brickhouseracing

September 10, 2013

Interbike Cometh

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 6:40 am

One week from now, I’m going to be packing up to fly to Vegas for Interbike. This year, I’m taking my cyclocross bike and participating in the circus that is CrossVegas. I’m somewhat under-prepared to race any sort of cyclocross one week from tomorrow, much less the only elite-level race I’ve entered since going to a USGP event in Louisville back in 2009, but what intervals and drills I have done are feeling good, so hopefully I’ll be better than DFL. Trial by fire is my favorite.

The biggest concern I’ve got about the race is not actually the race itself, but getting from my hotel to the CX venue several miles away. Riding there isn’t an option- the roads are terrible with traffic, and I’ll only have my tubulars on my bike, so the risk of flatting and being stranded in a Vegas ghetto is far too great. So, I’m asking everybody I know who will be there if they know of anyone who can give me a ride (fallback plan is to get in with the Nimblewear guys, but they’re gonna be running their booth at the indoor show until it closes, which puts me on a ridiculously tight schedule). There’s also the question of space in the rental car for such an endeavor.

Other than that, Thursday and Friday will be straight hustle from morning ’til whenever the hell I can get to sleep. It seems like once you’re in the black hole of Vegas, it’s suddenly 1am when you thought it as just 10. This trip, I’m lining things up ahead of time. More on the sponsor hunt after the show, though. For now, I’ll leave it all a mystery.

Short post today… I’ve gotta get some breakfast and get on my bike. As a household, we’ve taken to seeing who can net the best time for the route down the wolf river trail to stanky creek and back. Right now, it’s anyone’s game, as Ryan and Matt rolled a time that was faster than mine in rolling numbers, but longer than mine in total elapsed time (Matt made several adjustments to his new bike during the trip). So, today, I’m planning to set the record straight.

September 5, 2013

Off-Season Shenanigans

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:31 am

It’s been a few years since a dabbled in adventure racing (2009… a Solo Sprint and a longer CoEd Team race). I enjoyed it, though, as I’ve become more focused on mountain biking, my adventure race interest slowly dwindled. I haven’t done any running (other than the few seconds of running in CX races), and I definitely don’t perform orienteering/pace counting very accurately. I did, however, start feeling a little antsy the first time I saw a FB friend post a link to this:

2013 Knoxville Tennessee Adventure Challenge

flyer

It’s basically a 6-hour time limit adventure race that takes out two of the biggest things that keeps people from wanting to try adventure racing- the orienteering (navigation with a compass, topo map, and pace counting) and the laundry list of required equipment (to participate, you only need running shoes, hydration pack, mountain bike, and helmet). All of the paddling equipment you’ll need is included with your race entry, and, while the course isn’t marked, you follow a pre-marked map to get to the checkpoints.

Once I figured out that I wasn’t going to take cyclocross quite as seriously this winter, I decided it’d be the perfect thing to make for some fun off-season training. Tuesday afternoon, I went for my first “run”- 5 minutes walking, 5 minutes jogging, 5 minutes walking. Hey… you gotta start somewhere! My strategy is to build up to at least a 10 mile trail run by the first week of October. Easy peasy. Last time I decided I wanted to do something related to running, I went from super bike-fit to running the Ouachita 50k in exactly 1 month’s time. Of course, I could barely walk for 5 days following that race, but I figure there’s no way the adventure race course will include 32 miles of running, so I should be safe.

It’ll be a really fun change of pace before I get bundled up and back into my winter adventures.

September 4, 2013

Labor Day Trail Work

Filed under: Trails — Andrea @ 7:22 am

Last summer, my favorite recovery ride was to leave my house, ride to the Wolf River Trails (about 15 minutes away), and take the Blue trail to the Greenline, turn off, and ride back home through the north side of Shelby Farms. The blue trail was a lot of fun, especially one section that people seemed to avoid because there is a more “popular” bypass on the nearby, parallel white trail. Unfortunately, over the winter, people destroyed the blue trail by riding it when it was wet. Not like, “I’m leaving huge ruts down the trail” wet, but, “it’s dry except for the mudholes” wet (it’s prettymuch how all of the trails around here meet their winter demise since our soil doesn’t drain well). It essentially expanded all of the mudholes until they reached a natural barrier of some sort- making several of them nearly 10 feet wide. At best, you could ride one dry, choppy line around the outside of the hole, and, at worst, there are spots on the trail that are unrideable unless you go through a large hole filled with stagnant muck.

