2016 Season Opener- Mountain Bike Racing At Bear Mountain

Last weekend I raced my first mountain bike race in three years.

I joined the fun at the first Canada Cup National XC Series race ever hosted in Victoria.

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Channeling Paola Pezzo old-school style by forgetting to zip my jersey up – Braison Images photo Continue reading “2016 Season Opener- Mountain Bike Racing At Bear Mountain”

2013 Tour De Suds

Normally I participate in Tour De Suds as pre Utah Champs preparation but due to inclement weather it was postponed one week.  Since the race is a Mountain Trails Organization fundraiser, it would have been irresponsible to send 500 people up the hill on muddy trails thus, the new date.  Luckily the XTERRA was Saturday so I was still able to participate in both events.

My fitness has been kind of a rollercoaster for me this year.  I believe that I am quite a bit more fit in training than my actual race results show.  In particular, I am expecting more from my run.  Given my race on Saturday, when I started Tour de Suds I expected to be pretty blown and much slower than in the past as that is what my results over the past two races might indicate.  That was not the case.  There is a disconnect between fitness and performance right now as the day after the XTERRA I had magic legs and lots of energy.  Not what you want the day after a key event.

2013-09-15 13.28.23 640x640The race was straight up to the top of that mountain in the distance. Awesome view from my host’s house.

I started up the hill with the cast of characters we normally see in this race (Scooby Doo, Ketchup and Mustard, the bananas, the cast from Wizard of Oz….) along with some of the uncostumed local speedy kids.   I had a raft of excuses for a poor performance to cling to if it did not go well so I removed any outcome goal whatsoever.  I had the option to drop out if I felt terrible as well as Adam’s coaching directive was to not “dig a bigger hole from the weekend” from which to recover if I was going poorly at that stage.  All of this to remove any and all expectations from the event.  I was doing it purely for the fun of it.

 

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An example of some of the fun costumes… Mr Potato Head.. so funny!

So when this cute little speedy girl named Evelyn went by, initially I thought, “Okay I guess she is going to beat me today.”  I didn’t feel like being super competitive… it was a workout first, not really a race.  Not knowing who she was I didn’t know how fast I should expect her pace to be.  However, she went by and I wasn’t hurting so I changed my mind.  I figured I would just RIDE with her for a bit and see what happens.  Riding turned into a very fun back and forth race where I was making more time on the flatter sections whereas she was quite fast when it was steep.  She made a decisive and successful attack about 3’ from the top and I didn’t respond (not sure I could have, really) and we finished 1-2 only 10 seconds apart.  We also ended up 2 and 3 OVERALL on the day.  Not only that, I rode four minutes faster than I have ever gone on this course and it didn’t even feel hard. 

So the fact I am not meeting my performance expectations at important races just shows that something is missing in execution.  I had SO much fun racing on Sunday and on Saturday I was panicked, I was not in the moment and I was stressing… not enjoying the same way.  I think that I need to find more fun like I did on Sunday racing with the bananas and react more like I did when I didn’t really care about the outcome.  I am performing the way I would expect to IF I take the pressure off myself.  This is exactly how I raced at TransRockies as well… no pressure.  I have been here before, where I want something so bad I force it much too hard.  I didn’t sleep for 2 weeks before Vegas I was so focused on achieving my goal.. and worried myself sick.  Then I probably carried so much stress and tension into Utah that I exhausted myself halfway through the race.  But then I relaxed and performed my best ever the day after that race… just shows there was more in the tank for Saturday than I thought and your head is your biggest obstacle.  I’m going to enjoy watching the fishes in Hawaii.  I think there is certainly less pressure going into that race as a non-favorite and who knows what might happen if I just relax a lot more.

As it turns out Evelyn finished 5th at elite USA mountain bike nationals and has finished top 3 in a bunch of the pro XC races this year.  For a lowlander to keep up with a local mountain specialist the day after a triathlon was actually quite a strong performance. Which just further strengthens my belief that I have trained correctly and I am in shape… I just need to get out of my own way to race well.

