Friday, December 28, 2012

Whole 30: Week 1 Reintroduction ... and then some!

I am just finishing up the first week after Whole 30.  I decided that the first "food" I would try would be sugar.  So on Christmas Eve, I had a taste of my Paleo pumpkin pie, slightly sweetened with honey.

Fresh pumpkin and a pecan/hazelnut crust.

I had no reactions, be it positive or negative.  Then on Christmas morning, with a cup of coffee, I had a chunk of Mom's pecan dark/white chocolate bark.

Evil goodness!

Within 30 minutes, I experienced a sugar buzz!  It was hard to describe, but it felt kinda like an "out of body" experience.  This rush lasted about 20 minutes and then I was back to normal.  Luckily, I did not experience the "crash" that usually follows.

Since Christmas day, I have still limited my sugar consumption to Paleo-approved sugars, i.e. honey and maple sugar, and have not had much.  This will continue to be the plan from here on out, with the exception of race nutrition, which will include gels and Rapidade.  I really don't have a craving for sugar.  I find that I can satisfy my sweet tooth with fruit and the Pomegranate juice "popsicles" that my daughter and I enjoy on occasion for a bedtime snack.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was fearful of having "glutened" myself or perhaps having an issue with a FODMAP.  Well, today is day 9 of being glutened.  Over Christmas weekend, my GI issues continued to escalate into full blown glutening:  nausea, bloating,  fatigue, difficulty sleeping,and irritability.  The only food I could track this to would be the raw cashews.  I have not eaten at a restaurant for 8 weeks nor have I been eating any processed foods.   I have been buying these in bulk from Whole Foods for the past 6 months.  The allergy statement did not mention the possibility of being processed in a facility that also handles wheat and the produce manager even assured me so.  However, after researching "bulk nuts", I have discovered that, according to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act

If a food is potentially cross-contaminated with one of these allergens during production, packaging or storage, the company is not required to include this information on the package, and the federal government does not have standards for cross-contamination statements.  It is a company's choice whether or not to include this information, and how to word it. 

You would think that after 2 years of being "gluten-free," I would have all this figured out.  So now, based on past experience, I probably have another 3-4 weeks of feeling like shit!  I am hoping for a small miracle that by being Whole 30 for a month, I might get over this glutening a little quicker.  Next Saturday is the first race of The Snake and to do well, you must be at the top of your game.  Nothing like a challenge!

I was happy to run across this website.  They have certified gluten-free nuts!  A little more expensive, but so worth it.  I have already placed an order for 4 pounds of cashews.  Yep, I love me some cashews!

One thing that does particularly concern me is how irritable, short-tempered, and mildly depressed I have become since being glutened.  I do believe this crap messes with my mind as well as my GI tract.  After 2 1/2 weeks of being on the Whole 30 plan, my mind was clear and full of happy thoughts and feelings.  I was even tempered and it took a hell of a lot to get me riled.  And now, it doesn't take much to upset me.  And THAT is really SCARY.  It is a wake up call to me that gluten and other grains could lead to serious depression in the right person.  Could "gluten" be a cause for the increase in mental illness in our society today?

As far as reintroducing any more "foods" back into my diet, probably not until I get over this glutening.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Whole 30: Week 4 Reflections

Wow!  Day 30 has arrived.  Last month when I started this food elimination trial, I had in my mind what and when I was going to re introduce after the 30 days.  Heck, I had even purchased a bag of Garden of Eatin' Corn Tortilla Chips and had frozen a dozen GF chocolate chip cookies.  But now I am filled with trepidation.  I don't want to risk experiencing any of those issues I had prior to the plan, i.e. Buddha belly, GI inflammation, "morning cobweb brain", headaches, acne, and geographic tongue.

Not my tongue, but very close to what mine looked like off and on for 10 friggin' years!

I have had geographic tongue for 10 years.  This denuding of the tongue was cyclical and most painful.  I would lose my taste buds, they would re grow over the next 3-4 weeks, only to lose them again!  I had gone to two different doctors years ago.  One said it might be reflux, the other did not know.  If you read the literature, the cause is unknown and there is no treatment.  Well now, I beg to differ.  One of those foods I had eliminated is the culprit as my tongue has been normal now for 6 weeks.  No where in the literature does it state that it might be due to a bad food i.e. artificial sweeteners, grains, legumes, dairy, seed oils, or other highly processed/toxic foods!

So, I am giving the chips as part of a Christmas present and the chocolate chip cookies are going to Santa.  As of now, I do plan on re introducing sugar  ... but in moderation.  This will be my first item going down the hatch Christmas morning.  I am saying a little prayer for my taste buds, although I do believe the culprit is grains or dairy.

Paleo Pumpkin Pie

For now, I am not going to re introduce grains and pseudo grains.  I am still in the undecided category for dairy.  I have discovered so many new foods that my taste buds and "food enjoyment center in the brain" are quite satiated.

I had been good about not stepping on the scales, except for at the doctor's office during Week 1.  But that was with clothes and shoes on so it did not really count.  Well, today I did.  I knew I had been losing weight so I am happily pleased that it was  5 pounds! Hehe,  my power/weight ratio looks even better!  I would say that half of that was from within the abdomen.  That loss was most likely due to the loss of inflammation from my small and large bowels.  My scale also reads % body fat.  I know it is not an accurate measurement for this parameter but it is a good way to look at it from a relative perspective.  My loss was 3%.

Energy levels were good for the first half of this week.  I had my best ride ever on Wednesday when I did a  4 hour gravel grind.  Save for the first 30 minutes when I think I had a bottoming out of my blood glucose, the remainder of the ride I felt really strong!  However, the remainder of the week I have felt terrible on the bike.  I don't know why as the other two rides were only 1 and 2 hours duration.  Of course, on those days, I did not eat any fruit or Larabars, so perhaps my glycogen stores were a bit lacking.

Another possible reason could be that I may have been "glutened" or "grained."  Beginning Thursday, I have had some GI distress (mild cramping, bloating) and I am unable to eat much due to a "fullness" feeling in my abdomen.  In the past, that scenario has happened when I have been "glutened."  I just don't know what I ate that may have caused this, other than perhaps some contaminated cashews.  Perhaps it is a FODMAP or a "bug."

It is kind of ironic that during the last week of Whole 30 I have felt the worst.  But no worries!  Overall, I am so happy that I chose to do this experiment.  It has taught me so much about my body.  And it is a GREAT jump start to the 2013 season!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Whole 30: Week 3 Reflections

There has not been as big a change between Week 2 and Week 3 as there had from the first two weeks.  The only noticeable change is that I have not had any acne flare ups since I started the program.

 I have been pretty faithful to the 3 a day meals unless I ride big; then I include some food during the ride as well as a post work out recovery meal.  And I must confess that my "breakfast" usually lasts about 60-75 minutes.  I have always been a "grazer" and I thought that going to a set number of meals would be difficult.  But after increasing my fat intake, I now stay "full" for a longer period of time.

Ride food ...  coconut date rolls ( look very similar to litter coated cat turds).

I did pay dearly last week as I was feeling good enough for 2 big days.  The first was a 5 hour gravel grinder.  I at least made it 2 1/2 hours before bonking.  The following day I experimented with true suffering as I chose to pre-ride The Snake on my SS, 1 gear harder than I normally use.  What the hell was I thinking?  Must have been a lack of glucose in the brain!  Needless to say I didn't make it 90 minutes before I bonked really hard!  And then my fork decided to "die" on the infamous rocky ridge section.  I ended up walking sections that normally would be easy to ride.  Talk about being humbled!

