Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Butter Pecan Ice Cream, Chipotle and 25 Hours of Hell(side)

We were told at the beginning of Dirt Wirx Bike Week that by the end we'd hate Richie and the crew. It's hard to hate a crew that puts so much into their trail and races, but then, Hillside is one hell of a hard trail, so I knew anything was possible. Plus, you never know when this crew might make you try to ride up the stairs instead of down, chug a beer for a time bonus or carry a log for your Le Mans start.

The set up for bike week was this: Time Trial and Short Track Saturday 6/6, Cross Country Race 6/7, Dual Slalom on the evening of 6/10 and 25 Hours of Hellside on 6/13 and 6/14.

To be honest, I started out just wanting to race the 25 Hour race, but then I got excited and wanted to try for the overall win for the week. This meant a lot of firsts. I'd never done short track or dual slalom. I'd never raced expert in cross country, which I needed to do to win the week. Technically, I'd also never ridden singletrack for 25 hours, although I guess 24 is pretty close.  So, I prepared myself to spent the week nervous and hoping not to crash.

Saturday, June 6, 11am: Time Trial, one of my favorite kinds of races. Didn't hate Richie.

Saturday, June 6, 4pm: Discovered the expert women had to race the short track with comp men. Thought about hating Richie.  Tried not to throw up on the start line. Thankfully didn't get run over and actually had fun once I could breathe. Decided not to hate Richie, especially after he raced the expert men's race like this:
Sunday, June 7: Cross Country Race. Again, terrified at the start. I'm not a fan of starting in front of the comp men. I don't like to be run over. My douchebag bell was installed on my bike, just in case someone tried to pass like a moron. Thankfully, I never needed it and once I relaxed I actually had a blast.
Photo by Joshua Stamper
No hating on anyone.

After the race we celebrated Big E's birthday. Fun times with lots of fun people. It started like this:
 and ended like this:

Enough said.

Wednesday, June 10: I was so nervous I showed up hours early for the Dual Slalom. Numerous practice runs didn't calm my nerves. Pretty sure my heart rate hit its max on the start line. Didn't crash so I didn't hate Richie, but I'm not admitting it was fun.

Saturday, June 13: The 25 Hour Race, my favorite. I was in second place overall for the week, 34 points down. Points for this race were by lap instead of place. For each lap you completed, you received that many points- 1 point for lap one, 2 points for lap two, three for lap 3, etc.  So, I needed to ride three more laps than the leader, Rebecca, to win the week. A tall task since she'd ridden nearly 10 minutes faster per lap in the cross country race. Lucky for me, she wasn't going to ride at night.

The first five laps flew by. I stopped only to pee, taking bottle hand-ups from Eddie and Joshua, who were riding a four-man team with Richie and the other race director, Dave. After a quick stop at lap five, I managed three more laps before dark, with a brief stop for ice cream and the Super Sue station, at which point I found it necessary to down nearly an entire pint of butter pecan in minutes. (Tasted great at the time, but let's just say it's a good thing no one was riding behind me later.)

 I checked in with Dave after lap eight and learned I had a one lap lead over both Rebecca and Pam, who both appeared to have gone to bed. I switched to the fat bike and kept pushing, hoping to have a five lap lead when they woke up. I figured they both would start lapping me in the morning and I didn't want to leave anything to chance. The first two laps in the dark weren't too bad, despite one too-close encounter with a tree. Lap three, however, brought on what I've decided is the inevitable meltdown that happens in these races. I stumbled in around 1:30, put on my PJs and laid down for what I've also decided is the inevitable "roll around and not fall asleep" that happens in these races.

Two hours later, sleepless, I got back on the bike. As I finished lap 12 the sun came up and as I pulled into the camping area Rebecca was preparing to ride. I grabbed some coffee and prepared myself to get lapped. I just hoped it would only be twice. At the end of lap 14, I was still hanging onto my lead and stopped for food confident that I'd be off riding again in five minutes.