A couple of weeks ago, Poolboy Matt took it upon himself to go out with a shovel and start filling in some of the smaller holes. He spent about 3 hours working on about a mile long section of trail, and, with just a shovel and a lot of sweat, rehabbed the small piece of trail back to its former glory.

So, on Labor day, instead of a recovery ride following Hard Nox, he and I set out with shovels, a handsaw, and a rake. We spent about 2.5 hours in the morning and 2.5 hours after lunch, adding more dirt to some spots he’d already started on and starting new on a few more spots. Since a lot of the spots had multiple lines through/around them, we took to closing them back in and creating one line through the wide spot (making the singletrack single again). Also, since parts of the trails are popular for horseback riding, we cleared some privet and dead branches from rider height in order to make the lines we created accessible to all trail users.

 

I did before and after photos on a couple of spots:

This hole had expanded to the tree on the right of the photo and the brush pile on the left. Trail users started going around the tree, but at that section of trail, the line around the tree is much slower, and the “high” side of the trail is actually the line on the left (it’s been very dry here the last couple of weeks, so the hole is a lot drier than “normal,” which allows people to go on either side of the trail, further reinforcing the widening of that spot)

IMG_2122

We “outlined” the fill area with branches and moved dirt (from well off the trail) into the low spot. Matt trimmed back privet to improve the line of sight and we used the branches to close off the right side to allow it to be reclaimed by the woods. This being one of the popular horse riding sections of trail, we also took care to clean out the headspace approaching the new, filled in line (look in the background of the before shot @the large deadfall caught up in vines and privet)

IMG_2124

Another spot…

IMG_2127

…same strategy

IMG_2128

We’re essentially using large, sturdy deadfall to outline a path through the wide/low spot and filling one side in with dirt. It creates a small “bench” trail around one side of the mudhole. We realize those spots won’t be maintenance-free, especially as the dirt is moved around and packed in, and, in the long term, as there are heavy rains, people who ride the trail when they shouldn’t, and as the branches that we’ve used to border the spots start to decompose.

However, I think it’s a good start.

September 3, 2013

Hard Nox 50 Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:20 am

It was a hot weekend.

Like, Dirty South, 96 degree w/65% humidity hot. In an effort to avoid the heat as much as possible, Matt and I waited until Saturday afternoon to make the 3 hour trip down to Ackerman, MS to set up camp the night before the Hard Nox race. We arrived just in time to get the tent & hammock up and change for a quick spin of the course start with Frank Webber before it was totally dark. I’m pretty happy that we did, because it was beneficial to know that the initial miles of singletrack were pretty tight and twisty (a lot like the Stanky Creek trails in Memphis). We made it up the first “climb” before hightailing it back to camp. My legs felt great, so I was looking forward to some serious pedal smashing the next day.

After a luxurious ham sandwich dinner, the darkness of the great outdoors activated the magic of human physiology and had us yawning and sleepy by 9pm. Somewhere around midnight, I had my only injury of the weekend when I managed to sprain my left thumb in my sleep. I don’t know why or how, but I can only assume I jammed it into the ground at a high rate of speed and folded it backwards. It woke me up and proceeded to give me nightmares about spraining all of my other fingers, which meant that I’d wake up every hour or two wiggling all of my fingers to make sure that I hadn’t hurt more than just my thumb. Luckily, by morning, it was just a dull, annoying ache accompanied by constant popping.

Sunday morning, race prep went well. I had my coffee and yogurt and changed in time to roll around for about 20 minutes before the race started. As 7:52 hit, someone told me that the 8am race start was pushed back to 8:30. So, I went back to camp, had some water, a Roctane gel, and tried to stay cool. Eventually it was time to roll down to the lake and get set up for the LeMans start. Strategy- set my bike up on the left edge of the road just behind a local guy who I knew would be smooth in his run/mount.

