Friday, August 7, 2015

Maah Daah Hey Race Report: The Last 56 Miles

Aid Station 2 to Aid Station 3 (mile 51-79, 3300 feet elevation gain)

Nick said that this section would be the most difficult.  That was good to know.  I was beginning to feel the effects of the heat in my performance, but as I left the aid station, my spirits were still high. And my legs were still eager to turn over the pedals.  Usually when I race a hundie, my low point is around the 65-75 mile mark.  I knew what to expect and told myself that once past that point, it was just a NORBA style XC race with 6 bonus miles.

For the first half of this section, the body was hitting on all cylinders.  The climbs were manageable, the descents fun.  I began to pass some 100 and 75 milers, and with each pass a courteous nod or shout out.  I made sure to talk to the women, for this sport is quite intimidating, wanting to let them know just how inspirational they were.

Unfortunately, my fat tire buddy Tyler faded, but I was lucky enough to pick up another riding buddy, Adam, from Wisconsin.  He had raced it last year, so it was like having my own private guide. We took turns pushing into the headwind.  He would let me know about the upcoming climbs.  We shared the duty of holding the cattle gates for one another, but I do believe he held a few more than I.

We were riding together, I in the lead, when we came upon a mud hole crossing.  It appeared completely rideable, with a nice dry, crusty top.  However, not wanting to get any more of that filth on my bike, I opted to walk the logs across it to stay clean.  Adam was right behind me and did the same.  Unfortunately he slipped and his legs disappeared!  It took every bit of strength to free himself from that quagmire.  He was lucky to still be in his shoes after that ordeal.

At one of the many neutral support road crossings, Adam stopped to get help from his wife.  I opted to go on even though he offered his wife up to support me as well.  Not wanting to be a burden, I pedaled on.

I think my first low moment hit me at the MDH mile marker post 38.  I had been riding by these posts all day, but this was the first time I was searching for a mile marker.  I knew the third aid station was around mile marker 17.  Even though I was constantly drinking, my mouth was dry.  The Skratch in my CamelBak was warm, and totally unappealing. By now, I had ridden 8 miles of this section and was 64 miles into the race.  I was nearing the 6 hour mark, the sun was blazing hot, and the tops of my feet were on fire!

At a road crossing, I stopped and almost hugged the volunteer when he said he had some ice in a cooler.  I was able to put several handfuls into my CamelBak.  Not realizing that I had my dirty gloves on until it was too late, I noticed the grass left behind, swirling in the discolored water at the bottom of the cooler.  Sorry, gotta blame that one on fatigue.  Eh, a little dose of cow manure would just challenge the immune systems of those after me.

That bit of ice was just enough for me to put my happy face back on for a few more miles.  As I felt the cold water enter my stomach, my engine came back to life.  And so I stopped looking for mile markers and enjoyed what the Maah Daah Hey had to offer.

Loved how I could see the trail disappear into the horizon.

I was able to hit one more neutral water (and ice) station at the top of a multi-switchback climb. Two young men grabbed my bike and a very nice energetic woman assisted me.  More ICE!  At this point, if they had held up a $50 dollar bill in one hand and a cup of ICE in the other, I would not have batted an eye.  After drinking a 16 ounce bottle of ICE cold water and refilling my CamelBak with ICE cold water, I gotta out of there in a hurry.  You see, as I was refueling, I had bent over to get to the cooler, and when I stood back up, I had a brief moment of dizziness.  That was a bit unnerving; I needed to wrench myself free from the fatigue-dehydration monster.

When I had 6 miles to go to aid station 3, I was in familiar territory as I had ridden this section 2 days prior.  It was one of the more technical sections with lots of short ups and downs and tight twists through the buttes.  Knowing what was coming up bred confidence and I was able to flow through this smoothly.

Pre -ride, MDH mm22

Heading down to the Wannegan campground and aid station 3 almost brought tears to my eyes. Seeing the vehicles and tents below was like a small oasis.  Hoping that it was not a mirage, I negotiated the series of super tight switchbacks down to heaven.  One mistake could have sent me down to the volunteers in a much quicker fashion.

Pre-ride, campground lower left, post to level ground = 300 feet

I rolled into heaven at 8:27.  Upon arrival, a flurry of activity surrounded me.  Volunteers were taking my CamelBak and bike, handing me a Coke. and offering me up a chair, and food.  I felt like a Queen, which immediately brought a smile to my face.  Some of these people were here specifically for their loved ones, but took the time to help out this pitiful, fatigued Tennessean.  Have I told you how much I LOVE the mountain bike community!  Before I knew it, my CamelBak was back to me, filled with ICE and water, and my bike had a freshly lubed chain.  I graciously thanked everyone and was off for the last 25+.

Aid Station 3 to Finish (mile 79-106.3, 2300 feet elevation gain)

As I was climbing out of the campground area to access the trail, Adam was rolling in.  I gave him a smile, and hoped that he would be able to catch up to me.  The next 15 miles had some tough climbs and I needed a pacer.  At this point, even though I was mentally strong, I was slowly becoming a physical wreck.  My stomach was turning sour and around the 9 hour mark, I could no longer take in any calories.  I would now have to rely on my fat-burning diesel engine.

26 miles was a long way, so I broke it up in 5 mile increments.  That made the head game easier.  I was soon passed by a hundie racer, whom I inspired to get out of the chair at the last aid station, and finish this thing.

Although the climbs in this last section were totally doable with fresh legs, I had to get off and HAB quite a few.  Even with a 30/42 combination, the climbs would send my heart rate sky high, my quads and inner thighs would twinge, and dizziness and tunnel vision would follow.  Stopping was not an option.  The sun was at its highest, the temperature had risen to 100 degrees, the wind was like one had opened the oven door, and unless you wanted to scoot under a mesquite bush, there was no shade.  So I took baby steps ... Never ONCE did I think about quitting.  But neither did I want to become a heat casualty, cause alot of people unnecessary work, and acquire a $10,000 helicopter ride.  This last 26 was all about damage control.

The turtle symbolizes patience, determination, steadfastness, and fortitude.

Occasionally I would come across racers that were totally spent, resting in areas that would barely shade a squirrel.  I would talk to them to make sure they were lucid, and then move on.  At one point, a critter darted out in front of me, running down the trail.  In my cross-eyed state, it looked like a mini-velociraptor.  I was later told that it was a roadrunner.  Ha!

