WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING?

At the end of August, I set out on a bike expedition with two of my best friends from Durango, CO, Sarah and Sabina. We chose the Toiyabe Crest Trail in the middle of Nevada. It’s been done before on bike, even as recently as last summer, but it is not an official biking trail (yet). The Toiyabe Crest Trail is an old packing trail used by miners, traversing the slopes of the Toiyabe Range south of Austin, NV. It’s not well maintained and has great potential for some unpredictable excitement.
 
We researched the trail, poured over maps, gathered information about springs to access for water and met with other riders who had experienced the trail first-hand. The best part about a plan is that it will change. There’s nothing like an adventure to remind you that control is an illusion.
 
We had a plan. We were going to bike pack for the first night, and be self-sustained for a full day and a half, and then meet my boyfriend, Ben, the second night, re-supply and dump bike packs for the final day of riding to complete the trail, a total of about 40 miles. We accessed the trail from the top of Ophir pass, up a long 4-wheel road that sits above the Yomba Indian Reservation. After getting loaded up and strapping our packs on, we road away from the car, up the hill to a scenic perch that looked down on the picturesque valley below. We left late in the day so we didn’t make it far before the breathtaking sunset and night fall and we set up camp for the night.
 
The next morning, we had a casual awakening and enjoyed breakfast and coffee, and meaningful conversations with the backdrop of the endless basin and range stretched out before us. Nevada is primarily uninhabited and is filled with mountain ranges and open valleys. It is the most mountainous state in the U.S. and most of the ranges are untouched because people drive through Nevada on I-80 or Highway 50 and bitch about how empty it is and rarely stop to take a closer look.
 
We set out on the trail, which started with a long hike-a-bike up to the ridge line above 10,000ft. We took photos and snacked and found some decent riding sections, where the trail traversed the hillside and had an agreeable pitch. At one point, we realized we had not found the springs we were anticipating sooner in the ride, and started getting a little nervous about finding water. Though we were in the high alpine, the weekend of our trip was setting record breaking temperatures across Nevada and, even at our elevation, it was hot and slow going with our weighed-down packs.
 
Luckily, within an hour we rounded a corner and found a fresh running spring. Fresh is a bit of a hyperbole, since it was, actually, a cow-poo-infested area and we had to ditch our bikes and hike up to the source of the spring to get out of the poo, where we filtered water into all our packs and it was clean and cold and some of the most delicious water I’ve ever had.
 
We then drank a beer by the spring and carried on our way. There was a lot more traversing, loose, overgrown trail, significant elevation gain and rocky descents. As we made our way through low drainages and up saddles, we lost the trail a few times. My dear friend, Sabina, was the master of the GPS, with her background in Geology and GIS mapping she was a trusted, patient guide, even when Sarah and I were irrationally frustrated and questioned the route and the mileage remaining and the time it would take us to get to our destination by the end of the day.
 
Our destination was a drainage called San Juan Creek, where we would be meeting Ben, who was 4-wheeling in to an exact GPS point to meet us at the end of the day. We knew it was going to be a challenge to get there for various reasons. First, we weren’t even sure if Ben would be able to make it all the way up the drainage, if for some reason there was unforeseen erosion or trees across the road. Secondly, we anticipated having no cell service to be able to communicate with him. Thirdly, we had originally planned to meet him one drainage closer and changed our plans at the last minute because we were concerned the original drainage would be less passable for him. Overall, I grossly underestimated the time and distance to the next drainage over. My companions and Ben, were much more realistic about the challenge.
 
The funny thing about a good challenge is, it really doesn’t matter how prepared you are, at some point the bottom is going to fall out and eat you alive before you work through it.
 
This is the part of the trip that I am most excited to share. Going through our final drainage before having to climb the last saddle, we lost the trail in a maze of cow trails. We were hot and tired and cracked and behind schedule. We re-found the trail eventually and began the slow, steady climb but we were frayed at the edges and it wasn’t pretty. Actually, looking back, and even in the moment, it was hilarious and awesome and life-bonding for the three of us.
 
