8.17.2014

48-Hours to Live :: 2014 Rapha Gentlemen's Race, Boulder Colorado Edition :: Race Day



It was a quick morning, and it felt like hell froze over because I was caffeine-less. I slyly slipped across the wooden floors of the house we stayed at looking for coffee of any kind - I found myself completely defeated when I came face-to-face with a fancy espresso machine that sat clean on the counter.  I opted for a little more hydrating, a little more eating - I knew that once we got to the start I could find some shots of delicious black mud.

Race Ready


This Gentlemen's Race started from Skratch labs - and 9+ hours later would eventually end there too. The parking lot was filled with bikes, shaved legs, and chatter of upcoming start times and anticipation of the so called 'Switzerland' and 'Lickskillet' climbs - whatever, that meant nothing to me, I was just ready to ride my trusted sidekick Delilah the Domane. After hunting down David and Tillie, I was 3 shots of espresso deep and ready to roll. 
This is one of the most amazing human beings I know. 
Our start time was 7:26 am. At 7:24 our entire team came together and met as a whole for the first time - these would be the babes that I would ride with for the rest of the day, you start as 6 - you finish as 6. I was pumped. As we rolled up to the start line, jersey pockets bulging with supplies (thankfully we had decided to sport the Men's Pro Team Jersey which has three pockets opposed to the traditional two on women's apparel - just a little tip for you women thinking about doing an event like this in the future) for the day, reality hit - and the goal of surviving the day quickly became the number one priority. It was awesome to see about 15 women come out to play with the boys this year - from the chatter I heard throughout the day, we may have been some of the toughest competitors out there. Way to go ladies! 

Time to roll. 
The first climb we had to take on was out of Boulder was Flagstaff - it was a nice gradual paved ascent. I was tickled that our team was riding so tightly, we were strong. However, we were all feeling the the altitude. You know that the climb is hard when you are with a local that is breathing heavily. 

Of course, no race would be complete without a mechanical or two...at the top of the climb we noticed that KP's tire was getting low - we stopped and put some air in and hit the road - within seconds the rear tire had blown off the rim and we were back to square one. Have you ever had Stan's explode all over you? It's not that awesome. I was a speckled mess - but - I couldn't help but laugh. Quick fix, right? Nah. After rolling again it was decided that a tube needed to be put in. All of us stood around nervous to be the one that used the Co2 cartridge, if you do damage with one of those then you are done. So, it was time to put these gentlemen to the test - the Nie brothers team rolled up and quick offered to help...did I mention these guys are the NICEST men on earth? This time, we were up and rolling - on our way to gravel. The scenery was amazing, I wish I could have Instagramed the entire ride. 


The most Gentlemen-ly award, goes to these guys! 
After a few more false summits we made it to our first gravel descent. I was slightly nervous, yet again - this Gentlemen's race I decided to change something HUGE the day before the race: my wheel set. I opted for a set of Zipp 303s with a 11/34 cassette (50/34 compact) and 28 Conti 4-Seasons. Cool, eh? Steve had blasted through the LA course on them so I knew they would be durable enough - however, would the driver of the bike be durable enough? Spoiler alert: Turns out I was since I am sitting here dabbling away on my keyboard. The skills and level of comfort hulling ass down some dirt quickly came back. 


Although RGR's are supposed to be self-supported, all the competitors were lucky enough to have a handful of wonderful volunteers handing out water, rice cakes, Skratch, cookies, etc throughout the journey. It was always nice to pull around the corner and see the Rapha Volvo sitting here with the smiling faces of David and Sarai. During these long events, one of my favorite sites is when the van or the Volvo crawl up next to me - essentially, I know everything is a-okay. 

As we started to get further into the race, you could see team starting to spread apart - as we rolled through the quaint little town of Nederland (where they have a celebration each year to celebrate a Frozen Dead Guy...goggle it.) teams were passing teams which were opting for a rest stop...and a coffee. We decided to go for the "rally up this climb method", Once we made it up to one of the gazillion climbs on Peak to Peak Hwy - we yet again regrouped, shoved down a few smashed rice cakes and got excited for some descending, I mean who wouldn't be excited for some high-speed action to relieve the legs at mile 50?

Matter of fact, I was SO excited that I missed the turn for the next gravel portion of the race, thus leading me down Sugarloaf for about a half mile - just my luck those nice Nie boys were there to wave me down and make me turn around - however this meant more climbing, I may have started to get slightly concerned because my legs were feeling a little jelly. 

Did I mention, I had THE BEST TEAMMATES? I made it back up to the turn and Liz and Meredith were there smiling and waiting, we shared a few laughs about my over zealousness for a decent and then hit the road.
Prestine dirt. 
Next, we headed up Wall Street - which would bring us to the base of Switzerland. One of the two climbs everyone and been chattering about. A climb that made people specifically ride CX bikes for - there I was on a set of carbon wheels and lil Delilah. Wall St was a breeze, especially after gabbing with Liz about future plans, and biking obsessions, boys and love stories.

