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.

I TOOK OVER 30 MINUTES OFF MY RACE TIME.

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…

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.

 

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?

 

 

Snake Creek Gap 2017: a recap

January 7th rolled around bringing with it ice. I was ready for the race and ready to beat last year’s time. I knew by those registered that I needed to focus on ME and my time and not trying to win or get on the podium. Sometimes I get wrapped up in who is racing rather than just going faster myself. One thing I am learning this year and this past fall: I am my own competitor. I am racing myself. 44-years old is no joke, and every year I have to do more and more before it comes down to age where I cannot really compete. Because of that, I tend to work harder and harder because I am running out of time to see what I can do physically. It wouldn’t be so if more women raced, but seems like the older women get, they lose interest or have too much going on.

 

I attempted to make it to SCG the morning of the 7th. I talked myself out of it somewhere along East Brainerd Road and turned around to go home and walk home because of the ice. I settled on almond pancakes, coffee, and playing in the ice with my son. My daughter wasn’t interested in it.

So, I lost the chance of the belt buckle this year.

February 11th arrived for the 2nd SCG and the finale.

And the weather was perfect.

Ron shuttled me to the start which really helped the race nerves more than anything. Last year I was a ball of nerves. This year, I was just ready to get it over with. I have not had time to get down there to ride the course prior to the race, but I figured that was ok. It is a bit remote and a bit of a drive, and it takes a whole day to make the trip, ride it, and get home. Pretty much.

The first hour of the race, I went out pretty hot running about 90% effort. The weather was warm. I didn’t really get cold in the mid to upper 40-degree weather. I didn’t burn it on the climbs, and I certainly didn’t handle the gravel descent well and saw Jen fly past me like a bystander watching a race. I love watching other women handle fear on a descent so much. It’s an area that seems to grip me at times and at other times I am ok. need more mental training I stopped maybe 2-3 times for seconds to let someone pass or because I didn’t plan my line right, but no stupid mistakes with too much clothing or freezing drive train.

I crossed the road to SCG at 1:52. I was ahead of my time a little bit. I felt pretty energized because of it. I mean we are talking 4 minutes faster than last year, but I will take it. I am such an endurance steady rider. Kind of like the turtle that is chugging along at a pace, and if you aren’t careful, I will sneak up – kind of rider. I really want to be the rabbit, but rabbits bonk, too.

What I remember most about this race is that I had some fabulous tunes. I trusted my nutrition which I didn’t nearly consume as much as I should have which leads me to a later issue I encountered the next week after this race… fatigue, both physical and mental. I enjoyed my Trek Top Fuel so much. Doug, at Scott’s Bikes, was right when he told me how great this bike would be for me. It handles well. The tires were handling every rock well, and I cleaned some sections I have never done before. It is light and really made the ride great. I remember bombing (my version of bombing is not really bombing) down the descent before the creek crossings, and I LOVED it. Hey, I hit 22.2 mph downhill. This is PROGRESS.

Every single section after SCG seemed to pass so quickly. There was not the usual mental questions I had with where is this landmark and that landmark with the race seemingly going on forever. Places CLICKED by and mentally I was fine trucking along. I always had someone to chase, and I liked that aspect. Seems like last year I rode alone more.

The wall was a pain, but not nearly as long as last time. I wasn’t behind anyone so it was ok. Walkie walk.

After that, it was fun. I was really trying to beat a 4-hour mark, but realized soon I was on pace to do what I had said out loud, “I want to finish in 4:15 or less.”

So I had to at LEAST do that.

And soon I was out in the open and was ready for the last descent that used to be the part I dreaded… and I flew like the WIND!

Just went almost 40 mph down Dug Gap. He was drafting earlier 😉
I passed some dude on a bike who looked pretty fit, and afterward, he told me he drafted off of me and had to pedal to hang on. Who knew this fearful downhill girl could hit almost 40 mph on a mountain bike paved downhill descent?

I did!!

Need to tackle the mountain switchback downhill on a road bike next.

