Sunday, March 29, 2015

Adventure seeker on an empty street

Patient vs. patience. I am much better at being the former, and don't possess much of the latter. Which is unfortunate in almost all situations, as the two go hand-in-hand. Injury requires A LOT of patience, usually much more than I have (ironically I haven't figured this out yet, despite all the time I have spent broken). Currently I am 7 weeks into a 16 week recovery-NOT EVEN HALF WAY-and I am about to rip all my hair out. In fact, if my bike wasn't stuck in a shipping yard in California right now, the temptation to ride would be so great I would probably have to have it locked away at Bike Rev.

Patience is something I have never really had, though I'm sure it would be of great benefit on several occasions. If you didn't catch the Queen reference in the title, it's the first line from the song "I want it all" which paints a picture of an angsty teen chasing their future with relentless pursuit. That might as well be me. I want it all, and I want it now. BUT, I'm not usually in pursuit of instant gratification, and it's not that I don't see the importance of patience-I do (mostly). What it all boils down to for me is time. There isn't a whole awful lot of it and being patient means taking time. I don't like waiting, for anything really. It's just the way I am. I get really excited and over-zealous about almost everything, and don't like "wasting" time. If I can go get it, I will.

Back to bikes though. Frankly, I'm impressed with how patient I've been since I hurt myself. It may be due to the fact that I don't currently have a mountain bike to ride (my road bike is starting to look like a white unicorn with a glittery mane though) but my patience has grown thinner in the last week. Why? Because the first race of the EWS was this weekend in Rotorua and the weather in Flagstaff has been beyond glorious. Not only were loads of my friends down in New Zealand racing, but it just seems that everyone except me is riding. This is obviously not the case-I have friends who are also recovering from injury so I'll stop the woe-is-me. I'm ecstatic for everyone that got to go down to NZ and race, for my friends out traveling the world with their bikes, for all my friends near and far who get to go out and ride. I'm just jealous. I just feel like I'm missing out, loosing pace, wasting time.

That is a pretty pessimistic statement for me. So I suppose what I should really do is reexamine what "wasting" time really is, and then ask myself if I actually ever "waste" my time. Fortunately, the answer is no. I'm never actually wasting my time. I keep myself very busy and very entertained, except when I don't want to be busy or entertained. Since I've hurt myself I actually haven't gotten fat or turned into a couch potato. Actually, I've been doing most of things I've always done, except ride a bike. Gym. Trainer. Run. Work. Chill. Plus, I'm a full time student, and surely I could occupy myself with homework and studying, but I save that as a last resort. 

I guess I should also find a way to make friends with  patience. How ever do I do that you ask? I'm just going to start thinking of progression instead of patience. They are very interconnected, and I like the feel of progress more than patience. Progress makes me think I'm going somewhere, even if it is slowly. Patience makes me feel like I'm sitting around doing nothing. It's also a lot easier to apply progression to my recovery, and then to biking. It is taking time to get better, but I'm making progress. It will take time to get back to full-tilt on a bike, but there will be progress every day. Nine more weeks, I think I'll make it.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Grace: a working definition

Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with bikes
Grace: a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving.
Mondays are not anyone's favorite day of the week. However, I like them well enough; though I like Friday, Saturday and Sunday more. My typical Monday is nothing to complain about: I have class from 8am-10am, then a big long break from then until 4pm when my dreaded physics lab commences. I fill that time gap with coffee, food, and friends, and it makes for a pretty dang good day. But this Monday was more glorious than the others. Why? Because I woke up in Hawaii with my whole family and my best friend. The day has been full of sunshine, bathing suits, good books, paddle boarding, and pina coladas. And dislocated hips.

No. Not mine. My 90 year old grandpa's. This is not terribly surprising, I swear he has dislocated each of his hips 9000 times. Just not while we are on vacation in Hawaii. What's even less surprising is the way he handled the whole situation. It went something like this:

Grandpa and Jane go for a walk on the beach
Grandpa sits down in beach chair
Normal conversion
"Hey grandpa, are those sandals hurting your feet?" (Because his foot looks quite odd)
"Well, I popped my hip out. But it's okay, let them finish paddle boarding!"
Everyone comes rushing and we call an ambulance, all the while grandpa is sitting there talking like everything is fine, telling us we don't need to call an ambulance and apologizing profusely about making a mess of the day. 

