Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Peak Race Vermont 6 Hour Race (Saturday) and Hampshire 100K (Sunday)

Oh, some time a month ago or so, my buddy Steve thought it might be a fun endeavor to race both the Vermont 6 Hour Mountain Bike Challenge (which goes by a couple different names, aka, 666 race and Vermont 30 - it's an awesome race, just needs to pick an identity and race weekend without other endurance races going on, or not, just a good name that makes sense will do) and the Hampshire 100k/Pro USA Cycling Endurance Tour Race.

I initially said "NO WAY". I was having a hard enough time staying motivated and focused to get through one day of racing. But then, I found myself signed up for the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race the end of September. It's a five-day stage race with 195 miles and 28,000 feet of climbing - ouch! Maybe back to back days of racing with some serious climbing will be some good training. So, I signed up for both, with the caveat of only doing both if the weather was decent. I did not feel like wasting precious brain energy on a mudfest, that and destroying my bike and having to replace all the parts I just replaced since it's been a rather wet, muddy race season. I had intended to race the 6 hour race in Vermont all along, just wasn't too keen on the second day racing 100k.

The adventure began on Friday driving up to Vermont with Steve. We both did this race last year and had a blast, along with a couple fellow comrades, Rob Paton and Chris Gagnon. And this year, I convinced Brian Spring (who does most of my bike mechanical work) that he would absolutely love the 6 hour race to join in the fun. He was already signed up for the 100k, but a glutton for punishment, like the rest of us, signed up for the 6 hour too (and loved it).

Heading into this past weekend, the weather forecast was rather iffy with chance of thunderstorms everyday. The only plus was that it was likely to stay fairly warm with the humidity in the air. I packed so many clothes in case it did rain and I got really wet, I'd have lots of spare clothes. That, and last year, it was absolutely freezing overnight camping out. I pulled out some of the cold weather clothes last minute since the overnight lows were only going to be ~ mid 50s at the lowest. I'd say they stayed much warmer than that.

We left Friday not quite early enough to be able to make it to the awesome country store in Pittsfield, VT before they closed at 8pm where registration was taking place. We could still register Saturday morning, but we needed to meet up with the race director who was going to show us where we could camp out. We made pretty good time getting up there but past 8pm, so we called Jason, the race director, who didn't answer. Steve left a message and we wondered whether we would be joining Brian who opted to get a hotel room since it was pouring when he got to Killington area. We drove the half-mile to Amee Farm where the race takes place to see if Jasn was there and luckily enough he pulled in right behind us. He told us that despite the numerous heavy downpours, they truly were 'scattered' as Pittsfield only got a brief light shower. I was psyched about that. He did say that there was some residual effects from the previous weeks' rain. I also found out that I was the only women signed up in my category. Hmmm, kind of a nice relief, but also a bummer to not have some competition to push me a bit or make me ride more laps. Although, if I didn't feel particularly great, I would be able to stop early and save the legs for Sunday. But, I decided I would have to duke it out with the boys then.

We drove up this dirt road for what seemed like a really long time. It was basically an access road to the upper part of the trail system we would be racing on the next day. It worked - it was quiet, open and flat enough for tents and surprisingly not very buggy. Did I mention, the stars were amazing. We set up our tents and were off to bed by 10pm. Chris showed up shortly thereafter. Steve and I were both surprised he found the spot in the dark.

I did not sleep that well that night. I'm not quite sure why. I didn't let it bother me too much as I had slept pretty well most of the week. I figured being semi-sleep deprived Friday night would make me sleep well Saturday night especially after racing. Beside, I didn't have any competition, I could stop after one lap... although, that would make this double weekend racing a moot point on the training front.

We woke up at 7am and headed down the mountain back to the country store for some breakfast. I got my double shot espresso, but it didn't seem like quite the enormous double shot I got last year, which was fine. We had a rather leisurely breakfast for a race morning. It's nice not having a race start until 9am. Spoils you.

We drove down the road to Amee Farm and got registered and all set to race. Since this is a lap race, we just set up a cooler and bag full of food choices and spare parts etc, at the start/finish area to refuel and/or get parts each lap. That's one of the nice aspects of doing a lap race - having the ability to have lots of 'spare' items. Of course, that same aspect just makes you pack way more stuff than you'll ever use, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I was also comforted by the fact that Brian was here so if anything major went wrong with my bike, I had a good shot at getting it fixed before racing Sunday.

