DSG- the day before

Well, today has been “interesting.” I won’t say “bad,” because, well, I’ve had much, much worse days than today, but it hasn’t been all roses, either.

First, on the way here, we decided to try the GPS’s suggestion of using highway 50 to cut off a chunk of I-40/65 to and from Nashville. Problem was, part of 50 was closed due to flood damage, so we ended up detouring through some crazy back roads. We saw some wild flood/wind damage out there, as well as some places where mudslides had, at one point, been covering the road.

Once we got to Cotton Mill Preserve, we set up camp, had a snack, and pucked up our registration packets. Somewhere in the midst of all that, Ryan lost his spare key to my car. I’m not worried- it’ll turn up, but he’s been freaking out about it for a solid 7 hours now.

The pre-ride wasn’t exactly wonderful, either. First, I had a mishap with some rocks on a slightly technical section that I’d hit pretty well at CrudeXC a few weeks ago. I managed to fall over into a patch of poison ivy with my right leg pinned between my handlebars and my top tube. It hurt. Bad. I’m sitting here with ice on the inside of my right quad while I type. Then Ryan’s shifting started effing up. I thought I’d done a good job at re-cabling it and whatnot, but apparently not. We still haven’t figured out what’s wrong with it. A new chain & some barrel adjuster tweaking hasn’t improved anything.

After we rode & worked on the bike, we headed over to the vendor area for dinner. However, the pasta dinner people were packing up to go home. So, we went to a sandwich booth. I asked if they had anything vegetarian, and the guy told me no- all they had was lettuce because their good tomato shipment hadn’t come in yet, so he can’t make a vegetarian sandwich.

WTF? Seriously? So a vegetarian sandwich is apparently just lettuce and tomato.

So we went & ate Mexican food. That’s about it. Ryan is grouchy and I am tired.My ice pack just leaked on my sleeping bag.

I just came here to race.

Please?

Contingency Plan

This weekend is not only my birthday (15th!), but also my 2nd try at the Dirt, Sweat, and Gears 12 hour. Last year, things went horribly wrong when rain at the start turned the course into a disaster area of dense, sticking mud. You couldn’t roll a bike on the ground because it would immediately clog so horribly that the wheels couldn’t turn.I resorted to carrying Ryan’s road bike for 3 miles in order to get in my whole 2 laps.

The current prediction for Saturday’s weather is a 40% chance of storms. So, I’ve got a contingency plan- if it rains, I keep riding the MTB until the mud starts to stick. When that happens, get to the pit and swap out for my CX bike. Being lighter and less cumbersome to shoulder, it will be easier if the course is reduced to hiking as it was last year. I even threw a skinny (27c!) grass tire on the rear for mud clearance, so it should be able to roll if I need it to.

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Vote for Collin

Update, as of 5.12.10

Sadly, Collin passed on this afternoon. The video contest was won by someone else, but it’s somewhat of a moot point now.

Some of you have asked what the “Team Collin” stickers are about on my mountain bike’s fork. Here’s a link to a short video explaining who Collin is and part of what the amazing crowd in the Road Bike Review “Lounge” have done to help him and his family out: http://video.bicycling.com/contests/win_any_bike_contest_2010/vote/8YWJHC2JJFSGCVG6

You can also see the rest of Collin’s story and frequent updates on his CaringBridge Site

If you want to help out, vote for this video. Get your friends to vote for this video. Tell everyone you know, and post a link on your own blog, website, or social networking venue of choice. If you want to help out financially, email me (andrea @ brickhouseracing.com), and I’ll direct you to where you can donate. Thanks!

