MTBing With Your Dog

Dizzy and I love to spend as much time outside as possible. It is really hard while in school because often I am at school for twelve hours a day, leaving little day light on either side. I also love to go mountain biking. I try to mesh Dizzy into my free time with what I like to do as much as possible. When I tried to take Dizzy biking a few weeks ago, I ended up tearing up her feet and she had trouble walking for the next few days. I felt terrible! I have been working on a way to take Dizzy biking again, safely.

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Here are some things I am looking into!

  1. Keeping Cool // One thing Dizzy and I have trouble overcoming is the heat. She has so much fur and such a thick coat causing her to overheat so quickly. I am not going to shave her, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I only pick trails where there is easy access to water so she can go swimming and stay cool. We also pick cooler days or go in the morning, before the days get hot.
  2. Booties //  Our last Australian Shepherd, Splash, loved to go biking, and he could really keep up. However, he and Dizzy have the same sensitive feet, making it difficult to take them! I have been looking into getting Dizzy a pair of boots to protect her feet. I found these Ruffwear Griptex Boots that have good reviews. I am just worried that they may slide off. I had taken Dizzy before and we had never had a problem, so I am on the fence of getting her a pair of boots or starting training slowly to build up her feet.
  3. Bells and Lights // Dizzy is a sweet dog and gets along with everyone, but I know dogs can be intimidating to people or other people’s dogs may not be super friendly. I like people to know she is there. Dizzy and I used to do search and rescue and she had a great vest with lights built it and bells attached. You can hear and see her coming, which is great! Here is a great high visibility harness to make sure your dog is visible!
  4. Building Strength // Dizzy has become quite the couch potato over the last few years because I have spent so much time in school. We go for long walks, but that is not the same as running six or eight miles hard. She definitely can’t keep up like she could a few years ago. This is where I am so jealous of Oakley, my brother’s dog. He can go for eighteen miles easily! My plan is to take her out for short rides, starting at just two or three miles and increase by about a mile a week. What I want more than anything is for Dizzy to have fun, not have her drag exhausted and be reluctant to ride!
  5. H20 and Snacks // Bringing plenty of water and snacks for us both is important. It is so easy to get stuck on the trails for longer than you planned (thanks to mechanicals). You also never know when you are going to have an off day and need the extra push. Just like how you need a snack or two for extra energy on a ride, you dog partner does too! I usually just bring granola bars along with me and share some with her.  You can also pack some dog specific treats in your pockets. Your pup may also need a little extra food for dinner that night after these long rides!

 

 

Big Frog 65

This weekend was my first NUE race. It was 65 miles of pure fun and mountain bike riding. I have been mountain biking for less than two years, and this race was a big change for me. My dad, Heath, and I started driving early Friday morning, 5:30 early, and picked up our friend, Ron, for the trip. The 9.5 hour drive loomed over us and we drove on. I recently bought a book of crosswords, which turns out I am really, really bad at, so they helped keep us entertained, or extremely frustrated.

Once we reached the park, we went out for a pre-ride of the course. We rode about 18 miles, covering the start and finish single track. The starting single track was awesome and oh so flowy. It was great to ride. The end was mostly downhill, great to know that at the end it was mostly downhill. There was also a couple sketchy parts on the last downhill, which I really made a mental note of for when all I wanted to do was get done and to the finish. Once we were done riding, we checked-in, made our drop bags, and ate some spaghetti dinner with a lot of breadsticks! We stayed in a hotel about twenty-five minutes from the start (instead of camping at the park). We all got our bikes ready for the next day and relaxed before going to bed early.

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The Cohutta 100 started at 7am and the Big Frog 65 started at 8am, leaving me alone to stew and get nervous by myself for an hour. I rode around to warm-up, riding up the start hill, just watching the time slowly creep by. I eventually went over to the start line to wait with the crowd. I get nervous about picking a starting position at races- I am slower on the single track than most other people, but I can climb hills well. I really don’t like messing up other riders, either slowing them down or just goofing up over a technical section. The more nervous I am the more likely I am to make a mistake. The nice and very hard thing about this start is that it had a road climb to help spread everyone out.

