Rebecca Rusch wasn’t thinking about world championships when she joined the Downers Grove North High School cross-country team. “I just wanted the free track suit,” recalls Rusch, who, 28 years later, finds herself among the ranks of the world’s elite endurance athletes. In July of 2009, Rusch won her third straight mountain biking 24-hour Solo World Championship.
Since donning those gray cotton sweats and Lycra shorts, Rusch has outfitted herself in the kit of numerous other disciplines: racking up ascents of big walls from Yosemite to Zion, paddling on the world-famous Offshore Canoe Club’s women’s outrigger team in the brutal Molokai crossing and winning adventure races around the world.
When not training in one of the five mountain ranges surrounding her hometown of Ketchum, Idaho, the 41-year-old known as the “Queen of Pain” can be found chasing adrenaline from Tibet to New Zealand to Kyrgyzstan, constantly adding titles to her impressive and extensive resume.
In addition to those three 24-hour solo mountain bike World Champion rainbow jerseys, Rusch is a three-time national champion in 24-hour team mountain biking. She’s Idaho’s Short Track state championship (twice), and its Cyclocross state title. An accomplished Nordic skier, she’s won the Masters Cross Country Skiing World Championship, in addition to taking the top prize at Raid Gauloises Adventure Racing World Championships. And although that’s just cross-section of her palmares, it’s easy to see why Rusch has been profiled by Sports Illustrated, Outside Magazine and Adventure Sport Magazine.
Talking about age draws a laugh as she gestures at her surroundings. "People around here are all 10 years younger than they actually are. And I don’t mean they just look it; they are actually 10 years younger," she said. "Everyone’s out there constantly doing stuff, from biking to skiing to hiking. There’s a collective mentality that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it."
This mentality, along with what she calls "perfect terrain for training," provides a home base for the typically itinerant Rusch. She is part of the community; for more than two years she has been a stalwart volunteer emergency medical technician and firefighter for the Ketchum Fire Department, and a homeowner. On breaks from her race schedule, she works on her condominium, though the domestic idea continues to bemuse her; the last home she owned was a 1975 Ford Bronco.
Red Bull Rusch Hour – Race Me!April 17, 2013
A frequent question that
people ask me is how I determine what my schedule will include each
season. When I choose events for the season I include a ton of factors.
Sometimes sponsors suggest events, sometimes I get invited by race
directors or Specialized dealers, sometimes I go by friend
recommendations, sometimes I consider places I’d love to travel to.
Bottom line is that I need to be intrigued by the format of an event,
the location, the reputation or all three. I love adventure, so
choosing and experiencing new events is always part of the fun of my
This year I’ll be doing an entirely new type of event that combines a little bit of all of this, the “Red Bull Rusch Hour” Challenge. On April 27th
I will attempt to break a local, underground, and totally coveted
record by riding the entire length of the Kokopelli Trail in under 15
hours. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the trail, that’s 142
miles…in under 15 hours.
What’s more, I will attempt to do it COMPLETELY self-supported. All
of my food, water, lights, supplies, courage, will have to start and end
with me. Plus, this is a relatively new event I put on my calendar.
Normally, one would plan months in advance to be in peak shape for the
“day of”, but I have to make the most of the fitness I already have.
Also, I’ve never ridden this trail, and I won’t have the chance to
pre-ride before the event. I’m Google Earthing as much as I can and
reading rider accounts, but that’s as good as it’s going to get.
Sounds like the perfect plan, right?
All that being said, I am more excited about this day than maybe any
other event I’ve done since starting my career as a mountain biker.
Why, when I’ve already done so much?
Because at heart, I love a big, unknown adventure. That’s why I started adventure
racing in the first place. I love the suspense, the exploration, and
even the introspection that occurs during an event where everything is
new. Most of the rides I do around my home are that way, just me
swinging my leg over a bike and seeing what’s out there. This event,
while testing my limits to the max, will also be a chance for me to
connect back to my roots and the reason I started mountain biking in the
first place: For the adventure of it.
I have confidence in my abilities as a rider. Now all that’s left is
to get on my bike and ride. And, when it’s all done, Red Bull will
challenge YOU to try and best my efforts on segments of the course. You
can “virtually” race against for prizes…stay tuned for details.
The Big Thaw – Springtime Fitness TipsMarch 28, 2013
If you’re like me, Spring is rejuvenating, but also a bit stressful. As the snow melts, the goals I have for the race season are now just around the corner, but my fitness and training doesn’t feel like it matches what I’ll be asking my legs to do in short order.
I find training for performance puts me in a constant ebb and flow of confidence and self-doubt. Yes, despite being a professional athlete for many years, I still doubt myself and my abilities. Spring is one such time where I emerge from that well-earned mental and physical rest only to wonder if I can ever feel fast and powerful again. This is also the exciting time where all of your dreams and goals for the year lie ahead of you in anticipation!
Here are a few things I do in the Spring to shake the cobwebs off and keep me on track:
Sign up for your own Spring Classics. Just as road athletes jump into the Spring Classics for motivation and training, I also need to use races to get me fired up and keep me on track for goals later in the season. Even if I’m not “race fit”, I swallow my ego and sign up anyway. For example, I just did my first ever snow bike race on a rental bike and with little experience. It was way more fun than doing a hard 4 hours alone. My next endeavor is the Austin Rattler. Why not join me there?
Become a weather watcher: Weather can be a challenge for many athlete and hinder the best laid workout plans. Keep an eye on weather systems and plan your most important workouts for the best possible forecasts. Plan weekend trips to get in longer miles in warm climates or different location. Even a couple hours drive can often improve riding weather by a noticeable amount and offer a change of scenery. Plan ahead and prioritize instead of making excuses.
Find partners in crime. I just sent out a group email to my friends letting them know I’ve got to put in some long training miles for the next two weeks. I know that I need help motivating to get me out the door and stay in the saddle for multiple hours. Rally support any chance you get. You don’t have to be the same speed as your friends. Just tailor the workouts to meet at turns, circle back or spend more/less time in the wind to accommodate for differences. If you don’t have riding friends, join or start a club or shop ride. I know this time of year, I really need the moral support.
Don’t cram. Even if the season is creeping up on you and you feel less prepared that you would like, you cannot rush getting into shape or losing a few winter pounds. Trying to cram too much, too quickly will ultimately lead to burn out or getting sick. Be smart and take it slowly so that you can squeeze the most benefit out of the time you have. Trying to “just do a little extra to make up” is a slippery slope that rarely pays off.
Ride hard and rest even harder. Coach Dean Golich said to me last week, “you don’t get stronger from the workout, you get stronger from the rest after the workout.” If you’re doing hard workouts, but don’t take time off the bike, get proper sleep or eat well, then you’re giving up much of the benefit you suffered for on the bike. Take your recovery seriously and this includes stress from work and family, which also takes a physical toll.
Be nice to yourself. We are human and that means we miss workouts and things don’t always go as we plan them. You are what you consistently do, so forgive yourself if you miss a workout. Just don’t make a habit of it.
Spring clean your gear. If you’re lucky, you have some brand new 2013 gear on the way or already delivered. Even if you don’t’ have new gear, it’s time for some Spring cleaning to get you motivated and ready. Whether you live in a year-round riding climate or you are pulling cycling gear out of winter storage, spend a little quality time buffing out your gear for the season. This includes new cleats on your shoes, new tires, a full bike tune to replace anything old and crusty, fresh grips, maybe even a new chamois. Dig out your shoe covers, gloves, Buff and riding jacket so they are accessible and you have no excuse not to get outside. A bit of time with my gear always gets me motivated and ensures I’m not going to have to turn around early from a mechanical.
Find motivation on-line. Now’s the time to start reading the cycling websites again, checking into social media to see what the racers and your friends are up to. There’s nothing like knowing that everyone else is out racing and riding to get you amped up and out the door. The stories and photos from events and amazing ride locations always help foster new motivation for the season.
Make a plan. Go ahead and commit to a few big races and rides for the year. Pay the entry fee, book travel and commit right now. Without a plan and exciting things on the horizon, training can sometimes feel sort of pointless and it’s easy to skip too many days. Adventures on your calendar will keep you honest and excited.
If all else fails, relish in the fact that your days on the trainer inside are numbered or perhaps even over for 2013.
See you out there on the trail!
24 Hours in the Old Pueblo – fits like my favorite pair of old jeans.March 10, 2013
I used to race 24-hour events a lot. Now, I re-visit that old familiar format a couple of times a year, but not as a solo racer anymore. 24-hour racing was my first introduction to mountain biking. I “found” the sport after my career of Adventure Racing began to dwindle and die. I searched for the longest events that would take advantage of my ultra endurance strength and 24-Hr MTB racing was what I ended up with. Coming from 7-10 day long non-stop events, a 24-hour solo ride seemed short. Years later, I hold three 24-Hour Solo MTB World Champion titles and had an absolute blast with that format of racing. I gave up solo 24’s after my last World Champ title in 2009 due to asthma and the long recovery my lungs would need after such a hard effort. I ride my bike to be healthier, not to damage myself, so I had to shift gears.
No loss had because there are so many other amazing races out there. I moved my focus to 100 milers and stage races and have found an entirely new set of challenges and goals to shoot for. I still have a soft spot in my heart for 24-hour racing and riding at night is one of my favorite things in the whole world. You can’t beat the social atmosphere, the dialing in of a single lap course, riding with friends, being part of a team but getting to ride your pace. Having nothing to worry about but riding, recovering, riding again for a whole day is the kind of pure focus that I love.
24 Hours in the Old Pueblo (HOP) in Arizona is a top notch event. I’ve raced there two years in a row with MTB Hall of Famer and 24-Hour Solo legend, Nat Ross. Nat and I have shared many a pit crew and cup o’ soups and about a million miles during our overlapping 24 Hour solo careers. I rallied him out of retirement last year to race duo with me at 24 HOP as the King and Queen of Pain. We had a blast, won the competitive duo mixed category and decided to try it again this year. This race is the perfect time of year for me to get some hard training miles in that I cannot do in Idaho. Well, maybe I could, but I wouldn’t do 10 1 hour+ high intensity repeats on my trainer in a 24-hour period in front of a TV. It’s just not gonna happen.
Ready for some good outdoor desert riding, I bounced into the Oro Valley, AZ behind the wheel of a Cruise America motor home with my good friend and crew chief for all of my 24 Hour Worlds events, Charles Kurre. Driving a big rig like that is not an issue because it’s smaller than the fire engines I drive, and despite the lack of lights and sirens, people still seem to give a wide berth with a rental motor home with a woman behind the wheel. We joined the motor city in the desert with hundreds of other rigs and various houses on wheels to set up home away from home for about 60 hours. We joined race sponsors and supporters GU and IMBA. They had multiple teams and we set up a giant motor circle / wind block with over 25 people and became a fairly functional family for the weekend. Cooking, riding, fixing bikes, campfire time and removing cactus were all on the agenda.
I was grateful to have arrived on Thursday because it gave us time to enjoy more riding and hanging out before the race action began. Nat and I knew the competition would be stout as always, so we were gearing up for 10 laps each and planned on sticking to single lap hand offs to keep the pace high. This would mean no sleep, but hopefully faster lap times. Thursday and Friday were joyous for me! I was riding outside, free of the usual swaddling of technical clothing that’s required where I live this time of year.
The biggest enemy out on this course is the cactus. The course is a fun, twisty slalom course between various evil forms of cacti that do not move and are not the least bit forgiving. Even if you are on your line, knuckles and the sides of your shoes are especially susceptible to brushing the trail daggers. After spending time in the med tent last year, I considered bringing DH gloves with Kevlar knuckle protectors, but didn’t get my act together in time for this upgrade.
Go Time Saturday at Noon! Nat agreed to do the running of the bulls start lap, which is total chaos, throwing elbows and being OK with flirting dangerously with cactus while trying to pass. My sort of nightmare, but he loves that sort of stuff that’s why we make a great team. He got a great start and the day’s work lay ahead. My goal was to stay consistent, not get hurt and race with a positive attitude. It’s always a bit daunting when a task this big is staring you in the face. It’s a fine line between racing in the moment, but being just conservative enough to stay upright and pacing for more than 12 hours of intense riding. I’m pretty good at pacing. I have had quite a bit of practice with this. Since I knew the course and my times from last year, I had a good gauge on what it would take. Last year, I also raced this
event with my new SRAM/Quarq MTB power meter. After more than a year of use, I love this thing and it’s given me amazing feedback on my training. This was my first event where I’d have a direct comparison from 2012 to 2013 on the same course, same time of year and same team format. I know coach Dean Golich was sort of giddy over me sweating it out to gather this sort of data for him to study.
I’ll cut to the chase: Nat and I battled it out with two other great mixed teams, all finishing 20 laps total. We had a clean race and super consistent lap times, but we had to keep the pressure on for the full 24hrs. We won our division and finished 23rd overall. While my lap times and power numbers weren’t any better than last year, I did feel more consistent and not nearly as trashed. I also enjoyed the hard work more than last year. The hardest part of a duo is not the riding, it’s the very quick turnaround and limited down time to get as much recovery as possible. Nat and I kept Charles really busy with meeting us at each exchange, holding our bikes for the hand off, escorting back to the motor home or massage, trying to entice us to eat something, filling Roctane bottles for each lap, charging and mounting lights, checking tires for cactus, clean/lube the chains with ProGold each lap and keeping times to escort us back again. It was like clockwork and we absolutely needed him as our brain and essentially a mother hen so that all we had to do was focus on riding.
My agenda was to finish the lap, give Nat a high five, grab a GU Chocolate Smoothie recovery drink from the GU lounge, alternate a 20 min massage or 20 min nap/rest, eat something, change if needed, get up and go again. This really left no time to socialize with the GU and IMBA crews except for a quick high five as I came and went from our camp. Standing in the transition tent waiting for the exchange was one of my favorite times because it allowed a few minutes to chat with other racers, watch the solos cruise through (oh how I felt for them), and feel the pulse of the race. The night laps were also my favorite part of the event, they almost always are. Thanks Light and Motion!
My experience at Old Pueblo this year left me tired, but rejuvenated. Despite not turning in rocketing power numbers for my coach, I had a fantastic time riding my bike. The day before the race, I was hanging with a good friend and Specialized team mechanic, Joe. In his weathered, oversized toolbox, he had some frame stickers from Burry Stander, a world-class teammate who was killed this year in a cyclist vs. auto accident. Joe and I exchanged a look and he quietly placed one of Burry’s stickers on my bike for the race.
As I rode lap after lap in the desert, I thought about Burry and the big smile he always wore. I thought about the new crop of NICAgirls who were racing for the first time. I thought about the IMBA corporate teams toeing the line. I thought about the tribe of riders congregated in the desert with the singular purpose of challenging themselves. I thought about how many places I’ve ridden and people I’ve ridden with. During a night lap, a huge owl flew right in front of me and across the trail and it felt like a signal from Burry that I was doing exactly what I should have been doing at that moment: riding my bike with friends.
Team vs. Solo EffortMarch 2, 2013
Rebecca Reflects: Team vs Solo Effort
Racing the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo recently caused me to reflect on all of the types of events I’ve done from multi-day Adventure races and MTB stage races where members must be within 100 meters of each other to solo 24 hour missions where there’s nothing but the voices in your head to keep you company. Someone asked me recently which format I prefer: team vs. solo. My answer was absolutely BOTH.
Everyone should experience both solo and team missions. Racing is such a great microcosm of life and I’ve learned some of my most important lessons on the race course. With a team, acceptance, give-and-take, motivation and learning to read yourself and others is so key. The reward is that when you make it through a really tough event, you have someone to hug at the end who really knows what you went through to get there because they did it with you.
On a team, successes and failures are shared; this can be the ultimate reward or the ultimate disappointment. I’ve had many disappointing team races where I was not the weak link (physically) and had to swallow a less than stellar outcome. I’ve also had team events where I was physically carried and propped up when I needed it, so the success would not have been had without my team support. I love the dynamics and true sportsmanship that is required in a team event. Everyone must give and also be able to receive help and the group is stronger as a whole than as individuals.
A solo event is also rewarding in that it’s a brutally honest mirror and the success or failure is your own. There is no one else to lend a helping hand or to blame or to offer you a shoulder to lean on when you’re in a hole. You must be utterly self-sufficient mentally and physically. Sometimes I like the purity and simplicity of this format, but I also feel like being a great teammate is often harder than being a great solo competitor. For me, the key to staying motivated and challenging myself is to race both team and solo events on a pretty regular basis.
If you haven’t tried a team event yet, I challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and partner up. It will change your whole race experience in ways you never expected.
Dispatches from Columbine: Why Race a Leadville Race Series Qualifier?February 19, 2013
Previously posted at Leadville Race Series Home Page:
I’ll admit it: I’m kind of lazy. I don’t get overly excited when I look at my training schedule from my coach and see hard intervals or race-pace efforts on the calendar.
Instead, I get a sinking feeling, knowing how very, very deep I have to dig to take that medicine and squeeze intense training out of my body. I know I must do it in order to be firing as best as I can in August, but I definitely struggle with motivation when I have to go that hard alone.
However, put me in a group of other riders around a start / finish line and I can easily find that extra motivation to push myself to the next level. It shows in my power numbers on my Quarq. I’ve always been this way. Maybe it’s laziness, or maybe it’s just proof that the brain can be our biggest strength or weakness. Something clicks for me at races, making it a much different experience than a normal training day.
It’s for this reason, that I use races as training and sign up for all kinds of events, from local short track races to stage races and everything in between. Motivation is the big factor for me, but there are a host of reasons to sign up for a Leadville Race Series MTB qualifier even if your key event is not until August. Here are the best reasons to get signed up right now!
Short-term motivation: It’s very easy to slack on everything from diet to intensity when your next race is months away. I know I’m always more focused when something is approaching on the calendar. It keeps me honest and gives me direction in my training.
Training Intensity that is hard to duplicate on your own: We are social creatures. Admit it: Other riders are motivating whether they are in front or behind you. There’s nothing like a little carrot to push you harder than you would alone. Why not get your long, hard training efforts in the company of other athletes? It’s much more fun and you’ll likely work harder than you would at home.
Training gauge: I do much of my training alone and don’t always know how I’m doing because I don’t have a point of reference or comparison. People will ask if I’m fit and I think I am. However, it’s not until I line up for a race against my peers and against myself that I truly find out if my work is paying off. It’s valuable to have these sorts of measurements throughout the season to stay on track and give you feedback on what’s working and what’s not in your training.
Nutrition practice (including what to eat/drink, how much, and delivery systems): There is more to a successful race effort than just pedaling hard. Endurance racing requires spot-on nutrition or you will waste all of that great training effort. Long, intense efforts require just the right mix of hydration, calories and electrolytes. You need to practice what tastes good, stays down and works when you are going all out. You also need to figure out how to easily get the stuff into your body. Something as simple as the wrong water bottle that’s hard to squeeze can make you drink less than you should. Practicing what to eat and the delivery system at a race before your key event will set up for success on the big day.
Pacing practice: There’s nothing like the start line at the Leadville Trail 100. The energy, the intensity and the excitement could be cut with a knife. This is precisely what makes athletes go out too hard and forget that they’re starting a 100-mile event and not an XC race. This is why I recommend lining up for other endurance events prior to LT100. A 100-kilometer race is the perfect training distance for a 100-miler and allows you to get to know your pacing and your style. Learn this about yourself and it will serve you well on race day. With the experience of a qualifier under your belt, you can develop a race-pacing strategy and stick to it instead of getting caught up in the intensity and perhaps riding someone else’s pace. That will always get you into trouble.
Getting your gear dialed in: One hundred miles can magnify the smallest distractions and then they grow into big problems. Things such as poorly placed cleats, the wrong saddle, uncomfortable grips, or the wrong chamois can not only cause discomfort, but could produce injury and even put an early end to your race. Working out these kinks in a qualifier is the best way to be sure they are not issues on race day.
Earning your spot in the right starting corral: The Leadville Trail 100 is the coolest starting line ever! It’s intense. However, it’s not much fun to be stuck behind people who are not riding at your pace. Whatever your level, it’s always safest and the most fun to be starting with other riders who are about your speed. One of the best things about the Leadville Race Series mountain bike events is that the time you clock for a qualifier will be used to place you in the correct starting corral for the LT100. Even if you’ve earned a spot in the lottery, a qualifier can ensure you are lining up to start right where you should be.
I will be lining up at the Austin Rattler 100 on April 13 for all of the reasons I listed above. I’ve also never ridden in Austin, so I’m looking forward to riding a new course! I hope to see you on the start line.
2012 In ReviewJanuary 15, 2013
Some years just exceed expectations and 2012 was that kind of year. In a big way.
I celebrated some great victories and personal milestones in 2012 and laid the groundwork for what I expect will be an amazing 2013. During this, you cheered me on and challenged me. Thank you for doing both of these things.
Here are a few 2012 highlights that you might (or might not) have heard about:
The SRAM Gold Rusch Tour continues to be my pride and joy. In 2012 we took our show on the road to some inspiring locales. This includes the Sea Otter Classic and other bike fests, most notably Levi’s GranFondo in Santa Rosa, CA, and Crankworx in Whistler, BC. My local girls mountain bike club, the “Wheel Girls” doubled in size, providing me twice the inspiration from these young riders. I’m loving the boom in interest in our rides, clinics and other events. It’s a blast to see so many women join us as we find new ways to ride bikes, have fun, and share some learning and inspiration.
The Leadville Trail 100 race provided me with a huge milestone this year: My fourth victory, and a new women’s course record of 7:28:06. This race has inspired and pushed me to the limit, and it’s pretty sweet to be a part of the ongoing story.
I had an eye-opening experience riding the Dirty Kanza 200. After setting a women’s record and coming in just a few minutes shy of a men’s record, I realized how much fun a “gravel grinder” like this can be. This, along with other things, got me dreaming about developing a new event – more on this later.
Big thanks to the International Mountain Bike Association, for naming me as the IMBA Honorary Board Chairwoman this year. I’m joining some bike industry greats in this group. Together, I’m certain we’ll be able to impact mountain biking advocacy in a big way.
2012 was also a big year for philanthropy and fundraising, and I loved joining with some, uh, unique efforts:
▪ The Gran Donut Race in California featured The Fat Cyclist, Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, Kristen Armstrong and Patrick Dempsey along with yours truly, for an awesome fundraiser that really cannot be topped for creativity. Check out the video if you get a chance.
▪ My local IMBA chapter, the Wood River Bicycle Coalition, hosted an amazing all-star pro reception during the USAC Nationals in Sun Valley this year. We also netted some trail-building cash by hosting an online auction of my 2011 Leadville 100 bike, an event that took on a life of its own.
▪ We just wrapped a wild online fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief, to distribute workhorse bikes for people in rural Africa. I am proud to have joined this effort and to have seen my sponsors SRAM and Specialized lead the way. The end result was that we helped raise $350,000 which will go a long way in changing thousands of people’s lives.
On a personal note, I received a huge honor from my other job. The Ketchum Fire Department named me Firefighter of the Year.It’s a juggling act to fit it all in, but I love being part of this amazing group of talented individuals.
My team and I are already planning some really big things for 2013. Look for more great rides in incredible spots. And yes, I just might eat a donut again. Maybe.
Keep your eyes peeled for a very exciting event we’re putting together, right here in my home state. Details coming soon!
Until then, Happy New Year and I hope I see you out on the trails. Thanks for tuning in.
Gold Rusch Tour
Dirty Kanza 200
Firefighter of the Year
You Can Call Me "Madame Chairwoman"October 22, 2012
Like a lot of mountain bikers, I’d always known about the International Mountain Bike Association,
or IMBA, and their great advocacy work. And like a lot of riders, I’d been a member for years, but that really just involved writing a small check and occasionally reading about what they were doing out there. I was glad someone was working on my behalf.
But it took the threat of trail closures in my own hometown, hitting me where it hurts, to get me more invested. We needed more than just a loose collection of riders to make a difference. I’m proud to say that the Sun Valley cycling community has since rallied and launched our own IMBA Chapter, the Wood River Bicycle Coalition.
My involvement with the WRBC has both enlightened and motivated me to learn more about public lands issues in my home state Idaho. And through the WRBC’s work I got the opportunity to take part in the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC., where I joined bicyclists from around the country to talk about bike safety issues and to help lobby Congress about these issues.
This year really brought things full circle. I’m extremely honored to have recently been asked to lead the IMBA Honorary Board as Chairwoman. Have a look at the roster of this group and you’ll what an amazing and inspiring group of athletes and leaders we’ve gathered there. My goal is to harness the board’s considerable influence, to make the biggest impact possible in supporting IMBA’s mission.
At my core, I’m still that mountain biker who is glad someone is out there making sure I have trails to ride. I hope all of you will join us as we help take IMBA, and groups like the Wood River Bike Coalition, to new places.
Rude Sun Valley Bike FestivalJuly 9, 2012
We are already a few days in to the Rude Sun Valley Bike Festival and I couldn't be happier. Town is getting full of cyclists, both beginner and pro that are here for the weeks events. There are almost more bikes than cars here now, and town is starting to look a bit like a expo rather than a town! We already raced the Super Duper D, which ran from the top of Baldy starting at the Mayday Chair and ending in front of Apples Bar and Grill at the base of Baldy. Over 3,000 feet of descending and riding my home trails helped a bit too. I took home a nice little bag of goodies and a little prize money to sweeten the pot too!
Locals claimed the two tops spots in the Super D which helps further stake the claim that the Ketchum/Sun Valley area is a hot bed of cycling talent. Scott Robinson, a good friend of mine also claimed the top spot in the podium with authority. The Whit Henry Memorial Galena Grinder also took place this weekend and is a classic race for the valley. It's been going on forever and has some grueling climbs. When races start at 7,500 feet in elevation you know they are going to be rough!
I spend tons of time cross country skiing the trails up here in the winter, so this is kind of like my back yard, which helps calm the pre-race nerves a bit. As much as I love racing all around the world, having all your close friends and the support of the community all there for you is unexplainable.
This is only the start of the racing this week in Sun Valley, with USAC Nationals up next. My goal is to survive the Fat Tire Crit in town and to retain my single speed title! Below is the schedule of event for those trying to attend and watch. The weather and trails are in primo condition right now, so its a great time to visit and ride.
Tuesday, July 3
8:30am Local Stoker Ride: Edge of the World
3:00 - 4:30p Wheel Girls Mnt Bike Club
6:00 – 9:00p Sun Valley Fat Tire Criterium
Dinner: food vendors at Fat Tire Crit
Other optional activities:
2:00 – 6:00p Ketchum Farmers Market
7:00 – 9:00p Ketch’em Alive: local free live music concert series
Wednesday, July 4
8:30am Local Stoker Ride: Greenhorn Gulch
1:00 – 4:00p 4th of July Hailey Crit
Thursday, July 5
RACES! All day Amateur Races-USA Cycling Nationals USA Cycling National Championships Schedule
2:30pm Descending clinic with Lindsey Voreis – Ride chairlift to top of Baldy and descend Warm Springs
Friday, July 6
RACES! All day Amateur Races-USA Cycling Nationals USA Cycling National Championships Schedule
9:00-Noon Pump Track session / ride with Rebecca and Lindsey
Saturday, July 7
RACES! All day Amateur/PRO Races-USA Cycling Nationals USA Cycling National Championships Schedule
10:45a USA SS National Championship – Rebecca races @ 10:45a
Afternoon: Watch Races with Wheel Girls Cheering Section USA Cycling National Championship Events
1:30p USA XC National Championship - Pro Women
3:45p USA XC National Championship - Pro Men
6:00p SV Shakedown Concert with casual dinner in town Sun Valley Shakedown Concert
Sunday, July 8
9:00 – Noon USA Cycling Super-D National Championship
2:45p USA Short Track Championships Pro Women
3:30p USA Short Track Championships Pro Men
What a week!June 20, 2012
What a week! From one side of the country to another with racing and clinics on both ends. Last weekend was the Wilmington Whiteface 100K Leadville Qualifier, presented by Lifetime Fitness. This race is a part of series that allows entrants a chance to qualify to race in the infamous Leadville 100. I was there early to help with pre-rides and doing some Q & A sessions for those participating or for those who just wanted to listen. Dave Wiens, multiple Leadville 100 winner, and I spent quite a bit of time working with racers and those that were new to the endurance racing arena. Even though the race went well and I won the women's category, spending time and talking to other riders was definitely a highlight. Motivating them and maybe even helping them qualify for Leadville felt awesome. There was less than 10% female participation in this race, and my goal is to change that!
The course was truly challenging. I felt like it was a compressed version of the LT100 course. Big, steep climbs, powerful flats and not really anywhere to recover a whole lot. It also had an out and back format so you did get to see other racers for some of the course, which I like. It was a huge climbing day with nearly 9000 ft of climbing in 69 miles. Yes, it was more than 100k! I wasn't expecting that. The terrain was gorgeous, the sections of single track were a nice treat and the Wilmington Whiteface resort finish was pretty cool. I am really looking forward to racing both the Silver Rush and the Tahoe events in this series. Not only is it great race prep for Leadville, but meeting the moms, grandmothers, fathers etc. of all the participants at the finish line was incredible.
GU is also offering a chance to win an entry into the Leadville 100 simply by describing why you want to race Leadville. Check out their website and get your entries in ASAP. There is also a chat session on Friday with myself and my CTS coach Dean Golich about nutrition and training, that starts at 10am Pacific time.
Here's my Garmin Connect log on the actual race stats if anyone's interested in that.
This week also marked the beginning of the third stop of the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour, Wheel Girls. This weekly riding clinic is designed around getting younger girls into the sport of mountain biking and teaching them the skills and knowledge to be comfortable learning and participating in the sport. Last night was a huge success with all of the girls making the Whitecloud trails outside the Sun Valley Resort look easy. Thanks to all those who help support these clinics as they are invaluable to the future of our sport. For a full gallery of the evening please check out Flickr.
The Dirty Kanza 200June 5, 2012
June 2, 2012
I first heard about the Dirty Kanza 200 from Dan Hughes of Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop in Lawrence, KS. I know Dan from various Specialized dealer events and very long rides to Interbike. We have shared many miles together on these rides and he basically wouldn’t shut up about this race and getting me to come to Kansas. Kansas for a bike race? This wasn’t exactly on the top of my hit list of places to visit or ride. His persistence finally wore me down and he submitted my entry while I was busy skiing this winter. Before I knew it, hotels were booked, crew lined up, a shop visit scheduled and I felt too guilty to back out.
The Dirty Kanza (aka DK200) has a bit of a cult following. In the 7 years it’s been running, it has grown from just 36 riders to over 400. It fills up quickly and is gaining momentum as one of the best “gravel grinders” out there. Yeah, I didn’t really know about the whole gravel road riding phenomenon going on around the US but I get it now. I ride my Specialized Crux cyclocross bike around the Idaho dirt roads a fair bit in the Spring before the mountain bike trails open up, but I consider this bike more of a temporary substitute for my single track addiction. I have to admit, racing the DK200 enlightened me to a style of endurance riding that I had not really considered. I had way more fun at this event than I had expected.
I dubbed Dan the “King of the Kanza” because he’s raced it and won it more than anyone. I picked his brain for tips and changed up my Crux to rig it specifically for 200 miles in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The course is known for razor sharp rock and a super varied quality of gravel. Some of the roads were freshly graded, fast and smooth. Others were, well, not smooth at all. I was told to prepare for lots of flats, scorching heat, soul crushing wind and more hills than one would expect. Despite the fact that I come from the mountains of Idaho I still converted to a 50-34 SRAM Force compact crankset for this race. I knew I’d be in the saddle for more than ½ of a day and was worried about turning the cranks over for that long. I also put on my new favorite Specialized Oura saddle and a set of Specialized Trigger Pro 700x38 prototype tires with extra flat protection. The bike really was perfect and I had no equipment issues. I was so thankful for that. The race is hard enough without having to battle your gear.
The expected time on the bike was intimidating. I kept telling myself it was only half of the time I used to race in my 24 hr solos. It has been a long while since I’ve had a day in the saddle that long, so I had to psyche myself up for it. I was worried about being bored on the course, so I had my boyfriend Greg make me a brand new playlist for the Ipod. I am not one of those riders who checks out in a group and I rarely race with music, but I envisioned long hours alone and was concerned about being bored. I was glad to have the music, but the variety and constantly changing terrain are what kept things interesting for me.
The heat in Kansas this time of year can be sweltering, so I planned my hydration and nutrition carefully. Many racers used water bottles, but I elected to go with a Hydrapak for extra fluid carrying capacity and I’m glad I did. In 12 hours, I drank nearly 400 oz of fluid with GU Brew electrolyte drink mixed in. I also planned 4 food bags for each of the four legs of the race that included GU Gels (Roctane and Peanut Butter), Chomps and a few Allen Lim rice bars. My nutrition worked well and allowed me to stay consistent through out the day. With the bike and nutrition dialed, all I had to do was ride 203 miles, right?
The race rolled out at 6 AM and I was dreading the first couple of hours of amped up double pace lining. I sat in, put my head down and kept my mouth shut so the gravel pelting my face wouldn’t crack a tooth. I was rolling along in the top group of about 30 and just barely hanging on. My friend and CTS coach, Jim Lehman even gave me a couple of friendly pushes to keep me in the train. At about 15 miles in, just as I was getting popped off for good, someone realized we’d already taken a wrong turn and we all had to backtrack about 1.5 miles. Not a huge mistake, but add that onto a 200 mile day and it was a bit demoralizing. Back on course, we had to jockey back through almost the entire race field. What made this especially complicated is that these gravel roads only provide two single-track lines to ride on. In order to pass, you had to make aggressive jumps across the middle pile of gravel risking a crash or a flat. It took patience, skill and some huevos to get through the pack and rolling at speed again. This process split the front group significantly, so I was sort of on my own, unsure of how far up the lead pack was. I envisioned that the top guys made a break and still had a small group working together getting a big gap. I jumped from group to group and caught up with some of the other women who’d made the right turn. My strategy had been to hang onto a good group for as long as possible to shelter myself from the wind. The wrong turn put a halt to that strategy and I found myself mostly alone just 90 minutes into a huge day. A multi hour time trial is not what I had in mind, but it’s what I had been dealt. I put my head down and tried to be conservative on the climbs to save my legs and then push a decent sized gear on the flats and descents. I went back to what I know of timing my eating/drinking and pushing myself just to the limit, but not beyond it.
The great thing about the DK200 course is that it’s split into 4 sections of 40-60 miles or so with aid stations along the way. Mentally, that’s better for me to tackle the race in smaller chunks. When I found myself alone, I decided to push pretty hard to aid 1 and see if I could catch up a bit and find a wheel to follow or gap the other women who were now behind me. I was blown away by the excitement and energy in the aid stations. It’s always strange to be alone in your head racing your bike for hours, then to transition to the chaotic stimulus of cheering crews, race staff and fans. I love the aid stations because I get a shot of adrenaline from the people, but it’s always sort of a shock to the system to go from solitude to frenzy and back to solitude again in a matter of minutes. In adventure racing and 24 hr racing style, I kept my pits fast and didn’t get comfy. As a friend said to me a long time ago, “you can run across the hot coals or walk across them.” Better to get it over with.
I didn’t get a sense of where I stood until around aid station 2 (mile 105) where Dan Hughes (King of the Kanza) was rolling out as I was rolling in. Always the sarcastic jokester, he said “I’m in first, so I’m not waiting for you!” I assumed he meant he was in first between the two of us and whatever friendly competition he had going on in his head. I figured I was about 15th or 20th in the overall standings. I had not seen any of the lead group of guys since we took that wrong turn. I laughed at Dan’s comment and wondered if as the defending champion, was he bummed to be so far back in the standings. About 20 miles later, I caught up to another rider and rode with him for about 20 minutes. He stopped, fell back and then I jumped up to one more guy. It was pretty lonely out there and there was no one in sight. I was happy to have a wheel to follow and Rusty was OK with me sitting in. We chatted a bit and he told me that the lead guy was just ahead in the blue jersey. I knew the small speck ahead was Dan. I told Rusty we were not in the lead that there must be a whole other group of at least 10 guys way out in front. I felt badly deflating his bubble, but I had to tell him the truth. What I didn’t know is that Rusty was 100% correct and that I’d passed all of those guys in the transition area without realizing it. It wasn’t until we caught up to Dan at about mile 150 that Dan confirmed we were the top three riders. I nearly fell off my bike with this confirmation that I was riding onto the podium of the most competitive field the Dirty Kanza 200 has ever seen.
I loved being able to ride with my good friend Dan and to have some company for a while. I’d had my nose in the wind for way too long and I really appreciated sitting on a wheel, especially with someone who knew the course. We were all hurting and feeling the affects of 150 miles in the saddle. Things had gone smoothly for all three of us, but we were still hurting and dreaming of the finish line. The closer we got, the more slowly the miles seemed to roll by.
The last aid station at 160 miles was another whirlwind. My CTS coach, Dean Golich was there, Dan’s parents were there, our awesome crew Collin was there. We sat down for a few minutes to refuel and fill up for the final push. The temperatures had reached near 90, which is not that hot for Kansas, but felt plenty hot for this mountain girl. I chugged an ice cold Red Bull and really wanted to dump it on my head as well. Dan told me that we had some big climbs ahead and then mostly flat into the finish town of Emporia. We rolled out as a group of three, but as soon as we hit the climbs, it was clear to me that I wasn’t going to hang with Dan and Rusty. I would have loved to stay with them to have some help on the flats, but the big rollers around mile 170 were just steep enough that pushing to stay with them might have put me over the edge. I had to do my own thing at this point and ride my own pace. I kept myself motivated by watching and the mph on my Garmin 500. My goal had been to keep my average above 15 mph for the whole race, including stops. I played this game for most of the race and when it would drop below 15 mph on the climbs, I’d try to make up for that on the flats and descents. With Dan and Rusty up the road and no one in sight behind me, I settled into my own pace, but tried not to settle too much. The last 20 miles seemed to take an eternity and my fatigue had me worried about taking a wrong turn this close to the finish and losing 3rd place. I tried to focus on the markings, but they seemed scarce or maybe my vision was blurry. More than once, I considered stopping and going back to an intersection to check that I was still on course. Every time I saw someone cheering, I’d ask them if the other riders had gone this way.
I managed to stay on course until about ½ mile from the finish. Dan had told me that the race went through the college campus right at the end in order to keep the racers off the main road. I saw the college, got excited and saw an arrow painted on the ground leading into the campus. I followed it around and around until it started to circle back the way I had come from and said “run course” on the pavement. I might have said a few choice words and then headed back out to where I came from. This diversion probably only took about 2-3 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity and I was bummed that I’d made that mistake so close to the end. I found the correct paint arrows soon after that and headed to the finish line. It was packed and the cheers were overwhelming. It seemed like everyone in the town of Emporia was there. I was kind of blown away with the reception and extremely happy to have finished in the top three overall.
Overall impressions of the DK200 at the end of the day are that it’s one of the best races I’ve ever done. It’s a bit of a mystery as to why it is appealing but it’s a special place and a unique cast of characters that make it totally worthwhile. The riding is a blast and Kansas really is quite nice for riding a bike. Thanks to the King of the Kanza for talking me into this adventure. It was well worth it.
Dan and Rusty rode to a record breaking men’s time of 11:56:01
I was 6 minutes back and finished in 12:02:00 and broke the women’s record!
Titan Desert: Patiently Leading the WayMay 3, 2012
The big stages are done and so far I'm in the lead with about a 1:37 hr lead over the 2nd woman. I'm in the top 50 of the overall and have slowly been able to build a lead each day. The racing is hard, but I'm trying to be smarter than I was last year. This race is a combination of mountain bike and road racing skill and strategy. Last year, I came in and just raced mountain bike style and went hard all the time because that's what I knew how to do. This year, older and smarter?, I am saving energy at every opportunity and then putting the hammer down when the time is right. On the flat stages, a selection is made pretty quickly as 400 riders jockey for position in the group. Getting out fast and making a break is key. After that, the riders sort of sit up and sometimes it feels way too slow to me. Other times, I am barely hanging on until the pace slows for no apparent reason. Patience, Grasshopper. The wind here is brutal with nowhere to hide except behind another body, so that's what I'm doing as much as I can. I try to sit about 3rd wheel to avoid the sketchy riders, to be able to see and to be ready to react if a break happens. It's strange riding someone else's rhythm instead of your own, but in the end it's faster and saves energy. The mountain biker in me struggles with this.
So far, I've won 3 out of 4 stages and have a good lead going into the last two days.
Stage 4 was a big mountain day with over 6000 ft of climbing and descending. It was a treat to just settle into my own pace and be able to ride without staring at someone else's rear. The scenery was amazing! We were out of the wind and open plains and riding through rocky, rugged, barren mountains. I topped out at about 60 km with another woman who's a mountain goat of a climber. I wanted to keep her in sight, knowing that I had a decent lead on her in the overall. On the huge decent, she was hanging it out really going for the stage win. I pulled back a bit to avoid crashing or flatting on the super rocky terrain. All along the course, there was carnage with flats, mechanicals and scraped up riders. I learned my lesson last year with 6 flats on one descent here. The rocks are not kind, so I paid them their due respect.
I finished the stage 5 minutes behind Rocio from Granada. She was super stoked with the stage win and I was super stoked to make it down the descent with my bike and body in one piece.
The remaining two stages are relatively flat and about 100 km each, so it's back to the roadie tactics.
So far it has been a clean race and I'm doing well, but there's still a chance to get lost (like many riders have), contract the diarrhea that's going around the camp, or have some other sort of catastrophe. I'm never one to celebrate a finish line until I'm across it, so it's business as usual (and practicing patience) for two more days.
Happy Hour at the finish of day 3.May 3, 2012
So far I've won all three stages and have had good luck with not getting lost or having any flats. The wheels are starting to come off for some people as the fatigue of the adventure sets in. The pace is brutal and the wind, temps and sand make for a real beat down. Add that to sleeping in the sand , eating the same meal every day, dribbling showers, community living and it makes the adventure even more arduous. Things are going well in my race and I have built a lead, but I am not counting any chickens. Last year I blew up the last two days and gave away my lead. The difference this year is that I know the event and am racing smarter. I'm racing like a roadie every chance I get and working with a ton of new "teammates". This race is too hard to ride alone, so I have to be patient and wait for the right opportunities to push. Tomorrow is one of those opportunities. It's the only mountain stage with about 6000 feet of climbing. Finally, we will have a stage that doesn't depend on peloton selection. Tomorrow I'll visualize climbing two Mt. Baldy's in my hometown Sun Valley, Idaho (1000m), just spinning up as conservatively as I can. But for now, its time for my massage courtesy of Specialized Spain and Roberto Heras' team!
