Tuesday, March 17, 2020

True Grit 50 Race Report

I thought I was in the desert, but WTF!  The rain began Thursday night and did not let up until an hour before the race. Having ridden here in 2011 at Camp Lynda, I knew that this dirt would turn to peanut buttery mud.  I questioned my sanity as I affixed my number plate and prepped for what was going to be a mentally as well as physically challenging day. I put my trust into the race director that she knew what the trails could endure.

Fortunately I have ridden in these conditions before.  Think Dirt, Sweat, and Gears 2008 and LaRuta 2009.  So I went into the local bike shop the day before and picked up a Muc Off Claw Brush, aka mud scraper.

Best $6 investment ever!

Insider knowledge told me that Green Valley and Cove Wash area would be nasty, but once past that, conditions should improve, unless the rain started again ... 40% chance according to local reports.  Oh, well, I didn't drive 2000 miles to sit on my ass.  And what with all the COVID-19 event cancellations, this might be the last race of the season.

Coach Lynda was at the start to grab some extra clothes I decided to shed at the last minute.  At least the temperature was a comfortable 48 degrees.  I decided to enter the Pro/Open class as opposed to the Master Women's 50+.  The biggest advantage was that we were the first to go off as compared to being sent off in a later wave that would have me possibly having to pass a lot of racers.  And since I was racing the NUE Marathon series, there is no Master's division, only an Open division for the ladies.

The start was 1 1/2 miles of pavement before we hit a steep 1/2 mile climb up to the Cove Wash trails.  Believe me, it was NOT neutral.  I was quickly off the back, but I expected this.  No worries, as I knew this was gonna be a BIG day.  These days I am more the tortoise than the hare.

As soon as we hit the double track access road it was a slippery red muddy mess!  At first it was like the February Snake, with the mud watery enough that it didn't gom up on the bike.  There were a few miles of this and then ...  the mud gumbo, think QuikKrete.  Three pedal strokes was all it took before the wheels stopped turning.  I hopped off, pulled out my scraper, removed what I could, and then picked my bike up and carried it 150 yards of so until the conditions were rideable again.  As I was walking, I grew about 2 inches in height as this mud stuck to my shoes.  I instantly gained 10 pounds and was walking like Frankenstein.

An accurate representation of what my wheels looked like.

Of course, where the trail was rideable, it was uphill.  I felt like I was dragging a truck tire behind me.  On the next slickety slidy descent, I shed most of the mud that had accumulated on the tires. Focusing on staying upright on the greasy trail,I failed to notice all the racers off their bikes around the next corner, beginning another climb.  I was wheel deep in mud once again.  (FYI, anytime you see light bluish dirt out here, after a rain, avoid at all cost!) This time there were also pebbles and small rocks that gathered on the wheels and began finding all the nooks and crannies of my full suspension Trek to wedge themselves into.  It was at this point, I had a mini meltdown.  I looked back towards town and saw several bail outs.  The monkey began telling me all sorts of more favorable options:  riding the roads, riding the greenway, going for a hike. soaking in a hot tub, filling a grocery cart full of canned goods, toilet paper, and while you are at it, a carton or two of dairy free salted caramel ice cream.

David Jolin came by me as I was throwing my pity party and attempting to lift my bike to carry it up the hill of truth.  He offered some words of encouragement and HAB'd on.

I resolved myself to making it out of this mess and giving Waterfall and Zen a chance to bring me back to my happy place.  Once I was able to remount and ride again, after spending another 5 minutes of so scraping mud off my bike and shoes, I motored up the approach to Waterfall.  There were a cluster of racers just ahead.  I was bound and determined to NOT walk down this double black.  As I was readying myself to go over the edge, I heard a racer dude say (as he dismounted next to me), "It's too wet and slick to ride!"  Hehe, obviously he has never ridden Pisgah, I thought to myself.  And with that, I went over, calling out "rider back," as I weaved in and out of a walkers. In no time, I blew through the final tricky part at the bottom and was on my way over to Zen ... smiling again!   It's on like Donkey Kong! That's what I am talking about!

As I came into the Zen aid station, Coach Lynda was there cheering me on.  She bolstered my spirits even more.  I did not stop, as I thought my nutrition/fluids were good and began the long first climb.  I remembered last year being passed by quite a few racers here, but today I was the one making moves.  Despite the rains, the slickrock was mostly dry and grippy.  There were a few sections where mud being shed from tires accumulated on the rocks, but not enough to make any real difference. I was able to nail all the tricky descents and most of the ascents.  Where I had planned to dismount and walk/run up, I did with ferocity.  I was continuing to reel in one woman after another.  I had no idea where I was in the pecking order, but I was bound and determined to give it all I had and let the chips fall where they may.

