Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sharing Home

Phillips Ridge Trail.

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.

Ferrin's Trail, Jackson, WY

The race I have been looking forward to the most all year is this coming Saturday. The 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.

Snow King Singletrack, Jackson, WY

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.

Showing Dejay and Eddie the local goods on Teton Pass

The best part about having a big race close to home is that all your pals want to come stay. It's been camp Carey around here for a few weeks and it's been a blast. Especially because Nate has been away for yet another 10-day stint with Giant, having good company has been nice. I took 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.

Nam tops out on Snow King

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.

Sunset from my deck

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:

Me, loving the Snow King wildflowers

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

High Cascades 108

That was a long day in the saddle. A great one. But a long one, too.

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 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 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!

Bend trail marker

Another huge shout out goes to my bike, my tires and a few key equipment choices. Honestly, you can't get away with mediocre performance in a 10-hr event and I am endlessly grateful for my sponsors who provide me with equipment that can withstand my abuse. My 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

National Championships (Yes, XC)

When USA Cycling announced that the 2011 & 2012 cross-country national championships were going to be held in Sun Valley, I was stoked. Sun Valley was the first real mountain bike destination vacation location I visited when I was a beginner mountain biker. It's a quick 4 hrs from Jackson Hole and is, for me, a locale that conjures great memories of big group camping/riding trips, super buff, flowy singletrack rides, an endless pathway system and delicious eateries. I even won the Idaho State Cyclocross championships there a few years ago.

The XC race happened to fit in some intensity at a good time for me. I did the PC50 miler last weekend and am headed to the High Cascades 100 this coming weekend, so intensity, not volume, is what I needed as a tune up for my upcoming 9.5 hr race.

Misery loves company.

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.

Exiting the rock garden. No line. Just pedal 'till you're done.

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.

The best 2 seconds of the race.

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.

Doesn't this look like a lovely ride? We got to do it 5 times.

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).

This appears to be exactly where I burped my rear tire....

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

Ever have one of those incredible weekends where the race result was the smallest part of the fun? Don't get me wrong, I love racing and winning is fun. But sometimes having a weekend where the result was just one aspect of a very good time is a reminder that even when your race doesn't go well, fun can (and should) be had.

Is this what mountain bike heaven looks like?

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


I'm totally digging the being-at-home groove. I'm getting a lot done, doing some great training rides and enjoying summer in the Tetons.

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

Lumberjack 100

When I was unpacking to repack for the Lumberjack 100 last week it was honestly the last thing in the world I wanted to be doing, Packing, that is....I was really looking forward to racing, just not the traveling to get there. Although most pros get travel weary, I think my lackadaisical attitude was mostly resulting what my coach and I call the "Finals Effect."

Remember back in college when you burned the candle down to a useless pile of wax, studying, cramming, pumping coffee and (if you were like me) when exams were over, you still found some secret reserve of energy to party like a rock star for a day or two in celebration? Then, when it was finally all over and you returned home to the comfort of mom's cooking and your own bed, you finally relax...and then get sick as a dog?

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.

I used each hike-a-bike to stretch my back. I've never been so grateful for the opportunity to push my bike.

From the start, everything hurt. I simply accepted that was the way the day was going to go and in a weird way, it sort of made everything easier.

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 figuring out a way to go fast, regardless.

The Lumberjack course consists of 3, 33-mile laps on a course that is super-buff, tight twisty singletrack with very little dirt road and lots of short, steep and punchy climbs. I went out hard, wanting to be towards the front as passing would be difficult for a while. I had Cheryl Sorensen on my wheel immediately and from there we traded blows for the entire full lap. A few times I had started to get a small gap, but would always run into the same (singlespeed) traffic, allowing her to catch back on. We went into the first feed together and exited at pretty much the same time, but that's when she popped and I kept going, holding my pace. It was at about this time that I discovered my fork was slowly mile 40 it had ceased working completely. I realized this when I was reaching down to lock it out and suddenly there was no difference between locked and open. Although the course was pretty smooth, suspension always helps, especially in a 100-miler. Just another thing to not think about...

My first lap was 2:28, my second 2:36:08 and my third 2:28:11. Yup, my 3rd was only 3 sec. slower than my 2nd.

I ended up first, ahead of Karen Potter by 17 min. and also set a new course record. I won a really sweet ax trophy and a very generous (and equally paid out) check. But for me, the true victory of the day was that my head, not my body, won. I knew I was tired, hurting and probably not ready to have my best 100, yet I went out there wanting to throw down a sub 8-hr finish, determined to ride well no matter what. The power of the mind is more powerful than we think. As a sports psychology student, learning to harness that power and put it into practice is a fantastic feeling.

