Resolutions and Goals and Habits

It’s an older blog, sir, but it checks out…

2016 in review: I…

  • Bought a big bike
  • (Bike) commuted pretty consistently the 25 miles to work for the first 6 months of the year
  • Ate no less than 3 species of mushrooms I found in the woods
  • Didn’t die from said mushrooms
  • Also didn’t hallucinate from said mushrooms
  • Raced my first enduro
  • Met some really rad people
  • Taught a lot of mountain bike classes
  • Moved closer to the mountains
  • Brewed a bunch of beer
  • Drank a bunch of beer
  • Visited friends in St Louis a few times
  • Tried downhill mountain biking, survived
  • Went to canadia
  • Watched my little brother get married
  • Shifted jobs (within my job) to get a little closer to stuff I’m interested in

 

The new year always has people (me included) thinking about resolutions. Changes. Things to do better. Last year, I did this to an extreme. The result? A lot of missed goals.

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Goals: each blank square would be filled in. Reality: Not so much. Still fairly happy with my year, but no crazy impressive numbers.

 

As it turns out, it’s really easy to set goals when you’re curled up on the couch… it’s a little trickier to go out there and do it.

I’ve always been more of a fan of goals than of resolutions. It goes back to a mentality… what do I want to do, vs what do I not want to do. I’d rather focus on the good things (climb the equivalent of 20x everest! Run the year!) than the bad things (lose weight/eat healthy/typical resolution crap). But, as it turns out, goals are hard too.

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Such is life. Even if the numbers don’t work out, it’s pretty sweet to be able to run around in my back yard… that happens to be a mountain!

The result of all my pondering is that this year, I’m trying to focus on habits. Last year was a bit different than the years previous – I had a real job, in a city where I (still) don’t really know many people. I still hesitate to jump in to racing, spending lots of $$ to ride trails (or run roads) that I can access whenever I want. This warrants much more of a discussion than the space here but, suffice it to say, without racing (and with the purchase of a big squishy bike) I didn’t push myself nearly as hard. Actually, it very likely has much more to do with the lack of community than it does with the lack of racing. But I digress.

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I take a lot of random awkward photos of myself accidentally. This is one of them.

Getting back to the end result… goals. The thing is, goals are great! But in order to achieve goals, you have to build habits. And sometimes just setting the goal is not enough to build the habit. In no particular order are the habits I’m going to build this year (it’s totally going to happen! hopefully):

  • Floss
  • Ride bikes
  • Spend 30 min outside every day
  • Walk more
  • Be “happy” (it’s a habit, I’d like to make it more consistent)
  • Forgive
  • Stretch

After all, the new year isn’t some magical time when you wish things on a big shiny ball and when it hits the ground they magically come true. It’s just another Sunday. But this Sunday (or Monday, Tuesday, etc), you can choose to do things a little better than yesterday. And keep doing those things until you can’t imagine life any other way. At least… that’s the goal?

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Taking stretching lessons from the master.

 

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2015 in Review

The year 2015 was, in a word… turbulent. It was a year of big changes: I officially became a doctor (but not of medicine)! I moved from St. Louis to Seattle. I raced a few long bike races. And adventure races. I rode my bike a lot. I ran a lot. It was fun.

Justin and I raced in Moab. A stranger called my legs easter hams.

 

By the numbers (of things I recorded using Strava):

I biked/ran my way up Mt Everest (29,029 feet) nearly 10 times. Along the way, I biked nearly 3,000 miles.

Yay bikes.

I ran the equivalent of 24 marathons.

It was a good year.

 

 

Race Report: BendAR 30 hr AR

I’m still playing catch-up on my reports this year… here’s a long one about my longest race in 2015

Andrei of team Gearjunkie/Wedali facebook messaged me in early October asking if I’d be interested in joining the team for a 30 hour adventure race in Bend.

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No really. That’s how it started.

After a lot of back and forth, deciding if a 30 hour adventure race was really even feasible for me, I figured… why not?

