2018 … A summer I will cherish forever

There is certainly no convenient time to break a leg. I could have said that April was the worst possible time, at the very start of an exciting race season. Instead of traveling on to California for a block of Pro XCT races from Pan American Championships, I flew home, landing in Kalispell simultaneously with my mother and sister in-law who had planned to come to help out with Layla during my travels. Turned out they were here for another reason… My husband, Nelson, picked us up and home we all went.

Three days later, I went under the knife to have my fibula plated.

The emotions raged fiercely. As much support as I had, it was really up to me to work through the emotions as best as I was able. The loss experienced during injury pushed me into a season of grief. I felt the anger of having been betrayed by my body that I worked so hard to keep strong and healthy. I grieved the loneliness that I felt nobody quite understood as everyone else’s lives and race seasons continue on as normal. I felt abandoned and forgotten. I struggled understanding “why”, after trusting God with the process. I was forced to revise and postpone goals that my heart was set on pursuing. It made me ask all the hard questions… Should I have raced Pan Ams? Did I rehab my shoulder enough? Did I prepare my best? Am I equipped? Do I belong? Why am I racing my bike? …since it has brought me this kind of suffering.

In addition, my marriage had been under attack for some time, and Nelson and I were deep in a separate war fighting for each other, and dedicated to the battle. I felt as though the raging war against me just might break me and take the victory.

I had nowhere to escape to, without the option of sorting out my frustrations while hashing out a set of hard intervals, or long hikes in the mountains; or even going for a drive since I couldn’t drive. I spent many days sitting in my recliner with really no choice but to face the mountains in front of me. I cried for weeks. The tears allowed the many layers of denial to begin to peal away from my heart and over the next several weeks I became the most raw and broken I have ever been. My family and friends came and went. Layla stayed by my side, and it was all I could do to make life as normal for her as possible.

Attending Sea Otter with Nelson within a week of surgery was good but very hard. Physically, I could not have functioned without Nelson’s help and he became a rock for me during this time, which was monumental for us. Watching the races under my current condition felt like I was torturing myself, while doing my best to put a smile on my face, and support and celebrate my teammates.

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Hanging at Sea Otter

“6 weeks,” my doctor said for the bone to heal, and I set my eyes on returning back to race Cross Country Nationals in July. I didn’t quite realize at the time, that meant at 6 weeks I could start the process to begin walking again; but the stiffness, swelling, clicking, and discomfort would linger months longer.

At 4 weeks, I was given the green light to begin partial weight bearing and start riding my stationary bike. Simultaneously, my incision became infected, and was such a distraction, I felt like the tiny spark I had felt was blown out by the wind of the pain and worry of the infection. After nearly a full round of antibiotics without improvement, my surgeon scheduled a second surgery to remove the hardware, since the bacteria can survive the antibiotics if in contact with the hardware. In his words, I was told that only “miraculous” improvement would allow any exceptions. Then, I was given a “YES”…. A miracle happened. The infection began to clear and my doctor cancelled my surgery and prescribed a second round of antibiotics in its place. Just in time by chance?… Maybe, but I clung to that “yes” as I felt God’s whisper in my ear that He hadn’t forgotten me and that I needed to continue to trust Him.

The layers of denial were gone; and through finding the willingness to surrender, I was able to finally accepted my circumstances. It was here where healing began. The infection cleared, my quality of life began improving. I began riding my bike first on the road then on the dirt. Layla and I started spending long afternoons at the beaches of our beautiful Montana, mountain lakes; as our bodies absorbed the healing rays of the sun after a long winter and spring.

My hunger and fire was hiding away, smoldering unfound somewhere inside of me. Although my spirit was at peace, I began to identify that racing in July wasn’t a good idea mentally or physically; and I began to consider having my shoulder repaired before my insurance year ended. After listing the Pros and Cons, I had no reason to wait. Pursuing shoulder surgery now would give my body the opportunity to fully heal. I would be healthy for winter in Montana to ski, and it would give myself the time it takes to build my fitness back. I would return to racing fully sound, racing the races that I was passionate to race. I could take care of my mental health without the pressure of racing; all while not under the financial burden of meeting another out of pocket deductible. Making the decision to have my shoulder repaired was incredibly empowering and I felt a sense of control over my situation.

