Saturday, February 26, 2011

Better Than Southern Cross ... for me

As much as I would love to race every weekend, that would be counter-productive to my training goals and motherhood.  So instead, Carly and I met up with Zeke at the Whitewater Center for a day of skills work and riding. 

I am Carly's training/racing partner and NOT her coach.  She listens/learns better from the non-parental units.  So I shut up for the first half and let Zeke have the floor ... or should I say the campsite.  Zeke worked with Carly at the Thunderock Campground for about 30-45 minutes.  Cone drills, board drills, and weaving in/out large rocks.

Zeke looks amazed that Carly is actually listening to him.  Probably because I do not!

Working on standing while riding over obstacles.

After a picnic lunch we then headed out on the Rhododendron Trail.  Nothing too technical or steep with a fairly wide path.  Needless to say there was still a danger element as one side of the trail dropped off to the Ocoee River below.  As we pedaled out to begin, Zeke's exact words to Carly were, "Be careful.  If you fall off the trail, you just might DIE!"  Thanks, Zeke.  The height and the steepness of this side cut trail did not bother Carly, but I think I was terrified for the first few minutes, ready to leap off my bike and catch Carly in mid-air should something happen.

One of the few spots on the Rhododendron Trail where falling didn't mean dying (according to Zeke).

At the Whitewater Center we piddled around a bit, giving Carly a brief respite.  The trail leading from the campground to the WWC is mostly uphill and with Carly's 22 pound, tall-geared (equivalent to 32-18 on a 29'r), bike with what seemed like 120mm crank arms, she needed to unload the lactic acid.

Skipping rocks.

This beats any $500 payout!

Today was fun, but without the pain.  I am so glad I did not race.  Spending time riding bikes with my daughter is priceless.  Zeke was an excellent coach and Carly gave him an "A."  She is progressing well. The best part, the part that made my heart warm with intensity was when Carly descended the last hill on the trail, she pedaled super hard, tucked down into position, and gave a great big, "Whoo hoo!" 

I can't wait for her new bike to arrive.  I am going to have Bruce upgrade it with a few parts:  DT Swiss 240s, SunRingle' rims, Magura brakes, SRAM shifters/derailleur, Thomson post/stem, Specialized carbon bar, and an XTR crank if I can find 165 mm crank arms.  This bike is gonna be SWEET! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Camp Lynda 4.0 Day 3

The Black-eyed Peas song, "The Time," accurately sums up today's ride.  Prior to the start, the campers sung "Happy Birthday" to me.  Today I would enter my 43rd year exploring the wilds of Utah (little did I know).  I chose gears today as gravel/dirt roads + SS + Carey = no fun.

Ergon GX2's, Mountain Feedbag with 1000+ kcal, GPS, and Carly pic;  CHECK!

I couldn't get my GPS to work so I hung on to Lynda's wheel up to Starvation Point.  I attempted to find the problem as I thought it was most likely human error, but trying to look down and punch buttons while trying to keep "Speedy" in sight was both difficult and dangerous.  Not knowing where exactly I was on the course, I thought the climb up to Starvation Point was just a prelude of rollers prior to the "real" climb.  For some reason, I envisioned Starvation Point to be like the Potato Patch climb back home.  My legs were pleasantly surprised when I reached the top and realized that was it.  Whew!  I don't think I could have done a Potato Patch today!

I followed Sarah's line on the descent.  Even with a healing collarbone fracture, she was rockin' it!  She is deceivingly powerful.  The descent was littered with sidewall-slashing rocks, so we were all riding a little more conservative.

As we hit the long flat section out to Joe Blake Hill, Lynda told me to try rebooting my GPS.  Presto!  The breadcrumbs appeared.  The stress factor immediately vanished.  With Lynda having "Go go gadget" legs today, I was worried that I would not be able to hang on to my live GPS.  Over the next hour Lynda, Dave, and I hammered the flats.

The forecast called for a chance of rain later in the day, but dark clouds loomed in the distance.  They were pretty ominous looking.  I was glad for layering a bit more today and carrying my Gore-Tex jacket and shower cap.  With the potential for getting wet looking probable and carrying 3 days of Lynda-induced fatigue, my core was most grateful for the extra layers.

