Friday, September 27, 2013

Southern Single Speed Championship

Last weekend, I mosied over to the Payne Creek Trail System on Lake Hartwell along the Georgia/South Carolina border.  A "new to me" trail system, it was 9 miles of well maintained fast, flowy hardpack trail.  I did not do the omnium but rather chose to pre ride on Saturday before the monsoon hit.  This would be my fourth ride/first race aboard the Cysco.

Whoop!  Whoop!

About an hour before the race Saturday morning, I found a partial sidewall tear on my rear tire.  Oh, crap!  I muddled over the possibilities:  ride it, ride my Niner, throw a tube in it.  Five minutes later, I decided to just go for it.  If I flatted, well, then I could practice my flat fixing skilz.

A testament to Specialized tires and Stan's Sealant -- it held!

After a good long warm up, I rolled up to the second row.  I just happened to glance down at my front wheel and what did I see?  A flattened "road kill" frog that was stuck on my tread!  I thought about the significance of that for a moment.  The Faster Mustache crew were in force, one dude yelled "Go!", I clipped in on the first pedal stroke (small victory), and the field set a blistering pace up the pavement.  The big gear mashers pulled away and I was in the second group to enter the single track.

I was amazed.  Hero dirt!  Even with the deluge the night before, the trails were perfect.  There was plenty of traction in the corners and I fell into a nice rhythm carving  the turns.  Ursula and Lisa were right on my tail through the Heartbreak Ridge section, but I was able to pull away during the beginning of the main trail.  Last year there was a beer short cut on the second lap:  drink 16 ounces and you did not have to ride the 1/2 mile lollipop.  Not knowing if the short cut was going to be there this year, I kept the pace up to try and buy as much time as possible.  Last year, Lisa chose the beer ... and probably would again, since Chris would be able to make the drive home.  I timed the lollipop:  3:30.  Pretty big penalty!  Go go gadget legs!

Finishing up the first lap, I swapped bottles.  The legs were still happy, so I continued at my pace.  I must have been fatiguing a little, as I banged my rear tire on a couple of roots/stobs and heard that loud popping noise when the tread is temporarily "stuck" on the obstable.  That got my adrenalin to kick in, for sure.  I settled a bit after that.  I came upon the  lollipop loop ... and no beer short cut.  Whew!

I finished the two lap race in 1:34, good enough for first.  Ursula came in second a few minutes later and then Lisa in third.  I do believe she was still carrying some TNGA fatigue as she stated she like the descents better than the climbs.  Monster!

Overall, the Faster Mustache crew put on a good event.  They rallied through the rains to ensure the short track/cross race occurred and worked with Jud and crew on the trails to create a furiously fast trail for the xc event.  My only complaint would be the prizing and that would have to be on Maxxis.  A 26" tire/tube for first.  Really?  Second place was the place to earn, for they got an Endless Cog!  Having said that, the trophies for the omnium were pretty cool and unique.  I do believe Zach created those works of art:  sort of a cross between a chia pet and a lamp.  (Sorry for no pics!)

As far as my steed, she is most amazing!  I love the feel of titanium.  And the custom cockpit has me becoming one with the bike.  I leave it at that, for now.  She is due a post all her own ... soon.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pisgah Monster Cross Race Report

This start/finish line scare me ... in an exciting kind of way.

This was stop #4 in the King/Queen of Pisgah series.  A 71 mile gravel grinder; this was the "easy" one on the docket.  "Easy" being relative.  When I arrived in "The Forest,"  I questioned if I was in Pisgah because it was sunny and warm.  After a brief spin to remind the legs of what tomorrow was going to bring, Zeke and I went to our "home away from home" Sunset Motel, and I prepared our typical pre race meal of chicken, potatoes, and brussel sprouts, microwave style.

Race morning was crisp and cool.  As riders milled around awaiting the 8 am start, I nervously looked around for my competition.  With no racers' list, I had no idea who was going to show up.  Trish "soft-core" Stevenson faced that she was toeing the line and Kim Schifino, currently sitting 1 point behind me, would be here as well.  I saw plenty of women, but none that I recognized.

Seeing smiling Shanna, I knew I was indeed in Pisgah!

