September 30, 2014

Pisgah Stage Race- from the background

Filed under: Bike Racing,Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 7:52 am

Ok, finally, now that I’m back home and about to re-pack for another adventure, I have a little time to post a few pics and stories from my week as a crew person at the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race. If you want to hear about the race itself, head over to the Just Riding Along Pisgah Special Report page on Mountain Bike Radio and listen to Matt’s daily stage reports as well as interviews with Todd, the race director, and some of the other racers.

The ideal way to go about racing a stage race is to show up, race half the day, eat immediately, then spend the remainder of the afternoon napping and laying around before going to the evening awards ceremony (universally at around 6pm for the races I’ve been to). My day basically went like this:

6am: wake up, make coffee, make breakfast, prep my own stuff to ride, pack a cooler with post-race drinks & snacks, do breakfast dishes (there wasn’t a dishwasher), pack the car, load the bikes. It sounds crazy until you’ve been there yourself, but eating breakfast during a stage race can be a really difficult task…



8:15-ish (depending on start time/location, we left as early as 7:15): drive to start, unload bikes, drink more coffee, get Matt’s jacket, etc. from the start line. A couple of the days involved a remote start- racers met at the finish line and were shuttled in a bus out to the start location.





9:00-ish: race started, prep my own stuff to ride, go out and ride part(s) of the day’s course.










I pretty successfully managed to ride until about the time the first racers were crossing the finish line (Matt was consistently finishing around 10th-13th). That gave me enough time to change, snack, and stand around at the finish for a few minutes to get a photo (Ok, I cut it close once and was still in kit at the finish when he came through. That’d involved a flat tire of my own fault, though).




After stage 1, I found local racer Jordan Salman with a bandaged up broken finger that put her out of the race. Sad day.

1-2:00: somewhere in that time frame, we’d arrive back at the house. I’d put away the dry breakfast dishes and make lunch while Matt changed & showered. Then change/shower myself, eat, and have approximately 3 hours to do the afternoon chores: wash more dishes, unpack the cooler, wash/refill bottles, go to the laundromat, go grocery shopping, and generally pick up and re-organize stuff at the house so that nothing would be lost or misplaced.



Matt usually laid around and napped, though by 4 or 5, he’d get kinda stir crazy and go wash his bike (and sometimes mine, too). I could have squeezed that in to my afternoon, but it’s not a terrible activity to do if you’re just wanting to get up and move around after laying down for a couple of hours. We’d also do the daily MBR stage report.
Most of the time, just before leaving for awards, I’d make Matt a giant smoothie with frozen fruit and Kefir.
5:45 Leave for the awards ceremony/happy hour at the Brevard Music Center. Stay there ’til 7:15 or 8, depending on whether or not we did any interviews for MBR and whether I had one glass of wine or two.

Interview pics…


7:30ish (depending on when we left awards): back at the house- put away lunch dishes, make dinner, eat, clean dinner dishes, lube chains.

We also didn’t have wifi at the house aside from my phone. So, in order to put the MP3 files online to be posted on MBR, on the way home from awards, we had to park outside the laundromat and upload them using their wifi.

That made for finally getting to stop moving and lay in bed around 9:30-10pm.

Stage 5 was the exception to the “finish before Matt” rule. I hitched a ride with Todd, the race director, to the mid-point of the course. From there, I hammered up a 7-mile forest road climb to the top of the final enduro of the day/race. Up there, I hung out with the guys doing Enduro timing and handed out an entire bottle of whiskey in small Dixie cups to whichever racers wanted a shot (or 4).

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Listen to the post-race interviews in the MBR link above to find out why, exactly, those guys have “F@#K” on their jerseys… it’s pretty amazing.

Following stage 5, we stopped by Sycamore Cycles (local shop sponsoring the race) and hung out a little while. Chopper the dog is adorable…


The awards ceremony for the week was a blast. It culminated into a pie-eating contest. When they made the call for contestants, Matt ran up and, of course, took his shirt off so “it wouldn’t get dirty”. Other guys started filtering their way up, and I instructed them to also take their shirts off. The ladies in the crowd were amused, and many phone photos/videos were taken.





Kaysee Armstrong is all like, “no, I’m not looking…”


Post-race pics:

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I’ve put a video of the pie eating as well as some other during-race action on my YouTube Channel.

Being a crew-person is absolutely exhausting but very rewarding. Matt had a great race- he followed my advice on pacing and eating, which allowed him to put his tech riding skill and fitness to good use throughout the whole week and come away with a 10th place finish in the open men’s category (results posted here). I’m looking forward to racing it myself in 2015.


September 25, 2014

Arkansas Enduro Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 2:10 pm

Yes, I’ve been riding/crew-personing in Pisgah for the past 3 days, and yes, I’m just going to post my Arkansas Enduro race report today.

As I mentioned in my last post, I abandoned my duties at the St. Jude 24 hour event around 8something in the morning. Back home, I changed, set an alarm, and climbed in to bed as quickly as I could so that I could achieve maximum nappage before hitting the road to Arkansas. I was in and out for almost an hour and a half, which, combined with a giant Americano from Starbucks was more than enough alertness to get me through the day (I’m starting to get the hang of the sleep deprivation thing).

