Thursday, January 18, 2018

Giving Back -- Dr. Lowery's Free Spay/Neuter Clinic

Wow!  I cannot believe how much support I have been given.  I suppose we all just LOVE our little furry kids and want to help others in need.  I have had sponsors on the medical side (Zoetis, Boehringer Ingelheim, Henry Schein) and the cycling side (Chamois Butt'r, Industry 9, Backcountry Research, Christopher Bean Coffee) give their support to get the ball rolling on my free spay/neuter clinics.  The first one is going to happen February 22 and my goal is to have at least one day each quarter.  I will be doing this on my off day and Dr. Workman is going to be my "surgical nurse."

When I first thought about this project, I had some reservations.  I have always been a firm believer of the motto, "Don't have pets if you can't afford them."  Too often I see clients come in with sick or injured pets that decline life-saving services due to finances, while carrying around the latest and greatest IPhone or bundled up in their Patagonia puffie. It is just so ... damn ... frustrating.

But, I only know one side of the story.  More than once the pet in question had been rescued from a horrible situation, or had been dropped off, or had been a starving stray. These people had graciously taken them in to provide, as best they could, a loving environment.  Now, their companion is in need, and the owner needs help.

What I want to do by providing free spays and neuters is to take a pro active approach to the health and well-being of these pets.  Intact dogs and cats can get themselves into trouble in so many ways. Traumatic injuries from fighting, "East Tennessee Lead Poisoning," and getting HBC (hit by car) happen when intact animals are in search of "love."  Diseases such as pyometra, mammary cancer, and testicular cancer can be eliminated and dystocias can be avoided.

In addition to provided sterilization, I will also be giving additional medical care (as needed) and providing the patients with parasite checks and vaccinations, as well as getting them started on the appropriate heartworm/intestinal parasite and flea/tick preventative.

While I have had the bulk the materials donated, I am seeking additional $$$ for the anesthetic and pain control protocol.  And that is where YOU come in.  I need your help.  What I cannot raise from social media, both the practice and I will make up the difference.  I am a firm believer of pain control and these guys will not go without.

So I am going to have a raffle.  For every $2 you donate, you will receive 1 raffle ticket.  Sometime towards the end of March/beginning of April, or if I reach my goal ($750) sooner, I have some SA-WEET schwag to give to several lucky winners.

Industry 9 has donated not one, but TWO Matchstix!   These are da bomb, helping to keep some necessary tools tucked away neatly inside your hub ... and off your person.

You pick the color!

Chamois Butt'r has donated some butt-saving cream and Kit Wash.

Backcountry Research has donated several products, including their Race Strap and Super 8.

Christopher Bean Coffee has donated a $50 gift certificate.

$50 of  mind blowing smooth flavor!

Here is how it it going to happen.  I am going old school on this.  No PayPal, as I want 100% of the money to go to the animals ... and I don't have PayPal anyways.  So you can either mail me cash or a check.  For those of you who live in my home town, you can just stop by The Animal Clinic to make your donation.  This will be deposited into an account at The Animal Clinic, from which I can draw from to pay for necessary medicines.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Snake Creek Gap TT Race Report

Always awesome schwag!

I debated as to whether put "race" or "ride" in the title, as conditions (both weather and body) limited my abilities to perform.  In the week leading up to the race, my chimp brain was all up in my face, telling me to binge watch "The Walking Dead" instead.  "You've been sick.", "You are going to make your frostbite worse!", "What if you injure yourself and then freeze to death?" were just some of the inner conflicts I was dealing with.  In the end, though, I kicked the chimp to the corner, and signed up for the Money Class with two hours left to spare. 

I must be part reptile, as I do much better in the heat.  Below 40 degrees, no matter how many layers, or how hard I try, my engine is just sluggish.  I used 3 sets of chemical warmers.  1 set in between two sock layers, and 2 sets in between two glove layers.  Pearl Izumi Amfib tights down below and 2 wool layers plus a thermal LS jersey up top.  Feeling like the Michelin Man, I stayed in the comfort of my truck until the last minute.  I determined that my "warm up" would be the first 30 minutes of the race.

It was 28 degrees at the start with brisk winds that probably made the wind chill in the upper teens/lower 20's.  Cold enough that when the wind hit my face, it took my breath away.  I was in the first 20 or so to hit the trail.  The Dry Creek portion of the race was in excellent shape.  No freeze thaw and only a couple of muddy spots.  I have a love/hate relationship with this part.  On warmer days and when I am feeling good, this trail is an absolute hoot!  I love railing the corners and hammering the short, grunty climbs.  Today I was just thinking about how these first 20 miles were "filler" miles.  Why did I sign up for the 50?  The true Snake is the 34.  This is stupid! 

Battling my inner demons, I had to ask myself the real reason for being out here.  When I determined that it was NOT to try to win or even podium, but to find my limits and destroy them, as Todd Poquette, race director for the Marji Gesick, would say, I found some sort of happiness ... and just began to ride and appreciate the fact that I had the ability and grit to see this through.

And then around mile 12 my water bottle completely froze and when I went to take some gel from my flask, it had solidified as well.  So now I was running on breakfast only, which consisted of coffee, 2 eggs and a sweet potato.  This was going to make for an interesting experiment.  What is the minimum number of calories I can complete this race on?  I guess I was going to see just how fat adapted I was.

Stopping at the water station at the end of Dry Creek and by adding some water to my bottle, I was able to gulp down some slush.  By unscrewing the top to my flask, I was able to get a small bit of gel as well.  This was the first time I had to "chew" my gel.

Halfway up the double track climb, Thomas Turner came by with such speed that the turbulence almost knocked me over.  He looked to be only wearing a skin suit and arm/knee warmers.  What I would give to be able to generate enough power to keep my core warm with such minimal clothing.

