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XXC Magazine I s s ue N o. 16 , P U B LI SHED M AY 2 0 1 2 4 Following The Blue Ribbons By Jason Mahokey 6 One More Time For Enlightenment By Andrea Wilson 14 Guanacaste, Riding The “Desert” of Costa Rica By James Murren 20 Psych: Multi-Day Racing & Staying Sane By Lynda Wallenfels 24 Choices, Doubts & The Barry-Roubaix By Jason Mahokey 26 Not Fat Enough By Danielle Musto 28 Why Gravel? By Christopher Tassava 30 Camp Lynda: The Stoke For Riding Is Through The Roof By Heidi Volpe 34 The AntiEpic By Ben Welnak 42 The Agony and the Ecstasy of Canceled Races By Eszter Horanyi XXC Magazine #16 Contributors: “Fullface” Kenny Gnat - www.imaginegnat.com Eszter Horanyi - gooneyriders.typepad.com Joe Jacobs - ArkansasOutside.com Abram Landes - www.aelandesphotography.com Jason Mahokey - www.xxcmag.com Chris Miller - millerperspectives.squarespace.com James Murren - www.vagoscribe.com Christopher Tassava - thinkgravel.tumblr.com Andrea Tucker - www.tuckerbikes.com Danielle Musto - daniellemusto.blogspot.com Heidi Volpe - www.heidivolpe.com Lynda Wallenfels - www.LWcoaching.com Andrea Wilson - blog.brickhouseracing.com Ben Welnak - www.twenty2cycles.com, www.xxcmag.com Cover photo by Abram Landes taken at the 2012 Leesburg Baker’s Dozen in Leesburg, VA. Proof and Copy Editor - Alekzandr Benedict Wrenching and bike building expertise - Terry’s Cycles in Alma, Michigan. Special thanks to JoErin O’Leary and Brennan Mahokey for continued love & support. © 2012 XXC Magazine. Enjoy the words and pics, but please don’t copy and or pass it off as your own. Because like The Smiths song says... “don’t plagiarize or take on loan, there’s always someone, somewhere with a big nose, who knows and who trips you up and laughs when you fall.”
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The literal calm before the coming storm at the brief 12 Hours of Dawn â€˜til Dusk in Gallup, NM. For more on this race see page 42. Photo by Chris Miller, millerperspectives.squarespace.com
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Following The Blue Ribbons by Jason Mahokey
Let me start this introduction to XXC #16 with an apology. This issue was supposed to come out ages ago, and I apologize for the long delay. The time since the release of XXC #15 has gone anything but smoothly. It really all started way back in March when I was riding some gravel roads. As I made my way out of town I hit a patch of black ice when taking a shortcut through a local park. I went down hard. For the first time in 20 years of riding, I struggled to get up and really thought I broke a collar bone or separated my shoulder. The x-rays proved that neither happened but as I type this in mid-May I am still experiencing pain. As bad luck would have it, holding my arm in the angle required to use a computer and mouse really hurt. Seriously? Unscheduled absence. Along with that, I have also been struggling with the artist’s version of “writer’s block,” a continued dose of “what’s XXC Magazine’s point and where should the mag go?” and dealing with what my own racing “career” may or may not be in light of added magazine responsibilities and injuries. In other words, the past few months have really kicked the shit out of my mental and physical state. Recently, during a lackluster three day mini ride binge I decided a few things. First, I thought I wanted to quit. No, I thought I NEEDED to quit – for my health, my sanity, my marriage and my bank account. But I can’t. I can’t because I know XXC Magazine is something quite special. Go to the newsstand and try to find a magazine that is like XXC. Go ahead, I’ll wait… SEE? YOU CAN’T DO IT! I’VE TRIED! XXC is special. No, it’s damn special! Sure there are mountain bike magazines, but you’ll find that none are quite like XXC Magazine. On the third day of that ride binge I hit some local trails and ran into some trail builders, or as I like to call them, “Trail Gnomes.”
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The Gnomes were in the process of installing a few more miles of trail that should have the once-10-mile loop up to 15 miles by the end of this summer. I thanked them for their efforts and asked them to please post the work days so I could help out and ride guilt free in the future. They said they would, but not to worry about it. Just enjoy, follow the blue ribbons and help ride the trail in. As I followed the blue ribbons and pedaled over worn grass, fresh dirt and lumps of upturned earth, I had a moment of clarity. Those new miles of trail won’t be perfect for some time. It will take many, many more hours of work and riding to get them to where they should be. Hell, there may even need to be a reroute or two. XXC Magazine is just the same. I don’t want XXC to be the same old 10 mile loop, or in this case the same old magazine. It will take time for the magazine time to reach its full potential. It could happen three months from now, or it could happen three years from now. I don’t know. If I just keep on course, embrace change, be patient and follow the blue ribbons, it can happen. In closing I would like to thank all the contributors that help make each and every issue of XXC Magazine worth reading. I would also like to give special thanks to Ben Welnak, Zandr Benedict and Heidi Volpe for all their help with the podcasts, magazine articles, blog posts, proofreading and consulting. Along with the support of my wife and son, it is people like them that make it easier to keep on course and follow those ribbons. Thank you. Jason Mahokey XXC Magazine
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For a large portion of the week prior to the Spa City 6 Hour, the weather forecast for Hot Springs looked various shades of dismal. First, it was just rain. Lots of rain: days before, day of... just â€œflood warningâ€? amounts of it with occasional thunderstorms. By Wednesday, the amount of rain predicted was reduced to torrential rain ahead of the race and a 50% chance of rain during. The torrents were somehow avoided, and it eventually evolved into a perfect, sunny day with temperatures in the low 60s.
(I was secretly disappointed.) 6 XXC Magazine
XXC Magazine 7 Photo by ArkansasOutside.com
Photo by ArkansasOutside.com
Photo by ArkansasOutside.com
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My choice in bikes was up in the air much like the extended weather outlook. Two weeks out, I was in between geared hardtails while waiting for my badass new Air9RDO to arrive. I decided that, in its absence, I’d ride my Jet9 (full suspension steed), seeing as my singlespeed was set up rigid at the time. (Last year, I’d ridden rigid/ geared, and the lumpiness of the course left me feeling as if I’d been run over by charging cattle.) However, I was surprised with an early Air9 delivery one week out from race day. I immediately built it and had all intentions of racing it. Then, I was spooked by the forecast and, Thursday before the race, ended up pirating its suspension fork for my singlespeed. Of course, by Friday, the change for the better in the weather forecast didn’t “necessitate” the reliability of the singlespeed. However, from my prior season of NUE racing, I’ve found an unexpected comfort zone in taking on pro class women without the use of extra gears. Unlike previous years when the women’s roster was smaller, the growing popularity of the USA Cycling Pro UET series had drawn several out-of state hitters, including the likes of Pua Mata and other entries from California, Nebraska, and Colorado. (I don’t mean to disrespect the other women by not naming them, but, since - spoiler alert - Pua won, I’ll leave the additional e-stalking of the entry list up to you.) Also on the roster was local endurance matriarch Laureen Coffelt (who I was 1-1 with for the past two years of Spa City 6 Hour racing) as well as a host of other local women. So, Saturday morning, I placed my bike in the rack and lined up for the most ridiculous LeMans start in modern endurance racing approximately 300 yards of running on slippery gravel and potholed asphalt. At best, it was incredibly inconvenient. At worst, the length of the run invited injuries such as sprained ankles and “tripping and falling on your face on the asphalt,” which is exactly what happened to a racer immediately to my left as the pack veered towards the bike racks. Luckily, I made it to my bike unscathed.
Also lucky for me, I made it onto the wheel of Laureen Coffelt at the start of the first lap. I followed her until nearly halfway through when she slid out on a root and I was able to sneak around. She’d been tough competition in the past, so I knew I’d have to keep kicking ass to stay ahead. In the second and third laps, I found myself battling back and forth with Xterra pro Jessica Cerra. I passed her partway through the third lap and kept the pedal to the floor. I had an epiphany somewhere around lap four or five. I’d been riding at a breakneck pace for upwards of four hours when the famous Greg Lemond quote, “it never gets easier, you just go faster,” entered into my head. All I could think about was how much that quote was cheating aspiring beginners into a false sense that they would never experience greater pain, just greater speed. Greg was right - it doesn’t get easier. To the contrary, it gets harder. You go faster for longer periods of time. It’s awe-inspiring and, at the same time, it hurts like hell. I thought of that for what seemed like a long time. The previous two years, I’d had bad days at this race. Two years ago, as a “baby” endurance racer, I didn’t have the fitness to sustain the pace I desired, I hadn’t eaten properly, and I didn’t have the mental stamina to push myself past the difficulty. In stroke of luck, even though I’d given up and only ridden five laps, I landed on the 2nd podium spot behind Rebecca Rusch when Laureen barely missed the cutoff time for her sixth lap to count. Last year, I broke a pedal exactly halfway through the race. I limped in, wandered around the pits (for what seemed like hours) until I found a replacement, and fought my way back up to a 3rd place spot minutes behind Laureen. In both cases, I’d exhausted myself and death-marched around the course in my granny gear. This time was different. I was in my fifth lap and hammering up hills past people like I was still on lap two. It was a combination of singlespeed bike choice and my brain constantly overriding the burn in my legs that was telling me to
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Photo by ArkansasOutside.com
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take it easy. I started my sixth lap, and my body felt like it was ready to fall apart. As I rounded the pits, Todd “Antique Gun Show” Henne yelled that there was another woman just around the corner. I put my head down and caught her on a muddy hill just before the trail dove into the woods. My legs threatened to cramp, and I thought of a much better quote, courtesy of Kevin, one of my favorite yoga instructors: “One more time, for enlightenment!” Indeed. Pushing hard in the last lap of a race like that is something that takes as much mental power as physical power. I managed to stay ahead for the entire lap, finishing my six laps in six hours, ten minutes - 3rd place behind Pua Mata and Sara Gibeau (a rider from Colorado). The other two women who had been so competitive during the race were not far behind. I lay on the ground in the pit area for the next 30 minutes… exhausted and enlightened. It’s nice to break a streak of bad luck at a particular race. (Though, honestly, the only other race where I’ve had much bad luck is the Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell. I’ll get that one eventually.) It’s also nice to break that streak with a performance that surprised me. It left me wondering where the combination of leftover cyclocross fitness and increasing endurance will land me this year.
