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!!
So tired tonight… and in pain. My knee is throbbing, my feet are cold and my leg is itching from wearing a compression stocking that makes my thigh look like a stuffed sausage. I just finished my first attempt at a gym workout since ACL surgery last Monday; but instead of hearing the buzz of a cheering audience or Chariots of Fire in the back of my head, I’m merely trying to keep my stomach attached to the inside of my ribs and stop the room from spinning. Lack of calories and a naturally low blood pressure can have wild consequences under the right kind of environmental stress, and unfortunately for me, my body was letting me know that perhaps my ambitious need to improve my physical state of mobility might have been more successful had I taken the time to digest some solid food. Nonetheless, I worked through an initial set of exercises, and though not as quickly as I imagined, my healing is moving forward. In this, there is much to be thankful for…
Three years ago I opted for an ACL revision to fix a cadaver graft and meniscus injury – not more than six months later, I had torn the graft yet again, and decided to opt out of surgery and see how long I could go without an ACL. Consequently, it wasn’t too long before the injuries began compounding, and fast forward to 2015; I finally scheduled an overdue solution and opted for a new graft, this time, harvesting from my patellar ligament to ensure a stronger, longer outcome. The problem is, going under the knife is no easy decision, and as I’ve “been there done that” on too many prior occasions, I knew I would be looking at a drawn out recovery process. However, measuring the benefits against the risks, and the patience it would take to heal, I believe I made the right choice.
For the last three years, I’ve been prone to knee dislocations, soft tissue tears, and joint inflammation. There simply wasn’t any room for error. Downhill “racing” and jumps became detrimental. If I missed a transition due to lack of timing or poor judgment in speed, my knee would dislocate upon the landing. More than once, this has caused me significant pain and long bouts out of the saddle. Sadly, my confidence waning and my knee simply giving out with a mere squatting motion, I quit riding my beloved playground, Black Rock, altogether, last February. Since then, I’ve had to slow down on climbing – my typical style is to mash the pedals, and my knee let me know this simply wasn’t acceptable. When I switched to higher RPMs, my back gave out. And though I had fun “racing” Crawfish Classic this summer, my speed wasn’t anywhere near where it was even a year ago. The muffin top had become a permanent fixture, and riding became even more painful as my cardio fitness took a dive. In September, I finally jumped in and scheduled my orthopedic consultation – I would spend the holidays learning how to walk again.
So as the surgery date became more apparent, I began to feel the anxiety grow… how long would this really take to heal? I became a fervent researcher in ACL recovery and cycling athletes. To be honest, there really isn’t a whole lot out there for competitive mountain biking, much less downhill or freeride enthusiasts. Asking my doctor, he seemed to have some idea about when I would be able to get on a road bike, but “off road cycling” would have to play it by ear a bit longer. Then there’s all my amazing friends who also happen to be professional athletes – some of whom recently broke their femurs (yep, there’s more than one of you) and a few more having had ACL reconstructive surgeries in the last couple years – they’re all doing great; but I am a small business owner, a mom, a “wife” (of sorts) and while mountain biking is definitely at the top of my list of priorities, it isn’t the only priority in my life, and someone has to pay the bills. This doesn’t leave me with hours on end to focus on physical training and riding bicycles every day. So how long would it really take for me to heal to my desired level of athletic performance? After a long trifle of personal interviews, medical consultations and scouring the internet for relevant information, I have come to the conclusion that my next “racing career” (period of time when I will prioritize my competitive performance as a mountain biker) will begin now, with the goal to seriously hit the race circuit by May 2017. Eighteen months of rehab, training, building my strength, endurance, mental capacity and habits (the most important key here…) that will help me reach success in my desire to excel at the sport of mountain biking.
That being said, six months before I can ride dirt again seems far off, for now. But I know all too well; time ticks onward, and it waits for no one. So, while my garden needed tending, my house needed cleaning and the paperwork on my desk continued to accumulate, I spent the last month, before undergoing the knife, on dirt, with friends and family.
