The American Birkebeiner

My first year in Boulder, I lived in a house with mostly engineers–and if you want an idea of what that experiences was like I suggest watching The Big Bang Theory–I’ll give you a hint, I was Penny.

While many hilarious antidotes came out of this living situation, so did some learning moments like the Fermi Paradox, Schrodinger’s Cat, and most importantly when throwing stars come out it’s really best to go to bed.

I think mostly about Schrodinger’s Cat at the moment (and quick recap for those at home: it’s this theory that if you place a cat and something that could kill the cat in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box, so that until the box was opened, the cat was both “dead and alive”– or you can watch it here–just like Wayne explained it to me). I think about it because I’m still waiting to hear back from anything and all those decisions are in this box where in theory I have something lined up for next year and also don’t have anything lined up for next year (and I’m sure I botched that analogy- but you get the point).

When your roommate gets you.

February was mostly this state of anxiety because one of the applications said they send out responses in Feb/March so most of February was spent refreshing my email. At the end of the month my professor told me to relax that it probably wouldn’t show up till after spring break (that would have been helpful a month ago).

It was so much that I thought about pulling the plug on the Birkie to just sit at home and wallow in my state of being, while also constantly refreshing my email. Instead, my roommate kindly pointed out that I like to exercise for long periods of time, there was a group of us going and all staying in a cabin, and she made me homemade granola for trail snacks. She made excellent points and so we set out on an 8-hour car trip to Haywood, Wisconsin.

1 dog, 3 people, 2 sets of skis, a million snacks

There were six of us staying at the cabin, with 2 doing the Korte (the 18 mile version); 2 doing the Birkie (the 31 mile race); and 2 along to crew and provide support (really the hardest job). It was nice because the 2 doing the Korte raced on Friday so we were able to go through the production of getting to the start line. Which involves parking in one lot and getting bused to the start line. We saw them off at the start and took the bus back to our car to drive back into Haywood to see them at the finish line in approximately 2-4 hours. I had some work that needed finished so headed to the public library (seriously, public libraries are soooo amazing!). I got back to the finish line just in time and when I greeted Ann at the end she said, “I wouldn’t want to have to ski another 12 miles- ha!”. Gulp.

Ann finishing the Korte!

The two of us racing the Birkie did packet-pickup where I bought another pair of gloves, convinced that the two pairs I had brought would not be optimal (I tell ya, you get caught in a blizzard during one mountain bike race without adequate gloves and it’ll leave a mark). Afterwards, we both picked their brains on a little more course information and race tactics but still slightly unnerved about what was going to happen. It felt different than any other long distance race I had done because my longest ski at this point (pretty inadequate snow conditions) was about 10 miles. And some of it was worrying about how to dress, balancing higher nutritional needs, and generally having no idea how my body would preform after 10 miles. After a few outfit changes and packing different clothes entirely for the start I okay about starting.

Still unsure of this whole skiing business

The morning was smooth getting there, the other guy doing it had a start time 15 minutes before me so I was knew if I just followed his plan I would be there on time. Megan and Jeff came to the start which was nice so they could grab our things and I could wait until the last minute to take my jacket off. They have staging gates (which really reminded me of a cattle branding) they herd you into one and then when one wave goes off release you to the next holding area until you get to the start. I jumped in right before they got to the start when you run for position and have to start in a track. If this makes no sense to you, I assure you it made even less sense to me at the start of the race. Because I had never done this race I started in the very last wave and while I had a good starting position before the gun went off by the time I crossed the start line (less than 30 seconds later) I was in second to last place. I looked around and everyone had left, there was one guy to the side of me who was literally leap frogging in his skis to gain position and boy did he. I blame him because I was so memorized by this form that I just stood there shell shocked and then realized I needed to go.

The last wave start

Right from the start the course went uphill, it reminded me of baby turtles making their way back to the water from the sand, everyone’s skis were splayed out and we all neatly formed four lines. The first few miles were pretty uneventful. Around mile 4 we were stopped at the top of a hill where someone had crashed and needed a medic (they were able to get up but the people were apprehensive to go down until everyone was on the side). I looked at my watch…oh wow, it’s been an hour. Now, I’m not good at math but knew I had 8 hours to finish and in my mind that didn’t really calculate to enough time to do so. I turned to a guy next to me who had a bib indicating he had done it multiple times, “how strict is the cut-off, will they pull us at the aid station?” He told me not to worry as long as I didn’t take 20-30 minutes at each aid station. I thought that seemed do-able but also have found myself laying on cardboard slabs at aid stations for well over an hour so really it was anyone’s guess.

I made it through the first 10 miles feeling okay. As soon I passed the 10-mile mark it was like my body realized this was the furthest it had ever skied and started to hurt. I made sure to keep eating as best I could but also knew I was behind on nutrition. I found the whole carrying a ski-pole, having to take off gloves and unpack some food, made me less wanting to invest in eating.

