Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Year, Same Me

When a new year rolls around, we all seem to get sucked into the mentality that it is time to start making improvements. Most of our resolutions seem to only last for the first few weeks of the new year before we slowly start to abandon them. I have always fallen into that trap, but more of a this year will be better stand point.

I'm really enjoying the new year, same me memes going around. I am not saying that making changes are bad, because they aren't. As humans, we are meant to change and learn. But a new year doesn't mean that you are going to change over night, and I believe that is where we set ourselves up for failure at. The end of the year is a great time to reflect on everything you've done, the new things that you were afraid of doing, the small parts of your day you look forward to, and people you've met. It's also a great time to do a self check up. What do you want to start doing, do you feel happy most of your day?

One of my biggest goals during my end of the year self check up is treating my body and mind better. I have always enjoyed the idea of stretching, and always feel inspired when I see my cat do his own little downward dog pose after napping. However, I am always neglecting that area of my life. I have good days, and I have days where my body feels like a 100 year old lady who has been trapped in a space pod for the last 3,000 years. It is terrible.

I usually do yoga about twice a week, mostly at home through an app, or I tend to go to a class with a friend when we don't talk ourselves out of it during our coffee dates. But we use our bodies every day, and therefore should give it the tlc it so desperately wants. I was given an opportunity to start a 30 day yoga challenge on Jan 2. I like it because it's only 30 minutes or less and just the right amount to make my body happy.

Yoga doesn't just work the body, but it works the mind. 2017 felt like I was in a downward spiral for most of it. When something happened, I went into end of the world meltdowns. It wasn't pretty. I'm taking time to learn to breath and realize that things can be fixed, parts can be replaced, and there is always a solution. I have always felt that breathing and meditating while moving through poses is a great tool to take with me when I face a problem. Understanding and being aware of how one thing I have added to my daily routine has helped in numerous ways is a payoff to keep doing it.

I love this yoga challenge. You can find it on youtube under Yoga with Adrienne. Don't make goals just because a new year is here. And don't just do a self check up because it's the end of the year. Take time every few months to check in on yourself.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Just Ten More Seconds

This has probably been the best advice I was given in 2017, even if it was at the end of the year. I was riding with friends on black Friday doing that whole opt outside thing. It's fun to turn your mind off of training or work and just let you and your bike flow together. We were on this trail that the last time I rode, I had to unclip/put a foot down/just get off the bike 7 times. I hate doing that, but I wasn't focused on how hard technical it might be, I was just riding with my boys and making sure I didn't let there get a gap. I couldn't help but laugh when I cleared stuff that I was like nope before. It's exciting stuff! Frank chimes up behind me with the brilliant words of "it's pretty amazing what you can do when you hang on for just 10 more seconds." I lowered my number from 7 to 4 that day. And just recently lowered it from 4 to 2.

Now that I am a little closer to O'bannon woods, I just want to go play on the rocks and on the Adventure Hiking Trail (AHT). Every time I have hiked that trail, all I could think was how do people ride this, or even want to ride this trail when you probably have to get off your bike and do a lot of hiking. That's not fun. Well, Kayla who gave up all the time, you were wrong! It is a blast to ride a trail that is going to beat the shit out of you and you keep pushing back. Those 10 extra seconds can give a second wind needed to find the better line and make it up a rutted climb with rocks and roots waiting to trap your wheel. Instead of seeing a steep climb and think that's impossible before even beginning it, you start to say fuck I bet I can at least get to this spot on it. Those 10 seconds can help change your view point from a negative to a positive and opens your riding to a whole new level almost.

I always love seeing how mental training in biking can cross over to mental training in life. If we all take 10 more seconds to pause and breath, have more patience, think before judging, we become more open to understanding, enduring more, and not losing our fucking shit all the time. I'm still 1000% learning how to do this. This whole year has felt like I've been trying to hold onto my own strength to keep doing what I love, and I think that because of that struggle, it makes developing mental toughness on the bike a little easier (even though it is still pretty damn hard).