Sarah, Sabina and I were roommates in college and we’ve spent a lot of time together, we know what it looks like when we each crack. Sarah gets cranky and snappy, Sabina gets overly optimistic to compensate for our dark cloud but with a stern undertone of urgency, and I get silent and moody and extremely irritated. These moments that we share are what life is all about. It’s easy to bask in the majesty of a beautiful place, watch a sunset, feel the glory of riding bikes or laugh hysterically with each other, but when things get rugged that’s when you have to get creative on the spot about what you’re going to do about it. We came together and slowly moved forward.
 
It was getting close to sun-down and we were still plodding along up the never-ending saddle. Though we didn’t have cell service, I brought a radio for communicating with Ben, for inside a 2 mile radius. I kept checking for a signal, hoping for contact. On the last rise, before the top of the saddle, we connected. It was magical! I said, “Ben do you copy?” and he said, “hey! Are you alright, do you know where you are?” The three of us leapt for joy, we were instantly, but temporarily, reinvigorated! I said, “We’re fine, ascending the last saddle to drop into your drainage but we are cracked and cranky and need food and cold beer badly”. Ben said, “I gotchu, I have a burrito and beer when you roll in and I’ll fire up the portable grill with some chicken legs”.
 
The remainder of the ride was still arduous, and longer than expected, but finally we dropped into the drainage and found Ben, who had romped his truck over downed trees and through a narrow creek bed to get to the exact GPS point we had agreed on. He was just as excited to see us as we were to see him. He admitted he was getting worried but wasn’t planning to do anything drastic, unless we still had not arrived or made contact at dark.
 
The evening was spent eating, setting up camp, eating, laughing, eating, and re-organizing. After a short discussion, we made the executive team decision it wasn’t going to be possible to finish the trail the next day. Based on the time it took us for the first full day, we knew the second day would be longer, it involved more elevation gain and loss, more mileage, and it would then be followed by a shuttle from Ben back to the top of Ophir Pass to get my car and a 4hr drive back to Reno. Impossible! Both Sarah and Sabina had a flight to catch out of Reno the following day.
 
We didn’t finish the trail, which in some respects was a shame but, overall, who cares! We did what we came to do, which was to spend time together and share an adventure, not to accomplish a trail. Coming from the racing world, this is a theme I ponder frequently. What does it really mean to be successful and accomplish something? Racing always has an end goal and an end result that defines the experience, but life doesn’t. The cliche, “it’s about the journey not the destination” is so profound and true but rarely are we very good at living it. I love the unpredictability of our trip, having to cut it short because it got epic, loosing the trail, cracking into a thousand emotional pieces with my friends, re-finding our strength as a crew and laughing at ourselves.
 
Even on our way to pick up my car the adventure wasn’t over. Ben’s truck got a flat tire and we hitched a ride with a tribal policeman up the pass to pick up my vehicle, while Ben fixed the flat, adding another 2hr delay to our trip back to Reno. But to cap off the whirlwind, we finished with delicious all-you-can-eat sushi in Reno, packed up bikes at my house, waded through total trip-disassembly chaos, and gave each other huge hugs as Sabina and Sarah walked away at the airport the next day. I wound’t have changed a thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to “Be In” Your Body Instead of just “Being” A Body

I had the honor of being the guest speaker for an incredible organization called Sacred Cycle, https://thesacredcycle.org/ which focuses on therapy and mountain biking as a path to healing for victims of sexual trauma. We have set up complex parameters socially that can create a polarizing reality for men and women. For women, one of the best ways to find their power and confidence is to play. I’ve talked about the theme of play before, but, now I want to illustrate how playing can be a deeper form of liberation.

 

Prior to mountain biking, I was an exchange student when I was 18 in Chile for a year. It took me about 3 months before I realized that my host mother was being verbally and emotionally abused by my host father. At one point, I walked in between them, putting dishes away, while they were arguing, unknowingly, interrupting a fight that had escalated to the point where my host father stepped in to hit my host mom, and he, thankfully, came to his senses as I passed in between them.

