Thursday, May 19, 2016

Fort Yargo 6 Hour Race Report

No pressure, after all it's just a number.

This race, put on by Dirty Spokes, would be my last event before "the biggie."  Being a lover of backcountry epic one big loop formats, I was having to really conjure up my inner ADHD hamster for this one.  But knowing what was looming on the horizon, this race was a perfect test of what I have been training for.

I had ridden the course the day before, running a 32 x 19, the same gear I had raced on when I did this race in 2012.  All the endless burpees, box jumps, shuttle runs, etc at Results Fitness had paid huge dividends, as the gear was way too easy! So I slapped an 18 on for the race.

While at the starting line awaiting the gun, I was happy that the short mostly upward pavement lead in to the trail was gonna be short and sweet.  I shouldn't get caught behind too much traffic. But then, at the last moment, Tim changed his mind as the original plan would have been too risky, what with a chicane style entrance to the single track. So he extended the pavement section another 0.3 miles for a total of 0.6 miles of asphalt to a straight single track holeshot.  I wasn't happy, but I understood. Challenge accepted!

Eying my competition at the start, I saw Amy and Rachel.  There were a few unfamiliar faces, and since the 3 hour racers were starting with us, I did not know who all was in my class.  No butterflies today, I am saving and growing my collection for the next race!  I spun my brains out on the pavement, trying to limit the number of racers I would have to maneuver around once I hit the trail. Once on the trail, I got to practice my track stand for the first mile, as the party train came to almost a complete standstill.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the course open up pretty quickly and by mile 2 I was moving along at a pretty decent pace.

I was able to pick up the pace once I maneuvered around two pile ups. The course was dry and loose in places, and lines had to be carefully chosen.  Finally, after an early season of wondering if my climbing legs would ever show up to play, today was their day to shine.  Now, this course only had about 900 feet of elevation gain per 10.3 mile loop, but the legs felt great whenever the trail shot up. My fave was the Monster Mile bypass climb, the longest on the course with a couple false flats.  It was here that I was in my element and able to pass quite a few racers.

All total, there were about 4 other short kickers.  These lap format races can get quite mind numbing, so in order to keep it "fun," I made a game out of it.  I would settle on the flats and descents and work on technique and using less brake.  I would "rage" the climbs, going as hard as I could, welcoming the burn.

By the third lap, I had Amy and another woman in my sights.  I slowly began working my way up to them, when at a cross roads in the trail, I saw two emergency vehicles with lights flashing.  Not a good sight.  Within minutes, my forward momentum came to a standstill, as the first responders were working on a downed racer.  We were slowly allowed to pass around the emergency vehicle which had the racer strapped to a back board.  I think I heard the injured rider speak, but could not tell how badly she was hurt.  I silently said a prayer as I passed by.

I finally reeled in Amy and the other woman halfway through the 3rd lap.  I followed them for the remainder of the lap, resting a bit, and figuring out how I wanted to play this out on the remaining 3 laps. Once I approached the Start/Finish area and figured out that the other woman was not in my class, I decided that I would catch back up to Amy and if my legs were willing, I would do what I could to try to open up a gap on the Monster Mile bypass climb.

I made my move when the trail opened up.  I dug deep into my reserves and pushed hard for the remainder of this 4th lap.  Not knowing how big a gap I had opened up, I looked longingly at my Red Bull in the cooler when I swapped bottles, but made the decision to use those precious seconds to devour more trail.

The last two laps went by quickly.  I felt much better the 2nd half of the race and just eeked in a negative split!  I enjoyed talking with Mike Johnson on lap 5, discussing old fart racing and ti bikes.

I rolled through the finish with 6 laps, 62 miles, in 5:19:21.  First place earned me a sweet pair of Scott bike shoes, but alas, a size 44, too big for me.  But a perfect fit for Zeke!  Over the years, I have been on the receiving end of his schwag bag goodies and prize winnings.  It was finally time for me to give back.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Big Frog 65 Race Report

Little did I know my finishing time would be 1 minute off my # plate.

