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!

Friday, April 10, 2015

6 Hours of Warrior Creek Race Report

First race back since the 6 week lay off.  No structured training leading into this one.  I was excited to be back in competition, but nervous that my engine would misfire. I chose an easy gear, knowing I would hate the first lap, but at least be in my comfort zone during the final ones.  A little pre-ride shake out of the legs and nerves the day before and I was ready to see how I would perform come race day.

Each lap was 13.8 miles and 1350 feet of climbing.  So many twists and turns and ups and downs that my Garmin could only handle 11.5 miles and 1100 feet of climbing.  The course was in perfect shape. Many hours of work had gone into making this course race ready.  The weather was cooperating this year; the course was dry and with a nice light rain the night before, the dust had settled.

Although I was initially in the 5th row, late comers funneled in the front, past the "official" start line.  This put me well back in the field.  The start was fast and furious on the initial 3/4 mile parade lap on the pavement through the campground.  I was spinning a cadence of 100+ but still was passed by hordes of racers that are super fast on their geared full squish bikes ... until they hit the single track where their roadie skills did not transition to the dirt.

I knew Lap 1 was going to be a party train.  In year's past, I would blow a few matches to get around racers.  This year, I had decided that I would ride with the train, saving my energy for future laps.  An experiment it was.  I was EXTREMELY patient until I came upon a racer who I swore was drunk.  This guy was on a full suspension with a skateboarder's helmet, flat pedals, and pads.  I don't think he realized he had gears as he was pedaling like a hummingbird.  He was fine on the straightaways but when he came to any sort of turn, he was all over the berm and nearly bit it several times.  I knew I had to get around him before he took me out.  I did and said a prayer of thanks.

My body was functioning well and I was almost into my little bubble of happiness when, trying to pass a racer through a rooty section, my chain came off.  Doh!  Taking way too long too get it back on, guess who passed back by me?  Yep, Mr. Tipsy!  I had to play that game all over again, this time passing him as he was wallowing around in the leaves after having folded his bike in half on a huge berm.

Short, but steep, grunty climbs

I finally found my bubble on Lap 2.  I came upon Eleanor midway and noticed she was pushing a much harder gear.  We chatted for a bit and then I knew I had to go.  One of these days, I hope to be able to throw on that big gear again.  But for now, I was happy with my dinner plate cog.  Lap 2 was my fastest.

Midway through lap 3 I came upon Mark Stewart.  He was a hurtin' buckaroo as he rode with Lisa the previous lap.  Little did he know that she sometimes likes to play with guys the way a cat plays with a mouse ... just before the kill blow.  I was beginning to feel the fatigue settle in as well.  I chose to stay with Mark and follow his lines, and perhaps learn a little.  Mark is a very skilled rider.  I told him that the highlight of the race for me would be able to see him hit those four jumps at the end of the lap.  I think that this pushed him a little harder, and he nailed the biggest one!

Prior to heading out for lap 4, I chugged a can of Red Bull.  It took about a half lap before I grew wings.  While waiting for my overdrive to kick in, I settled in behind another rider who had a great pace and was super consistent.  This allowed me to turn AutoPilot on and enjoy the ride.  Once I felt the energy return, I made the pass and motored on.  About a mile before the rock gardern, I fell in behind Melissa Cooper who was racing duo.  When I made my presence known, she kicked it into high gear and left me choking on her dust on the climb.  I managed to crawl my way back onto her wheel and then passed her when she bobbled in the beginning of the rocks.  Must have been fate as she rode my line through the tricky portion of the garden and cleaned it for the first time!  I could hear her squeals of gratitude, which in turn made me feel good and bolstered the inner fires.

I went out for my 5th and final lap.  I wasn't sure if it was necessary, but I needed all the miles I could get.  My body was not happy with all the jarring.  With every G-out or set of roots, my left foot sent out electrical waves of pain and it felt like someone was taking a knife and poking it into my lumbar area.  The upper body was holding up well, but the lower was all to hell!  I was ready to be done.

With about 3 miles to go, Gordon Wadsworth and Wes Richards, racing neck in neck in the single speed division, blew around me quickly and effortlessly.  I was "sucked" into their vacuum and for a brief moment, I do believe I entered a time warp.  This last lap was my second fastest, no doubt thanks to those two.

