Personal

A New Year


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January, the start of a new year and a slate cleaning of sorts.  I have new adventures awaiting, racing to do and riding without a thousand layers to look forward to.  January always seems to be this weird transition back to reality for me.  You’ve successfully made it through the fog of the holidays, perhaps a bit heavier, less active, and hopefully with some new motivations for the upcoming year. The end of fall came and went, and here we are in the thick of winter.  I know it’s only January, and the Mudslinger is 3 months away but it will come quickly.  I have some work to do between now and then.  My plan for fall was to start trail running, and that I did successfully until, well the holidays happened.  Even Aspen the Golden suffered from not enough outings and visitors with food, but we enjoyed every minute of it.  Being a sloth is good for the soul every now and again.  But, we have now emerged from the holiday fog and started trail running again; we are back on track!  I yearn to MTB more but our trails here on the island are so swampy and the roots are wet and very slick, and I know somewhere in the back of mind it’s a bad idea.  Some may say I have become soft.  Trail running of course seems like a much safer activity where the chance of falling is less, or at least I have rationalized it somehow.  Since turning 40 I have come the harsh realization that I am in fact, not made of rubber. It’s this fact that makes me rational, which may be equivalent to the fun police.  I know I have many miles of MTBing come spring, so for now we enjoy the trails on foot.

The other thing I enjoy about the new year is looking at races and deciding what my season is going to look like. What races will I return to? What new races look intriguing? And of course, what I can I afford?

After a fairly (for me) successful season last year, I plan on upping the ante for this season.  50 mile MTB races are a thing of the past; it’s time for 100 mile MTB races.  Why, you ask? well I like misery quests in hot weather, simple enough.  It just seems like the next logical step.  So my winter now is filled with goals of nutrition, yoga, just to keep everything moving, and of course riding.  I am fortunate to live someplace I can ride year round if I choose and have Aspen the Golden as my workout motivator. I am not going to lie, I miss my group cross-training classes and my MTB family.  It’s not always easy or fun to work out by yourself with a dog, but it’s what I got and she keeps me very motivated.

This year my goal is to go into the season more prepared physically, race smarter, stay healthy and of course injury free! Actually racing never seems as hard as all the preseason work.  Again, 3 months to the first race will come quickly, but I’ll be ready.

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So onward I go with Aspen the Golden, another dog who doesn’t apologize!

Personal

Dogs Don’t Apologize


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(aka ramblings of a crazy dog lady)

When I think about adventure, I immediately think about my adventure buddies. The folks that have inspired me, pushed me, encouraged me, watched me fall down and helped me get back up. These people are my best friends, my life partner, my family and my teammates. It would be remiss to overlook some of my most loyal adventure buddies, my dogs. With this in mind, I would like to launch a short blog series: Dogs Don’t Apologize. We will pay homage to a few of the dogs that are by our side or sniffing nearby as we pursue our adventures. I will kick it off with an introduction to the dogs in my life.

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My first aussie, Mai Tai

I have been animal obsessed for as long as I can remember. I was raised that way. Some of my favorite childhood memories centered around animals. I learned how to handle animals several times my size and take care of the ones that were always by my side. I was an only child until I was out of the house (another story), so our animals were often my adventure mates. Sometimes they liked it and sometimes they just put up with it with unbelievable patience.

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Hot and happy dogs post MTB ride

In my adult life, there have been two (and now a third) very important adventure pups in my life. They came into my life at around the same time. Branson came to me through a relationship and I took on Lloyd as my own. These two saw me through my 20’s and helped me keep sane. They gave me structure, a reason to come home and an excuse to have fun. Adventure buddies though and through. These two never needed an excuse to explore. The third, Higgs,  is a brand new addition to the family and an adventure all in herself. Our first puppy! So, without further ado and in no particular order, meet the canine adventure companions of my life. You might recognize them from our photos.

