Friday, June 22, 2012

Ranked 3rd in the NUE series!

So, right before Lumberjack I was told that I had gotten a mention in Cycling News and was deemed a "Dark Horse" to watch out for.  I really just laughed, oh if they only knew...I did get excited to see my name however.  There might be a time when a name mention doesn't even phase me, but right now these are scrapbook moments!  Hey-mom-look-at-me type events that I will never forget.  It did help my confidence a little, especially since Mohican had knocked me down so hard.

Another one of these instances is seen in this spreadsheet done by Ryan O'Dell, the race director of the NUE Series.  I am currently 3rd in the overall NUE standings!  Right behind Amanda and Brenda!!  If we could only just stop the series now...

Here's your picture...

Girls night out!

It is so much fun to get together with my awesome teammates and just catch up on the daily happenings of our life.  Kristi and Amy are our new mommas, so it was exciting to hear about how they have been embracing motherhood and enjoying the journey of pregnancy.  They are both so beautiful!  Star and Grace leave next week BC Bike Race. I am super pumped for them as they tear it up seven days in a row on one-of-a-kind singletrack in British Columbia.  What an opportunity!!  Paula's got Nationals coming up and there is no doubt in my mind that she will absolutely tear it up! Kym is traveling to NC to coach at a camp and scope things out before her big move in August.  I'm sure she will be checking out the local singletrack as well.  I am still smiling from my little victory at Lumberjack, trying to fit an extra NUE race (Wilderness 101) into the schedule in July.  ORAMM is next on the books for me, I may even do the Jerdon Mountain Challenge on Saturday before ORAMM on Sunday.  I still need time to allow that to marinate...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lumberjack 100

I had so much fun at this race I definitely understand why it sold out in 11 minutes!
The Lumberjack 100 is three laps of a 33-mile loop through Michigan's beautiful Manistee National Forest and the Big-M Ski Area. About 90% of the loop is singletrack, hard pack trail with the occasional tire grabbing sand pit.  The rolling terrain is twisty and can give you that "rollercoaster" feeling if you handle your bike just right while feeding your cranks constant power.  Even closing your eyes for a second could land you in a fern gulley!  The hills were more like walls, with sand that got deeper as the day went on, giving us about 9,000 feet of total elevation gain. 

The first 2 miles were super fast on pavement, then a quick funnel onto sandy singletrack.  On my first lap, I was part of a massive train of riders, tearing our way through the thick forest.  My pace was set for me, all I had to do was hang onto the wheel in front of me.  I had to concentrate and ride super smart, because if I slid and wrecked, I would have been trampled!  I was screaming in my head with excitement as I rode this first lap, it was THAT much fun! The thick forest around me became a blur as I threw my bike from side to side. My first lap was 2:48


We had set  up our own aid station, so it was super fast getting in and out since I was just exchanging camelbaks and flasks.  A spectator told me that I was the 5th girl to come through, and I thought, "WOW, game on!" So, I tried to match the pace of my first lap, which was harder because my train had dispersed through "aid station alley".  Intermittently, I rode with different groups of people, but it was up to  me to continually push my pace...and that was getting harder to do mile after mile.  I felt like I was right on, but the clock showed 5:56 (3:07 lap time that included my first aid stop as well), so I had slowed down quite a bit.

My 3rd lap was desolate; I saw maybe 20 people.  It was hard to not think that I was the last person out there, especially since my past ultra race times have been in the 10-11 hour range.  After the 2nd aid stop, we all got really spread out. My stop was quick and I was off!  I had no thoughts on quitting, stopping, or resting, just plowed right through and focused on my pace and bike handling.  I kept imagining there was a girl right behind me and if I allowed that girl to pass me I would have lost my podium spot, I was racing!!  It's a big deal that I was able to be in that frame of mind because normally 66 miles into one of these races I'm in survival mode, just striving for the finish line.  The beach sand was much deeper this go round from all the riders churning it up throughout the day.  I just watched my tires sink into the ground on the steep wall climbs; there were moments you would have a full pedal stroke and not move at all!  I was thankful that I was seeing all of that for the LAST time, and I was thankful to still have my shorts on. :)  So, my third lap was 3:19. 

We were a complete MESS at the end of this race.  The black sand/dust from the dry trails just covered us from head to toe.  Two days later I was still blowing that stuff out of my nose!

Woo Hoo!!!! 5th place!!!

I was able to hold onto my 5th place victory with a total time of 9:15!!  Final mileage came to 102 miles; it was my best time by far!!  I competed against 32 other open/pro women, open men winner did it in 6:27, and open women winner did it in 7:42...ok, so I have some work to do, but improvement has definitely been seen.  It took some 15 hours to complete this course, and there were many that didn't finish.

