Monday, June 5, 2017

Mohican 100

We had a pretty perfect weekend up in Ohio. The weather was warm and sunny, we remembered to pack everything except the carborocket and there was only 1 annoying camp party who kept everyone awake until 2am yelling and playing beer pong.

Setting up camp

Pre-race pizza dinner with Chris, Jeff and Janis

I raced Mohican once before 3 years ago and there were certain parts of the course that I remembered. The long singletrack section at the start, Aid station 3 in the barn, climbing up a grassy hill into the woods right after Aid 3, the 10 mile mind-numbing rail trail section around mile 65. There were also a lot of really steep climbs in the second half of the race that I had somehow managed to completely forget about.

Just before we biked over to the start line

My race went really well. I have finally found my 100 mile racing legs and instead of flying and dying like I did at Cohutta, I felt like I was able to fly for the entire race. The start at Mohican is always chaotic. There are about 700 races in the 100 mile and 100k race starting at the same time down main street in Loudonville, OH. I saw 1 horrible crash in the first ½ mile that took out at least 2 racers on the asphalt. Then we hit the first hill and things started to spread out a little bit. I got into a good position leading the women’s field right before we entered the 1st singletrack section. It was so fun! The first 30ish mils are all singletrack riding through really flowy, fast trails. I had my full suspension bike with ESI grips and Maxxis Ikon tires and was just rolling through the trails behind a fast group of men.

The race start

After the singletrack section, there were some dirt roads, steep punchy climbs, some more rocky singletrack sections before hitting Aid 3 at about 50 miles into the race. I was still feeling great and just focused on hammering all the road sections as much as I could and never sitting behind riders I caught up to for too long. My goal was to try and hit the rail trail section with some other geared riders so we could alternate pulls on the flat, boring, mentally draining section. Unfortunately, I ended up hitting the trail with no one in sight except for a singlespeeder, Matt. Useless! I put my head down and started plugging away with Matt drafting behind me. About half way through, I saw another rider ahead. “Great,” I thought. “Someone to share the work with.” I put in a bit more effort to catch up. It turned out be another useless singlespeeder :-)

After Aid 4 around mile 73, there were quite a few more steep climbs and singletrack sections. Matt helped out and set the pace up a lot of the climbs and it was nice to have someone to keep up with because my legs were starting to feel a little tired. We joined up with another geared rider and rolled right through Aid 5, into the last 5-6 miles of singletrack before the finish. About midway through the singletrack section, I figured there was a chance I might be able to break 8 hours. I decided to go for it and put in one last hard effort to the finish, passing a bunch of 100k riders and finishing in 7:56, 1st place for the women’s field! Jeff did the 100K race on his singlespeed, and he was there at the finish to cheer me in.

Hanging out at the finish with Linda, the 100k women's champion!

I think there were a couple of things that made this race a lot better for me. The first was a workout my coach, Chris Beck, made me do last weekend. It was 4x45 minute intervals with 15 minutes rest. It was like doing 4 time trials in a row. It was hard, but it definitely gave me the confidence to keep the pace fast for the entire race without fear that I would blow up. I also brought music this time, which I don’t usually race with. I think it kept me more upbeat and I could more easily ignore how hard I was breathing/working. Lastly, Jeff and I watched some of the UCI World Cup MTB races on Redbull TV. It was pretty inspiring to see the women there racing their hearts out and anytime I started to think about backing off the pace, I kept telling myself that none of those women would slow down and that motivated me to keep going.

It was really fun catching up with all our NUE friends. Congrats to everyone else who raced. Linda and Jenn finished 1st and 2nd in the 100k race, John got 1st and Chris finished 7th in the 100m SS race, Jeff got 9th in the 100k SS race, and Janis did an awesome job and finished the 100k before I finished 100 miles, which he is very proud of!

With Linda and Roger

Holding up the wall with John, Jeff and Chris

I think it’s awesome that there were some many new and competitive racers in the women’s field this year. It’s also awesome that there was equal payout for the men’s and women’s champions, which is such a positive change from years prior. I still think there should be equal payout for all female podium finishers and that will only help to increase the size and talent in the women’s field.

