TSE Nostalgia

I can’t help but get a little nostalgic this week about the Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Race. It’s happening right now, and, as a lot of the friends I made during that week are posting their pictures from this year’s Epic, I’m prepping to go on a different adventure. That week of racing was one of those experiences that changed little bits of me in all sorts of ways. If you weren’t reading back then (or if you’re bored and want to hear some race reports) you can visit the links on the late XXCmag site by clicking here: TSE 2013 Audio Reports

The quick and dirty is, I had an excellent first 5 days, which landed me a lead in the Enduro Competition and, on day 5, a Stage win and a boost from 5th in GC to 2nd (the NoTubes train derailed and all 4 of them went extremely off-course).

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Unfortunately for me, that was also the time when my body decided that it was done for the week. Stages 6 and 7 would prove to be two days of time-bleeding death marches that’d put me back into my 5th place spot. Included in those days were a bad wreck in some rocks early in stage 6 (in addition to my body refusing to function normally) and, in stage 7, Amanda Carey and I wrecking when we side-bumped each other as we both went for the singletrack hole shot.

Of course, overcoming the physical difficulties of the week made me a physically and mentally stronger racer. However, the equally (if not more) enlightening and life-altering experience was the sudden change in someone who I’d considered to be one of my best friends. If you’ve been around a while, you’ll know that, before TSE, Amanda Carey and I were good friends. We shared houses/cabins, split a room at my first Interbike (she gave me lots of good sponsor-hunting advice in the process), and she was, without a doubt, my biggest influence to make the leap to cycling/racing as a full-time practice.
However, After stage 5 (the off-course day), things got a little weird. No biggie, I thought… her day sucked, and everyone’s nerves are raw. Then, stage 7 happened. I was in 4th place GC (behind Amanda and Sue), just a handful of seconds ahead of Vicki Barclay. When we started, it was elbows out off the line. I was on the wheels of Amanda and Vicki as the course narrowed from gravel to 2-track, when, as we approached the first singletrack, Amanda pulled off to let Vicki in first. As I was trying to pass Amanda to stay with Vicki, she was diving in to the trail, and we ran into each other, shoulder to shoulder, and fell over into the bushes. Amanda fell on me, twisting both me saddle and my handlebars, and, once I stopped and straightened everything out, the NoTubes Train was long gone, and I lost my time back to 5th for the GC.
She was livid, yelling at me about that not being a “pro” move, and, despite my post-race apologies, she’d later tell Cycling News in her post-race/GC win interview that I’d “t-boned” her into the bushes. Since then, we’ve only talked in passing.

That sucked in all sorts of ways.

So, yes, to describe my Trans-Sylvania experience as life-altering would be pretty accurate. However, even life-altering events that aren’t “good” will usually make you a better person overall, so, I have no regrets, and, the race as a whole is pretty awesome, so I’d like to go back sometime in the future. That was one of my best performances against a field of exceptional bike racers, and, despite losing a best friend in the process, I gained a wealth of new friends, great experiences, and lots of fun memories that are all flooding back as I see this year’s photos and reports all over the internets.

Odds and Ends

As Kanza is drawing near, I’ve taken to making a few “last minute” tweaks to the Cysco. I’d originally purchased a Problem Solvers EBB 46 for use in the PF30 bottom bracket. My thinking was that it’d make swapping between singlespeed and geared one step easier. However,when I installed it the first time, a couple of things threw up some red flags- number one was the number of various spacers and wave washers (and a reducer shim for the NDS to make a GXP crank work) required to fit various cranks into the bottom bracket.
Once I’d read through the instructions and picked my necessary spacers out of the stack that came with the EBB, I went to install it, and realized something worse than spacers… it’s an incredibly loose fit in the bottom bracket of the frame. My first instinct was to double check that the frame itself wasn’t out of tolerance, and a quick test-fit of a standard PF30 BB revealed that the tolerance of the frame was perfect. The EBB is, literally, so loose in the frame that it rattles around until you torque its two bolts. I torqued it to spec, and, as you’d expect, it started making noise on the first ride.

I can tolerate a little EBB noise on a singlespeed. I’m not one of those people who is super OCD about it. However, I’m not going to listen to it on every single ride for the rest of that bike’s life. So, I put a Wheels Manufacturing PF30 Outboard Bearing BB in it, and it’s totally silent and happy. I may end up trying the newest PF30EBB offering from Niner at some point (if it’s ever actually available as an aftermarket part), because I’m not at all impressed with the Problem Solvers one. The best I can say about it is that it didn’t slip.

Also in the “tweak” category is a ti seatpost. I’ve been waiting on a backordered Niner RDO post. During my time with no RDO post, I’ve been using a standard Thompson, and I’ve found it to be noticeably less comfortable than a carbon post. So, since Poolboy Matt was wanting a Ti post for his bike, he bought a Salsa Regulator post, and is letting me borrow it through Kanza. When I swap that out, I’m also going to change to a different (but equally as tested over long distances) saddle- the getting-hard-to-find Selle Italia Max Flite Trans Am. I have a couple that I’ve been hoarding for situations just like this.

