Transcendence

Most people do crazy stuff when they turn 40 - the classic midlife crisis type affair. There's buying a snazzy new car (does a 4WD Merce...

May 29, 2013

Growler take one

Nick leading the charge up Kill Hill - too bad he didn't know about the Prime at the top!
Photo - Clay Allison, Ascent Bike Shop
Nick's day to race. One fun and rock filled lap of the Growler course. My job was to make sure he got some fluids about 12 miles into the race. I wouldn't be able to get out and about on the course this time because I was also babysitting for Lonna and Matt. They were both racing the 34 and I had volunteered to watch Kirwin, their 9 month old son. So I was pretty limited in where I could go. But Nick and I had a plan and had practiced. I would give him his Osprey pack on the black top road - easy to get to, smooth pedaling for him to buckle the straps and no issues with getting back to the hotel so Kirwin could get at least part of his nap.

This is how you practice for jousting on a bike!
Yes - I was going to give Nick a fully loaded backpack while he was in motion. That way he'd have enough fluids to finish out the rest of his race. We spent about 30 minutes practicing his jousting at the KOA on Friday. It was just like jousting - I held out the pack and he slipped his arm through the strap. We had quite the audience watching and wondering what the heck we were doing! But after a few trys, we were confident that we could do it. Nick could grab his pack in motion and keep on pedaling.

This bite valve is mine - I'm tired of water and milk!
Saturday morning was abuzz in the KOA. Lots of people were racing the 34 and it seemed like the whole campground was prepping and eager to go. Matt picked me up and I went back to their hotel with my backpack, a book and Nick's pack. After some photos, Matt and Lonna headed to the starting line and I was in charge of Kirwin! We hung out in the hotel for a while - him playing with my phone and me reading. Then it was time to head out to the course. I got there just as the volunteers were setting up the cones to block the road a little. Found a good parking spot and took my time getting Kirwin into his stroller. He was having fun with my bite valve - good thing it was closed! Sunscreen, sunglasses and sunhat - not all of which stayed on the entire time. Sunglasses are made for playing with, not wearing, apparently. Once we were all settled, I walked down to the two volunteers to chat. I wanted to know about how long it would take the riders to get to that point and any other tidbits of gossip about the race. They filled me with horror stories about the single speeders getting swamped on the road, the simple obstacles on josh-o's that caused horrible backups and other stuff. Yikes. Hopefully, Nick wouldn't get caught in any of that. Then riders appeared on the distant ridge that lead to the sandy road descent. Time to get into position and get ready for Nick.

Look carefully for the riders coming down the road!
I hustled with the stroller up the road to a point where I could still see the road, but would give Nick time to toss a bottle. The first two riders came blazing through, followed closely by Kyle B and another guy. I didn't even have time to get the camera out to get a photo of Kyle - he was through that quickly! A few minutes later, I saw the blue and yellow of ProCycling descending the hill. One yip - no response. It was Todd, not Nick. Less the five minutes later, another blue and yellow kit. Another yip, this one met with a response. Time to get ready. Nick tossed his bottle, told the rider behind him he was grabbing a backpack. The rider slowed a little - I think he wanted to watch Nick wipe out. No such luck! It was a smooth and flawless exchange. We got a complement on the hand off from the second place singlespeeder who was right behind Nick at that point. Matt came through just after Nick. New dad that he was, he slowed down to take a peek at Kirwin and make sure everything was okay!
Nick dancing on the pedals near the summit of Kill Hill
Photo - Clay Allison, Ascent Bike Shop
Single track fun in Hartman Rocks
Photo - Clay Allison, Ascent Bike Shop
We stuck around a little longer to watch some of other riders coming through. Then it was time to head back to the hotel and take our naps! I ended up leaving just as Lonna was rolling down the hill. We stopped to cheer, then it was definitely nap time. I had a cranky Kirwin and he really wanted to lay down for a while. After too short of a nap, it was time for a snack and more slobbering on my phone while we waited for the boys to finish. Didn't take too much longer - Nick and Matt came rolling up about two hours later, carrying the spoils of the race (a finisher's growler.) Kirwin was certainly happy to see his dad - a huge smile appeared when they showed up. The entire Thelen clan had a very successful day. Kirwin and I had a quiet morning, Nick took third in the Singlespeed class, Matt had a really good time and Lonna finished with a smile. Can't ask for more then that!

Single Speed podium - Nick took 3rd

Men's 17-19 podium, Kyle B got 2nd (and 4th overall!)

Men's 40-49 podium - Todd S got 2nd




May 25, 2013

Growler ready

We got to Gunnison midday Thursday, got everything all set up at the KOA, and headed out to Hartman Rocks. We wanted to re-ride a few chunks of the trail to doublecheck lines and freshen our legs up from the long drive. We parked just at the top of Candlehill and decide to ride part of the 24 hours in the Sage course to get to Top of the World and Ridge trails. Those are the ones we wanted to really look at - lots of technical stuff that would be coming late in the race. All I can say is I was lucky it wasn't race day! I was so off my game it was crazy. Little rocks I had no issues with on the first pre-ride were freaking me out. And the big ones, well huh. Had no clue what was going on, but I was not riding smart. I was a mess on everything and felt like a slug. Slow and stiff and just blech. Good thing it was Thursday and we had plenty of time before the race. I needed to pull myself together.

