2011 Pisgah Stage Race, Brevard, North Carolina Stages 1-3

At the crack of dawn Sunday morning following the 2011 XTERRA US Championships, Mical and I were piled in the van headed to SLC airport.  She was going home to crush some cyclocross, I was headed East to go navigate some gnarl in the Pisgah Forest in Brevard, North Carolina at the Pisgah Stage Race.  I was so excited to get an invite from Todd and Heather as this little mountain bike mecca not far from Asheville is legendary.  Riders like Sam and Willow Koerber are shining examples of what riding sketchy stuff can do for your technical but honestly, that wasn’t my main focus coming to the race.  It was the 29,000 feet of climbing over 5 days.  Think of what that can do for your ability to pedal.  Magical things.

The timing of the race was ALMOST perfect for Maui for me… maybe a couple of days longer recovery from Utah would have been better but for my MelRad athletes Fred and Kate is was a training camp from heaven since they skipped Nationals to focus on Worlds.  Fred was going to be a power monster at the finish and I am pretty sure it would be the most riding Kate had ever done in a week so she was challenging herself big time.  She is a bit of a new rider who is improving so fast I am sure she is going to be on my wheel in no time at an XTERRA in the future.   As long as we all pay attention to recovery and staying upright I am sure we will all be storming in Hawaii.

Kate and I hit the pool to cram in 6km of swimming on Monday before we drove to Brevard.  The one downer is Brevard only has a 20 yard pool which can make for a very dizzying session with that many turns.  I figured a swim Monday, Thursday and Sunday was the only option with the Thursday session in the 20yard pool.  Other than that I planned to put most of my running aside to focus on getting the best quality out of the racing.

Stage One:  White Squirrel Loop =  39 miles and 6200 feet of elevation gain

Thanks to a giant thunderstorm, this stage was quite slippery.  My legs were still in recovery mode for most of the day and I was crapping my diapers on all the slippery, off camber and exposed sections of singletrack where a totally possible front wheel slide would result in a massive freefall down the side of the mountain.  I was extraordinarily slow along that entire trail.  However, how much fun is a 4h 12 minute day of fun singletrack?  So fun!  It was a good start and I took the lead with Karen Potter in second and Kate third.  Sam Koerber rode fantastic taking first, Adam Craig second and Jeremiah third.

Stage Two:  Land Of Waterfalls Loop = 42 miles and 7300 feet of elevation gain

I liked today so much more.  It is much more predictable when you are just launching down a giant drop than sliding on clay on the edge of a cliff.  This stage had the infamous Farlow Gap downhill which was impressive with its fun, gnarly natural features.  Challenge of the day for me was trying to get across the creeks without falling in given mountain bike shoes on wet rocks is sketchy.  I had a great time pedaling the long climbs on this stage and felt much more confident in this kind of technical.  Fun day.  Big shoutout to the stage 2 pit crew.  This race has the rest stops down like nobody else.  First a spotter gets your number and radios ahead to the feed zone.  By the time you get there the crew has your bottles out and starts putting them IN YOUR CAGES FOR YOU.  Ridiculously pampered.  I bet if I wanted a foot massage they would have been down for it.  Thank you so much you guys!  I felt awesome for about 90 minutes of this day, most of that on the first climg and then felt really sorry for myself  in the last hour so I think things are coming around despite that finish.  The women’s race stayed the same  and in the men’s JB took first with a monster power display in the climing, Adam second and Sam third.

Stage Three:  Carl Schenk Loop:  25 miles and 3200 feet of climbing

This was a cross country racers day and I took full advantage.  My legs are starting to feel good and I had a good thing going with some of the 40+ elite men today so I just kind of tucked in with them for as long as I could.  Climbing was good but the guys definitely go faster downhill than I do.  I had a couple of good collisions into the back of a fellow named Garth since his tire was a pain in the butt but otherwise I spent a lot of the race actually racing versus just riding which is what happens when I get dropped and tired.  Laughing Less than 2.5 hours is certainly more my style anyhow.  Good day at the office with some fun singletrack that felt like a pumptrack and some more gnarly stuff to keep it interesting.  Same women’s results and Sam took another stage win, JB second Adam third.  Adam had a laundry list of mechanical issues which actually was fun for me because I got to watch him CRUSH me on one of the downhills.  Those top elite men are so freaking fast I can’t even tell you how they even see a line which they probably don’t… they just point and shoot downhill.  Crazy and impressive.  Not me.  Not impressive downhilling but I am sure I am getting faster in spite of my decision to not ride fast downhill this week.  Bubble wrap, people.  Big race coming.

