Sunday, April 27, 2008

Shove This Up Your Pipeline, Oil Cronies!

Well, I have finally had enough of rising gas prices. So Carly and I have started cycling back and forth to school. It is a good workout for both of us and now Carly has a "cool " factor. On Friday when I dropped her off at the door, a couple of her classmates were in awe. I think we are the only ones that bike to school, but I would love to see that change.

I am also dedicating Monday as a "non-driving" day. I will drop Carly off and then head on into work under my own power. Living in a small town, I could probably do everything by bike, if I could just get into the habit. I have a trailer, so I could even go grocery shopping (it would keep me from buying ice cream, one of my weaknesses).

At what point are people going to say, "Enough is enough!" For me, it was $3.58. The sad thing is, to train on the trails or fireroads, I have to drive 20 to 40 miles. I will probably start to ride the road more and take my chances with the "jellies," aka stupid drivers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cohutta Race Report, Part 2

So I was able to join a couple 29'er singlespeeders for this flat section. This allowed me to recover a bit before the last bit of climbing. Yes, singlespeeders! I was pooped on this section and could only pull away from them on the slight descents, but they would soon catch back up. So I just tucked in behind and rested. Once I turned right, I dug a little deeper and picked the pace back up on the climbs and then along the rolling sections. I passed by Aid Station 5 (Sorry, Huff!) and then put it in the granny to get up the last steep pitch climbing out of the Big Creek area. Around each corner I was hoping to get a glimpse of Cheryl, but no such luck.

I flew down the descent to the last aid station, where Linda and Teena helped me fill my water bottle. Once again they told me I was just 2 minutes behind Cheryl. I dropped off my Camelbak and then dropped down into West Fork Trail. Last year this was where I felt great, but today I was not feeling the singletrack love. I managed to maintain a steady pace and not do anything stupid. Once I finished up Quartz and Bypass, I felt a little better and hit Chestnut with all I had left. I was hoping there might be a replay of last year, but after floating down ThunderRock and with no sight of Cheryl, I took it easy into the finish.

I was happy with my place. I felt good all day and with my time being just 9 minutes slower than last year I feel confident that my fitness is up. Hats off to Cheryl for rockin' this course!

The True Grit Award goes to Danielle for continuing on for another 85 miles after kissing the bridge. Sorry I did not warn you.

Congratulations also goes to Aimee for a top 10 in her first 100 and Kim Moore for a solid finish.

Lisa had to graciously bow out after racing for 4 hours. She had a body mechanical; probably felt like trying to breathe through a straw. No worries; we will be strong for TransRockies.

Sorry I was unable to provide an exciting finish this year, but there are still a few hundies left. Perhaps Danielle and I can work on our choreography.

I guess what was really exciting this time was the number of women who competed. The turnout was awesome. Having a strong field will only make me a better racer.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cohutta Race Report, Part 1

The first 100 has come and gone. Of the four I plan on racing this year, the Cohutta was the one I was not looking forward too. For me, it is the toughest ... mentally. I know the course all too well and I am not the best at gravel grinders.

I did accomplish 3 of 4 goals for this one:

1. I made the podium.
2. I came within 60 minutes of Pua.
3. I came in ahead of Trish. She is my inspiration ... a super-chick!

The one goal I did not accomplish was beating last year's time. I was about 9 minutes off. But the course was definitely slower due to the rain and mud. I would like to think, had the conditions been the same, that I would have had a time around 8:19. I definitely felt stronger this year.

What was really neat and honoring was getting a call-up and being able to toe the line with Sawicki, Eatough, and Landis. It is not often in sports that your "average Joe " gets to compete alongside World and National Champions. And then get a backside view of the finest as they leave me in their wake! Man, the start was a XC sprint! I knew better than to try to keep up. Last year I did and paid the price from mile 25 - 50.

I settled into my own pace and hit the singletrack with the "second group." I felt good and got into a rhythm on Brush Creek. I did not have to do much passing nor did I get passed. I was running the Fast Track LK's and they were a little slippery in the mud, but I knew they would save me some time on the 65 miles of fireroads.

