You’ve already won the race, but don’t think you can’t lose.

The race is won before it’s even begun.
But anything can happen they say,
and you must be ready to seize the opportunity.

If ten mountain bikers were to line up at the start of a thirty mile cross country race without having done any endurance, sprint, skills, or mental training, the one with the best fitness and general coordination would win. If ten racers executed the exact same training regimen there may be a different outcome based on cardiovascular and muscle adaptation. But, if these same racers were free to weight lift, ride long distances, do hill and sprint repeats, rehearse their technical skills, cross train, adjust their diets, recovery habits, and psychological practices as they pleased, then the top of the podium would be up for grabs. The best prepared rider (in all areas) would win the race.

However I would not say the race is “won or lost” before the start. So much can happen during a mountain bike race, even the most prepared rider isn’t immune. A race can be significantly impacted by muscle cramping, a flat tire, crashing, and getting ‘stuck’ behind slower riders. These events are hard to control. But perhaps the most damaging set back is a lack of mental toughness. You may be the most physically prepared rider of the day but what about your mental preparation? The reality is we are often our own worst enemy. The way we motivate and criticized ourselves  is learned and practiced subconsciously. Self talk such as, “I’ll never catch her”, “This is too hard”, and “I’m no good on this type of terrain” have played through our heads so many times. However by incorporating mental training exercises into our regimen we can actually change the conversation in our head. Mental resolve can prevailed over physical strength.

There is another unexpected adversary; apathy. It seems strange, given you are doing something that you love and have worked hard to prepare for. The reality is that during a cross country race you may spend much of your time alone. I have been in races that require three laps of a 8-11 mile course, usually taking 2-3 hours to complete and apart from the initial sprint, I may only see 5 other riders the whole time. Riding casually on your own isn’t such a bad gig, but in a race being alone can really affect your ability to push yourself. Maintaining focus and intensity is a constant challenge. Catching a glimpse of a competitor can bring you right back into attack mode. Heck, even passing a clydesdale gets the adrenaline pumping.

On the flip side if you find yourself fighting tooth and nail with someone the greatest challenge is being able to keep your focus without pushing so hard you blow up.  I’ve learned that racing at the height of your exertion level is a sure fire way to make mistakes and have a disappointing performance.

Racing teaches a lot about ourselves but the truth is, we know very little about our competitors. We may know a little bit about the people we ride with consistently, and if we really pay attention we can learn the weaknesses of our competitors. But there are a number of factors we can’t know about those lining up next to us.  How did they sleep? Did they have a stressful week at work? Are they feeling apprehensious due to a recent crash? And of course, are they better prepared? Their weakness may show itself. Their legs may cramp, they may have a mechanical problem and this is when you must pounce. This is why we spend countless hours training. For when the door opens you must have the strength to push through it. The best prepared rider may be determinable on paper but anything can happen. Like they say in horse racing, that’s why we still run the races.

 

This post is more of a free flow of consciousness and probably seems all over the place. Please share your thoughts and experiences on preparedness versus the role of chance in head to head competition.

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Chicks Cycling to Cemeteries

Do Indiana Outdoors (DINO) puts on one of my favorite races of the year, The Death March. Some see it as the first race of the season and others consider it a fun spring training ride. Either way you look at it it has become a annual tradition for my friend Kayla and me. In brief, teams of two use a topographical map to navigate to 16 cemeteries, yes cemeteries. Some of these are required stops and others are worth minutes off your final race time. The time subtracted from your finish time may range from 10 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the distance and difficulty in reaching them. The race can last 3-7 hours and ranges in miles from 40-70, unless of course you really get lost. Navigation skills and preplanning are helpful as very few road signs exist on the course. Prior experience in the Death March is extremely beneficial. In 2015 Kayla and I visited 14 of the 16 checkpoints, finished in 6 hours and 45 minutes and landing a third place finish in the women’s division. This year, we wanted first!

