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!

leaves

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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Warda Muddy Mountain Biking Adventure

This sure has been one heck of a rainy season! It seems like every time I open my Weather Channel App to check the ten day forecast it’s filled with clouds, lightning bolts, and rain drops. This makes for a very sad mountain biker. I know we were in a severe drought just last year, and our lakes desperately needed the rain, but I do miss the dirt. Don’t get me wrong, I love road riding. In fact, it generally makes up more than 50% of our training. But now that the trails are closed and literally underwater, we’ve been forced to adapt to our environment. A few weeks ago was the final race of the Texas Cross Country Mountain Bike State Championship Series in Warda, TX. We knew the area had recieved heavy rainfall throughout the week and more likely than not, the trail was going to be a muddy mess. I’ve never really been a huge fan of racing in muddy or wet conditions because for one, it can take a toll on your bike and more times than not you’ll find yourself replacing brake pads, bottom brackets, head sets, etc.. For two, it can significantly increase the danger factor. Anyone who rides and races bicycles knows and accepts that every time we throw our leg over the saddle there is a risk of injury, but I don’t know if it’s the personal trainer in me who has learned from the bodies of my 50, 60, & 70 year old clients, or the memories from fifteen years of bull riding in Carlos, but we both would strongly prefer to keep the rubber side down and the danger factor to a minimum. This is also why we have put a great deal of time and energy this past year into improving our technical skills. When race weekend approached, our choice was simple…it was no dirt or wet dirt. So we chose wet dirt. Friday morning we loaded up the camper and drove four hours south to Warda. The last two hours was steady rain and when we got to the ranch the word was that it had been raining there all day. This put a bit of a limp in our step when it came down to finding dry land to set up camp. We scoped out our options, aiming for a spot under a tree, because if the sun finally decided to come out and play it was going to be a steam bath for sure! So we pulled the camper down to a spot near the expo area and next thing we knew our truck AND camper were completely sunk into the nasty mud and we were stuck! It was so bad! I’m sure we looked like such rookies, scratching our heads, tires spinning out and smoking up, only to sink deeper. I was having a panic attack, and coming close to tears. There was definitely tension in the air. Then, Mother Nature decided we needed a little more excitement in our day as lightening struck so close to our truck that I could see the flicker, and every hair on our body stood up! It was followed by the loudest and longest rumble I’ve ever heard in my life! After about an hour of helplessly trying to get our truck out of the mud, we finally went back to the ranch house and asked for help. Alan, who is a super nice guy, was so kind to get us out of the pickle we were in. It wasn’t an easy task and even his own 4×4 pickup got stuck more than once. It took more work I think, than even he had imagined. But finally we were free and Alan was able to get our camper and truck up to higher ground. 

   
 
The rain stopped long enough to give us a break and we popped up the Aliner next to the bike wash, right where Alan had left it. Even though the ground there was wet, the whole expo area was so muddy that we were scared to try to move it and get stuck again. Although this was far from how we imagined our camping spot to be, we decided to call this swamp our home for the weekend. While setting everything up our water pump died, and our generator didn’t feel like working either. It was really playing out to be a GREAT weekend (sarcasm). After a couple more hours went by, it looked as though more and more water was accumulating outside the camper, and at this rate we’d be sunk into the ground by the end of the weekend. So here we go again, tear everything down, hook up, gun it across the field so we don’t get stuck, and alas we are on firm ground! Still no water pump, but a fellow camper did help us figure out the generator situation and we were up and running! Right when things started to finally settle down and run smooth, I went to cut a slit in the top of an Ozarka 2.5 gallon water container and my knife slipped. I cut straight through the entire side of the container and water immediately exploded everywhere! All over the floor, the rug, on top of Carlos’ cycling bag…everywhere. I had no words. Not even the bad ones. I think at that point I was in total shock and disbelief of the line of challenges that this day had brought forth. We had arrived at the ranch at 2:30pm and didn’t kick our feet up until 9:00pm. I’m not a big drinker, but the beer sure did taste good that night!

