Arkansas Enduro Race Report

Yes, I’ve been riding/crew-personing in Pisgah for the past 3 days, and yes, I’m just going to post my Arkansas Enduro race report today.

As I mentioned in my last post, I abandoned my duties at the St. Jude 24 hour event around 8something in the morning. Back home, I changed, set an alarm, and climbed in to bed as quickly as I could so that I could achieve maximum nappage before hitting the road to Arkansas. I was in and out for almost an hour and a half, which, combined with a giant Americano from Starbucks was more than enough alertness to get me through the day (I’m starting to get the hang of the sleep deprivation thing).

I packed the car and made the 3+ hour drive to Arkadephia, checked in to my hotel, then made the short drive over to the Iron Mountain trail system to pre-ride the course. Between the course markings and the map they’d provided, it was super easy to find my way around, even though I don’t know the trail system very well (it’s where my first endurance race of the season was back in February). I found stages 1 and 2, then, before I headed out to stage 3, found my “little brother” Jonathan. We rode stage 3, then took a truck/shuttle back up the hill to stage 4…

IMG_5406 IMG_5407

Stage 4 included a newly-created “tech” line, which was basically a flat, narrow pile of rocks with some dirt strategically added in to make it somewhat ride-able. Whether or not I could  ride through the rocks didn’t matter, because at the end of that was a ~3ft drop to a flat landing that fell away somewhat laterally to the right. I have a video of Jon and another guy riding it, but since I’m on iPhone wifi, I don’t want to upload it right now. Both of them made it through the rocks and off the drop, but wrecked upon impact with the ground. From what it looks like on the results page, 5 people rode it out of the 61-person field. Following that section, there was a large rock rollover, a flat spot, then a smaller rock rollover, rock garden, then the course turned right and, the way it was taped at the time, gave you the option of taking the left line- a double drop with a super skinny line through it, or the right line- a smoother, smaller single drop. I opted to hop on my bike following the large rock rollover, ride the smaller one, the rock garden, and the smoother right-side line. However, we found out the next morning at the pre-race meeting that the taping at the double drop had been moved by someone, and that the right side was now blocked. I hadn’t more than glanced at the left line because it seemed like a no-brainer to stay right. So, I didn’t know whether or not I’d even want to try it.

That night, following a bitchin’ catfish dinner, I engaged in my favorite road-trip pastime… laying in bed and watching COPS until I pass out. Given my lack of sleep, it didn’t take long.

IMG_5415

I slept in until around 7am, had lots of coffee and breakfast, checked out, then made my way to the trail. After the pre-race meeting, Everyone headed up to the start of stage 1. The way the timing worked was that rider number 1 went off at 10:00. Following him, each person went off in 1 minute intervals, in bib number order, with 2 minute gaps between fields. You have a pre-determined allowed transfer time between stages (allowed times were given to us at registration). So, if I started stage 1 at 10:45, according to the transfer times, I had until 11:05 to get to the start of stage 2. I found these transfer times to be very lenient, and, save the 45 minute wait for my first stage start time, ended up waiting around 10-15 minutes for my start at subsequent stages.

The wait for stage 1- lots of sitting around, making jokes about who looked the most “enduro,” and listening to dudes apologize to each other ahead of time for being to slow (lol):

IMG_5423

IMG_5424

The dudes who only practice their downhill runs by using a shuttle might argue to the contrary- one guy made it to stage 3 with 1 minute to spare, and when I arrived at stage 4s start, there were several guys laying on the ground looking exhausted.

IMG_5426

Stage 1 was very pedal-y, and each of the stages following was less so. Aside from the one “tech” line in stage 4, anyone who can ride a basic trail would be capable of completing all of the stages on any cross country-style bike. I had 4 clean runs… maybe a little more conservative than what I’d consider ideal, but the loose/gravely turns psyched me out. I ended up winning each stage by approximately one minute, giving me the overall victory by about 4 minutes.

IMG_5427

What excited me equally as much as the ginormous payout was the prize I won in the raffle- a free spot in the upcoming DirtsmartMTB Enduro clinic. I’m super stoked (bro) to keep improving and sharpening my skill… maybe even learn how to be more confident leaving the ground as well as tackling the loose gravely stuff. According to Kent, the promoter, the series will expand to three races in 2015, and include an even larger payout in hopes of bringing in some speed from the farther reaches of the country. I’m stoked- I’d love to see the pro ladies who dominate out West come over and rip the trails in Arkansas. I really love the enduro format. It’s soooo laid back, and it really suits my strengths as a rider.

Vapor Trail 125 Race Report

As I mentioned in my last post, my acclimatization to altitude is somewhat lacking. It hasn’t kept me from having a good time any time I’ve been to the mountains (no altitude sickness, etc.), but it does keep me from riding my bike as fast as I’d like to. When I lined up for the Vapor Trail 125, I knew that, and I planned my “race” strategy accordingly… do what I can, pace-wise, feed and hydrate well, and deal with the fact that I am basically in the granny gear or pushing my bike most of the time that I’m going up a hill. Sort of like a 125 mile Enduro race.

Saturday basically took forever. If you ever want to try and break a hole in the space-time continuum by making time go backwards, plan to do a bike race that starts at 10pm. I charged all my lights and unpacked/repacked my Osprey pack and drop bag more than once. Finally, 7pm came, and I went to Absolute Bikes to fill out my waiver and get a sweet race beanie.

IMG_5323

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

IMG_5326

The enormity of the race really started to sink in during the meeting. I got nervous. As soon as the meeting was over, I went back to the hostel and made myself a soup bowl-sized mug of coffee to drink while I paced around getting ready.

IMG_5327

A little before 10, everyone lined up at a bridge downtown for the neutral rollout. It’s actually pretty cool- since the racers need to cross a major highway to get to the race course, everyone follows a police car out of Salida to Poncha Springs just a few miles away, where it stops next to a small airport for a final pee/clothing adjustment break before continuing to highway 285, where several other police cars were waiting to stop traffic and let all of the racers cross safely as a group.

Once we were across the highway and the police car pulled away, the group quickly stretched out and split apart as we started the first climb several miles up a gravel forest road to the Colorado Trail (go back to my first VT125 post to see pictures & a Google Earth track). All of the women in the race were basically some sort of Colorado endurance superstar in one way or another, and they left me in their dust at that point (with the exception of Bec Bale, who was just a minute or so behind me). I just kept going at the pace that my physiological speed governor would allow.

