Thursday, November 10, 2011

On her way to the Counting Coup.....

Cancer survivor Cheryl P is training hard for the Counting Coup in April

Follow my client/athlete Cheryl P on her blog as she trains for the grueling mountain bike race "The Counting Coup"in Southern California. The Counting Coup is a 44 mile race with over 8000 feet of elevation gain.

Cheryl is truly an inspirational woman who started biking in her late 40s to literally save her life from cancer and serious alcohol addiction.

Check out her blog at: and read her story below:

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989 when I was 30 and lost both breasts, followed by six months of aggressive chemotherapy. Seven years later, at 37, I was in for a regular check-up and after a bone marrow biopsy, I was told that 98 percent of my plasma cells were cancer and that I had six months to live, that I had a rare cancer called multiple myeloma. I was hospitalized at once and I lost everything. From 1995 to 1998 I was on high-dose chemo therapy and had two bone marrow transplants back to back. My life was over, as I knew it. I worked hard for six years to finish court reporting school and being a single mother of one daughter. My little girl was only five when my hair fell out the first time. All she knew was her mommy was going to die. I have lost too many good friends to cancer. I had no medical insurance and fought for everything I could get. Several doctors in Newport Beach teamed together and treated me for free, getting the chemo donated to me for the breast cancer. There was Dr. Burns, Dr. Barth, Dr. Long, Dr. Harvey Heinricks, all who took care of me on their own dime. I started a cancer support called the Walking Fish Society, for young adults with cancer from 18 to 40. Why? Because people think fish don’t walk and they think we don’t live.

The doctors are not sure why I am alive today. I am in the 3% survivorship of my diagnosis. I had five years of interferon and 13 years of monthly Zometa, which they are now discovering can cause spontaneous femur fractures.

I had just ordered a new bike for Sea Otter in 2009 and my leg started hurting on my left femur. They could not find out what was wrong. After lots of tests, they said the multiple myeloma was back. Right before a scheduled surgery, they changed their mind and said that it was a mistake. They said maybe I have a stress fracture from trauma and there was nothing they could do. (that trauma was from a mt bike crash) Zometa is a drug that won’t allow your bones to heal. I have been off that drug since March of 2009.

In June of 2009, I was visiting a friend out of town. Somebody knocked at the door. I answered it and my dog run out. The man at the door was very drunk and would not move out of my way. As I stepped around him, I felt something strange and my body just froze in the doorway. Then I could hear it. I said, “Oh my God, I think my leg is breaking”

And it did. My femur snapped in half. 15 hours in the ER – months of recovery, nursing home and painful therapy and the titanium rod on my leg, I got back on my bike!

A friend of mine is Colette McFadden and she rode the Vision Quest in my honor, when the doctors said the cancer had returned. My goal and dream is to finish Counting Coup on my birthday on April 7, 2012.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

La Ruta de los Conquistadores 2011

The 2011 version of La Ruta de los Conquistadores was as eventful and adventuresome as ever!

Day 1 from Jaco to San Jose was a little rough for me. I felt good going through the jungle and mud, but had a major bonk on a long paved climb during the middle of the day. It was very hot and humid and I had a hard time getting enough calories in. Rebecca passed me on this climb, and all I could do was watch her ride away as I was going in slow motion :-) I ended up finishing in 3rd place behind Adriana Rojas and Rebecca Rusch, quite a ways back.

Day 2 is only 45 miles, but has about 11,000 feet of elevation gain, much of it very steep. At times my Garmin was showing 30 percent grade. I felt a bit better this day and Rebecca and I rode together for about 30 k during the middle of the race. It was really nice to ride with her as it kept our pace and motivation up! Rebecca left me on some flat and rolling sections and I ended up about 8 minutes back, finishing in a down-pour weaving in and out of San Jose traffic.

