In return

I celebrated my return to riding in Florida at Croom, almost a month to the day that I’d even thrown my leg over my bike, so I warmed up first by myself, burning over 200 calories in 16 minutes over 5.16 miles, before hooking up and hitting the woods for a ~13-mile “trail ride,” averaging 11.6 mph and burning 770 calories in 1:11:55.

It didn’t take long to return to my repetitive practice of doubling as many whoops as I can, which requires looking ahead on the trail, watching where the leader’s wheels are in that moment, instead of looking down at where your tires are right now. It builds your confidence muscle, having no fears of crashing or failing and being seen looking like an idiot. It’s all about mindset, and I was hell bent on turning off my squirrel brain and being at one in the woods with my motorcycle.

“We seen you guys go by and tucked in behind, yeah not a chance. Y’all were GONE”

image (1)

Sunday fun day!

Mission accomplished.

Advertisements

Honored

It’s going on four weeks that I haven’t seen or touched my dirt bike for no fault other than my own. I’m kind of over it, to be honest. It’s too hot to ride, at 90+ degrees and 90-100 percent humidity, or it’s pouring down rain, or it’s just the same ol’ Florida: sandy and flat.

Last weekend, I planned on dusting off the ol’ girl – literally – and showing up at Tampa MX for Round 5 of the Top Gun Dealer Cup, but torrential rains on the tail end of Hurricane Harvey ended up cancelling the race, forcing me to hit the gym instead.

20121540_10106755841680961_1032790955639571164_o

Photo at Tampa MX by David Lando of WFO Action Shots

On this week’s PulpMX show, Denny Stephenson talked about riding dirt bikes as “an honor, not a burden” when it comes to all of the training and traveling and everything that comes with being a champion.

“It’s part of the responsibility that you get when you’re a champion. At any level of any sport, when you become the best, your responsibilities triple,” Stephenson said.

After hearing that, I’m itching (finally) to get back on the bike, and what better time than Labor Day weekend.

“A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.” – Albert Einstein

20158057_10106755841675971_7569049563726142377_o

Photo at Tampa MX by David Lando of WFO Action Shots

Practice progress

IMAG2019.jpg

4 Diamond “Expert Only” Trail 25 at Highland Park

I was probably never more ready to race the 2017 Kenda Tennessee Knockout Extreme Enduro in Tennessee last weekend – the toughest off-road race in America – after riding in Georgia less than a week after returning from my epic Colorado riding vacation with the Seat Time crew, one of the most fun and frustrating times I’ve ever had riding dirt bikes. (Read my story on DirtBuzz.com.)

What a great trip with new friends. This is what Colorado is all about.. spending time and enjoying what the good lord has granted us… – Slavik

 Warms my heart! Way to kick ass and keep chugging girl. Glad you joined us!!!! – Brian

 

Riding Highland Park was incredibly easier this time around, despite the extremely dusty and overall rougher-than-expected trail conditions; Georgia was flat as a pancake compared to the steep verticals we rode in Colorado. Maybe I was just coming off the high of getting my ass kicked riding in the Rocky Mountains, but I redeemed myself blazing the Georgia trails where I remembered struggling before using everything I had.

The biggest difference was my bike was back to wheelieing over everything and performing at its peak, which was such a relief when I realized I could get on the pipe again; riding above 9,000 feet was not conducive to my balls-to-the-wall riding style. Boy, was I glad to be closer to home at 1,000 feet.

IMAG2026.jpg

Trail 7 is motorcycles only

This year, I just couldn’t swing the solo trip to Tennessee to race the TKO last Saturday, regardless of the $1,000 purse to be paid out to the top three Women finishers ($500, $300, $100 for first second and third respectively).

“Beta’s Morgan Tanke (@mtanke31) took the Saturday Women’s class win over Victoria Harcy. They were the only two female riders that finished the morning lap and faced off in a main event on a special short course.” – tennesseeknockoutenduro.com

Maybe next year. (At least then I can find out more than 37 words from the 900-word article.) As Jeremy McGrath said recently in this Racer X interview, “Timing really is everything.”

I’m hoping to attend the 2017 USGP in Jacksonville next month. As MotoXAddicts’ Geoff Meyer put it, “if you don’t want to get to this race, then there has to be something wrong with your passion for motocross.”

Wild rookie

Well, I’ve been living like a wild old mustang
Out in Montana fields
Might’ve earned me a bad reputation
But never stopped these wheels
From going and rolling too far
Running and gunning a little too hard
So unreigned, so untamed

This time last week I was riding the high alpine singletrack in the remote Rocky Mountains of Colorado with the Seat Time crew on their third-annual Seat Time Adventures “trail ride.” We started with six riders from Tennessee, Florida and Texas, and added more as the week went on, from Alabama to Texas and Colorado; we rode so hard for the first three days that, by day four, six was down to two.