I packed the car and made the 3+ hour drive to Arkadephia, checked in to my hotel, then made the short drive over to the Iron Mountain trail system to pre-ride the course. Between the course markings and the map they’d provided, it was super easy to find my way around, even though I don’t know the trail system very well (it’s where my first endurance race of the season was back in February). I found stages 1 and 2, then, before I headed out to stage 3, found my “little brother” Jonathan. We rode stage 3, then took a truck/shuttle back up the hill to stage 4…

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Stage 4 included a newly-created “tech” line, which was basically a flat, narrow pile of rocks with some dirt strategically added in to make it somewhat ride-able. Whether or not I could  ride through the rocks didn’t matter, because at the end of that was a ~3ft drop to a flat landing that fell away somewhat laterally to the right. I have a video of Jon and another guy riding it, but since I’m on iPhone wifi, I don’t want to upload it right now. Both of them made it through the rocks and off the drop, but wrecked upon impact with the ground. From what it looks like on the results page, 5 people rode it out of the 61-person field. Following that section, there was a large rock rollover, a flat spot, then a smaller rock rollover, rock garden, then the course turned right and, the way it was taped at the time, gave you the option of taking the left line- a double drop with a super skinny line through it, or the right line- a smoother, smaller single drop. I opted to hop on my bike following the large rock rollover, ride the smaller one, the rock garden, and the smoother right-side line. However, we found out the next morning at the pre-race meeting that the taping at the double drop had been moved by someone, and that the right side was now blocked. I hadn’t more than glanced at the left line because it seemed like a no-brainer to stay right. So, I didn’t know whether or not I’d even want to try it.

That night, following a bitchin’ catfish dinner, I engaged in my favorite road-trip pastime… laying in bed and watching COPS until I pass out. Given my lack of sleep, it didn’t take long.


I slept in until around 7am, had lots of coffee and breakfast, checked out, then made my way to the trail. After the pre-race meeting, Everyone headed up to the start of stage 1. The way the timing worked was that rider number 1 went off at 10:00. Following him, each person went off in 1 minute intervals, in bib number order, with 2 minute gaps between fields. You have a pre-determined allowed transfer time between stages (allowed times were given to us at registration). So, if I started stage 1 at 10:45, according to the transfer times, I had until 11:05 to get to the start of stage 2. I found these transfer times to be very lenient, and, save the 45 minute wait for my first stage start time, ended up waiting around 10-15 minutes for my start at subsequent stages.

The wait for stage 1- lots of sitting around, making jokes about who looked the most “enduro,” and listening to dudes apologize to each other ahead of time for being to slow (lol):



The dudes who only practice their downhill runs by using a shuttle might argue to the contrary- one guy made it to stage 3 with 1 minute to spare, and when I arrived at stage 4s start, there were several guys laying on the ground looking exhausted.


Stage 1 was very pedal-y, and each of the stages following was less so. Aside from the one “tech” line in stage 4, anyone who can ride a basic trail would be capable of completing all of the stages on any cross country-style bike. I had 4 clean runs… maybe a little more conservative than what I’d consider ideal, but the loose/gravely turns psyched me out. I ended up winning each stage by approximately one minute, giving me the overall victory by about 4 minutes.


What excited me equally as much as the ginormous payout was the prize I won in the raffle- a free spot in the upcoming DirtsmartMTB Enduro clinic. I’m super stoked (bro) to keep improving and sharpening my skill… maybe even learn how to be more confident leaving the ground as well as tackling the loose gravely stuff. According to Kent, the promoter, the series will expand to three races in 2015, and include an even larger payout in hopes of bringing in some speed from the farther reaches of the country. I’m stoked- I’d love to see the pro ladies who dominate out West come over and rip the trails in Arkansas. I really love the enduro format. It’s soooo laid back, and it really suits my strengths as a rider.

September 24, 2014

St. Jude 24 Hour Support Crew

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 2:21 pm

Alright, so I’m incredibly far behind on my blogging as of late, but I’ve basically had no free time since Friday morning last week. I don’t even remember what went on Friday morning, but at some point, I made some rice bars… mango/honey and bacon/egg…

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The purpose of this was to fulfill some of my duty as support crew for my friend John at the St. Jude 24 Hour Fundraising Ride. Though he’s done enough road racing to be a Cat 4 and a handful of Cat 2 cross county MTB races, he’d never actually competed in an endurance event, and his longest ride to date was somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 hours/70 miles. So, naturally, when that’s the case, it makes perfect sense for your first endurance event to be a 24 hour one in which you’ll eventually find yourself competing with older and much more experienced iron-assed dudes.

The ride started at 6pm on Friday, and I arrived somewhere close to 9pm. Casey (John’s wife) had been there since the start, and everything had been smooth sailing so far.


Aside from a slow leak flat tire, everything was smooth sailing for a good while. John was pretty relaxed and riding with Jim and Dale (the aforementioned iron-assed older guys). At some point before I arrived, he’d lapped them, so he was riding one lap up, which he hadn’t realized at first. However, when he came in at somewhere around 100 miles planning on taking a break, and Casey and I told him he was leading, his competitiveness kicked in and wouldn’t die for a very long time.

