Trial by Fire

… words to live by.

So, even though I just picked up Jens Voigt a little more than two weeks ago, and we didn’t see each other for an entire week up until yesterday because I exploded his rear derailleur on our 1 week anniversery, I entered the Dirt, Sweat, and Gears 12 hour race anyway.

Things in my favor:
Solid base training
I know how to pace myself
I know how to eat/drink
Innate tenacity

Things NOT in my favor:
It’ll probably be muddy
I fall a lot in the mud
I’ve never ridden at night (I was going to last week while it was reasonably dry, but then the DR thing happened…)

I entered the amature category even though I was sorely tempted by the nice prize money they’re giving to the top 3 spots in the Pro division. Since it’s my first time out, we’ll see how I fare against both fields. Next time it shouldn’t be as hard of a decision.

Other stuff: Weekend after this one, I’m riding the MTBÂ leg of the Memphis in May triathlon on a relay team. Then, on Sunday, there’s a MTB race at Mongomery Bell State Park that I’ll probably road trip to. I’m not sure what category to start in there. Common sense says beginner (cat 3), but from what I’ve heard, you can start as a cat 2 (sport) as well. I thinking that since it’d probably be a quick jump anyway that I should just HTFU and start as a Cat 2.

Who wants to make an almost 3 hour road trip to only race 8 miles, anyway?

3, er, 2 state report and a Sunday ride

The rain began to fall as we rolled out from Finley Stadium on the 3 State 3 Mountain century. It began to pour as we crossed the top of Suck Creek Mountain (which was absolutely gorgeous, by the way). The descent was a bit scary, and it pretty much killed my brake pads. A lot of people at the bottom were gathered under any type of overhand they could find because at that point, the rain was torrential. A lot of people quit and called on friends to come and pick them up. I ate a powerbar and pressed on, and eventually the rain let up to a steady pelt rather than a constant dump. I warmed up and found a nice-paced group to stick with.

I had all intentions of riding the century, but for some reason, I was feeling homesick. When we reached the turnoff for the metric century, I bailed. Figuring I should make the best of my shortened ride, I put my head down and rode into the headwind at a steady sub-threshold/tempo pace. I passed one guy and didn’t think much of it. A little while later, I heard something behind me. Looking back, I realized that I had a train of about 5 guys sitting on my wheel. It was kinda funny. I kept going and one of them thanked me for pulling him around.

I didn’t care. It was good training, and, when you’re in front, you don’t get water spray in your face. I felt kinda bad for making the trip and only going 62 miles (2 states, 1 mountian!), but I was happy to get home before dark.

Today Ryan and I rode to the Cory Horton Cycle for Safety ride. On the way out, I stayed with the front group. The pace got a little bit brutal at times, but I was motivated to keep up by Maggie, an uber-strong tri-lady who was making it look easy. I told her she needs to road race.
When the group left the turnaround point, I didn’t even attempt to ride back with them. Instead I took it (sort of) easy and rode/talked with another rider who I graduated with from U of M. Eventually, I met back up with Ryan, who had left the front group and turned around to ride back to me. At that point, I was fried. Along the way back, I felt a bonk coming on, so I ate a powerbar (note to self- I like powerbars…Â need to get another box!) and stopped to watch some incredibly noisy guinea fowl wandering around next to the road. It headed off the bonk, but I was still hurting by the time we got home. I think that the hard ride out combined with using Ryan’s spare compact crank (with 175mm arms)Â zapped my legs and made my knees ache a bit (though I did adjust the saddle for the modified crank size… it’s still different from what I’m used to).

Now, it’s time to clean some gutters and move some gravel.

Road Trip

Since Jens Voigt the mountain bike is still laid up in the hospital with a fractured derailleur, I made a late-week decision to take a trip to Chattanooga for the 3 State 3 Mountain century ride. It’s been rainy, but the rain has been patchy, and the weather channel was showing a break in the showers Saturday morning. I was also incredibly bored with Memphis area roads. So, last night I swapped a compact crank on to the BH (not that I can’t get up the mountains without it- it’s more of a question of do I want to go up the mountains without it) and this morning I set out on the road.