Here was our plan.
1. Complete 2-3 long gravel rides to prepare our legs and general stamina to this type of riding.
2. Have a strategy meeting. Review the map, review our successes and mishaps from the previous year, and set the route that we believed would give us the fastest final time. After much calculating, we convince each other this meant we would not try to reach all of the checkpoints. We figured the time that it would take to get to the cemetery and back on course would be equal to more time than the time bonus being awarded. For example, some of the cemeteries are only worth 10 minutes, if it took 8 or more minutes to get there and back the time bonus was not worth the effort.
3. Improve our transitions. In this race both riders must stand with their number plate in front of the sign indicating the name of the cemetery. You must take a picture of this to be presented to officials for scoring after you cross the finish line. Getting off the bike 10-16 times and taking ‘selfies’ quickly truly requires coordination.

We knew we were in a much better position to win this race in 2016. Of course we had the experience of racing it last year and although the required sites change, the 16 sites available do not change.  Kayla and I had greatly improved our riding endurance, leg power, and recovery rate from climbing big hills. We learned that we didn’t need 3 liters of water between sag stops and we only needed 3-4 items of food for the whole race. Additionally, we figured out that mountain bikes were not the best weapon of choice for the Death March. This race takes place in Norman, IN. A 60/40 mix of gravel roads and paved roads, both of which snake up and down gradual elevation changes (i.e. Long, slow climbs). Road bikes are not a good choice either as the smooth tires are no match for the egg-sized gravel. The two-wheeled weapon that wins out- cross bikes. Not only are they lighter than mountain bikes but they create less resistance against the road surface and yet provide knobby enough tires to keep you in control on the few 45 mph downhills (yes that really happened). Cross bikes coupled with well planned provisions probably cut out 6-8 pounds per rider!

Start line with Dan's Comp teammate, Death March competitor Amy Kruger

Start line with Dan’s Comp teammate Amy Kruger

At the start line we were focused on our plan, ready to push each other, and excited to see how our bodies would perform. We felt very optimistic hitting our first few checkpoints even though we had made a few errors early on. Our engines were strong and Kayla and I both have the fortitude to never give up.

Soon we were taking chances that paid off tremendously in our ability to get from cemetery to cemetery. Coordinating our selfies continues to be a challenge, but it always feels like that can make that up on the bike. The fire tower sag stop was our half way point in our plan and we felt confident despite the annoying mist that had started falling. The fire tower is not a cemetery check point but rather a 5 story, metal ladder leading up to a look out platform where you must take your picture of proof. Climbing narrow, metal stairs in biking shoes is not what you want to be doing after hours of riding up hills. We stocked up our water and shoved some food down our throats as we jumped back on the road to hit the last 3 checkpoints on our route. We were thrilled with our pace despite another navigation error on my part which cost us a 10 minute check point. Not the end of the world but certainly one I would like to have back. The last cemetery we needed was a few miles passed the finish along a two lane highway. We drove hard and timed our selves so we would have a goal to work towards on the home stretch. I have to say Kayla dug deep and pushed the pace to as hard as I could go.  We finished in 4 hours, 30 minutes and we’re confident that even though we missed two of our planned 10 minute check points, we would be the fastest woman’s team.

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Surprisingly two other women’s teams had finished before us. Based on our calculations we figured we had 2 hours in bonus minutes to bring our final time down to 1 hour 40 minutes. Now the wait was on to see if that was enough to put us at the top of the podium. We felt supremely victorious, but you can’t predict what your competitor will do and it’s anybody’s race until the final count comes in. Luckily it was in our favor and we ended up beating the second place team by 7 minutes! Both teams visited the five required sites as well as six optional sites. The cemeteries visited were identical, save one. The second place team made it to Chrisley- Hillenburgh which was worth 10 minutes. Kayla and I went to Gorbetts which was worth 45 minutes. Gorbetts is a site many teams skip because it takes you off the close- knit route. We went for it and it paid off! To our great surprise the reward was hefty including free entrance into next year’s Death March. Kayla and I plan to continue the tradition and hope to build on our experience from this year. I’ll probably put her in charge of the selfies next year!
A big thank you to our respective sponsers for supporting us along the way, the DINO crew for continuing to put on one of the best events of the year, all of the teams that helped us and even those that were willing to accept directions from two women navigators, and I cannot forget my most gracious friend who lent me a cross bike, which without a doubt made this win possible!

