Sunday, December 5, 2010

2011 Prep Work

My 2011 racing schedule is finalized and got Coach's seal of approval.  My big event will be the TNGA, the Trans North Georgia.  This is a multi-day, self-supported/partially supported race across Georgia through the Chattahoochee National Forest.  350 miles and over 56,000 feet of climbing.  2010 was the inaugural event which took place over Labor Day weekend.  18 started and 12 survived.

I started my prep work for this event last week by riding sections 6, 7, and 8.  Zeke was a big help as he is very familiar with this area.  On Thursday, we shuttled my vehicle to Buddy Cove Gap and then started our adventure at Shallowford Bridge.  Starting out in 24 degree weather was definitely not my cup of tea, but with layers and hand/toe warmers, I managed to stay warm as long as I was pedaling up.

It had been a couple years since I had last ridden the Aska trails.  Stanley Gap is definitely more difficult going in this direction = lot of short hike a bikes.  I expect that come race day, these trails will be ridden in the dark, so I hope to be able to come back at a later date and do a night ride.

Once off Stanley Gap, there is a lot of pavement/gravel road pedaling.  I passed a lot of churches, but no outside spigots were available.  I thought that was kind of unusual as in my neck of the woods, I have several churches I stop at to refill bottles on my road rides.

Close to the turn onto Bushy Head Road, I saw an automotive mechanic shop that had a hose bib.  Hoping that will still be there in 10 months.  Further on down the road, I saw the barn where Eddie had a couple hours of fitful sleep. 

I was back in familiar territory when I hit Watson Gap.  From there I rode part of the Cohutta 100 course, down to Jacks River Fields, then entered the South Fork Trail.  Zeke had painted a bad picture of this trail as well as the most eastern section of the Pinhoti; think wet, sloppy, and horsed-up.  Aside from just two muddy sections which we were able to skirt around, it was actually a very pleasant ride.  When we came to the 15 foot long, foot deep creek crossing, we pondered for a few minutes.  Seeing as how the air temp was only 37 degrees, we did not want any wet body parts.  Zeke found a good line, neither of us bobbled, and we were dry upon exiting the other side.  Whew!

The climb up the Pinhoti to FS 64 was slow and soft, but kept me warm.  We ended our day with 6 hours on the bike and roughly 46 miles ridden.

On Friday, we shuttled my truck to Dalton and started our ride from Mulberry Gap.  Up P3 to a brief pedal on Hwy 52, then on P4.  This was my first time on this section.  Let me tell you, it was a hoot.  The funnest part was descending Tatum Lead.  As I was flying down this section, all I could think was how fast I would really be going at this point in this race with a belly full of Ginni's finest cooking!  Which then led to the thought of how hard the P3 climb was going to be on a belly full of Ginni's finest cooking.

Back on to the Pinhoti, this section of trail was really steep and loose.  The leaves made it difficult to see what lay ahead so I took it nice and easy.  Once it flattened out along Rock Creek, it was a beautiful ride to FS3.  FS3 was a stark contrast to the previous trail, what with strewn beer cans and fast food trash.

A few more miles of gravel and then the remainder of the course was pavement into Dalton.  Pretty uneventful once we found our way onto the correct road across 411.  The cue sheet was a little confusing so I went up 411 instead of just crossing over it.  Oh, well, that is why I am reconning.

Feeling a little frisky on the paved roads and trying not to get bored, I saw some road kill up ahead, a guinea fowl to be exact.  Upon trying to bunny hop it, my rear wheel grazed the bird and I swore I heard the thing make a noise, a weak squawk!  Being a fresh kill, I must have hit the thoracic area, forcing air out of the bird.  Hilarious!

Airport Road was FOREVER so I can only imagine what it will feel like during the race.  We ended our day at the Walnut Square Mall with 4 hours and 40 miles in the saddle.

So now I am familiar with Sections 6-9.  Only 6 more sections and roughly 220 miles left to go!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Swank Race Report

Now that's the way to end a fantastic, fun-filled season!  I was worried after my Berryman fiasco that I would repeat, either with a bike or body mechanical.  I left everything out on the trail and could not have raced it better.

2008 S-Works SJ FSR with Ergon bling!

I chose Stumpy to race, for the stability and extra travel.  I raced her at The Pisgah Stage Race and was in awe how she responded to the technical terrain ... I can only imagine how a 2011 model would perform!

Upon arriving at the venue, it was 21 degrees.  I must have muddled around for an hour or so, trying to figure out what I was going to wear.  I started out with several layers, but as the sun rose and warmed the landscape, I shed most of it. 

The start was Lemans style; I took my time and spared my ankles.  I hit the first bit of single track probably in the top 30-40.  It was a pretty mellow pace climbing Thrift Cove.  I was wanting to go, go , go, but I also did not want to spend precious energy passing people or throw a stick into my derailleur.  I do believe this 20 minutes spent warming up Thrift Cove was in my best interest.

As it opened up onto some double track, I was able to let the reins loose and fly.  Indeed I did fly by a lot of people.  My legs were sparkly and it felt as if there were no chain on the bike.  I had not ridden the first section of Daniel Ridge since '08 so I did slow a bit to negotiate the tight, twisty turns and multiple bridges.  But once out onto FS 475, I gunned it.  One fellow I passed said I was in first place, to which I replied, "No, I am not.  There are quite a few guys in front of me."  He then proceeded to tell me I was probably in the top 20.  I took that as a top 30-35; not bad this early in the race.  I usually am pretty consistent throughout the entirety of the race, while a lot of guys seem to blow their stack about the midway point.  I had multiple carrot opportunities in front of me.

The top of Butter Gap Trail

Butter Gap was a hoot.  Having ridden it the day before, I was able to rail it, despite the leaves.  There was one sketchy area where a natural spring follows the trail; it was slick and muddy, but I managed to keep the rubber side down.

You ride down this rocky section; may not look it but traction is superb.

Long Branch is a 2.5 mile climb back up to FS 475.  Although super steep in areas, it flows well.  I was able to ride it all, despite having a couple guys in front bobble.  The next bit of fire road was climbing up to Farlow;  all I know is that it is much easier to race up this steep section when you are fresh as compared to seeing it on Day 3 of the PSR.  There were a few downhillers at the top getting ready to ride Farlow.  As I passed one of them, I earned a new nickname, "the goddess of internal combustion."  Quite a compliment, thank you very much Mr. Downhiller.

I do believer all the leaves on Farlow made it easier to ride.  It made the trail appear smoother;  I leaned back onto my rear tire and let Stumpy do the work.  I did dismount in several areas, fearing death or dismemberment.  Hey, this gal has gotta work come Monday!  One guy on a Gary Fisher SS 29'r blew by me like I was sitting still.  He was awesome!  But I did ride more of it than during PSR.  I also ran the hike-a-bike sections faster.  I was able to hold my own within a group of guys during the hiking.  Let's remember, I am having to push/carry a greater percentage of my weight than the men.

On the final descent down the last bit of Farlow and Daniel Ridge, I did let a few guys by me.  They were rockin' it.  I also had vivid memories of that dreaded sidewall gash at Berryman and did not want a repeat on this rocky descent.  I stopped at aid station 3 and grabbed a bottle to get me through the last 10 miles or so.

I treated this last 10 miles like an XC race.  Knowing that the last few miles were descending Thrift Cove Trail to the finish, I rode the last 7 miles like a scalded dog!  After big-ringing FS 475 and Davidson River Trail, I TT'd up FS 475B and FS 225.  This 4 miles of climbing I had done earlier this year while on a recon mission so I knew just how far I had to go.  I put the hammer down and passed ALL the guys who had passed me on Farlow.

