Monday, December 22, 2014

The Winter Solstice Chase

The holidays are stampeding towards me quickly and it's hard to believe that the Winter Solstice has come and gone already! It's been getting dark so early that I've had to switch working out from something that I did after work to hauling my butt out of bed to get a ride in before work. If you know me at all, you know that I have a very hard time getting out of bed in the morning. Especially if it's still dark out and especially if it's damp out, which it has been recently. Even Ninja has been ignoring the alarm clock! 
Happy Holidays from my roommates and I!
Photo by Katy Batdorff
SO it's a big sigh of relief that the days will now *hopefully* be filled with more and more sunlight! 
So excited for race day, we showed up before the race sponsors did 
I've also been a little nervous for the first race in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series. I've been focusing on endurance racing for so long that a short race seemed a little intimidating. What if I'm not fast enough? I feel like such a weight has been lifted off of my chest now that the GLFBS race #1, the Winter Solstice Chase, is over. I'm back in the groove of things from last winter. I remember being really nervous for this race last year too, because it had been sort of a testing point for whether or not I wanted to pick up fat bike racing as a hobby way of life. The race was incredibly difficult last year and I was beyond thrilled when I crossed the finish line because I never thought the race would end.

This year conditions fared better. Way better. There wasn't a lot of snow and the course was for sure going to be quicker. I've put a lot of miles in since last year, and I felt really good at the start of the Solstice Chase. All of my insecurities and worries dissipated at the start when I saw a lot of friends from last year's races. The reason why I love racing so much is because it's fun doing it! Fat bikers are incredibly friendly and I was so excited to see familiar faces! I wasn't worried about how fast I would be and got a huge grin on my face as I wished my friends good luck. "Oh yeah", I thought, "I remember this fat bike race feeling!" On your mark, get set, go! I started pedaling and took off really strong. Then we hit the first hill. Then the second. Although I had dressed way down for the race, knowing I'd be putting forth more effort than my endurance pace... my wool jersey, vest, new 45NRTH Sturmfirst 5 gloves, thermal knickers and my Fasterkatts had me dying by the third hill. I took off way too hard and blew up! Noooo too hot! I panicked for a little while, scared that I would have a hard time finishing the 20-something miles, and then more scared that I was way over my head for what I've been training for - the Tuscobia 150. The course leveled out just enough for my heart rate to return to normal and I started pedaling a pace that didn't make me feel as though I would faint. 

Race start
Last year the course was a big loop that you rode twice. Looking at the map of the course this year they had changed things up. I was told there would be less hills. You should never believe anyone when they say less hills. The course this year existed of two loops. Each lap was the two loops, for a total of four loops; four times past the start line... Hair-brained Jill looked at the map and saw the two loops and thought that she would be going out for one loop/lap, and then heading out for the opposite loop for the second lap. Why would I think that!? The first time I came through the start I was totally shocked and thought that 21k had gone by incredibly quickly! Then I passed through the start again and realized that instead of it being the end of the race, I was just done with the first lap. Oh great, I'd had to hit those hills another time! Doh!
This was not the race finish...
This was one lap, Jill. Just one..
The course for the Solstice Chase at Big Rock Creek is incredible. Hilly, some quicksand-like leaf two-track sections, some rough bumpy spots, some icy spots. Absolutely gorgeous farmland and woods. At one point during the race a bunch of deer got spooked and took off darting through the trees. Beautiful. The race promoters have a heated changing room, music playing, and they had a huge barn decorated with strings of lights for people to hang out in. Last year I could count the number of women who had registered for the long race on one hand, and I'm still in awe of how much this race had grown in just one year! Tons more people were pre-registered for the race, including a super fast women's field of 12 female finishers for the 42k. If this is any indication as to how the rest of the GLFBS is going to go, I'm stoked! So stoked! I love seeing more women out on fat bikes and I love that we're all getting faster together. April Morgan was the first female to cross the finish line, followed by my race BFF Danielle Musto. Our friend Megan Barr from Twin Six took third, followed by Chelsea Strate and then myself for 5th place female. I'm super proud of these ladies and cannot to race with all of them again next month! 

Photo by Kurt Barclay - for real crossing the finish line ;)
Photo by Kurt Barclay
And honestly, I'm really glad there were hills. There are plenty of other races in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series that have hills and this race was hard proof that I need to start riding them more frequently! I remember last year I would up walking nearly every hill in St. Croix Falls, whereas this year I only walked up one - and only for part of it! I'm also glad the race was "shorter" because I need speed work. The best part about the fat bike season is that your fitness gets increasingly better each race! Fingers crossed that by March I can tackle any hill that's in my way. ;)

April Morgan, Danielle Musto, myself
We left St. Croix falls and drove to Minneapolis to stay at our friend Brent's house before heading back to GR in the morning. Today I have travel-hangover, but it's good to be home and I'm excited to keep training for Tuscobia... it'll be here before I know it!
Twin Six B!