Saturday morning, before that Cat 3 and Cat 1 races started, I decided to go out for a pre-ride of the UCI style course to see what I’d be getting myself into the next day. It was exactly what I thought it would be like, an early season cyclocross race. Riding through the saturated fields of grass and mud was giving me flashbacks of the Houston Cross races we did last Fall. I just knew that once a few more wheels rolled through there it was going to get super tore up and messy, which translates into having to really lay down the power on the pedals…ouch. Other than those fields, the trail was actually pretty decent. The ground was slick, just as to be expected, but nothing really stuck to your tires. The only creek crossing in the race was deep and flowing pretty good. In my pre-ride there was an entire section closed off because it was too wet and slippery to ride. In retrospect, I kind of wish I had just snuck by the tape and rode it out because that section ended up being in my race and is what gave me the most trouble on the course. 

I finished riding just in time to get cleaned up, wash my bike off, and help Carlos with anything he needed before his race start. This year has really thrown some curve balls at him. Of course the crazy snow, sleet, and freezing cold weather at Mellow Johnny’s affected us all, but like I said before, those conditions are not our favorite. Then in Abilene Carlos kissed a rock with his forehead and needed 11 stitches above his eyebrow and 3 in the corner of his eye. Needless to say Pace Bend was another wet, rocky, and slippery race which served its purpose to get the monkey off his back and be back to racing again. After the monsoon that hit Big Cedar the day before that race, we both decided to ride our road bikes instead and stay on dry ground. So ultimately, this year was a wash for him, and after everything we had gone through to get to Warda the day before, how could we not race?!? He lined up and there was a crash right from the start. Thankfully no one was badly injured and Carlos had avoided it. His position was good going into singletrack and every time he popped back out of the woods he was all smiles and having a good ole time. He was all smiles as he finished nice and muddy in a solid 10th place! It didn’t rain the whole day, but it sure was getting muggy!

 

Coming through on the start loop!

  

Carlos riding through the creek crossing

 

  
 

The forecast for Sunday was not looking promising. There was a chance of rain in the morning, but we were all crossing our fingers that it would miss us! I was really focused on staying mentally prepared for the worst, which was probably a good thing because we woke up the next morning to pouring rain. My race was at noon and honestly, I hadn’t even register or paid my entry fees yet. The Cat 2 racers went off at 9:30am and they raced through the thunder and lightning. I don’t know if it was because the weather got so bad or the lap times were taking much longer than expected, but all the Cat 2 racers were pulled after only one lap. About this time is when Carlos looked at me and said, “You know you don’t have to do this right?” You see, after my last win in Coldsprings, my points lead was locked into first place for the State Championship. Therefore, the outcome of this race would have no change to my position in the standings. But in my mind it came down to two reasons why I wanted to race. The first was because I I felt like this was the perfect opportunity to gain experience riding in challenging conditions like these, without such a high danger factor (i.e. no slick, wet rocks on this course). Maybe one day I will be faced with these same conditions and hopefully then I can pull this experience out of my racing arsenal. Second, our team, Team PACC, was in a very tight points battle for the TMBRA Team Challenge. So in reality, I did have a lot of pressure put on my to do well since I was the last member of our team to race for the season and therefore the last to scoop up as many points as possible. There they were…my WHY’s. My third secret why, was that riding in the rain and sliding around all over the place just makes you feel like a kid all over again! 

I suited up, while Carlos put a double rain flap on my down tube, which was a savior for my eyes once I had to ditch my glasses. Amidst the thunder and rain I walked to registration thirty minutes prior to the race start. It was so crazy to see close to our largest women’s field lining up in the muddy field. Now those are some tough girls! I’m so glad I didn’t miss it! I had a great start with the hole shot up the jeep road, but within the first half mile we hit the first swampy field. It was so tore up that you had to commit to whichever rut you could find and hope it’s a fast one. Our positions changed and the race was on! I went down the super fast section called Gas Pass in third and a bit later was caught behind a small crash. As I was untangling my bike from the collision, in the corner of my eye I could see wheels flying by me. I had no idea how many, I just knew I needed to stay composed and ride smart. I rode myself back into fourth place and had a heck of a good time! The creek crossing that was now almost knee deep was flowing crazy fast and on my third trip through there I didn’t quite make it across. When I put my foot down in the water my bike almost drifted away! 