I did let Mr. SS Phenom by on Thrift Cove.  This last bit of single track was over before I knew it.  I could smell the hamburgers grilling on the final 0.5 mile descent.  Oh, that was mouth watering!  I rolled under the Finish line in 4:15:03 ... 1st lady and 18th O/A (out of 150).  Whew!  A perfect season ender!

Coach dialed me in perfect for the last two races.  I am most grateful that I was able to perform well at both; that definitely gives me the confidence I will need going on into the winter preparing for 2011.  Hmmm ... now I get to start planning my 2011 season.  Exciting times ... exciting times indeed!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Berryman Epic Race Report

Schwag bag was also the drop bag.
Once again this year, I was able to escape Mother Nature's wrath.  The forecast was 70% chance of thunderstorms Friday night and on into race day.  I woke up to cloudy skies and a temperature of 60 degrees ... yes!

I managed to line up within the first few rows (250 racers in all) and patiently waited for someone to yell, "Go!"  Instead, I was momentarily stunned by a blast from a cannon, which I swear to God was right next to me, although I never saw it.  I will remember that next year.

The start was FAST and hectic.  I rubbed wheels with more than one racer.  How I managed to stay upright I don't know; perhaps it is my "cat-like" skills.  There were 3 gradual miles climbing on loose gravel before the single track so I settled into a slightly higher effort than I wanted, but knew that I could recover from.  Catharine passed me pretty quickly, but I managed to stay within sight of her and slowly reeled her back in.  As we entered the single track, I was a few racers behind her. 

Settling into "stealth" mode I took it easy and watched my competition for any signs of weakness.  I really knew nothing about her, other than she raced road and cross.  The first section of single track was wide, smooth, and rolling ... big ring territory! 

After about 10 minutes, I realized that although I was not as powerful as her, I had the upper hand in the technical stuff.  I made a pass when she bobbled on a sketchy climb, dug deep to open a gap, and settled into a 5 hour race pace after about 15 minutes.

All smiles on the pre--ride.

The race takes place on the Ozark and Berryman Trails.  These alternate between ridge tops and creek bottoms.  The topography is gently rolling; the longest climb was probably 0.2 miles and at a relatively easy grade.  This, combined with dry conditions, made for a superfast course.  I spent a lot of time in the big ring.  What made it technical in areas was the loose rocky soil, horse damage, and erosion on some of the climbs/descents.

On one of the side cut sections in the first 11 miles, my front tire washed out and down I went.  After a quick assessment of bike (o.k.) and body (few scrapes/bruises), I remounted and raced on.  After a few more miles of finding my rhythm in the loose terrain, I became one with the trail.

I rode most of the horsed-up switchbacks down to Brazil Creek and the first checkpoint.  11 miles in :58:47; on pace with the pain cave no where in sight.  I grabbed my first zip-tie and motored on.

The next 10 miles flew by on this sh!ts and giggles trail!  I love the Berryman; no hour long granny gear climbs followed by foreverish descents.  Just a constant up and down and carving through the "S-curves."  Momentum and brake feathering are your friends.  I rolled into the Berryman campground at the second checkpoint in 1:57.  Mia told me that I was 17 minutes off the leaders and roughly in the top 25.  I grabbed my second zip-tie, went over to where my drop bag was and grabbed another bottle and once again was off.

This next section of trail was perhaps the most difficult.  I encountered a 30 yard sand trap (which I ran through), a couple steep loose climbs, and a lot of  "horsed-up" sections of trail.  It was here that I slowly began reeling in guy after guy after guy.  Some jumped onto my wheel after I made the pass, to which I then asked if they wanted back on by.  They responded that they were just trying to hang on and within a few minutes, I heard them no more.

After popping out onto a jeep trail, grabbing my 3rd zip-tie, I then hauled a$$ back on 5 miles of fire road.  I felt great on the roads and was able to enter the pain cave with a smile on my face.  I made the 1.3 mile paved climb back up to the Berryman campground with ease and grabbed my final zip-tie.  I glanced down at my watch and it read 3:27:14!  Oh yeah, a sub-5 hour was on the horizon.  I had 16 miles to go, with 6.5 of that being a slightly rolling to mostly descending fire road back to the finish.  I refilled my Camelbak and was off on the final 10 miles of single track.

The single track from the Berryman campground where I pre-rode the day before.  

The first couple miles was technical with ledgey drops and lots of roots.  I had ridden this the day before so I was able to fly through it today.

Nowhere where I live can you ride a one trail for 36.5 miles.  Gotta come back and go explorin'.

I had just made it through the rough section and was rolling along a creek bed (mile 41) when I heard the dreaded Psssssss! and saw Stan's spewing out my rear tire.  Noooooooo!  As calmly as I could, I changed my tire.  Checking for thorns and sidewall cuts, I found none, put the tube in and attached my CO2.  And nothing.  Grumble, grumble!  I then attached my hand pump and made the 300 strokes to get it up to an appropriate PSI.  I pinched the hell out of my palm with the pump!  (Later that evening after the race, I found out why my CO2 did not work -- a broken valve stem was jammed up into the head -- WTF?!?)

Several guys had passed me, but not Catharine.  Whew!  It took a couple miles to get my mojo back and get back up to speed.  But I did and soon began passing those that had passed me. Then at mile 46 my rear tire exploded!! Not again!  The Gods must have been angry.  I stopped and saw this:

From the tread almost to the bead!  The "white" is an empty hammer gel packet.

I had managed to lose my patch during the last tire change.  Fortunately a racer named Rock stopped and gave me one of his patches.  It barely covered the gaping hole.  This time I pumped 250 times as both the patch and tube began to bulge out.  Crap!  I got back on and rode like an exhausted beginner, fearing another flat and not having any more tubes.  At about mile 48, I found an empty Hammer gel packet.  Thank God for litterbugs!  I deflated my tube, popped the bead, and inserted the Hammer get packet.  For the third time I pumped 250 strokes!  Unfortunately for my upper body and mental soundness, I did not seat the patch perfectly and it poked through the hole.  I let the air out again, repositioned, and pumped 250 more times!  Can you believe not one swear word was uttered?

At some point during this fiasco, Catharine had passed me in stealth mode.  I kind of figured this was going to happen as now I was 45 minutes into screwing around with my rear tire.  Rock came by me once again and this time gave me his only tube; I had refused before as I did not want him without.  He did not give me the opportunity to refuse this time, saying as he rode by and dropping the tube at my feet, "I am tired of you passing me."  What a man!

Fearful that my tire would not hold up under a lot of pressure or speed, I limped on into the finish, taking nearly 30 minutes to cover the last road section.  The last thing I wanted to happen at this point was me taking a digger at 30 mph on the descent if my tire completely disintegrated or having to run the last 5 miles to the finish.  The last time I had a DNF was in 2003 at a SERC XC race where I double-flatted and I was NOT going to here.

Still smiling and taking $100 home for 2nd.
I rolled in at 5:33:04, 15 minutes behind Catharine, but still good enough for 2nd.  It was frustrating, but if I am going to lose, I would rather it be a bike mechanical as opposed to a body mechanical.  Knowing that I was on par to a sub 5 hour is empowering to me, my efforts in training, and my coach's ability.

This race was awesome.  Kudos to Scott and Ryan for a fun well-marked course, great venue, food, band, and raffle.  I am already planning on the 2011 edition!