Let's just say a colossal meltdown ensued. The kind where you wonder if you can stand up, let alone pedal. I inhaled some Chipotle, downed some Dr. Pepper and instantly felt dizzy. For about 20 minutes I thought my race was over. Of course, Big E managed to capture the moment on film:

 Thankfully, putting my legs up and chugging some water brought me back to life and I somehow got back on the bike. Of course, by then, Rebecca had gained a lap and was still riding strong. 

The next three laps are a blur. I held on and pedaled. Pam flew by like we were racing just two laps. I drank water, and then more water, praying to hold off another meltdown. Finally, on lap 17, with less than an hour left, I could hear Rebecca ahead of me in section four. We'd both reached an exhausted state, pushing our bikes up the steepest hills. We rode the rest of the lap together, rolling across the line agreeing to call it quits with a four lap difference between us. If she'd chosen to ride another, I would've, but I'll admit, I probably would've hated someone if I'd had to. In the end, I hated section four, but still couldn't hate Richie.

Thanks to the Dirt Wirx crew and Dave Slovik for an awesome race and to Rebecca Sauber for pushing me harder than ever. Now I have to figure out how to recover for Lumberjack 100 on Saturday. This could involve ice cream.....

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Today's Workout Brought to You by

wind, rain, (no)sense of direction and hairspray.

This is sort of how the last few days have been.  Saturday I escaped the rain and actually got in a few hours on the trail. I even survived driving Lil' Dave's car after my workout despite needing to do some serious seat adjustments.
No, I am not sitting on the floor.
Sunday was a different story. I headed to Murphy hoping to ride the trail, only to arrive just as the gate was closed. I decided to do a road ride from there, knowing I'd lose my motivation if I drove all the way home in the rain. I planned to start the week off with an easy 1 1/2 to 2 hour ride so I stuck a single bottle on my bike and some Chomps in my pocket. At the last minute I stashed a 20 in my pocket (just in case I ran out of water and found a gas station) and headed out.

I don't really mind rain if I'm warm enough so the ride went by quickly- so quickly in fact that by 1:30 in I came to a road I recognized and thought I was nearly done. Just a right turn and I'd be headed back to the car. Thirty minutes later I wasn't back at the car. Confused, I finally consulted the map on my phone, at which point I discovered I'd been riding straight south when I'd thought I was riding straight north. Thankfully, I'd finally stopped because I was almost in Iowa, which meant I needed to turn around.

My only excuse for this complete and utter lack of direction is the wind. I was sure it was from the west. Turns out, it was coming from the east and of course, I was not only just south of my car, but west of it, which made for quite a fun ride back. I arrived back to the car 3 hours and 30 minutes later with an empty bottle, an empty Chomps wrapper and my 20 bucks. Apparently there are no gas stations on the back roads to Iowa. Or drinking fountains.

The upside to Sunday's ride and bonk was that yesterday's ride was only an hour and a half. The trails were still too wet to ride, but I lucked out and had a work break right as the rain stopped but before the Memorial Day partiers hit the roads, allowing me a rare city ride without traffic.

The pouring rain returned today, which meant that my mid-day hair appointment would be followed by a run in the rain. Normally I'm a "leave my hair wet" kind of girl so I figured this would be no big deal. I don't own a curling iron or hairspray. However, on the rare occasion when someone cuts my thin, straight hair and is actually excited to try to do something with it, I say yes. So, I ended up leaving the hair salon like this:
I had to take a picture for Big E so he knows it's actually possible for me to have decent hair.
just as I was preparing to go run in the rain.

Since I haven't used hairspray since 1988, I had no idea what would happen when it mixed with the rain. Let's just say this- my ponytail ended up becoming a whole-head dreadlock. I managed to comb it out after about 15 minutes and throw it back into my usual wet ponytail just as my next client arrived. I guess I'm just destined to be a ponytail kind of girl. At least I had an hour of good hair.

Despite Big E's encouragement that training in crappy weather is good for me, I'm looking forward to some dryer days. I want my trails back. I'll trade the hairspray for bugspray any day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Training Brain (aka How to Lose Your Bra)

Remember those old ads- "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs."? Well, I'm pretty sure they could make one that said, "This is your brain. This is your brain on 15+hours of training a week," and it would be quite amusing.

