Wednesday, September 8, 2010

2010 Shenandoah 100 Miler

Sorry for the delay in the writing of this race report - just sleepy...

The finale of the National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE) went pretty well for me. My goals for the race were to podium (1-5 in this race), hopefully be under 9hrs and have fun?... I got 2 out of three - 4th place in 8'56" and, well, I mostly had fun although at times it was a struggle.

Shenandoah is my favorite of the 100s that I have done. Oddly this year, I think I enjoyed the 101 a bit more, which had typically been my least favorite of the 100s (although I think Cohutta will take its place), but maybe that's because I felt really good at the 101 and only so so at Shenandoah. Thankfully, my so so pace is pretty good. I felt like I had decent legs for the first couple of hours but then I kind of petered out and just had my "all day" pace to struggle with. My head game with myself was a constant reminder of that this was the last meaningful race of the season and I get a nice long break when it's over so keep pedaling. No cyclocross this year. Just play, recoup, recover and be all fired up for next year. Not that this season has gone badly at all, it just isn't quite there for me mentally to keep the discipline in the training that is necessary to be really successful in this series and to really enjoy it. I fell somewhere in between.

Anyway, I headed down to Maryland on Thursday afternoon. I hit some traffic going through Connecticut since I was passing through pretty much at rush hour. It got me a bit stressed out since it took about 3-4 hrs before I could relax and not have to pay attention so much. I did see an absolutely gorgeous sunset over Scranton hills. And much to my delight, the construction zone where 81 intersects 80 wasn't that bad. The past two times heading down that way have been terrible backups since it goes from 4 lanes to 1 with a lot of truck traffic, and continues as one lane for ~12 miles. But it was smooth sailing through there. I was getting anxious from driving so long and thought I was home free getting off in Harrisburg to head down into MD but then I hit some more construction, similar 3 lane to 1 kind of crap...erggg. I thought about how easy it to just snap and do something really retarded, but I refrained and just showed up at Doug's a crabby cranky fidget bucket. So I drank a beer :) but that only helped a little.

Friday was mostly a chill day. Doug and I met up with a New England transplant, Mike Joos, to do a ride at Gambril Mountain. It was a beautiful day out and the trails were fantastic. I did a couple oh shi... and felt like I kind of pulled a muscle in my back but thankfully that subsided. After that it was just making sure I was all packed and ready to leave first thing Saturday morning so we could get to the race site Stokesville Campground and get a good camping spot since the race filled up. My friend, Laura, from the Transylvania race was driving up from North Carolina and I told her we'd save her a spot too.

The drive down was fine. I was still feeling pretty sleepy but I was hoping that would mean I would fall asleep quickly Saturday night. We arrived at the race site around 1ish and got a decent camping spot. We set up camp and got ready to meet up with Amanda Carey to go stretch the legs on a short ride. On our way out to ride we ran into our good friends Lee and Brenda Simril so they joined too. I felt pretty decent on the ride. The legs felt a bit like they had a long drive in them but I was hoping that was a good sign and that on race day they would be great. It was nice to catch up with everyone. I haven't really chatted with Amanda since last fall during cross season. She's been kicking butt this year in the endurance race scene.

We got back to camp and Laura had arrived. It was really good to see her again too. She had bunked across from at the Transylvania race and we shared lots of stories together. I semi talked her into doing Shenandoah this year. She had done it a couple years back and was on the fence about it, but I reminded her of how fun it is :) Haha!! Anyways, she wanted to get a spin in so Doug and I then headed off to our favorite pub in Harrisonburg for dinner. The food is fantastic and the beer is good too, but I refrained from the beer drinking tonight to 'behave' for race day. I was hoping we would make it back there post race to enjoy the beer and scrumptious looking nachos, and peanut butter something or other ice cream cake, and ... Really, the dinners are actually pretty "healthy" there if you want to eat healthy.

Back to camp to finish prepping for the race, chill, catch up with Laura and hit the sack. I slept reasonably well for a pre-race night. It got pretty cool overnight and at 5am when we got up it was darn chilly, but it always is in my recollection of doing this race. Brrr... Ate some oatmeal and had some espresso. I was just standing around and I felt this odd cold sort of damp feeling sort of thing on my back and I was like what the heck is that and I felt behind my back and it was a nasty bug of some sorts.. absolutely grossed me out. I ended up mushing it with my fingers not realizing what it was. All traumatized I took off all my layers and it left an icky mess on my race shirt. Thankfully I had another one with me so I put the clean unscathed one on instead.. gross... total girlie moment.

Well then it was off to the start line. They were attempting to stage the start based on estimated finish times to try to help ease the craziness of the start of this race. It seemed to semi work as it didn't strike me as being quite as nuts as it usually does. We head out of the campground on this narrow dirt road that usually you get kind of pushed or shoved around or someone messes up or goes off the edge of the road... not fun. It wasn't that bad this year but perhaps because I am probably getting more used to that kind of start. Then it's super fast down the road and onto a "rolling" mostly uphill dirt road which helps start to spread out the pack. I was feeling ok through here. The legs were warming up and when we hit the first more pitchy climb I felt ok and had caught up to Cheryl who was riding in 3rd at this point. I was with her through the singletrack at the top of the first climb and down to Aid Station 1. I was feeling a bit sketchy on the downhill and thought, hmm, maybe the dualie would be nice. She might get me on the downhills alone on her dualie. We caught onto a wheel and mostly drafted on the road section till the next big climb. She did try an attack and I pulled her back in and then we chatted briefly. She gapped me starting into the next big climb but was only a few riders ahead through the climb. I was starting to feel the legs a bit already and I was just hoping at that point that they might come back around to feeling good again, oh maybe in a few hours.

I hate the downhill on this section as we're still pretty bunched up in the race and there are always some yahoos that come screaming by passing in really sketchy areas. It unnerves me. I was following behind a slow guy and had some others pass us and then finally I got by the slow guy to get up to another slow guy with some more yahoos breathing down my neck so I tried to get by but clipped his handlebar and almost crashed big time. Very scary moment. I managed to stop and of course the two slow guys get by me again. I sat back there for a bit not feeling it worth it to risk passing. I finally got by them further down.

Then it's another road section for awhile to Aid Station 2. I had put my first drop bag here so I had to refuel quickly even though I hadn't really drank too much of my camelback yet. The volunteers at the aid stations in this race are amazing. They are so helpful and quick to get you water, food, etc. I was on my way quickly and off to the next big climb which we do again at the end but only go half way up then before turning off to head back to the finish at the campground. I found a decent pace but wasn't feeling super spunky. As I passed the turnoff for the next time we'd be climbing this I had a lingering thought of how nice it would be to just turn off there now :) But I climbed on reminding myself that this one just keeps going and going and going, like most of them. I did struggle to keep this thought in my head though. The downhill off this mountain is one of the best in the course. It's a bit rough and rocky up top but then as it gets down the mountain its slightly off camber smooth sailing and drops you right into Aid Station 3. I didn't need to stop here as I had my next drop bag at Aid Station 4 and would make it fine with what I had. I got out onto the road and sprinted a little ways to get on a wheel to draft for this section. The group was ok but not particularly well organized but it was better than riding it solo into the wind.

The course heads off the road and crosses a dry river bed which we all walked and then up a steep embankment onto the next climb. We were still sort of in our pack which was good for motivation to keep moving and not slow down too much as someone was right behind me especially since I was feeling like I could have easily backed off too much on this climb. It's kind of a fun climb but gets draining by mid-way and then there are some loose rocky sections which are tricky when you're barely moving along as it is. I got into one of these sections and got too wobbly from going too slow and stepped off the wrong side and fell down the hill a little bit. The guy behind me was like are you ok? I was too tired/mad to answer right away and he asked again.. I'm like, I'm fine, just pissed off now.. Got some nice bruises from that one. Anyway, I carried on and well the downhill on this is pretty darn sweet too, just about as nice as the last one :) I was happy I had learned how to brake properly with one-finger this year for these long descents. It makes it a bit easier on the arms. I forgot how long it was out of the trail at the bottom to Aid Station 4, but thankfully more level/down than up. I refueled here as well although the volunteer messed up and put my powder mix in a water bottle which I didn't take instead of my camelback which I didn't realize until after heading down the road :( hmm... Thankfully I had extra powder mix on me as that was my last drop bag and there was still just under half the race to go. It did make me drink more straight water which I think was a good thing. I just made sure I ate more of my food that I had with me to make up the calories.

