Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 in Review

Happy New Year everyone!

 I haven't updated my blog in over a year and that is good news.  It means life is humming along.

In my last post, I was recovering from what ended up being a prophylactic mastectomy. That marked surgery #9 in the past eight years and thankfully it already feels like a distant memory.

This past year, I hit some significant cancer milestones. May was my 5-year cancerversary from my recurrence! And just a few weeks ago I took my very last Anastrazole pill. Anastrozole is an Aromatase Inhibitor (AI). AIs block the production of estrogen and since my particular breast cancer was fueled by estrogen, we have been medically (and surgically) eliminating the estrogen in my body. AIs are typically prescribed for 5-10 years, however, based on some testing my oncologist felt that I had gotten maximum benefit from taking the AI for 5-years and that the benefit no longer outweighed the risks/negative side-effects (bone loss, joint pain, hot flashes, and more). I'm really excited to see what my body feels like as I clear the Anastrozole from my system.

2018 has also been a year of change. After living in Utah since 1999 we moved to Las Vegas, NV.


While the move was difficult for me and definitely bittersweet, it was also perfect timing to move to a warmer climate where I could immediately ramp up my training in preparation for some early season mountain bike racing with my eye on hitting good form for the 4-Island MTB Stage Race in Croatia.

I raced True Grit 50 a few weeks before leaving for Croatia and had a fan. 
Coolest poster EVER! 

4 Islands races across a different Croatian island each respective day for four consecutive days. My recovery from surgeries was smooth and uneventful and preparation went well; we arrived in Croatia ready to perform to the best of our ability.


This race was definitely a highlight of the year for me. Not only is Croatia a beautiful and interesting country that I had yet to explore, but the race terrain was challenging and the competition tight and fierce. Because of this, even though the race was only four days, it was one of the more physically taxing stage races I have done. Day 1, I was on fire. Our competition was close and we traded positions multiple times throughout the stage.

Finding flow Day 1 photo: Sportograf

We finished the day in 3rd overall in the Co-ed Duo category against an international field.

Day two was probably the most adverse conditions I have faced in a race for a long time. The skies opened up and it poured from start to finish making the course a combination of muddy and slick as snot and really, really cold.

A ferry would take us to a new island each morning and we would race off the ferry
photo: Sportograf

 4+ hours of this
photo: Sportograf

.....and this
photo: Sportograf

I never really recovered physically from this day and we played defense for the remainder of the race. Other teams struggled too, with one team have a major mechanical that set them back an insurmountable margin. The final day came down to a 20-second difference between 2nd and 3rd overall in our category. Shannon and I came up just short and finished 3rd co-ed duo. Despite missing 2nd by only a few seconds, after four days of racing, I knew that I had given 100%, and therefore I was 100% satisfied.

photo: Sportograf

While in Croatia we also took the opportunity to explore Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is a Medieval-like city (known for where Game of Thrones is filmed) on the Adriatic Sea. We stayed at a little Airbnb inside the city walls and since it was shoulder season and overcast weather, we got to experience the city without the crowds. Visiting Dubrovnik was definitely an unexpected surprise.

 Riding bikes above Dubrovnik

 Me and my adventure partner

I barely felt like I had settled into Vegas when summer arrived. Vegas is scorching hot in the summer; that is my cue to retreat to the mountains! Since I work in the schools, I also happen to have summers off. In June, I returned to Park City and was back for two short weeks when I had a silly crash while on a weekend trip to Crested Butte, CO that resulted in a broken wrist (scaphoid).

This is what a broken scaphoid looks like on the outside

Most of my summer plans were derailed, but I took the opportunity to go for big hikes and attempt to trail run. While breaking my scaphoid was a bummer, I was happy to see my body heal a broken bone nicely, especially a precarious bone like the scaphoid.

Summer in the mountains is always good, even with a broken wrist.
This particular view is special because it is ours.

By the end of August, I was back to mountain biking (mostly) pain-free.  Feeling like I had missed out on my summer of racing, I put together an ambitious Fall campaign with marathon distance mountain bike races in Beatty, NV, Big Bear, CA, Pinetop, AZ and Kingman, AZ.