You guys can totally follow along with this race as www.cyclingdirt.com is here doing an awesome job covering the race.  I have my GoPro but I am a newbie and keep messing up the footage.  I have some good interviews that i am going to post but my riding stuff is a bit crappy.  I promise I will get better at that.  Until then.. watch movies on cycling dirt like this one:

http://www.cyclingdirt.org/coverage/240283-Pisgah-Mountain-Bike-Stage-Race-2011/video/508009-Adam-Craig-Jeremiah-Bishop-And-Sam-Koerber-Rail-Black-Mt

Their riding is more impressive than mine anyways.  Isn’t this the most amazing place to ride?  Why don’t we have an XTERRA in this place, seriously?

So that is the first three days.  I am hearing that tomorrow is the worstest ever ever.  We shall see.  Rubber side down is the main plan.  Or as Adam Craig would say:  no whammies.  Wink

2011 XTERRA USA Championship, Ogden, Utah

Success!  I was totally stoked to continue my streak of four wins in a row in Utah at the XTERRA USA Championship at Snowbasin on Saturday.  In doing so, I also ended the XTERRA US Pro Series in first place as well and took home the (literally) big check that goes with it.  The podium in Ogden was amazing with myself, Scottish superstar Lesley Patterson, Danelle Kabush, Kelly Cullen and Emma Garrard lining up for the women and Nico Lebrun, Dan Hugo, Josiah Middaugh, Conrad Stoltz and none other than uberrockstar Lance Armstrong taking top 5 for the men.  After the race it seems that some of the rumours and stories may not have been 100% validated but he did say our sport is cool so that is enough.  It was an unbelievably amazing day of XTERRA racing and I am so stoked I was a part of it.

podium overall

Overall series podium

carl horton photo

Photo by Carl Horton.  Pretty freakin awesome day.

The one bummer of the whole weekend was the fact Shonny Vanlandingham was injured.  I certainly was hoping for a barnburner showdown in Utah as that is the whole reason I did that stupid back to back Saturday XTERRA and Sunday 70.3 weekend the weekend after a 70.3 in July: to get points to fight with her properly the title.  Her finishing the race in 7th was a testament to her fighting spirit and we will certainly miss her at the Worlds this year as defending champ.  Here’s hoping she’s back at it soon.  It was awesome to have Jamie Whitmore back racing as well.. she is definitely an inspiration!  Congrats to my MelRad Racing team with Lance, Keri and Meiling carring the flag (most of the team is saving up for Maui).  Keri led the charge with an AG win, Lance took 30 minutes off his time and Meiling was strong just over a month out of knee surgery.  Very impressive.  Dee was our fearless and motivated captain all weekend, thanks for coming!  Also a shoutout to Nat Grew.. who at 74 did an awesome job destroying the course on Saturday.  Way to go!

finishline 2011 nationals

Happy

Ogden really put on a show this weekend.  I always say that Utah has all that Colorado has to offer with the mountains, the altitude, the cowboyness but all wrapped up in a super polite, friendly and mellow package.  I love Utah.

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The awesome signs everyone was holding at the race Laughing

Although I love Ogden the most for racing, I am completely head over heels for Park City for training.  I had the most amazing homestay with the Karz family.  When I was on my way to Utah I picked up a magazine in the United lounge and inside was a 5 page spread on the Karz house.  There’s a first, seeing my homestay in print before I get there.  Their house was designed with all things environmentally sound in mind.  It was fantastic.   The 10 days I spend training in Park City with Mical Dyck, Chris Jeffrey and Emma Garrard were perfect and I arrived to the base of Snowbasin on Friday ready to go.  One quick tv interview, a fun night celebrating all the age group regional champs and off to bed I went thinking about going fast the next day.

