Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Catching My Breath

Wow!  This past month has been a whirlwind of activity.  Here is a synopsis of my acitivity.

I am almost 6 weeks post Morton's Neuroma surgery on my left foot.  Walking barefoot is almost completely bearable; every now and then I get a little electrical jolt if I slam it down too hard.  I think it will still be a while before I am back to running and doing jumping jacks on the hard wood floors.  But ... I can ride the trails again!

No nerve pain, but soft tissues still healing.

A couple weeks ago I participated in Mulberry Gap's Turkey Shuffle.  After 4 hours of riding trail and gravel, my feet were happy and I even won a raffle!  I got a cool little item from Topeak!

Only 48 grams and small enough to stuff in a hydration pack.

Last month my Avalanche got really really sick  (the transmission died).  After a heart-breaking mind- wrenching session with Charlie (and an all-day head-to-head battle with the dealership), we traded her in for this:

Lil' A

No, we are not rich, just back in the land of monthly payments and working an extra shift or two per month.  But with a 5-Star crash rating and close to twice the fuel economy, it is worth it.

Finally, I am not just gluten intolerant, I have celiac disease.  It has taken me almost 2 1/2 years to determine the cause of my ill health and confirm it.   It sucks!  But at least I know now.  And I can take the necessary steps to avoid getting sick.  I even happen to be in the 10% of celiacs that cannot tolerate oatmeal.  Avenin, the protein in oatmeal, is very similar molecularly to gluten, and unfortunately my immune system sees it as gluten.  Only took me 9 months to figure that one out!

The only good thing that has come out of this is that I have one of the best diets ever!  Lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and chocolate!   I am staying the heck away from restaurants and most processed foods.  That being said, it does make it difficult to eat away from home.  I basically have to pack all my food with me ... and the stuff to cook it with when I go on my mountain bike adventures and vacation. 

I have been enjoying laying down a base for next year.  Long rides and Core Performance, baby!  This Tennessee weather has me longing for this.  It is not even winter yet and I am so over the cold and wet and cycling layers and hand/foot warmers and Reynaud's rearing its ugly head!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

16 Days Post Op

On Friday, October 28 I had surgery to excise a Morton's neuroma.  The first week about killed me, as I could do very little.  But this past week, I have been back on the bike, slowly building up time in the saddle and assessing how my foot performed afterwards.

No foot model future for me.

I started off with an easy 45 minute spin 7 days post op.  No problems.  Then on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week, I rode for  2, 4 1/2, and 3 1/2 hours.  I had no issues while on the bike.  I was even able to stand and pedal up some of the more steeper climbs; no pain whatsoever. 

I did experience a weird feeling immediately off the bike on the two longer rides.  With each placement of my foot on a hard surface, I had a mild electrical jolt shoot through my surgical area.  Not really painful, but not pleasant either.

Today, I was planning on riding for 2 1/2 hours, but after the first hour, I began to feel a slight bit of pain in the foot on the down stroke.  So I decided to end it early at 1:45.  Upon walking after this ride, there was no electrical jolt or pain ... small victories.

This week while off the bike, I still have a small limp.  The surgical site is tender and thickened = inflammation still present.  Walking barefoot on hard surfaces is still uncomfortable.  I wear my Keen sandals a lot; they keep my foot happy. 

But with almost 12 hours in the saddle, I feel confident that my recovery is going as expected.  Now I know that this is the experience of only one person.  I tend to push the envelope when it comes to proper recovery.  But I am hopeful that my surgical outcome will be as I wanted ... to ride for hours on end, pain free.  And to be able to run down my daughter ... while I still have the chance!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I Can Ride Better Than I Can Walk

It is now 9 days post-op and I went out for my second road ride since surgery.  Kitting up took a bit longer as I gingerly put my left foot into my cycling shoe and adjusted the straps so that there was no tension across the top of my foot.  I hobbled over to my bike, pushed it out the garage door, and stepped aboard.  The most painful part was clipping in as it takes quite some pressure to engage the pedal.

But once in, a transformation happened.  No longer was I a cripple; the bike freed me from the pain of walking.  Pedaling was effortless and pain free; I only felt pressure at the surgery site during the down stroke.  My trusty steed carried me away from the doldrums of the past week and allowed me 100 minutes of pure bliss!

Upon returning from the ride, I unclipped and hobbled up the stairs to stretch and take a shower; oh well, it was fantastic while it lasted.  And it should only get better from here.

6 Days Post Op

My podiatrist said that the neuroma was 1.6 cm long and 0.4 cm wide.  Pretty average for a Morton's neuroma, he commented, but that the widest part of the "little bastard" was right where my 3rd and 4th metatarsal heads touched.  From his description, I imagine it probable looked like a Mezcal worm, you know, that icky little creature in the bottom of certain bottles of Tequila.

My "little bastard."

The hardest part of the healing process is not going hard on the bike.  I have energy to burn and want to stand and hammer.  But I am following doctor's orders ... there will be plenty of single speed sessions soon enough.  As luck would have it, I sustained a mild right hamstring injury at the Berryman Epic.  This has helped to keep a governor on my engine.

