Friday, February 25, 2011

AZ Trail Adventures

Monday night after the race, I was treated to an epic Arizona Sunset:

From my luxury suite in the Parker Canyon Mountain Hardware Hotel:

Plans for a 3 day excursion on the Arizona Trail after racing 24 OP turned into a 1 day, 31 mile ride at touring pace. My legs were a bit tired from the race and money (sigh) had a role in the slight plan change also, but such is life, right? I am very thankful to have gotten great weather this past Tuesday as I set off from my camp at Parker Canyon Lake.

Parker Canyon Lake TH
My SPOT Track Progress Map of the route is here.
The Border Patrol made about six passes through the parking lot at the trail head where I was camped Monday night. My ancy black lab was as ready to be out of the car and on the trail as I was. So, for lack of anything else to do, we cruised around to expend some pent up dog energy, notching 3 or 4 miles of (pre)pre-riding.
The next morning, loaded with 90% of what will go with me for the real deal in April, I left a little after 10 AM. Rocky, loose trail coupled with fast, wide hardpack gives a good picture of the first section. I decided I was going to move at an easy pace, take pictures and just navigate along. The whole point of this was to become familiar with the trail and the terrain and get used to riding with more weight from my gear.

Typical AZ Trail terrain

Soon I entered the Canelo Hills and did a fair bit of hike-a-biking. The steep ascents were loose, sandy and had tons of rock that was simply not ridable. I found the hike-a-bike to be relatively easy, but soon found myself just wanting to ride for more than 3 minutes before another big climb.

Many hills that look like this
I met the Border Patrol on a double track descent and stopped for about 15 minutes to talk with them. I learned a lot about safety issues on the trail and just chatted about mountain biking in general. I have to admit, until I came to Arizona, I have never really thought twice about illegal immigrants. Something new to consider on return trips for sure. I am by no means paranoid, but now more aware.

My next encounter with another trail user came as I was ripping down a long, rocky, winding hill. I hit my brakes hard to miss the four or five goats (yes, that’s right, GOATS) that were bedded down under a tree. I heard their bells as they ran right over the top of their owner who was napping in the shade. I heard two dogs bark and jump up and I slowed to a stop.
Joe was the fellow’s name. He was from Montana and had his goats packed with his gear. No halters, leads or anything. "You couldn't run them off if you tried, " he told me. By Joe's side were two gorgeous black labs who immediately owned my heart. Twenty or thirty minutes of good conversation later, I was back to pedaling along.
Joe, his labs and pack goats
I soon came to Canelo Pass and the trail completely changed. It became mostly a wide, fast double track through a meadow. There were many sandy riverbed crossings and a little route-finding, but my GPS tracks were dead on and the trail was marked very well. (Great job, Arizona). I opened and closed a million gates, cruised through herds of cattle, met two women riding horses that asked about my fear of drug runners and wanted to follow along for a while and finally came to some hills where I encountered some more hike-a bike sections.

Rolling through an open meadow
Wishing for a rope (haha, maybe not)

After opening and closing a few more gates, I came to a steep, narrow, loose downhill. Deciding to ride a bit conservatively, I elected to put a foot down on some of the sketchy sections and walk my bike down a couple of nasty looking switchbacks. I came to Harshaw Rd right about 5 PM with one helluva sunburn and was ready for some good grub in Patagonia.  

Looking back on 31 miles in the sun

I really wanted to continue riding on past Patagonia the next day, but I had to return home back to the work grind. I have to be honest in saying that I don’t appreciate the inherent beauty of the desert even a fraction as much as I do the Rocky Mountains, but I am always up for exploring new trails and riding all kinds of terrain and conditions. My setup worked nicely. Steep descents weren’t an issue with my seatbag being so high, although I am going to fine tune the straps to eliminate the small amount of sway that did occur. I kind of anticipated this and took an extra strap along. I am pretty stoked that my gear is really light and I didn’t notice the added weight really at all. There were a few times as I was pushing my bike I would notice the presence of the seatbag, but barely enough to mention.
My shoes need some arch support which I will add when I return in March and I am still on the hunt for a top-tube bag that I like. Other than that, I am not going to change much on my next pre-ride on March 5th. This trip will include two overnights, so I will be packing more food.
Take-home impression:

I really dig this bikepacking thing.  

True story: I came across this about 1/4 mile from the exit point...hmmmm, epic gnomes abound? 

Stay tuned for more coming your way in early March....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo...3rd Place in my 3rd race

Thursday, February 17, 2011.
Bikes loaded.
Gear packed and ready.
Wheels in her normal co-pilot position.
Tucson, here we come.

