My New Mountain Bike–3rd Time is the Charm

As many are well aware, I love PINK and really love riding pink bikes.  It was no surprise to anyone, especially not to Ironman Danish, that I would want to replace “Ma,” my 26er hardtail mtb with an even pinker replacement when the time came.  That time was approaching fast all summer, as I noticed small cracks in the seat tube of my frame.  Safe to say, after a summer that included ORAMM, riding in Breckenridge, and the Leadville Trail 100 mtb, “Ma” was ready to retire.  The small cracks were becoming big cracks, and one day the seat post just poked through the frame while working on jumping and wheelies with my MTB Coach Bob McCarty (of AG McCarty Factory Racing/McCarty Training).

"Ma" enjoying the view and fresh air at 12, 000 feet atop Wheeler Pass in CO.

“Ma” enjoying the view and fresh air at 12, 000 feet atop Wheeler Pass in CO.

So the search began.  Ma and I had a real attachment, it was not going to be easy to find a replacement.  I tried to get my hands on some pink bikes, but none seemed to be coming to fruition.  I was about to give up all hope and just order a run of the mill black bike and accessorize it with pink until I got a text from Bob.  He rides for this bike company, based and built in the USA (and not just in the USA–in MIA…that’s right there is a little ‘dale’ in my bike)–AG Bicycles.  AG has been developing their custom brand for a little while now and were excited at the idea of making a pink MTB (which I also was pretty excited about).

Bob and his AG (not sure he names his bikes...)

Bob and his AG (not sure he names his bikes…)

Now, obviously, I had to first see if I even liked riding their bikes.  Since I had been bike-less since the seat post incident and had been living on borrowed bikes (and racing on them–thank you Darren from the Scoot, Skate, Bike Co aka Miami Bike Shop for EVERYTHING he did and does to get me out on the trails), I had a pretty strong feeling for the type of bike I like.

Me racing on one of the sweet-ass bikes Darren let me test.

Me racing on one of the sweet-ass bikes Darren let me test.

I knew that I liked the way the Jamis that Mike has rides (at the time, he was riding the 2012 version of this bike, now he is on this sweet machine).  It was stiff, snappy, and didn’t feel like a 29er.  So upon my next lesson at the trails, Bob and I traded machines for a lap at Amelia Earhart Park (he had Mike’s Jamis and I had Bob’s AG–that’s right, I got to ride Bob’s bike–we are all the same size as luck would have it).  I was SHOCKED.  The AG FELT LIKE HOME!!  It felt like if I closed my eyes and you told me it was Mike’s Jamis, that I would believe you–only it felt a hair lighter (granted, this could have been the fact I had an empty water bottle).  I was sold–this would be my bike AND IT COULD (and WOULD) BE PINK!

Hot damn! Hot pink!

Hot damn! Hot pink! (note: this is not just a primer)

It could not have turned out any better.  In fact, I sort of wanted to cry because the guys at AG Bicycles were so amazing (including Bob and local MTBer and AG McCarty Factory Racing Team Manager John Koch who provided me with status updates).  The care and detail that went into this bike was unreal.  The AG guys even took me to the paint mixer to make sure it was a pink I liked!!  Amazing!  But nothing could compare to when I saw the finished product.  They went ABOVE and BEYOND….and so, with no further ado, I introduce you to Babs:

Babs

Babs, aka a nickname for Barbara, is inspired by several strong women in my life who have owned this name.  Babs because in my head I always secretly referred to every Barbara I knew as Babs.  One of them had the strongest handshake anyone has ever encountered.  She was and is a powerful woman.  The other was outrageously outgoing who was not afraid to tell anyone who she was and was all about having a fun time.  Strong, confident, and fun? What could be three better attributes to a sweet ride?

Now to face the facts–riding a hot pink bike in Cat 1 racing–I have NO CHOICE but to ride this bike as fast as I can and show the power of pink!