Snow nice to see people on the course (get it?)

I saw Jeff and Megan around mile 15 and stopped for a bit to chat and eat some more food. It was maybe the last time I felt good on the course and was entering a somewhat delirious stage. I went downhill (not a pun, there weren’t a lot of downhills) pretty fast after that and entered a pretty dark place for the next 11 miles. It was totally food related, the course was a bit crowded now with the two styles (classic and skate) merging onto one, but in my mind people were working together to keep me boxed in (yeah they definitely weren’t). One guy kept sprinting by and then halfway up an uphill would just stop to rest and turn his skis to take up a good chunk of the course. In my moment of wanting to ski over his skis to show him how inconvenient of a place it was to stop, I instead opted to eat some granola which helped.

The one thing I noticed is that when biking long distances, I definitely get tired and enter similar mindsets but my body knows what to do. It has ridden enough to keep turning the pedals over (like the MDH when all I wanted to do was sleep, my legs at least knew what to do). With skiing, there was no familiarity in the muscle memory, so each movement required conscious thought to keep propelling myself forward.

I had been leap-frogging with Judy from TDA most of the day and was also nice when I saw her on course, we both joked how we were ready to start biking after this with it being both our first Birkie. In the last few miles she pulled ahead of me and figured I would see her after the race was done. In the last four miles, I caught my second, really my first wind. I felt like I was able to somehow get into a groove, the snow was less slushy and more crunchy/icy, which was similar to what I was used to skiing in South Bend. I even got my sense of humor back, when one spectator said we were looking good another participant yelled, “you are definitely lying there is no way we look good.” I poked back, “speak for yourself”. The last two miles contain a lake crossing (1 miles) and then a passage through town over a bridge and down main street. The lake route was groomed and I felt like I could really move–and I did, I put in my fastest mile of the day going over the lake around 7:30.

I came into town and up the bridge, I was a little concerned about going down because of how many people would see you crash but was able to navigate it successfully. I came up the main street and saw Judy stopped right before the finish line, I caught up to her as she picked up her glove. Woooohooo! We made it and skated across the line together.

Skating in with Judy

Ann greeted me with warm clothes and boots- the other part of the group was with Aaron who had finished only minutes before me. We then went to the beer tent, and Megan bought me a sausage to get some real food and because I had no cash. We all talked about various aspects of the day and then went back to the cabin to cook dinner and decompress.

Megan was right, it was a fun weekend, despite having to ski for 6 hours, it was nice to get out of South Bend and hangout in the woods for a few days. I took a few days off without too much soreness only in my shoulders, before I started biking again.

Not a bad place to spend a long weekend

While I’m still waiting to hear back on applications, March seems to be so busy with deadlines that I’ve mostly stopped constantly refreshing my email and focusing more on what I have to get done. I won a free entry into the TommyKnocker 10 in Silver City, New Mexico this weekend. I changed my flights to reroute through Phoenix for break, but earlier this week realized that I just didn’t have the mental energy to race for 10 hours. So I pulled back and decided to stay in Phoenix for the Cactus Cup, which has a short-track, 40 miler, and enduro. I’m currently signed up for all three but still waiting for my bike to show up so might just end up doing the 40-miler. I definitely was not planning on starting my season this year, but also realize that when I’m studying for the bar I’ll do little to no racing so might as well even if I’m not in racing shape (12 days on the bike won’t do too much for fitness levels).

I’ve also been hitting up therapy again, because as my friend Gen pointed out on her blog, exercise is a great tool, but not really a substitute for actual therapy. Also realizing that anxiety and excitement mask themselves in the exact same physical symptoms, so now just tricking myself to be excited at the endless opportunities that are available instead of anxious about none of them being available.

Stronger Together

I didn’t plan on doing the Leadville 100 this year, at least not after I didn’t get in through the lottery. I didn’t think about it when I was trekking through the Grand Canyon, finishing finals or traveling in Viet Nam. In fact, most of the time in Viet Nam I thought about how out of shape I was getting and thank goodness I wouldn’t be racing 100 miles. Then I got to Switzerland and started running and had a few long days on trail in France and the thought began creeping back in that maybe I can ride 100 miles with Sharon. When I got back to the states I contacted WBR and it was almost serendipitous as one guy had to drop out due to a medical condition and was willing to give me his spot to ride with Sharon.

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Recon training in Boulder last week

That’s been the thought the whole time, at least since Michelle planted the idea in my brain last December that the only way I would do Leadville is with Sharon. Sharon is another member of WBR and due to circumstances outside of her control wasn’t able to finish the Leadville 100 last year. Since we’re both passionate about WBR and riding long distances (she has quite the impressive stage race resume) thought we would be stronger together.