 

photo credit The Light Co.

 
 

photo credit The Light Co.

     

Later in the race I slipped into a rut on a descent and almost went off the side of a cliff! It was gnarly, but extremely comical because I couldn’t even get my bike off of me to stand back up! The whole day was quite the adventure! I finished the race in fourth, and I was proud that I had at least given it a shot. 

Without that double mud flap the front of me would have looked like the back!

I’m a firm believer in living life to its fullest, and sometimes that means playing in the mud! I’m so extremely thankful for Carlos, who is my amazing husband and coach, my awesome team, and my most supportive sponsors, Plano Cycling and Fitness, Elete Electrolytes, Square One Cafe, Legacy Chiropractic, Legacy Merch, Roman Strength, ESI Grips, Pactimo, LIV Cycling, The Light Co., and Smith Optics! It’s my first year as part of The Watt Posse, PACC’s Elete team, and I’m excited to bring home the Pro Women’s 2015 Texas State Champion Marathon Jersey and my second ever Pro Women’s State Champion Cross-Country Jersey!

 

My second cross country state championship title!

 
      

2015 Pro Women Texas State Championship

Pace Bend…Bluebonnets, Bikes, and Good Times!

Welcome to Pace Bend

Two Thursday’s ago Carlos and I pulled our camper down to Spice Wood, TX. Sunday was the fifth race of the Texas Mountain Bike Cross Country State Championship Series at Pace Bend Park. We had the extra time so we decided to get away from Dallas early, hang out with friends and teammates, ride our little hearts out, and just have a heck of a good time.

Kisses!!

 

Fun in the sun!

Sonya and I roaming around through the fields of Bluebonnets

The forecast was not looking promising and there was a high chance of rain predicted for the entire weekend. Luckily, we had absolutely PERFECT weather the enitre weekend…until we got to the starting line on Sunday morning. That’s when it started misting steadily. The soil at Pace Bend actually holds water really well, but the small limestone rocks are a bear with even the slightest moisture. The course this year was being run in the reverse direction than the normal flow, and therefore different than the previous years we’ve raced it. Because of this change, the first three miles of the race was now constant limestone, which translates to wet, slippery rocks.

The women’s pro field was a bit smaller this time with only six of us lining up, but strong contenders none the less. My goal was to be first into singletrack so that I had the trail to myself without any distractions. My plan worked perfectly as I lead our group up the mile and a half climb and was first into the trail. The rocks were everything I expected them to be, SUPER SLIPPERY! I was extremely thankful to be at the front because I definitely had to put a foot down more than once to save myself from hitting the ground. It felt so chaotic. Many times I look for rocks in the trail that I can just pop over for a faster line, but now I found myself having to change my mind frame. I needed to look for dirt, and there really wasn’t much of that in those first few miles. After getting out of the first long rocky section, I started to finally catch some speed and opened up. Next thing I knew, I was coming around a corner and there was another six foot patch of baby head limestone. I braked right before I approached it to shave off some speed, and once I got through it, I heard the terrible sound of the girl behind me hitting the ground. I slowed down and yelled to see if she was okay, but she wasn’t answering. I yelled again and still no answer. Finally I came to a complete stop and shouted a third time. This time she responded but I couldn’t understand what she said. The poor thing had gotten the air completely knocked out of her. Two more girls in our group, Fiona and Sarah, have now caught up to us and since they were closer to her, I ask them to check up on her. Once I got the thumbs up that she was okay to ride out by herself, the three of us continued our race together.

Not like anyone is ever really a “fan” of crashing, but I have had my fair share of wipeouts to know that I was NOT willing to go down that day! For the remainder of that lap I was hesitant, tense, and basically everything you DON’T want to be when you’re riding your bike. My legs were strong, but that does you no good when you’re tip toeing through slick rocks and roots. At some point I bobbled and Fiona came around me. I stayed close to her through the woods and a few miles later I turned the corner to see her on the ground. She had gone over her bars. Sarah and I stopped to make sure Fiona was okay along with another male rider. She was having trouble getting going again. Finally she said it was okay and it was mainly her elbow that hurt. Once again, Sarah and I continued racing.