From then on out, it was the experience and saddle time of Dale and Jim versus the pain tolerance, competitiveness, and iron will of a former professional MMA fighter.

I did lots of bottle handups, electrolyte handups, food handups, and cheering. All night, John’s lead held at anywhere between half to a full lap. I did manage to take one 10-minute nap by using the countdown timer on my phone to wake me up at approximately 1 minute before John would be back through the pit area.


I fed John large quantities of caffeine and told him that he’d feel better when the sun came up. He kept at it, riding with Jim and Dale for much of the night.

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At one point, his bathroom break let them get within half a lap. Because of the boulevard-lap nature of the course, they could see the pain in his face and pedaling, and Jim was smelling blood. However, it seemed as though (and I could be totally wrong) Jim’s pace of trying to catch John at a down moment resulted in the breaking of Dale.

Somewhere after 6am, John earned himself a chicken biscuit feed.


That was really the only time that I saw him start to lose his shit a little. He wanted Jim and Dale to take a break, but they hadn’t. Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Dale had to stop for one reason or another, and John put three laps into them during that time. He wanted to take a break, but I told him to keep those three laps in the bank for when it got really hot and he needed a cooldown break. He set back out, and, since I had to get a quick nap before heading to Arkansas to race enduro, I left around 8am.

Throughout the rest of the day, I was texting back and forth with Casey with advice about what to feed him, how much caffeine he should have, and the best way to keep him cooled off. At 113 laps (313 miles), he finally decided he’d had enough. Dale finished with 111 laps, and Jim with 119. He also raised a little over $3600- the highest individual fundraiser of all entrants (huge thanks to any of you who donated to the cause).

It was a pretty amazing feat to watch considering his lack of long-distance experience… as anyone who has ridden/raced long stuff can tell you, there’s a long learning curve of knowing how top take care of yourself and read the signals your body gives you to know what exactly it needs in those situations.

Shit, my laundry is done.
(posted from the Brevard Wash House)

September 16, 2014

Life after Colorado, in pictures

Filed under: Out West Trip,Training — Andrea @ 3:48 pm

Since my previous rant, I’ve been slowly trying to dig myself out of the post road trip depression hole. It’s a slow and ongoing process to get back to normal, but I’m making it.

I failed to mention previously that on the way home last week, I got pulled over in Texas for going 80 in a 75. That’s the sort of situation that has the potential to end one of two ways- you can either be kind and treat the police officer like a fellow human being just doing a job that not a lot of other people really want to do, or you can be an ass, question his motives, assert your right to not “be detained”/roll down your window, and get yourself a giant-ass speeding ticket. I chose option “A.” When I went to take my wallet out of my purse, I did it where it was easy for him to see inside, talked to him respectfully, and, when he asked where I was coming from, I told him about the crazy bike race I’d just done in Colorado, and he chuckled and said it sounded like something they’d made him do in Ranger School. My karmic prize for not acting like an ass…


The day after I got back home, I went to Campbell Clinic again to start another round of anesthetic injections into my left hamstring. The previous series had worn off sometime after Dirty Kanza, and a lot of my longer training rides before Vapor Trail were done with frequent stops after the 3.5-4 hour mark to keep the sciatic issues at bay. We’re not doing a cortisone shot this time, so it isn’t nearly as bad as far as the pain level goes, and I don’t really have to take any time off from training since my schedule has been mostly recovery since the race, anyway.


Riding has been pretty laid back. I’ve broken out the cyclocross bike, though I haven’t quite gone H.A.M. on it just yet. The weather has been pretty nice, too. The summer heat seems to have broken while I was gone, and it’s been chilly enough to wear arm warmers at least once.

A cyclocross bike propped up on a pumpkin… for cyclists, it doesn’t get much more “decorative gourd season” than that.


Cyclocross season in Memphis will officially start while I’m still in the throes of my late mountain season. I’m not too worried about it, though. I have no dreams of going big with it this winter.

Speaking of hallmarks of Fall, I gladly skipped Interbike this year. However, through the magic of Colorado, my race resume and other relevant information went to Interbike without me. Some new and exciting things are happening for my 2015 season, but they’re all so new and exciting that I can’t say anything else right now. It’s potentially awesome, though.

Other somewhat random and fun things… Matt pimped out my scooter with some vinyl dots:


My parents’ dog is still adorable:


Following my crewperson duties for John at the 24 St. Jude Ride (click the link and donate, pleeeease), I’ll be heading over to Arkansas for Sunday’s Iron Mountain Enduro. There’s only one other woman signed up for the Pro/Cat1 division so far, but according to my brief e-stalking, she appears to be awesome, so I’m excited:


In other dog-related news, I’ve been taking the geriatric residents of the house out for a short walk every day. Considering how much they sleep or just lay around and stare into space all day, I think the little bit of exercise will improve their health… just like with people. Turbo is a little arthritic, and Indy slows down if it’s the least bit warm, so our pace is very laid back.


Today’s gym workout assured that m calves will be almost unbearably sore in the morning (the “sprint” part was ~20m, run out & back, done  behind the building in between each individual exercise, and we went through the list twice).


