Thursday, March 22, 2018

Snake Creek Gap TT 50 Race Report

Buckle secured!

Oh my goodness!  That was my mantra for this race.  Having blown through a slew of profanities earlier in the work week that would have made Yosemite Sam cringe, I promised myself that today cursing would only be acceptable if I broke a body part.

The weather at the start was perfect.  A cool 52 degrees with a slight drizzle.  The trails were dry and fast.  Getting up towards the front at the start, I didn't have to fight through the usual drove of racers and was making great time through the Dry Creek section.  Despite my addiction to CrossFit, my legs felt the best they have all season.  The first 7 miles the trail was highlighted by the controlled burn that had recently taken place.  The trail was leafy brown, while the rest of the forest floor was black.  With body memory at 100%, I was able to rail the loose corners with ease.  I ended up reeling in several who had started out at greyhound pace.

Around mile 14, the drizzle turned to a light rain.  It felt great, at first, helping to cool the engine, but when it began to intensify and the trail turned to a stream, conditions deteriorated quickly.  The trail became slickety slicker n snot, and the pinball games began.  I still managed a decent time through the Dry Creek section and headed up the double track to start the real race ... the remaining 30 miles.

The rain had stopped, but the damage had been done.  I was wishing I had left my fender on as the drops of mud began to build up on my glasses.  I felt sloth slow through the muddy sections, but with the Pisgah Stage Race looming, I did not want any mishaps.  Jen caught me at the exact same location as the January race.  I was hoping to hold her off until at least Snake Creek Gap, but she was just too powerful.  I made a brief attempt at holding her wheel, but when I saw my HR in the red zone, I was smart enough to back off and just ride my own race.

The descent off the backside of Pine Hill was interesting.  Talk about an 8 second bull ride!  I held on for dear life, feathering the brakes just enough to keep contact with the ground and prevent any tree-kissing.  After the road crossing, I slogged through energy sapping mud around the Pilcher's Pond area.  Somehow I managed to clean the steep switchback to begin the climb up Horn Mountain.  Trail conditions improved and I began to see the tread in my tires again.  With the sun coming out and temperatures rising, I found my happy place rolling the rocky ridge line and picking off the 4 climbs.

Coming into the Snake Creek Gap parking lot, I was making great race, not far off my 2017 time.  The volunteers were NASCAR ready, helping me to switch out nutrition and even cleaning my glasses!  My bike looked awful, with the drive train being caked in mud, but it was amazingly quiet.  I continued onward, up the sustained Middle Mountain climb. This is a beast and I consider this the hardest of the course.  Not because it is overly technical or steep, but it comes at a point in the race where I always feel the first signs of fatigue: heavy legs, strained breathing, falling heart rate.  Once up and over, I consider myself to be in the home stretch, especially once I hit the descent down to Swamp Creek.

The rain and 150+ racers doing the 34 and 17 had wreaked havoc on this down hill.  Frustrated that I could not go with the ferocity I am used to, I had a few "Oh my goodness" moments in the sloppy conditions.  The double track climb out of Swamp Creek was messy as well.  Not only was I getting bogged down by the mud, but my body seemed to be shutting down.  Nutrition was on point, but not having logged the training miles as in years before, my fitness was subpar.

By the time I reached the Dug Gap single track, I was gassed.  I stopped at the tent and grabbed a handful of shot blocks and devoured them as I pedaled away.  It gave me a brief respite as I had to slow down in order to breathe in between chewing. Once finishing my little bite of goodness, I turned the pace up and began inching my way towards the finish line.  I felt confident that I would secure the buckle and a solid second place performance.  Now the battle was to get to as close to my 2017 finishing time as possible.

For the most part, the mud was gone and the trail was dry, but through the trickier sections, I was doing more spinning out and bobbling among the rocks than usual.  I had 3 slow speed crashes and could do nothing more than laugh at my predicament.  A cuss word or two may have slipped between my lips.

I was ecstatic to see the cell towers and knew the suffering was almost over.  Spencer, one of my team mates, had been riding/walking with me along the last few miles, and encouraged me to "drill it" to the finish.  I told him, as I crawled along the last 1/2 mile, "This IS me drilling it!"  HA!

