As I have been lucky enough to switch between my fat bike and hard tail I have begun to ponder all the things I did and didn't realize for better or worse about my other tool in my tool belt this winter. To be bluntly honest, I have either run or biked almost every day this winter in Colorado...so I really can't complain. This includes the days of twelve inches of powder, days of 1/2 inch thick ice, and days of 60-70 degree balmy weather with patchy dry trails. I can give the fat bike this, it is a versatile ride. The funny part is, it is such a slow going machine, I don't need miles of dry trails to keep me entertained. I can usually entertain myself in my ten mile local trail system given the degree of climbing that we have.
However; where the fat bike is a jack of all trails...it can be a master of none based upon your equipment and the conditions. Take my set-up, super wide beefy 4.5 inch snow tires with aggressive treads. I don't think there is a better tread for riding unpacked single track powder in the front range. This set up even did pretty well after a recent ice storm that I felt better riding my bike to and from work instead of driving my car.
However, even on packed groomers there are better options for riding in the snow based upon the type of snow. You can pick a narrower tread or a tread with less rolling resistance based upon how hard packed the snow is. The temperature of the snow even comes into factor since a warmer snow temperature will mean the snow is softer and will sink in deeper. Circuit races run in warm or unpacked conditions usually turn into tripod races pretty fast since running with a snow bike in deep snow is pretty ridiculous in of itself.
The tire options are mind boggling and compare to cyclocross in ways I never expected. Not only can you pick different rims but also different tread patterns, tire widths, and psi. More options than a UCI cyclocross racer knows what to do with and even with a tubeless setup are comparable to prices for tubular tires. I know it seems like I am really emphasizing the tires but honestly the tires and wheels are the most important part of your set-up.
On hardpack, the performance of the fat bike is even more dependent on the tire and rim set up. Even though a super wide tire may be pretty comfortable on a rocky trail or long ride, you may pay for it in the increased rolling resistance and weight. Another thing I have noticed is how squirrelly the set up can be in technical switchbacks and tight single track. When those tires getting rolling they really don't want to stop! However, I can pull off several hours of riding trails that would normally aggravate my carpal tunnel or low back on my 100mm hardtail but do just fine on the fat bike.
In summary, the fat bike is a pretty versatile ride. If you are looking for something to tool around on in your local trail system in all four seasons you probably won't be disappointed. Who knows, maybe it will get you to the grocery store or even work one day when your car can't make it out of the driveway. Mine certainly has.
Heading off to fat bike nationals, I was pretty happy with my current set up and decisions. I had my Kenda Juggernaut pro 4.5 snow bike tires that did pretty well in loose snow. Most fat bike couses run on a circuit quickly break down with warmer temperatures in single track sections and this tire has proven a winner in this area. The local base depths of 60'' to 90'' had made me pretty comfortable riding the top tube and hitting loose snow lines with this set up and I was ready for a technical race. I had decided to for go cross nationals and head to fat bike nationals. Boy, had I misjudged the situation. Little did I know, I was heading to my first fat bike nationals...Cross Vegas style.....
Arriving at the course, I realized I was instantly going to have a huge disadvantage. There was no snow! The course director was one of the nicest directors I have met and was doing his best to keep the course in good condition. This included not allowing pre-riding till 4pm the night before the race. The course was actually very muddy when I arrived about 48 hours before the race. It seemed like it would be a perfect cross course....however, I was set up with rims that measure about 114mm. Translated into cross, I was riding a soggy or icy Vegas turf cross course. I would have benefited from a nice set of 33mm grifos, chicanes, or even file treads. This would be equivalent to the cut off of 96mm on the fat bike wheels when it came to tire width. Instead, I was riding 114mm limus tires.
The Kenda Juggernauts are amazing snow tires....however, on a turf race even with a dusting of snow or ice as occurred, this was not the correct set up for the race. Being a cross rider was all I needed to confirm this feeling. And that is exactly what happened....
The race took off with an extra lap added on due to the 15 minute lap time averages and a total race time estimate of 90 minutes for 19 miles. That is super fast for a snow bike race and a little slow for a long cyclocross lap. It was a very small field and seating didn't matter very much. Tire pressures were high across the field at about 7.5 psi or more. The first lap took off and the going was easy. There was no hole shot to the single track for at least .70 miles. However, the temperature was dropping and ice was starting to form on the common inside lines. Lucky for me, I was picking the outside lines and had no problem leaning the bike a bit with my super chubby and grippy tires. I had fought my way up to 4th position at 2 laps in but that's when the inevitable happened. The slow rolling tires and wheels got the better of me on the climbs and I started to slide back. The rest of the race was a time trial for me trying to catch the 5th place position however the gap widened and when all was said and done I had finished 6th. I thank the promoter, racers, sponsors for having this amazing opportunity presented to me again in 2017. However, I took away a couple of learning points. Fat bike races do not equal snow bike races. There is an amazing correlation to cross bike equipment and this should be respected and acknowledged. And.....I am still riding off into the snowy sunset:)
I was meaning snow....what were you thinking?
