Jan 28, 2015

Copper En Fuego

Fat bike racing... A new experience and what a blast. I haven't ridden Fatso that much since I've gotten the bike, but the Leadville Winter Bike Series was high on the winter fun list. The first race was last Saturday at Copper Mountain and I had no clue what to expect. After a short warmup and pre-ride of half of the race course, I realized I was in for a treat. A hard, challenging treat with high potential for crashing and snow sampling. The biggest challenge was a steep climb and descent up and over the tubing hill - I was able to ride it all one way but not the other on the pre-ride. With other riders around, it would be much different. And then there was the soft, powdery snow scattered around the course. It was well packed in some places, but deep and loose in others. In the chundery snow, it was a challenge just keeping the bike upright. My learning curve was going to get very steep very quickly.

As the start approached, fat bikers appeared out of the woodwork and buildings surrounding the plaza. Yikes! This was bigger then I'd anticipated. Nick and I lined up a few rows back from the start - a narrow banner on the snow at the base of the ski slope. I was more then a little nervous as the starting corral became more and more crowded. A count down from 10 to go and we were off. At least the crowds were off. I'm still not sure what happened - if I got bumped, pinched out by other riders or if my front tire got washed out in the snow. Regardless, down I went right at the start line, narrowly avoiding the metal barricades forming the chutes. Whoops! Watched the race flowing by as I got back on my bike and started pedaling. I couldn't drill it because of the soft snow - had to keep nice even pedal strokes to keep moving forward and not get swallowed. Had a few more near wipe outs in the deep snow, but kept it moving and slowly started working my back up through the field. All for naught as I wallowed in powder just before the base of the tubing hill. Down I went again! 

Back on the bike and steadily pedaling up to the summit of the tubing hill. Made it to the top still pedaling and turned my attention the plummet down the back side. Plummet it was! Weight far back over my rear wheel and try to keep the front tire from diving into the snow. Whew - made it down in one piece and giggling the whole way down. Time for the loop to the south. I was just behind the main group of women after the descent and making up ground. I was still fighting the bike, trying to stay steady in the snow. It was so different then normal riding - stomping on the pedals just meant spinning out. But it was so much fun - I couldn't keep the smile off my face.

At the base of the steep hill, it was off the bike and hiking time.  I was just behind three woman at the start of the climb and worked my way through the herd to the front. I'd figured out a good technique for hiking up the hill in cycling shoes on the preride and was able to put it to good work there. People were slipping and sliding all around me, but I was able to keep it upright and into the lead. Unfortunately, I decided to take a few too many risks on the descent off the hill. You know it's a good wipe out when the bike is a few feet above you and your headlight is buried in the snow! I was digging snow out of my glasses for the next ten minutes of riding.... Couldn't help but laugh at myself after I got going again - mountain biker I may be, fat biker I still need some work.

I actually didn't lose that much time in the crash and could see a few of the women ahead of me. But me and the bike weren't getting along that great in the snow. It was loose, powdery and I was slipping and sliding all over the place. And I didn't manage to keep myself upright or moving forward. All the snow packed into my brakes lead to a moment of panic as I descended into the village - rotors squealed but I didn't slow as much as I wanted. Double yikes. But they came back before I really needed them. The course meandered through the village - on and off snow and blacktop. Then it was back to the groomed course, climbing again. I saw lights through the trees above me - riders dropping down into the finish. I was still right there, right behind two women and slowing creeping up on them as we neared the summit. 

Thru the start/finsh line and back for another lap of fun. I was starting to get the hang of riding through the snow and having fun. Made it through the powder without wiping out this time, but the snow surfing was making me laugh. I got to base of the climb over the tubing hill just behind Rebecca Gross and started slowly crawling my way to the summit. I wasn't able to make it all the way up to without unclip in and had to run up. I watched several guys ahead of me sliding down the steep descent, but figured I could ride down it. Yeah, not so much. Another head over heels tumble, this time with the bike landing on top of me! I had to re-adjust my bar light after I slid down to the midway of the hill. Nick was hiking up as I started back down. Brilliant I might not be - I really wanted to ride the rest of the way down and gingerly remounted. Success! Made it to the bottom in one piece and still on my bike. After that crash, I completely lost site of everyone around me. I wasn't moving as quickly and really struggling to keep my momentum going. I attributed it the snow and just not being used to riding on it. I was finally starting to handle myself a little better in the powder and made it all the way back to the village without doing any more snow sampling.

