Always unsettled, never unnerved

Mid weeks during a recovery period following a race tend to be the most torturous… at least for me. You feel good enough to not be tired, but tired enough that you aren’t going to do anything other than a recovery ride on the bike. As a result, I just feel extra restless. Mentally and physically.

In my head, I’m ready to get back into training. If you haven’t heard, the Breck Epic is the (self -proclaimed) Single Speed Stage Race World Championship (SSSRWC) race. This is, quite possibly, the best chance I’ve ever had to win a WC, and, while it’s somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek designation, I am a junkie for rainbow stripes on my jerseys.

In my race report, I forgot to mention a fun story about a woman named Colleen. Somewhere between aids 2 and 3, we re-entered singletrack from a bit of gravel road. It was one of the slightly techy sections, and, in my haste, I spun a tire on a slick rock at the base of a steep, rocky pitch. I hopped off to push, and, as I did, I realized that there was a group of people in harnesses and helmets just off the trail to my left.
With them was a woman hanging from a short, low, zip line. (I knew there was a tourist-y zipline thing in the area but I didn’t realize that the course cut right through it). This woman was somewhat overweight, dressed one notch too nice to be out in the woods, and her coiffed and curled hair was smashed under her red bowling ball-style helmet. As I was trudging through the rocks, I heard the group leader say, “nice job, Colleen!” as she swung slowly down the line. I could be totally wrong, but she looked absolutely terrified and out of her element. She was hanging in her harness like a side of beef in a butcher’s freezer (ok, yes, I realize that sounds mean, but, at 40something miles into a race, it was the first thing that popped into my head).

At that point, I yelled, “HELL, YEAH, COLLEEN! DO IT!”

…this prompted every other racer within earshot to also encourage Colleen at the top of their lungs.

I’d like to think that Colleen spent the day conquering her fears and came out a better person on the other end of the zipline course. Maybe she decided she’d start taking more risks, and, as I type this, is doing crazy stuff like driving 5 mph over the speed limit or getting the “hot” salsa instead of “mild.” Maybe later on that night, she had the courage to flirt with Darrel… the young, good-looking new hire from down the hallway.

Or maybe she’s still finding chigger bites and hates the woods even more than she did prior to her zipline experience.

I guess the take-away message is that doing something out of your comfort zone is a risk. Taking risks can be both terrifying and life changing (in both good and bad ways). Risk-taking prevents complacency, and, in my mind, complacency is the most vile and evil thing I can think of. Complacency is the brother of “Good Enough,” who is first cousin to both “Lazy” and “Stagnant.” Risk-taking is the daughter of Challenge.

I realized that I’m not necessarily “tired” of 100 mile races, but that I’ve grown slightly complacent. I’m not good enough to battle for placing, I’m merely fit enough to ride at my own pace, which occasionally happens to be faster than a majority of competitors. I have to challenge myself to be better. It’s scary, because if I’m faster, the expectations I have for myself are that much higher, and the competitive challenges I seek out will be larger and harder. It’s what I love, though.

So, while being restless and discontent is not a comfortable acute state, it almost always breeds change for the better.

Mohican 100 Race Report

After polling the viewing audience and doing a lot of riding/thinking, I decided I’d go with the geared bike for the Mohican race. It was a tough choice… I love singlespeed. I realized that repeatedly on course- I’d feel a touch on envy any time I was around someone on a singlespeed. I felt like an outcast.

Saturday morning was chilly. A cold front had moved through the day before, bringing rain and a drop in temperature. Luckily, the trails had been very dry, so most of the singletrack was in great shape. (I did bring the singlespeed with me… just in case). For whatever reason, the 100k racers were started with the 100 mile racers, making for a crowded start line. I warmed up for a little while then crammed myself in to the third or fourth row back. The start is always hectic at these races, and this one is no exception. After a downhill that’s just long enough to get going over 30mph, the road goes straight up- about 300 feet of elevation gain in 3/4 of a mile. My goal for the day was to stay in the big ring and ride it like a singlespeed whenever I could.

