Friday, May 27, 2011

16 Years

Today Charlie and I celebrate our anniversary.  Unfortunately he is in Quebec, working the Ducks Unlimited National Convention.  But he surprised me a couple days ago with this:

Homemade cards are the Best!

Awesome!  No bouquet of flowers, no box of chocolates, no silver teapots ... stuff that serves no purpose and that you forget about within a month.  I get components!  Yes!  Hmmm ... I am thinking Reba XX 29", Stan's ZTR 29'r Race Gold, and Lightning Carbon cranks to start with.  Now all I need is a frame ... waiting patiently.

Although we are apart on this memorable day, we celebrated before he left and we will continue to celebrate upon his return.  After all, the 27th is just one day.  We need to celebrate each and every day for we have been blessed.  I have a very supportive husband who lets me run around with another man, to live my dream of racing my bike!  We have a very wonderful daughter who shows us everyday how to love and be happy, no matter what life throws at us.

Thanks for 16 great years, Charlie.  Hope we get at least another 16.  I love you!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


The SERC XC series is at the Whitewater Center this weekend ... my home stomping grounds.  But I won't be racing.  I am currently nursing an IT band injury that I caused, not by overuse, not by lack of stretching, but by my own stupidity and carelessness.  You see, this happened 2 1/2 years ago.  The cause:  worn out cleats.  Back then, I changed my cleats upon my Coach's advice and voila!  The IT band issue went away in 3 days.  The worn out cleats caused a considerable amount of play in the pedal/shoe interface and this placed a large amount of stress upon my knees and surrounding tissues.

I am invoking this day as National Check Your Cleats Day!

Fast forward to my PMBAR recon on April 22-23.  Wearing the same shoes as two years ago and more than likely having not changed the cleats since then (I have no records to prove otherwise), after 6 hours in the saddle, my IT bands flared up.  I rode through it the next day, raced SS on May 1, and the following week felt not pain, but a considerable amount of tightness along the outside of my knee close to where the kneecap tracks in the femoral groove.  Not being painful, more like a "pebble under your foot" kind of nuisance, I raced PMBAR on May 7.  I was surprised that after 68 miles and 10,000+ feet of climbing, my knees felt no worse, but no better.

After talking to Coach, we agreed that I needed to look at the bigger picture (Lumberjack 100 and TNGA) and ditch the SERC at Tanasi.  I think I shed a tear, or two.  I needed to remind myself that I was not doing this race for me, but for us (Carly and I).  The goal of this series was to have fun, not to chase a championship.  So I will be fully supporting Carly's efforts tomorrow morning, bright and early at 8:30am.

A couple more things I have learned from this misadventure.  The two times I have had this IT band issue, I was also riding my '08 S-Works FS Stumpjumper.  And I have never been "fitted" on this bike; I have just transferred measurements.  So, I think it wise that I hook up with 55nine Performance and get Wobble-naught fitted to "Stumpy."  Afterall, this is the bike I am racing on for TNGA.

Secondly, I have been using the Shimano XTR 970 pedals on Stumpy and the 980's on my Era.  There is quite a noticeable difference in float between the two, the 980's having less.  As my knees don't like lateral movement, I will be upgrading Stumpy's pedals to the 980's as well as my single speed.

Shimano 970

The 980's also have more shoe to pedal contact which provides more stablity.

Shimano 980

Thirdly, I have now made a "cleat changing" chart, so that I will know when I need to put new ones on.

And finally, I have learned a lot of new stretches from my physical therapist.  I thought I had a good stretching program, but Celeste has showed me how to stretch in a lateral plane as opposed to the front/back type of stretches that I had been doing.  She calls it her 3D stretching program.

If any of you have any more suggestions for IT Band treatment, I am all ears.

So I will be on the sidelines this weekend.  A few days ago, when I was wallowing in my own misery, I actually thought of eating a whole loaf of French bread.  At least if I was "glutened," I would not feel like riding.  That is the hard part.  I really wanna RACE!  If all goes well, I will be on the Start line at Dauset!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

PMBAR Race Report

The wooden nickel cost 30/100 teams a 2 hour penalty as they failed to adhere to Rule #13!