As we turned onto the road to "Redneck-ville,"  aka Joe Blake Hill, the road turned up and I popped off Lynda and Dave's wheel.  After miles of flats, my legs revolted.  I backed off and waited for their return.  Of course, when my cohorts are just out of site around the upcoming turn, I slash my front sidewall.  Fortunately, I had put two tire boots in my pack this morning.  Unfortunately, my tire levers were lying in the bedroom at Dave's!  Yep, that brought about the first expletive of Camp Lynda.  Thankfully, the slashed tire was a Specialized Captain, which can be changed by hand.  I took my time with the repair, running my hands along the inside of the tire for what seemed like an eternity.  I did not want to fall victim to an evil goathead thorn. 

15 minute break repairing and having lunch.
300+ hand pumps later, I had to make a decision.  Should I cut the ride short, increasing the probability of a successful return home but missing out on some spectacular scenery and trail?  Should I continue, risking the chances of getting cold, wet, and stuck out in the wilds if I had another mechanical.  Let it be known that I was running a Specialized Fast Trak on the rear, which is impossible for me to remove by hand.

Thirty seconds later, realizing that I had traveled 2000+ miles to ride "new-to-me" terrain, I was not about to send up the white flag.  Besides, I had a SPOT and the "God of Tech-Assisted MTB'ing" was watching over me.  So I continued on the full monty route, albeit a bit slower and with more caution.  I did encounter a couple areas along the single track that were tricky to GPS navigate.  After a bit of wandering, I found the correct way.

Joe Blake Hill climb

View from the top of Joe Blake Hill

Once getting over the initial fears of riding solo, I had an absolutely wonderful time.  This is the essence of mountain biking.  It is not you versus the terrain, but rather you accepting the ride for what it is and melding with the environment.

I met a strong headwind on the flats back to St. George.  That, combined with some chamois rub, made for a long haul.  But I was rewarded with more single track:  the Bear Claw Poppy Trail and the Stucki terrace climb.  These trails were enjoyable but would have been funner had I had more gas in the tank. 

The horizon is where I had been on the day's adventure.
Lynda was awaiting my arrival at Dave's.  I do believe her maternal instincts extend to her athletes!  Dave and she had been diligently watching my SPOT.

Today's adventure reminded me of my childhood explorations on our farm and the surrounding area.  On the weekends my brothers and I would get camo'd up, grab a canteen, pack a sandwich, and go out exploring the farmlands.  We would follow a creek for hours, traversing many barbed-wire fences and passing through neighboring farm lands.  This was back in the day when it was safe to "trespass."  We would be gone for hours, only turning around when we got hungry or the sun began to drop over the horizon. 

The best birthday ever!

 I am beginning to like this navigation thing ...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Camp Lynda 4.0 Day 2

Distance:  47 miles
Elevation:  6400 feet
Temperature:  33-63 degrees
Ride Time:  5:10

Single speed or gears?  I mulled over this for several hours the night before, especially after making 5+ trips up/down the stairs at DH's.  Prior to camp, the longest I had ever ridden my SS was the Snake pre-ride at 3:45.  And I had never done epic back to back SS days.  But the "loves to suffer-me"  won over the "wimpy-me," TKO-style.

After a short bit of pavement which was not near long enough to wake my sleepy legs, I began a short, but rather steep single track climb up to Barrel Roll.  Oh, how my legs were desperately wanting to hear the "clickety-click" of changing gears.  Nothing but the heavy breathing of the owner of those tired legs.  After much begging, the legs were there.

And the trail opened up and swallowed me whole!  Being relatively flat, it was one of those trails where as the speed increased, the fun factor rose exponentially. 

Mustering of the troops on Barrel Roll

 The 20 minute pedal up Cove Creek Wash was at a steady L2 pace, so ordered by coach.  It was nice to dial it back a bit and eat/drink some.  Several guys passed and normally that would get my competitive juices flowing, but I was enjoying riding my bike so much, I could care less.

Cove Creek Wash, 4% grade.

The final push to the top was quite steep and I encountered a section of freeze/thaw.  My bike went from sub-20 pounds to >25 pounds in two pedal strokes.  It was DSG-like mud!  Just a little taste of how bad the desert could be when wet.

The Stucki Trail was the world's longest pump track!  Aside from a few brief out of the saddle climbs, it was a 4 mile stretch of gently descending whoop-de-doo's.  Some mud was encountered but was quickly shed at high speed.  It was here that I got nicely acquainted with the Garmin as there were off-shoots everywhere.  This breadcrumb trail was most delicious!