A long, 14 hours later, we arrived in Tucson ready to ride in the desert as part of the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo.
Tucson sunset from the city

This was my third official race ever and my first crack at a 24 hour duo. The course was located just north of Tucson and was approximately 16 miles long. After meeting up with Erick, his wife, Jen, and their friend, Kevin, we constructed what was to be our “home” for the next couple days in the desert.

Erick and Jen


Soon after the palace was complete, Erick and I set out on a pre-ride to discover the kind of riding that was in store for us for the next 24 hours. Arizona riding is so different from riding here in Colorado. Flat, fast, hardpacked, and “flowy” trails greeted our tires. We cruised up, over and down the “bitches” (Five aptly named, very short, but steep hills in the middle of a wide double track) and then hit fast, cacti lined singletrack for the next 10 miles. The last 2.5 miles contained a gradual and sustained climb to a saddle just above TentTown. From this saddle, it was all downhill splendor to the exchange tent. Ahhhh, this section was the sweet, sugary icing—no quads required—just rail like you are 10 years old again!

Rockin' the rock..

Cruisin' the cholla

Jen fed us pasta for dinner and after a good breakfast the next morning, we were ready to play bike racer for a day. I racked my bike along with the bazillion other runners and lined up to run in the LeMans style start.

Haha! Look closely and find my bike :)

Carl (296) in ready mode

We had approximately ¼ mile to run, locate our bike, hop on and begin the first lap. I had absolutely no desire to be stuck behind a million scrambling bike jerseys, so I strategically worked my way as close to the front of the pack as possible. High noon came, the cannon erupted and the fury was unleashed. STAMPEDE! I knew the sooner I got to my bike, the less chaos there would be getting going on the trail. I ran pretty quickly because it was such a short distance. Apparently, I was the first woman through the run, although I didn’t find this out until yesterday. I saw a Superfly on my left and reached for it…UGH! Wrong bike. Glad I didn’t hop on! I looked about 4 feet ahead and Erick already had my bike out and ready to go. Perfect. Thanks, Erick!

Where IS she???

Rollin out for Lap 1

I looked down and was encouraged by my mantra added by my teammate...

My first lap was pretty fast. I knew it would be. I also knew that I had many miles in front of me. My goal coming into the race was to turn in consistent splits within 4 or 5 minutes of each other. I used the times from last year to set a pace I honestly thought I could maintain, but in the end I could not. My times slowed to the 1:30’s throughout the night. I can attribute a bit of that to the brutal wind on some of the laps, but I would rather not use the weather as an excuse. I should have stayed in the low to mid 1:20’s.
In all my slower laps, my legs felt heavy right at the beginning for a couple minutes. I pushed through and got back on pace, grinding up the “bitches” and then picking it back up on the flowy singletrack. I held the pace I wanted until the last climb to the saddle. I lost time here on each lap. Frustrating.
On my third lap the rain was coming sideways and the wind straight on. Enough rain had come down to make a few of the corners slick and I crashed on one of them. Tore up my tights and scraped up my right knee pretty good, but nothing to worry about. I picked up my bike and was going again in about a minute. My sixth lap saw me eat it bigtime about 200 feet from the exchange tent. I was tearing through the last part of the course and somehow lost it on some loose sand in the bottom of a small wash. I landed directly on top of my right handlebar that was sticking straight up from the dirt. The impact left a circular cut precisely in the shape of the bar end in my right groin. Intensely painful, I paused for 30 seconds trying to move my leg. Not happening. I lifted my right leg up with both hands to  get on my bike and pedaled in to finish the lap. Grimacing in pain, but trying to hide it and be tough I limped back to camp, telling myself I had about an hour to get well. I rolled out on the foam roller, stretched and ate. I couldn’t put much weight on my right leg to walk, but oddly enough I was able to pedal without much pain. I was good to go.

Here are some pictures of life in camp between sundown and sunrise:

Happy faces....

Brrrrr...Arizona is supposed to be warm, I thought... Ha, silly me..

My horse...

Who signed me up for this?
Keeping warm and checking splits as they posted with Jen...

Jen informed me we had moved into 3rd. Erick had battled through the frustration of two flats and had turned it on. He posted some wicked-fast early morning laps and left everything out there. Awesome job, Erick! Mad respect for a great rider and friend!

On the hunt for a fast lap!
AZ sky looms...

