It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, and I apologize to my readers.
How do I summarize the past few months? Well, I won’t go into great detail and bore everyone. After training for the winter, my first race approached at Tuscarora and bam, second place for endurance women. In April, I decided to race an XC race and bam, second place! So, the season was off and is still off to a good start. I’m also loving my team, Toasted Head Racing and the support and awesomeness that they all provide.
This past weekend was my VERY first NUE, the Wildcat 100 mile race. Leading up to it, I was nervous, uncertain and felt completely not ready. Well, bam…not second. I didn’t seem ready in the sense that it snuck up on me fast. I kept thinking it was months away, but reality was day by day it was getting closer. Prior to the race, information provided about the race was not consistent and I was referred to read the riders handbook for any information. The riders handbook was like 10 pages of rules and regulations that made it seem like they (promoters) really were set and ready to go. Well, it read that we would hit the drop bag ONE time…really? ONE time..game plan changed, camelbak it is.
Again, my hubby, Jack was my support and my teammates, Jocelyn and Scott were racing also, which was nice knowing they were going to be there. Scott is a very fast single speed monster so, I saw him prior to the race and then, poof, he’s gone. Killer race Scott!
I waited until the LAST possible minute to register for this race. I kept making random excuses to not go, but thanks to encouragement from friends and family, I registered. Jack booked the motel and off we went Friday after work. The weather predicted was rain, but I was remaining optimistic that maybe we would wake up and the forecasters would be wrong. They seem to be wrong so much, that I was 80% sure the sun would be shining…WRONG.
I felt good, slept well and we headed over to the venue which was a tiny little spot to get the numbers and goody bag which had a few pamphlets in it (got a t-shirt at the end, made up for the “eh” goody bag). There seemed to be some lack of organization as to what numbers were being handed out, as the number plate I was assigned wasn’t even made, so I ended up with 166. Standing in line to use the ever popular porta-john, I look at the girl in front of me and she has a chip around her ankle. “Hey, why do you have a chip?”, I asked. She said everyone should be getting one. Back I go to the table, and get my chip that barely stayed around my ankle, so, I twisted tied it to my ankle. Others weren’t even given chips or empty velcro straps with no chips on them.
I was just nervous for the race and not really sure what to think about the day. Jack and Jocelyn were keeping me positive and reassuring me it would be a good experience. The rain is falling and off to the start we go.
The race started and I was curious of how they were planning on separating the field of over 250 racers before heading into any singletrack. Up the first hill we go, not even that bad, everyone was clumped together and when we got to the singletrack, it was standing in line, like waiting for a ride. Already aggravated, but remaining patient, telling myself, seriously, don’t get mad, you still have 98 miles to go! After the singletrack, it was a mix of rail trail and honestly, I think I blacked out (not literally) from mile 5 to mile 20, I can’t remember exactly what I rode, but I did see a waterfall, I remember the waterfall.
I hit the 26 mile check point, didn’t stop, went down, down and down some more past some amazing views and down into I believe, Lipman park for about 11 miles of singletrack. Again, the rain came down so hard and let me tell you, contact lenses are no fun in the rain. The humidity made it impossible for me to wear my sunglasses because they would fog up in a second. I rode quite a bit of the singletrack which was pretty damn cool, even wet. Twisty, flowy, bridges and then it turned to slippery rocks, roots and the last 5 miles sucked the life out of me. I thought I would never make it out. Threw some water in my pack and climbed BACK up about 1900 feet to mile 52 where Jack was waiting for me to refill my camelbak and use the bathroom that did not consist of a tree.
At this point, I was beyond muddy, but feeling great. I was smiling, ate a banana and sat on the back of the car to catch my breath for a second. Jocelyn rolls in and yells for me to get moving, okay, seriously some motivation I need…I’m in a race, not a social ride. We start back out, her on her singlespeed, I was able to gain some distance, but knew I’d see her again. Her experience and strength are too much for me to keep a lead on. Well, around mile 62 or 63, rain coming down, trudging through muddy singletrack, my mentality went right downhill. I cramped in my calf, my head was hurting and I was miserable. Jocelyn came through running with her bike, seriously, where can I get that energy? I kept moving, but slowed down big time.
Mile 70, it’s raining, Jack is waiting for me with another smile on his face as I guess he was proud of me. I sat down and cried. Not balling my eyes out, but I believe I swore off mountain biking and that I was going to sell my spot for the Lumberjack (I’m not). His encouragement and lie that I was at 75 miles and that my Garmin was wrong, got me moving again. From this point, I roll away, it’s pouring, tears in my eyes and off to the never friggin ending apple orchard. Seriously, I never ever want to ride through an apple orchard for the rest of my life. This is in full bloom too, where I should have been thinking, wow, how pretty. No way. I was covered in mud, soaking wet and riding on the muddiest dirt roads. It. Was. Awful.
