Monday, September 2, 2019

Fear Farming

Mentioning vulnerability in all its rawness can make it seem like a nefarious beast. A monster, out to expose you to those naysayers allowing them the opportunity to point and laugh while you wilt with shame.

Or perhaps vulnerability can be the farmer's field, plowed, naked and striped of its protection from the elements. Barren yes, budding with life potential, growth, lush and wonderful growth.

2019 presented itself as an open plot of land. Abundant with possibility, not the nefarious monster. So there's that and there's turning 40 this year. Shiny, new, scary, the good kind of scary, like first date kind of scary, that's what I wanted. And what's scarier than races with the word Epic in them?

So here I sit, post Epic race #1 and now #2 because I'm a procrastinator leaving my blog in draft for two months. Two events that took me over the river, through the woods, up mountains, bouncing on boulders (legit boulders) down steep embankments, through meadows, balancing atop bridges for five and later six days in a row. And then I did some other shit in between those Epic bookends mentioned briefly below.

My first foray into the Epic-ness of mountain bike stage racing was the TranSylvania Epic in Potlicker Flats, PA (no shit, that's the name of the area - at least that's the name my weather app used) is a wild, lush, rugged, rocky, rooty, mossy, gravely, climby part of the country where I never thought I'd leave with more than I came with, skin excluded. Never did I believe myself capable or did I have a desire to ride boulders or take descents which necessitated the need for a dropper post. But I did it. By the end of the week I was doing it well.

As my husband the "Punk Monk" so zen-like put it, you can choose to fight the rock that's been in the ground for hundreds of years or you can work with it. Be like water, find the path of least resistance through the rocks and take it. That last part was me.....the water part. But you get my point. Fighting it will only impede progress, growth, change. Day one and day two were me fighting the rocks. Bouncing off sharp edges, falling victim to stealthy snipers in the weeds (probably just more rocks) and generally riding like it was my first day without training wheels. Days three through five were amaze-balls. I rode with a smile, I approached obstacles with confidence and I thoroughly enjoyed the pedal. Al and I walked away from that race as the last place coed duo....that was humbling. But when you race pros (unbeknownst to us) you typically come in last place....when you yourself are not a pro.

I decided to throw in a 100 mile mountain bike race through the Chequamegon (it's taken me months to learn how to spell that fuckin' word) National Forest. That was a long day in the saddle. Not a ton of elevation but punchy climb after punchy climb. My one disappointment during this event was that I didn't get to see a bear. A rider finishing behind my little bike party of three saw a bear. Super jelly. My victory was completing this race after scratching a few years back.

A last minute addition to my schedule was the 24hours of Wausau in Wisco in which Al and teamed up for the coed 12 hour division. The loop was 13 ish miles and we each did five loops clenching first by twice as many laps as the 2nd place team. Boom!

Then I dialed up the Epic meter taking on the mack-daddy, BreckEpic. Breck, ahhh, what can I say about Breck? The vastness of the Rocky Mountains, my motherland - I was born and raised in your bosom - before you judge me for leaving Colorado for flatso Illinois, know that I harbor the same one eyebrow lift, head cocked to the side sentiment with myself. I'm an idiot. But Breck, you sit nestled at '9,500 with your quaint mountain-town vibe. You're so cool Breck. You're that kind of "dude cool." Other towns wish they were as cool as you. Just uttering the name Breck (over Breckenridge) lends a certain legitimacy, or a level of familiarity that not everyone can attain. I mean, it's Breck man. You have my heart. But I digress......

Stage 1 Pennsylvania Creek. Stage 2 Colorado Trail. Stage 3 Guyot. Stage 4 Aqueduct. Stage 5 Wheeler. Stage 6 Gold Dust. I witnessed the bluest of bluebird skies, buttery single track that most will never ever get to ride, rowdy descents, meadows exploding with wildflowers, babbling brooks, long forgotten mountain mines, ancient pine forests, lush Aspen groves, log structures built by the hands of adventurers long ago dead, mountain goats who paid no mind to my two wheels as I rode through their afternoon snack-town, a single speeder wedding at '12,500, also, bacon and skittles at the same elevation. The speed at which I took descents was based upon life and death - pretty basic stuff ya know? Life for six days was pretty simple. Wake, eat, poop, dress, ride, eat, clean bike, eat, clean body, eat, meeting, eat, sleep repeat. In total we logged 210 ish miles and 40k of climbing. Not all in the saddle. Pushing my bike or slinging it on my back for miles (yep, miles) of hike-a-bike into the Colorado back-country.