Over the course of my stay, my host mother gained the strength to separate from my host father (which was a huge deal for anyone in this position, but divorce had been legalized in Chile only 2 years prior to my visit).

 

My parents back in the U.S. were extremely concerned when they learned the details of my situation and wanted me to find another family, but I had become deeply connected to my Chilean mom and sister and I played a crucial support role for my host mom. We talked about everything.

 

I came back with a passion for connecting with victims of domestic violence and I worked for a domestic violence hotline for 4 years in Durango, CO. I also began majoring in gender studies because I was so fascinated by the social construction and underpinning of what shapes femininity and masculinity and can lead them to be at such odds with each other.

 

Truthfully, I continue to use my degree every day. I operate within a completely male dominated sphere in the cycling world and there is always something to learn. I am constantly analyzing why people behave the way they do and I am constantly striving for my own self-improvement, experimenting with ways to find my own power and voice. I’m excited to share my most recent epiphany with you.

 

Women need to play, and we need to give ourselves permission to play. The times when I am the happiest are when I’m outside, in my own element, doing something active or adventurous without rhyme or reason. The reason why I do what I do is because of these moments, when I am centered and completely unhindered by limitations or self doubt.

 

It takes me back to my 4 or 5 year-old self. When I was a kid, I played all the time, it was so natural and easy and it was always the true expression of myself. Think back on a time when you were playing as a kid, I’m sure there are some joyful vivid memories.

 

As girls, we are quickly taught to move past that. Boys get to play into adulthood. Of course, they have obligations and life responsibilities too, but they are still “given permission” to go let loose with friends and adventure or be weekend warriors. Stereotypically, women are more inclined to have cocktails with the girls and talk, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. But why, and how is it different?

 

I remember specifically in 4th grade when I was labeled a “Tom Boy”, even just that label says a lot about not adhering to the role I was supposed to play as a girl. I hung out with the boys because they played soccer, and tag, and wrestled, and inspected ant hills. I remember one of the “popular” girls telling me, “well, the boys are never going to like you more than just a friend, you need to start wearing girl clothes, tight “baby-doll” shirts, if you ever want to be attractive.” This marked a pivotal moment my life. In a subtle way, from that point moving forward, I felt the power of society shaping me into being a self-conscious female, where I was taught that it was more important to be than to do. And, I’m lucky, I lived in a small mountain town with progressive parents and was more sheltered from the mainstream pressures.

 

Of course, my experiences of being molded ramped up even more in middle-school and high school. For whatever reason, this reality never fit me well and, instead, lite a fire in me to get to the bottom of this conundrum.

 

I’ve constantly been striving to find a way to not be a victim of the social pressures and obligations that are projected onto me. How can I be a mold breaker? Sometimes the answer is simpler than single-handedly trying to force an entire cultural change or making an aggressive, bold statement. Maybe, it’s as simple as playing.

 

Playing, takes us back to the place where we are who we are and so many of those social expectations and judgments fall away and, most importantly, our self-judgment because it’s okay to be goofy and clumsy and dirty and let it all hang out.

 

Playing, teaches us how to be “in” our bodies instead of being “a” body. Focus is on the internal needs instead of the external approval.

 

Women are not taught or encouraged to exist in this paradigm enough because, appearance and aesthetics often rule the life approach for many women

 

Being active, is the first step but, intention is everything. Doing something active and challenging because it sets you free is different than doing it for the specific purpose of “getting fit”.

 

Through personal experience and conversations, women are very often active to accomplish fitness. Men workout for fitness too, but they also often are active for the simple joy of having an adventure.

 

Yes, you can begin to be “in” your body by being active for fitness, but this is just the first step. You can feel the hard work you put in, your lungs working, your strong muscles propelling you forward. You notice the nuances of small things in your body that are sharp and functioning and pains and discomfort in other areas as you push yourself. The next step is to change to intention behind the action.