Zen Pre Ride

Coming out of Zen, the sun had begun to shine!  Hallelujah!  Because the forecast had showed a 40% chance of more rain from 11am - 2pm. I was getting warm so stopped and gave some layers to Coach.  I began the climb up to 3 Fingers; seeing Heidi (who was doing the hundie), I offered some words of encouragement.  I was also very happy NOT to be doing 2 laps.  Stepping over the gate, I began the descent.  I knew I had to go left to avoid the steep drop off the middle finger, but I guess my head was up my a$$.  Before I could stop, scream, or cry for Mommy, I hit that drop!  Thank goodness my body knew what to do and I hit the landing clean.

Bearclaw Poppy Trail was el primo!  Dry, hard packed, and fast!  No signs of the rain deluge the day before.  Three miles of pump track with lots of line options (along with cleaning the Waterfall and finding Zen on Zen) made up for that first 10 miles of misery ... err, adversity.

But then, Stucki Trail. And I was out of water. Six miles of climbing up to Amen Corner.  It's an easy climb, nothing technical, and fortunately no head wind.  But ... 6 miles of just trying to put myself into TT mode after 3 hours of intensity, the body was saying no.  The bike was, too.  Blaze sounded horrible, like she was dying.  The mud had sucked out every bit of lube on the chain and the noises that were emanating from her were almost comical.  I knew I was losing precious watts just moving that chain through the derailleur pulleys.

And then I ran out of water.  Just get to the Corner.  There was a trail angel there last year who had water.  I desperately hoped he had some lube as well.  I saw two racers off in the distance.  One had a pink kit, one had a ponytail.  Could it be two women?  That gave me the motivation to press on, even though my quads were screaming.  Slowly I reeled them in over the next few miles and then passed them, making sure I did so on a little downhill. I did not want to have them latch on, especially knowing I was going to have to stop soon.

Climbing up to Amen Corner, I saw my angel.  I breathed a sigh of relief, as this is not a designated aid station, but a local who gives up his day to help us racers.  He helped to refill my CamelBak and then quell the banshee in my chain.

Both ladies had gotten ahead of me again, but not by much.  With big tailwind and a lubed chain, it felt like I was on a e-bike all the way back to Rim Rock.  I managed to pass back the two women.  I caught another woman on the climb up Rim Reaper.  I followed her along Rim Rambler and then passed her just before hopping back over the gate.  Down Rim Rock, the caffeinated gel I took 30 minutes ago breathed some life back into my legs.  I was beginning to smell the barn, what with 8 miles to go.  I flew up the tricky Cove Wash climb and entered Barrel Roll determined to leave it all out there.

2-D just doesn't capture the chunkiness of this section of Barrel Roll

Barrel Roll was in perfect shape!  The off camber climb was not as intimidating as before.  On the drop into the saddle section, I remembered to stay left, skirting along the cliff edge, and rolling the rock drop.  I made the first tricky ascent, wisely dismounted at the knuckle-breaker rock, ran up the chute, and then remounted.

Stay left for the best line down the saddle, but not too far left!

Once I rolled the cattle guard, there were about 4 miles to go, mostly downhill.  That was when my gas tank light came on.  Running low on fuel, but high on spirits, I cautiously rallied the final miles.  I did NOT want to flat now.  Even though this section was fast, it was by no means buttery smooth.  Lots of rocks to maneuver through or over and many had sharp edges.  Lo and behold, about half way through this section, I saw my competition fixing a flat.  Not how I like to gain a position, but after asking if she needed anything, I motored on.

On the final single track descent, my triceps attempted to raise the white flag.  This course was so upper body demanding and my arms finally went from al dente to overcooked.  I finished up the descent and put my head down for the final pavement push to the finish line.  I rolled across the finish line in 5:13.  What a ride and what a day!

My bike hates me!

5th in Open

Unfortunately Cimarron got a lot of hate "mail" with her decision to let the race go on, from a trail destroying aspect.  First and foremost, the muddy miles were on ATV double track and the single track section was freshly cut to work around housing construction. This rutted out trail will eventually be in someone's basement soon as the development continues to expand over the next few months.  So no damage was done.

I am so glad I persevered through the mud, because the rest of the course was AMAZE-BALLS!  This year has definitely started out #doinghardthings.  I have had to push through some mentally challenging conditions.  Glad to represent Rescue Racing and Scott's Bikes with grit, gristle, and gumption.