Although I have ridden this course many times, I had never raced it before.  It would be a good benchmark to see where my strengths/weaknesses lie, so that I can have a solid 6 weeks to dial the body in for Marathon Nationals.

The weather was perfect, 60's/80's and dry.  The forecast called for afternoon thunderstorms, but I was confident I could avoid any precip. I had put in a solid week of recovery, but was still on edge because I did not feel exactly recovered.  Two ladies whom I did not recognize lined up at the front and I assumed they would be my competition. Lisa and I lined up in the second row, in an attempt to avoid any bar rubbing shenanigans at the start.

The race director started us off a few minutes early, which not only caught some racers off guard, but also the lead car as the front runners had to suddenly diverge around it.  The pace up the pavement was insane and Lisa and I popped off the front but managed to hang in the chase group.  These fast starts become harder and harder each year.  I need a good deep warm up to feel lively at the start, but it is hard to accomplish that AND have a decent starting position.

When I hit the single track right on Lisa's wheel, I thought there were 3 women ahead of us.  The speed on Brush Creek was not super fast, but neither did I get caught in any significant party trains. As the trail slowly began to climb upwards, my legs began to whine on all the little grunty ups.  Not good!  Sometimes it can take 1-2 hours for my legs to come around.  I desperately hoped for that.

Lisa let me around her on Boyd Gap and for the first half I sent it!  And then I got caught up in traffic and had to use my brakes more than I liked.  But confidence building as I am beginning to hold my own on the downhills these days.

I managed to maneuver around some racers as they got hung up on the roots of Old Copper Road. As I began climbing up Bear Paw, my quads felt like they were on fire and I let Lisa back around as she was tired of getting tire rubbed by some dudes behind her.  Digging deep, I was able to latch onto her wheel as we entered River View.  Tooth and nail I fought my inner demons over the next 5 miles of single track to hold onto Lisa's wheel.

Once on the fireroad, Lisa slowly rode away from me on the climbs.  I was able to reel her back in on the descents, following a gentleman who gave me some entertainment as he surfed the gravel in front of me.  Once I caught back onto Lisa's wheel, she said that there was a woman in a green kit just ahead of us.  I could see her and this gave me a carrot to chase.  I pulled Lisa along the next couple miles, knowing that she had the strength ot make a move once we caught her. Slowly the gap decreased and as we flew down the Big Creek descent, Lisa made her move and bridged.  I was in scavenging mode at this point, ready to pick up any pieces Lisa left behind.

I watched the cat/mouse game ahead of me as I made the climb out of Big Creek.  Lisa and the woman went back and forth until the rubber band broke and Lisa pulled ahead.  As I approached the turn off to the Big Frog loop, I managed to crawl myself up to the woman.  As I approached who I assumed was the 3rd or 4th place woman, I noticed alot of facial hair, like a full beard!  Ha!  We had put forth a hard effort to chase down "this woman!"

Entering the loop, I dreaded the climb up to the highest point.  Going slower than biting fly speed, I was immediately savaged by them. Curse them and their painful bites!  I was finally able to get rid of them as I pulled up to 2 large fellows racing the hundie.  As I passed them, I got close enough for the flies to realize a larger surface area was to be had by jumping ship!

Approaching the top I was passed by SS'r Ben from Ohio.  We leap frogged the remainder of the race. He was great company with a super positive attitude!  Thanks for taking my suffer-0-meter down a notch!

The Big Frog descent had me all but forget my fussy legs.  Plenty of time to let them rest and enjoy the speed.  Hitting the flat stretch, I began to dread the climb back up to Aid Station 3/4.  I was also parched, as I had run out of water 1/2 way through the loop.  Once I began the climb, I decided to play a game to take my mind off the pain.  For 20 pedal strokes I would stand and hammer, pretending to be on my SS.  Then I would sit and pedal for 20.  This helped and soon I saw the signage:  Pedal ... Faster ... I ... hear ... AC/DC ... music.