Carlos dropping in like a boss! photo credit Sonya Minnerly

Gotta get that smile in! photo credit Sonya Minnerly

At this point, it had become a race of attrition. This wasn’t about fitness anymore, but riding as smooth as possible and finishing in one piece. I tried to hammer it where the trail allowed, then calm down and relax going into the technical sections. Midway through my final lap my friend and teammate, Steve Minnerly caught up to me. I moved out of the way and followed his lines the rest of the race. It was such a blast and my favorite part of the whole day because it felt just like a fun group ride hauling butt through the woods! Steve is not only one of the fastest guys I know, but he’s also 61 years old…pretty amazing! We rolled through the finish line together, both of us in first place!

This has been our second wet, and rocky race of the season. With all the abuse that my beautiful Lust has taken through these wet races and training rides, she began making some funny noises in the past week. So I’ve gotta give a HUGE THANK YOU to Daryl over at Plano Cycling and Fitness for taking apart my entire drive train, and cockpit the day before we left to Pace Bend. He searched up and down for the creaky sounds and made sure everything was properly lubed, greased, and torqued…funny noises gone, shifting perfect!! For the next three courses, the rocks are out of the way and hopefully the rain is too! I’m definitely ready for some fast, tacky, singletrack!

Ignite Your Passion

I’ve been pretty quiet on here for most of the year. Our lives go through seasons, and 2014 has felt like a season of change, trials, and transition. Not specifically in mountain biking, although there were definitely a few tests of character there. So sometimes it just seems right to step back, pray a bit, and be thankful for all the blessings in our lives. We like to dream big, be healthy, help others, and have fun! I shared a quote on Facebook the other day from one of my favorite people, Anthony Robbins, that REALLY hit home. It said, “Cultivate the feelings of excitement and passion. These can turn any challenge into a tremendous opportunity, giving us the unbridled power to move our lives forward at a faster tempo than ever before. Ignite your passion by using your physiology: Speak more rapidly, visualize images more quickly, and move your body in the direction you want to go.” As I sat down to write a recap of the year, this quote really took me back to the beginning, my first mountain bike race. I remember it like it was just yesterday. That morning Carlos and I woke up from camping at Solavaca and headed over to pick up our number plates at the registration table. I was so nervous that I thought I was going to throw up. We walked around and watched the Cat 1 girls fly by us on their third lap. That was absolutely nuts to me! THREE laps! Are you serious?!? I could barely get through one without dying! It seemed so unattainable in my mind to be at their level, but I was hungry…hungry to be better. That was the Fall of 2009. Since that day, we’ve gone through so so much! Hard tails, full suspensions, 26, 29, 27.5. Bumps, bruises, stitches, happy tears, sad tears, and even hitting the wall, bonking tears. Some of our greatest friendships and greatest struggles have been created through cycling, and through it all we’ve suffered together, laughed together, and grown together. Each season, each race, each training ride has made me a stronger rider but most importantly, a stronger person.
2014 season was filled with many ups and downs, and not too long ago it even crossed my mind to sit the rest of the races out. I had a great start in the first race at Rocky Hill, and then the momentum quickly disintegrated after my crash at Mellow Johnny’s which was followed by a bad case of bronchitis and a few more bad crashes. I fought to stay in the standings and was struggling not only physically, but mentally.

My friends, my family, my faith, and my husband have been my biggest support and lifted me up when I was down. I never actually could let myself give up, even though I wanted to, and I am SO GLAD I didn’t! After flatting in the Comfort race, a few weeks later I went on to win in Abilene. I rode strong at Big Cedar finishing only 14 seconds behind first place and accidentally doing a whole nother lap of the course because of a mishap in communication at the starting line. It was an awesome day of riding for sure! Then I battled it out in Coldsprings with Melissa White, the new Cat 1 19-39 State Champion, and newly upgraded pro. She is a solid competitor, awesome person, and I’m so excited to have an even stronger and larger pro field in 2015. I took the win that day, and it locked me into the top spot for the series! WOW!!!! Mid season, I didn’t think there was a chance in the world that this could happen, but God had a greater plan for me!

