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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Big Ben….Parliament

Made it back to Kona for a second year for Ironman Danish to strut his Ironman-ness at the World Championships.  Growing up a sailor and having raced many a regattas on small islands that get taken over by racers, I found myself landing in Kona and getting that Block Island Race Week/Key West Race Week feeling–which, for you sailors out there, you know the feeling of which I speak.  It is a feeling mixed with pre-exhaustion, excitement, nervous energy, and an “I am cooler than you are” vibe.  In the World of triathletes, actually achieving the “I am cooler than you are” is SUPER easy as long as you are not a tri-geek, of course.  Sailors are definitely stiffer competition in the cool department.

Your typical regatta tent fashion….Yeah, and sailors are cooler….can you imagine?

Of course, part of the “Big Ben, Parliament” feeling could have to do with the fact that we are on the same island, same time of year, same event, same people (friend BDubbs qualified again and his lady friend, and our friend as well, Rae, is race support for him, again), same condo…well, you catch my drift…

I digress.

Anyway, let me assure you, that if Ironman Danish woke me up any morning on any of the other 355 days in the year and told me we had to get going for our open water swim, I would punch him in the face.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I was ready to swim….cant you tell….

For certain.  Not sure I would even open my eyes to line up the punch.  However, here in Kona, the open water swimming is so amazing I actually drag my ass out of bed, put on my sweet bathing suit, and head down to swim.

Ok, Rae and I BOTH have super cool suits….

Now, granted, there is also a coffee barge involved.  In fact, I would say a solid 30% of the reason I get up to ride every morning is because I can have a cortadito or a slurpee mid ride.  Now, I like cycling mucho mas than swimming, so that means that about 70% of my waking up to swim in Kona is because of the Coffees of Hawaii barge.

The view of the barge from the beach….

We had a beautiful swim, as expected.  This was my first swim since my rather hard crash at ITU Cross World Champs (I still have shoulder pain, urgh!).  Shoulder hurt, but luckily on this swim there are like a million Nemos, Dories, and friends to look at while you take your time to swim to the barge.

The view from the barge….

Our friend Rae checking out a Ray (a Manta Ray!)

After our lovely swim, we went to the Safeway and stocked up on food.  This was definitely a highlight for the day  (yup, definitely easily tops swimming, no matter how beautiful) since, while at the Kona Safeway, I turned the corner, looked up, and was standing face to face with Chrissie Wellington.  I played it pretty cool.  Or not.  I immediately recognized her, stopped in my tracks, and said “oh, so cool!!!! you are in the supermarket!!!!!”  Yeah there is probably at least 20 things cooler I could have said to her.  She looked at me like I was pretty much crazy or talking to myself, or perhaps on one of those super geeky bluetooth earpieces (sorry to those who wear it they are practical but not cool).  Luckily, I redeemed myself when she was in line next to me (omg! omg! Chrissie Wellington is in line next to me–I saw her groceries!!!).  I first apologized for interupting her grocery shopping time, and then said what I truly felt which is that she is a badass on the bike and I can say on behalf of all my Rose Bandit Team Teammates we ALL think she is and that I had a Rose Bandit Team koozie for her!!

umm…who wouldn’t be stoked to get one of these?

She said that I was so nice, said thank you for the cool koozie, and then gave me a hug (I let this slide, as it was, Chrissie Wellington and maybe she would rub some speed off on me–otherwise, in any other situation, could yield terrible consequences for the hugger, as I am NOT a hugger, in fact, I think that the Women’s Lacrosse sphere checking rule should be employed on personal interations as a general rule of thumb).

I finally calmed down from this exciting trip to the Safeway.  I must admit, it did take a 45 minute spin on Fergie (Fergie is on her maiden voyage to Kona–I thought it was only fair as Rizzo went last year) to really calm me back down.

Fergie this summer on Long Island, she will most likely get “leid” tomorrow….

Successful day #1 in the books.  Ironman Danish is still head on straight and not tweaking (yet), so all is good here!  How can it not be with this view from our condo?

Not even Instagrammed!

Team Danish- Mud, Mechanicals, and Rain, oh my!!

Ironman Danish and I were looking for a fun something to do for Labor Day weekend….well, more accurately, we were looking for races we wanted to do on the horizon and couldnt come up with any as we were not committed to racing the full FSC.  We ended up really hmming and hawing and finally settling on racing the 8 Hours of Labor race on Labor Day weekend–but rather than our usual individual races, we would combine our power into “Team Danish” and race the two person team “coed” division.  We scoped out the race results from years prior to see that this was a very popular option at this race and were excited to race against some great coed teams.

And–in the 8hr solo–Tinker Juarez: the man, the myth, the legend!

