BT Epic Race Recap

So many of you guys have made sure to let me know that I’ve been quiet on here lately. Thankfully it’s because I’ve been super busy racing my bikes, training, and working very hard at growing our Dallas/Fort Worth Women’s Mountain Biking Community with our Dirt Side Sisters weekly group ride. I’ll definitely be blogging about that very soon, but for now, here it is back by popular demand…my BT Epic race report!

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A few weekends ago we ventured out to Steelville, Missouri for the Berryman Trail Epic. It’s a 52 mile mountain bike race that starts at the Bass River Resort and makes its way through gorgeous forest with super flowy singletrack and long sustained climbs. Last year Carlos had heard about this race on Facebook, so at the spare of the moment we signed up with absolutely no intention of being competitive. We went out to ride, enjoy the new scenery, and take a break from racing. Despite our plan not to ride hard, the racer in me took over at the end, I pushed it hard to the finish and placed second last year. I was happy with that, but I knew I could do much better with a go from the gun mentality.

This year our focus was clear and the goal was to try our best for me to move up to that top step of the podium. We started our days worth of a drive up to Missouri on the Thursday of the race. We arrived at the resort just in time to setup our A Liner and head out for a short spin. There was rain in the forecast and we completely lucked out! It drizzled over night and through the next morning, which was just enough to make the trails perfect! Although it was sprinkling and raining on and off throughout the morning, I grabbed my phone and rode around the campgrounds taking in the beautiful fall foliage that surrounded us. Carlos always knows when I sneak off like that, I’m out somewhere taking pictures in the woods…it’s just something I love to do! But this time I was so camera happy and caught in the moment that he got worried because I was gone so long and we had zero cell phone service, so there was no way to reach me either.. Oops!

When the weather cleared up we headed out for a partial pre ride of the course. We had an idea of which sections of the trail we wanted to get to and had a blast. He helped me work on a few steep switchbacks that were pretty tricky and tight.

That particular section of single-track was densely covered in leaves which made it really hard to see where the trail was going, and you had no idea where the underlying rocks and roots were. When we finished up our ride and of course took more pictures, Carlos mentioned that he couldn’t see very well out of his right eye and it was hurting pretty bad. All he could see was a grey, blurry fog. As soon as we got back to our camper he took off his contacts and I bought him some eye drops in the little store at the resort. The drops burned his eye like crazy and didn’t help at all. He began to get a headache and said it was getting worse. I don’t know very much about contacts and eye problems so of course I searched Dr Google. You better believe that every single condition I read with his symptoms instructed to go to your eye doctor right away because of the risk of losing your vision. I kept constantly asking him if he was okay, if it was getting better, and he would just say, “I don’t understand how an eye can hurt so bad!” I started to get scared and we decided to drive into town. We stopped at the pharmacy to ask where the nearest eye doctor was located and they said, eight miles away in the town of Cuba. When we got to Cuba the sign outside of the doctors office read that he closed at 3:00 pm….it was 3:30. Crap! But Carlos pulled on the door and it was open! The receptionist was very nice and listened to us explain our situation. I’m sure she could also see that we were a little bit distressed. They were very understanding and thankfully they took him in for an exam. The doctor said there were several scratches on his retina but no sign of infection. He put an antibiotic ointment in his eye and prescribed him more so that he could apply it again at bedtime. All we could do at that point was wait to see if he would be able to put his contacts on in the morning. Here is an interesting fact that we learned…your eye is the fastest healing part of your body.

In the evening we prepped our bottles and nutrition for the next day. We like to have everything ready to go the night before for early morning races. Carlos said, “If my eye isn’t better in the morning and I can’t race, I’m going to line up, turn myself inside out on the first four mile climb up the jeep road, so that you can draft me and win Queen of the Mountain.” I don’t think there’s any better way to say “I love you” in cycling words than that! So the next morning came the moment of truth, whether or not he would be able to wear his contacts. He carefully put them on and there was only slight discomfort, which meant he was racing!!! Yeah!

We finished getting ready and Carlos rolled out of the camper pretty early to warm up a bit. I wanted to get a quick spin to loosen up my legs so I headed over to the starting area. It was twenty five minutes till the gun went off, and my goodness, there were already two rows of racers lined up! It was a pretty unintelligent decision on my part to warm up so close in time to the race, which made for a quick change of plans…no warm up for me. Instead I tried to get as close as possible to the front and the only way to do that was to stand on the edge of the third row. Carlos rolled up next to me and when the race started, we were split up right away. I had to squeeze around a few of the guys with hard accelerations to catch Carlos’ wheel. Once I was there I shouted to let him know, and we were off. This is when we entered the pain cave and stayed there for about twenty minutes. Those first four miles are hard, painful, and it literally feels like your legs are going to explode from all the lactic acid you’re producing. I was really kicking myself in the butt for not warming up.

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photo credit, Patrick P. Evenson

So far, as we entered single track, our plan was working perfectly. I was the first female to get to the top and I won $100 for the Queen of the Mountain! At that point, Carlos signaled me to get ahead of him so he could recover for a second. It wasn’t long until he was riding past  me on one of the first technical climbs which was covered in leaves and loose rocks hidden underneath. The guys directly in front of me dismounted and so I joined them on foot running up the steep terrain. Up until the first main feed zone at the Berryman Campground where our drop bags were, Carlos guided me through the trail which made for a smooth ride.

 

Our drop bags were in order numerically according to your race number. One of the volunteers grabbed by bag quicker than I could find it, switched out my bottles, and in no time I was ready to go. Carlos was still trying to find his bag when I yelled out, “Baby I love you!” I had an internal battle riding off without him because we had such a great rhythm going on together, but that was the agreement we had before the race started. We were there to race and usually splitting up is just the way it goes. Marathons are so important to know and listen to your body since you’re on the bike for four or five hours.