In May we wrapped it all up in Warda for the State Championship season finale. We enjoyed the perfect weather, hung out with some great friends, and raced our tails off. I got to stand on the top step for my very first Texas State Championship Jersey! Carlos achieved his Top 10 goal, finishing 8th overall! Also, huge congrats to our friend and teammate, Dale Dawesome for also becoming the new Cat 1 30-39 State Champion, as well as our cycling client, teammate, and great friend, Leigh Anne Robertson for winning the Cat 3 40+ State Championship in her very first full season of racing! She’s improved leaps and bounds, and it’s only the beginning! We are so proud of her!!

To top it all off, we just got back yesterday from our last race of the Texas Cup Series. Carlos finished in third place overall, I came in first, and Leigh Anne won the overall in her very first season of Cat 2! If there’s one word to describe it all, I would say PERSEVERANCE. Never, never, NEVER give up!

What a start to the year…

I’ve been a little quiet around here since December when I completed my Countdown to Christmas. There’s really been no particular reason other than being super focused on training and prepping for the race season. Change is in the air and I’ve been a busy little bee. I have been more than thrilled to be riding not one, but two of the most amazing bikes in the industry this year!

My new road bike is the Giant Propel Advanced SL 1, and this thing is sick!!! I train on my road bike a lot and every now and then I’ll jump into the occasional crit, but I think this year it might be a lot more than occasional! I would have a guilty conscience if I didn’t race her, so I definitely need to add a few crits to my calendar!

For cross-country, I’m riding Giant’s Lust Advanced 0, and WOW!!! Back in October last year I had the opportunity to demo this bike at OCNP. I was seriously blown away by the performance! A few years back I was riding and racing a full suspension 26er that I really loved. Carlos had already been on a 29er for a year at that point and he wanted me to give it a shot too. Between seasons I was getting my rear shock serviced and so I decided to try out the big wheels. I really liked it because the larger wheel made up for my beginner skill level and I could monster truck my way through things. As I’ve improved as a rider and racer, AND was looking into a new bike, because who doesn’t want a new bike?!? I stumbled into this Giant demo. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the mid size, 27.5 inch wheel, and I was very pleasantly surprised! It was like I had all the sweet features of my 26 going through the trees and the quick acceleration I remembered, yet I had better control and I was able to really pop my wheel over obstacles like rocks and roots. I am excited that this is my very first women’s specific mountain bike. I knew the size would be a perfect fit for me, since I have very long legs and a short torso. It comes equipped with my favorite SRAM 1×11 drivetrain which I switched out the chainring from a 30t to a 32t, and I might play around with a 34t here and there. A super cool feature on this bike that would be awesome for Enduro racing, or off-season riding is the dropper seat post. To save some weight I switched it out for my Thompson Masterpiece, but I can’t wait to play with it on a trip to the mountains later in the year! The tight wheel base along with my Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo’s hook up like a dream through the trees and even in the loose gravelly terrain of Austin’s hill country.

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As February rolled around, and I had only had a handful of rides on my new beauty, I found myself at Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville for the opening race weekend of the TMBRA State Championship Series. We’ve had an unusually wet winter here in Texas, so there really wasn’t much mountain biking going on. I battled with sickness for the months of October and November, then after a trip back home to El Paso during the Christmas holidays, I returned with the flu. Any cyclist who’s had the flu knows that the recovery period after is anything but an ideal time to prepare for racing. In the last year we have been fortunate enough to work with two coaches. They were both great learning experiences and it helped us a little more in figuring out what we like, and what we don’t like. In addition to our extensive fitness background, last year Carlos decided to get certified himself through USA Cycling as a coach. Who better than the person right next to me who knows me better than I know myself sometimes, knows what I can and can’t do, how much I can handle, how much stress I may be dealing with, or even how well I slept that night, to be my coach?!? He stepped up to the plate even more so than in previous years, laid out my training plan, and started analyzing my data. Coming back from illness he brought me back up to speed way better than I would have ever done myself, or even previous coaches at that. So with a shorter block of high intensity workouts than originally planned, a bike that I knew was awesome yet I still didn’t have many hours on, and it being the first race of the year, I had no idea what was going to unravel out of it all.