The next road section just sucks. It goes on and on and on. I know this and I know it can break you before you even start the "big" climb. It was tough. I actually got to draft for a little bit of it which helped. I couldn't help but notice that there was a lot of road/dirt road in this race this time around. I guess I had always kind of blocked that fact out since the downhill trails are so so sweet!!! Anyway, the dirt road goes on and on and then turns and starts the huge climb that takes about an hour to get all the way up. This guy was riding with me chatting about the race and he asks so how far up the climb are we? Poor guy. We haven't even started the climb... really? yes. It goes on forever I tell him. He asks how long till we go down again? I'm like, hmm, an hour. There are actually a couple short downhills within the drawn out climb but it really does take a long time to get all the way up it. From Aid Station 5, which is about 2/3rds of the way up or maybe only 1/2, it took me 1/2 hr to finally top out and start the decent down... which still actually traverses a ridge so there are some more short ups before really heading down. Those ones always feel so harsh - short but steep and the legs are pretty cooked by this point. At least when you drop out onto the road, it's only a short ways to Aid Station 6 (which was also Aid 2) and then just the one last climb :)

I had hoped to finish up in under 9hrs but was feeling pretty skeptical about that at this point. I wasn't climbing too well but all you can do is keep pedaling. When I got to the turning point on the last climb, I started to think, hey, maybe I can make it in under 9hrs so I got moving and cranked out those last few miles. I kept checking the time thinking, hmm, 7 more minutes to get in... and then finally the whoopty doos into the campground and across the finish line in 8'56" :) yippee.. I'm done! Done the race, and done for the season!!

I slowly make my way up to our tent site and get changed and cleaned up and eat some food, then head back down to the post-race dinner, and more importantly, the post-race beer :) Some nice Dogfish IPA. I chat with my fellow racers...we pack up... do some podium pics.. and hurry off to Harrisonburg for a nice treat - I got to meet up with my brother and sister-in-law as they were driving up from Houston to Albany for work. I get to see them maybe once a year so it was pretty sweet timing that they would be passing through the area after our race. Of course I was pretty wiped out from a long day but got some food and drinks and chatted for a while before nearly passing out from exhaustion. Funny, we ate at Texas Roadhouse Grille... Doug and I had passed it the night before heading back to the race site after eating at the pub we like in town and I joked, hey, do you think Brian and Wendy will want to eat there... guess so :) It was pretty good and within walking distance from the hotel.

I slept reasonably well for post-race but of course was still dragging on Monday. We all got breakfast together and then hit the road. I'll get to see them again at the end of the month before they head back down to Houston.

Well, it was a good season. I am looking forward to taking a break now and just riding for fun or doing some other stuff, like hiking and kayaking and not feeling guilty about not riding. It will help me refresh for next year! Oh, I do have a 12hr race in Maine next weekend that I'll be doing with Doug, so long as the weather is nice. But other that, just chilling, trying not to get too fat or too slow :) Or whatever. Till then... thanks for reading my blog! I know they're long.
And thank you to all my sponsors, friends and family for their support!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Peak Adventures Vermont 6 Hour Race

So instead of driving all the way down to Georgia to race the Fools Gold in the pouring rain, ruining brake pads and risking limbs crashing into the wood, I instead raced a really awesome course for 6'40" in Pittsfield, Vermont. Peak Adventures 6 hour mountain bike race was a blast. I have to say this race exceeding my expectations of how fun of a course it would be. The race organizers have definitely spent some serious time making some sweet trails on their vast, privately owned track of land. I definitely see this race growing in participants quite rapidly next year.

I headed up on Friday with fellow training/racing sufferer, Steve Segenchuk. We drove the scenic way up all back roads through quaint little Vermont towns, passing like 20+ ice cream shops and various homemade pie signs (mmmm...) thinking we could stop at like 1/4 of them on the way home. We made it up to Pittsfield, which is just north of Killington on Rt 100, about 6pm and registered for the race. I only had one other competitor signed up in my category all week so I was feeling rather chill about this race. When we got there to register there was a woman from New Zealand who had come over to train for next weekend's World Cup race in New York but opted not to do it since she wasn't happy with her speed thus far. I was like, uh oh... world cup racer making the trip from another country must be pretty good.. OH well. Competition is good.

We then checked out the sweet little Country Store to see what they had for dinner possibilities so we wouldn't have to drive 10 miles back towards Killington to find dinner. They had sandwiches, etc. so that would work. We then drove up the dirt road from there to the National Forest to find a camping spot, and had to drive 1/2 mile down the forest road that I'm certain my Matrix would not have made it down in one piece (or rather up, or back down). We found a good camping spot and set up our tents and drove back down to the country store for dinner and to wait for our buddy Rob to show up. Did I say I love these quaint country stores. They even had rocking chairs out on the front porch area. Rob showed up just after 8 and we drive back up to the camping spot.

I take out my lantern to use to finish setting up camp and attach it to my little propane canister and light and it turn it up high and well, it's not getting very bright. To my dismay, I realize that I never really checked to see how much propane was left and it was quite clear there was not going to be enough to boil the water that Steve and I were going to use to make oatmeal in the morning :( I used to be a 'good' camper.. . Thankfully the country store was opening at 7am and the race didn't start until 9am. And Rob built a fire so we had something to do :) It was very very quiet in the woods there, much better camping experience than my previous time this year back in July where my sister and I were stuck next to party people at a "family' campground. And, it was nice and dry.

We wake up early at 6, pack up and head down to the country store for coffee and breakfast. It is really foggy down in the valley. My oatmeal does the trick and some good dark roast coffee. The race is 1/2 mile down the street so we head over and get the bikes all set up and all the necessary items for the cooler for the transition area. I warm up for about 1/2 hr since I hadn't really ridden all week and was somewhat worried the legs would feel dead because of that but they seemed pretty good. The only concern was that my stomach was a bit off, but not too bad.

The race begins with a lemans start which just about all of us hated - running in bike shoes is no fun, but it did spread us out so that the immediate turn to the downhill double track wasn't so sketchy.
We continue down a double track with a table top and a few jumps, that I mostly avoid as I don't like to take too many risks in a race. The course continues to drop down with a few other sweet jumps along the way until it bottoms out at a river and then the long climb up the mountain begins. There must have been 100 switchbacks over the 8.5 mile course (although my computer put it closer to a 9 mile lap). The 1,200 feet of climbing flowed nicely with all the switchbacks up what would otherwise be an nearly impossible steep climb. I rode it mostly in a power climb mode in the middle ring save one section almost in the middle of the climb that on the first two laps didn't feel that hard, but by the third, I was definitely granny gearing it. I was hammering the first lap to win the King/Queen of the Hill Climb and to also use it as training for Shenandoah since the start there will be super hard and fast. I messed up a couple of the switchbacks coming into them a little to tight and leaning. But I got those all down the next time around. It was a pretty fun climb as it would rise up some, traverse the slope with some short downhill and then switchback to continue climbing up and up and up... All the switchbacks also offered the opportunity to scope out the racers below to see where the competition might be.

I was working hard and made it to the top in just under 40 minutes to win the climb. The top had spectacular views of the surrounding area. I thought we were just heading down from there but the top included a pretty technical, twisty rooty, rocky section that had many racers walking. I fumbled a couple corners myself and it took a few laps before I figured out the lines that would get me through it cleanly. Once out of the twisty technical section it was ear to ear grinning on the way down with a series of banked turned, super fast descending reminiscent of big mountain riding on the edge of a cliff hoping you don’t lean too far the wrong way and slamming the brakes into hairpin turn after hairpin turn. It was a "working downhill" in many regards as there wasn't too much just letting it go and not having to focus too much. At the bottom, we cross over the bridge and ride through a flat field, up a short but painful climb, especially after a few laps, into the start/finish area. I was riding through with another ride saying, man, that course is a lot of work. There's no real resting until the flat field section that takes all of a minute to get across. But it was really fun and the there was an immense amount of work put into these trails. I kept wishing I had put my camera in the cooler and I would have taken it out on one lap to get a shot of the downhill where there are about 10 banked/bermed switchbacks in row and you can down a few. It was really sweet.

