Oh, the mountains. Back into the beautiful mountains of Utah as I took on another great epic weekend of gravel racing. And this time there was lots of elevation! This was the last of the back-to-back big weekend gravel races. I had been really using the time during the week to work on optimizing my recovery to its fullest and maintain fitness for the weekends.
What I did to help recover for those big weekends:
1- Sleep! Yes, I prioritized sleep and made sure to get at least 8 hours each night. It is incredibly important to get sleep as it's a huge help to your recovery after hard rides and also just regeneration and to feeling better both physically and mentally. I have found that sleeping and using My Oura ring have really helped me to know how to manage and get the best kind of sleep I can get to help recovery not just after races, but on a daily basis.
2- Thergun! Yes, these percussive tools are a HUGE help. They directly target one spot on your muscle and help initiate the flush of the built-up lactate. Since Mathew and I were driving back from Lincoln Nebraska.. we still had two back-to-back days of 8 hours in the car and travel like that can make you stiff and sore. The Thergun I have is the mini and is a perfect size... That’s why I got it.. to travel as it helped with the soreness after gravel worlds and kept my muscle good and ready for Wasatch All road. I also love the Hyper Volts and love the percussion tools for daily recovery to help muscles work to restore and help the soreness.
3- Compression- I have a nice bin of PRO compression socks of all colors. These have been super helpful after races and big rides as well as travel. The compression helps with blood flow and if you ever notice, you can get pretty puffy after a hard ride due to the water retention from the shredding of your muscles, and your body coming to the rescue to surround those muscles with water to help recover them and build them. The socks are great to keep puffy at bay but also help with that blood flow.
*The goal of recovery is to keep blood flow going, but allow for you to flush it out
4- Movement- yes after gravel worlds, we were so tired, but I wanted to make sure to get in a tiny super easy ride or even a walk to keep that blood flow going to work out the lactic acid from the 10-hour gravel race at Gravel Worlds.
5- Hydration- I made sure to really stay on top of hydration with water and electrolytes. This also helps the body flush out the lactate but keeps a good flow to resort and repair.
6- Nutrition- The week before Wasatch, I really focused on eating healthy and making sure I was kind to my glucose. Supersapians have been such a great tool to use, but it's still a big learning experience so the week before starting on Wednesday, I began to carb load. I would add one or two extra servings of carbs 50-60 grams each day to bring my glucose levels up to 90 to begin to stock up and prepare for Saturday.
Wasatch all road
Last year, it was disheartening to half to pull out of this race due to the heavy wildfire smoke. This year it was so clear and the weather looked absolutely amazing! So blessed to have a great day slotted out for one of my very favorite races here in UTAH. Favorite meaning Epic and hard! This route is no joke! 100 miles (160km) and just about 12,000ft (3500m) of climbing. This climbing though was pure gravel. The first big climb is called the ‘Wasatch wall’ and yes it is a wall and it's long! a 90+ min climb with chunky loose gravel and consistent areas of 9-14% inclines. Tough! But you know toughness is where the amazing grit shows and the reason why I was back again for yet another great day... and this time I was ready to do the full route! After the wall was a long ganged of elevation deep gravel roads in the Wasatch mountains. We would set out for an out and back and then take on a nice big lollipop loop.. then the last big long climb on smoother gravel but ending with deeper gravel to then pass the last feed zone on the top of the mountain and then zoom all the way back to the start on the pure pavement. Then there was a new ending this year… around the solder hollow venue.. a double punchy track that looped and zigzagged around... I'll tell you.. that last bit was killer!
At 7 am the sun was just about peaking and getting ready to shine on all the gravel riders. We had a nice long 20km neutral rollout as we set towards the Wasatch wall. It was like the bigger Ventum Bike party. I was happy to ride my new venture GS1 as it was rocking and rolling feeling awesome *definitely one of my favorite gravel bikes. It was such a great moment to catch up with a local friend and also see some fellow friends from all the other races. Matthew was also taking on the big Yeti course and we were so stoked to have this race so close to home!
Once the neutral car pulled off and the gravel hit.. we were off! the start of the gravel was super steep and deep so it was just settling into the pace I could hold at that time and be skillful to take it as it came to me and not panic. The fatigue of the last weeks had set in and the upper end of my intensity was struggling, I knew it would be hard so I settled into my tempo pace as this year with the Wasatch I also wanted to try to stay on my bike through the technical sections. Last year I got off many times from the big chunky rocks. Over the past year, I have been really working on skills and getting comfortable with the big rocks as I come from a road bike background.
