Zen On Dirt

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CDT Recovery and a Reflection

Yesterday was October 29th. It was the first time since May 12 when we departed on the CDT that I felt like I had excess energy to burn. Scott and I had gone out for a respectable 45 minute run in the morning, and late afternoon, I found myself bouncing around the house, getting up to go bother Scott in his man-cave at regular intervals.

Sorry, I’ll go ride, was all I could muster after I realized that I was probably making a nuisance of myself.

I sort of feel like I can hit the stop button on the recovery clock. From September 13 to October 29th, I suffered. 6 weeks of recovery and tiredness and post-trip blues and feeling useless and driving Scott crazy.

Up until now, I’ve been a little down on the whole CDT experience, not wanting to write up any thoughts on it because all I could muster was, “Hard. It was so hard.” I feel like I finally found my rosy glasses and can look back at the trip as more than just 120+ days of pushing my bike.

Scott’s written all sorts of reflections, statistics, and advice. He’s written a 2,000 word summary which I’m guessing will get posted around for people who don’t want to read 125 blog posts about the trip. I’ve found myself wanting nothing to do with it. We’ve discussed the idea of putting together a guide for the trail and in the past six weeks, whenever the subject has come up, I’ve always come back with ‘It was your trip. I don’t even know how to write a guide for it.’

It really was Scott’s trip in a lot of ways. He’s been dreaming of doing it for several years. He was the one who brought it up last summer. He did all the research. He did all the talking to mapping people. He calculated milages, elevation gains. He spent hours upon hours upon hours researching.

Yay! I got us to Durango!

I’m much more of a, ‘Look! Squiggle line on the map! Let’s go there. Something’s going to happen.’

I can say, with 100% certainty, that we wouldn’t have finished the CDT without the level of research Scott did. He controlled for every variable that he could, and we (and by we, I mean I) still fell to pieces 1,000 miles from the end. I just think that if we’d had more navigation errors or poor Wilderness detours, the breakdown could have come, oh, lets say, mid-Colorado. And if I’d had had my Slag-a-meltdown in Colorado, I can say with complete certainty we wouldn’t have made it to Waterton.

I’ve always relied on GPS lines to follow to the point that I never even loaded base maps on my GPS for racing under the guise of ‘I don’t want to know what’s coming’ or ‘I don’t want to know my escape options when things get tough.’


Watching Scott, forehead wrinkled, eyes bugged out, in front of the laptop at every town stop trying to figure out what was coming next gave me a real appreciation into what goes into designing long routes. It’s not just looking at a map and waving a finger.

I did nothing. I often joked that I just came along to provide witty conversation and to carry the tarp (a duty I gave up in southern Colorado and never resumed even though I swore I’d carry it through Wyoming as well).

For the past six weeks, it’s felt like it really wasn’t my trip at all. That I could have been replaced by anyone who could take 4 months off of work and push, I mean, pedal a bike.

But now, with a little bit of hindsight, I like to think back to a conversation we had rolling into Ovando. ‘Who else could you have put up with in such close proximity for so long?’ We listed all of our regular riding partners and decided that while we love riding with every one of them, none would we want to spend 4 months within sight of.

Seriously, think about it. We weren’t more than 100 yards apart from each other for 4 months. 4 months. That’s a third of a year.

So maybe that’s what I contributed to the trip. Not only was I a partner who could pedal a bike, and occasionally push a bike without complaining (I could push a bike while complaining all day long), but I didn’t drive Scott bat-shit crazy. Most of the time.


But I would like to take some ownership of the trip, more so than just choosing the places we ate in each town and insisting that we visit as many hot springs as possible.

Scott’s pretty much dumped the idea of a guidebook project in my lap. I’ve spent the past six weeks grumbling about it. Who, possibly, would want to do what we did? It was a terrible idea.

But I feel like finally, I can see it as a terribly good idea. Hard? Yes. Worth convincing others to follow in our steps? Scott somehow gets 50+ people to ride Oracle Ridge during the AZTR, so maybe even bad ideas are worth propagating.

