Thursday, August 4, 2011
This summer has been ideal. I've had more time at home during June-August than ever before because I've been 100% focused on the NUE Series. Even though the travel load is still heavy, the NUE series expansion into more western locales has allowed me to board airplanes less.
Pierre's Hole 100 stages out of the Grand Targhee Ski Area right down the street from my house in Victor. Even though I already have 4 wins in the NUE series, it's personally very important to me to show up and support this race and the expansion of the series to my neck of the woods. When else will I get to sleep in my own bed and race an NUE? Most importantly, I need a quality course/singletrack fix before I numb my mind/body/soul with the Leadville course next weekend. The Pierre's course will definitely suffice.
Pierre's will be tough. We're talking 16,800 feet of climbing and most likely a 10-hr day for me. But that day will include so much sweet riding, so many amazing views and heck, I get to be out there with so many of my friends, I can not WAIT to race! Because it's a rough and very tough 100 I'll be racing my Edict for the first time this year in an NUE. That first of 4 trips down Mill Creek will have me singing the full squish's praises, grinning from ear to ear. That should compliment the crying for my momma feelings during each of the 4 trips up the heinous 18-20% climb out of Bustle Creek.
Namrita O'Dea home with me from the High Cascades 100 and she's been a super good sport keeping up with my exciting (i.e-very boring) pro lifestyle. She's upped her tolerance for cold-stream soaking to a full 13 min. Eddie and Dejay showed up a few days later and now it's a full house of the type of folks I love most.
Playing host is pretty dang fun. It opens your eyes to new possibilities and gives you a fresh perspective when you have to choose the best of the best of your trails, local hideaways, national parks and tourist traps for your visitors. It also reminds me that I'm fortunate to live in such a beautiful place with very nice singletrack.
The tough part about being home and hosting bike racers is the temptation to go out and ride too much. That's exactly what I have been doing. I didn't know it until after, but training peaks told me that I rode 21 hours the week after High Cascades. Oops. Oh well, totally worth it with views and trails like this:
Mathematically, it seems I sealed up the 2011 NUE Overall Series win at High Cascades, so the pressure is now off. I set 2 goals for my season: win the Trans-Sylvania Epic stage race and the NUE series overall. Done and done. Now what? I still have an ambitious calendar, but can now enjoy a more relaxed approach to it all all while recharging for the next 2 objectives: Marathon Nationals and then a full cross season. Until then, I'm signed up for the Leadville 100, the Odgen 100k and the Park City Point to Point. Lots to do, very little pressure.
To confirm: yes, I am doing three 100-mile events in 4 weekends and the last one is Leadville. I'll have to write a whole other post to explain my approach this year. In the meantime, I'm going to satiate myself with super sweet single track for 10 hours this Sat. to make up for next weekend's high altitude road race.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Did I mention it was long? As it's nearly a week after the race I've had a lot of time to digest the day, to filter through the potentially blithering description in my head, to come up with a nice little race report. The rambling will therefore be confined to the following post race interview, captured here on Cyclingdirt. Anytime someone sticks a camera in your face immediately after 10hrs 3 min. of riding, the result will surely be, how do I say...interesting?
Basically, the race report from Tom Parson from Cyclingdirt.org went like this: "The women's race was less dramatic, with an ever-improving-and-becoming-more-terrifying Amanda Carey riding away from local Alice Pennington at the 60 mile mark for the win."
I can confirm that's essentially what happened. Alice sat on my wheel until mile 60. She finally took the front for a bit but started to fade pretty quickly, so I punched it, got a lead and grew my gap to about 17 min. by the end. Drama only ensued for me when at around mile 91 I knew my mileage was off on my Garmin, and the "Oh my lord my brain is cooked, I think I am lost" fear was raging in my head. It just so happened that I came across a course marshal during that time who wanted to send me in the wrong direction, asserting I needed to go down to the swampy aid station again rather than towards the finish. Nope. Not true. Even though I had been riding for over 8 hrs at that point, I knew I was right.