So, I rode my first two laps at ~1hr each. I was calculating out how many laps I would likely get in. We were allowed to go back out for another lap so long as it was before the 6hr mark, which meant, by my calculations, that I would have time for 6 although it was a question of how much longer after 6hrs I would be taking to finish that lap. I stopped to refuel after lap 3 feeling pretty good overall. My stomach was still off but I was trying to keep up with fuel/h2o intake. I downed some water when I stopped but forgot to take electrolyte tabs which I was semi worried I might cramp up since the course was so much work, even on the downhill. So, I stopped again to take some after finishing Lap 4. I was definitely starting to tire on Lap 5 and had to battle my head some on whether or not to do a 6th lap. I was pretty sure I was in the lead and likely didn't need to do a 6th lap, and, well, obviously I'm out there much longer when racing the 100s so it would be good training. I was at the top of the climb on Lap 5 and there had been some m&ms at the aid station there so I was craving some and figured I'd stop to get some "fuel" and of course, they were all gone :( so I had to settle for a nature valley granola bar instead. I stuff it in my mouth and scurry off, convincing myself I can do one more lap. I make a couple bobbles on the downhill and make note to self that I better be more cautious since I was getting tired. Coming through the transition area I just kept telling myself not to think about stopping, and to consider that Steve was likely going to do 6 laps too and I'd hear about that the whole way home if I didn't do 6, and it was good training... so I put my head down and kept going. It was fine. I calculated that it would definitely not take 40 minutes to climb up and it would definitely not be a 1 hour lap...but it would be fine. It was. I came finished in 6:39 to win and 7th overall. Steve was about 10 minutes back. I did get a lot of comments on how sweet and light my Felt 29er looked... I know :) It rode awesome.

I cleaned up the dirt and little bit of mud off my legs and arms. My arms were a mess. I must have hit every single pricker bush/branch out there and really, there were not that many. But I kept hitting the same spot each on lap, and go, geez, I have to stop hitting those...Really, my arms are a mess. I convince Steve to ride the 1/2 mile down to the country store (it's probably really like 1/4 mile) to get some chocolate milk for recovery and some espresso. Yummy. My double shot of espresso was like a small coffee. I gave half to Steve and probably still had a triple shot... woo hoo.. We rode back to the race and partook of the pig roast post-race dinner, drank a beer, ate a huge chocolate chip cookie. Yes, my stomach was a bit concerned with this. Needless to say, we didn't stop for ice cream on the way home. Awards were around 5pm and then we chatted with the race organizers who knew my buddy Brian, who does the crazy 50 and 100 mile runs Peak Adventures hosts. I also threw out the idea of them putting on a 100 miler, which would be crazy long, and there was definitely interest. Maybe I'll only have to drive 3 hours to a NUE series race some day :)

We drove home the highway, no ice cream, but hoping for a pie shop, but it was too late in the day for that apparently. It was a stop at Moe's about a mile from home instead.

Next up, local EFTA race - Treasure Valley Rally Sunday August 29 and then Shenandoah 100 Labor Day Weekend!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wilderness 101 Report

Yeah! A good 100 miler... I felt good, had good legs, had a good time (even on one of my lesser favorite courses) and came in 2nd in 8:15!

So, a month off from racing was probably a good idea to regroup and get refreshed. I wasn't sure what to expect coming into this race as sometimes time off is good and sometimes not. That's the way of racing I guess. Training had gone pretty well heading into the race. I had put on some new tires, WTB Woleverines which I won at the Transylvania Stage Race, that I've been pretty happy with as far as rolling resistance and grip goes. I got back to handlebar grips I'm happy with and just other minor bike adjustments so things should be good. And the weather forecast for race day couldn't be better - sunny, dry and low 80s! Pefect!!! The past couple of years the course has been a tad wet or at least the numerous rocks have been "sweating" which make them nearly impossible to ride a good line through them.

I drove down on Friday coming off a pretty "normal" week which was nice, instead of being crazy busy and stressed out. Traffic was fine except the stupid Pennsylvania highway construction just south of Wilkes-Barre, a few miles before getting onto Rt 80, where you go from 4 lanes to 1 in oh a mile... sucko! I was about to get off the highway and figure out another way to get down to 80 but thought, oh, it doesn't look too bad... 20 minutes later, 3 miles later, I'm on 80... but I was making good time so no worries. I got off of 80 quite a ways east of Coburn and much more east than I have taken in the past but I figure I had driven enough highway by that point that a nice country highway through the beautiful farmlands would be nice and it was... drove through a couple really quaint towns... I think Pennsylvania is growing on me.

I arrive at my cabin about 3ish and check in. The crew from Bike Barn, a shop in Whitman, MA, were all staying at a house there as well so I got to see all them (buddies I rode with a lot in the winters down on Cape Cod (when they don't get hammered with snow). I then drove the 3 miles to the race site and to register and get a warm-up ride in. It was a beautiful day out Friday as well. I ran into the same group from Pittsburgh who have an adorable black pug, Mia, so I could get my "pug fix" while away from Bruschi :) I hopped on my bike and rode up the first climb of the race and was feeling, happily, pretty good. I even got a "view" shot in part way up. After getting back from my warm-up ride, I finished getting my bike ready for race day and headed back to my cabin to eat, hang out with some old friends, and hit the sack relatively early. I was feeling pretty relaxed, but it was still tough to sleep well, which is usually the case the night before a big race. I thankfully had slept well the previous nights so I didn't get too stressed about it.

Up at 5AM, eat and .... and.. wait till it's time to head to the race site and then make sure everything is all set with the bike and that I have with me what I need for tools, fuel etc. It was pretty cool in the morning and I hate being cold so I was probably 1 of like 300 who wore arm warmers despite climbing within a few miles of the start of the race. I was catching up with my competition, Cheryl, Selene, Brenda pre-race and then all of sudden we were off. It's a "neutral" start for a couple miles then we take the left up the dirt road climb that starts to separate everyone out. I was feeling pretty good still but it took me a bit to really warm up. I got up the climb pretty well sitting in about 4th place and by the top was in 3rd. I got into a good "train" to draft and hung with that group for a while and we eventually caught up to the group teammates, Cheryl and Selene were in. We were all in a group working together until the first aid station at ~20 miles in. It was there that Cheryl took off and I was back and forth with Selene for a while. I was happy with myself that I wasn't letting myself get stressed about riding so close together with my "competition". I was just happy to be feeling pretty good so far and just hanging with them and reminding myself that it was so early in the race still.

I ending up passing Selene for good when I noticed she that her saddle bag had come undone and was hanging down almost hitting her rear tire. I told her it was coming off so she stopped to fix it and I didn't see her again after that, although, I kept anticipating her catching on again at any point. From there I just rode steady and within my pace. I was feeling pretty good most of the race which was so nice compared to the first 100 milers this year. I found myself actually looking around and enjoying the scenery some. I got lucky coming off trail sections and being able to grab onto a wheel to draft for most of the first half of the race. By the second half of the race we were pretty spread out and drafting was pretty non-existent at the point. I'd occasionally get updates that Cheryl was ~2-5 minutes up. I just kept trying to ride my pace and if I caught her, I caught, and if I didn't, I didn't. She's an amazingly strong rider. I was having a good race and enjoying and that was my goal.

I was finding it interesting how much of the course I had "blocked out" or was confusing with other courses. Coming into Aid Station 5, I was like, no, it can't be coming up that soon. I must have forgotten about some other trail or climb we have to do before hitting it, but nope, I was there and in amazingly fast time and still feeling pretty. I knew there was one more pretty good climb and one technical trail section but otherwise, I was home free... yippee. I started up the climb and passed one racer who was happy to be on the last climb as well but worried about cramping. I offered him my electrolyte tabs but he didn't want them so I scurried on. I was thinking, wow, so this is what it feels like to have some legs left at the end of one of these races, but the climb kept going on... but it was certainly not the hardest in the race. I made it over the top and was trying to calculate my finish time and was pretty excited about how fast it was going to be. I pedaled hard from that point as it was a motivating factor, and thankfully so as 3rd and 4th place weren't too far behind. Brenda (3rd) had caught Vicki (4th) in this last stretch hammering it to get a couple minutes ahead of her... thankfully I had enough of a gap by that point... I crossed the finish line quite pleased with 2nd and in a smoking fast time! Yeah! I was about to say that it was the first time being quite pleased to finish there but the 1st year doing this race my legs cramped big time about 60 miles in and I didn't think I'd be able to finish and when I saw the finish line that year, I was quite ecstatic if I recall correctly...

anyway, it was nice to have a good race, the body was there, the head was there and it all worked this time. It was good to catch up with friends/fellow suffers and make new friends, get my "pug" fix... I think most racers felt this year's 101 went pretty well, mostly on account of it being so dry so that the super technical rocky trails weren't quite so obnoxious. My hands and arms were killing, don't get me wrong. I think some of the downhills took more out of me than all the climbing.

