Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peeing myself at Keystone; and a couple of DH Mtn Biking Tips from the Pros

After the "drop". Its a really steep hill. For real.
So here's all the rest of the news I've been neglecting telling you! A few days after winning the Local Snowmass Downhill (surprise, shock and awe), Kurt and I decided to go to Keystone to ride for the day.

We had heard that the riding was sick, and that they were developing their bike school, so we headed out to say hi to Fred Rumford, the ski school director, and see what Keystone had to offer.

This blog post could really just be this long:

Ahhhhh! Oh my God! wheeeee! Tree! Yipes! Yay!

In other words, the terrain is gnarly. Their greens are almost like our blacks. Just imagine what their blacks are like! And yeah, we rode em. We rode Wild Thing, and a double black called Sanitarium, and all I could think was "Lead with your hands follow with your feet!" there wasn't time to think much else.


The concepts that not only saved my hide that day, but made it fun to ride the gnarliest terrain live ever seen, let along contemplated riding down were:

Twos not Fours
Hands lead feet follow
Don't anticipate moving back, let the bike move you back
Loft that front tire over and over and over
Stand on your bottom bracket, let the bike rotate under you

Thank god someone knows where they are going...
These concepts all come from the research I've been doing (nerd nerd nerd), you can find info like this in "Mastering Mountain Biking Skills" Published by Human Kinetics, on the video "Fluid Ride: Ride Like a Pro" and in a lesson at Winter Park with Bob Barnes, or here in Aspen at our new bike park.

Twos not Fours is basically using your human suspension on top of the bike suspension, so that your center of mass stays driving straight down over your pedals (heavy feet, light hands). This means that if your bike rolls over a bump, your arms flex first and then straighten back out (although they should very rarely be "straight", and then only for a moment), and then your legs bend to absorb the bump. If you can do this, you are riding dynamically, rather than being taken for a ride.

Hands Lead, Feet Follow is another way to think of riding twos not fours, when you watch someone coming down a series of drops, it often looks like they are riding a galloping horse, hands then feet, hands then feet. When they go together, you are stiff, and if your front tire is dropping off of something, this is a recipie for disaster.

Don't Anticipate means that when something drops away from you or it gets steep, we often move back in anticipation before the bike has reoriented. When you move back, and then the bike drops down, you often get yanked over the handlebars. Instead, stand on your feet, let the drop of the front tire be the thing that lets the bike rotate under you while you stand firmly over your bottom bracket. As the tire drops, you can add loft as your weight moves back with the terrain. Now you are in dynamic balance with the bike, rather than anticipating and getting punished!

Loft Loft Loft: I'm still learning to float rocky sections of the trail, but learning a manual, wheelie or lofting the front tire is probably the most useful skill I've found so far. Practice on the flat grass, find a rock to loft off of, a ditch to manual over. This is tiring on your hands until you learn to compress the front suspension and use the bounce you get to help get the front tire up, and move your weight way back at the same time, driving your heels down. That's probably why its scary to do, but its rare to pull your bike too far back when you are learning. And if you do, well, you are on the grass!

I needed these skills like never before while encountering drop after drop after drop onto tight switchbacks, over huge rocks, roots, skinny bridges, more slippery wood (although it is mostly covered in chicken wire for an extra grip, thank god), jumps, bumps, steep gravel filled slopes, huge rock gardens and a big spiral bridge that drops away about 20' on one side and about 12' on the other side. I rode the top, dropped off the first of two step downs that leads onto this monster, hit the brakes just in time and sat there.

Stopped. In the middle of a double black diamond trail, bike perched precariously with back tire still on top of the first drop and front tire almost ready to go off the second, and just stared at the bridge. Kurt was through it, this was the first time that I wasn't going to come shooting out of the woods a half minute off his wheel, I knew he was wondering if I was lying in a crumpled heap under the bridge.

But I wasn't. I was sitting there staring at it and wondering if I could get myself to let the bike take me down it or not. Down Hill Mountain Biking is a lot like a roller coaster that you get to drive yourself. How fast do you want to go? You pick. But speed, if you can handle it, is most often your friend. Things are easier to drop, float and curl around if you are willing to get off your brakes and let the bike roll.

I couldn't do it. For the first of four times that day, I stared into the maw and happily accepted that "hike a bike is part of mountain bike". It was the right choice. This is a feature you either ride with confidence or you don't ride. I didn't even walk down it. I clambered down the steep loose dirt with my bike bucking and sliding next to me and then let my breath out. I was halfway down the 2300 vertical foot descent, and hadn't let go and relaxed my brain, eyeballs, or adrenal system since 10 that morning. Whew!

Kurt hiked back up the trail and saw me walking down. It was the first time all day that I hadn't come squirting out of the trees off some gnarly rock or drop and rolled up next to him. All day, he'd been riding at moderate speed and then waiting for me patiently. And I have to say, that's just fine. I rode over stuff at Keystone that I didn't even know you could look at let alone walk up or down, let ALONE ride a bike over, forget finding something in that huge mess of a rock garden to hop over! But I'd done it. I'd known that Kurt was about 30 seconds ahead of me, and that he'd ridden it, and not much faster than I was, because he was being nice, so I figured I could do it, too.

Which may be a silly thought, I mean, this is a boy who has been really really into racing and riding his mountain bike for uh... a long time. But I knew, too, that he expected me to make good choices about what I could roll and what I couldn't, he has re taught me this accountability piece, where I feel expected to rise as high as I can to the occasion without doing something stupid. He expects me to be on my game, but he expects me to know when I've hit my limitations. And for that, I'm grateful. I'm more on my own two feet because of it. I've never made so many decisions so fast in my life as I did at Keystone that day.

This bridge was okay, but the "little one" is a minimum 3' drop
The trails were relentless, the drops just kept coming and coming and then there were jumps and step ups, hairpin turns, burmed turns, and suddenly, rock gardens and more. There is no time to say, "Oh, a drop, I'll loft a little then re center, now what? Oh, some slippery roots, okay, I'm going to center and roll straight over those. Now i've recoverd, what's next? Oh look, a big rock, I need more speed to jump over that."

Ya, that's not how this thing went. It went like this: drop drop drop TREE! drop ROOT! rock drop waterbar BIG jump into BERM drop rock rock switchback switchback BRIDGE! Man, you better be in the right place all the time and moving along at just the right speed or you are in for a world of hurt.

Thank god I stayed rubber side down (so far down, in fact, that on one long section that was about 30 degrees and went straight down the fall line on a double track for about 150 yards that I got a tire mark on the ass of my shorts. I kid you not. Knobbie enema.) and pulled up to Kurt, sitting casually on his bike waiting for me, as though I hadn't just dodged 150 ninjas hiding in the trees who had the magic ability to pull the ground out from under you while you were trying to get away.

"Ready to roll?" he'd say.

"Yup." I'd say back, trying to be cool. But the truth is I was STOKED! I couldn't help myself. As soon as I settled down and we were pedaling along the road, I was babbling, whooping, I was covered in goose bumps.

"Ready to roll?"

"Ya, right after I pee myself, because I was too scared and busy concentrating to actually do it on the trail even though I thought I was going to. Then, my parade should come by with confetti and monkeys with cymbals because HOLY WOW JESUS H YEAH, I just RODE MY BIKE down that crap!"

He grinned at me. "Yup. Mountain biking is good." he'd say. And pedal on. Five laps later, I was cooked. Cooked from Adrenaline, cooked from hanging on for dear life, cooked from descending almost 12,000 vertical on a bike in a half a day.

It was an incredible day, the terrain is unreal, and Erik at Keystone Sports set us up and went for a lap with Kurt later, I decided to sit that one out by doing their 7 1/2 mile green single track top to bottom while the big boys went and played.
I earned my frosty beverage today!