Al and I raced in the duo coed category and placed 4th in a field of 8-10. I say 8-10 cuz day one there were 10 teams and by day six there weren't. Riding every day with your husband might sound absurd to some, but I don't know, I like Al. I like to challenge our relationship - safely, like through sport. We work really well together, yeah sure occasionally there's a domestic outburst but 90 percent of the time it's my fault cuz I'm hangry or tired and fail to see how those two elements can really hinder biking a technical descent. But whatevs, we kiss and makeup. So, we earned that infamous BreckEpic belt buckle. I even bought a belt for it but it's kinda big....and sparkly . . . the best part of this belt buckle is the inscription on the backside. It reads "Bad Mother Fucker." I love it. So nasty!!

So the seeds were planted, things grew, harvesting was done and now I reap the rewards of doing Epic shit!

I'm waiting on a new MacBook, so no piccys on this entry. Hope my words are able to evoke beautiful images in your brainium!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Maui Mudslinging

It's off season, yet I find that I haven't stopped moving since the plane touched down in Chicago two weeks ago. I've wanted to put down my thoughts on XTERRA Worlds and I finally have a few moments to do so. Here we go.

I was earnestly wishing this year would not be a repeat of the mudFEST in 2016. You know what they say, wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first. In this case, it filled up with PIG SHIT (there Karl I said it, PIG SHIT, not mud). It filled my crank, covered my wheels, filled my shoes, gloves, bound up my chain, cassette, cleats you name it. If you don't know Maui mud then let me explain. It's got the consistency of wet cement. It weighs about as much too. It attaches itself to your bike and everything just seizes up. Here's a picture (thank you Alyssa I borrowed this one for illustration).

But I digress, lemme start at the beginning. We arrived on the island on Monday afternoon, stocked up at Costco and tried to get some zzzzs (there's a five hour diff between HI and ChiTown).

Tuesday arrived and Alan-the-Mayor-Moore, Brad, Al and  myself opted to ride a portion of the bike course hoping to spread the pre ride over a few days. The course wasn't soaked yet, but it wasn't dry either. A few friends from home arrived Tuesday night so race prep was coupled with "light" sightseeing. Here's Al pictured at Sweetheart Rock next to the Blowhole. It's north of Kapalua along Hwy 30. We were really hoping to see some turtles in the water. Theres' really no bad views in Maui. Everything is stunning, the sunsets, sunrises, vistas, jungles, coast it's all amazing.

Wednesday was a pre-swim and a run on the 5k course. The ocean was calm and I didn't have any trouble moving through the surf. I practiced my entries and exits a handful of times feeling pretty confident. Illinois waves, if you consider them waves, consist of whatever Lake Michigan has on tap....not much. No undertow, no rip tides, no giant swells, it's pretty safe next to ocean standards. Later that afternoon the run course was still pretty muddy. The rain Gods were feeling generous and afternoons typically had one or two rain spells.

Thursday we found ourselves back on the bike course with more friends. TamTwin and the Halioris' joined us for some upper bowl riding. The course was open and we wanted to take advantage. We were pretty lucky to get out early and fount the course to be in pretty good shape. TamTwin and I took our obligatory piccy on top of Razor Ridge. Here we are conspiring . . .

I just love that view, ocean on one side, Jurassic Park on the other. It's simply breathtaking. Friday arrives and I opted for a complete day of rest, sort of. We did a little Lahaina shopping and found the world's biggest pair of Vans, size 60. I think they might just fit my super tall stepson Shain. We registered Al, Erik and his friends Larry and Elife for the Saturday trail run. Al, after coming off of half marathon the weekend prior was planning on running the 10k, the others were psyched for the 5k. More afternoon rains were solidifying the fact that 2018 was going to be a repeat of 2016, hike-a-bike and all. I was trying hard not to let that defeat me. I truly did have a great attitude going into this race. I was trying to look at it like an opportunity to redo my bad attitude two years prior. It's not very often life offers you a redo. I forgot to mention that myself and a few other Braveheart Chicago athletes were waiting on our race kits to be delivered to the island so that we could fly the Chicago colors during the race . . . at least for a little while until it became covered in pig shit. Anyways, this was another element that I was trying hard not to let stress me out. It was a lot of back and forth with Hyperthreads (our supplier) and at one point our kits weren't going to arrive at all. I have to hand it to Spencer, he really pulled through. Spencer bought a ticked to Maui and hand delivered our kits Saturday. I don't know many companies that would go the distance - in this case fly across and ocean - to fix a mistake. Thank you HyperThreads! You're Aces in my book!

