Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012 Fools Gold 50 Race Report

I went into this race not knowing what to expect. I have wanted to enter this race for about 3 years now, and so as soon as registration opened on December 1 of last year, I was one of the first to sign up. Seemed like a great idea at the time, but honestly I sure am thankful I didn’t choose the 100 miler which I had briefly considered. I loaded up the hydration pack fully, because I wasn’t sure how reliable the whole drop bag thing was, and didn’t want to take any chances. I was warned, “eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty” and eat often. I wanted to be prepared for anything in this race so there were enough ride snacks and water packed that I could have done the hundred....from a snack perspective only of course.

I was really concerned about fuel and came up with what I thought was a great accessible ride snack idea. I thought, hey they make candy necklaces, right. So why not make a Clif Blok necklace or go fancy and make a Chomp Gel necklace by stringing the gels on some fishing line and making a rider bracelet or necklace so I could eat easily on the go. Chris made it clear to me that it wasn’t a practical idea ( he said it was dumb), so I just decided to stuff the pockets of my pack and jersey with as much as I could cram.
(Feel free to market the Gel necklace idea though...I am still convinced it might work, although it might be best suited for winter months).

Anyway, having limited experience riding in the mountains, nor riding in Dahlonega ever, I figured, how hard could this course actually be? That is, until we drove into town, checked into our motel and looked out the window. They have actual mountains in Northern Georgia. Who knew? Gulp. By the way, the city of Dahlonega is awesome and a great place to visit. Lots of cool touristy things to see in downtown including some excellent restaurants and live music, gold mine tours, as well as the Fudge Factory Inc. which sells the kind of awesome confectionary that will turn healthy people to diabetics instantly. All of that with the great background of the beautiful mountains including the stunning Monteluce winery property. (Well assuming you just want to look at these mountains because riding them is another story).

I tried to ignore the fact that I’d be riding those mountains when we arrived, but Chris kept bringing it up. Again, and again. I tried to take solace in the fact that there were a lot of registrants in this race from Florida. I thought, well Florida is way flatter than NC, so hey if they can do it, I certainly shouldn’t have any problems. Bad assumption. Apparently these people who live in Florida now, must have moved there from Colorado or Utah or something, because they all knew how to climb for some reason.

We got to the race at about 6:30 am but, my race was supposed to start at 7:30 am. Plenty of would think. But, when we pulled my bike out of the truck and put the wheel on, of course it was hitting the brake pads. The brand new brake pads we’d installed just for the race must have gotten jostled on the drive and now were rubbing. So Chris is trying to adjust my brake pads from the illumination of his headlights as a light source and propping the bike up on the front of his hood as a make shift bike stand. I am sure it would have been funny if I had been watching someone else do this, but since it was my bike and I was not ready yet, I was panicking that I wouldn’t make the start. Luckily he got it sorted including mounting the GO PRO and I was able to line up without incident among the 300+ others. Of course, the GO PRO video didn’t last long since I was on some rough terrain and the cheap plastic mount cracked off and threw the camera into the woods. I was able to find it and shove it in my pack, but that was the end of the video footage. In hindsight, I probably should have unlocked my fork and maybe it wouldn’t have snapped off. Oh well, you live and learn.

For the most part, this race was primarily on forest service roads with lots and lots and lots of climbing. And since I used to live on an island and now mostly ride Greensboro, well, lets just say I suffered..... a little, and used my granny gear....a lot.

We were told at the racer’s meeting that once we finally got to the top of the first forest road climb and aid station one, we would next come to a road called Winding Stair. Once I finally found aid station one, which was not at mile 12 as I thought, but was at mile 18, I was in and out quickly and still unrealistically hoping for a 6.5 hour finish. The volunteers were amazing at every station though, always asking if they can fill your bottle or bladder or get you anything to eat. Just fantastic. I have never experienced such eagerness to help and was really impressed with what the volunteers on PTP races will do for you.

The race director warned that Winding Stair is a really long, steep, rutted out, water boarded, rock strewn, and treacherous descent, which very well may have vehicles coming up the road. We had to watch our speed and be on the lookout for them, because they can’t close any of these FS roads. I certainly didn’t want to become an involuntary hood ornament so I went into it with caution. Holy cow. Apparently my descending skills are as poor as my climbing skills because I was flying down this dirt road way faster than I was comfortable with and was white knuckling the brakes so hard that by the time I got to the bottom, my hands were sore from holding on so tight. I tried to do one finger braking, but that wasn’t working, so then I tried two fingers, and before I knew it, my entire hands were wrapped solidly around the brakes like I was hanging on to an amusement park ride. As out of control as I felt though, there were guys coming up on my left passing me even faster and taking the turns wide despite the fact that there were cars using these roads. I feared someone was going to lose it. Luckily, no one did that I saw, but I still worried about the reckless racers who seemed to not care about the oncoming cars and those cars that didn’t seem to care that this was a race either.

At one point, I came across a service road intersection and there was a guy just standing there wearing full camo and carrying a bow and arrow. It was kinda creepy so I made sure to give him a big smile whilst getting a good look at his face. I was hoping it was bow season, but it inspired me to pick up my pace a tad bit know just in case, he was looking for the slowest animal in the biking herd to hunt.

When I got to aid station 2, there was a rumor that a rider had gone down and broken his hip. The ambulance was sending out the gator for the rescue. Over an hour later, a few riders and myself were stopped on some single track whilst that same gator was trying to get through the non quad friendly single track. They came upon a tight tree so with some quick thinking, they pulled out a chainsaw to cut this offending tree down. However, they didn’t think it through and the tree just barely moved a few inches and now became a “hanger”. We waited a little while longer and then one of the guys who was waiting with us got frustrated and told them to just let us through while they were figuring this out, because it was a race after all. They agreed. While we were passing them, I heard one of the guys getting yelled at over the walkie telling them they needed to go back the way they came, because there was no way they would get a gator through the area they were attempting, and had to use the service roads. I am sure that the fact that a healthy tree just got cut down for no reason and there was still a broken rider out there was not making these guys the forest 
service favorites for the day.

We kept riding, and when we got to Bull Mountain trail we were flagged to ride cautiously because there was a rider down. Sure enough it was the broken hip guy writhing in pain on the ground, still there with a few guys around him trying to give directional guidance to the medics and keeping the downed rider stabilized.

I finally got to aid station 3 and as I was exiting the single track, I saw two guys running up the hill toward us carrying a back board. This was at least 2 hours later though. It made me think, I’d better be cautious because help is a long way away out here. As I was getting ready to leave this aid station where they split the 50s and the 100s, I saw this guy go flying at full speed toward the 100 mile course. And, this rider had a prosthetic leg. I grabbed another handful of cookies and stopped feeling sorry for myself as I pedaled away on the measly 50 mile course with my two good legs.

So basically, there were many miles of forest service roads. I started asking myself where all the fast flowy singletrack was that I’d heard so much about in this race. I finally found it in the last 12 or so miles. And that’s when it started to rain, and then it rained harder. The beautiful singletrack I waited all day for after slogging up these ridiculous dirt fire roads, was now pooling with puddles and becoming a wet mess. My glasses were useless, my legs and arms were covered with so much mud, which was splattering everywhere, and now my bike was starting to make these growly , grinding sounds with every pedal stroke. I started to wonder how much this damage was going to cost when I finally got the bike home, and cleaned out the water and mud that was likely in parts of this bike that it probably should not be. Then it was back to wading puddles and trying to ride as fast as possible to get the least wet. That plan didn’t work out too well as there was no staying dry. Then just like that, the sun came out and started drying up the trails. Finally, I found something redeeming about these mountain trails. Quick dry.

I didn’t pay enough attention to the course map so when I came upon aid station 4, I was kind of surprised to see it. I hadn’t expected another one. As soon as I got there, I grabbed some crackers, and a warm Coke, and was getting ready to leave. Another guy pulled up and they asked him if he was doing 50 or 100. He said 50 and they told him he must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and should turn back and make a right on the FS road. I panicked and said that I was also doing the 50. They said to follow him. I raced down the hill to catch him and got to the bottom, but all I saw was a sign that said Short Cut. There was no way in hell I was taking that road. I had already done 47 miles and was not going to come in without completing the course, and getting full credit and a official finishing time.