We met up in Bend and spent the night before the race graciously hosted by friends of Team Yogaslackers – who are CRAZY good racers and also the race coordinators. After the pre-race instructions we packed our bags, set up our bikes, and got the standard few hours of sleep before an early start and rainy bus ride to the race start.

Section 1: Trek

The checkpoints for the course were fairly spread out, as could be expected from a longer race. We started on foot, running through old logging fields searching for neon tape with words that we would need to record. Almost immediately, we came to a marker that was across a small river… so across I went! Feet rarely stay dry in adventure racing.

Section 2: Packraft (er, more Trek)

We were required to carry all our paddling gear, including packrafts and paddles, for the first leg of the race. We hit the edge of a lake, but decided that since neither of us are strong paddlers, we’d just take the long way hiking through the woods. At the time, it felt like the wrong choice – most of the time we were going up and over downed trees, not exactly a fast mode of transportation. Finally we got to the first TA, and learned that most teams had opted for paddling, batting brutal headwinds in glorified inner-tubes (aka packrafts).

Section 3: MTB

Still, we were happy to transition to our bikes. I put on our pedals (they had to be taken off for transport) while Andrei studied the map, then off we went! A few points and maybe an hour later, we arrived at a manned checkpoint by a lake… where we learned the punch was actually in the middle of a lake. One teammate would have to swim out to the marker and punch, then we had a few route options to get back on track towards our next check. We debated, and finally I decided I’d get the point. But, there’s no way I was going to soak my clothes. Luckily, there were no other teams around (and the women in charge of the checkpoint were a ways futher down the lake than where I wanted to jump in). Let’s just say… it was chilly. But really, not too bad. And I dried off fairly quickly before jumping back into my race clothes.

We decided to try the medium distance option to the next check point, hoping that the fire roads on the map were still in existence. There was a short route that looked like it would require ~1k of uphill bikewhacking, then no guarantee of a trail, or a really, really long bike around on more-likely-to-be-established roads. We were fine for a while, then had to hike about a half mile of road that was covered in downed trees (and the road didn’t really exist). We found the road again, and were on our way! Except the final link to the trail we wanted… simply did not exist. To make matters worse, it was a hillside covered in Manzanita – bushes that were about as tall as I am, and really hard to step on/through/over.

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Sure, they’re pretty. Until you have to bushwhack through a field of them. With your bike.

This became probably the worst race experience I’ve ever had. Those bushes were brutal… you had to lift your bike as high above your head as possible, then try to push through the bushes while attempting to find footing (mostly on low branches). There was a fair amount of just lifting the bike, throwing it in the direction I wanted to go, then picking my way through the now bent-down branches. We finally, finally made it through to the trail we were looking for, and I stopped to put vaseline on my shredded legs. The rest of the points were much less eventful, despite climbing to the top of a mountain (including a LOT of hike a bike).

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I decided we needed to start taking pictures… because we weren’t really on pace for anything. Don’t we look so happy?!

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…This is how I really felt. It was SUPER windy and freezing cold. And starting to get dark.

We finally made it back down off the mountain, and stopped for another checkpoint that required swimming across a lake. This time, it was Andrei’s turn!

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Everyone gets to swim in a high mountain lake during this race!

We got on our bikes again and arrived at the next TA I think around 9:30 for…

Section 4: Trek!

We spent 4 hours trekking through a volcanic rock boulder field. It was awesome for the first 30 minutes. Then, we were climbing up and down monstrous boulders, in the dark, from the hours of about 10PM – 2AM, where contrast isn’t really the best and the footing often shifts underneath you. I really wish we had seen this section in the day. It was awesome… but towards the end I was ready to be done. Up a big hill and down a big hill, then back to TA again for our bikes!

