Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sandmann Adventure Race

We woke up to a rainy morning, so of course I was ecstatic knowing that I'd have to clean my bike and all my gear after the race...ugh.. This year's race was setup as a three part rogaine for the most part, which is my favorite type of format. Of course it didn't help much since our main competitors all went the same way we did. I teamed up with Kevin M, who typically races with my training buddy Kim.

We opted to canoe first, hoping that the wind would pick up after we were done and create 3 foot whitecaps for all the teams that chose to bike first and were mucking up the bike course for us. I don't think our strategy worked out, as it was pretty windy on and off while we were out there. We were in a group of four lead boats and then watched them all pull away from us. The three other teams all had three people paddling and they were in longer, faster boats. As they got smaller and smaller off in the distance I reassured Kevin that we were the fastest team in a short boat! The paddle went without incident, other than a CP being plotted on the opposite side of an inlet as it was hung, but there were enough people standing around that it was fairly obvious. We came in off the paddle in 3rd place, about 5 minutes down to Julia, Paul and Dwight.

Next we headed off on the bike to get it in before the mud got any worse. We had to ride down to the Iron Hill trailhead, but the kicker was we couldn't ride on the pavement to get there...thus we were relegated to the muddy shoulder. As I was slogging along, it reminded me of mashing through the thick mud going up Springer Mountain on my singlespeed. So I guess I felt right at home. Normally I would sneer at the thought of having to ride the Iron Hill trail, as it is more of a bike path, rather than mountain bike trail, but today I was happy with the crushed gravel surface that meant we could still go fast and not have to worry about eating $hit in the mud. About halfway through we caught Julia and Co. - actually at a bike drop - and we quietly tiptoed off into the woods while they kept riding. We picked up two points on foot and then headed back to the bikes, seeing Julia's team on the way back after they had realized their mistake...which was good for us because it gained us like 5 minutes. After a bit more riding it was back to the mushy road shoulder to ride back to the in 1st and 5 minutes up.

Our final section was the trek, which was essentially just an O-course around the park. This section went well except for me not seeing a good cut through on the way out of the TA and instead taking the roads around. Even walking uphill, I think it would have been a couple of minutes faster. We had another issue with one of the early points, which had a clue that said "bottom of draw". The plot didn't fall at the bottom of a draw, but then again, several of the plots were off just a teensy bit, so I just went by the clue. We lost a bunch of elevation, going all the way to the bottom just to find it half way back up the hill on the side of the spur....grrr. I'm definitely not a fan of unnecessary energy expenditure! The rest of the trek went without incident. We saw Julia and Co. about halfway through and were trying to work out if they had gone the same way as us. After a couple scenarios, I figured
hypothesizing their route was just a waste of brainpower, so we just focused on finding the remaining points and getting back to the TA. When we arrived, no one else was there so we managed to maintain our little lead and just squeak in before the others. Julia, Paul, and Dwight came in shortly after for second.

This is probably my last race (other than the Red Top Rumble with Chris) for several months, so it was nice to go out on a high note, even if it was just a local event. Who knows, I may even be motivated to make the trip to Texas to redeem myself at Nationals in November..we shall see.

Friday, January 23, 2009


What you are about to see should be a crime... I had hoped to keep this one safe from all the geeky accoutrements that come along with adventure racing, but unfortunately this weekend's Sandmann AR has led me back to the dark side.

Ah yes, the obligatory handlebar mounted map holder. I hope I didn't scratch that carbon bar because I'm sure it was expensive!

Gel Flask holder secured by the most useful item known to electrical tape. While the gel flask is quite utilitarian, nothing screams ghetto like a manky electrical tape job, as seen in the photo above.

Heaven help me, what have I done!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Flying South

Yeah, summer can arrive ANY DAY NOW! Kim and I went on my coldest road ride in a long time today.

Temp at start: 27
Temp at end: 34

I KNOW, you're thinking I need to toughen up and stop whining (especially my mom who just had, what, -17 in Chicago??) but its COOOLLLLDDD, especially since it was windy today, AND we were on road bikes.