While I’m waiting on that, I’ll do a final test fit of everything today and make sure that all the bags and lights and whatnot can go where they need to go.  Stuff is generally falling into place well- I’ve got my nutrition dialed (mostly Gu Energy Roctane drink, gels, and Chomps, with additional Bonk Breaker Bites thrown in for some solid/easily digestible calories). I’m also using Gu Brew blueberry pomegranate (2x the sodium than regular Gu Brew) as a means of loading up on sodium before (and likely during) the race. Since reading this article from Outside Magazine, I decided to give extra sodium a shot, and, it seems that even on the longer/hotter rides I’ve done, my ability to stay hydrated and keep sweating is noticeably improved.  We’ll see how it goes when the distance and heat are multiplied.

Weekend Shenanigans

It’s been a busy past few days for sure. As I explained in my previous post, I stayed home from Syllamo in order to train in a hard but less brutal environment. It wasn’t a bad choice, because with a several-hour deluge immediately preceding the race start, the course conditions were characteristically treacherous. After having a hard time with the wet rocks and a wheel-swallowing rut, Ryan ended up with a DNF at the first aid station, and Matt gutted it out for 4th in his age category, finally getting his “rock” (the large, engraved stone awards) after 6 years of competing. Luckily, all Ryan took home was a few scratches and a flat spot in his rear rim.

Since Ryan and Matt were gone Friday evening, I decided to go over to my parents’ house and make dinner for them since my mom was still just mostly recovered from surgery (and I owed her home-made ice cream since I’d told her that my black eye came from a crowded yoga class). I started the day by dropping by Jack’s Farm to pick up some duck eggs in order to make the ice cream extra-rich. While I was there, he gave me a quick tour…

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I can already tell I’ll be really sad in the winter when there’s no delicious fresh vegetables from the farm.

Dinner was pretty boss. I roasted some chicken thighs to go with turnip greens and baked sweet potatoes.

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Mom, Dad, and Penny:

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Saturday morning was chilly and damp. It was a perfect morning for going to a yoga class to stretch out and pass the time before everything dried out a little. Afterward, I came home for lunch and intervals before going down to Southaven to meet John and the other guys from the gym to watch the Bellator MMA fights. The fights were fun to watch, though the best part may have been when the lady in front of Trey suddenly turned around and threatened to beat him up if he touched her hair again (I’m somewhat certain that it was getting caught in the seam of the seat cushion and that Trey wasn’t actually touching it).

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That may be the latest I’ve stayed up in more than a year.

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Sunday morning was another wet/rainy one. Luckily, it cleared quickly, and I started on my long ride (6 hours) around 9. I’ve got a nice route that hits several short pieces of gravel. All of them are road bike-able, but I figured I’d go out on the new Cysco and get some more time on it before Kanza. A quick report for anyone in the area that likes gravel roads- Braden Road, despite what the signs say about the bridge being out, is clear, and the bridge is fixed:

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Lambert Road is OK, though as you get further east, there are a couple of wet low spots and a couple of chunky spots. It warmed my heart to see road bike tracks out there ahead of my own:

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There is also a fence that’s partially down near the east end. I navigated cautiously around a pregnant cow who was wandering around, doing cow stuff:

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The other gravel I hit (Wilson, Fowler, and Mockingbird) were in good shape and mostly hardpack. Despite stopping for a few photos as well as two water refill breaks, I rode pretty hard for the duration. The last couple of hours were pretty painful, though I found myself tapping in to the power still left in my muscles despite the hurt. I spent the remainder of the evening either eating or sitting on the couch using the Elevated Legs.

Now, it’s on to tapering. I’ll have a little intensity sprinkled throughout the next couple of weeks, but the training for Kanza is now fully loaded into my legs. If all goes as planned, I’ll feel like bending cranks by about Wednesday next week.

 

Syllamo, out. Kanza, in.

With the Dirty Kanza 200 looming 2 weeks into the horizon, I knew that participating in Syllamo’s Revenge would be somewhat risky, recovery-wise. It’s not that I couldn’t be fully recovered in 2 weeks time as much as it’s very likely not enough time to both recover and bounce back to feeling awesome for a couple of rides in the week leading up to Kanza. So, Coach and I decided it’s in my best interest to stay home. While I’ll still train pretty hard this weekend, it won’t be the same brutal effort required to race my face off at Syllamo.

Speaking of Kanza, I’ve got my Cysco all built and ready to rock.

Ryan, a local videographer, shot a time lapse of the build. Should turn out pretty cool:

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Seen here with a more braaaap/trailworthy front tire rather than the skinnier one I’ll use for gravel:

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I’ve been a little busy for a full-on high quality photo shoot of my own, but it’ll happen soon. The bike is (surprise!) exactly what I was hoping for- it handles/pedals exactly like my O.G. Air 9 carbon CYA bike and includes some improvements, like a tad more reach, a press-in headset, three bottle cage mounts, 142×12 rear end, and a skinny seatpost (I have a Thompson post on there now- waiting for the Niner “unstiff” RDO post to come back in stock). I’m really stoked on it, to say the least.