Arriving at the aid station, run by Scott's Bicycle Centre, I was greeted with an ICE COLD COKE. Normally, I don't partake in soft drinks, but today I made an exception.  I found heaven!  Still in racer mode, I made short work of it, refilled my CamelBak, and motored on.  I had also grabbed a Red Bull and drank it while hitting the rollers on the ridge.  Come on, caffeine!

30 minutes later, I felt the life come back into me.  Feeling good again, I began to pick up the pace (at the very least, it felt like it). Legs pumping like pistons, I hammered up the steep climb out of Big Creek and soon enough I was rolling along the final ridge before dropping back into the single track. Yep, I was smelling the barn.  Once I hit the Quartz Loop, I was happy and energized!

It was good to feel fast again.  I thoroughly enjoyed the last 8 miles. Entering Thunder Rock, I was focused on setting a PR.  The legs were happy, the mind focused, and I was having a Zen moment. And then coming through the power line cut, I had to slam on the brakes!  Dudes were in the way! Argghh!  Lo and behold, Lisa was right in the middle of them, as frustrated as I!  At one point, the guy up front tried to stop and let us by, but that caused a pile up!  Fortunately no one went down, but bikes had to be untangled.

Oh well, if one believes that everything happens for a reason, perhaps this was a way of keeping me from flying off the trail "Thelma and Louise" style!  Lisa and I traded wheels on the way to the finish. In no way was I gonna sprint my team mate for 3rd.  She was the strongest today and deserved the last step on the podium.  We rolled through the finish line in 5:24:19 and 5:24:20.

The day could have gone better, but it could also have gone worse.  It is races like these that puts your "grittiness" to the test.  Although I was a bit down on myself the first half, I persevered and ended up in my happy place at the finish.  Although I did not make the podium, I did have a few small victories.  1) None of the hundred milers caught me.  2) I beat the rain in.  3) I was asked by a group of guys up from Florida for a picture with them.  One told me I had "mad descending skills," and he choked on my dust.  4)  A young woman told me that she enjoyed reading my blog.

I hope that through this journal of my life on the bike, I can show women that age is not a limiter.  I enjoy riding and racing/suffering as much now as when I first started 16 years ago.  Once the enjoyment stops, that will be the day I hang the bike up and look for something else.  I hope that never happens!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sponsor Spotlight -- Chamois Butt'r

I have been blessed to have a working relationship with this company for 6 years.  Aside from my LBS, this is my longest standing sponsorship.  It is one that is a bit more difficult to promote since you actually don't see the product in photos or in person as opposed to my other sponsors, i.e. bike, wheels, pedals, cogs, etc.

But they are just as essential in aiding in my performance.  What connects you to the bike has got to be comfortable, so as to be forgettable.  Meaning, I don't want to think about my taint AT ALL while training and racing.  Because if I am, then my focus is being taken away from the engine.

There are plenty of options when looking for a good chamois cream.  And most probably do a decent job.  It is important to try out several and find out which one works best for you.  I would give Chamois Butt'r a chance.  They have several options:  Chamois Butt'r (the original), Chamois Butt'r Eurostyle, and Chamois Butt'r Her.  The price is good:  $15-20 for an 8 ounce tub.  I always carry samples with me, so just ask!

Steve Matthews, founder and developer, is so cool and down to earth.  He goes out of his way to make time for the little grassroots ambassadors, like me. He knows that we can play a vital role in getting the word out on his product.  For me, personally, I connect more with the small players and what products they use/support, as opposed to what the big name pros go with.

I am honored to be a part of the team, no matter how small my role might be.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Blankets Dirty 30 Race Report

My training plan for this weekend called for an hour at 50 miler race pace on Saturday and 3 hours at L2/L3 on Sunday.  I decided to combine the two efforts somewhat by racing Mountain Goat Adventures XXC race at Blankets Creek on Saturday.  It is always much easier to hit those harder efforts when racing with others as opposed to solitary rides.

The noon start was nice as I could travel down the day of, but how to handle pre race nutrition took some pondering.  I ultimately decided to just eat my breakfast 3 1/2 hours prior and so loaded up with Christopher Bean Coffee when my internal alarm clock went off at 6 am.  That worked well as the pre race jitters held off the lunch time hunger monster.

