There are so many stories women are told, most notably the stories they tell themselves, along the path to becoming a self-identified female mountain biker. Often these stories are presented as well-intentioned advice.
This spring I needed a new bike – a position that should have inspired only excitement. I was born-again in mountain biking on my last bike (The Perfect Bike) and I love it still, despite the fact that during vigorous rides the thing now sounds like that street performer playing about 10 instruments simultaneously. Entering into the new bike selection process actually inspired mild PTSD. You see, before The Perfect Bike I suffered through a series of ill-fitting, twitchy, poorly set up, under or over-geared machines, each of which I acquired because I believed a story. Retracing this history has helped me identify five key questions that every rider, especially women, should be asking themselves when shopping for a new mountain bike.
Once upon a time…
Story #1: “ You’re not experienced enough for clipless pedals.”
I learned everything the hard way: started riding legit singletrack at 30 in daisy dukes, on a twenty-five dollar cult of poverty hardtail I picked up at a yard sale. Among the first crew I rode with was a guy who told me, “You’re not experienced enough for clipless pedals. It will be years before you’re ready for that”. So when I shopped for my first full suspension mountain bike – an aluminum Gary Fisher – I set it up with heavy steel Primo pedals. I rode the dog out of the Fisher. A year later I moved to Colorado and received the unexpected “gift” of a pair of SPD’s. I spent the next three months the victim of repeated SPD falls, picking gravel out of my knees, grafting skin to my elbows, and resisting the urge to kick my bike over every cliff. I should have come out of the gates with clipless pedals and learned the entire skillset from the get-go.
Story #2: “A light-weight bike with a smaller wheel is better for smaller riders.”
Not long after recovering from that bout of SPD-itis, I was bit by the carbon bug, perhaps an even more serious malady. I started shopping for a new bike again. At that time, 26” rigs still took up as much space in bike shops as 29-ers. I had traded my dukes in for a chamois and figured out hydration packs. At just under 5’5″, fully geared up and soaking wet, I weighed in at about 125. The staff at a trusted bike shop explained that light-weight, nimble 26” bikes suit smaller riders: strength to weigh ratio, turning radius, blah, blah, blah. So I got one. That bike was the lightest, steepest, twitchiest, race set-up on the trail. I was lightning fast…when I was upright. I scored insane endo style points that year. And then one day I rode a friend’s 29” bike. The longer wheelbase added confidence and stability to the equation, even in switchbacks. Descending, I felt like a tractor. Despite my size, I’m a big wheel girl. I should have done test rides on both wheel sizes before making my buying decision.
Ladies, it’s not just bad advice from others. Most of these are stories we also tell ourselves. If I had a nickel for every lady rider that came in SG and said “I’m pretty small so I need to demo a 27.5,” I would ride gold-plated wheels. And don’t get me wrong – I’m not telling women that they shouldn’t ride a smaller wheel or should replace her factory-installed dropper. I’m telling all mountain bike shoppers that discovering your own riding style and analyzing your own preferences is a valuable investment of time.
When shopping for a new bike, find all your opportunities to demo. And someone – whether yourself or an expert at a shop you trust – should ask the five following questions:
1. What’s your favorite part of riding? 2. Can you describe the trail that you feel most confident on or enjoy the most, and why? 3. Do you have a riding goal or dream destination that you are working towards? 4. Are you more nervous about climbing or descending? 5. Do you ever (truly in your heart of hearts) intend to take big hits?
Ironman Boulder’s bike course is now THREE loops (passing through the Boulder Reservoir four times!), potentially faster, and should be tons of spectator-friendly fun!
Ironman continues to refine this course, and after listening to athlete feedback proclaiming they want a more connected and spectator-friendly bike ride, the new course will feature three loops, passing through the reservoir area four times giving racers that extra boost of crowd energy. There, family and friends will be able to cheer and hang out at the beer garden, listen to music, swim in the lake and enjoy the time (and amazing views!) while waiting for their athlete to pass through.
Food trucks will be there along with other entertainment and features still being planned. Shuttle buses will run throughout the day for easy transport between the Reservoir and downtown Boulder.
The course could potentially be faster, especially as racers will head east from Highway 36 on St. Vrain road with its nice downhill instead of on Highway 66 like the last three years. The three loops will still utilize most of the same roads as previous years, but on the last lap racers will spend time on a closed Four Mile Creek bike path for a couple of miles before dropping riders onto a few streets heading into T2.