I lined up with TEN girls at the start, (that’s big for a Texas Pro field) and I was all in! That course is super fun and a great test of fitness in my opinion. It’s literally on the gas the entire time. We got to race four laps of the shorter UCI style course which was about 4.4 miles and 550 ft of climbing per lap. Coming off the start line I was fourth, passed a rider on the first climb which left Christina leading and Jessica close behind. There were a few new features to the start loop this year with a series of BMX style jumps that I had to really focus on so I wouldn’t catch too much air. And then there was a little extra punchy climb leading into a descent to finish it off. Going into that climb I was able crank it up a bit and I was now in second. Christina had already formed a small gap on me and I could see her up ahead or even through the trees in different sections of the trail.

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The gap stayed between first place and myself, and I was able to hold my position in second. I had a solid race, rode really well, my bike was absolutely perfect, and my fitness was better than I thought it was going to be! So it was a great surprise and also a really great way to start the season!

After Rocky Hill, my focus continued onto the next race, The Mellow Johnny’s Classic, which was an ‘A’ race on my calendar. The trail is on private land and so it’s not commonly open to the public. Fortunately there were a couple of pre-ride dates a few weeks out from the race, so we were able to get a fair amount of time out there. By race day, I had the trail completely dialed in. I knew every turn, every obstacle, every line I was going to take. I was well rested, my nutrition was on point, I was focused and mentally ready, but I can’t quite say I was mentally ready for the way it all actually played out…

There are lots of awesome changes going on in the world of mountain biking right now. Scott Tedro of Sho-Air has put all his focus into growing the sport of mountain biking and has brought so much momentum into the racing world, with equal payouts for the men and women, huge dollar amounts added to the pot, and creating a US Cup series of four top-notch races for North American riders to collect UCI Points. I was also SO EXCITED that for the very first time my family back at home was going to finally get to see me race via live stream on YouTube!

I had a second row call up to the starting line. As usual, the front row was filled with World Champs, National Champs, and Olympic medalists. As humbling as the whole experience can be, I couldn’t ask for a more accomplished group of women to put myself up against and show me where I’m really at. So, the countdown began, the whistle blew, and we were off. There was a slippery ‘S’ turn immediately off of the start. I went through it clean, had moved up a few spots, and was focused straight ahead on the climb that was to come. Then my world got flipped upside down when a rider on my right hand side from Mexico, clipped her bars with mine. It all happened so fast that I don’t even know who did what. All I know is I was focused on what was ahead and there was no saving myself from going down. I had no idea how badly I was injured. Laura, the girl who went down with me was able to continue riding, so I was assuming her and her bike were okay. The first thing that I looked at was my bike, to make sure nothing was broken. The cable for my remote lock out had been ripped off and my bars were twisted way too far to keep riding. I was standing there alone trying for dear life to pull my bars back into place, but they just wouldn’t budge.

It’s amazing how things happen. About 99.9% of my rides and races I carry a multi-tool with me, and that day just happened to fall into that 0.1%. The plan was for me to use Carlos’ tool since it is smaller than mine. On my way to the starting line, I realized I forgot to get it from him. I told myself, “You do not need a tool. If you need a tool your race is over anyway.” Boy was I right on the money with that! Had I actually carried a tool that day, I know myself, and I would have totally straightened my bars, taken the cable off completely, and continued riding. I truly feel like it was a blessing in disguise, because my elbow was shredded up and bleeding really bad. The course is so technical that you must have 100% focus to ride it, and especially to race it.

So I sat at the medical tent with them pouring water over my wounds, knowing they were about to send me off to get stitches, and I couldn’t keep from having flash backs to this exact race two years ago. That was the first year I raced in the Pro field and was on day two of racing. My front wheel went straight into a rock on a descent, and I went flying, only to land on the same elbow.

