Call me a hypocrite

…but I like PETA’s marketing strategy because it’s so damn appealing to huge population of meat-eating males out there. This potential Subperbowl ad got the “thumbs down” from NBC censors:

Cross-a-Nooga #2

While Ryan and I were in Chattanooga, there was some weekend CX racing going on independently of our N.Georgia adventure.

Some may call me crazy, but I wanted to race! So we got up Sunday morning and drove to Camp Jordan park for Cross-a-nooga #2. Ryan’s legs were shot and he ended up finishing just out of the money. I, however, felt pretty good! It also helped that Cleve Blackwell from Blue let me ride one of the demo Cx6.5 bikes (SRAM Rival equipped).
Of course, I felt very much at home riding the SRAM/Blue combo… I was eager to give the ’09 Rival group a try since I’d heard great reviews about it. If you’re looking to build a bike and want components that won’t make you poor OR leave you wishing for something better, then the Rival parts get my vote. I think that the only thing that SRAM is missing now is a good set of CX brakes. The Cx6.5 is a pretty sweet frame, too!

So, I was set to race. There were six of us, and within half a lap, we’d settled into the order in which we’d eventually finish. I was 3rd behind Kym from Vantaggio (who is quickly becoming the “Debbie Milne” of TBRA Cyclocross) and Deb Whitmore from BMW Bianchi. I don’t think that my legs were a limiting factor as much was my inability to quickly negotiate 180 degree downhill turns. Seriously… there were 3 of them on course, and I never made it through any of them with any speed! Lately (actually never), my focus hasn’t been the CX bike, so I wasn’t expecting to pull off anything spectacular. It was still a nice 50 minutes of riding near my limits, through which I suffered gladly.

Ryan took a lot of photos of the B and C races (I got a few of the A race as well), and posted the link in his race report. Here are a few of my favorties:

A mid-dismount shot
A mid-dismount shot
One of my trips through the start/finish area
One of my trips through the start/finish area
Heading back up hill after one of the down/up hairpins
Heading back up hill after one of the down/up hairpins
suffer gladly :)
suffer gladly :)
I ran through the sand pit on most laps
I ran through the sand pit on most laps
Comin to get you!
Comin' to get you!
Kym brings it home
Kym brings it home
Big thanks to Cleve for letting my try out the bike!
Big thanks to Cleve for letting me try out the bike!

It’s really weird how sometimes 2nd place can feel like losing and 3rd place can feel like winning. That wraps up another edition of “As the Gears Turn”

Southern Cross Race Report

It was a race of triumph and tragedy…

Ryan and I arrived at Mulberry Gap a little after 8:00 Saturday morning. First off, Mulberry Gap is a really sweet little mountain bike getaway place. They’ve got cabins, hot tubs, showers, and access to a lot of trails. If I actually HAD a mountain bike, I’d be going back to visit more often! However, I digress…

I almost forgot to mention… the temps were in the 40’s and there was a steady rain falling. Luckily, by the time the race started, it was around 50 and cloudy. The race itself started and finished something like a “normal” CX race, with a 1/2 mile or so loop around the Mulberry gap property (included were things like a creek crossing, a couple of run-ups, and a really tall barrier). Following the CX loop was the meat of the race- the 38 mile forest road loop that, after 12 miles of gravel/paved/decent/small rollers would pitch up to just over 3000 ft of elevation over the span of 12 miles.

As soon as I got the initial CX loop out of the way, I implemented the strategy that I’d devised pre-race: KILL IT!!!!
Let’s face it- I’m not exactly Kristen Armstrong when it comes to climbing (the 23 pound bike doesn’t help, either). So my plan was to nail the initial decent and flat portions of the race and make the other (3) women chase me to the climb. This worked fabulously. After dropping the hammer on the initial decent, I ended up getting a draft through the headwind up to the climb (the others were not so lucky).

For the first 7 miles of climbing, I continued to feel very strong. The grades were long, and (as I estimate) ranged anywhere from 3-7%. This initial portion of climb was a bit of a stair-step (good for me!), with a steep-ish grade followed by a flat-ish portion of road. However, once I passed the course “sag” stop, it started to get ugly… the grades were steeper- somewhere in the 10% range (some sections getting closer to 15%), and the longer reprieves of the initial climb gave way to ~10yard “teaser” flat spots that were just long enough to coast for a couple of seconds before the next onslaught of hill was in your face.

I’m not ashamed to say that I walked twice. Even with 39×27 as my lowest gear, the added resistance of the mud (which was a little bit like wet peanut butter), was too much for my legs to take in a couple of spots. I wasn’t the only one… as I slogged on foot, I was looking down at the ground and noticed muddy imprints left by the shoes of those that had passed through ahead of me. The last few miles, fog encased the woods and road so that the road ahead was not visible. During the last few miles, the mud was mixed with snow and slush, making the steepest section of course also the sloppiest. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that conditions bordered on epic…

