Southern Cross Race Report

Even though the temps hovered in the 40s and clouds enveloped the upper elevations of the climbs on course, it was much, much nicer than it could have been if the race hadn’t been rescheduled from a couple of weeks ago when several inches of snow fell and temps hung in the low 20’s.

It’s not often that I get butterflies, but after losing last year to Carey Lowery in the last 100 meters of race course, I had more reason than payout to do well this year (unfortunately, Carey wasn’t able to make it this year because of a recent surgery). Before the race start, I rode around the CX loop that we’d circle before and after the 50something mile gravel route through the national forest. This loop was a lot easier than the Mulberry Gap loop from last year, so I wasn’t too worried.

When the race started, I tried to make the best use of the cross course to get ahead of the other women. My strategy worked well, and I ended up entering the gravel just a little behind the group of men’s race leaders. Once I got away from Camp Wahsega, I forced myself to settle into a sustainable tempo (I have a bad habit of starting out too fast). The first climb (Winding Stair) went by quickly, and soon enough, I passed the aid station, headed up a few more miles, then started the descent down to several miles of pavement.

I like descents… other than having to stop for a lost water bottle (damn crappy cage!), I hauled all sorts of ass. The way I see it, descents are free time if you can go faster than your competition without wrecking or having a mechanical. I set my brakes up especially for this- I can grab my drops and wrap a finger or two around the brake lever without rubbing the pad on the rim unless I squeeze it a little more.

The road section was where I knew I could make up time on the other women. With ladies like Emily Brock and Brenda Simril chasing you, playing up your strengths can be pivotal… I got in my drops and put my head down, maintaining the same strong tempo effort I’d hit on the way up the first climb. At one point, the Applegates passed me on their tandem. Sweet! They ended up going slightly slower than what I was originally aiming for, but the energy-saving benefit of sitting behind a 29er tandem when there’s a headwind is pretty awesome.

Once we were back on the gravel, the second climb started soonafter. The Applegates & I were back & fourth- they were generally faster on the flat/downhill streches and I was a little faster uphill. This was also where my legs started to ache. For a minute, I slowed down, but then I recalled the hours of trail and road riding in Mountain View that I’d put in during Winter Break. So, I gritted my teeth, cleared the whiney thoughts from my head, and pushed harder.

Miles later, I stopped at the last aid station to quickly get a little water and toss my vest, which had been bothering me since the zipper stuck halfway down a few miles back. At that point, the Applegates passed me again (I wasn’t really racing them, but they acted a little bit as a rabbit to chase to keep me going). A few miles later, the final descent began. At first, it was foggy and rocky. I was a little cautious for the first section since a wreck, flat, or broken equipment would be pretty disasterous. However, once it smoothed out, I went back to going all-out. A couple of times, I felt my rear wheel skidding precariously around the damp, sandy turns… it was both incredibly fun and incredibly terrifying all at once. (The Applegates left me in the dust- they not only had a heavy & very stable machine with fatter tires & front suspension, they also have the skill and cajones to take full advantage of it!)

Soon enough, I was back at Camp Wahsega. Eddie set up a killer run-up (everyone said it was worse than last year, but I didn’t think so) and a little singletrack to navigate before re-entering the CX loop. When I got to the base, I noticed that Ryan was about halfway up. Happy to be off my bike, I shouldered it and started to climb. Once I got to the top, I hopped back on and headed down some rooty trail, over a few trees, and around the last couple of bridges before re-entering the course (I also managed to pass Ryan somewhere along the way). As I entered the section of barriers, I caught back up to the Applegates. I thought about attacking & diving around them, but then figured it wasn’t really all that important, so I told them that I’d back off so we could all have good finishing photos (hopefully those will surface soon!)

So my hard work paid off… I finished ~20 minutes ahead of the 2nd place woman. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come. I’ve got a lot more work to do before I’m 100% ready to conquer my first 100 miler in a few months.