The race starts with a lemans start - ie, making mountain bikers look ridiculous stupid running in tight shorts, shoes not intended to run in, and bike shirts with pockets full of tools, etc that jiggle all around... loads of fun...But it does help spread the pack out before hitting the singletrack which starts immediately pretty much. I actually ran fairly well the whole few hundred yards we had to run. I ended up pretty near the front of the pack. It is a fast downhill start and then across a bridge over the river, then the climb on up begins. I eventually caught up to Steve on the climb and stayed with him through to the top to take the Queen of the Hill title and stayed with him on some of the downhill. I figured he would pull away from on the downhill. He's definitely gutsier than I am flying downhill. He had his helmet camera on for the first 5 minutes or so of the climb up and then the entire downhill on the first lap - check out - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMvsQJ9G80A (first 5 mins) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUnKEigLGK8 (downhill).

The course is really a blast. I reread my post on the race from last year and noted there were at least 100 switchbacks per a lap, well, I decided to count for just a quarter of a lap on the uphill and counted 32 switchbacks. So, perhaps, the number is more like 130 switchbacks per lap :) The switchbacks definitely help break up the climb and make it more tolerable inching your way up the 1,200 feet to the top. And then the descent just makes you forget about all the climbing. Sweet!!!

So, I felt ok on the laps one and two, not spectacular but pretty decent. My Zaboo definitely felt a lot more responsive and more like I was getting out of it the effort I was putting in, unlike the feeling I had at the Wilderness 101. It felt like a race bike again. Brian had worked on my Zaboo replacing some worn drive-train parts and getting my rear wheel trued again which was badly needed and likely the cause of a lot of inefficiency in my riding. The bike 'took off' again, at least when I put in efforts that would warrant such action. I actually started to feel better and smoother on Laps 3 and 4 and even 5 wasn't too bad. I reminded myself that A) I did have another long, hard race the next day, 2) I did not have any competition, but 3) this was all in a training effort for the stage race so keep riding relatively hard. So, I would remind myself to 'spin' the climbs a bit more even though they begged of pushing a hard gear and to stay relaxed in my upper body so my neck, shoulder and arms wouldn't get overly stiff. It all seemed to help.

I also did this race without wearing my camelback as I always do for endurance races. I figured a water bottle a lap filled with Lemon Lime Carborocket and a plain water bottle would work and it did just perfectly.

Of concern on Saturday was getting some serious mud down my shorts and causing some chaffing and well, the mud causing some issues with bike function. I loved Rob Paton's writeup on this matter: "So on the first ascent it took about 10 minutes to entirely negate all the painstaking bike cleaning I had undertaken two nights before. Mud. Everywhere. Under my riding glasses in my eye, In my mouth. In my drive train. In my brakes. Everywhere. Mud. All varieties. Wet, runny mud. Thick, gloppy mud. Everything in between." (Rob wrote a great write up - http://pedalpushingpatons.blogspot.com/2011/08/race-review-vermont-30-mtb-endurance.html).

I did have a spare pair of bike shorts with me back at the car and debated stopping to go get them, but opted for a outhouse break to try to get some mud out, which worked for the most part. The only other menace was some rabid pricker bushes on the top section of the course. The pictures looks odd on the left, but my arms and legs were a mess. All of us had nasty scratches across our arms, although I seemed to be the only one who got attacked on my legs too.

While I did not have any competition for this race, I had come into it with a goal of five laps. The laps were longer this year at just a hair over 10 miles so I knew getting in 6 was out but that would be silly regardless given I would be riding a 100k on Sunday. I debated for a bit doing just 4 laps and figured I would decide based on the time when I finished the 4th lap. My thought was that if it was under the 5hr mark, I would go back out for lap 5 but if I were over 5hr of riding I would stop as that would mean my lap times were pushing 1'20" or more and thus being well over the 6hr mark, which just seemed absolutely unnecessary. I finished up Lap 4 just catching up to Steve and just shy of 5 hours...ok then, one more lap.