Day 3 is the volcano day! It's a 32 km climb from San Jose to the top of Irazu, topping out at 3015 meters. I was feeling pretty strong and was in 2nd place at the top of the volcano. At the 2nd checkpoint, I was told I was 7 minutes behind Adriana and I was hoping to use the technical downhill to my advantage. After a bit of a traverse, the trail gets quite rocky. It was wet and muddy in spots, but it was really fun. At some point the journalists were on the trail, telling me I was 3 minutes behind Adriana. The day ends with a HUGE drop on a road followed by a few km of a flat section. It is quite sketchy with lots of cars, people, and dogs on the road. I think I lost a little time in the final stretch as I was riding by myself and it would really help to have another rider to work with. I finished about 5 minutes behind 1st place Adrianna. Rebecca came in only a couple of minutes behind me. Jane Rynbrandt with Carmichael Training Systems had a really strong ride and was not far behind us.

The final day of La Ruta features about 4000 feet of climbing in the first 40 km, followed by a paved downhill and then lots of gravel roads as well as the infamous train trestles. As usual, I started out slowly as it takes my legs a while to warm up!! I was hoping to catch some fast riders toward the top of the climb, so I would have someone to work with for the downhills and flats. A mile or two from the top, I did catch Rebecca and we decided to work together to see if we could catch Adriana. We stopped briefly for fluids at the checkpoint and ended up flying down the descent with Adam Pulford from CTS. As we descended we picked up several other riders and soon we had a fast group of about 8 riders as we hit the flat bumpy gravel roads. We were setting a really fast pace and were told Adriana only had 2 minutes on us. It was very hot and very humid and I was working HARD to keep up with the group. There are lots of sharp turns, rail road sections, and stream crossings that are potentials for losing the group, and I knew we had to stay together if we wanted to catch the first place woman. Riding with Rebecca was great. She is a super strong rider who races very honestly and fairly. Adam (CTS) and a Scottish guy were doing a lot of work for the group.

When we hit 83 km someone mentioned that we hadn't seen any signs for a while..... the checkpoint was supposed to be around km 80. We slowly came to the horrible realization that we had missed a turn and were completely lost. As we reached a dead-end with a few buildings we saw some people and a couple of the spanish speaking guys in our group asked where we were. It was all VERY confusing. As I don't speak spanish, I had no idea what was going on. Someone in the group remembered the name of the town with the next checkpoint, and after stopping several times to ask for directions, we were told we were 11 km away. We were all out of fluids, tired, and deflated, but determined to get back on course so we wouldn't be disqualified. Rebecca and I also didn't want to lose our 2nd and 3rd positions in the race.

At one point we stopped at a small store. The Scottish guy had been smart enough to bring money and he bought us all ice cold coke and water!! We continued on, and FINALLY we popped out at the checkpoint. I had 103 km on my Garmin at this point, we had taken a 22 km detour, BUMMER!!!

We were now on a mission to get to the finish. It had been a long, hard, and hot day, but there were still more adventures to come! As we were riding down a long flat gravel road we spotted a large group of riders standing in the middle of the road next to a support vehicle. When we reached them we were told that a rider had been bike-jacked at gun point and that we should all ride the next section together for safety. How scary!! There was also the bee-section where several riders were stung (some 30 times) and 1 rider ended up taking a 30 foot leap off the railroad bridge and into the water below to avoid the angry bees....

The final 20 km we did a lot of beach riding. The group had dwindled to me, Rebecca, Adam, and a guy from Costa Rica. Although it was great to finally finish in Limon, it was a bit deflating since we lost so much time. Oh well, that's all part of the adventure!! I was happy to keep my 3rd place at least.

Still had a great time as always in Costa Rica. It was super fun hanging out with Eric (racing on his single speed), Mark Jeffery, and Dave Engelbrecht who did awesome their first time at La Ruta!!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tahoe Sierra 100- Another Epic Race!

Jim Northey and Global Biorhythms did it again!!! This time, Tahoe Sierra 100 (ok, so it was a little short for a century) was even more epic with more technical single track and fun riding than in the past! Jim has worked hard all year in order to get permits to ride on the famous Western States 100 trail and this year's edition of the event was a point to point race.