HUGE thanks to Eddie and Namrita O’Dea for putting this race on. It’s always going to be one of my favorites, and I LOVE that they pay the women out the same as the men ($500 for 1st place!!!) You guys rock!

Photo from the first climb (courtesy of Chris Hines)


Southern Cross… Take 2

The training I did in Arkansas over the Winter break paid off. The 50 something gravel-grinding miles were tough, but I owned it. Though I wished that Carey Lowery (who I lost to last year) was racing, I still nailed it. When the race started, I made sure to pace myself up the first ~11 miles of climbing. Once I hit the descent followed by a section road, I was lucky enough that the one tandem couple passed me. Though they were eventually going slightly slower than was aiming for, they provided me with an awesome draft for about 10 miles of pavement. That allowed me to really nail the final climb/descent.

Maybe I’ll revise this to a full-on race report, but I’m enjoying an amazing homebrew coconut porter right now, so you’re just going to have to wait…

Columbia CX Race #3 and the Hangover Ride

In my continuing quest to poach TBRA points, Ryan and I daytripped the 3rd race of the Columbia Cyclocross series. Once again, Kim Bishop and I were the only 1/2/3 women lining up with the Masters and Cat 3 men. The course was good for me- several power sections and a long, steep run-up.

I went all out from the gun. Unlike the first Columbia race, (where even though I won the women’s competition, overall I didn’t place well) this race was not prefaced by a 20 hour training week. I held a decent position at the start and, with each lap, kept moving up. The guys I passed would occasionally put up a fight and try to pass back, but were unable to hold position because I’d ride right back through them. It was a take-no prisoners type of ride. I wasn’t sure of my placing overall, but on the last couple of laps, I had one more ahead of me that was within range. A couple of times, I found myself on his rear wheel but unable to get past. I ended up finishing a few second behind him. He turned around as I crossed the line and asked if I was smelling blood today.

Yeah, I guess that’s how you could put it…

Turns out he was the 2nd place cat 3 guy. Not bad, though today at the #4 race, Kym F. came over from Chatanooga and beat ALL of the guys. Pretty kickass if I do say so myself!

We got home sometime around 7:30 last night then met up with some friends at Flying Saucer and ended up staying up WAY too late! There was a Marx & Bensdorf team ride scheduled to leave for Potts Camp, MS at 8:00, but those of us at the bar decided that we’d have a “hangover ride” today around 11:00. It turned out to be a really, really good winter training ride. We kept a hard but steady (for the most part ;) ) tempo for close to 50 miles. The weather was gorgeous and the sun came out after a while, so it was a pretty perfect day on the bike.

Bike for Sale

In light of a couple of new rides heading my way, I need to clear some room in the stable (while also filling my wallet a bit)

2008 BH Connect- 54cm Complete bike w/SRAM Red

Want to stick out from the heard a little bit? I bet you don’t know many guys/gals on your local hammerfest that ride a BH. BH is a Spanish Company that makes some seriously kickass rides. The look is definitely NOT your usual Trek, Giant, or Specialized- the carbon frame has oversized top and downtubes- making it one of the stiffest ones out there but still giving you a really great ride quality. It feels great on climbs and once you cross the top, goes down faster than a drunken sorority chick.

I’ve built this bad boy up with SRAM Red- which is, IMHO, the best component group you can get. The wheels are Rolf Vector Pros- I think they look pretty awesome. Are they light? Hell no, they aren’t light- they’re for training! Nothing screams “I have a hard time keeping up” like arriving to the local group ride on light, fancy wheels. The tires follow suit- 25c Gatorskin up front and a kevlar-belted Bontrager out back. Besides, if you race, then you’ve already got a set of light race wheels for when it really counts.
The handlebars are FSA Omega compacts (size 40), the stem is an Edge (alloy) 120mm, and the seatpost is Thompson (no setback). I hate interior cable routing, so I ran a solid cable housing from the rear DR to the shifter. It works great, but there’s nothing wrong with the routing that the bike has through the chainstay other than I didn’t want to deal with it. Last but not least, the saddle is a San Marco SKN. It’s been ridden less than 10x because it’s much too narrow for me.

