Friday, April 30, 2010

Shock and Awe

The title sums up Lynda and Dave's trip to my neck of the woods.  This past weekend at the Cohutta, I played the role of supporter.  I think I picked a pretty good year to sit this one out (making a motion of wiping sweat from my brow).  My coach, Lynda Wallenfels, and her man, Dave Harris, were racing.  I was excited to be working for them.

They flew in Wednesday night and made Zeke's house their base.  Thanks, Zeke!  I came over on Thursday and along with Kim and Mark, rode the first 20 miles of single track with them.  Not having seen Lynda since TransRockies '08, I was stoked to be their "guide."

Lynda was excited to see so much green.  She especially loved the dogwoods, in full bloom.  Today was all about stopping to "smell the roses."  Thunderock got their attention.  They were all giggles as they smoked that descent.  I don't believe I have ever seen someone pre-ride a trail so friggin' fast!

On Friday, we met up again and along with Zeke, rode the last 10 miles of single track, hitting Thunderock for a second time.  That evening, after installing mudfenders on the desert rats' rigs, we enjoyed a pre-race meal at Goodfella's:  the Odea's, Sandefurs, JJ and Co., Danielle, Lynda, Dave, Monte, and I.

It was good to be on the other side and not have the pre-race jitters, although I think a couple butterflies were swarming around in my stomach for Lynda.

I spent the night at Zeke's.  Just when I thought I had hundies dialed in, I watched Lynda's prep and learned even more.  She has got it down to a science.  As I settled in for the night, the rains settled in on the Cohuttas.

Fortunately, the start was warm and dry.  Unfortunately, Lynda took the mudfender I had given her off; it was rattling against her down tube.  Dave left his on and had a happy face for the duration of the race.  As I looked across the first few rows of competitors, the race faces were ON!  The "she-testerone," as Zeke calls it, was so thick it was intoxicating.  I managed to get a smile from Lynda, but only for a second.

After the race started, Zeke and I drove up to Boyd Gap to watch them come through.  I saw Amanda come through first and almost missed Lynda, tucked in right behind her.  After 10 miles, they were only a minute off the lead group of guys.

From there, we drove over to Watson Gap where we set up our pit on Zeke's tailgate.  On Lynda's race day plan, she expected to arrive there at 3h 2min.  By golly, at 10 am she rolled up with fire in her eyes.  She was looking great.  Dave warned me not to ask her any questions at the pit stops as she tended to talk in tongue.  Our exchange was silent and we got her out of there in less than 30 seconds.  Amanda and AnnaJean pulled in right behind Lynda, but took a bit longer to get rolling again as they were self-supported at this aid station.

We also supported Eddie; I handed him off a bottle, in a most professionally quick and efficient way.  He was looking strong as well.  We got worried when we did not see Todd.  About 30 minutes after Lynda, he came limping in, obviously frustrated.  His race was done.  Apparently, in order to avoid running over a rider on Brush Creek who bit it on a bridge, he hyper-extended his knee.  He was pretty bummed as this was an "A" race.

From there, we went up to Aid Station 6 to prepare for the next series of hand offs.  When we got there, we had just missed Danielle, who went in to the single track in first place in the Big Frog 65 and who would go on to win.  Not too far behind was Namrita who was looking incredibly strong.  Ursula, who I think actually cracked a smile, entered the single track in third place.

With time to kill awaiting the arrival of our racers, I taught the Civil Air Patrol cadets a class on how to prepare aid station food.

At about noon, the heavens let loose with thunder, lightning, and sideways rain.  Once again, I was happy to be where I was versus descending FS17 dodging lightning bolts.

Just before 2 pm, Zeke and I took up our post a few feet away from the West Fork Trail.  We expected Lynda at any time.  When we saw Amanda come through looking strong, my heart sunk a little.  I began counting the minutes.  When 1 turned to 5 to 10 minutes, I began to worry.  We could hear the racers before we would see them and each time I expected it to be her.  Dave kinda caught us off guard.  His mojo finally caught up to him and he was feeling rather frisky.

I cannot remember where he passed her, but said she wasn't looking too sparkly.  That must have been hard for him.  We gave him his wings (can of Red Bull), swapped out bottles, and sent him on his way.

Lynda was not too far behind.  At this point she was in fourth, some 20 minutes behind Amanda.  As soon as I saw her face, I knew she was done.  She had that 100 yard stare.  She said she couldn't go on and when I asked why, she mumbled something about a lightning bolt, crashing, and feeling all tingly.

WHOA!  Oh ... my ... God.  Here is my coach, riding in my back yard and almost becomes a fatality.  That gave me the heebie-jeebies.

We got her loaded into the truck and drove her back down to the Start/Finish.  Once she got cleaned up, warmed up, and fueled up, she gave us the lowdown on her experience with lightning.