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A few of my favorite things

I love riding my Specialized 29″ Epic Evo along the twisty single tracks of Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Besides a great bike and great trails there are a number of things that can enhance your riding experience. The following are a few of those things that have really done it for me recently.

Infinit MUD coffee protein mix
I recently discovered this product while on thefeed.com doing one of my favorite things shopping for performance foods. Infinit has long boasted hydration mixes that can be specially crafted for your unique race needs. I have never used Infinit products before but the MUD tag line, “It’s like a cup of joe and a granola bar in one” sold me on a need I didn’t realize I had. image I enjoy espresso and certainly utilize caffeine for my early morning workouts. I often look around my kitchen at 5 am for something quick and light to eat before heading to yoga or the gym, but I rarely settle on something appetizing. The MUD protein powder has since become essential to my mornings. Caffeine, check. Protein to get the body moving, check. I’ve used protein powder in the morning before but with the MUD I feel like I’m killing two birds with one stone. BAM! Awake and ready to work! I will say that Infinit utilizes whey protein which is not a favorite of mine, and to reach MUD’s fullest, creamy, latte like potential it really should be mixed with milk. Despite this, I have The Feed deliver a 23-serving bag to my door every month. PS: check out thefeed.com for endurance food porn and automatic delivery options.

Sugio Dan’s Comp winter jacket
This could be considered a bit of a rare item as it is specifically issued by my sponsor Dan’s Comp Bike shop in Evansville, IN. Yet Sugio is an international brand and their thermal jacket is certainly available for order online if you wanted to experience warm bliss such as I have.  This jacket is very thin yet waterproof, thermally lined, perfectly tapered and deflects wind so well I believe you could stand behind a jet engine and not mess up your hair. Well, maybe that’s a bad example because the jacket doesn’t cover your head but, you get the picture. This is a well thought out cycling jacket; extra long sleeves, small coattail, high collar, arm pit ventilation, and three rear pockets that keep your belonging secure even when inverted (Just for testing purposes, no epic endos here).20160215_170507.jpg I was initially hesitant to invest in such a jacket. I believe that I am colder than the average bear and riding in the winter wind requires 3-4 layers. But not with this jacket!! I recently rode 44 miles with a steady wind in temperatures ranging 29 to 33 degrees wearing just ONE thermal shirt and my Dan’s Comp jacket. By the way it was overcast and kind of damp too. Definitely not a ride I thought I would survive let alone enjoy!! Thanks to Dan’s Comp and Sugio it is now an option to ride below freezing!

