My mountain bike and I spent more than ten hours together this week in Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Boulder. I mentioned earlier that throwing more mountain biking into the mix is one aspect of my new approach this season. It’s an aspect I’m thoroughly enjoying.
I’m recently started riding the Specialized Fate Carbon 29’er. It’s a hardtail – and a women’s specific bike. I’ve never ridden a 29’er before and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on a hardtail. Not only is riding the mountain bike at this time of year different for me, but it’s also a fun, new challenge riding a different style of bike than the ones I’ve been on previously.
I headed to Colorado Springs to meet up with Mark Legg Compton – known to many as @MrKatieCompton on Twitter. Mark took me to the Pueblo Reservoir on what was the most perfect summer-like day that we could have possibly wished for in the middle of March. It was 80°F and there was hardly any wind. The water in the Res looked like glass. I was surprised not to see any skiers out there. It was so calm and quiet you could have heard a pin drop. I’m guessing that’s fairly unusual for the location. That place would be brutal if it was really windy because it’s so wide-open and exposed.
Loose shale makes up the trails at the Pueblo Res, so the riding is suitable for just about anyone who wants to head out on the mountain bike. The only time these trails would get challenging would be if you really picked up speed. Shale can get slippery in the turns – and there are a lot of turns in these trails. The entire day was fairly twisty, turny.
Mark and I rode for almost four hours, and I’d say 90% of that was pedaling. Just pedaling. It was a long day on the bike – and a fun day. It had been a long time since I had been on a mountain bike for that long, so I felt a little beat up at the end. There was definitely a tired, happy feeling at the end of our day.
The next afternoon, we rode from Katie and Mark’s house to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. We rode via bike paths to the Air Force Academy, did a big loop out there and then headed back to their house. The loop was completely different than what we had ridden the previous day. Some of the trails were lined with trees. We had uphills, longer descents and technical bits. It wasn’t necessarily constant pedaling on the single track, so that was different, too. It was another long day in the saddle, clocking in at just under four hours once again.
The two days gave me the opportunity to work on both my endurance and my technical skills. For me, it’s really important that I learn how to get faster and more confident in a variety of terrain. I want to know my way around rocks, roots, loose gravel and shale. I’m still learning where to put my wheel so that I’m not washing out in the slippery stuff. I’m working on getting my weight back on the steeper, rockier and more technical descents. A lot of the learning curve involves repeated practice. I need to do it over and over and over again. Riding with someone like Mark helps me a lot, too. He’s able to give me tips to help me climb that curve a bit more quickly.
On Sunday, I rode with my friend and former teammate Lara Kroepsch and her boyfriend Corey. They’re house-sitting up on Magnolia, so I loaded up my stuff and made my way up the canyon. We rode from their place to Walker Ranch where we did a hard loop before riding back to the house. They’re riding to get ready for the Whisky 50, and they’re just starting to train a bit more. I’m always excited to have more people to mountain bike with and explore trails I haven’t ventured out on yet on my own.
Until Sunday, I had never been to Walker Ranch by bike or on foot. It was a warm but somewhat crappy day. It was overcast and windy. We didn’t notice it much. The tree-lined trails provided us with shelter. There was still quite a bit of snow up there which was unexpected and provided an additional challenge. My ride time on Sunday was just under three hours.
The end-game with all this mountain biking is mostly to have fun. Yes, of course, I hope to improve my skills and that this improvement translates over to an improvement in skills for ‘cross. Still, I’m doing this because it’s fun. While it’s nice to sprinkle in mountain bike training, I do know that I need to find a balance. I can’t ride my mountain bike whenever I want. It does have to have some sort of training purpose. It can’t be only fun and games.
That being said, so far, it is fun and games. I’m pushing myself in ways that I don’t on the road. I’m riding with new people. I’m exploring new places. I’m keeping my training fresh and exciting. It’s good for my morale, my confidence, my legs and my head.
Last week, I received my new USA Cycling license. I applied for an upgrade in mountain biking so that I could do some more mountain bike races this season, and even though I knew I had received the upgrade, it was still somewhat of surprise to see ‘Pro’ listed as my mountain bike category. I definitely did a double take. And while my mountain bike and I might not have many more weeks where we get to spend ten hours together in our near-future, we will absolutely have some quality time together in the coming weeks. I’m racing cross-country and short-track at Sea Otter, and we need to be ready to live up to that ‘Pro’ listing on my license.
You will always be considered a “pro” in my mind – It was great reading up on your stories as of late. I hope you are well!