This is the way my grandpa operates. He never wants to inconvenience anyone, even when he is in grotesque amounts of pain and his hip is out of place. He just carries on with a smile on his face. He doesn't throw a pity party about how it's going to be difficult to get around for the rest of the trip because he always knows it not the end of the world. That is dealing with complications gracefully.

Every morning I wake up, I come downstairs, and I ask my grandpa how he's doing. He always responds, "Well, I'm here so I suppose I'm pretty good!" and the proceeds to make oatmeal for me and himself. It doesn't matter that he probably got up three times to pee in the middle of the night, or that he has to move cautiously all the time, and carries (key word being carry, because he doesn't ever touch it to the floor) a cane. At 90 years old, none of that really matters to him, he's happy to be here in whatever capacity. That's thinking gracefully.

Everyday my grandpa works out. Why? Because 16 months ago he had a stroke that affected his balance. Unlike most 89 year olds, who at that point, though unhappy about it, would have given in to their old age, he was not okay with being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his time here. He was not okay with not being able to live in his own home, navigate the grocery store, walk up the ten thousand stairs in my house, and play his great-grandkids. So he went to an intensive rehab hospital and now everyday he walks on the treadmill for at least 45 minutes, at various inclines and speeds, rides the stationary bike for at least 15 minutes, writes the alphabet with a swiss ball for his balance, does overhead presses, chest presses, biceps curls, kettle bell squats, and leg extensions. That's living gracefully.

Grace is something I think about a lot. I repeatedly tell myself to be graceful (it's a work in progress). I'm not sure how long it took my grandpa to become as generous, kind, and graceful as he is now, but I know he has been like that for at least the last 20 years. According to my mom, he's been that way for at least the last 49 years. He is a special human being, one I emulate, adore, and look up to for everything. If there is any human who could encompass grace in it's entirety, it is my grandpa. We're in Hawaii and he is in the hospital on a massive amount of ketamine (stuff sucks), getting his leg wrenched back into place, and he will surely wake up smiling. I hope I can be that graceful by the time I'm 90.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Livin' la VIDA loca.

I am so so excited to announce that I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be representing VIDA MTB Series as an ambassador! This is incredible to me. As an ambassador I'll be involved not only with clinics, but I will also be doing a lot of outside promotional work for VIDA and women's cycling as a whole. I get to work with a great program and amazing women who are passionate about the sport of cycling and determined to create a healthy, beautiful, and strong women's cycling community. I am happy to already be good friends with a lot of these rad chicks. You can check out all of the VIDA Ambassador's profiles here.

Another exciting tidbit: I will also be working with VIDA as a coach later this summer when my dang arm heals! Unfortunately I will not be able to ride for the Sedona or Valmont clinics, but will be headed up to Colorado in June to get my IMBA coaching certs! Afterwards I will hopefully be appearing a few clinics :)

If you don't know about VIDA, check it out. Register for a clinic and come meet the amazing women behind the program! If you are attending the Sedona clinic, I'll see you there!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Down, but not out.

Yes, I did just use that oh-so-cliche saying as the title for this post. But the name fits perfectly with the concern of this post. One of the few definitions of cliche is "something that has become overly familiar or commonplace." Well unfortunately, me being hurt is overly familiar to just about anyone that knows me. Here I am again, maybe more than slightly broken.

My tendency to be covered in bumps, bruises, and scars is not a new one. I broke my arm at my elbow when I was three, they put me in a cast and I was immediately trying to figure out a way to climb the fence in my back yard and any tree in sight. I think I broke each of my pinkie fingers twice before I was 10 from crashing on my bike, jumping out of trees and off of swings, or sledding. I broke my other arm when I was eleven when I crashed on my bike. I cut my cast off with a pair of tin-snips and was back to climbing two weeks after. Court burn and dislocated thumbs were abundant from years of volleyball. However, most of my injuries were relatively minor until I blew my knee to pieces racing the downhill at U.S. Nationals in 2011. Two surgeries and seven months later I returned to sports and my knee has been happy ever since.

I finally quit ski racing in 2013 and immediately started riding and racing mountain bikes. The cross-over between ski racing and biking is massive so I picked it up rather quickly. Unfortunately I also decided that going fast downhill was what I liked the most, so I immediately started flinging myself down fast, steep, and gnarly stuff without really having ever acquired the skill to navigate safely. Luckily it wasn't long before I started riding with the guys from Bike Rev and I began to build my skill set. Three years into my biking career I'd like to think I'm a pretty good rider.