Branson Blount

This special lady passed away in November. A rocking 12 year old Pit Bull, she never shied away from any adventure and kept at ‘em up to the very end. She was a professional snuggler, kisser, runner, rope wrangler, bike mechanic, backpacker, mountain biker and all around goody. I can’t say enough good things about this lady and my heart aches for her. She didn’t go down easily and stood up to four different cancers until it finally became too much. She taught me how to have fun no matter what, to be kind despite past abuse, and how to enjoy every second of life. She was the ultimate embodiment of the No Apologies lifestyle. She loved mountain biking more than anything (except maybe a comfy bed) and never apologized when she had to pull over for you to pass, for falling off trail or for being the last to an intersection. She just enjoyed the ride. Miss you little pit stuff! #BransonBlount

Lloyd Dogler

This handsome guy came to me when he was a one and a half year old mess. Abandoned in a backyard, he had no life skills but badly wanted please. He wiggled his way right into my heart. We built up his confidence the best possible way: through adventure! This guy learned how to pull his weight by “working” at bike shops, playing endless chuck-it, backpacking, and biking. He is now 10 years old and still accompanies me on mountain bike rides. He smiles the most when he is tired from a run. He has taught me that structure and exercise is the best medicine for anxiety, how to rest to play harder (i.e. the recharge nap), and how to be loyal to your loved ones. #LloydDogler

Higgs Humerus Boson

This little lady is a new addition. As my first puppy in my adulthood, she is teaching me the art of patience. Seriously, this lady loves to put everything in her mouth! Right now she is reminding me how important the small everyday adventures are. My short walk through the forest is her epic trek. It has been so much fun teaching her the wonders of the outdoors. Everyday she learns a little more and becomes a little more confident. I can’t wait until she is running along side my mountain bike! #HiggsB

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Adventure Report, Personal

Dreaming of dirt from the darkside…


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So tired tonight… and in pain. My knee is throbbing, my feet are cold and my leg is itching from wearing a compression stocking that makes my thigh look like a stuffed sausage. I just finished my first attempt at a gym workout since ACL surgery last Monday; but instead of hearing the buzz of a cheering audience or Chariots of Fire in the back of my head, I’m merely trying to keep my stomach attached to the inside of my ribs and stop the room from spinning. Lack of calories and a naturally low blood pressure can have wild consequences under the right kind of environmental stress, and unfortunately for me, my body was letting me know that perhaps my ambitious need to improve my physical state of mobility might have been more successful had I taken the time to digest some solid food. Nonetheless, I worked through an initial set of exercises, and though not as quickly as I imagined, my healing is moving forward. In this, there is much to be thankful for…

Three years ago I opted for an ACL revision to fix a cadaver graft and meniscus injury – not more than six months later, I had torn the graft yet again, and decided to opt out of surgery and see how long I could go without an ACL. Consequently, it wasn’t too long before the injuries began compounding, and fast forward to 2015; I finally scheduled an overdue solution and opted for a new graft, this time, harvesting from my patellar ligament to ensure a stronger, longer outcome. The problem is, going under the knife is no easy decision, and as I’ve “been there done that” on too many prior occasions, I knew I would be looking at a drawn out recovery process. However, measuring the benefits against the risks, and the patience it would take to heal, I believe I made the right choice.

For the last three years, I’ve been prone to knee dislocations, soft tissue tears, and joint inflammation. There simply wasn’t any room for error. Downhill “racing” and jumps became detrimental. If I missed a transition due to lack of timing or poor judgment in speed, my knee would dislocate upon the landing. More than once, this has caused me significant pain and long bouts out of the saddle. Sadly, my confidence waning and my knee simply giving out with a mere squatting motion, I quit riding my beloved playground, Black Rock, altogether, last February. Since then, I’ve had to slow down on climbing – my typical style is to mash the pedals, and my knee let me know this simply wasn’t acceptable. When I switched to higher RPMs, my back gave out. And though I had fun “racing” Crawfish Classic this summer, my speed wasn’t anywhere near where it was even a year ago. The muffin top had become a permanent fixture, and riding became even more painful as my cardio fitness took a dive. In September, I finally jumped in and scheduled my orthopedic consultation – I would spend the holidays learning how to walk again.

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A biker chick’s legs… the good, the bad and the ugly.

