Radio Silence

You guys. It’s been nearly 2 months since I posted things. Oh mountain of guilt. Sorry.

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Speaking of mountains, I was on this one most recently.

I’ve been doing things! Including moving to Seattle, exploring some trails, and getting really, really nervous about this little 50 mile (running. trail. mountain.) race I’ve signed up for (I may die). Pictures are more fun than words, and I take a lot of selfies, so here are my highlights from the last few months.

Step 1: Leave St. Louis. Not recommended: packing entire life into small car.

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Step 2: Visit friends in awesome places.

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Find neat old trucks puttering up to the trails.

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Step 3: SEE A MOUNTAIN LION! IN REAL LIFE! ALL ALONE AT THE TRAILHEAD!

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Look at the slightly lighter dot in the middle of the trail (under one of the furthest branches of the big pine tree with the trunk in the left. Yeah, phone cameras aren’t the greatest. And I wasn’t going to get a galmour shot.

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There’s really a mountain lion in this photo. I promise.

Step 4: Watch lil’ brudder graduate college. With his fiancee (whoa, yeah, mawwiage)

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Wedding dress shopping with Jenna… good thing my mom got to go, it’s probably the only chance she’ll have (sorry not sorry).

Step 5: Ride more trails.

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Step 6: Visit home. Love the puppies. Mow the lawn. Drink the beers.

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Step 7: Drive and drive and drive some more!

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Not many driving photos. Safety first. But, check out the hop farms in Yakima!!! So. Excited.

Step 8: Set up new apartment

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Ikea. A terrifying experience, but I can now say I’ve done it? So many cam locks, so little time (and finger dexterity).

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‘wall decorations’

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Note – the geared bikes were shipped from home in Colorado instead of staying on the car. SO worth it. Check out bikeflights.com if you ever need to ship a bike!!

Step 9: Adventure!

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Rainier cherries from a fruit stand on the way back from Rainier… it’s only fair.

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Nap at camp muir. No air left.

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…but worth it.

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I have a bike twin at work!! Terrible photo, but we match. Except s/he has a fancier version with disc brake tabs. I’m debating leaving a note asking for a swap (mine is the one with the green saddle).

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The new race fuel. Cheap, peachy.

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The Sawyer mini water filter: my new favorite piece of gear. SO AWESOME!

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Climb all the mountains. Shred all the gnars. Try not to die or get hit by motos.

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Wait. All that work and I’m only at 5280 feet? wuf.

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Beaches and sunburn.

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Dip in the white river: it’s cold, fast, and white. From glacier melt? probably.

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My bike is just so pretty.

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Alphagina!

I’m not so great at race reports…. while superkate is the best. So go read hers first for a real review 🙂 I’m skipping a few AR reports, but they’ll happen. Eventually.

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As usual, this ended up much longer than I planned. There are just so many fun things I want to tell you! But, spoiler alert, I won, Bob Jenkins is awesome, Cedar Cross is soul-crushing.

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Borb.

As you may have heard, one of the most awesome races around St. Louis is Cedar Cross, the result of lots of work and beers from the legendary Mr. Bob Jenkins. Last year, this was my first century race. And also my first gravel race. And also my first singlespeed race. Obviously, I’m no expert on racing (the wisdom a year brings!), but I was pretty excited to have some people to say hello to, and to finally be going into a race with an idea of the carnage that was about to take place.

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Last year, I was quite worried about the day. So worried, I made my dude peat ride a gravel century with me on the singlespeed so that I could be sure I would make it. This year, well, I’ve been racing my way in shape, and it’s definitely the most fun. I always feel unprepared going in to races, whether or not it’s true (it usually is). But, cedar cross is about the most fun you can have… I mean, they have a beer stop! And, we get to stay with Peat’s friend Nick, who happens to run Red Wheel Bike shop (this year’s lucky host, and the best bike shop in Jeff City!) and makes some awesome little pork cutlets (what propelled me to victory last year). Anyway, when I found I’d have the weekend ‘free’, I signed up. Within about 30 minutes, I got an email from Bob:

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Yeah, I can’t think of any other race where you get a personal email from the race director thanking you for signing up. I should also mention, this year Bob decided to make it a celebration of the ladies, a true estro-fest if there ever was one. We’d chatted briefly a few months ago about prizes, and what prize purse would, in his words, ‘get a bunch of women out trying to rip each others’ legs off’. Well, he also named the categories aptly, and I signed up for the ‘Alphagina’, the greatest category I will ever have the honor of racing. As the year of the woman, there were only to be prizes for the ladies.

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Yeah, it’s a real thing

Peat and I took off Friday night and got to Jeff City in time to catch Nick’s (3 year old) son Wyatt up and hunting firewolves and other backyard sneakies. After much hanging out with Nick and his wife Jess, more of the SS contingent showed up in the form of Adam, Lurch, and Eddie, who claimed floor space in the basement. Beers were consumed, general merriment ensued. Soon enough, it was time for bed!

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We got up bright and early in order to make it to the shop by around 7, for the race start at 8. Incredibly unfortunately, Nick (as the host of the race) had to leave super early, leaving us pork-cutlet-less. Not to be put out, we filled water bottles and had snacks, then drove over to Red Wheel for coffee, donuts, and hellos to all our friends from the area.

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Oh hey david

We geared up and lined up, then Bob made a few announcements – Nick’s dad would be out on course as usual with beer(!) and hot dogs, Luke’s son (I think) played a righteous version of the national anthem on the electric guitar, and Bob told everyone that there’d be a $500 payout for the winner of the Alphagina category, and a $100 payout to the winner of the ladies open. Whaaaaat?! I laughed, tried to forget about it, and reminded myself of my lack of training – it’s a $30 race with some awesome people, and singletrack on cross bikes. Sure, worth some effort, but mostly worth finishing. Still, there was a little voice in the back of my head saying it’d be pretty nice to win some cash (oh, and peat mentioning it’d be nice to win back some gas money). At the same time, I knew superkate has been DESTROYING her training for dirty kanza, so we’d just have to see how it all played out.