A big thanks to Steve Mathews at Paceline Products for the support in getting to Missouri.  Perhaps if I had used the Chamois Butt'r on my tire as well as my behind, the outcome would have been different.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Little Guy (or Gal)

I am very happy that my record of 286 days with out a saddle sore will have the chance to grow since Chamois Butt'r is going to continue to sponsor me in 2011.  It might actually be more than 286, but I only officially started keeping a tally on January 1, 2010.

I am only a team of one, but whenever I have called Paceline Products to request product or to give an update on my season, Steve Mathews has ALWAYS taken precious time out of his busy day to chat with me for a bit.  That is way too cool!  It tells you a lot about a business when the president will talk to the little guy rather than passing him/her down the line or sending them to a general voice mail.  I feel very honored to play a role, no matter how small, in his business.

So if you see me out riding or racing and want to try a product that I believe in 100%, let me know and I can hook you up with some samples.  Even if I wasn't sponsored, I would still be using Chamois Butt'r Eurostyle ... it does my butt good!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rocky Raccoon's Revenge 8 Hour Race Report

I was told by Coach to put the governor on for this one.  So instead of being a sporty 6 cylinder, I was an efficient little 4 cylinder.  The course was 10.5 miles, with 3 sections of pavement, the longest being just under a mile.  I was happy to be on gears for this one, making sure that "Indy" was ready for the BTE.

The start was a super dusty bottleneck for about 1/2 lap.  Once I got through the masses, which included some carnage on the techy rocky sections, I was able to settle and just ride.  The first two laps were still a bit faster than I was told to ride, but I wanted to open a comfortable gap.

The next 5 laps were more consistent and "coach-approved."  I focused on maintaining a steady cadence and without too many power surges.  I was told not to race the guys, which was hard for me to do, especially when I could see "carrots" ahead.  But I just kept telling myself, "Just two more weeks and you can suffer your little heart out."

With a win secure as I completed my 7th lap, I was able to finish an hour early.  I felt a bit guilty, like I had not completed my homework assignment, but I was also tired of breathing dust and smoke (there was a forest fire on the other side of the river).

Thanks to Brad Cobb (Village Volkswagon) and Greenlife Grocery, I walked away with $500 and a nice clock from reCYCLE Jewelry.  And true to my word, I made a donation to the Raccoon Mountain trail fund.

I have always enjoyed Gone Riding's races.  They are kind of where I cut my teeth on MTB racing.  I look forward to racing the SERC series again in 2011.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Giving Back

This Saturday is the Rocky Raccoon 8 Hour race for which I signed up.  This is not a high priority race, but one that is fine tuning me for the Berryman Epic.  After I signed up, I started receiving quite a few e-mails from SORBA-Chattanooga about trail work days this same weekend. 

Guilt set in.  While I will be having fun, with a bit of suffering thrown in for good measure, a group of volunteers will be putting in hard hours laying the final stretches of trail at Enterprise South Nature Park.  I think the last time I did "official" trail work was several years ago at my local park.  None since then ...  Yeah, I have excuses:  work, family, training, but if everyone made excuses, there would be no trails.

I am now thinking I already know what my 2011 New Year's resolution will be.  But until then, I will continue to make donations to various groups.  I am committing now, that if I am blessed with a good race and am able to podium, I will donate a good portion of my winnings to the Raccoon Mountain trail building fund.

I know I am not the only racer in this boat, so if you are racing the Rocky Raccoon's Revenge 8 Hour, I challenge you to make the same commitment.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pisgah Stage Race: Stage 5

Distance:  43 miles
Elevation:  9500 feet
Temperature:  62-84 degrees
Conditions:  dry
Time:  4:57:45

Anybody know which trail this one is?
I awoke this morning with mixed feelings.  I was tired so a part of me was glad that today was the last day.  On the other hand, the little bicycle demon inside of me was sad that this would be my last Pisgah adrenalin fix ... for a while. Today I was ready to empty the tank; there was more than just fumes, as opposed to last year.

The first 7 miles, which was pavement, was brutal, because I pretty much suck at it.  Or perhaps I am at a disadvantage with the little wheels.  I managed to hang on to the second group until the last mile and then popped.  On the Turkey Pen fireroad climb, I regrouped and weaved my way through several racers. 

Vineyard Gap was rippin' fast.  I would compare this trail to a roller coaster ride.  I thought I heard the "tick-tick-ticking" as I was approaching the top of the climb.  Then, the trail just dropped away from the bike and I.  And whoosh! down I went. 

I had gotten ahead of David on the final climb, so when the trail turned downward, I shot down it faster than I had intended because I did not want him to catch me and spoil his ride.  I got a bit to pogo'ey on one section and was just about jettisoned from the bike.  Somehow I managed to save it and reached the river unscathed.  The 7 river crossings somehow seemed quite tame as compared to last year when temps were in the 40's and the water was chamois deep.

After taking a beating from FS 5015, I descended down FS 1206 to Laurel Mountain.  Ah, what a beautiful trail and an awesome ride.  No freezing winds, no sleet to contend with, just a glorious blue bird day.  On the hike-a-bike section, I met several Army officers coming down the trail.  I asked them ever so politely if they could just form a line and shuttle my bike to the top.  No takers.

Pilot Rock was gnarly and ready to eat your tires and bones if you chose the wrong line.  I acquiesced on several of the switchback; really do need to work on swinging my ass end around on those tight ones.  One of my mini goals I wanted to accomplish was to ride the boulder section towards the bottome ... mission accomplised, other than the huge downed tree I had to crawl over.

The remainder of FS 1206 seemed like an eternity but my legs were happy.  One more time up Club Gap and then on to Avery Creek, another one of my favorites.  Everything was rideable for me, save for the downed trees that hovered off the ground.  Once back out on FS 477, I had to stop and wait as a caravan of horses passed by.  I was just happy that none of them spooked as their passengers were children.

I grabbed a PB&J at the last aid station, had my picture taken while stuffing my mouth with said PB&J, and pedaled up FS 5058 and FS 5022 for the final time.  Once again I set a blistering pace down Black Mountain, scrubbing off another minute.  My fastest time on that final section of it, including the climb, was 16 minutes.

I rolled through the Start/Finish, happy that the stage was over, but sorry that it was the end of such a wonderful week of riding.  Todd and Company really listened to the racers' feedback from last year and put on a great race this year.  The post-race festivities were awesome:  a never-ending supply of Poppies-catered food, a fun and well-attended kid's race, a pie-eating contest, and cash for all divisions.  Indeed, I think everyone went home with some money.

Watch out!  Those ladies next to me can hammer!
I know Todd had to have taken a big hit this year, what with the low attendance, but kudos to him for not canceling.  I must say that has been my favorite race of 2010.  I am not sure how to attract a bigger field for next year, but we MUST.  Todd has plans for 2011; I just hope they can come to fruition.

As for me, I increased my knowledge of Pisgah ... to a point that I am going to tackle this man's events next year!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pisgah Stage Race: Stage 4

Distance:  40 miles
Elevation:  9000 feet
Temperature:  60-83 degrees
Conditions:  dry
Time:  5:29:58

By this time during a stage race, I usually wake up a little slow, stiff, and not as eager to begin.  This year was different, however.  I awoke feeling as good as I did on Day 1.  It was probably due to a combination of fitness and better recovery techniques.  Unfortunately, I missed the cool movies (Ride The Divide, Race Across The Sky, and Stars and Water Carriers) that Todd played during the evening festivities.