An added plus?No Railroad crossings!
Pro Triathlete, Chris Leiferman, competing this year and who led the group on Saturday, said he “likes the bike path near the end as it’s quiet and will give everyone a chance to stretch out a bit and relax before hitting the run.”
Poppy Sports owner Melanie Mitchell, who isn’t currently signed up, says she is more tempted now after riding the course because, “Three loops mentally seems more attainable than 112 out in the middle of the plains. Having done the 70.3 it is very familiar territory and training will be easier to ramp up mileage doing loops of the course.”
Tim Brosious, the new race director (don’t worry Dave Christen will be around too—he is a regional director now), says, “This is a celebration day not only for the athlete but also for the families, friends, and supporters who have taken on extra responsibilities over the past year to make sure their athlete has a memorable day and crosses the finish line with a sense of fulfillment and pride.”
Thinking about IRONMAN Boulder? Already signed up? Look here on 303 to find out about IRONMAN’s new Team Colorado to make this your best and most memorable Ironman ever! Opportunities for exclusive training with professional triathletes, one-of-a-kind IRONMAN Team Colorado gear, and more. Stay tuned this week for big announcements!
If anyone knows life can change in a moment’s notice, it’s Craig Towler. The Boulder man lost his legs when an accused intoxicated, distracted driver hit him. For the first time since the accident Towler spoke to CBS4’s Jennifer Brice.
“Your body is such an amazing tool,” said Towler.
It’s a tool the 29-year old has leveraged his whole life.
He enjoys hiking, biking, races and being outdoors. Towler believes if you treat your body right, “You can watch yourself get stronger.”
For those of you who do Sufferfest Videos (confession: I’m not one of you, but Khem is so I get called upstairs not infrequently when there’s something funny on the screen while she’s working out) – you know “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” is never true.
I was fortunate to punch my Kona ticket more than a year ago at Wisconsin and got to prepare for the race without the specter of actually needing to qualify for it. But there was one big problem: and as typical it all started at mile 11 of the run… It’s heeeeeere…
Kona Week is insane. And this time there was no escaping it. The last 2 trips to Kona we stayed about 4-5 miles south on Ali’i Dr at a secluded VRBO. A great lanai, peace and quiet, away from the craziness of downtown Kona – a cute and charming beach town that gets over-run by people like me and (Richard) Byyny the second week of October.
But this time we opted for staying at the King K Marriott – the host hotel and headquarters. And sure enough, day 1 there’s multi-time Kona winner Paula Newby-Frazer in the lobby chatting with one of her athletes, a gaggle of pro’s hanging by the pool, Craig Alexander being Craig Alexander.
It was all a bit intimidating but I’m just an age-grouper who got a ticket to the show by the skin of his teeth so I chose to ignore much of it and hop on my bike with Byyny. Byyny is also insane. 36 hours before we race and there we are biking the Queen K in the heat of the day when the winds are also the worst, him with a Go Pro that he jerry-rigged to his aero-bars (and then to mine) as we pound out some watts and hope the semi’s miss us (they did).
Then we swam at his resort (hint: not the Marriott)… PS: we both swam 1000m.
Here’s the data from the swim:
Kona atmosphere – It’s just off the hook. Go to Lava Java, order some pancakes, grab a seat and I guarantee within 20 minutes you’ll see at least 4 pro’s and Dave Scott. I chatted with all the founders of Cervelo over a latte at Evolution who to my great surprise still didn’t offer to put me on a new P5x for free..
All the industry people are there, everyone is ripped, no one is taking this race lightly, no one is up past 8pm and everyone is out for a practice run on Ali’i by 5am, 6 at the latest.
Kona is a celebration of all things triathlon, which has its good and bad, but the key word is celebration. Unbridled love and passion for our sport. If you’re not excited there’s something wrong with you.
