Thursday, June 5, 2014

Time Flies

Unbelievable how fast….
I have been off the blogosphere.  Not because I don't think about catching up but more so because my life has been so full of activity that it has found its way to the bottom of list over and over again.  Since September 2013 till now I have been on an adventure that has proven to be one of the best decisions in my life.  My day job as a School Counselor was put on hold and I was afforded the oppotunity to take a sabbatical.  I chose to study Applied Behavior Analysis and earn a post master's certificate.  I am currently still taking classes, which will end the first week of August.  This opportunity allowed me to expereince a year in which I got to work from home and be in control of my own schedule.  With this new freedom I enjoyed the time spent at home as well as the adventures I was able to undertake.  I won't bore you with too many details but a quick list follows:
1.  Racing cross
2.  MTB stage race in Costa Rica
3.  Family ski vacation in Jackson Hole
4.  Quality time spent with family
5.  Quality time spent with my dogs ( I think they will miss me the most when I go back to work)
6.  Feeling like a stay at home mom (not an easy job) reconnecting with my home
7.  Learning a new Science that is super applicable to my profession
8.  Lots of riding when the most optimal weather rather than restricted to after work
9.  Thursday Express adventures with a good friend
10.  Imba certified level 2
11.  Trips to Utah and California
12.  MTB stage race in State College
13.  Quality time with friends

I can go on and on but I'll restrict it to these 12.  My only regret is that I did not keep a journal.  Oh well.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pura Vida

My most recent adventure took me to Costa Rica to participate in La Ruta de Los Conquistadores.  A three day stage race riding across CR from the Pacific to the Caribbean.  I say participate because as the promoter, Roman Urbina declares it is more of an adventure than a race.  And what an adventure it was.  Having done two stage races in the US and one in South Africa I do have to say that this one was an adventure that is unmatched.  Yes South Africa was super tough and long, but La Ruta, it offered a new level of suffering and being alive.  
As a fellow participant Chris Case so eloquently stated in his write up, their are many things La Ruta is not, but it is not just any mountain bike stage race.  I have to agree with Chris and share with you his most accurate description: 

"What is La Ruta? A soul-sappingly hard, exotically wild, singular journey across laughably steep inclines, hysterically steeper descents, through jungles, plantations, villages, across ecosystems and temperate zones, over volcanoes and beaches and terrain that you never quite imagined you could ride on a bike."
After about 23,000+ feet of climbing over about 180 miles in three days, I am in awe of the ability to go within oneself and find will, determination and strength.  It took a balance of moments in time.  Some of triumph, such as pedaling a painful climb without stopping and some of death when time stood still and going forward seemed like the stupidest idea ever.  However, forward I did go.  The first two days were super tough for me and I felt as though I was more in a survival mode than a race mode.  I attribute it to the unknown and not necessarily having a plan of attack since it was nothing like I had ridden before.  I was also weary of the mud and railroad crossings plus I was tired.  I had not planned La Ruta in my long scheme of goals this year.  I felt pretty wiped out and was not so sure I could take more "suffering".  In fact I have relegated my suffering to 40 minutes nowadays with Cross taking a front row.  Despite all my fears I was not letting an opportunity slip by.  As Jim Meyer so kindly advised me, 
When shit gets weird, just tell yourself: "Show some fucking adaptability!" Put that on your top tube as a reminder. Gotta roll with the punches.

And weird it did get. Not only did I never ride there before, but the Race Bible was not so exact and after the first day you learned that all distances were futher, climbs longer steeper, and you need to just go with the flow, as they say keep it tranquilo. Its the only way to go. There is much more out of your control than in. Look at your top tube.

