Fall CX Tour- day 1

Over the last week, the planets aligned for me to leave town for the weekend and race cyclocross on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was Keep Calm and Race Cross- the race for which I’d built up the World Sickest Crosscheck. Then, on Sunday, there was a race in North Alabama where I was to meet up with someone from that area to sell Ryan’s Felt Solo mountain bike.

My plans were nearly foiled when I had a random bout of tendinitis in my left Pes anserinus. It literally started hurting when I stood up from my desk and walked across the house sometime Thursday afternoon. After a day of ibuprofen and kinesiotape on Friday, I decided I’d go race anyway since it wasn’t pedaling that’d made it hurt in the first place. So, Saturday morning, I left before Sunrise to head to Nashville.

Nashville racing is fun, because there’s a generous handful of fast women out there (8 of us in the W1/2/3 race- “large” by Tennessee standards). The course was very technical with only a couple of extended “power” sections. There was also a beer tent full of hecklers and a steep/off-camber spot with more hecklers and a doughnut hole/feather boa handup.

Tons of fun from the start- I got the holeshot and started up the switchbacked hill where the beer tent was. I didn’t get in the most thorough warm-up, so I didn’t go to plaid straight from the gun. At the top of the hill, a small group of us had strung everyone else out across the course. I zoomed down the sweeping turns on the other side and over to the steep/off-camber spot. Once I was clear of it and heading up the pavement/grass to the next techy section, I looked back, and everyone was gone.

I cleared the run-up and, as I was re-mounting, heard the run-up hecklers yelling for the next woman behind me. Still a close race- I was starting to get my legs going and kept the hammer down. Soon after that spot, there was a fast downhill section and a super tricky turn. I came into it way too hot and, as I grabbed my brakes a little too hard, I caused the front one to shudder, which made me lose front tire traction and bite the dirt HARD. I think my bike came out from under me almost endo-style, because even though it was a left-hand turn, I banged my right elbow and shin and twisted my right shifter around a little. Luckily, the bike and I were serviceable enough to keep racing. I wasn’t the only one to hit the dirt there- Jess Owings, who was nice enough to let me crash at her place that night- went down hard on her left shoulder, causing her to DNF the race.

The last part of the course allowed for a clear view of who was behind you. When I looked back at that point, there wasn’t anyone close. I put it in cruise control. I tend to not take chances as much once I’m out in front. I did, however, have a run-in with a thorn bush on the next to last lap- there was a small turtle flipped over near the apex of a fast right-hand sweeper. I looked down at it and made an effort to not run it over, and by the time I looked up, I was headed into the bushes. They were, by far, some of the most vicious thorn bushes I’ve ever encountered, and I ended up with blood and plant parts stuck over the entire left side of my body as well as in my chin. Wildly distracted, I dismounted at the steep part I’d been riding easily on every lap and ran up the hill, brushing thorns out of my arms, legs, and face.

It slowed me down enough that Kat Williams started to close down the gap on me. I got my isht together and picked the pace back up before the last lap, where I ended up with a beer handup, feather boa, and somehow managed to stay almost a minute ahead of her. FTW!

After the adrenaline and ibuprofen wore off, my sore knee was still tweaked-feeling, so I decided to bail on the singlespeed race. Instead, I headed to the beer tent to heckle. The guy who later won the singlespeed race (tragically hip, in the background of the photo) convinced me to do the 2 lap open race. Going from beer:30 back to racing isn’t really my thing, but it was a good time, nonetheless.

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By that time, the cops said we should leave the park…

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I followed Jess and her husband Mike to a killer burger joint, where I called-off the beer drinking for the afternoon/evening and had a delicious house-made mint soda instead. Then we headed back to their place to chill and watch some football. Perfect finish to a great day of racing and hanging out with friends…

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The Bigger Picture

I’ve come to the realization that, outside of my 10-20 hours of training per week, communicating with/promoting sponsors/potential sponsors, and taking care of an occasionally vigorous schedule of domestic duties that include (but aren’t limited to) cooking, cleaning, and wrenching on bikes, I’ve got enough spare time that I can use it to try and make a difference somewhere important to my community.