When we all hooked back up, I couldn't believe the difference in Kurt's riding already, its amazing what following someone who really knows what they are doing can do for your riding!!

He was pumping the trail more, riding with more speed, and flowing over everything. And then, he dropped the bridge that I was too chicken to drop. It was awesome to watch!

Keystone launched their bike school that weekend, and have great plans for next year. With an already awesome trail system in place, I'm excited to see what they do with their school. A new skills park, beginner area and more green trails low down were talked about, and I'm looking forward to heading over there next year to see how its going!

All in all, it was an awesome experience! (Oh and the food at the Tavern at the bottom of the hill was awesome. Their village has a really "authentic" feel in that it includes small, privately owned shops, so it feels a little less "Disney" and a little more real. Very nice!)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, August 29, 2011

Picked up by Blizzard/Tecnica!

In other, more fantastic news, I am super excited to have been picked up by Blizzard/Tecnica this year!

I've loved their gear for years, and I'm so very excited to be skiing for them. Thanks, Blizzard/Tecnica, I'm grateful to be part of the team! YAY!!

Surgery instead of Skiing

So Chile is out. Uuuugggh. It's such a bummer, after six years, to finally have the means, a plane ticket, a writing gig, and a willing partner, the time and health (other than my neck) to go.

But over the past month, my fingers on my left hand have begun to lose motor function.

Yesterday, I went for my third opinion on my neck with Dr. Corenman of Steadman/Hawkins clinic. This guy is amazing, he has a reputation for being incredibly conservative and trying everything possible before cutting.

But now the motor nerve from c6 is compromised. Here's how he said it: I don't really care about pins and needles and pain. (he cares, it's just not that urgent). Those nerves, when compromised, come back well.

The motor nerve is deeper and when it begins to be compromised there becomes a chance that the longer you wait for surgery the less likely it will come back.

SO. About two weeks ago I had to stop working as a massage therapist, because i can't withstand any downward pressure with my left hand. It doesn't hurt at all, it just doesn't work, either.

Then, over the course of the next two weeks as I was waiting to get in with Dr. Corenman, it became hard to do things like button my pants, type, pull up a zipper, and push buttons on my phone (OH GOD! NOOO!!!)

Clearly tragic. Tweeting is difficult. My world may be ending.

One bright spot? I can still hold on to the handlebars of my bike. :-) and I don't have a thumb shifter on the left side because its a downhill bike, so I'm good to go.

I headed over to Steadman Hawkins on day 3 of the USA pro cycling challenge (the day they rode in Vail, yay!) and here's the news:

My lack of motor function is concerning, it is definitely from disc degeneration from my car accident in 2008, the ski fall I had last year did not exacerbate it at all (the herniation looks the same from the accident MRI and the post fall MRI), but over the last year, the herniation has become worse, as it will when you tear a hole in a jelly filled bag.

The reason that it feels better when I go trail running, DH mtn biking and yoga is because I flex the spine continuously in a way that makes it take pressure of the nerve, over and over and over again.

Sitting still hurts, sleeping hurts, computer time hurts. Riding in a posture other than DH hurts more, because my head is picked up higher, riding DH, my spine is in a more straight line, even though I'm looking ahead, because of the bike set up.

I go in for a nerve block on September 12 to diagnose if its going to be a one level or a two level fusion, and if its two level, here's the plan:

C5/6 disc will be removed and fused from the front with a titanium plate. C6/7 will be removed and replaced with an artificial disc. So I'll be a hybrid! (I hope that means I'm more fuel efficient.)

(Video of Artificial Disc Replacement - caution - Graphic!!)

What does this mean? It means no trip to Chile. Because I'm out of work until surgery, I have to take the money I'd saved for Chile to live on before and after. And its not enough. I had planned on working till we left, and working right when we got back. Now, I'm out of work from two weeks ago until Thanksgiving, unless I can find an office job. (which I'm working on).

I have a ton of Pre op work to do, as well, so I'm trying to wrap my head around getting organized in body, mind and spirit to do this.

Because State Farm is still not paying for all of this stuff, I'm getting creative. I have found some amazing people who are willing to work on me for trade or on credit, or against anything I eventually get from State Farm.

I spent about a week being really, really sad about all this. I really thought by one means or another, I'd get a month on snow to train in South America, either with a job, a client, or on my own after Labor Day, but its not to be. Okay.

I'm sad not to get to see Patagonia, and not to get to go explore and relax (while training my butt off) and do some good writing for SNOW, not to get to see Ushuaia, and not to get to spend some much needed alone time with my hard workin' man.

But wishing is suffering. I spent a few days feeling angry about those things, and then I let it go, its time to get this fixed, and that's way more important. I Can still train hard and do everything that I can to be ready if I get invited to tryouts. I can still be a strong Domestique for my training partner and try to get her in yellow!

Then, I got really worried and scared about the fact that I finally have had enough work to make an emergency cushion, which will not be enough to see me through the surgery and into recovery and then ski season.

I'm angry and frustrated with State Farm for not upholding their responsibility to pay for the fix I need as I see my livelihood and motor skill in my left hand disappearing daily. I am angry with them that I'm going to go into this with the additional crushingly scary idea of being without work and without income, incapacitated, swamped with medical debt, out of shape and with no means to support my kids. Again.

Man, I thought we'd got through this.

I spent about two days riding my bike and crying suddenly, just panicked about the whole thing.

And here's where I've landed.

My job now is to find some work I can do, so I earn something, so I can make it to Thanksgiving, recovered and ready to ski.

My job is to build my body as strong as I possibly can so that it heals faster because I have built a strong cardiovascular base and my blood is moving well, doing good nutrient exchange, and speeding healing.

My job is to build lots of extra muscle so that I have extra to lose while I recoup.

And i can't focus on what I didn't get to do. I can't feel sorry or wonder what if. I'm still gonna go for it. I'm still gonna train. It can only make me stronger, there are obviously lessons to learn from this, and i'm ready to learn them.

I'm going to give it my all, and that way, when I'm on the table, I'll know I've prepared myself as best i can, emotionally, financially, and physically.

THen, I'm gonna give it my all in recovery to come back healthy, strong and balanced so I can be the best teacher I Can be this season. And hell yeah, I'm gonna make as many turns as possible and tune those feet up as soon as i can, be it at 20% or 50%, so that when the day comes in April, I'm proud of what I have.

I will know that I've done what I can, and if I Do that, if I work as hard as I Can and I show up knowing I've done that, well, that will be enough for me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kyle from the rental shop is Yoda in disguise.

(working on the rear wheel drop)

So it's really no secret that I'm completely addicted to downhill mountain biking, and, eager to absorb all the information that I can, I've been harassing e guys in the four mountain sports bike shop for the last month.

"Hi, Kyle... Wanna ride?"

Kyle Sauders runs our rental operation in Snowmass, keeping the fleet of Norco Dh Race bikes, freeride bikes and trail bikes in top shape after being hammered on all day on our new mountain biking trails.

He's a fairly contemplative and intimidating dude who takes his job very seriously, and expects excellence from the people who work for him. He also rips.

He's also been incredibly patient, giving and open with everyone I see him interact with, even when its slammed busy and the bikes are stacking up for repair. I first met him after he competed in the Snowmass downhill race a few weeks ago, with a strong finish.

"Hey Kyle, wanna ride?" I kept bugging him.

Finally the stars aligned. His bike was in good shape, the lessons had all gone out, and Kurt, Kyle and I were all ready to roll at the same time.

We headed up in the gondola and my initial suspicions were proved to be right... Kyle is dedicated to this sport, loves to be a part of it, and is one of our many disparate strong resources for turning Snowmass into an incredibly well thought out mountain biking park in the summer.