Riding the Colorado Trail at night is a rush. I used a head and bar mounted set of Light & Motion Seca 2000 lights. They’re so incredibly bright that I was able to keep them on low power the whole time, with the exception of the final Colorado Trail descent and the descent off of the Alpine Tunnel pass. Bonus- the enduro model will run for 10 hours on low. I still carried spare batteries but never needed them. I arrived at the first aid station at 1:40am.  Though it’s relatively early on the course, that aid station is the last one before the long drag in the mountains. I took a pee break, ate half a breakfast burrito, grabbed an extra base layer from my drop bag, and set back out.

The climb up to Alpine Tunnel is long and gradual, and can mentally break you if you let it. I alternated sitting and standing as well as awareness and staring at the ground in front of me, and the two hours to the top passed quickly. The moon was incredibly bright, and was competing with my lights for the reflection off of the frost that was on the pine and aspen trees along the road. At the end of the road at Alpine Tunnel trailhead, it was bright enough to dimly light the bare tops of the mountains around the pass… the view was surreal. I stopped for a pee break, and to just soak in the awesomeness before making my way to the Alpine Tunnel hike-a-bike.

It was at the hike-a-bike that I caught up to one of my female competitors. I started hiking before her and descended a little faster (she mentioned something about this being her first night ride in some extreme length of time). However, she caught up and left me when I stopped to change into a warmer jacket and gloves. The next section of road was gradually downhill for a couple of miles, and the temperature was somewhere below freezing. My hands can go from OK to useless ice flippers in the space of five minutes, so I enact a “disaster aversion” strategy of keeping my core warm and my gloves dry.

The next challenge was Tomichi Pass and the infamous hike-a-bike up Granite Mountain. I mostly walked up Tomichi, though I did find a few sections to be momentarily granny gear-able. Once I was on the other side of the pass, it was somewhere around 5:15 in the morning, and I began the long push to the top of the mountain. When I stopped for another pee break about halfway up (there’s a pattern emerging here), I noticed when I got back on the trail that my eyes had adjusted enough in the very slight morning dimness that I didn’t need to turn my lights back on. I made it to the top about the time the sun was turning the sky all sorts of cool colors.

IMG_5333 IMG_5332

One of the “benefits” of being forced into riding slow is that the faster people are in the dark when they do the Canyon Creek trail descent from the top of that mountain. Also, since it was so cloudy during my pre-ride, I’d had no idea that the initial part of that descent was along the spine of the mountains. I took that as a satisfying consolation prize. Once you’re past the timberline, that descent is full-gas awesomeness. I raged it so hard that I caught up to several people who’d left the top of the mountain while I was still taking photos and enjoying the view (bonus- despite slowing down and chatting with a couple of the caught guys for a minute before passing them, I got the Strava QOM for the lower half of the descent). You basically take about an hour to lose all of the elevation that you spent all night gaining.

The next aid station is at the bottom of that descent, and my arrival time was 7:41am. Though I was very stoked from going downhill and seeing morning in general, I wasn’t feeling my most awesome. Imagine riding all night, doing a metric crap-ton of climbing both on and off-bike, then rolling into the aid station at the bottom of another 2 hours worth of climbing and saying, “Hey, I’m ALMOST halfway done with the race course now!” On top of that, though I’d had what I’d consider a “normal” amount of water for an effort of that duration/intensity/temperature, I was peeing way more than normal, which made me think that my electrolytes were off. I mixed up some Gu Blueberry Pomegranate Brew (double sodium, and the single-serve stick packs are really convenient to pack for a ride), and decided that I’d drink all of it on the way up to the next aid station at the top of Monarch Pass.

If I had to pick a place that was my “low point” of the race, I’m probably not alone in saying that it was somewhere on the Old Monarch Pass climb. I did my best to zone out and not think about it, and made it to the top somewhere in between daydreaming about pizza and using a roadside rock as a pillow to take a nap.

Two and a half hours after leaving the previous aid, I arrived at Monarch Pass… the place where most people who want to DNF do the deed. Though I was at kind of a dark place in my experience, I knew from past races that a short break and some self-care can really turn things around. So, I sat down while two very kind aid station volunteers brought my bag and gave me various food choices. I took off my base layer and knee warmers, had a cranberry muffin, some bacon, and a 16oz Redbull along with a couple of electrolyte pills. It rejuvinated me enough to enjoy the sweetness of the next part of the course- the Monarch Crest Trail. It has a couple of tough kickers in it as far as climbing, but it’s mostly rolling with some fun downhills and gorgeous views. Bonus- picked up another downhill Strava QOM for the descent to the aid station at the Starvation Creek loop.

The Starvation Creek loop is about as fun as it sounds. You start by climbing about 500ft on jeep road until you reach the singletrack descent (I accidentally passed it in my sleep-deprived state and had to turn around and find it when I reached the dead end of the road). The singletrack drops down… and down… and down… it’s so long that you quickly stop enjoying the downhill and start dreading how much you’re descending. I literally slowed down because I wanted it to be finished. Then, you cross the creek and start climbing a rocky jeep road back up- about 2000ft back up. It’s warm at the bottom (hearing people complain about how “hot” it was made me chuckle a little), and there are biting black flies that will circle and nail you right when you’re suffering most. If someone at the aid station for the loop had given me the choice of either doing the loop or opting out with a full-force kick to the liver, I’d choose the liver kick.

I made it through in about 2.5 hours… actually not too terrible of a time, considering I required two pee breaks, and I either granny-geared or hiked during the entire climb out. When I passed through the aid station for the second time, I ate several handfuls of really salty potato chips and took another electrolyte pill. That seemed to do the trick for extending times between pee breaks, because I didn’t have to go again until I was back and showered, despite continuing my same water consumption. I could also just about smell the finish line 25 miles away.

Leaving Starvation Creek is the last of the long climbs of the course. You get on the Colorado Trail and go up and up and up until you make it to the descent down Silver Creek. I quickly realized that I was getting a little fatigued and sloppy with my downhilling and decided it was in my best interest to back it off a couple of mph so that I wouldn’t end myself or my bike that close to the finish. Once I was down that, I found the last aid station at the bottom, where they had the best treats of the day- bacon and egg rice bars as well as salt and vinegar chips. I wanted to stay and eat more, but the last section- the Rainbow Trail, was calling my name.

Definitely one of my favorite parts of the course, BTW. It does have a couple of steep hills that I had to hike, but all of them are followed up with the payoff of flowy goodness. It was a perfect icing to my 127 mile cake. The hardest part of the rest of the course was navigating the highway 285/50 intersection. The entire course had been marked with pink pin flags and tape, and the construction zone at the intersection had wooden stakes and pink flagging stuck in to both sides of the road. Being mildly delirious, I was momentarily stupefied, but then noticed the pink course flags mixed in amongst the construction markers. I followed them to find the county road back in to town- downhill the whole way.

