Sunday, June 29, 2008

Getting my Speed Fix

With a free weekend and the venue being so close, I could not pass up this race. So I journeyed down to Chattanooga for the SERC Raccoon Mountain XC race. After having been in the ultra-endurance scene for several years, getting to race an XC event is just a little reward for me. It also allows me to get in some good speed work, especially when toeing the line with some of the best from the Southeast.
Fourteen of us lined up in the Pro/Ex class. Awesome turnout! When the gun went off, several girls lept off the line, including superfast Jamie Dinkins, just back from Under-23 Worlds where she had a top 20 finish. I managed to enter the singletrack just behind Jamie and kept her within my sights for the first half of the first lap. I was feeling strong and loving the techy rocky sections as well as the Six Flags rollercoaster descent.
Stumpy was my steed for the day and we were one, attacking the punchy hill climbs and letting loose on the descents. I almost had my first lap (12 miles) completed when I heard the dreaded, "Hssssssss! Well, crap! (not exactly the same word that at first entered my mind) I pedalled on hoping for it to seal. I rolled through the Start/Finish and heard no more hissing so I hoped that all was good. Kim handed off my bottle for the second lap and told me I was just a minute behind Jamie. I time-trialed the 1/2 mile pavement section and dropped into the woods. Legs were still great, but my mind was elsewhere as I began to feel the dreaded "squishy" in the rear tire.
My tire change was embarassingly slow. I was having a hard time getting the Specialized Fast Track off the rim, even with levers. After probably 5 minutes, I managed to hop back on the bike. I had no idea how many women passed me as I made a conscious effort not to look up everytime I heard wheels buzzing by. However, Kym called out to me and asked if I was o.k. and then I happened to see Paula go past as well. Ughh! It took a bit for me to get back into the rhythm of racing again, but I did.
The last mile of the race, I tried to ramp it up a bit, just to see how the legs were. Legs still great, but then I hit a rock pretty hard and pinch flatted. So, I got to run a bit (good practice for TransRockies) and then rode the last little section of pavement to the finish ... but very slowly as I did not want this event to get any more expensive with a bashed rim.
I managed not to lose any more spots once I got back on the bike, but apparently quite a few women passed me as I ended up 7th. Oh well, I would much rather have a bike mechanical than a body mechanical. I hope to be able to stay on form for my next race is Wilderness 101 ... my favorite hundy and I would like to do well there.
I am having some frustrations with the Stan's. Every time I have punctured (other than thorns), the Stan's has not sealed and eventually I have been forced to put a tube in. I am beginning to wonder if I should just use enough Stan's to seal the tire (if the tire leaks down in a short period of time) onto the rim and not to put any extra in. Getting all that dried latex off my bike today was a b!tch. If anybody has any comments on that, I am open.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


After a good training ride today in the Coker Creek area of Cherokee National Forest, I was hungry for a sirloin steak ... homegrown black angus to be exact. Which leads into my story.
On the way home from the Cowbell Challenge this past Sunday, Zeke and stopped at the Chop House. My treat, since I happened to win a little money, much to Zeke's credit. We both ordered the sirloin. I had a salad, he opted for the steamed broccoli. Then he proceded to tell me how lettuce, of any kind, has no nutritive value. "It is just good for your doo-doo." He did not believe me when I told him of the anti-oxidant benefits of Romaine. So we wagered a little bet. If I won, he would have to eat a steak the way I like it: just knock the horns and tail off and serve it with the blood still runnin'.
You see, Zeke likes it well done. Well done as in "catch it before it drops through the grill to the coals below, then throw it in the microwave and nuke it for an extra minute or two." Needless to say, I won the bet. So now he gets to eat a steak rare. Perhaps if he does my bottle hand-offs for this Sunday's XC race, I will let him upgrade to medium.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Going For Broke

I am going to be training a lot more on the road now, as this came in today. Just as soon as I figure out how to use it. I can perform splenectomies, enterotomies, and ACL repairs in dogs and cats, but when it comes to these gadgets, I am a bit out of my league. Oh well, I can and will read the directions.
I have been self-coaching for the past 7 years and have done o.k. by myself. But this year it seems like I have become a bit stagnant. I've hit a plateau and just can't seem to go beyond it. So I have decided to find a coach. I have one in mind and am planning on making contact just before TransRockies. That should give me a little time to scrape up a down payment.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cowbell Challenge Race Report