And ... two days later, I caught a cold.  What I learned from this is that the Whole 30 plan not only halved the duration of my cold, but also the severity of it as well.  That virus left me in 3 days, tail tucked and high tailing it to find some easier prey!

Now that I am about finished, I have been trying to figure out how to train and race with the least amount of non-Whole 30 approved foods added back.  I know I will NOT add back seed oils, legumes, grains,and pseudo grains save for rice, if I can tolerate it, i.e. no Buddha belly and sluggishness.  I am hoping dairy will agree with me, but if not, than I will be o.k. with that.  I would rather feel great forever on a slightly limited diet than to have that momentary "feel good" feeling after a bite of cheese or ice cream.

I am thinking that I will be able to substiute potatoes (both sweet and white) for rice.  (Now what am I gonna do with the 10 boxes of Chocolate Chex that I bought 2 months ago at a ridiculously low price!?!)  Oh, Carly ......

Day 1 of reintroduction will be Christmas day.  I have chosen sugar as my first.  I have got a GREAT recipe for Paleo pecan pie!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Whole 30: Week 2 Reflections

I have just finished up the second week and it has been more an afterthought than an accomplishment.  This lifestyle is so darn easy.  I have had NO desires for the excluded foods.  What I have desired is more brussel sprouts, kale chips, cole slaw, and bacon, steak, and fish.  I cannot eat enough of those wonderful foods that non-human Nature has provided.  I finally figured out how to get full at each one of my 3 meals ... more fat!  I have tried more new recipes these past two weeks than I have in the past year.  And my family enjoys them as well.

Meatza Pizza (cheese on the right for Carly)

Christmas Day will be the first day of reintroduction and I am a bit concerned.  I have felt so good and my GI tract has never been better that I am afraid I won't be able to tolerate the non-gluten grains (rice, corn, sorghum) or dairy.  I am celiac so I had already eliminated gluten, oats, and quinoa from my diet.  Unfortunately with celiac disease your body with its "leaky gut" syndrome sometimes becomes intolerant of other grains, grain-like foods (quinoa, buckwheat), legumes and dairy.  And I have already fallen in to this category with oats, quinoa, and legumes.

Energy levels have been better this week.  I have not bonked while on the bike so I do believe my body is adapting to utilizing my fat as an energy source ... finally!  My pants/shorts are looser on me and I am a little more "ribby" so I do think I have lost a couple pounds of the stuff,  Added bonus!  However, I have not had any serious intensity on the bike.  It has been all about "just riding around."

I usually get a head ache or two a week for various reasons:  dehydration, stress, intensity.  I have not had one since being on the plan.  Not sure if this is a result or just a coincidence.  The one thing I do know is that my patience has been better and I have not gotten upset over "the little things" as much.  Overall, I have been happier.

Quite surprisingly, for a person who does not have a gall bladder and who has upped her fat consumption, my poops have been normal and regular.  I was worried about the possibility of diarrhea with the added fat, but it has not happened.  I guess we really don't need a gallbladder.  FYI, I had a cholecystectomy in 2010 thinking that this was the cause of my digestive problems.

I suppose the only difficulty with this way of eating is that food preparation takes longer and I have to make several trips to the grocery each week.  The other day at Ingles I was shopping the perimeter and decided to make a short-cut through the center of the store ... you know, where all those boxes of pre-packaged foods lie.  I imagined that as I was passing through, the boxes were going to ambush me, tie me down, and force their contents of chemicals into my body.  Talk about a daymare!

Now off to make some egg-based pumpkin banana pancakes (with fresh pumpkin, of course)!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Whole 30: Week 1 Reflections

Easy peasy, once I set my mind to it.  However, I did not jump into this "cleanse" on a whim.  I had ample time to plan and get motivated.  When last Saturday came, my Mom and I hopped aboard the train.  Of course, having a Mom that is a wonderful cook does make the leap that much easier.  As my StepDad said, "If this is a diet, you've got me fooled!" 

Bacon Wrapped Wild Duck

I thought I would miss my unsweetened cup of morning coffee or my dark chocolate bedtime snack.  And what about that homemade GF chocolate chip cookie after a hard training ride or melted cheese on top of my hamburger.  Nope!  Not a single moment of unease.  And you wanna know why?  Because it is REALLY NOT THAT HARD!  Listen, it is not like going through cancer treatment or bereaving the loss of a loved one.  IT'S JUST FOOD!  And there is so many better and tastier things to eat out there than sugar and HFCS.  Like bacon!  I have eaten more of this tasty treat in the past week than in my whole life.  Bacon is the new chocolate.

Sonoma Chicken Salad

The only "thing" I miss is sustained  and high end power while on the bike.  At first I thought it was just life or perhaps the cold weather leaving me a little drained on Wednesday's ride.  I was good for the first 45 minutes as I was climbing the Foothills Parkway.  At about the 1 hour mark I "hit the wall."  My legs turned to lead and it was all I could do to turn the pedals over.  I had to turn around.

Winding Stair - 5 miles and 1500 feet

But this same lack of energy feeling hit me again on Thursday and Friday around the 90 minute mark.  So then I knew it was my body searching for those simple sugars as an energy source.  As hard as I tried, I could not find the  fat burning mode button on my body.  Yesterday, on the climb up Winding Stair, I was in an all out war with my metabolism.  I was bound and determined to force my body to utilize the 30,000 calories or so of fat that I have stored here and there.  Needless to say, that 5 mile climb took 36 minutes!  At times, I could have walked faster than I was pedaling.

Energy off the bike is great.  And my GI tract has never felt better.  No cramping, bloating, or Buddha belly.  That makes me wonder if I have a sensitivity to grains other than wheat or perhaps dairy.  I hope not, as it would be a little difficult to fuel with sweet potatoes, bananas, and Larabars during the racing season.

I highly recommend the cookbook Practical Paleo.  I have made many recipes and ALL are delicious.  I am looking forward to the next 3 weeks ... and beyond.  Thank you Aimee and LW who clued me in to this new way of eating. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Not CYOA but Chamois Butter CMA

CMA = "Covered My Arse"

After 5000 miles and 550 hours in the saddle this season is finally finished.  Mountain bike racing rates right up there with NASCAR as far as the length of the season.  It all began with the January Snake Creek Gap TT and ended with the Chainbuster Finale at Oak Mountain last weekend.

Through it all, Chamois Butt'r has had my back, err ... butt.  Only 1 saddle sore and 1 case of chamois chafe. The saddle sore was during the Pisgah 111, an 8 hour race  and the chafing was at the Chainbuster Jack Rabbit, a 6 hour race.  I am not sure why the saddle sore, but the reason for the "chamois brand" was my fault.  I failed to apply and reapply adequately. My shorts had gotten muddy during the first 2 hours of the race.  When the course finally dried out, so did the mud in my shorts.  As a result, it was like wearing sand paper.

Although I have used both types of Butt'r, I prefer the Eurostyle over the regular.  It contains menthol and witch hazel.  The menthol has anti bacterial properties as well as a cooling effect I like.  The witch hazel is an astringent and contains antioxidants.  I believe these added ingredients are what is important in warding off saddle sores.

It is non greasy and easily washes out of my shorts.  As a result, my shorts last several seasons.  One added benefit I did not realize initially is that it keeps my white saddles shiny clean!

Chamois Butt'r is made in the USA.

Over the course of the year I went through 12 tubs of Butt'r.  The tubs are now being used to house medicinal wipes and bike parts.

Most of all, a huge shout out to Steve Matthews, owner of Paceline Products.  He always had the time to talk to me.  Talk about looking out for the little gal!

I still have individual packets available.  If you see me out on the trail, just ask and I will be happy to share!

