Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April update

I entered the Leesburg Baker's Dozen race as a duo with my friend Libbey.  I knew it was going to be hard from a fitness standpoint, but loved the aspect of hanging out in a chamois for 13 hours.  This is a super fun flat lap with twists and turns, log hops and some neat rock features.  The lap times were fast at under 45 minutes, so not much downtime for us. 

I did the first lap.  I was enjoying the chaos and loving the course.  I felt good and efficient on the mountain biking aspect of my lap.  Then about a 1/4 mile from the finish, I clipped a pedal and went down hard.  I hit a rock with my left pedal and flew off the bike landing on my head and back.  The wind was knocked out of me and I was gasping.  Its not a good feeling.  It never is when you can't breathe.  About 10 people asked if I was okay and one sweet singlespeeder actually stopped.  He got my bike out of the way and made sure that I wasn't critical.  I really appreciated that.  There is nothing like not being able to breathe that makes you feel vulnerable. 

I collected myself and the lenses that popped out of my glasses.  I finished the lapped and was in shock.  Shock and awe because I actually clipped a pedal last year at this race on the first lap.  I guess I have bad timing of when I lean my bike over.  Or maybe my vision is going, or I lost focus...or maybe I just suck.

I would of quit the race, but nothing was dangling, you know.  If you have ever had a rib injury, you know the next days are much worse than the present day.  So, in a way it was great to keep moving.  Plus, that is the power of a teammate.  You don't want to, in any way let them down or pull them down with your misfortune.  And we were in the lead from the start and Libbey was pulling really great lap times.

Relay style racing with Libbey. Photo by Chris Merriam
It was kinda brutal way to do 72 miles.  I was being really hard on myself, too.  I felt like such a loser because I could see what other people were doing wrong in the corner and over the logs, but then I have a horrendous wreck myself.  I am teaching mountain biking frequently and just got certified to teach mountain biking, so to wreck like I did and on easy terrain, really bummed me out.  Plus, it hurt!
The pain is  under my armpit now but before was in my upper back

That wreck really made me question why I fucking keep wrecking and why I even mountain bike!  One of my first thoughts was, its because you are not in good shape!  You have slacked and this is the result.  But even people in amazing physical condition who are Olympians still wreck.  Then, it must be because your skills aren't good.  But even people who are in awesome shape with  good skills still wreck like this Frenchie.  Not that I want other people to wreck, but it happens.  And all mountain bikers have a high pain threshold and a stubborn spirit.

So, still hurting, and knowing that I probably shouldn't go, I go on a ride with some buddies up on Spruce Knob.   My breathing seems to be at half capacity, but at least I'm getting some oxygen to my muscles.  I think the worst part is the inability to be dynamic and strong on the singletrack.  I'm forced to ride lazy, which is very dangerous.  I'm protecting myself which results in poor riding.
Superwoman,not photo Michael Boyes
So, I wreck again and it hurts.  It's just a knee scuff and some soreness, but I'm humiliated and frustrated and scared.  This isn't supposed to be happening to a coach, instructor, pro and badass and on a backcountry ride!

So what do I do?  I watched this movie and that helped inspire me to be strong mentally.  I go back to the fundamentals of good body position and balanced riding.  I got the pilates tape out.  I try to stay positive and hang out with young people who don't have the baggage of smackdown.  I'll keep on keeping on because I do love mountain biking and nothing worth a damn is ever easy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I decided  to take the IMBA Instructors Certification Program in Delaware the other weekend, hosted by the Trail Spinners.    I've been teaching mountain biking for a while now, but I am constantly hungry for more knowledge about good technique and sound ways to teach these techniques. And the idea of a certification has a certain appeal.
Its official

Personally, I've taken clinics from Gene Hamilton, Harlan Price, Lindsey Voreis, and Angi Weston.  I learned so much from these professionals. Those lessons are all since I retired from professional mountain bike racing.  I never took a single lesson when I was getting paid to ride a bike!  And I'm not alone in thinking "what if" I had exposure to really great teaching at the beginning of my career.

It is a big chunk of money to take this course, especially right now in my life. I was able to test out of Level I by paying $100, having adequate experience guiding and teaching and by taking and passing the test.   Normally, the Level I course is 3 days and $350.  I don't recommend testing out.  It's just too much important information to lightly touch on.  In the end, its over $1000 for a three day course including your dues, memberships, first aid and insurance. You have to take the course in person again every four years and keep your memberships and first aid up to date.