Section 5: Bike

We had a quick, peaceful moonlight ride to the next TA, highlighted by falling asleep while riding then letting the caffeine kick in and feeling awesome. There was some dispute as to where the next TA was, so we wound up going back and forth on a gravel road for quite a while. Finally, we made it into the TA and swapped our bikes for our trekking shoes and shoved our packrafts in our bags for the next section.

Section 6: Trek/Raft

Through the last hours of darkness, we trekked to get a few more points and took a route that allowed us to stay on foot. Andrei was in a dark place, and I was just starting to feel energized (I don’t know what it is, but I felt super sluggish at the start of the race… I suppose it could have something to do with the ultramarathon and 90 mile MTB races I’d done in the last month-ish prior). Regardless, I had started feeling better and we just trudged along, knocking down checkpoints as we went. Finally, the sun started to come up, and we gained some life, realizing that there was a very slim chance we’d be able to finish in time, even if we had a fairly direct route back into town. We grabbed all the points we could along the way, then inflated our packrafts for the first time all race and had a great float down a small creek!

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Yay rafts!

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Andrei for size

At the end of the paddle, we were both back to freezing time for another trek!

Section next: Trek

We hiked along more roads, occasionally running but mostly power-hiking. We grabbed a few more checkpoints, then were met by volunteers with HOT COFFEE near the headwaters of the Deschutes. It was absolutely gorgeous, clear blue water. The volunteers gave us advice on the fastest way back to the start and the checkpoints along the way. There was one more ‘fun’ checkpoint that they hinted involved a ropes course, so we took off down the trail (again, opting for a hike instead of a paddle). We hit a few more checkpoints, then turned onto a dirt road that would take us to the final TA to bikes!

Along the way, however, we had to stop at the special CP… which was actually a CP set up in the middle of a slackline! On the way, Andrei informed me that he ‘doesn’t do ropes’ so I booked it to the volunteer, throwing on a harness and helmet then onto the slackline! It was really awesome. The line was set up across a natural split in some rocks, so the perceived exposure was actually pretty high. Still, I wasn’t in a mood to take my time… we still had to try to reach the TA before they cut us off!

Section next: TA to Bikes

We jogged a bit down the trail, finding as much energy as we could to try to hit the TA. At this point, it was looking like we’d hit the TA around the 29 hour mark (maybe?), which definitely didn’t leave us enough time to get back. We crossed the road and hit the TA… to find volunteers waiting with our bikes, who informed us that everyone would be allowed to finish the race (phew, although we still had a long way to go). We put the pedals on our bikes, stuffed our pockets with snacks, then set off on the most direct route back to Bend!

We had received directions from the volunteer, but they didn’t totally match the route. As soon as we reached an intersection (about 3 miles later than expected), we discovered we needed to actually turn right on the main road, then left onto the back road that would be more direct. When we stopped to look at the map, Andrei started talking at me… in Russian. I think I mustered a few repetitions of ‘…what?’ before he started getting impatient, until I explained that he wasn’t actually speaking English. I thought for a while it was just my tired brain that wasn’t understanding, but then he also realized he’d slipped back into his first language.

That sorted out, we took off! It was a long, not flat retreat, but finally we made it to the start area, where my car was waiting for us (and very little else). We grabbed showers and hit the post-race event at a local brewery, then stuffed our faces with burgers.

Finished!

I took off for home, stopping every few hours at first for a nap. Eventually, I arrived back in Seattle.

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This is basically just how I travel.

After a few days of recovery, I decided I should train more (have you noticed a theme yet?) and that I like adventure racing as more adventure, less race. Also, caffeine pills are magic. Huge thanks go to all the race volunteers – it was great to see such happy faces at the TA’s, and particularly the jetboil-special ramen and hotdogs in the middle of the night. Big big thanks to Gearjunkie for sponsoring us and the race – and sending some awesome giveaways! Yogis put on one heckuva race… in 31.5 hours I think we managed to complete like 70% of the course? This race is a fantastic place to truly challenge your skills and teamwork. And it’s definitely a great advertisement for Bend – I’ll be back to check out the lava flow during the day!

