Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Today's ride is why I ride: to go long, to escape the ordinary, to explore new trail, to laugh my a$$ off, and to share it with someone who appreciates it as much as I.

Zeke and I started off this morning riding the North River forest service road to Whigg Meadow: a climb of 4000 feet in 17 miles. From there we backtracked down the mountain a bit and turned onto the Sycamore Creek Trail (#163), recommended to us by Stuart, owner of Tellico Plains bakery. With Stuart having met his wife on a trail in Crested Butte, we thought we ought to check this trail out. And he makes delicious blueberry danishes!

Talk about a ridiculously sweet, technical rocky descent! Stumpy ate it up (2700 feet in 7 miles) and was asking for more! Kinda made Wilderness 101 and Shenandoah 1oo look tame. Most was rideable. A few sections, especially the creek crossings, were a little treacherous, as hikers had stacked rocks right through the best lines.

The singletrack ended at the fish hatchery. From there we rode pavement back down to the turnoff to North River road. We rode 1 mile and then turned off onto doubletrack. This appeared to follow a powerline through the wilderness. After climbing a couple miles, I came across a "Carly find." It was a bleached top of a turtle shell. As Carly is always curious as to what "cool" things I see on the trail, I decided to take this back; but on the way back since I thought this was an out and back. So I put it in the middle of the trail.

After one particularly steep "Brasstown Bald" climb, we started some insanely steep descending. Zeke was in front. We quickly came upon a series of ledges, each step dropping down 18-24 inches. Then time seemed to slow down ... as Zeke not only "endo'd" but while going over the bars he also twisted to the left, hit a downed tree, which was parallel to the trail. He then proceded to roll over the tree, bike still attached, and ended up like a turtle on its back, with his bike on top, still clipped in. Before he started to slide down the embankment, he managed to grab the downed tree with his left hand. All the while, I was trying to slow down and NOT follow in his footsteps.

I dismounted and then proceded to lean over the downed tree and grab his bike. Of course, at this point, knowing he was o.k., I laughed and laughed and laughed. You know, the kind of laugh that makes your abs hurt and tears come to your eyes! Thank goodness his 2-9'er is light or I might not have been able to lift it up over the tree. Most 60 year olds would not have been able to climb back on and finish the descent ... they would have to be air-lifted out and then scheduled to have hip replacement surgery. But not Zeke, the energizer bunny! I could have kicked myself for forgetting my camera on today's ride!

Once we arrived at the bottom of the descent, there was a series of "La Ruta-like" mud puddles to ride through. I let Zeke take the lead (I'm no dummy!) and since he did not disappear, I then rode through them. We climbed a little more and then this double-track eventually dumped us out onto the Cherohala Skyway. And then I realized this was the trail that Kim Moore and I saw while we were driving to Tsali last week. Kim said that Zeke and I ought to check that one out. Well, Kim, we did, and it was AWESOME!

From there we rode the skyway a bit, then took a shortcut back down to the Tellico River. We cruised back up FSR 210, watched some kayakers paddle over a 20 foot waterfall, and then arrived back at our trucks. Uh, oh! I forgot the turtle shell. Zeke and I made a mad 5 mile dash back up to where I had left it, picked it up, stuffed it in my shorts (yeah, I looked 5 months pregnant.), and cruised the 5 miles back down to our trucks.

What an epic day!

Monday, May 19, 2008

12 Hours of Tsali Team Report

Lisa, Julia, and I raced this past weekend on a team. Rain on Thursday made for somewhat muddy conditions the first few laps, but that has been pretty much par for all my races this season. I was outnumbered ... by two adventure racers who are used to running in bike shoes ... so I did the first lap. The Lemans start was a 1/3 mile run, UP to the bikes. Uggh! But today I had snappy legs, hopped on the bike and was able to hammer out the first lap. Everything about me was good today (wish I could feel like this at all my races).