In all seriousness, I am going through a case of cyclocross withdrawal after watching riders at cyclocross nationals slide down a hill on their bottom. I miss my friends and family from Hartford, CT. and the cyclocross community However, Colorado has been blessed with some artic weather in the past few days and at least about 12 inches of snow. I have also been blessed by support from people in Kenda Tire, Green Mountain Sports, and Van Dessel with the ability to fat bike in the front range. Below is a picture of the Van Dessel's Primo Ballerino set up tubeless with Kenda Tires Juggernaut Pro. The largest width of gorilla tape was used to set up the wheels tubeless as well as the rim strip that Van Dessel supplied with the wheels. Take care when doing this in seriously cold weather since the pressure can change with rapid changes in air temperature ie from garage to house and vice versa. I almost lost my seal putting the bike in the -10F garage after the tires were set in the 65F bike shop.
Some of you may be wondering why on earth is going on with this fat bike rage and why are they so popular. I will show you in the next couple of pictures why a fat bike can make snow days so much fun.
Above is a picture of the prime example I am talking about. It has just snowed about 12 inches and there seems to be this amazing curtain of silence that has descending upon Lakewood. Cars are creeping along in snowy conditions and it is the middle of a normal work week. The trails are totally silent.
The picture above is on the green mountain trail system in Lakewood, CO. The Kenda Juggernaut Pro tires are doing an amazing job gripping the loose, unpacked snow with a psi of about 4.5. No ski traffic to be seen and a good two hours playing outdoors when the trails were too muddy to ride about 24 hours ago. Fresh tracks to be had almost everywhere in the front range at this point and I don't even have to jump in my car. I can literally just roll out my doorstep on the snow and start my ride during my extended lunch break and be back for my next phone meeting.
Going to miss my Hartford peeps but.....
So after weeks of comparing the travel costs to Hartford versus further possible bike adventures, I decided to move onto fat bike season in the Colorado Rockies. Thanks to the help of Van Dessel Sports and Edwin Bull as well as Kenda Tires and Roger Hernandez, I have an amazing snow machine that is already floating on the new snow pack at Snow Mountain Ranch. Here is an amazing shot in the trees from the ranch with only the total quiet of morning.
Wish I could have taken more pictures of the amazing snow covered mountain backdrop as well as the groves of aspens...but I was to busy biking:) Best and worst part of this all is I was able to wake up early and get this done in the morning, followed by a nap before my ER night shift.
I would like to thank the XTERRA promoters that put on another amazing season this year incorporating the pan American series. I was able to travel to amazing places like Costa Rica and Victoria and experience some amazing trails, swimming spots, and local communities. This year, I was able to finish in the top 10 in the series with a big shout out to my sponsor Van Dessel for the amazing Jersey Devil I was allowed to race this year.
Costa Rica Xterra - maybe the best set of promoters ever!
The Jersey Devil at Lunch Loops!
Jersey Devil in Victoria B.C. at the Dump!
Now onto Cross! Awesome weekend in Iowa City with a good mud race, some world cup pit time, and a super hard cx course day 3! Excited about starting this cross season out...and as always...having fun while doing it!
The goofball face:)
The pain face!
So it has been a while since I have posted anything but I thought I would update you on the racing progress. Last season I ended up entering the uci points again and finished the 2015 year with a top 35 US ranking. Van Dessel has continued to stand by my side and was nice enough to lend me a primo ballerina which I racing in the high country multiple times and finished with a 2nd at nationals in Utah in Feb. With continued support by Van Dessel, I was given a Jersey Devil which has become the newest tool in my belt, I was able to show her off in the pan am series in Xterra where I have a top 10 ranking coming into the championship in Ogden and have taken her to some amazing new venues such as Sea Otter, Victoria, and even was able to race in Costa Rica this year. Looking forward to continue flying the Belgium colors!
Cyclo cross nationals 2015
After a difficult season, I am proud to have presented Van Dessel at cyclocross nationals in the single speed division and also in the master's 35-40 division. I finished 4th in single speed and 2nd in masters on the podium both times. Excited to be presenting van dessel again this year on their amazing cyclocross bikes including the carbon ftb with disc brakes and sram 1x11 with amazing handling features.
Xterra vegas and alabama report
More hard work put in this spring finally free of rib fractures for 2-3 months have allowed me to train consistently again. After gaining my first elite off road USAT license, I finished 10 minutes faster at XTERRA Vegas west coast championship placing 14th in the pro women's field. Time was cut in the swim, bike, and run. I once again thank my sponsors Van Dessel, Kenda Tire, and Bontrager's women's saddle line for all their help besides all the amazing people including coaches, hosts, race promoters, and tolerant family members for all their help. I was also able to compete in Xterra Alabama or the south east champsionship race for the first time. Really tough race with wet conditions making for a slick, rocky, root filled mountain bike course besides my first speedsuit open water swim made for a long race but really happy to complete the race without any serious injury or mechanicals.