But, I decided that stopping and debating the issue with her would be worth the time loss....so I made sure she was wrong and I was right. Then, I went on my way for the longest 18 or so miles of my life. Having a 100 miler come in at 108 made it even harder. I did mention it was long, right?
I had never done any riding in Bend (except for in a city park in very small circles for cross nationals last year) and it was fantastic. Honestly, it all pretty much looked the same, but when all you are doing is riding fast, swoopy but very tight singletrack, it's hard to get bored. The Farewell Trail was by far my favorite and was the one point all day I really let 'er rip. That was good fun. Thankfully, Bend had received a significant amount of rain the week prior, so it wasn't nearly as dusty or loose as it could have been. Last place faces were still abundant, but not as "I've been working in a coal mine for 3 days" dark as in years past.
As you can see here from the photo in which I am using my armpits as hand warmers, it was a chilly start. 38 degrees I think. I ended up riding the first 35 miles in arm and leg warmers and was happy I did it. It was also great to start with my fellow Hammer buddies, Troy, Ben and Cary (not in the picture). Riders from the Tetons took 3 of the top 5 spots in the men's pro division. Cary won, as usual, a week after taking the singlespeed national championship. The fastest dentist on the planet, I swear.
I loved the race, the course, and especially the passion obviously poured into it by the promoter Mike Ripley and his family. Like most NUE events, it sold out, it was very well run, the aid stations were incredible and had wonderful people doing everything for you (bottle hand ups and chain lube services are priceless in these events when you are racing at the front.)
No offense intended to my XC loving pals, but I was grateful to be back in the NUE community after a stuffy weekend of racing at XC nationals. What I love most about these events is the community. Everyone there is out there for more than a race. Most of the 250 racers were not pros. They are mountain bike loving people with day jobs who do these events for the experience, the sense of accomplishment, the challenge of riding 100 miles in a day, to share stories with their friends over a beer (or multiple) post race, to come away feeling like they had really pushed their limits and accomplished something extraordinary that they will remember forever. That vibe pervades every NUE event and I can't get enough of it!
Felt Nine once again proved to be the perfect bike for the course. My Kenda Slant Six tires worked famously and are quickly becoming my favorite Ultra racing tire. Hammer nutrition kept me steadily fueled all day and my Pearl Izumi Octane SL shoes, gloves and thick comfy wool socks kept the critical contact points comfy and happy all day. Did I mention the day was long? Good equipment is so key.
High Cascades was the hardest NUE I have done and I've done a lot of them. There were countless finish times in the 16 hr range. A huge congratulations and my utmost respect goes out to all who finished. It was a very hard course.
Now, Namrita O'Dea and I are just kickin' it at home in Victor, resting, riding, cold-stream-soaking and prepping for the next NUE, Pierre's Hole. The wild flowers are at their peak right now and we've been riding lots and lots of this (typical summer in the Tetons, singletrack):
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
So yup, I was probably the only pro there using the National Championships as a training race. It was actually quite nice going in with no pressure, no taper, no specific preparation. Just show and go. Who knows, maybe I should do this all the time because I had my best XC race result in recent memory. Although I approach every XC race knowing I am capable of a top-10, I don't train specifically for the distance, so it's always a mystery what I'm going to feel like. Getting 7th in such a tough race was pretty awesome, especially because of the nature of the course and the field. Everyone wanted to have a great day.
The women did 5 laps on a 3-mile or so course that essentially went straight up to straight down with one little "power" section in the middle (2 ridiculous, man-made rock gardens. Fun, but really ridiculous). There was no where on the course where you could just pedal. Meaning, no traditional power sections for me to make up time in my usual fashion.
It was basically a race of 5, 9-min or so sustained hill repeats. The hill repeats however were totally heinous. Pure suffering on a doubletrack ski area service road, 100% in the sun, hitting well over 21% grade for some sections. We were then rewarded with a series of tight, squirmy switchbacks on a fast descent (no passing at all) that was extremely loose, rutted, dry and (against everything I believe in having to learned to ride out west) absolutely encouraged blatant, unbridled skidding. There was a cool man-made rock drop that only looked weird before you actually turned into it. Sending it was great fun.
