Thursday, September 29, 2011


Two days until 24 Hours of Colorado Springs. I live about an hour and 15 minutes away from the race venue, Palmer Park. Last night was my last ride until somewhere around 1:15 PM on Saturday when Erick finishes his lap.  (Hmmmm, so that means I don't have to get up Saturday til like 11:25AM and can make it for my first lap). Just kidding! 

My coed duo partner, Erick Lord, is a master of the course layout. He has this menagerie memorized and has done his homework this past month. I have been on it three times and soon realized that a little bit of knowledge will go a long way for me in this race. Situated directly middle of my least favorite town in Colorado, Palmer is a popular destination for downhillers. There are some insane drops I have seen these crazies go off. I don’t possess that skillset, but I must admit, I wish I was that cool. Preriding has given me some knowledge about some of the crazy, sharp turns leading into short, steep climbs and allowed me to find the lines through the technical sections. The course is a mix of everything with no extended climbing and lots of rocky descending and fast stuff in between. Erick and I picked up support from Boulder Trek Store and will be sporting new kits this weekend. Many motivated and talented people associated with this team and I am excited to ride with them! Erick’s wife, Jen, will be posting updates on Facebook. So, if you suffer from insomnia, are bored or just want to keep up with the hottest action happening in CO Springs at 2AM—check out my page as I am sure she will tag me.

First ever ride in Palmer last winter

My first 24 Hour solo effort will be happening in Moab on October 8th and 9th.  I am kind of amazed that it has been a year already since Team Need MoreCowbell Invaded Moab. I have to say that my experience in Moab 2010 should be partly blamed for this bike racing habit I have developed. Greener than I am now, I was inspired and amazed at the quality of the racers I got to ride with. I had an absolute blast with three awesome dudes on our “Just For Fun” team and when I rolled out of Moab, I knew that it was the beginning of something that I would live and breathe for a long time. So, when I roll back into town next weekend, I will be especially thankful to Sonya for helping me get here. I am super excited to throw down a huge effort and see what happens.Follow me here if you are still bored:

24Moab Real Time Results

One year ago in Moab amidst the masses in the LeMans style start. Yeah, check the elbow pads! I tore up my elbows and knees all the time during my first 8 months of riding.

Drew and Zack in camp- Moab 2010

My last organized mountain bike effort on the dirt this year will be the Zuni 100. Similar trails to that of the 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest, I am looking forward to just going and riding new stuff in New Mexico. My body and legs will dictate if a second 46 mile lap will happen. No pressure or expectations here. Just a good ride with great people.

And finally….My project. It will be a HUGE learning experience that will annoy soooo many bike mechanics. HA!

My trash bike, Celeste, the SS (my first true love):

Is going to be reicarnated as a sweet snow/sand machine like this without gears:

Wow. Fat tires are cool!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2011 MTB Marathon Nationals Race Report

If I could locate the keys to my time machine, I would take it for a spin to about two or so weeks ago and I would do the Vapor Trail 125. I felt great. I was itching to be on my bike. Nothing hurt. Hell, nothing even really felt hard to climb. My legs felt fresh, fast and strong. But, because I knew I would be leaving for Oregon for the MTB Marathon Nationals, I sat at home and watched dots move across the screen. Yeah, I am not really the "watching" type. Especially when the moon is full, it is September in Colorado and the VT125 course is what it is.

My rationale was I didn't want to crush myself and be in a hole for Nats. Save the legs, be rested, you know all the terms and cliches. Well, the rest did nothing to prevent my quads from cramping so badly that I quit. At mile 18 of 54. Yeah, it hurt that bad. I had nothing to make the crank turn. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Insert time machine access here. I would go back in a minute, because I regret sacrificing the VT125 experience for the rest I thought I needed. (Spoken like a true rookie, huh? I know.) But,  I am who I am. The beast can be trained, but never tamed...

Bend, OR. September 16, 2011.