You can read the Road Bike Action review of this frame HERE

Retail on this frame/parts is around $4000 (you can find the frame on closeout for ~$2k and the Red group runs about the same). It’s used, but other than a couple of cosmetic paint chips, it’s in really nice condition. This can all be yours for $2,000. If you’re feeling lucky, make an offer!



Product Review: Wingnut “Splitback” Hydration Pack

After the severe back pain I experienced at the Lock 4 six-hour race a few months ago, I decided to try a Wingnut pack (specifically, the Splitback model). They’re designed to sit lower on your back, distributing the weight of the pack across your hips rather than up on your shoulders.

First off, you are going to pay more for one of these packs than you will for a traditional “camelback” style pack. They also don’t include a bladder.

However, after just a few uses, the cost has been more than justified with me. I’ve been on multiple 4+ hour rides since I purchased it, and I haven’t experienced any back pain (I’d originally thought that bike fit/saddle/general fitness might have had something to do with my pain, but apparently not). The construction is excellent- it’s lighter than most packs, but handling it, you get the sense that it will last forever. My favorite part is the side pockets- they’re roomy and really easy to get to while you’re riding (I even manage to get to fish stuff out while wearing heavy winter gloves).

The capacity of the Splitback is excellent- it can easily hold a 100oz bladder and whatever else you want to pack in- when I’m out for a long time on the trail alone, I usually carry food, a small camera, phone, folding saw, extra gloves, multi-tool, emergency blanket, lighter, pocketknife, waterproof shell (if rain is in the forecast) and still have room to stash a layer or two if I remove one while I’m out riding. Unlike some other packs that can hold this much (530 cubic inches), the Splitback only weighs 13oz. Salomon makes a comparable one (weight/cost wise) that’s slightly larger but doesn’t feature the “lowrider” system of the Splitback.

I know I sound like a total shill here, but with the humongous improvement I’ve had in my ability to ride for hours without pain, I can honestly say that this is one of the best (if not the best) pack available.

Get one!

2010 Race Schedule

Here it is! (starting with March). Road events are in green & MTB in orange

3/7: Rouge Roubaix
3/14: Hell’s Kitchen (maybe)

3/28: Ouachita Challenge

4/10-11: Mississippi Grand Prix
4/24: Cohutta 100 (first 100 mile MTB race!)

5/1: Syllamo’s Revenge
5/15: Dirt, Sweat, and Gears 12 hour

5/29-30: West Feliciana Stage Race

6/5: Mohican 100 (Ohio)
6/12-13: Tour de Louisiane
6/19: MBSN Gran Prix (Memphis)

7/3-4: Oxford Crits
7/17: Breckenridge 100 (Colorado)
7/31: Wilderness 101 (Pennsylvania)

I’ll likely pick one of those two since they’re both a long way from Memphis

8/15: Fool’s Gold 100 (Georgia)
8/21-22: Oak Ridge Omnium

9/5: Shenandoah 100 (maybe- depending on if I need the NUE series points)

I’m sure I’ll throw in the random XC race here & there, and I’m likely to add/subtract some of these, but this is the plan for now.

Roadtrip Rebound

So my between-semester winter break was officially over yesterday (faculty meeting), and classes start tomorrow.

I’m having a hard time coping.

After several road trips, random adventures, meeting new people, going new places, etc, now that I’m back to “normal” life, everything seems really, really boring, and it’s a little depressing.


At least Southern Cross got rescheduled- it’s going to be on the 23rd… which is good to combat the boredom, but is also going to keep me from going to the TBRA CX race on that day. Right now, I’m ahead in points for the series, but the gal in 2nd is going to be getting really, really close now if I don’t make an 8 farking hour trip to Johnson City for the last two races of the season.

On the plus side, I’ve made a tentative plan for my 2010 race season. It’s shaping up nicely, and it looks like I’ll be able to strike a good balance between mountain and road events. I wish summer would just hurry up & get here.