That strategy has never failed me, and I ended up very well placed (first woman, just behind the lead pack of men) as we rounded the turns out of the lake area and towards the trails. I was feeling great, and, once I had a good pack “spot” established, I backed off of “starting” pace and into “maintenance” pace. The trail to the mid-lap aid station was very roller-y and rooty, with lots of trees in the exits of blind turns. It kept you working. Luckily, a lot of the trail after the aid station was less complicated, and made it easier to take a slight mental break and just pedal.

I rolled into the pit area at 2 hours, 11 minutes and stopped briefly at my cooler to get fresh bottles and an extra pack of Gu Chomps. As I headed back out for lap two (a slightly modified version of lap 1), I could tell that, despite my pacing and hydration, the heat was really starting to get to me. I felt the deathmarch looming over me as my quads writhed inside my skin, threatening to cramp. About halfway to the mid-lap aid station, my left toes started to hurt like hell (same issue I’ve had in the past and haven’t sorted out yet), and I was forced to stop for several minutes to get them to quit feeling like they were being clamped with vice grips. I figured at that point that Laureen Coffelt, who tends to motor along at a slower, steady pace, was catching up to me.

I eventually made it to the aid station, had some electrolytes, and dumped several cups of ice water over myself. I focused on staying steady for the last 12 miles, taking some comfort in the thought that the course was “easier” on that end. However, I hadn’t realized that the 2nd half of the 2nd lap was different than the 2nd half of the 1st lap- meaning the trail following the aid station was just as roll-y and rooty as the 1st half instead of smoother and easier. I was majorly overheating, my left toes were trying to fall off of my foot, and it was all I could do to not think about anything other than pedaling and keeping my shit together long enough to get to the finish (I was mostly thinking of Laureen bearing down upon me any time I wasn’t going as hard as I could, which, looking at the power file, was at an intensity that’d normally be “recovery ride” speed).

I finally made it in 4 hours, 37 minutes.

podium

In conjunction with plenty of electrolytes from various sources, I drank somewhere between 4.5 and 5 liters of liquid during the race. Afterwards, I ate a lunch, snacked all the way home, and drank a lot more. When I arrived home, I was still 5 pounds under my normal weight. There’s no telling how dehydrated I was. It was too hot to keep up with the water loss.

As is customary for winning a race with a decent cash purse, I took the guys out for sushi dinner, where we inhaled several highly Americanized, gigantic sushi rolls, topped with glorified mayonnaise and soy sauce.  I’m done with racing in the heat for this year.

August 29, 2013

Turbo the Bandit

Filed under: non-bike — Andrea @ 1:48 pm

I’ve had a a host of weird dreams lately. I don’t remember much about any of them, except last night, my dream involved my 11 year old Malinois, Turbo:

IMG_2106

 

In my dream, I was desperately trying to hide Turbo, because the Police were trying to find her and take her to jail. I think I was trying to get her across the border to Canada, or something. Why in the world were the police after my dog? Well, she’d robbed several banks, and I’m pretty sure she’d injured or killed several people in the process. It was terrible.

robber

 

…but at least it was the sort of terrible that you wake up from and laugh. It’s probably a sign that I should race this weekend and win some money.

August 28, 2013

A well-recovered weekend

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

After taking it easy for a week following the trip back from Breck, my legs were feeling good, and I was ready to get some structure back in to life. Time off following a hard race is great at first, but always makes me feel lost and floaty after a couple of days. I have a hard time getting anything done because the lack of structure makes organizing tasks feel like a game of 52 card pickup.

So, on Saturday, I set out with Matt on a ride to the Stanky Creek trails and back via the Wolf River trails. I felt fine, and had enough fun that I did it again on Sunday with Ryan. We rode to meet some of his teammates at Stanky Creek for a hot lap before heading home. Nearly 8 hours of riding for the weekend followed up with some H.A.M. intervals on Tuesday felt like a nice trip back to normalcy. To polish off a fun few days, I went to No Regrets yesterday to get part of my left arm half sleeve colored in with World Championship Colors…

ink

 

I’ll post tattoo photos once it’s all healed.