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The torn labrum in my shoulder was repaired on June 28, just two days shy of the conclusion of my insurance year. This was the best decision I could have made for myself. Although the surgery requires a 6 month recovery, it has been a cakewalk in comparison to my leg injuries. I began hiking less than a week following the surgery, and riding the trainer within two weeks. At 7 weeks, I began to ride outdoors on the road, and I am currently into my second week of mellow mountain biking at 2.5 months out; but in base training mode, none the less, with high volume rides. My strength training and rehab is ramping up. But, most importantly I am healthy and my family is healthy. The rawness of my heart has allowed the space for my marriage to be on its way to a beautiful place. I am grounded in my identity, my identity beyond being a bike racer.

Slowly, I have felt a joy returning to my spirit, and I feel excited about embarking on a new journey. One that I expect will continue to take blood, sweat, and tears. I am in an expectant season, as I work and yearn for what is to come. I am able to look back and see the beauty amongst the ashes. When life gets hard, it’s ok to hurt, in fact it’s good to hurt. I would rather feel pain than feel nothing. In fact, we should lean into seasons of pain, because it is in the struggle where character is built and growth takes place.

 

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Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

I have learned a great deal, but there are a few principles that stand out… knowing when to fight and when to surrender, remembering that my best is good enough, trusting the process, embracing the work (which goes far beyond ‘training’ alone), always staying humble and kind, AND last but not least that the battle belongs to the Lord!

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“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  –                      2 Corinthians 12:9

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” – Isaiah 43:2

 

 

 

 

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Pan American Championships 2018…the Race

I had never been to Pan American Championships before, but going into the 2018 season, my focus was more points driven than in the past, with some goals of improving my World Cup performances and UCI ranking as the Olympics in 2020 approaches. I can’t say even now that an Olympic position is my goal, as I still wait for necessary doors to open, but I certainly wanted to chisel away at the dream and never limit my potential through doubts. So when I got the e-mail from the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Program Director about petitioning for Pan Ams, I began to consider the trip to Colombia rather than staying state side and racing the same opening round of the Pro Cross Country Tour series in Fontana City, California, as I had done for the previous 3 years in a row. In addition, when an open door presents itself, it has always been a challenge to myself to walk through the door with faith, as long as it isn’t forced. Walking that out most often means facing fear and some unknowns, but how important to continue to challenge our- selves.

So, a few weeks later, I find myself reuniting with Stan’s-Pivot pb Maxxis teammates Chloe Woodruff and Keegan Swenson, as well as the team support crew in Colombia. This would be the first real race of the season, as I primarily prepared indoors throughout another intense Montana winter. The first day on course ended up being a tough day, as this was the first time putting the work that I had done throughout the winter rehabbing my left shoulder after a series of dislocations in 2017, to the test. To my dismay it popped out of socket landing one of 7 jumps per lap on this insanely steep course; and was incredibly unstable following the dislocation. By race day, it hadn’t improved much, but I was prepared to give it my all in faith that God was going to miraculously help me out through this one. Unfortunately, I would go on to finish the most miserable race of my career.