I found myself sitting in 2nd as we entered the first trails through the woods. Thankfully, my singletrack mojo was in full effect, and I negotiated the slippery, steep spots where a lot of people were spinning or sliding out. Half an hour in, and I still feel like I’m flying. Flying enough that I almost took a wrong turn at a 3-way intersection that was at the bottom of a hill. I couldn’t see the course markings until it was too late, so I came to a full-on sliding stop about 10 feet down the wrong trail. As I turned to get back onto the correct path, Kathleen Harding, a pro from Team CF, was coming down the same hill. I yelled at her and some other riders to go right. I got back onto the trail and stayed with her group. Eventually she and I were together. I decided to keep pace with her for a while and see what happened.

Not long after that, we made it to the first aid station. I’d decided to go with 3 bottles that morning (I LOVE having a medium frame with two water bottle cages!), and I had 1.5 bottles remaining. She stopped, and I made the split-second decision to push to the next aid before refilling. (Spoiler alert- I made it to aid 2 about 5 minutes after I drank the last of my 3rd bottle).

I was alone for a little while. It was about 2.5 hours in, and I realized that I was really bored. Not acutely… the singletrack was great, and a lot of fun… but kinda bored with the whole “ride 100 miles” thing. I’d had a similar thought at Syllamo, but figured I should wait until I was having a good race before I decided I was tired of 100 mile races. Yeah. Kinda Bored.

It wasn’t long after that when I heard a commotion behind me- Brenda was coming up the trail with a train of male riders dangling on her wheel as if they thought they could keep up with the half-pint horror for another 70 miles (in case you’re wondering, of course I mean that as a compliment). She and I rode together for a little while until I struck a pedal and wrecked. She and Lee quickly disappeared up the trail. I didn’t chase. However, unlike last time, when I just didn’t care about chasing, this time, I was in such a good groove and pushing just hard enough that I just decided that I’d stick to my plan and see how it unfolded. (spoiler alert #2- she beat me by about 18 minutes)

Once I was out of the initial singletrack, I made it a point to eat and drink plenty. Even though it was going to be a mild day, I didn’t want to get behind on anything. At one point, a couple of guys rode by and told me that there was another woman not far behind me. I kept that thought in my head the remainder of the day.

As with any 100 mile race, there were chunks of the day where I wasn’t having the best time and chunks of the day that I don’t really remember. I kept chipping away at the miles, though. The wind was a little relentless, and it seemed that every time I was on the road, I was usually without a wheel to draft. The best part, though, was turning on to the (often dreaded) 9 miles of flat gravel rail trail section and getting a wicked tailwind for the first couple of miles. One of the other more notable spots was between aid 4 and 5… just before the midpoint water stop, there was a descent that was so steep that I was laying into both brakes, sliding/skidding a little, and when I hit a bump, my saddle bumped up and smacked the underside of a boob. Sure, maybe I was back a little further than I needed to be… but I wasn’t endo-ing or walking, either.

I eventually passed the final aid station and found myself in the final 5 miles of singletrack. I looked over my shoulder the entire way to the finish line. It was a good thing, too- if you watch this video on Cyclingdirt, you’ll see just how close Kathleen was…

So, I had a pretty good race and finished 3rd in 8:44- an hour faster than last year. Yes, this time, I was faster with gears. I still love my singlespeed, though.

I don’t know how bored I am with 100s. Maybe I just need to be faster so I’m doing more “racing” and less “100 mile time trial” style riding. I can’t see myself leaving them totally, because if I did, I’d miss all of the adventures and all of the awesome people that I get to hang out with before/after the race. For now, I’m gonna take a step back and prep for the Breck Epic that starts mid-August. The focus now shifts to building the speed and top-end that I’ll need to race the shorter days at altitude.

