As I get ready to leave (literally, like in less than 8 hours) for the Translyvania Epic MTB Stage race I am filled with excitement and a little bit of nerves, but most importantly I am 100% confident that my Pivot Mach 4 is dialed and ready to tackle whatever PA throws at us. Here is a more in-depth breakdown of my bike build for this week:
Spēd Precision Sparth XC 27.5 – These wheels are lightweight, bomb-proof, and incredibly responsive; all things that I will be needing this week!
Kenda Tire Honey Badger XC Pro – The terrain is basically binary. You have crazy gnarly rock climbs, descents, flats and then more tame double track/ gravel connector trails. The Honey Badger don’t give a *insert appropriate noun* and will give me both traction in the tech and minimal rolling resistance on the smooth!
Orange Seal Regular Tubeless Tire Sealant – I am going to be tired. I am going to hit things. Probably sharp pointy rock things. BUT Orange Seal has my back and luckily I won’t have to worry about flats and can focus on riding.
Shimano XTR Di2 – Not only is it smooth but also I love the little *bzz bzz* noise when I shift.
Shimano XT 32t Chain Ring – Easy spinning on the climbs but a big enough gear not to spin out on the flats.
Shimano XTR 11 spd 11-40 Cassette – Lightweight. Great range. enough said.
Wend Waxworks – I just discovered waxing my chain this year and consider me converted! Wend Wax is super portable and easy to put on — plus you can also opt for putting pretty colors on your chain’s side plates. Here, I did a mix of orange and red to make my chain pop!
SIT, STAND, SHRED
Smanie GP 137 Carbon Saddle – I prefer a narrower saddle on my mountain bike and love the shape of the GP for cross country (and CX) riding.
KS Suspension Lev Ci Carbon Dropper Post – 125 mm of drop and 100% necessary for taking my riding to the next level. The slight increase in weight far outweighs my awkward rigid descending without it.
125 mm of drop and 100% necessary for taking my riding to the next level.
Training for the BWR was interesting. It is the longest event, or ride for that matter, that I have ever done. Two years ago I rode 109 miles and since have done two centuries in the fall. Ideally, I would have ramped up the volume with some mega long rides but isn’t it funny how life works out?
In December, I took three full weeks off of the bike. It was my first break in two years and it was needed. I started back up in January and had a great month with endurance rides. Then, I got sick with bronchitis in February. I have asthma and allergies and even though bronchitis has been the norm since birth, it is discouraging. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Not only does it mess with my body physiologically, but it really dampens my headspace.
I recovered, had a wonderful team camp…. And then got sick AGAIN in March, but this time with pneumonia. While I had pneumonia I also had a string of unfortunate events with Fischer getting lost (and luckily found), moving to a new house, working full-time while sick, and finishing my Master’s Degree and teaching credential. All of this happened within 10 days and it was challenging. I felt like a kicked dog.
The point of all of this information is that life happens– good and bad. Things rarely go as planned. I had to work really hard to adapt while still being confident and stoked to do this big race! I know athletes say this all over social media but it takes a village! My support group is amazing.
Here are a few of the many aspects of preparing for the BWR:
ON THE BIKE
My training on the bike has been fairly low volume considering the race was 8 hours and 22 minutes in the saddle. My Carmichael Training Systems coach Adam Pulford is more than willing to adjust my plan often to account for life so we have been discovering ways to get in good work while not pushing past the limits of my immune system. Most weeks I ride 9-11 hours. My biggest week was a 14 ½ hour week which I did during my school district’s Spring Break. I am a Professional Mountain Biker so 3-4 of the days tend to be on my Pivot LES hardtail. Also, I coach with the NICA Idyllwild Middle School and try to make practice 1-2 days a week.
A TYPICAL WEEK
About 70-75% of my volume is on the weekends! My favorite part about this journey has been heading down to the Recon Rides. I woke up at 5am and made the two-ish hour drive with my dog, Fischer. Fischer played neutral support with Paul of Velofix San Diego North while I went out and enjoyed gorgeous 80 mile rides with rad people!
