Tuesday, March 18, 2014

True Grit Epic

This past weekend a good handful of 92Fifty' racers, including myself, headed back to the desert of southwest Utah to get our 2014 race season kicked off at the True Grit Epic.  This is a race that I had been looking forward to for a long time, for many reasons.  First off, it encompasses some of the best desert riding you'll ever do, and is a great escape from the cold Colorado winter.  It is also the kickoff for the National Ultra Endurance Series.  I was going to use this race as a measuring stick for where my fitness is at, what I need to work on, and if I'm able to compete at a high level in 100-milers. 

A few weeks before TG, I had decided to forego the true "epic" and step down to the 50-mile race.  I did this for a few very important reasons.  The winter and spring is when I plan on training hard and making big strides.  I was worried that doing the full epic would leave me worn down for weeks to come, and needing a lot of rest before any legitimate training and progress could be made.  I also realized as I put together my 2014 racing schedule that I wouldn't be able to compete in the NUE series, as it requires a ton of travel, expense, and full-on commitment to 100-milers.  Instead, I wanted to focus this season on "marathon" distance events (40-60 milers), where I could make use of both speed and endurance and not be constantly worn down.  Last but definitely not least was the stacked competition in the 50-mile Open category, where I'd be racing against some of the fastest guys in Utah and Colorado!

Heading into True Grit I was extremely excited with no expectations.  I was extremely confident in my endurance and ability to push hard for all 50 miles.  I was a little nervous about being able to handle the technical nature of the trails at race speed, but that's why I was there!  Lining up for the race I had a good idea of who my competition was.  I wanted to stay as close as possible to about 5 guys without blowing myself up early on.  As the gun went off we headed down an undulating fire road.  In about 1 mile a lead group of 15-20 riders began to form, and I was right up near the front feeling fine with the fast pace.  Flying down the fire road at high speeds was sketchy and difficult in this group, because it was hard to see the road in front of you.  About 2 miles in, my entire race changed abruptly!  Descending at ~25mph without clear view ahead of me, I smashed into a square-edged rock about the size of my head without warning or time to react.  In a split second I was flying through the air, almost in slow motion.  I hit the ground hard and rolled, and the rest of the field left me in their dust.  Getting up from this heinous crash, I quickly realized that nothing was broken.  I quickly checked my bike and got back on to keep riding.  In these moments after wrecking certain things went through my head; am I okay to race 50 miles? Did my bike get damaged? Will I actually be competitive after taking such a hit?  It took me about 5 minutes of riding to get back in the game mentally, and finally decide to start racing again!  By this point I was probably back in 50th place.  As I completed the first 10 or so miles I was working my way back up through the field, passing riders at a constant pace.  Upon hitting Zen trail, I could see the lead group and was closing down the gap.  Okay, maybe I can salvage something from this bad start.  And then, just as I was gaining my confidence, SNAP!  My chain popped climbing a steep rock face in Zen.  Damn!  All that I had just worked for, gone again.  It took me a rediculous amount of time to fix my chain, after a faulty quick-link and subsequently shortening the chain by about 3 links.  At this point I was mentally over it.  As I crawled through Zen at a snails pace, dictated by the slower riders I now found myself a part of, I debated finishing.  I knew my chances to be competitive were gone.  The time I lost, and then the time it takes to pick your way through slower riders, was devastating.  In times past, I would've called it a day.  I hate showing up in results pages near the back!  My inspiration to continue came from a few sources, one being 92Fifty' shop owner/team manager Jonathan Davis, who proudly sports a "DNF" tattoo on his left forearm.  This message rang clear to me that afternoon.  Screw the results and questioning and excuses and struggles, just go out there and finish!  It was also a beautiful day in the desert, and I still had about 35 miles of awesome desert singletrack to rip through!  Continuing on, I wrecked again and had to stop to straighten my handlebars.  The rest of the race I continued to push harder and harder.  My fitness felt great, and I was having fun.  I was passing riders at a constant pace for the next 3 or so hours.  Near the end, about 5 miles from the finish, climbing a super steep ATV road, SNAP!  Another broken chain!  At this point I just laughed to myself, casually flipped the bike over, and fixed it again.  Now my chain was ~5 links shorter than when I started! 