Well, hopefully everything will be "on" again for Shenandoah which will be my last 100 for the year. I've had some 'bad' luck there the past two years so... hopefully, I'm due some good luck!!! and good riding, and good mindset, and good legs..

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lumberjack 2010

The Lumberjack 2010 went ok. I came in 4th in probably the tightest top four finishing for the women's fields in a 100 miler - all within 13 minutes. The race for me however, felt like crap. It was a struggle the whole way through, both mentally and physically. Perhaps, I set myself up a little for this one in that I've been 2nd the past two years so I was trying to get my head in the frame of mind that I could win it, I have the potential... and trying to keep in mind that, well, it all depends on what legs you have for race day still and I have to accept that, but not having good legs on race day proved to be hard to accept this go around. I had to remind myself too that I just had a really good race finishing up my first stage race and most likely needed a little more recovery. The positive spin on it is I have some depth to have such a fast "flat" pace.

The long long drive out to Manistee, Michigan was pretty uneventful. I was actually happy to be doing another route for once since I seem to have been traveling down Rt 84 to Rt 81 a lot in the past several months so the "novelty" of driving Rt 90 forever felt nice. I made it to Erie, PA in 8 hours smooth sailing to meet up with Doug. We drove another hour or so and stopped for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory outside Cleveland. I behaved and skipped dessert and saved half of my enormous portion of dinner for lunch the next day. Then we drove another hour or so and found a hotel. I was eager to check in and catch the Celtics Lakers game much to my final disappointment on that one. I tried to go to bed right after that but was a tad wired so I didn't sleep all that great that night.

We hit the road again to finish the remaining 5hr or so drive to the race. Again, a pretty uneventful drive. It starts to get pretty boring up driving but I managed to not get too antsy. I was actually pretty surprised at how I relaxed I felt. I usually start to get some race anxiety on the drive to the races, but I was pretty chill. My team sponsor,, Shannon Bofelli and his wife Jen Hanks had come out to do this race and I finally got to meet them for the first time when we pulled in to pick up our race packets. They were both very excited about the race. It was Jen's first 100 miler and she kicked some butt coming in 2nd! Shannon was also kind of enough to bring more of my coveted racing fuel, carborocket, to keep me going for a while longer.

Then we went to find out cabin which was about 5 miles from the race start. It was a quaint little cabin that actually abutted the forest land we were racing in. We unpacked the car and got our bikes ready to go do a ride to stretch out the legs. We figured we might be able to hit the course if we continued on the dirt road out from where our cabin was and sure enough we found it and rode the last 30 minute stretch of it. It's really sweet riding - very smooth, sort of make me think of riding Otis on the Cape locally although not quite a punchy hill wise. I was feeling rather heavy legged on this ride but hoping that it was attributable to the long drive and not being not recovered from the stage race. Unfortunately, that smile on my face wasn't there on race day :(

We rode back on the road from the race venue and finished getting the bikes ready for race day. I noticed I had a thorn in my tire and of course once I pulled it out it started to lose air and apparently the stans sealant I had in the tire was getting pretty dried up and having a hard time sealing the hole. We pulled the tire off a tad and added more stans and thankfully that did the trick and made it through race day with no issues. After that, we headed into town to get some dinner. It's a cute little harbor/touristy town, although it's looking like it's seen slightly better times. We ran into a couple other racers, one of whom - John - I met doing Cohutta last year when I caught up to him to draft on the long flat horse cart path, and his friend Bill. They were finishing up their dinner so we just joined them and chatted for a while. Then it was time to get back to the cabin and off to bed. I still wasn't actually too nervous about the race but I did start to get anxious a bit when I was trying to fall asleep and then had a hard time getting to sleep. I try not to stress about lack of sleeping as it just makes it worse, but it's frustrating to say the least.

Race morning comes early as always. Up at 5AM, get some oatmeal and espresso in me and off to the race venue. We had to lug the cooler and other 'supplies' over to the start/finish lap area as this race you pretty much support yourself since it's a lap venue. (Race morning smile went away too.) Then it was time to ride out on the road a couple miles where the race is staged from so as to have some thinning out of the pack before it enters the singletrack. I wasn't feeling too overly anxious for a race start. We were off down the road at not too crazy of a pace, well not until about a few hundred yards from entering the parking lot and then the front of the pack goes hard core. Once the intensity picked up I was starting to feel it, of course I didn't really warmup at all except for the couple miles back to the parking lot, so it was hurting pretty good right away. The course was changed up from previous years 4-lap format to 3 laps this year and the layout changed up quite a bit, especially the first climb - it used to be a short steep sandy pitch but then it rolled nicely for a bit so you could recover pretty quickly before you had another short climb that required digging deep again. The start this year was a more gradual and very extended climb that the leading pack was flying on. I was getting passed a lot which usually hasn't happened to me on this course. It was a tad frustrating and more frustrating that my legs felt like crap and were not recovering. My stomach was also feeling rather upset. I felt like if I pushed any harder I would be yakking up those silly energy chews I ate before starting. I didn't like how this was going.

This course is usually a lot of fun. I spent the previous day saying how fun it was. This wasn't any fun today :( I was just trying to hang in there but the thoughts of being not recovered from the stage race kept popping up and how if I pushed too hard through this race in an already depleted state that I might ruin the rest of the season. I had all I could do to convince myself not to quit that first lap. I tried to remind myself that I've had several races where I didn't feel good at first but the legs and body came around later on. It was a struggle. Jen was riding smoothly behind me for a bit and then I was like "do you want to get by? I'm not doing too good here so you don't want to hang out behind me." And she went off and finished strong!

I came through the start finish area and refueled at the cooler. I was trying to convince myself that it would be ok and that this lap just ride with what you've got. At least the pack was well spread out now. I felt a little better on lap 2, but the legs just never really came around, every "effort" was an EFFORT. I made it through that lap ok but near the end for some reason I started to lose it in my head. I cracked and I haven't cracked like that in a long time. I convinced myself to pull it together before coming into the lap area since there were all kinds of spectators and I didn't want them to see me like that. Unfortunately for Shannon he had broken his front suspension and had to pull out of the race, but fortunately for me he was there at the cooler and helped me refuel etc and provided some distraction from how bad/unhappy I felt. I forged on but was pretty sour. I ran into Bill (from dinner) the previous night and he too was in a "bad state" both feeling pretty sour on the bikes today. We rode together for half of the last lap and tried to keep each other motivated like with thoughts of good food and beer after the race. He probably helped me more than I him... Then about half-way through the last lap, Danielle, who was on her singlespeed, caught up to me. I knew since she was catching up to me that it was unlikely I would hold her off for 17 miles. I was about to pass by the aid station out on the course and I wanted some straight up water so badly but I couldn't stop. I passed by with a very longing look. I also noticed Doug, who was having a really strong race, at the aid station and was going to say hi but didn't want to waste any time with Danielle coming up behind me. Danielle was riding pretty darn steady - her laps times were all the same! She finally caught up to me and passed and well, there I was finishing up in 4th with a still pretty strong time of 8:32. I still had to go off and get some of my "mental anguish" out so to speak. I don't know why I was being so hard on myself or where exactly that came from. All I knew was that I was happy I have a long break till the next 100.

So a couple beers later and chatting with fellow racers, I was feeling better. I was still disappointed at not having any legs or much fun. It's sort of a double whammy in that I get frustrated with myself for not being able to control the "break down," when I know, I just have to accept that that was it for the day. It didn't all come together on race day and that's how racing goes. I guess it's a reminder too that I can't really set out definite expectations. It's kind of better just keeping the mental set of "100 milers are pretty darn tough" aint nothing else to be said about that. Good day or bad day, riding that long and that hard is going to be tough.

Anyways, the drive back went relatively smoothly as well. I was home and reunited with Bruschi Monday night and slept in, (really late) on tuesday to catch up on all my lost sleep.
Thankfully the next 100 isn't until the end of July. I'll have some much needed time to recover and refresh for the end of the season. It feels like a lot of racing already and summer is only beginning.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The nitty gritty on the Transylvania Epic

Ok, so here we go with the lowdown on how my race week unfolded....this could take awhile... think about how much I write for one day of racing :)

Transylvania Stage Race
The shorter version is below this post, or check it out at


So, my spring training has been less then stellar. It's been a tough few months for a whole slew of issues and, well, I've been sort of sour on riding. Coming into this stage race, one of my main goals was just to have fun again; the other, to finish. I knew I couldn't focus on how well or not well I was doing as that would just set me up for a terrible week as much of endurance racing is a mental game as well. There were several very strong women racers signed up as well, with two that would be formidable opponents all week, but what's a race without some good competition.

