Sunday, August 14, 2016

Maah Daah Hey 2016

I feel like I'm in a time warp these days. The last year has gone by so fast and I'm finding it hard to believe that I've been awake for it. For instance, I'm not sure how the MDH 100 snuck up so quickly, but it seems like last year's edition was actually last month.

Now, I'm usually really good about preparing and showing up to the start line completely ready to go, but since time has gone by so fast, I was doubting my preparation for being in the best possible shape - especially for a 100 miler like this one. Granted, there are just a few new things going on in my life! I've been racing cross country races just fine, even without my usual volume of training (and I contribute that to years of long rides paying me back a little...), but racing a 100 miles is a whole different ball game.

Going into the race, I knew I wasn't in 'course record' form, so I decided I'd do something I have been unable to do in all my bike racing years, and that was to start slow. It doesn't seem like rocket science to most people as starting slow helps save your bullets for the end, but I've always been a fast starter and honestly, you're rarely if ever as fast at the end than you are in the beginning so I like to take advantage of that by building a nice fast base in the first part of the race. And generally, it's worked out. A little side note: I actually broke a toe by stubbing it on my boys' pack and play the morning before the race. Luckily, it was one of the smaller toes!

As always my incredible family was there for support and that entailed waking up at 3AM to make it to the start of the race. I'm humbled and always motivated by the support they give me and my cousin Ryan has become the main force in my support for some of the biggest races I do. In the car ride to the start, he reminded me that, "Finishing is the first goal. Anything beyond that is extra." Those words are very true for anyone who races the MDH 100. Whether a seasoned pro going for a record time, or a first timer attempting this beast.

A quick rundown of the plan for the day:

- Start slow.
- Eat a delicious rice cake every hour and a half that my wife made the night before.
- Drink so much fluid that you're forcing it down. (this is due to the heat that is generally high during the later part of the race.
- Drink some more.
- Eat any extra food that I can in between the rice cakes. (usually some gummies, etc)
- Drink a mountain dew between each aid station (I had a bottle on my bike that had soda in it)
- Don't forget to pace yourself.
- Finish

Everything went according to plan. I definitely started slow and was 15 minutes behind my time from last year to the first aid station. Luckily, I didn't stress at all about that. In fact, I was excited to see how this experiment would play out. I kept pacing the next 50 miles and then I thought about upping the pace on the last 25 mile section. There were times it worked and times my body said, "Nope." At the end I actually felt better than I ever have at the finish line, but I also was careful not to kill myself to break a record during the race. Every time I started to tighten the screws, I could feel my body push back a little so I played it safe. I feel like I still came in with a good time, but I believe I can better my time from two years ago. Maybe next year? It's a tough expectation because so many things have to go right out there. From the weather, to luck with mechanicals, to getting nutrition right, to having the legs on the given day. However, those things do align and you just have to take advantage when they do.

Lastly, I want to say thanks to everyone who was involved with the race. From Nick and Lindsey (who started this adventure), to the volunteers, to the other racers who always said encouraging things to me out there, thank you so much. It's a great sport we're involved in, and the people are the ones responsible for that.

And thanks Uncle Pat for all the great photos!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Life at 10,000ft. Again.

It seems time has been pretty limited lately. That’s what happens I guess when you have a career, spend time and energy as a bike racer, remodel a house, and become a father. These are all things that I feel very lucky about, so the time constriction isn’t really bothersome, but it’s just there. However, since this is about bike racing, I’ll keep it at that.

Rachel and I find ourselves in Breckenridge for a few weeks again this summer as my producing partner and I continue the post-production work on our films.

Admittedly, I'm a little bummed that I don't have hours upon hours to explore trails and train around here, but I have been doing my share and I've been able to race a little bit here and there.

I’ve had some time over the winter to reflect on the previous season and think about what I want to do and change the next time around. I left off last time just shy of the solo 24 hour worlds, which took place in Northern CA in October. And as I’ve mentioned before, there are only a handful of things I want to do in cycling before I call the racing side of it off. One of those is this 24 hour win. It is SO much easier said than done, but I wouldn’t take so much time to train and prepare and sacrifice time with friends and family if I didn’t think it was possible - and I knew I was in good enough condition to show up and give it a proper shot last year. I felt like I was in the best shape I could be in and coming off of a few good wins I was confidant in my preparation.