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photo credit, Patrick P. Evenson

I got into a good groove riding by myself. I glanced back through the woods and saw a choo choo train of riders coming at me. When they got closer I asked them if they wanted to pass but they were happy with the pace I was holding. One of my PACC teammates, Randy Gibson was in that train. Randy’s a fast Cat 1 50+ racer and not to mention a pretty funny guy! I had a feeling that Carlos had no idea Randy was now in front of him since Randy didn’t stop at the feed zone. Our team has this healthy competition and we all like to push each other, but I knew if Carlos didn’t bridge up to us it was going to throw him for a loop when he finds out. I rode with Randy up until the last few miles of the race where I broke off on my own. I felt really good the entire time and it was fun to ride with someone I knew who I could play and joke around with. Shortly after we were done, Carlos came across the finish line and his smile instantly faded when he saw Randy standing there. “What are you doing here?!?” Carlos asked. “What are YOU doing here???” Randy asked back. HAHAHA! Randy thought Carlos was in front of us the whole time and that kept him pushing, where Carlos obviously thought Randy was behind him so he backed off thinking, “I got this!” Well boy were they both wrong and that just goes to show the power of the mind.

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I was so happy that the lead I had gained with Carlos’ help on the first half of the race, stuck until the end. I looked back a few times through the fifty two miles and I never saw another woman, finishing almost eight minutes ahead of second place, and I improved my time from last year by over twelve minutes! It was a good day in the saddle.

The awards ceremony, ginormous swag raffle, delicious food, endless amounts of beer, and awesome bonfire is really what makes this race unique. They raffled off thirty beach cruisers and the whole night is one big party! Not to mention Bass River Resort has THE BEST PIZZA!!!! And they deliver to your campsite, how cool is that?!? I’m sure the secret is out by now that I can EAT, and eat, I did!!

 

So there it is, another adventure of Carlos and Lisa! Next we’ve got some cyclocross and one more marathon at one of our favorite places, Palo Duro Canyon!

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Secret Weapon Number Two on the Countdown to Christmas!

For nearly seven years Carlos and I have been Master Trainers at 24 Hour Fitness. We both have such a passion for health and fitness that really I can’t see any other way to live our lives. I have learned so much in these years, having trained over seven thousand sessions, from nutrition, to proper goal setting, exercise techniques, periodization in cardiovascular and strength training, and most especially flexibility. All of these things are the keys to life, longevity, AND successful cycling. When I say “successful” cycling I’m not talking JUST competitive cycling. I mean riding your bike for what it is intended for, to have fun! I would say THAT in itself, constitutes success in cycling! Unfortunately, it can quickly turn into no fun when we start getting aches and pains on OR off the bike. Even worse is when our aches and pains get so bad that it keeps us from riding our bikes at all.

So for week five of my Countdown to Christmas, I would like to introduce to you Podium Cold and Podium Cold Foam Rollers. Podium Cold is an extremely practical method to reduce inflammation after a hard ride by icing your legs with these awesome leg sleeves. No more messing with ice bags and wasting a ton of water for an ice bath. Podium Cold was introduced to me earlier this year by a fellow racer, and I must say, I was pretty excited when I got my own pair. When you first put these guys on, it really takes your breath away! REALLY. It’s helpful to have distractions, like watching The Big Bang Theory, or maybe a rerun of one of the XC MTB World Cups on Red Bull TV, then you’ll forget what’s even going on with your lower extremities. ūüôā

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Aside from icing your legs to reduce inflammation, I would really say that the Podium Cold foam rollers are the KEY to successful cycling. I am a HUGE believer of self myofascial release, which is just a fancy word for massage. So here’s a little bit of simple science…if one muscle is tight and “shortened,” then the muscles directly across, or opposite, is going to be weak. An easy visual example is your bicep and tricep. You cannot contract both at the same time. Therefore, these muscles are opposites. So if you were to have a shortened bicep muscle due to overuse, or keeping a constant bend in your arms, like on a computer typing, or riding a bicycle for long durations, then over time your tricep will get weaker and your range of motion will become limited because of the lack of flexibility that you have developed. This leaves us prone to injury especially in other areas like the connecting joint, our shoulder. Very commonly people who tear their rotator cuff also have a tear in their bicep muscle where it attaches in the shoulder, and usually it all happens with some sort of everyday movement like reaching to pick something up in the back seat of your car.

All this was to give you an example of what can happen when we start to form muscle imbalances and do not address them. When we sit down, whether it’s in a chair at work, in the car, on the couch, or on the saddle, sitting puts our hip flexors into just that, FLEXION. If we stop to think about how much time in a day these muscles are in a state of flexion, why in the world would they be capable of going into full extension? Unless we were to make a constant effort to inhibit (foam roll or massage) and lengthen (stretch) the tight muscles. Then, to correct the imbalance, we must activate and strengthen the opposing muscles, which in this case would be our glutes, otherwise known as your behind. So long story short, our daily lives, along with being an active cyclist causes tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexors causes our hips to shift anteriorly, so if you think you are standing up straight and your butt is sticking out (this is an anterior tilt), and you have a huge arch in your back, you actually just have REALLY tight hip flexors, and most likely lower back pain to accompany it. This leads to weak glutes, among other things such as your abs and lower pelvic muscles, which we need all of these things to be strong and stable on the bike.

So here’s what you do…order a foam roller NOW for any and all of your cycling buddies and family who doesn’t already have one. Make them read this blog so they understand why they need to use it, and hopefully it will help them to ride pain free and better yet, faster and stronger! Taking care of our bodies is so important so that it will take care of you. We all need to designate time, whether it’s right before/after riding, or on your rest days to pamper our muscles that we tend to abuse day in and day out. If you are a racer, just remember, if you are capable of activating and utilizing more muscles than your opponent, then this will give you an edge and allow you to pedal longer and harder.

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Whether you are a racer, non-racer, or just all around passionate cyclist, be pro-active and take care of your body. Don’t wait till something hurts, or a muscle finally gives out and pops. We’re not all Professionals who get pampered day in and day out with a sports massage. For a discount on any of these products, send me a message on Facebook or to our email at Teamuranga@gmail.com and I’ll give you a coupon code to use at checkout. So this Christmas give the gift of flexibility and longevity with Podium Cold!

