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.