Race Report: Pierre’s Hole 100 MTB

I wrote the first of a 2 part series on this race a few weeks after it happened. Clearly, I never made it to publishing. Or part 2. So instead, here’s a quick photo recap, and you should definitely go read Caroline’s report :). Most pics are from Caroline’s photos along with my mom’s album she decided to call ‘Pierre’s hole monstrous mtn bike race’. Which cracks me up, but is also pretty accurate.

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To start the weekend, I drove from Seattle to Missoula to spend a night with my lovely host Lisa. Fueled by sleep and coffee, I continued on through the wide open west to reach Driggs, ID/Alta, WY.

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Race Day: start line at the base of the ski resort

After checking in at the base of Grand Targhee resort, I went for a quick course preview at the advice of the race director – up the fire road, then down the singletrack that would be the first sections of each lap (fire road lap 1, singletrack laps 2-3).

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The course. The red section was the singletrack (oh, thank goodness for more miles and climbing…) used for laps 2 and 3 instead of the green section.

 

It was… hard. Altitude plus climbing, after as much prep as I could muster checking out new trails in Seattle (oh, and only 2 weeks after the WR50 running race)… I wasn’t sure my fitness would really hold up. Or that my 34×22 gearing was really appropriate.

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…we don’t really travel light

I got off the trails right as a storm rolled in and it started raining – time to go meet my parents at our cabin down the road, and get lots of food!

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Is this enough food for 12+ hours of racing? I guess we’ll find out…

Caroline met us at dinner, then we set to the task of arranging all our race food. Everyone got some sleep, then in the morning Caroline made us breakfast burritos.

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Then we packed up the car and headed to the start line!

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My parents drove up to crew for us. It was awesome. They are the best.

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I promise, it’s steeper than it looks. Or, it will be in about 20 ft. What a way to start a race/every lap…

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The flyover to make the figure-8 course a possibility. It is also more intimidating than it looks.

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Lap 1! Repping all my favorite teams and… still looking awkward. I actually got comments on both the Gravel Worlds jersey and the Fat Cyclist shorts… people apparent know about big things happening in the midwest! Or, Dan Hughes is a badass.

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Back up the hill.

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Into the mid-lap aid station

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Caroline grinding up the hill like a beast

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And the hill. Again. I think my parents liked watching from this spot. At least it was sunny out!

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And finally… I actually finished!! Didn’t quite make it under 12 hours, but also didn’t get pulled from the course. I rode my steel singlespeed bike nearly 92 miles, up 12,000 ft, and survived the surprising afternoon heat in the sun. Even better, I was only second to last (yay!) and finally finished an NUE race. Strava link for anyone interested.

After the race, we got a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and just vegged out in the cabin. The next day, I went out to a trail work day in memory of AJ Linnell – a super badass local SS dude who passed away in a helicopter crash last year. The AJ spirit contributed a lot to Team Noah, which in turn contributed a lot to me, and generally from what I know he was a super rad dude who was always smiling and pushing people to be their best and explore the mountains. I’m sure I got through the race on some SS love.

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Digging trails, making friends

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There wasn’t a trail, now there is one!

Pierre’s hole was an awesome, crazy challenging race. I know I wouldn’t have made it without the support of my parents (always waiting when I came through, offering a wide assortment of energy bars, snacks, and coke!) and the cheers of friends and strangers. The course aid stations were also super stocked, although I never really had the chance to check them out before heading straight to my cooler! The trails were fantastic and fun, brutal but beautiful. Hopefully next year I’ll manage a bit more altitude (and bike) training 🙂

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My finishers mug has become a prized possession.

Race Report: White River 50

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Spoiler alert: Taken post-race. I survived. And yes, that is beer.

My first ultramarathon – went WAY way better than expected. Yeah, it hurt. Yeah, 18,00 ft (seriously) of elevation gain and loss is a lot for the knees. And yeah, I had a fantastic time. Particularly afterward. The course runs basically up and down two mountains – one on the east side of highway 410 including the Ranger Creek and Palisades trails, one on the west side of the the highway including the Suntop trail.