Canyon Fever

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Last Thursday Carlos and I set out on our journey to the beautiful Palo Duro Canyon for the kickoff of the 2014 Hill Country Bicycle Works Mountain Bike Marathon Championship Series. If you’ve never been out to this gorgeous canyon in the middle of the Texas panhandle, it is absolutely worth the trek! So much so that we made a four day weekend out of it! Since we got an early start on the road, we arrived at our campsite around 2:30 in the afternoon.

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We set up camp and headed out for a ride. The trail was marked perfectly and the views were just as breathtaking as we remembered. When we got back from our ride, we were excited to see our friends and teammates Steve and Sonya all set up at the site next to ours! Ah, let the weekend of friends, fun, riding, and racing begin!

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The evening was COLD so we ate some delicious homemade chicken soup to keep ourselves warm.

Friday morning we went out for another lap of the canyon and sectioned a few spots of the trail. The rest of the day we prepped our bikes for the following morning and kicked our feet up in good company.

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I’m going to back track a little bit to the past month. Almost exactly a month ago was the last race of the cross country season in Tyler. There wasn’t a particular reason I didn’t blog about the race other than I just got lazy, busy, and SICK! The weekend of the Tyler race, the heavens opened up on us while we were camping, the day before the race. It was a huge storm that struck down trees and we even got hailed on! It was pretty bad. The rain came down so hard that our canopy started to cave in on us and all of our stuff was under it, including our bikes! The bad thing was that the canopy was right next to a tree and it was lighting like crazy, so we didn’t want to stay there to hold up the fort. We took cover in the truck and every few minutes Carlos would run out and make sure the canopy didn’t completely cave in. Poor guy got so soaked and next thing we knew he came down with a cold a few days later. Boo.

I thought I was home free when the first few days of his cold I felt fine…and then it hit me! Next thing I knew it was all in my chest and there was no riding going on in the Uranga household. I was having all sorts of trouble breathing and after a few weeks went by I finally just bit the bullet and made an appointment with my asthma doctor. It turned out that I had some major inflammation in my airways. He put me on a round of antibiotics, which dramatically decreased the inflammation, but I was still having this strange tightness in my throat which makes me feel like I can’t breathe, plus I was constantly having these dull headaches. I’m now on another round of antibiotics for a sinus infection. I nearly cried when my doctor said I couldn’t race the marathon. I decided to wait out the decision making till Saturday to reevaluate how I was feeling.

After riding Thursday and Friday, I was feeling really good. My congestion was gone, breathing was much better, and no more headache, so I made the call to register for the race with the support of my husband and my coach. I was given the green light to race as long as I PROMISED to pull the plug if I wasn’t feeling well. Sweet!

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A little more back tracking to the weekend before the marathon, and here we were camping again, but this time at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, TX….another MUST for any mountain biker!

As Carlos and I were out exploring this beauty, he was caught a little off guard by a rocky drop off, and next thing he knew he was over his bars and landed solid on his hip and thigh! It looked bad and my heart dropped! There was no soft dirt for him to land on and rock is not very forgiving. Thank God he’s got some meat on his bones and he was okay, just very very sore. After our ride we were cleaning our bikes for the next days ride when we came across a crack on my carbon front wheel. Uh! It just wasn’t in the cards for us to ride. With all the signs that were right in front of us we took the weekend for what it was, a weekend all to ourselves to cuddle by the fire and just RELAX!!! Amazing how we need so much to happen in order to rest our bodies.

Okay, fast forward to Palo Duro and Thursday’s pre-ride…Carlos had a little tuck and roll action on a slippery decent. Of course it was Murphy’s Law, and you better betcha, that the rolling action was on the same side that he went down on the weekend before! Ouch. So here he is sore leg, sore hip, and sore shoulder.

Come race day, the morning was perfect and I woke up to the most AMAZING rainbow I’ve ever seen in my life! It started out small and next thing we knew it turned into a full blown double rainbow! We couldn’t even fit it in the screen of our phone to get it all in the shot!

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The Minnerly’s drove me over to the starting area so I could register and pick up my number plate. I was feeling really good and my game plan was to LISTEN TO MY BODY since my health and riding have been little to nothing in the past four weeks. Today was not the day to try to be a hero and I wasn’t willing to risk getting myself sick again. On the other hand, Carlos woke up with some stomach pains and his breakfast was not going down very well.

The race began as a mass start. I was in the first row and Carlos was a few rows behind me. When they sounded the horn I made sure to stay up at the front, but out of the wind, which happened to be blowing around 30 mph the ENTIRE race! There was a two mile start loop which started on the road and then dropped into single track. I was the second girl going into single track behind Nina Baum (Stan’s NoTubes). The start was fast just as I expected and about five miles into the race I knew I needed to back off. I was happy to be out of the traffic behind me and stuck with my plan to tone down my pace. Somewhere back in the canyon Alison Kinsler (Nuke Sunrise Trail Bombers) came up on me and I went ahead and let her pass. I didn’t even attempt to chase her down.

About half way through my first lap Carlos had picked his way through the crowd and passed me. His pace was a little too brisk for my taste and it turns out it was a little too brisk for him too with the bumps and bruises he had accumulated in the previous weeks. As I approached the feed zone heading into my second lap I saw Carlos there swapping out his bottles. To my advantage Sonya was standing there with my bottle in her hand so I got to head out a few seconds before him. I just kept my pace and when I got to the first sandy, steep climb I I hopped off my bike to save a bit of energy. This was a bad move on my part because Carlos came up on me so fast that I couldn’t get out of his way in time. He was forced to I unclip and right away his legs started cramping. Uh! I felt so bad for being the reason he didn’t ride up the climb and it was much too soon in the race for him to be cramping. I immediately knew this was not going to be good. He told me to keep going so he could keep his legs moving. I rode off and continued my race.

Carlos struggled the rest of that lap fighting cramps. To make matters worse he had misplaced his pocket flask of Elete and so he had no relief. The combination of cramps, lack of calories, and his XC race pace (sarcasm) that morning was not ideal. He made the decision to pull the plug after that lap. As a certified cycling coach, he sometimes laughs at himself for being his own worst client when it comes to not following his game plan. So this winter his goal is to do more marathons for that simple reason, to make himself stick with his game plan!