This stage was going to be the toughest as it had 90% single track.  And it started out by going up Thrift Cove to Black Mountain to Turkey Pen.  Anytime I mention Black Mountain, just think "hike-a-bike of death."  Once again, I was able to hang with Sue until the trail pitched so steeply I had to get off and push.  Sue managed to stay on two wheels longer and eventually gapped me.

There was a train of bike pushers up to Turkey Pen.  Then the fun commenced.  Turkey Pen is mostly downhill with a few short grunty steeps that required more hiking.  This trail was like riding through a tunnel of rhododendrons, sometimes so thick the price for speed was lashings ... across the arms, face, and neck.  I lost count of how many times my eyeballs were saved by my glasses.

Towards the end of Turkey Pen, one of the single speeders was about 20 yards ahead of me pushing up a climb when he grabbed his calf and yelled out.  I thought he was cramping, but then he grabbed his thigh, then his butt, still yelling.  He cried out that he was getting attacked by yellow jackets.  I slowed my pace down a bit, but pretty soon was where he was.  I expected an attack, but it never came.  Whew!  One advantage of being slow.  I guess those little buggers had their fill of vengeance on the first 20 or so racers that came through.

Riding Squirrel Gap backwards from Stage 2 was fun.  Just after coming off Mullinax, there was a climbing section that was short, steep, and rooty.  A couple volunteers had staged themselves midway along the climb with cowbells going wild.  I loved it!  A great motivator to push on when your quads and thighs are like tree trunks.  One fella even ran with me for about 0.1 mile.  Awesome!

I kept running into this Sycamore Cycles rider most of the day.  I would catch him at the tops of all the climbs; he was always stopped and refueling.  But then he would leave me on the descents; David is his name, me thinks.  I had fun following him down FS 5018.  The grasses along this double track turned single track made it difficult to look for obstacles, but with David in front, I was able to follow his lines and use less brake.  I eventually got in front of him after aid station 2 and did not see him again.  I suspect he was having cramping issues.

South Mills River and Buckhorn were not near as long as they seemed during Stage 1. Riding Black Mountain opposite of the day before was not as bad as I had expected = less hike-a-biking.  The volunteer that directed us at this turn up Black Mountain told me I was only 4 minutes behind the women's leaders.  I believed that for all of 2 seconds!  Sorry, but a volunteer's sense of time and distance is indeed warped.  Take La Ruta, for instance, where 2k is actually 5 miles.  Or during TransRockies, where the last hike-a-bike section was actually the 3rd to last one.  I learned my lesson long ago about heeding the time/distance advice of volunteers.

Buckwheat was mysterious.  Having not ridden it before, I wasn't too enthused about the thick undergrowth, but it finally opened up with some nice riding.  The descent down to FS 477 was harrowing, but the Magura SL's kept me from crashing my brains out.  Couple sketchy, ledgy drops where my butt was acting as the emergency brake for the rear wheel.  It was good seeing Kim at the bottom, all smiles and hoots/hollers.

FS 477 was not fun; I swear I have gone twice as fast down that fire road when conditions have been tackier.  Dry, loose gravel, powdery dirt, and I mix like olive oil and vinegar.

Mr. Rattlesnake decided to make an appearance on FS 5022.  I tried for a couple minutes to encourage him to move, but all he wanted to do was coil and rattle.  Finally I had no choice but to make a wide berth around him through the weeds and pray that his buddies weren't lying in ambush.  Safely around him, I continued up the climb.

For the third time  I made the short hike up Black Mountain and then bombed down the backside to the finish line.  Cut another minute off that "Super D."  It is like your favorite rollercoaster that you cannot get enough of.

One of the best "comfort" drinks that Todd and Co. had at the finish line as well as at each aid station was ice cold Cokes!  He also had PB&J sandwiches which I developed a taste for during this stage.  My stomach was nice enough to tolerate a 1/4 sandwich at a time.  I had gotten tired of the gels I had been carrying and by Stage 4, my HR was within the range of "sandwich acceptibility."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pisgah Stage Race: Stage 3

Distance:  45 miles
Elevation:  9000ft
Temperature:  60-80 degrees F
Conditions:  dry
Time:  4:58:20

I awoke in good spirits and with happy legs.  I had plenty of time to think about how to go out on this stage.  Barring some sort of bike and/or body catastrophe from Amanda and Sue, I realized that I was not going to win this thing and that was o.k.  I want to win based on my performance and not because my competition ran into misfortune.  As long as I finished, I would earn back my entry fee.  So, with that in mind, today and subsequent stages were all about racing my shadow.

The start involved a shuttle to Kuykendall campground.  While waiting on the others to arrive I warmed up.  Thom P. interviewed me and below is my 90 seconds of fame ... ah, the life of a semi- pseudo mountain bike pro.

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The start involved more running along with 1 somersault between the orange cones.  I think I bruised my kidney with my tire pump that was in my jersey pocket.  I have not done a somersault since 3rd grade!  I am going to have to practice up for the Swank.  I was headed up to Farlow Gap, but to get there would involve  a 12 mile climb, 11 of that being on gravel.  The forest service was nice enough to have just graded and graveled 6 miles of it so instead of asphalt-fast, it was loose and soft.

Farlow was fun; I made it most of the way down the rock chute, but decided I liked my teeth more than my ability to negotiate the 26" holes that dared to swallow my front wheel.  Anyways, it was just about as fast skirting down some of that stuff.  It was pretty much ride a bit, walk a bit for the first half.  A couple sections were even difficult to walk down ... they were potential ankle-breakers.  Once I got past the short uphill hike-a-bike, the remainder was fast and fun, well, all but the steps and last creek crossing.

A short ride on Daniel's Ridge followed by a long haul on FS225, which I have named "Mystery Ridge."  So overgrown, I could not see more than 5-10 yards in front of me, so I kept it light on the front end and brakes.  Luckily there were no downed trees or large rocks to catapult me off into the briars.

Cove Creek was a flowy fast descent.  Hoo-whee! I was smiling so much I think I got a couple bugs in my teeth.  After that was the short but steep connector to Daniel Ridge ... ouch!  The Daniel Ridge descent was fun, but a bit tricky as it was overgrown.  There were a couple of deep washed out areas that were hidden by the weeds.  Rolling down to aid station 2, I refueled and headed over and made short work of the Davidson River Trail.

The climb up 475B was longer than expected.  Just when it leveled out and I thought I was at the top ... it pitched up again.  It tricked me this way several times.  I also expected a longer leg-resting descent, but was surprisingly disappointed that it was only about 3/4 mile long.  More climbing on Hwy 276 and some more gravel leading to Club Gap. 

Turning onto Club Gap, the volunteers at the aid station asked if I needed anything to which I replied, "Do you have any sherpas?"  Some chuckling ensued as I began the steep 1 mile climb up to Black Mountain.  Both the body and conditions were much better than last year and I was able to clean the climb, albeit at what seemed like a snail's pace.

This new to me section of Black Mountain was fun once I got passed the hiking/pushing portion.  Then I hit FS 5058 to FS 5022.  That last push up 5022 hurt.  Those false flats were misleading.  The 3 mile climb was about a mile longer than I expected.  No expletives, but I think there was one, "Ah, come on, where is the top!"

I was a minute faster down the last portion of Black Mountain.  Rolling through the finish line all smiles once again.  Even seeing Amanda in civies already did not sway my attitude.  I met my little mini-goals for the day, I was having a blast riding in the Forest, and I realized that I was in the best shape of my life.  What more could I ask for?

Climbing Black Mountain was a mix of riding/hiking.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pisgah Stage Race: Stage 2

I did a longer than usual warm up for this one as I did not want to have the "crummy leg" experience again.  Stumpy, my '08 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR, would be my steed for the remainder of the race as she would provide a bit more suspension and a more relaxed, but still very effective and fast, ride.

