Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pushing Back the Dark

Winter Solstice.

After today the light increases and the darkness lessens for the next six months.

Light from the sun is an incredibly motivating force. It's presence or absence, along with the ambient temperature it creates is a (sometimes overwhelmingly) major part of daily conversations, the news and there are many apps to monitor it by the hour.

The light contained within a person is ten-fold more powerful. Case in point....Think of that person who is always radiating positive energy and encouragement, the one who first thinks of others and is confident enough to selflessly reach out and share that light with those around them---what is more motivating and powerful?

As the days get longer and the adventures of the summer near, I ask myself, what if I made more effort to share some light with those around me? To make time to vocally encourage their efforts, appreciate their very presence in my life and understand their differences? What if I extend kindness instead of sarcasm or avoidance to those who seriously annoy me? What if I continue to reject the increasing narcissism of our selfie-culture and make my world about serving others? What if I made it known to those I love, just how much I do and just how much I want them to be happy and free with nothing expected in return?

Maybe I am getting wiser with each trip I take around the sun, (a noble goal anyway), maybe I am becoming more capable of expressing what lives in my heart, or maybe I just look around at a world that needs days like tomorrow--days where there is more light than dark.

Give some extra light to that person in your life you see everyday, that person you don't know, that person you want to yell at, that person who is hiding their hurt, that person who you need to find again, that person who [insert your own thought here].

Reach out this Christmas. Be bold. Speak life, speak love. Hug him/her. Smile genuinely. Touch human skin, instead of your phone's screen. Help someone find/chase/achieve their dreams. Give some beautiful flowers to someone beautiful in your life--male or female. Stop and soak in some Christmas magic on Wednesday or challenge yourself to find it again.

Nuture, grow and share the increasing light we are given tomorrow....

Push back the dark!

"If you are kind to helpless things, you don't need a Wishing Tree to make things come true"
-William Faulkner

Monday, December 16, 2013

Riddlebox 2013 Winter Ultra

Who goes to South Dakota to race a fatbike?

Or....really, who goes to South Dakota?

Honestly, I never thought I would make Sioux Falls, SD a destination for pedal time on the Pugs, but this weekend proved the waaaaaaaay overused cliche (up there with the words "major stokage," "sufferfest" and "pain cave") "NEVER SAY NEVER" to be, once again, applicable to my world.

So when I found myself in Rapid City the night before for work (who also picks up the tab for gas) and there was a fatty race five hours away, really, there was never a question as to whether my beautiful bucket of junk and I were going to spend some time rolling on flatlander territory. The entry was cheap and since my life's manifesto can be found on a Taco Bell sauce packet that also serves as the wallpaper of my fancy flip phone,

I was in. I knew that lack of any good sleep would make it a long day, but when my bud, Kevin, and I rolled into a chill, little Irish Pub in Sioux Falls, the morning looked bright and we were greeted by awesome people and a killer breakfast. Techs went through all the racers' bikes (uhhhh, did I fall asleep and am still dreaming? This happens at races? Wow.) and after a short, prerace meeting, we were rolling on flatlander turf.

Starting line of the 27 miler!

My brain did not grasp the fact that it was not asked to climb some God-awful incline within the first 1000 feet of the race. My legs were spinning my 32x20 setup like mad. I described the first 17 miles of the race in a text with a reference to a hamster inside a wheel. I spun my heart out to cling to fourth and fifth place. There was a washed out bridge section that provided a short hike a bike through the snow and then it was back to hamsterville. I was warned of the upcoming double-track slog and soon it came into sight. I could see the leaders pushing up and I was in fourth place at the bottom. I am pretty sure the trail running bug I acquired helped me here because after about 15-20 minutes of HAB, I found myself out front on the descent. This was a new experience for me, as I have never led a race outright. All the boys were behind me still on the hill. I looked back, thinking surely I had taken a wrong turn. I caught a glimpse of Adam just cresting the hill as I made a sharp left and began spinning away on pancake roads. Adam caught and passsed me on a snowy bridge and we chatted away through some curves.

