Friday, February 14, 2020

Pedaling For The Paws Fundraiser Update

It has been a little over a week since I announced my commitment to the McMinn Regional Humane Society.  We have already hit $2300 in donations.  That gets me excited.  My brother Todd helped to design the logo you see above.  My husband Charlie created a flyer for me to post around town.  Eventually I will create an event page to spread the word and hopefully have some friends on board (virtually) to help me tackle the vEverest on Zwift on July 3.

My LBS, Scott's Bikes, has informed Saris about my event.  I am hoping to secure a deal on a Saris H3 Smart Trainer.  Initially, I was just going to use the shop's H3 the day of the event, but a cycling friend made me aware that in order to "unlock" the climbs on Zwift, I have to accumulate experience points.  So I am gonna have to "pony up" and get on the Zwift wagon sooner than I expected to.

I have also emailed a potential major donor to match the private funds I have been receiving.  Fingers crossed I hear back from her with pawsome news.  I have another option or two, in case it doesn't happen.  But this person does have a soft spot for shelter animals, so please, if you are reading this, consider this a great cause!

I am also working on some raffle items, for both cyclist and non-cyclist donors alike, in appreciation of your hard earned dollars.

If you have already donated, thank you!

And if you have not, please consider.  Even if just a dollar ... in the end it all adds up.  I am still one of those who picks up pennies in parking lots.

Donations can be made HERE

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Snake Creek Gap TT 34 Mile Race Report

I have never forgotten the pain of childbirth, but apparently I had forgotten the pain of the February 2013 edition ... 22 degrees at the start, riding through 2 feet of water at the Dry Creek crossing when there was no bridge, and the snow/ice that accumulated during the second half of the race.  Because here I was, lining up at the start, knowing it had rained 4 inches in the last 2 days and now was snowing flakes the size of chicken feathers.

DJ was in da house, so there was no way to bail from this one.  David had driven down from Ohio, with the snow in tow.  Since we were signed up for The Appalachian Journey in April, we both decided to race The Snake together.  With these conditions, it would be a true test of our abilities to ride as one.

My toes and fingers are my Achilles' heel when it comes to cold weather racing.  Because I have Reynaud's Disease, I put a set of chemical warmers in my shoes and duct taped them.  And in between two layers of gloves, I inserted 2 more sets of chemical warmers.  My core was quite toasty with my wool baselayer and thermal bibs.

Apparently I am gonna have to give David a lesson in poopin' in da woods, as I waited on him to use the restroom.  Meanwhile, all the 34 mile racers departed, leaving me to do deep squats and jumping jacks to stay warm.  We finally took off and soon came to realize that starting so late left us with a clear trail ahead.  We deftly dodged the mud holes, which had doubled/tripled in size compared to last month.

Approaching the bridge across Dry Creek, I noticed a handful of racers off to the side. Becoming a little nervous, I watched one roll up on the bridge and upon exiting it, being completely swallowed up by the creek (now river).  Before I could have any second thoughts, I hit the bridge with some speed.  F = ma was repeating in my head.  Unfortunately the m part of my equation is not enough to overcome the 2 1/2 foot depth of the creek on the far side.  I stalled out and both feet ended up in the drink.

Dry Creek not so dry after 4 inches of rain

Whelp, there went all hopes of my toes staying alive.  Pedaling up the watery fire road, my feet slowly froze and felt like blocks of concrete.  David was feeling good and so kept a spicy pace up to the single track.  Despite my poor toes, my core was warm and my spirits were still good.

The snow really started coming down as we hit the single track.  Soon, we began to pick up the end of the race and conservatively made our way around them.  Rolling down the fire road covered in snow, an ice cream headache attacked me with a vengeance.  Snowflakes began piling up on my glasses like a team of rugby players in a scrum.  Are you kidding me?!?  Now I couldn't see shit and my forehead felt like I had been hit with a hammer.  It was at this point, I knew it was gonna be a long and arduous day.

