brickhouseracing

October 17, 2014

Delaying the Inevitable

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 8:13 am

Things are still very up in the air with 12 Hours of Nite Nationals. Not only did I discover that it’s an Auburn football weekend (if you don’t live in the South, you may not realize how psychotic the college football fans are down here), I rode a while yesterday, and my legs were pretty junky. Luckily, both the weather and the Yellow trail of the Wolf River System were pretty perfect, so it wasn’t a total wash. I’m giving my legs until Sunday to make an attempt at turning around.

On the winter training end of things, it looks like I’ll be working with the guys from BPC Performance Systems to ready myself for the two marathons I’m planning on for the “off-season.” I’m somewhat relieved to switch to running for a while, because after 3 “close calls” with some really ignorant drivers in the past week, my road riding world is basically collapsing in around me from all sides. I thought that my driver fear would fade somewhat following getting hit nearly two years ago, but it seems to only get worse as I come to the stark realization that people who drive are mostly concerned with looking at their phones and not other human beings. I haven’t ridden my road bike since before I went to Colorado, but I still ride the handful of miles to/from the trail a few miles from my house. Hell, in those three situations I mentioned, the drivers saw me and still acted stupid, so it’s not a guarantee that just because someone knows you’re there doesn’t mean they won’t put your life in danger. The justice system favors drivers in all “accident” situations, no matter how distracted, inattentive, or foolish they are, so there’s basically no punishment for mowing someone down because you wanted to read that email or you just wanted to pass the person on a bike and force them into the gutter immediately before a redlight. I’m prettymuch terrified any time my wheels are on asphalt.

So, you could say that I’m ready for a mental break from the road.

In more positive news…

The Just Riding Along show on Mountain Bike Radio is awesome. I came up with a couple of really cool t-shirt ideas during my last road trip, and we’re in the process of getting S2N Design to help us make my rough MS Paint sketches become a not-so-rough reality.

Turbo, my aged Belgian Malinois, once again wins the “hardass dog” award. For the past couple of years, she’s had an on/off seasonal cough. She occasionally needs medication, but it’s generally not that serious. Last week, she started coughing again. I gave her some cough medicine, but she didn’t really respond, so I took her to the vet. An x-ray revealed that she’s got a pretty significant case of pneumonia in her right lung. The doctor was pretty surprised because, aside from the coughing, she was otherwise acting normal. She’s now on a double dose of antibiotics and the cough is slowly going away.

After this pic/conversation on Instagram, I felt compelled to do a series of “day in the life” photos to illustrate how easy it is to only post the fun stuff on the internet for everyone to see. I keep forgetting to start taking photos as soon as I wake up, though it was probably too dark for pictures during the 4:30am Indy-needs-to-potty wake up call. I may just start posting them from random parts of the day with some sort of witty hashtag. You can follow at Brickhouseracing on Instagram…

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Oh, yeah… I almost forgot to mention (late post edit). I just pledged on Kickstarter to get a pair of Keirin Cut Jeans. I’ve always had a stupidly hard time finding jeans that fit my legs and my waist, and these are designed to eliminate the problem. If you have the same issue (and I know a lot of you do), then check them out and sign up for a pair. The more of you who do that, the quicker they’re put into production…

Did I mention that the weather is amazing? I will probably run errands on my scooter this afternoon.

October 14, 2014

Lula Lake Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing,Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 1:55 pm

In the running for “biggest success of the weekend” could be my avoidance of this traffic jam on the way to Chattanooga. I checked the traffic map prior to leaving my acupuncture appointment in Spring Hill just south of Nashville and saw the backup starting near the I-24/I-59 junction close to Chattanooga. I checked again at a rest stop, saw it was worse, and figured out which back roads would route me around it.

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Chattanooga is like any “up & coming” city… gentrification abounds, and, while it whitewashes much of the cultural interest of an area, it does make for a cool and convenient place to stay downtown.

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I digress…

The Lula Lake Land Trust 5 Points 50 was (despite plenty of rain) a great race on an excellent course. I wasn’t quite recovered from the adventure race, so not only was I not firing on all cylinders from the gun, the ones I was firing on started to fail around mile 26. I swapped between 3rd/4th place for a while, finding that, while the woman I was racing for the podium spot could handily outclimb me, I was better at downhills and slippery/slide-y/technical stuff. The course really favored a strong climber, though, and I wasn’t able to fake my way ahead of her for the 2nd half of the course. I was in 4th for a while, and, while I was downing a Red Bull at the 38ish mile aid station, 5th caught up to me. She was ahead for a while, then the caffeine took hold, and I was able to pass her on a steep spot. I held her off through cramps and my building frustrations that none of the downhills seemed long or steep enough to justify using my dropper post, and ended up finishing in 4th place out of 13 ladies.