We lucked out getting Shaums March and Gale Dalagher as our instructors.  These two are ,of course, amazing riders  who give the best demonstrations of techniques.  But I was so impressed with their professionalism, knowledge, respect for students and their patience.   They really came prepared and were fun to learn from.
Gale and Shuams worked hard to teach us well

Shaums can lean a bike! Photo credit www.kurtkuhn.com

The weather was very cold and windy the first day, cold and sunny the second day and downright miserable and rainy the last day.  Those were not ideal learning conditions or teaching conditions!  The days were long, starting by 9 am and finishing at 7 pm.  They were intense too!...  Lots of information, lots of demonstrations, lots of practice and lots of looking at the other students practice. One thing I wasn't expecting was the homework!  I had to read and study the material and then really study for the test and to be able to teach a skill. 

A highlight for me was the conciseness of the material and teaching process.  I like the idea of saying less!  Say what you need to say and say it well.  Don't crowd a student's brain with unnecessary wording and analogies. 

Another great thing that I took away was the ability to make corrections to a student's riding instead of just identifying mistakes.  This takes a lot of practice and I need to work on developing my system for doing that.  There are basically 10 fundamentals that come in to play mountain biking in order for the rider to be in control and balance in different situations and hopefully increase their fun, too!
We were graded on our teaching. Photo credit www.kurtkuhn.com

It was very difficult assessing students errors in mere seconds in under 15 yards in a parking lot, while giving compliments and corrections.   The instructors would tell the students to make mistakes and we got points off if we didn't identify the mistake, make the correction and give a compliment.  Its funny because I usually give my students lots of compliments, but at this class, I was too overwhelmed to give my usual, "Nice!" "Great!"  And I was so fixated on mistakes, that I didn't even realize when someone was doing something right.
I was overwhelmed at times. Photo credit www.kurtkuhn.com

Something that could be improved is less time listening to students teach a skill.  None of us students were good at teaching, including me, sorry!  It doesn't help anything to listen to 5 other people make a bunch of mistakes while learning to teach.  Of course, we all had to get up in front of a crowd and practice, but I'm not paying this much money to be a test pilot for others.  And purposely doing things wrong for the benefit of the other students is very counterproductive.  I was actually getting a little bit confused when I had to do things wrong.  Practicing things correctly is the only way to go.  And I get more out of listening to Shaums and Gale teach well than a fellow student teach mediocre.
Always Assessing. Photo credit www.kurtkuhn.com

I did enjoy meeting and learning with others, though.  It was a great group of people who are all going to make great teachers for their clubs.
A great group of people

Everyone must use flat pedals for this certification.  Yes, that was challenging for me having used clipless pedals for over 20 years.  I absolutely agree that it should be done on flats, though.  I learned a ton because of it and actually really enjoyed it! If you can do it with flats, you really have mastered that skill more soundly.
Kurt Kuhn doing a level lift

So, I did pass.  I scored really good on the written test, but not on my skills or my teaching. I think nerves and the newness of the lingo and different structure of a lesson made it weak. The fact that I managed and spoke well to the group was my strong point.  Sure, I'm a good rider, but obviously there is room for improvement with my demos especially with flat pedals.  I need to make sure that I'm clearly hitting the teaching points for each skill. 

This course is a good call for people who want to learn to teach mountain biking better.  This is not a personal skills improvement course.  I think it will continue to evolve and get better and better too!
Racer girl Cheryl working on her level lift

Monday, March 31, 2014

Michaux MTB School

This is the 7th year that the Michaux MTB School of Hard Rocks put on by Zach Adams has been run.  I've been involved as an instructor for the last two years and its been a really great experience.

 The camp is divided between a men's group with instructors Harlan Price  , the legendary Jay De Jesus and racer and coach, Ryan Fawley.  The campers have the option to learn from all the  instructors as the weekend progresses.  Sometimes having things said in a different way really helps and then of course the personal style of the coaches clicks with different people.  The women's group was led by me and the ever enthusiastic and very fast, Cheryl Sornson.  I'm always amazed at the positive nature of women mountain bikers and the energy that is created by a group of women learning.  I also loved that later in the day  the women could switch to one of the men's group and visa versa if they preferred.

I really like the idea of a dedicated weekend to learning and practicing mountain bike skills with a group of people and some really great instructors.  Ideally, a mountain biker does something like this at least twice a year.  I recommend a more intensive weekend camp and then some clinics or private lessons.  If you are a racer, then it will make you faster for racing.  If you don't race, it will totally increase your fun factor while riding trails.
photo by Liz Spencer
I know that a lot of riders who  can do some features in situ on the trail, but can't in a field.  I know many riders who say, I'm not incentivized by a board in a field, it has to be on the trail for me to jump over it.  And I say that is a bad attitude.  Learning skills in a field with repetition will only enhance anything that you do on the trail, especially when you figure out the how and the why of the body mechanics of a move.

