Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lumberjack 100 Race Report

Danielle had been trying for the past 5 years to get Zeke and I to do this hundie.  Persistense finally paid off as we made the journey up to Manistee National Forest to race our single speeds.  However, this journey was a much a visit of childhood memories as it was a race for me.

Our travels included a stop in Lima, Ohio where I lived from the ages of 4-9.  Wednesday we hooked up with Bob and Ann, who had lived across the court from us.  His hobby is rebuilding Model T's and we were lucky enough to ride in one of them to dinner.

What with all the pedals/levers these T's have, it makes a stick shift a piece of cake to drive.   

 After dinner we drove to my childhood home.  This house had tons of wonderful memories both inside and out.

The Williams household ... not much has changed except for a 2nd floor addition on the left.

The next day we opened up our legs on the local greenway.  We were way undergeared as we had thought we were going to ride some trail up in Danielle's neck of the woods, but the weather was being uncooperative.  That was o.k. as I happened upon one of the local parks that we would have family picnics.

32 X 20 forced me into neuromuscular endurance mode.

From Lima, we headed up to Danielle's in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I lived in "Town Grapids" (how I said it when I was a toddler) from about 3 months to 4 years of age.  About the only memory of my life here was being chased around the duplex we had lived in by my Mom with a broom.  She refuses to remember that memory and I have no recollection of why I was being chased.  I also think I had a brief stint of taking ballet as a toddler.

Thursday night Zeke and I stayed at Danielle and Scott's house and caught up on racing, dogs, and life in general. On Friday we headed up to Manistee and got a short pre-ride in on the inner loop.  Oh my God, the bugs and mosquitos!  These guys were vicious!  Seeing as how I had not brought any bagged blood of mine, I slathered myself with repellent.  

I chose a 32 X 19 and it was spot on for the pre-ride.  The trail was smooth and flowed very well.  With all the rain in the past few weeks, the sand had settled and the trail was tacky ... perfect!

So green and lush, like Tennessee but without all the lung-busting hills.

Wow!  4 am came way too soon.  It has been quite a while since I have raced a hundie and I forgot about those 7 am starts.  XC racing has spoiled me!  The start of the race was a 1.5 mile paved road, slightly downhill ... a single speeder's nightmare.  Luckily I only had to do this part one time.  It was frustrating as I watched half the field pass me.  As I entered the single track, there was a line of racers as far as I could see.  I was patient and passed as efficiently as I could, although in my head I was screaming, "Are we on a group ride or are we racing?!?"  But knowing that every person was racing their own race and for their own goals, I settled.  Having done enough of these, my time would come.  And going slower on that first lap would keep me from blowing up.

I had no idea where the other women were.  I could only assume that they were all ahead of me and I had some catching up to do.   I was a little worried on the first lap that my gear choice was too easy as I easily motored up the hills ... and was really spinny on the flats.  There were 3 flat dirt road sections per lap, easily totaling 4-5 miles of misery.  Just when I had passed a group of racers in the single track, they would pass me back on the roads and I had to do it all over again.  There should be an unwritten rule that if you get passed by a single speeder in the single track "like you were standing still", you MUST yield to them on the roads!

Towards the end of the first lap, I managed to catch several of the top 10 geared ladies.  Now I was no longer on tour; I was racing and it felt great!  I came through the feed zone, swapped out Camelbaks and headed out for Lap # 2.  On this lap I rode with several groups of men, chitty-chatting with them, and then moving on as their pace began to slow.  One gentleman was from Chicago and when he found out I was from Tennessee, he asked what I thought of these hills.  I replied, "Speed bumps."

At the end of the second lap, I was still feeling great.  This was a good sign for me because usually around the 60 mile mark is when I hit a slump in a hundred miler.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the last bit of single track:  a twisty, flowy bench cut downhill,  followed by a short, but grunty climb which then rewards you with a rippin' straight descent.  The remainder to the Start/Finish area is flat but fast!  

As I came through the feed zone, I had a Red Bull shot and swapped out Camelbaks and gel flasks.  Scott asked me how I was doing to which I replied, "I am feeling great; this is fun."  I was looking for some sort of facial expression that would tell me how/where Danielle was, but he had a great Poker face.  I was disappointed I had not seen any other SS ladies and almost allowed myself to feel o.k. with 2nd or 3rd.  I then gave myself a mental slap;  I had not come all this way to not go down fighting.  How bad do you want that axe?  How bad do you want a top 5 o/a?  I repeated those questions in my mind and pumped myself up for that third and final lap.

On the inner loop those speed bumps suddenly became hills.  Holding my ego in check, I chose to run several of them ... and was probably faster doing that.  And no, my head and shoulders were not slumped over the bars as I pushed my bike up those hills.  I was running them; it may have been more of a jog, but my feet were moving fast!

I happened to see a black jersey at the top of one of those hills.  Could it be ...?  As I got closer, it was!  My good friend and stiff competitor Danielle.  I was feeling good and trying to motivate her when I said, "You had better find a bigger gear because here I come!"  We rode together for awhile and then she told me to go.  Her legs were fried!  She thought she was pushing too big of a gear, but I think she was just not used to racing her SS.  Besides that she had just finished an 8 hour duo on her SS last weekend whereas I had just done an XC.

