“How many miles a week are you doing?”
“Ohhh, about 40-50, but I’m not a runner…”
I’ve never defined myself as a runner even when it is my primary activity and recently it’s been no different. After fat bike nationals I put the bike up for the past few months and have been building up my mileage running. Still I don’t count myself as a runner. With my master’s and traveling I’ve decided to cut back on mountain bike racing this summer which presented the perfect time to get in running shape for rim to rim to rim in the Grand Canyon. I picked dates, emailed a group of friends and we were off, tickets were bought and training plans swapped. Some conflicts came up for a few of the girls with other trips popping up. Still Jessie, my friend from high school and Allison were in–no way would my mom let me do this by myself. We all bought plane tickets which made it very real.
I kept running and even started to find the treadmill enjoyable on bad weather days (which there were a lot). About 2 weeks ago we found out that a rock slide had closed off the trail to the north rim, North Kaibab, quashing any idea of rim to rim and certainly not rim to rim to rim. Bummer, but quickly found another option of going down to Ribbon Falls, except that bridge went out earlier this week. And the only option would be to cross the river which they HIGHLY recommend against. A few more trail closures have cropped up in the past week, and we have a plan of going down South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch and then over to Bright Angel and back up, or some variation of that. We figure with the trail closures it just means we’ll be back this fall to conquer R2R2R, sorry mom, but more time for you build up your pray bank for me!
We’ll see but we definitely bought enough snacks for the whole R2R2R jaunt.
Here is a picture of my first trek to the Grand Canyon – as my uncle reminded me it’s as dangerous as it is pretty- I responded, so just like me!
P.S. Sorry if the formatting/typos are a little off on this post- limited access has me posting from a mobile phone and I’m somewhat techno-challenged.
This is severely overdue and really no excuse not for getting to it sooner. Here is the story about how I hilariously acquired a national championship.
I heard this story about this girl who moved to a really remote country and sought out various sports to try and secure a spot at the Olympics. I thought about her story a lot on my way to FB Nationals. I had secured a fat bike from the shop that sponsor’s ND cycling team. And I kept checking registration because at the time of signing up I was the only one registered, is this really how I win a national championship? Just by showing up?
I drove up the night before and left with enough time to get there about 15 minutes before registration closed. That way I would know if anyone else registered and then could plan for the next day. I arrived, picked up my packet, confirmed that no one else had registered and realized there was no snow.
My race didn’t start until 2:45pm so that morning I woke up, ate breakfast, did some yoga and then headed to a coffee shop to get some school work done. I arrived at the venue and went to scout the scene. I even asked again if anyone was in my category, still no one but was told we’d be doing 4 laps instead of the advertised 3. Hmm, I guess with no one else in my category I’ll just use the first lap as a warm up. I changed and then putzed around, riding the bike around to make sure the fit was good and double checked the tire pressure. With about 10 minutes to go I rolled up to the staging area.
“Are you Kate?” A USACycling official inquired. “Yep, that’s me!” I replied. “Okay, great, there is one more in your category, so we’ll start you with the guys but then you’ll be in your own race.” Uhhhwhhhhhat, I thought for sure there was some mistake and now was really regretting not warming up. I figured she MUST be on a single speed because that category went off at the same time and since I had been informed MULTIPLE times there was no one else that surely must be it. I took a breath, the girl rolled up, nope she definitely has gears. “Hi, I’m Kate, uh, you’re racing in the women’s category?” Maybe she zipped tied her gears and is still doing single speed. She told me she was in another category but decided to switch to this one this morning. Okay, welp this is my life now–Probably should have warmed up.
The gun went off and we took off with the guys, I settled into a comfortable pace and let the lady set the pace just in front of me. A few times I thought about making a move but with it being 4 laps to go realized it was a long time for the race to still unfold. Just sit in behind her, conserve energy and make your move later. Something that I’m not the best at.
One spot had iced over and my wheel slid out, somehow I managed to save the bike from going down (good thing too because it was a rental). I lost a few seconds off her wheel but wasn’t worried. We approached a slight uphill turn and I decided to take the outside line when the lady went down in front of me–hard. I slowed down and asked, “Are you okay?!?” She replied she was fine and I kept riding. Well, guess the time trial starts now. I increased my pace to try and gain a few seconds on her. I kept riding and counted to see how many seconds she was back on me, 9 or 10. I didn’t want to be leading this soon into the race and tried to focus on the guys in front of me. One lap down, 3 to go, I settled into my pace and tried to maintain. I always think of Molly on races like this, there is one section that I tend to lag, usually after the first lap when I settle in. In high school when I used to run the 800m, Molly would be on the backside yelling at me not to slack off. I kept that in mind while also trying not to redline the entire race.