No Apologies! kicked off the party with an impromptu birthday ride in late October at Sandy Ridge. Wasting no time, I re-posted the event to the Northwest Trail Alliance Women’s Group. After all, who could resist celebrating at least three birthdays, including Sarah, Kerstin and myself. It turned out to be an amazing day in both weather and company. Some of my favorite adventure ride partners showed up to share the glory, and we worked every bit of the trail system we had time to put two wheels to; rock gardens, drops, big corners and off-camber rooted switchbacks – Sandy has it all. Following the more experienced riders, we tested our skills, raised our confidence and built a whole new coalition of camaraderie. At the end of the day, we left the scene on very satisfying terms; after all, what could be better than a shredfest of beautiful, strong, confident women… and cupcakes.
Breaking away from the travels up north, I also took some time to hit a few areas closer to home. I took a day to ride Carpenter’s Bypass (lovingly referred to as Whypass, by Eugene-local IMBA chapter, Disciples of Dirt) with my sweetie Matt. Whypass is a chaotic network of trails loosely following a “figure eight” structure around a main road. The trick to finding your way around is to remember which side of the road you’re on. However, the goods are worth a few minutes of confusion; twisting descents through a myriad of forest habitats, wide open viewpoints and multiple opportunities to “choose your line” make Whypass the perfect venue for anyone, at any skills level. What I love is that there really isn’t any extended time in the saddle spent climbing or going downhill – Whypass offers a balanced option for the classic cross country mountain biking experience, and makes for the perfect outdoor “gym” for those who are trying to build up their fitness. Blue skies, tabletop sessioning, and pedaling at a steady, even, pace gave me hope my cardio wasn’t as bad off as I thought.
But then I hit the North Shore Trail (or perhaps I should I say it “spanked” me) just outside Lowell off Highway 58 heading east from Eugene. A rolling river trail, North Shore boasts plenty of challenges to test both endurance and strength. You must be comfortable with constant elevation change – just when you think you can’t pedal up any longer, you’ll be pointing straight down again, right through the middle of a rock garden or a pile of roots with a sharp left turn and a creek crossing ending in a gear-thrusting grind up to the next surprise. A mere 12-mile out and back can become a technical nightmare quickly, especially when (like me) your back tire loses traction across a slimy, unkempt bridge and you’re thrown out of the saddle as your bike dives into the creek you thought you were avoiding by riding the bridge in the first place! Oh yeah, it made for a sore hip and a wet, squishy, shoe, but I persevered. While it continued to rain most of the day, I barely noticed, as I found myself chasing my friend Aimee on her single speed – and for her, single speed means just that; one speed; which is FAST. Needless to say, I didn’t get cold, and there was no dilly-dallying the ride “back to the barn”. We enjoyed an invigorating workout, followed by rainbows, tacos, hot tub and steam. I love riding with women. We know how to see it through – beginning to end, and we don’t have to feel guilty about spoiling ourselves!
A good mountain bike tribute in the fall wouldn’t be complete without combining a mushroom hunt into the mix. So I borrowed an extra bike and convinced my friend Angela to join Matt and I for a ride/foray on Larison Creek trail. Located just outside Oakridge off Diamond Drive and east on NF 21, Larison Creek trail is accessed off the west cove of Hills Creek, also known as Larison Cove. Poor Angela. My bike, though a size small, was still a bit too large for her tiny 5’ frame. Coming to a full stop left her unbalanced as she tried to dismount to size up a line, and unfortunately, she took a short topple off the edge of the trail. It was slow motion – three (yes three) endos into the brush. I raced back up trail to make certain she was alright, offering a hand, but she is stubborn, and declined my help, insisting she just needed to catch her breath. After walking down the descent, she was back on it, determined not to go home empty-handed. We culled through our “spots” without much luck, finding enough hedgehogs and chanterelles for dinner, but not much more. So we rode a bit further before turning back. That’s when Angela took off like a banshee… had all the coaching on the way out gotten through already? Suddenly, Angela was naturally shifting her body through the descents, facing roots, rocks, and small drops with ease. This was exactly what I had imagined for her – and I was so happy to finally share my favorite pastime with one of my oldest and dearest friends. Definitely a highlight before going into surgery!