Stage one is done! We arrived yesterday in a total sandstorm.May 3, 2012
No visibility and crazy winds. No hotel, we are sleeping in haimas (tent city of burlap blankets). Packed in and cozy with lots of snoring and little personal space, but the vibe is super friendly. Yes, there are camels and sand everywhere. The wind died down for the start. Day 1, 71 km, 3h:10m and I won the stage about 7 min ahead of the next female. I felt pretty good especially in the 3 km of sand dune running that broke up the peloton at the start. The temps are heating up, but the stage was beautiful with small villages , kids cheering for us and trains of camels and goats. The only downer was riding the last 25 km alone into a strong headwind. This was our shortest stage so I will for sure have to work the roadie tactics the rest of the week. Now for a siesta and massage, then gearing up for tomorrow. Tomorrow's stage is 103 km and we won't have access to our gear or mechanics overnight; that means carrying everything for the night and two stages. Adventure racing skills come in handy again! I am happy about winning the the stage, but being conservative. Last year I won four stages in a row then all hell broke loose with mechanicals and illness. It's a long journey so I am focusing on taking care of myself, my bike and riding strong but relaxed.
Morocco Pulls Me BackMay 3, 2012
Difficult race experiences have a way of fading with time and leaving me with a sense of unfinished business. That's why I'm back in Morocco for the Mileno Titan Desert mountain bike stage race.
No one in the US really knows about this event. In fact, last year, I was the only American. However, in Spain, it's legendary and 400 riders fill the roster in just days. It's a bit of a "who's who" of Spanish road racing. Roberto Heras won the men's field last year. Despite 6 flats and getting lost, I won the first four of six stages, then all hell broke loose. I broke my bike beyond repair and was lucky enough to borrow a bike from a racer who'd dropped out. It was amazingly generous and it was even a nice Specialized bike. However, the win for me was not meant to be. I ended up getting really sick and barely hobbled in on the last stage with chills and no food in my belly. Despite all of that, I narrowly hung on for 2nd place overall. I earned the respect of the front of the field for my performance the first four days. I earned the respect of everyone else in the middle and back by wallowing through the last day, but sticking with it.
So one year later I am back to race in the windy, sandy, desolate terrain of Morocco. Morocco always reminds me of my 2nd Eco Challenge early on in my adventure racing career. It's exotic, harsh and beautiful. My draw to this place is complicated because I've only experienced suffering in Morocco. But I still love it, so I'm back for another attempt at the Titan Desert.
The nature of the race is completely isolated. There are no hotels, no cell phones, no bike shops, or restaurants. The only facilities are trucked in and built into a tent city for each stage. They aren't even real tents, but instead gorgeous Moroccan blankets that are draped together to form a hot steamy shelter for 400 riders and staff. We are all on the same challenging playing field where the riding is only part of surviving this race.
This year, I come armed with knowledge of what to expect and also mechanic support from Specialized. I also have quite few more Spanish riding friends who'll help me feel less alone out in the sandbox!
I won't have any communication until I get home, so you'll have to wait for Garmin downloads, race results and photos. I'll just be 100% focused on riding my bike. I think I'm ready.
Storming the CapitolApril 3, 2012
Tim Johnson’s Ride On Washington for Bikes Belong
The Bike Ride to Support More Bike Rides
This month I was invited to ride along 538 miles on pavement from Boston to DC. Red Bull and SRAM teammate Tim Johnson masterminded this ride as an awareness builder and fundraiser for Bikes Belong. The route wove through 5 huge cities, thin country roads and connected a web of bike paths and routes along the East Coast. Our 25 person ride ended on the steps of the Capitol in DC and we launched straight into participating in the National Bike Summit.
This was by far the most pavement and group road riding I’ve ever done. It also took place in the most populated region of the US. My road riding training in Idaho is vastly different than dodging potholes and traffic in places like Philly and NYC. But I loved it! For 5 days I got a very up close and personal look at urban riding and the bike etiquette that is so essential to survival
and peaceful travel when sharing the road. Our group of relative strangers struggled a bit to work as a cohesive group for the first couple of days. Quickly, the weather, the long, challenging miles and Tim’s peloton riding lessons turned us into a well-oiled machine. We stayed as one group for the entire 5 days. No one was dropped and we averaged 17 mph (including stops) for the entire trip. That is some legit base mile training! Even more impressive is that the ride raised huge awareness for bike
advocacy and funding for Bikes Belong to support more safe riding.
Highlights of the trip for me were:
-Getting to ride new terrain every single day, even when we got a little lost (a lot)
-Meeting so many riders with a deep passion for cycling and hearing their stories.
-The completely pro support from SRAM, Skratch Lab for food, Bikes Belong for logistics. It’s not often, even as a pro, that I have these things taken care of for me.
-Rolling into a new city each day and collecting new riders in each area.
-Nightly receptions at different bikes shops to mingle and meet the locals.
-Educating myself on bike advocacy, what needs to be done and getting inspired to do my part.
-Attending the National Bike Summit as 1 of 9 Idaho cyclists and speaking up for riding where I live.
-Personally meeting and speaking with politicians who “get it.”
When I thanked Tim for inviting me, I asked him why he chose me.
His answer: “because I knew you would get it.” I was the only other pro rider in the long haul group. The rest of the riders were a mixed bag of high brow CEO’s, journalists, advocacy big wigs, bike shop owners, sponsors and regular riders who Tim also felt “got it.” He really compiled an impressive group who are now new friends.
What made this charity ride different from all other group rides I’ve done is this:
We all had a singular focus and love for the bicycle, but came from vastly different places. The diverse mix of people, intimate group and long miles allowed the time for us to get to know one another as friends, learn about each other's riding, and bond together with a singular, clear goal of riding bikes to support riding bikes. Had this been a large group for one day, we would not have arrived at the same place in the same manner. We all left the long days in the saddle and went newly motivated straight to Capitol Hill to personally ask our Senators and Representatives to support dedicated funding for bike and pedestrian transportation and access.
Tim’s ride and Bikes Belong created a new group of motivated bike advocacy soldiers, including me. Athletes, pro or recreational, are the highest volume user group of our roads for training. However, there are a very small number of us who are standing up and taking the time to support bike advocacy. It’s time to change that. Sitting in meetings in DC and meeting so many cyclists made me realized that I need to thank IMBA,
every trail, path or road I train and race on. I have been naively taking advantage of these assets without really thinking of how they got there. Until now.
Together Tim Johnson’s Ride On Washington has raised nearly $100,000 for Bikes Belong. We are just shy of our goal and have 24 hours to get there.
I am just a couple hundred dollars short on my fundraising page. Light and Motion rider Greg Martin is also
almost there on his fundraising page.
These dollars to Bikes Belong ensure more safe and amazing riding for all of us.
Can’t go to DC? Here’s what you can do:
3.Sign the People for Bikes Pledge
4.Educate yourself about bike advocacy and start talking about it in your local community.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
I used to water ski a few times a year as a kidFebruary 28, 2012
I used to water ski a few times a year as a kid. My grandparents lived on Lake Springfield in Illinois. Yes, the same are that the Simpsons are from! I loved hanging out behind the boat and bobbing over the wakes. That's the extent of my experience with water skiing and what has not progressed into wakeboarding. So when Per Lundstam and Britta Llewellyn from the Red Bull Performance Division asked me to come to Orlando, FL to help with their athlete wakeboard camp, I was a little confused.
I found out there would be no wakeboarding during this camp. Instead, the athletes would be doing V02 max testing, strength and mobility work, cardiovascular training and motivational training. My task was to meet them and share my experience relating to what kind of commitment it takes to be and stay a world class Red Bull athlete. I would be lying if said I didn't have a bit of trepidation about speaking to athletes in a sport I knew nothing about. The athletes ranged in age from 17 to 30, so I also wondered if they'd relate to me and if I'd earn their respect.
I arrived to the rental houses in Orlando to find a tight knit group of flat hat, baggy short, barefoot beach athletes. We were clueless about each other's chosen profession and the only thing we all had in common were the Red Bull hats on our heads. It didn't take long for them to open up and relax and once again, I realized that passionate athletes are all really similar regardless of their sport. I knew it was going to be a fun experience.
They were all provided with road bikes, a custom bike fit and all the gear they needed for riding. Most of them hadn't ridden a bike since childhood. Steel Lafferty showed up wearing his boxers under his new lycra riding shorts. It was pretty hilarious to tell him he had to go take his underwear off. We had a brief instructional session on how to inflate their tires, shift, brake, clip into the pedals and then we were off for a recovery ride. They'd had a couple of hard days already and I wanted to instill in them the importance of active recovery to flush out the body and be ready for the next day. It was like holding back a bunch of race horses, but they went slowly, only because I put some fear in them about the next workout.
That evening, I shared with them some of the things I've learned over my career. I focused on four areas that have led to success for me: Passion, Commitment, Education and Mental Tenacity. In these areas I spoke about what I've learned, how I've applied myself in training and how I've been able to find places in all of these areas to gain improvement. The end result is a long career where I'm still getting better each year. The exciting thing is that these athletes are the best in their sport and they still have places where they can and will find improvement. We have not seen the best that they can deliver yet.
I finished the talk by showing the video WHY and reminding them to answer that question for themselves on a regular basis.
We wrapped up the evening when they learned my nickname is the Queen of Pain. That scared them enough to want to go to bed early to be ready for our three hour ride with intervals the next morning.
We really did ride about 3 hours and covered over 40 miles, which was a big effort for them. I took them through my standard progressive warm up and we practiced recognizing different effort levels or heart rate zones, even without a heart rate monitor. The full warm up took over an hour and then we got to the real business of 6 x 60 second hill sprints. I found the only hill in the area and did some level 5 intervals. I described this effort level as "drooling on yourself" or "puking pace". They got it and went after it hard. No one puked, but it was close and I am certain that they all reached a new level of intensity that they can draw on later.
I was impressed seeing them work outside of their comfort zone in a different sport. These are amazing athletes and I loved seeing the fire in their eyes even as their legs were burning. I know we all got something out of the weekend and I have to thank Red Bull for being so open minded and creative with their athletes. Bringing us together across different sports and sharing what we know is a super powerful experience. I love being part of the Red Bull team and now I know I'll have the best wake board and wake skate instructors in the world if I ever want to give it a shot! I will for sure be following them all season to see how things unfold.
This is the kind of stuffFebruary 23, 2012
This is the kind of stuff that sets Red Bull apart as a sponsor and shapes some of the best athletes in the world.
Today I head to Orlando, FL for a different kind of training camp. I've been invited by the Red Bull Performance Division to make an appearance at their annual wakeboard performance camp. No, I've never stepped onto a wakeboard and have no intention of changing sports. My reason for being there is to share my experience as an athlete with some of the best in the world. Per Ludstam from Red Bull asked me to come out and talk about how I train, what kind of dedication it takes to be the best and how I've managed to stay at the top of my game for so long. Most of these wakeboard athletes started competing in their teens or earlier and just did what came naturally. Red Bull is taking them to the next level with trampoline sessions, nutrition education, lactate threshold testing, strength training and mental training. In addition to sharing some of my motivation and commitment tips, I'll also get the chance to take them on two bike rides and give them a taste of what it's like to do some threshold and above threshold training. These athletes don't have the intention of becoming cyclists, but my goal is to give them a bit of a cardio thrashing and provide them with a couple of key workouts that they can use to bring their fitness to the next level. They are on the water for about 7 minutes at a time during competition and sometimes they'll do two or three sessions per day in competition. Being able to train and push their lactic threshold level will allow them to stay calm and focused during competition.
The list of athletes I'll be meeting is sort of a who's who in wakeboarding including legends like Parks Bonifay and Dallas Friday and fast rising rookies like Adam Errington. This group holds multiple X-Games, Nationals and World titles. I'm guessing they've never trained with someone like me. One of my favorite parts of being a Red Bull athlete is meeting pros from other sports and how much Red Bull encourages athlete mingling from different worlds. I'm super excited to meet these athletes, see how they perform and hopefully give them a little bit of information to take home and add into training. If they get a little humbled and taste blood during some of the bike intervals, that would be OK too!
Here's a video of last year's Red Bull Wakeboard Performance Camp and you can see some of the players who will be back for more this year.
Here are the athletes I'll be trying to whup into shape!
-Raphael Derome (CAN)
-Alexis Thompson (Golf) Alexi is at the camp to share her experience as well and take the wakeboard athletes golfing! That probably won't hurt as much as riding with me.
Arriving back to winter in IdahoFebruary 15, 2012
Arriving back to winter in Idaho directly from summer time in Chile and Argentina was a bit of a shock for us. Greg and I got the bike gear cleaned and packed away and pulled out the ski gear. We embraced winter to the fullest last weekend for the Stanley, ID Winterfest with a bunch of friends. Stanley is only about an hour's drive from Ketchum, but it feels like a real get away into the craggy peaks of the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains. Stanley is known as one of the coldest places in the US and the winter population doesn't break into the triple digits. The get-a-way was motivated by the Winterfest, which includes a winter "triathlon", drag races, big air competition and other events that are concocted by the stir crazy locals.
The triathlon started on backcountry ski gear and went through check points such as the panty tree, beacon search, and refreshment table. From skis, we went to bikes and did a lap through town in 6 inch deep powder, then finished with a run down main street in ski boots. Costumes were mandatory and the pre-race speech included a quote about nothing in life being taken seriously. The triathlon probably took about 20 minutes and I had a funny conversation with my new CTS coach, Dean Golich, about what I did on my prescribed rest day. I probably got my heart rate up more laughing at the costumes than the actual triathlon part.
Day 2 of this perfect weekend was skiing one of my favorite lines in the Sawtooths. A great group of 8 of us tackled Abe's Chair, which is about a 3000 foot climb and descent down a really fun chute. The training schedule was for a long, endurance day, so this fit the bill perfectly, even though I wasn't pedaling a bike. This time of year is all about mixing skiing and riding in order to get the right mix of winter training.
This week, it's back to business with sponsors, emails and getting the Fate cleaned up again and ready to race this weekend. I'll be heading to AZ for a little training raced, the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo. I'll be racing with mountain bike Hall of Famer, Nat Ross. We've raced along side each other for years and he was responsible for sharing his experience with me when I first got involved with 24 hour racing. It'll be great to join forces with him. We are racing as the King and Queen of Pain!
We are racing today!January 23, 2012
We are racing today! Stage 1 is all set to go. Day 1 Panguipulli to Huilo Huilo (try to say that three times as fast as you can)!
Trans Andes starts today and I'm racing with Chris Carmichael from Carmichael Training Systems. Greg and I traveled down here with about 25 athletes and coaches from CTS. It's the royal treatment with CTS and my friends from Adventure Store in Argentina as our support crew. Being in such a big, organized group is a logistical luxury and it's also great to have so many instant friends to hang out with. The group ranges from a neurosurgeon to tech wizard to a BLM employee. The one common thread through us all is a love for riding bikes. Everyone here is addicted to cycling and are super stoked to be in the Andes. I am the only on in the group who has raced Trans Andes, so my role has been to share my experience and help get everyone excited and prepared for the event. This race is one of my favorite stage races in one of the best places in the world.
Today's stage is long with lots of climbing. It will probably be a rude awakening for my legs and my body. My training leading up to this race has been less than ideal and breaking a rib also put a damper on things. My rib is feeling OK, but it's definitely not 100% and falling is pretty much not an option for me during the race. We did a shake out ride today to check out the bikes and the legs. It felt great to sweat and be outside in the warm summer weather. I know my fitness is not where it could be, but I'm excited to ride and I know it'll be a great training week.
Chris and I have talked a little about race strategy and his thought was "to attack each other as aggressively as possible right from the start to find out who's boss."
I'm not sure I like that strategy, but I guess I'll find out soon enough who really is the boss. With 6 long days in the saddle, perhaps the title off "boss" will change hands a few times.
I am using my brand new SRAM Quarq power meter and Garmin 500. I used them both today for the first time on our pre-ride. Luckily, there are a bunch of Garmin veterans here who have educated me and I'm dialed in with the system. I will be sharing all my power and GPS data on Garmin Connect and Facebook. There are no secrets this week, so you'll all be able to see exactly how fit (or not fit) I am! Here is the file from todays warm up ride.
Stay tuned. I will check in again from the amazing Huilo Huilo wilderness spa.
Stage 1: Distance 82 kilometers. Total Climb 2287 meters. Feed Zone 1 Km 23. Feed Zone 2 Km 55.
Stage 2: Distance 50 kilometers. Total Climb 2237 meters. Feed Zone 1 Km 22. Feed Zone 2 Km 38.
Stage 3: Distance 72 kilometers. Total Climb 2496 meters. Feed Zone 1 Km 26. Feed Zone 2 Km 49.
Stage 4. Distance 77 kilometers. Total Climb 1892 meters. Feed Zone 1 Km 32. Feed Zone 2 Km 54.
Stage 5. Distance 78 kilometers. Total Climb 2162 meters. Feed Zone 1 Km 27. Feed Zone 2 Km 53.
Stage 6. Distance 53 kilometers. Total Climb 1177 meters. Feed Zone 1 Km 21. Feed Zone 2 Km 38
Happy Holidays to everyone!January 3, 2012
My sister, her kids and my mom all arrived on Christmas Day, so we did a little holiday celebration at my house around my tiny tree. It was fun and the kids had 6 days here for me to thoroughly wear them out. We went up to Galena for an overnight stay in the yurt, which was very rewarding for all. Kira and Haley are 9 and 11 and have never really spent much time in snow. Night time sledding and learning how to make a real fire were on the agenda that night. The rest of the holiday week has been skiing, ice skating, indoor rock climbing, visiting the fire station, tubing and playing in the limited fresh snow we received this week. My mission was to be the coolest Aunt ever and expose them to a bit of Idaho adventure, and I think I succeeded!
Ketchum Fire Dept has been busy with some fun fire calls and EMS calls. Nothing too major or devastating, but enough action to keep us busy. We have been going through the same lack of snow problem as most of the west, and luckily we received some new wet snow this week. Unfortunately, unseasonably warm temperatures followed and graced us with the winter enemy, rain. This of course led to some significant avalanche danger in the mountains. However, as some were debating bringing their mountain bikes back OUT of storage, the high pressure systems of the last month brought us a New Years gift. Over two feet of snow has fallen up north!
I've been avoiding 2012 plans and really wrapping my head around work. Nothing like a brand new year to get me going again. From here on out it is back to training, season planning, and hopefully some good backcountry skiing. I wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year, let's all make 2012 one to remember.
I'm in Santa MonicaDecember 13, 2011
I'm in Santa Monica, CA this week for four days of strength training, brain training and bike testing with the Red Bull Performance Team. It's a week of skill development and testing to provide tools to keep improving in my sport. The schedule is super packed and my body and mind are going to be worked over by the time Thursday rolls around.
Yesterday was strength training sessions with the Red Bull Performance team and strength coach Nate Turner. Nate has a long history helping athletes, like Lance Armstrong. The focus of the workouts is to give us cycling specific workouts we can do on the road, with limited equipment and also identify areas that need improvement.
We were able to use the facilities at Malibu Crossfit. Red Bull BMX athlete Mike Day was there too and it was great to meet him and find out about what he does. MIke's an Olympic Silver medalist and working toward qualifying for 2012. His races are about 40 seconds long. Obviously we have way different training needs and strengths. It was super interesting to see how explosive he is in the gym. The guy can jump like a frigging rabbit. However, he was challenged in the muscle endurance exercises and I found those easier. It makes sense with our different race demands, but it was cool to see it in person. It made me realized we all have things we're good at and not so good at.
After the gym workouts, I also head to Neurotopia today for some more crazy brain training courtesy of the Red Bull Performance Team. Their tag line is "excellence is a state of mind" and they basically help athletes train their brain for performance. I've done two sessions previously at Neurotopia to get a baseline of my brain function and start practicing. The sessions this week will be adding onto that foundation. I will report back more on this crazy subject after the sessions.
The bottom line is that Red Bull is offering me and their other athletes the best tools possible to keep their athletes performing at the world class level.
It's a pretty cool job perk.
Last weekNovember 30, 2011
Last week as Sun Valley locals were chomping at the bit for the lifts to open, and doing the snow dances, I was scheming a way to delay the start of winter and go ride my bike.
I did the semi annual gear change over, hauling the ski gear from the storage unit and tucking most of the bikes away for the winter. I waxed all the nordic and backcountry skis and lined up the ski boots and gear. I even checked the grooming and backcountry reports. But still, I couldn't actually get out the door for a ski. I've been wandering around town hunkered into a down jacket, hat and scarf, wondering if I'd ever warm up. I love living in Idaho and do love skiing, but the transition is always a little harder for me than the true ski bums who dream of the fluffy white stuff all summer long and wish for overcast skies and freezing temps. I'm definitely more of a summer lover and think about the characteristics of the dirt under my tires the way the skiers think of all the different types of snow under their skis. But, what makes the riding here so special might be that we can't have it 365 days a year. Absence makes the heart grow stronger, right? So, a little late season riding to keep me stoked and now I'm back in Idaho officially ready for winter. Don't get me wrong, I still have a few bikes at the ready for some other winter escapes, but I'm also ready to embrace skiing.
Thanksgiving in Moab was a great escape. Weather was in the 50s and low 60s which feels pretty nice compared to 20s and 30s. The drive down to Moab is always a little longer than I want it to be and I guess driving the evening before Thanksgiving is not the best time to push the speedometer a little. The section between Price and Green River is so boring and desolate and you just want to be in Moab at that point. We did get pulled over going less than 10mph over the speed limit. Luckily the cooler was closed and the officer was feeling generous. Our Thanksgiving started early and we pulled out with a sigh of relief and started giving thanks.
I knew the trip was meant to be when we walked into the rental condo. The walls were plastered with classic vintage Leadville 100 posters and race numbers. I have no idea who the owner is, but I'm for sure going to find out and send a poster of my own to add to the collection.
Moab is always full of climbing and now riding memories for me. I spent a fair bit of time there in another life, when I was living as a dirtbag climber. The sandstone still calls to me and I find myself looking up longingly at the cliffs when I'm there. Most of my trips there now are riding trips, which are just as fun, but different. I still have the urge to go up and stand on top of the towers. We rode some new classics that Greg and I had not seen before. The Moab cycling community has been really active lately developing purpose built trails for mountain bikes. The classics that are 4wd jeep routes are still fun, but the new brand of single track riding there opens even more doors and is a whole different experience.
Greg and I rode Magnificent 7 and Pipe Dream. Yes, they are as good as everyone says. The trip was a blast. I ran into a ton of local Moab friends and Colorado friends, but as always, the trip was a little to short and left me wanting more. Like I said, absence makes the heart grow stronger. Time to slide around on the snow until the next bike trip.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope you found more things than you can list to be thankful for. I know I did.
The La Ruta is in the history books,November 7, 2011
The La Ruta is in the history books, and I am fully reminded of how difficult this race truly is. It is such a fun experience though to come race literally from one side of the country to the other, and have the support of a international crowd along the way. Despite the bad luck on day 4, this was still my best La Ruta finish to date and my riding performance was better than expected given that I didn't really train or focus on peaking for this race.
Day 3 at La Ruta was OK. Not great but not terrible. I felt OK, but just wasn't climbing as fast as I would have liked. I fell off the pace right from the beginning. I did get to ride with Matt Luhn, a friend from Sun Valley for the last part of the climb and the descent. It was really nice not to be alone out there. The 8000 ft descent was super sketchy because the fog and light rain had moved in. It was impossible to wear glasses because they were fogging up so badly, so the descent was sort of a one eyed squint alternating eyes depending on which one had mud in it. I was grateful for my bike and body to make it down the descent intact. There is huge consequence on this day to flat, crash and really mess yourself up.
Found out I broke my saddle on Stage 3, luckily I made it to the finish and I had no idea. Benno had a replacement for me so the bike was all set again.
I also checked my time from last year and was like 17 min faster this year than last year, so I'm happy with that, especially since the descent was in the rain this year.
Stage 5 of La Ruta is underway, racing from Costa Rica to Idaho. After finishing the race, it was a 3 hr bus ride, packing my bike and gear, 4 hrs of sleep and another 4 AM wake up call to get to the airport in time. I'm a bit beaten and exhausted from 4 days of super hard riding and now the 5th day of hard travel before getting to Idaho tonight at 11 pm.
The last stage of La Ruta was a bit of a cluster. It is the longest stage at 120 km with all of the climbing in the first 40 km. The remaining 80 km is mostly flat with railroad bridges, lots of small towns, and fast roads. It pays to be with a group for the 2nd half of the stage. I started out feeling OK and after a couple of hours of super hot, hard climbing topped out with Louise and Adam from Carmichael Training. We formed a great posse and were moving really well on the descents and flats. We picked up some other riders including a guy from Scotland and some Costa Ricans. We had a great group of about 8 of us all working together and flying through the kilometers.
My finishing time on this stage last year was 5:30 and although I knew it was unlikely I could catch Adrianna to take the overall win, I was really gunning for a stage win and to improve on my time from last year. I've been riding well this week and have been much faster than last year. I've had a clean race with no mechanicals or big crashes, so I've been happy with my performance. A race like La Ruta takes great fitness, but also a good deal of luck.
Stage 4 was apparently where my luck ran out. Somewhere between kilometer 60 and 80, our group got off course. We had been speeding along in a pace line and there are multiple turns through small towns and the markings in this race are sometimes less than obvious. After quite a while of not seeing any markings, the group realized that we were off course. We started stopping people on the streets and asking if bikes had gone this way by pointing and gesturing. We stopped multiple people on bikes, in cars, in their homes to try to get back on track. Luckily, Martin from Scotland had some money with him so since the whole group was out of water, he bought drinks and we continued on our adventure through the back roads of Costa Rica. The temperatures were soaring near 100 and my mood was pretty deflated. I also started to get worried that we'd actually get disqualified for going off course, even though we were clearly doing more mileage than prescribed. After a 22 km detour and multiple sides of a square, we joined the course again at the 80 km check point. At this point, we'd ridden 102. We still had nearly 40 km more to go.
I was grateful that we had a group while we were lost and that Louise was with me. She's done La Ruta 8 or 9 times and knows this course as well as anyone. We both agreed to stick together and finish the stage together. We had no idea how much time we'd lost or if our detour was going to change our placing in the general classification. The last 40 km were mentally hard since we should have been done at that point. We started moving through the back of the pack of racers. Shortly after we joined back onto the course, a car had stopped about 30 racers in the middle of the road. We came up on them to find out that an athlete ahead had been held up at gunpoint and robbed of his bike. They grouped us together to ride through that section as a group. After our crazy detour, this was just another thing to add to the chaos of the stage.
Louise, Adam and I finally rolled into Limon into the finish in a time of 6:05. The winning women's time was just over 5 hours. With our detour, running out of water and the mental blow of being lost, we were just an hour off the lead. It's frustrating to know that we would have had a strong shot at winning the stage, but luck was not on our side. I do know that my time would have been faster than last years if we had not gotten lost. Our time was still fast enough to keep our overall placings of 2nd and 3rd.
Overall, it was a good week for me. I loved being able to ride with Louise and the Carmichael Training Group and have some friends out on course. I also spent a portion of day 3 riding with my friend Matt from Idaho. I owe Martin from Scotland for saving us on day 4 with the Cokes he bought and shared.
I also want to thank Benno from Specialized for keeping the Fate running perfectly. The bike was amazing and having one bike survive this adventure with no mechanicals is a great feat. Congratulations to Todd Wells who had a stellar race and proved the doubters wrong that a gringo couldn't come in and win La Ruta in his first year. There is a great race report and photo gallery on Cyclingnews.com as well to check out.
I'm in the hotel roomNovember 4, 2011
I'm in the hotel room after day 2 with ice bags on my legs. There's no bath tub here, so I can't take a full ice bath.
It was a really tough day with about 45 miles of riding and 11,000 ft of climbing. The climbs were so steep that some of them were unrideable.
I guess it's typical Costa Rican style of power climbing. The 6 am starts with no warm up are a bit rough because every day shoots straight up out of the host town and there's no time to get the legs ready for the sort of punishment the day is going to unleash. I was climbing for about a while with the women's leader Adrianna Rojas. She got away from me one of the many steep climbs. I have a feeling she is more used to this style of riding than I am. The mountains in Idaho are just so different. Instead of sharp, 30% grades that blast your lungs and legs, I'm used to more steady, long climbs. Once Adrianna got away, Louise Kobin and I rode about the first 1/2 of the race together. It was really motivating to be riding with her and pushing each other. She is a super consistent racer and knows this course better than anyone out there. It definitely helped keep my head in the game. I got away from Louise at about 45 km, which is when I started to feel like I was warming up and could put more pressure on the pedals. We were told the stage was 63 km, but it actually ended up being 74. Nothing like thinking you have 1 or 2 km to go and it's really more like 8 or 9! I kept my head down on the rollers and tried to let the 29 Fate do it's work on the open roads. That bike is so fast descending and on the flats. I had a few close calls on some of the muddy, sliding descents, but managed to stay upright. It's like surfing and I've never been good at surfing.
The women's finishing places were the same as yesterday with Adrianna 1st, me in 2nd and Louise in 3rd. Adrianna now has about 16 minutes on me in the general classification. It's a hefty gap, but this is the sort of race where you and your bike need to make it through all four days.
Tomorrow is the big climb up the volcano. There are some really steep parts at the beginning, but most of the climb is a steady paved road where you can settle into a smooth pace. At the top, you head down for about 40 km. It sounds amazing, but the descent is really technical and tiring.
My plan is to put the work in on the hill and stay safe on the descent.
My Specialized teammate, Todd Wells, was 4th today after flatting and damaging his rim. Luckily he made it into the finish with his bike intact and still holds onto his general classification lead by about 7 minutes.
Remember to check out Velonews.com and Cyclingnews.com for photos and videos of each day.
Thanks for reading.
Day 1 of La Ruta is in the books.November 3, 2011
I've sort of had a couple months of really unstructured training, so I had no idea if my legs would remember how to race. I was pleasantly surprised with how I felt today on what they call the hardest day of La Ruta. There was over 10,000 ft of climbing in about 110 km. The jungle hike a bike portion is a bit of a slip and slide event, but it went OK. I was running cyclocross toe cleats in my shoes and was glad to have them today to claw my way up some of the muddy ruts. I finished today in 2nd for the women, about 10 minutes of the lead. I'm encouraged by my ride today because I felt good, was climbing well and my time this year was well ahead of where I was last year. I was also really encourage to not have Louise Kobin (aka La Ruta Lou) ride away from me today like she has in the past. It was motivating to be able to chase and I caught and passed quite a few people in the 2nd half of the day. I rode alone for much of the day, and basically did a 7:16 hr time trial. I made a point of really trying to stay race focused the whole time and push myself even though there weren't people around me. This race takes a hard toll on bikes as well as the racers. It is 6:45 PM and some of the racers are still coming in after more than 12 hours on the course. My Specialized teammate Todd Wells threw down today and won the stage and has a 10 minute lead. It's so great to have him here and also our team mechanic Benno. I had a pedal that seized up1/2 way through the stage and a shift lever that was damaged from a crash today. I felt lucky to make it into the finish with my bike pretty intact and now Benno is basically rebuilding everything on both our bikes for tomorrow's stage. I'm riding the Fate this year and I can already tell that the 29 wheels are ripping on the road sections and this bike is so light that it loves to climb. That's a good thing because tomorrow is another 10,000 ft of climbing and somewhere around 80 km.
You can follow along with live updates from the Lead Adventure Media Facebook Page as well as the race website.
There is a great photo gallery that shows how difficult Stage 1 was on CyclingNews.com.
I'll do my best to keep the updates coming, but it all depends on how I feel and if we get internet connection at the next hotels.
La Ruta ReadyNovember 3, 2011
Day 0 and the race wheels are rolling. We start tomorrow at 5:20 AM. Today is the last minute bike prep and registration. My Specialized teammate Todd Wells has arrived, along with team mechanic, Benno Williet. It will be really fun to have Todd and his wife Meg out here. The last time we all spent time together was at Leadville when we took home double wins. Maybe if we're lucky, we can do that again. Benno is a world class mechanic and has been with Specialized for years. The last time he worked on my bike was the Cape Epic a few years ago and I've always been super impressed with his meticulous work and ability to tell jokes at the same time. Both those traits will come in really handy on a race as long and hard as this. The bikes will get beat up from the infamous Costa Rican mud and rain.
I've been here a few days doing some heat acclimatization and my last tune up rides. The humidity is crazy and the sweat just pores off my nose and chin. Its quite different from the dry mountain air in Idaho. My last few rides out here have felt really good. I usually don't say that before a race for fear of jinxing myself. However, I feed excited and anxious to start this thing. That is usually a good sign for me. This is my third time racing La Ruta and every year I learn more. It is the type of event that takes experience, the right frame of mind, course knowledge and a bit of luck to do well. The course had it's way with me the first time I raced it and I swore I'd never come back. It took a few years, but I broke my promise and returned in 2010 with a new attitude and had a great time. I now feel like I understand what it takes to do well here and decided to come back again and try to improve my result.
This is also a perfectly timed event for me to head into the winter with some miles in the legs.
I just read through my CyclingNews Blogs from 2010 and it was a great reminder of what's in store for me. Day 1 is the really hard day. They are all hard, but the first day seems to make or break people. It's probably the longest in time and has a huge amount of climbing, including hours of walking uphill through the Costa Rican jungle mud.
This race always draws a really strong field for both men and women. I don't really know who all the players are in the women's field. I know for sure that multiple winner "La Ruta Lou", Louise Kobin is here. She's actually a good friend and has won this race more than any other female.
She is a great competitor and will be super strong as always. However, as with Leadville this year, I know I need to ride my own race and see where the chips fall. I do best when I stick with my own strategy and pacing, so that's the plan again this year.
24 Hour Nationals!October 14, 2011
October 1-2 was a really fun riding day, and I mean a full riding day. I haven't raced a 24 Hour event all season. When I heard that USAC National Championships was being held in Colorado Springs, home of SRAM's Avid and Rockshox office, I decided that SRAM needed to have a women's team represented! It was a last minute effort, but I rallied some fast Colorado friends who I normally have to race against.
Jenny Smith, Sonya Looney and Kelly Boniface are regulars on the endurance, XC and XTerra podiums. We've lined up against each other multiple times this season. If I couldn't find three other fast friends, I was stuck with the thought of racing 24 Hour Nationals as a solo or duo. I had not really wrapped my head around that and it wasn't my first choice at all. To commit to a solo 24 Hour race takes a rock solid desire and focus to put yourself through that kind of an ordeal. My mind just wasn't in that place this late in the season.
Instead, the four of us got our schedules coordinated and entered the race just four days before the event! The last minute entry worked out fine because we've all raced a ton before and everyone showed up with their bikes and gear dialed. The big difference with 24 Hour racing is all the camping gear and extra comforts you need to bring for a full day of riding and racing. I just showed up with my bike and lights and pretty much borrowed all the camping gear.
I was sort of in the middle of a rest phase, so the thought of 5 all out race pace laps was a little scary. I wasn't sure how my legs would respond.
We pre-rode the course and I have to admit I was intimidated. We stopped multiple times to work out lines and muster up the courage to ride them. It was so much easier as a group and I pretty much let everyone else go first to test out the lines. Seeing Sonya or Kelly ride them first always helps and gave me a bit more courage. After the pre-ride, I went back to SRAM and asked them to put a Reverb dropper seatpost on my bike. I was able to ride all the lines, but at night, when you are tired, the confidence of being able to drop your saddle was worth it.
Jenny led out the first lap since she loves to run and is a super fast starter. She ripped a super fast lap and was the first female into the hand off zone. I was 2nd, then Sonya and Kelly. We kept our same order the whole race and all ended up doing the same number of laps. My first lap was the slowest for the whole team and I was a bit bummed about it. I was riding really conservatively because I didn't really remember all the technical sections and kept thinking something hard was lurking around the next corner. I rode way to conservatively and when I finished my lap, I realized they had removed two of the really technical sections that we had practiced. After that lap, I vowed to take a few more chances and make up for my slow lap. The 2nd lap was better for everyone once we got to know the course and the lines. It was a super fun course and for sure kept your attention the whole time. There were sand pits, rock drops, lots of twisty turns and really abrupt direction changes. It was a blast for a team racer, but I kept feeling really sorry for the solos because it required some major power to get up and over the rocks. Even the descents were not relaxing.
With nighttime came my favorite part of 24 Hour racing. I absolutely love riding at night because it changes your whole perspective.
I raced with a ton of light! I ran the Light and Motion Seca 1400 on my helmet and Seca 900 on my handle bars. Since I was only doing one lap at a time and not worried about conserving batteries, I cranked them both on high power and lit up the trail. Both my night laps were exactly the same time and the fastest female night laps for the race.
The whole team was super supportive and I loved having three built in cheerleaders with me. 24 Hour team racing is so much fun because you are sort of racing your teammates in order to churn out a good time for the group. It's the best of individual riding combined with team camaraderie.
It's so rewarding to share the effort with a team. I loved the 24 hour solo racing I've done, but the isolated feeling of being out there all day and night alone is quite different from running high energy hot laps on a team.
Thanks Jenny, Kelly and Sonya for a really great day and a National Championship Stars and Stripes jersey!
I'm adding this one to the 24 Hour solo, two person and four person collection!
Last weekendOctober 7, 2011
Last weekend I had the pleasure of racing WITH a bunch of fast friends that I normally have to race against. When I heard 24 Hour Nationals was being hosted in Colorado Springs, home of Rockshox and Truvativ, I wanted to pull together a SRAMwomen's team. Sonya Looney, Jenny Smith and Kelly Boniface all stepped up to the plate to race with me. As with any 24 Hour race, it was a bit of a logistical puzzle pulling it all together with bikes, food, camping gear, cooking gear for a whole day of racing. We pre-rode the course at Palmer Park and were all blown away by how amazing and technical the riding was right in the middle of the city. The 13.5 mile loop they pulled together was technical and fun. There would be no zoning out on this course. I rode my Era because I really wanted the full suspension on this course. I also outfitted it with a Reverb dropper seatpost to add some security on the techy stuff.
Jenny led us off with the fastest women's lap of the whole race and set the bar pretty high. I was next and I have to admit that my first lap wasn't really all that stellar. I felt sort of confused by the course and didn't really know the lines or find my flow on that first lap. I got it figured out by the 2nd lap though. All of us were really consistent with our lap times and there were no dramatic crashes or mechanicals. The night laps were absolutely my favorite ones. Since we were racing as a team and there was no issue with battery conservation, I ran a Light and Motion Seca 1400 and a Seca 900 to really light up the whole trail. It has been a while since I've raced at night and now I remember why I love it so much. It's like a video game and the laps go by so much faster. The lack of sleep is not something that I miss from 24 Hour racing, but I did manage a couple of 90 minute cat naps between laps. We all ended up doing 5 laps each and Kelly brought in the final lap for our National Championship win!
This rounds out the 24 Hour Nationals Stars and Stripes jersey count to four! I will say that racing on a 24 Hour team is a blast. There is such a great vibe sharing the experience, but still riding your own pace. I was out on each lap going as fast as I could to make sure I didn't let the team down. Racing 24 hours on a team might be one of my favorite ways to race. I love the endurance factor, the team aspect, the team bond and trying to stay fresh to rip multiple laps on little sleep. Jenny, Kelly and Sonya were so much fun to race with and so positive and SO FAST! I already miss riding around in circles with them!
Up next, I jetted off to LA to visit the Red Bull Performance Division for my annual V02 max testing and also some new sci-fi brain performance testing. Red Bull offers some amazing tools to their athletes to help us be the best we can be. I've not done any of the brain training yet with them, so this will be a new experience for me. I'm super curious to see what they find going on inside my head. I sat in a chair with wires attached to my head, clicked a button when I saw lights flash, it was a bit surreal and videogame-like. I'll keep you posted on what they discover!
After LA, I blitzed straight to NYC for some amazing city mountain bike riding! SRAM / Specialized pro, Katie Holden and I will be hosting Meet the Pros on Thursday night at Sid's Bike Shop All day Saturday, we are offering FREE women's mountain bike clinics on the amazing dirt trails at Highbridge Park. The SRAM 2x10 Ride Experience van will be there with bikes to try. The demo and meet the pros are open to anyone. The ride clinics are women only! I can't wait to see what riding mountain bikes in Manhattan is going to be like. From the videos, it looks amazing! Come by if you're in the area, and please check this site out for all the information.
August flew bySeptember 29, 2011
August flew by faster than ever and here we are at the end of September. Between Leadville, the Vegas Ride, Interbike, Moab, and now recovering at home, I feel as if I could write a novel to catch up, which I will, but this is a start.
I raced the Baldy Hill Climb over the weekend. This local event has been around for 25 years and is a fundraiser for SVSEF, the ski foundation here. It's usually one big, fast hike straight up the ski hill from bottom to top (3300 ft). A few years ago, they added a bike portion of the event as well, so you could ride all the way to the top. Then they added the double where you could do the ride, take a chairlift down, then join the rest of the racers for the hike. There are just a handful of people who do the back to back double hill climbs. Of course, I'm one of them. I've missed the race the last couple of years. This year, I did the double again and admittedly, have not been training with the usual focus and intensity. Tradeshows, work and end of the season lethargy have all taken a toll on my training. It's a welcome rest, but I wasn't sure how a short, intense 6600 ft double climb would feel. It was a gorgeous fall day and I just rode and hike without any real focus. I had a blast and was pleasantly surprised to have broken my own record by over 7 minutes. I was over 4 minutes faster on the bike leg and a few minutes faster on the hike. Total time was just over 2 hours. It was short for me, but a great intensity workout with friends. I was happy to be faster without really feeling like my lungs were turned inside out. Either I'm getting faster and fitter or the Fate is just such a good hill climber, that it can't help but fly uphill.
We also participated in a Galena Lodge trailwork day for the Blaine County Recreation District which Greg runs. We did a re-route of a trail called Psycho, which has been around for years and has been included in the Galena Grinder race course. Needless to say it has seen some mileage and use. The Wood River Bicycle Coalition was able to pull out the newly purchased Rokon trail moto that'll be used to haul tools and make trail work easier. The thing is like a little tractor on two wheels, it can go up or down pretty much anything.
We are having our own version of the fabled Indian Summer and it's amazing. Fall is one of my favorite times of year in Idaho. The weather's warm during the day and cool at night. The trees are golden and the trails are perfect for riding. The stress of the season is usually settling down by now and I have the luxury of riding in an unfocused sort of way and just going exploring. The only thing Fall brings is a slight sense of dread for me that Winter is just around the corner. I like the the snow and skiing but not as much as the summer activities. Being cold is just not one of my favorite things. So, I have to milk the next few weeks here before things really turn cold.
24 Hours of Colorado Springs. USAC National championships.
When I heard 24 Hr Nationals was going to be held in Colorado Springs, home to Avid and Rockshox, I knew I wanted to do the race. It has taken some convincing, but I finally wrangled a really fun, fast women's team together for the race. I had no intention of doing the race solo. I really just wanted to do a team to help me keep a bit of focus in the Fall and as a good excuse to go visit Avid/Rockshox. Team SRAM will be racing this weekend with me, Jenny Smith, Sonya Looney and Kelly Boniface. I've race alongside all of these fast women and now I'm looking forward to racing WITH them! It was a last minute entry, but I'm excited to be doing another 24 hour race and have a chance to do some of my favorite type of mountain biking: night riding! I've got all the Light and Motion lights charged up and head out to CO tomorrow.
