All posts by kayseearmstrong

More Chai Please! Uttarakhand Himalaya MTB Challenge

India was an experience that I must share, beginning with my expectations going into this race that became an adventure more than a race.

I honestly never expect to do a MTB race from February 1 through April 15th. It’s tax season and that’s the deal I made with my boss, Adrienne. I can have flexible hours for racing throughout the year and train, but those months I’m committed to being at the office.

When Thomas and Yeti approached me about the Ultimate Uttarakhand Himalaya MTB Challenge I shrugged it off at first. Then Yeti sent me the official letter from India tourism saying that all my expenses were paid for, and I would be one of the first women to participate. At the time, all I could selfishly think was WHAT!!?? FREE TRIP TO INDIA!!!!!!!!!

After Adrienne read the letter and said, “YOU HAVE TO GO!!” I booked my ticket and planned the training schedule out with Drew. This happened just a few weeks before I was to fly out, so it was crunch time at work and that’s all I did before I left for India. Work, train, work, work, sleep, train, walk Dale! Those three weeks flew by and I never gave too much thought to what it really meant to be one of its first women participants. I was just excited to get to use India as a great training block for my next races in May. Almost 900km, not counting all the miles to and from the hotels, and load of climbing. I was excited for what I expected to be a week of training/vacation in India!

The day had come to leave, and I wasn’t ready. Luckily, I have the best mom ever that became my personal assistant, running my errands all over town. Going to Harper’s to pick up last minute supplies, going to Podium Sports to pick up probiotics and a kit, and helping pack all my clothes. At lunch Zirkle texted me to inform me because of the thunderstorms our flight was canceled. NO!!! I’m not going to get to go to India!!? Complete freak out mode. How could I have worked my ass off to not be getting on that plane. Thomas was flying out of Atlanta at 6 so we speedily changed our tickets and my mom drove us down. Hero status!! We ended up getting delayed out of Atlanta though and not making our flight out of Newark to New Delhi by 5 minutes. Yes! 5 minutes! Next flight out was 24 hours later. Bummer! The three of us complained for quite a while but sucked it up and went to a hotel to wait it out. Luckily Zirkle did his residency there and knew a little about the streets of New York. I forced him to take us on a tour, and we ended up taking a bus, subway, trains, had good food, and got to visit the 9/11 memorial. I even squeezed in some last-minute work before we got on the plane! Not to shabby of a layover.

Finally, though we make it to India! The trip has officially started and I was ready to get this party started! First up on the adventure… An 8-hour bus ride up to Naini Tal. Immediately I was in culture shock. I cannot express the magnitude of the amount of people there are in India. Every nook and cranny and I’m not exaggerating. Traffic in New Delhi had me all puckered up at first. Lanes, red lights, one ways, and other traffic procedures seem to be just suggestions in India. Yeti referred to it as harmonic Chaos. Somehow it works, but as an American, I still found myself trying not to look.

On the bus there were 10 of the foreigners brought in to do the race, and probably another 10 that would be meeting us up at the top of the mountain. There were a few ladies on the bus and they looked fit. I had some competition and I was excited and nervous and ready to get the race underway.

Day 0 was the qualifying day. The Ultimate Uttarakhand Himalaya MTB Challenge was only going to allow the top 50 riders to compete in the race. Women were automatically qualified, but I wanted to put a good effort in that day just to prove we deserved to be there. Also, to size up the competition a little and see what the week ahead looked like for me. At the start line I was amazed at all the spectators. They were everywhere: kids, adults, and all the officials. After many photos and excitement, the qualifier was off. I shortly realized that fancy gear didn’t mean you were the fastest at this race. The foreigners brought in to do the race had all the snazzy gear and carbon bikes. However, a lot of the Indian guys were on bikes with flat pedals and sneakers and most of them had reflectors still. Man, they were strong though. This race has a lot of fame in India, and a lot of these guys spent all year training so they could qualify for this race. I ended up finishing top 15 in the qualifier, and instantly men started to see that women could race this and probably beat a lot of men.

Starting line for the Qualifying Stage

The morning of the qualifier Yeti approached me and thanked me for coming and expressed his excitement that all the girls were going to get to see me racing throughout Uttarakhand. Then some of the guys had told me that after the race last year they had a panel with the officials on how they could make this race better. A few told them they should have a women’s field, and the officials very blankly said, “Women can’t do this race!” Those officials though opened their minds and gave us a chance this year. It’s not their fault for thinking that, it is just the way of the culture in India. Honestly, I am beyond thankful that these officials of The Uttarakhand Himalaya MTB Challenge not only went against their beliefs, but helped to make history in India. At the closing ceremony one of them said in the speech, “Kaysee you’re amazing!” By the end of the week they were some of my biggest supporters.

The women that attended this race truly made history and I am humbled beyond words that they let me be a part of it.

Back to the story though…

After the qualifying race we started day one of racing with 180kms and over 11,000ft of climbing. I started off strong. This race is mainly roads and double track so I knew hanging on to wheels was important. I started with the lead group but half way up the first long climb it broke a part and I had my eyes on one man’s wheel. My main man from Greece, Ntegiannis Emmanouil (I called him Big Man, because I truly butcher his name). Most of the day we spent sitting around 12th place. A few times we would catch some Indian guys, but mostly we stayed together for the full 7 hours just the two of us.

Day one is important because that is when it truly started sinking in what I was getting into. Over the course of 180kms we passed hundreds of people cheering us on, village by village in the Himalayan mountains. Climbing up mountain roads and then bombing down curvy descents with breath taking Himalayan mountain views everywhere.

I loved riding with Ntegiannis because we both paced well together on the climbs, and then going downhill I would sit in his draft and pedal hard to maintain his speed. He would look back at me and laugh loudly, “very good!” We didn’t speak the same languages but we got to where we could understand each other. We would get to views and he would blow out kisses and say “amazing experience,” I would match his gestures. When going up a hard climb the mutual understanding of hard was to yell,”F**!”

Villages were filled with all ages, but I always made a point to wave at the kids and smile! It was truly amazing how many we would see in a day. Everyone came out from the wood works to watch us race. At some points I could hear them up the mountain yelling at us from the woods. I ended that day with a stage win and astonishment. India truly was incredible.

Day two started with more fan photos. One particularly stood out to me that Zirkle so luckily got on video. A woman and her kids were about to snap a photo with me by their dad, and she looked at me and said, “This is the woman power!” I was so shocked and smiled, “Yes Woman Power!”
All day this woman fueled the fire. I got another stage win, but I continually could hear her saying that.

Day 2 on the biggest climb of 5000ft I found myself alone and broken off from the front of the group. A 6-year-old kid and his older brother were standing outside of their house. I waved out and smiled. He grinned from ear to ear and put his hand out for what I thought was a high five. I slowed up and he ran up to me and grabbed my hand and started running beside me. We both laughed out and I felt every string on my heart pull a little tighter.

Every day, and almost every hour, being in India I found myself becoming humbler. Doing this race, I got to experience India, not the part of India that has been modernized and developed around tourism and westerners. A lot of times in these villages I think I was the first American woman they had ever seen.

Day 3 was another win in the books, with a lot of beautiful views, lots of kid smiles, and spectators. I ended day three with a 43-minute lead on second place in the women’s and 13th overall. I Was beyond happy with this result. My new goal was to get top ten in the men’s. Little did I know what was really in store.

Day 4 was a rest day, so we all enjoyed each other’s company over breakfast and a walk-through town discovering some potato chips and Pepsi. Thomas, Zirkle, and I went on an easy spin before sunset. Found some double track and kids riding their bikes. They came out to check us out and few shy girls ran up to me and stopped and giggled. A perfect rest day in India.

