Eva Bandman Part Zwei

My first big cyclocross race was the 2012 USGP in Louisville. I was a fresh cat 4 with very little fitness and even fewer technical skills. The course was unlike anything I had ever seen. Racing at Eva Bandman was the perfect way to spend my 32nd birthday weekend. I was desperately in love with cyclocross, and couldn’t believe I had lived my entire life without it.

I can’t remember how I placed that weekend, but I do remember being nearly dead last. I am fairly certain I spent too much time running rather than riding. I was about 25 pounds heavier, riding a borrowed bike, and I had no idea how to get myself through the course. I gave it everything I had. When the race was over I dressed up in butterfly wings and made people laugh. I started an amazing collection of friendships and acquaintances that weekend, and felt like I had finally found my place in the strange land of adulthood.

A few weeks later, I found out the 2013 Cyclocross World Championships would be held on US soil. After the amazing experience I had racing in Louisville, I was elated to hear I could potentially see the world’s best racers compete in my own back yard. We immediately orchestrated a plan, reserved a hotel room, and made costume arrangements for our return to the place that stole my heart.

We arrived in Louisville a few days before the big race. My friends and I participated in the Raleigh Single Speed Derby, where I had the pleasure of learning what it was like to push a 42 x 16 and run through flaming barriers. The special events were only the tip of the iceberg. Nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming sensation that followed as we walked into the park on race day.

Growing up in the SEC provided me with many opportunities to experience the emotion of competitive sports. Aside from my own athletic endeavors, being amidst a fiery crowd at a ballgame was nothing short of a religious experience. Walking into Eva Bandman pulled at my heart strings and ignited old memories. You could hear vuvuzelas and cowbells everywhere. The air was frigid as the baby snowflakes fell into the fresh mud from the rain the night before. I was wearing a Captain America costume and a blue wig. The vibes in that place could have easily been felt on the moon. I thought my heart would explode.

The European fans were delightful. You could see Americans posing for photos with Belgians. I saw a group from Switzerland dancing with Canadians. This place knew no barriers. We all had this eloquent example of bravery in common, and no political agenda could break those bonds. I remember two gentlemen from Belgium asking my group to pose for a photo with them. We were all dressed up for what seemed to be the world’s biggest Halloween party, and they didn’t speak a lick of English. I remember not being concerned and somehow connecting with them on a different level. We hugged and high-fived. Bicycles can do that, you know?

I distinctly recall the light bulb going off that day. What had started as a way to be competitive in adulthood just four months earlier, became a new way to see the world. Bicycles had inspired me in a way no basketball or volleyball ever could. The seed of passion had been planted, and what would follow changed the trajectory of my life forever.

As I pedaled out onto the Louisville course in November of 2015, I thought back to my first big race in 2012. I noticed a stark difference in my abilities on both a physical and mental level. I was faster than ever. My technical skills surpassed anything I ever thought to accomplish in Louisville, and I had developed a robust mental toughness. I celebrated my 35th birthday with a top 10 that weekend; my best race to date. My connection to Eva Bandman continued, and my love for the sport of cyclocross flourished.

2016 has been an intense and challenging year. I’ve learned more about life and myself in the last 9.5 months than I have in the past 36 years. I now truly understand just how short our time on this earth is. I know people don’t always stick by your side like they say they will. I have learned that success is measured in many different ways, and your success isn’t necessarily someone else’s. Do what makes you happy, but more importantly, do what makes you great.

The seed planted at the World Championships virtually saved me. I was in a place both personally and professionally that I didn’t like. I wasn’t happy with my job(s) and I couldn’t imagine making a career out of any of them. I had high hopes for my success, but no real path to follow. I wasn’t getting any younger and I felt like the world and her opportunities were passing me by. Bicycles came into my life at the most appropriate time, and I think Worlds was simply the medium that allowed me to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. I took it to heart.

I’m coming up on my 36th birthday next month, which puts me closer to 40 if you look at my racing age. I still feel immature. I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of experiences, even though my life resume seems shiny and full. I’ve passed up opportunities because of fear, because let’s face it, failure is a hard pill to swallow. But you know what? A life worth living to the fullest doesn’t work like that. Bravery has many faces, and you can’t let a fear of failure keep you from reaching your potential. Pretty heavy stuff for a Sunday afternoon, but epiphanies wait for no man.

I made a spirited decision this weekend. I decided to embrace my fears and experience the thing responsible for getting me into the business of bikes. I sold my mountain bike last week, with intentions of replacing it with something bigger and better in the coming months. Having felt the need to check things off my bucket list, I opted for a more ballsy choice. I wanted to get back to where it all began, but I knew the same old thing wouldn’t do. So, I bought a plane ticket to Luxembourg for the 2017 Cyclocross World Championships.


Charlie Day, producer of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, gave an amazing speech at Merrimack College in 2014. He said, “Don’t wait for your break. Make your break. Go make it happen for yourself”. Cycling and bike racing have taught me this lesson more than anything else in my life. You don’t get results without the work, and success doesn’t just fall into your lap. You have to make your own way. He ended his speech with this:

You cannot let a fear of failure, or a fear of comparison, or a fear of judgement stop you from doing what’s going to make you great. You cannot succeed without this risk of failure. You cannot have a voice without the risk of criticism. And you cannot love without the risk of loss. You must go out and take these risks. None of it comes easy. And people will tell you to do what makes you happy, but a lot of this has been hard work. And I’m not always happy. And I don’t think you should do just what makes you happy. Do what’s uncomfortable and scary and hard, but pays off in the long run. Be willing to fail. Let yourself fail. Fail in the way you would want to fail. Fail, pick yourself up, and fail again. Because without this struggle, what is your success anyway? Look, as best we know it, we have one life. In it, you have to trust your own voice, your own ideas, your honesty, your vulnerability, and through this you will find your way. You do not have to be fearless, just don’t let fear stop you. Live like this as best you can, and I guarantee you will look back on a life well lived. You are capable of greatness in your profession, and more importantly, in your quality of self. Stay hungry. Stay young at heart. Take those risks. You are going to change the world around you in big ways and in small.