The course was going clockwise this year, opposite of last year.  When the gun went off, there was no need to go anerobic, as we had a police escort all the way up Hwy 276.  It was a nice start to what was eventually going to be hammerfest.  Once we turned off onto the Fish Hatchery road, the race really began.  My legs were quite happy climbing up to Gloucester Gap, but so were everyone else's.  Immediately 3 women passed me at warp speed.  I had to let them go, knowing that I could not sustain that kind of pace.  I eventually caught up to two of them just as we crested the climb.

The descent off Gloucester was tricky technical as it was riddled with stutter bumps.  Bottles were being "yard saled" right and left.  Fortunately, mine stayed put.  I passed one woman as we crested the climb and another on the descent, but then got passed back by one.  I knew then that this was not going to be an easy race.

Towards the end of this descent, I spotted Mr. I-9 himself, Jacob.  After reading about his bad luck at ORAMM (not carrying enough tubes/CO2/hand pump), I figured he had ample supply this race, and passed right by him.  After the race, I talked to him about his bad luck.  And no, he did not learn his lesson.  It took about 70 racers passing him before he was able to fix the flat.  Whoops!  Being an I-9 sponsored rider now, I hope that did not hurt my relationship.  It shouldn't; Dicky "dicked" him at ORAMM and is still on good terms.

The three of us along with a handful of guys eventually regrouped on the 10 mile climb up Hwy 215.  Within the first two miles of this climb, the pack broke apart as the road kicked up.  One woman pulled away from me. This was Trish but I had no idea at the time that it was her.  I could tell by her posture and cadence that she was uber strong.  I tried to pick up my pace to match hers but just did not have enough umphh.  I had to let her go, hoping that my happy legs would come back.

I was riding a friend's Cannondale Super X with a 46/36 front and 11/28 cassette.  I am by nature a spinner and the 36/28 was making my legs feel like concrete blocks.  About 1/2 way up the climb I was sitting in 3rd place as I was able to drop the fourth place woman.  I had no idea where 1st was and could only hope that she would crack at some point.

I was able to pull a good group of guys up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This race is not only about fitness, but about tactics as well.  More of a road race than MTB race, you need to be able to find a group that you can hang with, sit in the draft, take pulls, and thereby conserve energy.  The wind is your enemy and if you get caught on the BRP all by your lonesome (happened to me last year), you will eventually wilt.  Unless you are Jens Voight or Sam Koerber.

I did not stop at the first aid station as I was lucky enough to be in a good group on this 24 mile stretch.  By no means was it easy-peasy, but it did allow me to recover from the climb.  I still had to get on the gas ... on the descents!  In some of the steepest parts, the guys were coasting and pulling away from me, even though I was spinning my hardest gear at 120 rpm+!

Descending the BRP.  Photo credit Brad O Allen

I popped off their wheels a couple times on the steeper descents and had to reel them back in on the climbs.  On one of the last climbs, my right hamstring decided my effort was a bit too much and began to cramp.  I let off the gas, grannied down, and it went away pretty quickly.  Assessing my nutrition, I realized I was not drinking enough.  So over the next 15 minutes I killed a bottle.  

Just before the last aid station at the intersection of the BRP and FS 5000, there is a 6-7 mile descent with just a couple of short ups.  It was here that I started shivering.  As much as I like carving the turns, I was ready to done with this section and eagerly looking forward to the Yellow Gap climb.  However, I still had to descend FS 5000.  

I was able to catch up with the 1st place woman, Jane (who was now 2nd as Trish had passed her on the BRP).  I had to stop at the final aid station for a bottle swap; she did not.  I was still cold, but now that I had spotted a "carrot,"  I forgot about my goosebumps.  FS 5000 is mostly down, with a few false flats.  It was so bumpy that my eyeballs were bouncing around in my skull, making it difficult for me to see the roadbed.  After a couple squirrely moments, I had to slow down in order to focus.

Finally I was on the short bit of pavement that led down to North Mills River campground.  And then the Yellow Gap climb began.  Yes!!  After flushing the lactic out of my legs in the beginning mile, I was able to ramp it up and make short work of this 3 mile climb.  I spied Jane and reeled her in.  I felt like I was flying up this climb.  And sooner than realized, I was at the top; now to make short work of FS 1206, an 11 mile stretch of rolling gravel.