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Whole Lot of Thanks

Tofurkey day is one of my favorite holidays
The last six months have brought a lot of changes to my life (new home, new minivan, new things to look forwards to at work!), and I couldn't be more thankful for all of the neat opportunities I've been able to have. Especially the opportunities centered around bikes! :)

One of the opportunities I'm most particularly thankful for was the 12 hour Nite Nationals down in Auburn, Alabama this past October. Everything from the race promoters, to the course, to the drive down was amazing - especially being able to drive down with my favorite mechanic, Dan, and being able to make a pit-stop in Birmingham to be able to see my really good friends Reena, Joe, and Katie! (To top things off, my friend Jason came to the race to cheer me on with his girlfriend, Marla!) Everything I love about bikes, traveling, and racing was all rolled up in to one with this race.
Chewacla State Park
Dan killed it on the wall!
Me? Not so much...
Here I was hoping the course would be as much fun in the dark as it was in the light!
The 12 hour Nite Nationals is a race that I will go back for again and again! Sponsored by Nite Rider Technical Lighting Systems and hosted by Chainbuster Racing, it was an incredibly fun race that is only going to get better year after year. The inaugural Nite Nationals was the finale of a three-race series. I was happy to be able to make the trek down for the series finale... but doing all of the races in the series is now on my list of "things to do." 12 Hours of Zombie Apocalypse, 12 Hours of Insomnia, 12 Hours of Nite Nationals... seriously, each race in the series sounds amazing, and I know for a fact the last race in the series was! 

I'm incredibly thankful of Danielle Musto, who has become my mentor/coach/race travel bff in the last year. Without her, who knows if I would have gotten in to endurance racing. Just like any other race I had signed up for, 12 Hours of Nite Nationals wasn't any different: once we heard of the race, we decided it was a good one for me to train for! (Although I'm pretty sure we could talk ourselves in to thinking every race is a good race to train for!!) Nite Nationals was put on the radar after I had finished racing 12 hours at Wausau, and there wasn't much that didn't sound awesome about it! I had fallen in love with night riding, Tommy from Nite Rider is super awesome and he would be there, road trips are always a blast, and the race was in Alabama - which meant there was a possibility I could see those aforementioned pals of mine. I was in!
Half hour before race start!
I am also super lucky (and equally thankful) that the Grand Rapids Bicycle Company lets me sneak away for races. As responsible for my racing as Danielle is, GRBC is just as much to blame. I can't imagine working at any other bike shop or with any other coworkers. Everyone has been super supportive and it's been awesome to be a part of such a neat shop. Being able to lead women's group rides, host fat bike nights, to go on group rides that end with pancakes and coffee, and to watch kid's get better at riding... that's my dream job! To add in bike racing on top of all of those things really is the cherry on top. I was really excited to put the GRBC tent in the rental car and to drive down to Alabama to represent not just myself as a racer, but to represent my favorite bike shop. :)
I substituted Dan for Danielle for traveling to Alabama ;)
12 hours of Nite Nationals was one of the first races I would be traveling to without my race travel BFF, so I was a little nervous about that. However, it was the first (of hopefully many!) that I got to travel to with my mechanic, Dan Martinek. Dan started working at GRBC in April, and he's been constantly my favorite bike mechanic since! It's really important to find a good mechanic when you start racing, especially when you're dumping a lot of time into training, money into traveling, and you're driving a long distance in order to compete. Just think about how terrible it would have been if I had gotten myself down to Alabama only for my bike to break! I'm so thankful Dan was with me down in Alabama, especially because I didn't have just one mechanical... I had two! My mechanicals were pretty early on in the race and I wouldn't have been able to crush out 11 laps if he wasn't there to not only fix them - but to fix them quickly! After ditching my Foundry Tomahawk due to a bent derailleur and shifting issues, I came running through the woods less than 20 minutes later with a slashed tire sidewall on my back-up bike! Dan also helped me stay on my nutrition plan for the entire 12 hours of the race, kept track of the competition, and he cheered for me each time I rolled past. Seeing him waiting in the same spot every hour was really encouraging, and after I went back out lap after lap I began looking forward to see him and to tell him about the trail! When the sun finally came up in my 10th lap I told him that he should ride a lap with me after the race if he wasn't too tired, because there was a waterfall and it looked really cool. He just smiled and said, "sure" even though I know in his head he was thinking "eff that, you're crazy!" He later told me that there was a brown dust booger coming out of my nose when I asked...

