Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shanna Powell, Sponsor Spotlight

I met Shanna Powell of Endless Bike Company at the 2009 ORAMM.  What I remember the most about that race was that a single speeder placed 4th!  That crazy one-geared lady with the phenomenal smile was none other than Shanna.  At this point in my life, I was still skeptical about single speeds, but beginning to open up to the idea that it just might make me a stronger rider.

2009 ORAMM 

Shanna briefly talked to me about her single speed cogs.  I filed it under "Miscellaneous" in my brain, alongside antibiotic therapy for hedgehogs and left it at that.  Fast forward to December 2009.  Under advisement by Coach as a training tool and Zeke as a way to have a different kind of fun, I ordered my first single speed frame and began to have it built up.  My wheelset came with an 18T "heavy-ass" cog.  If I was going to ride a bike with one gear, then I wanted it to be as light as economically possible.

Remembering my conversation with Shanna, I got in touch and soon received a small collection of sweet, light weight kick-ass cogs!  The cogs are made from 7075-T6 alloy and are 1/4" wide.  Talk about "riding without a chain."  Run her cogs and it will feel like you are.  Oh, and they are made in  North Carolina.

2012 Snake Creek Gap TT

With that order came my first unsolicited sponsorship!  Nice!  I have been using her cogs now for 2 1/2 years and absolutely love them.  They are very light (20T = 35 grams) and durable.  I know, I know, it is not a fork or a wheel or a crank, but having one less component to worry about failing or wearing out makes life that much simpler.  And let me tell you, I need simple!

2009 6 Hours of Warrior Creek

What I love about Shanna is her simple beauty.  With her never ending smile (check out all the photos) she radiates happiness.  She is infectious ... in a good way.  Even with her recent run of bad luck, i.e. ACL injury/surgery, she has an upbeat attitude.  Every lap of Warrior Creek, she yelled, "Go, Carey!"  That was a great motivator for me.  Afterwards, when she congratulated me on my win, I told her, "It was the cog!"

What more can I say?  We all need to smile more ... like Shanna!

Now, if I could just get my hands on some of her coffee!

Friday, April 13, 2012

6 Hours of Warrior Creek Race Report

Another beautiful weekend for racing!

I think that this will be the last time I do back to back endurance races.  I suppose I forgot the last time (Cohutta 100 and Dirt, Sweat, and Gears 12 Hour in 2008).  Well, let me tell you.  Last weekend brought those memories back ... quickly and painfully.

I was racing my single speed as this was the perfect course for one gear (minus the start on the campground road).  I was able to get a good starting position, 2nd row.  However, I was soon moving backwards as dozens passed me on the flat portion of the campground loop.  After what seemed like an eternity, the road turned up.  At last, I could start to make up some lost ground.  My legs begged to differ and went on strike.  Apparently there was some lingering Ouachita Challenge fatigue that decided to rear its ugly head.

All I could do was settle into a sustainable rhythm and hope that they would come around.  The trains of racers on the first lap kept a governor on my engine and kept me from "going Greyhound."  After the first lap, which was 2 miles longer due to the parade lap, my legs came to life.  I became reacquainted with all 2,346 berms and felt the flow of this awesome trail.

For those of you who are not familiar with this trail, it is 12.5 miles of fast hardpack with huge berms to help you carry your momentum through the turns (think pump track).  There are a few short rock gardens to keep you honest.  There is about 1000 feet of climbing per lap, nothing longer than 0.1 miles.  The downside to that is that you are constantly on the gas!

Even the bridges are contoured!

After the first lap, I began to slowly pull away from the women.  The field was stacked this year, with several contenders that pushed me to the very end.  My lap times were pretty consistent, all within 1-2 minutes of each other.

Lap 2:  I rode the chicane so fast that as I crested the short hill at the end, I experienced vertigo.  Zeke, I feel for ya!  Dizziness + trail riding at speed = disaster potential.