At 3Am I woke up to sharp pains in my stomach and spent countless times in the bathroom. I was exhausted at 7AM when we needed to start moving luggage and get to the start line. Luckily, I brought Zirkle with me. He didn’t say much to me that I remember. He just asked if I wanted a hug and if I was going to do this? I just cried a little and put my kit on. I hate quitting no matter what. Especially at this race where I wanted to prove to so many, that women can do this. Was this just food poisoning or a 24-hour bug? If so I can just survive today and it will be better tomorrow.

I took a lot of Imodium, went to the start line, and mentally coached myself to block out the sickness. Everyone started off and I instantly knew it was worse than I thought. I was off the back so quick even though I was trying with everything I had. Zirkle hung back with me all day. What a day it was. We climbed up to 9500ft that day. My legs ached somehow worse than my stomach. I had to tell myself just climb a 1000ft and take a breather. Sometimes I couldn’t make it that far before I needed a breather, but Zirkle was patient and waited it out. I kept telling myself, “You have to finish! Don’t let those men be right! You’ve done worse! It’s all in your head!”

Every time I thought we were close to the top I would tell myself one more mile. We were never close. It was always false hope. Yeti, Andy, and Natalie drove up in the car and forced me to drink salt water. At this point I just knew we were at the top and Yeti said I had 7km till the top. I broke down and my heart broke. My spirit has never been so low. I had come this far. It had been almost 8000ft of climbing and 5 hours on the bike.

It felt good for a minute to cry and give up don’t get me wrong, but then I thought about getting pulled after getting this far. I clipped back in and went on. I still had to stop a lot. Zirkle even told me once, “You know you can quit anytime!” I just told him, “I have to finish!”

Yeti was there at the last bit of the climb after Andy had ran beside me forcing more salt water in me. The last little bit was steeper and Yeti must have seen the defeat. He started running next to me pushing me up. I was so happy and gracious. We had finally reached the top. I had done it. All downhill. For an hour, we descended off the mountain. I finished! Got an escort up to my room where doctors met me with IVs. Thomas and Zirkle sat with me in my room and we laughed and I looked forward to tomorrow where surely, I would feel better and maybe I could make up my GC time. I went to bed with a plain bagel for dinner.

When the doctor want’s a photo with his prize patient

The next morning the IVs gave me false hope. I started the race with an empty stomach but I felt better. I thought. I hung with the lead group for a couple of hours, and then my stomach churned. I pulled back and asked the official car for juice. I was beyond thirsty and maybe if I could get some calories in, I could finish. No! All of this was delusional thinking. I started vomiting and even tried to ignore the pain and swelling of my belly until I physically couldn’t pedal the bike. The ambulance was there within the minute and I couldn’t fight it anymore I was put in and pulled out of the race. I was embarrassed and heart broken, and angry that they were right, I couldn’t do it!

I went to bed on another empty stomach, and put a ton of antibiotics in my system to hopefully kill what was in my body. I woke up and put my kit back on feeling a bit deflated mentally and physically. Hoping with every bit I had left that today would somehow be manageable! Today’s start was another 5000ft climb right out of the gate. I didn’t want to start with the lead pack again. I wanted to ease into it. I made it to the top and I felt my spirit slowly coming back and hit the downhill a little too aggressively and crashed in the first corner! Hah! I now had a gash in my arm and a good shiner on my hip. I took a good while with Yeti to clean it out and laughed about my luck. Got back on the bike and finished the stage with a smile!

The last stage all the girls decided to start and finish together. The best part was that on the start line the officials pulled the ladies to the front and we were going to do the lead out. There were a lot of smiles and you could feel the energy from everyone. We were all now a family that cared for each other and enjoyed that today was the last day, but it felt like it was the end of summer camp as a kid. It was going to be hard to say bye! Almost 900km later we had all grown as people and athletes. Memories were made but relief was felt, this was it!


It wasn’t an easy stage. In almost 45 miles we climbed over 8000ft. The ladies helped each other out. I gave pushes to the top and we all made it after many times of saying really? This isn’t the top? We took our time though. Enjoyed the views, investigated each other’s lives, and laughed. It was one of my favorite days!
Giving Tere a handup

I’ll never be able to write down all the memories in this blog. But this is the short and sweet even though it is quite long. I took a lot away from India. A part of me changed. I’ve never thought that I could make that much of a difference. In those two weeks in India I had one of the biggest adventures of my life and I got to witness barriers turned into gates.

Women have a long way to go in India, and I hope that out of the hundreds of girls I saw throughout the race I could shed a shimmer of light on the possibilities. I hope when they saw us they saw that if a man can do it so can they! No matter what the dream or goal is!

I grew up with a strong mom and I work for a strong lady. I’ve never felt as if I couldn’t do something! If you tell me I can’t do something those are the key words to get me to try my best to do it. I’m extremely lucky, competitive, and driven! Racing pushes me and makes me powerful as a woman! I love it!

Power is contagious and I’m grateful that I could share it with hundreds of girls and boys in India!

A big thank you to my sponsors and supporters! Without all their support, I would have never gotten this far in the sport. Having people believe in you is power and fuel! I will never be able to say thank you enough!

Also, a huge thank you to Drew Edsall. In November, I decided to step up my fitness and he took me on as an athlete. I feel great right now and it feels good to do these stage races at my best, and even at my worst he’s there with answers and support!




Before Stage 3 we got a warm welcoming

The style of Luggage waiting


This little girl though

Riding the streets of India to the start of Stage 3




The view from our balcony at Karnapraya

Karnapraya

Dodging buses

Sidewalk


Thomas taking it all in

Selfie experts

Monkeys

The start line of the last day with all the ladies

These kids came chasing us down when they saw us.

Stare off

Thomas crossing the bridge in the distance on our rest day ride

These kids came chasing us down when they saw us.

Look at those Himalayas in the back ground

The usual lunch and dinner group enjoying each other



David, Surbhi, Ntegiannis, Staffan, and Yeti at the Tree planting ceremony

After the race each racer got a tree to plan in their name.


The last day of waiting on luggage

I really had the towel/no luggage style down by the end of the week. The Heart Rate monitor belt monitor was what held it all together

All the ladies at the finish line with Yeti

After the stage race we were thirsty for a cold beer.. we ventured out and found only warm beer because it was selling out so quickly!

The joy of surviving the 1km walk in India traffic at night



The Closing Ceremony

Stage 3

Stage 1

Chinyalisaur exploring

A pretty big tree in Chinyalisaur

Chai while waiting on luggage

Bus Ride in Dehradun

The gash in my arm from stage 6

Another stage race.. another bridge crossing

Breakfast with Z before the start of Stage 1

Smiling and Riding

Cramming a Rushed 2016

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Hello 2017! As an Accountant it’s hard to even think it’s already been another full circle around the sun while still dealing with 2015.  I’m sure I’ll put the wrong year down when dating documents for the first few months.  Then my body & mind will adjust and it will be 2018.  It’s a scary concept of how fast time flies. I was supposed to write a blog 10 different times within the last seven months, and each time I would put the blog off and then now here we are.  Another year, another season, a whole other person.

In seven months since I wrote the last blog a lot of exciting, sad, and funny stuff has happened, and why haven’t I written anything down? Who knows! laziness, too busy with work/training, spending too much time with Dale.  There are lots of excuses! 😉

To be honest though every time I sat down to write a blog about the awesome race I had just done I came up with no words.  Social media and race’s social media teams seem to cover the main bases… 1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place, badass, or single-track ninja. What else is there to talk about?

 

transylvania-epic
Transylvania Epic was my first Stage Race overall win.  Below I have posted interviews Thom Parsons did for Dirtwire TV with the daily race updates.

