Friday, April 22, 2016

Sponsor Spotlight -- Chamois Butt'r

I have been blessed to have a working relationship with this company for 6 years.  Aside from my LBS, this is my longest standing sponsorship.  It is one that is a bit more difficult to promote since you actually don't see the product in photos or in person as opposed to my other sponsors, i.e. bike, wheels, pedals, cogs, etc.

But they are just as essential in aiding in my performance.  What connects you to the bike has got to be comfortable, so as to be forgettable.  Meaning, I don't want to think about my taint AT ALL while training and racing.  Because if I am, then my focus is being taken away from the engine.

There are plenty of options when looking for a good chamois cream.  And most probably do a decent job.  It is important to try out several and find out which one works best for you.  I would give Chamois Butt'r a chance.  They have several options:  Chamois Butt'r (the original), Chamois Butt'r Eurostyle, and Chamois Butt'r Her.  The price is good:  $15-20 for an 8 ounce tub.  I always carry samples with me, so just ask!

Steve Matthews, founder and developer, is so cool and down to earth.  He goes out of his way to make time for the little grassroots ambassadors, like me. He knows that we can play a vital role in getting the word out on his product.  For me, personally, I connect more with the small players and what products they use/support, as opposed to what the big name pros go with.

I am honored to be a part of the team, no matter how small my role might be.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Blankets Dirty 30 Race Report

My training plan for this weekend called for an hour at 50 miler race pace on Saturday and 3 hours at L2/L3 on Sunday.  I decided to combine the two efforts somewhat by racing Mountain Goat Adventures XXC race at Blankets Creek on Saturday.  It is always much easier to hit those harder efforts when racing with others as opposed to solitary rides.

The noon start was nice as I could travel down the day of, but how to handle pre race nutrition took some pondering.  I ultimately decided to just eat my breakfast 3 1/2 hours prior and so loaded up with Christopher Bean Coffee when my internal alarm clock went off at 6 am.  That worked well as the pre race jitters held off the lunch time hunger monster.

I used this race to test my bike and nutrition set up.  I decided to go with gears as the Big Frog 65 is just 2 weeks away.  I was also eager to see if my Niner RKT would handle any different/better than my Jet 9 RDO.  I had not raced her since The Snake and had made some minor adjustments since then.  I was also trying out some new nutrition, Torq energy drink and gels.  I had been using these during rides, but had yet to try them out at race pace.

The race was 2 laps of the entire trail system, about 30 miles with 2800 feet of climbing.  Weather was perfect, in the 60's and dry.  This was a low key race for me, but I still was conerned with my performance, as my legs were a little tired from the week of training.

I had a good start and went into the woods in the top 10.  No sooner had I started the first climb on the Van Michael Trail (VMT) when a bug flew into my mouth and down my trachea.  Not exactly what I needed, but after several deep coughs, I was able to dislodge the little fu*ker. It took me a couple miles to get my wind back and in the meantime I was passed by several.  The VMT has the best flow and I tried to recover on the descents.  I was happy to see flat ground again as I exited VMT and hit the connector to the Dwelling Loop.

I had my mojo back and made short work of Dwelling.  Upon entering South Loop, I slowly bridged to Mr. Polka Dot.  I call him that because what I remember of his jersey was a white base with dark dots.  As I got closer and closer, I began hearing this noise emanating from his bike.  I couldn't quite place the source, but it sounded like a bartender shaking a coctail mixer.

When I finally got on his wheel, I could tell that the sound was coming from his saddlebag.  He definitely had way more bag than necessary. And the noise! After 5 minutes I could not take it anymore.  But my legs were heavy and I just did not have the power to pass.  Finally, on the short steep rocky climb, he bumbled and I was able to make the pass.  Once the trail leveled out, I tried to break away, but he was able to hook back on.  OMG THE NOISE!  I took in some more gel, hoping my legs would get the energy needed to break away from him. But oh, no!  He managed to stay right there with me.  We came through the start/finish together and began lap 2.  By now I had been listening to his bag for 10 minutes or so.

I so wanted to tell him about the awesomeness of Backcountry Research's Race Strap, but mostly I just wanted the torture to stop.  It took the WHOLE VMT to finally drop him.  Now the only sound I heard was the whirrr of my I-9 hub ... as it should be.  Now that peace had returned, I started laughing about the whole ordeal.

Soon after I entered Dwelling, my lower back began to ache.  This was surprising since I was on my geared bike; it usually only happens on my SS and only when racing for 5 hours or longer.  It definitely affected my power output.  I found myself standing and stretching on several of the descents.

The South Loop was a blur, not because I was going fast, but because I just wanted to be done.  My back was jacked and it was not fun anymore.  For me, this trail was the most difficult because if it was not tight and twisty, it was rocky and rooty ... hard to find flow.

I finally smelled the barn when I hit Mosquito Flats.  A few minutes later, I rolled across the finish in 2:39, not quite the time I was looking for, but good enough for the W.

I must commend Lisa and Kathleen for the BEST COURSE MARKINGS EVER!  Hi vis pink, at eye level, and plenty of confirmatory flagging beyond each and every turn.  Never once did I have to scrub speed and wonder.

Sharing the podium with the lady who inspired me to do downhill faster, BA Loretta!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

6 Hours of Warrior Creek Race Report

A bermalicious experience!