Even the climb up Pine Needle Hill could not rekindle the fire.  My core temp began to smolder, and my fingers froze.  I really need to design a pair of chemical warmers in the shape of a hand and that you can put on like a glove.  I fared the second creek crossing well, and slip n slided my way to the muddy HAB climb. During the four pitchy climbs along Horn Mountain,  my mental game began to slide away into the depths of hell. 

I was thinking of every way to pull the plug at the SAG:
          You don't have to prove anything to anyone.
          Better to DNF than to risk an injury.
          You are not going to improve on last month's time.
          Don't lose a finger or toe over a silly race.
          You don't want to do anymore damage to your bike's bearings.
          You have enough buckles.

Then a memory of Grace Ragland washed over me.  It was during the 2015 running of The Snake, when we rode together along this section where I was now wallowing in self pity.  Believe me, she was having a hard time of convincing me NOT to hop into a warm vehicle at the SAG stop.  But I could not get out of my mind how much she had suffered over the thousands of miles during the Tour Divide.  And here I was, with only 20 miles left.  She and the monkey on my back got into a WWE style wrestling match for a few miles.  But as Grace had done many times in her life, she booted that monkey off in the end.

2015 Edition of The Snake

As I pulled into the aid station, I told Grace I would tough out these next 17 miles.  But first, I stood by that heater to semi-thaw out my fingers and toes while the volunteers cleaned my glasses and filled up my bottle.  I ate a frozen banana and squeezed my flask of frozen gel until I was able to get a couple swallows of it.

David asked how I was doing, to which I could only respond with slurred speech.  I was too cold to even form words! He led the charge up Mill Creek Mountain.  I doggedly followed.  My bike felt so heavy on this climb.  I looked down to see nothing but a block of ice encasing my rear triangle, crank, and derailleur.  No wonder my shifting was less than optimal! 

The snowfall began to slow a bit.  I noticed that there were less tracks this half of the race.  Hmmm ... I suppose quite a few had bailed at the halfway point.  I didn't have to worry about line options because there was only one.  If you got off track, the snow would ball up on your tires and stop you dead in your tracks.

Funny, but the second half was surreal.  With 3 inches of snow, nothing looked familiar.  It didn't even seem like I was on The Snake. My thought processes were in slow motion due to me being so cold.  This must have been a protective measure on my body's part, because before I knew it I was descending down to Swamp Creek.  The road up to the last section of single track was a slog!  Now instead of snow on my glasses, I had red mud droplets.  I stopped at the aid station briefly for a bananasicle.  I had not drunk anything since the halfway point, so forced myself to take a few gulps.

About 2 miles into the single track, I began to feel my fingers again.  And I noticed that the snow was melting a little, what with big chunks of it falling from the trees and hitting me in the face and head.  I had plenty in the tank to propel me through the techy bits and the climbs, but the trail conditions began to deteriorate with the melting snow.  I ended up HAB'ing more than usual and then trying to clip back in with snow/ice/leaf debris packing into my cleats, well it made for some interesting expletive runs.  I began to say Larry the Cable Guy's famous words in my head, "Lord I apologize." That made me smile and the day began to get a little bit better.  With Grace in my heart and David offering words of encouragement, I could finally smell the barn. 

So happy to see that banner!

Today I definitely got my money's worth, with a finishing time of 5:00. Longest 34 mile Snake ever!  But I am grateful to have had DJ by my side the whole time.  I think we are gonna do aite come April.


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Pedaling For The Paws

If you drive down Alford Street, past the Public Works Department, just follow the paw prints past the school bus graveyard, the piles of sewer pipe, and dempster dumpsters, you will soon come to a dead end.  There, among the rubble, is a small 40+ year old building that houses the Athens Animal Shelter.

But step inside and you can see the love that has been showered upon this structure that houses the unfortunate, abandoned, abused, and previously unloved.  The McMinn Regional Humane Society has made leaps and bounds over the past few years to see that 2019 became the first year where no animal was euthanized because of lack of space.

Headed by those board members, with full-time jobs, they, along with a handful of volunteers, have poured countless hours into devising and executing plans to work with rescue societies to transport animals up North to their forever homes.  And they vet the locals wishing to adopt to ensure the dogs and cats go to good homes.

