More Than Miles

Today marks the finish of the first mountain bike trip of the season, a 2 day adventure in Fruita, a mere 2 hours from my door. I set out Friday night for Grand Junction, my trust Trek Lush 29’er as my passenger, and spent an evening catching up with some good friends. I have ben friends with Elisa and Matt since I first raced cross (for more on that read Zen and the Art of Cycling in the Snow (and mud). They are one of my favorite couples and in general favorite people, full of love and enthusiasm and adventure (Elisa’s blog, Trails 365, is one I highly recommend if you like reading about hiking, biking and general badassery).

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Escaping to the Desert

Saturday morning, I woke up to a great breakfast snd some amazing coffee brewed for me in an antique coffeemaker, and a huge delicious breakfast; perfect fuel for the day. I join up with my  friends Nadia and Evie and we headed west to the high desert trails of 18 Road.

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I am lucky to have a great friend like Elisa….#dontforgettobeawesome

Nadia is a newly found riding buddy, who also happens to date my best guy friend,and I was super psyched to get time to ride with her again! And Evie is my birthday twin, the sister f my best friend growing up, who was born 4 years to the day after me, but outside of spin class, we had never had an opportunity to ride together.

We started the day with a fast loop on PBR (Pumps, Bumps and Rollers), a fast flowy fun trail, with Nadia’s dog Stella leading the way (man can that dog run!). We returned to the parking lot, dropped off Stella for a little rest, and headed over to Joe’s Ridge, which takes you up onto a narrow ridge, and drops you ups and down and all around before dumping you back at the lower parking lot. We then grabbed Stella for one more lap and hit another round of PBR, this time taking Prime Cut single track up instead of the road.

As the temps started to drop, we made it back to the car for a celebratory cheers, and spent quite a while conversing with the van owner parked next to us, while Stella explored the totally awesome Westfalia and we talked Ridgway Area Trails (RAT) and the upcoming Ridgway Fat Tire Festival and RAT Race (make your calendars!!) happening June 10.

Then it was time for the real treat, an early dinner at Hot Tomato, the place to eat when in Fruita. And yes, as you can see in the picture below, we all got our own pizza….

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Pizza at Hot Tomato! (Check the unicorn leggings, Nadia makes them herself!)

We retreated to our hotel for the night only to discover that I had brought neither a bathing nor underwear that could pass for such in a public pool….so we dipped back out to Walgreen’s where we ended up with a 3 pack of what I dubbed “granny panties”, as well as 3 bags of Haribo Gummy Bears (more on that soon).

In a show of solidarity, my friends actually rocked the GPs with me to the pool, where we swam and soaked until we could barely move, and then we headed upstairs to chill. We then carried off blind taste test of Gummy Bears to determine who had picked the best flavor, and watched Cruel Intentions (total 90s high school throwback for all of us)….

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The Gummis…..
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The blind taste test…
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Stella couldn’t hang

 

This morning brought a search for coffee, me sharing McDonald’s hash browns with Stella, and 2 laps on the Kokopelli trails located west of Fruita towards Utah. We stopped for picture at some of the awesome view points overlooking the Colorado River, and finished out day with a hard cider and of course, more Gummy Bears…

The best part of the weekend for me was beyond the miles or climbs or skills or even the bike (although DAMN do I love my bike!)…it was about something I felt this past year or so I had lost from my life to some extent. It was about friendship, fun, camaraderie and just some pure silliness. Remembering the person in you that wants to laugh and smile and not be such an adult. These moments become more and more rare as we grow, as our children grow, as we struggle through bigger thoughts and ideas and issues and concerns. This year in particular has had a literal and figurative pall cast over it, I spent January in the depths of a funk when the sun refused to shine for a month, and cold air and wind ripped though me and eroded my cheer and good nature. Even when the sun emerged, I couldn’t shake the chill of the winter. This weekend, in the warm spring desert, my son soaking up some much needed Vitamin D, I found my smile again. At he end of the day, this weekend wasn’t about the miles or trails or technique, but the friendships I have begun to build with friends who love the same things as I do: bikes, pizza, wine and fun!

