Thursday, December 31, 2009

Body Upgrade, Surgical Style!

As athletes, we tend to be very in tune with our bodies.  If I only learned one thing from this experience, it would be, "Listen to your body when it is trying to tell you something, damnit!"

It all began back in August.  My signs were all very non-specific:  fatigue, mild power loss, bloating, and mild abdominal discomfort.  I thought the tiredness was due to an unbelievable brutal TransRockies and the GI issues due to the Paleo diet.  Coach backed my training off and my doctor could not find anything wrong on physical exam and routine bloodwork.

Although I was well rested for SM100, my body just didn't feel good that day and the legs weren't zippy.  Even Danielle made the comment that my pace was a bit slow.

Fast forward to October and the Pisgah Stage Race.  Once again, I was well rested.  So well rested I was almost fearful of losing some fitness.  Days 1 and 2 were good.  However, my body just died on Days 3 and 4.  Both Coach and I were like, "WTF?!?"

Soon afterwards, my symptoms increased in intensity, I began having some bowel irregularity, and I gained about 5 pounds.  I began to resemble Buddha.  I began thinking about everything from pregnancy to ovarian cancer.  So I went back to the doctor for more tests.

Bloodwork nothing, ultrasound nothing.  Mind you, docs like to do one test at a time so this was agonizingly slow and my patience was wearing thin.  Also, my primary doctor (I feel) didn't seem too concerned about finding an answer quickly.  Finally, the CT scan showed mild sludging in the gall bladder. 

So the week before Christmas, I had a hida scan, which assesses gall bladder function.  Then I had to agonizingly wait through the holiday.  Well, yesterday I received the news.  Normal gallbladder ejection fraction = 80%.  Mine = 16%.  No gray zone there!

After 6 weeks worth of testing and waiting, I have an answer.  I almost wished I would have had the classical signs of gallbladder disease:  nausea, vomiting, and sharp pain.  I would have had a diagnosis much sooner.

Thinking positive about my situation, the good that has come from this is that I have lost the weight I gained initially and then some more.  Since the symptoms have intensified, I have not been able to eat much, and have been in a calorie deficit for 6 weeks.  I am now lighter than I have ever been.  I have also been doing more strength training than base training and I feel that I have maintained my strength.  But I will definitely have to work on my endurance after surgery.

Surgery is scheduled for next week.  I almost thought about asking my surgeon if he could remove a few unnecessary organs while he is in there; say, one ovary, uterus, and maybe one kidney.  You know, lighten the chassis even further.  As I know just about everyone at the Surgery Center, I will be in good hands.  My anesthesiologist is a roadie.  He told me last night that it will be a joy to work on me as a lot of his patients are >275 pounds and have cardiac/respiratory disease.

Doc says I will be off the bike for 3 weeks.  Translation:  3-4 days.  Any longer than that and he might have to prescribe Prozac!

I hate that I am going to miss the first two Snakes.   But I will just be glad to have a happy and healthy body again.

So, if you feel something is just not right with your body (no matter now small it may seem to be), be proactive and firm with your doctor about finding an answer. 

Luckily for me, I have several mountain bike friends that are also doctors so I was able to consult with them.  At one point, I actually had to tell my primary doctor that I wanted an abdominal CT scan and NOT an endoscopy/colonoscopy.  Thank God he listened to me or to this day, I might not have had an answer.

Time to get off the computer and get to training while I still can ...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Come Hell or High Water

The latter came today and I had a 3 hour mountain bike ride planned.  Eager to do battle with Mother Nature, I laid out my riding gear last night with precision.  I was bound and determined to stay warm and dry.

One of my riding partners (who shall remain nameless) bailed on me this morning; something about being tired/worn out from not fueling properly during yesterday's ride and then having to attend two Christmas parties.  In all fairness, she did rearrange her schedule for me when I found out that I could not do this ride yesterday, when it was 45 degrees and sunny!

So, once again, poor Zeke came along to endure.  He is one tough cookie for it seems that alot of my training rides are done in less than ideal conditions ... MUCH LESS!

We decided to do an out-and-back on the last and most technical section of The Snake.  We could not damage this portion of the trail as it is just about all solid rock.  When we arrived at Dug Gap, it was raining and 37 degrees.  Conditions would not change at all today.

Now back in my younger (and much insaner) days as a veterinarian fresh out of vet school, oftentimes I would have my arm shoulder-deep up a cow's/horse's ass so that I could tell the farmer if she were pregnant.  No, I did not go in bare-handed; I used a rectal palpation sleeve.  This was a long plastic sleeve that went up to my shoulder.  Of course, that did not keep the manure off my boots, my cheek, or out of my hair, but it served its purpose well in that it kept my hand and arm clean.

Flash forward 15 years to a potentially cold, wet, and miserable mountain bike ride.  I brought a few of these; Zeke calls them "limb condoms."  Placing them strategically on our arms and legs in between layers of clothing, our ride suddenly became very enjoyable and productive.

Today's ride looked like a scene out of J.R.R Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings.  We were enshrouded in a blanket of fog along the ridges.  I half expected to see a white unicorn appear or hear, "My precious!"  But other than a deer and a hiker with a pink umbrella, we encountered no other souls.

It was a good day to focus on skills as speed in these conditions would only get us hurt.  Zeke had already sacrificed some flesh earlier this fall on this trail.

We each rode along at our own pace; hard enough to keep warm, but not so hard that we would sweat.  I rode back to Zeke a few times, allowing me to practice on some of the rockier sections a couple times. 

I managed to stay dry, but after 2 hours my feet got cold.  They were dry, but my shoes were not waterproof so eventually Mother Nature made her way inside and killed my toe warmers.  I need to work keeping my toesies warm.  I had two pairs of socks with the palpation sleeves in between.  These plastic sleeves then were placed under my tights and went all the way up to my knees.  The toe warmers were placed in between the outer sock layer and my shoes.  I wish I could have put the plastic layer on over my shoes, but with several hike-a-bike sections, they would not have survived.

With fresh hot coffee waiting for us in Zeke's van, we managed to make it back to the trailhead 3 1/2 hours and 20 miles later.  Mmm Mmm ... that coffee was soooo good ... and hot!

If today's ride does not make me stronger, I don't know what will.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two First's At One Time: Specialized SS 29'r

I first rode a 29'r earlier this year.  A friend had a Superfly so I gave it a try.  Other than a perfect fit, nothing much else impressed me.  At the end of the ride, my back was killing me and my thighs were tired from all the standing.

Fast forward to October, the end of my season.  After talking to my Coach and telling her how I felt quite weak with my top end power, she asked if I had ever thought about SS'ing.  Well, yeah, I said, but dismissed it because I thought it would cause my knees to blow out and kill my back.  Coach said it would help my top end and improve my fire road climbing.  So...

The next day I called Bruce and within a couple weeks placed an order!

Well, here she is ... 20.2 pounds and dying to be ridden.

I used an old XTR crank and Bruce did some customizing.

The headset cap is eccentric just like the bottom bracket.

A set of Specialized Captain's mounted to Stan's Race Wheels will make for a stable and speedy acceleration.

Specialized Toupe saddle is lightweight yet comfortable.  Rebecca Rusch got me hooked on this model and I have never looked back.

"What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" and "Pain is just weakness leaving the body"  are thoughts that I have put on replay the past week as I get ready for my and her virgin ride.  It will be interesting to see what name comes to mind as I ride her this Saturday.

Thanks to The Outdoor Store, Specialized, Magura, Ergon, and Endless Bike Co. for making this happen.  (I may be cursing you before its all over!)

