brickhouseracing

August 5, 2014

I AM Racing Battle of Nashville Criterium

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 12:10 pm

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.

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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.

 

June 11, 2014

For Sale

Filed under: Bike Racing,Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 7:42 am

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).

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

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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:

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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!

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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).

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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

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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

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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)

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

June 3, 2014

Dirty Kanza FAQ

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 12:53 pm

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.

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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.

 

June 2, 2014

Dirty Kanza 200

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 9:08 am

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.

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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”

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.”

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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/

May 30, 2014

The Road to DK200

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 2:02 pm

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.

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

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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.

 

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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:

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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

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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:

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Barry Wicks’ bike:

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The heaviest bike in town:

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(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

 

May 28, 2014

TSE Nostalgia

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 7:01 am

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).

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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.

May 15, 2014

Syllamo, out. Kanza, in.

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 8:22 am

With the Dirty Kanza 200 looming 2 weeks into the horizon, I knew that participating in Syllamo’s Revenge would be somewhat risky, recovery-wise. It’s not that I couldn’t be fully recovered in 2 weeks time as much as it’s very likely not enough time to both recover and bounce back to feeling awesome for a couple of rides in the week leading up to Kanza. So, Coach and I decided it’s in my best interest to stay home. While I’ll still train pretty hard this weekend, it won’t be the same brutal effort required to race my face off at Syllamo.

Speaking of Kanza, I’ve got my Cysco all built and ready to rock.

Ryan, a local videographer, shot a time lapse of the build. Should turn out pretty cool:

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Seen here with a more braaaap/trailworthy front tire rather than the skinnier one I’ll use for gravel:

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I’ve been a little busy for a full-on high quality photo shoot of my own, but it’ll happen soon. The bike is (surprise!) exactly what I was hoping for- it handles/pedals exactly like my O.G. Air 9 carbon CYA bike and includes some improvements, like a tad more reach, a press-in headset, three bottle cage mounts, 142×12 rear end, and a skinny seatpost (I have a Thompson post on there now- waiting for the Niner “unstiff” RDO post to come back in stock). I’m really stoked on it, to say the least.

As everyone should know by now, I’ve had a little bit of a side-project going on since around December last year…
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This is relevant to the post I made last week about something exciting happening in July, though I still can’t give out details because the details themselves are still being worked out. I’m having a great time with mixed martial arts- despite the occasional bumps and bruises…

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I have to ‘fess up now since my parents read this, too- I did tell my mom a little white lie yesterday. She had a minor surgery, and, when I went to visit her, I told her I sustained such and injury during a crowded yoga class. Sorry, mom. I’ll make it up to you with a batch of home-made ice cream very soon.

Oh yeah, and today’s my birthday!
I have to say, that when I was anywhere in my 20′s, I wasn’t expecting that, at the age of 33, I’d be at my fittest, strongest, and toughest. That’s one of he greatest things about being female- we only get stronger with time. It makes me excited to see what’ll happen in the future.

May 9, 2014

Medium Air 9 RDO for Sale

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 6:41 am

It’s finally Cysco build day, so that means it’s also time for me to sell what’s been my go-to race/training steed for the past couple of years. I purchased this bike when they first came out- this is the “Limited Edition” build that Niner did when they were released around March of 2012. A few parts are changed, but here’s the rundown:

-Air 9 RDO frame, size medium
- Niner Carbon RDO handlebar (cut to 666mm)/seatpost in Moondust, FSA SLK Stem
- American Classic Race29 wheels (comparable to Stan’s Race Gold in weight w/nice, wide rim profile)
- Maxxis Ikon tires (2.35 front, 2.2 rear, both w/EXO sidewall protection)
-Shimano XTR Brakes
- Shimano XTR 2×10 Shifters and derailleurs
-SRAM XX 11-32 cassette (chain is SRAM also)
-Race Face NEXT SL Crank (this thing is STUPID light!)
- Rockshox SID XX World Cup fork (this is the one I just totally overhauled with a new damper, o-rings, and wipers)
-Ergon Grips and NO Saddle (you’ve already got a favorite saddle, so there’s no reason to sell you one of mine)

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I’m not going to blow smoke and say this frame is “like new.” It’s got its share of scratches and chips in the clear coat, but they’re all cosmetic. It’s been a great bike! After a quick look at sold listings on EBay, it appears that these are selling in the $3000 range, so I’m asking $2800 shipped (to the lower 48) for this one.