Speaking of mechanics and mechanicals... I'm really thankful I swapped the stock wheels off of my Tomahawk for a shiny set of Velocity Blunt SS's! The course at Chewacla State Park where Nite Nationals was held was one of the rockiest, rootiest courses I had ever ridden! The sidewalls on my tires were beat but my wheels held up amazingly! So much so, that Dan made a mental note to buy the person who built my wheels a beer the next time he saw them. (Thanks Keean!) 
I didn't realize how dusty the course was until the sun came up! 
It was also really awesome that Nite Rider was at the race with a bunch of demo lights for racers to use. Dan already had a lot on his plate, so having Tommy and Kevin from Nite Rider keep track of my battery life and swap my lights for me was perfect. The lights that they let me use were SO BRIGHT. I never had an issue of out-riding my lights, or my lights dimming, or malfunctioning in any way - which is super important when the race you're doing starts at 9pm! Riding at night would definitely not be as much fun without reliably bright lights. Suuuuper thankful I can ride my bike at night!
Myself with Kevin and Tommy from Nite Rider
It was really weird to finish a race at 9am in the morning. The sun was out, the weather was warming up, and I was all twitchy from 12 hours of caffeine! I can never sleep after a long race, so Dan and I said good-bye to all of our new friends and hopped back in the car to drive for as long as we could before the caffeine wore out. It's always sad to finish a race after having it to look forwards to for so long, but I was really excited to be a tourist on the way home! We stopped at some flea markets before calling it a night outside of Nashville, Tennessee, and we got to stop for a tour at Mammoth Cave the next day! I was really exhausted from sleep deprivation on the way home, so I was super thankful that I didn't have to rush back to the bike shop right away. On the way down to Alabama, we had run over a piece of semi-truck retread, and although I stupidly didn't get the rental car insurance, I'm super thankful that that event didn't ruin the entire trip! We were able to safely drive the car, and the rental company is only charging me $788 for the damage to the front bumper...
Crossing the finish line, 11 laps in for a total of 121 miles!
Carey Lowery was an amazing opponent to chase, I placed 2nd, and Rachel Millsop came in 3rd
Thankful for equal payouts for both men and women! This went towards fixing the rental car!
Okay, so I'm not thankful that we damaged the rental car and I'm really hoping Hertz let's me make tiny, tiny payments... BUT the rest of the trip was really rad and I still consider myself pretty lucky.
Found this lil guy at a flea market in Alabama right after we left the race..
Room service outside of Nashville... I fell asleep before finishing my whiskey!
Dinosaur World
Heading in to Mammoth Cave
Who turned off the lights?
Now all I need is some more snow and the next couple of races should be equally as awesome! The Great Lakes Fat Bike Series starts December 20th, and my first winter ultra (the Tuscobia 150) is coming up all too quickly on January 2nd!! If anyone has a below 0 sleeping bag I can borrow I would be incredibly thankful! ;)
Sooo thankful Dan is also an auto mechanic! We were able to drive the rest of the way without hearing that bumper flappity-flap!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

12 Hours at Wausau

After the Lumberjack 100, I knew I wanted to work towards doing a 12 hour endurance race, so I signed up for the 12 hour solo race at the Wausau24. Wausau was a little over a month after the Lumberjack, and I figured I could use that month to train to prepare for it. Plus, my bike-racer-travel bff Danielle told me that Wausau was a blast, so I just had to check it out!


Danielle, myself, and our friend Steve set out Friday morning to pre-ride the course. The trail was pretty dry in spots and I must have stopped a million times to let more air out of the tires on my Foundry Tomahawk. I made a mental note to let more air out of the tires that I had on my Beargrease; I had put Velocity Dually's and the 29+ Surly Knards on my fat bike to make it faster and a little lighter so I could use it as my back-up bike. (sidenote: Dually's on that Beargrease are SUUUUUPER fun!)