After a hard right turn, I heard the words:

"And this is where I won't see you again until the end."

Yeah right, I thought to myself. A mile and a half of climbing lie ahead and I knew my time in the front was done. But, true to my nature, I wasn't handing anything to anyone so I gave the Pugs his head, kicked him in the belly and climbed up South Dakota "hills" to the finish at Calico Lakes Winery. I saw a huge red flag and didn't realize it was the end of the race until I saw the sign saying "Welcome Fat Bikers! You Rock!" I looked back and didn't see anyone, turned left and pedaled up to the front door.

A few pictures and a few minutes later, Adam came cruising in. We drank wine, ate cheese and crackers and waited for the rest of the racers to finish before being shuttled back to Sioux Falls and a killer spread of sliders and artichoke dip at the pub.

Overall, I cannot say enough good things about the excellent organization, hospitality and high quality people that put on this race. Nothing like this have I ever seen at any race. I have paid far more for far less and the folks from Two Wheeler Dealer in Sioux Falls set a great examle of how to put on a race. What's even more amazing is they had thirty days to put this together.

Wow, guys, just WOW!

Bravo, bravo, bravo! I am so full of gratitude for your efforts and friendliness. The inagural Riddlebox Winter Ultra was fantastic from an organizational standpoint. Being from Colorado, I am admittedly spoiled rotten as to the quality of riding, but somewhere out there I began to respect the network of flat roads and those who devote hours of their existence on them. I heard rumblings of a much longer race next year and if you are looking for one--get your fat bike to South Dakota in 2014!

The big highlight of the race, however, was Kevin, who stepped onto the men's podium for the first time!!! A heart like his for people, the outdoors, adventure and just recently, fatbikes, should not go unnoticed. YES, KEVIN!! Great job, my friend.

Kevin, Adam and Kamp

Matt in the background, me, Kevin

The 69 mile winner and best beard winner, Greg!

Tons more pictures and results can be found HERE.

And so the adventure continues.....

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

R2R2R Turkey Trot

"It's like doing two 14ers backwards"
                               -Steve Chambers

The Caretaker's Cabin "bragboard"

The last time I set foot on the South Kaibab trail was April 2012. I had an Osprey pack I paid $15 for off of Craigslist harnessed to my skinny carcass. Attached ever so craftily to said backpack was my trusty two-wheeled steed, disassembled and settled in for a 22 mile ride. For those who are, at this moment, scratching the old noggin and wrinkling your brow in wonderment as to what the hell I am talking about, click HERE.

I distinctly recall (enough to analyze in previously written blogs) being a bit overcome with fleeting twinges of fear as I slowly began to descend, handlebars hitting me in the hamstrings for the first few strides. Fear gave way to excitement and anticipation as usual, the handlebars found a new place to ride, and away I went, plunging into the Big Ditch for the first time in my life with a silly grin on my sunkissed face....

Fast forward now, if you will, to last Thursday (aka Thanksgiving here in the United States) and my two feet were in the exact location again. They were now sporting my magical, bright blue Brooks Cascadia running shoes instead of my old, beat-to-hell running shoes I had pulled out of a package addressed to myself that was waiting at the post office in Grand Canyon Village back in 2012. This time, my old nemesis, Fear, was nowhere to be seen. It was way too early in the morning for that lazy bastard to be up and he didn't make the long trip from Colorado this time anyway. My legs were fresh and my back supported only a tiny pack with food and very few other essentials I felt needed a ride to the north rim and back. To my left was Steve, fidgeting with his pack and peering over the rim into the darkness of the early morning. There we stood, ready to cross this canyon not once, but twice, before the sun set into the west.

My first step was actually a skip, and like a 5 year-old, so were the next three or four. Lights aglow, southbound we commenced toward the muddy Colorado River. Rocks, ruts and steps under our feet, we descended on into the darkness. Ooh Ahh Point came in no time, Skeleton Point, down, around, down, down, around. There was no real test of physical exertion in our descent, just keeping vertical at a medium rate of speed in the dark. My longest run ever, prior to the 42 that stretched out ahead of us, was 15 miles, so I was maybe a bit conservative in the beginning, but after about 1:20 we were standing in the middle of a huge suspension bridge listening to the Colorado roar below us.