A loooooong drive from Colorado put me in my hometown of John Day, Oregon on Thursday the 15th. I saw family I hadn't seen in over 3 years. My 80-year old grandma never ages. Seriously. She still looks 50. Wow, I do hope those genes crossed over in my favor.

It was good to get back to where I grew up even though I only spent a day there and rode a short, easy road ride with my mom into the nearest town. We left the next morning for Bend which is about 3 hours west. I met up with more family who had made the trip to come and watch and ate some lunch. I went on a short, easy pre-ride in the early evening and felt good. I remember being really thirsty afterwards and pretty much all night. I crashed out early and I was excited and anxious for a good race in the morning.

September 17, 2011. Race day.

I got up feeling not hungry and not thirsty. A bit unusual for me. Thinking back, I didn't really drink as much as normal although I did eat pretty well. For being as thirsty as I was the night before, it was kind of odd that I just didn't really want to drink much the next morning. I wrote it off as nerves and pedaled a short mile or so to the start line from the hotel. There was one hill on the way and as soon as I started up, my quads burned. The morning was brisk and chilly and I was not warmed up at all, so I didn't worry about it, but distinctly remember my thoughts at the time: "Ugh, I hope this isn't how all the hills are going to feel today."

Hmmmmmm, a bit of foreshadowing? Yeah. Unfortunately so.

I warmed up slowly for a long time. I felt good. Fresh. Ready. I met an Adrenalin teammate for the first time ever about 30 minutes before the start. And, he ended up taking the bronze.Way cool. (Ha, nice to know that we both traveled 1300 miles and are on the same team. But that is about par for my "team" this summer. More on this in a few days, because it just changed today.)

Start (198) making faces for the camera 
The start was a neutral roll out through a couple of roundabouts and a 4 or 5 mile paved ride to a double track. I stayed back a ways for the first mile and slowly meandered my way to the front when the car pulled over and let us go. I grabbed the wheel of the leader and stayed there most of the time.

Four of us took turns pulling each other in a line through some wind until we turned off onto the first double track road. The pace wasn't anything too fast on the pavement, so I jumped into second and used the leader to pace myself. The road was dusty, hardpacked and fast. About a mile later it became sandy and deep as well. There was one super steep hill that was a quick hike-a-bike to the top followed by a fast downhill. I had fallen back to fourth and couldn't get around the girl in front of me on the downhill. Leaving the line would have been stupid as it was really deep on both sides. I finally passed everyone on the flat double track that followed and began the long, gradual climb. I was going a little harder than I wanted, but kept pushing on. I started to feel tired and my legs were slightly burning. I looked down and saw we were only on mile 9. I could hear girls shifting behind me and became frustrated with my lack of power. In the next three miles, two girls passed me and I could not stay with them. I looked down. Mile 12. Somewhere between here and Mile 12.8 both my quads did this:

right quad

left quad

First cramps I have EVER had like that on the bike. I don't know what cramps are. They have never existed in my world. The only other time was in Arizona back in April. They were gone as quick as they came and not nearly as intense and painful.

Another medium hill. OUCH! A short downhill followed by some flat, fast trail. I had no power. An incline. Misery.

I slowed waaaaaaay down and got passed again. I came to the first rocks on the trail and got off slowly. I sucked down some electrolyte gel and some water. Determined to ride this off, I started pedaling about 5 seconds later.

Nothing changed.

Passed again. I stopped for a second time and drank more. Another gel. I waited this time, leaned against my bike and put my forehead on the seat. What the hell was happening? Then the mental demons of self-doubt, frustration and anger crept in and began to bash me in the face.

Passed again. This time it was by the eventual winner of the 40-49 group. I felt like screaming. Where was my body? The one that I needed, dammit! Not this noodle-legged rag doll that was trying to pedal.