We were safely in third and for my 9th, and final lap, I momentarily considered skipping the “bitches” and riding the new bypass trail that was a bit longer. Ummm, yah, that thought stayed in my head for all of about 2 seconds. I was definitely going to slap those old bags in the face one last time until next year.
My last two laps were a bit quicker, but I still was slower than I wanted to be overall. I am really happy to have placed third for my third race ever. The entire event was a blast and I stood on the podium with a great teammate. A huge, heartfelt thanks goes to Jen who had wonderful food and support ready at all times. She truly is the rockstar. Also thank you, Kevin, for keeping my bike clean and maintained after every lap. And finally, to Brandon for all your help with everything!

3rd Place


This race taught me a lot. It was a good checkpoint that provided encouragement and also pointed out my weak points. I met some great people and experienced a new type of riding. I earned the nickname "Miss Flowy" and "Hammer" (ha, again) from some pretty cool guys I seemed to always be riding with on my laps.

Most importantly. I had fun. My love for the sport grew as I just....simply...turned the crank. Over and over. Mile after mile. I was just happy to be on a bike and so thankful that I have the chance to do what I love amongst great people.

I watched some truly impressive racers blow by me on the "bitches"and, then, I also saw this guy:

Chick magnet!

A friend emailed me a simple spreadsheet comparing my times with the Coed Duo 1st and 2nd place women. My average lap time was 1 minute slower than the 2nd place woman and 10 minutes slower than the 1st place woman.
Hmmmmm....time to continue working on my bike's motor to get faster. J

Coming tomorrow: AZ Trail Pre-ride stories and pictures...

Until then:

Team Las Chupacabras!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Someone called me tenacious the other day.

Hmmmmm, I'll go with that.

Time to shut up and begin the chase for some epic in the desert.

Bring it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Calming the Nerves

Go time. I am just counting the days and watching the weather in Tucson now.

My gear is ready. Bike is ready. Legs and mind are ready. Just a few last minute things to do next week. I have been over and over everything. I posted here to get some last minute advice. Valuable tips received and good things to consider for the real deal.

I have to admit I am nervous and excited. For one who can normally fall asleep before my head hits the pillow, I tossed and turned a lot last night. Dreams of (hmmm, guess?) riding through the desert hit me nonstop. All were high energy epics. Today was a rest day, but I still feel like I need a nap.

Since I couldn't calm my nerves with a ride or a run, I daydreamed of the upcoming Chicago Basin trip in early March and this mountain in May:

Oh, yeah and Valentine's Day is Monday. Heh, my main man these days rolls around on two wheels and sports the Gary Fisher logo on his torso, so I hope you all have an EPIC day (date, dinner, etc) with your sweetie! :-)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Links and Beats

If you are interested in following the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo Live Results check this link out:

2011 OP Live Results

Also starting Monday, February 21, I will be on the Arizona Trail until late Wednesday, February, 23. If you want to track me and see where I am, check out my SPOT page. When I turn it on and activate Track Progress, a message is sent every ten minutes:

Find Jill

I rode 25 at a pretty chill pace yesterday. I loaded down my bike with everything that is going with me on the AZ Trail. Minus the top tube bag I don't have yet. The sun was shining in its full splendor when I started, but 18F is still 18F. My layers kept my core warm, but my right index finger was frozen solid when I returned, but that is pretty much par for the course. I honestly did not notice the additional weight of my packs and gear.The seatpost bag hits my left leg, so some adjusting will be necessary. My ride pretty much ended at the top of the Red Rocks Ampitheater (no pics, unfortunately, because the cold sucked the last of my camera battery). It was a gorgeous evening and some guy asked me about all the "weird bags" on my bike. I couldn't resist and told him that I was part of a study for 100% green snow removal programs in Jeffco. Heh :-)

I have a ton of playlists that I am merging together, but am looking for some sick, new beats to freshen the iPod up a little. Please, comment here or on FB with your faves or what gets you ubermotivated! Thanks :)

My goal for April  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Go. Onward. Passionately.

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you”

      Maori Proverb (mmmmmm.......New Zealand)

February is going fast.Ten days until I am at the starting line for 24 OP in Tucson. Arizona Trail GPX file is loaded. Maps and mileage cues ready. UPS delivered 1.5 lbs of Montbell warmth last weekend. The seatpost bag seems to be working fine after a couple of shorter rides. I am craving the adventure of soloing a bunch of the AZ Trail, but am really wishing I had a shuttle person that would make the logistics easier. Brother is a no go. :(

More AZ trail and a Chicago Basin trip in the works in early March if avvy danger returns to minimal with good weather. Eolus is calling once again. This only fuels the fire.

The hardest part of all this is the financial part. In a way, however, it puts my back against the wall as mentioned in my earlier post No Recipe. I am scraping by, but it drives me more. It gets my butt off the couch on those dreary, cold days. It motivates me to keep a good attitude while working until 3am. It simplifies my world in a way.

