Black Bear Rampage 2017 and the sub 4-hour goal

I had to go back and read last year’s post about the Black Bear Rampage. I finished it in 4:12. I had a mechanical, but still managed to finish well in the Sport category. I was back to ride a sub-4. In fact, I predicted:

Next year, I expect a sub-4 by more than barely.

That was my goal. A sub-4, and if it resulted in a podium, then that was an extra. I had broken down the sections by mileage and elevation and figured out what I needed to do in each section to stay on task. I knew that I couldn’t attack the road climb in the beginning OR Brush Creek due to the long lines of riders that build up with nowhere to pass, and I knew that my best time on climbing Boyd Gap wouldn’t happen if I was on mile 30-something. I looked at it as a long TT. Steady, steady, steady.

Like last year, I arrived early to the Whitewater Center and started getting ready for the day. I picked up my packet and t-shirt and said hello to my friends at Scott’s Bicycles that puts on the race every year. I caught up with a couple of friends and then headed out to warm up a little bit. I didn’t plan on doing a whole lot of warming up because I figured that the road climb to Brush Creek was a good warm-up and since I entered in expert class, I didn’t think I’d have to worry a lot about getting in the woods first. I had some nervous pre-race talk with some friends but could tell mentally I was not really where I wanted to be prior to a race, in fact that morning I was nowhere near where I needed to be mentally. I cannot explain it, but I didn’t sleep very well. I dreamed about the trail all night and woke up at least 5 times thinking I was way too keyed up for this race.

By the time we started though, I went into steady state mode. One of the things I enjoy is figuring out how high can I push without going into red. A race like this shouldn’t have many areas of attack because it is a 4-hour race, unless you are well trained for it. I knew that there were certain sections of the race where I could push it harder due to the recovery or possible recovery on the other side. I spend less time not pedaling at this point if I can because that is wasted power. I use a lot of the things I have learned over the past couple of years in road cycling and use it for mountain biking.

For some reason, I thought there were at least 3 women in front of me who entered into the woods first. There were only 2. I supposed I was already hallucinating.

Brush Creek had a bit of a train. It wasn’t going as fast as I knew I could go, but I could tell by effort (my heart rate monitor was not working, but I’m learning to let data go during a race…) that the amount of energy to pass those 3 guys wasn’t worth it at all. I settled in and expected Star and Monica to be right on my back. I thought there was a lady from another category and Noel with Carey in front of me. Apparently I don’t pay well attention or perhaps I’m more concerned about staying focused on the trail on what I am doing, but we passed her somewhere.

A couple of men were frustrated with the pace during Brush Creek. I used to get frustrated, but it’s a long race. Why waste energy passing when you can just hit it later? I felt I could have gone faster there but at what cost? I’d save it for later.

I always worry descending Boyd’s Gap and this time proved no exception. Luckily, I tucked in behind a guy who was as slow as me on Boyd’s, and it helped. There was no one behind me pushing me to go faster. Win. The road is a welcome sight. I tried to just relax down it but then decided to pedal. No, don’t waste time. You need that sub-4 and what if you miss it by just a little and could have succeeded by pedaling on the road downhill?

Copper Road is a favorite of mine. It’s the perfect layout for me. Unfortunately, on the rooty section, a guy stalled out and a fat bike tire hit me in the calf. I just regained composure and kept going. I imagined a huge tire tread on the back of my calf. It didn’t hurt, so it must have been light. I remember the guy on the fat tire bike pretty much dogging the guy that lost his mojo on the roots. It happens. The line is not clearly evident.

The bridge at the WWC was not slippery and onto Bear Paw Up! I was behind the fat tire bike again (two of them on the same team) and climbed in a line up. I didn’t feel that I had an extra to pass so I settled in and enjoyed the process. I even felt after the hairpin turn that I was over cooking a bit, but just kept waiting on the delay of the heart to catch up with the pedaling rest. The volunteer at the hairpin turn had a cute little dog. Dogs make me smile! I kept pushing up and up toward Chestnut. Somewhere along Chestnut (I think), Star told me we were racing for 2nd and 3rd. I was confused because I didn’t remember passing two ladies that I swore rode into the woods from the road at the beginning. The guy in front of us sort of stumbled or fell over, and I squeaked by thinking Star was with me. I noticed at the bottom of Thunder Rock she wasn’t.

At the top of the gravel climb I heard Fenton which put a smile on my face. After descending a little bit climbed up West Fork.

Honestly Quartz and Bypass were a blur probably because I was remembering last year’s snapped chain and that fiasco. I was trying to remember exactly where on the trail it was. I looked for Monica and Star at the loop back. By the time I looked up, I was going down Bear Paw to the bridge and Copper Road again.

Cramps… in weird places.

This is where my mind wants to shut it all down because I don’t get cramps very often. These cramps were different.

As I have read before, when cramps hit me, I go to war. What do I mean? Well, I start cycling through everything. Increasing fluid intake, taking in base salts, and lowering the work on the pedals (increasing cadence with less torque). All of the above, cycling the three until I figure it out. Mile 25 was a bit early for me to experience these, but along Copper Road I realized that I could push a certain effort below the earlier effort and still not feel them.