 

Moments before my race started, I realized that I had forgotten to put my spare tube, tire lever, and CO2 cartridges back on my bike. I only had my patch kick and plugs, which would only get me so far if I had a flat.  I prayed to the bike gods before starting and hoped I wouldn’t get a flat!

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Starting out on the climb was more brutal than I realized, my legs were tired and I was pushing hard. My adrenaline was pumping, making me nervous and jumpy during this first stretch. The turn into the single track was welcome and off we went riding quick. Here, I slowly started to relax and let me bike do it’s thing. Unfortunately, I tried to let someone pass and they knicked my handle bars. I went down and ended up with a few bumps, bruises, and scratches, but nothing too bad. It took me a while to relax again on the single track.

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I got in with a new group of riders and continued to ride through the fast and flowy single track. I loved just flying down the hills and around the turns. The views were beautiful. We eventually reached the gravel road, where the majority of the climbing started. Around mile 30, we just started climbing, and climbing and climbing. It felt like it was never going to end. The heat was starting to get to me and I was running low on water. Not a great feeling. I made it back to the aid station, refilled my water, grabbed a snack and started on my way. I began to feel a little nauseous and it wasn’t fun. At mile 47, another beyond steep five mile climb started. The best thing was knowing at the end of this hill, I would hit the single track to the finish.

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On the final single track, I had moments where I was so tired I didn’t think I could keep gong and others where I could pedal up over anything and power on. The one thing I kept reminding myself was to “have faith in my recovery,” something my cross country coach used to say. No matter how tired I was going up hill, my body always seemed to recover to fly down. It really made a difference to me! I was so happy to get finish the final descent and head to the finish line! I went and sat in the stream to cool off. I got to clean all the dirt and sweat off me. It felt amazing. I ended up finishing 6th overall, I was stoked. Heath ended up getting fourth, which was incredible against this competition.

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My dad and Ron also had hard races. The heat got to both of them, making the end of the races hard! I was definitely happy that I picked the 65 and not the 100 for this race! Ron had to quit early, something he never does- he felt terrible on Friday and he felt wore on Saturday. He ended up not eating until Sunday morning to recover!

I am so excited to see what will come next. I spent the car ride back brainstorming ways to get quicker, get better and climbing, and just relax while I am out there. My arms and back were so tense and sore the next day from just being so tense. I love my bike and I can’t wait to see where we will go next!!

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The Full Body Workout

I have become a little obsessed with mountain biking. It has become my new favorite sport and way to workout. It works your whole body, which is weird, I know. Your arms get a way bigger work out than you would think. They brace you as you go downhill, and they have to stay strong as you maneuver over and around obstacles. Your core has to keep your body upright to prevent you from riding in odd positions. Your legs get the brunt of it, working to pedal up hill and support you as you stand going downhill.

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There is so much more to it than just being able to ride a bike. There are logs, roots, and rocks that all become obstacles, just waiting to knock you off and onto the ground. These guys get me more often than they should. A huge part of getting over the obstacles has to do with confidence. If you are unsure if you are going to make it, you probably aren’t. If you go in with the mind set that you can, you can often go right over it, within reason of course.

The best part about biking is being able to bring Dizzy along. She loves to be outside and loves to explore. Dizzy gets really hot really fast, so we have to plan our routes where there is water periodically for her to hop into. It doesn’t matter if it is 80 degree or thirty degrees outside, she will lay down in the water. I don’t mind, as long as she is happy! Unfortunately, she cut her paw pad when we were riding the other day, so I can’t take her while these heal. I’m not sure how it happened, and I feel so bad! We stopped by the veterinarian on the way home to make sure she was ok!

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Muddy After Riding

Dizzy gets really tired after riding, which makes me feel great. I spend so much time working that I feel like she doesn’t get enough love. I try to make our time together as meaningful as possible!

If you can, get out and go biking in your area with some friends or find a local bike shop. It is something you won’t regret!

Long Distance Biking

This year I have changed my main focus of mountain biking. Up until this year, I just focused on staying on my bike without clipping a tree or wiping out on a turn or even (this is embarrassing) falling up hill. I honestly tried to just get around the loop without getting really hurt. I had no technical skills, walked over most logs, and floundered over the rocky sections. My goals for this year are to improve my technical skills, rocks, logs, sharp turns, and roots, and improve my endurance.