At one of the highest points along the course, just after Potato Patch and before the FS17 descent, she was racing along when suddenly her vision went white.  The next thing she knew, she was laying on the ground beside her bike.  Another rider some 30 yards ahead was also down.  All the hairs on her body were standing up straight and her whole body was tingling.  She managed to get back on the bike, but had no coordination.  It was a struggle to just turn the pedals over.  And she had to ride another 25 miles before she got to us.  The other rider managed to get back on his bike as well.

Although it took her until about 8 pm Saturday night to feel normal again, i was just so thankful that she was alive.  I am not sure how many more crazy near death experiences this wild woman has had, but I am pretty sure she is a few lives short of 9 now.

It has got to be hard to call it quits, especially after completing 89 miles.  The only DNF I have had was at an XC race years ago when I double-flatted.  What I learned from coach this day was that a DNF is nothing when compared to what you have awaiting you beyond the finish line ... your family.

Coach did the right thing and if I am ever in a situation similar to hers, I will let my ego go and do the right thing.

BTW, she felt good enough the next day to hammer me on Bear Creek, P1, P2, and P3.  30 fast miles later, I was "pooped."  Now, that's some crack!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

They say you forget the pain of childbirth.  They are wrong!  I have not forgotten those, but apparently I have forgotten the pains of a 24 hour race, until this past Friday.  My training plan initially called for back to back 5 hour days on the mountain bike.  Thursday was a wash out so Coach decided I ought to put 8 hours in on a lap course to prep for The Burn.  She was WAY MORE EXCITED than I! 

I set up a little make-shift pit area next in the parking lot and started around 11 am.  The trails were in perfect shape and the temps  were in the 50's-60's.  I had just gotten the Specialized Zee Cage, a side-loading bottle cage, and was anxious to how it worked and if I could do bottles instead of my usual hydration packs.

After a brief warm up, I rode the next 5 1/2 hours at the border of L2/L3.  I rode the trails CCW, with each lap about 13-16 miles in length, as I changed up the route just a bit by adding some additional trails.  My legs felt great all day, and my body soon remembered what it is like to ride laps.  Pretty cool to not have to think about shifting before a particular section; your body knows what is coming up before you see it.  To know where to conserve and when to get after it became second nature as well.

I believe it was on my 4th lap when I passed a young guy in a Suck Creek cycle jersey.  I caught him by surprise, so it was no wonder that he was soon on my wheel.  After a few minutes of him riding just behind me, I asked if he needed around.  In between breaths, he said no, I was riding a great pace.  I did not have the heart to tell him this was my 4th lap.  Besides, I did not want to be charged with assisted suicide.  On the climb back up to the parking lot, I dropped him.

It was on the 4th lap, that I was slowly reminded of how much a 24 hour is going to hurt.  First, it was my lower back.  A pain in the left side that came and went.  Then, on the same lap, a pinching pain between my shoulder blades.  On the final lap, the ball of my left foot really began to hurt.  This pain radiated to my big toe.  My legs were still turning over the pedals with ease, but all these little piss-ant pains were beginning to add up and make this more mental than physical.

Lynda gave me some great advice on pacing and fueling.  Those worked out great!  The Zee cage worked awesome.  Easy to get the bottle in/out of and the bottle never catapulted out of the cage.  I managed to take in enough liquid per lap so I think this will work at The Burn, if the weather is right.

What I need to focus on is those little nuisance pains that can make you or break you.  Hence, I will seeing the chiropractor, getting a second pair of mountain bike shoes and perhaps another pair of insoles, and checking my bike fit to try to figure out the shoulder blade pain.

I managed to get in 80 miles in 6 laps. I think Burn will be faster under similar weather conditions.  And smoother, so perhaps the little nagging pains will hold off a bit longer.

The fundraiser will definitely be a motivating factor.  I am not sure I would be doing this race, if not for it.  The Burn is gonna hurt!  It should be fun, however, in a sick sort of way!

BTW, I have reached 40% of my goal for the fundraiser.  Thanks to all those who have pledged.  To those who have not, please consider.  I am not asking for much and it is for a good cause.  Check out my fundraiser here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ouachita Challenge Race Report

I have been doing this race for 4 years, starting in 2006 (missed 2007).  Zeke and I have driven past this sign multiple times yet this was the first time we noticed the Possums Unlimited.  Really?  You have got to be kidding!

We arrived Thursday which gave me a chance to pre-ride Brushy and Blowout Mountain and make small animal sacrifices to the rain gods.  Zeke opted to do the Tour since we had to drive back Sunday in order for me to go to work on Monday.  It also allowed him to hand off nutrition at the midway sag of the race.  There was stiff competition this year, so I knew every minute would count.

Sunday morning I awoke to a clear radar and 50 degree temps.  Hot coffee, eggs, and pop tarts went down one hatch and Saturday's meal quickly came out the other!  I arrived at Oden school still deciding what to wear.  Last year I was frozen at the end of the race and I did not want a repeat.  While Zeke was putting my number plate on Indy, I got my gear and nutrition together.  In the end, I went with a base layer, jersey, arm warmers, and shorts.  Rapidade and Hammer Gel were the octane for the day.