On the way up, we were talking about drops and step downs, two of the things that I need the most help with in my riding right now. Kyle was able to explain really simply the progression for doing a Manual in order to make these types of obstacles more navigable for me.

(Kyle shows great cornering form in a place where there's consequences.)

We unloaded and headed down the road, and I was kind of expecting kyle and Kurt to take off, I mean, this may be their only free run of the day, so waiting for me might not be on the top of their list. And I'm actually happy with that, with riding "with" these guys, who wait for me at certain sections of the mountain, but who know I'll get down to them shortly, so they can go with speed and flow and have their own fun. It works out well.

On this day, though, Kyle pulled over off the road at a ditch and walked me through the process of pulling your front wheel off the ground.

First, we worked on dropping your weight back progressively while pulling a little extra on the handlebars.

After my front wheel was popping off the ground, we worked on pushing the pedals forward in time with the weight shift back, to kind of "scoop" the bike under you, enabling you to either roll or pedal one or two strokes on your back tire while the front one is lofted.

We practiced over the ditch, over a rock, and then on the road all the way down. At the top of gravity logic, we went through it again. It was so clear, the steps for doing it, how to modulate how much pull on the handlebars versus how much push with the feet according to what you were trying to clear.

This simple, basic foundation piece is going to be something that I can move onto skills like j hopping, dropping bigger lines, popping off step downs, and learning a long manual, which you can use for creek and ditch crossing, as well as style points.

Kurt and Kyle checked that I had my coaching cues, and they took off, I'd meet them back on the road at the end of this amazing swooping, winding, jumping trail which has become my favorite playground.

As I exited the trail with a huge grin on my face, Kyle said "You got it, didn't you? I mean, you felt the beginnings of it."

Yup! And when the timing is right and the weights moved back properly, it's easy, you don't even have to muscle it that much.

On the way back down the fire road, I practiced some more and when we got to a small wooden rainbow bridge, Kyle pulled over again and coached me through doing a wheelie drop off of it.

"So just do a manual, like you've been practicing, but see if you can roll the whole back side of the bridge with the back tire."

This sounded like an insane idea to me, but what the heck, it was a small bridge and we had worked up to it.

I followed kyle off the bridge, shifted my weight back, lofted the bars a little, and kicked hard once on my pedals. The bike floated up and rolled down the back side of the bridge knits rear wheel. I ended up centered in the "cockpit" of the bike on landing, and ready to roll, rather than being tossed forward by the drop.

I looked at Kyle as we pedaled down the road. "thanks man!" I said.

I was thrilled. He had taken an extra half hour or so out of this free run for someone else, and while it was a half hour to him, it was a huge foundational piece in my riding.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Guest Post: Road Biker turns DH mountain biker by Erik DaRosa

(Kate and Erik, amazed and addicted after a long day of downhilling)


Wake up, shave the legs, don the spandex bib shorts, stuff the packets of
Hammer Gel into the jersey pockets, click into the pedals and prepare for
hours of suffering. As any ski pro will tell you, this is the daily summer
ritual that we all undertake in order to prepare our bodies for the
upcoming ski season. We spend countless hours in the saddle, climbing
hills which, in our minds, are as steep and daunting as those of the
European Grand Tours. In fact, we have even nicknamed one climb back-home Alpine d’Huez due to the series of seemingly endless switchbacks which leave one gulping for air upon reaching the summit.

But on a recent house hunting trip to Snowmass, any mystical thoughts of
scaling the three giants of the Alps…Telegraphe, Galibier and Alpe
d’Huez…were quickly replaced by the ABC’s of…wait for it…downhill mountain biking. That’s right! I was told to grow the leg stubble, leave the
spandex at home and get ready for the mountain adventure of a lifetime.
What I wasn’t told was that I would quickly become addicted like a junkie
to his next fix.

While I have skied every inch of Snowmass during the winter, I have never
experienced her in all of her summer glory. So, as with any new adventure,
I thought it best to start out with downhill mountain biking 101 (which I
highly recommend for all of you who journey out to Snowmass). And, lucky
for me I knew exactly who to call to help me get my mountain biking fix
on…Kate and Kurt….Aspen’s adventure sports duo!

Now, I know Kate as a take no prisoner’s winter shredder so I knew that I
had to show up with my A game. I also needed to conceal my unyielding fear so I started the morning off with Eminem blaring throughout the condo and some trash talking text messages with Kate iPhone to iPhone. Still not
sure who won the war of the texts…

(Kurt and Amy, victorious after a long day hovering over the saddle)

The morning started out great with “Honey Badger” Kurt teaching my wife Amy and me the ABC’s of biking (Action Stance, Braking and Cornering). Being a road biker, I was a quick study at the first two…cornering, however, turned out to be a bit of a challenge. What I learned later on in the day was
that cornering is made much easier through the use of berm turns.

After an hour of “Base Village” practice, it was time to progress up the
Gondola to the beginner area. I couldn’t help but let my mind wander back
to my beginner ski students for whom this “journey” is often terrorizing.
I mean, really, you expect me to get off the gondola on a sloped hill and
actually ride back down? Time to man up!

As I got on the bike at the top of the beginner run I kept thinking to
myself “one turn at a time”. And, with Kurt leading the way, my wife
behind him and Kate on my rear wheel (I repaid the favor later in the day),
we all began a “fast walking pace” down the beginner single track. The
whole time I just kept thinking about my ABC’s and drawing upon all of the
similarities between this gnarly sport and skiing…and believe me there are
many. By the time we reached the end of our first run I was smiling from
cheek to cheek, adreneline pumping, ready to start doing laps.

Now, most of you don’t know me but I am known in my circles as “Mr. All or
Nothing”. What started out as a fun adventure in the morning had soon
transformed itself into a go big or go home mentality. After all, I didn’t
come out to Snowmass just to glide down some beginner single track. I
mean, I wanted to see what this boy could do. After all, I had skied the
Hanging Valley Wall years back when I had no business being up there…why not push my limits again. And for those of you who know Kate, she was all too happy to indulge me in this desire.

While Kurt had to run off to another lesson and Amy had decided to break
for lunch, I gave Kate the “game on” nod. It was at this moment that I
swallowed hard and remembered…wait a minute you fool, you are in Aspen. These people go bigger and harder before 9am than most of us do in a week. As the Gondola doors shut I realized there was no turning back now…

Elk Camp soon arrived on the horizon and with it a nervous ache in the pit
of my stomach. Quickly, we exited the Gondola, unloaded the bikes, and
began our adventure. With Kate in the lead, I dug deep within myself to
stand confidently on the pedals, tip the bike back and forth beneath me all
while hanging on her back wheel like the Schlecks brother in the Tour de
France. Wow was this fun!!

(Amy, ready to roll)

Once at the bottom we decided to stop for the day, or so I thought, and
have lunch. Somewhere in between the how did you guys meet game and
discussions on making perfect turns in pow, Kate looked at me and said “You up for another one?” Knowing that I was 24 hours away from returning to my last eight weeks in NYC I said

“Let’s do it”.

Now, in all fairness, at this point I should disclose that prior to my
trip, I had texted Kate and said “I will not leave Snowmass unless I get
air on the bike”. Again, for those of you who know Kate, not only is she
fearless she is also someone who likes to test limits. Mine were certainly
about to get tested.

As we passed by Kurt, he had moved on to another “never ever”, Kate
mentioned that it was time for me to earn my stripes on Gravity Logic, a
black diamond single-track complete with table-top jumps and step downs. Kurt gave the blessing, and, after a quick lesson in the CPR method for hitting jumps, (compression, pressure, release) and Kate mentioning that I could simply roll the jumps rather than airing them, (roll is not in my vocabulary) we navigated our way down to the start of Gravity Logic from
the rocky, hellish landscape of the Government Trail.