It was a really good one for cyclocross conditioning, though, so I’m not complaining too much.







September 12, 2014

Getting stuff off my chest

Filed under: Out West Trip,Trails — Andrea @ 7:40 am

It’s time for me to get my after-road trip crybaby rant out of the way so that I can move on with prepping for the next big adventure. I generally try to keep the mood of this blog positive, because that’s how I generally exist in life. However, it’s not always like that, and, in the spirit of “keeping it real” in the blogosphere, I’m making this post.

I’m pretty sure that the obligatory post-road trip depression actually set in before I’d even left Salida- about the time that I could summarize a week’s worth of local news for Memphis with “2 murders and a mob-style beating by a gang of teens, mostly minors.” The icing on the cake- one of my good friends from Arkansas (Scott Penrod) was hit by a car and in the ICU.

I’m going to get off on a tangent for a second, because, in the scope of cyclists and cars, I always hear the same thing. “It could have been so much worse.” I’m guilty of saying it myself. You know what, though? It could always be worse. You got hit by a car and only had cuts and bruises? Definitely could have been worse. Oh, you got put in the hospital, but were out a few days later? You aren’t dead, so it could have been worse! A driver killed a cyclist? Well, the way they ride in groups all the time, it definitely could have been worse, because it was only one, and not more!

Fuck that. It could have been better. The drivers who can’t get it through their thick skulls that there are other people on the road who aren’t surrounded in steel and airbags could get their collective thick skulls out of their asses and pay attention to their surroundings. The police and justice system could stop siding with distracted drivers and start punishing them for being negligent human beings instead of just saying, “Oh, what a terrible accident, but it could have been worse.”

Last weekend, I rode my bike for more than 19 hours, and during that time, interacted with traffic for less than an hour. It’s not that I think that drivers outside of where I live are any better or paying any more attention, it’s that I was in a place where it’s possible to ride a bike for 19 hours without coming into contact with people wrapped in steel and their own agendas. Since I was hit a year and a half ago, I’ve been fighting my own fears and panic attacks, gritting my teeth and saying, “I won’t let this beat me,”  but it’s slowly wearing me down.

I went for a late-afternoon walk while I was in the mountains, and was told to take pepper spray. It wasn’t because there were ill-intended people around- no mobs or murderers. It was because I wasn’t at the top of the food chain. I’m OK with that.

Along the theme of people wrapped up in their own agendas, while I was gone, Matt rode out to look at a bandit trail that’d been recently cut. He found a twisty, staub-filled path that basically followed none of the sustainability recommendations put fourth by IMBA. It (along with other illegal trails) is cut in an area that’s designated as a “Natural Area,” which means that, by the law, mountain bikes aren’t allowed. Thankfully, the park stopped enforcing that rule years ago, but all of the signs and the written laws are still intact, waiting for the wrong hiker/walker/etc. to get pissed off and raise enough stink that we’re tossed out again. The people doing this crap are brazen enough to cut illegal trail, then name it something like “El Bandito” on Strava- I showed someone that didn’t believe me, and he was flabbergasted, saying, “wow, that’d get you arrested out here!” They just. don’t. care. Matt called the trail-cutter out on a local facebook forum and was the subject of all-out ridicule that verged on bullying. These people have no idea how good they have it in Memphis, because they’ve never lived in a place where trail access to mountain bike has been reduced (like odd/even days for hikers/bikers on some urban Colorado trails) or eliminated altogether. No, they just want more trail, so they go out into the woods and cut it whenever and however they please- legality and sustainability be damned. Don’t you dare question it, either.

I love mountain biking. I can’t question that, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t put up with all the crap I put up with in order to ready myself to ride and race mountain bikes in places bigger and more awesome than my hometown. It just makes the crap so much more obvious when I go someplace else. It makes it hard to come back.

Alright. That’s all out. time to move on.

September 8, 2014

Vapor Trail 125 Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing,Out West Trip — Andrea @ 12:59 pm

As I mentioned in my last post, my acclimatization to altitude is somewhat lacking. It hasn’t kept me from having a good time any time I’ve been to the mountains (no altitude sickness, etc.), but it does keep me from riding my bike as fast as I’d like to. When I lined up for the Vapor Trail 125, I knew that, and I planned my “race” strategy accordingly… do what I can, pace-wise, feed and hydrate well, and deal with the fact that I am basically in the granny gear or pushing my bike most of the time that I’m going up a hill. Sort of like a 125 mile Enduro race.

Saturday basically took forever. If you ever want to try and break a hole in the space-time continuum by making time go backwards, plan to do a bike race that starts at 10pm. I charged all my lights and unpacked/repacked my Osprey pack and drop bag more than once. Finally, 7pm came, and I went to Absolute Bikes to fill out my waiver and get a sweet race beanie.


The rider meeting was at 8pm, and, though I was tempted to do so by my nerves, I didn’t kit up yet.


The enormity of the race really started to sink in during the meeting. I got nervous. As soon as the meeting was over, I went back to the hostel and made myself a soup bowl-sized mug of coffee to drink while I paced around getting ready.