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It wasn’t terrible… I knew that a lack of recovery was a real possibility, and I was game enough to have a good time and enjoy a fun trail system.  If you want to hear more about the Lula Lake race, keep an eye on the Mountain Bike Radio Just Riding Along page. I interviewed the race winners as well as the people responsible for making such an excellent event.

Post-race road trip necessity for the drive home on Sunday:

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When I arrived back home, I spent the remainder of the day chilling out and occasionally assisting Matt in his ambitious weekend schedule of home improvement projects

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Ryan and I drank beer, sat in the garage, and spectated that portion of it.

The focus now is on recovery. I kicked the week off right by taking the dogs to the dog park. Marley likes to run the fence at full speed trying to catch squirrels, Indy wanders around the corners, and Turbo generally sticks by me. A good time was had by all.

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My current plan is to rest hard and try to be on top form for the 12 Hours of Nite Nationals race on the 25th. It’s going to be a close-to-gameday decision, though. My fitness prior to the adventure race was the best it’s been all season. However, it will take every bit of that fitness and then some to do well against the ladies that are going to show up at the race. So, if I don’t feel 100%, there are other things I’d rather do than flog myself in a sleep-deprived lap race.

October 8, 2014

Scratching the Itches

Filed under: Bike Racing,non-bike,Trails,Training — Andrea @ 12:35 pm

I keep getting this relentless itch. It happens every time I, for whatever reason, go out for a run or see one of my Facebook friends on some sort of trail running/ultramarathon adventure (especially local Billy Simpson- his post about Arkansas this morning is literally the thing that pushed me over the edge on this).

If you’ve been around since I started my blog, you might remember that my cycling addiction began when I was an avid trail runner (thanks to the Warthogs running group. If it weren’t for them, I probably would have never thrown a leg over a bike as an adult). I’ve run a handful of 50ks, trail marathons, and various other long-distance off road races. Running- especially trail running- is something I turn to when I need an off-season break but still want to stay very active. I thoroughly enjoyed all 5 runs I did in preparation for the USARA event (er, I probably should have done more than 5).

This fall, I’ve been unable to convince myself that I want to keep up with any sort of formal training that has to do with cyclocross. I’m missing most of the pretty small Memphis schedule of races (one race is the same day as the 12hr night nationals, and the other two are the same weekend as the Enduro clinic), and, with all of the late-season traveling I’ve done and still have ahead of me, I don’t feel like driving a metric crap-ton to race in Arkansas and Nashville. So, I’ve tentatively decided to do this: LoVit Trail Marathon at the beginning of December as a warm-up to this: Athens-Big Fork Trail Marathon in early January (I ran that one a long time ago, and it was, by far, the most challenging thing I’ve ever done on foot). Then, it will be back to my regularly scheduled regimen of bike training to get ready for the upcoming 2015 mountain bike season.

Not only do I feel the trail calling me, but my fear, anxiety, and growing dislike of riding on the road has really started to eat away at my soul. While I still plan on doing plenty of cycling during the time from the end of October (after Night Nationals) until the first week of January, focusing more on trail running through then will help me put off doing some the winter road miles I’m facing. And, yes… I’m serious when I say I’m going to wait to start marathon training until nearly the beginning of November for a marathon that’s on December 6th. Trust me… I’ve done this before. I have the base fitness- it’s just a matter of conditioning my body to take the impact of running in order to put that fitness to good use.

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October 6, 2014

USARA Nationals

Filed under: Bike Racing,Trails — Andrea @ 3:14 pm

Back around the beginning of August, I was contacted by JRA fan/listener Tony Misovski about racing with his team at the Adventure Race Nationals. I’ve dabbled in shorter races, and I enjoy the format and variety of adventure racing, so I jumped on the opportunity to take on a longer, more challenging event with a very experienced team (the Michigan Racing Addicts). The race was held in McHenry, Maryland, snuggled right up in the foothills of the Appalachians. The area is gorgeous (especially this time of year with the leaves nearly at peak color) as well as rugged.

I arrived at the Wisp ski resort (race home base) Thursday afternoon. While waiting on Tony and Mike to arrive so we could check in, I decided I’d thrown on my shoes and helmet and go for a spin to check out the bike path I’d seen on the way in to the resort. Somehow that ended up with riding to the top of the ski hill.

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Not long after that, the Michigan caravan arrived. After we said our hellos and whatnot, we found our way to registration and our hotel room, where I commenced to dumping all of my clothes out (two of everything) and wondering WTF I should bring with me for 30 hours that would include everything from sun and 70 degrees to rain and 60s dropping to the low 40s. The 7pm racer meeting gave me a slightly better idea of how the race would go as far as when and where we could access gear as well as the order and transportation mode of each stage.

