Friday, November 28, 2014

Time To Reboot

Real food is medicine for the mind, body, and soul.

This is my second time doing the Whole 30 Plan.  The first time was 2 years ago when my Mom and I decided to clean up our diet.  I learned alot about what food can do for you ... and to you (both the good and the bad).  Since then I have been grain free, dairy free, mostly legume free (aside from soy lecithin and an occasional spoonful of peanut butter), and additive free (nitrates, nitrites, sulfites, MSG) except for carageenan which is found in almond and coconut milk that comes in cartons.

I have been the healthiest and fittest ever!  So why do another Whole 30, you may ask?

I need to take a sugar detox.  In the past two months and especially on my non-cycling days, I have slowly been increasing my daily intake, mostly in the form of dark chocolate and stevia.  According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of sugar a woman should eat is 25 grams per day.  Initially, I had been sticking with this recommendation (on my non cycling days).  But here lately that number has been in the 40's - low 50's.  The sugar monster must be destroyed!  FYI, one 12 ounce Coke has 40 grams of sugar.

I have been experiencing sleep maintainance insomnia.  I have no problems falling asleep, usually by 9:30 pm.  But I am waking up around 3-4 am and cannot fall back asleep.  I have done all the recommended things:  no sound, no artificial light, taking melatonin.  Nothing is working.  So maybe it is something in my diet.

I have been experiencing more fatigue than what I think I ought to, given my training/racing.  By the time I get home after working all day, I am absolutely whipped.  All I want to do is eat dinner and curl up on the couch.  This might be normal given the stressors of daily life, but I want to make sure it is not related to food.

I occasionally have some GI disturbances, mostly in the form of bloating and decreased motility.  I had discovered certain foods that cause this:  garlic, onion, and brussel sprouts.  These vegetables fall into a category known as FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.  These carbohydrates are incompletely absorbed in the GI tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria.  These sugars also exert an osmotic effect, increasing fluid movement into the large bowel.  The fermentation and osmosis caused by these undigested sugars can lead to gas, bloating, pain, and diarrhea.  Whereas in the past I had these foods on a daily basis, now I must limit them to both in quantity and frequency.  But I still am experiencing some GI issues and am wondering if it could be related to any non Whole 30 foods.

So today was Day 1.  No big deal.  The second time is going to be alot easier than the first.  What I distinctly remember from the first time was the feeling of power!  That I was not a slave to the sugar monster.  Of course, I also remember the lowest point, too.  When, during week 2 I decided to pre ride the Southern Cross route and almost did not make it to the top of Winding Stair.  Talk about bonking!

I recommend trying this if you are having any sort of digestive issues, unusual aches/pains, low energy levels, seasonal allergies, skin issues, or have an emotional addiction to food (which is usually junk food).  It is only 30 days ... and it has the potential to change your life, forever!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ProGold ProLink and Xtreme Lube Tests

This past weekend I ran into ProGold Bikes Bruce at the Oak Ass 100/50 in Birmingham, Alabama.  He asked me to determine how long one application of lube would "last" on my bike.  How many miles can you go?  As I usually determine my time on the bike in hours rather than miles, I told him I would put the lubes through an official test.  Seeing as how I don't even go through 1 four ounce bottle in a year, I knew that the answer could potentially involve many training rides.

So today, I readied two bikes:  a road bike and my Niner Jet 9 RDO.  First, I cleaned each chain with a "new to me" ProGold product.  Chain Shine is a biodegradable citrus-based cleaner.

< 5 minutes to a chain as clean as a new one.

Just use a small paint brush to apply, let sit a few minutes, take a scrub brush, and voila!  And it won't harm your precious carbon bits.

The chain on my road bike after using Chain Shine.

And my mountain bike.

After drying, I applied ProLink to my road bike and Xtreme to my mountain bike.  Only 1 drop per link is all that is needed.

I will be keeping track of the hours (and miles) that I put on my steeds over the next month or two.  I will also make notes of the conditions that I ride in.  During this time I will not do any sort of cleaning to my drive train, but I may have to put some Bike Shine on the frame.  After all, I am a little OCD about keeping my bikes clean.  Once the drivetrain starts making noise or shifting becomes less than perfect, the test will be over.

Stay tuned ...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dry Creek 6 Hour Race Report

Back in October when I signed up for this, I knew I did not want to race solo.  I started asking friends if they wanted to race a duo with me.  All my team mates save for Lisa had other plans.  Lisa was sorta in until she pedaled her body into the ground and was forced to take a 2 week rest period.  Ursula was out as she was still nursing an injury.  Loretta was interested, but then broke her arm.

So, I was left with no other choice ... Zeke.  Now all I had to do was to convince him how much fun it would be to ride in circles, on a team nonetheless.  You see, Zeke is an epic kind of guy.  Tell him to go big, go long, go hard (on a course that does not repeat itself) and he is as happy as a pig in poo.  But he was done racing the hamster wheel events.   What I had going for me was:  1.  that it was me asking, 2.  it was a new trail system, and 3.  he could do as many laps as he wanted.

He agreed ... to two laps.  Whew!  That meant that I only had to do four.  Since there was no single speed team division, we settled for coed.  We definitely had some competition.  Zeke was concerned of letting me down, but I told him that we were out here to have fun, and wherever we finished up, I was completely o.k. with that.  It had been a long season and I just wanted to finish it up not completely annihilating my body.

Cannot help myself ... always have my game face on, no matter what.

Saturday morning was frigid!  As I traveled from my house to the start of the race, the temperature slowly dropped 8 degrees.  Why is it that the Dry Creek parking lot, which is also the start of The Snake, is the coldest place in Georgia?  I needed to do a warm up, but was not wanting to brave the wind chill, so I kept it short, a mere 15 minutes.  I had just recently read an article about how long warm ups can be your undoing.  Not for me; I know that my body needs a solid 30 minutes to come to life.

Here is my account of the race, lap by lap.

Lap 1:  The flat parade lap up the fire road and around the parking lot sent me spiraling backwards into the field as my legs were spun out at a cadence of 130rpm.  I had unfortunately brought the wrong legs today; I had left the single speed ones at home.  The ones I had on were my geared legs and they did not like the gear I had on my bike.  I noted that there were 4 climbs that were particularly taxing with the gear I chose.  There were two fun and fast descents with whoop-de-doos.  I caught air, looked fairly graceful, and managed to not nose-wheelie myself off into the woods.

Photo Credit:  Mary Omstead

Lap 2:  I motored on through the transition zone.  The second lap felt easier.  Less traffic and knowing how hard I could push through the loose corners contributed to a smoother rhythm.  Around mile 4, I caught up to Star, the 2nd place team.  I passed her and then kicked it into a higher gear.  I had 6 miles left to gain as much time as possible.  The race for second was going to be close!  I rolled into the transition zone giving Zeke a 3 1/2 minute buffer.

Lap 3:  Zeke's first lap.  I was ready to go back out in case Zeke had an issue and couldn't do 2 laps in a row.  I crossed my fingers as I did not want to go back out so soon.  I could tell as he came through, finishing up his first, that he was giving his all.  59:08!  My team mates said that he hooted and hollered and sounded like he was having a grand time as he passed by them.  I hope I have half that much energy at 66.

All business!

Lap 4:  Zeke's second lap.  59:06.  So consistent.  He may want to rethink this whole lap race thing; he's darn good at it!