The Boyd Gap downhill was fun ... even in the mud. On Old Copper Road I passed Danielle and I could tell she was not feeling the "Cohutta Love." She seemed to be struggling a bit, but I said a few words of encouragement and passed her. I should have told her to be careful on the bridges!

Bear Paw and Riverview went by in a flash and then I was dumped out onto the "Death Loop." This was where last year I knew I was in trouble as I started to struggle up the first climb. But today, I flew up it in my middle ring. Still feeling good, I started to ramp it up a bit. Even the soft, squishy mud could not dampen my spirits. This was not as bad as I had been envisioning the past 10 days!

I rolled into Aid Station 2, all covered in mud. Sam Curlee did not even recognize me. I refilled my Camelbak with Dedicated Athlete's Glacier Mist, grabbed a gel flask, and motored on, thanking the volunteers for their assistance. Climbing up to Watson's Gap, I encountered some more rain, but no bother. (Thank you La Ruta. I finally feel confident in the mud!) The Potato Patch climb was my favorite part of the fireroad. It was here that I passed a lot of people. And I was able to do it all in the middle ring ... as compared to last year when I was dying in the granny.

I passed on by Aid Station 3 and as I was climbing the last section of Potato Patch, a spectator told me I was right behind the 3rd place woman. I always love to hear that. It is amazing what inner strength you can find when you know "she" is just around the corner. It took about 5 minutes, but I was able to reel in Trish. I was kind of surprised it was her; I was expecting to see Cheryl. I must vouch for Trish. She has been working alot and has gone back to college to get a degree in nursing. So she has not been able to put in the hours of training that she would like.

Descending down to fireroad 17, I saw quite a few tire tracks and "skid" marks in the turns. I always love this part and usually grab very little brake, but today I was a little more cautious. Later Jason told me about a crash he saw on this descent. The guy and his bike catapulted off the mountain. Jason said he had never seen both bike and rider doing somersaults through the air. He stopped and assisted the racer back onto the road; luckily he escaped with just cuts and bruises.

I stopped at Aid Station 4, refueled, had my squeaky chain lubed and then began the long flat section back to FS 221. Michelle told me that I was only 2-3 minutes behind Cheryl. I tried to pick it up a bit, but oh, how I hate this part. It is not exactly flat, probably a 2 to 3 % grade, and it wears on me quick. I am always glad to see the right hand turn onto the 12-15% 1 1/2 mile climb. I thought I might be able to reel Cheryl in on this last section of fireroad.

Gotta go get Carly off to bed. She is now reading bedtime stories to me ... so cool!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Not Just For Boys

This arrived today. After assembling it, I aired up two tubeless tires in no time flat. I love it. It will save me from having to bug Bruce so much. Although he is my mechanic, I am sure there are times when he dreads seeing me. So anything I can learn to do myself, I am trying.
On another note, Charlie built some singletrack in our woods with a lawnmower and a rake. Probably about 0.2 miles, but it did get him on his bike yesterday. Carly enjoyed it as well, especially the downhill. That's my girl! Watch out, Kathy Pruitt!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just In Time

This arrived in the mail yesterday from Dedicated Athlete. I am glad I will have it for the Cohutta as the temps are expected to reach the high 70's. I will satisfy my taste buds before by using the Glacier Mist on my training rides. I first encountered this drink on the 2nd lap of the Fool's Gold last year. On that day, the temps were in the high 80's and I was in a world of hurt. I grabbed a bottle of what I thought was water, but when I tasted it, it had a slight minty flavor ... and it was ice cold. I was sure my mind was playing tricks on me, so I took another drink. At this point, I did not care if I was hallucinating or not, this sh!t was good! It saved my butt on this lap. Now if there was only a way to have ice at the Cohuuta aid stations.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Killer Dreams on Propoflo

Today I had minor outpatient surgery. Don't worry, I will be ready to rock-n-roll on the Cohutta in 8 days. Anyway, they sedated me heavily with a drug called Propoflo. I dreamed I was tearin' up a descent on Stumpy. Swoopy curves, big drops, you name it, I was railin' it. I actually use this sedative alot on my patients and now I know why they have that happy look when they wake up!