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Superkate!!

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Wyatt is 3… and was ready to ride the whole thing.

After announcements, Bob ripped his shirt off and gave us a show, then Chuck led a neutral rollout through town and down a super awesome pedestrian bridge. Watching racers going through 4 levels of a big spiral ramp was so cool… I tried to take a picture while riding. It didn’t really work out.

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People on bikes on bridges!

On the other side of the bridge, a leadout car was waiting to take us another half mile or so to the real ‘start’ of the race. I tried to pace myself, remembering how I cramped last year, but also hoping to finish faster than last year, meaning in the ideal world I’d be working on a 16 mph pace. Realistically, I was ready for that to be closer to 15, knowing last year I was around 14.7 according to Strava. Well, I also learned from last year that it’s way easier to ride with people, whether you’re drafting or not. It’s just fun, and that happens to be the whole point of cedar cross. As I was putzing around chatting, I was passed by SS buddies Adam and Zoll (Lurch), pumping the tunes! I stepped it up a notch and hopped on the train.

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Peat borrowed a hair tie before the race so he could look fabulous. He also brushed his teeth in the morning just so he could kiss Bob. I know where I stand.

The three of us ended up riding the first 30 miles or so together, until Adam needed to stop for water at an old chapel. It was so nice to hang out and confirm each others’ route choices, and generally just chat. When we hit the chapel, though, I knew I had to boogie if I wanted a shot at the title. I also knew we were coming up on the second section of singletrack, where I’d take any advantage I could get (the first was through a field… thankfully uneventful this year and I even showed a few people how to open the gate instead of climbing over it! Less fun, but more fast. And less panic).

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drop bags in the shade at mile 50

The singletrack was fairly rideable…. as much as singletrack is rideable on a gravel-geared singlespeed (for reference, and because I’m sure I’ll want to check and remember at some point, I went 42×18). I was stoked on everything I could ride, including hopping a few trees (my weakness). I was running tubes because this year, unlike last, I didn’t get to borrow peat’s fast wheels (turns out, he likes his nice things and was ready to destroy the course). I reminded myself to ride light, and that stopping to change a tire would take waaaay longer than slowing to walk a section. There were also a few pretty rough horsed-up sections here, although in hindsight they weren’t too bad (and most were rideable) compared to the later section. A quick sprint up the Jeff Yielding staircase of pain, and we were back on gravel roads!

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Jeff and Carrie are the neatest. Particularly when they bring coolers. I can’t imagine riding that on a tandem.

Around this time, I started to get the warning signs of leg cramps… the twinge of pain suggesting I’m in for a ride. Now, that can sometimes be ok… but 40 miles into a 115 mile ride it’s fairly bad news. I downed some carborocket electrolyte tabs, ate some food, and realized I was nearly out of water. I figured the drop bags were in 10 miles, so I drank everything I had and hoped it’d be enough. I also started soft pedaling the hills instead of powering up them. Somehow, I made it to the drop bags where Noelle Case (the BEST CREW EVER) was waiting, as usual, with the tailgate down and water ready. I downed as much water as possible, switched my 2L water bladder for the full 3L, replaced bottles, stuffed my pockets and shorts with food, and headed off into the roughest singletrack of the day.

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I tried to take selfies this year. This was obviously not when I was hating my life/cramping.

I thought this singletrack was rough last year, but this year it was worse than trying to cut an entirely new trail. The horse tracks were so bad, it was like trying to hold onto a jackhammer, while also riding through inches of muck. Uphill. I rode a lot… until I didn’t. At some point, it just made more sense to save the skin on the palms of my hands by walking over and through the massive post-holes. Post race, there was plenty of comparing shredded skin from trying to hold on to the handlebars.

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Don posted this description of the singletrack to facebook… it’s about as true as it gets

After about 2 miles, I finally hit gravel again and (because I’d ridden the course last year) confidently turned left, followed by a quick right. Never has gravel felt so smooth. Unluckily, despite my quick fix of chugging water and snacks, I hadn’t drank or eaten much while working hard in the singletrack. And, I promptly cramped, for real, at the exact same place as last year. Ugggggh. There’s a gravel hill (ok, so it’s really not that hard) just after the singletrack that I remembered sitting down in the middle of, trying to stretch out my legs after miraculously unclipping. This year, I decided I’d ride the hill. As slowly as I needed to. At least at this point the cramps could be stretched out and weren’t full-bore in each muscle group at the same time, so I would pedal with my left leg until my quad and calf would cramp, then hope my right hamstring was done cramping in time to pick up the slack and start on the other side. It wasn’t pretty. But I did manage to get up the hill, and again drank probably 1.5 bottles of gatorade and ate a bunch of food.

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Seeing Chuck on the singletrack, STILL out with a leafblower, was awesome. And also, awesome to know I was headed the right direction! (Photo courtesy of Lori Vohsen… as are most of the photos snagged from the cedar cross page)

It’s amazing to me how cramps can be fixed. One moment you think you’re going to die, and that your legs are going to fall off. You’re in total survival mode, hoping only to see another human with a cell phone and maybe some water to spare. Throw everything you have at it (food, electrolytes, water), and 10 minutes later you’re back in the game. I’d still prefer to never get to that point, but it is a little comforting to know that the pain isn’t, in fact, permanent.