I rode back up the hill (with lots of groaning) and went back to that aid station. They determined from my computer mileage that they’d made a mistake, I was in fact going the right way and should stay straight instead for my finish. This did not inspire confidence in me and their directions. I continued to ride where they told me to go, and now was starting to worry “what if I did this part already and am now on the 100 mile course”. (The other guy never came back). There was no one around now and I felt like the last rider out there. Finally, a few more riders passed sporadically. Of course all of them were 100 milers which essentially meant that it was taking me more time to finish my 50 than they their 100. I tried not to let it get to me, but it did. A fast girl passed me and said, “you’re doing great”. I yelled back at her, “Thanks, but I am doing the 50”. She was gracious and said, “well, you’re still doing great.” I encountered a lot of that kind of encouragement from various racers which was really a boost to my spirits especially when I was considering selling my bike a few times on the course.

I finally got to what I thought should be the end of the course and it took me out to a paved road. Had I paid even an ounce of attention to my surroundings on the course out, I would have realized that it was the exact same road I took during the race start. But, in the excitement of the race, I just followed the bike in front of me like a lemming until the neutral pace car set us free. The only thing I noticed was a goat in some ladies yard. I really need to invest in a bike GPS. I was now up to 52 miles and was convinced I was off course. Even though I kept seeing the well marked arrows and pink ribbons to re-assure me I was on the right path, I kept doubting myself and pulled over quite a few times to get my bearings since I had exceeded the mileage I thought we’d have to ride already. I continued to ride and finally saw a big arrow leading to a turnoff back into the winery. Only this time, they routed us through the grass instead of the property roads. Because of all the rain, it was a slow, slippery slog, and the grass was just as muddy as could be. And then as if that wasn’t demoralizing enough, they had us finish through this crazy short but steep, rocky stream crossing that from what I heard, EVERYONE walked. A lot of racers were not happy about that finish, and Chris got some video of some pissed off riders. And finally, there was some more muddy grass to get through to pass the Kenda finish archway. I didn’t see the others, but I know instead of a super speedy final run like I have seen in most race finishes, mine must have probably looked more like a Six Million Dollar Man slow mo scene. I could barely turn over the pedals and was never so happy to see the end.

Unfortunately since I was supposed to call Chris when I got to the last rest stop to let him know I was near finishing so he could get it on camera, sadly my phone died mid ride. So I didn’t get any photo of my finish for posterity. Quite frankly, I was more than likely not smiling through that finish, so I am perfectly happy not to have the evidence of how dirty and exhausted I looked. Trust me, it was not pretty.

 So in a nutshell, this was THE hardest race, I’ve ever done. I ended up with just under 55 miles, 7 hours 12 minutes of moving time and just over 8 hours of race time. That put me 28 place in the women’s 50 miler category and 195 overall. But, I didn’t cramp, bonk or wreck and I finished under my own power. So to me, that’s a good day in a race even if I finished 4th to last. (Yeah, sometimes you take what you can get. ) :-)

Results: HERE

Video- HERE

Overall Impressions:
Aid stations and Volunteers A+
Venue A+
Shirt, After ride food/beverages A+
Signage and Directions A+++
Course- Tough for me because of all the climbing.
Competition- As always, extremely humbling.
Prizes- Maybe I’ll find out next year.  ;-)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Less than 72....

Hours that is.... until the Fool’s Gold NUE race. I signed up for this race nearly 9 months ago and yet here I am only a few days away, slightly panicked.
Am I prepared? Have I done enough? How will my legs deal with all the climbing that I have never experienced before? Can I finish? What do I pack? How long will it take me? Will the weather hold out? I am praying the weather holds out and it stays dry.
If not, I don’t know if I am ready for that kind of riding with bad conditions added on. Obviously, I have to be ready for it, no matter what. Fingers crossed.
So many questions. Fleeting doubts. Ugghhh. This sounded like such a good idea on December 1 of last year. But, Now? Gulp.

Ahh, so what if I don’t finish? No that’s NOT an option. I must finish. I have waited a long time for this. I know I can do it. Well, at least I think I can. Okay, I hope.
But, truthfully, I am a little scared. I don’t want to have to quit. I want to complete it. I won’t quit. I will just keep pedaling until I get to the finish line. Even really slow pedaling counts and eats up miles, right? Must remember that.
Because after all, I will be getting a cool t-shirt for my effort. And I want to wear it proudly.
Go ME!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Lately I have been riding many miles and trying to get as much endurance in as I possibly can before the "season" begins and the long races officially start making their way onto the calendar. However, riding many, many miles is having another effect on me. While I love my bike, and I love to ride, I am starting to feel the dreaded "burned out" syndrome. And it's too early to feel that way.

Because of the fact that I need to ride more and more miles, I find myself riding my home trails all in one shot. So instead of it taking me 5 days to visit five local trails, I end up doing them all in one day. That leaves me limited options for my other riding days on where to ride. 15 miles, 30 miles, 45 miles....each time out feels like it has to be more. No number seems to be enough. Since I don't road ride anymore, that's out as far as cross training to break my training up. Plus, because the weather is so nice, I only want to be in the woods anyway. So it ends up with me wanting to travel to other trails to visit some fresh dirt to pedal something new. That takes time and gas money. And that just seems wasteful to me. Time which I could actually spend riding instead of driving. Money I could be spending on bike parts instead of burning fuel to ride those parts somewhere new. It's a dichotomy.  So you see where I am going with this.

Today, I drove 3 hours round trip to ride somewhere else. Had a great ride. Left there, and passed another trail on the way home and felt that my previous great ride wasn't enough. I had to stop there and ride more. Once done, it still wasn't enough. So I decided to drive back home and ride my local trails anyway. Yes, my legs were tired, but my mind was saying, "not sufficient, need more, as long as there is still daylight, why aren't you still riding?" So really, how much is enough? Why wasn't the first trail enough even though my legs really were tired from it?

I realize that biking is very similar to drugs. Sure it's a good drug and not the kind that leaves you face down in a ditch somewhere not knowing your name or what year it is (not counting concussions of course), but it's like an addiction none the less. The more you ride, the more you want to ride. The more it takes for your body to be satisfied each time you go out for a ride to get the same "buzz" a/k/a the that  feeling that says "what a great day because that ride really put the hurt on me."

Yes, it's a dichotomy. It's sort of sad really. Like that feeling you get after you've trained for something really long and hard, and then once it's finished, you feel that empty gap. You need to find that next big event to train for...the next big score that can match that high feeling you got when you trained for the last one. Only your dealer is a Google search on the upcoming race calendars on the internet instead of the shady guy on the corner. But you cough up your money for them just the same in hopes of finding that next awesome event. The piece d' resistance of mountain biking or whatever sport it may be, you can't wait to sign yourself up for it.

So the question do we deal with the ever progressing need for more miles,  and fresh locations with endurance training. How do you satisfy the need and quell the search so that each and every time you go out for a ride, any ride, it still seems productive? Not productive according to your bike computer or your ride log, but to satisfy your mind. That is something I think I will have to figure out before endurance biking gets the best of me.
For now I need to just ride and have fun. F.....U....N.

Friday, April 13, 2012

6 Hours of Warrior Creek Race Experience - CoEd duo

Not knowing what to expect of this race, I went in with an open mind. Gates opened at 7, race started at 10. Shared laps with a teammate. Four hundred people signed up. Easy peasy right?

The morning was a little chilly, but I was happy about that. I'd rather be racing in the cold than the heat any day. Only two days before the race, that area had gotten 1.4 inches of rain. Surprisingly all reports from those already up there who pre-rode the course the day before were that the trail barely showed any traces at all of that precipitation. More good news!

My race partner showed up the night before to camp and got there early enough to secure a good spot for our pit. Although, the best pit spots were being held for the solos up at the main line. That just so happened to be where you rode through the timing line and also where all the fun hub-bub stuff was happening.

