Sunday, March 2, 2014

2014 Pre-Season

I sit here writing this blog while staring out my window at the 6 inches of snow on the ground with no days above freezing temps in sight.  Sigh....It's been a long, cold winter and sadly looks like quite a bit more to go.  While it has gotten me down over the past few weeks, this weekend I finally cheered up after having ventured to Cape Cod to ride on actual dirt.  I was surprised the conditions were as good as they were given the Cape has not been spared this winter either.  At first, I didn't even feel like I was really riding. I had to actually remind myself to look ahead and avoid trees and plan lines, but it all came back around quite quickly.  It felt great to be moving with scenery passing by, alas, I have some miles to put in before the season begins so hopefully spring decides to get here soon.

Last year, I decided to take the race season a bit easier and not do as much long distance racing as the training time and travel time just take a toll after awhile.  It was nice to only commit half a day to a bike race versus an entire long weekend, oh and be done racing after only a couple of hours.  It seemed a prudent decision and even more so as I spent a good chunk of the season dealing with injuries and various protestations from my body.  I tried hard to ignore them and race through the pain but ultimately had to cut my season short and take a month off the bike - a month off from any physical activity!  Holy crap. 

I initially fought the idea of having to not be active for a month but I ultimately came around and kind of enjoyed the break.  For the first time in a long time, I didn't have to train or be active.  I couldn't.  I had an excuse so I didn't have to feel guilty about being lazy.  It was nice.  But then a month wore on and I wasn't feeling a heck of a lot better despite having a lot of physical therapy and other bodywork done.  It wasn't until I figured out, well someone else figured out, that the seat in my car was twisted which was killing my back.  So every time I would 'fix' something in PT, I would get in my car again and screw it up.  Long story short, I got a new vehicle and the back pain went away pretty quickly after that. I still had other injuries to work through but that was a big one to finally start making some progress on the healing. 

I had so much time off that it took a while to be able feel good for more than an hour on the bike.  It was pretty sad and hard to be patient and believe the fitness would come back around.  I mean really, all my friend think I can last for 5+ hours all the time.  I was trashed after an hour.  Slowly but surely, I made some head way and finally had some rides that I felt good enough in to actually consider doing a 100 miler again.  The way I felt most of last season, there was no way in hell I was doing another 100.  I was leaning strongly towards planning another season like last year with shorter xc races, some 50 milers and 6 hr races and mostly local which will be the majority of my season.  Somewhere the inspiration came to sign up for a couple 100s so I will do at least 2.  If the first one goes really well then I might consider doing 4 for the NUE series.  But at this point, two 100s is plenty especially since it seems the snowpack is here for a while and getting seriously long rides in would be far from fun.  While racing is about suffering to a large degree, there still needs to be a fun factor.

I am still racing for this season so check out the website for race reports, and during this off season check out the coaches column for some great training tips.  Through some excellent sponsors, I'm very excited to be riding a new bike this season, a Pivot 429c being built up with Shimano XTR and Stans Golds.  Just waiting for a couple more parts to finish building it up and then I'll post pictures of the beauty: )  I can't wait to ride it but this stupid snow needs to melt and mud season to pass quickly. 

My tentative race schedule is below -- May and June are packed with back to back races I want to go to but I'll probably have to take a weekend or two off to not get burned out just not 100% sure which ones yet.

3/30/14 King of Burlingame Time Trial
5/4/14 Battle of Burlingame XC EFTA
5/10/14 Treasure Vally Rally EFTA
5/18/14 Willowdale EFTA ?
5/25/14 Gnar Weasels EFTA
6/1/14 Bearscat 50
6/8/14 Pinnacle EFTA
6/15/14 Stoopid 50 ?
6/21/14 Lumberjack 100 NUE
7/6/14 Patapsco 100 (66 mile) version?
7/13/14 Barn Burner, Root66?
7/26/14 12 Hrs Millstone, VT
8/3/14 Stowe, VT EFTA race
8/17/14 Hampshire 100k
8/30/14 Shenandoah 100 NUE
9/6/14 Landmine 50
9/12/14 Green Mountain Challenge 6hr
9/13/14 Freetown 50?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

King/Queen of Burlingame Time Trial

So I'm the Queen of the Burlingame Time Trial. Yeah!  Quite a nice way to start off the season even if it was a minor margin of winning.  I guess the intervals paid off to some degree although I don't feel quite ready for race season yet.  Maybe that's because I haven't wrapped my head around the fact I am not doing any 100s this year.  I will be doing some endurance races but not until June as my schedule is set up now.  

I found it ironic that I actually woke up earlier to race the time trial, the shortest race I'll do, than I would normally get up for the 100s.  While the time trial didn't start until 9, one of my competitors, Crystal Anthony, convinced me to meet her down there to pre-ride the course which I knew was a good idea would but would otherwise have forgone the torture of getting up at 4:45.  But, it was a good idea.  Once I convinced myself to GET OUT OF BED Karen!, it really wasn't that bad.  There is something kind of peaceful about being on the road before sunrise with few other cars and watching sun come up slowly.  But it's certainly nothing I'm going to get accustomed to.

I arrived at 7 A.M. at the race venue way down in the southern most part of Rhode Island.  Rhode Island had been spared for the most part from more the recent snowstorms the rest of New England was getting.  It was nice to ride bare ground again.  Crystal pulled in shortly after me and we got our bikes ready to go pre-ride the course. 

It was really chilly - a mere 30 degrees.  I had on lots of layers to stay warm on the pre-ride.  There was a mile road ride over to the start and about the same back from the finish.  The road was chilly but once on the trail I warmed up.  There was a good mix of technical sections with some fast flowy trails and dirt road section, oh and lots of bridges but more so in the 2nd half of the course.

I was glad I got up early to pre-ride as it was definitely nice to know some of the technical sections coming up as at race pace you could really fumble through them or potentially crash pretty hard. 

Once back from the pre-ride, I registered and got myself ready for racing. I had convinced myself not to get overly worked up about the first race of the season especially since it was a short 8.6 mile time trial and I did pretty well at that almost to the point of not really feeling like I was at a race.  I debated leaving some layers at the car but I was quite chilly from having warmed up riding and now cooled down finishing getting ready.  I decided to just wear everything over and find someone who would bring back my stuff to the parking area or just ride back over to grab it.  I got over to the start area and hung out with the rest of the stellar women's field. 

We ended up waiting until 9:30 to start as all the expert men started before us.  So needless to say, I was freezing by the time I started.  I did a half-hearted little ride up a hill before having to start thinking I had a couple more minutes but all of sudden I'm being called to the start line with less than a minute to go.  Crap... I was going to take off my vest and possibly my booties but no time for that now.  I guess I'll just sweat but I don't mind being hot.  Unfortunately my fingers were freezing.  I couldn't feel my brake fingers especially my left middle finger that I have hurt a couple of times.  It took a good 10 minutes for feeling to come back around.  I kept hitting the brake to just make sure I could still use it even though I could barely feel it. 