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QOM Points: Part 4- THE Leadville Trail 100 MTB

We arrived in Leadville, the highest incorporated city in North America at 10, 200 feet above sea level.  Lets just say that Quinn and Margarita were thinking twice about following me upstairs at the awesome house we rented (the entire trip they surveyed whether or not I would be up there for a long or short trip before committing).  My favorite quote about the “city” of Leadville was when the mayor spoke at the pre-race meeting and said: “Welcome to Leadville, where you are two miles closer to Heaven.”

Welcome, flatlanders, to Leadville-where even talking is hard….

I found the house on my favorite go-to travel-with-the-pups website, vrbo.com, and, man, was it AMAZING!  It could not have been better, the woman we rented from could not have been nicer or cooler, and location, location, location!!  This house was practically ON the start line (and, right down the road from the National Mining Hall of Fame!!!!!!).

Woo hoo! Nice little Sunday planned–Mining Hall of Fame, if there’s time

We knew this would come in handy race morning, especially when noting that each morning the temps hovered around a balmy 36 degrees, the less the time to get to the start line the better!

It was definitely easy to spot….assuming you are not color blind

Not a bad view from the living room!

And, the house an AMAZING fenced in yard for Q and M! Q definitely liked it!

We settled into our house which we were sharing with friends from Miami also racing the event: Fast Freddy, LG (another teammate of mine), and her friend who was also from FL.  Ironman Danish and I knew it was important to stick to our ride plan and not get derailed by other training options.

The HUGE bump in the middle is Columbine…the first climb is St. Keeevins, the second Powerline….

Our first pre-ride of the course was set to be the Columbine Mine Climb.  I was tasked with riding this beast “easy.”  We drove to the parking lot just before the Twin Lakes aid station (at the base of Columbine) and began our trek.  There were several Florida-esque power climbs before you hit the valley that leads you the the mountain and all of it was on jeep road–rugged jeep road.  I also knew I did not want to ride for more than 1.5 hours, which would most likely for me mean that I would not see the top of Columbine on my pre-ride.  Ironman Danish did though and here is a sweet vid he took while up there (it looks a lot busier up here on race day):

While this climb is difficult, it was easier than anything we rode in Breckenridge that was for certain.  The only major issue (which is pretty major) is the lack of oxygen at the top, but, again, it was the same amount of oxygen we didn’t have when we were up on Wheeler Pass….Could it be that we actually were well oiled for this race?

Smiling at the top of Wheeler Pass–so, Columbine should bring some smiles?

The next pre-ride took place the day before the race (we always rest two days prior to any race).  St. Kevins (pronounced Keeeeeevins) where we would ride and integrate a few intervals to make sure we were warmed up for the big day.  I was a little worried, Fast Freddy said it was WAYY harder than Columbine.  So, in my head, I had began to picture St. Kevins looking like “Little French.”  We drove the three miles from our house to the base of St. Keeeeevins, parked, and set out to see what this beast was made of….or what I was made of, since it might be pretty tough.  While difficult due to the lack of oxygen, I was able to ride steady up this mountain at a reasonably easy pace (which was my goal for that day of training other than the intervals) and, in fact, turned to Ironman Danish when we were 3/4 the way up and stated “it must get harder.”  Turns out, it doesn’t and, in fact, I decided if St. Kevins and Little French got in a fight, it wouldn’t even be fair–Little French would crush St. Kevins.  You could give St. Kevins a spear even.

The start line being set up in downtown…

I was ready to do my thing at the LT100, nothing could make me feel unprepared for this race–not even the all night torrential rain the night before the race (yeah, that happened).  I had done a ton of research trying to figure what to expect for a finish time, and learned that almost everyone who also did ORAMM had finished the LT100 in their ORAMM time plus 3 hours–ok, so 11:03…then, I did some more research, consulting my favorite Joe Friel, to learn that I should expect to perform at 20% less capacity at altitude–ok so lets figure 9 mph avg speed if you take my usual race pace minus 20%–11:14.  So, my goal was 11:14 for a finish time.  I knew that this wouldn’t be easy, but it was going to be possible as long as I kept the push on the pedals– he is a video of Me, keeping the push on the pedals.

