Dirt, Sweat, and Gears

I knew that a 12 hour solo race would be challenging, but not like this.

Friday morning, Ryan and I headed out to Cotton Mill Preserve in Fayetteville, TN. Once we arrived, we set up camp and I set out to ride a lap of the course. It was challenging- local people, think of the Lakeland trails, but 10 miles instead of 3. There were still some muddy spots, but I had switched to some IRD Fire tires that were pretty knobby, so they handled it better than I did for the most part.

Camp:

tent

I thought that I’d gotten lucky when I woke up Saturday morning and the rain had held off. Unfortunately, when we checked the radar, we saw that it would arrive about the same time as the LeMans-style (shotgun!) race start:
start1

lemans1

startrain

lemans-start


For about the first 7-8 miles, I felt really good in spite of the downpour. The Niner was rocking the bejezus out of everything I had the stones to go for.

Somewhere along the way, the rain stopped.

In the space of about 2 minutes, the seemingly unthinkable happened. The mud dried out just enough that it magnetized itself to any surface that it came into contact with. I ended up pushing/riding my bike for a few miles until I passed back through the start/finish area and made it to the bike wash before heading back to the tent for a camelbak swap and a snack. At that point, I figured that the course would soon dry enough that the mud would quit sticking.
lap1a

lap1b

I was very, very wrong. After riding the first mile of course (through the fields), I entered the singletrack through the woods. The mud came back with a vengance. I was forced to ride/push again. Pretty soon, this degraded to just pushing. Even in flatter spots and downhills, when I tried to pedal, the mud in my drivetrain would cause vicious chainsuck. Soon, even pushing became nearly impossible because the mud and plant matter jammed into every nook and cranny in my bike. I tried to clean handfuls of mud out, but within 10 feet (no exaggeration), the mud would clog everything and my wheels would not turn- I’d try to slide it along like a sled, but my feet slipped and I became more exhausted. I tried to carry my bike, but even after trying to clear as much mud as possible, the bike was still heavy and awkward. After about 7 miles, I was exhausted and took a bail-out road back to the pits.

lap2bail

lap2baila

Someone later told me that a full-on mud covered bike like this weighed in excess of 100 pounds. I wholly believe him, because I’m pretty strong, and I could not lift my bike off of the ground at this point.

mudbike

mudbike2

dtmud

I wasn’t going down without a fight. Ryan took the bottle cages off of his road bike, and I changed in to some clean socks and trail running shoes. We swapped my number onto the bars and I went off to get back to the trail where I’d left off.
lap2felt

While hiking in that mud with a bike on your shoulder isn’t easy, it was almost enjoyable compared to the alternative. As I rounded the final corners towards the finish, someone handed me the most delicious homebrewed beer I’ve ever had. I downed about half of it before the announcer and random people in the crowd started yelling at me to ride the bike. I (temporarily) handed the beer off to a bystander and got to it… (photo courtesy of CyclingDirt)
finish

Believe it or not, my two laps in 9 hours and change was good enough for 2nd place in the Solo Amateur Female category. I got a sweet DSG award and a Garmin Edge 205 computer. Woohoo!!! I’m looking forward to the next event. After more than 7 hours of bike non-riding, the thought of actually riding for a few hours more than that sounds easy.

Trial by Fire

… words to live by.

So, even though I just picked up Jens Voigt a little more than two weeks ago, and we didn’t see each other for an entire week up until yesterday because I exploded his rear derailleur on our 1 week anniversery, I entered the Dirt, Sweat, and Gears 12 hour race anyway.

Things in my favor:
Solid base training
I know how to pace myself
I know how to eat/drink
Innate tenacity

Things NOT in my favor:
It’ll probably be muddy
I fall a lot in the mud
I’ve never ridden at night (I was going to last week while it was reasonably dry, but then the DR thing happened…)

I entered the amature category even though I was sorely tempted by the nice prize money they’re giving to the top 3 spots in the Pro division. Since it’s my first time out, we’ll see how I fare against both fields. Next time it shouldn’t be as hard of a decision.

