Haley Batten’s Trail to Tokyo

Haley Batten photo: Etienne Schoeman

Haley Batten is the youngest US Mountain Bike racer on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics long-team, although she is by no means a long shot. In our interview, Haley shares how she arrived at the top of the sport, the importance of mentorship, and basically just a whole bunch of wisdom for such a young athlete. We are grateful to Haley for taking the time to be interviewed by us while she is preparing for the final Olympic qualifying event in a few short months.

Haley Batten donning the #3 plate at 2020 U23 World Cup races Photo: Michal Cerveny

MTB Race News: Briefly summarize your cycling resume. 

Haley Batten:

  1. 4 x junior US national champion
  2. 2017 U23 US national Champion and fourth in U23 World Cup Overall
  3. 2019 U23 Pan American Continental champion
  4. In 2019 I landed my first two U23 world cup podiums and World Cup win.
  5. Silver medal in the 2019 World Championships Team Relay with team USA.
  6. 2020 Swiss Epic overall win with teammate Annika Langvad
  7. 4th U23 world Championships 2020
A very young Haley Batten winning her first National Championship in 2012. Photo courtesy Haley Batten

MTB Race News:  When did you know/how did you decide to pursue mountain biking as a profession? Why and how did you choose to balance it with attending college? 

Haley Batten: I can clearly remember the moment I decided that I wanted to compete in mountain biking at the Olympics. It was 2012 and I had just won my first national championship in Sun Valley, Idaho. The US Olympic team had recently been announced and they called the selected athletes onto the podium for photos. Todd Wells, Sam Schultz, Georgia Gould, and Lea Davison all stood up there, ready for London. Each one of them a humble, kind, and hard-working individual. I decided then, watching them stand on that stage, that I wanted to see what I could do in this sport. That year, for the first time, I watched the cross-country Olympic event on TV and I realized that the sport I loved was something that I could pursue at a high level. From a young age, I had the confidence and belief in myself that I had the ability to chase after any big dream. I think my parents instilled that in me and my bike helped me find the independence and passion to fuel my pursuits. Now, as we begin the 2021 season, I’m getting closer to making that vision my reality.

I couldn’t have predicted that both Georgia and Lea would become my teammates on the Luna Pro Team (Clif Pro Team) years later, when I began my professional career.

Haley’s first Pro contact was with the Luna Pro team. Pictured here with teammate, mentor, and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, Georgia Gould Photo courtesy Haley Batten

They would help guide and inspire me, along with the many other incredible women on that team including Catharine Pendrel and Katerina Nash that I am grateful to call my mentors and friends. I think that having the guidance of this team in my first years on the world cup stage were fundamental to the rider that I have become. I learned the ins and outs of travel and race preparation, as well as the type of environment that I need to be in the right mindset come race day. Plus, I was surrounded by an all-women’s team and THAT was empowering because it made professional cycling a feasible opportunity to me.

The Luna Pro Team evolved into Team Clif Bar. Haley is pictured here with teammates Lea Davison, Catharine Pendrel, Maghalie Rochette, and Katerina Nash. Photo courtesy Haley Batten

From a young age biking was something I absolutely loved. It gave me freedom, adventure, and adrenaline and it became an important part of my life early on. Although I always dreamed big and poured my energy into cycling, school, or anything that grabbed my attention, I don’t think racing professionally became my reality until I got on my first pro team. It wasn’t until then that I really started to bring my youthful joy for the sport and the career possibilities together. I had the support to begin to put the pieces together to not just dream, but do.

Although most of my energy and drive is pursuing professional cycling, attending university has created an important balance in my life. Not only has it connected me with a special community, but it has also helped me find my passions off the bike and reminds me that being a professional athlete is a unique opportunity. As an athlete, it is often easy to get caught up in the ‘biking bubble” where everyone shares a  similar lifestyle. Stepping outside of that has allowed me to find perspective on racing and results, but also makes me appreciate the journey even more. I love learning and I think that challenging myself in new ways, while growing my knowledge base and skill-set is beneficial for being both human and athlete. Yes, it’s very hard to have a high workload for both school and training, but once I can embrace struggle as something that stimulates growth, I often surprise myself with what I am capable of. What I’ve learned is that it’s easy to work hard at something you enjoy. I study what I find meaningful, break up those study sessions with my favorite thing in the world… biking :), and surround myself with great people that will support me and smile through it all. And that, is my recipe for success!

