Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wilkes 100K Race Report

This was the inaugural race that showcased the trail systems of Wilkesboro, NC.  From the fast flowy nature of Warrior Creek and the Overmountain Victory Trail to the punchy, rooty ups and downs of Dark Mountain, this race was all about laying down the hammer.  The trails were interconnected with short bits of pavement and gravel.

NC 268 --> OVT --> Dark Mountain --> OVT --> NC 268 --> Warrior Creek = 57 miles and 6500 feet of climbing.

The Saturday morning wake up call came early.  I had been in Asheville acquiring my 20 hours of continuing education in veterinary medicine.  I decided to play hookey on Saturday to journey up to Wilkesboro and ride some kick ass trails.  But when I woke up tired and looked at a temperature of 26 degrees, I knew it was going to be a tough day in the saddle.

Driving up to the venue, the sun rose up over the mountains, but the temperature did not change much.  It was 28 frickin' degrees at the start.

This kept my legs happy, at least on the outside.

130 riders lined up for a neutral start.  A little too neutral for me.  We were escorted by the sheriff for the initial 4 miles on the pavement.  After the first mile, I noticed that my front wheel was wobbling ... really bad. Was  the wheel coming loose?  I finally recognized the problem.  I was shivering uncontrollably!  Please speed up Mr. Policeman, so that I can get warm!

Once we were directed off the highway and onto Jess Walsh Road, it was game on!  Although my hands and feet were blocks of ice, at least now my core was warm.  And then, about 40 of us were suddenly slamming on our brakes as we were being funneled into the OVT.  It spread out pretty quickly, however, and soon I was in my own bubble of pain.  For some reason, I felt like I was just not firing on all cylinders.  It was probably a combination of the cold + late season + unfamiliarty with the trail.  As I was cursing the cold, Kip came up suddenly behind me on his SS.  He politely stated, "Hey, its Carey.  We must be getting close to the front, " and "That's a really good looking bike," referring to my Niner Air 9 RDO.  But what I think he meant was, "Are you having a problem with your bike?  Why are you going so slow?"  I let him and his friend on by, and they blew past me hammering up a short hill.  They were on fire and looking so strong.

Even though I was not feeling my best, I must say that the OVT, with the new Berry Mountain loop and all its tight, twisty bermy trail, was really fun.  It flowed so well I found myself not needing to use my brakes so much, which was a blessing since I could not feel my hands at all on this trail.

People joke about there being 50,000 of these.  I would say at least 500.

Once on the Dark Mountain trails, I began to feel a little better.  Guess the diesel had finally engaged.  That was good as there was more extended climbing here.  The trails were also alot more eroded than when I had done the Burn 24 Hour race in 2010.  I could not imagine doing 27 laps here now!  As I worked my way through the roots, rocks, and leaves, I caught up to Mark.  He had decided to race today just the day before; his way of getting an extended training ride.  We rode together for awhile, but then he got some grass wrapped around his derailleur pulley and had to stop.

Back on the OVT, I slowly but surely began picking my way up through the ranks.  Those who had buzzed past me earlier were now feeling the effects of their efforts.  Although these trails are not hard, they require you to be constantly on the gas.  Towards the end of the OVT, I caught up to Tom from Richmond, Virginia.  This was his first experience on these trails and he was a tickled as a kid in a candy store.  Together, we worked to try to make short effort of the paved section back to Warrior Creek.  The HEADWIND did not help!

Warrior Creek was ridden clockwise (opposite of the 6 hour race).  I am not sure if it was the direction or the fact that it was at the end of the race, but that lap seemed to go on FOREVER.  I swear the BMCC added an extra 5 miles somehow.  Oh, and throwing in that nasty pavement climb of 20 % was brutal!  The Headwaters Trail was new to me.  The perfectly placed pedal striking tombstone rocks made me wish I had those instant engagement Industry Nine wheels on my steed.  I managed to fumble slowly through this section.