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Google search is sometimes gold.

Soon enough, I was rolling along and having fun, working hard but not blowing myself up, and around a corner there was a tent with a few racers and a cooler! I stopped in and Nick’s dad immediately asked what I needed and filled up a water bottle for me as a pounded a beer. It was ice cold and OH so tasty… it was even a fancy beer in a glass bottle! I was surprised, impressed, and ready for a nice cold beverage. I’d say I got that down in about 30 seconds, then hopped back on my bike for the roughly 5 miles to Ham’s Prairie.

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Cody is Noelle and Corey’s dog. And he is the cutest.

At the gas station, I again saw Noelle and refilled everything I could. Despite being 80 miles into the race, it was still 35 (I told myself 40) to the finish, which is kinda a long way to go. I took my time and saw my friend Don, who I met last year at CCX, roll out towards the reactor. One big hill, a view of the reactor, and a screaming downhill and I was on the Katy trail, the ‘home stretch’. This section of the race is always sneaky – it’s flat, so you underestimate it. I could see Don and another racer up in front of me, and debated putting in the extra energy to catch them and work together. In the end, I decided a bathroom break was more important. About 5 miles down the trail, however, I saw them again, and then they stopped to check the maps. I was confident in the directions (after all the debating last year) and rolled by, and we all grouped up together to end up riding for the rest of the race!

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Picture in front of the nuclear reactor. It’s in the rules.

We turned off the katy onto gravel farm roads, where the wind really picks up, and the gravel is big and deep (heh). The sun was hot, and we worked to just slog through it. It’s so straining to know you’re so close to being done, but that it will still take a long time to get there. After our second departure from the Katy, we saw another rider along the levee and slowly started closing the gap. When we finally caught up, we saw it was none other than SS dude Eddie! We all rode together, alternately pushing the pace a little (in the excitement of getting done earlier) and just maintaining in order to finish strong. Devin (the other rider) and I would hang out and let Don and Eddie cruise, just to see them slow down so we could all chill. It was pretty fun. Soon enough, we passed under highway 54 and wound our way back to the pedestrian bridge, through all the big trucks and boats from a fishing tournament on the same day.

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I’ve really stepped up my selfie game lately. This includes mid-ride selfies with my new best friends Devin (l) and Don (r)

Up, up, up and over the bridge we went. Looking at my watch, it was about 4:40 PM, and we’d started around 8:20 AM, so we were definitely going to finish under 9 hours!! So awesome. Once we hit town and main street, Eddie took off down the big hill while we just chatted and timed out the lights (and tried not to get run over). The three of us crossed the line together and I got the news (that I’d been guessing on since about Ham’s Prairie)… that I am the Alphagina!!! It was so awesome to have people to ride with at both the start and the end of the race, and SO awesome to have Noelle and Nick’s dad out there supporting. Oh, and winning $500 wasn’t so bad (moving is expensive, and Seattle’s far away… I definitely will put it to good use. Immediately).

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That Peat, he’s a good one

I saw Peat hanging out on the pavilion having a beer, and went over to chat about our days and compare notes. He and his friend Jesse had been riding together but got lost after the last singletrack, probably adding about 7 miles (and a big hill) to their day. As a result, they lost the lead to a group of 4 dudes who made the right turn, but Peat and Jesse still wound up 5th and 6th.

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FINISHED!!!

Don, Devin, and I wound up 11-13th, I think, and I was maybe the 3rd SS? Meaning Eddie was 2nd, and we were basically just chillin together? That’s pretty freaking awesome, in my opinion. The second lady (on gears, in the ladies open division) came in about 30 min after I did (again, results aren’t up so I’m not sure, and I’d had a few beers so my memory probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be).

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It’s true love

As expected, it was an incredible day out on gravel, but the most fun was swapping war stories with everyone afterwards.  Corey won an awesome Bad Mother Fucker wallet, the Sonas rode a tandem and are hilarious, and we stayed out late into the night cheering on riders and generally talking shit.

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In fact, we enjoyed it so much neither Peat or I were ready to drive all the way back to St. Louis, so we crashed with Nick and Jess another night (well, after demolishing a pizza). We woke up to a true breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, and coffee! These people are the best people. I will miss the bike community here so much… and I can’t wait to time my return visits so I can come see you all race and party it up!

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This was supposed to be a funny comparison between Corey’s arms and Jeff’s legs… but I just couldn’t get over how much more awesome Lo’s muscles are 🙂

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That’s one bad motherfucker right there

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Of course I wore my Monthly Cycle cap to compete in the Alphagina. Duh.

The voyage of 1000 selfies, starts with a single shot

Gin shots, anyone?

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We celebrated my PhD completion. I don’t remember a whole lot.

The story of my travels, told mostly in pictures and selfies. I’ll probably write a Moab race report, because that’s more fun. I was reunited with college buddies in Portland, took the train(!) up to Seattle with some awesome Canadians, stayed in a super awesome hostel (my favorite way to travel, by far), then stopped over in Salt Lake City for some adventuring and adventure racing. And a puppy party.

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A trip to Portland would be incomplete without a stop at Voodoo doughnuts. Some of us made it back again (hint, it wasn’t me). They have donuts the size of your face! With funny names and no so funny delicious 2 SLICES OF BACON on the maple bacon one I got. I can now die happy.

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We stayed in a funky hotel with a big spiderman panel on the wall. Then got all dressed up fancy style, then proceeded to drink a lot. Yay weddings! The entire thing was at a resort/winery/distillery about 25 min from downtown Portland… and it was gorgeous. Plus, hanging out with the old college crew was pretty fabulous. And Caroline was there, so we were able to catch up and avoid the awkward stares of people we don’t know!