I finished in 19 hours, 27 minutes… near the bottom of the finisher list. However, to be a finisher on that list feels like an accomplishment in and of itself. Aside from the sleep deprivation and requisite soreness from riding/pushing so much, I actually felt slightly less bad than when I finished any other sea-level 100-mile mountain bike races… another discovered advantage to the physiological speed governor. Then, I got hungry.

That used to be a gigantic hamburger with bacon and avocado

IMG_5334

I also needed dessert

IMG_5335

Rather than putting myself through the torture of driving back today, I’m taking the day to relax, nap, eat, and get a massage. It will make the 17 hours of going back home slightly less bad, though it’s always sad to see the mountains in my rear-view mirror.

 

Tennessee State Championship Cross Country Ride

The state championship cross country race happened over the weekend at Montgomery Bell State Park. Matt and I drove up Saturday afternoon, pre-rode, and stayed the night in Dickson. Combined with a trip for a couple of pre-ride laps a few weeks ago, I was feeling good about the course. It’s a lot of up & down with a mix of both sweeping and tight turns and a bunch of roots and a couple of longer climb-y spots. It’s a very nice mix of course terrain for a state championship race.

After our pre-ride, we hit the registration tent, where I learned that there currently weren’t any other Cat 1 women registered. I crossed my fingers that there’d be some day-of ladies showing up from Nashville.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. It rained a bunch before the race. Luckily, the Montgomery Bell trail is also great for a championship race because it drains really well and holds up nicely to traffic in wet conditions. However, since 99% of the trails I ride don’t follow that rule, and therefore are off-limits in the rain to avoid trail damage, I don’t often get the opportunity to ride wet roots and occasional greasy corners (basically, 9 in 10 turns at Montgomery Bell will hook up almost as well as when it’s dry, but the 10th one will two-wheel drift you into the poison ivy).

Turns out, no more women showed up. I was pretty disappointed, and lined up to start with the 40+ cat 1 men. I hadn’t warmed up much, so I just tailed the back of their group when we were given the signal to go. Once we were in the woods, I kinda hung out there until my glasses were too mud splattered to see well. I stopped and crammed them in my jersey. I figured from there, as I warmed up, I could probably pick a couple of dudes off, but then my seatpack started to fall off. I stopped to fix that (it actually took two stops, because in my haste, I missed looping a saddle rail the first time). The guys were long gone by then.

I rode two sloppy laps all by myself, occasionally going hard, occasionally coaching myself through some higher-speed wet turn practice, and occasionally daydreaming about my upcoming trip to Colorado then snapping out of it and remembering that I needed to hurry up and get this isht over with. I kind of debated as to whether or not I should take home the prize money and jersey given my somewhat uninspired riding.

At the podium presentations, I’d learn via the race director that other Cat 1 women in Nashville had said they weren’t going to come because they didn’t want to race for 2nd.

So  much shit can happen during a mountain bike race… it’s so not  a sure thing, ever.

tbra

The state championship jerseys are pretty dope this year. I’m going to wear mine often as a testament to working so hard that no one else will show up.

Late Summer/Fall Stoke

You all may have noticed that I took something of a summer hiatus from serious racing. Unlike previous years, I didn’t travel much to race any 100’s or other stuff like Marathon Natz, Whiskey, TSE, etc. (outside of going to Dirty Kanza). I don’t want to say I was burnt out on traveling, it’s more like I wasn’t super hyped to race those races again, so there wasn’t much of a point to driving across the country to get to them. Also, I was having a killer time training MMA & fighting, so it worked out well to not have to leave town during that time. I prettymuch said, outside of Vapor Trail, I’d plan races and trips as the inspiration and opportunities presented themselves, and, as I expected, they have arrived upon my calendar in a fast and furious manner.

In about a week and a half, I’ll leave for Colorado, and, in no particular order, visit Salida, Crested Butte, Black Hawk (home of 92Fifty’ Cyclery), and a long-time friend of mine in Elbert. It’s a lot of road trip packed in to about two weeks, but it should be a ton of fun, as always.

After Vapor, I’ll have several opportunities to put my new-found sleep deprivation skills to the test.

First, starting at 6pm on Sept. 19th will be the St. Jude 24 hour charity ride. My MMA coach/friend/cornerman will be riding it solo, and I plan on being there for the duration to mechanic/cook/mentor him through the process… and by “mentor,” I mean I’ll threaten to kick him in the liver if he won’t leave the RV to continue laps at 2am on Saturday. Again, and I can’t say this enough… if you aren’t familiar with the awesome work that St. Jude does in the fight against terrible childhood diseases, you need to check it out. If you want to support John in his fundraising efforts, click and throw a few bucks his way: Support John Trent at the 24 hour St. Jude Ride.

Really… If I could get all of my readers to just donate a dollar or five, it would add up really quickly, and it would mean the world to me to see my readers give back to a place that does so much good. Just one dollar.

Following that, as long as I can manage a bare-bones amount of napping and sleep Friday and Saturday night, I’m going to get over to the Iron Mountain Enduro Sunday morning. It’ll be a last minute judgement call on my part. I’m not going to try and drive 3 hours/race enduro if I feel as though I’m too sleep deprived to be safe in doing so.  It is the inaugural enduro race for the state of Arkansas, so I am excited to compete if I’m able to.

To kick off October, I’m venturing back in to the Adventure Racing world. This time, I’ll be going to the USARA Nationals in Maryland with the Michigan Racing Addicts team. Though my adventure racing experience is somewhat limited (I’ve done exactly three- two solo sprints and one team 12-hour), they sent me an extensive race resume that has me confident that I’m going to be in the company of some very skilled guys for the race. Also, when I saw the term “30 hour expedition format” used to describe the event, it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

The next three weekends looks like this:

10/11: Lula Lake Land Trust 5-Points 50

10/18: Rest or Race to the Canal (fun race/course, but I’ll need to play it by ear on the recovery end)

10/25: 12 Hours of Night Nationals

About that last one- I am not usually super stoked about lap races, but OMG look at the payout on that one! Even a 3rd place finish would put me in the black for the weekend. I should be in prime overnight racing form by then, too, so I’m gonna race the hell out of it.