During my first and second laps I had a terrible, throbbing, sinus headache. It got so bad through my second lap that I had almost convinced myself to pull out of the race. The last few miles when I was covered a little bit more from the wind, my headache went away, so you better believe that I kept on going! My legs were feeling surprisingly good still and my pace was still steady. The only thing putting a limp in my step was the wind. It was gnarly! At one point in the canyon I turned a corner and almost got blown off a cliff, and in an open section, I was literally blown off the trail! It was nuts climbing into a headwind. That’s not really the norm on a mountain bike. It felt more like I was on a brutal road ride.

All in all it turned out to be a pretty decent race for me, finishing in third and receiving a very healthy payout! The race was very well put together and organized.

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Nothing to complain about and so much more fun than being sick on the sidelines! Life is good.

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20131120-213322.jpgI’m excited to finally be back on my bike and enjoying this awesome weather! Now the countdown begins till it’s new bike day!!!! It should be any day now when my new wheels arrive at the shop!! Ah! Can’t wait!

Stay posted tomorrow for week five of my Countdown to Christmas…What’s Your Secret Training Weapon?!?

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Fossil 50 in the Books!

About three and a half years ago when Carlos and I were new to riding, we would venture out to different trails as often as we could. There are several in about a ninety mile radius and we wanted to try them all. One of our favorites has always been Solavaca Ranch and so we figured the trails at Dinosaur Valley State Park would be similar since it’s just down the road from it. This one summer it had rained quite a bit and all the trails in the metroplex were closed. We figured, what better time than now to make the trek to Glen Rose and figure out what this Dino Valley was all about.

When we arrived at the front gate, the park ranger told us that the trails were open…we just had to cross the river to get there. Huh? So we figured it couldn’t be THAT bad. Well, we were totally wrong! In an attempt to cross the very flowy river, we took off our bike shoes, and my knee pads (because YES I did wear knee pads at the time), threw our bikes over our shoulder and started walking across. The water got higher and higher and not even half way across we were already knee-deep. The rocks we were walking on were slick and the current was strong and pulling us to the side.¬† About half way across the water was up to our hips! Next thing I knew Carlos was yelling at me, “Retreat! Retreat!” I knew it was deep, but I figured we were already this far so why quit now? Then he said, “I got hooked!” I wasn’t sure if I quite heard him right so I said, “WHAT?!? Did you say HOOKED?” He said, “Yes, there’s a fish-hook in the top of my foot!” OMG! Seriously?! So we turned around and made our way back and sure enough he had been caught! There was even a real worm dangling from it…gross! We figured it just wasn’t meant to be and so we rode Solavaca instead. So that is our Dino Valley story and sadly we never went back until last weekend to pre-ride for the Fossil 50. All I can say is it was awesome!!! That’s probably one of my new favorite trails and I’m so glad I’ve been able to ride it so much in the past two weeks!

The pre race meeting was at 7:45am and we figured we would just wake up early and save the money for a hotel room. We had everything packed and ready the night before so we could pretty much just get up and go in the morning. We woke up at 4:15 am and hit the road at 5 am. The start of the race was at 8 am. It was a le mans start where we had to run around a tree, then to our bikes, hop on,¬†then ride through the start loop. (The bottoms of my feet are still sore by the way. I’m going to have to figure out this running in carbon shoes thing before cyclocross season comes around. Ouch!) My competition is never tame here in Texas between Jessica and Christina, who were among the ten or so women signed up. All I knew was that it was a long race and it was going to be HOT, so I needed to stay focused on racing my own race.

The start was fast, which was totally expected. The beginning of endurance races like this are funny, because many times there are a good handful of people who are racing the first hour like it’s the only hour they’re going to be racing that day. So there were lots of crazy, sketchy, and uncalled passes going on. I had guys hitting my leg with their wheel from behind me as if I was the one at the front of the pain train, when really there were about six or seven of us wheel to wheel, and¬†I was smack¬†in the middle. It can be challenging to stay focused within the mayhem and next thing you know I go sliding out in a corner. No damage was done, except for the gap that I created between myself and the group that I was planning on sitting in with on the roads to Dino Valley.

As I finished my lap at the ranch and headed to the highway I could see the bunch up ahead of me. They were so close I could taste it, but I knew I was going to have to put in a big effort to catch them. I got low and started drilling it. I caught up to a guy that was between the group and I and asked if he wanted to work together, but he wasn’t very interested in burning any matches this early on. I rode solo for a bit till a guy from Cadence Cyclery caught me. I’m not sure of his name, but he was awesome to let me jump on his wheel and bridge the gap to the group. Thank you Mr. Strong Cadence Man! As soon as we began to sit in, Jessica and Art (Colonel’s) went off the front. They kept a steady gap and at one point Carlos went to the front of the group to pick up the pace. The group didn’t stay on his wheel and when he realized he was riding solo he¬†dropped to the¬†back with me for a quick recovery.¬†¬†A few minutes later¬†he told me to jump on his wheel.¬†¬†Carlos closed the gap and we caught them right as we approached the¬†feed station at Dino Valley.¬†Perfect!

We knew what we had coming at this trail and it can be a little demanding in some spots, so it definitely¬†wasn’t the place you wanted to be fatigued. We backed off the pace a bit and kept it a little more steady. About two miles into the trail, Carlos’¬†tire starts spitting Stan’s out…bummer! He¬†had a¬†flat and it was too big to seal. I stopped with him and a few minutes later he told me to go ahead. I told him¬†“No,” but about the third time around¬†he was pretty stern about me continuing on without him.¬†(sad face) So, that’s what I did.