Mohican Countdown

The votes from my previous Mohican post have been tallied, and, well, as always, I may or may not take the peanut gallery’s advice. You see, advice is what you ask for when you’ve already made up your mind. Often times, you probably know that the right answer isn’t necessarily the easiest answer or the safest answer, so you’re just waiting for someone to tell you that it’s OK to take the easy/safe route.

That makes it justified, right?

I digress.

I’m leaving for the Mohican 100 early Friday morning. Yeah, I know, driving 10 hours the day before a race kinda sucks, but, until I achieve awesome, baller status, it’s what I’ve got. Yesterday, I took the A9RDO out for my one and only between-race interval workout. Even though it wasn’t the most splendid and awe-inspiring set of intervals ever, I didn’t feel worn out, burned out, tired, or any of the other ways I’ve felt over the past 4 weeks. Barring another full-on brain and body meltdown like Syllamo, I think that Mohican should be good. Maybe very good. I want to be on the tall step next to Amanda.I hope my race goes something like this:


Oh yeah, In case you were wondering, I’m taking Gerry Pflug’s advice.

Mohican 100

With the Mohican 100 one hot week away,  I know the question that’s hot on everyone’s mind right now is “wtf is wrong with you?” I still don’t know- the blood tests seemed pretty normal. I rode a little yesterday, and I didn’t feel bad, but I didn’t really feel kickass, either. Tomorrow’s ride will be a little longer, so I’ll see how that goes.

Mohican is a course with short, steep climbs and lots of flat/rolling terrain between. With the distinct possibility that I could (given I feel good) place well, I’m giving some serious thought to riding it geared.

The prospect of riding a 100 on a geared bike seems really weird to me. My bikes all have their own personalities. The singlespeed is like the “comfortable sweater” boyfriend- we have a great time together, he’s always super reliable, and he doesn’t care that I accidentally farted that one time in the car and it smelled really bad. The Air9 RDO, on the other hand, is like the guy that you only call on the weekends when you’re bored and feeling adventurous. Sexy, fast, but with a crazy streak that screams, “I’ll never, EVER meet your parents.” Riding a 100 miler on that one is like suddenly taking the “weekender” out for a week-long road trip. What will we talk about after the first hour? Do I actually want to find out that he’s got a weird affinity for McDonald’s Happy Meals? What’s he gonna think when he’s subjected to my morning “sit down” in the confines of a hotel room?

It’s up to the viewing audience at this point. Go to the Facebook page and vote in the poll: In the meantime, here are the Air9 RDO photos that I never posted before:



P.S. Yeah, that headset’s looking a little rusty. Ignore that and admire the swirls of carbon goodness.

WTF my mom smells like a horse

Ok, not really. My mom always smells like nice perfume. But, according to my wordpress stats, someone found my blog by Google-ing that phrase. Now that’s out of the way, on to less random ramblings.

I haven’t ridden since Saturday. Normally, I’d do some easy recovery rides, but Coach put me on a 4 day vacation that ends after today. Leading in to Mohican, I’m basically recovering. It’s not ideal. In my head (and, probably to a lesser degree ,in my legs), I’m losing fitness every day. That, coupled with the uncertainty of WHY DON’T I FEEL LIKE RACING?!? has basically turned me into an emotional basketcase.

There are theories… not many ways to figure out which is correct-
A) I’m just burnt out. I don’t feel like racing because I’m tired of racing these long-ass races. The mental malaise has carried over into physical malaise.
I don’t necessarily think that’s true… I don’t feel like I’ve met my goal of “kick lots of 100 mile ass,” so it’s still very interesting to me. Where do I go after this season? I don’t know. It may not be the NUE series. It may be XC or Marathon distance racing. It may be racing geared in the NUE. I don’t know, but right now, I am 99% sure I’m not burnt out on 100s.
B) Overtraining/lack of recovery
Plausible. Why? I don’t know. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary. My training program seems solid. If anything, since ramping back into training in February, I’ve felt like I’ve wanted more. Up until Slobberknocker, I’ve felt like a sponge for training intensity- absorbing everything the bike throws at me and still feeling thirsty for more.
C)Physiological problem
Maybe I’m anemic. I started eating more high-iron foods, but maybe there’s a problem with absorption. I do experience some pretty interesting beeturia when I consume beets. This is the one thing that’s easier to figure out- I went to the Shot Nurse clinic yesterday and had blood drawn for a complete blood count. I should have preliminary results back later this morning, though, even if everything looks normal now, I wouldn’t totally drop all suspicions… blood is not a static thing. While it always consists of the same basic elements, fluctuations in hormones, electrolytes, hydration, etc. can occur and throw off the numbers.

