Thursday, January 29, 2009

No Brag , Just Fact

Well , well my best friend turns forty Friday . Over the years I been around several hundred thousand people . Being a teacher , coach and high school principal plus working for the Richard Petty Driving Experience will do that to you . Carey Lowery is the most impressive human being I have known ! It is within that context and the framework of my believes that GOD had Carey in mind when HE inspired the author of Proverbs 31 to write " She is a woman of strength and dignity , and has no fear of old age . She is energetic and a hard worker . When she speaks , her words are wise , and kindness is the rule for everything she says . She watches her household carefully and is never lazy . Her child stands and blesses her as so does her husband . Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain , but a woman fears and reverences the Lord shall be praised . " Happy Birthday !

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Southern Cross Race Report

First cross race is in the books. This was not your typical CX course, but rather two laps of a fantastic, technical cross course with 36 miles of gravel roads sandwiched in between. The gravel grinding section included a 12 mile climb.

While the weather was warm (50 degrees) and dry at my house when I left, by the time I arrived at Mulberry Gap, the temperature had dropped 10 degrees and it was raining. Pretty much par for this time of year. It did not bother me much, other than the fact that I did not get to warm-up.

90% of the racers were on cross bikes. Uh, oh! Not having a cross bike, I brought Indy. With all the freeze/thaw and rains, the gravel roads were extremely soft and muddy. Having never ridden a cross bike, I thought I might have an advantage. Duh!

During the pre-race meeting, Eddie informed us that there was a 7 mile paved section as well. Well, crap! I knew that was going to hurt.

I started out fast, as I wanted to be on the train once it hit the pavement. I definitely had the advantage on the descents and passed quite a few initially. I had put on a Planet Bike mud fender to try to keep the mud off my glasses. That was a waste of money as within the first 5 minutes I had to shed my glasses in order to see.

I was up with the lead group ... until the paved section. I popped off pretty quick. My 26 inch fat tires were just no match for the cross tires. I managed to hop on another train, not moving quite as fast and was able to hang with them for a few miles. I knew if I continued at there pace, I would blow early, so I let go and rode within myself.

It was a little frustrating seein the first place woman head off with the lead train, but I knew there was a loooong, steep climb to come and was hoping I could reel her back in. The Mill Creek climb was gradual (5-7%) and the crossers still had the advantage. I just played it smart and slowly reeled a few back in.

At the halfway point (junction of 630 and 17) I traded out CamelBaks and began the steep climb up to Potato Patch. With a grade of 12-17%, I passed a lot of crossers who were walking. Here I had an advantage as I had the better gear ratio. Hats off to Thad, who made the whole climb on his 26 inch singlespeed!

On the climb to Potato Patch, there was a bit of ice, but luckily the rains had melted most of it. Eddie had said that the day before it was a solid sheet of ice and impassable. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of 1st place, but no such luck.

I think I made up a little time on the 7 mile descent off Potato Patch. I pushed it a bit, but did not cook any of the corners. There were several cars on the course and I did not want to become a hood emblem. What were these people thinking, driving through the slush and mud! Times like these I think these roads need to be closed to vehicular traffic to save the roads from being completely trashed.

Once I hit the last few miles of rollers back to Mulberry Gap, I caught up with Farmer G and rode with him. He was not feeling the love, but we helped to drag each other to the finish. We passed the Applegates on their tandem amd Andy said (as I passed them) that he was "girled." I begged to differ as they definitely had the unfair advantage. I would have died pedalling that bike up the 12 mile climb!

Once I hit the CX course, I was back in my realm! The first part was a supersteep hike a bike straight up a ridge and it went on forever. It was TransRockies debris torrent steep! I loved it! I did not even feel Indy's weight as I carried her on my back. I thought I caught a glimpse of first place at the top, but was not quite sure.

Once at the top I remounted and went through some singletrack, down a steep paved road, hopped a couple ditches, rode up some gravel, through a creek and dismounted for a run up. On the run up, there SHE was! I went into stealth mode and dug deep. I passed her on the run up, hopped back on the bike and went hard and fast. She passed me on a short paved climb, but once we hit the dirt again, I had the advantage. I was able to negotiate the barriers better and run up one last steep muddy section. I heard her curse under her breath and knew that she just blew! I gunned it hard up the last paved bit to the finish!