I hadn't felt particularly stellar on the pre-ride so I wasn't sure how the time trial was going to feel.  Once on course though I felt pretty good and got into a decent rhythm.  I fumbled some of the technical sections and cleared some that I fumbled during the pre-ride.  It was a really fun course overall that kept your attention for the most part.  It was nice knowing that I would be done in less than an hour and with that in mind it was easier to keep asking myself can I go harder and faster.  I knew I had to make sure I kept up my pace on the less technical sections as Crystal is a super strong cyclocross racer and if she was going to make time up on me it was most likely going to be on those sections. Although pre-riding with her she seemed quite capable on the technical sections as well.

The last section coming into the finish felt like a long stretch, longer than when pre-riding but when you're maxed out for the past 45 minutes that's to be expected.  I finished in 46 minutes and change feeling pretty good about my effort and how my body felt, also very happy that I wasn't doing another lap.  I was teased at the start that I had to do 10 laps and they'd average the 10 laps for me.  No way - not this year... :)

I waited around for the next few women to finish.  I saw Crystal finish and kind of gauged we were super close in finish time and we were - 8 seconds.  Pretty crazy.   I rode back over the parking area and it was now a beautiful 50 degrees out.  My buddy John Beaupre and I rode another lap to cool down.  It was a good idea to help flush the legs out. They definitely were feeling the little climbs.

Well nice way to start off the season.  I was pleased to see that the long off-season for me thus far seems to have been a good thing as I drove home being a bit more excited for the rest of the season.  It is just one short race and there are many more to go.  Just need to get rid of the rest of this snow here -- soon!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Winter that Will Never End...2013 Season Coming Up

I was off the wagon of blogging last year.  I guess you could say I was burned out or maybe too busy with other things to have the time to write my about my tails and adventures.  I intend to be back on track this year, hopefully more frequently and perhaps a bit less overall wordy.

The winter here in New England just doesn't want to quit.  Early on it seemed not too bad of a winter with minimal snow and not terribly cold temperatures but the past month and half have been a real drag.  It would have been better to have all this snow and icky weather back in January when we were anticipating it.  Now with the race season about to get underway it's insufferable.  So much so, I finally booked a short trip to visit my brother in Texas to escape.  It's not till mid-April though so hopefully by then it means I'll be leaving when the weather starts feeling more spring like. 

At any rate, I'm thinking maybe I subconsciously knew the winter was going to be bad and didn't plan any big races until June so I'm not sweating it too much right now.  This season will be a bit different than the past several.  I plan on staying more local and have stuck to my plan of taking a break from the 100 milers this year and keeping it at 50 milers, 100k, or 6 hour races.  It seems funny to be sort of nonchalant about this plan as after many years of racing the 100s, half the distance is a piece of cake, right?  But that was sort of the point.  To change up the plan to keep it fun, and exciting and well challenging in a different.  It's less distance so now I have to go faster or something like that. 

I don't have my schedule set out in stone quite yet.  Although I do have the general gist of it, at least which 'big' races I'll do and then fill in with lots of great local races organized through EFTA or Root66RaceSeries, that and hopefully some new grass roots races that I hope come to fruition.  I have been training over the winter but I know I certainly don't have the fitness of years past coming into the season and that's ok. I think it will be nice to build into June when I will have a busy month with Bearscat 50 (6/2), Pat's Peak 6 hour race (6/8), followed by the Stoopid 50 (6/16) rather then feeling pretty tired already.  I'll maybe take a weekend off after the Stoopid 50 and then check out a new race in Stowe, Vermont.  (Both of my parents are from Vermont so I have an affinity for the state. )

July and August are a bit fuzzy now on the planning front.  I hope to race the Carrabassett 65 miler 7/13 and find a teammate to do the 12 hours of Millstone 7/27.  Early-mid August, I actually going to take a real vacation for once - one that does not revolve around a bike race.  It will definitely include lots of riding but really truly just for fun.  Once that gets panned out then I'll know what races I'll be hitting in August.  Late summer, I'll do Treasure Valley Rally, Landmine 50 and Peak Adventures 6 hour race.  Lots of good stuff on the plate.

I will still be racing for which has been a great team.  We have some awesome sponsors, Stan's NoTubes, Carborocket, Pivot, DNA Cycling clothing, Continental, Epic Brewing, among others.  The website is a great source for all things mountain biking - race reports, coaches column/training information, product reviews and racer interviews. 

So I can't believe it but the first race of my season is this Sunday - just a short time trial, but it hardly feels like it's time to be racing seeing as we got a few inches + of snow today :(  It will be a good gauge of where the fitness is at or not at, but it's only March with plenty of races to come.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Late Summer Racing

It used to be easier to write up these race reports but whatever reason this year has just been a bit off.
I have three races to catch up on and anyone who reads my blogs knows I can write a book on each race so I'll try to keep it to just a book one these past three races.

So a few weekends back I raced the Hampshire 100 in Greenfield, NH.  I was totally psyched to have a 100 miler so close to home finally.  After doing this race last year as a 100k race, I knew it was a good candidate to try to get into the NUE series and the efforts to get the race into the series proved, obviously, fruitful.  It was also exciting to do a 'new' 100 miler course.  I have been a bit bored with the same old 100s that I have done for the past five years so here was a new course that had a lot of great singletrack and variety of terrain.

I was perhaps a bit overly chill about preparing and packing for the race.  I was still in fact camping out overnight and needed to have stuff all together.  But I was thinking, gee, it's only an hour and half away why do I need to get there so early so I kept delaying getting ready.  Finally, I was like oh, wow, I really need to get going and I have to get my breakfast en route and ice and dinner... Any of the other 100 miler races I would have already been there. 

I finally get all my stuff together and hit the road for my short jaunt to Greenfield.  It's kind of funny that many of the other racers think this is my home turf, but really, it's not. The only time I rode in Greenfield was last year doing the 100k race and I drove with my friend Steve so I really didn't know where I was going.  I managed to have to turn around three times getting there.  Pretty sad.  I did however procure my breakfast items, dinner and ice.  Phew..

I arrived at the race site around 5:30 and proceeded to totally over think where the best spot was to set up my tent.  I chose a spot close to where the course would lap through the race venue so I could grab my supplies coming through.  It worked out fine.  I had already ridden earlier in the day to stretch the legs so there was no need to go for another ride. 

I found my buddy, Brian, who does all my mechanic work for a few last minute tweaks to the bike.  Then registered and got my drop bags together, caught up with some friends, ate dinner late and hit the sack.  I was hoping the for the wonderfully restful sleep I had before the Wilderness 101 but to no avail.  I stayed up with lots pre-race nerves.  I knew this course was going to be a long 100, like 10 hours, when I'm more used to 8.5-9 hour times.

5AM comes quickly and I'm up trying to get a quick breakfast down and most importantly some espresso.  I check and recheck my the air pressure in my tires and my shock.  It was overkill but it was chilly that morning and the air pressures seemed off.  I have, for whatever reasons, checked my rear tire before a race thinking it was fine and then get into the race only to find it too soft so I was being overly diligent.  I was unfortunately over diligent in my shock pressure which my arms would pay for later on.