Down the rabbit hole we go…


Dreaming while crippled

Last Friday we went on a run up on Mt. Lemmon. It was mostly inspired by it being too hot in town, and I think we were both over sitting in front of computers, and when the drive to the top of Lemmon, plus the hour we planned on spending lounging after our run was factored in, it made for an extended Friday Afternoon Adventure Club expedition.

We’ve slowly been ramping up our runs, and we’d done several near 1-hour runs out on Starr Pass, so we figured that an hour on Lemmon would be a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Except we, as novice runners, haven’t really figured out the finer points of running. Like not starting with a steep downhill. Or how to actually run downhill. Or, if the most elevation you’ve gained/lost in a run is 500 feet, it’s probably not a good idea to do a run that drops 1,000 feet with very little reprieve.

So we ran. Any by the time we got back to the car, we both agreed, That’s going to leave a mark. But maybe not that bad of a mark.


Long story short, I was hobbled for four days. My quads felt like I’d just descended into the Grand Canyon with a bike on my back. So I’ve had some time to kill because instead of getting up and moving around and futzing with stuff like I normally do when I’m bored, I’ve tried to stay sitting as much as possible. While googling “How to run downhill” I came across Geoff Roes‘ blog entry over at iRunFar.com where he talks about the shelf life of ultra runners, speculating on whether most really only have 4-5 good years of elite level competition in them before bodies break down, or if it’s just that fast most ultra runners don’t start running until their 30’s, and thus, reach an age ceiling.

But it got me thinking about the shelf life idea.

Geoff experienced a total body shut-down after 5 years of hard running that makes my body shutdown after 4 years of bikepacking seem like a common cold. I think we’re both left wondering that if we’d listened a little better to our bodies, if we could have avoided it. It seems like we both ignored our bodies whispering that something was wrong, we ignored the shouts, and finally had to face the ‘Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.’

Maybe I reached my shelf-life for ultra racing.

My dreams of being an ultra runner came crashing down. (insert sarcasm)

But seriously, it got me thinking, What if my body will never be up for doing something retarded like a 100 mile foot race?

And then I started laughing.


Today is the following Wednesday (five days after last Friday), and for the first time since Lemmon, I was able to walk without hobbling. We even went for a little A-Mountain run this morning without dying.

I think I need to worry about not being a cripple after a 6 mile run before I can even think about physical limitations of my body in terms of running. But it sure is fun to dream.

Focus on the present, young grasshopper.


Sharing is caring

I’ve been having a conversation with myself recently centered around the question of ‘What would you do if no one was watching?’

Obviously, social media and blogs can have a profound effect on lives and what people choose to do. I’ve been maintaining one blog or another for nearly a decade now and The FaceBook tells me that I also joined in 2004, though it doesn’t seem like I actually did anything with it until several years later. That’s a decade of public broadcasting of my activities, censored, of course, knowing that my parents read it, and really, they don’t have to know some of the situations I’ve gotten myself into over the years.


Of course, we could argue the benefits and detriments of social media until Scott learns to like beer (never), but I’ve definitely used it as inspiration to do some of the things I do.

I like doing cool shit and then telling a story about it.

I like it when other people do cool shit and then come back and write about it and make me want to go do cool shit.

Of course, the negative side of this is that there’s a line of doing things because we want to and doing it because we want to go home and have a story to tell.

So I’ve spent some time thinking, ‘If I took an Internet hiatus and stopped writing, what would I do?’


This, of course, was spawned from having a million ideas of what I want to do in the next 12 months and having no clear frontrunner.

But after some pondering, the question sort of reframed itself: What would you do if you didn’t care if you failed?

Nobody likes to fail in the public eye.

Enter running. Scott was the instigator of this one because, apparently, he doesn’t really feel like riding his bike all that much these days either.

I suck at running. The fastest mile I’ve ever run is 8:15 in highschool. I thought I was pretty quick. But all in all, I’m slow, I’m uncoordinated, I dawdle when I walk, and I trip all over myself, especially downhill. Dying moose. I’d say I resemble a dying moose.

But the beauty of it is, I’m fully okay with sucking. I don’t care if people look at me and say, ‘Ooh, she should probably stop because that just looks painful and she’s going to knock all her teeth out when she trips over that rock.’ There is absolutely no ego attachment to my running shoes.