NYC Baby! SRAM Gold Rusch Tour stop #5
I am wrapping up a super successful year of women's events with the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour. This final event in NYC is coming up fast and looks like it'll be amazing. I have been able to convince media from Shape, Self, Prevention, Bicycling and More magazines to get out of their offices and meet me at Highbridge Park in NYC to ride! This park used to be full of prostitutes and drug addicts until NYCMTB / IMBA took it over. Now it's got XC trails, jump trails a pump track and a new sort of addiction takes place there. Pro DH rider Katie Holden and I will be in NYC hosting women's rides with SRAM and Specialized gear. I'm also showing the 2010 Race Across the Sky film as a fundraiser for MTBNYC. This screening is at the super swanky Crosby Hotel and a reception follows the movie. If you are anywhere near NYC Oct 6-8, I hope to see you at one of the events.
We also are doing some events for riding and a meet and greet, so clear your calendar.
Specialized Right to Play Ride to VegasSeptember 12, 2011
I spent the afternoon at the Specialized offices in SLC getting a grand tour, getting a brand new Amira sized up for the trip and meeting all of the other riders I'll be spending the next 6 days with in the saddle.
We are a group of media, dealers, Specialized staff and friends riding from SLC to Interbike Las Vegas. We are riding in recognition of Specialized newly formed relationship with Right to Play that provides sport and play opportunities and equipment to kids all over the world. This initiative meshes perfectly with the Specialized First Gear program aimed at getting more kids on bikes. We kicked off the afternoon by giving out 15 brand new bikes to kids and teaching them how to ride. Picabo Street is an athlete ambassador for Right to Play and was also on hand to meet the kids and inspire them. I was pretty inspired too by meeting Picabo and by seeing all the huge smiles on the kids' faces as they ripped around on their new bikes.
It's such a bonus to be involved with a sponsor who does so much more than just provide a paycheck.
Our ride is 6 days from SLC to Vegas. Tomorrow, Day 1 we will be covering 113 miles from SLC to Nephi. It has been a while since I've put in long miles on my road bike, so this will be a change and a great training week. It'll make standing indoors in Vegas for 3 days way more bearable.
Thanks to Specialized for the invitation. Thanks also to Red Bull, Beyond Coastal, Skins, and Hammer Nutrition for providing supplies to keep us all going for 6 days in a row.
This last week has been truly awesomeAugust 31, 2011
This last week has been truly awesome. I have been hanging at home and riding with friends, not wearing my heart rate monitor, and enjoying the goods that summer has to offer. Pocatello was a great couple of days last weekend, I showed a film to a super enthusiastic crowd and also hosted a fundraiser ride on the local trails the next morning. All together we raised around $3000 for IMBA and the newly forming IMBA Chapter in Pocatello. The event served as a great educator for the local trail builders, officials, shop owners, and riders on how IMBA works and how they can help with the trail efforts there. The mayor of Pocatello even came on the ride and was laughing and having so much fun I could barely stay on the trail while I was riding behind him. It's an awesome community and there are a ton of people there really stoked to work on trail access.
I had to blast back from the ride in Pocatello to Ketchum where the Elephant's Perch was hosting a Specialized demo days and also Leadville celebration party for me. I had the trophy out on display, wore one of my buckles and told the story of the race a bunch of times to friends. The best part about living in a small town is coming home and being welcomed by pretty much everyone in town. It feels great to know all these people were following the race and pulling for me.
Monday, I headed North to Stanley again for a Blaine County Recreation District fundraiser ride. A group of locals bid generously on a two days of mountain bike riding with Greg and me in the Stanley area. We had a couple of great rides and fun overnights at the quaint Danner Cabins.
Since coming home from Leadville, I've done more backcountry riding than I have all summer. I've not worn my Suunto HR monitor and have just been getting out with friends for 4-5 hour social rides all over the Wood River Valley. It's been a great way to celebrate all the hard work for the season and take the pressure off a bit. This weekend, Greg and I head to the Park City Point to Point. Greg is racing and I'm signed up to race, although it'll be more of a fun ride than a focused race for me. The trails and the race there are amazing, so I didn't want to pass up the chance to get to explore them for an all day adventure. Hope everyone else is enjoying their summer and I'll see you out on the trails.
The Week AfterAugust 26, 2011
I can't believe it's been just over a week since the high of Leadville. I'm still pretty high, but it seems so long ago!
I've been polishing off all the bikes that have been neglected while the Fate was racing. The Safire, the Enduro, the P Bike are all getting some ride time! It's been a super chill week of getting the house back together after 3 weeks away. Unpacking, doing laundry, tending the garden, baking bread and just doing some casual fun rides with friends. I've also been sitting down evaluating what races I'll do for the remainder of the year. I told myself I wouldn't make any decisions on Fall races until after Leadville. It feels so amazing to have my #1 goal for the whole year in the bag, but now I'm already starting to get antsy and wonder what's next? I love relaxing and taking it easy after a long stint of hard work, but I guess I'm just not built to sit still for too long.
This week at home has been sort of like one big celebration.
My first night home from Leadville, I went to a Michael Franti concert on the lawn at River Run and it felt like my very own party. I saw all my friends and it seemed like everyone was following the race on Twitter and were so stoked! It felt so good to share the win with all the locals.
My first weekend home, Greg and I headed up to Stanley for a couple of amazing backcountry rides and camping. No heart rate monitor, no training agenda and no schedule. It was the first weekend in months that I've done that and it was glorious. Saturday we did a great ride with friends that felt like there was way more downhill than uphill. That does not happen much in Idaho. Greg and I camped by Stanley Lake and took a swim in the icy water with views of the Sawtooth Mountains all around. Riding on Sunday was a huge adventure ride where we only went 25 miles in 5 hours. Hike a bike above treeline and lightening threatening all around us made me think of my adventure racing days. It was amazing, but way different than the previous day's ride.
I took the Safire for the weekend and it was so much fun to have that much suspension and a Reverb dropper seatpost. That bike really makes me smile. It's a blast. Next up, I'm not sure yet. I'll let you know when I figure it out.
Leadville Trail 100 2011August 18, 2011
As soon as I won the Leadville 100 race last year, I was already getting questions about racing in 2011 and coming back to defend my title and attempt the first ever women's "threepeat" at this race. I remember saying last year, "can't I just enjoy this win for a little while before having to focus on 2011?" Well, the break didn't last long and my coach and I targeted the Leadville 100 race as my "A" race for 2011 and the training and focus for that began almost a year before the actual event.
Heading into Leadville this year, I had some highs and lows in the season. I knew my training had been better than ever, but my results weren't necessarily showing the fitness I'd been building. A few weeks out from Leadville, I had one of my worst races of the season and suffered some serious doubts. I trust in my coach and the work I've done, but could not figure out why I was so flat so close to my key race.
I stuck to my plan to head to Colorado a couple of weeks early for one last race and then some much needed quite time without distraction. I have had a season full of amazing women's events, sponsor appearances, movie screenings all piled on top of trying to maintain laser focus with my training. I had some doubts that perhaps I had spread myself too thin and it was now catching up to me.
The two weeks of isolation prior to the race proved to be just the focused recovery and rejuvenation that I needed. I slept a ton, trained at altitude, ate really well, tinkered with my bike and just decompressed. I was strangely calm before the race, despite the fact that the women's field was incredibly strong and hungry to take me down. I wasn't really nervous and my mental energy was focused not on my competitors, but more on bettering my own time from last year. I knew that if I went faster than I had before, I would have to feel good about that regardless of my placing. Winning is addictive, but it's also not the only definition of success.
People kept asking me how I felt about the stout competition. Without hesitation, my response is a positive one. The fact that both men's and women's fields were much deeper with pro riders is always a good thing for endurance racing, for the event, for everyone. It means the sport is growing and more top athletes are lining up. It adds credibility to the event and keeps it exciting. If you knew who was going to win a race every time, it wouldn't be that stimulating to watch.
Race day was clear and warm. I lined up with Specialized teammate, Todd Wells on the front line. My boyfriend, Greg, was once again there to be my one man crew. I looked around at my friends Gretchen Reeves, Jenny Smith, Kelli Emmett and gave them all a smile. I had a race strategy in my head and knew these girls were gunning for me, but they are all friends and I honestly wished them all a safe and good race. As we rolled into the very first climb at St. Kevin's I was feeling OK, but could not really respond as four women slowly rode away from me. I wasn't panicked and just put my head down and tried to remind myself that I had lots of time and to stick to my strategy. I was sitting in 5th place and a few minutes off the lead as I rolled into the first aid station at mile 30. Greg was there and asked me how I was doing. He could see in my eyes that I wasn't as spunky as usual. I told him I was fine, but just a little flat. By the time I reached the 2nd aid station, I got reports that I was just 2 minutes off the leaders and sitting in 3rd going into the Columbine Mine climb. Apparently both Kelli and Pua had mechanicals and had dropped back, but I never saw them. The news that I was that close to the lead got me amped and some of my confidence started to come back.
I went to work to chip away the deficit on the climb. I was catching other guys, so I knew I was moving the bike better by now. The male racers were telling me that Jenny and Gretchen were just ahead. I finally caught both of them right where the climb really kicks up and gets super hard. I passed Gretchen, but Jenny stuck to me like a terrier for the remainder of the climb. She was right on my tail at the turn around. I was able to shake her on the descent and then got really focused on not crashing, not flatting and taking care of my fueling. I had the lead, but not by much. It was mine to keep if I didn't make any mistakes at all.
Coming down Columbine and hearing all the uphill riders scream my name gave me a huge boost of energy. Rolling into Twin Lakes aid station with thousands of crew members all screaming gave me another second wind. I was past the 1/2 way mark and time to finish the job. I made it to Powerline climb and still could not see any female riders behind me. I had gotten a split of around 3 minutes at the Pipeline aid station, but that was dangerously close. I was cramping and at my limit. I ended up walking the lower section of the Powerline climb for fear of pushing my cramps into full blown spasm. I slammed a Red Bull energy shot and walked/ran hoping that it wasn't a mistake to be conservative in this spot. Back on the bike, I finished the huge climb and focused on the last 15 miles ahead of me. These are mentally the most challenging miles. Town feels so near, but is still so far.
I was focusing on nutrition and being very light on the descents. A flat tire at this point would have really been a game changer. Once off the last descent and onto the flats before town, I relaxed about flat tires and stole a look at my watch. It read 7:10 and I knew I was only about 20 minutes out from the finish. I couldn't believe the time I was seeing on my Suunto. I was blown away that I was this far ahead of my own course record. I knew the other girls must still be nipping at my heels, but this was the first point I actually thought that I might have it in the bag. Always a realist, I still kept my head down and snuck looks behind me when I had a stretch of visibility. I did not relax until I turned onto 6th street and could physically see the red carpet and the famous finish line. That view rolling into town is like looking down the Champs Elysee for mountain bikers. Instead of seeing the Arc de Triomphe, you see the historical old brick buildings on Harrison Blvd that mark your ultimate destination.
I have visualized that finish in my head for more than a year. I admit, I was not certain that I would be the first woman to roll across it and never dreamed I'd break my own record by over 15 minutes. Even during the race, I felt a little flat and off the back for a while. Perseverance, race experience and staying calm paid off. This third win was all the more sweet because I really had to work for it. Not only did I break my own course record, but so did the top four women in the race! Now that is the true definition of success for women's cycling!
A big shout out to Todd Wells for his win as well. Specialized and SRAM had an awesome day on the top of the podium. Thanks to both for the incredible support and tech work for the race. My brand new Fate remains undefeated and was the perfect bike for this course.
Most of all, thanks to Greg Martin for being my training partner, my motivator, my crew, my voice of reason and the best musette bag handler ever!
Summer HighlightsAugust 9, 2011
Summer is my absolute favorite season and also a whirlwind of activity with my racing and work.
I am currently in Leadville, CO acclimatizing for a week before the Leadville 100 race and this is literally the first week of sitting still and being alone that I've had since mid April. I figured I would use this quiet time to get everyone up to speed on what I've been doing.
All the links will send you to more complete race reports, videos and pictures on my website.
My racing has been non-stop and I've been so many amazing places already this year. One big highlight was traveling to Morocco for the Titan Desert stage race. It was 7 days of riding through the sand and despite a ton of mechanicals, the race was amazing and the scenery breathtaking. I had time to look at the scenery while I was changing all of my flats!
I celebrated a win and 7th place overall finish at the Cascade Creampuff 100 miler. I've used this race for the last two years as a Leadville 100 tune up because even though it does not take place at high elevation, it has more climbing and a longer finish time than Leadville. The trails in Oregon are amazing and I love using this race as a test for how my training is coming along.
Way up on the top of the list of summer highlights was earning a USA Cycling National Championship Single Speed title in front of my hometown crowd in Sun Valley, ID. The event was stellar and everyone's hard work paid off. The week of Nationals was absolutely my favorite week in the 9 years I've lived in the Wood River Valley. There was so much energy and more cyclists enjoying our home trails and our town than I've ever seen. Tons of pro friends, sponsors, juniors, masters and of course all of our local racers were ripping up the courses. I was in heaven spectating, participating and being a hostess. It was such an intensely rewarding week and probably more exhausting than I could have imagined.
The Alpine Odyssey Leadville Qualifier race in Crested Butte was my last race before the big show in Leadville next weekend.
Crested Butte is an awesome place to ride and I was able to grab a win and share the podium again with Lance Armstrong.
I'm now in Leadville and feeling excited and primed for the race on Saturday.
This summer has not only been about racing, but also about getting more women and girls on bikes.
This year I launched a new program called the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour. These are five different events around the country all focused on getting women out riding. Each event has been different and an amazing experience for me. I've gotten to ride with so many great SRAM/Specialized pros and my riding is improving from the experience too! It is a blast to share my experience and see riders light up when they achieve something that seemed impossible.
Here are a few highlights and photos from some of the Gold Rusch events this year.
Ashland Super D race and womens media camp. I took 6 female media and 2 other SRAM pro riders to Ashland Oregon for a 4 day riding camp and Super D race. The ride camp was a blast and Trina wrote a great Mountain Flyer article about the whole event.
Beti Bike Bash was a women's only mountain bike race in Colorado that had over 200 women of all levels participating. We rolled in with 7 SRAM pro women to race, cheer and host free women's ride clinics.
Wheel Girls was the most recent Gold Rusch event that just wrapped up. This was a 6 week teen girls riding clinic in my hometown. We rode a different trail each week, including one of the technical rock gardens on the Nationals course. The girls mastered riding over bridges, front wheel lifts, slow races, switchbacks and trail etiquette. They were like sponges and got so good in just 6 sessions.
To wrap it all up, my other job is still with the Ketchum Fire Department. Specialized happened to be around at the right time to capture a backcountry rescue and document a small part of my role as a Firefighter/EMT. Here's a great video of the rescue.
Don't forget, you can always get more up to date blogs, photos and info on my website. I also post gear reviews, answer questions in the Ask Reba section and give away great sponsor gear every month!
Thanks for reading.
Whew..July 20, 2011
Whew.......finally got a good night's sleep after a week of totally amazing chaos that included racing, organizing, catching up with friends. supporting the race organization staff, doing interviews, promoting the Race Across the Sky movie, performing EMT duties and catching up with so many friends in town.
The whole event was a huge success and I heard mostly great comments from pro, junior and amateur racers. The general consensus is that Ketchum/Sun Valley Idaho put on a great show and that people were blown away with the beauty of this place. Today I am cleaning up the tornado of bike parts, dirty laundry, dirty water bottles and cardboard boxes that seemed to have taken over my house.
It feels good to get a little bit organized and back to some sort of regular schedule. However, last week was the best week of my time living in Sun Valley. I am already looking forward to next year's Nationals! I'm staying home this week and getting back to normal pre-Leadville training. I'll race the local Galena Grinder here at home, then pack up and head to CO next week for a long acclimatization period.
Sunday was my 2nd appearanceJuly 12, 2011
Sunday was my 2nd appearance at the Cascade Creampuff 100 miler and 2nd time I've won the event. This race is a classic 100 miler on the super fun trails around Oakridge, OR. Like last year, I used this race as a great pre-Leadville prep race. With nearly 18,000 ft of climbing and finish times between 9-10 hours, it's longer and has more climbing than Leadville.
I use this race as a gauge on my form, a chance to work out bike specifics and practice my Leadville race nutrition. The race is also a really early morning start, so I get to simulate that part of the Leadville race as well. I rode my new Specialized FATE, women's 29 hardtail and am working out gearing and fit specifics. The bike was incredible and at 18.5 lbs, it just flies uphill. I got to travel to the Puff with a few good friends from Idaho. It's always way nicer to go to a race with friends instead of alone. Unfortunately, Greg missed his first Puff in years because as course director for USAC Nationals this weekend, he was stuck at home working.
I made a few mistakes in the Creampuff this year, the most costly one was forgetting to bring Perpetuem, which has been my main endurance fueling for years. I had other food, but my body is really used to Perpetuem and not having it cost me time on the third lap around the 33 mile course. I was basically just running on empty because I didn't have the fat and protein nutrition that I'm used to. Despite eating plenty of calories in the form of carbohydrates, I was starving at the end of the race. I still had a good, solid training effort, but I re-learned a valuable lesson once again.
Each lap was 33 miles with most of the climbing on the first 1/2 of the course. The climb is a grind on a fire road that takes about 90 minutes. It's long and hot and by the third time around, it's a mental challenge. However, you are rewarded on the 2nd part of the course with challenging, fun single track. It is full concentration at high speeds. My triceps were just as sore as my legs after the race was over.
I was happy with my result. I finished 1st in the women's category and 7th overall. The only bummer was since the course was slightly different than last year, I couldn't compare my time to see how my training is progressing this year. I also missed having Greg and some of the other racers from last year on the start line for comparison. I know I've been working super hard all season and feel like my training is ahead of where it was at this time last year. However, it's an elusive process and I never really know how I'm doing unless I have someone else to compare against.
This week is ramping up really quickly with all the festivities, races, athletes and craziness that comes along with hosting the USAC National Championships. It's going to be a crazy, fun week at home. I'm heading out this morning to try out the course on my Fate. I just had it changed over to a single speed set up for Nationals, so this is the first test run on the Fate without gears.
Happy to be homeJune 28, 2011
I'm happy to be home in Ketchum and Summer is finally here. It's my favorite time of year and the reason I'm moved here in the first place. Flowers are blooming, trails are open and there's snow on the high peaks. It's truly a storybook setting. The only bad thing about Summer in Idaho is that it doesn't last as long as we all want it to. This week was full of hard training, laundry and getting back into the swing of things at home. This week IMBA hosted their board meeting in town, thanks to board member and Smith Optics CEO, Blair Clark. I was lucky enough to be invited to host a ride with them and show them around the trails here. Saturday, we had about 20 people including IMBA board member, staff and friends all out riding our local trails. It was so fun to show them around and let them see first hand some of the IMBA and Wood River Bike Coalition efforts that have been going on this year.
Right now, this area is buzzing with bike community enthusiasm. USAC Nationals are coming to town in a couple of weeks and I have so many pro and amateur racer friends calling me for course info and logistics. This place is going to be chock full of cyclists and bursting at the seams soon. The community is so stoked to be hosting the event and seeing so many cycling advocacy efforts come to fruition right now. It truly feels like the tide is changing here. We've always had hundreds of miles of world class single track. Those trails are the reason I live here. However, what's been missing has been cycling events and new trail development. Those things are both happening hand in hand right now and it's a blast to be part of the wave.
Sunday, I did my favorite drive it the whole world. I went over to the McCall area to do a marathon mtb race at Jug Mountain Resort. It was on the training schedule, so I packed myself in the car and hit the road. The drive from Ketchum, through Stanley and over to McCall is the most beautiful drive in the world. It's all two lane road that really puts the Audi to the test. Not only is the drive fun, but trying to keep your eyes on the curvy road is impossible. The north and south fork of the Payette rivers are going off, herd of Elk are hanging out and the snow capped Sawtooth Mountains are eye candy that's super distracting. The race was a great workout and probably the most fun mtb race I've ever done in Idaho. It was a combo of great climbing and mtb specific flow trails. It was worth the drive and such a great day of training topped off with the most beautiful drive in the world.
Specialized was also in town this weekend to do some womens product shots for the new Fate womens specific carbon 29er. I can't describe how much fun this bike is, at 18.5lbs it absolutely flies! Here is the first pic from this weekends ride in Adam's Gulch, I will share the professional ones from Corral Creek soon.
The Beti Bike BashJune 14, 2011
The Beti Bike Bash and stop #2 on the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour was fantastic! The SRAM pro ladies did a pre-race clinic on Saturday and we had around 30 participants who stayed for 4 hours of riding the course, working on cornering, curbs, leaning on corners, etc. The pros who helped lead the clinics were: Heather Irmiger, Jenny Smith, Krista Park, myself, Lindsey Voreis, and Lynn Bush. It was so much fun for me to hear the other pros coaching and I picked up a few tips too. Race day was sunny and perfect and there were 250 female racers from juniors to super masters. It was so much fun to see so many women and girls out racing while the boyfriends and Dads cheered. The pro race was full of great riders like Georgia Gould and Katie Compton. It was so friendly and such a great vibe, even when we were out suffering and racing. The course was just under an hour and way too short for me, but a great training day mixed in with a super fun weekend of inspiration.
I had a blast. Thanks to all the coaches who helped out and to SRAM for making it happen for the Gold Rusch Tour. Next stop on the tour is Ashland, OR for a womens only media ride camp and super D racing with me, Lindsey Voreis and Katie Holden. I'm currently in Colorado Springs to visit Avid and take a tour of the offices there. I'm riding into the offices tomorrow AM to sit in on the morning meeting, take a tour of the facilities, then get a tour of the local mountain bike riding. Then I'll explore more riding in the area and get in some good training before heading to Carmichael Training HQ. I'll be doing a slideshow and pep talk there to the Bucket List participants who'll be racing Trans Andes with CTS in 2012. I'll tell them about my experience there, share some tips and secrets and hopefully get them pumped up to start training hard. I'll also check in with Chris Carmichael and make sure he's training because we are signed up as teammates for the Trans Andes as well.
From here, I head straight to OR. OK...gotta go to bed. These work weekends make me super tired and I have a couple of big training days tomorrow.
The Trans-Sylvania EpicJune 6, 2011
The Trans-Sylvania Epic went down in the history books as another solid and extremely fun race week. I ended up solidly in 5th place in a super strong women's field. I'm sort of OK with that, sort of not. But the final parade definetly erased any negative thoughts in my head, as I reflected on the week and thought about all the laughs.
I came here hoping to be mixing it up at the top of the field. I'm just a competitive person by nature. I can't help it and I'm a pro athlete, so I'm supposed to try to win races. However, I knew from my near-death experience with asthma here last year that what I wanted to do and what I could do might not mesh. The stage 1 time-trial started out great. I was 4th, but not far off the best times. My legs felt good after 10 days of being sick and I was happy to be racing. That's always a good sign.
Day 2 started with sort of flat legs and promised to be technical. It's one of the stages I had to walk my bike and nearly crawl to the finish last year. I started conservatively out of respect for my asthma and to make sure I had the power to get through the technical riding. I was on my own much of the day, but had a blast and got through so many more technical sections upright than I did last year. I did suffer from the heat about half-way through and had to slow down to manage it. The temperatures were in the 90's, so it was the smart thing to do so early in a week-long race. I was off the winning pace, but still breathing great, riding well and feeling super good about the experience.
Day 3 was a long stage with a significant amount of dirt road. I followed a bunch of other riders off course just a few minutes into the race and that error really took the wind out of my sails. I had a decent day in the saddle, but lost the train of fast riders and spent half the stage working through the field. It was sort of boring to race alone and not really have someone to chase. I estimate the wrong turn cost me at least 10 minutes, plus the time lost of not being able to draft and hang in a pack. Chock it up to experience and pay more attention.
Day 3 is my favorite stage at Raystown. It's 40 miles of riding a pump track. The trails are smooth, fast and flowy. There were so many places if you could coast, pump the rollers and not touch the brakes, then you'd roll right up the next hill without a pedal stroke. I finally made the podium on this day and felt like I was racing again. In comparison to the day before, it was exhilarating to feel like I had a reason to push hard and race. It's definitely more motivating to be in the hunt and in the mix than caught in no man's land. There was no change in the general classification, but there was a big change in my mood by feeling like I was racing with a purpose.
The mini XC stage with four Super-D type events was a great event. Each timed segment was only 10-15 minutes, but in that short time, I lost more time than in the previous four-hour stages. Half way through the first segment, the Pennsylvania Pollen Monster reared it's ugly head, reached down my throat and squeezed the air out of my lungs. I limped my way to the finish wheezing, coughing and pinballing down the rocky trail. Other racers were concerned and so was I. Mostly I was pissed because I'd been breathing fine all week here and thought I was in the clear. Oh well.
This race was hard enough without having health issues, but there I was again slumped over my handlebars. I had vowed to myself that if this happened again, I was going to have a good attitude about it and just use the race for training and be OK with that. Those sort of lofty goals are way easier swallow in the comfort of your own home. When you're in the middle of a race and getting smacked around by the competition, the trail and the pollen, it's harder to be a big person and not throw a temper tantrum and feel sorry for yourself. I had my own pity party for the second mini XC stage, which lasted maybe 15 minutes, then got it out of my system.
For #3 and #4, I just went to the back of the women's field, started slowly, going nowhere near race pace or anaerobic threshold and just rode my bike for fun. Revert to Plan B. I wasn't fast and I lost more time in the general classification, but I rode the sweet trails, had fun and just took in the experience at a different pace.
Yesterday was another big, hard, gnarly stage that had me in tears last year. It's also includes some of this area's most adored single track. I had no hopes of making the podium at this point, so I rode slightly slower than race pace so I could breathe and worked on my technical riding skills on the Tussey Mountain Trail. As a pro athlete, it's always hard to swallow your pride and admit that you just don't have what it takes this time around. But TSE, year 2, once again, I just don't have what it takes to be competitive. Tons of racers have already dropped out due to illness, mechanicals, or just loss of morale. For me, I'm finishing this race and will push as hard as I am able. I will squeeze all of the positive aspects I can out of this experience and give the Pennsylvania Pollen Monster the finger when I'm done.
Overall I really do love stage racing like this. It brings a new level of difficulty to bike racing, and adds new challenges that can bring down even the most seasoned of athletes. It felt good to finish today and relax. And at the end of a week of racing, what should we do? Probably have a cocktail. Cheers TS Epic, it was a fun week.
As most of you knowMay 31, 2011
As most of you know, I am currently in Pennsylvania racing a 7 day stage race called the <a href="http://www.tsepic.com" target="_blank">Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic</a>. This was one of my favorite races from last season and I was stoked to come back and race again. Last year, I suffered from horrible asthma from the humidity and heat, but so far this year everything is going great. I am riding the technical sections much better than last year and am feeling pretty strong. I finished the first Time Trial in 5th place, so I am satisfied.
Selene Yeager, one of the other fast womens racers brought these Air Boom Boom pants that aid in recovery. Greg was able to spend some time in them, and the picture is worth a thousand words!
Whew! What a weekMay 31, 2011
Upon returning from Morocco I was more exhausted and sick than I have been in a very long time. I've been slapped onto my ass with this sickness. I'm way better now, but still battling a head cold and super low energy. Training's been less than stellar due to being sick and the variable weather patterns.
I did however, get a ton of stuff done in the house, like cleaning out the gear storage area, my t-shirt drawer and getting rid of a bunch of stuff that I don't use. That feels good, but what I really want to be doing is riding and feeling good right now.
Yesterday's workout was a run and gym session with lots of plyometrics, both with and without weights. Stuff like dynamic squats with weight, split leg squat jumps, kettle bell swing/jumps. It was the first workout since coming home from Morocco where I finally felt a bit of snap and energy. I feel like I've been sick for so long that I forgot what it feels like to not be dragging myself around. Right now I'm headed out on the dirt for some bike intervals. It's been raining on and off, so the dirt should be good and tacky.
Next up on the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour is the womens only Beti Bike Bash in Lakewood, CO. Check out the press release below.
SRAM Gold Rusch Tour Stops at Beti Bike Bash
Rebecca Rusch and other SRAM athletes give fans a chance to pre-ride the course with the pros
Ketchum, ID – May 13, 2011 – Rebecca Rusch, the two-time Leadville Trail 100 Women's Champ and three-time 24 Hour Solo Mountain Biking World Champion, is making her next stop on the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour at the Beti Bike Bash in Lakewood, CA on June 11-12, 2011. Rebecca and SRAM female athletes Heather Irmiger, Krista Park, Lindsay Voreis, Jenny Smith and Lynn Bush will host a pre-ride and Q&A session on Saturday June 11th from 10am-2pm at the race site in Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood, CO. The SRAM team will be present at the SRAM expo booth all weekend, signing posters and giving away swag.
The SRAM Ride Experience featuring 2x10 MTB Drivetrain Sprinter Van will also be at the expo, offering demos of 2x10 bikes for women.
The 2nd Annual Beti Bike Bash is Colorado’s first women’s-only Mountain Bike Race. With more than 160 women competing last year, the 2011 race is set to be even bigger! The SRAM Gold Rusch Tour is designed to encourage women across the country to get outdoors and on their bicycles.
“The Beti Bike Bash is a perfect addition to the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour. It’s super inspiring to have mountain bike races specifically for women,” says Rebecca Rusch. “I can’t wait to see these ladies tear it up!”
Rebecca is also hosting a screening of the 2010 Race Across the Sky documentary of the Leadville Trail 100 race prior to the Beti Bike Bash. All the proceeds benefit the Colorado Off Road Mountain Bike Association and IMBA.
What: 2010 Race Across the Sky screening and Q&A
Where: Starz Film Center, 900 Auraria Parkway, Denver, CO
When: Cocktails and socializing – 7-7:45pm, Athlete Q&A- 7:45-8:15pm, RATS screening 8:15-9:45
The Titan DesertMay 9, 2011
The Titan Desert is just about under way. 500 racers arrived in Errachidia Morocco today via charter planes. We got here early and had time to put the bikes together and get the lay of the land. This is my last night in a hotel for a while. After this we are camping in the desert. I'm making the most of clean sheets and a shower for now.
The racers were greeted with traditional Moroccan music and little cups of mint tea. I'm the only American racer here and 99.9% of the athletes are from Spain, including Roberto Heras and a bunch of other Spanish ex-road pros. I guess I'll get more practice attempting to communicate in Spanish this week. I'll also get more practice at super fast, peleton starts and breathing sand while trying to hang on.
I got out for a 2 hr spin today by myself and it felt really good after two days of no exercise and a ton of travel. I just wanted to keep napping and do nothing. It's always hard for me to get going again once I've had time off the bike, but I was really glad I did. My legs will thank me when the race starts tomorrow.
It was a great exploration and I was sad to turn around and come home. There is so much sand here. Everything, even the buildings, are tan. The sun is incredibly intense and I'm finding out that at about 6 pm, the wind storms kick up and a thick cloud of sand fills the air. There are more bikes on the road than cars and a bike is not meant for just one person here. Whole families, flowing robes and all, can fit on one bike.
The culture and beauty of this place is overwhelming and just as I remembered when I came here in 1998 for the Eco Challenge. I am stunned by the earthen colors in the hotel and the intricate adornment on absolutely everything. If I had room in my luggage, the hotel gift shop would have made a mint off of me.
Our first race meeting is tonight, in Spanish, of course. So far I'm already meeting people who speak English and are willing to translate for me and help me out. I have also been reunited with a good friend from adventure racing, David Rovira. He is making sure that I know at least when and where the start is!
It's doubtful I'll have internet once we dive into the sandy abyss, so you'll have to follow the race <a href="http://www.titandesert.com/en/index.php" target="_blank">here</a> if you want daily information. Otherwise, I'll do a full race report with pics when I'm back in civilization.
Right now, packing againMay 6, 2011
Right now, packing again. The Stumpy 29er is all buffed and ready to go again, thanks to the Elephant's Perch. I did some damage crashing in AZ and needed a new carbon handle bar and new left brake lever. The rest was just a tune up and tire change to the new Specialized Renegade Control tires. I chose that tread because much of the Titan Desert course is fire roads and sand. I chose the Control version because the race is 6 days long with limited mechanic support and Morocco has lots of loose, sharp rocks. I wanted the extra sidewall thickness for this purpose. The rest of the bike specs are the same as for the Whiskey 50. SRAM 2x10 26-39 gearing and, of course my brand new Roval carbon rims. I weighed the bike yesterday and it now comes in just under 20 lbs with pedals, grips and computer!
The packing for this race is a bit of a challenge and much more like packing for an adventure race than a bike race. We have strict luggage weight limits, very little access to mechanics, sleeping outside in Moroccan tents each night, carrying mandatory equipment such as a space blanket and 100 oz. of water for each stage. We also are required to have GPS and compass to navigate our way through the course. I'm digging back through all my adventure racing gear to find the lightest, smallest things I have, but also to make sure that I bring enough gear to take care of my bike and myself for 6 days of racing in the desert. One little tidbit of advice I got from Tinker Juarez was to bring TT shoe covers to keep the sand out. I am grateful for little tips like this from fellow racers.
Last night I did a trial pack job with all of my Hydrapaks to decide which one to take that'll carry 100 oz best. I decided on the Selva for most of the race days because it'll easily carry 100 oz, plus a bit of gear and is still super slim and light (15 oz). There is one stage where we will not get our gear backs in between stages, so we are required to carry all of our racing stuff for 2 stages, plus a sleeping bag and any items we need for the layover camping. For that stage, I'll take the Morro which has 450 cu. inches of space. I also got a sweet new sleeping bag from Big Agnes called the Pitchpine SL that's just over a pound for a full featured down bag.
I am excited about going back to my roots a bit and pulling out my adventure racing skills and gear for this race. No cushy hotels, no soigneurs or team mechanics. Recovery and being self sufficient seem to be skills that'll be called upon in this race. I'm heading out there on my own and only know a couple of adventure racing friends who will be in the race. Of the 500 competitors, less than 20 of them are women. I also have not been back to Morocco since Eco Challenge '98 and it will be fantastic to see the Atlas Mountains again and re-live the memories of crossing them so long ago.
Unfortunately, I will have no access to computer or phone while I'm there, so you'll have to just follow the Titan Desert online. I know they will have media and ongoing results. I'm just not taking any mechanical devices because our gear will be pitched onto big trucks and driven over bumpy roads while we're riding. So, it's light packing and little communication for a while. The main focus will be just to ride my bike as fast as possible.
It's been a busy few monthsMay 4, 2011
It's been a busy few months between traveling, racing and working on the SRAM Ladies Lounge tour. I have finally answered all the questions for the February Race Across the Sky DVD Giveaway, and as always the entries were amazing. Some funny, some motivational, and some just weird. I chose what I thought was the best since it relates to the prize.
Francisco Costa wrote me and asked a ironic question, and one that raised a few eyebrows around our house.
"In the 2009 Race across the sky, Lance blows a tire, and evidently, doesn`t know how to change it. How are your 'bike mechanic skills?"
That segment was the most hilarious part of the whole film! Me and about a million other people were shocked by his inability to do a simple tire repair. It was pretty inexcusable. My mechanic skills are not super sharp, but I can change a flat, fix a chain and make a few trailside shifting and brake adjustments. In endurance racing, there is no team car, so I’ve had to learn a few things for myself over the years. I still leave the serious stuff to the pro mechanics, but I think it’s important to have a basic grasp on how your bike works, just in case.
Congratulations Francisco, you can now catch up and watch the 2010 race on a fresh DVD! Thanks to everyone who entered, and this months giveaway is being written up as we speak.
Whiskey 50: podium and a matching set of bruises!May 3, 2011
The week of riding and racing in AZ has been blissfully warm and great single track training. However, it's been tough on the body. I wrenched my right hand on a training ride on Wednesday. It was hurt enough that I was unsure if I'd be able to race on Sunday. Sunday during the race, I earned myself a matching set of hand bruises and punched a rock with my left hand on a loose descent. Shifting became a painful and calculated endeavor during the race. I survived, but not without some bumps, bruises and blood.
The 50 miler started out great with a small, but elite women's pro field. We started 10 minutes behind the pro men's field, so we had the course all to ourselves. It was great to have clear sailing on the single track sections. All the single speed and amateur racers 50 and 25 milers raced on Saturday, so the course was just pros on Sunday. I rode out onto the course on Saturday to cheer and do bottle hand ups for my boyfriend Greg and my friend Charles. It was a blast to be out there watching about 1000 people dig deep into the pain cave. I saw a ton of Specialized bikes out there, especially 29ers. Greg and Charles both had clean races with no flats and no drama. The only bummer to the race schedule is that they were drinking beers on Saturday night and celebrating their race finish while I was prepping my bike and going to bed early.
My training has been great this Spring and I do feel like I'm ahead of the curve from last year on a fitness basis. However, due to the snow and long winter in Idaho, my time on the dirt has been limited and my single track mojo has suffered. The small posse of pro women stayed mostly together on the 3 mile road section out of town. Once we got onto the single track, I was sitting in 6th place right behind Gretchen Reeves and Kelly Boniface. I was happy with my position and ready to get down to the real meat of the racing. However, I was bobbling and botching lines all over the place. I took a hard crash when I hit some imbedded rocks and sent myself into the manzanita bushes. My number plate and my front avid brake were both askew. I felt blood trickling down my left leg. I did a quick "adjustment" of the brake lever to move it back into place and carried on. From that point, I'd sort of blown my confidence. I crashed again and that's when I stuffed my left palm into a sharp rock to match the right one. Shifting became pretty painful and my riding slowed to a granny pace. I finished the rest of the technical descent conservatively, just wishing for the chance to get on the fire road and do some climbing. I had dropped to 7th at this point with no one in sight.
The long 15 mile climb out of Skull Valley is an out and back so I got to see all the pro men's field duking it out as I was heading down. I also got to see exactly where the top pro women were sitting as I went by. Before the race, I was really hoping to earn a podium spot, but at this point, it was not looking good. I settled in for the huge climb and thought about the rest of the season and what a great training day this was. It was about a million times better than being on my trainer in front of the TV, so I tried to push hard and make the most of the opportunity. Within about 10 minutes of starting the climb, I was surprised to see 6th and 5th place in front of me. I passed them both and had moved into a podium spot. I felt consistent and solid, but not on fire. I guess it's all part of the early season fit, but not fast syndrome.
By aid station 3, I could see glimpses of Gretchen Reeves in 4th place in front of me. Gretchen won the race last year and I have huge respect for her as an athlete. I was really happy to see the back of her jersey and realize I was not moving as slowly as I thought. I was worried about the last section of single track and suffering more crashes or a flat. I pushed hard on the hill to try to earn myself a buffer to take the single track a bit conservatively. The last section of the race was smooth with no more crashing and just a tinge of cramping. I was watching my watch and stoked to see that I was going to break 4 hours.
I rolled into town in 5th place. All of the top 5 women's times were faster than the winning time last year. It was great to see the level of competition and earn myself a spot on the podium.
Todd and Epic Rides did an awesome job of putting on a first rate event with a great vibe, great prize money and festive event. Full results are here.
Next up for me is three days at home to do laundry, pack, catch up with sponsors and board a plane for Spain to race in the Titan Desert stage race from Morocco to Spain. This begins the month of May mileage that will include two stage races in a row! Thanks for reading.
I'm in PhoenixMay 2, 2011
I'm in Phoenix, AZ doing a bit of riding and catching up with friends before the Whiskey 50 this weekend. I went from highs of 40 degrees in Ketchum to 90's in Phoenix. I'm considering this my pre-heat training week before heading to Morocco for the Titan Desert Stage Race next week. The temps there are rumored to be around 110 in Morocco.
I've had the pleasure of catching up with my good friends Donna and Charles. Charles has crewed for all of my 24 Hour World Championship races and I've known them both since my days of living in Chicago in the 1990's. Charles has been nice enough to escort me around some of the best single track in the Phoenix area. Over the last couple of days, he's been able to accommodate my specific training plan and show me two new places to ride. Day 1, the prescribed workout was "3 hrs with lots of sub threshold climbing." Charles took me over to the McDowell Mountains and put together a ride around Lost Dog and over Wingate Pass. It was exactly what the coach ordered and a stout introduction to the plethora of rocks that characterize Arizona riding. I chose to bring my 29er Stumpy HT to this race to get it dialed in for Morocco. I have to say that AZ terrain is 29er territory. There are so many embedded rocks to ride over that the big wheels seem necessary for me to keep rolling. There are step ups, step downs, loose baby heads and cactus galore. It's usually easier to go over the rocks than to try to go around them and risk brushing a cactus. The ride in the McDowells was sweet and I was feeling more and more confident handling the bike after a winter on skis. I guess I got a little cocky though and about 30 minutes from the finish, I lost my focus and a small embedded rock in the trail sent me super manning over the bars. I caught the brunt of my fall on the meaty part of my right hand. Thankfully, I landed in the rocks instead of the cactus. However, I really hurt my hand. I was unable to shift, brake or put any pressure on my right palm. The last part of the trail was still technical and jarring and trying to ride with one hand while wincing in pain was not a ton of fun. The Queen of Pain was really in pain and thoughts of not being able to race on the weekend were rolling around in my head. I've been lucky and suffered very few injuries over the years. This one seemed like a small thing, but super painful and an essential body part for riding. That night, I did a big epsom salt soak, iced my hand a bunch, took advil and rubbed arnica onto my swollen hand. The bruising was coming up, but it was not broken.
Day 2, I did a little test ride around the neighborhood and my hand felt remarkably better than the night before, so we loaded the car and headed out for training. My work for this day was 3 hrs of riding with 2 x 30 minute race pace efforts thrown in. Charles took me to the Pickett Post area of the Arizona Trail, which goes all the way from Utah to Mexico. It was a littler higher elevation than Phoenix, so the desert was in full bloom. The scenery was so amazing that it was hard to focus on staying on the tight single track. This trail was so sweet. 100% single track with some great technical terrain, but not so technical to get frustrating. Doing the race pace efforts on challenging trail was such good practice for me in looking further ahead, staying off the brakes and letting the momentum of the bike carry me. I did a few little practice sessions on one stretch of trail until I cleaned it. I managed to stay on the bike and forgot about my hand. It's still purple, but is recovering really nicely. The only injuries sustained on this trail were getting a bit to up close and personal with the Cat Claw thorns hanging into the trail. I was thankful to have my Specialized solar arm covers to keep the scratches off my forearms, but my shins took the brunt of the scratches and I did look like I'd had a fight with a cat after the ride. It has been really nice to have a personal mountain bike guide while I've been here. There is no way I would have found these sweet trails without a devoted local rider like Charles.