I warmed up a little but the beginning of the race is many miles of flat to slightly downhill so I figured that would serve a warmup.  It was however quite chilly that morning after having been so warm for so long.  I started at 6:30 with arm warmers that stayed on for a while.  It was pretty chilly those  first few miles.  The Hampshire 100 is the only 100 miler that has us start in waves which was fine by me.  I hate the mass starts and all the stress of starting with 100s of riders jockeying for position.  It was still quite a large group but it was good in that there was not quite as much chaos and allowed for a lot of drafting those early miles.

I felt pretty good at the start. Cheryl was off the front but I found myself in a group with Vicki Barclay and Kathleen Harding.  I didn't really know who Kathleen was but I was like, huh, she's pretty strong.  We three rode together for a while sharing pulls on the long flat rail trail section.  It wasn't until the 'wall' which I managed to ride while Vicki and Kathleen slid out on the soft sandy climb.  I put a little bit of a gap on them but Vicki caught back up and passed me when I stopped at an aid station to refill my water bottles.  I was wondering if the water bottles was a good idea at this point.  I always use a camelback and generally it's stopping twice to refill it.  The water bottles meant I had to stop a bit more often.

After that I didn't see the other women in the race and just tried to stay focused on my race.  It is a tough course with it definitely back end loaded.  It had rained hard a couple days before the race which left the many miles of singletrack pretty soft and slow going.  It would have been easy to over power through these sections and blow up but I reminded myself of how many miles I had to go and kept it in check.  The Hampshire 100 is truly a mountain bikers course that keeps you on your toes even if it's the jeep roads there's always something to watch out for. 

I was feeling decent through most of the race and didn't have my mid-race fade like I seemed to have the past 100s.  I did find the last ~9 miles of the lap felt dreadful the first time through as the 100k lap seemed to be taking a lot longer than anticipated and it was a long hard slog those last 9 miles which we would be finishing up on our second lap through.  ugh!  I was a bit disheartened to finish the first 100k lap a bit slower than I had finished last year and last year I had done a 6 hour with a ton of climbing the day before.  I thought gee, am I really in that lesser of shape than last year?  It was nice to finally make it through the start finish area.  I grabbed my water bottles and lubed my chain since we passed through a few very deep puddles, one you could say was more like a pond with thigh high water!

I knew the beginning of the 2nd lap would be fast as it was the same flat/downhill we started on. I just unfortunately had no one to draft this time around.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect this second lap, where it cut off from the main loop etc.  It did thankfully ride fairly fast and helped make up some time so as to more definitively believe I would finish in under 10 hours...until around mile 85 or so that we had a huge steep climb.  I was half way up and hadn't seen a marker for awhile starting to worry I took a wrong turn.  I weakly convinced myself I was on course soon and that I hadn't passed any other trails, that I had noticed...Thankfully I saw another marker and could stop panicking that I was climbing this hill for nothing.

The course linked back up to the final 9 miles which I knew were super tough miles but then it was done so I rode strong knowing that and finished in 3rd in 9:21.  I was pleased with my ride and how I felt through most of the race.  I felt like my legs finally came around to racing this year.  It was also nice knowing that I would be home in my own bed that evening.  I hung out for a while catching up with fellow racers and still made it home by ~9.

It was a quick week until the next race, another local one in Rutland, MA only ~40 minutes away, Treasure Valley Rally.  It's totally a race course for me, lots of technical tough trails.  I was a tad worried about recover from the Hampshire 100 as it was truly a full body workout.  My arms, back, legs everything was pretty tired from the race.  I did a mellow road ride Tuesday after the 100 and could barely pedal.  Wednesday felt almost as bad initially but by the end my ride my legs started to come around.  By Sunday I was in pretty good shape and it was another beautiful summer day.

My field was unfortunately small for such a sweet race but it was what it was.  Kind of funny but I was racing against another Karin.  We started with the elite men so I tried to hang with them as long as I could, which wasn't all that long.  I also managed to miss a turn early on which is really pathetic as it happened in probably 5 seconds of putting my head down to keep some of the dust out of my eyes.  I got back on course quickly to pass by a confused Karin who didn't know how I ended up behind her. 

From there I rode a pretty strong consistent race.  I do love the technical trails there but it's funny how in race mode you seem to mess up stupid stuff and make a lot of the really hard stuff.  I'd say I rode pretty well overall and my bike handled it fairly well considering it's a total hardtail race bike on a course absolutely meant for a dualie.  We had to race 2 and 3/4 laps.  My lap times seemed slow to me and I found myself again pondering how much slower I am than last year but my finish time was 3 hrs which was actually 15 minutes faster than my time last year. I attribute much of that time drop to the fact that the course was super dry compared to last year.

Now the question was how well would I recover out of this race going into Shenandoah, my final 100 for the season and for a year or more.  I went back and forth all week as to whether to bother going down at all.  Since I didn't race lumberjack 100 I would not have 4 races in the NUE series to have any overall standing so what did it really matter if I raced Shenandoah or not. I have already done it 5 times, well 4, as I had to dnf one of those times.  The remnants of the hurricane were also predicted to hit Virginia by race day so that sounded like a great excuse not to go.  But the forecast changed and didn't seem so bad so I went.

I drove down Friday to Harrisonburg and stayed at a hotel.  When I woke up Saturday it was to light rain and gloom.  I checked the forecast which had changed to a much worse forecast and seriously debated for the next few hours about just heading back home where the weather was going to be sweet all weekend and how much fun I could have doing some epic rides back home.  But I had driven all this way and spent the $$ to get down there so I reluctantly stayed.  The thought of driving home still didn't really leave my head till dinner.

I checked out a couple local farmers markets killing time Saturday morning and finally headed over to Stokesville Campground to set up for the race.  I was kind of bored actually sitting in my car as it continued to rain lightly.  What a drag.  Why did I come down here?  Oh how I torment myself.

My buddy Brian finally showed up and it actually stopped raining after a little bit so we hopped on our bikes to spin the legs out which was a good idea as they felt like crap.  We rode for an hour, cleaned up some and headed back into Harrisonburg for some early dinner.  It's funny being done dinner by 6ish.  We headed back to the campground, got our registration packets and finished getting ready for race day.  The forecast was for rain in the morning with thunderstorms later in the day.  Lovely. 

I was in bed early and read for a bit.  I slept so so for a race night.  It did rain lightly a couple of times but thankfully it was not raining when I woke up.  Bonus.  It's so hard to start a race or a ride in the rain.  It was so humid out though that it wouldn't matter all that much if it did start raining lightly. 

The race was off at 6:30 with the usual hot pace up the first climb.  I told myself to just ride my own race and not go too hard at the start as there were plenty more climbs to come to make up time if I was feeling good.  So I rode my own ride.  It worked out well.  I tried to remind myself to enjoy the scenery and trails as I do truly plan on taking a break from the 100s next year.  I found myself fortunate to be in a good spot on the trails.  I got to enjoy the first couple of long descents without someone going to slow in front of me or breathing down my neck behind me.  The trails were awesome, how did I forget that?  They were in great shape too from having some rain on them as they tend to be a bit dusty and therefore soft in the corners.  There were some slick spots here and there but pretty sweet overall. 