 

Doing exercise, and being active for the sole purpose of “getting fit” makes you passive to your own activity by fulfilling the expectations of “being a body” with aesthetics as a focus.

 

Fitness, wellness, and an active lifestyle are a wonderful benefit and side-effect, but it’s different to set your intentions on playing.

 

Feeling the power of your active body teaches you to recognize your physical strength but being active for the pure intention of playing, teaches you the strength of being yourself and living your truth, free from judgment.

 

ENOUGH TIME HAS PASSED, I’M FINALLY READY TO SHARE THIS VIDEO WITH THE WORLD

Frequently, life happens while we are making other plans. As a result, improvisation is key. No one is living the fantasy life that they portray, we are all feeling our way in the dark. Some times are darker than others. To keep it real, I’d like to share one of my most visually observable dark days with you. Warning, this content is graphically disturbing.
 

Video Credit: Jeff Kerkove
 
It was my first year signing with the prestigious Luna Pro Team in 2012. My fresh season came to a screeching halt at the Beti Bike Bash when my front wheel unexpectedly fell off, going over a water bar on a high speed section of the course. I was knocked out instantly. I was transported to the hospital in an ambulance and regained consciousness in the hospital. Having head trauma is no joke. My whole face was bloody and thoroughly ground-scuffed and my lips were shredded and one eye was swollen shut. Even when I came to, I was extremely disoriented and only remember a significant feeling of helplessness and discomfort all over. Not wanting to complain because I recognized I was a bit out of sorts, I told the nurse that my eye was slightly scratchy, she kindly explained to me, for the 4th or 5th time, with the patience of a saint, “I’m sure it is dear, you were in a bad bike crash today and you landed on your face”. I said, unconvincingly, “it’s just really scratchy…” Eventually, she pulled my eyelid up and removed an entire teaspoonful of dirt that was trapped underneath. I hit the ground so hard and quick I didn’t even have time to close my eyes.
 
I was so lucky that my boyfriend and parents were at the race, saw the crash from across the field, and stayed by my side the entire time. This was particularly helpful as I was being asked questions in the hospital to assess my cognitive function. Questions like. “how are you feeling and are you a member of a religious group?” To which I replied, “Tis but a flesh wound” and “Pastafarianism”. I don’t remember these communications, but that was the moment when everyone present knew I was going to be alright and, despite my physically battered condition, my biting sarcastic personality had not been damaged.
 
The longer road to recovery was the next month and the whole next year. I don’t remember the entire month of June from 2012. I would have hour-long phone conversations with people and then call them back again the next day, saying I wanted to catch up. I was mentally fuzzy and had short-term memory issues for many months. Riding bikes well again was it’s own challenge. One of my saving graces was not having any memory of the crash which meant I didn’t have the psychological road block of fear of the incident to overcome, but I had other issues.
 
My first race back was the Mountain Bike National Championships in Sun Valley, ID. I had just started getting back on the bike a couple weeks prior and was still not myself. During the race I remember having only one speed. I couldn’t dig deep or push my limits or event try to be competitive. My body put the brakes on and kept me at a causal, social trail ride pace the entire race. I gained a great deal of appreciation for the intuitive, physical knowledge of my body. It was relearning to trust my mental judgment and I was learning to trust it’s healing process, it sounds compartmentalized but that is exactly how it felt. I eased into the rest of my season strategically and patiently.
 
Head injuries are scary and weird and really shine a light on how fragile we truly are. Though I have continued to have many crashes since the Beti “Face Bash” in 2012, I have not gone through a similar dramatic concussion since. But I am more at risk and even small crashes freak me out. Risk is inherent in my sport but I do not take my safety and body for granted and I do my best to protect myself. I plan to ride mountain bikes long into my old age.
 

THE KETTLE CALLING THE “POT” BLACK- Rising Above Hypocritical Cannabis Condemnation as a Professional Athlete

 

I am who I am. I have reached a place in my career to embrace a fearlessness for allowing my values and principles to shine through, whether or not they fit other people’s expectations.