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Sharon and I riding in Boulder

I really thought after Leadville last year I would be done, knowing I would be traveling for a good chunk of the summer and thinking I wouldn’t be able to do enough early season riding to build up the engine I would need to PR (4 years of training for Leadville has taught me a lot). I’m convinced that riding with Sharon is the only way I can top last year’s experience is to help someone else reach that finish line.

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Working on power output

This year, Sharon and I will both be riding for World Bicycle Relief. WBR is a program that helps distribute bicycles in Africa. After a year studying global health I truly believe that the one thing we can do that will create the largest impact and ripple in a community is to educate young people, girls especially. With a Buffalo Bike (the one that is designed for WBR) a student increases classroom attendance by 28%. In all my years of schooling, I’ve been granted the privilege of never having to worry about how I would arrive for my education.

Head on over to the World Bicycle Relief to learn more or wanting to donate head over to my donation page at WBR.

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Hoping I look this ‘fresh to death’ after the Leadville 100

 

Leadville 100- 3rd Time’s a Charm

Racing bikes can be devastatingly, heart breaking. At the finish line of the Leadville 100 I collapsed into a heap of sobs. A nice lady came up to offer me water which lying on the ground and gasping for breath between tears would have been a choking hazard so I waved her off. A man came and laid my finisher’s medal on my stomach and patted it before walking away, trying to offer some level of comfort. I laid there for a while and closed my eyes thinking back to what I could have done differently. Nothing. That’s what hurt so much because I gave it my all and came up 7-minutes short.

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The Team!! A few pros, even an olympian (who Wayne has beat in a race–I did not!)

The week started much like any other race week with me scrambling to find lodging for the race. I think part of me didn’t think it would actually happen, that I wouldn’t actually race and so put off dealing with it. Fortunately the World Bicycle Relief Team had me covered, and I arrived in Leadville with a place to stay. Thursday and Friday both consisted of warm-up rides on the college trails and getting ready for race day with meal-prep and going over logistics with the team, Sully, and my parents.

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Pre-Race spin to take in the views. Photo: Claire Geiger 

The start of the race is always a bit chaotic, I was in the third corral and was trying to start with another of the WBR girls. I found a spot and lifted my bike over the fence but had some hesitation with trying to jump over it, it was pretty wobbly and I didn’t want to be the first crash of the day. Sully held the fence secure and I cautiously made my way over. I saw Katie, the girl I was trying to ride with, behind me. And my parents on the other side of the fence. The gun went off and I slowly started to roll but waited for Katie to go through the start with her. As soon as I found her we were caught up in a sea of people and

katie and i at the start
Katie (on the blue bike) and I (on the red bike) ready for the day!

separated as soon as we had joined. I always get nervous for St. Kevin’s because there are horror stories of the bottle-neck and people jamming up and having to walk. I’ve never had a bad experience and this year was no different. They had recently groomed the track for St. Kevin’s so even more people were riding than in years past.  I did start the race with arm-warmers but vowed to drop them wherever (sorry not sorry) and not have one end up in my rear derailleur like last year. 

I got through the first aid station and started the pavement descent. Racing is the only time I do sketchy things like tuck on my bike, to get more aero, I got so aero I passed someone with aero bars on their bike. 3 miles on pavement soon turns into an uphill that feeds into the backside of Powerline. One of my teammates, Dave passed me at this point and I sat on his wheel for a little bit but he soon dropped me and I had the plan of riding a bit conservatively to start with. During the climb I had my first Untapped Maple Syrup shot ever (one of the guys brought some for everyone at the house, so I shoved 2 in my camelbak as just in case for the day) straight maple syrup, SOOOOO GOOD! I got to the top of Powerline and opened up my suspension a bit more.

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At the bottom of Powerline. 

This is the only sketchy part of the race where most people are prone to crash. I figured everyone would be taking the “A” line, which is pretty buffed out and easy to navigate which would leave the “B” line, a little more sketchy with loose rocks, open to me. I was right. I’m not the most skilled descender (as a brain injury will tell you) but have enough confidence in my abilities and my bike to be able to handle my own. I blew by people who were jammed up waiting for their turn and was able to gain back some time I had lost on the climb. Even some of the guys started to cheer for me going by them, which I could have ended my day right then.. I mainly kept going so I could eat some more maple syrup.

It was a short 20-minute section on pavement after that to get to the first big aid station, Pipeline and I realized I was only an hour or so out of Twin Lakes. This is maybe the only mistake I made during the race and that was not having pacing times-I was only going off of memory and trying to remember if I was ahead or behind my pace from the last year. I had decided to do this because I was worried that if I didn’t make a split it would create a negative feedback cycle that would take me longer to get out of. I kept riding constantly thinking to push a little harder because it will all matter in the end.

