January 26, 2009

Southern Cross Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 11:44 am

It was a race of triumph and tragedy…

Ryan and I arrived at Mulberry Gap a little after 8:00 Saturday morning. First off, Mulberry Gap is a really sweet little mountain bike getaway place. They’ve got cabins, hot tubs, showers, and access to a lot of trails. If I actually HAD a mountain bike, I’d be going back to visit more often! However, I digress…

I almost forgot to mention… the temps were in the 40′s and there was a steady rain falling. Luckily, by the time the race started, it was around 50 and cloudy. The race itself started and finished something like a “normal” CX race, with a 1/2 mile or so loop around the Mulberry gap property (included were things like a creek crossing, a couple of run-ups, and a really tall barrier). Following the CX loop was the meat of the race- the 38 mile forest road loop that, after 12 miles of gravel/paved/decent/small rollers would pitch up to just over 3000 ft of elevation over the span of 12 miles.

As soon as I got the initial CX loop out of the way, I implemented the strategy that I’d devised pre-race: KILL IT!!!!
Let’s face it- I’m not exactly Kristen Armstrong when it comes to climbing (the 23 pound bike doesn’t help, either). So my plan was to nail the initial decent and flat portions of the race and make the other (3) women chase me to the climb. This worked fabulously. After dropping the hammer on the initial decent, I ended up getting a draft through the headwind up to the climb (the others were not so lucky).

For the first 7 miles of climbing, I continued to feel very strong. The grades were long, and (as I estimate) ranged anywhere from 3-7%. This initial portion of climb was a bit of a stair-step (good for me!), with a steep-ish grade followed by a flat-ish portion of road. However, once I passed the course “sag” stop, it started to get ugly… the grades were steeper- somewhere in the 10% range (some sections getting closer to 15%), and the longer reprieves of the initial climb gave way to ~10yard “teaser” flat spots that were just long enough to coast for a couple of seconds before the next onslaught of hill was in your face.

I’m not ashamed to say that I walked twice. Even with 39×27 as my lowest gear, the added resistance of the mud (which was a little bit like wet peanut butter), was too much for my legs to take in a couple of spots. I wasn’t the only one… as I slogged on foot, I was looking down at the ground and noticed muddy imprints left by the shoes of those that had passed through ahead of me. The last few miles, fog encased the woods and road so that the road ahead was not visible. During the last few miles, the mud was mixed with snow and slush, making the steepest section of course also the sloppiest. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that conditions bordered on epic…

Finally, somewhere near the top, the sun broke through, and I heard the voice of a course marshal telling me to turn right and have a nice trip back down. The decent was about 7 miles, and, though I was exhausted (both physically and mentally), I shook the proverbial cobwebs out and concentrated on descending as quickly as possible through the rocks and muck. Following the decent, the course rolled back to Mulberry Gap. When I finally got there, a course marshal directed me to turn left and go up the hill…
A wet, leaf and mud covered hill that, according to Ryan’s Garmin 705, was 175 feet at a 56% grade. After pausing to curse, I started trying to push my bike up the wall. At times, I was using trees to hoist myself up a step or two. There was a woman taking photos about 1/2way up who yelled at me that some people were dragging their bikes… excellent idea! I let the bike tip, grabbed it by the front wheel, and drug it up like the dead animal that it was while cursing the steel frame with some pretty “creative” language. At the top, the hill continued up another 65 feet of elevation gain at 16% (400 more feet of rolling my bike before reaching the top). I thought that the worst was over.
From the top, the course went screaming downhill and onto the pavement, passing the finish line, and re-entering the CX loop that we’d followed at the start of the race. My legs were on the brink of collapse, so I was having a difficult time negotiating the barrier, the remount, and the first (realllly long) runup.
It was there that the stuff of nightmares occured… Carey Lowery, who I found out later was a locally well-known MTB endurance racer, caught me. She ran by me about 3/4 of the way up, and I started after her. We were close when we both re-mounted at the top, and jockeyed for position going down a steep hill to a narrow bridge. She got the inside turn and was just ahead of me on the bridge. Coming off, I attacked up the steep pitch of gravel hill that followed. This launched me ahead of her, and the course swept back down a steep hill and made a sharp right, which I took at “make it or break it” speed, praying that the finish line was around the corner.