We had to settle for a slightly steep walk up and down the hill each time we wanted to visit our pit area. Not the worst thing in the world because it allowed me to warm up my legs from the several trips up and down it. Plus, it was significantly quieter there and we got our own pit toilets instead of those fancy flushing ones up at the main line. Who needs THAT fluff  anyway?  Ummm, I DO!!! Lesson learned though. Either next year, I run it solo or I lie and say I am so I can get a better pit spot. I am kidding, of course...I would never stoop so low as to run that race solo. ;-)

When we pulled up into the campground, I noticed that the volunteers all had brown shirts on. Brown. I commented that I was a little disappointed in the choice of color this year. I mean really, nobody looks good in brown. Well except maybe the characters from Firefly, but I digress. So when I got to registration, I was more than pleasantly surprised when I found out that brown was only the color for volunteers. Male racers were getting gray shirts and female...PINK. Score! Yep, sometimes it's all about the swag and the t-shirts. Especially if you have no chance at a medal. Then it's always about the t-shirt!

I left registration with my number plate, and my ankle bracelet thingy with instructions that it had to be worn on the left ankle. I proceeded to ready myself, but since it was still too early, I held off a bit. Even though I was first in my team's duo rotations, I didn't want to be one of those geeky  serious racers who was all set up and ready to go over an hour before start time. I relaxed and chatted while I drank my water, ate my bagel and Dixie donut and set my ankle band down next to my chair.

A little while went by, they held the racer's meeting and I went back to the pits to prepare. Somehow even though, I was there an hour and a half early, I now only had 10 minutes to get myself ready. I rushed around and gathered all my stuff and checked my tire pressure. What?! They felt too squishy. I checked them before I left the house and they were pumped up solid. So I scrambled for a pump and started adding air feeling a little stressed and unprepared. I race to the line and I am at the back. I mean the very back as in the last racer to arrive. There are literally over 300+ racers lined up in front of me. I make a joke to another guy at the back that I really hope that we are going the other way and everyone is facing backwards so we have a better start. We both laugh nervously, secretly knowing our respective pole positions were basically screwed and more screwed.

The start goes off, and it seems like no one is moving. We are all just sitting there clipped into our pedals essentially track standing because this part of the race crowd wasn't going anywhere fast. Apparently, our end of the starting line didn't hear the news that the race started. I guess it takes a while to make it's way down the line. Finally, we started to make some progress. And that's when I realize how amazing this start is amongst all these people. It is literally the largest race start I have ever been in and the sheer coolness of it all just makes me smile. So we head down the road for a pretty smooth warm-up on pavement before we enter the singletrack. And then, there was absolutely no place to pass. It was now just a giant group ride. I could only ride the berms as fast as the girl in front of me. Once I realized this, I just settled in because I am not aggressive enough to really race properly. The girl in front of me was yapping about how she'd never ridden this trail before and was only racing it because it was "bikini" season. The girl behind me was complaining that they'd taken all the roots out of the trail and was calling out all the upcoming trail contours for the clueless girl in front of me since she was slowing us down around every climb.  I really wanted to kill both of them, but being that it was a race, I didn't think it was prudent to waste time stopping for that . So I just kept my own pace steady whilst trying not to crash into bikini girl every time she created the accordion effect when slowing way down on the berms.

 Finally, a few guys up front pulled off, and I found my chance to pass. I was FREEEE......and then around the next bend....the traffic snarled once again. This got really frustrating after a while, but I just hung in there knowing that it had to open up eventually. And it did. Finally, I got to really appreciate the speed and flow of the berms and just let the bike go. And that's when I looked down. Holy Crap! I had no timing chip on my ankle. In my haste to get ready, I had forgotten to put it on. I also had forgotten my phone.  I could not go back to get the chip because traffic was one way. I also could not call my husband to ask him to meet me near the finish line with it. Once again, I found myself screwed and I hadn't even finished one lap yet. Upon realization of this, I let out a stream of obscenities. Enough so that the racer girl behind me asked what was wrong. After I explained my situation in between heavy breathing, she told me not to worry. Just drop my bike before the finish line, run to get it, put it on, remount my bike and then cross the line. But, she warned, whatever I did, absolutely do NOT cross that line without that chip. Brilliant! Now I had a plan.

For the rest of the lap, I was kicking myself knowing I had made such a rookie bone head move and now had to run up and down that damn hill again to get my timing chip. This lap seemed to go on and on and I was getting really tired. I was told it was a 12.5 mile lap, but here I was at 13.25 and I was no where near done. Plus the cumulative markers were not jiving with my computer. The trail markers showed me at only 10 miles. What the heck? I kept riding and I was now seriously thinking I made a wrong turn. The longer I rode, the more weak I became.

Riding that trail for fun is one thing, but racing it at red line as fast as I can go was a whole different story. I swear the climbs got steeper from only a couple weeks ago. As the miles went on, I was agonizing over my timing chip dilemma. I really didn't want to waste the time and energy to run up and down that hill to get my ankle band. I gauged how pissed my teammate would be if I crossed that line and didn't get credit for my lap. I considered crossing the line and pleading with the organizers to just use the time from my number plate. I mean what do they do when a racer loses their chip on the course? Surely they don't just disqualify them right? So many scenarios ran through my mind. I really didn't want to disappoint my teammate so I accepted the fact I would have to do some running before the finish line. Crap.

I hauled butt out of the trail to the pavement and I saw my husband standing on the sidelines. I yelled out to him: "I CAN'T CROSS THE FINISH LINE, I DON'T HAVE MY CHIP!!!"  That's when he raised his hand up, smiled and waved my ankle band and said "Yes you can".  I can't tell you how relieved I was. I stopped and grabbed it and started to put it on. He yelled, "No! Don't put it on, just carry it with you over the line!" Duh...of course. I crossed the finish and crisis was averted. Chris asked me, "what took you so long?" I looked down and apparently the 12.5 mile lap "prologue" was extended to 16.25 miles. And evidently starting at the very back of the line adds a lot of time to your lap. Who knew?

Anyway, I did that first lap, changed clothes, waited for my team mate to return from his and tried to tell myself that my 2nd lap had to be better. I was now wearing my chip, had my phone, I had refueled with a PBJ and was ready to go. As I entered my 2nd lap, there was no one in front of me. Now this was what I came for. I got to fly up and down those berms like they were meant to be ridden. This was a blast. No one in front, no one in back.  That was until the fast guys caught up with me. Then it was like I was the little smart car on a freeway with 18 wheelers all around buzzing by me. They were flying past me so fast, it was scary. Not just the guys, either, but these girls were super amazingly strong too. These were no amateurs. Clearly they had done this before and I was way out of my league racing against these athletes. My Greensboro legs were no match for their level of fitness. Humbled does not even begin to describe how I felt among this caliber of competitiveness and skill. However, every guy who passed me made sure to offer little words of encouragement on my own ride, which I really thought was awesome. I think that truly makes a racer go from fast to fantastic in my opinion. The fact that they took time to speak to me while hauling arse, now that's sportsmanship. I did have to ignore the fact that it also clearly highlighted that they had enough extra breath to make those comments and I was so pathetically winded that all I could do was grunt back my own "Thanks".

By the time I was coming to the end of my 2nd lap, I was really starting to lose all my energy again. Climbs were getting really hard and I found myself granny gearing it far more than I thought I would. One girl and I were going back and forth with the passing between berms (which I was good at) and climbs (which she was good at). After a few minutes of that little game of hop-scotch, we decided that  it was costing us both more energy to pass each other this way and just decided to settle in behind one another since it was getting us no where. I finally exited the singletrack and headed for the last and final time I knew I'd be crossing that finish line. The last time I'd hear the beep. I crossed over and was so elated that I greeted my team mate with a high five and a "I really hate you Scott" send off for encouragement. It was his turn now, and I was done. Literally. I don't think I'd ever been so tired in my life after a race. I was happy that there was no way he'd make the cut off to send me out again.

It was then that I'd realized I'd made the same mistake  in one endurance race this year already that I did today. No mid-lap fueling. Apparently I was supposed to be fueling every half hour for this much effort. Since my 2nd lap was about 1.5 hours, I'd missed many a snacks. And, I didn't drink enough water. Next time, I have to be more conscious about that stuff. I get so caught up in the racing that I forget to eat. Another dumb rookie move.

Oh and FYI, pigging out and drinking everything in sight when you are done really is not good racing strategy. Again, who knew? So many rules.

