Thursday, September 14, 2017

Black Bear Rampage Race Report

First race for my new LBS.

Another prefect day to make great bike race!  The rains earlier in the week made the tacky and the starting temperature was 54 degrees.  After a brief warm up, I made my way up to the 6th row.  My starts are in no way "lickety split," so I did not want to inconvenience any of the greyhounds.

There were 5 of us in the Expert Over 35 class.  When the gun went off, everyone seemed to be in slow motion. I had to "Flintstone" my bike a few yards before I could safely clip in.  By this time several of the women had gotten 20-30 yards ahead of me.  As I pedaled up to Starr, she was wondering why she was out front, thinking maybe she had started in the wrong wave.  I put her fears to rest as I pedaled on by.

I tried to get rowdy on the paved climb up to Brush Creek, but I felt like I had a governor on my engine.  I could just not get my heart rate up at all.  With no blood flowing to my legs, they were like blocks of concrete.  I was a bit frustrated, so I dialed it back until I felt good again.  A woman I did not know passed me, riding on the coat tails of one of her team members.  Good enough for her so good enough for me.  I hopped on the Wood N Wave train and let them drag me up the climb. Having someone to pace off of allowed me to give the engine a little more time to come to life.

Upon entering Brush Creek, I jumped ahead of her.  Not knowing her skill set, I did not want to be caught behind.  Henry Trent and his tribe had put a lot of hours into making this trail a super speedway (cutting back the underbrush and clearing out the muddy spots).  It was so ... much ... fun, even if I was dying.  I still could not get my heart rate out of zone 3.  The Wood N Wave woman stuck with me for awhile.  Her bike, also a Niner, but with Stan's Wheels, had a distinctive sound, so I did not have to glance back to know where she was.  About half way through, I did not hear her wheels anymore and so assumed she popped.

Boyd Gap was blistering fast!  Harold, also racing for Scott's Bikes, was hot on my heels.  Not wanting to slow him down, I took a few more risks (= less brakes).  At least here I did not have to pedal!

I bumbled a bit on the rooty section of Old Copper.  Man, I think those roots have grown!  Either that or I was just sloppy through there. Heading up to the bridge, Zeke handed me a bottle.  I probably didn't need it, as I barely touched the one on my bike.  This would come back to bite me later.

Henry gave me some smiles for the upcoming miles along Lower Chestnut, Thunder Rock, FS 45, and Poplar Hollow.

Nice coconuts!

I grabbed another bottle from Zeke at the entrance to Poplar Hollow.  I didn't see Fenton, but heard him screaming at me to "get after it."  I truly love people hollering at me along the course.  You guys don't know how much that means to me and how motivating it is, especially when I am in the pain cave.

Once I hit the Quartz Loop, my body began to feel better.  The pedals were a little easier to turn.  I began to pass some people back.  I felt the flow through Riverview and hit all the good lines on Bear Paw.  Old Copper Road flew by and the roots were no problem this time.  The climb up Boyd Gap was still hard, but I found a good granny gear rhythm and actually enjoyed it.

As I was coming through the parking lot at Boyd Gap, Zeke told me that Beth and Starr weren't too far behind.  That was all I needed to dig deep for the last 6 miles.  I buried myself for the first 3 miles. Brush Creek has a groove worn into it.  Envision a slot car track and that is the trail.  I got sketchy in several spots, but that worn in groove kept me from sailing off the trail.  Midway through, I got out of the saddle to power up a short climb.  Immediately I felt a twinge in my left quad.  Uh oh! Don't cramp!  Don't cramp!  I sat down and spun the pedals easy for a few revolutions.  Whew!

I slowly increased the power to the pedals.  As long as I was sitting everything was good.  But whenever I attempted to stand and hammer, the twinge was back.  As I am not one that is prone to cramps, it was most likely due to not hydrating properly during the first half of the race. Fortunately I was able to keep the full on cramp at bay.

I rolled across the finish line in 3:36:16.  Not my fastest time, by far, but still good enough for 1st. What I am really excited about were Beth (2nd) and Starr's (3rd) finishes.  They absolutely rocked the course.  And when Zeke told me they were right behind me, indeed they were!  Beth finished 4:59 back and Starr 8:00 back.  These ladies have stepped it up in the past year.  Hard work, eating clean, and attention to recovery has allowed their bodies to excel!  I know because I did a Whole 30 with them last fall.  I may have to stop giving out my trade secrets! 😁😁

Mighty impressed by these fassst women!


I also must give a shout out to my team mate Noel who made her goals and took a sh!t ton of time off last year's result.

Thanks to Scott's Bikes for another great event, good food, and support! Can't wait for next year!






Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cherohala Crossing Gravel Grinder Report

In its 10th year, the Cherohala Crossing is one of my favorite gravel rides.  It is about 50% dirt and 50% pavement, has 3 monster climbs, and covers two states, NC and TN.  The turnout this year was small, only 10 of us.  That was ok with me, as I got the chance to get to know everyone during the roll out to the Tatum Gap climb.  



The start was unusually chilly, but I was not complaining.  The weather fore casted a perfect day to ride.  The first 15 miles was pretty neutral and my legs were happy with that.  In the past two weeks leading up to this, I had logged some hard miles.  For me today was all about pushing through fatigue and finding that zen.


Party pace roll out.  Photo Cred:  Jimmy Deane


David Goggins, an ex Navy Seal and motivational speaker, has a 40% rule that I am struggling to embrace, but bound and determined to by September 23.

When you think that you are done, you are only 40% into what your body is capable of doing; that is just the limit we put on ourselves.

Once we turned onto the gravel, the pack broke up pretty quickly, as the road rose to the heavens.  I found my groove and stayed in it for the 4 1/2 mile climb, where, at times, I saw 18% grade.  Jimmy Deane (not of sausage fame) went up the gravel like a scalded pig.  I kept Don in my sight and used him as my pacer.

The legs were ok at the pace I was pushing, but there was definitely no sparkle. At the top, Jimmy and Don had stopped to wait on the rest.  I kinda wished they hadn't, but not wanting to be a douche, stopped as well.  Today wasn't really a race, but more of a group ride.  Over the next 10 minutes, the others trickled in.

The descent off the backside was super fun.  With the previous days' rain, the road was tacky and traction was superb!  Towards the bottom, it turned into pavement.  Still bombing the descent, just behind Jimmy, we almost became a hood ornament when a blue haired person in a mini van approached us, careening left and right across the road.  Thank goodness for disc brakes and quick reflexes!  I don't know if the person was drunk or having a stroke.

Once onto Hwy 143, I was treated to a bit of a head wind.  This road rolled steadily uphill, with a few small curvy descents to keep it fun. The first rest stop was at the Snowbird picnic area.  I quickly refilled my bottles and motored on. Some stopped longer, but I knew my body needed to just keep moving.

With my Garmin timer set every 15 minutes, I made sure to drink and take in some calories.  Just before we hit the second section of gravel, FS 81, the road pitched upwards.  I was hoping that I would not have to use the 40% rule until I hit the 3rd and final gravel climb of the day, but it was on the 9 mile climb up the gravel that I had to embrace the suffering.


Hero gravel.


Thankfully, the road was in perfect condition, unlike last year when it was so dry and loose that I could not stand without spinning out.  Today, climbing up to the Skyway crossing I alternated between sitting and standing.  Halfway up, Hill Billy made an amazing pass.  Good gawd, he was flying like he was on a moto!  Apparently those weekly group shop rides with the young bucks had paid off!


His kit was dialed! Photo cred: Jimmy Deane

At the top was the second rest stop.  Wayne and Jimmy were already there and I rolled in with Don. Once again, we waited on the others.  I learned a valuable lesson right here.  After 20 minutes, we finally rolled out onto the North River Road descent.  Most of it was so steep, there was no need to pedal.  By the time it leveled out and I had to re engage the legs, they were nowhere to be found. Apparently they thought the ride was over at the Skyway and so had completely ... shut ... down.

The struggle up River Road was real.  Fortunately, Don was feeling just as bad.  Together we agonizingly made our way to the final gravel climb, Harshaw Gap.  The first mile or so of this climb is pavement, which helps when it pitches to 15%.  When the tires hit the gravel, my legs had finally decided to come back to life.  I enjoyed the rolling nature of this climb. With so much traction, I didn't have to scrub too much speed in the corners and could carry momentum up small inclines.


Harshaw switchbacks of death!  Photo cred: Jimmy Deane


Plummeting off the backside of Harshaw, I found my smiley face again.  Once I hit pavement, I still had 11 miles to go, but now the legs were at least firing on 6 of 8 cylinders.  Most of the pavement was still downhill, but there were a few short but vicious climbs we had to "oomph" over.

I was glad to see the final left hander back to the start.  6:14 moving time, but the real kick to the body was the 6:54 elapsed time.  No wonder my legs were cranky!   Although I enjoyed getting to know everyone better, next time I will save the banter for the end.  So, in the future, if I don't stop, it is not that I am a "dickette," but that I have the engine of an old Massey Ferguson tractor:  once I get it going, I gotta get it done!

I definitely put the 40% rule into effect on this one.  Thanks Wayne for making it happen.  Now that there has been 10 editions, the CC has got to keep going.