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P.S. It was freezing in the race meeting room. Also, pinky out = classy as ufck.

Following the meeting, I’m pretty sure it took me a solid 2 hours to decide what clothes to take where and when and get stuff packed and organized in a way that would make it easy to grab and go in whatever fatigued and/or sleep deprived state I’d be in. The exciting part was that the entire day would kick off with a float down the whitewater course at the top of the ski hill. I’ve never even ridden in a boat on whitewater, so I was excited to see what would happen when I’d be taking it on with a helmet, life jacket, and a boogie board.

After a few hours’ sleep, we were out of bed and back down to the meeting area to receive maps, checkpoint coordinates, and final race instructions…

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Essentially, the two hours that elapsed from the time the maps came out until the 8am race start were the shortest two hours you could possibly imagine. Checkpoints are plotted first, then the route between checkpoints is planned, highlighted, and measured. In my head, I broke the race up into two parts. Part one would be the whitewater ride, bike orienteering #1, then paddling/orienteering/paddling. Part two was another bike section- much longer, and broken in half by a “score-o” orienteering on foot section that was much more difficult in both length and elevation than the first one (and performed mostly in the dark).

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It seemed like 10 minutes passed before we were lined up and ready to take off on foot up the ski hill to the whitewater area. Mike’s wife Angie was there with the camera wherever we’d go, so she got some great pictures…
(she told us “serious face” for this one)

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That was a hell of a hike to get us started… and the whitewater was pretty awesome. I don’t have pictures of myself in the water, but here’s my teammate, Mike, going in to the first rapid…

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That shit was no joke… it’d smack you in the face then hold you under water for a couple of seconds:

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We made excellent time on that section and found ourselves running back down the hill with some of the top teams. For the next stage, we hopped on our bikes, rode back up the ski hill access road, past the whitewater center, and into the nearby trail system. It was some awesome stuff- lots of rocks that reminded me of the trails in the Transylvania Epic.

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Looking at the map, you can see the start area is the green arrow. We ran to the whitewater center and back then rode to the checkpoints in the green area (with the exception of the checkpoints with the red x’s and the one labled “final,” which were final stage bonus points- more on that later).

Part 1

We had one mix up in our navigating somewhere in there and lost some time. It was very early in a long race, though, so we didn’t stress it too much and hustled back to the ski resort to start the paddling and orienteering stage. With that one, you had the option of going for all the paddling CPs first (two were waaaay out on the far end of the lake), then orienteering and going back to the transition area, or you could paddle to the orienteering area, clear it, then go get those two far-flung paddling CPs (or not).

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The headwind and associated rough water on the lake was rowdy. Two boats capsized in that section. Luckily, we made it to the orienteering area halfway down the lake without incident (though we’d taken on a lot of water from waves crashing over the front of the boat). I was very happy that I didn’t get seasick.

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The orienteering went mostly smooth. We did have one point that took a while to find because it was on a fairly flat, mostly featureless spur that was covered in thick ground cover. The combination of that along with the length of time it took us to get there with the initially bad conditions meant that we skipped going for the two other paddling CPs. While we were on land, the weather associated with the wind passed through, bringing us a little rain but also flat water and calm skies for the return trip. That’d be the last of the good weather we’d see for the remainder of the race.

When we arrived back at the transition to start what I labeled as “stage 2″ in the map above, a heavy, steady rain started. According to the weather forecast, it’d stick around for several hours, and the temperature would drop steadily from that point on. We changed in to some warmer clothes and hit the road.

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The next part was one of the few places that really sucked. We had to ride for what seemed like forever up the shoulder of highway 291. It was busy, getting dark, and pouring down rain. I was really happy when we finally made it to the back road that’d take us to the next cluster of checkpoints (they’re the ones at the top of the pic).

Part 3

It was gorgeous just before dark… the trees along the road were all yellow, and the road itself was covered in a layer of fallen yellow and red leaves.Then, it was dark, and we found ourselves on a long-ish road climb that someone had painted with words like “agony” and “suffering.” It wasn’t really that bad… I towed Mike up most of it until he had a flat tire and we stopped to fix it. At that point, we were almost at the turn off to go into the trail system where we’d find the next set of checkpoints.

Those went well. It was really late at night by then. I saw a porcupine and a flying squirrel. At first glance, I thought that the porcupine was a giant armadillo from Hell. I was feeling really fresh at that point and having an awesome time.

