Breck Epic- Stage 2

Stage 2 will go down in Breck Epic history as an “Epic” weather day. The weather at the start was 44 and about to rain. As we passed under the start gate, the rain also started, and, as the day wore on, it never stopped. The race course began by pitching up to 11k feet within the first 8 miles, descending, then climbing back up to nearly 12k on the Colorado trail (check out the map/profile here).

As I was alternately pushing/riding up the Colorado Trail, my hands started to go numb, though, at the time, I wasn’t too uncomfortable. However, at the top, it was really cold and pouring rain. I had my jacket on, but couldn’t zip it because my fingers weren’t working. I ended up stopping after the first few downhill switchbacks of the trail and asking other riders for help. Everyone’s hands had turned to ice flippers at that point, so it took a team effort, but my jacket got zipped.

The race turned into hypothermic attrition.

As I continued down the Colorado Trail descent, my entire body numbed, and my brain started to follow. I felt like I was watching a GoPro video of someone ripping down a mountain. After that, the remainder of the course was a blur of pushing, riding, shivering, and trying to look on the bright side… hey, at least it’s only 40 miles, and not 100.

I feel like I’m racing 3 of the toughest women possible. It never once crossed my mind that any of them would drop out of the race. Once again, I finished a solid second- well off of 1st, and a smaller chunk ahead of 3rd.

Days like that will break you if you let them. I was so glad that it was over, then so cold on the ride from the finish back to the condo that I cried for a minute as I descended back into town. Then, I realized that A) crying washed the sand and mud out of my eyes, which, at the time, felt f*cking amazing and B) if I didn’t pay attention as I rode into town, I was going to get run over by a car. So, I pulled myself together and made my way back home safely. The 2nd hardest part of the day was actually getting into the building with ice flippers for hands (thanks to Thom from Cyclingdirt for the phrase “ice flippers”)  I had to unzip my jacket (I’d just put it on over my camelbak), unbuckle the pack, unzip the pocket that contained my room key card, then use the card to get into the building. Somehow, I managed, though it took women’s tennis-style grunting to muster the effort for each move.

Breck Epic- Stage 1

Yeah, I skipped a day. I’ve hardly got the capacity to type this post, though.

Today’s stage- Pennsylvania Gulch- included a little bit of the Marathon Nationals course that I rode two years ago. That meant we had the pleasure of climbing French Gulch… and by climbing, I mean pushing my bike for an extended period of time.

With the course length of 38 miles, I opted to carry water in a camelback and a bottle full of kinda strong Gu Roctane. The camelback would let me basically forgo using drop bags since I could carry a gel flask, powerbar, some shot blocks, and the “mandatory for high-elevation backcountry riding” lightweight windbreaker. It worked out well, though now that I’ve got a feel for pacing, I may use bottles for stages after tomorrow (long stretch of Colorado Trail, big gap between aid stations).

The course today was relentless.

 

As I mentioned before, I felt great, but I realized 1.5-2 hours in that I needed to back off a bit in order to not destroy myself on the first day out. I knew that there was a woman ahead of me, but it’s a long, long race, and I’m really new to the energy budget-ing required for the week. So, I started walking a little more. It’s sometimes a little hard to convince yourself to hop off the bike when you know that a relatively brief redline effort would get you up the hill in front of you. I felt slow, but hopefully it’ll keep me going strong for the remaining 5 days.

Most of the day was a blur of climbing, pushing, and descending hairy, rowdy, rock-covered jeep roads. Repeatedly. I ended up finishing in 4 hours, 42 minutes… nearly half an hour back from 1st place. Not exactly a great place to be in a stage race. We’ve still got 5 days of racing, though, so hopefully the “half an hour back” trend won’t continue. Whether it does or not, this is shaping up to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever taken on.

 

 

Pierre’s Hole 50 Race Report

Saturday morning, I woke up feeling hungover.

Quick physiology lesson- when you go to altitude, there’s NOT less oxygen in the air. The air pressure is simply lower. The lower pressure means that there’s less of a drive to force oxygen across the membranes in your lungs, so you end up with less oxygen in your blood. When you arrive at altitude, your body’s first reaction is to attempt to concentrate your blood by dumping water out. It’s a lot like what happens when you drink alcohol, just at a slower rate. It can, however, result in a similar headache/run down feeling like what you’d get with a hangover.