Grizzly 100k podium with Dizzy as my biggest fan
I finished 2nd to my teammate and National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series overall winner, Jen Toops

 I also committed to racing the local Nevada Cyclocross series. While I put in some solid training to prep for my Fall races, the first cross race was definitely a rude awakening. My body is well trained to race strong for 4-5 hours, but the power required for a 45-minute race was simply not there....and my cross skills were just plain rusty.

photo: Hugh Byrne

It was really rewarding to put in some hard work (ie intervals so hard that I collapsed off the bike) and see my body respond. Possibly the best part of racing the local cross series was that we found some Las Vegas like-minded bike crazies who also like Type2 Fun. Vegas is starting to feel more and more like home ❤️

In 2018, I also had a great interview with Dair Magazine.  Dair Magazine is UK based and is dedicated to exploring how the best coaches, athletes, and artists achieve what they do. I especially appreciated that they not only covered breast cancer survivorship and my athletic achievements, but also Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) which is near and dear to my heart.

Warning: here comes my soapbox:

  MBC is when breast cancer has spread to other organs of the body (brain, bones, lungs, etc). There is currently no cure for MBC. While the pink movement has done a great job of increasing awareness of early breast cancer/survivorship, little awareness and less than 2% of research funding is dedicated to MBC. 30% of early breast cancers progress to MBC and 40,000 people die of MBC each year. 

As for 2019, it is going to take me all over the country....and hopefully the world! I have lots of racing planned, but I am also challenging myself with some new endeavors. In March, I am heading to Boise, ID to be the keynote speaker at the Expedition Inspiration fundraiser for breast cancer research dinner. I am so incredibly honored to be asked to speak at this event and also nervous! I really want to blow them away with my presentation. Here's to new challenges in 2019!

I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year and beyond! ....and because no blog post is complete without a photo of my Dizzy dog ❤️

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A little update

A little update:

On October 3, I underwent a left mastectomy.

My surgery was scheduled in Las Vegas. My husband recently has taken a job in Las Vegas and a breast and plastic surgeon team he works with came highly recommended. So Dizzy dog and I traveled from Park City to Las Vegas and checked into an Airbnb that would serve as our home base as I recovered from surgery.

Pre-Op at UMC in Las Vegas

Although I had a right mastectomy in 2011, I wasn't totally sure what to expect this time around as my surgeons were using a different technique. I was pretty fascinated with this new technique where instead of cutting the pectoralis major muscle and placing the tissue expander underneath, my plastic surgeon placed the tissue expander over the pec muscle (pre pectoral) and supported the entire breast with alloderm.  Research shows this method to have decreased acute and chronic pain as well as improved cosmetic outcome. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28574950  So far, I would say I have to agree! 

I awoke from surgery with minimal pain and only slightly nauseous. I vaguely remember Shannon and my surgeon talking about my follow-up appointment. Apparently, I was an active participant in this conversation with a drug-induced VERY LOUD voice 😂.  I felt good enough that Shannon drove me and my 2 pet drains back to the Airbnb.

Me and my pet drains

The next day I awoke with minimal pain. It truly was amazing and surprising. My rule of thumb for pain medication is if there is no pain when I'm sitting still I'm good. Tylenol and Ibuprofen were able to control my pain and I only required a narcotic for the first two nights. Based on my experience so far, a pre pectoral mastectomy is significantly less painful than a sub pectoral mastectomy. 

By day 3, I was able to go for short hikes. Nature truly does heal, I would return from my short hikes feeling invigorated and content. I also found out that the suspicious mass that started this cascade of events was completely benign. Phew! 

Hiking with drains

I found a rhythm of healing my first week post-op. I would wake up, take Dizzy for a walk on the adjacent greenway, take an afternoon nap, and when Shannon returned from work we would go for a hike with increased duration each day. 

At one week post-op one of my drains was removed and I was down to one pet drain.  Freedom! 

Note: This is a new mastectomy friendly bra made by Athleta. I have been super impressed with it. 
It is adjustable in every way imaginable, is waaaay more comfortable than the post-surgical bra, 
and it's not pink! If it had a hook for drains it would be perfect! 

At this point I felt good enough to drive myself to St. George to stay at our rental condo. While the Airbnb served its purpose well, it was so nice to stay someplace that felt like home! 

On Day 12 post-op, Shannon and I did a relatively mellow 7-mile hike in Kolob Canyon. Around every corner was a breathtaking view. I highly recommend this beautiful and accessible hike!

