Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Silly Moe

Again it was one of those moments of "What was I thinking" as I prepared to make the journey to Mountain View Arkansas.  My initial thoughts months ago were how awesome to ride a new 100 mile venue that has 50+ miles of singletrack designated as "epic" by the International Mountain Bike Association..  It also has the backing of Outside Magazine as being one of the "Top 20 Outdoor Destinations".  I'm in baby!  Fast forward to May 11th as trip details were being hashed out.  It takes 17 hours.  Oops, did not think about that long of a drive. Probably should have done it by plane.  Although a totally doable drive, it would not be a leisurely trip considering family and work restraints required a quick swoop in and an even quicker swoop out.  Fortunately I had Jeff along to share the burden of the journey.  Unfortunately during our travels, Jeff suffered a family loss and was unable to share the burden on the way home.  OUCH.  My last NUE turned into a mini stage race and now this NUE was going to be one as well.  Granted I would not be racing my bike on Sunday, but I would be pushing my physical limits to get myself back to PA by Sunday evening.  All said and done it wasn't all that bad.  All is good and I am back safe and sound happy with reflections of the weekend.  Mountain view, Arkansas is a beautiful place and the trails are epic.  It reminded me much of my home trails in Michaux. 

syllamo trail
The only real difference was the limestone that was super slippery when wet.  In Michaux you often find traction on the rocks.  That being said I did have high hopes for a great day out on the trails.  It was definitely a "good" day, but not a great day.  I had a very conservative start and did not seem to have the legs to redline it off the bat.  Once I got going in the single track everything came together and I started feeling more like myself.  It was fun to flow on the trails.  There was lots of momentum to find out there.  Yes, the first 13 miles were a bit slick, but if you played it smart you could get through it with no troubles.  I felt good and I was even smiling.  Then I came across Amanda who had gotten ahead however was now fixing a flat.  One would think to attack.  I'm not sure where my thought process was, but it wasn't on winning at all costs.  The doubt that began to creep into my head couldn't be quieted.  I wanted to stay smooth and smart to avoid blowing up.  I knew that she would definitely be chomping at the bit to catch back up to me.  I wanted to believe that I could stay away.  Sometimes believing in yourself is quite exhausting, my doubt and confidence battled it out.  I decided it was time to stop believing and to start doing.  I just turned off my brain and found joy in riding the trail efficiently and smoothly.  Sure enough, she caught up.  We rode for a bit together then I let her pass.  I was enjoying my ride and having fun regardless of who was in front or behind.  After mile 50 I did get a bit tired while again riding the first section of singletrack we had previously rode at the beginning of the race.  Luckily, it was a bit drier and not as slippery and I was more able to clear some of the tricky sections. 

 Then once I got to the final 13 mile singletrack loop, I found more energy knowing that it was a mainly smooth sail to the finish.  In the end I placed second in a time of 7:50.   The trails of the Syllamo 125K can be classified as punishing, however I found them to be enjoyable and if you can find a balance of finesse and efficiency you and your bike can survive it.  I was definitely tired at the end and my hands hurt a little, but that was about it.  My bike handled perfectly.  I usually race "technical" races with full suspension.  This race I instead rode the stumpjumper 29'r hardtail.  I expected to experience pain all over my body the next day.  My expectations were gladly not met and my bike smoothly rode over the bumpiest of sections.  My only gear issue was some chainsuck as my chain and cogs got covered in mud and water.  Lubing the chain at the aid stations relieved that hassle and allowed me to have a clean race. 

Reading my above words of not being completly spent after the race has led me to many "What ifs"  Such as, "Am I again stuck in my comfort zone.  Could I have pushed harder?"  I do not have answers to those questions.  I am not sure they even need answers.  Gremlins that is what they are.  The past two NUE's had been book ended with many other responsibilities in my life.  Soon I will have a break in my work schedule for about 10 weeks.  Times are a changing and being able to let one part of my brain and physical energy have a break will be extremely welcome.