Saturday arrives and the kids are ready to race the trail run. TamTwin's sis Kim, Erik, Larry, Al and Elife braved the slop and relentless up and crossed the finish line smelling like pig shit but looking elated! The consensus was that it was going to SUCK for those doing the tri on Sunday.

TamTwin and I had a blast playing the part of Sherpa during the trail run. We scoped out the lower bowl and determined that YES, in fact it was going to be a rerun of 2016. Bring it on I guess!!

Finally we're getting to the meat of this post. Sunday, race day. I'm in my shiny white kit and I'm ready to face this thing, mud and all and knowing is half the battle. That's something that I wasn't prepared for in 2016. We racked my bike, set up my transition and made the rounds. Saw some friends, chatted nervously about the surf (waves were BIG) chatted nervously about the mud, and chatted nervously about the surf again, did I mention the waves were big? I found a YouTube video but I really don't think this will do it justice, so, if you're so inclined, I've embedded a video link via David McNerdy (McCurdy's) FB page that illustrates just how massive these suckers were during the women's wave.

Women's Wave XTERRA Worlds 2018

Ok, so if you're thinking "what the fuck were they thinking?"
You're not alone. I entered the water at 9:20 a.m. and it took me :38 minutes to swim 1500 meters. An all time sucky swim for me compared to the four previous World Championships I've raced. Why? Because I thought I was going to drown. I'm not being dramatic either. Some folks had pretty smooth sailing, a break between the breaks. My wave was not so lucky. After exiting the water, running onto the beach I attempted to re enter the water. I was pummeled by a pretty big wave and dragged back to shore. I actually ran out of the surf yelling "no no no no no" I found Al in the crowd and told him I can't go back in, I won't go back in. He calmed me and we waited out the sets. I gave him a hug and told him that I loved him because I wasn't sure if I'd make it back. Only after the race did that comment really sink in. Fucked up fo sho. I risked life and limb for what, a mediocre swim and a long suffering hike a bike? I don't know. It still bothers me that I thought this way and caused Al stress, jerky move on my part. So I managed to make it to the next buoy. Swimming to shore I knew I was up against giant waves again. I felt my body being lifted high above the shore. Reports later indicated waves were 8-10'. I wasn't entirely confident on my exit strategy and I remember people telling us before the race to not hesitate. I really can't say whether or not I hesitated because after being dragged under by a wave I stood up and another took me down. This time I couldn't tell what was up and what was down. My chest was beginning to get tight, things were getting dark. They say bubbles mean up, but it's all bubbles when several tons of water crash on top of you. I eventually popped up again, oxygen rushed in and screams rushed out. I did everything I could to drag myself to shore. One more wave hit me and took my goggles from under my swim cap, but strangely my swim cap stayed in tact. I had sand in every nook and cranny, an ocean water enema and nasal rinse. IT. WAS. INSANE. I ran onto shore, wobbly legs and all and Al found me again. He grabbed me and whispered in my ear "you don't have to do this." I ignored his comment, I told him I know how to bike and run. I was rattled. I wasn't in it to win it any longer. I was, I'm not really sure, I guess I was going through the motions. Auto pilot ON, Honey Badger OFF. I found my shit in T1 and off I went. In what seemed like many many many hours later (prolly because it was many many many hours later) I mounted my bike in T2 and looked defeatedly at my running shoes. I threw a little bit of a temper tantrum, throwing my gloves, helmet and Camelback down on the ground hoping someone would see how pissed off I really was. I slipped into my Hokas, placed my hat (in the business position - Tammy) on my head and off I went, back up the island.