Monday, November 23, 2009

You Just Might ...

be a crazy ultra-endurance mountain bike racer if:
  1. You use your number plates as wall paper.
  2. is your homepage.
  3. You give your bikes names.
  4. You have more water bottles than glasses in the cupboard.
  5. You start racing a 24 hour thinking "This is awesome!", followed by thinking at least 10 times during the race, "Why the hell am I doing this?", followed by finishing the race thinking "That was awesome!"
  6. You consider work regeneration time from training/racing.
  7. Half the shirts you own have at least a dozen logos on them.
  8. You have more laundry loads of cycling clothes than regular clothes.
  9. Your first thought when you wake up is your resting HR.
  10. Your bike costs more than your vehicle.
  11. You think that getting a mud facial is one of the perks of racing in the rain.
  12. When you park in a sketchy area of national forest to go for a ride, you don't worry about your vehicle getting stolen because your bike is not in it.
  13. Your first thought when crashing is not, Oh, this is gonna hurt!", but "I hope my bike will be o.k."
  14. You wait a couple days to take your car in when the "check engine" light comes on, but when your bike needs something, you take it in right away.
  15. You take longer washing your bike than yourself.
  16. You are offended if someone states you have a farmer's tan.  Farmers don't wear shorts!
  17. Your vehicle smells like a locker room.
  18. You have no idea what to do with yourself on your off day.
  19. You purchase broccoli not only for the nutrition, but for the multi-purpose "broccoli bands."
  20. Your nutritional supplements could be considered a 4th meal.
  21. Your rain gear consists of Glad trash bags, plastic shower caps, latex gloves, and Ingles grocery bags.
  22. Your best friend's pet name for you is "race whore."
  23. You bring your bike with you when car shopping.
  24. Your bike is in your living room.
  25. Your cycling apparel occupies more than 1/2 of your closet space.
  26. Most of this list doesn't seem like a joke to you.
Feel free to add to the list!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chamois Butt'r Eurostyle vs. The Competition

This past month I have had the chance to try out a couple competitors' chamois creams.  I have been in the JRA (just ridin' along) mode so most of my rides have been 4+ hours.  I figured this was the best time as ALL my races are at least this length.

I tested TBS (That Butt Stuff) and AsMaster. TBS contains no parabens and a host of natural oils.  AsMaster contains parabens and a host of natural oils.

Testing conditions were mainly wet and muddy, including gravel roads and single track.  Temperatures ranged from 45-70 degrees.  Overall saddle times were 5-7 hours.  I had enough  to conduct two rides per product.  I used the same Specialized shorts for each ride.

When initially applying both products, I noticed how thin they were.  Both required a two-fingered application vs. the usual one finger Chamois Butt'r application.

For the first 3 hours both products did there job.  Both felt the same.  But by hour 4, I was aware of my taint.  I felt a mild irritation, especially when I was moving around on the saddle.  By hour 5, I was squirming around on the saddle, trying to find the "sweet" spot, wishing I had brought more cream with me.

Upon post-ride examination, my skin was definitely more inflamed.  The good news was that there were no saddle sores with either product.

Conclusion:  Chamois Butt'r is THE TICKET , especially for ultra-endurance riding/racing.  (Having said that, TBS and AsMaster would work just fine for short rides and XC races.) 

I think the biggest difference is that Chamois Butt'r has lanolin which allows it to endure for 4+ hours.  When you scoop a fingerful out of the container, it has the same consistency as "I Cannot Believe It's Butter" butter spread.  I also like the menthol which seems to have a "cooling" effect and therefore increases my comfort level in the saddle.  (For those of you that do not like this "tingling,"  plain Chamois Butt'r works great and endures as long as its European counterpart.)

FYI, I used Chamois Butt'r for 9 months prior to being sponsored by them.  This year, it held up to the extreme weather conditions at TransRockies and Pisgah stage races.  No saddle sores and aside from some sit-bone soreness during the final days of each race, my taint was a happy taint!

I have plenty of samples, so if you see me out there, I would be happy to give some to you to try yourself.

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Trail, Daydreams, and Wild Boar

With Carly's ear infection being cleared up with antibiotics, Reese recovering from oral surgery, and Charlie busy working, I decided to take a little hiatus from reality and do some exploring. Zeke, as usual, is always up for riding new trail. Today was going to be all about leaf-watching, the non-couch potato way ... on two knobbies!

I picked out a horse trail on the National Geographic map and met Zeke up at the fish hatchery this morning at 9:30 am. Blustery winds, but temps in the upper 60's awaited us. Ahh, heaven! With Stumpy at the spa and Indy on vacation, that left Crash ('06 Epic) for 'splorin' duty today. I had just mounted some super heavy tires, was running my PowerTap, and had stuffed my saddle bag until I could just barely close it, so her normal weight of 24 lbs swelled up to 27 pounds.

We began with a climb up a fireroad that was so littered with yellow, red, and orange leaves that it narrowed the roadway down to just double-track width. The smell of fallen leaves were so rich that it had a mind-numbing effect on me. Just what I needed as my week had been full of drama.

After about 7 miles, we crossed a creek, and began following the Bald River along the horse trail. At first it was pleasantly level and smooth. It was here that we ran in to a couple of deer hunters; very friendly guys who did not see anything today. One of them took a 12 pointer here last year. Hmmm ... should I or shouldn't I tell Charlie?

Soon we saw sign of wild boar. They had really chewed up the trail, making it difficult to ride in places. After a couple more river crossings, the trail began to climb steeply. If I had been riding a horse here, I would definitely want a seasoned one, as the trail had lots of loose moss-covered baby head rocks and log crossings.

There were plenty of hike-a-bike sections and at one point I was looking for a Pisgah National Forest sign. Gee, even Tennessee has its own Farlow Gap! It was slow going for most of this 6 mile trail, but I enjoyed it. There was just nothing like watching Zeke's butt and his "holey" shorts mile after mile.

But really, I treasure the "me" time I get to have while exploring new trail. I am going slow enough that I don't have to think about where my next move is going to be, so that I can drift off in to my own little world of daydreams.

When Zeke said that his altimeter read 3300ft and there was plenty more mountain to climb, I began to think that maybe next time we should ride down this trail. And then I thought how much fun to bomb down this on an S-Works Enduro, that weighs just as much as my Epic now, but with 60mm more travel.

Popping out onto another fireroad, our exploration was soon to come to an end. This road led to one that I was familiar with, except that this time the forest service decided to lay down about 2-3" of large gravel ... the whole way down the mountain. Great! It felt like I was riding on a bed of marbles for 5 miles.

After 3 1/2 hours and 26 mostly fun miles, we were back at the truck.

Where will be my next adventure?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pisgah Stage Race: Transylvania Loop

Distance: 40 miles
Climbing: 9000 ft
Temperature: 35-55 degrees
Time: 4:10:28

I woke up feeling like a train wreck. The last time I experienced this feeling was Stage 6 of TransRockies. I am not sure why. I did everything right after yesterday's stage. I made the coffee stronger, hoping to break down the cobwebs in my head.

Today's start was cold, but dry. However, Todd announced that he had been up to Farlow Gap at 2:30 am and was greeted by snow and ice. Fearing riders' safety, he asked us to decide to take out this section or not. After 3 days of extreme weather conditions and a brutal course, not one racer wanted to tackle an icy Farlow. This would shorten the course by 8-9 miles. O.k. by me as I still felt like crap at the start.

After the 1/2 mile neutral start, I hopped on Cheryl's wheel and we began with a 6 mile gravel climb, followed by a short rolling section, and then a quick descent down to Hwy 276. The pace was hard; close to my breaking point. I stayed with her until the top. It was here that my legs died. The descent was soft and had lots of loose gravel, so I had to push hard even on it.

A short pavement section brought me to the next gravel climb. Ughh! It was here that I was passed by Sue first, then Brenda. Was I pedaling backwards? Sure felt like it. I struggled to maintain my speed. After some more rolling sections, I hit the Cove Creek Trail. Back in my element, I was able to kick it up a bit. Soon I passed Brenda and then hit the connector trail over to Daniel Ridge Trail.