Sometimes, the difficulties of a race aren’t over when you cross the finish line. Of course, racing is hard for everyone, no matter how fast or slow you are. If you’re sore and tired, that means you’re doing it right. However, the physical and mental fatigue generated when you have the ability to push yourself at or above lactate threshold for hours on end is another level of hurt. At least, for me it has been. It’s highly possible that someone faster than me is reading this right now and wondering why I don’t stop with the whining. Following the race, I rudely bailed on the podium presentations
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following the women’s overall awards. I’d like to apologize now and congratulate everyone who received an award. I don’t want to come across as snobby and/or disrespectful, but I felt horrible, and I just wanted to get the trip back to Memphis over with. My post-race experience has been the obvious: full-body soreness coupled with a loss of appetite, inability to sleep (a combination of pain, sweating, and mental unrest), and a general feeling of mild depression and malaise. That was, for the most part, how I spent Saturday night, Sunday, and Monday. Post-race Mondays are always great when I get to explain to everyone at work how I didn’t win. I don’t think they particularly care, and, honestly, I don’t particularly mind having an awesome personal performance like this one and getting 3rd behind the likes of Pua and Sara. It’s the times where I feel like I should have done better that suck to explain. Thankfully, this wasn’t one of those times. After a couple of days of being tired and lazy (my recovery rides consisted of riding my bike one mile to work and back as well as rolling around the skatepark a little while Poolboy Matt shredded on his BMX bike), by Tuesday it was time to unfuck myself and get back to work. Matt and I went out for a three hour wind fight (I think I won) which included a short mid-ride break when I attempted to save a snapping turtle from getting run over on a rural backroad. If you’re not well-versed in “animals of the Deep South,” just know that the snapping turtle is one of the meanest creatures on this wonderful earth, and doesn’t want help from ANYBODY. This was a pretty big one - huge claws, shell at least a foot long, and a fat, at least fourinch-long tail that looked like something out of a dinosaur exhibit at the museum. I’d rank it right up there with the honey badger and rabid dog as “top five animals not to fuck with.” That ride and the good yoga class that followed were enough to finish peeling back the layers of funk that I’d been dealing with. Sometimes you rest more. Other times, it’s better to just jump right back in. This was one of those times. Mohawked singlespeed badass and XXC contributor Andrea Wilson is a regular guest on the XXC Podcast (available at www.xxcmag.com). You can also follow Andrea on her blog at blog.brickhouseracing.com.
Photo by “Fullface” Kenny XXC Magazine
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Mountain bikE adventureS in the “desert” of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province
We turned off the paved Inter-American Highway as the sun started to rise over the dry season “desert” of Guanacaste, though the fiery orb was still not visible in the far horizon. It was a few minutes before 6:00 in the morning, and we were pedaling away from the small city of Liberia, Costa Rica in the eastward direction of Rincon de La Vieja National Park. The surface below the knobby tires was primitive campo road mix of dirt, sand and stone. The sky above us was clear of clouds as the day’s first light cast upon it. Sleep was still hanging in my eyes, and my legs were a little tight from the previous evening’s ride.
Words & Photos by James Murren
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Jonathan, one of the core members of local MTB club/group Guana Bikers, was telling me no one outside of the Central American country – slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia – thinks of desert when they think of Costa Rica, and that many riders from around the country journey to Guanacaste to experience riding in the “desert.” He went on to say that over that next five hours we were going to bike through “desert,” lowland tropical savannah/forest, cloud forest, the foothills of a mountain that housed a volcano, and a canyon. If all went well, we’d be back in town some sixty kilometers later, before it got really hot - somewhere near one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit by 11:00 A.M. While not technically a desert, the region of Guanacaste in northwestern Costa Rica looked like one during the dry season. The landscape was parched, colored in various shades of camel, and the trees had few leaves. Some locals reputed it to be a tropical desert, green and vibrant during the rainy season followed by the hardscrabble cracked earth of the dry season. Others referred to it as being like an African savannah. From what I was seeing, both made sense to me. The panorama that stretched as far as I could see from the vantage point of my saddle fit all of those descriptions: the desert/savannah was all around me, with a canyon off to the left, and way out ahead was a ridge line of cloud forest mountains that looked grey-blue in the early morning sunshine. We pedaled on, slowly working our way up a sun-baked, bone white dirt road. The white dirt is from a mineral deposit found only in Guanacaste. Adobe houses in Liberia, along with some of its roads, are white, giving the city its historical name of “La Ciudad Blanca.” In sections, the desolate road we were riding would have been impassable for any non-4WD vehicle. Culverts and ditches formed by rainy season flows that carved deep cuts and gashes into the 16 XXC Magazine
doubletrack made the riding more like searching for a singletrack line through a cement-hard jeep path than a doubletrack crankfest. The tedious riding came to an end when we turned onto a more navigable dirt road where we picked up speed and were able to spin a little easier. We eventually crested out, the first of two notable climbs before actually reaching the national park. We then bombed a short, steep downhill on a dusty, white dirt road before starting to climb back up again through lowland tropical rainforest. Recreational mountain biking in Costa Rica traces its beginnings back to the early 1990s when mountain bikes first appeared on the market. It was not long after that when the sport of mountain biking took off, most famously resulting in today’s La Ruta de Los Conquistadores stage race. In Guanacaste, home to Guana Bikers, a two-day, 158 kilometer ride around Lake Arenal, first completed by a group of friends in 1992, is now one of the largest mountain biking events in Latin America. In 2011, some 3,300 cyclists participated in Vuelta al Lago Arenal. Historically, Guanacaste has been one of the centers in the development of mountain biking as a competitive sport in Costa Rica. Infamous amongst local and national mountain bikers, Guanacaste was home to a competition called “Desert Storm” throughout the 1990s. Utilizing the “desert” terrain east of Liberia, mountain biking veteran Guido Blanco (a bit of a legend in Costa Rica) organized a race that occurred during the peak heat hours of a dry season day. The goal was simple: Who will survive and win? In 2004 and 2005, Red Bull sponsored the “Moon Ride.” It was a night race held during a full moon that began in Liberia and ended at the Rincon de La Vieja Lodge, located in the mountains below Rincon de La Vieja Volcano. Today, Guana Bikers sometimes lead trips simulating the ride. From 2004-2010, a five-stage, 400-kilometer race in Guanacaste
“The doubletrack is not maintained and can be technical, strenuous and very grueling. Throw in some steep climbs up to volcano altitudes reaching the 10,000 foot range and you have some serious mountain biking.”
