Thursday, August 30, 2007

Big crash, bad timing

As I am walking out of the Hagan singletrack in a daze, while Chris E is pushing my bike, Fitzy says, "I can't believe I am watching you walk out of here on your own". I guess I should feel lucky. Fitzy had ridden down the "Hagan Staircase" before me and had stopped and turned to watch so he had a front row seat for my crash.

My left shoulder and left knee took the brunt of my crash and as I sit here this morning I have about 25% of normal range of motion in the shoulder and very little left arm or left hand strenth. Lifting a gallon of milk for cereal with my left hand was sobering this morning. 800mg of Ibuprofen are taking a bit of the edge off but I am not exactly comfortable. With 16 days until my first 24 hour solo race the timing is not bueno, but hey, shit happens and when it is your time to crash, it is your time to crash. All I can do now is ice it and hope that I heal fast.

I was not trying to be a free-ride super-hero last night. I simply did not know the trail and was going too fast at the top of the series of root drops (Hagan Staircase) and once you start down the series of root drops things only get faster, not slower. I knew 1/4 of the way down that I was going to crash and that is never a good feeling. It is amazing how instinct kicks in during moments of self-preservation and I can remember saying to myself "DO NOT TOUCH THE BRAKES".

Monday, August 27, 2007

E100 - 100k Race Report

Michelle and I were looking forward to the E100 for very different reasons this year. I wanted to have a solid race but mainly I was trying to add some quality training miles while enjoying Park City singletrack. Michelle was coming back to the E100 to face her demons after a DNF in last year’s 50-mile race.

There was a different vibe at the race this year and prior to the race some folks were down on the course design because it had changed dramatically from last year’s. Overall, attendance was down and that is too bad. I am not going to comment on the drama or rumors circulating around Park City about the E100 but I will say that I thought that the race was very well done this year. The pre-race meeting started on time and was concise, the course was brutally hard but incredibly fun at times, I thought the course was well marked and staffed with helpful volunteers, and most people walked away from the awards ceremony with at least something in hand. I also liked the common start/finish line of Park City because it kept everyone together and made it possible to cheer on your friends and offer support after you finished.

Before I jump into it, I want to thank Nate Carey for helping Michelle and I at every pit stop during the race. Nate is a super-fast racer but had decided to crew for his fiancée, Amanda Riley, and sit this one out. Nate was so helpful and encouraging throughout the day. Thanks again Nate!

Joel, Nate, & Michelle post-race

I knew Michelle was going to have a good race when we climbed John’s Trail during our pre-ride Friday and she cleaned almost every root without much trouble. We had a great pre-ride, saw a moose, talked about pacing up the initial climb, and managed to not break anything on our bikes the day before the race. Success! I did forget the camera in the car though.

After a miserable night of sleep (not sure I actually slept at all) the alarm went off at 4am and it was game time. After some strong coffee and a small breakfast we were loading the coolers and preparing for the battle which starts in the dark at 6am.

Go! As we climbed the Park City service road in the dark I could hear a lot of heavy breathing around me and it reminded me that my goal for the day was to ride steady and finish strong. The 1-mile service road spread things out nicely and the fast guys were off the front doing what fast guys do. I settled into a good pace and felt great when we hit John’s rooted, twisty climb where it seemed every corner would claim another victim and force them off of their bike.

Random Race Note #1 – While climbing John’s Trail I met and rode with Team Giant’s Erica Tieszen. Erica is one of the most polite, friendly, and positive people I have met during a race and I really enjoyed riding with her until I decided I needed to back it down a notch and let her go by. I was sorry to see that Erica did not finish the 100-mile race due to missing a turn somewhere on Stage 4 and getting lost.

Two hours and nineteen fast minutes later I was at Aid #1 and Nate was on it. He helped me change out my glasses, helmet, and calories so quick that I passed several folks in transition that had passed me a couple of miles back on the trail. Sweet! Stage two was a blur and it seemed I rode most of it all alone until I caught a small group with about 5 miles to go. I was really feeling good about my pace, my hydration, etc when I clipped a grass-covered trailside rock with a pedal and did a spectacular over-the-bars Superman and landed with a thud. I had to laugh when I thought about what it must have looked like from behind so I stood up, took inventory of body and bike parts, and had a little talk with myself as I pedaled on.

Random Race Note #2 – The E100 course is relentless. I felt as if this year’s course was the hardest of the three times I have raced there. Any 10 or 20 mile section of trail would be a wonderful ride by itself but when strung together by a crazy Russian they can be brutal. And just about the time you are ready to crack, the trail tilts down or you jump onto the rolling goodness of the Mid-Mountain Trail and the mojo returns…briefly.