I was pretty convinced that the race would look a little something like this:

Ironman Danish takes first two laps, including the Lemans start to kick off the race, and would hand the race over to me with an already very comfortable lead.  I would simply get to ride out the rest of the race at a nice little tempo.

Ironman Danish in the pink (obvi) at the Lemans start….

However, this is how the race actually went down:

Ironman Danish and I set up a nice little camp/invited ourselves into a nice little camp with pro Bob McCarty and his long time go-to two person team partner Grant.

Grant and me chillin’ at the tent

These guys are pretty much the bomb.  When I first started riding the ol’ MTB a long, long, long–oh wait, no, about a year and half ago–I would see Bob riding the trails “running from ghosts” (aka fast) and would yell to him as he floated out of site that “someday I am going to ride like you Bob.”  And, that is still my plan–someday I will, but with a slightly more pink flair.  Anyway, we set up camp with these guys.  Ironman Danish headed out and by the time I saw him he was already in the top three with a solid lead on the rest of the field.  Peeerrrrfect.  I rode back to the tent and was ready to hand up bottles in about 30 or so minutes after the first lap.  Grant and I shot the breeze and all was mellow until riders started pouring in for the end of the first lap.  I saw the leaders coming in, including Bob, and saw no signs of Ironman Danish which was strange.  I clearly had a very bewildered look on my face as every racer that went by or handed off the baton came over to me and relayed a tale of what had happened to Ironman Danish.  These are some of the things I heard:

“Hey Duffy–he got a flat”

“Hey D, he broke his chain”

“I think Mike crashed after he got a flat, I saw him on the side of the trail”

“I think that Danish’s deraileur fell off”

“Duffy–he got a flat after his chain broke”

and

“I dont know what happened to him, but I saw him running next to his bike at mile 5 or so–he was passing people though!”

Here is a vid of the race with evidence of Ironman Danish on the side of the road (for the second time) trying to repair his machine:

Oh boy, this was like a bad game of telephone.  The only one person I could take one thing from was Bob who was on Ironman Danish’s wheel when his chain snapped–the first time.     And, Bob, knowing our plan of two laps for the ol’ Ironman, said “I think you should probably be ready to head out for lap two, he broke it at mile 2 (of 9.6).”  Dang it!!

So, since I was already suited up, I mentally prepared myself to work a miracle comeback since I sat and sat and waited and waited and no signs of him anywhere.  In fact, the top solo riders, lead by Tinker Juarez, were now coming in for lap two of the race!  Crap!!  We were a lap down….this was going to suck.  And then, Ironman Danish came running in–no chain, no rear derailuer, and pretty tired from running 6 unplanned miles (at least he is training for an Ironman I suppose).

Ironman Danish giving me a push on my lap 1

I headed out like a bat outta hell–running from ghosts–and threw down a pretty solid lap time.  In fact, I dont think that Ironman Danish expected me in so soon.  Luckily, we had all the parts required to fix the multiple mechanicals on his bike so he could take the torch and continue on with our race.  I had already passed multiple teams and we went from last to 8th team after my lap.  Sweet! Maybe we could even claw back to the podium??….

Trying to catch some extra oxygen and maybe some flies….

And then it started to rain, and not a little rain, a major soaking torrents of rain.  This actually turned out to favor us a bit.  I didn’t loose as much time on the wet laps and, well, Ironman Danish didn’t loose anything in time.  We were gaining and were now in 4th!

Did I mention it rained?

Unfortunately, 4th is where we would stay.  If I had my thinking cap on instead of my helmet, I would have told Ironman Danish to double up and take my lap (which turned out to be the last lap for the Team) in an effort to make the cut off to get another lap.  But, as luck had it, I left my thinking cap at home and we ended 4th and one lap down on the podium!  We definitely fought hard and had a ton of fun doing it.  Riding in the mud is always a good time cause it makes you feel like a kid (except when you realize that there isn’t a mom or dad to wash your bike for you or deal with your muddy laundry).  We will definitely look to redeem ourselves soon!

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: Breck is Epic!!!

Finally!!  We arrived at our pre-LT100 training location: Breckenridge, Colorado.  Quinn, Margarita, Ironman Danish, and I were all happy to finally have no use for a car for the next 10 days.  I found us this AMAZING ski-in ski-out condo in town that in the summer transforms into ride-in ride-out.

Quinn checking out the view of the trails from our condo

Not 24hrs into being at this amazing condo was I reassured that great minds think alike when I contacted a teammate who I knew was also in Colorado for the summer only to find out that she was not only in Breckenridge, but was in the SAME building we were.  So now we had friends in the building, the Olympics on TV, and some of the most amazing trails right outside our door–how could this get better?

Awesome views!