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Practicing one of the jumps

As the race began, I was struggling to find rhythm and a flow to the course. After completing the first of 5 laps and was heading out for my 2nd lap, I slid out on some loose gravel, and in an effort to catch my fall I put a foot down, and severely sprained my ankle. At first, it went numb and I could feel nothing, then as I began to ride again, I was only able to put minimal power to the pedal, but I kept pushing assuming that the initial pain would go away. I was descending gingerly, in an unsuccessful attempt to keep my shoulder from getting snagged inside. I continued to have to grab my top tube and pull my torso back, or simply let my arm relax and dangle, or sometimes I just had to stop so I could use my good arm to pull my bad arm enough to untangle the shoulder. I was failing to consistently clear the steep climbs, and each time I didn’t clear a climb, unclipping became more difficult.  As the race went on, I became unable to unclip from my pedal any longer, and so clearing the climbs became my goal, otherwise I would just fall over (which also happened). I continued to hit a few of the jumps that I felt most comfortable with for a couple laps before surrendering to the B lines on the last lap or two. I really didn’t know where I was in the race, but my body was beginning to fail and I realized that I was beginning to whimper, as spectators would ask me what was wrong during my efforts to un-snag my shoulder or limp up a hill.

I was finishing my 4th of 5 laps, and remember praying that I would be pulled to put me out of my misery. I assumed I would be… I had to be far behind; but I was not. I thought about pulling myself, but physically I was able to continue and would be disappointed with myself if I didn’t finish. I just had to get through one more lap, and half crying up every climb and engaging my back muscles to try my best from letting my shoulder get tangled up inside, I made it to the finish line where I was met by USA cycling team support and Stan’s-Pivot team mechanic Jerome, where they helped me unclip from my pedal and get to the medical tent.

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Fortunately, Chloe had a great race finishing 2nd. Somehow, at each of my major injuries, ironically Chloe has been present.
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Accepting help has been a learning process, but has its time and place. 
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Post race ankle 

The Colombian medical staff were the kindest people, as tears of disappointment streamed down my cheeks. I remember a man in the medical tent coming over with so much sympathy in his eyes and just began stroking my hair. Made me think for a moment that I should be tougher and not make people feel bad for me, but in the end the tears needed to run, and they would continue often for next few months after this.

I was about to embark on a journey of grief, loneliness, and isolation as I have watched a full race season come and is now winding down. One that I’m still working through, but now have more good days than bad and can appreciate my improving health as I have regained building back fitness and healing.

After enduring the 30 hour travel day to get home and a series of doctor appointments, I discovered that my fibula had been fractured, and that it would need to be surgically repaired. My body was a disaster between my right leg, left shoulder, and a broken heart.  This one was going to leave it’s mark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Bike World Championships

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Fields of Wheat

Long flight home from the Czech Republic following mountain bike world championships, gives me time to write and reflect on the last week and yesterday’s race. The races go by so fast, and before I know it, the season will be winding down. It’s important to spend time reflecting on the journey, the process, the challenges, the success. Every aspect is a part of a story that I strive to appreciate and savor.

On my list of goals for this season, Mountain Bike World Championships was planned as a high priority race granted that I would again receive the invitation to attend. The team was announced about three short weeks prior to the event, and the excitement that ran through my body when I saw my name on the list was confirmation that I would/should be attending.

I got to the logistics planning right away, as I knew that accounting for Layla would be a little more of a challenge with my mom out of town at my family reunion and Nelson working night shift during the week that I would be in the Czech Republic. In the end, I booked Layla a ticket on my mom’s flight and sent her to my family reunion in California. She was giddy with excitement for the full 3 weeks leading up to her trip. She is growing up so fast; excited to be going on an airplane like her mom, and excited to bring me back a “surprise” (I always bring Layla back a little something after each time being away).

Proceeding the World Championships, I had raced a block of four marathon distance races including the Epic Rides series and Marathon Nationals. My last cross country race had been Sea Otter, two months prior, and although my training was dialing in to XC racing again, I was a bit concerned that I would be rusty with the intensity of such a race as the XCO World Championships. Regardless, I was absolutely thrilled to be able to attend.

Nove Mesto was a sleepy little town in the country, surrounded by green rolling fields and lots of farming.

Team USA stayed at a little quaint hotel a short spin from the venue. Only my second European race and second time traveling there, my body seemed to handle the travel better than last year, and I felt good for multiple days leading into the race. Meeting back up with Chloe for the first time since Whiskey 50 was great, and I was fortunate to have her to do some course recon and hot laps with in preparation.