May 1, 2014

Tiger Lane Crit #2

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 11:25 am

Because I was still feeling less than recovered from OGRE, I hadn’t planned on racing Tiger Lane Ladies’ night #2 until Tuesday night when Matt guilt-tripped me into not showing up to a local women’s race. He was right… the more women who show up and pin a number, the more promoters will realize that we’re worth having around.

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If you recall from last week’s race, I was able to capitalize on some tactical errors made by the M-B women and get free of the group for a solo breakaway win. This week, they had their heads on straight from the start.

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The strategy was, like last week, to keep me working. Unlike last week, the attacks were more frequent & slightly harder to follow, and Pam, their strongest lady, was stuck like a tick to my rear wheel. I managed to pull off an early prime sprint for $25, which is nice for getting money, figuring out which line is the “good” one, and for checking out everyone else’s sprinting legs.

I got kinda bored with being in the pack at about 13 minutes in (of 25), and decided that I’d counter their next move into the headwind. It mostly worked, with the exception of Pam, who made it across the gap.

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I attacked her at least a couple of times into the wind, but she was able to close the gap every time. This is where post-race analysis with of power data is interesting…

Last week:
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Yesterday:
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The initial snap was there, but my inability to follow it up with a 30sec-1min watt bomb was keeping me from permanently unhitching Pam from my draft. If you’ve ever wondered what happened during a race and thought it may have something to do with recovery, then a powermeter is an excellent way to analyse your efforts to know for sure. Yay, science!

So, back to the story…

I realized quickly that I wasn’t going solo. Pam was being smart and not taking a pull, leaving me to waste my energy to keep us out in front of the pack. I figured that no matter what, with my inability to get away, I was going to have to sprint her, and, I could either drag her around for the remainder of the race OR I could sit up, let the group come back up to us, and tuck back in to rest before the sprint. It took some work to get someone else on the front once they were back, but I made it happen.

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At that point, we only had 2 or 3 laps to go. I stayed tucked in, following occasional attacks, until the rider on front (Julie, who would go on to win 3rd), pulled off just before the final turn. I claimed my next-to-the-curb line that wouldn’t anyone else sprinting head-to-head to get a draft from the crosswind.

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Hey… I didn’t say I couldn’t sprint, I just said I didn’t like to. Lucky for me, the territorial dogs on most of my rural training rides keep me on my toes.

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April 28, 2014

OGRE 150 Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:43 am

As I mentioned in my previous post, this weekend’s race was about the furthest thing from Wednesday’s criterium that you can possibly get. I entered the OGRE (short for Ozark Gravel Road Expedition) 150 as a shorter, presumably “easier” rehearsal for the Dirty Kanza 200- a chance to test my legs as well as my strategy and bike setup for the bigger, longer race. This bike wasn’t quite finished yet…

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So, the Air 9 RDO got the long distance gravel machine conversion- XX1 drivetrain parts (36t chainring), Matt’s Specialized rigid fork, some skinny/fast mountain tires, frame pump (Topeak Mountain Morph), and extra storage space for food, extra bottle, two tubes, and the race required mandatory first aid kit/emergency blanket (the seat pack is a Jandd Mountain Wedge Expandable and the large top tube and handlebar bags are from J.Paks).

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Friday morning, I loaded up and headed to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. My lack of nervousness was actually making me nervous. For whatever reason, the only thing I worried a little bit about was the course navigation. However, once I saw the layout of the cue sheet and heard during the pre-race meeting that the corners would be subtly flagged, I was somewhat relieved. Lots of riders at the pre-race meeting were chattering about the size/steepness of a few specific climbs on course… I told them not to name them, otherwise, that’d give the climbs more power.

A few course notes that came with the cue sheets:

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Bonus 4.7 miles!

My hotel room was 1990s fancy as hell…

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(note the lack of a proper shower)

I had a nice Friday afternoon spin from the Oz Cycles shop where racer check-in was. I also got a chance to meet Barry (who’d heard on JRA that I needed a crewperson) as well as his sister, who’d be my (excellent) crewperson for the race.

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Saturday morning reminded me of one of the reasons I grew tired of 100 mile mountain bike races. A 6am race start is soooooo eaaaaarly… even though I’m generally a “morning” person, I’m somewhat of a “wake up at 6 and drink coffee for 2 hours” type of morning person.  I did, however, hear one of the best pre-endurance race songs ever recorded:

The starting line grid was set up for predicted finish times. I wasn’t sure how long it’d take me, but I was hoping for less than 13 hours, so I lined up somewhere around the 12 hour marker. Once we got the “go,” we had a police escort out of the parking lot and to the first gravel road of the race course. I immediately put my pacing plan into effect- easy. I’ve done hours of sub-threshold riding, and I know the intensity well enough to do it without even looking at my powermeter. I have also, through a healthy amount of singlespeeding and tons of practice on a hardtail, developed what seems to be a somewhat unique skill of standing while climbing without raising my heart rate. On a straightforward gravel hill, I feel like it’s much easier to stand than to sit. It also means that I’m shifting my position around more, which is great for super long rides.