As everyone should know by now, I’ve had a little bit of a side-project going on since around December last year…
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This is relevant to the post I made last week about something exciting happening in July, though I still can’t give out details because the details themselves are still being worked out. I’m having a great time with mixed martial arts- despite the occasional bumps and bruises…

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I have to ‘fess up now since my parents read this, too- I did tell my mom a little white lie yesterday. She had a minor surgery, and, when I went to visit her, I told her I sustained such and injury during a crowded yoga class. Sorry, mom. I’ll make it up to you with a batch of home-made ice cream very soon.

Oh yeah, and today’s my birthday!
I have to say, that when I was anywhere in my 20’s, I wasn’t expecting that, at the age of 33, I’d be at my fittest, strongest, and toughest. That’s one of he greatest things about being female- we only get stronger with time. It makes me excited to see what’ll happen in the future.

Weekend Throwdown

This weekend essentially put the wraps on everything I can do to thrash myself prior to the Dirty Kanza 200 at the end of the month. I was growing weary of structured intervals, so I enlisted the help of Strava- the social media that everyone loves to hate. A week or so ago, I’d received several “SO-AND-SO STOLE YOUR QOM!” emails. All of them were in an area where I don’t ride often, and I wasn’t sure if I’d actually been riding with any sort of impetus when I’d set my original times. So, to change things up from my normal interval regimen, I decided to pick a route that would hit a string of the QOM spots.

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(Matt’s finger added for extra “everyone hates Strava” effect)

My top tube que sheet worked pretty well except for one, where I totally missed most of the segment. The only other screw-up was a close head-on encounter with a large truck hauling oversized farm equipment on its trailer. I decided that pulling off to the shoulder and soft pedaling while it passed was a far better idea than playing chicken. Otherwise, it was a successful training ride in both intensity and QOM achievement- Reverse Enduro Strava Terrorism Fartlek

Sunday morning, Turbo the old, deaf Malinois decided to give me a mother’s day present.

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Apparently, after pulling the giant rice bag out and spilling it all over the place, she found the taste of raw rice to be unsatisfactory and went back in for a ziplock bag of oatmeal, which she consumed most of, save the handful of oats that escaped to underneath the stove and cabinet ledges.

After cleaning that up and mainlining some coffee, I hurried up to get started on my prescribed 6 hours of riding. I picked a route I like a lot because of its remote-ness. My legs weren’t really feeling it when I started, and, though I hoped the cobwebs would work themselves out after the first hour or two, I ended up cutting it short at 5 hours, 25 minutes. I’m happy to say, though, I figured out that loading up on sodium before a long ride is making a noticeable difference in being able to maintain copious amounts of nice, watery sweat later in the day. My recently-adopted strategy is to drink a bottle full of Gu Brew Blueberry Pomegranate (contains 2x the sodium than other flavors) mixed with Elete Citrilyte drops and Pure Clean beet powder as I’m preparing for my ride. It should be a big help staying less overheated at Kanza.

After my ride, I laid around on the couch and snacked a bit before I visited my dealer for a sack…

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The past two weeks, I’ve been getting a huge bag of just-picked greens and whatnot from Jack’s Farmacy. This week, the bag included several different types of lettuce, swiss chard, beet thinnings, onions, oregano, kale, and turnip greens. I picked up a half-dozen duck eggs and an extra bag of turnip greens as well. The turnip greens were for mother’s day dinner, and the duck eggs are for my belly… I just had a couple for breakfast, and good lord, they’re soooooo goooooood. If you’re a local reader, I suggest visiting the FB page I’ve linked to and getting in on it- all the stuff pictured above was $20. He does two different pickup days in town during the week, though I’m pretty sure you could go to the farm just about any time and buy whatever’s fresh.

Unlike grocery store lettuce, which I’ve always found to be a mostly flavorless vehicle for fiber and toppings, this stuff is good enough to stand on its own. I’d never had beet thinnings before, and I’d never cooked turnip greens because my experience with them growing up was a giant stinky pot that boiled away forever to create a green, sulfur-y mash. It makes me giddy to try new recipes with stuff that was still in the ground the morning before I cook it.

I’ve taken to cooking meals for my parents on Hallmark special occasions like father’s day and mother’s day. Who wants to fight the crowds for a mediocre-to-mostly-decent meal when what I can make in their own kitchen is more delicious, healthy, less expensive, and doesn’t involve waiting, crowds, or screaming babies? I did shortcut on dessert, though. Because of the hours of riding I needed beforehand, I bought a strawberry shortcake at Whole Foods. It was extraordinarily delicious, so I didn’t mind too much.