As always, much love to Primal Wear whose awesome apparel keeps me happy and comfy on all my rides, Skratch for being the best hydration mix in the world, and COPMOBA for all the work they do to make these trails available and rideable. If you are in need of a new super cool pair of leggings or a riding tank, or a fun headband like this cat one I am rocking below, check out my friend Nadia’s Etsy shop: Lycra Unincorporated!

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CATS!!!!

 

 

 

Born Again

Since the moment I began to truly ride bikes, I have loved it with my heart and soul. There is such a deep passion for cycling within me, that it can pull me from the deepest depths of my despair and bring me unending joy. But back in June, I wrecked on my beloved Trek Lush mountain bike. I crashed badly, but walked away with some road rash and bruises.

As I dusted off, checked my vision and verified I was able to ride home, I thought through all of the what ifs of the crash, and it hit me how badly I could have been hurt. Everyone told me to get right back on the bike, but I truly hurt too badly to do so, or I told myself.

As days turned to weeks, I would eye my bike warily from across the room. I felt betrayed. I know it sounds silly, but I put my trust and faith in my bike to carry me safely along the trails, and in my eyes, it had failed me. What once was my most trusted companion was now a stranger. The inanimate item I had placed my faith in, now was just a piece of metal against my wall.

It made me feel as though I had lost my religion. I felt so far apart from my favorite places out on the trails. I tried to return to nature, my church, but was lost and unsure, wary that maybe I would find none of what I used to, that without my trust in my bike, riding was but a hollow activity, one full of fear and uncertainty. Although not religious, I assume this must be how one feels after they lose their faith in their god and the inanimate adornments and rituals that once brought them solace.

It took a lot of time to examine my deepest fears that came to life when I approached trails, descents, berms, rocks….I had to come to terms with the fact that my bike is nothing more than a vessel to deliver me to my passion. I had to believe once again that I could ride these trails without fear, understand there is no guarantee of safety and embrace the unknown. I had to be less naive, more aware that in life there is only an illusion of safety.

This weekend I returned to Phil’s World, where I raced and trained last spring, and forced myself to tackle the trails as I used to, to once again put my trust in myself and my faith in my bike. As I returned to the trailhead 18.7 miles later, smiling from ear to ear, I breathed in deeply and was born again a mountain biker.

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Phil’s World on a Sunday…with the best crew ever! 

Hitting Reset

It has now been 2 years since I began the journey of writing about riding. I have enjoyed putting into words my journey; my struggles, my successes, and the lessons learned along the way.

Last month I hit the breaking point, my lower back was in agony, I avoided my bike or stuck to short, easy rides. My energy was sapped from the culmination of school beginning (for Hailey), work travel and general craziness of attempting to do too much. I spent 5 days in Boulder between 2 events, and was possibly the worst guest ever. I could barely open my eyes some mornings, I was sleeping hours later than usual, and even with the added rest, was still too tired to do much of anything. I was referred to a sports massage therapist to help with the cause I could identify, which was the lingering pain in my left low back that was worsening with each day.

After an amazing 90 minute massage, my massage therapist came back with a surprise diagnosis of my pain: an overly tight right hip flexor from too much time in the driver’s seat, coupled with a slightly weaker left glute. I walked away from the appointment alleviated from the pain, although still sore from the weeks of muscle tightness and misuse. What I also walked away with was the realization that there was more I needed to deal with than just the physical.

When I returned home from my travels, I took some time to rule evaluate where I was at physically, mentally and emotionally. And I realized I was drained on all fronts. I had been failing to let my mind and body truly rest. And both on and off the bike, I had allowed myself to fall into poor form. I pushed too hard with too little fuel, allowing anxiety and worry to carve away more and more from me with each sleepless night.

If you spin, or do Sufferfest videos, or are lucky enough to have a trainer, you probably are often reminded to reset your form. These last few weeks have been all about taking a moment to breathe, look up at my surroundings and adjust.

Physically, I began to take Pilates again, and work on strengthening my whole body. To help clear myself mentally, I cleaned my house from top to bottom, took on all the projects I had left sitting for another day, set up a schedule for myself. I stopped letting myself procrastinate. And then I sat down and evaluated my desires and set new goals for myself.

As you know if you have read my previous post “Fear of Failure“, I struggle to take on things that I may not succeed at, that I fear being perceived as weak or to acknowledge I gave my all and still came up short.