Specialized Command dropper seat post
THIS is the most magnificent of my favorite things, the dropper seat post. The debate, to drop or not to drop is as heated as that of religion and gun control. You either think, “I like to go off jumps and lean my bike near-parallel when railing corners and the dropper post allows me to do those things better”. Or you maintain that a dropper post is cheating and riders simply need to get better at maneuvering their body around the bike. I was in the latter camp for a long time. I practice mountain bike skills almost weekly.  I can get behind and around my seat with… some ease and I understand the importance of leaning the bike and not the body through corners. I feel like I ride technically sound and often have the speedy times to prove it.  But my biggest concern has been going off jumps. I’ve worked on my jumping technique for years now and while I seem to have my timing and mechanics down I could never jump very high. I was determined to get better.
I went to a downhill clinic at Snowshoe Mountain and rode a true downhill bike, complete with the seat slammed down to the top tube. It was then that I realized the high seat on my cross country bike had been limiting how much I could squat and load with my legs. Sure the suspension and geometry of the downhill bike helped propel me up in the air but I was highly attuned to how much more space I had between my butt and the seat. When I returned to ride my cross country bike on the jump line I put my seat as far down as it would go, and sometimes I even took the seat post out completely! Instantly I felt a difference and felt like I could better execute the steps to take off and land a jump. I was beginning to see the benefits of having a lower seat but I wasn’t yet convinced it would enhance my ability to corner faster. Finally Christmas came and I got one. I’ve been eating crow ever since.
Like most things there is a learning curve to employing the dropper post. The first trail I rode with the dropper was a perfect testing ground and it soon became evident my timing needed improvement. Even with some miscues my fun level was already through the roof!! 20160131_100441.jpg
I now believe, due to actually experiencing a dropper post, that it has ENHANCED my riding skills. It is not a cheater feature. I have found the dropper post to be an excellent tool for further developing high speed cornering skills. Think of it like the Strider balance bike for kids. The Strider teaches the new rider how to balance and steer a bike before adding the additional skill of coordinated pedaling. The dropper post allows the rider to achieve optimal body position, balanced with the bike, while cornering and this breeds the confidence to go faster.  A dropper post gets the seat out of the way of any significant side to side hip movements.  A seat set high to facilitate climbing with full leg range of motion greatly impedes the ability to sit ‘next to’ your bike as a means of counter balance. It’s a great feeling knowing that the tires won’t slide out because you are leaning your bike while your body remains centered over the bottom bracket.  If your body leans with the bike through a corner your center of gravity is over the ground, and thus you go to the ground.
Here’s the final nail on the coffin. When I am riding into a corner and I don’t engage the dropper post before I enter I find myself executing the same body positioning to the same degree as when the seat is down. The dropper post has allowed my confidence, my body- bike balance, and my involuntary execution of railing a corner to all improve!! I guess one could argue that I really did need to improve my cornering skills, but I don’t believe I could have gotten there without the use of a dropper post.
Another argument against having the dropper post is that it gives you one more thing to think about while riding. Perhaps. But even when I forget to use the dropper post my riding is so fast, so fluid, and I’m having so much fun it’s like riding at an excitement level of 10 and the dropper post takes it to 11. Go ahead and call me a ‘cheater’, mountain biking isn’t a test and I’m having way too much fun to care!

Endomondo fitness app and blue tooth heart rate monitor
If it’s not on social media then it didn’t happen, right? Well cyclists have created their own social media community with the likes of Strava, MapMyRide, Garmin, and Training Peaks. All of these apps track your activity even if you chose to do something other than ride, gasp! Of course to make sure everyone knows what you rode, they allow you to share it with your friends. Likewise you can see how much your friends (or competitors) have been riding. And in mandatory social media fashion you can ‘like’ and comment on people’s workouts. This was all very fun and motivating for a while. I feel like I’ve moved past the need to share my workouts and now need a platform to really dissect what I’m accomplishing during training sessions. I’m not aiming to evaluate and contrast the platforms listed above but I have used all of them at one time or another.

My number one need right now? Detailed heart rate information. I got a blue tooth heart rate monitor last year and have loved pairing it with my phone and, at the same time Strava. I bought the premium membership for Strava because it did break down how much time was spent in each heart rate zone. At least it was something. But then my Strava refused to record any stationary efforts I had, such as riding the trainer. I’m sure you can imagine the agony of sweating and suffering for an hour with the timer and heart rate monitor going only to have it wiped away upon saving. Two episodes of this and my year long love affair with Strava was over. A handful of my mountain biking friends have also had experiences with Strava dropping mileage and even failing to save workouts.
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I needed an Android based app with GPS, heart rate zones, manual workout entry, a variety of workout categories, AND the ability to make notes on my workouts such as  weight lifting sets.  Endomondo fits the bill. It does boast additional features like social sharing, adding pictures to your workout, preparing a workout calendar, setting personal goals, and nutritional guidance, none of which I am currently using. I really like the option to set up a route before heading out on the bike (like Strava and Garmin) and the thorough graphs that break down your speed, heart rate, elevation, and lap times for each workout. I did pay $20 for the premium features, the only one of which I care about is being able to adjust the heart rate zones. I do wish I could share my workouts to other fitness trackers like Training Peaks for long term logging purposes. This app has yet to crash or lose a workout on me, and I feel that it is an all inclusive fitness app that has gotten little street cred. Mostly I use it to manually enter my yoga and weight lifting sessions but tracking rides has been flawless. I’m sure it sounds like I need a Garmin (didn’t like it) or some other heart rate focused device but I don’t really want to buy another device. Strava is not completely dead to me but I have yet to use it for any of my 30+ workouts in 2016.