Overall, the course was in AMAZING condition with not one muddy spot anywhere on the trail. It was dry as a bone and the weather could not have been any more ideal for a race. The organizers served Mellow Mushroom pizza for all the racers afterwards and it was the best pizza I'd ever eaten. Quite frankly, they could have put sauce on the box and served it to me and I would have eaten it anyway.  That's how hungry I was. Ironically, they served the pizza at the amphitheater at the top of yet another big hill.....Uggghhh...Wilkesboro can be mean.

But, the truth was that even though it was really, really hard for me, I still had a great time and I would in fact do it again. I might do a few things differently next time, but it was a good enough and well run event that I could see myself signing up next year. It was extremely well organized and the vibe and volunteers were all fantastic. BMCC really know how to throw an event.

And while our team didn't podium, (I know! I was surprised too! I can't believe there is no award for 2nd from Last place in your category), I did get my pink shirt. And you can bet your sweet cakes, I will be wearing that one proudly!!!

Here's a little video of the race that my husband compiled from clips throughout the day. Enjoy.
6 Hours of Warrior Creek

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gettin' Race Ready for 6 Hours of Warrior Creek

Tomorrow is the 6 hours of Warrior Creek race and I am on a duo team. Racing a duo team is something new for me and I am sort of not quite sure how to prepare. If I was racing solo, I would be loading up a cooler with lots of water bottles and know that each time around would be a fresh and cold bottle. But, for a duo team, I am debating, do I take bottles, or do I wear my hydration pack. Since I can't drink on the fly and ride race pace, I have decided that a camelbak will be my weapon of choice. However, my pack weighs a ton and this time I really only need water and  a few tools since each lap passes the start again anyway. All my tire changing gear is mounted  to the bike frame in the form of Awesome Straps. So as I start to unload all the things in my pack that I feel might be unnecessary for a 6 hour team effort, I realize something is wrong.

Evidently all this reading I have been doing about the Tour Divide as well as other ultra long distance rides in places like Alaska etc. have caused me to become a little packrat in my carrying mentality. Reading all about how those riders found themselves without food and stuck in between towns where they could not obtain any sustinence has made me start adding more and more stuff into my pack....ya know..."just in case". Now mind you, most of my own "epic" endurance riding is within 20 miles of my home so it is not likely that I will get stuck out there in a storm or with the requirement that I must emergency bivy overnight to save myself from potential frostbite or a bad sandstorm. Yet, for some reason, my pack has been stocked with every conceivable food I could want should that need arise.

As I started to unload the unnecessary weight, I had to pause. I literally think I had enough food stuffed in there to do a multi-day tour. The more I removed, the harder my husband laughed. Eventually it got so absurd that I had to laugh myself. What on earth have I been packing for? The apocalypse where I need to get away in a hurry.....on my bicycle?

This is what I found in my inventory. Can you say overkill? ....2 Go for the Gold protein Bars, 1 pack of Cliff Bloks, 1 Honey Stinger, 5 Cliff Shot Gus, 1 Box of Jolly Rancher chews, 1 dark chocolate candy bar, 1 Payday candy bar, 1 bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans, 1 full size Cliff bar, 1 bag of chocolate covered Espresso beans, some cash, a pack of tissues, a pocket knife, and a full size crescent wrench that I need for my other bike that I haven't ridden since February.
And this is the stuff I took out. I still have some other tools etc. in there in addition to a full 70 oz. bladder of water.

Clearly, I am ready for anything. I blame those books I've been reading lately especially from that Jill Homer and her experiences.

So now the pack is lighter, the car is packed and I am ready for this race.
I'd better not get lost out there. Hmmm....just in case, maybe I should throw those Espresso beans back in my pack. And maybe that Cliff Bar too. And how much could those Jolly Ranchers really weigh, right?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A New Challenge

So a new mountain bike challenge has been put forth and I have decided to do it. A couple guys who regularly do endurance rides have proposed a 100 mile a/k/a a century mtb ride. It’s an informal thing, not a race. And there are planned stops en route for lunch and then ice cream along the way. I mean, how cool is that? 
This ride will be comprised of about 40 miles of single track, 40 miles of double track and 20 miles of greenway to hold it all together. And the majority of these trails will be unique for me because it will be the first time I have ridden them. Ever. I am not even sure I can do this with such limited training time, but I will try. It’s the least I can do....for Ben and Jerry. 

So on April 14th, one week after 6-WC and about 6 weeks from today, I will be heading East to attempt this “event”. I have already recruited some locals who have said they plan to try it as well, so I will know some riders in addition to meeting some new faces. 

I am really excited to try it because I have never actually ridden that many miles on my mountain bike in one ride. Plus, I am stoked to ride some new trails with no pre-set expectations or idea of what they’ll be like. No negative predispositions to get in my head about what’s coming up and telling me it will be hard. Just lots of pedaling. And trying to keep up. Of course there are always the usual scary thoughts running around like:

 a) I will get lost
 b) I won’t be able to finish in the 12 hours time cutoff
 c) I will forget my ice cream money

On a related and good note, I have been trying to ride more and more to increase my mileage every time I go out. In fact this week, I did some endurance rides of 5 laps of one of our “hardest” trails, elevation wise. Due to lots of rain, this trail managed to be the only one open each time I was able to ride. I did it last Sunday, and had to break the 5 laps up doing 2, then stopping to eat an egg bagel for lunch and then going back for 3 more. Then Thursday, I did the same ride, but did all 5 laps without a lunch break, just a fast snack stop for some gels. And, then I did the same ride today, but in less time. Not only did I just have the short snack stop for gels, but I reduced my accumulated ride time by 15 minutes and increased my average speed by a total of .7 mph from 8.2 to 9.0. So that tells me I must be getting stronger. Yay! I like tangible progress I can quantify.

And now, instead of just training for the 6WC race, I will be preparing for this new event. And sure it isn’t exactly a race, but there are supposed to be participant finisher awards for anyone who completes it. Rumor has it that they’re shiny. I do like shiny, so let the “training” begin.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

"Junk" Miles or Time to See What I'd Have Otherwise Missed

Lately, I have been hearing a lot about this concept in training where people refer to miles ridden without a specific purpose for any particular ride to be classed as "junk" miles. As far as I can tell, you should have specific goals that you focus on for each ride, whether it's working on climbing, speed, intervals, whatever.

Personally, I think the concept is hogwash and just some elitist nonsense that people who can afford to pay for coaches like to throw around to justify why they are paying someone to tell them what to do each and every time they go out to ride a bike. Hogwash I tell ya.

For instance, today I went out for a ride. I knew I wanted to ride "long", but that's all I knew.  Unfortunately, with the weather pattern we've had lately, one of our major connector trails that allows us to link all our trails was closed due to excessive moisture and mud. So that meant that now the select trails that were open required a drive from one area to another to link up trails rather than just riding in between them. I planned to ride the first trail, and then drive to the 2nd trail with hopes of riding that one as well as the linkable 3rd. By the time I finished 2 laps at trail #1, it was lunch time. I ate some food and decided that rather than waste the gas to ride the other trails which total about 15 miles and are decidedly flat, I would go back into trail #1 which offers much more climbing and do three more laps there to make up for the miles.

Yes, my plan changed. The horror.
The bottle tree
Who Goes There?
But, because of that change, I got to see some really cool stuff that I wouldn't have otherwise seen. On this trail that I have ridden so many times before, I noticed the "bottle" tree. How I have missed seeing it every single other time I have ridden it is a mystery to me, but today I saw it.  And it was cool. I also stopped to talk to a family I know who rides together and while we were yapping, I saw a squirrel scurry up a tree, squeeze himself into what I can only guess was a woodpecker's hole and then turn around and put his little face in the hole to keep an eye on us. A cuteness that I can't put into words, but trust me when I say it was adorable. Soon after, I saw a hawk sit in a tree eating the rat he just caught. Yes, I know, not AS cute, but sometimes nature is cruel and hawks have to eat too.

Then, I came upon a purple poodle (okay he was faded a bit so now was more lavender). For this one I had to stop to ask and verify I hadn't lost it. I removed my sunglasses thinking maybe I was delirious for having seen a purple poodle. But, no, sure enough the owner confirmed what my eyes were seeing. He was indeed dyed purple for a commercial he was starring in about mattresses. Yeah, I didn't get it either so I smiled and carried on. Poor dog.
Not him, but very similar.