Now on to the next adventure, as racing has been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bentonia Burner Race Report

My “new race state” for 2020 is Mississippi.  I had wanted to do the entire 4-race series Mississippi Gravel Cup, but life, the Snake Creek Gap TT, and weather kept me from the first 3.  Put on by Jason and Wendy Shearer, the series had 3 distances; 25, 50 and 100 miles. I was looking forward to hooking up with teammates Curt Shelman, Desiree White, and meeting new Chamois Butt’r faces, Colin and Matt.

Zeke and I arrived in Jackson to a houseful of purple and yellow.  We registered and grabbed our schwag bag at Bicycle Revolution and then settled in for the evening.  Morning came too soon, what with Desiree, Curt, and Colin opting to torture themselves with the hundie which was really 108 miles.  They had a 7 am start so I was awakened by their hustling around 5 am.  Zeke, Matt, and I were racing the 53-mile course. I stayed snuggled under the covers until a little after 6 am. 

After my typical breakfast of Christopher Bean Coffee, 2 hard boiled eggs, and a sweet potato, Zeke and I made the 30 minute drive to the booming city of Bentonia, population 400 … and home to the famous Blue Front CafĂ©.  With 250 racers plus the support crews and volunteers, the town immediately doubled in population.

By the time our 9 am start rolled around, the sun was shining, and the temps were slowly rising.  I’ll take 41 degrees when the sun is basking us in her rays.  Fortunately, the roll out was neutral for the first 3 miles.  My glo plugs were working today and I was comfortably warm at the pace the police car was maintaining.  Jason Shearer, the race director, had warned us of a railroad crossing just after we crossed Hwy 49, that was unrideable as all the rails and ties had been pulled out.  He suggested that we racers maintain neutrality until after that dismount and run around.  Yeah, right!  I knew better and so stayed up towards the front of the group. 

Sure enough, the race was full gas with everyone running around and over the railroad construction.  I managed to stay with the front group over the next few miles.  The dirt roads were in great shape and the pace was wicked fast.  It brought back memories of Dirty Kanza, what with the dust billowing and small rocks flying through the air.  I kept my mouth closed as I did not want any unintentional dental work the following week.

After about 10 miles, I knew this was an unsustainable pace for me, and had to throttle back, along with several others.  I managed to hook up with a small group, including Michael Rasch in his neon yellow RH kit. The group worked well together, everyone taking their turn at the front.  This was like a road race on dirt.

My Garmin said there were 4 climbs.  But coming from where I live, I would liken them to a speed bump.  The pack would break up on these “climbs,” but would then all come back together once the road flattened out. Rasch told me he thought there were 2 women ahead of me in the front group.  Cool, I thought!  I really had no expectations, other than to race at 80% as instructed by my Coach. 

The miles flew by!  With minimal signage and confirmation tape, I kept my Garmin on the Navigation screen and had no idea where I was in relation to time and mileage.  I think this is a great way to race every now and then as it allows me to take a more intuitive approach.  It helps me to listen to my legs, hear my breathing patterns, and focus on my mental game.

About halfway through the course (to the best of my ability) my small group came upon at least 7 riders coming back towards us.  Uh oh!  I looked down at my Garmin; I was still on track.  I heard one of them saying they lost the course.  Rasch was still going strong so I followed his lead.  With his years of experience in the bikepacking racing scene, I trusted him.

Those 7 soon caught up to us and we became an even stronger, faster group.  Sa-weet!  Back home in the mountains, being in a pack is not as important as it is out here on a flat course.  I figured that I probably would have been 15-20 minutes slower if I didn’t have the draft of a pack.

No one stopped at the aid station at mile 35.  I had plenty of fluids and nutrition left.  I was not going to leave the benefit of this group.  Everyone was still working well and taking turns pulling.  Rolling through, we swallowed up a small group of 3 or 4 racers, one being a woman.  I went into stealth mode initially, just to try to gain some sense of my competition.  I was racing in the 50+ category and she looked like she was probably in the Open category.  Once I assessed she was not a “threat,” I moved up through the pack, taking my turn at the front and allowing myself to be seen by her.  I had a small chuckle as I could tell she thought I was in her category.  I could feel the tension well up in her.  I remember those “Oh, shit” moments back in the days when I was much younger. And no, I did not tell her what category I was in; I was having too much fun with this!

She stayed towards the front of the group most of the time. I stayed mid-pack and kept it at 80%. A couple of times the leaders, including the woman, missed a turn.  I guess they did not upload the course.  But one time, I was 4th person back and obviously in “lemming mode,” as I almost missed a turn.  Fortunately Rasch shouted at me and I did not have to back track. 

Knowing that there were not many miles left, I was curious to see if any would make a break.  And if they did, should I go with them or not?  At one point, a dude in a Jose Jalapeno green and white kit, made a break.  I figured, what the hell, I will go with him.  As soon as I bridged up to him, he let off the throttle expecting me to pull.  I told him I had just bridged the gap so he kept pulling.  We took a couple of turns pulling, but the pack caught back up to us pretty quickly.  From that point, I knew that it would be a sprint finish.