called “Guana Ride” was super famosa throughout all of Costa Rica. Unfortunately, low sponsorship and low rider turnout likely influenced by the global economic crisis resulted in the race not being held in 2011. A herd of cattle slugged its way up the road. We sat in the shade taking a short break to eat. Two Guanacaste vaqueros appeared behind the steers, shushing and pushing the beasts to take a left at the intersection. Machetes hung from ropes tied around the men’s waists. They looked tired. It was only a couple hours past sunrise, and they had around 8-10 hours of the cattle drive remaining in their day. The plan was to take the animals to greener pastures on the other side of the volcano. Guanacaste is cowboy country, hardly a place one might associate with mountain biking. However, like much of the riding in Costa Rica, mountain biking in Guanacaste often takes place on dirt roads that are sometimes very rocky and other times very muddy. They
are not like a graded forest road in the U.S. The doubletrack is not maintained and can be technical, strenuous and very grueling. Throw in some steep climbs up to volcano altitudes reaching the 10,000 foot range and you have some serious mountain biking. Costa Rican singletrack is less prevalent, but it does exist, and more of it is being built. To find it, you need to go with the locals. Some touring companies pay private landowners to use singletrack-like trails on their properties, which might be footpaths through coffee plantations or old narrow roads that were used to get products to market before the automobile came into existence. We clipped back in and began the long climb up towards the national park. We ascended under the cover of the trees by the roadside and the air temperature cooled. The gradient increased. Going around a turn I could see that up ahead the dirt road was going to change to a paved road. Jonathan noted that we were nearing a very steep climb about three-quarters of a mile long that was paved XXC Magazine 17
“While not technically a desert, the region of Guanacaste in northwestern Costa Rica looked like one during the dry season. The landscape was parched, colored in various shades of camel, and the trees had few leaves.” to keep the road from eroding away in the rainy season. I dropped into the granny gear, sat back and ground it out. My legs tightened and my breathing labored. I hunched down. The forest seemed to be getting denser. Cool breezes blew down from the mountains. At the top, the road turned to dirt again. We pedaled over to a resting area used by Guana Bikers for their trips. A few minutes later, a truck pulling a trailer parked beside us. Out of the truck spilled a family of five. They opened the trailer. Inside was a mess of beaten bikes. I smiled. “Great day for a ride!” “Sure is. Did you guys ride up here from Liberia?” “We did. We started riding with the sunrise.” “Good for you, but I like driving up here! We like coming up here to enjoy the cooler climate. It’s too hot to bike down in Liberia.” We talked a little more about how people in Costa Rica seem to really enjoy biking. They remarked that biking is as loved as soccer, and that kids not only kick a soccer ball around at a young age, they also learn to pedal a bike. “Enjoy your day! Happy biking!” “Igualmente!” the father said, wishing us the same. We strapped our hydration packs on our backs again and continued
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climbing up towards Rincon de La Vieja. The road was rocky and wet; we were entering cloud forest terrain. A few turns onto narrower roads covered by the forest canopy and Jonathan announced that we were in the national park. We came to a grassy clearing and watched the clouds slide down the mountain ridge and then rise back up, slide down again and lift. It was as if the clouds and mountains were a living, breathing, symbiotic organism. I thought it was like a giant lung. The mountain was breathing. A few minutes later we were at the backside entrance to the park. We passed through without having to pay an entrance fee since we were only stopping for water. We talked with the ranger and filled our packs with cold mountain spring water. The ranger informed us that bikes are not allowed in the higher elevations near the crater zone, an area open only to foot traffic. He also talked of some natural hot springs that you can hike to, but we did not have the time to indulge. After backtracking through the park entrance and rocky doubletrack, we turned right and hammered down a narrow ribbon of singletrack through a meadow and into the forest. The trail widened a little and became rooty and rockier. A couple of tight turns, a rock garden and a few stream crossings kept me honest. I wanted to release the brakes but my cojones were not big enough. The downhill singletrack ended too soon, a tease that pleased but left me wanting more. Slowed down, I noticed the dirt looked to be more of a red-brown color in this zone, like what you see in the south eastern region of the U.S. Rolling over to where we were going to begin the long descent through the canyon, I saw the dirt had a deeper red hue that reminded me of southern Utah. We climbed a quick clip up through a grassy area that had big black
boulders the size of snowmen bottoms, Euro cars and Appalachian cabins. They sat in no pattern, unmoved since when they landed one of the times when Rincon de La Vieja blew its top. Up behind us rose the mountains where we had just stopped for water. The air was cool. The sun was warm. Looking west, the sky was a big expanse of pure mountain-to-desert blue. In that moment, I reminded myself: “You are living the dream.” Two minutes later, we were flying down the mountain on dirt and stones. A good chunk of 2,000 feet of vertical elevation was passing by in a blur. We turned back onto a gravel road we had climbed up, and then turned again to enter the canyon and descend all the way to the Inter-American Highway. Before doing so, however, we stopped under a marañon tree, better known as cashew in Englishspeaking lands. March is marañon season, and the red fruit with the seed (cashew nut) that grows on the outside was abundant on the ground. Jonathan picked a few up and started eating the fleshy fruit. He handed one to me, kind of with a smile/smirk on his face. I bit into it. All the moisture in my mouth felt like it was immediately sucked out. I spit the fruit onto the ground. Jonathan laughed, explaining that the fruit makes your mouth feel like the desert, but that it is quite juicy and delicious after you acquire a taste for it. He went on to relay that during a ride a few years back, he had run out of water and was nearing bonk stages. He decided to sit under a marañon tree to rehydrate. It worked. He completed his ride. Food lesson complete, we climbed a short, rocky rise in the road. Then we big-ringed our way down through the canyon, passing meager campesino family homes along the way. The riverbed to our left was nothing but rocks. No water flowed. The cool mountain air was gone. Up high on the partly-treed canyon walls, rocky outcroppings jutted out into the oven-hot air.
“Purale, purale,” a small boy yelled from a wooden front porch, his arms raised above his head in excitement. A second time he called out for me to “hurry up,” or perhaps the truer translation was “go, go, go!” We came to a different stream that had water, picked up our bikes and carried them across to the other side on stones placed a stride apart. We rested a few minutes, the last one of the morning. Another short steep climb was ahead, and then it was all rolling downhill from there. I was feeling good, not all that tired. I took a few pulls on the hydration pack and started up the incline. Done. No more climbing for the day. As we put the ride on cruise control back through Guanacaste’s dry season desert, I felt the heat getting to me. It was like an inferno, even though we were moving at a brisk pace, creating our own wind effect. I was hot, but had no perspiration on my skin. In the twenty minutes of time from when we were sitting by the stream to now being out in the open land, my body went from feeling good to being worn out. Was it the heat? Was it knowing the end was near, and I could relax my focus on riding with Guana Bikers a little? It likely was a little bit of both, along with approximately 35 miles of riding at a decent clip burrowed in my legs. In the final mile or so before dumping out on to the Interamericano, I gazed at the land around me. I looked back at the cloud forest, the higher peaks still covered in fog. “No doubt, the desert-to-volcano Guana Bikers ride is a big one,” I thought. I told Jonathan so. He was pleased to hear it.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Guana Bikers is a mountain biking club/group, located in Liberia, Guanacaste. They promote mountain biking in the region, and always have the welcome mat lying out on the doorstep for international riders. Chances are, they will “feel things out” with regard to your riding skill on an easy ride through the countryside first. If you tell them you want to ride hard and go a long way, that you want an epic ride and that you are a fast rider, they will call on group members that “like to run” for leading such a ride. Good luck! Jonathan speaks English, and can set you up via email with local lodging options and will plan out your ride(s) based
on everyone’s schedules. You can email Guana Bikers at: firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.guanabikers.com For post-ride grub, check out Pizza Pronto in Liberia. Situated in a 19th century house, the thin crust pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven. The list of possible toppings will cover any craving you may have. The beer is always cold. The owner is a mountain biker and has been active in supporting the local MTB scene for years. The XXII edition of Vuelta al Lago Arenal will take place on March 2-3, 2013. For more information, and to register, go to: www.vueltaallago.net.
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MULTI-DAY RACING & STAYING SANE BY LYNDA WALLENFELS
The solo part of self-supported multi-day racing can be intimidating to the uninitiated. Most of us don’t practice being alone for multiple days in a row. One way to get around this is to find a race buddy and race as a team, psychologically supporting each other. To truly race self-supported solo you have to be your own cheerleader and pep squad. You have to bounce all decisions off yourself alone and you have to be able to talk sense into yourself when things are not going well.
YOUR PRIMARY GOAL Motivation is the drive to achieve your goal, and finishing any selfsupported, multi-day race requires a metric ton of motivation. In one of these races your brain will get befuddled with ride-all-day fatigue and sleep deprivation. You need to keep your race goal clear and simple. A single primary goal is required for bikepacking races in order to focus your race strategy and in-race decisions. One laser-focus goal with a clear prime directive will make decisions in tough situations easier. Be conscious about your primary goal and write it down. If
your primary goal is to suffer (which I don’t recommend but do observe in athletes often), be clear on that prior to the start and study up on suffering tolerance techniques. Prepare yourself for exactly what your primary goal is. Clear and defined goals fuel motivation and define your actions in difficult situations. Two to five secondary goals can be layered on top of the single primary goal to fuel even more motivation, but all secondary goals have to be in support of your primary goal.
At the Arizona Trail Race 300 last year my primary goal was to finish. All my race decisions were based on that goal. When challenges arose, the mantra I chanted in my head was, “it doesn’t matter how slow you go, you just have to finish.” This took the pressure off me to keep up with anyone or do anything I felt was risky. In the lower Gila desert section of the course it was hot – head boiling hot. I hiked up clearly rideable hills to keep my core temperature under control and rewarded myself with rests at the top of many of them. I covered ground so slowly! Each time my negative brain chimed in, frustrated with how slow I was going, I chanted my mantra over the top of it, talking sense back into myself and keeping myself relaxed and happy. Instead of getting bummed, pushing myself too hard and overheating, I reached sunset and cooler temperatures happy and relatively rested. That night I had amazing energy, euphoric happiness and rode fast and far. It was a dreamy night, set up by staying calm and focused on my primary goal through a difficult day. That night rode me into the race lead which I maintained to the finish. That night a memory was etched in my brain I will still relive and daydream about when I am 85 years old.