Next up? Home. Rest. Sleeping in my own bed. Training. No packing. Cold stream soaks. Grilling on the deck and enjoying sunsets behind the Big Holes. Summer finally decided to hit the Tetons yesterday and thankfully, I am finally home to enjoy its arrival!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Looking back at TSE

After 35 hours on the road, it sure feels good to be home...although it is currently 34 deg. and dumping snow. Good thing it's a rest week!

Stage 3: first day in the leaders jersey and the first day I put significant time into the field.

After having a week to think about my recent adventure and overall win at the Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Race, it's hard to know where to begin. Do I give a blow-by blow account of each stage? Do I talk about all the amazing/inspirational people I met while racing there? Do I approach it from a more philosophical standpoint, rambling on about how I dealt with 7 days of racing on new-to-me terrain in 1-million percent humidity with all my east coast allergies setting my system afire?

Hmmmmmm. Hard to know.

Thankfully, Mike and Ray (the TSE Promoters) did an incredible job of getting their race high quality and on time race reports to all the major cycling outlets. It's making this write up a tad bit easier. Plus, Colt from Cyclingdirt was on scene from documenting all the drama. It's a miracle he survived the week unscathed, riding on the back of a moto in shorts and sneakers, wearing only a bicycle helmet. That's dedication.

So, I've posted video and links to the reports here, along with my short description of each stage.

TT Start

Stage 1: 1hr TT. Rode hard but smart and mostly tried to not blow my head up riding in the east coast heat and humidity for the first time. Happily landed in 3rd and realized how tough the week was going to be.

Stage 2. Long, rocky stage meant the Edict was the bike of the day.

Stage 2: 1st long, hard, steamy stage. Relentless 93 deg. temps and 100% humidity made it even harder. I struggled in the technical bits all day alongside Karen Potter and Vicki Barclay who seemed to just dance through the endless rock gardens. After the stage we realized that my fork was only getting 20-30 mm of 100 available mm of travel. Oops-that couldn't have helped. Anyway, my legs felt great but felt limited by my body temp. and my general frustration with my riding. I put in an effort on the final road section to see if I could sneak out a stage win with out too much added stress. Got me the win and the leaders jersey.

Richie Rich pulling the ladies along day 2.

Stage 3: Gravel grinder day. This was the stage I knew I could do some major damage if I was on. Again, 95 deg. temps made it impossible to go as hard as I wanted, but I did my best to ride strong/ smart in the conditions. Selene and I pulled into the first aid together, where she was contemplating skipping a much needed water refill. After hesitating, I told her to stop and get water and that I would soft pedal up the next climb so she could catch back on. After chillin' until the top of the climb, she couldn't catch back on. I eventually realized I couldn't be nice any longer. I settled into a strong pace for the remainder of the race, wary of the heat so my brain wouldn't meltdown. I won the stage by 7 min.

Leaders jersey presentation. Jeremiah better keep winning because
Conrad really likes being on the podium.

Stage 4: WOO-HOO! Raystown Lake, my favorite stage. 100% machine cut, buff, punchy singletrack, sort of like a 20-mile pump track, on which I got to rail 2 laps on my beloved Nine. I went for the holeshot, got out in front and never looked back. Sue Haywood caught my wheel at about mile 10. We rode together until the start of lap 2 where I was able to shake her, but not by much. I won the stage by a 2 min margin over Sue, but more importantly, 6:30 ahead of Selene and 6:15 ahead of Rebecca.

Stage 5: Mini XC Day. I won't hide it, I wasn't a fan of the format, mostly because we were out there for 5 hours and only raced for 53 min total time. (I suspect that they''ll address that issue next year.) I knew Selene was going to dig deep for the wins, so my task was to keep it upright, stay safe, keep air in my tires and do my best to ride strong while not taxing my body with unfamiliar effort, all while protecting my 14:30 min. lead. When's the last time I've done 10-12 all out min. efforts? Right. The highlight of the day was getting to get to know some very nice people in the neutral ride alongs. That part was awesome. I was bonking so hard by the last race I was bumming hammer gel shots off Vicki. It was the longest, shortest race day of my life!