 

Most of us have felt, at one time or another, that we need to strategically tailor ourselves to our environment, sometimes at the cost of compromising our own values, to be accepted, negotiate a deal, or get paid. I believe in being adaptable and willing to compromise, but I also believe that we cannot contribute to the best of our ability, if we are not honestly representing ourselves.

 

It is with this perspective in mind, that I made a, somewhat radical, decision this year to partner with the locally, Reno-owned KYND Cannabis Company and the MYNT Dispensary, as the first ever professional athlete, cannabis ambassador in Northern Nevada. I am extremely proud to represent this quality brand and the cannabis industry. Though I am not a heavy marijuana user, myself, this partnership represents a greater philosophical statement about me.

 

I am taking a significant risk and jumping into controversial territory. Most professional athletes who have come out as advocates for cannabis do not do so until after their careers are over, for fear of immediate repercussions. That is exactly the reason why I feel the need to take this stance, while I am still in the prime of my competitive professional career.

 

As of November 9, 2016, the use of both recreational and medicinal marijuana has been legalized in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, but cannabis is still listed as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, and is federally illegal. It is also NOT a legal substance according to the governing bodies of cycling: USA Cycling (USAC), Union Cycliste Internacionale (UCI), U.S Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Some of the language in their policies point to marijuana use as “unsportsmanlike” or “performance enhancing”. I look forward to bigger conversations with these agencies to learn more about their position.

 

In the meantime, I primarily race enduro mountain biking, which is still a relatively new, unsanctioned cycling discipline, and, during my cyclocross season, I will comply with the governing UCI rules and refrain from using cannabis, until there can be further discussion. Regardless, I am moving forward unapologetically, and I look forward to being on the leading edge of these conversations, that warrant deeper analysis.

 

Marijuana has been stigmatized for a long time and it’s time for us to talk about it openly and honestly. Without digging too deep into the turbulent history, we know that many legal issues surrounding marijuana came from roots of racism and corporate and government control. As it’s become increasingly available, more studies are being done that illuminate the scientific medical benefits of marijuana for a huge variety of ailments, from insomnia to cancer. The benefit that marijuana is having for veterans, aging baby-boomers, people struggling with depression, and other mental health issues is astounding. In many cases, marijuana is proving to be a viable, less-addictive alternative to opioids, and opioid addiction has become a national epidemic. More information can be learned about the benefits of cannabis, with the growing legalization. As an example, the cannabinoid, CBD (Cannabidiol), which is one of 113 identified cannabinoids, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and provides pain relief and calms anxiety. As an athlete, the CBD tinctures and creams are extremely useful for injuries and sore muscles.

 

Beyond medical, I am also an advocate for marijuana as a regulated, recreational substance. We have hidden behind the one-dimensional mask of medical use for long enough, and, though the medical benefits are extremely relevant, it is a substance that people, obviously, consume for psycho-active purposes too. Similar to alcohol, I believe strongly in the regulation of marijuana, so the consumption is done responsibly and at the legal age. As adults, we have the ability to make responsible decisions for ourselves.

 

There is always an opportunity for substance abuse but one of the best ways to enable people to make good decisions is education, dissemination of new information, and open dialogue. Also, in the realm of mountain biking and outdoor recreation, weed is already rampant. Let’s talk about it.

 

The reality is, humans have a tendency to seek out mind altering experiences. Even athletics, themselves, create an altered state of mind and I know numerous people who are completely addicted to exercise. Too much of a good thing can still result in addiction.

 

I acknowledge the legitimate concerns surrounding the abuse of recreation and prescription drugs. Depending on the substance, the abuse of a substance can sometimes be the symptom not the cause. We all know someone who has been traumatically affected by substance abuse. Sometimes this results from a lack of education or family/community support or mental illness… and sometimes it is for darker reasons like corporate greed and manipulation by pharmaceutical and alcohol companies, which brings me to my next point.