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My gorgeous college roommbuddy (lived together all 4 years!) tied the knot. So excited for them 🙂 My only disappointment was that they didn’t bring the puppy up from El Paso with them. There was a photobooth, which we were seated directly next to. This means there are lots of (terrible) photos of me. Oops.

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I stayed an extra night in Portland for convenience. My room for the night was a quirky eclectic little room through AirBnb. I took the bus up from our hotel and quickly found the place… with old doors hodge-podged together to form a yard and a bunch of funny statues displayed everywhere, it was very Portland(ia). It was also Easter… and the host (who was actually a person house-sitting for the host) was having a potluck! After a little recovery nap, I joined in on the fun downstairs and chatted with people while eating all their food.I’m pretty sure that’s the best way to potluck.

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From Portland, I took the train up to Seattle. I was seated with 3 Canadians who had just traveled down for shopping over the holiday weekend, and knew I was in good company when they busted out the ‘soda’ around 11AM. There were lots of snarky remarks and cheating at card games to fill the ~4 hour trip.

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SEATTLE!! I stayed at a hostel literally across the street from the famous pike place market. It. Was. Awesome.

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How does one find an apartment that is (somewhat) reasonably priced in a totally new city in 2.5 days? By making lists upon lists upon lists! I think I saw about 10 different places, but finally found one that will be manageable with my budget (hopefully), has a little outdoor space, and is a few blocks from a park. Oh, and did I mention, it’s a 1.75 mile downhill cruise into work? It’s perfect! (I’m more than happy to slog back up after a long day… it’s nice to be able to show up at work in basically the same state you left the house).

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With that business settled (ok, so really in the middle of that madness, because I obsess over things and need some time for a mental break), I went for a run! And then cruised through the market. It’s like Soulard market, except super touristy and expensive. A worthwhile stop… particularly when I don’t have an empty fridge tempting me 🙂

KIMG1236 KIMG1240(The space needle is really there. Also, it’s hard to tell, but those are monstrous lobster tails. The ones on the left are larger than ‘regular’ ones – although I definitely don’t eat enough lobster to be a good judge of that.)

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To get around the city in Seattle, I got to try out their new bikeshare system. It was pretty great. Different than in Boston (you picked your bike and had to type in the number to the kiosk, instead of the other way around) but it’s the same concept. I became very close with bike #0326 after taking it on many rides together… then someone had the nerve to check her out before I could return. Ce’st la vie, I’ve moved on as well (*sniff*).

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Washington, or at least Seattle, requires helmets by law. The bikeshare solution to this is a tub of cleaned, sealed helmets at every station. Pick up a new helmet on the left side (the plastic cover also works great as a seat cover if it’s been raining… just sayin’), then when you return the bike you drop your sweaty helmet to the bin on the right! I was amazed at how well it worked, and only ran into empty bin problems once or twice (they say to just stop at the next station you see, but I was never traveling far enough for that to be legit).

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Final Seattle selfies. On the right is the street I’ll be living on… it’s pretty neat.

From Seattle, I hopped on a plane to Denver, then a plane to Salt Lake City! Don’t ask why, I hate transfers. But somehow I found the cheapest option to require a change in Denver. It’s not the worst airport, I suppose. But I was so happy to be picked up by Justin and Dune (ok, really excited to see Dune, his golden/pit mix) at the airport. We dropped off stuff then immediately walked over to beers and had a great time catching up.

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We partied (ok, so we went to bed early like the old people we are) and then headed out to Moab for the AXS 12 hr AR. Race report coming, because this is already quite long. Suffice it to say, my first trip to Moab proper (not counting one 7th grade trip to Arches) was beyond awesome.

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I met some French tourists as we were yo-yo-ing back and forth on the trail during my Sunday recovery religious experience ride. The fast dude was kind enough to take a picture of me with my totally cheating rocky mountain element 970 (Gears. Suspension. Front AND Rear. Floats. Like. A. Boat. Link is to trailhead bikes in st louis, a new shop which happens to be a rocky mountain dealer… check them out!). Good thing Justin has good taste in bikes, and even better that we’re exactly the same size. Moral of the story – I have one photo that’s not a selfie!

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We returned after the race to SLC to the puppy party. Dune, Jake, and Watson gave us a great welcome home, then I skeedaddled on out of town back to St. Louis.

Yay for friends in awesome places, doing fun things. And also for nice people along the way.

PS, if you’re in St. Louis, I’m selling all my stuff. I have a small car, and don’t plan to take anything I don’t absolutely need up to Seattle. I’ve made a webpage (because how else would I do it?): movingsalestl.weebly.com. Buy my stuff!

Race Report: Break Up 12 hour AR in Milford, KS

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Finishing up my unintentionally-extended time off… I flew from Pittsburgh directly to Kansas City, where my teammates Nathan and Brian (aka, the toporadicals) had promised to pick me up! I’d never raced with Nathan and Brian before, but we met while setting up a night orienteering course. They’re a pretty experienced AR team, looking to get into the ‘competitive’ coed category, so the invited me to race with them (after some prodding/discussion with local AR heroes Carrie and Emily, I think).

Before the race, though, I had to get to the race… with delay after delay of my connecting flight in Charlotte, I was prepared to give up. I was only hoping the guys would be willing to give me a ride home from the KC airport whenever I eventually did get there. They, however, had a 4 hour drive TO Kansas City to strategize, then plenty of time while I was frantically texting and trying to get on standby on any plane I could find. True adventure racers, they had contingencies for about 12 different scenarios (we had to figure out how to get to the pre-race meeting, in addition to picking me up from the airport and then going back to the hotel to plot and hopefully get some sleep).