So many rocks!
I'm really lucky that I was able to pre-ride Nine Mile with two experienced mountain bikers who had ridden the trail before. We stopped in a few areas so that they could show me the best lines to take through rocky areas. There were some pretty gnarly areas that were unlike anything I had ridden before. Like I said, I was really lucky that both Danielle and Steve were showing me the ropes in those areas! Midway through our pre-ride it started to rain, so we didn't get to spend as much time getting through the last of the rocky areas. I still felt confident about race day, though, and we rode the rest of the way to the car with huge smiles on our faces.
Before getting caught in the rain.
After our pre-ride, we stopped by the Niterider van to say hello. It was really cool to meet Tommy from Niterider, and even cooler to check out the inside of the van! There was a charging station in the back of it that could charge 300 lights at a time AND it used less energy than a mini fridge. Tommy also let Danielle and I play inside of the van for a little while and that was pretty cool, too. We roped off a spot for the Twin Six tent and headed off to explore Wausau.
We love driving giant vans!
Our team spot saving tactics are spot on.
On our way to stop and get some food at Red Eye Brewing Co. downtown, we noticed there was a tattoo parlor right next door.... My best friend, Emily, surprised me with a "best friend" tattoo of  my face on her butt back in May. Since then, I had been walking around with a sketch of a tattoo to reciprocate the gesture. The day before my first 12 hour solo mountain bike race seemed like the perfect time!!
My new good luck charm!
After hanging out with the most interesting tattoo artists in Wausau and eating take-out from Red Eye inside of the tattoo parlor, we headed back to the hotel to clean the bikes and to shower up before meeting up with some friends at Red Eye for some more food. What a crazy day leading in to the longest race I've ever done. I couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous the whole day was. Sometimes I can't tell if I love traveling to races and seeing friends more than the actual race.

We called it a night pretty early on and the next morning got up early enough to eat and to drink some coffee before the race start. Wausau24 has a mass Le Man's start for each category, whether you were racing the 6, 12, or 24 hour races solo or on teams. I had tried jogging a teeny, tiny bit a few weeks before the race in order to prepare my body for it (I haven't jogged since before my knee injury!) and suffered shin splints for four days after... It was actually really hilarious lining up with so many cyclists on foot. Cyclists look really funny running in cycling gear!
Photo by Cori Pepelnjak
I hopped on my bike and started spinning off towards the woods. I wanted to get a good spot in to the single track towards the front because I knew there would be a long line of cyclists and I knew it would slow down at the first rocky segment. Luckily I got in behind some good riders and we had a pretty good pace going.

The first lap was pretty steady and I was able to get through all the rocky areas that I had practiced the day before. Ho Chi Minn is a climb at Nine Mile that is both full of rocks, roots, and one pesky log area. The day before I had taken the line to the left over the log and had eaten it. I practiced, and was able to hit it before we had finished our pre-ride. On lap #1 I ate it. Lap #2 I ate it. By time I rolled around for lap #3 I chose the line to the right and I nailed it. I immediately started laughing at how easy it was to nail from that side and mentally decided to always take that line for the next 9 hours. I think one of the coolest things about racing for 12 hours on an 11 mile loop is that you start navigating the trail as if you've been riding it all summer. By time I was out on lap #5 I started feeling really good, and when I came around through our team tent area I heard the first place girl was about 5 minutes ahead of me. My biggest mistake in trying to catch her was that I zoomed out for another lap without enough water. By time I passed through the aid station, I was out of water and starting to bonk. Luckily I was able to get my bottle filled and finished out the rest of the lap without any sloppy crashes or anything like that. By time I got to our tent I was feeling really weird and asked Danielle a million questions. She was super patient with me and when I asked if it was okay if I ran to the bathroom she said, "Yes - but hurry!" I started running off towards the porta-john and tripped mid-stride. WHAM! My biggest crash of the race! I totally took myself out and had a pretty embarrassing tumble. Lesson learned: don't forget to grab another water bottle when trying to chase down the person in front of you.. you'll trip over your own two feet and the person behind you will pass you!

I shook it off, grabbed a new Hydrapak filled with Carborocket's 333 Half Evil Endurance mix, took a handful of Endurolytes, and hopped back on my bike. By time I came around for the next lap, Steve had finished his 6 hour race and was getting my Beargrease ready. I was going to do a lap on that bike set up as 29+ while he put lights on my Tomahawk.

