Saturday, July 31, 2010

We will miss you Bechler.

Bechler, 4/17/2000 to 7/30/2010

We had only been in Butte, MT a few hours when we received a call from Michelle’s mom stating that something was seriously wrong with our oldest dog Bechler. Michelle’s mom had graciously offered to watch our boyz while we were in Butte for a weekend of racing and we take comfort in knowing that our dogs get lots of attention while staying with Michelle’s mom. It truly hurts that we were not there for Bechler’s last moments but it helps to know that he was with Michelle’s mom and not in a kennel.

We had just finished dinner in Butte when we found out that Bechler had passed and our immediate thoughts were to get home as soon as possible which might sound strange since nothing could be done at that point. We simply wanted to get home so that we could be at the vet’s office at 9am and say our last goodbyes to Bechler.

Bechler lived most of his life in Teton Valley, ID and loved all of our outdoor activities. Most of all, he simply loved being with us. We will miss finding random socks on the bedroom floor that he stole from the laundry, the 6am wakeup kisses, the way he would pull on our mittens during winter hikes, and the way that he would suddenly tear around the backyard with surprising bursts of energy for a dog of 10+ years. We love you Bechler dog.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Heading to Butte, but not racing

I am pulling the plug on my Butte 100 race this weekend but I will be there to support Michelle and all of my Fitzgerald’s Team homies who are racing.

The reality is that I botched my recovery after the Cream Puff and I am still cooked. I am learning that I need to treat the two weeks following a 100-miler with the same respect and attention to detail as I treat the two weeks leading up to one…and I did not. I rode too hard, too soon after the Puff and quality sleep has been elusive. My rides this past Sunday and Tuesday made it very clear that my body is nowhere near 100%. However, since I am notoriously stubborn I asked Lynda for her opinion and she confirmed what my “gut” had been telling me. I need more recovery time or I will pay a heavy price later in the summer.

For future planning, I think I can race 100-milers that are three weeks apart if I do everything perfectly and learn from the past two weeks but I also realize that I have little room for error when it comes to recovery.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pole Canyon and Patience

Pole Canyon is the closest trail to my house but I rarely ride it because it is relentlessly steep and typically littered with baseball-sized loose rocks. The canyon itself is gorgeous and this trail is begging to be Victor's flagship mountain bike trail. The Forest Service is considering a re-route that would bring the trail out of the creek bed AND reduce the grade in places...and it cannot happen soon enough as far as I am concerned. This is where patience comes in. I see the progress on the Jackson side of Teton Pass where new trails are being built at a rapid pace and I am jealous. I want instant gratification and I am ready to swing my Pulaski right now.

A short re-route was just completed in Pole Canyon and the FS trail crew has spent some time this season and building a few drainage features. It seemed like the perfect time to give it a go and see if the recent changes made a noticeable improvement.

Can you say relentless? Even though a thundershower left the trail nice and tight, it took a solid effort to ride the whole enchilada without stopping. However, the trail is dramatically better than it was late last summer. The section of 20-24% grade just plain sucks and no amount of buffing will make climbing 24% suck any less. The trail needs, say it with me people, switchbacks! (or climbing turns if you are more of the IMBA type). I know that we are in the state of Idaho and the norm is to grab some throttle and rip straight up the face of the friggin' mountain but let's try something new in Pole Canyon shall we? Let's see if we can keep the average grade below 10% so that we can use our middle chainrings some of the time. Let's build a trail that tourists AND hardcore riders alike will enjoy.

LATE EDIT: I should have mentioned that Pole Canyon has received more FS Trail Crew work than any other Teton Valley trail so far this summer and for this I am extremely grateful.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WYDAHO Rendezvous Mountain Bike Festival

Are you ready to rendezvous? Teton Valley, ID is hosting the first annual WYDAHO Rendezvous Mountain Bike Festival this Friday through Sunday. The "hub" of the festival will be in Driggs, ID and events are taking place all around the valley.