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MAKE MORE JOY The best-raced self-supported, multi-day bikepacking events are fueled by joy and flow, not suffering and toil. Suffering is not a requirement to excel! How hard the race “feels” is generally inversely proportional to the level of your performance. Most of our lifetime best performances in sports actually feel easy and our worst races feel hard. It’s a secret that the more fun you are having, the lower your perceived exertion and the faster and further you will go. Everybody has a set of happiness rules for themselves. Create your
rules consciously and in support of your primary goal. Write them down and check that they will fuel joy and not misery for you. If you establish an impossible-to-achieve set of splits as your benchmark for being happy, you are making it less likely you will be able to fuel your performance with joy. Set your happiness rule to an achievable step. A good happiness rule doesn’t have to be specific like a goal. A happiness rule can be simply to enjoy your journey no matter what that journey turns out to be.
Sometimes my happiness rule is to be present and experience the day. If I do that, no matter what happens, I am happy. I like to write my happiness rule mantras on my forearms or handlebars. For this race they were “Make Bike Love” and “Smile Lots and Glow.”
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A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE When things get hard during a race a change in perspective can make you feel more motivated instantly! Looking at your situation with a fresh perspective can reduce anxiety and increase performance. At the Colorado Trail Race in 2010 Eszter Horanyi decided the mantra she would use when things got tough was: “a day on the trail of the CTR is better than a day at work.” This is a classic perspective-focusing trick and fueled her to a women’s course record.
PARENTS! I have had several moms and dads ask me if this type of event is possible for them to achieve. I think self-supported solo racing is far easier than being a mom or dad! For me, as a mom, most of my days are spent not only taking care of my own needs but also the needs of my kids. On a family ride or hike or even a trip to the park I have to make sure we all have jackets, sunscreen, water, snacks, helmets, shoes etc. Each detail counts. I am the one that gives up my snacks when a kinder needs more food, or my jacket when they forget theirs (despite my saying six hundred times to bring it). In contrast, in a self-supported endurance event it is just me out there. I only have to remember my own jacket, helmet and goodies. I only need to predict and carry water for myself. I can sit down and eat an entire chocolate bar without sharing any of it. Being able to savor a treat without being badgered for my last bite really is quite a pleasure. The “self ” part makes the logistics of bikepack racing so simple compared to being a parent. So parents – know you have what it takes already! After finishing a very hot Arizona Trail Race in second place, where water rationing was crucial to finish, Brad Kee, father of two, gave a guilty giggle while describing the pleasure of sipping on his water knowing it was all his, only his, and he didn’t have to share it with anyone!
THE SUFFER No matter how much positive self-talk and joy direction you give your brain, the suffer can still appear. A sore back, feet, hands or rear can beep and burn to a level you cannot ignore or distract. When this happens your FIRST task is to see if you can eliminate your suffering. Check all systems: fueling, hydration, bike fit, shoe fit. Maybe a simple fix like changing socks will slay your suffering. At the 12 hour mark in the 145 mile Kokopelli Trail Race I was suffering with a burning lower back. Finally it reached the threshold where it was taking power away from my pedals and joy from my race. The suffer was on. I stepped off my bike to stretch and discovered my seatpost had slipped. Minutes after raising it, my back pain magically disappeared and my flow was back. Self-supported, multi-day bikepack racing is the ultimate vacation from the daily juggle. It is a slice of life where, for a few days, you can truly say, “it is all about me.” There’s both joy and perspective in that.
If you can’t get rid of the suffer, use some of these strategies to increase your tolerance for suffering: • Count to 100 and then do it again. • Repeat your number one goal 100 times and then do it again. • Use only positive self-talk and say motivating things to yourself. Speak to yourself with the motivational words you would give to a team-mate in your position. Simple stuff like “you rock, hammerhead” can work. • Lift your head high and smile. This can change brain wave patterns and reduce suffering. Even fake smiles have been shown to change brain wave patterns in a study conducted with people holding a pencil sideways in their teeth. The saying “grin and bear it” has scientific backing. • Chant a mantra or silly saying to yourself. If it makes you smile it is likely to reduce the suffer. Studies have shown rhythmic chanting can change brainwave patterns and perceptions. Like the military’s use of rhythmic chanting to march sleep deprived soldiers, you can use it to reduce the suffer while moving forward. “So long, so strong, I keep on moving on.” • Turn on your tunes. Music can reduce perceived exertion. • Reward yourself with short, timed breaks. A ten minute stretch and snack stop once every two hours or a catnap every four hours can be valuable time spent in a bikepack race. It can break your suffering up into manageable segments separated by a reward. • Break down your distance to the finish by focusing only on what you need to do in the present, the next mile, or next ten minutes rather than the entire event.
Lynda Wallenfels is a Cat 1 USA Cycling coach and owner of LW Coaching. Visit www.lwCoaching.com for more information.
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Photo by Andrea Tucker, www.tuckerbikes.com
Choices, Doubts & The Barry-Roubaix By Jason Mahokey
March 24th was the “killer” gravel road race known as the Barry-Roubaix. For many of us here in the “mitten” state the Barry has quickly become the traditional first race of the year. Last year I did the shorter 35 mile race on my hardtail 29er and from the moment I crossed the line I thought, “I SHOULD HAVE USED MY CROSS BIKE!” I told myself that under no circumstance would I slow myself down by riding a mountain at the race again. In 2012 I opted for the big loop - 62 miles of gravel, pavement and deep sand two-track. In the weeks leading up to the race I made several xxcmag.com blog posts about the Barry-Roubaix and what my bike of choice would be: a Kona Jake The Snake with some fatter than usual 700 x 40c Ritchey Speedmax tires. This bike is my everyday gravel road bike and there was no doubt in my mind that this was the best tool for the job. 24 XXC Magazine
“I tried to convince myself that I would make up time in the first two-track section. Try as I might, I couldn’t make that happen.”
Then the rains came. Michigan had a pretty lame winter. (Or a pretty great winter - it all depends on whether you ask a cross country skier or a cyclist.) Our early spring was no different - the weeks leading up to the BarryRoubaix had been sunny and unseasonably warm for March. Then, the day before the race, the sky opened up and dumped buckets of rain on southwest Michigan. “Hmmm,” I thought. “This might change everything.” I have ridden my cross bike on super muddy dirt roads before and it’s not pretty. I was flooded with old memories of coming to a standstill on climbs, my narrow tires cutting hard into ankle-deep mud and my brakes jammed with gobs of wet mud and sand. What to do? What… to… do? At 9:00 P.M. the night before the race, as I sat watching red and yellow radar blobs on the Weather Channel, I decided to go with my gut feeling and chose to race my hardtail 29er again. I was sure that the wide 29” tires would hover over the mud and blast through the sandy double track sections while skinsuited cross racers ate dirt.
Race day. I lined up with the 150+ other 62 mile racers in my class and realized that, other than me, there were only about four other people on mountain bikes. I appeared to be - at least judging by the ever growing roll above my waist line - to be the least fit of the bunch. I muttered a few f-bombs under my breath, cursed my gut feeling and convinced myself that it wouldn’t be… it COULDN’T be that bad. Right?
Did we start? The gun sounded. (Or was it just race director Rick Plite yelling something about needing beer tickets after the race? I don’t know!) The lead moto took off, guiding the large pack of racers on a neutral roll out through the park. I had a bad feeling as quite a few racers were blowing by me at the 1/4 mile mark. “Hmmm, this ‘neutral start’ isn’t so neutral,” I thought to myself. Then, as we hit the right hand turn out of the park and the official start of the race, I was dropped like a ten ton weight stuffed into a bulging (in all the wrong places) Lycra clad bag of suck. I figured I’d just plug along and see what happened. Maybe it wouldn’t as bad as it looked? I couldn’t wait to get off of the pavement and onto the gravel and dirt roads, if for no other reason than to drown out the loud whirl of my knobby tires. I was also anxious to get a look at how much damage all that rain had done to the roads. To say the least, I was disappointed when we hit the dirt and I saw
that it was nothing more than a few random puddles atop fast, packed sandy dirt and stone. While discouraged, there was nothing I could do but just keep moving. I tried to convince myself that I would make up time in the first two-track section. Try as I might, I couldn’t make that happen. I quickly found myself off the back of my wave with the next wave of riders breathing down my neck. Sure, I got around a few folks here and there, but I’m pretty sure they got back around me as soon as we got on gravel again. With over 55 miles to go I settled in for what would be a day of solo riding. I was too slow to catch on the back of any of the faster groups and too fast (or too proud) to take refuge in a slower group. Once I stopped mentally beating myself up about my bike choice I actually started to enjoy myself – sort of. Despite being by myself and not even in mid-pack contention, I was having a good time and feeling good. I was keeping what I thought was a nice pace and enjoying the hilly roads of southwest Michigan. Even when it seemed Mother Nature was mocking me by throwing some cool drizzle my way I continued enjoying the ride. When I hit the new, much talked-about, deep sand two-track section of East Sager Road I was, for the first time all day, actually glad to be on my mountain bike. Then I lost the good line and had to hike up a sandy climb/false flat until I could remount, rendering bike choice a moot point. With the sand of East Sager behind me, I was soon on a long stretch of pavement heading toward the finish. As I got closer to the venue I was being passed by cars with bikes on top already making their way home. While I knew that they were most likely cars of finished 24 and 36 mile racers, it was still disturbing. Finishing the race proved to be very anticlimactic. I crossed the line the same way I raced the last 55+ miles: alone. I got off the bike, ate a sandwich, tracked down my friends, enjoyed some beers provided by the fine folks at Founder’s Brewing and forgot about finishing 195th. The speeds at which the Elite racers finished the 62 mile course were nothing short of amazing, with the top five averaging over 21 miles per hour. Winner Mike Anderson (North Country Sport) finished in just 2:51:05 with Brian Matter (Gear Grinder) RIGHT behind him at 2:51:08. Nathaniel Williams (Bissell-ABG-Nuvo) took 3rd in 2:51:57. The Women’s 62 mile race was won by Amy Stauffer (Priority Health), followed by Samantha Brode (Cleveland Clinic) in 2nd and Kathy Everts (Real Women Tri/Chicago Dr. Cycling) in 3rd. The 62 mile Barry-Roubaix race was the second race in the 2012 American Ultra Cross Championship Series (www.ultracx.com). Complete results and more information can be found at www.Barry-Roubaix.com. XXC Magazine 25
While some lamented their descisions to ride fat tires at the Barry-Roubaix, Danielle Musto found that her mountain bike was just not fat enough and entered the newly created 35 mile fat bike class.