This was probably the worst luck I've ever had during a race.  I've fared quite well in the past with minimal mechanicals and wrecking, but today it all seemed to go wrong.  It was frustrating for many reasons.  I've been working hard all winter long, and want that to show.  I didn't get the chance to compete with the fastest guys, and have no idea how I would've fared.  With all that went wrong, I took positives away from this race.  First and foremost, my fitness and endurance feels amazing this early on in the year.  I never once got tired, and felt like I could push hard, near XC pace, for all 50 miles.  Taking the hardest wreck I've ever taken, I feel confident about my durability and mental attitude to keep on going.  The most important positive aspect was how much fun I had doing what I love to do.  It never felt like suffering.

I have to give props to some of the awesome equipment I used.  My Felt Nine 1 hardtail was amazing for this race.  Where many were sure it was a "full-suspension-only" course, the Nine 1 shined all day and never seemed to slow me down.  The way it handles fast flowing singletrack, and even rocky trails, is awesome!  The Ergon grips, gloves, and saddle I used were all money!  I am constantly impressed with the comfort of the SM3 Pro saddle.  I have done countless long days and huge races through the roughest of terrain on this saddle, and never ONCE had the slightest rear-end discomfort.  That's almost unfathomable.  What's also inspiring is the satisfaction and comfort I've had with the combination of the new GE1 "enduro" grip and HA2 gloves.  I used to get calluses/raw hands with other glove/grip combos, but not now.  Having the support of 92Fifty', the camaraderie of our crew, and the awesome people that make it happen, is a dream come true for me as well. 

Next up for me is a month-long road trip along the West coast in April.  I'll start the adventure with a Mudslinger events XC race the first week of April, and end it at Whiskey 50.  In between there is sure to be a ton of amazing riding and adventure!  Cheers.

Time for Desert?

It's been a long, cold, windy, and snowy winter here on the Front Range of Colorado, as well as most of the Midwest.  Trying to get ramped up for race season is difficult when nice riding days are few and far between and trails are non-existent.  Luckily, one of the perks of living in CO is that you're never more than a half days' drive to amazing riding destinations with warmer temps.  Usually this means traveling into the Utah desert.

In the middle of February every year there is a gathering of like-minded folks down in St. George, Utah, called Camp Lynda.  It is hosted by Lynda Wallenfels, professional mountain bike coach with more racing accolades to her name than most of us could dream of.  It is simply a way to get together with other riders/racers and put in 3 days of solid riding.  Choose your own speed, weaponry, and distance each day.  For me and the rest of the Colorado faithful, it was an amazing weekend of high quality training on superb desert trails in warm weather.  Just what we needed to get the system up and running again!

I headed down in the bright green Sprinter van with Jeff and Karen, loaded down with bikes and gear. 

 
Thursday cruise on the Pivot Mach 6. Photo courtesy of Jeff Kerkove
I brought along the 92Fifty' Pivot Mach 6 demo bike just to play around on, and play I would!  The first day was the longest distance-wise.  I rode my Felt Nine 1 through 60 miles, almost all of which was desert singletrack.  Day 2 we rode the True Grit Epic course, which is about 50 miles.  I chose the Mach 6 for this day, just to play with and see how it could keep up with all these fast dudes on their XC bikes, pushing an XC pace.  Turns out that a bike with 160mm of travel and 27.5 wheels can keep up with the best of them!  I was amazed by how well it pedaled, and that it never felt like a "big-bike" until the trail turned down.  I was able to clear sections of trail with ease that I wouldn't have on my XC bike, yet push the pace all day, finishing with 55 miles of pure singletrack!  Day 3 was a trip out to Hurricane to ride the IMBA Epics Hurricane Rim trail loop.  In leiu of how well the Mach 6 did the day before, and also because I wanted to get the best training in possible while on this trip, I decided to give it another go for the 2nd day in a row.  Pushing a big heavy bike around for big days in the saddle is one of my favorite ways to train!  The loop on day 3 involved one of the most fun sections of trail that you'll ever ride; the JEM trail.  You climb out to it on awesome flowing singletrack, then descend JEM all the way to the Hurricane Rim overlooking the Virgin River.  It is the same trail that I rode 12 times in one day at 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, and still never got tired of.  The Mach 6 was truly at mach-speed carving the perfectly crafted butter smooth trails.  Me and Kyle Stamp decided to have another go after we finished the first 25-mile loop, while our friend Ben Jones hit the road for the drive back to Socal.  Instead of doing the entire loop, which involved the rugged rim trail, we just blasted another round of JEM, then headed back to the highway for an easy exit.  We still logged 46 miles and 4 hours of ride time.  That makes an even 100 miles in two days on the Mach 6!!  If I could only own one bike (and racing wasn't a priority) it would have to be the Mach 6.  A bike that changes everything.




