Green Bay, Wisconsin [Colorado Trail Race]

Alexandera Houchin_Jay Cooke-4630.jpgHere’s my letter of intent, which was rather brief for this race, and I failed to post before I went out for my traverse. I generally have big emotional goals, big spiritual goals. I was rather exhausted driving out west and racing my last ultra of the season. I’m usually seeking a route that allows me a space to clear my mind, to sort things out, to forget, to move on, to break myself down, to build myself up…

It was supposed to be a yo-yo this year. The goal list I had taped to my wall read “CTR Yo-yo 2019”.  I was going to ride from Durango and find Waterton Canyon then turn right around and head back. But, I simply, just don’t want to. The thing about these races is that your heart needs to be in it. I’m entirely exhausted. School, training, traveling, racing and love took it all out of me this year.

What I want to do is, race hard for a week, then I want to drive to Brush Mountain Lodge to see my dear, dear friend Kirsten. I want to sit and socialize with my friends and reflect on a year full of effort- school, training, performing. I want to relax, and I want to write about what I’ve been thinking about. I want to unwind and transition out of my summer mental space. I want to come home and set up some rides in my neighborhood. I want to volunteer at the health clinic and shadow the doctors who have offered to show me the way. I want to get a job and pay off the credit cards I maxed out chasing my dreams this past year. I want to get back to lifting. I want to nurture relationships in the city I live in. I want to fall in love with my man, my man who is back home and is hopefully, waiting for me the way I am waiting for him. And I want to be all in for my last year of undergrad. I’m in this, full heart. Regardless of the outcome, I just want to cross that finish line.

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Pre race: Mazinaakizon and Ditibised agree to meet in Wausau, Wisconsin. Wausau is derived from the Ojibwe word waasa, far away, another place name from the language of her ancestors. They were going to road trip to Colorado. Her sponsors had helped her with funds for gas, and she was paying that good fortune forward offering to pay for the gas round trip. She’s blessed, but it only keeps coming if one shares the good fortune. She tries her best to do that, pay it forward. They finally hit the road some time after 15:30 on the Wednesday before the race. She opted to drive the first 8-hour shift. She finally retired to passenger status around midnight where Mazinaakizon volunteered to run the night shift. She succumbed to dreamland and awoke at 6:00 a.m. when Mazinaakizon revealed that he’d been going crosseyed and needed to stop driving for the night. She hopped in the driver’s seat and finished the drive into the heart of Denver. She finally pulled into the parking spot across the street from Totem Cyclery, a small shop owned and operated by her friend Mashkawiziiwin. He’s a solid human, and for the second year in a row, she get’s to breathe him in before she sets out for a ballet atop the backbone of Colorado.

They say their hellos, how are you’s, how have you beens before trading a puffy coat for hugs and the two racers say giga-waabamin to their Denver muscle.

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They head to the Waterton Canyon Trailhead to park the Element. Aandaabikinigana and his wife agreed to drive them to Carbondale to meet Mazinaakizon’s friend, Craig. The group shared a Mexican feast and parted ways. Craig drove the duo through the rainy night late into the night where they found a parking spot in the mountains. They emptied the bikes from the van, and all nestled into dreamland on the floor of Craig’s trusty home on wheels. Morning found them and they packed up, headed to Molas Pass, where Mazinaakizon and Ditibised planned to ride the 77 miles on the Colorado Trail to Durango for a pre-race shakedown. In no time, they found the snow in the San Juans. Fields of snow void of tire tracks. It would be the last time she barreled through virgin snow for the rest of her time in Colorado. After some 10 hours on the bike with Mazinaakizon, they’d only traveled 25 miles together. She did not have it in her to ride another 50 miles of the trail; she knew it would be another full day of riding. She was saving it for the race. She said bye to her riding partner and opted to bail down a trail, that was not, in fact, a trail. She spent 4 hours hike-a-biking down a river while carrying her bike on her shoulders. Knee deep in freezing flowing water, Hobble Creek came to mind. Night came and she was still climbing over the downed trees. She’d carried a few pounds of potatoes and beans and garlic and onions and bacon to prepare a trail feast. She’d promised herself, once she got out of the river, she’d build a fire and prepare that damn feast. She eventually found that trail. The trail turned to a two-track road, and eventually, she found a graded dirt road that would lead her into the town of Rico. She camped before emerging from the woods. She’d tackle the 70+ miles of road the next day. She woke early to hit the road and emerged in Rico, Colorado. As she pedaled through Rico, she saw a fella with a bike on the back of his truck. Oh, how she longed for a ride across the flat boring miles. He drove away, but just a few miles up, he was standing outside his truck sipping coffee when she heard “Hey, are you Ditibised?” She smiled and rolled up to meet him. He was the husband of the first place CTR woman finisher last year. “I’m a big fan!” He shouts. She asks him for a ride and he drives her 15 miles up the road before he needs to turn around to meet his friends at the trailhead. She gave him her phone number in case his wife has any questions; he said she may show up at the Tour next year. She finishes pedaling into Dolores and finds the public library. Still, 45 miles to go. Aandaabikinigana offers to come to rescue her and she arrives in Durango around lunchtime. There she meets up with some friends for lunch and they all pile into another friends house to start pre-race traditions. Tour Divide veterans, Colorado Trail veterans; family. Braids and joints, laughs and strategy. Lewis shows Ditibised his excel spreadsheets. They find Bailey at the grocery store. Mazinaakizon has twice as much food as all the other racers. He’s a hungry boy though, and his frame bag can handle it. Sleep finds the crew early after Karla feeds their hungry bellies. 4 a.m. will come soon enough.