I felt pretty good at Dino Valley and even¬†cleared some rocky technical sections that I wasn’t able to get on my pre ride the weekend before! The temperature was really starting to rise and some sections of the trail felt really hot, which made me so thankful when ever I was shaded in the trees. When I got back to the feed station before exiting the park, I stopped for a¬†minute to down a Pickle Pop¬†grab a few flasks of frozen Coke and switch out my bottles. As I hit the park road heading back to the ranch I was nice and re-energized. I had a good pace and finished up Solavaca backwards with a bang…literally. I was almost home free until the second to last turn of the entire race and boom, I slide and bang my knees to the ground. So OF COURSE I was talking to myself out loud saying things like, “Really Lisa?! REALLY?? Here? Uh! You were ALL MOST DONE!” I don’t know how far back I was from Christina and Jessica, which I don’t think was too far since I could see Jess through the trees in parts of the trail. Overall I was really happy with my performance in the heat and despite the two silly falls, I rode pretty well. I can honestly say that working with a coach has helped us a lot! Thank you Bryan Fawley!

Carlos on the other hand had a totally different experience after he flatted. Trying to get his tire to seal he used up most of his CO2, so when he put a tube in and began to inflate¬†it, there wasn’t enough air to get him rolling. Dang. So he waited till a rider came by¬†to loan him some air when Jeff (Cycle Progression) came to the rescue with a cartridge. For some reason this CO2 didn’t work and Carlos was stuck there waiting again. Eventually our teammate,¬†Aaron Anderson rode¬†by.¬†He gave him a cartridge and luckily this one worked and Carlos was able to keep riding. A few miles later as he was going down a pretty rocky descent, a friend of ours had¬†crashed and was just getting up from the ground. Carlos asked him if he was okay, and Gary said he was. The more Carlos rode the more he thought about it, and knew¬†Gary wasn’t okay. So he quickly turned around¬†to go help him.¬†He had crashed pretty badly, and¬†there was another guy there with¬†them too.¬†Carlos¬†was going¬†to¬†help them find their way out of the trail but Larry, the guy that was there, was more familiar with¬†Dino Valley¬†so he led Gary to the aid station.

About fifteen minutes later, Carlos went flat AGAIN! This is when the hike began. After a wrong turn trying to find a short cut out, and lots of hiking in the piping sun, he finally crossed the dry¬†river bottom and found his way back to the trail. A rider stopped and gave¬†him another tube and more CO2. As he was changing his tube, Boyd Wallace was walking by with a flat rear tire. Both¬†him and Boyd were out of water. So as soon as Carlos got himself rolling again he told Boyd that he would bring back some water from the feed station.¬†He made it to our cooler and grabbed water and the extra flask of frozen Coke. He didn’t have to ride to far before he ran into Boyd RIDING! Someone had¬†helped him out with a tube and some air and got him rolling again. Carlos gave him the water and flask and Boyd was good to go!

After finally leaving¬†Dino Valley on his way back to the ranch, he saw Jeff on the side of the road cramping pretty badly. Carlos was able to return a favor and gave him his magic¬†pocket flask of Elete Electrolytes, as he is no stranger to cramps himself! Jeff put a few drops under his tongue and he was able to start pedalling again. Once they were rolling, Carlos offered to pull him back to Solavaca.¬†When¬†they got back he decided his race was over. He was smart enough to realize that he himself was super dehydrated from hiking with no water in the baking sun for so long. All in all he was just¬†happy to be able to help fellow riders. He said, “I guess God didn’t want me to race today. He had different plans for me.”

What an adventure! The format, the venue, the trails, and the race overall were so so cool that I can’t wait for the next Fossil 50! Bryan Fawley did a great job with this one! You¬†DEFINITELY have to¬†put this on your calendar for next year!

Loooong Overdue…Whiskey 50!

Upon arriving in Sedona we were immediately in heaven! Every morning we would step outside our door and only one word¬†would come out, “Wow!” Seriously, every morning I would say it again. You couldn’t help but be in awe of the beauty around. The land throws out such amazing colors and rock formations that it doesn’t even¬†feel real. We had the whole week to explore, with no plans, no schedules, no rush. I can’t lie, it felt REALLY GOOD. There is something about Sedona, maybe the vortex’s around, but there is just a sense of peace there. Carlos and I really try to have this in our own home, but living in such a densely populated city, this feeling is slowly lost when you step out into the chaos. This is where mountain biking comes in to save the day!

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Tuesday we¬†rode out from our cute¬†little apartment to the other side of town in search of some sweet single track. I was in charge of the map and so of course when we were in the middle of the canyon with no civilization in sight, and on a trail that a bike didn’t seem to fit on anymore, it was all my fault! Hehe. Oops! Getting lost is part of the adventure, right?!? So, 4.5 hours and about 5,000 pictures later,¬†we had¬†a heck of a good time and finally found our way home.

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Wednesday we drove out to Prescott to pre ride the 25 mile portion of the race course. Having never been there before we were trying to figure out where we wanted to park and¬†where the trail started. We drove the four mile¬†start of the course from downtown UP to the campgrounds where the trail starts. Yes, I did type “up” in all caps on purpose, because it was ALL up, and very steep at that. The last mile was near an average grade of 18%.¬† So we found a spot to park and started climbing. The first five miles of single track are also up hill. Most of it¬†super fun until you start to really feel your legs and¬†have to pop your wheel over some pretty good size water bars (basically just really big logs lying straight across the¬†trail.) No joke, there had to have been at least fifteen of these.¬†One was¬†even after the apex of the turn on a switch back. It was tough!

Once reaching the peak we got to descend for about fifteen minutes with some super rocky sections and scary ledges that could send you flying off the cliff. It was so hard not to have a death grip!  Once the fun was over then what else was there to do then to go right back up again. Hehe This time we were climbing about two miles to the 25/50 proof split, and since we were riding the 25, the trail continued uphill for three more miles and topping out at an altitude of 7,136 ft.568 563

At this point we were just so excited to start descending again that we missed a turn somewhere and just continued down the jeep road until we finally stopped to check the map. Apparently we should have been on single track by then. So we continued down until we found a section of single track next to the road that we could jump on. By the time we got back to the car we ended up with 25 miles! Sweet!

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After our ride we knew that this race was really going to be a booger! The portion of the trail that we skipped was an additional 9.3 mile descent down Skull Valley where you make a quick u-turn at the bottom to climb straight back up, then continue the three more miles after the 25/50 split to the top. Ouch!¬†Thursday we decided to spin our legs on some trails that started right behind our building. We didn’t really find exactly what we were looking for and ended up riding very sandy dry riverbeds. It wasn’t really the type of “spin” I was¬†hoping for, but hey, it was still beautiful¬†Sedona!