After the first lap, I handed off to Lisa. At this point, we were just 1 minute behind the first place women's team, which included super fast and super young Natasha Cowie. Lisa's first lap was not her fastest of the day, but she said her lungs and legs were working well. She said that she wasn't quite warmed up at that point and did not see anyone out on the course, so it was hard to push herself. After lap 2, we were down by 2 minutes.

Julia, who I had just recently met at Dirt, Sweat, and Gears, went out on the third lap. I did not know her well and had some reservations about her performance. But she SMOKED!! Sycamore Cycle's 3rd rider. Julia said she passed her about a 1/3 of the way into her lap. When I saw Julia come in first, I was stoked! And then I knew that we had a very good chance of winning. After Julia's first lap, we were ahead by 7 minutes.

On my second lap, I was having a blast, picking off riders one by one. On that lap I counted 22 that I passed, and being passed by no one. So I told my teammates that the race within the race was to see how many riders we could pass on our laps minus the racers that passed us. After I came in on my second lap, we were up 15 minutes.

Each lap, we seemed to gain a little more time on the Sycamore ladies. I kept expecting Natasha to do an extra lap or two to try to take back some time, but they continued their rotation and we ours.

I thoroughly enjoyed not having to wear a Camelbak and being able to eat REAL food during the race. After I would do a lap, I was able to change, stretch, eat, drink, and socialize. I told Terri Berger that this was the first time I was able to enjoy her spaghetti dinner. Although I do enjoy racing solo, I think that I ought to do a few more team relays. It is like a reward for suffering through the long races. And it is good speed work, almost like doing a set of intervals.

I ended up going back out for the 13th and final lap. My first night lap since October '07. As I was fresh, I had a bit of trouble on this lap. I seemed to keep outrunning my light. I had only one, on my helmet. This has always worked well for me during my solo efforts, probably because I was so slow at the end of a 12 hour, I did not have to worry about outrunning my light. I used way too much brake on this last lap and felt like a beginner. Oh well, next time I will put a light on my bar as well.

I ended up racing 55 miles ... a good day of xc efforts. I was able to keep my heartrate high and my legs were like pistons.

Thanks to Zeke for keeping our bikes clean and in good working order and breaking down the pit while I was out doing my last lap. What a man! What a man!

Thanks to Julia for making our two-some a three-some. It definitely made the day more enjoyable and I don't think we could have won it without her.

Oh ... I almost forgot! We did lap Danielle; actually it was Julia who passed her on lap 9. But I have got to give Danielle a lot of credit, bum knees and all. She was a diesel engine out there; her laps were very consistent and she managed 11 of them. I am just glad I was not racing against her. If she is this strong now, come August 2nd, the rest of the 24 hour contenders had better watch out!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Outside The Box

My mom, my dad, and most importantly Charlie, have all given their blessing to let me attempt something BIG in '09. I already have picked a charity: Alzheimer's Association. Now all I need is a financial backer ... oh, and convince my partners to let me have a 6 month leave of absence. Let the proposal writing games begin ...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Charlie said that I could do whatever I wanted today, so guess what I did? Yeah, I went mountain biking. Zeke and I did the Kimsey Mtn loop starting from Gee Creek. After the rains last night, the fireroads were in great shape. With sunny skies and temps in the high 60's I could not have asked for better biking weather.

We put in a good 6 miles in 5 hours. My legs were good for the first 4 hours, but then they started to get quite achy. Not sure if it was related to: 1. DSG last week 2. working on my feet all day yesterday 3. or the 1/2 a pizza I devoured last night.

I am looking forward to racing Tsali this weekend. Lisa and I are going to do the 12 hour duo. We both had thought about racing it solo and riding together the whole time (in preparation for TransRockies), but with her pulmonary issues and me not wanting to kill myself with another 12 hour so soon, we decided this was the next best thing. It will be good to race and just have fun with no pressure! Well, I guess the only pressure will be putting a lap on Danielle.

