Thursday, September 17, 2009

TAHOE Sierra 100 Miler

Ahh, the end of the mountain bike season... kind of sad. First off, I'd like to thank all of the wonderful people in my life who have helped me this season and over the years of my bike racing - my mechanic, bike shop sponsor, dog watchers, coach, friends and family for support etc.. thank you very much. It all went by so fast, although the Ohio race seems like an eternity ago.

So, Tahoe... what a beautiful place. I highly recommend getting there at some point to ski, sight see, hike, bike, whatever, it's amazing.

I was a bit worried about this race being at altitude and coming off such a hard effort at Shenandoah dealing with the mechanicals issues etc. I was pretty wiped for a few days post-Shenandoah which hasn't really been the case with the previous 100 miler races this year. I was brain fried till Wednesday evening and feeling kind of stiff and tight from the race and long drive. I brought my bike to my awesome mechanic Brian to help me pack it up in the bike box to fly out on Thursday. I thought this would be like a 15 minute affair but it ended up to be like a 2hr affair and some dinner.... He double checked the bolt on my suspension link to make sure it was all set and it wasn't. So he fixed that, and fixed my bottom bracket that was getting pretty stuck from water having been trapped in the down tube. Thankfully my old epic was still hanging around his basement so he yanked off some parts from that to get me through this race. Then finally on to packing up the bike. I haven't had to do this for a while and looking at the size of the box I was like, there's no way that is going to fit in there. Well, it does with lots of parts coming off. But Brian meticulously packed it all in there. I'm thinking, I'll never get it back together - at least I'll be at a bike shop when I get out there just in case. Since it took awhile I hung out and had dinner and some delicious pie with he and Karen, very yummy - thanks Karen. I headed home pretty late and decided to just pack up Thursday morning.

So, I tried to pack light knowing I'd be lugging around a heavy bike box. I think I did a good job. It was tough to know what to bring as it was supposed to be pretty cold in the evenings out there and get pretty warm during the day. In retrospect, I could have left some things at home for sure, but... I was feeling kind of anxious this morning. I went out for a mellow ride to see how the legs were coming along recovery wise. They felt ok, but I felt heavy chested like I was coming down with a cold. I thought uh oh, that won't be good having a cold on top of being at up in altitude, must take some serious vitamins when I get back. Bruschi meanwhile is looking concerned about the bags getting packed again. But he may have been semi-confused getting left at home since my downstairs neighbor, Paul, was going to watch him for me this time around. I headed to my parents house and my mom drove me to logan express to catch the bus into the airport. It's so much fun lugging that bike box around, actually it wasn't too bad. I realized I hadn't flown for about three years so some of the anxiety was from making sure I made it 'on time' to each of the places I needed to be. Once I was at the airport I actually felt better. I had to check my bike and bag and the airline was on top of their game having a cart already to take it away before I made it to the ticket counter... this is good.

The flight out was pretty long but uneventful. At first getting on the plane I was sitting next to a family with a baby and toddler and i was like oh boy.. I wish I had those Bose headphones (eh, hem, Dad ? j/k)... but they both were incredibly well behaved and quiet, especially for such a long flight out to Phoenix. We actually landed early but got stuck waiting for a gate to open up, and that's when the baby finally had had enough and I was thinking yeah, I could start acting up too now. It was a short layover and then a very full flight up to Reno. Getting on the plane I almost got into a brawl with this chick who had gotten on the plane already but had apparently needed to put her bag in the overhead space down the aisle from where she was sitting and then thought she could just back the line up to get to her seat and we backed up some but we had no where to go and there was an end seat open where she could just pull in to wait for some of us to get by and make some more room but she wasn't about to do that so I asked her why don't you just wait a minute so let some of us by and she flips out on me "why don't you watch your attitude before I slap you?" and I'm like chill out... she pulls aside and we move along and I turn back to the guy behind saying 'that wasn't very nice" and we were just laughing... oh vey.. someone needs to chill, and not me for once.