Three days downApril 19, 2011
Three days down of the SRAM Ladies Lounge and we are killing it! Great turnout both days and I'm super inspired by all the pros and the attendees. There is such a good vibe of sharing info, tips and motivation! I've even learned a few things. I'm so impressed with all the pros from downhillers to road taking time to come share their experience. No matter what, this Sea Otter is a success for me because of the Ladies Lounge! Thanks SRAM for supporting it and all the SRAM pro women for being so available.
I've been loving the sunny, warm weather and have been out riding with Susan every day. We're so over snow and cold in Idaho that we have been getting up super early every day to make sure we take full advantage of being on dirt in shorts and no shoe covers or warm weather gear.
The pro short track was yesterday, but I did not race. Running the Lounge took most of my energy. Today was the pro XC race that's been changed to a multiple small lap format to more closely mimic the UCI races. I have to say, I'm not a fan of the small lap format, but I'll take my medicine and get in a great intensity workout. Today was the last day of the Ladies Lounge, and it has been a great experience. We had Team TIBCO warming up before their races, which was super cool for everyone. Then right afterwards, they came back to discuss their races individually. It's amazing how helpful it is to have firsthand contact with all the riders from different disciplines. I still have not had much time to roam the venue and talk to sponsors and friends. Sunday will be my day for catching up with that stuff!
SRAM hot laps with Nic, Chris and Susan. We were treated to some really fast driving (with pro drivers) around the racetrack and it was a blast...tires squealing and all.
What a tough, but inspiring weekend.April 11, 2011
I had a 20 hour strategy and tactics class with the fire department. It was a great class with tons of real fire videos and examples of what to do and what not to do. However, it was a full weekend with school from 8-5 and also trying to squeeze in my "regular" job requirements of training and getting ready for the SRAM Ladies Lounge and Sea Otter. I was up WAY before dawn on both Saturday and Sunday to get in a couple of hours of trainer time before 8 AM. Sunday's wake up was a little easier because I had the live streaming of Paris-Rubaix on Cycling.TV to keep me motivated. For anyone who knows me, I am NOT a morning person, so getting up before 5 AM on a non-race day is just not my style. On day 2 of this early morning wake up schedule, I was seriously tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, but then Leadville flashed into my head and I knew I had to drag myself out of bed now if I want to race well in August.
The fire department class was taught by a retired Chief from Seattle and it was an incredible experience. The class was combined with other departments in our area and students ranged from fire Chiefs to rookies. It was the next best thing to having a real practice burn for training. The class definitely sparked my psyche for the fire department once again.
Right after class, I went straight to the airport and jumped on a plane to CA. This week is super busy with a visit to Specialized HQ in Morgan Hill today. I'll be there meeting with designers, sorting out gear for the race season, getting another BG bike fit and just connecting with my friends there. I had set my alarm for another early morning training session before heading to the offices, but I guess 3 days of pre-dawn workouts just wasn't in the cards. I overslept in a big way and now will have to juggle the day to get my workout in somewhere else. I guess I needed the sleep.
This week will be a great training week out here with the weather forecast clear, sunny and 70 degrees. It's still raining/snowing in Ketchum, so I am really ready for a little sunshine and outside training.
After leaving Morgan Hill, I'll head down to Monterey and start all the final planning and prep for the SRAM Ladies Lounge at Sea Otter. It's my first women's event with SRAM and I'm super excited to see how it unfolds. I've lined up a stellar list of female athletes and mechanics to share their craft and provide information and motivation. I hope to see you all there!
The weather has been raining hardMarch 28, 2011
The weather has been raining hard and super cold at night. The trails are buffed from the rain, but everyone is really hoping it doesn't rain/snow on Saturday night. Temps could very easily be in the 20's/30's F at night.
Cary, Jimena, Martin and I did a pre-race lap with a group of racers. The course is in great condition and they added a bunch of new single track (sendero, in Spanish) after Greg and I rode it a month ago. Our feedback was "mas sendero, por favor" and they were able to do it. It's a super fun, fast lap. Cary and I predict that he might turn 35-40 minute laps in the beginning of the race, so it changes the race strategy a bit. We are both endurance riders, so it might be best for us to do double laps for much of the race. I feel I will barely be warmed up by 45 minutes and it will not allow for very much rest for the other teammate.
We will definitely have competition in the duo category. There are 10 duo teams and just two duo mixed teams, but we'll be racing the men's teams as well. The other mixed duo is Jimena Florit, Olympian and world cup XC racer from Argentina, and Martin Santos, one of the top male racers in the country. We are all friends and will have our pits next to each other, so it's a friendly rivalry. Neither of them have done a 24 hour race before, so Cary and I have offered advice on pacing, nutrition, sleep. We even lent them Light and Motion lights so they'd have the best lights available to ride with at night.
For now, the rain has stopped and all of our gear is sorted and ready to go. It has been a while since I've raced a 24 hour race so I'm excited for the night riding again and for the super good day of training. Basically, I'll be doing around 12, one hour intervals over the course of the day. Here are a few pics of the course and our home away from home for the weekend.
The competition, Jimena and Martin and the super buff looking guy in the background!
No sleep and an all night flight,March 25, 2011
No sleep and an all night flight, but I was welcomed to sunny skies and 70 degree F weather in San Martin de los Andes. Cary Smith, my US teammate for the 24 hrs of Argentina and I met up with Jimena Florit and Martin Santos for a nice ride up to Chapelco ski area with some great single track to descend. Jimena is a 2x Olympian and Argentina's most successful mountain biker. I invited her here as motivation for other Argentine women to get involved with racing and riding. Jimena's also a mom of twins and a great example of how fast women can ride. Yesterday was my first time meeting her and riding with her. It's inspiring to see how great she is on a bike. She and Martin are racing as Team Cannondale and Cary and I are racing as Team Specialized. We are expecting a really tight, friendly competition in the mixed duo category this weekend. Our ride up to the ski area was a gentle spin up a dirt road that we were sharing with the regular commuters in the area, like this guy.
After the ride, we were treated to another traditional asado (bbq, Argentine style) and some great Malbec and good friends.
This is Flavio, the local shop owner and president of the mtb trail association here. He's with Benito (little Ben) who's a ripping rider as well. You can see from Flavio's t-shirt why Jimena and I are needed here to promote women's cycling and encouraging more women to get out on their bikes!
Today's another spin around town to get the bike and legs ready to go. Cary and I will also begin the pre-race ritual of going through equipment, bike lights, clothing and food for the 24 Hour race this weekend.
Great weekend in Portland with some workMarch 15, 2011
Great weekend in Portland with some work, a mountain bike race and it only rained a little!
Specialized and West End Bikes brought me out for the grand opening party of their shop in Portland. The store is huge and really nice. It's in a historic corner building that used to house Django Records. Glass on two sides of the building and some really amazing old architecture mixed with the clean, swanky design of the new shop. I knew one of the new owners Mark Ontiveros from one of my Specialized Susan G Komen CA to Vegas rides. You get to know someone pretty well when you ride 600 miles together. Mark is a ball of energy and his passion shows in the shop.
Since I was here anyway, I reached out to a few friends to find a bike race on the weekend. There had to be one since Portland lives and breathes bikes. I found this cool race about 3 hrs drive from Portland. OK, not as close as I'd wanted, but word on the street was that the course was a giant 30 mile single track loop. Sounded good to me! I shipped my bike to West End, and hitched a ride with a friend of a friend from a local cycling team, Filth and Fury. David is the self proclaimed "tech nerd and Masters C pack fodder" on the team. He was super entertaining on the long ride and the only bad part was he blew up his derailleur during the race and had to get rescued on a Gator. Apparently, he's blown up about 5 derailleurs in his short cycling career. He runs Shimano derailleurs. Maybe that was his first mistake.
So, it was 6.5 hrs of driving for 2.5 hrs of racing and 100% worth it. Despite the massive bottle neck and 30 minutes of waiting to pass a congo line of riders on 8 inch wide single track, the course was awesome. Its out in the middle of a winery and private land and the trail builders here have been super creative. It shows that you don't need much terrain to make great single track if you are good trail builders. Despite a bad start and a bit of waiting, I had a decent race for early season and really enjoyed being on my bike outside. I finished just behind local 'cross phenom, Sue Butler.
The whole weekend was a blast and the rain didn't hit Portland style until Sunday morning for my flight out. I forgot about Daylight Savings Time and luckily Ken from Specialized called my room to make sure I didn't miss my flight. I'm back home now for a 10 day really hard training stint before heading back down to Argentina to race again. The travel is going to get ramped up here really fast, so I will have to make the most of these days at home.
Tour de la Patagonia and the start of the 2011 race season.February 23, 2011
Greg and I escaped winter in Idaho for 10 days and got on our bikes in one of the most beautiful places on earth in the Patagonian region of Argentina. We came here to take part in a 3 day stage race called the Tour de la Patagonia and also to help our friends here design the course for 24 Hours of Argentina this March.
It was an awesome training week and felt great to be spinning the pedals in the sun. We are both fresh off skiing and a little bit of indoor riding, but that's about it. Early season is always so demoralizing because you are building fitness again and trying not to be impatient with results or performances. The only way for me to get hard race intensity is to race. I cannot generate the same kind of psyche on my own. I need a start line and a bunch of other people to motivate me to push extra hard.
The Tour de la Patagonia is a race full of mostly Argentine and Chilean riders, but there were also a few teams from Ecuador, Brazil and Uruguay. I think we were the only Gringos in the race. I did this race last year, so I knew what to expect and have some friends in San Martin de los Andes who take me under their wing. It's so much easier to travel to a foreign country where you have a local contact for good places to eat, the best shops, the best rides and other logistics. I am hoping one day my Argentine family here will come to Idaho and I can return the favor and show them my home.
The terrain here is really similar to Idaho, so Greg and I felt right at home. The big differences are eating dinner at 10 PM, having tons of beef every day and drinking mate (pronounced: mahtay) like a drug. The race officials also seemed to struggle with Greg's name since his first name "Greg" is not common, but his last name "Martin" is like Bob in the US. So when they announced our names for the podium, it was RRRRRRRRRebecca and Marteeeeeen, complete with a thick Latin American accent!
The race unfolded nicely. I was sick going into the event and was nervous about my performance. I definitely wasn't 100%, but started feeling better each day. The flats and descents were OK for me, but as soon as we hit the climbs, I felt super weak and powerless. Greg was an awesome teammate letting me sit in behind him in the wind and helping me up some of the hills when possible. Team racing is so rewarding when you work well together and can give each other strength and motivation.
Since we knew I was going to be weaker than usual on the climbs, we worked hard on the single tracks and any technical riding in an attempt to get a gap on the other teams. It's awesome to follow Greg descending because he's so good that I can just follow his lead and not have to think. The course on day 1 had a 20 minute super high speed single track descent. We got some great video on the GoPro that day and the trees are blurred because we were going so fast. Our top speed that day was 60 km / hr! The video footage will be coming soon.
We finished first in the mixed team category on all three stages and won the category, but not by a huge gap. A very young, impressive Argentine Team Pedal Life kept the pressure on us the whole way. They are both just 21 and it was Jacquelina's first mountain bike race! They finished a total of 15 minutes behind us over three days of racing. We got about 5 minutes on them each day, but that small of a gap did not leave any room for mistakes such as crashes or flats. The best part was that they finished each day with huge smiles. I think they both have a long future in bike racing and I'm trying to convince them to compete in the 24 Hours of Argentina this year.
Greg and I had a clean race with no mechanicals or crashes. Thanks to Hugo and Flavio at Adventure Store for keeping my new Specialized Era and Greg's Specialized 29er HT running smoothly. Greg and I were really happy with result. In addition to winning the mixed category, we were also 5th in the overall rankings. Not bad for a chica and a Gringo.
After three great days of intense racing, we are spending the rest of our time here going to the beach, shopping, working on the 24 Hour race course and just taking in the relaxing vibe of this area. It feels like the first time we have taken a true vacation in a very long time! We leave tomorrow and just heard that we are returning to two feet of new snow at home.
I guess the bikes will go back into storage and the skis will stay waxed and in use for a bit longer.
After what was a rough three days of racingFebruary 22, 2011
After what was a rough three days of racing, Greg and I pulled off a win! The riding was some of the most beautiful terrain I have ever seen, and I totally love it here. I started the race sick and after 40 hrs of travel and a complete change of seasons, I got a cold. I rarely get sick, but it happens. It felt great to pedal a bike on dirt for the first time in 2011, but being sick made me a little fuzzy and a bit weak.
This place is full of amazing volcanoes, mountains, crystal blue lakes and great riding trails. However, my favorite part is the strong sense of family and community. I was welcomed back here by my Argentine friends from last year and they treated me like their own family. Once again we were staying with Anibal, Gisele and their two sons Tomy and Benito. Flavio owns the local bike shop and they spent their days taking us riding, making asado (BBQ) for us and sharing their wine. Every night, the whole neighborhood seemed to gather for a family style dinner where we practiced Spanish and English and showed each other videos of our own skiing, riding and hiking.
This place is very similar to Sun Valley and I think I have convinced them to come visit me as well. Greg and I filmed some of the action on out GoPro's so you can get a feel for the action. Until then, check out the video from the race organizers website, to give you a feel for the beauty of this area.
My official 2011 hard training scheduleJanuary 17, 2011
My official 2011 hard training schedule from Matthew started this week. I've had a great couple of months of unstructured training that were super good for the soul. I was still active, but just doing whatever I felt like on a given day. However, the regimented schedule is back and all the hard foundation work for the season begins now. Winter and Spring are always a big challenge for me mentally and physically because the general goal of this part of my training is to really pile on the workouts to get some major adaptations. It's a delicate dance between flogging myself repetitively and recovering sufficiently so that I don't get sick or overtrained. It is the hardest part of the training season and the results will not show until well into the Summer. It requires me to summon extreme patience and trust, not my strongest traits.
The Restwise <http://www.restwise.com> recovery tool is essential during this period of the season because the workload is intense. Matthew expects me to be dipping into low recovery scores of about 50 to 60, then coming back up into the 90s and 100s after the rest days. If those dramatic peaks and valleys don't happen with enough regularity, then he will change my training schedule accordingly, either ramping up the volume and intensity, or bringing it down if necessary. If I relied on just my perceived level of fatigue for this training adaptation, I would not see the results because I will "feel" very tired for most of this training block and would probably take it too easy.
I have to admit that while I love the off-season freedom of just being able to go out with friends and do whatever sort of physical activity I want, I also really thrive on having very specific instructions from my coach. Having that guidance takes all of the guess work out for me and keeps me very honest with my training. For one, I know Matthew is going to look at my Restwise scores and my Suunto Movescount graphs, so if I do not do the work, he will know and I will feel guilty.
Also, there is simplicity and motivation in following a strict program. For example, I know the work that I will be doing next Tuesday and I know it will be HARD. Mentally, I'm already gearing up for it and looking forward to the rest day on Monday before hand. This will force me to eat better, hydrate, get a good night's sleep in hopes of feeling strong for the intense work on Tuesday. It's just like going to the office knowing you have a big presentation to give the next day. You prepare for it and show up ready to go.
Once again I am flooredJanuary 3, 2011
Once again I am floored by the quality and quantity of questions to come in this past month. Thanks to everyone for sending something in, as I know the holidays are a busy time. This months lucky jersey winner is Candi Pennington. Her question has relevance for everyone who is in a difficult situation whether on or off the bike. I hope you enjoy your new jersey!
Q: In order to have been crowned “Queen of Pain”, you must know a thing or two about pain: so tell me, what is it like to be at the place where enjoyment has ended and PAIN has truly begun?
It’s like a little dance between heaven and hell. Manage the pain well and you are on your way to a highly rewarding experience once it’s all over. Succumb to the pain like a baby and you will end up looking back on the event with shame and disappointment. Everyone feels pain, it’s what you do with it that counts.
I also want to make sure that everyone's questions are answered as there is a ton of useful information for every rider out there. If you go to the Ask Reba Archives <http://www.rebeccarusch.com/ask-reba-archives/> you will find the answers to all the questions by topic from all the previous months. So keep on sending in questions, because I love hearing what you have to say!
Gringo Paceline DayNovember 22, 2010
My apologies for not writing this report after Stage 4, but the clean sheets of my hotel bed were just too enticing. Waking up at 6:30 am felt like luxury after so many days of 3:30 am wake up calls.
We started our final stage of La Ruta in pouring rain. The stage profile gave us 40km of typical Costa Rica climbing, followed by 80 km of flat roads to the Caribbean. Although the profile is flat, many of the roads are rough and imbedded with rocks. There are multiple river crossings and the infamous railroad track riding and terrifying trestle bridges.
It is the sort of stage where it pays big dividends to make sure you are not alone on the flats. It is by no means an easy road day. There are some great descents and smooth pavement sections, but those are regularly interspersed with the tracks, bridges, and puddles that all require power pedaling. The riders with nothing left in their legs would be hating it.
I started the day solidly in third place in the GC and feeling a bit flat. I was a bit worried on the first 20 km of climbing because I wasn't really turning the pedals over that well and was hoping the day would not be spent alone suffering and watching the kilometers slowly tick by.
I got a boost of motivation when I found myself with Chris Carmichael and one of his coaches, Jane Rynbrandt. We banded together and motivated each other up the final steep climb. That's when the sky opened up and the rain really let loose for our descent. I have never seen more rain in my life. It was impossible to see and the pavement was running with water as we flew downhill.
Luckily I was surrounded by people who were good, steady riders. After the descent, the rain subsided and we organized into a well oiled peloton of four to five people. We picked up a really strong roadie from Alabama and another Gringo who was feeling strong. I was incredibly grateful to have some good wheels to follow and people who were willing to share the work. The company and camaraderie were a welcome change from so many hours of riding alone this week.
We were cruising along at 30km/hr and flying toward the finish. The railroad tracks abruptly put and end to our coordinated efforts and split up our Gringo Peloton. After the first section of tracks, it was just me and Mr. Alabama together trading pulls. The trestle bridges were scary this year. They are so high above the rivers and so long and offer huge consequence for a mis-step.
I heaved my bike onto my shoulders, took a deep breath and walked across slowly. The rain had mad the railroad ties slippery with bike cleats on. I heaved a bit sigh of relief when I was safely past the last one. I was enjoying the railroad riding sections because I felt I had some power left in my legs. My friend, Matt, who has done La Ruta seven times told me that the key to the tracks was to push a big gear and keep up as much speed as possible to smooth out the railroad ties. It seemed to work and I was pulling away from my group and passing more people.
When I reached the final aid station 20km from the finish, I could see Angela (Parra) and Louise (Kobin) turning off the tracks just about a minute ahead of me. The last 20km along the beach were an energy suck. The rains in last few weeks had flooded the road and there were giant puddles everywhere that covered the whole road. I was dodging from side to side, looking for the fastest lines and the smallest puddles. Most of them were shallow enough to ride through as long as you had momentum and just went for it. However I went into a few that came well above the axles on my bike. Twice I was toppled over and completely submerged in the brown, muddy water. It's alway amazing how long the last 10km of a race can feel, even though I'd covered hundreds of kilometers this week.
The welcoming beach finish finally came, and I finished the stage just a minute behind Louise and Angela. This stage was one of the most rewarding stages because I had a really fun group of people to share the workload and keep me company for most of the day. It is energizing to form a cohesive group and make friends out on the race course.
Like most of the athletes, I went straight into the ocean as a reward for a really hard week of racing. I am really proud of how I raced this week and with my performance. I finished third in a very strong women's category. Unlike 2006, La Ruta did not have its way with me. Instead, I raced well, gave the course the respect it deserved and had a fantastic time. It goes to show you how experience and the right frame of mind can completely change a situation.
Thank you to the La Ruta race organizers for a fantastic time and thanks to all the riders who shared time with me over the past four days. Perhaps I will see you again!
Lack of Sleep Adds to ChallengeNovember 22, 2010
Racing with Frederico in my head.
Today's stage included approximately 10,000ft of climbing up to Irazu Volcano, followed by around 11,000ft of descending into the town of Turrialba. The course was not as varied as the other stages, but in some ways, it was easier to wrap my head around one massive climb followed by one huge descent. Instead of wondering where I was in the stage, or what was ahead, at least today's stage was really mentally straightforward.
Seriously, I climbed for about three hours up to nearly 10,000ft. The majority of the climbing was on good gravel road and pavement. It was just a matter of putting your head down and spinning away. I was again caught in no man's land with Angela (Parra) and Louise (Kobin) up the road, so I was faced with a brisk headwind, a bit of rain and temperatures down into the 50s. I was grateful for the cool temps, while many of the Costa Ricans were putting on jackets and layers.
I really enjoyed the day's climb because it took us way above the clouds and the views of Irazu and Turrialba Volcanos were spectacular. I was reminding myself to look around today while I was climbing and working on my fitness for next season. I felt good again today, but still could not match the pace up front.
I did have some good motivation from my friend Frederico, who is the lead moto driver and long time La Ruta participant. He challenged me to try to get in under five and a half hours today and said that would be a really good time. So, I was racing against that time today and pushing to beat his challenge. It helped a ton and I finished in 5:06! I'm happy with how this race is unfolding for me and when comparing the times and gaps from 2006, I have made a vast improvement in the past four years. Barring major drama tomorrow, the women's podium seems to be fairly set.
There could have easily been an upset today because the descent off the volcano was gnarly. It's called a "road", but I honestly cannot see how any sort of vehicle would travel over it. There were long, long sections of baby heads where I felt like I was in a pinball game.
Other sections were imbedded rocks with slick mud covering them. The "easiest" part of the descent was the super loose high speed gravel, but even those sections had huge consequence because of the speed. The last time I was here, the race leader, Jeremiah Bishop, crashed on this descent and broke his jaw. I think part of what makes it so hard is that it's around 30km of descending after three days of racing and a monster climb. I just want to point it straight and go to the finish, but I was so fatigued that I could not ride it the way I normally would.
I did get one flat tire, but it was a quick change. The remaining pavement into town had my odometer clicking at 67km/hr at one point. It felt great to get out of the technical descending, onto pavement and into a tuck. In those moments, I was making sure to not think about what would happen if a Costa Rican dog ran out in front of me. I almost squished one today, but he made it to the other side just in time.
The only black mark on the race for me today is the drama that has been created by rule enforcements. The race organization was faced with a difficult situation and disqualified one rider before the start of today's stage. The rider was caught taking outside assistance, which is clearly against the race rules. There are rumors, hearsay and some hard facts all flying around, regarding these riders and others who may or may not have been involved on various stages.
I have not personally seen any infractions myself, so I can't really make a statement about the situation. I will say, again, that I am glad to see the race organization cracking down and trying to enforce a fair race for everyone. I'm sure it's difficult to police everyone with hundreds of riders and hundreds of kilometers of race course, but I appreciate their efforts. There will be plenty of drama and discussion about all of this, but I feel it's a step in the right direction.
Now for the final stage and our arrival to the Carribean in Limon. This last stage is no cake walk either. It's still 120km. The first half of the stage is Costa Rican-style climbing. The second half features the famous railroad track riding and sketchy bridge crossings, followed by flat, hot, sandy road riding.
The worst part of this whole week has been the severe lack of sleep! Tomorrow's stage is a "late" start at 7:00 am. Breakfast is a 4:30 am, so I'm off to bed.
Thanks for reading.
Finding Motivation in the Middle of NowhereNovember 19, 2010
Yesterday's stage was 75km with about 13,000 feet (3,900 meters) of climbing. The roads were the steepest I have ever seen in my life. Even defending La Ruta champion, Manny Prado, who is from Costa Rica, told me he has never seen anything steeper.
This place does not have one flat spot and the roads they build do not switchback. They head straight down or up from point A to point B. Riding up (and down) the hills today was nearly impossible on a bike. I cannot imagine trying to drive a car or motorcycle on them, but it does not seem to phase the Costa Ricans. It's quite normal here to have over 30% grade.
Ben Sontag and Alex Grant (Cannondale Factory Racing), had another awesome day out in the front of the men's race. They are sitting in first and second, respectively, in the overall standings. They have been battling with the lead pack both days in a very tight race. It has been exciting to hear their firsthand race stories each evening.
After two days of racing, the women's race has established a bit of a pecking order. Angela, Louise and I again finished first, second and third in yesterday's stage and the overall rankings remain the same as well. However, yesterday Louise and I were much closer to Angela. She was on fire on day 1 and was more within reach today. I'm hoping that momentum will continue. Just like the day before, they both climbed away from me on the very first 8km steep climb. I was unable to go with them and had to settle into my own rhythm again.
My body felt good, and I am really pleased with how I am riding, but I got a bit discouraged about halfway through the stage. I rode almost the whole day alone and was not getting any time splits or reliable mileages. I had the course profile zip-tied to my handle bars, but the route had changed slightly since the heavy rains a few weeks ago. I did not really have accurate information about distances or aid station mileages. I also had no idea if Angela and Louise were an hour up the road or just minutes.
The cumulative result of these things was that I lost focus for a while in the middle of the stage. I was afraid to push too hard for fear that the course was longer than I expected or an aid station too far away. It is also extremely hard to self motivate for five and a half hours when there is no one within sight to push you.
There were a few times today where I honestly felt like I was out on a casual ride. Don't get me wrong, it was a very challenging day, and I was not taking it easy, but really attacking over the tops of climbs and hanging it out on the descents makes a big difference in a multi-hour race. It's hard to put in that extra 1% when you are alone and unsure of the course.
I feel that if I'd had someone in sight as a rabbit, I would have been able to shave some time off today. If I'm in the same situation tomorrow, I will just have to visualize another competitor and be sure to keep racing 100%.
I still had a solid day and rolled into the stage as the 27th rider overall. I felt thankful that my brakes worked all day on the terrifyingly steep and slippery descents. I will be putting in fresh brake pads for tomorrow's 30km downhill finish.￼￼
I also have to give a shout out to the group from Carmichael Training Systems, including Chris Carmichael himself. They have a group of about 15 athletes racing here along with full mechanic and aid station support. They have graciously taken me under their wing and really made things easier for me in this race. One of my favorite parts of this race has been how all the American athletes have banded together to help each other out like this. Sam (Schultz of Trek), Blake (Harlan of Jamis), Alex (Grant), Ben (Sonntag) and Matt (Ohran of Cannondale) have also been keeping an eye out for each other and for me. It's a pleasant surprise to travel this far from home and still have friends who are watching your back.
Today's stage is the Irazu Volcano day. One big massive climb and one big massive descent in 75km. Big thanks to Cyclingnews.com
Much Better than Last YearNovember 18, 2010
Today was a blast. It was a completely different experience than the last time I was here.
My favorite part of the day was actually the worst part the first time around. The Carara is extremely difficult with a ton of hiking, but beautiful and isolated. The "trail" there is just a place for the water to go, and the erosion ditches are sometimes head-high. The mud wasn't as bad this year as everyone said it would be. I was happy with my tire choice, and my bike was perfect all day long.
I lost touch with Angela (Parra) and Louise (Kobin) on the very first climb, but I didn't let it discourage me and just rode my own race. I ended the day about 30 minutes off the lead and 10 minutes behind Louise, but it's a long race and anything can still happen.
I felt like I managed the heat well - no cramping, and I felt strong and solid the whole day. I'm happy with my result and feel like I didn't burn too many matches on day 1.
I heard rumors today that some top racers received warnings for getting outside assistance, and I'm encouraged to hear that the race organization is cracking down and taking the rule seriously.
The most terrifying part of today and my least favorite part was the final 10km through the outskirts of San Jose. After seven hours of isolation and beautiful countryside, I was suddenly thrown into the chaos of Central American traffic. There were dogs, cars, people, trucks and I was like a little tiny ant in the middle of it all trying not to get squashed. It was super scary and the difficulty was magnified by the rain that had just started and by trying to look for route markings at the same time, but I made it unscathed.
I got a massage and got my bike all set up so I'm ready for tomorrow.
I loved today, I think because I raced with a different perspective this year. Thanks to CyclingNews
Rusch returns to La Ruta four years laterNovember 17, 2010
Here I am back four years later at La Ruta. I swore I would never come to this race again, but I'm actually really excited this time. I have a different perspective and a different respect for the race. People have been asking me why I came back. It's two reasons.
The first is that the race organization really wanted to support a top women's field. And I wanted to help in their efforts. I appreciate that they want to give equal recognition to the men and women.
The second reason I came back is to redeem myself. The first time I was taken by surprise and the course had its way with me. I felt that in 2006 I wasn't able to race and was barely able to finish. Now that I know what I'm in for, I'm coming with a much more open attitude and respect for the course and knowing that I'm not necessarily racing against other women. It's kind of me against the course.
So I feel excited instead of nervous and I'm actually looking forward to what the mud will dish out. The reputation of this race is legendary for being super hard and now that I'm ready for that, I feel like I'll have a much better time.
Both the men's and women's fields are really strong, and they've made improvements with increased aid stations and cracking down on outside assistance, and they've worked hard to make it one of the best events in the world. The country has experienced landslides, record-breaking rain and hurricane weather in the past couple of weeks, so the course has been slightly changed, and I expect it will be even more of an adventure than the first time.
In true Costa Rican style, it just started raining tonight.
Tomorrow's stage is 104km. The race director estimated top finishing time at 6.5 hours, so I'm gauging for eight hours. This first stage has a reputation for being the make it or break it stage. It ends a lot of people's races due to mechanicals, dehydration and the sheer difficulty. So I'm treating this first day as a race in itself
I dressed up as a Cyclocross racerNovember 2, 2010
I dressed up as a Cyclocross racer this weekend for the local Crosstober fest races about 2 blocks from my house.
They lined the Cat 1 women up with the Cat 1.2 men, so we got a full 60 minutes of torture both days.
I recorded my efforts on my Suunto T6d and it was really great to compare two identical efforts. I basically came up with the same average and max heart rates, although I raced a bit better on day 2 due to knowing the course a bit better. I usually only cyclocross race a few times a year at my home events, so I'm always a wee bit rusty on the barriers and stuff like that. I love it though and it is great for my bike handling skills.
I got 2nd both days to Liza Rachetto, a pro road racer from Boise. She'd just returned from racing in Europe and jumped into the 'cross races. Day 1 she went out fast and I never saw her again. Day 2, my plan was to try to stay with her and make it a closer race. It was 34 degrees, wet and muddy. I was able to stay on her from the start. Then she sat on me for a while in typical roadie style. We went back and forth a couple of times during the race. She would pull ahead on the flat, roadie sections of the course and I would pull ahead on the more wooded, mountain bike terrain. It was a super fun race and I was glad to have some stiff competition to push me. In the end, she snagged the Idaho State Championship title, but I was really happy with my training efforts for the weekend and the fact that I stayed upright. It was a blast.
Thanks to Nils Ribi
Looking for MujahNovember 1, 2010
Saturday was our first winter snow storm. It rained and snowed all day and into the night. A local resident was out bird hunting with his two Brittany Spaniels near the Johnstone trail. In the minimal visibility, he approached an unseen cliff and slipped on the fresh, wet snow. He called his dogs back and one returned, the other, named Mujah ,kept going forward over the 150 ft cliff. Dan, the dog owner, spent hours looking at the base of the cliff and calling his dog. He found and heard nothing. He was certain that Mujah was stuck on one of the cliff ledges. As a last resort, he called in the Ketchum/Sun Valley backcountry rescue team and agreed to pay the costs to send the high angle rescue team out to scour the cliff.
Our 6 person high angle rescue team was dispatched out at 7 AM Sunday morning in a snowstorm. We packed up with ropes, harnesses, winter survival gear, medical equipment and supplies to be out all day. Dan guided us up to the place where he last saw his dog. The temperatures were below freezing and the snow was wet and cold. We built a fire to dry out and warm up after the 3 mile hike in with big gear packs. After we warmed at the fire and discussed our strategy, we split into two groups. One group assigned to look around the base of the cliff and one team to hike to the top and set up a rappel for a high angle search of the cliff. I was on the rope team.
The weather was a mix of ice and snow and the ropes and equipment were freezing and slippery. The rock face was also broken and loose. I was really thankful that I have years of experience with ropes and climbing gear. We made two careful passes on the cliff looking on ledges, traversing, descending and ascending the ropes. The rescue team below directed our efforts and provided another point of view while I was on the rope. Unfortunately, even after 7 hours in the field, we were not able to find Mujah. As our team bundled up the wet, heavy ropes and equipment, I apologized to Dan for not being able to find his lost dog. I felt a deep sadness for him and his grief was evident. He hiked out on his own while the team gathered and packed the rescue equipment for the hike out.
At the end of the day, the search lasted over 10 hours and was unsuccessful. The next day broke clear and cold. Dan went back out into the field with some of his friends. They did find Mujah about 60 feet from the base of the cliff. He was not alive, but Dan was happy to have found him and took his body home for burial.
It's official.October 18, 2010
It's official. Even though I did La Ruta de los Conquistadores 5 years ago and swore I would never, ever go back, I'm going back. They say time heals all wounds, right?
I met some of the La Ruta organizers at the Leadville Trail 100 this year. They have been super nice and invited me back to their country to give the race another shot. In the post race glow of Leadville while standing in the cool mountain air, it sounded like a good idea.
When I competed there before, it was one of my first mountain bike stage races and it kicked my butt in a big way. Day 1 of this event was brutal and I thought of dropping out. I guess I was a bit cocky from my adventure racing experience and did not expect it to be so hard. I was wrong. I finished the race in 4th overall and was just happy to have completed it. But, like I said, I vowed never to go back. Since then I've done a ton of mountain bike stage racing and have learned how to ride my bike. I'm a much different cyclist that I was 5 years ago. At least that's what I was telling myself as I agreed to accept their invitation to come back to La Ruta. Knowledge is power, right? Now I know what to expect. I know it's going to be harder, hotter, steeper, longer and muddier than anyone expects. I know I will be pushing my bike. I know it will be extremely hard. What I don't know is if I will fare any better than the first time around. I wonder if my cycling experience will let me feel more like I'm racing instead of just surviving. I guess I'm going to find out in November.
I followed both 24 hours of MoabOctober 13, 2010
I followed both 24 hours of Moab (USAC Nationals) and 24 Hours of Adrenalin in Australia (24 Hr Worlds) from the internet this weekend. It's the first time in a few years I have not been at either race. Instead, I am in Illinois with no bicycle and doing very little exercise. It's amazing how things change in a year. I was excited to see my friend, Jari Kirkland take another 24 Hr Nationals solo title and it looked like she had very little competition this time around. The 24 Hour Worlds race was closer with Aussie's Jess Douglas and Katrin Van der Speigel taking 1-2 and US racer Eszter Horanyi finishing 3rd. They said it was to be the most competitive women's field in years and they did pull in athletes from multiple countries. However, it was still the usual suspects (except for Ezster) who were up near the top. I raced against both Katrin and Jess at 24 Hour worlds in Canmore. It's hard not to think about how I would have fared against them in their home country.
A ton of people have been asking me why I wasn't in Moab or Australia this weekend to defend my titles. The answer is a wee bit complicated and part of me really did want to be at one of those two races. It's unfortunate that they were both scheduled on the exact same day, but that's a whole different story. The answer regarding my absence is multi-faceted. It's one that I've been fielding all year. My decision this season to focus on 100 milers and stage races was initially for health reasons. I have asthma and 24 hour solo racing really does a number on my lungs. I end up coughing for weeks afterwards and have to sleep sitting up so that I don't choke on the fluid that builds up in my lungs. I love 24 hour solos and really long endurance events and those type of events are where I feel I am at my best. However, I want to be riding my bike, skiing, running, climbing for a really long time and I just felt like damaging my lungs to that extent a few times a year was a bad idea. I've had one of my best season's yet and was able to achieve all my goals for 2010, including another Leadville 100 win and course record. I also earned a Masters XC World Championship title. I have no regrets about my race decisions this year. The bottom line is that there are so many awesome endurance events to choose from and it has been fun to spread myself around a bit more and do some different events and face different challenges.
Another big part of the reason that I did not race 24 Hr Nationals or Worlds is that my Mom had open heart surgery on Monday. I am in Illinois in the hospital waiting room while she gets some rest. I've mostly been hanging out with her, escorting her on small walks down the hospital corridor and helping figure out her new schedule of rehab and doctor's appointments. She has come through the surgery just fine, but it's going to be a long road to recovery. I will help take her home tomorrow and get the house set up so that she can get around easily. All of this makes missing a race seem quite insignificant. I'm really glad I could make the opening in my schedule to be able to help her out. I'm only here until Thursday, then there will be a bit of hand off as other family and friends come here to stay with her on a rotating basis.
Thanks for all of you who sent notes and emails wishing Mom well. She's been my biggest fan and has attended tons of my races all over the world. She probably knows more adventure racing and cycling athletes than I do. She's always following me and the racers she knows from Illinois when she can't be at the races. I've kept her up to speed on the weekend results and she has been really pleased to get all the good wishes
Well most of my main races are overSeptember 29, 2010
Well most of my main races are over for the year but the traveling doesn't stop. After another extremely fun and memorable Interbike, I am at home for a few short days. Riding with the Specialized
Today, I'm off to a Valley wide fire department competition of sorts. We're all getting together to run through an obstacle course with turnouts on and compete against the other agencies in the Valley. It's a pretty fit group of people, so it should be stiff competition.
There's also a movie, Ride the Divide, coming to town on Tuesday. Wednesday is another course walkthrough with USA Cycling and Breakaway productions for the XC and short track Nationals races next summer. There is also a bit of trail maintenance and riding here
Thursday, I'm off again to another event, but this on is outdoors and I will get to ride my bike. I'm expected to ride my bike. I'll be at Outerbike in Moab for a screening of the 2009 Race Across the Sky
I'm at the Cinnamon Bear lodgeSeptember 20, 2010
I'm at the Cinnamon Bear lodge in Mammoth and the first bit of phone/internet connection in a few days
We've covered 330 miles on the Susan G Komen ride and are 1/2 way done. We've crossed the Sierras and now head toward Death Valley and Vegas.
The riding has been HARD and awesome. Many, many hours in the saddle each day, but great scenery and great company. This is the first night we've been in a hotel and gotten a proper shower. It's very civilized. Tomorrow's a "short" day at just 100 miles. Even though we're riding all day long, every day, we are really taken care of with full support rigs, massage at night, food catered by Western Spirit. It's been a great trip so far. I'd write more, but I need to sleep!
Here is out itinerary for those who like to see maps!
Thursday, Day 1
Friday, Day 2
Saturday, Day 3
The Cinnamon Bear Inn
Sunday , Day 4
Monday, Day 5
Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resort
Tuesday, Day 6
The Wynn Hotel & Treasure Island
Earned Another Rainbow JerseySeptember 13, 2010
Done. 16.5 km of pure pain and I'm the new UCI masters's cross country World Champ (35-44)with a set of rainbow stripes! I"m adding this world title to my three 24 Hour Solo Worlds titles, one Adventure Racing Worlds title and one Masters Cross Country Skiing World title. It's kind of cool.
This trip started with a theft and less than ideal preparation with a ton of travel, too many days off the bike and too much time in a police station. However, it ended up just great. The course took me a few days to master the technical parts, but today's race went off without a hitch. My bike and legs both did the job. I rode my Specialized S-works Era with Sauserwind tires for this course. My race group started 30 seconds back from the 30-34 women. The course started straight uphill with about a 5 minute climb. As my coach told me to do, I laid it on the line and pinned it from the start. By the time I reached the top of the climb to drop into the single track, I had caught and passed all the women in the previous age group, except for one woman from Argentina. I kept her in sight for most of the race. Behind me, I just wanted to keep opening a gap on the climbs so I could ride the descents without traffic and focus on being smooth. I buried myself on the short, sharp climbs and then held on for the desents. I rode all of the descents with no crashes and I was really happy about that. I had to walk one uphill that was about 29% and just seemed faster to run. My throat is killing me and my Suunto HR numbers will be really fun to download on Movescount. Quite different from my 24 Hour World Champs experience. It hurt, but was over so fast. It is a different sort of suffering. My race was about 1:18 and I was about 11 minutes ahead of the next woman. It was a blast to jump out of my element and race XC. It was great for me to put myself out there and work on some of my weaknesses like starting fast and riding technical terrain. The awards were a blast and I must admit it's hard not to get a bit choked up when they played the American National Anthem. Augustina was the Argentine woman who won 30-34 and finished in front of me. I almost broke into tears when she took the podium because there were about 30 Argentine racers all singing their national song and waving their arms in unison. It was quite a show of national pride.
I spent the afternoon doing a few interviews, socializing and watching the dowhnill qualifying runs. We also swam in the ocean, had lunch on the beach and drank Caipirinha to celebrate! I owe huge thanks to Martin and Pinano, from Argentina, for taking care of me this week. They have been my mechanics, translators, feed zone crew, transportation and technical riding coaches this week. It's quite an international Team Specialized! I leave tomorrow and the next stop is Specialized HQ in Morgan Hill, CA.
I will have to post photos when I get home and can download them onto my new computer that is waiting for me!
Ask Reba August GiveawaySeptember 13, 2010
Sorry it is a bit late, but better late than never right? There were some hilarious questions this month, and quite frankly they keep getting better and better each month. This month's winning question both made me laugh, and also answered a question a lot of beginning cyclists ask. Enjoy your Recovery package courtesy of Hammer Nutrition and Skins USA.
DEAR QUEEN OF PAIN, HOW IMPORTANT ARE PADDED CYCLING SHORTS FOR A NEW RIDER? MY FIRST DAY RIDING I WAS ON A BORROWED MTB WITH NO SUSPENSION AND A LIGHTWEIGHT RACING SEAT. AFTER A LONG DAY OF RIDING AND BOUNCING I HAD DEVELOPED A SWOLLEN BUTTOCKS. THIS SWOLLEN BUTTOCKS LASTED A WEEK LONG RESULTING IN THE USE OF AN ENEMA FOR THE FIRST TIME. COULD I HAVE AVOIDED THIS BY USING PADDED SHORTS?
WOW. There are so many good jokes rolled into your question. I’ll try to be tactful though and help you out.
Yes, get some padded shorts. Everyone wears them. Even the people in baggie shorts have padded ones underneath. They are not all created equally. Spend a bit of cash and get a good pair. Don’t borrow them from a friend or buy discounted ones online. Go to a local shop and check them out for yourself.
Get your own bike, but try before you buy. Specialized (and most bike manufacturers) have demo vans that drive around the country stopping in various places to let people test bikes. Many shops also have demo bikes to try.
Saddles are quite personal. You can also demo saddles at many retailers. Don’t overlook the “lightweight race saddle” you mentioned. Looks are deceiving. I ride the Specialized Ruby and used to ride the Specialized Toupe. These are both wafer thin and ultra light and look hideously painful. However, the whole saddle flexes under the rider, which provides a very comfy ride. Extra padding does not necessarily mean comfort. Saddles also come in different widths. Shop around and when you find one you love, stick with it.