Lap 5:  Oh, the legs were barking going up that first climb!  After 10 minutes, they finally decided to cooperate ... a little.  What what !?! The 4 grunty climbs had turned into 6!  And they had gotten chewed up over the last few hours.  Now it took body english as well as muscle to keep the rear wheel from losing traction.

Lap 6:  Where is my competition?  I was trying to do the math, all the while laying down the power with a body that was beginning to fade and wanting to be done.  I needed to catch Star by mile 8 to have any sort of chance of us getting second.   At the 7.5 mile mark, I caught sight of the Motor Mile jersey up ahead.  Come on legs!   I asked my legs for just a wee bit more and by some small miracle they responded.  I passed Star and continued to ride like a scalded dog.  Two more climbs and one descent and I would be done.  The legs and lungs were burning as I crossed the finish line.  Second place was ours!

A huge thanks to the Ricky Manis and other NWGA SORBA members for getting this trail in tip top shape.  All the leaves and the loose gravel on the steeper climbs were blown off.  The cooperation between Chainbuster Racing and the local SORBA chapters has been awesome this year.  For all the Chainbuster races I have done, the trails have been perfect!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

12 Hour Nite Nationals Race Report

Having raced Double Dare the weekend prior and still carrying quite a bit of fatigue, I was not overly motivated about this one.  But, the weather forecast improved as the week went on; with a low of 52 and 0% chance of rain, I was doomed to race throughout the night.   The equal payout was very enticing:  $1500, $1000, and $500.  So I pretty much did a gut check and headed down to Auburn, Alabama.

All business.

The turnout was disappointingly low.  There were only 3 women and 5 men in the money classes.  Chainbuster Racing does an outstanding job and has quality races.  Perhaps it wasn't promoted enough outside the Southeast.  Maybe college football takes precedence over racing, although I find that hard to believe.  It has been a long season and what with the gazillion races to choose from, it is possible everyone was just as tired as I was.

The day leading up to the 9pm start was the ... longest ... one ... ever.  I did my best to stay off my feet.  I tried to take a nap, but failed.  I ate a big breakfast and lunch and went light for dinner.  The cup of coffee at 7 pm was a perfect fuel additive for my engine.  By race start, I was primed.

No better way to lose a night of sleep.

The course was 11 miles long, 700 feet of gain, and 99% single track.  It was held in Chewacla State Park.  The local SORBA group, CAMP (Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers), worked long and hard to get this course in tip top shape.

Here is a summary of my race by lap.

Lap 1:  Jill Martindale, a Mini-Me of Danielle Musto, had go go gadget legs.  I barely held on to her wheel.  During the more technical second half, I was able to take the lead and get the fastest lap award ($100).

Lap 2:  This was my settle down and maintain lap.  I really had no upper end power, but could crank out a steady aerobic endurance pace.

Lap 3:  Around mile 8-9, I swore I was pedaling through a Bath and Body Works.  And around mile 10, the odor of  cinnamon rolls elicited a Pavlovian response.  Your sense of smell and hearing are much more keen when night racing.  The flowery smell persisted all night long.  This was motivating, as I knew I was close to the finish of each lap.

Lap 4:  The first half of the course was on the aptly named  For Pete's Sake Trail.  It was equivalent to a person's small intestine.  5+ miles of so much twisting and turning that I could not tell if the lights around me were racers in front of or behind me.  This was the "Dr. Hyde" section.  I just kept telling myself that this evil would lead to pleasure ... Falls View and Creek View Trails.  These were "whoo hoo" fun.  Fast flowy descents with a few small rock gardens interspersed.

Lap 5:  Glowing eyes and large crashing sounds through the woods just next to me.  Hoping the deer, Sasquatch, or whatever it is doesn't decide to jump in front of me.

Lap 6:  Finally finding "zen" with the trail.  Knowing when to brake, when to accelerate, when to coast, and which lines were the smoothest.  In a race of this length, it is not just about the power you can generate, but using your engine efficiently.

Lap 7:  I started naming the roots:  Little Focker #1, Little Focker #2, Little Focker #3 ... you get the picture.

Lap 8:  The most painful lap.  Everthing was beginning to hurt:  taint, upper back/neck, feet ... in that order.  I began to daydream ... err, nightdream, to not think about the pain.  I tried to name all of Ursula's 5 dogs and 6 cats.  I designed my dream truck.

Lap 9:  Began to go through some mental calculations to determine how many more laps I would need to secure a win.  Try doing math in your head at 5 am with 95 miles in your legs!  At least it made the lap go by quick enough.

Lap 10:  The sunrise lap ... my favorite lap of these type events.  It is amazingly beautiful  how the trail slowly comes to life and you begin to see the terrain you have been riding through the past 10 hours.

The Jet 9RDO made for a much smoother ride.

Lap 11:  Came through the pits after the 10th.  I was told Jill was about 30 minutes behind me.  What with the time remaining, I had to go out for this 11th one.  Tired of carrying a Camelbak, tired of carrying lights and batteries, I shed all this equipment.  I didn't even want the weight of a full bottle so I drank about 8 ounces at the pits and rode away, "bare bones" style.

I finished at 7:52 ... plenty of time for a 12th lap, but not necessary.  Jeff, my teammate, finished 2nd, and James won the Ultra division.  A great showing for SuperSport!

C.A.M.P.  treated us to a delicious breakfast.  Bacon, sausage, eggs ... had I died and gone to heaven?

$150 per lap 

A special thanks to NiteRider for being the title sponsor.  This race could not have happened without their support.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Double Dare Day 2 Race Report

4:45am.  I am the first one up, as I do not see a single light elsewhere.  I turn my vehicle's engine on and eagerly await the heat.  Only partly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I try to put my clothes on while still retaining the fastly fading warmth of my sleeping bag.  At least I know there will be a pot of hot coffee waiting for me in Cam's RV.

Not really hungry, but shoveling food in hopes of staving off the fatigue monster, I make my way over to the RV.  Kip is still in his bag, moaning and whimpering ... not a morning person, I gather.  The pot of coffee is percolating ... ever ... so .... slowly.  I begin to wonder if it will finish before the 6am start.  It does, and I have my grande salted caramel latte, courtesy of a Gu gel pack.

The running shoes I had purposefully purchased just for this event and had carried around ALL DAY yesterday and not used were still attached to my pack.  I had high hopes of a hiking CP today, so I kept that extra 9 ounces strapped down.  Once again, we were treated to a TT to get our passports.  Eric said the passports were at the top of Farlow Gap.  Cool,  a nice warm up on the road.  But, no!  I swear I saw horns come out of Eric's head as he told us we would be going up Daniel Ridge and Farlow Gap Trail.  2000+ feet of gain in 6 miles!

Kip was worried his tiny commuter light would not be enough.  I quickly told him that at a 3mph pace, it would suffice.  It was much warmer than last year, 48 degrees, and we both had to stop along Daniel Ridge to shed a layer.  Once we got to Farlow, the shit hit the fan for me.  I had tweaked my right wrist the day before.  Pushing and hoisting the bike over boulders that were shoulder high caused a sharp pain in my wrist.  My bike and gear together weighed 32 pounds; doing the math, I was having to carry 31% of my body weight up that friggin' trail.  I am not ashamed to admit, I was a hurtin' buckaroo.  I likened myself to Sisyphus, with my bike being the stone that kept rolling backwards.  Curses you, Zeus, aka Eric Wever!

Kip helped when he could, lifting my bike up to me on a couple ledges, giving me a push every now and then to keep my momentum moving forward as opposed to "turtling backwards."  Several teams passed us which frustrated me because I knew I was faster than them, if I could only ride.