Having had my fun for the day.  I decided to just roll it on in.  No need to try to out sprint anyone that wasn’t in my class.  So I rolled through the finish line at 2:57:00.  1st 50+, 4th woman, and 22nd overall. 

And here I was thinking that it would probably take me 3:45 to finish.  Mississippi gravel is fast and furious!  This course was about 75% gravel.  The gravel roads were in as good of shape, if not better than a lot of the paved roads, what with potholes galore and asphalt that looked like it had been flung off the back of a dump truck and patted down with a shovel.  I will never complain about Tennessee roads again.

Wendy and Jason did an outstanding job in putting on this race.  No doubt as they sold out every race well before the deadline.  They even passed out flyers to the residents along the route asking if it were possible to keep their dogs up the day of the race.  I only had 1 dog give chase on a route that was all county dirt roads.

The post race meal was probably one of the healthiest I have seen in awhile and the and the blues were played by a local during lunch.

While the flats are not my forte, I did enjoy a change in the terrain.  The canopies of trees over some sections of ribbon like dirt roads set a beautiful scene.  A few residents came out to cheer us on.  I hope to be able to return in 2021 and race at least another one. 

The strays/ferals appeared to be well fed and were friendly.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Pedaling For The Paws Fundraiser Update

It has been a little over a week since I announced my commitment to the McMinn Regional Humane Society.  We have already hit $2300 in donations.  That gets me excited.  My brother Todd helped to design the logo you see above.  My husband Charlie created a flyer for me to post around town.  Eventually I will create an event page to spread the word and hopefully have some friends on board (virtually) to help me tackle the vEverest on Zwift on July 3.

My LBS, Scott's Bikes, has informed Saris about my event.  I am hoping to secure a deal on a Saris H3 Smart Trainer.  Initially, I was just going to use the shop's H3 the day of the event, but a cycling friend made me aware that in order to "unlock" the climbs on Zwift, I have to accumulate experience points.  So I am gonna have to "pony up" and get on the Zwift wagon sooner than I expected to.

I have also emailed a potential major donor to match the private funds I have been receiving.  Fingers crossed I hear back from her with pawsome news.  I have another option or two, in case it doesn't happen.  But this person does have a soft spot for shelter animals, so please, if you are reading this, consider this a great cause!

I am also working on some raffle items, for both cyclist and non-cyclist donors alike, in appreciation of your hard earned dollars.

If you have already donated, thank you!

And if you have not, please consider.  Even if just a dollar ... in the end it all adds up.  I am still one of those who picks up pennies in parking lots.

Donations can be made HERE

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Snake Creek Gap TT 34 Mile Race Report

I have never forgotten the pain of childbirth, but apparently I had forgotten the pain of the February 2013 edition ... 22 degrees at the start, riding through 2 feet of water at the Dry Creek crossing when there was no bridge, and the snow/ice that accumulated during the second half of the race.  Because here I was, lining up at the start, knowing it had rained 4 inches in the last 2 days and now was snowing flakes the size of chicken feathers.

DJ was in da house, so there was no way to bail from this one.  David had driven down from Ohio, with the snow in tow.  Since we were signed up for The Appalachian Journey in April, we both decided to race The Snake together.  With these conditions, it would be a true test of our abilities to ride as one.

My toes and fingers are my Achilles' heel when it comes to cold weather racing.  Because I have Reynaud's Disease, I put a set of chemical warmers in my shoes and duct taped them.  And in between two layers of gloves, I inserted 2 more sets of chemical warmers.  My core was quite toasty with my wool baselayer and thermal bibs.

Apparently I am gonna have to give David a lesson in poopin' in da woods, as I waited on him to use the restroom.  Meanwhile, all the 34 mile racers departed, leaving me to do deep squats and jumping jacks to stay warm.  We finally took off and soon came to realize that starting so late left us with a clear trail ahead.  We deftly dodged the mud holes, which had doubled/tripled in size compared to last month.

Approaching the bridge across Dry Creek, I noticed a handful of racers off to the side. Becoming a little nervous, I watched one roll up on the bridge and upon exiting it, being completely swallowed up by the creek (now river).  Before I could have any second thoughts, I hit the bridge with some speed.  F = ma was repeating in my head.  Unfortunately the m part of my equation is not enough to overcome the 2 1/2 foot depth of the creek on the far side.  I stalled out and both feet ended up in the drink.