To wrap everything up, there’s always the Oak Ass 50/100 in November. I might have cyclocross and/or MMA back on the brain by then, but I’m definitely not ruling it out. As you can see, it’s about to be a wonderfully busy late summer/fall. I’m stoked because normally in September and October, I’m tired of training and traveling. Instead, this year, I’m totally excited to get in to some new, killer races.

I AM Racing Battle of Nashville Criterium

Last Thursday, my tentative weekend plan was to drive to (almost) Nashville on Saturday to pre-ride the state championship XC course, then spend the night there, and find a long group ride to do the next morning. I posted on Facebook looking for a group (or a route), and, after a few suggestions, I was clued in that there was a criterium Sunday, and that’s where all the fast people would be. The first place purse for the P/1/2/3 racers? $500.

Racing crits in Nashville is a slightly different animal than racing crits in Memphis. Most of the racing they do in that city is criteriums, so the women who reside there are very good at them (not that the women in Memphis can’t race crits… they just do it literally a fraction of the time of the Nashville women). They are very strong, very comfortable with handling a crit course, and, as I’d find out, they strategize very well as teams, so it would take every ounce of my fitness and brains to take home the cash.

I ended up not having a free spot to stay in Nashville Saturday night, so Matt and I day-tripped the XC course, and I drove back to Nashville Sunday morning (my race wasn’t until 1:00, so it wasn’t a big deal). I arrived in plenty of time to get registered and warm up (on a borrowed trainer, since I’d realized somewhere around Jackson that I’d left mine in the garage… thank you, Marsha). It just so happened that I was set up under a tree in the one techy spot on course- a downhill into a chicane around the outside of a roundabout. Someone’s rear tubular blew out and rolled there in the Men’s 3/4 race, and it caused a rather spectacular wreck that almost put a racer into the laps of nearby spectators. There was also plenty of nudging, loud talking, and baby chopping through the chicane… being downhill, guys in the middle/back of the pack were trying to move up in the pack around the shallow turns, and it made for some precarious moments.

Here’s the course  (ignore the green/checker garmin start/stop dots):

course

Like I said before… any women’s race in Nashville with this sort of purse is going to bring out the ballers. When the 15 of us lined up, I was wondering if I’d be targeted or not… I don’t think I’d raced any of the women out there on the road in the past. Other than the 2013 Rouge Roubaix that I DNF’d due to a strike from a car, I hadn’t road raced outside of Memphis since 2010. I was, however, wearing a 100-series number, which let the field know that, whether my reputation preceded me or not, I was good enough to be a category 1 racer.

Once the race started, my question was answered. The two main teams- Belladium and Team WE Sports started launching attacks from the gun. I didn’t chase immediately, but did make the mistake of following a couple of early ones, only to have the attacker sit up as soon as she was caught. So, I stopped following and made the teams start working against each other again. This gave me some decent rest until about 30 minutes in (we were racing for 50min), when a $25 cash prime was called.

The ladies who had been up front throwin’ bows all took the bait and went apeshit sprinting for it. I did my thing and used the prime-winning wheel as a leadout for a counter-attack. One Team WE rider (Jessica Christensen) stuck to my wheel, and a Belladium rider (Shannon Mathis) quickly bridged the gap. We immediately started working it, and the teams behind us let the non-Belladium/WE riders scramble to try and pull it back.

Elastic, snapped.

The three of us worked well together and generally shared the wind. I did, at one point, tell them that I wouldn’t challenge them for the announced $75 gift card prime to MOAB Bike Shop, but asked if they’d wait for me after they sprinted each other for it… and let them know that if they didn’t, I’d just counter attack them. Everything went very smoothly, and we continued our harmonious breakaway journey immediately following the prime.

As the laps whittled away, I had to scheme up how I was going to win. It’s a constant running-thorough of various scenarios in your head, weighing the risk, chance of success, and consequence of failure of each one. The most obvious was to wait for a 3-up sprint once we rounded the chicane and were in the final straightaway. However, I didn’t know the sprinting prowess of the two women with whom I’d been riding, and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not bad at sprinting, but if one of them was a total ringer for a sprint, I wouldn’t be the one winning. Another possibility- attack and finish solo from a lap or more out. Eh, my legs weren’t really feeling up to that. Not that their legs were feeling up to chasing me, but a lap or more would give them lots of time to work together and possibly counter, leaving me in the dust.

So, I settled on my old faithful… the two-turns-out attack & long sprint. It’s too short to allow for opponents to collaborate and work with each other, is a very unexpected place to get attacked (everyone is focused on their own sprint timing at that point), and, I’d noticed two incredibly subtle things that I knew would work in my favor- Jess was a little (and I mean by almost an imperceptible amount) sluggish up the riser at the end of the back straight, and I didn’t think that either of them would match my speed and line choice through the chicane (I was taking the straighter/faster, but slightly riskier “through the gutter” line, and they were avoiding the gutter).

We made it through the roundabout at the end of the back straight, and I launched myself up the hill and into the lefthand sweeper at the top. It wasn’t my smoothest attack, so I went extra hard across the top and carved my way through the chicane, blasting out onto the straightaway and sprinting with all I had (which, according to my powermeter, is about 20 seconds at 643 watts). I had absolutely no idea how big the initial gap was or how quickly they were closing in on me, but as soon as I threw my front wheel over the finish line, I looked over my shoulder and Shannon’s front wheel was about at my hip.

podium

I still got it, baby.

It was an excellent race as a whole- a great venue, fun course, well run, great prizes, and exciting competition. Now it’s back to the mountain bike game. I’m planning on hitting the training pretty hard from now until the State Championship XC Race on the 17th, then heading out to Colorado sometime near the end of the month in order to prep for Vapor Trail.

 

For Sale

It’s late spring cleaning time. Here are a few nice things that I’ve ended up not using that need to GTFO from my bike storage area…

Deuter Women’s Hydration Pack- I won this at a race, and I’m very sad to say that I can’t use it. I’ve found that my torso and shoulders are on the long/broad side for any women’s specific hydration packs. If you’re petite, this thing is legit, and I’m a tiny bit jealous. Here’s a link to the pack on Deuter’s site: Compact Air 8SL. It’s pretty light for a larger-capacity pack, and I really like the back ventilation system, lumber padding, and stow-away helmet holder (that little zipper on the bottom in the pic of the top of the pack).

IMG_4371 IMG_4372

It’s got an expanding accordion-style zipper section, too:

IMG_4374

The way the 3L reservoir (a nice one with the large, roll-down top opening) goes in and out looks like it’s one of the easier styles on the market. There’s a zipper up each side of the pack and a velcro section at each shoulder, so it opens up all the way, and you don’t have to run the drinking tube through any little holes:

IMG_4375

MSRP on this is $125, and I’m asking $75 (plus shipping if you aren’t local).