Our relaxing week was coming to an end and it was¬†soon to be “GO time!” Friday we had to get an early start on the day to drive out to Prescott for the Pro pre-race meeting at noon. So we packed a cooler with lunch and snacks and hit the road. After the meeting we had quite a bit of down time before I had to start warming up for the fat tire crit. We walked around, visited a local bike shop, and just hung out around cute little downtown.

The fat tire crit was right there on Whiskey Row. The course was set up with two climbs that I knew were going to hurt!¬†The start¬†was supposed to be a neutral roll out until the first turn into the climb, but it didn’t feel like¬†that really happened. I don’t think mountain bikers are really wired for¬†“neutral” starts the way¬†roadies are. Unfortunately I got caught¬†in the back of the group and that’s never good in a crit. I was forced to brake¬†in the¬†corners and the second hill was too long to play catch up for me.¬†Everyone around me, including myself, was gasping for air and there was a lot of suffering in the four laps I got in before I got pulled with¬†several of the¬†others. Those were seriously the hardest twelve minutes of my life but so much fun all at the same time! The crowds and¬†the atmosphere were just as on fire as my lungs.¬†¬†They¬†hurt so bad for the next two days¬†that I almost thought I was even¬†getting sick!

After the crit we drove back to Sedona to start getting everything¬†prepared for Carlos’ race the next morning. He had an early start at 7:30 am¬†which meant we would have to be up by 4:15 am to be there with enough time for him to calmly get ready. We had heard that it’s best not¬†to start¬†in the back of the pack because once hitting single track it’s like hitting a road block as the trail gets bottlenecked. ¬†There were over a thousand people racing between the 50 Proof and the 25 Proof so there were people everywhere! Once Carlos was off I drove to aid station #1/#3 which is where the 25 & 50 split. The volunteers were just amazing and everyone was so helpful!

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Carlos and I had bought walkie talkies a few months back for a more reliable way to communicate with each other in the trail when we start loosing cell phone signals. We each had one while he was out on the course. Poor guy was suffering on the climb and I was talking to him (and apparently all the other guys around him too) saying, “Good job baby! You’re awesome! I love you! Don’t stop! Pedal! Pedal! Pedal! Keep going! I love you!” He said all the guys looked around like, “what the heck was that, and¬†WHERE did it come from?” Haha He didn’t say anything the FIRST time, and then when I¬†gave him another mushy shpeal he embarrassingly said, “Sorry guys…that’s my wife.”¬†LOL oops!

When he got to aid station #1, I asked him how he was doing. To my surprise he said, “Great!” So many people were hitting that aid station and seriously yelling, “Water! Water!” or “Pickle Juice!” but he quickly switched his bottles out, kissed me goodbye and he was off to descend down Skull Valley. A little after an hour he¬†called me on the radio¬†asking for Elete. He was cramping and had run out of his pocketflask.¬†I was¬†a bad pit girl¬†for leaving¬†the extra bottle¬†in the car which was a few miles from there. So I made sure to save some pickle juice for him before they ran out. Even though he was struggling with his cramps, he had such a good attitude when¬†he finally got back to the aid station. Again, he didn’t stop for more than 30 seconds and continued to the top of the twelve mile climb. Since we accidentally skipped a small portion of the trail in our pre-ride,¬†he totally thought that it was “all downhill from there,” which it was NOT!¬†After descending for about three and a half miles, there is a mile long climb called Cramp Hill. Carlos¬†said there were riders that were cramping and literally falling over still clipped in. There was one girl screaming from the top of her lungs, “NO! NO! NO! NO!” allllll the way up the climb¬†WHILE she was pedalling! He was pulled over to the side of the trail cramping, and looked over at a guy lying on the¬†ground and said, “Hey, it’s obviously working for her! She’s the only one still riding!”

After a long day in the saddle Carlos turned the corner to the finish line in downtown Prescott. As he rolled through they handed him his pint glass for completing his first Whiskey 50! I was so proud of him!!!

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We drove back to Sedona to get¬†ready for my race the next morning. Since we would start driving back home right after my race we¬†got everything ready to be loaded up.¬†We had a¬†good nights sleep, arrived early at the venue, and I¬†was excited to experience all that Carlos had the day before! The field was once again stacked, and since the elevation gain and altitude¬†was unlike any race or even trail I had ever¬†ridden, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to hold the pace of all the other girls. By the time I got to the first feed zone where Carlos was I was pretty much on my own. He must have noticed how much I was already suffering because he didn’t even ask me how I was doing…it was pretty obvious. He was so¬†encouraging as he¬†switched out my bottles and kissed me goodbye.

It was so cool to descend down Skull Valley and see all the Pro Men followed by the leading Pro Women drilling it up the climb. On the way down, Sarka Ruzickova of Cannondale zoomed by me . Once I finally hit the turn around I knew the race with myself had barely begun. I steadily climbed and closed the gap Sarka had put on me. We chit chatted a bit and she was so nice, as this was one of the first times she had even been on her bike this YEAR! She had been doing lots of skiing in CO where she lives. So after our little talk, I continued on my way and put a little bit of time on her. It was getting really hot, and so lonely out there by myself! There were sections that had no air flow what so ever and it felt like I was never going to get back to the feed zone.

My frown quickly turned upside down when Carlos¬†pulled a “Lisa” on Lisa with our walkie talkies! It was a bunch of “I love you’s!” “You’re awesome!” “Don’t quit!” and “Pedal! Pedal! Pedal!” I was really starting to fade and his¬†voice was¬†just what I needed! What seemed like an eternity later, I made it to the feed zone. I was so happy to see not only Carlos, but Richard and Lisa, yelling and cheering for me! Sponsors don’t get any better than that! They didn’t even let me put a foot down. I just rolled on through as they switched out the bottles in my cage, my jersey, my nutrition, and after Carlos poured water on me, Richard followed it up with another cold pour that got me drenched! It felt soooo good!