Thankfully we both have ample clothing to stay warm, but having to breathe through a buff to warm the air is a real drag.

The good news is that it will warm up into the 50's for Sandmann this weekend, although it will probably be raining.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Georgia Navigator Cup and Extreme O

We spent this past weekend at FDR State Park for the annual Georgia Navigator Cup and Extreme-O. It is the one GAOC meet each year that is classified as an A meet, so you actually can get ranked Nationally by participating. (Kind of like the NORBA National Series..but for orienteering geeks)

The first day for me was just so-so. I wasted about 5 minutes overrunning the first control and then I forgot to punch another on my way to the finish, so I had to go back for it. I was only 6 minutes down on the day's leader, so it wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great either. Chris smoked everyone in his category by over 20 minutes, big surprise.

The second day was fairly horrendous. I woke up with stomach issues and wasn't feeling great. I hit the first three controls fairly cleanly, however, the third one I went to was actually #11 on my course. You have to go in order and for whatever reason, I looked at #11 and thought it was #3. I seem to always have these brain-farts and can't understand why. It was clearly marked as #11 and they even draw idiot-proof lines between the controls on the map, so that a monkey could probably figure it out. After that, I scrambled to recover, and ran hard up a hill to the point of making myself feel ill. I'd lost a lot of time and couldn't think clearly anymore, and was getting cold because it was raining and I was walking. I didn't start feeling any better, so I just walked back to the finish without completing the course. Chris made a few bobbles on his course but still won his category for the day.

Monday was the Extreme-O. The Extreme-O is more of a military style orienteering competition where they use a variety of maps and make you do tasks that usually include water, mud, and/or darkness. Its not particularly hard in my opinion, but that's because AR has given me plenty of experience plotting UTM coordinates and following bearings. I ran the course with Chris because I was bummed about Sunday's performance and figured he was more "on" than I was. Plus, if we had to do anything REALLY nasty, I could just hand him my punch card. I made the mistake of not wearing my o-shoes with spikes, so I was hating running on all the off-camber leafy sections, but other than that, the course seemed to go pretty fast. For one of the points, we had the option to swim to an island or cross on a rope bridge. There was a big bottleneck at the rope so I should have just swam across and punched both our passports. It was only 20 feet or so, and no more than a couple of strokes in water actually deep enough to have to swim. I would have gotten major "bad-ass" points from all the dudes standing around waiting to cross on the rope too. But no...we just waited like a bunch of pansies. The next task involved crawling into the enclosed crawl space of one of the ancient cabins at the park. I thought of all the possible Indiana-Jones sized bugs that were probably crawling around in there, along with all the probable rat feces and just handed my punchcard to Chris. Like a true gentleman, he took one for the team and crawled on in.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Snow Day Adventure Ride

Ride Distance: 35 miles plus some hike-a-bike
Temp at Start: 22 degrees F

Lessons Learned:
1. If you have to ride across a questionable creek in below freezing temps, first, make a friend go first. Second, take your gloves off. Nothing sucks more than falling over and submerging half your body in a frozen creek...other than doing so with your gloves on so they end up soggy too.
2. No part of a pine tree tastes good.
3. Holly bushes across the face don't feel too good.
4. $1200 Roval Wheels are probably not meant to function as a machete.
5. When exploring and "adventure riding", it is usually advisable to check the map before you lose hundreds of feet of elevation on a long downhill.
6. A compass is a lot more useful in your pack rather than in the car.

It was Sex on Wheels' first snow ride...yes, that is what I have named her. I think its appropriate.

The ride started out with a nice climb up FS 58, which I decided I'd do in my 17 for strength training - same as on the SS. By the time I reached the top, I had given in to the notion that I just sucked because I was having trouble staying on top of the gear and it seemed so much harder than usual. Then I looked down and realized I had just jammed up the entire hill in my big ring. Grumble.

We hit some new-to-us ATV trails that led to the Hickory Flat Cemetery. We had to cross one substantial creek (well, substantial in 20 degree temps..) and Kim went first and discovered a slippery log buried in the creekbed. See Lessons Learned #1...
She rung out her glove and just kept going though...she's tough.