Farlow Gap Trail.  Photo Credit:  Rebecca Bubp

The sun began to rise as we reached the top.  This did wonders for my morale.  Two hours into the day, we hit the top.  Mind you, yesterday we rode 25 miles in 2 hours to get our passports. I think I have a love/hate relationship with Pisgah.

Grabbing our passport, we plotted a course.

Trying to crush our souls by putting the mandatory CP lightyears away from Farlow Gap.

There were 3 CP's near Farlow.  We decided against 140A/5003 (a mistake we realized too late).  Our first one would be 215/Indian Creek Road.  We put our jackets back on for the fireroad descent, and even though I had 2 layers on my hands, I lost feeling in them within 5 minutes.  With an air temp of 30 degrees and speed of 15mph, I estimated a wind chill of 10 degrees coming off of Farlow Gap.  As we approached Hwy 215, the sun was shining brightly and felt absolutely wonderful.

Hwy 215/Indian Creek Road

Riding back up to Gloucester Gap, we saw several teams coming down to go get that same CP.  These teams had beat us up to Farlow Gap, so at that moment we knew that we made a mistake in not obtaining 140A/5003 CP.  In amongst those teams was Sam and Trish.  We thought that after the first day we were "tied" with them; therefore, we had a fighting chance in the Coed Division to climb aboard the top step.  But once we saw them motoring down Indian Gap with grit and determination written all over their faces, we would need "Lady Luck" on our side.

Our next CP would be Butter Gap/Art Loeb Trail.  Climbing back up to the gap, the feeling in our appendages quickly returned.  The pace up to the CP quickened as the day progressed and my legs slowly came back to life after the grueling HAB.

The reward for getting here is a rippin' descent!

Butter was in great shape and we arrived at the Fish Hatchery in no time.  Funny, completely unscathed coming down Butter, but EVERY STINKING TIME I forget that thin almost invisible chain stretched out across the road to the parking lot.  Damn, that was close!

By now, I realized there would be no bonus hikes, so Kip and I hid our shoes at the hatchery.  Our next CP was Pink Beds.  I was NOT looking forward to climbing 276 AGAIN!  But the other option was just as evil ... climbing Clawhammer.

I was faster today on 276 than yesterday ... go figure!  We arrived at the parking lot and went over to the faucet to refill our hydration packs.  When we arrived, there was a little group of Double Darer's doing the same.  Barnabus was there and he made a statement that this was the first time he was wearing more layers than I!  Sure enough, every body part of his was covered save for his face and ankles.

The rookies to the right thought this was the Pink Beds CP.  Fortunately for them, we told them it wasn't.

On our way to Pink Beds/Barnett Branch Trail, Kip noticed his rear tire was really low.  We stopped and aired it back up, hoping that perhaps he had just burped it coming down Butter.

No, I did not sucker punch him in the cheek.  That is 2-3 dill pickles he was working on when this was taken.

We then rode out to the end of Pink Beds.  After doing a bit of math, we decided to ride up 5018 to grab our fourth CP at the top of Horse Cove.  The last time I had ridden this road was during P36.  It was cold and deep in snow.  And it seemed to take forever.  Today was not so bad.  But, Kip's tire was losing air again.  At the CP, he made the decision to tube it while I enjoyed a Red Bull.  As we were changing the tire, David and Dan arrived shortly thereafter.  David pulled out a small bag of crushed potato chips that looked divine!  I had an immediate Pavlovian response and so had to get out a few salty tiny potatos to munch on while Kip finished up.

Horse Cove/5018

After about a 15 minute stop, we hurried down Horse Cove Trail to Squirrel Gap Trail.  Our 5th CP would be Wolf Ford.  I love riding Squirrel this way since it is mostly downhill.  And only one vertigo moment when my eyes wandered over to one of the steep drop offs in a tight turn.

Wolf Ford

Then began the long, but flowy gradual climb up South Mills and Buckhorn.  Once again, we saw Sam and Trish; they were headed down.  Funny how we saw our main competition multiple times during this race that encompasses thousands of acres.  They were absolutely on fire today!  At this point, if we could finish only 1 CP down to them, I would be completely satisfied.

We were headed up to get the mandatory at the Buckhorn Gap shelter on Black.  Oh, how I love the Buckhorn Gap Trail this way with its 6-8 right hand turns that all look the same.  It's one of those evil little trails where you think you are finished but then there is more, more, and more.

At the mandatory, we could get a 1/2 bonus CP by playing hackey sack or each eating a jalapeno pepper.  We chose the pepper.  Two bites, two chews, and two swallows later, it was down the hatch, along with a chocolate gel for a cooling effect.  Easy peasy!  Katie, Patrick's partner, begged to differ.

Like a kid trying to swallow a pill for the first time.
I am sure her belly sloshed around for some time after downing that bottle.

It was now about 2:30 pm.  That would give us 3 1/2 hours to get 3 more CP's.  Next up was Pressley Gap.  That was pretty easy:  just bomb down Clawhammer for a few miles (the 1st warm fire road descent of the weekend).  Then cruise on up 5099 and grab CP #7.  I use the term "bomb" and "cruise" lightly as about now we were 140 miles in and close to 18,000 feet of climbing.  Still yet, we managed to pass a few weekend warriors.  One I almost caught with his pants down as he was about to butter his chamois.  Hehe ... he was more than a little embarassed.  Once at the top, I myself needed a reapplication of Chamois Butt'r to my nethers as it felt like I was sitting on two jalapenos.  The cooling effect of some new Butt'r lasted a good 30 minutes.

After descending back down to the stables, we were going to climb up Bennett to get the CP at Coontree Gap.  I let Kip go first, to be fodder for the Enduro demons.  Luckily it was late enough in the day that they had probably finished their runs.  We once again met up with Rebecca and her team mate and rode/HAB'd with them up to Coontree Gap.

Another crazy fun descent.

Kip rocked it on this descent.  He made me look like a rookie, despite his hardtail with no dropper.  I was tired and when I get that way, my brain begins to battle my body.  This leads to all sorts of confusion and you don't need that when trying to ride some steep shit with all its tangled roots and drops.  Needless to say, I had to walk one section.  A little frustrated but glad that I had left my ego at home this weekend, for it would have gotten me into trouble.

Popping out on 276, we had plenty of time to do an out and back on Daniel Ridge to get our final and 9th CP.  We decided to leave our bikes at the point in the trail when it was unrideable and run up to the intersection of Daniel Ridge and Farlow.  I was done pushing my bike uphill.  My wrist and ankle were o.k. on the bike, but screamed like banshees anytime I had to get off and push:  overuse tendonitis.

Guess who we ran into for the umpteenth time?  

It was about a 25 minute out and back from where we had stashed our bikes.  Once back on them, I could smell the barn.  We flew back down Daniel Ridge to 475 and then pedaled back into camp.  With 72 miles today and another 10,000 feet of climbing, that put us with a total of 160 miles and 20,000 feet of climbing for the weekend.  16.5 CP's netted us 5th overall and 2nd Coed.  We were both stoked.  I defended my QOP and Kip cracked the top 10 with a solid 9th!

Put a fork in us, we are done!

I have been very fortunate to have great partners for this event:  Lisa last year and Kip this year.  The memories we created will live with me forever.  Even the suffery ones will be welcomed as it makes the victory and accomplishment that much more rewarding.  Thanks Kip for one helluva weekend!