Finishing up the 4 mile section of single track, I had to pull over on the gravel to get more nutrition which involved unscrewing lids and sucking down frozen liquids.  It was here that Jen caught up to me and made the pass.  I was both happy and sad.  Happy that now I didn't feel the need to push it any harder since the pass was made, but sad that I was unable to hold her off until at least Snake Creek Gap.  I love the thrill of competition and being able to "duke" it out with the best, but I also realize that I am of the age where I am not going to get any better/faster. Now the goal is to stay on the plateau (keep what I have developed) for as long as possible.

I rolled into the Snake Creek Gap with my water bottle 1/2 full (frozen) and my gel flask 1/2 full (frozen).  So, in 3 hours 40 minutes, I had taken in approximately 15 ounces of fluid and 350 calories.  Fortunately I was not experiencing any bonking, but probably because I was not going fast enough (Ha!).  I was feeling a little cotton mouthed so I did make sure to drink about 1/2 of the Skratch in my bottle that I had at the SAG.  I swapped out for my full gel flask, which wasn't frozen and took in about 2 ounces of gel. 

Heading up that long arduous climb out of Snake Creek Gap, I felt so sluggish.  It took forever to get to the rock pile at the top.  I am sure some of what I was feeling was dehydration. Just the nature of the beast, I told myself and to "suck it up, buttercup."  As the trail planed out, I was at least able to drink without having to remove the lid.  Insert small victory happy dance! 

Rolling along on the ridge line, I caught up to a racer.  We were in a section where there were some short, but rooty climbs.  He was handling the terrain remarkably well ... with 1 arm!  I was amazed at his strength and sheer tenacity.  I cannot imagine being able to ride what he rode.  He was just what I needed to finish this race with a smile on my face and Thank God for the ability to be out here in brutal conditions living my life to the utmost.

The descent down to the multiple creek crossings was totally sketchy.  My eyes were watering so bad that I lost sight of the trail, my feet and hands (despite the chemical warmers) were so cold that I had a hard time feeling any connection with my bike. I had to rely on my body's "trail memory." It could have ended badly ... but it didn't.  I survived the creek crossings at speed and pedaled up the gobbledygook mess of the double track climb.

Fortunately the last water station had some leftover electrolyte mix.  I refilled my bottle and drank in some of the life restoring calories before entering the last single track.  This has always been the most fun part of the course for me.  I absolutely love rock crawling.  Granted, it was more difficult today, as I was cold and not as "fluid" through the gardens.  I think my bike's suspension was not as supple, either.  Those brutally cold temperatures have got to affect the oil in the fork/shock.

The technical descent before the wall has become Pisgah-ish!  My bike got sideways more than once.  I so wanted to use my dropper, but was afraid it would not return due to the cold.  When I began to hear the interstate traffic, it was music to my ears, as I knew I was almost out of the single track.  Seeing the cell towers was heavenly!  I was going to survive another Snake!

By the time I hit the final pavement descent, I was already so cold that I could not get any colder.  With frozen eyeballs and a snot-sicle on my upper lip, I crossed the finish line in 6:14, about 44 minutes more than I wanted to be out there.  But I finished the dad-blame thing and was proud of my effort.  Hell, anyone who finished any of the 3 distances should be extraordinarily proud of themselves!

I ended up surviving (and not bonking) on 35 ounces of fluid and 800 calories.  Not my best race, but in all of the 14 years I have done this event, I have never DNF'd.  I'll take that as a victory.  As Grace Ragland says, "Finishing is winning!"

My winter shoes

For those of you who have trouble figuring out what to wear for extreme cold, the above has worked for me the past 5 years.  An old pair of summer shoes, 1 size bigger, with added Gorilla tape.  I don't like shoe covers, especially when there is hike-a-biking.  The bigger shoe size will accommodate 2 pairs of socks (1 synthetic, 1 wool) to which I place a Hand Warmer in between.  The ones labeled toe warmers don't generate as much heat.  I've tried boots in the past, but they have been harder to hike in and if your foot takes a dip in the creek, it just fills up with water.

Thank you to the volunteers who braved the incredible cold.  I cannot imagine sitting/standing still for hours on end in these temperatures!  Although I did not partake in the food, they always provide chili and coffee/cocoa that will defrost the most frozen racers.

I am looking forward to the February edition?  How is that even possible?  Glutton for punishment or an individual who loves to feel ALIVE!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Arbonne Nutritional Products Review

I was introduced to this line of nutrition products by Christin, my sister-in-law, who became an Arbonne consultant/rep several months ago.  I received a bunch of "stuff" from her and having been trying them out since October. 

Arbonne is a multi-level marketing company that manufactures products for beauty and health, distributed through direct sales as well as independent representatives. Arbonne was created in Switzerland in 1975.  Founder Petter Morck sought to create a health and beauty company that didn't sacrifice the safety of the consumer for effectiveness.

On the surface, the company sounded good.  But always the skeptic, I did a little research before accepting the offer to try some of their products.  Discoveries I made were as follows: vegan, certified gluten-free, non-GMO, and free of toxins i.e. parabens, phyhalates, dyes, toulene, PABAs, benzens.  You know, all those things that won't kill you dead, but just assist in getting you into the grave a little quicker and in a semi-preserved state.  And which the United States and FDA is ok with. 

So I decided to be a guinea pig.  If anything was amiss with these products, my highly specialized engine, which tolerates only "real" food, would let me know pretty quickly.  I started off with the following for everyday hydration and training sessions lasting less than 2 hours.

Pleasant flavor and not overly sweet.

