Saturday, June 25, 2011

24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest Race Report

My constant attempts to play mountain bike racer found me back in New Mexico for the 2nd annual 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest this past weekend. My coed duo partner, Erick and I registered for this event back in late April after learning the course was 100% singletrack and reading very positive things about the previous year. We were also coming off some excitement and energy from a 3rd place finish in Tucson in late February, so we decided to throw our hat into the ring once again.
Jen and Erick left early Thursday morning and I rolled out of Denver Thursday evening. I got to the race area early Friday and camp was set up and ready, complete with hammock:

camping with the cows!

After hanging out a bit in camp, the three of us set out on a mid-afternoon preride. This was Jen’s first time on a mountain bike in two years, and after this past weekend I am guessing the Lord’s may have a new 29er in their quiver soon. 
The pace was really mellow and we were just getting a feel for the terrain, the turns and the climbing.  I followed along in the back just loving the fact I was on my bike and trying to calm a few nerves. The race course was about 16.5 miles long. (For those who aren’t familiar with 24 Hour Mountain Bike Races: the race starts Saturday at noon and ends Sunday at noon, racers ride laps in many different categories (solo, duo or team) and the most laps in 24 hours wins. The laps are timed and if a team has the same number of laps, the winner is decided by time)
 The first 5 miles of this course was a meandering climb through the trees. The corners were sandy and the trail was really dry. After mile 5, it flattened out a bit and went through the trees with some fast ups and downs. The blazing descent that occupied about mile 10 to 13 was manned with three search and rescue volunteers at all times.  Very rocky with loose gravel and serious opportunities for catching A LOT of air, but one mistake and it’s a ride out on a stretcher to the nearest road. The last three miles provide just enough climbing to dispel the hero notion one begins to obtain upon exiting the rippin’ downhill.
Erick lined up for the mass start on the gravel road and put us in 4th place after the first (shortened) lap:

The first lap was a shortened version that saw a mass start down some dirt roads

Erick on the opening lap
Our camp was on the actual course, and since the timing chip was the actual race baton, we simply made our camp the exchange area.

I was able to catch two of the women to put us into second after my first lap. We steadily gained time over the team in third place and chased the Stan’s No Tubes team all night long. I remember hoping that each person I came up upon in the dark was wearing the white No Tubes jersey, because we were so close. On my 5th or 6th lap at about mile 10, I finally saw Karen. She had about 7 or 8 minutes on me at the beginning of the lap, but was on her second lap in a row. I stood in camp, watching her head out, waiting for Erick to finish his lap and I knew this would be my only chance to take the lead. Once I finally caught her, it was a race. One of those moments I crave. And, one of those moments in which I grew as a cyclist. It was dark and we were on the loose, rocky downhill. Just ride, Jill, don’t think, don’t analyze, get off the brakes, lean back, push the comfort edge, come fully alive, stay with the bike….GO!
We both missed a weird turn in the dark and were seconds apart for a couple miles. I found another gear or two and managed to pull away in the last three miles and finish a couple minutes ahead, but was very impressed with her strength after pulling double laps.

Headed for the exchange tent

Enchanted creatures appeared overnight and remained for the final morning laps
As the sun came up, we found ourselves again in second place. Allan (the other half of Stan’s No Tubes) seemed to “have a turbo-pack on his bike” (Credit Erick Lord), and was too much for either of us to catch.Thus, just past noon on Father's Day we stood on the second rung of the podium next to some very talented cyclists.

Click here to see lap times and full results. The timing system didn't keep track of who rode each lap, but we alternated laps with Erick riding the first one. Our division is Coed Duo, Team Adrenalin Cycles.

Next up: Kit Carson and Challenger summits, Durango Dirty Century, Full Tilt in Telluride and continuing high altitude riding all as part of Colorado Trail Race prep....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bikes and Bars