As most of you have noticed, I’ve somewhat recently started getting in to more trail work. It’s a product of always wanting to do trail work combined with finally having someone to do it with. Nothing against the local group that typically plans/executes work days (they did a huge work day last weekend and cleared a couple of miles worth of corridor), but they’re usually working on Saturday mornings, which is when I’m usually racing or training.

To expand on that, I’ve joined the review team that’s being formed to plan the rebuilding of the abused/worn out Tour de Wolf trail in Shelby Farms park near my house. The trail was once the site of a huge, national-level mountain bike race back in the late 90’s/early 2000s. Now, it’s the trail that everyone in the city of Memphis rides/walks/runs. It’s extremely high-volume, and, in many areas, the trail is not built in a way that is resilient to either the weather and/or the volume of use. So, later this month, I’m going to the first of the meetings to make plans for restoring the trail.

Also in my plans is a similar call to action for the Syllamo trails. While they may be nearly 4 hours away from Memphis, the Syllamo trails (an IMBA-designated “epic” trail) are where I’ve effectively learned how to ride technical terrain. Unfortunately, given its remote location and the continuing encroachment of logging operations, the small, dedicated group of us who have been trying to do trail maintenance are grossly overfaced. Not only are there the usual needs of maintaining 50+ miles of trail corridor, the loggers are destroying parts of the trail by clear-cutting them, running over trail tread with heavy equipment, and leaving logging debris down the length of the trail area they clear. Even when the debris is cleared and the trail re-established, the logged-off areas become an impassable jungle in the spring/summer.

About two weeks ago, it was reported that they clear-cut part of one of my favorite sections of trail. I’ve spent hours- literally- riding that one section, because it’s incredibly difficult, but it’s totally clean-able. I was somewhat devastated. Then, I decided to stop being devastated and start trying to fight back. I talked to the others about what we could do for help and, last Sunday morning, while I was sitting in the woods waiting for the High School race to start, sent an email plea to IMBA about our need for assistance.

They were very quick to respond (one of the guys in the Trail Cleaners group had recently met/told the new regional IMBA guy about the problems of the trail), and after a lot of group emails and whatnot, a few of us are meeting with the Steve, the regional IMBA director, and Jay, the Sylamore Ranger District Natural Resources Specialist at the USFS office a week from today.

I’m not writing this post to brag and say, “HEY EVERYONE LOOK AT ALL THIS STUFF I’M DOING.” I’m writing it more to profess my commitment to acting rather than just talking. Anyone can sit around and complain or be upset and hope that someone else does something to change it. I know, because I’ve done it myself. It’s easier than action. Way easier. However, taking action yourself rather than waiting for someone else to do it is the fastest route to change.

Fall Photo Tour- Downtown and Back

This fall, since I’m not vying for a cyclocross world championship, my coach has me taking a different approach to training with long “fun” rides… the first of which was Tuesday this week. I decided to ride the 3 greenlines in town  with a stop downtown at Mud Island to take a picture or two of the Mississippi River.

It started with the Shelby Farms Greenline…

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Which was fun, because at 10am on a weekday, there’s almost no one out there.

I then cut through some sketchy neighborhoods to Overton Park, where I rode on a lot of the trails, though I have no idea which ones, because it’s a relatively small area, they all look the same, and there are next to no markings out there. They’re very suited to a cyclocross bike, though, so it was a good time. (Click HERE for an Overton Park map)

I stopped and refilled my bottles, then found my way out to the Vollentine-Evergreen Greenline…

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…also deserted at that time of day.

Once I was at the end of that, it was mostly bike lane until I reached Downtown and crossed the bridge to Mud Island, where I rolled around like a tourist and took some photos before crossing back over and riding down Main Street.

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We got trolleys and shit.

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There’s no way out of the south side of Downtown that isn’t through a ghetto. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good ride…

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I rode back on a slightly southern route through the University of Memphis and up Shady Grove road to the Germantown Greenline. I was hungry by then, so no stopping to take photos.