I finished up 5 laps in 6'14" which put me in 5th overall. Steve arrived shortly thereafter having been slowed up by some leg cramps. Rob finished 4 laps a bit before that as did Chris finishing 5 laps. Brian finished up 3 laps. We all grabbed a quick bite to eat for recovery and headed back down to the river to 'ice' our legs for recovery and clean up. What a mess we all were... and the mud was just stuck all over the bikes :( The water felt really good though cold, but good.

We then enjoyed the post-race dinner and chatted for a bit before packing up and hitting the road for the Hampshire 100k in Greenfield, NH, just over 2 hours away, but on the 'way home'. We stopped at Panera's in W. Lebanon/White River Junction to grab a sandwich for dinner and ate on the road so we would get to set up camp before it got dark in Greenfield.

I was feeling the effects of the race a bit. When we got out of the car, I was more stiff than I would have liked. It was also a bit difficult to focus on directions to the race. And then we got distracted by a silly sign in New Hampshire - one of those flashing ones that typically just warn you of 'accident ahead' or what not. But this one was flashing "Don't Drive Drugged" "driving drugged is same as a DUI". We were like, what? Did that really say that? And then almost missed our exit because we were laughing so hard. I was like, I think we're driving drugged on race endorphins.

Anyway, we arrive in Greenfield, NH around 7pm and set up our tents and then get to work on fixing/cleaning our muddied, muddled bikes. Mine really wasn't too bad. Steve and Brian had some work to do. I hit the sack by 9:30/10ish but found sleep hard to come by. I was a bit nervous about how my body would feel for this race. The 6 hour race course is a tough course and takes its toll. I had 'iced' my legs, rolled them (massaged) and ate well so that was about all I could do, except for getting good sleep. I figured I was going to be so wrecked by the end of the race and be hobbling home.

We were up at 5am to be ready for a 6:45 am start. I surprisingly didn't feel as tired as I probably should have been. I got ready and waited out the long race brief and toed the line with the elite men and my one competitor (who has not done any endurance racing). I appreciated that the race start was in waves so we were all bunched up, especially since there was one short piece of singletrack half-way around the track that would bottleneck up even with our small wave. The only bummer about starting in waves was that the first 15-20 miles of this race are pretty fast, flat and open terrain conducive to drafting. My guess was that the elite men would be going off to hard and fast for me and it might be up to my competitor and I to work with each other. I ended up dropping her early on. My guess was she was riding conservatively since this was her first endurance race. So, I was hoping the next wave of Expert Men would catch up to me sooner than they did. But by the time they caught up to me, it wasn't in an area that was great for drafting and they were flying. I was riding hard, but didn't want to ride that hard, especially since I had been warned that the first 20 miles are easy and it's all tough going after that with lots of steep climbs. So, they came by and went. I was fine with that. They assured me I had a good lead already.

I was quite pleased with how good I felt. I didn't quite have a good power climb in me but I had a good pace that I felt comfortable with and spinning up the climbs in an easy gear felt fine. The first 20 were pretty flat, mostly downhill. Brian had warned us that around mile 20 you take a right turn and hit a wall. He was correct. We were riding a super flat snowmobile trail for maybe 3-4 miles which was getting boring and then the right turn came up and it was 'click, click, click...down to the easiest gear. It was a wall - holy crap, Brian wasn't kidding. I was sort of happy that Brian had me worried about the ridiculousness of the climbing in the course as it made me just take it in stride. Also, none of the climbs were as long as what I climb in the 101 or Shenandoah. They were super steep though. I used pretty much every gear I had in this race.

So from there on out, it was a lot of short, steep punchy climbs followed by generally equal descents which allowed for good recovery in the legs. I played it smart and just dropped to the granny gear for the climbs and sometimes, if the climb was short enough, I just power climbed it and recovered on the downhill. I rode sort of similar to Saturday - hard, but not digging too deep. I'll save that for when I really need to dig deep.

I really enjoyed this course. It felt like a good mix of dirt road, rough jeep road, smooth fun singletrack, ragged, jagged rocky singletrack etc. It had a bit of everything and interspersed quite nicely, well more back end loaded then front end, which I appreciated more than most coming off the 6 hour race. Steve and I both thought the course was a good mix of trails/dirt road, although we wondered if had we not rode sweet singletrack all day Saturday would we have felt there wasn't enough singletrack in the 100k... my guess is probably not. It seemed on par if not more singletrack than many of the 100 milers I race.