It's nice to be on the side of things where I can start seeing gains again after a year of feeling physically and mentally weak. And every day, if I didn't hang on to a positive thought for 10 more seconds, I would have lost my damn mind to depression and anger while going through chemo and watching all my friends have such great times on their bikes. It's easy to let the negative consume us and give up without really trying. As soon as it gets hard, we tend to just stop and give up. So, whenever you want to give up on that steep climb, that rocky and rooty section, or just getting a ride in at all, give yourself that extra 10 seconds, because at the end of that 10 seconds is another 10 seconds waiting for you to keep going.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

2017: The Year That Tried to Kill Me

2017 took a hard left turn in the wrong direction after my last post all the way back in February. Let me break it down for you. 

February: I went to the doctor for a regular old check up and had a full pelvic exam done with some scraping samples sent off. A couple weeks later I got called saying they found a tumor on my ovary that they wanted to get out right away. I decided in my mind that it would be fine and nothing would change. Sitting on a bike saddle sucked. Like, a lot. 

March: My doctor was happy that they were able to get the tumor, but could still see some tiny floating tumors that she wasn't happy about. She wanted to start me on radiation and chemo right away. My tires on my car were all bald and died on a trip to Chattanooga. That same weekend, I crashed my car into a fence and watched a board go right in front of my face. I was fine. 

April: I started chemo. I had 3 appointments throughout the week. Radiation, chemo, radiation. I had a lot of people tell me what to expect with chemo and I was fucking scared out of my mind. I had to participate in a group therapy with other chemo patients once a week. I was always so sore. My chemo appointments lasted about 30 minutes. I got to see a lot of the same people every time I went. My biggest side effects were killer mood swings, not eating food, and throwing up a lot. April was my least favorite month ever. 

May-October: I moved from chemo once a week, to once a month. It was kind of a mind fuck. I would have a pretty normal week, get chemo and be sick and tired for about two weeks and then start to feel okay and then hey look, chemo again. Yay. I was kind of dumb by putting all this pressure on myself to stay fit and healthy. Doing that made me lose my mind while losing my endurance, which really wasn't the most important part of what was happening. But when you are in it, you can't see that shit. You just want to do your normal thing. Oh, I'm not going to die? Okay I'm going to do everything to pretend everything is normal then. 

So, fuck you 2017, you piece of garbage of a year. After going through all of this and taking a moment in therapy to talk about what makes me happy, I realized that I'm ready for a next chapter. Evansville has been fucking great and I have made some lifelong friends, but I want to follow my passion. And I just think that training and riding and living in Bentonville, AR is the next chapter for that. I have 1000% set my mind to this. So I didn't renew my lease on my apartment, I quit my job and I'm living at home saving some money until I go in March. I'm excited, nervous, uncomfortable, freaking out, happy, crying. I am all the emotions, but I am feeling better and healthier and happier. 

If I managed to stay alive and afloat this year, I can basically survive anything. SO watch out world, Kayla Motherfuckin' Hammel has no fears and is coming at you hard!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

I Wheelie Like You

February is the month of love and I spent it showing my one true love just how much he means to me! 3 weekends, 3 different races. Lots of riding, lots of friends, and a whole lotta driving, but I wouldn't have done anything different. Don't ever feel bad for doing what makes you happy. I know I could have a whole savings account if I limited myself to one race a month or less, but come on. Who needs a saving account (I now hope my mother isn't reading this because she would be like "you do, Kayla. You need a savings account.")? As long as I am paying my bills and making sure my cat is eating, I can totally justify being out of town every weekend basically (now I hope my cat Louis hasn't been taught to use a computer and to read because he would probably disagree with that statement. Not the being fed part. He eats like a trucker. Side note: what does that even mean? I've always heard that saying, but I can also put food away and I don't think I have ever been a trucker. Back to main side Louis part: he would be like 'hey maybe stay home and pet me for once?' I can't really be sure, neither of us speak a common language and I don't want to put words into his mouth).