At this point, I am not sure if I will have surgery on my right foot.  I will just see how the left goes, get a lot of training under my belt for next year, do a few races, and then make a decision.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Coach, This One's For You

I am going into my fourth year of being coached by Lynda Wallenfels.  I, as well as she, still sees the potential in extracting a few more watts out of my body for the 2012 season.  I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today, fitness-wise, without her help.

The start of the 2010 Cohutta 100 ... would have been a contender for the win had she not been struck by lightning!

My relationship began with Lynda in September 2008.  What prompted my decision to hire a coach was a combination of increased workload with my job and motherhood and what I suspected was over training.  I had been self-coaching with this:

But as I had less and less free time, my coaching became sloppy and soon led to lots of riding with no real structure.  My hard training days turned into long days at moderate intensity and my easy training days turned into long days at moderate intensity.

The "straw ..."  happened at the Mohican 100 in June 2008.  I suffered miserably for 100 miles.  Too stubborn to DNF, I pushed on through to the end watching one lady after another pass me like I was standing still.  By mile 60 I was in tears, begging sticks to jump into my derailleur and end my misery.  When I rolled across the finish line in 7th place, almost an hour off my winning time in 2007, I vowed that I would hire a coach.

And I did.  Enter Coach Lynda.  Based on recommendations by Krista Park, Danielle Musto, and Jeff Kerkove, I hired Lynda.  I also chose her because she was a working Mom who was able to kick ass in the endurance scene.  I met her face to face at the 2008 TransRockies.  Any reservation I had about her as a coach was dismissed as she rode past me on a long, steep climb like I was standing still.  Oh yeah, she was also on a single speed!

We got to work right away.  The hardest part for me was "letting go" and entrusting her with the task of creating my training schedule.  At first it looked and perhaps felt too easy.  It was like she had put a governor on my engine.  But soon enough, I began noticing changes, especially in how I felt.  Less overall fatigue and stronger on the bike.

Showing Lynda and Dave a little Southern hospitality at Mulberry Gap.
I would say my biggest accomplishment with Lynda was winning the Cowbell Challenge in June 2009 and in the process beating Rebecca Rusch, an awesome and very well respected ultra endurance racer.  That day I felt like I had no chain on the bike.  Despite temps in the high 90's, I rode the perfect race.  That credit goes to Lynda's coaching abilities.  Within 9 months, she was able to understand my physiology and tweak my fitness to an all new level.

The hardest part of being coached by her is the distance between us.  She lives in Utah, I in Tennessee.  At first, I was worried about her getting to really "know" me.  Thank goodness for cell phones, power files, emails and internet.  Never fear, her knowledge of power, acute/chronic training loads, training stress scores, and other analyses that are over my head allow her to "know" and fine tune me.

She was also the one who figured out my gluten intolerance.  For that, I am forever in her debt.  Although she is not a nutritionist, her knowledge of it has been invaluable to me.  I am in the best physical condition than I have ever been in. 

Is a coach what you need?  Perhaps.  If you have hit a plateau in your training/racing, if your life is so hectic, you don't have time to plan/analyze, or if you are new to the sport and have no idea where to start, I suggest you check into it. 

Coach Lynda offers many levels of coaching, from coaching programs to training plans.  What I really like about her is her ability to take in all the variables and fit a successful plan to my life style.  I think it is easier to train a professional athlete who has nothing else to do but train and race.  Where a great coach shines is in her ability to successfully train working people who have jobs and families (tons of variables!)

Thanks, Coach for a great 3 years.  Hopefully, you can help me to crank out another 3 wonderful years!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

ProGold Product Review

A few months back, Bruce Dickman sent me a box of goodies.  I feel that I am at a point where I can honestly assess them.

Otherwise known as their Xtreme Lube.

Fortunately for me, this year has been a dry one.  I have had very little mud on my bikes.  Where this has excelled has been on long, dry and dusty fire road training sessions.  My chain has been noise free in these conditions.  Last month I spent 3 days in Pisgah.  Although it did not rain, there were multitudes of creek crossings.  The only chain maintenance I did was to wipe the chain each night.  I did not have to apply any more lube.

This product makes bike washing fun.

It is insane how well it cleans and shines your bike.  I am uber picky about how my bikes look.  Any amount of dust, dirt, or mud causes a facial twitch that will not go away until my steeds are sparkly clean.  This product definitely decreases my work load.  My Avalanche is jealous!


The shop towels clean well, yet are non irritating to sensitive hands.  Ladies especially, if the only thing keeping you from being a grease monkey is, well, the grease, fear no more.  Purchase a tub of these and you can wrench on your bike in the morning and then enjoy an evening out on the town.

Pro Gold rocks!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Berryman Epic Race Report

A little known piece of single track heaven in the wilds of Missouri.

I had to put this on the back burner in order to get things done prior to foot surgery.  Not that I am laid up for awhile, I have time to blog away.

This one was my last hoorah for the season.  Seeing as how I was going to be out of commission for at least a month, I was going to leave everything out on the trail.  The pre-ride went well and my legs felt rested.  Coach had me doing some threshold work leading up to this race and I felt that I was ready to ride 5 hours at intensity.