I made plans to stay at the Raccoon Mountain Caverns campground. However, when I arrived today, the place was packed… not with just the usual campers, either- it had been taken over for a large Bluegrass Festival! There were tents packed in to every open patch of ground on the property, and people packed in and around them in much the same manner. The guy at the front gate told me that there was room for primitive camping. “How much for one night?” I ask. He tells me ten dollars. Score!

At least I thought.

“Oh yeah, then there’s the price of admission to the festival, and that’s twenty bucks, so yer lookin’ at thirty total.”

I’d like to pause here and say I honestly think that hanging around a bluegrass festival tent farm could probably be pretty damn fun. However, with a long run planned for the afternoon, a century planned for tomorrow morning, and another 70 miles on Sunday, I really can’t justify doing that right now. I’ve got to race a 12 hour in a week!

So I tell him sorry, that’s a bit steep and head back down the road to find a motel. Best Western. I unload the car, change, and head back out to Raccoon Mountain for some trail running. Even though I took a trail map with me, a couple of the turns were not marked and I ended up only getting in about a ten mile run rather than the 15 I was hoping for. I gotta hand it to the SORBA people… that is a first class trail system! We could never have anything that nice in Memphis because people would tear it up the first time it rained. I didn’t pass a single spot that had been rutted or widened.

When I arrived back at the motel, I turned on the TV only to see that the area was about half an hour away from getting slammed by some thunderstorms. That, along with my own hot shower and indoor plumbing made $80 for a room seem not quite as bad. My tent has a rainfly, but I’m pretty sure it would keel over in high winds. Once I was cleaned up, I went to a nearby Chinese buffet where I heard a really good joke courtesy of the people at the table next to me. It was a husband and wife (I’m assuming), two teenage girls, and a ~8 year old chinese girl who appeared to be an adopted child. I wasn’t paying too much attention to them until I heard one teen girl say to the other, “Hey, you want to hear something funny? Hey Caroline (to the Chinese girl), where do babies come from?”

“From China!” Caroline answers happily. Everyone laughs. I giggled a bit myself.

So now I’m back at the motel. The weather forecast has changed, and it looks like tomorrow will be wet. I really wish I had a rain cape. Maybe I’ll go to WalMart first thing in the morning and get something waterproof so I don’t freeze on the descents. I think the weather was a lot like this last year except a little cooler (though apparently it cleared up later in the ride). I’m just glad I’m not too busy racing to do things like this. It’s a nice break, even if the weather is crappy.

Worth another mention…

The FAIL content of my weekend post overshadowed the fact that on Saturday morning, I went to a pretty kickass adventure racing clinic.

I’ve been interested in the sport of adventure racing for as long as I can remember, but I’ve either been too poor to afford the necessary equipment or just generally overwhelmed by the gear, navigation, etc. required to participate in a race. Since my recent change of competitive direction, though, I decided I’d start figuring it out.

So, I asked the internet for advice and found this site: Ozark Extreme Adventure Sprints. It’s a series of challenging, yet beginner-friendly races. The nice thing is, they offer a Solo category in both Sprint and Advanced distances. The race organizers (Brandon and Robin) are also the ones that held the clinic last weekend at Burns Park.

I’m planning on competing in my first race in June at Village Creek State Park. Fitness-wise, I am totally confident in my ability to complete the Advenced-division race. However, I feel that even though I did well with navigation at the clinic, I need more practice so that I can put my fitness to good use.
I’ve heard that there are some control point markers out at Shelby Farms, so now that I’m finished teaching for the summer, I need to get myself a decent compass, UTM reader, topo map and some coordinates & get my butt out to the park!

Who am I kidding… you know I’m gonna enter the Advanced division.

Weekend Fail Part II, The Saga Continues

So I went for my 4 hour ride this morning. I accidentally left one of my favorite water bottles at the Shelby Forest General Store. Luckily, Ryan gave me one of his when I ran out of water about an hour from home.
Once we got home, I grabbed a snack and headed back out to ride more at Stanky Creek. I wanted to ride a solid two hours in preparation for Dirt Sweat & Gears in a couple of weeks. Other than my legs feeling a bit sluggish in the first few minutes, I warmed up and actually felt pretty damn good. I really wanted to focus on not using my brakes as much, looking ahead instead of down, and generally carrying more speed into tricky spots where I usually tend to slow down.

