Howdy everyone! Just wanted to touch base, it’s midseason… how time flies when you’re having fun! I just wanted to let you all know how my downhill racing season is going so far.
Sea Otter Classic / Pro GRT 1 I raced downhill and dual slalom. This was my second pro race ever and first dual slalom race. My bike was a tad small for the DH Course I needed a bigger chainring on the Transition scout and on dual slalom I needed less fork. For being on a bit of a mechanical disadvantage I was able to secure 15th in DH out of 25 and 10th out of 15 in dual slalom. It was an awesome experience to race with some of my riding heros and be around such a festival environment. Excited to go back and beat my times next year!
NW Cup #1 was at Port Angeles, Washington. This was a wet muddy practice and qualifying run however it cleared out for race day and was a blast to ride! They had us go down the new trail and boy was it steep and techy at the top. I ended up 5th in my third Pro race event ever.
NW Cup #2 / Pro Grt #2 was also at Dry Hill in Port Angeles, WA. Same conditions as the race before and turned into and awesome race day venture! I improved my time on course from the previous year by 13 seconds and landed in 9th out of 19 women from all around the country. Brakes open and looking ahead!
NW Cup #3 was at Ski Bowl in Mt. Hood, Oregon the track was absolutely perfect, the weather was amazing! The woods were a bit sketchy and slick where exposed roots laid out but I put the rubber down and attained 3rd place.
NW Cup #4 took me to Silver Mountain Bike Park in Kellogg, Idaho. It poured on Friday, stayed overcast on Saturday and was sunny Sunday making the pro track perfect before race time. I hit the biggest drop that I’ve done so far, that I’ve been wanting to hit since last year and got 3rd place in the race.
NW Cup #5 went back to Ski Bowl at Mt. Hood, Oregon. The weather was not as welcoming as it was in previous races. It poured Friday, Saturday and Sunday seeping into the ground. While Cannonball and the upper bowl tackiness was still there, the woods got really muddy and slick. I was off my game and felt like this was the worst I had ridden all season. I got 2nd place but still was a tad disappointed in my time. I look forward to facing similar conditions to push my mind strategy and my limits on the bike.
My next couple races will take me to Yacolt, WA this Saturday to try my hand out in Enduro racing. After that I will compete in the last two NW Cup races at Stevens Pass in Washington. Wish me and my fellow competitors luck! Hope you all are having a great season!!
On Saturday, June 20 I volunteered as a sweep for the Mary’s Peak 50K trail run. Being a race sweep means I stay behind all the runners, making sure they are safe and on the right course, all the while clearing the course of all the signs and markers.
I had looked forward to sweeping this race on my bike because since I started training for the Cascade Creme Puff Fritter 50, I’ve got the crazy eyes for long distance rides. Plus, race promoter Mike Ripley always creates an interesting and challenging course.
This experience ended up being different than I expected, and I learned a lot from both the long hours spent on the course and my riding/volunteering/training buddy, Clarinda.
I drove up Woods Creek Road to meet a group of very fast looking runners swarming out from the Mary’s Peak North Ridge trail head. An army of nicely toned legs and the crazy look of ultra-anything flew past me as I frantically pulled my bike out of the back. Yes, I was a bad volunteer that morning. I was running late and had parked my truck just moments before the racers took off.
After I got on my bike and checked in with Ripley, I joined Clarinda, and we set off for what was to be be a very. long. day.
A word about my friend Clarinda. After working in Minnesota for the past few months, she was back in Corvallis for a handful of days when she was asked to fill in last second as a volunteer sweep the following morning. She said yes, and I was happy to get to catch up with her and chat about what she’d been up to.
We took off down to the North Ridge extension trail. Whoops. wrong turn. Now we see the trail head. That was just a warm-up, we told each other. Haha, right? As we headed up the extension we ran into the 25K runners just bombing down the hill toward us. I always tell trail runners that they have it easier because I can at least sit down on my bike. Sort of a joke, but these guys in particular struck me as seriously aggressive and impressive.
At the end of the extension trail we were back at the parking lot and faced the biggest elevation gain of the day – North Ridge trail up to the top of Mary’s Peak. I think Ripley has fun planning his routes, because as a cycling and running event promoter, he seems to enjoy having his runners run up what is popular for cyclists to cycle down. Take North Ridge for example – rooty drops characterize this switchback-heavy technical climb. Most people choose bike up East Ridge. Buuuuut, this was not a race for mountain bikers, so a’slogging we did go, hoping to finally catch up with the slowest runners and feel like we were doing our job.