While I did not notice any super human powers coming to life, I also had no gut issues.  Then I moved on to their protein powders.  I tried both the Vanilla and Chocolate in my recovery smoothies.  Sometimes plant based protein powders can have a gritty texture or leave an aftertaste.  Arbonne's products did not.  They also have an unflavored, unsweetened one that I plan on purchasing.

As far as customer service goes, all I can say is that my questions were answered quickly.  If Christin didn't know the answer, she would consult with the company and find out.  Arbonne's development team is also very responsive to the needs and concerns of their consultants and is constantly fine tuning their products. Their testing procedures even go above and beyond what USDA requires. 

I have yet to try their bath and beauty products, but will probably pull the trigger soon. I first must divorce myself from Bath and Body Works, whose products I love, but which contain ingredients that I do not wish my body to absorb.

As far as the nutrition side goes, Christin does run some specials throughout the year, including 30 Days to Healthy Living and 10 Day Detox.  If you are interested, you can message her on FaceBook and she would be happy to entertain your questions.

Christin, Jack, and brother Todd

So these products are just another option when adding to your nutritional arsenal.  And they are "Carey-approved."

They will be moving to Georgia the first of the year.  Having said that, I am sure once they are settled, Christin will be hosting some events at her house. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Death March Revival Race Report

89 miles and 13,000 feet, not including my little detour at the end.

I was excited to hear that Kim Murrell of Chilhowee Outdoors, LLC, was bringing back a classic route ... with a couple twists.  The Death March route dates back to the original Cohutta 100 mountain bike race.  The route was the gravel portion of the hundie.  I used to do this ride every year, either as part of the NUE race or as a good hard training ride.  The Death March revival route is this route but with a few add-ons including the Big Frog Loop and riding from and back to Mulberry Gap, who was kind enough to host the race.  This added a few miles and a few thousand feet of climbing.

Before I get into my race, I wanted to discuss my bike set up as I had quite a few inquiries leading up to race day.  The race was completely self supported.  No course markings and no resupply, other than water at the 50 mile mark.

Niner Air 9 RDO, 19.0 pounds without the gear.

While my Niner RLT RDO is the perfect weapon for the rolling flint hills of Kansas, I needed the stability and gear range that my hardtail would provide for the chunk of the Big Frog Loop as well as the fast and curvy descents of Potato Patch and FS 17.  There were some "flattish" sections, but not enough to justify a skinny tire rigid gravel machine.

I opted for the Brad Cobb-approved Bontrager XRO 2.0 tires.  50mm wide and with just enough knob to take the "scare" out of drifting through the corners.  Drivetrain was an Eagle with a 34T.  And Ergon GS3 for multiple hand postions.

Kept her warm and cozy in the cabin the night before.

With this being my backyard, I knew the course, but still rode with my Garmin 510 ... with the course uploaded, just in case.  I had two Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbags (one for a bottle, the second for food), an Oveja Negra Snack Pack for tools and light battery, a Backcountry Research Super 8 Top Tube Strap (for securing additional clothing), and a Bontrager seat bag with 2 tubes, 2 CO2's, tire levers, repair kit).  I normally use the Backcountry Research Race Strap instead of seat bag, but with the additonal gear necessary for a self supported race and wanting to keep most of the weight off my back, I was forced to use the saddle scrotum.  I did use the Backcountry Research Tul Bag which I kept in my jersey (it is in the bottom of the picture above).  It safely and neatly contains all of my tiny tool bits (multi tool, tire patches, tube patches, quick links, chain links, water purification tabs, cleat bolt). 

We were blessed with atypical December weather.  Dry and warm-ish with a starting temp of 42 degrees.  I still did a 15 minute warm up in my cabin which consisted of jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks, push ups, squats, and lunges.  I've found this little work out to be preferential to warming up on the bike in a less than ideal area (steep hilly terrain) or temperature (less than 48 degrees).

The start was casual and with conversation.  Having a hill to climb right out of the gate allowed my engine a gradual warm up and kept the head gasket intact.  I could tell that the massage I had 3 days prior by Virginia at ReVive Massage Therapy had worked magic on my legs as they felt fresh and spry (dare I say sparkly?). 

Once the group turned onto FS 90, the group blew apart as the front runners turned up the wattage.  I kept pace with Elizabeth, but once we turned right onto FS 68, I was seeing heart rate numbers I knew I could not sustain without blowing up, so I backed off and watched her slowly get smaller and finally disappear about halfway up the Potato Patch climb.  There was a male racer who had a similar pace to mine about 150 meters ahead of me.  Knowing what was to come once I hit the top, I slowly and without too much effort, made my way up to his wheel.  I finally connected to him after I turned left  at the top.  Rolling up to him, I realized it was Van, my old SuperSport team mate.  Awesome sauce! 

Photo Credit:  Dondiart Photography

The next 4 miles was rolling ridge line. I tucked in behind Van on the downhills to get as much free speed as possible.  I stuck to him like glue.  There was a few times where I popped off his wheel, but realizing that I could not go at his pace without detriment, I would ride my own pace and slowly reel him back in at the top of the climb.  We yo-yo'd throughout these miles.  He got away from me on the final descent to FS 17 ... and blew right by the turn.  I yelled at him; he heard me and did a 180 without losing too much time.

FS 17 was fast and furious!  I got a glimpse of Elizabeth just ahead and within a mile had her reeled back in.  I stayed on her wheel through a few tricky turns.  Realizing she was on a rigid fork and being a little more cautious, I opted for the pass when the road opened up and I could safely get by without the risk of becoming a hood ornament should a vehicle suddenly appear.