I was doing this well.

Then I rolled over some leftover branches from a downed tree that had been cleared from the trail. I heard a stick hit my spokes, and a fraction of a second later, I felt as if someone had ripped my bike out from under me as something jammed into my rear wheel (maybe a stick between the spoke/frame?) Though the bike stopped abruptly, I kept moving, and ended up falling onto the handlebars and jamming a bar end into the meaty part of my thigh. It hurt too much for me to curse, so I just sat on the trail for a minute looking at my bike and trying to figure out WTF just happened. I’m not sure, because once I did get back on, the chain started skipping between gear and being generally noisy. I’m hoping it’s not a bent derailleur hanger, but the way my luck has been with those lately, it probably is. Whatever it was, it cut my afternoon ride time short by an hour.

So I’m officially labeling this weekend as a “fail” (though since the first part of yesterday was pretty good, I’ll reserve the label of “epic” fail).

fail-owned-flytrap-fail

Weekend Fail.

Well, partially, at least.

I went to the Ozark Extreme Adventure Race Clinic yesterday. That was a win. AFter some instruction about basic adventure racing equipment, I learned how to use a topo map, UTM reader, and compass to locate control points in the woods at Burns Park. After some plotting and pace counting, the 6 of us were let loose onto a ridge in the park to find 5 control points. I don’t know what order the other people went in, but I started with #4, because it was close to an unimproved road on the map and would set me up well to find #1, which was on top of the ridge. After a little wandering and a little navigating, I’d retrieved the control point codes and headed back to the starting point. I was the first one back and managed to eat most of my $5 footlong before the remander of the group showed up. I don’t think it was really navigating skillz as much as it was a good plan, some running, and a touch of luck.
After lunch, we rode our mountain bikes. It was a pretty uneventful ride other than a steep, rocky climb that stalled me out once. Not one to be defeated, I went back to the bottom of the hill and tried again, this time, making it all the way to the top. Once we arrived back to the cars, we wrapped the day up through a little trail-side bike repair.

After finishing, I headed out towards Lake Sylvia. This is where my luck ran out. After making the 40 minute drive, I find that the park is closed (a sign on the gate said “Open May 1st”). Damnint! I know from past trips up there that there are places along the nearby forest roads where you can pull off and set up camp. However, I also know from past trips that there are some really insane and unpredictable rednecks that roam the area. I wasn’t willing to camp alone unless I had a gun… or at least a really mean dog, of which I had neither.
So, I headed back towards town. I figured I’d go to Maumelle park and camp where I stayed last week for the OT50k. My plans were foiled again, though, when the woman at the front desk told me that they were full. WTF?!? She said I could try Burns Park! I’d just come from Burns Park- it was crowded and, when I asked her if it was safe, there was a definite pause in her voice before she said she thought so…

So I drove back home. Lame. I’m going to train my tail off today. After I get in 4 road hours on the Outdoors ride, I plan on heading out to Stanky Creek for a couple of hours. It won’t be nearly as cool as 6 hours on Ouachita Fire roads, but at least it’ll be 6 hours.

Weekend Excitement!

I’m getting geared up for the upcoming Burns Park Adventure Race Clinic on Saturday. I’m hoping to learn a lot- especially from the “mountain bike skills” portion of the clinic since my tech-riding skills are pretty lame right now.

I plan on camping out Saturday night. Where? I’m not quite sure yet. I was planning on venturing out to the Womble trail, but I’m wondering if my time would be better spent making the much shorter drive out to Lake Sylvia and riding the more familiar forest roads in that area. For one thing, I would have time to get in a run (stop by Pinnacle again maybe?) or ride before driving to west Little Rock for dinner (as opposed to cooking on a campfire). It would probably be better for me as far as conditioning goes since I’m planning on entering the Dirt Sweat and Gears 12 hour in a few weeks. I can also engineer my ride so that I make different loops from the campground, which would allow me to do a “self supported” 5 or 6 hour ride rather than trying to pack all at once for a day’s worth of riding into the wilderness.

What do my readers think? Womble? Ouachita? Sylvia? I’m so conflicted…

Oh yeah- before you answer, just know that I’m going to have all summer to go out that way for other adventures…