So as the surgery date became more apparent, I began to feel the anxiety grow… how long would this really take to heal? I became a fervent researcher in ACL recovery and cycling athletes. To be honest, there really isn’t a whole lot out there for competitive mountain biking, much less downhill or freeride enthusiasts. Asking my doctor, he seemed to have some idea about when I would be able to get on a road bike, but “off road cycling” would have to play it by ear a bit longer. Then there’s all my amazing friends who also happen to be professional athletes – some of whom recently broke their femurs (yep, there’s more than one of you) and a few more having had ACL reconstructive surgeries in the last couple years – they’re all doing great; but I am a small business owner, a mom, a “wife” (of sorts) and while mountain biking is definitely at the top of my list of priorities, it isn’t the only priority in my life, and someone has to pay the bills. This doesn’t leave me with hours on end to focus on physical training and riding bicycles every day. So how long would it really take for me to heal to my desired level of athletic performance? After a long trifle of personal interviews, medical consultations and scouring the internet for relevant information, I have come to the conclusion that my next “racing career” (period of time when I will prioritize my competitive performance as a mountain biker) will begin now, with the goal to seriously hit the race circuit by May 2017. Eighteen months of rehab, training, building my strength, endurance, mental capacity and habits (the most important key here…) that will help me reach success in my desire to excel at the sport of mountain biking.

That being said, six months before I can ride dirt again seems far off, for now. But I know all too well; time ticks onward, and it waits for no one. So, while my garden needed tending, my house needed cleaning and the paperwork on my desk continued to accumulate, I spent the last month, before undergoing the knife, on dirt, with friends and family.

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Our No Apologies! Sandy Ridge Birthday Bash, featuring some of the best NWTA lady rippers Portland has to offer! Left to right: Rheannon, Hazel, Sarah, Kerstin, Elaine, Michelle, Gwyn and Debbie.

No Apologies! kicked off the party with an impromptu birthday ride in late October at Sandy Ridge. Wasting no time, I re-posted the event to the Northwest Trail Alliance Women’s Group. After all, who could resist celebrating at least three birthdays, including Sarah, Kerstin and myself. It turned out to be an amazing day in both weather and company. Some of my favorite adventure ride partners showed up to share the glory, and we worked every bit of the trail system we had time to put two wheels to; rock gardens, drops, big corners and off-camber rooted switchbacks – Sandy has it all. Following the more experienced riders, we tested our skills, raised our confidence and built a whole new coalition of camaraderie. At the end of the day, we left the scene on very satisfying terms; after all, what could be better than a shredfest of beautiful, strong, confident women… and cupcakes.

Sandy Ridge Cupcake Fest
Do cupcakes really need a caption? We rode, they were there, we were hungry, and we ate them… nice way to end the ride! Below photo credit: Terry Causey

Breaking away from the travels up north, I also took some time to hit a few areas closer to home. I took a day to ride Carpenter’s Bypass (lovingly referred to as Whypass, by Eugene-local IMBA chapter, Disciples of Dirt) with my sweetie Matt. Whypass is a chaotic network of trails loosely following a “figure eight” structure around a main road. The trick to finding your way around is to remember which side of the road you’re on. However, the goods are worth a few minutes of confusion; twisting descents through a myriad of forest habitats, wide open viewpoints and multiple opportunities to “choose your line” make Whypass the perfect venue for anyone, at any skills level. What I love is that there really isn’t any extended time in the saddle spent climbing or going downhill – Whypass offers a balanced option for the classic cross country mountain biking experience, and makes for the perfect outdoor “gym” for those who are trying to build up their fitness. Blue skies, tabletop sessioning, and pedaling at a steady, even, pace gave me hope my cardio wasn’t as bad off as I thought.

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A typical sunny view at Whypass, because, why pass up a good view?

But then I hit the North Shore Trail (or perhaps I should I say it “spanked” me) just outside Lowell off Highway 58 heading east from Eugene. A rolling river trail, North Shore boasts plenty of challenges to test both endurance and strength. You must be comfortable with constant elevation change – just when you think you can’t pedal up any longer, you’ll be pointing straight down again, right through the middle of a rock garden or a pile of roots with a sharp left turn and a creek crossing ending in a gear-thrusting grind up to the next surprise. A mere 12-mile out and back can become a technical nightmare quickly, especially when (like me) your back tire loses traction across a slimy, unkempt bridge and you’re thrown out of the saddle as your bike dives into the creek you thought you were avoiding by riding the bridge in the first place! Oh yeah, it made for a sore hip and a wet, squishy, shoe, but I persevered. While it continued to rain most of the day, I barely noticed, as I found myself chasing my friend Aimee on her single speed – and for her, single speed means just that; one speed; which is FAST. Needless to say, I didn’t get cold, and there was no dilly-dallying the ride “back to the barn”. We enjoyed an invigorating workout, followed by rainbows, tacos, hot tub and steam. I love riding with women. We know how to see it through – beginning to end, and we don’t have to feel guilty about spoiling ourselves!

