Syllamo’s Revenge Race Report

It’s not very often that I’ve looked at the start list for a race and thought, “I could race a perfect race, and still finish DFL.”

The start list for the Syllamo NUE Series race was short and stacked with seasoned women who had all (for the most part) kicked my butt at one time or another. Even though the race didn’t offer a singlespeed category for women, the Syllamo terrain lends itself well to singlespeed riding. Also, I’m still on my singlespeed rampage, so I lined up against the heavy hitters on geared bikes in the women’s open category.

The race start is challenging in terms of pacing. The 3/4 mile mad dash up Blanchard Springs forest service road dumps you into the trail system close to one of the most technical, rocky sections. The crowd of racers heading up the hill was thick enough that I didn’t really know how I was placed going on to the trail, but I assumed it was good since I was feeling awesome.

My assumption was correct. As I tried to calm down and hit my rhythm, I realized I was swapping places with Brenda Simril, Namrita O’Dea, and Sonya Looney. In the past, I’ve watched their results from a distance while riding my own pace in the back. Now, I was on home turf and throwin’ bows.

The first 15 miles of trail has some tough technical spots, which were made worse (slippery and more treacherous) with the mud and moisture spread around by large amount of race traffic. I passed Namrita and Sonya on the yellow trail then swapped back and fourth with Brenda (and her husband Lee) for the 3rd place spot behind Amanda Carey and Cheryl Sorenson. At the first aid station, they passed me while I was swapping out bottles and airing up my front tire, which had punctured then sealed itself when I gave it a shot of CO2 from the Big Air I was carrying.

The green trail flew by, as did the first part of the orange. On the second orange trail climb, I caught back up to Brenda & Lee, who were working on Brenda’s bike, which was suffering from massive chainsuck. I have to learn how to keep from getting too excited, because every time I’d pass her (or any  one of the other women), I’d bobble a section of trail that I could normally ride with my eyes shut. I passed her and kept up the pace, hoping that her mechanicals would keep her from chasing me. Unfortunately, she caught back up to me on the descent to the first Highway 5 crossing to the 2nd aid station. It was at that point that I realized I should have picked the suspension fork.

At the 2nd aid, I swapped bottles and a gel flask. Brenda and Lee took off up the trail. I felt like I needed to back off a click so that I wouldn’t kill myself on the next couple of climbs. So, I settled in and hoped that they’d come back at some point.

Fast forward a bit, and I’m up the blue trail climb and up to the 4th aid station. I never saw Brenda and Lee, but I kept to the same tempo pace for the red trail. Somewhere along the way, Sonya Looney flew past me like I was sitting still. I knew I wasn’t going to chase her down on her big ring, so I kept trucking in hopes that when she caught Brenda that they’d hammer at each other enough that one of them would pop and I could make a catch on the second time around the yellow trail.

Unfortunately, other than passing a few end-of-the-pack 50-milers, I was alone on the yellow trail. I managed to cut a sidewall about a mile out from the final aid station stop before the final red loop. I was low on CO2 from my first flat, so I knew it’d be better to try to refill it at much as possible and get to the aid station. At one point, a guy I passed informed me that my tire was flat. I told him that I’d brought that wheel into the world, and I’d take it out even faster.

At the aid station, Nate Carey graciously helped me get a tube into my tire (Amanda was already well into her final lap of the red trail). I crammed a powerbar, took on a fresh bottle, and was off on my final 12 miles of trail. I was absolutely drained at that point, so I was trying my best to flow the downhills with no brakes. The thing about the red trail is that it’s fast, non-technical, and slippery in some spots because of loose rock over hardpack. It’s very easy to have a high-speed wreck by way of losing a front tire off the edge of the bench of the trail.

With about 7 miles to go in the race, I did just that. I was headed down a slightly fast hill when I wrecked and tumbled face first into the bushes and a deadfall tree. After laying on the ground for a minute to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed, I got up and assessed my bike, which was a good five feet away from where I come to rest. I had to dig my multitool out to straighten my handlebars, and I felt like my face was bleeding and my helmet felt tighter than before (it ended up being scratched on the right side and pretty dented in the middle/front, so I retired it to the trophy wall at the cabin).