Multiple runner-free switchbacks later and reality was settling in – we had ridden only a few miles and climbed just a sprinkling of the 5,000 total feet of elevation. We stared up at Oregon’s highest coastal peak and started asking ourselves questions. Clarinda wondered why she had so readily agreed to this the night before. She pondered on her general tendency to agree to things. I wondered: did I trick her into doing this? Am I a total jerk? Am I going to break my friend? Will we ever see those damn runners? (Nope on the last one.)
My friend Chris calls this “Level 3 fun.” The kind of fun that is often only enjoyable in hindsight and includes a mixture of misery quests, getting lost, and in this case, realizing early you may be in over your head and there’s nothing you can do about. Just finish. Get your butt in the saddle and your feet on the pedals and seal the deal.
Our slog-fest up to the peak ended at a very busy parking lot; in addition to the 50K there was the Mary’s Peak Hill Climb Time Trial. I checked in with my fellow volunteers and then cruised over to the other event aid station. Oh yeah, new station with new treats. These folks did not disappoint, and offered me bowls of full-sized candy bars.
Non-bike related commentary: Different aid stations are much like different houses on your trick or treating route, and getting the full size stuff is like when your mom drives you to the rich part of town and you end up totally scoring.
After making an unappetizing electrolyte cocktail of Gatorade, Heed, and Nuun (taste buds < bonking), I biked up to the proper top of the peak. Riding a figure 8 pattern with a view that spans the Cascades to the coast, I cleared the trail and met Clarinda back down at the parking lot. We reminded ourselves that the hardest climb was over. Down East Ridge we rode, out of the Siuslaw National Forest and into the vast network of singletrack on mostly Starker Forest and other private land. I appreciated the opportunity to discover some pretty cool trails and revisit some that make up the Mudslinger XC race held every April.
Bagging Mary’s Peak may have been the hardest section, but our ride was far from over. After checking in at several aid stations, we realized we were never going to catch up with even the slowest runners. I guess when you sign up for a 50K trail run you mean business.
So, cruising along the course, we had a lot of time to chat and had established a nifty little system for clearing the all the signage: roll up to the tree/fern/green thingy, carefully extract the fluorescent pink and white ribbon from the branch/frond/green thingy, apologize to all fronds damaged in the process, pull the signs stapled to the trees, scoop up mini traffic cones, and cram them into a giant pack on Clarinda’s pack. Slam dunk. Do you know how many slam dunks you can have on a 32 mile course? So dang many. We rode a bit, we cleared a lot. Rode a bit, cleared a lot. This resulted in an interesting cadence and fewer apologies to the greenery as we yanked ribbon, roped off sections, and oh so many little orange traffic cones.
The rest of the ride pretty much followed this uneventful pattern. But the final stretch was most memorable for me. At 4:30 p.m. we rode an exposed, high grass trail called Mohawk that affords a beautiful view of the coast range. We stopped to eat and check in with people via text. Yes we are still alive. Clarinda and I had expected to be done by this time, but all in all we still had another 3 hours to go. As we made the final stretch down the gravel road to the finish line at the Blodgett school house, a truck came roaring up behind us. It was Ripley, rolling down his window and gingerly trying to find an acceptable way to tell two hard-working ladies that they were “balls deep.” Go ahead and say it, I told him. He agreed, and offered to help clear the rest of the course leap-frog style. Yeessssss please. To this day (7 whole days later) I see an innocuous little ribbon tied to a tree in the forest and I scream in my head NOOOO!
A quick late afternoon snapshot on Mohawk trail, in the Blodgett area. Note the exploding flannel in my new favorite accessory, Revelate’s Feedbag.
And that brings me to the point of me writing this post – after riding 10.5 consecutive hours with Clarinda that day, I was amazed by the smile on her face and her super positive attitude in the face of something challenging and frustrating and more than a little tedious. Hours before she had doubted herself, but she was totally fine! In fact, she went for a ride the next day. I don’t always reflect such positivity but she inspired me by her actions. Earlier Clarinda had questioned her tendency to agree to things, but her willingness to get out there is what makes her a good friend for me to learn from. At the end of the ride as we loaded up our bikes, she reflected on many things she learned that day: her limits are far higher than she thought, she isn’t so worried about some upcoming Oregon 24 Hour Race, and she knows a bit more about the right mix of hydration and nutrition on long rides. As for me, I was pretty happy to log so many hours on my bike, since the Fritter could take me nearly that long, and Clarinda’s positive spin left me in a pretty good mood. We never did catch those runners, though.