This weekend, I’m off to Ackerman, MS for the Skool of Hard Nox 50 miler. I’ve never ridden in that area, so it should be fun to get out and discover some new trails. Speaking of discovering new trails- I’ve been in talks with David Wilson from Nuclear Sunrise. He’s going to help get me set up for some bikepacking adventures this fall. I’ve spent the last two winters dead set on racing Worlds. This year, I’m not discounting the fun of cyclocross, but I do plan on diversifying my fun into the “go to the woods for a few days” category.

August 22, 2013

Shameless Self Promotion Time

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 7:40 am

Suddenly, along with the dusting off of cyclocross bikes, something else is looming on the horizon… Interbike.

It’s the Vegas shindig where racers (among 1000s of other people) go on a door to door (or booth to booth) networking extravaganza in an attempt to make the right connections that will lead them to the sponsorship pot of gold at the end of a Vegas rainbow paved in glitter and lined in feather boas. Sometimes, the people you meet turn out to have a genuine interest, and it’s the beginning of a mutually beneficial rider-sponsor relationship (Nimblewear, for example). Other times, they smile in your face then never call back (I’ll not name names, but they know who they are). As a privateer athlete, it makes sense for me to go and shamelessly plug my ability to put forth an easily-recognizable face and promote a sponsor’s product via my mastery of both social media and of actual face-to-face interaction.

Last year, I went in with somewhat of a plan of who to talk to, etc. I quickly found out, though, that A) sometimes you need to schedule your meetings in advance, and B) it can be the more random interactions that bring about the best results. As a result, I’m going to pick a few companies to schedule an actual meeting with while also trying to get to know everyone else along the way. My goal is to pay for a little bit less of my equipment than what I do now… anything else is just glitter-filled icing on the cake.

Just to complicate things, I entered the USAC Crossvegas race. I’d originally thought it’d be fun to do the Industry race for Nimblewear, but I slept on it too long and the category filled up. I could still do the elite race, but it’d be an exercise in extreme ass-kicking. Might still be fun, though.

To-Do List:
-Update Race Resume
-Update Business Cards
-Find out the name of everyone’s marketing person
-Email the marketing people I want to meet
-Figure out how to get a CX bike to Vegas and back
-Shit, I need a plane ticket, too
-Fill flask with whiskey
-Trim mohawk
-Get WC Color fill on left arm tattoo

That should do it.

August 21, 2013

Since I’ve been back…

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:07 am

Random Stuff

-Shingles: OMG, painful. I went to the doctor on Monday, and she confirmed my self-diagnosis from earlier last week. This shit hurts- it starts with a burning, stabbing muscle/skin pain, then erupts into a rash that feels like someone took your skin off with a belt sander. The treatment is Valtrex (yes, the same stuff that’s used to treat all sorts of herpes infections) and an antiviral/lidocaine pain relief ointment. Only, I didn’t get the ointment because it costs $300 AFTER INSURANCE. So, I’m basically gutting out the extreme pain with ibuprofen and the occasional shot of whiskey. It’s terrible and frustrating, because my insurance would easily cover a large portion of the cost of an oral narcotic pain reliever, but NOT a topical, non-narcotic one. I don’t take the narcotic stuff- it’s addictive, and the side effects are terrible. I feel like it’s a conspiracy to both punish people with genital herpes and also take advantage of the elderly (who are usually the ones who suffer from shingles). Side note- when you’re 32 and you show up at the pharmacy with a Valtrex prescription, the pharmacist will assume you have genital herpes then get really embarrassed when you correct her with, “no, it’s shingles.”

-My Cannondale Supersix EVO is still f*cked: If you aren’t aware of the shitstorm that this bike has put up, start here: EVO Saga, then go here: EVO Saga Update. After that, they sent a COMPLETE BIKE out to me, promising that this one would work, so all I needed to do was take the parts off and keep the frame. It also didn’t work, and I later discovered that they’d just taken a defective frame, “run a tool on it,” and put it back together with the BS honed out bearing cups to pass off to me as a working bike. I was pretty livid, and they promised me that if I could wait until the mold was fixed, they’d send me a new production frame later in the year.