What is one thing that unites people? WATER! Hopefully, the individuals house that we stopped at and filled our bottles with doesn't notice the influx in his July water bill...thanks for keeping us hydrated homie! We all re-grouped, again, at some random persons yard - which had a water spigot.



Then, one of the toughest decisions of the day came - Lindsay decided to be smart and listen to her body...she pulled the plug. It takes a brave person to realize they cannot go on - if I had a beer in my hand right now I would 'cheers' her. 

You could tell that the suffer level was at an all time high that day for a lot of the riders - there were those that were smart and pulled out, and there were those that were far too determined which ultimately left them feeling like shit. During these races, you can never been over-hydrated and over-fed...however, you are responsible for taking care of all that, no SAG wagon or traditional aid-station there to help...just the smiling faces of Sarai & David with a jug of water, and the occasional chocolate chip cookie.

Snacks on Snacks


Once Lindsay pulled, the rest of us decided that we would finish the race as a ride. We wanted to be able to say that we rode the entire course. We could take it slow, and enjoy the roads we were originally sent out to climb. So, we did just that.

All 5 of us crushed it up Switzerland - I want to thank Jeremy Dunn for taunting me up the first 800 feet before he got wild style and got a flat - in return my foot came flying off my pedal and I jammed my left butt check into the nose of my saddle, leaving me with a really lovely bruise. Liz and I flew to the top of Switzerland - at the very top we found David. We were informed that only 3 teams had actually made the time cutoff, but, because we were 5-we were disqualified; however we had only been 15 minutes off the cut off time aka that means were were hauling ass. Still, we kept riding.

Just our luck the afternoon monsoon weather rolled in. It wasn't just raining, it was POURING! I knew my hair was ruined, oh brother! We all quickly stopped to put our phones in baggies, and just my luck...I couldn't get clipped back in. So, what pedals was I sporting? Speedplay. Now, don't get me wrong - I LOVE my Speedplays, however, during this race I learned they are not suited for gravel riding. For literally 10 miles I tried to combat literally being clipless. It sucked - my legs were starting to feel like concrete, and I was determined to finish what I had started - I wasn't going to let some little mechanical issue stop me. We tried cleaning it with water, nothing. We tried jamming my foot in the pedal with all my weight, nothing. We tried unscrewing my cleat, still - nothing. Out of frustration I hoped on my bike and just started pedaling toward the next town, Ward. Click, just like that I was back hooked in.


One of the biggest challenges would come when we got to the general store in Ward. Do I unclip, or do I just sit there balancing against the fence? Well, I was hungry - so I unclipped and asked the lovely man inside if he might have access to any WD-40 as I paid for my 3rd Snickers bar of the day - what is meant to be, will be! He had WD-40! I didn't just lightly douse my pedals and clips, I freaking drowned those bad boys in lubricant. Go ahead, make some type of joke. 

After consuming some much needed sugar, we headed to towards the last challenge of the day: Lickskillet. In one-mile we would be climbing roughly 1000 ft of gravel at about a 19% grade. Now, I climb a lot of hills...but..I had never taken on anything even remotely close to this. To say the least, we had a fast group of girls that made this climb look like cake - I voluntarily played caboose (bahaha) - we all had our own methods of getting to the top: right up the middle, paperboy style, lost of swearing, etc. Moral of the story: we all made it without putting a foot down. We would later learn that there were other teams (of men) that walked portions of it, or completely opted out of doing the climb all together. So ladies...EFF YA! 

The next 20 miles were a breeze compared to that climb. Nicely maintained gravel switchbacks down to the valley floor. I swear at one point I was going close to 46 mph. I wish  I would have taken 30 seconds to stop and snap a photo of the insane views that surrounded us - perhaps that will remain my little personal memory. We bobbed and weaved back into Boulder - and faced one hell of a headwind rolling into Skratch Labs. BUT, we finished...and well, that is f*cking awesome! 

Done. 

To the ladies I had the pleasure riding with that day: 
You all are tremendously talented athletes. I cannot thank you enough for all of the support you gave myself and the others on our team while we were out there enduring this crazy race - all the positivity made the idea of making it to the finish a reality. I wish I could surround myself with people like you ladies all the time. I look forward to the day we are all reunited.

To Rapha: 
Thank you. I could not ask for a better program to be on, with better partners. The event was amazing, and challenging. The neutral support was the best - seeing the smiling faces of David, Derek, Hillary, Jeremy and Tim was the best!

Skratch Labs: 
Thanks for keeping me hydrated literally every day of my life. Seriously. Your products are amazing, but, more importantly you guys are all the BEST! I enjoyed every single second we were able to spend together. Thanks for teaching me how to season the rice, and actually letting me be apart of making 300 rice cakes for the race. Thanks for having Pamela out there to help us out if anything were to go wrong (which luckily it didn't). The energy you all portray, and the passion for people and cycling is so inspiring. Oh, and thanks for all the jokes!

These girls. 

The leftovers. 
At the every end of the event, after awards were handed out - Mr. Dunn made an announcement that this would be the LAST Gent's race.....they are changing the format and maybe starting to do things with permits and slightly more legally. I can't wait for the invite... 