Lastly, as I was finishing up and riding back to my car, I passed the basketball courts. One skinny guy was literally walking back and forth on this big guy's back as he laid down on the hard concrete. I can only assume this was some back relief exercise and he wasn't actually beating up the bigger guy. At least I hope it was. I gave a double take and kept on riding. I mean after all, I certainly couldn't help him.

So as far as I was concerned, although I didn't go into this ride with a set plan, and then my "rough draft" changed somewhere along the way, I would hardly call the miles I completed "junk" miles. My legs are sore, my heart is content and my thoughts are clear.  All in all, I'd say that's a good ride. As far as junk miles, the only junk I see in my future is food. Now, about that Snickers.

Monday, February 20, 2012

First Winter Short Track Series Race

My Proud Surly
So this year, we have a winter short track series being held for the first time at one of our local trails. Same track each week run for 30, 45, or 60 minutes depending on your category. For the first one, it was warm and muddy having rained all night just before. The week after was bitter cold, but dry. And this week, it was cold and rainy on the day of the race and all throughout it. I decided to give it a try this week since I missed the last two. So when the the forecast showed the weather was going to be the worst it had been so far, I was a little hesitant. But, I said I was going to do it, and all the other trails would be closed, so I packed up my bike and went for it. I figured how bad could a 30 minute race be in the mud? I chose to take my single speed Surly 26 inch for two reasons. One, my geared squish was in the shop having the shock rebuilt and two, it would be a lot easier to clean after the race.

We arrived at the race and it started to pour down with cold icy rain. I ran to the car and got the only water resistant type jacket I had in there and I was glad I had something to keep me somewhat dry. It ended up acting like a billowing parachute but at least it made it a little warmer. Quite a few racers turned out for the event which goes to show you that there are a lot of hardcore individuals out here who don't ride fair weather only. I guess we are like the post office, no matter rain, snow, sleet, we're there. Competition is a great motivator.

Anyway, when I signed in, I was the only woman who showed up for beginner class. In fact, I was the only woman who signed in at all. I figured that I'd be competing against myself and was guaranteed 1st place so I assumed it would be an easy medal and worth riding in this crappy weather. I know, not the best way to win a medal, but hey a medal is a medal. Just as I lined up, I saw another woman rolling up to the start line. We quickly introduced ourselves, she told me she was primarily a runner, and hadn't raced in 20 years and off we went. I felt that I might be at a disadvantage because I was riding my single speed. However, when I checked out her bike, I realized she was rocking totally old school. She was riding an early 90's Klein bike with all original equipment including an original Paola Pezzo Italian flag saddle. If you remember who Paola Pezzo was, it's pretty cool. If not, she was known for making a huge splash as a kick-arse female mtb rider when there weren't that many in the sport. She also won the Olympic gold medal in mountain biking, when the event made its debut in the US.
Neck and Neck
So we started out and it soon became apparent that we were very close in ability. It was so great to have a real competitor out there and not just be racing against myself. For the entire race we chased each other neck and neck. Sometimes I pulled in front, other times, she took the lead. For most of the race I maintained the lead until we got to the straights where my single speed legs just did not have the ability to keep up with the higher gears she was able to use in those stretches of road.

Man this grass is tough
Last Lap
By the 6th lap, my legs were starting to get tired. I started to doubt the prudence of my choice to do a 16 mile single speed ride the day before the race.  Perhaps rest would have been the wiser choice, but the weather was too pretty to pass it up. Once she got to the straights, once again, she pulled away. Arrghh....I could not catch up, as hard as I tried. My legs were spinning like a hamster, but there was no way, I had the power left to push like that. I came in 2nd place less than a minute after her. It's hard to watch the person in front of you within sight actually about to cross the finish line, but there is nothing you can do to close the gap.

Hey it counts as Jewelry.
I got a medal!
Crossing the Finish.....2nd Place
 However, when I crossed the finish, I felt good and was pleased with my effort. The first place finisher and I shook hands and I congratulated her on a job well done. We agreed to make arrangements to ride together soon. At the awards, I proudly and perhaps a little too enthusiastically accepted my medal. But, I really, really wanted one of them. And although my medal says, 2nd place, I am just as proud as I could be if it said 1st and I won by default. I had to earn it fair and square and not just take home 1st because I was the only woman in my class who showed up. Although in these conditions that deserved it's own medal. ;-).
Now this gives me something to shoot for to try to work my way up to 1st place. There is one more race in this series next Sunday, but, I am not sure if I will do it because I have a 45 mile long endurance ride planned for Saturday which may fry my legs. But we'll see because I'd like to push myself again to see the difference in my result especially if the conditions are dry. And if the weather is good, I am sure many more women will come to race and the competition will be even stronger. That's a good thing for this sport.

Monday, February 13, 2012

2012 Bushwhack Mountain Bike Challenge....Check.

My plan was to spend the night at my brother's house so we didn't have as far to drive in the morning to get to the event. The night before the race, a cold front blew in. And some of the craziest biting wind we've experienced so far this year decided to tag along with it for the ride. I listened to the wind howl the whole day and obsessed about the next day's weather forecast. I started to read about a few race entrants announcing they were going to bail because it was just "too cold".  On top of that, my brother was telling me in typical supportive brother fashion that I was "crazy to ride in this weather" and warning me how cold it was going to feel with the wind chill. Big brothers... always offering sage advice even when no one asks for it. I dismissed his protestations and told him that it would  warm up once we got going on the ride. It always does.

I am no stranger to riding in the cold, so there is no way I'd bail on any race for that. Cold and rain, maybe, but cold and wind, not a chance.  Ideas of which clothing I should pack to wear for the day were all over the place. I didn't want to be too cold, but overheating in a race really can mess you up too. So I packed everything in my duffel bag, including 4 different weights of gloves, a wind breaker, a polar fleece vest, several base layers, wool socks, knickers, wind proof tights and two "turtle fur" neck gaiters. Not sure why I packed two neck warmers, but for some reason I felt I needed a backup in case one of them spontaneously disintegrated in my bag ....I am sure it has been known to happen....somewhere. Not everything gets posted on the internet you know.

When I woke up, I checked the weather one last time before I got dressed. I decided to wear all the layers I'd brought and choose a jacket when I arrived there. The problem with getting dressed in a warm house is that quite quickly, you start second guessing your well considered choices as you are already sweating just putting on all your layers. That wavering quickly dissipated as soon as I stepped outside though.  Man, it was a cold one. About 3/4 of the way to the race, I realized I'd left my race snack back at the house. My plan was to bring a frozen Snickers and use that for fuel alongside my hard as a rock, left out in the car, and now frozen Cliff Blok gels. I was bummed. I didn't have any food now in my camelbak. The good thing about using everyday candy as your endurance race snack is that they can be picked up and replaced at just about any convenience store. We passed a gas station and my husband jumped out and came back with not one but two Snickers. (I think he secretly wanted one for himself). I was back in action.

Upon arrival at the race, it seemed like a light turnout, but in true mountain biker fashion, most racers were just fashionably late. By the time the race started, 91 of the 100 participants showed up to brave the cold miles which is a very impressive turnout. After the racer pep talk and the warning to be courteous to all trail users since it was an open course, they sent us off in the usual waves, Expert, Sport and finally Beginner. I chose Beginner so I was the last wave to start.

Pavement Slog Start
The first part of the course was a long road stretch into the single track which was nicely frozen and hard packed. The 2nd part of the course was on hard packed fire roads which seemed like a never ending series of climbs and the finish was to go back through the original single track one more time.

I had been to this place a few years back and was humbled by the "fire road" difficulty so I went in with a little more respect this time. I rushed into the single track and tried to keep my "race pace" forgetting that this was an endurance event. Not long in,  I passed a stopped racer who proclaimed he was going to quit because his hands were just too cold. About 6 miles into the course, my own gloves were warming up my hands so much and I couldn't take the sweating anymore so I removed them and rode bare-handed which generated a few raised brows. I rode the entire remainder of the race with no gloves at all and I was amazed at how that small clothing shed was enough to regulate my temperature for the whole race.