This was my third year racing the Barry-Roubaix but my first year racing in the Fat Bike category. My goal was to make the podium, which meant I would have to beat a lot of guys since it was an open class. I lined up near the front and found myself in a sea of racers. I have to admit that my fat tires looked ESPECIALLY FAT when lined up next to cyclocross and mountain bike tires, but I refused to be intimidated. After training on my Mukluk all winter long I had a
riding my Mukluk on sand and I have to admit that I was just as amazed as the first time. I was able to plow right down the center of the two-track where the sand was deepest. It was awesome! I finally caught Tara and passed her on a climb. After that I never looked back and spent the rest of the time racing with cross and mountain bikes. Most of the hills on the course were relatively short, but they also were never-ending. I felt good on the climbs, but anytime we hit a downhill or flat section I was put deep into the pain
“Who knew that hearing ‘Go Fatty!’ would make me so happy!” good idea of how the bike handled and how hard I could ride it. I was excited to see what I could do. Soon I was joined by a few other racers on fat bikes, including Tara Jansen, the only other female racing in the fat bike category. Standing around and waiting for the other waves in front of us to go off just made me nervous, and I was relieved when it was our time to take off. The pace wasn’t too bad heading out of the park, but once we hit the open road it was “ON!” I train alone a lot, and trying to keep up with the group surges put me out of my comfort zone in a hurry. Tara passed me on the paved road and quickly put a gap on me. I was not surprised because she is an incredibly strong rider. However, I was able to keep her in my sight and was slowly able to bridge back up. I was really happy once we hit the first two-track section. There were huge groups of racers dismounting and running all over the place. The racers still on bikes were trying to stay to the far right or left to avoid the deep sand in the center. This was my second time
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cave. Trying to hang on to the wheel of cyclocross bikes during the pavement sections was brutal. However, all the other racers around me were really supportive and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many cheers in my life. Who knew that hearing “Go Fatty!” would make me so happy! The finish line was a very welcome sight and I crossed under the banner completely spent with a time of 2:05:56. I was 2nd overall in the fat bike division and 4th overall out of the 36 mile women! Tara finished two minutes behind, in 3rd place. Even though there were only two females in the fat bike category I think it’s safe to say that we represented. All in all it was an awesome day. Great race, great people… great bike! Asside from being a freak for her fat bike, Danielle Musto is the 2011 Women’s Solo 24 Hour Singlespeed National Champion. You can read more from Danielle on her blog: daniellemusto.blogspot.com.
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Photo by GNAT, imaginegnat.com
It’s a funny thing, to enjoy riding bikes on gravel roads. I’ve thought about this many times over the last few years while “crushing gravel” on the backroads lacing southcentral Minnesota. At least in my part of the state, I don’t think I’m unusual in being less than a half mile from a gravel road that connects, with the occasional short section of tar, to what must be hundreds of miles of gravel roads over many different kinds of Midwestern terrain: rolling farm country, jagged river valleys, pan-flat prairie, hilly woods, curving lakeside. I’ve heard that you could ride mostly on gravel through the Dakotas and Canada or to Iowa and Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas. 28 XXC Magazine
“Riding bikes on gravel might be eccentric, but at least my eccentricity has some personal history behind it.”
Photo by Jason Mahokey, www.xxcmag.com.
I haven’t gone that far (yet), but I have hit roads in seven or eight counties since I got serious about riding few years ago, after I bought a Surly CrossCheck. After changing tires the other day, I noticed again the wonderful sounds of gravel riding: the buzz of high-speed contact with the dirt, the rhythmic scrunch of slow climbing, the hiss of flying pebbles, the ping of a stone ricocheting off the frame (or my helmet). All that flying dirt adds to the experience, too: when you finish a ride wearing a mask of dust, you know you’ve been working hard. Gravel is even better as a riding surface than as a source of sounds or grime. Pavement is supposed to be more or less the same everywhere. Heck, many road riders take pains to ride on the best pavement. Except for cobblestones (or the Strade Bianche) there’s little roadie glory in riding the rough stuff. Gravel is different – not only is it often rough, but it’s perpetually variable and constantly challenging. A little like a cross country skier figuring out how to go fast on different snow conditions, a gravelriding cyclist doesn’t need to bother finding “good” gravel because the surface is going to change endlessly. Efficiently (if not always quickly) riding these changes is a blast. A mile-long section on a recent long ride might illustrate the point. Looking up the road at a steep hill in the distance, my riding partner and I were blasting over dry, hard clay when the road dipped just enough to have collected some rainwater, creating a nice shoulder-to-shoulder pit of tacky “peanut butter.” Our momentum carried us through this wet stuff, but we lost a lot of speed before emerging onto a longer section of dry and very rough washboard. Neither the crowned center nor the tractor-treaded edges of the road were any better, so we just powered through the corrugations. After a few seconds, the bone-jarring bumps disappeared beneath a barely-spread layer of fresh gravel, loose and thick enough to rattle against our rims and scrub off any momentum we might have kept through the washboard. I had my hands clenched on the hoods, wrestling my bike from the loosest gravel to slightly firmer wheel ruts. Now going pretty damn slow, we left this loose junk just as the climb really started, on a surface made up of loose stones and pebbles scattered over firmer clay. We could finally move well again, but the xxcmag.com
hill’s increasing steepness combined with the unpredictability of the rocks forced us to change lines constantly. Finally, near the top of the climb, the road settled down again, smoothed out by lower-speed car traffic, and popped us out at a cruel stop sign. Riding that stretch of road was exhilarating and exciting and demanding and satisfying. And that’s the main reason I love crushing gravel: the challenge of getting smoother, faster, better even when the road doesn’t want to let you to do any of those things. Gravel can play a nice trick, too. A hard rain, an inch of snow, or a couple hot days will transform a section that presented no problem last week iinto a brand-new road with a new set of tests. Though the technical side of gravel riding is the main reason I love riding the backroads, there’s another major reason, too - one I realized the other day (while out, of course, for a long ride): I learned to ride a bike on gravel. This was an immensely satisfying realization. Riding bikes on gravel might be eccentric, but at least my eccentricity has some personal history behind it. I learned to ride (33 years ago!) on a bike that was a far cry from my CrossCheck but was still a pretty good gravel machine - a black and red discountstore bike with a banana seat and chopper handlebars. I remember more than one crash in which I flew right through the upwardsweeping bars to land on my hands and chest on the quarter-mile of gravel driveway that led from, yes, a rural gravel road to our big old farmhouse in a corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I must have still been riding that bike a few years later, when we were living with my grandpa on his farm in another part of the U.P. There, I did my riding on the cow paths through farm pastures, up and down another long gravel driveway, and over the gravel roads to the neighbors’ houses. After we moved away from that house, though, I went a long time – most of my life – before putting rubber on gravel again. Getting back to the gravel has been fun – like being a kid again, but with better bike, longer legs, and a little bit more speed. When not crushing gravel, XXC Magazine contributor Christopher Tassava also maintains the blog thinkgravel.tumblr.com. XXC Magazine 29
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ynda Wallenfels is a Cat 1 USA Cycling coach, business owner (LWCoaching.com), mother, XXC Magazine contributor and an experienced endurance and ultra bike-packing racer. This past February, she once again hosted Camp Lynda - a free, self-supported three-day riding binge that covers hundreds of miles of dirt roads, twotrack and singletrack surrounding St. George, Utah. It’s not a formal training camp and you don’t have to be one of Lynda’s athletes to attend, just a self-sufficient mountain biker who wants to put in some big training miles with like-minded riders. Recently I had the chance to ask Lynda some questions on how it all got started and to some of the 2012 particpants.
