Monday, July 20, 2009

Breck 68 Race Report

Good ol' Breck....

Well. It is done. Breck 68 is in the books. Though I guess it ended up being 72 something because the promotor switched the original course last minute.

I was super nervous for this race. I have done a couple of endurance races this year, but they were only around 4 hours long. This race I was hoping to finish in under 8 hours.

The night before I prepared all of my nutrition which included about 16 powergels and Accel Gels, some clif bloks, 2 camel backs with 70 ounces of Powerbar Endurance formula each, and 4 water bottles.

My race started at 10 am so luckily I didn't have to wake up too early. My stomach was in knots and I choked down some oatmeal. I slathered on 2 layers of sunscreen. I paced the condo. Finally it was time and Chuck and I left from the hotel on our bikes and headed over to the start!

Lap 1: 32+ miles (FYI the photos will be of our preride of the course the week before because of a lack of actual race photos :^)

I lined up at the mass start and made sure to make note of my female competitors. I was about 3 rows back which was perfect. The only girl in front of me was a 32 mile racer. I chatted a bit with this nice man next to me who recognized me from the Growler race. When I said I was new to this endurance thing, he offered some advice. He said to just be smooth. Brake smooth, accelerate smooth, smooth, smooth, smooth!!! I definately took note.

Ready to go!!

My start was supposed to be neutral but I'm not sure how going 20mph uphill on a mountain bike is neutral!!! I wasn't quite sure what to do because I wanted to start slow and easy and not blow up because it was going to be a long day in the saddle. (Plus I didn't warm up because, well for obvious reasons :^) I let the front group of guys go because I was sure there were no women up there. We continued our "neutral" start and sped uphill for about 3 miles.

Then I saw a girl wearing Chipotle/Titus go by me who had an "11" on her calf!!! Before the start we had our calves marked for the race so we would know who was racing what. There were a hundred miler, 68 miler, and 32 mile races all going on at once. My category was "11." I had my eye on the Chip/Titus girl and pretty much glued myself to her wheel.... Suddenly we turned and dropped into singletrack. Let the race begin!!! It began at a nice and easy pace which made me quite happy. All the riders were all backed up and there wasn't much room for passing. We hit a dirt road after a bit and I made sure to drink up and have a gel because I knew what was coming.

After a few miles the riders were more spread out and I turned up a rocky climb. A horrible rocky climb. It started out okay but quickly turned awful. I panted for air as we were at about 11,500 feet in altitude. My tires had too much air (ha!) and I bounced all over the place. Almost everyone was walking and slugging their bikes up and up and up. I rode as long as I could and passed a few riders, but eventually succombed to the stupid angular rocks. I didn't want to waste too much energy and so I decided to walk as well. I was extremely aware of the fact that I had 7 more hours of riding to go!!! Chipotle/Titus girl and I were still right together. I got rolling on my bike again and I came to a little stream crossing. No problem, right? Right? Well, were out in the middle of nowhere and there was a big golden retriever sitting right on our line!!! I have no idea where this dog came from, but I managed to squeek out a warning and tried to sound scary (low O2 up there!) but he was a happy little camper in the cool stream. Luckily I was able to slide around him and continued up the ridiculous rocky ascent.
Here is a pic of Danielle climbing from when we prerode this section. The picture definately does not show how rough and rocky and bumpy this climb was.

I was very, very excited to finally hit the top of the climb which was basically at the tree line on the mountain. Downhill time!! I headed down a super cool flume trail on the side of the mountain. Luckily I was in front of the Chip/Titus girl because I could recover, take a breather, and not have her pass me!! If she tried to pass she would fall down the steep slope of the mountain. Yikes!

Another pic from our preride: Scott Chambers starting the descent dow the flume trail.