 

 

Turn that wet trails frown upside down

Wet and muddy trails, everybody knows you shouldn’t ride them and given the choice between slop and dry pack I can’t say that I’d want to anyway. But there in lies the problem, you don’t get to choose. You may get one day a week to ride, and the weather better damn well cooperate! It is surprising that in this age of instant and specific- to- your- interests mass communication it could still happen that you arrive at the trail only to find out it’s wet. “Too wet to ride” are the words floating around your head, all the while being denied acknowledgement by your lips. Hey it happens, and as many beautiful days of hero dirt your favorite single track has blessed you with, it would be nice for you to return the favor by not beating the wet trail while it’s down with your tires. Even though you really wanted you ride, deep down you know it wouldn’t be that much fun slipping and sliding around at half speed. But fear not, the day is not lost! Here are some easy alternatives for quality bike time when riding the trail just isn’t an option.

Trail loveimage

If it’s questionable that the trail is going to be ridable take an extra minute to pack a shovel/rogue hoe, tree trimmers, and work boots when you load up the car.  Your sadness about not riding will quickly be replaced with pride for your forethought, as you spend a couple of hours cutting back the overgrowth and fixing the pesky runoff spots. You may even come across downed trees that you can move off the trail, or if necessary report a need for chainsawing.  Of course don’t do anything too drastic unless you have had some trail building instruction and permission from the property owners.  Don’t have the tools or know-how to do some maintenance?  That’s ok, if the trail isn’t super soaked to the point that walking is dangerous (and just as damaging as riding), allow yourself to rediscover the power of a peaceful walk in the woods.  If you are open to it, you’ll soon gain a new appreciation for the majestic terrain that you normally hurl yourself through chasing your friends’ KOMs.

Skills love

imageSince we all love shreddin’ trail more than anything else, and if we are on our bikes then that’s what we want to do, then maybe it’s time to come to terms with your bike handling skills that are ‘just good enough’.  You’re already geared up to ride and chances are there is an open field near the trailhead. This is a perfect time to commit to some systematic, controlled practice!! Track stands, front and rear wheel lifts, tight turns around shoes and water bottles, bunny hops, wheelies, and manuals oh my! Of course the options are endless and you’ll want to focus on one or two until you are giddy from your sick progression! You can work on these skills at home too, and I promise you the practice will pay off in your riding. Not sure how to even start practicing a skill? Search YouTube for guided videos (another rainy day activity!) and you’ll be ready to give it a few hundred tries as soon as that sun comes out. Just a word of warning here, wet shoes on flat pedals can beat the enthusiasm right out of ya!

Bike love

Trails are closed but you still want to get in some quality time with your bike? Sounds like a great opportunity to get out the soap and scrub brushes. Even if you wash your bike regularly, take some time to really get into the nooks and crannies. Take your chain off and thoroughly de-grease it. Yes, take it off! Take off your wheels, seat, pedals, and any accessories that may be harboring dirt against your frame. If you run tubeless tires consider refreshing the sealant. If you have the tools to remove your bottom bracket and cassette, do it. Clean it. Now this is true bike love. And, it will further motivate you to wait for the trails to really, thoroughly dry out because you wouldn’t want to undo all your hard work!

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There you have it, a short order of alternative activities for when the weather is conspiring against you. Of course, if things are really bad you can always ride on the road. I’m just kidding, don’t stoop to that level.