Stage 3 did not go as well as I had hoped and I think that I might have paid for drinking too little during Stage 2. My stomach started to go south during the climb up Spiro and I had to back off the pace and simply sip plain water for the next hour to get things back on track. Stomach management, when the day is warm, is a challenge for me.

Rolling into my final pit stop Nate was again there to help and to offer some encouraging words. My mental state was good and I was looking forward to “emptying the tank” on the last stage but I knew the initial climb was a beast. When I reached the top of the Jupiter Chairlift a happy volunteer said I was the third or fourth person through. What did he say? Since the 100-mile folks had to do Stage 3 twice and the 100K folks only do Stage 3 once I guess it was possible but I couldn’t believe it. So I asked if he knew how many green number plates (100K racers) had been through and he said zero. Whoa…it took a second for me to wrap my brain around this one. I might be in the lead?! I have never won a bike race of any kind nor have I ever been on the podium. The “training ride” mentality was now out the window and I was racing full speed. I may have got a little too excited though because I almost inner-thigh-cramped myself to a stop while pinning it up the final big climb. Ha! I rode the downhill sections well and kept looking back for the next rider but I never saw anyone.

Random Race Note #3 – when the crazy Russian says that the final 11 miles of the stage “are all rolling downhill”, do not believe him. There was a lot of uphill in the last 11 miles of rolling downhill but luckily I know the crazy Russian well enough to have been mentally prepared for it.

Crossing the line, I wondered if I had won but I quickly learned that Jeff Ward of Jackson, WY had blazed the 100K in 7:14:00. Holy crap that is fast! Having finished her 50-mile race, Michelle was there to greet me at the finish and I could tell by her big smile that she had a good race as well. Michelle went from a DNF due to not making a cutoff time in 2006 to 2nd overall female in 07 in the 50-mile!
As I drank a recovery drink and sat in the shade of our EZ-UP canopy I met several new friends and we shared race stories from the day. As usual, a lot of the best memories will be of the people and not the race itself. There was one more racer in our “group” still out there but it didn’t take long for her to finish. Amanda Riley crushed the women’s field with a time of 11:27:19, 5th overall, and looked like she could have kept going at the end.

Amanda looking happy and strong at the finish (sorry for the blur but she was still going fast!)

The past three weeks have been big so a little rest is on the schedule now before I ramp it up for my first 24 hour solo race at the Ghee on Sept 15th. Woohoo!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

E100 Quick Post

There are no free miles in the E100 and this year's course was as relentless as ever. I am sore like I haven't been sore all season. Here's a quick summary with a full race report to follow:

I finished the 100K in 9:09:22 and took 2nd place overall in a small men’s field. Michelle finished the 50M in 8:06:40 and also took 2nd place overall in the women’s field. A dual podium weekend! Woohoo!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Michelle and I are leaving for Park City tomorrow to race the E100 and my mind is all over the map...but it's all good.

#1 - I am excited to ride myself silly on Park City singletrack this weekend! I love the trails in Park City and we always have fun weekends when we travel to race there. I am looking forward to hanging out a bit with Nate and Amanda while down there. Look for Amanda to do very well in the 100-mile race this Saturday!

#2 - I have completed a rough draft of the 100-mile snow bike race course and it is shaping up to be a beast. Take a look at the elevation profile. However, with decent conditions it "should" be rideable.
The tough thing about planning the snow bike race course is that there are several sections of trail that don't exist until we get snow and they cut-in the trail. This will be a work in progress but I should be able to finalize the course and publish a GPS file well before the race date. I plan to ride some sections on dirt before the snow flies and then ride others on the snow bike and/or snow machine when winter sets in. I am also still planning to offer a shorter course of either 25 or 33 miles depending on how it looks after scouting. I want the shorter course to be "fun" and not a total suffer-fest.

E100 race report on Monday when we are back! Have a great weekend.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Big Ride Day with JayP

My plan for this weekend called for back to back big rides as a build-up to the 24 Hours of Targhee on Sept 15-16. I was stoked when JayP accepted my invite for Saturday's "Around the Block" road ride. Riding with Jay definitely makes 108 miles go by faster...literally. Saturday was also the first real ride with the new Power Tap SL 2.4 and I was not disappointed. The thing worked perfectly even though we got rained on a little.

My average power output for nearly 6 hours was 189 watts and my average HR was 151.

I do wish that the Power Tap had an altimeter as it would be great to see the relationship between the grade and the power output.

When I could catch my breathe long enough to converse, Jay and I talked about snow biking, racing in Alaska, his race plans for 2008, and full suspension 29ers. Jay was riding really strong and I could tell he always had another gear that he never needed to use. Thanks for a great ride Jay!