Women's 100 mile podium. Congrats to everyone else up here

Thanks so much to Ryan for organizing the race, all the volunteers at the aid stations (having pitchers of water made filling camel packs so much easier and faster!), to Back Alley Bikes for getting my bike completely repaired after I destroyed it at Pisgah, to ESI grips, Maxxis Tires, Ridge Supply Socks, Joe’s Bike Shop Racing Team, and my coach, Chris Beck, who gives me sometimes impossible workouts but never stops challenging me to get faster and stronger. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pisgah 55.5k

I woke up at 4am Sunday morning. My legs were sore and hurting, I could barely stretch out my arms they were so tight from all the hiking and bike carrying of yesterday. My stomach was cramping from hunger. I grabbed my phone and started poking around our air bnb room searching for food and ibuprofen. I found a cliff bar and a bagel and luckily my mom woke up and told me where to find ibuprofen in her suitcase. All of that down the hatch and then back to bed to try to catch a few more hours of sleep before race time again.

I woke up again at 8 and looked out the window. It was teeming down with rain. "Are you sure you want to do this again today?" my mom asked. I didn't answer right away, but I already knew the answer in my head. I committed to a weekend of racing in Pisgah and a little or even a lot of rain wasn't going to deter my plans. I wrapped up my blistered feet as best I could, slid them back into soaking wet shoes and headed out to the start line.

Starting off in the pouring rain: Photo courtesy of Steve Barker

I want to give a huge thanks and shout out to the guys at The Hub, who helped fixed my suspension after the race yesterday. Although they didn't have a replacement lock-out in stock, they were able to rig up some type of solution so that I had at least a working front fork and a partially working rear suspension for the race today. I really can't thank them enough for helping me. 

I had heard from a bunch of people that the 55.5k is harder than the 111k with more technical trails and no "free miles" on fire roads. I knew that were were going up Black Mountain the way we had finished yesterday, across on Turkey Pen, which was going to be a new trail for me, and then repeating the hardest 17 miles of singletrack that included the descent down Pilot and long hike-a-bike sections on Black Mountain again. At least today, I knew exactly what to expect. 

We started off in the pouring rain, and it rained all day, never letting up. The trails were just comical, rivers literally running down them, muddy, slippery - it was going to be an epic day of riding for sure. We started the climb up Black Mountain. Allison was definitely looking peppy. She was running up sections of trail, jumping onto her bike cx style, pedaling away. I was definitely not feeling that limber. I just let her go and focused on steady deliberate hiking up Black Mountain. Again, my main goal today was to finish. However, at the top of Black Mountain, I was saw Allison again turning right down Turkey Pen, and I was only a few seconds behind her. Hmmm. I thought. I seemed to be catching her without putting out too much effort. Maybe I can make this into a race. Turkey Pen was a mess. Wet, muddy, steep, slippery downhills. As much as I want to push the limits of my descending skills, I also enjoy having a job in the ED and 4 fully functioning limbs, so I decided to run my bike down one of the steepest parts on Turkey Pen. Allison road it and came shooting past me and got a good gap right before aid 1. Oh well. 

I was actually feeling pretty good at Aid 1. I had plenty of water in my camel pack and just rolled through without stopping. The rest of the course I knew from racing yesterday. The river crossings today were super high with strong currents. I almost went under across the largest one but luckily my foot found a rock and I put all my weight against it and stood up and forced my tired arms to get my bike above my head so it wasn't dragging me downstream. They guys I was crossing with made some comments about my good save. 

On the climb up 5015, I saw Allison again in front of me. I decided to go catch her and passed her just before Aid 2. I filled up my camel pack and was off up Laurel. It was still pouring, but I felt great and was riding really well for me. Even with all the rain and mud, the slippery roots and rocks were not causing me any issues. I made it up to the top of Pilot and again did the scary descent down the back, this time with rivers running down the trail. Into Aid 3, and back up Buckhorn Gap. Today it was not a fun fast climb. Today, it was a deep muddy mess that your tires just sank into. I met another racer named Tony, and we talked for bit as we rode along and then did more hiking up Black Mountain. I just focused on constant, deliberate forward progress and tried to roll my bike up everything since my arms were too tired to carry it. 