The next 15 minutes went by in a blur of jumps, drops and perfectly
executed berm turns with both of us whooping it up like it was a powder
day. At the end of the trail, we looked at each other, high fived and
laughed about how I had become hooked on the sport of downhill mountain
biking. Which got me to thinking…with our upcoming move to Snowmass only eight weeks away and the desire for a job in the summer of 2012 a
necessity, I think I may have found my calling.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Revolight, an amazing idea for your bike, and Kickstarter, a solution for creatives who need funding.

About this project

With your help, we will morph Revolights into an innovative bike light solution used worldwide. We recognize Revolights are different, but we're from the Bay Area where different is, well, sometimes better. People aren't used to wheel mounted lights, but simply put, we intend to change that. Today we have a product (patent pending); a product we're proud of and believe in, but it's not complete! Our goal here on kickstarter is clear... we must further the revolution; the bike lighting revolution. We must raise enough support to take Revolights through the rest of design and final product development. We will take them from where they are now (v4 below) to where they will be at the end of 2011, as a viable, user friendly, finished product.

GO TO KICKSTARTER to see more and back this project!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

You race in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1....

Okay, we are skipping ahead to say holy freaking wow! So I've been wondering what it would feel like to play in the Snowmass downhill. I knew that there was a Liklihood that id come in a good twenty minutes behind everyone else, but I didn't mind. I just wanted to not race unless I knew I had the skills to get down the trail in one piece.

Standing at the start with the other women on their big burly bikes and watching the men get ready (by riding wheelies uphill in the dirt), and checking out the juniors going over the course in their mind with their coach, i started flipping through all I've learned in the last few weeks; action stance, balance, and cornering, I was able to hear Kurt's voice in my head, and Barnie, and Kyle from our rental shop who taught me how to do a sick manual, and Thomas, who taught me how to do it as a wheel drop.

But im already ahead of myself. Today, I drove up to Snowmass with all my gear, thinking that had I got there earlier, I would have raced. I wandered up to the finish in my flip flops, ready to help with timing or whatever else they needed.

Turns out last ride up the Gondi is 515, and Ranger Brett Beavers started harassing me to suck it up and go get on a bike. and if I hustle, I can get a preview of the trail and still get up there for the start.

I ran back to my car and threw my stuff on, every single piece of body armor I could find, covering all exposed skin. If I was going to go down, I wanted to take all my skin with me!

Four Mountain Sports, the awesome shop at the bottom of the Gondi got me on an amazing Norco DH race bike (the last in my size!) and I paid my fee and screwed my bib to the handlebars. As I was doing it, the butterflies (the giant, huge, angry, nauseous making) butterfly in my throat hit me hard. What the hell was I thinking!????

Yes, I can ride this trail. I'm not sure I can stay on my bike going this fast though... And the consequences of hitting one of these jumps wrong... I had to stop thinking about it. Kurt and Tucker rolled in and in tied me to go with them on their preview run.

Kurt was coaching the indomitable 10 year old Tucker Thomas, and aspen local who shreds at every sport he touches. I was pretty sure he was going to run me over or pass me in the air, but hey.

We hopped on our bikes at the top and I followed Thomas Parks, another aspen Instructor down the fire road to the start of the gravity logic trail faster than I've ever gone. Nice warm up. Oh god.

We bombed down the trail, I'm trying to ride hard and take note of where rocks have rolled down and a where dirt is loose. I'm trying to memorize the new line off the hard jump, the one that is high and lippy and tends to send you into a dead sailor rotation.

I lived, full of adrenaline, sweating that Stinky sweat of fear And breathing as hard as if I'd ridden up hill all the way.

And that was the preview! We loped back around and went back up to wait for the official start. I watched my internal experience closely, I was curious if it had changed at all.

Typically, I have huge heart thumping insanity, and I have to breathe slow and even, trying hard to bring my heart rate down. But by the time I get to the start, I'm yawning. I cant use this time to think about what I'm going to do, what my focus or task is, or I can't get myself calm enough to perform.

"you race in 5,4,3,2,1" said the start Marshall.

I do? I what? Here I am sitting on a big, squishy bike at the start of a huge new black diamond trail with no less than 16 jumps and huge burmed turns getting ready to race.

Whatever, time to pedal. I took off slowly down the govt trail, the rocks are huge and jagged and the first section is, for me, a exercise in trusting that the bike is going to roll over all of it, and not send me over the handlebars and onto my face,

I turned the first corner at a near stop, only to see Ranger Brett marshaling the first corner. "you better catch her, girl! Pedal pedal pedal!" I grinned at him, I can do this, I can ride this trail! I took off, Brett believed in me, I could get it done.

I tried to remember what Barnie had told me about racing, with speed, don't pop, suck the bike up under you And stay close to the ground, keeping your speed.

I love the table top jumps, the step ups are great, but the series of four step downs, I still need a lot of work on. Especially at speed.

Kyle from the rental shop had taken the time to go over manuals and wheelie drops with me the week before, and I was talking out loud in his voice through the whole section.

The second to last jump is the scariest, there's a huge compression, and it's really lippy. It steps up high, so it looks like you can just launch it, but if you release the compression and the wrong time, your front tire hits hard and you get bucked forward hard.

I thought about all Kurt had been working with me on, let the front tore off first, keep the compression on in the back tire, once the front is off, release the back tire and pull up on the front. Hard. Add a little forward thrust in the air to anticipate the abrupt front tire impact, and hope youvedone it right, or you are going over the other side in the loose dirt down the next turn on your face.

I stuck it. I gave a little weeeooooo! And pedaled hard through the rest of the course, two jumps to go, a nice table top, and then the last step up which sucks you toward the big aspen tree. But I knew the line, thanks to Young Tucker and his coach, and I pedaled onto the vista trail. Two more turns and we are home free.

I came out of the aspens and onto the dirt, and there were the other girls. I hadn't caught them, but I was gaining on them. I knew that Jessica was an accomplished cross country rider and that if she was going to crush me, it was going to happen, it was going to happen on the loosedirtroadto the bottom.

I put Barnie in my head. Clack em, Kate! Grow a pair and clack em! (yeah, I'll explain later...) tip it!

I got aggressive at myself and started coaching hard. "tip that bike over, girl and pedal pedal pedal!"

And I did.

And when it was all said and done.... I found myself handing out the free beer to the riders as I do every week (base camp in Snowmass is a wonderful sponsor for us and takes great care of the riders) when I hear my name announced.

In first place by 6 seconds. I'd won! Not only stayed on my bike and nnot finished dead last, but id won.

A hundred bucks and a big smile, the girls and I all hugged each other and promised to ride together this week so we can all work on the pieces that worried us or that we need to work on.

Thomas PArks won the men's division this week, and young Tucker... He came in second, only 19 seconds behind the first place winner, who is 14, four years older than him and a moto cross racer.

What an Amazing day! Thanks so much to aspen/Snowmass for putting this together for us, to the rangers for prepping it and making it safe for us, to the lifties for staying late, and to base camp for hosting the after party!

The last race of the season is next week... Come on out and play with us!!!

Photos by Kurt f. And Abbie Wade photography! Thanks guys! Abbie loves to shoot all kinds of action sports. To get great shots of you and your family having fun, visit her website by clicking her photo in the side bar. She's awesome, talented, affordable, and fun to play with!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPading

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pass holder appreciation day at Snowmass tomorrow!

Come ride the more than 50 miles of mountain biking trails, including the new Gravity Logic free ride trail!

Free bike haul pass, bring a friend for free and free tours and tips from the bike pros!

(guess whose gonna wear a yellow jersey for the first time tomorrow? Yeah! Put me in, coach!)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Win $140 worth of POC bike gear!! (Find Your Bliss returns...)