Early Christmas

With the " lube meister."

A couple weeks ago as I was headed north on I-75, I received a phone call from none other than Mr. Pro Gold himself, Bruce D.  He was headed south on I-75.  Since he was going past my home town, he wanted to drop off a care package for me.   Talk about bad timing.  However, we were both available the next day, so we chose to hook up at Enterprise South for the exchange and a little saddle time.

Bruce had never ridden these trails.  Although in his travels across the U.S. this past year, he has ridden far more spectacular single track than what we about to embark upon, he was still impressed.  He liked how they flowed and remarked on how well they were built.  Bruce chased me around for a couple hours, like a greyhound after the mechanical rabbit.  In between my leg opener intervals, we caught up on each other's busy lives.

Afterwards, I got a box of goodies including ProLink and Xtreme chain lube, Bike Shine, Pro Towels, and Blast Off.  Two "new-to-me"  products are the Bike Shine and Blast Off.  The Bike Shine is like Armor All for your bike.  This product is great for when you don't want to wash your bike, yet you feel it needs a little TLC after a day of riding the trail.

Bike spa supplies

The Pro Towels are great for getting the grime off your hands and non-carbon fiber bikes, yet they won't make your hands look like Death Valley.  This is a must have for me as I have a hard time keeping my skin lubricated in the winter.

I have yet to try the Blast Off, but will let you know how it goes when I do.

I am going to be a ProGold Ambassador for 2013.  If you see me out on the trail and want to try some product, especially the ProLink or Xtreme, I should have some on me.  I would be happy to give you a sample as I think you will really be turned on by how well these products perform.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Battle for Oak Mountain 6 Hour Race Report

Last SS race aboard Karma, my Niner A9C.

Kenny sure did save the best for last in this Chainbuster Series finale.  This course had a little bit of everything, from tight, twisty, and rooty Mr. Toad's to the short, grunty technical climbs of Johnson's Mountain to the long grind up to Blood Rock to the boulder fest of Jeckyll and finally the flowy descent of Hyde.  Gear choice was hard for me.  I made the decision to suffer with a cartoon-style spin on the descents and pavement so that I could more easily grind up the climbs.

Although the course was my favorite for the season, I HATED the start.  A never ending mile of road left had me going nowhere fast with a cadence > 120.  I watched as it seemed like the whole field passed me by.    The first lap was more of a group ride than a race.  Even though a mile of single track had been bypassed the first lap, this one was still  my slowest lap.  A lot of walking!  Luckily, my feet were quite happy in my custom orthotics.

I saw my foot specialist earlier in the week.  After 6 weeks in the orthotics, both she and I felt as if my nerves were finally beginning to heal.  Dr. Pesut said that I was probably looking at another 18 months before the healing was complete ... if that is possible.

My cooler of high octane fuel in the lower right corner

It was a warm feeling each and every lap to pull into the NWGA SORBA/Super Sport pit area.  A wonderful group of people who welcomed me with open arms.  Not having to secure a pit area, set up, and take down allowed me to save that energy for race day and for that I will be forever grateful.

Lap 2 was my hardest.  Even though I was faster my legs still felt sluggish and asleep.  I think it had something to do with "spinning my brains out" on the first lap.  Perhaps that is harder on the engine than I thought.

On lap 3 my body finally woke up and I was able to thoroughly enjoy the trail.  The funnest sections for me were the Johnson's Mountain descents where you could just let it go, minimal braking required, and the rock gardens of Jeckyll and Hyde.  Yes, there was a flow to this section, if you could find it.  And find it, I did.  The lines were not between the rocks, but rather over them.  I saw a lot of slow speed crashes here and fortunately I was able to keep the bike rubber side down.

On the middle portion of Hyde, I came upon Zeke and another person helping a fellow racer out of the woods.  Zeke always seems to be just in the right place at the right time.  I can't count the number of times he has helped out in these situations.  He is to be commended.  Secretly, I think he did not want to hurt the younger single speeders' egos.  Zeke is the ultimate "trail angel!"

On lap 4 I hooked up with Thomas Russell, TNGA finisher, and rising endurance star.  We were able to help each other push it just a little bit harder.  Having him to ride with as compared to being out there in "no man's land," kept me from getting lackadaisical.

Before heading out on lap 5, I had Jay hand me my "wings."  After chugging my Red Bull, I was off for another lap of happiness.   That is one thing I will remember about this race ... I was smilin' the whole way:  a testament to the beautiful day, awesome course, and finally feeling like a dedicated racer ought to.

My goal for lap 6 was to keep up my "cleaning" streak on the Johnson Mountain step ups and the Jekyll.  With no traffic, some groaning, and damned determination, I made it without a dab.  Of course, I thought my thigh muscles were going to be ripped off their bony attachments, and I had to ride at a turtle's pace until my breathing recovered, but I had achieved my goal.  And yep, the smile was still there.

I rolled across the finsh line in first with 6 laps in 5:37:29.  Even though each lap had a life of its own and felt different, I was pretty consistent.  Save for my fastest lap of 54:43, all the other laps were 56 minutes and some change.

With this win, I clinched the series win and a new mattress!  Perfect.  Last year, after 15 years of service mine had given up the ghost.  But just when I had decided to buy a new one, my HVAC died, so my lumpy mattress was put on the backburner.  Thank you Invigo for sponsoring this series!

Rest is just as important as fitness.

And so, my season ends on a good note.  2010 and 2011 did not have good endings.  My feet are on the mend and my GI tract is on a 4 month happy streak.  I look forward to what 2013 brings.

Charlie was disappointed it was empty :(

Fellow lady racers, just wanted to give you a head's up.  There is this little gal, probably 90 pounds soaking wet, who is young, yet full of talent and determination.  Be on the look out as she is a rising phenom.  Her name is Rachel Millsop ... you have been warned.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I wish I was able to somehow download my thoughts directly into my blog while I am riding.  It seems that is about the only time I have these days to think about things to write about.  I do enjoy my blogger time, but lately family time has eaten up a lot of my "blog" time.  Not that its a bad thing, I am just busy being a Mom and wife.

Below have been my thoughts over the last two weeks of training.

FEET:  I have been wearing my orthotics for about a month now and I do notice a decrease in foot pain. I still cannot walk bear foot on hard surfaces; if I could EVER get back to that point, I would be extremely happy.  Even though it is a bit of pain to constantly move my insoles from one pair of shoes to another, it must be done.  I am hoping that as time goes on, my feet will continue to improve.  My feet were quite happy at the last 6 hour race, on a single speed.  This coming weekend, I will be testing them out on the ORAMM course, single speed style.

RACES:  The final race of the season will be the Chainbuster 6 Hour at Oak Mountain.  This is going to be the most technical and difficult of the series.  Right now I am comtemplating gear choice, as I am going single.   Do I want to suffer on the climbs and the Jekyll portion of the Jeckyll and Hyde Trail or do I want to spin my legs off on the easier sections?  Right now I am going with the latter: spinning is better than cramping.  I really enjoyed this series, but I am going to move on to other adventures next year.

ERGON:  My hands are so in love with these grips.  I am currently running the GS2's on my Niner AC9 SS and Jett 9 RDO and the GX2's on my Air 9 RDO.  I love the extra leverage the bar ends give me.  There have only been a couple occasions where I went "bar end-less" this year due to the tightness of the trees.  The only difference I have noticed over this year as opposed to the last 5 is that I have had to run the grips in a more horizontal position.  I used to run them with the wings in a slightly up position, but I began to have some ulnar pain, so I adjusted them down a bit and the pain went away.