Monday: Rest day/ yoga/ meditation
Tuesday: Intervals/ lifting (1.5 hr)
Wednesday: Spin/ core (1 hr)
Thursday: Intervals/ lifting (1.5 hr)
Friday: Off or easy spin
Saturday: Endurance (2 – 3 hrs)
Sunday: Long ride (3 -5 hrs)
I have been working with WUKAR Fit for a little over a year. Honestly, I think it has had the biggest impact on my cycling! I have gained about 4 pounds of muscle and it has helped my technical riding ability a lot. Also, on long rides my back and neck are totally fine. Before working with Art I used to get really bad neck and upper-back pain from long rides on the road bike. I have strength routines twice a week and I work through different phases. I do a lot of deadlifts and kettlebell swings and squats. I also use my Rev Board for balance in between exercises. Art has been working with cyclists for over 20 years and he is really knowledgeable when it comes to producing the power necessary for events such as the BWR! My favorite part about working with Art is that he is ALWAYS seeking new knowledge.
I recently started working with Transition Performance to up my mental game! I have read a lot of sports psychology books, researched mental strategies for visualization, and watched many TED talks but that is not the same working with a trained professional. The mind is such a powerful thing and while I am a very positive person I admit I have struggled with confidence when it comes to racing. Seth has worked with me on developing a pre-race mental routine and I was excited to use this new skill for the BWR! I also have started using his new book, Pave the Way, which helps me work through different scenarios and create routines.
These are the three main pillars in my training. In my opinion, they are all equally important. While I hope to continue to increase the amount of work my body can handle, I am proud of being so committed to improving myself as an athlete!
I am still processing what I put my body and mind through on Sunday. I went through many emotions, but surprisingly most of them were on the happy side. The Belgian Waffle Ride is the BEST event I have ever done. From the recon rides to the race itself to the after party, every aspect is meticulously planned to give the rider the best experience. I am in awe with how awesome the crew for BWR is. Some say this is the most difficult one day event in North America. Regardless of difficulty, it is certainly one of the most fun!
I absolutely suffered out there but my headspace was in a place where I was just stoked to be out there! My Pivot Vault ended up being the perfect machine. My Shimano gearing was just what I needed and I suffered ZERO flats thanks to my Kenda tire and Orange Seal combo. This in itself was a major victory as I passed more people with flats than I could even count.
I ended up finishing 14th in the largest and fastest field of women in the history of BWR! The field more than tripled over last year and I bet it will increase even more next year. In case you want to see how I stacked up, check out my Strava!
And now, a recap of my race and how it played out:
Start (0-20ish) – I WENT OUT HARD!!
To be honest, the start was terrifying! It was yo-yo’ing for the “neutral start” and my power was fluctuating a lot! I was committed to going out hard to get onto Lemontwistenburg, the first dirt section, in a good position. I did just that…and then unfortunately people did not go all of the way to the end of the U-turn and I ended up mid-pack going into the dirt. The first dirt single track was painfully slow. I will admit, there was some anxiety in those first dirt miles as I imagined the lead women gaining minutes on me just from getting in ahead of me. When I got back onto Del Dios Highway, I kicked it into high gear and got with a pack that was moving forward. When I say I went out hard, I mean it. I got my third highest one minute power EVER on this section. Near the end of the next dirt section there was a pile up in the sand. All of a sudden I saw two more women!
Mile 54ish – I CRASHED AND HAD A DUDE LAND ON TOP OF ME
Black Canyon was sandy! It was graded a few days prior which left massive sand piles everywhere. All of the dirt was the same color so it was hard to tell where the sand was. After the first section of the long climb, we started descending. After passing a man who was very unsure about this section, I went into a sandy section and started sliding. Boom! The man rammed into me, flipped over me, and landed on top of me. My chain was stuck in between my derailleur and my chain ring, my kit was torn at the hip, and I was bleeding at my elbow, arm, hip, knee, and shin. Yikes! As a mountain biker I am used to crashing so I got up and kept on going without thinking twice.
Mile 54-59ish – I CRACKED SO HARD
I was in a dark place here. I was cracked. Bonked. Done. I thought my power meter was malfunctioning because the power was reading so low. Nope, I was just not doing well. I got passed by countless women. It was a bit demoralizing. I kept looking at my mantra bracelet that says, “Be where your feet are.” It helped remind me that it didn’t matter who was behind or in front of me, I needed to be present. I drank fluid as much as I could going up that climb in an effort to stick to my nutrition plan.
GÜP Aid Station (mile 60ish) – BACON AND COCA COLA BROUGHT ME BACK TO LIFE
Tomas of GÜP saved my day! He hand fed me turkey bacon and several cups of Coca Cola… and I came back to life! What?! Over the next 20 miles, I continued eating, took an electrolyte pill, and continued to focus on hydrating. I was with two other riders and we were going at a decent pace; not too fast and not too slow. A faster group caught up and I was recovered enough to hop on!