Thank you, Rudy Project, for once again saving me from the life of a vegetable.

I continued on, albeit slightly more cautiously than before. I did my best to zone out and forget how much everything was hurting at that point. Eventually, I was making the turn back on to Blanchard Road and was hauling ass down to the finish line. Luckily, no one passed me while I was having my tire/wreck difficulties, and I ended up 5th…

45 minutes behind the winner, Amanda Carey.

Sure, 45 minutes is a long time. At last year’s races, it was two or more hours.  It’ll be a long journey of small steps, though I’ll be the first to admit to  my constant impatience. Hopefully, Saturday was a sign of good things to come in upcoming races. I think I might have arrived on at least one or more radars in the past couple of weeks.

I’ve expressed my impatience to my coach, and this was the text message reply that I received back:

“Two bulls are standing on a hill overlooking a group of cows. The young bull says, ‘let’s run down and get ourselves a cow.’ The older bull says ‘no, I have a better idea. Let’s walk down and get them all!”

So, I guess if I’m patient enough, all the cows will be mine? I’m not totally sure, but it made me laugh, and seemed like promising advice on the virtue of patience…

Since last week…

I know, I know… I’ve been scarce lately. In lieu of several fun and entertaining posts to catch you up, I figure I’ll just do it in some nice, boring bullet points.

-Last Saturday, the Trinity ride was pretty insane. I hit a season best 20 min power average while off the front of the group with one of the Memphis Velo guys. We were eventually caught, and I dropped through the group like a hot coal through a paper towel.

-Sunday, Ryan and I went to the Outdoors Inc water demo day. We tried out the stand-up paddleboards (BTW- those are a sweet cross-training  balance to pedaling singlespeed) first, then I hopped into the Epic skate-ski V10- which is essentially a narrow, round bottom racing kayak.  After a few near-tips, I started to get the hang of it and was motoring around Patriot Lake. I followed it up with 4 hours on the road bike.

-Monday and tuesday were pretty laid back. I rode the SS powertap Tuesday morning. It was pretty boss, though the cadence is kinda squirrely when I’m JRA.

Yesterday, I headed to Mountain View, where I took to forest roads for a little leg-wake-up. This morning, I met up with Amanda & Nate Carey and Eddie & Namrita O’Dea. We rode a bit of the blue and orange trails. Amanda rode the A9C  for a few minutes and she totally hated it. She nearly knocked me down to get back on her awesome Felt.

Also, today is opposite day.

Afterward, I dropped my bike off at the cabin, picked up Turbo, and went to the creek near the cabin for an ice bath.

I have a bunch of cool photos on my fancy new “ruggedized” smart phone (Casio “Commando”), but I haven’t figured out how to get them out of there yet…


After a few years of training on the road with a powermeter, I finally ponied up and bought a powertap mountain bike hub. I wanted to go as light as practical, so I built it up with a Stan’s Crest rim and DT Aerolite Spokes (still went with brass nipples, though). At first, I put a cassette on it and put it on my geared bike. However, after a little thought, I realized that I won’t really be riding the geared bike much in the upcoming week or two. So, I pulled the cassette, slapped a 21t cog (for Syllamo next week), and put it on my singlespeed.

Boom. Winning.

Singlespeed Rambling

As a rookie singlespeeder, I sometimes fret a little over gear choice. Though a 32×20 will get you through just about anything, a 32×21 has been my gear of choice for the Breck 100 and most rides at Syllamo. Though the terrain in those races is vastly different- long climbs at >10k feet vs. short, steep sea level climbs, the lower gear seems to work out well (especially at Syllamo, where there are very few places where you can spin out).