At Quest University Canada, we have a Question as our major and build-your-own degree. My Question is “How can education be optimized to inspire?” I’m really interested in the research surrounding how people learn most effectively. In the future, I hope to help implement effective teaching and learning strategies into the educational system, so that more students can find meaning in their educational experience. I want to help inspire our youth to engage in their education, their own physical and mental health, and apply themselves to the environment and global issues! 

MTB Race News: Tell us about your new 2021 team, Trinity racing. How will your bike be spec’d? Anything special/unique about your set-up?

Haley Batten pictured with 2021 Trinity racing teammates Christopher Blevins and Luke Lamperti photo: Jimmy Smith

Haley Batten: I am thrilled to be on Trinity this season. While I will continue to be on the same great equipment with Specialized bicycles and Sram components, the support behind the scenes will look a little different in 2021. The staff supporting the athletes on this team have experience helping young athletes make the leap into the elite field and I think this guidance and support is what I need to become the rider I hope to be. I’m happy to continue to be teammates with Christopher Blevins, a good friend of mine and my teammate during our junior years on the Whole Athlete development team, while also building new relationships with athletes from all over the world. Plus our bikes will be DIALED!! Last season Specialized launched the new S-works Epic and wow does this bike know how to go fast. It’s spec’d with a RockShox Sid SL fork and RockShox-Specialized rear shock, both with the BRAIN-controlled travel. This, along with my SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS, keeps my cockpit extremely clean. I believe this setup has been a game-changer for allowing me to keep my focus on the race moment, not on the buttons on my handlebar. I have also added the RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post for training and most racecourses. This is another game changer that has improved my riding position on the downhills and overall skill level. In addition, I run the Roval Control SL carbon wheels with 29mm rims and choose between the Specialized Renegade, Fast-Track, and Ground Control tires. All my bikes have the Specialized Women’s Power Pro saddle with Mimic and Wahoo Element Bolt head-unit. The final touch are my sparkling gold Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11 pedals. This bike is light and made for fast racing, but it’s also extremely capable! I’ve tested my limits on the Squamish trails and have been blown away with what this bike allowed me to ride. Having confidence in my equipment is really important to me and this bike can really do it all. Hands down the best xc bike I have ever raced on.

MTB Race News: You coach with Olympic Gold Medalist, Kristin Armstrong. What is your training plan like? 

Haley Batten: It has been such an honor to have Kristin Armstrong on my team. Not only is she one of the most successful cyclists in the world, but she is also an incredible mom, coach, and entrepreneur. What she has taught me goes far beyond the workouts she loads to training-peaks, including a mental-toughness, confidence, and perspective that has allowed me to train and prepare for racing at a new level. Our perspective is QUALITY not quantity. I train smart, rest smart, and race smart. Our plans are very focused for the races we want to perform well at and we prioritize the training that will help us get there. With Strava and social media it is becoming more and more common for people to compare their numbers (power, hours, distance, elevation) to others. Although this can definitely be a great motivator and way to create community, it’s important to keep in mind your unique circumstances and what your goals are!! Kristin and I don’t add extra hours that, although they may feel like extra-credit, are really a distraction from what we want to prioritize. Every season I take about a month off the bike and during this time I prioritize my school work, add a variety of sports into my routine, and ride with friends and family I don’t usually get to. This is SO crucial for bringing a fresh and excited mindset back onto the bike when it’s time to get back to training. Kristin’s training approach also focuses on making the process FUN!!! Pursuing mountain biking professionally is something I am so grateful to do, so every day I’m out on my bike I enjoy it. Some days are hard, that is no doubt, but even the hardest days are what make the outcome that much more rewarding.

MTB Race News: What is your biggest strength as a MTB racer? 

Haley Batten: What is so cool about MTB is that there is endless room for progression, from technical skill or physical strength to your mindset. No doubt, growing up in Park City with the incredible Utah cycling community really helped me advance quickly and grow to love the sport. I did a lot of racing and group rides with my friends (mostly guys) and I think this really helped me develop my skills early on. Moving to Squamish, BC for university was a whole different level of technical riding!!  I’ve SO enjoyed being there in the winter to ride and train, although it does get a little wild out in those woods! I’ve always loved the adrenaline and technical riding aspect of mountain biking, so I think that has allowed me to excel on the more technical courses. This is why I’m not much of a  roadie! I love the trails too much! Overall, I think I have a range of skill sets and I try to use that to my advantage. I don’t often consider one race course being better for me than another and I train to perform at any World Cup that is thrown my way. What I have found to be helpful is that I am a very adaptable and positive person, not much can “phase” me. When it comes down to it, you can train as much as you want, but all the travel and chaos of racing at such a high level needs to be enjoyable, not stressful! I focus on the things that I can do to help me perform, since the things that are out of my control aren’t worth worrying about. Although it’s easy to get caught up with how someone else is riding, or what the weather is, or if the airline lost my baggage, it really doesn’t do me much good! So I try to put my energy and focus on the aspects of racing that fuel my passion and prepare me for the incredible journey ahead!