Race day was brrrr! cold.  I woke to temps in the low 30's; quite a shock to my system.  I dressed lightly as I knew it would warm up and the start was a gravel road climb.  I warmed up briefly and then jumped in line as close to the front as politely possible (I was still several rows back).

The start was fast like last year.  I settled in and although my legs did not feel the best, I thought they would come around soon enough.  It was hard to tell how many ladies were ahead of me.  No worries though; my race was with the trail.  As I hit the steeper pitch going up the gravel, I felt a twinge in my right hamstring.  It lasted maybe 5 seconds; I did not think too much of it, but later it would be a premonition of what was to come.

I hit the single track with no ladies in sight.  I was locked in to a train of about 15 riders.  I settled realizing that soon enough the trail would open up.  When it did, I tried to kick it up a notch, but nothing happened.  My legs had that "achy lactic acid build up" feeling.  Really?!?  I was only 8 miles in and my legs acted like they had already pedaled 40 miles.

Hoping that my legs would come around, I focused on nutrition and momentum.  I attacked the downhills, trying to gain precious seconds.  It seemed to work as I caught up to two ladies on the descent leading to Brazil Creek.  There was a bottle neck at the creek crossing.  I guess they were afraid to get their feet wet.  It reminded me of the Planet Earth series where the herd of wildebeest were getting ready to cross the croc infested river and no one wanted to be the first to take the plunge!

As I was waited to cross, I glanced at my watch.  I was 5 minutes off last year's pace.  I grabbed my zip tie on the other side of the creek, hit the pavement for a short section, and then dove back into the woods on the Berryman Trail, just behind a lady in a Trek racing kit.  I happily let her pace me up the climb.  Even though I was in the Ozarks, these mountains are old and eroded so the climbs are neither steep nor long.  But today it felt like every climb was like Pinhoti #3.

I passed her when she stopped at a gravel road crossing.  I was now in my own little bubble.  I then used my HR to pace me.  At around mile 16, I caught up to another lady in a black/red kit (later found out this was Laura).  I struggled to stay with her on the climbs, but was able to catch back up on the descents.  As I rolled into the Berryman campground, I once again looked at my watch ... 8 minutes off last year's pace.  That was demoralizing, but then I realized I had caught up to a lady in a Sheclismo racing kit.  This gave me a much needed burst of positive energy.  I refilled my Camelbak, grabbed a gel flask, and set off on the next section of trail.  I lost track of Laura during this transition.

I hit the next bit of single track with renewed hope.  Even though I was off my game, having made contact with two ladies gave me renewed hope.  I was able to hammer this 10 mile section of single track.  I kept expecting to see Ms Sheclismo at any time, but did not make contact with her until we picked up our 3rd zip-tie at about mile 32.  It was here that we exchanged names.  Ms. Sheclismo was Sydney Brown.  I knew that name!  She was one powerful roadie who loved to hit the mountain bike scene every now and again.  We took it relatively easy on the double track climb leading to the gravel road.

Sydney thought that we were #1 and #2.  We decided to work together on the 6 miles of gravel back to the campground and aid station.  I took the first pull.  Sydney came around me and began her pull.  Within 10 seconds, I knew I this wasn't going to end well.  She dropped me like a bad habit.  I tried to keep her in sight, but slowly watched her get smaller and smaller until she was gone.

That was an ego buster.  Luckily, my ego is not that big.  Once again, it seemed to take forever to reach the campground.  Last year I reached this point in 3:27; this year it took me 3:48!  But when I finally arrived, there was Sydney!  The game was back on!  She pulled out as I was reaching into my drop bag for my little bottle of happiness ... a Red Bull shot!  I grabbed a water bottle and began the chase.

I knew I could best her in the single track.  I had ridden the last section the day before and was familiar with its sketchiness.  I had to attack and attack HARD!  The last 6 1/2 miles were on gravel and Sydney definitely had the upper hand there.  I was amazed that my legs responded!  I felt none of that achiness that I had the first 40 miles.  I caught her within the first mile, made the pass, and put the hammer down.  At first she was able to hang on, but soon I could not hear her squeaky brakes any more.  I figured I needed at least 2 minutes advantage in order to have a fighting chance. 

The first 5 miles flew by and all was going well ... until I hit this short, root-filled climb.  As I cranked down to get over the obstacles, my hamstrings locked up!  I felt as if I had been tazed!  Not wanting to fall off my bike, I grannied down and attempted to spin.  I was able to coax my cramped hamstrings to cooperate and after a couple minutes, the cramps subsided.  However, whenever I tried to amp it back up, my hamstrings began cramping. 

My race was done.  I suppose that was my body's way of keeping my heart from exploding!  Normally at the end of a race of this distance, my HR is in the low 160's.  But when I was putting the hammer down, my HR had jumped up to the mid 170's!  I cannot remember the last time my HR was that high that late in a race ... probably 10 years ago.

As I was limping along, Sydney caught back up to me.  I let her pass and encouraged her to reel in as many guys as she could.  I thought that I was in the lead; neither one of us realized that Laura was in first.

Once again, I limped to the finish.  Last year it was on a shredded tire; this year it was on shredded legs.  I managed to stay on the podium with a time of 5:21.  Sydney ended up catching Laura on the gravel and won with a time of 5:17:50.