I did manage a giddy smile as two guys who were following just a little too close on the uphill rock garden, toppled over behind me as I slowly picked my way though the rocks.  Don't ride "up my butt" guys!  This 105 pound "half-pint" doesn't have the torque to power through but rather relies on slow speed skill to pick her way through technical sections such as these.

Normally for me, during the last miles of any race, I get into the "barn-smelling" mode and am able to finish with a little kick.  Not today.  There was no gas left in the tank.  Those last two miles  hurt!  I still managed the win, though, with a finishing time of 5:00:44.

Later, when I totally up my nutrition, I realized I had not drank enough.  55 ounces over 5 hours when it should have been at least 80-90 ounces.  Total calorie count was adequate but hydration status was not.  As long as I have been doing this, you would think I would have nutrition down pat.

Still, it was a great day to be in the woods.  Jason, Paul, and Co. put on another wonderful event.  They felt bad that the podium schwag was subpar compared to 6WC, so they gave everyone cash instead!  And the T shirt was dedicated to one of their club members who was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The cyclist is a collage of pink ribbons.

Friday, October 18, 2013

5 Points 50 Race Report

Taking place atop Lookout Mountain, Tn/Ga, this race was a Jeckyl and Hyde kind of course.  Race director, Michael Long, did his homework well when laying out this course.  It had a little bit of everything, from pavement to smooth flowy fast trail to tight, twisty rooty trail to rock gardens to creek crossings.  The further you got into the race the harder it became ... at almost an exponential level.

I had just come off a much needed rest week, especially since I had raced the 3 weekends before.  I hadn't done that in a long time, and it hurt!  This aging body needs more time in between efforts to recoup and it wasn't until the Thursday before the race that I started feeling good again.

The starting temperature of 49 degrees was perfect.  There is nothing like uncontrollable shivering at the start to keep my mind sharp and focused.  Once the race started, I was on the gas and forgot the cold.  The lead out on the pavement was only neutral until the first hill.  And then I was digging deep to stay with the lead group.  My goal was to hang with Paula and any other women on the road, even if I had to burn a match or two.  I fell off the lead group but managed to stay with the second group and slowly bridged back up to Paula who had been in no man's land for a while.

Closing in on the 5 Points single track, it was Paula, Elizabeth, Namrita, and I.  With less than 100 yards to go, I knew it was imperative to get the hole shot, so I surged ahead of Elizabeth and Namrita and rode Paula's wheel into the woods.  We were on the connector leading to the climb up Fugget Lift when I shifted into my little ring up front ... and the chain decided to wrap itself around my bottom bracket.  Crap!  Off the bike, looking upside down at this ridiculousness, and trying to unravel this mess, my heartrate shot up as racer after racer passed me.  Monty was kind enough to stop and offer assistance, but by that time (it seemed like many minutes later) I had fixed the mechanical.

For the next 30 minutes I played catch up.  I shifted minimally for fear of a repeat and so spent the most of the 5 Points trail system in my big ring, grinding my Jet9 RDO up the climbs like it was a single speed (that would come back and bite me later).  My full suspension rig was a little overkill on the sweet flowy 5 Points trail system, but would later be to my advantage.  I enjoyed the flow and slowly bridged back up to Paula and Elizabeth.  I was able to make a pass as Elizabeth overcooked a turn and ride Paula's wheel through the CapRock section.

Upon entering the Ascalon trailhead I took the lead, did not take a feed, and rode the short pavement section to the newly cut single track.  It rolled fairly well, but was off camber in a lot of sections and strewn with loose small rock.  As I entered the rock garden, Paula was on my wheel.  I pushed just a little harder.  When I heard Paula falter, I drilled it for a few minutes, trying to shake her off my wheel.  Mission accomplished, I caught up to two guys.  They were riding a good pace so I used them to focus on keeping my tempo up through these 5 miles.