The course markings on the fire roads were just white painted arrows on the ground and easy to miss. I missed a few and had to turn around to back track my pedal strokes and get back on course. About halfway through the fire road portion, I made the mistake of looking at my odometer. Not only was I not even half way through this race, but there were no other participants in sight. Somehow, I was too slow to keep up with the front of the pack, but too fast to be with the back. I waved at all the runners/walkers I saw and just kept my head down and pedaled trying not to concentrate too much on how many miles I still had to complete. I don't like to pre-ride race courses because for me there is something cool about not knowing what is coming up around the next bend that appeals to me. If I know there is a monster climb up ahead, it is easy for that to play havoc in my head and psyche my will out. So I just kept riding and pedaling and waving at the other trail users trying to have a good time in the process. They must have thought I was crazy because it didn't occur to me until the 4th or 5th odd look I got, that I was in fact wearing a race number which clearly indicated I was in an actual race. I forgot about that. I am pretty sure racers don't use valuable energy to wave at other users in general while in an event, but that's my style. While I like to race and push myself, I don't have that killer instinct. Technically, I am racing, but I still want to have fun in the end. I always want to have a smile on my face and if it comes a time when racing and smiling can't be on the same team, then I just won't race anymore.

Water Crossing in Winter....Brrrr.
I came around a bend and I saw the water crossing I'd heard about. Brrrrr....I panicked because it was still very cold and I had many miles to go if I got soaked. I spied a lone photographer perched at the bottom and I knew that my effort would be caught on camera, so I'd better make this look good. I touched the brakes a bit to slow myself down, let them go just before I hit, and then splashed through the water with child like abandon. My shoes got drenched, my wheels got clean, but thanks to the miracle of wool, my feet barely felt the cold and my socks dried very quickly. Score one for the lambs.

Since I didn't know anything about the course as far as where we had to go and was just blindly following painted arrows, I started to get a little apprehensive when I saw riders wearing race numbers coming toward me in the opposite direction. Either I was going the wrong way or we had to double back the same way we came. I really should have paid attention to the map. Uggh, that meant we had to do the water crossing, again. I kept riding and passed a turnoff. One of the other racer women came riding toward me and shared that I just missed the turn. She proceeded to tell me that not only did she miss it too, but she had gone 10 minutes up the road past it already before she got back to me and that time lost meant that her own race was over. I could tell that she was frustrated and we rode together for a couple minutes chatting while we headed back toward the correct turn off. She said that just once she would like to do a race and not get lost and I totally understood.  I asked her if she was in the Sport class and said yes, but that she should have signed up for Beginner class. For a minute I realized that now I was actually keeping up with  someone from the Sport class and would have someone to ride with to the end. Well, that didn't last long. As soon as the climb started again, she pulled away from me like she had an engine on her bike. And then she was gone. Beginner class, my arse.
Stayin' Strong
Once I finished the fire road portion, I headed back into the single track. I realized that I hadn't stopped even once to eat anything. I was still carrying all my snacks in my pack. Somehow, incredibly, I hadn't bonked yet. I was not sure if so late in the game whether taking the time to eat something would actually outweigh the time lost from stopping to eat the snack. I decided to carry on and skip the food. Water had gotten me this far and it would have to do. By the time we got back to the trail for round two, the temperature had warmed up enough to start thawing out the trail. Now many of the really fast spots had turned to slick peanut butter. Luckily, for me, I didn't have enough energy to fly through the trails as fast as the first time, so I was perfectly happy riding slowly and cautiously. At this point, finishing was my only goal.

I am almost done.
Once I exited the single track for the last time, the race volunteers told me to ride the road down to the original start for the finish line. I spied my husband up ahead in the woods with his camera and gave him a big wave. I was so excited to see him because I knew I must be close to the end. I was almost done.

I was somewhat delirious and could not remember where the heck I started the race though. I started riding down the road which was seeming only vaguely familiar to me. I was convinced that I was going the wrong way again and must have missed yet another turn. I just wanted this race to end already and now hunger was creeping into my thoughts. So instead of just going with the simple instruction they gave me upon exiting the single track, I over thought it. I  kept turning into every parking lot I came to only to have to u-turn out of it and keep going to the next one. I started to get frustrated and then started furiously pedaling down the road figuring it had to be the one place I didn't think to go first.

Please tell me this is the Finish Line.
Finally, I saw the race organizers and the clip boards. I was home free. I passed through the little crowd who braved the cold and cheered my finish as I crossed the line. It literally was a white line painted in the parking lot. Exactly 3.5 hours later from when I started, my race was over. I ended up with 35 miles total, a mile more than the official course, which I can only attribute to my poor navigational skills. I felt good despite being cold and was still able to finish with a huge smile on my face. I got to the car and started layering on any remaining additional clothing I brought because I was now feeling the cold. I ripped into that Snickers bar I'd been towing around for 35 miles. Best......Snickers......Ever.  After the race we all headed over for some free grub at a local sport's bar for some pasta and conversation. All and all a great day, a great course and a great experience for me. It definitely highlighted how much work I need to do for the Fool's Gold. For the first time, I pushed myself to a) 3.5 hours of non stop riding with no breaks and b) using only the fuel I had for breakfast to get me through the event. So now,  if I ever find myself forgetting food, I am confident I can get through my ride without it for at least 3.5 hours of exertion. That's good to know. Go Kashi Cinnamon Harvest!!

A big thank you to those wonderful volunteers who donated their time to stand in the cold to help the racers who chose to race in these conditions. I am sure there are many things that they'd rather do on a freezing cold Sunday morning.  And, of course, a huge thank you to my loving husband who always supports my own racing endeavors, keeps my bike running smoothly, and takes his own time out to photograph these events for either myself and/or the other racers. I couldn't do it without him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rest. It's What the Cool Kids Must be Doing.

Lately, I have been keeping a log of my riding so I can look back and get an idea of what workouts I can pinpoint as riding help vs. riding harm. I usually just ride when I feel like it , but never try to make any sense of it all because I want to keep it fun. After all, it's bike riding, not work. However, since I have several races lined up this year, I thought I should at least try to keep track of what I am doing and when to see how it affects my fitness. Good grief this is all starting to sound very official now that I type it out. Oh no!! I am becoming one of  "Them"?

Anyhow, two weeks ago I did an endurance ride. I'll call it ride "A". I felt strong and kept a very high average pace with the group. A week later, I did the same route. Again, I felt strong, and kept my average not quite as high, but finished with energy to spare at the end as opposed to panting like a dog. Something I didn't experience the week before on the higher average pace.

Yesterday I repeated that same ride and I felt tired, weak and lethargic. My legs felt like lead and my average was creeping lower and lower as the ride continued. Before I even was halfway through, I was feeling so exhausted that it felt I had done twice as many miles than I actually had. I was confused. What had changed from one week to the next? Why wouldn't I be getting stronger on the same ride I'd done 3 times now?

So I went to my ride log to see if I could glean some perspective. And that's when I discovered the real importance of rest between rides. My fastest pace was with the week with the most rest in between rides. My most energetic feeling at the end of  a ride was the week where I did the most varied riding on varied types of bikes/terrain, (fire road, pavement, mtb hill climb repeats). My worst week so far, (a/k/a yesterday) was with back to back days of riding the same terrain. It was very enlightening to see this and gave me a new appreciation for "rest" days. Sure I've heard of them before, but who actually rests? If the weather is good, I want to be outside riding my bike. Rest is for the rainy days isn't it?

This Sunday is my first 30+ mile endurance "race" of the season and I want my legs well rested but, prepared. It is expected to be about 22 degrees and with the wind chill will feel like 17. I want to make sure dressing warm enough is my only concerning variable and not dead legs.

So for today and tomorrow, I have vowed to do no riding. Not a stitch. I can't tell you how hard this is. The weather is great, albeit cold and the trails are dry and frozen. I even have to walk past my bike trainer to get to my car. It kills me to miss even a day of riding especially in exchange for "rest". However, I know in the long run (Sunday), this will benefit me. But, I gotta admit it. Right now REST just feels like a four letter word to me and I am sure my bikes aren't too happy about my choice either. *Sigh*

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2012 Race Aspirations

I have come to a consensus on what my plans are for racing this year. I have never really put together a plan of sorts for mtb racing so the fact that I even have a "plan" is something new. Usually, I like to just play things by ear.