I really can’t understand why you needed to resort to the type of therapy you described in your email. I’ve never heard of this and it seems quite extreme. Hopefully this experience has not scarred you for life. I have to assume that if you are asking this question, you want to give mountain biking another go. All I can decipher from your question is that perhaps you were staying seated on the saddle too much. Proper riding technique often involves standing off the saddle on descents or rocky sections. Perhaps in addition to a pair of shorts, you need a few riding tips from your buddies as well.
Well, race day's almost here.September 9, 2010
I"m taking photos, but you won't get to see any till I get home and get a new computer. The best part about living in a small town is that I was able to have Greg call We Know Macs
I've spent the last couple of days riding the course and dealing with the theft as best I can from over here. The course is crazy. It's 5.5 km and takes about 25 min/lap. My age group 35-44 will be doing three laps. The younger women's age group will do four. Perhaps they thought the old women could not handle being out that long. Nearly 3 km of the course are on fire road or pavement. The remaining 2.5 is single track, but crazy steep single track like only South America can do it. There is seriously one uphill climb that is 29%. The dirt part of the course is either crouching tiger with your chin on your handle bars trying to climb, or your rear is off the saddle touching the back tire and you are just hoping to slide into the right muddy rut that might shoot you out the bottom of the slide. It's quite different than what I'm used to and really good practice for my technical skills. I finally made it upright down all of the desents today. I still cannot ride all of the climbs, but I can run. IF there's even a whisper of moisture, the course becomes absolutely unrideable with the slick mud and roots. It'll be more of a cyclocross style course if that happens. It was cear all day today and the course is drying nicely. The forecast is good, so I'm going to bed in hopes of a dry morning. I start at 8:30 AM and it'll all be over before 10. Then, I'll walk over to the beach and take a swim. I plan on an hour warm up and trying to be ready to punch it from the gun. Stay tuned.
I'm in a Holiday Inn in Green RiverSeptember 7, 2010
I'm in a Holiday Inn in Green River with Greg. The first ever 24 hrs of Leadville was a blast. I raced with a media team of friends in the mixed co-ed division. Jon, Adam and Kristy were awesome to race with and I loved being at an event with little stress and the time and energy to experience the event and cheer for the other riders. Normally when I'm racing 24 hour events solo, I am in my own world and miss much of the festivities of the event. This was different. I got to crew a bit for Greg on some of his laps, watch the other solo and team races unfold and catch up with some old friends. The course was a really fun, fast 18 mile lap that had a bit of everything, including plenty of climbing and altitude. There was also great single track, hike a bike and some very fast descending. I did the first lap and turned a 1:25 lap time. My goal for the rest of the race was to try to keep consistent lap times and I was able to do that nearly down to the minute. The UCI Masters World Champs that I'm heading to in Brazil will be about a 1.5 hour race, so I treated this weekend as basically repeated race laps in preparation for next weekend. Our team, named V02 Min, had a battle back and forth with another co-ed 4 person team called the Flatlanders. Ironically, the Flatlanders were mostly from CO! It was fun to have a bit of a race going on during the race. They ended up taking the win, but I view the race as a great success. We each rode three laps for a total of 12. I got to catch up with old friends Jon and Adam and also got to introduce Kristy to her first mountain bike race! Everyone did day and night laps and we got through the race with just one flat tire and no other great dramas. Jon did promise to make Outback Oven cookies and I never saw any of those. He did share his Ipod with me for my night lap though. Adam made friends with everyone and Kristy really rose to the occasion and even took the last lap of the race.
It was also really great for me to see a bunch of my sponsors getting behind this first year race. Thanks to Specialized, Light and Motion, Hammer Nutrition, Buff and Beyond Coastal all came on board. I tried out the brand new Light and Motion Seca 1400 and it's fabulously bright. I'm sure that's why my night lap was as fast as my day laps.
I'm not on a super quick turn-a-round with gear and clothing to head to the beach in Brazil. I've got my Era already packed up and a whole different bag of clothing ready. Greg is dropping me straight at the airport in Salt Lake City as he drives home to Idaho.
Stay tuned for updates on Brazil!
Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a BeeAugust 29, 2010
So I'm out enjoying a leisurely ride on my featherweight Amira road bike. My friend Karoline and I are riding, catching up on gossip and enjoying a summer ride on the bike path.
Flick...something hits me in the face at the top of my glasses and goes behind my glasses. It's a bee and gets stuck on my cheek just below my eye and proceeds to sting the living S%#T out of me. I brushed it off and Karoline checked to see if the stinger was still in my face. It wasn't and we were almost home, so we kept rolling. 20 minutes later at home, I saw Greg and his riding buddies finishing up a ride. They laughed at the progressive swelling under my left eye.
Last weekend, I jumped in the carAugust 24, 2010
Last weekend, I jumped in the car with Greg and some other Ketchum friends to head over to Pierre's Hole 50/100 miler in Targhee. I've raced a 24 Hour race over there and the riding is really fun. It's just a 4.5 hour drive, so I figured it would be a great way to make sure I kept riding and did not sit on my butt too long recovering from Leadville. I still have more races to do, so I don't want to let my hard earned fitness slide before the season is over. There were 8 or 9 of us from Idaho all racing the 50 and 100. I signed up for the 50 feeling like I'd earned myself a bit of a lighter day. The 100 also started at 6 AM and I did not want to get up early! What a different pre-race feeling comparing this week to last. I was super relaxed, did no warm up, and just threw a bit of food together at the last minute. It was refreshing to be at a fun race that was just a great riding day instead of a peak race like Leadville with all the nerves, preparation and expectations.
The course in Targhee was 25 mile laps with around 4000 ft of climbing per lap! The sweet thing about that much climbing is that there was equally as much descending. The course was 70% single track and the descents were FUN! I used the first hour as a warm up, then tried to hit the hills harder and push my HR up as high as I could. There was still a bit of leftover fatigue left from Leadville, but overall, I felt surprisingly good. I ended up winning the women's 50 miler and was 3rd overall. Mud Honey, Sara Schroeder, had an awesome race and was 2nd in the women's 50. The Wood River Valley had a strong showing in all the races. Mike Shane was 1st in the 100 SS. Greg was 2nd in the SS 50. For me, it was such a blast to camp out, ride bikes and hang out with friends with no pressure. It was just a great weekend of bike riding.
Now, this week is back to the work grind a bit. I have to jump back on more specific training, follow up with a bunch of Leadville interviews and I'm working on planning a birthday/Leadville party at the Ketchum Pump Park this week.
LT 100August 23, 2010
It has been nearly a week and I'm just now coming down enough to try to put the experience into words. I'll cut to the chase. I had one of the best races of my life. I improved my time from last year by 27 minutes. I broke the longstanding women's course record by 11 minutes. I was first in the women's field and 22nd overall. My time was 7:47.35. Average speed was 12.8. I was 1:30 behind Levi Leiphiemer's record breaking time. I honestly surprised myself. I went as hard as I possibly could last year and my time was 8:14. I knew Laurie Brandt's course record of 7:58.56 had stood for more than 10 years. Before the race, I was trying to imagine how I could cut over 20 minutes off my 2009 time. Looking back, I know the difference was focused preparation, sprinkled with a little bit of luck.
The 2009 LT100 was icing on the cake of an already fantastic season. I had come to Leadville just 3 weeks after defending my 3rd 24 Hour Solo World Championship title. I arrived two days before the race, did not know the course, the scene or much about the event. I was blown away last year by the magnitude of the race and the spirit of cycling and endurance racing that hovers over the town. I had a blast last year and got lucky enough to pull off a win. That intoxicating experience laid the groundwork for my 2010 season.
This year, I approached the season differently. 24 Hour Worlds got moved to October, so that left me to focus 100% on the Leadville Trail 100 as my "A" race. My coach, Matthew
I also went to Leadville 10 days early this year so I could ride the course and acclimatize. I was there alone hanging out in town, riding my bike and with plenty of time to think about the race, my nutrition, my bike, what to wear, the weather. Some days, there was too much time to think, but mostly the lack of distraction just before the race was a great way to focus. By the time all the Specialized riders, crew and posse showed up, I was like a horse kicking in her stall.
This year, Specialized
Race morning dawned super early. Since I won last year, I got a great line up on the front row next to Dave Wiens. It was warmer than last year, so I started the race in my regular kit, plus arm warmers and a Buff under my helmet. I knew the course this year and had the key time splits memorized, so I did not have to tape a course profile to my top tube this year. I knew Amanda Carey had peaked for this race as well and would be stiff competition. I did not know about the rest of the field and was really just trying to focus on my race instead of reacting to other athletes. The gun went off and we were soon climbing the first hill up St. Kevin's. Amanda was stuck to me like glue. I tried to shake her a few times up that hill with no success. She sat in with a group of about 5 other guys until the next climb. I pushed again and we shook some of the guys. I got a small gap on Amanda, but she clawed right back up before the Powerline descent. I relaxed a bit on the descent in order to get through safely. The next road section through Pipeline Aid Station and all the way to Twin Lakes Aid station found us together playing a bit of cat and mouse. I ate, drank, relaxed and mentally prepared myself for the 3200 ft Columbine ascent. At mile 40 Amanda and I were still together pushing each other to a record breaking time.
Greg was my official crew for feeds and time splits and was ripping between aid stations on his motorcycle. He'd gone out the day before and scoped all the aid stations and agreed where he'd be for hand offs. We practiced with musette bags to keep the feeds fast and rolling. I had never used a musette, but it worked great. LT100 is definitely a mountain bike race with road tactics mixed in. This year I was experiencing that first hand with the feeds and with a group of riders sitting in for the first 40 miles. I actually enjoyed the strategy and tactics and was ready to hit the big climb hard to see if I could open a gap there.
I punched hard at the bottom of Columbine and did not look back. Well, I looked back a little to see where Amanda was. I lost sight of her due to the switchbacks in the trees, but kept pushing, focusing on a good spin and keeping the odometer rolling. I started catching a few guys and moved up into the 20's for placing. I felt as if this was the decisive place in the race and treated it as a bit of a time trial. Near the steepest part on the top, I was starting to cramp a bit and kept hammering Endurolytes, drinking and trying to keep on top of nutrition. The top of the climb is still just the 1/2 way point, so it's a fine line between pushing hard and burying yourself too deep in the cave. At the turnaround, I looked at my Suunto. I was 8 minutes ahead of record breaking pace. I could not believe it. I began to calculate the time until I saw Amanda again. I calculated that I had put about 5 or 6 minutes into her on the climb. I did not take chances on the descent with uphill traffic, loose gravely corners and 50 miles to go. At the Twin Lakes Aid station, Greg was there again and I could see the excitement in his eyes when he realized I was alone and had finally shaken Amanda.
I am forever the pessimist and would not settle for the 10 minute gap I had opened. Twin Lakes to Pipeline is the really windy part of the course. It was a headwind, of course. I found one other lonely rider out there. Well, I had to pin it for about 20 minutes to finally catch up to him. We got to ride together for about 20 more minutes, which doesn't seem like much, but it was really nice to have company out there. You really feel alone in your suffering, so just having someone else there suffering too takes a bit of the edge off. I had seen Ned Overend ascending just after I turned around at the top of Columbine. I was confused as to why he was behind me, but also excited that he would probably catch me and we could ride together.
I waited and looked behind me. Ned never came. The back story is that in the first 45 minutes of the race, Ned was with the top 5 guys including Todd Wells and Levi. Todd and Levi got tangled up and Todd flatted and broke 6 spokes. Ned, the ultimate teammate, gave Todd his wheel and rode 15 miles on a broken wheel. He made it to the Pipeline aid and the only wheels in the Specialized crew area were mine. Ned took my wheel, then waited for me to roll through to make sure I would not need it. He gets my vote for the Gentleman's Award for this race. The even better part is that he spent the rest of the race trying to catch up to me, but could not. So I did not truly beat Ned Overend fair and square, but I did gap him on the 2nd half of the course!
Back to the race, heading up Powerline at mile 80 was pretty torturous for me. I had been flirting with cramps since Columbine and digging really, really deep. Powerline is very, very steep at the bottom. I started to power the pedals and felt the cramps coming again. I decided to play it safe and get off my bike. I did not want to end up with full blown cramps writhing on the side of the trail. I put my ego aside and my adventure racing skills to use. I walked up Powerline, but I walked hard and tried to open up my stride in order to keep a decent pace. It held off the cramps and I was able to drink while walking. Back on the bike, I was in the home stretch, but still with over an hour to go. I had my eye on the watch trying to calculate the record time. I must have been too stupid from lack of oxygen because I couldn't really figure out how much time I had left.
I was on my own at the top of the last big climb. I needed water and there was a mini aid station coming up. I had to step off the bike to fill my bottle and as soon as I put my foot on the ground, my calf fully seized! I fell over with my bike on top of me. The aid station volunteers stared at me in disbelief as I rubbed the cramp away. I asked for electrolytes and after a brief shuffling of items, they presented me with a salt shaker. Well, not exactly what I was looking for, but it couldn't hurt. I cocked my head back and took a few big shakes straight into my mouth. I should have tossed a bit over my shoulder for good luck as well! I got back on the bike and began the last sketchy descent. This is the place where many weary riders get lazy and end up flatting on the rocky descent. It felt great to go downhill and I carefully hopped the rocks and ruts and got through clean.
The mind numbing Boulevard section back into town was all that was left. The race is actually 103 miles and let me tell you, those extra three feel like an eternity. I stole another glance backwards on the road before turning onto the last grinder hill. No one in sight. You can smell the barn at this point, but it still seems to take forever to get there. The film crew moto was with me at this point and I could not muster a smile, comment or even a glance. I had my head down, there was snot all over my top tube and I was completely spent. It wasn't pretty, but I wanted that record. I stared at my odometer and kept glancing at my Suunto to check the race time. I knew the record was within reach, but did not want to let up at all.
As I crested the very last hill and turned onto 5th street, a bunch of high school girls started running next to me screaming and yelling. It was the Malone Cross Country team and they were going crazy for me. I wanted to say something back, but no words would come. All I could muster was a big smile. I hope they realized how they helped push me over that last hill. I could finally see it now. 6th and Harrison with the red carpet and the finish banner. It still looked really far away. The film guy on the moto said, "come on Rebecca, only 6 more blocks." Head down, shift to a bigger gear and go. I had ridden this finishing stretch multiple times visualizing this moment. A crowd was there waiting, the time was ticking and I felt like I was going so,so slowly. I knew I had the win and the record and as I rolled over the carpet, I was so spent I could not even raise my arms in victory. I hope the huge smile on my face was enough to show my utter elation.
Greg was the first one to approach me and give me a hug as i slumped over my handle bars. Being able to share the day with him was incredible. He's a 24 hour world champ as well and we race together all the time. He knows from the look on my face how I'm feeling. He knew I was digging deep and I think he might have burned more calories than I did during the race. Thank you, Greg!
As I sit back and think about the day, I was super prepared in every way. My training, my bike, my course preparation, mental preparation were all dialed for this one day. However, when people say, "I knew you would win," I have to laugh. I did not know I would win. I knew I had prepared myself to the best of my ability, but that does not take into account the preparation that other athletes do, the mechanicals that can happen, the crashes, the wind, getting sick, etc. I was absolutely ready for this race and it came together on the right day. I attribute the record and the win to great preparation, but also a little bit of luck and a whole lot of suffering.
Thanks to everyone for sharing the experience with me. It was an awesome day that will be etched in my mind for a very long time. Let's hope that 7:47.35 record stays etched in the books for a good long while as well!
And many thanks for the video experience
The questions have been flowingAugust 9, 2010
The questions have been flowing in and I must say that they get better every month. Thanks for everyone's entries, I love reading them and laughing. This month there was one question that stood out to me. Congratulations to our July winner Ganesh Harinath on winning your new Smith Sunglasses!
Q: I'd like to know... what's the aspect of your life that is most transferable to people like me, who work in business? Are there any lessons you've learned in your amazing career as a professional athlete that is portable enough for someone like me, a young business person, to apply to my own life?
A: It’s very simple, but seems to take years to learn. It’s the same stuff they teach you in kindergarden. Try hard, never quit, surround yourself with good people, treat others as you would like to be treated, choose a career/activities that you are passionate about and never, never quit.
I know I said “never quit” twice, but that seems to be one of the main keys to success that I’ve learned. Even when something seems impossible and they are not going well, just keep working and many times your persistence will pay off in the end. I’ve won many races after being sick, being slow, getting flat tires, but just plugging along.
The giveaways are going great and we are excited to announce the August contest prize from Hammer Nutrition, a full recovery package! As always, I will choose the best question that lands in my email inbox. So ask away and send them in to email@example.com
Athletes have no trouble pushing themselves during workouts and putting in tough training days. However, this is only part of the equation. Many of us fall short in the recovery process. You can train like a champion, but if you do not recover like one as well, you're not squeezing 100% of the benefit out of your workouts. Training and breaking down muscle is just step #1. Where you actually get stronger and faster is then allowing your muscles to recover from that training effort. It's taken me years to figure this out, but I'm finally learning to take my recovery as seriously as my training.
The best question this month will win some of my favorite recovery tools.
Hammer Nutrition Recoverite is my recovery drink of choice. I make up a shake immediately after every hard workout and race. It restores gylcogen stores and starts to rebuild muscle tissue right away.
My favorite Recoverite recipe after a freezing spring ride in the mountains: strawberry Recoverite mixed with hot cocoa.
We will also throw in the Super Antioxidant and the AO Booster too! So you will have all your nutritional recovery needs met. All you have to do is get out and train!
The second essential recovery item that I can't live without are Skins compression tights. These babies are scientifically engineered with gradient compression to provide the correct level of surface pressure to specific body parts. What all this does is improve circulation to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and remove metabolic waste. You recover faster. I wear these after races, on the plane, between stages in a multi-day event. There are a bunch of compression products out there, but Skins is the only one with hard science behind their designs. If you win this Hammer and Skins recovery package, you are guaranteed to be faster! Below you can see me drinking Recoverite before I even take off my filthy kit after a stage of the Cape Epic. Send your best and most creative questions to firstname.lastname@example.org for your shot to win!
It's been awhileJuly 26, 2010
It's been awhile since I have caught up and written some sort of blog that is remotely entertaining! The last two weeks have been full of riding, some racing, and some relaxing at home. As you probably know, the Cascade Creampuff 100 was a tremendous success and a great launching pad for me going into Leadville. There are some race details and results posted on their website , as well as a few nice photos. From there I catapulted into PR world in Keystone, CO for the Specialized dealer event. This is one of the most fun trips for me ever year. Seeing, riding, and just hanging out with the dealers is a great little mid-summer vacation. The riding in Colorado was epic, the new Epic 29er was epic, and the well you know what I mean! The boys from Bicycle Therapy have quite a photo gallery up on Flickr to check out too.
Today is probably the first time that I will be racing at home that I can remember. It is the annual Whit Henry Memorial Galena Grinder race. Whit was a local mountain biker who passed away in a car accident at a very young age. The whole valley comes out and races and enjoys the trails at Galena Lodge. The marathon race is 46 miles, and has tons of climbing and some pretty stiff out of town competition. I'm really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, making breakfast at home, and then swimming in my favorite swimming hole afterwards!
I am also working on a new website as well. A new design, more features, and a better more functional layout. We will be continuing the giveaways, adding gear reviews, and adding some more video features too. So keep an eye out. Until then, make sure to get your entries in for the Ask Reba July Giveaway for some sweet Smith Sunglasses.
Two weeks agoJuly 6, 2010
Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get to attend the SRAM
I left the Era and the 29er hardtail at home and instead had a Safire and Enduro that I was playing around with all week. It was a totally different style of riding and really good skills session for me to ride with Rad Ross Schnell, Kirt and Lindsay Voreis, Greg Herbold and Nathan Riddle. I was definitely schooled, but loved watching and learning some downhill skills from them. The graduation from our 4 day riding camp was to race the Ashland Super D. It's a 13 mile descent with wicked fast single track, a few little jumps and lots of tight switchbacks. The riding was not as technical as a traditional downhill, but you could definitely scare yourself and the speed was only limited by your own fear. I rode the Safire for the race and it was the perfect choice for this course. I entered the women's pro division and ended up finishing a respectable 4th place in a strong field. I was a couple of minutes off Kelli Emmett's winning time. I was elated to get down in one piece, but as soon as I was finished with my run, I wanted to head back up for another one to try to go faster! Even though these Super D races are not my forte, I love taking part in them and pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone. Thanks SRAM for a really great experience!
Home Sweet HomeJune 25, 2010
After a month filled with a five day stage race in Australia, a seven day stage race in Pennsylvania, a week long product launch, riding camp and race in Oregon with SRAM, I am finally home in Idaho to regroup and recover. It was an intense training block, with some important work thrown in and some of the most amazing riding I've done, but I was so ready to get home to my own bed and some down time. I've only been home 10 days but I already feel rejuvenated.
Lately, I've spent my time at the bike shop getting my rigs back in top shape, gardening at home, baking bread and riding on my favorite local trails with friends. Summer is officially here after a cold, wet spring. The flowers are starting to bloom and the dirt on the trails is in perfect condition. I never get tired of the 360 degrees of breathtaking scenery. This is my favorite time of year because there is still snow on the high peaks, the mornings are cool and the afternoons are warm. Flip flops and shorts are coming out of storage and I can ride without shell gloves and knee warmers now! Everyone in town seems to be in a happy summer mood. Being a pro cyclist living in a ski resort town is often a challenge. I cannot ride outside year round and there are many really cold spring and fall days where I'm cursing the weather and it takes a healthy dose of motivation just to get out the door. However, by the time summer really arrives, I am so motivated to ride and so inspired that the memories of the sacrifices I made in the winter melt away.
The two long stage races this month have taken a toll on me physically and I'm pretty tired right now. That was the plan though. My coach, Matthew designed the early part of the season this way on purpose. It's always mentally a struggle to do the building up and breaking down to gain peak fitness later in the season. I know from experience that this process works, but it still always smacks me in the spring and self doubt hovers around this time of year. I have done four long stage races already this season and they have been incredible experiences. The plan now is to focus on some shorter events, stay in the country and ramp it up for the Leadville Trail 100 in August. The next race on the roster is the Firecracker 50 Miler USA Cycling Marathon Nationals on July 4th. Until then, I get to stay home and focus on training and recovery and enjoying Ketchum.
Don't forget I also host a monthly sponsor gear giveaway called "Ask Reba
Finally, this is your last chance to enter "Ride With Reba" mountain bike sweepstakes! Click here to enter
The TSE wrapped up on SaturdayJune 14, 2010
The TSE wrapped up on Saturday and I struggled through another day of being allergic to Pennsylvania. I finished the race in 3rd, which was a bit disappointing for me. Not because of the placing, but because I did not ride like myself last week. I wasn’t really able to race like I wanted to and had to limp through a few of the stages just to finish. The race itself was one of the best stage races I’ve done in my life. The organization was spot on. The prizes were incredible and every single racer got a sweet jersey in their race bag. I was blown away with how good the trails and the course design were. We rode on new trails every day and every stage was completely different. Staying in the scout camp with the mice and lots of other racers added to the ambiance. I got to know some great East Coast riders and work my skills on their trails. My asthma and performance issues were a disappointment, but the race and the experience definitely were not. Thanks to Greg’s parents, Glenn and Brenda for showing up and to my Mom for coming out to volunteer.
Recovery from the hard week is underway, the millions of mosquito bites are healing and I’m already on the next trip. I had about 24 hours at home to clean all the musty, swampy stench out of my clothes and head back out the door. I’m in Ashland, OR this week for a SRAM product launch and media rides. We’ll have four days of fully supported shuttled riding on the sweet downhill trails here. SRAM has invited a bunch of media and set up everyone’s bikes with XX, XO, Avid and other sweet parts. My role is to ride with the journalists and have fun. My accommodations are a huge step up from the scout camp and I doubt my hotel has mice or bed bugs! The riding experience will be completely different and mostly gravity fed. I’ll be riding a Safire and and Enduro this week and learning how to sit back and let the bike do the work instead of my legs. At the end of the trip, I’ll be racing the Ashland Super D and see if I’ve learned how to go fast this week. I’m sure we’ll have some great video and photos from the event, so I will post some of that stuff later.
or anyone reading this, our new Ask Reba monthly giveaway for June has started. All you do is write me a question that you’ve been dying to have answered. At the end of the month, I answer some of the questions and the BEST question wins free gear from Adventure Medical Kits and Beyond Coastal. To check out the answers to last month’s questions and the winning question, scroll down the blog posting! There were some great questions. Thanks to everyone who wrote in.
Hello!June 6, 2010
What fun week of racing. Spending 7 days in a cabin wasn't nearly this fun when I was a kid. I made so many new friends, re-connected with old friends, and can't wait to do this race again next year. Pennsylvania has incredible riding, so ignore those people who make fun of the Amish.
Stage 5 was fun mini XC racing, while Stage 6 was back to the asthma attacks, struggling to breath the thick, soupy air and just survival riding again for me. It was really disappointing because the stage was really technical riding that required power and effort that I did not have. I was flat as a pancake and could not put in much effort without wheezing and gasping. So, I did a fair bit of walking, struggling, and a bit of falling on slippery rocky terrain. I was basically riding like a grandmother. I could not really race and was again just trying to get to the end of the day in one piece.
I'm a bit baffled by my intensely adverse reaction to the air here. I can ride in Leadville at 10,000 ft and not feel a thing. Coming down here where the air is thick, warm and moist would seem to be easier, but for me it has the opposite affect. The locals are all saying this is a really bad pollen year. The medics also tell me that when it rains, like it did last night, it makes the pollen worse. Stage 2 and 6 seemed to be similar weather combinations and were the hottest, most humid days and the two days where I had a huge amount of trouble with my breathing. I have not felt super fast the whole week, but those two asthma days were beyond anything I've ever felt before. I made it into the finish, so I'm still officially in the race and solidly in 3rd. There is still one more 25 mile stage tomorrow, but for me it will have to be a casual social ride. The men's GC is hotly contested and 2nd - 4th are separated by seconds, so they will have an intense horse race. Greg is solidly in the lead for single speed and the women's GC is also fairly settled, so it seems as if tomorrow will be a fun ride for many people and a nice cap to the week of hard work.
The Stage that Almost Never WasJune 3, 2010
11 AM seems like a very civilized time to start a bike race. It was a remote start, so we all had to drive about an hour to get to Raystown State Park for some sweet IMBA built trails that were made specifically for mountain bikes. The description was 35 miles of fast, flowy, 90% single track. Greg and I packed up the land yacht rental car and left the scout camp at 9 AM to allow plenty of time to get there and warm up. About 40 minutes into our drive through beautiful, peaceful, green Amish country, Greg remembered that he had forgotten his cycling shoes. We busted a U turn and I called the race director to tell him that we had to go back to camp. All the other cars and bus heading to the start passed us as we headed back. Greg apologized, I settled into the fact that I would not get to warm up before this stage if we made it at all. He drove like a mad man back to the camp, got the shoes and turned it around again. Most of the drive back was on two lane country roads with many, many Amish horse and buggies on the road. The speed limit was around 45 and Greg was ranging between 90 MPH on the open parts and about 15 MPH when a line of cars would get caught behind a horse and buggy. I had to laugh at the different lifestyles that were coming into contact on that road. Us risking our lives in a huge gas guzzler to get to a bike race and them just wanting to live a peaceful life and deliver their eggs. We kept calling the race director with reports of our progress and he kept announcing to the racers to keep waiting.
We peeled into the parking lot and ripped our bikes out of the car. As soon as they saw we were there, they announced 5 minutes to start. I rolled to the start line and realized I did not have my helmet on and ran back to the car and slapped it on. No warm up, no time to take a breath, but at least the race directors and all the other athletes were relaxed enough to wait for us and let us start the stage.
The riding was probably the best cross country type course I've ever done. It was almost all smooth, fast single track and reminded me of my home trails so much. I felt really comfortable with the style of riding. There were tons of whoops, bermed corners and pump track style riding. The trail was the type of trail you could ride up or down and have just as much fun. There was climbing, but it was all fast, short power climbing, so you could carry speed over most of the crests. I passed Karen, who is in 2nd overall, about 10 minutes into the stage. After that I was mostly alone for the next hour until aid station 1. Someone told me that Selene was just 45 seconds up the trail. I had been riding fast and having fun and not really thinking about the race. I was still going as hard as I could, but the trail was so great that I wasn't thinking about my placing at all. I was just grooving and feeling one with my bike! I caught up to Selene after she took a brief wrong turn. She made up for that by barreling past me on an uphill. I caught her back at aid station 2 about 10 miles from the finish. At that point, I started to take a few more risks on the high speed trail and see if I could open a gap and go for a stage win. It was such fun riding that I figured I had nothing to lose. I ended up winning the stage by less than 2 minutes. Selene was 2nd and Karen was 3rd. The overall standings did not change, but I was able to pull myself about 7 minutes closer to 2nd overall. I'm still not feeling 100%, but the asthma is under control at this point and the super fun trails are making up for the lack of spark in my legs.
A Glimpse of My Usual SelfJune 2, 2010
After stage 2 where I thought the medics might have to pull me off the course, I felt much more like myself in stage 3. The weather gods smiled on me and gave us 15 degree cooler temperatures and rain. It settled the dust and pollen that have been wreaking havoc on my lungs and made the temperature much more bearable for me. I started conservatively on this 45 mile long stage because I was fearful of more asthma attacks. After about 30 minutes, I started to feel like I could put a bit more pressure on the pedals, so I amped up the speed a bit. I was also unsure of what a whole day of oxygen debt had done to my muscles. Most of today's stage was fire road riding, so it was much easier for me to meter my efforts and ride consistently instead of the punchy, aggressive style of riding from stage 2. I was able to catch Karen, the race leader about 45 minutes into the stage. I was really happy to see her and felt like I was at least racing a bit today instead of just surviving. I was absolutely not 100%, but I also never considered lying down in the dirt in the fetal position. So that's a big step up! I ended up pulling away from Karen, but never did catch up to Selene. I finished the stage in 2nd for the women. Despite a better effort today, I am still in 3rd position due to all the time I lost yesterday. I'm about 15 minutes out of 2nd and 25 minutes out of 1st. It's a huge gap, but hopefully consistency will pay off. Mostly, I am really thankful for the rain, the cooler temps and being able to see a glimpse of my racing self again.
Today's stage is 38 miles of fast, flowing single track. They told us to wear hydration packs because the trail is so fast and fun that it's hard to find a place to reach down and grab a water bottle. Greg had an awesome day yesterday and took back the single speed category lead. He also loved the rain and cooler temps and did not have any of the cramping he suffered from yesterday. I will keep you posted on today's event when I get done! Thanks to CyclingDirt.org for the interview as well.
I will tell you that I was thinking aboutJune 1, 2010
I will tell you that I was thinking about the great "Ask Reba" questions while I was in the pain cave during the second stage of Trans-Sylvania Epic today. I cannot remember having a more challenging and difficult day on the bike. There were quite a few times that your questions of "how do you keep motivated" kept popping into my head. So, I want to thank all of you for motivating ME today. I needed the help and in a strange way, your questions came to me while I was out there feeling all alone. The bottom line is that today's stage was a 40 mile, mostly single track stage with lots of climbing. It was REAL mountain biking and gorgeous trail. However, I knew from the very first hill that I did not have a lot of punch in my legs. I was
OK with that and settled into a pace I felt I could sustain. The top two women passed me and I struggled to hang on, but could not. I felt very flat and very hot. About 45 minutes into the race and on the 2nd climb I started to have trouble with my asthma anytime the trail turned upwards. I had forgotten my inhaler this morning, so I had to stop and get off my bike multiple times just to catch my breath and settle down. I was in survival mode and really scared without an inhaler. I pulled my pace way back and tried to ride as smoothly as possible when I could. I had to let the downhills rip because I was so hopelessly slow on the uphills. Aid station 1 was at 15 miles and I made it there and got an inhaler from the medics. I also took time to put water on my head, fill bottles and was in survival mode much more than race mode. 15 more miles of hard single track lay between me and aid station 2. Even with the inhaler, I was wheezing anytime there was an uphill. I walked, tried to pedal, tried to keep my nutrition up and really struggled to get to mile 30 and aid station 2. Chris Eatough, 6 x 24 hour solo mtb world champion was out on the trails filming. He found me out there floundering and shadowed me until the aid station just to make sure I was OK.
I was grateful for the company and the peace of mind that if something really went bad, he could go for help. I seriously considered dropping out of the race at mile 30, but the last 10 miles was fire road, so I slowly pedaled on and limped into the finish after about 4.5 hours. The course was incredible, the aid station volunteers, the medics and all the other concerned racers were awesome today. I finished 3rd in the women's division and lost a bunch of time off the lead. However, I'm grateful that I stuck it out and finished. I do not know how I am going to feel tomorrow. I went very deep into the hole today and am definitely not riding like myself. My bike was perfect, but my body was in revolt. Right now, I'm focusing on a good recovery and getting to bed early. Tomorrow is a new day, a new stage and my brain is still very ready to throw down and race myself back into contention. My hope is that the body will follow the brain's lead. Thanks for reading!
Day 0: Travel JinxJune 1, 2010
In my last post, I talked about how slick I was with packing my bike and how smoothly my airline bike experience has been for a really long time. Well, that comment smacked me in the rear on the way to PA. Our routing was Sun Valley, Salt Lake City, Altanta, Harrisburg via plane. Rental car from Harrisburg, PA then 90 miles to State College and the Seven Mountains Scout camp. We left Sun Valley at 9 AM Mountain time and finally arrived at camp at 2:00 AM Eastern Time. Our very long excursion for stage 0 included running to more than one plane connection, waiting in the Harrisburg airport for 3 hours for our lost bikes and bags to hopefully show up. They DID, which was a huge relief. We planned to just get a hotel in Harrisburg since it was super late and just head to the race in the morning. The TT stage did not start until 3pm, so that would leave us time to have a good breakfast and hit the road. We drove and checked no less than 15 hotels from Harrisburg to State College and there were volleyball tournaments, weddings and who knows what else, but ALL the hotels in the state of Pennsylvania seemed to be full. We had to forgo a nice shower and clean bed and just head straight to the scout camp and our awaiting bunks. The teeny road sign to Sand Mountain Road was nearly impossible to see in the dark. We made a few passes on the curvy, forested road before we found the turn. Then we began the hunt to find Rimmel Lodge on the hand drawn (not to scale!) map of the scout camp.
The accommodations at Seven Mountain Scout camp are a bit rustic. I'm in Rimmel Lodge with about 15 other athletes from CA, CO, MI and of course PA! It's communal living at it's finest among a bunch of adults who have regular jobs, can afford hotels and would probably prefer to camp outside than sleep inside a bunk house. But we're here together tuning bikes, talking about racing and getting to know each other. We have a shared kitchen, although dinners are provided family style for all the racers in the dining hall. We have one bathroom for all of us in the lodge. I picked up matches today at the store to donate the the group facilities, if you know what I mean. A short walk away are gang showers with cold water only. This is the East Coast, so of course there are bugs here. A multitude of flying, crawling, buzzing things that just want to say hello. There are no screens on the windows in our lodge, so we need to keep the doors and windows closed at night to keep the bugs out. I KNOW there are other, larger furry critters around the facility, so food, gels and other stuff are hopefully sealed up enough. I am definitely checking my shoes before I put them on each time. The camp vibe will definitely add color and camaraderie to the race.
Yesterday's TT was a blast. It was a 10 mile sampling of what we have in store. Some hard fire road climbing punctuated by difficult single track, then some really, really fast single track, followed by some more really hard single track. I started out last of the women's field and starting one minute behind me was the first single speed male. Greg was starting just a few minutes behind me as well and the open men were last. My goals for the day were to not get caught by the single speeders or any men, to test my heart rate and intensity levels to see how recovered I am from Australia and to really focus on riding this technical single track smoothly and efficiently. I was able to achieve all those goals and felt like I had a great ride. I finished the TT in 3rd for the Open Women, about a minute off the lead. While I always race to win, I was still really pleased with how my body responded, how I rode and how I handled the little appetizer for the week of riding. It's a little weird to race a TT because you have no gauge of the other riders, no pacing to go off of and absolutely no idea how you are doing. I am predicting that the top three women will have a good, competitive race for the next six days. It will force me to really be on my toes and make the most of my time here. Greg (Club Ride Apparel
Stage 2 is a 40 miles stage that I'm predicting will take me around 5 hours. The trails here take time and the temperatures are HOT, so I'm taking a bit more fuel and water just to be on the safe side. If the TT is any indication of what this week will be like, I'm stoked.
I'm just done packing all my gearJune 1, 2010
I'm just done packing all my gear and am flying to PA today to go to college. State College, PA, where the riding is rumored to be "typical" East Coast roots, slippery rocks, and tight trees. So I'm going to school to learn to ride that stuff. The Trans-Sylvania Epic
I was packing my bike last night for the flight. Taking off the pedals, derailleur, handlebar and other bits and padding it up and arranging it like a jigsaw puzzle in the case. After 10 years of adventure racing and 5 years of bike racing, I have taken my bike apart far more than anyone else I know. Most people don't break their bikes down into pieces very often. Most pro road riders and many mtb pros have mechanics doing all of this for them. Me, I always do it myself and I've gotten pretty fast at it. In all the years of travel, I've rarely had a problem with bike damage or luggage loss. Hopefully I'm not jinxing myself by mentioning this, but it's a pretty remarkable track record. The travel and all of the logistics that go along with racing are an art form. It has taken me years to perfect the system and make it as seamless as possible. Of course, every race and every travel experience is different, but the equipment, nutrition and most of the personal items don't change much, so you can sort of mindlessly put it all into bags.
This race coming up will be a bit like going to summer camp. The race is staged out of the Seven Mountains Scout Camp near State College, PA. All the athletes are staying in boy scout bunk houses with shared kitchens and bathrooms. It is much better than sleeping on the ground, but not quite as posh as some of the race accommodations I've been exposed to. I've had to pack a sleeping bag, sheets, towel, my own cup and bowl and, of course, ear plugs! I'm going in with an open adventurous mind, but I am hoping it's comfortable and spacious enough for all the racers to recover and have a bit of peace and quiet in between stages. I am looking forward to this type of race and it is rumored there is a phone and possibly internet at camp, so stay tuned!
As I sat on the floorMay 17, 2010
As I sat on the floor in the Sydney airport about to begin the super long journey back to Idaho I reflected on this week's incredible journey. The Ingkerreke Commercial Red Centre Enduro is in the record books and hopefully the 5 days of hard racing is stored in my legs for further use in the season. The final stage was a 45 km mass start and might have been my favorite stage of all. It's hard to decide because every single day was unique riding with a ton of single track through wonderful desert terrain. The men's field had changed yellow jersey wearers nearly every day, so the final rankings came down to the last day. The women's race was also fairly close with just about 10 minutes separating 1-3 places in the overall. I was sitting in 2nd at the start of the last stage with just a one second margin over third. Given the crazy terrain and tire eating rocks, it was still anyone's race. I felt strong on the last day, but not fast. I could tell in the first 30 minutes that I was not going to set the course on fire that day. I still rode hard and kept it in the back of my mind that a flat tire would be all it would take to change the rankings. The course was really technical today with some new sections of single track that were really hard to follow. There were also some rocky, Moab-type sections with small drops and some exciting terrain. The race director, John Jacoby, also dealt up a classic hike-a-bike section for a few kilometers at the very end of the stage. Since I know John so well, I knew he was loving giving the racers a super hard finish just to top off a grueling week. I loved the last section where there was virtually no trail and you were running and riding through the desert scrub trying to find a clean line. It definitely reminded me of my adventure racing days and I was loving it. It was one of the hottest days of the week and drank all my water and was still wanting more. We finished the race right near the Todd River and the location of the original spring that Alice Springs is named after. Rapid Ascent had cold watermelon and cheers waiting for everyone at the finish line. Gracie, who is 1/2 my age, won the stage and moved up into 2nd overall. Jodie finished off a super solid week and held onto her first place finish. She will be heading to Europe shortly for the remaining world cup XC races. I finished 3rd and was really happy with my performance. I would have liked to have been able to drum up a bit more top end speed for some of the shorter stages, but I know it's early season and this race is preparation for bigger goals later in the year. I was super impressed with the race organization and the level of competition in Australia. It was also really fun to see the Aussie spirit alive and well. People here just seem unbelievably happy to be riding their bikes and pushing themselves. They have a way of being super competitive, but with a smile on their face and a kind word as they pass you.
Hello again from Australia,May 12, 2010
Day 2, Stage 3
I'm glad I'm riding the full suspension Era. I was considering bringing my Specialized Stumpy HT 29 and now I'm really glad I didn't. I am using all of my suspension in this race and I'm glad for it. Stage 3 was another 50 km cross country type stage that was at least 50 % rocky single track. It seems relatively flat out here in the Red Centre of Australia, but the riding does not feel flat. The hills are really small, but they are relentless and technical. The single track here is nothing like the buff, smooth trails at home. It's super fun racing that is keeping me on my toes, but it makes it very hard to eat and drink. Before day 1, the medical volunteers gave a speech and suggested taking twice as much water as we expected to need. I figured I knew enough about racing to know how to hydrate so I did not follow her instructions on day 1 and I paid for it. For day 2, I wore a Hydrapak and left bottles at the aid stations. The air here is so dry, it just sucks the water right out of you. I was happy to have the extra water and I raced better on this stage. I'm not sure if it was the extra hydration, getting over the jet lag or just getting into the swing of racing again. Regardless of the reason, I felt much more like myself racing today and had a better result. The stage took me just under 3 hours which was good enough to move me up one space in the general ranking to 3rd position. The afternoon was packed full of bike cleaning, maintenance and packaging it up to be loaded onto the truck for tomorrow's stage. The trucks will drive 80 km out into the desert and drop our bikes off in the sand. There, the race director, John will sleep out under the stars and guard our bikes for the long stage.
Day 3, Stage 4
The 4 AM alarm clock wasn't necessary. I'm normally a hideously cranky morning person who dreads early race starts. However, I think jet lag has hold of me and I've been waking up at around 4 AM every morning anyway. So this morning it was no big deal to be ready for the 5:15 AM bus ride to the start. Our bikes were packed into the trucks and transported the night before. I had no idea this was the transportation arrangement for our bikes, so I ended up using hotel towels and electrical tape to package my bike for transport. Most other athletes had brought bubble wrap or more traditional forms of padding.
