Choosing my Adventures AKA Adventure Addiction AKA Why I’m not racing much this year

My name is Margaret, and I’m addicted to adventures.

I’ve been cultivating this love for adventure since my early years.  When my friends and I would play princesses, I would be the princess who ventured through the enchanted forest to rescue the other princesses, and knew how to swing a wooden sword as well as any imaginary knight. Before I was 8, I had traveled the continent in an RV, and explored castles in England with my family.  Cross Country skiing involved going ‘off piste’ over logs and jumping off sand dunes.  Being outdoors and getting dirty was encouraged.  Canoeing, biking and hiking were common outings.

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In my teens, some of my adventures turned a tad rebellious (at least in my parents’ eyes I’m sure). I got in a little trouble, caused some worry.  When I look back though, it was always that same thrill of doing something I’d never done before that pushed me towards the things I did, not really the idea of rebelling against anyone.  I often hope that my parents look back on that time and feel proud that they raised me to be fearless enough to take risks yet smart enough to make sure those risks were calculated rather than reckless.  

When I graduated high school, I moved from my small town home in Nova Scotia to Montreal, where my adventures took on an urban variety; meeting and learning about people, culture and the environment in which we live.  Trouble was, as I met more people with different experiences, it only made me crave more of my own.  Most of my experiences up to that point, while seeming adventurous to me at the time, weren’t the big adventures I was starting to hear about.  I was starting to see that there was more out there, and was intrigued, but was also intimidated.  The adventures I wanted were getting bigger, and so were their consequences if things went wrong.  I was young and struggling with that balance between reckless and calculated.  I was feeding myself on little bursts of recklessness and micro adventures around the city, but I couldn’t figure out how I was going to keep my addiction going.  I got anxious, I got scared, I put myself in rehab.

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It was like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books where one path, while seeming more tempting at the time, could lead you into danger, and only YOU could decide using your talents and intelligence.  I tried to do the smart thing.  I moved closer to home, I continued my education in something I found interesting but thought I could count on to get me a real job.  I rediscovered small town life and remembered why I liked it, and I fed my introvert needs for a while.  It turned out to be the right decision for me, even though it was made in a moment of panic and took me out of the adventure game temporarily.  That job funds my adventures now, and I think I needed a little forced quiet time to figure some things out.  I also would never have met Russell if I hadn’t gone on the path I did, so… bonus… but that’s another story.

In 2006, my feet began to itch again. I was living in Toronto, and Toronto and I didn’t get along very well.  I was trapped inside too much, and commuting 2 hours a day hurt my soul.  Russell was in California.  I imagined learning to surf, I imagined the California of my childhood adventures with it’s beaches and it’s tall trees.  It was time to alter the path of my story.  I took a leap.  It felt good.

2654493533_0a980be89b_zI don’t live by the beach, so I haven’t learned to surf (yet), but I have played in the waves, climbed mountains, camped in the pine trees, explored the desert, skied fresh powder…. and… learned to mountain bike.

The mountain bike was a drug of a whole new sort.  As soon as I put it down I wanted to pick it back up again.  I would come home from the forest and the hills bruised and battered, but for some reason this only made me want to ride more.  My rides got longer, faster, pushed my physical and mental limits.  Every ride was a new experience, a new adventure.  The trips Russell and I took began to center around mountain biking destinations, and my adventures started to take the form of those big adventures I dreamed about back in University.  Mountain biking has taken me places I’d never imagined, both near and far, and is able to nourish both the adrenaline and the solitude hungers of my paradoxical brain.  The mountain bike quickly became my drug of choice.  It became my passion.

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For a number of years now, my vehicle of choice for using this drug has been racing.  It was the best way I could find to ride my bike on new and challenging terrain and continue to improve my skills and fitness, which allowed me to continue to explore new places, which made me want to develop more skills and get fitter, which made me want to race more, and so on.  Training and competing at a high level has taught me more about myself than just about anything else I’ve ever done.  I’ve traveled to and ridden in some of the best places in North America thanks to racing.  It’s been a great series of adventures, and I’ve loved it.