raceday 0: Ditibised crashed on the couch, she’d tried to sleep early, but before she knew it, 10:00 p.m. beeped on her watch. Shit. She knew she only had four and a half hours of sleep ahead of her. She smelled the coffee in the air before her eyes could focus on anything. She saw Aandaabikinigana and he softly asked, “can I make ya some cafe sis?” He was her brother, her hero, her friend, one of the truest and newest, and rarest loves she’d ever had in her life. He truly cared for her like a little sister; she’d spent her life being the big sister. He’d opted to sit out this time on the CTR. “Sure” her voice cracked. It was 2:30 a.m. and they were about to roll out to the start at Velorution Cycles. She dressed, brushed her teeth and set out with Lewis for the start. Breathing was already hard enough, she’d not been able to keep up with the men on the geared bikes, but Lewis waited for her at every turn. It was something unique to her, to share this ride to the start with him. For last year, they’d pedaled the Tour Divide together but never crossed paths once. He’d won the whole race outright, she was the first womb across the finish line. King and Queen of the 2018 Tour Divide, set out to conquer the Colorado Trail. She hugged him, wished him the best ride, and carried on mingling. She met Sheila, and Chris (her King counterpart for the 2019 TD), she hugged Kurt and they chatted a moment. The race was about to begin.image2.jpeg

The masses pedaled away from her on the pavement section. About 45 minutes between Velorution and the Junction Creek Trail Head. She knows that ultras aren’t won in the miles of day one; ultras can escape you in the miles of day one though. She hangs back and consciously tries to keep her heart rate in the aerobic zone. Anaerobic exercise causes lactic acid to build up in her muscles, and the pain from that was too fresh in her mind. Just a week before, she’d raced her single speed 235 miles in Michigan all above anaerobic threshold. She’d begin to pass people a few hours in– once the hike a bike started. She loves the hike-a-bike. That means there will be something epic to descend. She’d ridden with Beth for a few hours; Beth kicked her ass in the Smoke-n-Fire a few years back. She’d ridden with Katie; she’d kicked her ass in the DKXL just this summer. She’d ridden with Corrie from Alaska, she’d pedaled everything Ditibised was walking; straight power. She’d heard from the hikers ahead that she was the 4th female. She’d smile, and say thanks. But day one, it usually doesn’t matter to Ditibised. Day one is the warm-up. Miles to work out the kinks before the competitor comes out. She crests the hike-a-bike at Kennebec to a couple who recognizes her. The fella runs alongside her cheering her on. She seeks Indian Ridge. She’d pedaled it with Jim last year. A few miles up, her beacon rattles loose and she sees her bolt drop to the ground. She pulls over to repair the issue and manages to find the bolt. As she’s fixing the problem, Jim rolls by on his Saturday group ride, she smiles and hugs him. She hadn’t seen him since last year and she wishes she could turn around and ride with him again. He looked the same, smiling and strong, just as the Jim in her memory. He passed by quickly and she carried on. She found Mazinaakizon eating trailside, and spent the day leap-frogging with Petr, her friend from CTR 2018 and the 906 Crusher. She pedaled until 9:30 p.m. and ate some food before deciding to take an early sleep. A half-hour into sleep, Mazinaakizon whispers “Ditibised? Is that you?” She wakes and says yes, and invites him to sleep nearby. They curl up in their own sleep set ups, but close enough to hear each other breathe. Friends like this are few and far between. She wakes at 1:00 a.m. and hits the trail by 1:30 to find Molas by 4:30 a.m. She tries to bring him with her, “just another half hour, he says”. The San Juans were thick with snow; she knew this though, she’d ridden this section of trail just 48 hours before. It took nearly 24 hours for her to travel 77 miles. She finds Craig, and Dylan at Molas and gives knuckles.