So, in the meantime, I’ve been riding a defective frame with a PF30 to GXP adapter. It works, but it also involved me disassembling one of my CX bikes for BB/Crank parts.  As you can imagine, I was excited to hear that a warranty frame came in while I was in Breck. As you can imagine, I was pretty pissed when the bearings in this frame felt just as bad as the bearings in every other frame they’d sent, AND the warranty tag even had a date on it of March 4th, 2013- It wasn’t even a new frame as they’d promised. My reaction was to call the rep that’s been helping me out (bless his heart), and calmly but sternly say that I’m done with this, it’s obvious that my standard for how a bottom bracket should function and Cannondale’s standard for how a bottom bracket should function are too far removed from each other for either of us to be happy in this situation, and that I’d like a refund.

Side Note- my personal standard is simply, “bearings feel the same installed into the frame as they do when they’re not installed into the frame”

It sucks bad, because since I employee purchased the complete bike, I’m going to end up paying far out the ass for a different bike since I’m no longer an employee at a shop. Also, aside from the bottom bracket thing, the Supersix EVO is one of the most killer bikes I’ve ever ridden. I just can’t deal with a company that’s repeatedly tried to treat me like I’m some sort of idiot by sending me half-assed fixes for the same problem.

-In “not everything is bad” news: I stopped by the Oasis Bike Shop yesterday (Go take a look at the link and come back before you keep reading). Wow… they’ve got a huge, amazing operation there. It’s literally a warehouse of bikes to distribute throughout some of the poorest communities in Memphis in exchange for community service. They also sell furniture and appliances, as Ted put it, “at a price just high enough to give a sense of ownership.”
Memphis needs all of that. If you’ve got bikes, bike parts, time, and/or money you’d like to donate, get the contact info from the link above. Heck, if you’re local, I’ll even come pick that stuff up from your house and take it there for you- just email me and let me know -andrea at brickhouseracing dot com (turn that into a normal email address… gotta keep the spambots away).

-It’s about time to break out the CX bikes!!! Local calendars: Tennessee and Arkansas. It looks like my best bet for getting to anything before the Outdoors, Inc. race in November is to hit up some Arkansas races since Jonesboro and Little Rock are a good bit closer to me than anything in Tennessee (All the middle TN stuff is >3hours away). As an added bonus- most of the Arkansas race days are set up to where I can race both the women’s race as well as the Open race. Then, of course, there’s this: Cyclocross National Championships in early January. I’m still up in the air on that one. I’d have a good shot at a decent finish in both women’s SS and Master’s races (I’d probably race elites, too, but the goal there would be more like “don’t get lapped by Katie Compton”) I’ve spent the last two winters so focused on prepping for Worlds that I’ve missed out on a lot of prime winter mountain bike riding. Then again, it IS pretty early in January…

 

That’s the rundown of what’s keeping me busy since I got home from Breck. It’s always hard to assimilate back to normal life after being gone for nearly 3 weeks. I still need to unpack, and I haven’t ridden or gone to yoga class yet. Hopefully today, I’ll get that sorted out.

August 20, 2013

Breck Epic- Stage 6 and 6.5

Filed under: Bike Racing,Out West Trip — Andrea @ 7:56 am

6.5? Yeah, more on that in a minute.

Stage 6 is a slightly more moderate stage, starting with a face-kick climb out of town, but then hooking in to Boreas Pass road, which gently slopes up to an aid station on the Continental Divide. From there, it drops down on the Gold Dust trail and loops back on another relatively gentle gravel grinder climb, back through the aid station, and down into town via Boreas Pass and some of the same roads/trails we’d climbed out of on the first day of racing. Basically, a giant figure-8.

Since Matt had helped me out so much during the week, I figured it’d be fun to meet him at the Aid Station and ride the back loop of the 8 together, treating him to one of the more fun descents and unique “channel” of the Gold Dust Trail without forcing him to traverse any stupidly steep or difficult climbs in the process. My GC lead was insurmountable, so I figured we’d just ride party pace and have a good time.

The start of stage 6 is a hammer fest up the bottom of Boreas Pass to get to the first section of trail (where the group bottlenecks and hits the granny gear). I was feeling my cross country/angry pace from stage 5 on top of the usual “6 days of racing” fatigue, so I didn’t do a good job with the hammering. I did go as fast as I felt able, though, and, as I had done before, I tried my best to grind up the steep spots rather than pushing. Eventually I made it out on to Boreas Pass and slogged my way to the top to meet Matt. I stopped to refill a bottle and he fell in with me to fly back down the trail.

