Shenandoah Mountain 100 Race Report

I’m a little lacking in creative motivation right now, so I can’t think of any smooth and witty opener to set the tone for my report…

Or was that just it?

I camped out at the Stokesville Campground for the weekend. Todd and I pre-rode the first climb and singletrack descent the day before, and, based on the elevation profile, I knew it was going to be a challenge. I was kind of wanting the 21t cog I’d used at the Breck 100, but Todd swore that a 32×20 was the way to roll because of all of the flat sections between climbs.

Somehow, on Sunday morning, I managed to miss the 5am wake-up call and oversleep until 5:30 (race start was at 6:30). I’ve actually never overslept before a race, so it was an unfamilair near-panic feeling as I rushed to find food and coffee. Todd said something along the lines of “I figured you were up & moving in there!” [“there” being my tiny two-person tent] I was too busy getting things ready to ask him what exactly he thought I’d be doing in there for half an hour…

I fabricated a pretty nice breakfast out of two bagels, some peanut butter, and greek yogurt, then changed clothes, scalded my mouth on some campfire coffee that the guys in the tent across from me had brewed, and made it to the start line with about two minutes to spare. The only thing good about running late is that you don’t notice that it’s 48 degrees outside.

The start was slightly frustrating on a singlespeed since it rolled on flat pavement for a mile or two before the first climb. I was passed by a lot of people that I ended up motoring by as we negotiated the first pitches. Following that climb was a singletrack descent with some nice rocky sections. Between those sections and the next couple of singletrack climbs, I realized that riding with a lot of geared riders at about a 10-11hr pace will net lots of walking through sections that I feel reasonably confident that I’d clear otherwise.

Guess that’s for me and The Wizard to work on that this winter, eh?

I figured out going to the 2nd singletrack climb that the 32×21 might have been not as much fun, because I was able to Carey Lowery the Hell out of some guys on a long, flat section of road. (“Carey Lowery” being my term for sitting in and drafting men on 29ers so they do all the work while you get pulled along, doing no work, and acting like the cute, innocent killer that Carey Lowery is). That next climb was a beotch.

I don’t remember if it was Aid #3 or 4, but somewhere in that timeframe, I ate some gummy bears. If you’re easily offended, stop reading NOW, because I’m about to drop an F-bomb.

No, really, stop reading my blog altogether. Go see what Glen Beck has to say or something.

I fucking love gummy bears.

Seriously. Ever since Cohutta, where I crammed handfuls of dirt and sand-covered gummy bears into my mouth at one of the aid stations, I’ve sought them out at all races. They’re indescribably awesome in ways that you’d only understand if you rode a mountain bike over a bunch of mountains for 100 miles.

I digress.

Around mile 70, on something called the “Death Climb,” I started feeling really awesome. I think it was the combination of gummy bears, electrolytes, pb&j, and just really enjoying a long singlespeed climb, but I’d look way ahead, see the hill covered in groups of people, then pass by them in what seemed like just a minute or two. It felt like no time before I was at aid 5 getting another handful of gummy bears and a bottle refill.

Speaking of aid stations, this race had some of the most on-point volunteers I’ve ever experienced. You’d pull up, they’d park or hold your bike, grab, refill, and replace your bottles, get things out of your drop bag, etc. Not that all aid station workers aren’t great and very much appreciated, but the SM100 volunteers were above and beyond that normal level of greatness.

So I left Aid 5 and was mentally prepped for what some people had said was the toughest part of the course. The “Death Climb” turned into a series of several long descent/climb repeats that the Appalachians are infamous for- no trail ever goes from the top to the bottom without a few 100 foot rollers in the middle. On one of the climbs, another singlespeeder passed me. He was absolutely flying- his unzipped jersey (a sweet Ibex one similar to mine) was flapping in the breeze, and he was on flat pedals. Holy crap! I can’t imagine riding a mountain bike- especially a singlespeed- on flat pedals! It was obviously working well for him, though.