After riding just the last little bit of Daniel Ridge, I was once again back on gravel. I was able to big ring it on the Davidson River Trail. Then back onto MORE gravel road where I retraced my steps to get back over to the other side of Hwy 276. Brenda passed me here like I was standing still. It seemed effortless for her, as she would stand and climb up the mountain like it was just a hill. She was strong today!

And so it went like this for me the remainder of this stage. I suffered on the roads and enjoyed the singletrack. Bennett Gap Trail was super fun! After the rock ledge drops of death (which I scooted/slid down, I enjoyed the fast and flowy descent back down to the riding stables. I caught Brenda here again.

The last gravel climb to Black Mountain seemed like an eternity, although it was only 30 minutes (should have been 20). Brenda passed me for the last time today and I did not see her until the finish. Once again, Ienjoyed the last 2 mile descent to the finish. Cheryl was able to maintain a strong pace today and put enough time on me to take 2nd.

I was frustrated not to be able to maintain my second placing. But that's racing. Cheryl was able to overcome a slow start and finish strong. But frustrations aside, I had a blast. I loved the course, except for the 30 miles of gravel roads on the third stage. Not only did the singletrack test your skills, but the weather tested your ability to adapt and overcome. Surprisingly, the attrition rate was low; I guess the racers knew what they were getting into when they signed up.

The course markings were superb, the volunteers were awesome. One thing I did miss was the post-stage camaraderie. Everyone was quick to high-tail it out of there and go their separate ways. At least the sun shined on the last day, so that people hung out at the finish and the awards ceremony.

Thanks to Specialized for an awesome ride aboard my Stumpjumper. Stumpy climbed like a goat and flew on the descents. The only limiter was ME.

Through all the rain, snow, and river crossings, Chamois Butt'r kept my taint comfy.

My green Ergon GR2 carbon grips kept the numbness and ulnar pain away, yet allowing full control on those nasty descents.

My Magura Marta SL's were superb. One set of pads for the whole race, no fading on those long, ugly descents, and superb control.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pisgah Stage Race: Land of the Waterfalls Loop

Distance: 44 miles
Climbing: 9500 ft
Temperature: 30-40 degrees
Time: 5:26:13

Upon waking this morning, I still had not figured out what I was going to wear. The forecast called for rain/snow mix. Finally, I settled on arm warmers, knee warmers, a GoreTex rain jacket, shower cap, and toe warmers. I knew the river crossings would kill the toe warmers, but at least they would start off warm.

The 6 mile pavement start to Turkeypen Gap Road was pretty mellow. I guess no one was anxious to get to the 7 river crossings. I stayed just off the front, enjoying the draft. However, I did get a lot of wheel spray. It had rained pretty hard the night before, so the roads were very wet. With the easy pace, this was the first time that I got to ride next to Jeremiah, Sam, and Christian.

Once we turned left and began to climb up the gravel road to the Vineyard Gap Trail, the race was on! I kept a comfortable pace, allowing my legs to warm up and come to me. Upon entering the singletrack, Sue and Cheryl were ahead, and Brenda was just behind me. The trails were in awesome shape. Wet, but amazingly, traction was good. Kudos to Specialized and Ned for the Captain's!

The descent down to the river was a bit tricky as there were lots of slick-log, diagonal waterbars. I managed to stay upright and enjoyed the ride down. At the first crossing, which was the deepest, there was a volunteer in waders out in the middle telling us exactly where to cross. Talk about dedication!

It was just above my crotch, but the footing was good. The next 6 crossings were just as long, but only knee to mid-thigh deep. I actually enjoyed these crossings and managed to catch a lot of racers here, including Cheryl. I could not contain a small chuckle as I watched her cross. Her short (but powerful) legs made it difficult for her to keep her wheels out of the water. She struggled to lift her bike high enough to clear the water.

After the crossings and some more flattish singletrack, Cheryl and I were together for the second gravel road climb up to Yellow Gap. It was much softer today and it took all I had to hang onto Cheryl's wheel. Let me tell you, Cheryl is not only a singletrack goddess, but a fireroad phenom!

At the top of the climb, Cheryl stopped momentarily at the aid station. I went on. Surprisingly, even though my shoes and knee warmers were soaked, I was warm. I entered the Laurel Mountain singletrack feeling pretty good. I was soon joined by Van and Cheryl and together we stayed together on this section. As we continued to climb, it suddenly got really COLD and then it started snowing. It was beautiful. About 1/2 to 1 inch lay on the freshly fallen leaves and the trail was the only part that wasn't white.

There were some pretty rugged hike-a-bike sections. This was when my hands got a bit cold as I had to carry the bike. My toes soon lost feeling, which was o.k. because at least there was no more painful tingling.

Cheryl led us down the Pilot Rock descent. We soon dropped Van. I let Cheryl open the lead a bit. It was very technical with lots of loose rock and I wanted to be able to see what was ahead and not fixate on her rear wheel. At one area there was a group of people watching the racers. I was amazed at the numbers there because it was a pretty good hike up to this point. We mountain bikers are a tough breed!

Popping out onto the next fireroad, my fingers were cold from the long descent. They quickly warmed back up as the road pointed up. I stopped at the next aid station, grabbed a water bottle, and a mouthful of fig newtons. Thank you, Bruce for some real food.

Cheryl was only seconds ahead of me at this point. She must have turned on her afterburners because she quickly got smaller and smaller. I settled in to a comfortably fast pace, but that fireroad just seemed to go on FOREVER. This led me to a short section on Hwy 276, followed by a 1 mile climb up to a connector trail to Avery Creek Trail.

Being fresh cut, steep, and wet, I had to focus on a smooth cadence to keep from spinning out. Once I hit the Avery Creek Trail, I had a blast on the rocky, rooty, ledgy descent. This was much easier to ride as compared to last month when there was a small river running down it. The flat section of this trail passed by quickly and soon I was back out onto more fireroad.

Climbing up the fireroad to the Black Mountain descent, I was pooped! I rode as hard as I could. I wanted to concede as little time as possible to Cheryl. At times, I was pushing it to a point where I was breathing like an asthmatic. But I kept telling myself to just get to the trail and I could rest ... a bit.

The last little hike-a-bike flew by. It seemed much easier than the day before. I flew down Black Mountain much faster this time. I got squirrely one time, but overall had a good run in to the finish.

Cheryl had gained back 4 1/2 minutes back on me. Now I was only 5 1/2 minutes ahead of her. I knew I was in trouble, but could only hope that she had burned a few matches today. Sue, once again, finished about 15 minutes in front of me.

This stage was spectacular and had a good mix of singletrack and fireroad. The course markings were perfect; not once, did I have a feeling of going the wrong way. Lots of course marshals out there in extreme conditions, ensuring our safety.

My support crew gave me the opportunity to recover as much as possible. Zeke took care of my bike and Barb gave me one of the best massages ever! I went to bed early, hoping that my legs would be ready for tomorrow's fight.

(Photo by Rich Dillen)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pisgah Stage Race: White Squirrel Loop

Distance: 41 miles
Climbing: 9000 ft
Temperature: 45-52 degrees
Time: 4:46:05

A neutral start up the pavement allowed me to warm up the legs a bit. After 1/2 mile we turned onto a 7 mile gravel road climb. Sue, Cheryl, Brenda, and I rode most of the climb together. Since my legs were feeling good, I decided to pick up the pace a bit. I was anxious to hit the singletrack.

As I passed the first aid station at the top of the climb, the volunteers were cheering for me and calling out my name. As I dipped down onto the singletrack, I heard them cheering again, telling Sue she was in second. Then they asked for her name. Whaddya mean!?! They knew me, but not THE SUE HAYWOOD? I thought that quite hilarious.

Buckhorn Gap Trail was a big ring gentle descent ... well, gentle for Pisgah. I was having a blast! As I turned onto Squirrel Gap Trail, I looked behind me, but saw no one. I continued to rail down the descent. As I was approaching the bottom, my front wheel hit a softball-size rock that launched and hit me square on the knee-cap. The pain was immediate and so intense I got nauseated. I slowed down to assess my knee. I did not feel any grinding and the pain did not change throughout my pedal stroke so I assumed nothing was broken. After soft-pedaling for a few minutes the pain subsided to a dull ache. Close call!