I was also really pleased with how well organized the race was from registration, to volunteers at road crossings or major turns, to the aid stations, the course markings, etc. It was a really great event. They even added some comic relief. About half-way through the race on some rugged singletrack there was a sign "warning: babyheads ahead" .. I was riding near this one guy and we both read the sign and were like huh? oh boy.. and then you climb up this short little hill and scattered all about are a 20+ baby dolls and barbie dolls, and we both started laughing. And then about a couple hundred yards later, we're both fumbling on real baby heads (basically a large rock garden with no good line through it) and laugh again, oh, real 'baby heads'... The picture on the right is not the baby heads, but just a shot of some of the terrain we got to ride.

So my goal for the 100k was to finish around 6 hours. The winning men's time for last year was right around 5 hours, so I figured 6 was a good goal having raced the day before. Actually, it was more like I was hoping for 6hr and thought I would be capable but realized I might be more fatigued and be slower and I didnt' know how hard the course was. I managed to finish in 6'06" which I was pretty happy with. It would have been nice to be under 6 which would be doable with fresh legs. But I was really stoked with feeling good throughout the race and actually feeling better after Sunday's race then on Saturday. That could be in part because I knew I survived my crazy double weekend. I think staying fueled properly played a big role too. I used Carborocket 333 raspberry mix for the 100k. I went through two 70-oz camelbacks and a bag of Cliff Rocks and couple water bottles.

I showered up post-race which felt great since it had been since Friday morning. This camping out thing is rough. Oh, I forgot to mention, I broke a tent pole :( I managed to tape it well enough to hold for one night. Steve finished not too long after me. He had wanted to go eat before taking down the tents but I convinced him that a storm was brewing and I'd rather take down the tents before it rained. The wind was starting to really kick up and blew out un-staked and un-weighted down tents down the field a bit. It was pretty funny. I grabbed Steve's only to watch mine blow away. We finished packing up and then ate a very delicious post-race meal of chicken, pasta with pesto sauce, sauteed zucchini and salad. Yumm.. Awards were while I was stuffing my face, so I had to chew quickly before getting on the podium. I won some $ (which help pay for my tires on my car) and a beautiful windchime with my medal hanging from the bottom.

We hit the road a short while later in a torrential downpour. I felt bad for Brian as he was still out there on the course, but then thought better of that... he loves the crazy, nasty riding conditions and was probably having even more fun in the rain. I was happy to be in the car and also happy to feel not totally cooked. I even was able to enjoy my very yummy double IPA when I got home. I figured I'd be too tired to care.

So in standard post-race fashion, I didn't sleep all that well Sunday night. I woke up earlier than I had to on Monday and felt ok at first. After eating breakfast and walking my dog, I was like, ugh.. I'm wooped. And I still am rather tired today. I think a good night's sleep is in order.

Next up - EFTA Treasure Valley Rally (~25 miles) so long as Hurricane Irene holds off until late Sunday evening, not racing if it's nasty out. It's a tough course, which I love, but no need to risk getting hurt before Shenandoah - the final 100 of the year Labor Day weekend.

Monday, August 1, 2011

2011 Wilderness 101

Third 100 of the year done. I came in 3rd place which was great considering I wasn't feeling really 'on' and I got a major mechanical at about mile 85.

I first off have to thank a great mechanic, Brian Spring, for some necessary bike fixing late Wednesday night before heading off to race. I was being nonchalant about how race ready my bike was and thankfully, a couple issues forced me to seek his help before heading to the race as the bike most likely would not have made it through the race had he not fixed it. My bike still needs some TLC since I have been riding it a lot this year in wet conditions and haven't done too many miles on my road bike to mix up the wear and tear, so many parts are pretty worn out.

The adventure started out Friday morning. I picked up Brandon in Millbury just after 8am. I was looking forward to actually having some company for the 7 hour drive down to Coburn, PA (just outside State College area). It was Brandon's first 100 miler (hopefully of many) so there would be lots to talk about. Although, I was thinking by the end of the weekend I would be completely 'bike' talked out. But here I am, writing about a biking...