The neutral start to the gravel allowed me a gradual warm up which I was thankful for.  At 41, my legs don't like to go full throttle in less than 10 seconds.  Once I hit the gravel road which slowly climbed up to Brushy, I managed to stay with the leaders without redlining it.  With about 2-3 miles to go to the single track, I along with a few others got shelled out the back.  I kept expecting Sonya or Andrea to go flying by me as I did not feel I was pushing it all that hard. 

I entered the single track in a good position.  Here I slowed up just a bit until I found my single track legs.  Then I slowly began to work my way around a few guys.  Everybody was very nice today.  Those who were slower allowed the faster ones around without any bickering, me included.

Coming off Brushy, my legs were feeling great.  I did not have my PowerTap wheel, but by PE and HR, it seemed that I was keeping the power in upper L3.  I was so happy that the organizers decided to let us head up Blowout.  One of my favorite sections and riding it this way is much easier compared to last year.  The best comment of the day was when I was climbing the steep babyhead rock section just after the dirt road crossing.  As I passed this guy who recognized me as a woman, he cried out, "Holy sh!t!  You go girl!"  Finally some respect instead of him trying to ramp it up and stay in front of me.

Blowout has a lot of rock gardens.  I was wise enough to know when to get off and run 'em.  I saw several guys attempt to ride the harder ones.  Boy!  They went down hard.  Luckily only injured pride.  I rode the first 3 and ran the last 3.  The descent was rippin' fast, my bike ('09 Specialized Era)handled beautifully, the tires (Specialized Captain's) hooked up well, and I popped out onto the gravel road before I knew it. 

A mile of gravel road led me to Chalybeate (Clee-bit).  As I went through the water crossing, I looked for my little toad friends I saw the day before.  (Funny story, thanks to Zeke.)  Yesterday, Zeke told me he saw a toad with a gumball, West Virginian for hackberry seed pod, in its mouth.  When I stopped for a closer look, I saw the toad but the gumball was not a gumball, but a female toad underneath the toad.  I do believe they were "twitterpated."

...Back to racing.  The initial climb was a good steep little grunt to the top.  I settled down and rode it smart, passing a couple guys as they bobbled on some rooty sections.  Once to the top, I slowed my pace down just a wee bit as I felt I was still going a bit too hard.  I was feeling great, but did not want to pay for it later on the Womble.  Most people have the notion that the Womble is all fast and flowy, the easy part of the race, but I knew better. 

About halfway through Chalybeate, I caught up to Todd and another guy.  I hung on to them like glue as I did not want to be alone on the 8 mile road/gravel section leading to The Womble.  Todd was still recovering from a respiratory infection.  Unfortunate for him, but fortunate for me.  His sickly pace was my tempo pace.  Once we were onto the road, several more guys caught up to us, paced with us for a short piece, and then one guy shot off the front with all of us desperate to hang on.  I soon realized this would blow me up, so I popped off, followed by a few others.  We watched them disappear off the front, but would soon catch back up to them and pass them on the Womble.

Zeke was waiting at the Highway 88 aid station.  I swapped hydration packs and gel flasks.  I then asked Zeke for my blueberry newtons.  He forgot to lay them out.  While he went back to the truck and searched for them I was wanting to go, go, go!  I was fearful Sonya and Andrea were hot on my wheels and precious time was being lost.  At least that's what it felt like.  In actuality, it was probably only a few seconds.  Sorry, Zeke, but my game face was on!  I promise I will be good at The Burn!

There were a few kickers on the Womble.  The climb up to bluffs overlooking the Lake, the climb up Reed Mountain, and the last climb up Mauldin Mountain.  Granny was my friend for these.  The funnest part was the narrow benchcut section towards the beginning of the Womble.  You could go fast but you had to be careful.  If that front wheel washed out, you would take quite a tumble down.

At some point along another short gravel road section, Zeke told me that I was only 4 minutes up on Sonya.  At this point there were still about 20 miles left.  My mindset quickly turned from "Happy, happy, joy, joy" to "Oh, sh!t!"  I turned on the gas at this point or so at least I thought.  After about 10 minutes of trying to rev it up, I realized I was going no faster than prior to Zeke giving me a time check.  So I went back to my "Happy, happy, joy, joy" feeling.  After climbing Mauldin, I was really able to rail the ridgeline section and had fun doing it. 

Once I hit the last section of road back to the finish, the fatigue set in.  The headwind did not help matters either.  I was able to draft off Todd for a bit before I popped off him.  I put my head down and just pretended I was doing a 20 m inute TT.  Once I turned left and headed back up to the school, I looked back and saw no one.  It was here that I eased up and crossed the finish line in 5:39.

I had a perfect race today.  I was strong, Indy performed well, I fueled well, I never got cold, and I was never isolated on the road sections.  I ran the Ergon GX3's (had been running GR2's) and even with a little less padding, they felt great all day.

The OC has only been my second race this season since coming out of hibernation.  I am very happy with how my training has been going and hope to be able to continue to improve.