The next CPs to gather were the ones along the ridge in the middle of the map (the flags, not the boxes). I don’t really remember the exact order of how we found them, except that I know that somewhere between the two clusters of them, we missed a turn, then found it, then the guys decided that wasn’t it, and we went back down to where we’d come from, only to go back to the turn we’d found before. From passing where we should have turned until we were back on track, we probably lost a good hour of time and did a healthy chunk of extra climbing. We eventually found everything, though, and made it down to the next transition area for the “score-o” orienteering section.

The idea behind that type of orienteering is that there are a bunch of points to find (these weren’t given to us before the race- it was a separate map provided once we arrived at that transition area), and each one is assigned a point value according to how far away and difficult it is to get to. For the purposes of this race, they added up your points from what you found, and divided your score by ten (rounding up), and that’s how many checkpoints towards your race finish you’d receive. So, in our case, the point value of what we found was 74, so that gave us 8 checkpoints towards our finish. The most you could get from the score-o section was 10. It was, by far, the roughest terrain we covered. Everything felt straight up or straight down, and the rain had made the leaves, deadfall, and rocks treacherously slick. I fell down repeatedly.

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It was still dark, and we started by making the hardest push up and over a ridge for three high-value points. I vaguely remember following Tony’s green jacket and headlamp through the woods. A large portion of the “hiking” we did was straight up hills so steep that I was using my hands on the ground in front of me. As the sun came up, I was fading hard. My joints and toes hurt really bad, and I fell asleep while I was walking down the road. Luckily, I woke up as my knees buckled and I caught myself with a large stumble.
Mike and Tony did a very good job of calculating what time we needed to leave back for the last of the bike CPs and finish, and, based on that calculation, we collected a couple more nearly-vertical score-o points and hustled back to the TA to change and get on our bikes. Angie was there for more photos and encouragement.

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I’d packed my warmest riding tights and a long sleeve jersey, which ended up being the perfect choice, because I think it was in the 40s by then, and the wind was howling.

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Our next task was to collect the last 4 of the bike CPs (circled in green) on our way to the final transition area, where we’d have the option of either finishing, or going back out for the last few orienteering (on foot) points on and around the ski area.

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That was a hell of a ride back… if I had to take an educated guess, I’d say that the score-o transition area was probably the lowest point on course. We did a lot of climbing, and the headwind was relentless. Once we punched the three points in the area where we’d previously been during the canoe/orienteering stage, I put it in hammer mode. Tony’s stomach had turned on him a few hours earlier, so he was bonking. I paced the guys into the wind, then towed Tony the last few miles. We still passed several teams who were succumbing to the beatdown from the wind. Someone said something about hail. I never noticed.

We arrived back at the final transition area at 1:15pm. Looking at the map, the guys initially thought that we wouldn’t be able to go for any of the extra CPs (we had to finish by 2:00pm). However, another team who had already finished clued us in that one of the points was just a short hike halfway up and around the ski hill. We quickly grabbed our packs and turnt up the hustle…

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If you scroll all the way back up to the first zoomed-in map, you’ll see the point that I labeled as “final” (as well as the couple of others with red x’s that we didn’t have time to go for). We hiked up, punched it, then ran back down and hit the finish line at 1:40pm. We totaled 39 of 46 available checkpoints. Only three teams out of the 60 in attendance were able to clear the entire course. The effort landed us in 13th place in the coed team division and 15th out of all of the teams at the race (two masters teams finished ahead of us).

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Super solid work.

It was an awesome experience. Mike and Tony have this stuff nailed down… all I had to do was show up, do what I knew how to do, and listen to their direction for whatever I didn’t. Angie was an amazing support person as well. The highlight of the weekend was saying something in passing to her about pizza as we were hustling out to get the last checkpoint, and, once we were back, finished, and laying around not quite knowing what to do next, she walked in with two gigantic pizzas. I could have cried, but I was too busy stuffing my face with pizza.

Fun blog fact- a 30 hour adventure race yields a 4 hour marathon of blog reporting.

Also, based on my rough memory and trash count, I ate 8 packs of Gu Chomps, 3 Roctane Gels, 6 Salted Watermelon Gels, 1 Salted Caramel Gel, a bottle of double strength blueberry pomegranate Brew, 3 Pro Bars, 2 Snickers bars, 1 peanut butter sandwich, 1 Clif Bar, 2 Clif Turbo Shot Gels (100mg caffeine boost!), half a bag of honey mustard & onion pretzel bits, three cups of hot chocolate, and 5 mini Reece’s PB Cups.

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…

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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.

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

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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).

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

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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):

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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:

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My parents’ dog is still adorable:

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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:

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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.

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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).

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

 

Memphis.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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I also needed dessert

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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.

 

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