Eureka Springs Fat Tire Festival- Day #3

Spoiler Alert… What will now be referred to as the “downward spiral of suck” continued on Sunday.

The Cross Country race lined up at 9am on Sunday. Despite the downer of a Saturday, I was feeling like a boss. The race started, and I was still feeling like a boss. It begins by winding through the streets and back alleys of Eureka Springs, including some awesomely steep, short climbs. In the first few miles before we hit the main trail, Rachel, one other woman (not an omnium competitor) and myself had pulled away from the pack.

Did I mention that I felt great?

The non-omnium gal dropped back on a road section just before the main trail. I stayed just a few seconds off of  Rachel’s wheel as we entered the singletrack together. Soon enough, I took the chance to pass when she bobbled a steep, slippery pitch of one of the climbs. Then, it was her turn to do the same to me. No matter what, she stayed about 15-30 seconds back from me. I hoped to rely on my innate endurance to hold her off by maintaining a steady pace.

Somewhat suddenly, my legs started to feel bad. Really bad. Like, “hey, you’re bonking, and, oh yeah…  we’re going to cramp soon.” I was trying to drink some EFS drink mix from my camelbak, but it suddenly tasted/felt like it was too strong to digest. The calories I was taking in weren’t getting to where they needed to be. At just over an hour into the race, I felt impending doom closing in on me. Then, at the next climb, I went to gun it up a steep, rocky spot, and immediately my inner quads tried to turn themselves inside out. The lockup was hard enough that I almost fell over because I nearly couldn’t get a foot out of my pedal.

So began the hour of death march to the finish.

I had to back way off of my previous “like a boss” pace. Another woman passed me. My legs were still cramping, and my stomach felt like I’d swallowed a brick. I passed through the start/finish area for the 2nd of 3 times to start the last climb on the short lap before the finish. I saw a cooler on the side of the trail. I stopped and looked inside. There were 3 water bottles, and 3.5 bottled waters. I took the half bottle and chugged it.  As the climb started,  I cramped more, walked some, but my stomach started to feel much better. I then accidentally dropped my big air/inflator on the trail. Luckily, it was near a cat 3 guy who was hopelessly stranded with a flat tire, and he brought it back to me after the race.

Eventually, I made it to the finish line in 3rd place.

The drive home was long. Six hours later, I arrived home to Ryan and Matt getting dinner ready. As I unpacked the car, I happened to notice that my bike looked funny. Thirty seconds and a 4mm allen wrench later, I realized that my seatpost had slipped down just short of 2 inches during the course of the race. Cramp city, population 2 legs.

P.S. The Jet 9 RDO has charged to my credit card. The fork will be here Friday. ORAMM is next weekend. Much more exciting than my crappy weekend in Arkansas…

Eureka Springs Fat Tire Festival- Day #2

Bike racing is a world of highs and lows.

Saturday morning, I had a kickass breakfast a the Pancake Shop and headed to Lake Leatherwood for the downhill competition. After registration, I had a couple more good practice runs. The race was supposed to start at 10:00, and I (along with the other 15 or so omnium competitors) was informed at approximately 9:15 that we could not race without a full-face helmet. That left a handful of about 10 of us frustrated and scrambling to borrow one. Luckily, one of the other women had an extra in her truck. Other competitors were told that they’d have to wait and possibly only take one run if they couldn’t work out a borrow/run/shuttle helmet situation with another competitor.

I digress…

I was having a kickass first run. The course was slippery with loose rocks, but I was keeping generally smooth and just fast enough to feel like I wasn’t about to die. Then, about 3/4 of the way down, for reasons I can’t explain, I lost it coming down a small rock drop and went ass-over-tea-kettle. I knew as I came to a stop that I was fine, but at the same time, I watched my bike sail over my head. When I picked it up, the bars were crooked. With no way to fix it, I decided I’d ride it in like that. As I started to roll, I heard a distinctive “vrrrrrrp” noise coming from my front wheel. My tire was rubbing the fork. Crap.

My run a wash with extra fall time, I rolled in and went to the race mechanic to see if we could beat out some of the warp. He wailed it on the ground a few times, tightened a few spokes, and I made it back to the parking area in time with just in time to catch the next shuttle to the top of the hill. At that point I realized that I needed a clean run on my second try in order to retain a high placing in the omnium. Brian Fawley (pro from Orbea) was racing the omnium as well, and since he was in a category with some serious downhill guys, placing well in my category would allow me to get ahead of him in omnium points.