I also started a gentle Range of Motion program. The gentle stretching helped decrease pain, as a stiff shoulder is an uncomfortable shoulder. Note: Post mastectomy patients are at increased risk for rotator cuff injuries. It is super important to participate in consistent shoulder range of motion and stability exercises for life! 

In this photo I do not yet have full left upper extremity range, 
so I used a pillow to support my left arm as to not over stretch. 

After my second drain was removed, I returned to Park City and work. I also started riding the bike a bit starting on a recumbent, graduating to a trainer, and eventually riding the roads outside. TIP: Riding the full suspension mountain bike on the road (instead of a road bike) helps dampen out the road bumps and gets me riding outside sooner.

Weeks 3,4, and 5 I dabbled with a little off-road riding, but honestly it was like magic when I hit the 6-week mark; I could tell my body was properly healed for some legitimate off-road riding.

Park City weather has been very cooperative for mountain biking this Fall!

Just one day shy of week 7, I returned for my reconstructive surgery where the tissue expander was exchanged for a permament silicone implant.

At UMC Hospital in Las Vegas waking up from surgery. 
My surgical team has been AMAZING! 

I am now set-back to post-op Day 2. I can already tell that recovery from this much less invasive surgery is going to be quite quick, however I also know that the first two weeks are pivotal for complete healing of the incision. So, I'm back to walking.  If I'm forced to walk, there is no place I would rather be than wandering the desert of Southern Utah!

Getting some Desert and Vitamin D therapy

Seeing as tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my health and this little family of mine. I will be back at it in no time and we're already making plans to make 2018 great! 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

I am a Mountain Bike Lifer

I am a Mountain Bike Lifer.

Photo: Michael Darter

I started mountain biking in college.  That was the mid-90s.

At the time, mountain biking was a "newish" sport and I needed a replacement sport for Horseback Riding.  Surprisingly, mountain biking was the less expensive of the two.  Flowing through trees and being alone in the forest were just two of the things that made mountain biking appealing to me.  It was also immediately therapeutic.

Now, 20+ years later, I can honestly say that mountain biking has changed my life.  Mountain biking is special and it has always been there for me during tough times.

The past few months have been no exception.  My husband and I are in the midst of making some big life decisions, but all that seemed trivial when the results from my "routine" July MRI showed a suspicious new mass in my left breast.  This is my "other" breast.  The one that has never had cancer.  If you know radiologist lingo it was subjectively deemed a BI-RADS 4a-just suspicious enough to warrant a biopsy.

Me and my husband at the races this summer.  Photo: Michael Darter

So I went in for an Ultrasound guided biopsy.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the ultrasound didn't detect the mass so I was then scheduled for a MRI-guided biopsy.  Two weeks later I returned for this procedure.  The oncologist, who came in special for this my appointment, sat me down and told me he had reviewed the previous MRI and was concerned that there was a high risk of rupturing my implant during the procedure (I have a small implant to help with symmetry).  We discussed the options.  I decided to not risk the rupture on that day and made the decision to schedule a mastectomy.  It is tentatively scheduled October 2nd and will be confirmed after consultation with the breast and plastic surgeon later this month.

While this may seem like an impulsive decision, it really wasn't.  I have been thinking about getting a prophylactic mastectomy for a long time.  I just don't like down time so I was putting it off.  This mass just made it a little less prophylactic and a little more urgent.  I am at complete 100% peace with this decision.

Now, back to being a Mountain Bike Lifer.  I continued to ride and race my bike this summer, and while I was often distracted, felt fatigued due to mental stress, and even considered pulling the plug on the race season many times, I can't imagine what a basketcase I would have been without mountain biking.  Once again, mountain biking was my savior.

This past weekend I raced the Park City Point 2 Point, a 75-mile, 12,000+ feet of climbing, 99% singletrack race course that is basically in my back yard.  I have raced the pcp2p three times.  I know how hard it is both physically and mentally, and honestly, I wasn't sure until a few days before the race if I had the mental strength to finish it this year.  Finally, the Thursday before the race, I committed.  Saturday morning the alarm went off at 4:30 AM in time for me to eat breakfast and get to the race start by 7AM.  I then spent the next 8.5+ hours racing my bike as hard as I could.  While I didn't score too many PRs, I rode my personal best ON THIS DAY and that was good enough to finish 10th place Pro Women in a solid field.  For 8.5 hours my mind was completely in the moment.  I didn't think about the mass or the upcoming surgery, I focused on one pedal stroke at a time, eating, drinking, some suffering, and even occasionally taking in the views.  If nothing else, the pcp2p reminded me just how incredibly strong I am!