My first Eric Weaver race is in the books.  And I must say that it has been the best race of the season.  My first foray into mountain bike adventure racing and I am hooked!  I really did not look at it as a race (well, maybe a little) but more as a fun way to spend an epic day in Pisgah learning the network of trails, dialing in my navigation skills, and using gear that I will come to rely upon come Labor Day weekend.

The day before we had talked to several PMBAR veterans who had told us that it was a mad start and the best thing to do was to race up to Pressley Gap and then pull out the map and beging plotting.   At that point we had decided to try to hang with some of the big dogs and try to get an idea where they might be headed first.

My PMBAR bike,  fully loaded it weighed 29 pounds + 6 pounds on my back.

Race morning was chaotic.  I got separated from my partner, Todd Henne, and I could not hear the pre-race meeting.  Finally we hooked up about 7:50; Todd had the Ziploc bag with map and passport inside.  At 7:52, Eric said, "Go!"  Fortunately for us, we had a "deer in the headlights" start, so we actually opened up the passport and map and began reading the instructions.  All the rules were pretty typical, save for #13, which was brand new for this year:  "Every team race packet contains a wooden nickel that must be given to the race director prior to leaving the start."

We plotted out our points, in a counter-clockwise direction, so as to get the 3 mandatories and the closest optional to those mandatories first.  Then, if we were still feeling frisky, we would go for the 5th (Farlow/Daniel Ridge), which was way out there by itself.  As we were dropping our nickel off, Eric stated, "There are going to be a lot of frustrated teams, including several big dogs, out there." (30 teams did not drop their nickel off).

Climbing up Thrift Cove and Black, I knew I was going to have a good day.  My legs were very sparkly, and I had to keep a governor on the motor.  Todd wass an awesome partner and kept me cool and level-headed.  We had the same cadence, shifted gears at the same time, and knew when to get off and walk.

Our first checkpoint was South Mills River/Squirrel Gap.  The trails were in excellent shape and blazing fast!  I was all sh!ts and giggles on the South Mills River descent until I rounded a corner and there stood Brad and Matt.  Taking my eyes off the trail, just for a split second, caused me to hit a slab of off-camber wet rock and down I went before I even realized it.  I "Super-Manned" over my bike and landed just a few feet from Brad's feet.  I bounced up quickly, refusing to acknowledge the pain in my shoulders and right thigh.  I checked Stumpy ('08 Specialized Stumpjumper FS) out; whew, nothing broken.

photo courtesy of Brado

So I embarrassed myself in front of the "Pisgah Yeti" and the "Jeremiah Johnson of Pisgah", but I was also glad that we ran across them; it reassured us that our route and checkpoint order was a good plan.

Once we got our stamp from South Mills River/Squirrel Gap, we then headed towards our second checkpoint, South Mills River/Bradley Creek.  Here is where we made a mistake and did not take Horse Cove to Cantrell Creek but rode Squirrel Gap to Mullinax.  Oh, well, Squirrel was in such fantastic shape that I was not too disappointed.  The work done on this trail was very minimal but vastly improved the quality of the ride. 

We boogeyed to the second check, passing a lot of teams on the way.  So far, the route we took, along with my sparkly legs, made it seem like it was "all down hill."  Todd was feeling great as well.  I was quite surprised, as he had put in a podium effort at the Cohutta 100 the weekend before.

Our next checkpoint was North Mills River/Lower Trace.  Sweet!  I had just ridden the Trace Ridge area 2 weeks before on a recon mission.  Lucky call ... I knew exactly how to get there.  I had even ridden a section of Bradley Creek that intersects with FS1206.  That was fantastic as I knew exactly how many creek crossings there were.

Unfortunately, Todd took quite a digger on one of the Bradley Creek crossings and landed right on his hip.  Soaked our passport as well, but luckily it held up the remainder of the day.  The cold creek crossings worked wonders on my legs and feet, but they shut Todd's legs down.  He had a hard time on FS1206 as his legs were not wanting to cooperate.  We passed by Stephen Janes station at Yellow Gap; looked like a party!  We refilled our Camelbaks at the North Mills campground.  Used to racing with a Camelbak, I had emptied most of it.  Todd, on the other hand, still had quite a bit left ... our second mistake as he was under fueled.  I should have been telling him to sip every 10-15 minutes.