Dry Creek not so dry after 4 inches of rain

Whelp, there went all hopes of my toes staying alive.  Pedaling up the watery fire road, my feet slowly froze and felt like blocks of concrete.  David was feeling good and so kept a spicy pace up to the single track.  Despite my poor toes, my core was warm and my spirits were still good.

The snow really started coming down as we hit the single track.  Soon, we began to pick up the end of the race and conservatively made our way around them.  Rolling down the fire road covered in snow, an ice cream headache attacked me with a vengeance.  Snowflakes began piling up on my glasses like a team of rugby players in a scrum.  Are you kidding me?!?  Now I couldn't see shit and my forehead felt like I had been hit with a hammer.  It was at this point, I knew it was gonna be a long and arduous day.

Even the climb up Pine Needle Hill could not rekindle the fire.  My core temp began to smolder, and my fingers froze.  I really need to design a pair of chemical warmers in the shape of a hand and that you can put on like a glove.  I fared the second creek crossing well, and slip n slided my way to the muddy HAB climb. During the four pitchy climbs along Horn Mountain,  my mental game began to slide away into the depths of hell. 

I was thinking of every way to pull the plug at the SAG:
          You don't have to prove anything to anyone.
          Better to DNF than to risk an injury.
          You are not going to improve on last month's time.
          Don't lose a finger or toe over a silly race.
          You don't want to do anymore damage to your bike's bearings.
          You have enough buckles.

Then a memory of Grace Ragland washed over me.  It was during the 2015 running of The Snake, when we rode together along this section where I was now wallowing in self pity.  Believe me, she was having a hard time of convincing me NOT to hop into a warm vehicle at the SAG stop.  But I could not get out of my mind how much she had suffered over the thousands of miles during the Tour Divide.  And here I was, with only 20 miles left.  She and the monkey on my back got into a WWE style wrestling match for a few miles.  But as Grace had done many times in her life, she booted that monkey off in the end.

2015 Edition of The Snake

As I pulled into the aid station, I told Grace I would tough out these next 17 miles.  But first, I stood by that heater to semi-thaw out my fingers and toes while the volunteers cleaned my glasses and filled up my bottle.  I ate a frozen banana and squeezed my flask of frozen gel until I was able to get a couple swallows of it.

David asked how I was doing, to which I could only respond with slurred speech.  I was too cold to even form words! He led the charge up Mill Creek Mountain.  I doggedly followed.  My bike felt so heavy on this climb.  I looked down to see nothing but a block of ice encasing my rear triangle, crank, and derailleur.  No wonder my shifting was less than optimal! 

The snowfall began to slow a bit.  I noticed that there were less tracks this half of the race.  Hmmm ... I suppose quite a few had bailed at the halfway point.  I didn't have to worry about line options because there was only one.  If you got off track, the snow would ball up on your tires and stop you dead in your tracks.

Funny, but the second half was surreal.  With 3 inches of snow, nothing looked familiar.  It didn't even seem like I was on The Snake. My thought processes were in slow motion due to me being so cold.  This must have been a protective measure on my body's part, because before I knew it I was descending down to Swamp Creek.  The road up to the last section of single track was a slog!  Now instead of snow on my glasses, I had red mud droplets.  I stopped at the aid station briefly for a bananasicle.  I had not drunk anything since the halfway point, so forced myself to take a few gulps.

About 2 miles into the single track, I began to feel my fingers again.  And I noticed that the snow was melting a little, what with big chunks of it falling from the trees and hitting me in the face and head.  I had plenty in the tank to propel me through the techy bits and the climbs, but the trail conditions began to deteriorate with the melting snow.  I ended up HAB'ing more than usual and then trying to clip back in with snow/ice/leaf debris packing into my cleats, well it made for some interesting expletive runs.  I began to say Larry the Cable Guy's famous words in my head, "Lord I apologize." That made me smile and the day began to get a little bit better.  With Grace in my heart and David offering words of encouragement, I could finally smell the barn. 

So happy to see that banner!

Today I definitely got my money's worth, with a finishing time of 5:00. Longest 34 mile Snake ever!  But I am grateful to have had DJ by my side the whole time.  I think we are gonna do aite come April.


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Pedaling For The Paws

If you drive down Alford Street, past the Public Works Department, just follow the paw prints past the school bus graveyard, the piles of sewer pipe, and dempster dumpsters, you will soon come to a dead end.  There, among the rubble, is a small 40+ year old building that houses the Athens Animal Shelter.

But step inside and you can see the love that has been showered upon this structure that houses the unfortunate, abandoned, abused, and previously unloved.  The McMinn Regional Humane Society has made leaps and bounds over the past few years to see that 2019 became the first year where no animal was euthanized because of lack of space.

