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The Trail to Zen

The sweat drips off the end of my nose. I gave up worrying about it a long time ago. About the same time that the burning in my legs faded to the back of my mental space. Some people lock themselves in dark rooms with timers while they sit on folded blankets to get to this spot. Not me, I find my meditation amidst the pain of pinning it until I can’t move any more. Or more accurately, until the pain fades to the back of my mind and the only thing that resides in my conscience is the constant rhythm of the pedals. Finding this spot, finding that moment when there is nothing else in my head other than that rhythm. I’ve found my way to Zen.

Of course, being able to get to that place takes preparation. You can’t just jump on the bike and hammer it out and suddenly find your mediation in motion. It takes practice and some serious training. It takes a certain devotion to the Trail. An almost daily ritual of saddling up the bike and finding your way into your head and out of the stress created by the world around you. There’s lots of different ways to find this place. For many, it’s part of the training, part of the practice motivated by the need to do. The need to push one’s self farther than before.

The Trail to Zen is just that. It’s a path to finding your place, to finding your way. It’s a trail that leads to a special place called St. George, to a race that will either eat you or enlighten you, True Grit. This is the Trail to Zen.

Who has committed to the trail?

Alex Smith

Alex mud

Tell me a little about your racing experiences.

My favorite races in the last couple of years have been: Wasatch Back, TG50, and 12hrs of Mesa Verde. The last time I raced True Grit in 2013, I raced single speed for the 50 and took first place. I want to do True Grit this year to start the year off as a new resident of St George, and then re-evaluate my race plans for the year. I consider myself a racer because I always want to ride faster and farther, but ultimately its a big piece of my Tao.. I find the bicycle is just the right vehicle to explore personal growth. When I feel in tune with the progress that can be had over a good season of riding, the race performance is just punctuation for the cause.

What about your training?

Race prep: preparing for a race I like to think in terms of hours – my body responds well to volume, for the TG50 I hope to have a sub 4hr race time so I’ll increase my volume to 12-15 hours a week over the next couple of months.If I’m riding 3 to 5 times a week it usually looks like three 2hr sweet spot rides and one 5+ hour tempo ride.I do better with variety and that means time off the bike too.. Plyometrics, yoga, hiking, running, skateboarding and anything else that gets my heart rate up while finding a rhythm.. Because True Grit has such demanding technical sections I think it’s crucial to have a strong core and work on maintaining relaxation and efficiency. At the end of the week, it’s about balance, drinking enough water, eating well and finding time to rest which usually looks like walking the dog and playing my bass.

Josh Wolfe


Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been riding and racing on wheels my whole life, but started racing MTB at the age of 14 (1994). I honed my skills in the foot hills of Utah County and the surrounding Wasatch mountains. At the age of 18, I moved to Columbia, KY to attend Lindsey Wilson College with a cycling scholarship. After returning to Utah, I continued racing in local weekly series along with dabbling in Team 24 hour events. In 2006, I became a member of the 24 hour team called the Jack Mormon Militia, a fully ridged single speed team. After years of punishment on the one speed, I decided I had had enough and chose to get back on gears and turn my focus towards longer endurance races.

What are some of your past race experiences?

  • Collegiate National Championships 1999, 2000, 2005
  • Wednesday Night Weekly Race Series 2005-2014, 14 races per year
  • Pack city E 100
  • Park city Point2Point 2x
  • 12 Hours of Mesa Verde 4x
  • 24 Hours of Moab 4x
  • 24 Hour of Old Pueblo 3x
  • 25 hours of Frog Hollow 5x
  • True Grit 2016

Why do you want to do this race?

I believe that True Grit is a race that draws some of the strongest and most skilled riders in our area and even nationally. The terrain is such that makes it difficult for all types of riders. It tests your technical abilities to the fullest through the Zen and Barrel Ride trails. Combine that with the needed aerobic fitness of the sustained climbing of the Stucki springs trail and then having to make the commitment to the barrel trail is truly challenging for anyone.

Although I have only done “The Grit” one time, it has been one of my main focus events/races for the past 6 years. It is an event that I only consider to begin my season with if I am FULLY prepared mentally and physically for it. Now that I have become a full time resident of St George, it creates a huge opportunity for success on an event like “The Grit.”

Do you consider yourself a racer?

Closet Racer, someone who rides a ton and shows up to race when it counts. I consider myself a full time employee at Red Rock Bicycle with the passion to ride so much it keeps me in top physical racing condition.

Confidence and mental well being with a TRUE WANT AND BELIEF that you will win,  can make up for a huge lack of physical ability. If you cannot picture yourself as a winner you will most likely never be a winner.

“The Best pace is a suicide pace and today is a great day to die” – Steve Prefontaine

What are you plans for training?

For “The Grit,” I plan on making all of the mountain bike trails in St. George my training ground. Thus using the most technical riding in the area as a place to hone the skills needed to RACE, not just ride trails like Zen and Barrel Roll. For the sustained and super buffed single track areas, I will be using the Hurricane Rim trails and surrounding areas to work on aerobic training and long distance rides. And lastly use my previous knowledge of last year’s “Grit “ course as a monthly pre ride till the first week of March. For the lack of day light that is expected this time of year, I have also chosen to make the investment in a high quality set of the Serfas 2500 light and 1000 head lamp to assure that I will able to train no matter what time of day it is.