At that point, I also psyched myself out pretty bad thinking about not wrecking.

My second run prettymuch sucked. I didn’t have that awesome “edge of control” feeling from the first run because I was all over the brakes. I didn’t wreck, but my time was 3 seconds slower than Rachel’s (the gal that was 2nd in ST the night before). Crap.

The DH race ran really late. The trials competition was supposed to be starting at 3:00, and I didn’t leave the DH area until about 2:00. There was an awards ceremony at a nearby resort, but I figured the way everything else had been going, that I’d be incredibly late to trials if I stuck around for it. Instead, I went back to the motel, changed, ate, and cooled off a little.

Trials riding is pretty damn cool. There was a Czech dude in the cat I competition that looked as if he was defying the laws of physics. All of the omnium competitors competed in the cat III (beginner) class (no split for gender). Basically, the way it goes is that you and a small group of other people are placed with a judge. One at a time, each person in the group rides through a marked course. You get a point any time you put a foot down, and, if you put both feet down or an axle of one of your wheels passes over the marked course on the ground, you automatically have 5 points, which is the lowest score possible. There are 4 courses that you complete, you do each one 3 times, and your score is cumulative.

Essentially, it’s like golf for bikes.

After we made 1 round of the 4 courses, I realized something. I was not doing so hot. My usual approach to something technical is to pedal as hard as possible and blow through it with momentum. This required finesse. It was fun, and I definitely need to ride like that more often, but I wasn’t going to improve my omnium score with my performance, and I was looking at at least 2 more hours of standing around in the afternoon heat. So, I left and went back to the hotel. The judge of my group gave me a little grief about it, but I was at about this point…

 

I cooled off, relaxed, and looked at the internet before going to the XC registration & pool party. I don’t care who calls me a quitter… I’ve probably finished more races than them with more dislocated joints.

 

Eureka Springs Fat Tire Festival- Day #1

After spending Thursday night in Mountain View to cut the 6 hour trip to Eureka Springs in half, I slept in ’til nearly 7 Friday then hit up the Rainbow cafe on my way out of town. When I arrived in Eureka, I figured I’d settle in, eat lunch, then head up to Lake Leatherwood for a preride of the XC course before the shuttle started running for the downhill practice at 2pm.

I rode from where I am staying, which is about halfway between the Lake and downtown Eureka Springs. I found the beginning of the XC loop and made my way up the first little climb and along a ridge before descending back down to lake level. At that point, I’d only ridden a few miles, and the course had been well-marked. However, I reached an intersection where the course arrows pointed down both trails. Uh…

I chose “left,” which I guess was the course for the beginners, because I was back at the parking lot within a mile or two. At that time, it was 1:20. I met some other riders in the parking lot that were getting ready to ride the course. I briefly thought about going with them, but with the short track registration and TT starting at 4:00, I didn’t want to miss the first shuttle for DH practice. So, I chose to stay in the parking area and hang out with some of the people who had come to town just for the DH race.

2:00 came and went with no shuttle. Around 2:50, someone showed up with a dying truck and flatbed. I made a couple of runs and had to call it quits so I could get ready for short track.

The short track course was pretty boss. It had some sweepy, full speed turns, a couple of gravelly, greasy turns, and a hump to 180 to steep pitch just before the finish line straightaway. I nearly missed the qualifying TT because registration was painfully slow, but made it just in time to take a hot lap with no warmup or pre-ride. Somehow, my lap landed me a spot in the lineup 1 row ahead of the other women (women were run as an “open” category with the cat II men). I like MTB racing from the front, so this was good for me.

With 18 minutes on the countdown clock, we were given the signal to go. I hammered and from the start and fought for position through the first few turns in hopes that the other women would get caught up in traffic. After the first few laps, I could no longer hear spectators cheering for my competitors as I passed, so I knew they’d dropped off of my wheel. Not thinking, I settled my pace down a notch. After a couple of laps, I noticed that one of the other women was gaining some ground back. Then, I remembered that in an 18 minute race, there is no settling down… duh. I put the hammer down and tried to look at the start/finish timer, but it was malfunctioning. According to conversation overheard following the race, that clock has malfunctioned for the past two years before this race as well.

Nevertheless, I won the race. Later that night, I picked up my women’s award of a pint glass, water bottle, and a pair of gloves (cat 1 men received cash and those things, but since the women were combined with cat II men, for our race, we were awarded the same as the cat II men) . More importantly, I picked up some good points for the omnium competition.