In 2020, Haley Batten was teammates with former World Champ, Annika Langvad. The duo teamed up and subsequently won the Swiss Epic stage race. Photo: Sebastian SebShiek

MTB Race News: There are currently six US women on the long list for the Tokyo Olympics. Kate Courtney has already qualified for the team. How will the remaining two spots be determined? Do you have a game plan to make the team? 

Haley Batten: The second world cup race in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic will be our final qualifying event. Until then, it’s all about dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s to make sure I am the best rider that I can be on that day and the events prior. I am confident that I have what it takes to perform during my first year in the elite category.  My eyes are also on 2024, so I think doing everything that I can to be at the start line in Tokyo is a huge step for my career. I am confident that there is a good chance one of us can meet the second spot through the selection criteria, but after that it will come to discretionary selection. We have a talented group of US women working for those slots and I think it will be a thrilling year to be a part of!

MTB Race News: Can you tell us a bit about Outride? How are you involved? 

Haley Batten pictured with fellow Outride ambassador, Christopher Blevins Photo: Etienne Schoeman

Haley Batten: Outride is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of youth through school-based cycling programs and grants. Their programs are evidence-based with the goal of improving social, emotional, physical, and cognitive health of young students. The Outride mission is to make these benefits accessible and sustainable!!  Bikes are such an incredible vehicle to empower individuals, beyond the race-course. What Outride stands for aligns with many of my values and working with them has allowed me to speak out about what I value. All that Outride does is supported by research and has had a positive impact on so many children, schools, and communities. I have witnessed the power of the bike first-hand and I’m glad that I can share this journey with Outride to help make the benefits accessible to more people! As an ambassador I work to spread the word about Outride to get more cycling programs into schools. I have not yet been able to get involved with a school visit or more hands-on work as a result of Covid-19, but I am so looking forward to when that becomes a possibility again!

Weekend Race Recap

Cactus Cup Phoenix, AZ March 12-14, 2021

The 2021 Race season was in full swing last weekend with The Cactus Cup stage race hosting most of the US’s 2021 Olympic hopefuls in Phoenix, AZ. The race format included a Time Trial, 40-mile XC race, and Enduro. Sofia Gomez Villafane (Clif Bar) who has spent the winter training in Tucson rode away with the overall after taking the lead in the 40-mile XC stage. The young Kelsey Urban had an impressive weekend with her consistency paying off for a 2nd overall. Erin Huck, Rose Grant, and Hannah Finchamp rounded out the women’s GC podium. The desert got the best of Savilla Blunk, winner of the TT, and Haley Batten, winner of the Enduro, who both ran into mechanical issues during the XC race costing them spots on the GC podium.

2021 Cactus cup women’s GC podium
  1. Sofia Gome Villafane 3:16:49
  2. Kelsey Urban 3:17:48
  3. Erin Huck 3:18:21
  4. Rose Grant 3:20:55
  5. Hannah Finchamp 3:20:58
  6. Ruth Holcomb 3:23:30
  7. Ruby Ryan 3:23:50
  8. Gwendalyn Gibson 3:27:09
  9. Amy Chandos 3:29:21
  10. Alisha Welsh 3:32:48
  11. Savilla Blunk
  12. Amanda Felder
  13. Haley Batten
  14. Lauren Lackman
  15. Caroline Mani
  16. Nikki Peterson

In the men’s race, Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz) took the overall by only 18 seconds over Riley Amos. Cole Paton, Kyle Trudeau, and Daxton Mock wrapped up the GC top 5 with less than two-minutes separating first through fifth.