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Chloe helped me choose to bring my Pivot Mach 429, as her past experiences in Nove Mesto confirmed the course was greatly suited for a dually. I was definitely happy with this choice, as the track was rough with a lot of roots on the climbs and descents, not to mention the rock gardens.

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By the time race day arrived I was more than ready to attack the battle in front of me. Of the nearly 70 starters, I was number 51, and second to last row call up. Accumulating points to move up in start position is a process that requires attending races where I can earn UCI points, specifically world cup races. It takes time and consistency. Within the first 30 seconds of the race, I navigated my way around a girl who sadly broke her chain, as well as a nasty crash, while I’m pretty sure by that point I was in dead last as we headed into the start loop.

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Heading into the start loop, my position was not looking good. 

Even after warming up for 40 minutes, the intensity was shocking to my body as I fought to move up before the single track began. The first couple of laps felt congested with traffic, as the race began to sort itself out. I was steadily moving up, and as I headed into the 3rd full lap of 5, my body started to respond to the effort that I was asking of it. I was passing girls on each climb and gaining a few positions every lap. I was feeling good and turns out my lap times were getting faster as the race went on with my fastest lap being my last and final lap. I ended up in 32nd, only separated from the four girls in front of me by five seconds. I internally really wanted a top 25, but feel excited for 2 more world cup races this season and for the opportunity to make that happen. In all, my race was clean and I’m happy with the effort, but what I love the most about racing at this level is the challenge. I am going home ready to put in some hard work in preparation for Nationals in two weeks.

Chloe delivered an incredible performance finishing in 14th, and the USA women took home a 2nd, 11th, 14th, 15th, 30th, 32nd, and 40th and making the USA women the top ranked country for this event.

USA Cycling and Team Stans-Pivot provided the tools for a smooth race. My bike felt amazing, it just floated over the rough roots and rocks. I’m filled with gratitude to those who encourage, support, and challenge me.

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Rose Grant (USA)

Carson City Off-Road

The weekend of June 17-19 tied up the third and final race of the Epic Rides series in Carson City, Nevada. The race in Carson City was added to the series for the first time this year, so it was a new course for everyone who raced. As the series leader heading into Carson City, I made the decision to attend Carson City and skip my hometown HC US Cup race in Missoula, Montana, in order to secure the overall series winner and earn some additional cash to assist in my trip to Mountain Bike World Championships which I happen to be leaving for this afternoon. In addition, my beloved sponsors; Stans NoTubes, Pivot Cycles, Shimano, and Maxxis, all held large roles as event sponsors, and I was honored to represent the team.

The Epic Rides weekends have consistently been my favorite race weekends so far this season. More than the epic courses or the incredible prize purses, I give credit to the people who make these weekends so great; particularly the other ladies. We all show up to push limits and accomplish goals, and we have a blast doing it. The friendships that I have made are some of the best that I have, and in a way we are a family who join together to support, encourage, and inspire one another as we all reach for greatness. We room together, ride together, eat good food and drink coffee together; then on race day, we race as hard as we can against each other.

Having Katerina Nash present this race weekend gave the races a new challenge that I had been lacking the last couple of races, and having her there to push me gave me some solid prep for Worlds. The weekend schedule stays consistent for each Epic Rides race, so as usual, the fat tire criterium wound through downtown Carson City on Friday evening acting as the weekend opener. Katerina held a sprint to the finish that I was unable to beat, but the effort was legit and always appreciate racing her level of talent.

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Fat Tire Crit 
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Finish Sprint

Pre-riding seemed more challenging on this course due to the amount of climbing and trying to stay somewhat rested, so I studied the course profile intently, but ended up racing most of the course sight unseen. My Pivot Les 29 was my bike of choice for Carson City, with Valor Carbon Wheels, and EXO 2.2 Maxxis Ikon tires.