I kept with my steady grind up the hills. I passed a woman or two, so I didn’t let myself back off on the flat spots between rollers. Soon enough, I was on the singletrack (mostly) descent and only had one climb between me and the finish. Luckily, the one remaining was the “easy” lower part of a climb we’d negotiated earlier in the day. It had been my favorite, so I didn’t mind a repeat appearance.

About 3/4 of the way up that last climb, I saw the flat-pedaled SS guy with his bike on the ground, standing on the side of the trail, chilling out & taking a drink. I generally make it a habit to encourage people late in races, and felt compelled to give him some motivation.

“Come on, gorgeous, let’s go…”

He was on my wheel and climbing before I could catch my breath from speaking. A minute later, he went flying past me, leaving me in a cloud of powdery Virgina dirt. Chivalry, meet death.

My official finish time was 10:30:24 and 13th place.

Stoked. I like finishing the season off with a good race. No cramps, no bad wrecks, no death marching. Even though it was slow, I call it a success. After food and beer, I met/gave isht to the guy (Nate) that passed me after my motivating words (he’s actually a nice guy from DC), met Dicky, then took photos of the podium presentations. Amanda Carey won the race and the 2010 NUE series and Todd won the men’s competition.

Some podium/other random shots…

Quick Question-

If old people are retired, then why do they wait for holiday weekends to go out in their RVs and fill up campgrounds? Why don’t they just make their trips during the week?

I figured I’d split the drive to Harrisonburg up so I wouldn’t be spending 12 hours in the car the day prior to a race. I looked around on the internet & found a spot to camp east of Nashville. Only problem was, when I got here, all the sites were full (see paragraph #1). I considered trying to park in a discrete place and bandit a spot out off of a hiking trail, but I really didn’t want to have something like a towtruck or park ranger to deal with in the morning. I was just about to leave when I figured I’d make one more lap of the campgrounds at one of the sites without many occupants.

At what’s probably the spot most distant from the camp entrance, I saw a woman sitting outside her RV reading a book. There was a large open area next to it, so I figured I’d try my luck…

“Excuse me”
(she looks up)
“If I give you some cash, would you mind if I pitched a tent just for tonight on the other side of your campsite?”
Her: “Ummm… sure?”
Me: AWESOME! THANK YOU !!!

While I was setting my tent up, she drove off. So, before I left for dinner (another adventure), I left a note and $10 in the door crack of her camper. Woohoo!!!

Once I threw my sleeping bag in the tent, I headed back to town for dinner. I’d spotted a Chinese buffet on the way in, and since it looked pretty busy, I figured I’d chance it. When I arrived, there was a police car in the parking lot. The officer was standing outside the rear drivers side door of an SUV, and, from inside, I heard what I swear was a woman in labor.

A small crowd was gathering.

I figured that must be some damn good Chinese food and hurried into the restaurant. It was alright. I’m hoping my fortune was off by one day…

cookie

SM100

Time for the final 100 miler of the season- the Shenandoah Mountain 100. Late last week, the Hurricane Forecast gave me tingles when I saw the prediction for landfall in Virginia about the same time as the race. It’s since been updated, though, and now, this is the forecast:

weather

Is it wrong to feel a slight twinge of disappointment? I mean, I like nice weather as much as the next gal, but (as long as it’s not cold), I like the rain and mud, too. A lot.

Maybe I should be thankful, though. I’m still working out brake issues from Fool’s Gold. I removed the Formulas from the One9 since the pistons were sticky. I called Formula up, and they said to take everything apart, clean and lube it, then re-assemble. I’ll get to it eventually, so I’m just going to rock the ElixrCRs this weekend, though they could use a little cleaning up also.

I’m tempted to say “eff it all” and just put BB7s on both bikes.

Glen Danzig Appreciation Post

Recently, I took Ryan’s old iPhone (he got a new one), and have been using it as an iPod touch. I’ve been on quite a Danzig kick lately.