This allowed Sue to catch back up to me and together we climbed up the steep rooty, rocky, ledgy portion of Squirrel Gap. Not wanting to bobble in front of Sue, I remained completely focused on the trail. I dabbed a couple of times, but luckily I was far enough in front of Sue to not knock her off her line. It was very inspiring to have Sue commenting to me about my riding ability.

On the second steep climb, my rear tire spun out on a waterbar. I gave the lead to Sue at this point. It was great to watch her lines. I feel that I cleaned more sections than I would have had I been in the lead. I managed to hang with her until the Laurel Creek descent. Smokin' Sue dropped me at this point.

I saw Sue again for a brief moment as I started up the second gravel road climb. This road was pretty soft and I had to constantly keep on the gas. As I approached the second aid station at Yellow Gap, Trish told me that I was just 2 minutes behind Sue. I grabbed a bottle, a new gel flask, and headed out onto the next 6 mile section of gravel road.

I tried to stay with a group of 3 guys, but just did not have the power. This was by far the hardest portion of this stage. Rolling fireroads and headwinds just do not suit me.

Climbing back up the Buckhorn Gap Trail, I was once again in my element. After passing the third aid station, I began the climb up Black Mountain. I stayed on the bike for about all of two minutes. Then the hike-a-bike of death began. I think it was about 30 minutes of pushing, carrying, and scrambling up waterbar switchbacks and multiple rock ledges.

Halfway up this climb, a guy sitting alongside the trail taking pictures said that it was all rideable from here. Well, I think I rode about 100 yards before getting back off the bike. Should have known better; anytime anyone paints a pretty picture for you during a stage race, it turns into a death march!

Finally I was back into familiar territory and, aboard Stumpy, I thoroughly enjoyed the next descent. I figured out here that the faster you go, the smoother it gets! Another shorter hike-a-bike section led to the last 2 mile, 1500m, drop down to the finish. Thanks, Todd, for allowing each stage to finish with such a fun descent!

I passed under the Kenda banner feeling like I had left some in the tank for the next two days.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pisgah Stage Race: The Prologue

I arrived in Brevard Wednesday afternoon to pouring rain and temps in the 50's. After checking in to Adventure Village's cute little "camping cabin," Zeke and I headed over to the college to check out the prologue course.

I had envisioned a 6 mile loop traversing through the campus. Upon arriving and seeing no course markings, I wondered what Todd, the race director, had up his sleeve. The campus was pretty flat, save for one small hill off in the distance.

After putting on my bike shoes, which were to be my hiking shoes for the day, I wandered over to said hill. Ah! Fresh cut trail zig-zagged up the hill. We walked up this trail, shoes squishing in the mud, careful not to wipe out on the slick, polished roots. I was having a hard enough time maintaining my balance walking; I could only imagine what it was going to be like racing over this same terrain.

Seeing no other trails and having no clue what the prologue would be, we headed back to our cabin to eat and sleep.

Awaking Thursday morning to the sound of rain, I struggled to put a smile on my face. Glued to the weather channel, I prayed for a break in the weather. After a semi-lazy day drinking, fueling, checking out the bike, Zeke and I headed over to the venue.

Miraculously, the clouds broke apart and rays of beautiful sunshine washed down upon the campus. Upon receiving my race plate, number 13, I found out that today's stage would be a short, short-track event. 4 laps, 1 mile each, with us climbing up the trail I had discovered yesterday.

Initially, I was bummed about my 6:15pm race start, but with all the other categories going before me, it would give the trail a chance to dry out. The first couple waves had it the worst with a lot of them running up the slick singletrack.

By the time I got around to pre-riding, it was all rideable save for one right-hand, off-camber, rooty switchback. We got to start with the elite men. My two goals were to: 1. not get lapped by the men, and 2. conserve my energy for the real stages.

When the gun went off, it felt like an XC race. Ouch! Even though I had warmed up for 45 minutes, the first 1/2 mile still hurt. Sue and Cheryl passed me on the gradual gravel climb up the backside of the hill. I was content to stay in third.

Cheryl led the first lap. Sue then passed on an open stretch and never looked back, slowly gaining a 50 second advantage over Cheryl and I. I just stayed on Cheryl's wheel and maintained her pace. Janel was with us for 2 laps and then slowly fell off our pace. And Brenda was somewhere behind her.

I crossed the finish line in :28:26, 1 second behind Cheryl. Pleased with how my legs felt, I then started the post-race race. You know, recovery drink, bike maintenance, body maintenance, refueling, resting, etc. This can be as hard as racing, but with Zeke supporting me, it afforded me a bit more time to recover for the successive stages.

Excited about tomorrow's stage, I drifted off to sleep, pre-riding the Squirrel Gap Trail in my mind's eye...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

TransRockies Race Face

While staying in a cabin in Nipika during TransRockies, we met some TR3 racers from Tucson and Durango. They recently sent us the above photo of Day 1's start. Now this photo was taken while our morale was high, temps were warm, and skies blue. Little did we know that Zeke's expression would be a hint of what was to come. Not sure what Zeke was thinking when this photo was taken.

On a funny note, the team in red/white/blue next to us were from Portugal. While we were staying at the Nipika cabin for two nights, these guys were in tent city. However, they invited theirselves in to our cabin that we paid for and were sharing with about 6 other racers. Initially, we were o.k. with that, as they were just wanting to use our wi-fi.

But while Zeke and I were out racing the Nipika TT, our cabin-mates told us that they went from using the wi-fi to using our kitchen to prepare their food and drinks. The final straw was when one of them used our bathroom to unload a stink-bomb! After that, they were kicked out! Hence, their new team name became "El Dumpo."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Parent First, Racer ... ummm, Last

These past few days it has been difficult for me to get motivated on the bike. I started the week off with a cold, the second one in 6 weeks. I attribute this to being exposed to more sickly people and end of season fatigue.

Then, on Wednesday, I awoke to a senseless tragedy. I found Angel in my backyard, mauled to death by a dog. Unfortunately, Carly bore witness as well.

I had adopted Angel in 1999 from a gentleman who had rescued her from negligent owners. When I first laid eyes on her, she had large open sores on her footpads and her ears were crinkled and bloodied from skin cancer. I surgically repaired her footpads and performed a medical ear trim, hence the "ferret look."

Carly first came to know her when Angel slept with her as an infant in her bassinet. I think Angel was instrumental in developing Carly's love of animals and helping her not to develop allergies. Carly was able to "waller" Angel (i.e. to hug, squeeze, tug, pull, and other forms of kitty torture) without Angel never raising a claw or tooth to her.

Just last year I took Angel to Carly's 1st grade class and talked about being a veterinarian. Angel patiently allowed all 30+ kids to waller her, too.

Zeke was the only person outside my family who Angel took up with. Each and every time that he was at our house, Angel would rouse from her place of sleep to greet him. And if he sat down longer than 30 seconds, she would be on his lap.

Perhaps it would be easier to accept her death if her kidneys had failed or she had cancer. I had prepared myself two times in her life for this. One time, when she had acute kidney failure. The second time when she developed autoimmune hemolytic anemia. By the grace of God, I pulled her through both times.

But I was just not prepared for what I saw on Wednesday. And this is Carly's first pet loss. This is what I am having the most difficult time with. My daughter has lost that sparkle in her eye, that cheery smile, that innocence. Welcome to the real world, kiddo!

Given time, the smiles and laughter will return. The happy memories will overwrite the shocking view outside our breakfast nook window. BTW, how long does the anger stage of grief last? Any longer and I am going to kill someone or something!