2021 Cactus Cup Men’s GC podium
  1. Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz) 2:53:47
  2. Riley Amos 2:54:06
  3. Cole Paton 2:54:15
  4. Kyle Trudeau 2:55:30
  5. Daxton Mock 2:55:30
  6. Tobin Ortenblad 2:55:41
  7. Russell Finsterwald 2:56:02
  8. Alex Wild 2:57:07
  9. Tydeman Newman 2:59:49
  10. Paul Fabian 3:3494
  11. Bradyn Lange
  12. Pavel Nelson
  13. Matt Pike
  14. Todd Wells
  15. Cal Skilsky
  16. Jared Becker
  17. Tanner Thornton
  18. Lars Hallstrom
  19. Nicholas Taberes
  20. Keriran Eagen
  21. Troy Wells
  22. Guy Leshem
  23. Kellen Caldwell
  24. Brian Scarbrough
  25. Jimmy Smith
  26. Lance Abshire
  27. Andrew Clemence
  28. William Dowling
  29. Briand Gordon
  30. Justin Martin
  31. Eddie Anderson
  32. Zack Villars
  33. Vincent Davis
  34. Christopher Blevins
  35. Luke Lamperti
  36. Henry Nadell
  37. Jesus Vargas
  38. Scott Arnold

True Grit Epic St. George, UT

True Grit riders were met with epic conditions which ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the race

This weekend was supposed to be the True Grit Epic which includes racer’s choice of a gravel ride, gravel race, or 100 or 50-mile mountain bike race on classic Southern Utah trails. Racers could also choose to participate in the Extreme Grit Gravel/MTB stage race that combines all three stages over three days. Sadly the weather had a different plan. Unseasonal cold, snow, and rain forced race promoters to cancel the mountain bike portion of the race.

Southeast Gravel: Gravel Battle of Sumter Forest Clinton, SC

Gravel Battle of Sumter Forest is the first race of a six race gravel series promoted by the popular Southeast Gravel. Liv Factory racer, Kaysee Armstrong bested Laura King by a mere 12 seconds over 75 miles of racing. Armstrong’s winning time was 3:24:38. Tere Casas, Marjie Bemis, and Elizabeth Mccalley completed the top-5.

  1. Kaysee Armstrong 3:24:38
  2. Laura King 3:24:51
  3. Tere Casas 3:35:54
  4. Marjie Bemis 3:36:04
  5. Elizabeth Mccalley 3:36:07
  6. Annie Rambotham 3:36:08
  7. Ava Sykes 3:38:22
  8. Kim Pettit 3:41:58
  9. Simone Berger 3:41:58
  10. Rhylee Wittrock 3:45:23
  11. Sierra Sims 3:45:27
  12. Katy Sorrell
  13. Madeline Pearce
  14. Hannah Dickson
  15. Nicole Mertz
  16. Alexi Costa
  17. Marni Sumbal
  18. Madison Kelly
  19. Alyssa Barrick
  20. Carey Lowery
  21. Genevieve Plum
  22. Cara King
  23. Hayley Barrick
  24. Nina Machnowski

Scott McGill took the men’s race followed by a sprint finish among Drew Dillman, Issac Bryant, Tim Coffey, and Michael Bissette. Former ProTour road racer, Bobby Julich, who was also in the sprint, placed 7th.

  1. Scott McGill 3:11:54
  2. Drew Dillman 3:12:00
  3. Issac Bryant 3:12:03
  4. Tim Coffey 3:12:07
  5. Michael Bissette 3:12:08
  6. Heath Dotson 3:12:09
  7. Bobby Julich 3:12:10
  8. Matt Moosa 3:12:19
  9. John Croom 3:12:27
  10. Parker Kyzer 3:13:55
  11. Ted King
  12. Kyle Tiesler
  13. Dalton Collins
  14. Elijah Johnson
  15. Conley Wilhelm
  16. Jaden Grimes
  17. James Carney
  18. Tyler Miranda
  19. Nick Bragg
  20. Bryan Glover
  21. Jonathan Patterson
  22. Ryan Johnson
  23. Eric Fotd
  24. Chris Tries
  25. Tyler Clark
  26. Zeb Ramsbotham
  27. Blake Adams
  28. Andrew Blackstock
  29. Mile Root
  30. Same Rideout
  31. Osias Lozano
  32. Brody McDonald
  33. Giovanni Vasta
  34. Erik Castillo
  35. Gabriel Kenne
  36. Nick Zambeck
  37. Keith Mullaly
  38. George Hincapie
  39. Greg Junge

Stay tuned as MTBracenews.com continues to bring coverage of some of the most exciting events.