2013-09-11 17.22.32 640x640Time to just enjoy the ride.  I love my bike.

 

2013 TR3 Transrockies Challenge – First Mountainbike Victory Of The Year!

The TR7/TR3 Transrockies Challenge event starts in Fernie, BC for the first three days (the TR3) and then continues to Canmore, Alberta for the full seven day event.  With both events running side by side for the first 3 days I was able to challenge myself against some of the very best Canadian and US riders racing in either the 3 or 7 day events as we all started together.  With some very good legs this year I managed to cross the line as first woman three days in a row, holding off a very fit and fast Sandra Walter and Kate Aardal for the overall spot in the GC for the TR3.  Kate narrowly beat out Sondra Looney for third spot in the GC (I think it came down to seconds) while Jean Ann Birkenpas and Mical Dyck will continue to battle with Petra Tlamkova in the TR7 competition over the next four days.

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 Yay!  A leader’s plate 🙂

Big thanks to all of the folks at Transrockies, you put on an incredible show and I am kind of sad to miss the fun in the next four days.  With amazing race courses from high mountain passes to ski mountain downhill trails there is something for everyone in this race.  You need a solid skill set of fitness and technical ability but if you didn’t bring those with you, you would be bound to take them home. We were reminded daily of the unique challenge we were being presented as there were bears in the area for day one and moose on the loose on day three.  Each race went off on time, except for day three when we needed to wait 15 minutes to allow a charging bull moose to take the party elsewhere.  Speaking of wildlife, Crazy Larry was in fine form for this race with a very special climb designed by him on Day 3 that we all totally appreciated.  The balloons made the steep climbing that much more festive.

2013 TR3 Stage 1

 

I loved racing the boys as well as the girls.

Easily this is the best performance in a mountain bike stage race for me in a very long time.  Sandra is having a great season, highlighted by a close silver medal position to Emily Batty at the nationals recently in Hardwood Hills, so having the ability to hold off strong charges from her over the last three days is incredible for me.  Thank you Sandra, it is such a pleasure to be racing so close to you!  I also would never have expected to stay in front of other national team badass athletes like Mical and Jean-Ann or super long distance athletes Kate Aardal and Sondra Looney.  It was really a great three days both in the outcome and the experience.  I am also very proud of Kate Button for pounding her way into the top ten on a hardtail bike- not the easiest on some of these very technical trails!  Even Mike Vine was in the mix… making it a solid pro XTERRA threesome secret training in the mountains.  Even Jenny, our third place at XTERRA Victoria and soon to be XTERRA-pro was there with her boyfriend getting some fitness in the TR7.   Further XTERRA presence was evident with Mike Kloser and Michael Tobin crushing their division in the TR7 race.  I was fortunate to ride with them for a short while on Day 3 before they dropped me.  They aren’t getting any slower.

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Fast ladies!

The most important detail of the weekend is HOW I won the races.  Given I have not been on a mountain bike at all in the past month, nor have I trained properly for mountain biking this past winter, my technical ability is not at my best.  I will admit I improved solidly after three days of crushing single track but really I saved each day by putting time on my challengers on the ascents, only to lose masses of it to their superior descending skills.  I am so impressed with how great the Canadian girls ride and I appreciate how awesomely talented they are.  Those skills have less utility on the XTERRA circuit so I have put a lot more time into getting to the top of the mountain versus getting to the bottom, and it showed.  Luckily the weather was perfect and my skills were adequate to get to the bottom safely and quickly in the mostly dry conditions.

I was fortunate enough to be sent a brand new shiny Superfly 100 by my badass sponsors Trek, Bontrager and Shimano.  The wonderful thing about this bike is it rides just as nimble as my hardtail but has a whole bunch of bump erasing travel which made me look like 10x the rider I really was on the downhills.  The Bontrager Team Edition 29er 2.2 tires worked like magic in all conditions over the weekend.  That bike is an incredible weapon and I was having so much fun I think every photo has a big smile in it.  I really do enjoy mountain biking so much even when I am scared out of my wits on gnarly trails like Rumplestumpskin (a downhiller trail we finished TR3 on).  It was so great to stretch my limits this past three days but you won’t see me at an Enduro any time soon.  My skills do not stretch that far.