Finally, somewhere near the top, the sun broke through, and I heard the voice of a course marshal telling me to turn right and have a nice trip back down. The decent was about 7 miles, and, though I was exhausted (both physically and mentally), I shook the proverbial cobwebs out and concentrated on descending as quickly as possible through the rocks and muck. Following the decent, the course rolled back to Mulberry Gap. When I finally got there, a course marshal directed me to turn left and go up the hill…
A wet, leaf and mud covered hill that, according to Ryan’s Garmin 705, was 175 feet at a 56% grade. After pausing to curse, I started trying to push my bike up the wall. At times, I was using trees to hoist myself up a step or two. There was a woman taking photos about 1/2way up who yelled at me that some people were dragging their bikes… excellent idea! I let the bike tip, grabbed it by the front wheel, and drug it up like the dead animal that it was while cursing the steel frame with some pretty “creative” language. At the top, the hill continued up another 65 feet of elevation gain at 16% (400 more feet of rolling my bike before reaching the top). I thought that the worst was over.
From the top, the course went screaming downhill and onto the pavement, passing the finish line, and re-entering the CX loop that we’d followed at the start of the race. My legs were on the brink of collapse, so I was having a difficult time negotiating the barrier, the remount, and the first (realllly long) runup.
It was there that the stuff of nightmares occured… Carey Lowery, who I found out later was a locally well-known MTB endurance racer, caught me. She ran by me about 3/4 of the way up, and I started after her. We were close when we both re-mounted at the top, and jockeyed for position going down a steep hill to a narrow bridge. She got the inside turn and was just ahead of me on the bridge. Coming off, I attacked up the steep pitch of gravel hill that followed. This launched me ahead of her, and the course swept back down a steep hill and made a sharp right, which I took at “make it or break it” speed, praying that the finish line was around the corner.

I’d forgotten something.
There was one more run-up between me and the finish line.

I bobbled the turn into the run-up and stalled out, making for an awkward and slow dismount. Carey jumped on the opportunity and dashed past me. Her remount at the top was flawless. I cursed and fumbled my way up the hill and over the log at the top. As I rounded the short corner, she was crossing the line. I crossed a few second later, covered in mud and immersed in defeat.

I think this sums it up:

After I banged my head on a dirt wall near the finish line a few times, I had some vegetarian chili, an oatmeal cookie, and a hot shower. Once Ryan and I were warm, clean, and fed, we hung out for a while talking and laughing with some of the other racers & volunteers. He ended up in 12th place for the men (I was 16th overall out of around 50 racers- mostly men). I have to say, though I’ve never had a problem with “roadie” people, I loved the MTB people that I met while I was there. I even got a good cookie recipe or two…

I found a couple of photos- taken by Namrita O’Dea of 55nine performance…

A cold, wet starting line
A cold, wet starting line
First run-up of the day
First run-up of the day
Near the end of the race, just before my Epic Fail
Near the end of the race, just before my Epic Fail
The women's race "podium"
The women's race "podium"

Southern X and a random video

In case the 140 or so of you a day that visit my blog don’t also visit Ryan’s blog, here’s a link to his blog post of Google Earth images that he mapped of the Southern Cross race this weekend: RoadCX Southern X Preview . Take a good look at it and come back…

Yea, it’s gonna be tough! Luckily, I’ve got a song that I’ll probably sing over & over in my head (ok, and possibly out loud) as I climb. This is a nice alternative to “99 bottles of beer on the wall” that I used at the River Gorge Road Race last summer…

Mt. Magazine Adventure Ride

So last night at dinner, about half of the guys expressed interest in getting over to Petit Jean somewhat early in the morning so that they could get home in time for various reasons. The other half of us wanted to sleep in and let the temperatures get out of the 30s before we got started with our ride.

This morning (after a short hike), we started looking at how long it would take to drive to Petit Jean State Park, and, after realizing that it was nearly a 2 hour drive, decided that we’d just do some more riding around Magazine. At first we talked about an out & back to Paris, but after some searching on Google Maps, came up with a route that had us descending to Havana and circling the side of the mountain opposite of where we’d gone the day before and ending up at the bottom near Cove Lake. We were also well aware that our route could contain some gravel roads, but most of us felt pretty adventurous.

I was secretly hoping for gravel… and lots of it. I probably wasn’t the only one.

We headed out a little after 10:00. After a chilly descent, we hung a left before reaching Hwy 10 in Havana. My wishes came true, because not more than 1/2 a mile after leaving the main road, the pavement ended. Of course, within the next 1/2 mile, two people had flat tires. Jared had flat #1 (of an eventual 3), and Tim Moore had a torn sidewall. He decided that it was too risky to continue, booted the tire, and headed back accompanied by Steve Pavlovic, who was wary of taking the nicer of his bikes into such territory.
The six of us that remained (Ryan, Jared, Susan, Todd, Frogge, and myself) continued on. We had more fun than I think ANY of us have ever had on two wheels- the road climbed, descended, and even crossed a few small streams (Todd rode across while the rest of us dismounted and hopped rocks). Of course, there were several more flat tires, but hey, we were asking for it, right?!


Because we were starting to run short on supplies (mainly rubber and CO2), we decided to cut the ride a little short when we reached a fork in the road that would take us back to the main road. It was fun nonetheless. We rode about 16 miles until we reached the main road for a windy climb back up the Paris side of the mountain. Next time, we’ll come more prepared with tougher tires, a few more tubes, and a frame pump or two…

Here’s Ryan’s GPS tracing of the route:

Sunday Morning on Magazine

Since today’s ride deserves its own blog post, I figured I’d start by posting some photos of a morning hike to the actual “top” of Mt. Magazine.


The top of the mountain is pretty cool- there’s a stone rendering of the state of Arkansas, complete with a rock-star for Little Rock, and a USGS “button” with the elevation inscribed on top. Here are some shots from the top (click to see full-size versions):


After the ride, I also tried to take some artsy bike-porch shots…