Riders were finishing as I rolled through the village. It was still a party atmosphere, fueled by the fireworks a few minutes before. If I'd been thinking, I would have put two and two together. I'd been riding for an hour, with my Diablo on high the whole time. Nick had set it for one hour mode before the race.... But instead, when I hit the darkness of the ski slopes again, I couldn't figure out why my head light wasn't working. Duh! I would be riding there last climb and descent with just my bar light. The climb wasn't a problem. I was still feeling sluggish but catching the guys in front of me. Could I hold them off on the descent? The answer was yes. With minutes left in the race, I just let the bike fly thru the snow. Fun! I was giggling the whole way down into the finish line. 

Nick was waiting for me, having finished nearly 20 minutes earlier. He'd also had a crazy but fun race, placing 10th overall in a record field of 171 starters. I took 5th out of 25 women - a huge field for the women in these races. And it was so much fun. I have a lot to learn before the next race at the Tennessee Pass Noridc Center - but the most important will be staying upright at the start!

Jan 18, 2015

Thelen Coaching



Introducing Thelen Coaching! Visit Thelen Coaching for all the information regarding coaching

The love of sport and the happiness of activity is wonderful thing, but one that eludes many people. There is a freedom in movement, satisfaction in the personal effort of a quality workout and exhilaration of achieving lofty goals. It all starts with the dream and writing down the goals, no matter how crazy.  As a lifelong endurance athlete, I've had years of experience in running, triathlons and mountain biking. I've set goals aggressive enough that coaches said I wouldn't reach them and done things most athletes wouldn't attempt. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I failed. Regardless of the outcome, it was always a learning opportunity. What worked and made me stronger and faster; what didn't work and ended breaking me. When I self-coached, I was able to build on those lessons in creating the next training cycle. When I worked with CTS, the workouts became more focused, but still balanced with the knowledge I gained in the years prior.

And now it is time for me to pass on the knowledge I've gained in the past 15 years of endurance sports. It's been a dream of mine since I first attended the USAT coaching certification seminar - to be able to help other athletes reach their own goals. Coaching is more than just writing training plans. It's understanding the physiological effects of training and of training at different intensities. It's matching the workouts to the athlete's physical strengths and weakness in order to develop the basis for reaching goals. Coaching is communication - for some it will mean a gentle prodding to push harder and dig deeper; for others a hand on the reigns to prevent injury. Coaching is considering the whole person - mental and physical then using that knowledge to achieve greatness for the athlete. Coaching is also putting the athletes' needs ahead of your ego and working as a partnership towards the athlete's goals.

With that said, I'm excited to introduce my new company - Thelen Coaching. I am accepting athletes at this time for the 2015 season and beyond. Training to achieve your goals, the skills to be comfortable under all conditions and the preparation for confident races. All that leads to success - both in sports and in life.

Jan 12, 2015

Welcome back!

Back in 2009, I was sponsored by Chistopher Bean Coffee based out of Florida. It was some of the best coffee I'd had - consistently roasted with smooth flavor. When in I'm a huge proponent of buy local and there are plenty of local roasters in Colorado Springs. I think I tried almost every one - with some very good results. But always mixed. One day I'd get a bag and it would be perfectly roasted (for me) and the next week it would be bitter to my tastes. So frustrating when all I want to do is enjoy a morning cup of coffee with my book or when preparing to race. I love the taste of coffee, but not when it's a heavy, dark roast and that seems to be the style around here.

So late last year, when the team manager for the newly revamped Christopher Bean Coffee Team approached me about renewing sponsorship, I jumped at the chance. And when I got my first order of coffee, I knew it was the right decision (even though it's not local.) The mellowness of the lighter roasts, the smooth flavors - exactly what I've been searching for. None of the over-roasted bitterness that I kept finding from the local shops.

Coffee might not be something people think about except in the morning and it might not be something really cycling related. Except for meeting after the ride... Now I get to make my own delicious coffee every morning and be able to offer what I think is some of the best coffee I've had to friends, family and competitors. Check out www.christopherbean.com for all the varieties and flavors (tea as well if you aren't into coffee...) and make sure you use the code thelen25 for a 25% discount on non-sale items

Jan 6, 2015

What a year

Time for another year end post! 2014 was an interesting year and one that I won't soon forget. We trimmed the race schedule even more then last year, allowing a laser sharp focus on the major events. I've already posted all the race reports, discussed my goals and done the boring stuff like that. No need to rehash all of that or analyze what I did right or could do better. If you want to read that, take a gander through the archives of 2014. Part of riding and racing is about the experiences so that's what I like reviewing at the end of the year. With that said, here's some of the things that stuck with me this year.
The guardian angel I didn't realize I had heading into 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest

Hardest two hours on a bike
Lap 12 at 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest. I'd taken the lead on lap 10 and needed to keep riding to claim the Stars and Stripes. Nick had done his job as Pit Boss exemplary and I'd not been off my bike for more then 10 minutes in the past 20 hours. Every muscle in my arms hurt from the miles I had already covered. The power had long vanished from my legs, leading to slower and slower lap times. It was the hardest two hours I've ever faced, with the smallest rocks bringing tears to my eyes and the steeper climbs slowing me to a crawl. 

