Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

We've found a use for some spare parts, medals, and such that were just sitting in the garage to make our Christmas tree decorations a little more unique...
I hope you've had the opportunity to get a ride in or two in between enjoying family and food.  Today I finally got to ride in the sun and dry conditions!
And don't forget to have fun and "screw up" a family photo or two! :-)

Hoping Santa's sleigh has a bike rack...

God bless...


Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Something Different - TBF MTB 50 Miler Team Relay

So a week prior to the TBF 50 Miler, Jen and I were hiking with our friends Peter and Allyson.  Peter and I were out front and as we were talking we thought it would be fun to do the race as a 4 person team with the girls.  We knew Allyson would be up for it, but how would we convince Jen?  Her awesome staff would be able to handle the timing while she does one lap so that wouldn't be the problem.  She has only ever done one race, a triathlon about three years ago, and she hasn't ridden her mountain bike in nearly two years since before she broke her foot.

Me: "Hey Jen!  Are you in for something fun?"
Jen: "No!"
Dang... too smart for us guys...
Peter: "Allyson's doing it too!"
Allyson: "I am?"
Jen: "No!"
Peter: "We're all doing it together and it'll be fun!  Plus there's drink's and food afterward!"
Jen: "Does this involve bikes?  What are we doing?"
Me: "Each doing one lap of the MTB 50 course (insert puppy-dog smile face).  It's only 12.5 miles."
...long pause...
Jen: "I'll have to check with Bill and Mark..."
Me: "Sweet!  That's not 'no'!"

I don't think we tricked her... we're not that smart.  But some serious peer pressure and puppy dog eyes were employed :-).  She worried and stressed herself out about it all week but eventually just left it up to me to make sure her bike was ready to go and I would tell her when to fuel and with what so she didn't have to worry about that too.

Race morning came and we were out there way before Sunrise setting up.  It was a bit colder than we would have liked, but then again it is the end of October!  We were rewarded however with a beautiful sunrise over Folsom Lake.

Allyson would lead us off for the first lap and she did fantastic on her Santa Cruz Juliana.  She laid down a lap time of 1 hour and 12 minutes before handing it off to Jen for lap two.

I set off to intersect Jen at various parts of the course to make sure she was doing ok and to take some photos.  But I'll leave the recap to her, in her words...

Yep... Clint's summary of how I was talked (bamboozled?!) into doing the MTB 50 Mile race is actually pretty accurate! (I'm always on my guard when Clint and Peter have been plotting.) It's been almost two years since I've even ridden my mountain bike, and I've barely had time to ride my road bike; I don't even have a "base" fitness level at this point. (See babe, I read your posts about training and "base" fitness!) I spend most of my weekends being with athletes, not being an athlete.  
I coordinate all aspects of registration and timing for TBF; I oversee a fantastic team of ~12 ladies who get our athletes signed in, and help gather split/finish times. I absolutely love what I do, and I love the team I work with. So to be honest, I was struggling to leave my "happy place" in the timing tent, and put myself out there to compete as a bona fide participant!  

But peer pressure prevailed, and after getting the race started with my timing team... I found myself in bike shorts and a jersey, freezing cold, eating a Hammer Gel, and waiting for Allyson to come across the line for the tag.

She came tearing around the corner, we did an air-high-five, and after failing to get clipped in quickly (so much for race-pace), I was off!

Thankfully I had very little traffic because the 4-person teams had started last. This helped me get comfortable with my bike, and remember which levers switched which gears. :-P  

I know Clint can recall every line, every berm and and every rock he comes across during a race... but to be honest, I was just trying to survive! Clint went out to different points on the course to take pictures, and make sure I was still alive. I tried to pretend like I could actually ride my bicycle, and not spend toooo much time walking.

The race leaders lapped me around mile 7, and I was so paranoid about holding up someone who actually knew what he was doing, that I pulled over early and often to let guys pass. I also figured it was good karma for all the times my hubby passes people out on the course. :-)

When I'm outside my comfort zone, I compensate with wisecracks and jokes, so I worked my way through the miles by yelling things at my TBF road-safety friends. Quips included "are you freakin' kidding me, I'm only at mile 3?!", "I can't believe we use our perfectly good income to pay for you to do this sort of nonsense!" (when I saw Clint), and "I have a new way to diagnose insanity... anyone who does this race as a solo rider." But in all honesty, I re-gained so much admiration for everyone who is willing to go out, and be in a situation where they stretch themselves to do their best. TBF emphasizes helping people live an active lifestyle, and being out on the course made me enjoy my normal support role in whole new way.