I remember last time I was at altitude that a few days in, I had a similar morning. I took the morning off, had an early lunch at a greasy spoon in Cimmaron,  NM, an relaxed a bit. I felt better by that afternoon, and from there I continued to feel more “normal” with the ~7000ft of altitude.

Saturday, I had to race. At 6am, I felt pretty rotten. Luckily, the race didn’t start until 10:15. I had time to take some aspirin, mainline several gigantic cups of coffee, and make a delicious omelet that included feta cheese and leftover roasted sweet potatoes. I felt slightly better about the time I started packing the car to leave.

In the race parking lot, there were a lot of other women. I have no idea how many other women were racing, but it was a lot more than any other race- local or 100- than I’m accustomed to. They all looked strong. I fought off intimidation by thinking about how hard I’ve trained leading up to this race. I readied myself and rolled around for a little while to warm up. The race started like Syllamo on steroids… straight up a 500 foot climb on the ski hill access road then down a really fast descent. Everyone wanted to get to the singletrack first.

 

I rolled up to the start area and weaseled my way up to almost the front. It was a good spot- only one other woman was ahead of me, so I knew I could keep an eye on everyone and have an idea of my placing as we cruised up the hill. It was a good strategy. When the race finally started, I rode at my own, hard pace. I could see the woman who was ahead of me, and one other passed me, so I managed to enter the singletrack in 3rd place.

The descent from there down is the “mill creek” section. It takes about 20 minutes to get down and begins with several swoopy downhill switchbacks… the ones I wasn’t very comfortable with negotiating. This time, though, there was a guy ahead of me that was actually holding me up. He wasn’t being totally slow… just cautious. The ground was incredibly dry and dusty, so it was very hard to see the trail ahead in the crowd of riders. Eventually, the slow-ish guy overshot a turn, and I passed him. I increased the speed a bit, and made it down quickly (and even got a compliment from the local guy behind me for picking good lines).

The next part of the course was a paved road climb. I paced myself at about 8.5 mph. During the next few miles of climbing, I was back and forth with several women- one of them on a singlespeed. I was unaware that there was a women’s singlespeed category for the 50 mile. Would I have done it? I dunno… both the women who passed me were riding 32×20, and, as I’d found out earlier in the week, that was too much for my level of fitness/acclimatization.

We then descended Bustle Creek, which dropped down lower than the road we’d just climbed. Again, the track was so dusty that you couldn’t really see the ground. There were a lot of washouts and holes that I narrowly missed by blindly following the guy in front of me that looked like he knew where he was going. The course then cut through a ranch and climbed back up some doubletrack. Amanda had previously described the climb to me as “soul-crushing.” It was hard, and, in some spots, very steep. It was there that I caught up with another woman on a singlespeed. I passed her when she walked the steep spot at the start of the climb, then she caught me in the middle, then I left her again on the steep spot at the top. I thought she was gone, but she caught back up and passed me as I tried to recover on the road climb that followed the doubletrack out of Bustle.

As I cruised in to the last aid station on the loop, Evan Plews, the men’s 100 mile leader, passed me. As we both drifted towards the aid area, he yelled at me to GET OUTTA THE WAY.

Uh, yeah dude.

The last part of the loop was a swoopy, rolling trail with a couple of rocky patches. I realized there that I was getting more comfortable with the higher speeds of the mountain hills vs. the ones I was used to back home. I passed back through the start/finish area, topped off a bottle, and headed back out for another loop. A couple of miles down the trail, I realized that I was feeling overly tired. I’d neglected to eat much during the last section of trail. Knowing that the long descent was approaching, I made the decision to pull off the trail and cram a powerbar. While I was doing that, another woman rolled past me. I got back on the trail and started to reel her back in. I noticed that I was getting the most time back on the technical and downhill spots. Within a few minutes, I was on her wheel, and she let me by. It was motivation enough to send me flying down Mill Creek at breakneck speed (I caught a couple of guys who had passed me back before the start/finish).

P.S. The Jet9 RDO LIVES for descents like Mill Creek.

The next climb was mostly a solo effort. I knew there was at least one woman coming for me, so I kept the pace going. It wasn’t until the second time up Bustle Creek that I saw another female racer. I started reeling her in. When I passed her, I tried to look like I wasn’t sweating out of my eyeballs and breathing like an exhausted racehorse. Once I was back on the road, the caffeine from the gel I’d eaten at the bottom was starting to kick in, and I pushed the pace a bit until I reached the top.