So I land in Reno after 10PM out there (1 am here)...Doug was flying in a little bit after me but he showed up right as I was getting my bag and bike box. Doug had borrowed his brothers bike and shipped it out to a bike shop ahead of time. So we gather up our stuff (my stuff) and wait for the hotel shuttle to come pick us up... cram all out stuff in and head off the hotel and to sleep.
The time change has thrown me off some so we wake up kind of early but started putting my bike back together. It wasn't as big a deal as it looked like it was going to be. I just couldn't remember how many spacers when in the headset above or below, so I'm like let me call my mechanic, which Doug didn't think he'd know, and I'm like, he'll know... yup, one.. :)
After that just ate some breakfast at the hotel and then waited for the rental minivan to show.. yup, we were styling.. actually it worked out really well for two bikes, luggage etc. Then we off to the bike shop so Doug could put his bike together, make some tweaks and tighten up some stuff on my bike and grab some tubes and co2 cartridges. We left the bike boxes there since we were going to have them pack and ship the bikes home. We drove through downtown Reno on our way out to the race site. Cute little city for sure. And the sky, oh, beautiful clear blue, and once the sun comes up, it warms up quickly. It was a beautiful drive up 80 towards Soda Springs (we were north and west a bit from Lake Tahoe itself for the race).

We were staying at Ice Lakes Lodge, which is a smallish ski lodge, and the race start/finish was right across the street. The picture with of me with the lake behind me was the view from the deck of the lodge. We settle in and grab some lunch at the lodge, delicious chicken salad... which I was thinking kind of wasn't in tune with my coach's advice of eating more carbs and drinking more water to deal with the altitude. Oh well, I'll eat some more carbs at dinner. We relax for a bit, and then head out for a mellow ride. It was basically down down down the dirt road that would be our start of the race. I didn't want to go down too far since we had to come back up that. It was kind of tough to breathe, certainly a bit more labored. The legs and body felt good otherwise so I was happy about that. We road down to this lookout point and man, it was spectacular. The ride back up the road wasn't too bad, then we just around the lake where we were staying and gawked at all the beautiful homes.

It was time to register and get all set up for the race - ie drop bags ready, the bike ready, clothes laid out ready to go etc. I was worried about getting lost on this course as last year was the first year they ran it and a bunch of people got off course and the race director had kept sending out emails ahead of time talking about clearing this trail and marking but the markings were getting taken down, etc. etc..not very comforting... So I did try to study the map and get a sense of the course. There were a lot of aid stations, 10 I think, so you would hit one almost every 10 miles or sooner so that should help in the not going off course. I was still kind of anxious since I knew I needed a good finish to get back into 2nd place in the series. A beer at dinner would have been nice, but I was behaving, behaving all week. We went to bed early, since the time zone difference made it feel late and waking up early was no problem.

The lodge put on a really nice continental breakfast for us and good coffee too! The time was here to start this race. The course was actually shortened to 91 miles which was quite all right with me, and I'm sure was really dry out there so it was going to be wicked dusty. We threw around the idea of starting a few minutes after everyone since we were just going mostly downhill for the first 8 miles and it would just be a dust bowl, but I didn't want to lose the leaders so quickly in the race, that and there was a 50 miler option for the race and they were starting a few minutes after the 100 milers. Tinker Juarez was there so I jokingly said I'd stay on his wheel... well I tried at the start but couldn't :( hehehe.. but I was in a good position at the start, got out in a good front pack and actually spaced out nicely for the downhill which was ridiculously dusty and had lots of little boulder rocks strewn about that took out a bunch of people. There were a couple women ahead of me and then the eventual winner and 2nd place woman came by on the first climb. I was just trying to go steady and not go too out of my comfort zone since I didn't know how the body ultimately would respond to the altitude over the long haul. The climbing certainly hurt and it was labored breathing for the effort, but not too bad, not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