So a few miles of singletrack and steep jeep road descents later, we turned up again. I was a little disconcerted because this was not the course we had preridden. I heard before the race that the promotors changed the course and took out a bunch of dirt roads and added singletrack. Good thing I prerode to prepare for the race! Ha. We ended up climbing singletrack for what seemed to be forever, and I ate and drank, ate and drank, and then finally headed down. This is when I lost Chipotle/Titus girl. I wasn't super comfortable descending on my hardtail and there were lots of tight switchbacks. I tried to relax and be smooth and not do anything stupid. I eventually came off the Colorado Trail singletrack and grabbed a couple of hammer gels and a bottle of water at the aid station and headed onward. I was nearing the end of the lap and we just had a steep dirt road to climb before heading down to the start. I caught Chipotle/Titus girl going up the jeep road, but she passed me on the descent.

Top of the long climb on the dirt road, almost done with the lap!

I rode through the start/finish and switched camelbacks and grabbed 6 or 7 more gels. Thanks to team Topeak/Ergon's Jeff Kerkove who was helped me out at the transition! He thought I was bleeding because I had this dark brown stream running down my leg. Actually, it was just expresso flavored hammergel.... :^) After I sucked down each gel, I didn't know where else to put my empty wrappers but to tuck them in my shorts!! My jersey pockets were packed with full gel packets, so the empties went in the shorts!!! Everything got pretty sticky, but I didn't care!

Lap 2:

I headed up Boreas Pass road and passed Chip/Titus girl for like the 8th time. I cruised along and somehow realized I had missed a turn. The promotor had mixed up this lap as well to add more singletrack and less roads. Like the race wasn't hard enough. I turned around and cursed myself for wasting energy and got back on course. After a bunch of climbing I could see the red Kenda jersey of my friend Danielle up ahead!!! I pressed on for a bit and caught up to Danielle. There is no way I would ever catch her normally, but I found out she was suffering from altitude sickness!!! She couldn't keep anything down and was puking and puking. She wasn't able to keep down any water or food. She just kept trooping along. She is so tough, its unbelievable!

At this point Danielle and I couldn't figure out where the course went. The jeep road we had been riding on turned into a stream. Then there was some singletrack off to the left..... Hmmm.... We tried the singletrack and looked for the orange ribbons that had been marking the course. No ribbons. ? By this time there was about 6 of us pushing up this horrible loose climb. This had to be the course? Danielle and I and Chip/Titus girl hike-a-biked up some unrideable stuff and I angrily decided to take out my race directions from the pack. Shouldn't a course be marked well enough for us to not have to refer to the directions???? The not so good directions said to not cross the stream and the only other way was our crazy singletrack that did not look very travelled, so we were confused. After wasting ridiculous amounts of time, we decided to turn around. Back to where we were. Somehow we found a tiny ribbon marking a hint of a trail. We were back on track after crossing wood planks over the creek (yes we did cross the creek).
Then it was another climb! Surprise! Almost at the beginning there were riders walking. I rode as much as I could and walked a few parts when I felt my heart beating out of my chest!!!!!!!! This awful climb went on forever, and was not part of the original course that we had preridden.

Danielle crossing the beaver dam on our preride.

Finally I got to Boreas Pass Road and knew some fun downill singletrack was to come. I somehow felt good after 5 1/2 hours of riding (too conservative the first lap I think) and was ready to nail it. I had shaken T/P girl on the jeep road and I didn't want to see her again!!! I headed down the GoldDust singletrack and finally felt relaxed and comfortable descending on my hardtail. Fun!!! It was a little weird, however, because it was so isolated and lonely out there. I didn't see many riders at all. Down and down, I crossed a beaver dam and rode on and on over rocks and roots. Eventually I popped out of the singletrack and turned left at the town of Como (population: 3?) for a long climb. With a nice headwind and lots of stutter bumps on the dirt road it was a bit uncomfortable. I did feel okay, though, and drank and gelled up. I was very determined to not see C/P girl sneaking up on me!! I pushed up the climb and saw a marmot on the side of the road. Cute!! Then I passed a couple of whacked out 100 mile men racers. They gave me the goofiest smiles as I rode by and offered them some encouragement. Seeing the state they were in made me scared to do the hundred miler!!!