Headed by those board members, with full-time jobs, they, along with a handful of volunteers, have poured countless hours into devising and executing plans to work with rescue societies to transport animals up North to their forever homes.  And they vet the locals wishing to adopt to ensure the dogs and cats go to good homes.

I tragically remember my rookie year of veterinary practice.  One of my jobs was go to this shelter every other week, to perform euthanasias.  Some were medical, some were because of aggression, but the majority were due to overcrowding.  The dogs and cats, most of which I remember as litters, were lined up and "put down."  No disrespect to the survivors of the Holocaust, but to 22 year old me, this was how I thought about this duty.  AWFUL!  I would often cry on the way back to the clinic and have to put a cold compress on my puffy eyes before I could begin seeing clients and patients that afternoon.

Fortunately through the hard efforts of the McMinn Regional Humane Society, almost all animals now go to a forever home.  Before heading out, all animals are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and dewormed.  All cats are FeLV/FIV tested and all dogs are heartworm tested.

Community cat room where they get a chance to socialize and stretch their legs.

It takes a small army of volunteers to provide the necessary exercise, socialization, and thorough cleaning of the kennels, cages, and facilities.  The shelter has been blessed with a lot of local businesses donating money, food, treats, and kennel supplies.  But only a small portion of the dog kennels are heated.  The remaining 75% are open to the elements.  Steps are taken to ensure that the dogs have extra bedding and the kennel gates are wind-proofed in the winter.

Most kennels don't have heat/air.

Since most of the donations go directly to the medical care and feeding of the animals, there is little left to devote to building maintenance and improvements.

Most recent update was the addition of an exercise yard.

So, to pay it forward (it has been 10 years since my last fundraiser where I raised $5000 both City Park and  Ingleside Elementary school playground improvements), I have aligned myself alongside MRHS fundraiser coordinator Erica Allen Peden in an attempt to raise at least $5000 for much needed infrastructure improvements.  I am also going to try to secure a major donor to match the individual funds.

On July 3, 2020, I will be tackling a vEveresting at The Animal Clinic of Athens.  This is a challenge to climb the height of Mount Everest, in a single activity, on one hill (by doing repeats) with no sleep.  The "v" stands for virtual, meaning that I will be riding on a stationary bike, using an electronically controlled smart trainer, that will simulate climbing a mountain.  I will be using the Saris H3 smart trainer and the Zwift platform.  In May of 2019, I completed an Everest Challenge on the Foothills Parkway.  It took 17 hours 25 minutes, 22 hill repeats, and 218 miles to climb 29,029 feet. I plan to start just before the clinic opens at 7:30 am and hopefully finish by the time it closes at midnight.

I can say that this will fall under the moniker of #doinghardthings.  I abhor the trainer.  Anything longer than 2 hours on this piece of torture equipment takes a hell of a lot of grit, gristle, and gumption.  I am looking at a time of 17 - 19 hours on this machine to complete this vEverest.  No doubt I will be suffering, but I have chosen this path.  These animals don't get a choice; it is thrust upon them unmercifully.

Scott's Bikes has graciously offered their support in the use of their Saris H3 Smart Trainer and the necessary equipment to run the Zwift platform.  I am still old school and have only a dumb trainer, which I practice mental sufferfests by looking at a wall when I train inside.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be putting together a FaceBook event page, where you can follow me on this adventure and perhaps give a small donation.  I also hope that on July 3, I can get some of you to join with me on my adventure through the Zwift platform.

Please help me to help them.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Snake Creek Gap TT Race Report

Driving down to the start early in the morning, watching the rain beat down on the windshield, I could only laugh.  Heading into my 16th year of doing this race, I have seen all conditions, but mostly miserably cold and wet ones.  At least today the temperature was starting in the low 50's and supposed to stay that way.  I was racing the 34 miler, what I call the meat and potatoes of the 3 distances offered.

My shuttle arrived at the start later than I anticipated.  After checking in and getting ready, the start had begun.  I let most people go ahead of me, as I needed somewhat of a warm up so my body wouldn't implode in the first 10 minutes. A few minutes of squats, jumping jacks, and kick backs, I rolled off the line and down the fire road skirting around the edges of multiple mud holes.

I was behind a group of juniors and unfortunately one of them bobbled at the short steep V climb.  I  ended up dismounting and running up that climb.  Oye!  That got the heart rate up quickly!  I made my way around multiple racers, biding my time and trying not to burn any matches, as I knew my book was not full.

The bridge across the Dry Creek was submerged about one foot at the other end.  I unclipped and threw my feet up high as my front wheel hit the water.  I was only about 50% successful at keeping my feet dry.  The climb up to the first section of single track was in good shape considering the amount of rain it had gotten over the last 48 hours.  I continued to make my way around riders in an attempt to have a bubble around me once I entered the single track. 