By this time Van had caught back up to me and then we latched onto another racer who was making awesome time down the mountain and picking good lines.  Once the three of us hit FS 16 and began encountering a few short climbs, I knew I was going to have a great race.  Instead of the normal "heavy leg syndrome" I get after having descended forever and then having to get back on the gear, the legs felt light and lively.  Hot damn!  It was going to be a "chainless" day!

Towards the end of FS 16, I caught up to Eric who was in the midst of eating a slice of pizza while racing his single speed. At the start of the race, he had told me he felt under prepared after seeing my set up, since all he had to eat was a pizza.  I thought he was joking.  Crazy singlespeeder!  But I was also a bit envious of his ability to eat whatever and still have a good performance.  He has since become The Dirty Diesel in my book of superheroes.

After finishing off his gluten bomb, he quickly passed me back.  I made a feeble attempt to follow in his wash, but could not hang on.  I did, however, manage to catch back up to him on the flat section on FS 221.  Ahhh, the power of gears!

On this only mellow section of the course, I made some mental calculations of my nutrition intake up to this point.  I was holding steady at 200 kcal/hour and 18 ounces of fluid/hour.  I was still feeling fresh, which was good, as the Big Frog Loop was fast approaching, the most technical portion of the race.  I caught up to a few more single speeders on the flats, one being Chris Joice.  Either he was having a bad day or I was having an extremely good one, as I usually never see him during the race.  I was hoping for the latter.  But after he refilled his bottle at the spring on the beginning of the loop, he left me for good on the subsequent climb.

The climbing was over before I knew it and then the fun began.  A screaming fast descent, littered with leaves, baby heads, and embedded slabs of rock.  I wanted to go, go, go, but also held a little back, as now was not the time for any stupid mistakes.  Halfway down, I hit a rock HARD with my rear tire, felt the rim kiss the rock, and then the rear end began feeling loose.  God bless America, I said to myself, as I felt the rear tire going flat.  That saying has become my new "swear" word, keeping my explicatives civil, yet still allowing for that release of frustration.

I pulled over, saw an ever so tiny puncture along the tread, and thought I would at least try to see if it would seal.  Several racers passed by and asked if I was ok and if I needed anything.  I want to thank them for their concern:  true gentlemen.

I had just recently switched from Stan's (which I had never had a successful outcome with anything bigger than a thorn puncture) to Trucker Co. Cream sealant.  I whipped out my CO2 inflator and began screwing it onto my cartridge.  2 turns on and CO2 spewed out from the threads, to which I quickly learned that I won't ever again use a cartridge with rusty threads!  I grabbed my hand pump and began vigorously pumping the tire back up.  After what seemed like an eternity, the puncture sealed, the tire held air, and I was back in business.

I still had plenty of rough descending left.  I was nervous about the tire and so gingerly made my way down.  I absolutely did not want to put a tube in.  When I finally made it off the loop 20 minutes later and back onto FS 221, I convinced myself to giv'r and not worry anymore about the tire.  Back on a smooth surface, I ramped up the power again.

I flew back across the ridgeline, plummeted down to Big Creek, and once again caught up to The Dirty Diesel who, guess what?  Yep, enjoying another slice of pizza!  Finishing that slice off, he hammered his way up the short but steep climb out of Big Creek and left me again.

Upon seeing mile 47 on my Garmin, I realized I had about another 3 miles to the checkpoint manned by Zeke.  It was here that I began to play in my head the sequence of events that would happen when I hit the CP.  I always do this prior to hitting an aid station, so that hopefully I will not forget anything once I arrive.

Scott's Bikes ... a surprise oasis!

Upon arriving I was greeted by Doug and my LBS.  They had brought out their cheerful smiles and some food for us crazies!  Although they could not physically help in any way, the moral support was priceless.

Zeke reaching down to pick up a dose of Revolution for his cat that I brought for him.

After checking in and writing down my name and time of day, I went about refilling my bottles, giving Zeke my trash, putting my phone on airplane mode, grabbed a banana, and heading back out on course.

I managed to catch up to Van as well as those who had passed me while I was fixing my puncture. I also managed, in NASCAR fashion, to beat them all out of the checkpoint.

Van caught back up to me on the descent and together we worked with one another to conquer the "Three Bitches."  Some call these three little climbs "The Dragon's Tail," but I like Zeke's name better.  I felt good going up these nasty pitches.  Van kept looking at the remaining profile and commenting on all the climbing.  I know once he started talking like that, he was feeling the fatigue monster on his back.  We stayed together through Tumbling Creek, making our way back into Georgia on FS 22.  We caught up to Gary and Mark and rode with them for awhile as we made our way up to Dally Gap. 

Just before Dally, Gary and Mark popped off.  Soon after passing Dally and headed towards Watson, Van popped off.  I was on my own now.  I missed the company, but not enough to slow down my happy pace.  I couldn't believe how good my legs were feeling.  Yeah, fatigue was setting in, no doubt, but it wasn't painful.  I was enjoying the intensity of the climbing, listening to the rhythm of my breathing, and feeling the musculature contractions as I pushed the pedals over.  I was so in tune to my body, living in the now, and just melting into the wildness of this beautiful country.

The climb up to Dyer cemetery snapped me out of the meditative state I had been in as I felt the first lactic acid build up in my legs.  I don't know why this 1 - 1 1/2 mile gradual climb felt so awful, but in every race I always have a low point.  Usually it lasts a lot longer than this 10 minutes, so I was fortunate I got back to my happy place while I was bombing down to Jack's River Fields.

Now I knew I only had 9 miles of "climbing" left.  I say that in parentheses because there were some short descents and false flats in this section back up to Potato Patch.  The first climb out of Jack's River was steep and tough, but I welcomed it with open arms.  I laughed out loud, shouting, "Is this all you got?"  I wasn't bonking, but using the power of positivity to claw my way up this mountain.  And it worked!  I forgot about the pain that was settling in my back and legs.