Off to a good start. Saturday, however…

MTB Whizard

I’ve got 11ty other things to do right now as I’m preparing to leave for the Fat Tire Fest weekend after work, but instead I’d rather write a blog post full of interesting things. And by “things,” I mean stuff like this…

This little gem of technological innovation allows women to urinate whist standing up. “Being hydrophobic, the Whiz repels all liquid- just flick to dry!”   No one wanted to purchase this from Outdoors, so, of course, the logical choice for who to give it to was me. Now I just have to figure out what camelback pocket it fits best into… probably the large mesh one…  I’ve yet to use it, and, well, when I do, I most likely will not post pics. Sorry to disappoint. Here’s an illustration for you, though:

 

In other “cool stuff” news, I should soon see a shipping notice for something big, black, and carbon on its way to Memphis from Niner Bikes in California. The only problem is that I have yet to get an update from Fox as to when they plan on shipping me something long, black, and squishy that I ordered more than a week ago. Unlike previous bikes, this one won’t be an immediate build/ride since I’m doing something fun and awesome with the red anodized bits that hold the rear triangle on the frame. It looks like it should happen before the end of the month, though, and it will be totally worth the wait…

Check it!

Remember all the way back to Syllamo’s Revenge? Well, if you don’t, you can check out my race report in Issue #12 of XXC Magazine. I’d actually volunteered the report ahead of time when Jason Mahokey twittered about needing them. He does a great job of covering anything related to off-road endurance racing, so be sure to check the other stuff on the site, too. Anyways… when we arrived home after Ironbutt, this was in my mailbox:

 

 

I’ve always eyed the t-shirts & other gear on the XXC site, but never pulled the trigger on it. Thanks, Jason!

One Lap of Memphis

With the recent mid-season lull in racing, training has ramped up to 14, 16, and 18 hour weeks of a mix of group rides, intervals, and long endurance rides. The feather in the training cap was yesterday’s One Lap of Memphis, a charity group MTB ride that visits each trail in the Memphis area in one long day in the saddle.

Since Ryan hadn’t ridden a 100 on his MTB, and the course is, as far as 100s go, an “easy” 100, it was the perfect introductory opportunity for him. I took it upon myself to pace with him to make sure he didn’t go out too hard, eat too little, or finish too slow.

Almost 40 riders started out from the ride organizer’s house in Lakeland and headed towards the short, steep Lakeland Trails just a few miles away. We rode near the front and hit the trail in the first 10 or so people. Unfortunately, Ryan had a mis-shift and stalled out on the first hill. We’d decided ahead of time that in case of a mishap, we’d meet back up in the parking lot after the lap, so I continued on at a steady pace. Ryan ended up catching back up to me at the end of the lap when I stopped to tighten my headset, and we hit the road with a group of about 20 people to paceline out to Herb Parson’s Lake.

At Herb’s, we entered the trail a few seconds behind a few hammerheads that were chasing Boomer Leopold. We had a nice group going through the woods when Ryan had a stick jump up into his rear derailleur. Luckily, the derailleur hanger did its job, and, after a quick replacement, we were back on our way.

 

The group thinned out a lot on the next road section, and we entered the Collierville gravel greenline feeling good. The flat gravel was a little monotonous, but would soon get much more interesting when it ended at 4 wheeler trails for the last couple of miles to Houston Levee road. Even though the trails have seen relatively little rain lately, the trail was rutted out with hub-deep water/mudholes. Some were rideable if you could balance on the middle berm between ruts without losing a wheel into a rut, but others were giant holes that forced you to hike-a-bike in the thorn bushes next to the trail.

Eventually, we made it out to Houston Levee road. Our drivetrains were covered in mud and sand, so my first priority was to find a way to clean them off. A mile or so up the road, we found a hose spigot behind Canale’s grocery store and washed the debris from our drivetrains. The next “trail” after a few more miles of road riding was the unfinished greenline paralleling Macon Rd. It’s basically an old railbed with the tracks removed. Further in town, it’s been finished and paved over, but from Shelby Farms east, it’s somewhat loose and very overgrown. We passed a lot of riders who were being broken by the extra few watts required to push through the rock and plants and found the turn-off to the last section of singletrack before the mid-ride aid station.