The trail conditions were pretty sloppy and it felt like my wheels were being grabbed by a mud boggin' monster.  And then a noise began emanating from my front end.  I couldn't tell if it was my headset or fork, but it was annoying.  I ate and drank on the gravel road, hit Pine Hill with a vengeance, and then rode a dude's wheel off the backside.  I was a little grumbly about not going as fast as I wanted to, but it was my bad for not getting around him sooner.

I veered left at the next creek crossing, not knowing how deep the straight shot was and how much leaf and mud build up was on the far side of it.  This next section leading to the Horn Mountain climb, was obnoxiously muddy.  I felt like I was skiing more than riding. Aside from the mandatory mud wall climb, I was able to stay on the bike for the remainder, including the left handed switchback to begin the single track climb.

This section of the race has one big 1 mile climb, followed by 3 smaller, but steeper and more technical climbs.  Towards the top of the first climb, I heard a female voice behind me as I passed another racer.  Once I got around the guy in front of me, I asked her is she wanted around me.  "No ma'am," she replied.  I just got "ma'am 'ed!"  I took it as a sign of respect, rather than it being related to my age.  I got a chuckle out of how my first thought was, "Damn, do I look that old?"

She (I later found out her name ... Nicole) stuck to me like glue over the remaining miles.  I would pull away from her on the steeper, technical pitches and descents, but where the trail smoothed out a bit, she had the strength and fitness to reel me right back in.

At the SAG stop at Snake Creek Gap, I swapped bottles and downed a caffeinated gel.  I only drank 1/2 of a bottle that first 17 miles, a fail on my part.  While I was stopped, I saw Nicole go by.  That would be the last I would see of her until the finish.

I struggled up the Hurricane Mountain climb.  My fork was now beginning to feel AWFUL; stiff and like a pogo stick.  Once on top through some of the faster sections, I felt better and was able to stay on top of my gear.  The sun was beginning to shine and I could feel its warmth.  But as I began my descent down to the creek crossings, I was having a hard time seeing the trail for the sunshine.  I had a few "Oh, shit!" moments as I encountered a downed tree and some slippery turns, but managed to stay upright.  The multiple creek crossings all became just one big creek ride, as the water was flowing down the trail.

On the slip n slide climb up to the final single track, I came upon my team mate, Eric Henderson.  Off his bike with a broken derailleur and a rear flat, I asked him why he even had a derailleur.  His reply was that I had one.  To which I responded that I am old and earned one.  This light hearted joking conversation helped me to fend off the grumpies during the final stretch.  Because, at least I had a functioning bike.

By now, I had lost feeling in my water soaked feet.  This hindered me a bit through the rock gardens as it made proprioception difficult.  This, combined with a sick fork, functioning at only 25% capacity, had me doing a couple Yosemite Sam dances in my head.  Then I went into "adapt and overcome" mode and managed to surprise myself cleaning a couple sections I usually struggle with. 

The descent off Tower Road was heinous!  Huge ruts and exposed culverts probably made this the most tricky section of the course, as normally this was almost a brake-free section with lots of speed.  But today I had to baby it down.  Cruising down the road, I was happy with how my day went, given the conditions.

I finished in 4:10:20, by far not my fastest time, but right where I want to be this early in the season. I knew that my Big Dumb ride from earlier in the week might hinder my performance, but it was a risk I was willing to take.  I must be patient; fast will come later. 

One mistake I did make was not drinking enough.  Over the course of 4 hours, I had only taken in 32 ounces, along with 700 calories.  Although I did not feel "bonky,"  I am sure this under-fueling played a small part in my performance.  Rookie mistake.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Conasauga Crusher Race Report

Getting stoked to ride in rain/mud all day!

So how many of you racers checked your inbox when you awoke, praying for an email that said the course would be shortened due to inclement weather?  I searched but found nothing.  Had it not been for wanting to support Lisa, I probably would have bailed.  It had already rained at least an inch during the night and it was not projected to stop until 3pm.


At least I had made preparations the day before to try to waterproof myself.  Shower cap (a not so pro tip I learned at the 2007 La Ruta), latex gloves, Gore Tex shorts, and a Gore Tex jacket.  At least the temps were not too terrible, 50-55 degrees.  If I could keep my core, fingers, and toesies warm, I had a chance of having a semi-fun day.  The shower cap works well for me in that it keeps the rain from running down into my eyes and is not hot like a cycling cap can be.