I finally made it to the aid station at Wanoga Sno-Park and began stretching, massaging and trying to convince myself to continue. I watched about ten women pass me. I stood up. I pushed my bike a few feet and started up the first little hill out of the Aid Station:

Nope. Not happening.  I got off course and coasted down the Cascade Highway into Bend. That was the end of my 2011 MTB Marathon Nationals. All 18 miles worth.

There are many reasons why shit blew up in my face. Oh, believe me, I have been through them numerous times. From the tiniest detail to the most philosophical stretch.

For the first few hours, my mind raced: I want things too much. I push too hard. I need a solid training program. I am a total beginner who has ridden for less than two years and just started racing in April. A crash was inevitable. It happens. It will happen again. I learned valuable lessons. I am hugely disappointed. There was no one there I could not have beat. It was an expensive trip.....and on and on and on.

It's human to analyze. It's female to overanalyze and its Jill to uberanalyze. But this time, I don't feel the need to beat it into the ground. So, I am going with this simple conclusion:

Learn from it. Let it be. Shrug it off and move forward.

Bend's Old Mill District
Les Schwab Ampitheater near the start line

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Disaster recovery courtesy of the McKenzie River Trail

I am waiting on pictures from my poor performance at the USAC MTB Marathon Nationals in Bend last Saturday and I am still rolling that debauchery around in my head, so the race report will be up very soon. Just not today....

My race recovery report (ha) requires far less thought:

I experienced a rare bit of homesickness upon my return to the Willamette Valley's most beautiful and perfect river--the McKenzie. I used to live and breathe steelhead fishing this river from a drift boat and from the bank for two years. (Now I have to dig up old pictures to back up my "fish stories." You will see them on here in a few days....Just a forewarning)

Presently,  my neglected steelhead rod sits in the corner of my closet and my return this past weekend involved a ride along the famous McKenzie River Trail.

The ride is a huge net downhill and winds through trees so thick that the sunlight battles to seep through to the fern-laden forest floor. Many sections seem enchanted and my senses were overwhelmed with the mysticism of the area. My ears tuned in to the sound of rubber rolling over the dirt and the crunch of pine needles beneath my tires. Lava rock littered the area and provided some technical sections to keep me honest. As the trail neared the river, the peaceful sound of a wake from a passing canoe or the splash of the water on the bank took me back to the lazy July afternoons I would spend fishing with friends a few years ago.

My hidden paradise in the northwest

Sahalie Falls is definitely a highlight of the ride and although I have seen this waterfall more times than I can count from the road, I must say this time was by far the most memorable. Why? About 2 miles of SICK downhill and 20 fun stairsteps to cruise down on the approach to the best viewpoint.

Sahalie Falls

View from the top of the steps
A Late Summer's Afternoon Dream

Part of the trail is actually asphalt and surrounded by lava rock near Cold Water Cove 
Contemplating a COLD swim
Along the banks of Clear Lake, a spur off the McKenzie River Trail
Good for the soul, the heart and the mind, the McKenzie River will be a place to which I will return for the rest of my life. Its serenity slows life's pace, its beauty leaves me in silence and the memories of delicious steelhead dinners will ensure I bring my rod next trip!

Stay tuned, you will be tortured (or maybe bored to tears) with fish pictures from my pre-bike era....

Friday, September 9, 2011

Not About a Bike

Sitting in a small cafĂ© on Tuesday, I overheard a girl and her father at the table next to me talking loudly about her birthday plans. The server came to greet the two and the girl announced it was her nineteenth birthday. Soon, every employee was gathered in a circle around the table to sing holding anything and everything that would make noise. Just after the “everyone join in now” and the actual start of Happy Birthday, the girl grabbed her phone:

“Oh my God, this will be the best Facebook status ever. Better than Mandy’s from two days ago!”

I almost choked on the bagel I was eating.

I looked over and the entire time everyone was singing Happy Birthday, the girl never looked up once from her phone: Status updated. Comment received. Another one. Like first comment. Respond to first comment. Like second comment. Respond to second comment. OMG. LOL.