The climb back up to Gas Tank Hill was like a series of terraces.  There was a lot of grinding and grunting on my behalf.  At the top, I met up with some other campers.  After I caught my breath, I was able to speak a greeting.  One gent was kind enough to lift my bike over the barrier..

After more to eat, I began the descent to Racecourse.  After some ups and downs I caught up to the front runners.  DH had a massive tear in his tire and the group was wanting to see MacGyver in action.

With 2 boots, the tube was still sticking out through the 1 1/2" gash.

It was most unfortunate the he had to bail, although his handy work did get him home.

At the first Barrel Cacti descent, JK was filming.  The video really doesn't do justice to the difficulty of this section.  Being on a hardtail, today's ride down was a bit different and more heinous.  It was just about beyond my and my bike's ability.  I rocked the first half, but towards the end, my rear end became a pogo stick, I got a bit squirrely, and took the wrong line.  As I was careening toward destruction, I heard a collective gasp from the crowd below.  Luckily, with my cat-like instincts, I was able to save it.  A collective sigh greeted me as I rolled up to the group.

And where is the trail?

 Zen was fun, but a bit tougher today.  There was definitely more hiking involved.  However, I did manage to clean this section.

A combination of 2 days on the single plus hairy scary descents drained all my energy.  The fatigue monster was on my back and I felt it from my shoulders to my toes.  I was definitely in the pain cave towards the end, but managed to get in a zone and crank out the last bit of climbing.

We gathered at the food trough, aka Golden Corral to fill empty bellies and drained bodies.  I won the Ninja Bike Skilz Award and walked away with a bag of CarboRocket 333 and Smart Wool socks.   Zeke won the "True Grit Award" for passing a kidney stone, more like a boulder, and then doing the ride.  For his painful effort, he received a bag of CarboRocket as well.  Which he then gave to his BFF!

After today's ride, I am happy to report that I am feeling more like a desert rat with decent GPS skills.

VJ Jazzy Jeff's footage of Day 2:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Camp Lynda 4.0 Day 1

Distance:  38 miles
Elevation gain:  4800 feet
Ride time:  4 hours
Temperature:  30-60 degrees F

I was riding Solo today, my 2010 Specialized SJ SS, with a 32 x 21.  Today was my virgin ride with what will become my two best friends during the TNGA race, SPOT and GARMIN.  At 9:30am we campers congregated in the Albertson's parking lot.  Wow!  It was a Who's Who of ultra-endurance phenoms.  It was going to be super cool to ride with these giants in a non competitive atmosphere.

Eszter, Dave, and Lynda:  National Champs and Enduro Junkies

Today's course was an out and back.  A short uphill pavement pedal helped to get the juices flowing and awaken the legs.  The fun began with desert single track.  The Pioneer Trail was first on the list.  I shed my windbreaker before starting.  With bluebird skies and a big ball of fire in the sky, I was already quite toasty.  I could not help but smile as I meandered through the flowiness, watching the line of campers stretch out in front of me to the horizon.

The Powerline Trail was a rough jeep road with a series of big descents and climbs.  It was pretty rough and required concentration to hold your line.  Unbeknown to me, my camera decided to yard sale on one of these descents.  All was fine and dandy until I stopped along the mile long stretch of ankle deep sand to take a pic.  After my initial "Oh, crap!" thought, a calmness came over me.  For some reason, I just knew I would find it on the return.

So I continued to plow through the sand.  This obstacle was about 1 1-1/2 miles long and 2-10 inches deep.  Glad I was on big wheels, because it was all I could muster to pedal through on this slighty downhill stretch of sand.  Turning left, I encountered a pretty imposing dune of sand to climb;  I made it almost to the top before I buried my front wheel.

Prospector Trail, photo by Adam Lisonbee

The Dino and Prospector Trails were "whoo-hoo" fun.  Fast, flowy, and with a few rocky sections to negotiate, the giggle factor was at an all-time high!  I have never ridden such grippy rocks.  During this section, I was sandwiched in between Lynda, Eszter, and Cat.  Eszter was pushing a 34 x 20; I don't think I could have turned over that gear on any of today's climbs.   For those of you who do not know her, she is the 2010 CTR female winner.  This race is a multi-day, unsupported 470 mile race along the Colorado Trail.  This lady has one big diesel engine!  Cat was a little more sensible, riding the same gear as I.  Cat is the 2009 CTR female winner and completed the 2010 edition on a single speed!  And there is Lynda, my coach, who is a phenom, with a laundry list of accomplishments, including a few multi-day unsupported events.  I was riding with GIANTS.