My race was pretty straightforward. As usual, I started the first lap on the first climb way in the back. No way I was going to punch it on the first climb. I simply settled into my endurance mentality and pace and hoped for the best from my legs. I had next weekend's High Cascades 100 on my mind and knew how deep I was willing to dig for a xc race. I climbed as strong and steady as I could, knowing that 5 trips up would take its toll. Granted, I had no choice but to push a big gear. Riding a 29er with a 36 was pushing it for me. Then again, if I had more gears, I probably would have used them and therefore would have gone slower. I kept it to a sane pace on the DH, knowing how fast a mistake could catch up with you on that descent. An out of control skid could definitely send you down a steep side hill. I slowly picked off gals one by one on each of the trips up the climb. I know, shocker. After being as low as the 20s, I made it up to 7th by the 4th lap and that's where I stayed.
The only issue during my race was when I burped my rear tire on the 4th lap down the rock chute. I felt that dreaded tire-to-rim thud/clank and was amazed that it held any air at all. It wasn't until the start of the 5th trip up the climb that I realized how low it was...I decided to just ride it the whole way up and then suss out how it felt on the last descent before I stopped to give it air. I had about a 30-sec. gap on 8th going into the last DH, so I thought what the heck, just tone it down, don't roll it and hope for the best. And the best happened although it did make that last lap a bit more interesting. I finished with about 16 psi....having started with 30. Yikes. Had I realized it was so low, I definitely would have stopped.
Suddenly, I was done. 1:49, that's it? Yup, that's the crazy thought I had at the finish, knowing I still had some left in the tank. It always surprises my brain when XC races are over. The experience actually makes me appreciate both xc and ultra disciplines more....if that makes any sense. It's nice to be done so quickly (xc). But it's also nice to finish a race without having felt like you were going to loose your breakfast (ultras).
People ask me all the time why race I XC when my focus is on 100-milers? Racing XC puts me in touch with my limits. Pinning it for 2 hours teaches me my breaking point. If I never raced XC or cyclocross, I'd never figure that very important reference point out. Plus, XC just plain teaches you how to get around a course fast. Period. It forces you to take chances, to handle your bike well, how to be efficient over time and how to suffer like a dog.
A few also asked why I didn't go to the Breck 100, part of the NUE Series, this same weekend. Mostly because I wanted to go to Nationals in my home state and yes, I wanted to do a new race to me, the High Cascades 100 the following weekend. But more importantly, when there is an abundance of good races to choose from in my already packed calendar, it was easy to turn down the Breck 100, a race that pays the women half as much and half as deep as the men. I think that's a big reason why only 3 pro women went to that race. If you make the statement that women are not important to you, why would we show up to support your race? I can't think of a format more worthy of equal payout than the 100-miler. We race the same course as the men. I'm typically out there an hour longer than the winning man. Equal pay for equal work, eh?
Speaking of, I'm on my way to the High Cascades 100 in Bend, OR. The course and race in general has received great reviews and will be my longest 100 of the year so far. And yes, they are paying equally!
(All photos here were taken by Michael Kane, lifted from Facebook).
Monday, July 11, 2011
The Park City 50 is part of the Utah State Championship Series, a new series that is, I think, setting a new standard for how racing should be. I was happy to put it on my schedule as part of a good training block heading into the High Cascades 100 in 2 weeks. I suppose it didn't hurt that Park City is quite possibly one of my favorite places on the planet to ride my mountain bike. Pisgah is up there, but nothing quite matches Park City's endless flowing singletrack and the sheer volume of quality trails...and it's only 4.5 hrs away. Blink of an eye for this road warrior.
I rented a condo for a big group of some of my favorite racing pals from Jackson: Piker, the Marks (Hershberger and LLinares) and the fastest couple in Wyoming, Cary Smith and Amy Fulwyler. Gabe and Ben Auf. were sniffing around, too. That's a lot of fast packed into one 4 BR place. Racing abilities aside, it was just a great group of passionate, funny, fun and shit-talking individuals, filled with great energy, out to have a good time. But, it must be noted that as a group we won both pro divisions, won the 50+ category, came in 2nd and 4th in 2 expert divisions and if the others had stayed on course and kept air in their tires, well, they would have been up there, too.