Waterfall chunk.  Photo courtesy of Jeff Kerkove

Photo courtesy of Jeff Kerkove


All in all, it was an amazing weekend of riding and goofing off in the desert with friends.  None of us wanted to leave the warm weather of southern Utah, but had to considering work and taint rash.  We logged about 170 miles of trail riding in 4 days.  Not too bad for early season training.

After an itch starts, you gotta keep scratching it, right?  Only about 10 days after returning from Camp Lynda me and the 92Fifty' crew were headed out again for a 3-day riding binge in Moab.  We would get there Friday afternoon, and leave Sunday.  At least that was the plan.  Me and Kyle Taylor had to make a little addendum, being the addicts that we are.  The highlights of these 3 days were the newly crafted Hymasa singletrack, which allows you to climb up Amasa Back on beautifully flowing singletrack instead of the old 4X4 road, and the also-new Captain Ahab trail.  On Sunday Jeff (the event coordinator) finally showed up.  It was the most beautiful day yet, about 70F and sunny, and we were all high on life even after 2 days of hard riding.  Instead of taking off for home on Sunday, as Jon and Anthony would do, Kyle and I decided to hang back for another day of riding.  We hit the Loma trails near Fruita on Monday afternoon for another 2 hours of glory time!  4 days, ~160 miles, Vitamin D!


Loving my Norco and new Ergon GE1. Photo courtesy of Jeff Kerkove



Amasa Back overlook. Photo courtesy of Jeff Kerkove


After returning from Moab it was only another 10 days before the 92Fifty' crew will be back on the road again.  The 92Fifty' crew, Ergon folks, and other racing/singletrack deprived souls will be headed to St. George on March 15 for the NUE Series opener True Grit Epic.  Cheers.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tacos and Cactus Ass: El Paso Puzzler



The 92Fifty’ Cyclery squadron took a winter hiatus to enjoy the warmth and sunshine of El Paso, Texas in mid-January.  The idea of actually mountain biking, on real, live mountain biking trails, had been haunting me for months; the thought of which nearly brought tears to my eyes.  Unfortunately, those tears were always dried up by mega wind gusts and cold days as I continued to crank out road miles in Boulder.  The realization that we’d be riding bikes in the desert under warm sunny skies was too good to be true.

Before going to El Paso for the El Paso Puzzler I had asked around about why it’s considered such a hard race.  Looking at the GPS files and finish times doesn’t make much sense.  There isn’t a ton of climbing for a 50-mile race, yet finish times were 4-5 hours for Pro riders.  I had heard that its “tough, raw” terrain, but not overly technical.  Something wasn’t adding up. 

Puzzler course and elevation profile.  Strava file.
  
92Fifty’ Cyclery pros Kyle “Ragamuffin” Taylor, Billy “Tennessee” Wood and myself pre-rode some of the course on Saturday afternoon.  We got a little dose of the pain that would soon be inflicted, all finishing our pre-ride with arms and legs cut up from brushing by any one of the various cactus and desert shrubs that have evolved to hurt/kill you.  What we gathered initially was the trails were rough, rocky, loose, off-camber, rocky, and rockier.  Even the smoother sections of trail were hard to rip through because of the kitty-litter-like nature, and most of the trails were a relentless onslaught of rocks.  That being said, none of us seemed too worried.  We were just happy to be riding our bikes!  And I was super excited to finally rip my new Felt Nine 1 on some trails.