I am choosing to ride the Specialized Fate hardtail 29er for the rest of the XTERRA season.  The bike is first off, ridiculously light.  Second, the geometry fits me better than any other bike I have ridden and third, the chainline is perfect for my Shimano 2×10 XTR.  I really love it and it was absolutely the right bike for the new course.  The Snowbasin folks have built a fantastic trail called Sardine Peak which is a super fun and challenging climb but offers very little technical challenge so carrying suspension up there didn’t make much sense to me.  The course was much faster and less technical than in the past.  However, that didn’t stop me from losing my Powerbar bottle on the first descent when the cage broke.  Bumpy maybe, but technical?  Not so much.

Race morning I drank a little more energy drink than normal because I had been getting weird muscle cramps all week.  I also put more Saltstick in my Powerbar perform drink as I think the dry air and altitude were dehydrating me more than I expected.  I think this was a good choice in the end since I lost one of my bottles.  I rode down the back side of the mountain to the start with Mical which was FREEZING.  Not a great choice this year.  Getting into my Profile wetsuit and jumping in the water was warmer than standing around in my clothes.  Brrrr.

The swim start was perfect and on time.  Ben Allen rocketed out the front from the right hand side and the lead group was very very fast.  It also included Lance Armstrong which was super impressive.  I was disappointed with how much time I lost to them but I did get out with a group of pro men that have been beating me by a minute this year so I think my swim wasn’t bad.. the front was just extra fast?  Not sure.  However, I had my work cut out to catch CJ.  Which I did going up the second half of wheeler canyon.

She was hard to shake but once I did I was pretty much on my own to almost the top of Sardine Peak at 7300 feet.  Surprisingly, I caught Craig Evans (unheard of.. he had a bad day) and Tim Deboom (the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me in a race – LEGEND).  Craig and Tim were all class letting me lead the downhill given that I was messing up EVERY corner in my mad dash/spazz attack for the bottom.  Really I should have let Craig go first and we would have all been faster.

A quick transition and I was off on the run.  My legs felt pretty good but I am really not that fast on this uneven, embedded rock stuff.  Last year I dislocated my cuboid on this course and ran VERY slow.  This year I just kicked back and ran carefully.  I think I had more in the tank that I couldn’t get out because I was unsure about the footing.  I actually did a LOT of work with a TP Roller before the race under the advice of Cassidy Phillips to improve my proprioception which I think helped for sure but there is still improvement to be made in that kind of terrain.

The run course was a bit longer this year with more technical running on the downhill which created quite a few casualties in the women’s race.  I know both Emma Garrard and Sara Tarkington took nasty falls.  I had that in mind when I knew I had a lead on Lesley but her fast feet were going to out run me (and most of the men’s field) anyways so I wasn’t easing up.  I think with a bit more bravery I might have saved a bit more of the lead but I was certainly careful as I catapulted downhill. I was passed by Craig and by Tim Deboom as they were running so much better than me and I started to get down on myself for getting dropped until I realized I was running with AWESOME pro men and I should be stoked.  My run split was around top three for the women in the end and I had a large lead still at the finish to use high fiving and enjoying the finish line chute.

finishline carl horton

The best sight ever is the tape waiting for you at the finish line.

Thank you Nathan, Shimano, AVIA Running, Specialized, Powerbar, Sundog Eyewear, Maxxis, Profile Design, Titec, CycleOps/Powertap, Saltstick, USANA, Genuine Innovations, ESI Grips, TP Therapy and Go Pro.  I am on my way to Brevard, North Carolina as I start the Pisgah Stage Race on Tuesday.  This is my main training block for the Maui World Championship.  Let’s hope my MelRad teammates Fred Smith, Kate Button and I all keep it rubber side down this week!

 

The official race report is here at:  http://www.xterraplanet.com/news/press_article.cfm?id=3154 if you want more background on the men’s event.  Enjoy!