It is hard for me to process all that happened while I was there, but what stands out the most is really how incredibly well, regardless of all skeptisim, the race organization, workers and volunteers get you pre race breakfast, shuttle to race start, through the days stage, gather and keep track of your belongings, post race showers, post race meals, massages, bike maintenance and a shuttle to an overnight accommodation.  And shabby it is not.  Each meal was delicious and offered great nutrition even for us gluten free folks.  All accommodations were more than adequate and it was never "hard" to figure it all out.  I do believe that all the behind the scene people might just be even more wiped out than any of us racers.  Especially the race's ammbassador Erika.  Her energy is amazing and she truly was there for any of our questions or concerns with the biggest smile ever on her face.  She was the true model of Costa Rica's most commonly used phrase:  Pura Vida.  It literally means "Pure Life", but it is more about a way of life in Costa Rica.  It is the way of simply enjoying life and being happy.  It is hard to not catch this vibe while in Costa Rica.  As you ride you are constantly encouraged with shouts of Vamanos, Vamanos and cheers from all directions.  It helped you get thru all the "dark" moments and kept smiles on all faces.  The encouragement of the people and the kindness that seeped from them help fill your soul after each stage sucked a bit of it out.  Regardless of how sore or tired I was, I was never miserable, there was just too much good all around.
Day 1:

This day is the day I "sort of" knew the most about.  I was able to drive the first climb and at least knew where it ended.  The unknown was the jungle portion.  I have to admit I was a bit frightened of it.  The horror stories of the mud and who knows what lurking behind the huge green foliage.  I was not sure how much I could put out without falling apart.  I kept it reined in a bit, but one could not help needing to put energy into the steep climbs and concentration it took to navigate the jungle terrain.  I was able to keep the second place woman in sight until after the second aid station.  Not having support at aid stations I had to rely on filling up and loading up at each station.  I was determined to catch back on after each fill, but needing to fill my camel back at aid 2, it just took too much time.  My rabbit was gone.  Don't get the wrong idea though.  Each aid station had the best volunteers.  They did their absolute best to serve me as quickly as possible and take care of what ever I needed.  I am so thankful to them.  There is only so fast a gatorade water cooler can fill a water bottle or hydra pak.  It was a little disappointing to have this situation, but it was what I had to do and I accepted it.  I got thru this stage thinking that it was not as bad as predicted.  Most likely due to the mud not being very significant in depth, only slippery.  However, I never imagined just how much it would take to get thru the day.  The climbing is relentless and made the length of the stage seem to take forever.  I dug deep to not be discouraged and forge forward to that far reaching finish line.

Day 2:

My apprehension built this day.  Not only were we late due to the unbelievable traffic jam at the start line, I was facing a huge climb of 2 plus hours into elevation that I have not reached in years plus there was a possibility of it being super cold on top.  Not something I get to do in my training.  All it took was a deep breath and a knuckle whitening ride thru the city towards the volcano to settle my nerves.  Then climbing began and kept going and kept going.  Again, I was able to keep second place in my sights until the need for supplies arrived.  I had a steady stream of positive thoughts in my head, but every once in awhile negativity did arrive.  I believe I died a thousand deaths this day only to shake it off and go forward.  Once at the top I was quite relieved to start the downhill.  Fortunately it was not too cold, but I did put a jacket on.  The downhill part lasted for a bit, but there was a bit of traversing up and down to do before it really got down to business.  At one point I stopped to take off my jacket and watched a women blow past me with tons of spunk.  Just what I needed to get riled up and back in race mode.  I hurried to catch up and met Jane from CTS, a fellow american.  She and I rode the rest of the stage together and got to chat a bit.  It was just what I needed to get me back in the game and help me outrun my demons from that deathly climb.  Forturnately she also knew the course as it was her 3rd time there and she had pre-rode it at a training camp a few months prior.  This knowlegdge was key to allow us to rip the downhill at very high speed!  What fun.  Thanks to you Jane!  At this finish line I felt an overwhelming sense of uplifting.  The worse was over and I survived!  