Kudos to Taylor, Anna, Connie, et al for a wonderful event. If you haven't had an opportunity to race the Cowbell, next year is a must. This year the venue was at Fisher Farms and at first I was a bit worried that the course would not be as fun as last year's (Catawba Trails at the Whitewater Center). However, after pre-riding, I saw that A LOT OF TIME and EFFORT had been put into stretching the existing 4 miles of trail into 7 miles. This course was going to be fast! You were going to be on the gas at all times. The climbs were short and steep, the singletrack was tight, twisty, and rooty, and the flat field sections were jarring. Anna and Connie had put in a lot of "woman hours" moving and laying large rocks by hand to create a sweet technical rocky descent!
We lined up at the start ... with our bikes. Yeah! No running start! When the bell went off, I made a huge effort to get in the front as I wanted to get into the singletrack first. I was going for the Queen of the Mountain again this year as I needed a jersey to match my helmet from last year. I raced the first lap like I was on a team. And my legs were light and snappy... completely opposite of how they felt at the Mohican. I knew Rebecca was close behind so I just hammered it and was able to top the 5 climbs first.
After the first lap, I settled in and rode my race. Rebecca passed me on the second lap. No worries; I was feeling good and kept her in my sights. I was just happy to have my legs back. My goal was to be able to stay within striking distance of Rebecca and put more time on 3rd and 4th place. And so I did. By the 8th lap, I had lapped 3rd and 4th place, yet was only 15 minutes behind Rebecca.
I really did not have any bad laps. Yet I must admit that it was mentally challenging to ride such a short lap over and over and over again. At most 12 hours, by the time I have ridden 10 laps, the race is over. But I still had 5 hours left when I hit the 10 lap mark! Bruce Dickman managed to keep it interesting by heading out to different points on the course and challenging the racers with a bullhorn in hand to make it over a couple of the harder sections without dabbing or coming off the bike.
A few times during the race, the skies darkened and a few thunderclaps were heard. But luckily they moved on around us. I was glad, for having to stop and then start the race again would have been dreadful. And the course would have become treachorous, as it was a clay base with lots of roots.
At 7:30 pm it was lights on. I rolled in the pits around 7:45 pm, switched bikes, and decided that I would try to get the fastest female night lap. I was still feeling good at this point so I said to self, "Might as well try." I put in a super hard effort and managed, after 10 hours, to get my heartrate back up into my LT range. However, Rebecca beat me by 2 minutes. That was Lap 16 for me and as I pulled into the Start/Finish area, the race was called due to lightning in the area. That was o.k. by me; I was pretty pooped by then anyway.
Race Day Highlights:
1. finishing second, just 25 minutes off Rebecca Rusch.
2. winning the fastest female lap.
3. having Mom and my stepdad Doug there for support.
4. being able to use bottles instead of a Camelbak (oh, the freedom!)
5. Yuri Hauswald's comment to Zeke as I crossed the finish line on the last lap, "Your wife is superstrong!" (I am still not sure how to take that one.)
Race Day Lowlights:
1. not using enough chamois cream and subsequently being "branded" (Ouch!) by my chamois. Yes, I now have 2 nice "C-shaped" deep abrasions where my glutes meet my hamstrings.
2. watching the 3rd place female singlespeeder stepping up on the podium and receiving her prizemoney and two 6-packs of beer ... and is 4 months pregnant! Stupid, I say, perhaps even negligent. And I can say this as I am a mother, yet was smart enough to stop racing during my pregnancy.
Thanks to the town of Davidson for allowing the Cowbell to happen. This event just keeps getting better and more competitive. And I hear that more trails could potentially be built at Fisher Farms. All I can say is, "Build it and they will come."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Legs are Back!

This past Sunday I competed in a local XC event at Haw Ridge. I was a little anxious about how I would perform. I had pretty much taken the past two weeks off to recover from what I suspected was overttraining. My race did not start until 12:30 pm so I had plenty of time to sit around and worry. It was also getting hotter by the hour; luckily this course was 90% in the woods.

I was only up against one other woman, Jennifer (I think), and the men's side was small as well, so we all started together, which was good. The start was fast, as all XC starts are, and my legs felt quite snappy. I was able to keep the leaders in sight for the first half of the first lap. No heavy lactic acid feeling as I hit the short punchy climbs. And I was able to rail the descents. I managed to pass a few men on this lap.

On the second lap, I slowed a bit, but managed to maintain a high heartrate. With temps in the low 90's, I was steadily draining my Camelbak. On the third lap, I dropped my Camelbak and pulled a cold bottle out of my cooler. The one nice thing about small local races is the ability to park your vehicle right along the race course. Man, it feels great not to have to wear a Camelbak! (Pehaps I can "bottle it" for the Cowbell.) I was able to maintain a nice steady pace and pass a few more men on this lap. I also lapped Jennifer on the third. She was walking her bike out as I passed. Apparently she had a sidewall tear. Bummer!