Finally I hit the last descent. Finally, a few minutes of fun before this race was over! However, mid way down the mountain, both of my brakes finally failed. I couldn't stop. OMG. So scary. I unclipped my left foot and started skimming the ground trying to control my speed. I finally turned my bike straight into the woods, off the trail and was able to stop. F. It seems fitting that had to run my bike down the rest of the descent. Pisgah made me work for every single mile of that race. I finished though, 1st place, drenched, bruised, blistered, tired, with a totally destroyed bike. It was pretty epic!

At the finish! Photo from Steve Barker
I feel like I conquered Pisgah, and I did it in the rain. Finishing back to back races there definitely makes you feel like you can do anything! Many thanks to the race director and all the volunteers who put on a great weekend of racing and who braved the elements to make it a great day for all us of racing. Much thanks too to Maxxis Tires and ESI grips which held up great in the terrible conditions, Ridge Supply socks (blisters were from new shoes not the socks!), Huma Gel, Joe's Bike Shop, my coach, Chris Beck, and of course, my mom who only questioned my insanity once!

Women's podium. Eleanor finished 3rd both days on a single speed which is absolutely insane!
Cool belt buckle prizes from I9

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pisgah 111k

After this weekend, I can cross one off my bucket list: to do a race in Pisgah. It has been my goal to race in Pisgah ever since moving to North Carolina. Jeff and I have never had fun biking the singletrack in there. Roots, rocks, overgrown trails, hike-a-bikes, getting terribly lost because we always try to figure out routes without bringing maps, 4 hour planned rides that end up taking 7. That has been our experience with the Pisgah singletrack the 2 times we have tried to ride there. But for some reason in my mind, doing a race in Pisgah means you are a real mountain biker with real technical riding skills, which is what I have been working hard on over the last couple of years. I wanted to put those skills to the test. I had no idea what to expect. The trails listed on the cue sheets (Laurel Mountain, Pilot Rock, Black Mountain) had no meaning to me.

New kit day! Jeff and I designed summer racing jerseys

Before the start.

Saturday was the 111k. Dylan told me at the start that the trails were just like Shenandoah. That made me feel better about the day since I can handle Shenandoah. Let me just say that the trails are in no way like Shenandoah. Dylan said after the race that he hadn't actually ridden those trails in a really long time and had forgotten how hard they were. Wonderful. 

At the start. Photo credit to my mom!

And we are off!

We started up the dirt road climb behind the horse stables. I was feeling good, nervous about what the day held, excited to be actually racing in Pisgah! The weekend for me was not about racing other people. It was about riding my pace, staying within my head, not getting wigged out on the super steep rocky downhills, and keeping something in reserve since I had no idea what Pisgah would serve up for me around the next corner. 

Maybe actually having fun riding in Pisgah?

The race was actually going incredibly well. I made it through a bunch of singletrack to Aid 1 without too much difficulty and it seemed like no time passed at all before I was at Aid 2 at the top of a fire road climb up 5015. After that, there was some more fire road and we hit Spencer's Gap trail, which definitely made it onto my list of top 10 favorite trails to ride. I hit Aid 3 around 50 miles and was still feeling good. 50 miles into a Pisgah race, and I wasn't yet having death wishes. Ah, how naive I was. 

The last 20 miles is probably the hardest 20 miles of singletrack riding I have ever done. Laurel Mountain trail is ok. There are some really tricky rocky sections that I had to walk over and the roots always seemed to want to slide me off the trail and down the mountain side, but I managed those fine. Then there is a long hike-a-bike section to the top of Pilot Rock. The descent off Pilot Rock was super challenging. Steep, huge rocks in all the switchbacks, gullies to navigate through. Ugh. To make matters worse, my lock out had stopped working somewhere along the way, so I had a rigid frame to navigate down the mountain. If anyone from the bike industry is reading this, you should really reverse engineer lockouts so that if the lock out breaks, your suspension is full squish instead of fully locked out.