I had no idea who Glen Danzig was the first time I saw the “Mother” video on MTV. It was way past my bedtime on a Saturday night- I’d stayed up late despite knowing that my parents were going to drag me off to early church in the morning, when, all of a sudden, there was this gorgeous, sweaty, shirtless man on my television singing about Hell and how he was going to help me find it. Instant crush.

I think I had recently removed a poster of Joey from NKOTB from my wall.

Fast forward many years. I discover the Misfits and all other sorts of awesome music. Danzig remains one of my favorites, though. I’ve heard that he’s even signed the wall at Graceland. I’ve always been tempted to go try to find out for myself. Still have a crush.

Product Review: Raxter Tarsus

I’ve recently been lucky enough to pick Raxter up as a sponsor. Ryan’s old Yakima that he’s shared with me was getting rusted, and it didn’t agree with 29ers very well (both in wheel size and handlebar interference). So, I was really stoked when a Raxter Tarsus showed up on my doorstep on Friday.

I immediately tore open the box, camera in hand:

unbox

kitty

(The packaging is Chunky Monkey Ninja Kitty approved.)

I was in a little bit of a hurry to run some errands, but I figured I’d put it together anyway since there weren’t too many parts. It was a quick and easy assembly, although you MUST NOT PUT FINGER IN THE HOLE!

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hole4

Immediately, I noticed that the Tarsus is a good deal lighter than the Yakima (thus less wrestling to get it in and out of the hitch on the Element), and rather than using a cotter pin to secure itself up/down, it uses a simple “pop in” button for both folding, and to attach into the hitch. (Though I opted to use a locking hitch pin that I picked up at Auto Zone. Last thing I need is for my shiny new rack to be sold for a crack rock on Lamar Avenue…)

halfway

folded

down

Since then, I’ve used it a couple of times, and, I must say, I’m very impressed. While other manufacturers have been making their racks bigger, flashier, more expensive, and more complicated (kinda like THIS), Raxter has successfully created something that’s simple and adaptable to any bike you want to haul.

rack

My favorite feature is “auto-nesting” (meaning, you can easily stagger your bikes to avoid handlebar/saddle interference). Now I can stop carrying a 4mm allen key around with me for times when I want to haul two mountain bikes. I also don’t have to wrestle with getting a swing arm over a knobby 29″ tire like I did with my old rack. To top it off, it’s got a slimmer profile than the Yakima, so I don’t have to pull as far into the garage or worry as much about what I’m going to hit when I’m backing up.

Yes, the Raxter falls in to the “Why TF has no one thought of this before?” category of simplicity and ease of use. The only potential “problem” I could see would be if you MUST haul your bike around with a disc wheel installed. In that case, you won’t be able to secure your rear wheel with the rack’s velcro straps. If that describes you, then you are probably a triathlete, and you probably wouldn’t like the Raxter anyway because it’s not big, flashy, expensive, and full of extra complicated moving parts to impress all of your other triathlete buddies.

(I kid, I kid… you know I love triathletes and their disdain for all things that include either sleeves or socks…)

Raxter Tarsus gets the Brickhouse Stamp of Approval!

Un-Lazy Sunday

I don’t remember the last time I worked this hard on a Sunday-

This morning, I drove out to Shelby Forest for a hellacious interval workout that I’ve dubbed “8 minutes in Heaven.” You essentially start out at a tempo effort and increase the effort every minute. By minute 8, you hit your max heart rate, and you have various strings of drool and snot plastered to the side of your face (that means you’re doin’ it right). Rest eight minutes and repeat two more times.
I’ve found a nice, perfectly flat stretch of road out in Shelby Forest State Park (a gorgeous old growth oak forest along the Mississippi River) that rides like a trainer, except without the boredom. I took a few photos, but since my camera had been in my pocket during the sweatfest, the lens was a bit foggy-

river

sclimb

up

woods

After getting home & having a bit of lunch, Matt and I met back up for the (not-so)Â top secret project (Eric stopped by after a while, too, bringing gifts of New Belgium beer). We arranged some dirt into neatly shaped piles until sunset, then called it a day. Mmm… Labor.