I rolled through the finish line with a first place in the single speed category ... 5 laps in 6:21.  Slower than my last solo performance, but I was happy.  Happy to be back at my passion.  Happy to have my body perform as it should.

Jason knows how to put on a fantastic race with equal payouts, incredible schwag, and a post-race raffle filled with high dollar items.  Winning the single speed division netted me some Benjamins and a Endless Bike Co. musette bag filled with goodness!

The 33T will come in handy at Marathon Nationals.

And beer for my hubby!

The Jedi Master of trailbuilding Jim Horton
Warrior Creek is my all-time favorite 6 hour race.  I will be back in 2016, perhaps mixing it up a little with one of my friends.

If you missed out on this one, check out their fall race, The Wilkesboro 100K.  It uses the Warrior Creek Trails, the Overmountain Victory Trail, and the Dark Mountain Trails.  I raced the inaugural one and highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sue Haywood Mountain Bike Skills Clinic

I first learned of Sue's clinics after seeing a FB post by Shanna Powell last year.  I had been wanting some formal instruction and with Shanna's positive review, I arranged a private clinic for 7 ladies this past weekend.

For those of you who don't know Sue Haywood (shame on you), she is one of the most down to earth world class racers you will ever meet.  With championships and podiums in almost every style of mountain bike racing there is, she was and still is a force to be reckoned with.  Couple that with her ability to communicate those skills and you have an instructor that can teach an old mountain biker new tricks!

Mary showin how it's done, with a smile!

The group of women I invited are all expert level riders.  Despite our years of experience, we all learned a ton!  The biggest take away for me was how to drive the bike, not just ride it.  Unlike operating a car, on the bike you need to be aggressive, not defensive.

Kathleen is like C4 ... a small package of explosiveness!

I believe we all left with alot more knowledge and a little more skill.  Now I need to practice, practice, practice.  At this point, my mammalian brain knows what to do.  And with practice, my reptilian brain can take it to the next level where I don't have to think about it.

Rachel with a nice drop in.

It was great to have an all ladies clinic.  No machismo interfering with our self confidence.  Even though ladies do have egos, we know when to leave them at home.

Learning the basics before applying them on the trail.

Now I just need to "unlearn" some bad habits and work on the core skills.  I figure that I am as fast as I can be on the climbs.  Where I can gain speed is on the flats and descents by applying Sue's teachings.  She is a level 2 IMBA certified instructor and has also been an instructor with Gene Hamilton's Better Ride clinics, before branching out on her own.

Sue loved Live Wire and High Voltage

Sue runs a series of clinics throughout the year.  She is also willing to come to your neck of the woods and instruct a small group.  I would highly recommend taking a skills clinic.  My only regret is not having done it sooner!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Progold Xtreme Lube Test Wrap Up

Last November, I began a durability test of two Progold Lubricant products.  I applied ProLink to my road bike and Xtreme to my Niner Jet 9 RDO.  After last week's muddy "ride" during the Snake finale, the test was concluded.  Although I did not have any shifting issues, there was an irritating noise coming from the drive train.  For most, this would probably not be a factor, but for me, anything more than the "whrrrrr" of my I-9's drives me crazy!

A typical race day at The Snake

The final tally was 100 miles and 12 hours of ride time.  This included 4 rides 2 of which were the Snake Creek Gap TT), all of which were wet and muddy.  After all, it was winter time.  If but for the nasty conditions, I feel confident that this mileage/time could have been doubled or even tripled before I ended the test.  I plan on conducting a second test once I am back on the bike and during more favorable riding conditions.

Meanwhile, after 600 miles and 39 hours my drive train is still "happy, happy, happy" on my road bike.  I was hoping to have concluded both tests by now, but I have been off the bike for 4 weeks due to overtraining.

I was able to clean my bike in no time with ProGold Degreaser + Wash and Chain Shine.  A little goes a long way.  I add 1 part water to 1 part Degreaser + Wash and I pour a tiny amount of Chain Shine into a cup and apply it to the drive train with a small paint brush.

After allowing both products to sit for a couple minutes, I then use the above tools to clean.  James Stankowitz showed me that a cheap paint brush gets easily into all the nooks and crannies of a full suspension rig.

Hard to believe she is in her 4th season of racing.