I made to aid station 4. There was something like 8 or 9 miles to go. Woo! No problem. Climbed up Buckhorn Gap trail which was a gradual, fun, fast climb. 5 or so miles. OMG. Those last 5 miles were THE WORST. At least 4 long hike-a-bike sections, super steep, slick rocks. I was definitely not expecting that. Blisters on both feet made each step painful. I started losing it and cursing the forest. It felt like La Ruta, although I kept telling myself nothing was ever going to be as bad as La Ruta. And it wasn't. I hit the descent, walked down a few really sketchy sections up high with big drops, and then flew down the lower part of Black Mountain which was so so fun! And then the finish line was right there! 8 hours and 45 mins. It was a long day, but first race in Pisgah was done, and I was still in one piece!

No longer new kit day

Finished in 1st place for the women. Congrats to Miko and Elenaor and everyone else who raced too

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mother's day

This post is dedicated to my mom. I really don't think I would be where I am in racing right now if it wasn't for my mom, and since it is mother's day, I thought I would share some stories about how much my mom has supported my racing adventures. It started off freshman year of college. I decided I wanted to run a marathon. I found the closest and cheapest one that I could. It was called the Race of Champions Marathon in Holyoke, MA. My mom drove up from CT to pick me up from college in New Hampshire, and we drove to Holyoke together. She was there cheering for me at all the aid stations and volunteered to help hand out water and gels to runners while she waited for me to come through. She was at the finish line to give me a big hug and say congratulations and share in my enthusiasm and post-race stories.

A few years later, I decided to try a half Ironman in the Poconos. Again, it was my mom I called after I paid the registration fee to see if she wanted to go with me. "Of course," she said. "I would love to." She went with me to race registration and was there to try to comfort me when we found out the swim was cancelled due to flooding of the river and the half ironman turned into a half duathlon. She was there to help me across the finish line and take my picture when I finished 2nd in my age group. During the pre-race dinner, we sat with some seasoned triathletes who were talking about their Ironman experiences. My mom thought they were crazy for trying that distance. I couldn't wait to sign up.

Poconos 70.3 (minus the swim)

The next year, we were off to St. George, Utah together. That was back when St. George was still a full Ironman distance tri. We met at the airport in New York and flew out together, just me and her. She was there to drive around the bike course with me before the race so I could see just how hilly it was going to be, she was up before dawn so that she could see me off at the race start, she mapped out a route around the course so that she could cheer for me at multiple sites, and she was there at the finish line to hear them announce my name as an Ironman finisher.

The start of the St. George Ironman

Exploring The Narrows at Zion National Park during our trip to Utah
Hiking at Bryce Canyon

There were lots of other races my mom came to. Countless soccer practices and tournaments in high school, crew races in college, other marathons, triathlons, and cyclocross races. She is still the first person I call after a big race to give her the results. My mom doesn't always understand why I like endurance racing or the sometimes obsessive training that goes along with it, but she has never stopped believing in me or cheering for me.

My mom in the yellow raincoat (and dad) braving the Connecticut blizzard to cheer me on during cyclocross nationals this past January 

After the racing at cx nats

My mom is the one who gave me my sense of adventure, who taught me a love for the outdoors, and who taught me not to be afraid to try new things. Without that spirit that she instilled in me, I probably would have never started mountain biking in the first place. She also taught me that if you are going to do a job, you should put in 100% and do the job right. That is still something I try to live by everyday.

Winter skiing with mom in VT
Summer hiking with mom in NH

This coming weekend are races in Pisgah. Jeff is away in Baltimore that weekend and isn't racing. Guess who is coming with me instead? Thanks mom. You are best. And happy happy mother's day!

My mom trying mountain biking last summer! Never afraid to try something new

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cohutta 100

Sometimes races are won not on strong pedaling performances but on pure grit, perseverance and determination not to give up. That was certainly the case for me this past weekend at Cohutta. Maybe it was a crazy residency work schedule recently and constantly switching from working nights and days. Maybe it was not unloading enough from a tough training block prescribed by Coach Beck. Maybe it was simply the fact I had an off day. Whatever the reason, Saturday's race involved a lot a suffering, and I got lucky that I was still able to pull off a win. If someone had challenged me especially late in the race, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to counter their attack.