It's 5am. Do you know where your DOG is?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pisgah Recon

On Wednesday, Zeke, Ursula, and I headed to Brevard to check out the course for the Pisgah Stage Race. What better way to dial in our skills than in the rain ... at least it was warm.

The first day we got in 5 hours of riding. Squirrel Gap Trail was especially technical with miles and miles of off-camber bench cut singletrack. The roots were slick and it reminded me of the rooty section on Old Copper Road. The Specialized Captains hooked up well. I kept it light on the braking and was amazed at how little I slipped.

I must have touched Danielle's knee while at Shenandoah, because around mile 30 my IT band flared up. I have not had this issue since 2007. For the remainder of the ride I had to take it easy ... yeah, right! In Pisgah, that is impossible.

The second day we got in 5 1/2 hours of riding. Today, the rain held off, but the trails were still slick. Turkey Pen Gap Trail was exhilarating on the downhills and much of the climbs were hike-a-bikes. The descent off Vineyard Gap Trail required total concentration, but was sweet! Riverside and Bradley Creek Trails were flat but filled with rocks, roots, and river crossings.

Foolish me thought we would be able to ride the course in its entirety. These routes are massively epic. With Zeke's knee and my IT band giving me problems, we had to back off the intensity. So the first two days, we covered about 2/3 of Stages 2 and 3.

The third and final day, we rode the beginning of Stage 4 and the tail end of Stages 2 and 3. A little over 4 hours of riding. The fire roads held up very well with all the rain. Although a bit soft, they were not muddy.

Avery Creek Trail had a small river running down it and the rocks were loose. I figured the flowing water was the best line ... and it was. The signage for this trail actually said EASY. There is nothing EASY about Pisgah! Multiple creek crossings, slick bridges, and thousands of roots made it tough, but fun nonetheless.

Bennett Creek Trail followed a ridge for awhile with sick rock drops, short, steep hike-a-bikes, and one heck of a blazing fast descent!

We finished the third day with the descent off Black Mtn Trail. By far, one of the funnest trails. Kudos to Todd for letting us finish each stage with this awesome descent. I think I was giggling the whole way ... although I passed on the 10 foot gap jump over the creek.

The Pisgah Stage Race is going to be one tough son of a gun. The mileage may not look impressive, but the singletrack is grueling. It requires total focus 100% of the time or you will be headed to the hospital. There are no buff trails here.

Todd was wise to shorten the stages. I did not find this out until I had gotten back home from the recon. While doing this pre-ride, I was thinking that there will be a lot of people in over their head with this one. But the new course routing will make it much more doable.

Ursula is going to pass on this race; she did have a blast and came out of it with some new skills. But she does not feel she is ready for this beast.

I think Zeke was wondering the whole time why he volunteered for this recon. With the rain, the roots, the treacherous descents, and his nagging knee, he did not have too much fun.

Me, I was in heaven. So what if it was raining. So what if my IT band was hurtin.? So what if I did not clean everything. Pisgah made me feel alive!

My Specialized Stumpjumper is the steed of choice. It handles the descents with finesse and climbs like a goat. With its slightly longer wheelbase and slacker angles (as compared to the Era), I was much more comfortable riding the descents. And since it only weighs 23.5 pounds, that makes the hike-a-bikes a bit easier.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Oooh, Oooh, Oooh, Pick Me, Pick Me!

So I thought I would give it a shot ... that is, being part of the 2010 Stumpjumper Trail Crew.

During my childhood, when at recess or playing with the kids on the block, I was never picked first nor last, but always somewhere in the top 25%. I could hit the ball, kick the ball, catch the ball, and throw the ball pretty good.

These days, I have traded in the ball for Specialized bikes. I have been racing/riding them since 1999. I am pretty good at riding with others, taking pics and telling stories. I am really good at shredding trail, finding epic rides, and managing family time with riding time.

What I am not so good at is the computer. And it probably has something to do with the fact that after riding my legs off during the day, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a machine and type. And, I want to spend time with my husband and 7 year old daughter.

But hey, I am always willing to learn and try new things, i.e. Twitter. And what better incentive than the possibility of getting a free, kick a$$ S-Works Stumpjumper FSR!

My best friend and training partner calls me the "race 'ho" as I am always thinking about where to race next. I have a competitive spirit, but I also desire to ride new single track ... and at speed! But who knows what 2010 will bring. New races? New places to ride? Less racing and more exploring? New friends? Rekindling old friendships?

For the most part, I don't know what the future holds. But the ONE thing I do know is that I will be on a Specialized!

Feel free to enter the contest.

Friday, September 11, 2009

It is Not Always About Me

On Labor Day weekend, friends of ours lost their son in a tragic boating accident. What made it even more heartwrenching was that it took the rescue squad 3 1/2 days to find the body. Tomorrow at noon, services will be held for Santiago.

Carly and I had planned to go on an organized road ride with my Dad and aunt. However, upon hearing news of Santee's memorial services, I knew we would not be able. I was worried how Carly would take it, as she loves these types of rides. Selflessly, my 7 year old replied, "Mommy, we need to be there for the family. We can do a trail-a-bike ride any time."

Now, we are not real close with the Snellgrose's. We might even be more of acquaintances. We met them through the Outdoor Store and have hung out with them through Outdoor Store and Ducks Unlimited activities. But this wonderful family needs our support, no matter how small of a part we may have played in their lives. What they are going through is unfathomable.

In tribute, members of the Outdoor Store's first mountain bike team are going to wear our retro jerseys (like the one pictured above) and pedal our way together from the store to where Santiago's service will be held. I have not worn this jersey since 1999, but have it stored away. I never thought I would wear it again, but kept it as a momento. Now IS the time to wear it in honor of Santiago.

We love you Santiago.

May your spirit live on in those you touched!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Shenandoah Mountain 100 Race Report

I awoke Sunday morning around 4:30am to a warm temperature of 55 degrees. I enjoyed some coffee that Zeke had brewed and then downed 2 Pop-Tarts and 2 eggs. Having gotten my stuff together the night before, I threw it in the van and we drove over to the Stokesville campground.

The start was a bit hectic with riders jockeying for position. I had initially lined up just a couple rows back, but by the time all the racers had made their way to the start, I ended up being about 15 rows back, alongside Sue, Danielle, and Karen.

The race out of the campground onto the pavement was "inchworm style" with tires rubbing and handlebars knocking. I watched Sue weave effortlessly in and out of riders to the front. I immediately latched on and "The Master" guided me close to the front. Once we hit the first climb, I sadly watched Sue drop my butt like a bad habit. I had no expectations of being able to match her speed, so all was well. I just needed to ride my own race.

The climb went by oh so fast. My legs were o.k., but my breathing was ragged. It reminded me of when I started racing in the Sport class in less than optimal shape. Was this breathing remnants of my cold last week, some left-over post TR fatigue, or was I going too hard and about to blow?

Not liking this feeling at all, I backed off a bit. Once I hit the first single track, I picked it back up a bit and enjoyed flitting through the rocks. Several guys ahead dabbed a bit, but I was able to get around them. This was the first time in 3 tries at this race that I did not have to push the bike on this section. The descent was fast and furious, but I was disappointed when 2 miles of trail had been turned in to a logging road.

Popping out onto Tillman road, I was lucky to ride in a group to the Lynn Trail. Danielle had caught back up to me at this point and took a strong pull. The climb up was more doable this year as opposed to the last time I raced here. I attributed this to better fitness and being farther up towards the front. I did end up hiking a short bit when a few guys ahead of me just couldn't pedal the steeper sections.

The descent on Wolf Ridge Trail was exhilarating! Previously, I always the descents as my skillz weren't too good. But this year, I enjoyed them better than the climbs. I followed a guy down the mountain as his lines were perfect! We were hauling ass until we suddenly came upon a caravan of slow riders. Tartar sauce!! I was needing the speed on the descents to break away from Danielle as she excels on the gravel roads and the climbs ... with those super long legs!