The week leading into the race was of course extremely busy and hectic. I had yet still to resolve the whole seatpost/saddle sliding back on the rails issue. I had somehow managed to "make peace" with this fact finally before heading to the race. It was what it was and I knew what it was going to likely take to fix it - a new post. Figuring out what I might want to eat all week was also proving quite difficult. I couldn't quite tell from the race schedule whether or not I would have time during the week to make it to "town" (State College) to get more supplies should I run out. I was going on that I notion that I would probably eat what I usually eat at home. My coach's advice was to make sure I was never hungry all week and to eat lots of carbs to keep the glycogen stores topped off. The quantity of food suggested was insane though - 2-3 potatoes or 5 pieces of french toast and eggs... yeah, I like to eat but I don't think I can eat that much at breakfast before racing. We'll see, I guess. I knew staying fueled was important but wow... and then thinking about all the other crap to bring with me - tons of clothes, spare bike parts, etc. I didn't think I would fit it all in, but I did.

I headed out Friday of Memorial Day weekend to drive down to Doug's in Frederick, MD and then I'd head over to the race Sunday morning. It was about 2.5-3hrs from and the Stage 1 TT didn't start till 3pm. Hmmm... heading out on a holiday weekend on Friday... yup.. Got on the Mass Pike and within 3 miles stopped traffic, WTF. Dumb dumb dumb. I was thinking it was already backed up Rt 146 all the way to 84 (~20 miles)... Maybe I should get off and go late late tonight? I forged on, or rather decided too late to get off the highway. A couple miles up there was an accident and after that the traffic was heavy but it flowed. It looked much much worse heading in the opposition direction. I was doing fine with the drive till just past Scranton/Wilkes Barre area where, only in PA, do they shut down one lane of a two-lane highway for 15+ miles at a whack.... It took like an hour to go the 15 miles. So Karen got very very cranky. I called Doug to warn him that it might take a few beers for me to chill...

Day 1 – 10 mile

Saturday was a chill day - cleaned up the bike and went for a mellow ride, caught a movie. I couldn't sleep at all that night though, so Sunday was a rough day getting going and certainly not how I wanted to start my first stage race. I was pretty darn tired and worried about going balls to the wall for a 10 mile TT on Day 1 of 7 days of racing. I arrived at the Seven Mountains Boy Scout camp in a foggy state of mind. I got my race packet which included some nice schwag, sweatshirt, bike jersey, etc., very nice. Then I headed over to the lodge that I would be staying in - there was a 1st and 2nd floor, hmm... I walked in and was like wow, this is going to be an interesting week. There were bunk beds attached two together packed in there and already pretty full and that was with each of us having our "own bunk". Thankfully I had brought extra sheets to make a 'cave' for myself for privacy. There was one refrigerator that was full of mostly beer already... oh vey! I unpacked and found some room in the refrigerator for my week's worth of food. Then I tried to chill for a bit before getting ready for the TT.

I was a bit worried to say the least about putting out a big effort on the TT being so tired and it smoking me for the rest of the week. I was the 3rd to last woman to go with my strongest competitors starting after me, which was a bit of pressure to go hard and hope they wouldn’t catch me. I was also trying to remind myself that it’s one stage in a very long week and that likely one of the stages with more climbing or more technical trails would spread out the time gaps more than this stage.

I warmed up for the most part per my coach’s instructions. I slacked a bit on the “hard” effort in warm-up but I was feeling a bit fatigued and didn’t want to overdo it. While waiting for my start I got to witness one of the racers bite it in the gravel 20 feet from the start - note to self of what not to do that… poor guy.

I took off pretty strong. The course passed through the boyscout camp and then out onto a dirt road climb which felt harder than it should have. It was near the top of the climb that woman starting after me, Selene Yeager , caught up to me. I was like crap, that was pretty quick. She’s already got a minute on me. I tried to stay focused on the fact is was only stage 1 and to go hard but not so hard it already hurts too much tomorrow. I kept her within sight and was right on her tail heading into a knarly singletrack descent. I pretty much stayed with her on that and then it was back out to a dirt road section for a stretch and back into trail where I passed her, although it seemed as if she had backed off some. The closing stretch of singletrack was really fun. I probably could have gone a bit harder on it but I didn’t want to implode on the first stage. I just tried to stay focused and smooth. I ultimately came in 2nd about 45 seconds back from Selene and about 30 seconds up Rebecca Rusch, a very experienced endurance/stage racer.

I was pretty pleased with my effort. I went pretty hard but didn’t feel like I completely laid it all out there. I knew I just needed to get some good sleep so I could somehow get through 6 more days. I went back to the lodge and cleaned up, ate some dinner, and got organized for tomorrow's stage which was touted as the hardest stage of the event. The awards ceremony was held at 7:45 each evening, followed by a preview of the next day's stage and then by a picture slide show of the day's stage. I was anxious for it to be over so I could start in on that rest I needed so badly. I went to bed pretty much as soon as that was over. The lodge was surprisingly quiet that night and pretty much stayed that way all week. I shared my 'attached' bunkbed with the second place finisher in the open men's race, Drew Edsell. I didn't think I had slept that well that night but he claimed I was snoring way so apparently I got some rest. :)

Day 2 - 40 miles of lots and lots of knarly PA singletrack...

I woke up feeling a bit more rested. I was anxious though and it was tough eating breakfast even though I was eating what I normally eat at home and maybe an extra piece of toast or packet of oatmeal. Tthankfully most of the days, we didn't start racing till 10:30-11ish. Today's stage was a remote start so we had to have our bikes down at the main office by 7:30 to load and then be at the shuttle bus by 9 to be dropped off and then we finished at back at the camp. This stage was 40 miles with lots of climbing, lots of tough singletrack and then a dirt road stretch to the finish back at the boyscout camp.

The bus ride seemed to take forever. I was trying to stay "fueled and hydrated" on the drive as was everyone else, so soon as we arrived, everyone scurried off to the woods. Then it was find your bike and warm up and then off we went. It was supposed to be a "neutral start" for a mile but it was fast and then even faster once the lead vehicle left. I was like wholey moley, we have to keep doing this for five more days after this... Selene was up ahead but Rebecca was relatively close to me. We were on a dirt road for a bit and then onto a double track climb that really only had one good line so it was singletrack pretty much. I was a couple riders back from Rebecca and feeling like I was settling a bit too slow of a pace and decided to pass and then not too much further up a bunch of riders got thier bikes tangled up in some sticks/branches, including Selene, and passed her too and was off up front for the rest of the race. I felt pretty good this stage. It was probably the hottest day and very humid but I like those conditions. My muscles tend to stay loose in that kind of weather. It was a lot of tough, jagged rocks that went on and on... every now and then, I was wishing for my dual suspension bike instead of my Felt 29er hardtail, but overall the Felt was great. My recent bike fit at Grace Bicycles in Holliston, MA helped tremendously with feeling comfortable on the bike. But these PA rocks just bounce you around no matter what you're riding.

I had to keep reminding myself on this stage that it was only Day 2 and that it wasn't a 100 miler where you could put it all out there in one day and be done. I have to do this for 5 more days so I pretty conserve some energy. I was feeling pretty good and staying well fueled and hydrated. I had no gauge of how far back my competition was. I just kept trying to ride steady and within a reasonably range. The dirt road section back to camp seemed to go on and on but finally I was nearing the finish, still in the lead. Very cool!

I won the stage by a few minutes and that gave me the leader's jersey as well! Yeah!! Holy crap.. I can't believe I did that well! Yeah! It was definitely a hard day to recover from since it was so hot and humid. It was hard to eat post-race. I had a nice headache by that evening. There were handful of people who ended up in the hospital or needing an IV due to getting severely dehydrated. Rebecca was struggling with her asthma in the thick PA air and thus had a tough day out there.

I tried to do all the right recovery - eat well, hydrate well, roll the legs out on a foam roller and with the 'stick'. I was pretty stoked that day. Although, I knew the next stage was certainly not going to favor my strengths. It was 47 miles on mostly dirt roads with lots of climbing... ugh!