Halfway through, I spotted a figure in a ProGold jersey.  Could it be 1st place?  I kicked it up a notch and slowly rode up to this elusive racer.  As I pulled alongside and made eye contact, I suddenly realized that who I had been chasing for 57 miles was THE Trish Stevenson ... of  TransRockies, GDR, NUE fame.  She is one of a handful of talented ladies who I have looked up to for years and sought guidance when I first got into endurance racing.  

Photo Credit Brad O Allen

I spoke to her briefly as I passed and then raced like a "scalded dog," hoping she would not hang onto my wheel, as she has a big engine.  I was afraid to look back, but after a few minutes took a glance and saw her in the distance.  I did not let up, but hunkered down and treated the last 12 miles like a TT.

On the final gravel climb up FS 477, I was fortunate to hook up with Ian, who was smelling the barn.  He pulled, I pushed, and together we made short work of this 2 mile climb.  We were able to enjoy the last descent and "whoo-hoo'd" most of the way.

I rolled under the finish line in a time of 4:36.  Although this was the "easiest" of Eric Weaver's events, it was the hardest win of the season for me.  The last time I "chased" this long was the 2007 Cohutta 100 where I chased Danielle for 99 miles and ended up coming in second by a wheel.

Once again, I must commend all the volunteer efforts as this race was well organized.  NASCAR style aid stations are what I like and that is what I received!

4 down, 1 to go.  It will be my first Double Dare.  I wonder what the evil mastermind has in store for us fools.  All I know is that the mental game will be as hard as the physical one.  Bring it, Mr. Weaver!  For I have the baddest adventure racer/mountain biker east of the Mississippi as my partner.  And she loves to suffer! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Black Bear Rampage Race Report

Semi sparkly today

After a few years' absence, the stars aligned and I was able to race in my "backyard."  Due to the tremendous trail work effort by Henry Trent and Scott's Bike Shop, racers were treated to a blazing fast course on Sunday.

Leading up to this one, I was dealing with a disrupted GI tract.  Four weeks ago, I decided to try some home made banana bread I had made for the family.  It had rice flour in it.  I had been rice free for 8 months, so I decided to try a second time to reintroduce it.  BIG MISTAKE.  Two days later, I was suffering from its ill effects on my ever so delicate small bowel.  After two weeks, the inflammatory effects resolved, but then something else "disemboweled" me.  I felt "glutened," but not to the degree that I usually feel.  The only thing I could think of was I cross contaminated myself when making my family some sandwiches or that I may have a GI bug of some sort.

Come race day, I was beginning to feel a bit better.  Perhaps it was the excitement of racing, but I was ready to rumble!  With their being no other Pro Women, it was just me and my shadow.  So I jumped in with the "big boys" and raced with the Pro/Expert Men.

The start was fast and furious! I wasn't 30 seconds into it when some guy locked his handlebars with mine.  Really!?!  We had a whole lane of pavement and it was not that crowded.  That was a scary 3 seconds.  (He later came up to me and apologized.)

I settled into a leg warming spin up the 2 mile climb and got a fairly decent jump into the Brush Creek single track.  I soon caught up to two single speeders, making me wish I was on my Cysco.  But alas, she was just built 2 days ago and I figured I did not need to make her first ride this race.  Patience, grasshopper!

Brush Creek, Boyd Gap, and Old Copper Road went by quickly and soon I was climbing up Bear Paw.  This is when the race got a little frustrating for me.  I was feeling pretty good now and had my climbing legs on and wanted to go, go, go!  But it seemed the guys I was with thought that this was some sort of Enduro race.  You know, lolligagging on the climbs and killing it on the descents.  I wanted to kill it on the climbs as well so I bided my time and passed when I could.