We started at Icelake lodge in Soda Springs just like previous few years. According to the newspaper, Truckee (10 miles away) has been the coldest place in the country for the past several days, so I was prepared with all my cold weather gear. After a slight case of hypothermia in Italy, I wasn't about to freeze again. Luckily, it had warmed up a fair amount; temps were in the low 40s at the 6 am start. A few days before the race, Eric decided he was going to race too. We were both pretty beat up from Ironbike, and hoping that 2 weeks was going to be enough recovery.

The race started off on some fun single track (cross country ski) trails and then did a long drop on a loose gravel road. I was taking it pretty easy, was not in the mood to slide out and crash in the first 10 miles. I skipped the first 2 checkpoints, I had plenty of sustained energy and a camelbak full of water. There was plenty of fun, rocky, and pretty technical single track, but Jim had said that the race didn't REALLY start until 65 miles, which is when we finally got to ride the Western States 100 trail. I stopped to refill my camelbak, mix some sustained energy and lube my chain at the 50 mile checkpoint, and then again at 65. It was getting quite warm, and I was drinking Nuun, eating Margarita flavored cliffblocks (4 times the sodium), and had to take several thermatabs to avoid cramping. I could feel my calves twitching and my hamstring was threatening to cramp at one point, but with my massive sodium intake I was able to avoid a full blown cramp.

The Western States 100 trail was AWESOME!! We went down a really fun descent followed by a 45 minute hike-a-bike section! I was glad to have done all that hiking in Italy, it felt so NORMAL to push my bike up a rocky, steep trail!! I passed a couple of guys on the way up. I was happy to get to the next checkpoint for more fluids. All the volunteers were super helpful and friendly as usual at this race!! We kept on following the WS100 trail, with more fun descending in to a canyon, and some more hiking mixed with a bit of riding back up again.

I was pretty happy to hear that we only had 6 miles to go at the last checkpoint. I had counted on 13!! There was a really steep climb on single track- glad to have my granny gear- and then we finished on a couple of miles on the pavement!! I ended up in 1st place in a time of 9:20, I think I was 12th overall.

I would highly recommend this race to anyone who is in for a bit of adventure and is not afraid of a little hiking. Rumor has it that there might be even more single track on a longer course next year. See you there!!

Thanks Jim and your hardworking family, friends, and volunteers for another EPIC EVENT!!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


7 days, 450 miles, 88,000 feet of climbing- IRONBIKE 2011

Many hours of steep hike-a-bike

Amazing views of the French/Italian Alps

Lots of long climbs and high altitudes....

Checkpoint at top of one of the high altitude climbs.

Traversing lots of shale and boulder fields, left-overs from avalanches

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Recently published the website for my "real job"; physical therapy, personal training, massage, and coaching!!

My PT studio on Mountain Charlie

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Alaska Ultrasport- 2011

During my 4th attempt at the Iditarod Trail Invitational it felt like things finally came together. I had my new awesome Fatback, the weather was agreeable, the trail conditions were good for the most part, and I had my eating under a little better control!

The temperature was pretty mild when we started out at Knik lake, and the wind that had been so brutal the day before, had died down quite a bit. Unfortunately, my legs felt super tight and tired and my knees ached at the very beginning... Having done many long races before, and knowing that the body can do a complete turn-around, I tried to ignore how I felt....

Eric and I stopped a few times in the beginning playing with our tire pressure. Not having much experience with the snowbike, it was difficult to know how much pressure to run. We pedaled along at a conservative pace until we reached the first checkpoint at 9:30 pm. At Yentna station we stopped briefly to fill our water as well as eat some of the food we had brought. It is really hard to find good and tasty foods that are eatable in the cold as well as can tolerate being shipped 2 weeks in advance from California.

The next 33 miles to Skwentna Roadhouse took about 5 hrs and we were pretty happy to ride almost the entire way the first 90 miles and make it there in only 13 hrs. Off course the lead guys were long gone, but there were a couple of guys still sleeping. After some tasty lasagna and sourdough bread we slept in a real bed for 2.5 hrs. I had taken an ambien in order to get some sleep, and it hadn't worn off, so I was really groggy when I first got up., but after a cup of coffee and breakfast that seemed to resolve. We took off at the same time as Lance Andre just after 7 am.