Boyd Gap was what I was dreading. I have only cleaned that climb once and didn’t expect to during the race especially after cramps set in, but I did somehow minus one step on the left at the very top. It was enough for me to count it and a peek back with no one on my back. Apparently no cramping would happen out of the saddle standing and climbing but sitting and spinning up was causing adductors, quads, and calves to cramp. Go figure.

I had the joy of finishing the race with Zack along Brush Creek. I could not do a lot of work to get up the trail due to keeping the cramps at bay, but was able to just settle in yet again and finish the race at 3:41 with Zack who didn’t recover prior to the race.


Looks like my goal wasn’t as aggressive as it should have been. Carey finished well ahead of me and Star right behind me. We had a very good locally respected class: Carey, Star, Noel, Monica, and me. Going in I had to just concentrate on beating my time from last year and not worry about the others. I can do that 95% of the time. I worried a little but at start just rode my race and just did my thing. 4 out of 5 set PRs and loved we have Carey racing for Scott’s as well along with Noel.

Thanks to Henry Trent for fixing my bike going way out of his way…

I said I wasn’t going to do 5 Points, but…

2017 River Gorge Omnium

River Gorge Omnium is the race we choose as a team to finish out the race season. Luckily, it is our local race and has a big turnout in the southeast area. I did the race last year, and it was particularly difficult thinking about doing the road race again this year. The road race finishes with a 3-mile climb to the top of Raccoon mountain, and it is particularly more difficult the hotter the weather. I was looking forward the every event except for two: the HerTT on Friday night and the road race on Sunday. Both events are particularly hard to me for different reasons.

After some rescheduling, I was moved up to an earlier slot for the HerTT but still wasn’t just excited about doing it. I took Friday off work and decided to head back to Raccoon Mountain to look at the TT course just ONE more time. There is a right-hand turn, and I wanted to nail it. I really wanted to be in the top 10 overall women. I am not sure why, but the River Gorge Omnium Time Trial only had one category for women. I believe they should break out categories like they do for the men. If you don’t offer more chances to win, women don’t enter races; and races don’t offer prizes they say because women don’t show up. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? And I’m not just picking on River Gorge, most of the races I did this year had no money prizes and only medals. The traveling expenses, the race expenses and sometimes hotel doesn’t make it worth it if you can’t at least have a chance to be reimbursed a little. So, it was cat 4? Cat 4 men have money prizes and plenty of opportunity to win. For example in this TT,

The men had:

  • Men Category 5 – 21 men
  • Men Masters B 40+ – 18 men
  • Men Masters B 50+ – 20 men
  • Men Masters A 35+ – 18 men
  • Men Cat 4 – 34 men
  • Men Cat 3 – 29 men
  • Men Cat 2 – 28 men
  • Men Cat pro/1 – 43 men

And the women had:

  • Women Open 1/2/3/4/5 – 52 women
  • some junior category

Any insight as to why women get zero breakdowns? Why do men have eight categories? It does lessen a number of prizes you have to give, but it seems odd to me that category 5 women have to compete with pros in the TT without more breakdown. I would have liked to celebrate a cat 4/5 podium 1st place for TT, but at the end of the day, the numbers stand, and to be in the same group as some of these ladies just made my entire weekend.

……….all the way up to 52 women.

During the time trial, I was behind a Frazier Junior named Elizabeth May (Liza Kate). I kept her in my sight up the climb and attacked over the top half of the hill to close the gap and pass her. Little did I know I would be seeing her again and again. I passed another lady at almost the same time that the Frazier Junior was overtaking her as well. My goal of descending without anyone immediately in front of me (especially someone on junior gears) was reached, and I was able to just get into a rhythm on the dam and take the right turn as fast as I comfortably could. In hindsight, I started out too hard and would have rather had more of a steady -pace throughout. I was proud of my time though. 9 minutes and 30 seconds is not too shabby and 12th overall out of 52 women is not anything to be disappointed with THOUGH I did not meet my goal of top 10. Last year I did it in 10:16. Next year could I do a 9:15 or less?

The criterium was downtown later in the day, and we had a cat 4/5 field of 21. I did not have a lot of pressure on myself mainly because I was just living in the post-TT moment of wow… I did good on that, and so I didn’t think much of the criterium. The plan we had as a team from our coach was a solid plan, but once again, I wasn’t able to really pull it off like I had hoped. There are some things to work on like with anyone cycling and if you are good at TT you may not be as good at the explosive type efforts. I liked staying in the front more (not smart) due to the sketchy corners some were taking. We had a good showing with Melanie, Ali, Sarah, Jodie, and Monica. In the end, I was not able to get away and had to sprint for the win where a Frazier Junior (Liza Kate) beat me to the line. I was in the wrong gear similar to a crit a couple of weeks ago. Live and learn. Note to practice on leg speed in sprints. The team was doing well because we had a 1st place TT and now a 2nd place criterium. This put us at almost 10 points ahead of the next lady. Here’s a cool article about Elizabeth May in the local press.

check out my face (ha!)