The start was neutral until we hit FS 477.  Then it was all about hanging on to the lead group, which may have lasted 30 seconds.  That would be the last time I saw Amanda.  I wisely chose to follow Sue up the 6 mile gravel climb.  Just too cool being on the wheel of such an awesome, yet humble, world-class athlete.  This is one of the few sports that allows the average joe to compete alongside the best.

I hit Buckhorn Gap first and was able to get a gap on Sue during the ensuing descent.  Thom P. let me pass him and then stuck to my wheel until the bottom.  Check out the footage:

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Sue soon caught back up to me as I was climbing the first steep bit of Squirrel Gap.  I was able to follow her for a while, but then I guess her diesel engine warmed up and she slowly pulled away from me.  I knew I did not need to go any faster for fear of burning too many matches.  I wish my HR monitor would have been working, but it decided to go on strike the day before, so I had to base my effort on PE.  I would have preferred numbers!

Squirrel was enjoyable and more rideable than last year, although there were a lot more downed trees to negotiate.  Laurel Creek was FAST and dry!  I guess I was having too much fun and getting a little wild because one of the waterbars grabbed my front wheel and threw me down the mountain.  Thankfully, I landed in a soft mossy area devoid of rocks.  Whew!  That could have been a lot worse.  As I pulled Stumpy off of me and started to climb back up, I glanced down and saw the trail only feet away.  Heck, might as well make the most of it.  Turns out there was a switchback just beyond where I exited the trail.

The 5 mile climb back up to Yellow Gap on FS 5015 was o.k. despite the "marbly" gravel.  It was a definite give/take situation with the dry spell Pisgah has been having.  It makes the trails less technical, but made the gravel grinders very loose.  I had more, "Oh, sh!t!" situations on the roads vs. the single track.

I swapped my Camelbak and gel flask, shot a Red Bull, and headed off to the undulations of FS1206.  Todd was at the turn off to FS 475 and gave words of encouragement.  It is always good to see the race promoter out on course and in every one of his races, I have seen him, sometimes more than once.

South Mills River to Buckhorn is a fooler.  It starts off with a slight descent, but then slowly climbs back up for several miles.  You think it is an easy climb because it looks flat but it just goes on and on.  And a lot of it looks the same so you think, "Just around this corner is the end. Well, maybe the next corner .... the next? Finally the end comes and suddenly you wish it did not because of the hike-a-bike of death that follows.

Knowing what I was getting into this year on the Black Mountain hike-a-bike, it seemed to go by quicker and with less frustration.  Heck, no frustration ... I was smiling the whole time.  The view at the top was spectacular; it reminded me why I love mountain biking and racing. 

At the top of the Black Mountain hike a bike. 

It is unfortunate that so many will never experience the suffering of pushing your body to its limit.  The reward is the ability to live your life to its fullest ... and to have multiple OMG moments! To many choose to sit on the couch, in a vehicle, on a stadium seat, in a darkened theater ... numb.

Stepping off the soap box, for now.  Where was I?  The hike up was worth the ride down.  The erosion upped the entertainment factor.  And then onto the last section of Black Mountain that I would see 3 more times after today.  My goal ... to get progressively faster on this stretch. 

I rolled through the finish in 4:18:07.  Faster than last year by almost 30 minutes.  Although conditions were better than last year, I feel that my fitness played a larger part in that time gap.  Amanda and Sue crushed it, putting more time on me.  Now I was a flat tire AND broken chain behind them ... but still smiling nonetheless.

Cooled the legs off in the river talking to Sue.  Told her I would be "the lurker".  She had better keep her "A" game on (no, make that her B- game) or I would be just around the corner, ready to pounce!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pisgah Stage Race: Stage 1

The view from the finish line.
The first stage was short.  Called the Blue Moon Hill Climb, it was 12 miles and 2000 vertical feet on a mix of pavement, gravel, double track, and single track.  The finish was in a high end mountain development.  To get to the start, I got to "warm up" with a 7 mile, sketchy a$$ descent down a gravel road that has not seen rain in a month.  Like riding on marbles.  Some poor soul blew the tire off his bike within the first mile; how he managed to stay upright, I do not know.

At least my bike had her race face on.

True to Todd Branham's races, the start was Leman's style.  I was the first to mount my bike and hit the short section of relatively flat to slightly downhill pavement.  Within minutes Amanda blew by me, almost causing me to go into a tailspin.  I recovered and was able to latch on to her wheel.  Soon enough Sue was up with us as well.

As soon as we turned onto gravel, the road pitched up and I popped off.  What's up, legs?  We are not going that fast.  But my legs suddenly turned into cinder blocks.  I was able to keep my competition in sight, but I knew that today was going to be just about surviving.  Coach told me that today was not going to be pretty, but that we would use it as my "leg opener."

When I started on the trail, I was bouncing all over the rocks.  I don't know if it was my suspension or me not being "at one" with the trail, but I felt like I was on a pogo stick.  People started passing me right and left and I lost sight of Sue when I had to get off and push up a few sections ... which I should not have had to do. I was expecting the trail in the Dupont State Forest to be smoother, but this trail was like riding up a dry creek bed.  Still, it WAS rideable.

I popped back out onto some more gravel grinding and seemed to find my flow a bit better.  The gravel climb back up to Blue Moon was steep and loose.  Turning back into the development, I was treated to more single track, albeit hiking trail.  Lots of steps and bridges and the last 1/2 mile up to the finish was just heinously steep.  How I managed to ride it all with crappy legs was a miracle, but I did.

I crossed the finish line in 1:11:39.  I was in third!  But of course, there were only 3 of us.  Oh, well, I was only a flat tire behind Amanda and Sue so I still had hope that I could reel them in!

Zeke raced his new SS!

I managed to give away quite a lot of Chamois Butt'r product.  One racer made the embarrassing mistake of stopping by to pick up some product in the middle of me changing back into civies!  He later introduced himself as P. Tom (as in Peeping Tom).  After he regained his composure, which wasn't until Stage 5, we had a good laugh.

Turkey and avacado on sourdough with pasta, chips and homemade cookie.

Post race food was from Poppies,  a local grocery in Brevard, that also serves delicious sandwiches, wraps, and pizzas.  The post-stage vibe was very good as racers hung around to partake in the vista, food, and beverage.  Kudos to Todd and Co. for stepping it up.  I was looking forward to Stage 2.

Monday, September 13, 2010

T Minus 1 Day

Yep ... in a little over 24 hours, I will be entering a place of beautiful suffering ... The Pisgah Stage Race.  I am looking forward to it, for when I exit, I will be a much stronger person.  The Forest is rich in waterfalls, wild, rugged trail, and vibrant views.  But to get to it and through it, one will have to take a journey of immeasurable proportions.

Last year the Pisgah Stage Race was not so kind to me.  I started off great, but fell to pieces during the last two stages.  It was not the course, but my body that failed.  Unbeknown to me at the time, I was carrying around one defective little gall bladder. 

Well, this year, I have no excuse.  I have trained for this week, so we will see what I have got.  Although the field is smaller this year (which is a shame since this is gonna be such a stellar event this year), my competition is against two very tough and talented ladies.  As I see it, right now I am solidly in third, with no way to go but up.

The weather is perfect and the course is ever so sweet, with the likes of Squirrel Gap, Laurel Mountain, Pilot Rock, and Black Mountain, to name a few.  Todd Branham has done a great job of recruiting volunteers, acquiring sponsors and I am looking forward to the food that will be provided by Poppies!

