Being an active person leads to injury, no doubt. All the runners, swimmers, gym rats, cyclists, athletes of any kind that I have ever known get injured from time to time. Most often for me, injury comes from COLLISION! Crashing into trees, rocks, curbs, cars, did I mention trees? Especially in my early days of mountain biking, I crashed a lot. I always had scrapes and bruises, sore muscles, aches, and pains. In the last couple of years, the trail rash has come less and less frequently. Today, my pain stems from who knows where…probably overuse or over-extension at some point in time that I didn’t allow to heal and now I HURT! It hurts to sit, it hurts to climb stairs, sometimes it even hurts just to walk. Funny enough, it typically doesn’t hurt when I ride my bike or run and yoga typically makes it feel better for a short while. Though all of these activities will make it hurt when I overdo it…which isn’t often, but not uncommon either.

So, I’ve done some research talked to friends and family who have had similar troubles, and talked to the best massage therapist in the area. Everyone settles on one problem – piriformis. The piriformis is one of six external rotators, and one of the larger ones at that. The external rotators are what provide rotational mobility and strength to your legs. They’re pretty crucial elements to our make-up. The piriformis seems to be especially problematic because, after injury or strain, it can become inflamed and put pressure on the sciatic nerve. When this happens, victims can suffer intense pain in their hips, back, legs, knees, ankles, and feet (specifically the one associated with the inflammation, in my case, the right hip, leg, and foot). Fortunately for me, mine isn’t that bad, but it is bad enough that I dread certain activities, sometimes even riding my bike. The bugger about an inflamed piriformis is that extended periods of sitting only exacerbate it, and I have a desk job where I sit the majority of 8 hours a day.

I don’t want to live a life of avoidance, especially due to something as trivial as physical pain, so I’ve done some more research. I’ve been in for a deep tissue massage, which helped a lot. Over the holidays, I wasn’t at work and stayed pretty active most of the time. With the exception of two 10+ hour drives, I managed to avoid sitting for extended periods of time. Through my massage therapist and some internet research, I also found a number of yoga postures and sequences designed to loosen up the hip flexor muscles. These include all three warrior poses, triangle and reverse triangle, as well as pigeon pose, king pigeon, the heel to butt stretch (you put the affected heel on the opposite knee in a figure 4 position and pull your knee to your chest) and several supine poses. Despite yoga nearly every day for two and a half weeks, after three days at work, the pain in my ass (not my boss…) has returned.

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Too much of a good thing…

‘Tis the season for over indulgence. While I did partake in my fair share of holiday cookies, I tried hard not to pack on the holiday weight this winter season. After so much travel and extended absences from my bikes, feeling heavy and out of shape, I was as careful as I could be about what I ate without being obsessive.

I stayed the midwest cold for 7 whole days visiting with family and I got back to Georgia ready to ride. And ride I did – and as a result I HURT like never before. Adam mentioned yesterday that he intended to whip his body back in shape through flagellation; I don’t know if he succeeded, but I’m pretty sure I did my part! After roughly 20 miles at Heritage on Sunday and 15 or so at Dauset yesterday, my body was screaming at me. I did skip the FATS/North Augusta ride today, but hit up Selma with the pup on New Year’s Day. I am so glad I did. I could barely touch the saddle to my seat without crying out, the pain in my ass rendering the exhaustion of my legs invisible. So, I rode one cut through lap and thought that running a couple cut through laps would be manageable. That is, I thought so until I took off. It felt like I had concrete blocks tied to my feet. Kick-shuffling through the trail, coming to a complete walk more times than I care to name, at long last, I made it through to the end. Two cut throughs took me an eternity today and caused so much misery.

Today, three days and lots of yoga later, I’m finally able to make up the stairs to my office without feeling like I’ll melt half way up. I’m ready to ride again this weekend, let’s just hope the weather holds!

