Thursday, February 26, 2015

RACE REPORT: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo with Wolf Pack Cycling

It has been over a week since I rolled through the exchange tent for the last time at the 2015 #24HOP. And yet, every morning, I’m still blowing desert out of my nose, and coughing it out of my lungs.

A small price to pay if you ask me.

With the cost of admission, you get Arizona sunsets and sunrises, the warmth of the mountain biking community, singletrack galore on the famous course, drum circles, beer gardens, The Whisky Tree, the camaraderie of your team, and as much cholla as you, um, want.

Thanks go out to Dee who first alerted me to the idea – I hadn’t heard of the event before, but now that it’s behind me, I know I’ll never forget it. Sort of a mini Burning Man meets Mountain Bike Race, all orchestrated by the fine people of Epic Rides (who you may know from such events as the Whisky 50 or the Grand Junction Off Road).

I was very happy that the four strangers Dee put me in touch with turned out to be an awesome group of dudes, racing for Wolf Pack Cycling. For this weekend, they let a Ninja tag along, and it was truly Epic, just as advertised!

Wolf Pack + Ninja. Eric, Travis, Stan, Jimmy, and me.
So my biggest thanks go to these gentlemen—Travis, Stan, Eric, and Jimmy—for hammering out a stellar performance. We had consistent laps, we stuck to our order, helped each other stay focused and stoked, and it was all good enough to put us on the podium in third place.


A fly joins us on the Queen Mary's rearview camera
The adventure started early the Thursday before when I was introduced to our rolling palace, the Queen Mary (a.k.a. Travis’s luxurious RV). We had a mainly uneventful trip to the venue, with only a couple good blows climbing the mountains on the 8, and let’s not even get into the parking situation at 24 Hour Town. I’ll just say, 38’, pitch black, and not much room for maneuvering. Our apologies again to the cactus we smooshed. But huge kudos to Travis for wrangling all of this [while I cowered in the back].

Most amazing parking spot EVER.
When the sun rose in AZ glory the next morning, I couldn’t believe our spot. STEPS from the action. SECONDS from the exchange tent. What luck! Because lord knows we didn’t do it on purpose. We spent the day getting familiar with the layout of the temporary metropolis that was home to 4,000 people over the weekend before it changed back into its true form as a remote cattle ranch, a 25 minute, dusty drive from the nearest paved road. We spun a couple of laps to get acquainted with the course, and its “Seven Bitches”—a deceivingly difficult section punctuated with extremely high potential speeds over loose/rutted terrain, followed by punchy climbs. And repeat.


Sunset on our preride
The rest of the gang arrived that evening, and we took one last spin of the course together, enjoying those AZ sunsets before digging into a team dinner back on board the Queen Mary. We decided our race order, got to know one another, and snacked on Bliss and Baker’s delicious, custom, salted-caramel rice crispy treats. Then I got my brand spanking new super hero costume all laid out, and made plans to spend some time TLC-ing the bike with WD-40 Bike’s goodies both to help calm pre-race jitters and make sure my girl was absolutely ready to rip. Huge thanks to Eliel for the amazing kits in our respective versions. Wolf Pack’s looks ferocious, and my Ninja edition is actually the nicest kit I have seen or imagined. I love it.

Thank you WD-40!!
Later that evening, Regina and Vanessa, a.k.a. Team Va-Gina, stopped by to share in the pre-race excitement as the drum circle got going nearby. The sounds of celebrations continued long into the night, but I was passed out in queen-size glory, “roughing it” in the desert.


For the uninitiated, a 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race is exactly how it sounds, and yes, some people are nuts enough to do it solo. But for those of us slightly less masochistic, you can join a team. The object of the game is to see how many laps you can squeeze into a 24-hour period on the 17+ mile course.

The insanity in motion!!
Eric bravely volunteered to lead us out, including the #24HOP’s famous Le Mans-style start, featuring a [really long] run [if you’re wearing a helmet and MTB shoes]. He was a champ, got out in what we estimate was the top 20, and banged out one of the top lap times of the race. Our hero!

Stan was our “two-seat,” continuing our momentum. I was number three, passing the baton to Jimmy, who waved on Travis, rounding out a full rotation. By the time we all had a lap in, we were sitting pretty in fifth place, but only minutes out of fourth, which was separated from third by only 60 seconds. The Wolves were hungry.