On a semi-related note, on our way up to Manistee, MI we stopped at Muskegon, MI to visit USS Silversides, a submarine from Tim's childhood.  Yes, I said submarine.  We probably wouldn't make the detour to see family, but a submarine?  Sure thing!  When Tim was a kid, his family spent their 2-week vacation driving to Canada, and this was one of the sites they stopped to see on the way.  It was a nice trip down memory lane for Tim, and I even learned a thing or two about subs as well. 

I thought it was HUGE, but Tim informed me that this was actually much smaller than the ones that are in service today.  I can't even imagine what it must be like to live on one of these for 6 month stretches.  You know we watched "Hunt for the Red October" when we got home. I found many more interesting things regarding sub-life on this site, if you're looking to learn something today, this is a good read. 

Next race on the books is ORAMM in Asheville, NC.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mohican 100

Mohican MTB 100 is a 100 mile loop that starts out in Loudenville, OH, spans 4 counties with 11,000+ feet of climbing along mostly singletrack, doubletrack or dirt roads.  It was by far the most beautiful NUE race I have done!  The time on my bike flew by as I explored the remote and scenic areas in the rolling hills of Mohican Country. The singletrack was super twisty with challenging rock gardens thrown in to make sure you were awake.  The torrential downpour they had the day before made the first half of the day extremely muddy and slick with a couple straight up hike-a-bike sections that were even hard to walk up!  Off-cambered wet, slimy roots just kept trying to throw me off my bike.  There were many stinger climbs lasting nearly a mile with elevation gains of 300+ feet.  Overall, the majestic beauty of the land and the camaraderie of the folks out there allowed me to have this smile after the race.

There were that cost me time and happiness.  My spirit was crushed at the end of this race.  I thought I was going to set a PR.  Everything was going great leading up to this race; good training rides, I spent time with the snake rocks, my nutrition was golden, and I was feeling more excitement than dread about the day ahead of me.  I had read about the course, knew what to expect, planned my aid stops, and was prepared for the brisk 50 degree start.  I really do try to have a good attitude when the the unexpected happens because that's just part of mountain biking.  Most of the fun in the sport is living through the challenges, making lasting memories, and coming out a tougher rider in the end.  I realize now that you can only make so memories in one day, when the bad ones start to push the good ones out of the way, it just becomes demoralizing.

About 1.5 hrs into the race the singletrack opens up to doubletrack and you are SURROUNDED by a forest of huge cedar trees about a foot from each other.  The forest floor beneath my tires was soft old needles that made a slight crunching noise as we rode.  It smelled like the inside of a log cabin. I wanted to bottle up that moment and save it for a rainy day, the BEST memory of the day.  What followed this was the worst memory of the day.  Near the end of this section I found myself leading a pack of about 10 guys, we were riding 2 abreast at a comfortable pace.  All of a sudden I hear this guy say, "passing on your right."  I had a guy on my left, and there was clearly no room to pass on my right, but I wasn't the one to make that judgement call.  So, the guy begins to pass me and his pedal clips my back wheel and he is thrown off balance, wobbling side to side for a second or two until he finally reaches out with his left hand to grab something to avoid a crash landing.  In the meantime I am yelling at him to "let go!" and "get off me!!"  Well, he ended up grabbing my butt, got a handful of my bike shorts, and ripped them to shreds as he fell over. I am still amazed that I stayed upright.  I felt the immediate breeze back there and reached back to cover my exposure, but there was nothing left! I had a waist bad and a leg band, but nothing in between!  The other guy behind me said, "yah, he ripped your shorts pretty bad".  I had to pull over to assess the situation, and all those guys passed me, including the molester!  It was bad. My right butt cheek was entirely exposed, my chamois shifted forward and to the left (not where I needed it), and my crack was exposed when I stood to climb.  I was humiliated!  I had nothing to tie around my waist, no bandanna, no safety pins, nothing.  I was gonna have to ride like that for 10 more hours!  I don't know why, but I stood there for about 5 minutes wondering what the heck I was going to do. More people just kept on passing me.  I had to press on, and just show my ass.

It didn't take long for my humility to turn to anger.  I was mad at that guy for ruining my race, I was mad that he didn't apologize, I was mad that it was his fault, but yet he gets to ride in perfectly sewn shorts that cover his butt!  I will never take my shorts for granted.  I wanted to give him a piece of my mind and get the apology that I deserved, so I hunted him down.  I passed people one by one in a fury that was new to me.  I started climbing up these mild switchbacks and I saw him on the trail above on.  Passing 4 more people I finally made it up to him.  After having all that time to think of what I was going to say, I exploded and went Rachel Redneck on him!  I did not cuss or say mean things to him, but I did not stop talking until I got an apology.  He laughed at me, gave me a halfway apology, then wrecked BAD right before my eyes.  He was on his back, bike in the woods, and looked stunned.  It was then that I shut up.  I stared him in the eyes as I passed, and after I saw he was breathing, I may or may not have said something about karma.  I never saw him again. 