Arguably the HARDEST endurance mountain bike series in the U.S.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Double Dare Day 1 Race Report

Pisgah Productions' Double Dare race is the fifth and final race in the King/Queen of Pisgah series.  It consists of two segments, the first beginning at noon Saturday and the second beginning at 6am Sunday.  Each team has 12 hours each day to collect up to 10 checkpoints with one CP each day being mandatory.  At the mandatory CP's you can earn addtional points by completing a special test.  You must finish each day by the cut off time or be DQ'd.  At midnight Saturday, there is also another special test where you can earn more bonus points.

I was teamed up with Kip Clyburn (who had been trying to get me to do this race for years, saying what better way to spend a weekend than wandering and wondering hours on end in one of the most difficult National Forests to pedal a bike).  Last year I partnered up with Lisa Randall for DD ... and had the absolute best weekend of my cycling life.

Faith, my trusty steed.

I had a fairly good cushion on second place Brenda Simril.  All I had to do was ride safely, grab the mandatories and a couple others, and finish.  However, Kip wanted a top 10 KOP finish and I was all for going hard to achieve this goal.

At 12pm Eric told us that our passports would be awaiting us at the intersection of South Mills River and Bradley Creek.  THAT was on the other side of the map from the start at Cove Creek Campground!  And the first 3 teams there would get bonus points.  Kip and I contemplated route options:  in the end we settled on 475 --> 276 --> 1206 --> 5015 --> Bradley Creek.  Eric had the teams go off in 30 second increments.  This would keep the tag-a-longs to a minimum.

I hoisted my Camelbak onto my shoulders ... and about  went belly up!  I had not worn a pack since PMBAR.  I swear that pack felt like I had just put a toddler on my back!

13 pounds of mandatory gear + running shoes

As we headed out, my legs were in complete rebellion mode.  They wanted no part of climbing 1000 feet right out the gate.  Kip, on the other hand, was like a squirrel who had just emptied a bag of nuts laced with speed.  As other teams caught up to us and passed us, he was doing his best to start up a conversation on the meaning of life.  I knew he was just being his usual happy self, but I'm sure the other teams thought this was a strategy to slow them down.

Once we hit 1206,  I found a happy place and began to work with Kip to grind out the miles to the passport checkpoint.  Trish and Sam found us here; it was good to see them being able to race together.  Although Trish was very cordial and chatted with me a bit, Kip later said that as Sam passed him, Sam gave him the "I am gonna rip your legs off" look.  I told Kip to not take offense as Zeke is one of the few people I know that can get Sam to crack a smile, especially during a race.

25 miles and 2 hours later, we arrived at our destination.  Two other teams were already there.  We were the third team in, but since we had started off in 30 second intervals, there were 2 other teams that beat us there "time-wise."  So we did not get any bonus points.  However, being in the top 5 at that point gave me many motivational points.

Curses you, Eric, for the "no flow" CP gathering today.

Ever since I started riding in Pisgah, I have been told by the locals to NEVER RIDE TURKEY PEN from east to west.  So when I saw where the mandatory was, I let off a string of expletives (in my mind).  At least I would not be suffering alone, as all 30 teams would be slogging up The Wall.  As we mostly pushed up to the mandatory, we ran into several teams coming down Turkey Pen.  Poor souls!  They chose to get to the passport checkpoint by riding ALL of Turkey Pen.  I wonder what their faces looked like when they saw the mandatory CP at Wagon Gap.

Once at the CP, we could get an additional 1/2 point by hitting a beer can with a slingshot/acorn or write a haiku.  So I wrote:

Pisgah Productions
Suffering on the bike, oi!
Spiritual cleanse

3 hours and 29 miles later and we had our first CP.  Ouch!  That called for a little reward, so I pulled out some bacon from my FeedBag. As the motto goes, "Bacon makes anything better," including hike a bikes of death.  From there we decided to go collect Cantrell Creek Lodge and Saddle Gap via South Mills River.  I got to ride a "new to me" section of South Mills.  It was fast and I consider  anything greater than 6mph fast in Pisgah!  

As we were approaching the Lodge, a team came upon us.  One was on a single speed in crazy greyhound mode. He almost took Kip out just after a river crossing.  As they passed us, Kip informed me that the guy on the SS was Bob.  Bob Moss, I asked?  Kip said yes.  I was in awe that I had been ahead of Bob "The Hammer" Moss, whose thighs are like tree trunks!

Kip getting a pic of the Lodge and I while I was getting proof that I was riding with Bob and Dave.

After attempting to bribe Bob with some salty baby potatoes in exchange for carrying my pack up Cantrell Creek, we saddled up for some riding/some pushing up to Squirrel.  Bob, who had burritos in his pack, could not be persuaded.  Cantrell Creek is loaded with loose baby heads, making pedaling difficult.  But at least you did not have to worry about destroying your derailleur when HAB'ing.  At the top of Cantrell we came upon Trish and Sam who were having a picnic.  Being the superhumans they were and having their map in their heads, they could afford to chill.

I was glad to be on Squirrel Gap.  Following a contour line, it is totally rideable.  But still tricky, as I would call it half-track.  And a mistake here could easily send you tumbling stright down 50-100 feet.  The scaries part of my whole race was right here, where a root grabbed my front wheel and I just about launched off into a ravine.  The only "Oh, shit!" moment of my whole race.

After grabbing our 3rd CP at Laurel Gap, we headed down Laurel Creek and over to 5015.  We were going to grab the 3 CP's in the North Mills area.  Laurel Creek was the dryest I had ever seen it.  I had an enjoyable time cleaning most of it.  At one point I felt something hit my rear wheel ... or so I thought.  A few moments later, Kip catches up and tells me I have a stick in my derailleur.  I stop, dismount, and look in amazement.

Close call!
That stick was jammed so tightly that Kip had to break it in two to dislodge it.  Lady luck was with me today, for sure!  From the bottom of 5015, we retraced our steps back up to 1206.  At the top, we took a moment to eat and put another layer on.  It was now about 5:30 pm, the wind was whipping, and the sun and temperature was dropping.  I downed a Red Bull and some dates. Sam and Trish caught back up to us and headed down to North Mills River.  Knowing that their route was very similar to ours gave us a boost of confidence in CP choices.  

At the campground, we stopped and replenished our water.  It was nice not to not have to resort to purifying creek water; a time saver.

We decided to get Bear Branch first.  This area had been logged over the summer and so looked quite different.  We turned onto 5001 and began climbing.  This road had seen lots of logging.  There were many new roads off 5001 that led us to question if we were headed in the correct direction.  We looked for tire tracks, but with it dry and hardpack, it was difficult.  At one point we thought about turning back and going up the single track to nab the CP.  That decision would have cost us precious time.  Kip convinced me to go just a bit further.  Fortunately I listened and within a 1/4 mile we realized we were on the right track.

We made it to the intersection, snapped a picture, and then put on our lights for the descent down Bear Branch. This was my first night ride of the year, so I was a bit tentative.   I'm sure this trail would be a blast in the daylight, but I took it a bit easy, allowing my eyes to adjust to the setting sun and the 450 lumens my Lupine was casting out.  

From there we headed over to the Hendersonville Reservoir CP, motoring along on 142.  

Henderson Reservoir

We then took Spencer Branch to get to Middle Fork.  This trail had a couple creek crossings.  Although the creek crossings earlier in the day felt quite good, we were both reluctant to get our feet wet now.  The first one we made it across successfully, but the second, Kip took a little plunge trying to maneuver across some rocks.  Nothing hurt but his pride; he laughed it off and kept motoring.  Where Spencer Branch was tight, twisty, and thick with undergrowth, Middle Fork was smooth, straight, and fast.  Once again we exchanged hoots and hollers with Sam and Trish as they came cruising in the opposite direction.  