Me and Jimmy between laps. Legs go up. GU goes down.
Through traffic, the constant threat of cholla cacti, headwinds, dust clouds, and fatigue, we battled. “I don’t know if I’ve got another one like that,” we all said after each and every lap. And then we went out and did it again anyway. I think our consistency was thanks to our dedication to good recovery and fueling, thanks to our shared sponsors at GU Energy Labs. It definitely helped us make our move. Because sometime in the three o’clock hour, I was roused from my light nap by Travis’s excited exclamation that we had slowly clawed our way up onto the podium.

When I woke up for my morning lap, I had to ask if it was real. I was so excited and proud of our team, I found the gas for my best lap time of the whole event. And I wasn’t the only one. Once we felt that momentum, there was no stopping us.

To seal the deal, we sent Stan out for the last lap of the race with just 10 minutes before the cut off. We followed him as a team, cheering him past the Whisky Tree, slapping his butt up the last climb, and screaming our heads off at the Rock Drop and home stretch.
All told, we completed 22 laps putting us at 11th place in the overall ranking, and 3rd in our category (5 person, coed, 200+). Check out our full results here. I was personally stoked to see that I had the 9th and 11th fastest female laps of the day, out of a total of 958 female laps. At night, I did a little better, claiming the 6th and 7th fastest female laps. I’ll dedicate those to the portable sunlight I was using, thanks to NiteRider.


Besides finishing with such an awesome result, there was a lot of amazing things to note about the event. First was the great support from local bike shops. Huge thanks to them because I think I wasn’t the only one who foolishly bent their derailleur right off the bat on one of the bike racks.

SRAM was also there and we had to make a few visits to their tent where they were super understanding and generous about equipment woes. Thanks to the support of 24 Hour Town, we were able to keep our mechanical troubles relegated to base camp, rather than out on course.

The Whisky Tree is also worth shouting out again. On our sunset pre-ride, we accidentally stumbled into a Drunk Cyclist(?) party that was just getting going. A gaggle of plaid shirts, beanies and MTB shorts blocked the remote section of trail. No one was allowed to pass without a drink or a solid heckling (“STRAVA!!”). With bottles tied to its branches—and the occasional creepy character waiting in the dark with additional bottles—you could be sure to get some refreshment if you wanted it every time you passed.

Minor cholla-related surgery for Eric.
One of the most famous features of the course are the thick cholla cacti everywhere. I couldn’t figure out why they included a comb in our swag bags. Then I became educated! From now on, I will carry my comb on every desert ride. It’s the only way to remove those prickles without subjecting yourself to further prickling. Just lift them off, and tweeze as necessary. I got surprised on a pass once and wound up punching a cholla pretty good. My wedding bands still don’t go on quite right due to swelling from what I suspect is one last stowaway. Do not underestimate the value of tweezers and combs in Tucson.

24 Hour Town was also an attraction in itself. Maxxis had a “tire toss” for fun and prizes. Camelbak had a “hot tub” that was creative, but a little scary if I’m being honest. There was coffee, beer, and BBQ so pretty much every need a cyclist has was met.

All in all it was a super fun event, reminding me of all the good times had back in Ontario at the Chico Racing 24s. Mountain biking is fun, and 24-Hour events do an awesome job of capturing some of the very best parts: light-hearted good times combined with lip-smacking competition, friends supporting/heckling each other, night riding, and any excuse to consume huge amounts of calories, all sorts. Will hope to be back again. 

Keep scrolling for a few more photos from the event! 

Hi from 24 Hour Town!

24 Hour Town in the other direction (taken from on top of the Queen Mary)...most hadn't even arrived yet!

our "Before" photo

If you look really close, you can see Eric on the move.
Old School Rocky Mountain spotted in the timing tent!

About to head out on Lap numero 1.

24 Hour Town Walrus

Alice the Camel[bak]

Wolf on the Rock Drop. Are you a biker? Or are you just a Belieber?

Live by the board.

Sunrise as I get ready for my final lap

Eric bringing it home just before cut off!
#ninjaspotting: Regina ... + silly string

Home Sweet Home. "Roughing it"

The proud and magnificent Queen Mary

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Best-Fitting Kits Ever: Eliel

Early Eliel | top: testing prototypes. left: sewing machines at the ready. right: bib shorts about to be laser cut.

Kits are first printed on special paper
Do you know how kits are made? With fricken lasers, that's how. I know because last summer, I got to visit the brand new Vista factory of new apparel makers on the block, Eliel. Eliel provides high-quality (like, atmospherically high) custom cycling apparel, and a new consumer line is set to launch soon as well.

I've been really happy to help them in their noble mission to make the best-of-the-best cycling kits. I started dropping by to help out as a size model and I am honored to say that I helped a tiny bit to create the amazing fit Eliel is becoming known for, far and wide (at least if you're a ladies' small, though the guys I ride with are also reporting extremely positive results).