Kudos to Sydney and Laura for having great races.  They were both so strong this year!  I was definitely out-gunned.

I must say that Zeke had an awesome race as well.  He finished mid-pack in the SS class ... but, if he had raced his age division, he would have won by 13 minutes!  Ursula had a good race as well, despite her cramps.  She finished 5th; not bad for an old lady ;).  Zeke and I are hoping that she will get bit by the endurance bug!  Both Mary and Travis succumbed to the sharp Ozark rocks and got in plenty of tire-changing practice.

Enjoyed getting to know the Fowler's.  Both are super strong racers!

Will I be back next year?  Probably, but perhaps on a SS.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Season Finale

Sweet single track!
This weekend is the Berryman Epic, a 55 mile romp through the woods of Missouri.  Last year was my first time and aside from a mechanical that cost me first place, I had an absolute blast.  Super fun flowy trail with a few technical bits thrown in to keep you on your toes.  This would be the perfect race for someone's first foray into the endurance XC scene.  Spots still available! 

This will be my last race for the year.  On October 28, I will be having surgery to remove the bastard neuromas in both my feet.  I was hoping it was not going to come to this, but after 7 weeks of conservative therapy, the pain is still there.  Granted, it is at a tolerable level, but I cannot enjoy epic rides, short runs, or just playing with my daughter without that constant nagging pain of every footstep. Nervous, but optimistic.  Down time will be around 1 month per the doc. Time to focus on weight and core training anyway.

I was planning on ripping the trails off the map at the Berryman, but I got "glutened" by Charlie's mom last Saturday.  Carly and I went up to spend the weekend with his parents.  I was very specific and diligent about my gluten intolerance with his mom, but apparently she forgot to read a label.  She prepared chili, but instead of using spices out of spice jars, she chose a chili seasoning (unbeknownst to me).  Care to guess what the first ingredient on that label was?!? 

About 2 hours after dinner, I knew I was screwed.  After interrogating her again about the ingredients, I discovered her (and my) error.  So now Buddha is back; probably for about a week.  I do hope I can ditch him by this Saturday.  Stomach pain, abdominal distension, difficulty with deep breathing, insomnia AND racing at intensity for 5 hours DO NOT MIX!

From my previous "glutened" experience, it takes about a week for me to feel normal again.  I will be cutting it close.  Oh well, that will be my handicap, I guess.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Path Less Traveled

While Daddy was in Arkansas getting some prep work done on the lease in preparation for opening day of duck season, Carly and I decided to have our own little adventure.  We went to the Tellico River and "mini-bouldered."

I thought about helmets while Carly scaled this one.  Next time!

This girl may fuss a little when it comes to riding bikes or hiking well-defined trail, but when big rocks and water are present, she is all smiles.  We "creek-walked/bouldered/butt-slid for about 2 hours along the Tellico and one of its tributaries.  I had an absolute blast!  Carly has got Mountain Goat skills; she slipped only once.

This little fall was about a mile in on one of Tellico's tributaries.

We wanted to see what was just above the falls, but the two options were very tricky.  Me, being "The Worrier," opted to not push our luck today.  Having another adult along would have made it more negotiable.  We will be back to tackle it later.

We stopped and ate lunch.  The fish were pretty happy about that as they got their first taste of Cheez-Its.

The part of mothering I absolutely love!

 Carly's leaping abilities amaze me.  On one particular water crossing, she cleaned a 4 1/2 foot jump ... from a standstill.  I opted for the easier route; I knew my limits!

As we were scaling a rather large and technically challenging rock, Carly stated that if Daddy were here, he would be saying, "Be careful, be careful, be careful, be careful ..."  What she didn't realize is that what was going through my mind on auto repeat.

Not your typical girls' day out.

Wow!  You CAN have fun without a bike being involved.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Morton's Neuroma

Today, I saw my podiatrist, along with a bag of shoes, pedals, and foot beds.  After deep palpation of my 3rd inter-metatarsal spaces, which elicited a few whimpers, my doc said,  "I believe you have a Morton's neuroma in both feet.  I also had the classic gap sign between my third and fourth toes where the fibrotic nerve is so large it is pushing apart my metatarsal heads.

See the space between the 3rd and 4th piggies!

Radiographs ruled out any bony pathologies.  When he placed the ultrasound on the area of suspicion, he outlined the two neuromas.  Basically, the nerve that runs between the metatarsal heads is normally the size of angel hair pasta.  My neuromas, however, are the size of large green peas!  No wonder the pain was so intense!  

Doc then outlines different methods of treatment.  One is a series of 5 alcohol injections over 5 weeks to kill the nerve.  He sees a 50% success rate.  The other is surgical removal.  Two small incisions over the top of the foot, and cut out the offending portion of nerve. No real down time; I could be back on the bike the next day!  The only potential complication is a stump neuroma, which he said happens about 10% of the time.

For the short term, he injected the area with marcaine and dexamethasone, bringing about instant relief!  If you look closely at the picture above, you can see a needle mark on each foot at the 3rd inter-metatarsal space.  I love any doctor that can relieve pain without prescription drugs!