Indy ('09 Specialized Era) will get the call up for the Stage 1 Hill Climb, but it will be Stumpy ('08 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR) that will tackle the big stages. 

I will have Chamois Butt'r samples with me at the race, so come and get some.

No matter what the end results are, I will enter and exit the pain cave with a smile on my face ... well, perhaps a grimace. 

See you on the other side!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Little Stuff Is Just As Important

I am hoping that this will make it onto Specialized's website under "What's New."

Dealer Grant Program and Elementary Physical Education

Tennessee endurance mountain bike racer Carey Lowery used her talent this year to raise money for two local elementary schools, one of which her 8 year old daughter attends.  Over Memorial Day weekend, Carey raced solo at the Burn 24 Hour Challenge in North Carolina.  Using this as a platform to raise money through pledges per lap, she was able to secure $5500 for the schools.

Prior to her race, Carey, along with several other local cyclists went to the schools and talked to the classes of City Park and Ingleside elementary schools about cycling, physical fitness, and nutrition.

Just last month she and The Outdoor Store, her local bike shop, presented a check to each school for $2750.  This money will be used by the PE departments to purchase much needed equipment.  In addition, with Specialized providing funding through its dealer grant program and through the generosity of several local businesses, Carey awarded prizes to the winners of her kids’ contest.  The top 3 boys and girls from each school who were closest to guessing the number of miles she rode in 24 hours were awarded bikes, helmets, and gloves.

When asked about how difficult it was racing for 24 hours non-stop, Carey’s reply was, “Knowing that I was racing for a cause and not just my own personal goals, it really was not hard at all.  I have done several 24 hour races, but this was the first one where I smiled on each and every one of the 27 laps (204 miles) I completed.”

Carey Lowery lives in Athens, Tennessee.  Unfortunately Tennessee was named the second most obese state for 2010 by Trust for America’s Health.  20.6 percent of the children in Tennessee are obese.  She hopes that she was able to reach out to the 500+ kids about the importance of exercising and eating right.

I feel that what happens locally, especially when it comes to children and childhood obesity is just as important, if not more, than Schlek's wedding or another roadie winning an international race.  Hopefully Specialized will see it this way as well.  They have an outstanding grant program that needs to be showcased.  I did not even know about it until I accidentally stumbled upon it earlier this year.

Our kids are our future.  If we Americans want to continue to podium on the international level, we all need to address this situation.

I hope to be able to continue to influence the children at City Park and Ingleside in the future.  I was recently asked to be on the city school's health and fitness committee, to which I happily said, "Hell, yea!"  We shall see what this one little grassroot's racer can do. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fundraiser Culmination

Today has honestly been the biggest accomplishment of my 2010 season.  No, I did not set any PR's nor did I beat any famous mountain bikers.  Today I was at Ingleside Elementary School presenting them with a check for $2775 and presenting the winners of the Kids' Contest with their prizes.  Last Thursday I did the same for my daughter's school, City Park.

Presenting the check to the President of the Ingleside PTO

 I gave a brief wrap-up of my race, The Burn 24 Hour MTB Challenge, to the student body.  The kids hooted and hollered when I told them I won and was 3rd O/A.  They laughed and giggled when I told them I had to get off the bike 4 times for potty breaks.  And their eyes got really big when I told them that the distance I covered was from my hometown of Athens to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia.

Then, through the Specialized Dealer Grant program as well as the gracious donations from The Outdoor Store and several local banks, Pam and Bruce Blevins presented the winners with their prizes, which included bikes, helmets, and gloves.  In case you don't recall, the kids wrote down how many miles they thought I could race in 24 hours and the closest 3 boys/girls won.

Pam, Bruce, and I with the Ingleside winners

And with the City Park winners

Last week when we did the same for City Park, I was surprised when the principal presented me with this:

I could not have done this without your help.  Many thanks to all my cycling and non-cycling friends and acquaintances who made donations.

Sometimes it is just not about you and the bike, but rather who you can help and influence while riding your bike.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pisgah Recon

Cresting the Black Mountain hike-a-bike   

With last week's training schedule consisting of long days in the saddle, I opted to head for Pisgah to get my skilz on for the upcoming stage race.  I was able to get in a delicious, although crazy tough, 5 days of 4+ hours on the bike scouting the trails and gravel roads.  I chose Stumpy as my steed ... a bit more travel and a more relaxed position makes for an easier ride on this type of terrain.

Wednesday was a rough for me as I reminded just how tough The Forest is.  I had forgotten to put on my Pisgah legs ... still had my XC legs on.  Squirrel Gap was ... well, Squirrel Gap, only more eroded and overgrown.  The weed-wacking took its toll on my arms and legs; think of 100 lashings.  Unfortunately, this trail is set to be demolished .... ummm, reworked by people with big machines, and the race director is not allowed to touch it, as in clear the weeds.  So I guess the top-level pros will get to clear it for the rest of us.

Bridge connecting Buckhorn to Squirrel Gap
 I got to experience the long hike-a-bike section of the Black Mountain trail.  During last year's race, a course marshall was sitting on the rock in the above picture saying, "You are almost to the rideable part."  And yes, stupid me believed it.  Well, this year, you ain't gonna sucka me!  Some sections of this trail involve doing military presses with your bike to get up the trail.

The final descent off Black Mountain has also been reworked, but it should be in fantastically fast, fun shape come race day!

Wednesday night I hung out with the Asheville Janes'.  A super cool family, I was treated to a never-ending plate of Caribbean chicken and rice with peanut sauce, grilled squash, cantaloupe, and homemade Blue Ridge Parkway blueberry cobbler.  To top it off, I was stoked to sleep in Jubal's bunk bed with Transformer sheets.

I awoke Thursday ready to conquer Stage 4.  The start is straight up on Thrift Cove which then dumps you onto Black Mountain which goes straight up ... forever .... to get you to Turkey Pen.  When hike-a-biking is no fun anymore, I call it pushing.  Well, I pushed for a long time.  Turning onto Turkey Pen, I was immediately greeted with a wall of downed trees.  Pushing then turned to bushwacking.  As I was relishing the idea of being able to eventually get back on and ride, a huge tree not 50 yards to my right came crashing down, taking several in its path, like dominoes.  Sh!t!  What little adrenalin I had left got spent watching that cataclysmic show of natural force.  Thankfully the domino effect went away from me rather than towards.  I turned on the afterburners to get away from the top of this ridge where a lot of trees looked like they could go at any time. 

After 2 hours and 45 minutes, I made it to the Turkey Pen parking lot.  A sum total of 10 miles!  (Todd has since said that this WILL BE CLEAR come race day.)  After more trail, I eventually ended up on Squirrel Gap, although going opposite the previous day's direction.  This is where Pisgah demanded a sacrifice; since I was the only one out there, well the picture below clearly explains.

I was riding up and over a rather large rock when my front wheel got stuck in a perfect 26" size hole in between 2 rocks.  I desperately tried to fall uphill, but gravity won, and I tumbled down the hill about 10 feet before a rather large rock stopped me by bashing into my lower leg just below the knee.  Thankfully only a gash and a bone bruise to my tibial crest.  Squirrel Gap is no easy place for a rescue party to get to.  After assessing myself and my bike, I chose to walk a bit and gather my senses. (And that night, I ordered a SPOT.)  I now know how Danielle felt during a lot of her 2008 season!