The course was probably 85-90% dirt roads/jeep road etc, which is kind of boring to me. I had a hard time staying out of my head on this one. There were a few sections of sweet single track but it was made difficult by the deep moon dust - which has no traction whatsoever. You had to be really with your bike to corner in it that stuff and even then you weren't always going to hold your line. It was kind of fun, well when it was downhill, going up in that stuff was nearly impossible. The longer downhill in it was tough too though as with speed into some of the corners you had little chance of making it around. I was doing the 'go go gadget leg' a few times to not crash. I caught up to one woman on the downhill (and bunch of guys) and passed her thinking she might catch me on a climb again but I didn't see her again. The middle part of the course had a huge, pretty steep climb, including a hike a bike section on a dirt road, and then finally into a drop bag aid station, which I needed my fuel for sure. But then it was more climbing out of that aid station that seemed to go on forever. It was an almost breaking point for me mentally. I'd try to convince myself that oh, it's so beautiful out there, and it was, but it seemed like it would be much more enjoyable sitting on a rock staring out into the vastness, but I knew if I got off my bike and put it down, I'd have a hard time convincing myself to get back on it. There were some pretty high up dirt roads way out there, that kept going and going and seemingly going mostly up. Some really cool trees in some of the lower areas and some huge, like over a foot long, pine cones, that I wish I had put on my camelback and brought to my next drop bag for them to bring back to the finish for me as I didn't quite find any that big when riding post-race. Some storm clouds were gathering off in the distance and I was thinking that was going to be mighty chilly if it rained way up here, but I just kept hoping they would stay off to the north and dissipitate, they mostly stayed away from where I was. I got sprinkled on briefly which was fine. Every now and then I would be off on my own for a while and I would start thinking, huh, what if I run into a bear?? I'm so tired already I don't know what I would do, but then I would get lost in the thoughts of suffering again and playing the mind games with myself... i want to stop riding.. you can't... just keep going... but this sucks... argg...
There was once section where you did a 7 mile loop and came back to the same aid station, and upon my return and heading off from it, I got to see Doug heading into it. It was nice to see him so I knew he was still on course and no mechanicals or crashes had taken him out, and likewise for him seeing me. That was a fun 7 mile loop - good singletrack with a not too steep climb back into the aid station. Having the aid stations pretty close or so many of them helped the mindset some too for ticking off the miles. We had this one dirt road climb that we did a portion of twice, it was part of the one I hated earlier so here I was back on it and I pass this guy walking his bike and ask "did we do this climb earlier" and he said no, so I was like sweet, it isn't that horrible climb, but I get around the corner and I realize, yes it is..!!! but thankfully we got to a point where we had turned off but this time we kept going straight and it wasn't too much further to the next drop bag aid station. Slowly ticking off the miles. I was being told I was in 3rd place and I was like sweet....It seemed like forever to get to the next aid station. When I arrived a volunteer was like this is the last aid station before the aid so you should fill up since it's a long climb to finish.. I slowly get off my bike and pick up my water bottle which is still full and she's like what do you want, some this? or that? or .. and I'm like I cant' think.. how about some fig newtons? go fish.. umm... she kept asking and finally this guy was like "she's wants to stop suffering" and I'm like yeah, that's it.. and grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich piece and get going. I was dreading the final climb but at least had some downhill before it would come up. Of course there was some uphills before the final climb and I didn't want to check my computer to see if this was it or not, but I finally did and I knew it probably wasn't the climb yet since the mileage was too short still :( :( I pass some guys looking pretty weary dreading the same final hill thinking that they don't realize that this hill isn't it... Finally, I finish dropping down to the "bridge" we went over at the beginning, but I quite remember and funny, there were these cabins/homes down there that I had missed coming down, perhaps because it was too dusty...anyway, we had ticked off some more miles by that point so the what I thought was going to be a 8 mile climb back up and by my calculations of how slowly I would climb would take like 2hrs... thankfully it wasn't that long from that point and there were some level parts and some slight downhills. My left knee had starting bothering me about half-way through the race so I couldn't stand without it bothering me a lot but man that last climb.. I'll just say I was totally sick of sitting. I kept telling myself to keep drinking my powerbar drink mix and eat something as it was still likely an hour till I finished. I totally didn't want anymore cliff blocks and I was thinking about the two boxes of them I have at home that I won't want either. I was getting myself through the finish of this race by telling myself I don't ever had to ride my bike again if I don't want to, you know you will, but you don't have to for a long time, screw riding with your buddies over the next couple of days out here and screw cyclocross...I just kept pedaling and I managed to pass a woman on the climb, semi-worried she might try to pass me back and I only had the speed I had, nothing more.. but she didn't respond at all. I made it to the point where Doug and I had ridden down to and knew I was probably 15-20mins away from the finish.. ahh, yes. I was thinking I was in 2nd now too, but the aid station people had not told me the right thing.