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Redemption Song

Ok, so maybe I’m being a little bit overdramatic, but really. I needed some redemption after my ride Saturday. My second ride on the Stumpjumper and everything was going great at Selma. It was a balmy 75 degrees and I was overdressed in a long-sleeves jersey, so I stripped down to my shorts and sports bra and didn’t regret it for a second. I didn’t make it up the beech tree or the top pitch of the third climb. But hey, I’m still getting used to riding a hardtail after 6+ inches of travel, I’ll take it. After the third climb, it all started going downhill [pun fully intended]. At the bottom of the third climb on the backside, there’s a short flat section before you cross a short bridge and skirt around and up some nasty oak tree roots. A few weeks ago, a beautiful little forest nymph took it upon himself to blow off the entire trail (in case you’re reading, thanks again, Jason!). However, it is Georgia in December. It’s still pretty warm and there’s still a lot of leaves on the trees. So, I come barreling down the backside of the third hill. The leaves get a little thick and I start getting a little squirrely. Now, I’m used to riding my Enduro, but even Saffy would have handled this amount of squirrel…Evie did not. I got loose in the front end and managed to plant my front wheel in a hole disguised by the leaves. Endo in a spectacular way – tuck and roll, the back of my right shoulder took the brunt of the impact – and Evie landed on her saddle and handle bars, prepared for a rear wheel tube change. Knocked the wind out of me and gave me a few bruises, but not bad for a graceful and arresting crash like this one. I catch my breath, check my brakes, my gears, my saddle alignment and away we go.

I nearly fall again on the oak tree roots I described above, and dabbed in two or three stupid spots. At this point I am so not on top of my game it’s not even funny, but hey, I’m riding, so how bad can it be. Then come the switchbacks. I make it through the first couple of turns and hit the rocky straight away before the two nasty turns (that aren’t so nasty now that they’ve been prettied up by Adam and Jeff). I get over the big rock in the middle and, once again, plant my front wheel – backside of the big rock this time – and Superman over the handlebars and off the trail with the bike resting more or less where I left it. BLEH! Not my worst ride ever, but definitely the worst I’ve had in a really, really long time. I came home, did some yoga and bitched about how sore I was all night long.

Sunday, I got up, moaning and creaking, not motivated to do anything. Well, anything but ride. Pup and I went out for a little spin…I needed a little hair of the dog. I rocked it. I focused on my vision and posture and had beautifully smooth ride. I kept catching myself looking down, which indicates I’m not as confident in this new hardtail as I need to be to plow through the techy sections like I want to. I didn’t make it up the beech tree or the oak roots again. But whatever, I’ll get them next time and if I don’t, I’ll keep trying till I do. Redemption is sweet and I’ll take it anyway it comes!

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On the first day of Christmas

The semester certainly got away from me, and here it is, December 1. It’s been months since I made a post and I’ve hardly ridden my bike. But, that’s ok as the first day of Christmas came a little early for me. On this special day, my true love built for me…a brand new 2013 Specialized Stumpjumper Evo 29er.

After an exciting four weeks of traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a conference100_2490, hosting international week on our campus, and then spending 10 days traveling to Seoul and ShanghaiSeoul,

I am exhausted and out of shape as I barely managed to squeeze in half a dozen rides in between all the thrills. With the sale of my Safire imminent, it was time to rebuild the stockpile and I wanted something totally different.

Evie fits the bill perfectly. She showed up at the shop yesterday afternoon and Adam had her built long before I got off work. Took her out for a ride at Selma this morning with the core gang. Feeling a headcold coming on, I wasn’t so sure about beating myself to death with no rear suspension, I almost grabbed the Enduro in stead. I was worried for nothing…

Evie rides like a dream. A good 8 pounds lighter than the Enduro. She’s snappy in the turns, and accelerates like she’s got a turbo charger attached. Despite the lack of suspension (100mm in the front), I tackled every major rock and root with as much ease as the Enduro or Saffy. I even managed to get some good air into the turn we just repaired last weekend. IMG_0310

On a trail like Selma, with tiny roots as far as the eye can see, I did find myself picking lines of least resistance rather than plowing through like a tank; at times I felt like I was riding a trail of rumble strips, but that has more to do with the trail than the bike.

Returning to the hardtail, I’ll definitely have to retrain my legs to withstand the additional stress; they were on FIRE this morning after our short ride. And, the 1 x 10 drivetrain will certainly teach me better use of momentum. After one blunder on a short, steep climb where I was caught off guard by the lack of remaining gearing…I learned my lesson and fared much better on all the major climbs. I look forward bring Evie to all my favorite trails soon to break her in well and continue to improve my riding.