Next up was the road race on Sunday. Krystal was assigned domestique to the points leader (me) and we set off on Sunday morning as a cat 3/4/5 race. Last year the road race was a 1/2/3/4 race, so at least some improvements were made in that field breaking it out. There are definitely many more race options for men at most races, but fewer women race.

Moments I remember: descending like a boss (hey, Mom!) down the stair steps and the descent before the Raccoon Mountain climb. I remember almost touching wheels a couple of times due to excessive braking in front of me. Two of my teammates went down behind me and another stopped with them but I wasn’t aware until after the race. One of those ladies (Melanie) walked up raccoon in some socks refusing to tap out when her derailleur broke.

Melanie walking up Raccoon because DFL is always better than DNF. And she doesn’t quit. One of my many heroes on the team. (photo credit: Matt Dunmore)

There’s something special about someone who just will not quit regardless the circumstances. I think it builds the more important thing – mental toughness – and always comes in handy in other races down the road. There was a terrible headwind coming back across the bridge. I fell back on the stair steps but caught up to the front group; however, I wasn’t aware we caught up to them until asking later. It was hard for me to keep up on where we were and what was going on. That was Krystal’s job and she did a fabulous job. I didn’t have to think at all. And so yes, Steve Lewis the coach of the team was right. He was right.

Raccoon mountain approached and the group took off. I watched with pure disappointment that I could not keep up with the group up the mountain. I watched as lady-by-lady left me. I’m sure some were behind me, but it felt as though I was giving up the ghost as it all was literally slipping away. Sarah S on our team left as well trying to wedge herself in front of one of the main ladies trying to absorb omnium points. Krystal hung with me as we did the first part that I had done in several training sessions before. It was about a 9-10 minute effort, I kept telling myself on the first part. Just stay steady. I tried to push the cadence beyond 65, but it seemed to stay stuck there. Then the pitch up at Caps Rock and I was slow. Crested the top, descended a little and back to the climb. Michaela was leaving me at this point and Krystal reminded me to stay steady. We didn’t need to let the lady behind us pass me. I wish I had dug a little deeper to pass Michaela. She is a strong rider turning herself inside out on the climb, and I was just dying. I heard the team coach up the mountain yelling at me. I just kept focusing on the pedal stroke over the top. It seemed like forever, but I finally crossed the line. Krystal had pretty much helped me finish like I did on that climb.

Krystal probably telling me here that if the lady behind me passes, it’s not good. She encouraged me the whole way. Ever thought about coaching, Krystal? (photo credit Matt Dunmore)

And then the waiting began and we are all standing around the results area. I see the other ladies that had a chance to win the omnium waiting and then results … Taco Mamacita had executed the plan and we had won the cat 4/5 omnium. I finished 7th in the cat 4/5 RR and 19th out of 36 overall 3/4/5. It was enough to win the omnium by 1 point. We also worked as a team in the crit as well. High-fives were thrown, and wow. What a weekend.

I learned a lot during this race. Teamwork makes it happen. It is harder to win an omnium without a team. I would rather be a domestique than have a domestique (truth) – you hear me ladies? Next year, let me be your motor. I love TT more than I thought I would at the beginning of the season. I still believe there is a sprinter deep inside of me just dying to get out. She just doesn’t understand the dynamics of the sprint at all and how to put it all together. Working on it. Sarah S. and I both are cat 3 now. 2018 looks promising for a big race season.

I also like a road bike, but I love a mountain bike… which is where I’ll be this weekend.

But, I cannot wait until next season to see how it goes as a cat 3 with the team.

Here’s a cool write up in the local paper about the result.  Last year we cheered as Krystal and Sus lead the way. Can’t wait for next year.

ORAMM: Off Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell (hardest race to date)

Spontaneously, as I tend to do, I signed up for ORAMM in North Carolina. I haven’t ridden my Top Fuel near enough, and it was time to see how she could handle some gnarly single track both up and down. Too bad I wasn’t near enough trained for the distance which made for a long day (7 hours and 34 minutes to be exact). My plan was just to suffer through it with a friend.

I was intrigued by the description:

The Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell is a 60 mile mostly off road Bicycle route with 10,500 feet of climbing. From Old Fort you climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and just below Mt. Mitchell on beautiful Forest Service roads and unbelievable North Carolina single track. Mt. Mitchell peaks at 6684 ft and is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. The start/finish in the town of Old Fort sits at 1400 ft. Most of the climbing is on Forest Service roads while most of the single track points downhill! Link

But, I learned fairly quick into the ride that 10,500+ feet of climbing is nothing to ignore.

I had a good night sleep (better than usual before a race) because I traveled with a friend, Star, who helped with the getting to bed early. We carb loaded the night before with some friends and had a pretty good breakfast at the hotel.

The next morning had no real issues and made it to the start dropping off our bags for the sag stops. I only chose to leave anything at 2 of them.