But, this is bike racing and best laid plans always become best suggestions. I rolled out to CA with one of the staples in my cycling life, Nick Howe. He was there for my first worlds attempt in 2006 and has been steadfast in supporting me, calling me out when I’m not prepared enough, and just an all around motivator when I’m in need most. Meeting me out there were my aunt and uncle Sandy and Pat, cousin Tony, and long time training partner, Josh Bezecny. Also ‘meeting’ me out there were race favorites of all sorts - Tinker Juarez, Josh Tostado, 6 time world champ Jason English, and a handful of other really fast guys from around the world.

The race started as usual and I like to be in the front. In retrospect, I maybe rode too hard in the beginning, but it’s just my style of racing and when you’re riding with one of your olympic heroes, (Tinker) you tend to push just a bit harder! I managed to have a pretty good race, but the wheels came off for me just a little in the middle of the night and I faded to 6th place by the race’s end. And with that, a fun and successful 2015 was in the books!

Each year that passes, I find myself more appreciative of teams and sponsors. There was a time where I didn't necessarily expect to be on a team and have great sponsors, but it became the norm. Now, I’m always aware of the fact I need to be working for it. We are mountain bike racers, therefore we do not get road racer salaries, but what we do get in terms of support/product/money is all gravy because we get to do what we love, in cool places, with cool people. So when I was invited back to the Honey Stinger/Bontrager Team for 2016 I was excited as usual!


I’ve had some pretty big life changes in the last few months, so my season looks a bit different than usual.

My motivation to train and be prepared has never wavered and even though time management has become essential over the last couple years, it has now become essential to everything. I’m finding myself training indoors when it’s beautiful outside so I can be close to the house, yet get quality miles in. I’m also realistic at my level of form and I know I’m behind. For me, that’s a little harder to swallow as I’m a person who wants to be in the best shape possible almost year round. However, a lot of that can be mental as the few races I have done, I feel pretty good about. I ended up 2nd at Winter Park with a really fast field and I won a Breckenridge mid-week race last week - so you take it as it comes, I suppose. There have been a few disappointments - like having to skip the Tatanka 100 and the Firecracker 50, but there’s always next season.

Next up is the MDH 100 - a staple for me as it’s a race that means so much in terms of the location, (near my parents!), the people involved in making it happen, and the fact that the race is so challenging. I’m not sure I’m in the best form, but it will be another adventure that I’m looking forward to.

As far as the next 24 hour race for me, that would be the worlds in Italy 2017. Rachel and I lived in Nice, France - about an hour and a half from where the race will be - so we are very excited to make the trip back over there next June. Lots of prep time between now and then…

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Life at 10,000 Feet

You never really know how great your stuff is until you're not around it for a while. Not that I'm complaining... Living in Breckenridge, CO for the summer has been incredible. The lifestyle, the training, and the creative cocoon have paid dividends - without a doubt. Oh, and the breakfast burritos from Cuppa Joe get my vote for 'best ever'. Plus, they're great recovery after a jaunt up and over Wheeler Pass.

I have a couple more weeks in Breck, then home, and then I make a huge change and head to Austin, TX for a while in October. All this 'should' equate to finishing a film series we've been working on for 3 years. And if I'm fortunate enough, maybe a solo 24 hour world championship, too!

I'd have to say that if my season ended today, I'd be happy and satisfied with how it all went. The results, experiences, and time spent with friends was all part of a great summer. However, the season doesn't end today and I'll have a few more opportunities to squeeze in some last races including the solo 24 hour world champs in CA. (and long rides through aspen groves during the brightly colored fall season)

The run up to the solo 24 hour race has been on track. I've had some great races over the last couple months and one of the coolest wins was the Winter Park king of the rockies. This race, to me, is a pretty legendary one as the course has been the same for the last several years and has hosted the likes of (wait for it...) Lance Armstrong back in his *heyday. (he crashed and didn't have a lot of success for those wondering)

Well, I certainly had to work for the win as Cody Waite has been crushing everyone lately and was battling me the whole way through the race. At the end, the gaps weren't huge and my teammate Josh came in third for a super solid day. This was one that I was really hoping to do well at and it's always a special race. The second time I won it it was on my great grandmother's 100th birthday.

I'm fresh off of the Dakota Five O - another one of the great bike races in America. I've tried to describe this race to people, but in all reality you just have to be there to get it. Some of the coolest people ever put the race on and there's a PBR and bacon aid station in the race. (always a good indicator of a great event) This was another great battle and I fought as hard as I could with Corey Stelljes, but he was just too fast on the day. I knew that he'd be super fast since last year he was WAY out in the lead before taking a wrong turn on the course. I knew I had to be on good form if I wanted to race with him and I felt I had the legs. (mainly due to Rob's Norma Tech recovery boots - again!) You can't be disappointed when you give it your all and end up 2nd. Plus, it couldn't happen to a cooler guy. Chapeau Corey - well done! Oh - and the after party is incredible. Free beer, of which I had two, and it was one too many...