I finally got through the technical sections, across the levy, and to the fire road climb to the top of the water tower hill. I definitely walked up part of that hill, and I was really starting to get tired. But I pushed on for the greater good of "Team Kicking & Screaming" and after coming back from the turnaround I was dumped onto the pavement. My one true moment of "racing" (as opposed to "surviving") came at this point. There was a guy on a flat-pedal bike (I'm sure Clint could tell you the manufacturer/model for said bike, as well as every type of component it had... but I don't have a clue!). We were on a straightaway and I knew I was getting close to the finish line, so I put my hands on the handlebar aero-style, put my head down, shifted up a couple gears, and passed him. Yep, my one moment of glory. :-) 
A few more turns, and I FINALLY came around the last corner to see my timing staff cheering for me, and Clint waiting for the tag with the world's biggest smile on his face. I was too tired to fist-bump, so after an exclamation of "great job buddy!"... he was gone. It had taken me 1:35 to do my lap. (Spoiler alert: As I had predicted, Clint's lap time was less than half of my lap time. Yes, less than half. I'm going to chalk it up to the fact that he has a carbon bike and I don't. :-P Yep. That was definitely it!) 
It was fun to compete with my close friends, and my best friend... but I wouldn't exactly say I'm hooked! (Sorry babe!) There's room for only one professional athlete in our family, and I love volunteering and cheering so much that I think I'll stick with that calling. 
So on that note... racer-Jen out... and I'll see you at the finish line with cowbell in hand. 

When she polished off her lap and handed it to me, I set off in a dead sprint on the 1/4 mile of DG before hitting the trail.  I needed to warm up... even with coffee and a Tropical Hammer Gel (also caffeinated) I couldn't get my heart rate above 68 as I sat in the relay tag box spinning backwards!  I hadn't ridden the Granite Bay trails in a while, but they were still buffed and really, really fast.  I was feeling surprisingly strong and the Highball is always a perfect choice for those trails.  The course took us in the counter-clockwise direction which is reverse from normal so the corners don't quite have the dirt pushed up in the right spots, requiring just a bit more attention.  However the nice thing is that there aren't braking bumps this direction.

After a little course extension over to the Oak Point camping area for no purpose other than to get more mileage  I finally hit the fun stuff that snakes through the trees on sandy hard pack   I was sprinting out of the corners and having a blast but remembering to stay relaxed and just keep the flow.  As I came out of the woods to skirt around the "bench hill" I popped up off a little rock mound to clear the few feet of rocks that lie after it, but slightly miss-timed the boost and flew nose heavy until I landed back on the smooth trail.  It wasn't quite a nose-wheelie-endo-save but it was closer than I would like for just cruising at Granite Bay!  Just a reminder that I still needed to focus.  I pumped the corners on the little descent down to the road crossing and made my way over the sand to Doton's Point.  There I'd get back into the trees and started to catch some more people.  I rode all of the granite rock patches and rutted climbs on this section of the trail without incident and kept on truckin' back through Beeks Bight parking lot and looping towards the bench hill again.  On the last rock feature before the short climb up to the bench, I hit the top rock to jump the whole thing (a trick I learned from my DH skilled buddy Jared Kessler) and in the air noticed I was flying a bit farther than I'd planned on and slightly off line for the left hander coming up.  So I had to land with the bike already in a left-lean and back pedal a quarter turn to get the right pedal down quickly to make the turn onto the double-wide planks (something you don't want to miss!).  No problem... except that backwards pedal while landing caused my chain to come off.  As I rolled on I manipulated it with the derailleur to get it back on just in time to start the climb up the hill, passing two more riders.  On the ridge I caught another rider as I got to the most difficult rocky patch to climb in this direction and I had to take a different line than normal.  I didn't quite make it and had to dab, oh well.  I made the pass shortly after and hammered down the descent, finishing it off with a two wheel drift into the final 'S' turn, banking my rear wheel off the base of the tree in the center and catching the tail of the banking on the exit... FUN!  After that the course took some traversing singletrack, road and fire road transfers to the south and then up the water tower hill... which always hurts.  After the descent from the tower the course went out and back on the fire road and on my way out I saw another Folsom Bike racer Christopher Holmes coming in the opposite direction (can't miss him with that lime green Niner Air 9!).  I was just about to razz him and holler "Don't let me catch you Chris!!!" But as he got closer I saw it in his eyes... Oh he know's what's up... :-).  I made the U-turn with about two miles to go and kept up my nice steady effort until I made the turn onto the open parking lot where I could see that I was closing on Chris up ahead.  He entered the last singletrack about 50 yards up and I couldn't help myself, he looked like he was tired (this was the end of his 4th lap!) and needed the extra motivation to finish strong... "Chris don't let me catch you!!!"  I could see that he threw down some extra effort after that but I still closed right up to him with two corners to go.  We rounded the BBQ party area to cheers and after the 90 degree left into the finish shoot we both sprinted to the line but there just wasn't enough real estate left for me to pass.