A little before 10, everyone lined up at a bridge downtown for the neutral rollout. It’s actually pretty cool- since the racers need to cross a major highway to get to the race course, everyone follows a police car out of Salida to Poncha Springs just a few miles away, where it stops next to a small airport for a final pee/clothing adjustment break before continuing to highway 285, where several other police cars were waiting to stop traffic and let all of the racers cross safely as a group.

Once we were across the highway and the police car pulled away, the group quickly stretched out and split apart as we started the first climb several miles up a gravel forest road to the Colorado Trail (go back to my first VT125 post to see pictures & a Google Earth track). All of the women in the race were basically some sort of Colorado endurance superstar in one way or another, and they left me in their dust at that point (with the exception of Bec Bale, who was just a minute or so behind me). I just kept going at the pace that my physiological speed governor would allow.

Riding the Colorado Trail at night is a rush. I used a head and bar mounted set of Light & Motion Seca 2000 lights. They’re so incredibly bright that I was able to keep them on low power the whole time, with the exception of the final Colorado Trail descent and the descent off of the Alpine Tunnel pass. Bonus- the enduro model will run for 10 hours on low. I still carried spare batteries but never needed them. I arrived at the first aid station at 1:40am.  Though it’s relatively early on the course, that aid station is the last one before the long drag in the mountains. I took a pee break, ate half a breakfast burrito, grabbed an extra base layer from my drop bag, and set back out.

The climb up to Alpine Tunnel is long and gradual, and can mentally break you if you let it. I alternated sitting and standing as well as awareness and staring at the ground in front of me, and the two hours to the top passed quickly. The moon was incredibly bright, and was competing with my lights for the reflection off of the frost that was on the pine and aspen trees along the road. At the end of the road at Alpine Tunnel trailhead, it was bright enough to dimly light the bare tops of the mountains around the pass… the view was surreal. I stopped for a pee break, and to just soak in the awesomeness before making my way to the Alpine Tunnel hike-a-bike.

It was at the hike-a-bike that I caught up to one of my female competitors. I started hiking before her and descended a little faster (she mentioned something about this being her first night ride in some extreme length of time). However, she caught up and left me when I stopped to change into a warmer jacket and gloves. The next section of road was gradually downhill for a couple of miles, and the temperature was somewhere below freezing. My hands can go from OK to useless ice flippers in the space of five minutes, so I enact a “disaster aversion” strategy of keeping my core warm and my gloves dry.

The next challenge was Tomichi Pass and the infamous hike-a-bike up Granite Mountain. I mostly walked up Tomichi, though I did find a few sections to be momentarily granny gear-able. Once I was on the other side of the pass, it was somewhere around 5:15 in the morning, and I began the long push to the top of the mountain. When I stopped for another pee break about halfway up (there’s a pattern emerging here), I noticed when I got back on the trail that my eyes had adjusted enough in the very slight morning dimness that I didn’t need to turn my lights back on. I made it to the top about the time the sun was turning the sky all sorts of cool colors.

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One of the “benefits” of being forced into riding slow is that the faster people are in the dark when they do the Canyon Creek trail descent from the top of that mountain. Also, since it was so cloudy during my pre-ride, I’d had no idea that the initial part of that descent was along the spine of the mountains. I took that as a satisfying consolation prize. Once you’re past the timberline, that descent is full-gas awesomeness. I raged it so hard that I caught up to several people who’d left the top of the mountain while I was still taking photos and enjoying the view (bonus- despite slowing down and chatting with a couple of the caught guys for a minute before passing them, I got the Strava QOM for the lower half of the descent). You basically take about an hour to lose all of the elevation that you spent all night gaining.

The next aid station is at the bottom of that descent, and my arrival time was 7:41am. Though I was very stoked from going downhill and seeing morning in general, I wasn’t feeling my most awesome. Imagine riding all night, doing a metric crap-ton of climbing both on and off-bike, then rolling into the aid station at the bottom of another 2 hours worth of climbing and saying, “Hey, I’m ALMOST halfway done with the race course now!” On top of that, though I’d had what I’d consider a “normal” amount of water for an effort of that duration/intensity/temperature, I was peeing way more than normal, which made me think that my electrolytes were off. I mixed up some Gu Blueberry Pomegranate Brew (double sodium, and the single-serve stick packs are really convenient to pack for a ride), and decided that I’d drink all of it on the way up to the next aid station at the top of Monarch Pass.

If I had to pick a place that was my “low point” of the race, I’m probably not alone in saying that it was somewhere on the Old Monarch Pass climb. I did my best to zone out and not think about it, and made it to the top somewhere in between daydreaming about pizza and using a roadside rock as a pillow to take a nap.

Two and a half hours after leaving the previous aid, I arrived at Monarch Pass… the place where most people who want to DNF do the deed. Though I was at kind of a dark place in my experience, I knew from past races that a short break and some self-care can really turn things around. So, I sat down while two very kind aid station volunteers brought my bag and gave me various food choices. I took off my base layer and knee warmers, had a cranberry muffin, some bacon, and a 16oz Redbull along with a couple of electrolyte pills. It rejuvinated me enough to enjoy the sweetness of the next part of the course- the Monarch Crest Trail. It has a couple of tough kickers in it as far as climbing, but it’s mostly rolling with some fun downhills and gorgeous views. Bonus- picked up another downhill Strava QOM for the descent to the aid station at the Starvation Creek loop.