Coming through the Ascalon trailhead a second time, I felt my Camelbak, and knew I could make it to the final aid station before needing a feed.  It was on the Tailing's Run trail that I felt the first signs of fatigue.  This tight, twisty trail with its short punchy ups and downs was working on my hamstrings and quads.  I was glad to finally be on the CCT and racing back to Lula Lake Land Trust.

The CCT was fast!  I really enjoyed the full suspension here as it was chunky in places with lots of loose cathead rocks.  I came upon Shane who was attempting to fix a double sidewall flat (a 9 penny nail had gone through both sidewalls!).  I stopped for about 30 seconds, massaged a CO2 out of my saddle bag for him, and told him that he had better catch me.

I really enjoyed the 2 mile section off the CCT.  It was primitive single track  ... I think some old hiking trails. In some areas, had it not been for the orange flags, I would have lost the trail.  It felt like I was deep in the forest, miles from civilization.  The creek crossings were challenging, but rideable.  This was the second section that I saved precious seconds by having full suspension.  The last crossing had a short hike a bike and this was where Shane caught me.  He was riding like a bat out of hell!  Popping out onto a high end subdivision, I rode past multi million dollar mini-farms and stopped at the aid station.  I opted to drop my Camelbak and pick up a bottle for the final 12 mile push.

And a long push that was going to be!  There was a 1 mile section of mostly uphill pavement to get to some private property that would lead to the Lula Lake Land Trust section.  When I tried to go a bit harder, I felt a twinge in my right hamstring.  Not good!  I immediately slowed up, trying to avoid a full on cramp.  It worked, but this was the first time that I got worried about the competition behind me.

The section of ATV roads leading to Lula Lake was like riding the spine of a stegosaurus:  long steep ups and downs.  Luckily my bike was behaving and the granny was put to use ... alot.  Finally I was onto the trust property and was introduced to some kick ass trails!  The one trail I remember is the B Trail, aka the Jedi Trail.  A gently rolling smooth flowing trail, it weaved through the trees.  I had my groove again.  This section was laid out so that you would climb on double track and descend on single track.

At one point, I saw the start/finish area through the trees and across Rock Creek.  I crossed the creek on foot allowing the cool water to soothe my feet and calves.  Then it was onto a gravel road climb, followed shortly by a steep section of single track that was so tightly woven amongst the pine trees, I had to slow considerably just to get my handle bars through.  After about 3/4 mile, I was directed out onto the pavement for a 2 mile rolling climb to the final section of single track.

It was here that my engine died.  That rolling pavement did my legs in ... and that reoccurring twinge in my right leg reminded me how close I was to completely blowing up.  The racers in front of me appeared as tiny ants.  Finally I was at the left hand turn.  A short bit of pavement, somebody's private drive, and then I was directed right ... up THE POWERLINE CLIMB.

I cracked!  Off the bike pushing and suffering.  Suddenly I heard a rider come up behind me and then pass me like I was standing still, which I pretty much was at this point.  It was Elizabeth!  She had seen me on the pavement, smelled blood, and charged!

As she pedaled away, up the powerline climb, I did a little soul searching.  Was I satisfied with second?  Did I even have a chance of vying for first?  Would I be caught by third? While I was thinking about what happened and what could be, I pushed just a little harder, hopped on the bike, and pedaled a little harder.  After a few minutes, I could still see her.  I dug a little deeper; I got a little closer.  The gap was closing!  When she turned around to see where I was, I knew then I had a chance of vying for first!  I caught her on a descent.

With about 3- 3 1/2 miles left and the single track being tight, I had to wait for her to make a mistake.  At one point, I tried passing during a log hop, but she surged ahead and we almost locked bars.  I backed off, not wanting to take us both out doing something stupid.  I laughed and she said something like, "This is a real race!"  We came to a descent and I was right on her wheel; the trail veered sharply to the right.  Elizabeth was carrying too much speed and went straight.  I made my move!

I turned myself inside out over the last 2 miles.  I had never seen my heart rate that high so late in a race!  I suppose I can now rule out any sort of heart condition, as that was a true test of its performance.  And it was over this last section I was at an advantage on a full suspension.  The trail was pretty technical both on the ups as well as downs, with large rocks and roots to climb over, and some pretty good ledgy drops on the final descent leading back to the pavement.