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Smiling.

The stages were quite short for a stage race with most of my finish times between 2:10 and 2:40 which makes for three very intense days of racing.  This is exactly what the doctor ordered for 70.3 Worlds… as this is approximately the time for the bike portion of a half Ironman and is why I went to this race in the first place.  I am going to test out my ability on flat terrain this coming weekend in Michigan so I hope that some of this climber ability will translate well to my Trek Speed Concept on Sunday.

I also tested some nutrition ideas with my Powerbar products this weekend and felt like my recovery was perfect each day.  I know I felt stronger as the race went on and rode with strong and stronger groups so I think I was getting the fueling right each day.  I did the whole race using green apple Powergels and Perform energy drink and felt great every day.

I have some cool files from my Polar RC3 GPS from each day which gave me a lot of information about my efforts over the weekend.  It is amazing that we were climbing for an hour and forty minutes on Day 2!  I thought it felt so much shorter which is why I never got through all of the water I brought along. 

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It went waaaay up with some easy group riding at the beginning on day 2 according to Polar RC3 GPS.

I was so focused on staying with my climbing partner Edvard that day the time flew by.  Turns out Edvard and his buddy Calle train with Lisa Norden back in Sweden so I was in great company for the last three days. Seems she likes her training partners to be strong and good looking. I like her style.  Unfortunately for him, Calle ended up riding with me for a short while on Day 3 after he found himself almost 20 minutes off course otherwise he was much too fast for me as one of the top 2 early leaders in the TR7 Open Men’s race.  Good luck to both of you over the next four days!  I hope to have some extra cheers from Sweden at Las Vegas 70.3 Worlds this year.

Thank you to Champion System for the awesome kit and the cheers over the weekend.  Thank you to Rudy Project for the multitude of lens options that I chose from over the weekend in the changing weather!  Thanks so much to Arran and Troy at Procity Trek Store Victoria for tuning my brand new rocket ship pre-race – it ran perfectly! Thanks to Jamie Grimes at Synergy Health Management, Markus Blumensaat at Leftcoast Health and Rob Pearce for the biomechanical tuneups – I am feeling like I am starting to get back to my old self finally!  Thanks to Powertap, USANA, Esi Grips, and Saltstick for the support.

Finally thanks again to Adam Zucco for the coaching advice and putting up with frustrated Mel while she was making her way back from injury.  I am a handful and I am lucky he stuck it out.  I’m glad to see we are definitely trending in the right direction at this point in the season.

Here is a fun recap of the last three days. Thanks for reading.:

 

2012 Fireroad Cycling 100km Dirtfondo – Cedar City, Utah

Cedar City is a town of about 28,000 in the southwestern corner of Utah near to St George and the Zion national park.   The ski resort Brian Head is nearby as is Southern Utah University.   It looks a little old fashioned with its soda shop in the drugstore, tons of knickknack stores and a cute little main street.  Those are juxtapositioned against the new aquatic facilities and the Starbucks.  Cedar City is, as it turns out, is a pretty sweet place to train.  The Multisports mafia have known that for years as Cedar City was their altitude training grounds when Paula, Heather, Roch and Paul were in the thick of triathlon domination.  Now they run training camps out of the city which you might want to try.  I went for a one day training camp for the Fireroad 100km Dirtfondo which is exactly as it sounds: a 100km grandfondo on dirt.

Dirt Fondo : Fire Road Cycling

Despite the fact I train full time, 100km on the mountain bike still sounded daunting, especially given the majority of the ride was up over 9000 feet of elevation.  However, with Beaver Creek on the menu one week later there was no time left to get my butt in shape and this event fit perfectly.  If you imagine an organization experienced in putting on events with 2000+ people, you’ll see why this event was so excellent in terms of logistics, athlete care, and organization.  A super pro race with a grassroots type feel was enjoyed by all of us. 