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Taking it slow

Life has a tendency to sneak up on us. It can be demanding on our time, it makes us frantic to pack as much in as you can in as short a time as you can find. This has been my story lately. Fully packed agendas every day Monday – Friday with too many late nights at work, squeezing in a ride here and there, planning for a couple of long work trips later this fall, trying to keep up the house, and barely having time for anything fun. Every once in a while, though, I try to remember to take a deep breath and bring it down a gear. I should have done it several days ago, but you know, life does get in the way. On Sunday, I had a little wake surfing crash that left me with a headache for a couple days, then Tuesday I went off the back of my bike practicing wheelies. By my Thursday ride, I was so sore I couldn’t even enjoy my ride. Suffering through the work week, Saturday finally comes. Packed way too much in one short day with a yoga session at the Greenway, followed by a paddle with thirteen amazing women and three fantastic pups.

Beautiful day for a paddle

Freeloaders – thanks for the pic, Kelley!

A handfull of us coordinated the shuttling of people, and Oconee Outfitters coordinated the boat shuttle. A few of us had our own kayaks, the rest of us rented some from O.O. Some women were practically pros paddling down the calm tract of water between the Greenway and the state boat ramp. Four had never been in a kayak before. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and the dogs were crashed out for the rest of the day.

Women of the Oconee

There’s something about paddling down the river that puts everything back in to perspective. Perhaps it’s the company and conversation. Perhaps it’s the physical exertion. Perhaps it’s the meditative sounds of the water, the birds, the insects, the fish, and everyone else that makes up the orchestra of nature. Whatever it is, I walked away with some new friends, some new experiences with some old friends, and a renewed sense of calm.

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Lifelong learning

Every day we encounter new experiences, problems, challenges, and situations. Sometimes we seek them out, other times, they happen more by circumstance outside our own control. Regardless how it arrives, with each one, comes an opportunity to grow and learn. This past weekend, I sought out a learning experience. I signed up for a mountain bike camp hosted by Better Ride and led by Gene Hamilton. I really had little expectation for the camp; I had no idea what might possibly happen, how the camp would play out. I haven’t gone to camp since high school!

We spent three days in Asheville, NC, primarily hanging out in the parking lot at the Richmond Hill disc golf and trail system. From start to just past mid day, we focused on skills and drills – just like basketball camp when I was a kid. In the afternoons, we hit the trails to test our new skills, stopping to practice and problem solve in a few key places. Gene taught us core mountain bike skills like wheelies, track stands, cornering, and switchbacks, which seems kind of simple, but changed my perspective of riding entirely. Before camp, I thought I did somethings fairly well (like looking ahead down the trail) and other things I knew were part of the curriculum, but I never thought I’d achieve. For example, I’ve had others try to tell me how to wheelie, but I never really managed, largely because I didn’t see the point – to me it was just a useless piece of flair.

Gene did a great job breaking every single element of a skill into step by step pieces. We would practice each piece and then put it all together for a final product. I managed to do my first wheelie (intentionally, that is), my first rear wheel lift, and gained confidence and balance in my cornering technique. Despite an encounter with yellow jackets that managed to attack over half our group, each of these skills was put to the test on the trail with Gene there to coach, critique and encourage.The best part, really though, is that camp provided us a set of drills to go home and practice. Obviously only so much can be improved in a three day time span, and with these drills we can continue to improve and develop at our own pace and skill level.

Camp finished last night. Today, I went back to Selma for my second ever solo backwards lap. I still didn’t make it up the switchbacks (miracles don’t happen over night!), but I focused on my vision today. I caught myself looking down only a few times and realize I probably did it more than I am aware of. But I had the smoothest ride I ever had on a backwards lap, in control with confidence as I headed down those sketchy downhill sections that are beastly, unsustainably steep climbs. The best part came at the beech tree roots. Forwards or backwards these roots always force my heart into my throat and induce a minor case of nausea. Today, with my vision set long and my gearing fairly low, I made the preceding ascent with ease, focused hard on keeping my sights set far, and floated right down those roots like they weren’t even there. I can’t wait to keep practicing my drills and soon, I’ll make it up those damn switchbacks just as easily!

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Red letter day

It’s easy to get stuck in the hum-drum routine of the day to day. Then, every once in a while a little excitement peaks up to say “hey!” Yesterday was one of those days. Hurricane Isaac had kept me off the bike and relatively cooped up for a several days as buckets of rain poured down. The last couple of days saw sunnier skies, warm temps and high humidity. Saturday morning yoga at the Oconee River Greenway was on, and 10 or so showed up to sweat and swat gnats. A good yoga session followed by a quick trip to the farmers’ market had my Saturday off to a nice start.