The first weekend of February was kicked off with the second race in the MBell TT series. This race doesn't really require a long drive, it's a pretty easy there and back day trip. And we had perfect weather! Started to warm up in my arm sleeves and ditched those right away. I felt pretty strong at the start and just enjoyed the day. There were 16 women who showed up! How awesome is that?! I love actually knowing that I am not guaranteed a top spot. You push harder, hopefully ride smart, and just know that what you laid out there was your best against other people's best. I'm learning that I have to stay focused because I tend to get distracted and forget I am racing sometimes and then I lose pacing and bam! someone is behind you. I do not enjoy feeling panicked during a race. It gets messy!

The second weekend was a long weekend away. We made a mini girls trip out of it, leaving on a Friday morning. I was in charge of a fun day activity, which was originally between the Nashville Zoo and the Chattanooga Zoo. Who knew that cows could be a featured animal at a zoo? Nashville always has surprises! Unfortunately, that zoo lost out even though rumor has it they have a cool playground. Actually the zoo in general lost that day because I forgot about time zones. So last minute idea was to do an escape room! That was a ton of fun and now I know what to expect if I ever do another and hopefully won't lose. There was a big group of Indiana folk who were racing the Snake Creek Cap in Dalton, so there wasn't ever really a dull moment. Between dinners, hanging out, and racing, it was a full weekend. Again, we had great weather to do the Snake 50. That first 20 miles was a blast. And damn, it was so green. My mental game really suffered that day and by the time that I got to the last 17 miles, I kinda was ready to just not be on my bike again. After some persuasion and a lotta fireball, I started back on my bike. I recommend not doing the snake fueled by whiskey. I totally fell off the side of the trail and was only stopped by a tree. Which I felt was fitting and was just going to live there until another racer was like "you should get up" Why are people so nice? I had a lot of feelings. I ended the race with a lot of blood on my leg from that fall that I literally didn't notice until someone pointed it out to me. I have decided that in the future before a super long and hard race, no one is allowed to talk to me at all unless it is to show me cat photos or tell me a joke. That's a new rule. Don't break it! Cat photos and jokes only people!

Weekend three was maybe my favorite weekend. I picked up my co-pilot up Saturday evening and we drove to our airbnb in Alabama with no traffic. None! Not in Nashville, not close to Chattanooga, not even close to Birmingham. Everyone left us alone on the road. So thank you, traffic! Our airbnb could have been the whole trip, and it would have been worth it. I get overly excited about goats and free range chickens apparently. I brain stormed on how to become a roommate (Abby's logic on how to do that was to pay rent. That seemed too easy....) Coldwater was a ton of fun and again, we had perfect weather! We probably did a 10 mile warm up if we count the hill repeats we did while waiting for the race.Look, everyone was doing these road hill repeats. We were basically just following the leader and this is an excellent example of how peer pressure can make you do anything. I also forgot that there were hills at Coldwater because we mainly only found downhills on our warm up. So when I got to that first 4 mile climb, I was thinking of how smart I was earlier that morning to have done hill repeats in preparation! 24 miles of XC riding at Coldwater is no joke! We ended on a one mile climb and came out to a baby gravel climb to the finish line. I was waiting for Abby to literally pop up behind me at the end and have to do a sprint for 2nd, and by sprint I mean slowly turning my pedals and laughing hysterically. The race volunteers and the RD were great people. I really wanted to show Abby Bomb Dog, so we had planned to ride more at the end of the day. I thought that Bomb Dog was on the shorter 8 mile loop, so we went with someone to help clear the course and pedal our tired legs out. We didn't get to Bomb Dog, but we got another 9 miles of an amazing trail in. Now I just have an excuse to go back to Coldwater sometime soon.....

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Winter Racing at it's Best

Give me all the warmth right now!
This past weekend I was signed up to do the first race in the Snake Creek Gap Time Trail series. I was planning on killing myself during the 50 mile race from exhaustion, but the weather had different plans for me. Because of snow, the road leading to the start of the 34/50 mile start was impassable making the race directors make the call that everyone would be racing the 17 mile option for the day.