Whatever it is, it’s frustrating. I identify as a bike racer. You take away my ability and desire to do so, and you take away a part of my being. Everything has gone so well up to this point… looking so promising… I just want this bad patch to be over so I can get back to honeybadger status…


Syllamo 125k

Syllamo is a wild, brutal trail. It’s hard on your equipment, your body, and your mind.

Since Wednesday this week, I’ve been out at the cabin riding a little and relaxing a lot. I spent a lot of time hanging with Amanda Carey and hoping that some of her pro fast-ness would rub off on me. She makes a mean bowl of food…


Aside from short pre-rides (during which, we discovered the trail was viciously overgrown in some areas), we spent most of our time watching hummingbirds


Petting Turbo


Or, just generally kicking back and enjoying the sunset


The last few weeks have been tough… for reasons still under speculation, I didn’t experience my usual speedy recovery following the Cohutta 100. I was feeling somewhat better last weekend, and I figured that I’d be 100% back on point with a few days at the cabin participating in the aforementioned activities.

However, yesterday morning, I felt as if I had a subconscious aversion to the race. First,  I forgot stuff at the cabin… extra water bottle, extra sports bra, and, oh yeah… MY SHOES. Luckily, Ryan (racing the 50 miler, which started an hour later), was able to bring them to me. It was as if a ghost didn’t want me to get on my bike, and could only barely grasp at me like that transparent ghost hand in the movies.

The race start was as it always is- a drag race up the 3/4 mile Blanchard Road  climb to the entrance of one of the more technical sections of singletrack. By not being on a granny gear up the climb, I was able to be with some slightly more technically-abled riders once we hit the yellow trail

The riders I was around were generally alright… however, I felt a strange malaise about my placing in the pack. A few miles in, Brenda passed me on a rare doubletrack climb. I felt indifferent. I sort of picked up my pace to follow, only to realize that I just didn’t feel like a battle. At that point, I figured I’d just go for a long ride and, based on my general good fitness and riding ability, it’d all turn out pretty good.

That worked alright until about 3 hours in when I reached the long climb from up the blue trail from the highway to Green Mountain road. Even though I was doing everything “right” as far as pacing and nutrition, I started to feel overly-fatigued as I hiked & ground my way up the hill. I ended up walking a good part of the climb that I’d normally ride. Not really sure what was wrong with me, or why I was feeling much more exhausted than what I’d normally expect at that point in a race, the urge to drop out started to creep into the back of my mind.

The hardest racing condition in the world is not a physical condition-  If your mind doesn’t want you to race, you’re dealing with something much worse than any bad weather, injury, or difficult terrain.

I crept my way up to the 3rd aid station to grab some fresh bottles and get onto the red trail. Up there, I was greeted by Steven from Texas (a.k.a. Dude Brah) who had broken his chainring early in the race and forced to drop out. He asked me how I was doing, and I just told him it wasn’t a good day. He gave me several cups of ice cold coconut water and a quick philosophical talk about how I could appreciate a bad day because it brings about self awareness. He was probably a little stoned, but it gave me something to think about for the first few minutes of red trail. It was getting hot- probably around 90 degrees.

Then, my brain started to go. I was spacing out and losing awareness of time and space- other than “red trail,” I didn’t really know where I was or how long I’d been riding. I recognized the feeling, and, coupled with how I’d felt up the blue trail, it all made sense- I was bonking my ass off. How? No idea… I was eating and drinking how I have successfully in the past. I wasn’t necessarily riding any harder than usual. My legs began to complain and feel pre-cramp-ish.