After I passed Danielle, I ramped it up to XC pace for the next 10 miles.  With Danielle being super tough, she had the ability to dig deep and catch back up.  Besides, she has so many axes already, she doesn't even know where they all are ;) 

In the last 20 miles, I was able to reel in one more geared lady.  Passing her was a bit difficult as there was this guy in front of her that did not want to let me by.  I passed her as she yielded to him during an opening.  Then when I asked to pass him, he said something, the gist of which went like this, "No, you are going to have to fight for this one as I want to see how this plays out."  Well, thank you very much, as conversation like this ALWAYS fires me up.  Needless to say, the next opening I passed him, punched the gas, and never saw either of them again.

I finished in 8:15:23.  I was 5th overall.  My IT bands were quite happy the whole race, so a huge thanks goes out to Benchmark and their physical therapists for getting my knees back into racing shape.  The only part of my body that really hurt were the balls of my feet.  All that mashing had the nerves screaming.  The Ergon GS2's kept my hands happy and pain-free the whole race.  Ergon needs to look at a shoe/insert set-up that would do the same.

The NUE series has the sweetest trophies!

Danielle may have not gotten the axe this year, but she took the win in the role model contest.  You see, at the end of the race, an 8 year old girl (whose name I forgot) approached her and asked for her autograph.  Her mother said that Danielle was her "Chris Eatough."  How cool is that?  Trophies eventually make their way to the attic.  But being a role model lasts forever!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

SERC #6 Dauset Race Report

Note Carly's chipmunk cheeks ... full of bagel.

Our smiles sum up how the whole weekend went.  We were busy little beavers, but managed to cram a bunch of good stuff into this weekend ... other than bike racing.  But we must talk about the racing first!

Carly had another awesome course, 0.5 miles of single track, of which she did 2 laps.  Her second hardest SERC course yet, the first being Winder, Georgia. 

Off to a good start!

Carly managed to get into the woods in 3rd place, but ended up losing two places, she said, because of the boys bumbling in front of her.  I told her that she would have to get used to that because it happens to me, too. 

For just a second, I thought this was not going to end well.

Carly did not care for all the roots.  I can only imagine how jarring it would be on 24 inch wheels when even I felt it on my 29'r.  Somehow I gotta teach her how to stand and pedal over them ... her bottom is glued to the seat!  Perhaps a job for the "Zeke-ster."

Finishing strong.

Carly did an excellent job of running up one of the steep step ups.  She is a strong hike-a-biker, like her Mommy.  At the finish, she managed to pass one of the boys who had caused her to bobble on the first lap.  When asked about her passing him just before the finishing chute, she replied, "I just wanted to finish this race as quick as possible."  Translation:  "I just had to girl him!"

My race was tough and the competition is only getting tougher.  My IT bands were quite happy, but seeing as this was the first race since they had flared up, I was a bit tentative.  Reluctantly, I voted for 2 laps instead of 3.  I swear I heard a few gasps when my arm when up for just 2 laps!

Spinning a cadence of about 130 here at the start!

The pace started off furiously fast and my quads screamed all the way up the hill to the single track entry.  I managed to dive into the woods in 5th place.  The five of us were in a train for about the first 10 minutes and then 4th place began to dangle.  Nooo ... dangling is not good!  I was screaming in my head for her to hang on to 3rd.  She popped and I had no where to pass.  I slowly watched them slip away.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was able to pass 4th.  I could still see the first 3 ladies, Kim, Catherine, and Carolyn, about 10 seconds ahead.  I was slowly reeling them back in when we hit the first flat section and then they clicked down and were gone!  I could not click and my legs were already spinning crazy fast.  I had to back off to a more life sustaining cadence and hope that their hard effort and the heat would soon get to them.

I pretty much suffered the first lap.  Having not raced or trained at the upper power levels for 3 weeks, my legs had gotten all wimpy on me.  They were barking the whole time on that first lap.  And even though the climbs were short, to my legs they felt like I was climbing Potato Patch.

Beginning the 2nd lap.

Finally my legs began to wake up on the second lap and I was able to up the pace.  I caught Caroline just before the second flat section and was able to pass her before the single track narrowed and the climbing began.  With about 1 mile left, I caught sight of  who I thought was Catherine.  This motivated me to dig deep and enter the pain cave.  I thought I might have a chance to catch her, but I just ran out of trail ... and energy. 

I was thoroughly pleased with my performance which netted 3rd place.  More than that was the fact that my knees stayed happy and pain-free all day.  I was elated for Catherine and her first SERC win!  The USSC-Trek-Vantaggio lady who I had been chasing was Kim, who wasn't having such a happy day.

Now on to the good stuff, according to Carly.  After the race, we went over to the Nature Center and saw all the cool critters, with the cougar being the coolest!  From there we began our quest to find a Dairy Queen.  Zeke had promised Carly a treat and she had her taste buds set on a Blizzard.  Carly wanted the large, but I knew better.  We met in the middle with a medium Heath Bar Crunch, of which she finished a little over half.  We topped off our day with supper at Mellow Mushroom in downtown Chattanooga.  I tried their GF pizza.  It was most wonderful and I did not get glutened at this restaurant.  I recommend getting the GF pizza with an olive oil and garlic base, as it adds some flavor to an otherwise flavorless crust. 

All in all, we had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  I wonder what SERC #7 will bring?