Windy point near the top of the climb.

I knew when I reached the top of the climb it was only a few more miles of trail downhill to the finish. I could see the finish, feel the finish! I came to the last section of singletrack and bounced over rocks and roots trying to keep a good pace but not lose control. The light and shadows made it tricky to see what was coming. Then I popped out onto a paved road and headed toward the finish. A few more orange arrows to follow and then I rode on through the finish line!!!!!!!! I was pretty sure I had won but didn't want to get too excited just in case. I rode straight over to the Ergon tent and dropped my bike and plopped on the ground!!! I made it!!!! I finished. 8 hours and 34 minutes of riding.

Final section of singletrack before the finish!

I didn't know how I finished until they called us to the podium and announced that I had gotten second place. I was bummed but too tired to feel much emotion. However, when I checked out the race results online the next day, I noticed that the girl who had supposedly won had a crazy 2nd lap time of 2 1/2 hours. It had taken me 4 1/2 hours. I knew her time was impossible as this was a half hour faster than the fastest pro man's time. I emailed the promotor and they looked into it. Turns out the girl had to turn around at an aid station and skip the second half of the lap because she missed the cutoff time. They fixed the results and I moved into first place! A little anticlimactic I must say. Oh well!

So there it is. Done! I have to give super props to Danielle for finishing the 100 miler after being so sick. Most everyone in the universe would have quit, but not Danielle. I am so proud of her!!! She is a bad ass for sure :^)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Breckenridge 68 Semi Recon

Chuck and I headed out to Breckenridge for a couple of days to ride the Breckenridge 68 course. We have never done a mountain bike race this long and wanted to get to know the terrain a little better. Plus, the race will take place at an altitude of between 9,500 and 11,500 feet, so we wanted to get our lungs acclimated!

Our first day we decided to ride the first loop of the Breck 68 course which is 32 miles. After heading up some rocky singletrack, we got kicked out onto a dirt road and stopped to check out this old mine. So far so good. After this, we had a little descent on the dirt road, followed by lots of climbing.

We had to take a few liberties with interpreting the race directions because none of the dirt roads had signs. Actually we just had to make a big guess as to where the heck the race could possibly be going.....

Umm...... Yeah..... Well, we ran into some snow. We, however, were definately not going to let that stop us after only 6 miles or so of riding. We were motivated!!! We were not going to let mother nature win.

We also felt very proud of ourselves because we looked to be the first cyclists up the trail this spring!!! No other tracks but huge elk hooves marked the snow.

I am trying my best to keep from walking directly through the knee to mid-thigh deep snow.

After some snow slogging we came upon a lovely stream. A lovely frigid freezing ass cold stream. But that was great news because the race directions mentioned a creek crossing! We were right on track.

After the stream our dirt two track diminished slightly. Our trail became a tiny singletrack thread up the mountain. This pic is looking down the way we just climbed.

The "trail" was not what you would call rideable at some points.

We just kept toughing it out, and somehow the trail became even more slender, a mere hint of a thread, and almost disappeared under the new spring growth. I was impressed and equally terrified that mountain bikers actually raced on this intensely challenging trail. At times there was a stream of snow melt running directly down our trail.

Looking back at the town of Breckenridge. If you look closely you can see the ski slopes way in the background.

The "trail" is now getting above the treeline.

We kinda lost the trail under the snow here. Chuck is going up ahead to see if he can find it. What he found was a nice goat path. Actually it wasn't even that nice.

It was a dead end for us.

We were at 11,800 feet in elevation and finally decided we missed our turn and headed back down the mountain for a few miles.

On the way down we found a rocky trail to the right and thought it may have been the turn we originally missed. Now, except for maybe the first 20 minutes or so of our ride, we hadn't seen a single cyclist. After a few minutes of climbing I looked up and saw a green and black jersey descending down the trail. Crazy thing, we knew who it was!!! It was Sonya Looney, a pro endurance mountain bike racer, whom I had met at my first race this season. She was in Breck preriding the race course for the weekend as well. As soon as we stopped to say hello, we ran into 3 more bikers.