At the start, a lot of pavement that was a nice high cadence warm-up for me. The 30 tooth was a better choice than the 32 that I had. In fact, I’m just going to keep the 30 on for awhile. I tried to keep Star in my sight because I figured she’d have a good pace, and I didn’t want to go out blowing up in the beginning. It was going to be a long day, and I wanted to stay at about 70-80% effort throughout.

Finally entering single track, I was in a rhythm even though there were some log jams at switchbacks.

There came a point where I had a fluke thing happen, a bee flew into my mouth and stung me in the back of the throat. My initial thought was one of anaphylaxis and throat swelling and how this would be one crazy way to die in a race. You can’t help but think the worse sometimes. I choked and coughed to get that stupid bee out and spit the bee out. I waited on swelling all the while pedaling and thinking how crazy this was. My throat felt swollen in the back right and burning, but I could tell it wasn’t a direct sting. A doctor riding with us a few minutes later told me if it isn’t swelling right now 10 minutes later, I’d be ok. I took his word for it and put it out of my mind. I only was reminded of it when I drank something. I hope this never happens again.

During one descent I rode off the trail but hopped back on. I definitely need more downhill runs to work on relaxing! I had moments of relaxing, but for the most part remember one guy following me telling me good job but that he was making sure to NOT take the lines I was taking. Ha! He was right, I was constantly reprimanding myself out loud with, “Wow, Beth. Crappy line.” Oh well. That is what happens when you don’t pre-ride a course a few times. Lines are hard to find for me the first go.

At the 1st rest stop, I refilled my Osprey with three bottles as I had been drinking quite a bit! I was ahead of the 1 bottle per hour goal I had for myself.

Curtis Creek Climb was the never ending climb separated from the Blue Ridge Parkway by a rest stop (#3). I saw people walking and taking breaks throughout Curtis Creek, but I just chose to keep going at what felt like a snail’s pace and a cadence so slow that my legs started to fatigue near the top. I refilled 2 bottles at the top. I was still doing ok in hydration but hadn’t needed to pee which probably pointed to heading into dehydration.

Heartbreak Ridge was interesting, to say the least. I’d like to go back and learn all the lines because it was quite interesting trying to get some kind of flow going. I felt as though I’d need new brakes after the race. The hecklers were hilarious. Luckily, they were taking a break from really making comments, or maybe it was the pained expression with the roadie helmet that made them pause. We crossed some tracks were some guy yelled at me for being too close to him crossing the tracks (you had to walk) and I just ignored him for the most part. It felt a little as though he was irritated a woman would pass him. I passed him anyway. There are a lot of dynamics on a trail as a woman, especially in a race that is 90% men, and you get different reactions when passing men. I just had my music playing and when an uncomfortable situation happened, I  just put it out of my mind. Everyone was fatigued at 50 miles anyway.

I finished the descent and headed back into Old Fort with a former Ironman (saw the tattoo on the calf) hoping for a sub 7-hour finish (though not trained) and ended up with a 7:34. I was proud of the time for my first attempt. The Ironman validated my thoughts as this was harder than a full Ironman (I’ve only done a half Ironman but was harder than that, for sure). Definitely could be the case considering how I feel 5 days later. I’m still a little bit off in the IT band area.

I finished with a 4th master’s women, and 14/23 overall women and 155/290 male and female finishers total. Not sure how many DNFs there were. It was the course for DNFs I am sure.

I said I never wanted to see ORAMM again at the finish.

A couple of hours later said I would do it again after eating and sitting in the river afterward.

I found one picture – and it almost looks like I was “just” about to smile at the finish line sign.


Oak Ridge Velo Classic 2017: happy one year road racing anniversary to me!

Returning to Oak Ridge was bittersweet. For one, we had a smaller team showing due to just life. Last year Oak Ridge was my first race. It was the first time I wore a scenic city velo kit and the first time I attempted to race against other riders while riding with a team. I had my good friend Kelly by my side hanging out with Melanie, Susie from Knoxville, Becca, Sus B, Krystal, and Sally. (Sally is starting up big things in Huntsville, AL next year – I will miss her!) I remember Kelly and I driving to Oak Ridge listening to my crazy playlist and just talking about how scary/fun/hard/ the omnium was going to be.

Fast forward to this year… Jeff and I drove to Oak Ridge with the kids. The first day was the road race and time trial. Jeff went off first, and I cannot remember what happened to him in the race (I will ask and update this!) but he ended up 20 out of 25. Philippe with VW got 7th and Tim and John raced as well. Our race was later in the day, and the temperature didn’t fail to disappoint climbing to a high of 96F. I expect this race to be hot because it was hot in ’16, too.

Right before the race, our Taco Mamacita coach, Steve, decided to grab my beloved, trustworthy, dependable Garmin and zip it into my back pocket. I no longer had my trusty compass to guide the way, and immediately starting learning a lesson I needed to learn. I did not enjoy learning it particularly in that way because I use it to gauge how hard I am going, but he said, “Race your bike.” He also reminded me not to be on the front.

#gamefaces, I think

Why do I like the front?