I did see quite a few XTERRA t-shirts milling around over the course of the weekend so it looked like quite a few people had the same idea that I had.  This race was perfect training both for the mountain championships that are coming soon as well as the US Championships that will be held in September.  Nothing like some massive big climbs to whip your butt into shape for races with massive big climbs!  Kudos to you XTERRA types for doing some smart thinking.  The race was also excellent prep for the numerous Leadville 100 competitors who will be racing in August.  Jay Prasuhn from Lava Magazine is one of those brave souls who came to the Fireroad 100km to tune his engine.  I think the event helped all the Leadville folks to test their plan going into their main event so if you missed it this year you might want to add this one to your plan.  They also offer a 25km and 60km option if you aren’t sure you want to ride that far.

My plan was as follows: try to win the KOM on the first 7 mile climb and then try to stay with whoever I could for the rest of the day as long as the pace was comfortable.  Mike Dannelly from American Interbanc put up $1000 for the fastest man and woman up the hill which motivated the suffering.  He kicked my butt up that climb as well so next year I need to try to win the $ and beat the sponsor!  J  Thanks Mike!!

After Fernie I was actually quite technically adept at the fireroads 😉 Photos by @lavamagazine’s @jayprasuhn Continue reading “2012 Fireroad Cycling 100km Dirtfondo – Cedar City, Utah”

2012 Furious 3 Mountain Bike Stage Race: Fernie, BC

Instead of a RGTV episode this week, I am going to share with you some excellent videos from the Furious3 race I just visited this Canada Day long weekend. The Ride Guide was there filming and their videos are much much better than mine!  If you are only going to watch one, check out Stage 2 where you can see that crazy bird that I think everyone was playing “chicken” with on the trail.   So funny!

This was my second visit to the spectacularly beautiful town of Fernie, BC., a coal mining town tucked far back in the eastern corner of British Columbia. The race included three stages that all started and finished either in town or within 10 minutes of town so it was super easy in terms of staging and was so professionally organized.  It was a super event that should definitely make your wish list.  I am looking forward to the race in Moab this September which is going to be a key training component in my lead up to the World Championship in Maui.  I think all you XTERRA types that are racing US Nationals in Ogden should consider the Moab race that starts right after.  The event will definitely set you up for Worlds perfectly.  Check out www.furious3.com and consider your options.

For Furious 3 Fernie, some of the trails we rode were familiar from Transrockies TR3 last year but most of it seemed either new to me or in the opposite direction from the race last year.  The biggest change was the weather: WET.  Last year at TR3 was primarily DRY.  Weird summer weather has created massive flooding all over BC and very late melting in the snowpack so even if the actual weather wasn’t terrible, the area was just plain WET.  This made conditions difficult in terms of technical challenge, mechanical challenge and was challenging my mental fortitiude in the first two stages.  However, Day 3 was sunny, there were only a few massive mud bogs and I think my skills started to almost improve so by the end I was learning how to ride again. 

There is no doubt these races are important to my offroad triathlon toolbox.  Especially in years like this one, where I choose to spend a lot of the winter improving my riding on a time trial bike, I am missing the technical skills I usually gain in winter from riding my mountain bike in the sloppy wet conditions.  My technical skills on a mountain bike started out horrible/embarrassing on Saturday and approached just average on Monday.  By the end of my next stage race maybe I will be able to ride the gnarly like a pro again.  Maybe. For this weekend Mical Dyck and Kate Aardal put on a clinic on how to be fast taking first and second spots and I ended up in third but a distant not in sight third place. Very fast riding by those two.

Stage 1

My first race on my 17” Trek Superfly 100.  I rode an XTR 40/28 front chainring which was an excellent choice for doing legpress and getting strong but if you don’t ride professionally you might want to race the steep stuff in Fernie with the smaller 38/26 option.  With bad legs I struggled the first day with lack of momentum! Read more for the rest of the story… Continue reading “2012 Furious 3 Mountain Bike Stage Race: Fernie, BC”

2012 Test of Metal, Squamish, BC

The Test of Metal 67km in Squamish has never been my race.  It is the scene of my worst crash ever (some giant dude took himself out on top of me at 50km/h) and it is always very suspect weather… well, whenever I show up for it.  This year was no exception.  Except this time I had the OPTION to NOT participate when I knew it would be more advantageous to have an ark than a mountain bike and still I chose the bike.  Glutton for punishment.

