When you train, you are challenging your body with a difficult task. After the workout, your body will adapt to be able to meet the new demands you have asked of it. This takes recovery! One important aspect of recovery and adaptation is having the building blocks repair tissue that were overstressed in training. To do this we must replenish glycogen stores (muscle fuel) while also building new and improved tissue. It is recommended to get 20-25g of protein and 25-35g carbohydrates back into our system within 20-30 minutes of a hard training session or race1. We use Gu Protein Recovery Drink Mix after all of our workouts and have created several amazing shake recipes with the mix. We thought we would share!
“With a busy lifestyle, I like to have my shake ingredients prepped so they will be quick to make and consume. I made this recipe up at the coffee shop I owned prior to my cycling life and simply added recovery mix to it!”
I like to prep the banana and avocado into baggies in the freezer every few days so it is always quick and easy. If you freeze them, you won’t need ice! Throw all of the ingredients in a blender and blend for 10-15 seconds. There will be a few date chunks that don’t blend…the texture is my favorite!
“When it comes to recovery I like mine to be just as firey as my workouts. Nothing is better than a chilled chocolate smoothie with a hint of cayenne to sip on the drive home!”
I am all for quick and easy meals and drinks so just add all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse 4 to 5 times until everything is mixed. If you are looking for a thicker texture add chia seeds!
Emma’s Mint Chocolate Chip Recovery Shake
“The ice cream truck has been doing its rounds lately making me nostalgic for childhood treats. I’ve always been a sucker for mint chocolate chip milkshakes and have made an adult version that is delicious after a hot and dusty training ride to enjoy as I soak my legs in the Deschutes River.”
1 c. almond milk (to make it creamier but water works too)
Several ice cubes
2-3 kale leaves (bonus nutrition and it makes the smoothie green)
¼ tsp. Peppermint extract
8-10 mint leaves
Handful of chocolate chips
In a blender mix the Gu, liquid, ice, kale and peppermint extract. Blend until smooth. Toss in the mint leaves and chocolate chips and pulse a few times to chop them up a bit, but not puree them.
Pro Tip: Pour your recovery drink into a Hydroflask to keep it cool in your car at the trailhead so you have it right away post ride!
Do you have a blissful Gu recovery shake recipe? We would love some inspiration. Share it with us! We will pick the tastiest recipe to win a free bag of the NEW GU Roctane Ultra Endurance Protein Recovery!
A late work day meant a late arrival. Ryan and the rest of the TSE crew stayed up to make sure I could navigate to my cabin!
I had no idea how many people I would be with or where they were sleeping.
I didn’t want to wake anybody up [the door creaked] so in a state of awkwardness I decided I would be fine sleeping in my sweatpants and t-shirt and did not unload the car.
It was pretty cold so I used my pillowcase as a micro-sleeping bag.
Turns out nobody even heard me come in and took all of about 10 minutes for our floor to basically become an instant family! One of my favorite parts about each day was spinning back to the lodge and hearing about everybody’s races. Seriously, this crew was amazing!
On Stage 1 Bob charged ahead at the start as I buried myself to stay with him and the leaders. After about an hour of XCO pace he called out and said that it was not sustainable and we slowed up a bit. Good thing we did because at the 90 minute mark my back seized up and it was my turn to ask for a pace change.
We were able to rally and with rain pouring down and thunder clapping, we finished strong with nothing but smiles on our faces.
The rest of the stages went by crazy fast and we learned more about how to pace without blowing each other up, which is something I haven’t had to think about when racing before. I would pull us on the gravel sections and Bob, a more experienced technical rider, would help guide me through some gnarly sections. Teamwork was definitely making the dream work!
Here are some of the stage highlights:
Stage 1: Finishing the race in a thunderstorm. This made it dramatic and exciting! Four more days to go.
Stage 2: Eating 3 GU gels + drinking a bottle of drink mix per hour. I may have gone overboard, but man did I feel energized on the ride!
Stage 3: Nabbed 5th in the Enduro Timed Section. I have been working on my descending skills so this felt like a well-earned victory!
Stage 4: Conquered the Three Bridges of doom. These were slippery bridges with a 16-ish inch step-up to get onto them. Physically it was hard, but mentally is was REALLY challenging!
Stage 5: Helping an injured rider off the trail to get to a road where she could be taken to the hospital. Bob and I ended up missing the GC podium but it was well worth it to help the rider get out safely. Completing this stage meant I completed my first stage race!
The week was definitely challenging as I learned about how to be a good partner and manage my pace and expectations. Not going immediately into the red meant that I was able to see technical sections more clearly and gained a whole new sense of rock-riding confidence.