It looks like there’s going to be some killer cyclocross racing this weekend in Nashville. I plan on making a road trip out of it and race the Keep Calm race on Saturday, spend the night in Nashville, then a Bamacross race on Sunday. It’ll be a nice break from the Memphis cyclocross frustrations. Also, I’ll get to race the singlespeed CX bike for the first time since I re-built it.

I am excite. Now, it’s time to get out and do some soggy intervals.

 

Crossroads Clash CX #2 and Something Much Bigger

Disclaimer- I don’t want to sound like I’m slamming on the guys who are sacrificing their Saturday morning to put on a race for the cycling community. This event was more of a culmination of my overall frustration at the general attitude of 90% of Memphis Cyclists that cyclocross is just some silly obstacle course that doesn’t really matter. There’s a USA Cycling rule book with course guidelines. There’s a USA Cycling official at the race. There are a few very experienced, very accomplished cyclocross racers in town who would be happy to help create a great cyclocross course. With the exception of the Outdoors Inc cyclocross race in a couple of weeks, none of those resources are being implemented by the people putting on any of the races in Memphis (not just the guys running this race).

Saturday’s course was frustrating because some parts of the course were just dangerous. The worst was a loose-over hard sharp gravel downhill sweeper into an amphitheater. It was badly washed out, bumpy, and edgy with deep grass hiding more piles of loose gravel and holes near the bottom. I was at a loss- there was also broken glass and other spots on course rooty enough that I would’t have been surprised to see at least one broken handlebar or cracked rim at any point during the races. Most of the guys I talked to gave me the, “you’re a pro mountain biker, why are you so worried?” line. Ya know, maybe that means I value the well-being of myself and my equipment more than others…

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Maybe I just want to see cyclocross- a sport which I love very much- taken a little more seriously.

Luckily for everyone, Matt showed up with a shovel and rake. He was able to at least knock the sharp edges off of the washouts and make one slightly less sketchy line through it. Despite my frustrations, I raced hard and got in some good training. I’ve been working hard on my pacing this season, and this time, I kept all of my lap times within 10 seconds of each other.

Moving on to something much better, and much more important…

I was considering the possibility of driving to Little Rock after the race on Saturday to race a night race and a Sunday morning race. However, I decided I wanted to stick around for something 100x more rewarding than any personal pursuit of training or racing- the Tennessee High School Cycling League mountain bike race at Herb Parson’s Lake.

A while back, Chad Terry (owner of Bike World, purveyor of Nimblewear USA, and coach of the Collierville HS MTB Team) contacted me about getting help with volunteer collecting for the upcoming race. I posted here and everywhere else on the internet and contacted Gu about getting some volunteer schwag to encourage locals to help out.

Matt and I drove out to the trail yesterday morning and worked as course marshals during the girls’ race.

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When I saw the girl leading the varsity race pass by, it made me teary-eyed.

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…as did watching many of the other racers. I can’t express how happy/warm/fuzzy it makes me to see young women racing their hearts out. It was just such a wonderful experience to help support people who are encouraging more kids to get out in the woods and compete. If you ever get a chance to even just watch a high school event in your area, I’d highly recommend it. Though, it’s even more fun if you get involved.

Osprey Rev 12

I mentioned back during my Colorado trip that I’d stopped by Osprey headquarters while I was hanging out at Lauren Hall’s place in Dolores. While I was there, I got one of their brand-new Rev 12 packs (which will also come in two smaller sizes). I used it once in the Breck Epic (during a stage that had a long gap between aid stations), and, since then, I’ve used it for 3-4 hour mountain bike rides, trail runs, an adventure race, and lots of trail work. So far, I’ve been very happy with it…

I’ll admit, I’m a fan of racing without a pack whenever possible. It’s lighter, bottles are faster to refill, and, especially in the summer, you can off-load heat from your back when you’re not wearing one. However, if you’re gonna ride a long way without opportunity to refill on water, or if you just need to carry stuff, you gotta have a good pack.