Sending Love, 

Xx

8.05.2014

Deliliah and I Come as One || The Ultimate Adventure of Trying to Ship a Bike

One of the perks of having a big kid job, is the moment you realize you can go on big kid vacation. No saving your vacation days for work furlough, no only using vacation days to exclusively just see family. Using those hard earned fully-paid vacation days to enjoy yourself sans e-mail and desk phone and being crazed with questions and requests all day.

Most people go to Cancun, Park City, Bali or some other luxurious sounding location . Well, I live at the beach...and I grew up skiing and my passport is expired (note to self). So, I have chosen to go somewhere much less exclusive for the average corporate workers ideal vacation. Back to my "hometown" in Colorado. A quaint little town, nestled high up in the mountains that are covered in wildflowers - also known as the last great ski town...Crested Butte. Sounds exciting, eh? Now, take a stab at what I am going to do while I am there? If you guessed ride bikes -  you're correct.

Where am I going with this?

You see, this is a two part trip. One part road bike, One part mountain bike. Bikes are expensive to travel with. If you have flown with a bike before you know how much of a pain in the ass it can be - especially if you are a mini human like myself. Back when I was racing, my hard Thule bike box was my travel side kick - I mastered how to pack my entire bike and wardrobe in that gigantic box (I want to thank all my years of ski racing and traveling across the US for those skills); I could have probably fit myself and entire shoe collection in there too. That's a joke, I have like 1000 pairs of shoes.

About a month ago, once I realized I was beyond limited with space and a place to live - I decided to sell the box - thinking that I would eventually buy myself a nice Biknd case down the road. What do you know, literally a week later I would commit to a race in a different state that I would need to fly to. #dumbdumb. Luckily, I am blessed to work for an action sport company and quickly was offered the usage of another hard case. We FedEx'd the small house-sized box to Boulder - I kid you not, 2 of me could have fit in the box WITH a bike.

So, here I am again. Trying to figure out how to get two bikes to another state - trying to avoid using a hard case once again. I am scrabbling to check rates, find boxes, maybe a soft air bladder case, figure out how to trick the airlines and make it so I don't have to pay. So, literally for the last 24 hours I have reached out to everyone under the sun that knows anything about shipping bikes.

Let's start here...

A lot of people don't actually know how to pack a bike. John Bain for Waterbear Cycles does a great job of walking you through the process in his two part video:


There are several different ways you can ship: the good ole' fashion cardboard box (which people are currently raving about), a nice soft case (which if you are buying new can run you up to $600+) or a hard case (if you are going to spend the money on this, I highly suggest making sure it has wheels).
Honestly, everyone has their own opinion about each type of case - some people swear by a cardboard box, while I was a big fan of the bomb proof plastic hard case. The best part about a cardboard box? Most bike shops have them laying around and are more than willing to give them to you...or they want $10.

If you plan ahead you can ship your bike through one of the fantastic shipping bike shipping sites - such as the following:


Of course, if you are like me you want to ride your bike up to the very last minute and then you see the fee's to have a bike sent via overnight are sky-high. So, then you probably default to the idea of flying with it... Oy Vey - will you ever learn?! The idea of riding 100 miles on not your own bike in just not appealing and you have also convinced yourself that you will ride those skinny tires more during your vacation - although you will be surrounded by some of the BEST mountain biking a ski town has to offer - sound familiar?

ShipBikes.com offers a really handy tool that lets you look up the price of flying with a bike (in a bike caddy) - at least it gives you an idea of what you could potentially be paying, check it out here

You better hope that you have a small frame and you can fit it in a box that is under 62 linear inches and under 50 lbs. Carbon fiber er'rything? Yessir! I don't want to brag or anything, however, my 47cm frame could essentially smush into an empty Oreo box. Essentially, if you are flying ANYTHING but American, United and Delta you are looking at being home-free of charges - don't quote me on that. If you are flying American, United and Delta you better have your credit card ready because you are looking at about a $100 charge. HOWEVER, after looking into the further I found out that if your bike luggage is under a certain size and weight you will just be charged for standard luggage fees. Now, if you ask me $25 seems a lot better than $100 to me. Check it here, click me!


Have no fear, I will be the Guinean Pig on this one - unless my boyfriend does a really good job at convincing me not to bring my road bike. But, little Delilah the Domane is the love of my life and I hate being away from her. 

As for a mountain bike - I ride a small frame on a trail bike. Let's be real - I know that I am not going to be able to get that into a box that fits the requirements that have been posted. So, yet again - I am trying to improvise/hope that some magic happens allowing me to either borrow a bike or find an inexpensive way of transporting it. If you are in the same vote, I highly suggest that you take advantage of one of the bike shipping companies listed out above and use the 3-day ground service. It is highly affordable.

Here are some helpful articles that I found when it comes to traveling with two wheels:
 Like I mentioned earlier, there are a handful of awesome bike cases on the market right now - if you do a lot of traveling and want to upgrade from the free cardboard bike, and feel like spending a pretty penny check out these brands:

So, hopefully you find this helpful. I will let you know how the traveling goes/continues...

Sending Love,

Xx