The drive was pretty uneventful. We stopped in Scranton for some lunch at Panera's followed up with some frozen yogurt from a random TCBY yogurt. We headed off with bellies full to finish the drive. By the time, we were on to Rt. 80, there seemed to be just enough traffic on the two-lane highway to start making me rather cranky. I decided it might be wise to get off the highway and take some back country roads to relax and enjoy the scenery a bit more. Despite the back country route being somewhat of a main route, we did pass an Amish horse and buggy along the way. They seem to typically stay to lesser traveled roads.

We made good time for a ~3:15PM arrival at a friend's house maybe a 1/10 of a mile from the race start/finish. It is the perfect location for the race. It was myself, Brandon, Doug and Lee and Brenda Simril (a couple we had met here a couple years back and run into often on the 100 miler circuit) staying the weekend.

Brandon and I went for a short ride up the opening climb of the race to shake out the legs from the long drive. It was in the low 90s and very humid out. I sweating in no time. I did a couple hard efforts which hurt, but felt good to get the body revving. I felt pretty decent and was hopeful that was a good indication for race day.

After the short spin, I got my drop bag items ready - lots of Carborocket (my sports drink mix of choice), spare tubes, CO2 cartridges and cliff bars or the like, that I never seem to eat but want on hand just in case I decide I want to eat something other than what's at the Aid Station. You generally get two gallon sized ziplock bags to have brought to two of the Aid Stations on the course for the 100 milers.

I then headed over to park where race starts and finishes to register and tried to hurry back to shower up and go grab an early dinner with Brenda and Lee. After doing several 100 miler races, the Transylvania Stage Race, and just riding with lots of different groups here at home, I know lots of folks at these races so it's hard to 'hurry'. I'd make it maybe 20 feet and run into another friend to catch up with quickly. It is a nice aspect of these races - getting to know your 'community' so to speak.

We ended up eating at a local spot, the Ale Creek Cafe which was quite delicious. They provided the post-race kegs of delicious beer (see picture of me post race).. I had a turkey club wrap and shared a delicious salad with Doug that I could have easily eaten on my own. Brandon's pesto pasta dish looked quite tasty. After dinner, I went back the race site to catch up with some more friends - including my travel mates from the Lumberjack race. It was good to catch up. Although, I was starting to feel all chatted out and the heat and humidity was making me feel pretty sleepy. So I headed back the short walk to get to bed at a decent time.

I typically start getting nervous or anxious about the race the day before, but maybe I am becoming more of a veteran this year as I seem to be less so this year. I hope that is not speaking to my motivational levels. I prefer not being anxious as it certainly helps me to try to actually get some sleep the night before the race. Most of these nights are spent convincing yourself to stop thinking about the race and how it might 'go down.'

I was thinking, though, that I was maybe a tad bit cocky about feeling good for the race. I have done enough racing to know that you never really know until you're out there racing how you are going to feel. I did slept ok for a night before a big race and woke up feeling fairly rested. I ate a couple pieces of toast for breakfast and drank some espresso.

None of us had heard a peep from Brandon's that morning, so I eventually went to see if he was up. He only peeked his head through the door to say he didn't know if he was going to race since he came down with something flu like overnight. I was really bummed out for him. I remembered I had brought some Alkaseltzer with me as sometimes I don't feel so hot the day after a race and wish I had something to take. So I offered those to him which he took. He said he didn't want to come down to breakfast and risk passing anything on to the rest of us. But, I was thinking uh oh, I just spent the whole day with him yesterday...hmmm...might I be feeling terrible later on today myself. Amazingly, Brandon mustered up the energy and courage to start the race with little sleep and a just a banana for breakfast.

I was still pretty calm for race day, although every now and then the thought of 'you know this is going to be hard, why do you keep doing these..." passed through my head, but I pushed it aside. I was here. I was going to race. There was no room for those thoughts. And before too long we were racing.