If you don't have plans, you should absolutely spend the weekend in Teton Valley. And if you have plans, you should seriously consider canceling them so you can attend the festival.

WYDAHO Rendezvous Festival Highlights:

- Hundreds of miles of sweet cross country single-track
- Great downhilling at Teton Pass and Grand Targhee Resort
- Dirt jump parks and pump tracks in Victor and Driggs
- Mountain Bike Movies at the historic Spud Drive-in Theater
- Outstanding raffle prizes including a Maverick ML8 frame, Fox 32 TALAS 150 RLC 15QR fork, - Giant Cruiser Bike, and more
- Group rides for all abilities, skills clinics, exhibitions
- Free Beer tickets for great beer from Grand Teton Brewery and Snake Rriver Brewery, after ride parties, bike shenanigans
- Free demos from Titus, Maverick, Rocky Mountain, Turner, and Giant
- Friendly, laid-back, mountain towns of Victor and Driggs
- Outstanding scenery of the Tetons, Big Hole, and Snake River mountain ranges
- The perfect summer alpine riding climate
- There is something for everyone!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Post-Puff Interview with Michelle Byers

Almost a week after finishing her first Cream Puff 100, Michelle is still justifiably glowing and feeling the effects of a 13 1/2 hour day in the saddle. I pinned her down while watching Le Tour and drinking coffee on a lazy Sunday morning.

Finishing your first 100 with your hubbie and many friends waiting at the finish line...priceless

Me: When did you actually decide to race the Puff?
Michelle: The Tuesday before the race

Me: Most people who race the Puff focus on it for months. What made you jump in at the last minute?
Michelle: A momentary lapse of sanity and it seemed like a good challenge.

Me: You finished your first Puff in 13 1/2 hours. To what do you contribute your success to?
Michelle: Wearing my "Harden the Fuck Up" bracelet to bed the night before and during the race. Also, sticking to a training plan, the support of my husband and friends, hydrating and fueling well, and having a tough mental hide.

The coveted Finisher's hat presented to every racer by the energetic Scott Taylor

Me: Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?
Michelle: I wore my lucky sports bra and my favorite necklace.

Kermit is now the "Go To" race bike

Me: You started racing a 29er this year. Will you ever race your 26" bike again?
Michelle: I doubt it.

Me: Do you ever talk trash to the boys as you pass them?
Michelle: Yeah, fer sure. I'll say "Hup Hup Buttercup!"

Me: A very serious question about your nutrition. Beer the night before a race, Yes or No?
Michelle: Yes! One.

Me: The word on the race circuit is that you have your own personal mechanic. Who is it?
Michelle: Bob. Bob is a superstar.*

Me: What is your favorite post-race binge food?
Michelle: A giant chocolate brownie, or maybe some bacon.

Michelle rockin' the Big Day socks

Me: Do you believe in the super powers of the Big Day Socks?
Michelle: Absolutely.

Me: Your teammates tease you about crashing. Did you crash during the Puff?
Michelle: I did. Twice, not counting the slow bobble tip-overs. I was flying downhill thinking I was close to the cuttoff time but I beat it by an hour.

Me: Will you do the Puff again?
Michelle: Yes.

*Bob is kind of like Santa Claus. You never actually see Bob but he shows up in the middle of the night and cleans your drivetrain and bleeds brakes while you are sleeping. Unlike Santa Claus, Bob prefers Zonker Stout over cookies.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2010 Cream Puff Race Report

Quick Summary
* Finished in 10:55:37
* This year’s supposed “kinder & gentler” Puff course still had 15,330’ of climbing and was almost exactly 100 miles
* Temps in the high 80s punished those of us who didn’t hydrate well
* Every time the Alpine Trail pointed down, I forgot about how much pain I was in
* If I had to grade my race, I would give myself an A- for “physical effort” and a C- for “execution”

The Details
Since race execution is normally one of my strengths, this year’s Cream Puff is going to bug me for a long time…364 days to be exact. I had no expectations for a finishing time since we were on a new course but I did expect to execute a perfect race, maintain a consistent pace, and finish strong.