raceday 1: She rolled down from Molas into Silverton where nothing was going to be open. She found Andrew, the first single speeder she’d seen in nearly a half day. She’d known who he was; they’d raced in the DKXL together. “Hi!” Ditibised exclaims. “How was your night? Where’d you camp?” As they were chatting, Richard rolled up. She’d met Richard the year before when he came to ride out of Steamboat with her while she was racing the TD. He’d said he was going to race the CTR the year before, but she never got a chance to follow up. The army of three carried on slowly, headed for Stony Pass. Cataract Ridge was waiting for them. Richard pulled off, and Ditibised spent the morning chasing Andrew. In the meantime, Mocha caught up to her and they spent the morning chatting back and forth and eventually caught up to Andrew while he was eating lunch by some water. The army of three endured the heat of the day together. They shared the summit, silence and snacks and shoe removal. That had been single-handedly, the hardest 100-mile push of her bikepacking career, and she was exhausted. Mocha pedaled off, and she never saw him again. Andrew and Ditibised would continue to leapfrog for the remainder of the race. Diibised pulled ahead of Andrew as they dropped off Cataract Ridge. She was exhausted and hurting, and found herself running through the mosquito-infested babyhead field until she found the sheep. She hopped on her Stella and descended with reckless abandon, she was tired of the mosquito massacre. Before she knew it, she’d felt her tire go squish and she looked down to see sealant spouting from the valve core. A rock had bounced into her spokes and busted the valve in half. She pulled out her repair kit and immediately dropped the replacement valve in the dirt. Her only other option was to tube the tubless set up. 45 minutes into her repair, Andrew came passing by. He slowed to chat, but she told him to keep pressing forward. The mosquitoes were murder. While her wheel was off, she figured she should swap her brake pads, where she proceeded to dial them out the wrong way and extracted the whole dial in mechanism and it fell into the dirt. She scoured it, feeling hopeless, and eventually found it. It took her 15 minutes to re-install. She was shakey, angry, exhausted. She’d just lost over an hour to mechanicals, and she knew Andrew was faster than her on the pedally sections. The road detour was just ahead. Spring Creek pass descends pavement to the bottom of the climb up to Slumgullion Pass. She was passed by another fella while repairing her bicycle. She caught him on the climb, “I can’t believe how fast you are on that single speed.” She waits for the climbs, it’s the only place she passes people in races. The longer, the better. She could climb, cadence like the pulse of a metronome, all the way to the moon, if there were only a trail leading there. She summited and made a deal with herself. She’d start the descent, and camp whenever she had to start pedaling. 7 miles later, she found a picnic table, ate a handful of oatmeal cream pies, and drifted to dreamland.