While my legs and mountain bike skills (especially riding rocks!) will come out of this week stronger and more capable, I feel like my mental strength and balance as a competitive athlete have shattered a ceiling I didn’t even know I had.
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!
Team Camp was in sunny Southern California in February. We each live in places with “real winter” and were stoked to ride sweet single track (not snow packed trails, ice roads and trainers) and working on our tans was pretty appealing. However, Mother Nature had other plans for us. Our week in SoCal was during week three of torrential rains, mud slides, floods and even a day of snow at sea level. We are mountain bikers so we are not afraid to ride in the elements, and fortunately Hyperthreads has made our kit and accessories to tackle any conditions. Here is a little video showing our apparel strategy for chilly ride starts, sweaty climbs, rainy descents, and those moments when the sun does poke out of the clouds.
For us, part of the lure of being a team is actually being a team. There are few team options so most professional women mountain bikers are privateers which means they represent themselves and seek individual sponsorship. This is a solo path and can be lonely as well as daunting to progress in the sport without mentorship and comradery. Before we founded KS Kenda Women’s Elite team, each of us looked longingly at social media posts of teams at training camps and pushed back pangs of jealousy when we heard tales of team riders working technical terrain together and getting to test new product. Envy no more. In our second year as a team we had a training camp!
We met in SoCal for a week of riding together and doing all things bike for a week. We did many of the things we dreamed of at training camp: rode challenging trails, got in some serious saddle time, dined with sponsors, experimented with new equipment, laughed so hard addressing a trail mechanical you would have thought it was intentional, had photo shoots, video, drank lots of coffee, ate super healthy (and gigantic) meals, got a bloody knee, cleaned the series of impossible switchbacks, napped, and just savored being immersed in bike time with like-minded women. Here are some of our favorite moments:
With the dates chosen back in early fall, I have been looking forward to this Bikecation for a long time! My task was to have an idea of where we would be staying throughout the week. With Emma and Jen coming in on seperate days and the roads to my home in Idyllwild closed due to flooding, Emma and I decided to get a cheap hotel on Friday night. We went to Eureka! in Redlands where we ordered a meal and tasty beverage. The woman next to us gave us a hard time about being asked for our id. We ended up chatting with her for a while and found out that she also was a cyclist! While looking at a Motel 6 nearby, we asked her if it would be an okay place to crash. “No, you can’t stay there! Stay with me. I have plenty of room!” Emma and I looked at each other and simultaneously answered, “okay!”. Auntie Candy is now a dear friend. We ended up staying with her for a total of 4 nights and talked about so many parts of life. One of the neatest things that happened? We got to join her for a bike ride AND gift her a KS Kenda jersey to rep in Redlands! It was a hilarious beginning to camp and a fortunate happenstance that we were ID’d at Eureka! on that fateful Friday evening.
The Arrival! I was so excited for camp that I forgot to take my wallet out when I used Curbside Check-in for my bag before boarding my first flight. This error left me sans a solid meal for 10 hours which, for an athlete, is the equivalent of 10 years. Nikki picked me up at the airport late in the evening and I was desperate for fooddddd. The best quick, late night vegetarian option was Del Taco. I asked if they had a rice and bean burrito with avocado. The speaker box guy responded that they had a “Chicken Avocado burrito that has rice and beans.” I asked if it could be made without chicken and then there was a long pause. When we said, “Hello, are you there?” the speaker box guy then asked if I had decided on my order. Too hungry to clarify the vegetarian-ness of the burrito, I just ordered it and hoped the chicken was omitted. Ze burrito was delivered and all was right with the world! I faintly remember Nikki asking me if I wanted to check for chicken but there was no time; hunger! I just took a big bite hoping for the best. My meatless choices were respected. Brain reengaged, it’s off to Candy’s (Nikki’s story) to reunite with the whole team. All the excites!
SoCal in winter means things in bloom, birds chirping, and citrus heavy on trees. Quite the sensory overload from the white of winter I live in. On day one of camp we were pedaling back to Candy’s on backroads after riding the flow trails at Grafton Hills in Yucaipa, and I simply could not resist stopping and picking up grapefruits that were all over the road. I started to peel one and looked up to see Nikki, who had just stuffed two grapefruits under her jersey. Bike Barbie! I fell over laughing so hard.
