Today I went ski touring for the first time of the 2012/2013 winter. It’s no secret that it has been a slow start to the winter here in Colorado. I’ve been hesitating on making the effort to ski because there has been literally no snow close to home, and because the mountain biking has been so good around here. In the last few years for me, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering have taken a back seat to bike riding and racing. At first that bothered me, but I understand that if I am going to commit to racing bikes at the highest level, other things will have to go on the shelf for a while. They will still be there when I return.
I have been a skier my entire life, starting with Nordic in Minnesota when I was very young, and entering the Colorado backcountry at the age of eighteen. Some of my very earliest memories were on skis, shuffling along behind my Dad as he trained for his Nordic racing, and riding in a pack on his back when I got tired (or when he got tired of going at a four year old’s pace). One of my most vivid early memories was looking down from my Dad’s back as he slid along, noticing the skis on my feet swinging along his sides in rhythm with his long strides through the snow. When I was seventeen I packed up my tiny life in my tiny car and moved to Colorado knowing nothing of it, with only the allure of big mountains pulling at me. I spent my first nine years here skiing nonstop from October through June. It was my life.
Although most of my time this winter will still be spent on my bike, it’s finally snowed enough that up here in Nederland all of the trails are covered. Knowing I’m going to have a short ski season anyways because I go on the road to race mountain bikes in March, I have been really feeling the urge to slide on snow.
So off we go, my boyfriend and I; and knowing how thin the coverage has been, we are fully prepared to not even make any turns. We make the tentative plan to skin up to an alpine lake in a cirque and then slide back down the skintrack if it felt too sketchy. We pull into the parking lot, which is a twenty minute drive from our house, to find the wind howling and pelting our faces with stinging pellets of snow. I shiver and pull down my hood as I quickly put on my pack and skis. We waste no time in heading for the cover of the woods, and it doesn’t take long before I start to remember why I love this so much. The woods are like a cocoon, dark and comforting, shielding us from the storm raging overhead. The snowflakes gently drift down, slowly at first, like tiny circling paragliders who can’t quite make up their minds on where to land; and then falling thicker and with quiet intensity as we climb higher.
I fall back from Donny’s ski tails after a while, taking in the sights and smells of the sleepy forest alone. It has been so long since I last slid silently through the woods in winter; nearly a year since I have had skis on my feet. We acknowledge each other a bit cautiously at first, like long lost friends meeting again for the first time in ages. A huge grin spreads across my face as I start to recognize that nothing has really changed and I am still just as much at home here as ever. I begin to take in the details of the landscape as I walk along: the foamy green lichen hanging from all the pines; the intricacy of which looks like a brittle spider’s web when closely examined; the soft light hitting the snow where the sun has managed to shine through a filter of grey clouds; the huge crystals of surface hoar the size of eggs hiding in places where the snow is sheltered from the wind. These are the reasons I come to the mountains in winter. Time slows down, and I experience nature in ways I simply can’t when I’m on my bike. I stop, holding my breath so as not to miss anything. The silence envelops me like a womb, and I am content.
...the weird turn pro.
I'm Liz Sampey, and I am based out of Nederland, Colorado. I like going fast on bikes and racing in all sorts of disciplines. I also enjoy backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering, rock climbing, surfing, hiking with my dog Cody, eating awesome food, living in my car, laughing, smelling things, and impulse-buying international plane tickets.
2013 will be my first year of racing mountain bikes on the national circuit, as I have recently earned my professional license, opening all sorts of doors for me. In these pages you will find stories, race reports, tidbits about nutrition, training, and rehabilitation, and updates as I pursue my dream of becoming a professional mountain bike racer and an inspiration to others in my community.
My goal in bike racing is twofold: to push myself to achieve as much as possible personally, and, more importantly, I want to expand my impact on my community as a cyclist, as a woman, and as a healthcare provider. Yes, I have personal aspirations, and they involve being successful at racing a bicycle. But for me, racing a bicycle reaches much farther than personal goals. I see it as a vehicle for freedom, ambition, inspiration, and change.
My story of how I got here is different than most. I was an avid runner, backcountry skier, and recreational mountain biker who discovered road bike racing by accident at age 25. I was locked into a restrictive marriage and a life that no longer fit, and racing bikes provided a freedom I couldn’t find anywhere else. My passion for cycling kept me going through the toughest of times, and when I was questioning everything I knew about life, riding was the only thing that truly felt right. This led me to where I am today, and through my experiences I hope to inspire other women and girls to have the confidence to step outside the box and pursue their own passions. I want to leave my world with as much of a positive impact as it has had on me.
When I'm not busy playing too hard, I am busy putting back together others who are. I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and am equally as passionate in my career as in bike racing. I am fortunate to be able to interact with amazing people every day in my practice, and my identity as a healthcare provider and an athlete are very closely tied together. I have the opportunity to not only help people heal, but to encourage and educate them to be the best athletes and people they can be.
This is both a humbling and uplifting opportunity for me. I am so thrilled to be able to play this role in people's lives, especially in those of young athletes. I specialize in manual therapy and sports medicine- so come see me when you play too hard and need to be put back together. I currently practice at Impact Sports Medicine in Superior, CO, inside the Lakeshore Athletic Club.
My dream of building a sustainable life as both a professional bike racer and a physical therapist is a big one, and I am determined to push my physical, mental, and emotional limits until I find out just how far I can go. This dream will test every ounce of strength that I have. Can I do it? Only time will tell. All I know is this:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
It is the pursuit of the dream, not just the dream itself, that drives me. It is the commitment, the sacrifice, the discipline, and the hard work. It is the miles and hours spent on the seat of a bicycle training and racing, and in the seat of my car as I drive across Colorado and the United States to compete. It is the blood, sweat, mud, and tears; the burning in my legs and the pounding in my heart. It is the smiles, laughter, and high fives, and the friendships made along the way. It is the connections with women in my community who just might be inspired to dream big because they aren’t the only ones. It is the people who support me, who inspire me, and the inspiration I give to myself. And above all, it is the relentless desire to make this big dream come true. It has been an incredible ride so far. And it is only getting started.
I am excited and humbled that you have ventured onto my site – you have now become a piece of my journey. Thanks for playing!