Smoke seemed to be coming from the pink smartphone that was center of her universe. In the meantime (believe it or not) real, actual, authentic life--the waitstaff singing Happy Birthday-was happening outside of Facebook world. The girl was oblivious to it.  Facebookathon 2011 continued even when the song ended. She finally looked up about 30 seconds later and proudly announced to her father the number of likes and comments she received.

I set my glass down and just stared at the wall in front of me. Who are we? What have we become? Sadly though, this was nothing new. It’s the same as the mom who watches her son take his first steps through her iPhone and has it posted almost instantaneously or the one million pictures we have all seen of every type of alcoholic beverage, in every bar surrounded by twenty drunk people posing for said pictures again and again and again. Sure, pictures are fun and great times should be recorded with technology, but look around right after the picture is taken and count how many people are posting it to their Facebook pages.

But wait…what is occurring again during the immediate Facebook fixation? 

Oh, yeah…Life. The present moment. Here. Now.Conversation. Interaction. The baby’s 3rd, 4th and 5th steps. All missed while we are posting.

Another great example is a story my friend told me about a date he had with a girl who was constantly texting. (We all know this person. She is the one who has the fake-interested nod, says “Oh yeah, I know” too many times and has the ridiculous courtesy laugh that takes the place of her actually listening because her incoming text is really top priority.) After several frustrating conversation attempts, and the fact that he was pretty hungry and the waiter was standing at the table, he finally got out his phone and texted her:

“Are you ready to order dinner?”

His phone beeped almost immediately:  “Whenever you are.”

True story. Yeah, really.

So, these are extreme examples, but do serve to illustrate my point well.However, before I go on, I definitely want to assert that I:

 Am certainly not judging anyone 
 Do not have it all figured out
Am not saying that we should never use Facebook again. It has definite uses and benefits
Am not bringing up anything new here. You can all relate

I am just really saddened with the superficiality of conversation I experience on a daily basis characterized by broad formalities and quick responses that are never truly heard or cared about. Much is empty, meaningless chatter that just fills up time followed by inability to remember the conversation, lack of eye contact and numerous glances at the iPhone. At some point, the conversation falls silent because they have no idea how to respond due to the fact they haven’t a clue what I just said. And so, the cycle of disconnect continues…

Where did we start becoming so disconnected? Have we lost the ability to reconnect? To feel the sting of sadness or the euphoria of love and happiness? Are we really so busy? Do we have so many emails and Facebook messages to answer that many get short, uncaring, businesslike replies? Life doesn’t exist in the news, on Facebook or Twitter. A text message is not the same as a person’s voice. An emoticon is not the same as a smile or a laugh. It cannot convey compassion or tenderness. An exclamation point is not the same as human excitement or elation.

Life is here. Now. This moment. Staring you in the face. What matters? REALLY matters? People? Friendships? Conversations that cut deeply or just touch broadly on silly shit like current events/new products that we will forget about in a few hours? Can we slow down and live with authenticity? Reach out and put some meaning into our conversations? Increase our awareness of the present, real moment that is occurring? Hell, maybe even LIVE in the moment?

Technology is useful, ever-evolving and sometimes truly amazing. It is not the culprit. We have a choice of how much, when and where social media fits into our lives. I am a bit guilty of “social media overuse” lately and have been allowing myself to be part of the very cycle that breaks my heart and leaves me feeling empty. I am tired of feeling like an epic social failure when I reach down and try to connect with someone and get only broad formality in return. I can’t count the number of times I walk away from completely benign conversations just shaking my head in disbelief. No, not every human interaction needs to be profound and earth-shattering. But can you listen and fully engage in the light and fun conversations without concern for your phone or feeling the need to do something, be somewhere or  “one-up” the story? Tell me something from your heart. Look me in the eyes. What makes you come alive? What brings you to your knees? What do you dream of doing someday?

Behind this laptop is a human heart. Just like yours. And I a value human connection far more than an internet connection. 