Despite the muddy conditions I had a fantastic run, both ACTUALLY and mentally. I really enjoyed it. I ran what I could and slipped where I couldn't. I was able to make up several places and ran down fellow BCC Coach Chrissy Halioris who was 20 minutes ahead of me out of T2. Still, I crossed the finish line in 14th place (a far cry from what I envisioned and what I trained so hard for all year) in 5:45. 33 minutes slower than 2016 and an hour and 45 minutes slower than my best finish in 2015 when I placed 4th in my AG. Disappointed was and is an understatement. Yes, I survived what I perceived to be near death by drowning. I still feel pretty uneasy when I think back to those moments that probably amounted to 30 seconds but seemed like an eternity. As with all adverse experiences one is supposed to learn something. I did. I learned that I'm not very strong (mentally speaking) when I'm confronted with adverse conditions. I rock it in perfect conditions, but then again, who doesn't? What defines us are the tough ones. For some, wet trails, slippery roots, rocks, snow, cold, etc don't seem to derail them from doing well, in fact doing excellent. Yeah, I had a bad race this year and I underestimated the conditions and overestimated my ability to conquer said conditions. So for 2019 I plan on training in all kinds of adverse conditions, you know to toughen myself up. I'm imaging hunks of meat hanging in a cooler and me punching the shit out of it, eye of the tiger playing in the background. Or. . . how about this? If it's cold, I'll wear warmer clothes, if it's wet, I'll wear water proof clothes. If it's hot I hope it's hotter. If it's muddy, good. If it's slick better. I need to turn my attitude inside out. I no longer want to just survive a crazy hard event, I want to do well at said crazy hard event.

As for my white kit, it did not fair so well. But with the suggestions of many of my white kit wearing friends, I was able to get it 99% clean. The rest of our trip was spent relaxing, speed sightseeing (on a bike) adventuring along the West Maui loop a 60 mile road ride with 3,600' of gain. Beautiful vistas, cliffs, "the wall," Banana bread, Kona ice cream and reaching 47 mph on one wild decent. I did swim in the ocean one more time, to you know, address my fears. It was pretty cool. I saw a turtle. And I witnessed an amazing rainbow on one of our last days. I almost forgot, Al and I attended a Luau, like the really cheesy ones. I swear Don Ho was our emcee. He did in fact sing Tiny Bubbles while sporting white patent leather boots, with a heel.
Post West Maui Loop
Maui Rainbow
West Mau Loop crew
XTERRA awards dinner

XTERRA Sherpas during bike leg
Erik and Al B4 XTERRA trail run

Thursday, October 4, 2018

2018, Far better than expected

Ummmm, it's really been a year since I last posted. I suck! I was reading my last blog recapping my 2017 Finish at the XTERRA Fort Custer for 2018 points where I finished 3rd after being bested by Megan James (outstanding runner) less than a mile from the finish. I tongue-in-cheek blamed it on the decaf coffee I unknowingly consumed before the race costing me the 10 second difference between 2nd and 3rd place. That's the kind of operation they're running at Alan Moore's Driftwood Inn. But I jest.

Wowza, what a year. If I could sum it up in just one word or how about one phrase it would be Daring Greatly. Yes, like the famous Theodore Roosevelt speech sometimes referred to as "The Man in the Arena." It's probably my favorite speech.

"It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of his achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly . . . "

I watched so many of my friends Dare Greatly. From my wonderful husband Al to the athletes that we coach. 2018, although tumultuous for me personally had ended up to be so life altering in so many ways.

Surprisingly, I was named 2018 Ms. XTERRA as someone who embodies the "Live More" philosophy. I was of course the last to know. Funny, I should have been suspect of the video crew following my every move for two days while preparing for the XTERRA PanAm Championship in Ogden. But, I bit the line, you know, the one about the film crew profiling female cyclists, I was one of many, or so they said. And why wouldn't I believe that?

So I've included a link to the tribute video and article. They did a fantastic job and I still can't believe it is me that now has my name permanently affixed to the biggest traveling trophy I've ever seen...

2018 Ms. XTERRA Tribute Video

There was some other really good shit that happened this year too. I was appointed to Battalion Chief for the FD I love and work for.

I did a few crazy gravel races including a 150 mile jaunt through Lincoln, Nebraska with a measly 10K of climbing. And I watched my husband and friend Brad devour a fetus sized burrito a few weeks back. It was both disturbing and equally impressive. They both had stellar races the following day. I've enlarged the photo to better illustrate the girth of the burrito.

I think this year was all about Daring Greatly. When you put yourself out there sometimes . . . most times you fail but every so often you shine, you burn so brightly. But you are never alone, when you find success it's always because there are those in your life that supported you and lift you higher than you can stand on your own two feet. For those humans in my life I am grateful. I love you


Monday, October 2, 2017

Horseshoes, Hand Grenades and Decaf Coffee

Sitting around the island in Alan Moore's Ada, Michigan kitchen Cathie his wife pointed out the pot of decaf coffee that three out of the four of us were quietly sipping letting the morning sink in. It suddenly dawned on us that the morning prior we had been drinking from the same bag of decaf.