After a quick stop at the last aid station, I headed back out for the last few miles of course. Suddenly, my right thigh cramped itself into a giant knot. I yelled at it and beat it with my fist. It eventually calmed down enough that I kept going, though it kept threatening to cramp again whenever I’d go uphill. I backed off, but then realized that the last woman I’d passed was a couple of switchbacks behind me. I was going to beat her or lock up completely while trying. My hail mary strategy was to stand up every climb and push a hard gear. Sounds odd, I know, but the cramping was worse if I sat and spun.

Thankfully, it worked.

I rolled across the line in 5:33. Thirty minutes behind the winner, and good enough for 6th place overall (They placed me as 4th women’s open, but 2 women in the singlespeed category finished ahead of me as well). I was exhausted and stoked.

Stoked with 6th? Yeah. Why? Well, since CX season ended, my races have basically been solo efforts. Either everyone is a lot faster than me or a lot slower than me. I haven’t had the chance to actually be competitive and race with other women. So, yeah. I’m super stoked. I left everything out on course.

Watch more video of 2012 Pierre’s Hole 100 NUE on cyclingdirt.org

 

Riverside Classic XC Race Report

In my quest for more high-intensity training, I decided to pack the Toaster with bikes and Poolboy Matt and drive over Friday night after work to Little Rock for a cross country race at Burns Park. There are generally a few more women who ride in that area, so I was hoping for a competitive field. It was well after dark when we arrived, so we were both basically riding the course sight unseen (Other than riding through the park during an adventure race back in 2009, I wasn’t familiar with the trails at all).

I’d talked to Todd “Antique Gun Show” Henne earlier in the week, and he’d told me to ride singlespeed 32×19. After chatting with other people in the area, I wasn’t totally sold on what gear to ride, so I decided to take the A9RDO with all the gears. Given the lumpy and sharp nature of the ground at Burns Park, next time, I might bring all of the suspension as well.

There ended up being six Cat 1 women at the line (3 of which were in the age group up from mine). The race started by climbing up the pavement before dropping into the woods on singletrack. From the gun, the a couple of the ladies seemed eager to hammer up the hill. Just as the lactic acid was searing through my quads, I stood to finish it off singlespeed-style… (photos courtesy of ArkansasOutside.com)

 

As we turned and dropped into the woods, the other ladies fell in behind me. I assumed that since they were all somewhat local that they’d ridden the course before. I tried not to let on that I had no earthly idea what was around any of the next corners. I could hear chains slapping behind me, so I knew that I wasn’t hiding it too well.

 

Luckily, the trail gave way to a good power section with some lumpy soil and a little bit of a hill or two. The chain noise grew more faint, and within a few minutes, I was alone. I rode hard for a while, trying to pay attention to the various features of the trail so that I could negotiate them faster and conserve more energy during subsequent laps. At 36 minutes in, I passed through the pit/finish area for the first time and began lap 2 of 3.

The next two laps, my mind tended to wander away from the race. I’d suddenly realize that I was not pedaling as hard as I could and reign it back in to the task at hand. That was essentially how my last hour or so of racing played out.

 

I felt strong the whole time, and I was tired when I was finished, so I must have done something right.

(photo courtesy of Alyssa Journey)

 

Intervals are nice & all, but it’s always fun to interject some race intensity for giggles. The racing, combined with the last few weeks of hard training I’ve banged out in an effort to get ready for altitude, has taken a little more out of me than I was expecting. Today, I had full intentions of knocking out a 4hr road/1hr trainer workout, but figured out 2 hours into the road riding that I was more tired than I needed to be. So, I pulled the plug and decided to relax and write this blog post instead.

On the bright side, I’m soooooo glad I didn’t race ORAMM on Sunday.

Drugs are Bad, MmmK?

Before you read this post, I insist that you read this article: Two Year Ban for Micheal Weiss

It’s not often that controversy or drama creeps its way in to NUE endurance racing (maybe with the exception of last year’s Fool’s Gold “two winners” course marshalling debacle). What happened on Sunday at the Breck 100 is a much more evil and ominous form of controversy and drama.  Micheal Weiss, the pro triathlete who is currently serving a two year ban from his sport for blood doping, beat out Josh Tostado.