Happiest I've been to get off a bike
Finishing Lap 12 at Enchanted Forest - I had two hours to ride another lap and mentally I wanted it to seal the victory. Physically, I wouldn't have been able to finish within the cutoff time. When Nick told told me to ride back to pit along the course and be ready, I did as he told. I waited for him, off the bike for the first time in hours. Each minute that passed was one less I had to possibly finish a 13th lap. When he rolled up and said I was done, it meant I didn't have to. I didn't have to get back on my bike. I could finally change out of my spandex and lay down. Sweet relief. 

Climbing up and crossing the Continental Divide at the Alpine Tunnel. The nearly full moon had reappeared to the west, illuminating the darkness of the pre-dawn morning, lightening the mountain summits surrounding me. To the south, the tiny dots of other riders, tracing a path in the night of where I was headed. Up and over Tomichi Pass and then the dreaded Granite Mountain hike-a-bike. And once I reached Tomichi and looked behind me, more lights twinkling across the mountain valley. So alone yet surrounded by other riders. 

Red sky at morning, riders take warning - Sunrise over 25 Hours at Frog Hollow
Best race distance /time choice
This was a tie between Sage and Frog Hollow. For the first time, Nick and I opted to do the 12 Hours in the Sage. A variety of reasons, with the biggest being the Vapor Trail 125 two weeks later. We raced hard the entire 12 hours, though the wind and rain. At midnight we were finished. At 2:00 we were in bed, cozy in our bed. Listening to the rain pouring down. I felt sorry for the racers still on course but happy I wasn't out there. And then at 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. Nick and I had a planned early stop to be able to enjoy our long riding vacation. We rode hard, again in the wind and rain, mud and slick damp rocks. After 16 laps, it was time to call it a night. We were both cold and wet, our bikes filthy. An hour after we stopped, the skies opened and rain thundered down on the roof of the van. Yep, not going out in that again! We'd picked the best time to stop, missing the worst of the weather.
Very faint double rainbow mixed in with the sunset over KOA Gunnison
Best new trail outside of Colorado
Wow - This was a hard one this year so it's pretty much the entire month of November. We got to spend two weeks roaming between St George and Utah in November. We got to ride Zen Trail, suicidal tendencies and Gooseberry mesa. All fun, rocky and technical riding. Things I wouldn't have touched two years ago. Then it was Moab - my first ride on the Rim. Porcupine Rim. Despite my attempts at flying, it was everything Nick promised. Awesome views, chunky rocks, tight Singletrack and big moves.
Zen Trail - rocks and so much more
Best New Trail - Colorado (tie)
Lots of ties this year...
Starvation! As part of our prep for the Vapor Trail 125, we made it a point to ride as much of the course as we could. And that meant exploring Starvation Creek trail. A mini version of Silver Creek but oh so much more. Tighter Singletrack, bigger drops and creek crossings. Sure, what goes down must go up, which meant Poncha Pass, but there is always a price to pay for fun. And then, Agate Creek. One of the spurs off the Monarch Crest, but dropping away to the west, away from Salida. An hour plus of just descending. From the alpine terrain off the crest to narrow singletrack winding through pine trees, followed by by aspen lined meadows and deep, deep creek crossings. Had to carry my bike through most of them - keeping wheels in the water meant the current would pull it out of my hands.  Don't attempt this ride when it's cold out!

Biggest pre-race freak out. 
No, this wasn't at 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest, but at the Growler. Nick and I are notorious about our detailed plans and Growler was no exception. Had every waypoint where Nick would meet me started on the map. And then the rain started Saturday night. And sins stop - a cold rain that chilled deep into my bones. The weather itself wasn't the issue. I was dressed and ready to go regardless of the weather. Then Dave Weins announced that the course would be changing because of mud and that support vehicles were suggested to NOT attempt to go up to Hartman's. Yikes! OMG - now what? Nick had already left to head up on course. After five very tense minutes and two phone calls to Nick, I was told to chill out and just ride my bike.

On my second lap at the Growler - finally chilled out and "just riding my bike..."