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But again, I started to meet more people with more experiences through racing, and as I did, I started to feel that craving to do more myself.  I had friends travelling to Chile and I went into a bit of a sadness spiral when I realized I didn’t have enough vacation time to do the same.   I signed up for the EWS race in Italy to soothe that wound, but as amazing as that was, I only had a week, and I had so much more of Europe I needed to see!  It was like I was just getting a taste of the icecream (or should I say gelato in this case?) when I wanted the whole bowl.

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Which brings us to today: I’ve got itchy feet again and I’m feeling like I want to take another leap.  But I can see that leap going in several very different directions, leading towards very different and scary adventures.  Sustainability of my addiction comes into question in different ways depending on which step I take.  Figuring out what to do has been troubling me.   The one thing that I seem to keep coming back to though, is that  before anything else, I just want to eat the whole damn bowl of ice-cream. And right now, racing isn’t letting me do that.

So I decided I need another round of rehab.  This time, I don’t plan on moving home or pressing pause on the adventure button, but I do want to step back from the race scene for a minute and get back to the original appeal of mountain biking for me. I want to focus on the exploration and the experiences, and catch up on the types of adventures I’ve been missing out on while I’ve been focused on events.  I want to see new countries and discover new trails without having to work within the confines of race venues.  I want breathe in every bit of the forests, oceans, and mountains that I can find.  I want to share my love of adventures with my family and my friends, and figure out the best way to do all of that until I’m too old to move.

I’m lucky.  I have a job that allows me to afford to travel, and my favorite travel partner (and riding partner) is my husband.  I have no debt and no dependents.  Why not take advantage of that while I can?  Why not go on some of those big adventures I’ve been craving while I figure out what’s next.  This rehab is about taking time to appreciate what I have.  And maybe, while doing that, I find out I don’t even need the leap anymore because what I have is pretty amazing, or maybe I find out I still do, and I find some clarity about what that leap needs to be.

Maybe it’s not rehab after all.  Maybe it’s complete indulgence in hopes of emerging again with a clearer vision of where I want to go and who I want to be.

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Riding for a Reason

photo (56)Usually, I ride for pretty selfish reasons. And to be honest, this summer was starting to feel a little bit like the ‘look at me show’ so I was really excited throw myself into an event this weekend that was focused on giving back. Bike for Bender is a not for profit organization that I’ve been affiliated with since it’s beginning. It was founded in memory of a friend, Robert Bender, and it means a lot to me to be a part of it. They are a small group of people with huge hearts, and they give all the money from their events back to the local cycling community. Whether that be helping fallen riders, giving back to the high school teams, getting kids on bikes or helping to maintain your local trails, this group really stands behind mountain bikers and all cyclists. They also give money every year to cancer research.

I was lucky enough to volunteer at their Camp Tahquitz 6hr Challenge and Enduro this weekend. What a great event. The 6 hr race really epitomized the type of course that Robert would have been all about. In other words, you had to be tough as nails to finish it. Laps were 7 miles each and climbed around 1100 ft, but not only did you have work hard on those steep climbs, the descents were gnarly as well and required your full attention. There was little room for rest on this course. The Pro men’s winner did a staggering 8 laps in the 6 hrs, and the top woman did 6. I was marshaling the course for most of the race, and what kept surprising me were how many people were STILL SMILING as they passed for their 4th, 5th, and 6th laps.

photo (55)photo (57)The Enduro on Sunday was a huge success. We doubled our numbers from last year and it seemed like everyone was having a great time.  Same as Saturday, the courses required both fitness and skill, albeit a different kind of fitness and it was certainly a different experience to watch these guys and gals tearing up the trails on their 5 and 6 inch bikes compared to the carbon hard tails the previous day.  I may have snuck onto the course a few times while marshaling to try out the goods, and was impressed.

There was a great vibe all day, with everyone there finding some connection with everyone else, and it really felt like a community coming together to support a good cause – which I suppose is exactly what it was. One thing I’ve noticed about mountain biking is that there is a camaraderie there in the sport that is unique and awesome. The great thing about this type of racing is you still get that same camaraderie that you get on a group ride even though it’s a race, so I think it’s a great pairing for a fundraiser event.  Or should I say FUNdraiser? terrible pun sorry.  I also regularly think about how insanely well Robert would have done in the Enduro discipline, so yet another reason I think this is a good fit for the Bike for Bender group.

