Archive for May 2015

Froback Friday!

I missed Throwback Thursday, so what is the next best thing? That's right, Froback Friday.

We are hustling to finish up packing for The Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic.  Leaving today to drive part way and stay in Harrisonburg, VA.  I hear they have good beer in those parts.  Then departing Harrisonburg Saturday morn and arrive to Seven Mountains Campground in Spring Mills, PA.

Sunday will kick off seven, yes seven days of glorious mountain bike racing...

Photo cred A.E. Landes
Photo cred A.E. Landes
Photo cred A.E. Landes
Seven days of racing you say.  Well, it is more like a "racecation" for us.  Thanks Jimmy for coining that phrase.

As expected we will be busy over the next week, so check out the other social avenues for photos, posts, whatever... 

We will let you know how the days unfold for us, but you will have to wait until we get back.

Peace and hair grease!

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Everything but the kitchen sink...

This past week...  this weekend...  AND...  this coming week all involve packing.  Yes my grammar is bad, but my packing is not so much. 

You see, The Trans-Sylvania Epic kicks off Memorial Day weekend.  A seven day mountain bike stage race in PA.  This is our third year and every year we get excited and nervous. Actually I get excited for the race, but nervous due to Sandy's packing.

Racing your bike in the woods of PA for seven days requires you to remember items.  Items like...

  • Our bikes of course
  • Food so we can stay alive
  • Tools like wrenches and stuff
  • Riding gear such as your helmet
  • Xtra inner tubes in case you need one
  • Plastic jackets in case it rains (and it will)
  • Sunscreen (all 1,000,000 kinds that Sandy has)
  • Linens for when we are sleepy (we have a cabin)
  • Utensils so we can eat the food to stay alive
  • Of course, geez... bug spray
  • For crying out loud, how many sets of tires do we need
  • And it goes on......but you get the idea

 This is how Sandy views me packing...

This is how I view Sandy packing...

This is where we end up...

Enjoy the weekend folks.  I gotta get back to planning out what to pack.



Next time hold the Special Sauce...?

Pre-race jitters, ugh. Three bathroom trips double ugh. On top of it this would be the first time I was riding my hardtail for such a long race. Most of my rides on Special Sauce (my bike's name in case you are curious) have either been for training on the road with slicks, shorter mtb rides, races or gravel grinders.  From what I heard about this course it seemed like the right bike selection.  I would seriously regret this decision later on.

Like Mark I too had some goals for my race:

~Be smart, don’t get caught up in someone else’s race. It’s long day, lots of miles and I have limited course knowledge. I want to be more conservative in the first half so I can pick it up and have something in the tank for the second half.

~Nutrition strategy put to a real test.  No solid food... using only Infinit for fuel.  I have been trying this during my training and I want to see if it’s really going to work. I want to do it for TSE in a few weeks.

~Keep moving.  Mark is always telling me hopping off the bike isn’t an issue, but I need to keep my momentum.  Have to get off?  Move though the obstacle quickly and get back on as soon as you can.  When you can run with the bike, do it.  It’s simple, keep moving.  Limit time at the rest stops. Don’t give away time.

~Work with other riders.  Pace off of others in the woods, get around those who are holding me back.  Draft on the gravel, dirt roads and pavement if possible.

8:27 Race start.  Lined up and exchanged pleasantries with the other ladies.  Women’s starts are different from men’s starts. More cordial I guess.  I almost always give a few positive shout outs and wish others luck, break the tension, smile a little.  Not sure if it helps others, but it makes me feel a bit more relaxed.  I don’t usually see that at the men’s races. Before I had too much time to think about it…the race was on.

The first half of the race was pretty fast and flowy and I had to keep reminding myself to hold back, keep it in check.  Remember, ride your own race.  Lots of miles ahead. It’s a long day.  Through those first 30 miles I kept thinking  “this is a really sweet course”.  I was off the bike just  few times for some ravines and creek crossings but keep a pretty good pace and before I knew it the first half was done.  I was cruising into the start finish line to the rest stop. 

Photo cred Lee Hartley
I tried to keep the rest stop time to a minimum, but I needed to replenish the Infinit in my camelback and needed to stretch out my back…at this point I was wishing  I had crammed my full suspension in my drop bag-Special Sauce was leaving me feel less than special and I still had ½ the race to go.

Out of the rest stop and back onto the course.  This was the half I had heard a lot about, but had not ridden, I guess I prefer the fog of war strategy to racing.

Simply put the second half was nothing like the first half.  Less  flow... more  twisty, turny sections with  roots, rocks, ravines, mud and creek crossings. Slick almost waist deep creek crossings.  I was off and on the bike more in this half but keep my momentum going remembering  my goals.

Photo cred Lee Hartley
I remember thinking at around mile 40 that I might actually finish sooner than I originally anticipated.  Unfortunately this thought that was brief and fleeting. Shortly after the 40 mile mark  I crossed paths with the top male riders, they were riding in the opposite direction.  They were already heading back to wrap up their final miles.  I knew seeing  them meant there was a strong possibility the course ahead would slow me up a bit.  At that moment I was glad I stuck to my plan to be more reserved in the first ½ because the second ½ was much more difficult, and took longer than I expected. 