We eventually picked up a ridgeline singletrack that was dusted with snow. My Maxxis CrossMark Tires were getting pretty decent traction so all I had to concentrate on was going up.

Once we hit the top of the first peak, I jumped on the first obvious trail I saw that went downhill pretty steeply for a while. Eventually said trail turned into a 6" wide deer trail, but it was still pretty well worn. I don't think I've ever been lacerated by so many saplings in such a short distance! We kept pushing on, getting whacked in the head, poked in the eyes, sticks breaking off in my wheels left and right... I had to get off my bike about 4859735743857 times to carry it over big logs and deadfall. Chris probably only would have had to get off 3 times.

When we finally reached the bottom near a creek, I thought we had to go one way, based on where the trail we were SUPPOSED to be on was SUPPOSED to come out. It ended up being a pain in the ass uphill hike-a-bike due to a plethora of downed trees. Of course it ended in a tangle of rhododenderons, so I had to take a closer look at the map and then guessed that we had gotten off of our intended trail and, through a series of old roadbeds and singletrack, had ended up where no bikes should be. The hike-a-bike was a pain in the ass for a second time going back down, but thankfully we were really close to FS 69. Our only resistance was Rock Creek, which there was no way to cross without getting the footies wet.

Once across, we knew we had to climb, so the wet feet weren't too big of a deal. We climbed back up and around to Hawk Mountain and tried to locate where our trail was supposed to come out. We briefly contemplated taking it back towards the car, but it didn't look very inviting and since neither of us had headlamps, we thought it safer to just take the gravel roads back. Probably a wise move, as without a compass, we might still be out there...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cold Front

Well, the rain stopped, and now its just bloody cold. I know you Northerners are shaking your heads because its probably in the single digits where you are, but 30 degrees is cold for us Georgia folks....especially when you are flying down a fireroad descent at 25 mph! BRRRRRR!!!

Just in time for the Georgia Navigator Cup too. I hope I have a 2 pm start time each day when the temperature is at its peak! At least the lodge that we are staying at has a hot tub in our room so I'll be spending some quality time in there most likely!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How long till summertime?

Yay for me! I have TWO dirty bikes sitting in the garage that I have to clean! It can stop being rainy and/or cold anytime now...

Despite the rain and cold, I still managed two good rides this weekend. Saturday was the Cartecay Bikes Chilly Dawg ride. The weather report was threatening rain, BUT it was supposed to be 60 degrees... Of course it never got there, and instead stayed around 47 all day. Looking at the ride description, I thought it would be an easy SS ride, but there were some extra added ATV trails and some paved and fireroad climbs that just hurt in my 17. I was relieved when we hit Fish Hatchery road and started climbing towards Winding Stair Gap/Springer. The long but moderate climb was way more pleasant than the straight up ATV trail variety, and I found a good rhythm. The best part of the ride (note sarcasm) was a downpour on the final fireroad descent coming down from Springer of those can't-see-with-or-without-glasses kind of descents. And it gets better...after being completely saturated from the rain, then it was a mostly downhill 4 miles of pavement back to the cars. Can you say BRRRR! At least there was hot chili waiting for us. Thanks to the folks at Cartecay for organizing the ride.

On Sunday, Chris, Julia and I headed up to the same area for Chris's 31st Birthday ride. Julia and I started at the Jake Mtn parking lot and rode to Cooper Gap while Chris drove up. The weather up at the top was less than desirable, with fog, 30 mph winds and frosty trees. From Cooper we did about a two hour loop of ATV trails, singletrack, and fireroads. It was nice to get some more time in on the S-works and see how it handled the descents. It felt good even on the steeps, and ate up any rocks and logs that happened to be buried in the wet leaves. One section that I had remembered being particularly nasty during the fall (and on a hardtail) seemed a lot easier today and way less intimidating. Maybe because it was mostly covered up with leaves and I couldn't see what I was about to hit??? Don't know, but I liked my position on the bike - not top heavy, even with my bulky pack on. I also noticed that despite the fact that I'm lugging gears around, I still try not to use them on the climbs, as standing and mashing has become quite comfortable and I especially like that it gets me to the top faster. I do need to re-train myself to actually pedal on the descents as I have gotten used to coasting, which left me doing a double take as Chris and Julia would whiz by in their big rings. By the time we were near the end of the ride, the temperature dropped about ten degrees, and we were all anxious to get back to the car and warm up. Unfortunately the wind back at Cooper Gap made it a very inhospitable place to have to change clothes, so we were out of there and on our way to the Moe's within minutes.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