CP # 6, Middle Fork

We headed back the way we came.  Kip wanted to take Fletcher back to the reservoir.  Even though Spencer was a bit of a pain, with the creek crossings and multiple downed trees, I knew it.  Fletcher was the unknown.  I won; we stayed on Spencer.  

As we were climbing back up to Yellow Gap, we began to do some mental calculations to see if we had the time to try for a seventh CP.  At this point we were 63 miles in and had 2 1/2 hours left to midnight.  A seventh was possible, if all went well and we encountered no mechanicals.  Not willing to take the risk (if we came in after midnight, we would be DQ'd and no QOP for me.)  We both decided to head back to camp.  Right after our decision, the wind began to whip and it started raining lightly.  I was also getting cold, so I tucked in behind Kip and drafted off him.  On 1206, we once again came upon Sam and Trish, who were stopped alongside the road.

In hindsight, we probably would have had plenty of time to snag the CP on Bennett.  But we had both completely forgot about this one.  

The descent back down 276 was bitterly cold.  It seemed to take just as long to go down as it did earlier in the day to climb up.  Towards the end all I wanted to do was climb and get warm again.  Those little kickers on 475 after the fish hatchery were leg killers!

We arrived back at camp at 10:48.  I had enough time to eat and put on some new clothes for the special test at midnight.  This was going to be a short track race through the campground.  10 laps with time bonuses for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  Each lap took about a minute.  It was all easy save for the 3 foot log you had to lift your bike up and over, unless you were Sam who bunny-hopped it 3 times I believe.  

After 88 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing, and with a 1/2 CP for finishing the short track, we had 7 CP's for the day.  

Afterwards, I treated myself to a nice hot shower in Cam's RV, ate/drank some more, and then curled up in my vehicle for a few hours of restless sleep.  Looking at the stars through my moonroof, I smiled.  Today was a good day.  Beautiful country, new to me trail,and lots of laughs with an awesome partner.  Could Day 2 trump today?  

Nutrition on the bike:  6 dates, 6 energy squares, 2 gels, 1 Red Bull, 1 RX bar, 2 Larabars, 6 baby potatoes, 4 strips bacon, and 110 ounces of Skratch.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wilson's Creek Revenge Race Report

This was the third and final race of the Blue Ridge Monster Cross Series.  The location was in the Grandfather district of Pisgah National Forest near Lenoir, NC.  This one had the greatest percentage of gravel, with only 4 miles of pavement.  It also was the easiest, with mostly gentle climbing and fast hardpack roads.

I had spent the week prior doing almost absolutely nothing, aside from working.  My body desperately needed to recover from the beat down it took when I did what I would call a Triple Crown:  Pisgah Monster Cross, Black Bear Rampage, and Fools Gold 50.  What the mid-40's has taught me is that recovery is even more crucial than before.

Arriving a bit late to the venue, I did not get my warm up that my body likes and needs.  Fortunately, the race started with a neutral roll out.  As we rolled along Brown Mountain Beach Road with a police escort keeping us at a nice 17 mph pace, I saw three women up front.  I was more mid pack.  I just did not feel like fighting my way up front so early in the race.  After 4 miles the police car pulled off and let us go.

But we didn't.  No one up front seemed interested in upping the pace.  So we cruised along at 17 mph for another 6 miles, With 30+ of us in a tight group on an unknown road, I got a little nervous.  The longer the pack stayed bunched, the greater the risk for some catastrophe.  The first 10 miles was a pleasant 2-3% grade along Wilson's Creek, but I was too focused on those around me to look at the beautiful scenery.

Photo Credit:  Daren Wilz

Finally, the road began to kick up and the pack thinned.  I settled into my happy climbing pace and watched two women in front of me pull away with the front of the pack.  Trying to stay with them would only have been disastrous for me later in the race.

I had not sent a drop bag to the first aid at mile 13, so I blew on by.  Then the fun began.  I turned off the nice fast hardpack gravel road to a double track climb that was a little less CX bike friendly.  It was here that I caught the second place woman.  Exchanging some pleasantries, I motored on by.

Another mile or so of double track and then I was directed onto a fire road that reminded me of some old ATV roads in Tellico:  steep, washed out, with sections of large, off-camber rock.  Oh, and it was wet!  I was able to ride the first half and passed a couple off their bike.  I soon caught up to the first place woman.  She was trying to ride also.  I could tell that it was not advantageous to do so at this point, so I hopped off my bike, and began a long run up.  I passed her on foot, upped the pace to shake her off my tail, never looking back.

After about a half mile of HAB, I was able to remount.  The climbing was still steep but at least rideable.  I saw Brian just ahead and reeled him in.  We have been in close proximity of one another at all three races and have worked well together, keeping the pace high, ensuring that we didn't slip into a slower, "day-dreamy" pace.

Around mile 26, I heard a familiar voice behind me.  It was Kip!  He was single speeding on a mountain bike with fat tires!  He is a beast!  But a very happy and sociable beast.  Nothing but an upbeat attitude.  I welcomed his company.  Along with a couple other racers, I was in a group of 3-5 for the remainder of the course.  It was great.  One was a great descender and so we followed his lines.  I liked to motor on the gentle climbs and so kept the pace high here.  Brian was good on the steeper climbs and forced us out of our comfort zone.

Rolling into the second aid station, a couple of us stopped.  Quickly swapping bottles, we soon regrouped and began the ardous climb up Maple Grove gravel Road.  To most this was a kick in the "u know what!"

18% grade in the final bit to the top. Photo Credit:  Daren Wilz

However, the reward was 19 miles of some of the sweetest gravel I have ever ridden.  Maple Sally Road (FS 187) did not disappoint.  This road gradually fell from 2300 feet to 1300 feet.  Full of rollers and curves, it was all about taking the right lines and keeping the hands off the brakes.  I was also treated to some  spectacular views.  Four of us, including Kip and Brian, took turns up front, and made short work of this section.

With about 3 miles to go, I began to smell the barn.  And, not knowing where 2nd and 3rd were, I needed to pick up the pace.  The legs were feeling great and aside from the one pavement kicker towards the end, I was all smiles.  Coming into the finsh area, the tape routed us through a section of Wilson's Creek.  It was here that I was almost taken out by the inner tubes that had anchors keeping them in place in the flowing waters.  That's what you get for trying to stick close to the tape.

Anne all smiles at the finish

One last punchy climb up to the finishing arch and I was done:  3:40:07.  It wasn't but a few short years ago that I absolutely hated gravel grinding.  Now I cannot get enough of it!

In the company of some super strong young women!

The post race meal was fantabulous.  I had emailed Cam prior to the event and he had the caterer prepare a chicken with no sauce (thereby eliminating any chance of being "glutened").  The best smoked 1/2 chicken I have ever had.  I would highly recommend Blue Mountain Revival events:  beautiful courses, good food (and beer), unique trophies, AND equal payout for the series!

The beginning of the course.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fool's Gold Race Report

It could not have been a better weekend to race the gravel and singletrack around the Bull and Jake Mountain area in Dahlonega, Georgia.  Temperatures were perfect, the humidity was low, and the trails were in primo condition, thanks to the collaboration between SORBA and CHTA (Chattahoochee Trail Horse Association).