As you can see from the video, I finished!  Not only did I finish, but I crossed the line at 11:13 race clock time, and on my chip time 11:11!!! (yeah, the gun went off and there were sooo many people and we were in the back due to it being out first year it took us 2 full minutes to get to the start line timing matt!  Yikes!)

Approaching the finish!

A post race fist pump for Ironman Danish

While finishing was pretty awesome there were a lot of fun parts during this exceptionally long day of riding my bike….

1.  Power Line Descent.  This thing is Fun, FUn, FUN!!!!!  I had a BLAST bombing down this descent.

Woo hoo!!!

2.  Columbine Mine Climb.  While it is a grueling climb and being a flatlander I am not good at going up, the best part was seeing the WHOLE race developing in front of you while you are slowly climbing up the mtn.  I saw Ironman Danish bombing down the hill, all the top pros, Fatty, the runner, Fast Freddy, and caught up to teammate LG.  How cool!!  A chance to check in with EVERYONE.

Riders going up, leaders coming down….

3.  St. Kevins descent on the way home.  You are soooo close and you know it–so, again, bomb that thing!!

4.  Being done.  Yeah, the finish was pretty awesome.  I also got to meet celebrity The Fat Cyclist aka “Fatty” who WON the single speed division!  Now that is just asking for punishment….

Fatty!! Not the best picture quality, but you get the idea!

So, mission accomplished!  11:11 official time for DD!  103.3 miles most of which is above 10, 200ft.  Not bad for a flatlander.  Ironman Danish (aka freak o’ nature) finished in 7:58, Fast Freddy in 9:30, and LG in 11:37!!  Great day for all of us flatlanders!!

Celebs!!

Flatlanders (minus IM Danish) posing with our finishers sweatshirts and buckles!

Done and done.

Ironman Danish’s HUGE buckle is on the left….my more wearable version on the right…

QOM Points: Part 3- the LONG Road to Leadville

It was a true whirlwind.  We returned home from ORAMM, pups in tow, and just a few days later loaded up the Jetta for our journey west.  We took the usual precautions before leaving for any sort of long road trip:  make sure the Jetta was serviced and ready to roll, dog meds filled, stocked up on Ensure for us and Blue Buffalo for the pups, and made sure all necessary cold weather cycling apparel was dusted off and placed in our luggage.

Big Ben….Parliament

We loaded the Jetta to the brim, Google mapped our directions, and headed out on the long road to Colorado.  We got a late start on the road with a lofty goal of making it to Macon, GA before the point when we would need toothpicks to keep our eyelids open in order to stay awake.  Luckily, we made it, at midnight, but, we made it AND in time to catch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics where I desperately searched for friend and Olympian Amanda Clark in the crowd.  Unfortunately, we passed out pretty quickly. But, at least we would be ready to roll out nice and early the next morning with another lofty goal-this time to make it to Kansas City aka Oz.

My favorite part of driving in the middle of the country is you feel like you are actually in AMERICA (you don’t really get this feeling in Miami)

Kansas….

The next morning, we hit the road.  Of course we cannot hit the road without drugging Margarita.  I know, this may sound cruel and insensitive, but I have tried EVERYTHING natural to get her to be less anxious in the car.  Quinn, we have always said, get the right amount car sick–just enough to pass out asleep no matter how long the drive but not enough to throw up, get sick, or annoyed that he is in the car.  Margarita, on the other hand, gets the wrong amount car sick.  She isn’t as tall as Q, so she can’t quite see out the window–which I think contributes to her car crazy.  She spends every second no matter how long we are in the car desperately trying in vain to fetch overpasses, signs, trees, etc.  Once she realizes this is not possible, she just cries a fast whimper with the occasional squeel.  Needless to say, its awesome spending the day in the car with her.