The Starvation Creek loop is about as fun as it sounds. You start by climbing about 500ft on jeep road until you reach the singletrack descent (I accidentally passed it in my sleep-deprived state and had to turn around and find it when I reached the dead end of the road). The singletrack drops down… and down… and down… it’s so long that you quickly stop enjoying the downhill and start dreading how much you’re descending. I literally slowed down because I wanted it to be finished. Then, you cross the creek and start climbing a rocky jeep road back up- about 2000ft back up. It’s warm at the bottom (hearing people complain about how “hot” it was made me chuckle a little), and there are biting black flies that will circle and nail you right when you’re suffering most. If someone at the aid station for the loop had given me the choice of either doing the loop or opting out with a full-force kick to the liver, I’d choose the liver kick.

I made it through in about 2.5 hours… actually not too terrible of a time, considering I required two pee breaks, and I either granny-geared or hiked during the entire climb out. When I passed through the aid station for the second time, I ate several handfuls of really salty potato chips and took another electrolyte pill. That seemed to do the trick for extending times between pee breaks, because I didn’t have to go again until I was back and showered, despite continuing my same water consumption. I could also just about smell the finish line 25 miles away.

Leaving Starvation Creek is the last of the long climbs of the course. You get on the Colorado Trail and go up and up and up until you make it to the descent down Silver Creek. I quickly realized that I was getting a little fatigued and sloppy with my downhilling and decided it was in my best interest to back it off a couple of mph so that I wouldn’t end myself or my bike that close to the finish. Once I was down that, I found the last aid station at the bottom, where they had the best treats of the day- bacon and egg rice bars as well as salt and vinegar chips. I wanted to stay and eat more, but the last section- the Rainbow Trail, was calling my name.

Definitely one of my favorite parts of the course, BTW. It does have a couple of steep hills that I had to hike, but all of them are followed up with the payoff of flowy goodness. It was a perfect icing to my 127 mile cake. The hardest part of the rest of the course was navigating the highway 285/50 intersection. The entire course had been marked with pink pin flags and tape, and the construction zone at the intersection had wooden stakes and pink flagging stuck in to both sides of the road. Being mildly delirious, I was momentarily stupefied, but then noticed the pink course flags mixed in amongst the construction markers. I followed them to find the county road back in to town- downhill the whole way.

I finished in 19 hours, 27 minutes… near the bottom of the finisher list. However, to be a finisher on that list feels like an accomplishment in and of itself. Aside from the sleep deprivation and requisite soreness from riding/pushing so much, I actually felt slightly less bad than when I finished any other sea-level 100-mile mountain bike races… another discovered advantage to the physiological speed governor. Then, I got hungry.

That used to be a gigantic hamburger with bacon and avocado


I also needed dessert


Rather than putting myself through the torture of driving back today, I’m taking the day to relax, nap, eat, and get a massage. It will make the 17 hours of going back home slightly less bad, though it’s always sad to see the mountains in my rear-view mirror.


September 6, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #5

Filed under: Out West Trip,Trail Riding — Andrea @ 1:19 pm

The good news is, my fork is feeling better. The bad news is, through the magic of the cool testing & training equipment found around the 92fifty/Elevated Legs compound, I was able to quantify just how much I’m affected by the 9k+ feet of elevation. Sitting around in the house, the pulse oximiter tells me that my red blood cells are only 93% saturated with oxygen… something you’d only expect to see at sea level if you were dealing with a person who has a pulmonary problem of some sort (like asthma).


I laid around in the Elevated Legs for a while breathing oxygen from the O2 generator, and, surprise! I made it (temporarily) up to normal.

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The idea behind the setup like the one in the 92fifty studio is that you can get all of the good physiological adaptations you’d see from hanging out at altitude, but by doing higher intensity sessions indoors with supplemental O2, you can still train your top end like you’re at sea level.

So, there’s your brief and informative science lesson of the day.

Wednesday, I packed up my stuff and headed out to visit Megan- a high school/horseback riding friend who moved out of Memphis forever ago. She’s settled in to an awesome little farmhouse in Black Forest with Sara (her girlfriend), two horses, dogs, and kittens…

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I also sold my first road bike to her. Sadly, it developed a weird crack in the downtube, and she moved on to a different bike. She was nice enough to let me take her parts off of it and take it home with me to hang on the wall.


Thursday, I made up for not riding on Wednesday and, after breakfast, went to Colorado Springs to ride with Dan, who really made me miss my singlespeed.


He’s also taking on the Vapor Trail 125 tonight, so we had plenty of post-ride banter about how terrible the weather could possibly be.

I stopped back through Megan’s to change and eat some lunch before heading north into the suburbs of Denver to see Ben Welnak (from Mountain Bike Radio). He’s like, super-dad of the century as well. We waited around for a storm to pass before riding, and, since I took about 4x as long to prepare to ride than he did, he started dinner and wrangled kids while he waited on me.


Ben swore that the rain would be gone quickly after sunset, so we left in a drizzle and rode up Waterton Canyon towards the Colorado Trail. It was soooo gorgeous. It also never quit raining. I was more disappointed in not seeing any nocturnal creatures than I was in the wet weather.