For the following months I felt pretty frustrated and disappointed. I felt that I could have finished if I would have trained harder, pushed myself more, started earlier etc. I found endless alternate versions of reality where I was able to finish the race. That is when the big question started to appear: would I try again? The answer went back and forth. I knew that I need a break. Training kind of sucked. I wasn’t able to go on fun rides with my friends. I needed to put it behind me.
However, I am thankful that I didn’t leave everything behind. After a month off (mostly due to a terrible flu and moving), Jim and I started to get out on the bike again. After all the misery was cleansed from our psyche, we found that we were still riding close to training volume minus a few misery quests. It was like our bodies had been reset and we now operated at a higher level. I started my PhD that Fall and at first it was a challenge to get rides in. I was teaching, researching and taking classes. To counteract this, I sold my road bike and bought a cross bike so that I could make my commute into a longer ride. We invented the dimple commute, which changed the trek to the university from a flat 6 miles in town to 1,400 feet and about 14 miles on mostly trail and gravel road. It was amazing. It allowed me to get more riding in and experience more sunrises and sunsets. Both are good things.
The following year (last year) Jim and I both logged greater mileage and elevation than our year of training. It felt amazing. No training (see TOE image from part 1 as evidence that sometimes it is good to train for things), lots of fun and more riding. Training for the Puff had unknowingly caused a major lifestyle change. It took such a large goal to create such a dramatic change. Looking back, I feel a little crazy for choosing that goal, but I am better for it.
This spring I was addressed again with that nagging question and I answered yes. Actually to be honest, I momentarily went crazy and when I came to I was holding a free Cream Puff entry in my hand. What happens at ACM should stay at ACM, but it won’t. Instead it opened up a new year of training, misery and challenge. What a good year for it too!
I have more base miles, better routines, an amazing team and the best race support (since Jim says he will never try again he has made it his mission to make sure that I cross this finish line). I will even have Bridget out there with me again! So here it goes. I have officially started my homebrewed training plan. Wish me luck and if you feel like you can force me to actually do training stuff (what are intervals?) or just want to have some fun please come ride with me! Or if you feel up to it, join me out there in August!
Sometimes it isn’t about the end goal. Sometimes it is about the work you put into it during journey. I am usually a fan of making hard but attainable goals, however, in 2013 I set a huge goal for myself that walked the line between attainable and unrealistic. I had been mountain biking for 2 years. I was consistently riding a few times a week during the year and even more during the summer months. I had done one race as part of a 6 person team at a 24 hour race. I was obsessed with mountain biking and I wanted to become better, so my husband (Jim) and I decided to sign up for the Cascade Creampuff (organized by our very own Michelle). For those of you that don’t know, that is 100 miles and almost 20,000 ft of climbing. Seems like a reasonable next step right?
Jim and I both knew that we were taking a big step, but we were fully committed. We signed up for early season races, started putting in mileage on the road bike and spending LONG days on the mountain bike. We became competitive with each other as we sought out longer, crazier routes in our local forest, the McDonald-Dunn. Our routes started to look like a toddler had taken a crayon to the map. It was fun and it was miserable.
The first BIG task was the Test of Endurance 100k. The Test of Endurance had over 10,000 feet of climbing which included a rooty, steep climb up Mary’s peak on the North Ridge trail. This is a trail that any sane person only descends. I managed to survive the race. I didn’t make the best time and I came in last in Open Women, but I finished. I felt like I was limping to the finish line because my muscles were cramping like they had never cramped before, but I accomplished my first long race.
After that, the base miles continued. Longer rides, better nutrition and more electrolytes. A friend of ours shared her homemade “salty tang” sports drink recipe and it changed our lives. It banished cramping forever! We experimented with more “food water.” Eventually, the race day details started to come out. I knew I could do it with unlimited time, but I wouldn’t have unlimited time. I was worried, but I tried to hold on to the hope of finishing. I would tackle it with all my might.
A few days before the race I went out on a fun ride to relax. It was a beautiful day and I really needed it. After that much training, all I wanted to do was ride for fun. With only a few minutes of descending to the trailhead, I went down hard. I still have no idea what happened. I was “just riding along” and then I hit the trail with a scream. Nothing was broken, only an impressive bruise and some pretty good scrapes. Those scrapes would be my war paint for race day.