I came see the finish finally and am so relieved I can get off this bike soon :) I come across the finish in 9'37" - very nice... The race director comes over to me and he told me I was 4th which was kind of a bummer since I just spent the final moments of the climb thinking I was in 2nd, but hey, it was still the finish I needed. Later, checking the results he was off one and I was 3rd women overall and I think ~20th out of men too. I told him it was very very hard. It felt like the hardest 100 miler (well 91 miler) of the series to me.

I was a dusty mess so I hobbled across the street to the lodge and took a shower and just put my feet up for a long long time... and then thought about what I might actually want to eat since I should have something. But your stomach and well everything just gets so off doing these races. I got myself together, the soy wasabi almonds seemed to be the thing the body wanted then. I went out to look at the results and wait for Doug to finish and get his picture finishing up... he came across i 11:03 quite pleased to have finished a high altitude 100 (he had attempted Breckenridge a couple years back, which is quite a bit higher than this one and dnf'd)...

Yeah, we were done... Although I didn't quite have the elated feelings I thought I would being done the series now and having pulled myself back into 2nd in the standings. Maybe there was a hint of sadness that the season was over. Or just too tired to care... I called my folks and my sister to let them know how I finished and then we grabbed some food and beer. And I was all excited about the beer, but my stomach wasn't really, so I after saying I was going to get rip roaring drunk after the race, well, that just wasn't happening. That would be pretty cruel to the body on top of the effort... tomorrow :) We now had a couple days to kick back and enjoy the area.

So Sunday it was nice not to have to drive anywhere or anywhere far. We did some sight seeing post breakfast at the lodge, really yummy continental breakfast, some eggs, bacon, granola with yogurt, fresh strawberries...mmm. Then we drove down into historic Truckee and then over to Lake Tahoe finally. Tahoe is so beautiful, did I say that already. We got some coffee and walked down to a pier and hung out there for a bit just soaking it all in. Did some tourist shopping, got the most delicious nachos a pub in Tahoe City. It's awesome out there that guacomole just comes with everything instead of having to pay $2 per a tablespoon back east here. We drove down the west coast of the lake for a ways and then hiked up this little peak that ends with this awesome view of the lake. I ruined my sneakers in the moon dust though.. I don't know if that reddish color is coming out or not... We headed back up to the lodge (which was about 40 mins away) and it was kind of funny as only a few other people were staying there and all the staff just left. You let yourself in.. no eats there that night. So we dragged out weary bodies back out thinking we would have to go back into Truckee for some dinner but there was a pub/restaurant nearby that we got some pizza at and some beer and even a beer to go :) Then crashed...

I had called some riding buddies who were out in the Tahoe area doing a biking vacation trip since I felt compelled to ride my bike again, especially to do some of the sweet single track around the lake. It would be a shame not to hit that while we were out there. I convinced Doug they wouldn't be super fast as they have been riding hard for a couple of days by now. So we packed up Monday morning and headed to Truckee to eat at this diner that has 70 omelets to choose from, too many.. and had the best breakfast ever :) And I couldn't stop eating my food but I knew I had to not overdo it too much if we were going to ride later. I found a happy medium... We met up with the guys from Petersham to do a 20 mile ride on the Tahoe Rim Trail and thankfully they had someone who would drive our minivan back into Town so we could go point to point with them. At first the legs were pretty heavy but they loosened up for the most part, except after stopping for bit... but what a spectacular ride. Awesome singletrack and hardly any moondust on these trails. And the views were gorgeous. Doug had found some pretty big pinecones (not quite as big as what we saw during the race, but pretty close) and I put couple on my camelback, and Peter put a few on his. It would make me crack up following him seeing the huge pinecones hanging off... he lost one by the end of the ride. We were hanging out in the sun on some rocks overlooking Tahoe before descending back into Tahoe City...ahh.. I reminded myself to soak it all in as I'd be back on a plane back to normal life tomorrow... just spectacular.