Of course the weather was less than ideal, meaning it rained hard most of the weekend and nothing was left clean or dry.  But my new favorite phrase is "There is no bad weather , just bad friends"  , so make sure that you have friends that will go out with you on the tough days and make the most our of it.
photo by Liz Spencer
There was also a little rippers group led by a very sweet and qualified Karen Krasley. I think its great to have kids and adults learning together.  It helps them both.  Whenever you find yourself complaining about the rain, make yourself a kid again and enjoy the mud.  The little rippers certainly did! And the junior racers camp led by Jeff and Gunnar.  Gunnar had attended the camp the first year as a little ripper and is now an instructor, so cool!
Photo by Ralpe Pisle

And any instructor will tell you, that they learn a lot by teaching others.  I always learn something about teaching, technique or people and of course my own riding.  It is a very gratifying part time job for me.  Next up for me is professional development and finding some fitness.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tuscarora Off Road Weekend Marathon

The format of this race was to do as many laps as you could between 10 am and 2 pm.  The lap was 6 and a half miles and took around 45-50 minutes for me.  It was a cold morning in the 30's.  It is always tough to dress for a cold weather race because you know that you are going to hot on the climbs and cold on the long gravel descent.  But you could tell the folks that have been biking all winter, not just because they had better fitness, but because they had less clothes on.
Photo by Jack Copley

It was a great women's field with a dozen girls.  The gun went off and up the hill we went.  I went my pace and got some saddle time in.  Selene and Laura were pushing each other hard and had a great race with Selene winning on her new bike that as a size small fits two water bottles.

 Laura is on the fast track to racing success this year.

I finished five laps and ended up in third, which was good enough for the cool El Salvadorian machete prize.  In the words of Cory Rimmer "Tough day at the races. Skills kept me in the race and my legs took me out. Lots of training to be had."  My skills were remarkably good.  Maybe all the cross country skiing had a positive effect on my mtb skills?  I also really like the Scalpel and my Kenda Nevegals, they rock on the rocks!
 It was great to get racing and really, just riding!  I have a lot of work to do to get in shape which is full of possibility and promise.  I want to be able to do TSEpic again but its hard to know if two months is enough time to be ready for a 7 day stage race.

Zach puts on nice races and feeds us great afterwards.

Tuscarora Off Road Weekend Super D!

I really love a two bike race weekend.  I got to pack up both the Scalpel and the Jekyll and head up to Fast Forward Racing Productions Tuscarora Off Road Weekend in Tuscarora State Forest.
Oldest in the middle

This was a special weekend because it marked the first mountain bike ride of the year, as well as the first race.  I don't recommend that, mind you!  But you have to start somewhere.  And now that I've started, I'm where I'm at...so Zen, it must be the Yoga.

After squeezing into my NoTubes jersey and Zoic baggies, The first race on the agenda was the Super D on Keane Trail.  Last year, it had snow on a most of the trail and was really tough.  This year had less snow on all of the trail, but all corny, slippery snow was just on the toughest, steepest section.  My first run, I actually walked most of it and contemplated skipping the race entirely.  I had no courage.

But, being an experienced rider and being a mountain bike instructor, I decided that I needed to really use my knowledge of technique to conquer the fear voices in my head.  I mean we all have fear, but we need to manage it or it will run wild and have us in a gripped flight or fight mode unable to relax and perform.

 I was thinking about the huge lump that I still have on my hip from crashing hard in the snow and landing on a rock on the Keane Trail last year.  I was thinking that I hadn't actually rode this particular Jekyll in exactly one year.  I was thinking that I hadn't ridden a mountain bike since December 20.  All these things that our brain does to keep us safe and alive and comfortable.

I tried some  different lines.  I talked to some of the other riders. I watched the men's first and second place riders in practice and saw them playing on their bikes and having a hoot. I tried some different techniques like more weight on the  front wheel and less front brake.  I kept a lot of weight on my feet and stayed low.  I tried to set up for things and be proactive.  I tried , then I did.  My friend and mentor Gene Hamilton always uses that phrasing when he teaches ( and he borrowed it from Yoda)  "don't try, do".  And of course my winning run wasn't perfect, but it felt good and fun and fairly smooth.

Smooth is fast.  I want to be smooth.  And I keep finding an outlet for those ambitions in racing.  I really don't have to win to feel satisfied, of course it feels so frickin good to win, but priority is smoothness.  I want to be , skillful, fast, fit and  have a bunch of fun doing it.  And since I don't have to win to feel good about myself, it frees up a lot of good energy.  I really enjoy being out there.