Although this wasn’t a key event on my schedule, I find that longer mountain bike races do a great job of boosting my fitness on the bike, both for XTERRA and for Ironman events, so I thought that maybe jumping in and riding the event would be good for the legs.   I have been feeling decidedly off for weeks now and I am pretty fired up to get my butt back up to speed.  So there was a 100% training motivation going into the race regardless of my result. 

I was testing some new fun tires from Bontrager so I was feeling like a badass going into the event on my Superfly 100.  However, I didn’t bring the right mindset to assault that course.  I do think I made some good decisions on the day but here is how my reasoning went. 

I was there for training but it seemed I was only interested in SO MUCH punishment.  Hence a DNF.  I am almost always a finisher regardless of my ability on the day, so when I drop out of a race there are some major factors involved in that decision.  I am never proud of abandoning an event.  I think I wasn’t commited to this race in any kind of meaningful way in advance so that certainlyinfluenced my decision at game time (“I don’t HAVE to do this…”).  There are very few good reasons to DNF but some of mine, although numerous, seem compelling, so get a wheelbarrow because this pile is enormous.

  1. I have been riding a hardtail on the pavement pretty much exclusively for the entire season.  XTERRA does not have any technical in it no matter how gnarly they try to say a rock in the middle of a four foot wide piece of singletrack is… therefore my skills suck ass.  Period.  Riding down the deathplunge from Satan when your granny panties are pulled up to your nipples?  MIssion Impossible.  OMG I was screwed.  I saw the rest of my season flash before my eyes….during those moments I wasn’t mortified with embarassment of how terrible I was riding.
  2. Did I mention when I wasn’t on a hardtail rolling a multiuse trail I was on a TIME TRIAL bike… I think just BEING on that kind of bike is erasing any skills I may have had in the past in order to make me a proper triathlete.  What has happened to me? 
  3. It was 95 degrees and a billion percent humidity for the last two weeks at my last two races (well, half was the Hawaiian and half the Virginia version of effin hot) so coming back to Westcoast Winter is a boot to the head in comparison.  I froze to death an hour in and couldn’t get going.  I soldiered on for 2 more hours after that but I was only moving at the glacial pace that my frozen legs would allow.
  4. I went to this race thinking I just need a race to kickstart some fitness.  I didn’t care about winning I was just hoping to get tugged along by the field.  Unfortunately, the conditions required more “sticktoitness” than I was willing to provide so the DNF option was pushed to the center of the table on the first climb.  Not a good way to go into a 67km race.
  5. I am tired.  Tired triathletes are slow and that race is very hard for a tired and slow person.  I decided I was too tired, cold and, after watching one too many massive crashes on that descent, too chicken, to train on Saturday.  I was out… sadly quite close to the finish but it didn’t matter.  I was done. Live to fight another day.

I don’t claim to be the best technical rider in the world but really, I can ride at least somewhat competently when I am on and when I am really on I can ride some gnarly stuff.  However, being off the singletrack for this long and going into conditions that are some of the most challenging possible was not the right re-introduction to mountain biking.  I have no idea what I was thinking on any level.   Really, I just wasn’t thinking straight at all.  Mountain biking has a huge mental component and when that is missing.. yer dun. 

On the positive side, I did have a super fun weekend in Vancouver with MC hanging at a fancy hotel downtown, doing some shopping and some coffee drinking. We also had one night of awesome sushi and another night with friends at Cru restaurant (which is insanely good!!) so all in all a great Vancouver experience.  I don’t get over there enough so that was special.  I also had a great long run in Stanley Park the next day.. but maybe 2 hours was too long.  I felt great but I should have taken the rest of the weekend off.    Instead I have a DNF and now a cold.  Dagnabbit!