20294070_10106788869981981_2924968940321573469_n

From the beginning, as the only female in the group, the guys wanted to know if I was “thin skinned.”

“Really?” I mocked them. “I grew up racing dirt bikes.”

“It gets worse,” said of the group’s biggest ball-busters.

I assumed he was referring to their locker room talk. “I know how it gets.”

Ride 1 – Warm Welcome

The morning of the first ride, after breakfast burritos, I crammed my pack with EPIC Bars, Skratch Lab packets, a spare tube, pack jacket and extra water, and quickly learned that my level of preparation was no match for theirs (they re-jetted my bike, bled my rear brakes, adjusted my clutch, changed my oil, loaned me radiator fluid, a GoPro, adjusted my Camelbak straps and saved my life more than once.)

We took off swapping the lead down the doubletrack for a few-mile warm up. I wondered where I would fall in the pecking order, expecting to be near the front (not so much), knowing I finally felt at home in front of them with my helmet on.

Before long, we turned up the singletrack where conditions toughened and I earned the first crash of the day with a silly slip out around an off-camber corner. I knew, from that very first climb, that this was no joyride. The slick, hard pack dirt was worlds away from the super deep sugar sand that I left back home, and it took me all day to get somewhat adjusted to riding at altitude since I was used to training at or below sea level. Gotta love Florida!

We completed intense, miles-long climbs without stopping for breathers, passing mostly solo hikers and a few couples with dogs. On one of the climbs, we braked for a mountain biker stopped on the side of the trail.

“I wish I had a motor,” he said as we idled by. “You guys are smart.”

IMAG1744.jpg

“Cowboy” Todd Slavik and Clay Stuckey of Sherco Offroad

On the downhills, the leaders disappeared, waiting at the next intersection for me and the caboose who would not leave me behind. I pushed to catch the tail end of their nonstop pace.

IMAG1748

We made a stop by the lake to tinker with my air screw. When I heard them say the first day was the easiest, I switched to survival mode. Combined with the elevation and their above average rock riding ability, it was plenty fast, so far, and technical, especially with the morning’s slick roots and rocks.

20431271_10106791501992411_6210546068392746804_n

As the first loop wore on, a sense of bravery washed over me, maintaining my brake, throttle and clutch control while paying attention to my radiator spewing smoke after every climb.

We headed back to camp after 24 miles, according to my watch, for gas, adjustments, a pb&j sandwich and to bleed my rear brakes – thanks, James! Todd gave me a fist pump and told me he was proud. So far, so good.

After lunch, we took off on another 25-miler after linking up with one of the Sherco riders, the Alabama legend Daryl Moody, who told me to “be careful” before Tank 7 – a mostly wet, downhill rock garden. When we pulled up the end at the road, after I crashed about three times within a mile from the finish while still managing to pull in before all of them got their goggles off, Moody gave me a fist pump.

“She’s a good rider,” I heard another say.

On another section, I badly wanted to look out to the view, but the rock scattered trail under my wheels needed all of my focus not to mess up and fall off the mountain. Taking such extreme risks is not appealing for a lot of people, obviously.

I went to sleep the first day before dark, after completing 600 percent of my daily activity goal, hearing Clay say, “You rode good today.” Of the two loops, a 24- and a 25-miler, my heart rate hit zone 4 for 46 of the 1 hour and 42 minutes on the first loop and I was in zone 5, the highest, for almost 7 minutes. The second loop saw similar results: 41 minutes in zone 4, 11 in zone 5 with max heart rates around 188/189 (93 percent) and averages 155/154 (76 percent.)

day1.jpg

Day 1 Recap of Seat Time Adventures based out of Sargents, Colorado – As you know, Seat Time is all about a good time on dirt bikes. Luckily our first day riding dirt bikes on Seat Time Adventures 3.0 was a complete success. We did have a few banged up and bruised riders, but that comes with the territory when riding dirt bikes in Colorado. We made three loops. Loop One was Iron Branch Road to Baldy Lake, up Baldy Lake to CDT, down CDT to Iron Branch Trail, and then back Iron Branch Road to Trading Post. Loop Two was 684 to Big Bend, Big Bend to CDT, down CDT to Tank 7 and then Marshall Pass Road back to Trading Post.” – Brian Pierce

Day 2 – Sink or swim

I woke up knowing Day 2 would be harder, and it was, but we completed another 54 miles total, burning over 2,000 calories with an average speed of 13.6 and max speed of 53 mph. Max altitude was 11,805 with 7,200 ascent and 7,340 descent.