The 5:05am start is rude but my pre-race morning went well and as we were rolling along the opening few miles of pavement during the neutral start I felt calm and ready race hard for as many hours as it took. The heavy and warm air of Oakridge Oregon messes with my ability to wear sunglasses and they were already tucked in my helmet vents for the climb. Between fogging on the climbs and the ever changing light in the forests, I find it impossible to wear sunglasses during this race.

Speaking of vision, I knew something wasn’t quite right with my vision as I tried to focus on the riders ahead of me on the opening climb. I could see them but I couldn’t read their jerseys at a distance. Since I wear contacts, I simply thought they were gooey or that I had sweat in my eyes but no amount of blinking or rubbing seemed to help. Alternately closing one eye and then the other revealed that my left eye was blurry but I wouldn’t find out until after the race that a missing a contact lens was the cause. Focusing on the trail ahead would be an issue for me all day.

Lesson #1 of the 2010 Cream Puff: Keep a spare contact lens kit in a drop bag

Did I mention there is a lot of climbing in the Cream Puff? I was in my groove, climbing along at a comfortable pre-determined pace, and it took a lot of self-control to watch a few of my homies ride away from me up the climb. Physically, I could have gone with them but I was gambling on the big picture so I watched them go and then wondered if I would see them again. Climbing, eating, drinking, watching my heart rate, chatting with my new buddy Danielle from Michigan…things were going nicely. And then I see “Low Battery” on my Garmin 705. WTF? I just charged this thing. No big deal right? I mean it’s not as if the Garmin 705 pedals for me or anything. I wasn’t even using it for navigation because the Cream Puff has the best course markings of any race I have attended. But I do use its timer function religiously for eating and drinking as well as the HR monitor for pacing. At the 3:17:00 mark it died and I cussed at it a bit. I would just have to drink frequently and hope it was enough.

Lesson #2 of the 2010 Cream Puff: Have a backup watch/timer

When I passed through Aid #3 for the second time I grabbed two full flasks of EFS Gel and two new bottles of Carbo Rocket. I was carrying the gel flasks in my Mountain Feedbag which works really well…when you remember to pull the little cinch cord to close the top. Somewhere within five minutes of leaving Aid #3 I unknowingly launched 800 calories worth of EFS Gel out of my Mountain Feedbag and rode the next two hours on about 200 calories of Carbo Rocket which is well below my planned calorie intake. The situation was not ideal but I wasn’t going to die either. The next time through I simply slugged down some de-fizzed Pepsi, a few Pringles, took extra gel, and kept it rolling.

My descent from Aid #2 down the Alpine Trail to the end of our first lap at Aid #1 was pure greatness. I was, as they say on ESPN, “En Fuego”. I grabbed two bottles, gel, and lubed the chain at Aid #1 and was off to face the climb up 1910 for the second time today. Mentally, this is where I had envisioned my personal race beginning and I was looking forward to the sun-baked climb in a sick way. I paid attention to my gearing up this climb in the morning so that I would know how I was doing the second time up 1910 later in the day. For the most part, I was able to push the same gear and felt solid. There were twinges from the inner thigh muscle that sent flashbacks of debilitating cramping to my brain but was I was able to pedal through them and they never became an issue. Ira Ryan rode past me and gave me friendly fist bump and I complimented his smooth power. Later in the climb I passed Jason Hill sporting the friendly colors of Speedway Cycles in Anchorage and we chatted about Ti Fatbacks briefly. Things were still going well and I was scanning the horizon for someone to chase but before I knew it I was at Aid #2. I was making such a conscious effort to stay positive and consistent that I probably didn’t realize I was slowing down already and I was rushing through aid stations when I really should have taken the extra time to drink and eat.