I will be regrettably missing the most hotly contested women's race at the TSE later this month due to work responsibilities.  Tear it up ladies!!  Next on my ballot is the Mohican 100.  I have always wanted one of those trophies!  No more wanting, it is time to take.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

You are doing what?

Yes, I am and yes I did.  Luckily I wasn't alone.  My friend Roger Masse from 29r crew joined in the insanity.  I just had my mind set on doing both events and it was a bummer the way they fell on the calendar.  If there is a will there is a way.  And away we went. 

First up was the Cohutta 100, the NUE series opening race.  I was very excited to compete in this race.  I finally felt that my part time gig as a bike racer could match up to the Pro ranks.  I had put in many more miles than prior years and I had more than just some racing under my belt.  Usually I am worried if I can even ride the 100 miles Cohutta has to offer.  I was stoked.  I gave it my all and came in a personal PR of 8:03.  But it wasn't enough to overstep the ever powerful Amanda Carey.  She is smoking.  I did ride with her for awhile and felt great, but she turned up the heat after mile 30 and got away.  There is a lot of should of's could of's that I am fighting off, but the bottom line is she is fast.  I need to get out of a survival individual time trail mode and start being a little more aggressive.  I was also surprised that I wasn't getting that "flying" feeling like I was hoping for.  A lot of people asked if I was recovered from the Cape Epic.  It was something I had not even considered.  Maybe, Maybe not.  Working on my mind games this year.  My own mind that is!  The season is long and I'm all in.  Stay away "CREEPS"!

Next up Michaux Maximus.  A 40 mile race held in Michaux State Forest.  And not just any 40 mile race.  It is 90% or more technical, rocky single track.  So even on a good day I was looking at close to a 5 hour day.  The Maximus is the first race of the Michaux Endurance Series.  Michaux hosts my favorite trails I just could not pass up this first race since I planned on completing the series. 

It all seemed so simple.  It is just like a two day stage race.  No problem.  I kept trying to ignore the fact that it took 10 hours to get to TN and then it would take another 10 hours to get back to PA.  Sometimes the travel takes more of a toll than the racing.  Fortunately, my husband Lee voluteered to help us out by tagging along to help divy up the driving.  I am so grateful he came along.  It was comforting to have him around and he was a trooper to take the witching hours of the drive from 2:00pm until 4:30 pm.  We left TN after 6 pm and rolled into PA at 4:30 am.  Roger and I rested for another hour and 1/2 and then took off for the start of the Maximus.  We were feeling a little run over, but neither of us would call uncle.  I think if we did not have each other it would have been very easy to stay home.  Thank you Roger. 

Just as I tried to ignore the drive I also tried to ignore the weather.  It ended up being a wet sloppy affair, but well worth all the effort.  I love Michaux.  Although I was tired and sore and the trails are unforgiving, I love to solve the puzzles the terrain throws at you.  It also ended up being a special day because I spent it with a friend.  That does not always happen.  Usually you can find yourself all alone for most of the day.  There were moments when we would have distance between us, but for the most part we were content with each others pace.  However, we did agree that the finish was up for grabs.  So toward the end of the race there was a long slog up a rooty "creek" That is where Sue tried to take it.  I was matching her effort, but right at the top I went to change gears and got some chain suck.  I stopped to make it right and she got away down the road towards the finish.  I put my head down and sprinted at my target.  Much to my surprise I caught her and then passed her right before we were to turn left into the finish chute.  I took the inside line into the chute and came across some diagnol slippy roots.  I could not stay in line and bobbled.  Sure enough Sue took the outside and snuck by me.  Oh well. Never did look at the finish chute prior to race start.  Lesson learned.  Regardless, I was stoked to battle it out and the day was a blast. I had visions of it being a horror show and it wasn't.  Most of all I did not miss out on seeing all the good peeps, new and old, that find their way to Michaux. 

A big shout out to Specialized for making awesome bikes.  For the Cohutta I opted to use the super light and quick s works 29'r hard tail.  Super Sweet.  For the Maximus I switched out to 26 inch wheel s works Era.  That bike is fun, just as quick and a welcome squish for post 100 mile soreness.