I am really looking forward to the next few weeks of the season and beyond. I do need to sharpen my focus a bit this week since I am racing the E100 - 100K this Saturday. I am getting my money's worth this year because the 100K course is actually 71.5 miles so I am getting 9.5 miles for free. Ha! That must be Boris' crazy Russian math. Michelle will line up looking for revenge on the 50 mile race after missing the final cuttoff time last year. We always have a great time racing in Park City.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tools to build a faster engine

I started getting curious about power meters about a year and a half ago while riding the CompuTrainer during the winter at Fitzy's. It was interesting to compare my watts from ride to ride and with others riding with me.

Conversations with Lynda & Dave confirmed what I had started to realize. A power meter would be the best way to gauge my fitness during the season, plan my training, and pace myself during specific events or workouts.

The planets finally aligned and I pulled the trigger on a Power Tap SL 2.4 built into a Reynolds DV46C wheelset.
I have been a loyal Polar 720i user for several years and it has served me well. I religiously wear it on every ride and race, download my rides into the Polar software, and refer back to my Polar workout calendar over time. I have a lot to learn about getting the most out of this new tool but for now I am just going to mount it up, ride, download, and observe.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Spooky trail and climbing in a Trance

13 1/2 hours in the saddle over the past three days is part of the reason I feel like I have been hit by a truck. However, the main reason I feel like poo is lack of sleep and it is not becaue I stay up late. It seems that as my training volume increases, my quality of sleep decreases and it has been worse in the past two months than ever before. I have tried several natural sleep aids and so far nothing is helping.

Saturday's mtb ride was part training and part exploration to link up two sections of trail for a future epic ride. Michelle joined me for most of the ride and was riding really strong...again. It has been great to see her make a big leap in fitness this summer.

The exploratory part of the ride was a letdown. The goal was to use Spooky trail as the launch pad to get to the Canyon Creek loop but the North Fork of Pine Creek trail is too steep and "moto'd" to be considered good training. There was a lot of hike-a-bike over softball sized rocks that had gravitated to the center of the steep trough...I mean trail. We still got our big ride in though.

The Red Creek loop at the beginning of the ride just gets better and better and has plenty of tech spots to keep you on your toes.

Sunday's road ride was a mental test due to the strong headwind right out of the gate. I did not set any PRs up and over Teton Pass but I was surprised at how good I felt for my third big day in a row. I decided that I needed a little variety for this ride so I downloaded some Trance music to my Shuffle just for climbing since this ride has about 6,000' of it. I didn't own any techno prior to this but I have to say that the tempo of Trance music is perfect for stomping on the pedals up a big climb.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Time for a binge

No, not that kind of binge! As I rode by the "beer shack" today I wondered if Dicky came through here and drank all of their beer and put them out of business? This abandoned bar is in the middle-of-nowhere Idaho on the way to West Yellowstone.

It is time for a riding binge and today was day one of back to back to back long rides. The plan is lay down three big weeks of training and then taper for the 24 Hours of Targhee. The last big ride of my three week training block will be the 100K version of the E100 in Park City on the 25th. I won't exactly be fresh and snappy for this one but it should provide 9 hours of great race training.

Heading north from Driggs is a great stretch of road with miles and miles of rolling terrain and very few cars. Today's ride was 86 miles with 3700' of climbing in 4:32:00.

Tomorrow will be on dirt.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Don't you love cows?

Stop reading right now if you are:
1) A cattle rancher
2) Related to, or dating, a cattle rancher
3) Studying to be a cattle rancher

Now that SE Idaho has finally received some moisture in the form of regular afternoon thundershowers I was anxious to get back on my favorite singletrack and experience the post-rain buffed-out nirvana known as Horseshoe Canyon.

Sunday afternoon I did get to experience brief sections of perfectly smooth between the countless landmines of fresh green cow poo. Then there were the momentum killing moments while trying to "Yee-Haw" groups of cows off of the trail. And then there were the times I had to screech to a hault,dismount, and open and close a gate that is there only for the purpose of keeping the cows in! Lastly, I was able to relive my love for cows after the ride as I washed my bike, Sidis, and Camelbak which were all tainted by cow poo. Any one of these occurences is tolerable but Sunday's short ride was full of it...literally.

Teton Valley, ID has a limited number of trails and all of the good MTB trails get invaded by cows this time of year. I hate sharing the trails with cows and I realize it is selfish. In addition to the obvious cow poo, they erode trails, destroy man-made water bars, and compete for food with deer, moose, and elk.