Once on top, I hit the rollers like a mad woman.  I pretended I was on my single speed, hammering up the climbs, seeing how long I could stand and pedal.  The feelings of strength, power, and sheer fortitude were amazing! 

The euphoric state quickly vanished as I was coming down off that blistering straight fast descent (with the overlook on the left) and had to come to an almost complete stop as some idiot with a trailer was parked right in the middle of the dang road!  At least I made him think I might just run his ass right over as he was outside of his vehicle and leapt out of my way as I slowed from 25mph to 5mph.

It was a bit difficult to find my mojo as the road suddenly kicked up towards the heavens.  There are 2 (maybe 3) steep ass climbs leading back up to Potato Patch.  Just as I thought I was near the top I would round the corner and road ... kept ... going ... UP.  The pain was about to be over as I looked at my Garmin ... just a half mile to go.

And there I was, with plenty of daylight to spare about to descend down Potato Patch and back to Mulberry Gap.  I began to fantasize what Ginny and crew had prepared for dinner.  Even though I was probably somewhat dehydrated, I managed to salivate at the thought!

OMG, the corn pudding!

That descent was brrrr cold!  My eyes were watering so bad I had to slow down as my vision became impaired.  Halfway down I lost feeling in my fingers.  I should have thrown my vest on for the descent, but not knowing where second place was and having lost a chunk of time with the tire fix, there was no telling how far ahead I was.  Every ... second ... counted.

Right at the fork continuing on FS 68, I was ready for some climbing to thaw out my body.  I went through the Land of Luxuious Cabins,  pedaling wherever I could to keep the engine going.  I started descending again and as I rolled around a corner to the right I happened to look back and see a road on the left.  It looked somewhat familiar, perhaps someone's driveway. I didn't have the course turned on as I thought I knew it ... hehe.  So I continued racing down the road until I saw some road construction I had not seen on the way out, earlier that morning.  God bless America!  I was going down CCC Camp Road towards Eton!

I whipped my bike around and high tailed it the 3/4 mile back up to where I had gone off course.  I was in panic mode and even though the climb was steep, I felt no pain as the adrenaline was being squeezed out of my adrenals.  I just knew I was going to get passed in these final minutes.  Once I got to the intersection where I should have slowed down and gone left, I shook my head.  Dumb mistake!  I continued as hard as I could racing back to Mulberry, climbing that 23% grade back up to the barn.

This photo does no justice to how insanely steep this climb is.

Despite my best efforts to finish out of first place, I ended up winning with a time of 8:06 and with an 11th overall.  Crossing the finish line, I was super proud of my effort all day long.  When asked how my race went, I replied "comfortably hard."  I attribute this feeling to the rest and recovery techniques I employed in the week leading up to this event. I was blessed to be firing on all cylinders and to have the calmness and patience when faced with adversity.  It also helped that the weather and course conditions were near perfect.

Twenty minutes after finishing, the tidal wave of fatigue hit me and swept me off my feet.  I was an empty shell.  But no better place to be on "E" than at Mulberry Gap.  Kim had provided a great post race meal followed up with Ginny and Andrew's comfort food a little while later.  My belly was in paradise!  After dinner, I waddled back to my cabin and fell into a food coma.

Missy was absent for the podium as she was out on course trying to find something to huck off of.

You could see the effort, love, and detail Kim put into this race.  Everyone was thrashed but happy to have accomplished such a lofty goal.  This was by far the hardest 1 day gravel event in Tennessee and Georgia!

May the weather set a precedent for all future DMR's.  I am writing the Saturday following the race where it snowed the night before and the temperatures were 29-40 degrees.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Paying It Forward in 2018

2017 has been a great year.  Even though I raced less, I had an absolute blast, met my expectations, and did not get injured (well, save for the back episode which caused a DNS at The Ozark Trail).  I also got to enjoy 3 1/2 weeks on a camp-about with my daughter ... which is priceless!  All my sponsors treated me like royalty, to which I can only say a deep and humble "Thank You!" and hope that I was able return their generosity by adding some new members to their respective tribes.

I was heartbroken when my LBS went out of business, but since have been taken in by Scott's Bicycle Center.  I am excited to be able to stay on as Ambassador to Industry 9, Christopher Bean Coffee, Chamois Butt'r, Endless Bike Co., and Xpedo.  I have yet to reconnect with Hand Up Gloves and Backcountry Research, but hoping they will be on board for 2018 as well.

New for 2018 is Revive Massage Therapy.  Virginia has been instrumental in my recovery process for the past 1 1/2 years.  She lives to learn and provide the best care for her clients.  And she enjoys working on athletes and improving their ability to perform and recover.

I am so happy to say that I have found a team for next year.  I am hopping aboard the Rescue Racing team where there mission is not only to make good bike race, but to raise awareness for spay/neuter, microchipping, pet rescue, and animal shelter support.

In additon, Industry 9 is stepping on board to provide tremendous support to the team.  I cannot say enough about this company and their willingness to provide support at a grassroots level.  But I think that they love our furry little companions as much as the Rescue Racing members do.

I had been thinking for the past couple years about what I could do to "pay it forward."  I wanted to tie it into my day job, but just did not have the energy or focus.  But since I have stepped down the intensity on racing a notch or two, the door has opened for me to put forth a little more time and effort in other areas.

So I have decided to give back to my community by offering free spay/neuter days.  My clinic is on board, as well as several of our drug companies.  My staff and I will be giving our time to perform the surgeries as well as offering other free services (exams, microchips, vaccines, heartworm and flea/tick preventatives) to those who can demonstrate a financial hardship.  I have been blessed with the support from the bike racing community and I want to be able to pass this on to those who love their furry companions as much as I, but may be going through a difficult time where they just cannot afford the proper health care for their pets.