Adam eventually caught up to me and together we rode.  Even though we did not talk much, as the saying goes, "misery loves company."  We took a right upon the Buffalo Gap Trail and began following the buffalo head signage.  We had to do this to ride around the portion of the MDH that ran through the southern section of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  This trail had alot more horse and cattle traffic and was rougher than the MDH.  Only the creaking of my pivot bearings let me know that my bike's suspension was still working.

Stating that he had found an extra gear, Adam passed me on a climb.  I do believe he felt a little guilty in doing so and which is why he stayed with me for as long as he did.  He is a very caring competitor and was a big help in the latter half of the race.

So little by little those 5 mile chunks ticked along.  85, 90, 95 ...   Coming upon the interstate, I rode a culvert to get to the other side.  Let's just say that through this 50 yard cool pipe, I did the "slow race."  When I exited, the sun shone its wrath back down upon me.  At the last neutral water station, I asked for ice, but unfortunately they were out.  Then a trail angel appeared before my very eyes.  "Do you need ice?  I have some," she said.  Once again, I was saved by a stranger who was waiting for her loved one to arrive and shared her "gold" with me.

Hitting the 100 mile mark, I anxiously surveyed the trail ahead for the familiar cattle gate, which I had ridden to the day before, on and out and back pre-ride from the finish.  At last, I could smell the barn.  Unfortunately, as in previous races, where I could call upon my reserves, today I had none.  So I slogged my way to the finish.  Two more arduous climbs and I could see the interstate far below. The next two miles were a sweet flowy descent.  Exhausted, I rolled along the bike path to the finish. I was thankful for the tailwind.

Just a shell crossing the finish line, no strength left even for a smile.

12 hours, 7 minutes, and  seconds later, I crossed the finish line.  Good enough for the win and 15th overall. I had truly left it all out on the trail.

The struggle was as real as it gets.  But I think that is the driving force behind my desire to do these "insane to some" adventures.  That primal urge to pit mind and body against whatever Mother Nature can throw at you is what makes life worth living.  You just don't get that challenge in king couch-dom, or your air-conditioned cubicle or office.  The Maah Daah Hey 100 (106.3) is in the top 3 of all-time most difficult races.

It took me an hour lying down at the finish line drinking ice cold water and eating a few salty chips to come back to life.  I never urinated during the race and it took 3 hours after the race before I felt the urge to go.

Thank you, Nick, for putting one helluva race together.  From the pre-race details to the hundreds of volunteers to the ICE cold fluids at 3 major aid stations and 5+ road crossing neutral water suppport stations to the post race never ending burritos, you get an A+!

Thank you also to the couple who walked 2 miles with a cooler to provide water hand ups after the climb at Devil's Pass.

Thank you to Adam and his wife who drove me over to Chimney Park to pick up my finish line bag, then drove me to the campground so I could shower, and then paid for my shower.

Looking back now at this race, I could not have done anything better. I had done my homework and knew that the last half of the race was going to be brutal and potentially a soul-crusher. Having a solid nutrition plan is an absolute must to finish.  And the ability to adapt and overcome is a requirement for success.  I had a great acclimation period in the two weeks leading up to this race.  But ... 100 degrees is 100 degrees!  It doesn't matter if it is 0% humidity or 100%, when there is no shade humidity does not factor in.

168 signed up for the madness.  129 started the insanity.  58 made it to the very end.  To all you who finished, you came out of the arena battered, bloody, and bruised ... but victorious!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Maah Daah Hey 100 Race Report: The First 50 Miles

6 am start (Mountain Time)

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

Nick, the founder of LAND and the Maah Daah Hey 100, said these insirational words just before the start. If Teddy had been alive today, I am sure he would have been toeing the line alongside the 129 racers (168 signed up).

  The race was 106.3 miles long, 99 of which was pure single track.  Just two days before, Nick had ridden the entire route to get a GPX track and do some last minute trail maintainence.  He also made mention of the many cattle paths that crisscrossed the single track.  He reminded us that cows don't mow their trails; over the past 3-4 weeks, volunteers had mowed THE ENTIRE COURSE.  That means that 200+ miles was mown; up one side of the trail and back down the other.

The starting temperature was a cool 58 degrees.  My plan was to ride a steady strong pace, trying to get in as many miles as I could before the sweltering sun beat down upon my back.  I'll be honest, the previous 24 hours, the butterflies were swirling.  17 ladies had signed up, I knew none of them, but I did not fear them.  What I feared was my body's ability to make it through without becoming a heat casualty.  The forecasted high was 96 degrees and with no tree cover, it was going to be an inferno.

Start to Aid Station #1 (mile 0-26, 2700 feet elevation gain)

Fortunately it was not a crazy stupid start.  200 yards through the campground and we hit the single track.  I was in the top 25 or so.  The first 4-5 miles were gentle climbing.  Everyone was content to settle in line and wait for the top to pass.  Even though I was not thirsty, the tube was in my mouth, and I sipped from my CamelBak.  We had both helicopter and drone coverage, which was super cool!

Once at the top, attacks were made and groups began to split up.  The trail opened up as we hit prairie and passing was easy.  There tended to be one good line, with a second track that was fairly smooth as well.  I watched my HR like a hawk, keeping it out of zone 5 and above.  I knew that for each 1 beat less I could keep my heart at, would be 1 beat more I would desperately need towards the end of the race.  As I was passed again and again in the opening miles, I would say silently, "See you this afternoon."

After the climb, the course rolled through prairie.  My legs felt good, my spirits were high, and the flow was spectacular.  Two miles of the trail lie in the northern unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  So we we rerouted onto a mix of single track, double track, and gravel for about 6 miles before reconnecting with the Maah Daah Hey.

Somewhere in the first 25, while I was in my own little bubble, I strayed off course.  Following a steep descent down into a dry creekbed, I missed a sharp right turn out of it, and wandered a bit on a cattle trail.  There was no grass in this creekbed, so I did not know I was off course until I saw a group of racers back tracking.  Fortunately for me, I only lost a few minutes.

And then I found myself sammiched between two fat bikes.  Tyler Keuning was piloting one of those massive beasts like it was a sub-20 pound XC machine.  I thoroughly enjoyed riding with him and the other fat biker, both who had great skills and a nice tempo.  It definitely amplflied the fun factor.