Kaitlyn Boyle: The details behind her Kokopelli Trail FKT

Kaitlyn Boyle Interview

photo credit Rugile Kaladyte

In 2018 Kaitlyn Boyle was on top of the World. Literally. In February she set a course record at 24-Hours in the Old Pueblo (18laps, 300miles) and then went on to be 2018 24-Hour World Champion in Wembo, Scotland. Two short months later, on Christmas Eve, the champion ultra-endurance racer’s life took an abrupt turn when she was involved in a single-vehicle car crash on icy roads in Teton Valley, Idaho.

This was the beginning of a long road of recovery and an uncertain path back to ultra-endurance stardom. Almost two years later, after countless hours rehabbing injuries and regaining fitness, Kaitlyn set out to attempt a FKT (fastest known time) on the Kokopelli trail, a 142-mile rugged mixed terrain trail near Moab, UT. Spoiler: Kait’s finishing time was 13 hours 7 minutes. She shaved 25 minutes off Rebecca Rusch’s long-standing FKT.

Can you share a little background on your accident and rehab?

In October 2018 I won the 24-hour World Championships, capping off the strongest race season of my career. Two months later, on Christmas Eve, I was in a car accident that landed me in the ICU with a shattered pelvis and sacrum, ruptured bladder, and broken fibula.

For a long 16 hours I wondered if I’d ever walk, let along race bikes again. I was so lucky to learn that I would in fact have a chance for a full recovery, which started off with 5 weeks in a wheelchair and 6 weeks on crutches, all wearing an external fixator to stabilize my pelvis.

Kait’s pelvis was stabilized by external fixators for months after her car crash

Months 3-6 I regained a lot of my strength, endurance and mobility and could ride my bike, start training, and go bikepacking. The final few percent has been an elusive target…I’ve been slowly retraining and rehabbing all my connective tissue as my body learns to ride far and fast with a fused sacrum. I probably won’t ever feel the way I felt pre-accident, so now it’s just a matter of working on small gains in strength and mobility as I work towards racing multi-day ultras again. 

How did you choose the Kokopelli trail for your FKT? Had you ever ridden the entire 142-mile route before? 

I’ve had a long and speckled history with Kokopelli. The trail was the first route I bikepacked, in 2011. I rode it in 3 days, and used a 45L alpine climbing pack to carry my stuff. I had no idea bikepacking or bikepacking bags were a thing. Although I don’t recommend anyone ride with all their stuff on their back, the experience provided enough joy and wonder to hook me. In that way, Kokopelli Trail arguably changed the course of my life as after that ride, bikepacking became my primary focus for outdoor adventures. 5 or 6 years later I returned with a few ultra-races under my belt, hoping to test myself to the challenge of riding the route in one go, as fast as I could. Rebecca Rusch held the record and I didn’t consider myself anywhere near capable of beating it, but I was curious to see what would happen. Despite a few attempts over the following years, including one final one a month after 2018 24-hr Worlds, I never pulled together a complete FKT attempt. In that way, I had unmet goals on Kokopelli, and it would be an opportunity to resume where I left off and achieve a dream I’d had and not met prior to my accident.

Kait and her Kokopelli FKT cheer crew, Will and Hank Photo credit-Rugile Kaladyte

Additionally, Kokopelli was the perfect length for my first ultra back from my accident. It was just long enough to be an ultra – it’s one full day. But it wasn’t any longer. I wanted to do a race that would challenge my body in many of the ways ultras do so I could see what would happen, without the commitment or risk of racing for 24, 48, etc hours. In that way, it was a test, a stepping stone towards longer races in the future.

How do you approach a FKT attempt? 

I approach it like any other race in how I prepare physically and mentally but the technical preparation is a bit more involved. Because they are self-supported races I spend more time studying the route. From the route and past FKT attempts I can anticipate splits and use those to plan my pacing, nutrition needs, hydration needs, and the plan for how much I’ll carry and when/where I can refill. I’m also more particular about making sure my bike and clothing choices are dialed and won’t fail me, and I bring stuff to field repair whatever is possible. Basically, I think of everything that could reasonably go wrong and try to plan a solution for it, or control the controllable.

Kait’s final preparations include fresh polish and Hank snuggles Photo credit-Will Stubb

Beyond that I write mantras on my handlebars to motivate and ground me in my effort (Note: Kait’s mantras for the Kokopelli FKT were: “I’m Kait” and “Break it down” to help keep her grounded in the present while believing in herself) and then once it’s game time I ride my own ride and try to be in the present as much as possible.

I noticed you chose to ride your Pivot Mach4. Why did you choose this bike?