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Sure, you could change the aspect ratio, but why? This feels about right.

The east side (aka start) went out, and as usual I felt boxed in on the trail. It didn’t take long until everyone was walking up switchbacks, but then when the big steep climb was over, I was able to start jogging again. I quick stop at the corral pass aid station for some watermelon and I was passed by a few women (check out Glen Tachiyama‘s awesome photos: I’m on page 5 wearing a black tank top (how original) and my favorite gray janji capris). Back onto the trail for the (kinda brutal) descent. After conservatively opening it up, we passed back by the start where one of the volunteers informed me and my new racing buddy (didn’t get her name, but she followed me down the first descent) we were maybe 11th and 12th?

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What ranger creek looks like on a clear day.

I was… tired. Because, you know, we just ran 30 miles of hills. And my stomach was starting to rebel from all of the gels I had so diligently eaten (because food is really, really important to have, even when you don’t want to eat it). We took off into the woods for the climb up the Suntop singletrack, and I felt worse and worse. I shuffled along, watching my friend disappear into the distance (but still passed a few people who had crashed/were taking a breather).

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There’s a lookout cabin at the suntop summit. Clear days make for better pictures.

Again, more switchbacks until the summit. The whole race was cloudy and cold – not great for the typical gorgeous views of Rainier, but good for running! I grabbed a long sleeve shirt, swapped out my shoes and socks (best. idea. ever) and made a NEW friend (a guy named Tyler, I think?) for the pounding descent down the Suntop fire road (again, check out probably my favorite race photos. I look so happy…  page 16).

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The white river. Over and back we go!

We chatted for a while, then suffered in silence for a while, and finally hit the last aid station before the sneaky slightly uphill singletrack back to the finish line. I think this is where Tyler took off (I made another stop at the pit toilet and ate some gummy worms), but I quickly made another friend, Mark (maybe?) who had traveled from Portland and wanted to chat. I was kinda struggling, so I let him do most of the talking. We would be close, then he’d take off, then I’d take off… eventually, he stopped at a stream to grab more water and I kept going. Little did we know… we were probably 200 yards from the final turn onto the road leading to the finish!

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Somewhat relevant – when you don’t have aid stations, it’s much nicer to just filter water as you need it. I love the small size of the sawyer… it was used on many a training run/adventure.

Knowing the end was in sight, I ran the last half mile on smooth, mostly flat gravel towards the line where we had started… and nearly didn’t turn in time. The finish line was a few hundred feet to the side of the road, while I thought I was done. At least I didn’t go too far – I realized my mistake when I saw the streamers lining the finish chute. I crossed the line, was handed a finishers glass, and thankfully found a chair to sit in.

The start line. Not the finish line.

The results? The race cutoff time was 14:00 hours. My anticipated time was 12:00 hours, with a stretch, if-everything-goes-perfectly goal of 10:00. I crossed the line in 9:25, the 13th woman (and 5th/15 in my age group). Far from my best finish, but one of the ones I am most proud of. And so happy to be done!

Event Website Here!

It’s happening.

In less than 48 hours, the course will be cleared from the White River 50. Hopefully, in 48 hours, I will be parked in a camp chair in front of a fire, happily dozing off while my legs freeze up and my body tries to understand the torture I just put it through.

In 33 hours, I will most certainly be losing my shit. Because, Saturday is race day.

Prequel: miniRace Report: Cougar Mountain!

Two weeks ago I did a trail race at a place called cougar mountain (can’t wait to run it in a few years, when I earn the term). It was technical in spots, fast in spots, and really, really painful in spots. I signed up for the 20 mile option, because I’m training for a 50 mile race. It’s basically a sprint at that point, right?