Part of our decision to have the team camp in SoCal was because a good majority of our sponsors are located there. We enjoy the relationship aspect of running a team so for us it is very valuable to spend time with the people who give us tools to chase our dreams. On Tuesday we were fortunate enough to hang out with our KS Suspension family. We even got to eat dinner at the Trabuco Steakhouse, which cooks their meals using hardwood smokers! The night consisted of funny stories and even funnier pictures before leaving the restaurant. The next day, on Wednesday, we moved towards San Diego. After a slightly rainy but very fun technical ride at Elfin Forest Preservative, we drove to Carlsbad to join our friends at Pizza Port for pizza and beer! TASCO (and Top Rope Media), Wend Wax, Gup, and VeloFix-San Diego North were all there to join the fun. It was awesome to see people who have joined our squad chat with each other and exchange stories. I specifically remember looking around and seeing every person at our table talking with a grin on their face. Moments like these are ones I cherish and hold close to my heart. Our team has created a family and we are so stoked to have so many rad people in our corner!
One day we were taken to Mecca Hills, by David Wood, our host in Palm Springs. This area features sand canyons, steep rock strewn hills, plenty of cactus, and choose your own adventure routes. Primitive riding is a rarity and there are few riders who would think several hours of this would be a good time. It was so cool that David wanted to show us around this gem of a riding area. Straight from the truck we ascended a slope with big step-ups and hairpin switchbacks. I am fit and pride myself on my technical trail skills, but David was gracefully linking the obstacles and pulling away from me while I was breathless and put a foot down on several features. I was beyond impressed with David’s riding and knew if I could just get on his wheel I would learn a lot, but that was a huge ask. He would patiently wait for us at the top of hills and I would catch his wheel for a bit but get blown off. We stopped for a snack and I really took a hard look at David’s long travel bike to try and figure out how it was an efficient climbing machine. Only then did I notice it was a machine! David was on an e-bike. I did learn a thing or two about technical climbing that day!
We didn’t let a rainy (aka torrential downpour) day ruin our chance to spend time on the bike and hang out! With trails too muddy to ride, we decided on a “Skills and Drills” day. We each coach mtb through NICA, regional teams, and private clients and thus each have different strengths as riders: Nikki is a master of riding technique, Emma sees lines where none should be found, and I excel at power and balance moves. We shared our drills and helped each other make changes or try something new. Yes, even professional cyclists need to strengthen the fundamentals. Sometimes I get self-conscious or frustrated with myself for not being able to do a “basic” skill and tend to shut down. This was not the case at all when riding with Emma and Nikki. When cornering on steep or technical terrain I am not as confident as I would like to be and tend to death grip the top tube with my knees. They were so supportive and helpful breaking down how to turn my bike before progressing the fundamentals to apply to challenging terrain. I walked away from the ride with the steps to turn my bike correctly and drills to practice, but most importantly all the “happy feels” and self confidence gained from being a part of a truly supportive and amazing team. Also, practicing controlled endos and bunny hopping was pretty freaking fun.
We had such an amazing time. It was hard to part at the airport. Instead of saying goodbye, we reminded each other we will be reunited at Sea Otter in just a few weeks! See you there.
I’m headed to Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada in a few weeks for Frosty’s Fat Bike Festival again, and I couldn’t be more stoked! The event features two races: a crit style XC and a 50K, fat bike demos, skills clinics (with fat bike instructors, including me), a “Ride with the Pros” event in Maligne Canyon, dinners, beer tasting at Jasper Brewing Company, discussions on fat bike-related topics, and mostly a whole lot of fun. PS, it’s not too late to sign up! The snow is stacking up in the Canadian Rockies and temperatures are tracking in the 20’s Fahrenheit so conditions will be perfect. Last year an Arctic flow consumed the region during the event and I fine-tuned my fat biking essentials to ensure I had fun no matter the weather. The lessons I learned have made fat biking even more fun and taken away my anxieties about getting cold. They can help you too!
It’s All About the Tires
You hear this all the time from fat bikers, but how your bike engages with the snow is the difference between floating across terrain or sinking so deep your axles are at snow level. My “must have” tires for any snow condition are Kenda Juggernaut 4.8’s. They always find traction, roll fast on hard pack, and have a sidewall that allows for even spreading of the tread across the snow. I spend the first few minutes of any ride adjusting my tire pressure. My start-point is generally 3PSI in the front and 3.5PSI in the rear.
If you adjust your PSI in a warm place, like in your house, when you go outside in cold temps the pressure will lower. It’s easier to reduce pressure after you have been out for 20 minutes than to add it back, so head out with more pressure than you think you will want.
In hardpack conditions I run more air pressure, between 5-8 PSI. If it is extremely cold, the moisture will be sucked out of hardpack snow and it starts to behave like sugar. As more people spin through the sugar bowl it starts to become bottomless. Run a low PSI as if you were in a little fresh powder
In fresh, fluffy snow you will want to spread out your time footprint as much as possible to stay on top. I run as little as 2.5 PSI.