Somewhere along the trail, I made a deal with myself: if I started to get full-blown leg cramps before I started the 2nd lap, I’d drop out.

That didn’t happen. I passed the “drop out” point and started back onto the Yellow trail. I was the tiniest bit happy to see that my “50 mile” lap time was right at 5 hours and 30 minutes… not that bad, actually. I was bonkish and overheated, but I decided at that point that the only way I was leaving the trail before crossing the finish line was by paramedics and a stretcher.

There’s something really creepy about the second lap on the yellow trail during the 125k. You see lots of evidence of lots of riders, but hardly ever an actual, live person. The couple of guys I did see were in pretty rough shape (how someone could be worse off than I was and still out there, I have no idea, but they were). Every time I’d get a little anaerobic, I’d feel like puking, so I walked up a lot of the steep/rocky stuff. I tried to go back into the bonk cave in my head so that I would be less aware of how slow I was moving, but instead just hung in a limbo of altered overheated consciousness.

It took forever, but I finally made it to the last rock garden and climb out to the “easy” part of the yellow that looped back to the final lap of the red trail. I knew I was going to make it. At the aid station, I put fresh water in my bottles. The Roctane I’d been drinking wasn’t sitting well, and I was afraid that it could be turning sour in the afternoon heat and sun. A half mile into the trail, I found a pocket-sized bottle of Elete drops. I stopped and put it into my water. Later on in the trail, I shared it with some 50 mile guys who were sitting at a road crossing, trying to get the energy to continue on.

There’s a point about a mile from the end of the red trail where you pass through two pine trees. It’s a narrow spot- the only one like it on the trail. From there, you climb a tiny bit and you’re done. I wanted to stop and hug the trees when I saw them.

So, I finished. 8:50something on the clock- more than 30 minutes slower than last year. I still finished 5th.


I’m mentally and physically wrecked right now. Coach and I are trying to figure things out, starting with 4 days off. It’s not really clear if I’m suffering from a simple lack of recovery, a lack of recovery due to something physiologically wrong, or a simple need to HTFU and ride harder. It’s never immediately clear. I hate being here at this point in the season, but it’s where I am, and, when I eventually rise up and overcome, I’ll chock it up to a learning experience, and it won’t happen again.



Tiger Lane #4

I almost forgot… Last Wednesday, I raced the final installment of the Tiger Lane Criterium races. Once again, I lined up as the solo woman with the Cat4 men. As previously mentioned, my recovery from Slobberknocker/Cohutta was questionable, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel for the crit.

From the gun, the pace was very slightly more subdued than the previous race. My strategy was to stick near the first few wheels and only attack if it seemed like a good idea. I did just that until about 15 minutes in. A small group of riders had drifted off the front, and I’d decided it wasn’t my place to chase them down. As the teams chased them back, the planets of the counter-attack galaxy aligned: we sped up behind the caught riders just as we reached the long-side stretch of headwind. Almost instinctively and involuntarily, I slingshotted out of the draft and attacked full force into the wind. I had a gap and one other rider with me- Jon, a young Memphis Velo guy.

It was early in the race, and neither of us had a teammate in the field. I knew that we were doomed to be caught, but I was at least going to put on a show before it happened. I like racing aggressively. While it’s not always successful against a bunch of guys, I figured it’s good practice seeing as it’s been a good strategy for me during women’s races in the past.

We were out for a couple of laps before the announcer called a prime. The field was bearing down on us, and I told Jon to sit up and get ready to be caught. He took that a little too literally and nearly stopped while I tried to back off just enough that it’d be easy to absorb smoothly into the group. As a result, as they caught him, I was rounding the final turn before the start/finish, staring down the barrel of an obtainable prime. I sprinted for it. Keegen Knapp, a rider from Arkansas, jumped out of the group after me and took the prime by half a bike length (he later claimed that he thought I was on the attack again since the group had sat up). It’s ok… I didn’t really need a pair of men’s designer shorts from Oak Hall.