I know I always say this, but I don't like these mass starts of a blob of mountain bikers all trying to vie for the front position. It can be totally unnerving. This is probably the one reason I should do some road races to get more comfortable racing in a tight pack and either holding my spot well or getting better at moving up in the group. Needless to say, I didn't start that well and had to work hard on the first climb to get myself into a good position. Vicki, the eventual winner, and Cheryl, the usual winner, were way off the front by then. I had passed a few women but I had no idea who else might be up ahead.

The first 30-40 miles are pretty fast. Getting into a good group to draft is crucial but that was not panning out that well this year. Last year, I got into a really big group that held a fast, steady pace. It was great. This year I felt like I was having to waste a lot of energy working with other riders who would surge and fade and surge and fade. So I would work hard to keep their wheel. Then they would drop off and I'm on my own working hard again. It was a tad frustrating. I'm wasn't feeling particularly great at that point either so it was hard to not worry I was putting out too much work then so early in the race.

Brandon caught up to me between Aid Station 1 and 2, maybe around mile 35 and we rode together into the Aid Station 2. He was a good draft, riding super strong, especially after feeling sick all night. He was looking forward to the Aid Station to finally get some food in him. I was happy he was feeling much better and looking like he would be able to finish the race. I stopped briefly at the Aid Staion to refill my camelback with my 333 Carborocket mix and fill up on water. It was definitely a day to stay on top of water intake.

I was still feeling mediocre at this point but I know by now, that all you can do is keep pushing on. I am thankful that my body knows this and just keeps going, even if it doesn't feel great. Heading out of Aid Station 2 was a long, gradual climb and part way up Cheryl comes bombing down the other way. I was with a couple other riders at this point and we asked if she was ok, but she just flew by. So we weren't sure what had happened - apparently she got sick and pulled out. She's the kind of rider though that makes you worried that she just went back for who knows what, something she might have left at the aid station, and will turn around and catch you again. But she did pull out of the race.

A bit further up the climb, Brenda and Lee passed me. I was worried about her 'being trouble' this race since she seemed to start really strong and that's not her usual pattern. She's a steady racer and generally gets stronger as the race goes along. I wasn't feeling like I had much gas so I knew this would be a struggle to keep up with her. I did find some oomph to get climbing and passed back by. We then hit the first of some nasty technical descents that I rode down well. Although my hands and feet and back and well, most of my body was pretty mad at me by bottom of it. Unfortunately, the downhill did take a toll as I started back up a steep climb shortly thereafter, my inner thighs cramped up on me. I had to soft pedal and down some electrolyte tabs. Brenda caught back up and passed me again.

There was a new singletrack section that was nicer than a long slog climb the race route used to use. But I was feeling like I was going no where on it. I was getting a bit frustrated at this point with how I felt. I felt like I was putting out a good effort but just going no where. I kept thinking that I didn't remember it all hurting this much last year or at the stage race, that it felt like this much work. I just kept plugging along.

I eventually made it to Aid Station 4 about 70 miles in. I refilled my camelback again with my 333 carborocket mix. I ultimately went through three 70 oz camelbacks of 333 carborocket mix and 5-6 bottles of water. That's definitely a few more water bottles than normal for me. It was hot out there. Thankfully, my body handles the heat pretty well. Out of Aid Station 4 is a long long climb that's kind of consistently bumpy. It can take a lot out of you at that point. It seemed like an eternity even though I knew from having done this race several times that it just keeps going on and on. I just wanted it to end. It did...eventually.

There were some more changes to the course between Aid Station 4 and 5. We ultimately ended up on this ridiculous jeep road descent that was just strewn with jagged rocks everywhere. There was no good line. It wasn't steep at all but just enough of a descent to have a lot of speed but with all the jagged rocks, it was super painful to the feet and arms and back. I just wanted to sit but there was no way that was happening. Well, I would sit, but for maybe 2 seconds. I had caught back up to Brenda. She was just in sight and I figured I would see how I felt heading into the last of the climbs out of Aid Station 5. But then, pssshhtt... *%%#@@! I flatted like instantly. That was not good.