Other stuff: Weekend after this one, I’m riding the MTBÂ leg of the Memphis in May triathlon on a relay team. Then, on Sunday, there’s a MTB race at Mongomery Bell State Park that I’ll probably road trip to. I’m not sure what category to start in there. Common sense says beginner (cat 3), but from what I’ve heard, you can start as a cat 2 (sport) as well. I thinking that since it’d probably be a quick jump anyway that I should just HTFU and start as a Cat 2.

Who wants to make an almost 3 hour road trip to only race 8 miles, anyway?

Countdown to Ouachita

Two more days & I’ll be leaving for Arkansas for the Ouachita Trail 50k. I’m looking forward to getting back on the trail for a long run. Yesterday I had a great “tune up” run at the Lakeland Trails. Short of driving 45 minutes out to Shelby Forest, they’re the best trails for some hill practice. After a quick warmup on the mostly flat blue & red trails, I did a few repeats on the much more technical yellow trail. I felt really good, but held back a bit & practiced my powerwalk on the uphills (in the world of ultramarathon-ing, it’s universally accepted that you walk up long, steep parts). I did, however, let loose on the downhill sections, and even managed to practice grabbing/slinging around a well placed tree in the corner of a fast switchback.

How is it that I can be so incredibly comfortable running down a steep, rooty trail a breakneck speed, but then chicken out when I try to do the same thing on a bike?!

I digress… I’ve got my hill legs back. The race is still going to wreck me, but it’ll be good endurance practice for my next adventure.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention… I’m seriously considering an entry into the solo division of a 12 hour MTB race on May 9th. I briefly tried to find someone to join me for a duo, but she’s already planning on racing solo, so I gave up & decided I should just go at it alone. Between now & then, I’ll have a 50k run, then the weekend of the 25th, I’ll be going to an adventure racing clinic in Little Rock, so I’ll probably stick around on Sunday & head out for an all day epic of some sort on the Ouachita and/or Womble trail(s). After that, I’ll likely just stick to conditioning on the road bike and practicing some tech-ey stuff on the MTB until the 9th.

Anyone who is reading this interested in going to Arkansas on the 25th?

If I were on a rollercoaster right now…

…I’d be sitting in the first car with the lap-bar locked down, slowly creeping up the first gigantic hill on an insane set of tracks.

I just got word from the bike shop that my Jet 9 frame is on its way, and all of the components are probably getting ordered as I type this. It looks as if things will begin arriving on Thursday this week!!

Just like when I bought my first road bike, I’ll be heading out to Arkansas this weekend to run a 50k (though this time, it’s the Ouachita Trail 50k & last time it was the Midnight 50k). And, just like last time, I’ll come home so incredibly sore and beaten up that I’ll hardly be able to throw a leg over the bike to take it for a lap around the block!

It’s OK, though.

Weekend after this one, I’ll be going back to Little Rock for an adventure racing clinic. Hopefully I’ll make some connections over there and will get advice (and maybe some company!) for where to go in the area for some good trail riding. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. There are some TBRA XC races coming up, and there’s an adventure race at Village Creek State Park in June as well as a few other trail (running) races to round things out!

So right now I feel like I’m moving through molasses, but hopefully once my bike gets here and school wraps up @ the end of the month, it’ll be the start of an incredibly epic summer. Stay tuned…

New Direction

Well, I had one of those rides yesterday. You know- the one where you just go out and think a lot. The therapeutic type.

Seems I’ve been enjoying road racing and training for road racing less and less lately. It’s a lot like when you eat something that tastes good, but then a few hours later, you’re sick to your stomach and puke it back up… there’s a period of time where, even though that food was initially good, the thought of eating it again makes you lose your appetite.

So that’s where I am- I’ve puked up road racing, and now I don’t want to eat it for a while. Sure, I’ll get over it, but for now, I’ve decided to branch out to other athletic endevors that I’ve been interested in for a while but have put off because of my dedication to the road bike. I plan on getting a mountain bike (I’m keeping a road bike, too) and trying some 2-wheel trail shennanigans. I’d also like to try some adventure racing, rock climbing, canoeing… you get the point. Oh yeah, all the while, I am pretty sure I’m running the AT100 this year. I’ve wanted to do it since I first went as an aid station volunteer a few years ago.