  • There are no shenanigans. No slowing down of wheels. No braking of those you don’t “trust” yet.
  • You control the pace, though I will admit for the most part I am going too hard.
  • I can see the road better. I can see potholes and gravel and all that fun stuff that most roadies will brake and handle differently than me. I tend to just roll over it as though I was riding a 29er.

I was on the front almost immediately. The pack of 16 ladies filed in behind me. My teammate, Ali reminded me that I didn’t need to be going too hard by just one word in a certain tone, “Beeeth!”

Right. So I settled into a zone 1/2 pace. I remember looking around at the houses around me and eyeing a swimming pool thinking how great it would be to go swimming. It was hot.

I knew the action would start once we made the right turn that led into a climb. That’s where the action happened last year.

And just as I suspected, near mid to 2/3 into the climb, the two Nashville Local Cycling ladies, Jeanie and Michaela, took off. The rest is a blur as far as was anyone else with them. I surged ahead to stay in it and found myself chasing down the descent almost immediately. There were several ladies around me. I was in the chasing group again. Dang it. And, I can’t go back and analyze because my Garmin was zipped up in my pocket. I think once we reached the bottom of the descent, there was a lady named Nikki and me with a couple of others that didn’t stay with us very long. Nikki and I worked together to catch the Nashville Locals. I was doing my bridging the gap TT thing with a light climber working our way up. Finally, we reached them and the four of us worked together for the remainder of the race until Jeanie decided to go off on her own somewhere near 2-5 miles to go leaving the three of us racing for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. It ends in a climb, and so I ended up 4th. Ali and Jodie raced as well, and it was fun having two other teammates there to suffer with for the day. I wished they were staying for Sunday!

Did I quit? Likely. I go back and think back to the ending a lot. I can suffer on the flats. I can suffer on a descent, but there is a special kind of suffering in the road race and climbing and it was something that I knew I would need to work on. I think the best way would be to drop weight in the offseason, which is my plan. I didn’t do it last year, but I cleaned up my diet tremendously, and now it’s time to remove the limiter in the climb. Weight. I only want to lose 9-10 lbs at the most.

Later in the day was the TT. Only 10 of us raced in cat 4/5 women, the course was familiar to me. I decided to use my Garmin but only would have the map showing just in case. The course was a 7.6 miler with some climbing in there, but a good course for me. Not a lot of climbing. I ended up finishing 19:05.86 which gave me a 1st place result and 2nd overall women when you add in the cat 1/2/3 women’s field.

1st in TT cat 4/5 women
women’s 4/5 field in crit

I think I like TT because I get results.

The next day was the crit, and I ended up doing two of them. First was the cat 4/5 women with a field of 10 women. I love this particular course even with the 180-degree turn at the bottom right after the start/finish area. I didn’t have teammates in the field with me, but had a couple of my kids in a tree (ha!). When it was said and done was in a breakaway with the Nashville Local Cycling ladies again where they kept attacking me over and over. Finally finished with a respectable 3rd place. Did I give up? I think there was some giving up in that one. I felt as though there was a chance I would be dropped and the rest of the field would catch me. Training those moments when you are in the red and need to give more is hard to do alone, and I do a lot of training alone. It’s something I’d like to change – simulating that situation and giving more.

Leg speed was better. Hopped into the field of 3 master’s women and finished 2nd behind my friend Arden.

It was a good weekend with a 3rd overall omnium finish.

Most photos except the TT podium picture photo credit Tony Falin

Maintaining Motivation

Thanks to stumbling across Ali’s Facebook post on signing up for ORAMM without a year of intention, I decided to ask another friend about ORAMM and had she done it. “Three times.” Wondering how it was as a “race” – I use that term loosely because there is no race pace on 60 miles and 10,000+ feet of climbing if you don’t train for awhile – and her response, “Let’s go do ORAMM together.”

Yes, let’s.

I have not ridden my mountain bike this year as much as years past. I think Black Betty only has 450 miles or so on her. That’s way behind the usual mileage I would have accumulated since her joining my small steed of bicycles last year. She rides smooth though. I had a 45-minute zone 1 recovery ride (I am the worst at these) last week and decided rather than spin around at zone 1 on the trainer while reading a book, I’d take BB to the woods and zone 1 there looking at stuff in the woods. I ended up deciding pretty quickly into the ride that I wanted to fly. Surely 45 minutes flying wouldn’t hurt me that much, and thus is the reason why I am the worst at zone 1 recovery rides. Zone 1 seems a better fit for off the bike and in the bed with a pint of ice cream OR riding as hard as you can for 45 minutes. It is hard to find the in-between for me and will always be the hardest ride. Most of those are either not done at all, or overcooked to not-perfection.

I haven’t signed up for ORAMM yet because I’m waiting on a transfer ticket cheaper. I figure I can save some money that way. I suppose sometime in the next 4 weeks I will need to put some miles on BB. I don’t mind as long as they are fast miles. Ha!