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Friday morning, it was time to get over to Salida. After I ran around Denver shopping for waterproof socks and gloves, I got on the road and made it to town around 4:30. I hit up the local shops for some souvenirs to take home and caught a couple who were on the Continental Divide Trail. They’d stopped by Subculture Bikes to get a brake fixed.

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The people working in the shop were super nice and remembered me from stopping through last year. They invited me to have a beer and go get pizza with them. Very cool.

So, now the countdown to race start begins… about 8 hours from now. The lights are charging, the bike is tuned,  and I’ve made a tentative clothing selection based on a more optimistic forecast than what I’d seen earlier in the week. The next post you see will be a race report…


September 3, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #4

Filed under: non-bike — Andrea @ 7:31 am

Since I left Crested Butte, I’ve had to dial the riding back a bit (actually, my last day in Butte was pretty laid back relative to the previous week’s rides). I’ve been hanging around at the 92fifty Cycles compound, going for quick rides in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, eating delicious home-cooked food, and spending free time laying in my bunk relaxing in the Elevated Legs (if that sounds like a good time to you, keep an eye on their website or give them a call, because it’s a service they’ll be offering to everyone in the future.


The riding right out their driveway is pretty amazing. I haven’t taken any pictures of it, but it’s a really cool mixture of technical and chunky rocks and smooth flowy stuff. Yesterday, Jon, Kyle, Debbie (a coaching client/customer of the shop), and I rode out to the park. Jon and Debbie split off to work on some skills, and Kyle and I played enduro for a while. Once we finished up, the grill was kicking and a bunch of friends came over for a Labor Day cookout.


They’re serious about their Coors around here.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty chilled out. I went for a walk around dusk (which included a hand-held pepper spray in case a mountain lion came after me), then we had a fire and smores.


Today was another good taper day. It began with coffee and hanging on the porch with the animals-

Duke and Biscuit



Rocko (who has his own house)



And this little dude, who was making laps with his cheeks stuffed…


After another couple of hours in the park, I cleaned up, ate, and drove up to the shop to work on my bike. It needed some grease in the BB bearings (the ones that come stock in the Wheel Manufacturing adapter are apparently made in the same factory as Crank Brothers pedals). Also, the fork was giving me a rash. It wasn’t getting through all the travel (despite the air pressure being somewhat lower than what’s stated for my weight on the fork stanchion), and when I’d unweight the front wheel to get up obstacles, it’d make a “thunk” as it decompressed.

After the grease re-packing, I first checked the damper oil. The damper was warrantied by the shop a couple of months ago, and, turns out, only had 80mL of oil in the bath instead of 106mL. Once that was fixed, the thump was still there. I took the lowers off, and, while I couldn’t really measure what leaked out during the removal process, it did look more viscous than the 15wt that normally goes in there. Once it was back together, the thump seemed to be fixed. Tomorrow’s ride will tell for sure… I’ll be sure to find a hill that will (hopefully) utilize all of its travel.

September 1, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #3

Filed under: Out West Trip,Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 10:06 am

Once the pizza sandwich and ginger ale were consumed, I got on the road to Crested Butte. I didn’t know much about the town other than what I’d heard about the amazing quality of trails in the area. Once I was settled in at the hostel (which is huge, and, compared to a trail town/hiker hostel, has a weird, transient vibe to it), I walked down to the main street to get dinner. I wandered in to a pizza place called the Secret Stash and sat at the bar for a pizza and beer.

Given it was Thursday night, the mood was relatively calm inside. I was nearly finished with my meal when suddenly a raucous crowd poured into the bar area. A lady got up on a chair and announced that she was the bar owner and that Bud Light beer was free tonight. People cheered and the wait staff started tearing in to boxes of Bud Light and handing out bottles to everyone in sight. My first thought was W.T.F. This is Colorado… why is everyone freaking out about terrible beer?


Well, apparently, the city council had just approved a “Bud Light takes over your city” weekend. I’ll spare the details provided by the waitress, but apparently it requires businesses to only serve bud light (for free) for that weekend, and includes a huge free concert as well as food and a half  a million dollars to the city. The townspeople were very divided, but in the end, the Bud Light supporters won out. Soooo weird.

The next day, rather than dive straight in to riding, I decided to take a much-needed recovery day (I’d already clocked 18 hours in the past 3 days, so it was time). I started out with a bacon “scromlette” from McGills (where I ended up getting breakfast every morning since they were open at 6am).


That was followed up with coffee and blog-writing, then a massage and a drop-in visit to a great chiropractor. After a quick lunch of leftover pizza, I figured it was time to deal with my tire that I’d punctured and tubed a few days before. I’ve successfully patched several tires, though it’s always involved using a bench vice. I had no vice, so I had to improvise with what tools were in my bag.


It worked like a charm, and I took tire and wheel to a local shop where it could be sealed and I could buy a trail map. After a trip to the one tiny grocery store in town (tip- if you go to CB and plan on grocery shopping, do it in Gunnison on your way in so that you avoid the stupidly high small-mountain-town prices), I decided it was time for a quick spin before sunset. I made a loop of the “lower” trails, which were very nice.


