Monday, August 30, 2010

Whole lotta restin' goin' on

After the Fools Gold, I felt like I needed to give my body a really good rest if I want to have a chance at finishing TNGA. Even though I almost felt like I didn't really "race" at Fools Gold, due to all the mud and mechanical issues, I'm sure it still took a lot out of me. The last thing I want to do is go into a 3 day ride with any nagging aches and pains so I'm resting up as much as possible. Didn't get on my bike this past weekend, though went for a run Saturday morning and then a hike with Jayden and Chris at Red Top Mtn State Park on Sunday. This week I need to do a lot of work and get all my gear organized for TNGA. Let the packing begin...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fools Gold 50

Wow, what a day! I've ridden some muddy races and beat the hell out of my equipment pretty good at times, but today takes the cake. As we lined up for the start, Eddie told us the trails were muddy, but I had no idea what I was in for. I was thinking mushy with a puddle here and there, not peanut butter and baby poop quagmire with intermittent lakes and rivers along the trail.

The rain held off until we started up the gravel road climb to Cooper Gap. I was feeling pretty good, and was happy with my decision to put a 21 on my singlespeed for this race. There was a KOM at Cooper Gap, but I wasn't really concerned with it, as I knew I needed to just race my own race. I was moving along pretty well and a little ways up the climb, Jamie passed me. She never got out of view, and I didn't chase after her. Once the road steepened and I had to get on the gas to stay on top of my gear, I caught back up to her and passed her. This burst of speed up the steepest part of the road got me to the top first and scored me some free beer (which would later be payment to the hubby for rebuilding my bike).

I rolled along the ridge trying to figure out if it was better to have glasses that I couldn't really see through, but no grit in the eyes, or no glasses and lots of grit. Since I wear contacts I opted for glasses, though it was hard to see a lot of detail on the descents so I rode a bit more cautiously than usual. Somewhere along the ridge, the rain picked up to the deluge level and all of the nasty sweat that has accumulated in my helmet pads all summer started seeping out and running into my eyes. This burned like crazy and I hoped it would stop raining soon. I held Jamie off until Winding Stair Gap, where she passed me as I was clearing my glasses off before the downhill. This time she got away, as I couldn't match her speed on the descent, especially without a big ring. As I made the turn onto Turner Creek, I realized that it was going to be a LONG day, as the trail was mushy slop completely covered in water. It was tenuous and slow. I had a picture of a "muddy" trail in my mind, but it sure didn't look like the current conditions. After the 100 miler racers went through, plus the 50 miler leaders, the trails were pretty much torn to hell. Add not being able to see out your glasses and you have a rockin' good time!

I was happy to get off Turner Creek and back onto the FS Road where I could feel like I was moving fast again. The next section across the Jones Creek Ridge Trail had some grassy red clay areas that were slick as snot. I nearly lost it on a couple of occasions through there, so I was happy once I made it over to Bull Mountain and could do some more gravel road climbing. I actually was enjoying the climbs, as the legs and body were fully functional, so I was really happy about that. About the time I hit the steep uphill singletrack at the top of Bull Mtn, we get another deluge. I had to push a good bit on the steepest parts, but the guys on geared bikes were pushing too, so I didn't feel too bad about it. When I reached the top and began the descent, it was almost comical...Tiny streams that cross the trail were raging torrents, and there was a nice little river flowing down almost the entire length of trail. This river connected a series of mountaintop lakes that were forming on the wider sections of the trail. Some were shallow, some were deep, all were wet and there were A LOT of them. As I rode through hub deep puddles, I thought to myself..."I'm glad I'm on a singlespeed so my drivetrain can't crap out on me..." As I worked my way down, moving along pretty well, my brake pads (which were by no means new) had worn down to pretty much nothing. Getting down a sloppy and wet Bull Mtn with dying brakes was quite a feat. I had to keep my speed pretty moderate as I couldn't stop quickly, and I really wasn't up for eating shit.

When I got back to the Sag stop, I refueled and made an assessment of my current situation as I rode out on the FS road. Ok...about 20 miles left, a good bit of which was sloppy singletrack with little to no brakes. My body and legs felt good and I was in no danger of DNF'ing due to a body malfunction, so I decided come hell or high water I was going finish the race. I knew I couldn't attack the descents, I could merely survive them if I was lucky, but I could attack the climbs. My mechanisms for going up were all still a go, so I focused on climbing hard when I had the opportunity and hanging on for dear life on the descents. I quit thinking about Jamie and my other competitors and rather focused my energy on going up and staying under control on the downhills. Now I was just in somewhat of a survival mode.

Each singletrack section that I completed was one step closer to the finish line. I knew if I could just make it back to the FS near the army camp, I could finish. On the way over to Black Branch, I dropped my chain for the first time. You know the conditions are bad when your singlespeed drivetrain starts falling apart. It appeared the EBB crept a bit as I had a lot of sag in my chain. I popped the chain back on, thankful it didn't break (that was my first thought).