I did what I could to recover from last weekend's double header.  8+ hours of sleep per night, eating clean, sitting as much as possible at work, and just tooling around on the bike.  The legs actually felt pretty good race morning.  I had planned on getting in a solid warm up, but due to the 7:30am start and forgetting to bring lights, I only got to pedal around for 15 minutes.  Oh well, Lisa said the first 2 miles would be neutral.

Shoulda known better about the start being "neutral," as Lisa was driving the lead vehicle.  Lisa does not know slow.  Her neutral was 25mph ... uphill!  I was on the gas right from the get-go, and the legs were NOT happy.  My plan was to stick with the lead group to the first big climb and then settle.  I was on the rivet the whole time, precariously hanging on at the back.  I was able to draft off the big boys and that bought me some precious time.

Once on the gravel, I let the group go.  I knew that over the next 50 miles, I would see some of them again.  Bonnie and I rode together for awhile.  I was happy to pace off her, steady and consistent that she was.  We chatted a bit; she gave me some kudos that were much appreciated.  I'm not sure if this fueled my engine or if that she slowed down a bit, but halfway up, she came off my wheel.

I enjoyed the climb up Cooper's Gap, feeling my legs come back around.  At the top of Cooper's Gap, I saw what appeared to be some volunteers setting up.  Questions swirled in my head.  Was this the first aid?  Was this an added water stop?  This was only mile 10,  The first aid station was supposed to be at the top of Winding Stair at mile 18.  Confused, I pedaled on.  My plans were to do a bottle swap at the first aid.  Hmmm.  If that was the first aid, then this bottle would now have to last 29 miles.  Thankfully the weather was cool and I was not drinking much.

I raced along the ridgeline, making short work of the rollers.  Coming into the Winding Stair intersection, I made a conscious effort to ride smart.  This descent was steep, loose, and rutted.  The corners were tight and I did not want to end up as someone's hood ornament.  Halfway down, I thought I felt my rear getting squirmy ... not another flat!  I slowed enough to cast a quick glance down.  The tire appeared o.k.  My mind and the loose terrain was playing tricks on me.

Finally the turn to single track nirvana!  Turner Creek was a descender's dream.  It was all about letting go of the brakes and carving the turns.  It was here that a racer from Florida (J.C. was his name, I believe) followed my wheel.  I asked him if he wanted by, but his reply was that he was happy following my lines.  He gave me some nice comments on my skills.  Greatly appreciated, as alot of times, dudes usually don't dish out nice words to us ladies.  He later came up to me at the awards ceremony and asked if he could get his picture with me!

Popping back out on some gravel, I pedaled back up FS 77 and then turned onto Jones Creek Trail.  I grabbed my bottle to drink only to find it dry.  Three miles to the second aid station ... no worries.  The climb up was pleasant.  The last time I had done this race (2012), this climb was a steep washed out mess!  It was here that last weekend began to catch up to me.  The first feelings of "heavy legs" began to settle in.  I was happy to see the top and even happier to rail the following descent; well, all but the first switchback which I overcooked.  After the dam began the triple "ant hill" climb.  Zeke named it this after following me up this sandy climbthis back in 2008'ish.  I was going too slow for him and he ended up falling over into a mound of ants which then proceded to bite him repeatedly.

Fortunately for me, there was no one in my way and I was able to grunt my way up.  The legs came close to crying, "Mutiny!, but abated when I explained that a fuel resupply station was just up ahead.  As I came rolling in, the volunteers were shouting out our number plates so that our bags would be ready.  Andrew helped me with mine and I was in and out in a flash.

Washing down a couple gels with Skratch, I was ready to begin the hardest portion of the course, the Bull Mountain loop.  In 2012, I cramped badly here.  I hoped by using a combination of Skratch and Elete electrolytes, I could avoid a repeat.  Getting back up to speed, I began passing many of those who sprinted up the Cooper Gap climb, only now to be feeling the effects of there early race "squirrely-ness."

My Niner Air 9 RDO, weighing in at 19 pounds, felt great underneath me.  Every push of the pedals engaged the Industry 9's immediately and no energy was lost.  I had a couple of riders around me, going at the same pace.  We helped to motivate each other, grinding away on the 3 kickers leading to the top of Bull.  Once on top, we parted ways.

Once I saw the cairn and then the old truck, I knew it was all downhill to the third aid station.  With no one in front of me, I let it loose and enjoyed the ride.  I passed Mark towards the end; he was walking his bike.  I could not see what was wrong, but was going to fast to get into a lengthy discussion.  I just hoped that it wasn't a race ender.  Glad to see that he indeed did finish.

Emily helped me at the third aid station and got rolling in no time flat!  From here, was a little more gravel and then onto the Bull Mountain Connector Trail.  This was my least favorite, as it was riddled with roots.  My legs were tired, my butt was tired from being jack hammered on Bull, and I was ready for flowy and buff.  "Soon, little grasshopper, fast and flowy, it will be," my inner voice whispered to me.

I had now been on the bike for 4 hours.  I was tired, ready to be done, my little bubble of happiness had burst.  I threw a little pity party for myself.  And then I got my head back into the game.  The last bit of single track, the Jake Mountain and Black Branch Trails, were perhaps the funnest of all.  It was all downhill, or at least it seemed that way.  And as smooth as a baby's butt.  I realized I had a bit of fire left in the legs.  I enjoyed every bit of it, including the creek crossing, which I walked.  Oh, how soothing that was to my feet and calves!  I wanted to lay down and let every inch of my body enjoy the cold water.

Even the steep grunty climb afterwards could not dampen my spirits.  From there it was onto the Beaver Pond section, where I felt the single track love.  I passed a couple more dudes here, whose gast tanks were on "E."  I stopped at the last aid station and grabbed the final bottle.  Even though this race is called the FG50, it is really 54 miles.  I knew I would need this last bottle to get me to the finish, 7 miles away.

Back onto the gravel, I knew it was 4 miles of road, dirt and blacktop, to the finish.  If you let it, this section can feel like you are riding through quicksand.  I chose to see it as a 20 TT.  Putting my head down, I focused on turning the pedals over.  I had thoughts of 2nd just behind me. This game I played allowed me to work through the burning that built up in my legs quickly.  The small rollers became mountains, but then I chose to stand and hammer, imagining I was on my single speed.  Using this imagery allowed me to make short work of what could otherwise seem like a never ending stretch.

Coming into the winery, I was happy to see the Kenda finishing banner.  I rolled through in 4:42;09.  Normally after I finish I head to the car and get cleaned up.  But today I rolled into the food tent and devoured a watermelon!  That is the perfect immediate post race food!

Congrats to my team mate Mary for finishing second!  The week previous she said she and Randall were just going to "ride" the course and partake in the aid station festivities ... yeah, right!  Her first time on this trail system and she rocked it!

Lisa did a great job with this event.  Moe's catered the post race meal.  It all looked wonderful, but I opted only for the guac, which I got a huge plate of.  I figured that this was a pretty safe bet and that I would not be glutened.  800 calories of green goodness down the hatch.  There appeared to be plenty of sweet tea and ice cold beer as well.  Payouts were equal and went 3 deep; prizing went even deeper!  A cool T-shirt and finisher's glass rounded out the schwag.