Finally, the last check point in New Palz. The sun was out and it was mile 89ish. I leave my camelbak, take a bottle and bust my ass down the rail trail section. From there, more singletrack and more walking up greasy sliperry hills. Kind of pissed the sun was out because that brought out all of the bugs and when you’re walking with other people, the bugs just swarm. We hit some roads going back down into Rosendale and I was beyond excited, thinking we were finishing up the same paved road we started on..wrong. Up into the last 4 miles of singletrack we go, deep mud, greasy, damp and soul sucking.
I rolled through at a whopping 12 hours and 52 seconds for my very first National Ultra Endurance race. I felt like I was the last one. I wasn’t, but the promoter had the timing people leave. My time was written down, the chip was worthless and I felt like it was not a big deal that I finished. I know Jack was proud of me and Jocelyn was there to give me credit for sticking with it. Thank you to you both, your encouragement was needed and appreciated!
I sat in the lake nearby and just soaked for a few minutes as a black cloud of grossness rose from my kit and skin and I was able to clean off, just enough to change and go home. What a day, what an experience that I almost didn’t do and gave up on. It was miserable that it rained and that the mud was so thick, but I would do it all over again. I hope to only get better, stronger and faster and perhaps finish my next one in 10 hours?! Eh, we’ll see.
As for nutrition, I use Infinit and it’s my own blend and wow, what an amazing product. I don’t end up with a bunch of random food in my stomach, I know my caloric intake and am able to balance it out with my hydration.
Now that it is about 2 days past the race, I feel good and want to do a race this weekend, but I’ll chill. I did ride the day after and well, not cool as my bottom was not happy with me 🙂 I know I didn’t win or come in the top 10, but just to finish was amazing for me. I get down on myself so easily in races and to be able to push through the mental drain is sometimes harder to do than push through the physical drain. I’ve never been so okay with finishing close to last…there were totally DNF’s, haha.
Thank you to you all for reading and thank you for the support. I love mountain biking and I love this whole race thing too. It keeps me young, healthy and very happy.
This past weekend was a bittersweet experience. Friday brought the world to tears with the horrific event that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. This made me reconsider heading out for what was going to be a fun, bike riding, care free weekend. Imagining what the families must have been enduring, I felt such guilt to go have fun, ride bikes and laugh with friends. Although, the feelings were there, we went on and followed through with our weekend plans. Being with our family and friends is always important and it was the best thing to do this weekend…..and always.
Saturday, running late as usual, Jack and I drove down to Manayunk to meet up with our buds to ride Wissahickon Park. Thanks to the turnpike, we have about an hour and forty-five minute drive there, not too bad. We’ve been there before but never got a good feel for the place and how to possibly map out a ride. Our wonderful ride leader, Hope, was kind enough to lead with a great pace and show us a map of where we were and how the trail system works. It’s quite a gem being so close to the city as there is climbing, swoopy single-track and gnarly downhills filled with rocks and roots. It’s a great place to go for a nice ride on the rails to trails type near the river or head on up to the single-track in the woods. Seriously, such a fun place to ride at! The weather was in the upper 40’s and sunny, quite the perfect day for mid December. Everyone rode well and everyone had a fun time which was great! Our post race meal consisted of a pizza joint that kindly served us the greasiest food known to man. I won’t brag about the unhealthy eating too much as I will mention below about my kit…
Sunday was the day of Bilenky Junkyard Cross. I have heard about the race, I have watched videos and thought, “hell, I can do that.” I don’t own a cross bike so, it was me and my EMD. It only seemed right to have some sort of quirky outfit to wear so, I wore some tight jeans, a cut off plaid shirt and some high ride socks. I was dressed nothing compared to some others and the less I stood out, the better. Being more of a reserved girl (yes, I think I’m reserved), the atmosphere was eye-opening to me…fun…but, eye-opening. Riders and spectators were drinking PBR, cheering, cursing and having the time of their lives. I will be honest, I stood there, took a sip or two of my friend’s Stoudt and thought I was a bad ass.
I watched the men’s race and after about 2 hours of watching them race, the women were up. My buddy Karen stood up front, next to Selene Yeager and waved me to line up front too. “No thanks,” I told her. This was all about the experience for me so sitting in the back just riding the course was fine enough for me. The guy counted down and off we went through vans, over cars, through a single-track of car doors and trailers. The biggest scene was going through the front loader and down the ramp into the boisterous crowd cheering and jeering everyone on. Although some pictures I’m in, I look petrified, I had a blast! I could not stop smiling the entire 3 laps. I didn’t win, I have no idea what place I was in but I had fun…mission accomplished!