He agreed on all my methods of orthotic management with the wide toebox, the Specialized BG footpeds with the metatarsal bump, and the XTR pedals.  But he said that more than likely, until the neuroma is excised, I will have recurring episodes of pain.

He said the injections could help for 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, or maybe even a year.  We shall see, I guess.  But I am prepared to have those little bastards cut out if necessary.  As much as I am on my feet at work and on the bike when not, I will probably have to undergo the knife in the future.

Today was the first pain free day on the bike since TNGA.  I felt so good I almost cried!  I did not feel every friggin little bump and for once forgot about my feet.  I also tried out my modified Specialized MTB shoes.  I was able to move the cleats back 1 cm with the modification.

I was able to drill out the carbon sole and move the cleat plate further aft.

Riding my SS today, I really did not notice any difference in this new cleat position or power transfer.  It might be more noticeable when riding gears and staying in the saddle more.  I suspect I will have to make saddle adjustments and will defer to Eddie for that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Otherwise known as hot foot, this condition was my undoing at Trans North Georgia.  15 hours in to the race and it had me writhing in agony on the climb up Hogpen Gap at 10 pm.

Two weeks later, with a week off the bike, it is still there, a constant source of burning, tingling, numbness which is beginning to take its toll on my sanity.  The pain is bearable now, more of a sense of intense pressure, but it is never ending.

I have spent almost every waking hour trying to come to some "light bulb" solution to end my misery and get me back on the bike with happy feet.  I have enlisted the aid of bike crack addicts Dave Byers, Lynda Wallenfels, Ruth Cunningham, and Eddie O'dea.

I have done all the usual things:  wide toe box, aft cleat positioning, wide platform.  All those were in place pre-TNGA.  Post-TNGA, Eddie  addressed pedaling technique.  Yep, after several rides, I figured out that I was pretty much following his advice during the race.

So two things are gonna happen ... soon.  Tomorrow, I am going to see my podiatrist, hoping that he has "the magic pill."  After much research and seeing how my hot foot has progressed over the past year, I am almost convinced that I have Morton's Neuroma.

Hopefully, the doc will give me some promising information with regards to surgery ... if indeed that is what I have.  Otherwise, I am gonna ask him to cut off both feet and attach artificial feet made out of carbon fiber!

In the meantime, I have put on my cobbler hat and started to alter a pair of old Specialized MTB shoes with carbon sole.  My intention is to move my cleats back another centimeter.

This plus

this plus

this will hopefully equal pain free pedaling!

I gotta run to Lowe's to get a 1/4" drill bit.  I hope to give it a go tomorrow.  As there are many of you out there that have this condition as well, I will keep you posted on my progress.  Being in pain and not being able to pursue your passion is NOT FUN.

Monday, September 5, 2011


It is 10 am on Monday September 5.  At this point I had expected to be pedaling up Strawberry Mountain, not blogging about calling it quits with only 13 hours and 115 miles into this monster of a race.  I had what I thought was a solid race/fueling/rest plan but I was also mentally prepared to adapt to hiccups along the way.

Pumped at the start!

I felt great at the start.  We all took off at a conversational pace.  Once we hit the first gravel climb, the pack broke up.  I was in my happy all day pace and slowly watched people pass me one by one.  A lot of standing and cranking going on around me while I just sat and stayed all spinny, using granny early on.  The roads were in good shape; there had been some rain the day before and the gravel was a bit more settled than when I had reconned this section back in July.

I slowly started reeling the others back in once we hit the climb up to Blackstump Gap along FS155.  This is a doozy with steep pitches and super loose gravel.  A couple times I had to get off and push a bit as my rear wheel would lose traction and spin out.  No worries, though.  Walking was good as it kept me from digging too deep too early.

I walked my bike down the Darnell Creek Horse Trail until I got to the purple painted tree.  Here I dropped trowel and urinated.  It was 10 am.  I then motored on and enjoyed the gradual descent down to Hwy 441.  I refilled my 70 ounce bladder at the post office; they had an outdoor spigot.  It was now 11:15 am.  A little over 3 hours in and I had drank close to 80 ounces of fluid.

From there I began the arduous task of climbing up to 3 more gaps before I would hit the fun descent down to Moccasin Creek State Park.  I was feeling great at this point and my mantra was, "Don't force the climbs.  Let the gaps come to you."  I alternated between my middle ring and my granny as the terrain dictated, keeping my feet light on the pedals.  I continued to drink every 15 minutes and eat every 30 minutes.  I kept my mind busy by going over my refueling plan and making sure my body was taking in enough.

I never really felt hot, but was later told that temperatures hit 96 degrees.  Granted I had sweat dripping from my nose and elbows, but I felt o.k.  That is, until I picked up FS164 off of Hwy 76.  This is at about mile 58.  When I started descending, I started getting "hot foot."  The pain was intermittent and more of a nuisance at this point.

I rolled into Moccasin Creek State Park at about 3:30 pm.  I stopped at the campground for water and a short break.  When I kneeled down to open my Camelbak, my left hamstring cramped.  Yowzer!  I stood back up and the cramping stopped.  It was then that I noticed just how salt-stained my shorts were.  After refilling with another 60 ounces of water, I ate a Hammer bar and took a few Endurolytes.