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And I couldn’t write about this race without mentioning the ladies! We had 11 ladies take part in the Enduro. This may seem like a small number (and it is) but this is actually comparable percentage-wise to some much larger events that I’ve taken part in over the years. And not only were they there, but they were crushing it. 11 ladies, from every age bracket, teens to 50s, out there getting dirty and floating through rock gardens and generally smashing all the technical bits of the course with big smiles on their faces. Pretty amazing to see at our local event. Hopefully they’ll all go tell their friends how fun it was and we’ll have even more next year.

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Special thanks goes out to Rick Heltebrake, who has been kind enough to let the organization make use of the Boy Scout camp for these races. It really makes it special that these trails are only accessible once or a few times a year.

But mostly thanks to all the riders for taking time out of their busy lives to come and Ride for a Reason with us. It was great to see so many familiar faces this weekend!

For a real feel of what the courses and events were like, check out:  PB Creative’s Photos here:

http://www.pbcreativephoto.com/GALLERIES/CYCLING/MOUNTAINBIKE/Enduro/BIKE-FOR-BENDER-ENDURO-2014/

and here:

http://www.pbcreativephoto.com/GALLERIES/CYCLING/MOUNTAINBIKE/CROSS-COUNTRY/BIKE-FOR-BENDER-6-HOUR-2014/

Enduro World Series – Colorado Freeride Fest

It’s hard to type with a broken finger.  Harder than racing with one to be honest.  How do I know? because I’m doing one now and did one yesterday.

My first EWS experience of the year had some highs and lows.  The biggest high I think for me was the realization that I can pedal kind of well now.  Oddly enough, the stages that required more fitness were the ones I did best in.  Huge kudos to my coach Joy from Big Wheel Coaching for getting me there, and also all the “xc stages” that I complained about all year that forced me to get stronger.  I still wanted to puke at the end of all the flatter stages, but at least my ‘want to puke’ speed is faster now??  It was definitely my goal to improve my fitness this year, so this is hugely satisfying.  Can I work on the fun stuff now?  I think I need to before Italy.

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Also on the high side, I did better than I hoped for in some stages. I had 8th, 9th and 10th place finishes, which considering the stacked field here I was pretty ecstatic about.  I got 10th on the stage in which I crashed and broke my finger… so I like to imagine I could have been close to a top 5 if it had gone well.

Having Russell there was also great… still the best hotel room mechanic in the business, although I think he was glad he didn’t have to do as much work as last year!!   My bike was clean each day for once and ice/drinks/food/hugs were all provided as needed, all of which were much appreciated.

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On the low side, the broken finger, duh. But I also let my mental game slip a bit on day 2, which was perhaps more disappointing than the injury.  Stage 3 was a trail that did not go well for me last year at this event… I think I crashed on it like 6 times.  That memory got in my brain and stuck there, causing me to take that stage VERY conservatively.  This ended up taking a  toll on my total time and putting me back in 19th or 20th place on that stage, certainly my worst stage of the weekend and probably cost me a few places in the overall.  I guess the bright side is that I made it down without panicking or crashing… but smooth is only fast if it’s not slow… haha… good logic right?

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We also had a fellow racer incur a major injury on the first stage of the 3rd day. When combined with my blue finger, the circumstances made the last stage of the day just a little off.  I did manage to get down it thanks to ibuprophen, ice and sports tape, but my hand hurt like hell and my mind wasn’t quite in it either.  Safety, rather than speed was my main focus.  Ended up 17th on that stage, but did feel like a bit of a badass for completing it broken and not coming in last.

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Overall I would call the weekend tough but rewarding.  Maybe I should call it One Intense weekend (#sponsorpuns).   I ended up in 14th place!  The goal was top 15, so I call that success. Seeing my name right up there with some of my mountain biking idols was pretty damn cool too.  I can’t wait to try it again in Italy!!

Two Intense ladies (myself and Vaea) in the top 15 by the way…speedy gals on speedy bikes…

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See ya later ColoRADo. 

Winter Park and Keystone

July 4th weekend!  The only way this would have been more fun is if my partner in crime had been here.  Here’s how it unfolded…

Thanks to some horrendous traffic, I rolled into winter park a little late for the park laps I was planning for Thursday night,  But have no fear! I used my new favorite app, mtbproject to locate a little trail that sounded pretty fun based solely on the name – Zoom.