North Shore Cruise
Above: This is the classic re-group spot along the reservoir at the North Shore campground. The trees to the left represent the climb out to the last section of trail before the turn around. Although it was a blustery day, most of our ride was protected beneath these canopies.  Photo credit: Carrie Russo
North Shore Team
Me, Carrie and Aimee; wet, happy and ready to eat tacos! Photo credit: Justin Turlak

A good mountain bike tribute in the fall wouldn’t be complete without combining a mushroom hunt into the mix. So I borrowed an extra bike and convinced my friend Angela to join Matt and I for a ride/foray on Larison Creek trail. Located just outside Oakridge off Diamond Drive and east on NF 21, Larison Creek trail is accessed off the west cove of Hills Creek, also known as Larison Cove. Poor Angela. My bike, though a size small, was still a bit too large for her tiny 5’ frame. Coming to a full stop left her unbalanced as she tried to dismount to size up a line, and unfortunately, she took a short topple off the edge of the trail. It was slow motion – three (yes three) endos into the brush. I raced back up trail to make certain she was alright, offering a hand, but she is stubborn, and declined my help, insisting she just needed to catch her breath. After walking down the descent, she was back on it, determined not to go home empty-handed. We culled through our “spots” without much luck, finding enough hedgehogs and chanterelles for dinner, but not much more. So we rode a bit further before turning back. That’s when Angela took off like a banshee… had all the coaching on the way out gotten through already? Suddenly, Angela was naturally shifting her body through the descents, facing roots, rocks, and small drops with ease. This was exactly what I had imagined for her – and I was so happy to finally share my favorite pastime with one of my oldest and dearest friends. Definitely a highlight before going into surgery!

Larison Creek Angela
Angela gets on her serious face as she approaches a small root drop. Nothing like a successful day of coaching and mushroom hunting to round out a “walk down the plank” to knee surgery!

The “piece de resistance” came the last weekend, just before I dove into the black hole of pain, scar tissue, and torture (uh, I mean, physical therapy). It just so happened that I was to drive Matt’s daughter to the Portland Airport for an early morning Saturday departure, so I decided to take one last opportunity to ride the north side of the state in unexplored territory. I put the word on Facebook at the last minute on Thursday, drove up Friday, and spent the night in Vancouver, at my friend Bridget’s place (also my No Apologies! teammate). Following a brisk delivery to Southwest Airlines, Bridget, myself and about a dozen of my PDX-based riding partners met at the base of Thrillium – a well-known downhill trail outside of Camas, off Hwy. 500 in the Columbia Gorge, on the Washington side.

Thrillium Ladies Ride
The ladies of NWTA pair up with No Apologies! once again to hit the Cold Creek area. Getting ready to ride Thrillium, left to right: Elaine, Michelle, Jocelyn, Debbie, Karolyn, Bridget and Inga. Big thanks to our awesome cache of gentleman riders who patiently guided us down trail, took our pictures and helped us shuttle! Photo credit: Todd McCarthy

To be honest, I was completely overwhelmed by the response of so many friends who came out to ride with me. On top of it all, two of the ladies in attendance were also celebrating their birthdays. While they could have chosen to spend the day at any number of other engagements, these folks came out to share the sunshine and the shred, with me! And what a fantastic day! We gathered our gear and bikes up between four vehicles and carpooled to the top of Thrillium for a couple of runs. The trail started out with an abrupt, vertical drop-in. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I decided to let it all go –fear, anxiety, worry about falling… all gone. I jumped in full throttle, chasing Oregon Enduro Cup series champ, Elaine Bothe to the next regroup spot. What a rush… rocky chutes and fast, steep corners, skinny passages between trees, root drops and a swift left turn before we piled out onto the road crossing. The next couple segments took us down a frozen wonderland of freestyle jumps, berms, step-ups and tabletops with hangtime for what seemed like miles. In fact, I think I probably caught my biggest air ever on the second run down. Chainless, I let off the break and launched a big tabletop, dumb-stricken during hangtime, thinking to myself “oh my god, I am flying… I’m way off the ground… my head is in the clouds…” and then, suddenly back on two wheels again, I finished out the segment with a greater sense of euphoria than I’d ever imagined possible while riding a bike. After our second run, it was getting near noon, so we retrieved vehicles from the top, shared cupcakes and exchanged goodwill before everyone went separate ways. Bridget, Inga, Jason and I decided to pedal up to the top of Cold Creek, making one last decent on the wild side of the hill before we called it a day.