Although my chain was holding up quite well, what with all the creek crossings, I decided to do some preventative maintenance and lube it up with some ProGold Extreme.  When I reached in to my back pocket for the tiny bottle, I found nothing!  Apparently it had yard-saled itself in the past 3 hours.  I guess now I would get to see just how good of a product ProLink has. (BTW, the chain was quiet all day!)

After about 20 minutes, I headed for Addis Gap.  The climb up Wildcat Creek (FS26-1) is gentle compared to the previous climbs, but was not any easier.  It was here that I had the first inkling of fatigue.  I figured that this was just my 60-70 mile slump period which I usually have when doing hundies.  So as I climbed, I counted calories and ounces and was right on track.  However, I was continually interrupted by the nagging pain in my feet which slowly began radiating up my toes.  By the time I got to the top, it felt as if someone was stabbing the balls and toes of my feet with a searing hot dagger.  I stopped at the top for a moment.  I dropped trowel and attempted to pee ... nothing.  Let me remind you that this was about 7 hours after my first pee.  Not good!

I applied more Chamois Butt'r, forced myself to drink 10 ounces immediately and began the descent.  Man o man, that was some sloppy, stupid descending.  Every jolt sent waves of pain through my forefoot.  I was lucky to stay upright.

The climb up Tray Mountain was miserable.  This 10 mile loose gravel climb did me in.  What normally takes me 1 1/2 hours on a loaded bike took a little over 2 hours today.  Each pedal stroke hurt and then my knees started to hurt.  This was probably due to a sloppy pedal stroke caused by me trying to find a painless way to pedal.  I got off the bike and tried to walk; that hurt more.  So back on the bike. 

This was just not fun anymore.  Yeah, I love to suffer, all ultra-endurance racers do ... but not in this fashion.  With night falling, I made the decision that if the fun did not come back by Helen, I was out!  I got to ride Hickory Nut in the dark.  Thankfully, the 4 racers ahead of me had cleaned it up a bit.  As riding was less painful than walking, I rode more of it than I ever had.  Got squirrely a few times, but managed to keep the rubber side down.

I stopped at the convenience store at the intersection of Hwy 356 and Hwy 75, went inside, and purchased some food to see me through to the next refueling point.  By this point, it was 9 pm.  My feet actually felt slightly better, so I motored over to Wendy's, eat, and reassess my body.

Hoping this would make me feel better.

While waiting in line for my food, I started getting light headed.  I then began to see stars.  Sensing that I was going to pass out, I immediately sat down.  The dizziness subsided, but I got some strange looks from those around me.  I guess they were not used to seeing (or smelling) a fully kitted dirty mountain bike racer who had just raced 102 miles through the Chattahoochee National Forest.

After eating one of the most delicious Wendy's meals EVER, I made the decision to ride up HogPen and find some place to settle for the night.  I went to the restroom and urinated.  A decent volume but pretty yellow.  This was my second pee of the day. 

My feet were still hurting a little, but I was praying that the pain would eventually turn to numbness.  I called my family and told them of my plans.  I left Wendy's at 10 pm.

I was feeling o.k. riding out to the base of Hogpen.  But once the pavement started going up, my body imploded once again.  It was taking me 12-14 minutes to ride one mile and my foot and knee pain returned with just as much intensity as before. 

With no regrets, I stopped at a pull over and called Zeke.  At 11 pm it was game over!  Continuing would only be stupidly selfish on my part.  I had not only myself to be worried about, but I have a loving husband and wonderful daughter who need me.

Looking back at that day now, I could have made some choices that probably would have prevented my moderate electrolyte depletion/dehydration.  I could have stopped and layed over at Moccasin Creek or Helen, replenished, and rested.  At the time, I did not think I was dehydrated.  During the first 12 hours, I had drank 200+ ounces of  fluid. Apparently I was sweating it out faster than I could take it in. 

However, I don't think that would have fixed my foot issue.  In prior races, I would have bouts of metatarsal pain, but it always went away.  Today it did not go away; it only intensified.  Ultimately, I would have had to throw in the towel at some point. 

Then there was the fact that Tropical Depression Lee was fast approaching.  Prior to my debacle, I had accepted the fact that I was probably going to have to ride for 12-18 hours in the rain.  On a good day, I have the strength and will power to do that.  But when my body started failing, so did the mind. 

I guess my only regret is that I did not make it to Mulberry Gap.  I was so looking forward to the camaraderie and Ginni's fabulous grub.  Bailing there would have been a lot more fun!

Live and learn to race again!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Off The Beaten Path

North Georgia Mountains

In just a couple days, I will be making about 240,000 pedal strokes through the Chattahoochee National Forest.  I have been waiting for this adventure ever since the inaugural event back on September 4, 2010.  This season has been centered around preparing for TNGA.  Countless hours of training, researching gear, reconnoitering, and going through dozens of "What if?" scenarios in my head. 

If you had asked me 2 years ago if I wanted to race hundreds of miles over gravel roads and trail, I would have said, "That's insane!  I hate gravel road racing!"  Fast forward to now and although single track is where my heart is, I have begun to enjoy those long gravel grunts upward to the sky.  The race is 350 miles with 60,000 feet of climbing.

There will be a lot of this terrain; fortunately most of it tree-covered.