When I read stories about people who work, train over 15 hours a week and raise children, I'm always amazed because, quite frankly, once the training amps up I can barely take care of myself.  Case in point- it's 11pm and I'm still doing laundry. Two workouts a day has drained the supply of workout gear. I'm not sure the washing machine is going to be able to keep up with this and my never ending pile of massage sheets.
(Yes, Big E is building a wheel behind my wall of wet laundry. Thankfully, this time he's actually working on his own bike at 11pm instead of trying to rescue one of my bike disasters.)

On weeks and days like this I adopt an "in the moment" plan. Basically, this means I go with the flow and focus on what's happening right at the moment so I don't get overwhelmed.  I think about work when I'm working, training when I'm training, eating when I'm eating...and then I pass out and dream about riding with Valentino Rossi. I call this "training brain", which is basically just my term for a brain that can't handle anything more.

Today was one of those days. I babbled some sort of nonsense at Big E when he left early, got up shortly after, ate, prepped food for the day, threw my bike and gear in the car and headed for the office. During my break between morning and evening clients, I jumped at the chance to finally ride some trail after a few days of rain. I headed to Elm Creek and whipped out my usual "stealth change" in the parking lot.

The "stealth change" is my version of getting naked in the car without really getting naked in the car. I prefer not going to jail for public nudity so I've figured out a method to change in which no one would actually see my breasts. This involves putting my sports bra on over my work bra and then slithering out of the work bra and pulling it down my legs and off my feet.

Today, in my training fog, I apparently completed half of my stealth change. I remember the point where I put one bra over the other and then I went through the motions. At some point there was the application of chamois butter, tire pressure fiddling and then I was off onto the trail. Nothing seemed off at the time. In fact, everything seemed completely normal until I returned to the car for a new water bottle and found a bra.

At first, I laughed at the prospect of someone having a little fun in the parking lot and losing her bra. Of course, a moment later I realized that was MY bra and I hadn't had a little fun in the parking lot. In fact, I don't really even know what the hell happened. Apparently in my training fog, I stepped out of the car with my bra still around my ankles. Or perhaps in my training fog, I realized I don't really need a bra and tossed her out the window.  I was so shocked to find it there, I actually checked all the windows to make sure someone hadn't broken into my car and left my bra behind (because, really, who else would even bother to wear a bra this small?), but that was not the case.

Thankfully, the rogue bra was rescued, since I needed it to go back to work. (OK, I could've probably pulled it off without a bra but I like to think I need one.) Now, let's just hope I can keep training brain in check long enough get all my clothes on (and completely off) for the rest of this week's workouts.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

True Confessions

True confession #1: I always bawl my eyes out at some point after a particularly hard or long race. I'm not sure when this whole post race syndrome began. My first memorable experience with it was the day after Alexander when I sat on Big E's lap before I left for work and cried my heart out. I had no idea what was happening and I'm not 100 percent sure, but I believe it was then that he explained what it meant to be "shelled".  Usually this whole post race meltdown happens in the first few days after a race, but for some reason this time it was delayed. I'm blaming the 13 hour solo drive the day after the race. I really wanted to melt down, but it seemed dangerous to bawl while driving. Plus, meltdowns are boring without Big E there to make fun of me so I held out until I got home. Somehow I then held out for two weeks, which, based on yesterday's colossal and ride-delaying meltdown followed by another near-miss this morning, wasn't the best idea.

Note to self- just meltdown as close to the race as possible from now on and get it over with.

True confession #2: I finally rebuilt some pedals with the build kit I bought after Alexander two years ago. You'd think after having my pedal fall off my bike in a race I'd want to fix those things up right away. Oh no. I bought a build kit right away, then spent two years swapping the pedals from my cross bike to my fat bike instead of fixing the old ones. Then, after selling the cross bike and buying different pedals for the fat bike, I lost motivation to fix those Candy pedals. Thankfully, the same build kit works for my Eggbeaters so, as part of my quest to take better care of my bike after riding with crappy brakes and a loose headset at Cohutta, I finally rebuilt the squeaky pedals on my bike.