Back up into the rocks on Friday for two more trail sections. This time Josie's, Gateway and Fenceline. I was hoping for better legs and smoother lines. But again, I was all over the bike. Thinking about everything but riding my bike, and trying to chase after Nick at the same time. Not a good combination. I was still sloppy and skittish - approaching rocks and freaking out. Wrong gear, wrong lines and everything. It finally came to a head near the end of Josie's - I started a rock descent and flipped out. One of the rocks at the base of the drop got in my way and took a chunk of skin off my arm and leg. All I could see as we were riding was the blood on my leg, but I could feel my arm stinging in the wind. Not good. And it wasn't - a nice ugly hamburger like abrasion covering about half my forearm. Nick didn't even see that when we got to the van - he was focused on my leg. Washing everything out was probably the most painful part of the weekend! 

All I could think was "hopefully I got the stupid sillies out of my system." A crash like that - or worse - could end my race, and my season in a hurry. Time to settle down and focus. Focus on my lines, my efforts and just ride my bike. It would be a longer day on Sunday if I rode like I did on my last two pre-rides!

May 23, 2013

Fat tires = fun

We get so caught up in the training and the numbers - going faster, going further -sometimes we forget what riding is all about. Mountain biking is about fun. getting out with friends, trying a few things over again, and the satisfaction of making it or the realization that it's going to take a few more tries. When you forget what matters with mountain biking is when you lose the joy of being one with the trail. Tuesday's ride was kind of ride that makes you remember why you start riding. The fun of just pedaling and being out amid sunshine and rain drops. There was no agenda with the ride, other than just have fun. It was a small but enthusiastic group that world away from Procycling, heading for red rocks and the promise of singletrack. We took advantage of the easy road pedal over to talk about basics and some techniques.

And then we hit the singletrack. Jen was the first, and only victim of the day doing some soil sampling sampling on the first switchback of Codell's. There always is that first crash on a brand-new bike and we were lucky enough to see it. As we approached the Hogsback, rain started falling - a light, gentle dusting of moisture enough to soak the skin and dampen the ground. Jen led up the Hogsback, followed closely by Lisa. I stayed behind Jeanette helping her work through a few of the smaller rock gardens on the Hogsback. She did really really well making more of the trail then she had in the past. The enthusiasm for actually making some of the technical sections was contagious and we all shared the excitement on the top of the climb. We stopped to session the large rock obstacle on the south end of the trail. I had a line on the right that Nick showed me, and Jen wanted to try it. She did awesome, launching her Camber up and over the rock. Despite the size of the rock face, she made it look easy. Craig wanted to tackle the left line, which looks easier but has greater consequences (and is actually harder) He tried it a few times and almost had it. I decided to work on both lines - having not done the left line in while I was a bit nervous! But I made it and kept the rubber side down. The quote of the day came from a couple riding with us - as she walked her bike through the rock garden, the lady smiled at us and said "My bike has muscle memory - it will remember this line when I get my courage up to ride it!" Awesome!
Craig trying the rock obstacle again - made it this time!

The group all smiles on top of the Hog's Back

We regrouped and headed north towards Inteman trail under a brilliant sun. Clouds layered to the east, but the sun drenched the rocks and city with vibrant colors. Gorgeous enough to distract us from the task at hand - the rocks of Inteman. I haven't ridden it in a while, so was more then happy to take up the rear. I didn't quiet remember what was coming, so it was like riding a new trail and seeing it with fresh eyes. Speed wasn't important, riding cleanly and smoothly was the goal. I still missed a few sections, but had the courage to try a rock section I'd never tried before. Slid off almost at the top, but gave it a solid go! Confidence to try was the key. Jen and the other women took a shorter route down - it was getting late and they needed to get going. Craig and I took a super fun trail down to the start of Roundup and then pedaled hard to catch up. I was surprised - made both rock slabs on RoundUp without blinking. A first time for that - usually I hesitate coming up on those. Too soon, the ride was over. But the smiles remained - and the feeling like little kids out playing in the rain.

(edited to add photos)

May 21, 2013

More then Sage

This is the year of new races, starting with Whiskey and continuing with the Growler. We've heard good things about the Growler from all our riding friends and finally decided this was the year to give it a try. And that meant a weekend escape to Gunnison to pre ride the course. We wanted to know what we were in for! Any time the course description starts with "say, do you like trail riding?" And goes on to say no beginners, Nick gets excited. That means there's some fun riding and probably some rocks. Well, Nick is super excited about the upcoming Original Growler. Me? I'm a little apprehensive, but ready for a long day on the bike.

Perfect weather for some fun on the rocks in the sage - we managed to avoid all the rainstorms
We got to Gunnison mid morning and headed for the base area of Hartman Rocks. Armed with a nice 11x17 color print out of the course map, we loaded up our Osprey packs and headed up Kill Hill. Yikes. What a way to start a race! Straight up a wall! Nick was bummed that he didn't get to ride more single track to start, but the easy street road was a good way to get the field opened up. We would have enough single track as the miles added up. Our pre-ride was serving a few things, besides just some fun riding. Nick wanted to check gearing and I wanted to see what bike to ride. I was hoping I would be able to get away with my Fate, but had a feeling it would be an Era type course. After the road, it was time hit the single track. Josh-O's - super fun, a few little rock gardens and some steep climbs. Nothing super fancy. Another short road section - one we are very familiar with after countless laps during 24 Hours in the Sage, and the fun descent of Sea of Sage. I was thinking Fate as we started on Skyline. The. The first really major obstacle. Got it one of the three times I tried - uh oh. That was followed by a few more big rock gardens and my initial confidence was dashed. This might be a little harder then we thought!  There was some more road and a loose, sandy descent down to the black top. I was still thinking Fate as we climbed up Bambi's back into the sage of Hartman Rocks. Two more sections of moderate single track - Back In had some fun sections and Nine-0 was just fun. About 1/3 done with the lap and we were having fun. A few re-dos on some of the rock sections, but mostly flowing and smooth riding through the sage.