White stays white with ProGold!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Snake Creek Gap TT "Ride" Report

After 3 weeks off the bike and 1 race away from securing the belt buckle, I made the decision to kit up and "ride" the finale.  I was unsure of how well my body was recovering and needed a spin to let me know if I was making any headway or not.  Probably not a smart move physically, but I needed the mental satisfaction in order to keep me going for another 3 weeks of rest.  And if I felt like crap, I could always bail at the 1/2 way point and drive Zeke's truck back to the start.

After horrendous winter conditions the past few weeks, the trail would not allow for many PR's.  That combined me starting in the back of the field would ensure a slow, enjoyable ride.  Never knowing how my legs truly feel until the race starts, I stood patiently waiting while at least 150 riders began their TT.

Normally I am freezing at the start, but today I chose to layer ... alot.  Being warm at the start was a bonus.  As I began my ride, I soft-pedaled to the creek crossing.  Many passed me, but I did not care.  I was happy just to be on the bike, enjoying my time with nature.  I was wearing my heart rate monitor, to keep me honest.  As I settled into my granny to begin the double track climb, I glanced down at my monitor.  Heart rate of 150 with an RPE of 4 and no "burn" in my legs.  That was a fantastic sign.  3 weeks ago while attempting a tempo work out at the Dry Creek system, my HR was 130 with an RPE of 10 and legs of lead!

The trail was slicker-n-snot in alot of places.  My bike and I were soon covered in a couple pounds of mud.  I chose to work on skills today.  After "granny-ing" the climbs, I would put it in rock-n-roll mode on the descents.  With lots of energy being conserved, I do believe I rode the descents faster and better ... although a couple trees did get awfully close!

Starting in the back allowed me to make several new observations:

  1. The 26" wheel is not dead!
  2. The men smell so much better.  Over the course of the race, I rode behind 4 guys that had on cologne.  Not overpowering, but very pleasant.
  3. The size of the hydration packs!  OMG, it made my neck and shoulder blades hurt, just looking at them. 
  4. The aid stations are packed full of racers.  They did not appear to be making any NASCAR style pits.
  5.  The racers are really the same as the frontrunners.  Although not as fast, they are equally determined to enjoy the ride and accomplish goals.  

Arriving at the Snake Creek Gap parking lot, I mosey'd over to my cooler and had a brief picnic. After refueling and shedding a layer, I began the climb up Mill Creek Mountain.  After remembering last month's painful, demoralizing experience of this section, I reveled in the fact that today was so much better.  

Just before the washed out, rutted descent prior to The Wall, I was able to catch up to Grace Ragland and ride with her for a couple miles.  I know Grace pretty well, but I have never ridden with her.  WELL, LET ME TELL YOU!  THIS CHICK HAS SKILLS!  She slayed that downhill!  I was most impressed by her descending skills, as well as her ability to negotiate the rock gardens.  WOW!  This, from a woman, who had her 55th birthday today ... and has multiple sclerosis.  Truly amazing!  

Snake bit!

Having conserved so much energy over the first half of the course I was able to clean so much more of the last 8 miles of single track.  I almost made it up the wall; just too many walkers to negotiate around led me to spin out at the halfway point on the short rocky ledge.  Ooooh ... so close!

I rolled through the finish line in 4:07.  This was 34 minutes slower than last month, but 
100 times more enjoyable!  Last month my average HR was 155 with an RPE of 10.  Today was an average HR of 144 with an RPE of 5.  I will take this and enjoy the next 3 weeks off the bike and any structured training.  I truly needed this mental boost as I was doubting my abilities to recover and be able to strive for a successful 2015 season.


I must apologize to all my cycling friends, but I am groovin' on next week's forecast.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Diagnosis: Over Trained

While all of my FB friends are headed south to frolic in the dirt and sunshine at 12/6 Hours of Santos, I have been enduring my first of 6 weeks of forced rest.  As I have mentioned before, ever since I ramped up my training/racing after a 5 week break over the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays, I have felt "flat," and two power tests showed a 10% decrease in power and a 10-15 beat drop in my heart rate.  After lackluster performances at the Chainbuster 3 Hour and the Snake Creek Gap TT, I went to my primary care doc.

While awaiting bloodwork results, I diagnosed myself with everything from another food allergy to Lyme Disease to heart disease to cancer.  I had considered being "over trained" briefly, but how could I be?  I took 5 weeks off any structured training.  Yes, I still did ride, but in the JRA zone.