Why this is funny . . . the day prior was the final XTERRA on my 2017 race roster (albeit for 2018 points). Furthering the hilarity, if you know me, I DON'T DRINK DECAF. "Kristen, maybe this is where your 10 seconds came from," said Cathy, highlighting the fact that I lost by 10 seconds to 2nd place Megan James clinching 3rd the day prior.

Do I actually believe that the difference between second and third came down to a cup of decaf coffee? No, but I do think seemingly innocuous actions can add time on the clock, like 10 seconds for example.

First, background. I cheated Megan James out of a first place overall two years ago at the Grand Rapids XTERRA held in Yankee Springs. So Saturday was Karma coming to get me or that's at least what Al believes. Albeit, I did not intentionally cheat, it was a series of unfortunate events beginning with my lack of listening skills. It was my first race back after recovering from a double stress fracture in my right foot so I was a little leery to run. We hit the trail and I felt strong. There were just a handful of women racers and I felt confident that I was in the lead. Heading out on the run I crossed paths with Al who was heading in, he yells to me, "the run is short." With this knowledge, I push on, suddenly Megan races past me. I increase my pace to match hers. We pop out of the trail and a volunteer points us on to the finish. It's a dead sprint to the end and I match her stride for stride, at the last minute I will myself faster and cross just before her, the crowd is cheering, the announcer is excited to have witnessed such a heated finish. I was pumped. Turns out I missed an entire loop of the course earning me the fastest run split of anyone . . . 5 min/mile and a big shameful DQ. So, again . . . KARMA.

Saturday's race goes down like this. Strong swim, not the fastest, but not the slowest. Sub 1 hour bike (11+ miles) earning me a QOM for the entire course on Strava, that's pretty dope! Quick transitions and what I felt was an evenly paced run for a 5k amounting to 7:30 miles. Here's where the horseshoes and hand grenades come into play. During T2 I left one glove on, by accident. I stopped at the fist aid station, drank some gatorade, water and left my glove with them. This totally could have been 5+ seconds wasted. I hit the trail and about 2 miles in Megan passes me on the left. I had NO IDEA she was there. I knew Mimi was ahead of me and I knew I had passed Megan on the bike about mile 10, obviously not enough buffer for the type of runner she is, and the type of runner she is is STRONG, she's a hunter and I was the unwitting prey. PS, Megan is a fantastic swimmer as well. Riding her down was no easy task. On the out and back I hear Chrissy urging me to "dig." Al tells me "she's right there." Chris tells me "you got her." A handful of others encourage me to run faster. I can taste the metal in the back of my throat. I'm redlining, I'm running as hard as I can. I mentioned the last 5 seconds, well the first five seconds I can probably find in the swim and in my first transition, gloves are son of bitch to get on. But again, close only counts in horseshoes in hand grenades, in triathlon is gets you 10 seconds behind 2nd. Congrats Megan James.

Or was it the decaf . . . ?

Special K

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bronze looks good on me

XTERRA PanAm Champ highlights

Sitting on the grassy hillside with my head hanging low I exhaled slowly with an all too familiar tightness in my chest. At that moment I vowed never to return to the rugged beauty found in the Wasatch Mountain range.

That was 2012 and I had just completed my first XTERRA US National Championship off road triathlon. Keeping my word I did not return in 2013 or 2014. Yet, like many promises made to ones self forged in the bitterness of disappointment I did go back in 2015, 2016 and again this year mainly for redemption. I think what kept me away and what keeps most flat-landers away are the climbs. Training in the midwest you are living amongst the corn and soy bean fields, void of elevation save a few punchy river valleys and wind......we all hate the wind.

I wouldn't count my first foray into XTERRA in 2012 anything more than exploration, despite a few good finishes on the local scene. When it came to the Championship races, I placed "fair to midland" (a quote often uttered by my Pops). So with three Utah races under my belt this year seemed hold more promise than usual. As they say, the 4th time's the charm (I know this isn't the correct euphemism but it illustrates my point).

Al and I usually split the drive to Ogden up into two days. The first is a 900+ mile journey to Littleton, Colorado to visit my folks, the remainder is an 7+ hour drive to West Haven where we are home stayed by Meri and Devin (college soccer buddies).