Way to finish strong Chris!!!  That was fun!  I was shooting for a lap time between 45 and 50 minutes and I pulled the fastest lap of the day in 46:35.

I handed my "baton" to Peter (actually handed him my spare tube because I only remembered one 29er tube!) and he took off for the final lap aboard my ENVE equipped Tallboy (not bad for a loaner bike eh?).
He turned in a good lap at 55 minutes and had a blast on the bike, commenting that it just pop's up over things effortlessly... yep!

I had a blast just racing for fun and supporting my teammates.  And I'm SO proud of Jen for getting out there and doing her best.

We won the four person coed relay category too!  We were the only coed team but so what?!  Woohoo!!!

Huge thanks to TBF for a super fun event, very well marked course, ordering up some good weather, and for the three kegs of beer to choose from (Racer 5 IPA mmm mmm good!), bbq and awards afterwards!  Hard to beat that!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tahoe Fat Tire Festival - Sierra Cup XC Series Finals and Coaching Clinics

Last weekend Squaw Valley opened up its slopes to host the reincarnation of the Tahoe Fat Tire Festival. This event has been dormant since 1999 (back when I was 260lbs... before I was even riding bikes) and I think was long overdue for the return. There was a big lineup of events... a five event MTB stage race starting with Short Track on Thursday, Hill Climb on Friday, XC Saturday morning and DH in the afternoon, then a Super D to wrap everything up on Sunday. I was in Las Vegas for Interbike all week so I wasn't able to make it up for the weekday events, but I was certainly on the line for the Saturday morning XC race. This final race in the Sierra Cup XC Series would cap off a long list of events that began way back in May, and I was leading the overall points.

So, kind of a side note here but I'm oddly excited about an idea I had to do something productive with all this time I spend driving to races. I'm learning Spanish! I figured it would be a good use of my time instead of scanning for radio stations in the middle of nowhere. So after a two hour drive up the hill to Squaw, entiendo y hablo un poco de espanol. :-) Yeah... I'll keep working on it... back to the bikes.

 As I headed out for my warm up and to check out the course a bit, I stopped to talk to race promoter Kevin Joell and get an idea of what lap times might be. The course would consist of one massive climb up the main service road covering over 1100ft vertical gain and topping out at over 7400ft before turning down some pretty rugged and loose singletrack. We were slated to do 4 laps, but Kevin decided to make a change so that our first lap climb was just about to the half way mark. I hadn't ridden nearly all week due to travel so I wasn't going to argue. I set out to warm up on the shortened first lap course to help me decide which bike I would want to race. After about 100yds in the granny going up the climb and seeing it get steeper even after the half way turn-off, I was certainly leaning towards the Highball.  Making my way down the second half of the downhill, my choice was confirmed as there weren't many places I would need to be pedaling over very rough terrain while seated.  As usual, the WTB Nano's would be the tire choice but this time mounted up to the WTB Stryker wheelset.

We lined up and joked a bit about this being one of the few races we wouldn't be starting in the big ring.  Finally the "3-2-1-GO!" was given and we were off in less than dramatic fashion.  "What... nobody's sprinting?!"

We got to the business of climbing right away and I put my head down and went to work leading the group and watching my heart rate.