Again, my family showed up in full force to cheer and support us. Handsome Rob Batey and teammate Josh Bezecny made the trip extra fun and they were adopted by the family support crew. I truly have the best family! (I'm biased, of course) They take time off to head to Spearfish, chase us around all day, make sure and cheer for every single rider using an arsenal of cowbells and whistles. I felt like I was in a world cup race on one of the climbs when I heard my wife, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins yelling and cheering and making an awesome amount of racket. That'll make ya fight a bit harder... (especially when the official team vehicles are out there - thanks Ryan, Pat, Sandy, Kelly, Sandy, mom, Gary, Ginger, Alexis, Eric, Hayley, Kayla, grandma, grandpa!)

With CA on the horizon, I'm feeling good. I'll be hitting the Crested Butte 100 in prep for worlds and then I'm taking time to do some fall riding and hopefully finish our films... We did celebrate a milestone in our process by hiking to the top of Peak 8 with Waylon Jenning's platinum record for 'Wanted! The Outlaws'. (for those of you who don't know, that's the first ever platinum record for a country album) Waylon's wife, Jessi, came to visit us and she couldn't be a sweeter woman. We felt honored to take it up to 13,000ft for her and their son, Shooter. Even if my legs were destroyed from the walk down...

And as always, I really do owe a huge thanks to the team. Len, Jon, and the entire crew at Honey Stinger, my friends at Trek and Bontrager, and everyone involved - it's really fun to wear the logos for you guys, but it's even more fun to hang out and ride with you all...

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Bug or the Windshield

It's kind of the same old story. Some days you're the bug, and some days you're the windshield. That doesn't change - even with years of experience.

I have put forth some lofty goals when it comes to cycling and not all of those goals are strictly to win races. Make no mistake, a lot of those are, but I'm also realistic. I've always had the goal to be appreciative of the people around me, my fellow racers, friends, and family. It's a selfish sport and requires a lot of attention on yourself and demands a lot from the people mentioned above. Another goal is to work towards a balance in life. That's a moving target and some wiggle room must be built in. Free weekends and social activities are certainly sparse during the bike racing season and I often ask myself, 'Is it really worth it?'

My answer to that is yes. That doesn't come as quickly as some would think, but what this lifestyle has given me has no accurate measurement for the quality of life it has provided. A good friend of mine, Nick Ybarra, once said, "If you have to ask, 'Why do something like this?', then you wouldn't understand my answer." I think that rings true. (even though he was referring to a 150 mile jaunt across the Badlands...) I'll plug it in to being a pro mountain bike field.

This season has been, like most others, a great and challenging one. From food poisoning a day before the Tatanka 100 in South Dakota, to winning the Maah Daah Hey 100 in scorching heat - and everything in between - it's been an adventure. Through all of it, my friends, family, and wife have been there the whole time in full support mode, caring less whether I win or not. And more than anything - worrying that I stay safe. Nothing can come close to that feeling of appreciation.

It was Rachel and my good friend Rob Batey who had to deal with me being stubborn about racing in South Dakota after throwing up all day before the Tatanka 100. (as well as at the racer's meeting)

A mutual agreement with Rach after my promise to 'make good decisions' saw me toeing the line in front of Mount Rushmore on race morning. My cousin Ryan, Sara and their girls came to SD to support as well and it was extra motivation to get on the horse and do the best I could. All was spectacular until about halfway into the race when someone hit the light switch and it was game over for me. I had absolutely nothing left to give after that. I pulled the plug, citing my promise earlier that morning and all was good. I guess you can't race 90 miles on 6 saltines and two bottles of ensure during the 24 hours leading up to it.

I bounced back and had a great race in Winter Park at the Colorado Freeride Festival. Crazy good talent and big 'Happy Gilmore' style checks made that race one to remember. It was also a great confidence booster going into one of the hardest races of the year, (in my opinion) the Maah Daah Hey 100.