Medium Air 9 RDO for Sale

It’s finally Cysco build day, so that means it’s also time for me to sell what’s been my go-to race/training steed for the past couple of years. I purchased this bike when they first came out- this is the “Limited Edition” build that Niner did when they were released around March of 2012. A few parts are changed, but here’s the rundown:

-Air 9 RDO frame, size medium
– Niner Carbon RDO handlebar (cut to 666mm)/seatpost in Moondust, FSA SLK Stem
– American Classic Race29 wheels (comparable to Stan’s Race Gold in weight w/nice, wide rim profile)
– Maxxis Ikon tires (2.35 front, 2.2 rear, both w/EXO sidewall protection)
-Shimano XTR Brakes
– Shimano XTR 2×10 Shifters and derailleurs
-SRAM XX 11-32 cassette (chain is SRAM also)
-Race Face NEXT SL Crank (this thing is STUPID light!)
– Rockshox SID XX World Cup fork (this is the one I just totally overhauled with a new damper, o-rings, and wipers)
-Ergon Grips and NO Saddle (you’ve already got a favorite saddle, so there’s no reason to sell you one of mine)

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I’m not going to blow smoke and say this frame is “like new.” It’s got its share of scratches and chips in the clear coat, but they’re all cosmetic. It’s been a great bike! After a quick look at sold listings on EBay, it appears that these are selling in the $3000 range, so I’m asking $2800 shipped (to the lower 48) for this one.

Syllamo Ride

At some point early in the week, Poolboy Matt decided that he really wanted to ride at Syllamo at some point before Syllamo’s Revenge later this month (he’d been back and fourth about which bike set up how, and wanted to test geared/rigid). I had another hard-ish training week scheduled, so I told him I’d go with him if he had a day off of work to ride Tuesday or Wednesday. Lucky for me, it was Wednesday, because my legs were still recovering from the weekend on Tuesday, and I ended up trading that day’s scheduled interval ride for another recovery ride. Tuesday afternoon, once Matt was home from work, we GTFO’d to the cabin. The last hour of that drive when you’re a little tired and it’s dark will put hair on your chest.

Wednesday morning, after breakfast, we loaded up and made a cooler drop to the Highway 5 trailhead (about the halfway point, distance-wise, if you’re riding the Revenge Race Loop). We then drove over to the Blanchard Springs trailhead- not my usual M.O. for riding out there, but it’s where the race starts. I wanted to get a feel for the starting climb on my full suspension bike. Since the hardtail has been set up as my dedicated gravel racing machine, I thought I’d save the hassle of swapping parts around and try racing my Jet 9 carbon. I’ve become extremely comfortable on non-technical gravel climbs (like the race opener) on the hardtail, and I wanted to make sure that my comfort transferred to something that’s not as rigid in the rear.

It worked out pretty well. The race start is always a ridiculous madhouse. There’s basically a 1 mile doubletrack climb before the course turns and dumps you in to another mile or so of descending before one of the more technical parts of the entire trail. So, it devolves into everyone going apeshit up the climb in an attempt to not get stuck in a conga-line of people who can’t ride the technical parts of the trail. I sort of hate it.

Once we were on the trail, we picked up a steady, but not-too-fast pace. Other than the big climb up the blue trail at around mile 26, the race course generally gets easier and faster as you go. So, starting out slow is not a bad thing, because it’s incredibly easy to blow yourself up within the first 1-2 hours. It went pretty OK- the trail is in decent shape as far as overgrowth and deadfall, but the recent deluge of rain has been really bad for the erosion on the steep parts (which, if you’ve ever been to Syllamo, you’ll know that “steep parts” make up about 99% of the trail). It took a good bit of time for me to get my rock-mojo back- especially on a bike that I don’t ride over there much at all. Somewhere near the Orange trail parking lot, Matt flatted. Not as a result of a puncture or tear, but from a rock hitting his valve and breaking it off.

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Not long after that, I was going for it up a super tech rock section on the green trail when I spun my rear tire only a fraction of a second before my front tire lodged up against the next rock, making my bike shoot backwards from beneath me and jamming a pedal into my calf. That’ll leave a mark…

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The remainder of the ride down the Orange trail to the Highway 5 stop was thankfully uneventful. That’s definitely one of my favorite sections of trail, because the couple of short climbs out there are some that I thought were impossible when I first started riding at Syllamo, and, with a little practice, they were provided me with some of my first “OMG I CLEANED IT” moments.

We had a little come-to-jesus moment at Highway 5. Matt sat on the ground and debated waiting there for me to ride back to the car and come get him. Before you think he’s nuts, realize that not only is Syllamo one of the most physically demanding trails you’ll ever ride, it’s also one of the most difficult places to take in calories without stopping. Since we’d been trying to do a race-simulation-ish ride, we hadn’t stopped for much other than the flat tire, and, as a result, he was behind on calories. He got his shit straight, though, and we ended up banging out the next section of blue trail to the next highway crossing and up the “big climb” at a pretty good pace. Since we were a little behind schedule, we decided from there that we’d bail on the remainder of the loop. Once you’re at that point, there’s nothing else technical, and it’s basically just rollers and short climbs until you make it to the finish.