Soon I was on the climb on FS 45 and made short work of several guys.  And then I was mostly alone to rail West Fork, the Quartz Loop, Bypass, and Riverview.  After dealing with my GI issues for the past 4 weeks, I was pleasantly surprised that I had the engine that I did today.  I flew down Riverview, grabbed one last bottle from Jay at the last aid station, and then did the TT of my life back up Old Copper Road, Boyd Gap, and Brush Creek.  I had energy to burn and a time I wanted to beat, 3:15.  The climb up Boyd Gap was tougher than I had expected, but once I crested the top, it was mostly downhill from there.  With nobody to impede my speed on Brush Creek, I flew to the finish.

I rolled across in 3:18.  With the sun's help I was able to beat my shadow and I placed 21 out of about 300 racers.  The best thing about finishing was the ice cold fresh watermelon, pineapple, grapes, and cantaloupe that was right across the finish line.  REAL FOOD!  Oh my God, fruit never tasted so good!

Despite Mr. Gluten's best efforts to take me out, I ended up dragging his GMO ass all over the Cherokee National Forest.  Next time he wants to screw with me he better bring back up!

Monday, September 2, 2013


Marathon Nationals

During the Blankets 6 hour race last month, somebody who was holding onto my rear wheel, asked how I was always "so (insert expletive of choice) fast?"  At that moment, all I could say was that I was blessed.  I have been able to reflect back upon this moment and can now provide a little better explanation.

Blessed, in my case, is a culmination of lots of things:

1.  Hard work.  Rain or shine, hot or cold, I am out on the bike, focused on the session for the day.  No whining allowed.

2.  Proper nutrition.  Being celiac + intolerant to grains, legumes, and dairy kinda makes this one easy, at least on paper.  Nonetheless, meal planning is a constant, arduous task.  For road trips, I either have to find a place to cook my meals or bring along my travel kitchen (microwave, cooler, blender, steamer).  I can't press the easy button, i.e. restaurant.

3.  Rest.  This is perhaps the hardest to do.  I am like a shark ... if I stop moving, I fear I will die.  Judge Judy does give me 30-60 minutes of forced rest each weekday night, tho'.  I also try to get 8-9 hours of sleep each night.

4.  Family network.  Having a husband that allows me the opportunity to spend large chunks of time away from him and understands my need for the bike is wonderful.  Having a daughter who enjoys staying with Dadda or the grandparents while I am racing is nice, too.  I also have awesome parents that enjoy Carly's company.  Occasionally I will "drag" Carly to some of my events, but it usually involves a bribe of some sort.

5.  Coach.  Lynda is boss!   She has been coaching me for 5 years and at times I think she knows me better than I.  She loves her job and it shows.  And as an added bonus, she is pretty darn good at the nutrition thing, too.

6.  Zeke.  He has been my training partner for 8 years.  He got me into this mess and now I guess he figures he owes it to me to keep me safe on the trail.  He puts up with my doggedness and faithfully follows me along on my adventures.

7.  The Outdoor Store.  They have been my LBS for 14 years.  Bruce is an amazing mechanic and has never let me down in prepping my race bikes.  I buy 90% of my bike stuff from him ... the 10% I don't is because he tells me to get it elsewhere.  I do shop online quite a bit, but when it comes down to bikes, parts, and accessories, TOS gets my business!

8.  Sponsors.  Without these companies, racing would be exponentially harder.  At times, I don't feel like I am worthy as I probably gain more from them than vice versa.  But then, people tell me how I have influenced them in regards to certain products and I take that as a small victory.

Having said that, I am proud to announce some new sponsors for 2014.  Cysco Cycles, based right out of Ooltewah, Tennessee has created a work of art for my single speed campaign.  Industry 9 has crafted a set of stellar wheels.  And Cane Creek has sent me their exquisite 110 head set.  Endless Bikes has been on board for 3 years and will make it 4 for 2014.  All made in the good 'ol USA.

9.  Luck.  Be it chance or something more (higher), sometimes it takes a little bit of this to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit.  I seemed to have had my fill of the bad, but this year I think the tables have turned and I am in the black.  For instance, at Nationals my bike worked perfectly ... on race day.  And then 3 weeks later, at Blankets, I dropped a chain twice, cranks came loose, and I burped a tire.

So there may be an ingredient or two I have left out, but by and large, the above is what makes me FAST. Now, if I can just keep it up for another year ...