I used this race to test my bike and nutrition set up.  I decided to go with gears as the Big Frog 65 is just 2 weeks away.  I was also eager to see if my Niner RKT would handle any different/better than my Jet 9 RDO.  I had not raced her since The Snake and had made some minor adjustments since then.  I was also trying out some new nutrition, Torq energy drink and gels.  I had been using these during rides, but had yet to try them out at race pace.

The race was 2 laps of the entire trail system, about 30 miles with 2800 feet of climbing.  Weather was perfect, in the 60's and dry.  This was a low key race for me, but I still was conerned with my performance, as my legs were a little tired from the week of training.

I had a good start and went into the woods in the top 10.  No sooner had I started the first climb on the Van Michael Trail (VMT) when a bug flew into my mouth and down my trachea.  Not exactly what I needed, but after several deep coughs, I was able to dislodge the little fu*ker. It took me a couple miles to get my wind back and in the meantime I was passed by several.  The VMT has the best flow and I tried to recover on the descents.  I was happy to see flat ground again as I exited VMT and hit the connector to the Dwelling Loop.

I had my mojo back and made short work of Dwelling.  Upon entering South Loop, I slowly bridged to Mr. Polka Dot.  I call him that because what I remember of his jersey was a white base with dark dots.  As I got closer and closer, I began hearing this noise emanating from his bike.  I couldn't quite place the source, but it sounded like a bartender shaking a coctail mixer.

When I finally got on his wheel, I could tell that the sound was coming from his saddlebag.  He definitely had way more bag than necessary. And the noise! After 5 minutes I could not take it anymore.  But my legs were heavy and I just did not have the power to pass.  Finally, on the short steep rocky climb, he bumbled and I was able to make the pass.  Once the trail leveled out, I tried to break away, but he was able to hook back on.  OMG THE NOISE!  I took in some more gel, hoping my legs would get the energy needed to break away from him. But oh, no!  He managed to stay right there with me.  We came through the start/finish together and began lap 2.  By now I had been listening to his bag for 10 minutes or so.

I so wanted to tell him about the awesomeness of Backcountry Research's Race Strap, but mostly I just wanted the torture to stop.  It took the WHOLE VMT to finally drop him.  Now the only sound I heard was the whirrr of my I-9 hub ... as it should be.  Now that peace had returned, I started laughing about the whole ordeal.

Soon after I entered Dwelling, my lower back began to ache.  This was surprising since I was on my geared bike; it usually only happens on my SS and only when racing for 5 hours or longer.  It definitely affected my power output.  I found myself standing and stretching on several of the descents.

The South Loop was a blur, not because I was going fast, but because I just wanted to be done.  My back was jacked and it was not fun anymore.  For me, this trail was the most difficult because if it was not tight and twisty, it was rocky and rooty ... hard to find flow.

I finally smelled the barn when I hit Mosquito Flats.  A few minutes later, I rolled across the finish in 2:39, not quite the time I was looking for, but good enough for the W.

I must commend Lisa and Kathleen for the BEST COURSE MARKINGS EVER!  Hi vis pink, at eye level, and plenty of confirmatory flagging beyond each and every turn.  Never once did I have to scrub speed and wonder.

Sharing the podium with the lady who inspired me to do downhill faster, BA Loretta!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

6 Hours of Warrior Creek Race Report

A bermalicious experience!

Last year when Melissa Cooper asked me to team up with her for this event, I was on the fence.  Just days before, I had received a heartbreaking email that this edition of Warrior Creek was going to be the last.  I really wanted to race the finale in the solo SS division.  I couldn't give Melissa an answer just yet.  And then, just before registration was to open, I received another email, stating that 6WC would live on under new management.  Hallelujah!  I told Melissa I was in.

After realizing that Melissa had raced 6WC twice, but had yet to stand on the box, my goal for this race was to secure her one of the infamous mugs.  And we were both using this race to prep our fast twitch muscles for Marathon Nationals.  We both had plenty of long rides under our belt, but needed to get in some speed work.