This is the 4th year I have raced Cohutta, I'm not sure how many times Chris has raced, but every year we take a picture on the same rock

We drove out to the Ocoee Whitewater Center on Friday. Before we had even had time to park, we had the windows open were saying hi to friends we hadn't seen in a really long time. Chris, Kathy and Mark from the Joe's Bike Shop team, Brenda and Lee Simril, Tom Haines, Jen and Anthony Toops, Dylan Johnson, Jeff Clayton. It was really fun seeing everyone again and catching up. We went for a fun pre-ride down the first 10 miles of singletrack and then set up camp at Thunder Rock Campground. We got invited to a delicious dinner of homemade lasagna and strawberry cobbler cooked in dutch ovens with Brad and all of his friends from Chattanooga.

Group photo from our pre-ride

I'm not going to lie. I was feeling really tired on Friday night. But Saturday morning rolled around and we biked over to the start line under the Kenda arch. After the annual prayer, we were off. There were some last minute course changes unfortunately due to the forest service not letting us bike on some trails in the area or use the usual forest roads. Instead of 100 miles and a big gravel road loop, the course was changed to 83 miles with a smaller gravel loop and an out and back section on a gravel jeep road. Hopefully next year we will get to ride those new back country trails.

Race start

The start was fast. Up the first road hill and into the first 20 miles of single track. It was also hot. Sweat was pouring off my face within the first 20 min of riding. I felt pretty good through the first single track and got a lead on the rest of the women's field. Then we hit the 14 mile out and back jeep road. I was with a group of guys and decided to just sit in with them. I wanted to push, but my legs were already feeling too tired for only being 20-30 miles into the race.

Here is my GoPro footage of the first singletrack section:

Somewhere around mile 40, I was riding with Dan Kotwicki. We usually end up riding together at some point during these NUE races. He said something about how last year I was hammering this course and how he couldn't keep up. That motivated me a bit to get my butt moving. I took up off a hill and actually felt ok for about 20 miles and maybe put in a little more of a gap on the 2nd place woman.

The last 20 miles were a straight out suffer fest. The fatigue I was feeling at mile 20 felt like it was doubling with every mile. I haven't felt that bad in a bike race in a really long time. I wasn't racing anymore. I was simply pedaling to finish, head down, slow spinning up the hills, just flat out focusing not to give up. There were parts of the last singletrack section that were really fun, but then a steep kicker of a hill would pop around a corner and that brought all the misery back. Finally, I hit the last downhill that brought me out to the road and finish line. I looked behind me and still didn't see any other women. Thank goodness. It was a huge relief crossing that finish line.

Crossing the finish line

The result was a great one but the racing was not, and I know I have way more to put out there on the course. Dan also told me during our ride together that I was riding like Cheryl Swornson and Amanda Carey. That was really nice of him, because I look up to both of those women who destroyed endurance mountain bike races and who are also just really nice and encouraging people. I didn't ride like them at Cohutta this year, but I have another month of training, some technical racing in Pisgah, better tapering and then Mohican, where I am already looking forward to personal redemption!

Thanks so much to ESI grips (best grips out there), Maxxis Tires (once again, Ikons with sidewall protection did great, no flats), Huma Gels, Ridge Supply Socks, Back Alley Bikes for getting my hardtail ready, Chris Beck for all the coaching and Joe's Bike Shop for all the support.

Women's Open Podium

Hanging out with Chris, Brad and Dylan after the race

Me, Tom and Jeff
Enjoying post race beers with Janis at Wicked Weed in Asheville on the way home

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Warrior Creek

I actually wasn't planning to race Warrior Creek this year. But it turned out, I was already scheduled for the day off of work, Chris wanted to be my race partner, we came up with a great team name, and the race director let us in off the waitlist. Too many things were aligning perfectly for me to miss out on this race.