On Rattlesnake - two seconds later I would be unclipping....
Then we hit Skull Pass. Skulls seem to be a theme in my races this year, but this skull has a few more consequences then the last one! Wow. Steep climbs, rocky descents - all ride-able and mostly fun. Did one thing twice, opted out of another and let Nick talk me into a third. Yep - not a HT course for me! At the bottom of Skull Pass, we met a local rider - Mike. He was just out riding the course, getting a hang for the lines. After seeing Nick and I studying the map, he offered to ride the rest of the lap with us. Awesome! No more staring at the map! He was going a little faster then I could, but was more then happy to dial down the pace. I think he was was just excited to have company - even slow company that wanted to try the rock gardens over again every time I bobbled! Enchanted Forest, Dave Moe's, Dirty Sock, and McCabes - all more fun and speedy sections through green sage. Super fun single track riding. There were plenty of little sections to keep me honest (and riding my bike) but it was again the classic Hartman Rock's riding we know from Sage.
Another rock on Rattlesnake - fun following the crack all the way down
That would all change then we hit Josie's. The rock gardens and technical sections started coming fast and thick. Through Gateway and I knew the last half of the lap would be the killer - ride too hard on the easy stuff and I'd be walking. My impression was solidified on Top of the World and Ridge. Again, wow. Lots of rocks, with some pretty good consequences. I redid a few sections - watching the lines of two different guys helped me pick where I wanted to go. Ridge was great, but with some serious drops off to the left. There would be plenty of chatter during that section! I'm already going to apologize to anyone around me on that last third of the lap. I will be talking to my self, frequently and loudly! Gonna be the only way I will survive not one, but two trips around Hartman Rocks!

May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!


Nick giving a helpful little push/catch on one of the rocks 
Nothing says "Happy Mother's Day" better then meeting her at Palmer Park and making her ride over some rocks! Pre-riding the Ascent Cycling Series Palmer Park course with Mom, and we had her practicing nearly every obstacle on the course. Some of them she got, some not. But she gave everything a try and had a smile on her face the whole time. And now she's looking forward to trying her hand at more then just the Bear Creek Terrace races! Can't beat that for a present - some sun, some rocks and a whole bunch of smiles.


"I made it!!!!"

May 11, 2013

In the pack

Another group road ride in the books. While I still don't look forward to them, after my experience on the starting line at Whiskey, I know that the close-in group riding is good for me. I also realize the pressure of having to stay with the group means I'm gonna ride harder. It was another large group this time, but without some of the usual suspects for stirring up the pace. But that doesn't mean much - there's always someone willing to attack. I started near the back, chatting with one of the other women in the group. Not to many women this time, which was surprising, given the size of the group. Then I started moving up, getting into the front half of the peloton. I had a feeling that I needed to be right up near the lead riders when we started rolling down Bolder and Platte and got nearly every light red. It was a good thing too - the light on Chelton and Platte turned yellow just as the leaders blasted through. Had I been any further back, I might have gotten stuck at the red light and been riding alone for the entire ride. It would have been an easier day, but not as good training.

Right from the start, it was a crazy ride. There was a strong headwind which messed around with the pace and some new riders. I've learned from prior rides that I can't pull thru on days like that - I get my nose into the wind and can't keep the pace up. So I settled into the middle of the front pack, watching wheels and doing my best to avoid getting shuffled to the front. With the large pack, that was easier then usual. I think I was only on the front once and managed to pull through - barely. But the pace was anything but easy - it was accelerate as someone attempted to attack then slow as he was absorbed again. No one really wanted to make a break, but there were plenty willing to give a half hearted effort. All the surging and decelerating made the riding challenging - I never knew when to gun it or when to touch my brakes. I managed to close all the gaps down this time, staying firmly on the tail of that first group. I wasn't going to give up without a fight and I didn't want to ride all the way down to the race track alone into that headwind! As usual, my goal was to make the left onto Link with the main group.

Well, I got tailed off just before the left turn - ran out of steam trying to shut down a gap. Took a few seconds to recover, then put my head down. The fellow stragglers were getting spat out the back of the group as they charged towards the hill. Maybe we could get together and form the second group on the road. I caught the first guy and we started rotating pulls. That little bit of cooperation quickly brought us up to the next few riders. Not everyone wanted to work, but we got things sorted out and into a smooth rotation. Up and over the hill, still working together and catching other guys as we screamed down towards Old Pueblo Highway. I was lucky there was a wind - I wasn't spun out with my compact crank on the descent this time! We had a decent sized group at the left onto Old Pueblo Highway and still catching riders. The rotation through pulling and recovering was efficient and smooth. I was able to pull through in this pack, but I had to take a little extra rest between pulls. I'd let the guy who had finished his pull slide over in front of me so I was always one person behind my last effort. Hopefully, no one minded! No one complained or didn't let me do it, so... For the first time, I made it over the bridge and half way down to the right turn to the race track before turning around.

I did get dropped from the front group on the trip back into Fountain, but slotted into the second group and was able to stay there. Didn't leave the gas station early enough and got dropped again on that short stretch of frontage road. No worries - the ID check at Fort Carson always brings the group back together. And my goal was to stay with the group all the way through Fort Carson. Almost made it! On one of the smaller hills, someone attacked and I was done. I tried to keep on the wheels and not get dropped, but no such luck. I was close enough to see the group splitting into the Zoo climb and flatlanders, but that was the last I saw of them. Yes, for those who are counting, I'm still getting dropped about 4 times during the ride! One of these days, I'd like to cut that number down to three - or at least see the sprint at the race track! I also covered 60 miles in the first three hours of my ride, including 30 minutes of easy riding to get to Starbucks and all the red lights on Boulder and Platte. Yikes.