I never looked back, even on the short pavement section back to the gravel drive that led down to the finish.  I buried myself in my machine, turning the pedals over as fast as I could ... hoping that my legs would not seize up.  I rolled through the finish line in 4:27.  Elizabeth came in 2 minutes later.

I had asked of my body what I thought was possible, but not probable.  Now knowing what I am capable of, I can never just "let her go," which will make future races all the more interesting.

Pain cave, I have entered you not knowing, and have exited with the excitement of knowing that I can push my body to its limits, and not only survive, but succeed!

Epic trails + happy volunteers + organized aid stations + equal pay outs + tons of usable schwag + a great post race meal (watermelon!) = MUST DO NEXT YEAR.  But be forewarned, the course will test your limits.  The last 12 miles are brutally fun.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

New Bike Sponsor

19.1 pounds of fury (frame weight = 3.5 pounds)

Back in May, I received a phone call from Richie Moore, owner/builder of Cysco Cycles.  He offered me a deal I could not refuse.  The past couple years I had been noticing these Ti bikes popping up at races.  I have also known Richie for some time as we used to train and race together back in the day.  Bruce, my mechanic, had a Cysco steel hardtail and John, a local riding buddy, had a Cysco Ti SS.  Every Cysco owner that I talked to had nothing by good things to say about their bike. So when Richie offered to sponsor me for 2014, I jumped on board ... especially since he was cool with me continuing to ride my Niner geared bikes.

I worked with Chris, Richie's partner, in creating the frame.  Chris has an amazing wealth of knowledge about how angles and different tube measurements will affect the handling and compliance.  He was very patient with me in designing my SS frame.  I basically started with my Niner SS geometry and tweaked it a bit here and there.  After 3 weeks of talking back and forth and looking at ALOT of drafts, I settled on version 6.0.

From bits and pieces ...

From there it was all Richie.  Based on my weight and how I wanted the bike to "feel," he selected the tubing size and shape.  Once he had the materials in hand, it took him about 2 weeks to build it.  He would send me pics of the process and I would oogle over them, wanting the bike NOW.  But I patiently waited as I knew Richie treated each build like a piece of art.

The stars definitely "tried" Richie's patience, but turned out beautifully!

Instead of putting decals on his frames, he blasts the Cysco name on ... not as easy process!  With my frame he also went to extra lengths by blasting on stars on the seat tube to represent my SS National Championship.  There is also one more piece of  uniqueness about my frame that, should it ever be stolen, I can use to identify it.

After riding it several times and getting one race on her, I can definitely say this bike was built for me.  The first time I clipped in, it just felt right.  Like an Avatar, the frame is an extension of my body.  The build is the same as my Niner SS, save for the Industry 9 Wheels; I have Stan's Race Golds on my Niner.   It is more compliant than my Niner A9C SS.  I am really digging the Paragon rockers with the 142 x 12 rear.  With no CYB and quick release, my drive train is silent.  Mind you, my Niner CYB can be silenced, but it takes grease ... both the elbow and ProGold EPX kind!

Love the thru axle stiffness.

Just look at the welds and you will realize that Richie is a damn good welder.  He has been building Cyscos for 4 years now and prior to that he worked at both Litespeed and Lynskey for 10+ years.

The curved seat stays help to improve bump compliance.  That paired with a 27.2 mm Niner RDO seatpost make for a most comfortable ride.

Yes, custom frames can be expensive.  A Cysco starts at $3400.  But it is not "cookie cutter," it is handmade in the USA!  And you get the helpful expertise of Chris when designing your frame.  And yes, titanium can be light and lively.  I cannot wait to get to know mine even better over the next few months.