2011 Tour De Suds

I have been training in Park City before the XTERRA Nationals in Ogden for 3 years now and every year I have missed the opportunity to race Tour de Suds.  I have seen the signs for the trail and heard the legend of the costumes which motivated me to seize the opportunity to race this time around.   Definitely no regrets!  What a fun day on the mountain.

Tour de Suds is a 7 mile hill climb mountain bike race where participants are encouraged to wear costumes and ride fast.  The event is a charity for the Mountain Trails Foundation and starts with a “neutral” roll out at 50km/h uphill behind a police SUV from the City Park up to the top of Guardsman Pass which is 2700 feet of climbing.  Ouch!  The course winds its way up a combination of double track and single track until you pop out on the paved road to sprint the last 200m to the finish.  It is fantastic.

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Pretty good turnout for the event!

My race was great.  I have only been at altitude since Wednesday and I feel like this has been my quickest adaptation to date.  When we rolled out at 6900 feet I had awesome legs and my Fate was rolling well so I stuck to the second group of men pretty much until about 8000 feet where the power stopped transferring to my legs.  It was amazing, like a switch went off.  I kept it steady and held on to the finish but certainly the upper 8000 and 9000 feet were so painful and I was passed by probably 6 people within the closing mile or two of the race.  I was already beaten by a banana before I started cracking but the speedo caught me near the top.  As did the convict.  And I think a clown?  Luckily the chicken, Reno 911 and the dude with the sheep were nowhere in sight.

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One of these bananas beat me…but not the gorilla..

My Specialized teammate Emma Garrard won the costume category and she also took the whiskey shot at the feedzone (she had taped a gel to her top tube specifically to chase that shot = experience with this event) and was second overall but first in the “Spirit Of The Event” category.  So we took 1-2 overall women on Specialized bikes.  The men’s race and overall record was won by local superstar Keegan Swenson also on a Specialized and his was just minus a jersey so I wasn’t much lamer than him with my uncostumed win.  I wasn’t about to get naked.  Only because it was chilly.

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Ghostbusters, sheep and can of beer went down…

So I don’t know… does this count towards my Specialized Win Counter?  Given this is the 31st running of this race I am stoked to have notched a win here.. although who knows what the results are today.  Pretty sure they are forgotten immediately after the event.

Next up is my opportunity to race Lance Armstrong on Saturday in Snowbasin.  I told CJ that if she beats him out of the water she will be the ONLY woman, ever, to get passed by him in a race.  I am jealous….. Wink

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The chicken won best costume partially because can you imagine riding 2700 feet up in that costume?

 

Ironman 70.3 World Championship, Las Vegas, NV

The 70.3 Worlds didn’t go as well as I had planned.  I felt really great, thanks to Specialized and Shimano my Shiv was working awesome, the course was fantastic and the wether was perfect.  My luck was not good. In my mad dash to pass as many people as possible as early on the bike as possible I got tangled with one of the pro men and earned myself a drafting penalty for moving into a gap on the right to avoid riding on his wheel.  I guess I didn’t see that I wasn’t at the back of the girls I was with because I never looked back.  FOUR MINUTES is the end of your day at the Worlds.  I was not going to stop Melissa Rollinson from storming her way to the top of the podium in her most impressive race of the year.  I was also inspired by Karen Thurigs fantastic race to second and I was so happy for Linsey Corbin to get herself into the top 3 after a very difficult season for her.  All of those girls deserved every bit of satisfaction and recognition for great races.  Congrats!

As for me, it is difficult to have not nailed a single 70.3 race I attended this year.  Thank goodness I have XTERRA to still have had a great season. I did finish up the bike in Vegas on Sunday and when I went into the run I was determined to finish strong for the training but didn’t really have the same intensity a podium potential can draw out of you.  I passed my teammate Tenille (she had a hard day) and three other girls in the last lap of the run and discovered there were more right there in front of me.  If I could just minus the 4 minutes I sat on the side of the road in the penalty tent I was in the top 10 so I had potential to do something… but there are only the things you do and those you don’t.  The motor is good at least and the chassis is strong… good to go for the rest of the XTERRA season.