Its the return of the Find Your Bliss contest!!

Do you ride your road bike until your thighs burn so much they cry while you suffer silently in the saddle? Do you bomb downhill on a full suspension mtn bike in full armor? Do you ride cross country for hours and hours by yourself in the Aspen trees? Do you ride your bike everywhere because you don't have a car?

Do you ride you bike on the weekend with your kid? Do you like to ride the Rio Grande trail by the river? Do you tour the country with saddle bags and a coffee pot?

We want to hear YOUR STORY!!

Tell us the story of how and when you fell in love with riding your bike in 650 words or less and you can win a pair of POC DH Mountain Biking Shorts! ($140 value!) (or other similarly valued item from the Wheels collection) (sizes and colors depend on availability).

Please include a brief description of you and your bike now, as well!

Email entries to by August 20 to win!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fundraising!? Who the hell do you think you are, asking for money!

Today I was talking with a very good friend about perception. We were talking about team tryouts, and what the perception of each of us is, currently, how accurate we think it is or isn't, and what we can work on to help be clearer in our intention, so that perception of each of us lines up more accurately with who we feel we really are.

She mentioned to me that when I put my fundraising goal for the season up on Facebook (it's going to cost about 18,500 to meet my training goals this year) that there was this stunned silence, a surprise that I would "ask for money". I asked my friend what the perception was that was created from that, and she said, "well, there's this perception that you are asking for money."

"Well, that's an accurate perception, then, because that's exactly what I'm doing." she laughed, we are more in line than I had thought.

"but it's a negative perception, so why is that? Can you help me understand why raising money for a goal is negative?" I asked.

"Because that's not how it's done. No one has ever done that in a public way before." she answered.

That makes sense. I mean, I had no idea that it "wasn't done" to raise money to meet your training goals.

I shared with my friend what my perspective was, and we agreed that I might write it up so that folks who were upset or confused about it might hear, from the horses mouth, what the heck I think I'm doing.

In the world of competative athletics, art or dance, If you have a goal, say of making the olympic team, you work your butt off until you get some backing so that you can quit the real world and dedicate all your time and effort to training towards that goal.

There is no such thing as a part time olympic hopeful athlete. Plenty of them work jobs as well as training full time. Just like in politics, those who are more well funded have a better shot at making it, because they have better resources and more time to dedicate to training.

This is not an indiction that this person thinks they are more worthy than any other person. This means that the athlete in question, like all of his peers, are willing to work as hard as they can to do the best that they can. Their journey, in fundraising, training, or attempting to qualify is not a reflection on those around them and their worthiness or journey, but simply a dedication to their own goal.

Over the last five years, I have been fortunate enough to have a huge group of very supportive people cheering me on as I go down this path. Openly talking about my desire to be on the team was also audacious, it wasn't something that was done. But I grew up in a world where you stated your goal and then worked hard toward it. Being an Olympic hopeful was something you said out loud and easily, it helped your coaches understand what your goals were and how they should train you.

I myself was a coach for years of world cup and recreational rock climbers. I tailored my coaching to each client according to their goals, I understood how hard to push them according to how far they wanted to go.

Because I stated that I, like so much of our well deserving membership in PSIA, would love to have the job of being on the team and helping inspire instructors all over the country to be passionate teachers who connect well with their clients and other instructors, out loud and in public (via my blog), I was fortunate to find a community of people who were doing the same, training hard to meet their goal, whether that was making the level 2, going for your full cert at 56, or just becoming a ski teacher again after leaving it for so many years. Slowly, the community branded out to include other sports as well.

This amazing community came together and began talking to each other, and it includes cyclists, slack liners, climbers, surfers, buddhist monks, writers, and parents. It includes x games competitors and long distance runners. It includes athletes that excel at a level I could never hope to attain. And all of them talk about the idea of going for a dream with out apology, but with humility, integrity, pulling as many people up along the way as they can.

Along the way, I've been fortunate enough to make relationships with some companies who find value in the community of positive growth that has grown here. It's not about me and my journey, but I'm grateful to represent a huge group of people, more than I ever could have imagined, as we all chase our individual dreams, and believe that we can make a difference.

Those companies support me towards a goal that has traditionally been hard won in silence and suffering. I can not, and could never, have come as far as I've come along my path without the generous donation of gear and funds that people have seen value in contributing.

As a single mom starting a new career in a new town, it has been along financial struggle for me. As it has for so many people who choose to become professional ski instructors. We don't do this because we Hope to become rich. In fact, many of us have left much more lucrative caresses in order to share the passion and joy of playing in the mountains.

Because of that, most of us find creative solutions, we live frugally, we have second, third and even fourth jobs. We are waiters and writers and physicists and window washers, while at the same time spending all of our free time reading, studying and practicing the thing that we are passionate about: skiing, or mountain biking, or cycling or tennis.

We operate as mentors and friends, trusted resources to the people who come to us for advice in our sport, and because we have an obligation to those who trust us to teach them to improve, we have an obligation to ourselves to become excellent, to have a depth of knowledge that is accurate, deep, and ever improving. We have an obligation to be fit, strong, to be able to demonstrate effectively that which we know intuitively or through study. We practice the art of sharing ideas, of infecting our students, be they other instructors or the general public though classes in public speaking, acting, presentation and play.

Because I am grateful to my community, I feel, in this last year of training before the tryout, that it is my obligation to find creative ways to dedicate as much of my time, effort and energy to training as possible. You have been with me, and I with you guys, through thick and thin, and this is it. There are about 230 days to the tryout.

It can be another year of hoping I have enough money to participate in the RMT, and wait until the day before to know if I've saved the funds to do it, or I can do what is done in so many other endeavors: make a business palm, calculate the realistic cost of what an adequate training program would be, and raise funds ahead of time, ensuring to my friends, family, sponsors and readers that I really will give it my all. That when I show up in April, I will have brought all that I have to give.

Whether what I bring is enough for the team or not is another story. I'll either have what it takes, what they need, or I won't, just like in every other selection. You can only bring what you have. But you do have control over how complete and well Rounded that which you bring is.

In other elite endeavors, there are programs in place that help athletes dedicate all of their time, effort and energy into being as successful as possible. There are scholarships to be won and training centers to live at. When you live at a training center, they put out the goal, and a path to that goal. As you work toward that goal, you can earn more support as the governing body sees value in you and helps clear the path along the way.

In ski teaching, this structure just does not exist. It's a solitary endeavor. No wonder it takes so many very very talented people 20 years of hard hard work, dedication and training to make it to a tryout. If you live on a shoe string, raising a family while you dedicate yourself to a job that breaks even if you aren't in training, and depletes the family savings if you are, not to mention taking time and energy away from your relationships, you only have so many resources in time and money that you can dedicate to your goal.

If you, like the dancers in many local ballet companies, come to a place in your training where you are willing to dedicate all your time and energy hopping to achieve a level of excellence that allows you to giveback to the greater whole, through teaching, or artistic expression, you find a benefactor or six who believe in the value of what you might bring if you achieve your dream.

to that end, it's not that I think I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I deserve to raise money while other people struggle. I think that we should all be supported in our endeavors! I hope that this project has raised awareness in the community that will help others who come after me to have a clearer path to training.

I do think that I owe it to my family, my community, the companies who believe in me and to myself to work as hard as I can, so that I come with everything I have to give. And I cant do it alone. And neither canny of the other very worthy, more qualified candidates than myself.

I hope over the years to help build a program in PSIA which functions this way for all instructors who are striving to share their passion with skiers everywhere. I would love to see a program that encourages, nationally, and values instructors, supports them, gives them a training center to go to, encouragement, emotional and financial support to chase their dreams.