 

 

A lot actually!! This past year I raced harder and had more accomplishments than I ever have before.  It was a great year of racing.  I took home some big wins, a lot of podiums, a huge belt buckle, and new titles within the MTB/cyclocross race scene. On top of all of that I worked full time as an accountant and took on more roles and learned more than I ever thought I could in one year.  This time last year I was a college graduate with two grad degrees looking to burn my name into this world’s surface.  Maybe I got close, or maybe I just got the surface ready! I’m not sure!

Either way I’m thankful for those who believed in me and pushed me to have a full race schedule, believed in me even when I laughed at the possibilities, and the best boss lady out there that has taken me under her wing and forced me “to think, and use my brain” all while still believing in my dream and letting me travel all over the place!

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BC Bike Race was one of the highlights of the season! So much loam, beauty, and there is no other stage race with the experience that BC Bike Race can offer!
bc-bike-race-2
Photos by Todd Weselake

bc-bike-race-podiumbc-bike-race

With that being said, I have had some great results, I’m training harder than ever, working harder than ever, and I consider myself a somewhat professional mountain biker.   What’s next?  We all ask ourselves this, and especially at this time of year we wonder how can this year be better than the last?

That question has caused many sleepless nights, a few tears, and a couple of panic attacks.  I will be the first one to let you know this is not healthy!  I think though a lot of athletes battle with this.  You put all this effort forward and worry if it will pay off.  What if I can’t do this good again? Is this my ceiling?

Who knows! There’s actually no answer to that! As an accountant it’s easy (well not easy per say)  to get a definite answer, but as a professional mountain biker there is no answer.  The common denominator though is that both require hard work and passion.

 

double-dare
Double Dare with Kevin this year was the best one yet.  24 hour race time and we even finished day 1 in the overall lead

 

I’ve hit a spot in my life where I feel like I’m giving 50% to my job and 50% to my training and it feels like it’s never enough.  Really though what’s happening is I’m doing just what everyone else is doing and that’s giving 100% to everything, and it’s just not getting any easier.  What’s the saying, “It never get’s easier, you just get faster.”

One thing to keep in mind though is the reason you’re working so hard, and I had to remind myself of that.  I work at a job that doesn’t pay as big as a big accounting firm, but I love the people I work for and I love my boss.  The potential to grow there is exponential! In cycling I started all this as a hobby and it increasingly became about results, training, and sponsorship.

I’ve been reminded this week by friends why it is I love biking in the first place.  If I was never sponsored I would still go biking all the time and want to travel the world and see it by bike.  Some of my best, most humbling, spiritual, and freeing moments have been on the bike.  I love biking and I love what it has brought to my life.  A whole new world of friends and family, and accomplishments.

doube-dare-2

So what’s next? Well the possibilities are as far or short as I want to work for them!

Luckily I do have the best sponsors, friends, and family one could ask for.  Harpers Bike Shop has been the most amazing sponsors an athlete could ask for.  Not only do they go above and beyond to help with my sponsorship with LIV/Giant, but they are friends that listen to me, manage my racing/bike, and have been the back bone to my successful year.  I will never be able to thank Jon and Shawn enough.  A successful bike shop is one that cares and loves what they do and they are the best representation of that.

 

shawn-and-jon
Sometimes I wonder what this season would have been like with out Shawn and Jon, and I know for sure it would not be as fun!

 

Joe Peeden has been the man behind the success.  He’s coached me for 2 solid seasons and I think the improvement can show just how much he has helped me out.  Podium Sports Medicine is a crucial tool to an athlete here in Knoxville, and I’m lucky that Kevin Sprouse is willing to help me out.  Also of course the equipment is just another piece of the puzzle.  My LIV Lust was a racing beast on it’s Nox Composites Skyline rims laced up with Industry Nine buzz worthy hubs. The Giant reign on the Nox Composites Farlow rim laced up with I9 hubs is the finest bike I own.  If I’m ever struggling to remember how fun bikes are I pull it out, and it’s carried me to the top step of my first enduro races this year.

 

cross-photo
A very successful cross season was made possible by Podium Sports Medicine, I9, Nox Composites, Giant Bicycles, and Harpers Bike Shop! Also those Stoke Signal socks are the Sh*t

 

 

 

enduro-bike
So Enduro Bro!

 

I’ve posted some photos throughout this post of the racing I’ve done throughout the season and below I’ve posted the links to Thom Parson’s interviews with me at Transylvania Epic.

 

montana
Last but not least to Thank is the Zirkle family! I got to stay for a month in Big Sky, MT with Ewa and John to train for Breck Epic and had a blast.  Zirkle travels to most all of my races to join in on the fun himself, and has become my race dad over time.

 

Cheers to 2016 and bring on 2017!! Much love and thank you to all my friends and especially my family for all their support!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dale, because Gordon is right, "You didn't forget him! Like all the best sponsors he just didn't get bossy for recognition. He's invested in YOU and everything else is just cake. That dale!"
Dale, because Gordon is right, “You didn’t forget him! Like all the best sponsors he just didn’t get bossy for recognition. He’s invested in YOU and everything else is just cake. That dale!”
Dale being the best race crew out there!!
Dale being the best race crew out there!!

May Honest Efforts Help Heal Heavy Hearts

A few days after the hardest weekend of racing mountain bikes, here I sit finding it to be one of the hardest things to write about. This year one of my goals was to be able to throw down in the Queen of Pisgah series. Last year I wasn’t able to finish the series out because of collegiate obligations, and truthfully as much as I wanted those national titles I want that Queen of Pisgah belt buckle.

I’m lucky enough this year to have Harper’s Bike shop giving me all the support here in Knoxville to make my mean machines work (The lovely Lady LIV Lust, and the Giant Reign). Also with the support of Provision Sports giving me Joe Peeden with all the training plans on how to get faster and still have fun! Last but not least I scored big when I got the support of Nox Composites providing me with the toughest carbon rims around!

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The first race of the series is PMBAR (Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race) and it is the first weekend of May. The race consists of partnering up with someone, and the two of you navigate to different checkpoints in a self supported race for over 8 hours in Pisgah. If it sounds easy.. you’re terribly wrong, but that is how Pisgah Production races are based. How difficult can it be to make some of the best mountain bikers second guess their decisions but still somehow keep coming back for more?

This year I got super lucky! I couldn’t find a partner for a PMBAR, the race was sold out so I had to find some one with an entry, and the race was just a few weeks away! I did my best in the wheeling and dealing of PMBAR partner scope out but no such luck. Then I get a message from a friend, Chris Brown, saying that he had heard of my scheming for a partner and was wondering if I wanted to trade positions with him and team up with Charlie Roberts. I hesitated in my reply because why should I act so desperate just weeks before PMBAR? Really though, I stalked Charlie out and realized he had just won Pisgah 36 and I instantly was intimidated! I asked Chris, “are you sure Charlie wants to drag me around all day?” Chris reinforced that he did, but I’m still not a 100 % Charlie knew what he was getting into!

The morning of the race Charlie and I met at the start and double checked that between the two of us we had all the mandatory gear (ranging from an emergency blanket, whistle, and water filter to snacks and rain jackets). All checks.. just time to wait patiently for the passports from Eric. Once we got the passport we jetted up black. Charlie read the rules and checkpoints all while riding up one of the steepest climbs in Pisgah (In just over 3 miles there is over 2000ft of elevation gain). This is where I know I have struck gold with getting Charlie as a partner. Charlie reads off the passport with the checkpoints and with no map needed the route is planned in minutes. When we get to Pressley Gap a lot of people turn left onto the gravel, and Charlie points to continue up Black to Turkey Pen Trail head to head over to the South Mills Check point. 2 hours in we finally reach it. I think our avg speed was 5 mph which is shockingly good for the route we just took. From there we headed to the Bradley Creek check point, and in Pisgah Productions fashion we were forced to do an out back on Bradley Creek Trail. This mean at least 20 creek/river crossings on one of the most over grown trails in Pisgah.