Home, home on the range ... (credit:  Tyler Keuning)

I rolled into the first aid station in 2:18.  The volunteers were awesome!  I had someone help refill my CamelBak with Skratch, and I was outta there NASCAR fast.

Aid Station #1 to Aid Station #2 (mile 26-51, 2200 feet elevation gain)

I was glad I spent the two days prior taking in the spectacular views.

Tyler and I rode this stretch together.  At times we managed to hook up with others.  There were fast sections of prairie sprinkled with chunks of eroded buttes.  The climbs in the praires tended to be about 1/4 - 1/2 mile at a gentle grade.  The climbs in the buttes were short and grunty with several hike-a-bikes (HAB) through dry creek beds.  By this time, I had found a rhythm in the trench portions of the single track.  Most of the time the trench was smoother and faster.

170mm cranks definitely was a plus.

Somewhere along this section I encountered my first Badlands mudhole at a cattle gate.  Fortunately I was able to tippie toe around it while carrying my bike.  Then about 20 yards down the trail, another mudhole appeared.  It was about 3 feet across and I saw tracks where others had ridden through.  So I opted to follow the deepest and cleanest track through it.  There was no standing water, so I thought that it would be a fairly clean ride through.  Boy, was I wrong!  When I hit it with my front tire,  I had the most vile spray of clay mud/manure mix cover my bike and I.  Granted, it was not a full on rooster tail spray, but enough to cover my down tube, rims, drive train, and shoes.  Right then and there I made a mental note to avoid any future ones at all costs.

There must have been 25+ cattle gates to go through on the entire course.  Although heavy, they had a leverage system that made it easy to get off your bike, grab the gate with one hand, tip it up, squeeze through, and then let it fall down behind you.  And, I was lucky enough half the time to be riding with gentlemen who did all the work for me.

Way better than the old loop of barbed wire around a post.

Closing in on the final miles of this section, the helicopter came upon the small group I was in.  For the next 5 minutes, it buzzed us close enough to where I could feel the wind off its blades.  We popped out onto a short stretch of dirt road with a fast descent.  The helicopter was right on us the whole way.  That was badass!  Then we hit some more descending on single track.  The helicopter stuck with us, until we began the next climb, and then peeled off.

Devil's Pass, around mile 43 (mm 53 of the MDH Trail), was intimidating.  It was a fairly steep descent and a mistake could send you plummeting off either side ... for a long way.

Devil's Pass - by far the most spectacular feature on the MDH.

I was closing in on the final miles of this section and eager to get to the second aid station as I was just about out of fluids.  Rolling along the flats leading to the river crossing was when the first heat of the day hit me.  I felt the intensity of the sun's rays on my arms and the tops of my feet.  At least the wind still felt somewhat cool.  I was looking forward to the river crossing.

The Little Missouri River was about 40-50 yards across and mid-thigh deep on me.  The reason the race is run this time of year is because this is when the river is at its lowest.  As I entered the water, I was greeted with a sandy/fine gravel bottom into which my shoes sunk.  The water was not that cold but still offered some refreshment.  I knew now why I was told to put socks in my drop bag at the second aid station.  I could feel the sand and tiny rocks work their way into my shoes with each step.  However, since I was wearing Swiftwick socks, those little bastards could not get between my skin and the socks.  So all I had to do at the next aid station was take off my shoes, knock the rocks and sand out, and carry on.  That helped to save several minutes of changing socks.

The climb up to the second aid station was long and brutally steep.  It was here that I had my first extended HAB session.  While walking up, I made my first assessment.  Legs: good.   HR:  good. Nutrition:  good.  Core temp:  hot, not good.  (later when looking at my Garmin, this was when the temperature hit the 90 degree mark).  Knowing that the upcoming section was going to be the hardest, I told myself that I just needed to take it down a notch, drink more, and stay positive and focused.

I rolled into the aid station at 4:44.  It was a pretty happen' place, so I was left to my own devices.  I refilled my CamelBak with more Skratch, swapped gel flasks, put more sunscreen on, and was outta there in 3 minutes.

Looking at my Garmin and seeing a sub-5 hour for the first 51 miles, I felt that I was going to have close to an 11 hour finish.  Little did I know, the final 5 hours were going to be a test of my fitness, resolve, and perseverance ...

Maah Daah Hey -- Mandan Indian meaning "grandfather, long-lasting."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Raccoon Mountain Enduro Race Report

This race was the second in a series put on by 3rd Coast Enduro Series.  For me, it was my first enduro.  I was excited and I can tell you, a bit intimidated.  I am used to pedaling fast uphill and then recovering (coasting) on the descents.  Today was a complete reversal.  Let's just say that I learned that it is just as taxing to go hard on the descents as it is the climbs.

I was riding a Specialized Enduro Expert 27.5 with 165mm travel front and rear.  I thought it might be overkill on this course, but I did not want to race my Niner Jet 9 as I am headed to North Dakota in little less than a week to race the Maah Daah Hey 100 and did not want to risk injuring her.  I am glad I did race the Enduro as it felt so buttery smooth on the trail.

The best Arrow in my quiver for this race!

While waiting for the pre race meeting, I was already sweating:  78 degrees, 90% humidity, and climbing.  I dumped ice into my Camelbak and sought some shade.  After a moment of silence (for those fallen soldiers in Chattanooga) Brent gave told us the hows, whats, wheres, and whens, including letting us know that we would be shuttled back after the final stage.

And at 9:30 am, he let us go.  Not the usual short track cross country start I was used to.  As a matter of fact, all the racers just milled around, no one wanting to take the lead.  Weird.  Not wanting to get my face and arms covered in a gazillion spiderwebs, I let a few in front and then followed in behind.  The transfer to the first stage, Live Wire 1, was fairly casual.  After I let a few racers by, I kicked it up a notch.  I wanted to be in my own little bubble during the stages and not have anyone "up my butt."  35 minutes later and I was ready to try this "enduro thing."