Lesson #3 of the 2010 Cream Puff: Stop and make yourself drink extra fluids + calories before leaving the aid stations because it is far easier to eat & drink standing still

At about mile 77 I was officially in a dark and lonely place and I was 7 miles from the nearest aid station. I had ridden this section in my middle ring earlier but now I was crawling in the 22Fx32R and barely moving while my breathing was still labored. I needed a substantial calorie hit but I was out of gel. Since I had been “flying without instruments” for the past several hours I had no idea how frequently I was eating or drinking and it caught up with me. All I could do was focus on the loamy dirt in front of my Maxxis Ignitor and pedal at my pathetic pace until I got to the next aid station. It is a strange sensation when your mind wants to mash the pedals but your body simply won’t.

The ice-cold black goodness (defizzed Pepsi) I had stashed in my Aid #3 drop cooler probably saved my race from being a total disaster. I slugged down 24oz of Pepsi, two gels, and a giant stack of Pringles in about 30 seconds and loaded two bottles and more calories for the 16-mile home stretch. I was still moving slowly when I left Aid #3 but I was gradually coming out of my dehydration/bonk-induced funk as I reached Aid #2 for the final 10-mile section. I emptied the tank on the final leg and I got faster as the calories & caffeine kicked in. Trying to make up for 90 minutes of “bonk” time during a 20 minute descent is dumb but I tried anyway. When I crossed the line my hands and triceps were absolutely worthless from the 20+ minutes of "on-edge" descending and I was already thinking about the rematch next year.

More thoughts on this year's Puff later and possibly a guest Blog from the other Byers to finish the Puff this year.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Trash Day comes a day early this week

The Cream Puff historically attracts strong riders from all over the country and there is usually a strong contingent from Jackson/Teton Valley. At my last count we have ten local racers heading to the Puff this year and racing with friends always adds to the motivation. It also provides an opportunity for a little trash talking...

Are you ready for non-stop, glorious suffering?

Have you nailed your taper or did you ride too much this week thinking you could make a last-minute deposit to your fitness account?

Did you figure out what the creak on your bike was? I wouldn't worry about, its probably nothing.

Is your nutrition plan proven at 90F? Will your Perpetuem turn funky in your drop bag by 2pm as the temperature climbs at Aid #2?

Have you trained your triceps and index fingers to rage a fern-lined descent for 20 minutes non-stop?

Does that new chain you just put on mesh with that old cassette?

Ah yes, some serious questions will be answered this Sunday in Oakridge, OR.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Has anyone seen my Fast?

I have called the Teton County Sheriff’s Department and reported my “fast” missing. I am not sure when or where I lost it but when I reached into my seatbag to pull it out during the first lap of the WYDAHO XC race on Saturday it was gone.

Pre-race pic taken by our friend Melissa

Prior to WYDAHO, my 2010 races have been 24 hours, 12 hours, and 8 hours in length and all three of them went extremely well for me. Then how is it that so many negative thoughts can creep into my head during a race lasting less than two hours? My disappointment is not so much with my placing but with the way I felt during the race. I lacked zip, snap, or spark and as I gradually went backwards through the men’s expert field I questioned my fitness and ability. This was not the pre-Cream Puff tune-up I had planned on.

Although we raced the traditional course in reverse this year, the distance and elevation gain were the same. My max and average HR were significantly lower than last year and my average speed was 1/2 mph slower which translated to a finishing time 5 minutes slower than 2009. Am I not as rested as I thought or did I simply lack the race-day "anger" needed to uncork a violent effort? Hmmm.

Have you ever rented a Uhaul truck? I rented one a long time ago that had a governor on the accelerator and no matter how hard I pressed on the gas pedal it would only go 50 mph. That is how I felt yesterday.

Congrats to the other half of Team Byers. Michelle took the win in the women's sport category.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A very productive afternoon.

Timing is everything and today the stars aligned nicely for the Victor Bike Park. To a bike park, dirt is like gold and we made a large "deposit" today.

Maybe next time I can drive the big dumptruck

Tomorrow is the annual WYDAHO XC race at the Ghee and I am sure the usual suspects will come out of the woodwork and get their "fast" on. I am looking forward to a few battles within the race myself...and I will leave it at that.