Race promoter extraordinaire

Lisa, of Mountain Goat Adventures, once again put on a top notch race.  With her, you not only get a great race, but an overall great experience.  Sure, there were some glitches (aid station #1 at wrong spot, stolen course markings), but she did everything in her power to make everything go right.  I would highly recommend any of her races; she also has a trail running series.  I am looking forward to Southern X.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Black Bear Rampage Race Report

After the Pisgah MonsterCross, I had the daunting task of recovery.  The following day I would be racing the Black Bear on my single speed.  In preparation for Double Dare, I needed to have that feeling of racing back to back races.  My recovery plan included eating, soaking the legs in the Davidson River, stretching, eating, compression socks, foam rolling in the Wal-Mart parking lot as Zeke pumped gas, eating some more, and sitting in my Elevated Legs.  With all that accomplished, I was still able to make it to bed by 8:45 pm.

The morning of I felt pretty good.  No cobwebs in the head, a hearty appetite, and the desire for the speed.  I allowed my body a full 1 hour warm up.  That was indeed the ticket, because when the gun went off, the legs were there.  They were not sparkly, but I was able to keep up with Mary's pace, and soon we were reeling in the rear end of the Expert field, single speeders included.

As we approached the single track, I kicked it up to 160 rpm to get around a couple racers.  Mary allowed me the hole shot as she was content to ride my wheel.  Traffic was not bad at all.  I was able to settle into a nice rhythm without taxing the legs early on.  Halfway through, Mary and I got separated as a couple Sport racers came upon us, and with their superior skilz, managed to pass Mary only to crash right in front of her.

She managed to catch back up with me on Old Copper Road.  I had an easier than normal gear on today, knowing that my legs would appreciate it on the climbs.  I was a little spinny and Mary was able to catch back up.  This was her first race on her single speed and she was doing very well, especially pushing a gear that would make most dudes cry for their Mama's.

I got a gap on her going up Bear Paw.  I soon caught up to a cluster of racers, going at Mach 0.005.  My legs were not happy with a cadence of 40 rpm, so when I got the chance, I was able to take an alternate, albeit, harder line, and get around them.  Back up to cruising speed, I made short work of the rest of this section, and soon passed Henry Trent and crew at the turn onto the Lower Chestnut.

Upon getting close to Thunder Rock, I came upon an old friend, Sam Curley.  He and Zeke were the ones, 9 years ago, that held me down, and injected me with the endurance bug's venom.  I still remember the day, when I did my first LONG ride (40 miles) and they kicked my arse!  But I was hooked.  Who knew that mountain biking was not just about going round and round on a groomed trail, but going on epic single loop adventures?

Sam has great descending abilities, and he had pre-ridden the course like a hundred times, so I followed his smooth lines down Thunder Rock.  Thanks, Sam!  At the bottom, I grabbed a new bottle and began the climb up FS45.  The legs barked a little, until the lactic acid was flushed out, and then I began passing back some of the Sport racers.  I guess they had burnt one too many matches in the first 20.

I was in my happy zone, feeling good about how my legs were doing despite the previous day's effort.  As I turned onto Quartz, I caught sight of Lisa just ahead.  That was another vote of confidence, and I was determined to slowly reel her in, and have her pace me through the remainder of the course.  I knew at some point I was going to hit a low, and it would be good to have her company.

I caught her on Bypass and together we rode.  We didn't say much, but then again, we did not have to.  Just our presence was enough of a motivator to continue to push on and not lolligag.  A couple Sport racers joined our pace.  I chatted a bit with them.  This conversation woke me up to the fact that not all Sport riders are inconsiderate bodies of raging testosterone.  He actually called me "Ma'am," a few times.  I will take that in a good way.

Halfway through Riverview, I felt that my rear wheel was not tracking well.  Uh oh, not again!  I managed to look down at it and noticed it was low.  I managed to keep any expletives under my breath, dismount, and triage the problem.  No hissing, no spewing of Stan's ... perhaps I had just burped it.  I added some air and did not hear any leaks..  Could I be lucky today?  This whole process took about two minutes.  Lisa now became my carrot.

After finishing up Riverview and with my tire still firm, I let it rip down Chestnut.  I flew by Henry who was now dressed in Hawaiin Luau attire.  He cracks me up ... always filled with happiness and cheer.  He is to the Cherokee National Forest as Shanna is to Pisgah, just a larger and hairier version.

Zeke was on the bridge, bottle in hand.  I pulled up and stopped.  His eyes got big!  "Don't stop, don't stop!"  he cried.  I wanted to check my tire ... still holding, good!  Grabbing the bottle, I made my way through the crowd cheering us on, and motored on up Old Copper Road.  It felt better this way, with a slight uphill.

Boyd Gap was a beast!  Even with an easier gear, I still had to get off and push a few times.  Even walking, I still managed to stay with a pack of guys on the climb.  Normally I could ride up, but the 70 miles of gravel grinding the day before had finally caught up to me.  I ... was ... blown!

Brush Creek seemed to go on forever!  I was ready to be done.  Then, with about 2 miles remaining, I caught sight of Lisa.  That was good enough to allow the two extra cylinders to kick in.  I dragged my way back up to Lisa.  Together we finished 1-2, both a first in our respective divisions.  Mary came in soon afterwards, 2nd SS.

The cold fruit and drinks at the finish was a nice touch.  Together I think Lisa and I devoured the equivalent of one watermelon.  The aid station volunteers had to kick us away like a pack of dogs surrounding an overturned garbage can.

My time was 3:27:15, about 10 minutes slower than last year.  I'll gladly take that time, as last year, I was well rested leading up to the race and also raced on gears.

That was a good finish to a spectacular weekend.  Confidence inspiring, to say the least.  As I have gotten older, I have definitely wondered just how much longer I can continue to keep getting better.  I know the plateau is not that far ahead, but until I hit it, I will keep striving to improve.

Jersey by SuperSport

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pisgah Monster Cross Race Report

The Cysco;  comfortably fast, not numb.

This is the third year I have participated and each year it gets more difficult.  At least the weather was cooperative.  After fretting all week and packing cold and wet weather gear, those items ended up staying stashed in the bottom of my race bag.  Warm, cloudy skies greeted the 200+ of us that showed up to suffer.  As long as I finished in less than 5 hours, the weatherman guaranteed me that I would not get wet.  The route was CCW, the direction I and my Cysco Cycles gravel grinder preferred.

Brenda, Kaysee, and I were close in the Queen of Pisgah competition, so my plan was to attack off the start, try to get a gap, and then sustain.  Everything started off like I had planned.  I was up front, with guys who I could pace off of going up FS477.  The legs were sparkly and I made quick work of the 6 mile climb.  Once on top, I settled into my happy zone, and quickly motored down to Hwy 276.  I cannot say enough about how titanium absorbs the stutter bumps, but I was able to stay in the mix with several mountain bikes on the descent.

Up 276 and then onto FS1206, the next big chunk of gravel.  I love this road as it goes by fast and flows well, as long as you stay on top of your gear.  I was initially with a small group but realized they were going just one tick faster than I was comfortable with, so I dropped off their pace.

 At about mile 14, I felt something I abhorred!  My rear tire was losing air.  My feeling of happiness dissolved immediately into frustration.  But for once, I did not panic and let rip a storm of expletives. I calmly stopped and assessed the situation.  Where was the leak?  I could hear it but not see it.  You see (no pun intended), I have been losing the battle against presbyopia.  My near vision is so bad now that I wear reading glassed to read, do surgery, take stitches out, etc.  And now I realized one more thing I cannot do.  Find a dad-gum leak!  Out with the CO2, I finally was able to feel it.  A sidewall puncture!?!  How the heck does that happen?!?  I tried one feeble attempt to plug it.