We picked up the cooler, showered, and packed up the cabin with a quickness  before stopping at Anglers catfish restaurant for late lunch on the way out of town. Luckily, the drive back isn’t so bad since, like the trail, it gets easier as you near the finish.

So, I’m somewhat indifferent about the impending race. It’s bound to be a hot mess since it always seems to rain sometime in the 48 hours before the start. I’ll survive, though. In other, “coming up soon” news, there’s something huge that might happen mid July, but since it’s a big “might happen” event, I can’t talk about it any more until I get more information myself. Let’s just say that the prospect of this “might happen” wakes me up with excitement at all hours of the night. Stay tuned…

Well Behaved Women…

…Seldom make history.
-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I don’t know how many of my readers have kids (seeing as I somewhat regularly express my dislike of kids), but kids are a little bit of a motivator for today’s post. Last week’s Tiger Lane crit really made me think about how women are treated and plucked a bit of a feminist cord with me. So, what you’re about to read is just stuff that’s been running through my head during my long weekend of training.

After my race,  I was talking to a local guy while his daughter (teenage-ish… I’m not good at guessing ages) was longboarding around the parking lot. She came over to talk for a second, and we got on the subject of MMA (I’d seen them out at a couple of the fight nights here in Memphis, so I knew they were fans). She’s into Muay Thai, and we chatted for a minute before she was off again. It was the next day before I really started thinking about how cool it is to see a young woman who (at least, based on our brief interaction) isn’t afraid to come across as a little daring and assertive. In other words, she’s not listening to anyone who is telling her to calm down and act “like a lady.”

Also occurring after my race- the Category 1/2/3 men’s race. While the Marx-Bensdorf women had arguably raced a tactically more interesting race than the men, the owner of Marx-Bensdorf wasn’t on our sidelines writing out checks for $100-300 primes in an attempt to “spice things up.” Their ladies squad went out to kill it over the weekend at the Mississippi Gran Prix Stage Race- winning the overall GC and filling 5 of the top 10 spots.

Young women (and older women) experience those things on a regular basis- don’t be “bossy” (“bossy” being the female-shaming-word used in place of “assertive”) or aggressive, and we’re usually not encouraged to take risks the way a male would be. Those of us who do are often called “man-ish” or “lesbian” or something of the like (it doubly pisses me off when I hear “gay” or “lesbian” hurled as some sort of insult, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). There’s a grown man in town who, in a conversation about the women who ride bikes in Memphis, once referred to me as “Mandrea.” While that doesn’t change a damn thing about how I personally look, act, or race my bike, think about how it might effect the woman who overhears it… “Oh, if I am a fast, aggressive bike racer, then people might associate me as being overly-masculine, so I’d better just stick to the occasional charity ride.”

The same goes for boys who want to do anything considered “feminine.” Teaching your son how to cook, nurture, or express a full range of emotions is taboo for a large portion of our society. To me, it just doesn’t make sense to keep following those contrived gender roles. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with teaching your kid to both kill and cook his or her own meals.

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^Carey Lowery‘s daughter bringing home the (turkey) bacon^

I’m grateful that when I was young and wanted to learn how to shoot a gun, go hunting, fishing, roughhouse, climb trees, catch frogs, play in the mud, and do other “boy” stuff, my parents didn’t force me to “act like a lady.” I did occasionally get called “bossy” by my peers, which only partially put a damper on my personality at the time- I didn’t like that I was being made fun of, but in my mind, bossy didn’t register as a totally negative trait the same way as something else a kid could get made fun of for being, like “stinky” or “dumb.”

I was also somewhat fearless, and found great entertainment in things like climbing as high into any tree or playground structure as I could and running around on a glacier the one time we took a family trip to Alaska (I was a 9-year-old wearing sneakers and a pink London Fog windbreaker in the company of dudes in full ice climbing gear- no joke). While my parents tried to keep me safe, they never tried to discourage that sort of behavior by telling me that I wasn’t being lady-like.

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^Clint Austin, another FB Friend of mine, posted this pic of his daughters just yesterday.

On the “older person” end of the spectrum, things get a little uglier. I dare you to read the “comments” section on any large cycling media publication involving a woman like Selene Yeager. While most people respect her for the strong, fast, and intelligent female cyclist she is, there’s always a handful of men who want to point out that they are very uncomfortable with the fact that she’s built like a brick shithouse (I mean that in the most complimentary way possible, of course). Again, like someone calling me “Mandrea,” men who want to try to bully Selene Yeager into looking like their version of what women should look like are obviously not at all successful in that endeavor, but it doesn’t mean that other women don’t see their sexist diarrhea of the keyboard and feel pressure to conform to that sort of bullsh*t standard.