Some of the mandatory gear for PMBAR
Some of the mandatory gear for PMBAR

Photo by Steve Barker at PMBAR
Photo by Steve Barker at PMBAR

We head out and there is really no one around. Just the two of us every 5 mins approaching a creek crossing, hopping off the bikes quickly, shouldering them across the river, and then mounting back on till the next creek crossing. On and off, up and down, side to side, one river to another… Will this ever end…Where am I…UGH! The thoughts that came through my mind, and there towards the end we ran into a couple of teams head on. At this point it looks as if we could be in 4th if all of us are on the same route and we are on the fastest one. Where is everyone else? Well once we turned back around and got halfway back we hit traffic jam after traffic jam of teams crossing the rivers. Looks like they all did a different route than us..wonder how many check points they have?

To be honest though I trusted Charlie! From there we went and got horse cove, to club, and out to cove creek to the finish. It was a total of around 50 miles and 10000 ft of elevation gain. Charlie and I finished 4th overall and 1st in the co-ed category! I have never done so well at a Pisgah Productions race and I was beyond excited and grateful! A great start to the QOP Series and a super fun/hard/adventurous day with a new friend, Charlie! (I might add here I kept thinking ouch! Charlie that really hurts! ..If you don’t know what video I’m referencing too here’s the link.. it made me laugh some during the suffer fest https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzNSsDD_LzE )

Over all Podium
Over all Podium
1st Place Co-ed at PMBAR
1st Place Co-ed at PMBAR

After PMBAR there is a week off before the 111k & 55.5k, which was this past weekend. It is by far the toughest weekend on the MTB. It is not designed for the weak, and not just any one can show up and race it. It took 15 hours, covered 166 miles, and almost 18000ft of climbing. Some just compete in the 111k or just in the 55.5k, but if you are doing the series you have to race both.

The 111k I started out the gate super quick and on point (except for when Nick almost took my bars out over a mud puddle at the start line)! I wanted to win the 111k and I had the fire in my belly! The thing is no matter how hard you start you have got a long tough day ahead so your gas tank better be full. I honestly felt amazing till hour 6 climbing up laurel and I came completely unhinged. I knew I still had thousands of feet to climb, two of the gnarliest descents, and hours to go in the race. My side began to ache and I wondered if it was gas, hunger, gallstones, or an appendix rupture. I couldn’t give up though I knew I had come this far in the race to not let a side pain ruin my winning. It pained me to continue, but it hurt much worse to stop. I sucked it up and ended up riding with Andy who I met on Laurel. He was a good distraction asking about the hike a bike and other things in Pisgah that he wasn’t a 100% on. We hiked our bikes together and I embraced the distraction from my side pain and kept on rolling. Going down Pilot Rock was not as enjoyable for me as it usually was. Things ached on my body that haven’t ached before, and the side pain was just enough to make me mad and lose focus on the descent. I was glad to reach the bottom and know one last long climb and big descent before the finish. At this very race last year I passed Nina on that climb and this year I didn’t want the same to happen to me. I put it in a harder gear and rallied to the top as fast as I could.

Photo by Steve Barker
Photo by Steve Barker

On the hike a bike up black, the side pain became more noticeable and I felt the drive die back down. Then I saw Lee Simril down below and was convinced Brenda might be close. I panicked gave it a good jog up the hike a bike for a whole thirty seconds, just enough to pass Andy and max out what ever heart rate I had left. Lee ended up catching me and yelled out Brenda wasn’t with him because he knew I was worried. A sigh of relief but also still the ache to finish this craziness. I finished first in the 111k and was yet just excited this year as last to get that gold belt buckle.

Possibly the best podium shot ever
Possibly the best podium shot ever

Trying to rally motivation before the start of 55.5k with Thomas.  Photo by Steve Barker
Trying to rally motivation before the start of 55.5k with Thomas. Photo by Steve Barker

The 55.5K was a hard start. We lined up to head straight up Black to Turkey Pen (The same way Charlie and I started PMBAR). There was some fast women that showed up Sunday that did not race the 111k and I thought in that moment the podium is not mine today. We started up Black and I just settled in. Hike a Bike is not my strength so I rode as much as I could and hiked as steadily as I could. I even got to see my dear friend Eleanor a lot on Black MTN and Turkey pen on Sunday. Seeing her was such a lift in spirit I can’t imagine that’s not how I got my engine fired back up. I hit a very low emotional point (which hopefully I will discuss later in this blog) between Aid 1 and Aid 2. It was a wave of panic and tears began flowing beyond my control. I’m sure I looked silly by the time I got to aid station 2, but there I saw Chris Despard who knew exactly what I was going through and gave me a good hug. I refueled and lit the fire before starting Laurel again. Here I ran into Andy again and we both were in a much better place on Sunday than we were on Saturday. We rallied up Laurel, over trees, rocks, up hike a bikes, and down pilot probably 20 minutes faster than we did the day before and with much better attitudes. At this point I honestly had lost my placement in the race. I just knew that the ladies that were in the queen of pisgah series were behind me, and if I could finish that way it would put me in great standing for the series. The climb up Black seemed less ridiculous and more rewarding than Saturday, and the finish was much sweeter and calming. I ended up finishing second in the 55.5k, so it turns out the podium was in my future after all!

I should also add that I stayed with Ally this weekend and being fueled by the best was probably a good influence in it all. I even got to stock my pockets with Ally’s bars for the races!

Photo by Steve Barker on Pilot Rock
Photo by Steve Barker on Pilot Rock

Eric Wever never ceases to amaze me with his races. Every year I thank him for putting me through such miserably tough races, and honestly I need to thank him for showing me just how strong I am. Pisgah Productions has introduced me to some of my best friends, and with them I have some of the best times going on adventures in the woods.
55.5 k podium
55.5 k podium

The week off between PMBAR and the 111/55.5k was actually the tough week that has made writing this blog so hard. I battle with whether to say anything or keep it strictly to the race report, but in all actuality I can’t imagine not mentioning my best friend Barnabas. This weekend in particular Barnabas, Scott, Nick, and I had a planned in sorts a reunion of bike riding and all things fun with friends. Unfortunately as most know Scott got the phone call from Brook and Baranabas wasn’t going to make it. I struggle with the whats and whys as many people who are reading this do. Personally I still question why I didn’t see it coming or how I could have changed the situation. I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away, but I do know that I loved by best friend Barnabas and I know a lot of people did. I feel honored to have been a part of his life and to have shared some great memories with him. My heart reaches out to Brook because I can’t imagine the pain she is going through, as well as to all of his friends and family.

For my graduation celebration Barnabas took Cory and I here!
For my graduation celebration Barnabas took Cory and I here!

Someone shared with me, “The death of a beloved is an amputation,” by C.S. Lewis.

Barnabas was a legend! He took a lot of us on some of the biggest adventures we have ever been on. Sometimes in the coldest, wettest, most miserable conditions, and yet somehow we all found our selves smiling, laughing, and enjoying life to it’s full potential in those moments. I remember so clearly on one of our winter adventures looking at Barnabas and telling him one of the best things I’ve ever done is be your friend and trust you to take me on such escapades. Barnabas was one of the kindest, most thoughtful, loving people I’ve ever met. When he left a part of me went missing as I’m sure it did for a lot of people.

I’ll always remember Barnabas’ smile and his laugh, especially in those darker moments on the bike where I just want to be done. Those were the times he would smile and say, “Kaysee this route was designed for you! You won’t regret it!” I’ll make sure to hug my friends a little bit tighter now because I realize how quickly friends become family and the impact they make on our lives! I’ll forever remember Barnabas and miss him.

Cheers my friend!!
Cheers my friend!!