Cupcake MTB
Because what goes together better than cupcakes and mountain biking?
Cold Creek Snow Field
A chilly opening into a lightly blanketed meadow on Cold Creek trail.

While Thrillium shuttles are fun as hell, Cold Creek offered us a sense of adventure from a different perspective. First, there was the climb. A steep gravel pedal to the top of a power line road left my legs feeling like rubberbands that had been stretched too far. Legs shaking, I downed a REV’D bar and a couple of gels to try and get some motivation back in my muscles. The decent started out smoothly enough, but gave way to rock gardens and an open beargrass meadow delightfully dusted in snow. Skinny, exposed trails led to a sketchy shale ridgeline, requiring just enough speed to clear the last corner into a protected trail bed, but it was tricky. Too much brake or speed would have seen the novice attempt battered in bruises. But we all rode it with grace. Next up, I took a good spill shooting around a corner down a narrow channel of rocks, but I quickly recovered and tried to catch Jason, launching whatever booters I could find along the way. My confidence was soaring and by far, this was one of my best days out the entire season. We cleaned a couple of bigger drops along the way, and once again chainless toward the bottom of the last segment, I let out the throttle, pumping and jumping my way to the end of the line. Truly an amazing day, I left Inga and Jason with a couple extra cupcakes and drove Bridget home. Now it was time to head back to Eugene and face the music…

Cold Creek Cornering
Heading out of one section, into the next – bonus view of Mt. Hood in the background. Photo credit: Inga Beck

But not so fast! My band of “Merry Bikesters” would not settle for me spending my last day of mobility taking care of yardwork. Oh no, the blitz to bike my ass off before surgery was on, so Matt and I prepared for an early morning departure with our friend Carrie, hoping to squeeze one more shred session into our Sunday repertoire at Alsea Falls, a mountain-bike specific flow trail system located northwest of Eugene following Hwy. 99 barely past Monroe to a cutoff road toward Alpine and out toward the Alsea coast. The Alsea Falls Flow Trail has fast become my favorite go-to place to ride, in part because it’s only 40 minutes away from my front door, but also because it’s just plain fun. I can’t think of a time I’ve been there to ride bikes and haven’t seen everyone in my pack drive off with ear-to-ear grins.  After a warm-up climb for about three miles – four, if you want to ride the top segments (and the extra mile is worth it, even if it’s a grunt) you’re in for the proverbial action-packed rollercoaster of mountain bike parks! From swift vertical descents littered with technical challenges, to smooth high-speed corners and sideways berms, tabletops, doubles and pump track sessioning to fast switchbacks, pedally root sections and grumpy little rock garden climbs, Alsea has something for everyone.

Alsea Crew
Ah, the homies! Showin’ some love in the chilly morning hours on Saturday. Left to right: Aimee, Michelle, Matt, Carrie, Julia and Eriel.

Upon arrival, we were pleasantly surprised to see our friends, Julia and Eriel, in the parking area, and just before we took off for the climb, Aimee showed up as well. Matt was our token man for the day, but he held out like a champ, patiently photographing our silly group portraits and attempts to session the big tabletop at the end of the central trail section, known as “Lower Highballer”. We had so much fun chasing each other, and in the end, I became chainless again, and somehow losing all inhibition, I transformed into the speed of light by pumping everything possible. My adrenaline kicked in as I felt my body loosening up and I became the hero I always wanted to be, jumping each and every double, landing perfect transitions and sliding into home base at the hoots and hollers of my companions. Another great ride in the books just before surgery, and little did I know or understand how much these experiences would mean to me after I would essentially lose mobility as I knew it, for at least six months.

Alsea Jumpin Jack Flash
Michelle “pop-a-launches” while Aimee sails through the transition. Photo credit: Matt McPharlin

Fast forward to now. It’s Monday, and a week after the surgery and those last few adventures that left me hopeful, inspired and determined to heal, no matter how bad the pain would get. And it’s gotten bad. The Tuesday after the nerve block wore off was the worst, as I lay crying out between the tears trickling down my face, my leg being manipulated into an excruciating state of flexion. These are the moments I hide from almost everyone, as I attempt to put on a happy face and focus forward on my goals, but real, nonetheless, and part of the recovery process… and hell, let’s face it – pain is part of living, and it’s part of succeeding. Letting go isn’t easy, and freedom isn’t free, but working hard means we get to play hard and the possibilities at the end of this rainbow seem limitless to me at this point. Already, I can feel a major difference in my knee stability; I just have to embrace patience and look at going the distance for a proper recovery, and for that, I will look back on these last few excursions for inspiration and courage.