We rolled out of the Ocoee Retreat Center at Lisa's "neutral-ish" pace, which had my HR pegged at the first little hill.  After turning right onto the main paved road, I tucked in behind Amy.  Now she is a beast!  Had it not been for her bouncing on her head down the backside of Addis Gap during the Georgia Gravel Grinduro, she would have schooled all of us ladies on gravel racing.  I was hoping to just hang onto her wheel as long as I could.  Well, that lasted about 10 minutes.  She slowly rolled away from me on the first climb after we hit gravel.  I knew my limits and did not want to completely implode within the first hour, so I just had to settle into my own rhythm and hope for the best.

Just add fog, rain, and leaf cover.

FS 302 was still fast despite the rain and the leaves.  Traction was good and the road bed was firm, making for quick work of this section.  But then FS 1333 ... oh, how I loathe you!  This was a 4 mile section of double track with lots of sharp turns and loose chunky rock.  It was also a little bit sloppy.  And complicating matters were my glasses fogging up. I did not want to take them off because at least they were keeping the mud out of my eyes. My lower back was beginning to hurt and whenever I would try to get out of the saddle to give it some relief, my rear wheel would spin out over a loose rock. Finally I saw the intersection of FS 55 and was able to escape this "gravel purgatory."

The next two miles were downhill to flat, so I was able to stretch out my back and eat/drink.  I whipped out my gel flask and sucked down some needed calories.  I kept the flask tucked in my bra so as to make for easy extraction:  try to fight a rain jacket to get to your flask in a jersey pocket and you will know why I chose this option.  It also kept the gel warm and fluid.

Not needing anything at Aid #1, I threw a friendly wave to Paul, and began the 1.5 mile slog up to the start of the Big Frog section.  At least the ground was firm. I stopped at Zeke's truck at the intersection and cleaned my glasses.  Then I began the 10 mile loop of pain.  This is the hardest section, as it is chunky and has a 3 mile climb, followed by a treacherous, rutted and rocky descent ... now covered in leaves. Despite my back becoming cranky again, I turned off all emotions and just gutted it out.  I told myself that once I got through this part, it would be easy-peasy to the finish. Yeah, I lied, but sometimes necessary in order to get into the right mindset.

Halfway through, I heard a rattling on my bike.  Looking down, I saw that one of my bottle cages was just about to launch itself down the mountain.  Fortunately, I was able to stop, grab my multi-tool, and tighten the screws that had loosened.  The last few miles of this loop were mostly downhill and I was able to find some flow and punch some power coming out of the corners. Despite the weather, course conditions, and achy back, I was actually having fun!

A beautiful course with 6500 feet gain in 52 miles

I made a hard right onto FS 221 and although the road was flat, there was plenty of energy sapping mud to knock the wind out of my sails.  My drive train was making all sorts of death wails.  I saw a rider ahead of me, so that became my carrot, allowing me to focus on him and not the road.  It took FOREVER for me to catch him, but I did, as the climbing began on Sheed's Creek Road.  He asked how far Aid #2 was and I think I popped his balloon when I answered 5 miles.

I welcomed the short bits of pavement.  The gravel section of this road had been recently graded and what with the heavy rainfall and hunter traffic, it was like pedaling through a milkshake (perfect wording, Chris!). I tried to find the firmest ground to pedal, but the descents were super sketchy.  I would be riding on hardpack only to suddenly find myself hitting a section (always in a turn) where it would turn to soup.  I learned quickly to let go of the brakes and trust my front wheel to find the way.

I stopped at Aid #2.  Jayden kindly refilled my bottle while Kathleen helped me clean my glasses.  I kept the stop short, so as not to give my legs any indication that the day was over.  I managed to keep pace with another racer on a MTB.  He had a strong steady pace, a little more painful than what I really wanted to endure, but endure I did.  My back pain had eased up some, and I was able to apply more power to the pedals.  With firm ground beneath me again, I was able to stand and pedal when the grade dictated.  This switching between seated and standing afforded me a little more oomph to get over the climbs.  We then caught up to Chris (whom I had met at Pine Log a few weeks back).  Together the three of us pushed each other to the finish (misery loves company!). 

I rolled through the finish line with a time of 4:37:57, 2nd woman and 18th overall. This was a great way to end the season, knowing that I still have the grit, gristle and gumption to persevere in less than ideal conditions.

Hmmm ... maybe this was why I had squealing brakes and less than stellar stopping power.

All in all, this is a nice addition to the Chainbuster Gravel Series.  Lisa pulled out another great race despite the horrid conditions.  I do hope that this one will continue, although perhaps moving it up a month or two might attract more racers and better weather.  The venue is awesome (bike wash, hot showers, beer, and food), the course is beautiful and punchy, and schwag and prizing are abundant.

Kudos to all those who toed the line and to the volunteers who also had to endure yucky conditions!