If I understand the Federal Grazing Fee correctly, a rancher can turn 100 cows loose in the National Forest for $135 per month. You can barely feed two large dogs for $135 per month! What a business model! Am I wrong to think that if you want to be in the cattle business you should be able to afford to feed them on your own land?

Ok, I'm done ranting.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Guest Blog: Michelle Byers' Laramie Race Report

Saturday, July 28th: The 4:30 am wake-up call came earlier than I had hoped given that I hadn’t slept much the past several nights; my brain was in overdrive thinking about the race. This was only my second endurance race, and having been pulled from the Park City E50 the previous year after missing a cutoff time, I was amped to see how my training was going to pay off in the 2007 Laramie Enduro.

After downing a plain bagel and chocolate soy milk, I lay on the bed and ran through my race strategy in my head. Go out hard and fast through at least aid station #2 to make time on the course hopefully ensuring that I made all the cutoff times. The good news was that it had been raining in Laramie all week, so the trails were well packed and fast as we learned the day before in our pre-race ride.

Dave and I arrived at the race parking lot at about 6:00 am and debated – arm & leg warmers or not? There was a layer of fog that had settled at 7500 feet. It was cool, about 52 degrees but no rain; we decided to err on the side of a little extra warmth after getting really chilled on the downhill to the start line. Our warm-up got cut short when we realized we hadn’t signed, so we jumped in a line that was 20 minutes long, signed in and then found our spots among the hoards of some 360 racers. AC/DC was blaring at the race start, and I was excited but feeling much calmer than I had at the start of previous races; my heart rate was only 99.

Expert racers were off first, and my stomach jumped….as did my brain. Sport racers were next, and at 7:05 am we were off. I began weaving my way through a host of riders up the service road hill…heart rate only at 169…good pace, trying to edge my way up in the pack to avoid the inevitable bottleneck that I soon reached once jumping from the service road to single track. Again, weaving around bobbling riders, I finally found my way onto they single track and I’m off. Feeling strong, legs are spinning well as I find my way through the tree-lined single track…down the technical and rocky hills…I’m thinking ‘this is beautiful trail and nothing like riding at home in the Big Hole mountains of Idaho’. I finally pop out of the trees, cross the two lane road and jump onto the fast rolling service road in the open plains. The fog is still lingering over the course and I adjust my sunglasses to the Mr. Magoo position on my nose, to enable better viz. Making good time, heart rate still in the upper 160s and feeling great. At mile six I hit one of the loose and sandy sections of the course. Next thing I know, my bike is sliding sideways, left foot is out of my clip and holy shit I’m gonna’ wreck. Luckily, I managed to keep it together, ride out through the treacherous ruts, regroup, and get my mojo back. Whew…that was too close! Two guys rode past me and congratulated me for a spectacular save.

As I continue making my way through the immensely diverse terrain of fields, aspen groves, and single track and double track, I realize how much fun I’m having and how quickly the miles are ticking by. This is great! I reach aid station #1 (16.7 miles) at 1:29:00, well before the 2:45:00 cut off time. In addition to going out hard and fast early in the race, I also knew I needed to limit my time spent at aid stations. I knew I had enough water and calories to get me to aid #2, so I grabbed a water bottle from the outstretched hand of one of the volunteers and blew through aid #1.

The fog finally begins to lift and the warmth of the sun penetrates the back of my jersey. The next several miles are somewhat of a blur as the miles continued to fly by, and I continued to maintain a high but sustainable heart rate. Mile 20…my sit bones and upper back are killing me, and I’m having a mental low point in the race. I realize that I have 50.5 miles to go. Then, I catch another female racer and ask ‘How ya’ doing?’ She replies, ‘Not so great and my confidence is shot.’ I tell her she’s doing great and to keep up the good work. I suddenly realize that I feel better myself! Then I remind myself…focus on the small victories…getting up the next rooted, rock laden hill…reaching the next aid station…focusing on when I need to take calories again. With those thoughts in my head, I lifted myself out of my temporary funk and knocked out the next 16+ miles. I pulled into aid #2 (~35 miles) at 3:03:00; again, well in advance of the 5:00:00 cutoff time. I was feeling strong and focused. Much to my surprise, I saw my friend Joanne at aid #2. In my six years of mountain biking, Joanne has always been stronger and faster than I am, so I was jazzed to know that my pacing strategy was working so far. After a quick refill of Heed and water in my camelback with the help of a volunteer, I was on my way in four minutes.