Happy Mother’s Day

Ok, so I originally had this story in my last post, but it just didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the post, and well, it’s just kind of “weird.” So, I took it out shortly after the last posting. My mom read it first, though, and she called today requesting that I re-write it because it was her favoritest thing ever…

A few miles in to my solo ride home from where I’d split from the Outdoors Ride group, I rode by a cemetary and had what I can only explain as a psychic experience. As I approached, I noticed two African American men standing next to each other, hands in their pockets, heads down, looking at a memorial. Passing by, one of them looked up at me. At the same instant, I felt intense sadness. It sucked the breath out of my lungs as if it had traveled across the headwind from him and been absorbed into my capillaries. I believe those were two family members (probably brothers) that were visiting their mom at the cemetary. No idea really how I know, but that’s the sort of feeling I got. It was hard not to start crying- I felt as if I’d been shot. I did my best to compose my thoughts, and the next chance I got, pulled over to call my mom & wish her a happy Mother’s Day.

Fun with Group Rides

Since I’ve been out of town so much racing and MTB riding, it’s been a while since I’ve done the staple roadie weekend rides (Trinity and Outdoors). Ryan left on Friday to go to the Joe Martin Stage Race. Since I’m not really interested in (or fit enough to) race the NRC level road races, I stayed home.

Side note- a few of my M-B teammates raced the 3/4 race. They freaking KILLED it. Kathrine Williams pulled off a sweep, winning all 3 stages. Pam Tate wasn’t far behind, finishing 5th in the GC. We’ve got an awesome damn team.

Last week, my Quarq Cinqo finally came in. I’ve been without a powermeter since I got the Trek since the older wired SRM I have wouldn’t fit the bottom bracket. However, I can’t get it to stay calibrated, so I’m sending it back for repair on Monday. I decided I wanted to get back to training with power, so Friday night I put the BH Connect back together with the SRM.

Saturday morning came early (I stayed out a bit late with friends at Flying Saucer- my night to celebrate the once a week alcohol allowance I’ve imposed on myself for weight/training/health/financial purposes). I drug myself out of bed and started making breakfast. For some odd reason, after never liking them my entire life, I’ve recently started craving eggs for breakfast. Alton Brown’s omelette recipe is top-notch.

The ride got off to a slow start. Someone got a flat tire, and while we were standing around waiting, I made the comment that flats aren’t that bad, but I hate when someone decides that the 30 seconds following the flat change is the perfect time to attack and rile up the group. So, naturally, Bryant Funston did just that. He also glanced back at me at one point (I was about 15 feet from closing the gap to his rear wheel in a solo bridge attempt), smirked a bit, and took off like a scalded cat. I dropped back to the group. We caught him a few minutes later, and I made sure to tell him that he was a jerk (in the nicest possible way, of course).

Out of this group, Dale and Jarret were the only ones that survived the ensuing chase…
triathletes

The remainder of the ride was tough. As a group, we rode hard as a group to the Galloway store. After a quick break, we headed towards home, though I was forced to stop at the park in Arlington when I started getting an unpleasant feeling in my gut. Must have been the beer. I finished the last hour of the ride alone in the headwind (a better option than what might have happened if I hadn’t stopped).

The rest of my day was spent laying around and occasionally snacking & napping. I replaced the chainrings on Ryan’s MTB crank. Torx bolts are lame. Mainly because we don’t have many Torx-head tools. Improvisation was needed.

fixed

Sunday, I wanted to get in a little more distance. I headed out the door to the Outdoors on Union around 8:00. After getting warmed up, I made sure to keep my wattage at a goo0d tempo pace. The group wasn’t huge, but it was full of tough love. Someone had a flat tire early on. He informed us that he didn’t bring anything to change a flat. We left him.

Once we left Watkins on the way to the General Store, the group turned on itself. Unlike the hard but cooperative effort of the Trinity group, the Outdoors ride is no-holds-barred, every man (and woman) for himself. I don’t always make it in with the lead group. However, this time I hung in. The power numbers I saw when I downloaded the SRM data at home made me smile a little.

At the General Store, I made a new friend. “Rooster” jokes abounded.
rooster

Instead of heading back in with the group, I headed east to ride home the long way. There was a tiny bit of a headwind, so I paced myself a bit. I figured the best thing to do was to start churning out some more good tempo. By the time I got to Arlington, I felt good. I actually felt really good, which is a wonderful thing at mile 65 of 85. I was hauling by the time I got back to town. Someone in an SUV with Memphis Runners and a “26.2” sticker on the rear window turned in front of me, forcing me to slam on my brakes to prevent a broadside collision. I gave them a giant “WTF” face and hoped to catch them at the next light. Jerk.