Until we stop telling our girls that they have to be well-behaved (and stop raising boys to think that girls have to fit into that cookie-cutter look and personality type), we’re going to continue to see the product of that way of thinking. At the acute, local level, it’s things like unequal treatment of men’s and women’s bike races (and any other sport short of beach volleyball). At a larger level, it’s things like the lack of females in leadership positions and pay discrepancies between men and women.

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^These Afghan female cyclists are acting out and making all sorts of history.

There’s not really a way of changing the current generation of male internet trolls and dudes who can’t handle mine and Selene Yeager’s awesomeness. There’s no way that you’ll turn on the TV tomorrow and see a floor cleaner or paper towel commercial that doesn’t portray a guy as being a clumsy, mess-producing dunce, either. However, there is a whole generation of impressionable young people who can be taught and encouraged that personalities, hobbies, and physical activities don’t have to have a gender. It’s us, as adults who have, will have, and/or will come into contact with those young people, who are responsible for setting an example and being good mentors. Otherwise, they’ll keep learning from the trolls and marketing departments who want to put them into neat little categories of what’s an acceptable look, behavior, and personality for their respective genders.

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Tiger Lane Crit #2

Because I was still feeling less than recovered from OGRE, I hadn’t planned on racing Tiger Lane Ladies’ night #2 until Tuesday night when Matt guilt-tripped me into not showing up to a local women’s race. He was right… the more women who show up and pin a number, the more promoters will realize that we’re worth having around.

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If you recall from last week’s race, I was able to capitalize on some tactical errors made by the M-B women and get free of the group for a solo breakaway win. This week, they had their heads on straight from the start.

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The strategy was, like last week, to keep me working. Unlike last week, the attacks were more frequent & slightly harder to follow, and Pam, their strongest lady, was stuck like a tick to my rear wheel. I managed to pull off an early prime sprint for $25, which is nice for getting money, figuring out which line is the “good” one, and for checking out everyone else’s sprinting legs.

I got kinda bored with being in the pack at about 13 minutes in (of 25), and decided that I’d counter their next move into the headwind. It mostly worked, with the exception of Pam, who made it across the gap.

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I attacked her at least a couple of times into the wind, but she was able to close the gap every time. This is where post-race analysis with of power data is interesting…

Last week:
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Yesterday:
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The initial snap was there, but my inability to follow it up with a 30sec-1min watt bomb was keeping me from permanently unhitching Pam from my draft. If you’ve ever wondered what happened during a race and thought it may have something to do with recovery, then a powermeter is an excellent way to analyse your efforts to know for sure. Yay, science!

So, back to the story…

I realized quickly that I wasn’t going solo. Pam was being smart and not taking a pull, leaving me to waste my energy to keep us out in front of the pack. I figured that no matter what, with my inability to get away, I was going to have to sprint her, and, I could either drag her around for the remainder of the race OR I could sit up, let the group come back up to us, and tuck back in to rest before the sprint. It took some work to get someone else on the front once they were back, but I made it happen.

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At that point, we only had 2 or 3 laps to go. I stayed tucked in, following occasional attacks, until the rider on front (Julie, who would go on to win 3rd), pulled off just before the final turn. I claimed my next-to-the-curb line that wouldn’t anyone else sprinting head-to-head to get a draft from the crosswind.

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Hey… I didn’t say I couldn’t sprint, I just said I didn’t like to. Lucky for me, the territorial dogs on most of my rural training rides keep me on my toes.

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OGRE 150 Race Report

As I mentioned in my previous post, this weekend’s race was about the furthest thing from Wednesday’s criterium that you can possibly get. I entered the OGRE (short for Ozark Gravel Road Expedition) 150 as a shorter, presumably “easier” rehearsal for the Dirty Kanza 200- a chance to test my legs as well as my strategy and bike setup for the bigger, longer race. This bike wasn’t quite finished yet…

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So, the Air 9 RDO got the long distance gravel machine conversion- XX1 drivetrain parts (36t chainring), Matt’s Specialized rigid fork, some skinny/fast mountain tires, frame pump (Topeak Mountain Morph), and extra storage space for food, extra bottle, two tubes, and the race required mandatory first aid kit/emergency blanket (the seat pack is a Jandd Mountain Wedge Expandable and the large top tube and handlebar bags are from J.Paks).

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Friday morning, I loaded up and headed to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. My lack of nervousness was actually making me nervous. For whatever reason, the only thing I worried a little bit about was the course navigation. However, once I saw the layout of the cue sheet and heard during the pre-race meeting that the corners would be subtly flagged, I was somewhat relieved. Lots of riders at the pre-race meeting were chattering about the size/steepness of a few specific climbs on course… I told them not to name them, otherwise, that’d give the climbs more power.

A few course notes that came with the cue sheets:

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Bonus 4.7 miles!

My hotel room was 1990s fancy as hell…

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(note the lack of a proper shower)

I had a nice Friday afternoon spin from the Oz Cycles shop where racer check-in was. I also got a chance to meet Barry (who’d heard on JRA that I needed a crewperson) as well as his sister, who’d be my (excellent) crewperson for the race.