Camp Lynda started as a high volume three day training binge for myself, Dave Harris and our athletes at LW Coaching to peak for a 24 hour solo race. We decided it would be really fun to have a bigger group so we laid down the routes, established the self-support philosophy and opened the invitation to everyone. We have a good crew who has returned every year since we started and they have made it their own event. I like that a lot. Camp Lynda is about a lot more than just me. It would run just fine without me now but I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
It always was and always will be. Free with no support. The selfsupported philosophy attracts a particular type of athlete and adds to the learning done at camp. People step up and bring it with the selfsupport philosophy. I like seeing that and I like being surrounded by athletes with stoke, joy and the ability to look after themselves. xxcmag.com
This is the first year we have done this. This year we supported our local newly established mountain bike trails advocacy group Dixie Mountain Bike Trails and raised $255 in donations for them. In the last few years the tourist mountain bike traffic on our trails has really increased and we need a way to secure access and continue trail maintenance in our area. This takes work and money. It is a really fun way to reconnect with racers and new riders after winter and outside of competition. That said, one of the main attractions of camp is to come and benchmark your fitness against other riders so there are many fun little races that spontaneously happen at camp. After all, we are racers at heart. Put a group on bikes in a pack and a race will occur – that’s a given. I love that part!
Every year I come off camp elated. It is a huge weekend of riding and meet ‘n’ greet. I love the riding part of course and the meet ‘n’ greet part is superb also. Chatting with other racers, meeting new people, finding out their season plans, sharing ideas and enthusiasm gets the season stoke all fired up. It is a great way to kick off training for the new season. It’s a weekend-long party revolving around bikes, in my back yard, and I get to decide where and when we ride every day! What is not to like about that? XXC Magazine 31
I think my favorite part of camp was being with such a wide variety of mountain bikers in a friendly, non-race situation. It is one of the few times that the weekend warrior will share a descent with a seasoned pro. I love feeling the energy of all of the likeminded people. Everyone that attends is interested in living a healthy, athletic, clean and happy life. I know that I can ride with anyone that shows up and have an instant connection. I love mountain bikers! Day 1 was my favorite for the climb and the descent. I got to climb in a group with Alex Grant and Keegan Swenson and then descend Ice House which is the most scenic desert descent I’ve ever ridden. When descending, you are flowing through fields of yellow brush, the horizon in front of you just drops off and in the distance are amazing red rocks. It was so surreal and adrenalinefilled. I wanted to stop to get a picture, but didn’t want the moment to end. The beautiful thing about Camp Lynda is it’s as challenging as you want to make it. You can ride in the front with pros or go at your own pace with friends. At the end of the day you finish in the same parking lot and share tales from the trails.
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All the people who were there. No matter what your pace there was always someone to ride with. The first day. That was the only day that I did the entire ride and it was all new to me. (I got a flat the second day and only did one lap on the last day.) The most challenging part was just showing up. I had heard about Camp Lynda over the last few years, but thought it might be too much for me. After going I hope I can go back next year!
The True Grit pre-ride on Saturday. I really enjoyed seeing such a large group of people enjoying the great day of incredible terrain and great camaraderie! Also, cool to see so many levels of riders together for something other than a race! I would have to say Saturday - the variety of terrain on that ride is amazing, Not being able to ride on Friday and Sunday!
Day 2 was probably my favorite. I really enjoy that course or combination of trails. And I was able to barely hang just off the fast group which made me feel pretty cool. Granted, they were not going so fast for them... but still. I love seeing so many like-minded individuals. So the time with friends, old and new, is the part that is so awesome. It was great to see people again and catch up on how everyone is doing. And the weather was awesome too. The binge is always challenging. It is a lot of cycling early in the season, so it is difficult, yet exhilarating, to put that much cycling volume together into three days. Unfortunately, Chris blew up his bike less than half way into day 3 so we bailed early. But it was still delightful.
Camp Lynda brings together dozens of mountain bikers of all ability levels for three days of epic riding and camaraderie. It is a great way to catch up with old cycling friends after a long winter and meet new friends. With beautiful weather, great trails, and excellent company the positive energy is highly contagious. The third day was my hands down favorite. We rode the Gould’s Rim/Jem Trail/Hurricane Rim trail loop and although I love these trails, it was company that made this my favorite day. I ended up riding with a highly entertaining group of women (and one man) with similar pacing goals for the day. We ripped some trail, stopped for lunch, took some photos, practiced some technical sections, and the conversation was amazing. It was one of my favorite rides so far this year and I know I made some long-lasting friendships! Really, the hardest part about the camp is not to overcook yourself on Day 1. Camp Lynda falls pretty early in the year and everyone comes with different levels of fitness either gained, maintained, or completely lost over the winter. With buffed out trails, stellar company, and a little competitiveness, it is easy to over-pace yourself at the beginning of the camp and then pay for it on Day 3!
Anytime I can get together with a bunch of riders and hit some of the best trails the west has to offer it’s bound to be awesome. My favorite day was Sunday. We did the Gould’s Rim, Jem Trail, Hurricane Rim loop, which is one of the best rides in Utah. About 30 miles of trails that range from rocky and technical to super-fast, bermed-up singletrack, always a fun day. Then you throw in getting to ride with the some of the fastest guys in the west like Alex Grant, Keegan Swenson, Bart Gillespie, and suddenly that day becomes fully Kick Ass. What made it most challenging was also what made it so great. Riding with a crew of elite-level riders is always a challenge. Getting gassed on the climbs and hanging it out on the descents, trying to hold the wheel of some of the most talented riders in the country forces you to put all your cards on the table. And sometimes you don’t like your hand.
The people are what make Camp Lynda so awesome. Every year I have attended Camp Lynda I have met new, super-cool people and it is great to stay in touch and follow their respective race seasons through the year. The energy at Camp Lynda is always positive and the stoke for riding is through the roof. It is truly energizing. My favorite day at Camp Lynda 2012 was Day 1. It is always great to reunite with my fellow enduro-junkies that I haven’t seen over the winter. Being the first day, everyone is super sparkly and rides hard with extra big smiles on their faces. The Day 1 route was new to me and I LOVED the Ice House trail. The most challenging part of the camp for me was the techie riding on the Zen Trail. I need more practice riding that stuff at race pace for sure. Leaving the gorgeous desert for snowy Victor, ID at the end of camp was also challenging.
All of the like-minded people, dinner with friends that you know from Facebook and getting to hang out with them in person, the trails, meeting new people all with a story to tell. Part of why we enjoyed camp so much: going to camp as a couple made a great date weekend! Jon’s favorite days were the first and last day. The first because I rode the whole course, the longest I have ever ridden a mountain bike, my tenth time on a bike ever. The last day because he time trialed the True Grit with Legend Kurt Refsneider. My favorite day was day 1 because I got to spend so much time on my bike and a lot of the time it was just me and the great outdoors. I gained a lot of confidence that day. Leaving after only three days. You can find out more about Camp Lynda at www.2-epic.com. For tips on how to put on your very own training camp check out the article Lynda wrote in XXC Magazine #11 available for viewing at www.xxcmag.com and to purchase at www.MagCloud.com.
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The 155 mile grassroots gravel grinder that proves to be anything but
The AntiEpic Gravel Grinder started as an unprepared drive to a race last September. After several miles of gravel country roads, I was both angry and intrigued. My wife and I made it to the race location, met friends and got settled in for night of camping. In the back of my mind, I noted the unique landscape and roads of the area. The terrain southeast of Denver, Colorado is unlike anything that you picture when you think of Colorado. Instead of towering snowcapped peaks surrounded by high altitude evergreen wilderness, the area is covered in rolling plains, spotted with horse and cattle ranches. Small towns, fields and ranches are connected with endless miles of gravel roads. A quick glance at a map reveals hundreds of miles of these gravel roads between the well-traveled Interstate 25 urban corridor and the Kansas state line, all underappreciated and underexplored.
Words and Photos by Ben Welnak xxcmag.com
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While traveling back from a yearly trip to Wisconsin during the holidays, I thought about all of the New Year’s resolutions I saw on Facebook. I wasn’t really annoyed by the mostly-doomed big, new goals, but they stirred my imagination. I wanted to do something different and not necessarily just race another race. My mind wandered as we drove I-80 across Nebraska and I thought back to that race and drive in September. What else was out there? When it was my wife’s turn to drive, I opened up Google Maps and my Colorado atlas and checked it out. I quickly determined that there was a possibility for something different. The course itself consists of about 95% maintained dirt roads, with around 9,000 feet of total climbing in about 155 miles. It’s not climbing in normal Colorado terms. There are no climbs that last 30 minutes and climb straight up a mountain. The AntiEpic tortures riders with countless false flats and short steeps, especially in the last 50 miles. The actual total mileage varies some because there is a neutral rollout to the actual start/finish area and there is a threemile option to go into the one resupply town of Deer Trail. Some riders ended up with 161 miles and didn’t seem to mind one bit.