Aid 1, mile 20, I spend way too much time trying to find someone or something that I can patch my shorts up with...nothing.

Aid 2, mile 34, same scenario, more minutes wasted, and my butt is still hanging out of my shorts.  It was interesting being the girl everyone was talking about and staring at.  I made sure that my story was known because for some reason I didn't want people to think that it was my lack of bike-handling skills that cause me to wreck and rip my shorts.  I had been pleased with the way I was handling my bike.  I was starting to think my exposure was a good tactic, I was making lots of friends and no one was really wanting to pass me!  I kept thinking about girls that wear string bikinis on a very populated beach, and since that is acceptable...well, it made me feel somewhat better.

Aid 3, mile 46, I had stopped twice already to re-apply chamois butter, but the way my chamois was pulling to the left I was chafing in a way I never thought possible.  I had to fix my shorts.  I wasted more time asking around for items to patch me up, still nothing. I found a peaceful corner and emptied my camelbak in search of anything I could use.  I found superglue. It was part of my tire patch kit.  I exhausted the tube on my butt and it soon became part of my bike short patch kit. Aside from pulling my shorts in a weird way, it worked!  It wasn't until mile 80 that I noticed it coming undone and at that point I didn't care.  Here it is:

Please appreciate your shorts.  Some of you are probably wondering where my team shorts are and thinking, "well, your team shorts wouldn't have torn."  It was a last minute decision.  I was already dealing with saddle sores and chafing from the week prior and I needed the extra cush and comfort these shorts provided.  Any more questions, feel free to contact me directly.  Molester, if you are reading this, you owe me a pair of shorts!

Since this post is already way too long, I will briefly sum up the next 2 bad events.  At Aid 3 they  lost my aid bag that I desperately needed.  I was forced to eat solid food from the aid table that never did sit well with me.  Finally, this guy hands me my bag and says that he found it in the trash can.  Wonderful.  So, as I am placing my powder in my camelbak and replacing my flask I hear someone say, "don't forget to take a left turn out of the aid station".  Well, after spending about 20 minutes at that aid, I plow out of there, head down, and take my left, following 3 other guys.  About 2-3 miles down the road I see 100k written in orange on the road.  Crap.  I turn around, ask a fellow rider, and learn that the 100 milers take a right out of that aid 3.  More lost time.

Around mile 66 there is a long section of rails to trails.  I was with a group of 7 guys and we had a fantastic pace line going, sharing the work, until we were stopped by a roped off covered bridge.  The gate keeper said the bridge was closed and gave us directions on how to go around.  We politely turn around, cover the 5 miles we had just done, and get back to an intersection when we realized that we had missed the first turn the guy told us to take.  By this time our group of 8 had grown to about 15 as we turned others around telling them the bridge was closed.  Then we started thinking about why the bridge was closed.  One guy said that it looked like a wedding was going on.  At that point we had decided to be wedding crashers.  We had no idea where we were and we were racing.  We went back to bridge, talked to the gate keeper, we walked our bikes over the bridge, rode through the 15 people attending/taking part in the wedding, said congrats to the bride and groom, got many dirty looks, and were on our way.  Our pace line continued to be a success and I spent token after token in attempt to stay with that group because I did not want to get dropped.  I found out later that many racers rode straight through the wedding while vows were being said and rings were being placed.  That explained the dirty looks we got, it was at least over when we arrived.  So, more lost time.

Around mile 72 you start the hill repeats.  There are six of them, and they are straight up for a mile or so.  I was coming unglued.  I wanted to  make up time, but I couldn't climb fast enough.  A guy slowly crept up behind me and said, "looks like we're the last 2 out here."  That is not what I wanted to hear.  I passed ole' Pessimistic Pete and threw my own little pity party as I watched the time pass way too fast.

My final time was 11 hours 13 minutes.  I was 12th out of 19 open women.  I finished!  I dealt with the demons and came out on top (kind of).  I am a little less modest and lot tougher after this race.  I am better at taking what I am dealt and rolling with it.  AND, I will always have superglue in my camelbak.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Good Ride!