That doesn't seem to matter though--there is no avoiding injury. Its the nature of the beast. I was a pretty good ski racer who had a lot of success. But I crashed all the time, I got hit in the face by gates, I was covered in bruises, and I tore almost every ligament in my left knee. Now I am a pretty good biker. Still, I crash a lot, I have a lot of scars, I'm typically covered in cuts and bruises, I've been to the ER and plastic surgeon for stitches numerous times, and every ENT and Ortho knows me by name. Despite what everyone thinks, I am not just an out-of-control maniac who just tries to go as fast a possible all time no matter what. Yes, I like going fast, but I am not an idiot. It's also not bad luck. Shit just happens. It's just part of being an athlete.

That being said, not every athlete is going to have a serious injury. Lucky me, I'm on super-surgery serious-injury number two. Almost four months ago I crashed and completely dislocated my right elbow. Ulna and radius. Fortunately for me, I didn't break any bones or have any serious tissue damage as far as the doctors could tell. I had a pretty short recovery: I was off my bike for 7 weeks and then right back to it. Bikes, gym, yoga. Until a couple weeks ago when a crash, if you could even call it a crash, landed me back in my ortho's office. I dislocated my right elbow again. Though the dislocation was not nearly as severe, I somehow managed to tear the anterior bundle of my ulnar collateral ligament and tear my radial collateral ligament off my humerus. Now my humerus is not sitting in the cradle of my ulna correctly and I'm having reconstructive surgery next Wednesday.

When it happened I knew it was bad. I didn't know it was this bad. So you can imagine my shock when my ortho told me how severe my injury was and how long the recovery was going to be. I was thinking maybe a minor surgery to tighten things up and then 6-8 weeks off. Nope. Try reconstruction, an autograph from each of my forearms and 3-6 months off. I was heart broken and it has taken me three days to come to terms with it. But the fact of the matter is that there is no avoiding getting my elbow fixed; it will be better in the long run. I know that the world isn't actually ending and that I'll be back on my mountain bike before I know it. I know I'll come back stronger, faster, and more motivated. I know that I'm not going to get fat. I know I have the support of my family, my friends, my coaches, my doctors, and my physical therapist. How do I know this? Because I've here before. Twice.

I have come to terms with my injury, my surgery, and my recovery. I have found peace of mind looking at the track records of some of my biggest idols. Lindsey Vonn sustained serious knee injuries two years in a row and came back this year to break the record of most world cup wins by a female and took third in the super-g at world championships just a couple weeks ago. Aksel Svindal tore his achilles tendon in October and missed three months of the season, had a week of training going into world champs and got two 6th place finishes. Bode Miller had back surgery at the beginning of this season, missed three months, made it to world champs and was set to take the win in the men's super-g before crashing. All of these people are physically and mentally tough, that's why they made it back. That's why I know I'll be back. May 20th is the goal.

On the brighter side of things, I have some super awesome news to announce regarding this season. But it has to wait a couple more weeks ;). For now, I am thankful for my family, my friends, good doctors, the fact that I'm still on my parents health insurance, and the fact that I am twenty years old. I'll heal quicker ;).

P.S.: I really just wrote this to convince myself that I'll be fine. It worked. So if you read this, thanks :)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Some Announcements

First, Big Mountain Enduro has released their 2015 schedule. It includes Aspen/Snowmass,
Keystone, EWS Crested Butte, and a NEW stop for the series final! Where could it be...? But most exciting about this announcement? EQUAL PRIZE PAYOUT FOR MEN AND WOMEN! This. Is. Awesome. I definitely understand the payout difference: men make up way more of the field and thus pay in more than women do. BUT I think this is an excellent way to get more women into the series, even if they aren't racing pro. To me, equal payout says, "it may be 85% men, but these women rock and deserve equal prize money." It will bring more attention to all the women in the sport, and hopefully not just attract women from other series, but also bring newcomers to the sport. Just another reason BME is my fave. (:
Check out the press release here or visit the BME website and sign up for email announcements.

Second, back in September I got to do some Q&A with Josie Smith, author of Life on Two Wheels. I was in Crested Butte for the Ultra Enduro at the time, hence the reason some of the answers say that "I am in Crested Butte" or that "I was just in Crested Butte" haha. If you care to read the full write up, here it is: Women on Bikes Series: Alex P. For stories, advice, and more badass women, follow her blog!

Third, THE SEMESTER IS ALMOST OVER. I have one more O-Chem test and a paper due in Russian Politics before Thanksgiving Break then the first week of December is reading week, followed by finals! Hallelujah!