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raceday 2: She woke to daylight. She’d slept nearly six hours. Panic hit, I slept too long. But, she slowly sat up, and smiled. Sure, she slept too long, but the prior 48 hours had been the most challenging miles she’d ever traversed. She owed it to her body to take a break before she pressed on. She ate a breakfast of beef jerky, colby cheese, and hemp seeds. She guzzled water, filled up, and set out for Dome Lakes. The Dome lakes weren’t particularly amazing. But it’s a place in her heart. She’s passed them on the Tour 4 times, and the Colorado Trail 3 times now. It’s memories of moments that only come alive by that forest service toilet. The time she slept in it, the time she’d sought it to do a wardrobe swap and needed to escape the mosquitoes, the time she wanted to quit but took her boots off and dipped her smelly feet in the water, the time she was there with the crew and used the toilet while all the boys peed outside… It’s a place nearly as warm as home to her. She changed clothes, it was now 9:00 a.m. and the sun was high in the sky. She knew the flat miles would set her back from her geared competitors, so she tried to relax and accept her 10 mph speed. Sargents Mesa was coming. That part was fresh in her memory. It was the first time she’d wanted to quit the race last year. It was too hard, she was so slow. She knew she’d have to rest, to recover before conquering it. She began the ascent slowly, with intention. The climb to Sargent’s Mesa is much like the climb out of the Gila on the Arizona Trail, except more rugged, by a million percent. It’s a series of 10 or so up and downs. Hike-a-bikes and chunky descents full of babyhead rocks. There were no raspberries this year, a disappointing reality. Atop one of the summits, she turns her phone on. He’s calling. She answers, she’s racing, but she’d never missed a man more. She wanted him to know that she’d never stopped racing in an ultra before to just talk on the phone. She gave him a few minutes. She’d remembered his touch through the sound of his voice. Home. Maybe he’d still be waiting when she made it home. He believed in her, he reminded her– she’s got this. She says her ‘see you laters’ and ‘I miss you’s’. Her text messages pile in, “Whose this Lee woman?” her friend asks her. Some hikers come walking toward her. “The other woman is just over this hill” they say. I’ll catch her soon, I feel strong she thinks. Half an hour passes, and at the summit of the next climb, Ditibised sees two blonde pigtails poking from a helmet. She recognizes the bike, Juliana Joplin. She knows many lady rippers that call that bike their own. She’d never met Lee, and she strikes up a conversation. They descend, Lee flies by her. They find a stream; neither filter their water, but they each fill up. Ditibised asks “have you done many of these races?” “Uh, yeah!” She says. Ditibised doesn’t spend much time on the internet and had no idea who Lee was, or the incredibly accomplished career she’d had on the bike. They chatted a while before another hike-a-bike approached. Ditibised was behind and had asked to pass. “Sure,” and Lee moved to the side. Up, up,up. She pressed on hard, strong, steady, and slowly. She climbed with intention. Forward is forward. Slow is steady, and steady is fast. She gained miles on her throughout the night and within a few hours, she caught up to Andrew. He let her pass, he’s relatively new to mountain biking and working on his descending skills. He’s getting better by the hour. She comes across a group of hikers, “want some fruit snacks!?” she says no, but dings her bell and laughs a bit with them. They say she’s the most smiley rider they’d seen all day. She agrees, this traverse of Sargents was euphoric. She conquered what had conquered her the year before. She carries on longer, late, into the night. She finds Marshall Pass, climbs up to Fooses, and naps a few hours. She summits at 4:00 a.m. She wishes she could wait, to see the sun soar over the mountains. Instead, she puts on her puffy and starts the descent.IMG_0295 (1).JPG

raceday 3: It’s snow ridden, she can’t ride it and trots through the snow. The mud is plentiful, so much so, that she’d slipped and re-fractured her rib again. That slows her down with both physical discomfort and apprehension. She’s afraid of all the mud now. And climbing out of the saddle is nearly excruciating. She can’t get a full breath, and she’s pissed that she could have such a tiny mishap with big consequences. She finally finds highway 50 and passes Mauricio and Richard. Mauricio is eating; Richard is coming out of the trail where Ditibised is headed. He is scratching. She chats with him while she changes her front brake pads. He’s over the race, he’s not at the pace he wants. “Now, to find a ride,” he says. She presses on. Up, up, up again. Steep switchbacks warrant more hike-a-bike. She finds a big boulder and strips down. The sun is bright, and she wants to feel the wind on her sweaty body. The sticky underboob sweat evaporates as the wind caresses her. The sun kisses her butt cheeks. Time to put those booty shorts back on. She sees Mauricio climbing the switchbacks. Better dress faster. She’s eating when he summits. He speaks only a little English, but, “Mama mia!! Superwoman” he repeats a he points to her. She smiles, he’s a cutie. He passes her, and they spend the rest of the day leapfrogging. He’s a strong rider; they pose for a photo with a woman who proclaims she’d been waiting all day to cross paths with Ditibised. She reassures him that Princeton Hot springs is close. They finally reach the pavement, and they pedal together. About 15 minutes in, she learns that she’s off course, and turns around to find the dirt road that parallels the pavement. Whoops she thinks. She passes Princeton and climbs without stopping until she reaches the gravel. It’s a steep climb. She walks to the top. The next 15 miles are bliss. She’d earned it. Finally, a flowy descent. BV is within reach. She crosses that road, you know the one that will take you down to town to the trail again. Suddenly, the rain starts pouring from the sky and the foliage gets soaked. It’s cold as it brushes against her skin. She’s hiking again. Another hour before she finds the bridge to descend into BV. She’s cranky, she forgot that there was that hike-a-bike. She rolls into the grocery store and hits the hot bar. A chicken breast, and mashed potatoes with corn and gravy. She grabs a salad and checks out. She wanders outside where she sees Eddie. “HI!” she laughs, and hugs him. They met earlier this summer. He had been looking to catch her photo. They chat while she devours the meal. She pops back into the store where she spends 50$ on food to make it to the finish. She accidentally buys microwaveable bacon mistaking it for precooked bacon. She gives it to Eddie, “Take it, or I’m going to throw it” she says. He smiles, and she says her goodbyes as he wanders off with the bacon. She spent WAY too long at the store; Josh shows up. He’s fast, his zipper on his frame bag busted. He’s been sleeping descently. Rides hard all day, and rests for 8 hours. Ahh, wouldn’t that be nice she thinks. She leaves before him, but he passes her on the flat soon enough. In due time, Andrew even catches and passes her. Again, he slows to chat, she warns him to carry on quick, those fucking mosquitoes. She eats a weed gummy, takes some electrolytes and pedals into the night. She rolls through the fast single track, the night is misleading. She gets drowsy and finds sleep trailside.

