Cyclocross... Its a discipline of cycling that adapts a road bike with equipment thats suited for somewhere between road biking and cross country mountain biking. Its been something thats slowly grown on my since picking up the bike I had mentioned in part 1. However, its wasn't without its own issues. A I had mentioned in part 1, it didn't really take me long to throw it on mountain bike trails, where I ended up spending most of my time on that bike, which again, its most certainly not designed for. Despite the beefed up parts, the weakness is still the drop bar setup--those ram for looking handlebars on road bikes-- and undersized tires. Despite having tires that look like they be great on a trail, you still need to run them at relatively high pressures, which reduces your overall traction, or run them at low pressure, which has the downside of constant pinch flats.
So I set out to find a bike capable of of riding the discipline of cycling I seemed to enjoy the most--the single track trail and for me that also meant the nastiest trails I could find. Theres just something about straddling that fine line between iron-gripped control and but hole puckering chaos that just pulls me in. So I spent a bit of time researching what type of riding I wanted to do to dip my toes into mountain biking, as well as give me a bit of room to grow as my proficiency increased. I eventually settled on a 2017 Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon Expert. I took me about a week of riding that beast of a bike to start digging into it and replacing parts, which is something I really hadn't done much of previously, which I guess should have been an indication that the hook had been set deep. In retrospect I probably should have went with the top of the line model--mine was 1 tier below--because everything I ended up pulling off and replacing would have been comparable to what was on their flagship model, the S-Works. You learn as you go though, which is part of the fun.
This bike went with me just about everywhere. If I wasn't spending my time with some amazing women and men around the country, you could be almost certain I would be out on some trail in the wilds of the world. As I had mentioned, riding was a really great way for me to decompress and gave me a lot of balance.
However, as my riding skill increased, so too did the technical features of the trails I rode. At first I started out riding trails significantly beyond my skill level and I probably spent just as much time scooping myself up off the ground as I did riding. I really had no clue what I was doing to begin with. Despite having spent years as a child racing BMX, not a whole lot of fundamentals I had used there translated well, nor did I really remember a whole lot of it. I was definitely a lot more confident than I was skilled. I was just content doing something that brought me such an immense amount of satisfaction--and adrenaline. That excitement was a constant chase and I slowly saw my level of ability increase as I spent more time in the saddle.
when I made that initial investment into mountain biking, I largely centered it around my tour schedule. I'd map out my path across the country, an around the world to maximize the amount of time I'd be able to spend curating my craft behind closed doors. However as my skill level increased and I sought our more complex and technical terrain I had a pretty significant paradigm shift. No longer was I touring to maximize my profession.. .I began planning my trips around trails I wanted to ride. I traveled to places like Toronto to ride some of the tracks there. I traveled to the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, and Georgia for the first time just to ride trails.
Oddly, this worked out amazingly well. Clients of mine began to notice not only was I happier, but as my fitness level increased, so did my abilities in other areas.
I remember the very first film I shot in the adult film industry. By the time that scene was done, I was a heap of flesh collapsed on the floor in a puddle of sweat and panting like I was about to die. Several years later and a whole lot of miles on the trail has changed that completely. now, by the end of a 3 hour scene, I feel like I'm just starting to catch my stride. I'm not winded, my body isn't sore, and I'd be lucky to have had a single bead of sweat fall from my body.
I started planning entire tours not around what areas would be the most profitable, but where Id have the most fun on and off the bike. I rode some of the nastiest trails the world has ever seen. Sometimes it went amazingly well, and others went horribly wrong. The photos above are from a trip I took to Seattle, with a stop outside of Mount Rainer National park. I was totally pumped about being able to ride down the sides of a volcano, but again, my confidence was a lot higher than my ability. I ended up hitting a gap poorly at about 30 MPH, which resulted in myself, and my bike, falling just about 1000 feet down the side of the mountain in the course of about 15-20 seconds that felt like an eternity.
After taking some time to collect myself and work through my adrenaline that was through the roof, I realized I'd been quite humbled by the experience. Being near death isn't something that many people experience, but for me its been something quite common. So instead of call its quits and hang up my helmet, I dedicated myself to making sure something like that never happened again. I started to specially block time out in my schedule to allow for me to train and become a better rider.
Ive always been a pretty disciplined person, but time away from the military softened the edges on that. So taking the first steps to transition myself toward a regimented training schedule started my journey back to that. I had decided that because I needed time to be able to train consistently, I also needed o establish " working hours" and training hours. I developed, for the first time, a time schedule I'd be available for appointment, and also started requiring 24 hours notice so that I could ensure I had appropriate time to train daily. I went from roughly 50-75 miles per week to between 100-300 miles, which was an substantial increase.
Over the course of a year I put just under 5,000 miles on three continents. I was pretty proud of that, but knew I could do better. So I started to think about how I could take that to the next level, which brought mw to session training. Base miles on a bike is one thing, but just riding really isn't going to make you better. You need to train on specific tasks. So before or after every ride I gave myself so time to practice technical skills like jumping, hops, lateral shifts, punches, manuals, endos, whales, a range of different styles of pumps, footwork and body position on the bike and pedals.
This ended up culminating in whats--so far--been my greatest achievement to date, which was being the first woman, and human, to summit the highest peak in the lower 48 by bike--Mt. Elbert in Central Colorado. That hook was set deeper...
to be continued....