It did start to rain a couple hours into the race and was intermittent for a while.  The third climb I reminded myself just goes on and on like all the others so it actually went by a little faster than normal.  I caught Kathleen Harding at the top of the climb which put me into 2nd.  I was pretty sure that Brenda Simril was behind me and I had passed Vicki who had flatted on top of the first climb.  This helped me be a bit more inspired.  Then part way down into Aid Station 3 I started to cramp. I thankfully rode out of it but knew I better watch it. I grabbed some electrolyte tabs at the aid station and carried onto the road section where I pushed hard to catch a couple other racers wheels to draft. 

The 4th big climb went reasonably well.  I remember last year feeling like crap on this climb so it was nice to feel like I had some legs even if it was only legs enough for my granny gear.  I could hear the rumbling of thunder off in the distance and sure enough it started pouring not too long after that.  I was thankfully on the descent by that point but it made for one messy trail down into aid station 4.  But at that point I was a bit more than half-way so I kept it together, refilled my camelback at the aid station.  The volunteers at the station were awesome (at all the aid stations) - cleaning off riders chains and lubing them to help them through the nasty conditions. 

I carried on for the long death march dirt road section that just goes on and on and on...only to turn onto the death march climb of the race.  I was starting to feel 6 hours + of riding by then.  I was a bit worried I was going to get caught on that climb since I felt like I was starting to go backwards.  I made it to the Aid Station and grabbed some swedish fish and twizzlers and headed out to finish up the climb which still was quite a ways from that point.  I managed to go down in a huge deep puddle that made me laugh.  I knew there were some really deep ones even when it's a dry year but this one caught me off guard and took me down. I sat in it and had to put my whole arm down to keep my head from going in.  It was funny. 

From there it continued to be a complete slog of a ride to the top.  Totally slow muddy nasty "please don't break my chain" kind of riding.  I just kept telling myself if I make it to the top I'm pretty much home free.  And finally I made it.  There was more climbing to be had but mentally I could deal with it from that point.  I grabbed some more swedish fish at the last aid station.  My back was super stiff and the volunteers kept asking if I was ok and I'm like yea yea.. isn't everyone like this coming through here. 

It was one more big climb and then a sweet descent into the finish.  I pulled off the 2nd in 9:27.  I was starting to think this one was going to be a 10 hour 100 with nasty conditions so it was nice finishing up in 9 1/2.  By then it was sunny and still super humid.  Sue Haywood crushed the course in ~8.5 hrs. It's her home turf and she is riding really strong and back on form this year.

It was a great feeling to finish up the 100 milers strong.  It was also kind of odd to know I would be taking a break from these next year.  I need to mix it up a little to keep biking and racing fresh and fun for me.  The 100s will always be there so if inspiration hits again, I'll be back.  They are somehow strangely addicting and I'm not quite sure why.

One more planned race for the season, the Landmine 50 miler in Hingham, MA this coming Sunday.  Weather looks decent.  It's a flat course, should feel like a piece of cake!  Ha!!

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wilderness 101

I am definitely not up to par with blogging as I was last year. I knew I should have just written the race report when I got home Sunday evening, as that is usually when the recounting of the race weekend flows best. But, I procrastinated.  And well, it's a week later. 

This racing year has been a bit off for me.  I was feeling a tad burned out from the long season last year and to keep things fresh, I had hoped to do all new races this season or at least mix it up a bit more but that was not in the cards.  And life has been very busy this year, all in good ways for the most part.  I also had hoped I would come off my disappointing crash at the stage race and be on fire for the rest of the season since following up on the Stoopid 50 race I have had month to get some good, hard training in.

My training had gotten better finally despite seeming to be burning the envelope at both ends for too long.  My last big training weekend a couple weekends out from the 101 felt great.  It was a lot of hours in the saddle, hard rides with lots of climbing and hot and humid conditions to boot. I felt great pretty good Sunday evening, but then I started to go downhill.  I ignored the signs until Tuesday I could my throat was so sore it hurt to drink or eat anything.  I had a fever and felt like crap :(  I went to my doctors and got tested for strep, which came back negative but my doctor still had me go on antibiotics since my throat looked so terrible.  The drugs helped a lot but I was more wiped out then I cared to admit.  So it was all easy riding if any at all coming into the 101. 

I find it semi ironic that I got sick before this race as it's my first 100 of the season.  I thought I made it through the spring for once without getting the pre-race season sickness.  Guess it just got delayed this year.  It also felt a bit odd to finally be getting around to my first 100 of the season.  I was hoping to be 'fresh' but the lack of ultra long endurance in my legs had me a bit worried.

I drove down to Coburn PA on Friday and stayed with some friends right around the corner from the race venue. It's such a beautiful, tranquil setting - a gentle river across the street, horses in the field out behind the house. I felt really relaxed which was awesome.  Brenda and Lee Simril were staying there as well and they had just come back from a warm-up ride when I arrived.  I settled in quickly and hopped on my bike to stretch the legs out.  They didn't feel good at all.  I tried to brush it off as a post-massage day and just driving for 6 hours feeling.  They'll be ok tomorrow...I hope.  It was very muggy out but I like the heat and humidity so it didn't bother me too much.

I got back and picked up my race number and fixed up my drop bags for the Aid Stations. I ran into a bunch of friends in line and chatted for a bit until some very intense dark clouds came whipping and I hurried back to my friend's place.  I showered up and decided it was dinner time, which I had brought my own food so as not to be tempted by the tasty beer at the local brewery/restaurant.  I chatted some with Brenda and Lee and then just rested in bed finishing up a Harry Potter book (finally getting around to reading the series).  I was in bed pretty early but fell asleep and had the best night's sleep before a 100 miler.  This was great.  The 5:00 a.m. alarm wasn't annoying.  Although, I did finally get that, holy crap, what am I about to go do feeling, but I know how to do this now and I know I can get through the race.  What I don't know is how much fun or how little it will be until I'm out there.

I eat a couple pieces of toast for breakfast and drink some espresso.  My stomach felt a bit off which was disconcerting but what can you do.  I finished getting ready and onto my bike.  I rode down the street a bit to get the legs moving and headed over to the start.  I stayed close up to the front of the pack this time so the mass start didn't feel quite so hectic although it is still nerve-wracking riding in a tight group of mountain bikers.  It's a neutral start for the first couple of miles and then we take a left and start up a gradual dirt road climb and the pack starts to spread out and form small groups by the top.  I felt ok here at the start. I kind of had in my head to try to go hard and see how long I could sustain that but that's always a fine line or maybe a thick line but once you go too far over it, it can be a tough to come back. 