The several miles of trail following aid #2 were sweet. Rolling and fast with beautiful, expansive views with only a few deep puddles to navigate through. Thanks to cows, this also meant navigating around…or through if you weren’t as lucky…fresh patties. Oh well, it wouldn’t be a mountain bike race without a few extra obstacles. Damn, Joanne passed me! As the course progresses, I remind myself of my body’s hourly regimen of calorie intake from Hammer gel and endurolytes. I’ve never had cramping in a race, and don’t want to start today. I roll into aid #3 at about 5:00:00 having completed about 45 miles. I realize that I haven’t yet peed during the race, which isn’t good, but this aid station is pretty exposed. I give it a thought for a split second but decide to wait until I find a large rock. With a full camel back and only three minutes lost, I roll out of aid #3. So far, so good, but I know the course is going to get tougher from here on out.

For the next nine miles, the course continued to climb and included several nasty bog crossings, one of which was thigh deep. Nothing like humping your bike through a big wallow wondering what is lying on the bottom. Luckily the bog monster didn’t launch out at me and take a limb off, although I’m not sure if my bike shoes will ever be the same! Reminder to self…calories, endurolytes. God, the miles are going by slowly, and my legs are starting to feel heavy, but the race course volunteers continue to give their hoots, hollers and boosts of confidence which help keep me moving forward. I finally reach aid #4 at ~6:10:00. Okay, I’ve done 54 miles and I’m well within all the cutoff times so far. I tell myself that I have to keep rolling; no long stops. At this point, I’m about useless and can’t even attempt to fumble my bladder open. Another wonderful volunteer assists me and makes sure I’ve got everything I need. Off I go, slowly but surely.

Clearly, the hardest part of the course for me, both mentally and physically. Another low moment, and another self-help speech to pull myself from the dark depths of despair. I will NOT fail, I tell myself. This race will NOT beat me. I don’t care if I have to hike the next 16.5 miles; I WILL finish. With more short, steep climbs and legs muscles starting to fail, I realize just how hard the course now seems. I slip down into my granny gear, reminding myself constantly that I just need to keep turning the pedals over and moving forward. I’m spending less time looking around and more time trying to focus on the next five feet of trail. FINALLY, I reach aid #5 in about 7:30:00; a huge victory. I’m again assisted with my hydration pack and given a boost of confidence from a volunteer…only 7 miles to go. With 63+ miles behind me, I mentally gear up for what I know is the last very difficult climb…the Headquarters Climb. As I roll out from aid #5, I see the rolling service road ahead and think, ‘good, I can make up a little time’. Well, easier said than done. My brain wanted to go but my legs just couldn’t handle spinning in my big chain ring in the front. So, I resigned myself to a slightly slower speed, but man the downhills were a blast with top speeds reaching close to 30 miles per hour.

I reached the bottom of the HQ climb at 7:44:00 along with a few other riders. Together, we leap-frogged each other several times in a combo ride/hike-a-bike shuffle. Mentally, I really perked up; there’s nothing like being with other riders who are also suffering. About half way up the climb, an older female volunteer sat perched on a tree root with a big cooler of water. She said, “You’re doing great; you’re halfway up the last gnarly climb, so just keep riding like a girl!’. I thanked her as graciously as possible with a smile on my face and continued my ‘push’ to the top. The group of riders I set out on the HQ climb with broke apart at the top, and again I was alone. The views, though, gave me a lift and I thought not everyone gets to experience this. I am so fortunate. Legs burning and feet bruised, I rode as much of the next 1.5 miles as possible. I was passed by a male rider, who said, ‘we’re almost there – only about a half mile to go!’. My gut jumped with excitement and my heart raced with the thought of being so close to the finish. He pulled away from me, and I found myself silently weaving through the last part of the course….so I thought. I came upon a woman rider, not in the race. As I passed her, she said, I don’t think you want to go that way. I explained that I was in the race, and apparently so was her husband. After making a wrong turn that cost me about 15 minutes, coming within a hair’s with of losing it, and having to dig deeply to climb two unnecessary hills, she graciously got me back on course. Other racers – YEAH! And, oh my god, I see the road…and now I’m on the service road flying downhill past where we parked that same morning. Big chain ring in the front, wind flying through my helmet and tears starting to well in my eyes. With a right hand turn I’m 100 yards from the finish line and I can see the canopy Dave and I set up the day before next to the finish line; then I see Dave jumping up from his chair running out to greet me. As I cross the finish line in 8:54:00, the tears start flowing down my cheeks and my breathing is short and quick. I roll past the volunteer trailer and turn around to see Dave, my husband and best friend, coming up to me. I throw my arms around his neck, tears streaming down my face. The sense of accomplishment, the sense of relief, the sense of joy…it was overwhelming!

What an amazing experience. I will remember this race for years to come and am already looking forward to next year’s race. The course was fabulous and the volunteers, out of this world.