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“I’m just here to get some syrup!”

It was about an hour later that I arrived into the aid station where I was greeted by World Bicycle Relief Crew, Sully, and my parents. I handed my bike off to Sully and dashed into the grass to go pee. Thankfully I had a skirt on which provided some coverage so I wasn’t too worried about it. I got back to the tent and asked for more maple syrup. I handed my camelbak to Sully (as was part of the plan) and took a bottle with lots of salt in the drink mix to head up Columbine, knowing it would be at least 2 hours before I was back.

leaving aid station
See ya later!

I knew what lay ahead of me but it didn’t make it any easier. This section could make or break my race and I was determine to make it. I locked out my suspension and got into a rhythm of climbing in the saddle and out of the saddle. I kept drinking and taking in syrup and rice cakes. Towards the top I peered over my should to see a large chase group coming up after me (okay they weren’t really chasing me, but they were a large group) and I was determined to beat them to the goat track so I wouldn’t get stuck behind them. I did and when it funnelled into the track I kept riding, this section wasn’t as congested as it has been in the past and I was able to navigate around those walking without too much hassle. At the end of the first steep pitch I had to get off my bike because I had hit a soft spot with my front wheel and couldn’t save it. I hiked up maybe about 10 steps before it flattened out again and I could get back to riding. I knew I was faster if I rode rather than hiked, not a lot, but enough that it would make a difference and so I continued to slowly turn the pedals over and ringing my bell to let the hike-a-bikers know I was behind them. I only had one guy give me a hard time when I went around him while he was hiking (I’m going to blame it on a language barrier-he was wearing an Italia jersey, and didn’t ever respond when I called I was coming (hence the bell, boys don’t know a girl is trying to get by)) after I had gone around him and gotten back in line he rammed his front wheel into my rear. I held my line but expressed, “what the heck man?!?” he didn’t respond. Maybe I had gotten too close or maybe he hadn’t noticed that he was that close but I kept my eye on him just to be safe.

Shortly after that encounter I heard my name called out, I looked behind me to see another WBR rider, Jered, coming up behind me. Jered is always smiling and was so enthusiastic to be on course that every time I ran into him it immediately put me in a better mood. He was climbing like a champ and cruised by me like I was standing still, which I certainly almost was at that grade. I saw him ride off into the distance and at this point had to get off and walk again knowing that it wouldn’t last long and it would be the last time as the top was well within sight.

columbine
Thinking about stuff and things….

After I crested the top it’s 50 yards down to the aid station and I made a plan to get in and out. I Refilled my bottle, took some watermelon, orange slices and then was off. I was behind a fat-biker at the top which I thought would be a good one to make a line for me but soon realized I could go a little bit faster and quickly went around only to land behind…the guy in the Italia jersey from earlier. Realizing this was no place to let my pride get in my way I stayed behind him because well he was going faster than me and letting people know he was coming, and with people coming up so close it’s sometimes all I could do to not knock handlebars. I tried to cheer for everyone coming up as most of them were now stuck in the waiting line that had backed up to the beginning of the goat trail. The Italia guy made it around one guy on a pretty sketchy pass and being so close to where the trails opens up into the gravel road, I stayed behind the guy and tried to keep my distance because he was a little all over the place which made me nervous. It flowed into the gravel road and I took a breath to relax as that section makes me so tension. I wasn’t even able to get through a full breath when the guy in front of me crashed and I was somehow able to not have him take me down with him. I’m still praying the rosary for that save. The fat biker pulled up beside me and said, “you must downhill on the weekends, you are so great on the descents!” I responded, “nope, I just chase my boyfriend around!” which is true. Sully is such a fast, fluid descender–and I like to think so of it is catching on…

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“I’mmmm back!”

The section back to the aid station was quick and I kept trying to push it a little more, knowing that I had lost some time on the climb. I was back to the aid station and chugging pickle juice before I knew it. Sully gave me my camelbak, I grabbed more maple syrup (I had dropped one riding Columbine and let out an agonizing scream, not because I actually needed the food but because it was so delicious), rice cakes, another bottle, and made my way out of the aid station, after drinking more pickle juice. I can remember staring at a

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And I don’t even like pickles….

bottle of IBUprofen on the table when I came in thinking I should take some. My right quad had started to feel strained and I wanted to get on top of it. I left without taking in and was focused on getting something at the next aid station. I got onto the next section and followed the wheel of two guys who pulled me for a good portion back to the Colorado Trail Singletrack. It was only a mile on the section (much too short) before getting back on two-track that took us down, up, down, up, down, up and then down into the aid station (this is a rolling, quick, section that I always try to recover on). I pulled up to the medical tent, “do you have aspirin?” “No.” “No? What kind of place is this?!?” The guy then hesitated, “hold on, I’ll get my personal bottle from my car” which luckily was right behind the tent. “How many do you want?” “4, will you give me 4?” “Good girl, I had someone ask for 2 earlier and I talked them into 3” I really should have said, ‘how many will you give me’ but had gobbled them up and jumped back on my bike before I had thought of that witty response. singletrack down