My favorite part of the article I linked to above is this quote: “This is not from anything that is remotely recent. The allegation dates back to 2005, as I was a professional mountain biker…”

So, let me get this straight. When you’re a triathlete, you’re not doping, but when you’re a pro mountain biker, things get hazy?

I’m actually not going to pass any sort of judgement as to whether or not Weiss is currently doping. Dopers who are at the very top level of their sport aren’t there because they’re marginal athletes who take a bunch of drugs. They’re typically already stellar athletes who are able to use drugs to get to the top. It’s plausible that Weiss is not on anything other than hopes and dreams right now. However, given his past record, it’s equally as plausible that he’s on more drugs than a nursing home patient.

My disappointment lies in the fact that, while it is an elite-level national series of races, the National Ultra Endurance series essentially deals with doping on the honors system. Being the realistic person that I am, I know that Ryan O’Dell and the NUE race promoters do not have the financial, logistical, and legal resources that are required to implement USADA-style doping controls. It’s the sad truth, but I think at this point, the best recourse is what Ryan is doing right now, and not allowing Weiss to collect series points.

(Photo courtesy of Thom Parsons at Cyclingdirt)

It’s a tough issue with lots of grey areas. Open any health/fitness magazine, and there are full-page ads for testosterone replacement therapy for middle age/older men. If one of the masters guys is on T-therapy for clinically-measured low levels, and the therapy keeps him just within “normal” testosterone levels for a healthy man, is that considered doping? What about people who have been caught? Some people say “banned for life!” while others say once they’ve served their time away, they’re forgiven. What about people, like Weiss, who are currently serving a ban?

I won’t claim to know the answers to these things, but I think they’re questions worth asking. They’re worth making rules for. As long as the NUE races aren’t under the thumb of USA Cycling, there needs to be at least an acknowledgement that, indeed, doping exists, and we don’t take kindly to it.

 

Memphis Invitational Circuit Race Report

A.K.A. The race that almost wasn’t.

Participation in this race was in jeopardy following my previous post when the race promoter sent out an email on Wednesday night (I didn’t get it, I heard about it 2ndhand) letting racers know that the 10:00a.m. Women’s race would be combined with the 8:00a.m. Cat4 men’s race.

I was rather irate.

The obvious issue with this is that the promoter sent out an email about my race that I didn’t get. While numbers were bound to be low, it doesn’t help if women who plan on being there at 10 are going to show up an hour after their race is over.
Then, there’s the whole “trying to have your own race around a bunch of men fucking sucks” thing. They’ll chase down your attacks and basically shove their egos into the middle of your race. It used to happen all the time when I first started racing, and all TBRA women’s races were combined with master’s 50+ men.

I’ll admit, it’s a chicken/egg thing- Offer a separate women’s race and only a couple show up, so you decide to combine fields, which further discourages women from showing up. I get it. It’s a big chunk of everyone’s time to sit around an extra 45 minutes to watch a handful of racers. You know what, though?  We train just as hard. We want to race each other just as hard. It’s a slap in the face to have your race put off like it’s an inconvenience. Needless to say, I made my case to the local official, and she convinced the promoter that the women’s race would stay separate at its originally scheduled time.  (THANK YOU, TERESA!)

Anyway- on to the good stuff.

Saturday morning, I packed up and rode the half hour to the race course for a nice warmup. When I arrived at registration, I learned that two other women from the Marx-Bensdorf team would be racing- Marda (uber-fit/strong time-trialer- left) and Lindsay (no idea, but she looked fast- right). Small field? Yes. Challenging field? You bet. I’ve been double teamed on two occasions in the past- and I had a 50% success rate in the situation.

 

We did decide on the line to shorten our race to 30 minutes. I figured that for a 45 minute race, I’d have to sit in a good 15 minutes prior to trying to get away. Going to 30 would mean less “sit and wait” time. When we started, Lindsay immediately sat on the front. I was happy to sit on her wheel and bide my time. Well, I say I was happy… I was actually antsy enough that Matt told me later that I looked like I was about to turn myself inside out with impatience. I was. Seriously. I wanted to attack so bad. On about the 3rd lap, Lindsay broke from her previous M.O. and pedaled really hard up the hill before the last turn. At the top, she sat up. I wanted to attack, but I looked at the time… only 5 minutes in. Wait, damnit.

 

Next lap, the promoter calls a prime. I call a compromise with myself. Since we’re “only” racing 30 minutes, I will counter the 1st prime if they go for it. Nine minutes in? Sure, why not?