Doug and I went back to the pub in town for nachos and beer... then drove the north rim of the lake into the Nevada side (which didn't seem as nice as the California side of the lake). And then back into Reno. Ate some mexican and had some margaritas - well one there and they actually let us take one to go :) and passed out... I dont' think my stomach enjoyed that one in the morning.. But then it was off to the bike shop to drop off the bikes to be packed up and shipped back. I was kind of sad leaving my bike there and knowing it wouldn't be back for over a week. Funny how when you can't ride it, I wanted to... Then return the car and then the airport and back home... after a long flight.. The Reno airport is so simple.. no lines, small.. simple, easy.. I got back into Logan 11:50 pm thinking I could catch the last logan express out to Framingham, but nope.. I guess they do really come at midnight. So at 12;10 am I'm calling my sister for a ride to my car back in Framingham... she rocks! thanks... Finally make it home about 2AM and I could have slept in yesterday and written this thing yesterday but Bruschi was too elated to see me to let me sleep in.. or something like that..

Anyway, thanks for reading these ridiculously long posts. I promise to keep cyclocross short and sweet, just like the race, except the race isn't sweet, just painful... :)
why do I do this???

Cheers! to a successful season

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shenandoah 100 Miler Race Report

Well, it feels like a long time since I've posted to my blog - a month now...
Let me start out by saying - arrrrgggg!!!!!!

This was supposed to be an awesome race for me. I was feeling good going into it, no injuries, well rested, excited, great weather but the mechanical devils were out to get me this weekend. I drove down to Frederick, Maryland on Thursday to hang out with Doug and then head down to the race 1/2 hr outside Harrisonburg, VA on Saturday morning. The drive down wasn't too bad. I avoided 95 purposely despite mapquest telling me it was the most direct route, direct, but most trafficky... ick.. So I went out 84 to 81 which was fine, except one pretty bad accident that held up traffic for a bit. I had worked that morning and didn't leave until 1pm so by the time I arrived in Frederick around 8pm I was pretty wiped. We went out for some dinner at a local brewery and had a brewski to relax.

Friday we headed out to Gambril Mountain State park to do a mellow mountain bike. My legs felt pretty heavy and sluggish from the drive. I didn't like that feeling, but convinced myself that's standard for post-long drive, but it was hard to push aside the thoughts of how good I felt a week ago - strong, loose, ready to go - if only I felt that good for this weekend. I did loosen up by the end of the ride and started to shake out the long ride feel and the not sleeping in my own bed stiffness. Spent some time seeing the sights and got some delicious tapas at a Spanish restaurant in town for dinner.

Saturday, we were up reasonably early and hit the road for Shenandoah. The weather forecast was looking great - upper 70s, partly cloudy and dry. It had been dry for a while down there and the trails were wicked dusty. I don't typically wear shades when I mountain bike but I'm certainly going to invest in a set of clear lenses very before Tahoe (ok, maybe I'll just use my yellow tinted ones, something about any tint to them throws me off on the trails). We wanted to get to the campground that the race is staged from at a decent time to get a good camp spot up in the wooded section, which we managed to do, barely - lots of folks there already. We set up camp and then went back into Harrisonburg to wander around the town and grab an early dinner, which ended up being another local brew pub with some very yummy dishes. I wish I had gotten what Doug got, it sounded so heavy and fattening and not good pre-race food but it wasn't that bad, and certainly much tastier than my chicken pasta dish that I mostly just ate the chicken out of and had hoped for more veges in the mix, oh well.

We head back to the campground and pickup our race packs, get our bikes ready and head out for a mellow 1/2 hr ride to get the legs moving again. On the way back through the campground we stopped at my friend/best bike mechanic Brian's tent spot. He had come down to race along with Brian Jr. and Karen, his girlfriend, had come down for support. So we just start chatting and Brian notices my bolt is sticking out on the rear suspension link. We take a closer look and the bolt is gone! Ugh.. When Brian gets a certain look, I know it's not a good sign. I stayed calm hoping we would have no problem finding a bolt, right? Wrong. Of course it's a very specific bolt size etc. and he hadn't brought much with him in the way of tools and spare parts. Brian was trying to think of something to use to fix it. I went off and asked the race director if he might know of someone who could help and pointed to Thomas of Shenandoah bicycle who was trying to come up with possible ideas. He wanted to see what the nut looked like to make sure there wasn't some we were missing or something special to it. I hunted around the campground for someone else with another 2009 epic and finally found one and went back to hunt down Thomas to show him the epic. It was sounding bad as far as getting the right bolt size and it holding. He said he might be able to come up with something back at the shop but it wouldn't happen until late in the evening.