So that’s a roundup of a weekend of not much happening. Now I’m laying around with the dogs watching “Memphis Memoirs” on channel 10. I’m pretty stoked with some of the wattage I was able to put out this weekend. I also figured out that I love the BH. I knew the Trek just didn’t seem right. Don’t get me wrong… it’s an awesome bike, but I feel at one with the BH. It’s pretty amazing.

Random Photos

These don’t necessarily warrant their own separate posts, but they’re fun to look at.

Friday night, Ryan and Matt tried to reenact that famous scene from “Lady and the Tramp.” Their plan was foiled when they realized that it won’t work with ravioli.

love

Saturday after the race, I was walking the dogs when I saw an odd looking stick. A closer look revealed that it wasn’t a stick, but a mass of black, spikey caterpillars on the end of a stick.

stick

Finally, Sunday morning, Matt and I combined the powers of ADHD and OCD and built a fire pit. Then we built a path. Then we cleaned out from under all of the surrounding rocks so that my mom would actually go down there without being afraid of lurking swarms of snakes coiled and ready to strike at her from every direction. Most of what we cleaned out was poison ivy. Don’t ask how I know.

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Syllamo’s Revenge Race Report

I didn’t spend much time recovering after Cohutta before getting back in to training. Of course I wanted to rock Syllamo pretty hard, but I have bigger races on the schedule, so I treated Syllamo as a hard training day.

I headed over to Mountain View Thursday morning for a little trail work (on my adopted section of Orange trail) and preriding. I was feeling pretty awesome through the rock gardens (even rode the green trail 2x, just to make sure!) Friday, I went for a longer ride on the yellow and red loops. It took about 3 hours, and I was pretty beat when I got back to the cabin. My legs were still feeling Cohutta.

All week, the forecast had been looking messy for the race. Friday night, Ryan, Matt, the dogs, and I ended up taking to the storm shelter as severe storms and several tornadoes rolled through the area. I had resolved myself to more of the same for the race.

Saturday morning came early. The skies looked cloudy and the radar was iffy. When we arrived at Blanchard Springs, I got my packet and readied myself to ride so I could get in a good warmup- very important since the course starts with a 3/4 mile climb up a closed forest road before turning off into miles of tight and rocky singletrack. I felt like I had a little bit of an advantage since I knew the course well, so I wanted to get up the hill ahead of as many people as possible without blowing myself up.

I felt like I did a good job of pacing there. Carey Lowery (who went on to beat me and finish an awesome 8th overall) passed me on the climb. I didn’t try to catch her because fitness-wise, I’m not quite ready for an epic singletrack slugfest… even if it is on my “home” turf. Once we entered the singletrack, I settled into a hard tempo. I quickly realized that all off my practice and learning how to ride the rocky sections were in vain… the rain overnight had left them incredibly slick. I made it through a few tough spots, but soon took a couple of hard falls that shook my confidence a bit.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about rocks, it’s that you can’t hesitate or be indecisive when it comes to riding them.

Every time I’d approach the wet rocks, I’d tense up a bit and mentally prep myself to stop and unclip if I needed to. That, of course, led to stalling and unclipping. It was like taking 50 steps back from where I’d worked myself up to as far as technical skill. I was hating it, and ended up hiking more than I probably needed to. It was more of the same through the yellow and short portions of blue and orange that remained before the 1st Aid Station. I was a little discouraged at that point, but figured I’d make the best of it by just keeping steady and making the best out of all the other parts of the trail that weren’t slippery. It worked out well enough and got me to the aid station for a quick snack and water refill before heading out on the green loop.