We approach the final straightaway, still in the above formation. Lindsay was near the curb, so I arranged myself just to her left so that Marda would be forced to attack to my left if she wanted to do so. Gotta eliminate the options.
Suddenly, I hear CLACK CLACK and the dig of carbon wheels behind me. OMG, IT’S ON! I felt an ambushing lion.

I jumped into Marda’s draft as she passed me. She took the prime by a bike length, and I laid into the attack, taking the first corner with my knee nearly on the ground. A good counter-attack feels like this:

I almost ran into the lead car. Marda chased. Hard.

I dove deep into the pain cave. I felt awesome, though. I could tell that I was opening the gap a little more each time I’d go up the long grade before the final turn. Eventually, there was nothing behind me except for a follow car. I got 40-50 second time gaps called out, as well as a “they’re working together now!” after a few laps. I just kept my head down and pedaled harder.

 

Twenty-one minutes later, I was giving a victory salute. It felt good. Time to cool down and go to the podium.

 

Ryan and I had a snack and headed back home. I discovered once I was there that not only had I increased my me vs. double team success rate, but I’d also matched my previous PR for 20 minute power. As in, I’m actually starting to get fast. It’s so on.

 

 

Roadie Stuff

Sure, I primarily ride mountain bikes, but I cut my teeth in road racing. So, this time of year, I indulge in watching the Tour de France for hours a day. I have a few re-occuring thoughts/predictions about the race so far. If you don’t watch/follow, you’re probably going to be bored with this post.

-As a closet Cavendish fan, I wanted to hate Sagan, but I totally love him. He’s young, crafty, and races incredibly smart (bonus: he rides no-handed wheelies). I predict that he will win a World Championship at some point.
-When you hear Phil repeatedly call a rider/team “unstoppable,” it’s a prophetic indication that there will be a doping charge in the future.
-Stages like Friday’s # 7 are why I watch the Tour. The emotion during the last half hour of racing was fantastic- not just for the winner/his manager, but behind him as the top riders of the race hammered over the final climb. Even if you’re not a road fan, I recommend you watch it.
-This last one should cause a stir in the peanut gallery:
The insane number of crashes during the flat stages are, in large part, caused by the style of racing provoked by heavy use of race radios. The pack rolls along just fast enough to frantically reel in the breakaway during the final 30K of the course. Every. Single. Stage. They are radio puppets to their managers. The reasons why this causes wrecks are A) The initial pace is totally non-selective. No one gets dropped because of crosswinds/small climbs/etc. More people in the pack = more chances of wrecking. B) The pace is initially slow enough that riders are constantly bunched up. Anyone who has ever road raced knows that this is when pile-ups occur. Sure, they can’t be on the rivet and hammering the entire 100+ miles, but the entire pack staying in a “slow” rolling bunch for 100 of 140 miles of racing instead of actually racing is just asking for it. C) The frantic chase at the end. It’s frantic. Suddenly, the pack that’s rolled tempo for the past 100 miles is hammering its ass off.

A while back, the UCI tried to ban radios. Teams raised all sorts of hell because they said it was a safety issue. Well, now the radio puppet-style of racing is becoming a safety issue. If you want riders to know about road hazards ahead, have a general official’s radio that broadcasts such things to all riders. Ditch the radio puppets and bring back real racing.

This Saturday, I’m going to indulge in some road racing of my own. There’s a(nother) training crit… I’m feeling pretty awesome right now because of some kickass interval training. This time, there’s a women’s race on the bill, so I’m hoping the handful of other local ladies show up to throw down. No radios allowed.

Legends of Stanky Creek XC

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve raced a Cross Country race. In fact, this was just my 6th one since I started riding off-road in 2009 and 3rd one since I upgraded to Cat 1 (with my 1st Cat1 race being a DNF because of a broken derailleur). So, with my area of expertise generally swinging between 100 milers and 45 minute CX races, I wasn’t 100% sure on pacing myself (not totally in the dark- more like about 90%).

Stanky creek is rooty as hell. The turns are small and the hills are tight. Err… close enough.

I decided a while back that I’d ride the Crowbar. While anything can be fast out there, the full suspension lets you keep traction over the roots & whatnot, so you can pay less attention to your line and more attention to the next turn. I did a few single laps out there leading up to race day, and had my lap time nailed down to ~50min. I figured that’d be a good starting point on pacing for 3 laps, and I could modify the plan depending on the competitive heat.