When it came time to put together kits for this year, they were my number-one pick, and to my delight and glee, we're taking our relationship to the next level: Size model becomes sponsored athlete.

Ink is applied to the fabric ready for laser cutting.
Derek Wibeck and Ryan Cady have been the friendliest, go-getting-est, most passionate entrepreneurs I've met. They were at Interbike, patrolling the garments section to see best practices, scout out the newest fabrics, and talk to athletes and industry folk. They were at Ironman, launching their brand, and providing next-level comfort to next-level athletes. And they have become the official supplier of kits for my friends at RIDE Cyclery, not to mention a ton of local teams in the area including Wolf Pack Cycling, UCC Cyclery, and Surf City Cyclery. And the list is growing!

Many panels go into making each piece of the kit
To help them spread the word, I wrote a piece about co-founder Ryan for the UC San Diego alumni magazine, Triton, which covers his background and how this all came to be. Check it out here: But this quote from Ryan pretty much sums it up for me: “I wanted to produce something that someone who spends as much time on the bike as the racing crowd or the super enthusiast would actually want to ride in.”

Legs of Eliel's famous  most-comfortable-ever bib shorts
Mission accomplished, Ryan. I'm so grateful to have met these cycling aficionados who know exactly what a good pair of shorts and a well-fitting jersey can add to your ride. I can pedal in these things all day long without a hint of discomfort. I can answer the call of nature WITHOUT having to remove my jersey, thanks to their genius mono-strap design. Serious. And wow, this Team Ninja kit is looking sharp decorated with the logos of all the sponsors and supporters I'm so humbled to be working with this season.

Thank you so much to Derek, Ryan and all of the amazing team at Eliel Cycling!! It's truly an honor to be working with you, especially from so early in the game. I can't wait to see where the Eliel story goes. Thank you for having me along for the ride.

This Eliel kit is going to look amazing atop the Rocky Mountain bikes that are on their way. You can get in on the Eliel goodness at RIDE Cyclery, another partner I'm proud to work with in 2015. And they feel amazing under ZOIC shorts when skills clinics or group rides call for a pair of baggies. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

RACE REPORT: 6 Hours of Temecula

Photo: David Nguyen

UPDATE: Due to a mixup with timing, it looks like there was one more surprise from race day: I won! Thanks for clearing it all up, SoCal Endurance! 

Skill testing question: What one thing can make or break your race day? Is it a) A solid nutrition plan, with delicious on-the-bike snacks like the ones from GU Energy Labs? b) A super comfortable "six-hour" chamois like the ones from Eliel Cycling? or c) Knowing the location of your car keys.

That's right!! While A and B are both critical, the correct answer is "C."

It has been a long week--thinking we would be in Arizona teaching skills clinics, I have been busy logging in some miles to make up for *not* riding this weekend. But then we rescheduled the clinics at the last minute, and what's a girl to do with a free weekend? Race! Obviously.

Thankfully, Bill at RIDE Cyclery was able to get my race bike into race-worthy condition on short notice, so at the end of a long week, and a long day, Friday night I went home and began the meticulous work of prepping for my surprise first race of the season. Feed bag, check. Bottles, check. Kit, check. Shoes/helmet/gloves, check. Layers for post-race, check. Butterflies, check.

In the morning, the complicated and lengthy process of pre-race fuelling had me up at 5, so I'd be ready to go by 6, and at the venue by 7, a full two hours before start time at 9, which is my rule. It's my rule for exactly these moments: two hours is enough time to fix almost any last-minute mess. Like this one: Time to pack up the car and drive away? No deal. Where are my keys?! 

I tore apart all the bags, my clothes from the day before, the house and couch cushions, I even checked in the recycling bins and the trash. There was nowhere else to look so I  called AAA and had them pop the door. Time check: 7:10am. No keys.

How happy was I to finally lay eyes on this little sucker!
Of course, the end of this ridiculous "where are the keys" story was in an embarrassingly predictable place. Once I had them, I peeled out of the driveway, triumphant, at 7:30am. When I rolled into Vail Lake Resort at 8:30(!!!), I then realized in my haste, I'd totally left the garage door open. "No problem," I thought, "I'll just call Gerhard, and he can give me the neighbour's number, and surely, he won't mind closing it." Only I had no cell service. Thanks to Ninja James who let me borrow his phone, so I could call Gerhard in CO, who called the neighbour and by now, I was just a few people back in the registration line.