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I even got a weird aisle seat with lots of leg room… except that it’s where everyone had to walk.

By some miracle, around 5:30 a plane showed up at the gate that was supposed to be for my flight… and we got on board! And flew to Kansas City! My planned 3:00 arrival time became 8:00, but there was still a hint of light in the sky and it was Friday, so the pre-race freakout could begin. We drove the additional 2 hours to check-in a pick up maps. Rather, Brian drove, and Nathan strategized. The WHOLE WAY. Now, I know I like to prepare before races, and I was so excited to even be on the ground that I was ready to just chill. But Nathan had checked out the course from previous years and was making guesses as to where things would go, then verifying access and locations on google maps. Every team I’ve ever raced on, we try to do well, but we’re mostly there to have fun and finish. This was SERIOUS STRATEGY. As I would learn, Nathan and Brian are extremely passionate and give that level of detailed attention to every part of the race.

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Checking and double-checking maps… and checking with da google.

We showed up to the pre-race check-in at some cabins near the start to pick up our maps, and regret making hotel reservations too late to book a cabin (they were awesome). Then it was back about 30 min to the hotel near the interstate, while Nathan plotted and planned our morning route.

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So. Tired. And they’re still plotting and re-plotting.

With all that planning, we still ended up staying up until about 1:00 AM discussing route choices and fine-tuning our gear setup. Unlike the Bonk Hard races I’ve done in the past, this one had a very light gear list. Along the lines of “enough water”, “enough food”, and “first aid supplies” (no counting band-aids or safety pins here). That meant, for a 12 hour, my pack was surprisingly light. The race was structured with a few options to try to separate the pack: 1 navigation and 1 bike section from HQ, which teams could pick to do in any order (bike CPs only on the bike, hike CPs only on the hike, but bike vs hike decision). Like most people, we decided to hike first, hitting a quick CP just out of town (CP5) then heading up through brambles to CPs 2-4 along the lake. There had been a few updates to the clue sheet which we marked, but since we missed the check-in meeting we didn’t hear about the change of clue on CP 1 (to be marked 38, again due to changes) from ‘pond’ to ‘creekbed’. So we were confused when we wandered around, didn’t find anything near a pond, but followed the map a little more closely to a very sneakily hidden punch on a tree in a creek bed. Lesson 1: pay attention to the map, not the clues (well, it should have been lesson one. Unfortunately we needed a few more reminders before we actually learned that one).

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Our route for the first 5 CPs, located roughly at black dots (from Brian’s later strava analysis).

After collecting the hike points and booking it back to HQ, we quickly swapped into bike shoes and headed out! As we were riding away, I realized I hadn’t grabbed by hike shoes. Whoops! For some reason, I just thought I could leave them there. Luckily, we would be heading back through HQ before the longer bike to TA2, so there was really no time lost. We knocked out the first bike section quickly, occasionally linking up with the tow system to keep everyone together. Back at HQ, I grabbed my shoes and we rolled out!

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Bike leg 1. Pretty obvious… CPs were at the end of the little out-and-back spaghetti monster sections.

Lesson 2: pay attention to the map, not the clues. We rolled out of town feeling strong. Around a little bend and downhill, we heard Nathan shout to stop – there was a punch, hidden right over a creek. Thinking we were doing well finding the somewhat hard to ID punches, we tried to cut across a field to CP 7. This, however, was some serious bike-whacking. The clue said the CP would be off a trail, but there was no trail to be found. We finally popped back out on a road, and realized we’d punched incorrectly – we didn’t go quite far enough to hit the right CP but instead had found one staged for a later leg of the race. Oops. That realization helped us get back on track, and we quickly found the correct trail (read – there was a little bit of singletrack involved!!! YAAAY!) and punched the correct creek CP along with the one on the trail. We hammered through the rest of the bike down to TA2.

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Bike down from HQ (green dot) to TA2 (near little loop mid-map on the far right). Top left black circle shows where we jumped the gun… Bike CPs in black, paddle CPs in blue, trek CP estimates (I don’t remember these as well, since we didn’t grab all of them) in green.

Once at TA2, we were given a map with more points to plot along with a pre-plotted map. We plotted and planned a route down to the canoe put-in, then figured I’d have time (as the middle seat in the canoe) to work out our route from there. We hit 3 trek points from TA2, then hopped back on our bikes towards TA3 and the canoes!

Bike CPs, at least on Bonk Hard courses, are typically easy to find. If you’re on the right trail/road, they’re never more than about 10 yards from the trail, and they’re exactly where they’re shown on the map, with proper clues. This race… was a tad different. There were a few CPs that were a ways off the trail and required some serious hiking. We never switched out of bike shoes, but had our first real navigation problems of the day looking for CP16. We ran into probably 10 teams through the course of our searching, and spent over an hour. Any lead we thought we’d gained by that point was abandoned, but we were all very reluctant to punt (especially after investing so long looking). We attacked and re-attacked, and finally decided to give it ‘one more try’. Teaming up with a few solo racers… we FINALLY FOUND IT! I had been ready to leave it, as we were starting to run short on time, but it was exciting to know that it was, in fact, about where it was marked on the map. Just another tricky hiding spot that had to be attacked in just the right direction in order to see the hanging PVC pipe and punch.

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Bike from TA2 to TA3, showing the horrible, ugly, 1 hour 7 min CP 16 (the big red blob). Ugh.