The “piece de resistance” came the last weekend, just before I dove into the black hole of pain, scar tissue, and torture (uh, I mean, physical therapy). It just so happened that I was to drive Matt’s daughter to the Portland Airport for an early morning Saturday departure, so I decided to take one last opportunity to ride the north side of the state in unexplored territory. I put the word on Facebook at the last minute on Thursday, drove up Friday, and spent the night in Vancouver, at my friend Bridget’s place (also my No Apologies! teammate). Following a brisk delivery to Southwest Airlines, Bridget, myself and about a dozen of my PDX-based riding partners met at the base of Thrillium – a well-known downhill trail outside of Camas, off Hwy. 500 in the Columbia Gorge, on the Washington side.
To be honest, I was completely overwhelmed by the response of so many friends who came out to ride with me. On top of it all, two of the ladies in attendance were also celebrating their birthdays. While they could have chosen to spend the day at any number of other engagements, these folks came out to share the sunshine and the shred, with me! And what a fantastic day! We gathered our gear and bikes up between four vehicles and carpooled to the top of Thrillium for a couple of runs. The trail started out with an abrupt, vertical drop-in. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I decided to let it all go –fear, anxiety, worry about falling… all gone. I jumped in full throttle, chasing Oregon Enduro Cup series champ, Elaine Bothe to the next regroup spot. What a rush… rocky chutes and fast, steep corners, skinny passages between trees, root drops and a swift left turn before we piled out onto the road crossing. The next couple segments took us down a frozen wonderland of freestyle jumps, berms, step-ups and tabletops with hangtime for what seemed like miles. In fact, I think I probably caught my biggest air ever on the second run down. Chainless, I let off the break and launched a big tabletop, dumb-stricken during hangtime, thinking to myself “oh my god, I am flying… I’m way off the ground… my head is in the clouds…” and then, suddenly back on two wheels again, I finished out the segment with a greater sense of euphoria than I’d ever imagined possible while riding a bike. After our second run, it was getting near noon, so we retrieved vehicles from the top, shared cupcakes and exchanged goodwill before everyone went separate ways. Bridget, Inga, Jason and I decided to pedal up to the top of Cold Creek, making one last decent on the wild side of the hill before we called it a day.
While Thrillium shuttles are fun as hell, Cold Creek offered us a sense of adventure from a different perspective. First, there was the climb. A steep gravel pedal to the top of a power line road left my legs feeling like rubberbands that had been stretched too far. Legs shaking, I downed a REV’D bar and a couple of gels to try and get some motivation back in my muscles. The decent started out smoothly enough, but gave way to rock gardens and an open beargrass meadow delightfully dusted in snow. Skinny, exposed trails led to a sketchy shale ridgeline, requiring just enough speed to clear the last corner into a protected trail bed, but it was tricky. Too much brake or speed would have seen the novice attempt battered in bruises. But we all rode it with grace. Next up, I took a good spill shooting around a corner down a narrow channel of rocks, but I quickly recovered and tried to catch Jason, launching whatever booters I could find along the way. My confidence was soaring and by far, this was one of my best days out the entire season. We cleaned a couple of bigger drops along the way, and once again chainless toward the bottom of the last segment, I let out the throttle, pumping and jumping my way to the end of the line. Truly an amazing day, I left Inga and Jason with a couple extra cupcakes and drove Bridget home. Now it was time to head back to Eugene and face the music…
But not so fast! My band of “Merry Bikesters” would not settle for me spending my last day of mobility taking care of yardwork. Oh no, the blitz to bike my ass off before surgery was on, so Matt and I prepared for an early morning departure with our friend Carrie, hoping to squeeze one more shred session into our Sunday repertoire at Alsea Falls, a mountain-bike specific flow trail system located northwest of Eugene following Hwy. 99 barely past Monroe to a cutoff road toward Alpine and out toward the Alsea coast. The Alsea Falls Flow Trail has fast become my favorite go-to place to ride, in part because it’s only 40 minutes away from my front door, but also because it’s just plain fun. I can’t think of a time I’ve been there to ride bikes and haven’t seen everyone in my pack drive off with ear-to-ear grins. After a warm-up climb for about three miles – four, if you want to ride the top segments (and the extra mile is worth it, even if it’s a grunt) you’re in for the proverbial action-packed rollercoaster of mountain bike parks! From swift vertical descents littered with technical challenges, to smooth high-speed corners and sideways berms, tabletops, doubles and pump track sessioning to fast switchbacks, pedally root sections and grumpy little rock garden climbs, Alsea has something for everyone.