While the shape may look a little like the Camelbak LR packs that are made to be worn low around the hips, this one is made to be worn higher up like a traditional pack. I’ll admit, I was a little wary of that, because I’ve had my share of neck & shoulder pain from that style of pack. I became a fan, though, because if you take a close look at all the straps, you’ll see they’re all stretchy and form fitting. The result is a much closer, “part of you” ‘fit than any other packs I’ve worn. Since it really hugs your body, it doesn’t budge when you ride/run, and its weight it diffused to more than just your shoulders.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a Camelback LR pack rest on the back of your head while you’re going down a steep hill…

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I’ve always liked getting a pack with a little extra storage/water space. Materials are so light now that the weight penalty is usually small, and it gives you the option of running light or packing for an all-day adventure. This pack has some good easy-access pockets on the hip belt and shoulder straps. I keep my food and anything else I may need to get to while riding in the hip pockets and use the shoulder pockets to hold trash. The left shoulder pocket has a buckle that lets it flip down (if you’ve got your phone in it, the plastic is touch-screen compatible), and the inner right pocket can unzip and expand to hold a water bottle (I’ve found it more helpful for holding my glasses when they fog up and I take them off). I use the outer elastic cord to hold my Silky Sugoi saw (in its scabbard) when I’m doing trail work.

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There are three pockets in the main part of the pack. One holds a 2.5L/85oz reservoir- the newest style one that came in this pack is baffled so that it stays flat instead of teardrop-shaped. It’s also got a quick-disconnect hose at the top so it’s really easy to refill (I’ve found it to be fastest if I hang it off of a chair like in the first photos).

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There’s also a small middle pocket, which I keep a spare tube in, and a large outer pocket, where my pump lives. At the TNAC adventure race, I carried my running shoes in there with room to spare (the baffles in the new reservoir make the outer pocket super roomy all the way down).

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Oh yeah, the bite valve is pretty trick, too. If you turn it straight out (like in the photo) or back, it’s “off,” and when you turn it 90 degrees, it’s “on.” It also has a strong magnet that attracts cats and holds it to the chest strap.

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If I could change anything about the pack, it’d be to tighten up the two mesh angled pockets between the body and the hip straps (you can kinda see them in the top 2 photos). They’re easy to get to when you’re riding, but they’re pretty loose, so small stuff can fall out of them. If you stuffed a jacket or a bulky pair of gloves in them, you’d be fine, but they don’t securely hold on to things like gel flasks or big air cartridges. If I’m trail riding, I’d tend to stop and take that stuff off, anyway, so it’s not a big deal to stuff them into the outer pocket.

Of the packs I’ve used, this one definitely fits the best. Once it’s on, it fits like another piece of clothing and doesn’t shift or jostle or bother me like anything else I’ve worn. It’s just “there” with all the stuff you want right where you need it.

Anyone want a cat?

Road Bike Solution

If you follow along on Twitter or Facebook (links over to the right), you have noticed my excited postings yesterday when I had just talked with Chris from Cysco Cycles. Earlier in the year, when I was in the middle of my frame drama with Cannondale, he’d contacted me about building something custom if the Cannondale thing didn’t work out. Fast forward 6 months, and I’m shopping for a frameset and realizing that the frames that have most everything that I want in both geometry, stiffness, and handling characteristics are pretty expensive, and all of them had tiny, nit-picky things about them that I didn’t like (fit not exactly right, BB standard that would mean changing cranks, etc). I was literally laying in bed half asleep, thinking about road bikes, when I remembered the conversation I’d had with Chris, and realized that I could get EXACTLY what I wanted in a custom bike for the same cost as some of the frames I’d been running through my head.

So, late last week,I emailed him, and, over the weekend, we started the planning process. By yesterday (Monday) evening, I had the 3rd draft of a frame…

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As we’ve talked about on Just Riding Along, if you know exactly what you want, the custom process is magical. I’m getting a frame with the exact stack and reach measurements that I like, an oversized downtube & swoopy seatstays (like this one featured in Bike Rumor a while back: Custom Stiff Yet Comfortable Road Frame), oversized chainstays, and a seat mast & raw ti finish like this bike. We’re also throwing around the idea of some extra bottle bosses, but they may be too difficult to squeeze in on such a small frame. If I wanted, I could have full-run housing mounts instead of normal cable stops, but I’m not intent on full-run housing for a road bike like I am for an off-road bike. It’s nice to know that the option is there, though.