I tragically remember my rookie year of veterinary practice.  One of my jobs was go to this shelter every other week, to perform euthanasias.  Some were medical, some were because of aggression, but the majority were due to overcrowding.  The dogs and cats, most of which I remember as litters, were lined up and "put down."  No disrespect to the survivors of the Holocaust, but to 22 year old me, this was how I thought about this duty.  AWFUL!  I would often cry on the way back to the clinic and have to put a cold compress on my puffy eyes before I could begin seeing clients and patients that afternoon.

Fortunately through the hard efforts of the McMinn Regional Humane Society, almost all animals now go to a forever home.  Before heading out, all animals are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and dewormed.  All cats are FeLV/FIV tested and all dogs are heartworm tested.

Community cat room where they get a chance to socialize and stretch their legs.

It takes a small army of volunteers to provide the necessary exercise, socialization, and thorough cleaning of the kennels, cages, and facilities.  The shelter has been blessed with a lot of local businesses donating money, food, treats, and kennel supplies.  But only a small portion of the dog kennels are heated.  The remaining 75% are open to the elements.  Steps are taken to ensure that the dogs have extra bedding and the kennel gates are wind-proofed in the winter.

Most kennels don't have heat/air.

Since most of the donations go directly to the medical care and feeding of the animals, there is little left to devote to building maintenance and improvements.

Most recent update was the addition of an exercise yard.

So, to pay it forward (it has been 10 years since my last fundraiser where I raised $5000 both City Park and  Ingleside Elementary school playground improvements), I have aligned myself alongside MRHS fundraiser coordinator Erica Allen Peden in an attempt to raise at least $5000 for much needed infrastructure improvements.  I am also going to try to secure a major donor to match the individual funds.

On July 3, 2020, I will be tackling a vEveresting at The Animal Clinic of Athens.  This is a challenge to climb the height of Mount Everest, in a single activity, on one hill (by doing repeats) with no sleep.  The "v" stands for virtual, meaning that I will be riding on a stationary bike, using an electronically controlled smart trainer, that will simulate climbing a mountain.  I will be using the Saris H3 smart trainer and the Zwift platform.  In May of 2019, I completed an Everest Challenge on the Foothills Parkway.  It took 17 hours 25 minutes, 22 hill repeats, and 218 miles to climb 29,029 feet. I plan to start just before the clinic opens at 7:30 am and hopefully finish by the time it closes at midnight.

I can say that this will fall under the moniker of #doinghardthings.  I abhor the trainer.  Anything longer than 2 hours on this piece of torture equipment takes a hell of a lot of grit, gristle, and gumption.  I am looking at a time of 17 - 19 hours on this machine to complete this vEverest.  No doubt I will be suffering, but I have chosen this path.  These animals don't get a choice; it is thrust upon them unmercifully.

Scott's Bikes has graciously offered their support in the use of their Saris H3 Smart Trainer and the necessary equipment to run the Zwift platform.  I am still old school and have only a dumb trainer, which I practice mental sufferfests by looking at a wall when I train inside.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be putting together a FaceBook event page, where you can follow me on this adventure and perhaps give a small donation.  I also hope that on July 3, I can get some of you to join with me on my adventure through the Zwift platform.

Please help me to help them.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Snake Creek Gap TT Race Report

Driving down to the start early in the morning, watching the rain beat down on the windshield, I could only laugh.  Heading into my 16th year of doing this race, I have seen all conditions, but mostly miserably cold and wet ones.  At least today the temperature was starting in the low 50's and supposed to stay that way.  I was racing the 34 miler, what I call the meat and potatoes of the 3 distances offered.

My shuttle arrived at the start later than I anticipated.  After checking in and getting ready, the start had begun.  I let most people go ahead of me, as I needed somewhat of a warm up so my body wouldn't implode in the first 10 minutes. A few minutes of squats, jumping jacks, and kick backs, I rolled off the line and down the fire road skirting around the edges of multiple mud holes.

I was behind a group of juniors and unfortunately one of them bobbled at the short steep V climb.  I  ended up dismounting and running up that climb.  Oye!  That got the heart rate up quickly!  I made my way around multiple racers, biding my time and trying not to burn any matches, as I knew my book was not full.