It was cold, but I was comfortable for the whole race on Saturday. My feet nor fingers every got cold, not even at the start of the race. My race started off pretty good. Starting the first climb was pretty easy on fresh legs. I think my biggest road block during this race was thinking I needed to save my legs for the last 8 miles, when in reality I could have pushed harder on some of the earlier climbs and still had enough energy for the wall and for the rock garden. Other than that, I felt strong and I rode well and handled my bike in the snow better than I was expecting.

I learned early in the race that stepping down was going to cause a lot of trouble trying to reclip into the pedals (damn flat pedals and making it look easy). I started practicing riding unclipped and banging my feet against the pedals without getting frustrated and stopping to clean them. I saw a few people sitting on the side of the trail cleaning their shoes out with sticks. I did not want to do that.

I know that this is going to sound like a joke, but I had so much fun during the snake that I couldn't stop smiling. Even when I fell crossing a log on the trail because I was enjoying myself and waving at my friend who was stopped ahead didn't even put a damper on my mood. I just got back on my bike and kept pedaling and smiling. I shaved 50 minutes off that last section from my previous year and ended up coming in 4th out of 19 of all the women who started that day and 102 out of 232 overall riders.

Because we weren't exhausted after the race, my group decided to drive back home. I was scrolling through facebook and seeing people talk about the first race in the winter time trail series made me start thinking that I too should be there on Sunday. I didn't put in as many hours on the bike as I thought I would, so why not? I debated it for the whole way home. I had to wash my warmest layers and make sure my bike was ready, but I also wanted to be lazy. And sleeping in sounded great. And maybe my legs were a little bit tired. However, I insured myself into going to the race by talking someone else into going with me. I am way to smart for myself. *crazy laugh*

Montgomery Bell has a lot of climbs, and it's rooty, and twisty. Of course, I forgot about all of that and could only think of the fun section that has a ton of g-outs that remind me of Scales Lake. And of course Johnson hill (I think that is the name of it). I was living off that rare Snake confidence and was ready to have a great day of racing that I think the Snake gods punished me by making me wait an hour in the cold before my call up time to start. I wasn't cold in the parking lot, but I was freezing when I tried to warm up on the road and on the trail that I debated just staying in the car.

 I started 3rd to last and worked my way past the 9 women early in the course. 5 miles in and I knew that I must have went too hard to last that strong for the next 12 miles. I could see the girl who started in front of me the whole race. That's the thing about Mbell, it's so twisty that you see everyone almost the whole time, but there is no real way to tell where they are compared to you. It can be a mind game if you let it, but in the end you just have to focus on your own race and hope they don't catch you. Which that girl did at mile 8 on a climb. I let her in front and paced myself on her wheel for about three miles. It was fun getting back around her, but I knew I wouldn't last. We passed some volunteers who said we had 5 miles left and I knew right then and there that the pace I had was the pace I was keeping to the end. She got around and my next goal was to not be caught by any one else.

I came in 2nd/11 female riders and was happy with my time and the gap I had on the next finisher. I think going in knowing that I could handle myself in snow made me able to push a little more on the roots and rocks. I'm looking forward to doing this race next month on fresh legs. I'm hoping that the weather is nicer to me and all the other racers for both Mbell and the Snake in February! Thanks to all the volunteers who braved the cold so all us crazy bikers can do what we love. It was a great weekend!

*Most of my photos are from @sheshredsco snapchat story! I plan on doing these for most of my races, so make sure to add them to see what I am up to and what other rad women are doing! And check out for the newest stuff.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Be Hungry

October was a kind month to me. I did Oak Mountain 50 and Race to the Canal. Both of those races I improved my time and noticed a definite improvement on my climbing. I think that setting such a high time goal for Black Bear and failing made me get serious about playing around with my nutrition and how I fuel during the race. I tried different things out after Black Bear during training rides, and settled on infint. I have been so happy with it! I definitely think that I didn't bonk at the last two races because of it.