The first half of this race is mostly gravel roads.  Some are really steep and with the drought have been chewed up by the vehicles.  It is will be slow going on some of these:  two pedal strokes forward, one pedal stroke backward.  It will be frustrating at times, and that is where it would be easy for my morale to splinter.  But I have a few mantras to keep me happy. 

The other morale boost for me will be receiving texts from my family.  Cell phones are allowed in this race and although service will be sketchy and usage limited by battery life, I will turn it on occasionally.  Carly got an iPod Touch for her birthday and we are both geeked up about communicating with each other.

Zeke is somewhere in that mess. 

Most of the course is open, but there are some sections that will require bush-whacking.  I am hoping the wild hogs do some trail maintenance on those sections.  Poison ivy and I don't get along very well.

A lot of single track in the last 1/3.

The last 120 miles will be brutal.  After pedaling 230 miles on a heavy-ass bike, eating convenience store food, and lifting 35+ pounds of bike/gear over numerous downed trees, I then get to contend with The Snake portion of the Pinhoti.  This is 34 miles of gnarly, rocky, and rooty single track that has 5500 feet of gain.  The Snake Creek Gap TT Series takes place on this section every January, February, and March.  Average finishing times for the race are between 4 and 7 hours.  And that is during daylight.  I am expecting to be riding a lot of this in the dark.  O happy, happy, joy, joy!

Back in March, this creek was a foot deep.
The other big obstacle will be finding water.  The western portion will be fine, but a lot of the creeks and small rivers on the eastern portion are dried up or just trickles at this point.  Daytime temps will soar into the 90's and night temps will drop to the mid-60's.

I will be riding my 2008 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR.  It weighs 24 pounds.  The gear on the bike weighs 12 pounds.  My Camelbak, with a full 70 ounce bladder weighs 5 pounds.  That is 41 pounds of bike and gear. 

Stumpy, aka The Yak!

My vision quest will begin at 8 am on Saturday, September 3.  My goal is to reach the GA/AL border on Monday afternoon.  I am only halfway towards my goal of raising $1000 for Trips For Kids-WNC, so if you could find some spare change in your vehicle or couch, I would greatly appreciate a small donation.  Just click here

Enjoy what the out of doors has to offer!
Thanks to all those who have supported me in my efforts this year:  Charlie, Carly, Moms, Dads, Zeke, Coach Lynda, and cycling friends.  You can track my progress here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

6 Hour Race to Sunset @ Blankets Race Report

Sleeping in and getting ready at a relaxed pace was nice.

Fueling pre-race was the hard part.  Normally, it involves just one meal.  But today I had to come up with two meals.  I had the bright idea of trying to make gluten-free biscuits to go with my eggs.  It was like a cross between a rice cake and a hockey puck.  And that lead weight sat in my stomach for hours ...  I attempted to take in a few more calories around noon, but my stomach was not happy. 

Seeing as how I had not ridden here in 4 years, I took Karma (2011 Niner AC9 SS) out for a pre-ride just after I arrived around noon.  This was definitely a perfect course for one gear.  I rode a lap, just to make sure I chose the right gear ... and I did, a 32 x 20.

A tight squeeze ... especially at 12-15 mph!

The temperature hovered right around 90 at the start.  The course was technically demanding, with short, grunty climbs, roots galore, rocks that moved with you, and stutter bumps everywhere from the super dry conditions the past month. 

The race started out LeMans  style, with a 1/4 mile run to your bike.  Coach's orders were to ride at 90% and NOT race the boys.  However, I intended to run hard so as to avoid as much of the 1st lap cluster as possible. 

Loose gravel, carbon soles, and metal cleats makes for an interesting start.

The race went off at 3 pm and as I was running up the gravel parking lot, I looked down and saw a bike shoe all by its lonesome.  Within seconds, the owner was trying to run against 200 race-hungry individuals to claim his lost "sole."  It was quite a push and shove match to get to your bike first.  I am just glad that she was in one piece when I arrived to leap upon her and be off on my 6 hour adventure.

I chose to summarize each lap in a few sentences.

Lap 1:  Really, not even a mile in to this thing and I am down with a bloodied forearm.  So much for avoiding the cluster.  Come on people, just "ride that thang!"

Lap 2:  Welcome back, my friend Momentum.

Lap 3:  Wheeee!

Lap 4: I think there are more people laying trail side with cramping issues than are racing.

Lap 5:  Wow!  Red Bull does give you wings!

Lap 6:  A 100 lumen light might work well on the TNGA, but it does NOT work well on a tight, twisty single track race.  Oh, well, I will consider this my parade lap.

Karma's first race and first win.

I ended up 1st woman, 1st SS, and 2nd solo overall.  And I adhered to Coach's orders.  I swear, I was not racing the boys ... they just seemed to keep getting in my way, so I had to pass.  I had a great day on my single speed.  The legs were happy all day, but my lower back and balls of my feet weren't.  The course was very jarring!  I was happy to be finished.  It was nice to be able to get cleaned up at night and not worry about sweating again.

The bike rode well and had no issues:  powerful, yet quiet.  Even with a slightly longer wheelbase than my Specialized SS, I had no issues maneuvering around the switchbacks and other tight twisty sections of the trail.  Now that I have the fork dialed in, I am quite happy with the Reba.