And then a first for 6WC:  they released a starter's list.  Whoa!  15 ladies' teams and some tough competition to boot!  I flip-flopped back and forth on what gear to run and finally settled on 32/20.  I had used this same gear 2 years ago when I teamed up with Ursula and had happy legs then.  I knew I would get shuttled back pretty quickly at the start, but with the heavy training load leading up to this race, I did not think I could push a 19.

I had Melissa hold my spot at the start while I did a lengthy warm up. Gone are the days when I can just hammer hard from a cold start. About 10 minutes from "go time," I approached the start line, but then hung out for a couple extra minutes, just watching Melissa squirm a bit.  You see, she was in her long pants and tennis shoes.  She definitely got nervous about whether or not she was going to have to race that first lap!

Finishing up the parade lap.

I had given brief thought to racing my geared bike for that first lap, thereby avoiding all that nonsense that happend mid-pack.  But the purist in me would not allow it.  Not to mention I would be black-listed by the SS community.  It seems every year I get to wrap handle bars with a fellow racer.  This year was no different.  Some gearie rode "up my butt" and entangled his bars with mine.  How we managed to not go down was a small miracle, but after a couple pedal strokes, we were able to free ourselves.  Nothing like a little adrenalin to help keep my HR and cadence up!

The first lap is always highly entertaining for me.  In the beginning miles, I was behind a dude that was jumping everytime there was a rise on the trail.  He was making me tired just watching him.  After a mile or so, he began to fatigue on the climbs and I was able to pass.

Then I came upon two dudes racing so close to one another it looked like they were on a tandem.  I soon found out they were "momentum-challenged" when we approached a steep descent followed by a sharp left-hander with a high berm on the right.  I seem to remember some centripetal force equation from physics (F = mv*2/r).  Anyway, this particular berm was slightly muddy.  For whatever reason, the dudes brake checked upon the approach to the berm. I was about 2 bike lengths back, my mind frantically making calculations to avoid the imminent crash that was about to happen.  Well, the dudes reached the highest point of the berm, but slowed down to a point where gravity intervened and sent them both sliding down the berm and off the trail.  I managed to put in enough power in 2 pedal strokes to maintain the minimal amount of speed necessary to clean the berm.  (I would have loved to have had a GoPro for that one!)

After about 6 miles, I found myself mostly alone, and able to find a good sustainable rhythm. Although the gearing was perfect for the climbs, I noticed that I was a bit too spinny on the flats.  I began to doubt my gear choice.

I rolled through the transition area and Melissa took off.  Now, only time would tell.  After cooling down and refueling, I went to check the first lap results.  We were in third!  Hells yeah!  Now to wait for Melissa's return.  She came rolling through about 3 minutes down on second.  Our goal looked achievable.  I took off after Hannah, hoping I could reel her in.  My legs came back around rather quickly and I was in a good zone.  With no traffic, I could save any matches I had left for the last lap. I focused on being smooth and consistent.  I soon came upon another SS'r; it was Kip!  Sweet!  He soon began to talk all about the past couple months, with most of it focusing on P36.  How he could manage to talk in sentences, all the while pedaling a tall gear, I don't know.  A real motivator for sure.

We rode most of the lap together ... and he was racing solo!  When I pulled through the transition area, Melissa yelled out that I had gained some time on second place.  Boom sauce!  Could we secure second?  It was worth a try.  I've got to hand it to Melissa.  She dug deep into her arsenal of fitness and was able to catch Lilly on her second lap.  They came through the start/finish, separated only by seconds!

Oh, boy!  The race for second place was on!  Upon entering the single track, only about 50 yards separated us.  I pedaled so fast, I thought my legs were going to become entangled around the bike like a bolo.  I was equal to Hannah's speed on the climbs, but was losing time on the flats.  Now I was really wishing I had a 19.  I could only hope that she would blow.  But mile after mile the gap slowly increased.  Around mile 7/8 I lost sight of her.  Ugghhh!  Oh well, now I focused on finishing up with a clean run.  I did not want to make any mistakes that would cost us our 3rd place.