And part of me thinks I am only making this blog post to hold myself accountable.
I have read and heard often that if you think you want something, and you put it in writing that you are more likely to do it. Plus I like lists. I like making them. And then crossing things off when I complete them. It's a quirky thing. Don't ask me why, it just makes me feel good. So, sue me.
Okay, that last dare was a joke. Don't really sue me. Lawyers are pricey and apparently so are these race entry fees. 

So here goes....drum roll please.

2/12/12 Bushwhack Mountain Bike Race
4/07/12 6 Hours of Warrior Creek Duo
5/27/12 24 Hrs of Burn (5 person team) 
6/06/12 Triad MTB Training Series @ Country Pk.*
6/20/12 Triad MTB Training Series @ Bur-Mil *
7/08/12  4 Hours of Run From the Cops 
9/8/12 Fool's Gold (not the 100, the 50... I ain't no fool)
10/20/12 Mud Bug Obstacle Run (somethin' new to try just because).

Okay so that really didn't deserve a drum roll per se. Maybe a dull pencil tapped upon a table a few dozen times, but it's my list. And I hope to accomplish these "feats" and be able to blog about my experiences so some day when I am old and forgetful, I can look back and say, "oh yeah"...I remember when.  Come to think of it, I am pretty forgetful now, so it's a good thing I typed those out so I remember to show up for them. ;-)

I may enter those shorter XC races and the others I've placed asterisks on throughout the year, but for those I will just  take them as they come and decide then depending on work schedule. I don't want to plan everything so that will be my "spontaneous" stuff. I do prefer long mileage races, but I think that some of the shorter ones can offer benefits too. Like, teach me how to run with the pack at full speed out of the gate. Something I have never been good at, but I notice it is a common theme among guy rides. There are quite a few local-ish races this year in my area, so it would make it easy to participate. Not easy to finish, but at least easy to show up for and that's a  good start.

See you on the starting lines. And fingers crossed, eventually at the finish lines as well. :-)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Riding with Old Friends, on an Old Trail. Ugggh.

After yesterday's ride, I decided I hadn't had enough. The itch to ride has bit me hard once again now that a) I can ride trails again and b) I know that I have a lot of work to do to get back to my previous fitness level. Since the forecast was calling for some heavy rain, I figured they'd likely close the trails so I wanted to get my miles in while I could before it came. So when a couple fellow riders announced they were planning to do their own endurance ride, I happily agreed that I would join them for it, or at least a part of it. My plan was to ride until my legs were toast and then go home and enjoy the impending rain storms headed my way knowing that the best time for muscle recovery is when you have no desire to ride anyway because you feel like you already "got your fill" of pedaling.

I met up with one of the guys and we headed off to the trail. Not long into the ride,  he had a spectacular "superman" crash over a drop off where his pedal clipped a root and sent him flying over the handlebars. As I crested the hill, I saw him flying through the air and then out of my periphery, I saw his bike rolling down the peninsula and headed straight for the lake. Luckily it stopped about halfway down and he was able to retrieve it before it hit the water which was good because it was way too cold  for a swim today.

Moments later, another fellow rider who was supposed to ride with us finally caught up only to be regaled with the crash details he just missed by being late for the ride. Fortunately, it was just a bit of arm road rash with no serious injuries, other than him being a little shaken up with likely some battered pride. We carried on our ride to finish this trail. Now these are some of the same guys who I used to ride endurance with over the summer almost every week. The same guys who I used to lead and who would complain that they couldn't keep up with me. Oh, how things have changed. I am not sure if my legs were tired from yesterday's ride, or if it was that I am sadly out of shape from not enough trail riding, but while I could keep up for the most part, I was working my tail off to do so. To put it bluntly, I was suffering with the pace they were pushing and there was a lot more heavy breathing coming from me than I remembered. I am not used to suffering. I am not normally the suffer-er, I am the suffer-ee. Correction, I used to be the suffer-ee.

At the end of the trail, I bid them goodbye so they could finish their own endurance ride which still required a few more dirt miles to get them back to their own cars. What an eye opener. I am going to keep riding with them and hopefully, it won't be long before I can keep up again without so much effort. Because, quite frankly, I really hate being at the back. ;-)  It's not at all as exciting being in that spot on a group ride as say it is on the last car of a scary roller coaster. Not nearly.

First Endurance Ride of the New Year

Today was my first long endurance ride of the new year on the mountain bike. Being that it was particularly cold and windy today, the first thing I did was bundle up in many layers and then look for my warmest winter gloves. One of the most difficult things about living in a "Southern-ish" state, is trying to prepare for and stay organized for winter rides. That's because winter isn't so much as a season here, but more of a "come and go", type of event during that time that technically is classified on the calendar as Winter to the rest of our hemisphere. Consequently, the big guns of winter cycling wear don't come out that often. Often times, I just can't find them no matter how hard I look when I actually do need to find them. I have one cycling clothing dresser and at any one time, it shares every season's wares. You'll find short sleeved jerseys, mixed in with heavy winter windproof tights, surrounded by mid-season knickers, cycling shorts, wool base layers and everything in between all sharing the same space no matter what time of year it is. It just doesn't make sense to try to have seasonal clothes separated around here because the weather can change at a moment's notice. One day it will be 65 degrees and sunny, the next day 30 with severe wind gusts and then back to 55 and raining. All in the same week. That's our winter.

As a result of this crazy winter weather pattern that doesn't like to stick around too long, I find myself constantly jumping from one season's cycling gear to another, often in consecutive days. Not that I'm complaining mind you....I love those 60 degree days in winter when others are shoveling snow up North.

So because of this, I found myself searching frantically for my good winter gloves. And failing. I finally just got frustrated and left with my short fingered gloves with a pair of small stretchy fabric gloves to pair them with hoping that it would be enough to keep me warm.

Once, I got to the parking lot, I was the only one there. Even though I had invited others to join me, with it being a weekday, I didn't have much hope that anyone else would show up. So, I pulled out my trusty Ipod and got to pedaling. I decided to do a limited edition of the former endurance ride I used to do before the riding break, both literally and figuratively. (See what I did there..."Break". Ha Ha I slay me!!) Anyway, that meant 25 miles round trip on primarily all single track on a beautiful network of trails which link up easily and minimal pavement.

As I began my ride, I decided to take it slow to really get a good warm up. It wasn't long before I was shedding my extra knit gloves and  my extra arm warmers. Unfortunately, my warmup speed seemed to be where the speedometer needle stayed for this whole ride. While I had the endurance I needed and felt as if I could go all day, I felt like I had no power. I just couldn't get myself to hammer fast for any long stretch of trail. I could really see that my ability to maintain faster speeds over long distances and my explosive power bursts for hills have pretty much faded during these 3 months of "other riding" options. It was a really enjoyable ride though even though I felt all slow-like and eventually the amount of clothing I was wearing and the temperature became compatible enough that  I finally I was wearing the ideal mix of not too hot, but not too cold.

My husband even took some time out to meet me for one of the legs of my ride although he didn't have time to ride the whole distance. That perked up my speed a bit as I am always happy to see his smiling face. Once we finished up that portion of the ride together, I still had 9 miles to finish alone to get back to my own car. So I hunkered down and did the last few miles turning up my Ipod to drown out my heavy breathing. I really started feeling tired towards the end. I sucked it up and just kept pedaling purposely not looking at my speedometer especially as I was climbing anything that remotely felt like a hill. I just finished reading Jill Homer's book Ghost Trails about her Alaska bike race. If I've learned one thing from her story, it's that dogged determination can get you through any ride as long as you just keep pedaling forward even if it feels like you are going 2mph. So that's what I did. But, I am pretty certain I was doing at least 3mph. Possibly even 4.
Oh, and another lesson I learned out of that book was that when I complain about riding in the "cold", that I don't know the half of it, but that's a different topic for another day. Truthfully, though, great book. Read it for some great inspiration.

By the time I finished the ride, I was tired, hungry and my legs were sore. All I could think about was how much I really wanted a Snicker's bar and the first store I'd be passing to buy one.  But, the best part of all was that I had a smile on my face once again during the drive home from completing my biggest accomplishment this year so far. Even though I may not be as fast as I was last summer, my endurance is still there and that's a start. I just need some time to work up my speed again over the long haul, but I have all winter to gain back that strength before Spring gets here. And, hopefully when that day comes, I won't still be wasting precious riding time looking for my missing winter gloves and trying to recall the last place I saw my arm warmers.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fireroads and the Regret of "getting sucked in".