Day 3 - 47 miles of lots of dirt road
I woke up not feeling quite so hot as the previous day. I finding it very perplexing that I just did not want to eat. It took forever to get through breakfast, just very odd. I was already swearing off eating on sunday when the race was over.

This stage started and ended at the camp so there was no shuttle or driving to do. It was an icky weather day - rainy and gray. I think we managed not to start in the rain but the short singletrack section that started the stage was already getting sloppy. Selene went off hard and I was ahead of Rebecca for a little bit but she passed me on the first long descent into Coburn, the town where the Wildnerness 101 starts - we were actually heading down the first road climb of the 101 and passed the quaint Bed and Breakfast I stayed at last year for the 101 and will back there in late July. I tried to stay on Rebecca's wheel on the descent, getting sandblasted from the wet road. A guy passed us and she jumped on is wheel and I couldn't keep the pace and off they went leaving me with a bad sinking feeling of how the day was going to unfold. I tried not to dwell on it and reminded myself that there were 4 more days to go, to blow it on a roady stage would be such a waste and that my main goals were to have fun and finish. It helped somewhat so I just tried to settle into a paced I knew I could sustain. It felt like a ton of climbing that day. It was interesting to download my computer data and see that there was actually slightly more climbing the previous day. The countryside was beautiful despite the gloominess of the day. It started pouring rain again when I was within 10 miles of finishing. We had to ride back UP the singletrack we had started out on and man did it suck now. It was a total slog...including having to walk a couple sections of it. I came in 3rd and lost the lead by ~14 minutes and had the 2nd place standing eaten into as well. ugh... I was a pretty tired post stage. I tried to keep up with all my recovery efforts and hit the hay post slide show ASAP...

Day 4 - 32 miles of sweet biking heaven, if only i weren't sooo tired!
Wednesday's stage was an absolute blast... well it could have been if I weren't so dang tired. I woke up feeling very sleepy, wondering if I slept at all that night?? It was a remote start and finish, which I chose to drive myself to. I was following other racers and lost them at a traffic light and then shortly after that managed to take wrong turn. Thankfully those following behind me were more awake to read the directions than I was. hmm.. I knew this was going to be a rough one. My bike computer was all funky today too (probably from the nasty conditions yesterday, although I just did Cohutta in the pouring rain for even longer and it seemed fine after that race) - none of the button would work so once it was on there was no shutting it off or switching screens and it would only detect heart rate - nothing else except running time.

I felt semi-ok leg wise warming up but I just felt utterly tired. There was a steep paved road climb to start and then onto some of the best flowing singletrack I've ever ridden. The climb killed. Selene was off the front again and I was ahead of Rebecca but only for a short period of time. I only had one gear that day and that was it. Rebecca looked great and was riding great. This course was like a giant pump track with obviously more climbing and descending, but super sweet. I would love to get back there with fresh legs. The checkpoint came quickly which was a relief as it meant I was 1/3 of the way done. And 2nd time hitting it meant 2/3rds and came up pretty quickly. I didn't refuel at the aid station. I just got more water which was sort of silly as I ran out of my camelback not too long after passing through. Not a good idea to get behind in fuel and water with three more days to go... :( Thankfully the stage was a tad shorter than originally slated and I finished up not having to go too long without food or water. I came in 3rd but lost 8 minutes or so again - bummer.

I was wiped out though. This was my very bad day where I was truly worried about my ability to finish this stage race. I was quite ready to relinquish the 2nd place standing. I drove back to camp in a stupor...having stopped at Subway for a large sub...It was good to get something different than what I had back at camp, but still tough to eat. I finished it up for dinner later on. I cleaned up once back at camp and tried to take a nap for a bit. Wicked headache again. I continued with recovery stuff and barely made it through awards ceremony. I went to bed really early. I had called my mom that day and it still cracks me up her asking me "why are you doing this?".... hmmm, I can't answer that today.... because it sounded like a good idea at some stupid point..

Day 5 - mini-xc's - very different stage
This stage was kind of odd, sort of recovery and sort of very painful all in one. It was another remote start and finish at R.B. Winter Park which was about an hour drive from camp. I was at least much more awake today although still anxious about racing and concerned about the effects of the previous four days on my body. I wasn't too keen on the short intense efforts this stage would entail. We all rode together for ~6-7 miles to a short race segment that would take ~ 12-15 minutes and then regroup post segment to ride neutral to the next one for a total of 4 segments. The slow ride out was great for the legs and it was fun socializing. Initially this stage was touted to be a Super-D but it was far from "mostly downhill".... They 'segments' all seemed to start on an incline and it was all out intense so much so that on the first one, when I hit the downhill section my legs were so fried I could not stand at all... I was bouncing around on my bike until I could recover just enough to stand up for just a few seconds, ouch! And then we hit the sketchy sections of deep narrow ruts and then Karen was flying over the handlebars.. holy crap... I thankfully wasn't hurt nor my bike damaged (well, my handlebars got shifted some but I didn't notice till after the segment was done). I quickly jumped back on and kept going to finish that segment 2nd. It sucked riding tough trails all out like that after four days of racing. It seemed a bit dangerous to be riding such knarly trails in a full tilt mode. Maybe I should have brought the dualie out for this day... hmm.. It was a few more stages similar to that, although one of them was a super sketchy downhill down a stream bed of big boulders for a good stretch -- you hit something just wrong in there and it's going to really really hurt... I ended up 3rd overall in the cumulative time for the stage. The stage wasn't intended to shake up the GC (general classification standings) and it didn't but I lost ~45 seconds on the day. Rebecca and Selene seemed to be riding really strong.

Post race, many of us waded in the cool lake water. I realized later on how good a recovery tool this is and need to keep that in mind for other races - cold on the legs/body post-race. It was fun hanging out with everyone for a stage and I think that was a main goal of the stage for everyone to ride together. It felt a bit harder than I would have liked. I was also getting rather anxious about my 2nd place lead dwindling going into the last hard stage of climbing and singletrack. I got back to camp which by now was getting a pretty funky smell in the lodge and everything felt damp and icky from the high humidity all week. I kept up with all my recovery tools and a couple other racers in the cabin wanted to use my foam roller and stick... It was cool - the camaraderie in the lodge - them wanting me to hold onto 2nd and hoping Drew would make it back onto the podium and possible top GC standings.. I was trying to downplay it knowing that Rebecca could have a great strong ride the next day and 6 minutes could go poof, She's a very experienced endurance/stage racer and this is my first and just finishing hanging in the top 3 is pretty darn sweet. Of course holding onto 2nd would also be very sweet.

Day 6 - the "queen stage" 24 miles of some of the best singletrack in the area - and some climbing... Friday was another remote start with the finish leaving a ~5 mile mellow ride back to camp. We loaded up on the bus at 9 again. It was ~45 minute drive. We had almost an hour to kill once we got to the start to warm-up and be, oh, just a tad bit anxious...Warming up I wasn't feeling too hot. I felt kind of sleepy again but not quite as bad as on Wednesday. It had rained overnight but the woods looked pretty dry, but there was mega humidity hanging in the air. The men's race was still super contentious. They actually paced the beginning of the stage in what felt like a "fast neutral" start until the steeper climb began. It was kind of nice warming up like that although a bit "road race" like in that many were jockeying for position so it was sometimes hard to keep a line in the pack. Rebecca's boyfriend came up beside me and clipped my handlebars and almost made me crash. I was like "hey', cut the shi...". I knew it was a ploy to take me out...kidding :) ! Anyway, we start the double track climb that starts getting steeper. Selene yet again riding strong off the front and I manage to get by Rebecca. I would do the over shoulder glance back from time to time to gauge where she was and how soon she might "warm up" and come kick my butt... but she didn't. The humidity and thick air was giving her lungs a hard time again. I wasn't ruling her out as coming back on strong though. I told myself even if she does catch up she's got to make up 6 minutes. It really was SUPER humid that day. By the top of long climb I was drenched in sweat. My gloves were soaked! It made the first descent, which was one of the toughest of the race, really difficult. I could barely hold on. I kept cat and mousing the single speeders and unfortunately this downhill was no where to pass someone. I stayed upright somehow and my hands and arms were killing by the end of it. But, positive note, I was feeling good. I had some legs again :) yippee!!! There was lots of great singletrack, some very rough sections followed by some flowing sections (thankfully). I was trying to stay well fueled again and well hydrated. I came into the aid station where they told me Selene was only about a minute up. The next section was an awesome ridgeline trail - a short ascent to the ridge and then a long crossing. It was so much fun. I caught up to Selene on this stretch and debated trying to duke it out but figured it wasn't really worth it since she was so far ahead time wise it would only mean a "possible' stage win and at what expense if I could even manage to pass her... She went off again after my making contact with her. I was just having a blast at the point.