In the meantime, Karen offered up her mountain bike for me to ride - it was a 2007 epic just my size and mostly set up similar to mine. I got lucky she brought it with her as she said she was going back and forth on bringing that or her road bike. Since the probability of fixing my epic was sounding too iffy and too last minute I opted to pull some parts off my bike and get hers ready to go. So off camp my seatpost, pedals, bike computer, number plate, bottle cage and pump... I would have loved to have my wheelset and tires but her disc brakes were too different than mine to get them to mesh easily. So, I was ok with and had stayed surprisingly calm. I finally got back to the tent and ate a bit of food and hit the sack, and then nerves kicked in and I had a hard time falling asleep.

Up at 5, ugh.. at least it was relatively mild out. I had being cold waiting around to start. Down some oatmeal and espresso finish getting ready and head down to the start area, one last pit stop and then it's time to get going. There were a lot of very strong women in the race. I was trying not to let it get to me at the start line. It's a long race. I just get through the start, which is a tight, narrow road dirt road start out of the campground. I hung on Doug's wheel out of the start area since he's a roadie and better at holding lines etc. It was a fast start once we got on the road and into the first dirt road climb. I was already starting to miss my bike severely when the borrowed one was feeling really sluggish for the effort I was putting out. I thought it was funny I used to love riding kenda nevegals but these sucked now, energy sucking sucked. I tried to let it go. Then somewhere on the top of that climb and first part of the descent there's some very rocky, sharp rocky singletrack that I managed to slice the sidewall of the rear tire. It didn't flat completely but was soft enough to wash some on the corners and certainly didn't want to go when you pedaled hard. I was getting passed by so many people. I stopped at the first aid station 10 miles in to use a pump there but it was useless and I had to pull mine off my bike to pump up the tire. I knew it was probably fruitless and I should just change the tube. I think at that point I hadn't seen the cut in the sidewall. I got back on and headed down the road only for it to go soft again... ugh... I stop again to put air in. Got going again, soft again and this time when I stop I see the cut and basically go "fu---" as that can be pretty race ending. I decided it was time to probably try to put a new tube in or something and thankfully Brian had caught up to me by this point, so he stopped and helped me out. I had broken a spoke too. We put a patch in and hoped it would hold. It took a bit of time, but not too bad. Back on the bike, but it still felt sluggish to me...way too much work/effort for the speed I was getting out of it. We get into the first big singletrack climb and now I'm trying to pass people walking their bikes which takes a lot of effort, after doing this a bit the tire is going soft again!!!! Brian had also witnessed the shifting issue that when I shifted into the largest cog in back it would drop the chain on the inside. Anyway, I stopped to put air again, get passed by all the racers I just got passed... tried to get going again but this section sucks in a bad train unfortunately, since it was pretty dry it was much more rideable than in other years, but not with everyone already walking it so walking it was for a good portion of it. I somehow managed to get down the mountain without totally flatting the tire and risking ruining the rim. I couldn't really go fast on the downhill without washing out of hte corners though so more time wasted. I was thinking I was done this race unless they actually had a tire at Aid Station 2.