SOLD! Columbia Treadlite 10L Pack- Also won at a race, but falling in to the “I like my Osprey pack better” category. This is a never-used Columbia pack that appears to have been discontinued. Read more about it here on the Columbia site: Treadlite 10L pack. It doesn’t include a reservoir, but will hold a 3L bladder. SOLD!

IMG_4376 IMG_4377 IMG_4378 

They’re already down to $44 on the Columbia site, so I’ll let this one go for $25 (again, plus shipping if you aren’t local)

Pearl Izumi Softshell PRO series Ladies winter gloves- I ordered these, wore them once, and realized that they’re a touch too small for me (the fingers are about 5mm too short). I’m really OCD about how the fingers of my gloves fit, so it drove me way crazier than it would most other people. Anyway, if you wear small to medium gloves and are looking for a pair that’s super warm, these are the top-of-the line offering from Pearl, and normally retail for around $100 (I can’t find this exact model on the Pearl site anymore).

IMG_4370

Since they’re worn and washed, I’m pricing them at $25 (shipping extra)

Easton EC90 10degree, 100mm Stem- Brand new, in the box. Light and sexy. Info on Easton’s Site

IMG_4384 IMG_4385

Retail is $240, and they’re selling on EBay in the $180-200 range, so I’m asking $165 (plus shipping)

Easton EC90 27.2 Offset Carbon Seatpost- Also brand new in the box. Also light and sexy. Info on Easton’s Site

IMG_4381 IMG_4382 IMG_4383

Retail is $210, Ebay is ~$140, my price is $125 (plus shipping)

PACKAGE DEAL- If you want the stem and the seatpost, the pair are $275

EDIT: I almost forgot!

RockShox 2013 SID XX World Cup Solo Air Fork- This fork has a little bit of an odd story, but in a really good way. I used to have a 2012 Dual Air fork. However, at the 2013 edition of the Breck Epic, that fork quit working. The awesome guys at the SRAM Neutral Support Tent warrantied it with a brand new, 2013 SID XX World Cup solo air fork. However, the warranty fork had white lowers, and my bike at the time was the black/moondust Air9 Carbon. It didn’t look very good, and the mechanic who did the repair took the extra time to put my black lowers on the new fork. SO, I ended up with a 2013 World Cup Solo Air fork wearing an older set of black lowers. It’s pretty sweet.

Specs- 100mm of travel, 15mm Maxle lite, X-loc hydro lockout, carbon crown and steertube (cut to 152mm length). Comes with an FSA compression plug and carbon top cap (the little black thing that’s twist-tied to the stanchion)

IMG_4386 IMG_4387 IMG_4389 IMG_4390 IMG_4391 IMG_4392 IMG_4393 IMG_4394

EBay auctions are ending around $570, so I’m asking $500 (shipping not included)

Dirty Kanza FAQ

Last night on Just Riding Along, I covered a good bit of this, so if you’re a listener, you can probably skip this post. I figured as a follow-up to the story of my race, I’d go through a few specific things that, if you’re interested in racing Kanza or something like it, will help you out.

#1- What’s the start like? The start of Dirty Kanza is fast. If you have any hopes of being competitive (or if you just want the first 50 miles of the course to happen faster for less effort), you need to know how to draft. Not only should you know how to, but you should be comfortable with it. Practice- motorpace, ride with an experienced group of roadies, etc. Just get very familiar with it, because (as you’ll find when you are practicing), you can move down the road behind a large group at 20mph for very little effort compared to if you’re riding alone or taking turns with one other person… especially if there’s wind involved.

#2- Which bike should I ride? All I have is bike X- do I need a “gravel grinder” bike?  The “right” bike for DK exists on a continuum. Barry Wicks was on a road bike with large, tough slicks. I rode my Cysco hardtail MTB set up rigid with a fast rolling 2.0 mountain tire with some sidewall protection. Either of those bikes along with any bike that falls within that range can be competitive. Go with what you’re most comfortable riding for more than 11 hours at a time over rolling terrain that includes both smooth gravel and incredibly chunky, rough gravel. If you are comfortable with clip-on aero bars, I don’t think that they’re a bad idea, though definitely not a necessity.

#3- What tires should I use? Use something that’s got some sidewall/puncture protection that’s at last as big as what’s on Barry’s Bike, but no bigger than what’s on my bike (a 2.0 mountain tire). This is universal to all gravel racing… not just DK. When you’re racing on a surface that’s made out of rocks, there are lots of things out there to cut your tire open. The reason why you hear SO MUCH about how “sharp” the flint rock is at Kanza is likely more due to the 1200 people on course riding anywhere from 20 to 200 miles… lots of tires are riding lots of miles, so of course you’re going to hear about the destructive powers of that particular breed of gravel versus, say, the gravel around the Ouachitas in Arkansas, which is equally as vast and sharp. Tire tread isn’t all that important out there, so skimping on that to save weight/rolling resistance isn’t going to hurt much. As far as width goes, just remember that the skinnier tires may be lighter, but they’re also going to slow down more on anything that’s not Cadillac hardpack. Wider tires are, of course, heavier, but they let you maintain momentum and speed when you roll over a rough surface. They also give you the most comfortable ride, and, in all-day racing situations, comfort is speed.

#4- I heard the gravel out there rips everyone’s tires to shreds. How can I avoid flats? Three words… PICK. A. LINE.  Also universal to riding all gravel, but something that the terrain at Kanza begs for- Because of the roller-coaster-y nature of the Flint Hills, a lot of riders get tempted to bomb down one hill in order to zoom partially up the next. If there’s loose/deep/wet gravel at the bottom, doing that is a good way to get a flat. If you’re at the top of one roller, and you see a flat tire party on the next hill, then use your brakes and find the best line through the bottom. Do what you can to avoid plowing full speed through deep/gnarly spots, and your flat tire chances will be greatly reduced. Go tubeless if you can, and take two tubes, boots, a patch kit, and a nice frame pump, regardless. That teeny little lightweight pump that fits in your pocket is only cool until you’re on the side of the road, exposed to full sun, in the middle of a cow pasture, being buzzed by 50 horseflies whilst pumping it like a madman just to get enough pressure to make it out alive. CO2 is ok, but remember… you never run out of pump.