From the Couch
Dreaming of dirt…

You’ve heard, “life isn’t measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Well, pain is part of that – trust me, it takes my breath away daily. But so is joy. That said, my mountain bike community has imparted an enormous sum of incredibly joyful, breathtaking moments on my behalf. I am eternally grateful for sharing these past few months with friends and family, both on and off trail, and know that I am drawing motivation and strength from each of these experiences, every day.  I’m coming back –stronger, bolder, faster, and yes, a bit older. In the meantime, keep on pedaling… I’ll see you all on the flip side soon!

-Michelle (AKA: Miss Sunshine)

Events

Skills, Mud and Mud Skills


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When I have too much on my plate, I can move through tasks like crazy. As soon as that lets off, I go into slumber mode. Yes. I still have a lot to do, but it all seems less pressing. This in turn makes it less motivating to do ANYTHING. I don’t know why this happens. It is like I am addicted to having too much to do. I mention this problem, because it seems that happened to us. As soon as our season started to lift up we took a sigh of relief. Then we stopped writing posts about the fun stuff we have been doing such as Kerstin’s win at the NW Cup, Kid’s MBO, and birthday craziness. Fear not – we will continue.

Right now, I would like to recount one of my favorite recent adventures — our skills clinic in Newport, OR.

Thanks to the amazing support of Bike Newport, we put on our first skills clinic as a team. We had an unbelievable turnout of 18 women for a terrible stormy day! It was seriously POURING rain. If it wasn’t a beautiful sunny day in Corvallis when I rolled out of bed, I might not have made it out of my PJs. However, the rain didn’t stop these ladies!

The crew nice and cozy inside Bike Newport
Our crew nice and cozy INSIDE Bike Newport before braving the storm.

We huddled in the warmth of Bike Newport for some individual introductions and a quick bike maintenance tutorial from their staff. We chatted about the pre-ride bike checks, what to carry during a ride, and how to start personalizing suspension set up. Then we bravely loaded up into carpools and made our way to the trail system.

Drills during a break in the rain
Preparing for drills and skills demos.

We were lucky enough for a short break in the rain as we huddled together to demonstrate some basic bike handling skills. We practiced important bike/body separation skills and how to navigate small obstacles on the trail. As the rain continued, we hit the trail for a pump contest, but the wet and slippery trail upped my pedal to pump ratio and I am determined to head back to try to hit the entire trail without a pedal stroke. I was not alone. Skills demos started to unfold on how to survive in the mud…. let’s just say weight distribution becomes key in the mud!

Yep. Mud.
Yep. Mud.

We practiced cornering while trying our best not to turn it into a slip and slide! Even when ladies started to slide around, smiles were wide and progress was being made. Eventually we split up into two groups. Kerstin and I led the “A for Awesome” group in search of more challenging trails, while the “B for Badass” group took off with Michelle and Sarah to continue developing new skills learned during the morning session.

Due to some hectic life situations, neither Kerstin or I had been able to come out and pre-ride the trail system. This made us very nervous, but it turned out to be an advantage for our group. Since the group was mainly seasoned veterans of the trail, they were able to lead us to their trouble spots. We didn’t get very far, but we got to focus on a few chutes that the group wanted to try out. Some of them were riding it for the very first time in the worst of conditions! After a demo, Kerstin and I stood on the side of the trail and offered suggestions. It was amazing to watch the ladies transform. A quick “knees out” generated an automatic response and they sailed down the obstacle. The bravery was unbelieveable. It wasn’t until afterwards in the debrief that I realized many of them were riding these spots for the first time. They had total game face on and attacked it with ease.

Meanwhile, Michelle and Sarah led a large group down a fast and pumpy trail that included a couple of tabletops and small root drops. Students took turns sessioning the tabletops and corners, while onlookers cheered them down trail. More than half of team Badass were first-time riders and all of them were able to triumph basic body positioning while gaining confidence – even in the slick conditions!