So, I ended up with a first place, but the most important outcome from this was regaining my confidence. I also managed to finish mid-pack in the men's field. This was just what I needed for going into the week before the Cowbell as I am going to have some stiff competition there.

Oh, by the way, this was my first "dry" race of the season; not one puddle on the trail. Sweet! That means I did not have to spend today cleaning and cleaning and cleaning my bike and gear.

If you are ever down near Knoxville, you need to check Haw Ridge out. 25+ miles of some buff singletrack with everything from the fast and flowy to the rocky and rooty.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rest and Recovery???

After the meltdown at the Mohican 100 a couple weekends ago, I decided to take it as easy as possible this past week. Aside from work (which is never easy), I did not do much. A couple easy spins on the bike and a little singletrack bliss sandwiched in between the road rides. Then since I was not planning on being on the bike this past weekend, Carly, Stefanie, and I decided to go hiking and camping. On Saturday, we hiked the Stinging Fork Trail to this small piece of heaven.
The trail was only about 2 miles, but very technical. Lots of rocks along with a steep descent to the falls. At the base of the falls was a blue hole about 20 yards in diameter and 20 feet deep. Upon arrival, Stefanie spotted Mr. Alligator Snapping Turtle. I was not too keen about putting my foot or other body part close to him to give you an appreciation of his size, but his shell was 14 - 16" in diameter. The look he gave us when he saw us was priceless. I am sure his thoughts were, "What the he!!! Just what I need ... humans disturbing my sunbathing." Then he slowly turned and dove and swam to the deeper water. We were the only ones here and so spent an hour or so hanging out and swimming.
After hiking back out to the trailhead, we each managed to acquire about 10 ticks. So we spent the next few minutes picking ticks off one another like a group of baboons. Once back at Stefanie's farm, we finished setting up camp in one of the fields next to a treeline. A brief shower came through and managed to cool things off ... now it was only 85 degrees instead of 95 degrees! Stefanie's niece and nephew joined us for the cookout/campout. At least I had my own tent ... so no additonal body heat. The girls slept with Stefanie and her nephew slept in the bed of the truck.
Sunday morning came early; as soon as the sun began to rise it got HOT! I only managed to get 7 hours of sleep; not much when recovery is the name of the game. After breakfast and breaking down camp, Carly and I went home. Then we spent a couple hours at the pool. Afterwards, we were both so spent that we eagerly went to bed at 8 pm.
I had a wonderful weekend ... and it did not even include the bike. But I must say, playing can be just as tiring as racing a 100 miler. I am hoping that this short break from the bike will only help. The Cowbell is less than two weeks away!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mohican 100 Race Report

A more apt title for this post could be "Hitting the Bottom." My pre-race routine was pretty much the same and I felt good. Zeke, Jason, and I headed up to Ohio on Thursday. We stopped at my in-laws in New Market, Tennesee, to drop Carly off and Grandmom Gwen had cooked us a spectacular lunch: meatloaf (homegrown angus), cornbread, green beans, cooked apples, and banana pudding. Jason and Zeke had seconds!

We made it up to the Mohican Lodge around 9 pm. There we met up with Kim and got to bed by 10 pm. I had a good night's sleep. On Friday we pre-rode some of the singletrack. Legs felt good and I opened them up a bit since it had been 3 days since I had ridden. We ran into Rebecca Rusch who was spinning around as well. It was good to see her and talk to her a bit, although my "Anxiety-O-Meter" went up a notch. Afterwards, I showered, stretched, and then registered. Legs were feeling great: light and loose.

Supper was what I brought: pasta, pesto, bread, and broccoli. Sleep did not come easily, what with people coming in at all hours and hearing their doors slamming shut. Then I awoke to the rumbling of thunder during the night. Then Zeke decided to get up at 3:30 am and even though he attempted to be quiet, I still heard him. It was at this point that I knew my body was just not right; I tried to ignore those feelings of dread and got on with my pre-race routine of watching the weather on TV, drinking coffee and eating a poptart. Whaddya know? On the tube, there WAS another tornado warning! So now I am 5 for 5.

Thankfully the rain had stopped by the time we got to Loudonville for the start. I did a little warm-up. Legs felt sluggish, but I blew it off. It seems I am always a little slow at the start, anyways. I lined up at the start next to Michelle and found out that she is going to TransRockies, too. Cool! When the gun went off, the XC start began. The frontrunners just about ran over the lead-out vehicle! After a couple hundred yards, the pavement kicked up steeply! Ohio may not have mountains, but their hills are Brasstown Bald steep! It was right about this point when I went to stand and climb, that I KNEW I was in for a bad day. It was like some evil fairy had taken MY legs off during the night and had replaced them with Pinocchio's wooden ones.