I re-absorbed successfully and maintained my safe spot in the front of the group. Eventually, the last few laps were called. Some BPC guys attacked and got away. Once again, I decided it wasn’t mine to chase. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by other BPC guys, and the guys who should chase were slow to react. I sat in and watched the scramble until, on the last lap, when we turned into the wide headwind section where I’d previously attacked. The guys were trying to imitate a pinball machine, and I decided I wasn’t in the mood to mix myself into the melee of cat 4 men. I pulled safely out of the group. Once the main field was clear, I solo-ed in ahead of the guys who had been previously dropped.

Training crit success.

The following day, I attempted a long ride. My legs argued with me, and I had to turn home early. I started getting worried that I was in an insurmountable hole of fatigue. I’ve eaten well and recovered well since then, but Coach and I are suspicious that I might have problems getting enough iron into my blood. Whether it’s diet-related or physiology related is yet to be decided, but, for now, I seem to be feeling well by eating iron-rich foods. Whatever it is, I’ve felt a lot better the past couple of days, and I had a great interval session yesterday. If things keep going like this, I’ll be ready to break cranks at Syllamo on Saturday.

In Limbo

So, if you listen to the latest XXC Mag Podcast, you’ll hear me talk about a lot of things having to do with both racing and the trafficking of cocaine via Amish horse & buggies. You’d also hear me talk about being intimidated by the workout I had on my schedule for Saturday- a 5 hour endurance ride that included an 8 minute ramp of intensity at the end of hours 1-4.

I thought that I was mostly recovered from the back to back race weekends. Turns out, I was wrong. My power numbers were well off of where they’d normally be for such a workout. By the last hour, my heart rate was staying elevated, no matter how much I backed off. After a brief respite under a tree (it was the first kinda hot/humid day of the year, too, so that wasn’t helping), it settled down, and I wrapped up the last interval and made my way home. For a second, I thought about heading home early. Then, I decided that the difference between pro and amateur was the last interval that seems nearly impossible.

Now, I’m staring down the barrel of Syllamo’s 125k and hoping that I can maintain some fitness while I recover from deep-rooted fatigue. It’s sort of a wait-and-see affair. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are recovery days, and I’ll try the legs out again on Wednesday in the last of the Tiger Lane criterium series. If I feel good, then I know that I’ve found the light at the end of the training tunnel. If not…

High Maintenence

Tuesday (my weekday off from work), I spent half the day taking care of myself. Not so much as in an, “oh, I raced hard, so now I’m going to pamper myself” sort of way, but more of an, “I need to do this stuff to function normally again” sort of way.
-First, the chiropractor. I’d originally started seeing a chiro when I had a neck crick problem. Now I go because he not only keeps my neck/back feeling good, but he also works out some of the knots in the muscles of my neck/shoulders. My chiropractor isn’t the type that thinks that chiropractic adjustments are the solution for World Peace or a cure for any diseases. He even laments to me on a regular basis that half of his clients don’t need him, they just need a diet and exercise. He does, however, agree that the weekly adjustments he makes are useful in keeping my rides pain-free.
-Next, massage. When you spend hours on a bike, stuff hurts. When stuff hurts, your muscles get tense. Then, you start using the muscle differently… either compensating with another muscle or not going through a full range of motion, you get little knots in the muscles, etc. A massage is huge in relieving that and helping you get back to normal function. It’s also very relaxing.
-Finally, physical therapy. On Tuesday, I graduated from PT for my fingers. The only one that’s still of much concern is the badly sprained middle one on my right hand. It’s still swollen, and it stiffens up when I don’t stretch it several times a day. PT consisted of heat, ultrasound, passive stretching, active stretching, and 15 minutes in the dry whirlpool (aka, the “corn machine”). He had originally planned to include strengthening exercises, but I tested out of those- even with a fracture/sprains, my grip strength measurements were above normal. Imagine that…
-After all of that, I ate some lunch and joined up for a chill ladies only ride.