It would be amazing to ferret out talent all over the country, and let those incredible teachers get the training their feet need, and get the incredible skiers the training their teaching needs.

How wonderful would it be to open up the field to the teams coach and manager, so that the plethora of seriously viable candidates was deep because people who are willing to work hard are not encumbered by the difficulty of committing all their time and money to struggling though the process on their own?

The sheer will and determination of those who show up at his process every year is inspiring. And while the process had changed this year, limiting the number of candidates that will be invited, the drive to be a viable invitee will still exist.

So to my friends and family who have stuck with me though this insane journey, thank you. And to those of you who have welcomed me into the skiing community, schooling me along the way, thank you! And to those of you who have told me the truth, felt brave enough or angry enough to have an honest, fierce conversation with me when I do something in a non traditional way, thank you so much. I am humbled by those teachings, and the ones that are hardest to swallow are usually the ones that are most valuable.

I'm so grateful for the teachers in my life, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to grow and become. I plan to work harder this year than ever before, And I'm grateful for the opportunity to belong to such an inspiring group of people. The national team has been inspiration for so many people for so many years, and I'm grateful to the teams, past and present that lit the fire in me.

Regardless of the results, I'm so grateful for the journey, and i want to give it all that I have. This is why I raise money for my training. This is why I'm happy to help you raise money for your training. And if it was surprising to see me put it out there, because while it's done in other sports, in business, in creative endeavors, it's not done (yet) in PSIA, I'm sorry to have taken you by surprise.

Thank you so much for your time, dedication and energy, for the lessons, positive and negative. I'm grateful.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, August 8, 2011

Total airgasm. Part one.

Alright! So here's what happened! We went to Winter Park, we watched Crankworx, I was scared of my bike still a little (having ridden one day on my own at Snowmass the week before).

Monday comes, and Kurt is bouncing out of his skin. I'm gonna join the mountain biking 101 clinic at 10 am while he goes and rips around with the big kids.

We get there, and first of all, it's as busy as a ski area in the winter, but really really well organized. The rental and retail is really well done. Everything flows, there are people pointing you in the right direction, you don't feel like a gaper for being a renter... It really feels like they love this sport and they are psyched to share it with everyone and help the sport grow.

I was surprised that there wasn't an elitist attitude, there was no exclusive feeling, even though it's been around for years, and lift served mountain biking has been in Tahoe for... What, 18 years? How long has dh MTN biking been in Whistler? We've all seen the videos, I just fought it was for 18 year old kids who didn't think the skate park was thrilling enough for them.

(perhaps I'll include a link to the post where I broke four ribs in the skate park two summers ago here so we can reminisce together on the fact that skateboarding is plenty dangerous, Thanks very much.)

(Folks waiting in line to get their bikes after going though the body armor fitting.)

(just some of the awesome bikes they have for rent. Yes, that's an $8000 bike. Yes, you can leave your crappy hard tail at home and come play on this one!)

(A truly great rental gang, they set up and test shocks, brakes, seats, sag, all of it.)

(armor for everyone!)

(as busy as it was, I was in the door and out in 20 minutes. Awesome.)

(one of four mountain biking 101 clinics that went out that morning!)

Anyhow, I was stoked to join a group of college kids out from LSU who were excited to try it out, and it turns out that Barnie (Bob Barnes, who is the ski school director at Winter Park and and awesome fearless moto guy) was going to be teaching the clinic.

I am a Huge fan of Bob Barnes, we had skied together at the national academy two years before, and he had taught me my first retraction turn in shin deep mank. Our group had so much fun, I couldn't wait to play with him again.

Now, my neck, as many of you know, is rather severely injured. I have clearance from my doctor to play hard, because I already need surgery, but I still feel it pretty strong all the time. Jogging hurts, yoga doesn't. Road biking hurts, skinning does too, skiing doesn't. So I was a bit trepidatious about the body position and how it would feel, and I was a bit nervous abut what I might do to my neck if I had a bad wreck. So I was mindful of keeping it cool, trying to learn, but stay well within my skill zone.

The group split along the gender lines, 10 girls went with young, hot Ian, who apparently rips, and all the boys (and me) went with hard charging wise cracking Barnie. I worried that I may have put myself in the wrong group for a minute because I remembered that Barnie had ridden his motorcycle on the Bridger Ridge before it was closed to that kind of traffic. I'm scared to be up there in my tennis shoes let alone on a dirt bike. This guy has a pair. And he was about to see if I did, too.

(Barnie schools us in the ABCs, action stance, braking and cornering)

We rode up and got to visit on the chairlift, and I confessed that if I could get decent at riding a bike, it would certainly be a dream summer job. Barnie liked the idea and coached me toward that goal, filing in my vocabulary and clearly showing his passion for developing strong pros who ride and teach well. I had heard that his crew was top top notch, and I was really grateful for the coaching tips.

As a group up top, We went through the ABCs of riding, and it's funny, you know, everyone "knows" how to ride a bike. But the skills you use in balancing on a bike in the dirt are really specific. Fifteen minutes on top helped immediately with feeling safe and in control. Being coved head to to toe in full body armor didn't hurt, either. I knew that if I went down, it would be like the difference between falling on the ice in full hockey pads and falling on the ice in a skating dress.

I'll take the pads, thanks. Thats been one of the main issues so far with me and bikes. The consequences are so much higher on a mountain bike. You have further to fall, the ground is less forgiving, and the rocks, stumps and twigs want to eat you alive. With armor on, you bounce, you may bruise, but you will probably keep all your skin and if you are smart, you aren't going to break a bone unless you are really riding on the edge. This was not part of my plan.

One of the hardest and scariest parts of riding is making a flatland turn where there is loose dirt or gravel, or descending on a work road where the turns arent burmed and speed can get away from you quickly. I've always hated this, hated that the easiest way down is on a fire road, and I've always felt more comfortable on a single track than on a road. Apparently, I'm not alone in this... The Mighty Flynn, a local aspen rider who shatters the course record at the snow mass downhill every week, has confessed to me that he is terrified on the roads, it's the most likely place to wreck. So I'm in distinguished company.

(the mighty flynn wins again at the aspen snow mass downhill)

We worked on pressing the outer knobbies of the tires into the earth by tipping the bike under you without tipping the rider. I'd done this before of course, everyone does when they are riding a bike. But with some specific instruction Germaine to the conditions, suddenly i felt less terrified that my bike was going to come out from under me while I was going down the road.

Flat pedals, elbows out, knees out, a good action stance, balance in the cockpit of the bike... It's a lot like skiing!

After taking the time to go through the basics, we took off and suddenly all was right with the world. The bike has this huge squishy suspension that lets you get away with everything. It rolls over everything, it forgives your lousy balance, it corners easily, and absorbs everything.

The answer to how was this going to feel on my neck was terrific! The bikes suspension is so good, add your humans suspension to it, and you are just floating down the hill.

We spent the morning going down "green world" a green run that's gotta be 10 miles long, practicing all the skills.

At the bottom, we picked up Kurt, who had already done five laps to our one, and he joined us for a blue run. Little did I know that a blue run at winter park means introduction to wood, bridges, trestles, drops and jumps!

But there is something to be said for trusting the process. If it was time to go to blue, and this was the intro, maybe it was appropriate to do! The whole crew went for another go, the boys from LSU gamely working hard at 9000 feet above sea level. I rolled on after Barney over a little jump and was shocked to find myself completely off the ground, both tires.

A little bit of air, a little bit like flying, a little bit like Tigger.
I landed, squishhhh, and rolled on. Suddenly I had the strangest feeling all through my body. It was like the first time I made a real turn in powder. Felt free. I felt like I had a teeny tiny inkling of what this bike could allow me to do. I got giddy.