"Puzzler" Mountain from Franklin Peak

Sunday morning was chilly, but once the sun made its way over the horizon the cold air seemed to vanish.  Properly fueled by coffee and my early morning jams (which the others didn't seem to appreciate for some reason), we were ready for the 8am start.  The start went off pretty fast down a ¼-mile long fireroad, with about 10 or 15 riders making a lead group.  Before long Kyle went up to the front.  Billy and I tried to chase, but I decided to conserve energy early and hang back a bit.  Upon hitting the singletrack, in which it would be impossible to pass for the next couple of miles, Kyle was still leading out a 7-man lead group, with me hanging in the rear.  I was content to hang back and gauge how hard the others were working.  The pace up the first climb to the ridge was fast but not painful, and we all crested it together.  On the backside descent Kyle was still out front.  I think this was a good move on his part, and something I was thankful for, as some of the riders with local trail knowledge may have otherwise made some valuable time on this section.  Coming into the Start/Finish after the 9-mile starter loop I was about 20 seconds back of the lead group.  The next loop contained the climb up to Mundy’s Gap, a 1600ft climb up loose rocky fireroad.  It was the biggest climb of the day and a section where the race could break open.  Going into it I was about 2 ½ minutes back of the lead group.  I stayed steady the whole way up, not trying to push too hard.  I passed Kyle a little ways up.  He was trying to conserve energy.  We were both banking on the lead guys to blow up at some point.  By the time I reached the top I had pulled to within 20-30 seconds of the lead group.  Then came the infamous descent of this race that includes the “rock garden”, basically a scree field ¼-mile long of head-sized loose rocks.  I probably didn’t ride it with the speed of others, but had a blast doing it!  The technique was: get behind the seat, let go of the brakes, and let the bike go where it wants; an out-of-control rock-skating session.  I’d climb Mundy’s any day for that descent! 

Rugged Mundy's Gap climb.
  
Billy Wood rock-skating.  Photo Credit: Devon Balet. Mountain Flyer Article
The rest of this 25-mile lap consisted mostly of rocky, slow-going, twisty, up-and-down singletrack that took you to the north end of the mountain, over the top, and back to the start/finish.  The next 2 or so hours felt like they took forever.  After the Mundy’s descent I started dealing with some major cramping, worse than I’ve had in years.  It wasn’t long before every muscle in my legs was seizing up with every climb.  The course was so relentless that eating and drinking was almost impossible.  I had run out of water and wouldn’t get a drink for about 2 hours until I reached the start/finish again.  In this time I took more cactus cuts to the arms and legs than I can remember, had an over-the-bars into a thorn bush, took a header into a cactus, and got thrown off the bike by another cactus that wasn’t moving when I put my shoulder into it.  I’m pretty sure it actually had arms and grabbed me and threw me off the bike.  I also think it kicked me when I was down and spit in my face.  This couple of hours was a game changer.  I was still pushing hard on every climb to make up time, but the cramping never relented, and the trail continued to eat me alive.  I wouldn’t see anyone the rest of the day.  I rolled into the finish in 5:10, 6th place pro/open.



The Puzzler was just that.  It was puzzling how riding 50 miles with mediocre climbing could take so long, and be so damn hard!  Having not ridden trails for over 2 months was definitely a disadvantage.  My bike handling skills were pretty bad, but I tried to stay strong mentally and physically throughout.  If you get negative on a course as relentless as the Puzzler it will eat you up.  It was a great early season mental and physical test that Kyle, Billy, and I are going to use to become stronger and more resilient for the year to come.   Apart from the race we were still so happy to be riding bikes by the Mexico border in January, camping with friends, and eating REAL Mexican food for days!  There was free beer and a taco truck at the finish line to properly forget the pain just inflicted and wash any sorrows away.  There’s seriously no feeling in the world like sitting around with friends after putting yourselves through such a test, drinking a beer, and talking/laughing about it all. The Puzzler race promoters are some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet, and we hung out by the fire until late in the evening, sharing beers, stories and laughs.  At some point before crawling into my tent someone threw a man-sized cactus into the fire.  Fitting.  I imagined it was the one that threw me to the ground earlier.  Cheers.