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Top of Zoom Trail

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Fun descent, thunderstorm in the distance

Nice little climb to get up to the top of this trail, then fast fun all the way down.  I got a little distracted by how much fun I was having however, and ended up way the heck further down this trail than I was supposed to be. And it was getting dark, and the daily thunderstorm was starting. That made me a little nervous, so I turned around and pedaled pretty hard back in the direction I came from, not sure how long ago I had taken the wrong turn.  I guess this was a good interval??  Luckily, I made it out just after sunset while I could still see the trail, and before the rain really started.

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Got back before the storm got to me, and just before dark.

I was camping in the truck, and had scoped out a pretty nice spot to park for the night on my pedal up to Zoom, so I headed up there in the truck to have some food and get to sleep.  I’ve gotten pretty used to sleeping in the truck now!  We have a nice setup back there and comfy mattresses and my own pillow, so I actually got a surprisingly good sleep that night!  Also, falling asleep to lightning flashes is pretty rad!

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Friday I spent the day at the Trestle bike park.  Fun times. Spent the morning with my 951 and the afternoon with my Tracer.  2 bike days are the best.  I ended up accidentally on the tail end of an Intense train down rainmaker (jump trail) towards the end of the day. Turned out to be Alex Willie, fellow Intense rider, his little brother, and Jake VanHeel.  Super fun to be able to hit all the jumps behind them, I’m totally a follower… I was loving the jumps on the trail bike so much, that it occurred to me that maybe I should enter the Air DH race the next day!  I went back to the truck, switched to my xc helmet and lost the kneepads, and headed out on a pedal to think about it.  Still undecided after an hour and half of pedaling, I had a big America beer in celebration of the 4th, and went to sleep again at the same camping spot.

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Campsite for Thurs/Fri nights

By the morning I had convinced myself it would be fun,  so I walked over to registration to get my number plate.

And it was fun! Minus the crazy long wait of course.  Please race organizers, if you’re out there, don’t make us Pro ladies wait until after ALL the men/boys race… run us after the Pro men… we’re fast.  I ended up 2nd… I had a lot of fun, but I don’t think I fully realized the speediness of the ladies I was up against. There were definitely some spots where I was cruising instead of pedaling and going for style points instead of speed on the jumps… also had a mistake in a corner since it was much looser than my practice run earlier that morning, and was starving as I neglected to bring snacks to the top.  I probably should have had my game a bit more in order if I wanted to win… BUT, those are just excuses… the gal who won was fast and beat me fair and square, and I still had fun so that’s all that I was looking for.

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Alex starting his Air DH race run

I got some food after that, and headed up the lift again to get some more laps in on the DH trail that I suspect will be part of the EWS race there.

I was going to do another xc ride after this, but turned out the truck battery died, so I had to enlist the help of 3 kind gentlemen in the parking garage to get that sorted out. I figured it would be best to do a bit of a drive instead of shutting it off again to go ride more… so I headed out to Keystone a little earlier than planned.

MTBproject came through again the next morning with a great xc ride near Keystone. Pretty mellow, if longish climb rewarded me with spectacular alpine singletrack, and a nearly 30 minute descent.  It’s pretty amzing up there at 11000 feet!

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Colorado Trail

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The afternoon was bike park laps/race recon for next weekend.  I have to say, I am a big fan of the Keystone bike park.  Lots of variety! Although I did keep getting confused about which trails went where… it’s kind of a maze, but all paths seem to lead to fun, so it was never a big deal.  Ran into some more familiar faces, and checked out some sketchy lines, and pretty much rode my face off until the park closed.

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I am pretty sure that I confirmed this weekend that the Tracer can do anything.  I climbed thousands of feet, on both fire roads, and tech singletrack, and I descended even more feet, of all varieties… smooth buff singletrack, gnarly rock gardens, super fast straight lines, jump lines, roots, ruts. berms, moon dust, marbles … you name it… the Tracer handled it all like a champ.

 

 

Intense Colorado Adventure Begins!

So far so Awesome Colorado!

Drove overnight from Sun Valley to arrive at my day job, except in a different location than normal! Broomfield CO. Office is pretty rad, view of mountains.

Checked into my “home” for the month, pretty tiny, but not so bad. If I can fit everything I need for a month in our truck, I can certainly fit it in a tiny suite.  Hooters is next door, so Russell is stoked to come visit me.