I know the "shadows" that lurk (largely financial worries) in this journey will fall behind.The sun is out and my face is illuminated in its brilliance. The deep passion that stirs within feels wild, free, reckless and vibrant. My journey to find the life I want is fueled by this passion I have known since birth. A passion that defines me...drives me, tortures me, excites me and is undeniably....Me.

There is a desire deep within each of us, in the deep center of ourselves that we call our heart. We were born with it, it is never completely satisfied, and it never dies. We are often unaware of it, but it is always awake...Our true identity, our reason for being, is to be found in this desire.                    
                                Gerald May The Awakened Heart

Blue Lakes/Ridgway Hut Trip, Christmas 2009

Monday, February 7, 2011

February Riding

Gold Hill, Colorado. Home of the the Magic Schoolbus. I missed the best photo opportunity of the day on the Saturday ride because I couldn't grab my camera fast enough. It is parked just outside of a tiny little community that sits west of Boulder above 8K' and probably hasn't moved since the 80's.

Haha, I had to giggle a little at the bright and "magical" colors that graced this shaggin' wagon. I can only imagine what is was like in its heyday---circa 1974. After rolling through town, myself and three friends turned onto the well-known Switzerland trail. It was a slippery ride with my back tire going everywhere. The sun, however, came out in full brilliance as we cruised along in about 4 inches of snow. This part of the ride was somewhere between surreal and euphoric as there was snow beneath my tires and snow lightly falling amidst energizing sunlight. I floated along at one point , closing my eyes and just let the sun and sweet air fill my lungs. Nearing the end of the trail, it started to get colder and the sunlight gave way to clouds and huge, wet snowflakes.

After a quick warm up at the bottom of Switz, we started down 4 Mile Canyon. 13 miles of wet snow coming down HARD. The first 4 or 5 miles I could actually see the road, but after that my glasses were caked with snow and seeing the curves became a true luxury. 

4 Mile dumped us out at the Boulder bike path and back to the Ball parking lot. Overall, it was a great 40 miles. We clocked 4 hrs of ride time and I imagine a total of 5 hours considering we had about 7 warmup/add layer stops. Climbing up Poorman Rd and Sunshine definitely elevated the HR, but my legs felt light and strong. In a sick, twisted way, I really do crave big climbs.

The ride I had been jonesing for all week was the Sunday plan. It was a similiar loop with some more sick climbing---sans gears. Due to the fact that no side roads were plowed in Morrison after a foot or so of snow, I was not able to make it by 8:30 Sunday morning. The ride was aborted after 3 miles of climbing because of ice, so I guess my pain is assuaged somewhat :). The SS torch will have to be carried another day (credit, Mr. Dukes).

Here are a few pictures from Saturday many have seen on Facebook, but here they are again:

Anxious for some more of those rides, especially this summer at higher altitudes.

Arizona is getting closer....finalizing plans and travel. Looks like I am going to do some epic soloing for 3 days after 24 OP. Very excited to go share my sleeping bag with some friendly scorpions.   

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Simple Red Bag

I decided to go with a Sea Line dry bag and strategically placed straps for my seat post bag. A custom made bag has never really interested me all that much for a few reasons:

a) cost
b) time required to fabricate and receive
c) I wanted the challenge of making my own

I thought about what I wanted for a long time and even sketched out a basic design starting with a normal stuff sack. The more I thought about it though, I wanted a tougher material that had a little more integrity to its overall structure. I stopped by an Army/Navy Surplus store to pick up some material to make the straps and I started looking at stuff sacks, but nothing was really working for what I had in mind. That's when I got the idea of using a dry bag. I picked one up for 20 bucks at REI and for the last couple of days I have been figuring out the best placement for the straps and working on attaching them.

Here is what I started with. I wasn't too keen on the red color, but my other option was some weird green. So I went with the red hoping it would look somewhat decent with the red on my bike:

Perfect for what I wanted. Waterproof, but also, it is expandable and collapsible and has a TON of room for its light weight.

I originally just superglued the straps as a temporary means of holding them in place, with the intent to return later and hand sew them securely. The glue worked amazingly well. I tested it out by pulling the straps away from the bag and I could not pull them off.

Hmmmmm, maybe I could get out of stitching them on...

Bad idea. They have to be reinforced with stitching.