Lap 3:  A solo male racer rode behind me for awhile.  As he passed, he said that he enjoyed reading my blog.  Cool!

Lap 4:  Just a couple minutes off the previous laps due to two reasons.  #1:  I attempted to guzzle an 8 ounce Red Bull.  Hmmm ... how much caffeine can be absorbed by lung tissue?  #2:  With 2 miles to go, I heard the dreaded "Psssssss."  And then I saw Stan's on my knee!  Miraculously, the puncture sealed before I could get my bike stopped.  I immediately went in to the "Oh, crap!" mode.  With only minimal tire pressure lost and not finding the puncture, I motored on, thinking that at any time, the Stan's would let go and the tire would go flat.  I began weighing my options the final two miles:  plug it, throw a tube in, change bikes, change wheels.  The last two miles took FOREVER!  Stopping at my pit, I checked my tire.  The Stan's was doing its job!  Wow!  This was a first for me in all my years of racing.  Now what do I do?  Continue on or change bikes?  I decided to stay on my Niner A9C and go for it.  If it was going to go flat, it would not be from that puncture 2 miles ago.  Even so, I rode like a nervous bunny for the next few miles.  Hop ... hop ... sniff ... sniff.  With 8 miles to go on that final lap, I brought it back up to race pace.

I crossed the finish line at 5:56 with 5 laps, winning the women's open.  Once again, the podium schwag was in great quantity and high quality.  The best thing was the mug.

 I must commend BMCC.  They are trail building/maintaining fiends!  Even though it rained 1- 1/2 inches 36 hours before the race, the trail was completely dry and tacky!  Volunteers were actually out there the day before raking leaves off the trail.  Unbelievable!

Congrats to Ursula for winning what she calls the "Old Ladies Category."  Whatever!  She also finished with 5 laps.

Thank goodness this is a rest week.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ouachita Challenge Race Report

I never know what to expect from the competition any time I head west of the Mississippi.  I had looked at the start list and other than Andrea Wilson, everyone else was a mystery.  Well, Andrea was too!  I hadn't raced her since the 2010 OC and I knew that with her tackling the NUE, she was only getting stronger and stronger.

No sense in worrying about what I cannot control.  I knew I was dialed, my bike was dialed, the weather was looking super hot (which is good for me), and the course would be brutal for all!  I had pre-ridden Blowout Mountain and Gaston Mountain on Friday and Saturday.  Thank goodness I had remembered to pack my Pisgah legs.

This is what I see when I enter "the pain cave."

One too many trips to the bathroom on race morning put me in the middle of the pack at the start.  On top of that I could not get my heart rate monitor to pick up.  The guys around me probably got some enjoyment watching me fiddle with my bra/boobage trying to get my heart rate strap to work.  It is a pretty important tool for me on race day.  My heart rate keeps me from not blowing up as well as not getting to pacified.

Mid-pack was not a good place for me to be as I had wanted to get into the first or second groups for the 9 mile pavement/gravel section up to Brushy Mountain.  Instead I had to slowly pace myself back up to the front over the next 5 miles all the while keeping my "feelers" out for those who are not as experienced racing in tight packs on loose gravel.

With about a mile to go before I hit the first single track, I caught up to Andrea and another woman (I suppose Jessica Rawlins).  Jessica was in a train with her team mates.  Wow!  I need that kind of support.  Andrea was in the near vicinity.  As I passed her I said, "Keep the rubber side down!"  Ummm, I think I jinxed her as she had a bad crash on the Womble.  Sorry, Andrea.

I passed several guys on the last climb leading to Brushy.  Funny, several of them dug really deep to pass me back so they would not get "stuck" behind a girl on the single track.  Needless to say, I eventually passed most of them back.