Bike # 273

Addendum:  Richie's bike come with a LIFETIME warranty on materials and workmanship ... to the original owner.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

ChainBuster 6 Hour Race Report

Last weekend I was treated to perfect trail conditions for the JackRabbit 6 Hour Race in Hayesville, NC.  I was racing coed with the fast and furious Tyler Murch.  The whole SuperSport team, save for Mark Dee, was there.

Hanging out with the team.

Tyler elected to go first ... so thankfully I did not have to race down that looooong stretch of pavement on my SS, carrying a cadence of 160+!  Tyler said that he was gonna take it easy on the first lap and "feel out" the trail and competition.  Good idea, as he had never ridden these trails.

Tyler came out of the woods first, but it was not MY Tyler.  Our team had another duo racing, Tyler and Mary.  So as Mary went out on her first lap, I anxiously awaited my Tyler.  What a nail biter!  After several anxious minutes, Tyler arrived.  I had so much energy balled up, I fumbled around with the timing chip, losing precious seconds.

My first lap I was the greyhound chasing the rabbits.  Even though I went with a harder gear (32/18) this year as opposed to last year (32/19) when I raced solo, I still felt undergeared.  I also had not ridden JackRabbit since back in the winter, so I was pretty squirrelly in the turns.  I caught up to the 3rd place coed team about a 1/3 of the way through and the 2nd place coed team about 2/3 of the way through my lap.  I was really wanting to see Mary before I hit the pavement that would carry me back to the transition area, but Mary is one heck of an athlete (only 2nd year racing MTB's) and as I was spinning furiously on the pavement, I saw the other Tyler coming the other way.  I figured I had cut into their lead by at least 2 minutes.

The timing chip exchange went smoother this lap.  Tyler looked determined to amp it up this lap.  While he was racing, I headed over to the pits to do a little fueling.  As I grabbed my bottle to refill it, I realized I had not drank a drop.  So right then I decided that all further laps would be "bottle-less."  No need to carry an extra 2 pounds!  After a handful of dates and the bottle of Heed I had drug around on lap 1, I was ready to get back to business.

Tyler roared back in after his second lap.  I took off knowing Mary was just 2 minutes ahead.  Having got the flow of the course in my mind and legs, this lap was much smoother and more efficient than the first.  My Cysco, with its custom geometry and my Industry 9 wheels, with their instant engagement, allowed me carve the turns and hammer the short climbs, like a cheetah after a gazelle.  I finished the lap, yet again bringing the gap down to 30 seconds.

Tyler smelled blood and took off after Tyler like mad.  I knew that it was gonna be tight this lap, but when I saw both Tylers hammering down the pavement back to us, I could not believe it.  My Tyler had turned himself inside out and caught Mary's Tyler!  Game on!  As they rolled in to the transition, Tyler yelled out to Mary and I, "No pressure!"

I led Mary out.  I expected her to come around since she had gears, but she was content to let me lead.  She later told me that she wanted to learn my lines.  I was honored by this statement.  We were on fire and passing racer after racer after racer.  After a couple miles, Mary dropped off my wheel.  I later learned that a dude from behind ran into her and crashed.  She stopped to see if he was alright as he was screaming.  He was.  She was frustrated as his ineptitude cost her precious moments.  

I rolled into the transition with another hot lap:  funny, my lap times were within 25 seconds of each other.  I told Tyler to keep the rubber side down and don't get squirrelly.  His 4th and final lap was his fastest!  Talk about negative splits!  He smashed it!  So proud of him.  We ended up coming from behind to take the win.

Tyler and Mary finished second.  The rest of the SuperSport team had great finishes as well.

Proud to be a member.

Next up is the ChainBuster 6 Hour at Oak Mountain in a few weeks.  Once again, Tyler and I will have our work cut out for us.  Besides our teammates Mary and Tyler, we will also be up against Lisa Randall and her "secret weapon."  Let's just say this "beardy" fellow has a National Championship under his belt  and races for Jamis.  But I have confidence in Tyler and my abilities ... this will be an epic race!

Gotta love Randall!  He is the "Si" of the team!