From their website, I love the wordage:

Do not underestimate the extreme difficulty and danger of this event. The course is extremely demanding and travels over rugged terrain with extreme elevation changes. The forest remains in its natural habitat. It is not uncommon to see wildlife such as a wild cat or a black bear. Be ready to cope with any circumstances!! Please note that firearms are not permitted in certain areas. Aid stations will help with safety matters, but it is the competitor’s ultimate responsibility to insure his or her own safety. A few course-related facts: the 63 mile course record was set in 2014 by pro rider Thomas Turner, who finished in 4 hours 23 minutes. One rider completed the course with only one month of riding under his belt, however this rider quit riding altogether after the race! Others too have retired their biking efforts after competing in this race. This is not your typical race. Regardless of how you finish, you will have competed in the most exciting mountain bike race in the entire Southeast!!!

Perhaps this is the race (ride) that will cause me to hang up my bike forever. It’s the risk I’m willing to take! I just wonder if I should go get a 28 or 30 on the front before this hellacious event. I do think it will shock me back into climbing a little. I feel like I haven’t been climbing like I used to before I had a regimented plan. I guess you can’t train time trial, sprinting, short efforts, and climbing all in the same season effectively on the amount of time I have available to train. That’s the hardest part for me… feeling like I’m losing in an area because I don’t have time to focus on it. Here’s a good 7-9 hour focus on the climb right here. I have no idea how it’s going to go and if it’ll just be a suffer fest from the start, but I do know two good friends going up there, and maybe somehow we will suffer together. I haven’t done a mountain bike race more than 50 miles (Fools Gold, and 5 Points 50) it wasn’t so bad. I wasn’t in that great of shape either.

I get a little bit lost when I don’t have something big in front of me and lose a little motivation. Yes, Oak Ridge and River Gorge are big, but I’ve done both. Maybe it’s that I need something in front of me that I haven’t done before to inspire the same dedication to training and outlook. I hope to have good (very decent) results at Oak Ridge and River Gorge, but my strengths don’t really play up to either very well quite yet, especially in River Gorge. I still have memories from last year’s climb at the end and how I was thinking about being in labor and what I had to do to deal with that pain. Same situation. Uncomfortable and unrelenting. Now if I could shave off just 5-10 lbs before August, that would be gold.

Speaking of which, what’s for breakfast?



TN State Championship Time Trial 2017

Well, I was ready for this one. I had a better-borrowed crank, some borrowed wheels, and my mental game was sound. I tortured the kids with hours of driving to Clarksville the day before listening to all kinds of fun tunes from “Dancing Queen” by ABBA where I creatively changed the words to “Time Trial Queen,” and one of my other favorites that they now request. I had checked my list many times and we hit the road in two vehicles since my husband was going to compete as well.

We arrived in Clarksville, TN passing through our old stomping grounds of Nashville. I cannot believe how much the skyline has changed. The sun was setting and there were a lot of changes that have happened to the city of Nashville since 10 years ago. It’s amazing how beautiful the city still is. I saw Jefferson Street exit where I used to work and had the urge to go run by the retail pharmacy to see if any old employees were still there. Nostalgia! Memories!

The next morning, we set out for Dover, TN to race.

The Tennessee state TT course

Note not a lot in elevation change, but definitely fast on the way back, at least I thought.

The promoter had separated Jeff and me as much as possible since we were bringing the kids and had someone there to watch them on the little bit of overlap. We were very grateful for that. Jeff started off first and then me a little bit later, the last of the cat 4s. Luckily, a friend of mine was lined up as a cat 3 behind me, and I was able to chit-chat with her about everything. I miss her! Last time I saw her was at Snake Creek Gap because I missed her at Masters Nationals.

One of the ladies ahead of me fell over at the start while the guy was holding her up. I was sending her good vibes to go and keep going. I’m pretty sure she’s the lady that ended up 3rd on our podium. Finally, when it was my turn, I hit the pedals and started the around one-hour suffer fest. I was ready. I had all kinds of things swirling in my head and the power was looking OK. I was managing what I was doing to save for coming back. I noticed immediately we had a cross tailwind on the way out which meant cross headwind on the way back.

The mental things are what are fun. Challenging. The brain will tell you to stop it, you are going too hard. I purposefully hid my heart rate so I couldn’t see how hard I was working. It is my governor, and I’m removing its power from now on. Ironically enough on the harder rides, since I stopped watching, I am going harder and the heart rate is back up to where it was last year when I was pushing hard. Go figure. Perhaps in a race, I need to remove power as well. I have become a slave to the numbers. But, I can now almost tell you the watts I’m putting out based on my perception. Almost. If I’m fatigued, it is drastically reduced, and I don’t notice. I was surprised to see watts well below what I thought toward the end of the race. My legs were saying otherwise. I heard some quotes in my head that were quite positive (some with the British accent — long story). A couple of songs played over and over in my head. I just like analyzing that part after a race too. Where did you go this time, you know that special place to ignore the pain?