At Cohutta, the 32×20 worked well, though if I’m more fit next year, I might bump down to a 19t so I can keep the pace up on the flat spots (same song for SM100- the 32×20 was great last year on the climbs, but the long flat pavement section was monotonous). I’m sticking to the 21t for Syllamo, but Mohican? Uh… I’m not really sure. I DNFd last year with geared-bike mechanical issues- a blessing in disguise since I also cracked the Air9 frame and decided to say “to hell with gears” and warranty it with a One9. The course is generally rolling, but has some short, steep spots, so I’m not totally certain of what to do. Same for ORAMM.

Wait… did you just say ORAMM?

Yes, the fact that I’m even considering it must mean that last year’s ORAMM was apparently a pain similar to childbirth. For the uninformed: I knew that the weekend following the Breck 100, I’d either have “awesome superstar legs,” or I’d be a total lump of sh*t. Surprise- it’s wasn’t what I was hoping for. During the race, I dislocated my thumb around mile 20something. It forced me to decide between painfully slow descending or fast and excruciatingly painful descending. If any of you vultures who hung out at the “people will probably wreck here” spots and thought you heard sobbing as I passed by, yes, you heard correctly. About halfway up Curtis Creek, I started having lower back pain. Lots of back pain. I’ve figured out now that as convenient as it is, I just can’t wear a hydration pack of any style. I’ve tried the traditional style pack, the Wingnut, and the Camelbak LR, and all of them, at some point, will make my back hurt. To cap off my ORAMM experience, I started to massively cramp just before the last climb up Kitsuma. Worst cramps of my life, in fact.I swore the race off forever.

Fast forward to this year. I’m working at the Outdoors Inc bike shop. We’re kicking ass and taking names. There’s no way, in my current role at the shop, that I can take 3 weeks of summer to gallivant around New Mexico and Colorado.  Yes, I could probably make it a short trip where I arrive, race within 24 hours, then go home a day or two later, but that’d be pretty lame. So, the Breck 100 is on hold until I’m either A) Pro enough that I don’t need to work in a shop, or B) Ryan gets a fat raise at work and I don’t need to work in a shop. ORAMM, which is July 24th, is looking like an attractive option. I’ve obviously forgotten how bad it hurt last year and/or figured that since that was officially the “worst race of my life” that it couldn’t really get worse short of me leaving the course in an ambulance.

So, I guess the point of all this is that I’m trying to decide what gear I’ll use for Mohican and ORAMM. It’s not easy to go off of advice that others give, so I’ll likely just decide at the last minute and spend half of the race cursing my decision (which half will be determined by whether I choose too hard or too easy of a gear). Then there’s the rigid vs. suspension thing… who knew that singlespeed riding could be so complicated?

Finally, I’ve now got a gaping hole in my race schedule from Mohican (6/4)  ’til ORAMM (7/24). Race suggestions (must be weekend-trip-able) are more than welcome.

Customer Service Win!

In a day and age when it’s easy for big companies monopolize the cyclist market while half-assing good customer service to weekend warriors and wannabes such as myself, it’s always refreshing to be reminded that there are still small companies that aren’t under rule of a guy with a business degree wearing a suit and sitting behind a giant mahogany desk. As fighters of the man behind the desk, they actually have to care about their customers- something I experienced last night that made me feel all warm & fuzzy inside (well, it could have been the Maredsous, but whatever).

As you may remember from my race report, I flatted early and found that the Awesome Strap Race that Dicky gave me after Southern Cross had somehow cut a hole in my spare tube. I don’t really fault the strap- if you ride off-road, stuff rattles and vibrates. No matter how you secure it to your bike or person, a tube can have a hole rubbed in it over time, and it’s my job to check for that. I fault myself.

However, last night, I got an email from the president of Backcountry Research. He apologized profusely for my problems and is going to send a Hitch strap out for me to try. Hell yes! Win on so many levels.

So, there you have it. Hurray for “Awesome” customer service.

Photodump Sunday

Rather than getting up, packing my stuff, and making a morning drive back to Memphis, I decided I’d take the morning easy and go for a recovery ride. As I mentioned before, I stayed at the lodging put together by Atlanta Outfitters. The camp was called Whitewater Express, and had a really cool “summer camp” vibe to it.