How to prepare for an 18 hour adventure race in 30 easy steps

imagehttp://www.dinoseries.com/mission-18-hour-race/

I am so excited to be taking on this new challenge thanks to an invitation from Team No Sleep! It’s been a while since I’ve competed in a team event and it’s been more than 10 years since my last adventure race.  As I spend the week leading up to this 18 hour endeavor of running, biking, paddling, hiking, and searching for cp’s (that’s check points (-; ) I have not only struggled to rest by not putting down 100 miles a week on my bike like I’m used to, but I’ve also caught myself giggling as I think, “is this how I prepare for 18 hours of physical and mental exertion?”. Sure I’ve raced my bike for 12 hours straight and have been on canoe and backpacking trips where I had to be self sufficient for days at a time. But somehow I knew I was mentally romanticizing my acclamation for suffering. How do you anticipate and prepare for how you feel at hour 15? Well here is what my brain came up with, legit.

Team No Sleep

Team No Sleep

1. Weeks, maybe months in advance start putting in the mileage. Running is a huge mental challenge for me so I knew this would have to be my focus.
2. Make sure you have all the required gear. Even though you do have all the required gear, consider going shopping just to see what else is out there.
3. Find the perfect backpack: must have hydration bladder, be lightweight, be compressible, have pockets that are accessible without removing the pack, maybe have some organizational pockets, not be too large, be large enough to fit your shoes if necessary, and most of all it must fit snuggly while running. This proved to be a major challenge for me, apparently my ….armpits? are small. Also it must be an approved color (no f-ing way I’m wearing pink, yellow, white, red, or pastel. Just sayin)
3.1. Continue the search for the perfect backpack. I literally when to the 4 local outdoor stores 3 times each.  Bought and tried out two packs before having to return them, searched online nightly “hmmm-ing” and “haw-ing” over price, size, style, color… When I finally convinced myself to order the “perfect backpack” the website helpfully suggested blah, blah, blah pack that is only X dollars which coincidentally is $30 cheaper than what it was listed on the site when I considered it!! UGH! Frantically get in touch with customer service (at 11: 38 pm) to cancel order and now order NEW “perfect backpack”. Damn, it’s trimmed in a dark pink. The struggle is real folks.
4. Fill “perfect backpack” with water and anticipated gear and go for a run with it.
5. Decide favorite pair of trail shoes to use.
6. Decide favorite headlamp to use.
7. Take bike in for tune up since it’s been almost a week since you last hung out at the bike shop for over an hour.
8. Think about all the catastrophic events that could happen to your bike, rendering it utterly useless and instead of excelling in that leg of the race you now have to RUN MORE!
9. Wonder if you will have to swim at any point during the race and reminisce about the last time you had to swim fully clothed with shoes on and a full pack and how it took almost an hour to get across the ‘stream’.
10. Immediately consider swimming laps at the YMCA fully clothed with shoes on and donning a full pack.
11. Think about the most conducive hair style for adventure racing. Much to my surprise pig tails are the leading contender. Also consider what ‘head piece’ to wear. Packing a hat AND buff isn’t too much right?
12. Daydream about all the endurance food you get to buy!
13. Much like preparing for your big wedding day, plan ‘practice hair’ and ‘practice outfit’ training sessions.
14. Continue training on steep terrain. Surely all the walkers you pass realize by now that you are a ‘serious athlete’ and must be pretty amazing considering your reflective sunglasses, fully loaded “perfect backpack” (too bad it has a little pink on it they’ll whisper), and compression sleeves.