Because it’s the fastest bike that can take on any terrain. 😉 

Kait and her final bike selection Photo credit-Will Stubb

Some people debate if a hardtail or full suspension is the bike to ride on Kokopelli, after all it is mostly road. But, a lot of the road is rough, ledgy and chunky 4×4 road and the final 15 miles are fairly technical slickrock style singletrack. While I might climb a little faster on my Pivot Les (a hardtail), I gain so much speed on descents and, most importantly, my fatigue is hugely reduced. Being able to fully enjoy every rock, ledge, and rut in the final 15 miles and be able to ride it all smoothly is a testament to that bike.

The Kokopelli Trail finishes with 15 miles of gnar Photo credit-Rugile Kaladyte

What was your bike set-up? What tires did you choose and why? What was your suspension set-up?

I rode my Pivot Mach 4SL with an MRP Ribbon fork at 120mm, the new Industry Nine Ultralite Carbon 280 24h wheels with Hydra MTN hubs, Shimano XTR drivetrain and brakes, and a 9Point8 Fall Line R dropper post. I ran Maxxis 2.4 Aspen, they are super fast rolling, which is ideal for all the road, but the 2.4 width provides just a bit more traction on slickrock and a bit more float in sand (of which there can be a lot!). 

Kait hammering along a buffed out dirt road Photo credit-Rugile Kaladyte

In the cockpit I mounted a Revelate Designs Mag Tank 2000 for most of my calories, my Garmin Edge 520+ for recording power and pacing, my Garmin Etrex 30 for battery charged navigation, and my NiteRider Lumina 1200.

Anything special on your bike build worth mentioning?

This was my first opportunity to race the Mach 4SL in an ultra. I’d used it in some shorter races but not yet in anything long (it was released in late Spring 2019). It was incredible to feel how fast and smooth it really is. Also, the MRP forks are made in Grand Junction, Colorado which is just down the road from the Kokopelli Trail finish. It was fun to be out there knowing that fork was crushing on home soil.

Photo credit-Rugile Kaladyte

How do you successfully fuel for a 13+hour self-supported race effort? What are your tricks for carrying all of the water and fuel necessary for this monumental effort? 

I use grams of carbs to hold me accountable to consuming enough fuel to keep my tank full and stomach happy. I know I personally race ultras well on 60 grams of carbs/hour, so I plan food around that. For a pretty fast paced ultra like Kokopelli with little opportunity for recovery while riding, I stuck to a lot of simple fuels by GU – chews, Summit Tea Roctane, and Cola Me Happy gels to be specific. I supplemented those with a few gf chocolate chip cookies, small gf blueberry muffins, and a couple Joje bars. These whole foods keep my food diverse to keep me interested enough in eating. I put about 2000 calories in the Mag Tank 2000 (hence the name), and then the overflow thousand I stuffed into the pockets on my Patagonia Slope Runner vest.

Kait selected the Patagonia Slope Runner vest and Mag Tank 2000 to help carry her carbs of choice

For water I used the bladder in my vest and two 24oz water bottles to carry my water and I refilled in a creek and the Colorado River along the way. (Kait uses aquamuira to treat her water; it’s a liquid chemical treatment and is faster than filtering).

How do you stay comfortable in the saddle for such a long effort? 

Well first, I don’t wear chamois. (Kait reports that her ideal cycling short would be chamois-free, breathable, and seamless). I learned early on that a breathable and unpadded short with the right saddle is the best strategy to having a happy butt for continuous hours or days in the saddle. I wear running or tri tights and use the Ergon SR Pro Women’s saddle and Ergon GA3 grips.

What did Hank do while you were racing? (Hank is Kait’s beloved dog)

Hank served stress relief for my partner, Will! He did run with me to the start line in the dark at 4am, which was pretty adorable because he just trotted out in front of me in my beam of light, down the dirt road for about a ¼ mile, as if he was going to pace me for all of Kokopelli. Beyond that he kept Will company as he drove our truck to meet me at the finish and they went for their own MTB ride to distract them from checking trackleaders.

They were both at the finish line, which was a first for us and that meant the world to me.

Anything else you would like to share?

I was pretty stunned that I set an FKT. It was such a milestone in my journey, and has given me a lot of hope. It also felt incredibly vulnerable to set a big goal after such a long recovery and show up committed, all in and with an invitation for the world to watch me race for a Kokopelli FKT alongside Lael Wilcox and Kurt Refsnider. I share this because for anyone reading, regardless of what their source of doubt, nerves or fear is, it’s always worth showing up, day after day to try your best and believe in what you can do.

Photo credit-Rugile Kaladyte