Upon arrival, we were pleasantly surprised to see our friends, Julia and Eriel, in the parking area, and just before we took off for the climb, Aimee showed up as well. Matt was our token man for the day, but he held out like a champ, patiently photographing our silly group portraits and attempts to session the big tabletop at the end of the central trail section, known as “Lower Highballer”. We had so much fun chasing each other, and in the end, I became chainless again, and somehow losing all inhibition, I transformed into the speed of light by pumping everything possible. My adrenaline kicked in as I felt my body loosening up and I became the hero I always wanted to be, jumping each and every double, landing perfect transitions and sliding into home base at the hoots and hollers of my companions. Another great ride in the books just before surgery, and little did I know or understand how much these experiences would mean to me after I would essentially lose mobility as I knew it, for at least six months.
Fast forward to now. It’s Monday, and a week after the surgery and those last few adventures that left me hopeful, inspired and determined to heal, no matter how bad the pain would get. And it’s gotten bad. The Tuesday after the nerve block wore off was the worst, as I lay crying out between the tears trickling down my face, my leg being manipulated into an excruciating state of flexion. These are the moments I hide from almost everyone, as I attempt to put on a happy face and focus forward on my goals, but real, nonetheless, and part of the recovery process… and hell, let’s face it – pain is part of living, and it’s part of succeeding. Letting go isn’t easy, and freedom isn’t free, but working hard means we get to play hard and the possibilities at the end of this rainbow seem limitless to me at this point. Already, I can feel a major difference in my knee stability; I just have to embrace patience and look at going the distance for a proper recovery, and for that, I will look back on these last few excursions for inspiration and courage.
You’ve heard, “life isn’t measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Well, pain is part of that – trust me, it takes my breath away daily. But so is joy. That said, my mountain bike community has imparted an enormous sum of incredibly joyful, breathtaking moments on my behalf. I am eternally grateful for sharing these past few months with friends and family, both on and off trail, and know that I am drawing motivation and strength from each of these experiences, every day. I’m coming back –stronger, bolder, faster, and yes, a bit older. In the meantime, keep on pedaling… I’ll see you all on the flip side soon!
When I have too much on my plate, I can move through tasks like crazy. As soon as that lets off, I go into slumber mode. Yes. I still have a lot to do, but it all seems less pressing. This in turn makes it less motivating to do ANYTHING. I don’t know why this happens. It is like I am addicted to having too much to do. I mention this problem, because it seems that happened to us. As soon as our season started to lift up we took a sigh of relief. Then we stopped writing posts about the fun stuff we have been doing such as Kerstin’s win at the NW Cup, Kid’s MBO, and birthday craziness. Fear not – we will continue.
Right now, I would like to recount one of my favorite recent adventures — our skills clinic in Newport, OR.
Thanks to the amazing support of Bike Newport, we put on our first skills clinic as a team. We had an unbelievable turnout of 18 women for a terrible stormy day! It was seriously POURING rain. If it wasn’t a beautiful sunny day in Corvallis when I rolled out of bed, I might not have made it out of my PJs. However, the rain didn’t stop these ladies!
We huddled in the warmth of Bike Newport for some individual introductions and a quick bike maintenance tutorial from their staff. We chatted about the pre-ride bike checks, what to carry during a ride, and how to start personalizing suspension set up. Then we bravely loaded up into carpools and made our way to the trail system.
We were lucky enough for a short break in the rain as we huddled together to demonstrate some basic bike handling skills. We practiced important bike/body separation skills and how to navigate small obstacles on the trail. As the rain continued, we hit the trail for a pump contest, but the wet and slippery trail upped my pedal to pump ratio and I am determined to head back to try to hit the entire trail without a pedal stroke. I was not alone. Skills demos started to unfold on how to survive in the mud…. let’s just say weight distribution becomes key in the mud!