Build – There are only 3 disciplines to triathlon and I’m pretty bad at 2 of them. I knew I didn’t have the motivation to work on my swim and historically I bleed time on the run so after Whistler I decided to try to run 500 miles in 10 weeks. It took me seven. I read a bunch about how to do this safely and then I abused my Treadmill with the following plan: 50% at slower than Ironman pace30% at Ironman pace20% at threshold or VO2 max pace (those days were rough) As it’s me I also got a little crazy and competitive with it. One morning, I woke up and ran a marathon on the Mill. 26.2 miles on the TM – thank you Royal Tenenbaums, US Open Tennis coverage and Ke$ha for getting me through that one. At least 1, sometimes 2 long runs of 18+ miles/week. I hurt my left quad once and had to take 3 days off, then 2 weeks later my right quad (2 days off) and finally after one run I slipped getting out of my hot-tub and thought for a minute I broke my hip. I was a mess but by the end of it I finally had something I never had before – a running base. *New yellow bike shoes – bad idea as you’ll soon find out
Swim I thought I had a good swim. Clean water, didn’t take too much contact, followed one guy for the majority of it, conserved energy. And yet I came out and had another crummy time, perhaps because I don’t swim. K2 I’m enrolling us in swim lessons at the Y this winter.
Swim Time: 1:17 Swim Pace: 2:00/100mRank: AG: 228/254, OA: 1792/2316 (At least I beat 26 guys in my AG out of the drink)
T1 – So those new yellow bike shoes in the picture from before? For the life of me I could not get them on after the swim. Plus the pier is super long and you have to run ALL the way around it to fetch your bike, which I proceeded to run past. Twice. 14 Ironman races and I still make all the mistakes. Time: 5:24 (!) Bike – Hopped on my bike and re-grouped mentally. Swim doesn’t matter, neither does T1. But you know what matters? The bike.
*Okay, let’s geek out for a minute. 2015 Trek SC 9.9, rode Zipp 808 in the back, 303 in the front (for those of you who will KQ in the future: take it from me do not ride anything deeper than about 50mm there), new Ossymetric rings (56/42) which looks like a large square dinner plate and supposedly improves power, 25mm Continental GP4000S II tires with latex tubes and an extra water bottle on the frame. It’s fast.
I was going along, minding my own business, averaging 24.6mph through the first 18 miles on 250 watts when the winds hit. They always hit you at Kona but some years are worse than others (2004, 2014 among the worst, 2013 among the best). The fact that they started up so early was a bad sign. Primarily a headwind with some cross and it’s Kona so we’re not talking about a little 5 mph breeze. Lean the bike into the wind and focus. Keep the wattage the same. My speed over similar terrain dropped from 25mph to 15mph. It’s demoralizing but I took a breath, smiled and told myself it’ll get better which is typically true but as this is Kona there’s also a chance it’s not.
We did get a bit of a tail wind at around mile 48 as we began the climb up to Hawi, about 12 miles away. Got to see the pro’s shooting down from Hawi – Frodeno, Kienle and Hoffman leading the men, Ryf a couple of suburbs away from her competition. Bunch of motorcycles with tech support, NBC cameras, 2 helicopters, pace car – it was quite the procession. Then the top male AGer’s who all look like pro’s.
Finally, the turn around at Hawi and pray you survive the descent. The wind was blowing hard and a couple of huge wind gusts knocked me and my bike several feet to the side – it was downright frightening. I can’t imagine how some of the smaller athletes or those who rode deeper front wheels fared.
*Jen Schafner – local lawyer, fellow Genesee resident, 3x Kona Qualifier, Coeur-sponsored and Koz’s wife – not to mention AG winner of Louisville last year and total BAMF. Getting the work done on the Queen K. And unless your name is Austin Johnson, John Anderson or Gwen Jorgensen, she also runs A LOT faster than you.
You get back on the Queen K (the same road that had the bad head/cross winds before) hoping for respite but knowing what’s more likely in store and sure enough.. winds had changed direction so you get more head/crosswinds all the way home. Re-think my sub-10 hour goal – I knew I needed perfect conditions to go 9-something and these were anything but. Kept my head down, cadence high, system hydrated. Say a little prayer. Bike Time: 4:59Bike Pace: 22.42mphNormalized Power: 247wRank: AG: 86/254, OA: 543/2316
T2- And I couldn’t get my stupid yellow bike shoes off. It took 3 volunteers about 2-3 minutes to rip them off my feet. Unbelievable, I’m such an idiot. Time: 6:07 (!!)
Run – I did the math and knew I needed about a 3:30 marathon to get under 10. That’s a tall order for me – I may have some run fitness but it’s largely been untested and I knew it was pretty fragile. Still, a 3:30 is 8-min miles so I tried to go out on Ali’i – a down and back of 10 miles that’s pretty flat – at a pace under that. I was holding 7:45s. Ran up the hill at Palani and high-fived Greg Welch who was announcing people on it. Crowds were so big. Turned onto the Queen K at Mile 11 to start the final 15 miles.