I picked up pup and we headed out to Selma for the first ride in over a week! We took off on my first solo backwards lap at Selma. We usually take the lap in a counter-clockwise direction, but yesterday I rode clockwise and it’s a totally different experience. The die-as-you-try-climbs are gnarly sketchy downhills and the rocks and roots jump up at you when you least expect it. I’ve only ridden backwards three, maybe four times, so I felt like I was pushing my limits a little. I didn’t make it very far up the switchbacks before I had to hoof it, but otherwise had a clean lap. I was pretty stoked, especially when we were nearly at the finish, we came upon another rider. It wasn’t just any rider, but our friend Jay who has been away from the MTB scene for a good while after breaking his back earlier this spring. So nice to see a friendly, and unexpected face out on the trail. Whopping up a solid, albeit HOT and sticky ride.

After spending a few hours running errands and doing chores, I grab my swimsuit, some towels and snacks and met Jeff and Adam to hit the lake for my first ever wake surfing experience. I hate we couldn’t bring pup because I had a great time and know she would have, too. Watching Greg (boat owner and new BFF…haha) and Jeff catch the wake before me. They made it look so easy, I thought “I have this no problem”.  HA! Just trying to stand up was a huge challenge. I had two goes at it with a break to let everyone else go in between. I have no idea how long I spent in the water. In some respects it felt like forever, in other ways, it felt like no time at all. By the second go-around, I did manage to actually stand up and sort of surf for a couple of good runs. I didn’t manage to find the sweet spot and let go of the rope, but I was pleased nonetheless and had a fabulous and exhausting time. Here’s hoping for a second try. Maybe next time I’ll actually surf!

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6 hours of Heritage

Better late than never, right? The start of fall semester has had me reeling, struggling to keep up. With back to back appointments with students, recruitment events, and training programs, I feel like I’ve barely had time to ride, let alone write about riding. Last Saturday, Kelley and I teamed up as the Saucy Wags to participate in the six hour endurance race at Oconee Heritage Park outside Watkinsville, GA. We took off ridiculously early postulating the potential set up, structure, and outcome of the event. Neither of us had ever participated in anything like this before and had no idea what to expect. Excitement got us up and running early and we were among the first to check in that morning (we got a killer parking place right next to the pavilion). There weren’t nearly as many racers as I expected even when we lined up at the start.

6 Hours of Heritage Start Line

I took off the first lap, and in retrospect, I kind of regret it. They led us in a parade lap around the pavilion to still be caught up in a ridiculous bottleneck at the start of the singletrack. Nonetheless, I managed to get caught up in the race mentality, riding way too hard too early. About three and a half miles in, headed up the never-ending climb on the expert loop, I totally blew up. Blew up like I haven’t blown up in years. Hacking off the side of my bike with half a dozen racers behind me; fortunately for them, it was only heaving! It wasn’t until halfway through mile seven that I started to feel like myself again…but even at that I was not my usual punchy self. Kelley took the next lap and rode solid all the way through. Meanwhile, I stuffed my face with banana and peanut butter, grapes, and a half gallon of water. My second lap was a little more stable, but I had no power left in my legs. I still managed to get through without a crash despite my struggles. Kelley took off on her second lap and I slumped into my chair, closed my eyes and tried so hard to muster the courage to hit a third lap. Unfortunately for Kelley, she crashed, hard, on her second lap. Sounds like a couple of trees tried to play hot potato with her.

Results from Kelley’s gravity check: blood = gnar!

Fortunately for me, that put us late enough in the race I didn’t have time to get a third lap in. I don’t think I could have found it in me. No matter, though, the Saucy Wags still managed to score a third place podium. Bud and Janice swung a first place podium, and Angie managed a second place. Not bad representation from Childre Nissan/Oconee Outfitters and Milledgeville!

Almost late for our own podium, getting priorities straight with a little after race brew, the Saucy Wags score 3rd place.

Thanks to Kelley for bringing your camera and taking all the pictures I intended to take with the camera at home lying on the floor where all my gear had been…

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Lights out!