I make it out onto the pavement road section into Aid Station 2 but it's a long ways still and I'm going now where fast on this soft tire. It was terrible. I could see my heartrate being pretty high and knowing i was expending a ton of energy but not gaining much by it. Other racers would pass me and say "looks like you're nursing a flat" and I'm like, I know, believe me I know.... I couldn't believe I was going to have dnf another Shenandoah. It would be a cursed race for me (I had to dnf last year due my knee injury). I knew I still had Tahoe next weekend and would certainly be fresh for it if I had to bail on this race now, but I didn't want my finishing the series to rely upon Tahoe, that or having to have a good finish there either. Anyway, I finally make it to aid station and ask loudly "does anyone have a tire", to which I just get mostly blank stares, and now I'm like, oh 'fu*^*&".. but one of the mechanics at the aid station holds up a tire and I'm like sweet... although I'm so far back now it's not even funny. Brian is still at the aid station so he adjusted the rear derailer limit screws so it wouldnt drop the chain on the inside of the cassette. It took forever for the tire change though. I wasn't going to complain since I was still going to be able to hopefully finish this race. Finally, 3 1/2 hrs into this race I'm leaving Aid Station 2 with Brian thinking, I didn't drop lights, like this might take me that long if that effort to aid station 2 really tapped me. I also just lost Karen's fancy tire valve cap (well, I didn't lose it particularly, but I won't point fingers)..
anyway, I was on my way again on a much better rolling tire thank god. I started to put the hammer down, well as much as one can for a 100 mile race, and got going up the next huge climb. I was feeling ok, but definitely know I expended some serious energy pushing that flat for so long. The downhill of this mountain is sooo sweeet!!! Oh so much fun. I was finally having some fun. And then I went to pass this guy who had pulled aside for me and my right inner leg cramped... oh, f*&(&( you've got to be kidding me.. so I tried to shake it out still on the bike to some degree of success and then the left leg goes... ahhh!!!! I suck it up and push through it and manage to get them to subside. I make into Aid Station 3 and quickly ask for some electrolyte tabs and down like a gazzilion and then ask for some more to take with me but don't really have anywhere to store them so I down those too.. I go hunt for my bike since they awesome aid station people will take your bike for you and lube the chain etc... it is truly nice, well run race (I'm being serious).. Anyway, onward I go. There's a long road section and I see a rider up ahead and hurry up to get on his wheel and work with him and then a small group for a bit and then they slow down so I head off on my own still trying to make up time. Next big climb is kind of a fun singletrack climb to me, although it can be a bitch, especially when it's wet, but I like singletrack better than roads. Also, this was where my knee started to hurt me last year so I was quite psyched to be riding it this time around. I've mostly been picking off riders all the way through aid station 4. I was very happy heading out of Aid Station 4 still on my bike, feeling, but not in the sag wagon this year :)

Onward to the big climb, which is preceded by this ridiculously never ending dirt road section that every time a car goes by another year of your lungs is gone and you can't see anything for a long time from all the dust that gets kicked up...and it goes on and on.. I remembered from the first year doing this race that that's what it does and it can totally break you before you get to Shenandoah Mountain. I actually get excited to take the turn up the mountain as it's something different, but after about 200 yards, it's like, oh, yeah, this sucks... but you push those thoughts out your head. I was trying to calculate my finish time based on where i was and was thinking I was doing not too shabby considering all the time I lost early on. Maybe I'd get in 10 1/2 hrs instead of the 11+ I originally was thinking this race was going to be. I make it up to Aid Station 5 where Karen had volunteered and she was like what happened... she figured something was up when i wasn't up there with the top women riders. So I gave the shortened version of what happened. She said Brian Jr was about 15 minutes up and Doug was about 25 up. I was thinking poor Doug must have thought I dnf'd getting hurt or some mechanical since I hadn't caught up to him yet. I was thinking it would be tough to gain that amount of time in 25 miles. But I got going. The top of this climb just keeps going and going... you go through a small field and think, yes, this is the last one of those and then you get to another one that looks like the last one and think this is it.. but nope... so you tell yourself not to think about it.
I passed a few more women and finally catch up to Brian Jr before heading down to Aid Station 6. He did smoking fast time -he's got a lot of talent riding that strong with like a month of riding in him this year - holy cow!!!

I couldn't remember how long of a road section it was into Aid Station 6 after coming down the big mountain but you turn out from the trail and it's like right around the corner. I was like sweet.. I needed to use the outhouse. As i pull in there's a woman just about to head out. I thought maybe i can catch her, after I go... I get back on the bike and try to close the gap but to little success...damn.. I can see her ahead the whole time on the last climb and keep thinking maybe I can catch her on the downhilll.. yeah.. I can also see a jersey up ahead that look's like Doug's. I keep plugging along, feeling pretty much to my limit. I was going to come in pretty close to 10 hrs which I was kind of amazed at but also kind of frustrated at as I would have had a smoking time without all the issues. I finally caught up to Doug who had just let the women pass. He had said before starting the race that all my bad luck was behind me... so I said to him as I passed... "my bad luck wasn't over"... and he said it was good hear my voice since he thought I had dnf'd or something. I tried hard to catch the woman up ahead. We hit a downhill singletrack and I let it rip.. even for my standards.. and she let me by but was pretty much on my tail still and then we came out on a dirt road section before the final descent and she had more legs than I did so that was the end of that... I came into the finish in 9th which was great considering the problems. I was happy to have finished the series at least and for the time being was able to push aside the frustration with all that had happened.