Last year when Melissa Cooper asked me to team up with her for this event, I was on the fence.  Just days before, I had received a heartbreaking email that this edition of Warrior Creek was going to be the last.  I really wanted to race the finale in the solo SS division.  I couldn't give Melissa an answer just yet.  And then, just before registration was to open, I received another email, stating that 6WC would live on under new management.  Hallelujah!  I told Melissa I was in.

After realizing that Melissa had raced 6WC twice, but had yet to stand on the box, my goal for this race was to secure her one of the infamous mugs.  And we were both using this race to prep our fast twitch muscles for Marathon Nationals.  We both had plenty of long rides under our belt, but needed to get in some speed work.

And then a first for 6WC:  they released a starter's list.  Whoa!  15 ladies' teams and some tough competition to boot!  I flip-flopped back and forth on what gear to run and finally settled on 32/20.  I had used this same gear 2 years ago when I teamed up with Ursula and had happy legs then.  I knew I would get shuttled back pretty quickly at the start, but with the heavy training load leading up to this race, I did not think I could push a 19.

I had Melissa hold my spot at the start while I did a lengthy warm up. Gone are the days when I can just hammer hard from a cold start. About 10 minutes from "go time," I approached the start line, but then hung out for a couple extra minutes, just watching Melissa squirm a bit.  You see, she was in her long pants and tennis shoes.  She definitely got nervous about whether or not she was going to have to race that first lap!

Finishing up the parade lap.

I had given brief thought to racing my geared bike for that first lap, thereby avoiding all that nonsense that happend mid-pack.  But the purist in me would not allow it.  Not to mention I would be black-listed by the SS community.  It seems every year I get to wrap handle bars with a fellow racer.  This year was no different.  Some gearie rode "up my butt" and entangled his bars with mine.  How we managed to not go down was a small miracle, but after a couple pedal strokes, we were able to free ourselves.  Nothing like a little adrenalin to help keep my HR and cadence up!

The first lap is always highly entertaining for me.  In the beginning miles, I was behind a dude that was jumping everytime there was a rise on the trail.  He was making me tired just watching him.  After a mile or so, he began to fatigue on the climbs and I was able to pass.

Then I came upon two dudes racing so close to one another it looked like they were on a tandem.  I soon found out they were "momentum-challenged" when we approached a steep descent followed by a sharp left-hander with a high berm on the right.  I seem to remember some centripetal force equation from physics (F = mv*2/r).  Anyway, this particular berm was slightly muddy.  For whatever reason, the dudes brake checked upon the approach to the berm. I was about 2 bike lengths back, my mind frantically making calculations to avoid the imminent crash that was about to happen.  Well, the dudes reached the highest point of the berm, but slowed down to a point where gravity intervened and sent them both sliding down the berm and off the trail.  I managed to put in enough power in 2 pedal strokes to maintain the minimal amount of speed necessary to clean the berm.  (I would have loved to have had a GoPro for that one!)

After about 6 miles, I found myself mostly alone, and able to find a good sustainable rhythm. Although the gearing was perfect for the climbs, I noticed that I was a bit too spinny on the flats.  I began to doubt my gear choice.

I rolled through the transition area and Melissa took off.  Now, only time would tell.  After cooling down and refueling, I went to check the first lap results.  We were in third!  Hells yeah!  Now to wait for Melissa's return.  She came rolling through about 3 minutes down on second.  Our goal looked achievable.  I took off after Hannah, hoping I could reel her in.  My legs came back around rather quickly and I was in a good zone.  With no traffic, I could save any matches I had left for the last lap. I focused on being smooth and consistent.  I soon came upon another SS'r; it was Kip!  Sweet!  He soon began to talk all about the past couple months, with most of it focusing on P36.  How he could manage to talk in sentences, all the while pedaling a tall gear, I don't know.  A real motivator for sure.

We rode most of the lap together ... and he was racing solo!  When I pulled through the transition area, Melissa yelled out that I had gained some time on second place.  Boom sauce!  Could we secure second?  It was worth a try.  I've got to hand it to Melissa.  She dug deep into her arsenal of fitness and was able to catch Lilly on her second lap.  They came through the start/finish, separated only by seconds!

Oh, boy!  The race for second place was on!  Upon entering the single track, only about 50 yards separated us.  I pedaled so fast, I thought my legs were going to become entangled around the bike like a bolo.  I was equal to Hannah's speed on the climbs, but was losing time on the flats.  Now I was really wishing I had a 19.  I could only hope that she would blow.  But mile after mile the gap slowly increased.  Around mile 7/8 I lost sight of her.  Ugghhh!  Oh well, now I focused on finishing up with a clean run.  I did not want to make any mistakes that would cost us our 3rd place.

Melissa and Lilly were on pins and needles that entire race, waiting to see who would exit the single track first.  I rolled though the finish, 1:07 behind Hannah. I was stoked that we were able to secure a position on the podium and accomplish our goal.  This was the first time I had undergeared for a race. I am not sure that had I chosen a 32/19 that it would have made any difference in the outcome, as Hannah and Lilly are super strong young women.  But, what I do know is that Coach Lynda has me on track to potentially become the strongest I have been in my mid-forties.

Stoked to share the podium with some uber strong women!

So thank you, Melissa, for asking me to partner up with you. Sometimes the best races are not the ones you win, but the ones that push you beyond what you thought your limits were.