First few days, got settled in, checked out some nearby trails. The closest trail to work is decent, nothing crazy, but great for a quick after work ride.

photo (39)On my second outing, I checked out Walker Ranch, near Boulder. Pretty fun!! Some fun singletrack, and some techy doubletrack climbs. The trail followed a beautiful river for a while. So nice to see water! There was a huge hike-a-bike in the middle though, you Coloradans don’t mess around. I was pretty happy to be wearing my 5.10’s with their sticky rubber, calmed my fears of tumbling to my death.


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This staircase just kept going, and turned more and more from stairs to sketchy rocks next to that raging river from the previous photo as I continued down them.  Wish I’d gotten a better picture of this.

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Lucky for me, my first weekend here was a long one! Happy Canada Day and Happy 4th of July my Canadian and American friends! I took the opportunity to head out into the mountains for real. Winter Park for Friday and Saturday, Keystone for Sunday.

More on this tomorrow!! Gotta go retrieve my laundry.  Sorry for the cliff hanger.

Sun Valley Enduro Cup

This race was a very last minute decision for me, but I am so glad I went!  Finally a win outside of California!  I had planned on just spending the weekend driving out to Colorado (where I’m living for July), but as Craig Harvey said when he saw me walk into the expo area on Friday night… I just couldn’t stay away!

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Fun weekend!  And not just because I won, although that did help make it extra awesome.  The Ride Sun Valley festival was a great setting for the race, with general rowdiness encouraged at the rider meeting.  I arrived just before the Prologue race – which by the way, more North American enduros should include, super fun – hit up the rider meeting and then watched a team costume relay race around a downtown block of Ketchum.  Certainly a fun way to end a 12 hour drive.  I then jumped on my bike and raced around the block, over and around some obstacles to set my start position for the weekend.  I have to say, the last obstacle was a little sketchy, but all in all, this was a really fun time!  More ladies should have participated!

I’m not going to go through every stage of this race, though I will say that the first and last stages were my favorites.  I will however, mention some things I liked and some things I didn’t like about the race in general.  The dislikes don’t mean I didn’t still think it was a great event, just things to think about improving in the future.

Liked:

Long stages, the mountain had lots of vert and used it, 4 of the 5 stages were over 10 minutes long.

Running the courses blind.  There was one moment when I took a wrong turn when I didn’t like this, and some people will argue that safety is a concern, but for the most part, I think running stages blind encourages an even playing field and really tests your ability as a mountain biker to read terrain.  I think probably ideal for me would be 1 practice one only for each racer, but this is hard to enforce.

Mix of lifts and climbing transitions.

Timing!  Good job on the timing folks, accurate times immediately available on my phone. awesome.

Rad people, as usual at these races.photo (35) photo (38) And the views weren’t bad.

Disliked:

I shouldn’t be able to have my seat up and pedal for a full 11 minute stage in an enduro race.  More technical please, and more downhill.  I don’t mean to sound like the
downhiller that doesn’t like to pedal, I am fine with short punchy climbs in stages, and big transition climbs, but a stage shouldn’t be won just by pedalling harder than someone else. That is what xc racing is for.

Waiting… let’s post start times for stages and stick to them.

photo (37)All in all, I’m pumped to have a win under my belt and to be leading the North American Enduro tour still. Looking forward to heading to Keystone in a few weeks for the next race of the series.

 

Week 4/5 – Snowmass Enduro + a quick trip to Malaysia

Well, week 4 disappeared without me realizing it.  Spent the early part of the week mostly unpacking and doing laundry and re-packing and preparing for my next work trip. I was headed to Malaysia!  On Friday night I headed to the airport and got on a plane to Hong Kong, then 15 hours later, on to Kuala Lumpur.  I was attending an International Conference for land surveyors, and was expecting it to be a pretty dull week in an exotic location, but it actually ended up being pretty cool.   I met some really interesting people from all over the world, and got to sample some delicious Malaysian food.  Still though, the week was mostly spent getting switched over to a completely opposite time zone, working 12 hour days, and not sleeping that well… not the best way to head into a race!  I got home on Thursday night around midnight, got a few hours sleep, then swapped out my work stuff for my bike stuff and headed off to Aspen for the Snowmass Enduro, the 2nd round of the North American Enduro Tour.