Mile 80-100 – ALL OF A SUDDEN I FELT AMAZING
Out of nowhere, I started feeling really good! This was a huge, welcomed surprise! These miles included a lot of dirt and I was able to pass people along the way. During this part of the race I started to notice that every aid station (they were spaced about 20 miles apart) had women at them as I stopped quickly and kept going. I was moving up! The crazy thing about this race is that you have no idea where you are in the field. It truly is a race against yourself.
Mile 100-133 – I KICKED BUTT AT THE END
This is the part I was most mentally prepared for. I had such a positive attitude and I am so stoked on my performance during these miles. I continued to pass people while encouraging them, was able to get in with a fast group, and I was still taking pulls! I raced in fear for much of the race because I didn’t want to get a purple card/jersey, which means you were sitting in and not doing work. Thanks, MMX (Michael Marckx, the race director) for the scare! Double Peak was grueling but I was able to turn the pedals over, with a max grade of over 20%. Ouch! With less than a mile to go I caught up to two more women. On the last little kicker of a hill I got out of the saddle and and was able to get a big enough gap to finish ahead without a sprint finish. The crazy part is, I would have been ready for it.
Finish – THIS IS THE BEST PARTY OF THE YEAR!
At the finish I was greeted by Nic and MMX. I got a big hug and a congrats from both. Having part of my tribe at the end was really special to me! I chugged a recovery drink and went straight for the waffles and ice cream! Next, I had a delicious Cinco de Mayo meal with a Lost Abbey Cinco de Drinko Mexican Lager. Pure epicness!
The BWR is hands down the best day I have ever had on a bike. It is everything a bike event should be. As MMX said before he sent us off, “this is a parade of bikes with your friends.” We are here to help each other out, before during, and after. I am already looking forward to lining up for the 2020 BWR. You should join me!
When it comes to cycling and racing, keeping up with nutrition often times gets overlooked or can be a bit overwhelming. Luckily, I have a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from the University of Wyoming. While in Laramie, I was fortunate enough to work in the Human Exercise and Nutrition lab for three years researching vitamin D status in the athletic population. I love the nutrition aspect of bike racing! Being an ultra distance event, the Belgian Waffle Ride took a lot of nutrition planning; not only for the event itself but also for the days leading up as well as proper recovering after.
This can be challenging as a teacher because sometimes I have to go three to four hours before I can go to the bathroom. I try to strategically plan my bathroom breaks and drink water around those times. It sounds silly but if you are a teacher you get it!
In addition to water, I have also been drinking Gu Roctane mix throughout the day. It contains electrolytes so that I can keep everything balanced.
On the morning of the race I will drink my last bottle of water 2 hours before the race and then take small sips so that I do not have to go to the bathroom in the beginning. This is something I have experimented with and it works for me.
Since Thursday I have been eating a lot of carbohydrates! This includes foods such as brown rice (within 24 hours of the race I will switch to white rice), quinoa, pasta, oats, sweet potatoes, etc. I will still include lean proteins and healthy fats. The variety of foods I eat will not change too much, however, the percentage that each meal contains will. There are a lot of different views on carbo loading and even though I won’t go to the extreme, I will still eat a higher percentage than normal.
Another thing to mention is that starting three days before the event I will eat less salads and raw vegetables (aka high fiber foods) to decrease my chances of getting sick or having gut issues. I haven’t decided if I will go for the waffles on race day or eat my usual: oatmeal with almond milk and some goodies.
During the race I will aim for upwards of 90 grams of CHO (carbohydrates) per hour. I will want this to come from multiple transport systems, such as fructose and maltodextrin that are found in Gu products, in order to alleviate possible gut distress. I will use Gu Energy Labs gels, which contain anywhere from 20 to 24g of Carbohydrates, as well as Gu Chews.
My favorite flavors for long rides are Salted Watermelon and Birthday Cake! Because I would need to consume 4 gels in an hour in order to reach 90g, I will instead supplement with Gu Roctane drink mix (Blueberry Pomegranate), which has 17g.
In fact, for the first two hours of the race I will likely only drink my CHO’s because I will be focused on making the selection and getting to the dirt in a good spot. I will carry the individual packets in my jersey so I can replenish my bottles throughout the race. Later in the race I will likely chug a Coke, too. It is the only time I drink soda and I often crave it on long rides! Sorry MMX, the tequila will have to wait until the finish when I partake in the #cincodemayonnaise celebration!