Goodnight.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Looking Back at 2013



Looking forward by looking back.  I’m not always great at looking in the rearview mirror.  When there’s so much on the road ahead, who cares what’s behind you?  Well, in the case of my last year, I find it important to sum it up, learn from it, embrace it, be thankful for it, and use that to move forward.   When I look back at all the amazing things I was able to do in one short year, from the people I met and relationships built, to the journeys took, to the physical feats accomplished, it puts a smile on my face. 
The year started with me just having been upgraded to Pro by USA Cycling and obtaining my pro cycling license.  I knew it would be a growing year on many fronts.   I decided to race in as many different events, from XC to Ultra-endurance, in both singlespeed and geared, as I could get my hands on.  

March

After months of cold weather in Boulder, I had an intense desire for some warm weather riding.  Somewhere along the way I discovered Utah’s ICUP race series, which holds early season races in St. George.  On extremely short notice, I threw my stuff in the car and made the 10-hour drive to St. George (through a nasty nighttime blizzard in the mountains).  There is no other feeling in the world like stepping out into warm, dry, sunny, 80degree weather in March.  I was in heaven instantly.  The ICUP race was a blast, and I surprised myself with my level of fitness that early in the year.  I spent the next 3 days camping and riding in the warm sunny desert, and came back to Boulder recharged.



April



This was the biggest and most journey-filled month of my year.  I completed a month-long road trip; something I had been dreaming about doing for years.  The goal/reason: to mountain bike in as many new and cool places as I could find in warm weather while Colorado was enduring a late winter.  Through the warm and sunny desert southwest, to southern California, up the coast to Norcal and through the Sierras; it was a trip of a lifetime.  I still look back on that one month and can’t believe how many amazing places I went, unforgettable rides I had, and people I met.  Oh ya, I also did 3 XC races along the way.
Spring 2013 | My new trip on Spring 2013


May

The start of my “official” season.  I had already competed in 4 races, but all were looked at as training, experience, and to see where I stood.  In the middle of May was my first singlespeed race of the season at the Firebird 40, then 2 weeks later the Gunnison Growler 64 in which everything seemed to come together.

June/July

100-milers-a-too-many.  Only 5 days after the Gunnison Growler I was in Ohio getting ready to race my first ever 100-mile race, the Mohican 100.  It was a great experience.  Being my first ultra-endurance race, I undoubtedly had a lot to learn, and mistakes were made, but I left feeling overwhelmed by what I had accomplished.  I didn’t get the result I had wanted, but it was a great growing experience.  And hey, 15th place overall on singlespeed for my first 100-miler ain’t bad.  Two weeks after that I was in Michigan for the Lumberjack 100.  This was when things fell apart.  I think my body and mind had had too much from months of travelling, working, racing, training, etc. and it wasn’t my day.  This was actually a turning point in my summer, when I decided to enjoy riding more and forget about training for a little while.  Two weeks later I was back at it at the RME Snake River race at Keystone Ski Resort.  The race was “only” 54 miles, but with a ridiculous amount of climbing (~9500).  I finally got the win that I needed to boost my morale and get back on track.  Two weeks after Keystone was the big one that I had been looking forward to all year, the Breckenridge 100.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t my day.  It was the hardest race I've ever done, breaking me down both mentally and physically.  That was the end of my string of ultra endurance races for the year.  Because of financial reasons I decided to forego the Park City Point to Point.   In these two months of racing I learned invaluable lessons that will hopefully help me in the future.

September

The Boulder/Front Range floods changed everything for cyclists on the Front Range.  The epic flooding left ALL of the roads in the Boulder foothills damaged badly or completely destroyed.  Trail riding options were little to none.  Basically all of my training and riding was literally washed away.  September is usually a month when I plan on getting out for all those pleasure rides, high country adventures, and daily rides without a training plan in mind, after a long season of racing.  It also turns out to be a hugely productive time when I can normally get stronger after a summer of wearing myself down.  Unfortunately this year I spent much of the autumn inside with no riding options available.  It was a hard time, but not nearly as hard as losing your home and belongings.  Like those that lost everything I was intent on rebuilding and coming out stronger.