Normally I am with the second group that hits the singletrack. When I finally hit the singletrack, I was probably mid-pack. I got stuck behind a lot of slower people, but I figured this would give me a chance to recover, warm up, and get out of this slump. There was a long hike-a-bike on this newly cut section of trail on private land. It reminded me of La Ruta because of its steepness and lotsa mud. From here we came in behind Mohican Adventures and then hit the sweet singletrack of the Mohican State Forest.

This section was supposed to be the "Whoo-hoo!" part of the race, but after two hours I was in a world of hurt. My heartrate was up, but their was no high-end power = a lot of time spent in granny. After hiking the bike up the horse trail and watching Karen Potter pass me like I was standing still, I knew my body was broken.

I crawled in to Aid Station 2 (Mile 34), swapped Camelbaks, thanked the volunteers, and headed out. My drivetrain was full of mud at this point, but I chose NOT to use the hose. I figured that if my chain broke, I could take the easy way out. The next 10 miles were the absolutely lowest point of my race. When I would try to downshift into granny, my chain would not obey. It would make this clicking/grinding noise in the middle ring. So I would stand and torque the chain, hoping that it would break. Eventually it would drop down, but it never broke. I think I attempted this manuever about 5 times.

I cannot count how many times I wanted to quit. I was cussing myself, my work, Charlie, and even Zeke. This was the first time ... ever ... that tears of frustration welled up in my eyes. Then I got mad, because I was "victimizing" my situation. When I entered the Mohican Wilderness Trail, my attitude changed. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started to analyze the situation and figure out where I went wrong. So for the next 56 miles, my body may have been broken, but my spirit was not.

I actually got a bit of enjoyment out of the Mohican XC course. I tried to figure out where Zeke was passed by Reenie on a rocky technical section last year, but could not. I guess I was just finally feeling "the Mohican love" and flowed through it without even realizing. I was not having to pedal this section, being mostly downhill, so all was good.

I stopped at Aid Station 3, and had my bike hosed off and lube applied. As I started up the grassy climb to enter more singletrack, I saw Kim ... and Jason (without a bike!) Jason broke his derailleur within the first 5 miles of the race! Uggh! And here I was, taking pity on myself.

So, although the second half of the race was still very hard physically, mentally it became doable. The toughest singletrack was on private land, mostly because of the slippery mud. But since I had my granny back, I was able to stay on the bike and pedal those sections, although sometimes I swear I was going 1 mph!

I eventually caught up to Taylor. We rode together for a while and commiserated on the similarities between this day and La Ruta. At one point we came to a "Y" in the road. To the left was Camp Mahoney and to the right was a gravel downhill. Unsure of which way to procede (we did not see orange tape in either direction and there were bike tracks going both ways) we went left in to the camp. So much of this course was on private land. But after about a 1/4 mile, we knew we chose wrong.

This year the rail-trail was enjoyable. Mostly because it was flat and I had a tailwind. I was able to hook on to a group of two for a few miles before one guy popped off. I popped soon afterward. Last year I remember hitting speeds of 18-20 mph, but today I could only muster 11-14mph when riding alone.

At Aid Station 4 (Mile 72), Kim and Jason were there to help clean and lube my bike and give me words of encouragement. Thanks, guys! You could have been at the pool, but you chose to be there ... for me.

Between aid stations 4 and 5 I do not remember much mostly because I was in deep thought about how I got to be in the predicament I was today. And I am pretty sure that what it all boils down to is being overtrained. Not that I have been riding too much, but when combined with the hours and stresses of work, and the joys and responsibilities of motherhood, there has just not been any time for rest. So now that I think I have figured it out, I need to figure out how to fix it.

Back to the race! The last 8 miles I had a little spark of energy, so I enjoyed the singletrack. And since it had taken me so long to get there, the trail was, for the most part, dry. While I was on the Hemlock Trail, moving at considerable speed and plowing through several mud puddles, I came upon a couple tip-toeing around one rather large puddle. I was probably riding at about 12-14 mph and by the time I saw them (I was coming around a turn), it was too late. All I remember was that the man was wearing white. I hit that puddle and said "Sorry!" at the same time. I did not look back, but knew that I had rooster-tailed them with a large spray of muddy water. I think that was the first time I actually smiled and giggled.

I made it halfway up the dam climb, dismounted and pushed my bike the rest of the way. Back on the road, I hit one last section of private land that tied in to the back of Camp Nuhop. After 10 hours and 14 minutes on the bike, I was happy to pass under the banner at the finish line, collect my pint glass, and collapse on the grass.

I hope that I can say that this race was the hardest hundie for me this year. Perhaps I can be like the Phoenix and rise out of the ashes in time for the Wilderness 101.