Of course Wendy Simms won because she is an outstanding mountain bike rider in British Columbia when you consider her insane technicals skills added to her cross speed. Congrats to Kate and Brandy and Mical for taking the next top spots on the podium and making it an exciting race…that is impressive.  Thank you to the Squamish rescue fellow who insisted that I ride back with your jacket.. I was trying to be a tough guy but that saved me for sure on the ride back.  Thanks to Keith Nichol for being an awesome guide back to the start so I didn’t do a thousand loops to nowhere since I didn’t even know how to get back!  I am excited to learn Whistler will have an XTERRA on July 21-22… and I plan to know how to mountain bike by then. 

Next up is the Tour of Victoria event followed by the Furious 3 mountain bike stage race.  Hoping that I come back to life by then because F3 is like 3x the Test of Metal in a row so I better put those granny panties away.

2011 Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race, Brevard, NC: Stages 4+5 and Overall

Stage 3 seemed like the turning point for me.  It was a shorter stage with a little bit easier technical challenge so I started to inch my way closer to the 40+ elite men at the front and the more days recovery from the USA XTERRA Championship in Utah the better my legs were getting.  I also find having a carrot dangled in front of me makes me ride faster both up and downhill so as I got closer to the men I would ride faster to stay there.  I was still taking it a bit more conservatively than I was proud of on some of the downhills but what I considered conservative was starting to be faster.

It is funny how different the mountain bike community is and how different mountain bikers within that community are.  Mountain biking has the endurance junkies like Jeremiah Bishop who are spandex, heart rate monitor wearing yoga participators.  Not much different than a triathlete.  Then there is the other end of the spectrum:  the wool jersey, baggy pants, rigid, singlespeed, singletrack junkie that would probably prefer to shuttle the climb.  This race had both ends of the spectrum and everyone in between.  Including a dude on a Pugsley who couldn’t seem to get the start times right as he was late more often than not.

Our household had its first show of blood with Fred gashing his knee to the kneecap on his stem after running over a camera lady.  That shows how technical the descent was as running over a person looked like a better line than what was on the ground.  He had a visit to urgent care and emerged with four stitches and a knee that looked like it was 9 months pregnant with a white squirrel.  Nasty.  Needless to say he was still finishing and planning to win anyways.  Nails I tell ya!

Stage 4: Promised Land Loop 39 miles, 8000 feet climbing

Yes, 8000 feet.  That is a first for me.  So are any stages above 30 miles so 39 miles and 8000 feet, wow.

This was the mother stage according to all those who figured they knew what they were talking about.  Apparently this was the stage that would have all of us begging for mercy by the finish and hallucinating before we got there.  I was pretty sure I was hallucinating when randomly in the forest some dude with a banjo appeared on one of the switchbacks of a climb but he really was out there 30 miles out in the middle of nowhere.  Awesome!  I think this was also the stage with a beer feed zone?

This stage started pretty crazy with us climbing the super steep Black Mountain climb connecting to a trail called Turkey Pen.  To give you an idea of how hard this intro to the stage was it took me over 90 minutes to ride 7 miles.  Ouch.  It was so worth it though as Turkey Pen was loamy, skinny, steep, rooty, twisty awesomeness every time we went downhill.  Sadly, we had to go up vertical goat paths to get to the downhill which did mean a bit of hiking for about 2-3 minutes at a time.  I was with both of the top singlespeeders for a lot of the race and saw how hard they had to pedal which completely eliminated any whining I might have done in my 28×36 as I think they were riding a much bigger gear with no options.  After we finished that first 7 miles the race started to open up and included another dose of Squirrel Gap Trail which I crushed compared to Tuesday.  I had a decent battle with the top Open Man that day but he dropped me on the last climb from the horse stables.  My main competition in the women’s race was Karen Potter but given she chose to ride a hardtail for this race I feel like she might have brought a knife to a gunfight.  The funny thing is that I always put the same amount of time on her no matter how long the stage so I was probably going out harder and dying whereas she was staying the identical pace throughout the day.