Park City Point to Point 2017 Photo: Angie Harker

Point to Point finish smiles Photo: Angie Harker

I now have 4 weeks of off-season before the rest of my Fall/Winter is spent recovering from surgeries.  I will happily take all positive vibes that this is a benign mass, or better yet nothing at all! As for the next 4 weeks, I plan to make the most of it!  #mountainbikelifer

Monday, May 1, 2017

Rotor Big Race in Madrid, Spain

2017 has been off to a whirlwind start-in the best possible way-and I finally have a moment to reflect on everything that has happened before the next whirlwind.......

The year started with me getting my brand new, beautiful Pivot Mach429SL bike built up, just in time to pack it up for an international flight to Madrid.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I felt like I had barely returned from Cuba and I was one my way, this time solo, to Madrid, Spain.

New bike day.  Had to make a quick trip to the desert to break it in.

New bike was barely built before I took it apart to pack for Spain

So the year started with another big trip, this time to Spain to compete in the Rotor Big Race.  Rotor Big Race is promoted by one of my sponsors, Rotor Bike Components; they also happen to be some of the nicest people in the bike industry!

The weekend started with the "fun" ride for Rotor athletes and friends.  I was definitely a bit starstruck riding around with the likes of Olympic Bronze Medalist, Carlos Coloma, and Downhill legend Cedric Gracia.

The fun ride really was fun!  We rode some pristine trail in Torrelaguna, Spain (just North of Madrid) that unfortunately had to be removed from the actual race course due to recent heavy rains and concerns over hundreds of racers causing ecological damage.  The ride ended up being around 2 hours with loads of climbing.  Some of the racers used eBikes to not over-exert the day before the race.  Those Europeans are smart!

Race morning was brisk; it was barely Spring in Spain after all.  I think I completed my entire warm-up in my puffy!

The Elite Women's field was full of talent including two Olympians and the Brazilian National Champion, but I had been training hard and felt ready to give my best effort.

With a huge mass start, it was very much appreciated that the promoters made sure the Elite women had a spot on the front line.  The race was fast, ferocious, and a lot shorter than I was expecting.  I rode away with 3rd place Elite Women.

   Lots of high speed racing at Rotor Big Race.  Finding good wheels to draft was key.  

 Pre-race photo shoot

This number plate is a keeper

There is something magical about racing in different countries.  Traveling and bike racing are my two favorite activities and when combined I simply can't stop smiling.  I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Spain and am grateful to Rotor Bikes for being such amazing hosts. 

....and since I was in Madrid, I took some time to sightsee.  
Here I am pictured in front of the Royal Palace.  

As for the rest of the season, 2017 is full of lots of fun races.  I am trying some new events and also racing a chunk of the NUE (National Ultraendurance) series. Although after Cuba and now Madrid, I am feeling a strong pull toward combining my passions of bike racing and international travel.  My dream:  stage racing on each of the continents!  What should be next?  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016 race season wrap up-TAKE TWO and Happy New Year!

This post should be labeled Happy Holidays and while I wish everyone a very Happy Holiday season,  my 2016 race reporting is (surprisingly) not done yet!

Shannon and I made the last minute decision to bookend 2016 with another stage race.......in Cuba!

New race season stats:  1100+ miles and 100+ hours of racing.  Holy crap! 

We learned about the Titan Tropic at Interbike in September.  Titan Tropic is a second year event and this year would be the first year Americans were competing.  Who could pass up an opportunity to race bikes in Cuba?  Not us!

Coordinating and preparing for an International stage race on such short notice was a bit challenging, however every opportunity to travel and compete in events like this feels like an opportunity of a lifetime.  I was incredibly grateful to be traveling to Cuba and I'm pretty sure I was beaming the entire week!  One of my favorite aspects about International stage racing is the anticipation of arriving to a new country.  This definitely takes me out of my comfort zone because I'm a planner and preparer, however I have learned to embrace the unexpected during these trips.  In some respects, knowing that I have to be flexible with my normal 'plan' takes a bit of the pressure off!  The adventure component of this trip increased to a 12 with the passing of Fidel Castro.  We arrived on Day 7 of Cuba's 9-days of mourning.

