. It seems that Shredly has hit the nail on the head. I have to say the jerseys are very comfortable and flattering, and provide enough coverage on the backside. The only thing I would request would be deeper pockets with more security. I also added the Yogacham and a pair of the Kortney MTB Long shorts. I do agree with Rheannon that the yogasham is a little on the short side, but they keep my butt happy with well thought out padding. I enjoy that overshorts are a lightweight material, and have adjustable velcro tabs on the sides. These are not only great for shredding, but I’ve also used them for commuting. They are the perfect length to keep your knees comfortably warm on chilly mornings and you can pop the zipper vents open on the front if things start to heat up. The side leg pocket is also great because you can put stuff in without it feeling baggy and flopping around. All in all I am impressed with Shredly threads, I like that you can get down and dirty and look great doing it. I look forward to adding more Shredly to the bike clothes corral. Thank you Ashley for creating Shredly!”
Michelle Says:“I love my Shredly jersey – it’s long enough that it doesn’t ride up on my belly, and it’s a true-to-size fit; if you’re a medium, buy a medium. If you’re a large, buy a large! There’s nothing more irritating than purchasing what you think is your size and end up either flapping in the wind or feeling like a stuffed sausage. The fabric does a great job of wicking away moisture, and odor. Comfortable, looks great, stays dry… perfect!”
Sarah Says: “This jersey is like wearing your favorite t-shirt, fitting perfectly without any itchy/flappy/zippy drama. But unlike your favorite tee, it’s super breathable and the mesh panels perform well in this crazy heat. Style-wise, it strikes a great balance of having a technical fabric with great coverage in the back, while looking pretty sweet when we’re walking around at an event. I wasn’t so sure about the coral color at first, but it’s unique and the fit is flattering. It has become one of my go-to jerseys I grab for a ride!”
It’s Sunday. A day where most American’s go to church or sleep in and read the morning newspaper, go to their local breakfast spot and grab some eggs, bacon and toast with a steaming cup of coffee. For us it’s a bit different, our Sunday has become a ritual of waking up early, loading our gear and bikes, slamming down whatever breakfast we have at the house and cruising on the highway as the sun is rising to our favorite downhill spot in Yacolt, Washington.
Having access to the Cold Creek Trail System is one of the many advantages of living in the great Pacific Northwest. There are a variety of trails for different types of riding. Cold creek is one of the trails, for a more enduro style rider. Cold creek features bermed switchbacks that link corner to corner, a rock garden, a few bridge crossing over the river and is speckled with roots, rocks and fun all the way down the trail. There is another trail in the Cold Creek system called Thrillium, this is one of my all time favorite trails. It’s a dynamic downhill specific trail. It is shuttle-able, fast, technical, steep, rocky, plenty of roots, and has lots jumps. It is the perfect training spot to gain confidence with tech and speed. It is full of laughs, smiles, stories of close calls and most of all it makes trips that you will never forget with your friends.
Rob is an ex-pro downhill racer that has come out of a serious neck injury; this past trip to Thrillium was his second time on his new bike and he was sending it like he was never off a bike at all. Both Rye and I look up to him because of his positive attitude, his ability to always make you laugh and jeez this guy can shred.
Rye grew up shredding the mountains of Santa Cruz, which shows in his natural ability and flowing style. I admire those traits! He sees the lines through a different lens and is always teaching me new techniques to rip through the really technical sections of the mountain, which makes him great training partner.
Hi 5 Bikes teammate Gordo is so naturally gifted when it comes to riding bikes it amazes me. At the rate he is going I feel he will be at the World Cups in his later teenage years. This kid is flat out pinned all the time
This was the first run of Thrillium we have done this season that was dry. Normally until about the beginning of June it is still pretty moist and wet out at there. However, this May it has been so fast and tacky, it is some of the best conditions I have ever experienced on this trail. After riding in the rain back to back all winter, it is almost a learning curve to get back to riding tacky and fast rolling trails.
No flats, minor crashes and all of us in great laughing spirits, we packed up our bikes and heading back home as the sun was going down. I wouldn’t trade the experience with my friends and our bikes for anything.
For the following months I felt pretty frustrated and disappointed. I felt that I could have finished if I would have trained harder, pushed myself more, started earlier etc. I found endless alternate versions of reality where I was able to finish the race. That is when the big question started to appear: would I try again? The answer went back and forth. I knew that I need a break. Training kind of sucked. I wasn’t able to go on fun rides with my friends. I needed to put it behind me.