The lap on my Beargrease was my "angry" lap. Danielle told me that I might experience one of these. Basically, it's a lap where you get mad at something and you obsess over it for the entire lap. I cursed a lot this lap, stumbled a bunch of times, and couldn't nail some of the rocky areas that I was nailing on the other laps. I really didn't have anyone to blame but myself. I had forgotten to let more air out of the tires and I was starting to get fatigued and sloppy. Being cranky definitely didn't help me ride smart. By time I finished that lap I was so, so happy to roll through the tent to hop back on my Tomahawk. I asked Steve if he could grab me a can of coca cola next time I came through and I pedaled off...
This next lap was my "happy" lap. Danielle also said I would have one of these. Basically, it's a lap where everything is awesome and perfect and you can't stop smiling and laughing. I was incredibly happy this lap. Two thoughts that kept running through my head were, "I LOVE THIS BIKE!" and "I CAN'T WAIT FOR THAT SODA!" I nailed every section and did the lap 8 minutes faster than I did the lap before. It's so funny to me that my mood had done such a weird swap like that. One of the biggest obstacles for endurance racing is the mental aspect of it, and I'm happy that 90% of my 12 hour race was spent laughing and smiling. Next race I'm going to try really hard to eliminate any of my own self-induced negativity.

Steve had that soda waiting for me when I came through for the next lap and I chugged it and rolled off. Coca cola is like crack for cyclists! It was starting to get dark and the lights on my bike lit up the trail and I could see everything better out in the woods than I had in the daylight. The lights lit up everything so well that there weren't any shadows and even though I knew I was rolling through a rocky area, there weren't any shadows and everything looked relatively flat. Good thing I had done 8 laps before nightfall... I had my lines figured out pretty well and could roll through areas on memory.

I LOVED riding trail at night. I thought it was hilarious that you couldn't tell who was behind you and that there were huge beams of light splashing through the woods. Lucky for me there was another can of coca cola waiting as I headed out for my 10th lap. I knew I would have enough time for one more lap after that one and couldn't believe I was already so close to the end. When I came through to head out for my last lap, Steve started yelling that the second place female had just headed out for her last lap! I had enough water and nutrition and flew past our tent to catch her!

I passed one girl and wasn't sure if she was the second place female or not, but started booking it once I got past her. If it was her, I wanted to put as much of a distance between us as possible. If it wasn't her, I wanted to catch the second place female! I had thought it was cool that there were beams of lights everywhere, but once I was fighting for second place I hated the lights because I couldn't tell who was who. Who was coming up behind me? Was it that girl? I heard one girl's voice behind me and was so relieved when it was my friend Megan, who was racing on a 24 hour team. Counting down the last hour's worth of my first 12 hour race went by so quickly. I came up to the finish line and had come in as the second female, sixth overall in the 12 hour solo category. Despite being covered in dirt and sweat and having given it my all out on the single track, I was smiling ear to ear and so stoked to be done!!
12 hours was already up?
After the race, we went to Rose Bud road to cheer on the 24 hour racers. I brought some roman candles, there was beer, a bonfire, and tiki torches out in the woods. Honestly an amazing end to my longest race of the season. I cannot wait for Wausau next year! Big congrats to Danielle and Brent who raced the 12 hour duo category and won 2nd place, to Martha, Joel, Ben and James who took 3rd in the 24 hour co-ed team, and to Megan, Cori, Heidi, and Nicole who killed it in the 24 hour women's team category and took 1st place!! What a stellar weekend for Twin Six's Metal Team! I'm seriously so proud to race with such awesome people.

Speaking of awesome people.. Skirts in the Dirt is this Sunday and I am beyond excited for Michigan's first women only mountain bike race!!! Seeing Skirts in the Dirt move from an idea to the real thing has been the most exciting part of my summer, by far. I cannot wait for race day and I cannot wait to see so many women out on mountain bikes! EEEEEEEeeeeeeee!!!!
Guerrilla marketing in Wausau ;)
My new favorite tee!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Beermuda Triangle

The plan for July is to ride, ride, ride! I have a 12 hour race coming up August 2-3 in Wausau, Wisconsin which I am really excited for! I'm hoping I can build my endurance up so that I can have consistent lap times like I had at the Lumberjack 100.

I had plans to ride for 6-8 hours on Sunday. My friend Bob told me about a group that was doing the Beermuda Triangle, which I had never done before. Intriguing: 125 miles and an average pace of 15-20mph. Yup. That'll do it. I figured I could get a good ride in with some roadies while riding my Salsa Fargo and I was pretty happy to have a fun group of people to ride with. 
It's going to be a good day when you're greeted by swaggering Bob!
The Beermuda Triangle... originally, the triangle starts at Founders Brewing Company and rolls out to Bells Brewery, then New Holland Brewing Company, and then back to Founders. Yesterday, the ride leaders decided to switch it up a bit and we rolled on over to the Waldorf Brewpub for our second stop instead of New Holland.