My goal was to explore a new trail and, at the urging of my mother, “maybe try to meet some people!” And also, to try out using a race belt for holding snacks instead of my regular nathan backpack, since there will be plenty of aid stations at WR50.

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The belt (purple) is actually really awkward. You have to put it on like a shirt… it’s all one piece. But it worked. Meh. Definitely more comfortable than that the hydration pack for light weight!

Somehow, I wound up 2nd of the women. I had a few glimpses of the top girl (she was wearing neon orange, which didn’t hurt), but I was just so stoked to be close that I’d see her and start walking. Typical. Still, I passed the eventual 3rd place woman around mile 9, and never looked back. I ended up trading places and crossed the finish line with a guy named Mike who gave me some history on the course, and was a welcome partner for the last 5 miles or so. It was awesome!

After the race, we hung out and got a little rained on (it’s Seattle, after all), and then I got an award – a super awesome pilsner glass…. AND a whole bag of goodies from the North Face. THANKS!!! Little secret, I knew about the glasses, and just wanted to hold onto a top 3 spot to get one (seriously, they’re awesome). The race was really, incredibly well-marked and overall a ton of fun. Plus, it was awesome to hang out with the speedy 1st place girl and other people who had run the 10 mile or 10k options earlier. Also, there was watermelon.

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Another Caroline! She won a free pair of shoes from the north face… seriously, prizes were pretty off the hook for a rather low-key event.

Otherwise, I’ve just been hanging out in Seattle, feeling guilty for not running enough. But I managed a long bike ride with some friends this last weekend, including 2 ferry rides! The ferries here are a bit more legit than the ones in Illinois. They even have food on board!

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Old friends, new friends. Look how happy everyone is! (probably around mile 51 of 60ish)

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Our bikes are cooler than yours. And beer is necessary mid-ride.

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… I live here.

As for work, I recently got staffed on a project in Bellevue, which happens to be about 10 miles from where I live… the perfect distance to commute! I bought panniers (potentially the best investment I’ve made, save my bikes) and am SO HAPPY to have a super awesome ride which is 80% on a dedicated bike trail, with bike lanes or sharrows for the other 20%. Funny thing is, though, nobody likes being passed by a girl in chacos (my feet like to be free after wearing shoes all day) and flat pedals riding a steel singlespeed with two monster panniers. They’re getting over it, though. And hopefully my legs will get used to it as good base miles. And, more importantly, hopefully I can find pants that fit marion and jones. Because they’re gonna be out of control.

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yay panniers!

Finally, I think I’ve been doing something right (or, mom knows best, and I have no friends).

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I got this watch at the end of May (so, less than 2 months ago). Sure, it probably doesn’t have much memory. I’m still a little proud of myself.

Race day is Saturday.

Unsolicited Product Reviews

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while. At some point, I decided I’m ok with calling myself an athlete. I think I’ve earned that title. With it, I’ve also gone through a fair amount of gear. I tend to destroy things, so really it’s amazing that anything has lasted even minor amounts of time with my use. Still, I obviously think someone else could benefit from my very wise advice (yeah right). Here are a few of my favorite (and, well, less than favorite) things!

Nutrition

Drink mix

– Gatorade: tried and true, I like the lemon lime and blue (whatever blue is currently in fashion) flavors. I’ve found a lot of cyclists hate on gatorade… I really don’t mind it. It’s easy to get calories and generally works. Unless you’re drinking gallons upon gallons of it (don’t do that) I haven’t had any problems bloating out. For super long stuff, balance with water so you don’t burn your tongue (it can happen). It also doesn’t hurt that I have mass amounts of lemon-lime powdered gatorade courtesy of Caroline.

Osmo: WHOA. This stuff is…. SO disappointing, in the way that my minimalist barefoot shoes were disappointing. I WANT it to work, so bad. It’s based on science, it’s gender specific, it makes sense, but… holy crap, it’s horrible.