We practiced cornering while trying our best not to turn it into a slip and slide! Even when ladies started to slide around, smiles were wide and progress was being made. Eventually we split up into two groups. Kerstin and I led the “A for Awesome” group in search of more challenging trails, while the “B for Badass” group took off with Michelle and Sarah to continue developing new skills learned during the morning session.
Due to some hectic life situations, neither Kerstin or I had been able to come out and pre-ride the trail system. This made us very nervous, but it turned out to be an advantage for our group. Since the group was mainly seasoned veterans of the trail, they were able to lead us to their trouble spots. We didn’t get very far, but we got to focus on a few chutes that the group wanted to try out. Some of them were riding it for the very first time in the worst of conditions! After a demo, Kerstin and I stood on the side of the trail and offered suggestions. It was amazing to watch the ladies transform. A quick “knees out” generated an automatic response and they sailed down the obstacle. The bravery was unbelieveable. It wasn’t until afterwards in the debrief that I realized many of them were riding these spots for the first time. They had total game face on and attacked it with ease.
Meanwhile, Michelle and Sarah led a large group down a fast and pumpy trail that included a couple of tabletops and small root drops. Students took turns sessioning the tabletops and corners, while onlookers cheered them down trail. More than half of team Badass were first-time riders and all of them were able to triumph basic body positioning while gaining confidence – even in the slick conditions!
Eventually we met up with the rest of the group and finished out on a fun pumpy trail. I am at a loss for trail names as they were all thrown at me so quickly! I can’t wait to get to know the trail system in Newport on my next visit.
As we wrapped up, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We shared our experiences and or challenges from the day, took some photos and ran back to Bike Newport. When we arrived it was amazingly warm and the drinks and snacks were ready and waiting. To top it all off, we even had an available shower! Seriously, I want to end all of my winter rides at Bike Newport! They went above and beyond!
I want to thank each and everyone of you ladies who showed up. I hope that you got a lot of out the clinic and are putting these skills to work. You were all so amazing and fearless! I can’t believe you all came out in that rain. Please come ride with us again. A special thanks to the locals for sharing your trails with us. Thanks to Bike Newport and the Yaquina Wheels Bike Club for your support! In the meantime, stay warm and shred it up! We will have a few more adventures to share with you (Kerstin has gone pro after taking 1st in the NW Cup, Sarah and Michelle rocked the fun ride at the Fat 55, we got to hang with some young shredders at Kid’s MBO, and more).
See you on the trail!
There are two weekends in every year that are the first to be marked on the family calendar. These special weekends are occupied by the one and only Mountain Bike Oregon, aka MBO. MBO is like a summer camp for adults. It is a full 3 days of riding bikes in Oakridge, OR. All rides are shuttled and guided, coffee and breakfast are ready when you wake up and the endless beer garden opens at 4 pm. What could be better?
This year was my 4th year “working” as a guide and August was my 7th MBO. I am pretty sure that it gets better every year. As a guide, a simplified version breaks down something like this:
You get the invite for the year
You rate your love and knowledge for the trails
You anxiously await for the guide master to assign your weekend rides
You rock out another MBO
Guides don’t get paid. We come because we love it. We love the experience of guiding people from all walks of life on some of our favorite trails in the world. There is something special about sharing Oakridge with the world. There isn’t a bad trail on the list and 3 days isn’t even enough time to hit them all. Every MBO weekend is unique. Hell, every ride at MBO is unique. It is a special blend of trail conditions, weather and most importantly, people.
As usual, home base took a little love and care to set up. My husband had already done the bulk of the unpacking when Skyler and I arrived. Home base is getting a little more elaborate each year. We love to set up by the river with plenty of space for our tent, a seating area with our camp kitchen and a riverside hammock space. This year I think that we perfected the triple hammock hangout- complete with a cooler for our LaCroix.