The day started with a ride among hundreds of cows trampling through the trails ahead of us on their way out to pasture. New baby cows galloped across the rugged meadows, stumbling over their feet. The first gnarlier-than-yesterday climb of the day seemed like it would never end. When I pulled up to the stop, I heard Zak say, “I’m a little impressed.” I laughed. Shit, I was impressed, too.

20507129_10106821528938171_1271288241373580473_o

We completed the hardest, most difficult challenges I’d ever seen (wait until tomorrow), passing only a handful of people on foot and a few mountain bikes. I learned why all of the Texans wear their goggles backward when we ran into three racers from their local series, all matching with the strap on top under the visor. How can they be thousands of miles away from home and run into someone they know from back home? The riding is just that good in Colorado. The day concluded with dozens of creek crossings with me being the first to drown my bike, but not the last!

20507501_10106821530410221_9211647820030889960_o

day2

Day Two showcased trail side maintenance and patience by all the riders. We rode 684 out of Sargents to Milk Creek. We went down Milk Creek to Iron Branch road to the Iron Branch/Baldy Lake split. We took Baldy Lake up to Hicks Gultch Trail as a connection over to Dutchman. Going up Dutchman was awesome! We then took CDT all the way up to Marshall Pass, lots of good climbs in there. We meet the Support Crew at Marshall Pass for lunch and a rest. From there we continued up the CDT to take Agate Creek down to HWY 50…We had two bikes go under in Agate Creek during a few of the last crossings. Luckily they were two strokes, so the time wasn’t as bad if they had been one of the two Sherco four strokes. Damn good day of riding dirt bikes.” – Brian Pierce

Day 3 – The guys with a girl

On the third day…when I heard we were climbing Horseshoe, rumored to be one of the most technically-demanding trails in Colorado with insanely-slick rocks and steep, slotted AND slippery climbs, I knew I’d have to dig deep in the face of my still-cramped-from-yesterday clutch and brake fingers, pumped forearms, sore bum and overall sad state of my motorcycle.

IMAG1870.jpg

Team Wanker was here

At the bottom of Horseshoe, after a snack break, one of today’s guest riders from Colorado asked what air pressure I was running and suggested I drop it for much-needed added traction. When I said I feared getting a flat, he offered to change it for me if that happened. (It never did.)

Between my bike overheating after every climb, I worked on keeping up my momentum, balancing over pointy rocks and not slipping out on the way up. After three straight failed attempts on one section, I realized I could not do this one on my own. I needed help, and a warm wash of shame came over me. This was what they originally were all worried about: me not knowing what I didn’t know, coming from a place where breathing was easy through the flat pine rows. It was not often that I was the least technical rider in the group, and I wanted out. Fast.

IMAG1874.jpg

The almighty Horseshoe Creek trail

Asking anyone to help you up a hill is hard enough, ask anyone, but asking someone to actually ride your bike for you is a question I haven’t asked anyone for decades. But, sucking air around 10,000 feet and frustrated I could not even see a walkable line up these climbs, let alone anywhere to point my front wheel, my chest heaved. I’ve never been one to have panic attacks but a few times I couldn’t get my helmet off fast enough to catch my breath. I could not, for the life of me, pull it together, and when something hard happens, my first instinct is to run.

I regrouped and tried to launch my bike and body up and forward but slipped into a crevice, my back tire spinning and smoking.

“I can’t do this, you guys,” I admitted once they found me around the corner stuck again between rocks. I wanted badly to turn around so they would not see me cry. I wondered why I was doing this. I had nothing to prove but never in a million years did I think I would come up short.

“I just can’t. I’m too tired.”

“You can do it,” they said, calling me by name, determined not to let anything steal my joy even if I did not believe them. “We’ll help you.”

As I continued to mess up, they surrounded me with support – from small to grand gestures – over and over again. I tried not to judge myself for needing their help and obviously was relieved that they chose to help me at all, embarrassed as I was, my seat wet with tears. I argued it would be so much easier for everyone if I could turn back, but they forced me to keep going, up and up, building my trust in them (and me) one impossible, progressively slower rock section at a time.

I reached a point, once we stopped near the top for a break, where I had a total crisis of confidence and wanted to disappear, turning my back to the group to find a log to sit on and gather myself. Real cute.