So I met Bob and Jeff at their house at 10:30 around the corner from my apartment. I was pretty chipper from a good breakfast of coffee and steamed kale and was pumped to have a whole day of riding with those two ahead of me. I've done long rides with both of them before and they're always a TON of fun! Another bonus was that Jeff has a speaker and is a pretty awesome ride DJ. :) 

Waiting for Bob to lather up with sunscreen, Jeff's rear tire suddenly made a PSHHHHHHHHH noise. Flat tire! Lucky for us we hadn't hit the road yet or met up with the rest of the group and Jeff was able to quickly change it right in his very own driveway.
Off to a great start!
We rolled up to Founders and met up with some of the Founders Race Team members, Brad and Dennis, and a new face, a guy in a Twin Six jersey named Ted. Twin Six? Instant friends! We stopped at a semi weigh station on our way out of town to see how much all of us weighed together, but the scale was off and we didn't get to know who had guessed the correct weight. I'm just going to pretend that I had guessed the closest at 1200 pounds for 6 cyclists, their bikes, and all of the gear I had packed on my Fargo. ;)

Another cyclist, Paul, met up with us on our way to out of town. Once we hit Plainwell, we were joined by two other riders, Robin and Matt. We had blue skies, everyone was smiling, the pace was good, and I was pretty much having the best day ever. (Which is basically how I feel every time I'm on my bike with friends!)
En route to Bells!
Someone admired my Fargo and asked if I had a road bike. I think it's funny that my response was, "this is my road bike!" The Surly Knard tires that I put on the Fargo are 700 x 41 and to me that's pretty dang skinny. I absolutely love those tires. I didn't feel like they were holding me back at all from riding with the road bikes for the Beermuda Triangle, and they're pretty great at being resilient and handling well in gravel, through construction zones, and the occasional ride-on-the-grass-and-road-shoulder-because-you-can moments.

Before I knew it, we were at Bell's! I love how riding with others can make 55-some miles fly by. We ordered food and our beer and sat on a picnic table in the beer garden. So good.
Bell's Brewery
Jeff was feeling a little rough before we had gotten to Bell's, but was recharged by the delicious beer and decided to stick out the rest of the day with us. I'm really glad he did! Leaving Kalamazoo, we found a new brewery that had just opened. We thought we'd add a fourth stop to our brewery bicycle tour, but we were there too early and they weren't open yet. Boo!
We'll have to ride back down another time to check out the Boatyard. :)
Bell's to Waldorf was about 35 miles and we kicked that out pretty quickly. Rolling into Hastings I saw a water fountain about a block away from the brewery and I had to stop to play in it. There were a few kids playing in the sprinklers and I bet they thought the cyclists running around in the water were cray cray! The water felt so, so good. And then the beer at the Waldorf was also so, so good.
Waldorf Brewpub
We all had more than one beer at the Waldorf and we had about 35 or so miles back to Founders. I had packed some fireworks in my pannier and was super excited to find a spot to light them off for everyone. A little outside of Hastings we found a field and I was so pumped that everyone was as excited as I was for the fireworks. A few weeks ago I had bought some alien parachutes from a fireworks tent on my way to the beach with my fat bike. The parachutes claimed "real aliens!" and the guy who sold them to me very elaborately described how awesome they were, "so they go up real high, and then POP the parachute opens up, and there's an alien on it, and there's a cloud of blue smoke that chases the alien around!" Unfortunately, all of the alien parachutes that I had light off wound up getting caught in trees or landing on the bike shop's roof, and I was determined to catch the last parachute.
The parachute exploded and we all cheered! Then the parachute drifted over an electric fence and landed in a farmer's field. NOOO! Determined to see the alien, I was able to climb over a locked gate and ran through the field towards the red parachute. I was seriously so excited to see the alien!!
It was just a white army guy! What a rip off!
Pfft. The alien was no alien. It was just a regular old army guy who had been made white to look different from the regular old green army guy. Not fair!

The rest of the ride was pretty great, the sun was starting to set and it had been a really, really good day. We all rode pretty good together and had been cracking jokes and chatting all day. I'm so glad that Bob had invited me on the ride because it sure beat riding a century by myself. You have to love training days that involve other cool riders and fresh, cold beer.
heading back to GR
We got to Founders a little bit after 9pm and snagged a spot at a table on the outside patio. What a great Sunday! I can't wait to do the Beermuda Triangle again!
Good to be home at Founders!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Still grinning after the Lumberjack 100!

I've heard a lot of mountain bikers talk about how great and amazing the Lumberjack 100 was, and I knew it was just a matter of time before I signed up for it myself. I was thinking maybe I'd shoot for doing it next year. By time it made my radar, online registration had come and gone and the race was at capacity. I also hadn't done many endurance races and thought I'd start with some shorter ones before tackling 100 miles of single track.