Melissa and Lilly were on pins and needles that entire race, waiting to see who would exit the single track first.  I rolled though the finish, 1:07 behind Hannah. I was stoked that we were able to secure a position on the podium and accomplish our goal.  This was the first time I had undergeared for a race. I am not sure that had I chosen a 32/19 that it would have made any difference in the outcome, as Hannah and Lilly are super strong young women.  But, what I do know is that Coach Lynda has me on track to potentially become the strongest I have been in my mid-forties.

Stoked to share the podium with some uber strong women!

So thank you, Melissa, for asking me to partner up with you. Sometimes the best races are not the ones you win, but the ones that push you beyond what you thought your limits were.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Green Gobbler 6 Hour Race Report

Photo Credit:  Captions by Mary

This was the second race in ChainBuster Racing's Southeastern Endurance Cup.  I am using these races as prep work for Marathon Nationals (Single Speed division). The courses are very similar to what I will be racing on in Augusta in June:  fast and flowy to tight and twisty with little elevation gain.

After completing a power test a couple weeks ago and hitting an FTP that I had not seen in well over a year and a half, I was ready to put this wattage gain to a real world test.  So I threw on a cog one gear harder than I have used in the past at Conyers and was pleasantly surprised during my pre ride. I was able to clean the climbs and go a bit faster on the flats.

Race day was going to be hot!  I do love the heat and humidity, but only after being able to acclimate. One day is not quite enough. I prepared my bottles accordingly, adding Elete Electrolytes to my Torq energy drink.  The guys at Torq would most likely say that their product contains just the right amount of electrolytes, but after having lived in this body for 47 years and pushing it to its limits for the past 15 years, I know what works for me ... and keeps the cramps at bay.

Here is a summary of how the race went for me:

Lap 1:  Running a 32/19 made it a bit easier for me to enter the single track in a decent postition.  At this point I knew there was at least one woman in front of me, possible two.  Not burning any matches, I passed when the trail opened up.  The flat sections I used to refuel and spin the legs out. The two climbs were a 4/10 on the pain scale.

Lap 2;  A friend told me I was a minute and a half behind first.  Whoa! Either that chick was crazy fast and powerful, or (I was hoping) she burnt a few matches.  I did not change my game plan, but continued to cruise along, knowing that consistency is key, and the single speed makes it easy to be consistent.  I began to feel the heat on this lap ... and drank accordingly.  The two climbs were still a 4/10, and I passed several SS'rs who were pushing.

Lap 3:  As I passed through the transition area, my friend said that I had closed the gap on first a little.  The fisherwoman came out in me: time to slowly reel her back in.  I stopped briefly, swapped out bottles, and motored on.  Feeling the flow of the trail, it seemed like I was on autopilot.  The first two laps had warmed the legs and they found their happy place.  The two climbs were still a 4/10. Towards the end of this lap, I caught up to first.  I could tell by her posture that she was hurting.  I slowed a bit, wanting to be cat-like and watch for weakness.  She pulled away during the final 10 mile flat sandy stretch to the start/finish area (it was only 1/2 mile, but for a SS'r, seems to go on forever).

Lap 4:  I had to now stop by my pit area each lap as I was downing a 24 ounce bottle each lap.  I caught back up to first, made some small talk, and then slowly pulled away.  I was still in my happy bubble on this lap, and began to start making the mental calculations of how many more laps I was going to have to do.  3-4 more were going to be necessary.  The two climbs jumped up on the suffering scale, now a 5/10.  After passing through the start/finish and seeing that I was 4:03 into the race, I knew I had to do 3 more.  So I chugged my traditional Red Bull, and awaited my "wings."

Lap 5:  It was here that I began noticing the little pains:  low back, left big toe, outside of my right foot.  I began to feel every little bump and root on the trail.  What I thought was pretty smooth in the beginning now became teeth chattering.  Tons of braking bumps on the descents began to annoy me! To take my focus off the pain, I began to talk to people as I came upon and passed them.  I was very surprised at the women.  I followed one on a long descent who was buttery smooth through the corners.  And I admired those that fought for every inch of trail on the two long climbs.  At this point those climbs jumped up to 7/10 and it was about all I could do to turn over the pedals ... but I did.