Stage 6: Tussey Mountain, the Queen Stage. The weather was perfect and turned out to be just a lovely day in the mountains. My plan was simple: ride hard enough to protect my lead, keep the tires inflated, ride well. As we all know, a 15 min. lead in a stage race is nothing as anything can happen (JB lost 8 min. alone at Raystown due to a double flat). Selene went out really hard, so I just sat on until I attacked for the holeshot into the first technical singletrack. I got a gap when I rode up some stuff she missed. From there I executed a simple plan. Ride hard enough on the climbs and roads to get a comfy gap so that I could chill and not ride like a panicked lunatic in the really technical, rocky stuff (of which there was a TON) where I knew Selene could catch back on. It worked. I had about a min. lead going into the ridge trail. As I predicted, Selene caught me towards the end of the ridge and passed me when I blew an up and over move on a tall, fallen log. I caught back on her wheel immediately and we rode together for the remainder of the singletrack. When we dumped onto the final dirt road together, she mentally threw in the towel, telling me she knew her weaknesses and she knew my strengths. I took that as a suggestion to go. And I did, making up an additional 2:30 in the final 4 miles.

Stage 6: Another gnarly stage. Another day for the Edict.

Stage 7: The ladies decided together that they wanted to parade, not race, Saturday's stage. When I got to the podium presentation on Friday night, Selene told me that they had all decided to parade and that I could race if I wanted....nope, no thank you! So, Saturday turned into the best group ride I had been on in a while. We stopped for pictures, relaxed at aid stations, chatted about silly and sometimes deep things. What a great group of women. Strong, smart, inspirational and fun. The dork in me still cannot get over even riding in the vicinity of Sue Haywood. If she only knew how much I have idolized and respected her since I started riding, I'm sure she would consider a restraining order.

Final GC Podium.

I offically won the TSE by 15:08. Selene Yeager 2nd, Vicki Barclay 3rd, Sue Haywood 4th and Rebecca Rusch 5th. The tough girl award of the week goes to Vicki. Don't let her delightful smile and cute Scottish accent fool you. This gal is a terror on the bike, sweet as honey and as humble as they come. Oh, yeah, she also broke some ribs on day one and still rode to a podium spot. I've ridden with broken ribs before and simply cannot imagine having to complete the TSE like that. She not only finished, she never complained and landed on the 3rd step. Holy moly, bad ass!

Final Thoughts:

Gosh, if you've made it this far, thank you!

I know this may not mean much to non-professionals, but as a pro trying to make a go of this thing full-time, I am endlessly appreciative of the excellent media coverage of the TSE. It provided great exposure for my wonderful sponsors, something they most certainly deserve for supporting me so well. It's just yet another reason why this race is so worthy!

What matters to everyone, however, is quality. Whether you are a pro or just want to finish, no one wants to spend a week of their lives and shell out a huge amount of $ for a junk show. The Trans-Sylvania Epic was one of the best run events I have ever had the pleasure of racing. Top to bottom everything was dialed. Everything from the schwagg bag and prizes for finishing, the timing, the course markings, the support at aid stations and at the finish, it was all fantastic. I would go back again in a heartbeat.

The only thing I would change if I went back is I would try to stay closer to the venue. Nate and I decided to get a cheap motel (through a racer discount, which was very nice) because, well, who wants to sleep in a bunk bed above your husband for a week? But mostly, it was the only pet friendly lodging in the area. Maddy is a part of the family and no, she cannot sleep on the porch like the woman at the nearby cabins or at the campground across the way suggested. Although it meant driving 25 min. each way to the venue and then to the podium everyday, it meant I also got to enjoy air conditioning and ice baths. More importantly, I got to escape the east coast allergens for a little bit each day and get good quality rest.

It also meant I got to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, although it did mean cooking on a hot plate and a George Foreman grill all week. I don't regret our travel arrangements for a second, especially because Nate had 2 important perks at his disposal: a bottle shop in the hotel lobby and a hose out front of our door.

Speaking of (as I mention in the final interview) this was a win for Team Carey. Nate was as much a part of this victory as I was. He is a professional mechanic for Giant, so taking his vacation time to work for me for free all week was not only very generous, it was invaluable to my success. However, I think the greatest thing about Nate is about how great Nate is to EVERYONE...I lost count of how many times people told me how wonderful my husband is for helping them out during the week (yes, he helped my competitors, too). He fixed a lot of bikes for free, brought stuff to aid stations for people, helped injured racers and saved many from impending heat stroke. Unbelievable heart on this guy, I tell ya. I thank my luck stars for him every day.

Stage 1 Interview:

Stage 2: My introduction to PA Rock Gardens:

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!