So come to life. Your (real) life is happening now all around you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blah, blah, blah...

Much has been ruminating in my head and my heart since August. Many topics have come up, but when I get to my computer to unload, everything seems more poignant and interesting in thought-form. The words just aren't flowing on the screen, YET. Oh, believe me, I have a great deal to say, it just hasn't evolved into paragraphs and sentences at present. And, I haven't been to any races since the CTR, so no epic tales and humorous side observations.

Prepare to endure some random rambling and boring updates....

I entered the MTB Marathon Nationals in Bend, OR on September 17th. I am excited to ride on dirt I have only hiked before. I haven't seen my family in a long time and big plans are forming to see my parents and grandparents. My life in Oregon seems like an eternity ago. I see all my old friends and most of my family live their lives through Facebook. Posts and pictures about their kids, family trips, jobs, high school sports, dishes, laundry and the weather in Oregon all seem to occur in this other galaxy. A galaxy in which I used to dwell in a much different time. A time and place where I had no clue what SRAM or Bontrager was. Hard to fathom.

My legs feel good again. After lying around and doing really nothing but trying to heal my swollen ankle for about 6 days, I got back on my 'cross bike and rode pretty easy on the road and on easy trails through Bear Creek. Contrary to my usual intense nature, I was content with some easy rides. I had virtually no power in my legs. After about 5days of this nonsense and I was absolutely dying to get on some single track. Too much road bores me. Not a playlist in existence that can cure it either.

Mt. Falcon was my first post-CTR ride on the Superfly. I couldn't believe the way my legs came back on that ride. Then it was Centennial Cone. Even more power. The hills I thought would leave me a bit winded did not even phase me. Mmmmm, yeah. I will take these legs.

The rest of August consisted of local riding until I met up with this badass on a fully rigid singlespeed to tackle Segments 7 and 8 of the Colorado Trail. The pace was much more chill than the CTR and I had a blast just riding and having time to relish in the sunshine and beauty. And yes, I am an utterly hopeless Colorado Trail addict. If work was not a grinding, painful necessity, I would have ridden it all to Durango again, shipped my bike home and hiked it back to Denver. Dead serious.

One of my favorite rides in Colorado is Segment 8 and this time I had fresh legs, even after 7's hike-a-bike "delight." Leadville came all too soon for me and the road ride back to my car in Frisco took no time whatsoever. I had tentative plans to rejoin at Spring Creek Pass and take some time to camp near Cataract Lake, but timing, pace and work schedule weren't in my favor. Oh, I will find time soon. Guaranteed.

Ummm, what else? Oh yeah, Palmer Park will definitely be on the ride list several times this month. 24 Hours of Colorado Springs is October 1-2 and Erick and I will be doing the coed duo. My first preride last week left me scratching my head, but slightly smiling as well. It would be in my best interest to be on top of my game at night. One mistake or one blind corner with someone pushing their bike up or down and the consequences could be disastrous. Familiarity brings confidence and I am lucky to live so close. My goal is to ride smart and fast and narrow my lap splits.

So....Last October at 3AM somewhere out on the course at 24 Hours of Moab, I told myself that I was going to solo this race in 2011. On a different bike. It wasn't looking to promising for a while until Sonya Looney so very generously transferred her entry to me. Its going to happen! I am absolutely on Cloud 9.

Cyclocross still mystifies me a bit. I really don't know what to expect, but I am going to give it a whirl on Saturday and see how much I love or hate it. I have been riding my 'cross bike a lot, and it has basically shown me that my bikehandling skills need work. But I crave intensity and competition, so we shall see. Stay tuned, the race report should be interesting...

This is the most boring and benign blog posting I have ever written. Like you, I am yawning through it as well. But keep checking back, I have some big races coming up. And I have a lot to say about other things....just not today.

I am out. Getting on the road and off the radar for a couple of days...Blanca and Ellingwood beckon.....