Lap 6:  I felt pretty confident in maintaining first as long as I did not have a mechanical.  I had lost sight of second place in the twists and turns of the course.  I now just focused on riding smooth, especially through the creek crossings, which caused many flats on the day.  I noticed that each lap the line through the creeks changed as rocks were flung about.  The climbs jumped up another notch in intensity to 8/10, mostly due to fatigue, but they were also getting a bit chewed up, and finding traction got harder.

Lap 7:  I was now 7 minutes ahead of second and at least could rest a little easier mentally.  The last lap was relatively enjoyable.  All the body pains diminished in intensity and I focused on body position, carving the corners, and seeing how little I could use my brakes.  The long single track climb, I thought about going for it, but felt a twinge in the quads about 1/2 way up.  So I wisely chose to dismount and run up the last 30 yards.  I did manage to clean the powerline climb, but it was not a pretty site.  I hit my limit of pain at a 10/10.

I rolled through on my final lap in 5:19.  This was not easy.  The heat and taller gearing had me hurting at times, but with Coach Lynda's guidance, I had a perfect lead up in training to this race.  I am looking forward to burying myself in some L4/L5 work outs in the near future.

Sandwiched between a fast Floridian and Canadian

My power is coming back and I am feeling good about building up to my "A" race.  I definitely learned a hard lesson last year about overtraining.  It has taken me a full year to recover from digging a hole I almost did not climb back out of.  "Less is more" is my new motto.  No more back to back or back to back to back foolishness. Although I have been training less, the quality is better.  Recovery has been a bigger part of the picture as well.  I am turning into one of the "old people," who rise and set by the sun.  Pretty soon, I will be in the 4 pm supper crowd.

Stealing "cloud Pop Tart" from Karen Jarchow, as I am pretty sure I had the same feeling as her yesterday.

The other piece to this power puzzle is the functional fitness class I have been taking since December.  2-3 times per week, I take a 1 hour class that focuses on mostly body weight only exercises and high intensity cardio, although we do use barbells, dumb bells, and kettle bells, too.  I have seen tremendous gains in high power output.  I absolutely love this class and Coach Joshua is am amazing motivator.  I almost cannot take it when I have to cut these classes out during the week leading up to a race.

I must give a huge shout out to the local SORBA chapter for all the bridge work they put in to make this course fun and mudless.  My bike thanks you.  Eddie has done a wonderful job in getting sponsors who give away awesome, usable product.

Have I said how awesome Mulberry Gap is?

Looking forward to Fort Yargo in May!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Assault on Mount Curahee Race Report

Loving this February with bluebird skies and springlike temperatures.

This is Chainbuster Racing's first gravel race in the Southeastern Gravel Series, a 3 race series.  I had not planned on racing this one, but it fell perfectly within a training block.  There is no better way to suffer through a threshold work out than this, along with those of like minds and legs, so I made the journery over to the comfy, cozy little town of Cornelia last Saturday.

I began to doubt my weapon of choice, when I started seeing an unusually high number of mountain bikes.  I had taken Lisa Randall's advice and brought along my Industry 9 equipped Cysco.  Well, at the very least, it would be a good day of skills work.

The start was on tight, twisty narrow pavement, followed by a long descent.  Having not raced in a pack for some time, it was nerve-wracking.  I chose to back off and not fight for the top 20 positions in the first miles of the race.  Although only 36 miles long, there was plenty of time to make a push. I chose to await the gravel and the climbs.  Besides, my legs were slow to come around, what with the punishment they took earlier in the week.

When I hit the first bit of dirt road, the pack was still thick.  I slowly weaved my way through racers as they struggled with the stutter bumps, pot holes, and millions of sweetgum tree seed pods.  I saw more than one racer go down on Mother Nature's "marbles."