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I was awestruck and angry all at the same time. I couldn’t even put my emotions into words. I was SO SAD that my family didn’t get to see me. I literally made it sixteen seconds into my race before the crash, SIXTEEN! I was going 19.8 mph when I hit the ground. This wasn’t what I had mentally prepared for, this wasn’t it at all. I think my sadness even overcame any physical pain I was in.

Poor Carlos had no idea how to handle everything either. Whenever he knows that something is hurting me, physically or mentally, he tries to quickly take care of it to make me feel better. He’s the whole reason I used to ride and race with full-blown downhill knee pads! That was the only option he gave me after being so banged up all the time, otherwise he threatened to sell our bikes all together! LOL! Naturally, his first response to me was, “This isn’t worth it! Nothing is worth seeing you hurt like this!” The drive to the Urgent Care place was quiet. I was trying to make sense of it all. The only conclusion I could come to was that God MUST take me for one tough cookie!!! That’s no joke there, because I KNOW He will never give me anything I can’t handle, and this felt like I was right on the edge of what I could handle. I am so thankful that I’m not severely injured. My elbow was so bad that they actually couldn’t stitch it, so they used butterflies instead. I didn’t think I had hit my head, but after seeing the crack in my helmet, I realized apparently I had. My neck is really sore, and I’ve got road rash throughout the entire left side of my body. But ultimately, I am even more thankful for my Faith, my husband, my family, and all of my friends, because those are the things that have helped me be positive. Gods plan is so much greater than mine, that this is nearly a bump in the road, to something even better than I could have ever wanted for myself! In no way would I ever wish this to happen, or be injured, but is this worth it???20140304-161702.jpg

Absolutely!!! This is living! This is the Carlos and Lisa story! This is what we’re all about…Overcoming. Living each day to its fullest. Doing what we love. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.

But today, I choose to live. I choose to be happy!

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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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September Race Recap

Fall is HERE!!!!!!!! My favorite time of year! The last race of the TMBRA Texas State Championship Series is a week and a half away, and that will conclude three and a half years of racing in the books. Oh how time flies!

Three weeks ago was the Dave Boyd Huntsville Classic. Throughout the entire spring we were super spoiled by staying in hotels because of the constant racing, week after week, . It was time to break out the camping gear and enjoy mother earth a little bit deeper. All of the previous TMBRA Fall Series race venues (Huntsville, Ruston, Tyler) always bring back such sweet memories! This is where our TMBRA family began to form, and new friendships blossomed. Not everyone likes Huntsville because of its lack of elevation gain, and “technical” features, if you don’t want to include ginormous piles of sand and roots as “technical.”  That is basically what Huntsville is, a SUPER fast, rooty, sandpit. Which, by the way, is perfect for taking a spill in. I got to experience that sand one on one right in my face! I just don’t understand why anybody wouldn’t enjoy going that fast on a mountain bike no matter how “non-technical” it is.  As long as the rubber is rolling on dirt I’m a happy camper!

Carlos’ race went really well! He got a solid start going into the trees somewhere around top ten. Through out the race he began to move up little by little and next thing he knew he was rolling through the finish in fifth in a stacked field of nineteen guys!!! Oh man, it was so exciting! I can’t even describe how much my heart was jumping with joy!

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For the Women’s Pro field we had SEVEN girls! I know to all you boys this seems like a puny number, but that’s HUGE for us! So awesome to see cycling really start to grow for us women.  We have, hands down, the most AMAZING support here in Texas! In numerous races there has been an added payout for the women and not only that, but this past weekend in Ruston, LA there was equal prize money for the Pro Men’s and Women’s Categories! WOW! I’d like say a huge THANK YOU to Jennifer Behling for making this happen right out of her own pocket! And ladies and gentlemen, this is not the first time she has contributed to the women’s prize money. With that being said, my race in Huntsville was fast and FUN! Yes, I got to eat a little bit of dirt, but pushing yourself to the limit is always a blast! I walked away with the win, a nice envelope filled with a little green, a jar filled with a little sand, and an awesome Muscle Milk backpack now filled with a little cycling stuff!