Skillz
Michelle coaching “mad skillz” over table tops and roots.

Eventually we met up with the rest of the group and finished out on a fun pumpy trail. I am at a loss for trail names as they were all thrown at me so quickly! I can’t wait to get to know the trail system in Newport on my next visit.

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Participants said a sunny goodbye at the END of the day… of course!

As we wrapped up, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We shared our experiences and or challenges from the day, took some photos and ran back to Bike Newport. When we arrived it was amazingly warm and the drinks and snacks were ready and waiting. To top it all off, we even had an available shower! Seriously, I want to end all of my winter rides at Bike Newport! They went above and beyond!

Things got silly
Things got silly when Daniella (Bike Newport) and Sarah were told to “get down with the dirt”…

I want to thank each and everyone of you ladies who showed up. I hope that you got a lot of out the clinic and are putting these skills to work. You were all so amazing and fearless! I can’t believe you all came out in that rain. Please come ride with us again. A special thanks to the locals for sharing your trails with us. Thanks to Bike Newport and the Yaquina Wheels Bike Club for your support! In the meantime, stay warm and shred it up!  We will have a few more adventures to share with you (Kerstin has gone pro after taking 1st in the NW Cup, Sarah and Michelle rocked the fun ride at the Fat 55, we got to hang with some young shredders at Kid’s MBO, and more).
See you on the trail!

Adventure Report

McKenzie Double


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As we work our way into Fall, I thought it time to review one of the most epic rides of the Spring.  It’s called the McKenzie Double, or simply just “the double”.  It happens over Memorial Day weekend, and is a birthday celebration with bikes and people you love to ride with. As a bonus, it also includes at least one night of crazy camping.

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As the name suggests, it is a double day event. The first day is a road ride via the 5,325 ft McKenzie Scenic Pass ride aka 242 (As seen on this year’s custom Yanco hats). The second day is the Mckenzie River Trail (MRT). The ride up the pass is in short: amazing! The beauty of 242, aside from the scenery, is that the road is closed to car traffic every spring. It was great to have zero cars to think about while riding and enjoying the view, and there is a lot to take in. It was great to share the road with only cyclists and the occasional walker while making our way up to the pass.  The pass is like a moonscape and offers amazing views….IMG_4647 IMG_4639  IMG_4646

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…and smiles all around, because what comes next is a lot of downhill, a temperature increase, and ice cream in Sisters, OR.  All worth the ride up!  Arriving in Sisters was like riding into New York City after being in the solitude of the mountains, but ice cream was worth it! We weaved through town to get our well deserved treat before heading back up the pass from the other direction. This is a shorter, steeper climb and it is over before you know it.  Happy to make it back to the pass, we layered up for our ride down, cause it was winter-like cold.  I think Dan probably was the most prepared for his ride down….IMG_4641

As we made our way back down to camp the reality that this epic ride was coming to an end began to sink in.  But the fun wasn’t over yet! When we rolled into camp, the size of our group almost doubled with more bike friends that had done a mountain bike ride that day and wanted in on the birthday fun.

And what’s the most important and first thing one should do after riding 70 some miles? Go stand in the VERY cold creek for 15 minutes.  Everyone swore that it would make my muscles feel better in the morning. Since we did have a mountain bike ride the next day, I decided to partake in this recovery ritual.  It was cold but I hafta say my legs felt ready to go for the MRT in the morning. After recovering from our recovery bath, we had an amazing meal, some good hang out time, a great fire with friends, and dogs, enough said!  The next day would have some fun things in store, or so we thought…..

We started the morning off with fresh legs, and coffee in hand ready to conquer the MRT.  We ate, packed up camp and drove on down the road to the trailhead.  We arrived and organized ourselves into groups and rolled out for a full day. It was beautiful with not too much traffic, bike or otherwise.  That was until we reached the Tamolitch Blue Pool and it was as if someone had turned on a people hose and sprayed them everywhere, and I mean everywhere!  We sat for a small break and a bite to eat and gazed at the blue pool and hoped the people would thin out. It was a good hope, they just got more layered to the point where we had to walk our bikes. This went on for what seemed an eternity, in reality it was maybe a mile.  Our next short term goal was to make it Trailbridge, and figure out if this mt bike ride would continue.  There was an escape vehicle there, so bailing was an option.   I was surprisingly exhausted mentally from the ride the day before and had come to my end point.  Too many people to enjoy riding, and a few of us decided that we would end our ride there and get shuttled back to the car and head home.  Sometimes you just gotta call it.  Despite the people on the trail it was a beautiful ride, and it’s a trail that certainly keeps you engaged.  Even though we opted out early it was still an awesome weekend! You can’t beat riding, hanging out with friends and just being a dirtbag for a few days.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a holiday weekend.