I recently, er, ‘came to have’ some osmo. It promises to help balance hormonal swings in gender-specific ways (sounds good so far). The whole system includes a during-exercise mix like gatorade, a ‘pre-workout’ mix, and a ‘post-workout’ protein mix. I’ll start with the good, or at least the not-so-bad: the during-exercise mix (I wound up with something grape-y) isn’t bad. Tastes slightly salty, but overall acceptable. The post-workout mix is also pretty good when mixed well with almond milk and some vanilla and spices (my typical ‘protein shake’ recipe). But the pre-workout mix. uuuuuggggh. It actually is the main reason for this post. Holy cow. It’s salty in that it tastes like you squeezed out someone’s (or maybe the whole JV football team’s) socks, then threw on a pineapple slice to make it smell better (I had the pineapple-margarita whatever flavor). It’s hard to stomach, to put it lightly. Plus, you’re supposed to only pre-load before very strenuous exercise (ok, so I do a lot of that)… but to drink a serving the night before, as well as the morning of intense activity. So you have to try to choke it down twice! First time I used it, I had no problems (other than gagging), so maybe it helped. Second time I tried it, I couldn’t bear to do the dose the night before. And that was cedar cross, where I cramped out (to be fair, I really didn’t eat breakfast). So, who knows. But I’m not sure I’m willing to put myself through that. I’ll stick to my coffee and sausage Mcbiscuits, thanks. The worst part is that each component retails for $20-$30. For a 150 lb woman (on the high end of their scale, to be fair) that only works out to about 8-10 servings. So it’s not cheap. Suffice it to say, I won’t be stocking up anytime soon.

Carborocket: Back on the tasty train! I’ve only really had mixed CR at True Grit, but it was refreshing and delicious and I didn’t cramp. There are so many other factors that go into my own little explosions that I don’t think it’s fair to blame just liquid nutrition… but still, this was consistently easy to stomach and I didn’t dread reaching for my bottle. The thought of drinking more after the race was pleasant. Jury’s out for more testing, but I’m looking forward to it. Also, their electrolyte tablets have ginger in them and are supposed to settle your stomach. Needs further review (which I’m looking forward to).

Nuun: Man, I love this stuff. I’ve got a few tubes, and love the lemon-lime flavor. The strawberry lemonade is also pretty good. It’s SO easy to carry on a ride (a tube has maybe like 12 ‘servings’, which are individual tablets that fizz up in your bottle… party in my water!). For a full bottle, I use one nuun tab to get a pleasant, light flavor, and the very mild initial carbonation is actually quite nice. So, so easy to add electrolytes (but no carbs/sugar/fuel)… still not a bad thing. I recently did a 3 hour, 20 mile ss mtb ride in Fort Collins (so, at altitude) and ate/drank nothing but 2 bottles, each with a tablet of nuun (with 1 bottle re-fill of water). Not my best decision, but I also felt pretty awesome. It had nothing to do with the thin mountain air and my euphoria at having no responsibilities. No, not at all.

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Sky so blue. Trail so buff. Kate so happy.

Food

Any food offered to me after about 5 hours of activity will likely be the best thing I’ve ever eaten, so some of my opinions here might be a little skewed.

– Rice balls: I’ve perfected my recipe. Short grain white rice, cooked with a little extra water, then throw it in a skillet with bacon grease, lots of soy sauce, sesame oil, and a little bit of sriracha. Mix with an egg, a small handful of flour, then bake into bars or muffin tins. Wrap in parchment paper and foil. I love these, Justin loves these, they’re tasty and salty and a great break from the typical sugary energy food. There are a bunch of similar recipes in the feed zone cookbook, although I don’t have it (I’m sure I made mine based on some collective-consciousness discussion of the rice bars in the book, who knows. All I know, is I’m pretty stoked to finally have them in a place where they taste delicious and also hold together well). Also, they’re cheap and you have another excuse to make a bunch of bacon. All-around win.