The single track seemed to bring Todd back to life and we crushed the Lower Trace descent and the hike-a-bike out of there went by quickly as well.  It was here that I did not know Wash Creek; it may have been the better way to go, but Trace Ridge is such a blast to descend.  Once again, no regrets.  As we climbed up out of that lollipop loop, we were now going into our 6th hour of racing.  For once in a long time, I was feeling great on the gravel grinders.  My bike felt chainless.  As we hit Yellow Gap again, we stopped to lube our chains; Todd's bike had become the "squeakinator" in the last hour.  Stephen gave me some homemade hummus which was to die for! 

As an aside, Stephen Janes used $150 of his OWN to provide delicious and tasty snacks for the racers.  Talk about a morale boost:  grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cold cokes, hummus and chips, cookies, etc.  I suggest we return the favor in giving to his non-profit, Trips for Kids WNC .

Our next check was Laurel Mountain/Pilot Rock Connector.  Getting our single track mojo back, we were able to motor to the checkpoint.  I always forget how long Laurel really is.  Up the last steep hike-a-bike, my bike suddenly got HEAVY.  Man, was I glad to see the volunteer and get the passport stamped.  But unfortunately I left my mojo because I absolutely sucked going down Pilot.  I couldn't clean anything!  I don't know if it was the super loose trail conditions, fatigue, bad fork/shock set up, or the lingering memory of my crash on South Mills.  But my mind and body were at war ... and the mind kept winning.  Todd, with his big wheels (Specialized Epic 29'r) did not have any problems.

Partners in Pisgah

Once we popped back out onto FS 1206, we made the decision to head back to the Start/Finish with 4 checkpoints.  We figured that attempting Farlow/Daniel Ridge was gonna take 2 2 1/2 hours.  But we were risking a catastrophic failure in the form of a crash or bike mechanical that could cost us the race or more time.  With Todd feeling the Cohutta fatigue monster and I nursing an injured knee, we made the right decision to finish with 4.  No regrets!

We were the 2nd team with 4 CP's to finish in  8:40 and that put us in 12th place out of 100 teams.  Not bad for two middle age out of staters.

Finishing with grins ... not grimaces!

Kudos to Eric Weaver for this race that tests your mind as well as your body.  Thank you, Todd, for being a wonderful partner.  I hope to be able to race with you again!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

SERC #4 Winder: Carey's Race Report

After Carly's pre-ride, I went out for mine.  Once again, I chose one gear too easy.  I guess this either means I am either getting stronger or I am underestimating my level of fitness.  I hope it is the first.  The course was 10.5 miles of fast, flowy, endorphin-inducing trail.  There were 4-5 short climbs spread throughout, 1 creek crossing, and the Monster Mile, which ran you through some tight, twisty stuff and several deep ditches.  Once ditch required some skillful braking so that you would not be pile-driven into the opposite bank.

Gearing up for the pre-ride.

After the ride, I changed my gear.  We then spent the rest of the evening playing Monopoly and relaxing in the rocking chairs at the Jameson Inn while Carly ran laps up and down the exterior corridor.

12 ladies lined up for the start.  I fumbled a bit at the start, my right foot not wanting to clip in, but managed to settle in behind the lead group of 4 which included Geri, Kim, Catherine, and Jamie.  The beginnning always hurts as I am spinning a 120-130 cadence to keep up with the leaders and their "road runner" starts.  But I know that eventually everyone settles down.  Kim attacked just as soon as we settled; knowing I could not sustain that tempo, I soon lost sight of her.  Catherine, Jamie, and I rode together for quite some time but once I realized I was going too easy, I passed them on a climb. 