Lisa Randall (Mountain Goat Adventures), her husband Chris, SORBA Woodstock, and the Bike Patrol executed a perfect race.  Inexpensive fees, combined with lots of shwag (pre and post-race), and quick reporting of results made for an awesome race. 

My podium shirt.

Zeke also rocked it!  3rd place in the SS field.  He spanked some guys half his age!

Friday, August 12, 2011

SERC #10 Fontana Race Report

Happy that the season is almost over.

Wow!  It has been a long, but fun season!  I think the racing was the easy part.  All the prep work leading up to each race was a race in of itself ... especially when you have an 8 year old in tow.  But I had help from family and friends and I do believe it has drawn Carly and I closer to each other.  Yeah, there were times when we fought like sisters, but there were many more times when we hugged and laughed and gave each other high 5's.

Team Outdoor Store is in da house!

Fontana Village was the perfect place to have the finale.  Probably because they had an AWESOME pool with an attached lazy river.  Over the course of three days, Carly got in 10+ hours of pool time and countless laps on the lazy river.

How I spent 50% of my pool time.

The kids course was also the short track course.  It was located between the restaurant and the pool on a grassy hillside.  It included a steep downhill, which Carly bombed down ... but it also had a nasty gravelly-grassy climb, which Carly hated.  This steep little grunt was also part of my course, which I had to climb up on each lap.  No fun for a little girl with a heavy bike.

Carly had to do 3 laps.  She led on the first, but then lost her bearings and slowed down, allowing a couple of her competitors to pass.  She pushed the climb up to the Start/Finish line.  By the end of the second lap, I could tell she was done.  Grimacing through the 3rd lap, she persevered and finished.  I was proud of her efforts.  This was definitely one of the hardest and least fun of the series, but she finished strong.

The head cocked to one side is an indicator of "not fun."

Carly's biggest issue is the heat and humidity.  You see, along with the orange hair and fair skin, she also got Grandmom Sandy's heat intolerance.  Heat rashes, flushed cheeks, light headedness, yucky stomach ... you name it, when Carly gets hot, this is what happens.  Even though she raced at 8:30 am, the sticky heat has been there.  Carly can swim all day, but mountain biking is hard for her in the summer.

I, on the other hand, relish the heat.  It is actually to my advantage.  But one thing I have discovered this year is that is has slowed my recovery.

My course was hard.  Not as technically difficult as Monte Sano, but there was a lot more climbing.  Most of the climbing was on pavement or gravel.  The first big descent was steep with lots of loose "baby-heads."  It was easy to get hurt here.  The second descent on Turkey Pen was way more fun.  Smooth and fast with a few water bars that you could get more air than you wanted to.  I opted to run gears as I was coming off a big block of training which had included a 28 hour ride through the Chattahoochee National Forest on "The Yak."

Single track entrance -- if I had to do 1 more lap, I would have needed a machete.

The course started out with a 0.4 mile lung/leg busting climb up pavement to the single track.  I got a good start and entered the single track in 3rd, hanging on tightly to Anina's wheel.  Kim was just in front of us, but slowly pulling away.  I settled into a sustainable pace for me.  On the first lap, I surged ahead of Anina a couple times, just to see what she had.  She did not waiver and stayed up front.

Coming through the Start/Finish area, a couple spectators said that we were 35 seconds behind Kim.  I followed Anina back up that steep paved climb, but could tell that she was faltering a bit.  She entered the single track first, but after about a mile, I could tell she was slowing.  Thinking that maybe she was playing team tactics and not wanting to drag me up to Kim, I passed and upped the pace a bit.  Anina was right there behind me.  But when we began climbing back out of Lewellyn Cove, she popped.  (Anina had raced the short track the night before ... and won.)

The second lap hurt more than the first but I had managed to gain a little more time back on Kim.  On the third lap, I went hard early, hoping that I might be able to reel Kim in, but by the time I began the false flat climb to the Lewellyn "descent of death," I blew up.  I came to the realization that pushing on was only going to increase the probability of something catastrophic happening, I backed off and finished the lap more conservatively.

I ended the day with a 2nd place and 2nd in the series.  This netted me a little cash, which I can finally put towards the purchase of 4 new truck tires.  Carly also ended up with a 2nd place in the series as well.  Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Going through her bag of goodies.

I have to thank Terri and Dave for a great season.  Awesome venues, nice and low entry fees, timely score keeping, and post-race watermelon.  I enjoyed racing my SS, the Specialized SJ aluminum.  A responsive and "mechanical-free" machine, out-fitted with the awesome Endless Bike Co. kick ass cogs.  Chamois Butt'r kept me chafe/saddle sore free, and Ergon kept my hands pain-free.

I am not sure what adventures Carly and I will have next year.  I wanted to expose her to a "real" sport; hopefully she will one day want to pedal all day.  But I will not force her.  Whatever endeavors we take up, we both hope that Daddy can be more of a part of them.  Such a busy man working for Ducks Unlimited, his hard work is what allowed us to partake in such an enriching activity.

Our biggest supporter of all -- the "Big Daddy."