The next day, I wanted something a little more backcountry. I saw the Deer Creek trail on the map, and, based on its description of “classic CB trail,” I thought it’d fit the bill well. It was a long climb to get there, and more climbing once I was on the trail. As soon as I was on the trail, I started dodging relentless cowpies. I had to hike-a-bike some near the top, and it was more of the same- a half inch layer of poo and urine slime, churned into the ground by cow hooves. I got to the top and briefly talked to some people who agreed that the trail was grosser than they remembered.

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About 90% of the whole 9 miles of trail was like that.


At least there were good views…




After my ride, I had a late lunch, laid around a bit, wandered around downtown, then had a nice dinner at the hostel. If I had to guess, I’d say there are more bikes in Crested Butte than there are cars. I borrowed one from a gal that worked in the hostel. It seems at though everyone has some sort of beater that they can just leave on any bike rack without someone bothering it. Awesome.



Bonus doggie pic of “Riot”


My next day ride was up to the 401 trail. The forest road up to the trail was surrounded by gorgeous scenery (notice the snow pack in the left of the first pic)




The trail itself was soooooo sweet





After my 401 ride, I had to pack and head north for my stay with the 9250 Cyclery guys. Random fun fact from the trip- the high mountains near Breckenridge have a fresh sheen of snow on top of them.

August 30, 2014

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #2

Filed under: Out West Trip,Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 9:28 am

Following my failed attempt at riding the “hard” part of the Vapor Trail course, I arrived back at the hostel to find that there was another CDT rider stopping in to take a break from the trail. It was a German woman who had actually started her journey in Montreal, Canada.

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Once I was cleaned up and starting to get hungry, I walked to a nearby pizza restaurant with her and a hiker. I love sitting and listening to their stories from the trail… it’s one of my favorite things about hostel-ing in a trail town. Afterward, we went to the grocery store and picked up ice cream for later.
Over dinner, we briefly discussed my failed ride from the day. I lamented that in order to achieve my pre-ride goal of “not being above the treeline during afternoon storms” that I needed to get a ride to near where I’d turned around earlier. The dude who was out hiking the Colorado Trail offered to help… he had planned on hitch-hiking back to where he’d left off the trail to come to the hostel. That spot just so happened to be relatively close to where I’d finish my ride. So, we decided that we’d drive the element up to the Alpine Tunnel Trail, then I’d get out and ride, and he’d drive to the trailhead where he needed to get back on the trail. Perfect.


It was cold and cloudy when I started up the trail. The scenery was magnificent, though. Before I started the hike-a-bike to the pass, I took a few minutes to check out the site where the tunnel had gone through the mountain..

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I then started the first (and easiest) hike-a-bike of the day up and over. I made a quick stop at the top for a photo before heading down. Most of the train station still remains on the other side of the pass. It was somewhat surreal in the fogginess.

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Soon the race course took a turn off the old railroad grade to go up and over Tomichi pass. It was intermittent granny gearing and hiking followed by a final push up and over the top. It was snowing up there. I was stoked.

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As soon as you cross that spot, there’s a short descent, then the real fun starts… the hike-a-bike that everyone talks about. It’s steep, almost all rocks, and goes on for about an hour. I sang “99 bottles of beer on the wall” in my head several times over before reaching the summit.

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What follows is, at least during daylight hours, the reward for all the pushing. It’s a descent from over 12k feet to around 8k feet. The trail very quickly links in to a trail that’s open to motorcycles, and I found that the moto who had gone down not long before me (it was intermittently raining, and the tracks were super fresh) had taken excellent lines through all of the steep and rocky spots. I was able to “follow” him the whole way down. Dropper post central.

After one more short, steep, and sandy hike-a-bike, the trail dumped out on to a gravel road that meandered its way towards the final climb of the day- Old Monarch Pass. It was warm at the start, but about 3/4 of the way up, it was cold and raining. Like steady, soaking rain. Luckily I was mostly prepared. It would have been nice to have some more water resistant gloves.

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I’ll admit, the climb nearly crushed my soul. However, I eventually made it over the top and found the trail to take me to Highway 50.


Once I was there, I put all of my extra clothes on, brushed the mud off of my tail light, and began the descent to the Fooses Creek Trailhead where my car was supposed to be parked. I averaged 40 mph for several minutes. I might have gone faster, but I basically pulled off at every side road to check and make sure it wasn’t where I needed to turn off. Eventually, I found it, and I was very happy. As soon as I was in to some dry clothes, I ate some leftover pizza and a ginger ale.



With the 20 clothing change stops and an equal number of photo opportunities, the entire outing took me about 6 hours and 45 minutes. I expect I won’t take quite as long on race day (er, night), but it won’t take much less time, either. I can say that, without a doubt, this qualifies as the most difficult course I’ve ever taken on- day or night.

Once I was in the car, I drove with the heat blasting almost all the way to Crested Butte. I’d planned a couple of nice rides there, but since the extra pre-ride day was so brutal, I decided that my first full day in CB would be dedicated to recovery and a little wrenching. Photos of that tomorrow, because today is ride day, and it’s time to go.

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