We made it to Kansas City, pretty pleased with our Westward progress and were planning to arrive at our pre-Leadville training destination, Breckenridge, on day 3.  Unfortunately, our car had other plans.  As we gained more altitude, we realized that the car was really stuttering (for lack of a better word) when we accelerated.  I sorta felt like the turbo was on ultra lag, but Ironman Danish said that after replacing three clutches, he was certain our clutch was expired (the Jetta has 105, 000 miles on her).  So, rather than make our way up the final climb to Breck, we were forced to spend the night in Golden, CO and take the Jetta to a shop in the morning for a new clutch.  Lucky for us, Golden has some AMAZING trails and they happened to be less than one mile away from the La Quinta of choice for our pit stop (not an accident).

Howdy Golden, CO

One of the many trails on top of the foothills in Golden….

We had an awesome two days of trail riding in Golden while waiting for the Jetta to get her new clutch.  I learned that there are real live mountain lions out there (the put cages around kids school playgrounds–yikes!), rabid rabbits, and lots of amazing trails (one trail even looks down on the Coors brewing facility-aka Mecca)

Fight back! Don’t quit! (I mean, you have the rest of you life to figure out how to get out of this pickle right?)

Trail view of “Mecca”

We got the call the Jetta was ready and hit the road.  Man did that clutch feel nice!  But, the car still wasnt operating awesomely–turns out it was a turbo lag we were ALSO feeling (the clutch was done) thanks to a small exhaust leak.  As luck would have it, the ol’ leak has probably been there for a while but isnt noticeable at sea level thanks to the thick Miami air but once we hit 6, 000 ft, it became easily noticeable.  The mechanic said nothing to really worry about and that the trip up and back to MIA should not be an issue, we just might not get as awesome gas mileage in the diesal Jetta as usual.  We carried on to our home for the next 10 days in Breck.

Hello Rockies!

I had done some research (by research I mean I watched the Tour of California and its commercials) to learn that Breck has OVER 500 miles of mtb trails in the summer.  So, I decided that would be our pre-Leadville stomping grounds.  Turns out, I looked like a genius to Ironman Danish because they have some of the most EPIC trails ever….

QOM Points: Part 2-ORAMM

It was much warmer on race morning, making at least that portion of the race more enjoyable than last year right away.  We lined up next to Dicky, Garth, and just behind Thomas and Jeremiah (no big deal just bumping elbows with celebs).  The gun went off and we were underway for my second ORAMM.  So rather than provide you with a boring race recap, I have decided to spell out why this race is awesome (the reasons this race is awesome are also, I believe, the reasons why I was going to have an enjoyable experience in CO).  I have also included a video here that documents many awesome parts of the ORAMM (I am RIGHT there in the start of the video):

1.  Black Mountain, the town.  We rented an awesome bear-proof cabin just outside of town.  This town is AMAZING.  It has great views, awesome restaurants, and is a stones throw from AWESOME riding.  I can’t say enough.

Ironman Danish checking out the vista at the end of the road where our cabin was…not too bad…

1.  Kitsuma–twice.  So, some might think that this sucks (I was one of these ‘some’ a year ago).  I, however, have sorta come to love this steep beast.  I impressed myself this year on Kitsuma (I should note, impressing myself is not an easy feat).  I rode the steep switchbacks even with a lot of walkers (of course, the photographer was not there to catch this) and somehow over the course of a year I learned how to go down hill fast (note: I still do not go up hill fast–damn it Miami!)!

Silly rabbit–tricks are for kids…

2.  Star Gap– hike a bike given new meaning.  I mean, literally, I would have a hard time WITHOUT my bike.  This thing is a SERIOUS hike.  Zone 5.5 really.  But, this hike a bike  is part of what makes this race so rugged and awesome(which this year was hiking both up and down ’cause of serious rains they have had that have cause major run off ruts).

3.  Heartbreak Ridge.  I remember wondering why it was called Heartbreak Ridge prior to racing the ORAMM last year–and, after racing, you know why.  Heartbreak=enough said.  This is not single track, this is half track.  On this trail, even pros are humbled into respecting the trail since not only is it narrow (making it technical), it is off camber with a straight drop off the side, and not exactly a smooth trail.  This translates into a slow Duffy, only descending at an average speed of 11mph, but that is the price one pays to get better technically.