It looks like 2018 is going to be a busy, busy year for me ... in a good way!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

12 Hours of the Hill of Truth Race Report

Hill of Truth -- The infamous powerline climb

I had signed up to race this solo.  This race had been my very first 12 hour race back in 2005.  Now in its 19th year, I was eager to get back.  The trail system at Haw Ridge is a spider web of amazing technical trails.  Each year the course is different.  I would go out and race until it wasn't fun any longer, pull the plug, and then hang out with friends.  Two days before I got a FB message from Missy, inviting me to join her and Elizabeth on their team, the YeeHaw Hawties.  It didn't didn't take much persuasion to hop aboard their train.

Three womens' teams signed up and this year was a record turn out with 150+ racers.  I suppose the warm and dry weather had something to do with it, but other factors included Jon and Kent's hard work ethic and the explosive growth of mountain biking in the Knoxville area.

The Hawties shared tent space with the Nox Composites team of Kaysee "the crusher", Cory "the conqueror", Wes "the SS slayer", and Brad "the equalizer."  I asked to do the first lap and didn't get any resistance.  Just a month or so ago, Zeke and I racked our brains trying to remember which race started with a cannon.  Question answered as I became tone deaf in my right ear!

Even though the pace was intense on the greenway, the legs were happy.  Diving into the woods on Soccer, I got caught up in a traffic jam, but by the time we hit the Lake Road kicker that was worthy of a #blamedanny (or, in this case, #blametodandkent) sign, it had thinned out enough to where I could settle into my own rhythm.

East Shore Trail

The course was faassst!  Even though there was some tight and twisty along the shoreline, the Lake, Middle, and Powerline were straight up highways where you could pick up some massive speed.  The Hill of Truth came and went pretty quickly, as I was fresh.  This is a nasty, 1/4 mile rock strewn and loose double track climb that got steeper at the top.  Then to throw salt in the wound, a hard left was followed by more climbing, which wasn't all that steep, but when you are gassed ...

New this year was a downhill option off of the Ridge Trail.  I could either take Low Gap, an old school fall line trail straight down or Washing Machine, a new flow trail with berms and jumps.  I am pretty sure everyone took Low Gap, as it was at least 2 1/2 minutes faster.  And for me, funner anyways.

Hitting Mike's Trail, I knew my lap was about over.  This is where I tried to kick it and finish hard.  I came rolling through, first woman through, and handed off the "baton," a small piece of laminated paper with a bar code, to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth finishing up her first lap.

I rolled over to our pits, shed some gear, ate some food, and sat and enjoyed my friends' company.  Elizabeth finished her blazing fast lap and sent Missy out on her gravity bike.  Talk about bringing a gun to a knife fight!  Have fun pedaling that up HOT, I thought.  But she still turned an amazing time!

Going out for my second lap, the legs barked all the way down the greenway.  Fortunately, by the time I hit the top of Soccer, they were game ready again.  Having no traffic in front of me, this lap felt faster than the first ... but it wasn't ... meh.   I definitely used less brake on Low Gap, as I G'd out on one of the dips at the bottom.  That trail was definitely the highlight of each lap.

After my second lap, I learned about the little set back with Kaysee's Nox Composite team.  Appeared as if Brad took a little detour and went off course.  Either that or he wanted to even the playing field by buying the team a 7.5 minute penalty.  I hated it for them, but if anyone could make up that time, they could.  Anyways, it was fun listening to them strategize for the remaining laps.

On my third lap, I had one goal ... not let Kaysee catch me.  I was hoping Missy would come in quickly, because I figured I needed at least a 4 minute buffer for me to succeed.  Oh, how I miss the days of yore when I was on top of my game and Kaysee was just getting into mountain bike racing.  Now, it is all I can do to stay within walkie-talkie distance of this shredder-slayer-crusher phenom!  Kaysee is most worthy of the "passing of the torch."

I don't know what hurt worse, the climbs or the flats.

So instead of just some steady spinning, I had to race like a scalded dawg! I thought my legs were never going to come around this time.  All those little punchy climbs grew.  The flat sections were also leg burners as I had to focus on turning those pedals over, TT style.  The Hill of Truth was baking in the sun by now and I felt the heat emanate off the rocks and dirt.  I was glad to be able to dive back into the woods.  But then the sun was casting rays of light directly into my eyeballs making it difficult to see the trail. I finally popped out back on the greenway, looking over my shoulder, just in case Kaysee was creeping up on me.  With no one in sight, I was able to spin it on in. Goal accomplished.

Jump Trail

Our team by now had a substantial lead so I figured I only had 1 more lap to do.  So in between drinking, eating, and conversing, I prepared for a night lap.  With the sun starting to go down, there was a chill in the air.  I didn't add any layers, as I knew I would quickly warm back up, once out on course.  I started my final lap at dusk.  As I made my way around the course, darkness fell upon me.  I enjoyed this lap, more mentally/spiritually than physically.  My body ached, but my mind was clear.  Body memory from the previous 3 allowed me to negotiate the trail.  Of course there were a few tricky areas where depth perception made it difficult to judge where the trees were and I banged off a couple of them.  But other than that and a few big scary roots, it was almost surreal.  I really ought to night ride more, as I genuinely enjoy this kind of ride.  It is just hard for me to get out there when my circadian rhythm has me yawning at 7pm and ready for bed at 9pm. 

As I pulled into the transition area, my team mates were no where to be found.  No worries, I told myself, as I pedaled back to my pit area.  I handed off the bar code to Missy, who was going out for her last (and our team's last) lap.  Elizabeth managed to finagle her way out of a night lap, that little rascal!