As I was finishing up the last few miles of the climb, I felt someone creep up on me. I turned around and it was my awesome hubby riding behind me! It’s hilarious because he was speechless after having to climb his tail off to catch me since it took him a little while to gather up everything he had at the feed zone (not to mention he had climbed 7,000 ft just the day before), and I was speechless just because my glycogen tank was¬†pretty much¬†running off of fumes at that point. After he finally caught his breath he blurted out an, “I Love You.” and with no emotion I quietly said, “I Love You too.” Not too long after that I had reached my limit. I couldn’t fight it anymore and I was¬† getting really dizzy. I pulled off into the only shade I could find, which wasn’t very much, and Carlos took the bottles from my jersey to get some of the weight off my back. After¬†a few minutes of a pity party and letting my heart rate come down a little bit, we made it to the top of the climb. I was so thankful to have him there by my side! He gave me back my bottles, once again kissed me goodbye and I was on my own.

For the next three miles I got to rest my legs on the descent. This is exactly what¬†gives the next mile long climb its name, Cramp Hill. He had told me to push through the climb and¬†he knew I could make it up! I didn’t really know¬†that it was going to be a mile long climb, and it felt REALLY long at the time. The ground was¬†pretty loose near the end. His words stuck in my head, I gritted my teeth, and grinded it out all the way to the top! NOW it was all downhill from there! All of a sudden Sarka comes¬†blowing by me and says, “Hop on my wheel! I’ll take you down!” She was flying! I stayed on her wheel for about five seconds till I thought to myself, “Yeah, she’s going to take me down…literally, down on the ground!” I didn’t trust my skills and I knew I was super fatigue so I backed off her pace. ¬†Since I was the last rider on the trail I had the sweep on a moto behind me and when I finally popped out onto the road I was police escorted all the way back into town! It was so fun to have them stop all the traffic for me and I could take each corner as fast as I wanted to. You would have thought I was someone special or something! ūüėČ My rock star moment¬†was coming to an¬†end¬†as I turned the final corner to the finish and all the tents and booths were being torn down and packed up.¬†I was officially the last rider to roll¬†through for the weekend and it was a great one at that!

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What an absolutely awesome experience this whole trip has been! I know deep down that God paves our way through this world and He is the reason that Carlos and I are able to do everything that we do! I cannot lie. This trip was so great that it’s taken me this long (a month and a half) to get back to reality.¬†A million¬†THANKS to our sponsors, Richard and Lisa of Comedy Defensive Driving, Outta the Oven Las Colinas, and Education Location for believing in us and helping give me a “boost” into this pro mountain bike world, my amazing brother Roman¬†and his support from¬†Roman Strength LLC., my wonderful sister Marisa and her beautiful family for “temporarily” adopting our son Plopper, Deborah and Steven for their constant love, support, and not to mention¬†providing us with a fancy shmancy¬†roof over our heads for¬†a week,¬†¬†Uncle Oscar and Marlene for supporting their crazy niece’s dreams, Deirdre and John for the surprise Christmas bonus, Plano Cycling in Fitness, Team PACC, Elete Electrolytes, ESI Grips, Sockguy, Honeystinger, Schwalbe, all of our clients, friends, and family I did not mention, and last but not least AT ALL, my backbone, my best friend, my HUSBAND!¬†¬†He is my inspiration and the glue that keeps me together. I truly thank God for him!

This Sunday we’ll be racing the Fossil 50 out in Glen Rose, TX. I’m super excited and really looking forward to this one! This is a race like no other in the area and I know it’s going to be a blast! This race is pre-reg only so hurry and sign up now, this is going to be one that you don’t want to miss!

Excruciation Exam

This past Saturday was Excruciation Exam. It’s a race that’s been on our bucket list and things finally fell into place to do it…well, sort of. It was a 78 mile xc mountain bike race which starts in Warda, TX at Bluff Creek Ranch with about 8 miles of single track, then heads out on paved and jeep roads for a 30 mile trip to Smithville, TX to ride 19 more miles of single track at Rockyhill Ranch, turn back around for 20 more miles on the roads back to Warda, and then finish off with a final mile of single track heading to the finish. Two weeks before this race we had gone back home to El Paso for Christmas. We got to enjoy the wonderful climb through Transmountain over and over and over. On the last day there, we attempted a super steep, mean joke of a climb, on a road that is only POINT eight miles to the top to get to the El Paso Tramway. Tramway Ustramway climbThe AVERAGE grade on this climb is a mere 13.5%!¬†¬†Long story short, we made it not only once, but twice up to the top, and the mean joke part is that the final ascent tops out at a whopping 21% grade…OUCH! That hurt! We made sure to take plenty of pictures at the top because I really don’t know if I want to do that again..EVER. Ha!

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Soooo, we drove back from El Paso the Saturday after Christmas, and on Sunday night, Monday morning, Carlos was welcomed home with the stomach flu. ūüė¶ Poor guy was SO sick as we rang in the New Year on the couch under the blankets. He quickly bounced back in a day and a half and next thing you know we were riding New Year’s Day at Solavaca Ranch. ¬†When we got home we checked the 10 day forecast for Smithville and Warda. ¬†Through the past week¬†WeatherChannel.com had been teasing us with a chance of rain. It would go from 60% to 30% to 10%, and at the last-minute went back to 30%. We decided to bite the bullet and wish for the best so we signed up for the race. When we raced Tyler in the fall there was a¬†high chance of rain and the morning of race day it came down just enough to make the trail perfectly tacky, so we were hoping for a repeat! Unfortunately, Wednesday was now my special day to get the stomach flu. Dang. My only hope to race was¬†watching¬†Carlos¬†bounce back¬†so fast from his stomach flu. In the back of my mind I really wasn’t sure if I would be¬†healthy enough, but I wanted to at least give my body¬†the opportunity¬†to get well. So, chicken soup, Sprite Zero mixed with Elete, along with Vitamin C, Una de Gato tea, and B-12 were my weapons in battle. On Friday I kept telling Carlos that by Saturday morning I would be GOLDEN! I figured if I kept repeating it to myself surely it would happen!sick

We headed out to Warda early Friday afternoon. Nearly the entire drive down there it was raining. Things were not looking very promising. On a more positive note, as the day went on I was feeling better and better, and my energy seemed to be coming back. We picked up our race numbers at the ranch that evening and to our surprise the ground was fairly dry.¬†Yay! We had a good night’s sleep and woke up bright and early for the 7:30am start. Walking outside the door of our hotel we could see that it had¬† rained a little over night. Hopefully it was just enough to make the trail nice.