#5- What should I do to my bike to prep for the race? It’s dusty out there. I can’t tell you how many people I heard with dry chains. I also saw people trying to apply lube over dust at checkpoints, which is slightly less bad than dry, but still pretty terrible because of the amount of dust/grit that you’re attracting into the chain with fresh lube. Clean, degrease, and fully dry your drivetrain before applying a coat of ProGold Xtreme lube. Do this well in advance so that the solvent in the lube has time to evaporate and attract less dirt. That’s what I did, and it lasted all the way through both my 1.5 hour preride and the entire 13.5 hours of racing. If I didn’t need to wash my bike so badly, I’d leave the same coat on and see just how long it’d last, because it’s still dead-silent. It should go without saying, but everything needs to be in good working order before you start. While you’re at it, check your bottle cage bolts and top off that tubeless sealant in your tires.

#6- Hydration Pack? Bottles? That depends on a few things- How fast are you going? How much water do you need to ride the ~50 miles between checkpoints? With the exception of the first 50 (when it temps were in the upper 60s and the sun wasn’t fully out yet), I drank 4 bottles of water or more every 3.25 or so hours (as I mentioned in my report- I stopped and filled up at a cold hose around mile 180). I likely would have run dry by about 195 if I hadn’t. That wouldn’t be a day-ender, but those last 5 miles would have sucked a little more.
My advice is to figure out how much water you, personally, need to drink, per hour, when the temps are 70-90 degrees and you’re pedaling at whatever is “your” race pace intensity. You should also know, through your extensive training, about how long it takes you to ride 50 miles over rolling terrain. Extrapolate your water volume needs based on those things, then figure out how you’re going to carry it all between checkpoints. Between 3 bottle cage spots on my bike and a J.Paks RukSak, I didn’t need a hydration pack or a back-pocket bottle. Not carrying anything on your back is more comfortable than having the heat/weight back there, but carrying a pack if you need it is better than being dehydrated.
Also, on the topic of hydration, if you want to have the best chance of success, avoid alcohol for at least the day before the race, if not two days. Start taking in extra sodium and water the day/morning before. Don’t whine to me about this- you’re likely paying a lot of money, taking time off work, taking a crew person’s time, training your ass off, etc. Have some damned respect for all that and don’t drink a fucking beer at dinner. When you’re talking about your body’s preparedness to ride 11-18 hours, then yes, it definitely matters.

#7- What should I eat? Just like with water, figure out what you need to fuel 50 miles at a time during your training rides, and extrapolate. Personally, I can’t hold everything I want/may want in the teeny pockets of my jersey. Also, I like to carry more than what I think I need. So, I use a J.Paks SnakPak, and it’s like having an all-I-can-eat buffet on my bike. The easier it is to get to your food, the more likely you are to eat often. My approximate food/drink tally was 10 Gu Roctane Gels, 1 Gu salted caramel gel, 1 Clif Turbo Shot gel, 3 packs of Gu Chomps, 3 medium size Redbulls, 2 snickers bars, 3 Bonk Breaker Bites, 1 handful of cheetos, 4 bottles of 1/2 strength Gu Brew Blueberry-Pom flavor (contains extra salt), 7 bottles of 1/2 strength Gu Roctane drink, 5(ish) bottles of plain water (doesn’t include late-race hose refill or the bottled water out of the cooler at aid stations).

#8- What should I do about course navigation? My Garmin 705 worked wonders, but it only lasts about 14 hours. I knew that there was a slight chance of it dying, so I went to OfficeMax and had the course maps/cue sheets printed & laminated so that they’d be waterproof. Don’t plan on course markings, because there aren’t that many, and they’re all move-able. The laminated (to make it waterproof) map/cue sheet combo is worth having. It only cost about $8 to have it done- I had two laminated sheets, each side printed with the map on half the page and the cue sheet on the other.

#9- Who can be my Crew Person? It’s very likely that your crew person is going to be a non-cycling friend or family member. Be sure that person knows exactly what you’re going to need at each checkpoint. I showed my dad how to fill bottles, unfold the workstand, printed off a crew map, and made a list for him.

list

So, everything turned out really well because of that preparation and his hard work. Don’t ask someone to crew if they’re lazy, whiny, or were standing around with a thimble when the good lord was handing out brains. If that eliminates all of your friends/family, the Dirty Kanza team offers a “support crew for hire” program. It costs money, but it looks like they do a great job, and the proceeds go to a great cause. 

 

#10- HTFU. The answer to most of these questions lies in long, hard days of training.

 

Dirty Kanza 200

Nothing like setting an alarm on your phone for 3:45am.

The nice people at Emporia State University opened both their dorms and their dining hall to Dirty Kanza racers and crew. We got in the dining hall right at 4am for a fresh breakfast burrito and a side of “I need more coffee before I can work a cereal dispenser properly” rice Chex.

IMG_4283

As is customary for bike races, a lot of dudes woke up and chamoied up before breakfast. The stakes were raised this time with the addition “dude already wearing a hydration pack”

IMG_4285

Once I ate and was chamoied up myself, I double checked the crew car and headed down to the start line. Thankfully, riders are asked to line up according to predicted/desired finish time. So, I found the middle-ish area between the 12 and 14 hour signs. I also found Tall Brian from the Ogre 150.

IMG_4286

I figured it’d be good to stick with him if given the opportunity, though according to everyone I talked to, the start is pretty balls-out, so I mostly planned to just roll with whatever happened. Balls-out is a pretty accurate description that made me very happy that A)I’m very comfortable drafting/pacelining, and B)I did a fair amount of motorpacing prior to this race. The first 30 minutes of the race, which was mostly flat with a few turns, my average speed was 20.2 mph, but for very little effort, power-wise.

Once we were getting into the rollers, I immediately focused on pacing myself and staying tucked in behind whatever wheel was in front of me. I never even saw Rebecca Rusch, but I knew that at least a couple of other ladies, including a fast-looking woman and her male teammate/racing compadre from the Tokyo Joe’s team, were in the same large pack that I hung with over the next 15 miles or so. It was hard to tell who was who- the 100 mile race started a few minutes after the 200 and took a shorter route to join parts of the 200 course, so at some points, the groups were combined.

We passed a course split where the “DK Lite” course (the 50 mile version) turned off of the 200/100 course. There were several cars/course marshalls there making sure that everyone went the right way. Immediately following that, the road went to single-lane width and turned to baked-hard mud with lots of ruts in it. Someone got crossed up in a rut maybe 20-30 yards ahead of me, and suddenly, a guy was laying on the ground across the road. I saw and heard a lot of people slowing down and asking if he was OK, and he didn’t answer them. By the time I rolled up, a couple of riders stopped, and the injured guy was bleeding out from under his helmet and conscious, but not really responsive. Everyone was a little freaked out and not really sure what to do… the injured guy had apparently hit the ground like a lawn dart, smashing the crown of his helmet into a bunch of pieces and cutting his scalp open.