In the midst of my come-to-Jesus self-talk, I recalled the age-old expression: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Maybe I needed to feel this disappointment, I thought. After all, I was doing the best I could; I literally could not try any harder. It was a reality check and one I knew that would be life altering; I never thought I wouldn’t be able to deliver on my commitment to ride every trail they did but I knew I couldn’t waste time in denial. I needed to embrace the setback, pick myself up and rejoin the others. Somehow, slowly but surely, we made our way to the top. I hope they forgive me for not being able to help them help each other, too.

day3

Day 3 of Seat Time Adventures 3.0 was the technical day from hell. As we tell everyone, we don’t like the easy trails. Today was the day we went up Horseshoe Trail. We started the day crossing Tomichi Creek across from the Tomichi Creek Trading Post. Todd ALMOST drowned his bike, again. From there we rode up Quakey Mountain Trail, which was a blast. This took us to Black Sage Pass, which we followed till Wuanita Pass Rd to Wuanita Trail. Wuanita trail is a MUST, it is fast, flowy and super fun. We took at a right on to Canyon Creek to get to Horseshoe. From there we spent about three hours getting to the top of Horsehoe. The riders came together as a team, we couldn’t be more proud! After collapsing at the top, we rode South Quartz down into Pitkin (passing James’ creek).” – Brian Pierce

IMAG1884

The Texans

After three straight days of riding, I’m grateful to come away relatively unscathed, save for a torn seat cover and scratched graphics and a string of bruises up and down both legs. (Before leaving for vacation, I prepared for the worst, arranging someone to adopt my dog if I didn’t make it back and, just in case, telling my friends, family and colleagues that it was nice knowing them.)

I’m more appreciative of all of the goofy memories and lessons learned. The most fun, if frustrating, times I’ve ever had in my life have happened on my motorcycle, and this trip takes the cake. It’s only now that I understand what Brene Brown meant when she said, “what makes you vulnerable is what makes you beautiful.” It’s not about winning or losing; it’s about showing up and putting yourself out there, even if you can’t control the outcome.

Thanks to all of the guys at Seat Time for giving me a shot and awarding me the Best Rookie award. I’m already looking forward to next year! Braaaup!

IMAG1886.jpg

This is the life!

“And all you keep trying to do is slow it down, soak it in

Keep trying to make the good times last as long as you can

But you can’t, man It just goes too fast.”

Record Year

When I heard about the Seat Time Adventures ride a few months back, a weeklong vacation 8,475 feet high in remote Colorado Rockies that this year would be catered toward a technical singletrack rider, I immediately applied via Instagram and an online form to describe my riding experience, comfort level and reasons for wanting to attend.

Impressed by the seriousness of the overall event summary, including a warning note to discourage beginners, I vowed that if I was selected to attend, I would scratch all of my previous plans for the summer and blow all my savings if I had to in order to join the group on its third-annual trip.

Plus, once I educated myself on Seat Time and its mission to have more fun riding dirt bikes, I wanted to help spread the stoke and, who knows, hopefully encourage more females to ride (and buy) off-road.

Over the course of the next few months I was accepted on the ride – thanks, Brian! – and learned I would be the only Florida rider and the only female to boot, along with what ended up to be 5 other riders, including a former professional BMX racer who has been coming to this spot for longer than I’ve been alive, a handful of locally-ranked A riders, a film crew and chase vehicles, all of whom hail from Texas, except for my new friend and travel buddy Clay Stuckey of Sherco Offroad.

In the midst of all of this planning, Nicky Hayden, the Kentucky Kid I always looked up to, passed away unexpectedly while bicycling in Italy, which sent a shock through the industry. People talked about hanging it up and quitting racing altogether; this loss was too tough to stomach for some, but Nicky wouldn’t have wanted his death to stop anyone. He would just say, “Let’s get it.”

When I left Florida last Friday after work, I wondered what this trip would bring. I arrived in Tennessee to Clay’s house on Sunday night, after a layover at my dad’s house in Western North Carolina for a last-minute lesson in rock riding at the Brown Mountain OHV Area. Clay and I hit the road Monday and completed the nonstop 19-hour drive (mostly he did – I logged about 600 of the near 2,000 miles.) We pulled up to the Tomichi Creek Trading Post in Sargents, Colorado around 5 a.m. my time Tuesday morning feeling ripe for a nap.

IMAG1698.jpg

One of the main bunk houses at Tomichi Creek

IMAG1701.jpg

I woke up like this!

After an afternoon of naps and unpacking, everyone joined at the Post for dinner to share a meal and go over key time and the menu for the morning. One thing’s for sure: a lot, if not all, eyes are on me heading into Day 1 of our 4-day adventure. So much so that, once a few of the other guys heard I was attending, they followed me on social, trying to gauge my expertise from my extremely old and outdated YouTube videos that need to be updated or deleted immediately. They even mapped out how far I lived from here, and questioned if I’ve “ever rode anything like this,” making fun of the last guy, a “full moto dude who said he was an OK B rider,” but they were riding his bike for him and avoiding some tough technical sections because of him. They did not want that this year.