I wasn't sure how I would hold up 6 days after finishing Cape Epic. My legs were definitely still feeling heavy, but I was kind of excited to just race hot laps and not have to worry about pacing myself for a 6 hour ride.

Last year, Jeff and Chris teamed up to race in the duo category. Their team name was "Team Beat Carla." I was riding solo. They beat me by a whole lap. They even had a podium at end with champagne. This year, Chris and I decided that our goal was to beat their duo time from last year. And win of course.

Last year's cooler and champagne podium

There was some concern that the race might be cancelled or delayed due to rain the day before. Luckily, the trails dried out and the race was scheduled to start on time (or a little later as people were still at the registration tent when the 10am hour rolled around). Jeff, Chris, Reedy and I drove out together from Chapel Hill. We got a champion's breakfast of Chick-fil-A on the way there.

It was so much fun seeing and catching up with all the friends we normally see and hang out with at endurance races. Dunlap, Dillon, all our friends from the Wicked Wash team, Jeff Clayton, John Haddock.

Chris lined up to race the prologue. He was about 5 rows back from the leaders. The trick to getting in the front row is not to line up 1/2 hour before, but to casually roll up 5 minutes before the start and make a new row in front of the official starting line. Lesson learned for next year.

Chris was off and by the time he finished the short prologue loop was up in the top 10 heading into the woods. I cheered everyone on and then went to make sure my bike was actually working. The hubs on my hardtail were broken so Jeff helped me build up my full suspension bike the night before the race. Shifting seemed to be working well, and I got the seat height adjusted. I rode up to the start line to wait for Chris to come in.

There was a $50 prime for the 1st rider across the start/finish line. I knew we were going to be trouble when Byron Rice came through in 1st without a single other rider in contention. He was riding in the co-ed category with his partner, Zoe. Zoe took off, and I sat waiting for Chris. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 minutes went by. I stopped counting after 5. It was an eternity. From my first lap, I knew this was not going to be an easy walk in the park.

Finally Chris came through, and I went off as hard as I could. We were in 5th place in the co-ed category. I started my first lap contemplating not even making it onto the podium. The good news is, I love the Warrior Creek trails and now that we live kinda close to area, I felt like I knew the trails really well. "Cx pace," I kept telling my self. "Don't ever sit." My legs were tired, but I still felt like I was flying along a roller coaster. I definitely spun a little bit up the hills instead of attacking them like I normally do, but I felt that I was keeping up a good pace. The entire 1st lap, I just concentrated on picking off as many people as I could. I caught and passed everyone except Zoe, and managed to get Chris into 2nd place for the start of his 2nd lap.

Chris went off, and I hung out with Janis at our tent site. It was one of those days that was chilly if you were in the shade (esp in sweaty gear) but a perfect temperature in the sun. The guys on the other top co-ed teams were really fast. We were back in 3rd place again for the the start of my second lap. But I noted we were only 4-5 minutes behind Zoe/Byron. We were definitely making up time on them. Doing some quick math in my head, I figured we might have a chance of catching them before the end of the race.

My second lap was even more fun than the 1st. My legs felt good, and I was determined to try and catch Zoe. I kept pushing and telling myself she would right around the next corner. There was more traffic out on the course for the 2nd lap as riders were getting more spread out, but for the most part, people really nice about moving over and letting me pass. Around 4ish miles from the finish line, I actually caught up and passed Zoe. I put the hammer down as much as I could after that to try and get Chris as much of a gap as possible on the guys heading into the 5th lap.

Chris took off. I yelled to go as fast as he could. He probably didn't appreciate that much since we were both already going as fast as we could. But anyway, he put down a killer last lap and didn't let any of the other co-ed teams pass him. Which meant that I got to start my last lap in 1st place. My goal was to keep the pressure on, but also to ride smart and not crash or get a mechanical that might cost us the race. Mission completed. One the best parts of that lap was coming into the last bit of trail and seeing Jeff and the Wicked Wash guys drinking beer, yelling and cheering for all of the finishing racers.