I had a great line up for the weekend (although I don’t think there is a bad one). I started Friday off with one of my favorite rides – Lost Creek. Lost Creek is what I call an adventure ride. You get a little bit of everything with some hike-a-bike thrown in to make it interesting. I played sweep for the first two-thirds of the ride and enjoyed the company. As I become a better rider, I frequently get pushed to the front of the pack. This weekend was full of fast guides who were willing to hammer, so I took a back seat and chatted it up with a few riders, other guides, and a random rider who stumbled upon us. And if that wasn’t enough, I hit up one of the “bonus” shuttles at the end of the day and went up to Dead Mountain/Flat Creek.
On Saturday, I got to do the double – Lawler and Hardesty. This is a double shuttle ride that offers enough root and rock filled descending to make you forget any climbing. I followed it up with a special visit to vender row. Jim had taken out a Guerrilla Gravity the night before and I had to check them out. I was able to snag a demo Megatrail to hit up Dead Mountain for the second day in a row. Oh boy! It was AMAZING! I rocked out the new school flow sections in gravity mode and then switched over to trail mode for the second half. It was pretty unbelievable. It was like I was on a completely different bike. It is such a cool design. I can’t wait to check them out more.
We wrapped up Saturday by watching the mini-bike races in the beer garden over ice cream bars. The races are a guaranteed good time between the actual race and Randy’s nicknames for the riders.
I wrapped up my weekend with a little Moon Point. Getting to the trail head is a pretty good trek from Oakridge, so I am always happy to get this ride during MBO so I don’t have to worry about pedaling or driving up myself. Everyone is always so worn out and happy by the time Sunday rolls around. The climbs are always a little slower and the rests a little longer. Moon Point is a good way to end the weekend. It offers a screaming fast descent with wonderful views and then finishes on a river trail. Our ride had a few flats (Moon Point frequently does) and we opted to miss out on some river trail. I promise that I didn’t plan that.
This year, like every year, was a blast. I spent the weekend with inspiring people that know how to prioritize the important stuff — enjoying life while it’s here. I hope to see you all next year!
The Oregon 24 is a very special race for me. In 2012, when it went by the name of High Cascades 24, it was my very first mountain bike race. I hadn’t been mountain biking for long, but my enthusiastic friends and husband had somehow convinced me that a 6-person team would be a lot of fun. I was a ball of nerves leading to the race and I was was convinced that I would be slow and in everyone’s way. However, my fears did not come true and by the end of the lap I couldn’t stop smiling. My night lap was a little more of a challenge and the only way I got through it was by staring at the glow sticks adorning my bike and repeating “This is fun. I do this for fun” to myself until I almost started to believe it. At the end of the 24 hours, it felt so good to survive it that I actually did believe it was fun. So much fun that I decided that maybe, just maybe, I could be a mountain bike racer.
This year was my third Oregon 24. I missed 2013 because after a year of training for the CCP I had filled my sufferfest quota for the year. I believe that this was the best year yet. I raced on the best 5-person women’s team in history! No Apologies! represented with myself, Soso, ZimZam, and guest racers Bridget and Clarinda. We started out by setting up our home base in style. We had two onsite bike mechanics/personal cooks, a crazy friend riding a solo 12 hour, three dogs, a homemade banner made from beer boxes, mood lighting, multiple tents, two double eno hammocks, endless amount of food, fresh brewed coffee, adult beverages, lots of spirit and endless excitement. We were living like kings and we were ready to rock. After an obscene amount of pancakes with various fillings and flare, we made our plan of attack while our mechanic (my husband) dutifully tuned our bikes.
We were sending out Zimzam for the first shift and each of us would (if up for it) complete two lap shifts. Once Zimzam placed her bike at the startline and meandered to the beginning of the Le Mans start, it was on!
It took us a few rounds to really fine tune our off time, but eventually we got it together and heckler’s corner was born. Heckler’s corner was close to camp and allowed us a view of the incoming racers as they made their descent into the transition area. We could clock our riders’ times and heckle all those who passed!
Lap times were impressive and were much faster than we had initially thought. It was clear that we were going to do a lot better than we had planned for. Although there were 4 other 5-person women’s teams, we were blind to our competitions’ progress because of a timing booth hiccup. However, it didn’t matter. We were feeding of each other and pushing hard. We were determined to make this our best 24 hour yet!
