Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What's coming up?

The past few months between when the snow melted and now has really flown by incredibly quickly. It seems like just the other day Dan and I were in Emporia with a bunch of our friends preparing to ride 200 miles of gravel. Now it's 60 degrees near the end of November and I'm finding myself wistfully gazing at photos of friends riding fat bikes in snow out West on social media. I'm going to go out to ride today and I'll enjoy the sunshine, but I'm antsy for snow!

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Where did the summer go?!

I set myself a timeline with Dirty Kanza - as soon as my toenails returned to normal: I'd write about it. They're still getting there, but they're close enough.

Back in October the purple/green toenail on my big toe finally chipped off. I had gotten blisters under my toenails out in Kansas because my feet had swollen in the heat and I wasn't expecting it. I just kept pedaling despite the discomfort in my shoes. The funny thing is that I've experienced discomfort like that before (thanks, roller derby) and mentally prepared myself for the loss of a toenail. I didn't realize it'd affect 3 of my toenails and that it would take nearly half a year for my feet to go back to normal. Whoops!

There was a theme with not writing a post about my first Dirty Kanza. I couldn't sit down on a computer to save my life because we were out having fun. At the shop, I found myself on the computer answering emails, putting in orders, and ringing customers up. I'd get home and it'd be nice out and it'd be so hard to sit down and to open up the laptop. I stared at a screen all day - shouldn't I go play outside? That's important, isn't it? The worst *best* thing that Dan has rubbed off on me is to live in the present and to put the phone away. It felt like DK had just happened and I was still catching up on sleep. Put the cell phone away and get your hands in the dirt. Ride the bike. Take the dog out. Figure out that the new dog likes swimming. Go sleep out in the woods. Squeeze as much as you can in between working and sleep and heading back in to work again. We talk about bikes all day long and then go home and talk more bikes. Dirty Kanza was amazing and incredible and a really great experience. Why sit down when you can ride, swim, or play? The funny thing is that once summer is over, Fall is beautiful and everything gets reinvented and rides to the beach or to the woods are even more beautiful. Winter is incredible, too and I'm really looking forward to this winter. Whoops! Am I already making plans for Dirty Kanza next year? Did I already register for the Margi Gesick 100?

Although my first DK will be held safely and close to my heart, I really want to take a moment to recognize the strong women that I rode with out there for the most part of 200 miles. The #200women200miles campaign really resonated with me and I was really proud to be part of it. The race itself became less of a race and more of a movement, it was about solidarity and being a part of something and taking up space and being there with so many other women who had found themselves at the start line through different experiences and in different parts of their lives. Endurance events build bonds and I've met some incredible human beings at races that take longer than 8 hours. DK took me over 16 hours and I'll forever (albeit selfishly) keep those 16+ hours worth of memories in my head and I'll pull them out when I need a pick-me-up.

It really meant a lot to cross the finish line with my 45nrth teammate, Chelsea Strate. We spent all spring training in our hometowns and texting about DK. We compared how long it took for us to race our bikes 100 miles on gravel at races to try to gauge how fast we would do 200 miles. We chatted about nutrition and our lives and I picked up the same handlebar bag that she used in the Almanzo 100, because it could hold my snacks and because I trust the gear that receives the stamp of her approval. We asked questions like, "Will we race together? What if I'm slowing you down? What if you have a mechanical?" and "What are you going to wear?" We had no idea what to expect, both of us attempting DK for the first time, and the experience was definitely richer spending so much time with her, getting to know her better, and being encouraged to keep going when things got a little dark for me. It was great riding in short sleeves and shorts with her, we typically only see each other in the winter! Turns out I melt in the heat, a lot. She was patient and I couldn't have finished without her.

It also meant a lot to have found Andrea Cohen out in the great unknown and to have reeled in the second check point with her. Then we kept reeling in the miles until we crossed the finish line. It was Andrea's 1,000th Dirty Kanza mile and she received a special chalice for finishing 5 DKs. I'm inspired by her and want to complete a race 5 times. That's a lot of years of racing and miles under her belt, and the fact that she's a few years younger than me definitely puts a pep in my step and makes me want to push myself harder. For a lot of the miles beyond the first 100 I found myself feeling nauseous and over-heating, and Andrea kept it fun and stopped with us when I needed to hurl. The spanse of gravel between the second and third checkpoint was really hard for me and I sent Andrea and Chelsea on without me so I could slow it down and get my body back to functioning normal. Seeing Andrea and Chelsea at the third checkpoint brought tears to my eyes. I was so happy to see my friends again and so happy to finish with them. It was some good shit for my soul, believe me!

I read somewhere once that our brains distort memories each time we recall them. The more you think about a favorite memory, the less clear it becomes. I don't know if that's true or not but I can't bring myself to write about experiences this summer because I'm still holding on to them. They mean a lot to me and crossing the finish line with Andrea and Chelsea was really magical. To be at Dirty Kanza with 200 other women, reeling in the last mile with two women that I really admire, being with Chelsea for her first DK finish and being with Andrea for her 1,000th DK mile, meeting our friends at the finish line and watching strangers hug with smiles on their faces... It was really, really special. I'm definitely planning on more long-distance gravel events in hopes of earning some of those feelings again.

What's on the docket?
I'm really, really excited to have joined Salsa's team of riders! The first brand new bicycle I've ever gotten from a legit bike shop just so happened to be a Salsa Vaya - aka the little buffalo. I bought her from the shop a few months after I had begun working there. She's since moved homes and keeps a former roller derby teammate company, but she was brilliant and amazing and comfortable and fun. We rode around a few Great Lakes together and the little buffalo was steady and reliable. It makes me really happy when I see her around. I'm over the moon excited to be representing a brand that encourages adventure and exploration.

Little Buffalo near Niagara Falls. 
The El Mar at Merrell Trail. I NEED another single speed ASAP.

Baby's first fat bike - My 1st Mukluk at the Lowell 50

Faygo Soda - my Fargo on the way to a campground after work.

Miami Vice made it into our engagement photos. RIP Ninja, the best doggo ever.

The day I forgot a helmet at Merrell trail so I bought one across the street at Meijer. The Fish is fun!

NEW thanks to Salsa - the Bowling Ball! This baby and I are going to spend a lot of time together this winter!
Also NEW thanks to Salsa - the Snack Machine 2.0. Making me test more of my limits outside of the winter season. <3

2018 Adventures:
Winter: JP's Fat Pursuit 200 mile. Arrowhead 135 Unsupported. Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 mile.

The rest of the year: Landrun 100, Michigan's Coast to Coast 200+ mile, Barry Roubaix 100 mile Psycho-Killer, Dirty Kanza, Marji Gesick. Woof.

 Also hoping to bike-pack with Dan and Oso as much as I can. Racing rules, but sometimes the best adventures are taken more slowly. Definitely stoked for the next year!

more of this, please.

I definitely couldn't plan for all these miles without Dan, Grand Rapids Bicycle Company, 45NRTH, Velocity USA wheels, NiteRider Technical Lighting Solutions, Train Out Pain fixing me when I get my body out of whack, and without Salsa's support. I'm biting off a little more than I can chew but with all of the right gear I'm at least confident I'll be warm and on rad bikes. ;)