I’d forgotten something.
There was one more run-up between me and the finish line.

I bobbled the turn into the run-up and stalled out, making for an awkward and slow dismount. Carey jumped on the opportunity and dashed past me. Her remount at the top was flawless. I cursed and fumbled my way up the hill and over the log at the top. As I rounded the short corner, she was crossing the line. I crossed a few second later, covered in mud and immersed in defeat.

I think this sums it up:

After I banged my head on a dirt wall near the finish line a few times, I had some vegetarian chili, an oatmeal cookie, and a hot shower. Once Ryan and I were warm, clean, and fed, we hung out for a while talking and laughing with some of the other racers & volunteers. He ended up in 12th place for the men (I was 16th overall out of around 50 racers- mostly men). I have to say, though I’ve never had a problem with “roadie” people, I loved the MTB people that I met while I was there. I even got a good cookie recipe or two…

I found a couple of photos- taken by Namrita O’Dea of 55nine performance…

A cold, wet starting line

A cold, wet starting line

First run-up of the day

First run-up of the day

Near the end of the race, just before my Epic Fail

Near the end of the race, just before my Epic Fail

The women's race "podium"

The women's race "podium"

January 22, 2009

Southern X and a random video

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:49 pm

In case the 140 or so of you a day that visit my blog don’t also visit Ryan’s blog, here’s a link to his blog post of Google Earth images that he mapped of the Southern Cross race this weekend: RoadCX Southern X Preview . Take a good look at it and come back…

Yea, it’s gonna be tough! Luckily, I’ve got a song that I’ll probably sing over & over in my head (ok, and possibly out loud) as I climb. This is a nice alternative to “99 bottles of beer on the wall” that I used at the River Gorge Road Race last summer…

January 21, 2009

Fixed gear 4 life, yo

Filed under: non-bike — Andrea @ 7:30 am

January 19, 2009

Tempeh Sandwich

Filed under: non-bike — Andrea @ 8:59 pm

Most Excellent…


Tempeh (marinated in balsamic vineagerette dressing), sauteed mushrooms and onions, mozarella cheese, and arugula

January 18, 2009

Mt. Magazine Adventure Ride

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 10:28 pm

So last night at dinner, about half of the guys expressed interest in getting over to Petit Jean somewhat early in the morning so that they could get home in time for various reasons. The other half of us wanted to sleep in and let the temperatures get out of the 30s before we got started with our ride.

This morning (after a short hike), we started looking at how long it would take to drive to Petit Jean State Park, and, after realizing that it was nearly a 2 hour drive, decided that we’d just do some more riding around Magazine. At first we talked about an out & back to Paris, but after some searching on Google Maps, came up with a route that had us descending to Havana and circling the side of the mountain opposite of where we’d gone the day before and ending up at the bottom near Cove Lake. We were also well aware that our route could contain some gravel roads, but most of us felt pretty adventurous.

I was secretly hoping for gravel… and lots of it. I probably wasn’t the only one.

We headed out a little after 10:00. After a chilly descent, we hung a left before reaching Hwy 10 in Havana. My wishes came true, because not more than 1/2 a mile after leaving the main road, the pavement ended. Of course, within the next 1/2 mile, two people had flat tires. Jared had flat #1 (of an eventual 3), and Tim Moore had a torn sidewall. He decided that it was too risky to continue, booted the tire, and headed back accompanied by Steve Pavlovic, who was wary of taking the nicer of his bikes into such territory.
The six of us that remained (Ryan, Jared, Susan, Todd, Frogge, and myself) continued on. We had more fun than I think ANY of us have ever had on two wheels- the road climbed, descended, and even crossed a few small streams (Todd rode across while the rest of us dismounted and hopped rocks). Of course, there were several more flat tires, but hey, we were asking for it, right?!


Because we were starting to run short on supplies (mainly rubber and CO2), we decided to cut the ride a little short when we reached a fork in the road that would take us back to the main road. It was fun nonetheless. We rode about 16 miles until we reached the main road for a windy climb back up the Paris side of the mountain. Next time, we’ll come more prepared with tougher tires, a few more tubes, and a frame pump or two…

Here’s Ryan’s GPS tracing of the route:

Sunday Morning on Magazine

Filed under: non-bike — Andrea @ 9:58 pm

Since today’s ride deserves its own blog post, I figured I’d start by posting some photos of a morning hike to the actual “top” of Mt. Magazine.