Pulling up my knee pads, tightening my helmet, setting my suspension to open mode, and putting it in the right gear, I scanned my RFID chip, and exploded down the trail.  I dropped my seatpost immediately; there would be no sitting and pedaling on this stage!  Elbows forward, I pedaled every chance I got, tried to go as easy on the brakes as possible, and kept my sights far ahead.  Leaning the bike through the switchbacks, I would stomp the pedals so hard coming out of the turn that my front end got a little light at times.  Nailing the two small rock jumps got me some air time:  hot diggity dawg!  Coming up on the finish line, I slammed on the brakes and skidded to the RFID scanning device mounted to the tree.  Beep!  I was done, 1.8 miles and 6:59 later.  My average HR was 178 with a max of 183!  That's crazy!  I have not seen those numbers in a long time.  I was pleased with having a good clean run.

I spent a few minutes talking to Shellie, Brent's right hand woman, allowing my heart rate to recover. After I could no longer feel it trying to rip through my chest like an alien,  I slowly pedaled to the next stage, Live Wire 2, less than a mile away.

This stage would be a little tougher as it had more ups and a few flats, and less descending than the first stage.  I thought that this might be to my advantage, coming from an XC/endurance background.  It was also the most technical one, with alot of rock gardens and bridges to negotiate.  Length of this second stage, was just a bit over 2 miles.  I did not start out near as crazy fast, as I wanted to be fairly consistent, clean everything, and not blow up on the couple of short, techy climbs.  As much as I tried to stay out of the saddle the whole time, I did not have the muscular endurance to do so.  I chose the flatter sections to raise the saddle, and pedal like an XC racer.  I had another clean run, and finished in 13:15.  Once again, my HR was right up their with a Ruby throated hummingbird.

The transfer to Stage 3 was long and included the 4 mile climb up High Voltage.  I took it as easy as I could, pedaling in granny, HAB'ing several sections to rest the legs, and drinking the remainder of my 50 ounces of fluid that I started with.  It was very enjoyable, even despite the sweltering heat.  I had a steady drip of sweat coming off my nose.  I was glad that I had spent the last couple of weeks doing my workouts during the hottest part of the day, for now I was very comfortable.

Topping out on the climb, I stopped at the aid station to refill my CamelBak.  A huge thanks goes out to Brent for keeping ICE COLD water in the coolers.  That was some of the best tasting water ever!  It was still a ways to Chunky, the start of Stage 3.  I was feeling rather peppy and rode a happy L2 pace.  It was during this transfer that I realized that I was the first one to hit Stage 3.  I chuckled, as only a crack head endurance racer would want to lead the charge during a transfer.

Stage 3 was Chunky --> Switchyard --> a small portion of Small Intestine.  There was little technicality to it, but it would be a busy 1.5 miles of pedaling.  Once again, I charged hard.  I was doing well until the last bit of Chunky where I overshot a turn and went through the tape.  Costing me precious seconds, I had to detangle myself, and get back on course.  From there, I maintained better control, but could feel the previous two stages in my legs.  They were not as happy to be turning the pedals over and were wanting more coasting sections.  I finished the stage in 7:50, legs burning with lactic acid.

As I pedaled the road back to the single track, I tried to maintain an easy spin.  I knew I was getting tired and the final stage, Stage 4, would be long, and both technically and mentally demanding.  Once I hit the single track back to the aid station, I began coming upon racers who were headed out to the third stage.  Some of them already looked whipped, taking a beating by the extreme temps as well as the long transfers.  When I approached the aid station, there were at least 12 racers hanging out and having a picnic.  It was here that I realized that there were alot of racers still making that transfer up High Voltage, which was the trail that I would be racing down for the final stage.

Oops!  Even though I had been riding the transfers at my casual pace, it was still way too "enduro fast" and would now have to wait 35 minutes before Stage 4 cleared.  Awww ... now my legs were pretty pissed off.  While most would have liked that time to recover, I do better by just keeping on keepin' on.  My muscles begin to shut down after about 5 minutes of down time.

So, while waiting for the stage to clear, I rode back out to the pavement and did some laps around the finish area to keep the legs warm.  Finally I thought that the coast was clear and started the stage.  My legs barked for the first 1/2 mile, but then opened up.  There were still a few racers coming up, but they heard me and gave me plenty of room.  Those first few switchbacks were buggers!  Tight and steep, I felt awkwardly slow through them, like a newborn giraffe.  The trail finally opened up and I was able to get that speed up again.  Seat post was slammed so I would have to pedal.  I felt great until the middle section where it flattens out and then climbs.  Ouch!  That hurt!  I had to pop the saddle up and grunt my way seated, in granny or close to it.  Rookie error, no doubt, but the legs just could not sustain the higher end torque.  After what seemed like an eternity, the trail steepened, and I was happy again, raging over the whoop de doos and switchbacks.  4 miles and 15:57 later, I had just finished my first Enduro.  Put a fork in me, I was done.

While waiting on the shuttle, I sought a small piece of almost non existant shade, and layed down beside my bike.  Having left it all out on that last stage, I got a little light-headed.  It took almost 10 minutes for my heart rate and breathing to recover (normally it only takes about 2-3 minutes after an endurance event).  SO GLAD I did not have to pedal back up that damn mountain in 90+ degree heat.  The shuttle back to the start was a Godsend.

With a total time of 44:01, I won the Women's Open.  And yes, I was the first to finish.  Absolutely loved the way my Industry 9 Trail wheels got me through the rock gardens unscathed.  And how my Xpedo Baldwin's kept me safely connected to my bike.

Total ride time was right at 4 hours and total distance was 30 miles.  I definitely have a lot to learn about this style of racing.  And a few skills I need to sharpen.  But I am definitely hooked!

A big shout out to Brent and Shellie.  They worked their a$$es off to make this happen.  And thanks to the SORBA Chattanooga for getting out in the days leading up to this event and clearing the trail of multiple downed trees from some wicked storms.

Already thinking about Stanley Gap.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Iron Mountain 100k Race Report

This was the 6th running of this backwoods old school trail race.  After having raced it, I could kick myself in the pants for not having done it sooner.  Jeff Bartlett could not have said it better, "... you take something you really enjoy, then you do it as hard and fast as you possibly can, to the possible detriment of enjoying it as much as you would on a casual ride, and eventually everything hurts and you can't wait for it to be over."

I pre-rode the course several weeks ago.  While it was enjoyable, and I got to stop and smell the roses and take lots of pictures, for me, it is just not as fun as racing it.  I am addicted to endorphins and I cannot seem to get my "fix" unless I am suffering.  I categorize suffering into two sub-types, suffery good and suffery bad.  Suffery good is when your system is firing on all cylinders.  Yes, there is pain, but it is welcomed and bearable.  Suffery bad is when you are struggling to get to that level you know you can achieve, but it is just not happening.