Trans Andes Challenge 2016

A big thanks to Provision Sports and Nox Composites for all their help
A big thanks to Provision Sports and Nox Composites for all their help
Huilo Huilo
Huilo Huilo

While I’m currently sitting in Santiago reminiscing on the week all I really feel at this current moment is a sense of home sickness. I miss the routine of racing and everyone that came with it. It feels a lot like when you were a kid leaving summer camp. Day one is filled with nerves and anxiety of what the week is going to bring, and by the end of the week you wake up with a routine that brings more excitement and energy than even a cup of coffee can offer.

Trans Andes Challenge was formulated in a scheme to celebrate graduating from graduate school. Also too because this is where I see myself racing going in the future and what better way to end collegiate cycling and ramp up the next step of cycling for myself than Trans Andes?

Everything about Trans Andes ended up being breath taking and almost every hour I would wonder how I was ever this lucky to end up here. Trans Andes covered over 300 km with 28000 ft of climbing and included crossing a swinging bridge that was 250 feet above a roaring river, climbing thousands of feet to meadows that one wonders how anyone ever found this route much less have a bike race cross through it, riding through bases of volcanos where the lava has dried up making it seem that it is Chiles’ version of Moab (only somehow more spectacular), then there were points where once you think you’ve climbed to the middle of nowhere you cross paths with a man on his horse with his dogs and two sons on foot begging for high fives and smiles that warm your heart, and finally descents so steep and fast I am pretty sure the whole town below heard my Industry 9 hubs buzzing.

I’m lucky enough to be able to drag along with me one of my biggest peers Kevin Zirkle so that I don’t have to travel alone quite yet. I’ve never been to South America and I’ve never gotten to race internationally either. Everything about Trans Andes was going to be new and with that all I could feel was excitement.

Zirkle and I started our travels out with ease until our arrival in to Santiago and having to catch our connecting flight to Temuco. There were delays and we were only given an hour to get through customs and check in for our next flight. This was not possible even after getting a VIP escort to our flight minutes before they shut the door. We arrived in Temuco but our luggage did not. It would be on the next flight and they would bring it to the race start in Huilo Huilo two hours away. We weren’t the only ones with this issue and some didn’t even think their luggage was going to arrive that day. With all the optimism I could muster up after 24 hours straight of travel I got into the shuttle and tried not to stress about it as we shuttled our way to the start of the race.
We arrived at the start and hanger was hanging over my head. There was food eaten, a beer consumed, and race check-in accomplished. All that was left was for the luggage to arrive. At midnight it decided to make a “fashionably late” arrival. A deep breath was taken and a smile crept across my face for the first time in a few hours.
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After putting the bikes together at 6 am we were off to the start of Stage 1 of Trans Andes.
My plan? Survive Day 1 through all the jet lag and stress that had developed in the past 48 hours. I decided to line up towards the back since I was tired thinking that I would start slow and finish strong! That was a very poor choice. We hit single track fairly early and I had placed myself in a spot that meant walking it instead of riding it. (Deep Breathe) and then we hit the swinging bridge and caos had occurred at some point in front of me because I stood on that bridge for 15 mins waiting for everyone in front of me to cross. I knew that I was pretty far back so I decided I should put the hammer down for a while. Everything started to gain a groove. The scenery was fantastic and ultimately I was happy to be on the bike in Chile! I finished Day 1 in second behind Sonya Looney!

The swinging bridge
The swinging bridge

Day 2 was 47km and over 6200ft of climbing and after some much needed sleep I was ready to tackle Day 2 with a different attitude! We had enough gravel at the start for me to move my way up before the single track sections at the beginning and was able to ride and not walk. And even get right across the swinging bridge by riding it without anyone in my way! (If you know me and bridges we secretly hate each other! Everytime I get to a bridge I think of Barnabas and Nick while they laugh at all my tragedies. I smiled and rode right across) the middle half of this stage I started settling in not exactly racing. Then when I was riding up a steep climb that seemed like it was never going to end someone tapped me on the shoulder. I look over and there was my friend Bill from California. He had raced the Pisgah Stage race a year or so ago and I met him there. He was the one who told me I should do Trans Andes in the first place. His partner had crashed out the day before and he had been back riding with his friends for a while.

Podium after Stage 2
Podium after Stage 2

He told me there was some great descents ahead. He was speaking my language and from there I became a different racer and a new speed was found. While others were walking up the steep climbs we powered the cranks getting to the descent as fast as we possibly could. Bill used to race motos professionally and knows how to let the brakes go and get rowdy on some descents. I wanted to be on his wheel when we got to the top and I was willing to fight for it no matter how many matches I lit. We get to a top point and he said Kaysee don’t forget to look out to the left when we start going down. I took the mental note and we took off! Flying down a pretty steep section I looked out to the left and yeah there it was a breath taking view of white covered peaks! This was just enough of a booster that when we got to the last pitch and saw over ten people walking Bill and I powered up past all of them. Mainly because the legs still felt strong but also because I knew I wanted to pass all of them before the 7km descent that was right over the crest! We had climbed 6000ft already that day and I was ready for my reward.
The best way to describe this descent is that it was like a luge and Bill and I were in the same luge Yelling “Passo” “Gracias!” to everyone all the way down. This was by far the best moment of the week and set the tone for the days to come. Another 2nd place on stage 2 but the gap was smaller.

Stage 3 was 97 km and another 6500ft of climbing but we were making our way from Huilo Huilo to Catripulli however it rained A LOT the night before and had no signs of letting up. With worries of the pass not being passable the race promoter decided to postpone it to the next day. I was slightly devastated. I had already eaten my breakfast, drank my beet juice, and put my chamois butter on. What was I to do? The routine that had just developed had just been broken.

However, this rest day was incredibly needed. We all went and had second “FREE” breakfast. I went and sat by a pool after making new friends from the North East region of the United States, Kevin and Dave, who were crushing the team category. The rain stopped in the afternoon and we all went out for a spin riding and I was actually able to see parts of the community of Huilo Huilo rather than racing past it.

Grinding out Stage 3
Grinding out Stage 3

Stage 3 but day 4 we were all up and ready to conquer the 97kms. While riding this course I realized why the promoter was forced to call it the day before. It would have been a sludge in the rain and this day the sun was out and the scenery was incredible! The Hike a bike was not as bad as expected and the 40km climb went on and on but was not quite the suffer fest I had made it out to be. I took in the views this day, stayed strong on all the climbs, and pushed my way through the flats battling with the head wind.

Stage 5 began and it was the “Queen Stage” and was the hardest one of the week with another 6300 ft of climbing and 70kms. This ended up being my best stage. The hike a bike was pretty instant this day after the controlled start and people were biting at the bit. Tires were ramming me in the leg and everyone was trying to pass. I held my line fighting a little harder than I usually do to not give in to these sort of games. After the hike a bike there was some incredibly steep climbing up to meadows that seemed so far off the grid that I wondered how this was ever even found for us to race on. Many racers were walking but I had resisted getting off and powered the cranks over and once reaching what seemed to be the top, the woods cleared and single track appeared. This was just the fuel I needed! A steep single track climb up roots and rocks. Some racers in front of me struggled instantly to make it over the roots so I pushed a little harder and kept making my way up! Thriving in these conditions. We hit a descent and all the bets were off. This is my territory. Having a language barrier with most of the racers here I just started ringing my bell and saying “passo” till they moved over. Here I caught my friend John, who I met at Moab rocks this year, and we rejoiced together in the single track yelling woo hoo all the way down. Once we reached the bottom we crossed over the river to a fast gravel road and I was able to catch a ride on the pain train to aid station two.