The Name Why AntiEpic? A friend started using the term to explain his plans for 2012. Did I steal it? Yeah, sort of, but with his permission of course. During 2011, it seemed that everything was being called “epic.” Instead of a six-hour ride through mountains or a 100-mile ride through the rain in a remote location being considered epic, normal training rides, short cross country races and generally noninspiring activities took on some sort of epicness.
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The term itself would literally mean not epic. Urbandictionary.com defines anti-epic as, “when something has the makings of being epic but simply isn’t.” The AntiEpic is like a rebellious teenager who acts as if he/she is the world’s most independent person, only to come crawling back home asking for food, money and clean clothes when life hits. The AntiEpic is acting non-epic like, but when push comes to shove, it’s an opportunity for crazy off-road cyclists to get together to experience a different challenge and to remember what it means to be old school epic - not that new-fangled fake epic shit.
Free Entry 2012 has seemed to bring with it a new focus to the world of mountain biking. Endurance events are now the norm (one quick look at the XXC Race Calendar proves this!), fatbiking in the dead of winter is common, and riders are taking on bigger challenges with greater frequency. The relatively recent popularity of gravel style races, or “gravel grinders” as they are becoming known, has blurred the line of what is considered mountain biking. Trans Iowa, Almanzo 100 and the Dirty Kanza have attracted a broad spectrum of cyclists, including mountain bikers, touring cyclists, and cyclocross and road racers from throughout the country to race not much more than lightly-traveled gravel and farm roads for hundreds of miles. Is it mountain biking? Well, is winding through trees on flat land “mountain” biking? Off-road, yes… Mountain? That’s up for your interpretation. The increasing number of endurance off-road cyclists has boosted the demand for something different and bigger. The result is a whole new world of rides, races, and organized adventures.
“The AntiEpic is acting non-epic like, but when push comes to shove, it’s an opportunity for crazy off-road cyclists to get together to experience a different challenge and to remember what it means to be old school epic - not that new-fangled fake epic shit.”
Grassroots I’ve been asked repeatedly why I would organize such a ride. I acknowledge that, with several projects in the works and a new baby on the way, it’s probably not the best use of my time because I’m not getting paid. Several recon missions added up to a lot of time away from home, and I spent a lot of time at home researching, making maps, downloading pictures, and writing. Fortunately, there are some others that understand the madness and are doing the same thing. The Southwest Endurance Series is the biggest “collection of the finest, self-supported, back country mountain bike endurance events.” It’s not only the biggest collection in the Southwest with over 30 races, it is the example for the rest of the endurance world of what can be done with some hard work, common goals, and cool, easygoing people with great ideas. The Southwest Series consists of four subcategories – the Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Southern California Endurance Series. The Colorado Series has added the most races over the last year: five new events, including the AntiEpic. The self-supported nature of the events produces a totally different vibe than paid races. Rider Shane DeMars of Boulder, Colorado has participated in two of the Colorado Endurance Series races so far in 2012 and feels that he’s gotten more from them than any of the seven paid races he participated in during 2011. He says, “The endurance series events bring together great people and provide great courses,” and the atmosphere is “much more social and friendlier, even for those with a competitive mindset.” DeMars has made several friends during his first two 2012 events who he continues to ride with. “In 2011 I did seven paid events. The only friend or riding partner I came away with is someone I knew before any of them and he’s a climber, not a cyclist.”
With increasingly robust entry fees becoming commonplace, DeMars shares a common opinion among racers. “Many of the races with big entry fees are getting ridiculous. I honestly question where the hell my money is going sometimes. The fees keep increasing, and I’m not sure how much actually goes to permits, access and support. Some of these events look like the mall at Christmas time. That’s not always the case at every event, and support is nice sometimes, but I love the grassroots stuff.” So, why organize it for no pay, especially when it would cost me time and money? Maybe it’s just what all the cool kids are doing or maybe it’s a sick, twisted way to spend time with unsuspecting riders and coerce them riders into doing something stupid hard. It’s hard not to do when there are so many interesting, motivated riders out there willing to tackle all these new challenges. The “same old, same old” just doesn’t cut it, especially in the bike world. I’m happy to contribute what I can, whether it’s on high alpine singletrack or gravel roads on the plains.
The Experience I was nervous going into the AntiEpic. I had no experience organizing my own event and no real idea what people would think about riding the plains when the mountains stare them in the face, calling their names on a daily basis. I had concerns that I was doing something that would be a total waste of time, both for me and the riders, if I did, in fact, convince any to show up. Although this isn’t that close to actual race organizing or promotion in the classic sense, I still felt the responsibility of making people aware, keeping them informed with accurate information, and following through with it all to ensure that the event went smoothly. The experience as the “director” is completely different than what we go through as racers. I was up late the night before going over
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â€œThere are no climbs that last 30 minutes and climb straight up a mountain. The AntiEpic tortures riders with countless false flats and short steeps, especially in the last 50 miles.â€?
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“It was like some weird version of purgatory where it was endless rollers, plus the 30 mile an hour headwind was getting old. Really old.” - AntiEpic racer Brian Behn
the maps, checking out my own ride and plans, and worrying about keeping the beer and soda cold for the riders the next day. After a few hours of sleep, I awoke with a sense of urgency at 3:30 AM. I quickly scanned the AntiEpic blog and checked my email for any last minute questions and I read through the maps again to ensure that I didn’t send someone off into Kansas. I finished packing, hopped in the 4Runner and made the 30 minute drive to the starting area. All was good – everything was in order, the forecast was clear of rain, and it seemed like a good group of riders would be showing up. As I headed south, the elevation increased from about 5,600 feet at my house to about 6,500 feet. Unfortunately, elevation generally has an indirect relationship with temperature. The temperature was 43 degrees when I left my house so I thought all was good. Wrong. The thermometer in the 4Runner dropped quickly. By the time I got to the start, it had dropped down to 28 degrees. Wow! I was beginning to worry again – what if people hadn’t brought enough clothing? I calmed my nerves by reminding myself that this was a tough bunch of riders. Anyone riding 150 miles unsupported should know what they are doing. My plan was to ride the first couple hours with the group, then split off and loop back around so I could knock out a five hour ride. I wanted to drive backwards on the course to get some pictures of riders over the last 30 miles. It worked out well except I didn’t get as many pictures as I hoped – I wanted to be at the finish and the leaders were laying down some impressive efforts, giving me little time to hang around to get pictures. The riders seemed to be a little nervous going into the race. In the days leading up to the event I received several emails asking about the course, equipment choices and other general questions about grinding the gravel. As riders rolled into the parking lot on Saturday morning, excitement and apprehension filled the air. Riders were getting dressed in their heated cars and doing whatever else they could do to keep warm. They fidgeted with their gravel ride setups and chatted with fellow riders. They had no time to consider where the best picture spots were or whether others brought enough clothing to stay warm. While some may have been up at 3:00 AM, it wasn’t to double check the race to ensure that everyone would have a good time. From the rider perspective, the focus was on the task and hand and all the small details – directions, equipment and nutrition. They had no need to worry about other riders and how the day would work out for everyone. Riders provided some insight into their thoughts. Some told tales of not finishing while others shared thoughts of ideas for next year. Brian Behn, the man behind another Colorado Endurance Series gravel grinder, the South Park Dirty Fondo 150, experienced a full
range of emotions as he willed his way to his first ride over 100 miles. “After that: boom. I just fell apart. I was angry at everyone, including the people that designed the road. I mean, why not just route the road around the damn hill? Then I began to wonder: was I lost? There is just no way this is 5,000 feet of gain. Surely, I thought every time I crested a hill I would see a flat stretch for the last few miles or even a gradual downhill. Nope. It was like some weird version of purgatory where it was endless rollers, plus the 30 mile an hour headwind was getting old. Really old. Then it got dark.” Behn goes on to describe an experience that can only be had by doing a ride like the AntiEpic. “At this point I had dug a pretty deep hole. Having never ridden more than 100 miles, I found myself hitting a new low around mile 140. My legs weren’t all that tired really, but, strangely, my diaphragm was getting tired. I was using some accessory muscles to breathe anytime I went up hill and I was getting these weird chest pains - my intercostal muscles were burning. I even thought about throwing in the towel so close to the finish. Then again, in the middle of nowhere with my cell phone battery dead, I didn’t have a lot of options. I also briefly considered just laying down on the side of the road and going to sleep.”
What’s Next? From early beginnings as a surprise find during a scenic drive, to the initial map and scouting, to the last person crossing the finish line, the AntiEpic turned out to be a successful event thanks to all of the riders. I guess there wasn’t really any reason for me to worry. If you let intelligent, independent people fend for themselves, it seems that they can handle challenges just fine. People have asked if there will be another year of the AntiEpic. The tentative answer is yes. We’ll stick with an early April date because it seems to be a good early training test for riders heading to the Dirty Kanza 200 in Kansas in June and the weather is usually decent. Therefore, April 6th, 2013 is the tentative date for the second annual AntiEpic Gravel Grinder. I hope to make some bigger, crazier things happen with this event (hmm, Kansas isn’t too far away…), so stay tuned for the future of the AntiEpic. For more information, including results, more pictures, and other stories and links, go to antiepic.blogspot.com.