So this blog may get a bit more interesting to some whole others are probably going to now remove me from their RSS feeds. It’s all good. I’m happy now.

phoenixcr

Rouge Roubaix- The Report

5:45am
Being the French press snobs that we are, Ryan and I brewed a batch and headed to the breakfast area of the hotel. Good thing, too, because they were out of everything but decaf and didn’t seem to feel the need to make more. I had some Kashi hot cereal with whey protein and a cup of yogurt w/a spoonful of peanut butter. It’s a really good pre-ride breakfast because it’ll stick with you a few hours!

7:15am
Take my bike to the mechanic to get a once-over on the shifting. It wasn’t wanting to get into the lowest gear… which I’d need later in the day. Turns out the new DR hanger was not straight, but he used his 3lite mechanic skills to eyeball adjust it and get the low gear working.

7:45am
When I get changed and try to clip in, I find that my right cleat is stuck open. Most likely due to standing around in the gravel waiting for one of Ryan’s teammates to change a flat during our pre-ride. Speedplay cleats are notorious cloggers. So, I headed back over to see the mechanic. He took my shoe, and in the process of trying to straighten the spring out, it broke! I did NOT bring a spare (bad on me :( )

8:00am
As the “A” race is pulling out of the parking lot, I’m installing some Time pedals on my bike while the mechnic is installing his cleats on my shoes.

8:15am GO!!!

The race was a blast. The first 25 miles was somewhat of a relaxed pace. Everyone jockeyed for good position going into the first gravel section, and Shannon, Ashley, Whitney, Casey and I all hit the rocks in good form. Watching Casey tear it up through the dirt was fun- I’d been a little worried about her when she mentioned a couple of weeks earlier at VOS that she didn’t have much off-pavement experience. You couldn’t tell today… she was hauling all sorts of ass!

After we emerged from the first 8 miles of gravel, the guys in the pack started getting pissy. Apparently, a few people had gotten away early, and they were whining to each other that noone would help the chase. They even started whining that they were “giving the ladies a free ride.” I told them that if there was a woman up the road that we would have already chased it down and countered. Then they tried lying to us and telling us that there was a woman in the break… um, yeah… that’s pretty pathetic. Even worse- at one point, Tim Moore from Memphis Velo went for a bridge. NO ONE responded. Shannon took the opportunity to bust out of the group and bridge to Tim, and someone yelled, “We’re all about to get chicked!!” and she was immediately chased down. Seriously, guys?? Really?!?

I digress.

The second gravel section came at about 65 miles into the course. This one was short, but had a steep, nasty hill (it was the part we pre-rode the day before). The pack was shattered. Casey and Ashley stayed with the riders in front and the rest of us were spread out down the road. Once we hit pavement again, I worked with another woman to catch up with Whitney. Whitney and I made the executive decision that it was probably not in our best interest to chase the lead group down since we had another woman in tow (with others gathering behind us).

Eventually the chase group came together behind us (as well as Shannon). The guys wanted to go… and actually looked motivated this time. I sprung into action… my strategy at first was to use non-traditional chase-disruption tactics- I began to make small talk with the guy up front who was driving the pace. I asked him where he was from (New York!), commented on the weather, told him about the snow in Memphis and how people couldn’t drive in it… we spent a solid 3 or 4 minutes chatting at the front of the paceline… going 18-19 mph! Of course, the guys behind us eventually called me out for flirting and came around me. I sat in on their rotation and was generally unhelpful. They got more annoyed and made the mistake of hanging me out to dry in the headwind on the front. This is what I live for! I sat up there and held a pace just under my FTP (thank you, powermeter!) for a loooong time. It was just fast enough that none of them wanted a piece of the wind. The break was safe.

The third gravel section was my favorite as far as road surface. It was slightly more hardpack dirt rather than slippery sand/rock, so the hill, though steeper, was less stall-worthy than the previous. Even though I was pretty tired from the wind, I ended up being one of the first few up the hill after Whitney, Shannon, and the other woman who had been chasing with me after the 2nd section. I was with a couple of other riders about 50 meters behind Shannon when we got out of the gravel. We started to chase, but soon after the guy next to me got squirrelly just before a bridge at the bottom of a descent. There was a big pothole just in front of the bridge- it was either hit him or the hole, and I chose the latter.