Day 3
I can do this!  Sure the first climbs will be tough, and steep, but more punchy and short.  Just what I like.  At the start I got the sense from body language and close talk that the Costa Rican women in front of me and behind me in GC were plotting.  I knew I would have to be on guard to protect my third place in GC.  As the race got underway, I was amazed at how good I felt.  The two previous days cleansed my body to be at its best today.  The second place women, Adriana,  and I stuck together for the first half of the day.  As with the first two days aid stations is what separated us.   After the first one I dug super deep and caught up to her.  It was aid two that I had to fill a hydra pak and it took time, however I was climbing well and I knew I could catch her.  I flew out of the aid station and started my chase.  I spied the kit and  caught on but to my surprise it was not adriana, it was the women in fourth place GC.  It was bewildering to me how she caught up and was ahead since I had not seen her for hours.  Whatever, this is really where I need to be and hang onto her so she can not get away and make time on me.  For awhile it was  bit of a fight as she had some "ticos" working with her and doing what they could do to work against me.  The worst was going into a railroad crossing and having one of the men jump to get between us and then proceed to walk super slow across as the women got a gap.  I had to take a chance and pass him so that I could catch back up stay on. After that I believe they let up a bit and understood that I would hold my ground.  Being my first time on the railbed crossings they thought I would be scared, as did  I.  I found them to not be bad at all.  I have had to cross much scarier.  I just stayed focused and steadfast and was able to cross them rather quickly and as quick as those with experience.  Eventually our pack of riders caught up with adrianna and about 8 of us continued to pace line and stay together for the remaining of the flat roads, rail roads and crossings and beach front to the lovely end.  Tension to oust me also settled and the two ladies and the other ticos in our group welcomed me and made peace offerings.  They began to share food water to drink and water to pour over us as temperatures soared in the hundreds.  At one point towards the end the men in the group tried to get us women to slow down.  He mentioned that our placings would not change and we should let up.  However in my mind and I think theirs as well,  it was more about wanting to finish and jump into the carribean sea.  It was so hot and the finish line so close yet so far.  As long as we could keep going we were going to go and at a good clip.  The finish line at the carribean was super thrilling.  I accomplished a huge feat and I am super lucky for the opportunity to do so.  I could not get in the ocean fast enough.  

Many thanks for getting me to the start and finish of this adventure are in oder.  NUE and Roman Urbina for the opportunity.  Gettysburg bikes for dialing my bike, Sublime Athletics for dialing my fitness, Carborocket for keeping me hydrated, Specialized for my awesome FATE, TNW crew for helping me find speed, Stages cycling for equipping me with the ability to improve my power, Bruce from Pro Gold keeping my chain happy,  and last but not least the cupcakes for keeping it real.

Huge congrats to Pua for a superb win and also to Adrianna for a great performance.  Most of all Congrats to all finishers of the 2013 La Ruta.  A special shout out to Heidi for accomplishing more than you ever imagined!  It is more about the adventure than the race.  No matter where we finished we all shared in the amazing experience and all should be proud and filled with Pura Vida!

Time Magazine's Top 10 Hardest Endurance Competitions

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Long Time Gone

Not Forgotten,

Many things written in my head, however the AI is not with me to put my thoughts directly into this blog.  There is still the requirement that I turn the computer on and type the words.  

To make this easy for me,  I will again do a picture blog.

Iron Cross October 2012

Wilderness 101 July 2012

PA state champs 2012

Enjoying the day

Nue Champion 2012


Teaberry 2012

Gran Fondo National Championship 2012

so cute

Thanksgiving 2012

OMG he's thirteen


Beautiful Fall

Gran Fondo National Champ 2012

PA state Champ 2012

Getting it Done NUE tie Breaker


Transylvania Epic Stage Race Champion Open women
National Ultra Endurance Champion
PA State Champion
Michaux Endurance Series Champion
National Gran Fondo Champion

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Out but not down

I may have been out of the race scene for six weeks after TSE, but I wasn’t down.  Well to be honest my initial reactions to being out of action were filled with why me’s and why now’s. Well it turned out not to be dreadful.  It was pretty much the most pleasant summer I have had in years.  The rest did me wonders and now I am back at it fresher than ever.  Following is a short top ten list of my time back in the saddle:

          10.       Southern Michaux trail rides with cupcakes to get the skills back.
9.      My S works epic.  It helped soften the ride.
8.      TNW rides to get the top end running
7.      Curse of Dark Hollow, Michaux PA 1st place.  Great test of how my injury would respond to the demands of technical riding.  Thank goodness for my specialized epic.  It was a grand day of riding and hanging with friends.
6.     Wilderness 101, Coburn, PA 1st place.  Yikes, that was hard.  Again my bike was the bomb and my body responded well to the distance.
5.     Houseboats and the Allegripis Trail system.  Pure fun and enjoyment. 
4.     Rattling Creek 50, Lykens, PA 1st place.  Super fun, fast, and techy.  Best prize swag which included Toasted Head Wine. 
3.     Bear Creek, PA 1st place  PA state champion
      2.     New Hampshire 100.  Old School raw trail system, great venue, perfect B&B, a race weekend turned holiday.
      1.     Planning my trip to Fools Gold.  Cheryl Sornson - WINNER - Fresh for the EPIC battle