Phantom Ranch was a mere stone's throw away and soon we were standing at the split of the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails. I could feel the descent in my calves, but we were both pretty energized and feeling strong. A quick drink and we were off to Cottonwood campground. The sun had not yet peeked over the rim and we came up quickly on a guy packing some gear overhead.The usual "good mornings" "great day out heres" were politely exchanged and away we ran deeper into the canyon. The trail was flat and wide and wound through a slot canyon that sent both of our Garmins into a tailspin. Our hopes for accurate data were lost, but we would not realize this until a bit later as we compared mileage.

We closed in on Ribbon Falls junction and "the stupid" hill that took us far above the trail split and then directly back down just as daylight decided to make her appearance.

Daylight creeping up on us...

Smiles at sunrise...
We made good time to Cottonwood Campground and were at the Caretaker's Cabin just before Roaring Springs in no time. Missing the obvious spigot, we turned on the hose at the cabin and I soaked my gloves which were sitting on the porch in the line of fire from the leaky faucet. Not overly happy because the temperature was still just cool enough for cold fingers, I made due as we began the 5.5 mile power hike to the north rim.

Steve going up North Kaibab 
The brilliant AZ sun...
The trail through here was stunning. We actually made great time and even took a few minutes to stop and take some pictures....

Supai Tunnel ~1.8 miles from the north rim
Snow on the was like entering a different world as we started up from Supai Tunnel

This sign brought back memories....
The "halfway" homestrech....
Grub time on the north rim...

The halfway point! this one time back in April..
We spent probably ten minutes trying to eat food that did not look the least bit appealing and just enjoying the Arizona snow and sun at the same time. Both of us were chomping at the bit, ready to start descending. We were on pace to hit 12 hours, so we began slip-sliding down the ice and snow that covered the trail for the first half mile after the turn. We continued on and really before we realized it, were looking down at the Caretaker Cabin again. Nature called and I sent Steve on ahead, knowing he probably would appreciate a quicker pace, with the agreement to meet back at the obvious spigot to fill our water bottles at the bottom of the descent. As a baby trail-runner, descending quickly is still a challenge and the final mile to the bottom was a slight bit of hell. I felt slow and choppy and every step was jarring. It wasn't miserable but I was glad to run seven FLAT, fast miles back to Phantom Ranch. We were able to make up some time and as we neared the Colorado River again.

These miles put me into a trance. One I know and crave and love from the seat of a bike, but had only once felt while running...

Steve set a 10-11 minute pace, and I zoned in on his heels. I felt absolutely nothing. No pain, no fatigue, not even the rocks beneath my feet. My shoes seemingly hovered above the earth and I found myself touching that surreal, unexplainable euphoric realm for the second time ever while trail running. The first came while descending San Luis Peak earlier this fall. There, like here, I hovered above the trail. My thoughts were not thoughts but part of the air, the trail, the rocks, the moment. Time meant nothing. Logically, I knew it was passing, yet it seemed to stop and let us touch that untouchable feeling, be in that unfathomable moment. It was as though the fibers that held this moment together opened up and swallowed us for seven miles....

Ummmm, yeah....something like that.

Hell, maybe it was just a glitch in the matrix, who knows? Whatever it was, it sure as hell spat me back out into reality at the steel suspension bridge and my calves began screaming obscenities at me.

Our original plan was to ascend Bright Angel trail which is 2 miles longer, but we knew we would not meet the 12 hour goal by going this way, so we made an on the fly decision to reascend South Kaibab and give 12 hours an honest try.

We crossed the suspension bridge for the second time at about 2:15pm and began the long power-hike back to the south rim.

Up...just keep going UP!

Skeleton Point-the site of my all out hunger/fatigue induced staggering. 
We lost an hour ascending the last 6 miles. My legs just didn't work as quickly as my brain was commanding. Steve was a switchback or two ahead of me and I came around the corner to find him sitting here waiting for me:

Steve: 15 minutes and we are done

Me (muttering in delirium): No way! We won't be to the south rim for another 30 minutes...