And right now, for me, that’s awesome because I don’t feel like any one expects anything from me in the form of a good adventure and a good story. I don’t expect anything from me. I don’t need to go ride the CDT to feel like I did something cool, going out and running 3 miles on the backyard trails at under a 10 min/mile pace was HUGE!

So I think I’m going to run for a while. Take some pictures. And hopefully be able to tell some good stories. Because I like sharing. And I think running could take me to some really cool places where I have no desire to drag my bike to.

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Full circle

We got back to Tucson two nights ago. We drove from Thunder Mountain, down through Kanab, stopped at Jacob’s Lake for cookies, through the Navajo Nation, by Lee’s Ferry, into Flagstaff to get gas where we always do, by the Black Canyon Trail, through the mess of Phoenix traffic, and then the long 92 miles from Phoenix to Tucson. The same drive we’ve done seemingly countless times.

It seemed as if though no time had passed since we’d been here last, and at the same time, an eternity.

We got back in time to pick up the the van and our computers from Lee. We unpacked a pile of boxes from the back shed. We said Hi to Rufus the stray cat who came by to see if we had any treats for him. Our house still had our furniture in it, as it had been rented out as semi-furnished. Cups and plates had been moved around, but the bed, the table, the chairs, were all still in the same spots

Talk about a time-warp!

It’s been nearly a month since we got off the trail. We’re still tired, to say the least. I had this hope that we’d be able to ride the CDT “sustainably” and come back without being wasted…but I’m not sure if it’s possible to ride the entire trail in a season while still getting the rest needed to not dig a deep hole of fatigue.

Regardless of fatigue, we’ve done our best to live it up on this life off the trail.


Our first stop was Boulder to pick up my car and visit my family. Unfortunately, the trip also came with getting my car road-worthy again, which meant new tires, a new belt of some sort, and a new axle seal. This led to a drastic decrease in my bank account and many hours spent in a hip Boulder coffee shop working/people watching while the car was getting worked on. For how much I drive that car on roadtrips and how little money I’ve had to put into it over the years, I can’t get too upset with spending a month and a half of CDT living costs on getting it safe and functional. It does put into perspective how much less life on the trail costs than day-to-day living. $5 coffee drinks? Really? I’m so out of touch and not hip.


Family time was good. Both brothers were around for a bit. Dog walks were the top goal each morning. But it was good to skip town and we headed up to Winter Park for what we thought would be a night. We got in late and decided to stay two nights. Two nights turned into four as we decided that we’d rather lounge around in my parents’ condo instead of scoping out a new CDT-bike route from Rabbit Ears Pass down to Steamboat. The Lazies set in and a very minimal amount of riding happened.


We then hightailed it across the state and into Utah to see Scott’s family. We got delayed by two homecoming parades in Vernal and Craig. Who knew highschool football was so big…We went straight to a family dinner with eight adults and five kids. Now that…that was a shock to the system that is still pretty accustomed to the quiet of the trail.


We did some riding with Scott’s dad and older brother.


We rode with Phong, an old roommate of Scott’s.


We worked. Ate at Red Iguana and the Park Cafe (best potatoes you’ll eat anywhere). We went to Temple Square for my liberal education.


We went up to Logan for a short ride with Alexis and Denny and ate tacos for dinner AND for breakfast.


We headed south with enough time to stop at Thunder Mountain for an afternoon ride.


A tailwind swept us up the bike path, decent legs got us up the steepies. Then we floated down through trails that make you wonder if you’re still on earth.


Camping was sub-optimal. I think we’re over camping for a while.


Then the drive home. Full circle. Back to where we started.


Now what?


Serious question. Stop laughing.


My friends do awesome stuff

I’m a lucky girl.

Here’s why.

I get to be surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do.

I’m a big preacher of “Do what you love” but as someone who has a love that isn’t exactly beneficial to society in a traditional sense, sometimes I worry that if every one followed their dreams, we wouldn’t have critical members of society, like doctors and teachers and researchers.


But then I met up with an old friend, Claire, from Boulder while in Salt Lake. She needed a break from studying, I needed a cup of coffee. She’s in the second year of a MD/PhD program at the university here, and let me tell you, I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes light up like her when she started talking about the pancreas or mitochondria.