After taking the month off in November, my first week back on a strict training schedule has made me so hyped for the 2017 season! I learned so much in 2016 and have been able to look at what I did last year and what my goals were and adapt to better myself and push myself to reach my overall goal. It can be lonely training for something specific. Because not everyone is going to be wanting to do the same workout as you. And that means maybe skipping group rides to do hill repeats or intervals. And if you are serious about what you want, then you will say fuck it, I don't care. I am doing what I need to do and either people will support and love me or I will just hang out with my cat for the rest of my life.* 

*I am 100% the latter of that statement*

There are days that I would rather skip a workout and be lazy. Because it's winter and, you know, sleep sounds always better than waking up...but I push myself because I want to better myself. I know that if I don't put in the work right now, then I won't see the results that I want and I won't be any closer to my big goal. I wake up starving for 2017 race season to get here. I fill myself up with training because I want to smash my races. I'm looking at you, Snake 50, because guess what, you don't scare me! Except for you, Snake last 5 miles. You don't scare me, but I know you will rip me up and I am actively preparing myself for when you do, because I am a damn survivor! 

I love this sport. I am excited to wake up and train. I am going to stay hungry every day. #roadto2017

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Black Bear Rampage 2016

This past weekend I accomplished my 5th endurance race on the beautiful Tanasi trail system in Ducktown, TN. Couldn't have asked for a more beautiful place to torture myself for 40 miles.

The two weeks leading up to the race, I was feeling great. Every ride was strong and smooth. My body was feeling good. I was recovering fast from rides. If I had been smarter, I would have actually done more than one long endurance training ride before this race. But, my training mind is set up for XC racing and I didn't adapt my training schedule to work with the last minute addition of this race. We all learn from our mistakes.

Race day was here and I was feeling pretty good. I was comparing what I knew about this race to the Snake, and to be honest I thought I was going to have way less climbing to do with a lot more fun single track. Mainly because EVERY PERSON CLAIMS THIS IS THEIR FAVORITE RACE EVER. No one goes to the snake and says that (okay, they might. But they also give you the disclaimer that it is their most favorite, painful and mentally challenging race they do).  Nope. No disclaimers for this one. Just a lot of love. So much love that my mind was temporarily clouded into thinking I was not going to enter any kind of pain cave. But, alas, I found the bottom of my cave during this race and I had to dig deep to try and climb out. P.s. there was definitely crying at 24 miles wanting a golf cart to come get me so I didn't have to climb another mountain or hill or whatever. My legs were burning.

 This is the only smile of mine documented from that race, it was still early folks.

The start of the race is a 2 mile road climb. Everyone recommends to take your time and set your own pace. So what do I do? I hammer up that hill with the lead pack, jumping on the trail behind the women who would finish in 3:30 or less. I mean, if you killed that climb and only had a couple other climbs with a lot of fast downhills and fast single track. Joke was on me. "We are almost to the top. Do you see the white rocks?" became my absolutely most despised sentences I would hear at least 7 times that day. I never want to see a white rock for at least a couple months. 

 We did go down Thunder Rock Express only to have to climb a grueling gravel road to get onto the trail with more climbing. Also, I thought we were halfway done right here. I think we were actually only 14-15 miles into the race at this point. I wouldn't find that out until mile 24 when I thought I had 10 miles left to go.

This was my first endurance race that I've done with the thought of racing, not just finishing. I don't fuel right for long races no matter how hard I try. And I was *very* prepared for this race, it's just that my stomach felt heavy the whole time and I couldn't sallow solids. Mountain biking, or just biking in general, is more about pushing yourself past your limits. When your mind says "No, I can't go any further" is when you decide if you are going to quit or keep pushing. Yeah, I cried on the trail and I wanted to quit. But I was able to pull myself together and keep going. The ending of that race was a lot of fun. That trail was fast, I loathed that tiny climb to the finish though. Rude. 

Now that I have raced an endurance race, I can clearly see my weaknesses and how to better prepare myself. I have one month before Oak Mountain and my training is going to be dialed in and focused, I'm going to explore better fueling options for me (liquid racing diet ideas, anyone?) We don't really talk about our failures because we are embarrassed by them. But they are part of what makes us stronger, makes us learn and grow. 

Look, that face says "seriously? The finish line is on a climb?!? Somebody come murder me right now"