West Feliciana Classic Stage Race: Day 1

Time Trial
The course was 5 rolling miles. Luckily, most of the uphills were preceded by good downhills, which were helpful for creating some momentum. I ended up rolling an 11:58, which was awesome, because the next person back sat at 12:35 (I think?). Being a stage race (fastest cumulative time wins), this was exactly what I wanted.

Road Race
Our race started a few minutes late, in the rain. That’s OK. I like rain when it’s warm. The 36 mile course had one KOM spot near mile 14, and many more gentle, rolling hills. The race started slow. The Tiger Cycling girls and I took turns pulling for most of the way towards the KOM (King of the Mountain time bonus spot- good for 7 seconds off of your total time).

Oh yeah- and the instruction we received as to WHERE the KOM was went something like, “you make a couple of turns in the first 7 miles, then it’s about 3 or 4 miles up the road from there, and has either a sign or something painted on the road so you know where it is.”

So once we started getting close, everyone was a bit antsy. There were a couple of attacks up some non-KOM hills, one of which I countered on the hill just before the KOM hill. The counter softened everyone up a little for the real thing. We passed a “KOM 1K” mark on the road, and the pace quickened. However, the people up front started to blow up. I held steady and passed them. As I neared the line, I looked back and saw that I had ~20 yards on the group. Seeing my opportunity, I didn’t let off of the pace. I got the KOM bonus and hit the drops and began to hammer out my best effort. Did I mention that this was at mile 14 of 36? Yeah. I had a long row to hoe…

The remainder of the race was pretty uneventful. I just rode my butt off. I yelled at a grcoup of cat 5 men that didn’t seem to understand what “on your left” meant (sorry guys- I was in a hurry!) The rest of the time, I just watched the miles, looked over my shoulder occasionally, and tried to keep the wattage going as best I could. It was a good thing, too, because, though I crossed the finishline solo, by the time I rolled up the road a little and slowly coasted back, I saw my chasers sprinting for 2nd. They’d never given up- it’s a good thing I didn’t, either…

So I enter day 2 (another 36 mile road race) with a very comfortable time gap: 37 seconds from the TT, 7 seconds bonus for the KOM, 10 for winning the RR, and whatever gap I had on the group from the solo finish- I’m guessing somewhere around 40-60 more seconds. I really just have to finish with the leaders tomorrow to win the GC. It’s a good feeling for sure.

Pre-Race Rambling

This weekend will be my first road race (West Feliciana Classic) since I temporarily “quit“Â back in March. I’ll admit, I’m not in top form for road racing at the moment. However, I am feeling much better psychologically. I had no idea how crazy my situation had been making me. Looking back at training camp posts, I can see how the burnout started and eventually became bad enough that I decided to stay home and lose the $200something I’d spent on a plane ticket to California for the San Dimas race.

Now I finally want to race. So, I’m really just looking to go and have a fun time. Good results would be a plus. Since I sold my TT bike to help put Jens the Niner together, I’ve got clip-on aero bars in full effect!

I went for a short ride last night, and they felt pretty good. The TT will be important since it’s the first stage, and, if I do well, could make the remainder of the weekend a bit easier as far as strategy…

Monkey Grinder XC Race


When I arrived at Montgomery Bell, I quickly set up camp (luckily, I was able to find a spot away from the multitude of screeching children that seemed to be inundating the campgrounds like an invasion of fire ants at a picnic for double arm amputees).

I changed and headed over to the trails for a preride. Luckily, the course was very well marked. I did my best to just spin in order to save my legs, which were a little stiff from riding my butt off earlier then sitting in the car for 3 hours. I have to admit, a sections of the course were intimidating. I don’t know who Tommy is or why he wants revenge, but I found that section (a rocky, switchbacked, steep section of trail labeled as “Tommy’s Revenge” by a well-placed tree sign) to be the worst. Even so, I felt alright about most of it. I especially loved the “Esses” and “Chain Reaction” portions. They were both perfectly cut and banked downhill switchback rollercoasters. Up until then, I’ve never spontaneously burst into laughter when riding, but those things were better than anything you’d find at the fair…

Afterward, I cleaned up and got in the car to scout out some dinner. Not far from the campground, I passed a place called Catfish Kitchen. A U-Turn was in order. It was awesome. I highly recommend the spicy fried catfish and plenty of hushpuppies. When I got back to the campground, some other racers had set up camp across from me. We hung out around the (sort-of) campfire for a couple of hours exchanging stories about DSG 2009 and meet Nick- the “creepy guy who comments on my blog sometimes.” (just kidding, Nick… I appreciate anyone who actually thinks what I write is interesting!)

The Race

Only two other women showed up to race the Cat 2 race this morning. Turns out, they were both in the >30 category, which meant that technically, I’d win no matter what. I still wanted to race, though. When the started gave the signal, I went after (and got) the holeshot. However, in my over-excitement, I soon overshot a turn and got behind one of the other racers. She was tough. I tailed her for a few miles. She schooled me through turns, but I found that I had the legs to overtake her on hills, so I sat behind her and learned how to ride the technical sections while I waited for the “Charlotte’s Ridge” climb- a pretty long one that came about mid-lap. I almost didn’t make it there with her when I wrecked on “Tommy’s Revenge,” but thankfully I caught back on and passed her about 1/4 of the way up.