A younger racer went by with some youthful spunk... we've got to do this four times bud, but I'll hang here off your wheel anyways.  We crested the rise just before the lap one cut-off and Michael Hosey went by, but we both ended up being stuck behind the leader on the downhill for a while until there was a clearing.  Michael and I stayed together on the downhill, though I hung back just a bit for the dust to clear.  For lap two I was planning to slowly close back up to him on the climb, ride together for a bit and then maybe attack on the upper part of the climb if it felt right.  But when I was almost caught back up, he pulled off to the side and was stretching his leg and looking like he was in a bit of pain.  "Cramp?" I asked.  "No."  Hmmm... I kept chuggin' along wondering what it was and expecting him to come back any time.  Turns out he had to DNF with a pinched nerve he's been dealing with.  No Bueno (see... Spanish!).  I looked over my shoulder and that same climber from before was coming on strong so I just kept a good pace and he caught me about half way up the hill.  I hadn't yet seen how steep the upper section was so I wasn't quite ready to put out a ton of effort.  He asked me to stick with him, "Nah I'm pacing it..." I just let him go but kept him in sight and I had already figured out I could close the gap on him quickly once we turned downhill.  By the time we reached the top he had about 50yds on me, but it only took about an 1/8th mile of rocky, loose singletrack before I caught him and he let me by on a steep section that he was walking.  The upper part of the downhill was pretty awesome with some nice banked turns and plenty of rocks and little ledges.  Also tossed in the mix were a couple steep pitches you really had to make sure to set up correctly and then just let 'er roll.  The Highball was rockin' it and I was having a blast!

This trip down the lower portion of the downhill I got to really rip since I didn't have any traffic except for a few junior riders who were very courteous in letting me pass.  So as I started up the climb on lap three I think I already had a big gap to 2nd.  I got dusted out by a few resort service trucks on the climb but it was otherwise uneventful and I kept a strong pace and made sure to keep sipping the Hammer fuels that keep me going.  I was rewarded on the downhill as the trail had been buffed out by all the other racers so it was even faster and more fun.  I had a fast, clean run nearly all the way down to the bottom when I slid into a left hand switchback like previous laps and on the shady exit... PING! PING! Double rim strike!  DOH!!!  A rock had been moved into the trail by other racers that wasn't there before.  I wasn't looking for it and the shade hid it from my vision.  I didn't hear anything for a couple feet so I thought I had gotten lucky, but then it came... that cyclical "PSSHS, PSHSHH, PSSHSHHSH" of air rushing out of the tire as it rolls.  Dang.  I stop to figure out which tire it was, the front.  Thankfully it wasn't both!  I swished the tire around hoping the Stan's would seal it up, but I couldn't remember the last time I'd ridden this bike and there probably wasn't enough in there to do the job.  Heck I didn't even wash the bikes the night before!  I sprayed them off in the morning before I left and let them air dry on the back of the car on the drive up!  That's what I get for traveling or working all week and not having any time to do the little things.  Air wasn't running out too fast so I decided I'd rather try and make it down to the bottom and fix it there instead of on the rocky trail.
 You can see the flat front tire in this picture.  The last two off camber corners were a bit tricky...

I made it down to the start finish line and then set out to put on a "how to fix a flat" clinic.  It just took a couple minutes and a good shot of CO2 donated from a spectator and I was on my way again with 2nd place still not in sight.  But with a bit of a break for my legs, I pushed the lap four climb hard to try and get some lost time back.  I actually ended up having a bit of a battle with some guys going up the climb though... but they were in dually pickup trucks!  Two passed me about 1/3 of the way up but then they got to a narrow section and had to stop behind some racers.  When I got there, the second truck was stalled and couldn't get started so I had to skirt by between it and the cliff edge to the right.  When I got to the next corner the first truck was pulled off to the side and I passed by him again, but just to get dusted out by another truck coming down the hill.  A couple more switchbacks and here they came again, passing by on the left giving me a nice dose of diesel exhaust and dust.  But then they had to go slowly behind some other racers that I was catching as well, and I passed by the trucks for one final time on the left before finally reaching the top to start my final descent of the day.  I just kept it smooth and protected my equipment to ensure the win.

I came across the line in just over two hours but I somehow still managed to win by over five minutes.  With this win I also took the eight race series victory to become the USA Cycling Northern California and Nevada Regional Champion.  Woohoo!!!