So we were finally back on the correct course, but Sonya told us she had to turn around only a bit further up the trail due to snow that was 5 feet deep.

Chuck and I were not up to more hike-a-biking through snow, so we all turned around and did a nice little group ride back to Breck. Chuck and I rode for another hour on the path toward Frisco so we could get close to 5 hours of riding in for the day. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we only rode about 10 miles of the 32 mile race loop.

I was pretty happy to find out that the dreadfully challenging and not very rideable "trail" was NOT going to be in the race!!! Small victory for the day :^)


Our second morning in Breck we peeled our carcasses out of bed and shoved huge mouthfuls of delicious pancakes and eggs into our faces. We had another big day of riding in front of us. We joined together with Sonya Looney and Jeff Kerkove (check out their blogs for more on their Breck experience) to do some riding on the other loop of the Breckenridge 68 course. The second loop of the course is 36 miles long. Jeff turned off after a few miles because he wanted to ride some of the Breck Epic course. So Chuck, Sonya, and I were left to climb our hearts out.

We climbed for 10 miles or so. Breakfast felt like a brick in my stomach.

Storms looked to be brewing as we neared the treeline. We would occasionally feel a few sprinkles as the temperature dropped.

Sonya and I riding along.

We all decided it was best to turn around now before it was too late and we got stuck in a thunderstorm out in the middle of nowhere.

On the way back we hit some singletrack that was actually in the race course. Lots and lots of roots and rocks littered the trail. It was fun but a bit sketchy on my hardtail.
We stopped to climb on some old mining equipment in the middle of our trail.

On our way back to town we ran into a friend of Sonya's, Mike Nice, who was in the middle of riding the Great Divide race. The Great Divide is a solo, self supported race that starts in Mexico and runs all the way to Canada. Mike said he was doing the race backwards and started in Canada, and that he was 1,100 miles and 2 weeks in. Plus he was riding a fixed gear single speed with flat pedals and no front suspension. Ouch. And Wow! Humbling, for sure.

We rode for a few more miles on some sweet singletrack near town to get 4 hours in for the day. All in all we got some good riding in, but only 15 miles of the actual race course! We said goodbye to Sonya and packed up the car to head home.
Back to work tomorrow!!! Thank God for Starbucks......

Monday, May 25, 2009

Out of Retirement and into the Growler

Gunnison Growler Race Report! We have a race report!!!

Well, well, well................We are back! So much for an easy retirement... No more eating pizza and drinking beer, no more eating cheese and drinking wine, and of course we can't get all sentimental and keep reliving the races we did 5 years ago.....

Why not come back out of retirement and do one of the hardest races EVER? Um, okay, we did not know it was going to be so @#*% ridiculously challenging. This race was the knarliest mountain bike races either one of us has ever done.

So I signed us up for the Gunnison Growler about 3 months ago. You would never know how easy it is to sign up for a race that far in the future when the weather is quite lovely (it was especially easy for Chuck who didn't even know I signed him up :^). It was sunny and 60-70 degrees in March when I entered us in the race. Good training weather. However, I'm pretty sure it went downhill from the moment I hit the "Submit Payment" button. Every single day that I had off from work we would get a huge blizzard or it would just alternate between rain and snow and slush and crap for a couple of days. Needless to say we did not get long training days in.

Suddenly, before you know it, May arrived!!!! The Growler was fast approaching and no longer in the distant future. I am definately someone who gets pretty nervous and worked up before races, so about 2 weeks before the race I think my stomach started eating itself. I forgot everything I knew about racing, but then again, I was a roadie and this endurance mountain biking is a whole entirely different scenario. I was at a level about 10% below panic for many days before the race. I don't know what the heck to eat before an endurance event, or what to eat during an endurance event. I only know what to eat after the race, and that of course, would be pizza and beer. Yeah, yeah, sorry, not gonna give that up!