My legs came around after 8 miles and I was slowly able to reel in the women ahead of me.  I had no idea how many there were, but focused on putting the power to the pedals.  There was a 1 1/2 mile section of single track to keep things interesting.  It was pretty mellow, save for a deep creek crossing and a grunty climb afterwards.  Fortunately, there was a racer just ahead of me who was my "gauge" for how to approach the water crossing.  It was deep!  The water was above my cranks and hubs, but I powered through.  Then I  had to keep the hammer down to make the technical climb back up to the ridgeline.  Thank God I have been single speeding and could muster the strength to push the pedals over the top and keep the bike moving forward.

On the 1 mile climb up to the top of Mount Curahee, I envisioned myself in full battle gear with a 30 pound pack, M-16, and boots provided by the lowest bidder, shuffling up to the top (been there, done that at Fort Jackson, Fort Leonardwood, and Fort Bragg).  That mentally made it a helluva lot easier to claw my way up on a 18 pound bike.  On the way up, I saw two women in front of me.  Carrots!

Making my way back down the mountain was more difficult, what with all the stutterbumps.  I thought my eyeballs were going to rattle out of my head!  Finally a smooth surface, and my brain could quit sloshing back and forth in my cranium.  The next few miles were a mix of smooth gravel road and rolling double track.  Somewhere along mile 22, I began doubting as to whether I was still on course.  I was pretty sure I was, but not seeing any confirmation tape had me a little worried.  I hate this feeling as I tend to come off the gas a bit and spend more time looking at the road's shoulder rather than where I wanted my wheels to go.  Finally, I saw a large mud bog with enough bike tracks to convince me I was on course.

Soon afterwards, I saw a competitor up ahead about 30 seconds.  I put forth a little more effort, despite my legs disapproval. She was with another racer and staying tight on his wheel. I also had a partner and together we worked to reel them in. We would catch glimpses of them as the road straightened out and were gaining precious seconds.

At mile 28, we came to an intersection in the road with nary a sign.  Oh ... crap!  There were 3 possibilities.  I quickly dismissed the far left as it did not look well used.  So I was left with the opportunity to go left down the hill or go right up the hill.  After what seemed like an eternity, but was really only 20 seconds, I chose to follow my the racer I was working with down the hill.  For the next few minutes I was dreading having to climb back up this road if indeed it was the wrong way. Finally I saw a ChainBuster sign!

The gravel turned to pavement as we made our way through the Lake Russell Recreation area.  My cohort and I continued to work together, but I could tell he was tiring.  I about blew through the right turn up onto an old decommisioned road bed, thinking that the turn was further up ahead.  How I could think that despite ALL the signage there along with hay bales, I don't know.  I suspect it had something to do with a zone 5 heart rate.

We pulled each other up this road and then hit the main road back to town.  Still going up!  I could see her and her cohort again, still about 30-40 seconds ahead of me.  The climb was brutal and my partner popped off my wheel. I could dig no deeper and watched her crest the hill for the final descent back to town.

Thankfully I did not get stopped by the train (which came by a minute after I had crossed the tracks). I rolled under the Maxxis finishing banner in 2:33:23, 29 seconds behind her.  At this point I thought I was in third place, but when the results were posted, I was second!  I can only assume that one of the women who I saw bombing down Curahee Mountain had gotten off course.

Apparently some "waste of my oxygen" hooligans had taken down the course markings at the intersection at which I had stopped. There were many who had gone off course.  I really hate that this happened, but know that this possibility exists.  I was lucky I had chosen to go left as I had not pre ridden the course, nor had downloaded it to my GPS.  I know that Eddie was extremely frustrated and upset over this.  As much as it is up to him to do everything within his power to reduce the risk of shit like this happening, it is as much our responsibility to do everything within our power to know the course.  I am sure that next year Eddie will probably have more confirmation tape and perhaps send a volunteer out to drive the course and check the course markings the morning of the event.

Afterwards, all racers were treated to free Terrapin beer and an awesome meal at Natalie Janes, which I took home and my daughter devoured!