We arrived in Ogden Thursday evening, settled in and planned on a partial pre ride the following morning. Mother Nature had other plans, heavy rains meant riders were strongly encouraged to stay off the trails allowing them to dry for Saturday's race. We opted for a chilly dip in Pine View Reservoir and a quick out and back run along the water's edge.

This year was different than in years past, Al would not be next to me on the starting line due to injury. Instead he would be tracking my progress as my race Sherpa.

Race morning was chilly, 40s at the res and high 30s at Snowbasin. It's been like this before but usually the temps rise to the low 80s later in the day. Today's high was forecasted to be in the mid 60s. Al tried to lift my spirits telling me this is the perfect temp for racing. Deep down I know he's right, but I'm dreading the cold climb up Wheeler Canyon in a wet kit. But XTERRA is gritty right? We are hardcore right? Still, nobody likes to be cold.

My swim was consistent with how I've been swimming lately and that's pretty well. I exited the water faster than previous years and my transition went under 2:00 minutes. Good considering they did away with the carpeted exit forcing competitors to run on this gravely-gnaw-your-feet-up parking lot.

I made good time up the canyon and settled into a rhythm on the bike. One little mechanical up Sardine forced me to dismount to pop my chain back on -- my bad. I lost a few spots on the climbs, including Sian Turner (2nd in my AG) but managed to earn a few back on the decent. I entered T2 and aside from a little fumble because my rack was occupied by another's bike I quickly slipped into my running shoes and exited to the trail. Al was along the fence line yelling my place (you're in 2nd). At the time I wasn't sure if Courtney Kaup had started the race and I knew Sian was ahead of me so with that knowledge I ran to maintain 2nd. I pushed hard up the hills and bombed the downs. I felt strong overall. Crossing the finish line I learned I was 3rd - which meant a podium and is AWESOME - to Sian in 2nd and Courtney in 1st. Courtney was 3rd OA amateur to Jen Razee (2nd) and my good friend and 2017 Ms. XTERRA Deanna "Dirty" McCurdy took the OA title. Props to these fast women. So strong in every right, they are champions!

This day, which also happened to be Al's and my 11th wedding anniversary, I would not hang my head in defeat on the grassy hillside. As my name was called I stepped upon that 3rd place podium proud and with a secret goal in mind for 2018.

Special K

Monday, September 25, 2017

Hatching the Kokopelli

A year ago a plan was hatched to bike pack the Kokopelli trail from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT. At the time of the hatching, everyone was "in." As the months passed by those that were "in" were suddenly not. The ambiguous trail, snakes from the up and coming bike town of Fruita . . . actually the trail head is in the neighboring town of Loma, to the red rock adventure capital of the southwest, Moab. I say ambiguous because in the weeks leading up to the bike trek neither I nor my husband could pin point an exact mileage. Blogs, Facebook pages, gpx files and even local bike wrenches seemed to think the trail was between 130-158 . . . ish.

The players were down to my husband and I. We would leave Ogden following one of my final XTERRA's of the year (PanAm Championship - a blog on this is in the works) and head to Moab. Al had previously hired a shuttle - Paul - to haul bikes, equipment and ourselves to Fruita where we would camp for the night and set out early Monday morning. Al and I hoped for 30-50 miles a day finishing up in Moab either Wednesday or Thursday . . . again depending upon the ambiguous mileage.

I'm not sure what kind of audience might be reading this but I want to mention that the prep for this trip was pretty in-depth. Like I'm talkin' sampling dehydrated meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the weeks prior, watching and being impressed by boiling water in my new JetBoil Flash camp stove (4:20 seconds for 4 cups!!!), buying shit shovels, packing and repacking, realizing that just packi
ng is not sufficient when one can roll things instead. Obsessively checking the weather, wondering how badly you can smell if you wear just one bike kit? Thinking, oh well, I can always shower in a river. Practicing your water filtration techniques and hoping there is adequate water to filter. Realizing you're shit at reading a topo map, hoping your hubby gets it better than you.