My bike survived and we arrived on the start line in time to watch the sun coming up through Trephina Gorge. Today's stage was the 98 KM big daddy. John said the tracks were in bad condition and extremely sandy. I was looking forward to a longer stage in hopes that it would play a bit more to my endurance strengths. The first 90 minutes of the stage were incredibly fun. It was like shopping for a line through really open scrub forest and sandy washes. There was no distinct trail, so it was a matter of quick thinking and watching the people in front of you to see which lines were a go. It reminded me of my adventure racing days of hunting for the quickest way from point A to B. I was having fun during this section and was happy jumping on and off my bike, jumping across huge erosion ravines, then jumping back on the bike. I was in the lead for this portion of the race, but then after about 90 minutes I got caught by race leader, Jodie Willett and U23 Australian National champ, Gracie Elvin, who was sitting in 4th in the GC. At this point in the race, we had more than 1/2 the race to go on primarily jeep roads with head winds and multiple deep sand bogs. The three of us made a great team and started working together, trading pulls and finding lines through the sand. The group effort was a huge benefit and way more fun than slogging it out alone through the sand. We all came in relatively close together with Gracie pulling ahead for her first stage win here. The solid effort also moved me up another placing in the GC and I am now sitting in 2nd. The top 4 women are all close. Jodie has a commanding 15 minute lead and I have about 6 minutes on 3rd, but with 3 more stages still to come and the Australian tire eating rocks out there waiting for us, anything could happen. Many riders finished today cursing the sand and the wind and hating the course. I'm not saying I had fun pushing my bike through the sand, but it was beautiful scenery and exciting racing.
Stage one and twoMay 11, 2010
Stage one and two are in the books and I feel really good about my performance. The first stage was about 45 km of technical, rocky, sandy singletrack. It was actually a blast and I really enjoyed the stage. The riding was one of the best XC courses I've ever done. The rains last month made the grass grow really tall, so there were tons of hidden ruts and large rocks jumping out at the last second. It was for sure super focused riding for nearly the whole 3 hours. The scenery was really beautiful and I even had a kangaroo jump out in front of me! I'm satisfied with my placing and now know what type of riders I'm up against. The three women that were in front of me today are some of the best XC racers in the country, including the marathon national champ and world cup racer, and the U23 XC national champ. The women's field is super strong, but I know there are still many more hours of racing and I hope to get some time back in the longer stage. There were multiple athletes carrying and walking their bikes due to flats, broken frames and mechanicals. There were also a couple of broken people who suffered crashes. The desert out here eats bicycles and people, so I feel really grateful to have made it through the day with no crashes, no mechanicals and in a decent overall position. I was about 8 minutes back from the leader, so it's still anyone's race.
I felt relatively good for most of the stage and was super happy to be racing. I had a fun day, but definitely had to throttle it back a bit due to the heat and the early season racing. I ran out of water and the last hour I was making sure not to go too far into the tank and save a bit for the rest of the week. I spent the afternoon in my room, pounding fluids, drinking Hammer Recoverite and getting the nutrition back in. The Skins compression tights went on and I joined many of the racers for a leg soak in the cold pool at the hotel. I also spent a fair bit of time using tweezers to pick multiple thorns out of my tires and inspecting them for cuts and wear. The Specialized Armadillo Elite's had multiple sidewall scuffs and thorns, but they've survived so far.
Stage two was in the afternoon. It was a 300 meter TT hill climb and it hurt! It was a traditional countdown and just over a minute of pain. It was sort of fun because spectators were lining the road and cheering the whole time. I finished up 3rd in the hill climb and got myself a 5 second bonus for that! I'll take whatever I can get!
You can find the Rapid Ascent race story for the day here:
Since I've written lastMay 10, 2010
Since I've written last, there have been a number of happenings. First, I made it through another frigid Idaho winter, thanks to the great month long break I was able to take in Argentina! It was the first time I've been able to ride that early in the winter season. I am now at the point where I'm hoping to see those early season miles pay off. Only time and race results will tell! It's still variable spring weather at home where it's 70 degrees one day with flowers popping up in my garden, then 45 and sleeting rain the next day. All my ski gear is officially put away, but the cold weather riding gear is not.
The good news is that I have escaped once again and am in sunny Alice Springs Australia for the Red Centre Enduro, a 5 day mountain bike stage race in the middle of the sandy, isolated Outback. I just got here yesterday and already had my first kangaroo siting! I have been to Australia many times, including a semester of college here a long time ago. I still remember my wonderment on that first trip as a college student. I was blown away to find that I could go 1/2 a world away and still find that people are generally the same, enjoy similar things and I assimilated easily into this place. I love the laid back nature, the friendly, funny accent and the fact that most people here seem to absolutely love the outdoors and thrive on physical activity. It seems no different this time. I just landed last night after 30 hours of door to door travel. I'm in the center of nowhere, Alice Springs. I unpacked my gear and dragged my tired butt out for a spin to loosen up the travel in my legs. I ended up exploring for 2 hours until sunset on the bike and it got me really excited about the race. This place reminds me of Utah and Arizona with sandy red rock everywhere and desert type riding. The race starts tomorrow and I'll be posting blogs as much as possible during the event on my website.
Other news to tell you about is the successful conclusion of the Mountain Town Movie Tour that I hosted this Spring. Specialized, Ergon, Hammer Nutrition, Adventure Medical Kits and Buff agreed to support this project and helped me bring the Race Across the Sky, Leadville Trail 100 movie to the Rocky Mountain West. I did five shows with this inspirational mountain bike film. I chose to hit Carbondale CO, Missoula MT, Sun Valley ID, Park City UT and Jackson WY. I chose these five places because they are all places I love to ride and I wanted to support their cycling community and bring the film to their towns. The whole tour was 100% a fundraising effort for the International Mountain Bike Association and the local affiliates in each of those towns. All the ticket and raffle sales went directly to help keep mountain biking open and accessible. With all of our efforts and much group collaboration, we were able to raise about $20,000! The tour was a ton of work, but a great experience for me to connect with other passionate riders and be able to hand checks over to those people who really make a difference. Thanks to all the sponsors and volunteers who made the tour possible!
I also have started a monthly give-a-way on my website called ASK REBA! All you have to do is ask me a question to enter yourself to win free gear! This month's initial give away will feature a Hydrapak Morro hydration pack!
Still want more, then come ride with me in Idaho. I also have another give away happening simultaneously for a trip to Sun Valley Idaho to ride with me!
Thanks for reading! Happy Spring!
Was I drunk?April 27, 2010
This Saturday I was in Payson Arizona for the Whiskey 50 miler. I flew into Phoenix to meet up with my good friends and usual crew members Donna and Charles. I spent a day in Phoenix getting the new Stumpjumper 29er HT dialed in and ready to race. I changed out some tires to a beefier tread and sidewall after quizzing a few locals on the rocky, single track course. It is great to be out in the desert heat riding in shorts, slathering on sunscreen and coming out of hibernation from the Idaho winter. The race was held in Prescott, AZ and has a great reputation for drawing over 1000 people to the race and music festival. I met up with more friends from Idaho who race for a new team from my home town, Club Ride Apparel.
We all pre-rode the first four mile climb of the course on Friday just to get a taste of the opening climb and the local single track. I was immediately happy with my choice of bikes. I was riding up little rock ledges on the single track without even thinking about it. The field was shaping up to be a strong showing with my good friend and 24 Hr National champ teammate, Gretchen Reeves, Sarah Kaufman and Sonya Looney for the women's field. Tinker Juarez and a bunch of other hard men were lined up on the front of the line. The start climbed for 4 miles on road before diving into the single track. I got a decent start and entered into the single track right behind Gretchen. I was happy to be racing with her because she's a super strong rider and would be a good gauge for me to check my early season fitness. After coming off a really disappointing race at Sea Otter, I was anxious to see where I really stood in a longer race with more familiar faces. The fact that I was near Gretchen was a boost to my confidence and I spent the next many miles of fast, technical single track really having fun on my bike. The course consists of two really fun single track sections that are split in the middle by a really, really long fire road climb. At the start of the 15 mile climb and the meat of the race, I was told I was 1 or 2 minutes behind Gretchen. I put my head down and setting in for the long grind. I was feeling pretty good and knew this was the part of the race where I needed to push hard to try to catch Gretchen and extend my lead on 3rd and 4th. About 1/2 way up the climb I felt my rear tire skating around a bit. I looked down and it was definitely low. I stopped for a quick inspection and could not find a cut or thorn, so I topped it off with a C02, listened for any air leaks and did not hear any so I jumped back on and kept climbing. At the top of the climb, I was told I was now down about 5 minutes on Gretchen. I knew I had lost time riding a soft tire and stopping for repairs, but I still had a few more miles of climbing before diving into the last 30 minutes of single track. I pushed hard and was really excited to crest the hill and hit the single track. I was having fun on the bike again, but feeling the affects of the hill. The small rollers on the single track were bringing on some cramps, so I pounded my water and Endurolytes and focused on not scrubbing speed on the descent. I was following another racer and just at the moment I was fumbling around eating and drinking, we must have blown past a course marking and onto the wrong trail. We were descending super fast but I started to feel like there were not enough tire tracks on the dirt in front of me. I stopped as another racer came up behind me.
It felt wrong and it was. We all turned around and rode back up the hill. We got back on course but I had blown at least 10 or 15 minutes and I figured I was now in 4th place. To top it off, my rear tire was soft again, so I stopped and put some more air into it. I finished off the rest of the single track and the race and just rode to enjoy the trail and get a great workout for the day. I was a little deflated about the wrong turn and as I expected, I had dropped two places and ended up 4th in the women's field. I found out later that a few other people got lost on course, including Tinker Juarez, who was about to win the race. This was definitely another lesson to me in paying attention and not letting my guard down. I was focusing on descending and eating a the time where I took the wrong turn, but I still need to keep my eyes open.
The good news is that I still won a cool Whiskey 50 flask, although it was presented to us empty! What's up with that? I also got to gauge myself against Gretchen and get a great 50 mile race under my belt. I know that if I had not ridding a soft tire and gotten lost, I would have been much closer to her pace. That alone gives me confidence going into the next races and training blocks.
This morning, I went for a magical run in the desert along side lizards and rabbits. What a change from the cold Spring training in Idaho! The rest of today will be shopping therapy with my friend Donna, then back home to Idaho. It's always great to travel from home and meet up with friends in the desert. Something is soothing about just riding bikes and listening to music with good friends. Thanks for tuning in and be sure to watch where you're going!
I have received quite a few questionsApril 5, 2010
I have received quite a few questions on my Twitter account, and wanted to answer them all individually. Hope this helps, and sorry for the long winded post!
#1: Body position on the bike is key for climbing and descending to maintain traction and stability. Basically, on a steep uphill your body must come forward over the handlebars and front wheel to keep it from popping up and to help maintain climbing grip. If it's technical, standing usually gives you the most control. If it's steep, but non technical, staying seated and crouching your upper body over the handlebars is more efficient and saves energy. One mistake I made early on is seeing a big hill and immediately going into my granny gear. On technical climbing, you need a slightly harder gear to give you the power to push over rocks and other obstacles. If you are in too easy of a gear, you won't be able to power over the tough stuff. Body position for descending is opposite. You need to have your weight back over the rear wheel to avoid stuffing the front wheel into obstacles and going over the bars. A light front wheel on descending helps the bike roll over stuff. Relax and try to let the bike do the work instead of wrestling it yourself. Ned Overend gave me some tips early on and I'm still working on my technical skills, The biggest factor in improving is practice. Find a short stretch of technical terrain and do it over and over again until you learn it. Upgrades for a lower end bike: Drive train and brakes (disc for sure!)
#2 Ha! Good question! Winning's great, but it's not always about that. You never know who is going to show up to a race. Instead focus on doing your best and ignore the competition. It's wasted energy in an endurance race to focus on someone else. I keep tabs on the other racers, but really try to stick to what I know works for me instead of chasing someone else around. You can gain the most time by being consistent in your riding and doing fast pit stops, or not stopping at all. If you have a good crew who can take care of nutrition for you, then you can roll through the pits and exchange food/drink on the go. Even if you have to stop, have your bottles pre mixed and all your food laid out for the whole race so that you don't have to waste time digging through bags and mixing bottles. I have done many races without crew members and I just had my own cooler staged with my stuff in it. Food/drink is very personal, so you have to practice eating on training rides and find things that go down easily, taste good and that you can eat while riding. In a super long race, much of your blood flow is going to your legs, so if you put something difficult to digest into your stomach, your body has to work harder to digest it and it takes energy away from your legs. Simple carbs, proteins and fats are the essential fuel. Minerals and electrolytes are also key. Hammer Nutrition website has some great articles on how much fluid, calories, electrolytes you need in an endurance event. As with the technical riding, you must practice your nutrition as well.
#3 Dressing for different conditions: layering, layering, layering. Over dressing is just as bad as under dressing. Too many clothes and you lose precious fluids in sweat, then the sweat cools and you freeze. Under dressing wastes precious energy shivering and trying to keep warm. I think wool is a great sock and underlayer because it's warm even when wet. I also always ride with a Buff because it's super small and can be used under a helmet really easily. Very thin shell gloves that can come on and off are crucial. I usually have a pair of surgical gloves and a shower cap in my saddle bag or Hydrapak for emergencies. These thin plastic items have been lifesavers many, many times. If your head/hands are warm, it's alot easier to keep moving on a bike. I even stopped by the side of the road in La Ruta one year at the top of a super cold climb and picked up a plastic garbage bag and put it on my head! It was clean and it was so warm! I recommend planning ahead so you don't have to put garbage on your head, but it worked. I also almost always carry a super thin Specialized windbreaker. It's super small and light, so I don't hesitate to put it in my pocket. The bottom line with all this stuff is to find items that are small, but affective so that you will not worry about bringing them with you. In my seatbag: EMT mini multi tool with chain tool, 2 tire irons, tire boot, derailleur hanger, SRAM quick link, Specialized tube, plastic shower cap and surgical gloves for emergency weather, co2 cartridges and co2 inflator head. This is for racing and shorter training rides. If I'm going into the back country for a multi hour ride or doing a stage race, then I use a Hydrapak and have another tube, a Specialized mini pump, Buff, shell gloves, windbreaker, wool undershirt, extra food, cell phone and a small Adventure Medical Kit. I consider this stuff essential and I don't mind the training weight. I use Hydrapak for racing and for long rides because in an endurance event, just reaching down to grab a bottle is too tiring. I will always drink more if I have a hydration tube right near my mouth. The Chute and the Flume are super minimal and light. I use either of these for long races. For more substantial rides, I like the Reyes. These packs are simple and light and the bladder can be turned inside out to clean. The valve on the hose is the best one I've used. If your drinking system is annoying, then you won't want to use is and will not hydrate well, so this was a big research project for me. Cornering/Descending skills. As I mentioned above, you must practice a section of trail over and over again to master the body position. Cornering is tricky because if it's high speed, low speed, good traction or bad traction, you will have to vary your technique to get through it. I have found that my 29er is incredible at making me feel really stable in high speed corners. The bigger wheel surface grips super well and inspires confidence. Tire selection is pretty key too. Sometimes a super light race tire might make you ride more slowly because you lack confidence in your traction. Experiment with tire selection, pressure and speeds on your home trails and go out and practice. That said, I've run up and down many technical sections of race courses and sometimes it's just faster for me to jump off my bike and get through the nasty stuff. There's nothing wrong with a little self
MY OWN PRIVATE WYOMINGMarch 30, 2010
Today I sat down and sort of thought about how fun this last weekend was. After the packed showing of Race Across the Sky we looked forward to exploring the Teton Valley and doing some recreating. Saturday morning we pulled the van out front of the hotel, loaded up our skis and headed towards Teton Pass to do some backcountry skiing. What was a great idea was quickly shut down by a Mercedes running a red light. One wrecked minivan door and a exploded PBR later and we were second guessing our day ahead.
Maybe it was a sign that we shouldn’t go skiing. Plan B was a sweet road ride in Teton National Forest. The road is closed to vehicles during the heavy winter months, but due to the recent sun and mild weather the road was perfectly clear and open for some road riding. Having a paved two lane road to ourselves was nothing short of dreamy, not to mention the Teton’s looming over us. A great way to end a day that started out on the wrong foot.
I would like to once again thank everyone who helped put this movie tour on. From my sponsors, to the local shops, and to my friends in various places that helped coordinate this massive undertaking. It was a great experience and the local cycling communities definitely shared in the stoke for mountain biking!
After what was a long stint of driving....March 22, 2010
After what was a long stint of driving in my faithful van from Ketchum to Carbondale, and then onwards to Park City, I jumped onto an airplane for a quick Red Bull jaunt to the Big Apple. The opening of the Red Bull Arena was quite an event, 25,000 people and a MLS soccer game to boot! All the North American Red Bull athletes were flown in and treated to a rock star weekend of parties, eating, and luxurious hotel accommodations. Upon arrival at my hotel, I was greeted to a magnificent view of the city and a custom soccer jersey with my name and the number 13 already printed on. 13 was my race number when I first won the World Championships!
We had a few athlete meetings and presentations, centered around the success of the team and it's really cool to be a part of such a successful program. There are only 83 North American athletes, so it is quite an honor. Meeting Lindsey Vonn was awesome! She is so down to earth, and considering her dominance in ski racing, it's nice to see someone who is a great person both on and off the slopes.
Trying to fit in some sort of training was difficult with the late night parties and events they had planned for us, but like usual the W Hotels had a pretty decent gym for us to use. Luckily nothing really happens early in the morning at Red Bull events so I could stay on track a bit.
One of my favorite things about this weekend, besides meeting all the athletes finally and watching a MLS game live, was riding around in the custom tour bus. Complete with flat screens and drinks this thing was the party wagon all weekend! There were always athlete movies playing, whiched help keep the whole vibe of the weekend going for sure.
I flew home on Sunday night, back to Salt Lake City where I left my van full of swag, and where I will continue to drive on the Race Across the Sky Tour. Jackson Hole is a sweet place, and I can't wait to see some old friends there and do some riding. Even a few days off the bike feels like years for me, and makes my legs feel sluggish. Thankfully, between the cases of Pabst and Red Bull I could cram my Ruby in for training miles. All the essential items are in that photo that I need to train, especially the iPod!
The Missoula screening....March 15, 2010
The Missoula screening of my Race Across The Sky Mountain Town Movie Tour was a huge success. Missoula has a strong cycling community that was very enthusiastic about supporting their IMBA Chapter, the Montana Mountain Bike Alliance. At least 300 people attended, and the event raised more than $4,000. Big Sky Bikes, Missoula’s Specialized dealer hosted the pre-party, packed with fans and friends. We noticed more than 100 bikes parked outside the party! Bernice’s Bakery, La Petit Outre, Worden’s Deli, PBR, RedBull and Bitterroot Salsa donated refreshments. Amazing raffle prizes and giveaways from Specialized, PBR, Adventure Medical Kits, Suunto, Salomon, Buff, Ergon, Smartwool, Hammer Nutrition and KT Tape got people excited for the season. While ticket sales totaled 150 before the show, that number doubled at the door. Bret George, the Missoula representative for IMBA and I spoke to the crowd before the start of the film to explain how ticket and raffle sales would benefit trails in their area. The audience seemed to love the evening, and offered laughter, cheers and emotion at different times during the show. And they loved sticking around afterward to win all the great raffle prizes and hang out with each other.
Off to Carbondale, CO and Park City, Utah next week!
March MadnessMarch 11, 2010
I’ve been home nearly a month from my great training and racing camp in Argentina. I returned home to snow on the ground, but variable winter/spring weather in Idaho and all I wanted to do was ride my bike! One day I’m skiing in 25 degree temperatures, the next day riding on the road outside as the thermometer hits 50, then back inside on the trainer the next day as the snow falls again. It’s the time of year when I have to take advantage of any little break in the weather to get outside on the bike. Argentina was such a great early season trip for me and now I’m so ready to be cycling. I did head down to the Spa City Marathon in Arkansas so that my race fitness would not wear off. It was a 6 hour race and the #2 stop on the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance Series. It’s a great 10 mile single track loop that you repeat as many times as you can in 6 hours. I completed 6 laps and won the women’s division. It felt really great to be on the Era again breathing hard. There was also the double bonus of getting to see my Mom on this trip. She drove over from Illinois and took care of water bottles and nutrition for me. I guess you never grow out of needing your Mom around every once in a while. Thanks Mom!
March is Media Month for me! I was really honored and pleased to find that both Shape Magazine, Fitness Magazine and Biciclub (Argentina’s biggest cycling magazine) all have feature articles on me this month and some great gear mentions for my sponsors. Check them out on the news stand. If you can read Spanish, the Biciclub article is great! There is also a great article written by my teammate in Argentina on her Outside Online blog.
The Mountain Town Movie Tour
Finally, I want to share a few great pictures from Argentina with you. All photos in this newsletter are from Michael Darter. He did a great job of capturing the Argentina experience.
Take Care and Happy Trails
Tour de la PatagoniaFebruary 23, 2010
Tour de la Patagonia
Stage 1: 02/12/2010
Route: San Martin de los Andes to Hua Hum, along the shores of Lago Lacar
Distance: 49 km
As with most South American races I’ve been to, the start resembles a dance party with pulsing music and a chaotic energy. The race was a mass start with 700 people, broken into two start groups: open men followed buy everyone else 15 minutes later. With that many riders, it was a good way to start the field to avoid unnecessary congestion. The controlled start rolled through the picturesque town of San Martin de los Andes, but within minutes turned uphill as the lead motorcycle peeled off. The hill was a wake up call, and all the mixed teams started pushing and towing just minutes into the race. Heidi’s anxiety was high and she started really, really fast. I had some initial pangs of insecurity about my winter season fitness, but we quickly found a rhythm on the first climb and settled into a good race pace. We entered the single track with the top mixed teams and got really excited about the technical terrain Our flow was disrupted when we quickly came across the back of the men’s field. Our clean, unrestricted lines near the front of the pack vanished and the rest of the stage was a video game of passing and dodging traffic. It made for some interesting riding and even more interesting communications. Heidi and I were skirting around people and moving through the field quickly. I have to admit, it does make you feel ultra fast to pass hundreds of people in a bike race. Neither of us speaks much Spanish, so we threw around Spanglish phrases and added lots of “gracias” for good measure. For the most part, all the guys were extremely nice about letting us pass and were somewhat astonished as two female riders ripped by. There are some great athletes in Argentina, but the ratio of male to female racers is still quite disproportionate. Much of my inspiration for racing in South America is to act as a role model and encourage the local female riders to develop their skills and get out on the trails.
For our first ride EVER together, Heidi and I fell into a smooth rhythm quickly. She hammered hard and we communicated about pacing, passing, and strategies to work the course. We worked the drafting, did a little pushing and got to the finish line sandwiched between the 1st and 2nd place mixed teams. At a time of 2:31, the stage was super short for us, but we were laughing and passing tons of people on the sweet singletrack sections that day. Stayed at a picturesque lakeside camp with 700 other racers and our friends from San Martin who are following the race. Their kids even made special flags with our names on them that they waved at the start. After the stage, the bike and body maintenance began. We washed our bikes and bodies in the frigid lake, got a great massage (a gift), the Specialized dealer, Adventure Store, had mechanics on hand to dial in the bikes so we could just relax, drink mate and refuel.
Route: Hua Hum, Argentina into Chile for a brief time and ending in Lago Verde in Argentina
Distance: Approximately 70 km broken into two stages
This stage was 12 hours of logistics and travel for four hours of racing. The pre-dawn start was a neutral 16 km rollout to the ferry launch for a 90 minute ride across Lago Pirehueico. The entire ferry was jammed with bikes and athletes trying to stay warm and snoozing before the start of the real racing. After disembarking, we lined up for another mass start, this time with the top 50% of the field. It was a high speed roadie start on sketchy gravel roads with about 350 people jockeying for position. We’d been up for 6 hours already and people were jonesing to get on their bikes and pedal fast. The group was moving along rapidly at about 40 km per hour and Heidi and I were just mainlining position and being super alert. Rocks were flying around and the traction was a bit like surfing around the corners. Add into the mix, occasional bridges with broken boards, tire sized slots, no guard rails and you have a recipe for disaster. About 15 minutes into the race, we’d already had numerous close calls when the crash happened. A couple of riders near Heidi got squirrely, touched tires and took out about 5 other racers, including Heidi. I was in front of here, but heard the mayhem and pulled to the side to see if she was involved. Hundreds of other racers and most of the field flew by and when the dust cleared, I could see Heidi’s red Specialized kit rolling towards me. She was upright, but not uninjured. We rode on and began working to pass people back and get onto a train for this mostly dirt road stage. Her elbow and knee were dripping blood, her team kit was torn and there was blood on her race number. She’s incredibly tough, so we just kept riding and worked through the field. We never regained our position with the top peleton, but we got through the first part of the stage in decent position. This is where the South American culture came in. The 70 km stage was broken into two separate race sections with a mandatory 90 minute break in the town of Liquine so racers could have the traditional giant mid-day meal. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen and I’m not sure why we did not just keep riding, but it was part of the rules. People were splayed across a park area, buying plates of pasta, eating chips and socializing. I used the opportunity to clean Heidi’s wounds with my Adventure Medical Kit and take stock of our situation. She was bruised and her shorts and jersey pockets were full of gravel. Most of her injuries were not threatening, but the cut on her elbow was deep, wide and would require stitches. However, she could continue the stage. Some of the other riders in the crash were not so lucky. There were multiple injuries including a broken hand, ribs and shoulder dislocation. I cleaned her up as best as I could and put butterfly bandages on the wound to keep it from stretching wider. We wrapped it and then put her arm warmer over the injury to keep the bandages in place. The second stage for the day was about 40 km, mostly uphill. Heidi and I did really well with the multi hour climb and finished this stage just behind the top mixed team. Our camp spot was another beautiful lakeside setting on Lago Verde with volcanic rock and black sand beaches. Our group of friends all went to work on Heidi’s arm cleaning while we waited for the doctor who would be able to stitch her up to arrive. We had some really qualified mountain guides and outdoor professionals among our group and we did a decent job of getting it clean and prepped for her stitches. Heidi never once flinched as we scrubbed and pulled at her skin. She got three stitches from the doctor and the green light to race for the last stage.
Distance: 67 km
Stage 3 started in reverse order of placing in groups of 25 teams at 5 minute intervals. We were ranked 23rd in the overall, so we started with the last and fastest group. The start was a beach run through the black sand and out to the road. The small start group was a joy for about 10 minutes. That’s when we started catching the slower groups and for about 90 minutes, we again spent our time working through the field and eventually passing about 650 people of varying skill levels. It was a fairly wide dirt road, but packed side-to-side with racers and also sprinkled with those sketchy broken bridges just to keep you on your toes. We spent most of this stage again practicing our Spanglish words for passing. Heidi took a few risks and threaded the needle a couple of times. The dust from being behind so many racers was gathering in our lungs and on our faces. You can see from the photos how much Argentine dust we were really eating. After most of the passing was done, we fell into a good peleton of about 4 teams for a long road section. It was difficult to try to get the group to work together and swap leads. In fact, it was impossible, so Heidi and I just sat on the back of the train for about 30 minutes to eat and recover. One all the uphill rollers, each team would split from the group and begin towing and pushing their teammate. Heidi and I were doing the same. We had a great rhythm down and I was more than happy to do the towing. She thanked me about a billion times for helping her out. I finally had to cut her off and tell her that I am the one who should be thanking her. I came to Argentina for some hard training and these uphill pulls and sitting with my face in the wind is exactly what I wanted to be doing. Those efforts will absolutely pay off in the height of the season in July and August. Once the road turned downhill, Heidi and I cranked into the big gears and dropped our little peleton. We rode the rest of the stage alone and finished with about 5 km of fun single track as icing on the cake. I let Heidi lead for this last part because she rips on descents and because she had been breathing my dust all day. I have a great mental image just before the finish of her riding in her bright red Specialized jersey through a giant field of purple wildflowers. I took a mental picture and was sad to see the race come to a close. We had a great time riding together and an even better time connecting with the cycling community down there. I will miss hearing “vamos Chicas, vamos!!!” when I’m riding.
I was super inspired by the level of riders down there and also the strength of the women’s and mixed fields. We made some great friends and I’m already making plans to go back down there to help organize Argentina’s first 24-hour mountain bike race! Stay tuned for details.
Placing: 1st Open Women, 23rd Overall
I finally returned....February 18, 2010
I finally returned from a month long training and racing camp in the lakes district of Patagonian Argentina and Chile. This is my first winter cycling excursion in this part of the world and it has been a fantastic way to get in some early season riding and connect with the ultra friendly and cycling fanatic community down here. I have honestly never felt so welcome in a foreign place and have never experienced such varied riding in such a condensed area. The scenery is a mix of Lake Tahoe and Yosemite Valley all wrapped into one. I was also semi-adopted by a wonderful Argentina family who loves to ride, ski and be outside every day. It's quite a paradise. It was also great to take a trip down memory lane since I was in this area for the 1999 Eco Challenge and the 2004 Raid Gauloises. Both were amazing experiences climbing volcanos, paddling and trekking. Now, being here for mountain biking is like coming back to a familiar place, but seeing it all in a new way.
I completed the Trans Andes Challenge with a Kiwi racer, Jenny Smith. It was 6 days of long and very adventurous riding. We won the women's division and finished well in the overall rankings. If you want to read our daily race reports and see more pictures from our race, click here: http://www.cyclingnews.com/blogs/trans-andes-challenge-rebecca-rusch-and-jennifer-smith
Next up was the Tour de la Patagonia (http://www.tourdelapatagonia.com/EN/programa_EN.html), a three day stage race in the San Martin de los Andes area. I raced with Heidi Volpe, a fellow racer and journalist. She was there with her husband and professional photographer, Michael Darter. I had 10 days to recover from Trans Andes and tour around the local mountain bike trails with some great new friends. I was treated like family here and am already planning ways that I can get back here next winter. It has been the perfect training camp, but also a great vacation. You can check out results from the tour here: http://singletrack.competitor.com/
Immediately following the Tour, I headed back home to Idaho and dove straight into the first showing of my Mountain Town Movie Tour with the Leadville Trail 100 film. It's the first mountain bike film I've ever been in and also the first film tour I have ever organized. I'll be hitting five Rocky Mountain towns and hosting a party, film and raffle in each town. The best part is that the whole tour is a fundraiser for International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), so I'll be helping support trail advocacy in the areas where I bring the film.
For a movie trailer on these events, click here: http://iamspecialized.com/xc-mtb/video/rebecca-rusch-race-across-the-sky-screening-tour
If you want to donate product or support the Mountain Town Movie Tour in any way, please let me know.
South America Winter Training CampFebruary 12, 2010
South America Winter Training Camp
Three weeks down, one to go!
I am in my final days of a month long training and racing camp in the lakes district of Patagonian Argentina and Chile. This is my first winter cycling excursion in this part of the world and it has been a fantastic way to get in some early season riding and connect with the ultra friendly and cycling fanatic community down here. I have honestly never felt so welcome in a foreign place and have never experienced such varied riding in such a condensed area. There are bike parks, jumps, sweeping single track and long adventure rides all around here. The scenery is a mix of Lake Tahoe and Yosemite Valley all wrapped into one. I have also been semi-adopted by a wonderful Argentina family who loves to ride, ski and be outside every day. It’s quite a paradise.
However, a month is a long time to be away from home and I am missing Idaho a wee bit. I’ll be home in the snow by next week, but first I have one more race to top off the training. I already did the Trans Andes and won the women’s division for that six day race. Next, I am racing a three day stage race called Tour de la Patagonia
I’m competing in The Tour as Los Chicas de Specialized (team #318) with Heidi Volpe from the US. Heidi and I have never raced together and she is not a pro athlete. But she’s fast and experienced and we are doing this event together as a media and training event. We’re both writing a few stories on our adventure and also hoping to keep spreading the enthusiasm for female cyclists in this part of the world. Heidi’s husband and well-known photographer, Michael Darter, is also with us on the trip so we’re getting some great photos and videos to add to the experience. It’s a long way to travel down here, but we all agree that it’s worth the effort.
There are rumored to be nearly 500 two person teams signed up for this race. It’s only the second year for this event, but it’s already one of the best attended and most prestigious mountain bike races in the country. The format of the race consists of three cross country length stages, interspersed with glorious lakeside camping sites, a ferry ride and two border crossings. The majority of the competitors compete for the travel and camping experience, but there is also a top echelon of serious athletes who will be racing for stage wins and the overall title. We are told that we will also be racing against a Giant women’s team and a Trek women’s team, so it will be the battle of the big bike companies!
The stages are relatively short for Heidi and me and I cannot envision 1000 people in a mass start trying to dive into a single track trail. However, we’ll just take it as it comes. We’ve discussed race strategy, dialed in our S-Works Eras and packed all of our camping gear for three days. No matter how prepared we attempt to be, there are still quite a few unanswered questions about the course, the terrain, the logistics, our competition and how the whole experience will unfold. Part of the excitement of these foreign stage races is the unknown adventure that lies ahead. Of course, we are both competitive and want to ride our best, but there is just no way to be 100% prepared in a situation like this. I think flexibility, a sense of humor, and a few phrases in Spanish will all come in handy.
Stay tuned for our day by day account of the Tour de la Patagonia! We will share our experiences and images from each day, but since we are camping in remote areas during the race, you might not get to read all of the results and stories until we finish on Sunday, so be patient! This IS South America after all. Tranquillo! (translation: take it easy, chill out!?
FINAL REPORT: TRANS ANDESFebruary 4, 2010
The adventure of the Trans Andes stage race has come to a close. Jenny has left to head back to Colorado and I have been chilling in a cozy cabin in San Martin de los Andes with the Specialized dealer and his friends. The damp stench is finally washed out of my clothes and sleeping bag and the Era is all tuned up and shiny again. I’m relishing in long, hot showers and casual mornings where I can eat my food at a relaxed pace. The 6 days in the Patagonian wilderness were a fantastic experience and the riding was the best I’ve done in a multi-day stage race. The organization really did serve up some of the best trails they have to offer. In contrast to the thousands of racers in the Cape Epic, the small, multi-national field in this race made for a homey feeling around camp and the ability to get to know some very interesting people from around the world. We all bonded in our suffering and compared stories each night at camp.
Jenny and I got through the week with a pretty clean slate. Jenny had a flat on day one and a mechanical problem with her hub on day 5, but nothing that was race ending. We both went through a set of brake pads each and did the changes and maintenance on our own. Well, we did have a little help from Mike Broderick, our camp neighbor! We each had one rough day physically, but this was also nothing that was race ending. For early season miles, we were both really happy with how our legs performed and how quickly we slipped into pedaling again.
I was really happy that Jenny and I ended up being compatible race partners and camping companions. I can relate to her Kiwi sense of humor and we both have the racing maturity to get through multiple day events. It takes a lot of planning, patience, teamwork and self-preservation to come out the other end of one of these events unscathed. I am a little scathed from a high speed gravel crash on day 6, but otherwise all that remains from the race are some great memories and hopefully some killer fitness.
We both went into this race with the intention of some awesome early season training and a bit of adventure. We got both. Although some of the route information seemed inaccurate, courses changed during the event and my odometer died on day 5, we rode somewhere around 500km this week and an estimated 30,000 ft of climbing in approximately 25 hours of racing. Not bad for 6 days of training in January! I have no idea how we finished in the overall rankings. The race results that are posted do not add up, so it’s difficult to tell. I can tell you that only 18 teams finished day 5, including us, so technically less than ½ the field completed the whole course. It was not an easy task and I feel really good about our achievement. The Virgo in me would really love to see accurate race results and exact mileages and be able to compare our performance against the other athletes, but I’m practicing my patience and just chalking it up to a great travel and training experience.
I would recommend this race, but would caution anyone interested to come with the intention of being self sufficient with bike maintenance, camping comforts, route finding and bring plenty of travel and race experience. This is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world and getting to see it on your bike is the best way to travel.
LAS DIOSASJanuary 22, 2010
Just got up from 10 hours of sleeping in a bed! I arrived yesterday at 7am and was pretty much going all day building my bike, getting checked in, going to the 10x offices (the Specialized distributor who is hosting me). I also did a great training ride (and FIRST time on the bike this year) of 45 km through the city with Carlos, an ex-racer and employee for 10x. We rode out to one of the new Specialized dealers for a poster signing and group ride. Luckily Carlos knew his was through the city and is an expert weaving in and out of traffic and finding all the good roads to ride on. Today is a bit more training to wake up the legs from the winter, another shop visit and group ride in Buenos Aires and then packing up for the flight down to Bariloche to get ready for the race.
The Trans Andes is first, a 6 day stage race with an insane amount of climbing. I am racing with Jenny Smith (Xterra specialist and mtb racer). She rides for another large bike company that shall remain nameless, so we have chosen the neutral team name of Las Diosas (the goddesses). I am not one to regularly call myself a goddess, but this is what all the locals were calling my mostly female Eco Challenge team in 1999 when we raced to a historic 4th place finish amongst mostly male teams. This is the first time I will be returning to the Lakes district of Patagonia since that Eco Challenge. It is one of my all time favorite places in the world, so I wanted to honor the name I was given so many years ago by the locals. Also, Jenny and I agree that no matter what bike we’re riding, our collective goal is to encourage and inspire women in all parts of the world to ride, race and explore on a bicycle! So that’s how Las Diosas came about!
The 2nd race is a local marathon near the town of San Martin de los Andes. Just a four hour tune up during the 10 day break between the stage races. During this time I am being hosted by the Argentina Specialized Distributor. I will be sharing a house with the National team coach and some of his riders.
The second stage race is Tour de la Patagonia (3 days) and I am racing with the super fit journalist, Heidi Volpe. I met Heidi at 24 Hours of Moab and she writes for Outside Online as well as other various publications. She’s bringing her a cycling photographer with her, Michael Darter, so we should come away from that race with good pictures and stories in addition to the great training experience. You can check the sites for race updates, but Jenny, Heidi and I will also be submitting race reports to CyclingNews.com and Singletrack.com among others.
WHIRLWIND WEEKENDJanuary 21, 2010
The last six days have been incredibly busy. I have been backcountry skiing, packing for South America, and even made a day trip to Chicago from Idaho, and don’t forget the layover in LA too! I am finally on the road for Argentina and sat down in the airport to catch up. We spent three days in a cabin with a great group of friends skiing and relaxing. Outside of Stanley, ID is Copper Mountain which had a great safe snowpack, and some incredible skiing. Even though it wasn’t cycling, hiking up mountains all day is still great exercise, and a good way to get my mind off of racing for a bit. I’ll post all my photos to Flickr, and keep this post simple.
When we returned back from skiing, it was time to load up the bag once again for a whirlwind day of travel. I left at the crack of dawn for a day of power meetings at SRAM with the higher ups of the company. It was great to put some names to faces and discuss our future together. They have been incredibly helplful over the years and am excited to continue down the road with them.
When I returned at a lovely 1am the same day, due to inclement weather. I love that term…which usually means, “Ms. Rusch, we apologize, but we are going to have to bus you home instead of fly.” I ran to bed and crammed as much sleep as I could into five hours. It was time to head off to Argentina.
So here I sit, bags are checked, bikes are shipped, and I am off to South America for what is sure to be an epic adventure. Stay tuned for pictures and results of the racing as the scenery down there is going to be insane!
Back Country Here i ComeJanuary 15, 2010
I’m heading out this morning for 3 days of backcountry skiing in Stanley. The snow’s still grim down here, so we’re heading North for Greg’s B-day weekend with a small posse of friends, including my coach, Matthew. We’re staying at the Sawtooth Hotel, which is a newly restored historic hotel, with gourmet cooks running it and cooking for us. It’s the last getaway weekend before I leave for Argentina for a month of racing and training and the start of the season. It’ll still be great training walking up mountains all day for three days and way more interesting than sitting on the trainer in front of the TV.
I take a red eye flight Sunday night as soon as we’re back and head to SRAM World HQ in Chicago for power meetings with a couple of the marketing guys there. It’s my first time to their offices and I’m only in the city for 10 hours before heading back home to pack. Kind of a crazy schedule, but it was the only time to meet with them before heading to South America. So, this weekend is the last bit of relaxation for a long time! I’ll be back in touch Monday with some photos as well. Enjoy your weekend!
Mountain Town Movie tour.January 13, 2010
Mountain Town Movie tour.
Official show dates:
Sun Valley ID, Thursday February 25
Missoula MT, Thursday March 11
Carbondale CO, Tuesday March 16
Park City UT, Thursday March 18
Jackson Hole WY, Thursday March 25
I am a busy lady right now!January 13, 2010
I am a busy lady right now! Planning a trip with two races to South America is nothing I am new to, but for some reason it never gets any easier. This time I will be racing in two separate stage races in Argentina, which if you get the chance to visit, take it. The intensity of the weather and the rugged landscape are a photographers dream, and I am stoked to get to race down here again.
Last time I was in this area of the world was for the 1999 Eco Challenge when I raced with the first 3 woman 1 man team to ever place in the top 10 for an adventure race. We were 4th overall among a bunch of mostly male teams. I was really green as an adventure racer at that time and put this team together myself with the best adventure racers in the US. It was the beginning of my AR career. I remember the Argentina locals cheering for us at the finish and calling us "las diosas" (the goddesses!) This part of the world is still one of my favorite places I have ever been. It's great to be returning for such a long trip, on a bike this time, but still representing female athletes and racing with other strong women.
I will be competing in the TransAndes Challenge which is a five day stage race from Chile to Argentina on some of the most beautiful singletrack in the world. Jenny Smith, an endurance athlete from the USA, who is also an Xterra athlete will be pushing the pace for us. Racing with her will make a great training race for both of us. The race starts in the town of Pucon, which is one the larger dormant volcanoes in the area.
The Tour of Patagonia is the second race on the agenda, and is a three day race back to Chile. I will racing with a journalist, who by all means is not slow! Heidi Volpe is a freelance journalist and mtb athlete from the USA, that will be writing a story for both Outside Online, and hopefully for other publications as well.
Although I leave next Wednesday for South America, I have quite the full schedule for this week. Between training and packing, as well as organizing the movie tour, I am going to a two day backcountry skiing retreat for Greg's birthday. A cabin in the Sawtooths and doing some hiking will be a great way to have a nice active weekend. Then on Monday I do a 12 hour whirlwind business day in Chicago to visit SRAM. I always like getting back to Illinois since I grew up in that area.
I'll keep you posted on the events leading into the race
RACE ACROSS THE SKY TOURJanuary 8, 2010
After seeing the success and enthusiasm for the limited showings of Race Across the Sky I have decided to put together a second tour that brings the movie to small mountain towns, where a lot of the core cycling community lives. Between sponsors and the PR firms I have helping me, I am extremely thankful for getting this show on the road! Yesterday, my best friend and production manager for the movie tour officially confirmed theaters in Sun Valley, Park City and Jackson Hole as stops on the Race Across the Sky movie tour! I just have a couple more towns to confirm and the tour route will be complete. Specialized
I also came to the scary realization that in 2.5 weeks I will be starting a 5-day mountain bike stage race in Argentina, called the Trans Andes Challenge
I’m going to watch TV and spin right now! Probably a bit of Grey’s Anatomy. I sort of feel like I’m studying my EMT stuff when I watch that show. At least I understand most of the medical terms they use! Check out the video trailer below, and I hope to see you at the showings
As I sit here ...December 22, 2009
As I sit here moving into the hectic holiday season, I figured I would take a short break and bake some cookies, write a blog, and relax for a few. My Christmas present to myself is currently in transit from Portland, a little Audi A4 for me! I needed a car to drive on road trips, as the Bronco doesn’t really do the whole freeway thing to well. I must say I am eagerly awaiting the heated seats for the winter.