In soft, moist snow or deep fresh snow it is just about impossible not to bury your tires. If you are leaving a tire impression that is more than 1” deep and your PSI is as low as you can make it, this is not the day to ride. The trough you leave and the subsequent post holes from hiking out will destroy the trails for others until a groomer is able to repair the damage or a big snowfall covers it up.
If it’s going to be really cold, top off your sealant and carry a tube. Tubeless tires may fail in extreme cold. Alloy rims conduct heat well, meaning they quickly give any heat they have in them to the snow. Rubber contracts a little when it contacts cold conditions too. Sealant is water based which may freeze and expand. The increased space between your rim and tire may be too big a feat for your sealant to hold together and sealant that is normally sloshing around to fill the gap may be an icy mass. I’ve only had this happen to me when the temperature is below -15 Fahrenheit, but it was a long and cold hike home. Always carry a tube and tools to fix a flat.
Frostbite is not a love-bite
Frostbite can happen in just a few minutes if the wind is blowing, you are wet from sweat or snow, or if skin is exposed even briefly to extreme cold as when taking a glove off to open a snack. A solid layering solution that prevents wind from getting in but allows moisture to escape is a must.
Hands need to be bundled up, but not so much that you can’t maneuver your levers to shift or brake. BarMitts are basically mandatory. I put heat packs in the BarMitts and turn them into an oven.
Your face, especially around your nose and mouth, are hard to keep covered when breathing hard. I use Aeemelia Every Day Skin and Lip Oil my face to make a waterproof barrier between my skin and the elements. The oil has a natural SPF, but I will apply a higher power sunscreen over the oil if the sun is out in full force.
Feet are notoriously hard to keep warm while cycling. I have had several pairs of winter riding boots, and I believe Lake Cycling MXZ303 is the best out there. They are warm, waterproof and windproof while being just breathable enough to prevent your feet from wading in a sweat bog. They adjust by a Boa system, so the fit will never put circulation reducing pressure on any part of your foot and all sizes are available wide. Most of the Canadians were wearing these too!
It is easy to think you will keep your feet warm with more socks. However, pressure on your feet from being squished under several socks will reduce circulation and cause them to cool down. I experimented one day in Jasper and wore a thin wool sock on one foot and two on the other and went for a ride. The double sock foot chilled a bit while the single one was comfortable.
For crazy cold rides, I back-up my warm feet strategy by rigging my ski boot heaters to my cycling boots.
When it’s cold, your desire to eat and drink is “Meh” at best. However, just keeping warm consumes a lot of calories. Not to mention, you are exercising! Liquids freeze. Hydration and nutrition is a bit of a conundrum.
Put edibles in your BarMitt ovens. The heat packs will keep them from becoming solid, so you won’t break a tooth trying to gnaw on your GU Energy Stroopwafel.
If using a water bottle, put it upside down in the bottle cage to keep the nozzle from freezing up. If it much below freezing, this will only work for the beginning of your outing.
I found an Osprey hydration vest works best for me. I put it over my first base layer and under all others. The nozzle I run under my neck gaiter. My body heat keeps the liquids from freezing.
When I’m done drinking, I make sure to blow some air into the tube so the bit that is exposed does not have liquid in it to freeze.
If the nozzle does freeze, putting it in your mouth (like biting a stick) will melt it in a minute or two.
This trick came from my coach Mike Durner at Mind Right Endurance: put 1 oz of liquor in 1.5L hydration bladder. This lowers the freezing point but is not enough to make me impaired.
I found putting my nutrition in my water was the best strategy to keep me fueled AND hydrated. My favorite blend is Blueberry Pomegranate GU Roctane Hydration Mix, a dash of cinnamon, and whiskey mixed into hot water. It tastes like mulled cider.
I increase my hourly calorie replacement by 100 Kcal or more. I weigh 125 lbs and consume 300 Kcal/hr during hard rides lasting more than 1.5 hours and am still ravenous for lunch.
Odds and Ends
Your iPhone is good for 1-2 pictures before the battery is drained in the cold. I put heat packs in my internal pocket to hold my phone and it will warm up enough to take another 1-2 pictures 30 minutes later. Better yet, ride with lots of friends and have one person take a picture at any stop and share your images and/or only take the amazing shots.
I get asked over and over if hydraulic brakes work in cold temperatures. My Shimano brakes have not let me down. To keep the brake fluid viscous, I pump my brakes a few times every 20 minutes. When riding in fresh snow, I scrub speed most of the time by nudging my tires into the soft edges of the groomed trails, avoiding touching my brakes all together.
Access to a hot tub or bath is essential. As soon as I get back from a chilly ride, I take a hot soak to restore my core temperature. I gobble up all my energy reserves trying to rewarm otherwise; leaving me a zombie at post ride festivities. This also lets my body recover to head out the next day.