Towards the end of the first lap, just before the creek crossing, I came upon several 40+ expert men.  The first couple passes went smoothly, but I got all stupid and squirrely passing the third man.  I attempted a pass between a tree and a grape vine and became a human slingshot!  The grape vine hooked my right bar end at a speed of about 12 mph, lifting my front wheel up in slow motion as it gave ... up to a point.  It then proceeded to sling me backwards with a rubber band effect, dumping me on my a$$ with the bike on top.  The crash probably took all of 3 seconds, but it felt like 30.

Catherine was right on my tail the whole time and was kind enough to stop and make sure I was o.k.  Kudos to her for being a class act!  I quickly rebounded and remounted; only my pride was hurt. Soon thereafter, I passed the guy again ... at a much more open spot.  Perhaps one day I will learn patience.

The second lap was pretty uneventful.  I finally managed to pull away from Catherine ... must of had something to do with the fact that she raced the Twilight Crit the night before.  This gal is gonna be super strong very soon!  I saw Mark walking his bike out of the woods; he didn't even give me the chance to pass him on the trail this race.

On the third lap at about the 2 hour mark, my legs began to bark on the climbs.  This race ended up being almost 30 minutes longer than the first two SERC races and I was feeling it!  With the legs being heavy, I soon found myself settling in behind the expert men and riding their pace rather than pushing my own.  Funny how your mind wanders when the fatigue monster is on your back.

I still managed to finish second, 1:30 behind Kim.  Seeing how it is still early in the season, I feel pretty confident that I can improve upon my XC race pace single speed sustainability

photo courtesy of Carly Lowery
YABA did an awesome job of getting the trail in prime condition.  They even pressure washed  the slab of rock in the creek crossing to clear of it algae that would have ruined the day for many racers.

Carly and I could not do these races together had it not been for our awesome pit crew.  Thanks Mom and Doug ... you guys managed to learn a thing or two from TransRockies. 

Love you, Mom!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

SERC #4 Winder: Carly's Race Report

Carly and I arrived early on Saturday.  We pre-rode Carly's course, a 1/2 mile single track loop, which was pretty intimidating.  We got off our bikes on a long rooty section and together decided the best line through it.  After practicing it a few times, Carly had the line down pat.  After that was a 100 yard loose and somewhat rooty climb followed by a fairly steep descent with one "hole" to go down and back up out of.  The first time it came upon Carly so quick that she did not have time to get scared.  This deep ditch was about 4 feet deep and 10 feet wide.  Momentum was definitely your friend; if you hit the brakes you would not make it to the top and would most likely fall back down to the bottom.  The lap finished with a steep climb back up to the Start/Finish.

After her pre-ride, we registered and got our schwag bag.  Carly loves this part.  She pulled out a Jet Blackberry Gu and devoured it.  Next she pulled out this:

And then she asked me, "What does this taste like, Momma?"  I about fell backwards I was laughing so hard!  Once I told her what it was for, she got this disgusting "I can't believe I was about to eat that!" look on her face.

Once Grandmom Sandy and Grand-Doug arrived,  I went off on my pre-ride while Carly took the grandparents on a hike of her course.  My Mom later told me that she had asked Carly if she wanted to race with a bottle of water or sports drink.  Carly's response (with the most serious face, according to Mom),  "No, Grandmom, that adds WEIGHT."

Sunday morning, Carly's race went off bright and early at 8:30 am. The day before she had showed us our positions out on the course:  Grandmom at the root garden, Grand-Doug at "the hole," and I at the road crossing.

"Go to your position, Mom, you are getting on my nerves."

Carly's race was 2 laps.  Once the gun went off and she was out of sight, I went to my position.  Whereas on the pre-ride she was "on the brakes" on the descent, today she was flying today!


On the second lap she had lost a position.  She later told me that the girl (in the picture above) had passed her on the climb, causing her to bobble.  But she said she ran the bike up to the next level spot and hopped right back on.


When asked what the favorite part of the race for her, she replied with a big smile, "The downhill!"  Awesome.  At the previous two races the answer to the question had been, "the finish."

Other than the competitor-induced bobble, she executed a great race.  Doug said that she made "the hole" look easy.  He helped a lot of kids up and outta there by grabbing on to their handlebars as they just barely crested the summit.

All the kids are winners.

Now, if I can only figure out how to make L4 and VO2 max intervals fun for her!