My reaction to our better than expected lap times was a mix of excitement and fear. Once we got going, it was clear that this would not be a relaxed attack. We were going to give it our all and get as many laps as possible. Excitement was so high that when Soso went to take over she almost started riding through the transition zone (a big no no with a 30 minute time penalty). By the time I went on my first lap, the sun was setting and we were about to enter the hardest part of the race. After ZimZam’s second round of two laps, Bridget was ready to attack with the dreaded late/early shift: that 1:30 am time period when no respectable person should be on their bike. She handled it well and barely lost time even when her lights failed her on her way back in. She had to desperately creep behind racers to use their light. Later, I heard a racer describing a lap at night where she was convinced she was being stalked by an animal. I only smiled and imagined Bridget creeping behind her grasping for any stray light she could get.
We were barely gaining time on our laps and rocked it out for the rest of the race. We were stoked to finish with 20 laps! That was about 5 more than we expected (we will have to address our sandbagging problems later). Since the results were still a mess, we had to ask our neighboring team, the Dirt Divas, how many laps they had done. We had just gotten in at 24 hours and 15 minutes and they still had a rider out finishing their 21st lap. Damn! So close! We only hope that the Dirt Divas are willing for a rematch in 2016 and that we can have another full field for 5-person lady teams. All of the teams were really close and we all killed it out there! So, if you are reading this, start getting your team together and meet us out there! We might even share our pancakes and heckles.
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.
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.
By: Kerstin Holster May 15 – 17, 2015 BEEP BEEP BEEP!! My strikingly loud alarm clock went off at 4am from across the room. It was one of those moments where you jump out of bed so fast you don’t remember how you get to the other side of the room. Rye and I sleepily got up, chowed down some breakfast, slurped our coffee, hoisted the bikes on top of my Subaru wrx and sped away before the sun came up. Leaving Corvallis, Oregon behind for a 6-hour trek to Port Angeles, Washington all in hopes to be in that number one podium position two days from now. We pulled into the parking lot of Dry Hill about 10am right as practice was starting for the Category 1 classes. We ate a quick bite of bananas & granola and up we went into the u-haul to the top of track. Butterflies and nerves in my stomach, all from excitement of how this new track was going to be! As I put my 100% goggles over my eyes I took a deep breath, grabbed my grips and started my decent. The track was slick on Friday, lots of rocks and the berms didn’t seem to want to hold, and you really had to trust your tires. There was a few times that I almost lost control but I held it together with only a few really close calls. After 6 runs down the hill, I was loving the track. Steep, technical and it was a test to me as a rider. Saturday was when I really realized how awesome the course was. I ended up taking 7 runs down the hill and really started attacking corners and dialing in my lines. It was very warm on the hill about 65 degrees’ I am so glad I had my Royal enduro jersey on since it was so light and breathable. By the end of practice I felt confident about all of my lines aside from one jump towards the middle of the track. We watched seeding and pro qualifiers after practice and wow it was incredible. I couldn’t believe how fast the men and women were going down this track. I tried picking up a few lines in spots I had problems from the pros and watched with awe & inspiration in my eyes. I cannot wait to encourage someone like they motivate me. Sunday morning came around Andy, Justin, Wood, Rye and I sat around the table and ate some bacon, eggs and toast. We stretched and hustled around to get the rental house cleaned and packed before we left for the track. Let me tell you right now, Justin and Andy are some of the best cooks! I learned a lot from them this weekend of how important nutrition, stretching and sharpened focus could really help determine your results. We got to Dry Hill in time to put in some practice laps; the course was absolutely in perfect condition. The morning dew had helped retain some moisture in the dirt, it was tacky and rolling very fast. I felt really good about my lines and after I came down the hill, I was ready to race. Waiting up at the starting line for the timer to go off, I breathed in deeply and exhaled, repeated this process three times and off I went. One phrase kept repeating through my head “smooth is fast… smooth is fast.. Smooth is fast.” I barely heard the crowd yelling, I had tunnel vision, my heart was pounding as I pushed my riding abilities. It didn’t feel like long and I was on the final stretch I threw my shifter into second to last gear and sprinted hard giving the bike every last bit of energy I had left. I ended up in 4th place, we had a blast this race round; it couldn’t have been more fun. Great people surrounded me, we had great food and the riding was incredible, I can’t wait for the next race! My goals for training until the next race in Mt. Hood June 19-21, 2015 are to practice doing sharp corners that lead to jumps, carrying my speed and continuing to work on body positioning and form. I want to thank #Hi-5bikes, for all the support they have given me this season. Thank you to my sponsors #raceface, #ride100%, #royalracing, #thegravitycartel, #fox, and #7protection. And another big thank you to our awesome photographer Ruandy Albiseruz check him out on his website: http://www.ralbisurez.com/ or his instagram: @pnwroo , twitter: @ralbisurez , facebook: Ruandy Albiseruz
April 26 at Port Angeles, WA for the UCI Pro GRT NW Cup #1, I entered the competitive realm of Category 1 Women’s racers.