Snake Creek Gap Finale:

1 154 2 04:54:54 Hamlin Katie 34 Women 29 and Under -34 Mile Sorella Cycling
2 294 2 04:58:32 Russell Molly 34 Women 29 and Under -34 Mile Spindle
3 187 2 05:15:32 Mohn Megan 34 Women 29 and Under -34 Mile
4 123 2 DNF Cornett Kayse 34 Women 29 and Under -34 Mile Union College
1 198 2 03:37:39 Nielson Jen 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile SouthPaw Cycles / Liv
2 245 2 04:14:26 Childre Angie 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile Childre Nissan
3 279 2 04:15:52 Lofgren Beth 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile Scott’s Bicycle Centre
4 222 2 04:21:23 Snyder Amy 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile Motion Makers Bike Shop
5 300 2 04:31:15 Simpson Loretta 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile Traxxion Dynamics
6 276 2 04:38:04 Braddock Jennifer 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile
7 261 2 04:40:53 Cross Kim 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile Sorella Cycling p/b Hincapie Sportswear
8 190 2 04:51:46 Morrow Mary 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile Steel City She
9 278 2 05:22:34 Isaac Mary 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile SCO/BIKE ZO
10 257 2 05:22:38 Barry Beth 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile Taco Mamacita
11 164 2 05:38:08 Jackson Eden 34 Women 30 and Over -34 Mile
1 220 2 03:59:14 Sickler Mary 34 Women SingleSpeed – 34 Mile GearONE
2 272 2 05:22:29 Ragland Grace 34 Women SingleSpeed – 34 Mile Teva Neuroscience

4th overall female in the 34 mile

3rd place in women 30 and over


 

Big Ring Challenge (Jack Rabbit Campground)

Muddy day at Big Ring 2015
Muddy day at Big Ring 2015

This is my third year in a row to race the Big Ring Challenge. Last year was a muddy mess. I remember lots of peanut butter mud and lots of repairs to the bike afterwards. I enjoy racing the team much more than 3-hour or 6-hour solo. I like that hour of rest in between and no camelback on the laps, but this year took on the 3-hour series. Next year, I’d like to return to Big Ring Challenge if I’m not working and do a team again.

Anyway, this year I rode with Noel up on Saturday morning and had plenty of time to wait on an egg white delight at McDonald’s (forgot breakfast), unload and time to warm up. It was nice not having to rush as I usually do. Eric and Mike were already there and saw Ron, too, who races with my husband. I did have time to pick up Noel’s bike and notice the difference in weight. Oh, snap! I want that bike.

The kids’ race was underway and the weather was warming up. We started out with a fog hanging in the area, but it dissipated quickly as the sun took over. We have been in the middle of a straight run of 90 plus degree days and I had a feeling that the course would be dry and slick unlike the Black Bear Rampage the week before.

We had the mandatory riders’ meeting and saw Star prior to the beginning. I assumed she was doing the team and hoped I would be able to hang out with her after the 3-hour race was over, but she was doing the 6-hour solo. Torture!

I had time to warm-up and find a bathroom at least three times prior to the start. Nervous bladder hits again. I carried about 72 ounces of water and 7 scoops of my custom made Infinit. I had a Honey Stinger waffle and a Honey Stinger gel in my back pocket, too.

Oh yeah, I carried a chain tool this time and a quick link along with a tube and CO2, etc.

The 6-hour racers started at 10:00 and we started at 10:15. The first 0.4 miles was pavement. I learned immediately that I did not have the right chainring in the front. It’s called Big Ring for a reason, folks, but I was still running my 50% used up chain with two quick links back-to-back. My heart rate never increased much in the beginning, and so it was evident I was holding back. I watched Noel pull away along with many others. I am not sure why I can’t seem to be more competitive in the beginning. Maybe I’m missing fast-twitch muscles?

Lap 1 had a lot of frustration mainly because of the usual trying to pass people. At one point, a couple of guys were behind me and a man and kid in front of me. The two behind me were getting impatient and tried to pass me several times as I was trying to pass the two in front of me. Finally, after many attempts and overexerting myself stopping and going, I passed the two in front of me and the guy behind me passed me. There is always a lot of wasted energy on the table with the passing game. My cadence was higher than in the past, my heart rate averaged higher than I would have liked maxing out at 180. The ole’ ticker was the only thing holding me back because my legs were ready to go. My heart was not. 2016_chain-busters_big-ring-challenge-1832-zf-5026-20250-1-001

Lap 2 I hit a rhythm. My heart rate was still climbing averaging out at 170 or so. I was feeling it. Eric and Mike passed me I think on the 2nd lap.

Lap 3 I was ready to be done. Then I saw Ron Marcus. The Village Volkswagen blue and yellow kind of sticking out in a sea of mountain bike outfits. Oh but I gotta beat Ron. Yes, my head kept saying it over and over. Beat Ron. Some guy in front of me was going around Ron and so I did, too. “Hey Ron,” I think I said. What I was thinking was, “Hey Ron, you gonna let me beat you?” Maybe I said it? He said he was going to hang on to my wheel but he didn’t. We were climbing.