San Marti airport in Havana was small and security was lax.  There was a crowd of people outside the airport and we quickly found the race representative coordinating our transfer to our hotel.  We were also greeted by Havana's Old Cars.

The outside of San Marti Airport
 Our hotel in Havana became Titan Tropic race central for a few days
 Our first afternoon in Havana we went for a townie ride exploring the city.  I was surprised by how safe and clean the city was.  While there weren't bike lanes, the cars for the most part were respectful. 

One of my favorite things about stage racing is that your fellow racers become family by the end of the week.  Titan Tropic was no different. 
 We found the ocean.  The sunset was amazing.
 The pre-race meeting was very official.  There was an English translator,
however it seemed some of the information got "lost in translation".
On transfer days-days we raced to a new location-we loaded our belongings up
into this truck to meet us at the new destination
The race provided us with bottled water for the week.  
I get thirsty and got to know the water distributors well.  
Race bikes resting in the racks before the first day.
Gearing up for a week of exploring Cuba by bike! Shannon and I raced in the Mixed Duo category.  We have to stay within 2 minutes of each other throughout the race and work together to go as fast as possible.  What this looks like is Shannon carrying most of our gear to keep me light and fast.  I draft off him when appropriate and he even gives me a push to help me accelerate-usually when I'm trying to grab hold of a group to draft.
Home is where you ride to.  In this case it was Soroa, Cuba.  Another thing I love about stage racing 
is the anticipation of finishing and seeing our home for the night.
This tree is 600+ years old.  It was breathtaking and much more beautiful in real-life
The Americans know how to recover from a long stage in Soroa. 
Giving my bike some love....
 Just another morning gearing up to race my bike with rad people in Cuba!
 The Americans performed quite well.  Tinker Juarez finished 5th overall and Kevin Hines 10th!
Some of the Americans.  We always welcomed morning clouds.
They would give way to the scorching sun midday.

Locals cheering for us from horseback.
Horses were the primary mode of transportation in the remote parts of Cuba. 
Scenes from the saddle:  a local smoking Cuba's finest export
More scenes from the saddle:  Ox are used for most of the heavy farm work.
The finish in Vinales
Accommodations in Vinales.  Despite the snoring, I actually slept quite well in the tents....
Vinales was also my first experience with dump ditches......
Tree ornaments.  I'm pretty sure nothing dried the entire week with the humidity. 
Our bathing accommodations made from palm leaves
The famous mogotes in Vinales.  Vinales is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Smiles for Miles

This photo captures the reality of a stage race; I'm pocketing a Honeystinger waffle in my cheek.  Proper and consistent fueling is key to successful stage racing! 

This is quite possibly my favorite photo EVER! 

On Day 4 Shannon succumbed to stomach issues.  He vomited multiple times throughout the stage and couldn't eat for 24 hours.  I had to push/pull/drag him to the finish.  The Titan Tropic medical team took excellent care of him, giving him a liter of fluids for dehydration and Rantadine for his stomach.  He was able to race strong and defend our lead for the final day of racing.  

Me pulling Shannon for once.  

Just riding along....in Cuba! 

Cuba has excellent dirt! 

After just over 21 hours of racing, we finished 1st place Mixed Duo.
Teamwork makes the dreamwork.  
We finished on the beautiful white sand beaches of Caya Jutias.

The most beautiful finishing venue ever! 

Here is a video that Titan Tropic by Gaes made summarizing the week.  
Shannon and I can be seen at :18, :28, 2:12

.....and here's a video that Shannon and I made.  Check it out!  

I traveled to Cuba wanting to race hard, but also wanting to experience and learn about the Cuban culture.  This was our 4th stage race racing Mixed Duo.  Shannon and I have the teamwork pretty well dialed.  With the exception of the occasional snafu; like when Shannon almost took me out by hooking my handlebars, or when he ran me over when I crashed, we worked together flawlessly.  I think we are even better racing partners than we are riding partners because we shut up-there is no time for husband/wife bickering- and focus on working together to go faster.  Sharing the race experience is very special to us.

I found Cuba to be a charming country to visit.  Cuba is beautifully diverse, both the landscape and the people.  Cubans are proud of their country and very welcoming of Americans.  While I gained a better understanding of the country, there is still so much I don't understand. 

What I know for sure is that this experience whet my already damp palate for more international stage racing.  Cheers to 2017.  May it be full of health, travel, bikes, and adventure!