I think Charlie was on to something.

The Birdsong 500

I don’t remember how or why I decided to play sports. I was incredibly young and a minority in the 1980s athletic world, but I can still remember the first time I felt the buzz of competition. I loved the game, but the fire that burned inside me was kept alive by winning. I felt like every practice was the battlefield and every loss was personal.

As a mid-thirties amateur athlete, accepting the fact that my childhood mantra might be flawed was a daunting task.I was an out of shape has-been when I decided to pick up a bike. I had been running in hopes of becoming a marathon athlete, but my body had a way of shutting that idea down. I wanted to race. I wanted to feel the rush of success run over me like the gravy on a pile of southern baked biscuits.

The last few weeks haven’t been very awe-inspiring, and I took a week off the bike to clear my head and readjust my attitude. I started running again. Yeah, I started running again and I LIKED IT. I was tired of losing at bikes. I was tired of getting close to a breakthrough and being stopped by this, that, or the other. I was bummed to start my 5th season of ‘cross as a cat 3, B-level racer after getting destroyed in an elite field for 3 years. It just didn’t add up and I decided I was over it.

Like getting in a fight with boo, I came crawling back after a few days of being pissed and stuffy.

“Hey bike, can we maybe start training again? But only if you promise to stop pissing me off.” The bike didn’t respond, obviously, but we started hanging out again this week. We have a real complicated relationship.

I watched Mara Abbott’s TEDx about her fourth place finish in Rio, and she said a million different things that really hit home for me. She mentioned giving herself the opportunity to experience the potential she had been building throughout her life. That’s what makes me toe the line every weekend. I may not be a pro cyclist, but I feel like a lot of the reason I take racing so seriously is because I secretly want to win. Well, it’s not a secret anymore. And let me be the first to tell you I don’t see myself on the top step anytime soon. I’m a realist.

My heart breaks multiple times a week, on any given day, for any given reason. I’m also an empath.  Intuition is the filter through which I experience the world. Racing bikes has pushed me to the highest peaks and buried me under the heaviest, most soul-crushing rubble, and I keep coming back. I would honestly give up cycling if the fun factor was missing, because the emotions that come with losing are exhausting. As Mara said, “It’s an earned privilege, this sort of a broken heart.” I didn’t go to Rio and my problems are small in comparison, but my defeat is a gift. I need to embrace that.

I missed the lunch ride today after a meeting with an angry pothole, so I was forced to squeeze in a training ride after work and before the sun faded. After a week of bicycle mishaps and missed chances, followed by a week of the “Second Lap Blues”, I finally had a moment of clarity.  I felt good for a change. All my body parts were working in silent harmony. The white noise came back and the thoughts disappeared. It was fun and I was flowing. The sun hit the East Bench like a mimosa bar day buzz and the vibe was phenomenal. After I reached the top of my final interval this evening, I looked over my shoulder and felt my heart skip a beat.



Asleep at the Wheel Volume II

“It doesn’t matter if you’re sprinting for an Olympic gold medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you’re missing the essence of the sport” – Scott Martin

Bike racing is a fascinating thing that often stirs up a mixed bag of emotions on any given day. I like to compare it to dating. Sometimes you meet the most beautiful soul with all the attributes you’ve been searching for your entire life. The fairy tale romance is almost too much to believe, but you just know you’re going to be with this guy forever. You’re in love. So in love it hurts. But then one day you wake up and there’s a note on the table. He’s gone, and the only thing you have to remember him by is a deep dark hole in your heart, and an ache in your soul. Sometimes, for me, that’s what it feels like to race a bike.

I’ve never been a quitter. My dad raised me to start what I finish, and never let me storm out of a ball game or stop playing in the middle of a season. I had a stubborn mother who showed me how to be strong in the midst of pain and anguish. I remember my coaches were always impressed with my gut-busting determination and hard-headed tactics. Quitting was just never an option for me. It’s a gateway drug. If you quit once, you’ll most likely quit again. So, I just didn’t do it.

Coming to terms with a DNF is something I still haven’t learned how to manage. I’m a grown ass woman racing a bicycle in a circle, right? Shouldn’t be rocket science. Shouldn’t be such a big deal. Shouldn’t be, but it is, and I’m not going to apologize for it. At the end of the day, no one actually cares if you quit or not. The only person you have to answer to is YOU. Your friends don’t care. Your dog doesn’t care. Your bike doesn’t care. But none of those comments help me care less. In fact, I care more now than ever.

So how do you recover from the swarm of negative emotions that fall after a soul-crushing performance? For starters, I cry my eyes out. I’m sure there are better ways to cope with a bad day, but my go-to emotional relief is crying. And if you are a crier, don’t be ashamed. It’s not the worst trait you could have, and it is scientifically proven to help bring you relief. I’m like a tea kettle. When the heat builds up to a certain point, I have to let it out. I cry when I’m happy, too. I’ve finished many a bike race in tears of joy. Those are the best tears.

Realize some things are out of your control. Having control freak-like tendencies makes this one a challenge, but after the dust settles, take some time to reevaluate why you felt the way you did. Take mental notes and move on. Tomorrow is another day.

Use defeat as fuel. Quitting a race is a total shit feeling, and remember how it felt the next time you want to pull off and throw in the towel. Don’t let this drag you down. It’s okay to swim around in your pity party for a little while, but make it quick and get over it. This is not the end of the world.

Figure out why your body hates you/hurts/doesn’t respond well/etc. Are you eating right? Are you drinking too much? Training properly? Not training enough? Do you have an injury that tends to flare up in certain situations? Get that shit taken care of. Figure out a way. Be nice to yourself. You get what you give, and if you don’t give much, you won’t see any gains. We are machines. Temples. Beautiful beings that deserve love and self-care. Treat yourself like the princess (or prince) your daddy thinks you are.

Surround yourself with other racers who are positive, and show them love and support when they are giving everything they have on the course. This is crucial. What do you love about them? How can you emulate some of their positive traits? Building yourself a race family can make all the difference in the world. It’s easy to feel alone when you actually are alone, so do your best to spark relationships with others, and remember you’re not the only one who’s ever felt sad, embarrassed, or gutted after a shitty performance.