Only 2 other women entered the Cat 1 race- Laureen Coffelt, who I race against often in the NUE series, and Jennifer Moorehead, who has been on hiatus for a bit and is just now getting back into it. We lined up behind the Cat 1 men and started 2 minutes after the 40+ age group.

When the race started, I took the holeshot. The way the trail rides is very tight in the first few miles, gradually opening up to the more flowy, power-hungry white trail for the last few miles (with the white trail being briefly interrupted by a tighter, anti-flow loop that was built a few years ago). I aimed to maintain speed in the first section by staying off of the brakes as much as possible then start dropping the hammer in the sections where the trail was more open. Everything went off without a hitch, except for the creek crossing. The race directer did a great job of making it nice and smooth, with a bit of a berm over the exit lip to keep it from becoming eroded again. However, the turn to get onto the trail is sharp and left on the exit, and I found myself launching into the bushes and putting a foot down every time I crossed it. EVERY time. Oops.

My slightly conservative strategy meant that I could hear the other women behind me for a little while. Once I was on the more open trail, I started to lay down the wattage, and they disappeared. After that, I was alone. Well, I passed a few of the men that started ahead of me, but someone that you’ve put 2+ minutes into generally doesn’t put up much of a fight when you want to get around. I found myself getting complacent in the 2nd lap. I got a little mad at myself for not going full-bore and dug in the spurs.

I was satisfyingly tired by the 3rd lap, but was able to continue pushing. I took enough chances that I had some close-call almost wrecks, but managed to remain upright the entire race. There was one cramping incident near the end of the last lap- I swung my right knee out for balance, only to have my inner thigh muscle turn itself into a ball. I talked to it… trying to convince it that I needed it to fully function for just another 10 minutes. I finished in just a hair over 2.5 hours- 7 minutes ahead of Laureen, who was minutes ahead of Jennifer.

It’s weird to race for 2.5 hours. I feel like I could have gone a little faster, but, like in some of the CX races from last winter, once I’m way out front, I tend to take fewer risks and take the pace down to a few clicks below “bleeding out of my eyeballs.” However, it’s going to take racing against people that can kick my ass in every direction to get that sort of effort. It’s good training to get ready for the Breck Epic, so my search for an ass-kicking will continue until I find one.

Don’t call it a comeback…

In case you’re just now joining me, here’s a little rundown of the past few months in training/racing:

Late winter/spring- got a little bit of a late start on my endurance training because of the training leading up to master’s worlds. Didn’t matter. First few races of the spring, I felt great. Killed it at Southern Cross, Spa City 6hr, Ouachita, and Slobberknocker (scroll back through the archives for race reports).
Then, at the end of April, Cohutta rolls around. First 100 of the season. I did well, but I wasn’t 100% ripping the cranks off of my bike, which is kinda how my training/tapering was supposed to set me up. It’s OK, I thought… just a little leftover “tired” from Slobberknocker.

I rested up and tried to get back to normal training a week later… only to fail miserably.

I rested some more and felt better before Syllamo. However, it was a lot like Cohutta- not bad, but definitely not Incredible Hulk-style crank bending, either. Then, at Syllamo, my brain and body shut down. More rest before Mohican.

Up to Mohican, I was better than before Syllamo. Mohican was a good race. Not my best, but not bad.

I rested some more up until last Saturday. My prescribed training was 3.5 hours easy-ish. I decided that instead of subjecting myself to a 3.5 hour road ride that I’d join Fullface Kenny for ~45miles of hauling ass through the Wolf River and Stanky Creek trails on our Jet9s. The “tired” that I felt after that ride wasn’t the oppressive, full mind/body tired… it was a satisfying sort of tired that is mainly concentrated to your legs and appetite for food, beer, and more training.

Then, yesterday, it was back to road training. As a preparation for some more XC-oriented racing, I went out to ride steady with occasional hill attacks. It went really well. I got the “rip your cranks off” feeling back as the ride progressed.

The blood lust is back.

My future plans involve a couple of regional XC races followed by Pierre’s Hole and the Breck Epic. What about the Breck 100? Well, the logistics just weren’t working out. In order to acclimate, etc. I was just going to be gone from home for too long. So, I’m narrowing the focus a little and compacting my trip West into 3 weeks instead of 6. The way I’m feeling now, I don’t think it will disappoint.

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.