WHOLE 30:  Even though I am still a little over a month away from starting my "cleansing," I have already begun to wean myself of the "junk" foods.  I have made my own mayo and salad dressings, cut my dairy intake by 75%, and am only using stevia and honey as sweeteners.  What I have noticed by doing this is that I am sleeping better and my energy levels are up.  The flavors of the foods I do eat have intensified!  I don't need as much sweetener to make things sweet.  I need very little of my home made salad dressings as compared to the store bought. I LOVE sardines straight out of the can for a snack.  I am anxiously awaiting November 26.  My only concern is that I might just freeze to death this winter as I have lost most of my natural insulation.

LW COACHING:  Lynda Wallenfels is a wonderful coach.  This year, I had to take a step down from her premium coaching package to her basic due to financial constraints.  But I have not been let down in the least.  I did miss talking to her on a weekly basis, but she is so awesome about answering e-mails that I did not feel sleighted.  She even answered one of my e-mails while in the middle of racing the Cococino 250!  I plan on continuing to be coached by her in 2013.

GRAVEL GRINDERS:  I am really liking this type of racing and am gonna try to do a few next year.  I finally have the right bike, which makes all the difference in the world.

19.2 pounds with a 1 x 10 drive train

Thursday, October 4, 2012

JackRabbit 6 Hour Race Report

I was looking forward to this race, as I would be back on my single speed after a 4 month hiatus, nursing painful feet.  This would also be my first race using my $$$$ custom orthotic inserts.  I had been wearing them at work and had done a few short rides; my feet were digging them!

I was long overdue for a mudfest.  Sure enough, it rained the night before and then the skies opened up again just 1 hour before the start.  It was still drizzling at the start line, so I was all geeked up in my shower cap and 16 gallon Glad trash bag.  This was a tip I had picked up at La Ruta.  My Niner was sportin' a mud fender, too.  With this "get up," the plan was to stay warm and dry for the first lap.  Even though the temperature was about 60 degrees, I was shivering.

I would be coming down this, watching oodles of geared riders pass me by!

The start was 1/2 mile of pavement, with a 2% downhill grade, a SS'rs worst nightmare!  And so, as I was spinning a cadence of 140, I watched about 50-60 racers blow right by me.  I was sooo looking forward to "choo-choo" time on the single track.

With the muddy conditions on the first lap, at least being stuck behind some slower racers kept me from doing anything stupid.  And it also allowed my legs to warm up as I sure did not have a proper warm up prior.  On this first lap, I watched at least 5 racers hit the deck.  Luckily they all bounced back up, only their egos bruised.

The rain stopped about midway through Lap 1 and I managed to keep the rubber side down.  As I pulled into the Northwest Georgia SORBA pit (they were kind enough to allow me to set up with them), Norma helped me to to get out of my garbage bag, Hulk-style!  I decided to leave the mud fender on until the course dried out ... my eyes thanked me.

Running through the Start/Finish area ... no need to remount as my pit area was just 10 yards away.

The second lap was slicker than the first.  I got "squirrely" a couple times.  About halfway through the second lap, I was finally able to get in my own little bubble and enjoy the ride.  I had Specialized Renegade Controls (550 grams each) on the bike.  Initially I was worried how they would hook up as I generally like more tread, but I am happy to report that they worked well in the mud.  Luckily this was not a rooty course; I don't believe the Renegades would have worked at all on slick roots.

The third lap was still a little slick, but by the fourth lap, the course was dry and fast again.  It was during this lap that I realized I had chosen the wrong gear ... a first for me.  I was too spinny.  I was wishing I had an 18 on the back.  Oh, well, better to be under geared than over geared.

By the fifth lap, I started doing the math.  I was feeling really good, but I wasn't sure if I would have enough time to get in that 7th lap before the 4 pm cut-off.  (In this series, if you come across the line at 1 second past 4pm, that lap does not count.)  So I really put forth an effort on the 5th and 6th laps.

As I ran across the timing mat finishing up my 6th lap, the clock's cumulative time was 5 hours 14 minutes.  That left me 46 minutes for the 7th lap.  Not having a bike computer, I was only able to guesstimate my lap times; I was thinking about 49-53 minutes per lap.  There was no way I could crank out a 46 minute lap.  So I handed my timing chip to Kenny and went out for a 7th lap anyway.  Why?  Because I was feeling good and this course was fun!

I also wanted to see how my feet would hold up for a solid 6 hours of racing.  I was ecstatic that they were happy for the first 5 hours:  no pain, burning, numbness, or jolts of electricity.  The orthotics were working!  I only had a bit of pain along the outside of my right arch and I attributed that to my arches not used to bearing a majority of the weight; something that will just take a bit more time, I hope.

I finished up my 7th lap at 4:06:  a 52 minute lap and just 6 minutes after the cut off.  The real funny thing was when I took a look at my lap times.  They were ALL 52 minutes and some change!  Talk about consistency!  Danielle would be proud!

6 laps in 5:14 earned me a top spot on the podium.  My feet were a non-issue.  I had a great NWGA SORBA pit crew.  My Niner SS was perfect.  The sun came out on lap 5.  I could not have had a better day!

A great bunch of people.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

2012 Monster Cross Race Report

The first and last (until now) ultra cross race I did was the 2009 inaugural Southern Cross.  I did it on this bike:

22.3 pounds

After that race, I swore I would never do another "gravel grinder" until I had the right bike.  It took me 3 1/2 years to get that "right" bike, courtesy of Zeke who bought it first, tried to like it, but just could not fit his head around the idea of "gears."

19.3 pounds

This green machine was built up with a Cannondale crank, carbon Lefty, 1 x 10 (34T chain ring), Stan's Crest wheels, Specialized 1.8 Renegades, and Ergon's GX2 grips with carbon bar ends.  Right now I am using a Dura Ace front derailleur as a chain retentioner, but I am hoping that the Paul's Chain Keeper with extension will work.  This is my first ever "rent to own" and I rather like it!

160+ racers on a wide variety of bikes started out rather "hot" at 8 am.  I chose to not go out as fast as I did at Fool's Gold, but rather let the race come to me.  I just set my own tempo up the FS477 gravel climb, flew down the descent passing several on CX bikes and 3 cross bikes that succumbed to flats.  I rolled along FS1206 and this is where I felt my overdrive finally kick in.

At the first aid station, I was met by the volunteers in "NASCAR-like" fashion.  Awesome!  In and out in less than 10 seconds.  I was feeling great and motored up FS5000.  So far I felt I was equal with the cross bikes on the gravel climbs and at an advantage on the gravel descents.

And then came the 10 mile grind up the Blue Ridge Parkway.  2700 feet of climbing on pavement. It was here that I was wishing for skinnier tires.  However, I did not focus on the negative, but rather took in the spectacular views that the Parkway has to offer.  That is one aspect of this type of racing I enjoy.  I have time to take in the beauty.  As Jonathan Davis so aptly put it, "I felt like I was riding into a painting."

courtesy of Eric Weaver

I was by myself along this section until the second aid station.  Unbeknownst to me Mark was 200 yards behind me grinding on his 36 x 17 SS mountain bike.   Had I known this I might have sat up a bit, allowing him to catch, and then work together.  But no matter how much the head wind sucked, I had to keep moving.  Somewhere behind me was Brenda, Cissy, and others.

It was good to see Troy on the parkway; he was going in the opposite direction, doing an over nighter, and hooking up with his girlfriend who was riding the northern half of the BRP.

I rolled into aid station #2, was treated like a queen, and rolled out once again in less than 10 seconds.  It was here I was able to catch onto a wheel, but he pretty much left me standing still on the first gradual  descent.  I just did not have the gearing to stay in contact.  And my legs were barking a bit.