In case you were wondering- yes, rebuilding the pedals makes a difference. Suddenly I can pedal in circles again.

Of course there's still a set of unusable Candy pedals in the basement.
True confession #3: Yesterday while riding I ate the deformed, once melted Snickers bar I carried for 100 miles at Cohutta. Today, while sitting on the couch, I ate the battered Peanut Butter M&M's from one of my drop bags.

I really need to go grocery shopping.

True confession #4: It took me three years to finally conquer my nemesis, the wooden berm at Whitetail Ridge. I'm not at all saying I ride it confidently yet, but after forcing myself to ride it six times in one day, I think maybe there might come a day sometime soon where I don't stress about that stupid berm for the entire lap before I get to it. That said, I'm just hoping there's never a cow standing on it when I arrive there because then I'll probably be back to square one....

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cohutta 100- The Epilogue

After collecting my mug, I procrastinated moving from my comfy finish-line chair by chatting with the race director (at least I hope that was him who sat down next to me because if not, I had a long discussion with a random man about how I liked the course despite the bad gear choice). As soon as I could move, my main object was mud removal- from the bike, from my body, from my clothes. I settled for dipping my legs in the water and splashing around, which really just moved the mud around on my body. Truth be told, I didn't really care if I was completely clean- I just needed to be clean enough to convince someone to let me book a hotel room for the night.

Cleaning the bike enough to put it back in the car proved to be more challenging, at least in my zombie-like state. I learned there was a hose in a campground a mile away, but I was too lame to ride there. After a half-hearted attempt to pay someone to ride my bike there and clean it, and a stern warning from another rider that it would be terrible for my bearings to toss by bike in the river, I settled for rinsing Chili down with a water bottle and river water. When she was clean enough to travel, I drove her to the hose for a more thorough bath. (In hindsight that was all probably a lot more work than just riding the mile to the hose....)

Since I still had daylight and no hotel room, I decided to start the trek homeward. When a sheriff in a small town a couple hours later went out of his way to inform me of an impending storm, I drove to the nearest place with a nice hotel and called it a night. Yes, I see the irony in waiting until AFTER I was covered in mud to finally stay in a nice hotel, but then I probably wouldn't have splurged even then had I not still been worried about diseases from the hotel the night before.  Of course the entire room was white so I tried not to touch anything until after my shower, at which point I then had to clean the entire bathroom. Thankfully, I passed out quickly with no interruptions from fire alarms and no nightmares about cockroaches. (Unfortunately no Rossi dreams either.)

The 900 miles left to drive on Sunday actually went by fast. I've always said I learn more from my rough races than the easy ones, and the 13 hours in the car was my time to process the whole experience. Obviously, there was lingering frustration with myself. It's always tough to stomach a rough race when you realize it was made difficult primarily by your own silly choices like the wrong gear, too much tire pressure and a backpack the size of yourself. (No wonder some guy asked if I had a hair dryer in there.)
This is just what I took out when I got home. It doesn't include the phone, 2 King Size Snickers, 2 King Size Salted Nut Rolls, 2 pieces of pizza, GU and salt tabs I started with. It also doesn't include the raincoat, vest, winter hat and gloves I added after a few hours. Oh- and the 100 oz. of water...     

I have no idea why I found it necessary to carry the instructions for my hydration pack for 100 miles. That said, let's just say, my ride home included a little introspection about choices. (And perhaps some acceptance of the fact that I should actually listen to Big E when he talks to me about tire pressure.) However, in the end, I also learned that I can tough it out for a lot more miles than I thought possible. The way I see it- if I can suffer through 100 miles with those bad choices, the next 100 ought to be easy...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cohutta 100: The Sufferfest

If there's one positive to sleeping in a nasty hotel room it is this:

Waking up at 5:30am is a piece of cake.