Doug came in a few minutes and then Brian Jr. We were all a complete mess - darkened legs and arms from all the dirt and football looking eyes.. silly. I wish I got a picture of that before cleaning up. Post-race it always kind of funny. You' just don't know what you want to do first or what you want to eat and can't seem to do anything orderly. But it felt good to kick back. I was pretty hurting from putting out a huge effort, certainly felt like the biggest effort on one of these 100 milers to me this year. I've been a tad worried about that for going into Tahoe this Saturday. After cleaning up we grabbed some post-race eats and beer. Brian Sr had just finished up and he would have had a smoking time too if he hadn't stopped to help me so many times !!! Thanks Brian!!!! and Karen for letting me ruin her bike!!!! I had to find Thomas to get my bolt back from him, kind of wishing that I had taken my chances with the fix and riding my bike, but I couldn't do anything about that now. But thank you, THomas, very much for helping me out. Doug and I had stopped in his shop when we were in Harrisonburg - very nice shop.
We decided to head back to Frederick that night which was a good idea since I had to get back home Monday and that would have meant a really long day on monday. I was cooked and starting to feel the disappointment and frustration of the days events. I'm glad i was able to push that all aside while I was out there as it would have made the day a very very miserable day otherwise. He asked me I was going to call home to see how Bruschi (my dog) was doing at my folks and I was like, I can't, I'll cry now when my mom asks me how the race went since I had wanted it to go so well and could have gone so well. But I eventually dozed off a bit. It was nice to get in a take a shower and hit the sack. We went out for breakfast before I had to hit the road home. I think I gave myself a concussion getting into his suv... i just couldn't seem to time my ducking down under the door well enough, and wump... ouch... maybe that was why I was so brain dead driving home and today. All the dust made me really congested and my eyes were killing. It was a tough drive home in that regard. So that's my excuse for not writing last night -concussion (j/k) and I couldn't keep my eyes open, and still barely can. My legs tightened up on the drive home too, I'm hoping a couple good nights sleep here and I'll be good to go again. Of course last night, I just starting ruminating about how good I could have finished. I looked over my heart rate data and saw that I stopped for ~45 minutes dealing with the tire and add on the slowed down pace... and wasted energy on the soft tire.. man.. I could have been sub-9hr race... gotta let that go, gotta let it go... mechanicals are bound to happen at some point, and honestly, I have been pretty lucky for the most part racing for 10 years, so what can you do.

I did start to get more anxious about getting my bike fixed in time for Tahoe. I basically have to have it all set by Wed evening. I called the local Specialized Rep, Jim Mercier, to ask for his help getting the bolt and he got back to me on my drive home - very kind of him, to help out a stressing out racer... he said it shouldn't be a problem getting the part through Bike Alley or overnighting it from Specialized. (I was kind of thinking worst case was they send the part to the shop in Reno where Doug shipped his bike to and put it together there Cali to Reno not so far, Cali to Mass very far..). Jim said he'd call Neil at Bike Alley and let him know I'd be looking for the bolt. I called Bike Alley to see if they were open on Labor Day, but no.. so first thing today, I called.. and Neil's not in till noon, what I can't resolve this till noon.. let it go, let it go..
But he called back in a short bit and said he had another epic in the store that he could take the part from till one came in from specialized since I needed to get going to the next race. Awesome... Doug had took a picture of the link where the bolt had to go so I sent it to Neil to make sure we were talking about the same thing and yes.. it would be all set... straight to the bike shop post-work. Thanks a million!!! Tomorrow it will be back to Brian's to get my parts back from karen's bike and then the bike packed up to fly out with me to Tahoe on Thursday. Woo hoo... I have to admit, I am wiped though. I postponed a client of mine tonight that I felt terrible about doing. I hope that my getting to sleep in these next two days is enough time to recover as I need a good race out there now.. rrrrgggg... here I come.


(sorry for typos and maybe unclear ramblings.. like I said, I'm pooped)