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Trail to Zen 2018

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?

Zac Hardy


Two years ago was the first time that I raced True 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. I like racing for 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 that first year, this year I want to do it in 3 hours 50 minutes.

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 hallow and we did well 5 place which isn’t bad for guys with full time jobs and families.

Last year’s True Grit didn’t go well for me. Leading up to the race in January everyday that I had off of work seemed that it was raining, so I didn’t have the long miles I wanted. Then I got sick (probably from riding in the rain and getting to cold) that set me back a bit. Then 2 weeks before the race I got sick again and wasn’t fully recovered from that on race day. I started out feeling ok until I got to the top of the Zen trail. My belly felt horrible and I was really tired. At that I went into just finish mode. It was tough just trying it finish, every time would take a drink of my sports drink my belly would start churning. I was just drink water and without electrolyte I started cramping which added to the fun. My finishing time was 4 hours 30 minutes, 40 min off of my goal.

So this year I have the same goal as last year which was 3 hours 50 minutes. I have a better plan for if I have rain days and doing more speed work and intensity work.

Tyler Hoopes


I have been mountain biking for 13 years.  I am married with 5 kids so most of my training happens between 4:30 am and 7:30 am.  I also work as a Regional Healthcare Administrator from Utah County to St. George.  The three local facilities are Coral Desert Rehab, St. George Rehab and Hurricane Rehab.  Biking is my outlet from the many demands of life.  I love to compete against my prior times or to clear technical sections that I haven’t done prior.

This will be my fourth True Grit race.  I’ve done the 50 mile event each time.  My first race in 2013 took me 7 hours and 30 minutes.  It was torture.  🙂  However, my next two times have been 5:20 and 5:10.  My goal this year is 4 hours and 45 minutes.

To meet my goals, I’m trying to train a lot smarter.  Specifically, I’m using a training program developed by Dave Harris and Lynda Wallenfels.  It has been amazing to have professional coaching plans set out.  I also have been riding with the 4:30 am Red Rock Team in December trying to complete Snowcember (I did the Snowcentury but only completed 22 laps toward Snowcember.)  Finally, I’m also doing some training on a Wahoo Kickr using the Sufferfest App.

I’m excited for the race this year.  I appreciate Red Rock Bicycle a lot for my support in True Grit this year and the other races/events I’ve done in the past!

Derric Maxfield


My name is Derric Maxfield and I have been riding mountain bikes for about 4 years now. I love to ride, but would not call myself an elite racer by any stretch of the definition. I prefer casual rides with friends, but race to give myself an excuse to “train” more. With a full time job and 5 young kids at home, riding often takes a back seat. There are so many great trails here in St George, I wish I could get out more than a couple times a week. I am excited to be riding True Grit again this year (my 3rd time) and hope to finish in less than 5 hours. While most of the group will be ahead of my pace, I hope to see a few friendly faces on the trail wincing in pain with me as we continue on our casual ride. I believe any dedicated rider can finish the race but it will take a lot of Grit. The support for this race is amazing and the atmosphere around the race makes it an event everyone can enjoy.

Joey Dye


I am a 37 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. 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.

This will be my 5th “race”. I attempted to ride True Grit 50 last year, but had a nasty crash and was unable to continue 1/2 way through. This year I am seeking redemption. I have also done a couple of Enduro races, Bonzai at Bootleg & Beers Tears and Fears. And I also rode the Whiskey Off road, all for fun!

For training I am trying to commute by bike at least 3 times a week. And I am shooting to get in 3 mountain bike rides, 2 medium and one longer one every week. Wish me luck!

Kelly Oliver

KellieI have been mountain biking for a couple of years now and love every second of it! I started in the cycling world with road biking and immediately fell in love with all things biking! When I got enough courage to venture into the world of mountain biking, well let’s just say I was hooked! Mountain biking challenges me and my skills every time I go for a ride. I feel like I am learning something new every time I pedal my mountain bike. Being outside in the mountains makes me happy, let’s me clear my head, and gives me something to work on! I for sure have had my fair share of crashes. I had to tell myself that it meant I was learning, “you’re not learning if you aren’t crashing!”

I signed up to ride the True Grit again this year! This will be my second time riding it. Last year I registered and rode the 100 mile. My goal last year was to finish the race and I was able to reach that goal! I was beat up and so worn out by the end, but felt accomplished because I was able to finish even with one flat. This year I chose to register for the 50. I loved racing the 100 but decided to work more on technical skills and try and overcome some obstacles and fears of that course. Once again having the goal to finish this race, to know I leave it all on the course! I am excited and nervous, as I am for every race, but very grateful for the chance to compete. I owe Red Rock Bicycle a huge thanks for always keeping my bikes in tip top shape. Now it’s up to me to get these legs ready and it’s time to go conquer more fears!

Parker Christensen


I’ve been racing mountain bikes since I was ten years old. I have had great success in the high school mountain biking league and ICUP racing series. My first year racing the True Grit was 2017. It was amazing! I’m very excited for the challenge of racing it this year. The True Grit is a race that tests my technical skills and endurance, and I have been looking forward to it all year. It’s an awesome way to start off the 2018 race season.

Shane Christensen


My whole life I have been riding some kinda bike. My first bike was my sisters old Schwinn that was converted into a bmx style bike. Then it was an Evil Kanevil bike with a fiberglass gas tank, Ouch! Then I got a Murray BMX X24 bike, WOW! It was awesome! In 1993 I purchased my first real mountain bike; a Specialized Rock Hopper Comp. I was hooked and have never looked back. Over the years I have tried to ride trails wherever I might be.  I have raced or “finished” races in the ICUP series, Southern Utah Cyclocross, the True Grit 50, Leadville Silver Rush 50, Fire Road 50, and 100K, and others. I once rode my bicycle through West Texas and across New Mexico. I love to ride bikes and being involved in our cycling community. I also enjoy leading weekly group rides as well. If there is a trail out there, Ill try it! At least once!

Shirley Leydsman


2016 was my first year racing mountain bikes and I am still loving the challenge and adventure of this sport. This will be my second year doing True Grit. I’m super excited and scared all at the same time. My goal is to enjoy the journey. I love the atmosphere  on race day. You get to put all your hard training hours into action. Love pushing my limits.

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

Editor’s note: Shirley is too humble to say anything, so I have to. She did True Grit 100 last year as her first 100 mile mountain bike race and placed 2nd besting multiple pros. We are stoked to have her racing again this year.

Howlin’ Wolfe

joshI’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.

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.”

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


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