So here are some pictures of the bags on my bike. I am anxious for my sleeping bag to arrive and fill the seat bag with everything. For purposes of these pictures, I just shoved some dirty socks and towels (very easy to find on my floor) in it to provide some shape:

As you can obviously see, this isn't exceptionally complicated. The strap is not meant to go over the seat, it is just the extra length I had not cut off yet when I took the picture. I am happy that the attachment system is really secure. It doesn't sag at all and has plenty of clearance. I have not ridden it on anything but the grass (uh, snow) in the backyard, so I may be starting completely over after I ride tomorrow with it. I am optimistic though. It's so simple and I left the middle strap completely detached so I can adjust its location and angle as needed once I am on the trail.

My goal is to go with a very minimal, but well planned and intelligent setup, with some room for adaptability and trailside modification. That in itself will be a big key for me in races like the AZ 300 and the CTR. I am going to forego a handlebar bag because all the gear I need is going to fit into what I have now.

My 24 OP partner, Erick, lent me his seat post bag to try out as well. I will definitely give it a go and compare the two out on some local singletrack to get a feel for the differences. He handmade this bag and used it last summer. This thing puts my creation to shame as far as design, craftsmanship and complexity...Wow. Very impressive.

 This picture doesn't do it justice, but when I try it out, I will definitely post a few.

I am looking forward to the next three days of riding. I am hoping Bear Creek Canyon and Evergreen's roads will be melted and clear by noonish tomorrow. Saturday and Sunday's rides won't be solo. Yeah! I do like to ride with people who push me. Saturday will be climbing with gears and Sunday I get to chase a strong singlespeeder.  All this and work too. Love it.

Setup nearing completion. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No Recipe

Use the mirror and cut to the heart of things and uncover your true self. Use the razor to cut away what you don't need. The life you want to live has no recipe...Live the lifestyle instead of paying lip service to the lifestyle. Live with commitment.With emotional content. Live whatever life you choose honestly. Give up this renaissance man, dilettante bullshit of doing a lot of different things (and none of them very well by real standards). Get to the guts of one thing; accept, without casuistry, the responsibility of making a choice...Burn the bridge. Nuke the foundation. Back yourself up against a wall...You ask about security? What you need is uncertainty. What you need is confusion. Something which forces you to reinvent yourself, a whip to drive you harder.

-Mark Twight

Until this morning, I have never read anyone else's words that essentially mimicked the ass-kicking I unleashed on myself this past summer. I was tired of "dabbling" in so many activities and mediocrity was taunting me.

A few years ago, I got married and bought the house with the proverbial picket fence in Pleasantville. After realizing I made a really bad choice in people to marry, I got divorced a short six months later. I have changed my career goals, changed majors and changed jobs more than a few times throughout my twenties.

The one thing, however, that has always remained constant within me for as long as I can remember is my fire. The heat from the flame of this fire has always pulled me away from the "recipe" Twight so poignantly coins in this passage:

Mix one high school diploma with an undergrad degree and a college sweetheart. With a whisk (or a whip), blend two cars, a poorly built house in a cul de sac, and 50 hours a week working for a board who doesn't give a shit about you. Reproduce once. Then again. Place all ingredients in a rut, or a grave. One is a bit longer than the other. Bake thoroughly until the resulting life is set. Rigid. With no way out. Serve and enjoy.

Twight's blunt words prevent me from putting this book down. His intent to provoke is alluring. He ends the article by saying that it "affected several people cIose to me in a positive way. It allowed them to recognize their own adherence to the recipe, that they were trying to fulfill other people's expectations, but not their own."

I don't closely identify with the anger that is an evident driving force throughout his intriguing life, but he speaks of the "jackal" that pulls him to climb. Sometimes this jackal is quiet and other times it attacks.

His jackal is my fire. 

And when it roars inside, nothing stops me. This fire is my intense drive and my unparalleled, beautiful passion for those close to me, for life and for the mountains. It has always burned inside in varying intensities, but now, more than ever, it burns for adventure, authenticity and for true freedom to confidently believe in and follow my heart.

I have spent the past few months cutting away the things I don't need. Some of the scars from those sacrifices will remain for awhile, but the bridge is burnt. Foundation nuked. The fire is raging inside. No more lipservice, no more dabbling here and there. 

With refreshing clarity and simplicity, I will start here:

                                    I am going to ride my bike.

The beauty and thrill of the ride that will ensue is what I crave. Truly living my life with a focus. Fully awake. A passionate pursuit...The goals and dreams I am chasing will come together somewhere in the miles I pedal.   

                                                *      *      *     *

Ha! So here's a cheat sheet. Don't worry, I had to look these words up too:

  1. An amateur, someone who dabbles in a field out of casual interest rather than as a profession or serious interest.
  2. A person with a general but superficial interest in any art or a branch of knowledge. (Sometimes derogatory.)

 1. Specious or excessively subtle reasoning intended to rationalize or mislead.