We stopped once on the Gold Dust trail to help out a guy who needed a pump. On the enduro section following that, I realized that Matt may be having a bad day, because I dropped him going downhill (he’s got mad BMX kid skills, so he’s usually faster than I am). Once we were back on gravel and climbing back up to the aid station, it was confirmed- Matt was having altitude problems. Being the perennial momma bird, I stopped with him for a snack then towed him the best I could back up to the aid station. There, we handed out some Coors Lite (the PBR handup was already gone by then) and passed around a bottle of Red Stag. Matt rode off with Donna Miller and Devon Balet, and I took off to finish the course.

My favorite part of stage 6 is racing the whiskey to the bottom.

Later on that afternoon, we headed to the Quandry Grill for the awards banquet.

final

Susan and I were joined on the World Championship podium with the Angry Single Speeder. As you can see, Susan has her pinching fingers ready, and I’m hauling back for an Epic sized smack…

final2

(of course, he’d given groping permission prior to his podium appearance)

While at the Quandry, there was much discussion of Stage 7 at the Gold Pan Saloon. Matt was feeling run down and drank a Red Bull and Vodka in an attempt to rally. However, as we sat later at the Gold Pan and the room started to get crowded, it was obvious that he was fading hard. He went and sat outside while I finished my drink and socialized with some of the nice folks from Osprey, who’d showed up for the Breck Bike Week expo. I went outside and found him sweating and looking pretty miserable on the steps of the building next door. So, I called off my stage 7 and we shuffled back to the condo.

The upside?  It did make Stage 8 (packing and driving) much easier.

The question of the night at the Quandry (via Matt) was, “how much would someone have to pay you to turn around, right now, and start riding the whole thing over again, backwards?” My answer? Nothing more than food and lodging. I loved nearly every minute of the race, and, if there were a 12 day version that included riding every course backwards, I’d do it in a heartbeat (I’m not sure if Mike McCormick, the race promoter, feels the same).

Now, as the winner of the official/unofficial Singlespeed Stage Race World Championships, I’m waiting on a tattoo appointment to get one of the “flowers” of my left arm tattoo filled in with world champion colors…

jersey

August 19, 2013

Breck Epic- Stages 4 and 5

Filed under: Bike Racing,Out West Trip — Andrea @ 7:57 am

Yeah, I fell off the “write a blog post in the morning wait time” bus after stage 4. However, now that I’m home and have lots of spare time, I can elaborate on the fun of each stage…

Following stage #3, I was totally hosed (I can say that now since the race is officially over). After I’d cleaned up, I crawled into the bed and laid there, unable to sleep because my heart was thumping up behind my eyeballs. Eventually, Matt brought a pot of gluten free mac and cheese up to me, and I devoured the whole thing, straight out of the pot with a spoon. The remainder of the time before the podium/rider meeting was spent wallowing in bed and watching an afternoon COPS marathon.

So, the morning of Stage #4, I was kind of wondering what sort of legs I’d have. Last year, they’d come around well, and, luckily, this year was quite the same. After the first gut punch climbs out of town (the first climb is never fun because, being on a 32×22, I get passed by traffic on the way to the climb, then get caught in granny gear traffic on the way up), we rode a trail next to an aqueduct through Keystone. My moment of glory came when I rode all of the skinny bridges on one section of trail (ok, so they were ground level and 2 feet wide with a drop off on the left side, but I clearly remember skateboard-pushing over at least one last year).

After a steep hikey climb and the next aid station, we started the gravel road climb up to the Colorado Trail. Its pitches are just right for singlespeeding comfortably, and I fed off of the misery of all the granny geared riders as I passed them. I was starting to feel better about descending as well, and was only passed back by one person on the way down to aid #3.

The climb out of  aid 3 was a gut puncher, but I decided that instead of pacing myself and walking early, I’d start riding some of the steeper stuff- just to see what would happen. I still walked a requisite amount, but I did decide at that point in the race that I should start doing some squats and whatnot to make my legs stronger. I finished stage 4 feeling better than the day before, putting another chunk of time into my competition.