You’ll have plenty of folks who tell you to stop racing if you get so worked up about a bad day, and you have to take those people with a grain of salt. Yeah, we’re just racing bicycles. Yeah, life is hard enough without getting so serious about how well you did in a race. And yes, we do this because it’s fun, but bike racing transcends that for many of us. Know that you are not crazy for taking it more serious than someone else. You’re driven and that’s a beautiful thing. If someone wants to shame you for taking bike racing serious, you can politely tell them to go fuck themselves. Or not. Either way, you keep doing your thing and they can keep doing theirs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

Just like beauty, bike racing is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t change what it means to you for someone else, and remember there will always be another race.

See you next weekend.

The Curse of the Athlete

I’ve been racing ‘cross now for 4.1839 seasons. I still get nervous the night before, and my heart still races well over 100 bpm on the start line. I still go out of the gate like a scalded rabbit, although I’ve learned how to tone it down a bit. My footwork is still ugly and I can’t remount properly on hills and sloping off-camber sections. I’m a forever cat 3, and who knows if I’ll ever see those shoulder numbers outside of a master’s nationals race. I haven’t given up, though, and this past weekend was a testament to my stubborn determination.

Utah is an interesting place for many reasons. The ‘cross racing is no different, and the UTCX season opener made me lust long and hard after a two-stroke engine. The race was held at Rocky Mountain Raceway, boasting a drag strip start, a lot of loose turns and a deathly downhill. Being the new fish in the pond didn’t help my pre-race jitters either. I felt like I might throw up during the entire hour-long drive that morning, and getting dressed for course inspection almost had me in a cold sweat. Ok, I’m being slightly dramatic here (who, me?), but I was definitely feeling sketched out before I even saw the course. Typical Archer.

First lap was a rude awakening, and offered similar feelings to my first mountain bike ride in Utah. It was loose and scary. I’m used to mud, rocks, and roots. Where was the slop? I wanted my Limus tires in a bad way, but those were things of the past. I made it to the logs and remembered the last time I tried to ride a triple log barrier section. I decided I wasn’t 100% certain that I could clean it 100% of the time (Thanks, Adam), so I ran it. Shew…made it. On to the run-up.

Solid run-up, guys. The ankle deep dust on crust made for an interesting threshold interval, even at a course inspection pace, and I thought about how bad it was going to hurt at race pace. The descent on the other side was even more of a challenge. I stood at the top, failing to commit for three solid attempts. Hard left into a hard right, down an off-camber pseudo sand pit. WHAT THE HELL? I watched a couple folks go down on mountain bikes. It was like I was standing at the top of a chute, waiting to drop in on an avalanche path. I can be so overly excited about things I can for sure accomplish, but my fear of commitment is ridiculous on so many levels. So I did it. Almost crashed. Made it. Next.

I’ve never said this, ever, but I was so happy to see pavement. Here I am, the girl who always got excited for technical courses because it slowed the crit racers down, AND I’M EXCITED ABOUT LONG STRETCHES OF PAVEMENT. Since moving to Utah, I’ve discovered this thing called POWER and these things called LEGS and they move much faster than I remember. So yeah, the pavement was my savior. A couple more laps and I was ready(ish) to line up.

The start was literally the longest, straightest paved section I’ve ever seen in a ‘cross race. It was longer than Derby City Cup by a gazillion miles, and I kept thinking “DO NOT GO OFF LIKE A ROCKET”. Let’s face it; I’m so damn good at getting the hole shot. I’m also really solid at blowing up after a lap. I decided to stay steady with another woman who also went off like a rocket, and I let her take the first turn. We both wanted to hit the dirt before the rest of the pack, though, because West Coast dust clouds are not to be fucked with. Into the motocross track we went…

Whoops on a motorcycle are easy. Whoops on a motocross track, on a ‘cross bike, racing with other people on bikes are hard. I got pinched in a turn and ended up going over the bars in a deep moon dust pile, and I watched the small field leave me in that cloud of moon dust. “Well, shit. You’ve got to be kidding me?!” I thought. I got up and noticed both hoods were pointing towards each other, but decided it was time to learn how to ride with both hoods pointed towards each other. I finished out the whoops while beating my hoods into submission. I turned myself inside out to pick people off, and ran through the barriers so fast that I nearly tripped and knocked out my teeth. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to get left in the dark, so I did what I had to do. Would it stick? Would I blow up? I had no idea.

The run-up was painful, as they always are, and I could hear myself audibly wheezing as I reached the top. I hid my fear and grabbed the drops like it was my job. I surfed the turns and managed to make it to the bottom of the hill without taking out any course materials. WIN. “Cool, so now I just have to pedal back around to this part a couple more times and I’m golden.”

I managed to catch up to 3rd place during the 2nd lap, and we fought each other over the next lap and a half. I generally use pavement to recover, but I knew I could make up time if I got up out of the saddle and pounded the concrete as hard as I could without blowing up. I came pretty close to shutting it down a couple times, but those weekday lunch rides have whipped me into a bit of a big gear machine. This is something I’m definitely not used to, but I really enjoy the whizzing noise a bunch of watts make.

It was over 90 degrees and I don’t race with a bottle cage. I was wearing a skinsuit. I had no place for water. A friend of mine was sweet enough to give me a handup, but my dumb ass missed it the first time. I watched that water bottle drift off into the depths of hell in slow motion as I passed through. I’ve never been so sad about a drink of water. I caught it the next time. Lesson learned. Get better at this.

After 48 minutes at an average heart rate of 178 bpm (yeah I’m a nerd), I managed a 3rd place finish. Considering the crash, all the footwork mistakes I made off the bike, and the fact that I am most certain I saw Jesus standing next to a bright white light, I think I did pretty okay. My fear had turned to heartburn and my nerves had been burned to death in the hot sun, but I was so fulfilled and happy. I lost my voice and probably had the black lung from all the dust, but the opportunity to spend a day doing the thing that I love the most was enough to make all that worth it. I live in Utah and I’m racing cyclocross. How can you feel sad about that?