 At Kilometer 24 the wide road narrows as the ascent to Lake Hualalafquén begins. At Kilometer 40 you will begin to glimpse the beauty of Lake Hualalafquén, located barely 2 kilometers from the Argentinian border. The lake, nestled in a magnificent area bordered by beautiful hills and Araucaria pine forests, is a quintessential image of the Transandes Challenge
At Kilometer 24 the wide road narrows as the ascent to Lake Hualalafquén begins. At Kilometer 40 you will begin to glimpse the beauty of Lake Hualalafquén, located barely 2 kilometers from the Argentinian border. The lake, nestled in a magnificent area bordered by beautiful hills and Araucaria pine forests, is a quintessential image of the Transandes Challenge

This is where we crossed the swinging bridge 250 feet above the Maichin River. Only allowing two of us at a time to cross due to the sketchiness I watched John cross and took a couple of deep breaths to calm the nerves. Finally it was my turn. I kept saying big strides and don’t look down. Instantly there was a gap in the boards the size of my foot, my heart skipped a beat, and I said, “that’s where you do not put your foot.” I was able to cross just fine despite my horror and on to the finish I went. Stage 5 was by far my best day. I ended up top 50 overall and was still feeling stronger.

At Kilometer 46 you will cross an artisanal suspension bridge that hangs 80 meters above the Maichin River, another symbolic image of the race
At Kilometer 46 you will cross an artisanal suspension bridge that hangs 80 meters above the Maichin River, another symbolic image of the race

Stage 6 the day that is rejoiced and covered with a gray cloud of sadness all in one. Summer camp has finally come to an end and this was the last day to rally with all of your friends. Because I had finished so well the day before I was able to get the call up for the last stage, and was not positioned in the very back. We took off down the road and as it descended into a right turn I found myself on the left side of the group and someone’s bar came in on mine and I believe hit the brake, because before I could even react or think about it I was sliding on the pavement full speed ahead. My worst nightmare was unraveling.

The burn was immediate and my body was exhausted which brought the water works full force. I’m usually good about jumping up after crashes and acting as if everything is ok. This time it was the total opposite. To my surprise the guy had not stopped and I found myself standing on the side of the road while I watched hundreds of racers zip by me. Two guys competing in the men’s duo from CCRE were the only ones to stop and come help. They spoke close to no English but we had rode some together in the previous days. I kept saying gracias as they fixed my bike and all they said was “you strong woman, finish!” Zirkle and Rob had rolled up at this point, and Rob gave me his South Africa themed arm warmer while Zirkle looked at me and told me to take a deep breath and in the nicest way to dry it up you have to finish.

The guys from CCRE
The guys from CCRE

I hopped back on the bike thankful for all the help, and the CCRE guys and I climbed up from the back to a gate where hundreds of racers stood in line to get through. The CCRE guys escorted me to the front of the line. At first the crowd was angry but after one of the guys yelled in Spanish some words that I did not understand there were cheers among the crowd and the path parted ways for me to get through! At this point I think all the kindness made me cry just a little bit more but I also rallied and began riding with some anger. At this point it became a game to pass everyone and get back to my original position. The first 25km were harsh with some flat bumpy roads that made it unbearable for my arm to hold on to the handle bars. After that though it pitched up a steep climb for 12kms or so and while others walked I made sure to ride passing numerous people and finally reaching my original spot.

I’m fortunate the route to Pucon this day was beautiful. We rode over the base of a volcano and descended some of the best single track of the week. Once we reached aid station 2 after all the descending there was just flat gravel road all the way to Pucon. A Spanish guy had seen my wreck and I think felt bad for me a little and loaned me his rear wheel all the way back in.

When Chile meets Moab
When Chile meets Moab

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I crossed the finish line and immediately Sonya was there to hug me. Sonya has always been a hero of mine in the biking world, and being able to finally meet her at Trans Andes I was overly excited. I didn’t expect just how nice she was going to be. Once Sonya realized there were tears and saw the road rash she helped me over to medic where the process of grinding away my skin with no pain meds began. I’m extremely thankful the medic team was caring and Sonya was there to hold my hands through all the tears. I have never experienced road rash much less cleaning hours of dirt and sweat out of road rash, and I really hope I never experience it again however I did develop a new respect for roadies.

Sonya and I on the last podium
Sonya and I on the last podium

This was it! The race was over and it was time for our last dinner and podium ceremony! To my surprise there was even a dance party after the dinner. Everyone rallied eating endless amounts of meat and pudding, drinking pitchers of pisco sour and red wine, and then broke it down in the middle of park while DJ MASSIVE spit out jams for our bodies to move around too.

The pudding tower in the works
The pudding tower in the works

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All in all if you gave me a scale of 1-10 to rate the race, I would put it at a 15. It surprised me every day in toughness, beauty, friendships, and overall quality of how the race promoter put on the race.

The race was over but the fun wasn’t. The next day we walked around Pucon and went and had lunch and drinks on the beach before a group of us had to leave for the airport. Then Parker, Bill, Sonya, and I went to go ride the ski lift up to Volcano Villarrica where we discovered the lift was shut down. No disappointment there we will just walk up. Sonya’s words, “Let’s just hike till we get tired.” Great Idea! Endurance athletes hiking up a volcano surely we will get tired at some point. We hiked all the way to the snow where a guy in the full set up (ice picks, crampons, and gortex-lined snow gear) took our picture before we figured we should turn around!

The breakfast crew
The breakfast crew
The start of the hike up
The start of the hike up

The evening was finished with sitting by the hotel pool with Kevin, John, Zirkle, and Dave drinking rounds of beer before meeting everyone for sushi, cookies, and even a second course of meat for our last supper all together.

Trans Andes offered more than just a tough, fun week on the bike. There were also friendships made with people around the world that you just hope one day your paths will cross again. Maybe even next year at Trans Andes we will all find ourselves there once again ready to suffer for 6 days on the bike in one of the most spectacular places in the world.

The aftermath
The aftermath
beaching it up
beaching it up

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The Hot springs with the mandatory volcano back drop
The Hot springs with the mandatory volcano back drop
lamb roasting for the last dinner
lamb roasting for the last dinner

2015 Mountain Bike Season Finale

Short track  Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville
Short track
Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville

This blog seems especially harder than normal to write and it’s probably because it is still a lot to wrap my head around. In the past couple of months since Shenandoah100 I have spent almost all of my weekends, except maybe two, racing. A big chunk of those have been for school and I even threw in a 3 day stage race in Moab to spice things up. To say the least my expectations of myself were surpassed in not just my results but just how much fun I have had.

Let’s get this party started though! Nationals! Woah! I finally got to put the stars and stripes on! The collegiate scene this year I went into with a totally different attitude than last year. Actually I would say both Cory and I did. I had taken a month hiatus from mountain biking and training when I got my concussion and when I got back I focused on long rides to prepare for Shenandoah! The first collegiate race was my first weekend of actually XC training. My lungs shriveled up and lactic acid flowed through my entire body pretty quickly but I was able to suffer through and each race it would get just a little easier to max out my effort for a short period of time. I actually ended up going undefeated in the collegiate endurance scene, which was great but honestly I was just waiting for the self destruction similar to what happened at nationals last year. Luckily I was able to stay healthy and the burn out never happened. A lot of this I would say is help from Provision Sports with staying on top of my training plan, but also just realizing that in training suffering can sometimes actually be fun! One of the weekends off from racing Barnabas and I went out at 7am in the rain for a 3-4 Pisgah ride where we got lost, cold, hungry, and still seemed to smile and laugh the whole time. Something actually might be wrong with me but whatever I have fun doing it! There’s just nothing like being in the middle of the woods after working your ass off to get there and think man I am one lucky person to have found myself in this very spot, in this very moment, riding this awesome bike, because there’s no where else I would rather be.