 

I am also choosing to partner with the KYND Cannabis Company to call attention to the hypocrisy of our social acceptance of pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol and the stigmatization of marijuana. Let’s call into question the status quo. The Tour of California in 2017 was sponsored by AMGEN, the title sponsor, a well-known big pharmaceutical company and producer of EPO (a red-blood-cell-increasing drug, illegal in cycling and most sports). How is it that the money from this company causes us to overlook the damaging message of having an EPO producer sponsoring one of the largest national road races, when road racing has been notoriously plagued with EPO and other doping scandals??

 

I have been given a speaking platform as a professional athlete and I do not take my position lightly. It is my responsibility to be a role-model and demonstrate critical thinking, responsibility, integrity, an open mind, and a child-like sense of wonder. The concerns and hesitation around marijuana are relevant, and I am fully receptive to all sides of the issue and I still have a lot to learn. Most importantly, I hope you are willing to ask questions, do research, take some calculated risks, and learn along with me. Whether people are ready for this topic and legislation to be on the table or not, it is.

 

Weed is officially legal for recreational purchase and consumption for adults 21 and older in Nevada today, July, 1st 2017
http://www.kynd.com/

HAPPY SUNSHINE!

 

The last couple months have been a whirlwind of delight. Sometimes when it rains it pours and when its sunny the sunshine just won’t go away.

 

My 2nd race of the season was the Moab Scott Enduro Cup. We had spectacular weather, a little hot for pre-riding but the perfect calm cloudiness for race day. I love getting out into the desert, it has a gentle calm to it that feels like a sanctuary away from life’s chaos. I also got to camp with my parents which was a huge bonus! I suffered a mechanical during the race, which turned my bike into a single speed in the hardest gear for 75% of the race. It was interesting how it forced me to ride more efficiently and carry my momentum to make it up short climbs with as much momentum as possible. I also was so humbled by the incredible amount of support and help other racers, friends, strangers and competitors offered me to ensure that I finished. I still ended up in 4th and was pretty happy with the process.

 

Following Moab, I had a little down time at home before jumping into the event coordination process for the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, put on by The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. They graciously brought me on board to help with the event and it was a perfect fit that has now transformed into a long-term relationship in an Even Coordinator position. I’m happily learning the ropes for the other amazing events they put on. Downieville Classic up next!

 

Early June, I hit the road again and had 2 jam-packed weeks of travel in 3 different locations.

 

I attended the 2nd Scott Enduro Cup in Angel Fire, NM and had a blast racing the back country and the challenging bike park to finish in 3rd. I flew back to Reno for less than 24hrs and drove up to Bend, OR the next day to race the infamous “Blitz”, complete with insanely awesome trails, the gap jump onto the golf course, beer chugging for the finish and arm wrestling. The crew was feisty and fired-up and kept it fun for everyone. I came in again in 3rd behind world-renown Katerina Nash and Maghalie Rochette.

 

To complete the madness, I drove back to Reno early the next day and flew out that same evening on a red-eye to Vermont for the NEMBA Fest, a one-of-a-kind mountain bike festival that boasts, arguably some of the best trails in the world, The Kingdom Trails. I hadn’t been back to ride on the east coast since the Pennsylvania Mountain Bike Nationals 3 years ago, I was long overdue for some slippery roots. I spent 4 days in Vermont, guiding rides and being guided, shredding the Burke Mountain downhill greasiness (an awesome challenge for a west coaster), hanging out at the festival, the Tiki bar and the river, socializing with new, amazing friends, drinking delicious Vermont beer, eating some of the best burgers and burritos I’ve ever had and staying up late, getting rowdy like a college kid. I spent quality time with some very special, down-to-earth people and was absolutely blown away by their kindness, generosity and willingness to share with complete strangers. Being around this energy, makes me want to work even harder at being a better person. The simplicity of a good weekend with good people is always a powerful reminder of what makes life so undeniably awesome! I was on a happy high for days.