So, that’s how I rolled it- a zone 2 effort all around with my “comfortable” standing pace on climbs. The hills would turn out to be relentless- you essentially climb and descend the same 30-180 feet of elevation repeatedly throughout the race (various websites and electronic devices estimate between 12 and 14k feet of gain). Many of the hills were pretty steep, too- well into the teens on grade percentage.

Somewhere in the first hour, my tail light fell off of my seat pack (a first for me with that style light- they’re normally very secure).

I arrived at the 37.7 mile checkpoint (a spot with water and a couple of people recording numbers) in a nicely paced group of friendly guys that included a guy named Brian who was 6’7″ and had a draft like a vacuum cleaner. I refilled my bottles, used the bathroom, and took off with the same group towards the first pit stop (a spot where you met your crewperson and received a slap bracelet to prove your progress). There were a couple of bigger hills in that section, and the group kinda started to split apart. The last hill to the pit stop was one of the “scary” ones that people were talking about beforehand, though I didn’t realize it until I spotted people from the pit stop standing at the top and cheering. It was the one spot on the course where I found the 36×42 gear to be just right, and one of the few times I sat instead of standing.

At the pit stop, I picked up some food (I’d been eating a pack of Gu Chomps per hour and drinking Roctane in my bottles), and forced down a rice bar (the famous Alan Lim recipe) and some cheetos. I say “forced down” because I’d eaten and drank enough at that point that I was pretty full feeling already. That’s how you gotta roll, though. I did start alternating half packs of Chomps with shots of Roctane and Salted Caramel gel once I was further along and solid food became less appealing.

When I left the stop, it just worked out that I rolled out with tall-guy Brian. The next part of the course was down a big hill then around a 15-ish mile loop and back up the same hill to the same pit stop. Brian and I rode together for the loop and shared life stories. I’ve always found it fascinating how briefly riding with someone you’ve never met can be bonding enough to facilitate somewhat deep conversations that you’d likely not have if you’d only known them for 3-4 hours in any other situation. It makes this sort of racing very special compared to your run-of-the-mill hammer-time event.

As we were approaching the spot in the course where the loop ended and the two-way climb back to the pit stop started, we rounded a corner and came upon a concrete-bottom creek crossing with about 8 inches of flowing water over it. Not wanting to get my feet wet, I carried enough speed to unclip my feet from the pedals and lift them up in front of me to avoid the splash. Simultaneously, Brian yelled at me that the crossing was probably slick, and, simultaneously, my bike teleported out from under me as soon as both wheels were in the water. I went in up to my neck and slid almost all the way across on my knees. I was generally fine (just soaked with some bloody knees), and my bike was mostly unscathed. However, the head of the lower bolt on my seat tube bottle cage had pulled through the cage, and my handlebar light had broken off the mount, leaving part of the light body in the mount.

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I needed that bottle cage. Luckily, the Arundel sideloader has two sets of bolt holes. I told Brian to go on while I got out the multi-tool and moved the bolts to the undamaged cage holes. Bonus- it gave me better clearance between the top of my bottle and my frame pump. Looking back, that was the absolute best place on course to wreck. It wasn’t sharp, and I was very close to the pit stop, where I was able to change socks and gloves so that I wouldn’t have saturated contact points for very long (I could have changed kit, but I was dry enough to be comfortable by the time I was up the hill).

Brian was at the pit stop when I arrived, and left after me. However, about halfway to the next checkpoint, I had my next minor mishap- a flat tire. It seemed to be a slow leak, and I couldn’t find a leaky sealant spot in the tire, so I was hoping that I could shoot it with CO2 and go on (side note- if you find an active leak, it’s a guarantee that you should just go ahead and tube it… your sealant hasn’t worked so far, and it’s going to continue to not work when you add more air). Within a mile, it was obvious that CO2 wouldn’t work, and I thought I heard air coming out from around the valve, so I went ahead and found a good spot to install a tube. As I was doing so, Brian came up the road and stopped to help. Once I was back in action, we rode together the last few miles before the 77 mile checkpoint. At that spot, though, I had plenty of water and didn’t really need to stop other than to make sure my number was recorded. Brian wanted a break and told me he wasn’t going to be able to keep up with my pace much longer, so I should go on alone.