Eszter on Prospector, photo by Adam Lisonbee

The turnaround point was Cottonwood Creek.  We stopped for a bit and pulled out some grub.  I had my measly little processed granola bars.  Eszter and Cat whip out these 2 pound loaves of homemade bread slathered with peanut butter and jelly!  Mental note:  the food choice of multi-day racers.

The return seemed to be all uphill.  But the sand dune climb turned into the sandy ski descent.  This was the closest I have been to skiing in 10 years;  to me, much funner in balmy temps and on a bike.  On the slightly uphill sandy section, my 32 x 21 suddenly felt like a 32 x 18.  I spent some time on two feet on this section. 

I began to look for my camera during the low cadence/snail's pace Powerline climbs.  Karma was good to me and I found my camera on the third climb, tire track on the LCD display, but still functional!  Thank goodness for my crush-proof Olympus.  Just a bit sad I did not get any pics from Day 1. 

Thank you Jeff, for your video skills:

Camp Lynda: Day 1 from ergon on Vimeo.

Since today's ride was pretty straight-forward and with campers all around, I did not learn much about my GPS.  The big skies of Utah also make it a bit difficult to see the display ... something I will probably not have to deal with back home under tree cover.

We refueled and rehashed the day's ride at Baijo's that evening.  I met some FB friends in the flesh and some soon to be new FB friends.  A great day in desert!  More to come ...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Camp Lynda 4.0 Pre-ride

Zeke, Ursula, and I, aka the Southeast Contingent, arrived in St. George on Wednesday, January 26.  After settling in to Dave's bachelor pad, which rivals Zeke's abode, (hmmm .... potential future post topic), Lynda and her kinders drug Ursula and I to yoga.  This was my first official class; I have done some yoga at home, but never in a formal setting.  Needless to say, Emma put me to shame right away with her stretchiness.  My body was just not meant to contort into those positions!  Emma made it look easy.

On Thursday, whaddya know!  Ursula, Lynda, and my training plans were exactly the same:  2 1/2 hours at an easy to moderate pace.  At 10am and a crisp 32 degrees, we headed out to preview some of Day 2, along with a smattering of trail that we would not ride during camp.  I chose gears for today's outing while Lynda was on her SS FS. 

We rode Racecourse which had techy, ledgy climbs through washes followed by doubletrack descents with spectacular views of the Pine Valley Mountains.

Ursula would agree, by no means is this area flat!  It is just so wide open that it appears to be.

The Barrel Cacti Trail was all me!  Rocky climbs and descents where it was good to follow the leader as I kept wondering where the heck the trail was.  It was just rock drop-off after rock drop-off after rock-drop off.  Being able to follow Lynda's line was most beneficial during the "Descent of Death."  I was happy to be able to clean it, albeit with big eyes and white knuckles!

No room for error on the Descent of Death.

Once you commit on this one, there is no getting off ... voluntarily.  I think I surprised Lynda, but Indy ('09 Specialized Era)  overcame the forces of gravity and held on to the trail, although I think it a bit of a stretch to call that "trail."

Zen Trail courtesy of Adam Lisonbee

The Zen Trail reminded me of the large granite rock section at Conyers.  Huge slabs of grippy sandstone.  I was climbing grades that would be impossible back home.  There were many cairns guiding you over the vast expanse of rock.  Momentum was key on this terrain as there were quite a few punchy climbs.  Earlier Coach had told me that you should session a section no more than 3 times; after that, you just learn the wrong line.  But then she had to tell us about this one particular climb that she tried  the weekend before.  After 18 tries, she got it!  Do as I say, not as I do??

Toward the end of Zen, I was feeling the day's effort.  As I suspected and Lynda confirmed, we were going harder than the plan called for.  Fortunately, the fun factor out ruled the training plan.  I do have one question:  how can there be so much POWER in such a little tiny frame?  I think Coach's L2 is my L3!

Not knowing what to expect over the next 3 days, 2 of which would be on my SS, I spun my legs out on the way home.  Today's effort was 3 hours, 20+ miles, 2500 feet of climbing, mostly upper L2, but with plenty of L5 spikes to give me a good swift kick in the pants!

How cool to be able to access such a vast network of trails right outside your front door!

Coach and her understudies.