Some guy riding Heartbreak

4.  The post race atmosphere.  So, you roll up to the finish line and are greeted by a pretty anti climactic scene (like most all MTB races).  You finish and are immediately reminded to go get your post race beer and food.  This doesn’t sound especially exciting, but when you bump into Jeremiah Bishop while in the beer line, you realize that this awesome event is made awesomer by how low key it is.  Even the pros can relax in the ice bath (aka mountain stream) after a long (well, not as long as my day) day on the bike.

Post ORAMM party

5.  This year, for me, the ORAMM was also an AMAZING base training event for my upcoming LT100….I mean, 8 hours on tight technical trails (vs my 8h 45min from last year!)–how could you ask for anything more?  (you could definitely ask for less time on these trails, and maybe next year I can do 7:45?)….

And, there are awesome views all race long! (luckily i didn’t look at them–eyes on the trail)

We returned home from ORAMM and two days later packed up the dogs, the bikes, and all our gear and headed out for Colorado.

QOM Points: Part 1- The Buildup

So, this summer I set out with some pretty lofty goals:  I was going to race the ORAMM (aka the best Mountain Bike Race ever) and then just a month later turn around and race the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race (aka the Race Across the Sky starring a certain Lance Armstrong and a Mr Dave Weins).

As the dates got closer I was more and more convinced I was not ready to tackle these big days and began to doubt my training and preparation, I even sort of began hoping that for some catestrophic reason (in which no one was injured of course) they would have to say the LT 100 2012 was not happening.  As the date got closer and closer, I realized this was not going to be the case and I was going to have to face my fears (I wasnt really afraid, but I cant think of a better word), pull up my jock strap, and get er done (or, in the words of Ken Chlouber, I committed that I would not quit)

So, I started with the ORAMM.  This race is absolutely amazing, minus the fact that you are constantly reminded that you are surrounded by large bears, and it was just a year ago that the ORAMM was my second mountain bike race EVER–oh how time flies (as did the swear words I hurled at Ironman Danish in the painstaking process of learning this wonderful sport).  This year we did things a bit differently.  We went up about three days early, booked a house through my FAVORITE site of all time VRBO in the woods, took the dogs, and were minus one Fast Freddy and minus our friend Ra-ul (his name is actually Paul, but a friend misread his name one day and thus began our calling him Raul) who was supposed to join us.

My trusty Bear Whistle

The cabin we stayed in was fantastic, again, minus the reminder that BEARS ARE EVERYWHERE thus resulting in my not wanting to go outside alone ever (or at least not without my trusty bear whistle).

We cooked out own food, had a lovely workshop area for bike maintanence, and it was still close to town.  The plan was to ride snipits of the course in the days leading up to the race (not long rides, just carefully planned with the occasional interval as the sooth sayer Joe Friel would approve of).

Ironman Danish getting some help from “wrench” Margarita

We started our NC riding with, of course, Kitsuma.  Kitsuma=not nice to me last year.  I was pleasatly suprised upon my return to this challenging climb and descent that not only was I able to ride every switchback, but, I was able to haul serious mail on the descent (something that I had struggled with the year before).  Sweet!  The next day we took a rest day since we ALWAYS (we=Ironman Danish and I) take two days before an event as a rest day.  The day before the race, we moved on to riding some of the double track road you descend after you climb star gap.  I had erased most of this portion from my brain from the year before I discovered upon getting there since I did not recall nearly as many “rolls” on this rolling descent to the bottom of Curtis Creek Road (aka the 9 mile climb).  Good thing we rode it–phew–now I be totally aware of where I was on the miserable double track the entire time–yippee! (biting sarcasm, but, really, it was good to pre ride this part).

Race Morning on the way to the start line–this isnt even Instagrammed…

The next day=race day.  I was a bit nervous, as is usually the case for me before any race, but all things considered calm since this year I knew how to ride my bike substantially better than last year…..TBC