In the pre-race meeting they announced that not only was it going to be a le mans start, but we were going to be running half a mile¬†around a field before hoping on our bikes! What?!? That’s the reason I started riding a bicycle in the first place, because I wasn’t able to run anymore. Now we were going to have to do it in a WET field, with CARBON shoes…perfect! So they blew the whistle and nearly 100¬† of us took off together through the field.¬†With every step¬†I was praying to God that I wouldn’t twist an ankle, or eat it in the dirt. As I jumped on my bike I took off hard through the field fighting for a solid position into single track. I saw Carlos up ahead, and as far as I could see I was the second girl entering into the trail behind Sarah. As I rode through Bluff Creek I was amazed at how awesome my legs felt! I made a pass a few miles into the trail and I was in first, but there was still a lot of race left! I made my way out of the ranch and headed onto the road. I was in a group of about eight guys and we had a pretty fancy pace. We were slowly inching in on riders up the road and the pace line was getting longer and longer. Our group grew into about fifteen of us and when I looked up to the front, what do ya know? It was CARLOS and¬†he was pulling; but when I looked a few minutes later, he was¬†still pulling, and¬†then a few minutes later he was STILL pulling! I knew he must have been feeling good, but there were plenty of people for only one to do all the work. So I put in an effort to get close enough to the front¬†so that I could¬†yell at him and that I did! ūüôā “CARLOS get out of the front!!!! Quit doing all the work!” He¬†glanced over his¬†shoulder and peeled off toward the back like a little kid¬†that just got in trouble. Hehe The guys behind him looked back at me and¬†chuckled. I looked at them and said, “I know what you guys are doing!¬†We all need to share the load!” From that point on the group worked together pretty well and we booked it pretty good to Smithville.¬†Somewhere along the 30 mile ride¬†a rain cloud¬†decided to join us¬†and¬†tag along the rest of the day.¬†¬†Therefore, this made Rockyhill Ranch a bit more interesting. The trail was slick as could be, and our experience on mud (which is none) didn’t help us at all! We kept the pace pretty chill and just went with the flow. Everything was okay until we got to this tiny punchy climb that Carlos spun out of at the top. He made it over, but I¬†had to unclip mid climb. When I put my foot down the mud was so slippery that¬†my foot¬†slipped! I put my hand down to catch myself and¬† then my hand slipped, and there¬†I went rolling onto my side full of mud! When I was finally able to unclip my other foot out of my pedal, it took me several tries before I could get my bike and myself over the hill. I kept falling over and over and over! Now my shoes had about a two-inch layer of mud at the bottom and¬†I couldn’t clip in. Carlos patiently waited for me to finish throwing a fit and we finally got going again. A few miles later a fellow rider, and someone we know, crashed right in front of us. He was laying on his back, bike on one side and him on the other screaming, “My leg! My leg!” We moved all our bikes out of the trail and¬†checked out the situation. We asked if he was injured or just¬†cramping. He said he thought¬†he might be just cramping. So we reached into our jersey and gave him one of our pocket flasks of Elete Add-in, told him to put a few drops under his tongue and his cramps would be gone soon. At this¬†time two riders came up and a¬†girl¬†asked, “Is everybody all right?”¬†As soon as we¬†responded,¬†her and the the guy with her zoomed on by. I quickly looked over to Carlos with anxiety in my face and said, “She’s in my group!!! What do I do?!?” He said, “Go Baby! GO! I’ll make sure he’s ok! You go catch her!” So I took off and in no time I was right behind them! The guy was leading and asked her if she wanted to pass. She said no, but he slowed and pulled to the side anyway. I knew this was my chance, so I said, “I’ll go! You two have a good ride!” I kept a pretty good pace, but I put my foot down on some slick roots and had to get off my bike. Next thing I knew the choo choo train of Kim, the guy who was in front of her, and Carlos caught me. The two went by and Carlos waited for me again.

Most of Rockyhill seems like a muddy blur to me. All I remember after that is the last two miles of muddy, clay like madness! It was like Ute Valley all over again! My wheels wouldn’t roll, my shoes wouldn’t clip in, and from all the caked up mud I was carrying around a 30+ lbs bike. It was a suffer fest! Every 10 feet or so I was grabbing another stick to chunk the gobs off my wheels. I knew Kim was probably long gone by then and as I became more frustrated with the damage that was being done right in front of¬†my eyes to our once pristine bikes,¬†we shifted our focus to just finishing and not letting any other girls catch us. The last two miles of the trail were absolutely brutal. I think I even almost cried. I was so thankful to be back on the jeep road headed back to the transition area. We switched out our bottles and stopped at the bike wash before leaving the ranch.

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The roads were wet and mud was flicking in our faces left and right on the way back to Warda. We were in a small group of about six guys and we all worked together. It seemed like the only hills of the whole road course were strategically placed on the way back instead of on the way out.  In the last half mile before entering the ranch we toned down the pace to start cooling down. The final mile of single track was like a breath of fresh air just knowing it was almost over. Crossing through the finish line we had one arm around each other as we rolled through together. It was such an emotional moment for me to finish this grueling journey side by side next to the man who rocks my world. That day he was just that, my rock! We were frozen muddy popsicles and it was hours before we got all the feeling back in our fingers. The gentleman of the ranch house had such amazing hospitality that when he saw Carlos starting to turn colors he rushed him to a warm shower to thaw off. A hot shower sure does have new meaning!

muddy glassesHad to get a different color zip tie at each of the four check points.Muddy Saddle

 

 

 

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I guess this race officially¬†marks the¬†end¬†of our¬†¬†“base miles.” As for now it’s time to shift our focus toward the upcoming race season which is right around the corner.¬† Four and a half weeks and counting…until next time!