On the descent, I let up because that’s what I do and Ron passed me on a switchback on the downhill. Dang it.

And so I attempted to sprint in following him and telling him he better pedal because I was going to catch him.

Ron beat me by seconds. It sure made the ending more fun!

Well until I saw he was riding a rigid.

3 Hour Female Race (because I like to see all of them lined up): this includes novice, base, sport and expert women:

  1. Beth Lofgren – Lap 1: 54:49.46; Lap 2: 52:56.07; Lap 3: 54:54.30 — total time 2:42:39.83 (3 laps)
  2. Christine Grant – Lap 1: 55:45.92; Lap 2: 56:04.02; Lap 3: 55:54.57 — total time 2:47:44.51 (3 laps)
  3. Bianca Pearson – total time 2:53:09.84 (3 laps)
  4. Kelly Gwin – total time 2:53:14.41 (3 laps)
  5. Michele Allgire – total time 2:54:40.64 (3 laps)

The rest of the field did 2 laps or 1 lap – 9 more ladies. So out of 14 ladies… I had the best time, and I’m happy about that. I do know next year I will do 6-hour if I can make any of the races. Big Ring will be top on my list.

I cannot wait to see how a Trek Top Fuel handles that course.

 

Black Bear Rampage 2016

I started prepping for the Black Bear Rampage a little later than I would have liked. I don’t mean I wasn’t physically ready. I still train, but I hadn’t been out at the Ocoee since maybe last year, and still had to tackle going down Boyd Gap and Thunder Rock Express. I made a trip out there with my friend Christine who had her sweet new bike out and pretty much outrode me the entire time. I felt like an overweight version of myself, lethargic and asthmatic, and even had a first meltdown episode where I screamed out loud due to the fact my body was just not doing what it usually could do. I was STRUGGLING. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be 3rd place unless others showed up and outrode me too. I tend to do this mentally, which probably would be a weakness. I even start thinking about NOT doing the race and making excuses for myself like, “Well I’ve been road riding more and I have lost my handling skills…” or “Well I am fatigued from <insert race>.” I didn’t have a race list to check out the competition, but I knew Christine and Monica were showing up in my class and thought, I have to somehow find my way on that podium or at the very least beat my time from two years ago: 4:19:10. Wow, for a “beginner,” I was starting to realize that I may have my work cut out for me. At least from the standpoint of how I felt with Christine that day.

I returned back out there alone 4 days before the race and road almost all of the course, but not at race pace. I did feel that again I was fatigued and that I didn’t have much left to do a “race pace.” Scott’s Bikes up in Cleveland got my bike ready again (as I was eyeing the new Top Fuel on the wall) and put some new Bontrager tires on the bike. I headed out to the Ocoee and set out to tackle the sections that plagued me previously. Coming down Bear Paw Down, I saw a bear to my right – a good 20 or more yards away – and set a PR. I doubt I’ll ride alone out there for a long time. It was a pretty good ride overall, but nothing that I could bank the race on.

During the race two years ago, I cleaned Boyd Gap climb. I couldn’t do it on my practice day. I really think I was in some good mountain bike shape in September 2014. Maybe it had something to do with the excitement of converting from 26″ to 29er with a new Trek Superfly two years ago? Or maybe it had to do with all the triathlon training and watering down my climbing punch on the mountain bike?

I wasn’t as nervous during this race as I usually am pre-race. Coming off of River Gorge Omnium and that huge effort weekend, I think I was just mentally exhausted to worry like I usually do. I had a little bit of debate over how much water to carry, but ended up with a 3L bladder stuffed in my smaller Osprey and a bottle on the bike. That’s a good 10 lbs extra to carry up the climbs. In a perfect world, I’d have bottles strategically placed out there. I had washed my bose earphones in the washing machine, but they seemed to be working ok the day before.

On the morning of the race, I left super early. I was one of the first to arrive in the parking lot. This gave me time to wind down and chill for awhile, and I think it helped as well. I watched the sun rise over the mountains, and I think there was a little tiny bit of fall in the air. Rain had fallen the night before, much more than I expected. And better bonus: clean port-a-potty!

I saw my friends from Scott’s Bikes unloading and getting ready for early morning packet pick-up as kids started trickling in with parents getting ready for the junior races. I had time to just chill and chat and spin a little. I saw my friend Skipper F. and was talking to him about Xterras and bikes and thinking Xterras sound so much fun. Hold me back. I would really like to stick to cycling the next 12 months and see what kind of gains I can make on the road and mountain. I tend to like trying new things but for once want to really focus on racing and see how 2017 shakes out. Maybe an xterra sprint?