May 10, 2013

The Soaking of Spring.

There is something to be said for rain. I usually like riding in the rain, especially a warm, soft drizzle. It's cleansing and usually so quiet when it rains. Yesterday however, was not a good day in the rain. It was cold and we got soaked. All because as we were getting ready to hide in the garage for our workouts, the sun peeked through the clouds. Wow! No rain! Time to get outside and ride! We bundled up and headed for Stratton open space. With the kind of workout I had planned and the soaked trails, Stratton was the best place place to ride. The decomposed granite that forms most of those trails only gets better with the rain. Everywhere else just gets muddy. Of course, the minute we left the house, the clouds closed in. The rain returned and before we even reached the trails, we were soaked. Then came the workout. I spent 30 minutes chasing Nick all over Stratton. And while I was dying and pedaling squares, he was idling along, "encouraging" me to work harder. Ouch. Add in the mud and the cold and it wasn't the most enjoyable workout ever.

But those kind of days provide more then fitness benefits. We always want the perfect weather for racing, but really - how frequently does that happen? I got hailed on during the Breck 100, slugged thru mud for 7 miles of the Battle of the Beat take 1 last year, and Nick and I survived the Arizona hurricane a few years ago down at 24 Hrs in the Old Pueblo. So we know just how bad the weather can be during a race. And as the events get longer, fitness is only one part of the equation. Preparation and planning can save an even or mean the different between a podium and a DNF. So while it can be tempting to either bail on the workouts or hide in the garage when the weather closes in, it's also important to be prepared. I need to plan my clothes for perfect weather and the crappy weather. I also need to know what will work to keep me on the bike and riding in circles, no matter what nature throws at me. The workouts like yesterday accomplish that - the fitness I will need, the mental confidence and strength to just keep riding and the knowledge of all my gear. And that's what it will take - looking at the whole picture, not just the fitness. I have five weeks to get it all figured out.

May 9, 2013

April Snow Brings May Showers

Winter, er Spring, has been crazy this year. I was doing intervals in the snow in late April and never took my knee warmers off the whole month. After getting back from Whiskey, I was hoping we might actually get some real spring before summer arrives. (Then again, we might not even get summer this year!) No such luck. After an early May snowstorm last week, we've seen more clouds then sun this month. Yesterday it rained most of the day. There is a fresh layer of snow on Pikes Peak and the front range. It's really pretty, and the slow rain is exactly what we need right now. The forecast is for more rain for the rest of the week and into the weekend. Hero dirt in the canyon! Along with some snow and mud everywhere else...

Yesterday, I watched the steady downpour with trepidation. It was cold, cloudy and damp. Perfect riding weather for January - not May! I got out of work just as the clouds were lifting. Maybe I would be lucky and not get soaked? I still brought all my warm clothes and rain jacket with me. There was a low, heavy cloud over Cheyenne Mountain. I could see the sheets of rain to the south of me. With the wind blowing in from the south, I was pretty sure I would get wet. It was a race against the rain. I planned my ride to avoid the mud, so just climbed up the Chutes to Gold Camp. I needed to get to High Drive for my intervals. I was watching the clouds moving closer. Maybe I would get my whole workout in before the rain. I dropped down to the start of High Drive and lost sight of the clouds. Time to focus on nh workout and not worry about the weather. Two trips up High Drive and I hadn't been rained on. I was soaked from sweat - having overdressed for the workout part. My gloves were soaked, helmet dripping and glasses steamed up. I knew it was cold - id been shivering on the descent to start my second interval - so I wasted no time getting dressed. Warm and dry gloves, hat, vest and Gore jacket. With the work done, it was time to have fun. Jacks was in great shape and fast. So fast I actually wiped out! A soft landing, but one that left me covered in damp gravel.

The rain had revealed much I would never notice otherwise. While I was descending to start my second interval, I caught a whiff of dirty, wet dog.the clean air brought the sharp scent clearly into focus. On my second trip up High Drive I saw the tracks. Tracks that had not been there on my first trip up. Crossing the road several times, always accompanied by the wet dog smell. The tracks reveal an animal in a hurry. They plunged down the steep slopes next to the road, deep claw marks tearing into the soft dirt. I was thankful to riding the other direction - after all, I didn't want to run into an unhappy bear! It's that time of year - despite the snow in the mountains!

May 6, 2013

Riding with the big fish - Whiskey Off Road

Wow - my first major race with a huge and deep field. I've had good success at the local endurance mountain bike races - solid fields, but still local races. I was a big fish in a small pond. Well, the Whiskey 50 was the Atlantic ocean of races and all the apex predators showed up. Multiple national champions, Olympic medalists, World Cup racers, world champions and more. This was one of the strongest fields assembled for a women's mountain bike race, with over 50 fast and fit riders ready for the throw down. It was hard not to be intimidated when I read the starting list. Seeing my name on that list was cool - I was #2, right behind Georgia Gould. But would I belong in the mix or just be a face in the crowd? After the crit on Friday, I was thinking pack fodder, but I still had aggressive goals. Finish sub 4:00 and hopefully a top 20 placing. Both were tall orders, but I felt within my reach if I rode smart and steady.