Nationals kicked off with short track Friday morning and to be honest it could not have come any sooner! There’s always a build up to the first race of the weekend and once it’s over it feels like you can let out all that air you have been holding in. Watching Cory win his short track race got me pumped. In a way he set the pace for the rest of the weekend. I lined up at the start with familiar and unfamiliar faces and no expectations, but definitely fully committed to lay it all out in the next 20 minutes or so of nascar style racing on MTBs. A lot of people had talked to me before about being smart in this race because it was roadie formatted and sitting in would be the best way, so when the gun went off for the start I got on Katherine’s wheel, who I know is a strong rider, and we went through the town of Snowshoe then took the first left corner to the jeep road descent. I dropped my dropper, unlocked my front fork and took the pass and aeroed out on the descent! When I got to the climb I looked back and had put a significant gap between the group and me. I instantly dropped the clutch and put some power out! I love having a gap in short track and setting a standard procedure for every lap: This is where I stand, this is where I spin out, This is where I have fun, and this is where I suffer the most! This is exactly what happened. I was able to hold the gap and put some more time on them and cross the line getting my first gold medal ever!

The start of short track
The start of short track

Then there was downhill qualifying! I made some poor choices after short track with my lack of oxygen and food in the system. Everyone else ate lunch while I sat at the trailer daydreaming and getting my Process153 ready to shred after short track. We took off for the downhill when Cory got back and the sugar was low, but we were just going to do a practice run so I didn’t think too much of it. I dropped my chain rolled up on a rock that was a drop and didn’t know, all while I was looking down at my chain and then I was soaring down to the ground! My belly took the impact and I was fine but it startled me so I resorted to all the B lines when I knew some of the A lines were achievable. I ended up qualifying 7th, but I knew in the race I would be able to pull out a better time the next day.

Saturday morning came fast and this was the race I looked forward to most! Especially this year. The course had some technical single track that favored me and long steady climbs. It pretty much was a course of what I ride all the time, so thank you Snowshoe! 🙂 Also this year the women and men were doing the same amount of laps so our time was going to be over 1.5 which for me is good. The start consisted of the short track circle before we got on the XC course and the exact thing happened that happened in short track. I had the gap after the jeep road descent and when we got to the steep longish gravel climb before the single track I stayed within my thresh hold burning no matches and keeping them safe for anything that might happen over the next couple of hours. I made sure to lock the Kona Hei Hei out and was able to keep steady and hold the gap till we got to the single track. When I saw the funnel in for the single track I knew with no errors this was my race to take. I unlocked the Hei Hei and did what I do best.. Embraced the single track and loam zen and danced around in the woods of West Virginia till we got to the climb that took us back to the top of the mountain. On the climb I stayed steady sitting and standing to keep the power going but still saving those matches just in case some one caught back up to me. The D1 ladies started 10 minutes in front of us so I wasn’t alone and I was able to keep passing people which kept motivating me to catch the next lady in line. I came through the first lap smiling and went out and did it all again! I ended up off the D1 ladies time by 2 seconds so it would of been awesome to see what would have happened if I raced her! Another gold medal around my neck! 🙂

Winning XC  Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville
Winning XC
Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville

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Time for Downhill finale and this time I made sure to eat food before hand. Did some practice runs with Cory and Kyle. Spirits were high and it felt just like another weekend of racing and riding with my friends. I put down my fastest time of the weekend and got 4th!

Sunday came just a little slower maybe because the anxiety was lower or maybe everything was just settling in. In the morning we had dual slalom qualifying. It was chilly and cloudy after having some rain which made the course seem just a little bit more awesome in my opinion! In qualifying I had a hiccup at the bottom with the flags but somehow saved it and qualified 4th.

Team relay was right after dual slalom and honestly this is the funnest race of the weekend for spectators and the racers. Kyle, Cory, and I would be doing it. Cory did our first lap while I sat in the box with more anticipation than the whole weekend waiting for him to come back around. They crested the hill, I took a deep breath, got out a match that I saved up, and took off when Cory came through. I lit the match instantly to out sprint Western Colorado’s guy and used my no brakes tactic on the whole lap while holding the throttle down. This is by far the hardest I worked all weekend. I came back through and Kyle was going out for his lap. I actually sat up early before the finish line and Kyle yelled out to me GO KAYSEE, FINISH LINE! If someone had a picture of our faces at this point it would be TERROR and ANGER maxed out. Kyle wanted that gold medal more than anyone I think and probably put the fastest lap down of the day. When he came back through the gap tripled. I went out and lit the last match I had (which I think was soggy and wet because it fizzled out fast). We got to take the team relay win! Lots of hugging and smiling.. Then a refocus for dual slalom!

Team relay crew
Team relay crew

Team omnium all weekend we were in 3rd but everyone was within as few of points as 3 from each other. It came down to team relay and dual slalom and we needed every point we could get. Luckily our team can rally and we all wanted it badly. Everyone scored points but also had some PR’s. I took the silver medal home which shocked myself, but then I remembered I was on the process 153 and it all made sense! The team rallied just enough and we got to be the D2 National Champions! What a way to end the season with the best team ever!

Team Omnium National Champs  Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville
Team Omnium National Champs
Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville
Dual Slalom final round
Dual Slalom final round
The Ladies
The Ladies

Outside of collegiate I did another race to get back to my roots of racing and it was perfect timing to put in a good effort to prepare for nationals. After being consistent in all the Collegiate races I decided to throw in a 3 day stage race out in Moab a couple of weeks before nationals. Many reasons: #1 because it sounded like a blast, #2 it would be a great way to get the legs ready for three days at nationals. Zirkle and I loaded up in the van and headed out west. Moab Rocks was nothing that I expected it to be but in a good way. The day before the race we shuttled the Whole Enchilada where I realized real quick that rocks hurt worse than dirt, but I also looked out on the views not certain if I was on Mars or where we were. It was incredible and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Day one was by far my least favorite one even though we did do some of the enchilada. We started in town and started up a climb for 16 miles. I’ve done 16 mile climbs before but never at the start of a race. Everyone hauled up that climb like we were running for higher ground from a flood. I settled in because that’s all my body would allow and I though it’s no big deal at least you have your iPod and this awesome scenery, and once I get to the single track that’s where I’ll make up some time. BUT THEN my iPod died and with that motivation and hope. Not a minute later though I hear music approaching and it’s a guy with a speaker in his pack. Usually I’ve never been into those because people play music I would rather not hear. However, Rob had a good playlist going and I ended up sitting on his wheel for over half of the climb getting more motivated for the single track ahead. The rest of the two days I would actually sit on Rob’s wheel more than not. After Stage 1 I was in 5th place. Then Stage 2 I moved up to 4th and by the end of stage 3 I was in 3rd. Each day I felt stronger and each day I would hang on to Rob’s wheel for as long as possible, which for the last day was almost to the end but I ended up dropping my chain. I’ve never drafted off someone’s wheel during a race, especially in the single track, but every time I felt his wheel pulling away I would think about the music going away and I would chase after it again. Moab was such a great experience from the road trip to and from, making tons of new friends, the race itself, and all the new trails I got to ride and experience. I’ll definitely keep this one on the radar and get back out there again.

Moab Rocks Women's Podium
Moab Rocks Women’s Podium

Day 3 finsih line
Day 3 finsih line

This season isn’t quite over because I do have some cyclocross but for MTB 2015 season I have shut the door! It was such a great year not only with my results but the experiences, friends, and goals that were accomplished. There were some rough points with big changes in my personal life and then hitting my head really good, but mountain biking was my solid ground to stand on and it seemed like the harder my personal life got the stronger I got on the bike. I wonder now looking back at those moments where things seemed scary and unbearable in my personal life if that didn’t just make me appreciate my time in the woods that much more. Actually I know it did! I would be lying if I told you I’m always the optimistic happy Kaysee that most of you guys get to see. I have moments but I make sure to get on the bike no matter how bad I feel, leave the garmin at home, and hit the trails alone in those moments. There was a quote this summer I saw that has stuck with me and I won’t forget it:

“The key win or lose is to never fail, and the only way to fail is not to fight. So you fight until you can’t fight anymore!” -I don’t remember who

Pretty much that means don’t be a quitter! If you lose a race who cares.. not a lot of people, probably just yourself! Stay positive and give your all no matter how much it is!