I got onto the pavement section and had a guy come up behind me saying something about “ginger power” I was slightly offended at first because a.) I did not want to pull him back to Powerline and b.) If anything my hair is red not ginger. He got in front of me and only then did I realize that he was a ginger and then I thought it was hilarious. We worked together to get through the headwinds and around to Powerline. I thought maybe I would see Sully somewhere near the bottom where I did last year (we had a rough plan of it) but as I kept getting closer to the climb without seeing him I started to count what calories and figure out if it to make it last  90 minutes. I saw Katie’s husband who didn’t think Sully was there and he gave me a syrup and a push which was awesome. I started up Powerline and shifted into my lowest gear and just slowly kept turning over as people around me were beginning to walk up. I turned the right hand corner to see the WBR girls cheering me on. Claire used to be a coxswain in college and it’s pretty amazing how well she can motivate you, she also calls out to everyone, “Girl riding, get out of the way!” Yeah, she’s the best! I kept riding up to see Sully there waiting, he began walking up along side of me (that’s how slow I was going) when again I hit a soft spot and jumped off to take another bottle, a straight shot of salt and was on my way. And by on my way I mean hiking up. Just before the top I was greeted by a little old man, “You are the first girl I have seen today in a skirt…Pound it!” I pounded him and laughed and then he called all the guys behind me perverts. They just don’t make them like they do in Leadville. At the top there was a guy in a pizza suit (or maybe banana) who after I got on my bike he pushed me for a while and told me not to pedal- it was great! Powerline is only a 200 yard section but really I think of it as the 3 mile climb that it entails, it has 4 false summits and a few relief points but it’s about 45 minutes of suffering at 81 miles in the race. All I knew was that I need to keep pedalling and do as little amount of walking as possible. Which I did, again not fast, but faster than hiking. At the top I saw a group of guy riders all congregated around a table. I kept going around them only to see a girl handing out “Hot Shots” “Do you want one?” She asked me. “What is it?” It’s for muscle cramps and soreness” Remembering my right quad I grabbed it and drank a sip. Ohhhh I get the name now, it’s hot, like Fireball (later we made everyone at the house who hadn’t try some and they all made the same face I did). I immediately dropped the rest of my bottle and went for my camelbak trying to squash any remaining taste. Plus I was getting so close, one more descent and then one more 3 mile climb and then I’m at the last aid station. IMG_7808.jpgI tried to do the mental math of what my pace was, going sub-10 was going to be close, so, so close but it might just happen. I kept pushing and going between tucking and pedalling whenever I started to lose momentum. I began the laborous climb that would bring me into mile 90. It’s not very steep or very long but at mile 87 it’s more than I wanted to be doing. I stayed focus though and got into a rhythm again of climbing, just 20 minutes in the pain cave. I made it to the top at about 9:15, I saw my parents, dropped my camelbak with them, grabbed another bottle, gushers, some chews, and a chunk of chicken and took off. It was going to be sooooo close to get under 10 but I had to fight. I went, I pedalled and climbed and when it released into the last descent I opened it up and went down with everything I had, making sure to keep eating and drinking because it’s really 104 miles and not 100. I was frantic and when the downhill slope slowed I kept pedalling and mashing. I came around a corner and a volunteer told me and two other guys I was with at that point that we were going to be so close to 10 hours but we had a shot. That was all it took. There was one section left, up the boulevard, which is just enough of a grade to destroy your soul if you have it left. The guy in front of me started pulling harder and I held on. Although I’ve never done a time trial, I imagine those last 4 miles were a similar experience. I could tell the guy in front of me wanted to go under 10 just as bad as I did. We kept taking over other riders who would hold on to the rear briefly before getting dropped again. We were so close but so far still-get there, get there, get there! The gravel takes you back onto the road that we started on and back to the finish, with one more crest being on the pavement. I saw a girl in front of me and figured she would be the one to beat to not get 8th for the third time (at least 7th would be nice…) I knew if I could get in front of her before the descent I could maybe hold her off. I made my move on the small climb to start going but she immediately quickened the pace to keep on me.coming into finish

I couldn’t shake her and fell behind her wheel. We were going down and quickly up into the finish shoot and it was all I could do with one last great effort to put my head down and begin to sprint with everything I had left. Thankfully at this same moment I was greeted by Claire’s voice telling me to go now, go now, go now! I did. I over took the girl and finished. 10:07:24.