I stopped immediately so as not to ruin my rim if I hadn't already. I pulled off the trail and saw right away that I had sliced the sidewall of my rear tire. I was done I thought. I tried to guess how long of a walk out it might be and then convinced myself that I should try to fix it as it's probably a long walk. Miracle of miracles - Wednesday before having Brian work on my bike, I had to get some parts from the bike shop last minute and when I was there I asked if they had any tire patches or whatever they use to patch up a tire. I was handed a sheet of 3M tape and happened to take them with me. Premonition? This race doesn't have a ton of sinlgetrack, but the singletrack it has is super rough, rugged rocks. I had passed many many racers on the side of the trail already so I was trying not to let myself get too frustrated or stuck in a 'why me' mode. It happens and as far as racing goes, I have been pretty fortunate to not have a lot of mechanical issues in races.

So, I pulled off the rear wheel, removed the valve stem, tried to dry out the inside of the tire from all the tire sealant, stuck the 3M tape on as best it would stay (it was still kind of wet on the tire), stuck a couple more on the outside and threw the tube in. But then, I couldn't get my CO2 head to grab the valve stem of the tube enough to blow it up properly. Thankfully, a friend stopped and helped me out and we got it blown up. I then rode as daintily as possible down the rest of the hill as the tube was bulging where it was torn a bit. I managed to make it out to the dirt road and into Aid Station 5, without getting passed by another woman, but Brenda was long gone by then.

I asked for a tube at the Aid Station so I would have a spare, but then thought better of that and asked the mechanic there if he thought I would make it the rest of the way on my torn tire... emphatic NO! He had a spare tire there and replaced mine for me quite quickly. I thanked him profusely and hit the road. It would have been a long 11 miles from there if I hadn't gotten a tire change. So I just tried to finish up strong from there and maintained my 3rd place. I wasn't entirely happy with how I felt out there, but given that, I was very happy to still manage 3rd place given the lackluster legs and the torn tire.

I finished up with little fanfare and went to sit in the creek to cool off. It felt great. Funny, Cammy, who's house we were staying at, came down to chat with me and asked me if I "saw the snake". I thought she meant there was a snake right there in the creek the way she was gesting and I started to panic, but she said that Brenda and Lee had seen a bit rattler out on the course. I missed that, surprisingly as it sounded like where they saw it was near where they had passed me on a climb. At least it wasn't right beside me ready to attack :)

I cleaned up and went back to get some post-race food and beer and chat my brains out. Oh, and do the podium thing. It was all good fun. I was definitely feeling my lower back and my triceps. Ouch. Note to self for Shenandoah 100 miler and the Pisgah stage race in September that doing some serious core exercises on a regular basis is in order.

We all went out to eat at Mt Nittany Inn which sits up on the mountain side with a great view out over the valley. The food was delicious. It was actually a fairly quiet drive back and in to bed. I slept ok for post-race too. A wonderful breakfast by Cammy in the morning and then Brandon, Doug and I did a short ride along the river to spin out the legs before driving home. Brenda and Lee had gotten up earlier and had already ridden.

I found the more 'obsessive' racer in me came out when I got home and saw my 'data' for the race. I would have guessed my average heartrate was low for the race given how I felt, but it was actually rather high. So, it got me to thinking about how was 'inefficient' then if I put out a hard effort but didn't feel like I got the result or felt like I truly had that kind of effort in me. I'm sure some it was due to it being so hot. In retrospect, I realized that taking off the time I lost dealing with my tire issue, my finish time would have been right around or a little bit faster than last year and last year I felt great at this race and nailed it. So, that was a promising note. The course this year, however, was riding about 10 minutes faster than last year due to a climb being taken out. I guess it's nice to see that I still have fast race times even when it doesn't feel that way.

I think the interesting thing of having a mediocre race is that it makes me reflect more on what could I truly have changed to have a better race or feel better - like rest going in? or eating more properly? is my bike as efficient as it can be? Getting the flat out there was absolutely just bad luck. I rode the same tire over pretty much the same trails for Transylvania race. So, it will leave me pondering and hopefully making those small changes that will make a difference in the next race. If it were truly a day of feeling totally off, I would chock it up to just that, and to some degree, I chock it up to just having a not so 'on' day, which happens. But, I wasn't totally off either. And as I've said before in my 'books', that is just the way racing goes.

Next up is my killer weekend - 6 hour race on 8/20 followed the next day by the Hampshire 100K... ouch! But this week, I will rest :)