The top of the mountain is pretty cool- there’s a stone rendering of the state of Arkansas, complete with a rock-star for Little Rock, and a USGS “button” with the elevation inscribed on top. Here are some shots from the top (click to see full-size versions):


After the ride, I also tried to take some artsy bike-porch shots…



January 17, 2009

Mt. Magazine

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 11:21 pm

Today was my third time in the last year to come to Mt. Magazine. It’s officially one of my most favorite places to “get away” to. Ryan and I are staying with a large group of other Memphis Velo guys in one of the cabins in the state park on top of the mountain. It’s GORGEOUS! After riding about 65 miles today, this was the view from our balcony…


Of course, being in a cabin with a bunch of guys can be pretty “entertaining” sometimes…


January 15, 2009

“Fun Time” with Reynaud

Filed under: non-bike — Andrea @ 8:45 pm

You may be asking why I was briefly considering NOT going to Mt. Magazine this weekend for climbing time. Well, the weather was looking like highs would be in the 20′s, and I just can’t ride in those conditions because my circulation just doesn’t function as it should.
Case in point- Walking from my building at U of M out to my car, my left middle finger started to go numb (no problem w/others, just that one). By the time I came home, got the mail, brought in the trash and recycling bins, it was totally white and had no feeling in it.

No one ever believes me when I tell them that my fingers randomly lose circulation, so I figured I’d snap a photo. I had to let the dogs out first, but still managed to catch the tail end of the zombie finger attack as circulation began to get back to it…

(yes, I have bad cuticles... I know this)

(yes, I have bad cuticles... I know this)

It’s one of the symptoms of Reynaud’s Disease, which has been the source of some severe cold-related finger pain the past few winters. There’s not a lot to do about it other than use it as an opportunity to pretend that I’m trying out for a part in a George Romero flick…

Time to Climb!

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 3:18 pm

Looks like the arctic air mass that’s currently forcing me inside to cower under a blanket will get displaced by the weekend! What’s that mean? It means that I’ll be road-trippin’ over to Mt. Magazine (highest point in Arkansas) for some uphill action. If you search my blog pages back to May (hint: use the calendar-thingy), you can find some nicer-weather shots from around the summit that I took while up there for Tour of Arkansas. It’ll be a good warmup climb for Southern Cross. Here is a MapMyRide link of a training ride from last year where we started at the base near Paris, traversed Magazine (cold decent from Hell), then turned around in Havana and came back (click “view full” to get to an elevation profile):

We will probably hit up Petit Jean & possibly Nebo on Sunday & Monday. More updates to follow…

January 12, 2009

Workin’ on Bikes Day

Filed under: non-bike,Training — Andrea @ 7:09 pm

Today Ryan and I worked on putting his new Ridley together. I helped some with the assembly (taping BB threads, installing crank & RD, and some catchy bar tape, of course), but mainly worked on finishing up the Surly’s 1×9 conversion. The final chore was to put the tubeless tires on another set of wheels- which turned out to be a great move, because even though they were a bit harder to get inflated on a set of Zero A028s, they seemed to not have the burping issues that the Mavic wheels experienced. I didn’t think it was possible, but I think that the Zeros could be a few grams lighter as well.

Once we did some test riding in the cove, we changed and headed out to Shelby Farms to really put the spurs to them…
The only issue I really had was rear wheel slippage. Even though I thought I had the skewer reeeeeally tight, I still had a couple of slips under stress in the horizontal rear dropouts. I’m going to have to find a harder clamping skewer before Southern Cross!
I’m not sure if it was just having gears, lighter wheels, more fitness, etc. (maybe a a combo of all 3), but I was hauling some freakin’ walnuts today! I felt like having gears was cheating. I wonder what would happen if I were on a bike that didn’t weight 22 pounds?

Doing what I do best

Doing what I do best

Post-ride shot of my Hoss

Post-ride shot of my Hoss

Is there a better way to end a day like this?

Is there a better way to end a day like this?

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