The remaining 10 miles of BRP was a mix of small climbs (1-3 miles), some false flats, and a few descents.  Mark was finally able to catch me, we chatted a bit (gear choices, tire choices and TNGA), and then I was finally able to tuck into his draft on a couple desents.  That helps, as little ole me can only go so fast ... I was definitely under geared here and my terminal velocity sucks.

Shortly thereafter, Mark set out to reel in the CX SS'r who was just ahead of us.  I let Mark go as it was too much of an effort.  I settled once again and soon caught back up to the cross rider who left me in his wake earlier.  Charlie was his name and he was beginning to have a moment on the climbs.  I came around and paced him up the climbs and he was kind enough to let me hitch a ride on the descents.  This time I was feeling better and able to hang on.  And hang on I did, especially on the 7 mile Hwy 215 descent.  That was just stupid fast!  I did not know how fast I was going (probably a  good thing), but my tires were making a high pitches whhrrr all the way down.

I did not need to stop at aid station #3, but did an empty bottle hand off to one of the volunteers.  Smelling the barn with 13 miles left to go, I reeled in Mark.  He had been successful in passing the SS'r just ahead (I had passed him as well as he was spinning his brains on the final BRP section).  We worked together on the climb up to Gloucester Gap and then on the final paved descent back to the finish, I spun my brains out to help him.  We came across the barriers together, in 4:48 and some change.  I won and he was 3rd in his field.

Another spectacular Pisgah day!

I was tired, but not thrashed like I had been at the Pisgah 111.  Eric, you did not crush my soul.  Surely you are not getting soft.  I saw a couple opportunities where you could have made this really brutal.

There were a lot of park rangers and sheriff's deputies out on the course and directing traffic, making it really safe for us racers.  I made sure to thank each and every one of them.  It wasn't until I talked to Eric later about them that I found out that they were not volunteering.  Eric was paying them anywhere from $25-60 per hour.  I saw at least 6.  They were out there for 8 hours.  You do the math.  One of the many hidden costs of putting on an epic adventure.  So I don't wanna hear any more fussing about how much endurance racing costs.  Pay up or shut up.

Dare I say I am beginning to like this gravel grinding?  Looking forward to signing up for Southern Cross.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Any Takers?

I made my weekly journey to Bare Necessities today.  This is a little store in my home town that sells damaged and out of date groceries at a deep discount.  As gluten free goods are at a premium, I am ecstatic when I find pasta, flours, cereals, and cookie/brownie mixes.  I have been known to clean the whole shelf off on occasion.  Hell yeah!  The discounts are anywhere from 50-75% off!

Today look what I found.

Which leads me into this whole Whole 30 thing.  A few months back, a friend of mine posted on FB that she was doing this new diet (I call it a lifestyle).  Well, I looked up the website and gave a brief perusal.   Basically a Paleo diet devoid of sugar.  I put it on the back burner.

And then this website began popping up on everyone's wall, it seemed like.  And this time, I took a real hard look.  I wasn't about to let anybody get a competitive edge over me.  In my 44th year, I am no spring chicken; I don't bounce back like I used to.  I need any "legal" assistance I could get to keep my fitness and health at its highest.  So I bought the book.

I have wore out a high lighter on this book!

Being celiac, I had already dumped the gluten.  Just recently I had stopped eating legumes after experiencing some milder gluten-like symptoms when eating them.  That is 2 of the 5 "food groups" that the plan has you cut out.  Seed oils is another group that will be easy to let go; olive oil is my "go to oil" anyway.  So I am over half way there.  Easy peasy, right?

Sugars and sweeteners (which includes chocolate) are my Kryptonite.  I enjoy my creamer less coffee with a good dollop of honey.  And my bite of dark chocolate every now and then.  This could get very interesting.  Which will win out:  black coffee or no coffee?

I do love dairy, but lately have drastically cut down on the amount, no more protein powder, ice cream, or cheese (meh).  I suspect that the milk protein, casein, is causing some less than desirable GI symptoms as well.  I will miss my Greek yogurt, though.

I am planning on going Whole 30 Monday, November 26.  My Mom is on board, but wanted to wait until after Thanksgiving since she is hosting.  I have pleaded to some of my fellow Athenians to hop on the train, but so far no takers.  Come on, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger!  And I promise this way of eating will not kill you, at least in the biological sense.  It would be cool to share recipes.  I've made a killer frittata and salmon burger!  And I am looking forward to creating a salad dressing that doesn't have a gazillion ingredients.

The hardest part is going to be drinking unsweet coffee ...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Hampshire 100 (K, that is) Racing Report

With tight trail and trees, I opted to run the GS1's

Morning came early at 4 am, with the alarm being a rumbling snore from the room next to Zeke and I.  Rice and eggs were washed down with Seattle's Best as we headed out the door for the hour drive to the venue.  This gave me time to decide what to race in as the temperature was 50 degrees.  Having not seen the 50's in months, I went through several options, settling on jersey, shorts, arm warmers, and embrocation for the legs.

The start was uncharacteristic with the hundies in two waves and the 64's in the 3rd wave, 1 minute behind.  I went from shivering uncontrollably to being warm in 2 seconds.  Ughh ... now I would have to wait 26 miles to drop the arm warmers and hope the embrocation would not light my legs on fire as the temps rose.

The first 3 1/2 miles blazed by as it was either pancake flat or slightly descending on a mix of asphalt and dirt roads.  I was through the single file bridge without incident before I knew it.

A bottleneck that never came to be ... nice!

I had a nice group to work with over the next 18 miles or so of  road (dirt/pave), rail-trail, double track, and short sections of trail.  Taking my share of pulls, my legs were allowed to warm up at a good pace, rather than the typical crazy VO2 max type of starts that are typical for this type of race.  There was nothing really technical about these miles, save for the tight trail alongside the RR tracks.  Riding here required heightened attention to not clipping my pedal on the ties or disaster would ensue.  The short bits of single track that seemed to wind through back yards appeared to be newly cut and was narrow, off-camber, and came with a healthy dose of slick roots and rocks.  That compounded with the sudden changes from the bright light of the roads to the darkness of the "King Arthur forest" made for a few "Oh, crap!" moments.  My photochromatic lenses were unable to keep up.

And then, BANG!  At mile 21, the road pitched up to a 20% grade for a mile.  I encountered HedgeHog Hill.  Holy crap!  What a leg shocker!  The group immediately broke up as we each settled into our own sustainable rhythm.  After a brief respite, BANG! again ... the Powerline Climb.  It was much like the powerline climb at Haw Ridge, except for a few energy-sapping mud bogs.  This put a real hurtin' on my momentum, and by the third one, I cried Uncle, and proceded to hike.  My feet began to bark.  "Shut up, feet!"  Only when I was able to hop back on the bike did they relent.

I rolled into aid station #3 (mile 26) where I had my first drop bag.  I had my own pit crew of volunteers who helped me get in/out in less than 20 seconds.  NASCAR style!  Huge shout out to the 100+ volunteers who made this race happen.

Everywhere I looked there were orange vests!

Somewhere along this next section of a series of climbs, I heard The Fiddler.  I tell ya, he would have given Charlie Daniels and the Devil a run for the money.  I must have heard him for a solid 5 minutes before I came out of a break in the forest and saw him.  Awesome and morale boosting!