BAM! Double pinch flats. Front and rear rims were on the ground before I got across the bridge. I rolled up to a fork in the road, got off my bike, and got to work (luckily I’d brought two tubes/CO2s). While I sat there changing tubes, people passed in little groups. I got everything back together about two minutes after a group with a couple of other women passed by. After getting the blood flow back to my legs, I started to chase.

By mile 99, I’d caught up to them and was sitting about 15 meters behind them. They were chatting and casually pedaling at around 16-17mph. I decided I’d try to catch my breath then attack around them without letting them grab my wheel. Of course, as soon they saw me, they started with that “UP UP!” shiz… I’m not sure if it was them or the guy with them, but they found the energy to grab my wheel. I went to pull through and they stayed on my wheel until I slowed to almost a crawl. When we approached the finish, I had nothing… they sprinted up the last hill ahead of me and took 7th and 8th place. It’s OK. They didn’t have any teammates that kicked a metric crap-ton of butt! Casey not only won the women’s race, she was 3rd OVERALL for everyone in the B race. Ashley was 2nd, Whitney was 4th, and Shannon was 5th.

The guys were the same story- Christian was 1st and Andrew D. was 2nd.

WOOHA! Hopefully I’ll find some photos soon. There was also a guy with a helmet cam. Hopefully his youtube videos will surface soon.

Rouge Roubaix PreRide

Today Ryan, Frogge, and I drove down South to St. Francisville, LA. Along the way, we stopped in Woodville and rode out to the 2nd of three gravel sections on the 100 something mile course. I’m glad we had the chance… the lead-in from the main road to the gravel featured a short but uber-sketchy plank bridge that could easily catch a wheel and thrown you to the ground (or off the side of the bridge) if you didn’t stay in the middle. The gravel itself is unlike any other I’ve ridden- rather than being hardpack dirt with rocks on top, it was a mix of small rocks and loose, sandy silt that’s randomly shallow and deep. Tough stuff, but it should be pretty fun.

The rest of the team drove in from Dallas yesterday, so they went for a ride earlier in the day. When we got to the hotel, everyone had just come back from dinner, so I left my bike with the team mechanic and went with Ryan & the other Memphis Velo guys to the Magnolia Cafe for dinner. When I got back to the room, Casey and Whitney filled me in on the tactical details for tomorrow’s epic… time to polish the bike and pic numbers!

On the road

Got the BH out on the road today! I went out for a windy 2.5 hours (I spent most of the time going either 25+ mph or 16mph) out to test my new Conti Gatorskins on a short stretch of gravel out east of Eads. I really like the 25c tire size- it does a lot to smooth out some of the rougher road surfaces. While I was out, I fiddled with the saddle enough to get it into much more comfortable position than I had at VOS. I’m still doubtful that it’s going to be comfortable for more than half of the race on Sunday, but I’m hopeful that I’ll at least avoid the knee pain that I’d had before.

Tomorrow Ryan, Frogge, and I are leaving early to drive down to Loiusiana and pre ride a bit of the Rouge Roubaix course. The elevation charts for the race look like lots of “fun.” It’s got some stretches of gravel road and a couple of hills with grades over 15%. Looks like it’ll be warm, too. I like the gravel and heat… hills, not so much, but it’s aight…

Ryan posted some maps/elevation charts on his blog

Finally…

Yesterday I finally liberated my BH from the clutches of FedEx. I wanted to get it put together and go for a quick ride, but FedEx got the last laugh… as I started to screw the rear derailleur on, the hanger broke off! Apparently it cracked during shipment (not surprising- it was handled roughly enough that the driveside pedal had broken its way out of the box).