Sunday morning, the roosters woke up at 5:30am. Breakfast was 7:30, so I changed and drove out to the Boyd’s Gap overlook that I’d passed during the race. I wanted to watch the sun rise, but the overlook is more of a “sunset” spot, so I walked up to a nearby radio tower. There were too many trees and haze to take good sunrise photos, so I looked for other nearby interesting things.

Back at camp, I had breakfast, packed the car, and went for my recovery ride…


P.S. Those last couple are from an area just west of Decatur, but it wasn’t the only tornado-ravaged are I passed through. If the Earth ever wanted to eradicate the human race, we’d as helpless at the little black picnic ants that occasionally invade my kitchen.

Cohutta 100 Race Report

This year, I was determined to not make the same mistake and go out too fast like I did last year when I raced Cohutta as my first 100. The start was cold. I didn’t warm up very much, but figured since my strategy was to hit my 100 mile pace from the gun, that I’d get warm in plenty of time for the first real climb about halfway into the first miles of singletrack.

My strategy was actually working very well.  It was tough to let a lot of people pass me at the start of the race, but I figured I’d see a lot of them again in due time. I entered the first singletrack in a group, but, amazingly, it was a group with a very nice pace. I was able to settle into a good rhythm, and I was feeling great.

Unfortunately, I took a bad line coming off of Boyd’s Gap. I was a little miffed at people avoiding some rocks and dabbing in order to get to an easy line. I just rolled though the rocks, but managed to flat my rear tire on the way. Talk about bad timing… avoiding an easy/slow line is a lot of what I practiced last time I was at Syllamo, and I didn’t have any issues on much gnarlier terrain.

I didn’t panic (at least not immediately) and pulled off the trail to install a tube, only to find that my spare tube had a cut in it from an edge on the Awesome Strap I was using to hold it under my saddle. Uh-oh.

Here’s a word of advice to anyone who has ever yelled out, “got everything you need?” to someone changing a flat on the side of the trail…


I digress.

Eventually, Scott, one of my kind and generous blog readers, came to my rescue. He gave me his tube and was nice enough to stick around until I was back rolling. Scott, I am eternally grateful.

Time lost… approximately 10 minutes. Places lost… no idea. It was a lot. The next section was alternately rooty and wet. I was nervous about a pinch flat, so I took it somewhat easy. Once I was through the creek and over the bridge by the White Water Center, the trail pitched up in a nice power climb. I started to gain ground back on the people who had passed me earlier. Since the course conditions were so much better than last year, the rest of the singletrack seemed to fly by. I refilled a bottle at the exit onto the fire road then headed on my way.

The course is generally rolling for a little while. Between the water stop and the flat spots, I was back & forth with a few women. At one point where the course was pretty flat, a woman and the guy she was with flat out dropped me. He pulled her off into the woods and left me spinning in their dust. A while later, I caught him alone on the first pitches of the “big” climb, where I joked with him, “Don’t worry, I’ll catch her here in a few minutes.”  About half an hour later, I did. We were back and forth for a while, but I was able to pull away on the last miles of the climb.

Somewhere along the way, I managed to find Laureen Coffelt as well. I knew that once I passed her that I couldn’t slow my pace lest she break me with her relentless motor. I basically rode the 2nd half of the race looking over my shoulder for blue/green/white kit.

Somewhere on the first hills, I hit a rhythm that stayed with me the entire race. I had this song in my head (which resulted in me telling a guy on one of the easy grades that he was a dime and asking why he was looking lonely), and I began singing the chorus in my head to keep time with my breathing and pedaling. I began flying past people on geared bikes like they were sitting still.
I’ve never been a good climber. I’ve always been too big to be a climber. However, what I have slowly discovered since the Death Climb at Shenandoah is that being bigger and more powerful is not as much of a  disadvantage when you don’t have the option of a granny gear. As the race progressed, I was looking less behind me and more ahead of me, hoping to see one of the other women up the road.