Eastbound Days 3 and 4- Unicoi Gap and Back

Not long after I took those pretty photos Friday morning, a couple of hikers (Kyle and Bart) showed up at the hostel (after hitching rides from the Appalachian Trail a few miles away). They’d parked their car at Unicoi Gap and been shuttled to the Southern end of the AT and had planned on hiking back to the car. However, when the snow and ice came through, their progress had slowed, and they weren’t going to make it back to their car in time for Bart to catch his flight home on Sunday.

Then I got the call- Eddie and Namrita (the Southern Cross race promoters) had tried to go to the race venue (Camp Wahsega) and were unable to because of the ice on the roads. They were going to have to postpone the race.

By then, it was a little after noon. I decided that I’d stick around the hostel for another night and head to Chattanooga for some “normal” CX racing Saturday morning since the Big One was called off. That evening, bored with sitting around the hostel watching CSI reruns, Bart, Kyle, and myself decided to head to town for dinner. I found out that they’d called a taxi service to pick them up in the morning and drive them to their car about 45 minutes up the road… to the tune of eighty bucks! Always up for a little adventure, I offered to drive them up there for the low, low cost of dinner and a tank of gas.

The scenery out to Unicoi was gorgeous! At the parking area, the trees on the hillside were still frozen in snow and ice, and the sunlight coming through them was amazing.




Kyle, Bart, and their car
Kyle, Bart, and their car

After dropping them off, I headed back to Chattanooga. Along the way, I drove past Brasstown Bald, site of many an exciting race finish during Tour of Georgia. Eventually, I made it to Booker T. Washington State park- just in time to change and head out for a quick lap around the MTB trails to loosen up my legs after a couple of days of doing nothing. Luckily, the race promoter had reserved the bunkhouses at the park for anyone who wanted to stay there, so I had some dinner & bedded down.

Today (Sunday), I’m hoping to finish my road trip off with a decent CX race.

Good Morning…

Looks like we got around 2 inches yesterday/last night. The roads are pretty covered, so I’m sticking around the hostel for a while (especially since the driveway here is really steep, really slick, and has a ravine on the other side of the road…

Back porch of the hostel
Back porch of the hostel
The chickens have a heat lamp in their coop, but they're huddled together outside
The chickens have a heat lamp in their coop, but they're huddled together outside
The toaster's first snow
The toaster's first snow


The driveway- if you look close, you can see where I inadvertantly slid a few times walking down
The driveway- if you look close, you can see where I inadvertantly slid a few times walking down


Eastbound- Days 1 & 2

I’m currently tucked away in the Dahlonega Hiker Hostel watching the snow fall. So, here’s my trip so far…

Yesterday, I left Memphis around 8:00 and drove to Chattanooga. With snow in the forecast, I didn’t want to be making the 5.5 hour trip to Dahlonega for Southern Cross in failing weather. I had just enough time to make an afternoon lap around the Raccoon Mountain trails. After “roughing it” on Syllamo trails, the groomed singletrack up there was pretty enjoyable. The rock gardens on the expert trails were especially cute. Here are some random shots from the ride:




After my ride, I headed out to a friend’s house in Hixson to crash on their futon for the night. This morning, I packed up & headed South to meet up & preride some of the race course. After checking in to the hostel, I headed to Camp Wahsega to meet the O’Deas.

As Namrita & I started out, a few flurries were floating around. By the time we were about 6 miles up the initial climb of the course, there was a solid layer of snow on the gravel. It was awesome to ride in, but we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to drive out from the camp once we were finished, so we reluctantly turned around and headed back.






Luckily, we made it back before the snow made the gravel roads slick or stuck to the paved roads. I picked up a pizza at a local place in downtown Dahlonega then headed back to the Hiker Hostel. This place is really, really awesome. Here are some photos, including the chickens, front porch, the three dogs that live here, and a wall of thank-you note photos of hikers at the northern end of the Appalachian Trail…