But my day at Squaw wasn't done just yet.  I would have the privilege of conducting two MTB skills clinics later in the day and to be a part of the festival.
Clinic description from the Fat Tire Festival website.
About fifteen riders showed up for each my clinics where we broke down the different fundamentals of riding into drills.  I bet they didn't think they'd be doing MTB skills drills in a parking lot, but I've found it's best to instruct, at least initially, in a non-threatening and controlled environment where they can focus on what they're feeling on the bike.  We also talked about bike set up, preferences, and how to attack certain trail features throughout the clinics.  And finally we capped it off with a little gem of trail I had found and I guided them down a downhill switchback, over a rollable bolder and through a sandy rock garden.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the class and I really enjoyed sharing the experience and knowledge that comes with riding a bike way too much.  It's always great to see someone (or 30 people!) progress in confidence and skill in just a couple hours time and how someone's face lights up when they get the "feeling" of proper technique.

Friday, September 28, 2012

2012 USA Cycling MTB Marathon National Championships

Two years ago I don't think I knew what a "Marathon" mountain bike race was. Then I saw a post race interview with JHK after he won the 2010 Marathon Nat's and he looked more worked than I've ever seen him, with salt stains on his face and saying something like taking a few days, maybe a week off to recover. Must be pretty tough. Then last year Marathon Nat's were moved closer, to Bend, OR, and I put it on my calendar to race but it didn't work out. Well the race was still in Bend this year and I was able to make the trip up there with my buddy Ron Shevock who is crazy and would race it on a single speed.

 I hammer out some pretty long training rides and have done some tough, long races like SoNoMas but I've never done an "official" Marathon MTB race. USA Cycling defines the category as any MTB race between 37 and 62 miles. So actually I guess the Sea Otter two lap course, at 40 miles counts and the 50 mile races I've done at Granite Bay would too. But those don't quite seem to fit the category and weren't ever designated as "Marathon" events. Regardless, I just like riding, and racing, my bike for a long time so I was up for it.

 Ron and I set off to the North on Thursday morning to try and get up there in time to pre-ride the second half of the course before dark. I had never ridden in Bend, or Oregon for that matter, so I had done some research trying to figure out which bike I'd want to race. It came down to a choice between helmet cam videos which showed pretty smooth looking dirt and not a lot of rocks and the advice of 2011 champ Adam Craig advising the full suspension 29er is best because it is bumpy pedaling. I chose to go with Craig's advise and brought the Tallboy equipped with some fast rolling ENVE 29xc wheels and WTB Nano tires.  And I just put on a sweet new Thomson seatpost with the WTB Silverado Carbon to lighten up the bike just a bit more.  As Jen always puts it, "That's grams man!"  :-)  After about 8 hours of driving we pulled into the Wanoga Sno Park lot and geared up for our first pre-ride.

The course would start out on a service road that seemed to go on forever...
 With Mt. Bachelor in view...
But then we got to the good stuff quickly when we diverted and rode the 2nd half of the course...

After a few hours we arrived back at the car.  The analysis of the course could be summed up in a few words: Dusty (really, really dusty!), sandy, bumpy, and fun.  I was really happy I had brought the Tallboy.  And then I was even happier because we found a sushi place for dinner...
Friday morning we headed up the hill again and rode the first half of the course.  As soon as I hit the pedals I was feeling a LOT better than I did on Thursday's ride.  So I was trying hard not to overdo it, but this part of the course was even more fun so it was hard.  It was not as dusty or loose and it wound about in the trees and had some really fun features and downhills.

Ron just before aid station 1 at mile 10.
Railing some turns in the tight trees...

Cleaning one of the bypass obstacle lines near the top of the climb...
 Ron fell off... can you see him?
Catching a little air on the sweet descent...
 Ron totally spun out on the way back down...

So the analysis for this first half of the course was that it was just super fun no matter what bike you were on.  Just fantastic trails!  My Highball would have been OK here, but I definitely wasn't held back by the Tallboy.  There were still quite a few spots where we were climbing up sections with braking bumps and it was nice to have the squish.  