I had my husband’s breakfast rather than my usual egg white with english muffin and spent most of the drive eating it. I was eating slow. I typically don’t eat much breakfast and it’s a chore to try to eat as much as I did, but I knew I needed the calories for the 4 hour planned effort. I was planning on using Infinit again (custom mix) and bringing one Honeystinger waffle and a Honeystinger gel with the planned fluids. I brought a tube, levers, CO2, and a quick link for the chain. I had never had a mechanical in a race before.

I did a little bit of warming up but nothing like the usual. I spent more time saying hi to people I hadn’t seen in awhile and some debate on should I go to the port-a-potty one last time? Too late, time to start.

img_3415I lined up at the start and saw the pavement ahead. Up ahead was the almost 2-mile climb to Brush Creek. This is where I could potentially blow up my whole race by going anaerobic. Josh, at the bike shop, along with my coach always warn me about the beginning. But let me tell you, there’s nothing like pedaling uphill on the pavement on a mountain bike and watching all the ladies in  your class leave you at the beginning. On one hand, I was thinking, I’m pressing close to my threshold effort here. Any more, and I’m anaerobic. I kept trying to keep it around 180-190 watts but ended up averaging around 212 with a HR of 159. I had to calm it down a little when I hit 170, but adrenaline is a powerful stimulant of the heart. I’m not going to lie, I had already settled with third place before the start even happened, but yet I was way behind that by the time I hit Brush Creek.

The next 5 miles after entering the woods were pretty hilarious. My headphones weren’t working right and my cell phone was playing every ringtone I had out loud. The guy behind me in the woods was laughing and getting a kick out of it, and I was too. Instead of trying to pass people and getting all worried and frustrated, I had the minion cell phone ring playing in order of every single one and I couldn’t help but laugh. I finally turned it off after some stupidity on my end of dropping the phone on the trail and having to stop. I know, I know… time’s a wasting. For some reason, I had sort of mentally resigned myself to the fact that I would probably not podium this time, but I did have a little shred of hope that maybe, just maybe the endurance I had would supersede others in my class on down the trail.

reqmta4blackbeartwoI had a bit of a pause on Copper Road but didn’t wreck like some do. I crossed the little creek that I’ve wrecked in before with no problem. I heard my name at the WWC, but the warning about slick bridge kept me focused on the bridge and not braking and wrecking. I climbed Bear Paw Up and remembered the last time I did the race how I felt climbing. I felt ok. Better today than I did last week climbing which was good. Arriving at the top of Bear Paw and onto Chestnut was pretty uneventful. More of the same of surviving and passing people a little bit. I passed my friend Skipper somewhere on Chestnut and just kept going. I was lost in my own thoughts and music when I looked up at the beginning of Thunder Rock and saw Monica. My reaction was something a little bit like Dr. Evil. I knew I didn’t want to pass her going down Thunder Rock, and so I just watched her all the way down it hanging back 2-3 people. Descents are not my strengths, and I kept telling myself, “this is a climbing race.”

I reached the forest road and started the climb passing both Monica and Christine and taking on West Fork. So much climbing – almost 4 miles with about 1000 ft in elevation, if I calculated it correctly. I felt good. I was in the lead, I thought and was making some headway, maybe. I didn’t look back to see. I did the Quartz loop and had no issues and turned left onto 1330 Bypass. I lost tension and heard the snap. I looked down and I said out loud, “No. No!! Not now!” My chain was snapped. I had never had this happen before and I remembered I had a chain link but I didn’t have a chain tool. Like I said before, I had never had a mechanical in a race. No flat, nothing. It was a matter of time I knew it, but not today. People were riding by shaking their heads no when I asked if they had a chain tool. One guy cracked me up (in hindsight more than at the time), “I am a rock climber. I know nothing about mountain biking.” A guy named David stopped with a chain tool and got my chain going again. The worst part about having a mechanical is that feeling on the inside. The one that tells you that you have lost the race and that you won’t meet your goals. It is a combination of disappointment and the flight or fight adrenaline rush. I hate that feeling.

blackbearoneI thanked David and hopped back on the old Superfly and pedaled away chasing my competitors who had passed me while I was down. I lost 11 minutes on the chain break. I started shifting on Riverview on some of the punchy little climbs and realized that I had lost gears. I was worried I was SS at this point and was really going into panic mode. I tweaked the adjustment a little and was able to ride in 7 of my 10 gears; unfortunately the 7 hardest and not the 7 easiest. My legs started twitching with the extra mashing and lower cadence.