As I neared the top of the climb I eyed a few guys ahead of me to hop on their wheel to take advantage of drafting for the long dirt road opening of this race.  I eventually caught up to another woman, Kristin, and she was trying to get the group organized into a pace line to keep the speed high.  It felt like way too much work and never quite panned out.  We caught up to Vicki as well and she hung on the back of our group playing it smart and not pulling through. I took some turns up front feeling semi-obligated since Kristin was pulling a lot but in the back of my head I knew it was foolish and I should be saving my legs for the much harder climbing coming later on.  We kind of backed off a bit but it was still a pretty good effort. 

We made it to the first aid station together and up the next long climb and descent together trading positions.  But once we popped back out on a dirt road climb that gets a bit steep my legs were already started to fade and Vicki and Kristin rode away.  It was hard not to feel sorry for myself at that point.  I do tend to start strong, fade and then finish strong.  How strong I finish depends on how in my head I get in the middle of the race.  I just kept pedaling as that was all you can do.  I was bummed with already feeling it though.

Eventually I make it to the first singletrack section.  I am all fumbles as it is slick from yesterdays storms and the humidity was super thick so not much dried out.  I usually like singletrack but it seems to take me a some time to remember how to ride the ragged, rugged tough trails in Central PA.  I got it down by the end of the race.  I forgot how hard some of the climbs are in this race.  They are super steep, even the dirt roads.  I felt like I was going backwards on some of them.  Not even half-way through, a couple men passed me and warned me that Brenda was lurking.  She and Lee passed me on a tough singletrack descent. Man I wish I had a dualie with a drop seat post too :)  But I have my nice fast, light hardtail.  I have at least learned to ride the descents so that they don't kill my hands quite as much.  My triceps were still probably as sore as my legs though post-race. 

More long dirt road sections in the middle of the race.  I mostly keep out of my head but somewhat by giving myself an out for the 100s.  I know I need a break from doing these.  I dont' have to go do Shenandoah even though I'm signed up.  I know I can't make that decision while I'm out there not feeling great.  I plug along, and along.  Funny, but for once I actually stay near a single speeder racer who I was with from early in the race.  Usually that's not the case, but it makes for some new 'familiar' faces on the race scene. 

While I didn't feel terrible, I didn't feel great. I figured the fact that finishing up antibiotics the day before a 100 miler probably plays a factor in that even though I did sleep well.  I finally get through Aid Station 4.  I dread the next long climb out of there but just tell myself again, all you can do is keep pedaling.  Finally the top is near and I descend towards the bridge that took me out at the stage race.  It is not as slick as it was that day but man seeing it again, I realized how hard I went down and how far I really did slide across that thing. Pretty crazy. 

Not too long after that I notice my cable rubbing on my front tire.  I'm like, odd?!  And try to figure out if it got pulled through funny.  Then I realize my fork is feeling really hard and rigid and it's not locked out.  I look down and it's completely compressed.  Uh oh.  I figured I blew it out.  So now I'm riding leaning forward too much.  I keep pedaling figuring I was 80 miles in and could hopefully make it to the finish, albeit probably really beat up.  I still had the Panther Run Road downhill ahead of me which sucks even with a working fork.  This is the dirt road I tore my tire on last year so I already had bad vibes about it.  I finally stop to see if I can pull the fork out some and least not be leaning over so much. I manage to get about half of it back and lock it out there and thankfully it stayed there.  It was a harsh ride on the short pieces of singletrack. 

As I approached Panther Run, I decided I would try unlocking my fork and see if it might by luck work.  If it didn't, I would just stop and pull it back out and deal with it rigid.  It thankfully worked but was only using about 1/2 the travel.  It was better than nothing. I made it down. That's a terrible section.  I get into the last aid station and ask for a shock pump thinking I lost air in the fork, but it was at the correct pressure so something else had gone in the fork.  I know I can make it 11 miles from there. 

I worked with the same singlespeeder until the last climb.  I tried to push it up the climb for a bit to stay with him but he pulled away.  I was definitely feeling my legs then.  I get over the top and it's one more nasty trail section, Fisherman's trail, which even if I were completely fresh, it would still be difficult to ride the entire trail.  I tried to ride it still and crashed, not hard, but I just couldn't unclip.  So I hoof it a ways and then get back on and manage to ride the rest of it.  It's flat rail trail from there pretty much but it feels like forever.  And I could hear some rumbling and the sky darkened.  A few minutes later it's pouring.  I didn't care that much as I was totally disgustingly sweaty all day.  My new race kit usually dries out pretty fast but not in today's humidity.  The rain just motivated me to work harder to get this race done and I did in 8'21" in 5th place. 

The women's field is definitely getting more competitive.  For how I was feeling, my time was faster than I would have anticipated finishing in.  I was kind of bummed being in 5th, but all the women ahead of me are super fast, in great shape and just excellent racers.  That's racing.  I can't beat myself up too badly about, 1st 100 for the season, coming off of being sick, fork issues, just a busy busy year and some serious lack of motivation to go out there and keep suffering as such so those are my excuses :)  But 8' really pretty good. 

I enjoyed myself post race and had a few delicious beers.  I chatted away with all the amazing people you meet at these races.  It really truly is a great community of people.  I eventually wandered back to my friends and caught some olympics.  I watched as Michael Phelps came in 4th to Ryan Lochte and how much I could relate even not being anywhere near the superstar status as Phelps.  It is the interesting aspect of racing, the drive, the motivation, the training, etc.  There is more to it than just pedaling...but in the end, you can only get to the finish line by keeping pedaling. 

Couple more 100s on tap this year and some fun local races. I think next year, to keep my sanity, will definitely be shorter races - like 50s or 6hr races.  That's just about when it all starts to hurt more than you want it to. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Yikes! I've been a complete slacker this year when it comes to blogging. It's not really procrastination. It's more the fact that I need about 5-6 more hours in a day to get everything done.
So I'll do my best to recount in maybe not so full detail my spring racing to date.

I'll preface this with - it's been a very busy year thus far, in good ways mostly. I'm sure most athletes will concur, it's always tricky finding the balance between work, racing, training, family/friends, and down time. I don't know what down time means anymore.

Late winter, I moved my massage practice to a much nicer location then my previous office which has shown a definite boon in business. I have been particularly motivated to really get my practice to a full-status for me. I currently work a couple days at a law office doing adminstrative work that while has provided me with consistent income, it has dragged on longer than I had intended. As of July 1st I'll be down to one day at the law office. Yippee!! Which will hopefully give me the time to keep growing my business as right now, I'm too busy to do the marketing stuff I need to do.

I also decided this past winter to begin a new hobby - playing the violin/fiddle. I'm sure I'll be more inclined towards fiddling then violining as I enjoy some good bluegrass and folk music. It was a beginners course at a local high school once a week for 9 weeks but put me right into heavy training season. I was reluctant to take the course due to time concerns but I'm glad I did. I just need to make sure I keep practicing which has proved difficult this past month.

Oh, and then I decided to take a beginner fly fishing course, because I have so much free time on my hands. If you've been a long standing reader of my blogs you might catch that when I have traveled to my 100 miler races, several take place where there are a lot of fly fishing tours around. It somehow seems super appealing to stand around in cool water just flicking your my for a few hours the day after riding my butt off the day before. So I figured I better learn how to do that. Of course, I haven't practiced at all since the class. Migth help if I actually had fly fishing equipment.