Ron had sliced a sidewall on his rear tire so we found a shop to mount up some new tread and then we cleaned up and prepped the bikes for race day.  Oh and in since we both felt so good for Friday's ride, it must have been the sushi, so we ate there again that night.  If it ain't broke...

And then we got lucky... rain!  While I was in my sushi rice induced comatose sleep, Ron was awakened by thunder during the night and gave me the good news once I became vertical.  Our hope of precipitation was confirmed when we went outside to a damp parking lot and the unmistakable smell of wet dirt after a fresh rain.  Sweet!  When we got out to the race venue I could see that the dirt was nicely tattered with raindrop spots.  This was going to help out so much with the dust.  I got suited up and loaded up my pockets with Hammer Gel, Perpetuem Solids, and mixed a couple water bottles with HEED.  Fueling was going to be so important, well it always is, but especially for such a long race.  Jen's aunt, Judy, had drive down from Idaho to watch and help out with my feeds so I gave her the instructions on what I wanted at which spot.  And to prove I've learned at least one thing this year, here is a photo of me doing more than a "squeeze test" tire pressure check before I roll off on my warm-up!
I warmed up for 20 minutes or so and still felt flat.  It was hard to get the heart rate up to and over threshold.  Dang.  It just wasn't going to be a day where I had that "extra" pop.  Oh well... commence diesel mode! 
We got started and the pace was fast but not a sprint.  Then it picked up a bit as we curved through some sand and up the first climb and a lead group broke away.  We got a little strung out in the middle of the pack as we sped down the first open road descent before turning right onto that long service road.  The lead pack was maybe a hundred yards up or so and I grouped up with a few other riders and we worked together for a bit, and then I just ended up pulling the rest of the way back up to that lead group.  Maybe it was a waste of energy but I wanted to make sure we got back up there.  The road kept at a "false flat" incline for a while and when we got to the next rolling climbs I expected the pace to pick back up again for the leaders but they held back.  It was a nice break and we all stayed together until we made a right turn at about mile 4 and up a loose and sandy road and then they took off.  As I mentioned before, I didn't have that gear, so I had to just watch them go as I kept my pace.  It was going to be a long, long race so I wasn't going to panic.  After this gradual climb the course lost elevation quickly and then I made the turn up the "sandy climb of death."  
This pitch is a 20+ % grade for about 100 yards.  We skipped this in our pre-riding to save energy so I hadn't seen it.  There was some pretty deep sand but the Nano's floated nicely and their continuous center line tread kept me straight.  When it got steep there was a firm line on the right that everyone was taking and I caught right up to some guys but there wasn't room to go around without making a risky pass in the sand.  So I sat in and waited until we crested, saving my energy to make the pass before we hit the switchback turn into the singletrack.  I wanted to pass everyone I could before getting to the singletrack and made it around a group of three, giving me a nice clear view of the trail for a while.  This was "Vista Butte" trail which would gradually climb while generally following the hillside contour.  By the top I had caught another small group of three and we headed down a fast downhill.  One rider made a pass and got away and I was getting pretty held up by the two that were left.  I had no choice but to just sit in and relax until we made the turn to the Ridge Loop trail at about mile 8.  I recognized one of the riders as another CA rider Alex Wild and since I asked nicely, he let me by so I could try to overtake the other rider as well.  I wasn't able to get that done in a safe place, but he was motoring ok and we soon caught some other guys before the last descent down to the first aid station.  