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Had a pretty nice view from my hotel room at the Traders Hotel in Kuala Lumpur

The Snowmass Enduro was tough!! Could be partly because I was fully jet-lagged and just off like 24 hours of airplane rides, but damn that was a lot of work.  Very physical stages, challenging transitions, and high elevation made for quite the weekend!  The scenery however, was pretty much ridiculous, and every time I stopped to look around during a transition, I remembered it was worth it. Sure, racing is fun because you are pushing your limits and challenging yourself… but those moments when you stop thinking about competing, and you look around and realize where you are and where your bike has taken you… those are the ones that make you remember why you love riding your bike.

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Anyway… the first 3 stages on day one were pretty pedally, with lots of corners, and nothing technical to speak of.  I think 2 was my favorite out of the more xc stages of the weekend.  It had a brutal climb at the end, but other than that was really fun tight twisty single track.  Stage 4 was a jump trail, and super fun.  I kind of forgot I was racing on this stage and just had fun with it.  There was a pretty good crowd near the end cheering which made it even better.

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Stage 4 – Photo Credit Seth Beckton, Mountain Flyer Magazine

 

It was pretty clear after day 1 that I was in 2nd place, and likely staying there unless something went wrong for either me or the girl ahead of me.   By the way, I was blown away by how fast the girl who won this weekend was.  I was surprised because I had never met her before… usually I know all the super fast girls… now I know I need to look out for her! I think I could have given her a little bit more of a run for her money if I’d been fresh, but in no way do I want to take away from her win, she did amazing.  Just a reminder that we all need to keep stepping up our game! The young gals are getting speedy!

Day 2 I just wanted to avoid repeating my mistake from Hood River, so the plan was just to ride smooth all day and hold onto my position.  The day started with around an hour long climb up the mountain to the top of the first stage.  I have to say…. stage 5 kind of sucked.  The bottom was pretty fun, but the long fire road pedal in the middle sort of killed it for me.  Next year take that one out folks.

Stage 6 was definitely the most true enduro style of track.  It was long, around 16 minutes, but had a little bit of everything, and no real climbs, but still required fitness.  Started with high speed, high alpine, rough trail, which led into a bit of the jump trail, and then cut off into this tight but FAST single track in the forest, with mega high speed sections alternating with super sharp corners in the trees.  I think everyone probably finished that one with a smile on their face.

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 The bottom of Stage 6, skinny single track through lupin fields and aspens.  Photo credit: Seth Beckton

Stage 7 was the DH track.  And it was rad.  It was kind of wild because it was on the same course as my very first DH race outside of California.  The contrast in how I experienced it then vs. now was pretty crazy.   If you had asked me 6 years ago if I would ever ride that trail on anything but a DH bike, I for sure would have said no.  Now, it was just fun instead of scary and I finished it craving more.  I definitely could have done this one faster than I did, but I kept telling myself that the goal for the weekend was to be smooth, so I just rode it clean, safe, hit all my lines and finished the weekend with no mistakes, which was a great feeling.

The Big Mountain Enduro folks put on a really great event.  Big prize purses, tasty food and beer, great atmosphere and timely results.  If we could figure out how to get a few more technical trails thrown into the mix for these, that would be ideal.

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2nd Place and another giant check to add to the collection.  Leading the NAET now!

The Tracer has been feeling great.  I’m loving it more and more each time I ride it.  It pretty much just does whatever I need it to do whenever I need it to do it… and quickly.  Can’t wait to get her on top of the box at some point this season!

I also met a gal named Brooke this weekend, another pro lady on an intense.  She was loving her Carbine!!  Had to get a photo of the siblings hanging out together.

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Next up in the summer of insanity I’m off to Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Nova Scotia!  5 weeks of awesomeness awaits!  What do I pack?!

Summer of Insanity Week 3 – Hood River Race Report

Week 3 consisted of a quick trip to Kansas City to present at a seminar on Mon-Tues, scrambling to catch up on work/riding/packing on Wednesday, and leaving on Thursday for Portland for the first round of the North American Enduro Tour, in Hood River.  So the week started out a little hectic, but ended up great.

