Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I'm Official

After 7 years of racing on Specialized bikes, I am officially racing for them in '08. Many thanks to Bruce Blevins of The Outdoor Store and Matt Shanly, the regional rep, for making this happen. I will still be racing "Pinky" and my carbon epic, but will be adding a Stumpy to my arsenal. Hopefully, with a lot of hard work and a little luck, I will improve upon my '07 performances.

In other news, Ergon, who sponsored me in '07, will continue through '08. I am eagerly awaiting a goody bag from Jeff.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sweat Threshold

I do believe today was the coldest day of riding for me. I was not sure how long I could go before my toes and fingers lost all feeling. But I finally got it right when dressing for the occasion of 20 degrees. Now to put what I wore in writing so as not to forget for future reference: 5 layers up top, Gavia cycling tights, beanie, neck gaitor, booties, hand and toe warmers. And I also put my Camelbak under my jacket (learned that one the hard way).

Zeke and I rode the singletrack at Chilhowee, figuring we would have more shelter from the wind as opposed to riding fireroads. We ended up getting in a little over 3 hours; it was truly a gorgeous day. Sunshine and blue skies always seems to make it a little warmer than what the thermometer reads. At least with the freezing temps, we had it all to ourselves. I kept my heartrate up enough to stay warm, but low enough not to sweat. That was the trick for me.

We did have a few creek crossings. This caused a small problem for my bike. My lower derailleur pulley froze after I stopped for a pee break. Hmmm! How do I fix that? Zeke comes up behind me and immediately gets down on all fours and starts blowing on it! Not quite enough hot air (although sometimes I think he has enough to power a balloon!) so I get down on the other side of the wheel and start blowing too. That is the closest to a man's lips, other than my husband's, that I have been to in 18 years! Thank goodness for the spokes between us. And thank God no one else came along and saw us. What a sight that would have been! Here we are, on all fours, on either side of the wheel, huffing and puffing, trying not to get spittle on each other, unthawing a pulley. I never laughed so hard! Well, it did work, and we finished up the ride in good spirits.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

As Good As It Gets

The first running of the Snake Creek Gap 6 Mountain Time Trial happened this past Saturday. With the weather sunny and in the high 40's/low 50's, a dry trail, and the NWGA Sorba crew working hard, this race could not have gotten any better. Hats off to a wonderful event! If you have February 2 or March 1 free, you need to check this one out!

The biggest excitement occurred not on the course but en route to the start. This is a point-to-point race and the racers ride a school bus to the start. As the bus was coming off the mountain on a two lane, there was a little Subaru just ahead of us that was going WAY TOO SLOW! It forced the driver to use her brakes more than necessary and as a result, the bus lost air pressure. A buzzer went off and then there were no brakes! Thankfully we had a good driver and there was no oncoming traffic. She had to pass this idiot on a blind curve to keep from running the Subaru over. Talk about getting your heartrate up!

I started off feeling sluggish but it was a bit chilly and I did not have an adequate warm-up. My bike also felt a bit funny in the rear and there was this knocking noise when I would hit some rough terrain. I hit the first section of singletrack after a 2 mile fireroad climb and began to feel better. That was short-lived as I was passed by Kristy like I was standing still. She was superstrong. Man, I wish I could ride like that, so early in the season!

The downhills were fast and sweet! I am really beginnning to love the descents. La Ruta definitely helped my confidence and prowess going downhill. My Specialized Captain tires were also hooking up great. Although a bit heavier than the Fast Tracks, they seem to grab better.

I rolled into the midway point and swapped out Camelbaks. My time for the first half was slower than usual, but at least I was feeling better. I set off determined to have a better second half.

I managed to settle into a rhythm and was feeling good. I began passing more people, a lot of those which had passed me in the first half. My climbing legs had finally arrived! However, my bike was "knocking" horribly and beating me to death on the descents. Since it was still rolling in a forward direction, I did not want to get off to check it out.

Arriving at the top of the last major climb, I began to smile. Only 8 miles left and my favorite part: the technical rocky ridges of Hurricane and Dug Mountains. Except for the middle 1/3 of "The Wall" (a steep loamy, rocky, and rooty 150 yard climb) which I walked, I cleaned everything. O.K., I had two toe dabs and one tree grab. But this is the best I have done, especially during the race and when I am in oxygen debt.

During the hike-a-biking of "The Wall," I did stop and look at the rear of my bike. A LOT of oil was running down the shock. I now know what it feels like to ride on a blown shock; probably similar to a mechanical bull.

The last two miles of the race is a curvy paved downhill which is a nice reward to a hard day's ride. I ended up finishing in 3rd place in the money class, only a few minutes down. With proper training and a little good luck perhaps February and March will be even better!