My goal this fall, as I cleared my house and my mind of clutter and reset myself for what lies ahead, is to give my all and embrace the art of trying, the grace that lies within not always succeeding.

This week, I hit the reset button, sat up tall and strong, shoulders back, and began to take on the climbs ahead, knowing I will make it to the top if I don’t allow myself to give up and turn back.

The Right Resistance

It’s all about resistance, isn’t it?

Life is often a choice between the path of least resistance and upping the resistance. Too little resistance and you spin pointlessly, never gaining any strength; too much and you get hurt and feel unable to try that hard again.

The hardest part of riding/spinning/life is finding the right balance, and getting to know ourselves well enough to know when to push and when to hold back.

There are so many times I have let myself give up on a hard climb, on a long day, on an exposed descent, telling myself I need to reserve something for later, only to return home with regrets.

There are as many times I have pushed too hard and have ended up hurt. I have stood in front of my bike, injured, no longer trusting it but instead fearing the pain it can bring when I allow myself to be free.

Other times I have walked the fine line between the two, a tightrope between fear and love, yearning so badly to feel the wind in my face, the sun on my back, the birds singing in my ears as I race down mountains while at the same time I quiver at the thought of the possible crash, the skidding, the slow motion halt of motion as skin and bone collides with ground or gravel or asphalt.

The only solution for this is following something stronger than stats and plans and rational design..instinct.

Following our hearts is just as hard on a bike as it is in life, trusting ourselves that we can be stronger than we feel, taking on challenges we never thought possible, the things we have grown to tell ourselves we will never be able to accomplish, and in the end reaching pinnacles we never before have experienced. But we also must acknowledge the side of our hearts that tell us there are some things we will not be capable of on this day, that we can only give so much as we grow, that we are not quite that strong or fearless yet, or maybe we will never be no matter what we do. The question every time you begin to ride is how far you desire to go and how much strength you are willing to expend to reach that goal? The biggest gift you can give yourself is the freedom to decide when the resistance is too much, and whether it is worth it to push through and risk being hurt, and accepting the outcome whether you reach the finish line or turn back. And most importantly, in life as well as on the bike, the key is always to enjoy the ride.

Fear of Failure

“You have been weighed, you have been found wanting”

Mumford & Sons

As always, that time of year approaches yet again..cross is here. I have spent my last 2 years in a valiant attempt to be a semi decent cross racer. I love the sport, I relish how I feel when I arrive at the finish..but at a certain point, failure begins to take its toll.

The first season I did well, because I raced against no one..the second season I wrote off to lack of training. But in year three, I either need to train and truly race or admit defeat.

Defeat would be the easiest path. And to be honest, its the one I have taken so many times before. I can’t say this is the first time I have let fear of failure hold me back. And of course, the question I must ask myself is why?

Fear is easy. It allows us to excuse ourselves from life. It is said you fail 100 times before you succeed, but never once do they acknowledge how hard it is to fail 100 times and keep trying. I have sat on the fence for so long, never really trying, never really making a true effort, so that I could never feel like I truly failed.

I admit it. I am scared. I am so scared to say I tried and failed. I am scared to be weighed and found wanting. I am so scared to push myself to my limits and see what I cannot do, when I should embrace this challenge and fins out exactly how strong I am.

This is me. A strong woman so full of fear and self doubt. I would rather sit on the sidelines than come in last.And it terrifies me because I know that this is evident in my life in more than just cycling. In work, in friendship, and mostly, in love, I am so full of fear that I give up rather than say I tried and failed.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

John Lennon

So this season, I am going to try. In every aspect of my life. I am going to stop acting out of fear. I will embrace my weaknesses, my imperfections, my flaws and faults, and race purely for the love of cycling. And I will hope this allows me to approach other parts of my life without fear.

Components

I have never considered myself to be high maintenance, but over the years I have found that there are some things I consider to be necessary to make me a happy girl. And last week, I found the things I need for a happy girl on a hut trip. Now I know all of you know about things like water, bike tools, spare tube and a (hopefully working) backpack. I’m talking about the true components to make sure you have a smile on your face at the top of every climb, the bottom of every descent and everywhere in between.

Now that I’ve summed up my tour experience, I thought I’d spend a minute covering the lesser considers but equally important components of a multi day tour.