I was really looking forward to the Hood River Enduro. Last year it was one of my favorite races, and as the first race of the season, I was excited to see where everyone stacked up, meet new people and see people I hadn’t seen all winter.  Not to mention I was going to get to ride my bike on really fun trails for 3 days.

Turned out to be a great weekend as expected.  The conditions were way different than last year, but dry and loose is kinda my thing being based in southern california, so I wasn’t really phased by the looseness and the ruts, that’s just standard operating procedures on my rides here at home.  The field was fully stacked, same as last year, the Hood River race seems to draw all the fast ladies.

Day 1 went great, I was feeling strong, feeling smooth, not that nervous, just stoked to race my bike.  The first stage I didn’t’ feel super fast and the climb in the middle kicked my ass, but I kicked it into high gear on the 2nd stage (probably my favorite) and ended up with a 2nd place finish on that one.  I felt even better on stage 3, and ended up 2nd there too, which, considering the competition I was up against, I was incredibly excited about.  Stage 4 went ok, a few small mistakes cost me some seconds, but still ended up in 4th.  Overall, felt amazing at the end of day 1.

Day 2 was a different story.  Still in the end had a fun day, but had a small mental breakdown after crashing in the first 2 stages (and losing my chain = losing 30 seconds), but managed to gather my wits, put a smile back on and finish the last 2 stages rubber side down, a little tentative but still solid mid-upper pack finishes.  I think thefirst crash was just due to getting too confident through a technical section.  I was going frigging crazy fast… but hadn’t practiced at that speed and ended off my bike and in some rocks.  I must have been doing something else right on that stage though because even with the crash I ended up in 5th.

As all the girls came through, I was biting my nails, watching the overall times add up on the big screen. By the way… good job this year on the timing OES!!  Glad that got sorted out since last year.  Ended up JUST BARELY holding on to a 5th place finish over fellow Canadian, super speedy Norco rider, Sarah Leishman.

All in all, I had a ton of fun, and learned some valuable lessons about keeping my shit together, turning my frown upside down, opening champagne bottles and making sure my face is doing something normal when cameras are on me.

It was great to see and hang out with all the racing folks again!  Won’t list everyone, but you know who you are!  I’ll see you all at the next one!!

Photo montage of my ridiculous faces from the weekend….

 
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2014 Oregon Endiro #1 - Hood River - Pro Women's Podium

NEXT UP: Kuala Lumpur, and Snowmass!

Days 6-10

Catch up blog after a great weekend.

Day 6 was just a work day… adventures in parcel data migration!  not my most exciting of adventures.

Then it was the weekend!! I love weekends in general, but this one was extra awesome because it was a long weekend, and because I was visiting my sister!  I don’t get to see her and her little munchkins (and husband!) very often, so it’s a treat when I do.  It was just what I needed in between the work weeks in the hotels.  A comfy bed, home made food (including rhubarb pie!) and time to just chill out with family.  I arrived on Saturday afternoon, a little late due to a poison ivy scare on my ride in the morning, and was treated to playtime with 2 kiddos, and a yummy pork roast for dinner.  I think I was asleep before the 6 year old in the house that night.  The ride I did that morning was super cool too, although I wouldn’t recommend trying to ride in Ellicottville without at least talking to a local first.  I wanted to stop by the bike shop there, but I was on a schedule so I got lost a few times before I found the goods.  And then the goods, while really cool and techy, rooty and slippery and fun, also had poison ivy on them.

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Sunday funday started out with a walk through the woods behind my sisters house to a playground and a waterfall. Super cool that she has this practically right in her back yard.

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At naptime, I headed out on my bike to explore the Erie Canalway trail that goes right by the town my sister lives in.  This is a really cool trail system!  I think you can actually go all the way from Albany to Buffalo on this trail as it follows along the canal system.  Parts are paved, parts are dirt, some parts go into towns along the way.  I only did about 20 miles out and back, but I have to say this would be a cool trail to do end to end.  Lots of historic sites along the way and lots of nice scenery.  Super flat, but great for a pleasant spin on the ol’  bicycle.  More delicious dinner and exhausting never-ending playtime came afterwards. I confessed to my sister that while I don’t drink coffee in the afternoon, I think I would have to start if I had kids.  She is my hero for still having energy to do dishes and make lunches after putting the kids to bed. I think I would probably just fall over.