After punching 16, we hauled on the bikes down to TA3, efficiently knocking off check points along the way. The map was a little confusing (as they usually are) with roads and reference lines marked similarly. We were never totally sure if a line was a road, or a driveway, or just a marker for the latitude/longitude. We hit the canoes and refilled water bottles, and there was even some Gatorade powder provided by the volunteers. By this point I’d actually drained my camelback and was so thankful to have a refill. We picked a canoe and packed our bags into the large drybag Brian had brought, then shoved it all into the middle of the canoe as a seat for me. It worked great! And was possibly the most comfortable seat in the canoe, minus being a little short (I kept hitting my hands as I paddled… user error). We paddled quickly to the canoe points, even earning some street cred with a well-timed picture of us all in sync. Despite some low water levels and serious sticky mud, we hit everything cleanly and returned back to the TA to find that we were IN FIRST PLACE!!! No other team to come through the paddle had yet cleared the course… we were so stoked. We had one more trek and one more bike to go, so we just had to keep it clean and not have any major mechanicals. I kept repeating – it’s a long race, anything can happen. Even from the beginning with our problems with CP1/38 and CP6, we had to remember to just keep racing and doing our thing. We were all happy to have burned the time at CP16 to find the punch.

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Looking SO PRO on the paddle. Photo by Rick Dykstra?

The final trek was clean… until it wasn’t. We hit a few points over re-entrants and creek beds, making good time and generally feeling pretty great, excited to be having a fun day in the sun and to be doing well. Then… we got a little turned around coming out of a ‘ravine’ checkpoint and took a road that wasn’t listed on the map (oh, that sounds familiar, right Caroline??). We searched for a long time for what we thought would be a quick and easy checkpoint, until I noticed a 4-way intersection where we definitely were not anticipating one. We checked the compass and realized we’d been spat out on a totally different road, and were searching in the wrong direction. Gah! On the bright side, we were somewhat closer to the one CP far away from everything else. We were also running really, really tight on time. We had about 2 hours left to get the remaining 3ish trek CPs, and THEN get our bikes and collect CPs on the way back to HQ. After the CP16 debacle, we were weary of how long the ‘easy’ return bike CPs would take, but were also excited at the prospect of knowing where we were, and where else we needed to go.

breakup_ride

When we were happy to be on bikes, I assume. Another awesome photo by Rick Dykstra!

We decided to go ahead at attack the far CP and nailed it completely cleanly. We attempted one more hike CP, but realized quickly that a road shown on the map was no longer a road, but a very faint jeep trail. With time running out, we decided to just punt the rest of the trek points and try to collect what we could on the way back.

KIMG1022

Post race.

As we hiked the final miles back to the TA, we tried to eat and drink as much as possible – I was feeling awesome, but the guys had anticipated a shorter trek and were starting to fade. We shared water and snacks and generally tried to regain some of the momentum we had lost on our nav mishap. As we walked, I highlighted our bike route back to HQ. We were about 20 km away, with basically the most direct route possible including a few more CPs. We knew we wouldn’t be able to get all of them (particularly the ones not exactly on the trail), but the policy for this race was to deduct one checkpoint for every 5 minutes after the time cutoff of 7:30. So, any checkpoint that took us less than 5 minutes to punch would actually be a good choice. I made sure to include as many close CPs as possible, and we had a quick TA, making sure to refill water and take even more Gatorade!

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The slog back was a gorgeous gravel ride, with a beautiful sunset illuminating our time cutoff. We picked up a few solo riders, then slowly dropped them as we hooked up on tow and just cranked it in. We wound up just over 30 minutes over the time cutoff, with 6 points deducted from our passport in addition to the 5 points we punted on the last trek and bike sections. Overall, we didn’t do so well. Brian told me later that it’s about the worst they’ve ever done in a race (can’t you tell they’re so excited to keep racing with me?! Haha). But, on the way back, Nathan mentioned with surprise that “even though we did really poorly, I had a great time”. I was shocked – that’s the WHOLE POINT!!! Of course it was a ton of fun, even if you don’t end up winning or even close to winning… and even if you’re nearly the last people on the course (good thing quadzilla over here dropped that solo rider). As I said on our way back – we really won, because we got the most racing for our entry fees. I’m totally excited for the upcoming 24 hour race with the Toporadicals, especially since we now know the race director a little better and know what to expect for CPs. Lots of lessons learned, and it’ll be fun for me to try my first 24 hour race! Oh, and maybe this time I’ll remember to pack my trekking shoes 🙂

In the Meantime…

I found this a while ago and stashed it away just in case. Since I’m slacking on the race reports, it’ll have to do for now.

First things first, THIS (click the link for the article):

tripowered

I was just in the desert! But I obviously missed out on some solar-powered opportunities.

The concept is a solar-powered electro-bike. Ignoring the fact that bikes are meant to be ridden for fun and trails are hard for a reason (mostly that reason being it’s super awesome and empowering once you finally clean that tricky section), this photo is just too much.

1. Bibs and bibs alone. Get ready Seattle, I’m bringing this style to you. Totes.totesgoats

2. Clearly the electro-power works pretty well, because that girl’s got no calves. Even as she’s clearly trying to show off her ‘athleticism’ (side note, I do believe that everyone should be happy with their body as a machine. If it doesn’t work as well as you want it to, give it some love. Like a nice long ride or run every once in a while. If it doesn’t look like exactly what the media is telling you it should, fuckem. It works. And that is what matters. However, in this ad where clearly she’s being used as a ‘sportscar hood; model, couldn’t you at least pick someone who actually rides a bike?!?)

3. That smouldering look over the sunglasses. Hot damn, I’ve gotta start practicing that.

4. From the article… “DDS will be available next year with 26 and 28 inch wheel sizes” I know I don’t know much about bikes, but I was unaware 28 inch wheels were the new thing (upon a little research, it seems this is what those persnickety northern europeans call 700c wheels. It still looks funny to me).