Today was one of those rides where everything felt good!  We rode up on Racoon, and there are these spots that seem to give me trouble from time to time.  On bad days, I don't clear any of these spots, the ride sucks, I'm in a foul mood, and I can't wait to be done. In these spots there is usually a rock or two involved and most of the time the rocks win.  If I wreck, it's a failed attempt.  If I put a foot down, it's a failed attempt.  If I get stopped and have to restart, it's a failed attempt.  Today there were NO failed attempts!  I cleared EVERY single one of my headache spots, I felt nice and strong on the climbs, and my finger-time on the brake levers was less than it normally was.  I am starting to just used to the heat of the summer and I enjoyed every minute I was on my bike.  These smiles are hard to come by after a hot and nasty ride!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tim's Blog

Check out Tim's blog if you want a more comical and much more entertaining race report.  Thanks for all the inquiries, but Team Smith is maxed out for this race season, and will be accepting new applications in the Fall.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Syllamos 125k

Well, now I can say that I've ridden in the Ozark's!   Syllamos Revenge 125k is 75 miles of singletrack treat!  If you like riding on marbles and glass (slick glass and broken glass), then these trails are for you!  If I lived in or around Mountain View, Arkansas, I would ride those trails every week, and become a super bike handler.  It really is something to have that much singletrack at your fingertips.  The rock is mostly limestone, which breaks easily and leaves sharp edges exposed. There were so many flats!!  I don't think I've ever seen so many people having tire issues!  Out of our group of 8 people, Robin had 5 flats, Mike had 3, Lee had one, and I had one.  I had a huge hole puncture in my rear tire, and I was able to plug it McIver-style, add some glue, add some air, and it carried me to the finish 55 miles later.  I descended much more cautiously on that plug, picking out the smoothest line possible where normally I would just plow straight down.  I also stopped every so often just to feel my pressure to make sure I wasn't loosing air.  I really did not want to have to put a tube in.  Last week when we were riding Snake, I flatted on my other bike and Tim used that as a "seminar opportunity" in hopes of making me a faster flat-fixer.  I'm still slower than average when it come to putting a tube in the rear wheel, and I would have lost precious time, not that I'm anywhere near podium potential, but that would have meant sitting there while all the people I just passed, passed me right back.  That is the most frustrating thing about dealing with a mechanical.

There were sections of loose slate-rock gardens, then there were larger limestone tabletops (not always flat) that you are climbing on and off, and I am told all of that was pretty slick last year when it was wet.  Thankfully, conditions were much drier yesterday.  When you weren't climbing up and over rocks you were ripping through briars and poison ivy where the next 10 feet was a surprise because you couldn't see it.  There were switchbacks, beautiful views, and fun flowing downhill sections that you were able to gear up and peddle all the way through.  The course was marked well which was a great thing for me since I went into this race rather blindly.  Since it was just 75 miles, I guess I took it a little less-seriously than a 100-miler.  I normally study the course and elevation map, read past reviews, memorize Robin Oscar's notes from the previous year, interview the Simrils, and know what's coming before I get there.  I didn't really do that this race, so every descent, climb, and technical section was a surprise and if I did take a wrong turn, I would have been LOST! 

At mile 50 you either took a right turn to go to the finish line (for the shorter kiddie race), or you went straight to complete LAP 2.  Just starting a "LAP 2" was just completely demoralizing at that point.  I was kind of hoping Tim would be waiting there to escort me down to the finish...he wasn't, so I went straight and searched for a better attitude.  I found one and the race mentality returned!  I caught up to my friend Lorenda, who I had yo-yo'ed with earlier which ended when she passed me while I was fixing my flat.  Seeing her revived me and we rode strong together for awhile, passing guys that weren't looking so hot.  I left her on a climb thinking for sure I'd see her again since she is such a strong descender, but later she said her legs were just "done" at that point.  So, back to riding by myself.

The aid stations were super helpful, especially in the beginning (at aid 3 I had one guy filling my camelbak with ice & water while another was putting ice down my back), but in the later part of the day you could tell their excitement had long worn off.  We had to get 4 different color bracelets from certain checkpoints and when I came in for my last bracelets, the aid workers were MIA, tending to the 15 racers sprawled out in the chairs that had dnf'ed for one reason or another.  I yelled, "bracelets, who has the bracelets?"  Finally a guy came running, and while he apologized he slide that last little yellow charm on my wrist.  I had just 12 more miles to go.  At this point my legs felt ok, it was my shoulders and hands that were killing me.  I also had a headache, and it was mostly from the jarring my body had received all day from the rocky terrain.  The heat was also an issue, every cloud that gave us respite was welcome.

My new bike was fabulous!!  Shifting was flawless, love the 2 x 10 setup, the stiff thru axle was noticed, and she was rearing to go the entire race, even through creeks and sandpits.  Isla was a star!  She got many stares as well, I think many were jealous of her beauty! 

The results are in!  56 out of 157 racers finished!  That just shows how brutal it was out there; Syllamo showed no  mercy on anyone!  I finished in 10:03, 6th out of 9 open women.  It was a long day.  An adventure, and that's why I do these distances.  What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.  Next on the books is Mohican 100 in 2 weeks...stay tuned!