Talking with Chris is great, because he sounds almost as enthused as I am, and, as an added bonus, we share feelings on the importance of standover and Chris King components. We’ve got a few more small details to hash out before the final draft & deposit, but it should be a go by the end of the week. I’m excited to not only get exactly the bike I want, but also have the cool factor of supporting a regional small business and having a gorgeous, one-of road bike.

 

 

Cyclocross and Hard Labor

My weekend consisted of about 1.5 hours of riding, but left me sore and tired nonetheless.

Saturday morning, I packed up and drove to nearby Shelby Farms Park to race our newest local cyclocross series- Crossroads Clash. It was fun, though I don’t have much of a report for it- one other local gal showed up, and she’s pretty new to CX, so there wasn’t much of a “Clash” to speak of. She is, however, very enthusiastic and starting out on a steel singlespeed, very much like I did. I concentrated on pacing myself since I tend to go to plaid for the first 10 minutes and then fade. It worked well, and, despite an early washout/chain drop on a greasy turn, I ended up 3rd overall in the “B” race.

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After the race, I watched Ryan, who had a decent go despite his increase in work/decrease in training in the past few months. Matt showed up on his mountain bike with a noise-maker and some dollar bills, and a good time was had by all…

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Afterward, we cleaned up, ate some lunch, and packed up to do a little trail work. Matt and I ended up pruning privet off of the Wolf River Trail for about 3 hours before hiking back to the car. We decided that that the hiking in/out thing was the only bad part about trail work, so Matt devised a solution for our “long haul” on Sunday:

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My original plan for the weekend was to drive to Land Between the Lakes, KY after the CX race for Sunday morning’s Race to the Canal. Unfortunately, a bunch of asshole, sleazebag politicians with only their own self interests in mind screwed that up for everyone. So, Matt had the idea to do hours of trail work equal to the number of hours we would have raced/driven. Ryan, unfortunately, had to leave for a 2-3 week work venture, so he was unable to attend the trail party.

Sunday morning, after large quantities of coffee, eggs, and uncured-organic bacon, Matt and I loaded shovels, bikes, a rake, saw, and loppers then drove out to the Greenline trailhead to ride in and tackle some of the worst mudholes on the Yellow Trail of the Wolf River Trail System. Since the yellow trail is the sandiest and fastest-draining of all the trails nearby, it sees the most abuse in the winter time (when we tend to see more rain & less trail-drying warmth). The places that do hold water have turned in to 10-15ft wide mud pits as trail traffic rides around the outsides of them, continually eroding the edges and making them larger. Trails in many other areas of the U.S. have been shut down for less…

…but here, it’s considered “the usual spots,” and people ride anyway. My stance isn’t popular with a large portion of the MTB community, but it’s one I stand by, given the eyesore that mudholes create and the amount of effort it takes to fix them.

Matt and I used our previously successful “divide and conquer” strategy. We scouted out the high side of the holes then set off into the woods to find an appropriately sized piece of wood to create an “edge” for our dirt. The other side of the hole gets filled with privet clippings and branches in order to close it off and allow the woods to grow back in to the area. We then fill the high size with enough dirt to bring it up to the level of the surrounding trail. The two spots we fixed yesterday took about 5 hours worth of shoveling…

Sorry ahead of time for the lack of before shots, but if you just look for the piles of privet in the shots below, you can see the extent of the holes we filled in.

This one was the deepest, and will require the most upkeep because the hill on one side of the trail drains straight into it. We sunk in a couple of large limbs on that side to act as a water bar and diffuse some of the runoff. If you look at the 1st photo, you’ll see that the hole spans from the left side of the frame to the large tree on the right:

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This second one was as big as the edge of our dirt to the other side of the pile of privet you can see in most of the photos. Our work also included the cleaning off of a conveniently-placed roller on one side…

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Of course, neither one of these fixes is a perfect 12″ wide ribbon of singletrack, but, given the expanse of the existing holes, they’re a step in the right direction. Our prolific spring/summer growing season will take them both in a few inches every year. There are several more almost as bad holes/wide spots very close to those, and each one will likely take a couple hours’ worth of digging and engineering. However, it was a huge step towards getting the yellow trail fortified for the upcoming winter.