Holy cow! These sprint finishes maybe exciting for the spectators, but are extremely hard on my legs and heart. A whole new, albeit short, level of suffering. But it does feel good to come out on top.

I wonder if the race would have been any different had I been on a cross bike. I definitely would NOT have liked the climb up FS 17 on a cross bike, but for the flatter sections, it might have been easier. A bit of give and take, no matter what kind of bike I had ridden.

I later learned from Andrea (2nd place) that she had drug her CX bike up the steep hike-a-bike by its front wheel. I was very thankful for the cross lap as there I definitely had the advantage.

Thanks to Eddie and Namrita for a wonderful event full of suffering. And thanks to Ginny and Dianne for hosting the event and serving some great post-race food.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Buck Bald

I arrived at the "Dead Goat" parking lot today full of energy. Two days off and I was ready for a little heart-pumping action. This parking lot at the base of a forest service road is more of an illegal dumping ground than an actual lot. A couple of years ago it got its name when a bloated, decaying goat carcass was smelled then found.

After changing into my riding gear, I got out of my truck and immediately stepped right into a pile of human feces! Ahh, jeez! On my shoe and my neoprene bootie! I should have seen this as a bad omen and quit even before I got started.

Zeke arrived and we started off on a 6 mile climb. The woods were beautiful today, what with the 2 inches of snowfall Mother Nature had provided for us. I was up ahead and about 10 minutes into the climb, I heard a "thud" behind me and then some mumbling and grumbling. Seems Zeke had another one of his slow-speed falls when he hit a patch of ice. I told him to quit showing off and come on!

The climb took us about 45 minutes and we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the mountains. We headed back down off the bald to hook into some singletrack and it was then I knew I had made the wrong glove choice. Brrrr!

We started in on the singletrack and only made it about 1/4 mile when I told Zeke this was not a good idea. This was too technical of a trail to be playing on it in 2 inches of snow/ice. All I could think of was one of us breaking a collarbone.

We still had some ride time left so we opted to go back down the climb and do a repeat on it. I had good intentions, but by halfway down, my hands were so cold and the pain so intense, I could barely get them to grab the brakes. All I could focus on was getting to the truck and warming my hands around a cup of hot coffee!

All in all, it was an o.k. day. Got a bit of tempo in, saw some spectacular scenery, and learned to look before I step ... in Polk County!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ride Me Fast and Hard

That is what she kept telling me today on her first ride. Who is that, you might ask? Her name is Indy and she is my Specialized S-Works Era. Man, oh, man, she is quick! She is like a cheetah, lightweight and small, but she packs a punch. She accelerates fast and can turn on a dime.

Torque the cranks and all that energy goes straight to the rear wheel; "Bob" is not on this bike! The shock is only squishy when you want it to be. The fork compresses a bit when I stand and hammer, but I am still dialing it in. However, steering is precise. Just point her where you want to go and she does, even over the most punishing terrain.

And she can climb! I was not sure if I would be able to tell a 2 pound difference, but believe me, I could. This week has been a hard training week for me and on today's climbs I was happy to be riding Indy vs. Crash (24.5 pounds).

She is hot-blooded! On today's descent of ThunderRock, she called me a Cat 2 rider and told me to get my flippin' hands off the brakes. And on one of the first climbs, she asked if I was still self-coached, because I was pedalling like an overtrained, burnt out racer. I hastily reminded her that I was at the end of a hard week and that my Coach would not appreciate her comments. I also told her that I had not yet decided who was getting the call-up for TransRockies and that she had better be on her best behavior. (Shhh ... don't say anything, but Indy IS going to Canada ... she is freakin' awesome!)

The second half of the 4 hour ride was definitely better as we began to bond. I was feeling her flow and together we rocked the singletrack! Poor Zeke. He was "pooped after Indy and I drug him all over the Cohutta's. I cannot wait until this Wednesday when I can ride her again.

Now, it seems, I have no excuse not to win. I have a wonderful family, an awesome training partner, a great Coach, and an amazing bike. No, wait ... I have one excuse left. I am about to turn 40!!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

22.2 Pounds

Big sis has arrived! Man, I am excited to ride her. Poor Pinky, however. She is lying in the basement in pieces. I stole some lighter weight parts off her to put on the Era. No, I have not named her yet. Names usually come to me on the trail.