Given how regularly I ride, there are many pieces of equipment that I deem practically necessary, but then there are elements that are truly necessitated by the conditions under which I ride. Primarily, on these hot days, I’ve been riding before work, which means at the trail head by 6AM and well before sunrise, if I plan to be at work by 8 (the boss man expects me there by 8, so I suppose I ought to appease). Anyway, I have a few different lights to choose from, all of which are several years old. This morning, I headed out to Selma shortly before six to hit up a solo morning ride. I wasn’t 100 yards down the trail and my Sigma light went out. I clicked the power switch and it came back on. A few feet later, off again. We ran this cycle two more times before I decided to turn back. I didn’t have a back up light with me today (bright idea for a solo ride, I know…), so instead, pup and I took off for a run. The run fared worse with the jarring movements cutting off the light every few feet, so we hiked a cut through lap in the dark instead. At such a slow pace and with the glow of the sun beginning to peak the horizon, we made it around ok, but my next purchase will certainly be a new light.

In the past, I’ve always been one to go for the cheapest price, regardless. However, the more I mountain bike, the more I realize that there are certain things that you just do not skimp on. Quality cycling shorts is the primary element here! However, lights may make a close second. The problem is, there are so many to choose from. You can be cheap and pay just $60 for a Cateye or you can pay upwards of $900 for a Lupine Betty. MTBR has a great review of different lights out there. However, a lot of the comments suggest a lamp not included in their shoot out – the MagicShine. Different versions of it range from low $80 – close to $200, plus you’ll need to buy mounting equipment for your helmet, bar, etc. Going to keep shopping and asking around. In the meantime, 6 hours of Heritage this Saturday in Watkinsville!!

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Wild Turkey Chase

I am a fan of bourbon, particularly Wild Turkey. What makes for a greater ride than combining two things I love? My ride on Monday didn’t actually incorporate bourbon, but it did involve wild turkeys!

Monday, I had a great adventure. I wrapped up my long weekend with the beautiful baby Eden by packing up my gear and hitting up Cedar Mountain in the DuPont State Forest on my way back to Milledgeville. All I have to say is AMAZING! I passed the Corn Mill Shoals parking area at first, not realizing that’s the one I wanted (I was looking for Cedar Mountain). I quickly figured out my error, turned around, and parked my car. There were two vacant cars in the lot and one van with two men and a bunch of bikes. I got out, went to the trail map to check it out and decided to talk to the guys. Dennis and Rob turned out to be from Michigan, but apparently, the annual family vacation is to pack up the gear and hit up DuPont. Sounds like a great vacation to me! They invited me to join them, and I thought that sounded way more fun than riding alone. Off we took on quite an epic journey!

Dennis and his son-in-law, Rob

Dennis has been riding the area for more than a decade and riding MTB for about 18 years total. They were great riding buddies for the day. We started off the journey crossing the highway to the trail head and riding no more than a quarter mile before stripping off the shoes to our socks to cross a deep, rocky, slippery creek. Glad Dennis recommended wearing the dirty socks from my Saturday ride and saving the clean ones for after the crossing! Dennis led us through Cornmill Shoals Trail around and about hitting up Fawn Lake and his (quite possibly mine, as well) favorite, Reasonover trail. Reasonover was a hefty climb at the start followed by a long, flowing downhill that you could just tear through!

Rob ripping down Reasonover

The little blue spec in the middle of the picture is Rob tearing down the hill to the creek.

We took a break for a minute at the bottom of Reasonover, ate some trail food and moved on toward Bridal Veil. We hiked the bikes up the falls – see below

Rob & I standing over Bridal Veil

Took off around to the lookout point and headed up a gravel road around the power line, at which point, we came upon a dozen or so wild turkeys. They didn’t stick around long once they saw us coming, but they led us up the road a good little bit until we turned off and headed down the single track back toward the creek crossing where we started from. This time there were others crossing the creek, in some in shoes others in their bare feet, slipping all over the place. Did I mention I am grateful for Dennis’s recommendation?

After a quick cool down in the creek, we headed up Cedar Rock, which was a bear climbing up, possibly the worst climbing of the entire day. But then we got to bomb down Big Rock. The Enduro was BUILT for Big Rock! A few good drops and some bombing downhill led us back to the trail head. Approximately 3 hours and 20 miles of riding left me whipped for my 3.5 hour drive back home. The calories burned and lack of a picnic lunch resulted in a gas station grilled cheese and a ton of other crap from two more gas stations. Oh well. I had a blast with the best random riding partners a girl could ask for!

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