Last, I went to the doctor earlier this week... My elbow is slowly healing and I have a custom Donjoy brace on the way. I will be back on my bike soon, though I'll have to be careful for awhile. In the mean time, I've been dying on the trainer and getting back to off-season conditioning.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Brief Update

Wow. I have not posted anything since Moab--two months ago. Since then, life has been rolling along merrily, mostly. I will try my best to fill in the gaps and keep it concise.

The Monday following BME Moab I started my junior year of college at Northern Arizona University. Crazy how time flies. On the schedule this fall semester I have Anatomy Lab II, Physiology II, Organic Chemistry II, Cellular & Molecular Biology, and Russian Politics. All interesting, all difficult. At this point in the semester I am happy to report mostly A's and a B in Cell & Molec. Thankfully the semester is almost over; only 5 short weeks left and then a month to enjoy riding and hopefully skiing. Then it's back to it with Infectious Diseases, Human Sexuality, Environmental Sustainability, Physics, and Biochemistry. It's probably gonna rock my socks, but I'm excited. Let's be real though, you probably don't care.

Since school is so hard, I decided that it would be a great and brilliant idea to miss the WHOLE second week to go to Crested Butte for the BME Ultra Enduro. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I didn't get too far behind in school because I had plenty of time in Crested Butte to work on school stuff. How did I have all this time? Wasn't I supposed to be riding 9 stages, 100 miles, and climbing 23,000 feet over the course of 5 days? The answer is yes, but I didn't, because a nasty crash on the second day of the race ended up taking me out of the race for the rest of the week.

Photo: Daniel Dunn

Yeah, really really pretty. But that's how it goes. Sometimes you crash--I'm very thankful I got away with a broken nose and some bruises, and not a broken face, neck, or back. Helmets: They are the best. Following Crested Butte I took a couple of weeks off to heal and to catch up with missed school work before hopping back on my bike.

At the end of September I raced the Bearjaw Groove 12-Hour race here in Flagstaff just for fun. I did it last year as a duo with my friend Erin, but this year we both did it solo. The course was about 14.5 miles a lap with a little over 900 feet of climbing. I borrowed a friend's Intense Hard Eddie and shredded for 108 not-so-exciting miles. Regardless, it was a great time.

That brings us to October, a month that quite frankly sucked. My grandmother passed away, I had to get my left arm stitched back together for the second time, and I dislocated my right elbow completely. But as a said before, life goes on. And lucky for me, life goes on and goes well. My fantastic grandpa has moved in to my parents house and I didn't have to have surgery on my arm. I've been off the bike for two weeks and on the trainer but I'll be back on a real bike soon. For now, I have plenty of time to focus on school and the end of the semester and get things going for next season.

I leave you with this video my friend Lexie and I made out at Kelly Canyon before I dislocated my elbow. Enjoy!

A Quick Kelly Canyon Shred

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BME Season Finals: Moab, UT

Photo by Devon Balet
The Big Mountain Enduro season finals were held this last weekend, August 24, in Moab, Utah. The race was only one day and only two stages on the Whole Enchilada. Now, I bet you're thinking, "Moab? In August? WHY?" I know, I thought that too. However, the weather ended up being pretty much exactly the opposite of what I (and everyone else) was expecting. I was expecting to be drenched in sweat, dying of heat, and worrying about getting sunburnt. Wrongo. It rained in Moab pretty much everyday leading up to the race, which was scheduled for Saturday, the 23rd, and all day race day which lead the BME organizers to push the race back to Sunday.

A view of the La Sals from UPS on Friday afternoon
Scott and I arrived in Moab late Thursday night, errr... early Friday morning and pre-rode that afternoon. Since we rode in the Whole Enchilada twice a couple of weeks ago we only rode from Hazard County down. We could obviously see that it was raining up on Burro and with high elevation comes the cold, plus all the creek crossings and the super slick roots and rocks... I was glad we skipped it. The storm kept coming our way, following us down the slick rocks trails, but luckily it evaded us by about 20 ft. Literally.

Rain<----------------------------->Us. Nice.
Friday night at the riders meeting it was announced that the pros would be leaving at 7:45am instead of 5:45am so the trail could dry out a bit more. Well, I woke up at 5:00am to the sounds of rain and thunder and had a hunch that the weather would not be in our favor that day. Oh well, we went over to the shuttle area at 7:45 and waited in the rain for organizers to call the race. They had been in contact with the Forest Service and knew that getting up to Burro was not possible and that Kokopelli was not rideable, so that left them with two options: run the race only from UPS down, or postpone it until Sunday. Thankfully they were able to extend the permits from the Forest Service for another day and the race was rescheduled for the following day. We spent Saturday meandering through Arches National Park and played about 78,932 games of Gin and Hungarian Rummy.