Alright, so I had the second lap blues pretty bad. Whatever.

I love seeing progression. I love feeling powerful. I love feeling good about myself. The curse of being an athlete can be beautiful when everything lines up. You feel me?




I remember the moment I realized I was a competitor. I was five. I played in a basketball league at the elementary school every Saturday, and I was often the only girl. It never occurred to me that I was different. I got bloody noses just like the rest of ’em, and I scrapped for that ball like it was the only thing that mattered.

The next real competitive memory I have is playing in an all-girls basketball league a year or so later. I was still a firecracker, and you would often find me sacrificing life and limb to steal, strip, or layup some action. I became a pretty darn good basketball player over the next 13 years, but it came with a price. I learned this at a much later age, and saw all the lost opportunities after it was too late. Would I change the trajectory of my life? Not a chance. Competition taught me a lot and there’s no shame in that.

I’ve always felt a need to compete with the boys. We used to scrimmage the boy’s basketball team in high school, and I can tell you I rarely walked away from those without a drop of blood somewhere on my body. Even as an adult (I use that term loosely), I find myself getting into situations that make me just as much of a chest puffer as any boys club. Yeah. Chest puffer. I do that sometimes. Figuratively of course. I just rolled my eyes because I admitted that to the entire internet.

Gonna keep doin’ it.

There’s a balance in being a female athlete. I don’t know if anyone has a recipe for it, but I know there IS a balance somewhere. I find myself not wanting to stray from my roots and upbringing, though I realize another person’s perception can make or break you. I spent my summers at the motocross track as a young girl. I ripped a 3 wheeler around while my brother raced. His friends taught me my first curse words. How do you change something you’ve always been?

I find myself out of balance often. I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I’ve scribbled out my mental notes when something didn’t work out. Working on ski patrol was one of the most challenging and beautiful times of my life. I experienced a lot of the same hurdles I did as a young child, always having to fight for my place and prove my worth. Or did I really have to prove anything? It depends who you ask (and I didn’t ask you for your opinion, thanks).

I always struggled with what I thought I was supposed to be growing up. I didn’t spend a lot of time dating like many of my female counterparts. I spent summers at sports camps and running suicides during off-season ball practice. I asked guys out and they often told me I played too many sports to make a suitable date. My daddy would say the boys had nothing to woo me with, and they were intimidated by my outgoing demeanor and athletic abilities. I just thought I wasn’t good enough.

And that thought followed me to adulthood.

I had an identity crisis in my early twenties. Instead of taking care of myself and allowing my strengths to flourish, I infected my body and mind with copious amounts of booze. I thought if men didn’t accept me for who I was on the inside, then I needed to change who I appeared to be on the outside. Sadly, the only thing I gained was raging hangovers and a few pounds here and there. I hated myself. No one respects a sloppy drunk, and that’s exactly what I had become. I quit school and looked to adventure to fill my soul. The next decade would teach me all I needed to know about where society thought women belonged.

You know what? Women are awesome. We put up with a lot of shit from both ourselves and the outside world. We sometimes find ways to cope with how others view us, and often give in to stereotypes and opinions. We second guess ourselves according to how you think we should act. If we wear a short skirt, you think we are slutty, and if we keep up with you on a bike ride we’re just one of the dudes. We are fucking awesome and we still can’t win.

So, I’m here to tell you that we CAN win and we WILL win and no one is going to stop us.

Be competitive. Be formidable. Be all the things you’ve always been and make no excuses for it. If you want something, don’t be afraid to work hard for it. Demand respect. Show the naysayers that you belong here. Show up to the group ride, even if you’re the only woman. Don’t be afraid to show off your talents, and don’t be ashamed if you don’t perform at the same level as everyone else. Never apologize for being a woman. Don’t you dare say I’m sorry. You deserve to be here, no matter what anyone tells you. We’re gonna change the world, even if it takes us forever.

I think we are sitting on one hell of an opportunity. More women are taking control of their lives and following that big beating red thing in the middle of their chest. We are infiltrating the workforce, and doing what we love. We no longer make excuses for being smaller or slower or not as “good” as the men. We’re not taking that shit anymore. We are paving the way for the young girls of the world to grab life by the horns. I hope the men are taking notice, because it’s only getting better and we’re gaining momentum.


Ladies, we have an opportunity here. Don’t be afraid. Don’t hide. Embrace your passions and work towards your goals. I never once thought I would be sitting in the middle of the Wasatch mountain range, working for one of the most incredible companies in the bike industry…but here I am. I’m living proof that you really can do anything. It’s not easy and you’re probably gonna sweat a little, and you’re MOST DEFINITELY gonna cry a little…okay, I cried a lot…but you get my point.

Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like less of a person just because you’re different. You are beautiful and amazing and worthy of love and respect. You deserve the opportunity to reach your goals, no matter if you wear a skirt or not. Stop apologizing. Don’t settle. You are a bad ass and nothing can stop you. Try and free yourself from that baggage of the past and nourish those dreams, girl. Life isn’t slowing down, and you shouldn’t either.




Adventuring. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past few months. Unemployment is always an interesting way to pass the time, and new life opportunities tend to occupy each and every precious second we’re afforded. I walk Chico with a cup of coffee every single morning and still catch myself whispering, “What the hell am I doing?”. I don’t think I will ever know.

I pinch myself daily.

If you know anything about this journey, you know leaving Mammoth literally broke my heart. It was such an overwhelming and intense experience. Transitioning back into the mystery of the West has sparked so much inside my little brain. I miss my family terribly, but knowing where you’re meant to be is a gift you should always give yourself 100% of the time. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that our lives are far too precious to waste on hopes and dreams. Before you get all upset about that comment, just think about it for a minute. You owe yourself more than a dream.