The green loop is a lot of fun. With the exception of a couple of switchbacks and the rocks along the White River Bluff, it’s pretty flowy. It was a good chance to get my confidence back a bit before taking another painful spill on the rocks and resigning myself to walking the entire bluff section (along with about 5 guys that didn’t want to bust their butts the way I had). Matt called us the fail train…

All-aboard-the-fail-train

The next bit of trail was the orange and blue down to the first Livingston Creek and Hwy 5 crossing. It was pretty uneventful, but I stopped and laid my bike down in the creek in order to clean out the drivetrain. When I got to the Hwy 5 Aid Station, Todd H. was there with my drop bag (including a spare derailleur!) and some chain lube.I refilled, had a snack, then headed on my way up the hill.

You have to be in the right mindset for the next sections of trail. The initial part isn’t really that bad- First, you have to climb a bit. Then, more rocks, and you head back down across the highway and across the creek two more times (those crossings were very sandy, so even though they were rideable, I carried my bike across to keep the drivetrain from getting fouled up).

It’s the next part that takes perseverence. The trail goes up. It gets steep and impossibly rocky. It includes stairs (made of rocks). It’s not really that long of a climb distance-wise, but it can break you if you let it. I passed several racers who were sitting on the side of the trail looking as if they didn’t know whether to keep going or to fling themselves back down the hill. I told them to get up and at least start walking. Hopefully it helped. It’s always a relief to see the logging road at the top (which, btw, still goes up at a healthy pitch, but doesn’t include any rocks or switchbacks, so it’s pretty refreshing). Once I crossed Green Mountain Road again, the sun was out, and I could smell the finish. Only the red loop and some mad crazy descending stood in my way.

Even though the red loop is not technical, rocky, or steep, its length (~13 miles) nearly drives some people insane. I forced myself to not look at my bike computer and to just keep hammering as best I could. Soon enough, I was back at the final aid station and on my way into the last section of yellow trail that led to the screaming-fast hill back to Blanchard. I was tired, a tiny bit crampish (same spots as the week before), but feeling otherwise alright rolling across the finish with a final time of 6:04. Carey had come in at a hair under 5:17 (Daaaaaamn!), and the next woman (of 13 who finished) was at 6:42.

The trophies for this race are pretty sweet (as is the cash in the included envelope!) Here’s a shot of mine with a little post-race libation:

rock

I’m pretty happy with my finish. The next day, Matt and I built a fire pit and rode forest roads for a couple of hours… which is another post. Hopefully the race photographer will get the shots up soon!

Cohutta 100 Report

The weekend was full of random oddities that made it memorable (other than riding for 100 miles). I made sure to highlight them in case you’re not up for reading the entire story.

I left Memphis later than desired on Thursday, so I ended up crashing on Kim F’s futon in Chattanooga that night instead of at Thunder Rock campground as I’d originally planned. Good move, though, because finding/setting up camp in the dark kinda sucks.

Friday morning, I headed out to the campground.

On the way out, I stopped by Panera for some coffee. There was an old, fat guy in a sweatsuit and cowboy hat smoking on the patio near where I parked. When I got out of the car, he watched me intently as I locked my bike up, then as I went inside, he made a comment about how my hair had something of a European look to it. When I came back out, he told me a philosophical verse in Spanish that he’d thought up. I can’t remember his translation, but it made me smile.

When I got to the campground, I found a nice spot to set up, then decided to head back in to Cleveland to go to the bike shop (it’d been too early when I’d passed through before) to get a fender for my bike. I figured it might be an insurance policy against rain (spoiler alert… FAIL).

When I arrived back at camp, I met up with Todd H (my best Arkansas buddy), who had set up at the campsite next to me. He’d done the race a couple of times before, so he helped me figure out where to pre-ride that afternoon. While I was out, I came around the corner and saw a guy standing next to the trail with a camera as if he were waiting on someone to photograph. Thing was, I hadn’t passed anyone for a while… I think it might have been Harlan Price (pro from Independent Fabrications), though I was moving kinda fast & didn’t get a good look, so I could be wrong. I asked him if he were going to take my photo as I zipped by.