I am competing in the NUE race series this year, which are long endurance races ranging from 45 to 101 miles. A huge part of making it through these races, like any endurance event, is nutrition and hydration. My brother, Heath, constantly tells me to drink more water and eat before I began to fade. I set a timer in my head to drink every 20 minutes to help prevent the hole I dig for myself. Eating while I ride is hard, especially while mountain biking because it is hard to take your hands off the bars through the sharp turns. For me, I  usually have to stop to eat, which can work on a casual ride, but is not great for a race.


Heath and my dad use Infinite energy drinks to get through their long days. They create custom formulas based on their needs while they ride, how flavorful, how much you sweat, if you cramp up, if you retain water, and much more. This drink can also be made to stop you from needing food while you bike, which is a huge plus for me. I usually drink Gatorade for longer and hotter rides to help keep me going and encourage me to drink. I finally decided to try Infinite for myself! I made and ordered my custom formula just a few weeks ago. I got to try it out some this weekend because we got to go for some longer and harder rides, and I am looking forward to see how it affects my riding!


Our ride Saturday was really broken up because rode to breakfast and then to a bike demo. We biked to a nearby park where there was a Scott and local shop (Race Pace) riding demo. Sneakily, we changed our road pedals out for SPD mountain bike pedals that morning so we could try some demo bikes! I got to try a Scott Spark 930 and 27+ which were both awesome bikes to ride. This was my first time riding a plus bike, and I loved how easy it was just to cruise over the logs and smash through the rocks. It was a great confidence boost. It was also so easy to change how much suspension I had making it great for rocky sections fully open, long climbs part way open, and road sections being locked out. I really enjoyed riding these bikes!

On Sunday, Heath and I went for a nice ride before the misty rain set in. We got to take his dog, Oakley, out with us, which always makes the rides more fun. He loves to run and can keep up really well. Although, he does cut some of the corners!

Top Mountain Biking Trails

I am fortunate to have traveled to many places for biking and for family trips. Now, I only started mountain biking less than two years ago, so I missed out on many of the places my family has gotten to bike. I was there, but I often skipped the biking part for other family activities. I was always so afraid of falling and getting hurt that I just didn’t bike. Looking back, I wish I had not been so scared. I say this after many falls and being OK after these falls, but I know everyone is not so lucky. This is coming from the same girl who broke her hand road biking without falling off the bike, which is weird and impressive.


Kingdom Trails, VT // My family raves about these trails. I was lucky/unlucky to have gotten to travel with my family on a trip here two summers ago. It was right after I started mountain biking, but this was when I had a broken hand and sidelined to dog walker. I did take the dogs for walks on these trails and was so envious of my family. The trails are extremely well kept with a ton of fast, flowy single-track. There are some fun obstacles and bridges built in. This is definitely a place I want to go and zoom down the trails. The one place here I got to enjoy the most with my broken-hand was meeting my family at night at the taco truck!


Bend, OR // I was able to road bike in Bend and the views are beautiful with a ton of great routes. My parents went out to go mountain biking here and said it was fantastic, and they only biked a small portion of the trails here. My mom kept picking out the trails that led to waterfalls. This is a bucket list destination! Plus there are a ton (over twenty) breweries here to check out!

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Crested Butte, CO // Starting at 8,909 feet above sea level, this is some of the best mountain biking around. There are some long, hard climbs with descents worth every single pedal stroke it took to get you there. My brother and dad have been out there and rave about the trails counting down the time until they get to go back.


Shenandoah, VA // Having just experience a smidgeon of these trails last week, I can definitely say they are worth the trip.  My brother, Heath, has been begging me to ride here and I am really glad I did. As I was pedaling the long ascents, I just kept remembering “what goes up, must come down”, and it sure did. The long long stretches of downhill single-track riding was awesome. A bucket list race for me is the Shenandoah 100, where I would get to experience 100 miles (or 10 long hours) of this beautiful mountain range.

Breckenridge, CO // There is nothing like Colorado, a place I would love to live. I don’t think you could ever get bored here, especially in a place like Breckenridge. We were able to do the Breck Epic, a six day race that toured through the mountains, last August. I was only able to do the last three days, but I really wish I could do more. There is nothing a great as going downhill for twenty minutes straight. On the right bike, you barely touch your brakes and just barrel down. This is definitely a place you need to get acclimated to before trying to get to the summit at over 13,000 feet, but worth every poorly oxygenated breath.