When not organizing the AntiEpic, regular XXC contributor Ben Welnak is part owner of Twenty2 Cycles and www.303Cycling.com, host of Mountain Bike Radio and co-host of the XXC Podcast. XXC Magazine 41
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â€œWhile riding for three-and-a-half hours was nowhere near the 12 hours that I was planning on and hoping for, it was enough to feel like I had done something with my morning.â€?
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Sometimes a race just seems cursed by the weather. True, weather in the southwest is fickle in April. Sunny skies can turn gray in a matter of seconds and high pressure systems that sit dormant over large swaths of the desert can quickly be broken apart by a spring storm that will dump more snow in the mountains than has been seen all winter. These storms can move out as quickly as they move in. In most cases they cause little harm other than forcing outside activity to be curtailed for a few days before more seasonal warm weather resumes, dries out the trails, and life returns to the pre-storm norm. But when these spring storms hit Gallup, NM, on the same weekend in April three years running, one begins to wonder. Unfortunately, the only reason the mountain bike community even notices that the second weekend in April has a tendency to be stormy in this small city in central New Mexico is that these spring storms happen to hit the exact weekend of the 12 Hours of Dawn ‘til Dusk. The event is put on by Zia Rides on the High Desert Trails system. One of the only endurance races held entirely on singletrack, Zia Rides has put on a world class event on a series of trails of endless swoops, turns, ledges, and views. The only problem has been the weather. In 2009, the race was canceled outright after several inches of slush fell from the sky. In 2011, the race had to be called two hours early as another spring storm moved in. The forecast for 2012 looked dire as we drove through the barren desert of northern New Mexico. Wind. Rain. Snow. I was registered and knew the weather could be fickle. I’ve bailed on several events in the past because of threatening weather forecasts and the large majority of the time, I regretted the decision. So I continued southward under blue skies. Less than 24 hours later, after a pre-ride of the course, packet pickup and camping at the venue, I was headed north on the same stretch of highway. The morning ushered the sun in with a calm breeze and hope for the start. That hope quickly deteriorated as the wind whipped itself into a frenzy and snowflakes started falling from the sky two hours into the event. Two-and-a-half hours after several hundred racers rolled off the start line under the desert sun, the call was made to cancel the race and make sure that all the racers were able to make it off the course without going hypothermic. After making a quick exit, an hour north of town we were driving through sunshine. “Someone on the four person teams didn’t even get a chance to ride,” I mused, knowing that the maximum number of laps completed by anyone or any team was three. While riding for three-and-a-half hours was nowhere near the 12 hours that I was planning on and hoping for, it was enough to feel like I had done something with my morning. I couldn’t imagine how the people who had driven from far corners of the region would feel after showing up, watching their three teammates race and then being told that the race was over. Would they feel agony for all the time, money, and effort invested that produced no reward? Or would they feel ecstasy for not having to go out to ride in a snowstorm? It got me thinking about the rituals associated with a bike race, starting with the idea of an event and ending with the perfectly executed race. Where along the line could the process be stopped without feeling a profound sense of loss or sadness that accompanies an unfulfilled dream? I’ve looked at many events online or heard about them from friends and thought, “gosh, that would be really neat!” only to see that the entry fee was entirely out of my league, or that xxcmag.com
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travel to the exotic location would put me into debt for the rest of my life, or it conflicted with life in some way. Generally, I don’t feel a huge sense of loss when these events float onto my radar and then float away into oblivion. If I really want to do something, I’ll usually find a way to make it happen. Generally, once I’ve decided that an event is feasible, I register right away. I’ve learned that when it actually comes to preparing for the event and I turn into a little ball of stress figuring out logistics, the best way for me to stay committed to the cause is to be financially invested in it. Still, there have been many times in my life when I’ve registered for an event, even bought a plane ticket for it, and then bailed due to lack of motivation. Unlike events that I miss because I think that the weather would make the trip not worth it, I haven’t felt a profound sense of regret for missing events that didn’t jibe with my life vibe at the time. Traveling always costs money and I’ve simply had to cut my losses in certain situations. After registering for an event, I start putting serious thought into preparing for it. Physically, I do the required intervals and put in the needed hours in the saddle. I study the course profiles, I make note of the aid stations, I decide on the appropriate bike, clothing, and hydration system. I figure out lodging, pre-race dinners and breakfasts, pack my tools and race day nutrition. And then sometimes, like last summer, I fall on my face riding my bike, knock some teeth loose, empty my bank account to pay for two root canals and eight stitches in my mouth, and then seriously contemplate showing up to race three days later because my entry fee was paid, my fitness was right on track, and my race plan was set. Then rational people talk my down from my pedestal of insanity and tell me that I’m allowed to ride on the road, slowly. I feel a profound sense of sadness being unable to race after all the pieces, minus the actual racing, were in place. I’ve showed up to races with dire weather forecasts with a sense of eternal optimism. More than once, back in the bad old days of collegiate racing, I’ve traveled eight hours across the state to race only to hear the news spread like wildfire across the hotel in the morning that the weather was too bad to race, too much moisture on the ground, trails would get destroyed, and no, refunds would not be given. Generally I’d be more irritated at losing the $20 race entry than not being able to race because collegiate race weekends were 80% about spending the weekend with your best friends on a road trip and 20% about the actual racing. And anyway, there was always another race next weekend. But in the case of ultra endurance racing, far more effort goes into preparing to race than a younger version of me would put into a collegiate cross country race. The sting of showing up to a race to find it has been canceled before it even gets started seems to be directly proportional to the amount of effort put into getting there. But in the case of Dawn ‘til Dusk, would it have been better to cancel the race before it even started knowing that the radar was showing an extremely large storm cell moving rapidly towards the race venue and only an act of divine intervention, or a freak weather event, would prevent the race being canceled before the entirety of the 12 hours had passed? Would it have been better for the race to be called early in the morning, while the weather was still good, with racers being told to go back to bed, to get their cars out of the venue before the road got too slick for two wheel drive cars to negotiate, than to let riders start and race for less than four hours and invite the possibility of disaster with racers out on course 46 XXC Magazine
“I’ve bailed on several events in the past because of threatening weather forecasts and the large majority of the time, I regretted the decision.”
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“I pondered what emotion I was supposed to feel at that moment: agony for having a race that I had spent significant time preparing for canceled mid-race, or ecstasy for having ended up in Moab on a lovely trail at sunset because the race was canceled.” unprepared for the blast of arctic weather? In 2009 when the race was canceled before the start, most racers made the best of a bad situation, tapping the beer keg early, participating in barrel racing on bicycles, and enjoying the community. This year, racers chilled to the bone made haste to pack up their camps and remove themselves from the rapidly accumulating snow. I would not want to be in a race promoter’s shoes while making that decision. Which situation would cause a canceled race to sting less? We drove up to Moab that afternoon through the storm that was blanketing the west. The storm clouds cleared as we rolled northward through the red Utah desert. We arrived in time to go for an afternoon spin on a new trail right outside of town. It was 6:30 PM when we watched the sun set behind the cliffs as we rolled along the chunky trail. I would have still been racing had the storm not moved in and I pondered what emotion I was supposed to feel at that moment: agony for having a race that I had spent significant 48 XXC Magazine
time preparing for canceled mid-race, or ecstasy for having ended up in Moab on a lovely trail at sunset because the race was canceled. I then stuffed my front wheel into a rock, nearly went over a ledge, and decided I was thinking far too hard about the whole situation. I like to think things happen for a reason. I’m not sure what the reason is for Dawn ‘til Dusk getting shafted by the weather so often is. Maybe it’s just a universal ploy to have people return to the event year after year in an attempt, finally, to ride the full 12 hours, from dawn ‘til dusk, and then celebrate with a freshly tapped keg and burritos, toes dug into the desert sand next to burning campfires under the clear New Mexico sky. XXC Magazine contributor Eszter Horanyi enjoys riding and racing her bike along with her husband Chris Miller in the mountains of Colorado. You can see more of Eszter and Chris’ adventures at gooneyriders.typepad.com.
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DOING THE PHOTO JUSTICE Here’s the full view of Abram Landes’ XXC #16 cover shot from the 2012 Leesburg Baker’s Dozen in Leesburg, Virginia. Visit www.aelandesphotography.com to see more of Abram’s work. xxcmag.com
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This pretty much sums up how the past few months have gone. Hereâ€™s to fresh starts. Photo by Jason Mahokey, www.xxcmag.com.
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Published on May 14, 2012
Published on May 14, 2012
XXC Magazine #16 features photo and stories from the Spa City 6 Hour, the Barry-Roubaix and the 155 mile AntiEpic gravel road race. Heidi Vo...