We eventually dropped down to a dirt road for a bit. There was a huge snake on the side of the road. I saw it and thought it was stick at first and then realized it was a snake and then realized how big of a snake it was... yikes! Although, I couldn't quite tell if it was alive or not but I wasn't going to wait around to see for sure. There was another pretty tough climb before we descended to the finish. I came in 2nd and had managed to cement my 2nd place standing. Selene was about a 1 1/2 minutes ahead. I was stoked. It was great to see the body come around like that after racing all week. I totally didn't think I would be able to finish out like that. I was constantly counting the days till we finished and Selene and Rebecca were like, why do you keep doing that? and I'm like because I'm not sure how this all goes. It's tough. Prior to the start of this stage, we had mentioned just riding for fun on the final stage since the standings were pretty set so I knew for the most part this was it. It did really feel like the last day of racing to me.

I rode back to camp, although at first I was worrying I took the wrong turn but finally made it to a point that I recognized. I cleaned up quickly and jumped in my car to head to town and get some good food and ice cream and just vege away from camp for a bit... and spend my $20 gift card I had won to a sports store in town. I couldn't decide what to get at first, but ultimately bought a new bladder for my camelback that was getting all nasty this week from daily use and being subjected to warmth and humidity all the time. I did have a pretty bad headache again. I'm guessing I hadn't drank enough water for the day. Dinner was yummy, although it was still tough stomaching a decent sized meal. Ice cream was good too but I couldn't finish it! I actually threw out some ice cream... What's up with that!!! What has happened to karen?..

Back to camp for awards and hanging out. The lodge I was staying at seemed to have most of the singlespeeders. They're a breed of their own.. in a mostly good way. A bit intimidating initially but once you get to know them, they're pretty cool, they are mountain bikers after all. I can't imagine doing this race on a singlespeed and many of them do it on a rigid singlespeed- i.e. no suspension. No way!! I would be so wrecked doing that. Kudos to them!!! So they wanted to know I was "cool" too so I finally had a beer that night with them, how you pass up a Dogfish 60 minute IPA... mmm.. and I knew the final stage was going to be a chill ride. yee ha!!!

Stage 7 - 21 miles of mostly fun singletrack...
So we had made our pact to have a fun ride and keep the GC as it was for the last day - well, the women and the singlespeeders that is. The open men and master men were still duking it out.. in the open men's category 2nd and 3rd were tied after 6 days of racing and 4th was like 10 seconds back from that.. wow! so there was a big gap at the start line from those who were racing and those of us were riding. The singlespeeders drank beer the whole ride. So we rode together for this final stage for a bit. Rebecca's asthma was still acting up and she told us to go on without her. So Selene, myself and the duo women (Kristin Gavin and Nikki Thieman sp?) all rode the stage together. We had a good time socializing and riding chill. The climbs still hurt though and it was wet in the woods from overnight rain. The stage still flew by pretty quickly and we finished up in ~2'15" keeping the order of GC standing. Wow, I survived my first stage race. I think I want to go ride the ridgeline trail again :)

The post-race dinner was great - they put on a sit-down meal of steak and shrimp and potatoes.. yummy, and some wine from a local winery. There was lots more great schwag for all the racers finishing. We all received finish medals and wooden stand for it to sit in which they're sending out plaques in a week or two with our names and finish times to put on the stand; and a very nice backpack with TSE logo; and a great picture from the race photographer - my picture is great - happy racing face :) There was lots of partying going on. I was kind of a party pooper though and just hung out with a few fellow racers at my lodge. The party was going on at the other lodge which was fine with me as I was rather tired and glad to get to bed at a decent time - so lame in my old age...

I woke up early and could tell I wouldn't fall back asleep, so I got up and finished packing the car and headed home by 6:30AM. It was a chill ride home. Lots of reflecting on the week - that it went so well for my first stage race, and things to make note of to do better if I do this again, which I'm guessing I probably will (ok mom? :).

Kudos again to the race directors for putting on a wonderful race. I am looking forward to next year's edition. Great competition, wonderful fellow racers etc. Excellent way to spend a week. It was kind of weird having to be back to work as usual... Although, I was reunited with my pug, Bruschi, who was pooped out himself after hanging at my folks house all week playing in their big yard. Thanks mom and dad!

I highly recommend this stage race as it's lots of fun, tough, but doable! Great trails, great people, well run...and I think it will probably just get better.

Lumberjack 100 is up next - June 19th!

Transylvania Stage Race

2010 Inaugural Transylvania Stage Race

First off I want to send out a big thank you to Mike Kuhn and Ray Adams for putting on a wonderful stage race. It was very well organized and everything ran smoothly as far as I could tell. The volunteers were great, including Mike and Ray’s parents who were instrumental in seeing this stage race come together. Their parents even made some of the prizes – like the very cool and unique handmade TSE coaster – I love it! The photographer, A.E. Landes Photography was great too. Abe put together a slide show each evening of the day’s stage. Also, a bit shout out to Freeze Thaw cycles out of State College who were the onsite mechanics working very very hard everyday. They fixed my seatpost creaking issues... yeah!!! Mike and Ray had some great schwag for prizes for everyone who finished as well as for daily stage winners. I hope they can continue to secure good sponsorship for this race, which I imagine they will be able too since it seemed to be a big hit this inaugural year.

The TSE was a great first stage race for me to enter into this new format of racing. Granted, half way through, I was thinking I wasn’t going to survive, but that had nothing to do with how the race was put on. It was tough but doable and with some really fun stages to boot. Finishing out the week, I’d say maybe, just maybe, it was a tad short, although that’s because I am done now and at home looking at a couple of nice rest weeks before my next 100 miler. But I really don’t feel ‘wrecked’ like I anticipated feeling finishing this race. I was a tad worried about doing this race on a hardtail, but my carbon Felt 29er worked great. I had no mechanicals aside from the seatpost issue.

There was good variety in the stages, although, I wasn’t particularly keen on the long ‘roady’ day, but it was a break from the rocky, rough terrain of PA. And unfortunately, my most tired day, Stage 4 at Raystown, was some of the most fun, fastest trail riding I’ve done in a while – smooth, giant pump track like terrain. It was sweet. I would love to go back there to ride those trails on fresh legs. There are some wonderful trail systems in PA. We got to ride lots of them in this race and hopefully even more of them next year. I won’t lie – it is rocky, but mostly it’s just purely true mountain biking in my book. And my competition was pretty tough but I was pleased to hang in there in 2nd place with some really experienced endurance racers, and make lots of new riding friends.

I’ll get to the nitty gritty perhaps in individual posts per stage! Along with pictures shortly.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cohutta 100 - First Race of the Season

I'm feeling a bit out of practice writing this race report. Maybe it's because I'm past my post-caffeine, long-drive craze frame of mind.

Well, the first race of the season didn't quite go as well as I had hoped. I still had a pretty decent race overall coming in 5th in 8:53, but it just felt 'off'. The women's field had some really strong competitors which was leaving me a bit anxious coming into this race. And the week leading into the race was less than restful.

I had finished up a pretty hard, high volume training block on the previous Sunday feeling, finally, pretty good on my new Felt Carbon 29er. It has taken me some time to get it dialed in and well, still needs some tweaking fit wise for me. But towards the end of the last training ride, I flatted my 2-week old bontrager acx and put a tear in it so it was useless as tubeless tire at that point. Also, I had some stomach/intestinal bug coming on that made my drive home from my favorite trails in Amherst area a pretty uncomfortable ride. I recovered mostly from it by the next morning. I then spent most of Monday traveling from bike shop to bike shop picking up race supplies (CO2s, tubes) and trying to find a new tire for my bike. I had my dog, Bruschi, with me who was acting very oddly as if he were car-sick, and he usually loves riding in the car crazily chasing passing cars as far as the vehicle will let him. But not today. I get finally get home with just enough time to walk him and get to my office for my massage client, and as I hurriedly let him out of the car, I shut the door and lock my keys, my phone... everything in the car. :( :( erggg.... An hour later, AAA opens the door in like two seconds and I'm running off like a maniac.