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Monday we played mini golf! Memories for me and my sister of our childhood trip across the country camping at KOA campgrounds in our RV and playing every mini-golf course we came across.  Fun times.  Then we headed to the sailing club where my sister and her husband keep their boat for a BBQ.  It was SO nice to hang out next to a lake.  California take note, you need more lakes and trees.  They got their boat in and I got to eat more great food, and it felt like summer at home so all was good.

 

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So much more happened on those three days, I wish I had kept up the daily blog so I could give you more details… some highlights of note: my sister for 3 whole days, obviously the best,  piano and drum playing kids, baseball kid, bopadoos and meefs, home made pie, ice-cream treats, Justin’s handmade guitar business/factory space, lakes, trees, rivers, waterfalls, lilacs (tied with orange blossoms for my favorite smell), not getting poison ivy.

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Tuesday – that was yesterday, I did the drive to Connecticut for my next work stop.  Found a nice little park in New Haven to squeeze in a workout on the bike, and then packed her up and sent her on her way back to Redlands.  She didn’t fit in the box quite as well without Russell’s help, but I think she’ll make it just fine.   Spent the evening prepping for Wednesday’s workshop.

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Wednesday – that’s today, was another long work day.  A little different flavor this time which was nice, but always a long day when you’re working at a customer site.  Bridgeport Connecticut is an interesting place… certainly wouldn’t want to live here, and it seems pretty troubled, both with crime and environmental concerns, but when I started talking to people, it actually has a pretty interesting past.  If there is one thing I have enjoyed about my job in the past few years, it is all the little pieces of small town America and their histories that I’ve gotten to learn about.

That’s all for now.  I have one more day here in CT, then it’s back to Redlands for the weekend.

Day 5! So good!

Ok… Pittsburgh has great mountain biking!  Who knew?  I headed up to North Park this morning to check out a few trails, and I was NOT disappointed.  As a first and important note, I should mention that this was less than 25 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh.  My first plan was to check out a 12 mile loop in the North end of the park.  I chose the Red/Blue trail because I’d read some great reviews.  Not much more I could ask for out of this.  Easy to find, easy to follow thanks to ‘blazing’ on the trees, fun descents with rocks and roots along with fun smooth/fast descents, nice climbs with a few techy options thrown in to challenge you if you wanted (I wanted!).  Easily some of the best singletrack I’ve ridden, and I reiterate, practically in downtown Pittsburgh.  I also saw 5 deer… and felt a bit like a deer myself frolicking in the trees in the dappled morning light while birds chirped all around me. My only complaint is that I got my nice new One Industries shirt muddy.  Not much of a complaint!  Kudos to the trail builders, this was great use of the natural terrain.  I wish I had a local to show me some of the non-blazed trails… I bet they were even better!  Some photos!

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I was so stoked on that trail, that I decided to keep exploring.  I had heard there was a ‘freeride’ trail hidden in this park, so I made it my mission to track it down.  First I found the skills park – way cool!  Skinnies practice, drop practice, jump practice.  The big jump line was still closed but I took a few runs through the beginner jump line and spent a little time on the skinnies.

photo (14) There were actually a number of trails leaving from here, so I was a little worried that I wouldn’t find the trail I was looking for. Luckily I rode up to a rather large sign that pointed me in the correct direction!

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Wow, another FUN trail!  I did not expect to find a giant wall ride and a mini whale tail feature in this park!  I always get excited when there is a gatekeeper feature warning sign at the beginning of a trail.  You can’t see it, but in the photo below there is a sign warning you that if this looks scary, you should turn around now.

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It was about 3 feet, so I flew over that, and the rest went a little something like this: drop, drop, berm, bigger drop, jump to even bigger drop, berm, berm, jump, giant wall-ride, berm, berm, rock garden, berm, whale tail, jump, tiny bit of tight singletrack, 2 skinny options (hard and harder), g-out to step up… and done.  Then you pedal back up to the top and do it again!  It was short but sweet at only about 2 minutes long, but I was blown away that this super well built little gem of freeride trail was just sitting out here in a Pittsburgh park, being awesome.  The carbine was stoked for some air time, and I’m sure my tracer will be jealous when he hears he missed out.

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Glad I checked this place out!  If you’re ever in Pittsburgh, I highly recommend!