In Retrospect

2013 was definitely a learning year.  Sometimes I learned from the pain, and other times from success.  I learned that I love the 50-60 mile distance, where I can exploit some XC-racing speed along with some endurance, and struggle with 100-milers.  I learned that too much travel, especially without any support financially or from a team, will wear you down mentally and physically.  I learned that relationships inside and outside of this sport are the key to happiness and success.  I am fortunate to have met some amazing people inside the sport in my short stint as a mountain bike racer, and will hopefully use these relationships to better myself and give back to those that have helped me get here.  I am also very lucky to have a group of friends and family that, although sometimes not understanding why I do it, give me their support regardless.  The most important thing I learned from an entire year of racing, riding, traveling, working, training, stressing, winning, losing, hurting?  I am more motivated to ride my bike and dream about it now more than ever.  My love and passion for mountain biking continues to grow so big, and I’m going to use that to make 2014 the best year yet.  Cheers.
 



Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 Competitive Schedule

It's that time of year again.  The beginning of a new season is upon us, and figuring out (or trying to) what I'll be doing (racing), where, and when is a cool feeling.  Planning adventures for the year is exciting and inspiring.  Especially as I sit here in Boulder, wind whipping and gusting at 50+ mph outside, after months of cold weather, wind-impaled, and generally uninspiring trail-less riding.  Things I considered when trying to put together my schedule for 2014: location, competition, and fun factor.  I have learned a lot in only 2 seasons of racing.  Last year I (unknowingly) got burnt out physically from so much travel while trying to balance work and life and fun.  For 2014 I will be trying to stay closer to home and take advantage of all the amazing racing that happens in the Rocky Mountain region.  I'm always wanting to push myself to new levels and be competitive with the best, so finding those events that tout high competition was also a consideration.  Last but most importantly, a kid's gotta have fun!  I'm not into racing my mountain bike just to say I did.  The best races are always the ones that are the most fun, whether you place 1st or 50th.  A few that I'm super excited about are the Firebird 40, High Cascades (hopefully), Breck Epic, and Winter Park 50.  This list is very tentative and will undoubtedly change and be added to.  I'm hoping to find one odd-ball "adventure" style race to throw in there as well.  Pisgah, Shenandoah, something in B.C.??  I can't wait for the fun to begin!

2014 Competitive Schedule:

January 19:  El Paso Puzzler 50

March 15: True Grit Epic 100

April 27: Whiskey 50 (tentative)

May 17: Firebird 40

May 25: Gunnison Growler

June 14: Bailey Hundo

July 4: Firecracker 50

July 12: Breck 68

July 19: High Cascades 100 (tentative)

August 10-15: Breck Epic

September 13: Winter Park Epic 50

Friday, November 22, 2013

25 Hours in Frog Hollow & 92Fifty' Racing



If last weekend was any indication of what racing with 92Fifty’ Cyclery is going to be like, I’m a happy camper; literally.  In a last-minute foray into the unknown and unplanned-for, unprepared as we were, Kyle Taylor and I loaded up the 92Fifty’ camper and headed deep into the southwestern Utah desert.  The event was 25 Hours in Frog Hollow, the longest “one-day” race.  Neither one of us knew what we were getting ourselves into; probably for the better.  I had originally planned on racing on a 4-man team until about 3 days prior, when plans fell through and racing on a duo team was my only option.  Kyle was planning (loosely) on racing solo.  Each of our “plans” resided around the fact that neither one of us had ridden our bikes very much in the past couple of months, with absolutely zero real “training” leading up to this mega event.  Since the flooding hit Boulder in September my riding has been reduced to small ventures up to Nederland for fun rides and hot laps around Betasso Preserve above Boulder.  Even these were few and far between.  I had been implementing Yoga into my “training” routine.  Not too sure if a month of doing Yoga is proper training for a 25-hour race, but there was no turning back now.

We left 92Fifty’ Cycles in Blackhawk, Colorado on Thursday afternoon and headed for Fruita.  It was about the halfway point, and we couldn’t pass up riding out there.  On Friday morning we rode some of the 18 Road trails, each of us dying to stay out there and ride all day; kids in a candy store.  We knew we better not push it, so forced ourselves to call it a day after about 2 hours and headed further West for Hurricane/St. George.