4 hours and 56 minutes of pure rad awesomeness later, I was in the creek for a dip and still in the lead.  Same goes for Fred and Shawn and Kate was all smiles again after the stage.  She was also eating pretty much nonstop from morning to night which was one of the other insane things I witnessed during the week.  I had to be careful not to leave any of my toiletries lying around lest they be mistaken for dip.

Stage 5: Transylvania Loop, 42 miles, 6,400 feet climbing

The last stage was far and away my most favoritest of them all.  I had the hot tip of leaving clean/dry shoes and socks in the first aid station which made the 40-odd F day much more bearable after EIGHT full dismount creek crossings.  That is right, we did 8 ice baths in the first 15 miles and then got down to business climbing up Laurel Mountain.  Did I mention how cold it got the last day?  Heather was an angel to lend me her winter riding gloves which I appreciated so much the whole day.

The race started with a road section that Garth assaulted from the gun.  When I found myself in the break I felt it necessary to stay there just for the heck of it and was happy to see my legs were the best of the whole week.  When Sam, Jeremiah and Adam caught Garth Prosser and I we were not far from the first piece of singletrack.  At about 7 miles I was in FOURTH.  Yeah baby!  However, as we stormed downhill I was passed by four more of the top guys who I followed to the aid station at mile 15, sadly losing time at every creek crossing.   This was the only day I had a chance to be in front of the evening’s sponsor at any point in singletrack:  Sycamore Cycles’ Wes Dickson who was racing pro as well.  I struggled a little with getting on and off my bike on the Laurel Mountain climb because I chose to ride new shoes with brand new cleats which were a bit tight in my pedals.

Those moments of mild frustration were quickly forgotten when I started the descent on Pilot Rock.  Lots of big rock features, and tight, rooty switchbacks are right up my alley.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was pretty happy with it all.  It was so ridiculously radtastic.  Thom from cyclingdirt.com was on that descent and after an initial moment of camera-shyness caused a dab I managed to clean the rest of the descent all the way to the bottom which earned me a solid whoop from the white squirrel as I rode past him on the rock garden.  After another road section we rode to the Avery Creek trail and the uphill singletrack leading to that descent proved to be the cracking point of some of the boys in front of me as I rode past three guys there and never saw them again.  I have to admit I wanted to beat them so I was flogging it up the last climb on Black Mountain.  I still didn’t catch the super fast Gerry Pflug who has won the police and fire games but I think I got the closest this day.  I finished 8th this stage which was my best finish overall of the race and I still felt pretty darn good at the end.

Big smiles all around when Fred, Shawn and I all won our divisions and Kate won the first check of her pro career.  Not too shabby MelRadders! We celebrated with a glass or two of the Shannon Ridge Zin we all hauled out of there for winning 🙂  I was sad that Kate didn’t own the pie eating contest at the end but she says she is only good for volume not speed.  I did get some fun video of Adam’s battle with the kids, which was good entertainment to end a freaking amazing, hilarious and memorable week.

This race is a must do.  If you think you are badass for riding BC Bike Race and Trans Rockies you can’t actually claim anything until you come and attempt Tom and Heather’s race.  We all look like we have been wrestling cats now with our arms and legs covered in scratches… this is the reason there is a lion in the logo.  You go out there and wrestle the Pisgah lion in the trails.  The Pisgah Stage Race has all the sketchy, steep, gnarly, nasty descending you hope and wish for that you must earn with heart and leg pounding ascents and gorgeous vistas.  195 miles and 29,000 feet of climbing is the badge of badass that all you mountain scouts are searching for.  Go and get some for yourself.  I will definitely be back as the combination of awesome course, incredible volunteers, random trailside memorabilia (including a giant white squirrel, a banjo player, Darth Vader, funny lady yelling in the bushes, and awesome aid station people) and incredibly friendly Brevard locals makes this a world class grassroots adventure.  All the fun and comraderie of a small race organized with the precision of a pro event.  Kind of like TR3 and BC Bike race had a baby… haha!