So, bike packing is tricky, it's a delicate balance between having what you need and weight. So, custom frame bag by #roguepanda fit my FS nicely which carried a frame pump, insect repellant, applicable maps by #latitude40 and snacks which also served as lunch during our rides. Two #revelatedesigns mountain feed bags at my bars, one each with 12 oz of water, also chapstick and a bandana. The Terrapin behind the seat bag also by #revelatedesigns which carried clothes, toiletries and beef jerky. #Osprey backpack with 2.5L of water, this is where I carried the #jetboil stove, #mountainhouse meals, #starbucks via instant coffee packs and mui importante Sriracha packs which I swiped from said coffee bar, #msr coffee mug and tiny salt shaker, emergency water tablets, waterproof matches and fuel and #lifestraw.

The #salsa out in front rack is where my #topeakbikamper tent, #thermarest ground pad, #seatosummit pillow and sleeping bag liner were stowed. In hind site, I really could have used an ACTUAL sleeping bag because the desert is a stone cold bitch when the sun goes down and I used every last piece of clothing to stay warm at night, yes, I even layered my undies (not really, cuz I didn't bring any, I'm simply trying to illustrate just how cold I was at night). Additionally I used the #revelatedesigns gas tank and jerrycan bags for charging blocks and bike repair. All of this amounted to nearly 25 additional pounds on bike and back. Al's rig was set up similarly with a little extra room due to a larger frame and HT design.

Paul dropped us off in front of Over the Edge Cycles in Fruita where we readied our rigs. On the trip over Paul suggested we stash water along the trail just before Yellow Jacket Canyon (a sandy, shitty 18 miles section just over half way). We stashed three gallons of water behind a bush just off of the trail. Water is not promised along the trail and filtering we learned isn't alway an option . . . newsflash Kristen, the desert is dry! Before leaving we decided to pop into the bike shop to look for last minute items and double check with the local wrench the one question we were having trouble answering . . .  along the trail road construction in Moab had a section of the Kokopelli closed during the week. This would force a detour and we would miss a few miles of the trail. We wanted to clarify where we could pick up the trail after the closure. However, no one really had an answer and adding to our concern for the closure the bike wrench told us "there is no authorized camping along the Kokopelli trail system." WTF? really? We opted to ignore the stern warning and grabbed some fish tacos before heading out.

Al and I rode the 7.5 miles to the trailhead and decided to bike in a bit before setting up camp for the night. It was nearing late afternoon so we thought we'd get 15 miles or so before sunset. But something we learned early on is the Kokopelli has different ideas than YOUR best laid plans. We biked 8+ miles before calling it quits.....enter rock ledges, hike-a-bike sections and pretty steep climbs. I was pretty cached from the previous days race. We found our own slice of heaven overlooking the Colorado River, pictured here and set up camp. We referenced our map and talked about how we could ride 40-50 the following day.

Just like the ambiguous mileage and mystery road closure the meaning behind the Kokopelli is just as varied. Some say the Kokopelli with his flute and bag of seeds symbolizes prosperity, some say fertilization, and some others say marriage . . . . whatever the true meaning behind the Kokopelli I know this much to be true, he is also a trickster and bearer of suffering and bad luck . . . not death or destruction, just enough bad luck to totally annoy you and enough suffering to make you feel like you deffinatly bit off more than you could chew. Coffee in the morning is my first joy of the day, no coffee, no happy Kristen. The fuel I brought was old enough to have the open/close gasket dry rot...who knew, so the gas no workie. This is bad, no gas means no food . . . I for a second had images of Al and I crunching down on dehydrated lasagna sans water. But, Al was able to get the fuel can to work. Fast forward, camp is picked up and we're off. "Hey Al, I smell gas." Since the aforementioned gasket was dry rot, the gas was free flowing in my backpack. PANIC!!! But, again, Al saved the day.

We're off . . . again. 120 minutes later we've managed to tick off a whopping 5 miles, land speed record. This is the section of the trail lovingly referred to as hike-a-bike which doesn't include another section of trail called the really big climb, a 400' climb in about a 3/4 mile section at about a 45% grade. We did encounter some trail magic along the way, Linn and his wife (I didn't catch her name) were our oasis in the desert. Low on water and not sure if we'd make it to the next supposed water spot, Linn topped us off with his "fresh from a Boulder, Colorado spring water." The kindness of people makes me smile.

My Garmin with the gpx signaled low battery about midday. No fear, I'll just juice her up with my trusty charging block. This would have totally been the ideal situation only I forgot the plug for the Garmin. So, the remainder of the ride we would be pushing Al's map reading skillz to the limit. Kokopelli strikes again.