Just last week, after finishing up my fourth week of structured training, I pulled the plug.  I pretty much fell apart on the bike while doing a 4 hour single speed ride, where I was supposed to build up to hard and fast the last hour.  I called it after 3 hours, when I could not get my HR into the 140's and on any grade greater than 5%, I barely could turn the pedals over.  I decided right then and there at the Dry Creek parking lot that I was not dying of some horrible disease, but that I had pushed my body to its limits and beyond.

The next day I received my blood results.  All was normal, including a TSH and T4, but my free T3 was considerably low.  This is called "euthyroid sick syndrome," or non-thyroidal illness syndrome.  This is a dysregulation of the thyrotropic feedback control, where the T3 and/or T4 levels are low, but the thyroid gland is not dysfunctional.  This condition is seen in starvation, critical illness, or in over trained athletes.

Hindsight is 20/15.  I had a heavy race laden season last fall.  In both Sept and October, I did back to back to back races.   I ended my season later than usual with the last race being Oak Ass at the end of November.  And I was on fire and feeling great!  Coach warned me, but I was having PR's and my numbers were up, so I did not even know I was digging a whole that I might not be able to climb out of.  I should have known after noting in my training log that I was feeling a little "off" at both Nite Nationals and Oak Ass 50.

I took time off training from the end of November until the first Snake in January.  I thought that this would be enough, but apparently not.  What I also did not take into account was the extra  "off the bike" workload that I had taken on during this recovery period.  More work days and hosting holiday festivities does not equate to adequate rest.

So Coach has me off the bike for 6 weeks.  I am praying that this will be long enough for a reset.  In her latest email to me, she has warned that it could possible take 6-12 months to overcome ... which really has me scared.  Scared enough to stick to the plan.

I've learned a painful lesson.  If I am blessed enough to start racing again in April/May, my schedule will undergo a drastic overhaul.  I have the drive of a 20 year old, but a body that is more than twice that age.  In the meantime I may start a BA (Bike-aholic's Anonymous) chapter.

As much as I hate February, I am grateful for the ugly weather.  Being off the bike hasn't been too bad ... yet.  I'm sure once the warm weather comes, I am going to have "ants in my pants."  Hopefully I won't go postal on my family.

So what to do with all this free time.  This week I painted my bedroom.  My family is enjoying my down time as they are loving all the home cooking.  Next week, more painting.  Lots of stretching, core work, and yoga.  My bikes will all be getting detailed and dialed.

Oh, and lots of cuddle time!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Drink the Bean!

Last February, Bobby Rishel, team manager of Christopher Bean Coffee, sent me an email, wanting to sponsor me.  I was taken aback, as 99% of the time, I have to go hunting for sponsors and not vice versa.  At that time, I declined, feeling that there was a bit of a conflict.  I had also never tried the coffee and therefore did not want to commit to something I potentially might not like.

I heard from Rish again last Thanksgiving.  He FB'd me, saying how he really wanted me on the team.  Seriously?  After I had turned him down?  How could I say no, again?  Especially since I had tried a bag and found it to be pretty darn good.  So I accepted.

Since then, I have tried about 7 varieties.  I always get the whole bean and use in my french press no longer than 48 hours post-grind.  I have been pleased with the flavor profiles and even though I am NOT a coffee connoisseur, I think I would be above average in a blind taste test.  Every bag of beans I have received was fresh (not roasted until your order is placed), aromatic, and the beans have a nice oily sheen.

Shipping is fair (no handling charges) and free over $50.  The pricing may be slightly more than what a gourmet coffe (Starbuck's, Seattle's Best, Peet's, etc.) in a grocery store will be, but you are getting the freshest bean possible.  CBC has everything from country of origin to organic to fair trade to flavored coffees. There is an unconditional money back guarantee and you can accrue "bean bucks" to use towards future purchases.

I am quite fond of the Arabica Mocha Java, with its subtle hints of chocolate and mellow taste.  Next would have to be the Poison Spider, a super dark roast that will about knock your pants off.  If I am in need of a chocolate fix, I go for the Chocolate Decadence.  All flavored coffees are gluten free.

So give it a try.  Use coupon code CAREY25 for 25% off your first order.  I think you will approve.  And ... you will be supporting a company that supports cyclists!