IMG_0302 (1).JPGraceday 4: The sleep was a blur, memory escapes the narrative. She finds Andrew and they ride together a while. They laugh, they relax, the mutual respect radiates. “Dude, you are a savage, such a badass. I’ve been trying to lose you every day since Silverton” she says. He says the same. They talk about DKXL, Katie, wheel size, single speed, mountain biking… They laugh a lot, it feels like they are old friends. They head on the Leadville detour, Andrew’s 29er wheels pull ahead instantaneously.  She had to poop anyways; there was no where to poop though. As she’s cruising down the paved ascent to Tennessee pass, she passes a fella going the opposite direction. She dings her bell. In a few minutes, he’s right behind her. “Hey” he says. And alerts her she’s going the wrong way. “Uh, no. Leadville is that way.” She points behind her. “I left Leadville this morning” he says. He’d gotten turned around. She’d met him last year during the Tour. His partner, Carrie and him had come to ride some miles just outside Abiquiu with her. They ride a bit, catch up, and he speeds on with all his magical gears. She finds Tennessee pass and enjoys the chill nature of it. She sees a group of Liv (Giant) girls and dings her bell a bunch, “What’s up ladies?!?!” she shouts as she holds up a peace sign. She toodles about, eating a poptart, and soon she sees a grey head of hair and a poofy little pup. “Linda, is that you?!” She remembered Linda lived nearby. Linda had come out to find Ditibised because she didn’t have her phone number. They exchanged numbers and emails. Linda was going to put her in contact with one of her heroes; her hero, actually, had wanted her contact info. She finds Jolly again, and they climb to Searle pass. They find Brian, they photo. They press on. Jolly falls back, Brian and Ditibised head to Kokomo. They summit and begin the descent to Copper. Weeeeeee… It’s wet, it’s chunky. But there’s a detour through town, and she’s excited to hit the gas station. She finds Josh and Mauricio and Andrew posted up outside. They’re all eating crumbled up chips and rotisserie hot dogs. Mauricio leaves first, then Josh, then Andrew. Ditibised is wasting time trying to duct tape her light to her helmet. The zip ties aren’t cooperating. She’s dropping things. She’s frustrated. She’s trying to catch the men. She heads off toward ten mile. She’s utterly exhausted. There’s avalanche debris and the trail is indecipherable. She shoulders her bike and climbs through it. She finds the trail again; her Garmin is off to save battery power. She’d accidentally drained her external battery pack and had limited power to finish the race. Meanwhile, Lee remained about 4 hours behind her. Close, but safe, she thought. Maybe she’d messed up her charging set up and couldn’t ride into the night… Ditibised was day dreaming, euphoric about the prior days’ adventures. So euporic, in fact, she’d missed a crucial turn. She acends the wrong mountain, and descends 500 feet or so until she encounters a snow field. She gazes across the open land, hmm, I’m in a bike race, where are the tire tracks? She soon realizes that she’s some three miles from the trail. She climbed more than 1000 extra feet, and descended another 500. Her stomach drops, an adrenaline high finds her. She just wasted an hour and a half… two hours climbing the wrong trail. She began to run up the switchbacks. Nauseated, she stops. We’re just riding bikes. Accidents happen when you hurry. And she begins to simply, walk. It’s okay. It’s okay. She calls MTB Cast to calm herself, to laugh at herself… She finds the trail, but this means she summits at 10:00 p.m. And Ten mile isn’t the place to descend at night. It’s chunky, it’s technical. She can see the lightening storm off in the distance, the wind is violent. Her lights are dim, she can’t see anything. She’s exhausted and walks much of the descent above tree line. Accidents happen when you’re in a hurry. This is no place for an accident. All she could actually think about was how close Lee must have been. She’d wasted 3 hours off course, and she’d never been more exhausted. A few hours pass, and Alex catches her. Catch ya later my lil’ lightening bolt she says. He went to school in Houghton, he’s a fan of Todd and Danny– two men Ditibised adores. She needs to cross highway 9. It’s her goal. She presses on until she reaches the singletrack just off the road. Her brakes are giving her hell; she’d dropped her bike on her rotor and it was bent to hell. She’d wasted hours fiddling with her mechanical brakes throughout the race. She was fed up. She pulls over and spends an hour trying to make her bike work the way she wants it to. She’d been dialing in her brake pads at every summit and dialing them out after every descent. She finds sleep for an hour and a half. And wakes at 3:00 with hopes of catching Andrew. He’s up by 4:00 though, and had camped just two or three miles ahead of her. She wouldn’t see him until the finish line.