Now Ruston was the real adventure! This is really one of our favorite races and trails of all time. Park Ranger James Ramsaur really knows how to keep a trail in tip-top condition. It’s so awesome that they even blow the trail off to clear it of leaves and pine needles! Between that, the flowy burms, the screaming Tomac Hill, beautiful scenery, pristine soil, and race organization to absolute perfection with Tobin and Jennifer…why wouldn’t you make the drive to the piney woods in Louisiana?

We got the earliest start for the weekend that we could and arrived at the park around 3:30pm Friday, set up camp, and hit the trail. It was all the bit of fun that I remembered! Saturday morning after breakfast and coffee we went out for one last pre-ride before resting up for the Tomac Hill Time Trial (TT) that evening. I was the only girl to do the TT, which was absolutely absurd to me because there was even a payout. So I got to have a little under ten minutes of fun riding my bike as fast as I could and I got paid for it!!! Score! I have to say that I was a bit nervous starting out on Tomac Hill where all eyes are on you and the penalty for failure is pretty high. But I cleaned the drop and had a smooth ride, so I was a happy camper!

Now Sunday was a different story.  The forecast was predicting a high chance of rain overnight Saturday and through Sunday morning. We were crossing our fingers that the weather man would be wrong, as they normally are (sorry weather man, but it’s the truth.)  Before bed we cleaned up camp, left out only what we would need in the morning, and put our bikes along with everything else under our canopy. This was going to be our first time camping in the rain, and it started to come down pretty early. At some point in the night I got out of the tent to tinkle and on my way back, checked out how the canopy was holding up…not very good! Uh oh! There was so much water that it starting caving in on both sides and water was dripping on my bike! So Carlos adjusted the straps and fortunately that fixed the problem before it got ugly. I finally got some good sleep towards the end of the night.

My favorite husband got up early and woke me up with my coffee and oatmeal. What can I say girls, I picked a good one! So we sat in our tent having breakfast waiting for the rain to settle down. It was perfect timing when it stopped, giving us just enough time to tear down our entire campsite, load up the truck, get ready and then realize that our start was earlier than we had thought…oops! So our warmup was pretty non-existent, which is never fun (or good) to start a race cold. But it was what it was.

There were only two of us in the women’s pro field, Jen and myself.  I knew that I didn’t really want to be full throttle for this race because the muddy conditions are still very new to me. The soil is similar to that of Tyler State Park, which I have ridden in the rain before, but I was still a little hesitant to just open up. So I pretty much just kept a steady pace for the whole race. Carlos’ category started two minutes behind us. In my first lap a few of his guys passed me and shortly after Carlos came by. He was looking strong and had a good pace going in third place.  When he passed, he told me his water bottle had popped out of his cage. Uh! Not good.  As the race went on it rained on and off a few times and the trail was getting sloppier and sloppier.  I was in the middle of my second lap when I saw Carlos’ jersey in the distance for the first time since he had gone by me earlier.  I didn’t know what was going on because I knew I wasn’t going any faster than before. I was going back and forth with James, who was in fourth right behind Carlos. Without knowing what Carlos’ race had fully been like, the last thing I wanted to see was us catch up to him and him lose his position. Well, what I didn’t know was that he had slipped on some roots and hit the ground hard in his first lap.  All in all he was okay, just got twisted pretty good. This, in addition to nearly an hour of race pace with no water, and then trying to make up time on the second lap with a super slippery back tire on the climbs made out for him hitting the wall. In the last mile of the trail James rode by him to take third.  Carlos and I crossed the line together, him in fourth and myself in first.

Although it wasn’t the race he had visualized, he still made out with a solid finish, and I had SO MUCH FUN! I know not everyone may feel the same, but I thought the mud was a blast to slide around in! You really got to test your limits in the corners and pray that the mud or slippery roots wouldn’t claim you.  We were dirty as could be, and our bikes needed a whole lotta tender loving care, but it was well worth it! So many memories come from races like this, and they are ones you’ll never forget.

One more XC race for the year in Tyler next weekend will wrap up the season. Hope to see everyone out there…this is one you don’t want to miss!

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! 😉 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!