Unrelated, but related to triathletes which I have to assume the author of the above article is, I found article on a training facility for triathletes. A place “where athletes will safely and effectively concentrate on what’s critical to their performance”. If I lived there I’d probably check it out… because who doesn’t want to ride a course that’s never going to be open to motorized traffic? But the important part was the recommended articles at the end (ok, really just the CPAP and looking rich ones):

also_recommended

Triathletes, man.

Practice makes perfect, whereas training just makes roadies. I’m gonna go ahead and count triathletes too (because I sometimes am one, have plenty of friends who are into that, and it’s still hilarious).

Go Big!

So, I’m doing quite a bit of traveling. A ton of traveling. The race report form the break up is mostly written, but wireless connections are spotty and photos are hard to upload. And posts with no photos are no fun. So instead, I’m just going to update on my travels. SO MANY THINGS!!!

My ‘time off’ after thesis defense has been awesome. Crazy, but awesome. I was chatting with a friend and starting to realize just how much I’m trying to squeeze in to my last month-ish in St. Louis… and it turns out it really won’t be spent much in St. Louis. My celebration of being done in the lab is, as it turns out, to not be in the lab as much as possible. As she pointed out, my idea of celebration is to do a bunch of racing and adventuring. So that’s what is happening! Ha.

My Schedule:

MARCH MADNESS, Deuce style:

March 6: Successfully defend thesis. Dr. Deuce in the house (my ultimate frisbee nickname is Deuce from when I was the second Kate on the team. I think Dr. Deuce is the most awesome title ever, so I’m keeping it)!

March 10-13 Road Trip to Fort Collins, CO (visit awesome people at oddity and blacksheep cycles, and stay with my brother), Basalt CO (to chill with my dad!), and St. George Utah

March 14: True Grit Epic dreamcrusher SS death by fun

March 20-22: Break-Up 12 hr adventure race in Milford, KS with the toporadicals. Yay new teammates!

March 26: Officially celebrate finishing my thesis by drinking a ton of beer and gin shots. Oooooweeee

March 28-30: Ignore any responsibilities and hang out at home, try to remember new technical skills at Chubb, solo navigation practice at rockwoods range. Recovery.

APRIL SHOWERS ARE IN THE NORTHWEST

April 3-5: My college roommate gets married in Portland!! Reunion with college friends, chill in the Northwest. Get invited to random Easter brunch at Airbnb stay… it is awesome.

April 6-9: Train ride (my first!) to Seattle. Find and apartment. Ride PRONTO bike share bikes and be amazed that cars stop for pedestrians. Get stoked for new city, stare longingly at Mt. Ranier. I stayed at the Green Tortoise Hostel downtown… the BEST DEAL EVER!!! Free breakfast, right across the street from pike place market, super awesome people. I. Love. Hostels.

April 10-13: Salt Lake City!!! AXS 12 hour Adventure race in Moab with AR buddy Justin and pup Dune. It’s going to be awesome.

April 17-19: Off Road Rage 24 hour adventure race in Salina, KS, with Toporadicals. Avenge our 12 hour!

April 24-26: River to River road running relay (ha) in Illinois with the FRBs/Twatwaffles. 3 legs of about 3 miles of running each. Can’t wait for costumes for this one…eeewwww team.

May 2: Cedar Cross in Jeff City. Trying to convince Peat to let me borrow his wheels again, it’s not going so well.

May 6th ish: Depart StL for good?!?

You know my schedule, let’s hang out! I’d love to catch up and go for one last run/ride/bar crawl with all you awesome St. Louis people. Hit me up!

Triumph and Tragedy

Quick edit – if you’re reading this, you’re probably coming from fatty. When Caroline told me I’d been linked, I about crapped my pants. I love the fatcyclist blog, and was obviously overly excited to see fatty and the hammer at the race. To make it to the blog, well, my bike career is likely at its peak. And to think I’ve just started… efficiency! This post isn’t quite as fun, but the race reports and stories of romping around the midwest will continue soon enough.

kate_caroline_adventures

We are going to make a series: “Kate and Caroline Adventures”. It will rival neature. (we have a lot of misadventures).

Remember how, oh, 2 weeks ago I said I was busy? I’ve been putting off so many things until ‘after my thesis’, which is obviously ‘when I’ll have time’. As it turns out, I had a LOT of those. My life post-defense has been, actually, pretty hectic. Mostly in a good way (Follow that link to see my recent interview in terrain… fairly intimidating and totally awesome. I suppose I’m an athlete now. Thanks Brad and Greg for all your hard work!).

foooods

Setting up ALL the foods before my defense… because nobody wants to think about partial differential equations on an empty stomach.

Before all the fun, however, I had to deal with some bad news… my grandmother actually passed away while she was in St. Louis for my defense. We went out for an awesome dinner Thursday night, but she had a heart attack in the middle of the night at didn’t regain consciousness. You might be saying – how did you ever defend your thesis? The answer is – my parents are very smart and strong, and told me just as much as I needed to hear. They picked me up for my defense and helped me set up food, saying only that grandma wasn’t feeling well, but she really wanted to be there. They also found out, approximately 20 minutes before my presentation, that my 17 year old cousin had committed suicide after struggling for months with unresolved health issues. My PSA is – check out POTS and dysautomnia. My incredibly smart (4.0 at MIT smart), athletic (crazy good gymnast, swimmer, and recently diver), and talented cousin was experiencing debilitating symptoms as her body shut down. She was basically told that the best treatment option was to wait and hope she outgrew it. I’m still struggling with this one. My grandmother, who I’ll miss dearly, had a full and fruitful life, and was able to go quickly… but it was still a shock to everyone.

fam_dinner

We still managed a nice dinner to celebrate. Grandma would have been upset if we didn’t.