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Saturday morning reminded me of one of the reasons I grew tired of 100 mile mountain bike races. A 6am race start is soooooo eaaaaarly… even though I’m generally a “morning” person, I’m somewhat of a “wake up at 6 and drink coffee for 2 hours” type of morning person.  I did, however, hear one of the best pre-endurance race songs ever recorded:

The starting line grid was set up for predicted finish times. I wasn’t sure how long it’d take me, but I was hoping for less than 13 hours, so I lined up somewhere around the 12 hour marker. Once we got the “go,” we had a police escort out of the parking lot and to the first gravel road of the race course. I immediately put my pacing plan into effect- easy. I’ve done hours of sub-threshold riding, and I know the intensity well enough to do it without even looking at my powermeter. I have also, through a healthy amount of singlespeeding and tons of practice on a hardtail, developed what seems to be a somewhat unique skill of standing while climbing without raising my heart rate. On a straightforward gravel hill, I feel like it’s much easier to stand than to sit. It also means that I’m shifting my position around more, which is great for super long rides.

So, that’s how I rolled it- a zone 2 effort all around with my “comfortable” standing pace on climbs. The hills would turn out to be relentless- you essentially climb and descend the same 30-180 feet of elevation repeatedly throughout the race (various websites and electronic devices estimate between 12 and 14k feet of gain). Many of the hills were pretty steep, too- well into the teens on grade percentage.

Somewhere in the first hour, my tail light fell off of my seat pack (a first for me with that style light- they’re normally very secure).

I arrived at the 37.7 mile checkpoint (a spot with water and a couple of people recording numbers) in a nicely paced group of friendly guys that included a guy named Brian who was 6’7″ and had a draft like a vacuum cleaner. I refilled my bottles, used the bathroom, and took off with the same group towards the first pit stop (a spot where you met your crewperson and received a slap bracelet to prove your progress). There were a couple of bigger hills in that section, and the group kinda started to split apart. The last hill to the pit stop was one of the “scary” ones that people were talking about beforehand, though I didn’t realize it until I spotted people from the pit stop standing at the top and cheering. It was the one spot on the course where I found the 36×42 gear to be just right, and one of the few times I sat instead of standing.

At the pit stop, I picked up some food (I’d been eating a pack of Gu Chomps per hour and drinking Roctane in my bottles), and forced down a rice bar (the famous Alan Lim recipe) and some cheetos. I say “forced down” because I’d eaten and drank enough at that point that I was pretty full feeling already. That’s how you gotta roll, though. I did start alternating half packs of Chomps with shots of Roctane and Salted Caramel gel once I was further along and solid food became less appealing.

When I left the stop, it just worked out that I rolled out with tall-guy Brian. The next part of the course was down a big hill then around a 15-ish mile loop and back up the same hill to the same pit stop. Brian and I rode together for the loop and shared life stories. I’ve always found it fascinating how briefly riding with someone you’ve never met can be bonding enough to facilitate somewhat deep conversations that you’d likely not have if you’d only known them for 3-4 hours in any other situation. It makes this sort of racing very special compared to your run-of-the-mill hammer-time event.

As we were approaching the spot in the course where the loop ended and the two-way climb back to the pit stop started, we rounded a corner and came upon a concrete-bottom creek crossing with about 8 inches of flowing water over it. Not wanting to get my feet wet, I carried enough speed to unclip my feet from the pedals and lift them up in front of me to avoid the splash. Simultaneously, Brian yelled at me that the crossing was probably slick, and, simultaneously, my bike teleported out from under me as soon as both wheels were in the water. I went in up to my neck and slid almost all the way across on my knees. I was generally fine (just soaked with some bloody knees), and my bike was mostly unscathed. However, the head of the lower bolt on my seat tube bottle cage had pulled through the cage, and my handlebar light had broken off the mount, leaving part of the light body in the mount.

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I needed that bottle cage. Luckily, the Arundel sideloader has two sets of bolt holes. I told Brian to go on while I got out the multi-tool and moved the bolts to the undamaged cage holes. Bonus- it gave me better clearance between the top of my bottle and my frame pump. Looking back, that was the absolute best place on course to wreck. It wasn’t sharp, and I was very close to the pit stop, where I was able to change socks and gloves so that I wouldn’t have saturated contact points for very long (I could have changed kit, but I was dry enough to be comfortable by the time I was up the hill).