Photo Credit:  Icon Media Asheville

Never knowing how my legs are going to respond, until the race starts, I felt great during the neutral roll out of town to the Virginia Creeper Trail.  The pace on the Creeper was a casual 15-17mph.  And then we hit the 1+ mile technical climb up the Beech Grove Trail.  After a couple hundred yards of negotiating the slick rocks and roots, I entered my suffery bad zone ... where I would stay for the next 3 hours.  As Zoe so eloquently put it, my legs tried to "grow roots" on every climb.   Surprisingly, my HAB legs were happy.

The first 10 miles is 95% climbing.  After Beech Grove, the grunting continued on Iron Mountain Trail.  With flailing legs, I focused on my mental game.  My mind immediately went to Eleanor, who recently surpassed mile 2000 on the Tour Divide.  Zoe caught me as I was fumbling around on a loose cat head climb.  With her bubbly persona and a mini-Eleanor sitting on my shoulder, it was easy to stay positive.  My grimace turned to a smile.  Over the next 25 miles Zoe and I sorta rode together.  She would drop me on the climbs and I would reel her back in on the descents.

Beartree Gap descent.  Photobomber showing just how rad this descent was.  

The Beartree Gap descent was blistering fast.  The most technical part of this trail was getting across the 10 foot slicker 'n snot bridge at the bottom.  I was debating as to whether to ride or walk it.  The decision was made for me when the single speeder in front of me went down HARD on it.

Bypassing aid station 1, I began the 3 mile paved climb.  My bike decided to creak with each pedal stroke, so much so that when I caught a racer, he politely pointed it out to me.  What he was really wanting to say was, "Please pass me and end the torture!"  Once the pavement ended and the climb up the Lum Trail began, the creaking subsided.  Zoe caught me again and passed me, all while answering 100 questions from the racer behind her in a RPE voice of 4.

Picking up the Iron Mountain Trail again, I was glad for the descent, marbly as it was.  Crossing over a highway, I began the "arduous for me" climb up FS84.  Normally I am the passer on climbs, but today I was the passee.  I just focused on how fun Jerry's Creek was going to be.  As I descended Jerry's with its half-track, off-camber wet footprint littered with slick 45 degree angle roots, I had my left foot unclipped most of the way and praying to make it down in one piece.  Only mountain bikers would say that fun includes being scared sh!tless.

Catching back up to Zoe on the lower half of Jerry's, I enjoyed her sound effects as she got sideways in several slick corners.  We rolled into aid station 2 together.  As I was refilling my CamelBak and choking down a couple gels, she was having a picnic.  I hurried her up a bit as she was thoroughly enjoying the smorgasboard.

We rode together on the next fireroad climb up to Barton Gap.  I jokingly told her that I had put a spare set of legs at the next aid station.  I was now entering my third hour of suffery bad.  So I started asking Zoe questions that required more than one word answers.  She gladly answered in detail, but soon she was talking to herself as the rubber band broke and she pulled away as we entered the Barton Gap Trail.

Even given my grumpy legs this trail was a hoot!  The climb up included several section of soul sapping soft trail.  However, on the descent, recent trail work opened up the undergrowth allowing for stupid fast speeds.  I felt like a Jedi knight on a speeder bike!

Popping back out onto FS84 for the 4-5 mile climb back up to more trail, my legs finally began showing some signs of life.  Hallelujah!  I saw Zoe way up ahead and slowly began to reel her back in.  With about a mile left of climbing, I passed her at warp ... err, turtle speed.  As I passed her for the final time, she cheered me on!  This sign of sportmanship shows just how (insert desired adjective of awesomeness) she truly is.

Iron Mountain descent.  Photo Credit:  Icon Media Asheville

Heading down the Iron Mountain Trail towards Skulls Gap allowed my legs to fully re-energize.  By the time I passed by aid station 3, I was in my suffery good zone.  The remaining 20 miles flew by.  I HAB'd back up the marbly cat-head section of Iron Mountain twice as fast as I could have ridden it.  The ridge line section of Iron Mountain leading to the Chestnut Mountain Trail was similar to the Snake.  I was in my element, floating effortlessly over the rocks.  The Chestnut Mountain descent was like the Turkey Pen descent.  Towards the end I was two-fingering the brakes as my forearms burned with lactic acid.

Photo Credit:  Icon Media Asheville

Rolling into aid station 4, I chased a gel with a Red Bull and began the 4 mile climb back up to Iron Mountain.  This climb was a mix of gravel, unmaintained fire road,  rocky double track, and super steep fall line trail.  During my pre ride of this section, I remembered it being painful.  Today, it was as if I had wings.  Before I knew it, I was on the FeatherCamp Ridge Trail.  I passed one poor racer whose legs were having a mutiny.  Back on the Iron Mountain Trail, it was a 6 mile descent to the finish, save for a few short climbs.  I was able to hammer these last few climbs without so much of a whimper from my legs.  Passing several racers gave me renewed energy and focus for the final 2 mile descent that littered with baby heads.  My forearms were like Popeye's by the time I sailed through the finish line.

This was a super hard day on the bike.  But also a very rewarding one.  Endeavor to pesevere is one of my mantras and today it was ever so true.  There is not a greater feeling on the bike than to conquer the suffery bad.  And that endorphin rush when you have left everything out on the trail is why I prefer racing to riding.

Might I mention just one more time how awesome of a competitor Zoe is.  To having not raced any longer than 2 1/2 hours and having no real structured training leading up to this race shows how strong this lady is.  Not to mention her class on the trail.  Her bright and bubbly character led me through the darkest of pain caves.

Photo Credit:  Icon Media Asheville

This race will test you more than any 6 hour lap race can.  So if you like old school single track, fire road climbs of death followed by single track descents of death, all sprinkled with some sh!ts and giggles flowy trail, you must put this on your calender.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Karl's Kaleidoscope Race Report

After a two year hiatus, I returned for the 4th edition of this super-cool grassroots race.  In remembrance of Karl Kalber, founder/promoter/best friend Mark Prater created this epic course through the countryside and mountains surrounding Marion, Virginia.  Cory told me that the course was different than the inaugural course:  more single track, less road.