GU chomps: peach tea gummies. I’ve bought a few boxes of these. They’re delicious. Until recently, I thought they were caffeine free. They are not. Maybe that’s why I think they work so well… still, you get 2 servings in a pack (so, 8 individual gummies), which means you can eat a few then stash the pack. Makes it easier to choke down food when you don’t want to. Pro tip – open the top and squeeze the chews up to the top BEFORE you are in the middle of a ride. Makes life easier.

– Everything else: nothing really stands out as particularly awesome or not. Well, I love Clif bar seasonal flavors (Iced Gingerbread is totally my favorite ever, followed by pumpkin pie spice. so basic). I also really like the nature valley protein bars (mmm, nuts). BUT, why do granola bar companies insist on putting a layer of ‘yogurt’/chocolate on all their bars?!? Who demands a layer of fake sugar coating on top of already-pretty-sweet granola bars? I don’t want that crap, and it’s just going to melt in my pocket or pack anyway, making it a huge mess to try to eat on the run (or even in the middle of a hike). Seriously. Ditch the coating.

AngryKateNoLikeYogurt

…you mean I have to try to put it back in my pocket?

Gear

Figuring out how much to carry and how to do it is a really personal choice. I know I usually need a ton of water and snacks, so I need a larger pack to hold everything (and also my phone for selfies and calling for backup when I meet a mountain lion, duh). So, these are very definitely my favorites, and might help get you thinking about what you should look for in a new pack or water bottle or whatever. Or just my ranting about stupid little details.

Packs

Nathan – small, but comfy. I bought my current pack about 7 years ago at an REI garage sale for like $10… so my review here is probably irrelevant. Whatever. The Nathan-brand bladder was quickly abandoned. Overall, the pack only holds about 2.5 liters at the very very most, and I now use a hydrapak 2 Liter bladder and refill as necessary. I like: having a clip for car keys (far away from my sweaty body since I have a remote fob… yeah, I fancy). Inner stretch mesh pocket for keeping bike tools together yet accessible. Small enough actual storage that I can’t stuff too much in it. I don’t like: no pockets on the arm straps. Solution: make your own!

Look on the left strap (to the right in this photo) - a pocket for enduralytes! Made from some cuben fiber 'cause I had some extra and I'm fancy like that.

Look on the left strap (to the right in this photo) – a pocket for enduralytes! Made from some cuben fiber ’cause I had some extra and I’m fancy like that.

Hydrapack: Good size for ~18 hour or under ARs (or summer longer ones?). Comfy, but definitely larger. Still, no pockets on the shoulder straps 😦 I find it’s a little bulky and heavy, but great to have more space for a rain jacket, extra layer, etc. for longer bike rides or adventures far away from water sources.

hydrapak_details

– Bladders (you don’t want a leaky one!):

  • Reservoir: I like the hydrapak – great reviews, haven’t destroyed one yet. They come with an optional baffle (to keep it more flat and less round… so far, I’m a fan). The hydrapak also opens completely on the top, which means you can flip it inside out to dry. Very useful. I also have a platypus bladder, which is super sturdy and light but has a regular soda-cap size top opening.
  • Opening/closing: I like the hydrapak huge top, the Camelbak twist mechanism always seems sticky to me (annoying to open/close).
  • Detachable hose: A requirement for easy refill and the greatest improvement to bladder systems in the last few years. Yay quick release!
  • Bite valve: Apparently my teeth are too sharp, because I destroyed the latest hydrapak valve pretty quickly. Replaced with an Osprey valve… LOVE the osprey! Lock mechanism is intuitive (just fold it in-line with the hose and it’s sealed), plus it includes a magnet!
  • Fastener: Things rattle a lot more while running or really charging downhills on a bike. The Nathan pack includes a really neat hose clip build into the chest strap buckle… but it doesn’t stand up to much abuse (and nothing is more annoying than stopping to re-attach a floppy hose 😉 ). Magnets are really awesome and work much better.

Random other thoughts

– A wool buff is the greatest single piece of equipment you can own. End of story.