I had a simple plan for the race: no plan. Sort of scary, totally out of character, but it was all in the name of a good training day. After a lot of hemmin' and hawin', I decided to ride my Felt Nine with a set of burlier than usual tires, the Kenda Slant 6s, 2.0s. "Burly" being that each tire weights about 725 grams...and I typically run Karmas in a 1.9 that are about 530 or SB8s in a 2.1 that are only 550. I know, living on the edge...but knowing how rocky the mid-mountain trail gets, I wanted to run something heavier. Trying to choose between my Nine and my Edict (26" wheeled 4" dually) is like trying to choose your favorite child. But, keeping in mind that this race was in the name of training for 2 larger objectives (the High Cascades 100 and the Park City Point to Point) the Felt Nine was the eventual call.
Race morning was more casual than usual in terms of warmup...after standing in line for 20 min. for the bathroom, I was 3rd to go when I heard the "1 min. to the pro start" being called over the loud speaker. Dang it, wasn't going make it. I made it to the line with literally 30 sec. to spare with a full bladder, not even having a chance to scan who was lined up next to me.
The race started on a 1 mile climb straight up a fire road. Great for thinning out the pack but not for cold legs. I opened up with a strong and steady pace, avoiding XC effort. I had put a gap the women's field by the time we entered singletrack and no one was in sight when I started to descend. After blowing one corner (man, some of those course markings were sneaky) and getting back on, I was determined to keep my head up. Which I did. Which took me off course anyway.
Why a person would waste any energy to go out and move course markings in a bike race is beyond my comprehension, but that's what happened. Some wanker moved some flags which ended up causing many racers to miss a key turn into the John's singletrack climb. Long story short, my detour caused me some frustration, put about 30 slower riders into technical singletrack ahead of me and erased the gap I had just worked hard to gain. Guys ahead were chit chatting like they were out playing golf and all I could think was holy heck we're in a bike race here fellas, someone please hit the gas. Whatareyagonnado? Feeling my frustration mounting, it was time to pull my head out of my arse, get some perspective and make a mind shift.
Anyone who has gotten lost for any amount of time in a race knows what I'm talking about here: it screws with your head if you let it. It takes the wind out of your sails, gives you something negative to focus on and whether it has consequences on the results or not, it has consequences for your spirit. It can be deflating, defeating and distracting. However, the key here is "if you let it." This time around, moving on was more of a struggle for me than I'd like to admit, but shortly after the first feed zone I had regained my mojo - strong but steady pace on the ups, conservative (and flat/injury avoiding) in mind on the downs - and set out after the solid training day I was looking for.
That's how it went for the rest of the day. I suffered a bit, smiled a lot, did nothing crazy, went for no silly passes on the descents and really just enjoyed not having to ride like a total maniac on such an enjoyable racecourse. I even got to ride with some friends. I erred on the side of stopping to adjust things, to fill my bottles when I probably didn't have to, stuck with groups who were a tad slower than my normal race pace and man, did that really add to the enjoyment of the day.
Did I mention that Park City singletrack is like mountain bike heaven? Yup. It was that kind of day.
I won it in 5:01 feeling fresh and happy. I suppose that's what happens when you are used to 100-milers, but I think it was due to my mellow approach to the day. Over the years I've learned that racing takes a lot more emotional energy than I think. Racing to win takes even more. We can typically feel the physical impacts and the bumps and bruises immediately. However, unless you pay close attention, the mental energy expended is difficult to measure and keep track of. Perhaps it was the giggle-inducing terrain, but I had a very low stress/high fun day. The equal and generous pro payout didn't hurt, either!
A good friend I used to back county ski with would always talk about the meat-to-bun ratio when planning our tours. Meaning, is the powder worth the climb? Is the suffering (the bun) worth the descent (the juicy, delicious meat)? I would argue that the PC 50 had one of the best meat-to-bun ratios of any race, ever. A great weekend indeed.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Although summer is typically about 6-8 weeks long, when it finally arrives it's worth it. Summer in the Tetons is pretty darn magical.