The race began with a long fire-road climb of which started out as a lower gradient, but toward the top turned into a wall of steep pitches that after two hours of climbing at threshold started to really add up. Katerina, Amy, and I climbed together all the way to the top. Even while racing, the views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding snow capped mountains where incredibly beautiful from the Tahoe Rim Trail. Once the single track descent began, it was all I could do to stay on Katerina’s wheel to follow her lines of which she was familiar, but it was apparent she was descending much faster than I. The gap between us grew quickly, and soon she was out of site. Without knowing the trail, I aired on the side of caution, and descended conservatively to assure I kept it upright in the loose sand and blind corners. The words that have been engrained in my head repeated themselves over and over “Race Forward”, as a hard charging Amy Beisel wasn’t about to let up without a fight. Before the final descent, one more 4 mile climb presented the last opportunity to close any gaps. I began to catch glimpses of Katerina ahead on the switchbacks that zigzagged across the mountain, and although I gained some time on her, it wasn’t enough before descending back into town, spreading us out again by a few more seconds. Doubling up with two seconds over the weekend, both to Katerina, keeps me honest and challenged, which is the perfect place to be as I head to the Czech Republic.

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Katerina, Me, Amy, Jenny, and Serena
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Stoked to take the Series Overall Win

Finally, I am very thankful to have the support of Kenny of Stan’s NoTubes at these events. With his help, we have had a series of successful races, and I’m really humbled and honored to be a part of team #stanspivot. 

I have been home for a week and the time has flown by. With a plethora of household chores to complete, training, preparing to be gone for Worlds, and taking some time for the family, the time vanished. Somehow, everything gets completed, and I am really excited for the opportunity to be joining Team USA at the World Championships where I will also meet up with my teammate Chloe, who was just named to the final Olympic team as one of two who will race in Rio! 

 

 

Marathon MTB National Championships

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Another weekend and another win for team Stan’s-Pivot. I can not emphasize enough, how blessed I feel to have the opportunity to travel and race my bike with the support of team Stan’s – Pivot. This race was confirmation that the Columbia County, Georgia 60 mile course garnered one of the toughest races I have ever raced. I thought it was hard last year, but this year with an increase of at least 15 degrees in temperature and much higher humidity from last year, no relief was offered.

I had the benefit of staying with a host family, who are very involved with the marathon mountain bike race, David and Tammy Funk, and they really doted on me from meals, to bike assembly, as well as feed zone support. They made my stay comfortable and spoiled me greatly.

My bike delivery was delayed by a day, so I was able to borrow a bike for a short pre-ride on Thursday (Thanks to Tammy). By Friday, I was very happy to have my Pivot Les 29 back under me, and completed another short pre-ride joined by Duncan McGuire who so graciously traveled to support me during the race and insure that my Stan’s Valors were set up with the very best Maxxis tires for the course (turned out to be the Ikon). The pre-rides were hot. Fortunately, the course was mostly under foliage and received some breeze from the nearby lake, but with the high humidity, the shade doesn’t offer the same relief that it does at home.

Saturday was hot! I’m gonna repeat the heat multiple times because it’s the first thing I think of when asked how the race went. By the 9am start it must have already been pushing 90. The pro men started 2 minutes in front of the pro women. I was definitely disappointed to have such a small women’s field,  but appreciative of each lady who stood with me on the start line. Marathon nationals has been an A race on my calendar from the beginning of planning the season… hopefully better attendance next year. Regardless, I was hoping for a solid day of racing, and by starting sandwiched between the pro men and men’s masters fields, I hoped to have some company. About an hour into the race, I started spotting a few riders in front of me, of which I was able to get around. The flowy trails in the first half of the race were fast, yet still required pedaling the whole time. The Pivot Less 29 was smooth and fast and the Maxxis Ikon tires prevented sliding atop the slick pine needle covered trails.