My race was almost over before it had really begun.  Just as I entered the single track, my bike chain-sucked BIG TIME!  Luckily I did not try to pedal through it as that would probably have cost me a broken chain.  It took me several minutes to work it out from between the big ring and the chain stay.  I was sweating bullets!  I had never had this happen to me where I could not back pedal out of it. (This chain suck happened as I was shifting the rear derailleur to an easier gear, the shifting was a bit slow to respond, and my shock was compressing at the same time too.  If anyone out in cyberspace has any advice, I'll take it!)

After fixing my bike, I settled into a comfortable rhythm, passing many a poor racer, who was on the side of the trail fixing a flat ... 9 to be exact, and that was just on Brushy!  After seeing this I took it a bit easier on the descents.  I would rather be a couple minutes slower than on the side of the trail throwing a tube in.

Coming down into the Big Brushy aid station, I was greeted with what seemed like hundreds of screams and well wishes.  By far the largest crowd that has been there since I started doing the race in 2006 ... a real motivator!

Photo by Suzanne Henne

Blowout Mountain was its usual toughness with an added element of "slicker n snot" rocks because of the heavy dew the night before.  No cleaning this trail at race pace today!  All the guys that I was among were off their bikes too.  Faster and safer to run the rock slide sections, for sure.

Chalybeate (pronounced Cleebit) Mountain was by far the tamest.  The hardest part was the initial climb, steep enough that at times I was wishing for a 24 x 36 instead of my 26 x 36.  All the tourists the day before kind of "horsed it up" with their hike-a-biking.  This is where I started to see some racers blow up.  I passed about 5 guys on this section.

The 8 mile gravel road/pavement section that takes you from the Ouachita Trail to the Womble trail was no man's land for me today.  With no one in sight I was on my own.  In previous races, I was able to hook up with a group, take my share of pulls, and then tuck in behind and coast.  Today was just all about putting my head down, getting as aero as one can on a Niner Jet 9 RDO, and focusing on pedal stroke.

The 5 guys I had passed on Chalybeate eventually caught me with about 1 mile to go, so I got a brief respite.  I stopped at the Hwy 298 aid station, refilled my Camelbak and gel flask, and listened to the volunteer giving stats.  First woman, 25 minutes behind leaders, x miles to next aid station, x miles to first zip-tie check, and x miles to finish.  I told him he had obviously done his home work.  These volunteers were in their finest today!

I got my second wind on the Womble and slowly reeled in one racer after another.  Each was a grape and I, the hungry fox!  Thirsty, too, as the temps were now in the mid-80's!  I chain sucked bad one more time.  Same thing:  slow up-shift in the rear with shock compression.  Arghhh!  Another few minutes stuck on the side of the trail.  After the second time, I had to rethink my whole shifting thing and unfortunately that slowed me down a bit.  Although in hindsight that may have been a good thing as I never once had any inklings of cramping.

Todd Henne gave me a good ice cold water dousing at the intersection of the Womble and FS 922. Thank you!  The remainder of the Womble was Happy!Happy!Joy! Joy! as the flow was just phenomenal.

The last gravel road climb back up to the final aid station was a kick in the behind as the sun just baked my backside.  Talk about HOT!  Once I crested the hill, it was mostly down hill with a nice tail wind.  I settled into a time trial pace.

Smelling the barn! (Photo by Suzanne Henne)

Instead of finishing up the pavement to the school, they made you grind up a steep grassy climb.  I imagined myself cramping with only yards to the finish a midst a hundred + spectators.  But that was not meant to be.  I crossed the line with a time of 5:33:46.

First place netted me some cash and an Ellsworth wheelset.  No waiting on podiums at the OC.  As you cross the line, they hand you your winnings.  Sweet!

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Zeke thought that the OC was not challenge enough on gears, so this time (his 7th) he raced his single speed.  He finished 10th out of 26 in the SS category and 103rd overall (260 starters).  Not bad for an old dawg!

Zeke crushed it today!

Then he drove for 11 hours to get me home in time to pull a 10 hour work day.  Now I call that a Weekend Warrior Triathlon.

Kudos to the amazing managment of this race and all the wonderful volunteers.  You Arkansans rock!