The next 10 miles was undulating soft trail and double track.  I felt sluggish, not because of a lack of energy, but because I was either pedaling on loamy single track or recently logged double track that had been turned into one long mulch bed.  This section brought back TransRockies memories. It was here that I embraced the endorphin monster and began feeling really good when it happened.    I struck a large rock with my big ring and immediately went from 20 gears to 8.  My drive train was so gummed up with dark mud that I could not determine the specific issue other than my chain kept dropping off the large ring.  Not knowing how far ahead I was of second place I chose to diagnose while on the bike:  it was either a bent ring or a bent tooth/teeth.

After surgery.  Several broken teeth and 1 bent to the inside.

However, this was not too much of a problem as the remainder of the course was so technical with tons of short punchy climbs that I did not miss my big ring too much.  I also chose not to use my smallest two cogs as weird noises would ensue.  I was fearful of my derailleur wrapping around my cassette or spokes while I would be spinning down a super bumpy descent.

The promoters claimed the race was 29% single track.  But the double track was so heinous and at times more difficult than the single track.  All told, I would say the course was 75% trail, a real mountain bikers course.  "Old school raw," as Cheryl so aptly stated.  The elevation gain is only 7000 feet, but what they don't state is that 90% of that gain comes in the last 40 miles.

Throughout the single track there were stone wall crossings, most of which were ride-able.  The ones that weren't the guys in front of me were kind enough to lay themselves down over them and allow me to use them for traction!

About 10-15 of these I had to cross.

Miles 41-53 were by far the hardest for me.  I tend to have a soul-searching stretch about 2/3 into any race, no matter what the distance.  My legs were starting to burn on the punchy climbs, my feet were wanting to be finished, and I was getting pretty darn tired of pedaling 120+ rpm on the flat or descending sections.  I suppose someone at one of the aid stations might have been able to help me out with my big ring dilemma, but I was fearful of them doing more harm than good.

At mile 48 I came into aid station #5 where my second drop bag was.  Awaiting me was another NASCAR style volunteer pit crew and a Red Bull shot.  I don't care if it was a placebo effect or a real "buzz" but about 30 minutes later, I was finding my rhythm and beginning to smell the barn.  But first I had to wade through a chamois deep 30 yard pond/watering hole at mile 53.  I saw a couple racers attempt to ride it, but even on a 29'r, the water was above the BB and hubs.  I chose to carry Faith (my Niner Jet9 RDO) across the pool.  My feet greatly appreciated the cool water.

Miles 53-59 flew by quickly.  It was a mix of snowmobile, jeep, and ATV trails.  I don't recall any single track.  The climbs were not too bad and the descents were blazin' fast.  I just had to be constantly on the look out for the rogue rocks, you know, the ones that either like to take out your front wheel out or launch onto your shins!

The last 5 miles were courtesy of the Greenfield Trails Association.  Tight, twisty, and occasionally flowy single track.  Even though the trails were well groomed by New Hampshire standards, those miles were tough; no downhill road finishes here.  Yet enjoy them I did, because soon the game was going to be over.

The last section of single track.

I had plenty in the tank to make this a fun section.  I rode it at cross country pace, or so it felt.  As I approached the finish line, I was happy with my performance.  I rode strong all day, my feet were relatively pain free, and although I had a mechanical, it was manageable.

The finishing stretch ... so glad I only had to see this once.

I really enjoyed this race.  It was stinking hard!  Harder than the Ouachita or ORAMM.  I rode through, 1st woman, and 17th overall in 6:12.  Even though my legs could have done another 35, my feet would not have let me.  I have absolutely no regrets changing to the 100K.  I am beginning to think the 50-70 mile distance is what's best for me.

Icing on the cake!
Zeke finished as well ... on his SS.  This was definitely an unfriendly course for single speeders.  At  least here he could not bail; the shortest way back to the venue was to just ride (or walk)!  I could only imagine the names he must have been calling me during the last 30 miles; after all, it was my idea to race this new (to us) course.

I was happy to have chosen my Niner full suspension.  Even though it was a bit more bike to drag on the flats, it was awesome in the techy stuff.  Never once did my back complain (I had injured L5 four weeks ago).

Thanks LW for telling me it is ok  to race shorter distances.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rolling With The Punches

I love to suffer on the bike.  You know, that kind of eye-ball popping, lung-busting, leg-burning pain as you push yourself to the limits.  This type of pain is an endorphin-releasing monster that I welcome with open arms.  It is one of the many reasons why we endurance junkies race.

However, in the last few months, that "fun" kind of suffering has been replaced with a burning, stabbing, and sometimes even an electrical searing pain.  With each step or pedal stroke, I am constantly reminded that my neurological system is full functioning, albeit in a negative way.  If I am lucky enough, the pain is eventually replaced by numbness.

The pain is most definitely worse off the bike.  It hurts to stand, period, and walking barefoot is almost impossible on hard surfaces.  The only respite is when I sit, swim, or sleep.  Weightlessness is my friend, gravity my foe.

On January 15, 2012 when I registered for the New Hampshire 100, I was super excited to be headed to a new race.  LW had my plan dialed for me to peak for this one.  I was salivating at the thought of a 100 mile sufferfest and competing against some of the best endurance ladies in the US.

Fast forward to today.  I am headed to New Hampshire to race, but LW and I have re-set my goals.  As she so eloquently put it, "Setbacks that occur as your race career progresses are called insults.  Always frustrating and demoralizing.  When you have a series of setbacks holding you back from where you know you can be, the best course of action is to place a higher focus on the joy of riding/racing and less on the suffer part."

I have always placed the fun factor of racing first, closely followed by safety and seeking that top podium spot.  So I have decided to race the 100K.  At this distance I feel I can still have the "euphoric" level of suffering, yet not be hindered/frustrated/demoralized by the pain.  And at this distance, I will be able to enjoy 2 days of riding the Kingdom Trails afterwards.

In the meantime, I am following my doc's recommendation of using a trans dermal cream to help placate the nerves in my feet.  Two days ago I visited Choice Orthotics to get fitted for a pair of custom insoles.  Richie told me that my arch is super high and my metatarsal fat pad is non existent.  The insoles will help displace my weight more evenly along the entire foot.  I will get a properly placed metatarsal button and there will be a gel pad to help cushion the metatarsal heads.

They can also fit Ossur Cheetah carbon fiber foot prosthetics.

Right now the forecast looks pretty good for the race.  The 6:45am start will be a little nippy in the low 50's.  Zeke will be racing his Niner A9C single speed and I will be on my Niner Jet 9 RDO.  The legs are tuned and the GI is happy so hoping the rest of the body follows suit.

At least there is no target on my back!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Morton's Neuroma Surgery Follow Up Report

Well, it has been 9 months since I had that nasty little bugger of a neuroma cut out from between my third and fourth metatarsal heads on my left foot.  Let's just say that if I was a horse, I would have been shot by now.

And here is how it goes!  The surgery had gone great and 3 months later I was in Arizona at the SSAZ riding without pain.  I rode my SS for 5 straight days, 25+ hours, and who knows how many miles.  Only on the last day did my feet start to bother me a little bit.  I experienced some mild numbness and tingling across the balls of my feet, save for the surgery site.  There I experienced nothing at all.

Everything was going great, I was winning the spring Chainbuster 6 hour series on my single speed.  Then in May (7 months post op), my feet started taking a turn for the worse.  After the Chainbuster race at Winder, I noticed the tingling, burning, and painful sensations returning across both feet.  I also noticed that the scar tissue from the surgery appeared to be getting thicker and more tender to the touch.  It became uncomfortable walking barefoot, especially on my left foot.  Where the scar was, every step felt like I had a large rock under my foot.