The 2nd lap was similar to the first, I battled back and forth with one guy but more just because he outpaced me on the descents and I beat him on the flats and the climbs. I messed with the fork a little bit, having never ridden a fat bike to see if it rode better with the suspension on or off, I couldn’t really tell. Which is probably why I’m not selected to do product reviews. I kept vigilant over the place I almost went down and where the lady went down to make sure I wasn’t rallying too hard. I was still looking to see how close the lady was to me but couldn’t see her and tried to stay focused on my race. Half way done and onto the 3rd lap. I started to feel a little too confident when I slid out on the ice that I had slid on before, except this time I didn’t catch myself and went down. Ahhh, the bike! Fortunately my body switched to primitive mode and sacrificed itself to save the bike. Perfect. I hopped back up and tried to clammer back on but my tights caught on the seat which suddenly turned my ballet move more into a horror-show maneuverer. With a lot of hopping, dancing and twirly around, I untangle and gingerly got back on. That lady is definitely going to catch me now! I made it up the slick hill followed by a loop around and into the woods and one steep pitch. I circled back around to see the finish line–one more lap to go, except there wasn’t– as I cross they told me I’m done– they decided on 3 laps instead of 4.
I crossed the finish line in probably the least climatic mode of anyone to every win a national championship…welp, this is my life.
I keep questioning the validity of the win–but then I see my jersey, I think, well that counts–maybe more people will see how easy it is to claim a national title and show up next year. While I’m not sure my friends understood exactly what the race entailed, they were no doubt willing to help me celebrate.
The two race photos and the podium shot were taken by Dejan Smaic- his work can be found at: http://www.sportifimages.com
I don’t have an iron stomach. That person in our family with that is actually our dog Nessie, she’s eaten 6 whole chickens (bones included) in her life time and has remained un-phased. I know my limits, like how many M&Ms I can eat before throwing them all up on the side of the trail. And usually what to avoid and when.
The morning of collegiate nationals was the same as every race morning, same breakfast, same coffee. I went to make a bottle of skratch to drink in the time between packing up and getting the race venue but couldn’t find it. No worries, I had beet juice which was lower calories so would just throw a bag of gushers in to get me to where I needed to be. Done.
I got to the venue and warmed up on the trainer, I had pre-ridden the course the day before, the unrelenting rain had made it slick but with many sections still ridable.
I reviewed the course in my mind, this line on that section, remember that feature. I went to the start without too many layers on and took my place after they had called me up. I didn’t know where to start so slotted in behind one of the girls I recognized. The start was fast beginning on pavement and immediately threw us straight into the mud. It was chunky, peanut butter mud and the bike squirmed beneath me. I got it back and had some grass to recoup on only to be fed into the next section that was again, completely thick mud that reduced my cadence and increased my power output. Pushing through this section and expending all the gushers I had eaten earlier I was met with the “Bonk Breaker Hill” where it just opens up on the hillside and becomes ‘choose your own adventure’ to get up it.
I jaunted up at an angle to reduce the total ground coverage that I would need. At the top it was still not ridable and I continued to just slog away across the top of this hillside. Getting over the hillside only proved to have an off camber section that had been rutted in so much that everyone was still running. Around that section and I was greeted with a nice grassy downhill, only to land again in a huge mud section. It was flat and not terribly rutted so could muster through, from there we were swung around to the pit (where you can get a different bike). I opted to wait thinking I would want my “A” bike for this next section. I was wrong, everything had gotten incredibly torn up and the water had seeped into any exposure in the ground making for a very precarious situation. I fumbled and bumbled through the dicey section as spectators yelled. I regretted not switching my bike out as mine had become so covered in mud that it added at least 5 pounds. Finally a cement slab offered a reprieve to get back on my bike and pedal. That was short lived as I was soon off, only to get back on, to get off, run over some barriers, hop on, to hop off, run down a hill, and then up, hop on, and around a curve into the flyover. I managed to pedal up to the flyover but with too little of speed I had to hop off and run up, hop on and ride down, turn a corner and hop off, hop on mash through the mud and hop off and finally hop back on and head to the finish. Oofta. Lap one done.
My stomach was a little upset but I just figured it was due to all the running and it would work out on the second lap. The lines that were initially rideable had gotten bogged down and it was more of just mashing through. I went into the pit and did my first bike exchange only having talked through what to do the day before. I nailed it, right Drew? Or at least managed to do it without falling on my face. I opted to switch to my single speed on this section because with all running my single speed is lighter to carry. I was back in the pits and switching out bikes again before I knew it. My A bike came back clean which meant it would also be lighter to carry and I took off running the back section in the woods. The second lap was very similar to the first lap except for crashing right before the barriers as I slid around the corner and went down. I got back up and lugged my now very muddy bike over the barriers with me.