I awakened on race day to clear skies and perfect temps (60-70 degrees).  Although the pre ride the day before was less than stellar, leg-wise, I was determined to have a fun romp through the woods.  During the pre race meeting, Mark gave us a nice breakdown on the course, going over it turn by turn.  I stored as much info into my memory banks as possible.  I was surprised to see such a small group of us, what with a HUGE and EQUAL payout ($800, $300, $200, $100, $100).  There was still plenty of good competition to be had.

Zeke said a prayer, Karl's son shot his pistol, and we were OFF!  The start was ridiculously fast, or perhaps it was just that I was trying to stay with the lead group of men.  After a short stint on pavement, we hit the flat Lake Trail.  I went into the single track in 6th, but soon was passed by an onslaught of racers, including Laura Hamm.  My legs were already barking so I knew better than to try to hold this pace.  It was hard to do, but I let Laura go, hoping that over the course, my legs would open up, and I could scratch, dig, and claw my way back up to her.

After going down around the spillway, up the backside of the Lake Loop, I found my happy pace going up CCC Camp Trail.  These trails in Hungry Mother State Park are beautiful and well-maintained.

I found myself with a couple other guys who had a nice pace.  Going around a couple switchbacks, I could see that Misty was only seconds behind me.  And then the trail turned up ... steeply.  I went from my happy pace to a slow grind up the 15-18% pitches.  One mile later I was headed onto Molly's Knob, which was equally steep.

Having ridden this the day before, at least I knew that this painful grind would end with a sweet, exhilarating 2 mile descent.  Even though the trail was wide and smooth, it had alot of loose shale that made the off camber turns quite interesting.  I was following Shane down this descent when he took a right onto the pavement.  There was a fence at the bottom of the descent.  We were so focused on not hitting it and did not see the sign for the left hand turn.  After I rode for a short distance, my brain turned back on, and I realized that we should have taken a left.  I yelled to Shane and turned around.  Fortunately I did not lose much time.

Vista on Molly's Knob.  Across the lake on the hillside is the Clyburn Hollow Trail.  

After a brief pedal on the park roads I then hit Raider's Run and Old Shawnee Trails.  These were equally fun but not as painfully steep.  Soon enough, I was back out onto some gravel double track, heading towards the last trails in the park.  But first I had to pass by the two aggressive beagles.  At least they were penned up.  They got so tore up by the racers passing by that they would take out their aggressions on each other.  After I passed them, I could gauge the other racers behind me by the sounds of their skirmishes.

Before I hit the Clyburn Hollow Trail, the course took us through the back of a sawmill/machine shop where I got to test out by tubeless set up, running over various pieces of wood and metal.  Having passed the test, whew!,  I hit up the last bit of single track in the park.  This section was once again fun and fast with plenty of climbing.

After a short repeat on the Lake Trail, I was motoring on the pavement section through Mitchell Valley.  The course turned onto a cattle farm where workers were busy setting new fence.  After plowing through a deep puddle of mud and probably some manure, I then got to enjoy a bulldozer chewed up section where the fence was being rebuilt.  It would have been much smoother had I remembered to unlock my fork from when I had locked it back on the Mitchell Valley Road.

Crossing the farm led me to Bear Creek Road, where I was promptly greeted by a flagman with a big STOP sign.  After waiting 40 seconds (long enough for my legs to seize up), I was allowed to go.  The reason for the stop was that a group of men were trimming trees off of powerlines.  Motoring on, I soon caught up to a single speeder, who told me that he had been riding with a group that included Laura.  He thought that she was just a couple minutes ahead.  So close, I could smell her, but the legs were content to  rest a bit behind the SS'rs wheel.  Making short work of Crawfish Road, we hit the Crawfish Trail together.  Wow!  Just wow!  This was a beautiful and relatively flat stretch of old school trail with a dozen or so creek crossings.  All of the crossings were shallow, save for one which went well over my bottom bracket.  Several of the crossings were technical as they were rocky and muddy.  But so much better than when I raced it in 2012; the whole trail was a slimy mess.

Soon Mr. Singlespeed pulled away from me and once again I was on my own.  Pretty much the entire race I had my own bubble.  At an intersection two course marshals were each sitting on a log.  Between them was a log "table" complete with table cloth (paper towels).  They were partaking of wine, cheese, and salami.  How I was able to see all of this in a span of 3 seconds, I do not know.  But it was absolutely hilarious!

After about 5 miles of Crawfish bliss, I was on the never ending gravel road.  At least it was flat.  As I had plenty of time to think on this section, I found it peculiar that my strength today seemed to be on the flats.  All those steep ups back at Hungry Mother had really put a hurtin' on my legs.  But on the flat sections, I could bury my head and keep a good tempo.  Rolling into the second aid station, my CamelBak was on "E" so I filled my bottle and grabbed a gel.

Then began the Walker Mountain climb of death.  4 miles long and 32 miles into the course, this was a beast!  My legs would have none of it; at one point I thought they were going to have a mutiny.  The farther I climbed, the harder the trail got.  It started out as a gravel road for a short ways and then became an unmaintained gravel double track with several areas that were rocky and washed out.

I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting to have racers upon me at any moment.  That "looking over the shoulder" thingy I hate to do as it is a sign of weakness.  I felt like a struggling fish in a deep blue ocean just waiting for the sharks to come finish me off.  But none came.  I finally topped out onto some weedy ATV trail that led to the Pisgah-'ish 2.5 mile descent.  I was so looking forward to brapping down some fun trail.

Seeing the many yellow strands of  "police line do not cross" tap tied onto trees, I knew the fun had arrived.  This trail, if you can call it that, called for total focus.  With hardly any foot print and with one continual rock garden, your eyes were constantly flickering up to see the tape to know where to go and then down to negotiate through rocks.  A couple times I made "new" trail as I got off track.

Walker Mountain descent.  Photo Credit:  Jeff Plasmido

After a short hike a bike, where the trail was hugging the steep mountainside, I found myself on the section I call "Mini Heartbreak Ridge."  2 miles of descending through a washed out fall line and I came upon the moto duo who were still enjoying their deep woods formal dining experience.  Turning right, I made short work of a portion of Crawfish, in the opposite direction, before hanging right onto several miles of rolling doubletrack.  Riding Crawfish this way was funner as it was slightly downhill.