 

Speaking of high, I also officially solidified a partnership with the KYND Cannabis Company and MYNT dispensary of Reno, NV. I could not be more excited to throw myself into the heart of controversy and advocate for the evolving perspectives and dissemination of information around this contentious issue. Looking forward to sharing the full story about my decision and partnership next, stay tuned….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returning to the Scene of the Crime – Sea Otter

First year mountain bike race 2007

My first Sea Otter Classic bike race experience was in 2007 when I was 20 years old. I had just started collegiate mountain biking and I attended Sea Otter for my first taste of the big-league mountain bike scene, racing in the Expert category. I remember looking at all of the pros lined up on the start line and thinking, “they look like rock stars with their matching bikes and spandex”. Witnessing the action left a powerful impression, and I made a pact with my friend that, one day, we would be big-time pro mountain bikers too!!
 
Last week, was my 9th Sea Otter Classic. I raced the pro enduro and the cyclocross race, placing 4th and 6th, respectively. I can hardly believe I’ve been at it as a career now for 8 years. What an incredible experience.
 
Jumping back into the big Sea Otter event at the start of my season reminds me that I love doing what I do. The racing is always a fun challenge but it’s the community coming together that I look forward to the most.
 
Because I didn’t get started on the bike until college, I, admittedly, have been pretty ignorant about the history of my sport and some of those who were the original mountain bike pros and rebels, making waves in the sport before me. Over the years, I’ve met top pros who have inspired my riding and pros who were the pioneers, introducing ground-breaking skills and styles that have forever changed the face of the industry. I am always immensely honored to connect with the legends, who have been cyclists for way longer than myself, and who still have the tenacity and dedication. Good people and good energy.
 
In the niche world of cycling, Sea Otter is the biggest national outdoor cycling expo and now I get to feel like a celebrity on the scene. It’s a strange concept, something that will always feel a little weird about, but it is also such a privilege to inspire other people and get them exciting about biking, the way I felt when I was first introduced in 2007. I will never take my opportunities and position as a professional athlete for granted.

 

2017 Pro Enduro race, photo credit Wil Matthews


 

2017 Pro Enduro podium, 4th place

Backyard Pump Track

I pride myself on being an adult kid and I vow to stay this way forever.

When I lived in Durango, CO last, my awesome neighbors built “Durango’s Best Pump Track” in our shared backyard. It was a draw for the college cycling community and gave us all something to look forward to when we came home. Ever since I moved, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to recreate the same backyard paradise.
 
This past weekend, I had the honor of finally hosting a backyard pump track building party in my own yard. It was a blast. We had a BBQ, a keg and several cases of beer, provided by a local Reno brewery, Brewer’s Cabinet/ Tahoe Beer, and the weather was a perfect 68 degree day with no wind and hero dirt, after receiving a spring rainstorm two days prior.
 
Lot’s of good people showed up who had never met each other before and became instantly bonded over digging, drinking beer and getting to ride the fruits of our labors at the end of the day.
 
The pump track plan had been slowly coming together since we bought our house a year and a half ago. In fact, one of our motivators for purchasing a house was having the liberty to build our own backyard pump track.
 
We have a small yard but it was just big enough. After the digging frenzy, our pump track takes up approximately 1400 sq ft.
 
The building process has definitely attracted some interest in the neighborhood since it’s a bit different from the landscaping most people are used to seeing. The whole process has allowed us to have some great conversations and connect with new friends.
 
I’ve always wanted my own adult playground in the convenience of my backyard. I still am hoping for some other fun yard assets like a garden, fire pit, and a chicken coop and whatever else I can squeeze in around the perimeter of the pump track, which nearly covers the entire yard.
 
We also plan to plant pumpkins on the berms and turn it into a “Pumpkin Track”.
 
There is still plenty of work to be done, we’ve only got one rideable outside line so far. The truth is, a pump track is never done because there is always an opportunity to change and reshape it. Pump tracks are a constant evolutionary design with room for new lines and creativity.
 