1: Good friends. This is a must! Friends make or break a day, can bring you up when you’re feeling down, and there is nothing better than ending a day of riding and knowing you have built not only stronger muscles but a stronger bond of friendship, and created lasting memories.

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Couldn’t have asked for better friends to spend a week with!

2: Music. Huts are quiet. Eerily quiet when you’re used to traffic, electronics, phone calls…and plus, music is life. I can’t go a day without it, let alone a week. And it’s the perfect way to get going in the morning, wind down in the evening, and fill that void as you all spend some time in your own minds after a grueling day in the saddle.

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Making dinner while rocking out to Neil Young. Couldn’t ask for better!

3: Good chamois. Need I say more? My personal recommendation is Primal Helix bibs. They make both men and women specific and the top of the line chamois is key. I have ridden in a number of different brands and this is the only one I would trust for a multi day trip.

4: Skratch….the exercise mix, the rescue mix, the chews…if you’re really feeling sassy, add in their cycling cap. In my mind there is no comparable product on the market, and its a must on any ride.

5: Training. Can be on a trainer or my preference is at a fun, awesome spin studio with talented instructors. I go to my local studio, Alive Fitness, and even during the hardest classes, I have a great time! It’s been amazing the gains I have seen from spin. I know a lot of people feel just going out and riding is all the training they need, and for some that’s true, but a controlled environment really allows you to tap into unknown potential. And it’s great to keep your strength up during bad weather and time crunched schedules. Bonus: if you attend Jasmine’s classes you may also get introduced to great new music, as she has eclectic taste and a great knack for finding lesser known musicians.

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My happy place for training, Alive Fitness

6: Badass socks. Because sock doping is not a crime. And nothing pops like a bike short/sock tan line combo. Especially attractive when you’re lounging at a Vegas pool, as I learned last fall. In all seriousness, I have some friends who just ride with regular athletic socks, and I have found those to be of lesser quality. I am usually rocking some vivid Handlebar Mustache apparel socks, or of course, one of my many fun Primal Wear pairs. For colder weather, SmartWool makes a cycling specific sock that I love as well.

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Stripey socks from Handlebar Mustache apparel make me smile!

7: A sense of humor. Be able to laugh at yourself at any given time. At your mistakes, your struggles, your low blood sugar induced tantrums, your inability to accurately throw a horseshoe….and always be ready to strike a fun pose!

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We nailed the Wonder Woman/Captain Morgan pose! Day 6 start in Gateway.

At the end of the day, what you really need to remember it is all meant to be fun. As John F Kennedy said, “Nothing compares to the simple joy of riding a bicycle.”

 

 

 

 

Wrapping It Up

I know I spent a lot of time covering the first 4 days of my hut trip, so it’s funny that I can sum up the last 3 in one post, but sometimes that’s the way it goes.

The more we rode and as days passed by, they stopped distinguishing from each other and began to be one cohesive experience. When we finally arrived in Moab, it was a shock to my body to not get back on my bike the next morning.

All the struggle and adjustments of he beginning faded away and became routine. We worked as a team from dawn to dusk, coordinated coffee and breakfast and lunch preparation, knew almost instinctively what needed to be done to leave the hut. On the road, we had our own rhythms, and each of us had acknowledged our need for music along the way, and we each spent most of the climbs in with one earbud in, allowing the beat of the music to set the cadence of our ascent.

The arrival to our hut was equally set, the evaluation of the pantries, dinner planning, a beer or wine at the picnic table watching the sun set…

It made me begin to look at life a little differently, to bemoan the fact that these experiences, in nature on a bike unplugged from the fast paced day to day world, were few and far between. A week away from the normal routine when our bodies and minds both cry out for this solitude and freedom on a daily basis. When I was finally back in cell range, and able to sync strava, upload photos, and of course, gear Haileys voice, it was almost overwhelming. By the end of the night I was in sensory overload. I tossed and turned all night, and awoke readyto return home, while a part of me wanted to get back on my bike and continue my journey, to not stop until I ran out of roads and trails.

The trip was one I will do again and again and probably never have the same experience twice, and I can’t express the level of gratitude I feel that this is something I have available to me in my life.