But, I did win the super D, by a good margin, too!  I beat a really phenomenal downhill rider, Anne Galyean.  She is  an amazing woman on and off the bike and a rider who I probably won't beat much in the future, if at all .   But it wouldn't of mattered where I placed, because I figured some things out technique wise and I overcame debilitating fear.

Super D shouldn't die because of Enduro.  Its still a really cool format and a great opener for a cross country race or great practice for both XC and Enduro.  Thanks to Zach and his sponsors  for the cool prizes, too!

Sorry, no pics of me yet from the Super D!  Next blog about the next day's race

Friday, March 21, 2014

Always start at the beginning, Spring Training Camp in Georgia

Blackwater Falls at Spring levels

One of my favorite shots of Springer Orchard and Canaan Valley

Some of the best lamb  that I ever had
When you go to the South, you have to eat fried chicken
Oliver would juice us up in the morning
Yoga has been a big life saver for Carp's back

It was great to wear shorts and see pear blooms

Of course mountain bikers always find dirt
So many awesome dirt roads in Georgia
Grits, HaySue's and fresh maple syrup
Fried Chicken rest stop

Gravel rousing
Hello, its me

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mid Summer Recap

Blogging is always hard when you wait too long to do it!  But I want to recount to you the amazing summer that I'm having.  It's been a blast!

Canaan MTB Festival

Five years ago, I had the idea to do a mountain bike festival in Davis, West Virginia.  I wanted to give back to the town that really created me as a mountain biker.  I wanted to share this great mountain town with others and encourage people to ride together, do trail work and donate to the Tucker County Trails Club (TCT).  I also was inspired by svbcoalition.org mountain bike festival in Stokesville, VA.

The fifth year was a huge success!  We had over 120 riders, 25 for the Ladies Day and raised $2,000 for TCT through donations and selling raffle tickets.  I want to thank everyone who donated, especially:  Tip Top, Blackwater Bikes, Hellbenders, Sirianni's, White Grass, Blackwater Outdoor Center, Wild Ginger and Spice, HaySue's Salsa, Cannondale Bikes, Stan's No Tubes, Toasted Head Wine, Fast Forward Racing Productions.

I want to thank the ride leaders as well:  Rob Stull, Rob Hull, Jeff Melnick, Meredith Erlewine, Chip Chase, Todd Romero, Dave, Van Morales, Ian Beckner, Jason Cyr, Kim Johnson.  I couldn't have done it without your help!

We will continue the tradition next year with Ladies Lunch ride, Group rides, Benefit Fundraiser party, Bike Hash, Trail work and Fun!  The dates for 2014 are on the solstice again...June 21, 22, 23. 

Elk River Touring Center Women's Weekend

So many ladies came out again for this fantastic weekend of riding, skills building, camaraderie and great food.  I always am so impressed with the great women come out for this event.  Everyone is so positive and really pushes themselves to improve.  The level of encouragement that the women give to each other is special.  

The trails in Slatyfork are always a challenge with the mud, roots and climbs.  I love the way that women rise to the challenge of negotiating the tricky roots and find inner strength to conquer moves that they could never get before.

But after all the dirty trails, a swimming hole, a hot tub and then a gourmet dinner are our treat!

The next clinic there is on September 13-15 and spots are still available!  Check out the website  www.ertc.com and look for it on Facebook.

Tour de Burg

I have mastered the fine art of slummin'!  I first did the Tour de Burg in 2001 when it was a 10 day stage race consisting of both mountain and road days.  I missed lots of them in between, but I've been the Women's Leader a big handful of times.  

In the 18th year, the theme was the "Anti-Enduro" .  Why?  I think because there is a lot of hype about how Enduro is the most pure form of mountain biking and the most fun.  And how a lot of enduros are chair lift fed which is nice, but nothing beats the satisfaction of climbing a tough hill and then rewarding yourself with a sweet, gnarly downhill.  

Tour de Burg had 25 full pull riders with lots of day poachers.  It cost $175 dollars for 5 hard days of racing and riding.  This includes lunches, beer and dinners!  And all the slummin you can handle!  Its group riding at  pleasure pace "PP" to the timed sections.  Then go!  and the timed sections are between 20 minutes and 2 hours.  There are some costumes, rock star haircuts, beer drinking and of course amazing feats of athleticism.

My heartfelt thanks go out to Mike, Kari and Lindsey Carpenter for putting on this classic lifestyle event that is always the highlight of my summer!