finish
All the feelings 

This now brings you back to the beginning. After picking myself up and rushing to my mom I told her I just wanted to go under 10 so I could be done with this race, I just wanted 9-something, that’s all. But Leadville doesn’t care what I want. Sully called me the glass-half full girl given that I had PR’d. I hesitantly looked up the results, figuring I would have to settle for 8th again. “Holy fudge!” except I didn’t say fudge. I had won my age group, which was shocking but this year they had a separate pro category so that helped to take the really fast women out of my age group.  I’m really happy that I won and it’s a nice ending to the season that seemed a little tumultuous with training during law school, racing in South Dakota, not doing a lot of high-atlitude rides, changing schools and programs (more on that later), and bouncing down to Colorado to try and race. It put a lot of strain on my personal relationships though and when I had finished I wondered if it was all worth it, if all the sacrifices to feel like I had come up short were. As much as I shouldn’t say it, it was. The struggle, the process, it was all worth it because I gave everything I could at Leadville. That’s what’s so beautifully heart-breaking about bike racing because it demands so much and you might come up short but then again, you might not.

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My crew–it was their 3rd Leadville too!

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Mary only showed up for the photo-op 

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Grateful he hasn’t dumped me through this process….

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Laurens crushed it in his first MTB race (he did the Tour de France for his training-ha) and Katie not only took an hour off her Leadville time but raised enough money for over 100 bicycles!

I’ll be transitioning to collegiate racing this fall (yay for club sports that don’t have eligibility rules). But I also intend to take next summer off from Leadville and do some reassessing in terms of what my goals are when it comes to racing and riding.

on podium
I’ve peaked! 

What’s really incredible though regardless of my time or where I finished is that the WBR team raised more than $80,000!!! That puts more than 500 bicycles in the field, that’s 500 lives that have a real impact. I’m so lucky to be able to be a part of it!

with gold pan
My parents made me do a photo shoot in the Safeway Parking lot…casually

  • Here are the numbers:
  • Time: 10:07: 24
  • Avg. Speed: 10.2
  • Distance 104.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 11,631 feet
  • 50 oz. camelbak with water (finished it twice)
  • 6 bottles, a mix between Skratch and GU (500 mg of salt per serving)
  • 5 or 6 rice cakes
  • Roughly 12 Untapped Maple Syrup (seriously, so good- and water soluble so it did not destroy my stomach!)
  • 1 Skratch chomps package

 

Copper Crush…Crushed It

I did not want to do the Copper Crush. Most of the week leading up to it I felt discombobulated, having spent two days driving, one day flying and not a whole lot of time on the bike. Throw in a wedding the night before and it was all I could do to even fathom racing. My coach thought it would help just to shake things out after the Tatanka and as much as I didn’t want to I had to admit that he was right. I was slightly nervous that the race would end up more or less of the same as the Tatanka and not actually boost my confidence going into Leadville. I had just enough champagne the night before at the wedding though to think that racing wouldn’t be so bad. I didn’t preregister just in case the wedding drinks got the best of me but I was up and ready to go the morning of the race. I opted for the 30 mile course instead of the 50. It would be three laps, 10 miles each, a 5 mile uphill section followed by a 5 mile downhill section. Didn’t seem that bad.

wedding
Yay weddings…and bikes!

They started the women last, and all together, which made it seem like there was a lot of us, and we would not have to worry about the guys trying to get by right away. The race began with a neutral role out, which was really the first neutral role out I have experienced and we actually talked about how most of the time people are gunning for it. We hit the single track but even then the pace didn’t quicken. Maybe people knew something I didn’t, then a lady made a move around me and I quickly got on her wheel and we made our way to the front. We started climbing and I soon realized this climb was going to be more than I had anticipated so I settled in while still trying to push to keep position. We made our way to the top and after about 4 miles it opens up to a gravel road that loops you back around the single track, I kept grinding not sure what the descent would bring. By now we were spaced out enough that I wasn’t too worried about getting overtaken on the descent so long as I held on.The descent was fast, with some technical sections, enough that I had to pay attention and fully open my suspension. Lap one was done at 1:20. As I came through I was on the wheel of a pro woman who had gotten lost three times on the first lap as we went through the finish line she told me she got lost almost right  away and not to take that turn again. We took that turn and only realized our mistake when riders started coming towards us on the single track with mystified looks on their faces. Oops we cut through the field and got back on course. out of the woods

The climbs seemed a bit steeper the second time around but being a little more familiar with it I knew where to push and where to save. After about a mile or so up I made my way around the lady and kept trying to pick off the guys in front of me. I also knew there were still two women in front of my but wasn’t sure of their lead time. I made it to the top and was relieved again to open up my suspension and make my way downhill. The single track opens up to a gravel road about a half mile from the finish line, I was cruising down it when I saw a green bike and yellow shoes making its way up. Sully had stayed to help with post-wedding activities and I wasn’t sure I would see him. I stopped and switched out a bottle with him and told him I would grab food on the way through and that I would see him in an 1:20.