The final countdown....

Ten minutes later, (which Steve later told me is what he was thinking when he said 15) we were kissing the South Kaibab trailhead and neither of us had any memory of the pain of the last hour.

We did it.

We crossed the BIGGEST DITCH in the world twice on Thanksgiving Day 2013. I held up 3 fingers to represent touching 3 rims in 13 hours!


A couple more pictures...just because:

A look inside Steve's pack at camp the night before....

Black Friday at the Kanab Ranger Station. We hoped to reward ourselves with a hike on The Wave but our lottery number for a permit was not called. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

With A Most Humble Heart...

A year ago today, I was on my bike ripping through some switchbacks somewhere singing along with my ipod at the top of my lungs. My entire body, soul and heart were smiling at the fact that my last shift pouring drinks was 24 hours prior. It gave me a colossal surge of energy, strength and happiness to finally beat the living shit out of that heavy, annoying and crippling monkey that had been hanging on to my shoulders and camping out on my back for so many years. I had finally won the inner battle, realizing absolutely NO amount of quick cash I could make was worth the toll this job was taking on my mind, relationships, overall wellness and energy level.

I knew I was going to suffer financially, but after the 2013 Arrowhead, my bicycle racing fund was as empty as my heart when I dropped the race after 80ish miles due to time constraints and snow.

From there, things got pretty dark in my life. I was back in Denver working for peanuts, kidding myself into believing there was a way to race. When it became evident that there really was no extra money to do so and the racing team I was a part of turned to shit, I grabbed the lightest, fastest road bike I could from the demo fleet at the shop which I was working and put miles and miles of pavement behind me. I pedaled out my hatred of city living, frustrations stemming from finances, dull relationships and the nothingness of the everyday grind in which I was drowning.

The biggie I could not pedal away, however, was that there was to be no bikepacking for me in 2013. No epic trips across Arizona, no score-settling with the Colorado Trail and no Tour Divide adventures to savor. Nope. I was out.

That sent me into a tailspin deep within. Deeper and deeper into a hole. A big, ugly, black hole....

From the bottom of that hole, my life consisted of constantly tear-stained cheeks, hollow eyes and a fake smile that hid the battle I fought with self-confidence, self worth and motivation. I had no real goals, purpose or motivation. A vicious circle of negativity clouded my thoughts and I was, in a word, a mess. I would look back through pictures of all the amazing people, adventures, mountains, trails, races and scenery that I had known and instead of cherishing the times, I would feel this sense of fear that they were to never come again.

Yeah, pretty dark in my old heart last winter....

But hope and optimism still resided inside. I honestly don't think I am the type of personality that will ever lose them completely. In the darkest of dark and the toughest of tough I have always felt a radiant light burning bright in my chest. Never have I truly believed all hope is lost. I hold the eduring belief that times always get bettter, no matter how hard it is to see in the moment. I clung to this and prayed a lot and continued to flounder along through the motions.

Then, as spring came around, I found horses again. If you follow my incessant ramblings on this blog, you will remember a few posts about my polo farm adventures.

Slowly, I made some changes in my life, some AMAZING people extended their hands to pick me up off my face and the Jillfire is roaring again. I work a job that brings in a little more than peanuts and is structured so I can take time off for racing. I work long hours, but I have a huge goal that drives me out of bed every morning at 4am.

The goal?


And now the hard part of this blog.....asking.

*Long, deep, 9-count inhale*
*Slow, even, exhale*

It has taken me over a month to post this although it takes up a great deal of my daily thoughts:

It is with a most humble approach that I have added a donation button to the top, right side-bar of this blog. If it is in your heart to help me see my dream become a reality and follow this blog and my writing as I live it, although I will never find any words in any language to express my deep and genuine gratitude for your kindness, know that you helped make my absolutely epic journey possible....