My duo teammate for the race was Josh Bezecny.  I met him for the first time on Friday evening.  I didn’t know much about Josh, but had been told that he was really fast and competitive, which was all the inspiration I needed to take this thing a little more seriously.  Kyle and I finished off the last of our Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA's and called it a night.


Desert Morning.
The race started on Saturday morning under perfectly clear blue skies and cool temperatures.  Josh led out the first lap and I anxiously awaited my turn.  Before I knew it he was coming around to the start/finish with only one guy ahead of him!  Damn, this meant I better be fast!  I went out hard but still conservatively, just using this first lap to learn the course.  My lungs were feeling that ever-present XC-full-gas-burn early on, which was something they hadn’t felt for a while.  After climbing up singletrack and service road, dipping into and out of washes and gulleys for about 25 minutes, you get to the JEM trail, where the real fun begins.  From here you get a solid 20 minutes of all out, big-ring crushing, stupid-fast and flowy buff desert singletrack.  On this first lap, going into the only technical section of the trail, I took a sweet over-the-bars face plant as my front tire got stuck trying to make a switchback and catapulted me into the air.  I laughed it off and got back with it, only realizing later that I had bashed my right knee pretty good.  The rest of the lap was more a feeling out process: super-fast JEM trail, a little service road, some technical and ridiculously slow (and frustrating) rock gardens, a few steep singletrack climbs, and ending with an all-out riding-on-rails descent into the finish.  I came around in 50:01, besting Josh’s 50:51 first lap time.  He put in an even faster second lap, and I was feeling ready to do the same.  Having a teammate push and inspire me was a great feeling.  On the second lap I went out strong and was feeling great.  Poised to put in a sub-50-minute lap I had my head down on the opening climb and missed my turn, only realizing after I was a few miles up the road.  After turning back and hammering, I finally got back to the course after losing about 15 minutes.  So much for a super fast lap.  Even though I lost a bunch of time, in my second go-around of the JEM trail I was railing it noticeably faster than I had previously, hammering my largest gear and barely touching the brakes.  Adrenaline was pumping out of every pore.  I put in a 1-hour second lap; not too bad after losing so much time.  The rest of the race was mostly a blur.  Short, fast, and super fun laps, followed by not-enough rest time (usually only about 30 minutes after undressing, eating, then redressing and getting ready again), rinse and repeat.  I did get lucky enough to get the sunset and sunrise laps!  The sunset lap was amazing, as colors changed drastically on the high mesas surrounding this beautiful area.  Into the night we went, and the temperature dropped about 30 degrees.  All of my night rest-periods were spent in the van with heat blowing on me.  It got real weird as the night progressed.  Not seeing or talking to anyone for hours, in a state of sleeplessness and adrenaline-fueled action, and ripping singletrack in the dark desert made for an interesting experience.  I really loved the night laps.  I was able to stay mostly positive and was feeling great physically throughout, something I can’t explain given my lack of time on the bike in the previous months.  Josh and Kyle were both huge inspirations to me.  Josh kept putting in fast lap times, and pushing me to do the same.  At one point about halfway through the night we were ahead of all the 4-man and 5-person teams!  Kyle kept pushing on and staying positive lap after lap, which gave me no excuse not to do the same.  In the end Josh and I walked away with the Duo victory, and had the chance the set the new Duo lap record with 25 laps, had either of us wanted to go out again!  Kyle, on the other hand, did set the new Solo Male lap record with 22 laps!  Crazy and inspiring what he was able to do.  Josh and I each logged about 150-miles of fast-paced racing.  



Kyle Taylor: 1st Solo Male

  
I walked away from this event extremely happy on so many fronts.  First and foremost was the simple fact that I got to ride my bike on amazing trails for so long.  Ripping the JEM trail never got old, and I was a happy little kid again with each turn.  The way my body responded to such an effort was also amazing.  Adrenaline is your friend!  Having a great teammate in Josh, and getting inspired by Kyle was awesome.  This type of race/event was something I had never experienced before, and new experiences are always good!  Thanks to Jonathan Davis and 92Fifty’ Cycles for all the support.  I will for sure be back next year to race 25 Hours in Frog Hollow.  Cheers.