Thanks once again to my amazing swim coach Jim Murphy and the masters sessions at Carmody recreation center. I have been able to remove minutes from my 1500 m wetsuit time and complete my first speedsuit race. I still have a long way to go but try to give faith to all the nonswimmers out there that you can learn a new sport later in life and be successful at it with hard work. About 1.5 years of swimming experience and have my 1500m open water time below 30 minutes. Next goal is to catch the pro group:)
This one has been a little more difficult for me. I suffered a hamstring issue shortly after winning my first duathlon in Moab this spring. It has plagued me a little more then I would have liked to admit through my training and racing. With the help of my physical therapist, Marty Levine, at Push physical therapy and massage therapist Ed Westhead at Kneaded massage, I have noticed huge improvements and will start running with boulder coaching and Darren de Reuck this spring.
Due to difficult weather conditions from a beautiful but dry early spring and a later wet/ flood filled Colorado spring my mountain biking has been limited. I have continued to train by returning to road racing have raced my first criterium, time trial, and road race in years. I really have enjoyed returning to racing with my former road teammates but have been humbled with some loss of skills and fitness due to my triathlon training. However, due to my continued efforts I have noticed an increase in fitness and most recently cut 13 minutes of my pacing time from prior efforts.
So it is now the one year anniversary of when I started swimming and I was met with a challenge I never expected in Richmond. An open water swim that is actually more similar to an obstacle course and management of current's, islands, and eddies....all of which I never understood in the past. One year ago, I decided I was going to do an sprint XTERRA and because of that race I was going to learn how to swim. You can ask my swim coach Jim Murphy, I have come a longgggg.....wayyyyyy.....since then. I would like to say that I have gradually switched over from a doggie paddle type of stroke to more of a freestylish type of stroke. With the help of masters swimming sessions, my local swim coach, swim labs, and perhaps more stupidity then braveness....I have enjoyed this adventure of developing a feel for the water and picking up small pieces of knowledge immensely. Below I have attached my secret pirate map of the Richmond course including swimming against current, finding hidden sand bars, avoiding old trees and things that cut feet in the water, and of course the bull shark right under the rapids:).
But what I haven't talked about yet is possibly the best part of the whole XTERRA. The mountain bike course is phenomenal!!! As in more fun then most UCI mountain bike or cross courses I have ridden. Right in the middle of downtown Richmond with super fun rocky drops, rolling singletrack through the trees, short punchy climbs, and of course the crazy fans with beer bottles lined up along the course. I think this course was not at all what I expected but everything that I love:)
Last but definitely not least, was the trail run. The perfect end to the day with mostly flat sections following the edge of the river along RIchmond. On a hot June day in Richmond, the course went through shaded sections of trail, through creeks up to my waist, and along a riverbed that required rock jumping and even a ladder to climb out of. Definitely not my strongest run coming off an injury but after this taste of Richmond you can count me in for next year!
So the summer has finally arrived as well as the local XTERRA, mountain biking, running, and open water swimming season! I was a little bummed to have fallen in May while trail running and possibly broke or bruised another rib. I went through the same routine for about 2 weeks of problems breathing, sitting up, running, swimming, and biking. However, I had already planned to be in Richmond for father's day with my Dad coming from West Virginia to watch. So ready or not, the summer was here!
Finished off my Richmond prep with my first sprint triathlon in boulder! 5th overall and won my age group. First time in a while that I was back on the road bike too. Always amazed how I can manage to make my t2 last longer then my t1. This time I was trying to be super stealthy and get into my shoes while they were on my bike....and proceeded to drop them all over the road for at least a mile. Was super stoked to have my Van Dessel tri suit and be able to represent a company I love and really am proud of supporting! Thank you Van Dessel and Edwin Bull!
It has taken me way too many years to understand the recovery is where we get faster. This year with 2 different instances of cracked/bruised ribs and chest contusions has taught me that pushing the redline always comes at a price especially with my most recent trail running injury. This is year is slightly different since I am self-coached and need to re-evaluate on a daily basis the balance of stress and recovery I have placed on my body.
The other important part of this post is the story. About 2 years ago I was racing in a local cross race with my friend Amy Dombroski. She was using gift certificates from her massage therapist, Ed Westhead as prizes for the race. I remember an amazing race where I fought really hard with a then Chloe Forsman and even made Amy look over her shoulder in one switchback:) Chloe really brought out all the fight that I had that day and I finished with some great memories and a great effort under my belt...besides some new friends:) As we know, Amy was hit and killed by a truck while training in Belgium last September and many of us in the cross world and her world will remember her forever. I was actually hit by a car about 6 days before Amy was when commuting to work and the news of her death was so unsettling to me based upon my recent experience that I can soundly say it changed the way I looked at racing, life, and everything important to me. I still believe in a way she is with us, looking over our shoulder on training rides and races...telling us to go harder and dig deeper and making us remember why we do the things that we do.
Ed was touched by Amy like so many of us were and I think when I emailed him about a month ago asking if I could use the gift certificate, it brought back some memories of an amazing girl and racer with a huge heart. Since then Ed has been working with me through massage on ways to reduce injury and improve recovery. I have noticed my ITB is no longer as painful or tight as it normally is this time of year and that my running form has improved since am not carrying all the stiffness and soreness around from my regular training load. Before I write more all I can say is thank you Amy and thank you Ed. Both amazing people that I am so happy I have gotten to know.