As I was attempting this almost impossible fix with eyes that don't work in situations less than 2 feet away from me, someone stopped and asked if I needed help.  Sure, but I did not want to screw up their race.  "No worries," he said.  "I am still recovering from last week's effort, so just riding today."  As he finished his sentence, I finally realized that it was Kip, my Double Dare partner, and now my gravel angel!  He held my bike steady and prepped my tube while I did the rest.  The total stop time was 8 minutes, but it would have been alot longer without him.

I hopped back on and my first thought was "endeavor to persevere."  This became my mantra for the remainder of the race.  I had no idea how many women passed me, but I was not about to go down without a fight.  David passed me, then slowed down, and gave words of encouragement.  Others as well.  Within 5 minutes, I came upon the Simrils.  As I motored past, they asked what happened.  Without going into much detail, as my HR was soaring, I told them, and then hammered it up the climb to Yellow Gap.

I was cautious on the descent down to North Mills River, not wanting a repeat experience of the last 20 minutes.  Kip caught back up to me and then passed me.  As I approached the left hander onto FS 5000, Kip had stopped to help a cyclist that had gone down hard on the wet pavement.  Another act of selflessness by the amazing Mr. Clyburn, who had just recently completed the Vapor Trail 125 in an outstanding showing by one who lives so close to sea level.

I arrived at the first aid station and swapped bottles.  I was hoping this would be a NASCAR fast stop, but for some reason the drop bags were behind the aid station tent.  It seemed like a football field length's away.  I quickly dismounted, worked my way through racers and volunteers, grabbed my bag, got my bottle, worked my way back through the hordes of people, and finally back to my bike.  Precious seconds gone!  As I remounted, my legs barked a little, I said "Shut Up!" and got back up to my happy heart rate zone.  I caught up with Brian, we talked a bit, and then I worked my way up to Stephen.  He gave me good news when he said Meghan was just up ahead and that she was in the lead.  I was happy about not being far behind, but concerned about where Kaysee was.  Stephen did not know about her.  I knew that she had to have passed me when I was fixing my flat.

The 5 mile climb up to the Parkway went by quickly.  I caught up to Meghan, exchanged pleasantries, and then opened it up a bit so she would not catch my wheel.  Soon came the left-hander onto the Parkway.  Even with all the beauty that this stretch exudes, this is the place where I always seem to suffer.  The never ending climb up to the second aid station was relentless.  I was alone for most of the way on this stretch of butter smooth pavement.  Thank God for the blinkies!!  We are required to run lights both front and rear while on the Parkway.  Up in the foggy distance, I could make out racers only by their flashing rear red lights.  This gave me the motiviation to drag myself up to them, wanting desperately for my first visual of them to be the yellow/green kit of TVB racer Kaysee.

Each one I passed was a small victory, as this hopefully put racers (and series points) between Brenda and me.  I did not stop at the second aid station, but welcomed the descent that followed.  I was at the point now on the parkway where although the climbing was still tough, at least there were some descents to recover on.  Fortunately I was able to hook up with a couple racers.  I rode their wheel hard, gaining precious seconds that I would not have been able to alone.  I helped when I could, which was pacing them up the climbs.

Towards the beginning of the final 4 mile climb up to Hwy 215, I caught sight of the Mark Drogalis.  His Toasted Head Racing kit is by far one of the coolest I have ever seen.  He was a sight for sore eyes.  Just seeing him motivated me to push it one notch harder.  As I began to catch him, I saw just ahead of him what I had been chasing for 30+ miles.  Kaysee Armstrong!  Instantly my RPE (rate of perceived exertion) went from 9 to 4!

Now all I had to do was catch her, try to put as much distance on her in this last bit of climbing, and then stay smooth and steady on the 10 mile descent down 215.  I was gonna have to dig deep!  As I caught up to her, I could tell by her body language that she was suffering 10% more than I on this final Parkway climb.  This gave me hope.  As I passed by her, we talked a bit, she caught my wheel, but after a couple minutes popped off.

I never looked back.  I pedaled hard, but staying just under "cramping pace."  Once on 215, I did not have to pedal much.  This road is super steep and is all about staying off the brakes and blazing through the corners.  Some corners were still wet and it was here that I probably was overly cautious. As the pavement began to level out, Brian caught up to me.  This was a godsend, as I was able to draft off him the final mile or so to the last aid station.  I was out of water and had planned on grabbing my drop bag.

As I was slowing up to make the turn, I heard the roar of many tires behind me.  I glanced back and saw Kaysee!  Yep!  I about crapped my pants.  Her face was full of fury and determination.

Sorry to have missed this exuberant crew.

As I turned onto Indian Creek Road, she kicked it into high gear and sped past me.  For 5 seconds, I threw a pity party.  Then I got mad!  I slammed my chain down a couple cogs, forgot about not having water for the last 12 miles, and caught back on her wheel.  The road leveled out and I stuck with her, allowing my heart rate to creep back down to sub hummingbird speed.

Knowing that we both needed places between us and Brenda, I pulled alongside her.  I asked if she wanted to work together, and then let our race play out at the end.  She agreed.

Later, when I told Zeke about this tactic, his first comment, was that he thought Kaysee or any other racer would take that as asking to be used and abused, and then dropped at an opportune moment.  I want to make it clear that I am NOT a cutthroat racer.  That is and never will be my intention.  I knew that Kaysee is a powerhouse on the flats and descents and that if we did work together until the near end, I would most likely lose the battle.  And that was o.k. with me.  My victory would be hopefully helping her to dig deep and go beyond what she would think she was capable of.  We women need more youth in this sport.  Kaysee is that youth.  She has come up the ranks quickly and has gained so much fitness, strength, and speed in the last 2 years that she will be a force to be reckoned with.  Heck, she already is!

But if it were a dude, I would stick on him like pine tar, suck his life force out, and leave his wilted corpse in the middle of the road!

Off my soapbox, and back onto the race.

So I took the lead and pulled up the climb.  Kaysee stayed strong, but I could tell she was hurting.  I yelled out words of encouragement, but she popped off my wheel.  After about 5 minutes, I knew her legs were leading a mutiny on the climbs.  I was going slower than I was comfortable with.  I knew that Brenda was somewhere lurking behind and could be gaining.  Not wanting to take any more chances, I knew that I had to go.

I had 10 miles left.  I treated it like a 20 minute power test.  I put my head down and focused on pedal stroke.  My legs were burning, my eyeballs were popping, and sweat was dripping off my nose.  I entered the pain cave voluntarily, knowing that a chance of victory was my reward.  I descended off Gloucester like a scalded dog.  I began to take chances again.  A couple of times I hit my rim on the deep ruts in the road.  But my I-9's and tires held firm.

The last 5 miles seemed painfully slow.  Part of me just wanted to pull over and lie down.  Then a light rain started, It seemed like each drop that hit me quickly sizzled and evaporated.  But it was just cooling enough to allow me to refocus on the finish and not the pain of turning the cranks over.

Flashing blue lights ahead.  Normally my instinct is to slow down when I see the police, but this was a welcome sight as the finish was near.  I finally looked over my shoulder.  No one in sight!  I pulled into the finish, hopped over the barriers, finishing with a time of 4:48:29.  The hardest ... one ... yet.

Funny, but Eric's events always push me to my limits.  Whether it be from adverse weather, to the level of competition, to mechanicals, I am forced to test everything about my being.  I am happy that each and every time (except for P36), I have been able to extend those limits.  This is living!

Signifies "The Most Difficult"