The final section of singletrack (Keg Trail) was like a never ending , energy-sucking, rooty nightmare for me. I was actually expressing my disdain for this section out loud, cussing as I rode along .  I was also cursing myself for choosing Special Sauce and vowed to never ride her again for such a long event.  I would have gladly rode a slightly heavier bike with more rolling resistance over the constant bone chattering, back beating I was taking at this point.  I knew if I didn’t get off the trail soon I was going to lose it, I was in desperate need of that dirt road.

And finally I popped out of the single track, it felt fantastic.   The finish would be just up ahead...or so I thought.  No so, the dirt road didn’t end it turned into a gravel road.  Up and down, another turn, it seemed to go on forever.  Each time I turned  I thought the finish would be there, in the distance but there was just more riding ahead.  I started to think I missed something and was heading in the wrong direction. I looked down at my computer and I was almost 3 miles beyond the stated race length. It was then that I actually started saying out loud “Where is the finish?, WHERE IS THE FINISH?”.  I was on the edge,  about to crumble, about to break down, shut down and then there it was, like an oasis in the desert... THE FINISH.

Photo cred Scott Hyatt

I was completely relieved  and completely spent when I crossed the line . I was so happy to be done and even happier to get off my bike.  I had set goals and accomplished pretty much all of them.  I rode my race, succeeded in my nutrition strategy, worked with other riders and kept moving.  The weekend was fantastic. A successful race and great times with great friends, I couldn’t ask for more.

My only criticism would be the lack of promotion of the race, for such a big event there were very few spectators, almost no vendors and like Mark mentioned no post race beer with our meal ticket. Bummer, I classify that as an epic fail. Will I come back next year?  Not sure-don’t have a title to defend but I did eek out a 3rd place finish.  Not bad for my first and maybe only Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals.

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Make your putter flutter... or not

We headed to Augusta, GA for the weekend.  Yes, Augusta is known for this...

I can say we were not there for golf.  We were there for the USAC Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals.

The race is scheduled for Saturday so we traveled down Friday.  We wanted to arrive early to check out the race venue and settle in.  We met the goal of arriving early enough to limit our stress levels.  We were happy about that.

We met up with Todd at Wildwood Park to pre-ride the start portion of the race course.  After about an hour of putting around, we called it and went into town to pick up our race information and eat dinner.

Dinner, done. Grocery shopping, done.  Time to head over to our rental place where we met Jimmy.  We all sat around and discussed minor details for Saturday.  Time for bed.

4:30 Saturday morning came too quickly.  We all got up... still half asleep... still dark outside.  The morning went smooth for everyone and we arrived at the race venue at 7am.

Race started at 8am with age groups going out in waves every three minutes.

At this point I will stop using "we" and only refer to "I" as my experience during the race.  Sandy can tell her own version... so there.

Boom, I was off around 8:12 or so.  Quick start to a 60 mile race with only a few goals in mind.

  1. Conserve energy for the first 30 mile half.
  2. Only use my Infinit for fuel.  I prepped 6 bottles.  No solid food.
  3. Limit stops.

The first half (30 or so miles) of the race featured fast flowing singletrack.

Photo cred Lee Hartley
Mixed with dips and creek crossings.

Photo cred Lee Hartley
The second half of the race (another 30 or so miles) was more "technical."  A little more up-hill, a few more roots and rocks, and the creek crossings grew in size.

Photo cred Lee Hartley
The halfway point of the race involved a long rolling gravel road.  I found myself cruising down this road thinking about goal number 1.  Did I burn too many matches during the first 30 miles.  I dunno.

Continuing down this road, I come to a trail entrance/exit I thought was the turn.  I slowed, glanced at the trail and the tape marking the course.  The only directional arrow I noticed was on the left side of the road pointing back the way I just came from.  Hmm, this must be the exit.  So logic told me to keep pressing forward.

I did keep moving forward.  There was one other racer ahead of me, so I assumed I was going in the right direction.  After a couple of miles I noticed he stopped.  I rolled up to him and we just stared at one another.  Shit, I was off course.  How?

Where I missed the turn...

I back-tracked to the last trail I passed.  Was this the turn?  It can't be.  I rode a little more while scanning the sides of the road.  Found it!  Evidently someone had torn though the course tape and arrow pointing to the correct turn.  Other racers were going by and I stopped them.

I fixed the course marker and finally headed in the right direction.  After reviewing my computer data, I rode an extra 4 miles and probably lost around 20 minutes.  Crap!  Well, nothing I could do now except try and make up time somewhere.

I did not worry about the missed turn and just focused on the last half of the race.  I felt good in the singletrack and probably went a little too hard on the flat roads as a way to make up time.  I paid for the extra work and had a hard time staying focused on the last piece of singletrack.  Keg Creek trail I think it was.

No hard feelings about my performance and I did reach my goals.  I did not blow up the first half of the race, only used my Infinit for fuel and limited stops.

I did have hard feelings about the atmosphere at the race.  Limited spectators, limited vendors and activities going on.  Most importantly, a beer was not included with lunch!

All in all, a great weekend racing with friends and meeting new people.

Sandy's side of the race coming soon...

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