The third lap presented more of a challenge. I got passed back by the pro-lady who told me to eat something, which I had been doing but I don’t think I had eaten early enough and out of teh woods 2now was slowly bonking. Just get to the top, just get to the top. I started to count down 1/10
of a mile while trying to do mental math of how many yards that would be. That definitely kept me occupied for a good portion as I’m not sure my math actually ever came out right. I got to the top and saw a volunteer, I asked him for salt as I had been borderline cramping going up and had an in-depth conversation about salt with Barb after the Tatanka. He didn’t have any salt but could get some as I kept climbing up before looping back around to his post. That certainly helped to keep me going, the thought of getting salt. When I arrived back, even with it being a downhill I knew that I could easily cramp and the time it would take to stop and get some salt would save me time. He had ran into the resort at the top and gotten a salt shaker. I shook it directly into my mouth, it’s the first time that much salt has not been accompanied by tequila. I immediately realized (probably placebo effect) why people risk so many potentially fatal diseases for this jewel of the earth. It was like a flip had been switched and I felt like a human again, I imagine that salt is what Pinocchio received each time he became a real boy. I crushed the descent, okay not really but I felt really good and was able to finish strong as a result.

podium
Where my girls at?!?!

I finished first in my age group, the other girl had dropped out after two laps and was 2nd for women overall. As much as I despised having to race before hand, I’m really glad I did, especially because it was at altitude, and it certainly helped to realize how much salt factors into my performance level. I ended up taking the Leader’s Jersey and when I told a friend that she asked if it was like the Tour de France…I responded, “exactly like that” 😉

I had struggled the week leading up to the race with wanting to race Leadville, I went back and forth with it more times that I could even list, and really debated for the first time ever just walking away from everything. I’m not saying that winning helped, it was more of a conversation with my Godfather who pointed out that even if I didn’t want to when would I get another chance like this. I’ve just been getting nervous because even with breaking my rear derailleur last year I had a great race and I’m just not sure I’ll be able to top it. There is only one way to find out!

Tatanka 100

I spent a lot of the Tatanka 100 thinking about Lance Armstrong, but probably not for

Getting ready

reasons you would think. There is a video of him doing a Beer Mile (run a lap, chug a beer, repeat x4) I was watching it with Wayne one day and after the first lap he walks off the track mumbling, “this isn’t what I expected…” Wayne’s response was, “what did he expect..it’s a beer mile!” That’s what I kept saying, “this isn’t what I expected…” and then a little voice would pop into my head saying, “well, what did you expect, it’s the Centennial Trail” and I would respond back with, “I don’t know…not this” which is how 13 hours of racing could really be summed up, not at all what I expected.

There wasn’t one thing that went catastrophically wrong but enough little things that results in one large biomechanical malfunction which resulted in my slowest race ever. I had started the day not feeling at 100%, maybe around 70% having raced the

Monday before but I figured I had 83 miles for me legs to figure it out so wasn’t too worried. I had only decided to do the 83 miler a few days before, thinking I would just be doing the 35. I figured the longest it would take me would be about 10 hours. We started on pavement for a neutral roll out of about 3 miles before hitting the trail. Within about the first 6 miles I soon realized why the times were so slow from last year, the trail gets pretty congested to begin with and then there are a lot of hike-a-bike sections, but not hike-a-bike roll your bike along with you, more lift your bike up, put it on the rock and climb up yourself. Oofta, definitely no rhythm to the ride. The first aid station was at mile 16 so I kept thinking about that, trying to stay on pace and get my legs shook out.

I made it to the first aid station and made a plan to get what I needed and get out of there- I moved quickly. I left following two guys out, one local and one from CO. The heat was definitely starting to take its toll and after about 3 miles and half way down a descent the local guy went down on the left of the trail, he cramped up and and waved both of us along saying he’d be fine, so we kept descending and I kept drinking to stay on top of any cramps that might be headed my way. We got to a road with no course marking….ohhhh crap! Still not sure where we missed the turn we turned around and started back up what was initially a nice reprieve. We realized our mistake was where the guy cramped, as we both had been looking left the trail had taken a fork right. It was frustrating and took me a while to recover mentally from. Between the 1st and 2nd it’s still pretty primitive trail, with stair hiking (my favorite), and a feeling of bush whacking through some areas with grass brushing against my handlebars and thick grass stalks that had only recently been pushed down to forge the trail.