Again, the trail was great and we were making good time. We passed Shell Lake lodge about halfway to Winterlake Lodge without stopping. At 1:55 pm we reached the 3rd checkpoint, Winterlake Lodge on Fingerlake. This is where we got our first dropbags. We stopped long enough to eat the fajita-plate they served there, as well as resupply our food, batteries, and hand/toe warmers. Since the weather had been so cooperative, we still had plenty of food on our bikes, and left most of our drop-food behind for other racers to pick through.

The distance from Winterlake lodge to Puntilla is only 35 miles, but this is where the trail gets tougher, with lots of ups and downs. Last year, we pushed our bikes the entire way, but this year we were riding a lot more, even though your are still on and off the bike a lot. This section is where you encounter the Happy Steps, which are a few hills coming on and off the river. They are so steep, you can only push your loaded bike a few steps at a time. You push a couple of steps, put your brakes on for a brief rest, and push again.... My legs were burning from the effort!!!

The final stretch toward Puntilla seems to take forever. The trail is very windy and the milage ticks of extremely slowly. We reached Rainy Pass Lodge just after 11:30 pm. The little log cabin used as a checkpoint was manned by Steve who is one of the 5 brothers of Alaska family Perrins. The Perrins own and operate the lodge, and there is actually a reality TV show about the family's day to day life called "Our 5 sons". After Steve checked us in, he handed us a can of ravioli and told us we could use any of the bunks in the cabin. He put some wood in the stove and then left to get some sleep. I woke up freezing as there was only a sheet on my bed, and I had stripped of all my cold weather clothes. Apparently the fire had gone out... Since I was up, I thought it would be a good idea to wake Eric up so we could take off together with Greg Matyas.

After some oatmeal and coffee, filling our water, and getting everything back on the bikes we left to go over Rainy Pass at 5:40 am. The northern lights were lighting up the Alaskan mountain range with a soft green glow. The first part toward the pass was nice and ridable. It was chilly, but once the sun rose it warmed up. After about 8 miles the trail gets steeper and we had to start pushing. I kept stopping to eat, fiddle with my jacket and goggles, and Greg was getting further away from us.

A safety cabin on the way up Rainy Pass

Close to the summit of Rainy Pass

As we got closer to the summit, the wind picked up, but it was still a beautiful sunny day and the views were spectacular. It only took us 8 hours to reach the top. In the past, the downhill has been completely unridable. We have post-holed, bushwhacked, and carefully negotiated water trying to avoid falling through the snow and getting soaked. This year was a completely different story. The trail was perfectly groomed by snowmobiles, and the landscape was like a winter wonderland. We had a really fun ride down the Dalezell Gorge and reached Rohn in a record 2.5 hrs from the summit.

Coming down the summit

Our favorite checker Rob was manning Rohn as usual! Only Greg was at the checkpoint getting ready to go to sleep in the walled tent. The tent in Rohn has the same distinct smell each year. It is a combination of burning pine, wet clothes, and smelly socks. My glove liners carried that smell the rest of the trip... Rob served up canned ravioli and then brought us our dropbags which were sitting in a big pile outside. After loading up our bikes with new food, changing batteries in headlamps, and grabbing more hand/toewarmers, we took a 4 hour nap. The combination of ambien and earplugs put me in to a coma. It was a great and I felt really rested when we woke up! I knew I was going to need the rest, because the next 90 mile section can be brutally long.

We left again with Greg at 10:15 pm. Lance Andre had come and gone without getting any sleep. I had forgotten how tough this part of the trail is. The snow was deep and it was really hard to ride many of the steep hills. Getting on and off the bike gets tiring after a few hours. While it was still dark, we reached the Post Glacier. It was hard to assess which way would be the best to get up and over it. Even with the screws in my boots, I felt like Bambi on the slick ice. It was almost impossible to get the boots to grip. We could see where someone had lost their footing and slid partway down the glacier. After carefully negotiating the steeply slanted ice we were able to drag our bikes up in the snow on the side of the glacier. Our next obstacle was some minor overflow we had to cross in the dark. It was probably not that big of a deal, just an inch or 2 of water on top of the ice, but I got nervous thinking of breaking through the ice or getting my feet wet. I think the darkness made it a bit more nerve-wracking for me.