Coming back into Aid Station 1/3, I stopped to refill my bottle and grab another gel.  Riding back on Crawfish Road, I was greeted by a nice headwind; at least the breeze was cool.  After about 1/4 mile on Bear Creek, I was directed by a family of course marshalls onto another grassy double track.  This was also part of the Crawfish Trail system and had a mix of doubletrack and trail.  I knew that the finish was soon so I tried to up my effort.  The legs were back talking, but I was having none of it and forced them to pedal until I reached a certain HR.  Kind of a game I play when I am physically "whooped."  Today it was working and I was able to eek out a little more power, or at least that was what I perceived.

Coming onto the Kalber's homestead, I was greeted by Karl Jr.  He was  a hoopin' and a hollerin.'  Glad to have that mental push to keep the legs turning the pedals over.  Passing through the roads of the state park, I knew I had second.  Can't say I wasn't disappointed to not get first, but that's racing.  I did achieve my #1 goal which was to have fun.  Painful at times, but the kind of suffery fun all of us endurance nuts feed upon.

54 miles, 7000 feet, 4:44

I can't say enough great things about this race.  Plenty of pre race schwag, post race pizza and beer, excellent aid stations, great course, down to earth promoter who worked his a$$ off to prepare the course, and seemingly endless prizing.

As each turn of the kaleidoscope shows you something new, so did the race course.

Prizes that I can definitely use.

Stoked that Melissa,my MDH100 traveling partner, got 5th.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Marathon Nationals Race Report

As I choked down my pre race breakfast, the butterflies were swirling heavy.  I cannot remember the last time I was this nervous.  Warming up prior to the start, my stomach was sour and that NEVER happens.  I calmed myself by finding a secluded area to warm up the engine.  I was more worried about myself than my competition.  With only 1 race, 6WC, under my belt and 4 weeks of semi-structured training, I was not sure how my body would respond.  I still had a lot of self-doubt running through me.  Was 6 weeks off the bike enough to reset my system?  How much top end fitness did I lose?  Did I choose the right gear and could I stay on top of it for 60+ miles?

Lining up with four other strong women, the butterflies settled and I was determined to leave it all out on the trail.  We were going off with the 35+ wave which included my team mate Lisa.  The whistle blew and with one pedal stroke I was clipped in and hammering up the gravel road.  Amber and Stefanie pulled ahead and I could see they were pushing a harder gear.  I was determined to stay with them and my legs were ready to pedal a RPM of 130.

Upon hitting the Bartram Trail, I latched on to a group of 8.  Although the pace was XC fast, my legs surprisingly felt good so early in the race.  Slowly throughout the first 15 miles, the group thinned as either a racer would bumble through a ditch crossing or was unable to keep up the pace.  Hitting the double track section where there were several log crossings, I played it safe and ran them.  Stefanie was having issues with these features, casing one, and then almost falling trying to run them.  I knew right then that I would probably have an advantage over her in the upcoming technical sections of Keg and Mistletoe.

Amber, on the other hand, was steady and smooth.  She definitely had an engine ... and pistons that seemed to be twice as long as mine.  I would have to bide my time and wait for an opportunity.  As we crossed the highway and began the 3 mile rake n ride section through pastures, woods, and powelines, the geared ladies and Amber were able to pull away from me, but I never lost sight of them.  I, as well, was able to pull away from Stefanie.

Lisa's "Train of Pain" coming in to the Start/Finish at mile 30

Coming into feed zone 1 at mile 15, I was glad I chose the CamelBak for the first half of the race.  The pace was so fast and intense, I would not have had a chance to let up and drink from a bottle.  Upon entering the 15 mile section of Bartram back to the start/finish, I was able to reel in a group of 3 ladies:  Lisa was leading, followed by Amber, and a 30+ woman.  I was content to sit on the back while Lisa set a blistering but sustainable pace.  Our group slowly devoured male racers as we rolled along the flowy trail.  All the men were very polite and moved off the trail as our little train rolled through.

Approaching the Start/Finish, I began to undo my CamelBak.  I knew that Amber probably would not stop and I needed each and every second.  I threw off my CamelBak, grabbed a bottle from Doug, and headed out for the second half.  Climbing up the gravel road just out of the Start/Finish, I had the first inkling of fatigue.  The first half I had completed in 2:14.  Could I keep up this pace for another 2+ hours?  Probably not.  I was just hoping that Amber was having those very same thoughts.

Amber was able to put a 5 second gap on me on the double track, but I was able to close that down on the section of Bartram that lead to the highway crossing.  After the crossing Amber was once again able to get a gap on me on the 2 mile gravel road leading to the Keg Creek Trail.  Her gear was beginning to annoy me ... or  it mighta been my one easier gear was frustrating me on the flat road sections.

Photo Credit:  Scott Hyatt

As I approached the sharp right hand turn onto the Keg Trail, I saw Amber had overshot and was coming back up the hill.  (It was this unmanned turn that put many a racer out of contention.  Some figured it out soon enough but others ended up riding the last half of Keg backwards). I saw an opportunity and attempted to open a gap on her.  The effort was painful and short lived as she reeled me back in on the highway bridge crossing.  Together we rode the 3.5 miles of Keg before popping out into the neigborhood.  On the double track climb up to the pavement, I knew I was going to be in trouble as my legs began to bark.  Fortunately I was able to close in on a couple men and ride their wheel all the way to Mistletoe.  This woud give me some much needed rest, but it also gave Amber an opportunity to recover as well.

Riding through a field for about 1/2 mile, my teeth rattled in my head.  Looking to my right, I saw a perfectly good SMOOTH PAVED road.  That was torture!  And, I would have to ride this again on my return to Keg.  On the out/back single track to the Rock Dam Trail, I was able to ride the flat rock creek crossing.  The water had receded and there was only one patch of slick algae that I was able to lift my front wheel over.  Melissa was stuck to my rear wheel like a tick on a dog.  On a couple occasions I asked if she wanted around, but she said she was content.  Like a cat "toying" with a mouse before the death strike, I envisioned.  But as long as she was behind me, I had a chance.

As I approached the deep creek crossing, I came upon a male racer, who seemed somewhat dumbfounded as how to approach this steep 10 foot drop down to a 20 foot water crossing in which there appeared to be no bottom.  He asked if I was going to ride it.  "No," I told him, "but I will show you how to get across it quickly."  I slid down the slope, plopped into the water which came up to my waist, held my bike over my head, waded across, and then ran the 40 yards up a 12% grade and quickly hopped back on the bike.