A big HUGE shout out to Kona Bikes for helping me have the best race whip out there, the Kona Hei Hei Supreme. Also a big shout out to my boys at Tennessee Valley Bicycles for keeping it in working shape as well as Nox Composites for the strongest:lightest ratio carbon rims out there.

The Whip
The Whip

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Industry 9 servicing my hubs in Moab.. Now that's service!
Industry 9 servicing my hubs in Moab.. Now that’s service!

Frozen Yogurt was a must in the dessert
Frozen Yogurt was a must in the dessert

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XC Podium Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville
XC Podium
Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville

Team Relay Podium Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville
Team Relay Podium
Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville

Dual Slalom Podium Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville
Dual Slalom Podium
Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville

Individual Omnium Podium Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville
Individual Omnium Podium
Photo props goes to Steve Barker of Icon Media Asheville

Shenandoah Shake Down

Popping the bubbly!
Popping the bubbly!

Shenandoah this past weekend is beyond words at this point. Not sure if it is because exhaustion level is still high or if the good times were at an all time high and now I’m speechless. Either way it was another good weekend on the mountain bike and hanging with some rad people. I’m one lucky gal!

Shenandoah 100 has a piece of heart that no other race will ever have. Around five years ago I picked up a mountain bike and rode it down a green way and thought yeah this seems cool let’s get into it. $700 dollars later I had myself a Gary Fisher Waa Hoo and I was determined to become a mountain biker. Whatever that meant.

I came into the sport virtually with a blind fold on and no skills. Luckily I had some fitness and some great people that were willing to spend time watching me ping pong around in the woods, cry some, question why I spent all my savings on this heavy two wheeled object, spend more money on bikes, and convince me to sign up for the Shenandoah100. Yet another rash decision I made. I ended up spending my whole summer putting all my energy into bike riding and then going to race a 100 miles in VA! It was a suffer fest to say the least, but every year I keep going back for more and getting a little bit faster.

This year started as good as any other 6am start would go! We hit some gravel roads and I stayed strong and I was able to have a great position in the single track and not get bogged down too much. When we got to the first descent a smile crept up on my face and I tried to rail it as much as the people in front of me would allow. Then my parachute went off and my body was in “abort” mode. My legs had no power on the climb and everything just felt like it was falling apart. The downhill couldn’t come soon enough, and when I finally hit the downhill I dropped my chain and some how got it in an actual knot. It took a while and a lot of deep breaths to get it figured out while I watched everyone blow past me. At this point I saw Brenda go by. It certainly didn’t surprise me but it definitely wasn’t the most exciting part of my day. I eventually got the chain back on, and finished out the descent to aid station 2. I blew through it and tried to get with some people on the road section. I felt like I was surviving and trying to suck every wheel possible to prevent from complete break down. I passed the Simrils again and thought nah I should probably just stick with them, but my wheels were rolling and I wasn’t willing to back off. We hit the gravel climb and it was everything I could do to keep the cranks turning!

In every 100 mile race you’re going to question your sanity and how this was ever a good idea. This began on that climb and I went deep into the pain cave questioning all endurance events, and even thought over and over I’m done! No more! Enduro racing here I come! I enjoy the descents too much to suffer on the up hills like I am right now. I even questioned why I thought a 34 in the front was a good idea. Who am I!? I’m not strong enough to spin this! The thoughts were getting deep and dark, then Missy and Shaggy showed up! To see familiar faces I was briefly able to not focus on my achy legs and horrible choices! Brenda and Lee passed me on the climb and we exchanged some smiles and they were off. I knew I had to settle in and survive at this point to even complete the race. So that’s what I did!

For the next thirty miles I ended up being able to make up a lot of time and pass people on the descents and would go back and forth with Chris and Gary from Knoxville. Having these two with me on the climbs was the key to being able to snap out of my funk! At one point Chris was in front of me and Gary was behind me on a rocky single track climb (which is usually my favorite) and the two of them would not let me stop! Gary would force me forward and at one point when I started hiking I told him to go by me and leave me! He wouldn’t! He said he was my body guard! My mood started to lift! I started to actually laugh with Gary (which if you have met Gary you know it’s impossible to not smile and giggle around him)! We reached the top of the climb and Chris was there! I took off in front of them with better spirits and ripped down the single track to aid 4 with a huge grin and thought you know at least I’m having fun on the descents who cares if I have no power today!

These 4 dudes are awesome! Garth at some point let me suck his wheel and Gary and Chris were my push to pedal on during the day!
These 4 dudes are awesome! Garth at some point let me suck his wheel and Gary and Chris were my push to pedal on during the day!

At Aid 4 I refueled with the help of all the wonderful volunteers and their encouraging smiles. Took off with a group on the road towards the death climb. I was able to pace line with these dudes all the way there and when it pitched up I was able to put the hammer down! Finally I was feeling normal again! Legs were there and somehow I packed the parachute back up! Going into aid station 5 I was excited for Coke and gummies! I took a handful of every candy possible and packed it in my gas tank! I was quickly informed that Laura was just ahead of me. The motivation was high, spirit was high, and now my blood sugar was high. It was on and I put the throttle down and didn’t lay off till the finish line. I caught Laura on the big descent. Once I caught her I knew it was time to take it up a notch and climbed up the single track with no mercy and when I hit the descents I brought out my ninja skills and loved myself for always running a seat post dropper because it definitely helped to drop people!

Finally, Aid 6 is within site! I bomb through the creek crossing at Mach 50 and than waved to the lovely volunteers as they cheered me on! At this point there is no stopping these wheels from rolling! Laura is probably going to attack as much as possible and the last thing I want is her to pass me back after passing her like a crazy woman on the descent! Plus after such a rough day and rallying at the end all I wanted to do was stand on a box!

The last climb went well I was surrounded by single speeders so I just tried to stay with them. Standing and mashing, sitting and spinning, over and over! Finally the top. A single speeder asked me if I was going to shred or if he needed to pass me? Excuse me!? Kaysee shred? I had no comment I just let the brakes go and got some air off the first roller and within moments he wasn’t on my wheel! We laughed about this later on the next climb and he said he would never question that again!

I rolled into the finish around 9:09 in third place all smiles and beat up! I’ve never been so excited to stand on a box in my life! There are so many strong women that show up to Shenandoah every year and to battle for 100 miles it is physically and mentally deteriorating. Luckily Chris Scott knows how to put a party on for us. Endless beer, tons of friends, good food, and free camping what could be better? Not much! Therefore, I’ll probably be back again next year! Cheers!

And as always a big humongous shout out to Kona for making the most rad rig out there for every race the Kona Hei Hei Supreme! Then of course Nox Composites for outfitting my bike with the strongest:lightest ratio wheels out there! Last but not least Tennessee Valley Bikes for keeping everything in working order!

A strong women's podium to say the least! My girl Eleanor from Knoxville made it up there too!
A strong women’s podium to say the least! My girl Eleanor from Knoxville made it up there too!
At the finish giving a bloody thumbs up before I went to visit the medic team!
At the finish giving a bloody thumbs up before I went to visit the medic team!
Yay!! Free Beer!
Yay!! Free Beer!
Some of the Knoxville crew!
Some of the Knoxville crew!
Apparently there was a jort competition! I think Dicky won with the pose!
Apparently there was a jort competition! I think Dicky won with the pose!
Shenandoah I'll see you again next year!
Shenandoah I’ll see you again next year!