From there, all I could do was ride as hard as possible. With the the combination of adrenaline and being chased, I took chances in turns that I have no idea I was capable of taking. When I passed thorough the end of the 1st lap, everyone cheered. I was too busy turning myself inside out to smile or acknowledge them. Not far down the trail, I could hear them yelling at my chaser. It was like a jockey bat to my ass. I continued to go as hard as possible…

It was very much like a hard criterium. With trees. And roots.

I never considered the race to be won until I actually saw the finish line, but it eventually came. I was incredibly exhausted. I cooled down and looped back to the finish area where the next woman had already finished. She was only a minute or so back… it’s a good thing I didn’t back off! We chatted a bit before she headed off to ride another loop and I went back to the car for food and a beer. Once prize money was given out, I said my goodbyes and hit the road.

The race was fun, even though it was like its own special type of hell. I think I’m more apt to go for the endurance-type events, but who doesn’t like to mix it up with something slightly more dangerous where your heartrate is pegged for a couple of hours?

Memphis in May Mountain Bike Triathlon Relay

Just before the semester wrapped up a few weeks ago, one of my students (a swimmer) told me that she and a firend needed someone to ride the bike leg with their relay team at the MIM MTB Tri. I thought it sounded like fun, so I went for it. In the morning, a downpour seemed immenent (see radar screenshot below), but it broke up as it neared Memphis and ended up just being a little damp and very windy.

The fun thing about this race was that the course was mainly through grass fields. There may have been 25 yards of singletrack total, but that could be pushing it. It was a total power course. When it was my turn to go, I ran full speed out of the transition area and did a perfect mid-stride mount when I hit the exit line (it was 50/50- I was either gonna do it perfectly or injure myself and look like a fool). For the next 7.3 miles, I put my head down and generally rode it like a time trial. The wind was relentless, the grass was deep, and the hills were long. I have no idea how many people I passed, but for the next ~33 minutes, it’s all I did. When I arrived back at the trasition area, there were only a few bikes there (turns out, my 33:27 was the 5th fastest bike time of the day- 4 guys rolled faster). Our runner headed out for the final leg and ended up finishing in 22 min & change.

Total time 1:09:18. Not only did we win for the mixed relay division, we beat the 4 male-only teams as well. Woohoo!

We waited around, recieved our awards, had our photos taken, then I jetted off back towards home so I could clean up and pack the car to head to Dickson/Montgomery Bell State Park…

Another Rainy Weekend

Gearing up for another wet race weekend.


Today it’s going to rain on & off all day (see radar screenshot above). I’m riding the bike leg of the Memphis in May MTB Triathlon on a relay team with one of my students from last semester. From what I’ve heard, the course is prettymuch just grassy fields, so I have a bit of a weight disadvantage with my full suspension 29er. It’s aight, though. I’ve got good mud tires and fresh legs to make up for it.

Afterward, I’m returning home, eating some lunch, packing the car, and heading back out to Montgomery Bell State Park for Sunday morning’s Monkey Grinder XC race. I’m hoping I can get in a pre-ride on the course this afternoon. The rain should stop sometime this afternoon/early evening as well. I just don’t want to be setting up camp in the rain. That’s not so much fun.

I would normally be a little wary of muddy courses/rain, but I feel like I experienced the worst possible conditions I’ll ever encounter last weekend at DSG. Short of releasing packs of rabid badgers or random swarms of Africanized honeybees, I can’t imagine anything ever being as bad as last Saturday.

So, I’m not worried.


Though Jens was looking clean on the outside, I knew that the now-infamous DSG uber-butter mud was hiding wherever it could. So yesterday, I started taking things apart.

First, the chain came off. It was new, but even after a thorough cleaning, it was rusted beyond saving. To the trash!

Next, the crank and bottom bracket:




I got those rinsed off but then wondered how the bearings themselves were looking…


I got that all cleaned/greased/happy and re-insalled it. When I started to re-install the chainrings onto the crank, I found that multiple teeth had burrs of metal sticking out from the edges (you couldn’t see them for the most part, so no photos, but feeling them was easy). I ended up using a file to gently remove the damage and make the damaged teeth as smooth as possible. I had enough chainsuck on Saturday to last my entire life, so I don’t care to experience it again.

Next, I decided to check out the headset.



I wiped it out, rubbed a bit of Phil Wood grease on it, and put everything back together. The only thing I’m not very comfortable with but still want to inspect are the hubs. They feel smooth, but I imagine that they have at least a little bit of grime inside of them, so I’ll probably end up taking them to the shop and watching while one of the guys takes them apart for servicing.

EDIT to ADD: The hubs were perfect… not a drop of mud in them! Hope Pro II hubs FTW!!!

Now it’s time for a shakedown ride and a test of the Garmin Edge 205 that I won for my 2 laps of attricion @ DSG.

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.



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:




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.


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.



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.




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.

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)

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?