I stopped. I know enough first aid that, if it were a very serious injury (as it appeared it could be), that knowledge could be the difference between the guy living and dying. He seemed to come around a little once I was next to him talking. I helped him get his hydration pack off and put it under his head as a pillow, then started yelling at people passing and asking if he was OK that someone needed to ride back to the previous split (maybe a half mile back on course) and get a car out to take him to the hospital NOW. Luckily, rider #69 (didn’t get his name) turned around for help. While we waited, his bleeding was slowing down, and, other than being dizzy and lightheaded, he was thinking pretty clearly, and told me his name was Blair, he was from Canada, and he’d endoed in a rut when someone stopped suddenly in front of him. He told me I should go on, but at the same time, he was holding on to my hand pretty tight… that, combined with the potential for people with head injuries to have turns for the worse meant that I wasn’t planning on going anywhere until help arrived. It didn’t take very long before a volunteer jeep rolled up beside us, and I was on my way.

The five-or-so minute break put me back in pack a little and I went from drafting to passing for the next part of the course. It was still kinda foggy and misty, so the Flint Hills were gorgeous…

IMG_4287

It wasn’t long before I made it to the first checkpoint. I found Gerald, swapped out bottles, had a Redbull and Snickers, then was on my way. The next section started out kinda hard. There was a little headwind, and the groups for drafting were occasionally sporadic. It wasn’t too bad, though. I had my one tire problem around mile 70… there was a length of deep/gnarly gravel that was a little downhill and didn’t have a “good” line in it. I rode through it thinking “crap, this is going to get one of my tires,” and, sure enough, my rear end started feeling squishy a few seconds later. I pulled over to check it out, and there was a really small hole with a little sealant leaking through. Since I had my new favorite frame pump with me, I decided I’d air it up and see if it’d seal before I put a tube in it. Karma was on my side, and, for the first time in my history as a mountain biker, a tire that had leaked much of its air out sealed up and held perfectly for the remainder of the race.

Soon after that, around mile 85, the course turned north, and the tailwind carried me up to the next aid station, where I repeated the Redbull/Snickers/bottle swap routine and checked the pressure in my rear tire with the floor pump before going out for the 2nd half of the course. It was 6.5 hours in, and I was feeling like I’d ridden a good 100 miles… not fresh, but not bad, either.

Right after leaving town, the course went straight east for about 13 miles. I found myself in a pack of guys who actually knew how to ride in an echelon, and stuck with them most of the way through the crosswind. It wasn’t long after there that I found myself in what was probably my favorite part of the course- miles of rolling hills/pasture, with an excellent tailwind. The cows on the open range provided me with several minutes of entertainment, as they’d be standing on the edge of the road staring at me as I rode by, and I’d swerve suddenly and yell “BOO” at them, resulting in startling/running off. Me at 130-something miles thought this to be high quality entertainment, and I did it at least 3 or 4 times. I also rode with a guy whose friends were spectating from a small plane, which, after buzzing just over our heads a couple of times, they landed in a nearby field so they could cheer/take his photo…

IMG_4288

At the last checkpoint (around mile 152/9hrs 52 min), I mentally prepped for the last part of the course. Though the wind had been at my back for much of the previous section, I was getting hot. I’d eaten/drank as much as I’d felt like I could, which still wasn’t enough to keep impending dehydration at bay. The last 50 miles would be an exercise in how well I could tolerate pain and heat exhaustion. I knew this, and took an extra few minutes (I was there about 10 minutes, total) to sit in the shade and have an extra bottle of cold water and an electrolyte tablet.

As is expected in a 200 mile ride, everything was hurting at that point. I kept my focus on taking advantage of the last bit of tailwind before the course would turn back east then south around mile 175. I regretted not wetting myself down with ice water at the checkpoint, so, at mile 170, I found the one creek on that section of course that cows weren’t actively pooping into, and I stopped to sit in it for a few minutes.

IMG_4289

It felt AMAZING, and I rode that buzz for the next 5 miles or so before stopping at someone’s large garden next to the road to refill a bottle with cold water and hose my head off to keep cool. I always try to stay positive and think of the good things/enjoy the scenery/ignore pain etc. However, I know the reality of heat exhaustion very well, and I knew it was at the point where I was either going to stop and take care of myself when cold water opportunities arose, or I was going to risk heat stroke. Additionally, my left foot/toe pain was coming in full-blast, and the breaks were the only thing giving me slight temporary relief from the crushing pain. I did, however, enjoy the lack of hills after about mile 187. I had a good drafting partner or two when the course went south again to make its way back in to town. Everything felt bad and torturous at that point, so I thought about how awesome it would feel when I finished.

Turns out, I felt THIS AWESOME when I finished…

IMG_4290

My time of 13 hours and 33 seconds was good for 3rd overall out of 30 women, and 1st in my age category. I was in rough shape with severe heat exhaustion and dehydration. I laid in the grass for a few minutes before finding a couch in the recovery tent. Everyone kept trying to make me eat and drink, but my head was pounding, and I felt like all of Main Street Emporia was rotating around the axis of my brain. I sat there a loooong time before I was steady enough to get in the car and go back to my room. I got in the shower, and Gerald left to get dinner. When I went back to the room (we stayed at the ESU dorm, so the shower was across the hall), I was locked out. I laid on the couch in the common area until the lights overhead became unbearable enough to make me go downstairs to the front desk and get someone to open my door for me. I vaguely remember sending some text messages, my mom calling, and my dad waking me up with cold french fries from Sonic and telling me I should go to the hospital. However, I sort of thought I was dreaming, so I told him no.

The next morning, I was still in pretty rough shape. Between being sore everywhere, feeling like my internal organs were on fire, and sunburt, I didn’t sleep much at all.

IMG_4293

Thankfully, my insides had settled down enough that I could drink some more water and gatorade. By the time we made it to the awards presentation, I felt up to eating a cup of yogurt and a banana with a cup of watery coffee. I didn’t realize that the results were going to be seperated into 39 & under/40+ age groups, so when they called me on stage for 1st place, I was kinda caught off-guard (unfortunately, 2nd & 3rd weren’t there for the podium, so I was up there alone).