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1st gear run check

A week before the event
15. Cut back on training hours and intensity. Plan to do myofacial release, yoga, and visualization exercises with all the extra time you have each day.
16. Reject previously selected race day outfit. Consider buying new shoes, pants, and “high quality bra”. Make no purchases in this regard despite 8 hours of dedicated shopping.
17. Get 90 minute massage.
18. Consider performing home enima to really clean out the digestive system so you have no problems come race day. Also because you’ll be lighter.
19. Think about shaving head for the event because it’s so much more practical and who cares about life or keeping your job after the race.
20. Feel depressed for a full day because you know it is impractical to bring your phone on the race and you’re legit mourning not being able to track your heart rate, distance, take sweaty selfies and wildlife pics, or post your progress on facebook. The struggle is real folks.
21. Make an all- inclusive packing list for before, during, and after the race.
22. Realize there is way too much stuff to bring and consider bringing ‘virtually nothing’ to demonstrate how old-school cool you are.
23. Purchase ultra-endurance-athlete-cookbook and plan to make ALL of your own fuel for the race. That commercial stuff is “sooo bad for you anyway”.
24. Change mind about which is the best headlamp, chem light, and multi-tool and repack….two times.

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“perfect backpack” and food load

Three days til event
25. Stretch, foam-roll, and meditate each day FOR REAL THIS TIME!
26. Make homemade, raw, vegan endurance food. Eat half of it for dinner.
27. Consider disassembling bike to give it a real thorough ‘once over’ because you have the time really.
28. Begin the process of packing. Choose 3 different podium outfits to have available for when your team kills it! (They do podiums in AR right?)
29. Go to bed early and peacefully knowing that you are as prepared as you’ll ever be.
30. Wake up frantically throughout the night because you realize there are a hundred things you should have done to better prepare you for the big race!

My trusty steed

My trusty steed

I’ll be sure to let you know how these steps helped me come race day!

 

Girls Gone Underground

Have you heard about the first ever underground bike park?! Well technically it’s in the Mega Caverns cave of Louisville, KY which is practically my backyard! With the obnoxious freeze/ thaw trail conditions going on around here I jumped at the chance to enjoy some dry, temperate riding. I grabbed my Dan’s Comp teammate Lauren Hoover and the Go Pro and drove into the suburbs (yes, really) of Louisville to do a little cave riding! mega2

4 hours= $24

8 hours= $40

no storage

cool temps, very dry- make yourself drink water

snacks available

few wood features, ample dirt jumps, clearlymega3 more to come!

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Check out the sweet video!

A Sweet Six Hours

The 6 hour endurance race at Lock 4 in Gallatin, TN is one that I have competed in as part of a duo for the past two years.  My different partners and I finished in the top two both times and I have strong memories of struggling to complete my share of three, non-consecutive laps. This year I decided to make a solo attempt and see if I could survive four laps of the technical terrain.
Each year I have knocked about a minute off my time for the 9 mile loop, and this year I was shooting for a lap or two in the 49 minute range. Even factoring in a few minutes for fatigue in later laps, I could logically complete six laps in the six hours, but didn’t really want to make that an expectation. Honestly I didn’t want that much stress in my life for an end of season race! I admit focus was not that great leading up to race day but I followed through with my usual physical and nutritional preparations and at least felt confident that I would enjoy a day of riding.
The morning started off a little rushed and a little chillier than I would have liked but once it was time to lay out our bikes and line up for the foot race (Lemonds style start) I was confident I had prepared myself well.  The first few laps of an endurance race are like sprinting into a dark tunnel; you have little to no idea who you’re competing against, but you keep pushing the pace in order to give yourself a shot at being in the lead going into later laps. It was nice to see a number of female riders at the start line but there is no way to know if they are competing as a team or solo. I took off hard like I always do getting drawn in to the frenzy of male riders looking toestablish themselves early as well. Once we hit the first climb I reminded myself to control my breathing and focus on sequencing the elements of the trail. I knew from experience it would be pinnacle to my mental resolve to be able to ‘count down’ technical landmarks in later laps. My inner dialogue cycled between, “oh yeah I remember this,” and “that was sweet!” as I took note of six climbs and handful of technical sections that felt remarkably easier than I remembered.

today's performace brought to you by...