Don't worry I'll get to the bike racing eventually.

Then I decided to adopt a dog because I thought my adorable, lovable pug would be happier with a playmate and because I have been terribly guilty about being gone so much and he's just hanging out at home all alone. I kind of looked half-heartedly for a while, but then finally found what sounded like the cutest bestest dog - Lucky. And how can you go wrong with an awesome name like Lucky. Well, it didn't quite work out. Lucky was absolutely adorable but he was only 9 months and not quite as 'chill' as I was hoping. He was a cute Yorkshire Terrier/Terrier mix who had a mouth that looked like he was always smiling at you. But the reality check was two male dogs, lots of dominance issues, not really playing with each other nicely, Bruschi who was apparently quite fine being alone was now not happy. Twice the work, twice the attention that had to be given...etc. etc. I do not have a yard to just let the dogs hang out in so it was a rough couple of weeks trying it out and sadly gave Lucky back to the Foster Mom who had had him. I realized also that I have too hectic of a schedule to take on something like that and when I get home I need to be able to relax and unwind and Bruschi and I have our thing going just fine. Lucky truly will be lucky with a family with kids and/or another younger dog who will play with him. It just wasn't the right fit or the right time. Lesson learned.

SO needless to say, the spring has been crazy busy. Training has been a bit rough as working out hard means recovering also equally hard but that requires a certain about of time to be able to do so. I've had a lot of mediocre training weeks mostly because I have been dragging my tail around.

Since the Michaux Cup, I did manage to get my xtr pedals that broke during the race warranteed. It took some 'pushing' but finally got them to honor their warranty on xtr parts (eh hem, 3 years... which I honestly was kind of surprised pedals were included in that as you beat the crap out of them). It was a couple of weeks of fumbling through workouts feeling rather bad about the whole idea of racing. I had a couple melt downs on the trail, in private... I tried to remind myself the spring is always tough for me getting the point of it 'feeling good' again. The pollen was horrendous this year and I definitely was suffering from allergies but remained too stubborn to go get some meds to help me out. (Note to self, try acupuncture before the fall and definitely before next spring.)

I finally had a really good ride the end of April. I rode some trails that I only get to a couple times a year with a really fun group of riders who just like to ride. I left the heart rate monitor at home and just rode. I finally had a blast again :) The day before was a melt down day... Ok, maybe it's coming around.

My next race was a regular cross country race on May 6th - Burlingame in Rhode Island, part of the EFTA series. I wanted to get some shorter races in to get some speedwork going in case I decided to do the Tran-Sylvania Mountain Bike Stage Race again. The women's field was small, but one woman and I duked it out for a few laps. It was painful. I could out ride her technically but then she'd get me on the flat open sections. There really wasn't a lot of technical riding on this course. I finally gapped her heading into a bridge section and tried to keep the gas pedal to the metal. It paid off but not without some cramping and bad thoughts. It was a pretty fun course overall.

The next month after that is completely a blur. Too much going on. It was taking some time for all the goodies to come in to put my Zaboo bike back together. I am of course indebted to my buddy Brian who's house I was at seriously like every other day dropping off parts, picking up parts, bikes, dropping off more stuff, breaking stuff, sending it back... holy crap. I dont' want to drive to Sterling anymore. Ok, that's a lie. My favorite ice cream place is there - Rota Spring mmmm... I ride to eat ice cream.

Just like last year, I get back on my Zaboo bike with a new Cannondale Lefty Fork, new wheels from Stans, new x-king tires from Continental, new Fizik saddle only a couple days before my next race. I had wanted to put my new grips from Ergon on but Brian was wise and recommended only doing so many changes at once. He's so smart. Sunday May 20th, I raced one of my favorite local courses, the Weeping Willow up in Ipswich, Ma, another EFTA race. I have won here the past two years so the pressue was on. I hope the previous day's 3 hr ride with some fast guys didn't hurt me too much. I figured it was good training for the stage race that I, at that point, wasn't sure whether I was doing or not.

The Weeping Willow had a very strong women's field. There were a few cyclocross racers so I knew the start was going to be extra painful since cross racers race crazy hard for 45 minutes, thus starting crazy hard. I actually started fairly well and managed to get the hole shot onto the first singletrack section but lost it after an extended doubletrack section. I was sitting at the back of a train of 5 trying to figure out some strategy. I was also thinking about gee, I don't usually think about strategy like this too often. I was ok with this train and sitting in the back so long as no one broke away off the front. I felt pretty comfortable with the pace so if someone did take off I knew I had more in the tank to chase. No one did. The front rider messed up on a short little climb and lucky enough for me there was a nice outside line that I took as everyone else had to dismount. I got the lead and took off and never looked back, well once in a while but I managed to hold onto the win. Yeah! Three years in a row.

So last minute decision to the Tran-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic Stage Race (TSE) race had me scrambling rather last minute to get ready for it. I was at this point still figuring out whether Lucky would be going back to his foster mom which didnt' get resolved until the Thusday before leaving for TSE. I was chose to camp out versus staying in the boyscout lodge like I had the last couple of years. After getting sick last year, the appeal had worn off. I had just got a new 4-person tent so I would have plenty of space to spread out and not have some musty, varnish smell to deal with and no sharing a bunk bed, no snoring from others, etc. Anyway, lots of pack. I also thankfully had a large pop-up canopy tent to cover my tent and hang out under in the event of rain. And boy, did it rain this year.

The women's field at the stage race was packed yet again with very talented endurance racers. I knew my base of fitness was not as as strong as it was coming into this race last year. I was kind of optimistically hoping I would feel "fresh" but it didn't quite pan out that way. As with last year, I told myself that if I made it on the podium any one day that would be awesome but I had to be fair to myself in that my life had just been so crazy busy that looking at the race as a great training opportunity vs. a chance to show off was the best course of action.

The stage race started Sunday May 27th with a 10+ mile time trial. I had drove down to Stage College the day before and arrived late afternoon and had just finished setting up my lovely camp abode when the skies opened up and it poured. I was like, eh, I've rode the time trial last year. I'll remember it. Ha! I really should have taken a spin on the course but I didn't feel like getting all muddy and nasty. Besides, I'll be riding my bike for 7 days in a row versus the like 4-5 times a week that seemed to be happening the past couple of months.

Sunday arrives. I had the usual pre-race nerves going. I got on the bike a bit early to get the legs moving and at least ride the beginning part of the course. Good thing. I missed a couple turns warming up. I could tell the craziness of the past few weeks had taken it's toll as I really wasn't all that focused, despite the nerves...nerves and not being focused are a bad combination. Anyway, my start position puts me in mid-pack of the women, some very strong ones in front of me and very very strong ones behind me. Holy crap. I got picked off pretty early on. Total bummer but I all I could do was tell myself to keep pedaling. I certainly didn't feel like the stud on fire last year doing this TT. I wasn't terrible but certainly didn't have the edge. I still managed to pull off 4th for the day which I was quite ok with. I was kind of hoping that I could manage to stay in there the rest of the week.