Jeff on the podium
So close…
Results of the women cat 1-5

The fun parts. Watching the kids build a fort in the back of the SUV while I warmed up. I didn’t pick the best spot to warm up, and I wouldn’t say it was a high-quality warm-up due to the kids and their kid things, but I am a mom, and that role comes first. I wanted the state jersey bad, but to know I was beaten by someone 20 years younger and a pro-triathlete (by 12 seconds) was OK. I missed the cherry on the cake initially which was getting the 3rd overall female out of all the females in the 40 km TT beating all the cat 3s. I was so focused on the jersey that I didn’t really notice until later. 90mm was interesting. I love a disc wheel. Now, I have to find a set of my own.

I’m looking forward to repeating this one. I have a goal in mind that I want to achieve for 2018. How much time can I shave off for next year?



Masters Road Nationals Time Trial

Heading out for the sufferfest

I took a little trip to Augusta, GA on Wednesday to do some TT in the 40-44-year-olds in the USA Cycling Master’s Road National Championships. I signed up without knowing it was all categories together divided by age. Money spent and then thought, “Oh crap. I am a cat 4. I am going to get crushed.” I imagined former pros and cat 1-2 women in their perfect aero time-trialing position and matching TT bikes/kits/helmets. And the helmets. I saw in my head those really aero helmets (that I don’t own – I have a Giro Air Attack which is apparently “ok” for TTs but probably could save time with a more aero helmet. I do stare down periodically at my Garmin so it may not benefit me at all at this point until I can go more by feel. (When does that ever happen?)

The trip in the car alone was long. Atlanta traffic is unreal. I even thought I timed it right, but no… apparently, every day in Atlanta at all hours resembles the whole city escaping a zombie apocalypse and Walking Dead probably had no problems filming the traffic jams there at all.

I arrived and hooked up immediately with my friend Arden, yay! I was also going to be racing Arden, no! When I ride with her, I immediately am ready to suffer as my zone 4 is her zone 2. I need to do more of that. We checked in and went to check out the course together. Thankful for that because I do hate riding the roads alone, and I forgot Jeff’s Garmin radar thing that makes me feel a little better warning of a vehicle approaching. I know it wouldn’t keep a car from hitting me, but at least I know it’s coming right?

I probably went too hard riding the course. I am still unsure of correlating my heart rate to power because heart rate changes so much for me. I was nervous and excited and I’m sure my heart rate showed that on the ride. Also, the power was more in a z3-ish level maybe? I really liked the rolling hills. Reminded me of home. I also stopped to save a turtle on the ride: win-win!

Ran by Publix and made the first of some mistakes… drank some kombucha. I didn’t notice how much caffeine was in it. It was cherry and really good. But, I did not sleep much. In fact, the air conditioning was on 60 and I was still burning up. I do not want to entertain any thought of menopause, so let us not even go there, you hear me? I slept a grand total of 5 hours. Considering the nights prior I slept 5 hours 30 mins and 6 hours, I was tired. Still am today. I can’t seem to sleep before an event. Butterflies, delusions of grandeur, etc…

I had everything written out on what to do. Get up at 7 am. Check. I was up at 5:30am so go figure. Be at the race site by like 9am. My time to race was 11:14:00 and I was not going to be later than 11:04 to line up. Lessons learned from another time trial. I noticed when loading my bike that the front tire was low. In fact, it was 40 PSI. Oh heck no. Leave it and risk losing pressure. No. I can change this tire.

All rational thoughts went to the wind as they can tend to do in moments of mini-crisis. I found a tube that Jeff had bought in Alabama last week and decided to change it myself. I am, after all, a very capable strong and independent female who does not need help and can do it all myself, thank-you-very-much. It took awhile, but I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t pinch flat. Checked it twice both sides all the way around and could see the blue Reynolds strip clear as day. Aired up with a pump and suddenly a dreaded pop.

No. I felt my composure start to slip. Lots of self-talk.

You have another tube. Calm down.

Repeat. Took even longer. Finger bleeding now because I cannot do this without injuring my fingers at this point. Rechecked and it was ready to go.

Air up with a pump. You guess it. Pop! It blew again.

I was now 3 tubes down with the one that was low (assuming small leak) and out of options. At this point, it was 9:30. I had wasted a lot of time in the parking lot at the hotel. I found a random person in the parking lot thinking, “I do need help, after all, thank-you-very-much” and begged with money for a tube. He had a tube, and he told me to go to the race site and let Shimano do it. I guess now I understand what they do at races. I learn by needing things and experiencing mistakes more than any other way. I read everything published about the race, but I must miss minute details that don’t seem to apply at the moment. My friend also at the race site said the same. Use Shimano at the start line. Keep in mind I have changed tubes and tires many times. Bad luck? Fluke? Have forgotten how to do it right?

So, off I go to the race site with a flatted front tire wondering if I’d even get to race. I had a tube though!

I parked too far away really, but wanted to just get my run on and ran down to the start with the front tire and my tube and extra tire just in case. They fixed me up. The only guess they had was maybe using the tire levers to put the tire back on was doing something but no other explanation. I have one. MY LUCK. Apparently, I must experience all bike related tomfoolery before a race and just tried to calm down the entire time. I was deep breathing and just watching the clock thinking that the run to the Shimano tent counted for some warm-up.