My bike is flippin sweet!  Photo by Jay Prasuhn from Lava

 

It is funny.. I was sitting in the tent with Lesley Paterson and I started thinking that we are like those expendable characters on a television show.  You know, the ones you like and have some connection with, but really they aren’t important to the overall plot so if they are gone you aren’t up in arms about it.  Same with this race.. both of us aren’t A lister WTC athletes (yet, hopefully!) so maybe I just need to prove more often that I can ride very well so that it is obvious I don’t need to draft which I was definitely NOT DOING since I was moving my way THROUGH the field not IN it.  Then maybe I can become a main character and be there at the climax of the story.  Maybe. It is important for the women to be able to have the cleanest race possible at the front and it is sometimes difficult when new pro men at the very back of the mens race are mixed in.  It isn’t fair to us.  We should have at least a 5 minute gap to be able to race on our own.  I also think that the pro men should not be working in with the pro women.  That is not classy.  It is the Worlds… let the girls race on our own.

There isn’t much to report from the race because it was just so darn disappointing but I can say that I really enjoyed being in the mix with athletes like Heather Wurtele and Joanna Lawn.  They were so kind to offer their condolences to my crap #13 luck after the race.  They also were very impressive racers in an event ½ their normal distance.  I also appreciated so much the fun I had with Jeff and Joe at the Specialized truck.  Mallory and Shawn offered me a lane in the “lap pool” and some jokes as well so the whole red “S” family was great.

Outdoor demo madness… you need to check out the 2012 Fate 29er

I am at Interbike for a few days before heading to Park City to prepare for XTERRA Nationals.  I had a chance to ride a 2012 Specialized Fate 29er women’s bike with some dealers at ODD.. that bike is my go to bike for the Nationals and for the Worlds this year.  So sweet!  Thanks to Specialized, Shimano, AVIA, Maxxis, Sundog Eyewear, Champion System, Powerbar, Profile Design, CycleOps, USANA, ESI grips, Genuine Innovations, Saltstick and Nathan for putting me in a position to win another XTERRA Overall Championship Series.  Here’s hoping I get it done!!

This was transition.  IDENTICAL to the XTERRA Vegas transition.. just one or two more bikes in there 🙂

 

SportChek XTERRA Canada National Championship presented by The Nita Lake Lodge – Whistler, BC

Undefeated at the Canadian Nationals.  That is a good feeling!  This weekend I took home another title from the Sport Chek XTERRA Canada National Championships presented by the Nita Lake Lodge with a solid field of XTERRA veterans and national mountain bike stars that made the battle a lot of fun.  I am not going to lie, the course gave me a distinct advantage on both fronts:  the bike course designed by Trevor Hopkins was pretty technical for a triathlete and the run was absolutely diabolical for a mountain biker.  Cheers to that!  After leading the pro women out of the water and setting the fastest bike split I had the time to burn on the run on my way to the victory.  Brandy Heisterman was a bullet on the bike setting the second fastest bike time and great swim/run times to take second place in front of a fast running Danelle Kabush in third.  Mical Dyck had a super fast bike but Emma Garrard’s run time and finishing kick meant she ended up in a sprint finish with Emma snatching fourth place by 9 seconds at the line.  Great racing ladies!  Congrats to Josiah Middaugh for repeating as men’s winner and sad for Conrad to have to DNF.  Great job to Canadians Mike Vine and Kelly Guest for podium in 2nd and 5th respectively with Americans Seth Wealing and Branden Rakita taking 3rd and 4th.  Nice work boys!

Looking forward to TSN’s coverage of all the action!  Thanks to Tony Smith, Cal Zaryski and Yoeri Geerits for bringing the race back to Whistler!

ladies podium

Fit chicks

Of note was the outstanding 8th overall (including pros) place for Kate Button of MelRad Racing.  Not only has she won her age group every race she has entered this year but this 26 year old phenom who has only been riding 2 years took the overall age group title as well.  Fred Smith of MelRad Racing also won his age group and took a solid 3rd overall age group finish.  MelRad athletes Lance Thatcher, Jo Markham and Alexia Droz all finished top 10 as well so MelRad Racing was certainly top team in attendance.    So, so proud of all of you!

team whistler

Fred, Jo, Mel, Alexia and Kate kickin it in Whistler – how awesome are those Champion System race kits huh???