At work, I was miserable, having to stand 10 hours a day.  I did my best to sit every moment I could, but we are a very busy practice and that was difficult to do.  And then, to make matters worse, I began to have electrical jolts of pain just proximal to the surgery site.  That did not feel good at all!  I was having to soak my feet in ice baths 2-3 times a day to make the pain and electrical stimulation go away.

The funny thing, however, is that my feet hardly bothered me at all while I was on the bike.  I know that the long hours in the saddle had to be affecting them, but to me the days at work made them hurt 10 times as much.

I was apprehensive about the Pisgah 111 and afraid that I would have to DNF, given the amount of hike a biking. I started out conservatively, just waiting for the pain to appear.  Funny thing, that day, my feet were great!  After about an hour I was able to pick up the pace and forget my feet.  Only towards the end on that last Black Mountain hike a bike section, did they start to bother me.

In between the Pisgah 111 and Karl's Kaleidoscope, my feet went back to their former painful, burning, tingly selves.  After Karl's Kaleidoscope, I went back to see my podiatrist.  I have had a history of cheloid formation.  This is basically a scar gone awry, laying down granulation tissue instead of maturing into a nice healthy small scar.  Cheloids can be painful and even entrap the end of the severed nerve, causing the nerve to fire.  It was either that or I was developing a neuroma at the site where the nerve was cut.

After discussing this with my doctor, he ultrasounded the surgery site looking for evidence of a new neuroma.  After not seeing one, we decided to inject the scar with dexamethasone, a type of steroid.  Within 3 days, the electrical jolts had stopped and I had less tingling, burning sensations when I walked.  Whoo hoo!  Small victory.  However, I was still experiencing numbness across the entire balls of my feet.

Since then, I have had a second injection and am still seeing improvements. The scar is beginning to soften and decrease in size.   I am now able to walk barefoot some and the days spent at work are not as excruciating.  I have also made some other adjustments which are helping as well.  Although it is killing me, I have not single speeded since May 5.  I am sure that mashing the pedals aggravates those other neuromas that I do have.  I have taken up swimming to replace those easy recovery rides.  And I have switched from wearing Keen's to Chaco's.  The Chaco's support my arch better so that more of my foot is taking the impact.

Next week I will be going for a second opinion to a foot surgeon (who is also an athlete) on this issue.  I am hoping that she has a miracle cure ... other than a bullet!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Karl's Kaleidoscope Race Report

Kalber family farm nestled in a valley at the very end of Hungry Mother State Park

This first time event was organized by the Kalber family and Mark Prater in tribute to Karl who passed away last November.  Karl was the patriarch of the Kalber family and an awesome mountain biker who got a late start to this amazing sport ... it seems he had to beat himself with football, moto's and paragliders first.

It is called the Kaleidoscope because Karl touched everyone he met in a different, yet positive way.  I am sorry I did not get the chance to meet him.  I am sure he was looking down on us and laughing his butt off as we made our way through 50 miles of amazing Virginia countryside.

I knew from past "first" events that I needed to do my home work.  And so I did, studying my National Geographic Maps and the GPS track from the website.  I also pre rode the trails within Hungry Mother State Park to get a feel for its flow.  I also carefully listened to Mark Prater's pre-race meeting where he gave a very complete run down of the course.  I soaked up his directions like a sponge.

There were 25 of us in the 50 miler.  Shortly after 8 am, one of Karl's sons grabbed a pistol and fired it, marking the official start.  Other than one "squirrely" racer who stayed ahead of the pack 50 yards or so, the rest of us started off at a nice casual pace.  My feet were completely numb from the 48 degree start; that was a nicety as I did not have to endure any burning sensation or electrical jolts that my metatarsalgia had been giving me over the past few weeks.

After a delightful 2 mile warm up, the race revved up once we hit the single track.  I managed to enter fourth.  The pace was still quite comfortable for me ... yea! for happy legs.  As the trail came to the boat dock area, I had to re direct the others as they missed a turn.  The signage was there, but hard to see.  There were also no confirmation arrows anywhere!  This was going to be an adventure for sure.  I had to totally focus on the trail and my memory banks.

A group of about 8 of us formed on Mitchell Valley Road.  The countryside was gorgeous as I got a chance to view the area I was racing through.  We stayed together through two farms, dodging fresh piles of cow poo and shoo'ing away a few who were in our way.  We motored on Bear Creek Road.  I took my fair share of pulls as my legs were feeling quite sparkly.

Once we hit the first single track of Crawfish Mountain, the pack quickly broke up and I found myself in the midst of David Cook, Cory Rimmer, and Shawn.  I had the chance to get to know Cory better during this race and he is a most respectable young man.  I have never seen anyone do this before, but when he blew his nose (I was right behind him) he actually used his hand to catch the spray.

This single track was a delight!  Even though it was "flat-ish", there were enough mud bogs, creek crossings and fast flowy sections to give me the giggles.  The four of us popped out onto another double track section.  We zipped by the second aid station and almost beat the "moto-man" to his checkpoint.  No sooner than he had turned his bike off than we came upon him.  Rather surprised, it took him a second to locate his Sharpie and mark our number plates.

From here began the 4 mile hellish ascent up Walker Mountain.  All was good on the smooth fire road, but it soon turned to a soft grassy/leafy double track.  And a lot of sticks thrown in for good measure.  Here is where Cory turned his after burners on and left the 3 of us.  I had to slow up a bit and settle quickly into a sustainable pace.  Shawn slowly pulled away and I hung with David until I got my second wind.  Then I pulled away from him and slowly clawed my way back to Shawn.  At the very top, just when I thought the downhill was near came a really steep, leg-burning pitch.

The 2 1/2 mile descent off Walker Mountain was very similar to Heartbreak Ridge.  However, the first half mile was hard, not only because of its "bouldery" technicality, but it wasn't really a trail.  Just a series of yellow tape stringers leading you through the woods.  It does not get ridden much and therefore had no real footprint.  I spent too much time looking for the next piece of tape and so had a hard time negotiating the rocks.  With a little more work this trail would be friggin' awesome!

Shawn had gotten ahead of me on this section, but I soon found him trail side trying to dig his derailleur out of his wheel.  Ouch!  He did not need anything short of a small miracle, so I motored on, now in second place.  Finally the trail became a lot clearer and I was able to let loose, but still rode conservative as I did not want to follow in Shawn's shoes.

Towards the bottom Shawn caught back up to me.  Indeed a small miracle left him with 3 gear choices.  He was itching to make up lost time, so I let him pass.  I figured as tired as he looked on the Walker Mountain climb, I could catch him on the final 2 mile paved climb up Hwy 316.

I back tracked on some of the Crawfish trail before turning right on some really sweet and fast double track which led to a nice 2 mile descent back to Bear Creek.  Retracing my steps back through the farm land and cow pastures, I some how managed to get on the other side of the fencing and had to throw my bike over a 5 foot high fence and then climb over.  Well, I did not exactly throw my Niner Jet 9 RDO; I gently eased her up and over the woven wire.  That cost me a few precious moments, but better than riding back a 1/4 mile to where I made my mistake.

Finally I hit the backside of the Hungry Mother State Park lake side trail.  I had new found energy as I had stopped at the final aid station and grabbed some Gatorade.  I also had Shawn in my sights again.  The trail had some activity on it as the park was busy with people.  I wove my way through the walkers, runners, and easy-riders.  The state park trails were rippin' fast, but were also loose over hard pack and I had to take the corners with care.