today’s performance brought to you by…

Coming into the transition area for the first time I felt amazing! I was confident I had enough water to make it through a second lap and my homemade energy gel was keeping my energy stores up perfectly. I cruised right on past our team tent and embarked on an equally enjoyable second lap. As I came in for the second time I continued to feel energized and confident. I quickly switched out water bottles and gel flasks and headed into the woods for two more laps.
Still feeling good finishing up my third lap I allowed myself to mentally check into the race for the first time. By my computer my first two laps were both under 50 minutes and at a pace I felt I could stay pretty close to.  I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt; pushing a good pace, staying technically sound and all the while staying clear of the pain cave.  I was still smiling on the climbs and I soon realized I owed it to myself to shoot for five laps. Or more. My active goal was now to complete lap four by 1:30 pm. I would force myself to get off the bike, eat as much as I could, and then head out for two more laps. All laps had to be completed by 4pm in order to count. By making my self-imposed cut off time I would have a cushy 2 1/2 hours to pound out laps five and six. Now I was getting excited. Lap Four proved to be a little less smooth, perhaps because I was doing all these math calculations while I was supposed to be looking down the trail.  My chain popped off four times and I was feeling my first twinge of fatigue. I decided that my chain was coming off after riding through rough terrain or launching off the ever-so-inviting jumps. I convinced myself to dial it back a bit and work on controlling my back-end more.  This proved to be successful as I didn’t have any more mishaps.  I continued to focus on riding smooth instead of fast and pushed myself to wrap up the 4th lap.
I came in ahead of schedule and promptly sat down to refuel my body.  I refilled two water bottles, ate half a vegan power cookie, a pack of Clif shot blocks, and took some Sports Legs anti-cramping capsules, a personal favorite. As I mentioned earlier its hard to know where you stand throughout an endurance race like this. What I did know is that I had only been passed by one woman and based on the speed and ease in which she busted past me on a climb I concluded that she was either on a team, and therefore had much fresher legs, or she was far enough out of my league that it would have been futile to chase her down.  I was also very confident in how I was riding and supremely motivated that I was on my way to completing six laps! I stuffed a bonk breaker bar in my jersey and after about 10 minutes of rest I decided it was time to get back on the bike.  The refueling caused my body to explode onto the trail and I once again had to focus on riding smooth.  My fifth lap felt almost as strong as my first lap and I grew more and more proud as I whizzed through the transition zone and started in on my sixth lap with almost an hour and a half to go.
lock 4 shirt
I was very pleased with how my body was holding up and my mental resolve was doing remarkably well given the amount of time I had ridden the same terrain over and over.  I used my counting down technique and really tried to savor the trail that I so rarely get to ride. I came across many riders that proved to be pleasant distractions to the monotony that always seems to sneak in to short and long races alike.  I felt a slight up-tick in adrenaline each time I passed a woman and yet I somehow sensed that they were only on their fifth lap. I was confident that I was the only woman on track to complete six laps.  If I wasn’t, well there certainly wouldn’t be time for another lap so it would have to do. I was soon within the last three miles of the finish and then after an eternity, there was just 100 meters of road to cover before I would be done. I sprinted through the timer’s table and pedaled to our team tent, looking around and for the first time taking in the beauty of the Lock 4 peninsula we were on.
This weekend I amazed myself. I felt my whole year of weight training, weekly mileage chasing, and diet transformation come together.  I am extremely proud of my performance this weekend and hopefully picked up some lessons in striving to do my best, rather than obsessively worrying about what the outcome might be. Not only did I win the women’s solo category but I was also the only one in the field of five to complete six laps.  My first two laps were both under 49 minutes and five of my six laps were faster than all of the other competitors laps. Going into lap five is when I rested for 10-12 minutes.  I know what it feels like to be in awe of somebody’s lap times, but it’s truly surreal when they are yours for once.  I couldn’t have done it without support from my sponsor Dan’s Comp and my Evansville Mountain Bike Association (EMBA) brethren that also showed up that day to throw down some impressive mileage. Our little club from the north took home 5 medals today! Thank you also to Biker’s Choice for continuing to put on a great endurance event each year and most importantly for the Stan’s Notubes wheel set for my first place prize! Maybe I’ll get cyclocross wheels. 😛
lock 4 2014 times
lock 4 podium