Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Journey to the Gunnison Growler

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of travel, biking, work, racing, etc. and I'm finally back to the drawing board in numerous ways; trying to get caught back up chronicling my racing and experiences, i.e. this blog, figuring out where I'm at right now, where I want to be in the near future, and how to get there. 

This weekend was my 2nd attempt at the Gunnison Growler, a grueling 64-mile race in the technical mountain biking playground that is Hartman Rocks outside of Gunnison, Colorado.  Before I get to my recap of the race, it would make sense to reminisce on the last couple of months.

On April 3rd Rachael and I left Boulder for the west coast, in what would be a month-long road trip.  The goal of the road trip for me was simple: ride as much as possible during a month that can brutalize Colorado with winter storms, hone in my technical skills, and maintain or increase fitness while at it.  This was neatly mixed in with Rachael’s plans to see friends and family all along the way.  Most importantly was spending time together in some amazingly beautiful places, with no stress or worries.  Our journey started in the wet Cascades of central Oregon, and culminated in Prescott, AZ for the Whiskey 50.  During this month I was able to ride some of the best trails I could ever imagine, my favorite being the lush green rainforest around Oakridge, Oregon.    

All in all I mountain biked 18 out of 26 days on the road, all of which being trail rides of some sort.  Heading into Whiskey 50 at the end of this road trip was a huge uncertainty.  For many reasons I didn’t feel prepared to take on the best in the country (and world).  Let me put it this way: I had ridden my bike for 18 of 26 days, and trained 0.  Unfortunately training involves a little extra effort; a little more gusto when compared to fun rides in the woods.  Also, being on the road, on vacation, lends itself very nicely to alcohol consumption, odd eating routines, and other bad habits.  For these reasons I didn’t feel top notch heading into Whiskey, but was sure to make the most of it.  Having spent a few days in Prescott pre-riding the Whiskey 50 trails, I was more stoked than ever on this sport that I love.  The trails were all a blast to ride, and whatever happened on race day didn’t matter as much anymore.  My race went as well as it could for me at that time.  I realized right off the bat that my body lacked the intensity that I used to know, and simply couldn’t hang with much of the front groups.   Once I finally started to settle in I felt good, and finished the race strong.  I went deeper into my pain cave and well of reserves than I normally do, knowing that it was a short 50-mile race, and was happy with my performance, albeit rather subdued compared to where I want to be physically.   

Click on pic for short vid courtesy of Ben Jones
Click on pic for short vid, courtesy of Ben Jones

A month on the road isn’t the ideal training environment, but its experiences like these that keep my fire burning and ever-growing, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  The day after Whiskey we took the short cruise to Sedona so I could get a taste of the amazing riding there, stopped off in Durango for another day of riding, and then finally made our way back to Boulder.

Once back in Boulder after a month on the road it was difficult to get back up to speed with real life.  I continued to train right on through that week, putting in some pretty good efforts, and finally hit the wall in a big way.  After one of the most painful rides I can remember, in which my body wanted nothing of it, I spent the next 5 days in a worn-out tired stupor.  Apparently my body needed to rest and was telling me loudly.  The next weekend I had family and friends come into town to visit, which lent itself to zero riding, and more alcohol consumption.  After they left the weather in Boulder turned to crap and I wouldn’t ride until going to Eagle, Colorado for the Firebird XC race.  That’s two weeks of almost zero riding, coming off extreme fatigue, heading into an XC race with some of the best in Colorado.  Not ideal. With the Gunnison Growler a week after the Firebird I was only looking at this race as a training venture.  Low and behold, it seemed like my body finally caught back up, because I raced into a 10th Place finish in a field of 90+.  Behind me were some really fast CO locals who I was stoked to get the better of that day.  The Firebird race gave me a lot of confidence heading into the Gunnison Growler.  I finally felt competitive and semi-fast again, and was riding my bike really well.  Now I just needed to work all week, get as much rest as possible, and prepare for 64 miles of technical onslaught.