Life can be so unexpected with things, sometimes good, sometimes bad. It’s important to live and grab hold of any experience that you can get. I spend way too much energy bitching and moaning about my life and how cruddy I think things are and can be. I need to realize that my life is great and I have friends and family that love me and who support my choices to race, ride and be excited about running over cars with my bike. With the tragedy in Connecticut, we will all have a heavy heart for quite some time. Let’s put our strength and focus on those that we love and those that we can help. Give back, make a difference and reach out to others in need.
Thank you all. Enjoy your ride.
What was I thinking??!! Signing up for the 50 miler at the Michaux Trail Cup this weekend is weighing heavily on my mind. Not only am I nervous that I am not physically ready but I am nervous about some of my gear.
At the end of last year, I told myself to save money to buy pedals, shoes, shorts and a few other miscellaneous items. Did I do that? No. Now, with a 50 mile race so early in the season and knowing my pedals are totally worn, my shoes hurt my feet, I’m a little nervous about being on the saddle for about 6 to 7 hours on Sunday.
My plan is to put yet another set of cleats on my shoes to help with me popping out of the eggbeaters (don’t go hating the eggbeaters, they have lasted me 2 years), and doubling the soul liner in my shoes. I am hoping this will help as Michaux has rocks that come out of the ground and throw punches at the racers.
My rides have been good lately; a lot of climbing and physically feeling strong. Hopefully, these nerves and doubts about my gear will turn into pure adrenaline this weekend so I can finish and possibly place. Some strong girls have signed up in my field so it will be a tough one for sure. Weather looks good, 77 and sunny so there will not (knocking on wood) be any mud!!
Good luck to all racers this weekend and to the non racers…enjoy the beautiful weather!!!
Well, it’s been 2 weeks since my first endurance race and I might as well write about it!
The Tuscarora Endurance Race, put on by Zachary Adams from Fast Forward Racing Productions, was the first and very memorable race of the 2012 season. It was a 4 hour long, figure 4 lap race which should have been about 35 miles, give or take. I rode down with a fellow racer and we saw the river was quite high from the rain the day before. This race was nestled in Blain, PA, never heard of it and had no idea there was a state forest there. Now I do. So, I thought, “okay, it’s going to be wet, no big deal.”
Endurance races are a bit tough to prep for since you will be on your bike for at least 4 hours. I was attempting to race without my camelbak and use only water bottles which is a big deal, especially since I have never done this before. I also changed my saddle about 15 minutes before the race, something you should never do, I did it, the saddle stayed on, btw no issues there, phew. I heard an announcement that laps were cut down to 6.6 miles each compared to the 9 it said on the website, which I was kind of disappointed about at first but quickly realized that disappointment would be total relief.
As I sat on the starting line, I knew my chances of placing were slim but heck, I’m going to try my hardest. Carolyn Popvic, amazingly strong racer, stood there, cool as a cucumber, as if she was just going out for a chill Sunday ride. The other girls looked tough and my confidence faded and I started to think that I should have just stayed home. Zach counted down and off we went.
It started with a steep climb that was slippery with mud. The rest of the course was completely mud filled and water logged for all 6.6 miles and the 994 feet of climbing. I figured in those terrible conditions, if I got 3 laps, I would be happy. This race wasn’t about physically being able to finish but mentally being able to pedal your bike through what seemed like watery cement with rocks hidden underneath to give some extra surprises. It was definitely a mind over matter kind of race.
Laps 1 and 2 were more of getting to know the course, getting comfortable, keeping a clear head and keep on pedaling in this absolute mess of what is supposedly a trail. The climbs were steep and I did not see anyone clear the 2nd largest incline on the course, it was a hike a bike for sure. My gloves were covered in mud, my hands were slipping off of the handlebars and I was just getting miserable. On lap 3, my mind cleared a bit and I felt better than I did on the 1st and 2nd and knew I could muster up the energy for a 4th lap. Why not? I’ve come this far and I’m disgustingly dirty, I ate enough, drank enough and no mechanical issues! Of course, on the last lap, I had a mechanical, chain between the cassette and spoke, broke the spoke, Stans just pouring out and a tube went in.
I finished the race feeling complete joy that there was no 5th lap for me. To my surprise, I finished 4th out of the women’s field which I was psyched about. No prize or money but I did have the pure satisfaction that I just rode 25 miles, climbed 4,000 feet and was on my bike for over 4 hours this early in the season. Kind of crazy to think it took 4 hours for 25 miles, ugh.
It really was a great race that mother nature sure had a hand in. She is not invited to the next one unless she wants to supply complete sunshine for the day!
The conversation on the drive home was how everyone’s bikes are mud filled and would have to be gone over with a fine toothed comb to make sure it can function for the next ride. Thank you to my husband for putting his complete effort into fixing my broken spoke, putting Stans back in and making it ride-able for Monday’s recovery ride.
The next race is April 15th at Michaux and this one is 50 miles. I am preparing with some good rides but again, lacking confidence in my ability to do 50 miles with some crazy climbing. I will go, do my best and hope that I will just keep getting stronger.