Photo Credit: Lasala Images
Judy was right there for my first bottle exchange and it went off without a hitch.  I continued my "diesel mode" pace as we wound about through the trees of the Swede ridge trails.  We were about an hour into the race now and I was starting to feel pretty decent.  As I slalomed through the trees I decided to back off just a bit after tagging one with my shoulder.  I just grazed it but I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks and end my day so early.  Even after toning down my excitement, I would catch up to people on the steady climbs up the ridge line and I made a few more passes while trying not to expend too much energy with about 40 miles to go.  I made use of a couple of the course splits and that ladder at the top of the climb to gain more ground before the big descent.  Finally at about mile 21 the real fun began.  Right away I was held up but he let me by and I was able to open it up and rail some sweet DH for a bit before catching some more guys.  But this was a group of three and nobody was letting anyone else by.  We were going at a decent pace but with the dust we were a little spread out so nobody was really pushing the issue.  It was still really fun and I tried not to be frustrated with the pace.  Once we bottomed out the trail turned south towards the second aid station on some flat but fun, twisty trail with Mt. Bachelor in view.
It was on this trail though that I began to feel a bit off.  I'm not quite sure what happened exactly but I was just loosing energy and getting a bit of a headache.  I figured I wasn't taking in enough water.  It was right at about two hours, which normally isn't a problem for me, but I tanked the last of the HEED I had with me and when I came in to the second aid station Judy was there for another bottle hand off.  I was focused on the one bottle I'd told her to give me there and I grabbed it just fine, but after I passed I realized that she was also holding out a second bottle for me with her other hand if I wanted it.  I should have stopped to grab it... but I kept my eyes up and powered up the short climb and drank as much as I could before needing both hands on the bars for the fast dirt road descent.  This part of the course was treacherous.  It was technically easy, and just a service road on a gradual decline but you could pedal it and speeds were quite fast.  Combining the speed with loose sand, mental fatigue and the occasional patch of loose, sharp rocks or sticks made it a section not to take lightly.  It would be very easy to flat on one of those rocks, or get off line in the sand and go down while trying to drink.  I slid off line at one point in a corner and had to take it wide and was heading right for some loose rocks which I successfully hopped over while the water bottle dangled from my mouth.  Adding to the task list for this seemingly harmless stretch, was that there was a lot of time that I knew I could make up if I could pedal hard and keep the speed up above 20mph.  I was able to pass a couple before turning down the aforementioned "sandy climb of death" which was now the "sandy DH of smiles."  Not much could be said about this part other than WEEEEEE!!!!  It was fun to just let the sand take me where it wanted, up the bank on the left and back down and around the corner until it ended way too quickly.  I was now on the service road transfer section between the two loops and what were fast and sandy descents five miles into the race were now pretty sucky climbs about 30 miles in.  And I still wasn't recovered from my near bonk.  Thankfully they were short climbs and then it was a very gradual descent on sand down to aid station 3 at mile 32.3.  My plan was to finish my bottle by then and hope they had just plain water to hand out there.  This station wasn't accessible for Judy so I just had to take whatever the neutral support was offering.  I was stoked they didn't just have Gatorade and grabbed a bottle of water before heading into the Dinah-mo-hum trail singletrack.  