It is a wall.. rocky, deep sand, rutty, tall and mighty. It was hard.. a challenge, but I got off only twice this time on sections that were not ridable. I was happy as my skills had greatly improved and I was happy to be back at my nemesis route. I have learned to become good friends with the difficulty in technical gravel riding. I have come to be ok with getting off and getting on asap and trying again… after all, this course last year was when this amazing rider on a single speed told me “let it come to you.” Ever since then, that has always been in my mind and has become something I always think about with any hard route, race, or even workout. Instead of fighting, let it come to you and just adapt.
Out and back
Making it up the wall, the group ad completely slit apart. I was in it to now finish and with the wall out of the way to was just riding to that endurance mode and kept eating, drinking, and riding a bike. I really appreciated the views. At this point, I knew I was tired and a selection had been made so I took moments to enjoy the ride as my motto this year was to enjoy and really embrace gravel riding as I stepped my foot into more ultra cycling. The Views were incredible.. Absolutely beautiful and just saw all the other folks out there either riding and going through their own struggles and overcoming, to the horseback riders and ATV shredders out with their families for the weekend. This outside world was just so incredible and I really appreciate that we can ride our bikes. So yes I had to take a few epic shots to snap the amazing outside world of pure nature.
Feed zone stop
Ok, the back from the out and back was tough.. this was long and rolling hills in a mix of deep gravel and at elevation. The wall had taken a lot out of me, but I was still cursing. Nutrition- I had all my food with me for the most part, but definitely needed to stock up at the second feed zone for water. This time I started with the SANs meal bars that I have been really enjoying and loving how well they work for me. They are so good for long events and are packed with that pure nutrition, and minimal ingredients, and are yummy. I stopped at the feed zone quickly filled bottles and topped one off with a good amount of pickle juice and was on my way.
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Lollipop.. oh lolly lolly lolly lollipop
Ok this was it! One big loop with one big climb. This was going to be tough, but I was ready to take it on.. it was long and hard, but I rode with some great people and we pushed to the top, optimistic about the incredible downhill to the finish.
The final stretch- felt so good! To coast! This was the final stretch and it was all downhill! Well at least to the venue. Then we hit the venue loop and it was double track and tough as nails.. the end of a long day and steep in some areas. I was in go mode though, I wanted to get the best time possible and with the finish in sight, I was ready to roll past it to see my Matthew!
There it was! The finish! Rolling through, I was past the time I had hopped. Sometimes your ride is just how it goes and the moments I had were incredible, but crossing the line can kind of soak in. With the adrenaline of a race or a workout, I have found that giving yourself a moment to just sit and breathe and think helps. Our fight-or-flight adrenaline is sky high when we do long tough rides, races, and even workouts. It's ok to give yourself time to recollect and breathe to find stability. The best part was I saw Matthew beaming at the finish. It made me
happy. He had won his age group and did an incredible job. Taking those few moments we were ready to drive back home and veg out from a great day of riding. But then we saw... I won my age group! As I had mentioned, I have just added a coach I use to have back to my plan this year as I grow back to pro racing. The work was already paying off. And as a coach myself, I now understand the relief and the benefits of having a coach. It helped me pull through the race and do my best.. taking the win.
So that’s the incredible Wasatch! Tough day but one for the books and I am so excited to do it all again next year! And you know the most incredible thing about riding a bike and racing these events is that each one I learn and grow as an individual and I know we all do. Pushing ourselves and accomplishing tough days is hard but you grow and you learn more about yourself and the fact that you are more capable than you think. Pulling out of this race last year was sad, but also even just last year, thinking of doing 100 miles of hard gravel 8+ hours on the bike was scary to me. Now I have come to enjoy it and have found that it helps me come closer to the WHY of riding a bike.
We all have that WHY and it's important to know a deep understanding of why you ride a bike. It's more than just getting a good workout or racing. I always encourage you to find that WHY and have days you ride that the WHY is there and you love the ride. It's important. I ride my bike for that freedom, the freedom to learn and grow as an individual. I ride to push my inner strength and I know that not all rides are going to be amazing, but the ones that are, remain to be the most incredible. The bicycle is s amazing as it brings community and here I was pushing myself and surrounded by hundreds of others all going through their own ups and downs, but we were all there, together and working through those moments. Out in nature. That is WHY I ride.. never just one reason, but Wasatch was one of those rides with all those feeling to really bring my appreciation to why I ride my bike…
So to conclude this recap., I want to leave you with one question...
What is your WHY for riding a bike?
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