She said that she’d never have guessed that she’d be so into mitochondria.

I told her that most of our 8-year old selves didn’t exactly say, “When I grow up, I want to study mitochondria.”

(My eight year old self wanted to write books about horses. True story.)

But she loves it in seemingly the same way that I love riding my bike.


And then we went up to visit Alexis and Dennis in Logan. Dual geology professors at the university up there, I showed them a rock that I’d found in the Great Basin. The ensuing debate on whether it was petrified wood or a rock was awesome to watch. The magnifying glass came out, crystal structure analyzed.


I’ve never met anyone as into rocks as Alexis.

I’d almost say that she’s more into rocks than I’m into riding my bike.

Yeah. True story.

I had a ex-boyfriend who was more into flying RC helicopters than I thought sane. Scott and I saw him flying at the same model airport (90% certain it was him), flying planes with his dad on a Sunday, the same as he’s been doing for 15+ years. He designs self-piloting planes or something of the sort for a living these days.

Jill Homer takes on huge adventures that are way over her head and emerges alive. She then writes books that have entertained and inspired hundreds of people, myself included, to dream big.

People are doing awesome stuff. People are into awesome things.

I think the world is going to be okay, even if we all decide to follow our passions, as silly as they may seem to others.


Why I think blogs are narcissistic, self-centered, and awesome

So, I made a snarky comment on this blog the other day. I generally subscribe to the policy of “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” before writing anything, but this one slipped past the filter. It wasn’t particularly kind, and it wasn’t particularly necessary.


Anyhow, WorldTrekker (Whoever they are, but I have a pretty good idea) left a comment calling me and this blog selfish and narcissistic. Which, given that the inherent nature of blogs is selfish and narcissistic, is fine. The whole points of blogs/FaceBook/Instagram/Twitter/Social Media is “Look at cool stuff I’m doing.”


And I, for one, don’t think that’s a bad thing.


Howard Thurman said:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.


My commenter, WorldTrekker, went on to ask why I didn’t do something to benefit humanity.


I’m trying.


I think humanity is stuck in a rut of lacking inspiration to do big things because society tells us not to. We’re supposed to go to school, graduate from college, go to grad school or alternately start working jobs so that we can pay off the student debt that we’ve accumulated. We’re supposed to buy stuff with Best Buy credit cards and have the latest and greatest smart phone so that we can have a spiffy new keyboard. And we’re supposed to keep working to pay for all these things that we maybe don’t need.


A study once showed that in America, we’d rather work the same number of hours and get paid more than to keep our current salaries and work fewer hours. In Europe, the opposite was found.


A new study, highlighted over at Semi-Rad claimed that we get more joy from spending money on experiences rather than things. That one left me scratching my head, Why did we need a study to know that?


My goal: Show, through example, that our current system is flawed. We’re putting the emphasis on the wrong things.  That maybe, we don’t have to subscribe to the norm.


I nearly went the path of finishing a PhD, of going into academia, teaching, research. I seriously thought about getting a teaching license and changing the world that way after grad school didn’t work out.


A lot of those views changed with a conversation with Mara Abbott a few years ago. She’d just returned to professional cycling with a laser-lock goal on winning the Olympics in 2016 in Rio. She’d contemplated quitting cycling and going back to school because she viewed racing as selfish and wasteful. But then she decided that if she could use cycling as a platform to spread awareness about things she cared about, then it could be used for the good of humanity.


I admired the idea. Plus, she said, there’s something amazing to trying to be the best in the world at something.


I look to the people who I admire, the people who I follow, and most of them don’t contribute to society in a traditional sense. But they make people question the norm. Why can’t I work for six months and then travel for six months like Gypsy by Trade. Why can’t I ride around the world on a Pugsley like Dirt Dot Kurt. Why can’t I find some record that hasn’t been broken/attempted since the 1950’s and ride to and climb all the 14’ers self supported like Justin Simoni.


I want my life to ask the questions: Why don’t we do what we want and find a way to make it work?