The first addition was to put a pic of Carly on her. This, I think, gives me more inspiration to suffer than being 2 pounds lighter than Crash.

I am still waiting on the Magura SL Mag's to arrive, so for now I guess I will see how the Avids handle. Amazingly, the Roval's are just 200 grams heavier than my Stan's/DTSwiss 190's so it looks like I will have 2 light wheelsets that I can mount different tires on and have both race ready rather than making that last minute decision of which tires to mount.

My first ride on her will be at the Whitewater Center, a trail I am so familiar with I will be able to tell any small or large differences in performance.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I Can't Complain

After yesterday's training on the road in cold, blustery conditions, I was very thankful for the off-road relaxed ride with Zeke and Linda. Today called for 3 hours, keeping the HR in zone 2. No problems there, as I was feeling the intervals from the day before.
Zeke was finally able to coax Linda into riding with us. She has also just recently started training with a PowerTap, so it was exciting to talk to her about numbers. Her background has been in ultra trail running, but currently she is a bad lass in adventure racing. Today she told me that cycling has overtaken running as her favorite sport.
After watching her perform today, I hope I can continue to ride/race as she has been doing for many years. She is amazing and an inspiration. I don't know anybody else her age that can do what she can. I want to be able to maintain like her so that I can explore the country/world with my daughter when she is an adult.
Today also brought back memories of an exciting childhood. The fireroad ride took us to the Lost Creek Campground which is where my Dad took us by car when my brothers and I were just kids. I remember the time Dad decided to take Muffin and Kavik, our two Eskimo Spitz', with us. The dogs were so excited to be going with us, but also very nervous because it was a car ride. By the time we got to the highway turn-off to the fireroad (30 minutes), the dogs were driving him crazy. And I also think Dad was afraid one might vomit. So he let them out once we hit the fireroad and made them run ALL THE WAY to the campground ... 6 miles!
Yes, Dad went pretty slow (10mph), and we kids kept an eye on them through the back window. With tongues hanging out and little paws churning up the dust, Muffin and Kavik made it without incident. Upon arrival, they immediately layed down in the creek and did not move much ... for awhile. But then they came around and we had a blast jumping off rocks (dogs, too!)into deep pools, swimming, and doing the things all kids do when playing in creeks. Needless to say, the dogs were on best behavior for the ride home. Good times!
And today will be etched in my memory as another good time ... with good friends.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Such A Tease

On Sunday, Mother Nature let the sun come out to play. With blue skies and 60 degrees, I eagerly began my 3 hour ride on the fireroads of the Cohuttas.
This was quite a new experience for me, as usually I take the day off after a race. My coach had other plans for me ... my schedule is sort of in experimentation mode, as we are determining how best my legs do after rest days and after hard days.
It may have just been the fact that Saturday's race was short by my standards, but my legs felt awesome. I could have pushed it harder and longer but stuck to the plan. It was totally an enjoyable day ... especially since I did not have to think about what to wear. Just threw on a pair of shorts and a jersey.
This sunny experience I will have to keep in my memory as I don't think I will see it again for at least a week.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Snake Race Report

Once again, the Snake lived up to its reputation. Although it was 25 degrees warmer than last year's January start, it was a muddy mess. Mother Nature decided to up the technicality by having it rain Friday and on into Saturday morning. It reminded me of a Transrockies day, what with the heavy fog and drizzle.

On top of that, I picked the shuttle that arrived DEAD LAST. By the time I found my bike, pee'd, and made my way to the start, I was 17 waves back. Ughhh! Oh, well, at least I could put my "On your left" skills to the test.

I bolted at the start. Being cold, I was wanting to get warm ASAP. The initial 3 miles of fireroads/doubletrack was very chewed up and slick. Once my core warmed up, I backed off the pace a bit to allow my screaming muscles a chance to warm up. I took it a bit easy on the initial climb; I forgot my HR strap, but could tell I was going too fast to keep the pace up for the whole 34 miles.

Once I was into the first singletrack, I knew it was going to be an interval type of day, as there was a line of racers as far as I could see. Knowing it was my fault for the bad start, I was patient and polite as I passed each and every one of them. I ended passing 35 racers en route to the finish. Only 2 passed me, but I eventually passed them back. I was just thankful that on the many times of going off the trail to pass, I did not encounter any cat-head rocks or dildos that love to leap up into your derailleur.