My weekend was top notch.  Having an incredible room at the Nita Lake Lodge and my friends with me to keep it light it was one of my best weekends in Whistler, ever!  The staff was so friendly and remembered me from last year which was pretty special.  Conrad and I were spoiled.  The people in Whistler LOVE athletes because they pretty much all ARE athletes of some sort.  Nita Lake Lodge was so accommodating!

I only had one loop of practice on the bike course (two times through the very last section) as I wanted to focus my energy on Vegas to the last minute and come in late.   Perfect weather meant that was a great strategy and I finished the hard work for Vegas by Wednesday.  Had it been wet it would have been another story as wet roots and bridges are far more technical to ride. Lucky for all of us.   

9am race morning the gun went off.  The swim was in Alta Lake and a warm day, smooth as glass water and windless morning meant we had a clean start and perfect conditions.  I found myself in a group of men including Andrew Sellars my university buddy who used to do 6am runs with me (he was a triathlete then and I was just an overexerciser).  That group was going the exact right pace so I pretty much had the easiest swim ever in history.  No stress, no fuss and out on Josiah and Mike Vine’s heels which shows my Profile Wahoo wetsuit is working and I am right where I like to be in a wetsuit swim. 

Out onto the bike we were treated to a lot of fun sections.  I can’t remember all the names but Emerald Forest, Get Over It, Barts Descent and finally River Runs Through It.  So, so much fun on the Specialized 29er Epic!!  My first lap was a little rough when my rear seatpost bottle cage decided to break.  It was falling and twisting all over the place and when it went sideways I couldn’t really pedal.  I was distracted and out of sorts my first time through River Runs and it was really dark in there so more than once I think I got lost and almost turned around.  I think the Sundog glasses I chose were a bit too dark.   It was not my best run through there although I rode all the stunts without a problem I actually just struggled to keep momentum through the rooty stuff.  I was caught by Cal and Luke in there and they instantly dropped me.  Out onto the second climb I almost pulled Cal back completely but he would make time on descents that I would almost get back on the climbing to have him get away again in the technical.  Cal is really riding well so I was stoked to make time on him on the uphills.  The cage broke off completely on the second lap and it was half relief because the distraction was gone but I ended up racing a 3 hour race with one bottle of Powerbar Perform and six Powergels.  Yikes.  Not ideal but it worked.

riding bridges

Cool features on the course…

When I headed out on the run I was told I had 6 minutes on second.  I have been running well and my legs were great so I was very confident for this run.  I took my time in transition to put socks on (no blisters for Worlds!) and focused on feeling good.  I ran strong and steady on the uphills and took my time on all of the descents.  We ran up Danimal and down Hwy 99 which featured some large cliff drops and a million gnarly roots so the chance of lower leg injury was WAY too high for me to run fast downhill with a World Championship in 7 days.   It wasn’t really anything like 21km on the road but it was a lot of fun…. I just didn’t want to make a mistake and I didn’t.

I had two of my best girls in attendance so after the awards we were poolside in Blackcomb and a guests of a friend of Tammy’s who sent a little welcome and we enjoyed the “Gold” level of the hotel.  Swanky.  Our room at the Chateau had a very nice message and a little post race recharger of Vitamin Water and energy bars… both of which were appreciated but relegated to second priority since our evening plan was to hit the Bearfoot Bistro to partake in some sabrage – opening a bottle of champagne with a sabre.

in cellar girls

Tam, Mel and Maia.  Thanks for the fun weekend ladies! xx

From Wikipedia: 

Sabrage

This technique became popular in France when the army of Napolean visited many of the aristocratic domains. It was just after the French Revolution and the saber was the weapon of choice of Napoleon’s fearsome light cavalry (the Hussars). Napoleon’s spectacular victories across all Europe gave them plenty of reason to celebrate. During these parties the cavalry would open the champagne with their sabers. Napoleon, known to have said, “Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it.” may have encouraged this..

sabrage bearfoot

VICTORY!!!!!!!!!

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