Another important part of fueling for this race is electrolytes. The human body has seven electrolytes that help with regulating nerve and muscle function, hydration, balancing acidity, among other functions. When the body has an imbalance you may experience extreme fatigue, dizziness, and every person’s worst fear: cramping.
Though the weather looks like it will be cooler (OMG, YES!), electrolytes will still be important in order to avoid these unfortunate events. I have never been to a sweat lab but I do know that I am not one of those riders who finishes with salt EVERYWHERE (think Larissa Connors 2017). This means that even though I will focus on electrolytes I will not take in extreme amounts.
I will take two Salt Stick Electrolyte capsules an hour before the race and I will carry two more in my jersey just in case. These Electrolyte tablets contain sodium, chloride, potassium, and magnesium. Sodium and chloride are the main electrolytes lost via sweat although some research shows that it can be beneficial to replace the others as well, especially in ultra-distance events such as the BWR. In addition to the capsules, I will also have 125mg of sodium in the Gu Roctane gels. It is important to take fluids with electrolyte replacement! Speaking of fluids, I will aim to have 16-20oz of plain water per hour.
Keep it Simple
2-3 hours before the race: eat breakfast (high carb, low fat)
2 hours before the race: last bottle of water
1 hour before the race: electrolyte capsule
Every hour during the race: 20oz of water, 20oz of Roctane drink mix, 3 gels or some chews, some sort of bar to get some kcals/protein/fat, carry two electrolyte tablets, Coke, maybe some random food
Race Hard, Recover Harder:
Ah, yes, I do also need to think about AFTER the race. While I will be enjoying a beer from Lost Abbey, I will start by drinking a recovery drink. My go-to recovery drink is a team favorite: plant protein milk, 1 scoop of vanilla Gu Recovery mix, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, and a touch of maple syrup. Try it, it is delicious! I will have this pre-made and in an ice chest so that I can consume it within the Glycogen Window (30 minutes after finishing). I will also eat as much as I feel like and whatever I feel like. I am guessing there will be pizza in my future for dinner because that is one of my favorite foods ever! For a couple of days after BWR I will consume a lot of protein… and calories in general. Also, I will focus on drinking a lot of water in the days after.
Signing up for the Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) in November left me with butterflies in my stomach. It is by far the longest race I will have done, not only in miles but also time on my saddle. For those who aren’t familiar with this epic event, the BWR is a ~136 mile multi-surface event in North San Diego County. The route is created to be torturous with nearly 12,000 feet of climbing. There are approximately 46 dusty, dirt-filled miles with the rest of the course on paved roads that oftentimes have strong headwinds. It is being held on Cinco de Mayo so heat could be a factor as well though so far the forecast is looking ideal! I chose this event because it is something new. I imagine I will learn a lot about myself as a cyclist, competitor, and person as I am out there in an all day effort. Needless to say, I love challenges that scare me so bring it on BWR!
General Bike-Set Up:
The first puzzle piece for preparing for the BWR was figuring out my bike set-up. For my bike, I will be racing my trusty Pivot Vault. This bike has already had plenty of dirt adventures before signing up for the BWR because it is the bike I use to race local cyclocross and also…well, I just love dirt and have a hard time staying off of it! For the first few pre-rides I had a Shimano 50/34 crankset and an Ultegra 11/30 cassette. While this works well on the flats I found I was running out of gears rather early on the hideous climbs that BWR’s race director, MMX, has so graciously placed throughout the course. After riding 80 miles with Adam Mills of Source Endurance as well as talking with Phil Tinsman over a Lost Abbey Ale, I decided to order a long cage derailleur and swap the cassette for an 11-34. While this won’t stop my legs from screaming up Double Peak, I am sure it will make me smile going up Black Canyon! Velofix San Diego North has helped me get all of the new gear swapped out as well as a pre-race tune-up. If anything comes up before the race, even in the minutes leading up, Paul and Adam will be the folks that save my ride!
Now let’s talk about the very “delicate” area of such a long race- the saddle and positioning on the bike. I have a saddle that is SO comfortable on my bike fit thanks to Abe at Incycle. He uses the Retul System so my fit is dialed. I have the Specialized Mimic Saddle in a 155mm width. In my opinion, a bike fit is pretty much mandatory for such a long event in order to not only be efficient, but also comfortable. In addition to the saddle, to keep that area comfortable I have a chamois that is great for long extravaganzas in my KS Kenda Women’s Hyperthreads Pro kit. It is a women’s specific chamois so it is made to fit women in a comfortable way by not being as wide in the saddle area. I also use Pedal Power chamois cream!