 

“The John Daly of…”

Other than some cyclocross intervals in the rain this morning, things have been pretty low-key around the house. I’ve made the executive decision that, while I will race the regional CX stuff this fall/winter, I’m going to focus slightly more on mountain biking- both for fun and for 2014 preparation. The training for Worlds over the last two winters was very good, but, on the other hand, I feel like I missed out on some prime southeastern singletrack adventures in the process. So, it’ll be a year off from serious CX, and I’ll re-evaluate next year when Nationals will be a quick 10 hours away in Austin.

So, in lieu of anything else important, I present to you my favorite timekiller from back when I was in high school and rode horses:
My friends and I would always laugh at one guy who could turn a killer round in the Grand Prix area in spite of how he and his horses were notoriously dumpy and ungroomed, and how he was highly likely drunk at any time of day. I coined the phrase, “The John Daly of Grand Prix.” Since then, I’ve carried the game of  “X is the John Daly of Y” to any and every sport or hobby in which I’ve participated.  Now you can play along at home. Pick your favorite sport, then pick the participant who is most likely to be fat, drunk, and unruly while still kicking everyone ass in the process. Enjoy.

Tennessee Adventure Challenge

I made the “quick” (by my road trip standards) 5.5 hour drive to Knoxville on Friday afternoon. Observation of the drive? Driving in and around Nashville is quickly becoming like driving around Atlanta, except more pretentious and with no good rap music to listen to on the local radio.  I still made pretty good time, though, and I tracked down the race HQ location (literally, tracked it down, because the TNAC website just listed it as “Outdoor Knoxville” and gave this link: http://www.outdoorknoxville.com/) I figured out that it was the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center by looking at the information for the bigger 30-hour Adventure Race Championship that was being held concurrently with the smaller “Challenge” race.

After confirming that it was, indeed where the race would start, I headed over to the Urban Wilderness trails to spin my legs and get a lay of the land. I rode some trails around the Mead’s Quarry area (if you’re inclined to look at the map). It’s a pretty sweet trail system- a good variety of rocky, flowy, and well-built trails. Once I was finished, I found my way over to FullFace Kenny’s parents’ house. They were nice enough to let me stay in their basement (and, by “basement,” I mean, “lowest floor of the house that’s actually the same size as the main floor of my house, but with a lakeside porch/view on the downhill side”). They’re super sweet people, and their dog is adorable.

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Saturday morning, I woke up, packed, and went downtown to get breakfast and hang around ’til start time. When check-in opened, we were given n Urban Wilderness trail map and instructions (which turned out to only show half of the checkpoints, so we received full-sized maps about 10 minutes before the race start).  Map (terrier added for scale… checkpoints- red for land/blue for paddling, start, and finish- green & yellow, approximated with MSPaint):

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Then, we were off! The fun thing about adventure racing is that you can gather checkpoints in almost any order you want (for this one, the river paddling section was  last, because one of the paddling checkpoints was listed on the instructions as the “final” one). So, sticking with what I knew best, I decided to go to the easternmost area where I’d ridden the day before. It looked like a couple of other teams had the same idea (all of the other entries were either teams or male solo. I was the only solo female).

I quickly found the first two, but overshot the third one by at least half a mile. Once I backtracked and found it, I navigated my way to the forth, then the road, and hammered to the nearby quarry for the standup paddle board and running checkpoints. One of the two teams that had gone in my direction seemed to be a little ahead of me, and the other was generally moving at about the same speed (I may have been physically faster, but they knew the area much better, so they didn’t need to stop and study their map to figure out where to go next). Once I paddled and ran, it was off into unfamiliar territory to look for the next 3 at Fort Dickerson park and the final 2 that looked like a bluff and an overlook along the river.

Luckily, the route I took to Ft. Dickerson led me directly to an overlook where I collected the first of those checkpoints. Then, I rode up the park road to try and find the trail with the next checkpoint. It was a dead end (and the team I was back & forth with was trying to figure it out, too), but I noticed on the map where I’d gone wrong, and saw that there should be a gas line field that’d lead me straight down (steep! Woohoo!) to the other 2 points. Luckily, it’d been recently cut, and I balled down it, Enduro™ style to the quarry-lake at the bottom, where there was a guy with a clipboard and a checkpoint punch on his belt. He said that all I had to do to get the checkpoint was to jump in the water.