Sure, it’s not the most “practical” thing to have in the backyard, and it does not match the status-quo of what most adults build in their backyards, but we couldn’t be happier. I now have a new way to decompress after a stressful day, and I know I’ll develop better bike handling skills by default. If you feel like behaving like a kid, you’re welcome to come ride the pump track too. #NorthwestRenosBestPumpTrack

 

It Must Be Experienced

I was recently told a story about a mother who walked with her daughter a couple miles into town in -60 degree wind-chill and snow blowing sideways because she told her child, “it must be experienced”.
 
Simple, yet profound. My personal struggle is to shift the focus back to experiencing, NOT sharing.
 
I catch myself, in the midst of an experience, thinking about how something could be photographed or recorded or captured in 140 characters to document the event/idea/moment/thing/scenery and disseminate the information.
 
It sounds selfish talking about experiencing it and not sharing, but, let’s be honest, in this era, it’s the sharing that can be more narcissistic. We have the ability to share with EVERYONE…it seems. We are focused on making sure everyone else knows about our “experiencing”. And yet while we are capturing our “experiences” to share, are we actually experiencing the experience we are sharing?
 
Of course, we can do both. But let’s make sure we truly are.
 
Ask yourself, would you still be doing whatever it is that you’re doing, even if there is no one to witness it or validate it?
 
Communications and connections, virtual and in person matter, but, I am striving to get off the grid and unplug and experience things for myself in a mysterious, un-shareable way too.
 
Ironically, sometimes it’s what we read, see and watch, that others have shared, that inspire us to seek out new experiences. As I hope this post I am sharing will do for you.
 
The hypocrisy of my own sharing in this moment makes me laugh at the conundrum.
 
The point still remains, “it must be experienced”!
 

Developing More Skills from Playing than Competing:

Playing as a kid is something we never question.  Yet, somehow, as adults we seem to forget the importance of play.  I’m not talking about recreating, I’m talking about playing.  Playing, in its purest form, means doing something for the sake of doing it, without an intention or goal or focus.

 

Playing is something I am working hard to revisit in a serious way in my sport of cycling.  

I came into mountain biking through a collegiate team with many awesome, casual, goofy rides with friends (both male and female).

 

My career took off because I also enjoy racing, which lead me down a whole other path in the sport.  Competition teaches incredible self understanding, the ability to fight against the odds, confronting self demons when the pressure’s on, tactics, training, pacing and on and on…

 

BUT, the greatest skills I’ve acquired in mountain biking came from playing.  The more I play and don’t think about my riding in a calculated way or force things, the more I gain from trial and error.

 

My major goal for the 2017 season is developing skills that I’ve never learned.  Manualing, wheelies and big-ass bunny hops and, who knows, maybe a nose manual… the possibilities are endless.

 

Now that I’ve been a professional bike racer for 8 years, I’m excited to reconnect with bike-play and, I have no doubt, it will be beneficial for all of my riding experiences, even the racing.

 

This concept on the bike directly parallels life.  Life is not meant to be lived with a strategy all the time, with a grand plan for the future. Sometimes, it needs to be goofy, awkward and filled with joy and simple pleasures for no good reason.  

 

I encourage everyone to make room for playtime.  Revert to your 4-year-old self, It will make you a better, happier person.

WTF am I doing!? Part IV: Patience

I’m not done yet and I am looking forward to a powerful, fearless 2017. The manifestation of a rock-solid sense of self.
 
All good things take time and it’s hard to be a patient person. As I step back and give myself more space to figure things out and make mistakes, I am discovering more open doors on my crooked trail.
 
I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up but, for now, I’m focusing on what I do know. I still want to be a professional mountain biker and cyclocross racer, share some skills and my passion with anyone who will listen, learn from other remarkable people, be inspired, and pay my bills every month.
 
Edward Abbey has been a reoccurring theme in my life recently, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence. There are a lot of silly quotes out there that sound like words of wisdom but are really nothing more than cheap talk, pretending to be inspirational. Mr. Abbey, on the other hand, speaks the truth.
 

 
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.” – Edward Abbey

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