Back onto Tillman, I joined another paceline. Betsy was in this one. We motored along at lightspeed. Once again, my breathing became a bit labored. Once we turned right and began climbing, I had to slow down as I started to get light-headed. Betsy slowly began to put a gap on me.

At CP2, I grabbed a water bottle on the fly. The road continued to climb and slowly my legs began to wither. I felt like I was reliving Day 6 at TR when I had no gas. I had no choice but to just settle in to a comfortable pace. The gravel road climb up Hankey Mountain was no fun at all for me, with the legs not turning over and feeling like I was breathing through a straw.

Amazingly, I was still passing people and they were telling me that Betsy was just around the corner. But I just did not have the energy to kick it up a notch to try to catch her. I kept thinking that eventually my legs would come back. I made every effort to drink and eat a bit more than I usually do.

The Dowell's Draft descent is wicked fast with a middle section that can take you out in a heartbeat if you are not 100% focused. It has a couple little kicker climbs followed by a bench cut off-camber narrow rollercoaster finish down to CP3. In years past, I would usually get passed on this one as I was a bit hesitant. But today, I at least was finding my mojo on the descents and holding my own.

At CP3 I refilled my Camelbak and a volunteer filled my gel flask. Kudos to these guys and gals as I felt that I had my own personal assistant. Hoping that my legs were coming back to me, I headed out onto the 5 mile road section. As soon as the wind hit me in the face, I knew my legs were still dead. This section was miserable and I had no one to hook up with. 'Nuff said.

Finally, I made the right turn, cleaned the dry, bouldery creek bed, hiked up the stone steps, and grannied my way up the singletrack climb. I passed a number of guys and almost cleaned all of the rockslide sections, save for the next to the last one, where I bobbled and then was off the bike for a short push.

The descent to CP4 was uneventful as I was alone in my own little world. I had no intention of stopping at this check, but one volunteer almost grabbed my bike as I pedaled through. Man, they are serious about helping us! I told him "No thanks," and pedaled on. Knowing that the beast of a climb, my nemesis, was shortly ahead of me, I took a caffeinated gel.

Thankfully, a guy hooked up with me and working together we were able to latch on to a group of about 5 guys. The next 18 miles was up, initially a bunch of false flats and a few rollers, but towards the end it really pitched up. Riding in the group, my legs became happy again. Whoo Hoo! About damn time! The group stayed together for the first 12 miles, but when we turned right onto the steeper forest service road, the group fell apart ... me first.

I took another caffeinated gel and settled in for the next 6 miles to CP 5. Sure enough, I slowly reeled in the guys as they tired. I eventually caught them all by the time I made it to the CP. I was feeling strong again; I made a quick stop, refilling my Camelbak and gel flask with the volunteer's help.

I attacked the next 12 miles like it was an XC race. After climbing a bit more, I turned right onto a fun double track descent with multiple water bars. Careful not to catch too much air, I flew down this section and prepared myself to endure the climbing through the meadows up to Little Bald Knob. Still feeling good, I crested the final little climb and dropped on into the Chestnut Ridge Trail.

The first part of this descent is steep with big rocks that would love to grab your derailleur or your front tire. I played it conservative here, but once it smoothed out into a curvy, fast, flowy trail, I pulled out all the stops. I think I actually smiled the whole way down this one!

Having enough fluid and food for the last 12 miles, I rolled on through CP6. Once again, that climb up to the last bit of single track was my Achilles' heel. I managed to make it to the top without too many expletives.

Knowing that there were only a few miles left, I was able to dig deep and hammer on through this section of fun single track descents, short little uphill grinds, the grassy double track with a couple little kickers, followed by the oh so sweet single track descent into the finish.

I was hoping for a sub 9 hour finish, but missed my goal by 2 minutes. Although the day was brutally hard, I was pleased with my finish, given that I had felt so bad miles 31-55. I rang the gong and collected my glass. One of the cooks was there with a plate of fries. They were freakin' awesome!

Thanks to Chris Scott and his army of volunteers for putting on such an awesome hundy ... my favorite!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

TransRockies Race Report: Day 5

Thursday, August 13
Whiteswan to Elkford
Distance: 90km
Climbinb: 2254m
Time: 6:11
Temperature: 40-48 degrees

For those of you who ride in the Southeast, this stage is like the Firewater 50 ... on STEROIDS! Once again, the skies were dark and moisture was in the air. Sleep for me did not go so well last night, as the dynamic duo was busy sawing logs. I think the decibels increased during the week as the camping conditions slowly deteriorated. This was not the vacation Mom and Bike Dougster had anticipated. So about midnight, I drug my bedroll out of the tent and slept under the stars ... thank goodness it did not rain during the night.

Zeke did not start today. So I joined the Tinhorn Creek team. They were gracious enough to allow me to pound out the muddy miles with them today. The start was OMG fast as it was 15km of flat to the first check. I was able to hold on with the lead group to the check, constantly dodging pig wallow-size mudholes.

After the check began a 12km climb. This was the one where Lisa and I got separated from each other last year and about had a panic attack. I was feeling good and was at the top before I knew it. From here it was a cold, washed-out gravel road 12km descent. I ended up dropping Mark and Keith and passing the Vanderkitten/Velo Bella team. Luckily, I managed to hop onto the wheels of a South American team who pulled me to the second checkpoint. This 6km section of road was so soft it was like riding on a marshmallow.

After eating some cookies and drinking a coke (comfort food at this stage of the game was a lot better than properly fueling with bananas and HammerGel), I continued on alone. Once I hit the trapper's trail, I got into a happy groove! Just as I was crossing the bridge, I heard a grinding of gears, followed by a series of cuss words from the guy just ahead of me. As I approached him, I saw that his rear derailleur had been ripped off by a stick. I felt bad for him, but good for me ... that the stick lodged in his bike and not mine.

I rode carefully on the rest of this trail as it was littered with sticks. It began raining pretty heavily (hour 3). I stopped and put a shower cap on my helmet and drudged on through the slop of an active logging road.

Cold and miserable, I stopped at checkpoint 3. Hot coffee! Hot damn! I did not care that it was black (I love creamer), I had two small cups, along with a couple more cookies. From there at kilometer 68 began the Firewater section. After 150m on the bike, I was off, hiking up a 200m steep ass rocky section. I put "Crash" on my back and slowly, step by step, began climbing. As the rain was pouring down, I heard a sloshing noise. Within 15 seconds, I knew where it was coming from ... my seat tube. As soon as I was able to find a flat area, I put my bike down and turned her upside down. To my amazement, a river of water poured out! I wondered how many pounds that must have weighed and how long had I been dragging that around!

Next up was the infamous rock garden, a 1.5-2km section of nothing but large baby-head boulders, just waiting to slash your tires or your skin. At this point, I was just so wanting to be done that I did not think about the consequences of crashing; I was relishing a hot shower. My tires, Specialized Captains, were hooking up well in the wet, so I went for it. Thankfully, and perhaps skillfully, I rode almost all of it, save for just one 200m section. It was here that I almost endo'd so I hopped off and ran it.

Last year, the remaining 12km after the Rock Garden was all downhill to a gravel road into Elkford. Thinking it was the same course, I knew I was almost home. But then suddenly, a right-hand turn appeared. WTF! This quad trail was going UP! Tired, cold, and muddy, I dropped down into granny and with my head down, began to slowly pedal in agony.

This "new" section was 3km of rolling doubletrack had me pedaling through 1-4" of mud THE ENTIRE WAY. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I passed under the finish banner in Elkford. The residents here were so nice; they had hot chocolate, hot coffee, and blankets for each finisher. Zeke was there, blanket in hand. And yes, it was still raining. That final effort through the slop had warmed my core a bit, so I said no to the blanket, but yes to the hot chocolate.

Then I was off to the showers, while Zeke took my bike. Warm water never felt so good!

Even with riding most of the day by myself, I was able to place 4th in my category. But with Zeke not starting, this put us in to the unclassified category. We were no longer able to compete for O/A or stage wins. Yeah, this hurt my pride a bit. Even though, we were not "official" anymore, I was still competing. And if nothing more, these were excellent training rides, testing not only my physical abilities, but my mental tenacity as well.

Seeing my parents, huddled in their rain jackets, trying to stay warm and dry in these terrible conditions, made me feel so bad. They were troopers, still placing my comfort and well-being above their own. Even though I am 40 years old, to them, I was still their little girl!

Once again, the cooks had prepared a most delicious meal. I think they had it harder than I, as their daily regime begain at 3am and did not end until 9pm. Dinner was steak, potatoes, and spinach salad. I could not believe how much I put down the hatch!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TransRockies Race Report: Day 4

Wednesday, August 12
Nipika to Whiteswan
Distance: 111km
Climbing: 1980m
Official Time: 12:00
My time: 6:01
Temperature: 48 degrees

This morning I awoke with cobwebs in my head and some noticeable fatigue in my legs. Nothing that 2 cups of Kickin' Horse Kick Ass coffee could not fix! I wish I could buy this coffee here as it is stout but smooth.

At 8am, the cloud cover was low and thick and rain was imminent. Zeke and I were in the second starting block, so we had to make our way through some of the slower folk to catch back up to the leaders in our group.

This year a climb at the beginning was omitted. Instead, we hit some lumpy, bumpy singletrack and doubletrack to the daily dose of logging roads. These meadows we went through had dips in them just the right size to swallow my 26-inch wheels. A couple times I came to a dead halt when both wheels fell into these holes at exactly the same time. Frustrating, but I could not help but laugh out loud.

Zeke and I were motoring along pretty good and had caught up to the leaders. We were riding in a pack with the top 3 teams in our division. Hammering down a fireroad at about 30kph, we saw an arrow to turn left. So we did. After about 1km, we stopped seeing tire tracks. Due to the muddy roads we were riding, this was pretty obvious. Uh oh! We turned back and when we came to that particular intersection, we discovered TWO lefts; one was a hard (almost double-back) left and the one we took was a more gradual left. The ONLY time I was thankful that we were riding muddy roads.

So then we slowly had to play catch up to the teams that passed us. And we eventually made it back up front. At the first checkpoint, all the top 5 teams were here. It was quite comical to watch our competitors frantically race around refilling bottles and grabbing food. Team Cox made it out first, with Zeke and I close on their wheels.

From here, it was a bit of more logging roads followed by doubletrack to the first bit of today's singletrack at 37km. Going into this trail required some skill as it was tight, off-camber, and loose ... but amazingly dry. Zeke took a fall on one descent; from there he slowed significantly. A couple hike-a-bikes did his knee in, for the day.

I rode most of this singletrack, about 4km in length, alone. When I popped out onto some tight doubletrack, I waited on Zeke. While waiting, I watched as all our competition passed me. I really did not like that feeling. I asked about Zeke; they said he was hurting, but pressing on. After about 15 minutes, Zeke appeared. I could tell he was upset. After some discussion, we decided that I would race on alone and Zeke would continue on to checkpoint 2 and call it a day.

With legs feeling pretty good and zippity after 2 1/2 hours of warming up, I decided I would try to catch those who passed me. I enjoyed the doubletrack descent to another 3km section of singletrack. When I pulled into checkpoint 2, I told them about Zeke. She asked who I was going to ride with and my reply was, "Whoever can keep up." She said that I needed to stick with a team. So I initially hooked up with Wes and Roger.

We slowly started the 10km climb up to LodgePole Pass. And then the morning clouds gave way to pounding rain and much colder temperatures. Brrr! But this forced me to up my pace to stoke the engine and keep me warm. When the climb pitched up to 15%, my legs died. I managed to suffer through, only to have to slog my way through 1km of muddy, slick, steep hike-a-bike. Even the moto guy had a hard time with his bike. As he passed, he asked me how I liked his rendition of a roto-tiller.

I caught up to the Tinhorn Creek guys at the pass. Thank God, for I knew that the next 53km descent along muddy dirt roads was going to be a testament of will power and perseverance. Two more guys joined us. It was still raining ... and bitter cold. But to lose contact with the wheel in front of you meant for a long ass, miserable solo ride into Whiteswan. So I hung on for dear life ... on this long ass, slightly less miserable group ride to the finish. And yes, I did my fair share of pulling as well.

I rolled across the finish line just a few minutes after the leaders in my class did. However, since I rode in alone, we were assessed the maximum time penalty of 12 hours. Oh, well, I still had an excellent ride.

Now came the time to worry about Zeke. Did he truly stop at the second check or was too bull-headed to stop? How was his knee? Would he be able to ride any more stages? Man, this sucks. Here we were, both physically and mentally prepared to do battle for 7 days, and 1km on the first day took us out of the picture. How quickly something so good can go so bad.

Cold and muddy, I hurriedly grabbed my shower bag and headed for the truck. Crazy Larry was there, spraying us down with warm water, getting most of the mud off of us before we entered the shower truck.

At dinnertime, Zeke still had not arrived. After dining on feta and spinach stuffed chicken breasts, rice, and vegies, I grabbed a plate for Zeke. Upon finding the race director, I asked for Zeke's whereabouts. I was told that he was about 20 minutes out. Apparently, he was on the last SAG wagon and they had to take a racer who had broken his wrist to the hospital. Poor Zeke! He spent an unbelievable amount of time out there waiting/standing around ... on a bad knee.

Zeke finally arrived at 7:30pm. He was pooped and frustrated for "letting me down." I told him over and over that it was not his fault. This was racing and sometimes the outcomes were not good. And I was frustrated for the bad luck that Zeke had experienced. I could lay down and cry ... or I could stand up and fight. I may not be racing for an official first place, but I was still racing!

Monday, August 24, 2009

TransRockies Race Report: Day 3

Tuesday August 11
Stage 3: Nipika Time Trial
Distance: 43km
Climbing: 1129m
Time: 4:05
Temperature: 50 degrees

I got a good night's sleep (no snoring companions) as Zeke and I arranged to bunk in one of the cabins on the property. With an 11:14am start, we got to approach the day without any haste. However, we woke up to a light rain which began to intensify as the day grew.

This is one of my favorite stages, mostly singletrack, on Nipika's property. Last year was dry and fast; this year, not so lucky. I was anxious to get started and we both were wanting to know how the knee would hold up.

Although the quads were sore off the bike, I felt fresh. With teams heading out every minute, I was ready to go after "the rabbit." The Bike Doctors, currently in 4th, left 8 minutes before us. "That's doable," I thought to myself.

I led into the singletrack and for the first 10 minutes, I could not find a rhythm, especially on the slick, wet roots. The course was a figure 8 configuration and this year the first loop was run the opposite way as compared to last year.

Soon enough, I had found the flow and was enjoying it. And Zeke was right on my wheel! Could a miracle have happened last night?

The trail was really muddy, mainly along the gorge. Not so good since the trail was only a couple feet from the edge at times. A couple times I unclipped one foot and on one scary section, I got off and walked ... one slip of the wheel would have landed me 150 feet below into the Kootenay River.

Last year the descent along the National Park boundary was fast and fun! This year it was a muddy slog up, with alot of hike-a-biking (or slip-slide-a-biking). The rain was off and on during the race. The glasses were off pretty quick as the mud built up on them. Then came the task of fast-blinking ... kind of like turning your windshield wipers on high during a blinding rain shower.

Even considering how muddy it was, the first half of the course flew by. Once we entered the second half, I could tell that Zeke's knee really became painful as he slowed quite a bit. A couple times I had to wait on him.

We passed through the "Happy Trails" section. This is a fast, fun-flowing, and slightly technical section along the gorge. The entrance was decorated with "Crazy Larry's" balloons. And he was there, in raingear, cheering us all on.

We managed to finish in 4th place on the day, just 5 minutes behind Team Cox. Not bad at all. We did not catch the Bike Doctors. I was happily surprised at how well Zeke had done on this technical stage. He is always strong on the fireroads, and today he rode the singletrack like it was a fireroad. He was grimacing at the end, but with his performance today, he kept us in the running.

Afterwards, we handed off our bikes to Bike Dougster and made a beeline for the showers. Still feeling great, I was looking forward to Stage 5. And praying that the sun would shine for tomorrow's stage was going to be a long one.

Tonight's menu was sliced pork loin, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread, pasta salad, green salad, and broccoli/cauliflower. Yummy!

Friday, August 21, 2009

TransRockies Race Report: Day 2

Monday August 10, 2009
Stage 2: K2 Ranch to Nipika
Distance: 75km
Climbing: 2835m
Official Time: 7:40:27
My Ride Time: 6:40
Temperature: 50-75 degrees

Today's start was at 8am, so it was an early wake-up at 5:30am for me. Zeke had slept in the van and I with my parents in the tent. With my IPod earbuds in, I had tried to drone out the crescendo of snoring. I am just not sure how good a sleep I had gotten listening to Black-Eyed Peas, Pink, and the Flobots; I had forgotten to download my Enya and Loreena McKennitt CD's.

I awoke with a positive attitude but with sore quads. Zeke also seemed determined to have a good day. After washing down eggs and pancakes with Kicking Horse coffee, we prepared to do battle. I hopped on Indy and pedaled around the campsite making sure all was working well. Crap! The front end did not feel right. After checking out my fork a bit more closely, I realized that there was a tremendous amount of stiction and it really wasn't wanting to compress through the first half of its travel.

So I hurriedly dragged Crash ('06 Specialized Epic) out of the van, slapped the number plate on and checked the pressures and suspension. Oh, well, surely 3 more pounds of bike wouldn't make that much of a difference, would it?

"Highway to Hell" came over the loudspeakers and we were off! The first 15km was fast. After descending off K2 property, we were on pavement for 10km. Zeke and I marked the leaders and stayed right on their wheel. Once we hit the gravel climb up the Fairmont Ski Resort, we settled in to a good tempo. The 3rd place team was right there also. After 5km we hopped on to the XC ski trail system; very tight doubletrack with a lot of ups and downs.
I was enjoying the pace and soon we had put some time on the leaders. Zeke and I had hooked up with the Tinhorn Creek Crush Club team of Keith and Mark. They were great guys and very respectable racers. I chit-chatted with them on this section.
On the final descent down the ski trail, Team Cox had closed the gap. We rode together on the next section of rolling doubletrack. Now it was Zeke's turn to talk to Hans and Giesla. He discovered that they were 63 and 61, respectively, and that back in the day, Hans was a world cup XC ski racer. Uh oh!

Once we began the steep rideable climb up to Checkpoint 1 (40km), Zeke began to slow, allowing Team Cox to pull ahead. At about 37 km, I grabbed Zeke's bottle and raced ahead to the checkpoint. I was feeling really good at this point, and whenever I asked my legs for a bit more power, they responded delightfully.

Checkpoint 1 was about 10m off the road up a steep rise. I hopped off the bike, ran up the hill, refilled our bottles, grabbed bananas, peeled them, ate 2, and ran back down the hill, and deposited our fuel at my bike. Then I ran back up the hill and grabbed more food, including cookies and bananas. The film crew was capturing this all on video. Zeke arrived soon after; I put his bottle on his bike and began stuffing cookies into his mouth. All the while, the camera is right on Zeke's face.

I tried to motivate Zeke to go, go, go because I had bridged the gap back up to Team Cox. However, at this point I think his knee was hurting him and so he took a breather. Meanwhile, Team Cox was pulling away. Doh!

Finally we were on our way, but Zeke's pace had slowed tremendously. I tried to encourage him, but he was not in the mood. So I settled on his wheel and let him set the pace. We made our way up to the steep, steep quad trail that eventually became a hike-a-bike up the debris torrent.

The Swiss team caught up to us here and seemed to put a little fire into Zeke's legs as he was not about to let them pass us. The hike-a-bike lasted about 300m and the trail off to the right into the woods was easily spotted (unlike last year, when so many of us hiked an extra 300-700m).

This 5-7km of singletrack was so much more rideable this year ... and fun! I cleaned most of the super steep seven switchback descent. Only when I was so far back on the bike that my butt became the rear brake did I get off and hike/slide down to an area where I could remount.

At one point where the trail became easier, I waited on Zeke for a bit. He was not having such a great day as those descents really messed with his knee. He told me to go on and just wait before the next checkpoint.

I rode alone until I caught the leading women's team, Team Nipika. I followed their wheel to Checkpoint 2. Zeke came rolling along shortly thereafter. After refueling, then came another grueling climb up to the Bear Creek singletrack.

I was determined to stay with Zeke on this climb, but he would have none of it. He shoo'd me away like a stray dog. I know his intentions were good; he wanted me to have fun and he definitely was not. So I relented and motored on alone.

This 11km section of singletrack I would say had to be the funnest of the whole week. Last year, it was pretty miserably muddy ... and slow. But today, it was so dry, it almost did not look like the same trail. After a short technical climb, I rode some flowy trail through a beautiful meadow. I got to witness the 2nd place TR3 woman do a face plant. I stopped to help, but she was o.k.; more embarassed than anything.

I waited for Zeke again on a flat section of trail and watched the 2nd, 4th and 5th place team go by. I shouted words of encouragement, but deep down I whispered, "You had better ride like the wind, for I am the cheetah and YOU are the gazelles!"

After a few more minutes Zeke came along and I could tell from the expression on his face that he was a hurtin' pup. I asked him to eat and drink which he did. He told me that anytime off the bike or mashing the pedals only aggravated his knee; it did not bother him so much while he pedaled at a higher cadence/easy pace.

He told me to go ahead and that he would see me at the finish. At this point, I knew I would wait for him at the third checkpoint, but I did not say this to him. Right now my focus was on catching the leaders in this last bit of singletrack.

I attacked the mountain, put my skills to the ultimate test, and had an unbelievable ride. Last year I probably only cleaned 60%; this year was an easy 95%. I slowly picked off the Swiss, blowing by them on a descent that they were walking. Next came Team Cox, also walking a descent. The Bike Doctors let me pass them on a techy, rooty section. Then I came upon Team Derailleur Noir, from Vancouver. I rode in their wake for a couple km; poor David, age 63, must have crashed 6 times. But he would just pop right back up and remount quickly. I cannot believe that he did not hurt himself. They eventually let me on by.

I rolled out of the singletrack in good spirits and asked the course marshall if I could refuel and wait on my partner without getting a time penalty. He said that was fine. In that singletrack, I had gained 3 minutes on Team Derailleur Noir, 5 minutes on Team Cox, 7 minutes on the Bike Doctors, 10 minutes on the Swiss, and 15 minutes on Team Nipika.

The crew at this checkpoint were from Brazil and they knew how to PARTY! Dressed in crazy attire, with tunes blaring from their pick-up, they cheered everyone on. I enjoyed hanging out with them, drinking Coke and eating watermelon, peaches, and bananas.

After 50 minutes Zeke rolled on in. I was still in good spirits, but the legs were a bit cold and stiff. After a couple more minutes, we began the 13 km rolling descent into Nipika and my legs quickly came back to me. Zeke seemed to do pretty well here, although anytime the road pitched up, I could tell he was hurting.

We rolled across the finish line together in 5th place, now 57 minutes behind 1st and 33 minutes behind 4th. My body was still feeling great. I still was hopeful that we could challenge for 4th or podium on an individual stage. After all, we still had 5 days of racing and shit could still happen ... hopefully just not to us. We already had our fare share!

Just praying that Zeke's knee would hold up and perhaps would miraculously improve.

Dinner tonight was lasagna, green salad, couscous salad, pasta salad, and bread. Mmm Mmm good!