I am really lucky in my riding options that are close to me. In addition to the many, many miles of trails I have at my wheel tips within minutes, we also are fortunate enough to have a few beautiful greenways, and a fantastic 7 mile fire road which surrounds a lake.  It is the ideal place to do laps when the trails are closed due to wet conditions and  is perfectly suited terrain for riding a cross bike.

My plan for today was to do 5 laps. The first lap was going well and I even stopped to take a couple photos. The second lap, was relaxing and fun as I took in the scenery.

I  came upon a flock of male cardinals all hanging out together like some sort of a bird stag party. I also saw a crane walking across the more shallow part of the lake. Very cool wildlife day but unfortunately, I could not get my phone out fast enough to photograph them.

Then came my third lap....oh my third lap.
That's about the time when it all started going to hell. I was maintaining a nice comfortable endurance pace when some guy decided he had to pass me. Really? I mean I am out here minding my own business and you see a female rider and find the idea that she may be riding  ahead of you is an absolute horror. So this guy passes me and I see that he is really pushing the pedals hard when he goes by. Like race pace hard. But, he is riding on a mountain bike. And it has some old style rear suspension where the thing is bobbing like a kid for apples on Halloween with every pedal stroke he makes. Clearly, not the most efficient bike for this hard packed terrain. So I let him pass me and keep my steady pace wondering where the fire was that he must be heading to. I didn't smell any smoke. Slowly, I am gaining on him. However, I didn't want to pass him because I had nothing to prove so I hung back a little. I felt silly passing a mountain bike on a cross bike especially on this type of trail.  Then finally, it was evident that the inefficiency of the rear shock on his bike was no match for the rigid cross bike so I reluctantly passed him feeling apologetic. But for some reason, right after that pass, I decided to pick up my own pace.  I hate when people pass me for no good actually for the "gender" reason. It bugs me something wicked. And that's when my competitive nature that I really didn't think I had reared its ugly head. Whoah!

Before I knew it, my nice endurance pace was much higher than it should be and I was breathing hard. Too hard. Dammit! This lap was ruined because now I was riding race pace when I should have been riding endurance. Sucked in!!  By the time I got back around from lap 3, I was feeling the extra effort I just put forth. I had at most, one more lap in me, but there was no way I could do two so my 5 lap goal was not happening . All because of some random individual who I should not have let get to me, but I did. Why, I don't understand. I am learning about myself though regarding my "non competitive nature". See while I will never put forth a challenge to someone because that is stupid and petty, I will never back down from one either. Because that is neither stupid nor petty right? That's just brave now isn't it. :-)

My last lap was way slower than the average of the three before and I could feel the lactic acid now building in my legs. I rode back to my car and felt so foolish for getting sucked in and ruining my own ride.

Next time I  should ride with blinders on rather than sunglasses. I've seen them work on horses and my pack mentality is somewhat animalistic when it comes to the "chase", so it seems fitting. Just call me Mister Ed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Another Beautiful Day, Back to an Old Friendly Trail

Hadn't planned on riding today, but I got home earlier than I thought from a family visit. It started out sunny and high 50's which is amazing weather for January. But as we drove, I could see the clouds were definitely rolling in fast. I checked the weather on the smart phone and decided to try to get a ride in before the rain was expected to arrive by early evening. Due to time constraints, I figured I'd go to the closest trail to me which although is pretty flat,  is really rooty. I love this trail because it reminds me of "home". While we didn't have the elevation there, we did have the roots. Probably why I like them, familiarity and all that. Temps were great and the trail conditions were very nice. This was another trail that I've been off of for almost 3 months. The good news, no major trail changes, and my skill set hasn't lost too much overall for riding rooty sections. I did however realize that my tires really are shot and not just for muddy sections. I guess after 1400 miles on these, some new ones are in order. I think I placed my order on Friday for some new ones at the right time.

The Lone Holly Tree
Normally, I don't like New Year's Resolutions. Far as I can tell, most people make them only to become unsuccessful in their resolve not long into the new year. However, I realize that with every new year celebration, pictures become more and more important if I one day want to remember my rides as more than just a blur. So in that vein, my New Year's resolution this year is to take a little time on my rides to "smell the roses" so to speak. I will stop to take photos if I see something interesting on the trails and take a little more time to enjoy the ride as much as the "ride". So here ya go. A little green in a sea of dead brown that is my trail in winter. I found it pretty, so I thought I'd share instead of riding right by them like I usually do thinking....oohh that was nice, I should have stopped to take a picture.

So pretty...
After I finished that ride, I still had some energy and the rain hadn't started yet. I decided I'd go home and take the cross bike out for a couple short laps at the local park and practice mounts and dismounts for the upcoming race. I am so glad I did. While my mounts and dismounts can be classified as nothing short of  absolute newb, I managed to get off and on the bike several times without falling over. Bonus!! The one thing I did learn today was that I can not run the higher pressure I have been running in my tires off road. Once I took the bike into bumpy dirt and uneven grass, the lack of suspension was rattling my teeth around so bad, I feared I would let go of the bars on the downhill. So lesson of the day was that 80 PSI works for smooth-ish dirt, but is not at all good for the changing terrain that I will probably find in an actual cross race. So now I will start experimenting with tire pressures and hopefully will get something dialed in within the next two weeks.

I also hope to start doing some good long trail rides starting next Friday to start building up my off road endurance base. And if this weather keeps cooperating, maybe I will be lucky and my trainer can start collecting dust. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Last Doc Visit 12 Weeks Later

I saw the sport's doctor today and I made it very clear to him that I wanted to part ways. I told him, it's been twelve weeks, and it's gone on long enough. This thing has got to end. He chuckled a little nervously not sure where I was going with this.  I made sure to tell him it wasn't him, it was me. That I wanted to get back together with my bike already dang it and this relationship was standing in the way. So he looked at my x-ray and told me that he saw some good healing....and paused. Oh crap...I hate the pause. The open ended sentence where you know the words should end, but the thought is not complete. He then showed me the latest x-ray and explained how most of the break was filled in, but it was not completely healed. Arrrghhhh!!!!  He then said something about actual clinical healing vs. X-ray healing not showing the same results,  blah, blah, blah. I didn't hear much after that because I sort of stopped listening.

He said it would continue to heal, but he really wanted me to have at least 3 more weeks to get it absolutely fused. He said there could be a "setback" if  I exerted it the wrong way while it was still in its new bone formation state. *Sigh*.

I agreed to take it easy for the next 3 weeks with my riding, and he made me promise not to do any running. I easily agreed to abstaining from running since I had no intention of doing That anyway. Clearly, he didn't get me. Running....As if ...!!!! I also promised to keep taking extra Calcium which is a snap for me because I LOVE milk. And ice cream. And Ovaltine. And cows....but I think I am getting off topic now.

I left the doctor's office, came home and promptly readied myself and bike for a nice long mountain bike ride. Figured I'd start the ride on the "tame" trail for a nice warm up. Everything started out great and I was cruising along. However, that soon changed.  I guess we have officially hit the freeze/thaw point of the season because as I  neared the end, the trail started to become very greasy and slippery with mud. The climbs were just turning into elevated spin outs and the fun mild downhills more like white knuckling descents. My bike started skidding sideways in many sections and I wasn't doing it on purpose (despite how cool it probably looked). Look she's drifting.....

It was just about that time that I realized I left my cell phone back at the car and riding alone without one really isn't too bright. I turned my bike back around feeling somewhat defeated and pedaled back to the car. My ride was clearly over since my skills didn't seem at all up to snuff for this after being off the bike for so long. I only got about an hour in, but the doctor's warning kept echoing in my head. I didn't want to screw up on my first "official" day back by wiping out in some stupid mud. That would truly blow...or suck...both actually.

So tomorrow is another day. I plan to do multiple laps with the Cross bike on my fire road trails and get my "base" endurance mileage in instead. I am not going to stress about it. I have plenty of time before I have to do my "epic adventure" so I am going to just get my mileage in where and when I can.  Because as much as I liked my sport's doc....I really don't want to have to see him again. And, I think right about now might be a good time to place my order for those Mud tires I want from the local bike shop.