I was dreading the Black Branch section the most, as I knew there was a pretty long, steep downhill section. Sure enough, my rear brake completely burned through the backing on this section so it was totally gone. This came at a rather inopportune moment as I was working my way down the steepest section. I couldn't slow down and started picking up speed fast. I was officially out of control. It was here that I had a serious "Oh Shit" moment and just hung on for dear life and hoped I didn't get swallowed up by the mud bog at the bottom of the hill. I dropped the guy behind me big time as I went barrelling down the hill. The next section of climbs I'm ok admitting that I had to run a good bit of - just too slippery and steep to make it up. Whenever I'd get frustrated I'd wipe the mud off the picture of Jayden I'd taped to my toptube and I immediately felt energized. I grinded up the snotty climbs, and after the last out of control descent, opted to run a couple of steep sections. Even then I almost wiped out as my bike got out in front of me and I couldn't even slow down on foot..just too slippery.

I finally made it back to the FS road and now knew I could get my bruised and battered bike to the finish. The Wahsega FS road was pleasant and I was moving well on anything uphill. Over these last seven or so miles, my chain continued to fall off at close intervals...I stopped counting at 7 times because doing so was just starting to frustrate me. For some reason, when I popped out by the army camp and hit FS 28, I had it in my mind that I just had to roll down the hill back to the camp. Nope..within about a quarter mile of downhill I see a volunteer standing in the middle of the road pointing me towards yet another slippery section of singletrack. Argh! I rode until my chain came off AGAIN, then decided to just run it out. There was a section of logs to hurdle and most of it was downhill so I figured I'd be just as fast running than having to stop and constantly put the chain back on. And so I ran my poor battered bike with its flaccid chain dragging down the hill, through the creek, and across the finish line.

Since the 100 mile race was cut short, no one really knew what place I was in. I figured second in the 50 miler. It wasn't until I was on my way to the shower that I saw Jamie come in. I had no idea where I passed her, probably at a sag stop and I didn't even notice, because like I said, I had to focus on just getting my bike through the race and wasn't worried about placing at that point. Finding out I won just made putting up with all that slop a bit more rewarding, and the thought of shelling out a bunch of cash to replace various destroyed parts on my bike a little less irritating.

Despite the chain falling off, my equipment choice was pretty good. My Niner SS worked well and my 32-21 gearing was spot on for the course...wet or dry really. Actually 3 of the 4 girls on the podium in the women's 50 mile race rode was just one of those days! My Maxxis Crossmark tires hooked up pretty good, though I think if I had brakes and could ride the downhills agressively, I probably would have wanted something a bit knobbier. I have a feeling if I had just started the day with new pads, I would have been ok. I put a Mountain Feed bag on my bike and for once was able to eat enough food because it was so easily accessible. My eyes are pretty bloodshot and irritated from all the crud, but other than that I'm feeling pretty good, so I'd say it was time and energy well spent - despite the monsterous cleanup effort that will be involved in getting all my gear race ready again.

Next up is TNGA...will likely do a test ride with all my gear next weekend.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Trans-North Georgia on my Mind

So I've been pondering the TNGA race for a while now, but after buying a new pack and borrowing a SPOT unit, I am coming to terms with the reality of the situation...I might actually have to ride my bike for three+ days straight...ugh. My good sense tells me that I have done little to no physical preparation for this endeavor, though my dumb sense seems to think it will all work out in the end. I'm going in with my longest ride being the Fools Gold 50 this weekend, and I have a pocket full of DNF's at longer events this year, which makes me think I'm in way over my head.

I seem to think that because I was pretty damn strong at the North Georgia Adventure Race, 4 months after popping out a kid and being pregnant for the previous 9 months, that I'm immune to all the problems that affect mere mortals...hunger, fatigue, cramps, bonking, falling asleep while riding, etc. The more I think about it though, I was in pretty damn good shape last year and actually logged more training hours on the bike while toting around a 16 lb basketball than I have this year. I also did a lot of moderate pace base miles, which I have done very little of this year, and it shows. I have been doing well at short events and am running faster than ever, but the wheels seem to come off quickly during the longer stuff. Meh.

My plan for this weekend is to just chill and finish the race. I have pre-ridden the entire course and know I did it in a respectably fast time, and that was without being in the "race on" mindset. I'm riding my singlespeed since I think it will keep me reeled in so I only waste energy going fast up hills, which gives me the biggest bang for my lactic acid producing buck. I'm going in with the "don't give a damn" attitude and perhaps that will work out in my favor. I also outfitted my bike with a mountain feed bag and have frozen bottles ready to go to keep my core temp down, so I don't have a ORAMM repeat. In addition, I will be writing "EAT your fu#king food!!" on my left arm as a constant reminder to consume calories.

Anyways, back to TNGA...while I do have some challenges to overcome, I am in good shape in several other areas - mainly with the acutal route navigation and the ability to suffer over a long period of time. As long as I ride at "Lisa Pace" I know I won't self least initially. Also, I know that even if I ride like total shit in TNGA, that if I just finish, I will still likely be in the top 5...and TNGA is really more about personal growth and character building than worrying about placing.