The singletrack held up well under the deluge of rain, but the fireroads and doubletrack was like peanut butter ... very energy-sapping. The first 17 miles flew by; when I hit the Snake Creek Gap parking lot, I was 5 minutes faster than the previous year's time. My legs felt great! I had passed all but one of my competitors. I swapped Camelbaks and began to climb out of the parking lot. I passed Kylie in the parking lot; at this point I had no other "carrots" save for Zeke. I knew he was somewhere up ahead and having a great race of his own.

Halfway through this first climb of the second half of the race, my legs began to hurt. Kylie came back around me (on a singlespeed). This helped to motivate me and to forget the pain. At the top of the climb, I passed her back, as she seemed to be in her own little "pain cave." I have got to hand it to her, she was doing very well with one gear; a lot better than I could ever hope to do.

Once to the top, the rollers were pleasant. I was still passing people right and left, and each effort to do so hurt and sapped a little more energy from me. Although tiring, I was still on a PR pace. I pushed it on the descent to the multiple creek crossings, wanting to gain as much time as possible before I entered the final 8 miles of rocks.

The climb up to the last rocky section was slicker 'n snot. Just last Thursday I had ridden this section and it was SO FAST! I tried to put the noise of my chain grinding through the mud out of my mind and focus on what lay ahead.

About halfway through the rocky section, I heard the unmistakable voice of Zeke ahead. He was a cussin' and a swarpin' those stupid rocks. It seems as if he still hasn't learned to finesse it through and kept banging his pedals. But I have got to hand it to him, he had a great race and I think is currently in second in his class. Not bad for an old man!

I seemed to still be on record pace through the rocky section. The last 4 miles I began to fumble through the rocks and decided that running through some of the sections was faster than riding through it ... especially after seeing a number of racers crash.

Once I hit the pavement, I tucked into an aero position and let gravity take hold. This last 1 1/2 miles I always look forward to, as I can give my legs a bit of a reprieve. With the road being wet and with a heavy fog, I had to focus a bit more.

I rolled into the finish with the time to beat and a PR ... 2 minutes faster than last year! I was stoked! And so thankful to have a coach that knows me better than I do!

I learned a lot during the race and will do a few things differently next time. Like provide my own shuttle so that I can have a better start. And if I do need to pass people, I will lower my voice a few octaves and try to sound like a guy. There are still those out there that for some reason are offended that a woman wants to pass them. And to those I say, "GET OVER IT! See it as a challenge to improve!" I will never forget being passed by a 9 year old during a 5k race; I was 16 at the time. I saw that pass as awesome for the kid and a motivator for me.

Stumpy rocked! She smoothed out the trail for me. And the Captain tires gripped the rocks like a gecko gripping glass. Rapidade kept me fueled and my Swiftwicks kept my toesies warm, even when wet. And although my shorts were muddied through and through, my Chamois butt'r kept my taint comfy.

I am so looking forward to the next Snake!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Don't Forget Your Cycling Roots

Heading into my first race of the new season, I have been reflecting on the past. I have gotten some awesome sponsors, but it required a trip to Las Vegas, a formal proposal, and a lot of walking and talking.

The one sponsor who has been beside me since Day 1 has been The Outdoor Store. Bruce and Pam have never wanted nothing more other than me wearing their shop jersey, yet they have given me so much. Time is a very important commodity in today's crazy world. I cannot begin to count the many times they have taken their precious time to help me and my broken bikes.

I am not sure how much I have helped their business by sporting their jersey ... probably not much. I do mention them at every opportunity but has that increased there cash flow? Probably not. I have their logo on my blog, my truck, and a jacket. Other than being asked if I own or work at the store, it probably has not turned into a purchase.

I remember my first ride on clipless pedals ... way back in 1999. I went with Pam and Bruce to the Tellico River State Line ORV trail system. My first thoughts were, "This is not the place to start clipless. I am going to DIE!" Now when I ride there, it is effortless.

I have come a long way in the last 10 years. I would not be where I am without the backing of The Outdoor Store. I plan on going longer the next 10 years.

Thanks Pam and Bruce.