Before I knew it Rachael and I were in Gunnison and ready for a fun race on Sunday.  The weather was forecasted to be dicey at the very least, and down-right nasty at the worst.   When we rolled into town Friday it was raining and looking ominous.  The clouds to the north, around Crested Butte, were black and bubbling.  This would be the nature of the weekend.   

On Saturday we went out and pre-rode some of the trails at Hartman Rocks, trying to hit some of the more technical spots for a little familiarity and practice.  Having just put a dropper seatpost on my hardtail, an idea that would’ve been laughed at by XC racers only a year or two ago, I was stoked to be riding some of the technical descents and drops with speed and comfort.  Bring on race day! 

Dropper post on a hardtail, what!? Ready to rock and roll with new Ergon SM3 Pro Carbon saddle.
Handlebar Mustache, Mosaic Cycles, 92Fifty, Ergon

Click on pic for short vid, courtesy of Jeff Kerkove.
Waking up at 4:30am for the 7am start I could hear loud raindrops on the roof of our motel room.  As I sat there eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and watching the World Cup XC race on my phone (broadcast live from Nove Mesto, Czech Republic!) the rain halted and all that was left were dark clouds.  Who knew what was going to happen?  Everyone toed the starting line with mixed decisions on what to wear; some going the full rain suit route, some with rain vests, and some with full-on summertime XC garb.  I chose to take off my rain jacket and stuff it underneath the back of my jersey with about 1 minute to start.  Initially I thought I had made a bad decision, because as soon as the neutral roll-out of 350 riders began I was being sprayed with water from the tires in front of me.  Fortunately it was warm enough to not be a problem, and I’d soon be happy to not have that rain jacket on.  As we began climbing up the initial ascent, known as Kill Hill, the field quickly evaporated behind me.  I rode comfortably to the top and crested somewhere around 10th place.  As we hit the singletrack which we’d be on for the first couple of miles I was riding one rider back from Josh Tostado, and still feeling comfortable.  This is exactly where I wanted to be.  Before long I decided that trying to stay with him, especially on the descents, wasn’t my best option and so I found a fast Griggs Orthopedics (Gunny locals) rider to hang with for a bit.  We would end up passing a few other riders along the way.  Much of the first lap was spent going back and forth inside the top-10, and trying to deal with the extremely muddy conditions.  By the time I rolled into the Start/Finish after 32 miles, my shifting wasn’t working at all, but I was standing in 7th place.  A quick cleanup procedure from some awesome volunteers, and fresh gloves and bottles from Rachael, and I was on my way.  As I started climbing out into lap 2, I quickly realized that something wasn’t right.  For a while I kept pushing forward strong, thinking my body just needed some time to regulate itself.  About 45 minutes into the 2nd lap I realized that my wish wouldn’t be granted, as my stomach began to shut down and feel sick.  From that point on every small effort induced extreme nausea.  Eating or drinking wasn’t even an option.  I tried to ride it out, but it only got worse.  The next 3 hours were spent in slow baked misery.  By the time I finished I hadn’t sipped from my bottles or ingested anything for almost 3 hours, and dropped more places than I could count.  On top of that my drivetrain was so destroyed from all the mud that my chain would only stay on the largest cog, and nothing else.  My shifting was obsolete, and I was waiting for my derailleur to explode at any moment.  It was a frustrating day; such is the mystery of the Growler.  How can 64 miles feel like 100?  Many have come to this race and walked away in defeat on one level or another.  It is a race that can wear down even the strongest souls.  On Sunday it got the best of me.

Image courtesy of Mountain Flyer. Click on pic for Growler race photos.
Next up for me is the Fat Tire 40 in Crested Butte on June 28, followed by an onslaught of Colorado events in July.  The high country in Colorado is drying up fast and that makes me very happy.  Cheers.

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.


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.  


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.


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


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.


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.


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.