The next couple miles were fairly technical with a ditch crossing followed by a steep up and then eventually hitting the off camber rock garden that was about 40 yards long.  Surprisingly I was able to stay on top of my gear and clean it.  I heard Amber stumble behind me and once again tried to surge ahead.  I made it all the way to the water bar run up before she once again latched onto me.  Together we made quick work of the Cliatt Trail, passing several more men.  We were now on the tail end of the 40+ men.  That was a confidence boost for me, as our group had started 10 minutes behind them.

Once back on the second half of the Rock Dam Trail, I tried to tap into my reserves.  I knew Amber was strong and had the bigger engine.  If I could just stay with her until we hit the second half of the Keg Trail ...   Along a flat section, Amber said she would pull us up to a small group of men about 30 yards ahead.  She passed me and I hung precariously on her wheel.  She then asked how far we had gone.  I said 45 miles.  Done "toying with the mouse," she went in for the kill.  She powered up, got a gap, to which I could not respond, and was gone.

I had about a 30 second pity party, but then endeavored to persevere.  There were still 15 miles left and lots could happen.  By the time I hit the third and final feed zone, Doug said she had about a minute on me.  I swapped bottles and, on the fly, chugged down a Red Bull.  If I ever needed "wings," I needed them now.

The 4 mile flat section back to Keg was miserable.  Spin, spin, spin, coast, coast, coast, spin, spin, spin, coast, coast, coast, etc.  At one point my legs were going so fast, I thought they might shear off at the hip joint.  Once back onto Keg, I was in my element.  Summoning what strength I had left, I dug deep and fought for every inch of that trail.  Around every corner, I looked for Amber.  As the miles slowly ticked away, I then began looking for the gravel road.  That last 5 miles on Keg was a beast.  The roots had grown bigger and more numerous.  And the log crossings!  I swear I heard them heckling me.  I hopped a few, bounced off a few, ran a few, and crawled over a few.

Finally on the gravel, I thought I could smell the barn.  This 2 mile section seemed to go on forever! I was running on empty and I was veering left and right to find every drop of fuel left in the tank.  Crossing the highway for the final time, I pretty much concluded that I was now racing for second.  So then I began looking over my shoulder for third.  Almost home, I was racing around a corner, when I had to slam on the brakes as there were about 20 racers stopped in the middle of the trail.  Just what I DID NOT want to happen.  The pros had started and to allow then the full lane of double track up to the Bartram Trail, they stopped our progress down the double track to the finish.  I saw Amber about 5 racers ahead of me.  (She later told me that I was about 2 minutes behind her, up until this point.)

One lonely USAC official was there trying to take down our stopping time, but that was futile as there were more racers there than she could handle.  There was NO WAY that this would be a fair finish.  After I was stopped for about 4 minutes, she started to let racers go in 30 second increments.  In another 2 minutes I was off for the final kilometer.  At least in this 6 minute of limbo no other ladies had shown up.  My legs let me know immediately they were not happy.  The lactic acid was almost unbearable, but the pain was almost over.

Cruising down through the finish with a silver medal was not how I wanted this race to end.  However, I had no "hindsight" moments.  I had a perfect race, laid it all out on the trail, but just could not match Amber's engine.  I was very pleased with my performance; my legs had some spark and my heart was strong.  And I had the second fastest overall time. This race has given me a big boost of confidence going into the second half of the season.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Marathon Nationals Pre Ride

Although overkill for the Bartram Trail, your back will appreciate the full suspension on the Keg and at Mistletoe.

For you scholarly types of mountain bike racers, I have some beta on the Marathon Nationals course.  This past week I took a little trip to Georgia to roll my tires over the 58 mile course.  Aside from what will be on private land, I rode most of what was available.  The course is roughly broken up into three sections with fire roads and asphalt making up connectors to get from one trail system to another.  I am racing in the single speed division so I also wanted to figure out my gearing.

The Bartram Trail is the first trail system to be ridden.  At 18.5 miles, it is the longest of the three. Some of it will be ridden twice, but in the opposite direction. It is flat, fast, and flowy.  It holds up well in the wet, as I experienced first hand.  Most of what was flung up on the bike and eye was not mud but bits of pine straw.  I quickly noticed I was under geared on this trail.

The Keg Trail is 9 miles.  It is mostly flat with just a few grunty climbs of 30-100 yards.  However, it does require 100% focus, what with its tight twists and turns, multiple bridges, and creek crossings. If it is wet, which it was when I rode, you had better make sure to mount your stickiest tires.  What with its hundreds of roots, most of which are angled and off cambered, this trail will make you eat dirt for lunch, if you are not careful.

Must "play nice" with the roots.

I also encountered (10 + n) log crossings where  (n = 5 to 10).  For me, half were rideable and the other half I practiced my CX dismount and remount.  If you like old school trail, this one will not disappoint.  Those who run wide bars or bar ends might find this extra exciting.  My gearing here was a little more likeable.  The "right" gear will be the one where you can hammer the flats, but that still allows you to get on top of on the short, but steep climbs.

The trails in Mistletoe State Park which will be utilized are Cliatt Nature Loop and the Rock Dam Trail, 8 miles in length.  Cliatt is wide open, smooth, and easy.  The Rock Dam is a beautiful old school trail that will throw alot at you in just 6 miles.  I was glad to have reconned this, as the beauty that enveloped the trail was astounding.

Cliatt Nature Trail

There are 3 flat rock creek crossings that look so doable.  But ... the algae is everywhere.  My guess is that the coefficient of friction between these rocks and your tire is about 0.03, which is also the same as ICE!  You have been warned.

Collarbone breaker #1

Collarbone breaker #2

Collarbone breaker #3

The climbs on the Rock Dam trail are short, but steep, and always seem to occur after a ditch drop, a creek crossing, basically momentum busters.  Most of my sessioning involved deciding when to run like hell.

15% grade after a ditch crossing

There is one fun rocky section about 75 yards long on about 12% grade and 20% off camber.  This was one of a couple techy sections where I did some true sessioning.  As long as I did not look to my right, I was o.k.


After 3 good days of riding, I think I have finally figured out my gearing and tire choice.  This course may be flat, but it is not gonna be easy.  You are going to be on the gas ALL the time!  Glad I like to spin, spin, spin!