That afternoon, feeling as though my body was starting to absorb the effort instead of resisting it, I shuffled around with Matt in downtown Breckenridge, poking around in some of the touristy t-shirt shops before going to the evening riders meeting. I don’t remember what night this is from, but for the most part, Matt stayed back at the condo during the meetings, because he’d cook stuff like this:

dinner

(Buffalo burger, rice, wilted spinach & garlic, and sweet potato fries covered in cheese and bacon)

The next day’s challenge was stage #5- the Wheeler Pass stage. The course changed a little from the previous year- omitting the Peaks Trail climb and adding a climb on Miner’s Creek road instead. I was sorely tempted to try to repeat my effort from last year, where I rode & hiked through nearly the entire “peloton” to catch the front of the Open Women’s field, who’d started several waves ahead of the singlespeed women (Wheeler is the only stage to use a “wave” start, and SS Women got the short end of the start stick and went LAST into a singletrack climb). Trying to avoid a repeat of the previous year’s wave start, I asked Mike at the rider’s meeting if, since there were only two of us, he’d just toss us in with the Open Women, and he told me that’d be no problem.

That was only partially true, because, Thursday morning (which would later be dubbed “Throat Punch Thursday”), he announced that we’d start with a giant wave #3- one back from the open women. I guess he couldn’t have the singlespeed men, who were also stuck in there, getting butthurt that the SS women were one wave up? I don’t know, but at least it wasn’t in the very back.

The course started with a quick climb up the ski hill to spread things out before dropping down a little and turning onto the Burro Trail. I don’t really know what it is about the Burro Trail, but I like to hammer the hell out of it. It’s rooty as hell, kinda rocky, and there’s multiple lines up most of the pitchy spots, so if you’re in “hammer” mode, you can take the “f*ck these roots” line straight up past 3 people who are taking the “eww, roots” line off to the side. I went cross country pace up the climb prettymuch the entire time until I reached the hike-a-bike section of the Wheeler Trail. At that point, I had only gained a little time on the open women, so I decided I’d just stay in my “spot” in the hike line rather than racing through everyone like I had last year.

At the top, there was bacon. Last year, since I was racing my heart out of my chest, I hadn’t taken the bacon feed. This year, I had to make up for it in spectacular fashion, not only taking the bacon feed, but somewhat humiliating myself in the process:

Bacon

(photo credit to Eddie Clark, who later asked to make sure I didn’t mind him posting it)

The descent off of Wheeler Pass is a widow-maker. The trail above the treeline is skinny, steep, off-camber, and lined with rocks and bushes that want to grab your front wheel and send you cartwheeling into more rocks and bushes. I wrecked on that section during the Breck 100 a couple of years ago. The next part of the descent, once you’re back into the treeline, is more steep, rocky, and tricky. I wrecked there at last year’s Breck Epic when I was doing my best to out-descend Jennifer Wilson for the stage win. This year, with a huge lead for overall 1st, I decided I’d play it safe (Dax Massey, who was in the men’s SS lead, wasn’t so cautious, and had a hard wreck, breaking two ribs, puncturing his lung, and ending his week of racing). I made it down and onto the bike path without incident.

The bike path is singlespeed purgatory. I had multiple people offer to let me draft, but, with the exception of the faster downhill section, I wasn’t staying on any wheels of anyone. One guy even tried to push me, but I yelled at him right away to stop. Pushing is only a valid SS gear when it’s you, pushing your bike.

In previous years, the course went from bike path to the Peaks Trail. This year, it was re-routed (to avoid dogwalkers/hikers) to go up a terrible climb on Miner’s Creek Road before dropping to the flat part of the Peaks Trail. It was the one time this week that I cursed at hike-a-bike, mostly because the climb before was fun/rooty and on singletrack, and the Miner’s Creek re-route was exactly the opposite and gained about 500 extra feet before descending back to the Peaks Trail.

By the time I got to the Peaks Trail, I was in Angry Singlespeed mode. On the short punchy uphill or techy spots, I hammered past anyone on a granny gear with whatever was left in my legs, making short work of the final few miles of the course. Throat-Punch-Thursday, complete. All that was between me and the SSSRWC (singlespeed stage race world championship) was a somewhat easier stage 6.

 

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