I got back to the car and got my warm-up going. I abbreviated a few things but hit the efforts and was sweating like Jeff usually does – nerves, parking in the sun, and no wind = copious sweat and in a skin suit was weird. I noticed the couple that had given me the tube was parked in front of me, too. I thanked them again and said I was going to pay them after the race and off I went.

I had borrowed an aero bottle from my coach and had maybe less than a half left in it. I had everything ready and was there and ready to go. The USA Cycling official that scanned in my bike asked me how I was doing and I said great rather enthusiastically to which he replied, “Do you know what you are about to be doing?” I told him it couldn’t be any more stressful than the morning I had already had. I had already mentally suffered beyond any physical 45-47 minute effort. I can suffer. I had a baby without any medications so whatever. (I will add that is a lot different because with a bike the governor in the brain can shut it down. The baby is coming out no matter what and that’s why you go beyond pain).

And the race was off. I could see my rabbit ahead of me. 30 seconds ahead. I knew Arden was 60 seconds behind me. Goal: Arden wouldn’t pass. I knew if she did I would be mentally deflated. Immediately I noticed that my effort was too hard at the start (normal) and held back some across the dam. I had the 18 miles divided in my head into 4.5-mile segments:

Q1: 4:5 miles – dam, some rollers, don’t go too hard. I noticed a sort of cross headwind. I thought well I should be flying coming back then.

Q2: 4.5 miles – includes the “climb” biggest one on the course which was at mile 5 or so and average 2% grade for about 0.5 miles. Keep it steady. Save for the ride back. I passed the lady in front of me somewhere here.

Q3: 4.5 miles – so I read this is the hardest one, so I kept thinking, you have this. It’s not the hardest one for you! Not sure it worked so much. To have a cross tailwind, I would have never known it. This leg of the race was hard. My power should have been higher, but every time I’d glance down at my 10 sec power average it was lower than I had planned, but my heart rate was pegged out. At mile 14 or so, the first place winner past me, and it was amazing watching her fly by me making it look so easy. I tried hard to pace to go harder to keep her within reach but to no avail. I was locked into this particular effort and there was nothing extra to give. One quote from a song popped in my head “My only enemy is me, and even I can’t stop me.” Oh yeah.

Q4: 4.5 miles – the last leg. It’s almost over! The dam again and trying to muster out something just increased to what I had hoped for the entire ride. I almost caught the 2nd rider, but not quite. I remember that Arden was going to go all out at the end. I didn’t have anything left to even attempt a super hard effort. Just wasn’t my day for it, the stupid brain wouldn’t let me. Need to do more brain training because it’s holding me back.

I was glad to be finished. But, in the usual fashion, I forgot to check results at the finish and was just ready to get back to my vehicle for something to drink. I had had two sips on the race itself still remaining in aero position and didn’t sit up any during the race except for the turnaround. I tried to drive the bike and not allow the descents to be moments of rest, but I couldn’t keep my power up. It felt like I was though! I rode on the white line on some climbs thinking maybe less rolling resistance. Whatever it takes? 

So, some notes. I had a compact crank and a 12-25. I’m beating myself up about this today. No, I did not know better, but I do now. I can guarantee you I will be looking at that next time. I have just about decided the best way to learn something is to experience it and remember. Who knows how much no sleep prior plus the flat tire issue all morning could have affected me? And it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention my body weight. There comes a point when I have to drop pounds if I want to make a huge gain (if I do it right). I don’t think anyone has to worry about me starving myself and dropping 10 lbs in a week. I’m not capable of that kind of discipline when it comes to food. I don’t drink alcohol much (it would probably do me good to chill), if at all, but I love food. I’m largely gluten-free and try to avoid dairy a lot, but other than that, it’s a free-for-all. I’m going to cut back on my very high caloric high fat almond pancake daily habit and see if that doesn’t knock 5 lbs off by Oak Ridge. I have some power… time to lower the weight a little bit just to maximize what I have so I can be a little happier with results because I’m still not there.

On another note… I do not enjoy watching the numbers increase every year on my birthday. I don’t enjoy the wrinkles or the comments about being older with young coworkers and all of that. I don’t like it when I go shopping for my daughter and the lady at the register asks me if this is for my granddaughter. Seriously. In my mind, I am just as youthful as I was at 25. In fact, I am stronger now than I have ever been. Age is just a number… right?

… and I saw proof of that watching the 50s, 60s, and even 70s race at Masters. I enjoyed it immensely and it made my heart proud to see adults who have kept on enjoying the benefits and love of racing a bike and finding a venue where people actually show up who are damn good.

Let’s put it in perspective. I am in my first full season of road racing. I raced 18 miles at 47 minutes and 24.1 seconds and placed 4th in a field of 7 or 8. We had a smaller field in the 40-44-year-olds. In the 35-39-year-olds, my time would have given me 10th out of 12. In the 45-49-year-olds, I would have been 8th out of 11. The 50-54-year-olds: 5th. That’s some fast women rocking it right there, and I have a TON of work to do to score a top 3 next year if I decide to do it again. When I do it again…

Also didn’t know the podium ran 5 deep. Live and learn.