Ahhh, the Golden Handcuffs. They have been on and off my wrists since I was 21. From high volume, downtown Denver bars to the proverbial neighborhood dive bar in Western Oregon, I have slung drinks in almost every imaginable atmosphere. Sometimes it was as one of three jobs and a full classload. Sometimes it was my night job that required an 80 mile round trip commute which I did everyday for three years because the money was so good. I have taken a few short breaks from bartending that have always been required in order to regain my tolerance of people, but I seem to always fall victim to liking a lot of cash in my hand at the end of every shift. And I love having any given trail virtually all to myself on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays when the rest of the “normal” world is fighting traffic to get to their 9 to 5. Taking time off is never paid, but as long as my shift is covered, I can plan as many hiking or biking trips as I want. When I lock the doors at 3AM, my work is done. No stress of meeting deadlines or emails to answer. I have met amazing people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Many of these people will be my "forever" friends whether we live in the same town or on different ends of the planet. I thrive on the fast, paced, intense nature of the job and the environment can be fun and exciting. I was in the middle of the Democratic National Convention and the World Series. We made more money those weeks than what the majority of the customers we served make in a month. I have carded NBA players and gotten hookups to events and concerts that were unbelievable and unforgettable. I have worked with and for some of the best people I have ever met. Tips that have been thrown into jars and shoeboxes have paid for airfare and travel expenses to epic destinations to climb, hike and bike.
Sounds great from the outside. Make a ton of cash at night then run, bike, climb, swim, hike, travel or just chill by a lake all day. The work is fun, easy, entertaining and there are minimal corporate games to play. Bartenders have it made, right? Not this one. Not anymore anyway.
For those who have never served or bartended I don’t expect you to relate as well as those who have worked customer service or service industry jobs, but I have to let the floodgates open here. Most of the antics that I can even recall, I now look back upon and laugh. In this industry, one develops a shell that has to be completely impenetrable to rudeness, harsh words, constant demands, creeps and stupid people. You learn to take nothing to heart and I can list a million ways to mess with the annoying customers to just get through “those” nights. Mr. Fingersnapper, I saw you a long time ago, but I will walk by and ignore you 25 times before I will get your beer.  Ms. Slur-my-words, there is a reason I am not going to give you another double Jager. Each time you ask me why, I will make up a different story, because you won’t remember in the morning anyway. No, Mr. Creepy, I don’t want your number for the one-billionth time. Oh, you want mine? Sure, its uhhhhh, 999-1234. What it doesn’t work? Hmmm, I have no idea why!
I have been threatened to be killed by a local drunk or two for cutting them off after 12 hours of drinking. Every vulgar name you can call a woman, I have been called. I have worked in 3 inches of drain water on the floor for over 9 hours on a Friday night because the bar was too greedy to lose the sales, close for the night and get the plumbing fixed. I have jumped between numerous whiskey-drunk meatheads who think they need to kill each other in the middle of the dance floor and I have been subpoenaed to testify several times regarding one incident or another. I have heard the same stories from the same people more times than I can count and even after I finish the story for them, I can expect to hear it a couple more times over the course of the night. And I have heard the Kid Rock/Sheryl Crow song “Picture” more times than any human alive. I am lucky enough to hear it not only on the jukebox, but even karaoke too! See why the shell is necessary? But, really, these are all just antics that drum up a few sarcastic jokes. What follows is the heavy artillery that is beginning to penetrate my "shell":
The night owl lifestyle is not so easy anymore. I am tired of working while I should be sleeping. My personality doesn’t really click with being a day sleeper and in order to associate with the rest of the world on weekends, I have to get up early after going to bed around 3:30-4 AM. In my mind, sleeping all day is a total waste. So, I function on very little sleep all weekend and when Monday rolls around, all I can think about is my pillow. Inevitably, I have a million things that need done on Monday, so I don’t get as much sleep as I need. I have adapted to functioning on too little sleep, and its not healthy. And when I am tired, I am overly sensitive and irritable. My motivation suffers as well.
At work, my conversations are at most two minutes long. I am master of the quick-witted one-liners or the fake “act-interested smile.” This is a result of being in constant demand. Someone always needs something--a beer, an answer, a toothpick, turn the TV channel, give me change, etc. I have become so accustomed to attempting to tune out the same stories over and over again or having no time for a meaningful conversation, it seems my own social skills have evolved in a similar fashion. I often find myself making no time or having the patience to really talk with my friends and family. For example, I will text, facebook or email you, but for some unknown reason I think it takes too much time to dial or answer a phone call? Huh?  The sense of urgency to always be doing something and having no time to do it seems to be carrying over to my “real” social life and I find myself always seeking more depth in my conversations and interactions. Texts and Facebook are so empty and sterile and yet, I find myself communicating via those vessels far too much. More on this later for sure..
I have been in school enough years to have my doctorate. Seriously. I have changed majors and career goals three times. Each time stopping just shy of completing my bachelor’s. Why? I lost passion for what I was doing. I could make awesome money pouring drinks and bike, hike and climb whenever I wanted. I could not afford to not work and just go to school, so trying to balance the two took all my time. I would roll into class with my baseball cap pulled as far down as possible on about two and a half hours of sleep from working the night before and try to comprehend protein structure. And, in all honesty, I was dreaming of being on my bike in the mountains. 
This was not me at all. I went from Valedictorian, Dean’s List student to an adventure obsessed bartender who felt obligated go to class. My passion for biochemistry is still alive and that door is still open, but when I started mountain biking a year and a half ago, I knew my life would somehow center around it from then on.
Finally, I do not really fit into any social circle. I don’t get off work and hang out with the industry people and spend half of what I make at the bar. Finding the best Happy Hour in town is not my idea of an epic quest and I have no desire to take trips to go gambling and drinking with my friends on my days off. You won’t find me at work unless I am on the clock. I have plans made for training, riding, racing, trips, hiking and running in advance and inevitably, I do a large amount of it alone. Which is cool for the most part. I have adapted to doing my own thing for many years and it fits my personality. I am definitely a bit of a loner and I love the solitude of the mountains, but I am human and I am female. I don’t want to do everything by myself, but who can take a Tuesday afternoon to go ride 50 miles in the mountains? No one with a 9-5 job. And none of my co-workers are into it. Yes, I have been called an anomaly more than a few times.
So then the weekend rolls around and all my friends who share the love for biking and adventure have rides and things planned that I want to join in on. And I am unable to go because I have to be at work in the evening……See the pattern?
Relationships are even harder. Ask anyone who has dated a bartender. Opposite work schedules work for awhile, but one day you realize that your biggest form of communication with your boyfriend is texting at work because you are both home at the same time for only about two hours a day. And I find myself alone all the time, because the person with whom I most want to share all my epic adventures is at work. It takes its toll. Sad, but true.
Ahhh, but I have been sucked into bartending for too long. Why? The money. I am certainly not there for my health or for intellectual or social stimulation. But I am hitting the point where the money is not worth it anymore. Over the past six months, I have made a ton of changes to free up every possible dime to go towards my bike and getting to races. Material luxuries have never been of much importance to me, but now they are even less. I love the simplicity of owning next to nothing. I have what I need to live. I don’t drive a nice vehicle anymore. I live in a small apartment. The burden of unnecessary things is gone and I love it. Its called minimalism and although I kind of defaulted into it in order to have a nice bike and pursue my dream, I have always related on many levels.
The answer? A job in the cycling industry for awhile before I go finish my Biochem degree. I want to pursue my true love with like-minded people in an environment that intrigues and interests me. I need to explore this road because I sense a lot of opportunities awaiting me. I am more than willing to take the cut in pay. I will find a way to make it work on less money. I have been over bartending for so long. I did my time and paid my dues. I want to work with sober, motivated people and challenge myself to grow.
The golden handcuffs are coming off very soon. Nomadic will be a good way to describe me and the San Juan Mountains will be a good place to look for me this summer… J