It was 89 degrees in Kona, and it was humid. They say it’s at least a few degrees hotter on the Queen K. Looked down at my watch – 7:54 average pace. 2 hours left and I set out to destroy myself to stay under an average 8-min pace. I’ll save you the gory details and fast forward about 110 minutes but it wasn’t pretty. I turned myself inside out to try to make it but by the time I climbed back up to Palani, my pace was 8:12 and I knew my chances to go sub-10 were over. But I never gave up and while I may need new knees in a few years, I’m going with it was all worth it.
For anyone who doesn’t think adrenaline is a real thing, give an Ironman everything you have and then once you cross the finish line try to to walk. How the legs can go from running to needing to be propped up by 2 people and hauled off to a lounge chair is a little beyond me. Run time: 3:35 Run Pace: 8:13/mi Total Time: 10:04 Rank: AG: 72/254, OA: 491/2316
Afterward – Found Byyny who looked like I felt. He asked me to get him some pizza and broth. No problem, it’s like 100 feet away in the athlete’s post-race area, let me get my walker and I’ll be back in about 45 minutes. I returned a few minutes later only to discover Byyny and my thermos filled with delicious Kona coffee had vanished into thin air. I looked everywhere for him and more importantly my thermos then thought maybe I was confused and left him somewhere else. I started asking around if anyone had seen a 45yo male with a finisher’s medal around his neck who looked younger than stated age but as this was Kona that didn’t help narrow it down much. I finally found him in the medical tent getting IV fluids so I texted his wife to come fetch him so I could begin my 2-hour walk back to my room 250 yards away.
We all rallied for a beer later and to see the Midnight Finishers. A son finishing with his Dad. A double arm amputee coming down the finishing chute. Old guys, young ones, everyone freaking the you know what out. It’s dark, it’s actually raining, it’s still warm out and Kona is going bonkers.
And then hung out with Miranda Carfrae. And by hanging out I mean I snapped a photo as she talked to other people and signed autographs for them. Rinny is a total class act.
So that’s all I got. 3rd Kona and with the new slot rules making it more difficult to get in I’m not sure when or if I’ll make it back but either way that’s okay. It’s been so much “fun” and I’ve appreciated every minute of it, even through all the suffering. Special thanks to everyone – ALL our families, friends and loved ones – for supporting, cheering us on and tolerating us! Wheat Ridge Cyclery for the last minute work on the Breyermobile, as well as Team Timex, Team DGBG, RealRyder and 303Triathlon for all your support. And good luck to the Wondercouple in Maui in 2 weeks… K2 please don’t drown.
IRONMAN.com just published their list of the top ten places to “be an Ironman.” They scoured the globe, looking to answer the question, “Where are the best places to be an IRONMAN? What cities offer the perfect blend of training partners and racing opportunities?”
And – no surprise – earning its “triathlon mecca” moniker, Boulder, Colorado landed #1 on the list . . .
by Jennifer Ward Barber
We know where young people want to live, and what town attract healthy outdoorsy types. But where are the best places to be an IRONMAN? What cities offer the perfect blend of training partners and racing opportunities?
The cities that follow are home to the top IRONMAN athletes in the U.S. Read on to find out why.
1. Boulder, Colo.
At the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder, Colo. benefits from altitude and beautiful scenery. Many professional triathletes call town home base for all or part of the year.
“Living and training in Boulder is a triathlete’s dream,” says Pam Schuckies, Team Captain for the Newton Foundation Racing Team and member of the Boulder TriClub. “It’s not unusual to cross paths with an Olympian or an IRONMAN World Champion running on a trail or out on the road cycling.”
Train: “Since it’s so dry, it doesn’t feel so cold and can be hovering around 32 degrees and it is still pleasant to go out for a run, especially if it’s sunny. We actually have a lot of sunshine here year round,” says Schuckies.
Race: There are lots of events to compete in locally, from low-key local duathlons, triathlons and aquathons, to famous events like Bolder Boulder and Boulder Peak Triathlon and Boulder 70.3. And of course Boulder is proud to host the inaugural IRONMAN Boulder in 2014.
Live: Gain an advantage through proximity to world-class coaches and other resurces such as physical therapists, massage therapists and nutritionists who specialize in athletes. Rub shoulders with the pros and provide home-stays for a professional triathlete. (Schuckies has hosted Australia’s Tim Reed, German Faris Al Sultan, and American Jenna Shoemaker.)