It was a lot like overhauling a bike after dragging it thorough really nasty conditions.

Taking care of myself has been an ongoing process. When I began this endeavor, I didn’t realize how time consuming the act of maintaining one’s body could actually be… and I’m not even that good at it. Talking to the pros after races (when I’m still in kit and they’re cleaned and changed), I realized that even with as much as I do, I could still tune up my out-of-town diet, get a juicer (thanks to Jeremiah for that suggestion), address my tendency to eat/drink a horrible diet in the days following races (which sometimes spills over into a tendency to eat/drink a horrible diet following large training rides), spend more quality time with the foam roller on a daily basis, get more sleep, and do a better job of getting in recovery rides.

Like I said, cramming self-care into my schedule is an ongoing process of making time rather than finding it.



Cohutta 100 Race Report

Friday morning, I packed up and hit the road around 7:30 for the 6.5ish hour drive to Ducktown, TN. Along the way, Zandr (from XXCMag) joined in, and we had a brief Element Convoy down I-24.

We arrived mid-afternoon, checked in, and pre-rode the first climb and a little bit of the first singletrack. I attempted to show Zandr the “Thunder Rock Express” trail, but I’m not too familiar with the trail system, so we just ended up climbing out & back on FSR45. Back in the parking lot, I saw Thom Parsons from Cyclingdirt, and he asked me a few questions about my bike (Per your requests, I refrained from using a suspension fork).

I felt just OK during the pre-ride. Definitely not bad by any stretch, but not 100% crank-ripping/ready to kill, either. I don’t think I’d fully recovered from the previous weekend’s Slobberknocker race. Nothing I could do but relax, get some dinner, and try to get a good night’s sleep.

Brief side story- The “office” for the motel in Ducktown was the gas station in the motel parking lot.

Race morning was (thankfully) not as chilly as it was last year. I was doing final packing of my jersey pockets when I realized that I’d left my giant flask full of Roctane gel back at the motel. All I had in my car was an extra Powerbar, so, trying not to panic (it was about 20min ’til start time), I started asking everyone I knew if they had extra gel. Eventually, I found Gerry Pflug, who didn’t want to share his own stash of baby wolverine blood. However, Ernesto Marenchin, who was there with him, had a couple of extra flasks of partially diluted Hammer Gel. Perfect.

I rolled back to the starting area where Thom P. found me again and asked if I’d wear a Cyclingdirt helmet cam. I figured “anything for publicity,” and accepted his offer. He turned it on immediately in order to get some starting line footage, so I lined up and asked people random questions and handed out random tidbits of advice (like “Don’t isht yourself” to Amanda Carey).
This year, the start line was moved back into the parking lot about 1/4 of a mile. Unfortunately, that meant that the race no longer started at the base of a sizable road climb, so, when the gun went off, there was about 1 minute of big-ring time before the hill. I spun as fast as I could as what seemed like most of the field went by in their 39×11. As we started up the hill, I worked my way back through some of the crowd with a pack of other singlespeeders.

Somewhere along the way, we decided that a group of singlespeeders would be known as a “party” (you know… like a “gaggle” of geese or a “herd” of cats).

Over the crest of the hill and somewhere before the turn into the trail, Brenda and Lee Simril flew past me and made it in about 10 wheels ahead of me. Dually noted. The first section of singletrack was pretty uneventful (unlike last year, when I flatted). I settled in to a group that had a nice pace going until we hit the first hill, and they started shifting. I made my way around them and kept grinding my way through the remaining singletrack.

Once I was out on the gravel, it was business time. I started swapping places with a woman in a Specialized jersey (I’d pass on the climbs, she’d pass downhill). Then, her teammate, who I’d been doing the same thing with on the trail, blew past me, and she jumped on his wheel. I caught up to them, and she said something along the lines of “you’re killing it on these hills!” I replied back that I had a disadvantage on the downhills, and that she should enjoy it while it lasts. She obliged, and took off towards the next hill with her teammate.