Clif Bar hydration mix,  energy food pouches, and electrolyte tabs every 30 or 40 minutes was what saved me going into the second half of the race. From fast and flowy, the trail changed to slow, zigzagging, rooty trail that was the biggest mental test of the race. I kept reminding myself to stay focused. Whenever I lost focus, I would start feeling how much my feet hurt, the developing blisters on my hands, and my soaked with sweat skinsuit combined with the rough trail was starting to create saddle sores. I said a few prayers as I rode alone. As the temperatures continued to increase, I could feel the heat and began to take precautions to finish well by staying efficient, fueling more, and focused on pacing myself. By the time I reached the 3rd feed zone around mile 40, the roughest trail sections were over. Being greeted by my loyal supporters who stood out in the blazing sun on my behalf, retrieving a fresh ice sock for my back, chugging an additional cold bottle of water, I was motivated to finish strong. The trail smoothed out and a little section of pavement gave some relief to the relentless course. I had a few riders from the masters men’s fields pass me during this portion of the race a little over 3 hours in, which was kind of nice and helped me to keep accelerating as much as possible.

As I pedaled the last 5 KM of double track, I started to feel droplets of water hitting my knees as I pedaled, and I wondered if it had started to sprinkle rain until I realized that my braid had become so saturated with sweat that it had started constantly dripping. Grose, I know…. But that was a first for me.

After about 4 hours and 50 minutes, I crossed the finish line, looking like I had just jumped out of a lake, and securing the stars and stripes for another year for myself and my team.

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Gordon Wadsworth and I both ride the best bike on the market, the Pivot Les 29. He is also the single speed marathon national champion and offers amazingly great customer service for BikeFlights.com.

I am living out an incredible divine story, and my heart is so full of gratitude to each person and each company that I am honored to be associated with. We are a team, and the teamwork and camaraderie is leading to a highly successful season for both Chloe and I. I am a blessed women to be on my way home to Montana where my husband and daughter anxiously await my arrival. Team Stan’s-Pivot will meet up again for the Carson City Off-Road in two weeks, where I will race the last of the Epic Rides races, as well as the last of this endurance race block.

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My host parents

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Post race chat with second place’s Kaitlyn Paterson
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Layla helping me make granola before I left home.

Grand Junction Off-Road

As I packed up my bike last week to ship it via Bike Flights to Grand Junction, Colorado in preparation for the Grand Junction Off-Road, I was excited to be returning to this venue for my second consecutive year. In addition to the excitement, I had also been plagued by a head cold that had me lying pretty low, and I was feeling a bit hesitant about the race hoping my body would hold up and come around in time.

Before leaving home and family for an extended race weekend, I always have a list of items to accomplish; consisting of grocery shopping and preparing food for my hard working man and daughter, ensuring he and Layla have nutritious options at their finger tips. Before this trip, Layla helped me make the most delicious Double chocolate Brownies and a simple Pizza Rice Casserole. The other important task is lining up child care for Layla. I was fortunate to have my mom and a trusty babysitter available while Nelson was working.

By the time I left town, I was encouraged to be feeling much better. Having the company of Courtenay McFadden on my flight into Grand Junction laid the president that we were basically inseparable all weekend. I was impacted this weekend by the group of ladies who raced. It has become a tight knit group of women who encourage each other, laugh together, share pain and struggle, as well as victory. I am grateful for each of these women and for the unique bond that has been created between us.

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Seven awesome women pre-ride the course together. Left to right: Tizzy D., Courtenay M., Serena B., me, Rebecca G., Sofia G., and Amy B.

Team race preparation for Kenny, Tizzy, and I, meant pre-riding the more technical sections of the course, making sure bikes were dialed and talking some race strategy (Thanks to Kenny), and rest. As I warmed up for the fat tire crit on Friday evening, my body felt good for the first time since being sick. This flat, power course meant staying patient and not doing all the work. The lap preceding the last lap was a preem lap, of which Katie Compton put in a tough effort to win. I lead out the last lap, trying to keep the separation without blowing up to early. I knew Katie was on my wheel, she passed with a quarter lap left, and I jumped on her wheel. Rounding the last corner she went wide, I stayed on the inside which gave me a wide open lane to sprint for the line, but Katie made the win by a fraction of an inch. Fun race which left me encouraged and ready for the long backcountry race on Sunday.