As this point in the race I had no idea where I was in relation to anyone else and my stomach was still acting up. I did more running and made it to the finish line to be told 2 more laps. I floundered my way to the pits and grabbed my singlespeed back to be informed I was in 15th, dang I don’t even see anyone that I could catch. I ran up the hill to find that my stomach was feeling better, it must have worked itself out. I stuck to the same routine as the 2nd lap opting to run most of the places. I got done with my third lap and went out for the final lap, somewhat surprised: if you are too slow (compared to the leaders) they don’t let you go but I made it. I ran into the pits yelling “they let me do the final lap- suckers!” and grabbed me other bike. Last time up the hill and over on the crest I saw a girl in front of me. Maybe, just maybe I could catch her. Down the hill and back into the pits where I was offered a beer, “Sorry I only drink tequila” and rode away. Slightly less dramatic exit as I was having to hop back off and run again. It wasn’t until the barriers that I thought this girl was really in reach, we had just taken over another girl who was running and I was planning my attack, not too early because I’m not sure I have it in me to go hard from this point. I would edge up to her wheel and then she would take a better line, I would edge her and she would stay on. Finally I was able to run around her and get back on my bike faster, or at least it seemed like it. I had miscalculated and turned the corner to realize there was another roundabout.
Oh crap, so I started to dig and started to dry heave. Oh no, this is not good. I was so close to the finish, my stomach was churning and the involuntary reaction was getting less intermittent, don’t let her catch you, heave oh no, oh no, oh no. I saw the finish line I was so close, and as I crossed that was it, I dangled by handlebars I threw up beet juice all over my leg and the side. Oops.
I ended up 13 out of 25 without knowing what to expect my only real goal was to finish on the lead lap and not get pulled. It was incredibly fun, even with all the running and mud and fortunately for me I get to do it all again in the single speed category.
*The hop on and offs that I write about are not as smooth as they seem here but instead become more laborious for me with each one I do and eventually losing all form and efficiency. Really quiet a show.
I thought I would keep rolling after Leadville and try to maintain my fitness into cross season and maybe even do some collegiate mountain biking. I did one race, and then had two weddings the next two weekends (both so much fun!). I was then going to try and race Madison the following weekend. However, after returning from wedding number 2, I found myself on antibiotics for the first time in over 10 years. Which made me so grateful for the access I had to get them quickly but it still took a lot out of me, leaving me off the bike for over 3 weeks.
For the second wedding in Colorado I was able to sneak in some rides between wedding activities. I was able to meet up and ride with my friend Nicola before she left for Namibia. The last time we were able to ride together was when we raced Iceman…on a tandem and she was stuck behind me for 30 miles.
More bike riding….never a dull moment with Dave…
While I thought I would be spending the next weekend racing in Madison there was no way my body would have made it though the race but I still went up to hangout with Sully and his team. It was the first time I had seen him since Leadville (yay… long distance, school and race schedules). It’s also the first race I’ve been to in a long time that I wasn’t racing at–which was nice but also made me realize I’m not exactly ready to be a spectator.
The only biking that happened in the next week was when Mary Clair came to visit for a football game and I talked her into riding bikes around campus–last time we rode bikes together was before 2010…
This past week was fall break and I spent it with Molly and Abe down in Florida. I did some running to start building my fitness back up and to start working off all the candy I’ve been eating.
When I got back I decided to finally go for a bike ride. I took the cross bike because I’m going to try and race in 2 weeks (we’ll see how it goes with this much time off). The trail system had a few more exposed roots and down leaves than I was expecting so it led to some questionable handling skills but made me excited to take my mountain bike out there. And so 2 months after finishing Leadville, I finally feel like I’m ready to get back to riding.
Jered and Ashley Gruber also took some really great photos from Leadville that are amazing and worth sharing (even though it’s a little late on my part).
The next race I’m planning on is in Lousiville, KY. Sully will be there and it’s also collegiate conference champs so thought it might be a good way to keep my options open for nationals. To get a spot for nationals you just need to race in the conference championship so don’t think I’m planning on getting close to winning with taking 3+ weeks off the bike 🙂
School has been very busy, about the same stress level as law school, but with much less anxiety. Our grades aren’t the sole result of one four hour exam at the end but instead with lots of weekly and daily assignments. Working on narrowing down my thesis but looking at viral sovereignty and how it plays out in the international legal arena so we’ll see where it takes me!