The alarm went off and I had my belongings in the car in minutes, wanting nothing more than to escape without any contagious diseases.

Since it was still pouring rain, I hung out in my car until right before the start, leaving just enough time to throw on my pack and helmet and extract Chili from her comfy spot in the back of the car.  After running into a guy at packet pickup who was riding with an easier gear than I'd chosen, I'd been worrying all night about my gear choice, but the first uphill eased my nerves and I settled into my pace.

It seemed like we literally flew through the first 14 miles of the race. Before I knew it, I was riding on a trail along the river back near the start. Had I really thought about it, I would've realized I was feeling so great because I'd just ridden downhill for 10 miles, but that didn't cross my mind until a mile or so later when I found myself struggling to make it up a hill. For the next 6 miles or so I'd ride until I couldn't push the pedals anymore, then hop off and push.  When the trail finally seemed to flatten a bit around mile 20, I was happy to finally stay on my bike for more than 1/8 of a mile. Of course, in my overzealousness to make the most of this, I hit a wet root at the wrong angle and before I knew it I'd fallen off the trail with Chili still hooked to one foot. We both began sliding back down the mountain I'd just busted my ass to ride up until I shook myself loose, threw the bike up towards the trail and clawed my way back.

This was not really how I'd envisioned this going when I was dreaming about riding with Rossi.

When I finally made it through the singletrack and onto the fireroad, I was a bit relieved. I figured it could only get easier now.

My relief lasted about 3 seconds until I realized the uphill was not over. I was 22 miles in, my legs were already shot, I'd definitely made a horrible gear choice and the uphill was not over. I won't lie- at that moment I wanted to quit. Thankfully, instead of giving into the urge I asked myself a few questions:

Am I going to die?No.

 Is everyone else going to have to wait for hours for me to finish? Not unless everyone behind me quits.

If I were to call Big E right now would he feel sorry for me? No- he would tell me I chose to be here and to get my butt moving!

So- since my answers were all essentially no, I pretty much slumped over my bike and suffered along. At this point I could've used some encouraging words. When a guy pedaled up next to me, I was hoping he had some. Instead, he asked if I'd done this race before. When I said no, he explained that he was wondering how the rest of the hills were going to be. He was riding a demo bike and he wasn't happy with the gear ratio and he wanted to know if the hills were all this steep.....

I'm not sure if I gave him a death look or he just happened to look at my rear wheel, but before I could even answer he said, "Wow, you have no sympathy for me right now since you only have one gear, do you?"

All I could do was laugh and say, "Yes, and it's definitely not the right gear."

At this point I'd like to say we rounded the next corner and headed downhill and the whole day got better, but I'd be lying. What really happened was this- we rounded the corner and headed downhill and I quickly discovered I had some serious brake chatter. After completely losing my brakes the last time I rode in the mud, this did not boost my confidence. Somehow I convinced myself I really wasn't going to die and kept going, but really I spent the next 70 miles alternating between riding uphill until I was so dizzy I had to walk and riding downhill in terror. I told Big E later I'd never ridden that far wanting to quit and not actually quit.

When I finally got to the last aid station, another girl flew in behind me and I realized that I wouldn't even get to take it easy for the last 8 miles of mostly downhill. For anyone who thinks that only the people up near the front of a race are actually racing, I can attest to the fact that this is not true. At least for me it is not true. Ever. I can be dead-dog tired, barely clinging to my handlebars like I was in this case, but if I think I might get caught and lose a place (or catch someone for that matter), I will dig some sort of demon out of the dredges of my soul that will make me ride faster.

Truth be told, perhaps that little demon is why I keep doing this stuff. I hear a lot of people say they run or ride to escape their demons, but I do it to find mine, to make sure I haven't lost her or him or whatever it is that lives deep inside me that seems only to escape when I think I can't take anymore.

So, the little demon and I sprinted to the finish line, probably close to the back of the pack, but who cares? There was a mug and lemonade....
To be continued....