Tuesday, I was still dealing with bike fit issues and was really stressed out that doing a 100 miles was totally going to wreak havoc on my body because something was "off".
Wednesday was a bit less stressful, except for I woke dragging and feeling like I was coming down with a head cold - what the *^**^ ? Anyway, Doug had been up in Boston for a sales conference/trade show so he drove us down to Maryland Wednesday night, and I actually kept falling asleep most of the drive which is unusual for me. After not getting in until 1:30AM, we woke up ridiculously early as Doug thought it was another 14 hrs down to the race so we were trying to hit the road by 7am. Thankfully gps informed us it was only another 9hrs to southeast Tennessee, not far from the Georgia border. I fell asleep again on the drive down for a bit. We arrived at our hotel around 5PM, relaxed for a few and put up feet up to let them drain from the long drive. Then off to get some eats and a much needed good night's sleep.

Friday morning, I woke up feeling fairly rested but I didn't like that my throat was feeling pretty scratchy. We walked over to the breakfast joint nearby to hang out with the locals for a late morning breakfast. Afterwards, I just chilled out for bit reading a book while Doug got some work done. Then it was time to head off to the race site to get our race packets and stretch out the legs on the bike. I started to get really anxious on the 1/2 hr drive to the site. The race was being staged from the Ocoee Whitewater Center which was the where the 1996 olympics whitewater competition took place. It is an absolutely beautiful area, rolling hills/small mountains, lakes, rivers and it was pretty green already, although the pollen was really high and making me rather congested.

We got our race packets and took the bikes out for a spin. We rode the first 10 miles of the course which starts with a 2 mile road climb and then drops into some really sweet swooping, sweeping fast singletrack. It was actually kind of dusty on the trails which was making me a bit concerned I didn't bring my riding sunglasses, but lets just say that wasn't an issue at all! It was a beautiful day out, sunny, low 80s, aahhh.. As we're about to get back to the whitewater center, I notice something that doesn't quite look like a stick and let out a really loud scream and Doug's like 'what the heck was that?"... snake!!.. as we're already by it. What a girl! heehehee

We headed back to the hotel to pack up our drop bags for the aid stations (which I had annoyingly forgot about bringing my stuff with me so we could do it when we registered, which meant another 1/2 hr back up to the center).. then it was dinner and to bed early again. It's always tough to sleep well the night before one of these races. I try to push out any thoughts of the race and think I'm being successful but then the thoughts come back and the butterflies flutter away...

5 AM comes early but I'm awake before the alarm goes off. I eat quickly, have my espresso and we head to the race. It had rained overnight and the forecast was less than stellar, like 70% of rain and severe weather... lovely... It's still dark as we pull in to the parking lot and get ready to go. The staging area for the start was a narrow chute, and since I had waited in a long line for an outhouse so I didn't have great positioning at the start. It was a fast, hard start up the road climb but I knew it was important to go hard and get in as best a position as I could going into the first long stretch of singletrack. I felt ok on the climb, not stellar but not bad, but I didn't have a good sense of who of my competitors were ahead of me. I figured quite a few.

The first 25 miles were mostly fun, fast singletrack. There was some climbing, nothing too sustained in there but enough that I was noticing I didn't really feel like I had "great" legs and could just power up them all that well like I should be able to. That was a bit disconcerting, but I chalked it up to maybe having gone a bit hard for the first road climb after not having warmed up at all. I was riding with the 4th place woman (although not knowing our positions at that point) for a bit but she dropped me once we started in on the long, long, long dirt road climbs. I had in my head for some reason that the singletrack was the "hard part" of the race and that the 60 miles of dirt road would be relatively easy.... ha! It wasn't the same hour long uninterrupted climb like in Shenandoah. You would climb a bit, then descend briefly, and climb again, brief break... but my legs weren't liking it. I kept hoping they would come around but I was just feeling very inefficient. I felt like I was putting out a hard effort but just not getting anything for it so I started wondering about my tire choice, the bike fit, being sick.... and lots of stuff that wasn't going to help me get through the race. I forged on.

My "fuel" in my drop bag was at aid station 3 which was a long ways out ~50 miles or more. I was guessing the first 20-30 miles would go fast and the roughly every 15 mile aid station would be closer to mile 45. In retrospect, I wish I had dropped my bags at Aid station 2 and 4... oh well.. And sometime before aid station 3, the sky opens up and man does it start storming. Nice!! Well I'm glad I did wear the windbreaker vest after all, guess I won't be leaving it on my drop bag. It's windy, whipping, pouring rain, thunder, lightening. The dirt roads held up pretty well but they were definitely starting to feeling slow and sticky and energy draining. After Aid 3, there's a bit more climbing but then it's down down down, with some annoying "rollers" still but the up is nice at this point since coming down soaking wet was freeeezzzinng (think warm fuzzy thoughts, karen, warm...)..and the ups would let you warm up some. Oh, but crossing the top of the mountain, still within tree line, the wind blew me across the trail a couple of times, pretty crazy... I was like, well I guess this is what it's like to do one of these 100s in the rain.

I felt a little bit better on the second half of the course although still not quite as well as I would have liked. The dirt road just went on and on. The pouring rain actually cleaned off a lot of the mud and dirt until the last section of singletrack. I was again having foolish thoughts that this last singletrack was "mostly" downhill, yeah right for 8 miles..., but nope, starts out on this slight climb that's all bogged down and muddy now. I'm like come on...and it's not even really singletrack at this point either. When I finally do get on the true singletrack, I was annoyed at how much climbing there was in it and it was getting sloppy and muddy and my bike didn't want to shift into easy gears all that well... It felt like it kept going and going, and I was like just put us out on the road, despite being a devote singletrack lover. Finally, finally, the end is in sight. The course drops down to the road we drove in on to the whitewater center and follows that for about a mile to the finish.. yeee haawww.. I pedaled hard as I realized I would make it under 9 hours, a feat I didn't think was going to happen this day.

I was completely covered in mud, as was my bike. I just walked down to the river and half-got in and tried to get a lot of the mud off. I wasn't planning well on this front as I only had a small hand towel and couple wash cloths to try to get clean with - not an easy task, and try not to get Doug's vehicle too messy.

I actually felt pretty decent finishing up - my bike didn't totally wreck my body, nor the course per stomach actually felt pretty normal and I wasn't feeling overly smoked. So, I guess that's good. Perhaps, I need some fast two-hour racing to get me going from the long steady pace...

I wasn't sure where I finished up as they didn't post results past 3rd for a bit. I was quite surprised that I managed 5th with how it went for me on the course. So, we waited around the awards ceremony and then I caught up with some of my fellow racers who all such truly wonderfully nice people (and I don't mean to sound sappy saying that). Then back to the hotel to get cleaned up... might I say there were some very dirty butts... :0 We just ordered some pizza delivery and had a couple of beers and called it a night. It's hard to sleep post race too. Too much adrenaline? Too much sugar all day? I slept ok for post-race. My knees were really achey so I know I need to figure out what's not quite right with my position the bike, that and to find my "power" position on it. It's a beautiful bike and gave me no issues in this race so I can only imagine how good it will be when I'm fitted to it properly. This was my first race using Carborocket, one of my team's sponsors. It worked really well for me. I've noticed that I feel pretty satisfied/not hungry while using it in this race and during training and it's easy on my stomach. Also, yummy honey stinger chews, another of my team sponsors. I am very grateful for their support.

We had intended to wash the bikes before heading home but didn't feel like dragging them out of the car again. We drove home heading east first into the mountains through North Carolina and stopped in Asheville for lunch and to check out the sites - very pretty area. My knees were pretty stiff the day after the race. I didn't want to have to bend down for anything. It made me feel pretty decrepit, although that's all that was really sore on me so I can't complain too much. The drive back up through Virginia was pretty uneventful, had to skirt around one accident but not too bad. Ate some dinner at a brewpub we found in Harrisonburg last year when down in that area for the Shenandoah 100. Doug was nice enough to drive so I could enjoy some good brew :) Then we drove into some of the thunderstorms still hitting the area which was a bit treacherous after a long day's drive. We finally arrived back in Maryland at Doug's around 11 just at my threshold of being in the car.

I finished up my drive home with rain the whole way about 8:30PM on Monday.

Time for some rest and recovery, kick this congestion out, and get the bike all set for my next adventure the end of this month - the Transylvania Stage Race -- what have I gotten myself into?? :) :) :)

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