After a short warm up, I said goodbye to Nick. He was playing bottle Sherpa for the day - lugging three bottles for me, two for Cameron, and one for Kalan, as well as red bull can, liter of ginger ale and a liter of coke. He also had plenty of food for sitting around most of the day, so his pack weighed nearly 40 pounds! He would pedal up to a few places on course and then wait at the Aid station for us to roll through. A long day in the sun for him after a long day of racing! His support was awesome this weekend and made my races go so much smoother. I would have been in a world of hurt without Nick's help.

During the call ups, I was reminded who I was racing and the caliber of the field. but we were all racing and anything could happen over the next 50 miles. Getting intimidated on the line was admitting defeat. I had as much right to be there in the next rider. Then the gun and we were off - 50 women setting off thru the streets of Prescott. It was a controlled pace with a police escort closing the roads ahead of us. But the controlled pace didn't mean easy - I was on the edge already. The first four miles of the race were the most stressful I've ever ridden. It was crazy! I was anticipating the crit being nuts, but the was so much worse. We took over both lanes of the road, but no one wanted to give an inch. I tangled my bars in someones elbow on a corner - scary, but we both stayed upright. There was more contact in those four miles then the entire group road rides! My front while was hit five times, my rear wheel four times. I had a handle bar in my hips, my ribs and my butt. I tried to stay near the front so I was out of trouble, but made a tactical error. Got boxed into the middle of the peloton and couldn't get out. Whoops! Then the escort pulled off and we really started racing. I dug deep, focused on keeping my front third position. I wanted to enter the single track in a solid position... Wishful thinking! I popped just as we crested the hill. I just didn't have the umph to keep up that power for that long. My position quickly plummeted from end if the first third to middle of the back third.
Back of the pack at the turn off the main road

Focused on the turn - hoping to move up

But now we were on single track. Time to ride my bike. I was near the end of a long line of riders - I wanted to pass, but didn't want to blow up making early moves. I knew I could ride that section of trail faster though. But I'm not very good at passing people who don't want to be passed. So I just followed – At least until the rocks. I had made it over easily on the pre-ride with Nick but that was just the two of us. A different story with a train of girls. I was surprised how many of them didn't make it - unfortunately, I was one of them. I tried the hardest line to see if I could get around someone but nope. Popped off the rock and nearly tumbled head over heels down the face. Collected myself and got back on my bike. It was time to focus and just ride. There was a lot of singletrack left a lot of opportunities to gain time. I finally made the pass I needed to - then crossed the road and headed into the unknown. Both Nick and Todd had given me some pointers and things to look for during that section, so I was cautiously confident.

That section of trail was super fun. I wish we'd had a chance to pre-ride it and learn the lines better, but it was still fun. Steady climbing with some short little rollers, tight single track with huge water bars and some challenging rock gardens. I could see the train of women in front of me - so close - but knew better then to chase. I didn't know the trail and I needed to keep my eyes on the dirt. I was riding everything at that point and feeling really smooth. Finally, everything technically was coming together - pulling up my front tire to clear the water bars, placing it neatly and then the little body throw to get the rear wheel up and over. The body English to throw the bike around and maneuver on the rock gardens. Just being able to ride everything - up and down - was a win in my mind. I saw a lot of the other women walking a lot of the technical single track. I was slowly reeling some of them in, making up the ground I'd lost at the start. As the trail topped out on the ridge, I was able to look down and see Hwy 89 far far below. Wow. No wonder it seemed like we'd been doing nothing but climbing since the start! But that meant the downhill Nick and Todd had warned me about was coming up. Time for some fun! Stay focused, use your legs, soak up the bumps and ride your bike. Flow. I caught a few women on that descent, including Beth Utley (from 24 Hrs in the Old Pueblo.) But it wouldn't last. Everyone and a few others would re-pass me on the three mile climb up to Aid 1.

This was my first race using the Chocolate Peanut Coconut rice cakes from The Feedzone Cookbook. I discussed the reasons behind my switch from using only Gu products for calories and electrolytes to using real food for fuel and Gu for electrolytes in a prior post. I took advantage of the road to eat one of my rice cakes and was looking forward to getting a bottle of fresh fluid from Nick.A good exchange - another rice cake and some gummy worms in my jersey pockets and the cold bottle on my bike. One of the volunteers doused me with some water just before I started the decent to Skull Valley. Ohh, did that feel good. I didn't know what the temperature was - I just knew it was hot! The descent wasn't really all down hill - which was good. I was able to pedal and keep my legs moving so I wasn't stiff when I turned around. Caught Chris J, one of the Xterra women I used to race with. We rode down to the turn around together, taking turns pulling. About four miles from the turn around, the first men started passing us on their climb. Then about 1.5 miles up, Kelli Emmett came charging up the hill. She was focused and moving fast - and had a pretty good gap on the next group. I didn't count to see how many women were in front of me. I knew it was more then I'd wanted. When we hit the pavement before the aid station, I decided to ditch my camelbac. The bladder was empty and I really didn't want to carry it back up the hill! I also wanted to get rid of it before I started overheating. Before the turn around, I sat up and pulled it off. Tossed it to Coach Adam who was waiting with my bottle of Brew. A smooth hand off, but then I decided I wanted some water as well. I knew that climb was going to be long, hot and brutal! Snagged another bottle and tucked it into my jersey pocket. If two bottles weren't enough to get me nine miles, I had problems!