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raceday 5: Her only goal was to finish in 5 days. She rolls the miles of singletrack in the early hours of dawn. She passes Brian and Mauricio. They just woke to start the day and they’d catch up to her in a half hour. She spent way too much time walking. She was beyond tired, but some competitor within pushed her to want to push herself further than the woman behind her. It’s not that she’s competing against the others, it’s that she’s competing with herself, and the others help that self believe. She summits pre Georgia pass, she descends, and then starts the push up Georgia, the last big pass of the race. She walks the whole thing, time wasted. But, her body was wasted. Her lil’ lightening bolt zooms past her. 4 people passed her today. Josh would soon pass her, making the total 5. 5 places lost. She needed sleep. Up Georgia, Brian was there, Alex was there. Summit. Kenosha, then Stagestop. It’s only 101 miles from Stagestop. She arrives there at 2:30 p.m. and drinks two Mountain Dews. She thinks she can finish within 14 hours. But her lights are nearly dead. She waits there for nearly two hours to charge her lights and gear best she can. She hears that Lee is about 4 hours back. Still, just four hours. This woman is strong. Now she only has 12 hours to finish the century. She thinks she can make it. The pavement miles are slow, she’s terrified that Lee will catch her on the detour. The gears are an advantage, especially for the first 30 miles of the detour. It’s a light descent. She’s forced to coast; a lot. The headwinds on the dirt road are intense, brutal. She toys with the idea of walking; Andrew’s not walking she thinks and she powers on. Finally, she escapes the headwinds and the greatest descent of the whole race comes. It’s glorious, and she’s alone. She cries, it’s exhaustion, it’s joy, it’s the ultimate high. Nothing could ever parallel that 5 hours on that road heading toward the final segment of the CT. She finds Brian at Goose Creek and begins to climb away. She looks to her right, there he is. He’s holding pace with her. She always beats the geared riders up the climbs, but there he was. Huffing, puffing, but cruising. And they dance up the climbs together, for hours, in some of the most blissful climbing she’d ever been able to share with a human. She asks about his wife, children, job, life… she watches him climb, she thinks he’s climbing like a single speeder. And she smiles. He’s stronger because they’re together; she’s stronger because he gets to see her doing her favorite thing in the world; she’s climbing on her single speed. They reach a massive puddle and stop. They layer up; there’s a storm coming. Josh catches them, and they ride together for a few miles. She loses them on the flats, but catches them on the climbs. Brian says “I always feel guilty when I shift when I’m climbing next to Ditibised, but then, I see her smoke me…” she says “Don’t feel bad, I love climbing” and she flutters ahead of the men. They pass her on the descent. They find the trail and Josh says goodbye, he’s set to camp for the night. Brian zooms ahead, determined to finish before 4:00 a.m. Ditibised is hot on his tail. She’s trying to finish with a 5 in front of her time too. She flies down Buffalo Creek, she pummels segment 3. Great. Only two more left. Segement two isn’t a reality, she’s not even coherent it would have seemed, she has no memory of that section. She finally descends to the river and the weird bridge crossing. It’s 2:00 a.m. She thinks that she can pull off the last 15 miles in two hours. She begins to run up the switch backs. Her lights are dying though. Half an hour goes by and her headlamp dies. She’s left with only her generator light, and 4:00 a.m. is coming faster than she wants. She’s still, running with her bike. She wants that 5 day finish more than anything. She’s sweating, she’s weak. But, her mind. It’s crisp. She can’t see much, but it doesn’t matter, she’s climbing. She finds the first descent and launches down the rocky terrain. Her generator light illuminates the trail. But she’s gotta roll fast to see anything. She hesitates, the light goes out and she trips after she stops and tumbles over the bars.