Monday, August 13, 2012


Some are small, chewable and manageable; others are sized for a horse and hard to swallow.  Injuries are similar to pills. This season I was given a horse pill injury to swallow.  The kind that takes awhile to fully accept how traumatic it really is.  The kind that hurts so deeply it reminds you how old you are and leaves you wondering if you’ll have to live with the pain forever.  Ok, I am exaggerating just a bit.  I did not need surgery and I wasn’t immobilized with a cast or anything, however when movement, breathing, sleeping, and a beating heart hurt it sucks.

I was in a race and went to pass a rider, however the rider turned into me rather than giving trail.  I ended up off trail to avoid collision.  Once off trail my pedal hit something and I hit the ground harder than I ever have.  It was weird because it definitely was not high speed or anything.  My head hit first and fortunately my helmet did its job but sustained life ending damage.  Next up my shoulder, upper back and hip hit the ground as I tried to roll out the fall.  As I hit all my body weight compressed and I heard this horrible CRACK.  All the oxygen left my body and could not be replaced for what seemed liked forever. 

This all happened the weekend summer officially started for me.  What a disappointing welcome I initially thought.  It turns out that it wasn’t such an unwelcome entrance. Despite my pain and worry that it wouldn’t go away, I began to feel thankful things weren’t worse.  There are far worse injuries amongst our ranks that others are dealing with or have dealt with.  Yes I would miss some key races, but it gave me the freedom to relax and enjoy the beauty of my home along with the pleasant company of my family and friends without any expectations or pressures.  I swallowed the pill, let go and allowed myself to heal in more ways than I knew I needed.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fun times

Waking up for work this morning was pretty rough.  I guess the dream I had about riding in the TSE epic, winning three stages and taking the overall wasn't just a dream after all.  It is a strange feeling when 7 days of racing your mountain bike are over and you return to the normal routine of life.  My normal routine does involve bike riding, but not to the extent of last week.  I am now back to being a mother, back to being a wife, back to caring for my two dogs, back to work, and back to all the other details of life off the bike.  As hard as the racing was it was a treat to only focus on one thing.  I treasure the time I spent at the TSE meeting new people, pushing my limits, and enjoying an extremely well run event.  Big kudos to Ray Adams and Mike Kuhn. 

photo credit TSE

We all won last week.  Congrats to all and a big congrats to my teammate Kaitlyn Broadhurst.  You are a huge inspiration to us all.  Keep rocking sister! 

photo credit TSE

Next up will be Lumberjack 100.  Until then I'll be recovering with some serious couch time!

Conquering the mind

One more day

Trans-Sylvania Epic, Stage 6: Rothrock Tussey Mountain

Conquering the mind

Well its down to one more day. I can definitely say I am ready for it. It has been a tough week. Probably more mentally than physically.

My body is sore and tired, but my mind is extremely tired. It is such a battle to put yourself in the mindset to crush yourself each day. It could be so easy to let the sensibility of the mind allow you to slow down.

"Yo, ya know you really don't have to ride that fast. It hurts you fool, slow down. No, No don't you dare go after that wheel.".

I beat my mind down and stayed focused for the course. I won the stage today and continue to keep the leader's jersey. .
Jeb and Molly have been the local mascots all week
We missed the storms during today's ride, but will pay for it with sunshine and MUD tomorrow. Mountain biking is so much fun!.

Our camp has had two mascots all week: Jeb and Molly. So calming to reach down to pet them and allow them to remind you how simple and fun life can be. .

Off to bed. Sweet dreams...

Cheryl Sornson may have the GC locked up
Cheryl Sornson may have the GC locked up
Photo: © AELandes Photography