Some single track is finally drying out on both sides of the Tetons. I've definitely been getting my fill.
I went to Park City for a XC race this past weekend. MTB Race Productions put on a great event and it was great to see the Utah gals again.
Out of it, I got a great workout, a reminder of how much XC racing hurts at altitude (especially when you've been at sea level most of the year and you're one week out of a 100-miler). I also got a great, big check. Literally:
I've also done a little...okay, a lot...of lawn mowing.
Lots of sunset walks with Maddy, too. Out the back door, up Game Creek and Moose Creek.
The only thing missing is Nate. He left 2 weeks ago and won't be home for 2 more. It's bittersweet that a job he enjoys so much has to take him away from home (and me!) when it's at its best. He's on his way to the World Cups right now....I hope these photos of what he is missing doesn't rub it in too much.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I was suffering from the Finals Effect from the Trans-Sylvania Epic, big time. I had great energy for the 36 hour drive home during which we spent 2 nights with friends and family in Colorado and rode every day. But, when I finally got home on Thursday, I crashed. Spectacularly hard. I could barely pull myself off the couch for easy spins for 4 days straight. I managed to get out and do a day of volunteer trail work with TVTAP (strained a back muscle, too. Uff.) The really crappy, rainy, windy and cold weather we returned to certainly didn't help the mood. I was in a big ol' recovery-from-a-stage-race hole.
I did my first (and only) hard ride since TSE on Wed. morning and felt decent, so that gave me some confidence that I could somehow pull a 100 miler out of my you-know-where that weekend. I managed enough energy to pack my bike and get on a plane on Wednesday afternoon and was graced with an easy, uneventful travel day.
Thankfully, I had a travel buddy this time around. I picked up Cary Smith, the fastest dentist on the planet, at the airport Thursday afternoon. We wandered through a Meijer (that I swear was bigger than any Walmart I had ever seen) for some groceries and made the 2-hr drive up to our humble accommodations up near Manistee. I'll just call the Northwest Cabins "rustic" and leave it at that.
Cary and I pre-rode some of the course on Friday and ended up riding a lot longer than we wanted to ride. We thought we were being crafty by cutting out on some of the lap...seems the course map we got at registration and the garmin track they posted on line were both wrong, so let's just say that our near 3-hr ride assured that I was good and open from my general slugging around the week prior to the race.
This was also the day my stupid back strain got worse. Must have been sitting on the airplane. It had become uncomfortable to breathe deeply, twist, put on socks and lie on my side. Riding was no good either. I did what I could, Cary re-taped my back with KT tape and I spent most of Friday either on the foam roll, icing, taking handfuls of ibuprofen and praying that I would miraculously wake up pain free.
4:30 am always sucks, but it sucked more when my first breath was painful. I choked down another handful of Vitamin I, drank some coffee and figured if I hadn't gotten an ulcer already this breakfast combination would only help me make it through they day.
The thing is, 100-milers always hurt. Racing in general hurts. I've done enough of these things to know that. But, this one was going to be particularly rough, knowing that, A) I was not quite recovered from TSE B) I was having searing back pain, and C) the only way to ride this course well was to be on the gas 100% of the time.
The definition of insanity, I think, is making the same mistake over and over and expecting different outcomes. What I'm getting at here is that I have been in the position many times where I was in pain during a race, but never accepted it. And the result (and mistake) was that I thought about the pain the entire race and spent valuable energy thinking about how much everything hurt. The thing about fighting it is that it keeps your mind focused on what hurts, not what you should actually be doing to race faster. I have learned to accept when I am feeling bad and to move on. Don't get me wrong, I don't ignore it. I simply acknowledge it, accept it and think about something else....like figuring out a way to go fast, regardless.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Stage 4 Raystown Lake: By far my favorite day of the week.
Stage 7: Parade Day where I give mad props to my hubby/super mechanic:
My own personal video of the 3 Beer Derby. Colt invited me to participate. My excuse was that it didn't fit into my "gluten-free lifestyle." Truth be told, it was nice (and probably safer) to be a spectator for once!