Coming in to the trip, I wasn’t feeling much, if any, pressure to perform. I was excited, sure, and I still am. Full disclosure: once I realized that no one in the group could vouch for my skills, I switched to water.

IMAG1731.jpg

View from the dinner table

IMAG1716.jpg

James was awarded the No. 1 plate as the only rider to attend all three Seat Time Adventures.

IMAG1717.jpg

Representing No. 2

New skin

After I moved back to Florida last year and bought a new bike about a month later, I knew I wanted to change my racing number from #1, but I didn’t know what number I wanted. The #1 represented my decades-old enduro championship, and I wanted to start fresh, but I didn’t know where to start. I used to run #8 but I wasn’t really feeling that anymore, either. Someone told me, “If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” So, I waited and raced my bike naked without any numbers for about a year … until the tragic death of Nicky Hayden on May 22. That’s when, immediately, I knew what to do: I would ride in memory of him. Every. Single. Day.

IMG_20170717_121750_953

“You’ll feel much better if you get off your ass and go ride a motorcycle. Even better if you do it well.”

The first and last memory I have of meeting Nicky, we were both young racers with our whole lives ahead of us. After, I followed his career closely, watching his (and America’s) wildest dreams come true. He gave me, from afar, the courage to believe in myself and my own wildest dreams.

“I made a decision last night that I would die for it
Just to show the city what it takes to be alive for it.” – Drake

IMG_20170711_113955_870

Exactly one week from today, I’ll be in singletrack heaven with Seat Time Adventures on their annual trip to Colorado with 7 other guys from across the country.

I’m sure being the only female on this year’s trip will be a story in itself, and I’m looking forward to telling the bigger story of how Seat Time creates a good time on dirt bikes, builds community and lasting memories.

Here’s to making Nicky proud.

Prime time

It’s that time of year again to purchase a new $80 OHV permit to ride at Croom until June 30, 2018, thanks to the Florida Forestry Association.

IMAG1305-2

With summer in full swing and just a few weeks until my riding vacation in Colorado, I decided it was time to crank up the focus training. So, I hit bikram at 8 a.m. last Sunday before putting in a 20+ mile “trail ride.”

Since breaking my arm in February, I’ve been slow to find my race pace again, but I’ve been patient, not wanting to ride over my head or with a group where I might lose focus, following the crash that ended my enduro season. (I still finished second in the Women class with 5 finishes – 6 attempts – out of 9 races.)

IMG_20170703_091037_675

These last few months I’ve been thinking about what I need to work on to achieve perfection in my riding. My dad wrote in an email to me a few months ago: “You have the skills. You have the strength. You have the bike. All you need is to ride with pure focus.”

I’ve been reading and listen to leadership podcasts, soaking up as much knowledge and psychology from industry thought leaders. I returned to my bikram practice and I continue to meditate on my intention to achieve peak performance. The faster I am on my motorcycle, the stronger and more aware that I need to be mentally.

“Everyone’s actions and reactions directly reflect the development of their mind,” Eddie Rose said.

IMAG1314 (1)

Posted up with Melka

This past Sunday, I pulled into the mostly-deserted park after 12 noon as temperatures climbed past 90 degrees, and was expecting to put in another 20+ miles solo, but I ended up parking next to the “Melka Man,” an expert road racer and A class woods rider who knows the forest and all of the secret singletrack to tour me (and one of his road race buddies) through. We burned up a few loops at a solid clip around a small turn track cut into the woods with me staying close to his back tire – not that close – until I smoked my rear brake and had to pull over and rest. They continued while I watched and waited to get going again.

The mere act of following someone usually prevents me from excelling – as a child, my dad would always make me lead. “You’re faster out front,” he would say.  But riding behind Melka, I found pure focus in trying to mimic his style. He rides his dirt bike like a street bike, staying smooth off the pipe, swinging wide around corners and hugging the outside through the turns. I’m more of the coming-in-hot on-the-inside type, throwing my body into the apex and dropping the clutch.

At one of the breaks, Melka’s friend, who had been following me the whole time, asked if I grew up riding motocross. “Your body positioning is like a night and day difference,” he said comparing me to his friend.

We drilled lap after lap, and I wound up feeling more relaxed as the miles wore on and using minimal effort. I wondered if it was because I had found my focus earlier at bikram. Either way, I was more sensitive or conscious of my connection to my machine, and that meant no crashes!

IMAG1310-2

The tighter, the better!