From then on, aside from a few brief passes/chats with other riders, I was flying solo.

At 87 miles (more than halfway through!), I reached pit stop #2, still feeling great. I took another bathroom break (indoor plumbing FTW!), ate another rice bar, RedBull, and handful of cheetos, picked up fresh bottles, and got my second slap bracelet & cue sheet. I also got an update on the weather- there was a black cloud hanging over the next part of the course, and it seemed as if I might run in to a little rain. I didn’t mind too much- I was more appreciative of the fact that the lingering clouds & spotty rain were keeping the temperature down for much of the day. Soon after I left the pit stop was the one spot where I decided to stop and take a few photos:

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The next section of the course was definitely my favorite. It was largely through a state park, and was a gorgeous, rolling tunnel of dogwoods and redbuds that concluded at a unique, old swinging bridge. It was somewhere in there that I passed the 100 mile mark, too, still feeling pretty good. I soon reached the 107 mile checkpoint.

It was soon after that I had my next minor mishap. At 109 miles, there was a left turn off of a road that rolled somewhat quickly across the top of a ridge. I wasn’t paying enough attention and rode right past it. When I arrived at a paved road intersection with no flagging, I knew something was wrong. Once I looked at my cue sheet, I realized I’d gone about 2 miles too far and started back. Along the way, I caught another rider doing the same thing as I had. Elapsed time off course- about 15 minutes.

Soon after going off course, at around 113 miles, I hit my “low point” of the day. Every long day has one, and you can’t let it break you. The sun had come out, the wind was in my face, and everything seemed uphill. My legs hurt, my garmin randomly shut off (I caught it pretty quickly and think I lost less than half a mile), and I kept thinking, “damnit, I’m just tired of being on a bike right now.” The third pit stop wasn’t until mile 127.9 (otherwise known as mile 131 with my added detour).

At around 9.5 hours and 123 miles, I took a “get your head out of your ass” break. I found a good place for a “nature stop,” then sat on my top tube a minute to eat a highly caffeinated gel, drink half a bottle of water, and put a headphone in my ear. That’s the first time I’ve ever used music during a race. In anything USA Cycling, it’s illegal, and in many other races, the promoter will ask racers not to use even just one headphone. However, at this race, it went unmentioned. So, I was immediately greeted by the sound of Rick Ross telling me to “Push it to the Limit.”

The break was just what I needed to get my isht together and get to the next Pit Stop in a timely manner. I picked up some cold bottles (definitely makes a difference when it’s getting hot out), drank one more RedBull, and ate another rice bar and handful of cheetos. The next few miles from there were great- there was a nice tailwind, and the road was mostly small rollers. Of course, that was over quickly, and it was back to steep climbs with not much help from the wind. I did realize, though, that I’d likely finish very close to the 12 hour mark. I ended up walking up a couple of short, steep kicker hills on the last gravel sections before the finish-  I could feel my left toes trying to hurt (somewhere around 10-11 hours for that pain is an improvement over the 4-hour mark where I was feeling it before all of the injections and whatnot), and the walking breaks were successful in holding off the full-on pain.

Those final few miles were somewhat of a blur. I remember passing a farmer spreading what smelled like chicken manure in a pasture and almost gagging, being cheered on by some kids in a trailer park driveway, and being very happy to see the last checkpoint (3 miles from the finish). Those last 3 miles are mostly uphill on a sidewalk. They were probably the easiest hills on course, though. I finished in 12 hours, 1 minute. First woman, and 14th overall.

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I was pretty wrecked and just sat around in a chair for a while, absorbing everything that had happened.

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At some point, Barry’s sister showed up, and I shuffled around to change and eat a little before she drove me back to get my car from the start area. I was super lucky to have her help… driving around and dealing with sweaty, needy bike racers allll day long is probably more demanding than actually racing.

After a shower, I went back to the shop/finish area to have a beer and watch more people finish. There’s always that one person who has had many beers…

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You people who did Trans-Sylvania last year know who I’m talking about. You people who do Mohican know who I’m talking about, too.

The amount of caffeine that I consumed meant that I wasn’t even close to going to sleep until sometime after 11. I eventually fell out while watching COPS reruns. The next morning, I finally had my appetite back.

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I made a pit-stop in Jonesboro on the way home as well.

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…and, as I write this, my stomach is growling, so I’ll probably go to Brother Juniper’s and get a ridiculously large breakfast of some sort to polish off my post-race days of hunger before returning to my normally-sized diet.

 

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