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Angel Fire

I absolutely love and hate the starting line of a race. My stomach physically tightens the exact second my front tire touches the line.I often wonder if there is a direct circuit that connects the rubber to my gut, because it never fails.

The latest race in Angel Fire, NM was no different.This was my third MSC XC race ever and I was racing Cat 2. I took second in Fruita due to a broken derailleur and I wanted the win this time. I was going to jump on it from the start and attack. I was craving some rocky singletrack and I knew there was going to be a bunch of climbing on this course. I wasn't racing until 2pm so I loaded my Superfly on the lift with a couple of downhillers I was traveling with and decided to do some Super D recon work. My lip was still bandaged from three days prior so I was debating whether or not to enter the Super D as planned. I rode it three times and found it to be not that technical. Lots of banked, fast corners through the trees, a couple of fast flat spots and one really steep downhill. Fun riding and very doable, although far from ideal on my Superfly.

I must admit, I kinda missed my old friend I rode all last summer...More travel and that drop post would have been nice:

No doubt after riding the course that I was in. I was offered a DH bike to borrow but when I found out that a large part of the XC course was the Super D course, I declined. Practice times ended and I had a couple of hours to eat and get ready for the XC race.

As I warmed up, I felt pretty good. My plan was to go hard right off the line. There was a short but steep hill seconds from the start and I wanted to be out in front. We lined up and watched the men start. There was 5 minutes between each age group for men.

I am generally pretty quiet. Chatter doesn't really interest or calm me at the start line. Sure there are always a few introductions and some small talk but I am heavily focused on channeling my intensity at this point. I looked over at the girl next to me who talked about where she has raced nonstop for the last 10 minutes. Hmmm, I guess that means she is fast? She had five Powergels taped to her stem and she was informing us that her coach instructed her to use all five and she was not allowed to wear a Garmin and see her time. Then she told me how she was going to pass her dad who had started 5 minutes ago...God, I just wanted the race to start so I could have some relief from her constant chatter. People amaze me.

30 seconds. My stomach was doing flip-flops. The second I heard the word "GO" and my right foot turned the crank, all my nerves evaporated. I got ahead quickly and made a hard move left for the inside spot on the turn and began the short climb. I could barely see someone just behind me to the right, so I mashed down. I grabbed a few more gears and tore ahead on the flat road that lead to the first big hill. I was way out in front at this point and actually had the fleeting thought that I had missed a corner or something. I smiled and sped up a little on the approach to the hill. I quickly glanced back to see a girl in a white helmet quite a ways back and a little ahead of the pack.

That was the last time I saw any female on the course. I don't know where the power in my legs was coming from, but I wasn't complaining. I continued to wind up the long, rocky switchbacks, through trees and up about five or six steep climbs. I caught and passed about six men and then grabbed the wheel of a guy who was throwing down a great pace. I knew I was not strong enough to pass him and stay far enough ahead, so I followed him for a long time. The long lap ended with part of the Super D that I knew well and the short lap included a rocky section that was not really a trail it seemed. It was much faster to run through this short section, so I threw my bike up on my shoulder and leap frogged through what was similiar to a river bed---very weird trail! I finished up 14 minutes ahead of the 2nd place woman. My chain came off twice during the race, but other than that, all went well.

I chilled with all my travel partners and we grabbed some dinner and called it a night. I woke up Sunday morning a little nervous not knowing what to expect for the start of the Super D. When I got to the start line, I was kind of intimidated and totally out of place on my 29er with my face all bandaged up.But I honestly didn't care. I was there to have fun with the course and crush out some fear that was slightly lingering from my crash in Colorado three days prior. There were only 14 women total-3 pros-so we all started on the line, two feet on the ground. There was about 30 yards of uphill to the beginning of the course.

GO! It was far quicker to run than try to hop on and ride, so I sprinted out in front and cut left hard to fall in behind two women. Dust was everywhere. I couldn't see the ground ahead of me. I leaned back and let off my brakes and flew. Waaaaay past my comfort level, but I didn't want to get passed. My seat was too high and I just kept leaning back and letting the bike roll over all the rocks. I am amazed I did not go over the bars. I kept the two in front of me in sight and I was determined to hang in and not let anyone get right on me. I thought maybe I could catch them on a long, flat section I knew was coming up. Nope. Damn, they were fast.

I came to a long, steep downhill that scared me. Lean back, let go. I knew if I touched the brakes, I was dead. I was still consuming massive quantities of dust and really couldn't see that great. At the bottom of the hill was loose gravel to the left and big rocks to the right. My wimpy little tires wanted no part of it and went everywhere. My back tire skidded almost out from under me, my front was all over the place and I was sure I was going to leave the mountain on a stretcher. I veered right and miracuously was able to keep the rubber down only to be passed by everyone (I thought). I got back on course and (this has a familiar ring to it) never saw another female until the end.

I was laughing at myself the entire way to the finish line. I think this laughter was to avert my thoughts from what had just about happened. My adrenaline was maxed though and I knew I would be on a different bike next time. A monster had been created. God, that was a rush!

Checking the results tonight, I finished two minutes behind the non-pro winner. I was 9th out of 11. Awww, I was having a good time making fun of myself for being DEAD LAST..

Next up: I decided to forego the Bailey Hundo in favor of 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest. So back to New Mexico it is. The crappy part of the weekend?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Chasing Boys

Chimney Gulch is a local trail that ascends Lookout Mountain in Golden on dirt. I have ridden the classic road climb on my road bike a billion times before I ever started mountain biking, and the dirt trail route to the top is much more challenging and fun. Steep climbs, sharp corners, many rocks and obstacles are mixed in with some fast, flat, through-the-trees portions of this classic Jeffco trail. Once on the summit, a great way to connect parks is to descend Apex's Enchanted Forest or just turn around and rail back to one's car.