As I said when I began, it’s funny to say so little about so much. I can continue to describe the climbs, the descent from forest to desert back to forest and back to walls of red rock canyons, but there was a point where it all faded into one long, almost surreal journey. And I know that what I saw and felt will never be matched by a written description, mich like a photo of a sunset always falls short of what you see in your eye. So I will sum up my trip by sharing my pictures, and hope you can see by my smile that I got to experience something so amazing and unique, and I hope it motivates you to find an adventure of your own that brings you that amount of joy.

 

The Never Ending Singletrack…

As a child of the eighties, I grew up with movies like The Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, and of course, The Neverending Story…

Years (decades) later, as a parent, I rewatched the latter, and found myself sobbing alongside a 5 year old Hailey as we watched Atreyu’s horse, Artax, give in to the sorrow and despair of the Swamps of Sadness. And it was on Day 4, as I placed my trusty steed (my Trek Lush SL 29’er) onto my shoulder and ever so carefully began to step over the single log crossing of what felt like the millionth boggy path of the Bench Trail, I was reminded of the long forgotten scene.

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Day 4 in my head

That swampy crossing in itself was not a big deal, but coupled with us riding past not 1 but 2 turn offs to that days singletrack options, opting to backtrack about 2 miles to the second turnoff, then getting lost on the proceeding trail forks and adding another couple of miles and one brutal climb, the day was beginning to take on the feeling of an epic quest and we as the protagonists were being tested to the max.

The directions instructed us that the trail would end with the appearance of a cabin in a pasture. And as we rode on and on, getting in and off our bikes to leap across, shuffle over or just fall into pits of what we hope was predominantly mud, although the constant cow presence led us to question what we were precariously perched above, I began to think all hope was lost.

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Map struggles

When we crossed our “Swamp of Sorrow”, I pointed out its similarities to my riding companions. We all had a good laugh, and Jess stated soon after that he now had the theme song stuck in is head.

But as the miles added up, and I saw the day steadily drift away, watching the sun begin to drop, I began to truly feel as if we were on “The Neverending Singletrack”…

Finally, we reached the “cabin in the woods”, all muddy legged and bloody limbed (we ran into some vengeful thorns not long after the sad swamp), and whipped and hollered at having finally reached a point of interest that denoted actual progress on our journey.

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Finally…the pinnacle of the quest! The “cabin in the woods”…or in the pasture to be more accurate

The downside to our arrival was the realization that we had, by our modest estimation, 18-20 miles of gravel road remaining before we arrived at the Grahm Ranch hut. We took a late (very late) lunch break, and prepared for the miles that still lay ahead of us.

We made the assumption that after a brief climb back up to the road, we just had to descend to the hut…this would not be the last time we inaccurately made this assumption. In fact, by Day 6, we began to joke there was no such thing as downhill on our hut trip.

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Climbing up out of the Singletrack

Numerous hills, some fiesty four wheelers and a rain storm all tried to deter us on our final charge to the finish, but with pure relief, we arrived at the hut at dusk. The elation of having completed such an arduous quest was pretty amazing!

Day 4 pushed us to the limits as a group, as we pushed hard against exhaustion, fatigue and soreness. We each had our moments that day, looking back I am more than a little ashamed by my behavior at the base of the singletrack trail, where I bonked and somewhat lost my temper (read: threw a toddler style pouting tantrum). While I still feel bad about my attitude at that point, the rough spots we all hit along the trail that would never end helped us learn to communicate and and more importantly listen, so we could work together to support and encourage each other better in the days that would follow.

Day 4 made us a true team, working together for a common goal…so in the end, we became our own very 80s era crew, bringing to mind other childhood era groups like the Goonies or perhaps even the Breakfast Club. And the unopened bag of peanut M&Ms in the cupboard was the perfect reward for a day of hard work and perfect way to cap what ended as a 50 mile day.

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Imagine how many M&Ms you eat after the Neverending Singletrack….

 

Getting Lost..and Finding Yourself Along The Way

On Day 2, we all spent  little time feeling as if we should have tackled some additional single track instead of the standard route of 28 miles. I know we somehow felt that we had to take on all available miles for us to feel accomplished on the trip. To compensate, we added a ton of singletrack options to our Day 3 route, incorporating the Rim Trail and then the Aspen Loop to Hornet Spur.