The bridge across the Dry Creek was submerged about one foot at the other end.  I unclipped and threw my feet up high as my front wheel hit the water.  I was only about 50% successful at keeping my feet dry.  The climb up to the first section of single track was in good shape considering the amount of rain it had gotten over the last 48 hours.  I continued to make my way around riders in an attempt to have a bubble around me once I entered the single track. 

The trail conditions were pretty sloppy and it felt like my wheels were being grabbed by a mud boggin' monster.  And then a noise began emanating from my front end.  I couldn't tell if it was my headset or fork, but it was annoying.  I ate and drank on the gravel road, hit Pine Hill with a vengeance, and then rode a dude's wheel off the backside.  I was a little grumbly about not going as fast as I wanted to, but it was my bad for not getting around him sooner.

I veered left at the next creek crossing, not knowing how deep the straight shot was and how much leaf and mud build up was on the far side of it.  This next section leading to the Horn Mountain climb, was obnoxiously muddy.  I felt like I was skiing more than riding. Aside from the mandatory mud wall climb, I was able to stay on the bike for the remainder, including the left handed switchback to begin the single track climb.

This section of the race has one big 1 mile climb, followed by 3 smaller, but steeper and more technical climbs.  Towards the top of the first climb, I heard a female voice behind me as I passed another racer.  Once I got around the guy in front of me, I asked her is she wanted around me.  "No ma'am," she replied.  I just got "ma'am 'ed!"  I took it as a sign of respect, rather than it being related to my age.  I got a chuckle out of how my first thought was, "Damn, do I look that old?"

She (I later found out her name ... Nicole) stuck to me like glue over the remaining miles.  I would pull away from her on the steeper, technical pitches and descents, but where the trail smoothed out a bit, she had the strength and fitness to reel me right back in.

At the SAG stop at Snake Creek Gap, I swapped bottles and downed a caffeinated gel.  I only drank 1/2 of a bottle that first 17 miles, a fail on my part.  While I was stopped, I saw Nicole go by.  That would be the last I would see of her until the finish.

I struggled up the Hurricane Mountain climb.  My fork was now beginning to feel AWFUL; stiff and like a pogo stick.  Once on top through some of the faster sections, I felt better and was able to stay on top of my gear.  The sun was beginning to shine and I could feel its warmth.  But as I began my descent down to the creek crossings, I was having a hard time seeing the trail for the sunshine.  I had a few "Oh, shit!" moments as I encountered a downed tree and some slippery turns, but managed to stay upright.  The multiple creek crossings all became just one big creek ride, as the water was flowing down the trail.

On the slip n slide climb up to the final single track, I came upon my team mate, Eric Henderson.  Off his bike with a broken derailleur and a rear flat, I asked him why he even had a derailleur.  His reply was that I had one.  To which I responded that I am old and earned one.  This light hearted joking conversation helped me to fend off the grumpies during the final stretch.  Because, at least I had a functioning bike.

By now, I had lost feeling in my water soaked feet.  This hindered me a bit through the rock gardens as it made proprioception difficult.  This, combined with a sick fork, functioning at only 25% capacity, had me doing a couple Yosemite Sam dances in my head.  Then I went into "adapt and overcome" mode and managed to surprise myself cleaning a couple sections I usually struggle with. 

The descent off Tower Road was heinous!  Huge ruts and exposed culverts probably made this the most tricky section of the course, as normally this was almost a brake-free section with lots of speed.  But today I had to baby it down.  Cruising down the road, I was happy with how my day went, given the conditions.

I finished in 4:10:20, by far not my fastest time, but right where I want to be this early in the season. I knew that my Big Dumb ride from earlier in the week might hinder my performance, but it was a risk I was willing to take.  I must be patient; fast will come later. 

One mistake I did make was not drinking enough.  Over the course of 4 hours, I had only taken in 32 ounces, along with 700 calories.  Although I did not feel "bonky,"  I am sure this under-fueling played a small part in my performance.  Rookie mistake.