Our 40-50 mile day ultimately turned into a 30 mile ride which ended around 3:30 p.m. at the Westwater Ranger Station and campground. Westwater is primarily used by rafters who put in and set sail on "float and bloats" along a 17 mile section of the Colorado ending in Cisco near Moab.

We bathed in the icy Colorado, rinsed our salt stained kits and even dined on some quite tasty camp food including Raspberry Crunch. We walked the campground, referenced our route for the following day, filmed some wild turkeys and realized it was only 4:30. Damn, we're so not good at just sitting around. So . . . . . we played a little HeadsUp on my phone and managed to be really bad at relaxing.

Up at 6:30 a.m. made coffee, ate an awesome breakfast hash, packed up camp and set out. We rocked the first 5 miles in 35 minutes and I swear to God as soon as Al mentions how fast we're moving we turn straight into a headwind. It's like gale force. Sustained 30 mph and gusts of 50 mph. It's enough to take your breath away if you breath directly into it. Al actually says to me at the top of one of our climbs, "Is this fucking Everest?" I'd have laughed but I can't breath.

We finally make our water stash and sit to eat fighting for what little shade the desert sage provides us. We sit defeated, hot, windblown, sunburned (can you believe I forgot sunscreen after all that prep?) and directly next to a fire ant colony.
Only I think the ants can sense how tired and deflated we are and leave us be. I spread Justin's hazelnut butter on a Stroopwaffle and it makes me laugh cuz it looks more like a Poopwaffle than a Stroopwaffle. I eat it, it's amazing. I drink until my belly blo

ats, I eat my turkey jerky and anything else I can shovel in my mouth. I'm hoping Al is thinking the same thing I'm thinking and that's that I don't want to bike into Yellow Jacket Canyon with the wind whipping sand into our faces. Thankfully Al beats me to it an suggests we ride the road to where the trail exits the canyon and rally a new game plan. I'm game!

With full bellies we ride to the Dewey bridge, just a few miles up the road and pull into a campsite along the Colorado where we've decided to soak our legs for a spell. The map shows there's about 30 miles between us and Moab along Route 128 on freshly paved blacktop . . . . or if we choose to dive back onto the Kokopelli there's a 4k climb waiting for us and camping at 8,000'. If the previous two nights have taught us anything it's that we are not equipped for cold weather camping and the high elevation means temps could plummet into the 30s. With a combined sense of disappointment and relief we opt to pedal the final 30 miles into town and grab a room, shower, and feast our faces. Sensing our departure from the trail, Kokopelli blew his wind as hard as he could making the majority downhill ride into Moab a literal sufferfest. I have NEVER had to forcefully pedal going downhill, there was NO coasting. We fought for every last mile taking multiple stops along the way just to recoup for the next section.

Into town we rolled after nearly 10+ hours of riding covering only 65 ish miles. Slow yes, don't judge, it wasn't a race it was an adventure. Our Subie was just as we'd left him, parked behind the Best Western waiting to take us to our next destination.

We loaded up, booked a room (criminally overpriced due to "peak adventure season" in Moab), took a proper shower and walked across the street to the Moab Brewery for nachos, burgers & fries and gelato! That night, tucked into our king sized bed we slept like the dead....

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Holding Water

Writing has been looming large for me in my everyday happenings....not because I'm doing a great deal of it, writing that is, but rather because I haven't. Writing is like that old friend you haven't visited in a while. You say life gets in the way. You screen your old friend's calls, you text instead maintaining no intimacy whatsoever in your once healthy friendship. You're a schmuck. Yet, you think about writing almost daily and the ways in which it can heal, grow, challenge and cleanse the soul. You're not sure why you just don't pick up the phone and give Writing a call?

I'd like to offer this quote on my present state of mind and perhaps some commentary after.

"The harder we try to catch hold of the moment, to seize a pleasant sensation . . . the more elusive it becomes . . . It is like trying to clutch water in one's hands--the harder one grips, the faster it slips through one's fingers." Alan Watts 

I'm going to try to try less to grip the water. Feeling it pass through my fingers is enough. I'll allow it to collect in the basin below and visit it when needed but feel content in knowing that I've touched happiness.

The rush I get when I'm flying down a smooth piece of single track is physical. I can feel the heat in my muscles when I power up a climb and the tightness in my chest when I attempt a technical section for the first time. My body feels joy in those things. My mind feels joy when I write about those same experiences.

Today, I'm calling myself out.