Even though the trails were really easy compared to the stuff I’m used to in Arkansas, pre-riding was a good idea since the final bit of trail was a screaming decent (including a couple of tricky corners) off of the mountain. Afterward, I picked up my registration packet, cleaned up, and ate some dinner before settling in for bed.

It rained a bit over night, but in the morning, seemed as if it’d be holding off. I had some oatmeal, changed, and headed up to the start area. When I lined up, I was chatting with some of the other women when Cheryl Sorenson (who went on to finish 2nd) and I had the following exchange:

CS: What’s your name?
Me: Andrea
CS: What’s your last name?
Me: Wilson. You haven’t heard of me yet.
Surrounding others: giggling/mumbles
CS: “not amused” look

I might be new to the 100 miler game, but I know when I’m being sized up…

Anyway. The race started. There was a lot of pushing and shoving, but I settled in on Todd’s wheel since I knew he’d be pacing himself via powermeter up the first 2.5 miles of paved climb. About a mile up, that got to be a bit much, so I dropped back a bit. I wasn’t in a bad spot when we hit the singletrack, though being in a big group, it was hard to settle in. I went kinda hard, because I could see/hear some of the competition ahead & behind me.

This would prove to be a mistake.

After about 10 miles, I settled in to a more comfortable pace. I also got passed by a lot of people in doing so. The singletrack seemed endless, but eventually we were dumped out on to the forest service roads. It was there that the longer climbs started. I felt OK. Not great- I was cursing my lack of climbing fitness as well as the 10 winter pounds I’ve been “meaning to lose” for longer than I care to reveal. Then, about mile 30, my back started to hurt. I kept trying to shift around to find a more comfortable position, but to no avail. It was bad.

Soon enough, Laureen Coffelt came trucking along from behind me. She asked how I was doing, and I told her my back was on fire and I felt horrible. She reassured me that if I just kept plugging along at the speed I was going, that I was still on track to have a respectable time. I resolved myself to getting to the 3rd aid station (almost at the top of the longest climb and taking some aspirin with half a sandwich to see if it’d make me feel better.

Not much further (about mile 40), my legs started to remind me of the effort I’d put in earlier. My quads cramped every time I hit a steep pitch of road. This, along with my back pain, sent me off my bike to stretch every couple of miles. Somewhere during that time, it started to rain. A lot. It stormed bad enough that Lynda Wallenfels was nearly struck by lightning, forcing her to DNF the race.

I won’t lie- on that climb, I wanted to quit. I told myself that I didn’t deserve to finish the race because of my lack of preparation. The thing about racing 100 miles is that you can’t fake it…
You can fake road races where you pull up to the start and everyone expects you to do well, so they’ve already partially resolved themselves to being beaten. You can fake the endurance races that are done after 5 or 6 hours by relying on halfass fitness and sheer determination in order to put up the front that you’re a machine that can hammer that stuff out like it’s no problem. But when you’re facing 100 miles of time on your bike, it tears you down to the bare, soft underbelly of your exact level of preparation and training.

I finally reached the 3rd aid station at mile 50something. I took a few minutes to get my chain lubed, eat some food, take some aspirin, and compose myself. I reminded myself about what Laureen had told me earlier about plugging along. Once again, she helped me to NOT DNF a race (see the Fool’s Gold 2009 report in reference). I got back on my bike and rode on. I knew that after a bit more climbing, I would be rewarded with a long decent, and was hoping that by the time I reached the bottom, the change in position combined with the meds would have me feeling better.

I took my frustrations out on the downhill. There were nice lines from faster riders already worn on to the dirt, so all I had to do was follow those. All the while, the rain was falling steadily… I squinted hard enough that if you were to have taken a photo of me, I probably looked like I was riding with my eyes closed. I was working hard enough absorbing the washboard bumps in the road with my legs and shifting my weight around that I never got freezing cold as a lot of people reported. I’ve seen a few people’s reports of how horribly bumpy, slippery, & treacherous the descents were, but I didn’t think they were all that bad. Maybe those people were on 26ers or something.