Utah is pretty much more than I could have asked for. When I stood on that ridge in Little Cottonwood Canyon back in 2004, I giggled in amazement. I was about to drop into my first pow run EVER, and my boyfriend at the time was generous to share his most prized possession with me. I remember thinking how rad it would be to live there. I continued visiting for the next few winters until I moved to California, and never looked back.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss Asheville and those sweet little green trees. I miss dirt and mud, with torrential downpours and hypothermia. I miss wet roots and The Lucky Otter. I miss Taco Tuesdays and Asheville Cyclocross. I miss my pretentious coffee shop and 100 mile solo rides. I miss Pisgah and all her misfit toys. I miss 12 hour days in the rain forest. Hey Asheville, I miss you. Thanks for keepin’ it rad.

And then that whole racing thing…

I’m still forming an opinion. And I’m sure you’ll be waiting in anticipation, bruh.




Stairway to Hell

Endurance– the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.

May was hard. She changed me. Hurt me. Helped me. May was also full of smiles and hearty laughter.

Our community lost someone very special recently, and the last few weeks have been foggy at best. I recently came into a large amount of free time, so my head was given permission to stop working, and my heart was allowed to break in half. There was a peaceful silence and awareness of what really matters in this world. My fears and concerns seemed to disappear, but the ache in my chest was obvious and raw.

We gathered on Friday to love, mourn, laugh, and remember. We did just that. We’re all better people because of that man. We are.

And what about the 111k, Megan? Well, I’m so glad you asked. I’ve had a couple weeks to simmer down and forget about the heartbreak and tears, and now I can see that day for what it was. A breakthrough. A lesson. A testament to who I really am and how much I can endure. The 111k, just like PMBAR, changed me (I think for the better), and allowed me to dig deeper than I’ve ever had to dig before. So much digging.

As we lined up, I thought about what kind of day I was about to have. I was all smiles, and really honored to be one of the crazy people getting ready to embark on a long journey in that beautiful bubble we call Pisgah. I knew I wasn’t fast enough to line up in the front, so I bounced around in the back, making jokes and forcing smiles on everyone I made eye contact with. I was nervous as hell, though, and did my best to hide my fear from the world.

Eric said “GO”. We made our way to Clawhammer, and I watched everyone pass me. I got caught up in the heat of the moment, briefly, and quickly realized I needed to slow the fuck down and ride my own pace. I mean, we were 30 minutes into what would become a 12 hour day for me, so I needed to get a grip. I later learned I had my best Clawhammer time that day. Probably not the best way to begin my 111k journey, but I was definitely warm and ready to ride.

We meandered through the woods to Cantrell Creek, a trail I had never experienced, and the reality of the previous day’s rain hit me like a brick. Pisgah was sloppy and it seemed like every single rock on that trail moved. Hell, I would have been better off closing my eyes and feeling my way through that creek bed, but I decided to keep my eyes open and give it my best shot.

SO MANY DOWNED TREES. Everywhere. I hopped over a lot of the smaller ones, but played a conservative game with the bigger ones. I finally decided to ride over a much bigger, scarier (to me) tree, and my back tire slid sideways as I rolled forward. I was heading for a bunch of sharp rocks, so I corrected hard to the right, and made plans to ride through the enormous puddle off to the side of the trail. As my front end hit the puddle, I quickly realized the depth was more than I could handle, and my front wheel disappeared instantly. I flipped over the bars, taking one to the quad and the other to my chest, and landed flat on my face. I immediately felt pain and fear.

“Get up. You have to get up! It’s too soon. You have to go!” I yelled and cried and pleaded with myself to get up and get back on the bike. I was barely two hours into my day, and I feared that I was injured, but I started moving before the pain could reach me. I pedaled and cried and the first notion of doubt filled my head. I hate Cantrell Creek.

Then the last person, a really ripping female, passed me. I was officially last.

When I made it to the first aid station (20 miles in), I saw a bunch of happy faces. The Motion Makers crew was there to greet me with jokes, peanut M&Ms, and a quick look at my bike. I had to pee, so I literally just whipped off my bibs on the side of the parking lot, because I no longer gave a shit what anyone else thought. I ate a snack, grabbed my bike, and quickly said my goodbyes. For every minute I stood still, the hope for finishing the race would melt away. I wasn’t sad at this point, but I was getting there. 111k was going to kill me. I just knew it.

I’ve been mountain biking for a couple years, and riding Pisgah for about 4 months. I’ve ridden in wet conditions before, but nothing prepared me for the mental and physical anguish of trying to navigate these trails under a shit ton of mud and slimy water. Pisgah is a challenge for me when its sunny and dry, so this particular day was extra tough on me. I was also alone, and even though the course was marked, I was a little nervous riding solo. I was extra cautious in technical sections, and chose to walk in places I had cleaned before. I did not want to take any chances!

I made it to aid station #2, and I was officially sad at this point. I had only traveled 8 or so miles from the first aid station, and had yet to descend 1206 (just to climb back up it). I made small talk while I stuffed bananas in my mouth, and watched other racers crest the top of 1206 with blank stares and zombie-like movements. This aid station also served as #3 after you dilly-dallied for 20ish miles, running over to Spencer/Trace, and then climbing back up 1206. At one point I thought about riding up 5000 and down Bent Creek Gap Road. “I could just ride home from here and call it a day. I could quit right now”. It was so fucking tempting, y’all. But I didn’t. How would I get my car back to Asheville?

As I started climbing Spencer, I caught up to the woman who passed me on Cantrell. “You’re killing it, lady!”, she said as I rolled by. I thanked her and told her she was doing well also, but I wasn’t sure what I was killing. My brain cells? My bike? It was destroyed already. I felt like I was being killed. I pulled over and had a quick snack, trying to pull things together in my brain. I was having a rough time and could feel myself falling apart. I felt the tears coming, but I managed to hold them back. This part of the day was extra muddy and slick, but I kept the rubber side down and even had a little fun. I was taking it one trail at a time, and checking things off my mental list as I made my way through North Mills.

Climbing 1206. Ew.