IMG_4297

I made two more trips on stage- once more for the overall podium with Rebecca Rusch and KT DeSantis (the aforementioned lady/teammate from the Tokyo Joe’s team), and once to get recognition for the race’s Sportsmanship Award. Apparently I received two nominations from other racers for stopping to help the guy with the head injury. Boom.

My morning’s intake of sugar and water turned my appetite around, and by the end of the awards ceremony, I was nearly about to eat the rocks out of my trophy.

10402441_10203249245650554_3463724740344997798_n

We went to the diner around the corner, which, despite the nearly hour long wait for food (they were slammed with DK racers), was a welcome return to the world of “being able to eat solid food.”

IMG_4300 IMG_4302

We got back on the road for a pretty painful 9 hour drive back to Memphis (by way of the Chipotle in Springfield, MO, where I consumed 99% of a 4 pound burrito for lunch).

Was it a great race? Yes. The Dirty Kanza staff, volunteers, and basically the entire town of Emporia make for a great, well-run event.  The course itself is awe-inspiring. If, like me, you’ve ever driven past a gravel road in the middle of nowhere and wondered where in the world it could go, this race answers your curiosity in ways that you can only understand if you get out there and ride it yourself.

I could go on all day about race tips, nutrition, tires, etc. but I would rather save that sort of stuff for reporting on Just Riding Along tonight. If you’re interested in the techy parts like that, give us a listen at 7:30 central time, or download the episode later: http://www.mountainbikeradio.com/just-riding-along/

The Road to DK200

Yesterday morning, my dad (Gerald) and I left Memphis to drive Emporia for Dirty Kanza. With Ryan doing a local road race and Matt stuck at work, he’s next in line for the “excitement” of driving/waiting around for hours on end just to have a cooler and some spare snacks & tools every 50-ish miles while I’m out there. The drive went smoothly, with one detour to check out the Bass Pro Shop HQ store in Springfield, MO.

IMG_4247 IMG_4253

That place is pretty gigantic, and full of various living/taxidermied wildlife:

IMG_4258 IMG_4259

IMG_4260 IMG_4262

Gerald needed to look at camping supplies and get some fishing lures so he can check out any nearby fishing holes while waiting for my arrival.

 

IMG_4264  IMG_4268

IMG_4271

I drove the last couple of hours… I can’t fathom why Chevrolet would make the driver seat and the steering wheel off-center from each other in a nice car like a Suburban, but it nearly drove me nuts. Exhibit A- the seam on the seat is straight down the middle:

IMG_4272

By the time we were in and settled, it was a little late to go for a ride, so we walked downtown to dinner and found BBQ (I’m discovering that it can be difficult coping with other cities’ barbecue when you’re from Memphis). Afterward, Gerald wanted ice cream

10363119_10203228243925524_5158924477215425557_n

This morning, I went out to pre-ride the first few miles of the race course. We rode out to the first hill of the course… the view from the top was very scenic in spite of it small size:

IMG_4276 IMG_4277

IMG_4278

Barry Wicks’ bike:

IMG_4279

The heaviest bike in town:

IMG_4280

(kidding)

After the ride, I cleaned up and found an excellent lunch at the Brewery. I skipped the beer, though… in the name of staying extremely hydrated. Now, I just get to lay around, snack on lunch leftovers, and wait for the riders’ meeting at 4:30.

For anyone wanting to follow along at home, you can get general Dirty Kanza race updates on this site: http://www.bluestemproductions.com/dk200/

If you’d like to follow me (or anyone else) specifically, you can go here and enter a bib number or name (my number is 654): https://register.chronotrack.com/event/tracking/eventID/8568

 

TSE Nostalgia

I can’t help but get a little nostalgic this week about the Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Race. It’s happening right now, and, as a lot of the friends I made during that week are posting their pictures from this year’s Epic, I’m prepping to go on a different adventure. That week of racing was one of those experiences that changed little bits of me in all sorts of ways. If you weren’t reading back then (or if you’re bored and want to hear some race reports) you can visit the links on the late XXCmag site by clicking here: TSE 2013 Audio Reports

The quick and dirty is, I had an excellent first 5 days, which landed me a lead in the Enduro Competition and, on day 5, a Stage win and a boost from 5th in GC to 2nd (the NoTubes train derailed and all 4 of them went extremely off-course).

8848_577588382262933_919428379_n

Unfortunately for me, that was also the time when my body decided that it was done for the week. Stages 6 and 7 would prove to be two days of time-bleeding death marches that’d put me back into my 5th place spot. Included in those days were a bad wreck in some rocks early in stage 6 (in addition to my body refusing to function normally) and, in stage 7, Amanda Carey and I wrecking when we side-bumped each other as we both went for the singletrack hole shot.

Of course, overcoming the physical difficulties of the week made me a physically and mentally stronger racer. However, the equally (if not more) enlightening and life-altering experience was the sudden change in someone who I’d considered to be one of my best friends. If you’ve been around a while, you’ll know that, before TSE, Amanda Carey and I were good friends. We shared houses/cabins, split a room at my first Interbike (she gave me lots of good sponsor-hunting advice in the process), and she was, without a doubt, my biggest influence to make the leap to cycling/racing as a full-time practice.
However, After stage 5 (the off-course day), things got a little weird. No biggie, I thought… her day sucked, and everyone’s nerves are raw. Then, stage 7 happened. I was in 4th place GC (behind Amanda and Sue), just a handful of seconds ahead of Vicki Barclay. When we started, it was elbows out off the line. I was on the wheels of Amanda and Vicki as the course narrowed from gravel to 2-track, when, as we approached the first singletrack, Amanda pulled off to let Vicki in first. As I was trying to pass Amanda to stay with Vicki, she was diving in to the trail, and we ran into each other, shoulder to shoulder, and fell over into the bushes. Amanda fell on me, twisting both me saddle and my handlebars, and, once I stopped and straightened everything out, the NoTubes Train was long gone, and I lost my time back to 5th for the GC.
She was livid, yelling at me about that not being a “pro” move, and, despite my post-race apologies, she’d later tell Cycling News in her post-race/GC win interview that I’d “t-boned” her into the bushes. Since then, we’ve only talked in passing.

That sucked in all sorts of ways.

So, yes, to describe my Trans-Sylvania experience as life-altering would be pretty accurate. However, even life-altering events that aren’t “good” will usually make you a better person overall, so, I have no regrets, and, the race as a whole is pretty awesome, so I’d like to go back sometime in the future. That was one of my best performances against a field of exceptional bike racers, and, despite losing a best friend in the process, I gained a wealth of new friends, great experiences, and lots of fun memories that are all flooding back as I see this year’s photos and reports all over the internets.