Sunday morning when we woke up the skies were blue and the temperature was perfect, so we loaded shuttles and up we went. Because of all of the rain we still couldn't run the race as planned. Originally the race was supposed to be one stage down Burro Pass, followed by a transfer to the top of Hazard, and a second stage from Hazard all the way down to the bottom of Porcupine Rim. I don't know if you realize how hard that second stage is. It's 15.6 miles. Yes, it is downhillI (it seems ridiculously flat) but it is rough, technical terrain and there are a good number of little climbs on Porcupine Rim that make you feel like you are being strangled. Last year it took me an hour and fifteen minutes to finish that stage. ANYWAY, this year we could only run two short stages: one from the top of Burro, and one from the top of Hazard to the top of Kokopelli. The race was won and lost in a matter of 19 minutes.

For those of you reading this (and I know it's not many) who have not ridden Burro Pass, it is silly steep with some silly tight switchbacks, lots of roots and overgrowth that makes following the narrow single track more like a guessing game. Not to mention the multiple creek crossings that make everything more slick and cause your brakes to not work quite as well as you would wish. It's awesome. Really. On race day the slippery mud had pretty much turned into tacky, moist, perfection (not everywhere) but the roots and rocks were still terrifyingly slick. At the top my sole goal was to make it through all the switchbacks without having to take a foot out or stop--mission accomplished. In the middle my goal was to traverse and navigate over and through the wet roots and rocks without slipping or crashing--mission accomplished. At the bottom my goal was to keep my head up and eyes ahead so I wouldn't get lost in the knee high grass or accidentally miss the hard left turn to avoid the creek gap--mission accomplished. Though I felt as if I couldn't have gone any slower the whole time I was racing stage 1, I still ended up getting second (only to the Moab Queen, Beth), so I was pretty happy with that.

Somewhere in the beautiful La Sal Mountains. Photo by Daniel Dunn
Stage two was Hazard County top to bottom. I love, love, love this section of trail. It's fast, it chunky, it's wide-open and then closes in on you, the corners come faster than you could ever expect (even when you've ridden it 100 times), there are awkward rock gardens, and WATCH OUT FOR THAT COW! The dirt is like concrete, except where it's not, so pay attention. The bottom half of the trail is this kind of awkward up and down traverse through the oaks, and there is one particularly devious, up-and-down-to-the-left-back-up-to-the-right turn where either the oak root to your left wants to grab you or the rock to the right wants to bring you to a halt. Well, I knew it was coming and evaded both rock and root, but tried to go a little to sharply and quickly into the next turn and ended up laying over and tweaking my handle bars 45 degrees to the right. Dang it. But I was so close to the finish line I decided to say, "Screw it, I'm riding like this!" That lasted about 10 seconds. I had to jump back off and wrench my bars into submission. I still ended up 3rd on that stage, behind Heather and Beth, off by just a little over 30 seconds. After the crash and the fix I wasn't disappointed--I rode well until that point and after, so that's that.

We had a nice little (27 miles) transfer down Sand Flats Road back to town after the race, after which I immediately laid down on the lawn until the burgers were ready at the expo area. Photo by Daniel Dunn
I ended up third for the weekend, behind Beth (2nd) and Heather (1st). I'm pretty pleased with that. I also ended up 6th in the overall standings, only 10 points off of 5th place, even after missing the Keystone race. Again, pretty pleased with that. Thank you to the staff and volunteers of Big Mountain Enduro for making this race happen, despite the weather difficulties, thank you for putting on all of the other races, and thank you in advance for the Crested Butte Ultra Enduro! Thank you as always, Flag Bike Rev, for all of the love and support. Crested Butte is next week, September 3-7.

Pro Women Podium: 5th-Ileana Anderson, 4th-Sarah Rawley, 3rd-Alex Pavon, 2nd-Beth Roberts, 1st-Heather Irmiger. Photo by Devon Balet
My favorite mechanic. Oh, and boyfriend, who ended up taking 10th for pro men! Photo by Daniel Dunn

I was trying to make it look like I was popping a wheelie and making the "BRAAAPPP" noise. No, really. Photo by Daniel Dunn