When I made it back to the aid station, I saw my PMBAR partner eating snacks and having a good time with the Liberty folks. Mike was sweeping the 111k, and it made me happy to see that he wasn’t actually going to catch me. I WAS AT THE 3RD AID STATION. I was really happy for the first time all day, and felt a burst of energy because I knew I could finish the race. All I had to do was climb Laurel and descend Pilot. All I had to do, right? Sometimes my optimism blows my own mind. I was blinded by optimism. BLINDED. I high-fived everyone, and made my way down the road towards aid station #4. Little did I know, I was headed straight into the depths of hell. My own personal hell.

I noticed the sun was getting lower and the temperature was dropping. I crushed water all day because it was hot, and the waist-deep creek crossings had soaked everything that had not been touched by my sweat. I had crusted mud from my head to my toes from the endo I experienced on Cantrell, and my chest ached with every deep breath. As I began pushing up Laurel, something happened. My brain began melting and panic filled my body. I had been in Pisgah for 9 hours, alone and injured, and I held back the tears for as long as I could.

I couldn’t do it anymore. The tears streamed down my face as I fell apart.

I tripped over roots and rocks as I trudged up Laurel. This hike isn’t fun when you’re an hour in, so you can imagine my sadness as I tried to push after 9 hours of destroying myself. I thought, “How the fuck do people do this race in 6 hours?” I thought about what kind of food I wanted. I thought about how my friends were drinking beers and eating burritos by this time. I thought about how bad my chest hurt and how hard it was to lose my shit and push my bike with a sharp pain shooting through my body. This made me cry harder and louder, and for the first time all day, I realized just how lonely I was. I was in a dark place, and Laurel got the best of me. I kept pushing.

I was so relieved to make it to Pilot, and felt a small slice of happiness for a few minutes. Exhaustion had taken away my technical riding ability, but I was still able to descend part of the trail. Pilot is a bitch and very technical and tough for me on a good day, so I’m sure I would have been great YouTube entertainment as I attempted to get myself off that mountain. But the shit would eventually hit the fan…hard. I hit a patch of baby heads and it jerked my handlebars to the side. I heard a pop in my chest and immediately felt the fire of a million lightning bolts going through my body. I was 100% fucked. I couldn’t control my bike, couldn’t descend, and the pain was so intense, I could barely breathe.

I lost my mind.

Blair Witch Project

I kept saying “I wanna go home. I wanna go home. I don’t want to do this anymore!” I was crying uncontrollably. The wind had picked up and I was freezing. This was my breaking point. I walked 90% of Pilot, and was finally able to get back on the bike near the bottom. It was getting dark and I started having legitimate fears regarding the hike up and descent back down Black. I rolled up to the final aid station and literally broke down in the middle of the road. I got off the bike and saw my friend Laura standing there. You know when a kid gets hurt and doesn’t cry about it until they see their mama? Yeah, that’s how I felt when I saw Laura. I started crying again. I laid down in the middle of the road and just held my face in disappointment. The pain was too much to keep going, and my brain could no longer function to safely get me to the finish line. I was forced to call it. I had been out there for 12 hours. 60 miles into a 68 mile race…I couldn’t push myself any farther.

I felt sick with disappointment.


And that’s about all I can muster up. I’m not so butt hurt about the race anymore, and I learned a lot about myself that day.

And yes, I’ll be back.






There are no words to describe the pain we’re all feeling. You had the most infectious smile. Your laughter was such a welcomed sound. You will be missed, friend. You will be missed.


PMBAR- Pretty Mad Because AHHHH RARRRR!

In the time its taken me to mentally recover from PMBAR, Rich Dillen has already blogged about it twice…maybe three times. People actually read his, though, and he’s definitely funnier than I am. Also better at bikes. Also better at consuming beer. And better than me at everything, really. But he took time out of his ‘better than me’ evening to unwrap my burrito at the finish line, because I couldn’t stop crying long enough to do it myself.

So I guess he’s also a better person than me. Meh.

I was running the Asheville Foam Party the night I agreed to do PMBAR. At the time, I had ridden in Pisgah about as many times as I had been on a date in the last decade, but I’m good at bad decisions. I woke up on Monday regretting my agreement to mentally mutilate myself in the woods, so I did what any rational person would do. I drank mimosas pretty much all day. I mean, ‘cross nats consisted of 6 days in party host mode, so why not make it 7? I am an adult.

The months leading up to Eric Wever’s psychotic event were spent in the woods. I haven’t ridden on the road, other than commuting, since November. Do I regret that? No. Do I hate road riding now? Nah. Will I ever ride up to Mount Mitchell or climb 215 or agree to tag along on one of Tay Little’s hundred milers? Probably. I’m a loose cannon, so anything is possible. And I like pain, so I will most likely agree to do any or all of those before the end of the summer. But man, I tasted that yummy purple drank of Pisgah, and now I’m hooked like Lil Wayne. I wanna sip on that sizzurp for as long as I can.

I bought knee pads. People made fun of me. I saw those same people post pictures of exposed leg muscle and knee holes, so I felt good about my knee pad decision. I’ve super glued mine a couple times in the last year, and I like wearing skirts, so I thought it was time to protect my assets. They make me ride faster (dumber), and now I feel naked (scared) without them. Failure to commit on those trails will end you. If you stick it, you win. If you botch it, you lose. I have shot off the side of a mountain more times than I care to remember in the last month. Did you know it’s hard to get yourself out of a tree when you’re upside down, still attached to your bike, and your hydration pack is wrapped around the branches? I didn’t know I could fly.


The other part of my survival equation was focusing my attention on all the strange and sometimes debilitating imbalances in my body. Cyclists are known for being in shape and super strong. I had both of these things going for me, but I was pretty weak in certain areas. Core strength? Forget about it. Upper body strength? Not since high school volleyball and basketball. The last 4 years of riding forward on a bicycle had caused my neglected body parts to fall apart or stop working all together. The back pain I experienced on long rides was enough to make me not want to go on long rides. And let’s not forget about that leg thing I had dry needled during the entire Summer of 2015. Which reminds me, I need to get those needles back into my legs soon.


Nick Bragg tried to get me into this place called MADabolic for months. At the time, I was elbow deep in my first semester of grad school, training for cyclocross season, and experiencing general life stuff that made me want to hide in my bathroom until it went away. I had a membership to the YMCA, and the only time I would use it was to attend the high intensity interval classes. Traditional workouts have never appealed to me, and I always found myself going home after just 30 minutes of weight training. Besides, I was a bike racer. WE ARE STRONG! WE ARE FIT! But we are also broken. I use “we” loosely, because I know some of you ACTUALLY work other parts of your body. I didn’t, so I got hurt a lot.

I finally caved and got my ass out of bed at 5am to drink coffee and hit the 6am MADabolic class. Nick got his wish, and I got more than I bargained for.


As an athlete, I spent my entire life with this little chip on my shoulder, because I thought I was fit and invincible. I had always struggled with my weight, and couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I had a belly in spite of my fitness level. I thought bikes were enough, and they almost are, but not quite. My first MADabolic class was a real eye opener. I wasn’t actually in the shape I thought I was, so I decided to sign up for another class. And another one. And another one.


And then one day it happened. I DID A REAL PUSH UP.

For those that might not understand the importance of that last sentence, I’ve never been able to do a legit, good form push up. Even when I was playing volleyball, I couldn’t do more than one or two, and they resembled a break dancing sequence more than push ups. It took a couple weeks of gut busting morning classes and buckets of sweat, but I started feeling the changes in my body and on the bike. The weekend Pisgah death rides never got easier, but the extra upper body strength and core definitely improved my hike-a-bike endurance. I finally understood the science behind the MADabolic workouts, and saw first hand how it complimented my lifestyle. Being able to ride for 5 hours without back pain is pretty awesome. Being able to balance in a rock garden because I had actual core muscles is awesome. Being able to descend a 7 mile downhill without stopping from arm pump is awesome. MADabolic changed how I viewed myself as a bike racer and an athlete. Focus on your WHOLE SELF.


You will not get fit by sitting on your ass and wishing you were fit. You have to put in work. That also means putting in work off the bike. I get it now.

What does that have to do with PMBAR? Well, a lot actually. Let’s start with Bradley Creek. How many water crossings did we have? 20?? It was slippery and swift, and I’ve never been one to balance my way into success. My upper body was stronger, though, so carrying my bike wasn’t a huge deal anymore. My core and lower back were in much better shape, so I didn’t wiggle around like a snake. Let’s face it. Bradley Creek just plain sucks, but I think it would have been more miserable without the off-the-bike training.

Seriously. I really hate Bradley Creek. No wonder you guys never ride it.

How many times did I have to get off and push my bike during PMBAR? I don’t know. I lost count after hour 9 when I began hallucinating and losing control of my legs. I remember pushing up Laurel earlier in the year and literally falling apart because my arms couldn’t take the heat. While pushing still sucks and makes me want to poke my eyes out, it was much more manageable with legitimate arm and shoulder muscles. All those thrusters, burpees, and kettle bells had a purpose. All those mornings I came home shelled from MADabolic seemed to be paying off. I didn’t look like one of those wacky inflatable things you see on the highway in strange places.


Climbing hurts. There is a lot of it in Pisgah. I’ve always been sort of okay at it, but ran into problems because the only thing I had going for me was QUADS. You can’t survive in Pisgah if all you have are quads. Quadsworth is the ONLY person I know who does this. I don’t think he’s human, though. And he has a mustache. NEVER TRUST ANYONE WITH A MUSTACHE. My point is, after I started developing other parts of my imbalanced, neglected body, climbing became easier and allowed me to try new lines. Instead of feeling back pain at hour 2, I could sometimes get to hour 5 or 6. But at PMBAR? Hour 13 provided me with pain EVERYWHERE. Even my fingernails hurt.

I remember changing my socks after the Bradley Creek out-and-back, and thinking “What have I done?!”. That might have been the first real low moment for me at PMBAR. The realization that we had two more checkpoints to go…the realization I had to ride Squirrel…the realization that I might not make it. All those things were filling my heart with flutters and my head with bad thoughts. I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to get back to the parking lot in under 14 hours. I was sad.

Squirrel wasn’t actually that bad. I think I’m finally getting more confident on the exposed off-camber. I mean, I sort of ENJOYED it this time. Of course, as soon as we hit the Horse Cove climb, I screamed on the inside. I knew my roommate was working a checkpoint, and I desperately needed him to be working THIS ONE. I needed to see happy faces and maybe find someone with a beer. When I heard someone yell “WOOOOOO!” at the top, I knew I was about to see my friends. It was 5pm. We had been out there for 8 hours and still had one checkpoint to go. I found a casual rider with an extra beer. I drank it, ate two cookies, and hugged everyone. I was happy(ish) and also very unaware of how much time we still had before the finish. I heard my roommate and my partner talking. I later found out that my roommate was attempting to change our route in order to keep me from crying. Or dying. Or not finishing. Whichever came first. But I think we went the correct, and more difficult way.


If you’ve ever been on your bike for that long, you know what comes next. Mood fluctuations are insane. You literally go from happy to sad in minutes. You start questioning that thing you said to that guy when you were 19. You think about what you plan on having for breakfast the next day if you make it out alive. You try to compare your current pain to pain you’ve felt in the past, whispering “You’ve felt worse than this before” to yourself, only to find you may not have actually felt worse than this before. It’s a real pain in the ass. Pain in the everything, really. But I kept moving forward. I sometimes had to get off my bike to push up stuff I would normally ride just to switch up my working muscle groups. At this point the race was all mental.

And I was seriously close to losing it.

We turned on our lights once we made it out to Clawhammer. The sun was almost gone and a strange, almost peaceful feeling came over me. I felt like Pisgah was swallowing me. I had never been out there in the dark before, so this was a special treat. The specialness wore off pretty quickly, though, as Maxwell proved to be more work than I could handle at that point. By the time we made it to Pressley Gap, I was holding back tears. The final hike-a-bike made me very angry. I could barely pick my feet up enough to move them forward. I kept tripping on rocks and roots. I started screaming, “Why am I doing this? When am I going to get to the %$&#* top!? THIS IS SO STUPID!”.

And then I heard the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. Mike standing next to his bike where the trail started to flatten out. “We’re here”. By HERE he meant the top of the descent back to Smoker’s Cove. I was going to make it.

I highly overestimated my ability to descend technical trail on 13 hour legs. I bounced from one side of the trail to the other like a ping pong ball. I kept scraping trees and catching pedals on rocks. I held the bars like someone giving a weak ass handshake. I finally had to stop and walk a section I would normally ride with no problem, just because my brain couldn’t function enough to tell my body what to do. Once we got closer to the end, I was able to relax a little, and even found myself popping off rocks and roots for fun. Everything hurt, but I was going to finish. I WAS GOING TO FINISH PMBAR.

We hit gravel and I could feel the tears. My body experienced a crazy rush of adrenaline that almost took my breath away. I could hear music and see lights in the near distance. We rounded the corner and I saw the most overwhelming sight of the day- the finish line. I immediately let the tears fly, crying like someone had punched me in the face. I got a congratulatory hug from Eric Wever and Steve Barker was snapping photos of me crying like I had won a Miss America Pageant. The clock said 13:32. I finished 28 minutes before cutoff, and we were the last team to finish in time. I cried harder. Shanna took my bike from me, gave me a huge bear hug, and asked me if I wanted a beer.

Are you shittin’ me? Of course I do.

Then I see Rich Dillen walking towards me. I expected him to make a joke or say something hilariously profound, but he just hugged me and said “That’s awesome. This is a big deal”. He got me a burrito, unwrapped it, and told me I shouldn’t eat the foil. “Don’t eat the foil. It hurts when you do that”.

Thanks, Dicky.

65666310-PMBAR_98.jpgPHOTO: Icon Media Asheville

I ate two burritos, a taco, and a piece of pizza. I could only drink two beers before I pulled an Irish goodbye and crawled into the back of my Element. I was still in disbelief that I finished PMBAR. Mother’s Day weekend was my 4 year anniversary of getting my first bike, and my 4 month anniversary of riding in Pisgah. I hurt in places that I never hurt before, and I slept for like 2 hours. The worst night of sleep EVER was trumped by the glory and pride I felt from finishing something that a lot of people are afraid to start. You might not think its a big deal, but PMBAR literally changed my life.

Sunday I was worthless. I don’t actually remember a lot of it, and I’m pretty sure I looked like a zombie. Sorry for anyone that had to look at me that day.

Monday was a blur.

Tuesday was better. I even hiked to the top of Looking Glass to retrieve the PRAR checkpoint from Sunday. By the way runners…I WAS THE ONLY ONE TO GET THAT CHECKPOINT, and I didn’t even do PRAR. I win. You lose.

I’m not gonna lie- I still feel shelled today. How long does it take to recover from this thing? And don’t forget, 111k and 55k are next weekend. Do I have time to train for this? Is it possible for me to feel worse than I did at PMBAR? What terrible things will come out of my mouth then? How the hell do you wake up in a good mood, knowing you have to get on your bike for a second day and ride ALL DA SINGLE TRACK?! Can I sell my entry? I should sell my entry. I’m going to retire from endurance racing.

Just kidding. I’m gonna suffer just like everyone else. It’s what we do.

So far, my goal of finishing the Queen of Pisgah Series is lining up. PMBAR was just the tip of the iceberg, though, and its a long road to Double Dare. I hope there’s enough Kleenex to dry up my tears.

Since this was like winning an Oscar, I have a few people to thank:

  • Brian, my brother, for getting me on bikes and getting me off Taco Bell and Papa Johns
  • That guy (who shall remain nameless), for taking me to Pisgah for the first time ever, watching me crash into a tree within the first 10 minutes, and telling me I had no business there and he’d never take me again
  • Eric Wever. For being, well, Eric Wever
  • All the supportive lady gnar shredders of WNC
  • Mike Pierce, for being an awesome partner and big dumb ride leader
  • All the people who told me to bring a fresh pair of socks
  • Steph, Mark, and Jamie from MADabolic- you guys have pushed me in a new way, making me stronger in both mind and body
  • All you crazy mountain bikers patient enough to take me out on REALLY long rides- I hate you, and THANK YOU
  • Randy and Shawn because they alway fix my bike
  • Laura- thanks for riding the last 4 hours with me. Needed that extra push
  • And finally, Pisgah National Forest. Thank you for not eating me this time




She’s Calling

One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature — inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch and wait the reappearance of everything that melts and fades and dies about us, feeling sure that its next appearance will be better and more beautiful than the last.” — John Muir

I feel like every month of every year is some kind of milestone. I remember the first time I rode Bent Creek like it was yesterday. It was in the heat of the summer- me, my brother, Stephen Janes, and Tom Van Devender. Brian and I drove up from Blountville one Saturday morning in 2012 (at least I think it was 2012). I remember walking up some pretty legit climbs. I mean, I had been riding for a couple months, so everything met ‘legit standards’. I can remember getting mad because it was so hard.

I wasn’t used to being mediocre at a sport. I’m not sorry for that, either.

One day I reached a point where I needed to take it to the next level. I had built a skill level that enabled me to do things I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Mountain biking has a way of bringing every single thing in your life into a perspective you never dreamed of. It doesn’t compare to any other discipline. It has a different skill set than road riding, and it approaches your senses in a different way than cyclocross. There’s just something that draws you in. Even if you leave it for a while, it ALWAYS welcomes you back.

The last couple months have shown me what I’m capable of, both mentally and physically. I just never saw myself in Pisgah. I was always too scared and intimidated, and worried that no one would put up with someone who got off her bike more than she rode it. So, I jumped in head first on New Years Day. My first REAL Pisgah ride and the world’s biggest reality check. Damn. This was no joke.

I managed to survive 4 months of long days in the saddle, in the most beautiful place I’ve ever had the pleasure of suffering to. I have never been more in awe of the places a bicycle can take you. I have never been more scared on a bike. I’ve never felt a sense of accomplishment like I have in Pisgah. Always rewarding to come home and lay on the couch because I simply can’t be bothered with moving my legs.

6 days until PMBAR. Until then my friends.