Friday was a breeze, it was a light fun atmosphere and the trails were spectacular! The Pro/Cat 1 course was tacky, fast, smooth and with the weather it called for an awesome day! I got a lot of practice in and felt really good about the course, it was a bit out of my comfort zone but that is why I changed classes to push my personal limits.
Saturday rolled around and after a long cold night of camping we managed to rally into the U-Haul and head up Dry Hill for practice.
The moment I got into the thick of the trail I realized how tough race day would be. Little baby head sized rocks started creeping out of their dirt casings; holes were starting to develop in off camber turns and the waterfall. Oh the waterfall had started claiming victims with its gnarliness and I was one of them. That afternoon was full of spectators walking the course; I must have a very quiet bike and quick reactions because I missed a lot of the walkers by a hair.
I was on my descent down the waterfall section when a couple of younger course walkers dislodged a huge tree limb that within a second was in smack dab inline with my front tire. There was no jumping, swerving, there was only bracing for impact and praying that I would make it through.
Nope! I hit it dead on and went flying over my handlebars, the bike caught up with me and we rolled together down the hill. I landed in front of Bryn Atkinson; he very kindly helped me up and helped me gather my nerves, which turned a bad situation to a positive learning experiance! After that run I decided to do another to clear the trail another time before race day. Sunday, race day!
We get to the track early to get a parking spot; we warm up, stretch and crawl back into the dark U-Haul to get a practice run in. It was dewy and the trail was torn up! I put a fast run in, following the lines I had picked on Saturday. 10:20am rolled around and it was my time on the line. I was nervous, excited and felt a tension that I had not felt in any other racing class. I positioned myself at the starting line, waited for the beep beep beep boop, and off I went. I went as fast as I could while managing to stay in control but out of my comfort zone. There are so many turns, rocks and technical spots on this course that it is hard to remember every detail.
I squared off my corners, pumped everything that I could, and had to remind myself to breathe as I pushed my limits. I blasted through the top section and attacked the next dark forest section. As I rounded the corner for the waterfall section you can hear the crowd roaring! I could not condemn the heckling crowd more; they were massive and could not be completely ignored. GO GO GO!!! YEAHH!!! WOOHOO!! GET OFF YOUR BRAKES!! HUCK ITT!!! Passing this ginormous crowd was one of the highlights of my day.
I gave it my all sprinting to the very last moment. Unfortunately I did not make the hot seat, although my ego was bruised I came out with a very positive feeling about my move to Category 1. I made it down unscathed on one of the gnarliest courses I have ever done. I placed 13th out of 19 incredibly fast women from all over the region. Competitors from British Columbia, Washington, and California. Some of which placed mid pack Pro-women times, looking back I feel very positive about the start of the season. I now know what times and results I need to be producing to get to the next level. This is a brand new start for me and I cannot wait to attend the rest of the NW Cup racing series this season. I cannot thank Hi-5 Bikes enough for believing and supporting me this season. Thank you to ride100%, royal racing, 7 Protection, The Gravity Cartel, my awesome partner Rye and the amazing friends who have helped me to be where I am today.