There was a small group just ahead of Chris and I on the road. I decided I wanted to try and catch up on the lower, more gradual slope and left Chris. I was slowly, so slowly pulling them back - or so I thought. Then came the short downhill in the middle of the climb and I lost every inch I'd pulled back. And I never got it back. Chris passed me and climbed away from me. I was eating and drinking well, didn't feel like I was suffering too badly in the heat, but I couldn't maintain the power numbers I wanted to. I was getting a little frustrated with the low numbers, so switched the screen on my garmin - no need to stress out over something that was so minor. Jane from CTS was right behind me - we would yo-yo for the rest of the climb. Finished the bottle of brew about six miles into the climb and started on the water. There was no wind, the sun was beating down hard and no shade to provide any respite. Too hot for this Colorado girl after doing my last set of intervals in the snow! Finally, the scrubby trees opened up into tall pines. Getting closer to the aid station! I finished the bottle of water and tossed it just before the aid station appeared. And those volunteers were awesome. Not only did I get a bottle of water dumped on my head, a fresh bottle of perfectly mixed (for me) Brew Roctane and another bottle of water to drink there, I got enthusiastic cheers. Thanks to everyone who stood out in the hot sun for the privilege of handing us water bottles!
Climbing up the road with Jane 
Another rice cake and I decided to finish the bottle I'd gotten at the aid station. I knew exactly where Nick would be waiting with my last bottle - I just didn't know how long it would take to get there. More climbing, this time in the shade. I was getting tired, but still riding well. I didn't know where anyone else in the race. I was hoping I'd been able to hold the gaps to reasonable amounts - something I could bring back on the downhill. Nick was waiting right where he said he would be - and he was a mind reader. Not only did he have my bottle ready, he also had some coke for me! Normally, warm and flat coke is the least appealing thing - not in the middle of a hot race, with about 40 minutes left to ride! That was what I needed. I decided I wouldn't let Jane beat me to the single track and picked up the pace on that last section of road. I knew the trail was going to be fun and I wanted to enjoy every minute of it.

Of course, no race of mine is complete with out a crash. Washed out my front wheel on one of the corners, scraping up my right side. A good reminder to relax and ride my bike. If I was going to catch anyone, it would happen - but not if I rushed and got hurt. Yep. Flow. And the flow of the trail brought a grin to my face. There were a few differences in the lines between our pre-ride and the race, but it was still fun. I was launching the little berms, sliding around the corners. There were a few spectators at every trail junction and I  thanked all of them for cheering. There was one tricky section that I'd tried three times during the pre ride - hadn't made it on any attempts then. But now I felt good, I felt smooth and despite originally planning on walking through it - I decided to ride. Up over the rock - look where I want to go, throw the bike around. And I was over, still pedaling. Awesome! One more climb, then it would be all over. Splashed through the creek and started up cramp hill, gearing down for the climb. Then I saw a jersey in front of me. Another rider! I hadn't seen another race in so long! I wanted to catch her and attacked the climb. At least, I thought I attacked the climb - not sure about it now. Got to the top and she was gone. Had I been imagining things? Or was she just far enough ahead of me? No matter - ride my bike, flow around the switchbacks, over the rocks. Then the jersey re-appeared. It was Beth again. And I was gaining. I made the catch, called the pass and was around smoothly. Time to focus on the river crossing coming up. Gear down, right line, smooth and steady. Made it much easier then during the pre-ride and was super excited. I had enough of a gap and enough single track to keep ahead of her before the road descent. Until my chain dropped. I think I bent the front derailleur a little in the earlier crash and when I shifted into my little ring to get through the rock garden it bounced off. Bounced off and got wedged! Beth passed me back as I was struggling with the chain - it took a bit of muscle to unwedge it and re-seat it.
The river crossing near the end of the race - it's harder then it looks from this angle!
Thanks to Beth Utley for letting me use this

Now I was chasing again and I didn't  have enough single track left. We both knew it. She was out of sight when I popped out onto the blacktop road. Four miles of descending into the finish line. I got as aero as I could, pedaling as hard as I could. I wasn't giving up until I crossed the finish line! For the first few miles, we were sharing the road with the cars. I was dropping like a stone and was catching the vehicles in front of me. For the first time, the cars pulled over and let us pass! Wow! Then we got a coned lane and I didn't have to worry about cars anymore. I made the right hand turn off Gurley Rd - starting the final, short climb of the race. I could see Beth ahead of me now. I stood up and attacked the climb, ignoring the fatigue in my legs. This was my last chance. But she would make the left too far ahead and stay ahead of me into the finish. Nick was waiting for me at the line - with a glass of cold water. I was happy to be finished, happy with my performance, but disappointed. I'd hoped for better - but ended up simply pack fodder. Sure, it was an elite pack, but... I finished 33rd of 44 finishers and 51 starters. My time was 4:16:29, a far cry from Lesley Patterson's winning 3:35:21! But all things considered, it was a good race. I handled the heat and the unknown well and survived without a coughing fit! (those would come later, and stay around for a while.)

Real food - real fueling

When we were at Fruita (day 1, day 2 and day 3), I didn't use as many gels or chews as I usually have for long rides. I used the Gu Brew and Gu Tabs in my bottles for my electrolytes because it was much hotter than what we had been used to in Colorado Springs. Yay - the endless winter with inches of snow every weekend! What I didn't do was load my bottle full of gels and take in all my calories in my liquids. I wanted to keep those separate. Eat my food and drink my fluids. I got the idea for doing this after reading the Feedzone Cookbook. There was a lot of conversation in that book about why it's important to keep fluids and fuel separate especially when it's hot out. I had already been doing something similar at the 24 hour races. Focusing on eating while I was in pit and drinking a mild electrolyte solution while out on the course - not trying to replace all the calories I was burning while I was riding. So far I've made the chocolate peanut coconut rice cakes and the banana rice muffins from the Feedzone Cookbook and it worked really well for training rides and workouts at home. (I've also made some of the non-riding recipes and everything has been just Delicious ) This was our first opportunity to try them during longer rides and under stressful situations. I was surprised. I was able to drink more than I normally do, had no stomach problems, and was wanting to eat and drink the entire time we were riding. To me, that was success. Drinking enough while on the bike is something I've always struggled with. Last year at Ridgeline Rampage, I really had issues on the last two laps and pretty much stopped drinking because I could not stomach anymore high calorie fluids.