We went over tiny jump after tiny jump, every time, both tires off, float, land and bounce, right in balance, right where I wanted to be. The boys from LSU were doing it too.

About halfway thorough the run, Kurts inner honey badger came out and we all stopped to eat wild strawberries that were growing on the side of the trail. Wow! What a sweet treat after being full of fear and adrenaline and seratonin and endorphins and sweaty and dirty and scared and happy! Those strawberries tasted sooo good.

(the boys from LSU forage for well earned wild strawberries.)

Lunch time came and I was cooked, more from the fear than from the workout, although, just like skiing, I'm pretty sure I was working way way harder than I needed to trying to make sure I didn't do anything stupid, while trying to stay loose enough to let the bike work.

It had been a morning of discovery and exhilaration,of constant and rapid fear management. At one point, we rode over a long long boardwalk type bridge, which was about 3 feet wide, but went on for quite a while through the woods. Now you weren't going to fall off of this thing, but let's just say that you did. It's about 12 feet to the ground on one side, and about 20 on the other.

I was gripped just from the constant thought trying to invade my mind "if you fell off you'd be fucked!" but of course it was a great opportunity to practice the positive go message, what do I need to do to stay rolling smoothly across this, to stay in the center, to let it feel good?

It was a great exercise, especially because it went on about three times longer than I wanted it to, so I had to stay in it, to keep working mentally on acceptance of the fact that I was on the bridge, I wasn't getting off, there was no stopping or slowing down. Just roll on. Find the bliss, find the trust, enjoy it. It was a battle in my mind, and when we got off the bridge, I was sweating that gross smelly fear sweat.

I had done a good enough job internally to have enjoyed it, and to have learned that I was indeed balanced enough on the bike to not only survive that bridge, but to be just info on it. Later in the day the wood we would go over would be ten times scarier, so I was glad to have had the opportunity to build that trust between myself and the bike in that first encounter.

I was thinking we were going to bak for lunch, sit down and de adrenalinize, breathe, reboot, but it turns out Barnie can go for another run with Kurt and I, and Kurt is dying to go down Rain Maker, an awesome black diamond run with big jumps on it. Barnie says I'm ready, so off we go, the three of us.

To be continued.... In the air...

Gilligan learns to ride a bike!

The Monday after the madness that was Crankworx, Kurt and I got on bikes and headed out for some mayhem of our own.

Now in the past, I haven't been that awesome on a bike. (see previous post). It wasn't for a lack of wanting or wishing, but as we've discussed so many times in the past, wanting, wishing and desiring is the easy part. Once I owned a car, I lost my waaaa for biking, I didn't spend every day on a bike, learning intuitively the balance and techniques.

Of course I'll race you to the bottom!
I've always been attracted to mountain biking, but I've never been part of the culture. Not being one of those people who is that great at getting after something all by myself (this was a learned behavior brought on by the necessity of getting strong for skiing... I'm willing and happy to go hike on my own, to go ski on my own, but learning to ride a bike is more fun, safer, a d less scary when you do it with friends.)

Consiquently, I only got out on my bike when I had people to do it with. I had a hardtail stump jumper that I'd bought years ago with the ridiculous and audacious idea of seeing all of Australia by bike, only to discover six months later that I was pregnant. So much for that grand idea! I sold the touring bags, bought a stroller, and watched my bike grow cobwebs at an alarming rate.

I remember one day a f years before that, must have been 95 or 6, renting a bike and going for my first lift served ride with my step dad at Northstar ski area in lake Tahoe. In true hopelessly clueless form, I followed my uuber competitive father figure down a black diamond trail on our second run, only to discover that I could ride through the sand and the gravel and the water, that I felt comfortable moving my weight around, that I was faster and more comfortable on a bike than he was. Which may or may not be why we never went again.

I definitely learned the value of winning at any cost, even that of personal injury, at my stepfathers side. This is a man who loved to race, loved to win, and who could come off the couch and run a marathon. Never mind at he looked like he was going to die at the end, he made it through by sheer force of will, determination, and the suretiy that he could accomplish anything that he put his mind to, no matter what other people thought. (hmm... Apple... Tree.... )

I loved that day of lift served riding, and several years later, with no practice in between, my husband at the time and I pulled our bikes out and accompanied some accomplished riders on the Downieville Downhill, a famous 26 mile single track downhill which required all day to ride, a stout constitution, and a complicated shuttle.

The road to Downieville, fun, evil, surprising, exhausting.
Of course, these guys decided it would be fun to ride up to the ridgeline and then add about 10 miles of climbing, in which we ended up getting (just a little) lost and portaging our bikes... None the less, I learned once again how fun it was to hang out with people who are so ridiculously fit that it seems not just possible, but actually Fun to add hours of climbing to an already epic day.

I remember following my friend John down a scree field full of polished boulders and having him look behind when we got down. I had just been following his wheel, looking carefully at what he was doing and trying my best to copy it, so I hadn't really noticed that he had veered of the trail and ridden the wash because it looked like fun to him.

"Holy shit, Kate," he said as I pulled up behind him. "You weren't supposed to follow me down that!"

Whoops. I looked around, and back up, to see the rest of the field winding down the switch backs that would lead them to where we had stopped. It hadn't occurred to me that there was another, safer way to go.

"It was fun! I liked it!!" I said, thinking how cool it was to be in the moment, just constantly practicing believing the bike would roll over those huge rocks, feeling the bike move around under me, staying imbalance, knowing I couldn't stop on that terrain, that I needed to just let it flow and believe I'd make it.

"Looks like we've got a trials rider!" said my friend, Sue. I glowed with pride. I had done something right. I had done something hard and done it right. Totally accidentally, sure. Having no skill or idea what I was doing (which is probably the only reason I could do it. See bumble bees and flying...)

I was on fire. I wanted to find out what a trials rider was and then become one. Right after pizza and beer.

Four long wrist pounding hours and two flat tires later, we pulled into the Downieville pizza company, Tom having pushed his bike, exhausted, for the last two miles. John and Sue were amazing, circling back around to check on us, riding along side, no judgments, no frustration, just encouraging all the way.

We moved away from lake Tahoe shortly after that, to Pasadena, and "real" life took over, we had babies, opened a business, and forgot how fun it was to ride.

Years later, two kids in tow, our mountain bikes had survived a huge fire, and my friend Mason at Bangtail bikes in Bozeman had cleaned and redone them so we could ride them again. We'd schlepped them all over the country, but nary a mile had been ridden. Never mind, now, I had a chariot. I would pull it behind the bike in spite of my screaming children who refused to sleep like every other happy kid in a bike trailer that I knew. We did it twice. I didn't have the heart to go a third time. 

Bozeman was a biking, hiking, skiing town, and all I could think was that to be good at riding, you have to ride a lot, and it's no fun for someone who is really into riding to go out with with someone who isn't. So while our new home in Bozman, Montana was full of riders, I was too fat and out of shape to brave asking anyone to go ride with me.  What if I went three blocks and pooped out before we hit the trail? What if it was too hard or too scary now?

Eventually, Tom and I split, (no it had nothing to do with mountain biking.) And after some time, I met and fell for a very cute boy who loved to ride his bike. He loved to ride it so much, he didn't even own a car!

Thanks to Kurt, I found a new excitement for riding. I lived in Montana, he lived in Aspen, and I was trying to find more new ways to get fit outside. I was also, years later, still trying to lose my baby fat.

I talked my excellent, super fit, really beautiful friend Angela into teaching me how to ride my bike again. We worked on switchbacks, cornering, breaking, and climbing. For a summer, we rode a lot trying to get me in shape to ride to Crested Butte with Kurt.