This weekend marked my first 24 hour shift at the fire department. I spent the morning washing ambulances and engines and mopping the floor at the fire house, not too glamorous but fun nonetheless. I drove engine 1 around for practice driving and fuel. Greg and I gave each other an IV for practice, which was pretty funny. It was a super slow day with only one call for an ice skater who hit his head on the ice, not exactly the dangerous day I was expecting.
After the success we had with the showings of Race Across the Sky in Boise, I am coordinating a film tour for five mountain towns. The movie had a pretty limited release across the country, and most shows sold out. Most mountain communities would love to see this film and I strongly suggest you try to make it to an event. Here is the proposed list of towns: Aspen, Telluride, Bozeman, Sun Valley, and Jackson Hole. I’ve teamed up with IMBA to make each showing a fundraiser for their local chapters. They are stoked and will promote the tour for me through their avenues. I’m trying to pull this 6 stop tour together for late Feb/ early March. I’m going to do PR and media in each town and also host a party with the local retailers. Raffles and ticket sales will raise funds for IMBA so we can keep riding new buffed trails around the country! Stay posted for more info.
It's been a great week here in Washington D.CDecember 14, 2009
It's been a great week here in Washington D.C. with the family. We did the early Christmas mumbo jumbo, and some birthdays as well. We also did the museums, ice skating, shows, and the typical tourist stuff. Being a tourist is great sometimes, and I needed a little break from training and the racing world! I am however ready to get some exercise when I get home.
I stopped by Conte's in Arlington, VA
I'm ready to get home today and get the skis out for good. I've had down time since Ecuador and am now ready to get off my butt and back into some activity again. Matthew, my coach, is already asking me what the key races are for 2010 and getting the training program going again. It's still officially off season, but the groundwork for 2010 races starts to be built right now, so i can't sit on my butt for too long.
I'm still trying to piece together a logical race season for 2010 and I'm finding there are too many good endurance races to choose from. I'm shopping the globe for the best ones and there basically is not enough time to do all the races I want to do. The biggest challenge will be putting together a realistic schedule that won't kill me! On paper it all looks amazing, but I have to juggle travel, speaking engagements, training, and of course being ready to race. I am scheduled to be in Argentina for a month from January 20th-February 20th for two stage races and a bunch of training, which will be awesome. I am also eyeing the TransRockies race in British Columbia for the upcoming season. Either way it is going to be a great season again, and I can't wait to get home and make some turns on the mountain.
currently in Washington D.CDecember 11, 2009
I am currently in Washington D.C. for a little early Christmas celebration with the family. Flying here was a bit like the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. The stereotypical holiday travel image was firmly in place, plane de-icing delays, holiday mayhem, and general chaos across the country. I have to admit though, that my favorite part of traveling is people watching. All the jet lag and discomfort is easily outweighed by the things you see while on the road.
ight before I left for D.C. we did a fire department workout that was similar to CrossFit. Although I have done these tire flipping and explosive workouts before, I had never done them with my pullups on. Keith Potter is a KFD member and personal trainer and he’s been designing workouts that are sort of like CrossFit, but that mimic the weights and work we have to do on the fire ground. He has 5 different workouts. The one we did was “overhaul”. It’s only 20 minutes long, but I’m definitely sore! We did the workout in full turnout gear. Got some funny looks from other gym members, but it was really fun! I will check in soon from the road.
finally feeling a bit settledDecember 8, 2009
I am finally feeling a bit settled in at home after a long trip home from Ecuador and then a long EMT test. For those of you who don't know, I am a part-time firefighter for the City of Ketchum as well. It teaches me all sorts of fun things, like river rescues and emergency extraction techniques, I love it! Anyways, now that the temperatures have plummeted I thought I would compile a cool list of media resources for you to read. The Boise area is one of my favorite winter training getaways and has a huge cycling community. Here are a few links to some good sites that have shown me some love. In the meantime, bundle up next to the fire and read a good book. It's holiday season now, we can all be a little lazy.
KTVB Idaho News
Idaho Statesman Story
I am going to get my XC skis ready now that winter is fully on it's way!
Whew!December 2, 2009
Whew! Back on the internet for the first time since the race. The race went great and we won the mixed team division by about an hour. I’m not sure of exact times, but we had about 25 minutes lead each day I think on the next mixed team. We were somewhere between 10th and 15th in the overall classification. Again, i haven’t seen exact results, but we finished pretty high up overall. The high altitude is a kicker and you just can’t race as hard as you want to and the heart rate just does not respond normally. However, Greg did not get altitude sick this year so we were both riding strong and didn’t have to do any pulling or pushing. We also did not get lost this year and had no flats. So overall, a really clean race and great views, great experience. I’ve attached a few pics from the race. I’ll send more later. Cotopaxi volcano is a very magical place.
Right now we are in Cuenca (3rd biggest city in Ecuador), visiting Cikla, the Specialized dealer in this area. We are doing a slideshow at the shop tonight and a riding clinic in the morning. We just got back from a GREAT 2.5 hour ride with a personal escort from Galo Tamayo, the best rider in Ecuador. He’s the shop owner and knows all the private stashes of single track around this area. We’re on our way now to the local thermal baths to soak and relax before getting the slideshow ready for tonight.
Here are some pictures to browse from the race, and I’ll get a more detailed race report up asap. Enjoy your day!
Settled and ReadyNovember 30, 2009
We are racing today, but I thought I would fill you in on what I have been doing down here leading up to now. This place is awesome by the way, and if you can travel to Ecuador do it! Basic race facts for Vuelta al Cotopaxi
Cikla bike shop hosted a women’s riding clinic that I taught at the Parque Metropolitano. Local athletes Amanda Purtschert and Diana Marrgraff were there to help with the clinic. Amanda is a well known endurance mountain bike racer and Diana is a world cup downhill specialist. They were able to be the tour guides, translators and also help with spotting and technical skills. The clinic started at 6:30 AM, so I was sure no one was going to show up that early. I was wrong and we had about 15 women of all different levels and even a TV camera crew and reporter showed up. After the riding there was an extension of the women’s clinic at Cikla where I showed some pictures and also spoke about equipment, bike maintenance, training and nutrition. There are a ton of cyclists here in Ecuador and the women’s group is growing. It’s great to be helping get more women out on bikes. I will also be doing another women’s riding clinic in the town of Cuenca after the race.
Greg and I took the tram up Pinchincha volcano yesterday to about 4000 meters and hiked around in the clouds. The tram normally gives you great views of Quito, but we were essentially hiking in the clouds. I could definitely feel more difficulty breathing, but it was a great hike. Hopefully getting up high will accelerate the acclimatization process. The race is still going to hurt, but we are trying to do what we can to be a little better prepared for the elevation than last year.
I will be posting some more photos to myFlickr
Grabbing some internet here at the hotelNovember 23, 2009
Grabbing some internet here at the hotel in Quito after what seemed like a weeklong flight. I highly recommend not flying with bikes, but sometimes duty calls. Greg and I took both the S-Works 29er and my S-Works Era down to the race, but we are also doing some riding clinics at various Specialized dealers. Cuenca is one of the main riding destinations in Ecuador and that is where we will be doing both riding clinics. Then it is off to the Vuelta al Cotopaxi, the largest MTB race in Ecuador. It is a two day stage race, with each day averaging 70km. The hardest part is dealing with the altitude since the course is between 10,000 and 14,000 feet. Needless to say, your power output is a little lower here. At least when I get home I will feel like a champion at 6,000 feet!
I am excited to see some old friends from last year, Daniel from Cikla Bike Shop gave us the best riding tour ever, and we met one of the closest knit cycling communities I have ever seen. I will keep you posted throughout my trip along with some pictures, Ecuador has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
Monday means time to catch up....November 16, 2009
Monday means time to catch up, and it’s a little hard to stay inside on the computer when it is beautiful outside. The new gondola here in Sun Valley is spinning, meaning people are in garages waxing skis and already telling tall tales! Last weekend as most of you know, there was an encore showing of Race Across the Sky in Boise. I wanted to share some photos from last weeks fun.
I threw the party at G Fit Studio where my mechanic Jason holds court along with exercise physiologist, Corey Hart. Fearing no one would show up for the party, I did a media blitz in Boise with an appearance on theChannel 7 evening news
The plan worked and over 100 people jammed into G Fit Studio to eat, drink and get prepped for the Race Across the Sky movie showing. We spent a couple hours mingling over food, Red Bull
After the party, the crowd moved over to the movie theater. This was the 2nd showing of Race Across the Sky in Boise. The first showing sold out and this one was no different. I was glad that I had purchased 10 tickets online for myself and a few others. It was actually oversold and a few of us ended up sitting on the floor to watch the film. The Boise cycling community is super active and it was great to here them cheer when I came onto the screen. It was a great night and the film gets me fired up for the 2010 bike racing season! Thanks to everyone who helped with the Boise movie event, especially Jason Bauer at G Fit, Shea Andersen and Outside Media.
You are all awesome! – Reba
Morning!November 10, 2009
Boot camp is going well. Last week was multiple days of long threshold intervals. The last one of those was yesterday and consisted of 8 minute hill repeats, five times on Trail Creek Road. It was brutal but better than the intervals a couple days before. I already feel like my form is coming back a little and my body is being reminded of what it is supposed to do. I did enjoy the casual schedule for the last month, but now it does feel good to get back into some work and feel my legs and lungs responding appropriately. This week will consist of intervals again every other day, but way shorter and way harder. After this week, it tapers down until Cotopaxi. This has been a super compressed training peak, but I'm sure I still have residual fitness from the whole year of racing. I also trust my coach, Matthew. He has never steered me wrong and he's way smarter than I am. The weather has cooperated really well for the training schedule too. It has been cold, but clear. It's the time of year where each day, I look outside and hope that I won't have to do a workout in the rain or snow. So far, so good! I've also been able to rally a few training partners to join me on some of the workouts, so it keeps me honest. Yesterday, the Ipod was the motivating training partner. A friend of mine plays in a disco band called Sparkle Motion. He made me a disco playlist and I must say, I was ripping up those hill repeats to Shake Your Booty, Disco Inferno, It's Raining Men, etc. You KNOW you remember those lyrics!
This week is also full of planning for the encore showing of Race Across the Sky, the Leadville 100 film. This time around, I'm heading to Boise to introduce the film and host a pre-party before the show. Click here: http://georgescycles.com/ for info on the Boise showing and pre party at G Fit Studio.
If you don't live in Idaho, but still want to see the film, click here: http://www.ncm.com/Fathom/Sports/RaceAcrossTheSkyENC.aspx Put in your zip code to see if the movie is playing near you. It's one night only, so don't miss it
Greg and I playing on the new pump track a block from our house. It's so much fun and now makes me realize, I need another bike!!! A friend of ours won this Specialized P3 in a raffle and he's been kind enough to "store" it at our house. We're just making sure it gets a good workout. The track is awesome. I just usually have to wait for all the kids to go home for dinner before I drop in, so I don't embarrass myself.
short blog....November 4, 2009
i wanted to write a short blog and thank everyone who helped make my trip to New York City such a success. I would never have thought that such a short trip could have afforded me such exposure in mainstream media. The crew at Outside Media
During my trip I met with Laura from Travel & Leisure, and she wrote a blog about me and my favorite places to ride
Thanks again to everyone who made this trip possible, and thanks to all my fans on all my social media sites. That is a new avenue I started this year, and the interaction is really fun for me. I look forward to more to come, and now I have to pack for South America!
Monday’s are great for catching up.October 27, 2009
Monday’s are great for catching up. Generally early to bed on Sunday night, up early with coffee, and then start crossing off the list of tasks for the day. So it is time for the weekend recap, and it was one of the better weekends I have had in awhile.
Saturday was fire department and backcountry rescue team training with the Blackhawk helicopter crew from Boise. Their pilots and crew came to train us on helicopter landing operations and usage of their hoist line. They work with us as a resource for backcountry rescue and can potentially assist in dropping rescuers to a difficult scene or even pulling someone out of an inaccessible place with their lift line. It was a rare and unique opportunity and fascinating to see this huge machine. As a bonus, we all got short rides in the Blackhawk and I can tell you, it’s nothing like the tin can helicopters I’ve been in. It was an amazing piece of equipment! I loaded all the pictures from the weekend onto myFlickr Account
Sunday on the other hand was a different day completely. Nothing better to shake NYC out of my system than a hard core suffer fest 2 blocks from my house. Crosstober Fest and the Idaho Cross State Championships were in Ketchum on Sunday. Complete with cowbells, giant beer mugs, a little mud, ice and sand and some anaerobic breathing. It was a rude awakening because I’ve done essentially nothing physical to speak of since 24 hours of Moab two weeks ago.
Completely unprepared I began to dig out my Specialized Tricross the morning of the race, only to find it needed lots of love and i could not have it ready in time for the race. So I took my 29er hardtail over to the course a couple of blocks away to see if I could race that. Turns out, I flatted that bike just minutes before the start and a friend from Boise who was not racing did some quick pedal changing and gave me her bike to race. I had essentially 30 seconds to get used to her bike as I rolled over to the start. It turned out the bike worked great and was a decent fit. Not my usual machine, but I got used to it fairly quickly. I was a little conservative on the technical parts because it was not my bike and I was also really tired from a week of walking on pavement in Manhattan. Unfortunately (or fortunately) there was not a great women’s turnout for the race. I ended up racing with one of my usual training partners, Susan Robinson. guess her training with me has paid off because she was on my tail and I couldn’t shake her for 3/4 of the race. I was finally able to open a bigger gap and could focus on clean lines and staying upright. I race cyclocross for my bike handling skills, for fitness training and to support local events. This one was a blast and a really good start to the 3 week mini boot camp that my coach has designed for me in preparation for the Vuelta al Cotopaxi in Ecuador.
New York City, the Big Apple.....October 20, 2009
New York City, the Big Apple, whatever you want to call it, is where I am spending my week. My good friends at Outside Media
Here is a flyer for the Toga Bikes gig.
24 Hours of MoabOctober 19, 2009
Last weekend I raced the 24 Hours of Moab which was also the USA Cycling 24 Hour National Championship for 2009. After a long, hard, successful season, I elected not to race Moab as a solo. The course is physically very brutal, my season has been going strong since February and I have accomplished more than I set out to do this season. So, I let myself relax a little on this one and teamed up with Colorado mtb pro and good friend, Gretchen Reeves as a women’s duo team. Gretchen has a long, impressive resume in cycling and is a blast to hang out with. My biggest fear was that she’d be significantly faster and I’d be a disappointment. It turned out we were a perfect match up.
The weather in Ketchum turned horrendous, so a group of us headed down to Moab 6 days early for some warm riding and hanging out. It was a luxury to have that much time to settle in, stake out transition territory for the race and hit some classic Moab trails. A big posse of friends from Smith Optics, Salomon and other Idaho friends were also racing, so we staked out a huge transition area for about 35 people. As the weekend drew closer tents, motor homes, campers all started to roll in and spring up to form the city of about 5000 people who turn out for the event.
The course is a 15 mile loop that’s very technical for the first 6 miles and then high speed sand surfing for the remaining 9 miles. The shifting sands change the nature of the course every year and even change the lines from lap to lap during the event. It’s a course that requires a ton of power for the sharp climbs and strong technical skills to stay safe and on top of your bike. Gretchen and I were disappointed to find out that there were no other duo women’s teams entered in the race. However, we did find out that all duo pro teams would be scored together for the prize money, so that meant the men’s teams and the mixed teams were fair game for us. It would have been easy to ride a couple of laps, then just hang out and win the championship jersey. Gretchen and I are too competitive for that, so the race was on regardless of gender. Gretchen was game to tackle the first lap which includes a running start with a horde of people in the sandy desert. As you can imagine, air quality and traffic on that first lap are intense. She ripped a great first lap and came in with the 2nd fastest women’s time of 1:12. We tagged off, exchanged the baton and off I went.
I was amped to not let Gretchen down and rode hard. I passed the first place women’s solo rider on that lap, so I was in the lead for all the female riders. Our team was 7th in the duo pro category after 2 laps and 42nd overall.
The weather was crisp and dropped into the 30’s at night, but it was perfect for riding. Moab has a reputation of serving up sandstorms, flash floods or intense heat. We had none of those things and I was relived. The biggest risk seemed to be the ever-shifting sands and trying to find a way to keep pedaling through it. Each lap, the lines would change or get blown out, especially during the night laps as more riders were walking or missing the narrow path that was established. It took alot of focus to stay on top of the bike without slowing down too much or having to walk your bike.
I was lucky enough to get both the sunset and sunrise laps and some killer views during those times. Overnight our consistency had slowly moved us up and by sunrise we were battling it out for 2nd place in the duo pro category. The first place team was a men’s team that was way out in front. Gretchen and I had been going back and forth for a number of hours with a mixed team and exchanging 2nd and 3rd placing. I started calculating how many laps we could still get in before the cut off time and figured if we were fast enough, we’d just have time for 9 laps each. Gretchen finished her 9th lap at about 11:40, so that meant I had time to do get out for one more lap and try to keep us in 2nd place for the duo pro category. I had no idea how far back the next team was and I knew their faster rider was up next. I churned the last lap as if I was being chased because I thought I was. As it turns out, the other team did not do their final lap, so we had our placing sealed before I even started the last lap.
I was really glad that Gretchen and I made a race of it and battled it out with the men and mixed teams. It’s way more exciting to have some incentive and motivation to ride hard. I was really happy with my performance after a long hard season. I had not geared up for this race and my training leading up to it was less than perfect. Despite that, my times on that course were faster than ever and I was able to ride sections of the course that I had previously walked. Moab is the race that launched my endurance mountain biking career four years ago and it was really rewarding to come back to the same course and use it as a measuring stick for how far my riding has come. It was also fantastic to beat all the men’s and mixed duo teams except for one. Of course, being a National Champion for the third time is also a huge reward!! I now have 24 hour solo, duo and four person National Championship titles!In the end, we rode 18 laps (9 each) for a total of 268 miles and over 24,000 ft of climbing. We were first in our division, 2nd in all duo teams and 24th overall out of around 400 teams. For those interested, you can search complete results and lap times here: http://www.grannygear.com
Next up, I will be heading out of my element and into the cement jungle of Manhattan. I leave Sunday for a media tour of NYC where I’ll be riding with magazine editors, hitting some bikes shops for clinics and getting some face time with the media!
Whew! We finally arrived in MammothSeptember 21, 2009
Whew! We finally arrived in Mammoth and have both cell service and internet. We also have a hot shower, which after two days in 100+ degree heat riding is much needed. The days have been HARD and hot. We’re nearly half way to Vegas and the troops are a bit battered, but the camraderie is building every day. The group is really fit and riding well, but we are essentially doing a century or more every day for 6 days!
Temps day 1-2 were 105. Temps day 3 were better, but the barriers were the Yosemite park rangers and then brutal winds on the East Side of the Sierras along hwy 395. We actually got pulled off the road part way up to Tioga Pass and the rangers made us get in the vans and shuttle to the exit of the park. We missed a lot of the climbing, but got in the big descent and rode the rest of the way to Mammoth. Tonight is the first night in a hotel with a hot shower and it feels really good. even though we’re in hotels the rest of the way, Western Spirit is still cooking breakfast/dinner for us, so we still all sit around in a big group a night and tell stories about the day and get to hang out. I was afraid when we made it to civilization that everyone would hop on their phones/computers and hole up in their rooms. The people on the ride are all bike shop owners and journalists heading to Interbike, so they all have a ton of work to do, but I”m super impressed that everyone is able to put that aside and just ride bikes for a week. It’s been awesome to spend so much time on the road with everyone and get to know their stories while we’re sweating together uphill.
Today is another 100 mile day from Mammoth to Lone Pine. It has been strange to be in the Sierras (Yosemite and now the east side) and not be rock climbing. I’ve spent alot of time here doing a completely different sport and experiencing the area in such a different way this time.
Throttle and Pedals....September 11, 2009
had my first true vacation that I can remember in years. We hooked up with some cycling friends who were willing to take our mountain bikes and gear to Oregon for us. So Greg and I hopped on the motos and I had my inaugural long distance trip on the BMW (aka Creampuff). The longest I have ridden before the weekend was 12 miles. This trip ended up being over 500 miles of highway, two lane country roads, wind, rain, darkness, the whole enchilada. I was seriously initiated from the start.
Our trip over to Oregon was super windy, but I learned how to lean the bike into the wind and brace myself for the oncoming blast as semi trucks went by. The first day was just 3 hours in the saddle to Boise, but my upper shoulders and neck were completely spent from being gripped and scared for most of the trip. Day 2 was 7 hours in the saddle and I was forced to learn to relax and got the hang of it by the time we arrived at the McKenzie River campground in Oregon. I will say that Oregon has some really great roads for motorcycles with fresh, black pavement, very little traffic and great scenery. I was driving a bit like a granny on the curvy parts of the drive, but it didn't matter because no one was behind me. I'll get a little faster once I get used to leaning the bike a bit more.We met up with a big group of cyclist friends and camped right next to the river in thick, green forest. It's so lush over there, you expect hobbits and trolls to jump out from behind the trees.
The Alpine trail, near Oakridge, was on the agenda for the next day of mountain bike riding. This trail is well-known for the 100 mile Creampuff race. I've never done the race but had heard about it being the best single track ever. The climb was a bit uninspiring, 2.5 hrs or so on dirt road. However, it was worth every second because the next 1.5 hours was all descending on smooth, swoopy, high speed single track through super green forest. It was amazing. Day 2 of mountain biking was the McKenzie River trail, voted #1 trail in the US by Bike Magazine. I pretty much agree with that too. I didn't think it was possible to top the Alpine trail, but this one had all the super good single track with no fire road climbing. It had a bit of everything from technical lava rock riding to super fast cornering, along with waterfalls and exposed cliff edge riding. It rained the whole day on us for the McKenzie ride, but you couldn't really tell because the trees are so thick they create a roof over your head. I was glad to be wearing wool though. These two trails were truly two of the best rides I've ever done.
The typical Oregon rain continued as we were preparing to drive to Bend. This meant my first motorcycle ride in cold, wet, windy weather. Thank goodness I have heated grips on my bike. I layered up with wool long underwear, rain gear and tried to figure out how to keep my helmet face shield from fogging up. The drive was actually really beautiful with the late afternoon clouds parting for sunset and views of the peaks around Bend. We rode in Bend on the following day and hit some of their really fun built up trails with bridges, log crossings and other mad made features that made you grin. I was away from email and phone for most of the four day trip and didn't take or wear a heart rate monitor or odometer on my bike. I kept no track of speed, distance, heart rate or training. It was just a weekend of riding with friends on some brand new trails. And working on my throttle arm fitness as well!
Next up is the Worlds Party in Ketchum this Friday to celebrate a great season and both my and Greg's repeat 24 hour solo wins this year.
I just walked in the doorSeptember 1, 2009
I just walked in the door and settled from our race weekend at Grand Targhee, which is right by the Driggs/Jackson Hole area. We had no cell phone coverage, no computers, just some friends and some tents. It was great! It was almost like being in another place or time. We went to this semi-local 24 hour race at last minutes notice because a bunch of friends were going from Ketchum, the prize money at the race was really good, and the trails there are awesome.
It was the lat minute pack job for Greg and I, and we didn't even know if we were racing solo or as a duo team until about 30 minutes before the start. There is a great cash return if you win one of the categories there, however 2nd place gets nada. Greg and I were weighing the odds based on how many entered each category. We probably could have raced duo and won, but then we had to split the prize money. So we rolled the dice, and entered solo, and believe it or not, we both won the race!
Greg was first solo overall, even on a singlespeed against all the geared men! I raced open women against a well known local endurance guru. We had five solo athletes from Ketchum sharing one pit area, so there was a lot going on in our camp to say the least. We only had one pit crew guy, Tenacious Todd, who was crewing for all of us. It was not the usual scene I was used to for a 24hr race. I took care of my bike, mixed my own bottles, and fiddled with my lights for the whole night. It was hectic, but it was a good hard training day/night. I brought both my Era and my 29er hardtail to do a direct comparison. I love them both but for different reasons. I am definitely faster on the technical descents on the Era's full suspension, but the 29er climbs like a bat out of hell and smooths out all the rollers and bumps. Both bikes weigh about 21lbs and have the new SRAM XX 2x10 drivetrains that I love! It simplifies shifting and makes dropping a chain a non-issue.
We swept the field in Targhee with Ketchum riders. I won the women's division and was second overall. Greg won men's open on a singlespeed, Chris and Mike H were 2nd and 3rd, and Mike S was the first single speed male. It was a impressive showing!
After a great birthday week.....August 31, 2009
After a great birthday week I thought it was time to post a blog. Today is the 24 hrs of Targhee. I guess it’s our semi-local 24 hr race, and I’ve raced there once before and the course is fun and the prize money is really good too. There is about 800 feet of climbing for each 7.3 mile lap, so it will by no means be easy. There are 5 guys from Ketchum alone who are going to race solo over there. I’m undecided about racing solo or on a duo team. The deciding factor will be how many entries there are in each category. If there are not at least 5 in a category, the prize money drops. So basically, I’m going over there for a great training day and hopefully a decent pay day, but it all depends on who shows up! Either way, it’ll be a great road trip, camping and some good riding.
The week of my birthday was incredible, and was a great start to the year. So many friends came out of the woodwork to play mini-golf at the Sun Valley resort. The best part is that it was $5 and hours in entertaining fun. I am a horrible golf player and will not be trying to reinvent myself anytime soon to dominate that sport.
Leadville Trail 100 – Race Across the SkyAugust 19, 2009
Last weekend, I lined up at the start line of the Leadville 100, the highest altitude and biggest endurance mountain bike race there is. Over 1500 people, including Lance Armstrong, lined up for the event in the frigid, wee hours of the morning at 10,200 ft. I traveled to the race with Mike Sinyard from Specialized, Blair Clark from Smith Optics and a few other friends from Idaho. We were all Leadville virgins, so I relied heavily on course information from other athletes and the race website. I knew the course was primarily fire roads, so I chose to ride my brand new Specialized S-works 29er hard tail for this event. It was a bit of a whirlwind getting the bike and myself sorted to race so soon after coming home from 24 hour World Championships. I did not want to pass up the opportunity to compete in the Leadville 100. It’s a legendary event, but I did have some major trepidation about how I would perform at such high altitude so soon after a grueling 24-hour solo effort. It normally takes me at least four weeks to feel right again after a 24 and I was sitting right on three weeks for the Leadville start. I spent the 3 weeks in between Worlds and Leadville riding the fine line between recovering, healing my body and trying to milk the season’s peak to last a bit longer than originally planned.
My coach Matthew was once again able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and keep the elusive peak going for an extra few weeks. It’s intoxicating to peak for an event and feel as if the race is almost easy. However, the weeks, months, years leading up to that peak are nothing but suffering, hard work and insecurity about your fitness. After events like Leadville 100 and 24 Hour Worlds where it all comes together on the right day, it’s impossible not to be seduced by that feeling and want it over and over again at every single race. However, fitness peaks cannot last the whole season and what goes up must come down so that it can go back up again. It’s a frustrating process, but oh so sweet when it comes together.
Leadville was one such occasion where everything fell into place beautifully. I was not sure of my participation until just five days before the race. At that point, I scrambled to get hotel, flight and logistics sorted. I also had to get my new Specialized 29er race ready. I’ve packed my gear enough times before and I got myself to the very early morning start on Saturday. The town of Leadville sits at 10,200 ft and the weather Friday and Saturday was cold and dismal. I was flattered to be invited to line up on the front line with all of the big name athletes and past winners of the race. I had not seen a start list for the women’s field, so I was unaware of whom I was racing against. The shotgun start was fairly civilized with a neutral roll out for a few miles until we hit the dirt road and started climbing. I felt the mass of 1500 people behind me and just concentrated on staying near the front pack and staying upright. There are five major climbs on this course and the total ascent is about 13,000 feet over the course of 103 miles. I looked at some past women’s times and used that as a gauge for myself. With the help of another athlete, I put together a race profile with time estimates, distances of climbs and elevations. I taped this mini course map to my top tube and relied on it heavily during the race to keep track of how I was doing.
I led the women’s race from the start. I was not getting time splits, so I was unaware of what sort of gap I might have established. I assumed that someone was probably right on my tail and kept the pressure on the whole race. I imagined that every guy in front of me was a woman and tried to keep catching people. The crowds were insane and they cheered wildly when they saw I was the first female. The first ½ of the race was bitter cold, freezing rain and even sleet. I was barely able to shift or hold the handlebars and had to stop to put on shell gloves. Thankfully I was prepared with a thin jacket, arm warmers, shell gloves and a Buff for my head. I didn’t put the extra clothing on, but was somewhat comforted to have it with me. Instead, I just kept riding harder and pushing the pedals in an attempt to stay warm.
Columbine Mine at 12,500 feet is the 50-mile turnaround and the high point of the race. There is a 3000 foot, 7 mile climb to get up there. The course is an out and back format, so as I was climbing up, I got to see Lance Armstrong, Dave Wiens and the rest of the top men come flying downhill. As I reached the turnaround, the cold rain turned to stinging sleet. Descending Columbine was my one and only chance to see how close the next female was. I looked at my Suunto watch at the top of the climb and tried to look for women in the crowds going uphill. It was a tricky descent with loose rocks, rain ruts and 1500 people all coming up the same way, so looking at the other riders was difficult. I was freezing and focused on going fast downhill, but not crashing. I got a quick glimpse of Amanda Riley Carey who was in 2nd place. At that point, she was probably 15 minutes behind me, but I still had 50 miles to go and plenty more opportunity for flat tires or other problems. I made it down Columbine safely and that meant a big road flat, windy road section and two more monster climbs left in the race.
I was feeling decent, but the cold was making my legs cramp. I took some Endurolytes and tried to make an effort to finish my water. My motivation was elevated every time I went through an aid station by the thousands of people cheering and ringing cowbells. This was by far the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen for a mountain bike race and I felt like I was in the Tour de France as I rode through lines of people crowding the course. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as they were all cheering.
The hardest climb of the course is the Powerline climb at mile 80. I had to walk the steepest portions of it, but was still keeping up with the guys around me. A little group of about four of us had formed and we were silently riding together with only the sound of our heavy breathing and a few words of encouragement between us. Misery loves company, so it was nice to have a little support out there on the hard parts of the course.
After the last big climb, I was smelling the barn and the numbers on my odometer were very near triple digits, so I shifted into the biggest gear I could push and left my little group of guys as I motored toward the finish. The last few miles ticked by very slowly, and the course is actually 103 miles!
The final road stretch into Leadville was a welcomed site. I had ridden this short stretch on Friday and visualized myself finishing the race. You can see the finish for about a ½ mile and it’s the sweetest site with the finish banner, the only stoplight in Leadville and so many people lining the streets. I got one little scare as I crested the very last hill and saw someone in front of me with curly blonde hair and a pink jersey. From the back and in my oxygen-deprived state I was not sure if it was a male or female rider. As I was rolling toward the finish I nervously asked one of the bystanders if the person in front of me was a guy. Thankfully, he was and I could roll into the finish line with my arms up and a huge sense of accomplishment in my heart. It was one of the most exciting race finishes I have ever experienced. I finished in a time of 8:14 and was 30th place overall. The next female rider was 25 minutes behind me. At the finish, the sound of the crowd was deafening and exhilarating. I was immediately given flowers, a medal, hugs, and whisked off to the media room for an interview. In the interview, I was in a bit of shock to quickly try to re-live the moments of the race.
After a quick shower, I went back out onto 6th street to watch my friends finish and be part of the whole crazy scene. At this point the sun had finally come out and the freezing rain from Columbine was a distant memory. I couldn’t help but cheer for other finishers and smile as their families and friends hugged them.
Sunday morning awards were chaotic and extremely entertaining. All 953 official finishers received a sweatshirt with their name and finishing time printed on the sleeve. It was finally warm and sunny and so many people were milling around sharing race stories. I saw a lot of old friends and had multiple strangers come up and congratulate me. Obviously, the highlight was the awards ceremony where I got to share the podium with Lance Armstrong and Dave Wiens. They both had the same sentiment about the race that I did. The sheer number people who came out to race and to cheer provided an intoxicating vibe that just made you happy to be riding your bike. The Leadville 100 was definitely one of the most organized races I’ve done and one of the most spirited. It’s a unique combination of a huge race with a hometown feel. It was honor to be among such strong athletes and to stand at the top of the podium with a legend. It is a day that I will not soon forget and a wonderful cap to an already incredible race season!
Thanks to everyone who gave me advice on the course, cheered for me, sent me photos and gave me motivation along the way. Thanks to Red Bull and Specialized for getting me to the start line!
I Won a DH Event! No Really, I Did!August 6, 2009
It’s official! I won the pro women’s Super D event at Crankworx. CO. Just 8 days after winning 24 Hour Solo World Championships, I found myself at the finish of a downhill event that took just a little over 13 minutes. Not the length of course I am used to, but it was a blast. I was hanging out at the Specialized demo booth at Crankworx. I was there signing posters, doing casual group rides and watching all the races. I did not take part in the cross country race because my lungs and legs are still fried from the effort in Canada. With lift access at Winter Park, a sweet trail system, and all the 2010 Specialized demo bikes available, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to work on my downhill skills. I did a couple of practice runs on the Super D course and on a whim decided to enter the pro women’s race on Sunday. The goal was not to hurt myself and to try to follow a few of the better women and try to learn from them. The race started with a run and about a 30 second uphill. I surprised myself and entered the single track first. From there, I just held on and kept waiting for the pass. The girl right on my tail would catch up on the more technical bits and I’d drop her anywhere that had some pedaling. We continued this yo-yo down the course and she was never able to pass me. It was a riot and she pushed me to ride faster downhill than I would have on my own. I finished the race a few seconds in front of her with a huge grin on my face, took home a bit of cash for my efforts, and accomplished a personal life goal of winning an oversized cardboard check. I rode the 2010 Stumpjumper and had an absolute blast on that bike.
Here’s the race results and photo proof that I won a downhill event!!!!
Right now I am at home again in Ketchum resting up and changing gears for the next race, the Leadville 100. That one will take significantly longer than 13 minutes!
Three Peat...July 29, 2009
The 24 hour solo mountain bike World Championships have been over for just about 48 hours. The pain and damage my body took from the thrashing is going to take weeks of recovery. The glow of winning worlds three years in a row is going to take years to wear off. This year’s training was entirely focused on peaking for this singular day and putting my name definitively in the record books for endurance mountain bike racing. I have to say it was a bit daunting to form a whole year of training and focus around one event. The pressure of
coming back multiple years in a row with a target on my back and the expectation of winning was a heavy weight. I was even given #1 as my bike number plate for this race. The unspoken pressure was thick and anything less than a three peat would have been a disappointment for me.
The preparations unfolded as planned and I stacked the odds in my favor by bringing the best crew friendship can buy. I also brought two tricked out Specialized Era race bikes, a mountain of spare bike parts, cases of Red Bull and duffel bag full of Hammer Nutrition race food. Canmore is a world-class place to ride and the trails serve up the usual Canadian style single track with lots of roots, rocks and technical riding. This course got my attention and Greg described it as similar to operating a jackhammer for 24 hours. I had a few days of pre-riding the course to sort out the technical sections, figure out where I could eat and drink and try to decipher how to race the course to my best advantage. There were no sections to rest and although the lap was only about 10 miles, it was chock full of intensity.
The women’s field was mostly unknown to me with the Australian 24 hour National champ, some Canadian hard women and the US National 24 hour champ, Jari Kirkland. I know Jari from adventure racing and knew she was the type of athlete who would be strong and consistent over the long haul. However, in a race this long, focusing on my own pacing, my
own nutrition and riding the course in my style always works out better than trying to focus on the other competitors and marking their riding. My coach Matthew and I had discussed a race strategy that was rolling around in my head. However, as the gun went off, that primal
instinct that is hardwired in my brain fired and my legs turned over instinctually. I posted about 60 minutes for the first lap and was 7 minutes up on the rest of the women’s field. As I ticked off the laps, my lead steadily expanded by over 5 minutes per lap. I made a mental
pact with myself to keep the pressure on until midnight or until I lapped the 2nd place pro woman.
The course was relentless with very little opportunity to spin and recover. It was non-stop focus and intensity for the whole lap. Even the descending sections required nimble reflexes and upper body strength. Because of the nature of the course, I was taking a little longer in the pits than usual to get a break and try to eat some food. My crew was keeping a sharp eye on the competition and they were also stopping for a few minutes each lap, so I felt comfortable matching their down times. Before dark I lapped Jessica Douglas from Australia
and shortly after that Jari Kirland from the US. At about 12 hours into the race, I had a 90 minute lead and the race was unfolding as planned. I was switching bikes every few laps and Jason was keeping them silky smooth. My crew was working non-stop and I was pushing hard to do my part and stay strong on the climbs and relaxed in the single track. As midnight approached, I settled into the darkness and my favorite part of these ultra long races. The night riding offers a whole different dimension to the riding experience and a calm settles
over the race. Although I had a lead, there were still 12 hours more to ride and plenty of time for crashes, mechanicals or errors. It is also the time where the body starts to break down, reflexes are numb and the burden of 12 intense race hours in the saddle start to take their toll. There were multiple crashes and medical evacuations from the course, so staying safe and protecting my lead were high priorities.
I stayed solid throughout the night hours and kept my lead at a comfortable distance. However, by sunrise my stomach was not cooperating with what I was asking it to do. As the sun came up, so did most of my food, and fluid that I had been diligently consuming to fuel the race. My nutrition plan was the same as usual, but I think the intensity of the course was not allowing any blood to my stomach to digest. It was a tough morning as I struggled to keep food down and suffered from some severe asthma attacks. I also had a scare when Jari
came blowing by me on an uphill around 8am. I was still a lap ahead of her, but she had unexpectedly gained time on me while I was stopped in my pit trying to get some food down. In my mind, I began calculating the worst-case scenario with her fourth quarter push and in my stupor tried to do the math on how many laps I had remaining and what I needed to do to protect my lead. My paranoia kept me focused for the last couple of laps I held onto my third 24 Hour World Championship title.
All season at the end of every single training ride, I had visualized this finish line. This precise scene was etched in my mind and has been my singular motivation for a year. As I soaked in the sensations, I exchanged hugs with the A-team: Charles, Jason, Donna and Karoline. I rolled under the finish banner elated at 11:15 am. I had ridden 180 miles with 30,000 feet of climbing in approximately 23 hours. I completed 18 laps and achieved a goal that I had not dreamed possible: three consecutive 24 hour solo World Championship titles!
I have no idea what is in store for me next. For the moment, I am going to take a well-earned break and let my body and mind relax for a bit.
Thanks to Red Bull and Specialized for getting me to the start line. Thank you to my team of Jason, Charles, Donna and Karoline for getting me to the finish line. I cannot even begin to thank you for all the essential work you put in.
Congratulations to Greg Martin, also from Ketchum Idaho, who crushed the field and earned his 2nd consecutive 24 Hour Single Speed World Championship! There must be something in the water where I live!
I just stepped off the plane and I am back in good ol’ KetchumJuly 22, 2009
How’s it goin!
I just stepped off the plane and I am back in good ol’ Ketchum, just in time for a G Love concert, how perfect is that? Snowbird was a great time, met some wonderful people, and rode some even better bikes. Specialized just keeps improving on everything, every year and I am fortunate to be riding for them. The Amira, next years women’s road bike blew my mind. It’s the lightest and stiffest women’s road bike on the market. Finally women don’t have to ride a miniature men’s Tarmac, or a Ruby. We now get a full blown race bike! I have a picture to load as soon as I get it off my phone somehow
Getting off the plane at home is a breath of fresh air. I love summer in Ketchum. Only crappy part of the day is that Delta now charges $300 for a bike each way! Oversized is $175, but he said if the contents are a bike then its more! Total discrimination. I negotiated him down to 175 but even that is robbery! Being at the mercy of the airlines is terrible. Can’t wait to relax and ride lightly this week as I prepare for the big one up in Canada. Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you soon.
Snowbird,UTJuly 14, 2009
Bluebird Day in Snowbird,UT
•July 10, 2009
I am down in Snowbird,UT for a Specialized Global Dealer event. All of their top dealers in the world are here to talk, ride, schmooze, and be seen on the new 2010 product. I am spending most of my time doing demo rides on the mountain side of things, talking about my racing, and the equipment. Sun Valley is crazy right now with the Allen & Company crowd, and it’s a nice change of pace to get out of town and ride some place new. I highly recommend for everyone to ride in Northern Utah, Moab isn’t the only place with world class riding in this state!
Going into World’s I have begun to rest up a bit, and ride a bit easier as most of my intensity work has been completed. Sleeping up here at Snowbird is a nice bonus since we are at 9,000 feet! It’s like my own personal altitude tent. Here’s a little picture of the set up they have going on here. Talk to you soon.
Snowbird: Part Deux
•July 13, 2009
I’m still in Snowbird for another few days of high altitude fun at the Specialized Dealer event. The first few days were all the top international dealers. I rode with shop owners from Brazil, Australia, Bermuda, Bosnia, Puerto Rico, Japan, etc. It was a blast to meet so many people from around the world who get so excited about riding bikes. I am spending most of my time at the mountain bike demo, drooling over the 2010 bikes and taking laps on the chairlift with dealers, Specialized designers and engineers and distributors. Despite many language barriers, everyone has the universal grin on their face after bombing downhill on a sweet new bike! Tomorrow all the US Dealers filter in and the whole thing starts over again.
Yesterday, I did some testing on the new Enduro and the new Stumpjumper. Oh man! They are both sweet bikes and I really feel the appeal of the bigger suspension bikes. I’ll never trade in my Era for pure XC and endurance racing, but I am having a blast taking the bigger bikes over things that I could not ride on my Era. I am also getting a first look at new gloves, tires, helmets, handle bars and talking with the designers is fascinating. I learn just as much here as the dealers do. The SRAM folks are also here and have given me the lowdown on the new XX components. I’ve been talking gears, brakes, weights and performance with them and learning about all the new upgrades that were developed. It has been full immersion in everything to do with bikes and a really fun week at the office!
Leading up to World’s, after this trip I am going to be sitting pretty still getting all the logistics lined out for the trip. Who knew organizing was so hard! A few massages, some hot tubing, and stretching are definitely in order. With the tapered training schedule I am going to be writing a few more blogs than usual this week so stay posted.