I did not want a repeat at Whiskey. I wanted to be able to drink enough to stay hydrated under desert riding conditions and I wanted to be able to eat enough to complete the entire 50 miles fast. So between 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo and when we left for Whiskey, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I wanted to get it right and make sure I knew the rice cakes would work under racing stress. I got a mini food processor and made a new batch every week. I used the rice cakes during every ride over a few hours - long rides, interval workouts and so on. No issues at all, no matter how hard my rides were. A good sign - I was able to drink more, get the electrolytes thru the Gu Brew and Tabs, and eat enough on the bike. I was confident that it would work at Whiskey.

And it did. I started the race with one serving of Gu Roctane, two Brew Tabs and three Gu packets in my 50 oz bladder. Ate a rice cake before mile 16 and got another rice cake and some gummy worms from Nick at aid 1. I also got another bottle with a Brew tab from Nick. At aid 2, I tossed my empty camelbak and the empty bottle. Coach Adam was waiting in Skull valley with a 2nd bottle of Gu Brew and a bottle of water. And unlike last year, I was eating and drinking well the whole time. I had my second rice cake near the end of the climb and still no stomach issues. Another bottle of Brew and water at aid 3, and another bottle from Nick a few miles up. So in a four hour race, I had over 150 oz of fluid - much more then I can usually drink. I also didn't have any of the gut rot where I couldn't tolerate another drink or bite to eat. Success! Real food meant better hydration and better fueling. Now to plan the menu for the Growler and for June!

May 5, 2013

Recovering

Sometimes the recovering is harder then the racing. I've been struggling to get my energy back since the Whiskey Off Road and the goof off week hasn't helped. I normally bounce right back after a hard race, ready to rage in a few days. Not this time around. Why? A few solid reasons - but I'm still not happy about it. I want to be riding my bike, not trying to get recovered to ride my bike.

Our trip was crazy and much more stressful then we had anticipated. It was our first trip without the turtle and boy, did we miss it. I don't think we got a good nights sleep the entire trip. The first night, we had a crazy person screaming from 10:00 pm until 3:00 am - slamming doors, hollering obscenities and really scary. I have never been in a situation where I was so worried, and Nick was even more concerned about it. Yikes. And I made the mistake of getting a downstairs room once we got to Prescott. More noise! So horrible sleep the entire trip. We slept our alarms two days in a row when we got home. I was so sleep deprived from everything.

And then the cough. A sore throat developed Tuesday - stayed just a mild sore throat thru to Thursday. I could feel the draining and knew it might be bad. Was sucking on cough drops from Thursday all the way to the crit. Could barely breath after the crit - coughing so hard even the heavy duty drops wouldn't cut it. Surprisingly, I didn't get any worse after the crit - just a mild cough and sore throat. I felt okay, but was worried about the main event. Would I be able to survive without a huge coughing fit? The answer was yes, at least until after the event! I've been coughing ever since, ranging from bright yellow, a light green to now finally clear. I think I've turned the corner here, but the body aches are still hitting occasionally.

So maybe next week, I'll be back to 100% and be ready to start training again. I've got two more big races and I have big goals for those races. Recovery now means better racing later.

May 2, 2013

One Gear Speedster

Saturday meant nothing for me - just ride my bike, recover from the crit and get ready to race again on Sunday. It also meant that it was Nick's turn to race. He was racing the 25 (more like 30) Proof on his Singlespeed. With this being our first year at the Whiskey, we had no clue what to expect come Saturday morning. We'd both heard stories of traffic jams on singletrack and other nightmares, but never really quite belived them. I was planning on riding up the road, taking some photos in a few spots, then waiting for Nick to give him a bottle at the top. All easy riding and a good way to get out of the hotel for a while. We rolled down the start about 8:30 - for a 9:30 race... We both figured there would be plenty of time for Nick to do what he needed, pedal around to warm up for a bit, and be able to get a decent spot on the line.

The town of Prescott rolled out the welcome mat for all racers.
Well, we were so wrong about that one! The line was already full and the road packed with riders at 8:45. We both stared in shock at the number of people just standing, waiting. I said goodbye to Nick, wished him luck and started my easy pedal up the hill to my first photo site. I hoped Nick would be able to get a decent line up, other wise, his race would be much harder then it needed to be. I waited about 20 minutes at the turn off Copper Basin Road, then the leaders came flying through. Three riders in a tight pack, followed shortly after by another large group. No Nick yet. So far, all the riders were geared. I was trying to count but there were too many. Finally, Nick came spinning up the hill and made the right turn. I cheered and took a few photos. Thought about it a little late, well after he'd made the turn, but hollered after him that he was the first SS rider thru. But he was already gone, into the woods.

All alone turning off the road 
Off to the next spot, where the single track crossed Copper Basin Rd. I left as soon as Nick made the turn since I wanted to make sure I saw the first 25 proof racer go by. It didn't take me too long to ride up there. A small crowd had gathered so finding a parking space was a little harder. I wanted to be near my bike but also out of the way. Then the first riders came blazing thru - same three riders. They had pulled open the gap to the next group, which had broken up some. Another little gap and suddenly Nick appeared. Wow! He'd moved up huge in the last few miles! I was totally unprepared - hadn't counted riders or anything. Even one of the other spectators who was riding up the road commented on how well Nick was doing. Then the racers vanished into the unknown single track.