2

1

A Couple More

…Michigan Photos.

I’m still trying to figure out how to get the video of the Michigan Tech trail posted, but here’s a screen shot:

steepshot

I also got my Ore to Shore trophy in the mail yesterday:

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In other news, I’ve got a tough workout on the schedule for tomorrow. I’ve been mostly resting (and racing) lately, so it’s a welcome challenge. Time to fight with the powermeter.

Ground Breaking

Matt and I have been scheming up a fall/winter project that should provide both hours of back breaking labor as well as hours of fun and enjoyment. First, though, the property owner needs a drainage ditch dug. It just so happens we need extra dirt, so…

shovel

ditch

Forked Up

I took the fork apart to survey the damage… It’s not looking so good. The seals were probably a little worn out to begin with, and the gritty liquid mud soaked into the foam wipers underneath them and leaked further down into the lowers. This wreaked a bit of havoc on the uppers during the course of the race…

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So, I cleaned everything out, replaced the old seals with some fresh ones, and added some fresh oil to the lowers before sliding them back in place and airing everything up (and played around with the timer on the camera)

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Hopefully the damage isn’t so bad that they start leaking air, but it’ll be a few days before my replacement brake pads come in, and I can take it out for a test ride. Initial hopping around in the garage tests seem good. I just need it to last until December…

Fool’s Gold Aftermath & Parts Reviews

Yesterday, I spent a solid 3 hours cleaning and overhauling the One9. It made me appreciate well-made bike parts, because otherwise I would have been making purchases instead of just cleaning/re-greasing.

The freehub was filled with a mud/oil sludge, as were the bottom bracket bearings (the same SRAM Blackbox ceramic bearings that have traveled t0 bottom bracket hell and back several times and just keep on going).

Seriously- that thing is the Jens Voigt of bottom brackets.

The steertube had channeled gritty mud/water down into the top headset bearing, but the seal seems to be tighter than… well, let’s just say it’s tight. I just rinsed it out & it looked/felt fine. Same for the hub bearings. BTW- the Hope hubs may not be the lightest or have the most pawls (eyeroll), but I don’t think you can beat them in durability or ease of care. They’re also really easy to swap back & fourth between the quick release for my SS and the 20mm Maxle Lite for the Jet.

My opinion is still a little mixed on the Formula brakes. They are sexy, lightweight, and feel awesome- a little more modulation than the Elixir CRs, but I had to bleed them again yesterday since the pistons had fully extended during the race and allowed air into the system. Judging by the microscopic coating of pad left on my front brake, if that hadn’t happened, my front brake would have been more usable during the race than it was (at least, until that pad had also worn through and fallen out like the rear). As far as I can tell, that doesn’t happen with Elixirs, and, IMHO, that’s a reliability issue with the Formulas if you’re going to race in the absolute worst conditions like the ones at Fool’s Gold. If you’re racing/riding in “normal” conditions, you may never have a problem. So, if SRAM ever answers my “Hey, could you please sponsor me?” email, I might be selling a very pretty set of Formulas!

The final bit of overhaul I did yesterday was a pedal re-build. I can’t begin to describe how much I love Crank Brothers pedals without you rolling your eyes at me sounding like a paid shill, but seriously- they never, ever clog. No matter what other parts get fouled by mud, the pedals will always clip/unclip. Always. I’ve had them in every possible breed of mud, too- including the Dirt, Sweat, and Gears mud (it lives on in infamy) and the Kansas City cobb (at CX Nationals).
The rebuild kits are cheap, and the process is easy. They feel good as new now.

This morning I’m going to have a go at replacing my fork seals. I’m worried I might have killed the uppers on my fork- it looks like the seals were fouled with the same gritty mud that tried to get into the headset, which resulted in some gouges and “polishing.” Hopefully when I replace the seals, it’ll still hold air.

Here’s a nice little gallery of grit damage- including the obligatory “Post-Fool’s Gold brake pads” shot…