Zac Hardy


Would you mind telling us about your past racing experiences?

Last year was the first time that I raced the Grit. It was my real first race since I stopped racing in 2003. It went well. I reached my goal of finishing in under 4 hours in the 50 mile single speed category. I also finished in 3rd place which was a pretty neat.

Why do you want to do the Grit?

The challenge. I like pushing myself, and it’s fun. True Grit is some of my favorite trails combined. I also want to see if I can beat my time from last year. This year I want to do it in 3 hours 50 minutes.

Do you consider yourself a “racer?” Why or why not?

I do consider myself a racer because I race. Racing is what got me passionate about cycling. I love riding my bike. I don’t always have to be racing or going fast, but I do like it.

Can you share some past racing experiences/podiums/epic failures?

I started racing in 1998 when I was 16 years old and that became my passion and I did well. I won quite a few races as I moved up to faster categories. I was racing expert 19-29 trying to move up to the semi-pro category in the 2003 season, but the first race I wasn’t really prepared for and it started snowing. It was the first and only time I quit a race without having a mechanical problem. I guess I was burnt out or something, God had other plans for my life other than racing at that time.

After moving back to the St. George area in 2015, I was on a 4 man team and raced my first 24 hour type race at 25 Hours of Frog Hollow and we did well placing 5th, which isn’t bad for guys with full time jobs and families.

Can you give me a short description of how you plan to train for the race?

I commute to work by bicycle every day that I work and do my do longer rides on my days off. I will keep that up and start adding more distance and intensity as the race gets closer. I am working on building stronger core muscles to help with balance and strength on the bike. With working full time and have my family be the priority in my life, I will keep the training simple and fun, mostly just riding my bike.

Shirley Leydsman


What races have you done in the past? Any TrueGrit experiences?

2016 first year racing mountain.. what an awesome experience. First year doing True Grit.. can’t wait!!

Why you want to do the race?

  1. A challenge
  2. Something new
  3. Stay in shape for winter
  4. Have a blast training

Do you consider yourself a “racer?” Why or why not?

Love the atmosphere  on race day. You get to put all your hard training hours into action. Love pushing my limits. So yup.. I guess I am a racer.

Can you share some past racing experiences/podiums/epic failures?

So many….. I just picked a few longer races..

  • Lotoja
  • Tour de Park City
  • Ironman Full/Half
  • Crusher
  • 6hr Frog Hollow- Solo

Can you give us a short description of how you plan to train for the race?

  1. Time in the saddle
  2. Long ride every week
  3. Ride the course as much as possible
  4. Work on technical skills, to be able to ride as much as possible
  5. Have fun and enjoy the journey

Joey Dye

JoeyWhat can you tell us about yourself Mr. Sparkles?

I am a 35 year old dude that loves to be on a bicycle! I don’t really enter races because I am a competitive person and I like to race against other people. For me, it’s more of a tool to help me push myself. I like knowing that I have a really hard ride in 3 months because it is good daily incentive to get on my bike and ride a little harder and farther than I would normally, because I am trying now. It just adds a little bit more purpose to my normal rides.

Do you consider yourself a racer?

I don’t at all consider myself a racer. The distinction for me is that I am not trying to be faster than anybody other than myself.

What about some past race experiences?

This will be my 5th “race”. I somehow ended up in a 3rd place position at the Battle of 3 Peaks 2 years ago. I have done a couple of Enduro races, Bonzai at Bootleg & Beers, Tears and Fears. And I also rode the Whiskey Off road.

What are your training plans?

Training, um I should really put together a plan! Right now, it’s pretty much trying to ride my bike at least 3 times a week.

Will you commit to the Trail?


Not everyone has the benefit of this being their home turf. We will be hosting a training camp to help get you ready with the skills and the endurance to tackle the Trail and to help you find your Zen. Until then, follow us as these five riders detail their training, their riding and their way to Zen.

Join us on the Trail to Zen.

Video Series

Alex takes you through the Crux of Barrel Roll.

Zac shows us the Waterfall on Barrel Ride.

6 Responses to “The Trail to Zen”

  1. Paul Chapman on 11 Dec 2016 at 7:07 pm

    I think I saw something about a video being made about how to tackle the Zen loop with any kind of speed. Very interested in this and any other tips. During the True Grit this is a major time sucker with a looming time limit. THANKS!

  2. Lukas on 12 Dec 2016 at 8:59 am

    Paul, you are correct. The first video should go live later this week.

  3. Sharone on 04 Jan 2017 at 10:48 am

    Is the video online some where? Link?

  4. Lukas on 04 Jan 2017 at 4:33 pm


    Yes, the links are at the bottom of the blogpost.

  5. Julie on 26 Jan 2017 at 8:47 am

    Moar videos please! 🙂 Thanks so much for this! Looking forward to True Grit 2017.

  6. Lukas on 26 Jan 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Julie, more are on the way. The weather hasn’t been cooperating these past couple of weeks, but we hope to have another one soon.

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