Of course, Kurt's level of fitness was leagues beyond my own, and so while I was training hard to go on a dirt path that suddenly scared the crap out of me (older, heavier, now I have kids...) he thought, maybe, I was training like an Aspen person. (older, thinner, Pilates instructor, hikes to the top of Aspen Mountain before breakfast, you know...)

What ensued might be called hilarity...

or not... your choice...

So this summer when Kurt got a job teaching downhill mountain biking I thought, oh, crap. Here's my opportunity to fight through two more years of pain and spills and maybe finally learn to like being scared and not be afraid of falling off my bike.

Turns out, its not like that AT ALL!! Yay!!

Yup, the Winter Park story is coming...

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Delusions of flying

Kate, all grown up and appropriately padded, gets after it once again with better results.

(photo: Abbie Wade Photography)

When I was in third grade, I had this awesome blue bike that my mom and step dad had built for me. They found the frame at the dump, and rebuilt it in the garage all by themselves. My mom, who was a fabulous free spirit, a neo-hippie painter, took her high powered airbrush that she used to make fabulous sculptural paintings and gave my bike a beautiful metallic blue sheen. My step dad, a tinkerer, inventor, and creative in his own right, retooled the mechanics.

I had no idea that they were even working on this project, and on my birthday, when they rolled it out, I was blown away. I rode that bike everywhere. I rode it so much that I even got good enough to ride it with three of my friends perched in various locations as we went downtown. It was our car, a Kate powered car, covered with giggling, surly, rebellious Tweens. We rode that bike until we were smoking cigarettes and lurking in the alley of the varsity, when I finally got a ten speed.

The bike for me was freedom. I remember, before I became discontent and angst filled, I was riding my bike, dangerously and against the rules, all the way across town to my dad's house. I hadn't left a note, told my folks where I was going, I just hopped on my bike and went. Trouble be damned. I didn't care.

As I passed the park down by my dads house, I saw a big six foot jump that the high school kids had built. I had seen them launching themselves off this jump and twisting their handlebars in the air. They looked like superheros. They looked like they were flying.

I looked around. The park was empty. The sun was going down. There would be no one there to make fun of me for wanting to go off this jump there would be no one there to tell me it was audacious or wrong for a little girl to want to jump a bike.

I pedaled hard. Right at it. I knew I wanted speed, I knew I wanted to fly. I hit the ramp and went hard off the top. I did it, I was free, I was flying, I was in the air. I twisted my handlebars like id seen the high school boys do.

I landed in that same position, forks turned toward the street, bike still facing the oak tree ahead of me. The forks snapped in two, my chest hit the handlebars, my face hit the dirt, hard.

I laid in the dirt, stunned.

My face was numb, I didn't even really comprehend that I was hurt. I could taste and feel the grit and dirt in my mouth. I wondered about my knees,
Chest, ribs, the palms of my hands, which I eventually pulled out of the dirt and looked at. They were shredded, little pebbles embedded under the angry flesh.

I looked around. There was no point in crying, there was no one there to help me. I was miles from my house, still a mile from my dads. I looked across the street. Years ago, during happier times, my sister had a very best friend in the whole world named Margo. She lived directly across the street.

If she was home and remembered me, I might have a ride home. I saws embarrassed to drag the twisted and broken carcass of my bike across the street, my hands hurt too much to wipe the dirt off my chords, and in shame, (I knew I shouldn't only visit when I needed something, why hadn't I come by and said hello before? I loved this family, I thought of them often, I missed them. But I never visited without my sister, they we're her friends, not mine.) I walked to her door and rang the bell.

The door opened. Margos mom opened the door and the look on her face said everything. I was a mess. She was horrified. But not at the danger, the bad choice id made or the fact that I'd broken my precious bike. At my muddy face and bloody hands.

She hugged me, pulled me close and tried to bring me inside to wash up. I was pulled so hard by her love, I wanted so badly to go in and cry and have her clean my cuts and care for me. I was craving it. But something in me had become hard, and I knew i needed to get away from there, to get home, to face the music, to crawl into the bathroom and clean off my knees, make my wounds seem less bad, I was already going to be in trouble for riding across town when I wasn't supposed to, now there were a list of reasons why.

It was many years before I tried to jump a bike again, in fact, while I rode a mountain bike in lots of fun and exciting places, I never dared, until last weekend at winter park, to find myself airborne.

Yup, the winter park story is coming! Stay tuned...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Winter Park gets it done during summer!

So we went to winter park to ride the dedicated downhill trails and see how the bike park was DONE. While we were there, I was stoked to find out that not only do they have the most awesome purpose built downhill trails around, they also have the summer scene dialed!

First of all, it was crowded, but in a good way. They rolled out a bunch of beverage carts and snack wagons so that no one had to wait very long for anything.

There we're families walking around, all ages, and tons of them were decked out in full downhill gear.

(The Stalter family getting it DONE!)

(little yacovitch chases his big kid friend down the trails at winter park)

(Molly from Teva has been bitten by the dh bug!)

Our first day out was amazing, then, on Monday, I jumped into one of the clinics! More about Winter Park Adventures coming up!

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Crankworx Madness at Winter Park!

Kurt and I spent the weekend at Winter Park Resort watching the downhill mountain biking championships. One word. Awesome.

We drove over on Saturday night, got to spend a lovely evening with some friends, (bliss!) slept in (double bliss!), had breakfast on the deck and then, after a little Thai Massage all around, headed over to Winter Park.

I've never been there, and I was excited to go for a few reasons. First, my very first skiing mentor, Mike Hickey and his wife, Bonnie, are from Winter Park, so I was excited to get a first hand look at their old stomping ground. Also, Bob Barnes (the other one) is the director there, and he's just about as fun as they make em, so I was hoping to get to say hi.

Barney wasn't around on Sunday, so Kurt and I headed up the hill to watch the madness. Winter Park is amazing, they did a great job making it homey and fun. I couldn't BELIEVE how crowded it was, they definitely have their summer fun dialed.

There was mini golf and mini zip lines for the little kids, an awesome alpine slide, lots of tables, chairs and umbrellas and food stands all around so you could get a beverage easily and still watch your kids play.

People were pedaling around in their full armor on their gnarly full suspension bikes, and it was EVERYONE, not just the competitors. I saw kids as young as 7 all decked out with huge grins on their faces, I saw moms, I saw whole families. I had NO idea the sport of Down Hill Mountain Biking was so accessible!

My experience on a mountain bike thus far had been sketchy, scary and painful. (but fun). I had kind of come to the conclusion a year or so ago that I'd better buy a road bike and learn to love to suffer, because I was getting too old to fall off my bike. And when I did fall off my bike, it was scary and ridiculously painful. The consequences just seemed too high. I wished I had the talent to ride, but it just seemed like I should have learned when I was 18, not 35.

Enter purpose-built trails, bikes with huge squishy full suspension, full body armor, and a little bit of technique and instruction. Almost ANYONE can do it. Kurt had a family the other day in his lesson that had like 10 people in it. The youngest was 9. The oldest was 74!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. (because I want to tell you about what it feeeellls like to ride like this... but that's the next day. hold on to your britches. here we go.)

SO we hike up the trail and wander off under this huge bridge to watch the best guys in the nation get after it.

 While we were there, we ran into Chris Conrad (the guy with the chainsaw) and the Tater Patch crew. These guys had hiked up and brought shovels and huge nails to bang on them, cow bells, the chain saw, and they were creating a huge and AWESOME ruckus as the riders came ripping through the wood and launched off this huge rock before making a hard turn to the right.

The speeds these guys ride at and the amount of air they got were truly inspiring, and Kurt and I left feeling really REALLY psyched to ride the next day!

Stay tuned for more DH Mountain biking insanity... (and thanks for your patience, its high season here in Aspen, so we are all working our tails off. I finally folded my laundry and I can find my bed again... ahhh!!)