Having the wind knocked out of my sails, I rode the remainder of my time a bit more cautiously.  I did not complete the stage as the rather large portion of pushing consumed a large chunk of time ... and my leg hurt like heck!  This stage is going to be the hardest as it is almost all single track. Thursday night Zeke and I demolished roast beef hoagies and steamed broccoli.

On Friday, Zeke and I rode a portion of Stage 3.  We started out of Kuykendall Campground and rode up FS 471 to Gloucester Gap.  My legs were feeling great and the climb was a delight to giv'r ... good roadbed and a steady grade.  From the 4-way we took a left and headed out to Hwy 215, rode it for a bit, and then hopped on Trail 129 (later we found out this has been taken out of the stage).  This trail was straight up and straight over Big Fork Ridge and then it leveled off along a beautiful creek and Courthouse Falls was an amazing work of natural art!  Even though this is not in the race, I am glad I persevered along the first mile of pushing.

We decided to skip Farlow Gap as we have both ridden/slid down that trail many times.  We then split up.  I rode more of the single track, including Daniel Ridge and Cove Creek and then slayed some demons on the gravel road climb up FS 475-B.  Last year, I fell completely apart on the gravel road sections.  This year, less a diseased gall bladder, I chewed up the fire roads and spit them up.  I can honestly say I loved the gravel this year ... brappp!

On Saturday, Perry joined in on the fun.  Zeke shuttled Perry and I to the Turkey Pen Gap parking lot.  From here we intended to ride the remainder of Stage 5.  It was drizzling when we started, but warm.  Vineyard Gap Trail was fun and had some flow.  The descent was steep and the waterbars slick, but rideable.  Some of steep ups I had to get off and push a little, but that was mostly due to the fatigue I was beginning to carry in my legs.  The 6, or was it 7, creek crossings were o.k., but there were some DEEP mudholes along Bradley Creek Trail.  I found out the hard way on one when I sunk up to my axles and about endo'd.  After another good gravel grinder up FS 5015, we hopped on to Laurel Mountain Trail.  All was good until we hit the steep hike-a-bike; the heavens let loose with rain (hmmm ... reminds me of last year, only 30 degrees warmer). 

At the intersection of Laurel Mountain and the Laurel Mountain connector, we turned left.  What I did not know or see was that the trail we should have turned left on to was an even sharper left.  So after about a half mile of pushing, it just did not feel right.  I looked at the map, but could not figure out where we had gone wrong.  (I still don't think the NG Map and the actual trails at that intersection jive.)  So we kept pushing on forward.  This was a pretty wicked trail, too.  Perry was beginning to doubt his wanting to race here.  Well, after about 45 minutes of pushing we ended up at a sign that said Pisgah Inn to the right.  WTF!  With us in a downpour and the temperature dropping, we were NOT going back. 

Warming the core at the Pisgah Inn Restaurant
 We rode to the Inn, went straight to the restaurant where we both ordered coffee, and then I attempted to call Zeke.  I was able to reach him the first time.  Zeke saved us from an 18 mile pavement descent in a cold downpour.  Pilot Rock will just have to wait until race day.

Sunday morning I expected to wake up feeling tired and with cobwebs in my head.  I awoke to feeling none of the past four days in my legs.  Had I been possessed by the Energizer Bunny?  It still could be a different story once I hit the trail, though.  I fueled up on coffee, fruit, and oatmeal.  Our intention today was to go as hard as we could.  We started out by climbing up FS 477 and once again my legs were sparkly.  After a quick descent we picked up Club Gap Trail, all of which was rideable.  From there we explored the portion of Black Mountain between Club Gap and Buckhorn.  Boy, was it overgrown!  Just when I thought my wounds from the previous days were healing ...  let's just say that having injured legs lashed by more undergrowth is not very pleasant.  The descent down to Buckhorn was a whoo! hoo! experience.  Unfortunately I will have to go in the opposite direction on Stage 4.  I finished up my ride time with another 5 mile gravel road climb;  I emptied the tank on this one. 

I came to Pisgah with two goals:  gain knowledge of the course and leave it all on the trail.  I accomplished both.  Pisgah also taught me a lesson or two.  Beauty can be treacherous.  Be self-sufficient and expect the unexpected.

Meet my new riding buddy!

For those who want the ultimate test of skills, fitness, and mental tenacity, come get your fill of Pisgah at The Pisgah Stage Race.  Todd has stated that the trails will be a lot clearer than when I rode them.  The course will be well-marked, the aid stations well-stocked, and lots of people out there cheering you on.  But take heed ... this race will make ORAMM look like child's play.  Be prepared to ride hard, get wet, and hike ... alot,  If you are both mentally and physically prepared, then you are going to have one helluva good time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

SERC Fontana Race Report

This past Sunday was the Southeastern Regional Championship XC finale in Fontana, NC.  I had a fairly intense week of training, including VO2 max intervals on Tuesday and riding the Cohutta Death Loop at race pace on Thursday.  Coach had a SS session on Sunday.  Since there was this race, I decided I could have a better work out if I was forced to go hard.  Coach called it "squeezing blood out of a stone."

I decided that I wanted to race for money and with more competition, so I entered the Women's Pro/Expert class.  No more large T-shirts and Entemann's mini-muffins, I was going for cash!  12 of us lined up at the start.  Wow!  That says a lot.  A few years back when I raced XC, we were lucky enough to have 5 or 6.

I chose a pretty easy gear for Solo, my Specialized 29'r SS.  Each 7.5 mile lap had about 1000 feet of climbing and some of those climbs were pretty steep.  When the gun went off, Anina and Kim took off like bottle rockets.  The start was a 0.3 mile 10% paved climb.  I tried to go with them, but my legs filled with lead and I had to back off.  I was still able to head into the single track in 3rd, with quite a gap on the rest of the field.  I was able to keep the Vantaggio ladies in sight for a while, but I had to back it off a bit about midway through the first lap, or I was going to blow up.  

The second lap hurt!  I swear the climbs, especially the gravel road in the middle, got longer and steeper.  I was able to hone in on my hike-a-bike skills in several spots.  I tried to make up some time on the descents.  The lines were there ... all I had to do was follow them and keep my fingers off my Magura's.  I don't think I was all that much slower on Solo on the descents as compared to my Era.

The third lap felt the easiest.  After racing for almost 80 minutes, I guess I had finally warmed up.  People on the trail kept telling me that Kim was just up ahead.  That encouraged me to enter deeper into the pain cave to see if I could possibly reel her in.  I just about got too crazy as on the final descent, I hit a jump faster than on the first two laps.  When I came down, my left foot came unclipped and I got all "squirrely."  I almost grabbed too much front brake!  After that wake-up call, I settled down for the remainder of the descent.  As I was climbing up the last bit of pavement to the finish, I saw Kim ... as she was rolling through the finish.  Arrggg!  If we only had to do 1 more lap ...

So I finished third and collected enough money to pay for my entry as well as the gas to get there.  And I do believe that the stone did bleed!  A perfect way to wrap up a good week of intensity.

I have really enjoyed racing my SS at Raccoon and Fontana.  Hmmm ... how can I work more of these XC events into my schedule next year?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Day in the Life

I am back in the Pisgah Stage Race prep mode.  Coach had me do VO2 Max Intervals today.  I like this work out because it is one hell of a sufferfest, but it is over pretty quickly, and you feel like you really accomplished something.

Here is how they went:

#1:  This is not too bad.  Hmmm, maybe I am a bit stronger.  I feel like I could go all day at this wattage!
#2:  Can I take back what I previously stated?
#3:  Damn Coach for making me do those squats yesterday!
#4:  Ohhhhh......the burn!
#5:  I need a dog to start chasing me.  Come on, legs, don't leave me now!
#6:  Mama!