I caught up to Shawn just before the last climb.  He was battling cramps.  I gave him some words of encouragement and then began to climb.  I was feeling strong and thinking I could crack 4:10.  And then a mad Bassett Hound came at me in a full charge.  I was going up the road and he was coming down, with every intention of sinking his teeth into my wheel or calf.  I had to unclip my right foot and kick him in the head to ward him off.  He howled and continued to run down the road.  I clipped back in and then immediately my right leg went in to a full on cramp!  Ow, ow, ow, ow ... I came close to falling over, but managed to gear down to granny and one-legged pedal for a few revolutions.

Although I did not have to stop, I had to slow down to a crawl up that last 1 1/2 miles.  Damn dog! I was never so happy to see the top of that climb.  From there I had a 5 mile descent with 4 small climbs.  That descent was super sketchy.  I need to learn how to drift!  I was fortunately I was able to regain my momentum and finish strong.  I came through the finish in 4:20.

I was wondering why all the spectators had this "aghast" look.  Apparently Cory had gone off course, mis-directed by a state park ranger, and repeated a section of single track.  And so I had finished first overall.  I later joked with Cory that he should not have dropped his "orienteer" on the Walker Mountain climb.

Cissy was on fire today!

This kaleidoscope tops my list of favorite trophies.  You can oftentimes tell just how much a promoter loves his/her race by the trophy.  This one came all the way from England.

Cooness factor of 10 +!

I really enjoyed the course.  It was a delightful mix of trail, double track, fire road, and asphalt.  I could see where the organizers had done a lot of trail work.  I enjoyed hanging out afterwards and getting to know the Kalber family, FB friends, and the mountain bikers of Virginia.  Virginia has a lot to offer my Niner and I.  I will be back for seconds!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pisgah 111 Race Report

Mad hike a bike skilz are a prerequisite.  Photo by Brado.

Deciding what to take and what to chance not taking was a difficult task the day before the race.  A hydration pack was a no brainer.  It was going to be hot and I was most likely going to have a death grip on my bike for most of the race.  However, there was going to be lots of time spent pushing, carrying, and lifting my Niner Jet 9 RDO, which weighed 22.6 pounds, through the mountains.  The less weight I had to carry was going to add potential horse power to the machine.  Being little does make it easier to climb, but ounces can feel like pounds.

The Pisgah gods love sacrifices!  They are hungry for flesh and metal.  Knowing this I decided to take two tubes, pump, tire lever, tire patch, tire plugs, derailleur hanger, a few chain links, and a quick link.

My legs were not sparkly race morning, so I took it easy on the climb up Clawhammer.  The race would not be won here, but it could definitely be lost.  I focused on my heart rate and fortunately only saw Lisa pull away; I was able to stay on the wheels of Kim and Elizabeth.  Once at the top, my legs were ready!  Buckhorn and South Mills could have been stupid fast, but I had enough sense to settle and let the trail come to me.

Squirrel Gap was a pleasant surprise as I had not ridden it since the trail work had been done.  It was still evil in spots as evidenced by the crashes in front of me, but I showed my respects and left it unscathed and with a smile on my face.  It was here that Kim let me by as she bobbled on a creek crossing.

Cantrell Creek was a first for me.  What a gnarly derailleur gnasher, front wheel basher of a descent!  I let several guys go past me; it was obvious that this was their back yard as they flew by.  It was hard to see what was around the corner; the undergrowth was so thick!  I caught up to Lisa who was having some chain suck issues and motored after I slowed to ask her if she needed anything.

Aside from the occasional mud bog on South Mills, it was pretty uneventful.  Having go go gadget legs and not needing anything from aid station #1, I continued on to Bradley Creek.  The crossing felt "oh so good" on my neuropathic metatarsals.

The demi god of bike portaging, Lisa Randall, blew by me in one of the many creek crossings.  I managed to catch back up to her on FS 5015.  Together we took turns pulling each other up the fire road climb.  Life was good ... reminded me of our Trans Rockies days.  We stopped at aid station 2.  The volunteers were waiting on us hand and foot.  I love it when they have their sh!t together!  I refilled my hydration pack, drank a Coke, and grabbed one of my salty red potatoes ... food for the soul!  Lisa pulled out just moments before me.  I caught back up to her on the descent with my gravel road surfing skills.  Together again we rode up FS 5000.  Even though it was a smooth consistent climb, my legs were beginning to bark a little.

Once we hit Spencer, my legs were happy again.  It is just something about single track.  Spencer Gap --> Spencer Branch --> Never Ending Road -->  Fletcher --> Lower Trace was a sh!ts and giggles experience, save for having to maneuver around two dudes on the Lower Trace.

I didn't particularly care for that "little" hiccup of a hike-a-bike (at the beginning of Yellow Gap, I think).  Basically a 3 foot ditch at a 20% grade for a tenth of a mile.  Not enough room in the ditch for both you and your bike, so you either had to walk the ditch with you bike high on the rim ... or both you and your bike had to skirt the edge of the rim, hoping the bank did not give way or a rhododendron grab your bars and send you plummeting down the ditch with your bike on top of you.  Yea ... I played out all these scenarios as I pushed my way to the top.

After climbing on Yellow Gap, I then popped back out onto FS 1206, going the opposite way I had come, meaning I now got to climb for 2 miles.  With a squeaky chain, the climb seemed infinite!  Upon returning to aid station 3 (which was also aid station 2), I asked for some chain lube.  Thank you whoever worked on my bike; I was squeak free the rest of the race.  I also refilled my hydration pack again, grabbed another potato, and motored on.  As I pulled out, Lisa was pulling in.       Well that sent my adrenals into overdrive!  Had I slowed on that 20 mile loop, or was Lisa's second wind kicking in?

The remainder of the race was going to indeed be interesting as Eric decided to treat us with a "fanny-kicker" of a 20 mile section.  The appetizer was Laurel Mountain:  a spectacular presentation of blooming laurel and its spider webs of roots to the nth power and bike portaging spread throughout.  All I knew was that I had to giv'r the whole time or else Lisa would catch me.  As I was struggling up the last but most brutal hiking portion of Laurel, I came upon a racer in a TVB kit.  I just had to ask him if HE was the one in the Knoxville, Tn personal injury lawyer commercial.  He said, "No," but still seemed kind of embarrased.  I agreed that it was a corny commercial and he graciously let me by; probably did not want to partake in any more of that conversation.

Hking AGAIN on Laurel Mountain.  Photo by Brado 

Next on the plate was Pilot Rock.  I would consider this the dessert, kind of like a dark chocolate cheesecake.  The first few bites are deliciously rich and mouth watering, but by the time I am half way through it, I am full.  Since I cannot take it home, I  am forced to finish it.  Those last few bites hurt and my body is ravaged by its richness ... or in the case of this trail, the bone/muscle jarring 3 mile descent where I am jack hammered all the way down.

After a blistering section of fire road, a mostly level South Mills River, and what seemed like a never ending ascension of Buckhorn Gap (all the right-handers look the same!), I arrived at Black Mountain.  (Insert a coup de grace here.)

Black Mountain, the last course on the menu.  This reminds of when my Mom making a big pan of super cheesy 5 layer meat lasagna when I was a little girl.  But then the veggie side is a heaping pile of brussel sprouts.   No way!  Lasagna is a meal unto itself; I shouldn't have to be tortured with these "alien heads."  And that is Black.  Only 6 miles, but 2 are pure hell, 2 connect the "pure hell" sections, and 2 are heavenly.

Smiles ... or grimaces?

The final 6 miles took me about 47 minutes.  I finished with a winning time of 8:02:43.  I am glad to say I survived another one of Eric's potential "soul-crushing" events.  However, for me as well as all the others who survived the day, I think we can say that this was a "soul-lifting" event.  Jeff Papenfus may not have been there in body, but he was with each and every one of us in spirit.