So every racer knows to do a trial run of what you eat for breakfast on raceday and definately what you put in your bottles and eat during the race. In the past I have done a whole lot of criteriums that are no longer than 45 minutes and road races that are about 2-2 1/2 hours, how on earth am I supposed to know what to do for an insanely ridiculous stupid hard 4 hour long mountain bike race?

The answer, of course, would be to put a little bit of everything in my jersey pockets, and whatever I grabbed is what I was going to shove down my throat. Clif bloks? Check. Powergels? Check. Endurox gels? Check. And a weird concoction in the water bottles which somehow ended up with 250 or so calories a bottle? Check.

Here we are after arrriving at the KOA campground in Gunnison, Colorado. This was one of the very few sunny moments of the entire Memorial Day Weekend.

So, we established camp and headed off to preride the course at Hartman Rocks. After a two mile neutral roll out from town, the race was to start up the dirt road in the middle and center of this photo. I know, it doesn't look that bad, but believe me it is STEEP. See the tiny dot of a person before the bend in the climb? He is walking!! Slowly!! Check out the angry sky which would unleash torents of rain to make the road nice and slippery and peanut buttery for the race the next day.

Here I am preriding the course, climbing the two track through the sagebrush before we hit the first section of singletrack. My heartrate would be maxed out here during the race, but little did I know then that this was going to be the easiest part of the race by far.

We ran into Namrita and Eddie O'dea during our preride. They both did the 64 mile Growler and race for Team Ergon. And they are super cool to hang out with :^)

Here is my husband showing of some mad wheelie skills, making the nephews proud.

After the initial doubletrack climb we would drop into this singletrack.

Unfortunately we could preride only a small portion of the singletrack because we didn't want to tire ourselves out for the race the next day.

Chuck is descending the very last little section of singletrack before the race finish line. The wonderful, glorious, happy, lovely, spectacular finish line.

And back at camp.....

Camping did not turn out to be the best idea. Rain, rain, cold, hail, and more rain drove us into a hotel room after the first night of zero sleep in the tent.

This is a petty accurate depiction of the experience on raceday. This mural was painted on the building of a restaurant in downtown Gunnison. One of the awesome race volunteers that we met when we checked in and got our race numbers actually got struck by lightning at this very race the year before. Now that is hardcore! Wow. Glad I learned this fact AFTER I was done racing.

So the race recap: Huge climb, HR 185, climb some more, no recovery, singletrack, rock step up, rock drop off, rain, mud, slippery rocks, hike a bike, rotting carcass at mile 15, death drops of death, 2 second front wheelie of almost death, muddy steeeep climbs, more rain and wind, "Dismount Recommended" signs (yes, I obeyed), exhaustion, a growling stomach (I sadly only had 2 gels and 1 1/4 bottles for this 3hr, 55 minute race), and finally after 32 miles, in pouring rain.......... Done!!!!!!!

I somehow ended up with second place. I thought I got last place because I was suffering like a dog the entire race. I never felt good, except on the easy 2 mile neutral roll out, and I did perk up when I saw the finish line. Chuck handled the technical rocky sections and descents like a pro and ended up with 7th.

All that was left of our race numbers was this little scrap on Chuck's bike. The rain started about 15 miles into the race and wreaked havok upon the course and our numbers. They lay every so often on the side of the trail as they got more and more soggy and finally gave up the ghost. The first half of my poor number 238 is probably at mile 19 or so, and the second half of it hung on for a while, but blew off around mile 23.

Time to hit the road and get back to the Springs.... All in all, it was a successful weekend. We met some very awesome people, did an epic race, raced with former olympians (they all live in Colorado, I swear!), and finally got some new material for the blog.

The grey and purple skies let a tiny bit of sunshine through and highlighted the peaks of these fourteeners on our drive home back to the Springs. Sometimes I still can't believe we live here.