After going down for a while then hitting some tall rollers, I finally came to aid station 4. They had gummy bears. When the aid station worker uncovered their bowl, all I could say was, “Oh my god, that looks better than diamonds!” and cram a handful of them in my mouth (along with all of the dirt and sand from my glove). Everyone laughed at me. I’m not sure why… I mean, gummy bears were a lot more useful to me at that point.

The next bit of road was nice and flat for a mile or two. Some guy on a nice carbon FS Gary Fisher drafted me until I told him that if it started to rain again that I was going to pee. Without stopping. (Squatting at that point would = leg cramps, so ya gotta do what you gotta do…) Eventually we reached another (shorter) climb. The wind picked up a lot in the time it took me to get to the top, so I was kinda worried that I was about to get stormed on really bad. Luckily, it only rained.

The rest of the race is actually a bit blurry. I’m sitting here at my computer trying to think of what to type, but all I remember really is just lots and lots of pedaling, wind, and rain. Somewhere between the pee guy and the singletrack, I got more chain lube and a chocolate moon pie.

Once I got to the last section of singletrack, my leg cramps came back with a vengeance. I was forced to granny gear or walk some stuff that I’d blown through in my middle ring the day before. Once I was up the initial climb, I took one last stretching break. When I got back on the trail, a gust of wind fell a huge, rotten branch onto the middle of the trail about 15 feet ahead of me. It exploded when it hit the ground, and probably would have fallen on me if I hadn’t paused just before then.

Suddenly, I was at the Thunder Rock Express trail. A bit of adrenaline boosted me through the first few turns, around several riders (one of them a female competitor!) and down the hill. I haven’t compared the times yet, but I’m guessing that despite the rain, I made it down faster than I had the day before. Once I was at the bottom, it was 1.5 miles of headwind up Hwy 64 to the finish. I like wind, and I had absolutely no idea if the person I’d passed was chasing me, so I buried myself.

Crossing the finish line, it took everything I had to not burst in to tears. I stopped on the other side and put my head down on my bars to absorb the enormity of what I’d just done. Hopefully, by the end of the summer, this will be old hat, but finishing the first one (and all of the emotions I felt along the way) will be a memory branded into my head forever.

My 9:59:30 finishing time landed me 11th place out of 16 finishers (DNFs weren’t listed, but 21 women were registered @ the start). Not stellar, but at least a benchmark. I’ve got a long way to go before I’ll be on the radar of the ladies who were duking it out for the podium, but hopefully that’ll come by the last couple of races this season.

Instead of a CrudeXC Race Report…

Here’s a brief rundown of my derailleur experiences in the past year.

I got my bike in April of 2009. Exactly (almost to the minute) one week after purchase, I made the n00bsauce mistake of riding through an overgrown field and getting vines & crap tangled up in my rear mech. I take full responsibility for that one.

It was replaced then ridden all summer. Then, the Jet9 was recalled. I got a spiffy Air9 hardtail to ride in the meantime. However, within a month, I had another mishap when a stick found its way in to my drivetrain on one of my first few rides at Syllamo:

Syllamo is maintained, but no one goes around the 50 miles of singletrack with a rake, so there are sticks and rocks that are just waiting to strike at any time. About 3 weeks ago, one got me again. This time, the hanger only bent, but the DR cage cracked a bit. The DR still worked as a tensioner, but it wouldn’t really shift. I ended up riding pseudo-SS for the remainder of the weekend.

Over the weekend, I started my first XC race as a cat1. I wasn’t winning, but I was determined to go down swinging. Then, a few miles from the end of lap #2…

rdr

Yeah. I’m seriously considering selling the Jet9 upon arrival and buying myself some sort of really sweet SS frame. A Carbon Air9 would be my dream bike, but it looks like it’d be after the season before it’d arrive, so I might look for something else. In the meantime, I’ll be rebuilding and replacing to get ready for the Cohutta 100 this weekend.