And now I get to go work for 10 hours, dodging pee and poop, smelling anal glands,  listening to incessant barking, and trying to be quicker than the dogs' clamping jaws.

I think I would rather do some more suffering at the hand's of my Coach.

Friday, July 30, 2010

ORAMM Race Report, part 2

I owned Curtis Creek this year.  Last year, my legs went on strike at aid station 2, but today was like riding without a chain.  I gobbled up plenty of carrots in those 9 miles.  I caught back up to Rich; I taunted him with the 6 hour thing, but his face told a different story.  That was the last I saw of him. 

I did have to slow it down a bit at the midway point, not because of my fitness, but because of the heat.  I started to get a headache and felt a slight chill, telltale signs that if you ignore, the next thing you know, you will be on the ground babbling incoherently.  I knew I was close to the top when the switchbacks got steeper and tighter.  I rolled in to aid station 3 and was immediately greeted by several smiling faces.  One filled my gel flask, one offered an ice cold coke and the other had my drop bag.  Was I in heaven?  The aid station volunteers were awesome!

The gravel descent down the other side of the Parkway was insanely sketchy.  I have never felt so out of control on a gravel road descent.  After a couple front wheel slide outs, I determined what little time I might be gaining by riding stupid was not worth the risk.  I slowed it down to a more life sustaining speed; it seemed like forever before I hit the bottom. 

The 4 mile climb back up to the Parkway was uneventful, except for the nagging headache that would not go away despite what I thought was an adequate fluid intake.  The volunteers at aid station 4 were masters of their game and had me off and pedaling up the Parkway to the infamous hike-a-bike.  I think I ingested too much gel and Rapidade at the last aid station because as I pushed my bike up to Heartbreak Ridge, I became nauseous.  This brought back not so fond memories of The Burn 24 Hour. 

As I began the looooooong descent down Heartbreak, my body was able to draw some blood from my legs and finish the digestion process.  The nausea soon passed.  I always forget just how long Heartbreak is.  I always start off "Whoo-hooing!" but that soon changes to "Oh my God, my head is going to fly off my neck!"
This section requires absolute focus which is hard to do when all your eyes see is a constant "dirt, sky, dirt, sky, dirt, sky ...".  There are a few kickers on this trail that allowed my body to realign itself and prepare for the final switchbacky descent that I initially rode up on the way to Star Gap.  Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my ride down and my Specialized Era rocked it!  (I would love to see what an Enduro would do on Heartbreak, however.)

I rolled on through aid station 5 and looked at my time:  5:17.  That sub-6 was not looking good, but I thought I still had a chance to equal last year's time.  Well, at least until I began the 4 mile climb up Miller Creek.  Did I just enter hell?  This was the most exposed road of the day.  It was now 1:30pm and probably 97+ degrees.  The heat was like a ton of bricks sitting on my chest.  It was here that I really had to dial the power down or suffer the consequences.  I passed through the parking lot, not looking forward to the steep-a$$ climb back to the top of Kitsuma.  I made it, albeit slower and a few more times off the bike.

The descent seemed like an eternity.  Very powdery after having 400+ riders come through and a lot of skid marks off the trail.  Once again, my Ergon GR2's comforted my hands on this bumpy terrain.  I popped out onto the pavement and immediately went into time trial mode.  This lasted about 30 seconds when my inner quads screamed at me and threatened to lock up.  I backed off and rode at a cramp-free speed.  No need to kill myself; there was a "jelly" in a white Cadillac Seville that tried to do that for me.  Speeding along, horn blaring, swerving around me at the last minute ... yeah, you are really cool, old man!

I crossed the finish line in 6:33, 1st place woman (and the oldest, I might add), and 31st overall.  The slower time I will blame on the heat, for I felt I was fitter than last year.  All said and done, I felt that I properly executed my race and nutrition plan for this one.  I consumed 170 ounces of fluids (Rapidade, water, and Coke) and I took in about 230 kcal/hour.  I don't think I could have gone any harder.

Kudos to Todd for once again putting on a stellar race.  Great course markings, wonderful volunteers, a nice creek to cool off in post-race, and good food. 

I might add that Zeke finished 5th in the 50+ category and would have possible been higher up on the podium were it not for the time spent helping the heat casualty up on Kitsuma.  Not only is he one fast old dude, but a trail angel.  Those in his class at Leadville had better watch out!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

ORAMM Race Report, part 1

83 degrees at the 8am start would make for a scorching race.  Knowing that staying hydrated and keeping the core cool would be crucial, I started the race with a cold, wet jersey and my Camelbak full of iced down Rapidade.  I had also stuck bottles of water in my drop bags, not for drinking, but for pouring over my head at the aid stations.

The race rolled out of Old Fort at a neutral pace, giving me time for my legs of 41 years to come around.  I can start fast when needed, but I really like these easier starts.  Having broke a spoke on my Powertap wheel during the pre-ride the day before, I would have to rely on HR and PE to keep me from blowing up in the first 25 miles as I had last year.

The race began as we hit the 5 mile climb up Old Hwy 70.  Lisa and I rode together for a ways, neither one of us talking much, but watching as Andrea slowly pulled away from us.  I was focused on a steady rhythmic turning of the pedals and making sure my HR didn't get too high.  I soon caught Andrea as well as a bunch of guys and was able to make it to Kitsuma's single track with a clean trail ahead.

Halfway up, I encountered Rich.  From reading his recent posts, he and I both had the same goal:  a sub 6 hour race.  But seeing him this soon in the race bothered me a little.  I was hoping that I was motoring on and that he was not sputtering.  He was pretty chatty and in good spirits, so if that continued and I could keep up, then perhaps a sub-6 was doable.

I let him take the lead on the descent.  Not that I was being nice, but I wanted to follow his lines on this descent of mayhem and hell.  You see, this bit of trail has gotten a lot more chewed up in just a year, what with bigger drops, more log crossings, more root exposure, and one hell of a hole left by an uprooted tree.  Rich is like a Jedi knight, Yoda in particular.  Just by looking, you wouldn't think him to be much of a mountain biker, but when his game is on, it takes everything you got to hang on!  Needless to say, I hung with him through the trickiest parts and then he just got smaller and smaller ... and was gone!

I hooked up with Justin and rode with him over the next hour or so.  The single track up to Star Gap was quite entertaining with several steep hike-a-bikes.  I knew I would be coming back down this later in the day so every now and then I would take a look back down and study the lines.  The climbing was steep but manageable other than a couple CX off the bike moves to negotiate some sharp, steep switchbacks.  Once again, I encountered Rich and asked if we were on pace.  He wasn't too sure and didn't seem too confident at this point.  Oh, well.  I was feeling really good, so I stayed optimistic.

On the descent I rode behind Matt, the Outdoor Store's Specialized rep.  He was kind enough to take a digger on one of the switchbacks, allowing me to dismount and make it down nice and safe.  Once I finished the descent and popped out onto the doubletrack-turned-singletrack climb, the fun began.  The next seven miles on this old logging road was like riding on marbles, blindfolded.  Very sketchy and you couldn't see what lay ahead due to the weeds almost choking out the trail.  Oh, goody!   Luckily I had Justin ahead of me and I could follow his lead.

Rolling into the second aid station, I was handed my drop bag.  I poured a bottle of water over my head, swapped out water bottles, downed 1/2 a can of Coke and headed out for the next little hill.  At this point in the race, I was feeling great, the legs were sparkly, and I was ready to conquer the 9 mile Curtis Creek climb.

to be continued....