Oh, but Danielle Musto has a really great way of pushing me out of my comfort zone and in to doing bike races! I also had a friend who was looking to sell his Lumberjack registration...before I knew it Danielle had talked me in to signing up for my first 100 mile mountain bike race!

Then this happened after the Ted Bentley release party :
Proof of the bet!
It's a little fuzzy how it all started, but it ended by Danielle and I yelling that Steve Bartzen was going down. After a few drinks at Harmony, we had gotten all riled up and started talking smack with Bartzen. He's been racing for quite a while and is pretty stupid fast. He seemed confident that he would have no problem racing 100 miles faster than me, and all those Ted Bentley's persuaded Danielle and I that I could train in a month and that I could beat Bartzen in the Lumberjack. Some mornings you wake up after drinking and remember cocky things that you've said and you feel like an idiot. This was one of those cases for me. I've only been mountain biking for a few years, racing for one, and although I had done centuries on gravel or on pavement, I knew single track would treat my body entirely differently-- especially riding that much single track at a race pace! The thought of beating Bartzen was pretty crazy, and the whole month leading up to the race was filled with more trash talking between myself, Danielle, and Bartzen.

Leading up to the race I tried to spend my days off from the bike shop doing longer rides. There's a really big hill out near Cannonsburg that I became very intimate with. Hill repeats are something entirely new to me and incredibly brutal! I really think one of the best training tools I had (aside from having Danielle Musto as my coach!) was my Salsa Beargrease. The larger tires gave me just a little more rolling resistance and have helped me to get some power to my legs. Plus the bike is just a lot of stinkin' fun!

Before I knew it the week of the Lumberjack was upon us! One of the coolest things that I noticed about this particular race was that people's faces lit up when you told them you had signed up. Everyone was super encouraging and offered up little tid bits of advice: just get out there and have fun being the #1 thing that everyone said. We're really lucky to live in such a cool mountain biking community in which everyone looks out for each other and wants to see each other succeed!

Friday morning rolled around and once again Grand Rapids Bicycle Company graciously let us take the shop van up for race day! We packed in some lawn chairs, the GRBC tent, some tools, a cooler, our bikes, our gear, and so, so many snacks. The plan was to get our tent and everything set up the night before so that we could snag a really great spot for all of our things for easy and quick pit stops between laps. We were able to find a spot near the bathrooms and right at the start of the loop. Perfect!
The Lumberjack 100 has the best swag!
It had rained the entire drive up to Manistee and we had gotten our tent set up a little later than expected, so instead of pre-riding and spinning our legs on the trail, we hopped on our bikes in the hotel parking lot and did a few laps to stretch out our legs. Snacked on some Marie Catrib's for dinner, and we were in bed by 10pm. Normally I have a hard time falling asleep so early before such an exciting day, but I think my eyes were closed as soon as my head hit the pillow. 

As soon as the alarm went off in the morning, I was up! The adrenaline was already pumping and I was super excited for the race to start! The sooner I was on my bike meant the sooner it would all be over! ;)
All of the race volunteers were super awesome! Danielle Shaver rules!
We got to the Lumberjack 100 race start at a little after 5am. I couldn't believe how many other people had already gotten there - good thing we had our tent spot! I had prepared three hydrapak's with Carborocket's 333 Half Evil endurance mix the night before and had them stacked in a bag for easy grabbing between laps. I also had three water bottles filled with CR's hydration mix that I would put on my bike each lap. I still don't feel very acclimated to the humidity and heat yet, so I also had Hammer Endurolytes and the margarita Shot Bloks in my gas tank bag. People who had finished the race before had told me to make sure I had solid food, but I felt pretty confident with this plan since I had been training on the Carborocket and had used it all winter fat biking.

The start of the race was a ways out of the parking lot and down a flat section of paved road. We all lined up together, and it was crazy to see 400-some cyclists all lumped together! I got a spot near the front next to Danielle and our GRBC teammate Jurrien Davison and felt really good on that stretch of road. I knew there would be some congestion once we hit the single track and I was really hoping for a good position right off the start. I was happy with where I was once we hit the trail, and then I accidentally mis-judged the speed of the guy ahead of me and when he slowed in a sandy spot I snagged his rear wheel with mine and veered off the trail. Doh! I looked back to see if there would be a gap for me and saw a long line of mountain bikers.. double doh! A rider was nice enough to let me back in and I hopped on my bike and started laughing to myself: only 99.9 miles left to go!

I. Love. Endurance. Racing! I absolutely love everyone out there that I'm racing with! People were talkative and were super friendly. All 100 miles of the race, other people were smiling and encouraging one another.