I had dialed back my pace to digest everything I had taken in and after a couple miles of the rolling terrain I was starting to feel a bit better.  I climbed up some switchbacks and over a ridge line trail with lava rock patches, being sure to ride straight over the top and not in between to protect the sidewalls of the tires.  I got to a little DH section of switchbacks which helped get my "spunk" back as well at about mile 35.  I slid into a left hander and popped out the other side... standing... pedal pedal SMACK!!!... My left pedal hit a hidden rock in the silt... (begin slow motion)... the bike's rear end picks up and swings right and I start a "helicopter" which is immediately stopped when my seat slams into a tree on the left... THUD... UMPH!!!  The handlebars and stem slam into my pelvis, the left shifter digs into my quad, and I'm over the bars and dive face first into the loose dirt... 

...silence... the dust clears.  I lie there a second and think, "That was spectacularly bad... and I don't feel any pain.  OK."  Still expecting some part of my body to signal to my brain that it doesn't work, I look back at my bike and see the seat completely twisted to the left.  Hmmm... wonder what else is broken, it would be a long walk back from here.  I untangle myself from the bike, get up and pull everything to the side of the trail.  I inspect myself, nothing is torn, nothing is bloody.  Just a little bit of pain starting to set in where the bars hit my leg and pelvis, but everything is operational.  Looking at the bike, everything looks ok except for the seat.  I bust out my mini tool and get the seatpost turned back... oh... hmmm... yeah that's still not right.  The seat post was bent left about an inch and a half and the seat was tilted left due to a broken rail.  Everything was still tight though so I figured I could go on.  The handle bars were also twisted to the right but not too bad.  I take a few swigs of water, a shot of Hammer Gel and a deep breath.  Here we go... just a couple miles more of trail before I was dumped out onto a washboardy service road which would take me back towards the start finish area for aid station 4.  By the time I got there I was out of water again, I had been racing for three hours, partially bonked, recovered, crashed badly and ridden about five miles in the not-so-ideal body position of slightly off to the left and the edge of the saddle sticking up my... Just about every part of me was saying "STOP!!!" I was back at the venue, I had been through a lot already and nobody would fault me for throwing in the towel.  Then I saw Judy there with my next bottle.  I could still pedal, the bike still worked, only an hour left, SUCK IT UP!!  I ditched my two bottles and took on one more for the final loop and decided I hadn't given it my best yet and I would regret it if I didn't continue.  I took it easy up the first climb and then set off on the first descent to catch the five or six guys that passed me while I was picking up the pieces from my crash.  The trail was rolling, windy singletrack that wasn't too tight so I could keep pedaling with constant power.  I closed on one guy really quickly as we approached a course split.  I was going to go right and I called it out, but he was pulling over for me and said "Damn, I could hear you coming!" I'm not sure what he meant by that.  Was I breathing that hard?  I had just found a good rhythm and I dropped him quickly.  The course transitioned from an open meadow into the trees another good climb where I caught two more riders that were fading fast as well.  I got by before a gradual downhill where I was able to maintain some good speed while following another rider.  Finally we got onto the Tiddlywinks downhill and after making a couple more passes I opened it up for the berms and jumps.  I was putting a good gap on when I leaned it over into a left hand berm by my chain had dropped off the inside of the cranks.  Ahh!!  I was a bit hurried trying to put it back on, which actually made the stop longer and a couple guys passed me back.  I finally got it back on and passed one guy back before cresting the final climb on Tiddlywinks.  The last DH is really fun and all natural terrain with the opportunity to launch off of some good sized boulders.  Which of course I did, because fun is smooth, and fun is fast.  I was right on the wheel of a Yeti rider who was tackling the trail at a decent clip and it wasn't worth it to try and pass him.  So we just shredded the long descent together and by the bottom my triceps and back were feeling it for sure.  

We hit the bottom after over 48 miles and nearly three hours and forty minutes of racing and made the turn up the final climb on "Funner" trail.  It would definitely have been funner to ride downhill, especially in this state of fatigue.  But the end was near and I knew I could do it.  
Photo Credit: Lasala Images

The climbing was fairly technical and rocky in bits which made it hurt even more, but I was able to ride everything and even still caught one or two more guys before I broke out of the trees and into the headwind on the final meadow.  I was trying just to keep pushing as hard as I could and not look at the mileage on my Garmin but it was tough.  I knew the course was about 54 miles and I was so close!  The course wound into another patch of trees and I made my way around a sweeping corner to find some cheering spectators... it had to be close.  Sure enough, one more corner and I popped out onto the pavement of Wanoga Sno Park.  The Yeti rider was about 200 yards up so I knew I had no chance to catch him, and there was nobody in sight behind me so I cruised in to the finish, crossing the line for 16th place in four hours and six minutes.  
Photo Credit: Lasala Images

I didn't get my goal time of under four hours, but then again I didn't have a perfect race.  I gave Judy a big, stinky, dirty hug and a huge "thank you" for being my support for the day.  And after a few minutes of zoning out and chugging water I was able to pose and crack a smile.  Happy to be done.

And here's what I had to sit on for the last 20 miles of the race...

Ron rolled in at 4 hours and 33 minutes for 7th place in the single speed category.  Impressive considering he was running way too hard of a gear and really suffering out there.  We both enjoyed some well deserved post race beverage...

And I want to give some HUGE props to fellow Folsom Bike rider (and shop mechanic) Billy Damon who won the 30-34 category and called it the hardest thing he's ever done!
 So after the race we rolled down to Bend to celebrate with the champ.  Some good brews, Elk burgers and sweet potato fries at Deschutes Brewery did the trick!

Sunday morning Ron and I rolled south at dawn and headed home... but with a little "must do" trail detour.  It was a couple hours round trip out of our way, but the "Dread and Terror" section of the Umpqua River Trail was totally worth it.  Even on a bent seat and post!

This is how single speeders "shift"...

 Here we are starting out at Lemolo Lake.

This trail was super fun and reminded me a lot of 2nd Divide Trail in Downieville.  Pretty technical and slow going on the edge of the river, but the views in the clearings were awesome.

 Some dirty bikes ready for the final drive back home...

CA greeted us with a clear day and a great view of Mt. Shasta for our return home.