Well, it did the day we first rode these trails.  The town and trails were amazing.  Granted, I had been here before and skied some of the same trails I was now riding, but I had never stopped and thought what it would look like without snow everywhere.

Ski trails=bike trails! If only I used the lift to get up here….

Turns out, underneath all that fluffy white stuff is beautiful green stuff, flowers, and intensly technical mountain bike trials.  The only real downside to riding out in Breck is that there is no downside–as in, uphill is your only real option for a ride-giving all new meaning to an easy spin (they arent as easy when your only choice is going up hill).

Anyway, we decided that our ride plan for the days leading up to the Leadville Trail 100 would not be to go crazy pre-riding sections of the course, but it would be best spent soaking in the Colorado mountain bike experience and ride sections of the Brek Epic race course.  Here is a description of the Brek Epic as described by the organizers:

Attention Weekend Warriors.

if you’re the type of guy who likes to give yourself one extreme challenge once a year…well, this is probably not the event for you. The courses will be long. They will be difficult. 90% of the terrain will be above 10,000 feet. Cut-off times will be strictly enforced. You could end up seriously hurt, having to sell what’s left of your bike and pay off your hospital bills by inspecting socks and underwear with your one good arm. At night.

If it rains you might end up dead. Seriously. Rain here is no joke. Especially the lightning-y parts. Sizzle! Getting fried will take your mind off the discomfort and uncontrollable shivering that come with a nice dose of hypothermia though. See? The glass is half full!

Back to weekend warriors – you guys can’t come. Then again, the architect of this event is a drooling fat-ass whose pinnacle of athletic acheivement was reaching the exalted ranks of the middle of the pack of the Expert field. And he (OK, “I”) could make the time cut-offs if I had to, and I’d put myself optimistically in the middle of the Sport class right now.

Bottom line? If you’re a lunchbucket Sport-class rider you CAN do this. And it’ll be awesome. If you’re prone to complaint you may want to bite off something a little more pedestrian. There’s a zany Herb Tarlek-looking dude with a nice little race about 10 miles west (as the crow flies)…

So, as you can see, the Breck Epic wards off weekend warriors with more than a stick, and in fact, claims that the place for them in the LT100.  Interesting.  So, what better way to practice for the LT100 than to ride a course that claims to be substantially harder?

Fuzzy Blumkin?

Lucky for us, the race also promotes seeing what the course is like and publishes Strava segments for the race stages on their website.  We decided to for the first time test the navigational powers of my Garmin Edge 705 and uploaded these segments so we didn’t get helplessly lost in the Rockies and end up bear food (luckily, I still have my bear whistle but not sure it works on coyotes or mountain lions….hmmm…dont want to test this either….actually, I am not even sure it works on bears).

I was not taking this picture to get a close up of Ironman Danish, but rather I was fairly certain I was going to catch a Mountain Lion or Bear lurking like “Where’s Waldo” in the background…

Our first ride was one of the stages that takes you up Little French Gulch.  All I have to say is that if this is “little” French, I would hate to meet “big” French.  This trail was NO JOKE and pictures would never do it justice.  Suffice to say that even the pros walk bits of this one.  In my head this is also what I had imagined Columbine and/or St Kevins to look like (good thing Columbine looks like beginner trail compared to this).

So, as you can tell, Little French is pretty easy to climb up…or walk, just ask this racer….

Our second ride was the stage that takes you up over Wheeler Pass.

If you ride the whole Wheeler Pass loop you can actually go up the mountain range in Breck and descend down Copper Mountain.

We choose to bail out early as it was appoximately 35 degrees and windy at the ol’ mountain top (snow up there too!).

We continued to ride different stages of this EPIC race in preparation and all I could think of was how hard that Breck Epic race is and how if I did the race, I would imagine that over the six days and 200 miles of racing I would most likely get in about 32 HOURS of riding/racing at altitude.  YIKES!!!!  And, that 32 is being optimistic.

Boreas Pass…another “easy spin”….

The hardest part about riding all these stages was that Ironman Danish was training straight through the races for, well, the Ironman.  This year he was selected as the US Coast Guard Ironman team member.  Pretty cool, right?  It’s cool, unless you are Duffy Danish (me) and forced to ride with the ol’ Ironman Danish when he has to do intervals.  We realized that we would have to develop plans that would enable him to get in his workouts and not kill me.

Luckily, we were able to pull this off no problem and we were even able to still both have energy left at the end of the day to have some family time with the pups!

Family long arm picture!

Q and M enjoying one of their many trail hikes…we saw a fox and a coyote on our walk one day!

We were actually bummed that we would have to leave Breck and head to Leadville.  But on day 10, we packed up the pups, bikes, and our crap and headed up another thousand feet to the town of Leadville….

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