It was nice when the sunrise finally came. It gives you a bit of a boost when you have been out on the trail for hours in the dark. About 35 miles from Rohn there has been a walled tent in the past. The tent was used by the Runkel family for bison hunting and was always stocked with wood, a white gas stove and other supplies such as soup and Top Ramen. We asked in Rohn if Bison Camp was still there, but rumors had it that the tent had been torn down by bears and no longer existed. A couple of hours away from the former Bison Camp we ran in to Lance on the trail. He was sitting on a log eating some trailmix, looking a bit dazed. When we rode by he asked if we thought it would be OK to shoot some Starbucks instant coffee and chase it with Tang. Sounded painful on the stomach to me!

At 10 am, after 12 hrs of riding we reached Bison Camp and were happily surprised to find that it was still standing, AND had a white gas stove in it! Jay P got there right behind us and Lance also turned up as we were heating up some water. We made some food before getting back on the trail. Lance decided he was going to sleep for a while but Jay said he was taking off right behind us.

Cold weather gear

After Bison camp the trail gets somewhat easier. After 18.5 hours on the trail we reached Nikolai at 6:45 pm, just before dark. Nick and Olene Petruska along with their grand daughter Stephanie open their home to the racers as a checkpoint every year. I had felt pretty good up until this point, but I was exhausted when we got to Nikolai. It was difficult to eat the spagetti and meat sauce as I was feeling bloated and swollen. Bill Flemming was sleeping when we got to the checkpoint, but got up and sat at the table and chatted with us. We found out that Pete Bassinger was in the lead, with Jeff Oatley just behind. They had not yet reached the finish in McGrath, so we assumed the last 50 miles must be a slow trail. Greg had blown in and out, spending only 10 minutes in Nikolai, apparently still chewing his spaghetti as he sprinted out the door. That is one long push with no rest!!!

I decided that if I was going to be able to make the last push to the finish, I was going to need some sleep. I set the alarm for 12:30 am and slept for 4 hours. Bill was about to leave when we got up, Lance and Jay were asleep on the 2 couches. After our "usual routine" of an oatmeal breakfast etc etc we took off at 1:50 am. It's amazing how long it takes to gather all of your things, make food, and get out the door.

It was a nice night out on the river, but quite cold. My thermometer didn't work, but Eric said it was below -20. We spotted footsteps right away, and shortly thereafter we saw the faint glow from the headlamp of Bill Flemming. We stopped briefly and Bill was clearly not feeling super energetic, but he still had a great attitude and said he was going to "walk it in". 50 miles is a long way to walk... I knew there was just a matter of time before I was running out of energy myself, but I was trying to prolong "the bonk" by eating cookies, a bite of salami, and some nuts. I guess I got lazy and didn't feel like stopping to eat "real food" so instead I tried some sugary brownies. To make a long story short; the last several hours consisted of several bad bonks and a frostbitten right thumb, but we finally made it to McGrath. It was quite emotional to see Bill Merchant on his snowmachine and to reach the finish where Jeff and Greg along with Peter Schniderheinze (Finish-line host along with wife Tracy) were waiting for us. Eric and I got there in 4th place and I was pretty excited to have set a new women's course record of 3 days, 22 hrs and 20 minutes. Pete took his 5th win with Jeff Oatley only 25 minutes behind. Greg (owner of Speedway Cycles) had ridden all the way from Rohn on no rest and took 3rd place!!

Me at the finish on my awesome FATBACK from Speedway Cycles

As always it was great to see our wonderful hosts Peter and Tracy! They are so generous to open their home to us, feed us, and take care of us when we arrive. Eric and I spent 2 nights at their house hanging out with other racers as they finished. It was great to hear everyone's stories about the adventures they encountered along the trail.