Most Fun New Bike of the Year
Yes, we are spoiled and get a new bike nearly every year. I'm sure most people will expect me to list my Camber here. Well, that bike is fast, it's fun and it's just a blast to ride. But....
I have to vote for Fatboy for most fun bike of the year. Why? Because it gets me off the trainer and opens up a whole new world of riding in the winter. In years past, I've retreated to the trainer for the winter, doing all my workouts and rides in the boredom of the garage. And while I might still be doing some of the workouts there, its not going to be my first choice. I have options. I have fat tires. The snow is calling my name....
Testing the snow and getting first tracks on the maiden ride of Fatso


Jan 5, 2015

Rescue Run Weather

January 1 is always an iffy time for weather. Will it be warm and sunny? Icy and cloudy? Just plan ass cold despite the sun? Who knows - but it's almost for sure that there will be nearly 1000 people gathering at the starting line at 10:00 for the annual Rescue Run. I dropped off my application at CRC in the midst of a snow storm, joking with John that it was looking like Rescue Run weather. Little did I know...

When I checked the weather on New Years Eve, it looked like snow was definitely in the cards. I packed a bag full of all sorts of clothes - from heavy wool coat to light weight tights and everything in between. I had three pairs of shoes - my normal running shoes, trails shoes and the shoes I use with my Kahtoola microspikes. Since I didn't know what the road conditions at Palmer Park were going to be like - we'd been gone for a week and missed all the snow and sub zero temps - I wanted to be prepared. Trying to run on ice in my normal shoes is a fall waiting to happen. Wimps that we are, Nick and I were in bed by 10:00, missing all the New Years excitement.

2015 started out cold, with the sun peeking through the clouds to the east. It wasn't going to stay sunny though, clouds were already billowing in over the mountains. I watched the temperature drop as we got ready to go - it was going to be another chilly Rescue Run! Nick was coming with me so he could ride at Palmer Park and help me out a little with the warm clothes. Smart guy that he is, he stayed in the van while I was getting my number and warming up. I opted for the trail shoes, hoping I wasn't making a mistake. I'd only done two miles for a warm up, but the road seemed clear. Once Nick got his Fatboy unloaded from the van, he was suddenly the star attraction. The fat tires, the huge, warm pogies caught everyone's eyes. It was pretty funny, watching the runners gather around him and his bike. Then it was time to head over to the starting line. Nick took my warm jacket and stuffed it in the frame bag on his bike.

Go! and the herd of runners streamed away from the line. I hadn't felt spunky on the warm up, but had decent start. Briefly into the lead, but I knew it wouldn't last. That hill in the first mile always gets me. Sure enough, by the time we reached the 5k/10k split, I was down into fourth. Lowest I've been at the Resuce Run in years!  The running was feeling good, but I was tired from the skiing. Tireder then I thought I'd be! Slipped into fifith on the loop around Yucca Flats, but still within eye sight of Amanda in the lead. Maybe I could pull myself back into top three.
Watch out for the ice!

Or not. My motivation to try to run fast on the slippery snow around Yucca Flats was waning. Yikes. I should have suffered on the pavement in the first mile for some traction in the rest of the race. My trail shoes were good, but I was wishing for my tracks. Nick appeared on course, cheering and taking photos. I waved and tried to smile, but wasn't really feeling it. As we turned back onto the blacktop towards the turn around at Grandview, I finally got my act together and started running. Wasn't much faster, but I at least felt faster. That's what matters, right? Nick re-appeared from out of the woods, cheering some more. I was catching the woman in front of me, so I focused on her white jacket. Dodging both the patches of ice and the walkers in the 5k, I kept making up ground. Finally, just before the turn around, I made the pass and slid into fourth place. She'd looked pretty strong when I went around, so I knew it would be close. Needed to keep the pace high on the downhills. But I wasn't ready to take any chances because of the ice. Never got the gap I needed and felt her presence at the turn for the finish. She had the sprint needed and nipped me at the line. Oh well.

Nick was waiting for me at the finish with my warm coat. Thankfully, I got bundled up and trotted off for my cool down. Not much of one needed with those kinds of temperatures, but my legs were feeling the effort of the race. As I jogged, the snow descended off the mountains, covering the park in heavy white. The results were posted when I got back - fifth overall and first in my age group. And as for that age group... I'd picked up my number and noted the 35-39 age group. In the middle of the race, I was kinda panicking that I'd some how screwed it up. I couldn't be in the 35-39 age group yet, could I? No way. Yep. First race "officially" in that age group. Great way to start the year!
(I did not stick around for the awards ceremony this year - had to dash off to work...)
Me, Nick and Larry DeWitt, just after the race, before the snow started flying