So yes, rain again that evening. The forecast for the week looked horrible. Everything was pretty wet. My tent and pop-up tent were holding up fine so that was good. Although, the rain made for a lot of extended time hanging out in the tent. For once I didn't bring an entire library with me to read. I guess I could have spent that time blogging, but there were no outlets in my tent. I had started reading the Harry Potter series and was half-way through book 2. I was done by Wednesday. I should have gone into Town and bought the Book 3 but it just never seemed to be the right time to do so. So I was stuck reading Fly Fishing for Idiots. Not all the entertaining.

Back to racing, Stage 2 is one of the best stages and one of the toughest, heavy on prime, rocky, rooty central PA singletrack. There was no neutral start out of the campground this year so it was pretty fast paced to start but within less than a mile it's downhill for a while on a pretty beat up jeep road. I was feeling ok but definitely not on my game yet. I was probably mid-pack of the women. I would have preferred to be further up but I reminded myself it was a long stage today, plenty of time to make of some gaps. I starting to tell myself just relax, just have fun... just have fun... just have fun.. Wham!! At the bottom of the descent was a wooden bridge and it took me out. I slammed down hard on my right side and slid across the bridge almost off the side. I was stunned, a bit embarrassed about crashing on a bridge and worried I tore my new shorts. I got up slowly and felt the pain in my hip. Yikes. That's a doozie. I astonishingly didn't rip my shorts at all the bridge was that slick. I pulled myself together as best I could. As I scrambled to get on my bike again another racer went down but seemed less impacted by the fall than myself. I was hoping I could ride out of the pain. Every pedal stroke had a painful moment. I tried massaging it out, but it just wasn't subsiding.

We had a stretch of road for a bit but eventually got to a fairly steep singletrack climb. If it were dry, it would have been ridable but it was too slick and fighting to keep a line was more painful then walking, but walking was more painful than riding. It was in a quandry. It killed hiking up that hill and it went on and on. I was starting to lose it mentally. It finally topped out onto some very rocky singletrack and I tried to pass another racer only to crash again. Not as dramatically but I was in enough pain so as not to be able to really 'save' myself from the slippery slimy rocks. So it was a complete struggle all the way to the aid station at Mile 11. I probably crashed at mile 2 or 3. I was in tears at that point. I knew it was stupid to keep going but I hate defeat. I had dnf'd last year after catching the bug that was going around and having a wicked fever on Day 3. Now, I didn't even make it through day 2. And now, I might not even be riding for a bit. :( Not happy.

One of the ladies did this stage race last year, Vikki, had crashed hard in the time trial and either broke or severely bruised some ribs but she kept racing and ended up 3rd overall. She happened to be at the aid station supporting her teammates (she was out of commission this time around having suffered a concussion in a nasty road crash a few weeks prior.) I told her I had tried to keep her toughness in my head to get through the race but I knew better and bailed at the aid station. She was kind enough to give me and another racer a ride back to camp. I went and cleaned up and hobbled my way back to the main lodge to see if the race doctor was about and lucky enough he had just arrived back from being out on the course. He checked me and said the mere fact I was able to walk meant I didn't break my hip but there was a chance of a hairline fracture, although not likely since I'm 'young and healthy.". I got some ice, took some alleve, and hobbled back to my tent, where I massaged my hip with some arnica massage oil and chilled. I was pretty bummed out. I was truly hobbling along walking. Now it was more annoying that the bathouse was a bit of a walk from my tent abode.

I wasn't quite sure how this was all going to pan out. I figured I would see how I felt the next day so see if it got terribly worse in which case I should get my hip x-rayed and head home to heal up or maybe salvage some stages later in the week and continuing to race. The racer in me, when she pops out, wanted to come back later in the week. I woke up the next morning thinking I'd be feeling terrible but my hip didn't feel too bad. I was still hobbling around walking but the icing and alleve etc seemed to have some affect. I still had no intention of riding the stage at that point. I figured I would take it easy and go for a gentle spin later on in the day. But then while eating breakfast, I thought, well what am I going to do all day. So I (I keep wanting to say 'hopped' on my bike) gently got on my bike - that was the worse movement for my hip post-crash - and tried pedaling around and well I could do it with minimal pain. I decided to ride the stage afterall. It was a mostly dirt road stage so there wouldn't be too many rocks or roots to make me have to rely on the hip too much in case of a hasty getting off the bike. It was a nice day and it was rather nice to just ride and enjoy myself and not have to get into 'race mode'.

So I managed to ride the rest of the stages. I had hopes of feeling really good by Friday and kicking some butt but the injury took it's toll on me more than I probably admitted. I felt rather flat still most of the time and it did really take until Friday to feel remotely like I was able to really push out of my right leg strongly. So I chalked it up to some good training, maybe a bit last luster in the 'racing' pushing aspect but it was what it was. I certainly got to race without all the anxiety. Albeit, I was rather bruised, more on my lower leg than upper.

I finally came around to the riding my bike every day too. I felt like I was getting back into the groove of training etc. It was kind of nice to be able to just ride, recover, repeat and not run around like a maniac in between. But that ended upon returning home. I drove back home Saturday after the final awards ceremony. While the post-race party sounded like a blast, I just wanted to get home in my own bed, with the bathroom like 5 feet from my bedroom and have a full day to unwind before starting a hectic work week.

And boy was it hectic - a very full week of work. My hip got pretty stiff not riding my bike everyday. I am very fortunate though, to have some amzing bodyworkers help me out. I almost didn't try to get an appointment with Biosynchronistics as they usually are booked out 3 months ahead and it's completely luck of the draw to get in on the cancellation list. I had maybe a two hour window of opportunity that I wasn't working to be able to go so I didn't try to get in right away. But by Wednesday I knew it was stupid to wait any longer. I mean I wasn't able to walk 'normal'. That can't be good. I called an had to bag some work to get an appointment but totally worth it. She watched me take two steps and said 'that's not right." Nope. But she unjammed my femur and got me all aligned again. I had my one-a month appointment the following week to make sure everything was still looking good and I was. It took a good couples weeks post-crash to really feel able to stand up and power out of the right hip/glut but I'm back on course now.

It was a crazy busy couple weeks post-TSE race. I had planned on racing the Lumberjack 100 miler in michigan on June 16th. But my friend who was going to go to the race with me bailed on me two weeks out. I scrambled to find someone else to travel with as it's a good 16+ hour drive one-way. I couldn't find anyone and debated going solo but calculated out how expensive that would be and decided it just wasn't worth it. I've done the race already and it will still be there next year. I was pretty bummed about it. However, the week before that I was riding some of my favorite trails and noticed my seatpost was rotating some. Odd. I stopped to check the seatpost clamp and that was tight so I had a sinking feeling something in the frame was broken. I didn't keep fussing with it out on the trails since it wasn't completely broken and I preferred to ride back to my car then walk a long long way. I called aforesaid awesome mechanic friend and explained to him what was going on. Sure enough, I had cracked the aluminum support piece inside the carbon frame to give strength to the seatpost tube. Back to riding the Felt frame, which isn't a bad backup bike. But it wouldn't have been ready in time for leaving for Michigan so.. in the end I guess it worked out.