Suddenly, from the bottom of the next hill, I looked up, and, in the low-hanging, early morning light, saw the silhouettes of  Brenda and Lee Simril at the top. I stood and cranked… it was on.

As I hammered up, I caught Specialized lady, and we split and passed Brenda. I don’t know if she saw me or if she was focused on the other woman passing on her left. The other woman and her teammate took off once again, and I knew that, at about 20 miles in, with Brenda behind and the other woman riding so aggressively in front, that the race was getting awesome.

Then, I hit Aid #2, the course turned briefly flat, and I was alone for a long time.

Mostly, anyway. I began the singlespeed shuffle with some other geared riders (some of which stayed around me until the infamous climb back up “potatopatch” several hours later). I was dying to get into my climbing rhythm again, and eventually, the forest road turned back up, and I was back in business. I caught back up to a lot of people, and hit aid #3 in what seemed like no time at all. Between there and the nasty descent down Potatopatch to Aid#4 was where I caught up to the Specialized gal on one of the steeper sections of road.

The descent down Potatopatch to Aid#4 was the only place where I feel like the rigid fork was a bad idea.

Brief Product Review Interlude: What was worse, though, was my brakes. I thought I was severely wearing through my brake pads. However, post race inspection revealed that there was plenty of pad left, but that the pads seem to not advance well, making the lever pull feel frighteningly long. SRAM XX Brakes = FAIL.

Aid #4 was located in a large switchback intersection of the road. It was leaving there that I saw Brenda rolling in towards the aid station behind me. I knew I was losing time to her on the descents (and probably holding/gaining on the climbs), so I decided that I’d ride the next loop of course (a little climbing followed by a singletrack descent on the Pinhoti trail) with my descending turned up to 11. In the flat-ish section after the Pinhoti, I kept waiting for her to catch me, but luckily, I made it through Aid#5 and back to the safety of a climb before she appeared.

The climb up Potatopatch was slightly wicked. The worst part was the horseflies. You can’t swat horseflies when you’re climbing singlespeed. That climb broke a lot of people. It was hard on the singlespeed, but the way I saw it, if you’re on your lowest gear behind me, every pedal stroke of mine is a nail in your coffin. After that, I knew that the hardest part was over, slammed some gel, and resolved myself to keep it at 11 the whole way back.

The remainder of the course was verymuch like the first part. Lots of gravel and hills, then a little singletrack.

I eventually caught up to Specialized Lady’s teammate, who exclaimed, “You just like to catch guys to make them feel like shit, don’t you?” I hate that attitude, so the nicest reply I could muster was “No, man, I’m just racing my bike. I don’t give a fuck what gender you are.”
Thom Parsons said it best in his report on the first blows of the women’s race:  “I chased AC (Amanda Carey) and CS (Cheryl Sorensen) for a bit, until a couple dudes tried to horn in. I was kinda hell bent on getting good footage of the ladies because, admittedly, they tend to get the shaft coverage-wise. These dudes, however were hell bent on not getting “girled.” Do you know how much that term pisses me off? A freakin’ lot, that’s how much. Buddy, you’re not getting “girled,” you’re getting “better athleted.” Now shut up about getting “girled” already you club-cut jersey wearing clown.”

Somewhere on the final throes of singletrack, my Garmin told me that I’d already ridden 100 miles. I cursed the course designer and eventually made it to the final run down Thunder Rock Express… which I took somewhat conservatively given the terrain and unknown degree of sketchiness of my brakes.

Final finish time- 9 hours, 28 minutes, and 7th behind 6 freakishly strong women (3 from Team CF, with Cheryl winning and the 2 others who racing their first 100 following in 3rd and 5th) who gave me an honest ass-kicking. Brenda was about 15 minutes behind me, followed closely by the Specialized lady (whose name I’ll stick in here as soon as the full results are up and I know who she is).

More post-race rundown to follow. I figure you’ve read enough already.