I called around to shops in town, and noone carries a BH hanger. I talked to Boss Man in Dallas, and he said things were too hectic there to get to a post office and overnight one to me. CRAP!!! The last thing I wanted was to not be able to ride my bike around a few times to get the fit just right BEFORE racing 100 miles on Sunday. Last time at VOS, that same thing led me to some pretty ishtty knee pain when I didn’t get it set up exactly right before the race. Not a big deal for relatively short races, but the same pain over 100 miles… not something I’m willing to tolerate!

I digress… Ryan and I started checking all of the bikes in the house to see if we could make something work. The hanger off of his Kuota Kebel actually looked like a close match. It went on, but only one of the screws would line up with the holes in the frame, so as of right now, my rear DR is being held on with one tiny screw, the pressure generated by the QR skewer, and a couple of prayers to various deities.

After figuring that out, it was too late to ride. I figured I’d go ahead and work on swapping out my handlebars. I’m not sure which model was on there, but I like the feel of a compact bar, so I swapped them out for a set of FSA Omega Compact bars. After I got everything set up just right, I took it out for a spin up & down the street…

Sweet nectar, that bike is soooooooo nice! It was a bit late, so I snapped a couple of photos in the garage. I’m sure I’ll get more this weekend.

badge

connect

Oh yeah, and I got some brand new team kit, too! Hincapie clothing is freaking AWESOME! It all fits perfectly! My arms are stupidly long, and the long sleeve stuff/arm warmers are very accomodating to this. I also have found that a lot of women’s jerseys are too short… not a problem with this stuff. I can’t wait to get it out on the street!

Long Road Training Race. And some Snow.

Though the weather report was the opposite of what you’d like to hear for a race day, Ryan and I got up & went to the Marx & Bensdorf Long Road Training Race just north of Arlington. My race (Men 4, 5, masters, women, and juniors) started at 9:00 and went 6 laps on the 5 mile course. The temperature hovered in the upper 30s and the skies looked as if they’d start spitting at any time.

The starting line:
start1

start2

I didn’t know a lot of the riders who were there, and I didn’t want to go easy off the line and get caught up in any sketchy riding, so when the official said go, I rolled down the first hill then maintained a steady pace up the next hill to the first turn. I glanced over my shoulder and chuckled a little- I had rolled off the front of the pack and had a cute little gap going. I figured I’d roll with it since, even though I was destined to be caught, the process of chasing would drop a nice portion of the 30 starters. A few miles later, on a rolling section of tailwind, I looked back to see the field closing in. I sat up to catch my breath and positioned myself near the front of the pack as they came by. Lap 2 and 3 were reletively uneventful. Here I am doing my best Jens Voigt impersonation up the hill and through the start/finish area (the pace had slowed too much on the hill, and I didn’t want anyone to catch back on…)
tempo

tempo2

Johnny Mac from Marx & Bensdorf looks like he’s the only one enjoying the free ride!

Somewhere on lap 4 is where the break occured. I’m not really sure how I missed it, but it was a bad move on my part to not get in it, because it ended up staying away.

break

pack

Since I used to ride with Memphis Velo and am good friends with some of the guys, I figured I’d help them with a little pace control since they had someone in the break. It was nice training. On the final finishing strech, the pack started to get jumpy. Not wanting to get caught up in a hairy pack sprint for 4th place, I bailed out! It’s not normal behavior for me, but a field sprint in an early season training race isn’t worth bumping elbows over. Maybe I’m getting old…

After grabbing a snack, I headed out for some more riding, but ended up not getting more than one extra lap because my hands froze up. Damn. I needed the distance, but I’d rather ride the trainer than go through the pain of circulation loss, so I called it a day and retreated to the warmth of the car.

Ryan’s race started soon after. There were only 9 starters:
starta

ryanstart

Read his blog for a race report. Afterward, a group of us went to Mezcal in Arlington for some lunch and beer (though I behaved myself and only had lunch). While we were there, the sleet started. By the time we reached our house, a solid inch of snow had fallen.

snowblue

snowfelt

snowbar

Here are some shots from the back yard:

snowpony

snowbooger

snowpony2

blizzard

blizzard2

As of right now, the snow has blanketed the entire front yard, and is still falling. I hate snow! I want to go for a long ride tomorrow, so the snow needs to disappear overnight, mmmk?