Oh yeah and all you XTERRA racing people… I am guessing you are going to see some fast bike splits from Fred and Buttons.  The secret to that isn’t so secret anymore!  Kate is a 2nd year rider so where there is a will there is a way to complete this race even if it is technical.  That said, she turned pro in her second year so she is a bit of a freak.

I will be especially happy if this race has carved the legs I need for a good go at the XTERRA World Champs.  I couldn’t have worked any harder this week and I am feeling so calm and happy about the race.  So now it is time to sharpen the triathlon skills for a short while.  Departure for Maui is only a week away and the big show is three weeks and counting.  So looking forward to our new course!

Thank you so much to Shimano XTR for a perfect performing bicycle all week.  Thanks to Chris Avery for maintaining my Specialized Epic 29er for me, we all totally appreciated all your help!  Thanks to Champion System for my super comfy race gear.  Thanks to Maxxis and the Ikon 29er EXO for smooth rolling every day. Thanks to Powerbar Perform and Pure and Simple bars for tasty fuel on the trail.  Thanks to Nathan Hydration for the hydration packs and Catalyst electrolytes we were pounding every stage.  Thanks to Sundog Eyewear for 20/20 trail vision.  Thanks to Profile Design and Titec for comfy gloves and solid bits and pieces on the bike.  Thanks to ESI grips and Genuine Innovations Race Day Air kits.  Thanks to USANA for maintaining my health and GoPro for helping me document the race.  Thanks to AVIA for helping me look cool NOT running all week, haha!  Thanks to Powertap for the solid preparation for the event. Thanks to Todd and Heather for the invitation to the race… you two are fantastic and thanks to Hunter Subaru for the sweet parking spot for Shawn’s Outback at the awards dinner.  Lastly thank you to Fred, Buttons and Shawn for an incredibly fun week in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I am sad it is over.. until next year!

Now… back to the pool for me.

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 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?

 

TR3: Transrockies 3-Day UCI Mountain Bike Stage Race, Fernie, BC

It has been almost two years since I have raced a UCI mountain bike race and longer since I raced the mountain bike circuit.  Racing in Fernie at the TR3 the past few days was an absolutely wonderful reunion with mountain biking in an absolutely stunning venue.  I was lucky to stay with Martin Vale’s family (1996 Canadian National Mtb Champion) along with Carter Hovey and his wife Tina (1995, 2001 and 2003 Test of Metal winner and her a former pro triathlete superstar), Roddi Lega (2004 Canada Cup champion badass) and Specialized teammate Max Plaxton (2011 Canadian National Mountain Bike Champion).   Needless to say the bar was set VERY high with that cast of superstars.  Max won every stage and the race overall while at time of publication Marty and Carter are within seconds of the Open Men TR7 lead after a 12 km detour on day 2 with a broken bike.  There were such incredible athletes and people all around me and I really enjoyed time with Tina and Marty’s wife Marlene.  It felt like a summer vacation at their beautiful ski-cabin style home.

I was excited to finish in third overall after the three days.  I was consistently strong and I felt I got stronger as the race went on.  In particular, my descending improved significantly by the end of the race.  I was working hard to climb well on all stages and ride all of the singletrack.  I was not surprised that Mical Dyck took the overall as she is an incredibly strong athlete who has destroyed this race twice in the mixed team event.  Catherine Vipond took second overall showing her form for the upcoming UCI World Championships is right on track and Jean Ann took the spot right behind me.

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Photo credit @ Transrockies

I have Aaron McConnel and Dan Savage to thank for bringing me to Fernie to compete in the event.  I am sure my form for the upcoming XTERRA National Championships is going to be all the convincing the XTERRA crowd will need to see that this event should be on everyone’s training cycle for the race in Whistler September 4th.  I wasn’t the only XTERRA regular on the startline as Cal Zaryski finished 3rd overall in the 40+ men’s event and was very impressive on all three stages.  He is going fast!

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