Got my mineral and probiotic intake for the day!

I finished in 5:45:11, losing most of those minutes in the last 10 miles.  Disappointed in that, but knowing that this year is a slow work up to my ultimate fitness goal, I was happy to finish securely in second place.  $500 is not too shabby for a day's play!

Helping Jen to the top step while Lara is all smiles with a solid 3rd place!

Thank you once again to the NWGA SORBA crew, as their monumental efforts ensured another awesome day on the bike in the North Georgia woods!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Old Capitol Classic Race Report

Having not been on single track since the first of February when I went to Florida and seeing the forecast for this weekend ... cold and wet, I decided to suffer the drive through Atlanta and race the Old Capitol Classic.  This was the second race in the Chainbuster 3/6 hour series.

Not sure which one to do and with The Snake finale the following weekend, I would let my legs tell me during the pre ride.  I rode my SS with a 32 x 17.  Within the first 4 miles, I knew I did not have a big enough gear.  This course was pancake flat and fassst!  The course was a 50/50 mix of ribbon like single track through pine forests and straight aways on double track.  After finishing my pre ride, I knew I did not have the mental fortitude to race for 6 hours, so I chose the 3 hour race.  I was also thankful that I brought my geared hardtail as a back up, as it was now my primary weapon.

I got a wonderful night's sleep, yet when I checked my HRV (heart rate variability) in the morning, it was extremely low ... as in, my app told me that the day would be better spent resting.  Uggh!  Not good.  Last year I added HRV to my toolbox; just another way to analyze my fitness and recovery.  It has been very predictable and when I saw my number for the day, my heart sank a little.

But, the day was going to be glorious no matter how my body responded.  Sunny and warm!  I have not seen those two together in quite a while.  Start time was 10:15.  When the horn went off, the dude in front of me couldn't get clipped in.  That led to a hesitation in my pedal stroke, and then I couldn't get clipped in either.  I laughed inwardly, got it together, and then hammered up the parade lap hill.  Towards the top of the hill, I thought was heart was going to rip through my rib cage!  This, being only my second race of the season, I was not used to this XC start.

I made it into the woods first woman.  Going through the first pine straw corner, I heard the racer behind me eat dirt.  Glad to have escaped that carnage, I pushed myself hard the first couple miles just to see how my body felt and perhaps get a gap on my competition.  Despite a solid warm up, my legs felt a bit heavy.

Any chance I got, I hopped on someone's wheel.  This was a roadie course, no doubt.  Anytime I could draft, I could conserve much needed energy.  When I hit the switchback powerline climb, I saw Angie and Danielle not far behind.  As I crested the top of this 0.3 mile climb, I slowed up a bit, realizing that the 15 second gap I had was not going to hold.  I focused on riding smoothly and staying off the brakes through this next section of flowing single track.

By the time I hit the second (0.75 mile) powerline climb, they were on my wheel.  That was when I knew this was going to be REAL.  I offered to let them by, but they were content to stay where they were.   When we entered the last 1/2 mile of single track, which was technical with lots of roots and short ups/downs, I tried to establish another gap.  While I was faster on the descents, they were able to get back on my wheel on the climbs.

After popping out of that single track, we came through the start/finish area.  It was here that they passed me.  Danielle stopped momentarily, but Angie didn't.  I hopped on her wheel, hoping that I had the legs to stay with her for 2 more laps.  Danielle bridged back to us quickly.  I settled into third behind Danielle.

I was in a hard spot.  This course did not play into my strengths at all.  I was definitely not used to pedaling with force continually.  I needed there to be more roots and rock gardens to slow these ladies down!  I could hang in their draft on the open double track and through the ribbons of single track, but whenever there was a bit of an uphill or we had to pass a slower rider through the single track, I would pop off their wheel and have to dig deep to hop back on.  I was running out of matches quickly; heck, it seemed like the ones I had were wet anyways!

Towards the end of the second lap, I got stuck behind a dude in the rooty single track.  Once I lost sight of Angie and Danielle, I lost my mental focus, and allowed myself to just settle in behind this guy.  I told myself I would catch them in the transition area.  My legs were screaming at me as I climbed the short hill through the transition area.  It was here that I lost my mental game.