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cohutta 100: The Prologue

A bike race that includes over 2,000 miles of round-trip travel is more than just a bike race. Therefore, it requires more than one blog post. After all, getting there and home is half of the adventure and without the stories of the travel there would really just be a kinda boring blog post about a bike race.

At 7am Thursday, I piled Chili the Singlespeed into the Subaru and headed southeast. We hit Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky before calling it quits in Tennessee somewhere between Nashville and Chattanooga. When a semi in front of me drove off the road and swerved back on at 70 mph I decided to quit while I was alive. We checked into our room, I showered and fueled up and it was bedtime.

In my travel-weary state I pretty much passed out until 3am. Why 3am you ask? Well, at 3am, I was ripped from sleep by two sounds. One was some sort of loud alarm-like noise. The other was, in fact, my own blood curdling screams, which were somehow ripped out of my body in my sleep when the alarm sounded. When I finally woke up, I had no idea what was going on so I proceeded to try to make the loud noise stop by pulling out every electrical plug in the room. At some point during this panic, I realized the sound wasn't coming from my room and sprinted into the hallway in my pjs.

In the hallway, I encountered a group of people, included an adorable Southern boy fully decked out in his country uniform including a ball cap and belt buckle. While I was standing there trying to figure out when he had time to get dressed (which was probably while I screamed and pulled out all the electrical cords), he called the front desk and was informed that we weren't going to die in a fire. Apparently this was just a minor (but very noisy) electrical system malfunction.

Well at least now I know that in the case of a hotel fire I will act like a complete idiot. 

When my heartrate finally returned to normal an hour later, I fell back in to my deep sleep and dreamt I was riding bikes with Valentino Rossi. I impressed him with my hill-climbing skills right before I woke up.

Perhaps this was a sign of how much I was going to dominate the uphills in my race!

After such a great dream, I thought maybe I'd dreamt the whole fire alarm thing. Then I headed downstairs with Chili in the elevator and nearly took out Hot Southern Boy as I exited bike first. After he smirked and the woman from across the hall laughed and waved, I was a little worried that perhaps I actually wasn't even wearing pjs when I ran into the hallway. I certainly hope I was because if not, they were all subjected to the world's tiniest boobies (aka Nipples and Ribs).

Before anyone else from the hallway incident could smirk, I tossed Chili back into her place in the back of the Subaru and headed to Racoon Mountain. If I was going to drive this far, I was determined to ride at least one trail other than the ones on the race course. Of course it never dawned on me that this might be more of a workout than I'd planned for the day before my race. Really, I was just concerned with trying to reenact my Rossi dream. Of course, the opposite came true when I quickly discovered that the trails down south are just a little rockier than I'm used to.
Although I didn't prove my climbing prowess to myself, I did enjoy some spectacular views so despite some rattled nerves and sore quads, the ride was a success.
After my ride, it was back into the car for a final hour of driving to pick up my race number.  After a quick "it's up to each of you to decide to race in spite of the horrible weather forecast" lecture, which included the mention of jumping in the ditch if necessary in case of a tornado, I headed to one of the two hotels in the nearest small town.

Here is where I'm probably going to start sounding like a primadonna so I'll try to keep it brief. The room smelled like mold. I decided to deal with it and walked to the grocery store for air freshener. I cleaned the dirty sink and tub with dish soap so I could take a much needed shower after riding near poison ivy all afternoon. I stripped down, turned on the tub water and lifted up on the shower lever. Nothing. I (very) briefly considered a bath in the dirty tub. Then I pretty much lost my shit.

It didn't get any better when the hotel owner tried to explain away the issue by saying that room had had a water main break over the winter.

Well that explains the smell.

In the end, we comprised. I agreed to pay for that night if they would refund my money for the following night.  The maintenance man came to the room and scraped a pound of crud out of the shower head so I could take a shower. Somehow I managed not to think too much about how many diseases I was going to get from cleaning myself with water that had run through that crud. I fell asleep to the sound of pouring rain, wondering if perhaps poison ivy would've been a better bet than the shower germs plague and hoping I'd dream of racing bikes with Rossi before the alarm went off at 5:30.

To be continued...