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Rim Trail

 

The Rim Trail turned out to be a pretty rocky and steep trail, and actually offered less views than anticipated, but did help us test our technical skills. Aspen Loop initially appeared to be eerily similar, as it began with a steep punchy climb littered with large and loose rocks, but quickly flattened to a fun, flowy trail. Somewhere along this trail, I had a flash of realization of how far my technical skills have come this past year. I also had a much deeper realization of how my motivation to ride well had shifted.

For the first year or so on my mountain bike, I feel I generally was pushing myself to keep up with friends, or more often, with guys I was dating, one in particular. For a long time, every accomplishment out skill I gained or obstacle I overcame on a bike, I immediately thought how stoked this guy would be that I could keep up better or be able to ride more with him.

While this motivation served me well, it was great to realize that something had shifted within me and I no longer associated my gains to a bygone relationship, and began to see these as my own. I started to see all the new places I could go as I grew stronger. My abilities no longer were a guide to what I could do with someone else, but what I could do on my own. I had begun to ride for myself, not anyone else. It was a truly liberating feeling.

As we ended the Hornet Spur trail and rejoined with the road, we stopped for a lunch break, and Jess split from Kristin and me to ride the last bit of Hornet while we continued on the road…or so we thought.

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Lunch Break!

We had misread the map and didn’t realize we were on Highway 90, not the Divide Road. Long story short, 5 miles and multiple stops later, we hit cell reception and checked Strava to see our location, and realized we were more than a little off on location. Kristin and I turned around and began the long ascent back to where we first went astray.

As we arrived back at our lunch spot and headed in the right direction, we bean to feel a little better. We shortly met up with Jess, with about 10 additional miles under our belt, and headed towards the hut with the agreement that we shouldn’t split up again…that way, worst scenario, we are at least all lost together.

By the time we arrived at Columbine Hut, we had logged 49 miles and were spent. It was the perfect hut for a mellow evening. We relaxed in some camp chairs on the deck of the hut, and unwound from the day.

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Pasta and wine dinner, hut style

The night went quickly, just enjoying a badass bacon olive pasta thank to Kristin’s ingenuity, and of course, some IMT rosé in a can. Sleep came quickly that night after all those miles, and we all looked forward to Day 4. Despite our exhaustion, we planned to again take the alternate route and add on what appeared to be some epic single track. Stay tuned for Day 5: The Never-ending Singletrack….

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Morning at Columbine Hut

On Tour…

Multi day touring takes a some adjustments. You have to mentally shift from riding as something you fit in around work and family and life to riding being your day’s work. To make things a bit more challenging, my tour began so close to home that the first 2-3 days made me feel slightly like a kid camping out in her backyard; I was craving the moment when we truly began to feel as if we were in the wild.

It was slightly disconcerting to have our route take us so close to home that I could have descended into town for a taco lunch. But as we crossed the highway and started up towards Horsefly Mesa, I began to get into the flow of touring, adjusted to the idea of essentially “quantity over quality”, making forward progress on a journey versus riding just to ride.

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Lone windmill on Horsefly Mesa

Initially we had planned to arrive at the hut for a late lunch, and then hop on some single track trails. But as we arrived at the Spring Creek hut, we all agreed that we were exhausted and starving, and opted for some mac & cheese and a game of horseshoes.

The Spring Creek Hut was the first place that I began to feel like we were truly on a trip, away from everything. All cell service ceased to exist, we couldn’t see anything around us but oak brush and aspens. It was that evening, enjoying chicken curry and canned wine (so stoked to see every cabin stocked with Infinite Monkey Theorem rose!), when I realized we truly were on an adventure, that we had taken on a serious challenge and it was a pretty amazing feeling!

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Curry and Rosé in the sunset of Spring Creek Hut

I had promised myself  I would use the week away from distractions to contemplate life, my future (both work and personal), and to make begin to find a direction to take. Up until this point, I hadn’t been able to focus and begin the thought process to lead me to any real decisions. But that night, as I lay awake with nothing but the sound of crickets in my ear, as the moon lightly lit up the hut, I began to really think. With no phones or traffic to deter me, I spent a good chunk of the night awake, truly weighing out all that sat heavy on my mind. And I awoke the next morning a little sleep deprived, but with more clarity of mind than I’d experienced in years.