Sunday’s race started with a more casual roll out of town, which quickly heated up as we neared the single track. The air was dry and cool with a nice breeze. Our group of nearly 30 women funneled into the rocky dessert trail. I lead, and as the race continued a gap formed, which left me racing at the lead but alone for nearly the duration of the race. The toughest part, mentally and physically, was the long Windmill Road climb, a seven mile climb that was rough and steep in sections. As Kenny and I talked about, this race was more about keeping it smooth and steady; doing my best to avoid crashes or flat tires on the sharp rocks, and making that road climb count. The trails in Grand Junction are engaging and challenging. The rocky technical terrain is super fun, but also is such a full body mountain bike race. I came home with sore muscles that only get sore in Grand Junction.

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Backcountry Racing, Photo: Dave McElwaine

Equipment selection for this race is vitally important, and my Pivot Mach 429, Stan’s Valor Carbon Wheels, and Maxxis Ikon EXO tires completed the perfect combination for a smooth race. I feel blessed to be riding equipment that compliments and improves my bike handling and makes us a fast team.

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Such a team effort to get that top step. I’m so grateful for equal pay out!

I’m so proud of Tizzie who raced her heart out and loved every second as much as I did. I’m also very proud of Kenny for taking the top step in the 30mile on Saturday.

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Tizzy and I celebrate finishing such a challenging race

It’s always good to be home to get a little breather. Next up…Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals in Columbia County, Georgia.

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One picture from my life at home

We missed Chloe last weekend in Grand Junction. She successfully accomplished her job in Albstadt, Germany where she rode to 22nd place in World Cup #2. Chloe is currently gearing up for WC #3 in La Bresse, France this weekend. Watch LIVE on Red Bull TV. Chloe is quickly earning her starting spot in Rio.

 

 

13th Annual Whiskey Off-Road

Epic Rides Whiskey 50 weekend is over. Just like that the races continue to fly by, but not without uncontrollable emotion, horrifyingly close calls, lessons learned, and the fulfillment from another job completed to the best of my ability.

I found it harder to leave home, feeling like I had just barely gotten home after Sea Otter, and leaving Layla again so soon was a bit more difficult. I prepared her in advance that I was leaving again. I’m so proud of her, she is such a trooper! And many thanks to my mom for filling in the gaps while away on this trip.

I had Thursday to pre-ride with TJ and shake out the travel. This was my first weekend with my sweet new Fox 32 Step-Cast fork on my Pivot Les 29. It had a little different feel, it’s amazing how well it performs it’s job….awesome….stiff, yet smooth! I’m realizing that my bike handling is improving with these advances in equipment!

It is really special to have many of our team sponsors, support the Epic Rides events as well, and to have these people in town for the event – Stan’s NoTubes, Pivot Cycles, Maxxis, Shimano, and Bike Flights. Team Stan’s – Pivot also had an addition for the weekend, Tiziana DeHorney. Tiziana is a young rider from New Mexico who’s personality is sweet, her smile is radiant, and she is brave and strong. Whiskey 2016 was Tiziana’s first pro race.

The racing started on Friday evening with Fat Tire Crit which looped through downtown Prescott. The air was cool, but it stayed dry for the fast paced 30 minute sprint. Chloe and I went out hard. Not long into the race, I attacked the short steep climb, which created separation that left Chloe a couple bike lengths back, and Evelyn on my wheel. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do at that point, except that I hoped Evelyn needed some recovery as much as I did, which she didn’t. She attacked hard again on the same hill on the next lap and created significant separation between the two of us. I was feeling gassed and sat up to join with Chloe so we could work together to catch Evelyn.