Thursday, October 3, 2013

It Just Got Really Real,

Re: TOUR DIVIDE 2014« Reply #27 on: October 02, 2013, 09:55:50 PM »

My heart will not give up on my dream of the Triple Crown in 2014. I sit here with a list a mile long of the the things and money I need to complete this absolutely epic undertaking and, to be honest, it is staggering. I am overwhelmed thinking of the planning and logistics but a geater force drives me to know what every moment on this journey will feel like. The pain, blood, tears, laughter, exhaustion will stay with me my entire life. Thus, fear has no part in my journey. Rather, my innate and intense passion, a rabid lust for adventure and a notion of the sweet taste of feedom on two wheels propels me into action.

I'm in.

*reaches for bottle of red pills*


NOW..... let's see how deep this Rabbit Hole goes...

Monday, September 16, 2013

All Three in 2014

Yeah. It's going to happen. I am going to attempt to be the first female to finish the Triple Crown of bikepacking in 2014.



I have no idea at this point how I am going to pull this off financially. I need sponsors. I need those of you who read this and are inspired by any of my passion and tales of my adventures, struggles and triumphs and want to help in any way to reach out to me.

God, that was hard/humbling to write. But it is a reality. Months off work to make a run at this dream is next to impossible to swing. Notice the phrase "next to" in the previous sentence.

Because this is going to happen.

Unsure? Yep.
Out of my safety/comfort zone? Quite a ways.
Do my hands shake and my stomach knot up thinking about the financial logistics? Everyday.

Am I afraid? Hell no.

The excitement and anticipation of living a dream I have imagined for two years now trumps all fear. Fear not of the journey itself, but fear of the journey to the journey. An undertaking like this is beyond huge in anyone's world.

The word written in the picture above means more to me today than ever before.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Days Go By

I recently rejoined the "race." The race of robots in steel coffins. 


After 2 years and 8 months of not having my name on a vehicle title or a car loan, I now have a car. What kind? Ummmmmm, I would have to walk outside a and take a look. I know it is black and small. Big enough for my lab to have a comfortable ride. Can haul my bikes. Gets 42.5 mpg average. And I have to pay for it every month.


It makes me think of one of my all-time favorite Keith Urban songs and the lyrics that grasp me by the soul everytime I replay it: 

I'm changing lanes
I'm talking on the phone
I'm drivin' way too fast
And the interstate's jammed with
Gunners like me afraid of coming in last
But somewhere in the race we run
We're coming undone

Days go by
I can feel 'em flying
Like a hand out the window in the wind as the cars go by
It's all we've been given
So you better start livin' right now
'Cause days go by

Probably the most poignant phrase is "somewhere in the race we run, we're coming undone." Chief culprit of the undoing? 

Fear. Fear of "coming in last." Fear of slowing down, fear of weakening, failing, falling. But mostly fear of feeling.

Why? Take it from the master, when I let myself feel, the absurdity of this "race we run" slaps me in the face. I concede (finally) the race is a way of life, no matter what the job. But during the race, instead of running with fear, I finally opened my stupid eyes to a better way. It took me this past winter in Aurora (one of the most depressing times in my entire life) to see it. My feelings and emotions were locked away and I was just trying to get through one miserable day after another. I feared a lot of things, doubted myself, doubted my abilities, feared listening to my heart, feared I had made too many mistakes, lived in constant confusion and unertainty and felt myself "coming undone." 

Then the sun came out and I realized that days DO go by. It IS all we are given. 

And, dammit, I best start LIVING again. 

And when I live without fearing and substitute it for feeling, I can run the race without coming undone. I can run the race aware, alive, motivated, strong and content. The way I ride a bike or a horse.

I can finally see that it is far more courageous, brave and strong (there's that word again) to allow myself to be vulnerable, unafraid and bold than it is to hold back, be ubercautious and in my case, suffer silently and let the unfeeling, benign routine of the race rot away my soul.

So take 'em by the hand
They're yours and mine
Take 'em by the hand
And live your life
Take 'em by the hand
Don't let 'em all fly by

I leave you with some pictures to some places that the new motorized steel coffin has taken me this month: 

More later.