8:53, I'm back at the car, throwing GUs in my pockets, putting on my race number, and debating whether or not I should wear arm warmers. You know, the only time I ever missed a plane, I still got to fly because as luck would have it, the flight was delayed. This reminded me of that.

In the start gates at 9:12, and a new start time of 9:25 is announced. Laughing and visiting with fellow Ninja (and 12-hour winner!!) Rhonda, and friends Denise and Amy, I'm pretty confident that "the hard part" of the day is finally done. 

Okay, let's talk about racing now!

I have never done a "solo" anything before. 24, 12, 8, or 6. I don't know if I have the heart/legs to do it again--mad respect to those who take on those long distances. Not knowing how this was all going to go, I went out at a pace I thought would work and tried to separate from the huge pack. Amazing turnout for this race, by the way.

"Here it is, get ready for 650' in elevation gain," said someone in the bunch. "WHAT?!" screamed my brain. Oh yeah, did I mention? I didn't have a chance to pre-ride this course, or even properly examine the profile. Another fun surprise! 

The Dam Climb was definitely a prominent feature each lap, and sitting here writing this surrounded in food and drinks from the relaxing safety of my living room floor, I can't believe I ground up that thing seven times. Scratch that. I can't believe RHONDA ground up it an incredible 12 times.
War paint. Derek Couse photo. 

But as tough and punishing as the Dam Climb was, the Tunnel of Love more than made up for it. Oh man, that section is fun. So much flow and I can't even explain how much I love the sound my Racing Ralphs make over the hard-packed G-outs.

For the first four hours, I was feeling like a rock star. Good legs, good attitude, and feeling pretty technically sound. And then, for the last two hours, not even the Tunnel of Love could get my mojo going. It was hard. And I had to go pee. But I didn't want to stop in case my legs cramped up. Special thanks to Aaron Hauck of Inner Strength Fitt Labs for all his help with bike fits because I'm pretty sure being able to sit on mine for six hours in a row is in large part to his amazing work. Look him up! 

Last lap I felt the horses sensing the barn, and had a happy fun time, but the clock was running five minutes longer than the first ones. Still, I was happy that overall, my lap times were pretty consistent for not knowing exactly what to expect over six hours. Thanks Coach Richard for your help in what has clearly been a productive winter of training! 

Post-race? Eating
whatever I want.
The event was a really fun time, and well-organized, even with the surprise rush of entrants they had. The course was awesome, spaced people out well, and there were plenty of passing opportunities. The expo was also really cool, with demos available from Intense and NiteRider to name a couple. Petal Power was there with samples, as well as friends with OSO MTB. 

When I was finished, I finally got to head over to the Team Ninja tent. Which for 2015 has doubled into two tents! And a fancy Feedback Sports A-Frame for all the Ninja Weapons. So awesome to see all these amazing teammies and their smiling faces. Special thanks goes out to Derek who brought my bottles to the tent, and John who--even without prior discussion due to my time constraints at the race start--handed me bottle after bottle (and picked up a bunch too). Thank you so much John!

Congratulations to the 6-Hour Ninjas and 12-Hour Super Ninjas! 

TEAM NINJA: 12/6 Hour Contingent. Darryl Sykes photo. 
I caught results for these teammates: 
  • Rhonda - Winner, 12-hour solo
  • Darryl - Winner, 12-hour solo
  • Stephane - 3rd place, 12-hour solo 
  • Courtney and Richard - Winners, 12-hour team 
  • James - 12th place, 6-hour solo
  • Aaron - Winner, 6-hour solo, single speed
  • Michael - 22nd place, 6-hour solo
And here's to our other teammates whose results I haven't heard yet: 

  • Derek and Shelly - 6-hour team
  • Dan Bergstrom - 6-hour solo 
  • Chris Patton - 6-hour solo 
  • Tien Vo - 6-hour solo 
  • Eric Knowles - 6-hour solo 
  • Tony Brand - 6-hour solo 
  • Advait Ogale - 6-hour solo 
  • Ben Ulfers - 6-hour solo 
Awesome turn out Ninjas! Awesome day! Best of luck to all the Ninjas racing the Enduro today, especially Shelly who raced the 6 hour AND is back at it again today. Randy, Siobhan, Regina and Paula will be out there too, and young Ninja Dylan is set to shred as well. Looking forward to hearing how those events go! Good luck, Ninjas! 

Fantastic first weekend at the races, and a great start to 2015. I'm so excited to be back at it! As for results, my seven laps were good enough for 2nd1st place. Today? Eat all the things! 

6-Hour Solo Open Women's Podium