St. George, UT // The pictures and videos from this place are unbelievable. Much of these trails are on rocks with tight turns and drop offs. This place is definitely on my bucket list! I hope to be able to ride there one day and do the True Grit race.

Stokesville 60/40k

We rode/raced the Stokesville 60/40k this weekend. The Stokesville 60/40k ride is considered a lifestyle ride, where it can be ridden relaxed and just for fun, but never how my family rides. I decided to ride the short distance with my brother’s fiance, while Heath, my dad and his friend, Ron rode the longer distance. This race was ridden out in the beautiful Shenandoah Mountains from the Stokesville Lodge. Here is a video of pictures from a race two years ago!


This past weekend’s race was frigid, adding extra stress to my packing list. I always check the weather and get packed up the night before, sometimes even earlier, but this weekend I goofed. I should have checked the weather before driving from Philadelphia to home. I knew it was going to be cold, but I didn’t realize just how cold. When we left in the morning, it was 20 degrees outside. At 10am when we started, it was only 29 degrees with a high of 43 for the day. Ice cold.

The trails were among some of the best I have ever ridden. The climbs were long, but mostly on fire road, making them extra doable. The downhills and flat sections were single track that was fast and flowy. There were sections of rocks (my nemesis), but these rock gardens were short and definitely rideable. My bike was able to just float over the rocks. My dad changed out my front chain ring for a 30 from a 32 which I was very thankful for. There were long climbs with some steep or technical parts, so while your legs were fatigued you had to give a little more. I was able to just spin right through these sections.

The couple times I took my focus off my riding, I looked out to see the beautiful mountains ranges. It made the riding that much better. This was my first time really mountain biking for the year, and it definitely showed. I was just not as fast on the technical sections or the downhills. I felt myself begin to relax the longer I rode. I left today wanting to ride longer and harder, and I cannot wait to go back and explore these trails.

My sister drove from school to come hang out at the race. We brought our four dogs and my brother’s fiance brought her two dogs, giving my mom and sister six dogs to watch. They all are well behaved and listen well, making them easy keepers.


I knew my warmest gloves, sleeves, and winter, waterproof shoes were at home, but I forgot about my winter leggings. I ended up bringing regular running tights to put on top of my bike shorts. I hated doing this because I tend to fall often, and I didn’t want to put holes in my good tights. I ended up borrowing a pair of my dad’s legwarmers which was all I needed.

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I was lucky to have some friends to help me pack everything up, with one being just extra helpful. I definitely overpacked for this race, but this weather had me packing everything I could possibly need.

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Monster Cross

I survived the first race of the season. It turned out to be a beautiful 60 degree day in February. Pocahontas State Park in Virginia was a beautiful place to ride with so many undiscovered trails this weekend. It was a gorgeous sixty degree day in February. This was both a mountain bike and cycle cross race which increased the number of riders out there. The pack was huge to start. That did make it a little hard at the start where it was narrow and twisty.  Once the pack spread out, it was an easy ride. I really like d that the trail looped back on itself, making it able to see the leaders go by. The pros got a head start (which was not the only reason that I was not at the front)!.

 

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Everyone out there was so nice. There were a lot of flat tires out there due to the gravel, mostly cycle cross riders, and people were always willing to help. The crowds were great cheering us on, which was extra great with how the course looped back and was two laps. While cycle cross looks fun, I definitely was happy to be on a bike with bigger tires to prevent flats and help grip on these sharp turns, often with gravel.

My dad and friend, Ron, decided to be different at this race and rider single speeds. They spent a lot of this race spinning at really high RPMs because they chickened out and did not increase the size of their gears (they had only an 18 on the front). They could fly up the short climbs, but definitely struggled on the flat and road sections.

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There was a photographer out there taking photos. I love to flip through the photos from these races. I have definitely learned over the past year of racing that i am NOT photogenic. I always end up looking tired and awkward in these photos. his race I even tried to smile, but I think the photo was taken a s I had stopped. They make for good funny photos. My brother always looks so serious and in the zone, making great photos.

It was a great day of racing, and we are looking forward to more races to come this year!