Nick flying out of the woods, looking for some more singletrack
I would see Nick again at the junction of Thumb Butte Rd and Copper Basin Rd. I was going to give him his second bottle at that point. Once I reached the junction, I decided to ride up the hill just a little. I wanted a nice flat spot since Nick was on his single speed. The 50 proof riders were trickling up the road - all looking shelled. Uh oh - what was I in for tomorrow? After watching the 50 single speeders trudging up the hill, I was sure I was in a good place - even if it was a little further up the road then we had discussed. First 25 proof race came flying thru. Time to start keeping track. A huge gap to the second place rider. Then smaller gaps. I started getting a little nervous, so went to the edge of the hill to watch for Nick. Then the blue and yellow of our ProCycling kit appeared. I started yipping as Nick slowed right at the junction. Figured he heard me ad he started up the last steep pitch and got ready ti to give him the bottle. In my focus on getting the hand up right and my excitement that he was doing so well, I didn't give him the info! Doesn't help me much - but he needed to know he was 6th overall and 1st single speeder thru. And with a fun, technical descent coming up he had a good chance to move up more. But would he be able to hold on the blacktop road?
Todd S, racing in the 50 proof, riding up the last chunk of road climbing

I didn't wait around to see the next single speeder. I bolted down Copper Basin Rd to where the start course and finish course merged. I hung out there, watching the cops and their dance of directing traffic. I barely beat the first 25 proof rider to that point. It shouldn't be too long. I was counting now, looking at gears and numbers. Another 25 rider, followed by another and another. Five so far - Nick hadn't moved up, but he should be soon. Then a small group of 25 riders flew thru - all geared and looking nervous. Nick must have lost time on the road. Finally he came into view - 9th overall and 1st single speeder. Awesome! He'd put over 10 minutes into the next single speed racer, despite starting in the back of the pack!

Making the last turn for home
Nick and Todd, celebrating the finish with a pint of ice cold water

He was not happy when I got to the finish. Turned out he had started really far back, sat on his bike for nearly three minutes after the gun went off, then had to work his way all the way through the mass of riders to find a clean run at the single track when I saw him first. Not a fun way to start a race - yay first timer dues - in an event with 800 people! It wad also much hotter then we were used to and he'd been out of water for a while. There weren't weren't any bottles left at the aid station either. So when I had decided to move up the road and not stay at the junction where I said I would be, I hadn't helped. He'd come up to the junction and panicked since I wasn't there. It would have been a long finish without any more water. He had a right to be upset with me about that one! I will not make that mistake again.

Men's 25 Proof Single Speed Podium
Nick - 1st, Tobias Corwin - 2nd, Mark Horrocks - 3rd, Corey O'Brien - 4th, Sheldon Lindsey 5th

May 1, 2013

Whiskey Off Road - Fat Tire Crit

I have never done a road race, never toed the line in a crit or anything even close. Maybe a short track race, but its been a few years since my last one. So the Fat Tire Crit on Friday was going to be a new experience. Fast cornering, pack riding, all out from the gun. Yikes! I had no expectations going into the race. I knew they would be pulling lapped riders, so my goal was to just stay in the race for as long as I could. The crit really had no bearing on the main event Sunday, but starting was mandatory. So while I wanted a good performance, I also didn't want to kill myself just for the show. Since our hotel was just a mile from Whiskey Row, Nick and I rode down to the venue. The course was marked and mostly clear. I did a few laps for my warmup, trying to learn the corners and prep for the coming event. Two steep hills, a few tight corners and fast descents. Bike handling would be important. The crowds were building - cheering on all the riders warming up and pedaling around. While it wasn't the big race of the weekend, the spectators wanted a show.

The line up - just a few national champions, Olympic Medalists, World Champions and me!
Then we were called to the line. A huge group of women, all ready to go. A few notable riders were introduced, then the start. Time for 20 minutes of all out pain. I tried to get into the front group before the first turn and was in a good position as we crested the first hill. Held in the first third of the pack on the first corner. Then it was over. The real riders took control on the second hill and broke the pack apart. I was swallowed by the herd and plummeted down the standings at the top. So much for maybe trying my hand at a prime or even getting all 20 minutes of the race! Took a pedal stroke to regroup, then revised my plan. Now was to just move up a few slots each lap and hold on for as long as I could! I pulled back a few slots over the next three laps and was starting to reel in a large group in front of me. Then the whistle. Sweet relief. I was pulled from the race before I could be lapped. Total crit stats? Four laps and 13 minutes of racing. Some of the hardest racing I've done, no matter how short it was. But I was done. Soft pedaled over to where Nick was taking some photos and tried not to cough my lungs up.

Jamie B leading a small group into a fast corner - I'm last in the picture

Taking the corner hot

Moved up a few places, getting set up for another fast corner


Power to the pedals on the flat - trying to close down a gap

Done - the agony is over!
Overall, an interesting experience. I didn't hold on as long as I wanted, nor was I ever a factor in the race. I was simply pack fodder to make sure the show was good. A little disappointing - I really wanted to make a statement in the crit as someone to watch for the Whiskey 50. As far as the racing went, that was far from the result. But I felt good in the pack and really solid on the bike handling through all the tight corners and high speed maneuvering.CA good lesson on how the real pros ride. It also left me wondering what would happen on Sunday.


Start of the men's crit with the sun setting behind Thumb Butte
Cameron C on the first lap, attacking the hill