Thanks a bunch to Bonnie, Doug, Jackie and the rest of the staff at the Surgery Center of Athens. What a great job they did. They were kind, considerate, and caring. Thanks also to Dr. Cox. I cannot see the work he did (it is all bandaged up), but I am sure it looks good.

The experience I had today almost makes me want to find something else to be cut on.

Now I must go eat a rather large roast beef sandwich. I fasted for 24 hours and I am starving! Especially after getting 4 hours of training in yesterday.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ouachita Challenge Race Report

I can honestly say that this race was one of the hardest first place finishes for me ... ever. And it caused me to have another kind of "first," but I will get to that later. I really did not know who my competition would be; I looked at the participant list, but did not recognize anybody. I was sure there would be a "dark horse" or two, but just did not know who. So waiting at the start line, I was trying to size everyone up. And then I saw Patti. I rode with her on a couple stages at La Ruta and she was so strong. Uh oh!

And then we were off! Talk about a XC start! The pace truck was flying down the pavement. It pulled off as we hit the first section of fireroad and the leaders kept a furious pace. I was up with the top 20 until the first small, but steep fireroad climb, but then popped off. I saw Patti ahead and then I saw another woman with the same jersey. Uh oh! times 2! They were looking good and able to keep up with the leaders. I knew that if I kept up that kind of pace, I would blow up. So I backed it down a notch and rode my own race.

It was 7 miles to the first section of singletrack, The Womble. I caught up with Patty on a sketchy descent. I was able to beat her into the singletrack, but knew that her team mate was somewhere up ahead.

The Womble was fast and flowy. There was some climbing but gradual and smooth. I was feeling good, and rockin' and rollin' on the descents. I actually had several guys that I very politely passed. I was climbing well, too. But the descents were soooo fun; I actually caught myself giggling several times. And I must say the Captain's were hooking up well in the loose rock ... and mud. After the torrential downpours from the previous 3 days, there was a lot of mud on this course. But it was all good ... after La Ruta, I have reset my "mud" scale. Pre-La Ruta, this would have been a 7. Post La Ruta, it was now a 3.

The direction of the race was opposite of the last several years. Today, we started off with the Womble, which was the easy singletrack and then would finish up with the Ouachita, the technical rocky trail. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the #1 woman at some point on the Womble. I never saw her, but I knew that I needed to save some for the Ouachita Trail, so I tried not to push it too hard in the beginning.

I blew by the first Aid Station. There was a long road section ahead and I wanted to try to catch a wheel and try to conserve. Due to the heavy rains, they did reroute some of the course, which meant less forest road and more asphalt. At the first zip-tie check, I was told I was the second woman, but they did not know how far ahead #1 was.

Then came the Chalybeate Mountain, the first section of the Ouachita Trail. Ouch, I said as I began climbing and negotiating the rock fields and piles. This is going to be a grunt. I was a little more tired than I wanted to be at this point, but endured to the top. Then once again, it was all smiles and giggles to the bottom. (Maybe I need to change disciplines: is there such a thing as endurance downhilling?)

At the bottom was Aid Station 2, where I refilled my Camelbak. The volunteers were awesome, filling my Camelbak and putting zip-tie #2 on the handlebar. After a mile descending through rocks, my gloved hands were having difficulty grasping the zip-tie. The volunteers still did not know how far #1 was ahead of me. Oh, well, there was still 20 miles left and 20 very hard miles at that.

After a short fireroad section, I hit Blowout Mountain hard and fast. This was the second section of the Ouachita Trail. Hard and fast soon became hurtin' and slow. The trail quickly pitched to 12 to 15%. Needless to say, I grannied this 1 -2 mile climb. (The Womble climbs were on average 7 - 10%.) Not only was it steep, but you had to negotiate around and up over large rocks. This was my lowest point in the race and where 2nd place became very appealing. I just kept a consistent pace as I knew Patti was somewhere behind me and was an excellent climber.

I rode through a couple rockslide sections, but ran througt most of them. It was faster and wiser. I did not want a sidewall cut or a broken derailleur. The descent was just as bad ... because of the mud. It reminded me of Snowshoe ... 2 to 3 inches of mud over rocks. I slipped and slided my way to the bottom.