Monday, May 5, 2008

DSG Race Report

I woke up the morning of the race to a steady rain. At least this time the tornadoes did not follow me. I have yet to race this year on a dry course. The rain stopped at 8 am; the race started at 9 am. The start was a 50 yard race to our bikes ... why run? There was a mile of doubletrack through the field to help spread us out before we hit the singletrack. Everyone was trying to stay off the dirt and into the grass as it was superslick and the mud would pack on your wheels until they would no longer spin. There were several pile-ups on this section. Once we hit the singletrack, there was no escaping the sticky mud. After the first 1 1/2 miles, everyone had a 35 pound bike! I think I probably walked, ran, carried, and dragged my bike for about 5 miles of the 11 mile course. I never heard so many curse words echoing through the woods. Derailleurs were ripped off left and right.

I passed Rebecca Tomawicki midway through the first lap. She was struggling with the mud, then flatted. And she had race the SSUSA the day before. I told her later that she should have asked to have the two laps she raced on Friday added to her total for the 12 hour. She is one strong SS'er! I passed Rebecca Rusch on the first lap as well. She was struggling more than me with the conditions.

Upon entering the pit area after the first lap, I dropped my mud-laden Epic and jumped on Stumpy. At this point I was the closest I would ever be to Pua ... 6 minutes down! And I was 1 minute ahead of Rebecca Rusch ... but that did not last long. The second lap was still a little messy ... I only had to dismount and knock the mud off twice. Rebecca Rusch is like a diesel engine. She passed me about halfway into the second lap and I never saw her again. Although the mud did not pack on my bike like it had the first lap, the conditions were still treacherous as it was very slippery. I expended alot of energy just keeping the rubber side down. No crashes, but quite a few close calls.

By lap 4 the trail was dry and good traction. I think the first lap took a lot out of me as I seemed to struggle the rest of the day. I definitely did not have Happy Snappy Legs. On one lap, I had a case of bloated belly (not sure what that was about). On lap 5, my pit crew accidentally filled my Camelbak with water rather than Rapidade. As I had only sucked down 2 Gu's before going out on lap 5, I knew that I would be in trouble soon. Actually lap 5 was my fastest, but my tank hit empty on the beginning of lap 6. It took about 1 hour into lap 6 for the 4 Gu's I sucked down at the beginning of lap 6 to kick in.

But I must say that my pit crew did an awesome job. The water incident was my fault as I did not have the bottles labelled properly. Charlie kept my bikes working, Dad let me know where I stood from lap to lap, and Stefanie and Pam kept up with my nutrition and taking photos. And Carly kept my morale up with her beautiful smile and lots of "I love you's."

Although I finished with one less lap than Pua and Rebecca, I technically did not get passed by them as I quit earlier than they. I had secured 3rd, so I did not want to totally wreck my body or do something stupid by trying to finish 1 more lap before the 9 pm cut-off.

Pua and Rebecca are great athletes and it was an honor to be on the podium with the best. They are both easy to talk to and have such positive attitudes. Hats off to Clay, Grant, and Kevin for an awesome event, both on and off the singletrack. I hope to come back in '09.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Southern Hospitality

I arrived at the Dirt, Sweat, and Gears venue yesterday afternoon, and Clay and Co. were already busy, busy, busy erecting tents . I found a spot, after a little deliberation, and set up camp. Hopefully I picked an area that will not flash flood when the thunderstorms arrive tonight. I rode a couple laps and determined that Stumpy will be my primary. She handled the loose rocky descents much better than Crash. And if it turns to mud, I am sure she will excel there as well. This course is very rocky and technical and most of it should hold up well in bad weather. The only part that will turn into a muddy mire will be the fields around the start/finish area.

Afterwards Clay invited a few racers up to his house for dinner. Including me! Amy, his wife, and their parents were there and treated us like royalty. Clay has a beautiful house with a beautiful view ... and his house backs right up to the course! Lucky dog! If I happen to have a bad race tomorrow, I just might head up to his porch and hit the hammock. I got to hang out with the likes of Rebecca Rusch, Rebecca Tomawicki-wicki, Josh Tostado, Fuzzy, and Dejay.

Today is all about rest and watching the SSUSA race, which ought to be a hoot. My crew is arriving this evening and as a couple are rookies, I will get to educate them in the art of "crewing."