Brian was at the pit stop when I arrived, and left after me. However, about halfway to the next checkpoint, I had my next minor mishap- a flat tire. It seemed to be a slow leak, and I couldn’t find a leaky sealant spot in the tire, so I was hoping that I could shoot it with CO2 and go on (side note- if you find an active leak, it’s a guarantee that you should just go ahead and tube it… your sealant hasn’t worked so far, and it’s going to continue to not work when you add more air). Within a mile, it was obvious that CO2 wouldn’t work, and I thought I heard air coming out from around the valve, so I went ahead and found a good spot to install a tube. As I was doing so, Brian came up the road and stopped to help. Once I was back in action, we rode together the last few miles before the 77 mile checkpoint. At that spot, though, I had plenty of water and didn’t really need to stop other than to make sure my number was recorded. Brian wanted a break and told me he wasn’t going to be able to keep up with my pace much longer, so I should go on alone.

From then on, aside from a few brief passes/chats with other riders, I was flying solo.

At 87 miles (more than halfway through!), I reached pit stop #2, still feeling great. I took another bathroom break (indoor plumbing FTW!), ate another rice bar, RedBull, and handful of cheetos, picked up fresh bottles, and got my second slap bracelet & cue sheet. I also got an update on the weather- there was a black cloud hanging over the next part of the course, and it seemed as if I might run in to a little rain. I didn’t mind too much- I was more appreciative of the fact that the lingering clouds & spotty rain were keeping the temperature down for much of the day. Soon after I left the pit stop was the one spot where I decided to stop and take a few photos:

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The next section of the course was definitely my favorite. It was largely through a state park, and was a gorgeous, rolling tunnel of dogwoods and redbuds that concluded at a unique, old swinging bridge. It was somewhere in there that I passed the 100 mile mark, too, still feeling pretty good. I soon reached the 107 mile checkpoint.

It was soon after that I had my next minor mishap. At 109 miles, there was a left turn off of a road that rolled somewhat quickly across the top of a ridge. I wasn’t paying enough attention and rode right past it. When I arrived at a paved road intersection with no flagging, I knew something was wrong. Once I looked at my cue sheet, I realized I’d gone about 2 miles too far and started back. Along the way, I caught another rider doing the same thing as I had. Elapsed time off course- about 15 minutes.

Soon after going off course, at around 113 miles, I hit my “low point” of the day. Every long day has one, and you can’t let it break you. The sun had come out, the wind was in my face, and everything seemed uphill. My legs hurt, my garmin randomly shut off (I caught it pretty quickly and think I lost less than half a mile), and I kept thinking, “damnit, I’m just tired of being on a bike right now.” The third pit stop wasn’t until mile 127.9 (otherwise known as mile 131 with my added detour).

At around 9.5 hours and 123 miles, I took a “get your head out of your ass” break. I found a good place for a “nature stop,” then sat on my top tube a minute to eat a highly caffeinated gel, drink half a bottle of water, and put a headphone in my ear. That’s the first time I’ve ever used music during a race. In anything USA Cycling, it’s illegal, and in many other races, the promoter will ask racers not to use even just one headphone. However, at this race, it went unmentioned. So, I was immediately greeted by the sound of Rick Ross telling me to “Push it to the Limit.”

The break was just what I needed to get my isht together and get to the next Pit Stop in a timely manner. I picked up some cold bottles (definitely makes a difference when it’s getting hot out), drank one more RedBull, and ate another rice bar and handful of cheetos. The next few miles from there were great- there was a nice tailwind, and the road was mostly small rollers. Of course, that was over quickly, and it was back to steep climbs with not much help from the wind. I did realize, though, that I’d likely finish very close to the 12 hour mark. I ended up walking up a couple of short, steep kicker hills on the last gravel sections before the finish-  I could feel my left toes trying to hurt (somewhere around 10-11 hours for that pain is an improvement over the 4-hour mark where I was feeling it before all of the injections and whatnot), and the walking breaks were successful in holding off the full-on pain.

Those final few miles were somewhat of a blur. I remember passing a farmer spreading what smelled like chicken manure in a pasture and almost gagging, being cheered on by some kids in a trailer park driveway, and being very happy to see the last checkpoint (3 miles from the finish). Those last 3 miles are mostly uphill on a sidewalk. They were probably the easiest hills on course, though. I finished in 12 hours, 1 minute. First woman, and 14th overall.

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I was pretty wrecked and just sat around in a chair for a while, absorbing everything that had happened.

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At some point, Barry’s sister showed up, and I shuffled around to change and eat a little before she drove me back to get my car from the start area. I was super lucky to have her help… driving around and dealing with sweaty, needy bike racers allll day long is probably more demanding than actually racing.

After a shower, I went back to the shop/finish area to have a beer and watch more people finish. There’s always that one person who has had many beers…

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You people who did Trans-Sylvania last year know who I’m talking about. You people who do Mohican know who I’m talking about, too.

The amount of caffeine that I consumed meant that I wasn’t even close to going to sleep until sometime after 11. I eventually fell out while watching COPS reruns. The next morning, I finally had my appetite back.

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I made a pit-stop in Jonesboro on the way home as well.

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…and, as I write this, my stomach is growling, so I’ll probably go to Brother Juniper’s and get a ridiculously large breakfast of some sort to polish off my post-race days of hunger before returning to my normally-sized diet.