P.S. The water is about 30 feet below where the guy is standing. Here’s a link to a video of the area… I think where we jumped is the first “main” one that he shows at about 1:20 in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR0k-90L5KU

I took my shoes, socks, helmet, and backpack off then hurled myself, flailing my arms & legs like a chicken, off the cliff. Once I climbed out, I re-dressed, and set out to find the final Ft. Dickerson checkpoint (slightly hidden in a bend in the trail) before going to the last, westernmost 2. I had a good lead on the guys I’d been around for most of the day (they’d overshot the trail checkpoint), but they caught up to me when I was trying to figure out how to get to the spot that looked like it was right along the river that the instructions simply called “cave.” The three of us wound up riding circles in a parking lot for an apartment complex when I noticed that there were tire tracks straight into the kudzu on the west side. I pointed it out, and we eventually found a trail that took us to a riverside cave entrance, where there was another person with a clipboard and a checkpoint punch. She said to go in the cave, find the pumpkin, and bring back a piece of candy to get the checkpoint.

The three of us went into the cave at the same time, but I realized very quickly that I needed a light. Apparently, that was added last-minute to the mandatory equipment list, but I wasn’t getting pre-race emails, so I didn’t know. Luckily, one of the guys let me use his, and I used my roadie negotiating skills- if I use your light and ride with you guys to the paddling transition area (local knowledge of roads would make it a lot faster), I’ll shimmy through the ~12″ wide, 8ft long gap in the cave walls and bring out enough candy for both of us. Boom!

Once we left the cave, there was a quick climb to the nearby overlook for the final checkpoint before we went back across the river to finish with the paddling portion of the race. We arrived to the put-in spot to find one other team already there, looking flustered. There were several canoes and PFDs by the water, but no kayaks (for solo racers) and, the bigger problem… no paddles. The 5 of us just stood around with the lady who was in charge of that area, who was also at a loss. Eventually, one of the head race guys showed up, cursing into his phone, and trying to figure out if he could get some paddles to that spot.

He couldn’t, and he ended up cancelling the paddling section and calling the race as we’d arrived at that point. We rode up to the finish line and collected our finishers awards, and I booked it back to Memphis. Disappointing? Yeah, a little. However, the rest of the race was a ton of fun. The cliff jumping and caving was really exciting, and the whole “choose your own adventure” format of collecting checkpoints is really fun. The people who put the race on are planning on doing more of them next year, and the shorter, less-competitive, less gear-requiring, less orienteering-based, “challenge” race is an excellent way to get into the fun of adventure racing without the money spent and sleep deprivation.
My only criticism for the whole thing is that running any sort of event concurrently with a 30-hour adventure race seems like waaaaay too much for the race crew to handle. They were obviously sleep-deprived (the 30-hour race had started early the previous morning) and stressed from issues that’d occurred within that race. Totally understandable, given the race format. If they had a whole extra set of volunteers/director for the extra event, it’d likely work out fine, but asking the same people who’ve been awake for >24hrs to run a separate event at the same time as the bigger one seems like biting off more than they can chew.

Hopefully it works out well for them next year- they made mention of the series expanding and even coming to Memphis, which would be a fun time. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and would definitely make it an off-season habit if more of that type of low-stress event were offered in my general vicinity.

Hey, Memphis…

The Tennessee High School Mountain bike league is racing at Herb Parson’s Lake on October the 27th (including our local team from Collierville High School).

I’m trying to round up a few helpers for the weekend (October 26th and 27th). They need volunteers on Saturday starting around 8:00am to help with setup and course marking, then 8:00am on Sunday for course marshaling, time-keeping, etc. As an added bonus- everyone who volunteers will receive some free stuff from Gu Energy Labs!

If you can work any part or either/both days, please send me your name, phone number, and when you’re available via email: andrea at brickhouseracing.com so I can put you on the list.