The latter was the choice this past Wednesday evening. I met up with Erick and Jeremy and we began climbing. My legs were asleep and protesting every revolution for about 2/3 of the way up. Ugh, I was frustrated as I kept asking my quads for more and they kept giving me the middle finger.

Once on top we turned around and dodged hikers and fellow bikers coming up the trail. I felt good and had ridden this downhill many, many times. Finally, the trail opened up a bit and Erick and Jeremy took off. I pushed through some technical sections pretty hard as I railed down the hill. I was having fun chasing these boys and riding quicker, smoother lines. The extremely sharp, downhill switchbacks demanded a foot down to get around (ahhh, it will come), but I felt pretty good that they were only slightly in front of me. My chain came off and I stopped to put it back on right before the hardest obstacle on the trail. I had ridden it once before and cleared it, so I decided to give it a go this time. I didn't make it without throwing a foot down. Grrr!

I quickly came around a corner and over some small rocks in the middle of the trail. Clunk! I felt my bottom bracket hit one of the rocks and my bike immediately stopped. Ummm, unfortunately, I did not follow suit. Instead I became airborne, knowing some road rash was in my near future. I began to look for the best place to land and as I came down, hit full force on the right side of my lip on a small rock that seemingly came out of nowhere.

UGGGGHHHH! The rock split my upper lip and blood was going everywhere. I broke two teeth and dislodged a dental bridge I have had since I was 18. Just as quickly as I landed, I jumped up, grabbed my bike and untangled the chain that came off and wrapped around the branch of a nearby bush into which it fell. I swung my leg over the saddle and started riding down again. I honestly didn't feel much pain and the looks on Erick and Jeremy's face when they saw the blood gushing out of my face, sent me to the rear-view mirror of a nearby car when we came to a road crossing. Ha! The line of the day (and I am not sure who said it) was: "Uhhh, no don't look in the mirror."

When I or someone around me is significantly hurt or in an emergency situation, I go into ultracalm mode. There was nothing anyone could do, so I just rode the rest of the trail down to my car. I was a little shaken when I really got a good look at my bloody face, but tried to just breath deep and keep it together. I got some ice on it as soon as I could and when I got to the ER, I was actually laughing at myself and really just thankful it wasn't something really serious.

I looked pretty beat up when I left and knew I would be spending some love time with the dentist the next morning, but was still joking around with the doctor and nurses in the ER. Everything is relevant and I couldn't stop thinking how thankful I was that I wasn't in a coma with head trauma or something.

My teeth are all straight and pretty again.The skin-glue and the scrapes are not attractive at all, and neither is my fat lip, but I guess they provide good entertainment for the people in line at the grocery store. I love watching people's reactions!

Of all the places to launch through the air, I chose to do it at a very easy part. There are far more crash-likely places on Chimney Gulch, so I am not really sure why I caught the bottom bracket on the rock. I originally thought it was my chain coming off that did it, but as I replayed the scene in my mind afterwards I completely remember feeling the rock catch and thinking, "Uh oh, this is not going to feel good!" as I flew forward.

My friend Jen asked me if my mom ever told me not to chase boys. I had to laugh. Why yes, in fact, she did. Good advice to live by. But.....when it comes to mountain biking, that's all I really know. I can't find any girls who ride on a regular basis and chasing the boys makes me faster, tougher and hopefully.........smarter!

This morning, I rode from Morrison up Apex and down Chimney Gulch to put any fear to rest. I slowed a little to look for the rock that did me in, but my confidence is ok again and I am excited and nervous for Angel Fire tomorrow and Sunday.

The following pictures are carnage-ridden and a little intense. I am going to throw a random podium pic from a race in Fruita a month ago, just so my bloody face doesn't come up as the first picture on Facebook. Ummmmm, enjoy (I guess):

Fun trail, broke a derailleur, look like I swallowed a bug here..blah, blah

Ok, so on to the aforementioned carnage:

In the paraphrased words of my buddy, Drew:
"Your blood sacrifice to the trail Gods should suffice for quiet some time"

I definitely was laughing at my latest blunder!