First Impressions of the 2009 Specialized S-Works Epic

I've had a few rides on the new bike so I figured I'd post my initial thoughts thus far. I have yet to take it on a ride where I could really let 'er rip in the singletrack, as both of my rides on it have been in muddy, soupy, slop - but here's what I DO know.

Weight - Somewhere in the 22 lb range. It is as light as my Scott Scale 15 Carbon HARDTAIL if that tells you something. (which by the way, is going up for sale so I can buy another custom singlespeed...more later once I get the pics uploaded!)

The "Brain" - This is a very cool feature, assuming it keeps working like it should. No more flipping lockout switches to stiffen up the front and rear, as the "brain" takes care of this for you. Its basically rigid until you hit bumpy terrain. When the suspension does engage, it is smooth and quick so that the bike is ready for the next hit. Currently, I have the bike set up so that is nearly all controlled by the "brain". You can go the opposite way, and leave front and rear completely open all the time, but I don't see why you'd want to.

On Climbing - I am amazed at how well it works, but on pavement and gravel road climbs, the front and rear remain locked out for the most part and there is no bob. I can climb standing up and it's as if I'm on a road bike. Feels just as efficient as my singlespeed.

On Descents - A confident desceneder, it eats up the bumps quickly and smoothly. No longer is the flesh ripped from my arms on stutterbump fireroad descents. Coming down a very wet Bear Creek trail, the suspension ate up the rocks and seemed to just glide over the tops of them. Had I put on my Specialized 1.7 Mud Tires, we could have really rocked and rolled.

Appearance - Black and Red...Looks smokin' fast on the start line and matches my car and kayak (of utmost importance). Looks cooler than my husband's bike (of even more importance). Even the cranks are carbon fiber. Sweeetttt...

Price Tag - Apparently all that carbon fiber and schnazzy technology isn't cheap, so the price tag only allows those that are sponsored or brimming with disposable income to own one of these babies. Thank goodness for the fine folks at OutSpokin' Bikes for making it happen! The price is a major downside, as it really limits the market, but then again, all bikes seemed to have gone up in price this year...A similarly equipped Scott Spark is now over 10K!!

Overall - Seems to be the perfect blend of cush and efficiency. I rode the bike on some flat to rolling pavement, and with my Maxxis CrossMark tires, it seemed very efficient, and not the little piggy that my last bike was. If you are looking for a smooth and very efficient race bike, I think this is it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Soup anyone?

Well, the weekend wasn't a total rain-out, but I am getting tired of all the bike cleaning. I bailed on Snake Creek since it was wet and I knew I wouldn't post a fast time in the slop. Instead, we went for a quick spin around Pine Log where it started raining about a mile from the car. I just wanted to check out the new ride, and it performed nicely, even in the slop.

Today Kim and I did a FS road loop starting at Gates Chapel Rd. Highlights were actually seeing the sun and stripping down to only a short sleeve jersey (oh, and bottoms too...), almost getting run off the road by a head on vehicle on the wrong side while descending from Potatopatch, and a soupy, sloshy mess coming down Bear Creek. I seem to have gotten much faster and stronger on my geared bike from riding the singlespeed, so I think I'll keep on it. I will say I felt MORE tired after riding the geared bike today than ANY of my longer singlespeed rides this week.

All in all, it was a good week of riding despite the wetness. Tomorrow its off to VA for a business meeting and some recovery.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year

Some photos from today's ride: