kelly-rock-dropoffSurviving, Going Faster, and Going Slower – June 2013

Kelly Feagans, Epic Endurance Cycling Team

I have been trying to find time to write a web entry for Epic Endurance for over two months (probably three).  As a matter of fact, I was all hot and bothered to write about my super fun-filled experience at The 2013 Whiskey 50 and that seems like ages ago.  So it’s time I write something, but the problem is now I have tons of random thoughts running through my brain that makes my generally good organizational skills void and null.  I really want to talk about where I am now, and to do that and get a feel for why … I should really go back in time to the beginning.

I raced in California for ten years as an amateur road racer.  From 1990, to 2000, I could be found racing as many as 35 races a year on a few different teams as a career Cat 3 racer.  For the most part I lived in the Pasadena area and trained on the local roads, including the Rose Bowl area.  Yes, the twice weekly Rose Bowl ride (or race to many) was a staple that I used to hone speed and bike handling skills.  It was a good time; lots of friends, all wanting to go fast and have a good time.  And get this … EVERYBODY waved, even on road bikes.  I know … hard to believe right?

Fast forward to 2010, now in Colorado with young boy/girl twins, and the racing bug bit.  And bit hard.  So, out goes the money, in comes a bike, and the suffering commenced with some enthusiasm and much trepidation.  I’d been away from the sport for ten years.  Hmmmm.  I was 40 years old; what the hell was I doing?

Turns out, going around in circles for 10 years took it’s toll for my love of road racing.  Not only did I not enjoy Criteriums, I found I had zero interest in racing in circles anymore.  Wow, things had changed too; guys were taking big chances to win $40 or less, everybody had carbon everything bike; but more to the point, I wasn’t having any fun. At all. Nada. Zip.

At this point I met Bill Wheeler, at that time we were both racing for the Trek Store Racing team out of Louisville/Boulder CO.  Bill was big into the Mountain Bike scene, and I was a roadie.  But damn I was bored.  Bill and I became friends, and when he decided to launch an amateur Mountain Bike team, I was excited about the opportunity.  It sounded fun, and the scene sounded even more awesome; friends, incredible race courses, challenging terrain, and … beer.  Awesome is as awesome does, right?

I remember thinking, you know I can race pretty well, I have good bike handling skills, and I’m reasonably fit … “How hard can it be?”  Yeah, I know I chuckle with the thought of “WTF were you thinking of” when I remember these thoughts.  I bought my first Mountain Bike in over 15 years, a Trek hardtail 29er.  It was fun and extremely terrifying at the same time.  “How hard can it be?”  Hahaha.  Wow, I had a ton to learn.  I had figured out the difference between road biking and mountain biking is that both bicycles have wheels. I was the proverbial fish out of water.

Luckily for me, I had  great mentors to learn from.  What is important to understand is that level singletrack with a few rocks thrown in was “technical” to me.  Seriously.  I crashed hard on several occasions; too much front brake, too much rear brake, too much brakes altogether, shock not setup correctly, wrong tire pressure, etc.  It was like learning how to ride a bike all over again.  My team was understanding at the time, the newly formed Epic Endurance Cycling Team.

I moved from a Trek and found myself aboard a Cannondale Scalpel 26er in early 2011.   What a great bike, nimble and quick, it made me feel like I was on a Crit bike which is what I liked.   But still, I had tons of learning to do.  Technical abilities aside, it was now time to learn how to race, and race long distances.

Looking back now, 2011 was really about surviving.  It was my first full season on the MTB, and oh how it was a shocker.  A shocker not necessarily in a good sense (remember I was a racer once in a time ago, and still thought I should have an advantage) as I found racing off-road endurance events were tougher than I could have ever imagined.  But I did learn, slowly and surely.  Surviving is the best I could describe 2011.

Moving into 2012, I desperately wanted to faster and feel better after these sorts of races.  Racing a bike over 50, 60, or 100 miles of singletrack and sometimes dirt roads takes it’s toll on the best riders in the sport; but for me?  Hahaha!  I was just getting pounded on; after every race it felt like somebody beat me with rubber hoses.

However, in 2012 things started to change; I hired a coach, Jason Hilimire of Fascat Coaching in Boulder.  Not so much because I thought I could go pro or anything crazy, but for me it was all about time management.  With the pressures of life (girlfriend, kids, work, etc), I was only able to dedicate 10 hours a week or so to training, and I needed help to make the most of it.  So, in 2012, I did get a bunch faster, and started finishing without collapsing.  I started having fun, found myself looking forward to technical sections of races, and most important was finishing strong with a smile (most of the time).

Moving into 2013, I had the idea that I would carry on the training plan, and for the most part I did.  I have had fun this season so far, although with both kids getting involved in more sports of their own my training/racing time has decreased; please don’t misunderstand, watching my kids play sports is really awesome and I have enjoyed it very much.  As important to my racing, I have found in 2013 often times if I back off just a bit, raise my head, and look around I can have almost a spiritual experience where everything is in balance.  I think in 2013 I have found a way to have fun AND do more than go fast; achieving a feeling of balance is my new goal.

So what  the hell am I trying to say?  Why did I just ramble on for 10 minutes?  Looking back, I realize in 2011 I was just trying survive.  In 2012, going faster and mastering technical abilities were on the hit list.  And in 2013; well I’m still figuring that out, but I sure am excited about going a bit slower and REALLY enjoying the ride.

Ride safe my friends … and above all else, raise your head and enjoy the awesome surroundings that makes mountain biking what it is.  🙂