I instead raced a new race - the Stoopid 50 back down in State College. The course was composed of some of the sweet singletrack that I just rode in the Stage Race and some other singletrack in the area. It was a 70%/30 mix of trails to dirt road. Awesome! I waited until last minute to sign up as I was not going to bother if the weather looked bad but thankfully it was a beautiful, perfect race day.
I felt pretty good and raced a solid race coming in 2nd in second shy of 5hrs which was my goal. It was hard not to lament having signed up for the 100s that I have as being done in 5 hrs certainly seems appealing to me right now. I was like how am I going to get through 8-9hrs of this again? I know I will, but something about that is losing appeal to me. I'm sure it will come around again. I think it part I have been so busy that working that hard in my 'play' time is a bit daunting.

I have a nice break until the end of July from racing. Although that means lots of long training rides. Thus far, the training is feeling better then it had most of the spring.

I will try to be a better blogger the rest of the summer :)


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Michaux Trail Cup 2012

Very long delay in reporting on my first race of the season. I competed in the Michaux Trail Cup in Michaux State Forest Pennsylvania a week ago, April 15th. I journeyed down to PA on Saturday and stayed with Cheryl Sornson, fellow 100 miler racer, whose house almost abuts Michaux. The drive down was pretty smooth sailing although I had that feeling of 'here we go again' to start the long long drives to race the endurance scene. Although, it will be a bit less travel this year which is a comforting thought.

I had decided not to do Cohutta 100, the first of the NUE series, because it's such a long drive and honestly, I am not crazy about the course. Two days of driving to get there to ride 65 miles of dirt road. No thanks. Although, there is a new race director who apparently has mixed in some more singletrack to try to appease us singletrack fiends. After hanging out with a few buddies who do the 100 milers, I was admittedly a bit sad I wasn't going race Cohutta but I know as soon as I got in the car to start the slog of a drive I wouldn't be so sad.

So, my long-winded entry into why I decided to race the Michaux Cup was because originally there was an option to race 75 miles which with the terrain in Michaux (super technical) I figured would take about how long a 'normal' 100 miler would take and thus give me the long distance race opener for the season since my first NUE 100 won't be until Lumberjack in June. Unfortunately there was not much interest for the longer distances for the Michaux Cup so they were dropped and I found myself racing the 50 which I knew would be plenty even if it were less than time than I wanted for 'training purposes.'

The weather forecast had been pretty sweet all week heading into the race with it sounding a tad on the hot side, but I love the heat so I was like bring it. That of course changed. We all know how accurate forecasters are. Anyway, it poured overnight and was purported to stop early morning. I didn't sleep particularly well and kept thinking, gee, I don't want to do a mudfest race my first race of the season. Thankfully it has been really dry down there this spring and the trails sucked up the water just fine. There were a few light showers early morning but the rain was done by the time we started at 9:15. It was a bit cooler than I had anticipated. In my typical wussy fashion, I completely overdressed knowing I would regret wearing a long-sleeved jacket in like ten seconds, but that would have meant 10 seconds too long of being cold.

I had not real agenda for this race aside from getting a long distance race effort in. I didn't warm up or plan much. I just figured I would hang with Cheryl as long as I could and see what how that felt. Well, Cheryl is on fire this year and so that didn't last very long. I also don't have my race bike set up either and had put on a pig of a tire to replace a very worn out front tire especially since I knew there would be lots and lots of pointy, sharp, mean rocks out there. In retrospect, I probably would have been fine with the old tire.

There was a bit more dirt road than I anticipated which made the first of the two loops go by fairly fast. The singletrack in Michaux can be pretty brutal in spots. I love rocks for the most part and definitely get more inspired riding singletrack than dirt roads. Near the end of the first 25 mile loop, I fumbled on some of those rock I love and when I tried to get back into my pedal I kept missing and finally was like, I'm not that big an idiot. I looked down and my pedal is stuck on my shoe. Hmm.. not good. The pedal came off the spindle axle. I pulled off the trail to get out of the way of other racers. I had to take my shoe off and put the pedal back on the spindle to get my shoe off. It seemed that it was going to stay on there so I got on a starting pedaling. What was I going to do with it out there anyways? It was mostly dirt road back to the start finish area from there and the pedal seemed like it was ok.

I shed my long sleeve layer after sweating like a pig in it, refilled my camelback and started out on the second loop which was the tougher of the two loops. It was a gradual singletrack downhill. I could feel my pedal acting funny under my foot but kept going anyways. It had seized up and wouldn't rotate on the spindle anymore and backed itself off the crank and fell off. Nice! I picked it up and it wouldn't rotate at all. I knew that was it and stuffed it in my pocket and started walking back up to the start/finish. Meanwhile, there was a 25 miler version and they all just started coming down the trail so I had to keep pulling off the side of the trail and waiting. I was bummed that I had driven so far to ride 2 hours. I didn't let myself get overly annoyed as it was what it was. It wasn't something I could foresee happening for mechanical issues.

I made it back up to the start finish and saw Zac the race director to let him know what happened and that I was done. And then half heartedly asked if anyone had a pedal I could borrow and someone did. Of course they parked over in another lot across the street but drove back over and made a quick change for me. I was off again, now with motivation to catch those who had passed me. It was obvious it was not going to catch Cheryl today.

The 2nd loop was much tougher. There was more singletrack but I definitely enjoyed that and the tough terrain can be distracting for the most part in a good way. There were some pretty steep ascents and descents, including a hike a bike up, and I do recall a short hike a bike down that I was just too chicken to ride. Somewhere out there, I heard some rattling noise from my rear tire and I was pondering what that could be. I was hoping nothing major. I kind of banked on it being a broken spoke but usually they rub the brakes or something so I wasn't sure. I made it out to a fire road section and look down at my poor wobbly warped rear wheel. Don't think about it, I told myself. Just get done the race. If it breaks, it with it then. I did manage to finish. The end of the loop was tough and I was quite happy I was only doing 50 miles versus 75. My back was getting stiff from the terrain and I was getting worried my bike wouldn't hold up too much longer. I finished in 5'15". I'm guessing I spent a good 1/2 hr dealing with the pedal and walking back to the start area so not too shabby for a 50. I didn't feel completely cooked either which was nice. Definitely like a did a long race but not like a 100.

There were some delicious post-race eats. The awards were quite unique - a small blueberry plant (which Michaux if known for it's blueberries) and a rock with treadmark painted on it and placing. I managed to finish 2nd with my mechanical issues. I'll take that :) It was good to see my NUE buddies Cheryl and Gerry Pflug. They both rocked it taking firsts and finishing 2nd and 3rd overall.

Zachary Adams of Fast Forward Racing Productions put on a great race. The course was good, even according to the locals who ride there a lot. Good markings, good food and good prizes. I'd go back. There is another endurance series consisting of 3 races put on by Gettysburg Bicycles. Might be tempted to go back for some more fun.