I rode by the last Aid Station and headed up Brushy Mountain, the last section of the Ouachita Trail. I was really beginning to hurt at this point. At this point there was 8 miles of singletrack, 7 miles of fireroad, and 2 miles of asphalt to the finish. As I was climbing Brushy, I was accepting a 2nd place finish. As I was climbing a switchback, I happened to look up ahead. Was it, could it be? That jersey looks like Patti's. Nah! So I gave it just a little more gas so I could try to get a better view. No way! That is her, first place!!! Oh, it is on now! So I mustered up every bit of muscle I had and made it up to her ... stealth mode. There was a guy in between me and her, so I settled in and sized her up. After a couple minutes behind her, I could tell she was hurting. Head down, slumped shoulders, slow cadence.

I was hurting bad as well ... but, when racing, it is better to look good than to feel good. So I surged forward, passing the guy and her, in the middle ring, and never looked back. Until 5 minutes later when I crested the climb. She was nowhere in sight! I do not know where I got the energy, but I hammered the last 5 miles of singletrack. I guess it was on adrenaline alone.

As I popped out onto the fireroad, a voluteer was there, handing out the last zip-tie. He was wanting to give me detailed directions of how to get to the finish. I almost yelled at him, "Give the freakin' zip-tie, I am in first, and I have got to go now!" But instead, I just grabbed it from him, attached it to the handle bar while he was chit-chatting, and raced away.

This last section of fireroad was very deceiving, I remembered it as being all downhill, but it wasn't. There were a lot of rollers and it was into a headwind. When I encountered the first roller, I stood to hammer, and this is where my "first" happened. I cramped! Holy cow, that hurts! I about fell off the bike as my quads seized! Oh, this is not good! I quickly sat back down on the saddle and geared down big time and spun my legs trying to work it out. After about 3 minutes, all was good. But I did not stand and hammer anymore. I had heard the horror stories of cramping and did not want to be sprawled out on the ground as 2nd passed me by.

The last 5 miles was brutal. I kept expecting #2 (Leslie) to pass me on her 29'er. I made it to the finish, without ever seeing her. Whew! The elation and exhilaration I felt as I rolled up to the line was amazing. I would have patted myself on the back, if I could have reached that part of me. I was utterly exhausted! I grabbed my first place goodies and then crashed in front of the school, laying on the grass for 10 minutes.

Running the race this way was much harder than the way I raced it in 2006. But perhaps this allowed me the win as I was able to save some for the end. Talking to Leslie at the end she said that the 29'er hardtail was the wrong choice for her; it beat her to death on the rocky stuff and her legs were cooked. Leslie was stronger, but I think I rode smarter.

Thanks to Ed and Todd and all the volunteers for putting on a great race. This course was close to 65% singletrack and I loved it! 5:15 and some change and a top 25 overall.

Zeke had a great race and time. He said his 29'er and the Crows he was running hooked up well. He came in within an hour of my time, a first for him, I think. So I lost the bet.

Congrats to Jason (5th) and Kim (3rd) in the 80 mile race. I guess that makes me a sandbagger. Next year the 80!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tornado Magnet

Well, just a few weeks ago, when Danielle was down and we spent the night at Eddie and Nam's, a tornado hit Atlanta just 5 miles from where we were. And just a couple hours ago as Zeke and I were driving through Hot Springs, Arkansas, a tornado was seen on radar going east as we were going west. It was probably just over our heads since our truck was getting beaten with hail. More cells are expected to pass through where we are staying in Mt Ida through the night. I might get to see how well one can sleep in the bathtub.

If all goes well tonight, we plan on pre-riding parts of the Ouachita Challenge Friday and Saturday. There is definitely lots of flooding out here, but the trail should be in good shape on Sunday since it has a rocky base and the Tour is happening on Saturday. They might reroute the Fiddler Creek crossing due to rising waters. O.K. with me; I do not want to try to swim with my bike, although Lisa has told me it can be done.

The Weather Channel is on in our motel and I just heard where the tornado touched down in the township of Benton near I-30 at Exit 111. Good golly, Ms Molly, that is the exit that we stopped to eat! And just an hour after we got back on the interstate. Too close for comfort. The dead bat just outside the door of the pizza place where we ate was definitely a bad omen.