EDIT FOR CLARIFICATION: At Germantown Parkway, we also passed some guys who were much faster than either of us on a good day, but had stopped at a nearby pizza restaurant since some in the group had run out of water. The restaurant owner was apparently gracious enough to let grimy MTBers in the store (I heard they tipped well). I’m not totally clear on if/when we passed each other again because I saw some of them at the aid stop, some of them left the course around that point since they’d ridden to the start from their homes ~10-15 miles away, and I think that Ryan and I were 4th and 5th to finish.

Other than a little hike-a-bike through a gully, that trail (Shelby Farms North Blue trail) was generally uneventful. We rolled in to the rest stop and took a little break to refill our water, eat some snacks, and lube our chains before heading back out for a steamy lap of the Tour de Wolf trail before moving on to the Blue of the Wolf River Trail. The next real challenge was the yellow trail, which was hit hard by the recent spring flooding a few months ago. The flood washed some trail out, knocked trees down, and covered much of the trail with seemingly bottomless amounts of powdery river sand. The south part of the trail was passable in most places, but the north end after Walnut Grove was in rough shape. With all of the sand hiking and detouring around trees, our average speed was 4mph for those few miles.

Once we reached the next road section to get to Stanky Creek, we knew that the worst was behind us. At Stanky, we refilled again (I had my first Mexican Coke… damn, that’s good) and went out for our last piece of singletrack before the finish. Ryan entered the trail ahead of me. I could tell that he was starting to feel the effect of the long day in the saddle by the amount of speed he was scrubbing down the hills. About halfway through, I took over the pacing to try and encourage him to keep off the brakes so we wouldn’t have to work as hard to get up the subsequent rollers.

Soon enough, we were back on the road and covering the last 6-7 miles before the finish. We traded pulls until we caught up to a couple of riders a couple of miles out. I was indifferent and figured we’d just ride in with them, but when one of them took a stupid turn into traffic on Germantown Parkway and the other jumped around us to catch up once traffic cleared, it was obvious that they wanted to finish ahead of us. Being the competitive-natured individuals that we are, we gave them the roadie treatment. Rather than chasing them wildly, I paced us steadily to their rear wheel, where we rested briefly until we reached the bottom of a hill and attacked around them and held the hard effort until the final turn, where we looked back to see that they were nowhere in sight. Ryan and I pulled into the finish at 9 hours and 45 minutes.

 

We cleaned up, socialized a few minutes, then headed home to relax and eat some Mexican food before laying around and watching the Tour for the remainder of the evening. I’m very proud of Ryan and happy that I could help him get through such a tough day.

Ride, Recover, Repeat…

You gotta love having a coach that occasionally assigns training intensity as “ripping”… as in, “2hr fun ripping SS ride.” Friday morning, I woke up early and went to Stanky Creek, where I was reminded of how much flow Stanky Creek does not have. I still made it around a couple of laps, but I think I’ll take that workout elsewhere next time and cancel my tentative plans to attend the TT/XC race there next month.

Saturday morning, the Memphis Hightailers held their annual Red, White, and Blue ride. Interesting bit of “history” for you- The 2006 RW&B ride was my 2nd or 3rd real bike ride ever, and I gutted through the 64 mile route (at least doubling the mileage of my two previous rides) on 4 gels while riding a Trek Navigator hybrid bike. Thanks to the Warthogs for helping me through that one…

This Saturday, Ryan and I did not attend the RW&B ride. It seemed silly to spend $90 (45 each- not for a charity) to do a ride we’d have to ride/drive a good distance to when we have the Trinity ride nearly out our back door. So, at 7:30, we showed up at the usual meeting spot… where no one else showed up. Well, almost no one- we decided we’d ride the route alone and picked up a couple of stragglers along the way. They drafted us whilst talking obnoxiously about training zones  for the first part of the route, so once we were out of the suburbs, I picked up the pace to “STFU” intensity (with Ryan’s help, of course). We continued to throw in small attacks/hard pulls until they decided they’d turn off at the short cut spot in the route. Ryan and I continued our efforts all the way in to Arlington, where we stopped to refill our bottles then cruised home.

After lunch, we laid around with the dogs to watch the opening stage of the Tour while I laced up my new race wheels- Crest rims, DT Swiss Aerolite spokes, Prolock brass nipples, and Hope Pro II Evo hubs. At 1630g, not the lightest build in the world, but strong enough that I won’t kill them in one season.

P.S. Marley was over for dog-sitting. Indy has a new best friend. Or pillow… haven’t figured that one out yet.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to ride/spend the day with Ryan. Our work/training/racing schedules have been so different lately that it’s been rare for us to spend an entire day together, so Saturday was a refreshing departure from the usual routine.