The MDH 100 is a puzzle. It took me 2 years of trying to figure it out before I finally cracked it on my 3rd try. And even then, I can't exactly say how to solve it. Everything needs to be in it's right place for the day to go well. Physically, mentally, mechanically... it all needs to be in place. (especially the 'mentally' part)

The course was perfect this year and I had the legs and mind to try and pull off an 8:30 race time. There was also a helicopter filming the race and I felt like I was in the Tour de France. This gave me such great motivation to keep hammering. However, the sizzling temps in the Badlands zapped my vigor and altered my plan. I was eating PB&Js, drinking some ensure and having some sweet treats like Honey Stinger chews during the race, while drinking a ton of water. This was a great plan, but the heat took over around mile 70. It's like I was a miniature in a doll house where a child decided to grab a hair dryer, put it on 'super hot' mode, and blast me in the face for a few hours. It got hot. Real hot. I could barely make it to aid 3 and when I finally did, I knew my race was over - uness I could bring my body temp down. I had my cousin, my aunts and uncles, and my mom all dousing me with ice cold water and piling ice cubes down my jersey for about 5 minutes. I felt like a new man. That was THE key moment of my day.

I sped out of aid 3 in pursuit of the finish. I knew at this point that going under 9 hours wasn't likely due to the time I bled in the last 6 or 7 miles. It surely wasn't going to happen after my body temp rose again and I had to scrap my way to the finish. I did make it, but no new record was set. However, I'm very happy with how it all turned out and my family certainly saved the day. Everyone out there on that trail that day had to deal with the same thing and I'm proud of everyone who finished - AND everyone who made a smart decision to pull the plug and save themselves some bodily harm. I always try to remind people that it's not only you who has to deal with your broken self - it's your family and friends, too!

Back here in CO, (I'm writing this from a temporary studio in Breckenridge where we are editing our film, 'They Called Us Outlaws') I'm recovering from a great weekend of racing in Steamboat Springs where my team, Honey Stinger, puts on the Steamboat Stinger. This is absolutely one of the premiere events in the US, hands down. The level of competition here is very high and the organization of the event is unparalleled. There's even a rowdy aid station at the top of one of the final climbs where you are offered whiskey, bacon, PBR, shots, no water, and a few slaps on the ass. (I still have a hand print on mine...) I mustered up enough strength to do a wheelie through the PBR can 'beerymid' they set up.

To top it off, Larry Grossman, (the voice of CO cycling) was there calling the action. He makes us all feel like we're stars. Can't thank you enough, sir. Although I had great climbing legs, a crash early on totally got in my head and I fell apart on the descents. I bled minutes on the downhills. I wasn't pumped about that, but I was happy to be out there and seeing Rachel halfway through the race and hearing her yell for me was certainly a highlight. I'm lucky she's been patient and graceful with me as I ride circles in the dirt while wearing these tight clothes.

Time to get back to work here and plan some high country adventures for the week.

Only a few more races to go this season. Can't thank my family and friends enough for the encouraging words and support. The Team Kelly vehicles at the Maah Daah Hey were super pro!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Summer is coming

For as many years as I've been racing bikes, I've learned that I just have to face the fact that I struggle in the first few races of the season. It just hurts out there. And even though I work very hard in the off season and feel strong as I start racing, the intensity of a race is just a huge wake-up call. This year was no exception and I actually struggled to even finish the 50mi Ridgeline race. It was brutal.

There was some redemption a couple weeks later as I lined up at the Desert RATS Classic out in Fruita, CO. The weather has been so crazy here in CO and pretty much every race has been postponed due to rain, but after neurotically checking about 5 different weather sites for 2 days straight, this was the only event with a possibility to even happen. And after being postponed for one day, it was on. (Even though we rode for 4 hours the day before, we were still excited to clean the bikes and race for 100k the next day!)

Although there wasn't a big field of pros out there it was a great event on some great technical terrain. I really prefer the more rugged trails out in Fruita so this was an ideal race for me as the organizers added in the Zion Curtain trail, which has some tough climbing and descending - as well as some great views!

I ended up taking the win out there, but the best part of the weekend was just being able to spend some time with a good friend, get some additional training in, and completely steal the 'boots' from Rob so my legs were nice and recovered.

As the heart of the season comes into view, I couldn't be more motivated. I have a new focus added to this season in the form of the NUE Series, which will only help in my quest to have a good day at the solo 24 hour worlds in CA in Oct. I'm also happy to say that - for the first time in several years - I can actually plan out the summer since I won't be traveling for 3 months outside of racing. I love what I do as a filmmaker as much as I love being an athlete, but the work travel has really effected me and I'm just looking forward to having a relatively normal life for a few months! I'm pretty disciplined when I travel, but the stress of trying to figure out a workout that will actually help in my training gets extremely challenging. There's just a lot that comes into play there and I'm happy to be able to be in the mountains for an extended time.

Well, it's time to go clean the muddy clothes and bike. However, before we know it Colorado will be hot and dry and we'll all be reminiscing about the time when we had three weeks of rain and the vegetation was a rich green...