Lap 3 was a mini Death March. I tried to will my legs to work, but on the "hills" I thought they were going to seize up.  I managed to catch glimpses of Angie and Danielle through the first 4 miles, but then they were gone.  I fought against my inner demons, determined to "not give up," hoping that they would blow each other up and I could scavenge a 2nd place, perhaps even a first.

That last powerline climb, tho'!  That is not even a hill by my definition, but that third time up it, OMG!  How could something with only a 4% grade almost crush my soul?  I was hurting so bad at the top, I had to laugh at myself!

I finished 3rd overall 1 minute 20 seconds down.  I wished I could have stayed with Angie and Danielle, because it would have been cool to see their sprint finish, with Danielle besting Angie by a wheel.  Even so, Angie went out for a 4th lap.  Kudos to her for trying, but she ran out of time.

Although this course was not technically demanding, it was brutal.  This was a good early season test for me.  I now know what I need to focus on ... muscular endurance.  Thank you Danielle and Angie for kicking my arse!  This was a great motivational lesson for me.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

First Spay/Neuter Clinic of 2018

This past Thursday I held my first free clinic.  I arrived bright and early around 8 am and finished up at 5:30 pm ... spent.  Gratified but just about as tired as I am after finishing a hundie.  In those hours, my team and I "fixed" 4 cats and 8 dogs.  In addition, we vaccinated, dewormed, trimmed nails, pulled a few retained baby teeth, and applied flea/tick products.  It wasn't just all work, as our patients also got some lovin' time too!

This little fella was SO ADORABLE!

My biggest patient was 133 pounds.  Thank goodness she was not in heat!  My smallest was the little guy above at 4.5 pounds.  Everyone played nicely and I nary saw tooth or nail.

Dr. Workman, my mentor of 35 years.

The Animal Clinic is a bustling place ... organized chaos at times.  The team came together, though, and worked fluidly throughout the day, ensuring a smooth operation and TLC to all patients.  Dr. Workman, one of the owners, also donated his time in assisting me.  Sarah and Nakeya put their multi tasking skills to the test, helping me out, as well as taking care of their usual Thursday duties.  From the front office staff to the kennel help, everyone contributed to the cause.  I cannot thank them enough. 

And to you all out there in Athens, Tn and social media land.  Thanks to you I have raised $1200.  In addition, 3 major drug companies have donated more than $2000 in vaccines and flea/tick products.  With this, I am estimating that I will be able to have at least 5 more free clinic days in the future.

Rescue Racing, my new team for 2018.

I must also give a huge shout out to Anthony Hergert, the founder of Rescue Racing.  I first ran into him ... or was it that I passed him ... at the 2015 Iron Mountain 100K mountain bike race.  I remember seeing the words "spay," "neuter," adopt don't shop," and "microchip your pet" on the jersey.  And bonus points for just how cool it looked.  I told myself that I needed to hook up with this racer and see what his story was.

Anthony and I talked a bit after the race.  The team's mission was to raise awareness for spay/neuter, microchipping, and animal rescue in North Georgia.  Members joined to give, not to receive.  It was not about being entitled to deep discounts on bikes and free race entries.  It was about the members could do for those without a voice.  I was intrigued ... and a bit envious.  Little did I know that three years later, I would be on this amazing team.  And the team has since expanded from the North Georgia mountains to include almost 100 members in 10+ states!

So thanks Twan!  I may have kicked your ass on that hellacious fire road climb midway through the race , but you gave me a "kick in the pants" to pay it forward in 2018.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You pick the color!

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

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

Christopher Bean Coffee has donated a $50 gift certificate.

$50 of  mind blowing smooth flavor!

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


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Snake Creek Gap TT Race Report

Always awesome schwag!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My winter shoes

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

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

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

Friday, December 15, 2017

Arbonne Nutritional Products Review

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

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

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

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

Pleasant flavor and not overly sweet.

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

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

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

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

Christin, Jack, and brother Todd

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

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

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Death March Revival Race Report

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

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

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

Niner Air 9 RDO, 19.0 pounds without the gear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit:  Dondiart Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott's Bikes ... a surprise oasis!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OMG, the corn pudding!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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