If your passion is teaching, teach. If you love telling stories, write. If you love putting things together, be an engineer. If you love cooking, become a chef. If medicine and healing fascinates you, go to med school.


A steady paycheck is the biggest obstacle in the way of a good adventure.


So is it completely egotistical to think I can change the world through my blog by talking about alternate ways to live life?


If I can convince even one person to take a trip and see something new, then I’ll take my self-centered and narcissistic lifestyle and call it good.


And for my snarky comment, it probably didn’t need to be said and I’m sorry for not editing it out.


To race or not to race, an endlessly fascinating question

I was wandering the Saturday morning farmers’ market the few days ago with a friend, catching up on all the things that had happened since our last coffee get together nearly a year and a half ago. We were talking about me leaving Crested Butte and everything that went along with that, and she said something along the lines of: One of the things that you’re good at is making a logical decision and then fully believing in it.

And generally, that’s a very true statement. When something isn’t working for me, I feel like I’m really good at laying out the facts and deciding if the issues can be remedied or compromised on, or if it’s time to walk away.

Thus far, I don’t regret any of the things I’ve walked away from.


But I’m struggling with walking away from racing.

On one hand, I really have accomplished everything I set out to accomplish, and more, tons more.

On the other hand, I had to walk away not on my own terms. After this summer, I’m thinking with a fair amount of certainty, my health issues from last fall had little to do with the actual act of racing long distances. Having it be not entirely not my decision has haunted me at times.

Scott and I spent a good bit of time on the CDT talking about racing. I fluctuated wildly between ‘I’m done racing. I’ve checked enough boxes. There’s nothing left that really inspires me to train’ to ‘Maybe I’ll train for a run at the Kokopelli’ or
‘someone needs to do the Triple Crown gracefully’ or, most recently, ‘If Justin did his CO 14’ers duathlon in 34.5 days, I wonder how fast I could do it.’


On the CDT, I’d spend days making lists of pros and cons of each idea (we pedaled a lot, there was a lot of time to think). Training for Koko would be a devoted winter of training for short stuff, which would kill ‘fun’ riding, but it sure would be fun to get skinny and fast again, and I’ve yet to have a clean run on that route, but the route pretty much is terrible and it’s really not bikepacking. Triple Crown…I’ve seen it all, but the challenge would be to see how fast sustainable would be, could I keep my head together riding routes all summer that I already knew? Would my body hold up? But it would kill the entire summer and most likely most of the rest of the calendar year and there’s not much in terms of exploration going on there.

I’d love the idea of doing the events, but the leadup and recovery from each squashed any real ambition before we got anywhere near Waterton.


And then the 14’ers challenge. Combine bikepacking with mountain climbing. I’d have to learn new skills, like, umm, running downhill. I’d have to get over my fear of exposure to do Capitol and the Bells. Little Bear sounds downright sketch as do the traverses between Crestone and Crestone Needle. But it’d be new terrain, I’d spend the summer climbing mountains instead of riding bikes every day. I have this romantic image of running free across ridgelines…probably the same way that people who race the Divide have an image of being swept down smooth dirt roads with the wind at their back.

But I’d be forced to learn new skills. I’d be forced to stretch personal comfort zones. I’d see new places. And committing to a project like that is the best way to make sure goals like that are achieved.

But it would be a month+ of solid effort. It would be 2+ months of recover. It would be a lot of dirt road riding and climbing 14’ers with hoards of people, neither of which I like. So why am I drawn to it?

Can’t I just go find long ridgelines to run and not be in a hurry and take pictures?


Sometimes I feel like I need to just say: I’m done racing. Put it out there on the Internets to make it official. Make going back not even an option. Accept that I’ve squeezed every last ounce of personal growth and challenge out of racing my bike and that it’s time to move on. Time to find a new form of art.

As Jefe put it: Maybe it’s time to stop racing through life and time to slow down and enjoy it. (I’m paraphrasing on that one.)

And I decide I’m going to declare done…but then I see Jill’s report on the Tor de Geants and think, Gee whiz…that looks neat. I wonder if I could hike 200 miles?

In the end, I find my complete indecision about what to do fascinating and I’m pretty stoked that I don’t actually have to make a decision about any of it tonight.


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