However, I am thankful that I didn’t leave everything behind. After a month off (mostly due to a terrible flu and moving), Jim and I started to get out on the bike again. After all the misery was cleansed from our psyche, we found that we were still riding close to training volume minus a few misery quests. It was like our bodies had been reset and we now operated at a higher level. I started my PhD that Fall and at first it was a challenge to get rides in. I was teaching, researching and taking classes. To counteract this, I sold my road bike and bought a cross bike so that I could make my commute into a longer ride. We invented the dimple commute, which changed the trek to the university from a flat 6 miles in town to 1,400 feet and about 14 miles on mostly trail and gravel road. It was amazing. It allowed me to get more riding in and experience more sunrises and sunsets. Both are good things.
The following year (last year) Jim and I both logged greater mileage and elevation than our year of training. It felt amazing. No training (see TOE image from part 1 as evidence that sometimes it is good to train for things), lots of fun and more riding. Training for the Puff had unknowingly caused a major lifestyle change. It took such a large goal to create such a dramatic change. Looking back, I feel a little crazy for choosing that goal, but I am better for it.
This spring I was addressed again with that nagging question and I answered yes. Actually to be honest, I momentarily went crazy and when I came to I was holding a free Cream Puff entry in my hand. What happens at ACM should stay at ACM, but it won’t. Instead it opened up a new year of training, misery and challenge. What a good year for it too!
I have more base miles, better routines, an amazing team and the best race support (since Jim says he will never try again he has made it his mission to make sure that I cross this finish line). I will even have Bridget out there with me again! So here it goes. I have officially started my homebrewed training plan. Wish me luck and if you feel like you can force me to actually do training stuff (what are intervals?) or just want to have some fun please come ride with me! Or if you feel up to it, join me out there in August!
The day of: After a night of poor sleep, I awoke to my knee wound still aching from the crash, sleepy and nervous about how the day would unfold. I was anxious to get on my bike and start riding. I was bursting with anticipation as we lined up at the start line. After a short delay we started down the road for our neutral start.
As the race officially began, we all filed into a short section of river trail. It was madness. Everyone was clustered together in a tight, impatient line, waiting to get up the hike-a-bike sections. If I pushed past someone, my heart rate skyrocketed. If I stayed behind someone, I got delayed even longer. I cursed the pile up and made another tally mark on my mental checklist of reasons why I dislike river trails. Eventually we started to spread out and we hit the gravel road. I was already frazzled, but the miles of climbing started to melt the frustration away. I was in the back of the group, but I started to catch people along the gravel road climb. I found my friend (and hopefully future No Apologies! member) Bridget. We leap frogged back and forth as we began the descent. Her single speeder legs destroyed me on the climbs as I would sit down and spin. Then I would catch her on the downhill.
I love the Cream Puff course (seriously, sign up for the 50 miler). It is on one of my all time favorite routes and I kept getting caught up in it. It was hard not to enjoy the wonderful views in the open meadows. I wanted to stop and hang out but I had to keep going. I felt good. Or at least I did until I rounded up to the last big climb of the first lap. Once we hit the newly built singletrack climb, the day started to catch up with me. But somehow, like magic, the last downhill portion of that lap erased it all, and I found myself at the lap point, ecstatic from the descent. I looked at my time and thought: I can do this! I hit the river trail again with all my might. That is when it all started to fall apart. As I mentioned earlier, I kind of hate river trails. I think they are beautiful, but I’ve never gotten used to the constant ups and downs. The rolling terrain really takes it out of me. I would much rather tuck my head down for a brutal climb than deal with the constant undulation of a river trail. I tried to ignore the pain and enjoy the sound of the water. I focused a little too much on that sound and I started to think it was calling to me. I imagined stopping there and taking a swim. It was a hot day and nothing sounded better than jumping in that cold water. But somehow I kept going. I hit the gravel road climb for the second time, put my head down and started spinning. I kept spotting Bridget in the distance, but she was pulling away from me. I became keenly aware of my declining speed. I looked at the time. It started to sink in that there was no possible way for me to make the final cut off. I could make the first cut off but probably not the second, and definitely not the final one. This realization really took the wind out of my sails. How far would I keep going? Would I wait for them to pull me off?
I watched as more and more people passed me going the wrong way on the road. They had officially pulled out of the race and were headed back to the staging area. It was hard to keep my spirits up as I watched my fellow racers give up. When I was nearing the next aid station, I found my Jim limping along the road. He looked worse than I felt. I knew then that we were done. It was time to call it. One of the sweeps started circling us like a vulture, waiting for our bodies to drop to the ground. We alternated between walking and riding to the next aid station. When we rolled in, our friends confirmed our decision to stop. Bridget had decided to keep pushing until she was pulled (at her next pass of this aid station). We asked about our other friends who were still in the fight (one of them eventually made it across the finish line). But we were done. We gave it everything and we didn’t make it. As we waited for the shuttle to take us back down, I didn’t even have the energy or mental capacity to feel bad yet. It was over.
Have you ever pulled out of a race? How did you feel about it later? Tell us about it! I will share more about my experience in part 3: the aftermath.