Events

School Buses, Bikes and Beer


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There are two weekends in every year that are the first to be marked on the family calendar. These special weekends are occupied by the one and only Mountain Bike Oregon, aka MBO. MBO is like a summer camp for adults. It is a full 3 days of riding bikes in Oakridge, OR. All rides are shuttled and guided, coffee and breakfast are ready when you wake up and the endless beer garden opens at 4 pm. What could be better?

All signs point to fun in OROR!
All signs point to fun in OROR!

This year was my 4th year “working” as a guide and August was my 7th MBO. I am pretty sure that it gets better every year. As a guide, a simplified version breaks down something like this:

  1. You get the invite for the year
  2. You rate your love and knowledge for the trails
  3. You anxiously await for the guide master to assign your weekend rides
  4. You rock out another MBO

Guides don’t get paid. We come because we love it. We love the experience of guiding people from all walks of life on some of our favorite trails in the world. There is something special about sharing Oakridge with the world. There isn’t a bad trail on the list and 3 days isn’t even enough time to hit them all. Every MBO weekend is unique. Hell, every ride at MBO is unique. It is a special blend of trail conditions, weather and most importantly, people.

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Shuttles for days!

As usual, home base took a little love and care to set up. My husband had already done the bulk of the unpacking when Skyler and I arrived. Home base is getting a little more elaborate each year. We love to set up by the river with plenty of space for our tent, a seating area with our camp kitchen and a riverside hammock space. This year I think that we perfected the triple hammock hangout- complete with a cooler for our LaCroix.

Hauling in all the gear
Hauling in all the gear
LaCroix Cooler
LaCroix Cooler

I had a great line up for the weekend (although I don’t think there is a bad one). I started Friday off with one of my favorite rides – Lost Creek. Lost Creek is what I call an adventure ride. You get a little bit of everything with some hike-a-bike thrown in to make it interesting. I played sweep for the first two-thirds of the ride and enjoyed the company. As I become a better rider, I frequently get pushed to the front of the pack. This weekend was full of fast guides who were willing to hammer, so I took a back seat and chatted it up with a few riders, other guides, and a random rider who stumbled upon us. And if that wasn’t enough, I hit up one of the “bonus” shuttles at the end of the day and went up to Dead Mountain/Flat Creek.

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The view from Devil’s Backbone above Dead Mountain trail

On Saturday, I got to do the double – Lawler and Hardesty. This is a double shuttle ride that offers enough root and rock filled descending to make you forget any climbing. I followed it up with a special visit to vender row. Jim had taken out a Guerrilla Gravity the night before and I had to check them out. I was able to snag a demo Megatrail to hit up Dead Mountain for the second day in a row. Oh boy! It was AMAZING! I rocked out the new school flow sections in gravity mode and then switched over to trail mode for the second half. It was pretty unbelievable. It was like I was on a completely different bike. It is such a cool design. I can’t wait to check them out more.

It's not MBO without a hand-dipped bar from Dink's
It’s not MBO without a hand-dipped bar from Dink’s

We wrapped up Saturday by watching the mini-bike races in the beer garden over ice cream bars. The races are a guaranteed good time between the actual race and Randy’s nicknames for the riders.

Entertainment provided
The race track

I wrapped up my weekend with a little Moon Point. Getting to the trail head is a pretty good trek from Oakridge, so I am always happy to get this ride during MBO so I don’t have to worry about pedaling or driving up myself. Everyone is always so worn out and happy by the time Sunday rolls around. The climbs are always a little slower and the rests a little longer. Moon Point is a good way to end the weekend. It offers a screaming fast descent with wonderful views and then finishes on a river trail. Our ride had a few flats (Moon Point frequently does) and we opted to miss out on some river trail. I promise that I didn’t plan that.

Waiting at a road crossing
Waiting at a road crossing
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Rope swing under the bridge

This year, like every year, was a blast. I spent the weekend with inspiring people that know how to prioritize the important stuff — enjoying life while it’s here. I hope to see you all next year!