Unfortunately, they never showed up. I crossed the line a few minutes short of 9 hours- 1 hour better than last year. Being the only woman entered in the women’s singlespeed category, I was eager to see how I stacked up against the other ladies.

I went back to the car, grabbed a towel, and sat in the creek for a few minutes. After cleaning up & changing, I went back to the finish area to wait for results. Eventually, the race director put the open women results up and announced that the 15 minute protest period had begun. I realized that my name was nowhere on the results board, so I protested. He told me that they’d give me an award for women’s singlespeed.

Based on time (which I still don’t have an official number for), I was 7th overall, and only minutes out of the top 5 placings. Awesome. Until this afternoon when I came home and saw the results that were posted on Cyclingnews… leaving me out completely. What. The. Fuck.

Apparently, since I was a single racer in the women’s singlespeed category, that means that I’m not worthy of getting an official result posted anywhere.

Pissed? Hell yeah, I’m pissed. Discouraged? Hell no. Not at all.
At my current fitness, I was half a flat change from breaking into top 5. Am I going to be facing off with Carey and Sorenson this season? Not likely. Facing off with any number of other women? I’m gunning for it.

I’ll singlespeed my way into your Cyclingnews whether you like it or not.


Climate Change: 100% Fiction.

…because it’s totally normal to have a monsoon season and a 100 year flood two years in a row.

Politics aside, I decided to take some photos of said flooding of the Wolf River this morning on my final easy ride before heading over to East Tennessee for the Cohutta 100. This year, instead of camping, I’m taking advantage of a pretty sweet package deal from Atlanta Outfitters that includes meals, showers, and two nights in a nice looking bunk for $50. Beats the heck out of a tent!

First stop on my ride was the Germantown Parkway trailhead, where I didn’t get too far before becoming distracted by a fat little snake that was enjoying the opportunity to sunbathe on the blacktop without being run over by morning trail traffic. Next, I ventured around to one of the levees that extends from the main road out to the river. There, I got some nice photos of how the water has taken over the trail. I also went for a short hike…


In the lead-up to Cohutta, nothing is happening. Well, other than repeated storms that seem to be trying to blow/flood various parts of the Mid-south off of the map. The tornado sirens have been going off so much in the past week that I’m afraid people are not going to take them seriously when it actually matters. Luckily, I was able to get out on the road bike yesterday between storms (with the exception of a 5 minute downpour) for my tune-up ride. Everything is good. Now, all I do is wait and not drink beer for a few days and I’ll be ready to race.

So, in lieu of anything interesting that has to do with riding a bike, here are some photos from early 2007 from when I was into some trail running…

F(*^ing Awesome Grill

I like my outdoor cooking appliances like I like my men.

Oh, wait, nevermind… that doesn’t make sense.

Yes, my new grill is so awesome that it deserves its own blog post. We’ve been occasionally using a little Weber kettle and dealt with it up until recently when I was forced to cook food in “shifts” since the kettle was so small. Soon after, we went shopping for something larger and found the Master Forge Jet Light… aka, the “666 grill” because of its 666 square inch grilling area. Features include “Jet Light” (a propane-powered lighting system that eliminates the need for lighter fluid or a chimney), cast iron grates, upper warming rack, and “counter” space on both sides… pure awesomeness…


In training news, Saturday’s “Cycle for Safety” ride was a trip to the pain cave and back. Sunday, I went for an easy spin on the Jet, and my legs felt leaden. Today, the trip to the chiropractor was painful because of a handful of trigger points in my upper back and shoulders, and finally, when I got to work, the first thing I managed to do was clamp my right pinky into the mechanism of the workstand. It’s likely going to result in a permanent change to my fingerprint on that finger. I also ordered a Crest rim, some DT Swiss Aerolite spokes, and a MTB Powertap hub.

Looking forward to next Saturday… Cohutta. Singlespeed.