Sunday morning, I left out early for 5.5 road hours on the MTB. I’ve put Small Block 8 cyclocross tires on it, so I can roll a lot faster than I was with the wider/heavier MTB tires. It was warm out, but I’ve got a great mid-ride water stop at the Shady Grove church in Fayette County. They have an ice-cold well water spigot that is incredibly refreshing at nearly 3 hours into a long ride.

 

Bonus points to anyone who can tell me what’s missing from my bike in the above picture…

After the ride, we had some all-you-can-eat sushi and followed it up with more laying around/napping/Tour watching. Today, we polish off the long weekend with some Tour, a recovery ride, and an afternoon 4th of July party at the house of one of Ryan’s teammates. Perfect weekend? Pretty damned close.

Not all bad news

Sorry to bum everyone out with my last post. In more and more ways, I’m finding that life experience and bike experience can occasionally parallel each other. Finding out about the death of my friend was a lot like face planting into a tree at ~12mph. What has happened since then is like the remainder of my story that day.

(you should click the link above and read it right now so that the remainder of this post makes sense… go ahead. I’ll wait)

I found out last night that my uncle is in the hospital for kidney and lung problems. Finding out about this, I felt the same way that I did on the stalled out boat that day… at that point, nothing short of the boat catching on fire and sinking was going to be any worse than going face first into mother nature’s baseball bat. In a way, I feel the same now.

I’m sad. It sucks. It sucks really, really bad. But, eventually, the boat will crank, I’ll get to shore, ice down my lip, and the wounds will slowly heal  to leave a barely perceivable scar.

 

In much happier news, RDO parts are starting to arrive. I’ve got rims, spokes, seatpost, a KMC gold chain and some other random parts waiting for me at the shop right now. I’m hoping that the order from Hope (brakes and hubs) gets here soon so I can build the wheels. I’ll post a few teaser pics once that happens.

Two things are certain in life

No eccentric bottom bracket will ever be 100% quiet.

Also, death. I very recently found out that a good friend of mine whom I’d lost touch with died last month by committing suicide. She was always the type that you wouldn’t hear from for a while, but that would eventually come around and want to meet up for lunch. She was also the type that, when I didn’t hear from her for a long time, I had a very, very bad feeling gnawing at the pit of my stomach until I finally heard the news.

I feel like somewhere, something has pulled a plug out of my body and part of me has drained out. We’re all going to die at some point, and I think, on some level, everyone is afraid of dying. We can hope, though, that at that moment, however brief and fleeting, the certainty of death brings a sense of peace and relief.

I miss you.

Slice of Life

Since Ryan has been away racing ToAD in Wisconsin, I’ve taken to trying to keep myself busy. I generally have just been riding and tinkering around with the bikes- especially the Jet9. After mentioning in my last post that I wanted to sell it and get an RDO, I was immediately contacted by Scott, the incredibly nice guy who gave me a tube back at Cohutta. The Jet now has new home as a pimpin’ new ride for his wife.

Also, I’ve placed the order for the RDO and generally planned out how it’ll get built up…

 

It’s not all about bikes, though. I’ve also been moonlighting as a hairstylist…

 

This weekend didn’t go as originally planned. The Hamilton Creek 50 was rescheduled due to heavy rain on the trails during the past week. Big kudos for the promoter for stepping up and doing the right thing to preserve the hard work that is put in to creating and maintaining a trail system. So, instead, I stuck around for an ass-kicking weekend of training.

Saturday, I figured out that “Brickhouse” is starting to mean more than the fact that I’m stouter than your average lady on a bike. This whole training/patience thing is starting to have tangible results in both racing and at the Saturday morning world championships (A.K.A, the Trinity ride). It was a hot hammerfest, but I managed to stay with the lead group. The most noticeable thing? My top end is not incredibly high. What I noticed after that? What top end power I do have just doesn’t quit. If there’s a surge or an attack, I can’t immediately match it. I can, however, fight right back in to the group as everyone is fading/settling. It happened repeatedly today. Unlike my training in the past, I finally feel like I’m on a fvcking solid foundation.

Brick by mother-effin-brick, I’m getting faster.

Today I hit the road on my A9C for 5 hours/82 hot, awesome miles. I decided to put some Small Block 8 CX tires on it so it wouldn’t be quite as slow-rolling. Matt went with me, kept me company, and was nice enough to pump my tire up a couple of times when the tube sprang a slow leak. It was painful, but my MTB legs are coming around quickly…