While cleaning up, I learned that Kaysee's team was back in first place in the Open category, making up that 7 1/2 minute deficit in three or four laps.  Day-em! 

Kevin, one of my hometown buds, showed up at my truck.  He had completed 6 laps and was debating a 7th.  But he was also having some achy knee issues.  I talked him out of it, as we struck up a conversation reliving the good ole days, when we were both in our prime.  We must have talked 15 minutes.  That was one of my highlights of the race.  Had I raced solo, we never would have had that great conversation.

I managed to get in a great work out as well as reconnecting with friends! And Team Yeehaw Hawties won!  Doesn't get much better than that.  So thank you Missy and Elizabeth for the invite.  And thanks to Jon and Kent for another awesome HOT.  Thanks to the great group of screaming fanatics at the bottom of Low Gap and the Harper's crew at 5 points. 

I hope I can go back in 2018 for the 20th running of the 12 Hours of the Hill of Truth!

Friday, October 20, 2017

5 Points 50 Race Report

After my back fiasco 48 hours prior to racing the Ozark Trail 100 (and sadly having to DNS), I was happy to have finished my leg openers the day before without throwing my back out.  After making a $130 "trail donation" to the OT100, this race was the first time I selected the $7.99 insurance add-on during registration. 

I had no expectations for 5P50, other than to have fun camping with my daughter and one of her friends, enjoying the awesome network of trails atop Lookout Mountain, and hoping my back held up.  In my experience, this is one of the hardest 50 milers I have done.  It starts out easy with a great paved warm up which leads to the fast and flowy 5 Points trail system.  After that, you slowly get a taste of some climbing along the loose and scabbly CCT.  Then, to finish you off properly, the last 15 hits you with some gnar and a hellacious climb up to the heavens.

Perfect weekend for camping.

We were the first to arrive at Lula Lake Land Trust.  After setting up camp, I went about preparing dinner while the girls explored. 

Toasting the marshmellows for the S'mores

After the RV 10 feet from my tent turned off the generator for the night, I was able to easily fall asleep to the babbling waters of Rock Creek.  The girls amazingly slept well beyond the 9 am start of the race.  How, what with all the ruckus that was going on with racers coming in and gearing up, I don't know.  I guess that is a teenager's special power.

The start began at the entrance to Lula Lake.  I made my way up there early to get in a good warm up.  It seems the older I get, the longer the warm up needs to be to prevent my legs from seizing during that first 5-10 minutes when everyone is jockeying for position.  Even though the first 5 miles was pavement, I still had to fight to stay up in the front so that I did not get bogged down once the single track began.  And having happy legs is SO MUCH better.  So my warm up consisted of 30-45 minutes of aerobic spinning with several 1-2 minute hard efforts thrown in.

Listening to the pre-race briefing as I typically do, it went something like this.  "Thanks for coming out ... blah, blah, blah ... beware of 3-4 aggressive pit bulls along CCT ... "  What? Wait a minute!?!  If they charge you, Justin told us to charge back at them?  I made a mental note to try to find someone slower than me to ride with along the danger section. (Fortunately they never appeared.)

I was able to stay up with the lead group until the first big climb on the pavement.  I had to let the first group go when I saw my HR in the high 160's, which I knew was a "no-no" so early in the race.  I was extremely happy with how my legs were responding.  I would say they were sparkly!  But in order to keep them that way, I had to back off the pace and let Jen go.  The day was young and there was ample opportunity to give 'r later.

I entered the single track with just one or two fellows.  They were moving along at a perfect pace, so I didn't feel like I was "losing" time to Jen.  At one point I was with 3 of my future Rescue Racing team mates, Michael, Mark, and Spencer.  It was great to finally meet some of the fur-rocious gang!

Conditions could not have been better.  60 degrees and tacky trail!  The first 19 miles flew by.  Dare I say chainless?  No doubt due to time off the bike rehabbing my back.  I felt comfortable on all the trails save for the tricky CapRock section.  Not wanting to tweak my back clawing my way up the rock, I opted to HAB it.  (So much easier when you leave your ego at home.) Which really is probably just as fast.

I pulled into the first aid station, grabbed a fresh bottle and headed out to rock it on Kindergarden.  I usually wear a hydration pack at this event, but not wanting any added stress on my back, I opted for bottles.  It worked out well, as the exchange in the pits only took about 15-20 seconds. That was in part to the awesome volunteers as well as the bright pink tape on my drop bags.

I really enjoy the trails on this side, Kindergarden and Barkeater.  They have more of an old school flavor.  Bike and body were one today as I seemed to effortlessly glide over the roots and rocks.  Even when there were those stalled out in front of me, I was able to change lines without getting all jammed up.  Climbing back up to aid station 2 (which is also aid 1), I felt great!  The legs were indeed sparkly!  I had not felt that way in a long while, which, earlier this year was disheartening and frustrating. 

This time I swapped out bottles and gel flasks.  (Soapbox speech) I wish more racers would use flasks as opposed to single serve gel packets.  It is really a no-brainer.  There is ZERO chance of you accidentally littering, it is less expensive, and you can choose how much to ingest.

I had the opportunity of riding Hogsback and Tailings with Zedediah.  This was his first race in a long time.  He had gotten the opportunity when his friend gave him his entry.  He asked me what pace I was on and I said 4:30.  He wanted to beat his friend's time of 4:55 from last year.  Together we rode and chatted. 

Then it became quiet.  I missed his companionship, but after all, this was a race, and I had a rabbit to chase.  That one being the fast and rascally Jen.  And who knows who was just right behind me.  Beth had made mention of jumping up to the 50, and she was a hard charger.  Starr, even though she was not racing open, was still a threat, too.  Kayla and Christine can not be left out of the mix, either.  It was a strong women's field, for sure.