Thin Air and Fast Times in BreckenridgeJuly 7, 2009
I just got home from the USAC Marathon National Championships in Breckenridge, CO. This is the 2nd year they’ve held Marathon Nationals at this high altitude venue. The race course is two laps on a 25 mile technical, high alpine course. It’s fabulous terrain and one of the best run races I’ve done, but the altitude is a huge factor. The race starts around 9500 ft in the town of Breckenridge and tops out above 11,000 ft. The 800 athletes roll out as the start of the 4th of July parade with hundreds of people lining the streets in their lawn chairs, cheering as we cruise by in our lycra. This year the pro women’s field was stacked with Colorado hard women Sari Andersen, Jari Kirkland and Gretchen Reeves along with pro XC racers Heather Irmiger, Monique Sawicki and two time Olympian Mary McConneloug. The start heads straight uphill for 8 miles and the cross country racers went out hot. I struggled on that first climb, but found a rhythm that I could sustain in the thin air. The course was in great condition due to recent rains, but the sharp rocks were stopping a lot of riders with flats. I was surprised to pass Mary near the end of the first lap as she fixed a flat. I came through the first lap 10 minutes faster than my time last year. There were no time splits available, so I did not know what place I was in or how far ahead anyone else was. I was racing in a bit of a bubble not knowing the standings. Starting the 2nd lap, I could see a couple pro women in front of me on the long climb. I ended up passing 3 pro women on the 2nd lap and finishing the race in 6th place. I was just a few minutes out of the 5th place spot, but I was happy with my performance. I had a clean, solid race and my overall time was 15 minutes faster than last year. I was also well ahead of some of my main ultra endurance competitors. I gathered more points in the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance series and extended my lead to over 100 points.
This was my last race before 24 Worlds in Canmore and it was a great tune up and gauge of my form. Next on the agenda is a week long trip to Snowbird, UT for the Specialized Global Dealer Event. I’ll be there meeting and riding with Specialized dealers from around the world and checking out all the new gear from Specialized. It will also be my own little high altitude training camp and my final prep for Canmore.
Vernal, UT riding and USA Cycling Marathon NationalsJuly 6, 2009
We left town on Wednesday night with Scott and Susan Robinson in their monster Sportsmobile for the road trip to Breckenridge for the Firecracker 50 miler, which is the USA Cycling marathon national championships. We drove part way and made a stop in Vernal, UT for a bit of sweet single track riding. I’d read about this place in the most recent Bike Mag as “the new Fruita” with 100 miles of buff single track.
We found the local Specialized dealer, Altitude Cycle (http://www.altitudecycle.com/) and got the lowdown from the shop owners on their trails. They are the personal stewards of this place and were super excited to share their maps and recommendations. We did a 2 hour ride to sample a few of their trails. It was awesome desert riding with swooping fast trails, antelope running around, wide open views and even a bit of bike art at the trail intersections. You could feel how special this place is and how much care and love had been taken to build and preserve these trails. It was well worth the stop and a great break from the drive. I will definitely go back there.
Today we are in Breckenridge and it has been raining and stormy since we arrived. The Firecracker 50 is a huge race that sells out each year with about 800 people on the roster. The course is a 25 mile super technical loop with about 5000 ft of climbing per lap. I get to do the lap twice! The course is great and always draws a really top level of competition. The big kicker is that it starts at 10,000 ft and goes up from there. Yes, I live at altitude, but about 4000 ft below where the race starts. I raced here last year and finished 4th and was definitely affected by the thin air.
The pro field is really stout this year with a mix of pro cross country women and pro endurance athletes. The distance is just a bit too long for the XC specialist and just a bit too short for the endurance specialists like me. It’s a unique distance that will be interesting to see how it shakes out. There are also a couple of women entered here who will be my competition for 24 hour World Champs in 3 weeks, so we’ll get to size each other up a bit. This is the last tune up race before Worlds and the last really hard effort before The Big One.
Here are a few pics from Vernal, UT!
Reba first ride on a 29er HTJune 29, 2009
I went on my first ride on the 29er HT today. Did a big 5.5 hr epic here in Idaho with 4400 ft of climbing. I rolled out straight from my house and way up into the snow, scree fields and wilderness terrain. The bike was INCREDIBLE on the climbs, the loose descents and rolled right over all the baby head rocks up there. It was amazing. It’s super light when you have to carry it over the snow too. We didn’t see one other person and felt like we had the whole of Idaho to ourselves today.
Countdown Begins.....June 25, 2009
24 Hour Solo World Championships are just about 4 weeks out, so I have entered the period in my training cycle where I’m super focused on this primary goal and pretty much nothing else. This is the point in a year long training cycle to focus on every meal, every night’s sleep, every training ride to squeak the very most out of my efforts. Most of the hard work has been completed and these last four weeks are about topping off the engine before heading to Canmore, Alberta, Canada west of Calgary in the Banff/Lake Louise area.
Last weekend, I raced in the Cowbell Challenge, a 50 miler in North Carolina. This race was part of the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance series and a short distance for me to get in a good, hard training day. The course here is always tight, technical single track and this year was no different. The biggest difference in the course was the heavy rains they’d had the week leading up to the race. It made the course really slippery and treacherous. On my pre-ride on Friday, I had to work a couple sections of the course to figure them out and also made a tire change to Specialized Captains to get more traction and confidence on race day. The local dealer Cycle Path helped me out a lot with the last minute tire change. Since this was a short race, I did not take crew, a mechanic or an extra bike.
Race day, with temps heading to triple digits: The bike was perfect, but the race was not. I had a great start in a strong pro women’s field and was in the lead, but about an hour into the race, the affects of the triple digit temps and over the top humidity started to get to me. I was feeling chilled, lightheaded and fumbly. I had to make the decision to settle into survival mode instead of race mode. Each lap, I was getting iced down hydration packs, pushing fluids and endurolytes and putting ice water on my head to cool down my core temperature. It has been a cold Spring in Idaho, so I was not acclimatized to the heat in any way. I was suffering badly and wondered if I was going to be able to finish. By the last couple laps of the race, my cooling strategies seemed to be working and I started feeling like myself again and felt like I could get back into race mode. I settled for a 2nd place finish behind Carey Lowrey (Last year she finished in 2nd behind me.) Carey was up by as much as 10 minutes at one point, but I was able to pull about 4 minutes back on the last lap and get a bigger gap on third who was inching up on me The outcome was a little disappointing, but considering that only 40 athletes out of nearly 200 finished the race, I’m happy that I was conservative and didn’t dig myself into a hole that I couldn’t get out of.
Cowbell results are posted here: www.cyclingnews.com
A video interview I did is posted here with a race recap and over view of my 2009 Specialized S-Works Era: Bikerumor Interview: Pro Mountain Biker Rebecca Rusch www.bikerumor.com
I’m home for a week then the next race on the schedule is Marathon Nationals in Breckenridge, CO on July 4th.
Spokane I CanMay 28, 2009
The race was awesome this weekend. Did a duo with Greg Martin (Single Speed 24 hr solo World Champion). We entered the police/fire/military division and raced as Ketchum Fire. It was a 10 person team division, so all the other teams had 6-10 people, so we were at a bit of a disadvantage with only two.
We won the division with 22 laps and the call up to the podium was awesome. The other police/fire teams had a lot more people , and no women. They couldn’t believe they got beat by the two of us. It was pretty funny. We did KFD proud! Our time and lap count would have also won the two person open division which was all men as well. So….overall a great training weekend with some good results and a good gauge for us for 24 hr Worlds, which is now less than two months away.
The duo experience in a 24 hr race was hard. High intensity and not much of a break because lap times were just over an hour. We did single laps to start with, and during the night we each did one double and one triple to allow more rest time. Then in the AM, we went back to singles. It worked pretty well as a race strategy and the experience was a really good 24 hr solo training effort without having to race the whole thing alone. Solo requires too much recovery time afterwards so this way, we’ll be able to get back on the training efforts sooner this week. My coach has told me we are now working on re-building my mitochondria quantity while simultaneously engaging in a racing season. Although this sounds like German to me, it makes a little sense, it’s just another part of a larger macro-cycle. With some rest today, some one leg spinning exercises, and a little max intensity short track racing on Wednesday, it’s looking to be a fun week. Not to mention it’s supposed to be 77 degrees all week! Talk to you soon.
Memorial Day Weekend, Road Trip!May 23, 2009
Hola! I’m off to Spokane finally, or as some call it Spocompton, for one of my favorite 24hr races, Round and Round. This is where I won my first 24hr race, and it has a special place in my heart. My friend Greg Martin and I are racing together as a two person team in the Fire/Police category. Greg is the current Single Speed 24hr World Champ, and together this is good training for the intensity needed for Worlds. It is going to be a pretty interesting race, since this category is open to groups of 8-10 people! We’ll do our best to represent the Ketchum Fire Department, and hopefully bring home some hardware. Between the race and the 10hr motorcycle ride to the race, I’m going to get some serious saddle time in! If anyone is in Ketchum or Sun Valley on Monday, you should cruise by the Elephant’s Perch for a huge Specialized demo. They’ll have their giant demo trailer with all the bikes you could possibly want to ride! I’ll be there all day offering tech tips, training tips, poster signings and just hanging out! Anyone who’s ever dreamed of riding the best bikes in the world should come and check them out. I’ll have some photos after the race, but I won’t have my computer with me, so check back!
Fire, Fire, EverywhereMay 19, 2009
I just spent 3 days in Boise at a firefighter symposium. One day of hands on work with forcible entry on doors, cutting holes in roofs and garage doors, working with the rotary saws and chainsaws. Also did simulated search and rescue in a big warehouse building that they had smoked out and heated up. We broke in windows and searched for victims in the building. We also heard a couple of guest speakers from big city fire departments (Denver and Oakland, CA) talking about tricks of the trade and lessons learned on the job. It was super motivating and made me hungry for a bit of fire action! I know that’s bad to say, but I love my part time job. I was the only woman there which made it even more fun! I’m in Dallas now for Red Bull athlete meetings, talking about PR and marketing, and having some large team dinners. The best part is they set me up in this sweet hotel. Check out the pictures from the fire symposium below, everyone loves power tools!
Dirt Sweat and Gears. Fayetteville, TNMay 11, 2009
Here’s mud in your eye! And ears, nose, mouth, and drive train, shoes, gloves! Dirt, Sweat and Gears took place this last weekend in Fayetteville, TN. It is one of my all time favorite races because the course is the most excellent single track, the race boasts equal prize money for pro men and women, the competition is always stout and the race director really takes care of every detail to make the race fun and extremely organized.
This was also a stop on the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance series and my goal was to use this 12-hour race as training for 24-hour worlds and to increase my points lead in the national series. The Tennessee hospitality was alive and well again this year. We were given an official race vehicle for the weekend from Land Rover Nashville, free lodging from locals and more Southern hospitality than you can imagine. The only thing more remarkable than the TN hospitality was the incredible tenacity of the TN mud.
The region had been hammered with unseasonably heavy rains all week. When I arrived on Wednesday, the rain had stopped but the forecast for the weekend was extremely threatening. Just outside of Nashville, tornado warnings, severe storm warnings and 100 mph winds were coming our way. I was able to pre-ride the course on Wednesday and Thursday. It was slippery, technical and way more difficult than previous years. The rain had exposed more roots and rocks than usual. The climbs and descents were really slimy and treacherous. I tested a few different tire choices for the race and the Specialized Storm tires were the only ones that would allow me to keep a small amount of traction. Specialized team mechanic, Benno Willeit, had told me that the Storms were the last resort just before putting on the running shoes. Benno’s pre-race advice turned out to be way more accurate than I ever would have imagined.
As soon as the announcer shouted “30 seconds to start”, the rain began. I laughed out loud on the start line and was excited for an adventurous race. The first lap was slippery and a bit like surfing, but the rain kept the mud thin and the course was mostly rideable. I finished the first lap in about 1:20 in second place in the pro women’s field. The rain had stopped by this time and the start of lap two is when the fun really started. The combination of 300 riders sliding around and the cessation of the rain had turned the mud into peanut butter consistency. My lap time jumped to over three hours for the 2nd lap. Like most people, I ran out of food and water. Shifting was no longer an option due to the globs of mud, leaves and sticks that were jamming into the drive train. Eventually, the mud became so thick that pushing your bike was no longer an option because after about 10 feet of pushing, the mud would collect on the tires and form a solid casing about 5 inches thick and prevent the wheels from turning. One racer described the experience like pushing furniture uphill. The only option was to scrape as much mud off as possible and shoulder the bike. I hiked, pushed, slipped and tried to shuffle when I could for hours and hours. Each time I attempted to ride, the result was the same: sticky mud, wheels stop turning, put the bike back up on my bruised shoulders and keep trudging.
Most of the field had dropped out by early afternoon. My stubbornness and adventure racing experience had moved me into first place in the women’s field by the third lap. I ended up racing for about 10.5 hours and completed only 40 miles, which was good enough for the win! Jeremiah Bishop won the pro men’s field and he completed 5 laps. In comparison, in previous years I completed 10 laps and the leading men rode 12 laps.
This was by far much more of an adventure race than a cycling race, and the worst conditions I have ever ridden in. It was a frustrating race and not nearly as much fun as being able to ride those trails, but I am proud of myself for pushing on and adapting to what Mother Nature handed us.
Thanks to Mom and Glenn for crewing in such difficult conditions. Thanks to Travis from Biker’s Choice for wrenching for me and cleaning the dirtiest bikes I have ever seen.
I’m still cleaning the mud out of my ears and attempting to get my race clothes clean. I am also icing my shoulders to try to alleviate the bruising.
Thanks for tuning in.
Next stop, Spokane for a 24-hour race on a duo team!
PackingMay 4, 2009
I’m packing and getting ready to head to TN this weekend for Dirt, Sweat and Gears, a 12 hour race and the next stop in the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance series. This is my 3rd year at this venue and one of my favorite races of the year. Sweet, twisty single track, stout competition and super good festival vibe. The race director is an athlete himself, and it really shows in this event. He has hand built many of the trails and the experience is competitive, but laid back.
This is the first really long non-stop race of the season and the logistics for these long ones is very different. For the first time this season, I’m packing Light and Motion lights, traveling with two Era race bikes, multiple tire choices, lots of Hammer nutrition concoctions, various clothing options, and back ups of almost everything. 12 hours is a long time to ride continuously, so the gear and my body will be put to the test. This race is notorious for rainy, muddy Spring weather and the forecast this year is no different. Rain is on the menu for all weekend, but the good new is the temps are in the 50’s and 60’s! It’ll feel WARM after riding all week in Idaho with 40 degree temps and rain/snow.
My mom, Aunt, Uncle and cousin are all coming to help out and check out the race. Not the most ideal way to connect with your family, but at least they can help me with water bottle hand offs and logistics.
Here’s a clip of the race and you can also check back there for current updates during the race.
Spring in KetchumApril 27, 2009
I got home from a tough couple of weeks of travel to CA. It was a blast to be at the Specialized headquarters and to hang with the whole dirt team including 4 Cross World Champ, Rafa Alvarez, Xterra World Champ Conrad Stoltz and the rest of the world cup XC team. There were a lot of meetings, driving around, hanging at the Sea Otter venue and trying out some new bikes. Being out on the dirt was great and I got in some good rides. The racing at Sea Otter was a bit of a smack in the face for me. It’s always hard to come out of the winter and put yourself out there for the first races of the year. Short distances and speed racing are also not my strength. But it was good training and this is the time of year where I have to take my medicine and do some tough racing in hopes that it’ll pay off later in the season when it counts.
After Sea Otter, I went straight to Red Bull HQ in Santa Monica for more power meetings and a great Monday lunch meeting with beers and margaritas! I love how Red Bull operates and it’s always super fun to visit them.
The multi-faceted trip continued with an overnight stop in Salt Lake City for the grand opening of Specialized Concept Store, Bingham Cyclery. It was a women’s event and there were around 200 people shopping and getting psyched about bikes.
I’m finally home and back in my own house. It was a good trip, but there was no down time and very little time for myself. There was a bit of Planes, Trains and Automobiles situation getting home, so I was fried when I finally walked in the door. To top off the crazy travel, I arrived to a bunch of dead plants at my house. The two cactus survived, so I guess it’s time I stop trying to grow plants other than cactus.
This past week at home has been an awesome mountain Spring week. Temps ranging from 27 F to 65 F depending on the day. It has been windy, clear and crisp. The dirt trails are slowly opening up and everyone is out on the bike path and on the trails. The shop is full of bikes getting tunes and everyone is psyched to ride, including me. I’m still tired from the cumulative affects of the Cape Epic and the travel to CA, and the crappy bit of poison oak I got at Sea Otter, but being on my home trails and riding with friends has brought my motivation out of hibernation.
The next race is a couple weeks out, a 12 hour USA Cycling ultra endurance series race in TN. I’m currently leading that series, so I’m hoping for a good result there.
Until then, I’m relishing in being home, riding my new bikes and maybe shopping for a new cactus for the house.
Specialized Headquarters and Sea Otter ClassicApril 20, 2009
The past few days have been spent in the Specialized offices in Morgan Hill meeting with designers, staff and some of the other Specialized riders. I’ve been hanging out with 4X world champion Rafa Alvarez, Xterra World Champ Conrad Stoltz, XC world Champ Christoph Sauser, and fellow teammates Lene Byberg and Burry Stander. We all got briefed on new product, marketing plans and company history. I learned that the first Specialized branded product was a bike tire!.
After a couple of days at the offices and getting pummeled on the world renowned Specialized Lunch Ride, the team headed down to Monterrey for the Sea Otter Classic. Sea Otter is the only time most of the Specialized athletes will be in one place and it’s the only time of the year where we get to ride and hang out with the Specialized employees. The company brings a full fleet of demo bikes, the team trailer, the Rider’s Club tent and a product booth, so there is a ton of representation. One of the best parts for me is to see all the staff racing and being in their element with the bikes.
So far, my time at the venue has been spent riding with journalists, checking out the new bikes, pre-riding the cross country course and connecting with friends. The mechanics have also been tweaking all of our new race bikes and I have been trying a few different options with prototype tires, new Rotor Rings and some SRAM products that are just coming out. It’s a bit of trial and error, but this is the perfect way to work out some of the kinks.
I also raced the Super D. It was my first gravity event EVER. I signed up because I knew this course was not very technical and figured it would be a great way to work on one of my weaknesses. I pre-rode the course and there was nothing technical about it. It was a high speed fire road with a lot of pedaling and some loose, gravel cornering. You could basically go as fast as you were willing. I had Benno put on some beefier tires than the usual Fast Traks and opened up the suspension on my Era. I tried to ask Rafa in broken Spanish for some advice, but all I could get from him was not to touch the brakes. I’d never even watched a Super D race before, so I had a bit of apprehension. I was filming the race with a GoPro helmet cam and my main goal was to get some downhill practice, get some race footage and get to the finish line without any injuries. I was successful on all fronts.
The race started LeMans style with a short run to the bikes. My first mistake was accidentally down shifting when I grabbed my handlebars to jump on the bike. I wasted a bit of time getting back into the right gear. Super D traditionally involves a bit of pedaling, so many of the XC riders do well on these courses. The whole race lasted just under 8 minutes and it was a lung buster. There were 3 climbs of under a minute each and they about killed me. About 4 minutes into the race, it was clear that my position was not really going to change, so I just rode and had fun. I must admit, the speed was somewhat addicting and I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face. I’m not going to make any predictions, but I could see doing more of these sort of events in the future.
The short track race was today and it was awesome to watch. Specialized had a strong showing with Lene finishing 2nd in the pro women. Todd Wells won the pro men and Burry was 2nd. Christoph flatted and and did not finish. Conrad Stoltz (Xterra world champ) also entered and really impressed me in an event that he’s never raced before. Sam Hill, another Specialized athlete also won the dual slalom. Rafa, unfortunately, crashed during his run and roughed himself up pretty well.
The cross country is the main event for most of the team members. I’m racing that event and expecting the competition to be gnarly and the start to be really fast. Stay tuned for results.
Next Tuesday nightApril 15, 2009
Next Tuesday night, I’ll be in Salt Lake City for the grand opening of the new Specialized Concept Store, Bingham Cyclery. There will be wine, appetizers, Red Bull and brand new Specialized gear to check out! I’ll be there to chat about racing, nutrition, training and riding bikes! For more info, click on the invitation and be sure to RSVP! You’ll get some prizes if you come!
All In a Week’s WorkApril 2, 2009
The Cape Epic has been over for 5 days now and I’ve been struggling to write the final report. Not because I have bad news to report, but I’ve just been busy catching up on sleep, eating food that is not squeezed out of a bottle, getting a pedicure and making the 36 hour jaunt home. 8 days of high intensity racing in a row have taken a toll on me.
Overall, the race was harder than I expected. The competition was stiff, the pace was high and so were the temperatures. Matthew and I had a solid race and we worked great together as a team. Although I had originally been hoping for a podium finish, instead we were only able to pull off 6th in the mixed field and 45th in the general classification. I was feeling a little disappointed in our placing until I looked up some results from last year. Just for reference, 45th would have placed us in 3rd in the mixed division last year. The 5th place mixed team this year was 2nd last year. In 2008, Christina and I were also riding in about 150th place in the general classification before she broke her collarbone. So I was riding much higher in the field this year. The course this year was also shorter and all of the divisions rode approximately 15% less time over 8 days than the course last year. I do think the longer stages in 2008 suited me better as well.
Perhaps it seems futile to pull up these comparisons and statistics in order to justify my experience. However, this race was an important training tool for the season and a gauge of how my winter training has been going. At first glance, I was really disappointed in my performance and was having some serious doubts about my fitness. After deeper analysis and realizing that this year I was riding in the top 50 teams out of 600 each day, I have been able to get a more realistic look on the benefits of this event.
Here are a few key points that I came away with from the Cape Epic:
1. Matthew is faster than I am. Racing as a female in a mixed team is just plain hard if you’re racing with a fast guy. It’s always more fun to be the stronger person on a team and this time, I was the weaker link. Matthew was pushing the pace and I was constantly on the rivet and never really riding at my own pace. It’s great to get out of my comfort zone and push hard than I would on my own, but it does wreak havoc on the ego and makes it more difficult to stop and smell the roses along the way, especially in the grips of an asthma attack!
2. The mountain bike brotherhood/sisterhood is alive and well. One of the best parts of racing is the travel and the like-minded people I get to interact with. Matthew and I rode and bonded with teams from Israel, Germany, Spain, Brazil and South Africa. Although, I learned very few names, I got to know these people from their riding style, their race jerseys and their passion for the sport. We exchanged drafts, encouragement and sweaty hugs at the end of each day. This universal glue from sharing hard work and the joy of riding a bike spans the globe and exposes what people are really made of.
3. Training is a long-term, often frustrating process. Pay now and you will not receive your payback until months or years later. There is often very little immediate gratification. This cycle of breaking down and building up is tedious. For someone who is impatient like me, this process can often challenge my motivation and psyche. I completely trust Matthew as my coach and he has never steered me wrong. Much of the reason I need a coach is for the reassurance that what I am doing is working. After spending 8 days of every waking and sleeping moment in close quarters with Matthew, our bond as friends and working partners has grown even deeper. He has seen me at my best and worst and this experience will help him personalize my training program even more. Our goal for this race was to get a week of early season intensity in my preparation for 24 Hour solo world championships in July. A podium or higher placing would have been icing on the cake, but I have to remind myself that the Cape Epic was not my primary goal for the year. It was an important building block that is now stored in my legs!
Here are few key statistics that we gathered from our Suunto T6c watches during the race. A full training article using this information is under way, but here is a teaser of what was included in a week’s work at the Cape Epic.
Distance: 685 kilometers
Ascent: 14, 663 meters
Total race time: 35 hours 47 minutes 51 seconds
Top Speed: 59.87 km/hr
Average Speed: 18.35 km/hr
Total Breaths Matthew: 98,482
Total Breaths Rebecca: 84,269
Total Kcal burned Matthew: 32,878 kcal
Total Kcal burned Rebecca: 17,882 kcal
Average Respiratory Rate Matthew: 45.87 breaths per min
Average Respiratory Rate Rebecca: 39.25 breaths per min
Max Heart Rate day 1 Matthew: 190 bpm
Average Heart Rate day 1 Matthew: 178 bpm
Max Heart Rate day 8 Matthew: 168 bpm
Average Heart Rate day 8 Matthew: 126 bpm
Max Heart Rate day 1 Rebecca: 173 bpm
Average Heart Rate day 1 Rebecca: 164 bpm
Max Heart Rate day 8 Rebecca: 150 bpm
Average Heart Rate day 8 Rebecca: 125 bpm
Thanks for tuning in. Next up, Sea Otter. I hope to see some of you there.
I’ll be at the Specialized booth. Come by if you want to chat and hear more stories.
Absa Cape Epic Stage 6March 27, 2009
Written by Matthew:
Finally. A day of real mountain biking. Rebecca and I have been – in all modesty – constantly surprised by the relatively low level of technical skill demonstrated by most of the riders in the field. We’ve seen nsane fitness and a huge amount of enthusiasm for daily suffering… but not a lot of skill on display. We’ve used this to our advantage, repeatedly, over the past week, but the opportunities for really throwing down on hairy single track have been few and far between. Not so today…
After the typical road racing madness for the first twenty kilometers – including watching one rider huck himself off a bridge as he was trying to pass the entire field during the neutral roll-out when the road pinched to a single-lane river crossing – we settled down to a solid, steady pace sitting in the top thirty teams and got on with our day in the saddle. Following a surprisingly technical climb (not particularly steep but rarely out of the granny gear), to a peak deep in a wilderness preserve called the Woolfkloof, we dropped into the finest descending of the entire race. Ripping down an ancient and heavily-eroded jeep track, we flew past riders who had stacked themselves on the big drops, bunged their bikes by smacking rocks or were just generally over their heads. Finally reaching the bottom, we looked at each other with huge grins and mentally high-fived each other all the way to the next moment that required our immediate attention.
Down from the Woolfkloof, we disappeared into a forest of Eucalyptus and Fynbos that hid a most satisfying, swooping, rolling single track that dropped a further 700 vertical feet and delivered the most satisfying single-track experience of the race. Of course, with a cumulative drop of nearly 2,000 ft, we had to climb back out to cross another peak in the Cape Nature Conservation area called Kogelberg. With the sun peeking out and a bit too much enthusiasm spent on the early parts of the stage, we pared our pace and steadily ground out the nearly one hour climb that topped out on a wind-blown ridge with a panoramic view of what seemed like all of South Africa spread below us.
We were surrounded by the teams with whom we had been racing for much of the past week as we punched out the last few, stiff, hot climbs and cruised the final, freshly built single track into Oak Valley, yet another gorgeous wine-making area in the Western Cape.
We are sitting solidly in 6th place now in a stout mixed field. With just 60 km left to race tomorrow and a 10 minute gap to the 5th place team, the results will most likely stand. There is still a solid day with 1500 meters of climbing and anything can happen. As with each day, the goal is to stay safe, race hard and enjoy the scenery. We are looking forward to the final finish line and closing the books on an incredible week of racing and training.
Our final report will tabulate calories burned, kilometers climbed, heart beats, average speed and a host of other really interesting details that have been recorded on our Suunto watches this entire week. I guess it really was an 8 day work week.
Thanks for tuning in!
Absa Cape Epic, Stage 5March 26, 2009
I hate road racing. That’s the title of this posting for stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic. Today’s stage was the last super long one, 111km and “only” 1546 meters of climbing. As usual, the first hour of the race was hard for me. I don’t have a stitch of fast twitch muscle and I usually require a long warm up before events. Logistically, it’s not possible here to warm up, so when the gun goes off, I’m pinned immediately. For many of the stages there are long sections of dirt or paved roads, so being able to stay with a strong group offers a huge advantage and the opportunity to rest and recover while still moving at a fast pace. Unfortunately, my diesel engine has not allowed us to stay where we want to be for the first part of the race. Once I’m warmed up and moving well, we then have to pick our way back up through the field and try to close the gaps between packs of riders. It ends up being like a very hard interval session that goes on for hours. Most days we end up passing people for the second half of the day, but today we really paid for the extra work.
Today felt like my weakest day of the whole race. I’m not sure why I was extra tired. Perhaps it’s the 500 km we’ve already ridden and 6 intense days of racing. I just wasn’t my normal self felt like I was working way too hard. I am really feeling the lack of miles under my belt, the heat and the challenges of a racing style that is not my forte. I know this is a long race, but each day is 5-6 hours with a very fast, explosive pace. Over 6 days, we’ve raced about 22 hours. Normally, I’d race that amount of time in on day.
The last 20 km of today’s stage was very hilly and the heat was intense. I struggled into the finish today and unfortunately we dropped from 5th to 6th in the mixed ranking. I was really affected by the heat again and am trying to take full advantage of the recovery this afternoon. Natasha and Claire have been incredible taking care of us with massage and nutrition. Our Specialized camp scene has been a welcome reprieve at the end of each day. It has been great to roll in, sip on recovery drinks, watch Benno and Dylan completely rebuild the bikes and share race stories from the day. There is a constant flow of people coming by Camp Specialized to say hi, get mechanical help and just hang out.
I am looking forward to the final finish line in Lourensford in 2 days. However, I will miss our nomadic lifestyle and the camaraderie that has developed around this race.
Tomorrow’s stage is 86 km with 1546 meters of climbing. It’s rumored to be the most technical stage in any Cape Epic race ever. Perhaps it will be less of a road race and will suit my strengths a bit more.
Absa Cape Epic, Stage #4March 25, 2009
114 km, 2202 meters ascent
This stage was reported to be an “easy” day. I think saying any day of the Cape Epic is a bit of an oxymoron. We are tired, bruised and the affects of this many days of racing are starting to show. Matthew and I are both feeling fine, but the legs are sore and the 5am wake up call is taking its’ toll on me!
The stages begin with a mass start of 1200 racers. Teams are lined up in zones based on their overall time and placing. Since we have been sitting in the top 5 in the mixed division, we are allowed to start in Zone A with about 200 other riders. You can feel the weight of the other 1200 riders pressing behind you and the starts are always fast and furious with a cluster of athletes jockeying for position. The first 30 minutes of these days are my least favorite part of the day. It’s difficult to keep track of your teammate, hard to stay safe in the jumble of riders and quite a rude awakening with no warm up.
Today’s start was a neutral roll out through the sleepy town of Greyton. A car was leading us out through the town and onto the open roads. Unfortunately, the course marshal must not have had his Red Bull this morning because he took a wrong turn and lead the whole entire field into a dead end road. The whole field was stopped and confusion set in. We were only 5 minutes from the start and rumor circulated through the field that there would be a re-start. The pack mentality made people push other riders and trample through gardens. The group was making its’ way back toward the start and then just kept going. The re-start never happened and in the confusion, Matthew was pushed over and I lost track of him. Hundreds of people passed us before we realized the race was proceeding despite the botched start. I rode for about 30 minutes not knowing where Matthew was. He was behind me working hard to catch up. When we finally found each other, we were among hordes of recreational riders. We’ve been riding in about 40th position overall for most of the race, but today’s start put us somewhere in the hundreds.
We spent the rest of the stage working through groups, passing people and trying to catch back up. Much of the day was on fast roads with a headwind. It was truly road racing for ¾ of the day and since we were back with slower riders, we were not in packs that could share the workload. Matthew put his nose into the wind and his head down to work. It took us about 2 hours to move into the top 10 mixed field. It took us another couple of hours to work into 6th place in the mixed division. The whole stage took us 5:41 and most of our effort was spent passing teams and working back up through the field after the botched start. We finished the day in 6th and maintained our 5th place in the GC. However, we now only have a 4 minute advantage on the next team, which leaves very little room for error.
As the race goes on, Matthew and I are definitely finding our racing rhythm and learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Today was frustrating to have lost so much time due to a mistake by the course marshal. However, we rode really well and cut our losses the best we could. It’s hard not to look at the standings for today and wonder where we should have placed. However, this race is very much an adventure and very few teams have 8 days in a row with no mistakes, mechanicals or mishaps. I crashed today and bent my wheel about 5 km from the finish. Luckily, it was still operational and got me to the finish line. The other Specialized team (Songo.info) with Christoph and Burry were not so lucky. Burry crashed early in the race and also damaged his wheel. After winning every single stage so far, they lost approximately 20 minutes and lost their overall lead. They are motivated to make a historical comeback and try to regain the lead. As I said, this race is an adventure and the fatigue is setting in for everyone. Bikes and bodies are getting worked, so anything can still happen.
Tomorrow is also rumored to be an “easy” day at 111 km and 2233 meters of climbing. The goal is to race well, stay upright and maintain our position in the general classification.
Cape Epic Stage 3March 24, 2009
Although relatively short at only 73k, stage three packed a wallop. Just shy of half-way, we encountered a 2,000 ft climb, the vast majority of which was too steep, loose and rocky to ride. The summit ridge offered astonishing views of the incredible hill country known as The Overberg (over the mountains). Although this climb was the crux of the day, it was by no means the only challenge.
After a howling fast start straight up a 1,000 ft. + loose double-track, followed by several kilometers of loose, challenging, off-camber vineyard service roads, we found our adventure racing backgrounds serving us well as we marched up a steep trail that would take us to the summit of the Boskloof, the tallest mountain in the region. With our bikes on our shoulders, we steadily worked our way through the field on the long hike and eventually saw the 3rd and 4th place mixed teams in the overall standings. Knowing that this was our best shot at moving into the top four in the overall standings, we pushcd relentlessly seeking seconds wherever we could find them.
The picturesque village of Greyton, sitting snugly against the mountains, was our destination, and after the insanely fast descent (max speed 35mph), we joined up with a pack of ex-roadies who stormed towards the final grinder climbs. Our legs had a hard time shifting from big-ring ripping to granny-gear grinding, but our minds were willing: we crossed the line in 5th, again, solidifying our overall position but failing to budge one step higher.
After the race, we agreed that we couldn’t have gone any faster or raced together any better than we did. No flats, solid tactics, the courage to attack a hard course, no mistakes, good nutrition and hydration… it is a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve left it all on the trail, and that those who beat you were simply stronger on the day.
We also wanted to share our observations on the total professionalism of the team that is supporting us. Benno and Dylan, our mechanics, strip our bikes down every night, clean the chains link-by-ink, install fresh rubber every night (and even modify the tread for increased traction) and even use bike shine to make sure our rides are fully pimped at the line. And Claire and Natasha, our soigneurs, wake us with coffee, wash our clothes every day, massage the day’s punishment from our legs and generally make sure that we are presentable when we go to the line.
And, in terms of psyche, it’s never a bad thing to be sharing a designated mobile home slot with the team that has won every single stage of the race so far… although the groupies and journalists are starting to get a bit tedious!
Cape Epic Stage 1 and Stage 2March 23, 2009
Stage one was billed as the toughest single stage in Cape Epic history, and it lived up to its reputation. Several long climbs, intense heat and relentlessly technical descending led to over 100 people dropping out before the start of stage two. Although it was “only” 112k, the stage offered 2,769 meters of climbing, almost half of which was dished out on the torturous ascent up Groenlandberg, loose, rutted old 4x4 road that rose 500 meters in less than 5k, all of which was in baking sunshine. Africa at its finest!
The descents were absolutely ripping and technical… and treacherous. We’ve heard of many, many broken bones and dislocated shoulders. Fortunately, a long winter didn’t take the edge off of our descending skills and we were passing people like it was a video game. Later, we chatted with one of the race photographers who was trying to keep up with Specialized riders Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander, who are among the favorites to win the overall title, and he said that not only where they unable to keep up, but that they had boiled the brake oil and had to finish the day on front brakes alone!
Both of us had been skiing the week before the race, so the fact and that temps were expected to crack 100 degrees (and that all of the forests we rode through had been burned by raging wildfires in the months leading up to the race – no shade!) caused us some concern. We consulted with Steve Born at Hammer nutrition prior to traveling to Africa and got some tips on dealing with the heat. We’ve been popping Endurolytes like candy and following their suggested protocol for Liquid Endurance. During the stage, we maintained a conservative approach, hoping to minimize possible losses rather than try to stay competitive on the day and potentially blow ourselves for the rest of the race. By the end of the stage, our strategy yielded uncertain results, as we dropped from 4th to 6th overall, and both of us were pretty well f*%#ed at the line.
Nevertheless, the excitement of racing through some of the most incredible terrain on earth more than made up for the difficulty (and self-doubt) of the stage, and we went to bed early, ready to go back to war the next day.
Stage two was only a few kilometers shorter than stage one, but the course profile suggested a faster, more tactical form of racing. Matthew’s road racing experience served us well as he organized pacelines and educated mountain bikers on the finer points of riding in packs. Since both of us were feeling strong, we decided to attack the group that held many of the mixed teams, and committed to a long day with our noses in the wind. Unfortunately, the wind got the best of us, and we sat up after banging away on an interminable dirt road that rose steadily into a wind for almost 30k. Caught by the group that we had dropped earlier, we re-assessed our strategy on the fly and decided to see what we could do during the much harder second half of the stage.
As we were returning to our overnight spot, a beautiful town named Villiersdorp, the course hammered home several steep, full-bore granny-gear climbs. Still feeling strong, we passed several mixed teams (and many men’s teams!) as the rocky, desolate land of the Karoo rolled beneath our tires.
We attacked again on the last series of hills, got a gap, and pressed our advantage all the way home. At the end of the day, feeling more accustomed to the intense pace and heat, we crossed the line in 5th, moving up one spot in GC (general classification, or the overall standings). As Rebecca said at the finish, if we keep bumping one spot every day, we’ll win the race! Of course, Alison Sydor will need to drop out for that to happen!
There are still five more days of hard riding, 500 kilometers of hard racing and over 12,000 meters of hard climbing, so stay tuned…
Cape Epic Pre-Race/PrologueMarch 21, 2009
I am finally over in South Africa and have started the Cape Epic, a 685 km, 8-day mountain bike stage race. The route passes through mountain and wine regions and will feature over 14,000 meters of climbing over the course of the week. It’s the largest and most competitive stage race in the world and the team rosters are packed with 1200 athletes, including Olympians, pro riders, World Champions and regular cyclists.
It is my second year competing in this event as my own Spring training camp and a great travel experience. I am here racing in the mixed division with my coach and friend, Matthew Weatherley-White. Matthew is an ex-road cycling racer, adventure racer and long time endurance athlete. We are using this race as a key building block to my season. We’ll be recording all of our heart rate data on our Suunto watches and compiling a training report when the kilometers are all logged. I am also traveling along with Specialized team riders, Chrisoph Sauser and Burry Stander. We’re camping for the entire week of the race, but camping in style with motor homes, mechanics and soigneurs to help us out. I will be sending reports from the field when I can and you will hopefully get to experience much of the behind the scenes experience and the racing excitement from our reports.
The Prologue is now under our belts and I feel relieved to have finally started the race and gotten the nerves calmed. It was 17km with 650 meters of climbing through the recent burns on Table Mountain. What goes up must come down and the descents were extremely loose and rocky. A rider broke his collarbone yesterday pre-riding the course. I expect there will be more crashes today. Matthew and I discussed our strategy for this day and vowed to ride hard, but be sure not to blow up or crash and to take things a bit conservatively. It is a long race and this is just the prologue. Matthew and I made it through unscathed. The bikes were perfect and we stayed upright. We finished the stage in 4th place, which I am VERY pleased with. All of the women in the top three mixed teams for today are Olympians. We are also surrounded on all sides by World Champions, more Olympians and various other cycling pedigrees. We are in very competitive and very good company, so I feel great about our preliminary performance. The top 6 mixed teams are all within 5 minutes of each other after today, so this week promises to be extremely competitive. There are still more than 600 km to go, so I’m sure the results will be fluid. However, we made a great statement and it’s a good confidence boost to know we are riding amongst the best in the world.
My Specialized teammates Chrisoph and Burry won the men’s prologue by just a few seconds and head into the race in the leaders jersey. They are racing as team Songo.info
Sorry no photos from today. We had to be up at 4:30am, and I am NOT a morning person, so I forgot to take the camera. I’ll work on that.
Tomorrow is the real start of the race with a 119km stage with 2700 meters of climbing. It is rumored to be one of the hardest of the race, so stay tuned. Thanks for checking in. Thanks to Red Bull and Specialized for making this race a reality!
USA Cycling Ultra Endurance series race #2March 10, 2009
I just got home from the Spa City Marathon and my second race in the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance series. The race was in Hot Springs, AR and their claim to fame in that area of the country is being the “boyhood home of former President Bill Clinton.” That’s what the huge sign says as you drive into town. This was my first trip to Arkansas and I learned that Hot Springs and the nearby Little Rock area have a lot more going for them than past presidents. Hot Springs is home to a beautiful, wooded National Park, natural hot springs, a sweet looking roller coaster, a strip karaoke club and some really amazing single track riding. I didn’t hit all of those hot spots. I mostly focused on the riding part.
This race was my second stop in the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance series and part of my early season quest to find warm places to ride outside. I traveled down alone, but shared a house with Danielle Musto and Fuzzy John Mylne, two other pro racers. I spent a big chunk of my time in Little Rock hanging out at the Specialized shop, Arkansas Cycling and Fitness. They took great care of me by buffing out my bike and taking me to their local favorite restaurant. They even made some bets about how many laps I would be able to complete in the race.
The race was a 6-hour marathon on a 10-mile single track course. The riding was really fun and fast through the woods. The weather was humid, but overcast, so the heat didn’t get to me too much. Danielle had driven to the race, so she had all the race supplies with her: tent, chairs, and Ted the mechanic! She was totally willing to share them all, so the three of us used her tent and Ted was kind enough to provide support and time splits for everyone.
After my metabolic testing at G Fit performance studio in Boise last week, I was armed with some new heart rate zone numbers and a bit more knowledge. I opted not to use an odometer on my bike and just start up my Suunto T6c to record all of the data from the race. This was my last hard effort before heading to South Africa in a week, so my coach Matthew had asked me to try to go as hard as possible and “empty the tank.”
I took the lead from the start, but not by much. After the first lap, Ted reported that I had a one-minute lead over 2nd and 3rd. Part of the fun of coming to a race in a new place is that I have no idea who the competition will be. I had raced against Danielle before, but all of the other women were unknown. After about 2 hours, I still only had a 5-minute lead and was not content with that close of a margin. I always think about possible scenarios that would eat up my advantage such as a flat tire, a crash or another mechanical. It was easy to keep the race intensity high because the course was so much fun and required my full attention. I avoided flat tires and crashes and finished 7 laps on the course in 6:10:50, set a female course record and finished 7th in the men’s field. Danielle moved into 2nd place on the last lap and finished 6 laps in 5:41:10. Fuzzy won the overall with a course record of 8 laps in 6:20:20.
The win keeps me in a solid lead for the overall points for the USA Cycling endurance series. Most importantly, it was a great time riding my bike and the perfect brutally hard training day that I needed before heading to South Africa.
Thanks to Dan and Richard at Arkansas Cycling and Fitness Specialized dealer for all the great support. Thanks to Red Bull for supplying most of the racers with energy drinks for the day. Thanks to Danielle, Ted and Fuzzy for a fun time in Hot Springs!
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