Chloe and I experienced a horrifyingly close call during this part of the race. As we turned a corner descending at a fast pace, a pedestrian appeared from nowhere right in front of us. He responded when Chloe yelled at him, by turning back into my line of traffic. I screamed, and locked up my brakes. I think Chloe ended up going around him on one side and me on the other; one way or another we were protected by angles wings at that moment. We were both pretty shaken and it took a few moments to find a rhythm again. Evelyn road an amazing race and kept her lead while Chloe and I rolled in 2nd and 3rd.

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Toward the beginning of the Fat Tire Crit. Photo: Les Stukenberg

Saturday was a day of rest. Coffee with friends, cheering on Kenny (who landed on the podium in 2nd) and the participants of Saturday’s races, a little spin, and a big spaghetti dinner homemade by Andrea Matter (Thanks Andrea!).

Up early on race morning, to make sure I eat my hearty breakfast of eggs, cheese, and avocado on toast with enough time to digest before our 8:40am start. Chloe and I knew today would be a good opportunity to work together to our advantage. We were able to control the race from the start. The two of us, along with Maghalie Rochette, Luna Pro Team, formed the lead group as we completed the first section of single track. It was really helpful to have Chloe lead for realistic pace setting and to have her to follow on the descents.

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Nearing the top of Copper Basin Road, Photo: Dave McElwaine

We were steady, and the race was playing out smoothly. We started the Skull Valley climb (a 12 mile dirt road climb) with a comfortable gap of over 2 minutes from chasing Larissa Connors and Evelyn Dong. We were working well together staying within as Chloe continued to set the pace, that is, until Evelyn closed the gap; then the three of us turned into four. It wasn’t long before Evelyn turned it up again, and shook-up our well-controlled race. She put a 30 second gap on us as we chased, and soon we were all spread out with Evelyn leading, me chasing hard, and gaps forming behind me as we neared the top of the long road climb.

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Focused effort chasing after Evelyn near the top of the Skull Valley Rd climb,                   Photo: Kathy Thomas
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Photo: Bill Freeman

As we entered the final, fast, long, single track descent, Evelyn was still nowhere to be seen; but I went into my best descending mode and soon felt my rhythm with the trail and the bike as I pushed hard. I caught Evelyn and passed with a solid portion of descending left, as well as Cramp Hill (which again my inner thighs seized badly). I never let up or looked back. Once on the pavement that descended back into town and the finish, I followed the police escort and spinned as fast and as hard as I was able.

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Creek crossing so close to the end. Photo: Les Stukenberg

That last 45 minutes of racing became very exciting and emotional. For the first time, I was without a doubt racing with true passion, and it was Divinely incredible.

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Giving thanks, Photo: Kenny Wehn

I have to give huge credit to Chloe! For Chloe, Whiskey 2016 fell at the end of a 5 weekend back-to-back race block, where she traveled internationally on two separate occasions. Chloe arrived back in Prescott on the Wednesday before Whiskey from Australia (where she finished 13th at World Cup #1!) with a head cold. She is strong beyond words and still pulled off 3rd.

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That bike deserved to be on the podium as much as I did. My favorite bike of all time!

TJ also raced on Sunday after hours on his feet on Saturday building and tuning bikes, and supporting the Arizona Development Team. Impressive work to TJ!

The journey continues to challenge, to pull me down, to push me forward, and to rise above. The faithfulness of the little daily tasks is adding up, and to feel the reward is abundantly fulfilling.

I have been honored to have the army behind me who makes possible days like last Sunday. The details involved in putting together successful race weekends are great, and I have many to thank for the support.

First to my husband, Nelson! Then to my mom for all her support and help with Layla.

The Stan’s NoTubes – Pivot Team: Chloe and TJ Woodruff, Stan’s NoTubes (Kenny), Pivot Cycles (Awesome to have Lisa in town for Whiskey!), Maxxis, Shimano, Fox, Castelli, Clif Bar, Pearl Izumi, MRP.

A big shout out to Lee and Lou Reeves for hosting me over the weekend!

Finally, the Epic Rides series are really incredible events, offering epic backcountry mountain biking, deep fields, and big prize cash purses! Thanks to all for an unforgettable weekend!