I was definitely exhausted afterwards. We enjoyed the post-race bbq, a celebratory beer (Chris forgot the champagne to celebrate our podium), and sharing race stories with everyone else. After a slow 1st lap due to a leg injury, Jeff finally got himself into race mode and had an amazing 5th place finish in the SS category, which was his 1st race ever on a SS bike. Too bad they didn't go 5 deep on the podium because that would be have actually been the best part of the day. Congrats too to Gordon and Haddock for actually making it onto the SS podium, to Jeff Clayton for winning the masters race, to Dillon, Keith and Dunlap for 1st, 3rd and 4th place finishes in the men's solo, Angelina and Sarah for 3rd in the women's duo and to Chris for finishing 3nd in the women's solo category.

This year's real podium!

We ended up beating Jeff's and Chris's duo time from last year. Their time was 6h 44m 11s. Our time this year was 6h 30min 43s. Last year, not a single co-ed team did more than 5 laps. This year, the top 4 coed teams finished 6 laps. It was super fun to be out there racing against other really strong women riders. I really can't thank the race director enough for continuing to put on this race. It is a fantastic event, the trails really could not be any more fun to ride and it brings together so many great people. I can't wait to come back next year.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Stage 7

We made it! We finished the Cape Epic. I can't quite believe it is over. I was in tears across the finish line. It was pretty emotional. All that training, all that prepartion, all those nightmares about things that could go wrong. It turns out, everything paid off. Brad said he didn't know I was capable of crying. I will just say that I am. I had no idea I could bike that hard for 8 days straight. The only other stage race I have done is La Ruta, which Brad assures me doesn't count as an actual stage race. With the exception of 1 small crash and 1 mechanical, we had a pretty prefect race. I am so happy and so relieved that everything went so well.

At the finish. We made it!

The last stage was by no means easy. It was like racing Monster Cross again after 7 hard days on the bike. There was nothing fun about the stage. We started in the A corral today which meant a fast start and fast pace for the entire 85km. Brad was not messing around. He pushed the pace the entire time. I would have been happy to sit in the pack and ride at a comfortably hard pace to the finish. Brad had me riding at an uncomfortably fast pace, and I was chasing his wheel the entire time. He asked me at one point how I was doing. "Good," I said. My inner voice was saying "ugh, slow the fuck down." But I like being pushed and tried my absolute hardest not to let Brad down on the last stage. We finished 5th in the mixed category and 79th overall on the stage. We ended up in 6th place in the mixed category for the entire race, which I couldn't be more happy about. We were also the 3rd fastest American team there behind Jeremiah Bishop and George Hincapie, so I'll take that!

Packing up our suitcases one last time

The start line this morning for the final stage

We definitely sent it today!

My trusty and dusty hydration pack and race number. We are no longer newbies!

 The only fun part about the stage today was riding up a winding paved road climb and then descending down a series a wide swooping fast switchbacks. The rest of the race was pretty flat, dry, dusty, sandy dirt roads.

Brad and me with our physios, Heleen and Marlia

The entire CTS group! We made it.

The CTS group at the polo grounds at Val De Vie

Brad, me and Stephen at the finish and after showers!

I really can't thank my sponsors enough: Maxxis Tires (no flats the entire race), ESI grips (no slip, no blisters), Ridge Supply Socks (so much dust to shake) and Joe's Bike Shop for my amazing bike. Also to Motor Mile Racing, HandUp Gloves, Hunter packs and Hincapie Sports Wear.

To my coach, Chris Beck, for getting me ready for this race and giving we workouts that fit in around a busy residency schedule.

To Brad, the best teammate ever. He pushed me everyday to ride my hardest and outside of my comfort zone. I hope I was as good a teammate as he was to me.

And most of all, to my amazing and incredibly supportive husband, Jeff, who puts up with my crazy schedule and sometimes obsessive training, who held down the fort while I've been away, and who has helped me get so much better at all the technical aspects of mountain biking.

The bikes are all broken down and boxed up, we've had our celebratory beers and we are back in Cape Town now, packing to fly out tomorrow. Thanks so much for reading and following our adventure. See some of y'all at Warrior Creek this weekend!