When I came to the aid station the first time, I couldn't wipe the grin off of my face. A lot of friends were wearing party hats and started jumping up and down when I rolled through. Part of me wished that I could stop to hang out with everyone, but I had my Carborocket and didn't need to. My legs were feeling super fresh and I just kept trudging on. Before I knew it I could hear music and was already coming through the tent area. I rolled in about half a minute after Jurrien and chatted with him briefly while swapping for a fresh hydrapak. We wished each other good luck and I was back on the bike.

The trail was a lot of fun to ride on. It wasn't super technical and there was only one hill that I couldn't pedal up. There were a lot of downhills that made me really, really glad that the course was being run backwards this year! My favorite part of the trail was the last segment, the Lumberjack. I don't know if it's because I knew it was the last part of the trail... or if it's because it made me feel like a Lumberjack. ;)

Before we hit the last aid station I started riding on the wheel of a guy named Kelly. He was super nice and had come up from Indiana for the race. I was surprised when he told me that he had estimated that he would finish in about 8 hours and 40 minutes, because if that's how fast he was riding, that's how fast I was riding! I had estimated that I would finish the race in about 10 hours and hadn't thought about time once we started pedaling! (Maybe I should invest in a Garmin?) I had paced myself at pedaling about 75% of what I knew I could do in order to save some energy for the last hills, and I was really glad that my legs still felt good.

I saw a Farm Team jersey ahead of us and started getting really excited. It was Bartzen! I started yelling to Kelly about how we had a bet and I'm sure he probably thought I was bonking because he asked if I was going to stop at the last aid station. "No way! I'm good! I have to beat that guy!" I was a little nervous that maybe Bartzen would just roll through the aid station, but I saw him start to slow and put a foot down. WHAP! I gave him a good slap on the caboose and laughed maniacally as I pedaled past! Yes!

Coming up to the last 10 miles of the trail I started slowing a lot on the climbs. It wasn't that my legs were getting tired... my bladder was just full! I started getting nervous that I would slow too much and that Bartzen would catch up to me. I also knew that I had passed the third place female at the aid station and I didn't know how far behind me she might have been. I told Kelly I'd catch him again and decided that I could ride faster if I relieved myself, so I jumped off my bike and dropped my drawers right next to the trail - no time to find a tree to hide behind! Just as I started going, I saw a rider in red coming towards me. "I'm sorry! I had to go!" I yelled, feeling a little embarrassed. "It's okay, it's only me!" I heard a female voice shout back. Oh crap! She rode past me and I watched her disappear into the woods. I pulled my shorts back up and hopped on the bike, speeding away from Bartzen and trying to catch the lady in red! I caught back up to Kelly and he told me she was just ahead of him, so I wished him luck and kept trying to catch her.

When I saw the finish line I couldn't believe I was already there! It felt so good to cross that finish line! Scott Tencate gave me a high five and told me I was the fourth place female and it really felt like a dream. I hadn't even thought I'd make it in the top 10, let alone the top 5! I heard someone screaming and saw Danielle running towards me, flailing her arms and jumping up and down. So I started screaming and jumping up and down! She picked me up and gave me a giant bear hug and I couldn't stop laughing. Jack Kunnen documented the whole spectacle and I am so, so glad he did. Every time I look at the pictures I can't stop laughing!

Check out Danielle in the background

I should have put my bike down...
I had finished about two minutes behind the lady in red, Shannon Ancel, but there isn't any part of me that's disappointed in how I did in my first Lumberjack 100. I had a blast, I absolutely loved it, and I absolutely loved everyone that was out there riding. I am so lucky that I work in a shop that's so supportive of my new favorite past time, and that I have some really awesome friends that I work with to be my mechanics. The Foundry Tomahawk rolled perfectly and I never had to worry about something not working on it. The Lumberjack was a couple weeks ago now, but thinking back to how much fun I had still puts a big silly grin on my face! I finished with a time of 8:40 and had a pretty consistent lap time, only slowing by 2 minutes each 33-mile lap. Looking at the results, I still feel like it was a dream. Plus, Danielle came in first place in her 10th Lumberjack 100! She's the only woman to have raced all 10 years of the race! I'm so proud of her!
Lumberjack 100 Women's top 10 podium
Oh, and Bartzen kept up on his end of the deal! We went to Little Africa, my favorite restaurant in town, which just so happens to be BYOB! I invited some gal pals along to bask in the glory with me and I ate so much Ethiopian food that I felt like my stomach was going to explode. So good! I can't wait for next year!