raceday 6: It’s 4:00 a.m. she’s still an hour out. And as the clock strikes 4:01, she sits, and tears up, full on sob crys leave her body. She cries so hard it hurts her broken rib. She’s disappointed. There were so many mistakes she made. The brake pads, to much sleep a few nights, not enough the others, the hours spent in BV and at the Stagestop, just 15 extra minutes of biking a day would’ve been enough. Then, the pity party ceased; it ended as quickly as it started. She let Andrew pass, and Brian, and Alex too, what a fucking amazing lil lightening bolt he is. But, she thinks, shit, she’s the only woman who brought a single gear to this fight, and she was about to finish first. She was going to finish first in the race she got second in last year. The race isn’t over until it’s over, get back in the fucking saddle and go find your friends she tells herself. And she hustles to the top, in peace. She reaches the bench, and she pulls out a grinch finger. She smokes it and smiles as the sun begins to rise in the sky. It’s all downhill from here. 

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At the Waterton Canyon Trailhead, I found Adam awaiting my arrival. He’s a deep love of mine ever since we shared the DKXL experience. He’s a good fella, and my life is better for knowing him. I then see three bodies camped beneath the trailhead. It was Andrew, Brett and Ryan. I teared up again, I’d never had friends waiting for me to finish. I hug them immediately. I want to hold Andrew forever. I was so proud of him, so thankful for his inspiration, and entirely impressed by his whole hearted demeanor. He is a good man, a strong man, and I expect to see more of him in these events. He’s new to the long stuff, and he crushes, and most of all, he’s humble about it all. We need more people like him on the trail. I find Kody, filmmaker turned friend. Kurt comes to congratulate me, and I’m dumbfounded. I’d looked up to him for years, I was honored that he came out so early in the morning. Mauricio finished and we hugged. It was the greatest finish I’d ever been a part of, and it was pure reminder why I do these things.

image9.jpegI do them to see how strong my mind is. I seek to see what my body can do, because the more my body can do, the more I love it and I stop cursing it. I stop shaming my cellulitey thighs and start celebrating these phat quads! I meet amazing riders and get inspired constantly. I get to see the big dipper in all it’s glory at 12,500 feet elevation. I watch the sun rise and the sun set day, after day, in the most beautiful, remote places in the states. I get to learn about my home and drink the water from mountain streams, unfiltered, so connected. My ultra season is over, and boy if that wasn’t the hardest I’d ever pushed myself.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Liby says:

    You’re a beautiful person, Alex. Congratulations on an AMAZING season and best of luck with your studies!

    Like

  2. Lori Fox says:

    Way to work hard, enjoy the people, the competition & rest in your accomplishments, Alex!! Lori Fox

    Like

  3. Mike Ingram says:

    Pretty dang awesome Alex !

    Like

  4. Tonya Simpson says:

    You are a lovely rockstar and my new cycling hero! Way to go out there this year and good luck with the studying!

    Like

  5. Katie Strempke says:

    Loved reading about your experience on the trail. You had an amazing and inspiring season! Reading your kind words about Andrew made my heart happy 😍 I know he was honored to share the trail with you! I hope school is going well. Sending love from Kansas 💗

    Like

  6. mujozen says:

    Happy Belated Birthday, fellow Virgo

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  7. Hey Alexandera! This is Fr Kirby Longo, the guy with the pedal from Butte Montana! I just read your article in Bikepacking magazine which was awesome! I decided to follow up to see whether the OneUp made it to the end or if it was a flop!? I hope you are doing well, If you want to shoot me the pic of us, my email is kirbylongo16@gmail.com
    Sorry for the unrelated post here, I didn’t know how else to get a hold of you- congrats on the singlespeed record!

    Like

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