Without knowing the gravity of any of this, I successfully defended my thesis. My parents told me the news (all the news) afterwards, followed by some time spent in the hospital and lots of very difficult phone calls. The rest of my defense weekend was spent making travel plans, attempting to sort out feelings, and just cherishing moments with my parents and grandfather. Not to be totally defeated, we all got out to enjoy some unseasonably warm weather at Castlewood and enjoyed the fresh air and a break from the stuffy hotel room. Outdoor. Therapy.

siphon

Put the beer in one container. Put the beer in a more different container! Put some stuff in the beer. Take some stuff out of the beer! Do lots and lots of cleaning. <- brewing, in a nutshell.

Back to the fun stuff – I brewed a beer to clear out the rest of my supplies, and also to make an entry to the homebrew-off contest at Alpha Brewing Company (where I won a homebrew competition and, until recently, have been enjoying the spoils of lots of free beer). I generally make beer based on things I think would be fun, not really on any specific guidelines. So I doubt they’ll pick it to take to the Pro-Am contest, but hopefully at least it’ll be tasty!

spices

Mmmm, spicy!

This round I made a ‘dirty chaIPA’: small amounts of darker chocolate malt and black roasted barley, plus chai spices (ginger, cinnamon, clove, orange peel, vanilla) and plenty of hops. Oh, and I added some lactose (milk sugar that yeast don’t eat, so it makes the final product sweeter and gives more body). Think a dash of cream in your chai, but it’s beer 🙂 It’s crazy how the smallest amounts of spice (literally, a clove or two) can change the whole characteristic of a 5 gallon batch of beer. I can’t wait to see how it turns out 😀

rollers_n_beers

The beer lives in my basement right next to the rollers. So I can lovingly caress the carboy and whisper sweet nothings to it as it ferments (‘sweet little yeasties, you’re so beautiful’, ‘hey guys, get to work! I’m thirsty!’). It helps. It’s also roller motivation (kinda).

After brewing, I packed up all my ‘extra’ all grain brewing gear, along with the guitar and accordion, and just about ALL THE BIKE STUFF, to head out to Utah. Lots of driving later, I had my ass handed to me in the best way.

accordion

I left the little accordion at my parents’ house, but not before busting out the big accordion for show. It’s much more complicated and fancy.

But that’s not all! We’d originally planned to swing down to Arizona after the race, but I had to be on a plane Wednesday morning, and 6 hours of EXTRA driving wasn’t sounding very tempting at that point. So, we changed plans and just headed back I-70 for the 22-hour drive home.

velopluskc_kicks_ass

My college friend David lives and breathes bikes at Velo + KC (click the picture for a link? Maybe?). It’s SO AWESOME with bikes and coffee and even some beer. He also brewed us some coffee and sent us along with some coffee for the final push back to St. Louis… exactly what we needed!

I flew out to Pennsylvania Wednesday for my grandma’s memorial, and nearly made it through my speech without breaking down. Nearly. While the circumstances were less than ideal, it was great to see my ‘eastern’ family (most of whom I haven’t seen in a really long time), including my cousin Jenny and her 3 kids, and my (great) aunt Nancy. We sorted through some things and had a lot of family meals together, remembering some of the many ways my grandma had shaped our family. It was just a short trip for the memorial, so we all piled back in the car around 5:30 AM Friday morning to head over to Pittsburgh for flights home.

gmas_ring

NO, I’m not getting married. This is what my grandmother left me, and that’s where it fits. Mom told me to just wear it, so I’m just wearing it. Because I want to, and it’s pretty. Grandma would say – ‘don’t just leave it in the drawer’.

Or in my case, a flight to Kansas City… to be picked up by my teammates on their way to our first adventure race of the season, the Break Up AR in Kansas! Or so I thought… I made it to the airport way early (my brother had an earlier flight) but was told I would have to pay $75 to get on standby… even though there was space. So I waited and took my scheduled flight to Charlotte. The flight from Charlotte to KC, however, was delayed. And delayed. And delayed again. To the point where they started offering flight vouchers for all their overbooked seats… I was grouchy because there had been LITERALLY no downside to letting me on an earlier flight. US Airways, you kinda suck. With all the delays, my plans to meet up with my teammates got sketchier and sketchier. The guys (Nathan and Brian) were very optimistic, with all sorts of contingency plans in the works. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in airports fighting with airlines, and was really starting to think the flight would be canceled. I only hoped I’d still be able to grab a ride home from the KC airport. But then, the miraculous happened – a plane pulled up to the gate! They started putting people on the plane! And it flew to KC!

excitement

OMG. We’re getting on a plane!

And so, we raced. You can look forward to a race report later this week… but it was ‘surprisingly fun’ (according to my teammate Nathan). I can’t wait to see some of the thousands (!) of photos they took, which hopefully I’ll be able to share with you.

WR50

I confirmed it. It’s happening.

On opportunities and doors opening and closing and stuff like that – I was a little sad about not finishing True Grit, and subsequently not attempting the NUE series. But a while ago I had signed up and been placed on the waitlist for my first ultra, the White River 50. Well, lo and behold, when I got home Tuesday there was an email waiting in my inbox… I have a spot! So I’m going to try to run 50 miles in the mountains come July. I’m already freaking out. What have I done?!?

Finally, if you’re in St. Louis, I’m SERIOUS about rescheduling my thesis defense celebration party! Better late than never! I’ll be at three kings on the loop this Thursday (March 26th) from about 5:00 until the beer runs out. See you there!

george_kate

This week I’m house/dog sitting George. He’s hilarious.