Driving the struggle bus…. Photo: Randy Ericksen

This is the only time in my life that I’ve actually been concerned with a race cut off time- and it was going to be close, especially because I had taken a break to sit down on the side of the trail and eat something. I rolled into the aid station and saw lots of riders milling around. I ate some apples and laid down on a slab of cardboard for a while. I then got up and walked over to two women that I had talked to earlier in the day, they were calling it, not wanting to waste their whole day. It was so tempting, to bail with them, so I sat and ate some chips and pickles that they had given me while weighing the pros and cons. Pro: I’ll be done with this wretched race. Con: I’ll have to ride longer tomorrow. I got back up and overheard people talking about turning the aid station into a recovery aid station, that they were going to start pulling people…I grabbed my bike and got out of there deciding to at least make it to the next aid station.

The section was hot, exposed, dusty, and on a two-track open to motorized vehicles. It sucked the life out of me, or what was left at that point. I really started to get frustrated and started to do a lot of soul searching to get me through- I came up with a mantra “sometimes fast—sometimes last.” I also thought back to a ride I had done earlier that week with Barb when I had looked down and saw a snake below me on the side of the trail. I called back to Barb, “there is a snake back there” her response “where?!? I don’t see it, but I don’t look down, I look at where I’m suppose to be going” very wise words as I had started the day trying to look where I was going to avoid any mishaps with snakes and as the miles slowly crept by and the time seemed to be exponentially faster at passing, this became my thought process too, stop thinking about where I am right now, in this very moment and think about where you are going, this is training for Leadville, this doesn’t matter. It didn’t make it any easier though. I stuck with it but getting to that third aid station almost did me in. I

He was suppose to be tied up for directions

rolled in 3rd aid station, grabbed the only drop bag I had packed for the day and promptly sat down in a chair that was provided by the boy scouts running the station. I grabbed a cup of chips, then grabbed another one, then another, then another, then another, then another-the most chips I have ever eaten during a race but I think my body wanted the salt. And then I sat there, and sat there, and sat there, and sat there weighing if I should drop out or not. I talked to the race directors from the gravel race I had done earlier this year in Spearfish as one had crashed out and the other pulled the plug and they offered me a ride back and then I weighed the pros and cons with them. It was most frustrating because at this point I was already toasted and racing for the next weekend was off the table so even if I didn’t finish at this point I didn’t gain much. They were familiar with the next section and gave me low down. It seemed there was really only one good climb out and then it was rolling. And so I finally got out of that chair and back on my bike.

The climb wasn’t bad, no more rock features so I was able to stay on the bike and just pedal. And that’s what I did. For the next 35 miles, there were a few short climbs that I had to get off and walk up because my legs had nothing left in them. I rolled in to the last aid station, nearly depleted and so happy to know I was now getting so close. The man put a cold wash cloth on my neck and the lady poured me a coke, which I didn’t think I wanted but promptly drank. I sat down on a cooler and pulled out my cell phone to text Barb and give her an update, I had a message from my coach, “how’d the race go?” I burst out laughing and yelled, “THIS IS THE LONGEST RACE EVER!” I texted Barb with an update, letting her know I still had 17 miles to go. Even with 17 miles left I still knew it would be close to 2-2.5 hours. I left the aid station with enough fruit snack bags to get me through the week (better to be safe than sorry). I was doing well until the last 4 miles. I thought back to this little girl who was put a bike with training wheels, on her parents taking their hands of her she began screaming, “GET ME OFF THIS BIKE!” I have never identified more with a child than those last miles. Tears began to well up in my eyes from the frustration the day had brought. I cut through a cow track, which had a goat walking down it, which was a bit of a comedic relief. I knew the ending was at a city park but had no idea where the park was in relation to where I was and when I came up on one park that was

desolate I had figured that everyone had left, fortunately I saw signs to keep going and was soon on the bike path. I was ushered into the high school track and saw a lone person standing at the opposite end. Again thinking this was the end, and was depressed that it took me so long that everyone was gone–she then pointed me around the corner where I was greeted by Barb and the finish line.

I rode the next day, just to make sure that I could but the next few days were a little rough. I’ve even spent time questioning why I’m doing Leadville again. I’ve been opting for trainer workouts over going outside so I could at least watch 30 Rock and not have to think about anything.

I’m so thankful that Barb did the 17 miles and was willing to drive me home, otherwise I think I would have just laid down in the grass and stayed there until I ran out of fruit snacks.

She finished wayyyy before me!

Here are the numbers:
Distance: 79 miles
Time: 12:56
Avg. Speed: 6.10
Elevation: 10,417
Avg. HR: 145
Avg Power: 95
Time spent at aid stations: 2 hours–I wish I was kidding!
Quarq provided live tracking, which was nice when I was talking to Sully about dropping out at each point along the way and he could offer me up points of encouragement.
Just a note my goal time for Leadville is 9:35- I was at mile 53 when I hit that mark in this race…almost comical.

Finally got my summer tan!