This is the first year of cramps. Higher cadence work leaving me more vulnerable?

Dr. Evil face was reincarnated when I saw Christine on Riverview. I suppose Monica had passed Christine somewhere, but I was overjoyed though I was not in the mood for any head-to-head mashing. Christine wasn’t either. Pedaling steady and downing some base salts, I caught up with Monica back at Bear Paw. I chased her as well as I could downhill (again, not my strength at the moment) and chased her across the bridge to WWC back to Copper Road. I passed her on Copper Road and saw her boyfriend Thom right up the trail a bit. I wanted to be done.

I arrived on the pavement for the climb up to Boyd Gap and saw another lady who asked me what class I was in. “Sport,” was all I could say. I was ready to be done. “Good, ” she said though she ended up leaving me once we entered Boyd Gap. She was in the expert class, I think?

Boyd Gap climb was all walking since I had no gears to climb it. I looked behind me a lot on the climb up thinking Monica would catch me. I fought some cramps and took on more base salts. I also realized at the top of the climb that my saddle was loose. More problems. My music had quit working long ago due to the washing machine bose ear buds, and so I just sang to myself the rest of Brush Creek. I had cramps try to take over and so I’d back off the watts. Over and over I just kept turning over the pedals to be finished. I only remember one person the entire length of Brush Creek and finally, the little hill to the finish with a very wobbly saddle and two chain links back-to-back. I found the guy that helped me on the trail and saved my race, David, and thanked him again. I finished 1st in sport class and 5th overall female (19 women total).

As far as goals go, I wanted to ride a sub-4-hour race. I finished i 4:12. I may have accomplished the sub-4 had I not snapped my chain. I lost 11 minutes there and another 2 minutes or so goofing off with my cell phone trying to turn off the ringtones going off on Brush Creek. Next year, I expect a sub-4 by more than barely.dsc05758

blackbearpodiumThis was my best race ever overcoming a mechanical and still capturing 1st. One of the best parts of the race is after sitting around talking about the day and anything else trail related.

Scott’s Bikes puts on a great race every year in September. I highly encourage you to give it a try!

The Black Bear Rampage is a 40-mile mountain bike race held in September by Scott’s Bikes in Cleveland, TN. The bike race is held out in the Ocoee River area with about 6,000 feet of climbing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEC #3 Fort Yargo: Dirty Spokes Production

Run by Dirty Spokes Productions, this race is part of the SEC Series. One of the longest running endurance races in Georgia, it takes place in a state park with plenty of amenities—great camping, awesome trails, and a beautiful lake. The flowing singletrack gallops through Ft. Yargo State Park, offering scenic views of Lake Yargo, and the slightly longer loops make it a really fun ride.

I arrived with lots of fatigue from the Half Ironman training. I haven’t spent much time on my mountain bike all spring, and I could tell. I felt like I had lost my punchiness up climbs, and also I have slacked off on my diet and seemingly putting on 4-5 lbs. I can feel it too.

The start was a huge mass start of both 3 and 6-hour races and was a bit unnerving for me. I’m not a seasoned racer rubbing handlebars and tires with the chance of crashing early due to poor handling by me or others. I stayed upright somehow. I do not give myself enough credit sometimes. It was hot.

The slow down, in the beginning, was horrendous. The slow start is the thing that bothers me in most races. Bottlenecking and people blowing up who sprinted in the beginning but can’t sustain the pace.

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I found out after the race that I was the only person in my class. I suppose I am glad I did not know in the beginning. You see, in the beginning of the race I even thought I saw Monica and Rosa riding on the same lap (they were on a team together). Hallucinations. Heat. Just wasn’t my best effort as far as rest goes prior to the race.

Place Name Bib No Gender/Age Laps Time Pace Distance Total Time
1 Beth Lofgren 200 F/43 3 5:40/M 31.050 2:56:10.2
Beth Lofgren 200 Lap 1 57:45.0 5:35/M 10.350 57:45.0
Beth Lofgren 200 Lap 2 58:35.2 5:40/M 10.350 1:56:20.2
Beth Lofgren 200 Lap 3 59:50.0 5:47/M 10.350 2:56:10.2

LMP_YargoMTB-1619-(ZF-10049-28718-1-003) LMP_YargoMTB-1881-(ZF-10049-28718-1-001)