Upon coming up to the highway crossing, I had to stop for a vehicle.  As I unclipped and placed my foot down, I felt a little tweak of pain in my L5.  Not wanting to give it any credence, I blocked it out.  Motoring along the connector trail, the pain began to come in waves, small ones at first, but as I began the loose cat head rock climb, I felt it intensify.  L5 is my Achilles heel.  Vertebrae are pretty mobile, front to back, and side to side.  But what they are NOT supposed to do is swivel, you know, like a desk chair.  Well, mine likes to do that.  And when it does, it feels like someone is taking an ice pick and jabbing it into my spine.

I had to back off the power surges and try to pedal at a steady pace.  Kind of hard when having to negotiate uphill rock gardens.  The downhills were fine.  It felt good to stand on the pedals and let the bike go.  Thank goodness for full squish!  But when making the transition back to a seated position, I had to go easy and not slide my butt back, because that is when I would feel it.

The next few miles along the connector was all about staying mentally strong.  And then I came upon a fellow at a gravel crossing who told me that Jen was 3 minutes up on me.  I didn't expect to be that close as I felt I had lost a lot of time in just a couple miles.  Now I had to battle my back pain and the desire to close the gap.  The legs had it in them, but one wrong core move and I would be in agony with an out of place L5. 

I rode conservatively over the remainder of the connector trail, hoping that perhaps my back would settle back down and I could lay the hammer down again.  I reached the third aid station, hopped off my bike, and stood straight up.  That felt pretty damn good!  I did a few stretches while the volunteers helped me switch out bottles.  One fella told me I was 4 minutes down from first. I downed a Coke, stretched a few more times, and hopped back on the saddle.

Pedaling up the road, my back felt about 75% better.  I'll take it!  I increased the power and my back was cool with that.  Speeding down the gravel into the back door of Lula Lake, the pain began to lessen considerably.  I began the long climb up to the Jedi Trail with a new outlook.  Entering Jedi, I imagined I was on a Speeder Bike, flying through the forests of Endor.

Amazing how the mind can take away the pain.  I went to another place, as I was racing along Jedi, Middle, and Homestead.  I was back in my happy place and completely forgot about my back pain.
Approaching the South Trail, I came back to reality, as this trail took a little more focus to move through.  On a couple tricky uphill over a big rock sections, I had to dismount.  I just did not have the torque to get over and I was nervous about my back flaring up.

The creek crossing was tricky.  The water was thigh high and muddy from those who forged ahead of me.  I was very careful and engaged my core so that any sudden slip would hopefully protect my back.  The water was cold and felt great on the feet and legs, though.

Coming out of the creek, I pedaled along the gravel, gearing down for the steep ass climb out of the Land Trust.  I crossed paths with Carly and Azia.  I slowed a bit and chatted.  They were having a blast exploring the trust!

I got a boost up the last bit of the climb from a volunteer at the 4th aid station.  Then out onto the highway for a mile before the infamous power line climb.  I passed a few people on this section.  It seemed like I was gaining some ground back.  Left onto the double track climb, I shifted into granny, and focused on keeping the pedals turning over.

I passed a family of three: father, mother, and young daughter (couldn't have been older than 8) HAB'ing the climb.  They were doing the 25.  I gave a huge shout out to the little girl.  I can't imagine what kind of thoughts were going through her mind, tackling this beast of a race.  I tried to pump her up by telling her of the sweet single track at the top.  Pretty sure the only thing that would make her happy at this point was a never ending supply of My Little Pony's and ice cream.

The climb was 1.5 miles long. But the skies were overcast and I knew that the "Easy Button" was at the top, having ridden the Moonshine Trails in the week prior.  My mind went back to 2013 when Elizabeth and I were battling it out in the final miles, including this climb.  Never give up!  So knowing that there is always a chance of catching Jen, I pushed myself to try.  I told myself that she was just a minute up ahead.  Thinking positive, I tackled this climb. 

Then it was off to the flow of Moonshine.  It was mostly downhill and I put myself into TT mode.  Pedaling when I needed to, staying off the brakes as much as possible, and hammering out of the saddle on the few short climbs.  My back started to hurt again, but this time it was just the muscles aching.  This I could dismiss with ease, compared to how I was feeling earlier.

Crossing the highway for the final time, I descended down the gravel to the finish, still fighting with all I had.  I crossed the finish line in 4:48.  I forgot to get my finisher's glass.  As I was turning around and walking back, this cutey pie of a little girl who was probably 3-4 years old, came up to me.  As she handed the glass to me, she said, "You can fill this up with beer over there," pointing at the tent. So ... stinkin' ... adorable!  I enjoyed a good laugh!

So proud of this amazing yet humble competitor!

I must give Jen her due.  Even without my back issues I don't believe I would have caught her.  She smoked the women's field, placing 35th overall.  I couldn't have been happier for her, as she has had her own injuries to overcome this year.  I was happy to have kept her on her game as well as she on mine.  That is what makes great bike race, each pushing the other to exceed their so called limits.

As for the course, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I did miss the LongBranch trails with the creek crossings, technicality, and a little bit of HAB.  I loved Bathtub Gin Trail.  I even mentioned to Justin about including both the LongBranch and Moonshine Trails and making it a tad bit harder/longer.  We'll see!

After the awards, the girls and I went hiking.  After racing here 4 times, I had never been to see the falls and lake.  Shame on me!  Absolutely stunning!

We camped out Saturday night, grilling burgers, playing cards, and making S'Mores.  The next morning we packed it up and made it out just before the rains came.  What a glorious weekend!